Another day, another hugely competitive Cheltenham Festival handicap but they are not totally unpredictable and we’ve already landed some big successes this week.
One of them was with Kim Bailey’s Imperial Aura who won the Listed novices’ handicap in really good style on Tuesday, and his form ties in closely with a key runner in this year’s Stable Plate.
Plenty of these are handicapped very close to each other by our reckoning, a tip of the cap then to the assessors, but one does stand out on paper and gets the verdict among the six we’ve plucked from the 24-strong field.
Third to A Plus Tard in the novices’ Listed handicap at last year’s festival on the Old Course, this seems to be his trip and ground and he’s only a pound higher in the ratings this time.
He has a lot in his favour then but on balance, given that he was beaten 21 lengths last year despite his podium finish, he is perhaps just not as good around here as elsewhere and so there’s no way to say for sure that he’ll put in his absolute best performance.
Deyrann De Carjac
A first handicap chase and only a fifth run over the bigger obstacles for Alan King’s seven-year-old, it would be some performance for him to win but on the balance of his form he has to have place claims.
Third here in the Dipper over the course and distance, neither the terrain nor the fences are set to cause any problems but his good run in that grade means he’s probably not that well handicapped for this race.
Not Another Muddle
Having been off for almost a year any punter would be taking a huge chance in backing this horse, but Gary Moore’s charge will have been prepared well and on the handicap is certainly in there pitching.
Fifth in the Grand Annual last year, Cheltenham holds no fears for this nine-year-old but a prep run would have been ideal at the risk of sounding old fashioned and so while he has an each-way chance, he’s passed over for win purposes.
Robin Des Foret
A ten-year-old now and probably not getting any better, the positives are that he represents Willie Mullins and Paul Townend and is in the form of his life, so has to be at least considered.
He’s been beaten fair and square at Leopardstown the last twice but was a good third over this course and distance on soft ground in December and might just be a couple of lengths better this time which offers hope.
Simply The Betts
Three seasonal wins out of four for a seven-year-old tends to suggest good improvement, and certainly that upward trajectory was highlighted well by his win over the track and trip from Tuesday’s impressive winner Imperial Aura in a race that is working out incredibly well.
Furthermore, he wasn’t great when losing out at Kempton but at Chepstow, Newcastle and here he was eye-catching meaning he clearly loves more of a test and he’ll certainly get it around this course and in this company.
A close second in very similar races here this season already, he is very solid especially for each-way backers with the only downside being that his runner-up efforts have highlighted that he is not necessarily ahead of his opposition in these conditions and he isn’t coming down in the handicap.
When assessing this race and handicapping it, it would be great to find a big-priced livewire who is perhaps well treated, has a huge liking for the ground or who has been laid out for the race etc.
But, with five of our six (and a few more besides) coming up at within 2lsb of each other on private ratings, it was startling to see SIMPLY THE BETTS so far ahead though on reflection it should not be surprising.
When winning his strong novice handicap in January he beat Imperial Aura, our impressive Listed novice handicap chase winner two days ago, and also On The Slopes (beaten 12½ lengths) who has since come out and won at Kempton.
All being well he definitely looks the one, while of the bunch in behind it may be that Deyrann De Carjac and Spiritofthegames are the ones to concentrate on for place purposes.