Caid Du Berlais’ victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup 12 months ago represented a ninth success in 11 years for a chaser that was competing in novice company in the previous season.
These type of chasers are much harder for the handicapper to get an accurate reading on, especially given the vast amount of improvement that they could be open to.
The likes of Imperial Commander, Exotic Dancer and Celestial Gold all raced off far higher official ratings later in their career than when winning the Paddy Power and from a punting perspective preference should be for those that look most well-in, compared to those who seem to have already peaked.
Furthermore, seven of the last 11 winners have gone to be rated at least 10lb higher, so for a horse towards the top of the weights to win the Paddy Power, they could conceivably need to produce a performance of the magnitude that would go close to winning a major Grade 1 contest at the Cheltenham Festival.
Kings Palace currently heads the betting at 8/1 and this seems fair enough on the basis that he was rated 2lb higher than his present mark of 154 last season.
The fact that he has gone off at fairly short prices at the last two Cheltenham Festivals is another indication of how highly rated he is by David Pipe, although in both contests he failed to get home over 3m.
Here he is in the RSA Chase at the last Cheltenham Festival:
This 2m4f contest will be his shortest trip since his novice hurdle days and given that somewhere in the region of 2m6f has seemed his optimum distance, Kings Palace should be staying on up the hill this time.
But his form in big fields is largely unproven and he likes his own way out in front, which he is unlikely to get in the Paddy Power. Based on this, his current price is skinny enough.
Boondooma (also 8/1) is one of those that is sure to be vying for the lead and has done all of his winning to date over lesser trips.
He has been raised 7lb for a workmanlike victory at Cheltenham earlier this month and although open to further improvement, doubts over his stamina and his ability to settle off a slightly slower gallop are enough to oppose Dr Richard Newland’s eight-year-old.
There has only been one winner aged eight or older since 2003 too.
Present View (10/1) returns off only 1lb higher than when finishing a beaten favourite in third last year. He was largely considered to be well handicapped that day.
Two runs already this season off similar marks haven’t really suggested that a major step forward is likely at Cheltenham though.
Monetaire (also 10/1) represented a big gamble for the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate handicap at the last Festival, losing ground at the standing start before finishing second.
On that form, he could be well handicapped here off only 3lb higher, but even going back to his French days he has a habit of often finding at least one too good.
Whether 2m4f is far enough for Irish Cavalier (12/1) is debateable, but he certainly appears on a lenient mark of 156 considering connections were intent on pitching him in the Charlie Hall Chase against the likes of Cue Card and Dynaste.
He is only up 5lb for a facile victory in an intermediate chase victory at Newton Abbot last month and has a live chance if not caught for a bit of speed.
Of the 16/1 contingent, Ptit Zig must enter the reckoning given the ease of his victory over Clarcam at Down Royal, but the King George on Boxing Day is looking the bigger target and he may not even line up.
Cocktails At Dawn
Cocktails At Dawn opened his season in a Chepstow handicap that can count Cue Card, Fingal Bay, Balder Succes and Southfield Theatre among its recent winners and so that performance deserves respect, albeit against inexperienced chasers.
But another 8lb rise suggests others are open to more improvement.
One of those is Oscar Rock, despite already going up 23lb since the end of 2014.
However, his only foot wrong so far was when effectively brought down at Ayr last season and a victory has already been landed this campaign in a competitive handicap at Market Rasen.
Yet he remains unexposed, trainer Malcolm Jefferson is pleased with his progress and he will get a nice break before Cheltenham. His main obstacle is that this is his first visit to Cheltenham.
The other horse that is worth a saver at this stage is Dell’Arca at 20/1.
He looked a more than capable novice chaser at the start of last season, making an average debut behind Champagne West before pushing Coneygree close off level weights over this trip at Newbury.
For some reason he was kept to hurdles for the remainder of the season.
He made a pleasing reappearance back over fences at Uttoxeter this term and remains rated at only 142, which would make him thrown in if progressing over fences at anywhere close to the rate of Coneygree.
After only three chase starts, he is as unexposed as anything entered in the Paddy Power and shouldn’t be short of speed based on being a former Greatwood Hurdle winner and Betfair Hurdle runner up.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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