The Cheltenham festival handicaps are the most hotly contest handicaps all year, We have studied all the races and have picked one standout horse in a handicap on each day of the festival. The last time we previewed handicaps we put up Royal Hunt Cup winner at Royal Ascot at odds of 33/1, don’t miss out this time.
National Hunt Chase – Discorama
All the talk in this race has been about Ok Corral, who finished runner-up in the Albert Bartlett at the festival last season. Connections intentions were clear when leading Irish amateur Derek O’Connor came over to ride him in a listed event at Warwick in January. The free going son of Mahler settled well that day but there are chinks in his armour and with the hustle and bustle of the festival likely to get to him, I’m willing to take him on.
It’s another Cheltenham runner-up from last season that’s my idea of the National Hunt Chase winner. Discorama finished second in the Martin Pipe last season and has been one of the talking horses on the Cheltenham preview rounds. Paul Nolan’s inmate went straight into a Grade 1 following his first run/win over fences and was bang in contention when falling at the last in a race won by Ballyward most recently. Rumour has it that top ameatur Barry O’Neill has been booked to ride him and he must run a huge race.
Fred Winter – Future Proof
Joseph O’Brien has a very strong hand in this and it’s Band Of Outlaws who heads the market. I think he’s short enough in the market to be honest and it’s another Irish trained horse that gets my vote.
Future Proof is a maiden over hurdles but is my idea of the winner. Noel Meade doesn’t send his horses across the Irish Sea unless they’ve got a chance. Future Proof has been placed on all four starts over hurdles behind some capable sorts in Coeur Sublime, Star Max and most notably the aforementioned Band Of Outlaws. Less than a length separated him from Joseph O’Brien’s horse on that occasion. Coupled with that experience under his belt and the juicy odds on offer, he’s got a great each way chance in what looks like an open race.
Measureofmydreams has been the subject of a mini ante-post gamble in the past week or so. The gamble was already building momentum but when Kevin Blake let loose how sweet Gordon was on his chances on a recent Cheltenham preview night the price took a further hit. On the same panel, Jamie Codd indicated he would be partnering the former Gigginstown owned gelding.
The now eleven-year-old has run three times at the festival with a third placing in the National Hunt Chase the highlight. That run came off an 8-pound higher mark and after showing his well being on his first start in nearly two years last month, then he holds strong claims.
That was hs first run for Gordon Elliott and given how well Grdon does with all his horses really and the possibly leneicy of his current mark, Measureofmydreams could just be throw in here.
County Hurdle – Wonder Laish
Favourites don’t have a great record in this race with 10 of the past twelev winners being a double-figure price. That being said I think the Charles Byrnes trained Wonder Laish is the standout horse in the race. The improving seven-year-old was lightly raced on the flat for William Haggas but did win a heritage handicap at Ascot and ended his career in Britan with a mark of 94.
He has won 3 of his 5 career starts over hurdles thus far including a €100k handicap at Fairyhouse in December. It has to be said, he was bitterly disappointing behind stablemate Off You Go at the Dublin racing festival but it wouldn’t be the first time a Charles Byrnes horse ran poorly and then came out and won on his next start.
The talk in Ireland is that Wonder Laish has been burning up the gallops at home and connections were considering a tilt at the Champion Hurdle but have decided to take advantage of his current handicap mark instead. Charles Byrnes is a master trainer who’s well accustomed to success on the big stage including when Solwhit won the Stayers’ Hurdle back in 2003. I think Byrnes will be gracing the winner’s enclosure at Prestbury Park again with this classy individual.