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Festival Handicap Chase tips for March's Grade 3 race. The first handicap of the Cheltenham Festival is always one of the most competitive, A three mile chase, it's been won by some very smart types down the years. Read on for our free betting tips, predictions and analysis.
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IN SUMMARY: A fiercely competitive renewal can go the way of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ COGRY, who loves a slog in the mud and he placed off this mark in the Classic Chase at Warwick three starts ago. He’s had excuses the last twice but is now back at his favoured distance with conditions perfect for him. He’s won his last two visits to this venue and can land the spoils under Jamie Bargary. There are dangers aplenty, with Coo Star Sivola, Ramses De Teillee and Beware The Bear the likely protagonists.
Gold Present | J: Nico de Boinville T: Nicky Henderson
Arrives here on a hat-trick after two improved displays up in distance. He was a ready winner at Ascot last time and that form has taken a big boost since thanks to the second. An eight pound rise is fair and he’s still lightly raced, so his chance is obvious. The niggling concern is the ground, as he’s avoided soft since November 2015.
Sizing Codelco | J: Robbie Power T: Colin Tizzard
Took off towards the end of last season, winning two graded handicaps in great style in April. He’s shown very little in three runs this season though and that raises serious doubts. He’s had a wind operation since his latest outing, but he’s got plenty to prove.
Yala Enki | J: Charlie Deutsch T: Venetia Williams
Likeable front-runner who posted a career best when winning the Grand National Trial at Haydock last month. He’s now six pounds higher and he does have something to find with Beware The Bear on previous form, but he loves softer ground and he’s got frame claims.
Shantou Flyer | J: James Bowen T: Richard Hobson
Loves softer ground but looks high enough in the weights at present, runner up on his last three runs. He was well held at Kelso last time and is only a pound lower now pitched into a tougher race. Bowen removes a useful five pounds, but plenty of his rivals look far better handicapped.
O O Seven | J: Aidan Coleman T: Nicky Henderson
Lightly raced eight year old who has run well in defeat this season, finishing midfield the last thrice. He’s been kept away from softer ground for most his career and he’s looked an uncertain stayer at a truly run three mile trip. He’s not entirely discounted but looks vulnerable to stronger stayers.
Vicente | J: Sam Twiston-Davies T: Paul Nicholls
Twice a Scottish Grand National winner and he was only edged out by a very game rival over 3m 3f here in November. He loves it soft and a strong pace will be firmly in his favour. He’s not handicapped out of things on this mark and it’d be no surprise were he to sneak into a place.
Beware The Bear | J: Jeremiah McGrath T: Nicky Henderson
Flew home despite a slipping saddle at Newcastle in December, winning by a comfortable margin. He was disappointing in the Welsh Grand National last time but a drop in distance is not a bad thing for him. He goes on softer ground, but his jumping remains a sticking point and he won’t get away with mistakes here.
Wakanda | J: Sean Quinlan T: Sue Smith
Found a late burst of pace to storm through and win a Listed Chase at Doncaster in January. He’s still on a good mark on his best form but this is much tougher than his recent starts. That said, he goes for in form connections and he’ll relish the ground. Not dismissed for a place as he stays well too.
Singlefarmpayment | J: A. P. Heskin T: Tom George
Finished second in this race twelve months ago by a nose, returning off three pounds higher. He’s been very mixed this season but faced a very tough task over course and distance last time. He’s won on soft ground previously and the race will be run to suit, but he comes with obvious risks at present.
Ramses De Teillee | J: Tom Scudamore T: David Pipe
Extremely consistent six year old who has not finished outside the top three this season. He’s got a chasing record of 1212 thus far and bumped into a smart one at Exeter last time. He makes his handicap debut over fences for a yard that have won this three times in the past ten years. He’ll love conditions and is a big danger.
Knight Of Noir | J: Nick Scholfield T: Michael Blake
Useful staying hurdler who has been steadily progressive over fences, winning a novices event at Chepstow in October. He now makes his debut for a new yard in a very tough handicap and this mark demands a career best by some way. He’ll be fine in the conditions but others look far more likely.
Coo Star Sivola | J: Lizzie Kelly T: Nick Williams
Has finished a close up at the last two Festivals, winning a three mile chase at Exeter last month by a ready margin. A seven pound rise is completely fair and that run proved his stamina and effectiveness on the ground. Kelly takes off a very useful three pounds and he’s got strong claims for an in form yard.
Vintage Clouds | J: Danny Cook T: Sue Smith
Still in with a shout when falling in this race twelve months ago. He’s improved since, posting a career best when second at Wetherby last month. He goes best on softer ground and he’s on a decent mark at present. With the yard going so well, he’s got an each way shout.
Vic De Touzaine | J: B. J. Cooper T: Venetia Williams
Was well held when unseating his rider two out in this race twelve months ago. He’s been in extremely poor form since a win at Carlisle in October, pulling up on three occasions. He’s still on a very stiff mark and it’s very difficult to make any sort of case for him at present.
Minella Daddy | J: Sean Bowen T: Peter Bowen
Progressive in 2016 prior to a long absence where he missed 2017. He got back to near his best at Ascot in Listed company last time, going down by two lengths. He’s now two pounds higher in a much tougher race, but he could build on that run and wouldn’t be dismissed for a place if jumping with more conviction.
Casse Tete | J: Joshua Moore T: Gary Moore
All his best form has come at 2m 4f and shorter, collaring a tired horse late on at Warwick last time after sitting off a very strong early pace. He’s now five pounds higher and his stamina is a big question mark, falling when tired on his only previous attempt. With so many confirmed stayers in the lineup, it’s not hard to look elsewhere.
Cogry | J: Jamie Bargary T: Nigel Twiston-Davies
Strong stayer who has won his last two visits to this venue, including over course and distance in October. His latest run at Warwick is best ignored as 2m 4f was too sharp and he was placed off this mark in the Classic Chase back in January. He loves a slog in the mud and should have too much for his rivals today.
Eamon An Cnoic | J: David Noonan T: David Pipe
Lightly raced seven year old who has only raced four times over fences, winning on two occasions. That was over 2m 4f and shorter though, well held on his only previous attempt of this trip over timber. He needs a career best to be overcoming this mark and others are preferred on this occasion.
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