Menorah tops the weights for the £160,000 Grade 3Paddy Power Gold Cup, the highlight of The Open at Cheltenham on Saturday, November 15.
The nine-year-old (11st 12lb – 20/1 with Paddy Power) captured the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival in 2010 and recorded his biggest victory over fences when taking the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last Saturday.
His trainer Philip Hobbs is also responsible for last season’s Paddy Power Gold Cup runner-up Colour Squadron (10st 10lb, 12/1), who is one of seven potential runners for owner J P McManus.
The McManus septet also features Uxizandre (11st 2lb, 10/1 – trained by Alan King), who annexed the Grade One Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree in April, and fascinating Irish contender Shanpallas (10st 5lb, 12/1 – Charles Byrnes IRE).
Shanpallas has been in good form over the summer and was purchased by McManus after a close third to Your Busy in the Kerry National at Listowel in September. It proved a shrewd piece of business as the six-year-old was the decisive winner of the valuable Munster National over three miles at Limerick on October 12, holding off Tom Horn by three quarters of a length.
Byrnes reported: “I expect Shanpallas will be left in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at the five-day stage but we have made no decision about his participation at the moment. Obviously, J P has several others in the race and I still have to speak to Frank (Berry, racing manager) and the team.
“Shanpallas has been in terrific form since Limerick and I would be keen to run, although the form of that race has not worked out brilliantly.
“I would not be concerned about the drop back in trip as I think he is more of a two and a half miler than a three miler.
“He has been to Cheltenham before but the ground was very heavy that day and he landed quite steep over the first and got behind. He is a different horse on good ground.”
There are six other Irish-trained entries, including four from the stable of Ireland’s champion jump trainer Willie Mullins. The Closutton quartet are dual Festival winner Champagne Fever (11st 2lb, 10/1), Ballycasey (10st 13lb, 16/1), who captured the Grade One Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase in February, Felix Yonger (10st 10lb, 12/1) and The Paparrazi Kid (9st 13lb, 14/1).
The market is headed at 7/1 by Present View (10st 2lb, Jamie Snowden), who took the Listed Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase at The Festival, and Cheltenham specialist Oscar Whisky (11st), one of five entries for trainer Nicky Henderson.
Present View is on target for the Paddy Power Gold Cup after making a promising seasonal debut at Cheltenham, finishing a head second in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle on October 17 at The Showcase. Snowden trains the progressive six-year-old in Lambourn for Arsenal FC chairman Sir Chips Keswick.
Nine-year-old Oscar Whisky is a six-time winner at Cheltenham, with the two most recent victories at the course coming in novice chases over two miles and five furlongs. He beat Wonderful Charm (who gave 8lb) by a half-length in December last year and had three quarters of a length to spare over Taquin Du Seuil (11st 3lb, 16/1) in a Grade Two event the following month at level weights.
Last year’s Paddy Power Gold Cup victor Johns Spirit (12/1) has been allotted 11st (he carried 10st 2lb to victory in 2013) and is bidding to become the sixth dual winner and the first since Cyfor Malta (1998 & 2002).
Johns Spirit prevailed by three quarters of a length from Colour Squadron in 2013 and won the two and a half-mile Marie Curie Handicap Chase for the second year running at Cheltenham’s The Showcase on October 18, scoring by a length from Persian Snow (9st 13lb, 16/1, Philip Hobbs).
His trainer Jonjo O’Neill could also saddle Grade One JLT Novices’ Chase hero Taquin Du Seuil, plus the J P McManus-owned pair of Eastlake (10st 4lb, 25/1) and Festive Affair (9st 4lb, 33/1).
Other notable contenders include impressive Byrne Group Plate scorer Ballynagour (10st 13lb, 10/1, David Pipe) and recent Ludlow winner Buywise (10st 4lb, 10/1, Evan Williams), who landed the Grade Two Wooden Spoon Charity Silver Trophy at The April Meeting.
The five-day confirmation stage for the Paddy Power Gold Cup is on Monday, November 10.
Paddy Power Gold Cup, sponsors bet: 7/1 Oscar Whisky, Present View; 10/1 Ballynagour, Buywise, Champagne Fever, Uxizandre; 12/1 Colour Squadron, Felix Yonger, Johns Spirit, Shanpallas; 14/1 Hunt Ball, Mr Mole, Rajdhani Express, The Paparrazi Kid; 16/1 Attaglance, Ballycasey, Double Ross, Ericht, Persian Snow, Taquin Du Seuil, Wonderful Charm; 20/1 Caid du Berlais, Cantlow, Easter Meteor, Edgardo Sol, Hollow Penny, Indian Castle, Kapga de Cerisy, Lamool, Menorah, Rolling Aces, Rubi Light; 25/1 Astracad, Bears Affair, Cedre Bleu, Champion Court, Eastlake, Fago, Manyriverstocross; 33/1 Festive Affair, King Massini, One Term, Shangani; 40/1 No Buts; 50/1 Orpheus Valley