ITV Racing Tips: Spiritofthegames can go one better in the Gold Cup Handicap Chase
After a deluge of racing on the TV last weekend, we return to a more manageable six-race schedule at a significant stage in the jumps calendar.
Cheltenham’s staging of the Paddy Power Gold Cup, the first big jumps race of the campaign, marks the start of the core winter season. From now until the Grand National meeting in April it will be the dominant code, give or take a few all-weather diversions.
That occurs on Saturday when Lingfield will be the support act to the middle day of the three-day fixture at Cheltenham, of which the Gold Cup handicap is the highlight.
Small fields have been a feature of the jumps season to date but that is not a factor in the main betting race which has drawn 20 runners, including last year’s winner Coole Cody.
There are four races from Cheltenham and two on the all-weather from Lingfield where Pyledriver, last seen winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom, makes a long-awaited return.
Coverage begins at 13:30 on ITV and we have previewed the three most significant races of the day in our ITV Racing Tips.
With so many horses having their first run of the season this is not a race for favourites. The in-form stables tend to dominate the front of the betting so there could be value to be found elsewhere – if you can find the right horse!
So, understandably, Protektorat from the thriving yard of Dan Skelton, heads the betting. His record of three wins and two seconds from five runs over fences looks good on paper, but all those runs were in small fields.
The last time he ran in a field of this size he was tenth in the Coral Cup. An ability to handle the rough and tumble of a race like this can help and there is a candidate in Skelton’s other runner Spiritofthegames.
A Cheltenham regular, he finished runner-up in this last year and is now 4lb lower in the weights. After a warm-up spin over hurdles at Newbury, he looks set to run well again at double digit odds.
Ismail Mohammed has earned a change of fortune after a testing November. He sent the fancied Away He Goes to Australia for the Melbourne Cup only for the horse to be ruled out by a setback then the following day had to scratch Zain Claudette from the Breeders’ Cup.
In addition, Good Effort had a wasted journey to the US where he finished last of four in a Group 2 race on dirt. Back on home ground, Good Effort will try to put that behind him in the race he captured twelve months ago.
He is unbeaten at Lingfield in three appearances and, provided he is over his transatlantic trip, he is the one to beat.
Pyledriver has bigger fish to fry before the end of the year, but a return to Group 1 company in Hong Kong next month will very much depend on how he performs on his first run for 162 days.
He is up against seasoned all-weather performers like last year’s winner Dubai Warrior, now with David Loughnane, and Felix, so this will be a test for him. John and Thady Gosden, who have provided the last two winners, are doubly represented by Harrovian and Kestenna.
Pyledriver finished second in a 1m2f Group 3 race on his only run on this surface and on official ratings still has something in hand, even after factoring in the Group 1 penalty he carries for beating Al Aasy in the Coronation Cup in June. Class should prevail.
ITV Racing Schedule, Saturday, 13th November
13:40 Cheltenham – November Novices’ Chase
14:15 Cheltenham – Paddy Power Gold Cup
14:50 Cheltenham – 3m handicap hurdle
15:05 Lingfield – Golden Rose Stakes
15:25 Cheltenham – 2m5f handicap hurdle
15:40 Lingfield – Churchill Stakes
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.