Cheltenham Race Preview, 14/11/2020

Saturday November 14th

Rain forecast between 05:00 and 13:00 on Saturday…

Cheltenham 2.15
Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase Class 1 Grade 3
2m4f44y – Going: Good to Soft –
Over the Old Course – 17 runners

Best of four runs last season when 3rd in the 2019 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, hard ridden and started to fade from 2 out, no more approaching last, failing to stay the 3m behind Ballyoptic. Well beaten on all three subsequent runs, when last seen tailed off in Ryanair at the Cheltenham Festival,  led narrowly 6th to 7th, tracked leaders after, not fluent 8th, niggled along from 9th, lost place and pushed along in midfield 12th, dropped to last 13th, became detached next, weakened further and tailed off from 2 out, trailed in behind Min. It could be that the very hard race he had when 2nd to Frodon in the 2019 Ryanair left a mark, but there was no sign of that still affecting Frodon last month; if the forecast rain falls and he comes back to his best, his 158-mark is workable
Simply The Betts
The only time he was beaten in his five chase starts last season was when he didn’t travel well at Kempton on his way to finishing 2nd to Commanche Red last Boxing Day. After his defeat of Imperial Aura – himself a Cheltenham Festival winner subsequently – on the Festival Trials card in January, was a skinny price for the race when winning the Stable Plate at the Cheltenham Festival at an SP of 100/30, close up, in close to 13th and niggled away from it, made ground 3 out, niggled along and chased leader home turn, hard ridden approaching 2 out, left in front there, hard ridden and not going as well as Happy Diva between last 2, upsides when steadied into and hit last, headed, hard driven, stayed on well to lead 150 yards out, sustained effort and pulling clear at the line. Genuine effort, and all the more commendable given he was up with the pace the whole way. Gone well fresh the last two seasons and chances on reappearance
Mister Fisher
Had four chase starts last season, probably posting best effort when beating the reopposing Al Dancer in Lightning Novices’ at Doncaster in January, nudged along in last going to 3 out, pulled wide, good headway looking strong going to 2 out, shaken up, found more and led approaching last under a ride, the better jump, ridden out, stayed on well. On that he had claims in the Marsh Novices’ at the Cheltenham Festival and he ran well, though arguably could have done better; mistake 5th, lost ground and rear 8th though still moved largely comfortably, mistake 9th, niggled along 3 out with 7 in front and 6 lengths to find, switched off inner and closed a little home turn, niggled along, stayed on and closed on leaders approaching 2 out, hard ridden, kept on one pace before steadied into last, in close, looked held run-in, driven, stayed on and was closing final 125 yards, finished well and 4th to Samcro. Good run but could have done with being positioned closer to the pace – this one tends to spend the second half of his races off the bridle. He’s unexposed and not without a chance, even if he doesn’t jump off the page
Al Dancer*
Only win in his novice chase season was at Cheltenham in October 2019 on his seasonal debut; best form when 2nd in Lightning Novices’ at Doncaster, produced to challenge on the bit going to 2 out, shaken up on landing, led but immediately headed going to last, at most half a length down when hit last, outpaced, ridden and stayed on last 150 yards and closing on Mister Fisher final strides. Successful reappearance in a good intermediate chase at Newton Abbot last month, raced 3rd, edged a little closer after 9th, disputing 2nd when blundered 12th, definite 2nd 4 out and closed on leader, not fluent 3 out, ridden along and not going as comfortably as Master Tommytucker home turn, strong reminders approaching 2 out, stayed on under pressure, drew upsides leader approaching last, led jumping, ridden clear run-in; a genuine performance to win by just shy of 3 lengths, which got a boost when that runner-up won at Huntingdon earlier this week (albeit in a two-runner race) – unexposed and chances
Slate House*
