Paddy Power Gold Cup 20.6f Cheltenham 2.20 Saturday. 9mm rain forecast in before racing. Going currently good to soft. References to ratings/going below are Timeform’s.
A handful here like to be prominent and the pace should be strong. An early post this week, but I think the market could see a few changes come race time.
Cluedo really ought to sponsor these big handicaps. Not so sure about a Murder Mystery Weekend, but the mystery side is guaranteed, an aspect that, with the suspense, is the key to the enjoyment so many punters get from racing.
Contradictory as it sounds, I cannot recall finding so many tempting bets in one race. At the front end is 9/2 about Stage Star (a 3/1 chance for me), in the midsection, 15/2 The Real Whacker (5s at most in my book) and 17/2 Il Ridoto (6/1). At the fat end, 10/1 Fugitif (crazy price) and, though he might not have the biggest chance of winning, the best value in the race is 25/1 Authorized Art.
I have spread my stakes EW on all of these, the offer of 5 places giving a fine chance of at least making a profit, with the bonus of perhaps landing a big win.
The Real Whacker
Only 7 runs: 3 from 3 chasing, a win and a place hurdling. Debut in Sep 21 so in the course of 26 months and seven races he has gone from 82 to 162 (TF). OR is 162. Chase debut was Class 2 5-runner novice in mid Nov 23. Two races later, in mid March he wins the Brown Advisory beating the previously unbeaten Gerri Colombe (form soundly franked since). Highly likely to improve further, fine jumper and front runner, whose tendency to jump right at times seems the only factor stopping him getting into an effective rhythm out front. He might well have improved that quirk since last seen (only 7).
His debut was on soft; all other runs on good to soft, so a small question mark there. But assuming he is as effective (soft should help from a stamina demand viewpoint) and challenges for the lead don’t disturb him, he has a much better chance of winning the Paddy Power Chase than his odds suggest, and he looks a very strong EW bet. 15/2 5 places Hills
1-3 3-5 4-6
Dam Sparky May was 140 rated 2m-3m winning hurdler; sire is Fame And Glory, Irish Derby winner. Won on his bumper debut followed by a 2nd and a 3rd in bumpers won by Knappers Hill. Won the Challow on his 3rd hurdle run beating West Balboa. Then PU twice, each a Grade 1 in spring, no obvious excuses for either.
After wind surgery in the summer, he started his chasing career with a win at Warwick (C3). Was then beaten at Newbury at 2/7 in a fashion reminiscent of his two hurdling disappointments – finding nil in a finish. That was on good ground, and he ran almost as poorly again, also on good (his only two career races on that surface) in his final race of 22/23 at Aintree.
Between the two poor fencing runs, he won three in a row, the last The Turners Chase at the festival by over 3 lengths from Notlongtillmay and The Mighty Potter. For all he had his own way in front in The Turner’s, everything else, under experienced jocks had their chance to run the race that suited them, but when they came with their challenges Stage Star didn’t need to battle for long before going away again in the style of one who wants farther.
Currently 158 rated with Timeform, he’s only 7 and Nicholls has every chance of getting him past his mysterious blips. Whether he has yet done so is the big question in taking the tempting 9/2 about him for the Paddy Power.
Followed a Class 4 handicap debut hurdle win in Feb 21 with a disappointing run in C4 Novice the next month. Did the same after a sparkling winning chase debut, PU next time in a C3 Novice. Bounced back right away as he had over hurdles then ran unplaced in a G1 (Scilly Isles), a C2 handicap and the Grade 3 Red Rum at Aintree.
Returned in ’22 over 2m at the Paddy Power meeting Cheltenham rallying late for 2nd. Won over Christmas next, a C2 handicap back over 20f. Up 10lbs he was back at Cheltenham late January to run a fine race in 2nd over 20.6f (C2). Ran even better at the festival next time when 2nd in The Plate giving winner Seddon 6lbs. Struggled in the G1 Melling next time at Aintree, though he’d put so much into his Plate run he can be forgiven.
Moving up to 20f seemed the making of him, running his two best races at that trip at Cheltenham. Having said that, he looked by far the most likely winner running to the last there in the Plate, but though he kept on, looked to have ‘gone’ quite quickly, despite keeping on; still, time on his side and interesting to see him in first time cheekpieces here. Run mostly on GS, but best Chase rating (154) on soft. Has speed too, clocking a 171 at this trip in Jan 23. Been on the drift and now 10s across the board – about 4 points too long in my view and must be backed EW to 5 places.
Not a typical quiet unexposed Mullins youngster. Had plenty of racing covering three codes. Had spells without cheekpieces where form was poor. Been back in them last twice. First trip to UK now for Paddy Power Chase. Ran to 149 on heavy in Grade 1, but did better on good over fences with hat-trick on good ground. Ran to 153 (2nd best chase rating) last time in soft ground. Jockey D Mullins has won twice on him. Might not enjoy facing the hill, but at 25/1 is too big a price to 5 places, even if he weren’t trained by Mullins.
Two bumpers, two hurdles (1), five chases, (3 wins). Has progressed from debut without stopping or mis-stepping; impressive for a 9-race 7-y-o. Best so far on GS, but handles any. His 2nd in the Turners was a fine run. He did nowt wrong and was beaten on the day fair and square. His jumping is low and fast and there’s inherent risk there.
