3m Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) – Thursday 12th March 2020
The Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle is run over three-miles on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival, culminating a 16 race long Qualifying series. Qualifiers for the Pertemps Final begin at Cheltenham way back in October of the current season, with races taking place across the UK from Exeter to Musselburgh, as well as Leopardstown and Punchestown in Ireland. In order to Qualify for the race a Horse must finish in the first six places of a Qualifier, which means that Horses with Handicap marks high enough to get into the race would usually rather finish sixth than first! This caveat means the Pertemps Final has a completely different dynamic to that of an ordinary Cheltenham Festival race, as it’s not all about finding a Horse with the best recent form. One factor that does remain constant in regard to finding a Festival Handicap winner however is that you need a Horse who is ahead of their mark, be that through careful plotting by connections, or untapped potential.
Before looking at trends, it is worth noting the Handicap marks which have been required to get a Horse into the race over the past ten renewals. I’ve also listed the top weight and winner’s rating for reference.
The rating required to get into the Pertemps Final has remained fairly constant over the past ten years, with a rating of 135 (rounded) usually getting a run. The top weight averages out to be a rating of 152, whilst the average Winner’s Rating is close to 141. This mark suggests that Horses toward the bottom of the weights have a better record, but it is worth noting that top weight was carried to success in 2014, and the second top-weight won in 2017.
Top trainer honours is a three-way tie since 2010 with David Pipe (Buena Vista 2010, 2011), Pat Kelly (Mall Dini 2016, Presenting Percy 2017) and Gordon Elliot (Delta Work 2018, Sire Du Berlais 2019) all recording two victories. Irish trainers have won the Pertemps Final for the last four years in succession, but the previous six runnings were taken by British based trainers.
Davy Russell is the winning-most Jockey since 2010, recording a hat-trick of victories between 2016-2018.
Six-year-old Horses have the best record over the past ten years with four first-place finishes. Only one of the last ten winners had won their Pertemps Qualifier, and six of the last eight had ran in a Qualifier during January or February.
My second selection for the Pertemps Final is Kilbricken Storm, who looks a wild price at 33/1. This point-to-point winner joined the Colin Tizzard stable during the Summer of 2017, where he finished second on his Hurdles debut at Exeter before recording a victory at Wincanton. Stepped straight up to three-miles for his next start at Cheltenham, Kilbricken Storm was chucked in the deep end to contest the Grade 2 Bristol Novices’ Hurdle – where he stayed on extremely strongly to win by almost three-lengths. Although only third on his next start at Newbury in the 2m4½f Grade 1 Challow Hurdle, Kilbricken Storm was given a 76-day break until the Cheltenham Festival. Sent off as a 33/1 outsider in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, this Colin Tizzard charge sprung a bit of a surprise when gamely beating Ok Corral and Santini – in a race full of subsequent winners. Proving that fantastic effort to be no fluke, Kilbricken Storm was narrowly denied the chance to follow up at Punchestown a month later in their 3m Grade 1 Novice Hurdle, finishing a half-length third behind Next Destination and Delta Work. Although narrowly defeated, Kilbricken Storm still earnt himself an official rating of 152 over Hurdles.
Despite such a promising start, the career of Kilbricken Storm quickly started to head down-hill when connections asked him to jump fences last season. Sent off an 8/11f for a 3m Novices’ Chase at Ffos Las last November, this Son of Oscar jumped right throughout, and looked in deep trouble when producing a slow jump at the last. Despite putting in a very ordinary round of jumping and being headed, Kilbricken Storm’s class really got him through – toughing it out to beat Cobolobo by a short-head in the final few strides. This shaky debut was followed by a deplorable effort at Newbury when running in the 3m Grade 2 Novices’ Chase on Ladbrokes Trophy Day, but the Vet reported his left-hind to be lame. Either way, he clearly hated jumping the larger obstacles, and was sent back over Hurdles at Cheltenham last year when tenth in the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle behind Paisley Park on his return to action, before once more finishing down the field behind If The Cap Fits at Aintree. Although showing nothing on his return to timber, he was pitched into two very hard Championship level races.
Given wind-surgery over the Summer, Kilbricken Storm made his return to action this season in a Class 2 Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham’s December meeting, where he lugged around top-weight to an eighth placed finish. Although on bare form that seems a poor effort, Kilbricken Storm actually shaped really well after a 251-day break, disputing the lead between the last two flights before weakening out of contention. The promise he showed that day was backed up on New Year’s Day over the same course and distance, where Kilbricken Storm ran his best race in a long time, finishing third behind Skandiburg (139). Similarly to his first start, this nine-year-old lead approaching the last Hurdle that day, but was headed on the run in. The race hasn’t worked out too badly however, with fourth placed The Jam Man (143) giving the form a boost at the Dublin Racing Festival when second to Treacysenniscorthy. Colin Tizzard was keen on taking Kilbricken Storm to a Pertemps Qualifier on his next start, but his owners wanted another crack at Graded glory with this talented staying Hurdler – so connections ran him in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Trials Day. Tracking the leaders, Kilbricken Storm ran well for a long way and finished in sixth place – only eight-and-three-quarter lengths behind winner Paisley Park. He finished ahead of L’Ami Serge (155) and William Henry (156) that day, so the form clearly has substance behind it – even if he’s not quite up to that Graded level anymore.
