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The Imperial Cup (2.25pm) is sponsored by Paddy Power and the bookmaker is once again offering a £50,000 bonus for any horse who wins the Imperial Cup and goes on to win any race at the Cheltenham Festival the following week. Only three horses have achieved the feat, Olympian (1993 Coral Cup), Blowing Wind (1998 County Handicap Hurdle) and Gaspara (2007 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle).
The market for this year’s renewal is headed by Natural History (3/1 favourite) who bids to provide Sussex trainer Gary Moore with a first victory in the Grade Three event. The six-year-old was formerly owned by Her Majesty The Queen and was placed in Group Three company at Newbury on his final start for Andrew Balding.
Bought for 105,000gns, Natural History was second on his first two starts for the six-year-old and when pitched into handicap company last time out, he scooted to a 15 length success under Jamie Moore. The Nathaniel gelding has been raised 16lb for that win, but is clearly capable of further improvement.
Dan and Harry Skelton team up with Langer Dan (5/1) who has disappointed this season, but is a danger if rediscovering his best form, including when sixth at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.
David Pipe is no stranger to success in the Imperial Cup and looks set to run the unexposed Leoncavallo (15/2). Successful on his last two starts over hurdles, the nine-year-old was sixth in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket in October and has not run since. However, he could still be well-handicapped off a mark of 142.
Pipe also saddles Eamon An Cnoic (12/1) who was an easy winner at Sandown last term, but failed to justify odds-on favouritism at Chepstow on his latest start.
Mick Maestro (12/1) has shown clear progression under the tutelage of Nick Kent with three wins from five starts for his new trainer. However, he was beaten at Market Rasen last time out and will need to improve.
Others who warrant a mention include the unexposed Hasnabad (16/1) who was third on his most recent start and Hang In There (25/1) who is the pick of Betting Expert’s Stephen Harris. The seven-year-old has finished in mid-division in a number of hot handicaps this season and is capable of taking another step forwar.d Mack The Man (20/1) disappointed in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last time, but is better than he showed on that occasion and is one at a big price, given his winning form at Sandown who could be of interest.
Elsewhere on the card, the Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final (1.50pm) carries a prize fund of £50,000 and features 6/1 favourite Karl Philippe who comes into this race on the back of a smart 10 length victory at Exeter last time out has live claims off a handicap mark of 130. Martinhal (9/1) defeated Karl Philippe earlier this season and comes into this event off the back of a gutsy victory at Exeter last time out, whilst Patroclus (8/1) has won his last two starts, including when landing the spoils at Doncaster last month.
Others to warrant a mention include The Mick Preston who scored at Hereford last time out and looks of interest off a handicap mark of 126, along with Ocean Drifter (12/1) who is unbeaten on his last two starts. Captain Morgs (10/1), second at Fakenham in February, is another to note along with Gladiateur Allen who shaped better than the result suggests when sixth at ascot last time out.
1.15pm - State Crown
1.50pm - Gladiateur Allen (Nap)
2.25pm - Hang In There
3.00pm - Flirtatious Girl
3.35pm - No Getaway
4.10pm - Mister Murchan
4.45pm - The Russian Doyen
Tips and analysis via Betting Expert