Arguably should have won this last season but for falling 2 out, Happy Diva the beneficiary;  towards rear 8th, headway final circuit, midfield at the top of the hill, gradually closed up and produced to challenge going well home turn, every chance when ridden into and fell 2 out – earlier on in the race he was rather on and off the bit, but he arguably looked the most likely winner at the time of his departure. Gained compensation in the Kauto Star Novices’ at Kempton on Boxing Day, but that was as good as it got, as subsequently he pulled up in Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham behind Santini (niggled along in detached last 12th, struggling when reminder after 4 out, passed a couple and raced 5 lengths 4th after 3 out, weakened off home turn and dropped to last approaching 2 out, tailed off when pulled up before last) and was tailed off in the RSA at the Festival, rear approaching 3 out, hard ridden approaching home turn, no impression, well held when mistake and hampered 2 out, dropped away, tailed off, eased right down behind Champ. Comes with risks but, based on where he was when exiting this race last year, has to have a chance
Happy Diva
One of the most genuine horses around, and winner of this last year, midfield, tracked leaders at the top of the hill, led 2 out, ridden, slight lead last, hard driven, stayed on up the hill, was closed on last few strides and all out but always holding on from the reopposing Brelan D’As; remained largely consistent and best subsequent form when chasing home Simply The Betts in Brown & Merriebelle Stable Plate at the Festival,  travelled best approaching 2 out, pushed along between last 2, stayed on, the better jump last and led, hard driven, headed 150 yards out, no extra, stuck to task. Was a bit flat on reappearance at Wetherby on October 31st, niggled along turning out of back straight, within 3 lengths 4 out, pushed along, and lost ground 3 out, faded and looked held 2 out, pushed along and not knocked about as lost further ground approaching last, weakened further run-in, no more behind Huntsman Son, beaten 17 lengths. Not given that hard a race when it was clear she wasn’t making the frame, she shaped well to a point, but did better in that Wetherby race last year before coming to this – perhaps she’ll improve for it; hard to just dismiss here
Siruh Du Lac
Finest hour when winning Brown & Merriebelle Stable Plate in 2019 at the Cheltenham Festival, led, was joined 7th, moved comfortably approaching 4 out, niggled along after it, pushed along from home turn, driven from 2 out, stayed on, was a length up last, hard driven, stayed on well up the hill, all out but always holding on – some effort to make all in this competitive handicap, never missing a beat on his way to beating Janika 3/4 length. Last season was a write-off, nothing from two starts, firstly in this race last year – headed 12th, chased leader after, vigorously pushed along at the top of the hill, hard ridden and weakened approaching home turn, soon well held, tailing off when pulled up before 2 out behind Happy Diva – and a fall late in the day in the latest renewal of the Stable Plate on what turned out to be his last run for Nick Williams, led, not fluent 5th, pushed along in at most a length lead 3 out, ridden, staying on and was joined up front after home turn, every chance when fell heavily 2 out. Off a 9-lbs higher mark than when winning it, he was strongly challenged but staying on when falling – doing enough to suggest that he’d have at least placed behind Simply The Betts. On his first start for David Pipe, good chance
Disappointing in this race last year, making his reappearance, came under pressure approaching home turn, weakened, dropping away and tailing off when pulled up before 2 out. Also ran badly on second start but then found form and consistency, 2nd in Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (took 2nd last, hard ridden, led 175 yards out, went a length and a bit clear, idled and/or tired last 125 yards, was closed on by the rallying Warthog, headed a couple of strides from the post), and  a good run  in January, some 4 lengths down 2 out, pushed along, stayed on, still 2 lengths to find last, hard ridden, stayed on, closed on Cepage last 150 yards but always held.  Another good run in the Plate at the Festival behind Simply The Betts, midfield under a push 3 out, pushed along and kept on without making any ground from there till steadied into and went left 2 out, ridden and no impression going to last, closed on leaders a little final 175 yards, just failed to get 5th. There were early mistakes and he didn’t have a great passage for much of the race, so he did well to get what he could out of it. Yet to win at Cheltenham, while his best runs at the track have been on the New Course, he’s been beaten double digits and pulled up on both starts over the Old Course. One for next month maybe, but not sure about this
