Greatwood Gold Cup Preview

Grand National entries Big Fella Thanks and Ballabriggs top the weights for Newbury’s Greatwood Gold Cup on Saturday. Big Fella Thanks won this event in 2010 before finishing fourth in the Aintree marathon and completed the course again the following year when seventh behind Saturday’s rival Ballabriggs. He is set to race off a six pounds higher mark than when successful at Wincanton in January.

Ballabriggs is more likely to go to Kelso than Newbury as he takes another step towards Aintree for Donald McCain. The twelve-year-old followed up his 2011 victory with a fine run in sixth place last year and connections will be hoping for some encouragement this weekend. Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls has a fine record in this race and is represented by Pacha Du Polder and The Knoxs. Bet365 are offering 5-1 about The Knoxs with his stable companion at 12-1, suggesting that the Graham Wylie-owned gelding is the one to be on. He has not been out since falling at the last fence over this course in the race won by Bless The Wings. He still held every chance when he crashed out but has presumably taken time to recover from that spill.

Pacha Du Polder has been a bit in and out, failing to complete in three of his seven chasers. He has pulled up twice in his last three outings and cannot be supported with any confidence. Venetia Williams saddles Pepite Rose who was a little disappointing last time but would be a threat to all if she could recapture last season’s form including two course wins. Lurking at the bottom of the weights is David Pipe’s Garynella, well beaten on his only start since joining Pipe from France. He would have to step up considerably on that effort to feature here but is quoted at 9-2 favourite by Betfair.

Alan King has endured a frustrating season with many of his stable stars on the sidelines through injury. He is optimistic that the recent spell of dry weather will provide a faster surface for Midnight Sail, raised 7lb for a game win at Kempton last week. The going at Newbury was good to soft in midweek with little rain expected before Saturday. Despite the penalty, he is set to race off just 10st 6lb and has been a model of consistency this season. He will carry plenty of each-way support at odds of around 8-1.

Tim Vaughan’s Saved By John also warrants respect off a light weight after his gutsy win at Wincanton on heavy ground whilst Micheal Flips also comes into the reckoning. Andy Turnell’s gelding has contested better races than this in his time. He shaped well in a Kempton National Hunt Flat race in January and could represent some each-way value at 12-1 in a wide open event. He ran the smart For Non Stop to two lengths over this course last February with useful sorts Our Mick and Walkon finishing behind in third and fourth. A reproduction of that effort would see him go very close. Polly Gundry’s Mr Gardner is lightly raced and was not disgraced at Wincanton in the race won by Big Fella Thanks. Mahogany Blaze (14-1) and Bahrain Storm (25-1) complete the 13-strong field.

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