The maximum 24 runners head to post for the Ultima, a race worth £70,000 to the winner as the Cheltenham Festival gets into full swing.
The field is tasked with taking on 20 fences around the Old Course over a trip of 3 miles and a furlong, with bookies going around 8/1 the field for what is one of the toughest races of the meeting to solve.
We’ve whittled things down to these six runners, all of which we think can go well:
Andrew Lynch’s Ben Dundee is a ten-year-old now and hasn’t won for some time. But he makes our list having reached arguably his best level ever on his second outing for this yard when running second of 28 in a €180,000 race at Leopardstown over Christmas.
In fact, he was only headed in the closing yards of that race and if he can replicate that run then he is in with a fine each-way chance under Danny Mullins.
Lucinda Russell made a successful raid with Corach Rambler over on the New Course back in December.
Backed all the way in to 2/1 favourite for a strong novices’ handicap chase, Corach Rambler jumped well that day over this very trip and had plenty left at the line as he won by two lengths.
The runner-up has won easily since, while Corach Rambler was unfortunate to unseat five from home in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase last month, an event for which he was favourite.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner hasn’t been mentioned as many times in the racing media as we might have thought in relation to this race.
An easy chasing debut winner at Lingfield back in November, he stayed three miles very well from the off and it’s obvious he won’t be lacking for stamina when push comes to shove in this race.
Third in the Dipper here on New Year’s Day, Fantastikas held on well for another Lingfield victory last time out in preparation for today, a win achieved arguably in spite of the heavy ground rather than because of it.
He may go forward again from that run and doesn’t look to be handicapped out of this off a mark of 144.
Although still a very backable price, Floueur has been the one for money on the eve of the Festival and it could be that the 3lbs claimed by Jordan Gainford could make the difference.
Third to Death Duty last time, Floueur was a good winner before that over 2m5½f against 15 rivals and that is all form that makes him a leading contender in this race.
Last time out he was beaten seven lengths, but that was on heavy ground over 3½ miles with this slightly speedier test looking right up his street.
Noble Yeats began his chasing career last October with a win, and while he hasn’t gone in since in five runs, he has continued to improve.
Horses like that can often be well handicapped, owing to the fact that a couple of wins would have clearly led to the assessors taking a different view of his rating.
Emmet Mullins’ runner was a good second in the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby last time out and it would appear good to soft ground and the 3m1f trip look to be ideal for him.
Tom Lacey’s runner Tea Clipper is absolutely the most fascinating contender in our opinion.
Based on his most recent form, two runs in which he has been beaten by an aggregate of 73 lengths, he would appear to be a no-hoper here but a closer look reveals plenty of positives.
Whatever it is that’s been stopping him lately may well have been rectified. First-time headgear is applied and he has also had a breathing operation to help him out.
Based on his debut chase back in October in fact, the seven-year-old could be very well handicapped indeed.
On dry ground, Tea Clipper was backed into 11/4 joint-favourite at Chepstow and he justified that when jumping really well and staying on strongly to beat Fidelio Vallis.
Based on private ratings, speed figures and the subsequent form of one challenger from that day, Tea Clipper starts to look potentially like a mid-150’s horse but gets in here off just 145.
It would be no surprise to see Floueur run well, while if Fantastikas appreciates this better ground he too is a massive danger.
Corach Rambler is a proper contender too, but it could be that TEA CLIPPER is well treated and certainly won’t be lacking for jumping ability.