Two Grade One novice chase winners at the Festival meeting in March top the weights and the betting for the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday, and there is every chance too that The Real Whacker and Stage Star will take each other on at the head of the field from an early stage.
Both chasers made most of the running on the way to victory in the Brown Advisory and Turners Novice Chases respectively, and they are clearly the class acts in Saturday’s field. Whether they will be able to dominate, and concede weight to, a host of seasoned specialists over track and trip is another question, however, and there are plenty of strong each-way alternatives at double-figure prices.
Notlongtillmay, the runner-up behind Stage Star back in March, is one possibility after a promising return to action at the October meeting, along with course-and-distance regulars Fugitif and Il Ridoto (2.20), second and sixth respectively in the Plate Handicap Chase at the Festival.
Il Ridoto beat Fugitif by a length at around this trip on the New course in January, is 4lb better off with that rival at Saturday’s weights and is flexible tactically if the leaders overcook the pace, while Freddie Gingell’s 5lb claim is also a bonus.
Cheltenham 1.45: Mister Coffey’s 25-length eighth in the Grand National last time out is an eye-catching piece of form for a novice, but he has yet to win any of his nine chase starts and Good Risk At All, an impressive winner of his chasing debut at Carlisle last month, was as good, if not better, over hurdles.
Lingfield Park 2.36: A drop in grade to Listed company for the first time this season should be enough to see Regal Reality return to the winner’s enclosure after a series of strong efforts in better company, including a close second in the Group Two Joel Stakes at Newmarket last time out.
Cheltenham 2.55: Placenet cannot have been the easiest horse to assess on his form in the French provinces and he may well have been let in lightly on a mark of 124 for his handicap debut.
Lingfield 3.11: Mischief Magic won a weak race last time out and looks too short against a better field here, with Willem Twee, at around 7-1, the pick of the prices to continue his progress on artificial surfaces and take the step up from a strong handicap success last time in his stride.
Cheltenham 3.30: Resplendent Grey has progressed with every run over hurdles and briefly threatened to give the highly promising Captain Teague a race at Chepstow last time. That run could give him an edge in terms of fitness on the early favourite, Springwell Bay.
Tizzard can afford to smile after JPR One’s cruel defeat
If there is a good way to have a valuable winner snatched from your grasp in an instant, Joe Tizzard’s rueful smile after the Arkle Trial Novice Chase on Friday suggested that he knew he had found it. His six-year-old JPR One had the race sewn up as he went to the final fence and cleared it readily as he had the previous dozen – but then stumbled slightly on landing and unseated Brendan Powell, allowing Homme Public to record a very fortunate success.
“He’s all right, and he looked like he was going to be very, very impressive,” Tizzard said. “He jumped the last well, and he just crumpled a bit, but they are both up all right and we know we’ve got a horse to go to war with.
“This was a lovely next step, it’s not like it happened five out and you don’t know. They’ve come to him on his girths and he’d gone away again, so he was about to put up a proper performance. There’s no doubt about that and these things happen.
“I might just give him a bit of a confidence-booster [now], we’ll see, but I don’t think he knows that anything went wrong. He was enjoying himself and jumped for fun.”
Betfair reported afterwards that £4,309 was traded on JPR One at the exchange’s basement price of 1.01 (or 100-1 on), while his late slip-up presented Henry Brooke with his first ever winner at Cheltenham aboard Homme Public.
“I missed both two out and the last, but he is very good and nimble on his feet and he knows where his feet are,” Brooke said. “He has had a horse fall in front, and it could have been a lot worse, but they are both up OK and they live to fight another day. That is the main thing at the end of the day, and there are people in worse circumstances right now.”
Captain Teague was the 4-6 favourite to maintain an unbeaten start to his hurdling career in the Grade Two Hyde Novice Hurdle, but a 5lb penalty for his debut success was too much of a burden as he went down by a length-and-a-quarter to the 22-1 chance, Minella Missile.
The winner was the 100th in the colours of Janet Davies, one of the longest-standing owners at Evan Williams’s stable in partnership with her late husband, Peter, who died in November 2022.
“That’s racing, it pulls in the emotions of life which are important to the very trivial pursuit of going faster than another horse round a grassy field,” Williams said. “It is her 100th winner and she has been very successful, had a lot of winners and some very nice horses. But, as often happens with racing, it sometimes just gives back that little bit of a fairytale.
“I’m blessed with the owners I train for. I’m a dinosaur and I train for some very old-fashioned owners and it makes my life very easy. But sometimes that cross-over between real life and racing is fantastic.”
Delta Work and Galvin were jostling for favouritism before the Cross Country Chase as the punters anticipated a repeat of their memorable battle to the line at the Festival in March, but neither horse could even make the frame this time around as Foxy Jacks held off the strong charge of Latenightpass by a length-and-a-quarter.