Saint Sonnet
Successful British debut at Catterick in February,  took off too early and went through 3rd, chased leader approaching 7th, led before 8th, ridden into 10th, in close to 4 out, pushed along 3 out, had challengers half a length down going to 2 out, stayed on under a hand ride, didn’t go away from pursuers, steadied into last, pushed out, drew clear of Crixus’s Escape run-in. Started 33/1 in Marsh Novices’ at the Cheltenham Festival and did little, midfield 9th, mistake 11th and lost place/rear, niggled along approaching 12th, headway going better and at most 3 lengths down 3 out, pushed along after it, moved largely comfortably turning in then shaken up approaching 2 out, not fluent there, faded, put under pressure, looked held but stuck to task approaching last, pecked on landing, no more up the hill, 7th to Samcro beaten 13 lengths. Might have bettered his position by a few lengths but for the mistake at the top of the hill, but his style marks weren’t great on either run, and starts the season high enough in the weights
Domaine De L’Isle
Improved handicap chaser last season with best run when beating Bennys King at Ascot in January, mistake 12th, pushed along 13th, firmly pushed along from 4 out and struggling to get to leaders, stayed on under a ride 3 out and now started to close on 1st 2, every chance on outer 2 out, put under pressure, stayed on approaching last, a length down jumping, hard driven, effort last 150 yards, led 75 yards out, changed legs a stride from the post, all out. Needed all of the 2m5f trip to prevail that time, coming under a ride three quarters of a mile out. Didn’t show much when 4th to Does He Know in novice hurdle at Cheltenham on reappearance, detached last 5th and pushed along for a few strides, ridden along after 7th and struggled to stay in touch, dropping away when badly hampered 3 out. Likely to need 3m this season and not for me here
Brelan D’As
In 2019 he ran 3rd to Croco Bay in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival, disputed 3rd last, hard driven, stayed on, no impression on 1st 2, stuck to task and got the best of battle for 3rd last 100 yards. Confirmed that effort when finishing a neck 2nd in this race last year, good ground going comfortably going down the hill past omitted 3 out, pushed along home turn, chased winner 2 out, every chance, stayed on, a neck down last, hard driven, stayed on, effort last 75 yards and closed on Happy Diva, never quite getting there under a strong ride. Perhaps feeling the effect of that hard race when down the field behind Warthog in Caspian Caviar Gold Cup the following month,  pushed along briefly 13th, mistake 4 out and hard ridden, looked held when blundered badly 3 out and pecked on landing, no more from 2 out, kept on from last and was closing on those ahead at the line. Might go well
Kauto Riko
Very much blows hot and cold, and started 100/1 when runner-up to Top Notch in Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon last December; nothing else near that, 2nd to Definitly Red at Kelso in February (looked like going close as went 2nd home turn, had 3 lengths to find when niggled along approaching omitted 2 out, soon hard ridden, weakened approaching omitted last) and 14th to Simply The Betts in Stable Plate at the Cheltenham Festival (held up last trio, mistake 9th (water), had made no ground when pushed along 12th, continually pushed but still no headway 3 out, well held in rear 2 out, made no contribution). With double-digit defeats on both visits to Cheltenham, for me easy to eliminate
Had shown signs of getting there over fences and produced his best to date over the larger obstacles when winning Prelude Chase at Market Rasen last month, midfield, reached for 2nd, in close to 6th, ridden into 8th and 10th, travelled largely comfortably turning out of back straight, pushed along with 5 lengths to find home turn, had a bit to do approaching 3 out, put under pressure and stayed on when left 3rd 2 out, closed on leaders, nearly upsides jumping last, ridden to lead 150 yards out, driven out, stayed on well, 1st 2 pulled clear, held on well close home from Court Master. Likely to go well, but wouldn’t want too much rain (all wins on ground no worse than good to soft)
Pinson Du Rheu
