Friday, November 17, 2023

The 2023 Paddy Power Gold Cup

Having worked alongside several academic members of staff at numerous learning institutions over the years, I developed what one might call a healthy scepticism for professors and what they had to say. 

Unfortunately, I was never fortunate enough to meet Professor Nick Crafts, a scourge of the Oxford bookmaking fraternity, who died on October 6th following a lengthy illness.

I quote from Professor Crafts' obituary published in The Times on Wednesday:

"Crafts took a market-based approach to the racetrack that appealed to his mathematical bent. He avoided steeplechasing in favour of flat races, and backed horses where the odds had dropped most in the week before the race, as an indicator that the cognoscenti were placing their money. He reckoned he could make 7 or 8 per cent a year on that basis, but he rarely if ever visited a course." 

Now, the horse whose odds appear to have dropped the most for tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup is the well-named, Venetia Williams trained, Easy As That; 20/1 earlier in the week, the gelding is as low as 7/1 with some layers this evening.  The yard has sent out 10 winners from 23 runs in the past fortnight - a win strike rate of over 43%.

Of course, the salient point here is that the Paddy Power Gold Cup - once known as The Mackeson Gold Cup - is a steeplechase, run on the Old Course at Cheltenham over two and half miles.

Fourteen have been declared; the going is currently described as good to soft, soft in places, with further significant rain forecast.

Trends point to a chaser between six and nine years of age with previous course form carrying 11-00 or less; in the past decade only one winner has obliged on seasonal debut.

Since 2000 only three winners have carried more than 11-07: Cyfor Malta (11-09, 2002); Al Ferof (11-08, 2012); and Taquin Du Seuil (11-11, 2016). 

No favourite has obliged in the past ten years but seven winners have been returned at odds of 10/1 or less.

Irish runners don't have a strong record in the race. The last Irish trained winner, Tranquil Sea (2009), became the first Irish winner for 29 years.

Stage Star heads the market for tomorrow's renewal. 

Paul Nicholls' charge won the Turners Novices' Chase at the Festival in March with Notlongtillmay three and a quarter lengths adrift in second and Unexpected Party eight and a half lengths behind in fifth.

Quoting from the form summary for the Turners:

"Something of an unsatisfactory result in this Grade 1 novice, with the first two [Stage Star and Notlongtillmay] given an easy time up front and the big two in the market [Mighty Potter and Appreciate It] hanging separate ways all over Prestbury Park in the straight. It's hard to be positive over the form."

On the revised terms of this handicap, Stage Star, Notlongtillmay and Unexposed Party look closely matched.

Top weight The Real Whacker, unbeaten in three chase starts, won the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase over three miles plus at the Festival last time out. Connections are likely to have other targets in mind as the season progresses.

Fugitif has run well in competitive handicaps at the track in the past and finished second to Seddon in the Magners Plate at the Festival (Il Ridoto sixth). Gavin Sheehan will ride him prominently and connections have fitted cheekpieces for the first time, hoping to eke out further improvement.

At six years of age Il Ridoto is the youngest runner in the race. 

I saw this one win against battle-hardened handicappers over two miles at Newbury two years ago - a precocious effort. He finished fourth in this race last year, losing two places after the last flight. 

Questions were subsequently asked about his stamina at the trip but he appeared to answer the doubters when winning over the distance on the New Course at the end of January. Freddie Gingell claims five; will the partnership come up the hill tomorrow?

Angels Breath has only raced three times since 2019. Clearly talented, he has been difficult to train but was beaten less than five lengths in a hurdle race at the track three weeks ago. At around 8/1 the layers aren't taking too many chances with the Sam Thomas trained grey. 

Torn And Frayed won over this trip on the New Course in January 2022 but hasn't seen a racecourse since while Harper's Brook threw away a race he looked to have in the bag at Sandown in April, idling in front and then pulling himself up on the run-in. Both run from out of the handicap.

The Willie Mullins trained Authorized Art was second in the Galway Plate and then fourth in the Kerry National over three miles. 

Perhaps Final Orders is the more interesting of the two Irish runners. 

Gavin Cromwell's charge made eye-catching progress when sent chasing in Ireland and at one point was thought good enough to take his chance in the Arkle. In the end he finished fifth behind Maskada in the Grand Annual off a mark of 150; he goes off 148 tomorrow with Danny Gilligan claiming five. 

His fourth behind Al Dancer at Chepstow last month looks like a reasonable preparation - the third, Walk In Clover, finished third behind Triple Trade earlier today while the fifth, Elixir De Nutz, won the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter eight days ago.  

Handler Gavin Cromwell has a good record with his runners at Cheltenham and last February said of his charge: "He's ultra-consistent and a particularly sound jumper." 

I'd like to think the step-up in trip will suit.

Whistleinthedark is unbeaten over fences but faces the hurly-burly of a race like this for the first time.

Of Black Gerry's five chase wins to date, the defeat of Frere D'Armes at Ascot in April reads well (Dolos fifth, Xcitations pulled up). Yard form is the concern, currently operating at 6%.

As always, a very competitive renewal. 

Unexpected Party is my idea of the winner. The Skelton yard hasn't been in quite the same flying form as 12 months ago but the grey has the right profile and his defeat of Knappers Hill (winner since) on seasonal debut looks good. 

With Unexpected Party currently vying for favouritism, in search of some value, I'm going to take a bit of an each-way punt on Final Orders instead, in the hope he can continue to progress in the manner he did last season.

Only for those with a particularly strong constitution, Final Orders is the each-way suggestion, 25/1 with William Hill who are paying five places.

Professor Nick Crafts would never have approved.


TW said...

173,9.39,IL RIDOTO(FR)
170,8.24,EASY AS THAT(IRE)

After overnight rain the going at Prestbury Park is now Soft.

As ever a competitive renewal and I’d not be too surprised whatever the winner.

Given that he’d been busy over the summer I expected a little more from Final Orders LTO but can see his chance, Danny Gilligan’s 5lb claim is a plus and I see he is fitted with a tongue strap for the first time.

It could be a huge day for Laura Morgan’s small yard and Notlongtillmay is clearly the main chance but at odds of 33/1 I’m hoping Whistleinthedark can join in the party. Brought along nicely by Richard Hawker, he has improved further since switched to Laura and sent chasing. I don’t see why that improvement should not continue this term, he goes well fresh and conditions suit. I except this is a very different challenge to his novice wins but he has shown a very likeable attitude and I’m happy to take a punt.

Good luck!


GeeDee said...

Whistleinthedark bang there with every chance on your ratings, TW.

I'm a fan of the Laura Morgan operation, based just up the road from here in Leicestershire.

Good luck!

GeeDee said...

Selection Final Orders (33/1) looked outclassed in this field. Racing in rear, that's exactly where he stayed before eventually coming home in his own time to finish ninth, beaten 52 lengths.

The race went the way of 4/1 favourite Stage Star who had his rivals in trouble rounding the home turn.

Four lengths to the good coming to the final flight, there appeared a miscommunication between horse and rider; the partnership somehow survived the serious mistake despite losing momentum and there was still enough left in the tank to keep Notlongtillmay (7/1) at bay by four lengths with Il Ridoto (12/1) passing Fugitif (12/1) to claim third.

I'd crabbed the Turners form in the post but Stage Star jumped well at the head of affairs and ran out a worthy winner.

As the leaders came to the home turn, Unexpected Party (5/1) was the first off the bridle; he made a mistake at the the penultimate flight and looked a tired horse coming up the hill to finish fifth.