“Keep calm and carry on”. That was sage advice in 1939 and remains so to this day. Granted the war did happen but there’s no point us worrying about Cheltenham being on, until it isn’t. This is normally the time I throw my eye over the handicaps.
This year will be no different. I’m tipping under the impression that we will be dealing with soft ground. Weather is tricky to forecast long term but the best guess is there will be plenty of rain in the run up to, and indeed during, the four days.
As mentioned in a previous piece, Cerberus is a strong fancy for the Fred Winter. He subsequently got the mark of 140 I was hoping for. Sadly, his trainer recently suggested that the horse was going for the Triumph. I say sadly, but it’s hard to crib someone going for the big prize. I do think Cerberus would go off favourite for the Fred Winter were he to turn up. If there is a change of heart NRNB punters would be sitting on a nice ticket.
On to horses that will run in handicaps. First up is Dream Berry in the Pertemps Final on the Wednesday. He’s also in the Coral Cup but I’m fairly sure he’ll pitch up in the longer race. This horse looked to be going places a couple of seasons ago. He was a close second in valuable handicaps at the Aintree and Punchestown festivals. He then finished seventh on seasonal bow in the 2018 Martin Pipe in Cheltenham.
The fact he hadn’t run beforehand would suggest the horse had physical issues that season. He certainly had them subsequently. He fell on his chase debut in the autumn of 2018. He then reverted to hurdles the following month only to blow out in Aintree. He wasn’t seen again until last December. Sent off 16/1, he was a big eye catcher on the day. He travelled better than anything.
A combination of the layoff and heavy ground probably blunted his finishing kick. He was a close second, though in fairness would only have finished third but for another runner’s misfortune. The handicapper stuck him up a couple of pounds for that run.
That still means he will compete from a mark five pounds lower than his Martin Pipe run. He’s far from exposed, and has had a better prep this time around. I’m assuming that they put him away after Sandown to protect his mark. That’s a big assumption I suppose but 20/1 is a big price.
The Kim Muir closes out the card on Wednesday. I like The Kings Writ. Unfortunately, in his last four starts, this horse has managed to climb from a mark of 130 to 141 without winning. Not ideal for a handicapper I know.
My hunch is he’s still on a competitive mark though and a stamina-test like the Kim Muir will be right up his street. I’m fairly convinced his last couple of runner up efforts represent strong form. The winners haven’t excelled subsequently but I think there were valid excuses.
I also like the fact that he has been partnered by an amateur on those two runs.
I imagine Mr Joshua Newman will retain the ride. That should be useful in a race where plenty of the pilots will have limited knowledge of their rides. The Kings Writ is a super jumper. The ground can’t be soft enough for him, and he looks a horse with bottomless stamina. He probably isn’t the best handicapped horse in the race.
Those three factors I mentioned could prove big equalisers though. At 25/1 he looks a solid each way play.
Articulum cost me a few quid last week in Naas. He ran pretty well though behind the talented Any Second Now. That race was over two miles. Articulum just got tapped for toe at a vital stage. He jumped well though and that could prove important going forward. He had failed to complete on his previous three starts. He will run in the Brown Advisory on the same day off a mark of 150.
Thursday’s Ryanair Chase is an option but connections will surely prefer to compete in a race they can win. The extended two and a half mile trip is probably optimal and the horse will be one of the classier acts on show here. This was a race where I struggled to find well handicapped horses. Articulum relishes deep ground.
He was third in the Arkle last season, albeit beaten a fair distance in the end. That still represents decent form. He’s building towards a peak effort. 20/1 represents fair value that he produces it here.
Finally to the County Hurdle on the final day. Soviet Pimpernel gets in here off a mark of 142. That’s probably reasonable given his potential. The only blip in an upwardly mobile career came in the Royal Bond in Fairyhouse. That day his normally slick jumping abandoned him. He bounced back in Limerick over Christmas.
The form of his luckless second in Cheltenham last October has been well advertised since. He’s an ideal type for this race. He’s a strong traveller and effortless jumper. Those attributes should carry him deep into the race. My hunch is he will prove a 150 horse in time. The 14/1 about him having himself a time on Friday week looks more than fair.
*Prices and entries are subject to change but are all part of Paddy Power’s non runner money back offer.