Cheltenham Open 2012: Paddy Power Gold Cup Day

Day two and with 6mm of rain over night the going was described by jockeys as very soft. Two winners each again for Pipe and Nicholls, with the first race a grade 2 JCB Triumph hurdle trial going to the Nicholls’ juvenile Far West. The form of Far West’s Chepstow win last time out, looked pretty solid, as Handazan, beaten 12 lengths that day, went on to win his next race at Aintree last month. Far West powered up the hill to beat Henderson’s Vasco Du Ronceray by a comfortable 7 lengths with the 3rd horse 26 lengths further back. I can’t argue with the fact that Far West is now favourite for the Cheltenham juvenile crown, though there is a lot of racing and many more youngsters to be seen before March, and obviously, a better going could make a big difference to the situation. Far West will probably be seen again at Prestbury Park at the December meeting.

With the risk of sounding like Gary Barlow, the performance of the meeting must be that of Al Ferof in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. The favourite Grand Crus had to be respected, but as when 6/5 favourite in the RSA chase at last years festival he disappointed again, going out like a light three fences from home before being pulled up. Turning for home the writing was on the wall for all bar the two greys Al Ferof and Alan Kings Walkon. You couldn’t wish for a stronger jockey in a finish than Walkon’s pilot Choc Thornton, but despite receiving 16 pounds Walkon had no answer to the class of Al Ferof going up the hill to the winning post. Connections are now looking at the possibility of running Al Ferof in the King George on Boxing day before deciding what his festival target will be.

Bruce Roger (Racing Editor)

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