Five wins from 33 runs for various trainers in France, successful on goings between and including good and heavy, most recent win in November 2019, longest winning distance 2m6f, but has finished weakly on most recent starts, including at Auteuil on February 24th, prominent, tracked leaders after 2nd, restrained and in last pair after 4th, back tracking leaders from next, chased leader 3 out and moved comfortably, niggled along home turn, pushed along approaching 2 out, hard ridden and half a chance approaching last, pair clear, hard driven and no more run-in, left behind, well held, beaten 11 lengths by Garasil. Most recent start in President De La Repubique, worth nearly €70,000, at Auteuil on May 17th: prominent, disputed lead 4th, chased leader 6th, led 8th, shuffled back 11th but remained prominent, niggled along after 3 out, held place, pushed along and still a chance 2 out, ridden and fading when fell heavily last behind D’jango. Was dropping away and wouldn’t have been in the 1st 6. Not as good as he used to be, his recent best is over a stone shy of what the BHA handicapper has given him, so chances on British debut and first run for Alexandra Dunn seem negligible
The Russian Doyen
Disappointing on only start last season when pulled up behind Riders On the Storm at Aintree; off nearly a year, showed much more on reappearance in handicap hurdle at Fontwell when 3rd to Chirico Vallis, midfield, mistake 3rd, nudged along 5th, mistake 6th and niggled away from it, a little outpaced and niggled along from 3 out, kept on under a hand ride approaching 2 out, put under pressure between last 2, switched wide approaching last, hard driven, no extra, chance of 2nd last 150 yards but couldn’t find more. Best of two runs at Cheltenham was 4th in the novices’ handicap chase in 2019, narrow advantage at the top of the hill going to 3 out, led approaching home turn but strongly challenged by A Plus Tard, hard ridden when nearly slipped up turning in, headed and readily outpaced, put under strong pressure, still a chance of 2nd last, driven and faded up the hill, was losing ground on the 3rd and being closed on by the 5th last 50 yards – okay on the face of it, but he also wasn’t strong at the end on his only other run at Cheltenham when losing a place – when already well held – in a novice chase won by Drovers Lane in December 2018, and gut feeling is to go against him
Coole Cody*
It’s a long time ago, but he made all to win the intermediate handicap hurdle on this card in 2017; he didn’t win again until, on first of three starts to date for Evan Williams having left the Michael Blake-yard, taking a novices’ chase at Newton Abbot in August this year, led going best 3 out, led a length and a half home turn, not asked for an effort before 2 out, niggled along between last 2, maintained clear advantage, at most nudged out to beat Fox Pro. Has stepped up on that the last twice, runner-up both times, against Soldier Of Love at Newton Abbot in September and when chasing home Southfield Stone at Cheltenham last month, chased leader, drew upsides 13th, niggled along from 3 out but led there, pushed along and jumped low 2 out, hard ridden between last 2, headed last, hard driven, beginning to look held when wandered left in behind winner, kept on one pace last 150 yards. You normally see this one near the front and, with him having found consistency for joining a new stable, for me he’s in the mix
Sky Pirate
Two career wins, both over hurdles at Worcester, the second of which came in June 2018. Has been runner-up five times over fences, the latest of those coming on his reappearance when 2nd in Bobby Renton at Wetherby last month, mistakes 5th and 8th, blundered 10th, moved comfortably approaching 12th, closer order turning out of back straight, tracked leaders home turn and travelled best, effort delayed before 3 out, niggled along and pulled wide of the 3 in front of him approaching 2 out, ridden, chased winner approaching last, mistake, stayed on strongly early on run-in and got to Cool Mix’s quarters but wouldn’t stay on any further once he did so, changed legs, stride shortened, weakened markedly last 50 yards. Didn’t just look the winner and not win – that really was the most spectacular checkout, looking like he was going to swamp Cool Mix, then having nothing to do with it in the last few strides. Not for me

Shortlist: Al Dancer, Slate House, Coole Cody

Cheltenham 2.50
Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle Class 1 Listed
2m7f208y – Going: Good to Soft –
Over the Old Course – 11 runners

