Paddy Power Handicap Chase (Fairlawne Chase – Grade 3): Ex Patriot Far Too Big in Fairlawne

Paddy Power Handicap Chase (Fairlawne Chase – Grade 3): Ex Patriot Far Too Big in Fairlawne

2.00 Cheltenham

We’re looking to get 2020 off to the best possible start with a win in the Fairlawne Chase, as it was once known, and with just twelve of them declared this time our job has in theory been made easier than it should have been.

Still, we needed to whittle the field down as we do and we’ve come up with what we think are better half of the declared runners, all six of the below runners standing some kind of chance of nabbing the £39,000 first prize.


Venetia Williams’ entrant is slowly and steadily improving, even after 15 chase starts, with his best form to date not only being last time out but also over this course and distance and on soft ground to boot.

Those facts make Cepage a solid candidate for sure, but as a horse running very well without winning and going up in the handicap, it’s hard to make a case for him having much if anything in hand on the handicap and in races such as this, that remains the main focus for us from a betting point of view.

Ex Patriot

Now this is a very interesting runner from the Irish-based yard of Ellmarie Holden.  The six-year-old is just 6 races into his chasing career, clearly some way from reaching his best yet, and has certainly not been clamped by the handicapper.

Nothing in his profile suggests this course and distance should be a problem while the ground is certainly to his liking, in fact his two best performances have come over 2m6f and 2m2f with this in between distance probably being perfect and leading to a new career best.

If that career best comes, which we expect it to, it would make Ex Patriot the best handicapped horse in the race and in Derek O’Connor he has a partner up top who knows his way around Prestbury Park which counts for plenty.


A former leading fancy for the Arkle and subsequent winner of a 2m4f Grade One over Grand National weekend, his class is not in doubt.  Kalashnikov has started off with two seconds this season, the latter of which at Newbury could have been a win were it not for Amy Murphy’s charge losing a shoe, and he should be able to run to or near his best around here.

The fact that he carries top weight in this race is a little concerning, purely because others may be coming from under the radar and be better weighted, and it’s only that fact that stops us backing him to get his head in front.


Long time ante post favourite for the Arkle and, much like Kalashnikov, another solid contender.  Having returned with a fair fourth in the Haldon Gold Cup and with some new headgear to help him along, a return to form to some degree is expected for a horse who let’s not forget has only been seen five times over fences.

He could yet be top class, but it’s definitely in our heads that his best form to date has been not just over two miles, but also on good ground making today’s test look very different indeed.

Poker Play

Based on hurdle form we’d say this horse could be very well treated, his speed figures for winning over 2m4f on heavy ground as recently as March looking impressive.

Over fences we haven’t seen what he can really do yet and while that in theory makes him dangerous, he is also an unknown quantity and not too safe as a betting proposition.  If money comes for David Pipe’s horse though, do take note.

Saint Calvados

Reaching a new level when winning around here in October, Saint Calvados has to be considered however his two-mile form may not translate to this longer distance and he was beaten fair and square last time having gone up in the handicap.


Poker Play is, if you pardon the pun, the joker in the pack and is a more than fair price to reach a place, while the solid one all things considered is definitely Grade 1 winner Kalashnikov who should put up another solid show.

Given that by our reckoning he could be the best handicapped horse in the race and his trainer is willing to travel to prove the same point, the general 14/1 available at the time of writing about EX PATRIOT is just too big and he’s worth a bet.

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