It’s Paddy Power Gold Cup day at Cheltenham on Saturday, while some top National Hunt horses are also in action at Punchestown. Here are our experts’ seven selections across the two big fixtures.
Hell Red has big claims in Cheltenham Triumph Trial
In the Grade 2 Triumph Hurdle trial that opens the Cheltenham card (12:30), Hell Red can follow-up on an impressive stable bow at Chepstow. Trained by Paul Nicholls, this French import absolutely bolted up in the Champion Hats Juvenile Hurdle in South Wales in the manner of a well-above average sort.
Going into graded company was the only logical thing to do with Hell Red. His 12-length romp at Chepstow means the son of Martaline is already a live contender for Cheltenham Festival honours. Getting weight from Irish raider Duffle Coat looks a big plus here as it put race terms firmly in his favour.
If Hell Red is worthy of the 20/1 quote with Unibet for the Triumph Hurdle itself, then he has to be winning this really. He may then go back to Chepstow for a crack at the highest level over Christmas. The other runner of interest here is David Pipe’s Warwick winner Adagio, who looks solid each-way value.
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Zarkareva can complete hat-trick in Arkle Trial
In the race best known as the Arkle Trial, the Grade 2 From The Horse’s Mouth Podcast Novices’ Chase (13:40), Emerald Isle raider Zarkareva represents last year’s winning trainer Henry De Bromhead. She also heads to Cheltenham in fine form after winning her consecutive races over fences.
After bolting up at Sligo, this four-year-old filly followed-up in Grade 3 company at Punchestown. With age and sex allowances getting her in off bottom weight on her British bow, she receives 13lb from favourite Fusil Raffles. That leaves precious little between them on adjusted ratings.
De Bromhead saddled Put The Kettle On to win this and the Arkle itself last term, so it would be no surprise to see another of his horses run well here. Quel Destin makes his chase debut here, but how he will take to fences is an unknown, so the race-fit Zarkareva looks overpriced at 9/1 with Bet365 and a bit of value.
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Simply The Betts the Paddy Power Gold Cup wager
In the feature Grade 3 Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase (14:15), Simply The Betts can defy a welter burden and win this prestigious event en route to bigger and better things. Trained by Harry Whittington, this seven-year-old is one of several smart horses owned by Kate and Andrew Brooks.
Simply The Betts loves Cheltenham and brings strong course and distance form to the table. He won the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase here on Festival Trials Day, beating subsequent dual Listed winner Imperial Aura. The gelding by Arcadio also stepped into open company and won the Grade 3 Stable Plate Handicap Chase here in March.
As he beat last year’s Paddy Power Gold Cup heroine Happy Diva that day, there is lots to like about his chances. While Simply The Betts must now take on horses dropping down from Grade 1 company and concede weight to them, he has earned his superior official rating of 157. He is 5/1 with William Hill for more big race success.
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Thriving Dell’ Arca can go in again
Dell’ Arca has looked rejuvenated this season after back-to-back wins, so is another with claims of completing a hat-trick in the Listed 3m handicap hurdle (14:50). Trained by Pipe for Professor Caroline Tisdall, this popular veteran had clearly dropped to a dangerous mark in this sphere.
He won a conditional jockeys’ race at Aintree and a Newbury Pertemps Qualifier off 125. Although upped 6lb for those efforts, they may not be enough to stop him going in again. This is because Fergus Gillard is once again in the saddle and taking a valuable 7lb off with his claim.
That conditional jockey seems to get on really well with Dell’ Arca who has rolled back the years. As he gets into this race off a whopping 16lbs lower than when seventh in it two years ago, he should hit the frame at least. Dell’ Arca is 8/1 with Betfred to do just that.
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Course and distance winner Captain Tom Cat has claims of following-up on his October victory in the 2m 5f intermediate hurdle (15:25). Trained by Dr Richard Newland, he was given a brave ride by conditional jockey Cillin Leonard at The Showcase Meeting.
The five-year-old son of Dylan Thomas made all for a comfortable two-length success. Captain Tom Cat is only up 6lb from that victory here. Taking the 7lb claim of Leonard into account here, he races off bottom weight for his shrewd connections.
Captain Tom Cat has won his last three starts and there may be even more progress to come. At 100/30 with 888sport, it would no surprise to see him go in again, especially as the trip is a question mark for about half the field here.
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Darver Star can shine at Punchestown
After placing in both the Irish and English Champion Hurdle races last season, Darver Star is a horse to follow in novice chases this season and he steps back into Grade 2 company at Punchestown (12:15). Trained by Gavin Cromwell, a repeat of either of those efforts here over fences should see him home comfortably.
Darver Star does have some chase experience and won readily over course and distance on his debut in this sphere. Granted further improvement from his easy success here last month, the eight-year-old could well be a force to be reckoned with again.
This demands more than his bow over fences, but an official hurdles mark of 160 is more than any other rival achieved. Darver Star therefore appeals most at the 11/8 on offer with Betfair, and can take this en route to better things over the winter.
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Flying Scotsman fancied on hurdles bow
In the juvenile hurdle (13:25), trainer Joseph O’Brien has the Flat convert Flying Scotsman making his debut over hurdles for the mighty JP McManus. This horse won back-to-back Galway Festival handicaps in the space of 24 hours this summer.
As he is by Galileo and out of a Mastercraftsman mare, he should have the required stamina in his pedigree to get 2m over hurdles. Flying Scotsman certainly appreciated stepping up markedly in trip from 7f to 1m 4f. He still had the speed to win over an extended mile too.
After beating Dark Voyager by three lengths and giving his old rival 7lb on the Flat, Flying Scotsman should confirm form off level weights here. Provided he takes to jumping the obstacles, he should go well and may be one to follow in Irish juvenile races this term.