All eyes on Gold Cup hope Holywell in Ivan Straker

Leading Gold Cup contender Holywell is heavily odds-on to bounce back to form and land the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase at Kelso today (3.30), and is impossible to oppose in what looks the ideal prep race ahead of his Cheltenham Festival target.

The Jonjo O’Neill-trained gelding has had a disappointing season so far, finishing a well beaten third in an intermediate chase at Carlisle back in November before unseating his jockey in a Listed contest at Aintree the following month.

However, the eight-year-old comes alive at this time of the year and is officially rated 29lb and upwards clear of his three rivals this afternoon.

That suggests that it should be a stroll in the park for Holywell, who now also sports blinkers for the first time this season.

Holywell wore the headgear when winning at the last two Cheltenham Festivals and started the season as one of the leading contenders for the Gold Cup after rounding off 2013/14 with an easy 10 length success over Don Cossack in a Grade 1 contest at Aintree.

The form of the latter has been franked in no uncertain fashion, as the winner in unbeaten in four runs this season and clear ante post favourite for the 2m 5f Ryanair Chase at the Festival.

Holywell is currently a 10/1 chance with Coral for the Gold Cup on Friday, March 13th, and connections could not have found an easier race for his final run before the big day.

O’Neill reports Holywell in good shape, and he is going to be the sole contender for the master of Jackdaws Castle in chasings’ blue riband event after Taquin Du Seuil and Shutthefrontdoor were withdrawn at the latest declaration stage.

It will therefore be a major blow if Holywell doesn’t win this on the bridle given he is a class above his three rivals, and granted a clear it should simply be a question of how far.