Tony McCoy will be hoping he has picked the right horse in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham tomorrow, having chosen the wrong one in the equivalent event 12 months ago.
Last year he opted for the Martin Pipe-trained favourite Chicuelo, who pulled up in the race won by his stable companion Cyfor Malta.
The champion jockey won the race when it was known as the Murphy’s Gold Cup on Cyfor Malta back in 1998, but has once again deserted that horse, this time in favour of It Takes Time.
Like Cyfor Malta, It Takes Time is owned by David Johnson and trained by Pipe.
“I like Cyfor Malta. I know he is higher in the weights, but Cheltenham is his track,” said Pipe, who has won the prestigious contest six times in the past with Beau Ranger (1987), Challenger Du Luc (1996), Cyfor Malta (1998), Lady Cricket (2000), Shooting Light (2001) and Cyfor Malta (2002).
“This time last year I thought Chicuelo was a certainty and I told AP as much. But this time I left it entirely up to him and he has chosen It Takes Time.”
Johnson added: “It was Tony’s choice and he’s chosen to ride It Takes Time, but Cyfor Malta will be there and Rodi Greene, our stable jockey, will take the mount. He’s ridden him before.”
It Takes Time was campaigned mostly over three miles plus last season and will be dropping back to an extended two and a half miles in tomorrow’s £110,000 showpiece.
“Cyfor is in excellent form,” Johnson told attheraces. “With It Takes Time, we’ve brought him back in trip. It isn’t necessarily the trainer’s idea, it’s my idea really, so if it’s a failure tomorrow it’ll be down to me.
“I think they’ll both run a big race.”
Nicky Henderson, who has yet to win the race, saddles Fondmort, who in recent days has been backed down to favouritism.
Fondmort won last season’s Tripleprint Gold Cup at Cheltenham and will be ridden by Mick Fitzgerald, who reached 1,000 winners in Britain at Sandown Park last Saturday.
“We got a gallop into Fondmort at Kempton the other day, which was great. He worked very well there and he seems in super form at home,” Henderson told Channel 4 attheraces.
“The trip and the track we know he’ll like from the Tripleprint last year. He is very well in himself and you’ve got to be optimistic.”
Henderson has no concerns over the going at Cheltenham and added: “Mick says they are going in quite a bit at the top, but it is still fast ground underneath.
“If it doesn’t stop raining then I suppose it could be on the soft side tomorrow. But whatever the ground is he will run because he handles everything.”
Last year’s runner-up Poliantas, who beat Fondmort by 10 lengths at Cheltenham in April, and Exit Swinger, formerly placed twice in the race for Pipe, both represent Paul Nicholls.
Bargain buy Ei Ei, who runs for Market Rasen handler Michael Chapman, has not been seen over fences since finishing second to Ballycassidy in a valuable contest at his local course in July.
Ei Ei has won 14 races since being bought out of a Stratford seller in July 2001.
“I really thought I’d forgotten to confirm his entry when I saw the betting and he was 50-1 others,” remarked Chapman.
“He’s rated 142, which is pretty high for an ex-selling plater. We paid £5,500 for him at Stratford and he’s won about £145,000 now, I think.
“He’s been on Lakeland Willow Water from a village near Cartmel and he seems to thrive on it.”
Chapman reports his stable star in good form ahead of his big test tomorrow.
He said: “We’ve just kept him ticking over over hurdles because there have not been many opportunities.
“He looks absolutely marvellous and he’s been pulling the jockey’s arms out at home.
“Lee (Vickers) came this morning to ride him and he was only supposed to do three furlongs, and he would have done two miles if he’d let him go.
“He’s in very good heart and he goes on any ground. He’s won on soft and he’s won on firm.”
Henry Daly relies on Young Spartacus, having withdrawn Hand Inn Hand overnight because of the fast conditions.
Leading owner JP McManus has two representatives in the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Master Tern and Risk Accessor, who is with Christy Roche in Ireland.
However, connections have warned that Master Tern will only run if there is significant overnight rain.
Local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies runs Redemption.
The going has eased slightly at Cheltenham to good, good to firm in places.
Paddy Power Gold Cup betting:
Paddy Power: 11-4 Fondmort, 7-2 It Takes Time, 5-1 Poliantas, 6-1 Young Spartacus, 8-1 Cyfor Malta, Risk Accessor, 9-1 Master Tern, 20-1 Exit Swinger, Redemption, 33-1 Ei Ei.
William Hill: 3-1 Fondmort, 100-30 It Takes Time, 9-2 Poliantas, 6-1 Young Spartacus, 8-1 Cyfor Malta, Risk Accessor, 9-1 Master Tern, 16-1 Exit Swinger, 22-1 Redemption, 50-1 Ei Ei.