It’s a given that the vast majority of big scorers of the Tote Ten To Follow Cheltenham Mini Game will come from the seven Grade 1 Bonus Races in the competition, but that doesn’t mean players should neglect the handicaps.
Last season’s overall competition saw some huge scores from the likes of Pic D’Orhy and Indefatigable, when winning the final race at last year’s Festival, running in handicap company.
With hundreds of horses entered in an array of handicaps across the week, we’ve picked out five horses that are worth considering.
It’ll be touch and go as to whether Tom Gretton’s gelding squeaks into the Ultima on day one of the Festival, but if he does, he’s no forlorn hope.
The 10-year-old stayed on strongly for fourth in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup over 2m4f at Cheltenham in December, relishing the climb up the hill. He was also a latecomer to the party when sent off an SP of 100/1 when rallying for second in the Peterborough Chase last season.
This step up in trip looks likely to suit him, and with a strong pace almost certain, he’ll have something to aim at coming up the Prestbury Park hill.
Call Me Lord
Nicky Henderson has won the Coral Cup four times in the past 20 years, more than any other trainer, including victory in the race for the last two seasons.
Simon Munir and Isaac Souede’s gelding is a previous course winner, having landed the International Hurdle at Cheltenham two seasons ago. While his form hasn’t been quite so hot recently, the fact that none of the last 20 winners of the Coral Cup had won more than once in their victorious season does allay those fears somewhat.
He had a wind op before his most recent run, when fourth in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell, and if coming on for that run he could be interesting off a 10lb lower mark than when third in the Imperial Cup on his last handicap outing.
Duc Des Genievres
Another with that all-important course form, this striking grey was a winner of the Arkle when trained by Willie Mullins in 2018.
He’s since been switched to the care of Paul Nicholls, but has continued to show his best form at the Gloucestershire venue, very nearly taking the scalp of last season’s Arkle heroine Put The Kettle On at the start of the season.
While he’s likely to be towards the top of the weights, now rated 158, the trends do point to the classier type, with each winner in the past two decades having previously contested a Grade 1 or Grade 2 - he could be a dark horse for glory and some all important Ten To Follow points.
Another Nicholls’ inmate worth considering for the handicaps is the aforementioned Pic D’Orhy who racked up an impressive score of 119 points when taking out the Betfair Hurdle last term.
He’s entered in the County Hurdle, the only handicap that is a Bonus Race, at the Festival and could be dangerous reverting back to the smaller obstacles, after a stuttering start to his chasing career.
Narrowly denied by stablemate Rockadenn over timber at Taunton recently, he would be running in the race off a mark just 4lb higher than when scoring at Newbury last season. With murmurings of a Champion Hurdle bid after that success, you’d have to expect him to be able to overcome a mark of 150.
Beat The Judge
If there’s one thing that Gary Moore’s gelding has looked like needing in recent runs, it’s a step up in trip. Josh Moore has been hard at work on the gelding turning for home in both his handicap runs at Cheltenham this season, before the six-year-old opts to stick on well for third.
That form behind Rouge Vif and Magic Saint is pretty solid form, and with both outings coming at Prestbury Park, he clearly goes well at the track.
He’s had a run in a jumpers bumper in the winter to keep him ticking over, and with a potential step up in trip in the Plate on the Thursday of the Festival, he’s one to take note of.
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