2021 Cheltenham Festival – Skeltons Can Land Paddy Power Plate

Horses stream over the fence at the Cheltenham FestivalHorses stream over the fence at the Cheltenham Festival

Paddy Power Plate Chase Tips

It’s always difficult identifying handicap plots at this stage, but Lewis Tomlinson has tried his best to find the winner of the renamed Paddy Power Plate, which takes place on Day 3 of the Cheltenham festival.

Paddy Power Plate Overview

The Plate was the Festival’s strongest handicap last season, with a minimum rating of 140 needed to cement a place in the lineup. After the removal of the novice handicap over a similar trip and Envoi Allen’s presence likely scaring some away from the Marsh, it’s easy to see this race being even stronger again this year, and it’s not unfeasible to suggest that this  race won’t be a mile away from the Grand National in terms of the season’s strongest handicap.

Plate Contenders – Chantry House

Three of the last four renewals of the race have fallen to novices, and the current market is headed by one this year in the shape of Chantry House (8-1). Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old has still only had two starts over fences – a scheduled third at Exeter last weekend fell victim to frost- and was soundly beaten on his most recent outing here back in December.

He’s clearly got the raw ability to be better than a handicapper, having finished third in last season’s Supreme, but lack of experience in this sort of race must be a concern and he’s yet to meet more than three rivals over fences. Whilst he certainly took part in a rough-and-ready race at the Festival last season, I’d still consider him to be being thrown in at the deep end if he lined up here after only one good run in this discipline. He looks to have too many questions to answer for my liking.

Protektorat

Has impressed with his jumping this season and is undoubtedly on the fringes of being a Graded-quality novice chaser but might find life easier here than taking on Envoi Allen in the Marsh. Though he’s unproven outside of small fields over fences, I don’t think his opening mark of 152 looks harsh, and his form at this course is generally very solid. If the Skelton team opt to run here, he’d definitely merit a place on the shortlist.

Espoir De Romay

One who could be particularly well handicapped is the Kim Bailey-trained Espoir De Romay. He hails from a yard who have enjoyed success in this race previously through 2015 winner Darna, and though Espoir De Romay has a very different profile, I can also see him going well here.

The seven-year-old has still only had seven career starts, the standout of those being his seven-length second behind the now-166 rated Gold Cup contender Royale Pagaille at Haydock in early December. Espoir De Romay was conceding 5lb to the winner that day, and had a pair of fairly useful types finished well behind him. Given how strong the formline with Royale Pagaille now looks, his current OR of 140 could be incredibly lenient if he’s pitched into a handicap here.

Chatham Street Lad

The Irish challenge could be spearheaded by former Ladbroke Hurdle winner Off You Go, (12-1) who gained a second Dublin Racing Festival success earlier this month and Chatham Street Lad (12-1), who tore the Caspian Caviar field apart here back in December, and was far from disgraced when dropped back down in trip to two miles at Fairyhouse last month. A similar level of performance to what he produced on his last Cheltenham would see him cope with his 10lb rise, and he’s certainly got a chance for popular trainer Mick Winters.

Conflated

Farclas took the Triumph back in 2018 and he’s shaped well over fences this season, running good races in three competitive handicaps on all three outings, whilst the same connections’ Conflated showed up well in some good novice chases early in the season and would be an interesting contender on his handicap debut.

Dickie Diver

Dickie Diver (11-1) is reportedly bound for the National Hunt Chase, and that race could also be a possibility for impressive Thyestes winner Coko Beach (14-1). This trip looks on the sharp side for both, and I’d be inclined to suggest there are other Festival races which are more suitable.

Paddy Power Plate Big-Race Verdict

PROTEKTORAT looked borderline Graded class when winning here back in November, impressing particularly with the way he found another gear as the runner-up ranged beside. His accurate jumping is another positive, and he looks the stand-out contender to me at this stage. If Protektorat is engaged elsewhere, Espoir De Romay looks a potential handicap blot and he too looks to hold a strong chance.