Paddy Power Gold Cup Tips: A tip to lift your Spirits

We take a look at the Paddy Power Gold Cup and provide our tip.
We take a look at the Paddy Power Gold Cup and provide our tip.

We've got a stellar weekend of action ahead, and Joe Tuffin has looked into the Paddy Power Gold Cup, one of the best betting races of the year...

Cheltenham’s November Meeting is one of the headline events in the National Hunt world this side of Christmas, with hints for how the season will pan out unravelling before our eyes in the form of many Festival trial races. But the headline race of the meeting goes to the Paddy Power Gold Cup, a famous betting heat with an impressive roll call, featuring the likes of Al Ferof, Exotic Dancer and Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander. This season’s renewal isn’t devoid of quality by any means either, with Cheltenham Festival and Grade 1 winners lining up to take their chances in the hot handicap.

Currently topping the market at a slither too short for my liking is Saint Sonnet, a French listed winner who transferred to Paul Nicholls last season and impressed on his two starts, with one simple success in a Novices’ Chase at Catterick and then an admirable seventh in the Grade 1 Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Festival. His form is hard to analyse having ran once in a race far too easy for him, and then in one likely just above his grade, but the fact that he sits pretty at the top of the market and is trained by Nicholls tells you all you need to know. He could be well ahead of his mark of 147 and if you’re a favourite backer, this could be one to jump on, but in these handicaps I’d always try and find the ‘big’ value play, so Saint Sonnet slides into the pass pile.

Second in the market comes Simply The Betts, who boasts an easy on the eye formline of 11211, with the latter 1 coming at the Cheltenham Festival in the Festival Plate. He’s obviously an impressive performer at this level and won at Festival easily on merit, battling back on the run in when looking beaten, but he’s 8 lb higher now than he was that day and that could well be the beating of him, especially given that Happy Diva, the horse that chased him home that day and at one stage looked to have him beat, re opposes him here and is only 2 lb higher than in March, with the benefit of a race under her belt already this season. You can’t knock this likeable mare and after winning this race last year, it’s hard to turn you completely the other way. If you decide to back her you’re almost guaranteed a good run for your money, but if you’re trying to find the double-figure winner then I’d have to encourage you to look further. Yes, she’s got form against one of the main market principals but when winning this last year she did it off 143 and as consistent and admirable as she is, her current mark of 151 is probably beyond her, for win purposes anyway.

Two more eye-catching names at the forefront of the market are Mister Fisher and Al Dancer, both of whom are single-figure prices at the time of writing and have the form behind them to support their place in the market. Mister Fisher is an ever admirable sort who was last seen finishing fourth in the previously mentioned Marsh Novices’ Chase, finishing only three-lengths behind the seriously classy trio of Samcro, Melon and Faugheen. Prior to that he actually beat Al Dancer off level weights in a Grade 2 event, and is shaping up to be a seriously impressive chaser. Al Dancer on the other hand went to the Arkle, where he didn’t quite finish in the frame and crossed the line in fifth, 22 lengths detached. He’s managed to sneak a run under his belt already this term, beating the highly talented but absolutely looney Master Tommytucker, and the benefit of that shouldn’t be understated. Both obviously feature high in the weights as a result of these impressive formlines, off marks of 155 and 154 respectively, but both could be vulnerable to a better handicapped sort. 

Slate House is the first to feature at a double figure price and the truth is he was very nearly my selection here, if it wasn’t for my own bitterness having missed the price that’s holding me back. Currently a 10/1 chance at the time of writing, he’s certainly the class pick in the field, having won a Grade 1 as recently as three starts ago on Boxing Day last year. His last two runs have been underwhelming, but excuses can be made for both as he never really traveled in either, and he was virtually pulled up in the RSA. He was sent off the favourite for this event last year and turning for home you’d have happily called him the winner, but he couldn’t deploy his landing gear at the second last and took a crashing fall. A winner over course and distance, and not completely weighted out of contention off a mark of 151, he ticks many a box and is very hard to disregard, but as i said, my own stubbornness lands me elsewhere and that horse is the Dan Skelton trained Spiritofthegames.

He was my big fancy for the aforementioned Festival Plate which was won by Simply The Betts, and, for me, came out of that race as the one to side with again going forward. Painfully slowest away of 23 that went to post, he got in far too tight at the first, nearly jumped through the wing of the fence at the second and was scrubbed along  in last when passing the grandstand with a circuit ahead of him - hardly the most ideal start to a race. But he, as he usually does at Cheltenham, got into the swing of things and found his mojo to move sneakily into the race and ultimately finish an impressive 6th, beaten only five-and-a-half-lengths by the eventual winner - he debatably had no right even being in the frame. His form at Cheltenham reads 4533P226 so, although he’s yet to get that all important win, he continually hits the post in races of a very similar ilk and providing his run isn’t even half as error-strewn as his last, you can certainly expect him to be involved in the finish again off a mark of 148 (1 lb lower than for his Festival 6th), at a very easy to back price.

Sitting just below Spiritofthegames in the market is the only JP McManus horse in the race, Brelan D’As, a two time winner over fences - though both came in novice company. His most eye-catching piece of form however comes in this race exactly 12 months ago, where he was beaten oh so narrowly by Happy Diva in an incredibly tight finish. The handicapper was impressed with that performance and duly raised him 5 lb, which probably caught him out in his following run in the Caspian Caviar where he finished a distanced eighth, though he made a hefty error three from home. He stays on the same mark and probably needs to come down a couple lbs before he can seriously strike again.

The market from there on down starts to get a bit confused, with five of them currently priced at 20/1. Those are Coole Cody, Fidux, Sky Pirate, The Russain Doyen and finally Aso - who was last seen falling when clear in the Virtual Grand National.

Coole Cody is probably the stand out amongst these runners, having notched a second place finish over course and distance at the October meeting last month. He was the outsider of the four that day and beat the likes of Not That Fuisse and Pileon, but he steps out of novice company here and takes on a different level of horse altogether, it may just be one leap too far for him. Sky Pirate landed a hat-trick of seconds last time out, but in much lesser company than this and it’ll be a shock to see him make it four seconds in a row, never mind a win. Aso is of course a brilliant performer, with his best performance being a second in the Ryanair at the Festival, but his consistency as a top Grade 1 performer sees him lumbered with top weight here and he hardly set the world alight last season.

Kauto Riko sits near the bottom of the market and is not unfamiliar with some of these horses lining up, though he would probably notice their hindquarters more so having been beaten a fair few times at this level. He’s had a wind op but that would have to work wonders for him to feature.

Domaine De L’isle and Pinson Du Rheu complete the seventeen runner field but have no real noticeable form that puts them amongst this bunch, though the former beat Happy Diva in an Ascot handicap earlier this year - admittedly in heavy conditions which is more his forte.


Paddy Power Gold Cup, Cheltenham, Saturday 14th November - back Spiritofthegames at 14/1

Paddy Power Gold Cup
Spiritofthegames silk


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