14.40 Cheltenham: Bayan up for the Coral Cup
The Coral Cup is one of the most competitive handicaps at the Festival, but Gordon Elliott’s Bayan looks weighted to take all the beating.
The five-year-old has won four of his eight starts over hurdles, showing progressive form on each occasion.
He arguably put up his best performance in defeat last time out over hurdles in a 2m 1f contest at Cheltenham when going down by just a 1/4 of a length to Sametegal in a driving finish off a handicap mark of 138.
The gelding cruised into contention three from home, but then made a bad mistake at the second last, which cost him ground at a vital stage.
However, he quickly recovered and after being two lengths down jumping the last, produced a strong challenge before being unable to find any extra in the shadow of the post.
Since then he has won a 2m charity race at Fairyhouse as his final “prep run” ahead of the Festival, and looks to have been given a big chance by the handicapper, who has dropped him 3lb to a mark of 135.
He is now set to meet Sametegal on 8lb better terms, has clearly been laid out for the race and could well have got in lightly.
Another plus is that his handler knows what it takes to win the Coral Cup having sent out Carlito Brigante to land the spoils in 2011, and everything looks in place for a huge run.
There are dangers aplenty in the 28-runner field, and Clondaw Kaempfer and Dell’ Arca look two of the main protagonists.
The former is trained by Donald McCain and looks potentially well-treated off a mark of 138.
He won a valuable bumper at Fairyhouse, where he beat The Liquidator, before making an impressive winning debut over hurdles after joining McCain.
The six-year-old followed that up with a smooth success at Haydock, and although he disappointed first time up this season at the same venue, he left that run well behind when an eye-catching third to LikeMinded at Aintree.
If he can build on that then he has to go close, and the 2m 5f trip should be ideal.