top of page


Rory Paddock looks through the four races shown live on ITV this Friday in the opening day of Cheltenham's November Meeting.

13:45 Cheltenham

Ten year old veteran Bun Doran may be one of the oldest horses in the lineup but he isn’t the most vigorously campaigned. Although he isn’t the most prolific it’s perhaps easy for many to forget he’s a former Grade 2 winner who beat the likes of last Saturday’s victor Sceau Royal. A winner of this race when last lining up in this contest back in 2018 he returns to regain his crown off a very similar mark. His record here at Cheltenham is pretty decent too with a total of five top three finishes from eight starts here. He also has a fantastic record when it comes to making his seasonal return. Prior to last years return to action he’d never finished outside of the money either winning or placing for five consecutive seasons.

I’m certainly not expecting him to be the horse he was when claiming Grade 2 success but if he shows glimpses of his best he could have enough to roll back the years and grab a place.

Of the more well fancied runners it’s hard not to discount the Paul Nicholls trained Magic Saint who aims to retain the race he won last season. The yard are in blistering form and are currently operating at a 25% strike rate and with the seven year old now rated exactly as he was this time last year it’s hard to see him out of the frame.

The younger competitors of Stolen Silver and Kap Auteuil aim to build upon their recent victories and should strip fitter for their recent efforts. They look to be horses on an upward curve and if they continue to progress may give some of the main protagonist’s something to think about.


14:20 Cheltenham

What a shame it is to see such a decent contest boiled down to just a match race. Thankfully Henry De Bromhead took the brave step to send promising novice chaser Gin On Lime over to Cheltenham in order to take on the mighty My Drogo.

The Irish challenger certainly isn’t without a chance and with a recent run under her belt should be fitter than Dan Skelton’s charge. With a Grade 3 victory in her most recent outing she gave her opposition an absolute spanking to win by 12 lengths. The level of rivals is certainly better this time around but don’t discount her readily.

My Drogo looks to be a potential superstar and I’m not one for siding with an outsider for the sake of it but at the odds I think it might be worth a chance to tentatively opt for Rachael Blackmore’s mount. With fitness likely to be on the mares side she could produce a massive shock if taking well to the challenge that Cheltenham provides.


14:55 Cheltenham

Although it’s a type of race that divides those within the national hunt sphere the cross country contests still remain popular with some sections of the jumps racing fraternity and it’s safe to say of the four races show live on ITV this Friday this is the most competitive.

With some of the major Irish trainers represented it’s certainly a race that isn’t being taken lightly.

Of the Irish contingent we have the current betting favourite Balko Des Flos who hails from the yard of Henry De Bromhead. He produced somewhat of a shock to finish second in this years Grand National at a massive 100/1 so today’s marathon trip shouldn’t pose much of an issue. A former winner here at Cheltenham however in his one and only attempt at the unique cross-country course he trailed out the back and ended up unseating his rider. For all of his success elsewhere his prior performance is a major concern and I’m happy to take on the market leader.

The one I may well be taking the aforementioned favourite with his stable mate Plan OF Attack. A horse who’s yet to test himself in a cross-country race but based on his 22 race career, bar one performance, he’s got very sound jumping so these fences shouldn’t be a major issue. He’s a horse who I’ve earmarked as a potential staying handicap chaser for this season with his eye potentially on one of the nationals whether that be here in the UK or back home in his native Ireland. A race like this may well be tailor made for him and despite not being the most prolific he has gone well around Cheltenham before (albeit on the new course). As a previous first time out winner this lengthy absence wouldn’t be a worry and he may be a decent each way option.

The other Irish based runner is Gordon Elliott’s multiple graded race winner Alpha Des Obeaux. The eleven-year-old veteran seems to have lost his way and this looks to be his las hurrah with connections seeming unsure how to campaign him now that he’s in the twilight of his career. With a third in the Beecher Chase at Aintree on his resume he’s shown he can handle larger obstacles but it’s probably safe to say his best days are behind him and others hold stronger claims.

When it comes to the cross-country here at Cheltenham you’d be far from foolish to follow any runner saddled by Martin Keighley. The locally based trainer has a fantastic record over these fences with horses such as Any Currency providing great success for this smaller operation. Keighley sends out Talkischeap and Back On The Lash into this and both have viable chances indeed. Back On The Lash is a former winner here at the home of jumps racing but is yet to take on the cross-country. That being said he seems a sound jumper who’s won three of his last five starts and looks to be a progressive type. Of Keighley’s duo it’s Back On The Lash I’d have more confidence in, considering stablemate Talkischeap has been pulled up three times in his four most recent performances.



15:30 Cheltenham

The final race of the quartet shown live on ITV this Friday sees the youngsters take century stage in this Grade 2 Novices Hurdle.

Once again we see a strong Irish challenge and a Paul Nicholls trained favourite.

Nicholls has his hopes pinned on Gelino Bello who returned to action nineteen days ago when claiming a clear, six length success at Aintree. His previous performance saw him finish third in a listed national hunt flat race which looks like decent form with the race producing a handful of subsequent victors. Lightly raced with just three starts under his belt he deserves his spot as one of the most fancied participants.

He may be the favourite but he’s got some serious contenders set to challenge in the form of Irish based duo Off Your Rocco and Blazing Khal. The latter made a winning hurdling debut in what looked a strong looking, seventeen runner maiden. He’s going to need to improve now he’s mixing it at this level but his impressive display gave the impression he could hang in Grade 2 company.

Gordon Elliott’s Off Your Rocco won a listed race last time so on paper has shown the best to date. Due to that winning run he now has to carry more weight than today’s rivals which isn’t going to make things easy. He seemed to have a little in hand and dispatched his opposition with relative ease at Limerick and although I’m not convinced this is his best trip he’s the one I’m set to side with for what may be another day in which the Irish stamp their authority at Cheltenham.


written by Rory Paddock


bottom of page