Read the signpost at Cheltenham on Saturday and it will point in the direction of Gold Cup glory there in March. Three of the past six Gold Cup heroes have used Saturday’s Pillar Property Chase as the stepping stone to their ultimate victories.
Last year Looks Like Trouble won the Pillar before his Gold Cup triumph. In 1999 See More Business finished third to Cyfor Malta en-route to his greatest moment, while in 1995 Master Oats won both races.
This time See More Business has just three rivals, Beau, Lord Noelie and Last, but by no means least Cyfor Malta, who is running for the first time since his victory in the race two years ago.
See More Business had an off day when a disappointing fifth behind First Gold in the King George V1 Chase at Kempton and it will come as no surprise if Cyfor Malta beats him again, even after an absence of 728 days.
Cyfor Malta has been off with leg trouble. However, he is held in the highest esteem by Martin Pipe and AP McCoy, who schooled him on Tuesday for the first time since the horse’s injury. “He was brilliant,” reported the five times champion jockey.
Cyfor Malta is defending an envious unbeaten record round Cheltenham. On three visits to the Cleeve Hillcourse he has won the Cathcart Chase and the Murphy’s Gold Cup, in addition to the Pillar.
Lady Rebecca, back in training after a short spell at stud where she failed to get in foal, attempts to win her third consecutive Cleeve Hurdle before returning to the local Tweenhills Stud in Gloucestershire. Venetia, who has just enjoyed a week’s skiing in Mirabel, France, has laid her two little mare out for this.
But Lady Rebecca could hardly have a more demanding assignment with Champion Hurdle hope Barton and Ireland’s talented Youlneverwalkalone in the line up.
Miss Williams’s King On The Run has been significantly backed during the week to give young jockey Brian Crowley another big win in the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster. Nineteen-year-old Crowley, from Co Cork, teamed up with the Williams-trained Jocks Cross for his most important victory in the Welsh National last month.
Grand National favourite Noble Lord, trained by Richard Phillips, may find the Doncaster track a bit quick, while Ad Hoc is strongly fancied by Paul Nicholls, despite falling in his two starts this season.