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Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
First founded in 1993, the Coral Cup has quickly established itself as one of the foremost handicap hurdles in the racing calendar. Held on the Wednesday of the Cheltenham Festival meeting, this two mile five furlong challenge has been given Grade 3 status, with a purse totalling £80,000.
The contest takes place on the old course at Cheltenham and is open to all horses aged four and over.
Our tip for the 2017 Coral Cup is Neil Mulholland’s Kalondra, who just keeps on improving this season and has more to offer in this. He put in a career best performance (at the time) when running out a comfortable winner at Ascot in December, held up in last by a confident Sean Corby, he still had only one behind over the third from home. Corby let out an inch of reign on the five year old before two out where he made rapid progress to track the leaders before the last, briefly shaken up to seal the deal on the run in.
Raised 8lb, he ran in the Lanzarote hurdle at Kempton on his next start and once again travelled well through the race, making good headway but just unable to find a final gear to get to the leaders. There was no disgrace in that performance by any means and he proved he still had plenty more in the locker on his latest start at Huntington, a competitive handicap. Travelling well throughout before making smooth progress under a motionless Noel Fehily, he sauntered clear on the bridle after two out and ran out an eleven length winner. That was a very taking performance and despite the fact he has another 12lb rise for that display, he still remains of big interest off a mark of 147.
He likely has a lot more left in the locker as a five year old on the upgrade and if in the same vein of form again for this run with conditions to suit, he certainly looks overpriced in this. He’ll be suited by a likely strong pace that can tow him into the race and take advantage when it matters most.
One of the bigger handicap races of the Festival, the Coral Cup is a hugely competitive event that has been won by a host of trainers and jockey’s alike in recent year’s. Our Coral Cup preview can be found below, with a tip to come soon!
A rapid improver this season, Kalondra looks to be dramatically over priced in this. Winning at Ascot three starts ago in comfortable fashion in a competitive looking handicap, he was far from disgraced when finishing fifth in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton off an 8lb higher mark. Off that same mark he ran out a very easy winner of a competitive handicap at Huntingdon in February, scooting clear on the bridle under Noel Fehily in a taking performance. As a lightly raced six year old he still remains with potential and a 12lb rise for that latest win is unlikely to stop this improving commodity from putting up another brilliant display. He has conditions to suit and the Neil Mulholland team remain in great form, so he has to be respected in this.
Rerouted from the Champion Hurdle, it’s hard not to be drawn to the entry of Tombstone for Gordon Elliott. This lightly raced seven year old put up a career best effort on his latest start to win the Grade 3 Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park in February, beating Jezki comfortably despite some mistakes. An opening mark of 148 on handicap debut could seem him well treated as he has scope for further progress and going up in trip should not be an issue if judged upon his second at Leopardstown over the 2m 2f trip last season. His pedigree also suggests he will stay the trip well and he has to be of strong interest in this, with the ground in his favour and Bryan Cooper taking the ride.
A strongly run race would likely be helpful for Willie Mullins’ Tin Soldier, who has won both his starts since coming over from France. A game winner on Irish debut at Fairyhouse in January after a long time on the sidelines, he improved markedly on that performance to win a Grade 3 at Thurles on his latest start a month ago. Looking beaten after four out when struggling in fifth place with no response to Ruby Walsh’s urgings, he started to stay on from three out and ran out workmanlike winner after taking it up after the last. This race should play to all his strengths, as the Cheltenham Hill will bring out his stamina and a strongly run affair will help for the same reason. He’ll relish this slight step up in trip and a 5lb rise from his latest run could be generous as he’s likely to continue improving. Has to be considered a danger and is respected.
It was about time that Modus took a big race and was finally rewarded when winning the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton in January, comfortably dispatching his rivals. He has now been hit with a 11lb rise for that win which makes things much tougher but that was his first attempt at the distance and with how easily he won that race, he surely has further improvement left in him. At the age of seven he remains with potential and he has proven on two occasions that he suits Cheltenham well, the latest of which when second in the Greatwood Hurdle back in November. He looks to be one of the main contenders and has to be respected.
