0.5pts ante-post win Sound Investment @20/1, Paddy Power Gold Cup

Cheltenham’s Open meeting is for many the true start of the National Hunt season, with Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase the betting highlight.

Final declarations are due Thursday, but the market is already alive with movers and a couple of intended runners immediately catch the eye.

One such horse is Rebecca Curtis’s Cheltenham Festival winner Irish Cavalier, who won far more cosily than the winning margin suggests on seasonal debut at Newton Abbot. He’s the right age for this and has the big plus of Cheltenham-winning form.

Back in third was Paul Nicholls’s Art Mauresque, who was entitled to need the run on seasonal debut and improved hugely next time out in beating the well-fancied Parlour Games at Cheltenham. Aged five, he’s still improving and might be ahead of his mark.

Last year Sam Twiston-Davies rode a five-year-old to win this, bucking the trend of all of the previous 11 winners being aged six to eight, so he’s a live chance and fairly prominent in the betting at 14/1.

The same jockey has, however, chosen Nicholls’s other runner Sound Investment – a tip in itself – who is available at a much bigger price of 20/1 with 888sport and bigger on Betfair’s exchange. At the top of the weights after an impressive win last month, he’s the right age (seven) and is progressing nicely.

Race fitness is assured on his third start this season, though the concern is he’s so high in the handicap with exactly zero Cheltenham experience – particularly when Johns Spirit is 2lbs further back and has won and placed second in the last two renewals.

I just can’t let the apparent first string of the powerful Nicholls yard go unbacked at 20/1, after he absolutely dominated the big Saturday races last season and has won two of the last three renewals. I can’t see that price lasting beyond final declarations on Thursday, so, dare I say it, it might be a sound investment itself to be on board early.

0.5pts ante-post win Sound Investment @20/1, Paddy Power Gold Cup (888sport or Betfair Exchange)

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