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Paddy Power Gold Cup

Cheltenham Open Meet :Friday Tips

countryside-dayDid you hear that? That was the bang of the National Hunt season really kicking into full-flow.

Cheltenham’s Open meeting is regarded by many as the day in the calendar when we can forget about sprints, Richard Hughes and the Derby, and begin to really concentrate and enjoy the thrill that top-class jump racing has to offer.

Friday’s fixture at Cheltenham – billed as Countryside Day – may lack the prestige and exuberance that the Saturday and Paddy Power Gold Cup produces, but there is still some excellent action to get out punting teeth stuck into with Channel 4 in town to cover four of the races.

So, where should the money be going for Friday’s action?

1:35 Paddy Power Handicap Chase (2m)

The first terrestrial televised race of the day brings together a crop of horses who will be flying around Prestbury Park in helter-skelter fashion.

Traditionally, this race is usually picked up by one of the big stables, with one of Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, David Pipe and Jonjo O’Neill winning 10 of the last 11 renewals.

The Nicholls operation won this two-mile cavalry charge with Shooters Wood last term as he justified 11/4 favouritism and many punters will be looking towards Valco De Touzaine perhaps to follow suit in this year’s renewal.

He won like a horse going places over fences at Wetherby but Nicholls was quick to play down his potential in the aftermath.

Being just a four-year-old his ability to mix it with his elders in a tough handicap of this nature is doubtful. We’re going to swerve the youngster on age grounds and concentrate our focus on EASTLAKE from the red hot O’Neill yard.

The seven-year-old was progressive last season and has strengthened up over the summer, as shown when he defied a 191-day absence to win on his seasonal reappearance at Aintree.

That win has resulted in a 5lb hike up the weights but he’s bound to appreciate the ground while many of rivals won’t.

2:05 Steel Plate And Sections Novices´ Chase (2m4f)

One of the horses we’ve been looking forward to watching this year is OSCAR WHISKY, who looks a top-class chaser in the making for the Henderson team.

Rated 164 over hurdles, he has apparently been schooling like a dream under Barry Geraghty and although the ground won’t be much to his liking, there is no reason to swerve him on debut.

Just looking at the roll of honour for this event gives you an idea of what kind of horse is targeted for this event.

Dynaste, Grands Crus, Denman, Imperial Commander and Time For Rupert all won this race before hitting huge heights in their career.

Oscar Whisky is one that can go all the way at the Festival too, with perhaps the Arkle or Jewson on his radar. Best bet of the day.

2:40 David Johnson Memorial Intermediate Handicap Hurdle (2m5f)

Pipe will undoubtedly load several bullets into the gun for a race run in the name of one of his most loyal owners who died earlier this year.

However, he may just come up short as we like the chances of the Tom George-trained KILLALA QUAY, who looks a horse who can progress through the ranks judging by his win at Chepstow in a novice race.

3:15 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (3m7f)

Not always a race to go feet first into from a punting perspective but we’ll make an exception this year as the form that BALTAHAZAR KING is in makes him a juicy bet to land this cross country event.

He simply relishes jumping big fences at Cheltenham and should give Richard Johnson a thrilling spin.

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