Kilbricken Storm is another Horse who was due to run at Exeter on Sunday in the cancelled Pertemps Qualifier, but holds options this weekend at both Haydock and Exeter’s rearranged card. Clearly the Tizzard’s are keen on getting this talented Horse qualified for the Pertemps, and it’s easy to see why; he was dropped 1lb to a mark of 142 for that good Cleeve Hurdle effort (now 10lbs below his peak rating), is due to Qualify for the race in February, and will clearly be looking to protect his mark in the process. When you add in that Kilbricken Storm’s official rating is just 1lbs above the average winning mark over the past 10 renewals, and that he is already a Cheltenham Festival winner over course and distance, he must have a massive chance off the back of improved efforts lately. His current price of 33/1 really does underestimate the ability he retains, and this price will collapse if he does Qualify for the Final this weekend – especially if it’s via another eye-catching run.
Kilbricken Storm 1pt Each/Way (5 Places) @ 33/1
My first selection for the Pertemps Final is Paul Nolan’s Discorama. This seven-year-old enjoyed a successful Novice Hurdle campaign during the 2017/18 season, winning on his jumps debut at Fairyhouse before placed efforts behind Ex Patriot (Limerick), Burrows Saint and Dortmund Park (both Thurles). Although only seventh in a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle at Naas, Discorama ran a career-best to finish second in the 2018 Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival behind Blow By Blow – a fantastic effort from a mark of 136. The form of this race has actually worked out extremely strongly since (despite the winner losing interest in racing), with the third-placed Early Doors winning the Martin Pipe 365 days later from a mark of 145, and the fourth-placed Sire Du Berlais winning the 2019 Pertemps Final – also from a mark of 145. Discorama signed off his Novice Hurdle campaign at Punchestown, finishing fifth in the 3m Grade 1 Novice Hurdle behind the likes of Next Destination and Delta Work.
Discorama was sent straight over Fences last season, winning on debut at Naas before once more finishing fifth behind Delta Work – this time in the 2m4f Grade 1 Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse. Given a break until the end of January, Discorama was next seen in a 3m Grade 3 Novice Chase at Naas – where he took a heavy fall at the last when disputing the lead. Despite falling, the race is another to work out well form wise, with the likes of Chris’s Dream and Champagne Classic in behind. Bouncing back from this heavy fall, Discorama returned to the Cheltenham Festival last season in the 4m Grade 2 National Hunt Chase under Barry O’Neill – where he agonisingly finished a half-length second behind Le Breuil. This dour effort was notably another career best at Prestbury Park. Once more signing off at Punchestown in April, Discorama again ran well over fences – finishing second to Delta Work in the 3m Grade 1 Champion Novice Chase, ahead of A Plus Tard.
Discorama returned after his Summer break at Wexford in October to continue his career over the larger obstacles, finishing three-and-three-quarter lengths second behind National Hunt Chase fancy Champagne Classic – despite having to give away 5lbs to that rival. This was perfect preparation for Paul Nolan’s charge to take his chance in the Grade B Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan from a mark of 149, and top conditional Sean O’Keeffe was booked to take 5lbs off his back. Held up towards the rear, Discorama never really seemed to be jumping or travelling well enough – and he never got close to landing a blow. This disappointing effort over Fences meant connections decided to take him back over Hurdles over Christmas, running in a 2m4f Conditions Hurdle at Limerick. Jumping a bit sticky in the early stages (20 months since his last Hurdle start), Discorama was fairly handy under Bryan Cooper – but was ridden approaching the penultimate flight and quickly faded out of contention to finish a distant third. Although the winner Easywork has since finished second in a Grade 1 Novice Hurdle, this run was too bad to be true – and Discorama has since undergone wind surgery.
Although his season has been extremely disappointing so far, Paul Nolan has reported Discorama to be in much better form since undergoing the wind operation, and that a tilt at the Pertemps Final is on the cards. Discorama was supposed to run at Exeter on Sunday before Storm Ciara forced the meeting to be abandoned, however the British Handicapper allotted him a very attractive mark of 139 – 9lbs lower than his Chase mark, and just 3lbs higher than when second in the 2018 Martin Pipe. Discorama fits into some of the trends mentioned above as he is now due to run in the Pertemps Qualifier at Punchestown next week (which has produced three of the last four winners), and I’m sure connections will be aiming for no more than a placed finish. A further positive to the chances of Discorama is that he has ran so well at the Festival on two previous seasons, and he is of course trained by Paul Nolan in Ireland (Irish trainers taking four successive victories). It’s also helpful that Discorama has already had a run back over Hurdles to adjust, as I often don’t like backing Horses going back over timber from a failed Chase campaign on their first couple of starts. Discorama’s current price of 25/1 will surely cut in half if qualifying for the race at Punchestown, and he would have a massive chance from his current official rating over a track and trip which suits.
Discorama 1pt Each/Way (5 Places) @ 25/1 [Did not qualify]
Good luck! – Jake Price