'Time' on mccoy's side to pounce for jonjo
As with so many facets of his outstanding career, Martin Pipe called his retirement with perfect timing. The man who dominated jumps racing made way for his son, David, just as Paul Nicholls was assembling the strongest string seen since the days of Tom Dreaper.
It's impossible to know how Pipe would have countered the Nicholls machine. However, what can be said with certainty is that David has faced a daunting task in succeeding him. The extent of David's devolvement from the front line is such that he will not be represented in any of the four major races at Cheltenham.
That's not to say the man can't train. Far from it, as Our Vic has shown by his sterling deeds this season. The 12-year-old chaser has been beautifully placed to rack up prize money approaching £90,000, and Pipe bids to swell the coffers when Our Vic turns out in the Gold Cup Handicap Chase (3.10) at Newbury.
It's a big ask all right. The quirky stayer had a hard race when beating all bar Silver By Nature in a bog at Haydock two weeks ago. Also against him is the drop back to two and a half miles. Yet perhaps the biggest impediment is the presence of Battlecry which, like Our Vic, operates best when allowed to dominate from the front.
These two are likely to cancel each other out. And Battlecry is far from fluent at his fences, a trait he shares with several of his opponents today. Pasco, Au Courant and Panjo Bere do not convince, while Big Fella Thanks, deserted by Ruby Walsh for Pasco here, hit the deck last time out.
All of which amplifies the claims of Can't Buy Time, from the in-form Jonjo O'Neill stable and with Tony McCoy aboard. This one, too, can clout the odd fence, but that is worth overlooking with so much else in his favour.
Having tried Can't Buy Time over marathon journeys, connections returned him to this trip at Cheltenham last time, when the horse duly obliged on ground similar to what he encounters today. And with his come-from-behind style perfectly tailored to the shape of the race, he rates the day's best bet.
Lunch may prove too hot for Trabolgan
There won't be a dry eye at Newbury should Trabolgan, the 2005 Hennessy winner over this course and distance, turn back the clock in the Veterans' Handicap Chase (2.35). The 12-year-old has a chance, but his jumping is far more prone to errors than when in his pomp.
Trabolgan might be better suited to this smaller field but he confronts a resolute opponent in Gone To Lunch. This one has been mixing it in stiffer company, notably when fifth behind Denman in this season's Hennessy renewal. Briery Fox has claims but Gone To Lunch's fine record at this venue makes him the one to beat.
Also at the Berkshire venue, Flemish Invader has a good opportunity in the Novices' Handicap Chase (4.55). The selection has been showing up well over longer distances and does not have much to beat over this extended two miles.