2.25 CHELTENHAM PADDY POWER GOLD CUP CHASE (A Handicap)
(Grade 3) (CLASS 1) (4yo+)
It is Paddy Power Gold Cup day at Prestbury Park this Saturday and this is a race that has produced some famous winners over the years. Al Ferof, Tranquil Sea, Imperial Commander and Exotic Dancer are just a few of the previous winners, and hopefully this year’s edition will see the emergence of another superstar.
In the past 8 seasons no horse older than 8yo has won it, and only one of that age has obliged (Little Josh at 20/1 back in 2010). Only two favourites have obliged since 2005 though the vast majority have been 10/1 or less. Below is a preview of the runners and riders for this year’s edition and you can also find out my selection for what should be an exciting and informative race.
SOUND INVESTMENT NICHOLLS/TWISTON DAVIES
This will be his 3rd run of the season already so race fitness won’t be an issue. Nicholls said that the Old Roan was the plan after he won it last time out. He is 4lb higher here and while ground and trip are fine the way he has been campaigned (mostly on flat tracks) suggests it is speed and not stamina that is his strong suit. Best watched off a career high mark of 159 at odds of 18/1.
JOHNS SPIRIT O’NEILL/MCCLERNON
Classy 8yo son of Gold Well that absolutely loves it around here, as is demonstrated by his last 3 wins coming here, including this contest off 139 back in 2013. He is off a mark of 157 for this year’s addition and that is 10lb above his last winning mark (here back in Oct 2014 off 147). He was also runner up last year off 156, beaten an agonising head by Caid Du Berlais. Pulled up last time which is a slight worry, but is sure to have been primed for this and is very much one to strongly consider at 12/1.
IRISH CAVALIER CURTIS/TOWNEND
Another fascinating contender with strong form around here. Broke my heart at the festival when beating Thomas Crapper off 137 and followed that with an excellent run at Punchestown off 145 behind the highly rated Blood Cotil. Mark has shot up to 156. Reappeared with a cosy win at Newton Abbot in a C2 intermediate chase and is entitled to respect at a track that clearly suits. A live contender at 10/1 though could struggle to confirm superiority with Art Maresque who is a good few pounds better off than for their last meeting.
OSCAR ROCK JEFFERSON/HUGHES
Northern raider from the Malcom Jefferson yard and this 7yo son of Oscar has been progressing at a rate of knots since last Spring. Has won 3 of his last 4 and the defeat came when he was still going well when falling at Ayr. He reappeared with a very impressive win in a Listed handicap at Market Rasen off 147. He is 8lb higher in a better race, but if the ground is good this fella should not be taken lightly at odds of 16/1.
If there was any doubt remaining about the good Dr’s ability to train a horse those have been dispelled by big wins from the likes of Pineau de Re and Ebony Express. Mr Newland knows what he is at, and in Boondoma he has an 8yo son of Westerner that has been going the right way. Fast. From a lowly hurdle rating of 116 he improved to win a chase here last month (2m) off 147. He has won over this trip, but faded badly when he tried it here. Enough stamina doubts exist and off a career high mark of 154 he looks too short at 9/1.
KINGS PALACE PIPE/SCUDAMORE
Mr Pipe won this contest in 2011 with Great Endeavour so he knows what type of animal you need to succeed around here. This 7yo son of the classy King’s Theatre goes on any ground and has a brilliant strike rate. He has won 3 of his 4 chases, his only defeat coming when stepped into Grade 1 comapny at the festival in March. He is 4/6 around here but all his wins have come over 3m. The trip has to be a worry and without a recent run he is overlooked at odds of 7/1.
COCKTAILS AT DAWN HENDERSON/DE BOINVILLE
Seven Barrows representative who is ridden by the man who could be the long term successor to AP. Finished off last season with a facile win at Sandown off 133 in a class 2 handicap (the runner up Howlongisafoot scored on Thursday). Reappeared at Chepstow a month ago and it was more of the same off 145. Has another 8lb to deal with here, and that combined with his poor efforts on previous runs at Cheltenham is enough to put me off his chances, even at odds of 16/1.
DOUBLE ROSS TWISTON DAVIES/HATCH (3LB)
Represents a yard that absolutely loves having winners around here, and they took this race back in 2008 with Gold Cup here Imperial Commander. This fella is probably not in the same class, but he absolutely loves it around here. Three of his five wins have come over course and distance and he is versatile regarding ground. His last win came off 140, so with his jockey’s 3lb claim he is still 10lb higher. His comeback run was very encouraging and at odds of 20/1 he is of definite interest each way.
CLOUD CREEPER HOBBS/JOHNSON
Has had a couple of runs already this season and he will need to improve on what he has shown so far. Was well beaten behind Oscar Rock on seasonal reappearance and was then half a dozen lengths behind Irish Cavalier on his next run at Newton Abbott off level weights. Gets 6lb off that rival today which will help, and won on his only previous run here. Not out of it if the ground remains good and has an excellent man in the saddle. Looks a big price at 33/1.
NEXT SENSATION SCUDAMORE/TREADWELL
Spectacular jumper who seems to be an all or nothing type of customer. Won at the festival in his customary dashing style back in March (16.5f) but form nosedived afterwards, pulled up at Aintree and a country mile behind Boondooma here last month. He has yet to win beyond 17f and he looks to be making up the numbers here. Can be backed at 40/1 but is best watched until dropping back in trip.
