Tom Scudamore: Grands Crus has nothing to fear from rivals at Cheltenham meeting
Last week was very frustrating because it was just a fraction away from being extraordinary so it was good to be on The Package when he won the Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase at Wincanton on Saturday. It was a good performance and nice to see him back in the winners' enclosure.
On Friday, the three-day Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham begins and I'm feeling very confident. It is an important weekend as a lot of our main firepower will be running and it will be an indicator for the rest of the season.
We will have runners in all the big handicaps, Kazlian will run in the Racing Post Hurdle on Sunday and our other runners include Dynaste, Our Father, Top Wood and Katbeau.
Historically the Pipes have always done very well at the meeting but that is the past and all that really counts is the future.
The Paddy Power Open is looking like a very exciting race. Hunt Ball is improving all the time and has gone up 88lb since scoring his first win at Folkestone in November 2011. But personally I think he needs to step up on his performance at Cheltenham in March where he won the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase.
Don't get me wrong, it's fantastic what he achieved last season, and it would be a fairytale for all his connections if he won, but he has to improve as he is up against the big boys and there is so much depth in class.
I think the Alan King-trained Walkon is the one we all have to beat. He's a very good horse when he's fresh. I was behind him when he won the Harry Dutfield Novices' Chase at Exeter in December 2011, and I was extremely impressed. Notus De La Tour is a very good horse but we couldn't get close to him. He was extremely good as a juvenile too and he's definitely the main danger.
Al Ferof, who won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, was good as a hurdler, but he needs to step up on what he's done over fences and I think the trip could do that. He's beaten Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card over hurdles and is a real danger.
There are a lot of very exciting second season chasers lining up, but I wouldn't swap my chap, Grands Crus, for anything. He does need to bounce back from Cheltenham where he was fourth in the RSA Chase but he has had a long break, and when I sat on him the other day, he felt fantastic.
There was a picture of me on the front page of the Racing Post yesterday. It was more a case of "Jockey confident in his ride shock," as I don't think they had much else to write about.
Exeter's next meeting is on Sunday, November 25 which has been dedicated to the South West Salute, a charity which aims to raise more than £2 million for the six military charities. All serving military personnel plus one guest are eligible for half price entry and children aged 17 and under race free. Tickets start from £13 if booked in advance and can be booked online at Exeter-raceourse.co.uk or by calling 08445 793005.
A free race-day bus service is available leaving Exeter St David's at 11.25am and Exeter bus and coach station at 11.40am and returning 30 minutes after the last race.