The Festival Handicap Chase, also known as the Ultima, is the third race of the Cheltenham Festival and is an ultra competitive staying handicap for chasers. It is a very difficult race to win though that was no object for Un Temps Pour Tout who won the race for the last two years but is injured for the 2018 contest. There are a few stats and trends which can help us dig out the winner of this race and we’ll look at them below, you can also check out Festival Handicap Chase tips here.
Festival Handicap Chase Trends
- High weights can struggle – 12 of the last 15 carries less than 11 stone to victory
- Class doesn’t always come on out top – There hasn’t been a winner rated higher than 150 for over 30 years
- Punters are savvy – 11 of the last 15 winners came from the top four in the betting
- Stamina is key – 8 of the last 10 winners had won over three miles or further
- Older horses struggle – Just 2 of the last 48 horses aged eleven or older managed to place
This is a hard race to win but Singlefarmpayment went extremely close last year and if the trends are to be believed he should do something similar this year as he ticks every box, it’s a similar story for market rival Coo Star Sivola who has had a lovely prep.
Trends – Key Runners
Coo Star Sivola ✅✅✅✅✅
The Storyteller ❌✅❌❌✅
Mia’s Storm ❌✅❌✅✅
Ibis Du Rheu ✅✅❌❌✅
Rock The Kasbah ❌✅❌✅✅
There has been a lot of market support for the Nick Williams trained Coo Star Sivola in recent days and he has almost grabbed favouritism and it’s not hard to see why. He is a progressive horse who was well punted for a Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham two starts ago but struggled in heavy ground over a trip slightly shy of his best, he then went to Exeter and bolted up which he needed to do to get into this race but ended up reasonably treated by the handicapper as he was only put up seven pounds. He is unexposed over this sort of trip and jumps well so should go well especially considering he has won at this course before but six year olds have a poor record in the race so some caution should be exercised.
The winner of this in 2016 and 2017 was Un Temps Pour Tout but he is out this season so the leading contender from last year’s contest is Singlefarmpayment. He was backed as if defeat was out of the question in this last year and went down by just a short head off a mark of 142, he reappeared with a lovely run over course and distance when emptying late in what looked a prep for the Ladbrokes Trophy but he fell in that contest when looking held. He disappointed when favourite for the Silver Cup at Ascot and was pulled up in the Cotswold Chase though it must be noted there was some serious market support for him that day against real Grade 1 horses, there is a suspicion that he simply wants better ground and loves it at Cheltenham where he has form figures of 1122. He could well come alive off just three pounds higher than last year and he looks a serious contender once again in a race where returning horses do well.
Gordon Elliott was hyping up the chances of The Storyteller for all the handicap hurdles he was entered in at the Festival last year before injury dashed his plans and he seems to think he is similarly well handicapped this year over fences. He is a talented horse who has made just the three starts over fences and was impressive when accounting for Sutton Manor on his second start in this discipline, He then ran well to be beaten just over seven lengths in the Flogas Novice Chase behind a number of talented staying novices. He is being aimed at this race and steps up to this sort of trip for the first time, that could bring out some improvement in a horse who already looks nicely handicapped so he should certainly be feared for last year’s leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival.
There is a doubt over whether Alan King’s Mia’s Storm will turn up here or in the RSA but she’d have to be an interesting contender if going the handicap route off a mark 149 as she is an extremely talented mare. She was sent off favourite for the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase against the boys on Boxing Day but jumped stickily out of ground softer than she would’ve liked and ended up falling, Alan King was confident that on good ground she’d have a real chance of beating 155-rated Black Corton which would leave her attractively handicapped off her current mark and if her trainer decides this is her race it’ll be a tip in itself.
Other contenders such as Ibis Du Rheu for Paul Nicholls catch the eye, he won the Martin Pipe in 2016 off a mark of 139 and races off just two pounds higher over fences having had a nice preparation when fourth at Newbury last time in what looked a definite pipe opener for this. Pendra was second off his current mark in the Kim Muir last year and the slight drop back in trip could help as he was only caught in the final stages so he is interesting, while Rock The Kasbah was nominated by trainer Philip Hobbs as a live outside chance despite pulling up last time.
With not long to go until the Festival, you can view all our antepost previews and tips on our Cheltenham Festival tips section now!