It promises to be a massive day for Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls who has some outstanding chances on the Gold Cup card, not least with Clan Des Obeaux in Cheltenham's feature race of the Festival...
"I've deliberately kept him fresh this time. We will also be riding Clan more patiently on Friday. He's had a brilliant preparation and I expect him to go close."
- Paul Nicholls on Clan Des Obeaux
Two big chances but Solo has improved since Adonis win
13:30 - Sir Psycho & Solo
We have a strong hand in this with two smart runners. Sir Psycho is tough, progressive and followed up his 31 length win at Exeter on New Year's day with a fluent success in the Victor Ludorum at Haydock on heavy ground. He is a galloper, is going the right way and could run into a place.
Solo is a lovely horse who was giving us all the right signals before making a brilliant winning debut for us in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton (pictured below). You wouldn't know he'd had a race afterwards, he has definitely improved since that run and continues to please at home.
While Solo is a bit short of experience having only raced three times he is all quality and we do think he is a really exciting prospect who is going to make a cracking chaser one day. I'll be surprised and disappointed if he doesn't run a big race in this.
Drying ground will suit and Christopher has place claims
14:10 - Christopher Wood & Scaramanga
Christopher Wood has gone up 10lbs for winning nicely at Musselburgh last month which makes life a fair bit tougher in this. That was his first run since a wind op to help his breathing and it was good to see him in good order again. He was third in a Grade 1 at Aintree last spring and is well capable of being in the frame here.
The more the ground dries out on the New course the better it will suit Scaramanga who is decent on his day. He won well at Wincanton in December and then couldn't handle the deep going at Ascot just before Christmas.
Tiger not running just to make up the numbers
14:50 - Cat Tiger
You want a tough, race hardened horse for the Albert Bartlett and Cat Tiger fits the bill. He stays well, relishes testing conditions and has been a model of consistency in five races over hurdles for us this winter ridden by his enthusiastic owner David Maxwell. David also won a £100,000 Chase at Auteuil on Cat Tiger at Auteuil a few days after buying him. They are not running just to make up the numbers.
I expect Clan to go close in Gold Cup
15:30 - Clan Des Obeaux
He is much stronger and better this season and comes to Cheltenham mad fresh and well after a well earned break following his second successive victory in the King George on Boxing Day. I know some people question his stamina but he was very strong at the line at Kempton and I don't see it as an issue.
I suspect running Clan at Newbury in February last season could have taken the edge of him at Cheltenham where he faded on the hill in the Gold Cup in testing ground after looking a big threat two out. I've deliberately kept him fresh this time. We will also be riding Clan more patiently on Friday. He's had a brilliant preparation and I expect him to go close.
Each-way claims in Foxhunters
16:10 - Alcala
He was a decent handicapper once rated in the 150's, was unlucky to fall when poised to win at Ludlow and then beat a smart hunter Wishing and Hoping at Haydock before finishing a close second to Bob & Co at Fontwell. That race was a bit closer than ideal to Cheltenham but he had to run there to qualify for the Foxhunters. He has a sporting each-way chance ridden by Angus Cheleda.
Very hopeful in race we like to target
16:50 - Capeland & Greaneteen
A fast run, competitive handicap suits Capeland who has had a nice break since his last outing at Ascot two months ago. He was in top form towards the end of last year and is now on a career high mark of 153 which means he is probably handicapped to the hilt. Capeland is nice and fresh and should be happier back in this company after finding life tough in Graded races. I could see him picking up some of the pieces in this.
Greaneteen was useful over hurdles and has made big strides since switching to fences by quickly developing into a smart handicapper. He has loads of speed, is a swift, accurate jumper and has the right profile for this race having run up a hat-trick over fences. I am very hopeful because he ticks a lot of the right boxes in a race I always like to target.
Both are very capable on their day
17:30 - Cliffs Of Dover & Ecco
After a year off with a leg injury Cliffs Of Dover has been ready to run for the last few weeks but has been denied opportunities with meetings off left, right and centre. While it is asking a lot for him to win the Martin Pipe on his comeback and I'd have preferred to have given him a prep somewhere he's a talented, hardy handicapper and I've done plenty with him.
I've always thought this race would suit Ecco's style of racing. He started the season with two wins on the bounce, the trip is ideal, he handles the ground and he has run some good solid races.
*Best chance. Clan Des Obeaux. 15:30. Comes into this on the back of a perfect preparation and is stronger and better this year.