Following a few high profile disappointments at the weekend there has been some movement in the antepost Cheltenham Gold Cup market, but Tony Calvin likes the look of a horse that shone brightly at Down Royal as he takes a first look at the big race...
"He is a 7yo going places and it sounds as if Noel Meade will step him back in distance sooner rather than later, and I think he is yet another potential Gigginstown Cold Cup winner."
The Cheltenham Gold Cup picture perhaps got that little bit murkier last weekend and it is no surprise to see that it is now 7/1 the field for the race on the exchange.
It takes me a while to get back into the jumps swing of things, and it never ceases to surprise me how much I have forgotten from the previous season. So a good look at the Gold Cup is probably just what the doctor ordered, even though it takes about two weeks to see one of those these days.
Market leaders yet to reappear
Thistlecrack heads the market at [8.0] and we haven't seen him since he was touched off by Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase in January. He missed the rest of the campaign with a small tear to his tendon and we will know more about him after he makes his intended reappearance over hurdles at Newbury on December.
I don't tend to get involved in "wow" moments when it comes to racing but his round of jumping when beating Cue Card in the King George last year really was awesome, for all the form of that race can't be rated too highly given the proximity of Silviniaco Conti and Tea For Two.
There is no such injury or well-being concerns about Sizing John. Well, not yet anyway.
Connections became bored of this horse being smashed up by Douvan over 2m and upped him in trip to devastating effect last season, winning four from four thereafter, and he crowned a memorable back-end with his Gold Cup win.
Many think Yorkhill could be this year's Sizing John. This winning pointer has yet to race beyond 2m5f over Rules (he just happened to beat Yanworth in the Neptune over that trip) but last year's JLT winner shapes as though the Gold Cup could be the right route to go down. Quirky he may be, talented he most certainly is.
However, it could well be that Douvan himself, and the likes of Fox Norton, could be upped in trip this season as well.
And then we have Might Bite, who also couldn't be described as straightforward either.
He put up one of the memorable performances of last season, on many levels, when winning the RSA by a nose from Whisper at the Festival and is a machine from the front.
He would have clocked a time off the scale had he stood up at the last in the Kauto Star at Kempton last season, and a return to that course and distance beckons for him on Boxing Day. He won't be going via the Betfair Chase though, as trainer Nicky Henderson has ruled that race out.
Anyway, those are the current four market-leaders on the exchange, so let's focus on the "winners and losers" from last week.
Card, Coney, and Duke all suffer se-backs
Our Duke was probably the most high-profile disappointment after a lifeless display at Down Royal, but at least connections would have been relieved to have a quick reason for his failing to go a yard there.
He was found to have mucus in his lungs - and apparently it was a pretty bad scope, too - and last year's runaway Irish Grand National winner (by 14 lengths off a mark of 153) could well be of interest to some now that he has drifted out to [15.0].
However, I'd like to see him next time before parting with any of my cash, and that Down Royal race was dominated by the Gigginstown massive, with Outlander beating Road To Respect.
That was a welcome return to form for the winner, who also won the Lexus last season, but his Cheltenham record is why he is still available at [95.0] for the Gold Cup.
He finished tailed off as a 10/1 chance in the race last year, fell in the JLT in 2016 and was sixth when a 4/1 chance in the Neptune in 2015. That said, you are braver than I if you are laying Outlander at that price on the exchange, where the runner-up Road To Respect - who does have a Festival chase win on his dance card - is basically a quarter of his price.
Cue Card and Coneygree also suffered varying fates in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby on Saturday, though perhaps for the same reason if you listened to the jockeys.
Paddy Brennan blamed the low sun for Cue Card's fall - his third in his last 10 runs - while those words were echoed by Coneygree's jockey Nico de Boinville, whose mount hit one and then was pulled up soon after, and later found to have suffered a nasty over-reach. Thankfully, he should be back soon, though.
Again, time will tell if the horses' lengthening in price to [75.0] and [34.0] respectively is an over-reaction for those oldies-but-goodies - and Cue Card is more likely to take in the Ryanair this season anyway - but I think those prices pretty much accurately reflect their current chances.
Disko lights up Down Royal
The other winners from the weekend were obviously Bristol De Mai, who loved the soft ground when giving 6lb to stablemate Blaklion at Wetherby, but perhaps the best Gold Cup trial was the one posted by Disko in Ireland.
He ran an excellent race when third to Yorkhill in the JLT last season and then relished the step up to 3m when winning the Grade 1 Novice Chase at Punchestown in April.
So to come back in trip and do what he did at Down Royal on Saturday, giving 7lb and a beating to a highly-progressive sort in Ballyoisin over 2m3f120yd, was no mean performance.
He is a 7yo going places and it sounds as if Noel Meade will step him back in distance sooner rather than later, and I think he is yet another potential Gigginstown Cold Cup winner.
At the moment, he looks the pick of the exchange prices to me at [30.0] and upwards, which looks very fair, as is the Betfair Sportsbook's 25/1. I'd be in the camp of the bookmaker who makes him 16/1.
He is already on the verge of Gold Cup class and has a very likeable profile, which also includes a defeat of Our Duke in a Grade 1 over 2m5f at Leopardstown last season, and is at home on good or soft ground.