Ran very well considering he was 4f short of his best trip on his seasonal debut, though jumping didn’t look clean at times. Wasn’t given a hard race and will have every chance in the Paddy Power, though I see no value in the 7/1.
With 48 races behind him, an unusually busy horse for a 7-y-o. 17 of those on the flat. Won 5 of his 10 chases. After a 51 day break in late November 22, he was suddenly running ratings in the mid 140s over 16f – 20lbs above what he’d been achieving. Only three chases in all, two at around 20f, have realized little – fell in the Grand Sefton; jumping in general not reliable lately and he looks opposable.
Generally improving chasing profile to peak so far on his October seasonal debut beating Knappers Hill at Chepstow – the 2nd franking the form solidly next time. This grey seems game and happy to front run and fitness will have helped at Chepstow, and he does seem to have come on a fair bit especially from his run in The Turners where he was beaten a long way by a couple opposing here. A safe jumper who can throw a big one but tends to err toward putting himself right, a habit that could cost him in a frantic big field handicap like the Paddy Power, with many more runners than he is used to. No questioning his talent, but 7/1 looks about right.
Had looked a fine prospect but a weak finisher over 20f until cheekpieces applied at Cheltenham in January ’23 when he won a 16-runner C1 chase over 20.6f on GS with a time figure of 176. Same track and trip in March but on soft ground he was 6 of 23 in The Plate before going on to disappoint at Aintree, possibly over the top. Still, he is just 6 and his chances here arguably rest on how much he has come on through summer, though Freddie Gingell taking 5 off could be the difference between defeat and victory. Coral perhaps 2 points too long at 17/2 though to just 4 places: tempting if you can plan your stakes properly with other EW bets, and I’ll back him.
Progressed in acceptable steps as a hurdler reaching 111 rating in Nov 22. Chasing debut saw a first performance of 129 in a C3 at Wetherby on good ground. Notched a 134 winning next time on heavy at Kempton C3 then a 143 when 1st of 4 in a C2 at Perth on GS in April to finish the season unbeaten over fences. Bred to be a stayer, this’ll be a really hot task in a field totalling more runners than he has beaten in his last three chases, and a fiery test of his jumping, which has not looked completely assured last twice. Still it will be just his 11th race and he’s sure to learn lots. Has run just once on soft in his hurdling days (did ok).
1/5 hurdles, 2/4 chases. Very lightly raced 9-y-o grey who, in the cons column, must be fragile, but in the pros, must be thought quite special by connections for them to keep going all this time. He won his G2 debut and his next three races were at G1 level. He reappeared in January 23 after more than three years off: PU in heavy ground and he wasn’t out again till April when 2nd in a five-runner C2 at Chepstow. Off again then until Oct 23, he ran well in a C3 hurdle at Cheltenham, 2nd of 16 over 20f. Trainer Sam Thomas is excellent with patients like Angels Breath, but he would need to have him better than the horse has ever shown to win this, not to mention the pounding the grey’s limbs will take on the way round. Two of his three best ratings were on soft (the other on heavy).
Career Timeform ratings: 91 120 116 then 657 days off: PU 113 114 132 (b1) 133 pu pu 141 in C2 136+ in C2(yard going well). A fair horse but inconsistent and looks out of his class here in Paddy Power .
Easy As That
Very promising double bumper winner, but clumsy in three-race hurdle career finishing that with a 127. Off 639 days returning in Nov 22 after wind op. Runs 3 and 4 over fences suggested his jumping had been fixed, but lapsed LTO when last of 5 in Sandown C2. Very interesting if Venetia runs him here on seasonal debut where fencing will be tested so seriously. She would not risk this if not confident his jumping will be safe. Soft will suit. 14/1 generally, and not quite enough there for me in such a strong field.
Torn And Frayed
Won a hurdle at 8th attempt (127+) in Feb 21 and another one 6 weeks later, both C4, for hurdle rating of 134+. Won his 5th chase (134+) at 20.6f Cheltenham GS C1 in Jan 22, traveling really well, jumping safely and showing a fine attitude when messed about rounding home turn. At 9 has obviously had problems and facing a strong Paddy Power field after close to 2 years off is some gig. But trainer has few rivals at fittening a horse at home. I was most taken by his Cheltenham win and will have a small EW to 5 places at around 16/1, though comparing him with the much more experienced Authorized Art at 25s, the big value has to be in the latter. Soft will be fine though he has not run on it since Feb ’21.
Still relatively inexperienced with time on his side and a fair dose of talent. Didn’t get the best of rides in March in The Ultima (PU) and I think Timeform – though their hand was forced by the visuals – have been hasty in damning him with a squiggle for that Sandown run last time, which, admittedly looked awful as he pulled himself up on the run-in, not even getting going again as the others challenged. But his demeanor throughout looked fine and I think he’s worth another chance at some point as he’s sure to be held onto until late in future. He might well be better going right handed. Will be fine on soft. Won’t back him until I see if I am right or wrong on attitude and track preference.
As ever, lots of fun to be had for small stakes so don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile. Good luck.
Aside from The Real Whacker, who had the excuse of going lame and being struck into (cut leg), Authorized Art was most disappointing; never in the race and pulling up. Fugitif ran well yet again, the cheekpieces unfortunately lighting him up from the start and he took too much out of himself. Still he got us the place money, as did Il Rodoto. And Stage Star won most impressively, so we had the winner too. You won’t be seeing him in a handicap again; he’s just 4/1 for The Ryanair.