The Fred Winter is a Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle race for Juveniles (Four-year-olds), and is run around 2m½f on day two (14th March 2018) of the Cheltenham Festival. Last year Flying Tiger beat Divin Bere in a close finish, with Diego Du Charmil winning the season before.
16:50 – Grade 3 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle 2m½f
The Fred Winter entries were announced today (22/02/18) for The Festival, and I was happy to learn that among them was my main fancy for the race. Mitchouka has had a lot of racing this season, placing three times and winning on another three occasions. When last seen at Fairyhouse he won a Hurdle race in great style, beating stablemate Veneer Of Charm by eight lengths. The Gordon Elliot charge looked very polished that day, cruising through the race and effortlessly putting it to bed. Prior to this, Mitchouka had been running closely behind the smart Espoir D’Allen, who sadly won’t make the trip over to Prestbury Park. The JP McManus charge won comfortably by 4½ lengths in their first meeting, before reopposing at Leopardstown in a Grade 2. This time the Gigginstown four-year-old got within 2½ lengths, despite finishing in 3rd with the promising Farclas between the aforementioned pair. This form looks good enough to have a crack at the Grade 1 Tirumph Hurdle, let alone the weaker handicap route. Davy Russell has partnered this Juvenile on all six career starts so far, and is likely to do so again this weekend in a Grade 3 Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse (also entered at Naas on Sunday). The only worry about this engagement for me would be if he wins too impressively and goes for the Triumph or Supreme, however trainer Gordon Elliot said earlier in the week that this race is his main target.
“My preference if he runs [at Cheltenham] would be the Fred Winter.”
– Gordon Elliot
If Mitchouka goes for the Fred Winter then he will undoubtedly have a big weight to carry, with Style De Garde 137 and Act Of Valour 136 the closest on ratings. This wouldn’t worry me as Divin Bere was only beaten a neck off 139 in last year’s renewal, and our selection has much stronger form going into the race. It will be a challenge from almost guaranteed top weight, however Gordon Elliot has a lot of talented claimers at his disposal if they were to be required. Another clear benefit is that the horse has ran well on good to soft ground, and this in combination with his ability to travel through a race will stand him in good stead for this Cheltenham test.
If taking up one of his engagements this weekend, a win will see his price slashed in all the races that he holds entries, so getting on now using the Non-Runner No Bet concession looks a wise decision. This will also cover any changes in target that could occur between now and the Festival. Gigginstown will be hoping that Mitchouka can record their first success in the race, and he looks a value bet at the prices as he is highly likely to start a shorter price if turning up.
Mitchouka to Win the Fred Winter @ 16/1 NRNB