The Saturday Focus – Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

For this week’s Saturday Focus, my attention is fixed on the Paddy Power Gold Cup (14:15 Cheltenham). Seventeen runners go to post for this grade three handicap chase over two miles and four furlongs. This is one of the best handicaps at this time of the year and it promises to be a great race.

Five of these runners ran in this race last season. Happy Diva won the race, showing an amazing attitude. That was on her second start of the season, as this will be. She was just beaten a head in mares’ listed chase and then followed in Domaine De L’Isle at Ascot in January. At the Cheltenham Festival, she was only beaten one and a quarter lengths by Simply The Betts off equal weights, with Spiritofthegames and Kauto Riko in behind and Siruh Du Lac falling. This time, 6lbs splits Simply The Betts so you can’t discount Happy Diva at all, especially when you think that Simply The Betts is one of the favourites. He had a sensational season in 2019/20. He won two class three chases and then followed in Commanche Run on Boxing Day. He won a good chase at Cheltenham in January , beating the Northern Trust winner Imperial Aura and subsequent winners On The Slopes, Garo De Juilley, Sully D’oc Aa and Court Master. At the Cheltenham Festival, he was so impressive in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate. He tried so hard and it is good to see Gavin Sheehan back from injury to ride this horse. He’s rated 157 with just reason.

Brelan D’As ran Happy Diva to a neck in last year’s renewal. He has only been seen once since, when finishing eighth in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, with Spritiofthegames finishing second. Jonjo O’Neill Jr is a notable booking for Paul Nicholls and JP McManus. Saint Sonnet is Brelan D’As’ stablemate and is one of the interesting, unexposed runners. He has had just two runs in the UK after much success in France. His first start was at Catterick, by just under four lengths, in February. Connections then threw him in at the deep end at Cheltenham in March, when he finished seventh in the Marsh. If the scheduled rain does fall, he’ll appreciate it. Spiritofthegames might not. His last win was at Chepstow in a listed novices’ chase. At the 2019 Festival, he was a really good third to Siruh Du Lac. He pulled up in behind Happy Diva last November and has struggled to figure in races since. He’s on a decent mark of 148.

Siruh Du Lac pulled up in this last year and I am really interested in him because he has moved to David Pipe from Nick Williams. He had an exceptional 2018/19 season, beginning his winning sequence off a mark of 123. Two wins later, off 134, he managed to win a grade three over course and distance in January and then followed that up in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at the Festival. He was put up 9lbs for that and was seen twice last season but didn’t complete on either occasion. Tom Scudamore gave him a positive mention after he won the Cross Country Chase on the first day of this meeting on Kingswell Theatre. Micheal Nolan finished second on Beau De Brizais, who gave him a great spin and could be very good over those obstacles in future. Nolan rides Pinson De Rheu for Alexandra Dunn in this. The son of Al Namix comes over from France and he is five from thirty three over there, earning over €200,000 in prizemoney. He is round about 100/1 but that is probably because of the yard he comes from but good on them for being brave with him. He stays further than this and has form in class one company.

A similar sentiment can be given to Domaine De L’Isle. This horse is part of my 20 To Watch for this year. He’s currently 50/1 for this race and I genuinely think he has a chance. He obtained a hattrick of victories over fences last season, over two miles three and a half and further. He finished off in a hot race against good horses at Ascot and retuned in behind Does He Know, who won a grade two on the opening day of this meeting, over hurdles. He will have needed that run and the softer the better for this horse. Coole Cody is another runner I have had my eye on lately. This son of Dubai Destination made his fences bow in August at Newton Abbot and won by ten lengths. Next time, he came second to Solider Of Love, who won lots of races over the summer, and ahead of recent Taunton scorer Irish Prophecy. Last time, he ran a really good race when second to Southfield Stone at Cheltenham last time out and I think he’s tailor made for this kind of race with just 10st5 on his back.

Slate House (JTW Equine Images)

Sky Pirate has bottom weight at 10st2 with Johnny Burke on board. This horse ran for the first time in over 300 days with a good second when fitness was probably what held him back. He hasn’t won since June 2017 in a handicap, meaning he’s still a maiden over fences. Last November, he was a good second to some smart horses but I think he’d need to improve to feature. The Russian Doyen was in good form at the start of 2019. In January, he won well at Newbury and followed it up with a brilliant fourth in the listed novices handicap chase over this sort of trip. On his sole start last season, he pulled up lame at Aintree. He showed no ill effects from that when reappearing at Fontwell, staying on well. He has only raced twelve times and has good form. His stablemate Slate House will be a shorter price – as he’s a grade one winner! The race in question was the Kauto Star Novices Chase at Kempton in December. He lost his way in two starts after that and makes a return to handicap company. I think he’d have won this race last season if he hadn’t have fallen and hopefully he can recapture some of that form. On official ratings, he the fifth best horse in the line-up.

