Cheltenham Preview: Nicholls has a treble chance
There is some top class jumps action at Cheltenham today, and trainer Paul Nicholls looks to have leading contenders in the three handicap hurdles on the seven-race card.
The Ditcheat handler saddles Edgardo Sol in the 3.15, who has been given a chance by the handicapper and looks weighted to run a huge race on the pick of his form.
The seven-year-old is a useful sort over hurdles and fences, who was rated 155 when finishing third to Wishful Thinking in last year’s Game Spirit Chase at Newbury and went on to finish an excellent sixth of 28 to Ted Veal in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival off a mark of 147.
The gelding ran really well on his second start this season when staying on to finish a never nearer sixth of 12 to subsequent World Hurdle winner More Of That in a class 2 handicap hurdle at Haydock off a rating of 147, and has since gone on to finish a solid ninth of 28 to Whisper in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival off 145.
Those runs make the son of Kapgarde look well-treated in this off 142, and connections are also now interestingly fitting him with the cheekpieces for the first time.
In the novices’ handicap hurdle (4.35), Nicholl’s is represented by the lightly-raced Pay The King who looks sure to appreciate the good ground.
The gelding was bought for £150,000 after impressively winning on his debut in a bumper at Gowran back in Octover 2012, but then got turned over when sent off odds-on on his first two starts for Nicholls.
However, he put in a much improved effort on his first start this season when fifth of 19 to Home Run in a conditionals’ handicap hurdle at this track where after being held-up well off the the pace he stayed on well to be beaten 9 1/2 lengths under tender handling.
The form of that race has a solid look to it and although Pay The King failed to build on it last time out when disappoint at Musselburgh that run came on soft ground which didn’t suit.
All his best runs have come on good ground, and now that he has his ideal conditions it would be no surprise to see him live up to his potential and prove better than his current handicap mark of 115.
For Two is another lightly-raced Nicholls’ gelding who looks to have leading claims in the finale at 5.30.
The five-year-old has had just four starts since joining Nicholls after winning a French bumper race in Auteuil, and has finished in the frame on each occassion.
The son of Act One ran really well on the last of those over course and distance back in October where he stayed on to finish fourth of 12 to First In The Queue.
The form of that race looks strong in the context of today’s contest, and having been dropped 2lb by the handicapper For Two looks weighted to take all the beating.
2.05: Garde La Victoire
3.15: Edgardo Sol (NAP)
4.25: Pay The King
4.55: Karinga Dancer
5.30: For Two (NB)