A typically large and competitive field has been assembled for the 26th running of the Coral Cup, a £100,000 handicap hurdle which has given us many a headache this time around in terms of attempting to whittle the field down.
We have however come up with a strong top six, all of whom have outstanding chances of getting into the money and all but one appear very good value in the betting market too.
Rated 148 now, Ballyandy is coming along nicely this season after a win at Uttoxeter and a good third to today’s rival Brio Conti at Ascot in a £45,000 handicap hurdle last month.
It’s thought he’ll improve again for this further step up in trip to 2m5f and will have no worries with rain softened ground so simply has to enter calculations.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’s gelding was a good fourth in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle too and should show up very well in this under trainer’s son Sam.
Colin Tizzard is looking for a first win in this race and, despite the general 20/1 available about this Highest Sun, he may not get a better chance than right now.
Having run fourth in a good handicap round here in December on only his third hurdle start, Tizzard’s five-year-old has already shown he can hack it around this track and naturally given his age he is improving plenty as the season goes on.
His comfortable win last time at Chepstow on softish ground showed these conditions won’t be a problem either, while a hike of 8lbs from that race actually seems a little generous on the face of things and the feeling is that he will relish this big field and stronger pace under jockey Tom O’Brien.
While it’s true his chasing career never really took off the way we all hoped it would, his hurdle form over the last few years is excellent overall and he is in this race off a stone lighter than his peak from late 2017.
Lil Rockerfeller is still only an eight-year-old and after running a fine third at Grade 2 level last time it seems he is still in form and ready to outrun what looks a crazy early price of around the 40/1 mark for trainer Neil King and jockey Bryony Frost.
Willie Mullins has the favourite in this race, Uradel (see below), but he has more than one genuine chance with this Scarpeta very much entering calculations following his fourth in the Ballymore Novices’ last year behind Samcro as well as his easy prep when third at Leopardstown over the festive period.
Conditions have come just right for Danny Mullins’s mount and a big run could be on the cards at a very reasonable price.
Form figures of 463-8000 don’t exactly breed massive confidence but they don’t tell the full story of this horse and he is to be no also-ran in this field.
Eight of his 9 hurdle races have been over two miles but his standout run on the book was over 2½ miles in last year’s Martin Pipe around here so there is every reason to believe that going up to this trip around Cheltenham can help him produce a career best.
There has been some very strong money for Willie Mullins’s first choice in this race but once again we have to balance up his true form with the fact that the trainer’s reputation alone accounts for a lot of those bookmaker’s liabilities.
Although the 8yo is improving, we pretty much know what he’s got in the tank as he’s been busy all through last summer as well as this winter though his latest run, when fifth at Leopardstown, reads OK and he’ll definitely be in there scrapping when the race gets going in earnest.
Uradel has been well punted and we can’t ignore that fact, while Ballyandy has all the right credentials to run a big race and looks good for a place. Lil Rockerfeller seems grossly overpriced and if Tully East puts in a clean round he could surprise a few people too.
They all look to have some way to go by our reckoning to catch this HIGHEST SUN however who is improving hand over fist and looks set to run his best race yet with conditions seemingly bang in his favour.