The Festival Plate, sponsored this year by Brown Advisory and Merriebelle, is one of the most competitive handicaps of the year and looks a particularly good renewal this time round with plenty of potentially thrown in horses taking each other on for a prize of just over £62,000. It is a Grade 3 contest over two and a half miles which went last year to Gigginstown and 2018 Gold Cup hopeful Road To Respect in great style, this race is hard to decifer but that is made easier with the trends and statistics we will have a look at below. You can also check out our Festival Plate tips here.
Festival Plate Trends
- Certain ages hard to beat – 9 of the last 12 winners have been aged between seven and ten
- Big weights difficult to carry – 10 of the last 12 winners carried less than 11 stone
- Cheltenham experience helps – 10 of the last 12 winners had run at Cheltenham before
- Difficult betting heat – Only 1 of the last 12 favourites have won
- A degree of class required – 10 of the last 12 winners were rated 136 or higher
A few do okay in our trends but it is the mercurial Bouvreuil who comes out best. He has finished placed at the Cheltenham Festival on three different occasions and a nice racing weight of 10-11 could help this seven year old record his first big success for a while.
Trends – Key Runners
Tully East ✅❌✅❌✅
King’s Socks ❌✅❌✅✅
Long House Hall ✅❌✅✅✅
Patrick’s Park ✅✅❌✅❌
Le Prezien ✅❌✅✅❌
The antepost favourite for this race is Tully East, who was a pretty easy winner of the Novices’ Handicap on the first day of the Festival last year and looks to have been trained all year with another tilt at Festival success in mind by Alan Fleming. He started his season with a pipe opener over hurdles behind Campeador before finishing fourth in ground softer than ideal in the BetVictor Gold Cup over this course and distance, he was then given a break and ran a grand race at the Dublin Racing Festival to finish third, racing off just four pounds higher here. The step back up to two and a half miles will be a big help for him as it is the trip he won over last year, though the weather is a concern as he looks to complete a Festival double.
Challenging for favouritism after plenty of positive mentions around the Cheltenham preview circuits is the David Pipe trained King’s Socks, who has had just one start in Britain and wasn’t knocked about when finishing eight lengths behind Modus in a slowly run race at Kempton about a month ago. He finished under three lengths behind the brilliant Arkle favourite Footpad in a Grade 1 hurdle at Auteuil which is a possibly the strongest piece of form in offer in this race and he has also had a wind surgery since then. He has all the right qualities of a good David Pipe handicap plot and it would be foolish not to fear him on his second start for a trainer who is a master at targeting his horses for a big day.
The English challenge looks pretty strong in this race with the likes of Long House Hall and Bouvreuil likely to line up. The former ran a massive race to finish a close up fourth in the Skybet Chase at Doncaster having had a monster absence to overcome and with the promise of improvement with a run under his belt he is definitely one to take seriously especially considering he was a close second to Diamond King in the 2016 Coral Cup. Paul Nicholls’ Bouvreuil isn’t the most reliable and hasn’t won a race since January 2016 but his Festival form figures read 223 and he was under eight lengths behind Road To Respect last year over fences and that horse is a massive twenty-two pounds higher in the handicap now.
Willie Mullins is a dangerous man to write off at the Festival in any race and although he has never actually won a handicap chase at the showpiece of the jumps season he looks to have a live chance with Dublin Racing Festival winner Patrick’s Park. He was given a masterful ride by the excellent Rachael Blackmore to swoop late and pick up the Henry De Bromhead trained Three Stars with Tully East back in third, that was only his second start for the champion trainer so there could well be plenty more improvement to come and he should be very carefully considered.
Le Prezien has been called plenty of names by plenty of punters during his career for Paul Nicholls but it is hard to argue he has some high class form to his name and a strongly run two and a half miles on decent enough ground at Cheltenham might be exactly what he needs to finally fulfill his clear potential. He was heavily backed for a handicap at this course in October and only went down by a neck to the game front-running Foxtail Hill before jumping poorly and still being beaten only two and three quarter lengths in the BetVictor Gold Cup. He was very disappointing on his third visit to Cheltenham this season in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup when beaten a long way but the ground was testing that day and he probably didn’t enjoy himself, if he can iron out some jumping flaws he would be in with a fair chance of getting close but whether he will go through with his effort is anyone’s guess.
Only a few days to go until the Festival and you can view all our antepost previews and tips on our Cheltenham Festival tips section now!