The weights for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup have been released which see Jonjo O’Neill’s 2013 Paddy Power winner and 2014 runner-up Johns Spirit at the head of affairs.
Johns Spirit (11st 12lb) would meet this year’s Paddy Power Gold Cup hero, Paul Nicholls’ Caid Du Berlais (11st), on 1lb better terms if both run.
Nicholls could also run Wonderful Charm (11st 11lb), Grade One second Rolling Aces (11st 7lb) and Sound Investment (11st 1lb).
Malcolm Jefferson was forced to take Attaglance (10st 9lb) out of the Paddy Power because of the soft ground but the Festival runner-up is being aimed at this prize and may be joined by stablemate, Firth Of Clyde (10st 1lb).
“If the ground is fine, then Attaglance will run at Cheltenham. If it’s soft, he won’t go and it would really need to be good, good to soft in places for him to take his chance. He will also be given an entry at Doncaster on the same day and he could go there instead if the ground was better.
“He ran well behind Johns Spirit in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last year and was just beaten by Present View at the Festival, who was third in this year’s race, so the form of both races has stood up well.
“If the ground came up soft, really soft, then we could run Firth Of The Clyde. He would have a great chance on soft or heavy ground as he is definitely a better horse on softer going. I think that the ground was too quick for him in the Byrne Group Plate. He ran over two miles and a furlong at Kelso but he will appreciate the step back up in distance - I wouldn’t mind even giving him a go over three miles on good to soft ground.
“It was a good run at Kelso, considering he was giving a lot of weight away and our horses just haven’t been firing on all cylinders. They are coming back to themselves now and Firth Of The Clyde will definitely improve because he needed a run last year.”
Willie Mullins’ losing streak in British handicaps was extended when Djakadam (10st 8lb) failed in the Hennessy but he could drop back in trip for this with stablemates The Paparrazi Kid (10st 7lb) and Turban (11st 5lb) also engaged.
Oscar Whisky has 11st 11lb and Kim Bailey’s Darna has 10st 10lb, with David Bridgewater’s No Buts on 10st 6lb.
Meanwhile, Cheltenham have brought the off time of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup forward by 35 minutes in an attempt to work around the low sun problem the track sometimes experiences.
The move comes about after the usually informative Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase at the Paddy Power meeting was rendered somewhat disappointing as all the fences in the home straight on both circuits – six in all – had to by bypassed because of low sun.
Track officials hope that by moving the feature race on Saturday week, whether the sun is shining or not it will no longer be an issue.
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: “Following the experience of the novices’ chase at The Open run at 2.25pm, the start time of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup has been brought forward to 2.00pm, to minimise the risk of issues with the low sun over the four fences in the home straight.”