Grands Crus, who was among the best staying novice chasers of last season, can resume winning ways on his return to action at Cheltenham tomorrow.
The Grade 3 Paddy Power Gold Cup, one of the showpiece events of the campaign so far, is the target for David Pipe’s multi-talented gelding, who will have the services of regular rider Tom Scudamore as he faces 19 rivals for a prize fund of £160,000.
Although he ran disappointingly in the RSA Chase on this course at the Festival meeting in March, Grands Crus had previously rattled up a hat-trick of wins, which included doling out a decisive defeat to Silviniaco Conti in the Feltham Chase at Kempton’s Christmas fixture.
Considering the runner-up went on to win a valuable event at Aintree and recently trotted up in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, that form looks rock-solid.
Grands Crus, formerly a top-notch staying hurdler, looks well treated off a mark of 157 on his handicap debut. He faces some classy opponents tomorrow, including last season’s revelation Hunt Ball, who went up a massive 88lb after cementing a host of wins culminating in a handicap victory at the Cheltenham Festival, but the Pipe runner will be hard to beat, granted a clear round in the day’s centrepiece.
The much-awaited Cheltenham meeting begins with the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial, which sees Vasco Du Ronceray lining up under Barry Geraghty.
A French recuit, trained by Nicky Henderson, inset, the gelding won by no fewer than 32 lengths on his British debut at Hereford. He looks very useful.
In the Rewards4 Racing Novices’ Chase, Irish raider Sea Of Thunder will be a popular choice after his good second on this course last month which followed a decent win at Clonmel. Tony McCoy has been booked to ride the Charles Byrnes-trained gelding.
One week on from the closure of the Flat turf season, Paul Hanagan, having handed over his champion jockey crown to Richard Hughes, heads to Lingfield tomorrow with bright prospects of landing a Listed-race success.
Hanagan teams up with Hezmah in the Blue Square Bet Golden Rose Stakes and John Gosden’s useful filly is expected to take plenty of beating if she can adapt to the Polytrack circuit.
A winner at Yarmouth and Newmarket, Hezmah was beaten less than three lengths into sixth place by Swiss Maid in a Listed contest back at Newmarket on her latest start. The four-year-old is entitled to go well in this six-furlong dash.
In the other Listed race on the card, the Blue Square Bet Churchill Stakes, True To Form should be involved in the shake-up for trainer Martyn Meade and jockey David Probert.
An all-weather specialist, True To Form has finished in the frame at Kempton on his last two starts and is a previous winner on this course. His rating, which is nudging three figures, puts him in here with sound claims.
Newark trainer Michael Appleby, who landed his biggest success when Art Scholar won the November Handicap at Doncaster last Saturday, can land a Lingfield win with Lockantanks, the mount of William Buick.
The gelding has enjoyed a splendid year, still looks in good form and is a previous course and distance winner. He should not be overlooked.
Also worth looking out for are Ollie Pears’ Burns Night (12.30), a significant jockey booking with Hanagan engaged to ride, and awarded the nap vote, and the David Nicholls-trained Ewell Place (1.05), for whom Jamie Spencer is an eye-catching jockey. He rarely rides for Nicholls’ North Yorkshire yard.
tomorrow 12.00 Merry Jaunt, 12.30 Burns Night (NAP), 1.05 Ewell Place, 1.40 Tidal’s Baby, 2.15 True To Form, 2.50 Hezmah, 3.20 Fat Gary, 3.55 Lockantanks.
Cheltenham tomorrow (selected races)
12.45 Vasco Du Ronceray, 1.20 Sea Of Thunder, 2.35 Grands Crus.
Tomorrow’s other meetings: Uttoxeter, Wetherby, Wolverhampton.
Today’s meetings: Cheltenham, Lingfield, Newcastle, Wolverhampton.