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The 2014 Cheltenham Open meeting kicks off on Friday November 14th, and national hunt fans are in for a real treat, with three days of exciting action from Prestbury Park. This meeting’s highlight will be Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup, where the Jonjo O’Neill trained John’s Spirit will be bidding to win the race in back to back years. The seven year old is available at a best price of 10/1 with sponsors Paddy Power to win a second Gold Cup, and although John’s Spirit is significantly higher in the weights than last year, this Cheltenham specialist should run another big race.
‘Countryside Day’ as Friday has been titled, will the see the Grade 2 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle get under way at 3pm and features some of the very best novices currently in training. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Blaklion is likely to be popular and Evan Williams also hold a strong hand here with two horses entered for the race. On Sunday, we have trials for both the Arkle and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in addition to the Grade 3 Greatwood Hurdle where the Nicky Henderson trained Vaniteux is likely to take a lot of beating.
One of the biggest handicap races of the season, the Paddy Power Gold Cup is a two mile four furlong chase with a total of fifteen fences to be tackled. First run in 1960, the Paddy Power Gold Cup has had a number of different sponsors down the years, but has been supported by the Irish bookmaker since 2003. Five horse have won the race on two occasions, and John’s Spirit is attempting to be the first runner to achieve back to back Gold Cups since Bradbury Star in 1993/94.
The Jamie Snowden trained Present View currently heads the ante post market for this Saturday showpiece, with the six year old generally available at odds of 6/1. Present View was last seen when finishing second to Vicente over hurdles here back in October, and was only beaten a head in that contest. This bay gelding’s novice chase form was very solid last season and he gets into the Paddy Power on an attractive looking mark. This is a big step up for Presenting View, but he’s still quite unexposed and can likely be involved at the business end of the race.
I’m personally keen on the chances of Nicky Henderson’s Oscar Whisky who may well come into his own over the larger obstacles this season. The former Aintree Hurdle winner has class in abundance and looks a cracking each way bet at odds of 11/1 with Coral. Henderson last trained the winner of this race in 2003 and this yard is well overdue a second Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Vaniteux should be a difficult horse to beat in Sunday’s Greatwood Hurdle and the price of 4/1 available at Paddy Power looks more than fair. Another Nicky Henderson inmate, Vaniteux finished third in last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and could well be a leading player in some of the major races when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival in March. One of the least exposed runners in this field, Vaniteux should be fit enough to do himself justice at the first time of asking, and although favourite, still looks a value play at 4s.
The main threat could come from Irish raider Clondaw Warrior who was last seen when winning the November Handicap at Leopardstown on the level. The Mullins stable warrant plenty of respect and this horse should make a smooth transition back to hurdles.
Back Oscar Whisky each way at 11/1 with Coral in the Paddy Power Gold Cup
Back Vaniteux at 4/1 with Paddy Power in the Greatwood Hurdle