After the pros have all done their work for another year it’s down to the conditional jockeys to round off a fantastic Cheltenham Festival 2019 in the £70,000 Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle.
24 runners will go hammer and tongs over 2½ miles in the lucky last, giving us all one last chance of a win and we have managed to carve this field up to leave this particular dirty dozen from which to choose.
The selection is a big improver and could provide yet another winner for a man who has taken Cheltenham by the scruff of the neck in recent times, though he won’t be the only one from the same yard to put up a huge performance and offer a young jockey the chance to shine.
Having won 6 of eight races on the flat for Sir Mark Prescott reaching a mark of 92 on turf and 94 on the all-weather, Gordon Elliott’s recruit seems to have kicked on as expected over hurdles albeit it seems at a glance he has flattened out somewhat of late.
It seems to give his best running over timber he needs plenty of cut in the ground which to a degree he’ll get here, but even having been dropped to a mark of 134 he may need to suddenly pull out a bit more if he’s to go on and win this.
Dallas Des Pictons
Things have clicked for Gordon Elliott’s apparent first choice and he has improved markedly between each of his four hurdle runs to date.
Despite having won on heavy ground when trained in France though, we have to decipher her whether or not his latest and best run came because of the good ground or in spite of it, though the fact that he was all out at the end and had to battle for victory potentially points to the latter and so extra improvement is anticipated in this race under Donagh Meyler.
Reached 93 in eight flat runs and has progressed as that would suggest to today’s hurdle mark of 138 and in having won his latest race easily, there is nothing to suggest he’s done just yet.
Although he hasn’t won a race as competitive as this one yet, he has been relatively successful on varying ground types, in some big fields and was not disgraced behind Aramon in a Grade 3 race at Navan back in November.
Another Gordon Elliott runner and one who seems to have been put in here in case things remained very testing given that his best performance has come over three miles on soft ground.
He’ll be staying on towards the end then but whether he has the pace to lay up with this field and get into a good position when the race gets going in earnest around the turn is anyone’s guess, but as a hurdler who is getting better all the time he stands some sort of a chance.
This horse actually made his handicap debut in this event last year and managed third place, so given that he is only 3lbs higher in the handicap now he has to make the shortlist.
He hasn’t gone on from those days though and was soundly beaten the last twice, albeit behind Apple’s Jade in Grade 1 contests making his current form a little tricky to assess.
The ground not being as heavy as it was yesterday brings this chap right into the equation, given that he’s won on good and handled good to soft pretty well last time out.
He won a novice hurdle at Kempton in January and will no doubt pull out more now he’s in handicap company, so with ground conditions not too bad and the trip and course looking as though they’ll be right up his street he rates a good chance in the race for the Nicky Henderson yard.
With the aforementioned improvement very much expected from his handler’s first choice entrant, Gordon Elliott’s DALLAS DES PICTONS could be the one in what is a brilliantly competitive race to round off the festival.
Elliott, by our calculations at least, could even be on for an amazing 1-2-3 here with Defi Bleu and Cartwight next on the list.