14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Ferof charged up for PowerHeadlines
Al Ferof

Paul Nicholls hopes Al Ferof can start as he means to go on in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

The grey paid the penalty for trying to force the pace against Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle in March and was then beaten at Aintree, but the champion trainer retains the faith.

"He goes well fresh, he jumped well for Ruby (Walsh) in the week. While it's a tough task at the weights, if he's going to be a genuine Grade One winner of the future he has to be going close off that mark - and the same applies to Grands Crus," said the Ditcheat handler.

"If you look at his form with For Non Stop in the Henry VIII, that's good form. He also ran very well in a Grade One (Victor Chandler) at Ascot against Somersby. He made a mistake in the Arkle which ruled him out of that race and he was over the top by Aintree, so I've put a line through his spring form."

Walsh feels Al Ferof is the right type of horse for the race, telling At The Races: "You need a Graded horse to win it. It's a handicap in a word but not many handicappers win it. They tend to be Graded horses.

"Al Ferof has plenty of weight to give. He has to give Grands Crus 2lb. That shouldn't make much difference, but Grands Crus will be hard to beat and the team at Pond House are bullish.

"You look at Al Ferof's Supreme Novices' form. He is a Grade One horse. If he is going to be a King George horse this season he'll have to go pretty close on Saturday."

Owner John Hales is still on a high after winning the Grand National with Neptune Collonges, but is eyeing more big-race glory, saying: "He has raced over two and a half miles before and done very well. We have our eye on the King George, which he has an entry for.

"If he runs well over two and a half at Cheltenham, that would be the equivalent of three miles on a flat track like Kempton. Paul will make a decision about his next target after the Paddy Power."

Divers was third in the race 12 months ago, and trainer Ferdy Murphy said: "He's in great form. He schooled on Tuesday and worked well on Wednesday. I'm very happy with him. It's a hot contest, but that is exactly what you would expect for the good money on offer."

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