Festival Handicap Chase Tips – Day 1 – Cheltenham 2015
Festival Handicap Chase
The first meaty handicap of the festival hits the screens courtesy of the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase run over 3m1f (2.40), where there have been a number of juicy winners down the years.
You have to go back to 2009 for the last time the favourite delivered for punters in this race, and that only came under an inspiring ride from Tony McCoy on Wichita Lineman. Currently sharing favoritism for Tuesday is The Druids Nephew and Ned Stark at 8/1.
Alan King’s, Ned Stark, has the more unexposed profile with a 3-4 record over fences, including a Grade 2 novice win at Wetherby 38 days ago (3m1f, soft), although a slight concern is that his only chase defeat came at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day when beaten 27l in another Grade 2.
The Druids Nephew meanwhile, ran better here when beaten just under 2l into second in a similar handicap here in November (3m3f, soft), and was given a prep in a Grade 2 over hurdles here 45 days ago (beaten 16l). This race will be to The Druids Nephew liking, and having been 6th (of 20) in the novice handicap at last year’s festival, he is the type to go well.
But, if there is one trainer punters should take note of then it is Jonjo O’Neill, who supplied the winner of this race three times since 2009.
O’Neill has the current Grand National favourite, Shutthefrontdoor, entered off 11st10lb, who won last year’s Irish Grand National, and was last seen winning a small event at Carlisle in November. It’s hard to think O’Neill will have him cherry-ripe for this with the National awaiting next month, and he’ll need to be good if defying the weights trend…
Of the last 10 Ultima Handicap Chase winners…
10 were 7-10yo’s – others were 0-45
9 carried 11st2lb or lower – others were 1-58
9 were officially rated 143 or lower – those higher were 1-73
9 were non-favourites
9 had raced at Cheltenham – others were 1-32
9 made the top five last time – others were 1-80
8 were Irish-breds – others were 2-99
8 won a maximum of one handicap chase – others were 2-83
6 arrived via Doncaster or Haydock – those from Cheltenham were 0-36
Jonjo O’Neill won it 3 times
O’Neill also has Lost Legend (33/1), second in the Summer Plate and a handicap winner in January (2m4f, soft). He shouldn’t be underestimated.
Mendip Express is another who has to be respected following his second in the Becher Chase at Aintree in December (3m2f, good to soft), and his victory in a decent handicap over C&D 14 months ago (his only visit to the track), will put him in good stead.
But, what of that man, Tony Martin, who sends over Living Next Door (14/1), who was last seen scooping a valuable handicap at Leopardstown over Christmas (3m, heavy). Fifth in the amateur novices’ chase at last year’s festival (4m), his chance will increase if any rain falls.
Martin also has Gallant Oscar (14/1), though, who won the Leinster Handicap Chase 12 months ago, and was fourth in the Thyestes Chase when last seen in January. The market could prove informative for Martin’s pair.
However, for punters looking to follow the money, then Charlie Longsdon’s, Pendra, may be of interest having been backed in recent days. A keeping-on third in the novices’ handicap here 12 months ago (2m4f, good to soft) suggests this trip will suit, and the fact he raced just once this year should see him arrive a fresh horse.
Others of interest include Evan Williams’, Barrakilla (14/1), a staying-on second in a valuable handicap here when last seen in December (2m5f, good to soft).
Mendip Express looks interesting as he has big-race handicap form, has won at Cheltenham and is lightly raced enough to improve further.