A former winner of Kempton’s Feltham Novices’ Chase when trained by Martin Keighley, the seven-year-old looked to have lost his way towards the end of last season, but appeared revitalised by the switch of stables when running out a narrow winner of Prestbury Park’s early-season highlight four weeks ago.
Annacotty is reopposed by a number of those who he denied last month, but King, who also runs Turn Over Sivola, is bullish about his chances of becoming the first horse since Exotic Dancer in 2006 to win both of Cheltenham’s pre-Christmas features.
“If anything I think he’s come forward for his run in the Paddy Power. You could say the New Course might suit him better than the Paddy Power track,” said the Barbury Castle handler.
“Up until then his best form was on the new track. It’s more galloping, so we’ll see.
“We’ll see. I’m happy with him but whether he can do it a second time, time will tell.
“There’ll be no excuses anyway.”
The Evan Williams-trained Buywise has just half a length to find with Annacotty after flashing home to fill the runner-up spot in the Paddy Power, but the Vale of Glamorgan trainer is not sure what to expect from a horse who is well-known for making mistakes.
He said: “He’s in great form, but he’s up in the weights and probably faces an impossible task on the book. He couldn’t win off a lower mark in the Paddy Power, so he shouldn’t really win this.
“I don’t really think he was unlucky in the Paddy Power, myself. He was given an exceptional ride and just wasn’t good enough on the day. That’s the way I look at it.
“He’s up in the weights and he can’t jump, so he’s probably no chance, but it’s a £100,000 race and we’ll give it a go.”
Sound Investment carried top-weight to third place last month and must once again shoulder the burden of 11st 12lb under Sam Twiston-Davies.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls also runs Paddy Power sixth Art Mauresque.
He said: “The New Course and the better ground will suit Sound Investment more than the Old Course and softer ground in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
“He has it all to do at the weights, but ran so well last time out. I think he will run tidy once again, particularly if the ground is not as soft as it was last time.
“Art Mauresque ran an absolutely blinding race in the Paddy Power and it was the first time that Sean Bowen had ridden him.
“Nick (Scholfield) knows him well and is back on board on Saturday.”
Rebecca Curtis is confident the feed issue that caused her to shut up shop for a fortnight will not have adverse effect on Irish Cavalier’s performance.
The Newport handler saddled just two winners from 30 runners in November and had not sent out any runners since last month’s Hennessy meeting at Newbury prior to racing at Cheltenham on Friday.
Discussing the problem earlier this week, Curtis said: “It wasn’t a bad batch of hay, as such. The horses were just testing high for protein and I think that was affecting the way they were running.
“We changed things 10 days or two weeks ago and hopefully we’ve solved the problem now.”
Despite the yard’s travails, Festival winner Irish Cavalier remains towards the forefront of the betting after running a blinder to finish fifth in the Paddy Power.
“I don’t think the problems we’ve had have really affected him, to be honest,” said Curtis.
“He seems in really good form and hopefully he’s come on a bit from his run in the Paddy Power, so we’ll see.
“We didn’t do a huge deal with him between his first run (of the season) at Newton Abbot and the Paddy Power, so there should be a bit of improvement there.
“Hopefully he’ll run a big race again.”
Champion jockey-elect Richard Johnson spent the week deliberating whether to ride the long-absent Champagne West or the in-form Village Vic for his boss Philip Hobbs, eventually siding with the latter.
He said: “Champagne West fell with me at Sandown (in January) and just had a small problem after that. He’s had plenty of time and has good form around Cheltenham already. He’s a very high-class horse.
“It’s obviously a big ask coming into a handicap like this first time out, but he’s definitely a possible improver.
“Village Vic is as fit as a flea and conditions will really suit.
“He’s a horse we thought the world of as a bumper horse and was just beaten by The New One in a novice hurdle at Cheltenham.
“He’s had quite a few issues and injuries, but this is the first year he had a good summer break and came back on the right track. It’s going to be testing, but he’s off 10 stone and he’s absolutely on top form. It wouldn’t surprise me if either of them went and won.”
Willie Mullins runs Mozoltov, making his first start since April 2014. Mullins said: “It is probably going to be far enough for him, two and a half miles, but let’s see what he is.
“If he’d run in the Hilly Way and ran well he’d ruin any chance he had of running well in a good handicap so I’d rather start off in handicaps.
“I think he’s in good form, I don’t know how well he’s handicapped, but it will give us a good indication of what route to take after that.”
The other Irish contender is Noel Meade’s Texas Jack, who there had been a doubt about on travel grounds but Noel Meade reported yesterday morning that he had arrived safely.