Seventh in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Supasundae returned with a good effort in a competitive handicap hurdle at Leopardstown and was not disgraced that day. He was upped to two miles four furlongs for his second run this season which came four days later when beating the useful Monksland with the minimum of fuss. A horse on the upgrade, he was far from disgraced when second to Sutton Place in Grade 3 company at Naas on his penultimate start and off today’s mark he was fourth at Navan in February, behind some useful types. The Good to Soft ground is unlikely to be an issue for him and he clearly has relished the step up to the middle distances, but he will need more if he’s to be threatening for win purposes in this off a mark of 145. As a lightly raced seven year old though he should still have progress in him, and isn’t one to dismiss lightly. Place claims at the very least for Mrs John Harrington with Robbie Power taking the ride.
A horse who certainly knows what it takes to win around Cheltenham is Peregrine Run, who proved that when winning over C&D in a Grade 2 in November. He beat both Wholestone and West Approach that day in good style, completing a four timer in the process off a mark that was 32lb higher than for his first win a Down Royal a few months prior. The winning sequence came to an end when third at Warwick in January, but that was again a competitive race and there was no shame in that performance. A mark of 142 certainly demands more but he stays this trip well and handles the Cheltenham Hill, which does count for a lot in races like this. He’ll be given a great tow into the race as a hold up horse and another admirable run can be expected from Peter Fahey’s seven year old.
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It may be a bit cliché to say that a particular race has a ‘varied history’ but the Coral Cup most definitely has, a horse having never won the title more than once.
Many high quality steeds have claimed the accolade in recent times, with Spirit River taking the plaudits back in 2010.
Nicky Henderson’s charge was prominent from the start, racing in fifth throughout the opening stages. Spirit River managed to stay with the leading pack when the going got tough and emerged from the main contenders from the third last. Pushed on by Michael Phipps and James de Vassy, the five-year-old found even more and passed the post four-and-a-half lengths clear of eventual second Tullamore Dew.
Carlito Brigante was also positively ridden when taking the race a year later. Dantari set a fearsome pace under the instruction of Jamie Moore, a full ten lengths clear of For Non Stop in second position and 20 to the good of the eventual winner who led the main pack of runners. This win gave jockey Davy Russell his second success in the race after having won on Naiad de Misselot back in 2008 and saw him equal Barry Geraghty’s record of two Coral Cup triumphs (Sky’s The Limit, 2006; Spirit River, 2010).
Donald McCain Jnr’s Son of Flicka continued the trend that saw front-runners prosper by winning when handy in 2012. The eight-year-old recorded a three-and-a-half length victory over top weight and joint favourite Get Me Out Of Here.
Medinas took the plaudits in 2013, completing a one-two for trainer Alan King. In tactics differing to the previous three winners, the 33/1 chance was quietly snuck in mid-division and at least ten lengths off the pace for most of the race before making progress at the top of the hill. The eventual winner still looked as though he had a lot to do two from home, but jumped the last well and had the momentum to beat stablemate Meister Eckhart on the run in.
In 2014 Whisper settled in fifth before striking the front to pick up the 20th renewal. He had plenty of chances rounding the final turn when the Nicky Henderson steed took the lead, but he managed to hold on from a fast improving Get Me Out Of Here who could only manage second for a second time. The official winning distance was confirmed as a short head.
2015 saw the emergence of a very exciting horse, as Aux Ptits Soins won at 9/1 – despite only having three career starts (all of which in France) and the most recent way back in September 2014. An excellent training performance saw him manage to overcome a jumping error three out before just holding off the determined Zabana and Activial.
Last year’s renewal was won by the eight-year-old Diamond King of the Gordon Elliott stable with Davy Russell in the saddle. The 12/1 shot was given a tough task off a weight of 11 stone 3 pounds, but he showed his class and battled up the hill to beat Long House Hall by over a length. He could well be a chaser in the making – he jumps his hurdles big and bold and he is not small.