Formerly consistent hurdler looked a long way off the form that saw him win the Pertemps Qualifier at the October meeting here in 2019 when tailed off in the latest renewal on his reappearance, midfield to rear before mistake 4th, beginning to struggle when took off too early 7th, niggled along approaching 8th, hard ridden after 9th, no headway before 3 out, weakened, lost place approaching 2 out, tailed off home turn. Ran well in this race last year when 3rd to Golan Fortune, but hard to see a repeat of that this time round, on the back of his worst run for three and a half years
On The Blind Side
Useful but ungenuine chaser last season with best run 4th to Vinndication in Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot in November 2019; on most recent outing won a jumpers’ bumper at Newcastle but needed a strong ride,  firmly pushed along 6f out and going worst of the field home turn, hard ridden and put under pressure to challenge leaders 3f out, effort and led 2f out, hard ridden, was challenged entering final furlong, found more under pressure last 175 yards to beat Sam’s Adventure. Best run over hurdles (useful novice in 2017/18) when 2nd to Younevercall in Grade 2 at Sandown in April 2019, tracked leaders before mistake 7th, made ground next, chased winner 3 out, pushed along and outpaced approaching 2 out, kept on under a ride, no impression from last. Could be competitive off 145 but it’ll need de Boinville to be at his strongest
Tea Clipper
Dandy Dan
Useful staying chaser, looking the sort to excel over extreme trips; ran okay on reappearance in Durham National at Sedgefield last month, tracked leaders 6th, ridden into 8th, not fluent 11th, hit 16th, mistake 17th, moved comfortably when in close to 20th, made ground and chased leader 21st, pushed along and put under pressure home turn as winner pressed on, had 3 to 4 lengths to find under a drive approaching 2 out, stayed on under strong pressure between last 2, drew clear of the 3rd but no impression on Red Giant, well held when blundered last and pecked on landing, no more. From a stable in red-hot form, but needs strong handling (all wins when ridden by David Bass – this time Ciaran Gethings gets the ride)
Golan Fortune
Won this last year, led going comfortably going down the hill to 2 out, sent clear, hard ridden from home turn, in close to last, hard driven, wandered right (right-hand whip) across runner-up Eminent Poet’s path and was closed on, ridden out and stayed on well last 150 yards to maintain clear lead. Quick reappearance after running 4th to Unowhatimeanharry in Pertemps Qualifier at Aintree last Saturday, prominent 8th, mistake 9th, closer order still 3 out (cross hurdle), pushed along home turn, hard ridden, hung left and was bumped approaching 2 out, hard driven between last 2, one pace when mistake last, rider threw whip away early on run-in, kept on till no extra last 100 yards, stuck to task. Did okay but gave the impression he didn’t really apply himself close home, not helped perhaps by his amateur jockey losing his whip on the run-in. He’s won after a four-day turnaround in the past so the quick reappearance isn’t a problem; he’s visored first time and his trainer Phil Middleton has a record of one win from eight runners (Flat and jumps) with horses first time in this headgear since April 2012
Poker Play
Winning chasing debut at Ffos Las last October, but then nothing much happened in three outings at Cheltenham, when last seen tailed off in the Marsh Novices’ at the Festival behind Samcro, lost place final circuit and midfield/niggled along after 8th, mistake 9th and dropped rear, mistake 10th and started to tail off in detached last, hopeless home turn. With a Cheltenham record of none from five (no position closer than 5th, beaten 14 lengths or more), this doesn’t look likely
Who’s My Jockey
Quick turnaround after running a close 5th in Pertemps Qualifier at Kempton over 2m5f on Monday this week, prominent 3rd, in close to 4th, moved largely comfortably approaching 3 out, niggled along after it, tracked leaders approaching home turn, pushed along turning in, every chance 2 out, put under pressure, chased new leader approaching last, took off too early, still half a chance early on run-in, faded last 150 yards, losing ground on 1st 3 and lost 4th place post, beaten just under 3 lengths behind Storm Goddess. He also weakened in the closing stages on both previous visits to Cheltenham and for me, this one’s an unlikely winner
Good Man Pat
