SAM Twiston-Davies is going all out to whack his opponents – including his old man in trainer Nigel – in a corking Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
But despite siding with The Real Whacker over his dad’s big-race hope Torn And Frayed – a horse Sam won on when the gelding was last seen – the jockey knows his father will be cheering him on should he be in the firing line up the run-in.
Our man Chappers looks ahead to a big day at CheltenhamNews Group Newspapers Ltd.
“With dad it’s always a funny one,” Sam told me.
“Although we would be incredibly competitive with each other, and I would do anything to win myself and he would be the same, it’s a situation where he would be delighted for me if I won and I’d be delighted for him if he won.
“It’s a very special thing when we team up and do it together – like we did with Little Josh in this race in 2010 – but if either of us win it Saturday we will have a result.”
This year’s Paddy Power, the feature from Cheltenham live on ITV, might not have the biggest field in the race’s history, but it’s packed full of potential quality and numbers two of this year’s novice Cheltenham Festival heroes in Stage Star and The Real Whacker.
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Throw in Notlongtillmay, who chased home Stage Star in the Grade 1 Turners Novices’ Chase, Unexpected Party, who stuffed recent impressive Wincanton winner Knappers Hill at Chepstow and last year’s fourth Il Ridoto and you have a belter of a puzzle to sort out.
That’s not to mention Fugitif, runner-up to Seddon in the Magners Plate Handicap at this track, and Angels Breath, who once looked a possible star for Nicky Henderson and is now in the hands of Sam Thomas.
The Real Whacker is the only horse to have beaten Gold Cup hope Gerri Colombe when denying that animal by a head in the Grade 1 Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase in March.
Twiston-Davies added: “The Real Whacker was fantastic at the Festival and in the Dipper early in the season and I’ve been looking forward to riding him ever since the Brown Advisory.
“He’s great around Cheltenham, but it’s a tricky race giving a lot of weight away at the start of the season. That said he’s a classy horse and I’m looking forward to it.”
Chapper’s Saturday ITV tips
1.45 Mister Coffey
2.20 Il Rodoto each-way
2.55 Chantry House each-way
3.30 Wonderful Eagle each-way
2.36 Tyrrhenian Sea each-way
3.11 Mischief Magic
Stage Star represents the champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who ironically last took this prize with Twiston-Davies up on top via Caid du Berlais in 2014. Al Ferof is his only other victor in the event.
There’s no doubt Nicholls believes Stage Star is a fine prospect, and he was a decent novice hurdler back in the day landing the Grade 1 Challow at Newbury from the very talented West Balboa who hacked up at Aintree last weekend.
The seven-year-old could easily be good enough, as could Unexpected Party, who represents the powerful jockey-trainer combination of Harry and Dan Skelton. However, I just wonder if it was his experience that won the day at Chepstow where Knappers Hill was making his chasing debut.
I suspect Nicholls will think I’m mad, but the one that interests me eachway is Il Rodoto under young Freddie Gingell who takes off a very useful 5lb.
Cobden was on top Il Rodoto when he was fourth in this behind Ga Law last year, and with the claim in mind he’s now 1lb lower in the ratings.
No less than five of Il Rodoto’s last seven starts have come at Cheltenham, and his figures read 8-4-4-1-6 at the track off marks between 139 and 146, a figure he was lumbered with when a fine sixth in the Magners Plate that Fugitif was a few places in front.
Effectively down to 139 today he has to have a shout and rather oddly he’s a year younger than Stage Star even though he’s got lots more experience over fences.
The other fascinating runner on TV today is one-time Gold Cup hope Chantry House, who could easily be chucked in for the Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle over three miles.
Strangely Chantry House hasn’t been over hurdles since a third to his stable companion Shishkin in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
I think that’s interesting because JP McManus’s gelding has never looked a total natural over fences. He’s on a mark of 147 this afternoon and if anywhere near his best first time out could be a player.
The stage is set for a cracking day at Cheltenham. Let’s hope Il Ridoto is the star!
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