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Colour Squadron and Johns Spirit renew rivalry in December Gold Cup

The Paddy Power Gold Cup form could hold the key to Saturday’s December Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Jonjo O’Neill’s Johns Spirit will be seeking a third consecutive big race win at the course but must race off a 9lbs higher mark.

Colour Squadron ran on to take second place after being hampered by the fall of Easter Meteor two from home. He was only three-quarters of a length down at the line but has also been raised 7lbs by the handicapper.

Emma Lavelle’s Easter Meteor was still going strongly when he departed but has also been re-assessed on an 8lb higher mark. The fourth horse Attaglance is also on target for the race along with eighth horse Tap Night.

If Johns Spirit can defy his rise in the handicap, he will emulate Exotic Dancer who won the two big chases for the same stable in 2006. Colour Squadron is one of three entries for JP McManus including Newbury winner Cantlow.

Paul Webber’s gelding has always threatened to have a big race in him and looked the part when beating Easter Meteor by a length and three-quarters. The runner-up has a 3lbs pull in the weights here and was running on strongly at the finish.

Kapga De Cerisy will attempt to follow up his 12-length Sandown victory for Venetia Williams. The French-bred five-year-old has won his last three completed outings, all at the Esher track.

He has been beaten on both previous visits to Cheltenham and is up 11lbs for his recent victory. David Pipe could run Salut Flo who has not raced since winning at the Cheltenham festival in March 2012.

Paul Nicholls enjoyed a magnificent weekend with big race wins at Sandown and Aintree and he relies on Grandioso, a promising third to Cantlow at Newbury. Like many of the Nicholls’ team, he may have just needed that first outing and is expected to strip fitter on Saturday.

The Irish challenge is led by Paul Nolan’s Noble Prince who is almost certain to be carrying top weight. He is expected to be joined by Arthur Moore’s Home Run who finished third in the Irish National in April.