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Plenty of Gold Cup hints on offer at Haydock
Only six runners face the starter at Haydock this afternoon in the Betfair Chase, due off at 3.05pm but it might well provide more clues to the next Gold Cup winner than any race run this side of Christmas.
Former Gold Cup winner Long Run makes his seasonal reappearance under his regular pilot Sam Waley-Cohen.
The Giant Bolster, runner-up in last year's blue ribbon race at the Cheltenham Festival also kicks starts his campaign in the North West feature, and while both command respect, my slight preference would be the new kid on the block Silviniaco Conti.
An impressive winner of the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby recently, he will have a fitness edge on the testing ground and has a fine chance of giving his trainer Paul Nicholls a fifth win in the race after superstar Kauto Start landed the valuable prize no less than four times.
It's sure to be an emotional day as 12 months on from Kauto Star's breathtaking win, the recently-retired legend is due to parade before the race under his regular work rider and Nicholls Head Lad Clifford Baker.
It's not a one race card though, and trainer David Pipe bids to win the Fixed Brush Hurdle race for the third year in a row.
Grand Crus and Dynste landed the valuable prize and this year he appears to have two live chances with Katkeau and Knight Pass.
Pipe's stable jockey Tom Scudamore has, however, passed over Katkeau in favour of stable companion Knight Pass, who makes his debut for the yard having won four times for Warren Greatrex.
Conor O'Farrell, who rode Dynaste 12 months ago, comes in for the ride on Katkeau.
Pipe said: "Both horses are having their first run for me and I think they both go their with good chances as they are at the right end of the weights.
"Katkeau has obviously come over from France and, on his French form, you would have to think he'll love the ground.
"I'm happy with him at home and I think he has an OK mark (124), but obviously we'll find out for sure on Saturday.
"Knight Pass has never run on ground like this before so that has to be a concern.
"Tom rode both horses at home and had a difficult choice to make, but decided to go with Knight Pass.
"He's a horse who has always promised a lot, without fully delivering."