The feature race of the three-day fixture at Cheltenham’s November meeting is Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase (16h20).
Fourteen runners’ line will up at the two and a half mile start in what looks a quality renewal. Two Group 1 Cheltenham Festival winners from last season top the market – Champion trainer Paul Nicholls’ Stage Star, and The Real Whacker raids from Ireland for Paddy Neville.
It was the latter that impressed the handicapper the most, his defeat of Gerri Colombe earning him an official rating of 162 meaning The Real Whacker has to carry 12 stone.
No horse has achieved victory in this race carrying that much weight for over 50 years, an indication of the size of the task facing the classy front runner.
Stage Star gets 7lbs from the Irish raider and comes into this contest with every chance having won twice at the course. Retained stable jockey Harry Cobden rides him in favour of stable companion Il Ridoto. The latter is also not without a chance receiving 15lbs from Stage Star taking into account Freddie Gingell’s claim.
In an open contest, Unexpected Party is the selection. The eight-year-old would provide Dan Skelton with a first success in this contest. He impressed with his slick-jumping, defeating Knappers Hill, an impressive winner since, on his seasonal return at Chepstow. He looks well treated here receiving 9lbs from Stage Star and the soft ground will be ideal.
The clash between Jonbon and Edwardstone is officially on after the top-class chasers were declared to make their comebacks in the Shloer Chase (16h55) at Cheltenham on Sunday.
Four go to the 2-mile start, with Jonbon the star attraction. Nube Negra, going for a hat-trick in this contest, and Edwardstone, an Arkle winner, are also in the mix.
A victory for Jonbon will continue the red-hot form of his trainer Nicky Henderson.
The meeting starts at 14h35.