After days of deliberating, the Timeform jumps team emerged from their bunker with 5 key handicappers that could keep you in clover over the four-day marathon.
While Peregrine Run holds an entry for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, he’s a strong traveller at around two and a half miles and the Coral Cup look the race for him at the Festival. especially off a mark of 142.
Whatever Irish trainer Peter Fahey did with Peregrine Run between last May and August was nothing short of miraculous as he’d been beaten a total of 366 lengths in his first six hurdles start (including a handicap) but then won a 20-runner maiden hurdle by 16 lengths.
Peregrine Run also landed his next three outings, including a Grade 2 at Cheltenham in which he beat many people’s idea of the Albert Bartlett winner, Wholestone, before getting stuck in the mud at Warwick. We’ll be backing him to bounce right back.
Ok, so we haven’t dug too deep below the surface to find Diamond King who won the Coral Cup at last year’s Festival.
Thing is, we’re sure he’s on a good chase mark (just 1 lb higher than his equivalent rating over hurdles 12 months ago) for the Brown Advisory Plate and will be backing him accordingly.
Diamond King impressed with his jumping when making a winning chase debut at Galway last October before shaping better than the result in a Grade 1 next time. And Gordon Elliott would love nothing more than to get one over on chief British handicapper Phil Smith.
Neil Mulholland has had more good stayers than The Ritz hotel, and his Southfield Royale could give him more big-race success in the Kim Muir Challenge Cup for amateur riders.
Southfield Royale split Tea For Two and Native River (both set for the Gold Cup) in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase in December 2015 before finishing fourth in the National Hunt Chase at this meeting last term. His return in January was a write-off soon after the tapes went up but the handicapper has been very generous by dropping him 6 lb to a mark of 141.
He’s very well treated on his best form.
There are a number of handicap sliders at the meeting, those that have cascaded down the weights because they’ve been out of form. Many of them will run poorly at the Festival too, but several will spring right back and if we nail the right ones we’ll be laughing.
I never have well-handicapped horses” said Nicky Henderson when asked by a Timeform reporter for his personal handicapper to follow a few seasons ago.
But that’s clearly not true and the 2015 Triumph Hurdle winner Peace And Co could be just that from a mark of 144 in the County Hurdle. Another who fits into the ‘hit or bust’ category is Jonjo O’Neill’s dual Cheltenham Festival winner Holywell. (Ultima Handicap Tuesday 2.50pm).
The Pipe stable has never actually won the Grand Annual, but that could change this year courtesy of Starchitect who was fourth in the 2014 Fred Winter and fifth in the 2016 County Hurdle. The Grand Annual has often gone to a novice and Starchitect is on the same mark (143) for his fourth outing over fences (won on his latest) as when winning a handicap hurdle last May.