Useful chaser last season, no wins though; best form when 4th in Silver Bowl Handicap Chase (Cheltenham Festival consolation) at Kempton in March, well placed when in close to 13th, hard ridden home turn, in close to 3 out and left 3rd, put under pressure, wandered under a ride, lost 3rd 2 out, carried head awkwardly, disputing 3rd when steadied into last, kept on under pressure run-in, no extra when 4th to Delire D’Estruval. Was 13th to Captain Tom Cat in handicap hurdle at Cheltenham last month on reappearance,  lost a few places and midfield 6th, headway and prominent again at the top of the hill, ridden along 2 out, in contention for the places under a ride last, hard driven, faded up the hill, lost ground and places last 150 yards, was being closed on by the 14th last few strides, beaten 11 lengths – it was a good run for a long way, but he didn’t come up the hill that well at the end. He also finished weakly in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup here last year and was pulled up on his other visit to this track , so for me an unlikely winner
Weather Front*
Fit from the Flat, he’s run two good races since going back hurdling, first against the then-progressive Chapmanshype at Kelso in September (niggled along approaching home turn, pushed along approaching 2 out, passed a couple and challenged leader on landing, hard driven, every chance approaching last under pressure, changed legs nearing last, in close, driven and no extra run-in, stuck to task – best work at the end), then when 8th to Captain Tom Cat at Cheltenham last month, this time less impressive to the eye – pushed along before and after 5th, again pushed after 6th, last and struggling 7th, started a move and passed a few from 3 out, closing under a ride 2 out, midfield home turn but a lot to do, looked held last, stayed on under pressure up the hill, passed a few more, took 8th close home, nearest finish. Both those runs were ‘best work at the end’, so this longer trip is well worth a try; Conor O’Farrell replaces the now-retired Dale Irving in the saddle
Dell’ Arca*
Now aged 11, the 2013 Greatwood Hurdle winner has somehow run into the form of his life, and he followed up a win in a conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle at Aintree with success in a Pertemps Qualifier at Newbury earlier this month, close up, ridden into 7th, moved comfortably home turn, led 3 out, moved best approaching 2 out, ran down it to left, pushed along, carried head a little awkwardly but stayed on in front, went left last, ridden out, found extra run-in, sustained effort till eased last 50 yards, decisive by a length and a half from Dolphin Square. Up the weights for that, but he’s still off a mark that’s lenient to say the least given his back form – is that form too far back now though?
Mrs Milner
Fairly useful hurdler, but rather got away with it over 2m at Galway in July, nudged along after 3rd, ridden into 6th, niggled along bend before 2 out, closed on leaders, pushed along after 2 out, stayed on and 2 lengths 3rd home turn, challenged wide last, hard driven, stayed on well, reeled in leader and led under pressure close home, going away from Jazzaway at the line. Stepped up to 2m6f, disappointing – given that going up in distance looked to be what she needed – at Ballinrobe in September when last seen out, midfield approaching 3rd, niggled along after 4th, ridden into 3 out, noticeably outpaced after it and hard ridden, arguably going worst of the field before steadied into 2 out, hard ridden, a lot to do under pressure approaching home turn, some 8 lengths down last, hard driven, stayed on final furlong, picked up well last 100 yards and took 3rd to Tune The Chello close home. A BHA mark of 130 gives her a tough task at these weights against better opposition than the mares’ company she’s been against the last twice
After a horrible reappearance effort behind Sirobbie at Uttoxeter, bounced right back at Cheltenham last month when runner-up to Captain Tom Cat, midfield 5th, niggled along away from it, closer order 6th, steadied into 7th, niggled away from it, niggled along after 3 out and headway to be prominent 2 out, pushed along home turn, stayed on approaching last and chased winner jumping, hard driven, drew clear of 3rd, no impression on winner, stuck to task, was closed on last few yards but always holding 2nd, beaten 2 lengths. On his two other runs to date at around 3m, he only kept on in the straight when 6th to Champers On Ice at Newbury last November (again off the bit halfway), and at Cheltenham last December he was up front much of the way before he was headed a furlong off the last, and weakened up the hill to run 5th to Goodbye Dancer – he should be competitive off his 124-mark, but it doesn’t look as though this is his best trip

Shortlist: Weather Front, Dell’ Arca

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