The Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase is the highlight of the Cheltenham Open meeting (2.30pm, Saturday). Only two favourites have won this two-and-a-half mile handicap in the past ten years and this renewal looks particularly open.
Jamie Snowden’s Present View (6/1) has attracted significant support. The six-year-old son of Presenting won at the Festival last year, over course and distance on good to soft in a novice handicap chase off a mark of 137. He scored three times in total last season and looks to be suited by testing conditions. He stayed on well to win over two miles six furlongs on soft ground at Market Rasen a year ago.
He has had one run this season, losing by a head in a novice hurdle here over two miles five furlongs in mid October. He made a mess of the last and losing a shoe did not help his cause. He starts off a mark of 144 here and looks progressive. He has to be considered even though his trainer is not in the best form.
Another fancied runner is Evan Williams’ (pictured) Buywise (13/2). He has proved a particularly wise buy for Williams. He picked him up for just £21K a year ago. He has more than repaid his purchase price, clocking up five wins and over £50K for his owner, Hywel Jones. Buywise ended last season with a win here in a Grade 2 handicap chase over two miles five furlongs, beating Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Astracad a bit too convincingly by nine lengths. The handicapper has raised his mark by 12lb since. Buywise has proven stamina, winning a three mile novice chase at Taunton on heavy ground in January.
This seven year old kicked off the season with an easy win in a two mile novice hurdle at Taunton in October. He beat Nicky Henderson’s Area Fifty One by three lengths. He starts off a lifetime high mark of 146 but might still be ahead of the handicapper. His course form and ability to handle soft ground are big positives. He has to be one for the shortlist.
Williams thinks his second string, King Massini is over priced at 33/1. He could be right. While his recent form is unspectacular he has proved he can handle the challenges of Cheltenham, winning a handicap chase here over two miles five furlongs in December. He went on to win over three miles at Ludlow a few days later off a mark of 120.
The main question mark is whether this eight year old can perform off his current mark of 130. His form suggests that the going might not be to his liking. He has not succeeded under rules on anything deeper than good to soft.
Last year’s winner, Johns Spirit (10/1) is fancied by some to score again here. His trainer, Jonjo O’Neill, is usually a force to be reckoned with in valuable handicaps. He won this race in 2006 with Exotic Dancer. Johns Spirit shoulders topweight rather than 10 stone 2lb so it’s a big ask. The statistics suggest he is up against it too. The last horse to win this race two years running was Josh Gifford’s Bradbury Star in the early 1990s.
On the positive side this seven year old has proved his well-being this season (unlike some of his stablemates), winning on his debut over course and distance in mid October. He beat Philip Hobbs’ Persian Snow by a length. That was off a mark of 147. The handicapper has raised him 9lb since. Jockey Richie McLernon is full of praise for his jumping ability and knows how to get the best out of him. He will need to be foot perfect to succeed here.
Hobbs’ horses are in great form, winning three races here on Friday and Persian Snow (16/1) has to be a contender. He meets Johns Spirit on better terms this time, having been raised 5lb for his latest effort. He has never won off a mark higher than 132 and will need to be in the form of his life to succeed off 141. This eight year old can handle soft ground and no one will be riding with more confidence than his jockey, Richard Johnson. The Hobbs factor makes him look an interesting each-way proposition at this price.
Nicky Henderson’s nine-year-old Oscar Whisky (10/1) is a class act who also carries topweight. Unlike Johns Spirit his jumping is less than reliable. Since he graduated from hurdles his ability over larger obstacles has been suspect. He blundered at the first fence on his seasonal debut here a year ago and fell at the first at the Festival.
His sketchy jumping did not stop him posting three wins as a novice chaser last season, including a Grade 2 here and a Grade 1 at Sandown. Is it significant that all his wins were in fields of five or less? Possibly. This relative cavalry charge will put his jumping under pressure. If the sun is low and half the fences are omitted as they were at this time on Friday, he will be a major beneficiary. His jockey Barry Geraghty was not exactly bullish about his chances, suggesting that he will come on for the run.
Henderson also saddles the eight-year-old Ericht (18/1) who will be partnered by Andrew Tinkler. Ericht finished seven lengths behind Johns Spirit in third here a month ago and starts off a slightly lower mark of 137.
He only scored once in his five runs as a novice chaser, on soft ground at Musselburgh in February. His next two runs were disappointing. He has made a decent start to the season and, if whatever problem caused his form to drop off last season has been resolved, could be well handicapped. He looks an interesting each-way chance.
O’Neill’s second string is also worth mentioning. Eastlake (25/1) owned by JP McManus, is yet to score at this distance but stayed on to take third in the Topham at Aintree over two miles five furlongs. He was nine lengths behind Nicky Henderson’s Ma Filleule. He’s a great jumper and has won a handicap chase here over two miles when starting off a mark of 140.
Eastlake finished 19 lengths behind Richard Lee’s Grey Gold in fifth in a two mile handicap at Chepstow in October on his only outing this season. O’Neill admits that he has problems with his knees and joints but thinks he is in good form and should like the ground. He is not a hopeless cause and will be partnered by the very capable Jason Maguire.
Some of Paul Nicholls’ horses have seemed to need their first run but the five-year-old Caid Du Berlais (14/1) has had a shorter break than most. He finished 31 lengths behind Noel Meade’s Road To Riches in the two mile six furlong Galway Plate in July. It looked to be two furlongs too far for him. He previously lost out by a neck to Donald McCain’s Clondaw Kaempfer in a Grade 3 two and a half mile handicap hurdle at Aintree in April.
He has posted some of his best efforts on heavy ground, finishing second by just over a length to John Ferguson’s Ruacana in a Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow last January. He’s dropped 6lb since his Galway flop and looks well handicapped. Combine that with his prowess in the mud and he could become the first five year old to take this race since Cyfor Malta in 1998. It would be a second winner for his sire, Westerner, at this meeting. Champagne West romped home on Friday.
Another young mud lover is Ian Williams’ Indian Castle (10/1). This six year old won a novice chase over two miles five furlongs here on heavy ground in January when trained by Donald McCain. He subsequently started favourite for the Kim Muir Handicap Chase at the Festival but could only finish a distant seventh. He didn’t appear to get three miles and retains the mark of 140 which McCain thought was fair. He merits respect but Williams’ strike rate of 13% this season over fences does not inspire much confidence.
Paddy Power Gold Cup Betting Tips Verdict
This is a typically tricky handicap to call with half the field having realistic claims. Buywise looks the most tempting of the market leaders but doesn’t provide much value at 13/2 with a massive hike in the handicap to overcome. Henderson’s Ericht (18/1) is likely to have improved for his latest run and has strong each-way claims.
For the selection we have to choose Nicholls’ CAID DU BERLAIS as a potentially well-handicapped horse who should cope with conditions. So bet on our Paddy Power Gold Cup betting tip Caid Du Berlais each-way at a best price of 14/1 with Bet365 or SkyBet, both firms who have the advantage over the other bookies as they are paying out on the first five places.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.