Al Dancer: interesting contender in the Paddy Power Gold Cup
Al Dancer makes a winning start over fences at Cheltenham

Horse-by-horse guide and tips for Saturday's Paddy Power Gold Cup


David Ord has a horse-by-horse guide to Saturday's Paddy Power Gold Cup and fancies Al Dancer to come out on top in an intriguing renewal.

ASO

Returns to handicaps from the same mark from which he won here on his last start in the sphere at this track on New Year’s Day 2019. Its been a series of peaks and troughs since, the highlight undoubtedly his second place behind Frodon in the Ryanair Chase of the same spring.

He was never quite at the same level again last term though and while the handicapper has given him a chance, he looks vulnerable to some of the potential improvers.

Aso - top weight for Paddy Power Gold Cup
Aso - top weight for Paddy Power Gold Cup

SIMPLY THE BETTS

Very progressive over fences winning both the Timeform Novices' Handicap and Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate here last term. He beat Happy Diva by a length-and-a-quarter in the latter but was value for more having made a mistake at the last before rallying strongly.

It will need another career best to win this from an 8lb higher mark but we haven’t seen the peak of him yet and the yard are going well.

Simply The Betts leads Happy Diva over the last
Simply The Betts leads Happy Diva over the last

MISTER FISHER

Took well to fences last season, beating Al Dancer in the Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster and finishing fourth behind Samcro in that epic renewal of the Marsh at the Festival. He’s talented and in very good hands so isn’t easily ruled out but whether a searching gallop at this trip really is his optimum test remains to be seen.

Mister Fisher got the job done at Cheltenham
Mister Fisher got the job done at Cheltenham

AL DANCER

Fifth in the Arkle last year and finished strongly to beat Master Tommytucker, who did his bit for the form by winning on Tuesday, on his return at Newton Abbot. He’ll be suited by the nature of this race and is clearly a leading player for a yard with a fine record in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. It will be interesting to see if he wears a hood on Saturday as he has a good record in that headgear which has been absent since his winning start over fences last term.

SLATE HOUSE

Looked sure to be involved in the finish when falling two out last year from a mark of 147. He went on to win the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton so clearly from a handicapping perspective a case can me made for him from 152 at the weekend.

The worries are his lacklustre end to the previous campaign and the Tizzard team haven’t been firing on all cylinders so far this autumn.

Slate House has the measure of Black Op at Kempton
Slate House has the measure of Black Op at Kempton

HAPPY DIVA

Wonderful mare who won this race last year and gave Simply The Betts an almighty scare at the Festival. There shouldn’t be much between the pair on these terms but as admirable as Kerry Lee’s stable star is, that rival has more scope for improvement. She’ll guarantee he has to find it to beat her though.

Richard Patrick gives Happy Diva a pat after the line
Richard Patrick gives Happy Diva a pat after the line

SIRUH DU LAC

Fascinating recruit for David Pipe who having won all four starts in 2018/19, failed to compete in two outings last term. He pulled up in this race but was in there fighting when falling two out in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate.

He shaped there as if retaining all his ability and his usually slick jumping will always be an asset in a contest like this.

Siruh Du Lac and Janika duel at Cheltenham
Siruh Du Lac and Janika duel at Cheltenham

SPIRITOFTHEGAMES

Pulled up in this last year but went agonisingly close to winning the Caspian Gold Cup next time and went on to run two subsequent good races back on the New Course. Handicapped to win something like this and has the ability to do so but the sneaking suspicion is it may be the December feature that suits him better.

SAINT SONNET

Only had two starts for Paul Nicholls and has been earmarked for this ever since an eyecatching seventh pitched into Grade One company in the Marsh. There’s any amount more to come from him and his trainer has been making the right noises this autumn which augurs well for his chances.

DOMAINE DE L'ISLE

Rattled off a hat-trick last season, culminating with a neck victory over Bennys Gift at Ascot. He’s 6lb higher in a deeper race and while he has the benefit of a warm-up over hurdles at the last meeting, a career best is needed on Saturday.

Domaine De L'Isle in winning action
Domaine De L'Isle in winning action

BRELAN D’AS

Chased home Happy Diva in this last season and lost all chance with a shuddering blunder three out in the Caspian Caviar on his only subsequent start. 5lb higher than in 2019 and others appeal as having more scope for improvement.

KAUTO RIKO

Very capable chaser on his day as shown when second in the Peterborough Chase last season but has twice come up short upped to this red-hot handicap company at Cheltenham and that has to be a concern despite early market support this week.

FIDUX

Second in the Summer Plate and deservedly got his head in front with a game performance back at the Lincolnshire track last time. He was struggling to win from 140 before that though (was dropped to 138 before striking) so hard to be overly confident that he’s about the register his biggest win yet from 142.

Who will star at this year's November Meeting?
Who will star at this year's November Meeting?

PINSON DU RHEU

French import who is equally effective over hurdles and fences. However the handicapper hasn’t taken any chances and he took a tired fall on his final start in France. Hard to assess – or fancy.

THE RUSSIAN DOYEN

Caught the eye when fourth to A Plus Tard in the then Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at the 2019 Festival but restricted to just one outing last term, pulling up at Aintree. Did shape encouragingly when third on reappearance at Fontwell but will need all the old fire to be there stepping back into this grade so soon.

The Russian Doyen - encouraging reappearance
The Russian Doyen - encouraging reappearance

COOLE CODY

In good form over fences this autumn and chased home Southfield Stone here on his last start. 137 appeals as a fair mark for the nine-year-old who looks one of the livelier candidates at the foot of the weights.

SKY PIRATE

Let’s be kind and say he’s hard to win with – after all it’s been 10 races since he last got his head in front at Worcester in June 2018. He has the ability to real damage in this with only 10st 2lb on his back but for all he might get there swinging away two out, it's a fair bet there will be at least one hardier battler up the Cheltenham hill.


VERDICT...

A strong renewal of the Paddy Power Gold Cup. It’s hard to knock any of those at the top of the market, with narrow preference for Simply The Betts over Saint Sonnet and Mister Fisher, but at around 9/1 the bet looks to be AL DANCER.

He was a very useful novice chaser last term but his best hurdles form came when given a big field and searching gallop to win the 2019 Betfair Hurdle. He’s race-fit after a pleasing return at Newton Abbot and the yard know how to win this.

At bigger prices Happy Diva is sure to run her race but vulnerable to potential improvement from the second-season chasers while novice Coole Cody has strong place claims with a clear round.


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