THE first really big race meeting of the National Hunt season is already in full swing and the BetVictor Gold Cup this afternoon at Cheltenham (2.25) looks a cracking renewal.
As much as I like the claims of outsider Viconte Du Noyer and the Paul Nicholls-trained Romain De Senam, I think the one to be on here could well be Tully East (nap).
The Alan Fleming-trained gelding won the Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase off a 10lbs lower mark at the Cheltenham Festival and has a really good record in both codes at the Prestbury Park track.
He had a lovely warm-up over hurdles in October at Punchestown when given a pretty easy time by Denis O’Regan when fourth to Campeador and he should be spot on for this.
Of course he is going to have to improve a bundle to land this prestigious event, but this will only be his sixth chase start and I am sure he has plenty of scope to improve again.
The 3m3f handicap chase at 1.50 is shaped by top-weight Minella Rocco being declared and he could run well even off a handicap rating of 157.
But giving a lump of weight away to Doing Fine may be difficult to do. The selection, a running on third here last time out over a slightly shorter trip, looks sure to be involved in the finish — granted a clear round of jumping. He adores the prevailing good ground and is made the each-way play here against higher-rated horses.
There is a superb card at Lingfield Park this afternoon including the Listed Churchill Stakes due off at 2.45.
Boynton wasn’t suited by being left in front at Newmarket last time out and is still a work in progress at the moment. He is sure to be involved here, but the nod goes to the strong-staying Petite Jack at an each-way price.
He is an unpredictable sort, but if there is pace in the race nothing will be coming home stronger down the home stretch.
On official figures he has about 6lbs to find with a couple of these, but the race could be run to suit him and, around the 16/1 mark, he makes plenty of each-way appeal to hit the frame late on at the very least.
Earlier on, Gabrial may defy top weight in the 2.10 following a really good run on turf at Doncaster, while the claimer at 1.00 looks at the mercy of Enigmatic, who will surely leave this grade well behind in time.
At Wolverhampton in the evening have a second glance at Calling Rio at 6.15, while I have a sneaky suspicion that the Mick Easterby-trained Different Journey (nb) could be really well handicapped in the finale at 9.15 and may well be a big springer in the marketplace from double-figure odds.
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