Another Festival Handicap Hero For O’Neill
Festival Handicap Chase
The big handicap for punters on day one comes virtue of the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f (2.50pm), which may not be the lottery some are led to believe – of the last 15 winners, 11 returned 10/1 or shorter.
Hobbs Lines-Up His Winter Winners
It’s a clue that suggests not to stray too far away from the market principals, and with Britain also dominating down the years, the likes of Philip Hobbs’ 9yo, Kruzhlinin (12/1) enters the equation. A 5l winner of a decent handicap at Kempton in January (3m, soft), he has been put aside for this, although a 10lb higher mark makes life tougher.
Hobbs has another last time out winner who has been hiked up the weights for winning a valuable handicap at Ascot recently in Sausalito Sunrise (16/1). This 8yo came home by 12l that day and certainly knows his way around Cheltenham following his Grade 3 win here in November, but he’ll need to find more improvement to defy his weight.
Sam Out To Land Hat-Trick
Also on 12/1 is Out Sam, the winner of two small novice events this year (including over 3m, soft). While also entered in the RSA, he would have the look of a well-handicapped improver if running in this, and his trainer, Warren Greatrex, thinks he’ll be better on decent ground.
David Pipe won this race back in 2008, and also has one of the main contenders in Doctor Harper, an 8yo novice who got off the mark at the third attempt in January (2m, soft). A Grade 3 hurdles winner over 3m at Aintree last April (off a mark of 138), he will relish the step up in trip and could be fairly treated off 141.
A Fourth Victory For Jonjo?
But, for followers of specific trainers in certain races, then Jonjo O’Neill needs respecting having won this handicap three times during the last seven years. O’Neill has several entries, but the most interesting is the 6yo Beg To Differ (14/1).
Improvement has been made in each of Beg to Differ’s four chase outings, including when runner-up over 3m2f at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, before a career best win at Sandown (3m, soft). The first-time visor worked that day, and while he makes the odd mistake and comes here 10lb higher, he should go well.
O’Neill also has Holywell (14/1), who will need to bounce back to form off an 8lb higher mark than when winning this in 2014, while his 7yo, Another Hero (20/1), has won a couple of 3m novice handicaps the last two times, having previously been runner-up over hurdles at Cheltenham in April (good).
He is improving fast and would be a danger to all if sneaking into the bottom of the handicap.
The Irish Angle
As for Irish hopes of landing this handicap, then Pat Fahy sends over the 9yo, Morning Assembly (16/1), third in the 2014 RSA Chase here, before injury kept him away until this year. A couple of runner-up efforts (including in a Grade 2), show the ability is still there, and he could represent good each-way value.
Jonjo O’Neill has been the trainer to follow in this handicap, and he could land the prize once more should Another Hero manage to get into the handicap. He arrives in form, handles Cheltenham and would have the look of a well-handicapped individual with a nice weight if making the cut.
*Prices correct at time of publication