The Paddy Power Gold Cup (or as it will be ever be known in my mind in its original incarnation, the ‘Mackeson’) is for many jump racing fans the sign that top class National Hunt racing is back.
This year’s race seems as competitive as ever and weather may still be a crucial factor. After further rain on Thursday night the going is now described as Soft
As is often the case at Cheltenham a major stat to look for is for horses with previous good form at the course. Weight isn’t a major issue but those that win with a weight of more than 11 stone would not normally look out of place in a Grade 1 chase like the Gold Cup , Ryanair or King George later in the season. Irish raiders have only been successful once since 1980 – and we have to go even further back to find a winner aged 10 or more.
The race is usually run at a good pace and you would generally need a sound jumper who can keep a good position throughout
Here are the runners:
OSCAR WHISKY 9yo 11st 12lbs
The class horse of the race – his mark of 156 is still some way below his hurdles best of 167 so on that basis he could be considered well in . Soft ground isn’t a problem and trip is ideal but here come the negatives: Jumping became a bit of an issue last season as his level of competitivity increased and he fell at the Festival. That was his only race with a double figure field and with 18 rivals here and a good pace assured he will be under more pressure at the obstacles again. Many of the stables runners have been needing a run also in last few weeks so he may not be cherry ripe.
JOHNS SPIRIT 7yo 11st 12lbs
Last years winner from a mark of 139 – he won the same prep race this year over the course but now has a 17lb higher mark to shoulder with a rating of 156. He could be an improved horse this season but will need to be and prove he is better than a handicapper to be competitive off this mark. Not certain to confirm form with Persian Snow (5lbs better off for 1 length) and Ericht (12lbs for 7 lengths). Also huge weight differentials with Attaglance, Easter Meteor and Champion Court from last years race. Softening ground could be a minus with all best form shown on better.
EDGARDO SOL 7yo 11st 6lbs
Took ‘hugging theinside rail’ to new extremes on his last start when jumping into the wings of his fences. Did well to finish 2nd despite that but there isn’t enough in hos overall form to suggest he is well weighted here with a mark of 150
CHAMPION COURT 9yo 11st 5lbs
Favourite for this race last year when a disappointing 7th. Raced off 157 then and has now been dropped to 149. Behind Johns Spirit at the last Cheltenham meeting where he didn’t quite show his old zest again and for me he’s never been quite the same horse since a lungbursting effort in the 2012 King George. Martin Keighley had him out hunting recently the try and get him back on song again – if he can succeed he is well handicapped – but I fear previous toils may have left a lasting mark with ‘Champ’
KAPGA DE CERISY 6yo 11st 4lbs
Never wise to dismiss a Venetia Williams horse but it has to be a worry that this young chaser missed most of last season. Two previous runs on the course don’t really give any encouragement that this is his track
EASTER METEOR 8yo 11st 4lbs
Still in with every chance in last years race when falling 2 out (9lb better off with Johns Spirit). Despite the fall the handicapper didn’t give him too many chances afterwards and despite not winning he has an 8lb higher mark this year and also has missed any prep run this time. His supporters will be hoping that a switch in stable to David Pipe has brought improvement and he has him fully tuned up at home – because on the face of it he is up against it
SHANPALLAS 6yo 11st 3lbs
Irish raiders don’t have a great record in this race and it’s hard to see how this one is well handicapped with a rating of 147. No encouragement can be gained from his only previous venture on the course when beaten 50 lengths by Indian Castle
CANTLOW 9yo 11st 3lbs
Was a highly promising novice hurdler who has never quite fulfilled that potential over chases. Best effort last season was over Cheltenham’s New course (better off with Johns Spirit and Easter Meteor who were both behind that day). The slightly quicker Old Course may be against him here and with no AP McCoy available to ride we still await to see a jockey booking
EASTLAKE 8yo 11st 2lbs
Looked a two mile horse for most of his career but gave sign that further was possible when 3rd at Aintree last year ( he is a full brother to the stable star More of That who stays 3 miles). Return at Chepstow was encouraging and he was badly hampered when trying to get into the race. I would have been less encouraged by his chance if the stable had put up one of their conditional riders on board but the booking of Jason Maguire suggests there is some stable confidence here to me.
BUYWISE 7yo 11st 2lbs
5 lbs worse off despite getting beaten by Present View at the Festival last year – but could well have given him something to think about but for bad jumping. Made amends for that afterwards and definitely has an engine but these jumping frailties have to be a concern again now he’s back in a 19 runner handicap where keeping a good position is paramount. Runs off his hihest vere mark but does fall into the ‘progressive’ category
PRESENT VIEW 6yo 11st
A Cheltenham Festival winner last season and did nothing to dispel his chances here with a nice trial over hurdles at the last meeting here. Jumps well and ability to keep a nice position in the race should keep him in good stead.. He does have the highest mark of his career here but is going the right way. Not totally convinced he would be suited by much more rain (Presenting the sire usually an influence for decent ground and best performance came on Good to Soft. Remains a leading contender as we may not have seen the best of him yet.
