Just minutes after posting yesterdays blog, the twitter rumour went round that MONALEE was missing the Ryanair Chase and heading for the Gold Cup. Honestly, the only reason that I can think of taking the possible fav for the Ryanair Chase out of a race that he might well win and entering the Cheltenham Gold Cup which he almost certainly won't win is to give the owner the kudos of being in the paddock before the premier race of the festival.
This morning, the 48hrs declarations came out for the opening day of the Festival, and with this information in mind, I am taking an in-depth look at the Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f to be run on Tuesday.
One of the best handicap chases of the season, we have 24 runners going to post and it is difficult to discount any of them. Since 2001, of the 17 winners, 8 have been "last-time-out" (LTO) winners. The "mean" number of days since that previous race for winners of this handicap is 30 days - so it is very important that your selection has had a recent run, and a good one at that. Horses aged 9yo or older are 2 wins from 102 runners in the past 10 years, whereas those aged 7yo & 8yo are 7 wins from 100 runners - last years winner COO STAR SIVOLA was the only 6yo winner.
I avoid horses which last ran before Christmas Day this season, as it is very difficult to win top competitive races at the Festival off such a long break - not impossible, but very difficult. That rules our COO STAR SIVOLA (88 days), NOBLE ENDEAVOUR (94 days), BIG RIVER (86 days) and SINGLEFARMPAYMENT (88 days).
Horses with more than 15 chase runs are probably too exposed to win a handicap as competitive as this, so that rules out SIZING CODELCO (23 runs), ROYAL VACATION (15 runs), CALIPTO (16 runs), VINTAGE CLOUDS (15 runs), GENERAL PRINCIPLE (18 runs), FLYING ANGEL (17 runs), and CATAMARAN DU SEUIL (16 runs) .
Those horse's that remain, let's look at in some detail:-
LAKE VIEW LAD: won LTO (prestigious Rowland Meyrick handicap chase at Warwick on Boxing Day), and up 8lb to OR155 will need a career-best effort (capable of being involved in the Gold Cup) to win this race.
O O Seven: Only 1 win from 6 chase races at 3-mile, his best form is around 2m5f.
MINELLA ROCCO: was 2nd in 2017 Gold Cup, but not shown similar form since and it's a leap of faith to consider him a likely winner.
ACTIVIAL: Well beaten on only attempt at 3-mile as a novice chaser, and didn't stay on both attempts at 3-mile as a hurdler.
MISTER WHITAKER: never run beyond 2m5f before, not sure this is the right race to find out if he stays beyond 3-mile.
BEWARE THE BEAR: ran 4th in this race last year off OR150, races off OR151 and won LTO when in 1st-time blinkers he made all over 3m2f (6 of the last 7 winners of this race wore headgear) and with blinkers applied again, he can run a major race. He's 20/1 with Bet365.
MAGIC OF LIGHT: Probably will stay this 3m1f trip but handicap mark of OR149 looks tough.
CRUCIAL ROLE: Only 4 chase races, a 3-mile hurdle winner and won LTO over extended 2m6f on 25Feb, however he is prone to bleeding.
UP FOR REVIEW: Won a Grade 2 novice hurdle on 31Dec15, and was top-class novice hurdler in 2015-16. Injured for 2 years, was highly tried novice chaser last Spring (2018) and was only beaten by Grade 1 novice chasers at Fairyhouse last April. Off a long break, ran a great race to be 3rd in Thyestes Chase on 24Jan and looks on decent mark of OR148. Currently 14/1 with Bet365.
GIVE ME A COPPER: Only had 3 chase runs, and 2 were in 2017 before returning off an 18 month break to run 4th on 02Feb over 3-mile. That form wasn't great and he needs to find 15lb to be involved in this, but trainer Paul Nicholls talks a good race!
WILLIE BOY: Did not look a 3-mile chaser when beaten on his 1st attempt at the trip LTO and OR145 looks a tough rating for him.
SHANTOU VILLAGE: Hasn't looked like a 3-mile chaser (beaten both attempts) and best at 2m5f.
OLDGRANGEWOOD: Run once (at Aintree) over 3m1f, and the soft ground probably beat him that day. So long as the ground isn't soft, he could well run a big race as he looks to have been prepared for this race. Currently he's 40/1 with BetVictor.
My shortlist of 3 is:-
BEWARE THE BEAR @ 20/1
UP FOR REVIEW @ 14/1
OLDGRANGEWOOD @ 40/1
And I've placed wagers on all three.
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Sunday, 10 March 2019
Cheltenham 2019 - 2 days to go - ULTIMA CHASE H'cap
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