There are only six runners, but it has the makings of a cracking contest and is likely to revel whether Silviniaco is going to develop into the natural successor to Kauto Star and Denman.
I think we can safely dismiss the chances of Cannington Brook and Silviniaco slammed Wayward Prince to the tune of 11 lengths at Wetherby, so it is difficult to make a case for that horse.
But the other four all have a life. The one you’d least fancy of the quartet has to be Weird Al. Mind you, he made a fine start to last season when winning the Charlie Hall at Wetherby, but his form did tail off after that.
Silviniaco Conti is a horse I really like and am particularly looking forward to riding again. He jumped and travelled great when winning easily at Wetherby and it was the ideal start to his campaign.
Paul Nicholls and I thought long and hard as to whether he should come here, or wait for the King George at Kempton.
My thinking is that essentially you need a two and a half mile hors e for the King George. It is no coincidence the likes of Florida Pearl, One Man and Edredon Bleu have won the King George, but not a Gold Cup.
Our worry was that Silviniaco just wouldn’t have the tactical speed for the King George, whereas the Betfair and Gold Cup place far more emphasis on stamina.
Take the Feltham at Kempton last season when Silviniaco was taken out of his comfort zone and beaten by Grands Crus. No, this is definitely the right race for him.
I believe Long Run now has a bit to prove. He had the world at his feet when winning the Gold Cup as a six-year-old, but to my eyes was never the same horse last season.
I mean, Kauto Star was able to beat him twice and chances are Long Run, at his best, wouldn’t have allowed that to happen, at least not on both occasions.
The Giant Bolster progressed and progressed last season, but it was still hard enough to fancy him in the Gold Cup.
But, at 50-1, he ran the race of his life to finish second to Synchronised and had Long Run behind in third. This will tell us whether that was a flash in the pan or not.
Bottom line is that I love my horse, can’t wait to throw my leg over him and am expecting him to deliver.
My only other ride is on Black Thunder in a competitive handicap hurdle and he certainly won’t be far away.
He reappeared at Kempton 19 day ago to finish third, when really travelling a bit too well for his own good.
A fine big horse and a chaser in the making, Paul’s opinion is that he is more than capable of winning over flights off his current mark.
I have to be more hopeful than confident heading to Navan tomorrow for three rides, assuming the meeting survives the onslaught of the weather.
I start on Wingtips in a decent Grade 2 hurdle, the horse having missed a much easier assignment in a maiden when Thurles was called off on Thursday.
Wingtips has some smart form to his credit and has a chance, but this looks tough and I’ll be pleasantly surprised should he prove good enough.
When I knew Willie Mullins wasn’t going to be represented in the Troytown one of the horses I hoped I might get on was Romanesco and was delighted when it happened.
I suppose jumping has been the big issue with this horse, but he got his act together for Timmy Murphy last time when winning at Fakenham. This is not a vintage Troytown, but will be seriously hard to win and I can only hope for the best.
I end of Rupert Lamb, who hasn’t run for 601 days, in a beginners’ chase. He is owned by Graham and Andrea Wylie and is one of a batch of horses that came to Willie from Howard Johnson.
He got injured around this time last year and, as a result, his debut for Willie has been greatly delayed.
Rupert is doing things right at home now and has schooled beautifully, but surely has to come on plenty for the run.
Willie has a strong hand at Gowran Park today and his French-import, Diakali, a son of Sinndar, will be hard to beat in the three-year-old hurdle.
He has been schooling and working with Blood Cotil, who won in a canter for me at Fairyhouse on Wednesday.
I’m especially sweet on Reine Angevine in a novice hurdle, having won on her very easily on this track last month.
I know the ground will be much different now, but she has been bombing on Willie’s all-weather gallop and that has been rather testing of late.
Aupcharlie has schooled brilliantly and starts off in a beginners’ chase, while Call The Police, who has plenty of work done, should at least give Hidden Cyclone a race in the conditions chase.
Let’s finish with a quick look back at last Sunday’s Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown. Firstly, commiserations to Noel Meade and his team on the sad death of Go Native yesterday.
He was, of course, chasing Hurricane Fly hard when falling at the final flight in the Morgiana.
I was delighted with Hurricane. The speed and turn of foot were back and they were definitely missing at both Cheltenham and Punchestown at the back-end of last season. I can tell we went to that last hurdle at a hundred miles an hour!