Timeform's Paddy Power Gold Cup runner-by-runner guide
Paddy Power Gold Cup
14:20 Cheltenham, Saturday
Live on ITV
1. The Real Whacker (Patrick Neville/ Sam Twiston-Davies)
Looks a high-class chaser in the making and is unbeaten over fences, with all three of his wins coming here from the front, holding on from the talented Gerri Colombe in the Brown Advisory when last seen. His record fresh isn't great and he has a huge weight to carry, but it would be no surprise were he up to the task.
2. Stage Star (Paul Nicholls/ Harry Cobden)
Excelled over fences last season, following up his victory in the traditionally-strong Timeform novice handicap here on Trials Day with victory in the Grade 1 Turners at the Festival. Disappointed at Aintree on his final start last season but is three from three on his seasonal reappearance and a big run looks on the cards.
3. Fugitif (Richard Hobson/ Gavin Sheehan)
Came of age and looked a lot more mature last season, winning at Chepstow over Christmas and then finishing runner-up in good handicaps at this trip on the New Course, including in the Plate at the Festival. Didn't run so well at Aintree on his final start last season but could return with a big run in first-time cheekpieces.
4. Authorized Art (Willie Mullins/ Danny Mullins)
Useful novice chaser last season who has returned with improved efforts in cheekpieces to finish in the frame in the Galway Plate and Kerry National the last twice, finding a pair of unexposed novices and a rejuvenated veteran just too strong for him at Listowel. This is even tougher.
5. Notlongtillmay (Laura Morgan/ Adam Wedge)
Showed immediate improvement switched to fences for this yard last season, winning novice handicaps on his first three starts before finishing an excellent second to Stage Star in the Turners at the Festival. Posted an encouraging return over two miles here last month and couldn't be dismissed back up in trip.
6. Final Orders (Gavin Cromwell/ Danny Gilligan (5))
Has won handicaps on the Flat and over hurdles at Bellewstown this term but has underperformed on all three completed starts over fences since racking up a five-timer last season (made little impression at Chepstow on his latest outing five weeks ago). A tongue tie goes on now but he is probably still high enough in the weights.
7. Unexpected Party (Dan Skelton/ Harry Skelton)
Performed with credit on occasions last season against some of the top-flight British novice chasers and he made a fine return to action last month when beating Knappers Hill in a listed novice at Chepstow. Appeals as the type to win a good handicap or two this season and is respected.
8. Il Ridoto (Paul Nicholls/ Freddie Gingell (5))
Finally put it all together with cheekpieces applied to land a good handicap over this trip on the New Course here on Trials Day, finding an end-product after typically travelling well to beat Fugitif. Posted a creditable effort in the Plate at the Festival but disappointed in the Topham on his final start. Needs a bit more.
9. Whistleinthedark (Laura Morgan/ Kevin Brogan)
Ended last season unbeaten over fences, easily winning a Perth handicap over this trip on his final start. Likeable attitude and could have more to offer this term, with this big-field scenario likely to suit him. One of two interesting runners for his yard.
10. Angels Breath (Sam Thomas/ Jonathan Burke)
Is seemingly extremely fragile but showed promise in a couple of starts over fences last season after returning from a long absence. Ran a cracker in a handicap hurdle here three weeks ago and is on a tempting mark if building on that for his red-hot yard.
11. Black Gerry (Gary Moore/ Jamie Moore)
Won all four of his completed starts last season, seeing off five rivals with another polished display in a Plumpton handicap over this trip on his final start. Faces a stiffer test on his return here but his yard knows what it takes to win this.
12. Easy As That (Venetia Williams/ Charlie Deutsch)
Looked a potentially smart chaser as he easily won handicaps at Haydock and Newcastle last term but rather blotted his copybook with a shocking display of jumping at Sandown on his final start. It's still early days, though, and he returns with his yard in flying form.
13. Torn And Frayed (Nigel Twiston-Davies/ Tom Bellamy)
Made the breakthrough over fences with victory in a Grade 3 handicap over this trip on the New Course when last seen in January 2022. Has a long absence to overcome and returns in a tough race, but his yard has plenty of previous in it (won three of the ten renewals between 2008 and 2017).
14. Harper's Brook (Ben Pauling/ Kielan Woods)
Made a good start over fences last season, winning a Bangor novice handicap in the mud on his second start, but there were concerns over his attitude as the campaign ended and he seemed to throw things away at Sandown in April (looked in command only to tie up and hang badly left). Best watched on return.
Timeform's Analyst Verdict:
There is more than a whiff of brilliant chaser about THE REAL WHACKER and while he has a huge weight to defy on his return it would be no surprise if he were up to the task, and he's taken to make it 4-4 over the Cheltenham fences. Stage Star is the other Festival winner in the line-up and seems sure to go well given his fine record first time out for Paul Nicholls. Unexpected Party seems sure to win a good handicap or 2 this season having seen off Knappers Hill on his return.
1. The Real Whacker
2. Stage Star
3. Unexpected Party