Cheltenham Festival Handicaps tips – Five to watch at the Festival

Cheltenham Festival handicap tips.Cheltenham Festival handicap tips.

Brian Healy takes a look at the upcoming Cheltenham Festival and picks out five Cheltenham Festival handicap tips to consider backing throughout the course of the ‘greatest show on turf’.

The Cheltenham Festival which kicks off next Tuesday – assuming Coronavirus doesn’t have other plans – and in addition to a number of Grade One contests that will go to post, there is also some fantastic and competitive handicap action throughout the course of the four days.

With races such as the Ultima Handicap Chase in day one of the Festival, to the Coral Cup and Pertemps Network fina, and even the Grand Annual Chase on the final day, there is plenty to look forward to away from the Cheltenham Championship races and supporting Grade One and Grade Two contests that will unfold during the ‘greatest show on turf’.

Brian Healy looks through the major handicap races going to post throughout the course of the Cheltenham Festival and picks out five horses who could prove to be ahead of their mark in their respective races and could post big performances.

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL HANDICAP TIPS

Ultima Handicap Chase – DISCORAMA (10/1, Paddy Power)
Coral Cup Hurdle – SEMPO (14/1, William Hill)
Pertemps Final Hurdle – ONE FOR THE TEAM (16/1, William Hill)
Brown Advisory Plate – GOOD BOY BOBBY (20/1, William Hill)
Grand Annual Chase – PALOMA BLUE (16/1, Bet365)

ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE


DISCORAMA (10/1, Paddy Power) might improve for a recent wind operation and Paul Nolan’s Saddler Maker gelding could run well back from a break.

The Irish raider boasts some top form as a novice, finishing only a half-length runner-up behind Le Breuil in last season’s National Hunt Chase, after which he chased home Delta Work in a Grade One contest at Punchestown.

Also a runner-up over hurdles during the 2018 Festival when chasing home Blow By Blow in the Martin Pipe Hurdle so he clearly goes well here and he arrives having run three times this term which has resulted in placed efforts at Wexford and Limerick where he was bouncing back from a lesser run in the Troytown Chase.

Third to Easywork last time over hurdles and tackling a woefully inadequate trip in first-time blinkers, he’ll be better served by the return to this longer distance and he could improve having had a wind operation during his time off.

This Cheltenham Festival handicap selection can race from the same mark here as when posting his successive runner-up finishes in novice company and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he were in the shake-up here given he has shown a liking for the Festival atmosphere.

Cheltenham Festival handicap tips. Discorama can run a big race in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Cheltenham Festival handicap tips. Discorama (left) can run a big race in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

CORAL CUP HANDICAP HURDLE


The lightly-raced SEMPO (14/1, William Hill) may lack the experience for what is likely to be a hugely competitive contest; but Joseph O’Brien’s charge has run well on all three starts over hurdles this date and looks a progressive sort who can continue to improve.

The Oscar gelding showed plenty of ability in bumpers last term, winning at Thurles before posting a very creditable sixth in the Champion Bumper behind Envoi Allen where he was beaten around eight lengths.

The Irish raider has finished third or better on all three starts, bettering his finishing position each time and getting off the mark over hurdles at the third attempt when successful at Thurles when last seen out.

He ran out a ready winner that day, scoring by six lengths from Minella Encore and he would be making his handicap debut if turned out here.

Although this Cheltenham Festival handicaps tip also boasts an entry in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, he has been given an initial rating of 142 which could well be within his scope given he remains open to further improvement; while he has experience of big fields in Ireland so this test might not prove too daunting for him.

PERTEMPS NETWORK FINAL HANDICAP HURDLE


Always a hugely competitive contest and ONE FOR THE TEAM (16/1, William Hill) could still be ahead of his mark judging on his latest easy demolition job of Dolphin Square and others at Newbury last month.

Nick Williams’ Shirocco gelding is still unexposed over hurdles with just six starts to date over timber since scoring on his bumper debut at Wincanton back in March 2018. He has finished fourth or better in all starts over timber, culminating in that last-time win and there could be more to come from him.

The handicapper hit him hard for that win, slapping a 12lbs rise in the rating; but he ran out an impressive victor at the Berkshire track and there is likely better still to come from him after just six starts over hurdles.

He’ll need to improve in order to defy what would a rise in class and lack of previous experience at this venue is a slight concern. However, he has shown he can handle undulating tracks with good efforts previously at Warwick and this pick for the Cheltenham Festival handicaps could progress to take a hand in what will surely be an open and competitive renewal of the Pertemps Network Final contest.

Cheltenham Festival handicap tips. One For The Team could run a big race for trainer Nick Williams.

Cheltenham Festival handicap tips. One For The Team could run a big race for trainer Nick Williams.

BROWN ADVISORY & MERRIBELLE STEEL PLATE


It might pay to give another chance to GOOD BOY BOBBY (20/1, William Hill) who perhaps just found Grade One company too much latest when contesting the Scilly Isles’ Novices’ Chase at Sandown in February where the Flemensfirth gelding finished fifth to Itchy Feet.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge ran better than the bare result that day where he held every chance over the second-last before weakening from the final obstacle and finishing tired.

However, he had ran Mister Fisher to less than two lengths here the time before in the Ryman Novices’ Chase and a reproduction of that effort could put him firmly in the mix. He had won the time before at Wetherby, scoring impressively having chased home the smart Brewin’upastorm on his chase debut and there is a suspicion that the seven-year old can post another big run here.

The Cheltenham Festival handicaps tip remains a progressive chaser and this is perhaps more suitable than Grade One company he contested last time although he remains in the entries for the Marsh Novices’ Chase. Should he turn out here then a mark of 146 remains likely remains workable and still unexposed he can go well.

GRAND ANNUAL CHASE


The penultimate race of the Cheltenham Festival could head back to Ireland and PALOMA BLUE (16/1, Bet365) looks to hold solid claims of success having made the frame on all three starts this term.

The Stowaway gelding had won at Leopardstown last term prior to finishing sixth in the Arkle Chase here. He then shaped as if amiss back over hurdles at Punchestown in May prior to having a break.

He has twice finished runner-up this term over fences, latterly beaten only two lengths by Eclair De Beaufeu – who could reoppose – at Leoardstown in February. That was a creditable run as he was trying to give the winner 12lbs and he was a shade unlucky having been bumped and hampered over the final obstacle which robbed him of some momentum on landing.

He could still have the scope to defy a 5lbs rise in the ratings and the Cheltenham Festival handicaps tip showed that day that a return to two miles held no fears having been campaigned over further in his previous chase outings. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the mix in the penultimate race of the Cheltenham Festival.

Cheltenham Festival handicap tips. Paloma Blue can win the Grand Annual.

Cheltenham Festival handicap tips. Paloma Blue can win the Grand Annual.