Our penultimate handicap betting bonanza for the 2019 Cheltenham Festival is this tremendous old two-mile handicap chase, won in the past by such names as Pearlyman and Edredon Bleu.
There’s over £61,000 to the winner and millions up for grabs in bets around the country on this one, so once more we’ve chiselled the field down to a final six with our selection looking to add to his trainer’s good record in the race.
Brian Ellison is a much underrated trainer and he won’t get many chances to win Cheltenham Fesitval races. He does have a live one here though in the shape of the top weight Forest Bihan who has earned his rating.
A strong, powerful runner who has put in consistently good performances at Wetherby and Doncaster as well as around Cheltenham at the start of the season behind Champion Chase third Sceau Royal, he has plenty in his favour today and cannot be overlooked at a big price.
Given that Brelan D’As is also well fancied in this, carrying the first colours of JP McManus means Le Prezien is pretty highly regarded in the context of this race and so he should be considering he won the race last year.
The ground was actually softer that day and he carries 1lb more this time, so unless he can improve his jumping which let him down last time out at Sandown in February his day in the sun may have come and gone. Not to be discounted though.
Paul Nicholls of course won this last year with the above horse and this one slammed Gino Trail last time out, the horse who in fact was runner-up to Le Prezien twelve months back.
Gino is a 12yo now though and his form alone wouldn’t be a good enough barometer, but there is nothing wrong with what the improving Magic Saint did last time and despite his French breeding it seems he may appreciate the fact that this ground isn’t coming up bottomless now.
A busy enough seven-year-old with five chase runs to his name, all this season, he hasn’t progressed an awful lot since his debut second at Galway and probably needs this easier going compared to what he’s had the last twice at Leopardstown over the mild winter.
Conditions in mind then, some improvement can be expected from a horse paid for by one of the biggest operations in the business, trained by a top class handler and ridden by one of the best Ireland has to offer now and for the future in Rachael Blackmore.
Not Another Muddle
The Moore’s haven’t been as prominent as we could have expected going into this year’s festival, but they have one in with a shout here in the eight-year-old Kayf Tara gelding Not Another Muddle.
He has three wins from 4 chases to his name now with his form reaching a new level at Sandown last time out where he beat Darebin in good style, albeit it was expected. Across his whole career to date he’s only ever run on soft ground, but even with conditions drying a little this Cheltenham test should get the best out of him.
Nicky Henderson has done precious little wrong at this festival and, despite his smiley demeanour, he does it all under the great pressure of expectation given the size and scope of his yard.
Having won his last two races against no sort of opposition and looking a little unfurnished, it’s hard to get to grips with this one’s form and his true ability but that is no bad thing. It simply means there is more likely much more to come from him and often when faced with a bigger field and a faster pace, it comes tumbling out.
When every possible scenario is taken into equation we’ve found this to be very close between a couple of contenders, namely Not Another Muddle of Gary Moore’s yard and MAGIC SAINT of Paul Nicholls with the latter just preferred.
There has been a shift in recent years from lower weighted horses winning this to the classier types doing better, so his mark of 149 and weight of 11st8lbs doesn’t bother us.
Magic Saint has been improving without perhaps ever really getting his conditions or without being faced with a stern enough test to show his best, two things he’ll get today, making him the shout ahead of the Moore horse and perhaps Whatswrongwithyou.