This is one of my favourite weekends of the year. The Open Meeting at Cheltenham signals the start for real of the jumps season and will have clues galore for the Festival in March.
In the staying handicap chase at 1.55 I fancy Chicago Grey to run a big race. He adores this track and was travelling like the winner at Cheltenham on his penultimate start before unseating and I thought his run on the Charlie Hall was better than people have been seeing. Back up in trip round his beloved Cheltenham I think he has to go close.
The highlight of a brilliant three days is a vintage renewal of the Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday. It looks horribly competitive for punters and as always in handicap chases at Cheltenham the winner will need to jump well and have an awful lot of luck. However, finding the winner of this race has fitted a pattern for years now. You need to find a young, progressive second season chaser who still has a few tricks hidden from the handicapper.
The favourite on Betdaq is Mon Parrain, who ticks a lot of the right boxes. His demise on the run-in at Aintree is a mystery for many but having backed him that day I just thought he was a sitting duck after the last for Always Waining, who loves the course and was too good on the day. Mon Parrain lost no ground to the horses behind him and remains a highly progressive chaser, on a good mark who will take a lot of beating on Saturday. The fact that Paul Nicholls galloped him with Kauto Star and Big Bucks at Exeter last week surely tells us a lot. Mon Parrain could easily be a superstar and different class to the rest.
I was at Cheltenham on Friday and there was a big racecourse word for Wishful Thinking but I think he has a big task off 164 against some unexposed handicappers.
The other horse I fancy is Dave’s Dream. First time out is the time to catch this horse – he is deadly when fresh. Dave’s Dream was hugely impressive 12 months ago at this meeting and I think this longer trip might suit him. The Henderson team seemed very hopeful when I was at Seven Barrows last week, though it’s a shame the big prices on the Daq have disappeared.
On Sunday I’m looking forward to seeing Al Ferof go over fences for the first time in the opener and think A Media Luz has a massive chance in the Greatwood Hurdle. She caught the eye before getting tired at Ascot last month and I’m convinced she’s still well treated off 133. With Nicky Henderson running in to form and running round this sharp track, A Media Luz should take a lot of stopping.
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