Cheltenham Festival handicaps are always competitive affairs. It is therefore essential that you have something up your sleeve to put you ahead of the handicapper come March.
Jamie Snowden believes there is more to come from his progressive novice chaser Kiltealy Briggs, who has had one festival race in mind all year. “The Ultima has always been the plan this season,” said Snowden. “He won nicely up at Haydock and ran really well in the Kauto Star. We gave him a flu vaccination and a bit of time to rest after that.”
He beat a subsequent winner in the shape of Mint Condition at Haydock before performing admirably behind the potential superstars Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor at Kempton over Christmas, finishing well clear of the fourth placed horse. Despite looking outclassed in graded company, his trainer looks fully vindicated in aiming him for a handicap in which he has a great shout.
There is plenty of evidence to justify Snowden’s confidence as four of the last ten winners of the Ultima Handicap Chase have been the same age as Kiltealy Briggs (eight). Snowden has plenty of faith in his charge’s ability to clear his obstacles: “He’ll undoubtedly have a bit more weight in the Ultima now, but he jumps like a seasoned handicapper and ran well at the festival last March. He’s a second-season novice, which has helped him this year.” Snowden added: “His jumping will undoubtedly be a huge asset as a furious gallop is almost guaranteed which emphasises the importance of accurate and fast jumping.”
Kiltealy Briggs did well to win over an inadequate trip after a small break last weekend which should bring him on nicely to ensure he hits peak form on the big day as he explained: “We needed to get a run into him before the Ultima and his owners [the McNeill family] like having runners at Musselburgh. He stepped back in trip on better ground but got away with it, and the step back up to three miles will help. It was a gritty performance after the last.”
Providing all goes to plan between now and March, he looks like a great each-way shout at an attractive 20-1 with plenty to like about him, and there could well be more to come from this progressive looking gelding.
If you back any of our selections you can watch them live on the free Racing Post app or racingpost.com. Simply log in to one of your bookmaker accounts and click ‘Watch live’ on the racecards.