'He'll be back in the mix again' - Paul Nicholls on last season's winner
Friday: 1.45 Cheltenham
Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase | Class 2 | 2m | 4yo+ | ITV4/RTV
Buckle up, folks. This is going to be quite a spectacle.
Two-mile chases are generally where horses who are too enthusiastic for their own good find a home. The higher up the scale, and the more undulating the track, the less that tends to apply. But this is Cheltenham, on what seems set to be unseasonably fast ground and at least three of the nine runners are best when allowed to run freely.
There is simply no stopping Editeur Du Gite. It is hard to argue with the results of his attacking style, which include winning the Red Rum in April, but it does tend to mean he gives himself hard races, and he was backtracking when unseating at the last fence at Ascot two weeks ago. He jumped left that day and will be a sight around Cheltenham.
Charlie Deutsch on Stolen Silver and Tom Cannon on Kap Auteuil would probably like to let Niall Houlihan get on with it to an extent, if their mounts will allow it.
Stolen Silver struggled to settle even in big-field handicaps for his former yard, while Kap Auteuil made his name whizzing around the likes of Fakenham and Market Rasen in the spring.
It is distinctly possible that one gets away and stays away. The front-runner bias over fences at Cheltenham has been shown time and again. But it is a bias, not a law, and here punters should at least entertain the possibility that the race will be set up for closers.
Magic Saint won this race off the same mark last year and has swapped one good-value 5lb claimer then for Angus Cheleda now. Magic Saint is race-fit, as is Hatcher, whose autumn runs often do little more than prepare him for a return in the spring.
His mark is high, but this free-goer's connections might quietly fancy one last payday, given the prevailing conditions.
The pace scenario might also suit Bathiva, who travelled well into an equivalent and probably stronger race at the Showcase meeting before late mistakes meant others were able to sprint away.
Keith Melrose, betting editor
Kap Auteuil a Cheltenham first for Lawes
It's a big day in the career of Toby Lawes as the Surrey trainer saddles his first runners at Cheltenham, starting with the prolific Kap Auteuil in the 2m handicap chase.
After being Nicky Henderson's assistant for five years before going it alone, Lawes knows what it takes to be successful at the home of jump racing, and in Kap Auteuil he has a horse who knows how to win.
The brother to A Plus Tard finished last season with a hat-trick and picked up where he left off with an eight-length success at Stratford last month.
"He's been very progressive and this is a good step up for him, but one that is very appropriate on what he's done," said Lawes, who also saddles the hat-trick seeking Vocal Duke in the 2m½f handicap hurdle (4.00).
"He doesn't have bags of gears but he's a great jumper and hopefully that will keep him in it. He wants a good solid pace throughout and that looks exactly what we're going to get."
Lawes, who has 13 horses in training for his second full season, is looking forward to returning to a track which holds many special memories.
"Nicky and I had a lot of fun there, especially in the two-mile division funnily enough, and it's great to go there for the first time with a fair chance in a competitive race," he said.
What they say
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Magic Saint
He won the race last year and follows the same route having had a run beforehand. Angus [Cheleda] takes a handy five off and dropping back to two miles on this track, he'll be back in the mix again. I still think he's high enough, but he's on the same mark as last year, so he should run well.
Dan Skelton, trainer of Hatcher
He ran over hurdles last week but obviously didn't enjoy that and we'll never do it again. He's better over fences and although he's running back quite quickly, he did run well over course and distance three weeks ago, so that would give us some positivity.
Robin Dickin, trainer of Moon Over Germany
He's settled in a treat and has had his wind done. He's ten but he's not been over-raced. We've done all sorts with him at home, so he'll be fresh and well mentally, and he looks magnificent. I'd like to think he could run beyond his odds.
Sam Thomas, trainer of Stolen Silver
As you saw last time, he doesn't hang around and that's the way he'll be again. It's going to be a lot tougher this time but he goes there in good form and, if he doesn't burn himself out too early, he'd have a good chance.
Gary Moore, trainer of Editeur Du Gite
I was happy with the way he ran at Ascot last time and he was probably getting a little tired, which is why he fired Jamie [Moore] off [at the last]. He's probably a better horse on a flatter track, but I'd like to think this is a slightly easier race than Ascot. As long as he improves from that, and for going left-handed, he should have every chance.
Reporting by Andrew Dietz
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