GOLD MEDALLIST limbers up for next month's Cheltenham Festival in this afternoon's Sidney Banks Memorial Hurdle at Huntingdon.

"He's the one I'm looking forward to riding most at Cheltenham," said his jockey, Richard Johnson, clearly bullish about the prospects of the unbeaten five-year-old.

Johnson has good reason to be upbeat about Gold Medallist, who was spectacularly impressive when slamming Hot Weld by 18 lengths at Kempton in January.

Trainer Philip Hobbs obviously believes his top-notch jumping recruit requires more experience before Gold Medallist (3.35) is thrown into the lion's den at Prestbury Park, and today's two-and-a-half-mile challenge offers the ideal stepping-stone to become further acclimatised to the hurly-burly of the winter game.

Despite being on the wrong end of a near 20-length drubbing by Sleep Bal at Exeter recently, Limerick Boy (3.00) still gets the nod in the two-mile Colne Novices' Chase.

It was very much a confidence-boosting mission for Limerick Boy in the west country, because he'd taken an ugly fall at Towcester the time before. With the benefit of that clear round under his belt, the Venetia Williams-trained raider will most likely fancy the job a whole lot more and should prevail in the £10,500 event.

Although sure to go off at a skinny starting price, Southwell-bound Gypsy Fair (2.10) looks a stand-out bet at the all-weather track.

Philip Makin's mount has twice been narrowly denied during the past few weeks but, in reality, his turn was merely delayed since his canny handler, David Barron, has unearthed a cast-iron opportunity for the three-year-old in the five-furlong ITV Maiden Stakes.

Brompton-on-Swale-based Ann Stokell has performed miracles with a bunch of relatively modest horses on the sand this year.

One of her most consistent inmates has been previous track and trip winner Pawan (3.45), who covered himself in glory when chasing home the ultra-speedy Whinhill House over an inadequate five furlongs a week ago.

Now back over a furlong more, plus with a highly-advantageous mid-field draw in stall seven, Pawan is going to be hard to beat in the most competitive contest on the card, the Press Red Handicap.

Peter Beaumont's top-notch three-mile chaser, Hussard Collonges (2.50), is thankfully on the comeback trail at Haydock following a 425-day absence.

A softly-softly approach means that instead of being asked to jump fences, Hussard Collonges tries the smaller obstacles in the Eagle Park Handicap Hurdle.

It's a tall order but the ten-year-old's hurdles mark is some 40lbs lower than his chase rating, which gives him a huge head start over his rivals.