AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW: Haldon Gold Cup, Exeter

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat happens in the South West, stays in the South West. Certainly the case with the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter which has been dominated by local trainers in recent years and the race is another important piece on the road to Cheltenham.

This year’s renewal has attracted an eight strong field and looks more competitive than usual. Sir Valentino and Garde La Victoire renew rivalry after their epic battle 12 months ago when Sir Valentino prevailed by a short head but he faces an uphill battle to turn that form around on 8lb worse terms. If he does, he will be the first back to back winner since Edredon Bleu in 2002/3.

Apart from the weight turnaround, Garde Le Victoire also has the advantage of a recent run. He finished second at Auteuil last month which should have put him spot on for this. He looks a solid each-way bet for me.

Paul Nicholls has made a strong start to the season and has a double-pronged attack here with San Benedeto and the probable favourite Politologue who won a novice hurdle here in 2016 by 59 lengths !! He has gone on to win three chases and was still in the lead in the Grade 1 Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree before taking a crashing fall at the last. That left the road clear for San Benedeto to go and win but for my money he was a fortunate winner. What is more important today though is how Politologue will come back after that unfortunate experience? Hopefully well, as he remains a very exciting prospect over fences.

Vibrato Valtat won this two seasons ago but has become disappointing and now races for Emma Lavelle for the first time.

Of the others, Ar Mad is one to watch. I think he has tonnes of class but hasn’t been seen since finishing a close-up fourth to Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in 2016.

One thing is surely guaranteed, there will be plenty of pace in the race. Ar Mad, Gino Trail and Politologue are all capable of making the running and it’s take your pick of three which one plays hare today.

* Simon Nott is on course reporting from the ring on how fortunes fare between punter and bookmaker across the seven race card. Don’t miss his blog after racing.

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