Goldsworthy Eyes Paddy Power Gold Cup for Hills of Aran
Hills Of Aran is on the comeback trail and has the £150,000 Grade Three BetVictor Gold Cup (2.30pm) at Cheltenham on Saturday, November 13, as his probable next target according to trainer Keith Goldsworthy, who saddled Hold Em to take third in last season’s renewal of the extended two and a half-mile contest.
The prestigious Paddy Power Gold Cup is the feature race at The Open at Cheltenham, which stages three thrilling days of top-quality Jump racing on Friday 12, Saturday 13 and Sunday 14, November.
Hills Of Aran, a 33/1 shot with the sponsor, was off the track for over a year after landing two facile victories in novice contests over fences in May and June, 2009, before returning to action in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle at The Showcase at Cheltenham on October 15, when he finished 12th.
The eight-year-old Sadler’s Wells gelding improved for that return to competition when carrying top-weight of 11st 12lb to finish fourth behind Any Given Day in the Listed Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle at Chepstow on October 23.
Goldsworthy revealed today: “We are looking at the Paddy Power Gold Cup for Hills Of Aran - he’s tuned up and primed and is ready to go somewhere. The Cheltenham race looks the preferred option of the two entries he has but a firm decision is yet to be made.
“The Paddy Power Gold Cup is the first race coming up so he will probably stay in at the next stage and we will see how it looks. He is going to get in the weights quite nicely there - he’s also in the Hennessy but a certain two horses (Kauto Star and Denman) could spoil the weights for everybody.
“Hills Of Aran showed his old spark back at Chepstow the other day. He ran a blinder on his second run back off a 15-month lay-off. He was giving away nearly two stones to the winner and he’s definitely on the comeback trail.
“We dropped him in at Cheltenham the time before and I said to Rhys (Flint) to be competitive but not to blast him. Our priority was to get his confidence up and get him round. At Chepstow I said to Rhys to put him in the race, get him right up there and see if we can rekindle his spark, and he did.”
Goldsworthy is hoping that Hills of Aran, who has only four chase outings under his belt, can top Hold Em’s third to the Edward O’Grady-trained Tranquil Sea (12/1 with Paddy Power) in last year’s Paddy Power Gold Cup.
The Pembrokeshire trainer continued: “We would usually have run Hold Em in these sorts of races but Hills of Aran is a better horse than Hold Em was - his mark (145) says he’s a better horse and I say he’s a better horse. He’s got a respectable mark and he has got to live up to it.
“Hold Em was third off a mark of 135 last year and Hills Of Aran will have to run off a 10lb higher mark than that but I think the ratings are right. He seems versatile so far as trip and ground are concerned, so we will have to see.
“Hills Of Aran has run in some big races in his time. If you look back at his novice hurdle runs at Cheltenham he’s mixed it with the best - the likes of Wichita Lineman, Massini’s Maguire, Tidal Bay and Osana. He was second to Kasbah Bliss a couple of seasons back at Haydock. On his going days, he’s a good horse.”
Paddy Power makes the Nicky Henderson-trained Grade One winner Long Run its current 7/2 market leader for the Paddy Power Gold Cup, which has a strong entry of 53. Among them, that gelding’s stable mate Mad Max is available at 10/1, as is Tranquil Sea’s stable mate, the top-class Catch Me.
Poquelin, runner-up last year before winning the Grade Three December Gold Cup at Cheltenham’s International in December, is a 12/1 chance for champion trainer Paul Nicholls, while Listed United House Gold Cup winner Massini’s Maguire (14/1) and Grade Three Byrne Group Plate victor Great Endeavour (5/1) could line up for trainer David Pipe.
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained Sunnyhillboy, runner-up to Great Endeavour in the Byrne Group Plate at The Festival in March is another leading fancy - currently a 6/1 chance.
The Open commences on Friday, November 12, with six enthralling races, including the £25,000 Grade Two Cheltenham Collection Sharp Novices’ Hurdle (1.50pm), the £40,000 Paddypower.com Handicap Chase (2.25pm), and the £25,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeplechase (3pm) over Cheltenham’s unique cross country course.
Saturday’s excellent six-race card, as well as featuring the Paddy Power Gold Cup, includes the £50,000 Grade Three Morson Group Handicap Chase (1.50pm) over an extended three miles and three furlongs.
The £100,000 Grade Three Greatwood Handicap Hurdle (2.20pm) headlines a thrilling six-race Sunday card on November 14, alongside the £30,000 Grade Two The Independent Newspaper Novices’ Chase (1.10pm), the £50,000 Sinbad Testimonial 2010/11 Chase (1.45pm) and the £25,000 Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (3.30pm).
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