BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS CHELTENHAM’S OPEN MEETING
NO HORSE has ever won back-to-back renewals of the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, but 2013 winner JOHNS SPIRIT (2.30pm) has the right attributes as he goes in search of history tomorrow afternoon.
Jonjo O’Neill’s charge loves Cheltenham – three of his four chase wins have been at Prestbury Park – and the seven-year-old warmed up for a repeat victory by taking the same race here last month as he won before landing this big pot a few weeks later.
Richie McLernon gets on well with this horse and, even though he’s off a 17lb higher mark this time around, the gelding still looks progressive. The stable won this with Exotic Dancer in 2006 and that one went on to win a Grade 1 and be placed in a Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Johns Spirit is by no means in that class yet, but in a contest where the market has it about right, this one looks the best each-way bet at 9/1 with the sponsors, who are paying five places.
Present View is extremely consistent, but 6/1 is short enough. Buywise looks classy, although his sketchy jumping puts me off. Easter Meteor, who was tanking when falling two out in this last year, was interesting at a big price as David Pipe’s only representative, but he’s too short at around 12/1 now.
If the ground turns very soft then that wouldn’t suit my selection and Caid Du Berlais would be the each-way call at 16/1 with Paddy Power.
It’s hard to get a handle on exactly who will run at Cheltenham on Saturday, but if they do line up then SNAKE EYES is a well-handicapped animal in the opener (12.40pm). The son of Oscar may be a maiden, but he has some smart form in the book and Nicky Henderson looks to have found an ideal opportunity for his charge to exploit his lenient-looking mark.
The 1.15pm Novices’ Chase looks a hot one, but Sausalito Sunrise will take the beating if taking his chance.
Another to keep on side is OUR FATHER in the 1.50pm. Recent form figures don’t do this one justice as his record fresh reads 1117. The latter effort came in the Hennessy Gold Cup, when he was sent off favourite. He’s another on a good mark.
SNAKE EYES 12.40pm Cheltenham (tomorrow)
OUR FATHER 1.50pm Cheltenham (tomorrow)
JOHNS SPIRIT e/w 2.30pm Cheltenham (tomorrow)