ATTAGLANCE 8yo 10st 13lbs
Plenty of course form for the Northern challenger who is well in with others on his 4th in this race last year (11 lbs beter off for 6 lengths with Johns Spirit). His mark is actually 6 lb higher though than last year.
Attaglance has performed well at the Festival as well on two occasions so the course is obviously not a problem but on balance he has performed best in the Spring when the ground is decent. The threat of more rain would not appear to be in his favour
CAID DU BERLAIS 5yo 10st 13lbs
Hurdling form remains superior to chasing form for this one so far – and worrying that his novice chasing season was cut off early and he was reverted to the smaller obstacles last season. This race wouldn’t appear to be the type of event to ease him back in!
PERSIAN SNOW 8yo 10st 11lbs
Ran well on his reappearance when run down close home by Johns Spirit. He’s weighted to have every chance to reverse that form now. Also ran well at the Festival last year – may have finished closer but for being hampered on home turn – and marginally better off with Present View, Attaglance and Buywise from that race.
Philip Hobbs hasn’t won this race for a while but went close with Colour Squadron last year and has had a few other placed horses in recent years.
INDIAN CASTLE 6yo 10st 10lbs
Promising novice trained by Donald McCain last year. He won a competitive handicap on the New Course off a mark of 135 in January. The ground was heavy then so further rain should not be an issue.
He now races for Ian Williams (same owner flitted Weird Al between these two trainers in past) and isn’t harshly treated on a mark of 140.
A combination of the trip and the good ground could have contributed to his downfall when a beaten favourite at the Festival. Fitness will be the main issue here as he has yet to race this season
CEDRE BLEU 7yo 10st 9lbs
‘A bit of a monkey’ might be a kind description here – Cedre Bleu has some decent form but needed plenty of finessing in the saddle and has lost races he looked likely to win by finding very little off the bridle. No real encouragement that he has improved for a stable switch to Charlie Mann to be a contender here
ORPHEUS VALLEY 11yo 10st 7lbs
Has to be a big outsider on form and being an Irish trained 11yo , he would be defying every statistic in the book to be successful here.
ERICHT 8yo 10st 7lbs
Disappointing when pulled up at the Festival last year but has run well at this course before without winning. Would expect plenty of improvement on his seasonal debut and the pull in the weights gives him every chance to reverse form with Johns Spirit. Jockey booking of Andrew Tinkler would signify he is the stable’s number two but he can’t be discounted and I suspect Barry Geraghty’s choice would have some previous loyalties attached to it – further rain maybe against him though and he seems best on Good or Good to Soft.
KING MASSINI 8yo 10st 1lb
The bottom weight is taking on a much higher level than he is used to here. He’s yet to be competitive at his current mark of 131 and fell on his only venture to this course. Trip also appears too short
Oscar Whisky and Buywise are the two most obvious contenders for me who are likeliest to let jumping ruining their chances. If they jump cleanly round they are contenders but that is too big an ‘if’ for me to support them in a race like this. Caid Du Berlais at slightly bigger odds may also need a health warning if being backed.
Irish raiders and those with no real course form are discounted straight away (Kapga de Cerisy, Shanpallas, Orpheus Valley, King Massini)
A few others are not handicapped well enough to win this race for me: Johns Spirit, Edgardo Sol, Easter Meteor, Attaglance (ground also against now),
This now leaves a shortlist of:
I would take Cedre Bleu out immediately as he’s just too quirky. Champion Court is weighted well on his best form but appears on a downward curve right now so is also dismissed.
I think Cantlow may prefer a slightly bigger test of stamina and it’s a little disconcerting that he hasn’t been jocked up yet and the other McManus runners have.
I would like the chances of Present View and Ericht much more on decent ground so the further rain is a concern. It wouldn’t be a shock to see either win. Present View might well have been the selection on good ground but at around 6/1 he’s just a bit too short for me now in prevailing conditions
Indian Castle, in contrast, is probably the most obvious one in the race to have been suited by a deluge. As he’s only 6 we should expect improvement from last season. The value on him has probably gone earlier this week as he’s now down to a best price of 10/1. Not having had a run this season is the negative here and I wouldn’t say his trainer is particularly known for getting one ready first time up
This leaves me with the two suggestions for the race given current conditions and odds:
PERSIAN SNOW. Has shown enough good form on the course without winning here and softening ground should suit more than those around him on his reappearance run. Seems a sound jumper and with the stable having had several close shots at this race in past he looks the each way bet of the race for me at around 16/1 (note ¼ odds 12345 is available in some places)
EASTLAKE. The jockey booking of Jason Maguire was a major plus for me here with a certain Mr McCoy not available through injury. There is still a slight question mark about the trip but he jumps well and likes a good pace to run off – and has winning course form. There is just a chance that he could even improve for the extra trip as his brother has done.
1pt ew Persian Snow 16/1 (Paddy Power/ Betfair Sportsbook both paying 1st 5)
0.5pts ew Eastlake 25/1 generally available
Good luck all
Comments welcome as always