Sunnyhillboy can justify McCoy faith
Great Endeavour returns to the scene of his last two triumphs to bid for what would be a commendable hat-trick in the Spinal Research Gold Cup at Cheltenham today.
Successful in the Byrne Group Plate at the Festival in March of 2010, David Pipe's grey was a commanding winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November. He subsequently ran out of puff over three and a quarter miles when fourth in the Hennessy under a 4lb penalty, and he is a further 6lb worse off now.
Nonetheless, back over his optimum course and distance, he deserves plenty of respect, with a place finish a distinct possibility for Timmy Murphy's mount. The two Irish runners don't have the same appeal; Roberto Goldback would prefer softer ground, while Finger Onthe Pulse was well exposed behind Great Endeavour in November.
At a general 10/1, Medermit is another grey that should go close. A classy sort, Alan King's seven-year-old beat the subsequent Irish Independent Arkle Trophy hero Captain Chris over this trip to land a Grade One at Sandown in February.
Over two miles in the Arkle, Medermit just kept on to be fourth, and both of his efforts this season have been encouraging. On his reappearance, he took full of advantage of Captain Chris' last-fence departure at Exeter, before then finishing third behind Master Minded at Ascot, form that reads well in the context of this race.
With just 10st 4lb to carry, however, Sunnyhillboy gets the nod to win for AP McCoy after a recent blowout over hurdles. Second to Great Endeavour at the Festival in 2010, Jonjo O'Neill's gelding is now all of a stone better off with that one here.
A year ago his jumping let him down in this, as he got behind early on before staying on to be third off 139. He then fell when fancied at the Festival, before meeting trouble in running en route to flashing home for third in the Irish Grand National.
Sunnyhillboy runs off 142 now, and it is significant that McCoy has opted for him over the ante-post favourite and Paddy Power runner-up Quantitativeeasing. If he gets the rub of the green, he can justify the money that has come for him in recent days.
Having ridden Fists Of Fury to victory for Charles Byrnes at Wetherby, it is unusual that today the perennial champion will sit and watch both that one and Sea Of Thunder -- on which he finished second the same day -- from the weigh room.
Paddy Brennan takes over on Fists Of Fury in the novice chase, and the partnership ought to have a big say in a race that looks akin to a trial for the four-miler in March.
If there is one with a touch more potential than that, it is the Nicky Henderson-trained Mossley. Barry Geraghty's mount was second to Bobs Worth here in a novice hurdle at the Festival, and he is expected to build on a bloodless Kempton fencing bow.
The Co Meath native might also take the Relkeel Hurdle on Oscar Whisky. A head winner of the Aintree Hurdle from Thousand Stars, this one was laying it down to the race-fit Overturn before crashing out at the last on its reappearance at Ascot, when For Non Stop, so game in defeat behind Al Ferof last week, was well held behind.
All things being equal, Oscar Whisky ought to prove superior to his five rivals in this Grade Two, though Any Given Day and The Knoxs are both progressive.
Geraghty has another cracking ride on Grandouet in the International Hurdle, but Overturn is preferred here. Don McCain's doughty gelding accounted for Binocular in the Fighting Fifth subsequent to Ascot, and he will relish this decent ground again.
McCoy takes the reins on Charles Byrnes' Pittoni in the two-miler. With all that one's best form on soft or heavy going, this may not sufficiently test his stamina.
Best Bet: Oscar Whisky