One of the great betting races of the festival; the Ultima is a race I love to target and I managed to find the winner in Beware The Bear in 2019 (tipped at 20/1 on the Sunday before the race) and The Conditional in 2020. The race requires stamina, pace, and usually a progressive profile. Last year, the 11yo Vintage Clouds threw all the trends in the bin to make-all and win; so use trends wisely - they are not the be all & end all. Vintage Clouds won because he was well handicapped after a couple of poor runs, and his trainer capitalized on that by getting him back to his peak for one last top race. There was also a lot of horses with unproven stamina, and Vintage Clouds was absolutely guaranteed to stay the trip.
That's what you need to focus on in this race, stamina. That and horses that have shown good form and are improving - 75% of those that finish in the 1st-4 are carrying 11st or more
As of today, there are 41 still entered in the race, but only a maximum field of 24 can run. This year, unusually, the race is dominated by the top-weight, the 2019 Ryanair Chase winner Frodon. To be honest, I don't know why he's in the race as on recent form he is most unlikely to be involved in the finish. This is a big ask - but he's been asked big questions before!
Fury Road on 11st 8lb (OR160) has won a Grade 1 novice chase over 3-miles, but he pulled-up in the Stayers Hurdle last year, and perhaps 3-miles could stretch him - he does look a class horse though, and an 8yo - he ticks a lot of boxes.
The Gold Cup 3rd in 2020, Lostintranslation, is not the horse he once was yet is still runs off OR155. Stamina is not a problem for Does He Know (OR152) but mid-race pace is, and if he runs in this he will be staying-on strong but perhaps too late.
The Jam Man (OR150) last ran in a chase when winning the Troytown National in Nov-20, and has been hurdling since; he needs soft/heavy ground.
That's the top of the handicap done and - if Frodon is a non-runner and the weights go up 4lb - I've looked at those likely to be carrying 11st or more: statistically, the winner is likely to be amongst that bunch. I will look at - in more depth - those who a glance at their form suggests they may be in with a shout.
Fortescue: won LTO, has won 6x at 3-mile and only an 8yo! Most wins on soft/heavy though.
Ben Dundee: last win was 4 years ago. Was unlucky LTO but form has not held-up well from that race.
Noble Yeats: interesting - 2nd LTO in "Towton", trained by Emmet Mullins, watch the betting.
Floueur: interesting, but OR146 looks a tricky rating for one not guaranteed to stay the trip.
Foxy Jacks: not proven at 3-miles.
Doctor Duffy: on best form has a chance, but that form was some time ago.
Tea Clipper: unlikely to stay 3-miles
Fakir D'Alene: unlikely to stay 3-miles.
Death Duty: managed to beat subsequent NH chase winner Rathvinden as a novice, didn't win again for 4 years till LTO, over 3m4f on heavy - and he's11yo. Unlikely to win this.
Fantastikas: LTO winner on heavy, has a win on good-to-soft, stays 3-mile, is on the upgrade - looks an exciting prospect, one for the shortlist.
Vintage Clouds: won this off OR143 last year, and I doubt lightning will strike twice.
Of the remainder:-
Rapper: goes well at Cheltenham (7th of 24 in the 2020 Pertemps Hurdle), stays 3-mile and handles good & good-to-soft ground, OR143 looks a fair rating for this 8yo novice chaser.
Discordantly: 6th off OR142 last year, so unlikely to do better off OR143.
School Boy Hours: finds it difficult to win, has been highly tried. LTO winner but goes best when fresh (200+ days) and not sure if this is too soon a reappearance.
Grumpy Charley: Not guaranteed to stay 3-mile, and OR142 looks tough.
Kiltealy Briggs: interesting novice, but not guaranteed to stay 3-miles.
Full Back: appears to run better in small fields, but he is improving and looks well handicapped. Stamina no problem, but would prefer soft ground.
Corach Rambler: Rating of OR140 looks high for what he's done.
The Wolf: ran 2nd to Full Back at Cheltenham, stamina no problem, but well btn in this race last year.
Run To Milan: all best form at Exeter, not sure he will enjoy Cheltenham.
Farinet: unreliable and not likely to stay 3-miles.
Lord Accord: looks in need of more experience, but stays 3-mile well.
Mindsmadeup: off 122 days which is not a good sign for this 11yo.
All the remainder are well out of the handicap, and are unlikely to be involved if Frodon stays in the race.
That's a shortlist of:-
Fury Road - current best odds 16/1 (William Hill)
Fortescue - best odds 14/1 - best on soft/heavy, will it be too quick for him?
Fantastikas - best odds 10/1
Rapper - best odds 25/1
School Boy Hours - best odds 14/1 (Corals) - is this run too soon after winning LTO?
Full Back - best odds 12/1 - stamina in abundance, may want further than this.
Fury Road @ 16/1 - looks massive odds for a class horse - £5.00 eachway
Rapper @ 25/1 - on the upgrade, he could be very interesting - £5.00 eachway
Fantastikas @ 10/1 - very progressive, and just a 7yo - £5.00 eachway
TOTAL = £30.00 staked
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