1 Stage Star 4/1F
2 Notlongtillmay 7/1
3 Il Ridoto 12/1
14 ran Distances: 4l, 8l, 4l
Time: 5m 13.26s (slow by 13.26s)
STAGE STAR WINS THE PADDY POWER GOLD CUP 🏆— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) November 18, 2023
He led from start to finish but it was not without drama 😮 pic.twitter.com/LyIaR0IHZR
Stage Star navigated a challenging situation at the final fence and emerged victorious with notable ease.
Despite being the 4-1 favorite, the seven-year-old, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Harry Cobden, upheld his Turners Novices’ Chase form with Notlongtillmay. The duo, previously first and second at the Festival in March, repeated their dominance, leaving Laura Morgan’s contender, once again, in futile pursuit.
Taking the lead early on, Stage Star held off top weight The Real Whacker for the initial two miles, only to see the latter fade down the hill. Cobden tactfully bided his time as contenders gathered behind, including Notlongtillmay, Fugitif, Unexpected Party, and Il Ridoto, all maintaining chances.
Despite a slight mishap at the last fence, Stage Star impressively recovered and accelerated, securing a four-length victory. This triumph marked Paul Nicholls' third win in the race.
“He did well to win, you don’t often make mistakes like that, lose your momentum and gallop on. If he had not done that, then he would have won very well,” said Nicholls.
“It’s been a bit of a challenge to get him right, as he’s not one who wants to be taken away for a gallop, he’s not been anywhere, we’ve just got him right at home. He’s good fresh but it’s about getting that balance right between being fresh and good enough to win like today.
“This has been a target from when he came and if he hadn’t made that mistake at the last, he would have been really impressive.
“He’s got to be a Ryanair horse hasn’t he on that, he’s going to keep improving and his season will be geared back from that. He has to go left-handed and there’s no point going anywhere else with him, Ryanair will be the aim now
“He jumps left and you have to go that way and Harry said ‘if I’m in front turning in, I won’t get beat’. He’s given it a brilliant ride.
“He’s definitely improved off last year’s form, to win off 155 and win a tad cosily, even with a mistake like that, he has to be right in the mix for the Ryanair.
“If we didn’t run before then, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. I won’t run him right-handed, so that limits a little bit where we go, but that’s not a worry.”
Winning rider Cobden added: “I was going quite well and I was sort of in two minds and I wasn’t really committed to either of what we were doing, and he made a bit of a mistake.
“The peck on landing was where the real problem was after, he has probably gone from 25 miles per hour down to a walk and it’s a big ask to get a horse back going when you have only a furlong to go up a hill.
“He’s an incredibly tough horse and he would run until he can’t run anymore, we’re just grateful to have him and I’m grateful to ride him.
“It was a massive performance and he’s carried a lot of weight there. I was most impressed with how he settled and jumped from fence to fence. He’s come here without a run and he hasn’t been away for a gallop, so all his fitness is what he has done at home.
“He’s such an honest horse they can get him 110 per cent at home and there’s no better man to target a race than Paul Nicholls.”
Morgan said of the runner-up: “What a horse to have for a small yard like ours. Big days like this are phenomenal for the staff, everyone at home and all my family – it’s fantastic. To be here mixing it with Paul Nicholls it’s what we all dream of, so I’m delighted with him.
“He’s run a screamer on ground that is probably softer than he would like so it’ll be exciting to seem him on better ground.
“He jumped very well on the whole, missed a couple around the back at probably the most crucial stage but I don’t think he was going to beat the winner. He’s run a screamer and if Stage Star wasn’t in it then he would have been the clear winner!
“I’m dead proud of him and for a small yard like ours it’s fantastic.”
Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
£160,000 guaranteed, 4yo plus, 2m 4f 44y, Class 1
POS. DIST HORSE AGE WGT TRAINER JOCKEY SP
1 Stage Star 7 11-7 Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden 4/1F
2 4 Notlongtillmay 7 11-4 L J Morgan Adam Wedge 7/1
3 8 Il Ridoto 6 10-10 Paul Nicholls Freddie Gingell 12/1
4 4 Fugitif 8 11-5 Richard Hobson Gavin Sheehan 12/1
5 1½ Unexpected Party 8 10-12 Dan Skelton Harry Skelton 5/1
6 3½ Easy As That 8 10-7 Venetia Williams Charlie Deutsch 10/1
7 10 Angels Breath 9 10-10 Sam Thomas Jonathan Burke 15/2
8 8 Whistleinthedark 8 10-10 L J Morgan Kevin Brogan 33/1
9 13 Final Orders 7 11-0 Gavin Cromwell Danny Gilligan 33/1
10 2¾ Harper's Brook 7 10-2 Ben Pauling Kielan Woods 16/1
FELL Torn And Frayed 9 10-2 Nigel Twiston-Davies Tom Bellamy 20/1
PU Authorized Art 8 11-5 W P Mullins Danny Mullins 22/1
PU Black Gerry 8 10-8 Gary Moore Jamie Moore 40/1
PU The Real Whacker 7 12-0 Patrick Neville Sam Twiston-Davies 13/2