WISHFULL THINKING (2.35) fits the bill for Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase at Cheltenham. Second-season chasers always top the shortlist for this valuable prize and Philip Hobbs could have a future star on his hands following a marvellous 2010/11 campaign. After chasing home Reve De Sivola at Prestbury Park last December, Wishfull Thinking jumped impeccably to beat Calgary Bay over course and distance in January. All roads led to the March festival and he certainly didn’t disgrace himself, running second to Noble Prince in the Jewson Novices’ Chase. By now he was a most accomplished fencer and, allied with a high cruising speed, Wishfull Thinking was a useful tool, a point he emphasised with impressive subsequent wins at Aintree and Punchestown. He sets a pretty high standard here.
The JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial, run so early in the season, is something of a stab in the dark but with the Donald McCain string in such excellent form HOLLOW TREE (1.20) could go well at an each-way price. A dual Sandown winner on the level for Andrew Balding, Hollow Tree made a successful debut over hurdles at Bangor, pulling clear on good ground.
Paul Nicholls fields a typically strong team over the weekend and he saddles three in the novices’ handicap hurdle. Ruby Walsh has chosen ex-French recruit EDGARDO SOL (3.40), with the gelding switching to hurdles after pipping The Cockney Mackem in a thriller over fences at Aintree.
There is some competitive racing on the Lingfield Polytrack and HUNTER’S LIGHT (2.15) looks up to winning the Listed Churchill Stakes. This 1m 2f trip is his bare minimum, but with free-going Suits Me bidding to improve on his placed efforts in the past two years, there should be plenty of pace. Hunter’s Light was impressive when bagging a Listed event on soft ground at Goodwood in September and his only run on the all-weather came on his racecourse debut at Kempton when finishing runner-up.
Young trainer Keith Dalgleish is enjoying a great run at Wolverhampton and MUNSARIM (7.20) can provide some more Saturday night fever now stepped up slightly in trip after his fine third 12 days ago. That was Munsarim’s first sighting of the track and, despite being forced wide off the home bend, he wasn’t far behind winner Gritstone at the line. Tonight, the Scottish raider is perfectly boxed in stall four.