Improving Cup Final To Score In Pertemps Network
One of the big handicap hurdle events across the four days of Cheltenham can be found on day three, courtesy of the Pertemps Network Final (2.10pm) – a race that fell to the Brits in nine of the last 10 years.
Cup Final Just The Ticket
It’s a record that will encourage punters towards the chances of Nicky Henderson’s, Cup Final (8/1). Henderson won this race 12 months ago, and his 7yo has already shown he acts at Cheltenham when third here back in November, prior to winning a couple of decent handicaps, including at Musselburgh last month (3m2f, soft). He remains on the upgrade, though whether a drop in trip on better ground is ideal remains to be seen.
Dawn To Leave Rivals Behind?
Cup Final’s main rival in the market is the Charles Byrnes 6yo, Leave At Dawn (8/1), who won a 2m5f handicap here in November, before a fifth at Leopardstown over Christmas (3m, heavy). Although finding no extra late on his debut over 3m, the ground was against him, and he’ll stand a better chance of getting home on a drier surface.
Irish hopes will also be with Jessica Harrington’s 7yo, Oscar Sam (14/1), who rattled up a handicap hat-trick over 2m4f (heavy), before a close second when stepped up to 3m in January. The distance wasn’t a problem that day, though a 6lb higher mark on faster ground will make things tougher.
Arpege On The Rise
Drier ground may not be a problem for Paul Nicholls’ 6yo, Arpege D’Alene (10/1), who won a maiden on good to soft last season, but has climbed the tree since to win a decent handicap at Chepstow recently (3m, soft). Nicholls reported afterwards that Arpege D’Alene had his breathing operated on, and a 6lb higher mark looks fair.
Missed Approach (10/1) also won a decent 3m handicap (soft) when last seen in November, and looks to have been aside for this prize by Warren Greatrex.
Greatrex has enjoyed some success at the festival in recent times, and while this 6yo has gone up a whopping 20lb for that 12l success, he is set to carry only 11st1lb.
Jonjo Has Box Office Appeal
The fact Jonjo O’Neill won this race three times since 2003 has seen his 5yo, Box Office, supported in the ante-post markets. Currently 12/1, Box Office still has a bit to prove having been pulled up when tried over 2m7f last month.
Harry Fry has less to worry about in terms of recent form with his 8yo, Uknowhatimeanharry (12/1), winner of his last four hurdle outings. Three of those were handicaps, either side of a Grade 2, and he’ll need to improve again having been hiked 15lb to top weight in the handicap.
Another improver who arrives in form is Philip Hobbs’ 7yo, Saddlers Encore (14/1), who is only 6lb higher for winning a valuable handicap at Sandown last month (3m, soft). He showed battling qualities that day, and his previous winning form on good ground will stand him in good stead.
Last year’s winning trainer, Nicky Henderson, may well follow-up with the improving, Cup Final, who won his only race this season to get him into the contest – a plot that ensures he gets into the race with a decent low weight.
*Prices correct at time of publication.