Always exciting to have a Cheltenham meeting take centre stage, and the ITV cameras are screening four crackers for our entertainment on Saturday. A couple from the all-weather too, with Listed contests on Lingfield's Polytrack surface.
In around 4 months time we'll be enjoying THE Cheltenham get-together, and Saturday is another important stepping-stone to that huge event. With the fabulous Irish battalions putting their hands up too we're beginning to see the season take shape.
It's a fantastic ITV Saturday, full of gripping, competitive racing; especially at Cheltenham. You need plenty to go right to win at jumping HQ, quite apart from a brave, talented and resourceful horse.
Cards on the table - these races will be incredibly informative for some of the big tests to come, including of course The Festival in March, but with the above in mind it will be fiendishly tough to bag a hatful of winners!
Fingers crossed as ever, but I'll be keeping my stakes to very sensible limits and enjoying the ride - a decent sentiment I think to have in mind as Safer Gambling Week comes to a close. Good habits are just that. Keep it fun. Enjoy!
Saturday 18th November 2023 - LIVE Racing: 13:15 - 15:45 ITV1
13.45 THE FROM THE HORSES MOUTH PODCAST NOVICES CHASE(LISTED) 3M
14.20 THE PADDY POWER GOLD CUP HANDICAP CHASE 2M 4F
14.55 THE PADDY POWER GAMES HANDICAP HURDLE 2M 7F
15.30 THE PADDY POWER FEEL LIKE A FAVOURITE INTERMEDIATE H’CAP HURDLE 2M 5F
14.36 THE BET UK CHURCHILL STAKES (LISTED) 1M 2F
15.11 THE BET UK GOLDEN ROSE STAKES (LISTED) 6F
13.45 Cheltenham - Mister Coffey @ 11/4
A decent novices' chase, at a midge beyond 3 miles. Good Risk At All won very well at Carlisle last time against much-vaunted Giovinco, but the latter looked to be coming to win when falling three out. He's subsequently made amends at Aintree in very good style.
So - I'm looking to Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville, and Mister Coffey. He was a fairly smart hurdler and has more than matched that over the larger obstacles. At 8 rising 9 he's probably not going to improve, but has kept some very good company at the better venues.
He's the top-rated entrant and so favoured by the race conditions of this Listed affair, and all connected to the horse need little introduction. He gets further than this, has jumped around these fences at two Festivals, and ran a blinder in last term's Grand National, only fading in the home straight.
One would think his shrewd trainer might just have him cherry ripe for this, ahead of another campaign aimed at the better staying targets.
14.20 Cheltenham - Stage Star each-way @ 9/2
This P Nicholls' conveyance could well start favourite, so an each-way shout may seem a little odd. However, when 'favourite' might still mean 4 or 5/1, and we're paying 4 places each-way .... I rest my case, M'Lud.
Stage Star won the Turners at the Festival in March in fine style, but couldn't replicate that level at Aintree a few weeks later. He runs very well fresh, and of course we know he handles this course and its fences well.
Nicholls is in prime order, too, banging in winners left, right and centre. The presence of Brown Advisory Festival hero The Real Whacker (12st) means Stage Star carries a reasonable racing weight of 11st 7lb, and that can help.
If the topweight can prevail in such a competitive heat it will encourage connections to follow-up perhaps with their King George entry, for the Boxing Day showpiece. This is quite simply a crackerjack renewal.
14.36 Lingfield - Regal Reality @ 9/4
Polytrack action now, and the powerful combo of Sir Michael Stoute and Richard Kingscote, a Derby-winning trainer/jockey team.
Our selection is Regal Reality in this ten-furlong Listed race. He's top-rated, but only by a whisker, and it looks competitive. This one is eight years young, but SMS has always had a magic touch with older horses. He's a gelding with no stud career to move to, so racecourse earnings are the priority.
He was runner-up in a Group 2 at Newmarket last time - superb form. Two years ago he contested a similar Listed affair here over this trip and was denied by just a head. All the metrics suggest he's running every bit as well right now and there are enough questions to be answered in my book about the majority of his rivals. Lovely race, and a brilliant accompaniment to the Cotswolds drama.
14.55 Cheltenham - Buddy One @ 11/2
A very hot handicap hurdle, and I'm hoping Buddy One can defy the steadier of 12st to take the prize. A terrific 3rd in the Martin Pipe in March, the real sit-up and take notice performance was last time at Galway - a career-best win, stepped up to 2m 6f. He gets another couple of furlongs here, and it seems sure to suit.
Irish-trained by Paul Gilligan, 7lb claimer Jack Gilligan rides, and this talented 6-yr-old is in the Grade 1 Hatton's Grace next month. If the Stage Star chase is nominally the big contest of the day, this is the one I'm most looking forward to. Stayers Hurdle aspirants? Every chance.
15.11 Lingfield - Mischief Magic @ 5/4
Good pot for this Listed 6f sprint, and Mischief Magic is again a top-rated, well-treated entrant. A Godolphin 3-yr-old, Appleby-trained, and James Doyle on board. Loads to like already.
Took a similar Kempton contest last month at this trip, and around this time last year was taking the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint no less. Has raced very sparingly since, and was gelded in June ahead of that last outing at Kempton.
Evidently has had his issues, but talented? Absolutely. Let's hope this son of Exceed And Excel can build on Kempton and move towards the upper echelons of the sprinting ranks.
15.30 Cheltenham - Gyenyame each-way @ 6/1
Jumps HQ provides the ITV finale with a 2m 5f handicap hurdle.
I like Springwell Bay, but Jonjo's charge has 12st to carry and that might leave him vulnerable. Gyenyame interests me, and has a lovely racing weight of 10st 11lb. In the care of the Tizzards, too - they know a thing or three about staying horses.
This is a step up but the horse is just 5 rising 6, and after a creditable, placed pipe-opener at Wincanton three weeks ago, connections are rolling the dice. I like the odds.
ITV Racing tips - from Betfred Insights