Timeform bring you their comprehensive runner-by-runner guide to the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday and pick out their 1-2-3.
Paddy Power Gold Cup
14:15 Cheltenham, Saturday
Live on ITV
1. Simply The Betts (Paul Nicholls/ Bryony Frost)
Improved markedly over fences during the 2019/20 season, signing off with success in the Plate here in March. Respectable sixth in this race 12 months ago but his very best form is on softer ground. Yard debut.
2. Protektorat (Dan Skelton/ Harry Skelton)
Useful hurdler who had a fine first season over fences, winning three of his five starts, culminating in Grade 1 success over two and a half miles at Aintree in April (on the back of a wind op). Claims from a workable-looking mark.
3. Aso (Venetia Williams/ Charlie Deutsch)
Twice a runner-up in the Ryanair but didn't look the force of old last season, albeit facing stern assignments in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Aintree Bowl on his final two starts. Vulnerable to younger rivals on return.
4. Paint The Dream (Fergal O'Brien/ Connor Brace)
Winning hurdler who put it all together over fences over two and three-quarter miles at Newbury in December, making all. Put up a career best when forging clear on his return over just shy of two and a half miles at Chepstow last month but this is understandably tougher.
5. Al Dancer (Sam Thomas/ Sam Twiston-Davies)
Smart chaser who ran right up to his best when third in this race 12 months ago. Never figured on either start afterwards but he boasts a fine record fresh so is worth a look with his new yard going along nicely.
6. Lalor (Paul Nicholls/ Harry Cobden)
Smart chaser at his best and went close from higher marks here in 2020. Disappointed on both starts following an absence in the spring but it would be foolish to rule out a revival for his new yard on the back of a wind op.
7. Caribean Boy (Nicky Henderson/ Daryl Jacob)
Grade 2 chase winner who caught the eye when seventh in the Paddy Power Plate in March, staying on well from a long way back. National fences may not have been his bag on his final start and he is interesting on return.
8. Midnight Shadow (Sue Smith/ Ryan Mania)
Ran right up to his best when runner-up in last season's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and arrives here in good order, finishing a close third behind Allmankind in last month's Old Roan Chase. Respected from a 1 lb higher mark.
9. Spiritofthegames (Dan Skelton/ Bridget Andrews)
Handicap regular who finished runner-up in this race 12 months ago and boasts consistency that is hard to knock. Fit from a spin over hurdles at Newbury nine days ago and holdseach-way possibilities.
10. Manofthemountain (Emma Lavelle/ Tom Bellamy)
Generally progressive and enhanced his strike rate when taking the Silver Trophy here in April. Pressed on early enough when second behind Paint The Dream on his Chepstow return but this mark demands a bit more now.
11. Zanza (Philip Hobbs/ Tom O'Brien)
Useful hurdler who improved over fences last term, winning over two miles at Newbury in November. Finished a creditable sixth at Aintree in April and his latest third in the Haldon Gold Cup was solid. Longer trip worth exploring.
12. Dostal Phil (Philip Hobbs/ Aidan Coleman)
Low-mileage eight-year-old who confirmed he's on a good mark when coming from a long way back to finish third in the Red Rum at Aintree in April. Unseated at Punchestown on his final start and needs to keep the errors at bay.
13. Coole Cody (Evan Williams/ Adam Wedge)
Showed all his qualities when landing this race from a 4 lb lower mark 12 months ago and matched that when fourth in the Paddy Power Plate in March. Good second on his hurdle return and likely to be spot on now.
14. Up the Straight (Richard Rowe/ Tabitha Worsley (5))
Useful hurdler who never figured in the Silver Trophy on his final start in the spring. Made the most of a good opportunity to land a three-runner novice on his return but more is needed faced with this competitive scenario.
15. Belargus (Nick Gifford/ Niall Houlihan (5))
Put it all together earlier this year, landing two of his last three starts at Sandown at up to two and a half miles (was in contention when falling on his other outing). Assessor applies more pressure and further progress is required now.
16. Deyrann de Carjac (Alan King/ Tom Cannon)
Back-to-back novice chase winner who hit the frame in a pair of Grade 2s during the 2019/20 season. Has been very lightly raced since, though, and was well held at Market Rasen in June. Others hold more pressing claims.
17. Funky Dady (Denis Hogan/ Shane Mulcahy (7))
Has been largely consistent following his Tipperary chase victory in July and wasn't seen to best effect when a plugging-on fourth in the Munster National in October. This is a tough ask from a career-high mark, however.
18. Galahad Quest (Nick Williams/ David Noonan)
Grade 2 hurdles winner who made it third time lucky over fences at Haydock in February. Good third on his return at Wetherby and this five-year-old promises to do better still in this discipline.
19. Farinet (Venetia Williams/ Robert Dunne)
Low-mileage six-year-old who confirmed his yard debut promise when willingly landing a listed handicap over two and a half miles at Sandown in March. This requires more from a 9 lb higher mark on his return but he remains open to improvement.
20. Nietzsche (Brian Ellison/ Danny McMenamin)
Gained a deserved win when landing a listed handicap over two and a half miles at Ayr in April. A spin on the Flat at Catterick in October should have blown the cobwebs away but he may find a few too good from this mark.
Timeform's Analyst Verdict
An ultra-competitive renewal of this feature contest with the vote in favour of Al Dancer. Third from a 5 lb higher mark in this race last year, he never figured either start thereafter but returns with his new yard going well and his record fresh is a particular positive. Lalor is a fascinating runner on debut for Paul Nicholls and is respected, along with Protektorat, Caribean Boy and Coole Cody.
1. Al Dancer