Loosen My Load can go distance
Mon Parrain has been heavily supported all week to emulate the mighty Cyfor Malta by becoming just the second five-year-old ever to win the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
More than that, Ruby Walsh's mount is tasked with delivering Paul Nicholls a first success in this afternoon's showpiece handicap at Cheltenham. At around 3/1, though, any value that was to be had about Mon Parrain is long gone.
The French import remains an exciting prospect, but the memory of how tamely he folded after cantering into the lead in the Topham Chase in April is enough to discourage any temptation to back him at such skinny odds in a race of this nature.
Wishfull Thinking, Great Endeavour and Loosen My Load are more solid options at much better prices. Philip Hobbs' Wishfull Thinking is the shortest of that trio at 15/2, but his form last year was tip-top and included a January course and distance win.
Second to Noble Prince in the Jewson in March, he then sluiced up from the recent Haldon Gold Cup winner Medermit at Aintree in April, before beating the subsequent Galway Plate victor Blazing Tempo in a handicap at Punchestown.
Off a 5lb higher mark, he could still play a telling part here, as could Great Endeavour. Well held in this last year, the David Pipe-trained contender appeals as an each-way option at up to 12/1 with just 10st 3lb on his back.
However, Henry de Bromhead's Loosen My Load is preferred for the win. Placed in Grade One company last year, the seven-year-old landed a decent hurdle race at this meeting in 2009, and conceded 6lb to the subsequent Irish Independent Arkle Chase winner Captain Chris when just a neck behind him in third here a year ago.
On his only other start at Cheltenham, Loosen My Load was a fine third behind Noble Prince and Wishfull Thinking in the Jewson, yet he meets the latter horse on 11lb better terms now. While he was beaten at odds-on at Limerick last time, that defeat came over an inadequate two miles on soft ground.
The return to his favoured two and a half miles on decent going is expected to be key today, so Andrew Lynch's mount appeals as a standout candidate at a general 16/1 to deliver a second Irish win in this prestigious contest in three years.
In the preceding long-distance chase, Nicholls and Walsh are represented by Promising Anshan. A relatively unexposed sort, the six-year-old kept on to be third in a decent race at Ascot last month, so three miles and three furlongs should suit.
The extended trip might also be crucial to Reve De Sivola's chance, and it is the former Grade One-winning hurdler that is fancied. Disappointing but essentially consistent over fences, Nick Williams' charge will improve for his Chepstow reappearance, while he is a horse that does his best work at the end of his races.
Walsh is taken to collect on the intriguing Oscargo in the three-mile handicap hurdle. James Motherway's Define is a live raider here with conditions to suit off a feather weight, but few of the 19 runners have as much potential as the selection.
A faller when in contention in a British point-to-point last year, Oscargo hacked up in what was an ordinary enough maiden hurdle at Chepstow in March. While his lack of experience is an obvious concern, that Nicholls has deemed this a suitable target is significant, so the Oscar gelding is expected to run a big race off just 10st 4lb.
The last race of the day is a decent novices' chase. Walsh again has a real chance on Join Together, but the nod goes to Restless Harry. A classy hurdler, Henry Oliver's mount is sure to have been well schooled ahead of its fencing debut.
Best Bet: Loosen My Load