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Percy popular for Gold Cup at Sean Graham preview night

Samcro is excited for Cheltenham but  it has come to soon for him and he should turn up at Aintree in April Samcro is excited for Cheltenham but it has come to soon for him and he should turn up at Aintree in April
By Paddy Tierney

CHRISTMAS doesn’t feel like Christmas until the tree goes up. Likewise, the countdown to Cheltenham begins in earnest for local punters after the hugely-popular Sean Graham preview night at Belfast’s Europa Hotel. This year’s top table included the top trainer from last year’s Festival Gordon Elliott along with David Casey, assistant trainer to his rival Willie Mullins.
Noel Meade’s stable jockey Sean Flanagan joined the line up along with Mark ‘The Couch’ Winstanley (racing journalist), Richard Hoiles (Racing commentator), Gary O’Brien (racing presenter) while Bookmakers Brian and Ronan Graham (Sean Graham) were on hand to provide the latest odds and give their insights. If the panel of experts are to believed, Clan Des Obeaux, an impressive winner of the King George, won’t be winning this year’s Gold Cup, or any other Gold Cup for that matter.
Last year’s RSA Chase hero Presenting Percy was the almost unanimous selection from the top table. There was a good each-way shout for Elliott’s Shattered Love (25/1), but the Co Meath trainer insisted he’d love to be training Presenting Percy. David Casey was keen on whatever Mullins aims at the race (he still has four entered), but cautioned that he wouldn’t back last year’s winner Native River “with stolen money” following his below-par efforts this season. Elliott appears to have great chance of landing the feature on Day One with the brilliant mare Apple’s Jade.
Without giving too much away, he added that he “couldn’t be happier” with Apple’s Jade, who is four from four this season.
Defending champion Buveur D’Air was friendless at the top table while Casey reported Laurina to be in rude health, but stressed that she would need to improve on her form having won a weak Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in 2018. Brain Graham feels the seven-pound Mare’s allowance will be a key factor and thinks Apple’s Jade will prevail.
Altior (2/5), unsurprisingly, was an almost universal tip to retain the Champion Chase with only Winstanley opting for second-favourite Min (5/1).
If Buveur D’Air was largely opposed by the panel in the Champion Hurdle, Stayers’ Hurdle ante-post favourite Paisley Park (7/4) was described as the lay of the meeting by bookmaker Ronan Graham.
The panel seemed keen to take on the favourite with the reliable Supasundae (5/1) and Faugheen (5/1). Casey stated that the former Champion Hurler was in great form at home and that, given his brilliant record at Cheltenham, he’d take a bit of beating.
Elsewhere, the panel seemed agreed that Champ (11/4) has plenty to do to live up to his name in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, but they think leading owner JP McManus is likely to gain compensation in the Triumph Hurdle with the well-bred Sir Erec (Evs) likely to go off odds-on for the first race on Friday.
Indeed, Elliott described Joseph O’Brien’s runner as a “good thing” and few were willing to disagree with that assessment.
For those looking better value, Band of Outlaws (7/1) was touted as a potential winner of the Fred Winter Hurdle while Dinos (20/1) and Sams Profile (16/1) were put up as each-way punts for the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle.
Personally, my favourite race of the Festival is the Stayer’s Hurdle.
My first punt ahead of this year’s Festival is Kilbricken Storm each-way at 14/1. The countdown is on. Christmas only comes once a year. . . for four days in March.

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