Key punting pointers and trainer quotes to solve the day's big betting puzzle
Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m5f | 4yo+ | ITV/RUK
An always fiercely competitive handicap and huge punting race, the Coral Cup usually goes to a young, lightly-raced improver – five or six-year-olds have triumphed in six of the last nine runnings – and the top stables traditionally do well.
The eye is immediately drawn to the Willie Mullins-trained Max Dynamite, who may not totally fit the profile of a typical winner as he is an eight-year-old, but looks to have been meticulously laid out for the race and remains unexposed over hurdles after just eight runs.
It’s no surprise to find Max Dynamite at the head of the market for this 2m5f Grade 3 as he has been talked about as a possible Cheltenham winner for many months.
A 113-rated performer on the Flat who ran a blinder to finish third to Rekindling in the Melbourne Cup in November, Max Dynamite had other Cheltenham options, including the County Hurdle, but this test of speed and stamina could prove ideal for him under Ruby Walsh.
William Henry looks pick of Henderson team
Nicky Henderson may not have quite as much ammunition to fire in this race as Mullins – he fields four runners; one fewer than Mullins – but in William Henry he also has a horse with very strong claims.
The son of King’s Theatre stayed on strongly under find-of-the-season James Bowen to land Kempton’s Lanzarote Hurdle in January and the immensely talented teenager retains the mount.
Future chaser Topofthegame must not be discounted
Paul Nicholls and Sam Twiston-Davies are adamant that Topofthegame will not fulfil his massive potential until he jumps fences next season.
The biggest horse at Ditcheat, Topofthegame is still raw, but that didn’t stop him landing a big-field £100,000 handicap hurdle at Sandown last time.
He has a mighty engine under that huge frame and, whatever he does in the Coral Cup, is one to keep on side when the time comes to send him chasing.
What they say
Gordon Elliott, trainer of Diamond King and Barra
Diamond King is a past winner of the race. He’s in good order but the ground is a big worry. Barra ran very well when second in the Mares’ Novices' Hurdle last year. She’ll like the ground and has a nice, low weight.
Nicky Henderson, trainer of William Henry, Burbank, Fixe Le Kap and Stowaway Magic
Fixe Le Kap will love the ground – it's going to be perfect for him – and he's a useful horse who's just been unlucky to have hiccups. William Henry handles soft ground but has a difficult job with such a big weight. I'd have been a very big Burbank fan had the ground been good. I can live with Stowaway Magic on the ground, but I'd have fancied him more on good ground.
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Topofthegame
The ground is ideal for him. He won over two miles seven last time and two miles five on this ground will help him a bit. He went up 8lb for winning last time so that makes it a lot tougher.
Willie Mullins, trainer of Abbyssial, Bleu Berry, Voix Du Reve, Max Dynamite, C'est Jersey
Max Dynamite’s last three runs were at Killarney, Flemington and Sha Tin, which you could say is an unusual preparation. He has won on soft but better ground would be preferable. As a two-miler on the Flat, the trip should suit. Joining him in the line-up are Abbyssial, who settled well on his comeback at Gowran and could go well on ground he’ll love if he settles as well this time, Bleu Berry, whom I expect to improve from his last run, Voix Du Reve, who was going to win the Fred Winter two years ago when he fell at the last, and C’Est Jersey, for whom going left-handed might not be ideal.
Alan King, trainer of River Frost, Dusky Legend and Bastien
Bastien is the one who'll definitely handle the ground and he's in good order. He didn't quite stay the three miles in testing conditions at Newbury last month, but still ran a good race for fifth and he'll be well suited by this drop back in trip. Dusky Legend is also in really good form and she’s been placed at the last two festivals. It’s not going to be her ground, but this will probably be her penultimate run as she's off to the paddocks at the end of this season. River Frost has been aimed at this race for some time, but is another with ground worries. Having shaped encouragingly first time out at Chepstow, he ran no race at Kempton and I don’t know why. He’s fresh and well so takes his chance.
Joe Tizzard, assistant to Colin Tizzard, trainer of Royal Vacation
It's an ultra-competitive race. On his A-game he could take a hand, but he needs to improve a bit to be getting there.
Ruth Jefferson, trainer of Mount Mews
He’s in good form and has run well on this type of ground before. He's schooled well over hurdles in preparation and we feel this race should suit him.
Ben Pauling, trainer of Le Breuil and Red Indian
Le Breuil is in fantastic form. He’s very well handicapped on his best form and goes there as good as we can get him. Red Indian is one of the few who'll love the ground. He ran well at Cheltenham in November.
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