Stablemate of the selection, Apple’s Jade, could be overpriced as she beat Footpad on her sole start in Ireland in Grade 2 company and is clearly highly interesting.
Ivanovich Gorbatov will improve for the better ground while Zubayr is also a huge player as he is said to have thrived at home since his Kempton win.
He beat Devilment (overpriced today) in an Aintree Grade 1 last spring on decent ground and a sound surface is crucial to him so he can be forgiven his modest return before Christmas. Stablemate Modus looks the type to appreciate the nature of this race and the prevailing good ground as does fellow Nicholls inmate Some Plan.
BLUE HELL has seen the form of his Fairyhouse victory (at the expense of Wednesday winner Diamond King) before Christmas work out superbly and connections have been wise to keep him under wraps since for fear of him being reassessed.
This will be the biggest field he will be required to beat off and SHANTOU VILLAGE, a smooth traveller with plenty of course form, could be the rival to take advantage. He found the deep ground against him on Trials Day but ran really well behind Yanworth (Champers On Ice 3rd) despite the conditions and the sounder surface looks tailor made for him here. Gangster is quirky but bolted up at Fairhouse last time, while Unowhatimeanharry and to a lesser extent, West Approach, appeal as horses at bigger prices which could be on the scene.
Cooper has been on board for both of Don Cossack’s only defeats in the past 18 months and he will be keen to make the memories of his tortured passage in last season’s Ryanair Chase and a departure at the second last fence in the King George, distant ones after today.
There is no doubting Don Cossack has the class and inherent ability to become a Gold Cup winner and the moment has come for him to deliver on National Hunt’s biggest stage.
In contrast, the rain came at the wrong time for PAINT THE CLOUDS last year but he still battled on manfully to get placed. He went on to run a blinder in a valuable staying chase at Sandown and should go well granted some luck.
Marito and Aupcharlie are closely matched judged on their form in a point six weeks ago. The latter looks a fair price given he is ridden by Jamie Codd and was only beaten 10l in a warm festival handicap 12 months ago.