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Paddy Power Gold Cup

Cheltenham : Open for business!

dynasteAs the light of the National Hunt season begins to shine that little brighter, the big guns start to look for their share of the limelight starting this weekend at the Open Meeting, Cheltenham, as Daniel Kelly casts his eye over the emerging talent.

One family that has been synonymous with this meeting is the Pipe family, and throughout the years they have unearthed a talent or two.

Back in 2010, David Pipe sent out Grands Crus to win the Intermediate Hurdle, before following up quickly to win the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock, and he has a trio entered here that possibly have eyes on the double; Edmund Kean, Top Gamble and Western Warhorse.

All three have option of either Friday’s 2m 5f Intermediate Hurdle or the 3m1f Handicap Hurdle on Saturday, but the one that sticks out is Top Gamble.

This son of Presenting went down by half a length to Rebecca Curtis’ O’faolains Boy on racecourse debut at Chepstow, but was back to Wales within weeks to take home a modest bumper at Ffos Las.

Prior to his hurdles debut he was entered up in both the Neptune and The Albert Bartlett, and unsurprisingly sent off the shortest price of the Pipe quartet. He didn’t disappoint, sauntering away from a fair field to win by a cosy six lengths.

With just the one start over timber to his name, it’s expected that he’ll spend the season over hurdles and with an opening mark as tempting as 133, there’s every reason to think he could climb through the hurdling ranks this season.

One that did climb through the hurdling ranks last season, and also sports the same colours as Top Gamble, is exciting novice chaser African Gold who is entered, and judging by owner comments last week, a likely runner in the 3m Novice Chase on Saturday.

African Gold comes into the season as one of last season’s highest rated novice hurdlers.

This side of the Irish Sea only a handful rated higher: The New One, At Fishers Cross, Ubak and Close Touch.

Saying goes; learned much more from defeat than I ever learned from winning, and his defeat on hurdling debut at Carlisle, following his easy bumper win, was probably the making of him.

On the Heavy ground at Carlisle, behind a highly regarded Anthony Honeyball runner in Ballybough Pat, he must have suffered some breathing trouble, as from then on in he hasn’t been seen without a tongue tie, and from then on in he’s not looked back.

Winner of a handicap hurdle at the Hennessy Festival off 118, he chased home At Fishers Cross in the Albert Bartlett before trying to take on the bigger boys in the Liverpool Hurdle and the startling thing is, all this was within eleven months of his racecourse debut.

Currently the Greatwood Hurdle doesn’t look the greatest of renewals, with a couple of interesting entries defecting to the Fighting Fifth hurdle, however with the ground set to be on the good side it could see a return to form for last season’s Scottish Champion Hurdle winner, Court Minstrel.

The two blots on his form book have been due to ease in the ground, and one of them being recently at Ascot. Looking a picture in the paddock, he didn’t hurdle with his usual fluency down the back straight, nor did he pick up in the straight from an unpromising position given the way the race panned out.

If there was more to the defeat than the ground I’d have expected to see him also defect at the confirmation stage.

Last year we saw the likes of Dynaste, Captain Conan and Al Ferof light up Open the stage. The class of 2013/14, the floor is yours.

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