A smaller field than usual for the first of the televised races on Gold Cup Day of the November meeting and with the ground appearing significantly softer than one or two anticipated on Friday, this three and a half mile Chase could turn into a real slog.
That will make life quite tough for the class act in the race, Minella Rocco, under a big weight and I’m going to take a chance that Shotgun Paddy makes few enough blunders to give himself a chance.
He’s a little way out of the handicap but he was perfectly competitive off this sort of mark on several occasions last season as well as two years ago. One thing we know is that he’ll stay extremely well and cope with the ground if it starts to get testing.
Clearly, he’s not the most bankable horse in training and it’s been a long time since he won the Classic at Warwick, but he’s been relatively lightly raced since and can go well here.
The feature race of the day is as challenging as you would expect and, after toying with a number of options, I’ve come down on the side of Bentelimar at a big price.
This is a horse having his first run since moving to the stable of Charlie Longsdon from Ireland and if there’s a little improvement for the switch of stables, then he’s got enough ability to be a player off his current mark.
He’s only an eight-year-old and has been tried over a range of distances in all types of ground, but picking through his form, two-and-a-half-miles with plenty of cut seems ideal and even though he’s not had too many winners of late, I’ve got a high regard for the talents of his jockey, Johnny Burke.
The Listed Handicap Hurdle at 3.00pm can go to Kk Lexion, on whom Adrian Heskin takes over from Noel George. This horse ran really well on his come back at the Showcase Meeting and building on that can give them all something to think about.
In the subsequent race, a horse who finished behind Kk Lexion, The Mighty Don, can also show the benefit of that run. He’s still quite a raw type of horse and I think Richard Johnson can get him organised and will suit him. I expect him to be ridden fairly near the pace and provided he moves forward from that first run of the season, he should be bang there at the business end.
Nick’s Picks for Saturday at Cheltenham
1.50 – Shotgun Paddy
2.25 – Gold Cup – Bentelimar
3.00 – Kk Lexion
3.30 – The Mighty Don
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.