2m4½f Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) – Friday 13th March 2020
The Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle is the concluding race of the Cheltenham Festival, run over two-and-a-half miles. The race is for Conditional Jockeys’ only, and is named in honour of the legendary fifteen-times Champion Trainer. Certain trainers like to target this race due to their admiration and respect for Martin Pipe – especially Gordon Elliot. Whilst the race isn’t one of the most high-class affairs of the week, you can start to get a picture as to who is being targeted for the race around this time of year. The British and Irish Handicappers start giving marks to Novices’ who have had three runs over Hurdles (usually happens around January time), which gives a rough idea as to if a Horse is Grade 1 standard. Although some Horses might not be up to that level before the Spring Festivals, plenty will get a mark that looks exploitable in Handicaps – with further improvement likely to come. When you combine these sorts of Horses with trainers who like to win the Martin Pipe, betting angles start to shine through.
2m4f Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed) – Tuesday 10th March 2020
The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase is always an intriguing race, aimed at Novice Chasers who aren’t quite yet up to Grade 1 standard. The rating band was changed in 2018 from a 0-140 to a 0-145, attracting a highly competitive field with just 7lbs between the top and bottom weights in 2019, and 8lbs in 2018 (excluding any claims). The race was extremely kind to my selections twelve months ago, with leading fancy A Plus Tard bolting up, and my second selection Tower Bridge following him home. The performance of A Plus Tard from a rating of 144 was that of an incredibly well Handicapped Horse, which has since been proven by him landing a Grade 1 at Leopardstown and earning a mark of 165. A similar story applies to 2018 winner Mister Whitaker, who won the Grade 2 Silver Trophy Handicap in April from a mark of 149 (12lbs higher than when winning this contest). This highlights the type of Horse required to win the race however, as essentially the weights are now irrelevant; Horses who wish to participate will need a mark of 140 to guarantee themselves a run, but obviously cannot be rated higher than 145. Whilst it is no longer an issue winning the race off top-weight, it will inevitably require a Horse who is ahead of the assessor.
Ante-Post Preview #6 – 27/02/2019
2m4f Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed) – Tuesday 12th March 2019
The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase is run over two-and-a-half-miles and is limited to Novice Chasers rated 145 or below. This rating band changed from 0-140 last season, and in result we now have an extremely competitive handicap. Last season the bottom weight ran from a mark of 137, and this year we look set for another tightly matched field. Mister Whitaker won from that bottom weight in 2018, but the nature of the race means that the top weights won’t have as difficult a task as they may have in a traditional handicap – we could see as little as 5lbs between the field this year.
Ante-Post Preview #5 – 26/02/2019
2m½f Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) – Wednesday 13th March 2019
The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle is one of two races at the Cheltenham Festival for four-year-olds, and this race is usually made up of horses not quite up to Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle standard. Last year the race was won by Gordon Elliot’s Veneer Of Charm, with the likes of Diego Du Charmil and Sanctuaire also on the honors list. The race is run over two-miles-and-half-a-furlong on Wednesday of the Festival and is the last race over obstacles on the Old Course, before action switches over to the New Course the following day.
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.