Handicappers' blog

The head handicappers at the BHA review the pick of the action from the Cheltenham November meeting, starting with impressive Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody.

  • Thursday 19 November
  • Blog
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Cheltenham glory for game Coole Cody

The Grade 3 Paddy Power Gold Cup is the highlight of Cheltenham’s November meeting and this year’s renewal looked fiercely competitive, writes Michael Harris.

There was a good gallop set by the race-fit Coole Cody and he took the prize with a game effort after surviving an early jumping scare. He had an interesting profile coming into the race owing to the provision in place regarding performances in novice chases.

Beaten horses in weight-for-age novice chases of class 2 and below cannot have their ratings increased by the handicapper, provided the horse in question has had at least four previous runs over obstacles (hurdles or fences).

On Coole Cody’s previous start he had finished a close second behind the 145-rated Southfield Stone in a novice at Cheltenham’s October meeting. That performance looked worth a figure of 142 at the time but his handicap mark remained unchanged on 137, which is the mark he ran off in the Paddy Power.

Coole Cody is now up to 143 (+ 6lb) on the back of his three-and-a-quarter length success over Spiritofthegames, which is very close to his peak hurdle performance of 145 (achieved at this corresponding meeting in 2017).

Coole Cody wins the Paddy Power Gold Cup
Under a fine Tom O'Brien ride, Coole Cody won the Paddy Power Gold Cup

Spiritofthegames has a remarkable record in Cheltenham handicaps and this was a third second place finish in his last four starts in notable handicaps at the track. He had been beaten off 149 on his previous two starts and I have left his rating unchanged on 148.

Al Dancer (remains on 154) has stepped up in trip this season having been campaigned over 2m as a novice and he was staying on up the hill. This was a good run on his first handicap chase start and he shaped like an even sterner stamina test may suit.

Elsewhere in the chasing division, Protektorat put up one of the best novice performances so far this season with a bold jumping display at Cheltenham on Friday. In beating the aforementioned Southfield Stone by 17L, he is now rated 154 and looks set to compete in the top novice races later in the season.

Juveniles taking shape

It’s still very early days as far as the juvenile hurdlers are concerned but the Gordon Elliott-trained Duffle Coat has certainly done his best to lay down an early marker at the top of the division having landed both of the notable early-season juveniles on this side of the Irish Sea, writes Andrew Mealor.

In truth, Saturday’s Grade 2 JCB Prestbury Hurdle wasn’t quite as informative as it might have been with favourite Hell Red (135) clearly not giving his running (pulled up before the last and reported to have made a respiratory noise), though the penalised Duffle Coat still produced an up-to-scratch performance for the race in defeating Adagio by five lengths.

A feature of the race was the strong pace set by Cabot Cliffs (125) and that very much seemed to suit Duffle Coat who was being nudged along in rear at the top of the hill. He responded generously to pressure to get on top after the last and ultimately score going away.

Historical averages and standards point to a figure around the 140 mark for Duffle Coat, and that level also ties in with some of the form already shown by the beaten horses, notably Adagio (130) who had impressed when scoring by seven and a half lengths on his hurdling debut at Warwick just eight days prior.

Third-placed Balko Saint (126) is a potential fly in the ointment having coming into the rated just 113 after a brace of seconds at Newton Abbot and Fontwell, though the latter race in particular was difficult to rate at the time (just four runners, form boosted since) and had probably been undercooked in hindsight.

Unbeaten in four runs, it’s no surprise to see Duffle Coat prominent in the early betting for the Triumph hurdle. The Festival is still a long way off - the last three Triumph Hurdle winners hadn’t even jumped a hurdle in public at this stage of the season - but recent winners of this race do have a creditable record in the big one.

Allmankind (2019) and Apple’s Shakira (2018) both made the frame (third and fourth respectively), whilst 2016 winner Defi Du Seuil went on to win a further five races in a stellar juvenile campaign, including completing the Cheltenham-Aintree double.

Handicappers' blog
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