Cheltenham tips: Paddy Power’s best-backed runners ahead of the Festival

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*Odds quoted on the widget are Non Runner Money Back prices which means that if your selection does not run in the race for whatever reason – you’ll get your stake back

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TUESDAY, MARCH 15 – ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE

Anyone impressed with DISCORDANTLY‘s brilliant jumping in Sunday’s 2m 5f handicap chase at Leopardstown can back him for Tuesday’s handicap or the Kim Muir, safe in the knowledge that Paddy’s Non Runner Money Back terms on all Festival races means, they’ll get their hard-earned back if he doesn’t line up for one of these longer heats.

However, while connections might think their decision to drop the winner back in trip from 3m last time was what made the difference, they might be faced with a tricky conundrum as it might have been the first-time cheekpieces that made the difference and the distance is immaterial.

He was far from disgraced in last season’s Ultima when sixth to Vintage Clouds and his other previous Festival appearance wasn’t too bad either when eighth in the 2019 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle considering the vet said he lost his right hind shoe.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16 – GRAND ANNUAL HANDICAP CHASE

BUN DORAN secured his first success since December 2019 when landing a 2m handicap chase at Doncaster on Saturday and was slashed for the Grand Annual that he finished runner-up to Croco Bay that same year.

However, he wasn’t winning out of turn as he’d only just been touched off by Gunsight Ridge in a similar event at Sandown in January and the handicapper had given him a chance dropping him 3lb since. An initial look at his running in the Grand Annual last year would probably put punters off, but the former Queen Mother Champion Chase third was rated well over 14lb better then and he now definitely deserves to take his chance.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16 – CORAL CUP

WHISKEY SOUR kept himself in contention for both Wednesday’s handicap and the County Hurdle after comfortably justifying odds-on favouritism in a hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday by a long-looking 15 lengths.

This was the first time that he had entered the winner’s enclosure since being a tremendously fortunate winner of the top-class Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at the same venue in 2017, when after making no impression on the leading pair in third, the front two both took a tumble at the final obstacle.

It’s almost amazing that he hasn’t got his head in front since then as he’s also decent on the Flat finishing third in the 2019 Chester Cup. There was little doubt that he was suited by the conditions of Sunday’s contest, but a close third on his last start in the Grade 3 Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas in January would indicate that he could make his presence felt in a Cheltenham handicap.

THURSDAY, MARCH 17 – FULKE WALWYN KIM MUIR CHALLENGE CUP

Shrewd Venetia Williams weighed up whether to run CHAMBARD before the handicap weights came out last week or sit and wait and try and win and get a 5lb penalty afterwards and her decision was rewarded in no uncertain terms with victory in a novices’ limited handicap chase at Huntingdon on Sunday.

The win now gives the 10-year-old a good chance of getting in one of the Festival handicaps and our traders took the knife to his price in this 3m 2f event.

A wind operation in the summer really seems to have worked the oracle with this fella as he’s now won three and finished second twice this term, going up from a handicap mark of 110 to 129 in the process, and at the moment there seems no limits to his progression.

FRIDAY, MARCH 18 – COUNTY HURDLE

Last year’s Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso winner The Shunter followed up at Cheltenham in the Paddy Power Plate and canny Brian Ellison will attempt to repeat the trick, albeit in this this time, with Saturday’s Morebattle hero CORMIER.

Ellison revealed afterwards that his charge used to be very keen, but he’s amended his ways and he’s certainly interesting for the County as we know he acts at the track having also won there on his penultimate start in another handicap hurdle.

The winner was also cut for the Coral Cup, but his handler was adamant the County Hurdle was the one, with part owner Dan Gilbert living across the road from Cheltenham.

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