Kauto Riko and Fidux will be big prices. The latter was only beaten three and a quarter lengths in the Peterborough Chase last time but was last in a grade two last time. He was then second in a listed chase over three miles and well-beaten in behind Simply The Betts at the Festival. He has had wind-op since then. Fidux is ridden by Tom Bellamy, who won this with Splash Of Ginge in 2017. He has been running all though the summer and managed to win by a head last time. He’s been put up 4lbs for that but Alan King’s runners are going well.

Mister Fisher (JTW Equine Images)

The last three runners to mention are arguably the classiest in the line-up – Al Dancer, Mister Fisher and Aso. I have to address the old boy Aso, who has top weight, first. In 2019, he came second in the Ryanair. Since then, he was third in the Charlie Hall Chase. And then fifth in the Peterborough Chase with Kauto Riko ahead. He then came fourth in the King George and seventh in this season’s Ryanair. He’s a sensational horse and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran very well. Al Dancer and Mister Fisher’s form is intertwined. Al Dancer won on debut and then was second to Put The Kettle On, fourth to Global Citizen and then second, beaten a length, by Mister Fisher. They raced off equal weights that day but Mister Fisher carries 1lbs more in this. After that, he was fifth in the Arkle and won over this trip, beating subsequent winner master Tommytucker. Mister Fisher went down a different path. He was second on fences bow and then won at Cheltenham in December. He dropped back to two miles for the race at Doncaster, before going to the Marsh. He finished fourth at 7/1, with Saint Sonnet, who is one of his market rivals, in seventh. I think Mister Fisher will go off favourite.

Overall, I am going to side with SIMPLY THE BETTS. This gelding showed such an excellent attitude to win at Cheltenham. I think he has a great chance, especially as he jumps well. I really want Domaine De L’Isle to run a good race. I think he’s a ridiculous price and probably has been a bit forgotten about. Sean Bowen is riding well at the minute. I like Coole Cody at a big price too. He looks like he’ll be suited to this test. Siruh Du Lac and Happy Diva can’t be discounted.

Rest Of The Card

12:30- JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle

DUFFLE COAT for Ireland is my idea of the winner in this. This gelding was an excellent winner at Wetherby last time. He’s penalised from that but looks the standout runner.

13:05- South West Syndicate Handicap Chase (Conditional Jockeys’ And Amateur Riders’ Race)

I’m going to go for PETITE POWER in this. I was there when he ran an amazing race at Warwick in the Classic Chase and he is 4lbs lower than that great performance. He has ran poorly on two starts since but this trip is better for him.

13:50- From The Horse’s Mouth Podcast Novices’ Chase (Grade 2)

FUSIL RAFFLES always promised a lot as a hurdler and he has made a perfect start to his chasing career. His first start over the bigger obstacles when he won by four lengths, beating Gumball. He then put even more daylight between himself and his rivals last time over course and distance. The Irish raider Zarkareva gets weight from the boys and could be one to keep an eye on.

14:50- Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle (listed)

TEA CLIPPER is only five years old and has only ran five times too. The first three starts were all winners and then he just ran into one next time. On seasonal reappearance, I was so impressed with his Chepstow grade three win. he has been pushed up 7lbs for that win but I think he is still well treated.

Kepagge (JTW Equine Images)

15:25- Paddy Power First Millionaire Qualifier Intermediate Handicap Hurdle

Kepagge is one of my 20 To Watch and he won on debut in a national hunt flat race. He made his hurdles debut at Leicester and Tom Scudamore did well to stay on. Last time out, he won by nine lengths. With just three runs under his belt, it is impressive that he has managed to get a rating of 137, especially as CAPTAIN TOM CAT has some excellent form to his name and won his last three, including here at Cheltenham last time, but only has a mark of 127. He looks well handicapped with a good claimer taking off 7lbs.

15:55- Karndean Design Flooring Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race

I was really impressed with ELLE EST BELLE’s impressive victory at Aintree last time. She beat a previous winner and comes from a good yard. At a bigger price, Jersey Lady made a winning debut at Ludlow and is a half sister to Willie Mullins’ Burrows Saint, who is a very good horse.

Your Thoughts On The Big Races

This week I posed the question to my followers, “Who wins the Paddy Power Gold Cup?” Here are what some of you think and, as always, head over to my twitter page to join in on the converation!

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