Cheltenham Festival: A bet for every handicap
The Cheltenham Festival handicap weights have been announced
The stars of National Hunt racing are fine tuning their preparations and the Cheltenham Festival is now less than two weeks away.
Ladbrokes have all 28 Festival races priced up and available for ante-post bets so we have taken a look at the Cheltenham betting to pick out a selection for each of the nine handicap races which will take place over the four days of the Cheltenham Festival.
We kick off our look at the Cheltenham handicaps with the opening day’s Ultima Handicap Chase and this prize could be heading north of the border thanks to Lucinda Russell’s Corach Rambler.
This is one race at the Cheltenham Festival that the Brits have a fine record in and this eight-year-old fits all the key trends for the race, being a novice who has won at Prestbury Park in the past.
Twice a winner this season, he was running well and making significant headway when unseating his rider in the Grade Two Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot last time. Considering the eventual winner of that contest, Does He Know, now heads the market for this race off a mark of 152, Corach Rambler has to appeal off 12lb lower at Cheltenham odds of 12/1.
Willie Mullins’ French import has been the talking horse for this race for some time and although plenty short at 5/2 in the Cheltenham betting, he could easily get even shorter before post time as the cash continues to come down on this four-year-old gelding.
The son of Maxios has been kept under wraps by the ‘Master of Closutton’ having made three appearances over timber in France. That is enough to attain a mark from the British handicapping team and a fishing expedition from Mullins earlier in the season let the cat out of the bag somewhat when he was allotted a figure of 129.
That could seriously underestimate Gaelic Warrior’s potential and he looks thrown in for what is traditionally one of the most competitive handicaps of the Cheltenham Festival.
The helter-skelter of the Coral Cup kicks off the handicap action on day two of the Cheltenham Festival and the Irish are dominating the list of possible runners following the weights release.
Nicky Henderson is the leading trainer in this race and could rely on I Am Maximus, while Gordon Elliott has a strong hand with 12 entries for a race with a maximum field of 26.
However, it is another Irish team we look at to provide the winner, with Drop The Anchor having been cut fromat 14/1 in the Cheltenham odds to 9/1.
He was a winner of a Grade B hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last season before running with credit in the County Hurdle here at Prestbury Park and was seen in that same two-mile Leopardstown contest once again last month, doing his best work at the finish to finish fifth.
That performance suggested that two miles is now a touch on the sharp side for Pat Fahy’s eight-year-old and stepping up in trip could prove a shrewd move that leads to Cheltenham Festival glory.
Things haven’t really gone to plan for Henry de Bromhead’s nine-year-old this term, but we’re taking a chance on this 20/1 shot and hoping that a trip over to Prestbury Park revives his fortunes.
He is just 2lb higher than when sixth in this race last season but that doesn’t tell the full story as he was running a fine race from the front-end before a juddering error at the third last quickly emptied the petrol tank and saw him headed as the pack sprinted up the Cheltenham hill.
Capuccimix regularly went forward last term, but has been held up in both appearances since winning at Killarney in the summer. Those tactics have resulted in disaster and we can only hope that last season’s leading Cheltenham Festival trainer has a rethink ahead of a race that often benefits to be up with the pace.
Elliott has won three of the last four editions of this race so it seems to foolish to steer away from his entrants.
Two-time champion Sire Du Berlais has been plotted back to Prestbury Park for a go at landing an unprecedented third Pertemps Hurdle, while he also has Dunboyne, Dallas Des Pictons and Falcano towards the top of the market.
However, the one that could be overlooked is the mare Sassy Yet Classy, who secured her qualification for this with a win over the aforementioned Dallas Des Pictons (second) at Punchestown in November.
Since then she unseated her rider early into the contest at Navan in December and was making rapid headway when beaten a neck at the same venue over 2m4f later that month.
The handicapper could have been kinder, but she remains relatively unexposed over three miles and could be one on the up at tasty Cheltenham odds of 16/1.
British contenders Celebre D’Allen and Imperial Alcazar head the market and could easily strike a blow for the home team, but the one that offers better value and could be the way to go is Joseph O’Brien’s Busselton, who is 12/1 in the Cheltenham betting for this race.
Although disappointing when sent off at 13/2 for Boodles at the Cheltenham Festival last year, fences have made a man of this five-year-old this term and he has been kept busy, racking up the experience and scoring three times.
He was unable to land a blow in the Irish Arkle last time, which tells you more that he needs further than two miles than he is not capable, and this track and trip looks ideal for him to be smuggled into contention off a lenient looking figure of 145.
Irish eyes could be smiling in the final race on St Patrick’s Day as we side with Aint That A Shame to land the spoils at Cheltenham odds of 8/1.
Placed behind Graded performers Stattler and Galopin Des Champs in his first two outings over fences, he was denied by a neck when upped to three miles at Navan in January.
Finishing second on that occasion could be a blessing in disguise and he gets to race here off a mark of 144, which is just 1lb below the ceiling for the race.
A winner over three miles over timber, this trip looks perfect for the eight-year-old who could prove a popular Cheltenham day three selection.
Mullins and Ladbrokes ambassador Dan Skelton have traded blows in this in recent years and their runners need the utmost respect once again, but the best of the British engaged could well be Nigel Twiston-Davies’ I Like To Move It, who has done little wrong this season.
Twice a winner over two miles here earlier in the season, he was denied by a short head when last seen in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. He was beaten off a mark of 138 there and although a 4lb rise does make things tougher, the stamina emphasis of the new course at Cheltenham means there is plenty in his favour. At 12/1 he could well hit the frame at a venue he knows well.
The final race of the Cheltenham Festival is often won by a Graded performer masquerading as a handicapper and this time around that could well be Freedom To Dream, who looks to have all the attributes to cause a shock at odds of 33/1.
Last year Galopin Des Champs was hiding in plain sight, finishing down the field in Graded races, before popping up with a ton in hand when it mattered most and Peter Fahey’s seven-year-old could be attempting a similar ploy.
Having won his maiden hurdle at Punchestown, he has since finished second in a Grade Two at Limerick, before finishing fourth in a red-hot Grade One at the Dublin Racing Festival. When you add into the mix he was second to Appreciate It in a bumper, there is plenty of evidence in the form book to suggest a bold bid.
Somehow he has been allowed to compete here off a mark of 135 and we could finish the Cheltenham Festival with a nice bonus if Freedom To Dream can gallop to victory.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication