This has been a very different race to the Paddy Power Gold Cup, with four top weights winning in the past decade, and it is the first genuine Champion Hurdle trial of the season.
Nicky Henderson’s Darlan is sure to go off favourite and this year’s Supreme Novices’ runner-up must have a big chance, despite having to carry top weight.
AP McCoy and Henderson both love him and reckon he could turn out to be a serious Champion Hurdle contender. That may well be the case, but he’ll have to be to win this race and I actually prefer his stablemate, CASH AND GO.
This will be the five-year-old’s first start for Seven Barrows after a promising novice campaign for Edward O’Grady last term. He disappointed in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle in February, but scoped badly afterwards, and he is reportedly working very well at home.
Barry Geraghty takes the ride and he looks a cracking each-way bet at 7/1 with Coral getting 10lb from Darlan.
It could be a huge day for Henderson, as the Shloer Chase looks a penalty kick for Sprinter Sacre, and he ‘starts’ the day off with CAPTAIN CONAN in the Racing Post Arkle Trial (1.10pm).
The five-year-old has always looked a chaser in the making and he is strongly fancied to land this, breaking a run of four straight wins for Paul Nicholls.
For those sticking around after the Racing Post Hurdle, it will be worth having a few quid on Philip Hobbs’ VILLAGE VIC in the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle (3.25pm). He was an excellent second to The New One at Cheltenham last month and should have come on for the run.
You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my views live from Cheltenham.
CAPTAIN CONAN 1.10pm Cheltenham (Sunday)
CASH AND GO e/w 2.50pm Cheltenham (Sunday)
VILLAGE VIC 3.25pm Cheltenham (Sunday)
It’s great to be back at Cheltenham for the Open meeting and I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a better chance in the Paddy Power Gold Cup than with Walkon.
He’s never won at Cheltenham, but he’s put in some excellent performances there, including finishing runner-up in the 2009 Triumph Hurdle.
His best runs in recent years have been when he’s been mad fresh and he’s in absolutely cracking order at home. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer racing weight and I’m hopeful of a very big run.
The Triumph Hurdle Trial looks a hot race but I wouldn’t swap my fellow, Mcvicar, for anything. Yes, he has to improve, but I think he can do that, and this will give us a better idea of where we go next.
Lovcen is a favourite of mine and I was really pleased with his first run at Aintree. It will be tough for him tomorrow off 150 in the 3.05pm, but he is classy and, although he is built like a chaser, we’ll know after the race whether we stick with hurdles or go over fences.
I’m on Vendor in Sunday’s Racing Post Hurdle and he has an outside chance. I was disappointed with him at Aintree, where he was too free, but if he can learn to settle, he is undoubtedly fairly handicapped.
Choc Thornton is sponsored by Lycetts, specialist insurers to the Bloodstock Industry.