SPLASH OF GINGE TWISTON DAVIES/BARGARY(5LB)
No show since a fine win over Hunt Ball here off 145 on New Year’s day. Made reappearance over a trip that stretches him at Wetherby and ran accordingly, beaten out of sight. However, it was a similar story at Perth last year, and he bounced back to win on his second run of the season over course and distance. He is now just 4lb higher than for his last win and with Bargary taking off a handy 5lb he is potentially well handicapped. He may look Twiston Davies’ second string, but a big run at odds of 25/1 would come as no surprise at all.
This is a horse that has made a big impression on me whenever I have seen him run. He can be careful at his fences, which can hold him back, but he obviously has a serious engine as he has managed to finish close up on more than one occasion in spite of some poor jumping displays. It was a similar story at Aintree on his reappearance, and he came home a never nearer third off 147. He ran well in this race off 146 last year and if he can put in a good display of jumping he will be bang there off just 2lb higher at odds of 16/1.
Alan King inmate who won a similar race here last January off a mark of 144, beating Big Fella Thanks. After a couple of poor subsequent runs the handicapper has dropped him back down to 147 so he is not handicapped out of it. However, he has needed a couple of runs to hit top gear in the past couple of seasons, and plenty of King’s have needed the run first time back. This 7yo son of Beneficial has ability and loves the track, but at 14/1 he is best watched.
ART MARESQUE NICHOLLS/BOWEN
This is a fascinating horse from a handicapping perspective. He reappeared this season at Newton Abbott in the race won by Irish Cavalier, finishing three lengths behind that rival in receipt of 2lb.He gets 9lb from him today, which would give him every chance of turning the tables on that rival. He hacked up last time out over course and distance in a handicap off 144, and is only 3lb higher here. Strong claims at 12/1 if he is in the same form and top young jockey booked.
JP McManus has only one entry in this year’s race and this 7yo son of Golan will be ridden by Barry Geraghty, the successor to AP McCoy. He has won just 2 of his 12 chase starts and was brought down last time at Limerick. He had previously finished a good fifth at Galway off 145 and he was a decent sixth in this race last year off 147. However, he is off 146 today and his last win came off 139. He needs to prove he is capable off his current mark, and unless the money comes he is best watched at 25/1.
Caused a big surprise at the festival last March when taking the Plate at 33/1 off a mark of 140. That was a career best and he returns to action after his Summer break off a mark of 145. He was brought down on his final start of the season at Aintree but he looked in trouble at the time in any case. He hacked up on his first run for 2 years last season so he can obviously run well fresh. If Bailey has him fit and ready to go he could well run a big race at 25/1.
PRESENT VIEW SNOWDEN/POWELL
Three times chase winner, including at the festival over course and distance last March off 137, who has looked badly out of sorts in recent runs. Beaten 9L on his comeback run then was pulled up a fortnight ago at Ascot. Connections reach for first time blinkers, which is never a good sign. Handicapper has dropped him a couple of pounds to 143 but even so he looks weighted to his best. Maybe the blinkers will perk him up but he is not one to rely on at 25/1.
The second of the Pipe entries and this 9yo is having his first run of the season. His best effort last year came here at the festival when he was runner up to Darna. He is 3lb better off with that rival here but he is not one for maximum faith. He has been pulled up or unseated on three of his last seven runs and remains 15lb above his last winning mark. Ran alright on his reappearance last year but it will be a big surprise if he is up to taking this. Best watched at 12/1.
BENNYS MIST WILLIAMS/COLEMAN
Represents a yard that sprang into life in the last couple of weeks and Venetia’s horses are in tremendous form. This 9yo failed to win last year, and was well beaten in this race off the same mark, 140, that he has today. That is 7lb above his last winning mark and his comeback run was a non event, pulled up on good ground at Ascot. This fella needs it bottomless to be seen at his best and he is best watched with decent ground likely. If the heavens open he comes into the equation at 40/1.
GENEROUS RANSOM GIFFORD/JACOB
Sneaks in at the foot of the handicap and comes here on the back of a poor reappearance over 21f here, when finishing a well beaten eleventh in a handicap hurdle. He is a much better chaser though, and that run would have been badly needed. He usually takes a couple of runs to get him fully fit (he won on his 3rd start last year) and he is still 12lb above his last winning mark. Could run well but for me he is best watched at 16/1 until the handicapper drops him another few pounds.
As can be seen from the above there are a host of horses who can have cases made for them. Art Maresque is intriguing with Bowen booked and from a handicapping perspective he must have a big chance of beating Irish Cavalier. Double Ross and Splash Of Ginge should not be dismissed either and both are of interest each way at big prices. Johns Spirit is another with major claims. If the ground remains good Oscar Rock comes into the equation too.
However, the one I like best at the prices is BUYWISE for Moloney and Williams. The stable is in great form, this fella has been knocking on the door and his comeback run was more than satisfactory. He has gone well here before and if he can put in a slick round of jumping I think he could be a cut above these rivals. He is the each way suggestion, though a saver on Art Maresque wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
STEVOS’ SELECTION: BUYWISE E/W 16/1