Alan King has had his fair share of decent entrants in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in the past seven years, but he believes Walkon represents his best chance of a victory yet at Cheltenham this year.
Il Duce finishing second by a neck to L’Antartique in 2007 is as close as King has come, but in five of the last seven years he has had a runner prominent in the betting, going off at a starting price of 14/1 or shorter.
On first look, Walkon does seem to have snuck in off a generously low weight this year and this is the primary reason as to why he is currently 8/1 in the Cheltenham betting.
Interestingly Walkon will run off a whole stone less than favourite Grands Crus, despite finishing just a neck behind him off level weights in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Granted, this race is over 4f less, but this should suit King’s runner, who clearly did not stay in the RSA.
What is also noted is that Walkon’s current handicap mark is just 143 after disappointing in the Scottish National on his final start of last season.
Meanwhile, For Non Stop, who finished 11 lengths ahead of Walkon in the Old Roan Chase last season when receiving 7lb, is now rated 162, which suggests that King’s charge is capable of better.
Alongside Walkon’s weight, King is also optimistic because his horse tends to start a new season on the right foot.
He said: “It is a devilishly tough race but we go there with the right horse for the job, with an interesting weight, who goes well fresh.
“Some horses need a race or two in order to hit peak fitness, whereas others are often best caught first time out and there is no denying Walkon has shown the majority of his best form when fresh.”
Walkon has not been out of the first two in any of his last three seasonal reappearances, winning on two of these occasions.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date