Johns Spirit will aim to emulate Bradbury Star on Saturday as the Jonjo O'Neill-trained seven-year-old bids for back-to-back wins in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, which is the highlight on day two of Cheltenham's Open meeting. A fine winner of the race 12 months the Jackdaws Castle inmate will have to defy a significantly higher mark in this year's renewal and he faces a stellar opposition in the 2m 4½f showpiece.
He warmed up for this valuable prize with a cracking victory over Persian Snow at last month's Showcase meeting at Prestbury Park, a race he won en route to Paddy Power glory last season, but off a 19lbs higher mark he will face a gargantuan task to get the better of a host of up-and-coming stars who are sure to be on the vicinity.
Present View has been a prominent figure at the head of the betting for the last few weeks and the Jamie Snowden-trained star was a fine winner of the Rewards4Racing Novices' Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March. He warmed up for this contest with an accomplished display over hurdles when coming second last month to blow the cobwebs away and he has to be on the shortlist.
Evan Williams was another to use the smaller obstacles of a means of getting his contender fit and Buywise was a facile winner at Ludlow three weeks ago and having been an eye-catching fifth behind Present View in the aforementioned festival contest then he has all the makings of being a primary contender in this devilishly difficult punting assignment.
Oscar Whisky will carry top weight along with Johns Spirit and Nicky Henderson's charge will hope for more luck in this visit to GL50 as last time he took his chance at the Gloucestershire venue he was seen crashing out at the first fence in the JLT Novices' Chase.
Ian Williams's Indian Castle has attracted significant support in the betting this week and he is one of the interesting runners in the lower echelons of the handicap, whilst the Philip Hobbs-trained Persian Snow was just behind Johns Spirit last month at Cheltenham and will relish the rain-softened ground.
Attaglance may have been unfortunate to be beaten by Present View at the festival, as he was just cut off by the winner that day, and Malcolm Jefferson's stable star is another that can't be discounted, whilst the likes of Easter Meteor, who fell in the latter stages last year, and the Irish raider Shanpallas add tremendous depth to what will be a sensational spectacle.