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Press Release 18th November 2023 Cheltenham

By Graham Clark

Stage Star survived a last fence blunder to land the highlight of The November Meeting at Cheltenham today, the £160,000 Paddy Power Gold Cup.

The seven year old Fame And Glory gelding, who won the Grade One Turners Novices’ Chase at The Festival back in March, was at the head of affairs throughout and went into a clear lead on the final turn for home.

Holding what appeared to be an unassailable lead at the last fence he blundered badly and was almost down. However, jockey Harry Cobden was able to quickly pull his mount together and get going again. Stage Star stayed on courageously to score by four lengths from Notlongtillmay with his stable companion Il Ridoto another eight lengths back in third.

Returned the 9-2 Favourite, Stage Star was the first successful market leader in the two and a half mile Premier Handicap chase since Tranquil Sea in 2009. It was a third Paddy Power Gold Cup for trainer Paul Nicholls after Al Ferof (2012) and Caid Du Berlais (2014). It was a first win in the race at the eighth attempt for jockey Harry Cobden and also a first success in the contest for owner The Owners Group.


Paul Nicholls said: “He has to go left-handed so there was no point going anywhere else with him and the Ryanair will be the aim now. He jumps left so he has to go that way and Harry said if he is in front turning in he won’t get beat. He gave that a brilliant ride. That was fantastic.

“He has definitely improved on last year’s form. He has won off 155, and he has won a tad cosily, even with a mistake like that, and that puts him right in the mix for the Ryanair and that is what will be his target. If he didn’t run before then I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

“I’m not going to go right-handed with him, and that limits us a little bit where we go, but that is not a worry.

“You just like training big winners, and we all put a lot of work into it. Although we have had a plenty of winners we have had plenty that have not run that well.

“Everyone keeps saying we are doing really well, but in my mind we are a long way off where we want to be. The good ones keep winning and that is what counts.

“I thought that was the end of it then (when he hit the last) but he has picked up and stayed on well and that just shows what a good horse he is.

“I think it was a hot race, and he needed to take a step forward from last season, and he has obviously done that. He jumped brilliant baring a mistake at the last. It was just one of those things, and if he jumped that quick he would have won more comfortably.

“He has been a bit of a challenge as he is a horse that you can’t take away for a gallop. He has been at home and been nowhere and it is just getting enough fitness in him to be ready first time out today.

“You can’t take him away as he would melt and he is just one of them you don’t need to take away.

“I just thought looking at him in the paddock if he ran as well as he looked then he was going to win. I’m thrilled with him and the whole team getting him ready for today. From the moment we came in we targeted this race. “

“The other horse (Il Ridoto, 12-1) has run a blinder as he will come on for the run as he is one of them. He will come back here in a month’s time. He ran really well, but he is not quite as good as that lad.”


Harry Cobden told ITV Racing: “I love this horse. He is genuine, honest and tough.

“I was going so well down to it (the last). I was probably in two minds and the horse was also probably in two minds. We met it all wrong and to go from nearly 30mph to walking out the back of it, nearly falling and then get going again shows the true courage that this horse has.

“He is a serious horse. Credit to the boss because he has come here without having a prep run – an unbelievable training performance. I’m delighted.

“I have always tried and wanted to win this race – thankfully this lad got me over the line today.”


Trainer Laura Morgan said of her runner-up, Notlongtillmay (7-1): “What a horse to have for a small yard like ours. Big days like this are phenomenal for the staff I’ve got, 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.”

Asked what the plan might be next she added: “We have really planned that far ahead yet. We wanted to see how we got on today and then take it from there. We’ve got a few options so we’ll see.

“People are saying perhaps the Ryanair but we have a few options and we’ll have a look and go from there. It’s so exciting.”

Asked whether she might consider the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, she went on: “That might be a bit of a hard task but it just depends on ground. That looks like it might have taken quite a bit out of him today and he wants better ground.”

Notlongtillmay won twice at Musselburgh last season before finishing second in the Grade One Turners Novices Chase at The Cheltenham Festival in March.

And she added: “Even though when I came to the Turners people were probably thinking, ‘She’s only gone to Musselburgh’ but the manner in which he was winning those races he was destroying the field, so he had every right to be here in the Turners and I thought he ran a screamer then and the same again today.”

Referring to the winner, Stage Star, making an error at the last, Morgan concluded: “It was crazy. I’d seen Harry Cobden tip and he was falling and I was like ‘ooohhhhh’, but I wouldn’t wish that on Harry. He’s a top lad. I’m just delighted that he’s run a screamer.”


Jockey Adam Wedge added: “He’s run a fantastic race. We just need to find a way to get in front of Nicholls’ I think!”

“The only time I thought we might have a chance was when Stage Star was down on his nose but he had plenty left and he went away from me again.”


Owner Alan Rogers, the former Leicester City and Nottingham Forest defender, added: “He is a superstar. The winner is a nice horse and he has beaten us twice and there are no excuses with him. I’m a small owner from a small yard and I can’t be more happy with him. I can’t be more proud.

“I’m delighted for Laura as she deserves this. In my opinion she is the best trainer I’ve come across. Stage Star is a good horse and you have to take your hat off to him. This is the dream and I’ve come second in two big races at Cheltenham. I’m over the moon. Look at the horses we beat. The Real Whacker is a superstar and we have beaten him. It is the stuff of dreams. He will win a big race don’t worry about that. There is so much more to come from him.”


The top-weight was last year’s Grade One Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase hero The Real Whacker (13-2), who was pulled-up.

His joint-owner David Mann said: “We knew he was carrying top weight and he hadn’t run for a long time. Paddy (Neville, trainer) had him in good condition, but I think between the soft ground and the top weight that has probably gone against him.

“I think he needed the run today to bring him on. If you remember he ran at the October meeting last year here over hurdles and he ran very well then he came on the following month and then he had a great run over fences. I think he just needed this one. Sam (Twiston-Davies, jockey) knew it wasn’t to be. He didn’t want to injure the horse and he just took it easy when he knew his chance was gone.

“I think we will look at the King George on Boxing Day. Sam was happy enough with him. We knew we were up against it today with a savage weight. I don’t think it makes any difference as I think The Real Whacker will come back and be a good horse. I think he will come back a better horse next time. We are still very happy with him and I’d be hoping I still have some more good years with him.”


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