Stage Star lived up to his name after surviving a dramatic mistake at the final fence on his way to an emphatic victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.
The horse and his rider Harry Cobden pretty much came to a standstill and did brilliantly to stay together because on another day they could easily have ended up on the floor. Stage Star then rallied so strongly that he was four lengths clear of the runner up Notlongtillmay at the line.
It was another classy performance by a horse who obviously had plenty left in the tank given the way he picked up again on the hill. He needed to take a step forward from last season, has obviously done so and jumped superbly apart from the last fence where he did well to stand up and Harry did well to stay in the saddle.
Stage Star has lots of improvement to come and has now won first time out in the last four seasons. He has always been at his best when fresh and the Paddy Power has been the target since he came back from his holiday early in July. Now all roads for him lead to the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Il Ridoto ran a fine race in finishing third behind Stage Star. He will be a serious contender when he returns to the course in a month’s time for the AIS December Gold Cup.
On Sunday Ginny’s Destiny kept up the good form of the team with a fluent victory from the front in a Class 3 £30,000 novice handicap Chase. He is one of mine that can’t have the ground too deep, has improved plenty from his debut for us three weeks earlier and pulled clear on the run in to win by ten lengths from Es Perfecto. As he is quite lightly raced there should be plenty of improvement to come.
Others to run well on the day include Sonigino, fourth in the Greatwood Hurdle and Fire Flyer who stayed on stoutly to finish second in the Listed bumper and will now be going over hurdles.
Afadil sulked in the Greatwood and was eventually pulled up. He probably wants better ground and we will try him with cheek pieces next time.
On Friday Captain Teague was narrowly beaten in the Grade 2 novice hurdle over two miles, five furlongs but my faith in him remains as strong as ever. He is still an exciting prospect, shapes like a thorough stayer and we will probably make more use of him next time.
We enjoyed a tidy double at a Taunton on Thursday with Matterhorn and Panjari both winning well after making the running. I can’t wait to see Matterhorn over fences , while Panjari looks one to keep improving as he gains experience.
We are set for a busy time this Saturday with Bravemansgame likely to run in the Betfair Chase if the dry forecast for the week is correct.
With Harry Cobden heading to Ascot to ride Pic D’Orhy, Blueking D’Oroux and Sabrina, I have booked Daryl Jacob for Bravemansgame. He is riding out regularly at Ditcheat, won the Grand National for me on Neptune Collonges and has a good record in the race .
For the latest news on my Saturday runners please be sure to check out my Betfair column which goes live early on Friday afternoon.