Annacotty in good form for follow-up at Cheltenham

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NINE years have lapsed since Exotic Dancer completed the big early-season chase double at Cheltenham, but our own Annacotty, superb in winning last month’s Paddy Power Gold Cup, is primed and raring to go as he bids to repeat that feat by capturing the Caspiar Caviar Gold Cup at Prestbury Park tomorrow.

Ian Popham, who again rides Annacotty, won this prestigious prize for Paul Nicholls on Poquelin in 2010, and he has twice been down to Barbury recently to put his Paddy Power hero through his paces, and he told Alan that he was delighted with the feel he got.

Assessing Annacotty’s chance, Alan said: “He seems in good order so why not let him take his chance. The handicapper put him up 5lb, which is not too bad, and this looks the logical route to take.”

We have a second string to our bow in the race in Turn Over Sivola, and Alan added: “He made a very pleasing comeback at Cheltenham’s October meeting, only weakening at the last, and that race will have brought him on. We have been thinking about stepping him up in trip for a while, but I hope we don’t get too much rain as that scuppered his chance in the Grand Annual at the Festival, where he finished fifth.”

Young Brendan Powell, who won’t be 21 until next month, rides Turn Over Sivola, and, doubtless, his namesake father has told him several times how before he was born dad won this race twice, on Pegwell Bay (1988) and Dublin Flyer (1994).

Our other runner at Cheltenham is French-recruit Sceau Royal in the opening Triumph Hurdle Trial. Alan makes no secret of the high esteem in which he holds Sceau Royal, and, though as always, this looks a hot heat he is looking for a bold run.

He said:”Sceau Royal was very slick over his hurdles when he won at Chepstow, only to lose the race in the stewards room, and he was then beaten a short head in the Wensleydale at Wetherby, so he thoroughly deserved to finally get his just reward at Warwick last time. That victory has done his confidence good, and he is a horse we like a lot.”

We have three horses going up to Doncaster, and with the ground at Warwick on Thursday too soft for Alan to run Who Dares Wins there he has been forced to re-route to Town Moor for the Grade 2 Summit Hurdle, which last year gave us the first glimpse of the subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Peace and Co.

Of Who Dares Wins, Alan said: “He was progressive on the Flat for the Hannons, and he is looking a decent juvenile hurdler, having won well first time out over jumps for me at Ludlow. He’ll have learned plenty from that and is another we like.”

Summing up the two chasers who will be heading north, Alan added: “Sego Success was disappointing at Cheltenham last time, but we think that the flatter course might suit him better, as will the dryer ground, and he’ll also have the cheekpieces on for the first time.

Gone Too Far, who runs in the two mile and three up there, got no farther than the first at Kempton last time. We have opted to do away with the cheekpieces and instead try the visor.”