Astracad the value bet in Paddy Power Gold Cup
Dynaste was the most notable absentee from the final field of 20 declared for Saturday’s Grade 3 Paddy Power Gold Cup, the feature event of Cheltenham’s Open meeting this week. His withdrawal did not come as a great surprise with David Pipe opting for Haydock’s Betfair Chase as a more suitable alternative.
The weights are headed by Nicky Henderson’s former two-mile Champion Chaser Finian’s Rainbow. Soft ground was blamed for a couple of lack-lustre efforts last season and he performed much better on a decent surface when second to Sire De Grugy on his final start.
He is joined by stable companions Rajdhani Express and Nadiya De La Vega. The former won over course and distance at the Cheltenham festival in March but now races off a 15lbs higher mark.
Nadiya De La Vega was third behind Al Ferof here 12 months ago and could prove to be the best of the Henderson trio. One of the best backed horses in the ante-post market has been Martin Keighley’s Champion Court.
His career-best effort came when finishing second to Sir Des Champs in the Jewson Novices’ Chase in 2012. He was only fifth in the Ryanair this year but was a course winner in the Grade 2 Silver Trophy Chase here in April.
David Pipe relies on Ballynagour who was a big disappointment when heavily backed at the Cheltenham festival. Johns Spirit looks set to go off favourite having been supported from 14-1 down to 6-1 in recent weeks.
He won well here last month but the handicapper has raised him 10lbs and he may struggle to confirm the placings with fifth placed Astracad. Nigel Twiston-Davies has always felt that his horse has a big handicap in him and he stepped up on that effort when second to Conquisto at Aintree.
Tony McCoy has been booked to ride Tap Night for in-form trainer Lucinda Russell who saddled five winners in a single day last week. Irish hopes rest with Hidden Cyclone and the lowly weighted Gift Of Dgab.