Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup (better known in its former guise as the Paddy Power!) (2.25pm) at Cheltenham has seen a major punt on Rather Be after he was the only one of Nicky Henderson’s four original entries left in at the five-day stage, but King’s Socks (10/1) just could be the one crowned.
The selection is tutored by David Pipe in deepest Devon and those Pipes know a thing about winning this race as his father Martin landed it an incredible eight times before Junior took over the reins and scored himself in 2011 with Great Endeavour.
On his penultimate start King’s Socks travelled like a dream until the second last over a furlong further here at the festival in the Plate when it looked like he might not have quite stayed the distance.
But after being pulled up in the Red Rum Handicap Chase at Aintree last time in April, connections decided that his wind might not be quite right and he underwent surgery in the summer which just could work the oracle.
This horse has now not won since May, 2016 in his native France so if the wind op does work, he could be a very nicely handicapped horse off an official rating of just 139, 4lb lower than he is rated over the smaller obstacles.
Indeed, a close perusal of his earlier hurdles form reveals that he found only Footpad two and a half lengths too powerful in a top-class event two years’ ago and while that can’t be taken too literally now over fences, it still reads extremely well against a future Arkle Chase winner.
Somerset sorcerer Paul Nicholls’s Vicente (8/1) is one of those horses that always gives his all and as a result, unlike King’s Socks, he probably isn’t that well handicapped.
However, the dual Scottish Grand National hero has magnificent prospects of an each-way showing in the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase (1.50pm) on the same card and if he puts his best hoof forward, he might just win.
The fancy only just failed to peg back Perfect Candidate by a fag paper in this contest last season and he races off a mark 1lb lower than that this weekend so there’s hope the nine-year-old can make a popular return to the winner’s enclosure before a possible tilt at the Becher Chase.
The opening Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (12.40pm) could be tailormade for Wiltshire wizard Alan King’s Cracker Factory (7/2) who could pull apart the opposition.
The fancy has been a revelation since joining King from flat trainer William Haggas, winning four of his five Jumps starts including the usually informative Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle at Wetherby on his last outing two weeks’ ago.
A spot of good ground should be perfect for this lovely individual who comfortably mastered a well-regarded Irish raider of Gordon Elliott’s at the West Yorkshire venue.
This event will be tougher but if he is able to make it five victories this term, he’ll have our on-course PR man handing out Triumph Hurdle quotes.
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