The International Meeting at Cheltenham is one of the biggest meetings of the jumps season to date. Saturday’s card includes the Paddy Power Gold Cup, certainly the biggest chase handicap of the new jumps season so far. The ITV Racing cameras will be in prime position to catch the big race and all of the quality supporting acts as well as a trip to Lingfield’s all-weather track for a pair of important Listed races.
There is a lot to like about this week’s Saturday racing and we hope to have found a host of winners in our preview and tips of all the live races.
1:40 From The Horse’s Mouth Podcast Novices’ Chase
Grade 2, 2m
Dan Skelton has had a tremendous few years and is clearly a very good judge of a horse. He suggested before the jumps season began that Third Time Lucki would improve considerably for the switch from hurdles to fences and the early signs were good with his debut chasing win last month. Skelton described that performance as “lovely” and said that Third Time Lucki has always been one of the yard’s best horses something which the market has taken into account by pricing him as the 1/2 favourite to win his second outing over fences.
Although the favourite only has to finish ahead of three horses in this Grade 2 contest, those horses are no mugs. Mick Pastor is a very talented five year old for JP McManus and Paul Nicholls while Captain Tom Cat has had some support in the betting at 9/1. However, Third Time Lucki should prove to be the best of these and this is his second run after a wind operation which provides the opportunity for even more improvement so don’t expect this favourite to get beaten.
2:15 Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Grade 3, 2m4f
We might well see a short odds winner of the last race but the Paddy Power Gold Cup promises to be a different story. There hasn’t been a winner shorter than 7/1 in any of the last 10 renewals of this intermediate chase handicap and we have a typically competitive renewal ahead.
The quality of the field is such that there are a couple of very good each way betting options. The best of the lot could well be Galahad Quest who is available at 14/1. Nick Williams and team will be delighted that their five year old is running off the same mark on Saturday as his seasonal debut when he caught the eye in third place in a Listed chase. While he has no problems with soft ground, the good conditions likely to be found at Cheltenham won’t be a problem. Galahad Quest looks every inch an unexposed chaser over this sort of trip and can build on his last outing to score at a tempting price.
2:50 Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle
For many racing fans, the joy of the jumps, as opposed to the Flat, is the return of popular horses year after year. There’s nothing quite like seeing a much-loved veteran prove that they are still up to the task which is exactly what Kansas City Chief did at Cheltenham last month. After a run in Jersey to blow away the cobwebs the 12 year old won over the same distance as the Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle and has every chance of going in again.
The obvious dangers to Kansas City Chief are Proschema and Ballymillsy, the top two in the betting. A rather less obvious danger is Sporting John at 9/1 who was reinvented as a proper stayer towards the end of last season. That trio all have their strengths but it’s Kansas City Chief’s ability to get into a rhythm and then stay on strongly that gives him the edge at a generous looking 17/2.
3:05 Betway Golden Rose Stakes
Nine year old Judicial has been a superb servant for connections over the years. The reliable campaigner has been around long enough to have run in several races multiple times as is the case with the Beverley Bullet. Although he was unable to win that Listed sprint this year as he did last, Judicial lost little in defeat and appeals at Lingfield on Saturday as he makes his third appearance in the Golden Rose Stakes.
A win in the 2019 renewal was followed by a fifth-place finish last year. Another year has passed but Judicial retains the required speed and fighting spirit to regain his crown at one of the biggest races of the year at Lingfield. He’ll have to beat 11 others to get the win including last year’s winner Good Effort who is the pre-race favourite but that is within Judicial abilities.
3:25 Paddy Power Feel Like A Favourite Intermediate Handicap Hurdle
Class 3, 2m5f
It is always important to assess the strength of the form when a horse wins a race. When you watch the race won by Unexpected Party last time out at Wetherby it is clear that it fell apart and even his trainer, Dan Skelton, admitted that he would be wary of the form. However, if you take the other horses out of the equation it was an impressive run from the six year old in terms of the strength with which he travelled and the ease that he navigated his hurdles.
The strength of the opposition goes up considerably for Unexpected Party at Cheltenham but he is capable of going in again. The Skelton team have had to be careful with him over the years so it is interesting that he has been sent out for a third run of the season already. Unexpected Party is clearly in good order at home, he’s improving on the course and he is the right favourite at 10/3.
3:40 Betway Churchill Stakes
When Pyledriver won the Coronation Cup at Epsom in June connections were planning raids on many more Group 1 races over the remainder of the season. Plans are always at the lap of the gods in horse racing though and a series of setbacks have made the last five months very frustrating for everybody connected to Pyledriver.
The Churchill Stakes at Lingfield is not exactly the King George at Ascot but a win on Pyledriver’s return to the track would be very warmly welcomed. As usual, this race has attracted some very good entries from horses who are either trying to end the season on a high or pick up a Listed win ahead of a winter all-weather campaign. Pyledriver is surely in the latter camp and providing he copes with the rise and fall of Lingfield before the final bend, he can win and win well at odds of 7/4.