The winter months are all about the best horses over the jumps, and the road to the biggest meeting of the jumps season steps up a gear this weekend, as Cheltenham hosts its three-day November meeting.
The standout race of the weekend comes in the form of the Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase, which will see the field compete over a distance of two miles and four furlongs. A total of 16 fences will be jumped at the home of jumps racing, with the winner picking up just over $95,000 in prize money.
Race History & Records
The Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase has been staged on the Old Course at Cheltenham since 1960. Horses aged four and older can enter the race, with the weight carried by each runner determined by the previous performances.
Five horses have won the race on multiple occasions, including most recently Cyfor Malta, who landed a second win in the race in 2002. A P McCoy is the leading jockey with four victories, while Martin Pipe is the most successful trainer with eight successes.
Stage Star appears to be the main starting point when examining the leading contenders this weekend for trainer Paul Nicholls. The seven-year-old was hugely progressive last season following wind surgery, which included victory at the Cheltenham Festival in the G1 Turners Novices’ Chase.
He was well held when re-appearing at Aintree a few weeks later, but a return to soft ground certainly bodes well for the runner this weekend. The extended layoff would be a slight concern, but connections have big targets for this progressive runner throughout the season.
Laura Morgan saddles Notlongtillmay in the Gold Cup Handicap Chase this weekend, and this seven-year-old has been a stable star for connections since moving to the yard in November 2022. He was excellent when winning over the bigger obstacles on back-to-back occasions at Musselburgh in early 2023, before running with a huge amount of credit to finish second behind Stage Star in the Turners Novices’ Chase in March.
Connections seem to have had this race mapped out from an early stage, as he got a run under his belt over two miles at Cheltenham last month when finishing fourth of eleven in a handicap chase. A solid run is extremely likely from a workable mark this weekend.
The Dan Skelton team have targeted the Cheltenham November meet in recent seasons, and they could have another excellent chance this weekend in the form of Unexpected Party. The eight-year-old gets weight from all of his main rivals this weekend, and he looked better than ever when getting off the mark for the first time over fences on his seventh attempt last month.
He finished extremely well over an extended two miles and three furlongs on soft ground at Chepstow, finishing nearly three lengths clear of Knappers Hill. That form looks rock solid on paper following the runners-up win in graded company at Wincanton last weekend.
Gold Cup Handicap Chase Prediction
The fact that Notlongtillmay has race fitness on his side could make him the selection to beat this weekend. The runner doesn’t have much to find on Stage Star based on their efforts at the Festival in March. However, The Real Whacker could be the star player for Patrick Neville.
The seven-year-old is being pointed toward a Cheltenham Gold Cup run in March, and boasts excellent course form at the home of jumps racing after beating Gerri Colombe over an extending three miles in the G1 Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase in March.
Pick: The Real Whacker (bet on this horse at BetDSI)