Overpriced Tchico to strike Gold for Fehily
A four-strong Irish team will this afternoon attempt to bring Cheltenham's Paddy Power Gold Cup back across the water for a second year in succession.
Catch Me, representing last year's triumphant trainer Edward O'Grady, is the shortest in the betting at 10/1, followed by Galway Plate hero Finger Onthe Pulse. Dancing Tornado and Gonebeyondrecall, two consistent sorts, complete the raiding party.
O'Grady's eight-year-old looks the pick of the bunch, as he has proven class and he is unexposed over fences. Placed behind Pandorama in a Grade One chase last Christmas, Catch Me recorded a pleasing effort to be third to Captain Cee Bee on his reappearance at Naas at the end of October.
On the pick of his form he is thrown in at today's weights, but the worry is that, with just four runs over fences -- including a fall -- he might be short of experience for a handicap of this nature. While his light chasing schedule could well be by design, there is just enough of a question mark about him to look elsewhere.
Nicky Henderson may well hold the key, with the classy pair Long Run and Mad Max lining out under 11st 6lb and 11st 5lb respectively. Mad Max has a live chance under Barry Geraghty, but he has disappointed when upped in grade before.
And it's difficult to be confident about Long Run given his rider's lack of practice. Sam Waley-Cohen, Long Run's amateur jockey, has ridden just twice in the past few weeks and this isn't a race for a part-timer. Whaley-Cohen is unlikely to do much wrong -- he rarely does -- but Long Run would be a safer proposition under Geraghty.
Preferred is Tchico Polos, which is overpriced at up to 18/1. Representing the in-form Paul Nicholls-Noel Fehily partnership, the French-bred gelding wasn't far off the best novices last season. On his reappearance in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter 11 days ago, he raced lazily over an inadequate 17 and a half furlongs under Ruby Walsh, but he kept finding up the straight to deny Twist Magic by half a length.
That was a good effort. While Tchico Polos carries a 5lb penalty now, he will be better for the run and the longer trip here.
Fehily, who has been making the most of his opportunities for Nicholls in Walsh's absence, has a number of other good rides on the card, with Any Currency in the Morson Group Handicap Chase his sole non-Nicholls mount. The Martin Keighley-trained runner has an excellent chance.
Twice a winner over fences as a novice, Any Currency was third behind The Package at Cheltenham last December, and he was beaten just a few lengths in the four-miler at the course in March. On his reappearance over hurdles at Towcester, he ran creditably, keeping on for third over three miles.
He reverts to a more favourable extended trip of three miles and three furlongs this afternoon, and there's no reason to believe that, at just seven, he cannot continue to improve. Despite his consistency, Any Currency hasn't gone up a pound since his December effort, and he has huge appeal off 10st 9lb.
In the three-mile novice chase, Gordon Elliott's Chicago Grey and Paul Gilligan's Berties Dream hold live chances. Two of the last eight runnings of this event have gone to Irish-based horses, and Berties Dream is fancied to build on that strike rate.
A 33/1 winner of the three-mile novice hurdle here in March, Gilligan's servant also ran well to be third at this meeting a year ago, so he clearly likes the track. On his chasing debut at Galway, Berties Dream jumped and travelled well, but faded in the straight to finish fourth. He will strip a lot fitter now.
Elliot is also well represented by Supercede in the handicap hurdle that follows the feature. A four-time winner since July, Supercede put in a career-best effort when second in a novice hurdle at Cheltenham in October.
He has shot up the handicap as a result, but he is going in the right direction.
Best bet: Any Currency