Racing: The Golden question: can Best Mate be bettered?

Beef Or Salmon

BEEF OR SALMON

Age: 8 (30 April 1996).

Sire: Cajetano. Dam: Farinella.

Connections: Brian Craig (owner); Michael Hourigan, Co Limerick (trainer); Timmy Murphy (jockey).

Record: 22 runs, 11 wins, 7 places.

At Cheltenham: Fell at third fence in last year's Gold Cup.

Grade One wins: 4 (2 x Ericsson Chase, Leopardstown; John Durkan Memorial, Punchestown; Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, Leopardstown).

Falls: 2. Earnings: £258,466.

Best performance: Jumped well to beat Tiutchev, subsequently runner-up in the King George, over two-and-a-half miles in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown last December.

The trainer says: "The horse has been responding well to physio for his muscle problem, and I'm very happy."

Odds: 12-1.

KEEN LEADER

Age: 8 (10 April 1996).

Sire: Supreme Leader. Dam: Keen Gale.

Connections: Adair Catherwood (owner); Jonjo O'Neill, Gloucestershire (trainer); Barry Geraghty (jockey).

Record: 13 runs, 8 wins, 1 place.

At Cheltenham: Leading 2002 Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle when fell two out; fell Novices' Chase November 2002; fifth as favourite for last year's Royal & SunAlliance Chase.

Grade One wins: None. Falls: 2 (+1 un). Earnings: £127,016.

Best performance: Beat last year's Gold Cup runner-up Truckers Tavern 17 lengths in Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock in December, jumping well.

The trainer says: "Another two furlongs at Newbury and he would have won. People forget that and his win at Haydock. He has a blinding chance."

Odds: 12-1.

FIRST GOLD

Age: 11 (6 March 1993).

Sire: Shafoun. Dam: Nuit d'Or II.

Connections: J P McManus (owner); François Doumen, Gouvieux, France (trainer); Thierry Doumen (jockey).

Record: 31 races, 11 wins, 12 places.

At Cheltenham: Pulled up in last year's Gold Cup.

Grade One wins: 4 (Grand Steeplechase de Paris, Auteuil; Prix la Haye Jousselin, Auteuil; King George VI Chase, Kempton; Heineken Gold Cup, Punchestown).

Falls: 2 (+ 1 un). Earnings: £774,250.

Best performance: Trounced Florida Pearl by 10 lengths in the 2000 King George as a seven-year-old.

The trainer says: "He may be forgotten by some as a Gold Cup hope but not by me. He was still on the comeback trail when third in the King George, as his prep run in a hurdle had gone all wrong."

Odds: 20-1.

THEREALBANDIT

Age: 7 (28 April 1997).

Sire: Torus. Dam: Sunrise Highway VII.

Connections: David Johnson (owner); Martin Pipe, Devon (trainer); Tony McCoy (jockey).

Record: 12 races, 7 wins, 2 places.

Cheltenham form: Won four this season, and fell when travelling well behind Jair Du Cochet in Pillar Chase.

Grade One wins: None. Falls: 1.

Earnings: £69,840.

Best performance: Beat very useful Rosslea by eight lengths, eased down, in a novices' chase over the Gold Cup distance at Cheltenham in December.

The trainer says: "I don't think Best Mate can be beaten. But in sport youngsters come along from time to time and do it."

Odds: 10-1.

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