Ante-Post Preview #2 – 22/01/2019
3m Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Final (Grade 3) – Thursday 14th March 2019
The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Final is the concluding race in a series of Pertemps Qualifiers ran at various tracks from October through February. This ultra-competitive Handicap is run over three-miles and requires a horse to have finished in the first six of a qualifying race. Ran on Day Three of the Cheltenham Festival, this Grade 3 has been won by some brilliant horses – including Presenting Percy and Delta Work in recent years. The Pertemps Final is a unique race in that although horses need to qualify to run, they don’t necessarily want to win a qualifier as it could jeopardise their Handicap mark. Equally, you need to have a mark which is high enough to get into the race as a maximum field is all but guaranteed.
One Horse who has really caught my eye is Joseph O’Brien’s Early Doors. This six-year-old has been entered in a Pertemps Qualifier at Huntingdon on Friday (25th January), which reeks of a JP McManus plot horse. Early Doors began his season running in the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse, finishing fifth of nine runners – no match for Apple’s Jade but still ahead of Farclas (152), Wicklow Brave (152), and Shaneshill (152). Out again just 26 days later, this Soldier Of Fortune Gelding ran well behind Apple’s Jade once more – this time in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. Although 26 lengths behind the winner that day, Early Doors still beat some very useful horses such as Bapaume (153) and Jezki (148) on ground which wouldn’t suit. If you watch the race back you can see that Mark Walsh was never too hard on this Owning Hill inmate, who stayed on strongly tackling three miles for the first time – gaining second place on the run in. When you look back through his form last season you can see why he has been pitched in Grade 1 company, having won a Grade 3 Hurdle at Naas – beating Delta Work by six-and-three-quarter lengths – and finishing second to Mengli Khan in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle. Crucially this Joseph O’Brien charge has Cheltenham Festival form, having finished third in the Martin Pipe behind Blow By Blow last year – showing he can handle the big occasion. Despite all this form Early Doors is officially rated 142 in Ireland, but it is worth noting that the UK handicapper has assigned him 145 should he run at Huntingdon on Friday.
Although Early Doors does have an entry in the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park on Thursday (24th January), it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he does stay in Ireland as there is still a crucial Qualifying race at Punchestown in February, which has produced the last three winners of the Pertemps Final. As of right now it is unclear which race is first preference, but if Early Doors does run around in the Galmoy (without ruining his mark) then the Punchestown Qualifier could be next on his agenda. I requested a price at the beginning of the week for the Pertemps Final and the 20/1 offered looks very fair for this high-class type, with both Graded and Cheltenham form in the book. JP McManus is well known for plotting his horses into Festival Handicaps, and this horse ticks a lot of boxes – notably that four of the last six winners have been six-year-olds. 16/1 is available for those who prefer the Non-Runner No Bet concession.
Early Doors Each/Way @ 20/1 (16/1 NRNB)
Good luck! – Jake Price