Predictions, best bets and odds

Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase Tips:

The ultra-competitive Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase is the feature event at Cheltenham’s November meeting, with Saturday’s race carrying a hefty prize pool of £160,000. 

With 14 runners going to post, UK betting sites make Stage Star their 4/1 big race favourite.

Who are the leading contenders?

There has been a steady stream of money for the Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old, who had a very successful first season when switched to chasing after a rewarding spell as a hurdler.

Making his chasing debut in a minor event at Warwick, Stage Star made an immediate impression with the easiest of wins. 

After a surprise defeat at Newbury on his next outing, he went from strength to strength, culminating with a win in the Turners Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

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His final appearance of the season was at Aintree’s Grand National meeting in April, where he failed to show anything like the same form, finishing a well-beaten fifth of five in a valuable Novices’ Chase. 

Connections were at a loss for an explanation for his poor showing, but it came at the end of a long season and is probably best disregarded.

The front-running Stage Star goes very well when fresh, which has not gone unnoticed by horse racing betting sites. 

He carries a hefty weight, though, and only four horses this century have taken 11 and a half stone or more to victory in this race. The market leader in this contest has not obliged since 2009 either.

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It’s a big ask for this Cheltenham specialist, who gives weight all around except top weight The Real Whacker (12st), who is unbeaten in three races over fences. They have all come at Cheltenham, including a Grade 1 race at the Festival this year. 

He is 7/1 with BetGoodwin to continue his winning streak at the track.

He is very well suited to the course and its testing obstacles. His trainer, Patrick Neville, has said that the stable will be happy if the horse makes the top four or five, suggesting the race is the starting point for the season rather than a primary target. 

It is impossible to dismiss The Real Whacker no matter what, but he will undoubtedly be better for the run. He likes to have things his way early, as does Stage Star, and there is likely to be a strong pace from the start. 

This may play into the hands of some of the other runners.

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Rising star Freddie Gingell set to shine

Conditional jockey Freddie Gingell has been making a name for himself, and the 17-year-old has been trusted with the ride on Paul Nicholls’s other runner in the race, Il Ridoto. 

The six-year-old gave a good account of himself in last year’s race when finishing fourth. He may have gone closer but for a mistake at the final fence. 

He also ran with credit in three subsequent outings at Cheltenham, including when winning a £56,000 handicap there at the end of January.

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A year older, he could be an even better prospect this term, and he could be a worthy betting proposition. Il Ridoto can be backed at 9/1 with BetGoodwin to win this weekend.

Gingell landed his most significant success when riding Elixir De Nutz to victory in the £47,000 Haldon Gold Cup Handicap at Exeter last week for his uncle, trainer Joe Tizzard. 

Despite his tender years, he rides with a rare confidence, and his 7lb allowance could make a real difference to the chances of Il Ridoto.

Tip: Il Ridoto 1pt each way – 9/1 with BetGoodwin

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Lightweight Harper’s Brook can have a say

For a seven-year-old, Harper’s Brook has little mileage on the clock. He is one of the more likely contenders for the race among the runners further down the weights.

There has been significant support for the Ben Pauling-trained runner after confirmations on Monday that he would be in the race, suggesting progress since last season, his first over fences.

He won one from five starts, which would have certainly been two, but for his extraordinary antics in his final start of the season in the Josh Gifford at Sandown Park at the end of April. 

After a patient ride at the back of the field, he approached the final flight vigorously and leapt into the lead. He quickly went a few lengths up with the race at his mercy.

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With the winning post in sight, Harper’s Brook decided he had done enough, though, and despite his jockey’s desperate urgings, he pulled himself up and slowed to a trot.

He would have won with plenty in hand if he had seen his effort out, but that may have seen him shouldering a bigger weight in this race. A blessing in disguise, perhaps?

The ability is there, and if his quirks have been ironed out over the summer break, he will be a lively contender in the betting odds for the race.

Tip: Harper’s Brook 1pt each way – 12/1 with Unibet

Paul has been professionally involved with sports betting since joining the Racing Post in 1986. Although greyhound racing was his first passion, he has also written multiple articles on a wide range of sports from a betting perspective.


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