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Friday 12 November 2021

Friday 12th November - Paddy Power weekend

With a planned attendance at Cheltenham on Saturday for me, my first Cheltenham race meeting since March 2020, I have written the weekend blog earlier than usual as on Saturday morning I will be driving from Brighton to Cheltenham. If you see me there, be sure to say hello.

The day opens with the Triumph Hurdle Trial at 12:30pm, and this Grade 2 race can be a good pointer to the Festival, and has been won by some decent horses in past years. I will wait to see what the betting is like on the day, as I usually find the value in a race such as this is in the "place-only" market on the Tote.

The 3m1f Class 3 handicap chase for Amateur jockeys at 1:05pm is more to my liking, and with 8 of the last 9 winners carrying over 11st (those under 11st are 1 win from 48 runners), I'm focusing on the top of the handicap.  The Irish-trained Mindsmadeup has won his 3 races (23 runs) going right-handed, so he's out at left-handed Cheltenham. The 12yo Dawson City won LTO and that was probably his win for the season. The 7yo Milanford is interesting, but also an unknown quantity.  His rider isn't too bad, wins a few races, and he could be the sort to cause a surprise. Minella Encore looks too slow to win a race like this, and I'm not sure he has the stamina either. Another Venture could be the one to be on: having his debut for Nicky Henderson, he won well off a 209-day break last season over 3-mile at Ludlow making virtually all, and that sort of performance will see him be tough to beat in this race. Plan Of Attack was 4th in the "Kim Muir" in March 2020, but hasn't looked the same horse since then, although he wasn't going too badly last year in the same race till falling 3-out; and trainer Henry De Bromhead has booked Gina Andrews for the ride and she is one of the better riders in the race.  Forza Milan looks as slow as a boat; and I very much doubt that top-weight Opposites Attract has the stamina for this race. 

The feature race of the day is at 2:15pm; the Paddy Power Gold Cup handicap over 2m4f. This field looks like making the race a classic, plenty of potential winners. From the top; Simply The Betts loves Cheltenham, but only ran in this race last season when 6th to Coole Cody. It's a big ask but if he's fit he could be thereabouts off OR154. A big field will be a new experience for the 6yo Protektorat, but he is also weighted to go close off OR154, he could be very interesting to follow this season. Back in 2016, I was on Aso at 16/1 for this race, and had he not hit the 2nd-last hard he'd probably have won that year off OR144 with a 5lb claimer as by the end of the season he was on OR156. He's not the horse he was tho' and I can't see him being in the picture.  Before he won LTO, I wrote that I could not understand how Paint The Dream had not won more races, and then he won in convincing style. He's up 5lb to OR152, but I think he has a great chance if he copes with the big field.
Last year, Al Dancer was 3rd in this race off OR154, and this year he's running off OR149 and having his 1st run for trainer Sam Thomas. On the back of that, he started fav for the Caviar Gold Cup here in December, but was hampered by a faller mid-race and had no chance. He has a helluva chance. 
Lalor makes his debut for Paul Nicholls and has been dropped to a mark of OR149, a rating he is more than capable of winning this from, and he's a very lightly-raced 9yo.
I'm not that impressed with Caribean Boy, as he struggled in the "Plate" handicap chase at the Festival behind The Shunter.  Midnight Shadow hasn't won since beating Paint The Dream on 01Jan20, but hasn't improved since that race, unlike Paint The Dream.
One of my favourite horses is Spiritofthegames, ever since he caught my eye at the "Trials" meeting when 3rd over C&D to Kildisart off OR146 back in Jan2019, he has threatened to win a race like this - yet apart from winning his debut novice chase he is winless in his 13 starts (16 including hurdle races) since then! On his best form, he wins this by 4-lengths, but will he?
Another that I think will go well is Manofthemountain: yes, he was 2nd LTO to Paint The Dream, but now he's 5lb better-off and this C&D will bring out the best in him, especially as he has the stamina for 3-miles. He looks a massive price for an eachway wager. 
Zanza went into my notebook LTO when 3rd t Exeter in the Haldon Gold Cup, but I expected him to go to Newbury next, as his record at Cheltenham is UP/UP/F/PU. 
Dostal Phil has potential, as he's only had 5 chase runs, but he's not the best jumper of a fence and his stamina for this trip is unknown.  No such worries with last year's winner Coole Cody, but he's a 10yo now and hasn't repeated that winning effort since. 
Up The Straight is another interesting contender: just 7yo and not jut on  tempting rating of OR138 but with capable 5lb claimer Tabitha Worsley in the saddle.  Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see my local trainer Nick Gifford win this race with Belargus, but his best form is going right-handed, and he has fallen a few times. If Dyrann De Carjac was in the form of his novice chase days he would be a steal off OR137, but he's clearly had issues and his recent races suggest he may struggle.
If the Irish raider Funky Dady is involved in the finish, then we may as well all give up and take up tiddlywinks; he looks slow and more likely to be puled-up tailed-off. Galahad Quest is more interesting but he's only a 5yo and this may be beyond him.  You can never ignore the horses of Venetia Williams and her Farinet may only be a 6yo, but he looks to have lots of potential: can he win this?
And finally, there is Nietzche: who is sitting dangerously low in the handicap having sneaked into the race off OR133.  This trip is right up his street.

What a race!  I cannot make up my mind, and will likely have a punt on several in the race: probably Al Dancer (13/2); Nietzche (16/1); Manofthemountain (22/1); and Spiritofthegames (18/1). 

My wager of the day will be on PLAN OF ATTACK @ 7/1 in the 1:05pm

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