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Castle all set to glitter in bid for gold

By Richard Forristal

Shanpallas and Orpheus Valley will strive to bring the Paddy Power Gold Cup back to these shores for just a second time in 34 years at Cheltenham this afternoon - but Indian Castle can prevail.

Both Irish-trained horses have chances in the £160,000 contest, but it's hard to make a solid case for either. Charles Byrnes' JP McManus-owned Shanpallas - a winner at Down Royal last year - built on his Kerry National third with a determined win in the Munster equivalent for Davy Russell.

He is eight pounds higher now, and, while he has scope to defy that mark, the rain-softened Cheltenham turf is unlikely to suit.

The Tom Gibney-trained veteran Orpheus Valley is better equipped to cope in the mud. He won a decent race at Punchestown in the spring, but his two latest outings lacked encouragement, so he is hard to fancy.

Jonjo O'Neill's 2013 winner Johns Spirit shares top weight with the classy Oscar Whisky.

Richie McLernon's mount won with a bit of authority here last month, but a nine-pound hike for that leaves him 27lbs higher than when he landed the same race 12 months earlier.

For all that Johns Spirit excels here, his improvement will level out soon, so this is a big ask.

Present View and Buywise are towards the head of the market, and it's easy to see why, though the latter's iffy fencing might find him out now that he steps up in grade.

Present View won the novices handicap chase here in March off a mark of 137. He is progressive enough to defy a seven-pound hike, and his reappearance second here over flights should leave him just right. On the other hand, stamina isn't Present View's forte.

Persian Snow is of each-way interest for the in-form Philip Hobbs-Richard Johnson axis at up to 16/1.

The one that stands out is Indian Castle, which makes its debut for Ian Williams after being moved from Donald McCain.

A heavy ground point-to-point winner, the Dr Massini gelding finished first or second in its first seven runs for McCain. On his 2013 reappearance at Wetherby, he impressed on his fencing bow, and then ran out a convincing winner in heavy ground here over this sort of mid-range trip.

Today's trip will suit ideally on the prevailing ground. Granted, there is an element of faith involved in terms of fitness.

Off 10st 10lb on just his fifth start over fences, though, Indian Castle appeals as a live win option at 10/1 under Noel Fehily.

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