IS THERE such thing as a handicap good thing? We will find out in the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase at Cheltenham this afternoon just after 2.35pm when Grand Crus, a horse rated 167 over hurdles after chasing home the mighty Big Buck's in the 2011 World Hurdle, looks to have an outstanding chance off a 10lb lower chase mark.
The classy grey, currently second favourite to land the prestigious King George V1 Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, took very well to the bigger obstacles last season until running disappointingly when only fourth in the RSA Chase in March.
A strong traveller with tactical speed and three course successes under his belt, the seven-year-old bids to follow up Pipe jnr's win with Great Endeavour 12 months ago in a race which Martin Pipe farmed during his illustrious training career.
Loading article content
Regular rider Tom Scudomore is looking forward to getting his leg across the star horse, saying: "I'm looking forward to it. I had a sit on him last week. He's good order.
"It's going to be a tough, competitive race, but I'm very happy with him and wouldn't swap him for anything.
"From an early stage he wasn't his normal self in the RSA, but he wouldn't be the first horse to bounce back from that race.
"I've got maximum belief in him and hopefully he'll show it here.
"It's a cracking race, but that's why the Paddy Power and the Hennessy are the two winter classics before the King George.
"They are great races to win and I hope we can do it."
Recent days have seen support for Walkon, a horse who tends to run well when fresh and who could be well handicapped from the in-form yard of Alan King and can hit the frame but they all could be playing for places against the mighty Grand Crus.
The quality card at the home of National Hunt racing gets under way at 12.45pm with a Triumph Hurdle trial and, fresh from a double at the track yesterday, top duo Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh can keep up their run of form with Far West, who was so impressive at Chepstow.
You've got to admire Nicholls whose thirst for winners just gets stronger and he has also strong claims in the novices' chase with recent course and distance winner Sire Collonges.
Not because he's a striking grey, Sire Collonges looks a Grand National type in the making and can take this on his way to bigger things later in the season.
Closer to home there is a seven race card at Wetherby and the concluding handicap looks ultra-competitive.
Malton trainer Brian Ellison saddles three in the race and a chance is taken with Royal Opera who should strip fitter for a recent run.
Tomorrow, at Cheltenham, will see the seasonal return of Sprinter Scare in the Shloer Chase at 2.25pm.
Unbeaten in five starts over fences, he is the real deal and while its not going to be a betting proposition, it will be fantastic to watch a quality horse attack his fences.