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Unexpected Party the ‘ideal type of horse’ for Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup as Skelton primes November meeting team

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Dan Skelton described Unexpected Party as the ‘ideal type of horse’ to take aim at the Premier Handicap, as the second-season novice chaser bids to give the trainer his first success in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.

UNEXPECTED PARTY. Picture: Pat Healy Photography

The gelded son of Martaline failed to win over fences last season but soon put that right when beating Knappers Hill, who came out and won the Grade 2 Rising Stars Novices' Chase at Wincanton last weekend, in Listed company at Chepstow on his reappearance.

Unexpected Party also holds an entry in the Grade 2 SSS Super Alloys Arkle Challenge Trophy Trial Novices' Chase at the track on Friday, but Dan Skelton suggested he was firmly on course for the valuable two-and-a-half-mile prize.

Skelton said: "Unexpected Party was good at Chepstow.  I've been very happy with how he has trained between Chepstow and now. He is in the Arkle Trial, but the plan is very much to go for the Paddy Power."

Although yet to land the £160,000 prize, Skelton is no stranger to going close in the contest, with Midnight River, Protektorat, and Spiritofthegames all finding the frame.

On the chances of his luck changing this weekend, Skelton added: "Protektorat was second in the race and Midnight River was third in it, but they were horses that stayed a lot further and I think Protektorat might nearly have won if there had been a bit more rain.

"I can say that as he has since won Grade 1, so it is not a stupid comment. I think Unexpected Party has a bit more pace than those guys.

"We've also been second with Spiritofthegames. He was a consistent horse all of his career, but he was a bridesmaid a lot and he would compare well with him. 

"Unexpected Party is a second-season chaser and historically they have always had a pretty good record in this race. I'm very hopeful that he will go there with as much a chance as you can hope for as he is the ideal type of horse for this race."

While the hustle and bustle of a premier handicap like the Paddy Power will be a different test for Unexpected Party, Skelton believes the unexposed eight-year-old has the characteristics to cope with the demands.

He said: "If you look at his best two victories they have been on pretty soft ground. One was over fences at Chepstow, admittedly where he had heaps of experience against inexperienced horses, but it was similar conditions when he won a pretty good hurdle at Ascot. 

"I can't see why the Paddy Power isn't going to be at least on the soft side, if not softer, so I've got no concerns about the ground. 

"It is something to consider the fact that he will be running against a lot more horses than he has ever done over fences before.

"All of these novices have been running around in smaller fields and at some point, they have to come out of them, and he is one of them that is.

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