THERE will be a mini invasion in Gloucestershire this weekend. Nothing of the scale that we will see in March but the burgeoning popularity of Cheltenham’s Open Meeting means that Irish racegoers will form a healthy chunk of this weekend’s spectators over three wonderful days.
The centrepiece is tomorrow’s Paddy Power Gold Cup, which has attracted 20 runners in one of the most competitive renewals for many years. David Pipe’s Kings Palace heads the market and has been well supported this week. He fluffed his lines in the RSA Chase after a perfect campaign and may have been let in lightly off a mark of 154. He has a 100% record first time out.
Boondooma impressed at the Showcase meeting and should run a big race while Johns Spirit (like Bobs Worth, his name should really have an apostrophe) loves Prestbury Park. There has also been interesting money for Grade One winner Annacotty who is now with Alan King and he could run a big race if he is allowed to dominate from the front.
In fact, it is difficult to discard many of the runners so punters are guaranteed plenty of value. But I’m plumping for the slightly frustrating BUYWISE. Jumping has always been his Achilles heel but in his last two runs the familiar errors have become fewer. He ran an ideal prep in the Old Roan Chase when a staying-on third and I still think he is a very well handicapped horse (rated 148). Any rain will be a bonus but 16/1 looks terrific value.
Another well handicapped horse is DEVILMENT who returned with victory at Cheltenham last month. He has only gone up 1lb and if, as expected, he takes part in Sunday’s Greatwood Hurdle the hint should be taken. He is still available for 12/1, which is a terrific price.
I fancy ALCALA to upset the applecart in today’s novice hurdle (2.15). Paul Nicholls loves this horse and although Penglai Pavilion and Champers On Ice are highly regarded, Alcala may offer some serious value.
And tomorrow also sees the best juvenile hurdle so far this season when the unbeaten Leoncavallo is expected to clash with Oceane. Both are unbeaten but the latter is just preferred.
The Cheltenham Open Meeting promises to be every bit as informative as previous years and will get the juices seriously flowing for the Festival itself.