Paddy Power Gold Cup 2013 Preview

The Paddy Power Gold Cup is the first major steeplechase held at Cheltenham this season and has attracted a typically competitive field. It is the feature race of the three-day Open meeting and provides a stiff test over two and a half miles. It often requires a horse with the stamina to last three miles to battle it out up the hill at Prestbury Park.

The Favourites

The market is led by Johns Spirit who has been backed down from 14-1 to 6-1 in recent weeks. Jonjo O’Neill’s gelding appeared to win with plenty in hand at the last meeting but has been raised 10lbs by the handicapper.astracad01

David Pipe withdrew one of the leading contenders in Dynaste in midweek and relies on Ballynagour. This horse was heavily backed to win a big handicap at the festival meeting in March but never looked like collecting. There is a suspicion that he has two ways of running but he may be the type to run well fresh.

Much of the focus in the media this week has been on Champion Court with trainer Martin Keighley being quite bullish about his chances. He finished second to Sir Des Champs in the Jewson Novices’ Chase last year and also won the Grade 2 Silver Trophy Chase back in April. He clearly acts well on the track and is expected to race up with the leaders.

The Challengers

Former two-mile Champion Chaser Finian’s Rainbow tops the weights and would have a chance providing the ground does not turn soft. His campaign was dogged by bad ground last year, a surface that he simply cannot act on. He is better judged on his second to Sire De Grugy on his final start at Sandown.

Trainer Nicky Henderson also saddles Rajdhani Express and Nadiya De La Vega. Rajdhani Express faces a stiff task off a 15lbs higher mark than when successful here in March. Nadiya De La Vega was third to the classy Al Ferof here last season but has put in some disappointing efforts since.

Irish raider Hidden Cyclone has reportedly been aimed at this race and his trainer is confident that he will jump better with a fast pace guaranteed. Tony McCoy recently celebrated his 4000th winner over jumps and he partners Tap Night for the in-form stable of Lucinda Russell. The Scottish trainer saddled five winners in a single day last week and this one runs in the colours of leading owner JP McManus.

The Outsiders

Nigel Twiston-Davies runs Astracad who was just touched off at Aintree by Conquisto. He is a couple of pounds better off at the weights but more importantly will not have to make the running on Saturday. A first time visor also suggests that his trainer feels there is more to come from the seven-year-old who is attractively priced at 20-1 with Bet365.

Alan King relies on the consistent Kumbeshwar who was staying on well when fourth to Somersby at Exeter last time out. He has run well here in the past and cannot be ruled out. Colour Squadron and Battle Group will also have their supporters although both horses are without a course win.

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