Horse racing: Pipe’s Grands grey looks in Crus control

Lee Sobot.
Lee Sobot.
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The first real biggy of the new jumps season is upon us with some decent prices on offer for the Paddy Power Gold Cup runners at Cheltenham tomorrow (2.35pm).

Hunt Ball (6-1), Al Ferof (15-2) and particularly Triolo d’Alene (14-1) all look tempting.

Nothing, though, appeals more than 9-4 favourite Grands Crus – a short price for a reason as barring accidents he is expected to bound away up the Prestbury Park hill.

The massively progressive Grands Crus was last seen when a massive fancy for the RSA Case at the Cheltenham Festival in March which he approached on the back of three impressive victories.

Yet his first chasing attempt at racing beyond three miles and on a testing track like Cheltenham ultimately found him wanting.

The general consensus afterwards was that Grands Crus did not stay but tests subsequently revealed that the dashing grey didn’t scope right afterwards.

The belief in the David Pipe yard is that their horse will yet prove that he does stay three miles plus – ideally in the biggest one of all – the Cheltenham Gold Cup next March.

But as far as tomorrow is concerned we don’t need to worry about Grands Crus staying the extra distance as the Paddy Power is run over two and a half miles and over that trip this horse has been virtually unbeatable.

Tomorrow’s race is a handicap yet there is no doubting that Grands Crus is a genuine Grade One performer who amazingly isn’t even saddled with top weight tomorrow.

The West Country raider has got into tomorrow’s contest off a rating of 157 – a rating Pipe believes is fully exploitable – hence his charge starts the season in a handicap rather than a stakes race.

Connections know that off his current mark a major handicap is there for the taking and I make the grey one of the bets of the season provided he has luck in running at 9-4.

Hunt Ball was hugely progressive last season and is massively respected but he’s no Grands Crus and if there is a danger it is likely something lurking at the foot of the weights.

Nicky Henderson’s Triolo D´Alene appeals as that danger off just 10st 1lbs as he is said to have improved enormously over the summer and his form as it stands anyway entitles him to a lot of respect.

Henderson is also responsible for the day’s next best in Vasco Du Ronceray in the Cheltenham opener (12.45pm). This fascinating French import beat nothing of note on his British debut but he his held in extremely high regard and can take care of Paul Nicholls’ Far West.

Nicholls’ quickly improving Sire Collonges then looks the one to be with in the 1.20pm.

And for anyone heading to Wetherby, Stormy Weather is fancied to take the opener for Brian Ellison (12.10pm) with the lightly-weighted Luccombe Chine of interested if getting in to the handicap at 1.45pm.

Oil Burner is also well fancied for the handicap chase at 1.10pm, as is course specialist Mac Aeda in the 2.25pm while the promising Stasio looks the best bet at Lingfield (3.20pm).

He ran a race chock full of promise on debut and can strike tomorrow with William Buick notably again in the saddle.

But tomorrow’s big one is unquestionably the Paddy Power where hopefully we will see a big performance from Grands Crus.

Might Bite wins the Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree in April.

Henderson: Ground is key for Bite