The second chase but the first handicap of the meeting and although many of the Cheltenham Festival handicaps are very difficult to solve there are some decent traits that can be used to whittle this one down and have stood the test of time.
The main thought about this race is that it is very difficult if not nigh on impossible to overcome a handicap mark of 150+ – not one horse has been able to carry a weight commensurate with that rating to victory for 29 years. In fact the last 12 years have not seen a winner rated higher than 143, so clearly the class acts in this race have a very difficult task.
Many punters over the four days will set plenty of store in previous course form and taking that one step further previous Festival form and this is one race where those two facets in the formbook are particularly helpful to a horse’s chance in this race.
The only case where we would be wary of that statistic would be if the horse in question was aged 11+, those veterans which have taken in this race have really struggled over the past few years, and it’s unlikely that they will win or even place in the event. Those looking at the Cheltenham 2012 bets should remember this.
Shocks can and do happen in this race but generally for a handicap it has been punter friendly – nine of the winners since 1999 being sent off in the front four of the betting. Many of the races at the Festival have a good record for last time out winners and this handicap chase is no exception with six of the last nine winners being successful in their last race before taking in this handicap. Fans of Cheltenham betting should bear this in mind.
On the trainer front, Alan King has proved very much a man to follow in this event winning it in 2004 and 2011 and he looks to have a very strong candidate in Hold On Julio this season – it’s also worth keeping Nicky Henderson on your side, he may not have saddled the winner since 2000, but he has gone close on numerous occasions over the past few years.
A man who may not be looking forward to this contest with quite as much relish is Paul Nicholls this is a race that appears to have caused him problems over the years and although he has had 15 attempts he has yet to taste success in the race and to be honest he has not even really come close to breaking his duck in this event.
Ad Hoc has twice finished a well-held third and it looks like the handicapper finds it easy to get a grip on the Nicholls handicappers in this event. With six entries last year it looked as though he would be having a good crack at the race but eventually he chose not to run any of them and it remains a race that Nicholls struggles in.