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By Dylan Jenear ValueChecker

Long Run Favourite for Paddy Power Gold Cup
09/11/10

This weekend the jumps season really gets into overdrive, with the Open meeting at Cheltenham, three days of quality National Hunt racing, the pinnacle of which is the BetVictor Gold Cup on Saturday.

 

Long Run
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Long Run

At the time of writing Long Run, a precocious import from France, is the market leader at a top-priced 7-2. Nicky Henderson’s charge was prolific when trained on the other side of the Channel and won two of his three starts when switched to the UK last season, including the Grade 1 Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, and was third in the RSA Chase when last seen out at the Festival at Prestbury Park in March. The Cadoudal gelding is clearly a class act, but is bidding to become the first five-year-old in modern times to lift this valuable prize.

 

Sunnyhillboy
© racing-images.co.uk

Sunnyhillboy

The next two in the betting are Great Endeavour and Sunnyhillboy, first and second respectively in the Byrne Group Plate over half-a-furlong further on the new course here at the Festival. There was 1¼ lengths between them on that occasion and, meeting David Pipe’s charge on 2lb better terms this time, connections of Sunnyhillboy are bound to fancy their chances of reversing the placings on Saturday.  

Sunnyhillboy’s trainer, Jonjo O’Neill, has also entered Can’t Buy Time. The eight-year-old is just 4lb higher compared to when landing the Grade 3 Victor Chandler .com Chase over a similar trip at this track in January. He didn’t go with much zest on his seasonal reappearance in the United House Gold Cup at Ascot, but he needed his comeback run last season, so it would be no surprise to see a much better display from him this weekend. One suspects, however, that Tony McCoy will opt to ride Sunnyhillboy of the duo, both of whom are owned by McCoy’s boss J P McManus.

 

Catch Me
© racing-images.co.uk

Catch Me

Irish trainer Eddie O’Grady sent Tranquil Sea across the pond to capture this prize last season and is likely to rely on Catch Me this time. The son of Law Society is well handicapped over fences compared to his mark over timber, and ran a cracking race in defeat when 3½ lengths third to Pandorama in the 3m Knight Frank Novice Chase at Leopardstown last December. He should be all the better for his reappearance effort in a Grade 3 at Navan last month, but his jumping well be put firmly to the test on Saturday; it will be his first outing over fences in a competitive handicap, and the strong pace will place additional emphasis on jumping. With just four starts in this sphere under his belt, lack of chasing experience may prove to be Catch Me’s undoing.

There are not many races that have managed to elude champion trainer Paul Nicholls, but so far the Paddy Power has proved elusive for the Ditcheat handler. Nicholls has three entries at the time of writing, Poquelin, Tchico Polos and Gwanako. The last-named is on a good mark, but does have a bit to prove at present, while Poquelin, runner-up in this race last year and a very creditable second on his reappearance in the Old Roan at Aintree, has the welter-burden of 11st 12lb to defy.

 

Mad Max
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Mad Max

Consequently, if Nicholls’ hoodoo in this race is to be brought to an end, it’s likely that Tchico Polos will be the one that delivers. However, while his form looks solid and he remains open to improvement as a chaser, I feel he is another that may struggle in the hustle and bustle of a strongly-run handicap round here, a remark which also extends to Long Run’s stablemate Mad Max, for all that he remains a very bright chasing prospect.

The Paddy Power is usually a fascinating race, and this year’s renewal is no different, with some exciting second-season chasers taking on the more established handicappers. From a betting perspective, the 11.0 on offer withBetfair about Sunnyhillboy is worth snapping up. O’Neill has his string in good form and the seven-year-old, set to carry a nice racing weight of 10st 1lb, doesn’t have a great deal of miles on the clock and appeals as the type to do better this season. He landed a 22-runner handicap over hurdles at the 2009 Aintree Grand National meeting, and underlined his ability to cope with the rigours of this type of race when runner-up at the Festival in March, and is weighed to exact revenge on his conqueror on that occasion, Great Endeavour.

Recommendation: Sunnyhillboy

 

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