The Paddy Power Gold Cup form is asked a number of questions with several horses re-opposing over the New Course at Cheltenham. It’s fair to say the market is dominated by the outcome of that race with the first and second priced at 7-8/1 and locked in a battle for outright favouritism, amongst several others, with punters yet to decide on the jolly.
Sound Investment – third in the Paddy Power – shoulders top weight again having risen a further 3lbs and although 2lbs better off with the winner, the ground is forecast to be more testing which makes his life extremely tough despite his obvious class. Similarly, Buywise, who ran a blinder to run a close second has risen 4lbs, albeit is 1lb better off with the winner. That small allowance could be enough to turn the form around, but his jumping is far from polished, and any blunders over what is surely going to be a stern stamina test could dent his chances in the closing stages off a heightened mark.
Despite the Paddy Power being a fairly close finish, I believe Annacotty had a bit in-hand on his rivals, and hats-off to Alan King for revitalising this chaser on his comeback. King has stated that the more galloping New Course will suit and I have no concerns over his stamina having won over further in soft conditions previously. King’s horses have a tendency to improve greatly for a run and he believes Annacotty has progressed as he bids to land a quick Cheltenham-double. I am not put off by the 8/1 price in the context of his opening season effort and with the prospect of more to come from this seven-year-old, it’s worth a nibble.
Little John is 5lbs better off for an 8l defeat to Annacotty here at Cheltenham last season, but at a comparable price of 8/1, I cant help feel that he is worse value on the basis of his victory in a fairly ordinary looking Open Handicap Chase. Granted he looked massively improved, but I am not sure how much can be gleaned from beating the disappointing Upepito, who has now been turned over on three occasions this season as favourite. In any case, he remains with scope up 6lbs and today’s conditions should see him go close.
Hobbs has two very interesting contenders in Village Vic and Champagne West. I was tempted by the former with Johnson selecting the bottom-weight over this strong novice chaser from last season, but I am not convinced a stamina test in the mud is what Village Vic needs despite his progressive chase profile. A chance is taken on Champagne West on his first appearance in a handicap chase and off a break of 315 days. This horse looked to have a lot of class last season before losing his chasing unbeaten record to the highy-rated Ptit Zig and then latterly falling at Sandown. He hasn’t been seen since having succumbed to a slight injury, but Hobbs will have brought him along gently in preparation for this season.
Champagne West won on his seasonal reappearance off a break of 245 days last year beating Colour Squadron and seems to enjoy himself around Cheltenham – both are big positives. Clearly, his fitness won’t all be there, hence the reason Johnson has switched to Village Vic, but an opening mark of 150 could be very lenient for a horse that is held in high regard and any market support would be significant. He has a fine record around Prestbury Park, so I would expect the local punters to back him in to shorter odds before the off; we advise taking the 9/1 available now.
1pt win Annacotty @17/2, 13:50 Cheltenham
1pt win Champagne West @9/1, 13:50 Cheltenham
*Skybet will return your stake as a free bet if you finish second or third in this race.
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