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Saturday 14:15 – Cheltenham
Strength in depth wise this could be one of the best Paddy Power Gold Cup renewals of the last 20 years with several upwardly mobile players in the form of Cheltenham Festival winner Simply The Betts, Mister Fisher, Slate House, Siruh de Lac, Saint Sonnet and The Russian Doyen.
Of that group Mister Fisher wouldn’t want the forecast heavy rain and Slate House hasn’t really moved forward since coming to grief at the penultimate fence when looking the likely winner in the 2019 renewal.
By jockey bookings he looks like the stable number one, BUT I think that THE RUSSIAN DOYEN could be really well handicapped and has any amount of improvement to come.
Lightly raced in the past 14 months (problems with lameness) his fourth to A Plus Tard in the 2019 Close Brothers at the festival pointed to his real potential especially as you consider that he ran very free through the first half of that contest in a red hot contest. That performance came off a mark of 141 and was followed but a pulled up effort at Aintree (came back lame again).
However, his comeback run over hurdles at Fontwell was a nice pipe-opener and he gets to race off 138 here which could prove lenient and 14/1 (first six places) looks outstanding each-way value to me.
With Siruh de Lac not the most fluent of jumpers and Saint Sonnet not proven in big fields and with his price having contracted since I tentatively put him up yesterday, I thought the best of the top weights, and by some way, is the Brown Advisory winner SIMPLY THE BETTS (closely matched with Happy Diva).
It is worth remembering he battered the seventh fence that day and that was far from fluent at the a crucial stage at the second last. Not only is he a class act, set to take in graded races later this season, but he has the attitude to match his talent and he will be desperately hard to keep out of the finish with further natural improvement.
Saturday, 14:50 – Cheltenham
Tobefair will be much better suited to the give in the ground than the good surface he encountered last time out and certainly on his Cleeve Hurdle form from earlier in the season he is not out of this off a mark of 151.
Golan Fortune ran really well at Aintree last week when the ground probably dried up too much. The anticipated rain will certainly play to his strengths and he has a viable mark of 130. However, he has come in for plenty of support early this week and the value probably lies with Suzy Smith’s charge DEBESTYMAN.
From a stable in red hot form, he is very lightly raced for a seven-year-old but remains on the upgrade this season judged on his second of 19 over 2m5f behind Captain Tom Cat here three weeks ago. On that afternoon he had Golan Fortune, Weather Fortune and Good Man Pat well behind.
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Sunday, 14:10: Punchestown
Saint Roi has been the talking horse in this division since he hacked up in a grade three at Tipperary, but tell me what did he beat and there was a point between the third last and penultimate flight following a careless mistake when he had to be woken up by Mark Walsh.
ABACADABRAS looked big enough in the paddock for the WKD Hurdle and ran as if he needed it as a sharpener behind Aspire Tower. Gordon Elliot certainly wasn’t surprised by that run and although he won first time out last season that was only in a maiden hurdle.
His work at home since then has reportedly picked up a notch, as it would need to do, but that first race simply wasn’t the be-all and end-all to his season and this is his D-Day which I think he can pass with flying colours and the likely starting price is simply too big against a talking horse at this moment in time.
Sunday, 14:55 – Southwell
From the sublime at Punchestown to the slightly more ridiculous, a class six, six-furlong handicap on the Fibresand and a speedster making his debut on this surface. Rated as high as 77 16 months ago, the selection SPRING ROMANCE is now down to a mark of 55, but there have been glimpses of late that he still retains plenty of his talent.
A duplication of his sixth of 11 behind Real Estate in a better event at Lingfield Park would be good enough to win this and I am quite happy to trust master all-weather handler Mick Appleby (first run since coming from Dean Ivory) that his charge will handle this surface and anything in double figures would be good enough for an each-way play.
Paul Jacobs’ weekend wagers
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