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Rajdhani Express heads our three against Paddy Power Gold Cup field

The advent of Cheltenham’s Open Meeting, and in particular its Saturday centrepiece the Paddy Power Gold Cup, offers fans of the winter game a technicolour reminder that the National Hunt season is now in full swing.

Always a fiendishly tricky handicap to unravel, here are three runners that have plenty going for them in the big race.

The Paddy Power is a race that’ll hold bad memories for Sam Waley-Cohen, who could only guide Long Run to third place at the beginning of a season in which he won the King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup back in 2011.

However, the galloping dentist could have another seriously live contender in Rajdhani Express, who can be backed at 11/1 in Coral’s Paddy Power Gold Cup betting.

French-bred like his more illustrious stablemate, the six-year-old scored over course and distance in a typically hot Cheltenham Festival handicap in March, with the second Akertac scoring in his next race.

Although up 15lbs in the handicap since then, his jockey’s 5lb claim should ensure that the weight on his back isn’t an excessive hindrance on his chances.

Having been tried just seven times over fences since arriving in the UK there should be plenty more up the sleeve of a gelding who has taken three of his last four races.

A fellow inmate of Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard, Nadiya De La Vega is another 11/1 shot well worth a second look.

Like Rajdhani Express she’s a course and distance handicap winner, but unlike the aforementioned runner she could be nicely weighted on past efforts.

Third behind the high-class Al Ferof in last year’s renewal off a 5lb higher mark, she’s just 3lbs above the official rating she held when scoring here in handicap company last October.

The last victory mentioned was the third time in her three-campaign career in which she won on her seasonal bow and the seven-year-old will be making her first start of 2013/14 in the 2m4f Saturday feature.

In a field so wide-open it would have even the most solitary rambler coming down with a case of agoraphobia, Conquisto looks to have plenty of positives about him in return for a Coral price of 21/1.

The booking of up and coming young star of the weighing room Bryan Cooper is an eye-catching move for Steve Gollings’ chaser for starters.

Having booted in three Cheltenham Festival winners in March the Irishman has a handle on how to coax big race victory from his Prestbury Park partners and he has a live one in the eight-year-old.

Victory in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree last time out capped an excellent start to his fencing career, which has seen him yet to finish outside the medals in eight runs over fences.

Having given the reopposing Astracad 5lbs and a beating in that Aintree race, further improvement cannot be ruled out at the Open Meeting.

While that could be said of any lightly-raced chaser, the fact that the son of Hernando has only really been free of injury niggles for the past season could see his upgrade magnified.