THE Paddy Power Gold Cup is a race that gets me going – and boy would I love to pull Paddy's pants down by finding the winner today!
Truly, the once Mackeson, Murphy's and Thomas Pink Gold Cup has thrown up some of my favourite performances over the years at Cheltenham.
From Half Free to Very Promising and Beau Ranger, from Tipping Tim to Bradbury Star and Dublin Flyer, from Challenger du Luc, Cyfor Malta and Lady Cricket, and from Exotic Dancer, Imperial Commander and Al Ferof the list of winners just touches the heart like only National Hunt stars can do.
Certainly, on a personal level, Lady Cricket and the beautiful Cyfor Malta will long live in the memory for the late David Johnson and now retired genius Martin Pipe.
Oh how Pipey could lay one out for this. What a midas touch trainer in such handicaps.
Paddy Power know exactly how to bring fun to any sport, and it's great to see Ireland's leading bookmaker back in the spotlight for today's renewal which is live on the main ITV network.
I'll be doing the winning jockey interviews for ITV, but who will I be speaking to?
The ante-post favourite has been Saint Sonnet, trained by the excellent former champion Paul Nicholls who has made a blistering start to the campaign.
Harry Cobden takes the ride on the lightly raced five-year-old, who was last seen at Cheltenham finishing a fair seventh behind Samcro in the Grade 1 Marsh Novices' Chase.
He would have been closer that day but for stumbling at the last. Saint Sonnet is just the type of French import Pipe excelled with in the past, and might well be good enough for his in-form team.
Simply the Betts challenges for up-and-coming Harry Whittington, and has already been a star for the stable, taking the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at the Festival in March.
The problem for him is that he scored off a handicap rating of 149, and now must try and bang in this event off 157. That won't be easy with a racing weight of 11st 11lb. But he's a proper horse.
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Of the other Nicky Henderson sits Nico de Boinville on Mister Fisher, who seems to have been about for ages but is actually only a six-year-old. He promised much as a young hurdler, and was once eighth behind Klassical Dream in the 2019 Supreme at Cheltenham.
He was also fourth behind Samcro in the Marsh. I'm not picking him, but he could easily run a big one.
Al Dancer goes into the race on the back of a gutsy success at Newton Abbot, and I was lucky enough to be reporting at the track that day and Sam Twiston-Davies was excellent for his old man Nigel. That said, I can't see him being up to this test.
It would be crazy to ignore Happy Diva, who is the defending champion for Kerry Lee. I doubt, though, that lightning will strike twice off an 8lb higher mark.
The horse I'm going to have a few quid eachway on is Slate House, who was actually favourite for this event in 2019 but fell two out when mounting a strong challenge.
To be honest, things had already gone badly for him that day as he hit the first fence hard which is never a good idea in such a competitive heat.
Slate House was rated 147 then, and is now up to 152, so it's not going to be easy, but while he flopped in his last two races during the latest campaign he's always been a horse who has suggested there is a big day in him.
Robbie Power rides the eight-year-old for Colin Tizzard, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed the paid will get everything together on this occasion. Otherwise, Robbie, you will be in for a slating. By the way, if Slate House wins he will become the first horse to ever land the race with 11st 6lb on his back. Interesting fact that!
Elsewhere at Cheltenham, ITV also show the Grade 2 novice chase at 1.40pm and I can't wait to see Fusil Raffles in this for Henderson and Daryl Jacob.
You may remember this five-year-old exploding on the British scene at Kempton in 2018 in the race named after me – the Adonis Hurdle – where he looked a young hurdler of huge potential.
He then had to miss Cheltenham but returned at Punchestown to land the Grade 1 Champion Four Year Old Hurdle. He's fenced well so far at Uttoxeter and Cheltenham and could be capable of giving weight away to a talented line-up.
Cheltenham is back people. Just enjoy.
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