Tony McCoy admitted it was a close-run thing choosing Colour Squadron over Cantlow as his mount in the Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.
- Related Content
The deciding factor for the 18-times champion jockey was the form of the Paddy Power Gold Cup at this venue last month, when Colour Squadron just failed to peg back Johns Spirit after being hampered at the second-last fence.
"He has Johns Spirit to beat. He went to the last travelling well and albeit Colour Squadron definitely got hampered when Easter Meteor fell at the second-last, you would like him to win sooner rather than later," McCoy told Channel 4 Racing.
"There wasn't much between him and Cantlow, to be honest. I just thought the Paddy Power form was pretty solid and I think his main danger is Johns Spirit."
Colour Squadron's trainer Philip Hobbs said: "He would probably want softer ground than this. Nevertheless, he's in great form."
McCoy had to pick from owner JP McManus's three runners, Colour Squadron, Cantlow and Tap Night.
"Colour Squadron ran a blinder here at the last meeting," said McManus's racing manager, Frank Berry. "Philip is very happy with him. He's in good form and we are hoping for a good run."
"Cantlow did it nicely the last day. It's a step up a bit for him in class, but we're happy with him. Tap Night is a nice horse as well. He's in good form and we're hoping he's improved a bit from the last time. We're hoping for a nice run from him.
"It would be great if one of them could win. It's an open-looking race and we're hoping for the best."
Cantlow's trainer Paul Webber is just hoping his charge can run a good race following his recent win at Newbury.
"I think he seems come out of the Newbury race very well indeed and hopefully he can move forward from there," said Webber.
"The champion jockey, who is much respected, has chosen to ride something else so we've got a bit of a hill to climb and the Cheltenham one as well."
Johns Spirit was raised 9lb for his Paddy Power victory over Colour Squadron, but his rider Richie McLernon is still expecting a big run from Jonjo O'Neill's charge.
"Touch wood, he'll go well," McLernon told At The Races. "Obviously the weights will be a bit of a factor but he's fit and well, so hopefully he'll go well.
"I was there when the other horse fell in front. he idled a bit but he stuck his head out. He has to be ridden the way he was the last day. Hopefully we can do the same again and have luck in running."
Emma Lavelle feels Easter Meteor deserves a change of luck after he crashed out in the Paddy Power. The horse showed no ill-effects from that mishap when finishing second to Cantlow at Newbury two weeks ago.
"He seems to have come out of Newbury in really good order and he loves it around Cheltenham," said the Andover trainer.
"All those races are massively competitive, but he's knocking on the door and it would be lovely if he could get his head in front.
"He was definitely still there and punching when he fell. He's a lovely horse and the one thing I would say is the less rain that falls the better the chance for him."
Paul Nicholls is expecting a big run from Grandioso, who showed he had recovered from a touch of colic a few months ago with a good run when third to Cantlow and Easter Meteor at Newbury.
"I was really pleased with the way he ran at Newbury, he jumped and travelled well and just blew up two out because he needed the run," said Nicholls.
"He'd had a problem with colic in the summer and came in a little bit late, I was rushing to find a prep for Cheltenham and that came along just in time. It's never an easy race but I'd like to think he's got a decent chance."
David Pipe admits Salut Flo faces a big task after being off the track since winning the Byrne Group Plate at the Cheltenham Festival in March 2012.
"Hopefully he's got a good each-way chance. He's in good form at home, but he's been off for a long time and it's a massive ask. He's been through a colic operation and we hope for the best," said Pipe.
Attaglance was a good fourth to Johns Spirit in the Paddy Power and his trainer Malcolm Jefferson is expecting another decent effort.
"His jumping at home had always been good but when he was getting to the races the soft ground was catching him out, when it's nice ground he jumps better off it," said the North Yorkshire handler.
"I think it's fair that he's gone up 6lb and he might have an advantage over some of the others that ran in the Paddy Power as our horse came out of it feeling good as he hadn't run since September."