14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Grands Crus

Tom Scudamore's faith in Grands Crus is undiminished as he looks forward to riding the ante-post favourite in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Scudamore guided the seven-year-old grey to each of his three victories over fences last season and forgives him an under-par performance in the RSA Chase at the Festival in March.

"I'm looking forward to it. I had a sit on him last week. He's in good order. It's going to be a tough, competitive race, but I'm very happy with him and wouldn't swap him for anything," he said.

"From an early stage he wasn't his normal self in the RSA, but he wouldn't be the first horse to bounce back from that race. I've got maximum belief in him and hopefully he'll show it. It's a cracking race, but that's why the Paddy Power and the Hennessy are the two winter classics before the King George. They are great races to win and I hope we can do it."

Scudamore is seeking the first success in this prestigious handicap chase which his father, Peter, won in 1988 on Pegwell Bay. Grands Crus' trainer David Pipe saddled Great Endeavour to victory 12 months ago to open his account in a race his father, Martin, dominated for so long with eight victories.

The present incumbent at Pond House is simply hoping for a smooth run in the race, saying: "He's well, but it's a very hot and competitive race. With luck in running, hopefully he'll be thereabouts."

Hunt Ball was last season's big success story, rising a staggering 88lb in the ratings as he won seven races including the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase at the Festival. He was beaten in his last start, but that was in the Grade One Betfred Bowl at Aintree, where he was third to Follow The Plan.

Trainer Keiran Burke said: "I'm a bit nervous, but I've done all my work now and it's down to the horse and jockey on the day. Hunt Ball is a very laid-back horse and you have to make him work. He has been back in a while following his summer break, as we didn't want to get him fit too quickly.

"The Paddy Power Gold Cup is a hot handicap chase and you have to be ready for a race like that. He has had a racecourse gallop and lots of schooling. He is a bigger and stronger horse this year, having grown a little bit over the summer. Hopefully, he has improved, too.

"Aintree came quickly after Cheltenham. It was the end of a long season and I think he was just a bit tired. We won't know if last season has left its mark until he runs on Saturday. I don't think it has - he feels brilliant."

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