The JLT Handicap Chase on Day One is the opening handicap for the festival, and is a race that has invariably been one for the punters, in the week-long battle with those evil bookmakers. Run over three miles, the race has been won by some classy sorts in the past few years, with previous winners including Bensalem, An Accordion, Youllneverwalkalone, and Wichita Lineman, under an inspired AP McCoy, possibly one of the best ever rides seen around Prestbury Park.
A trainer having something of a rejuvenation this season is Alan King, who has amassed an impressive arsenal this year, and looks to have several leading chances going into the festival, with horses such as Medermit, Grumeti, Montbazon, Bless The Wings, to name but a few. Alan King has two winners and a second from the last five renewals in this race, and he has the impressive Hold On Julio at his disposal. The nine year old returned from a 2 ½ year absence winning a maiden chase by a staggering 28 lengths at Kelso last April. Since then, he has racked up two very impressive three mile handicap chase victories at Sandown, impressing in decent company. The gelding is clearly on the upgrade, however the fact that he has never run around the Cheltenham and is up 28lb by the handicapper, means he has a lot on his plate.
A horse who could be potentially well handicapped is Noland for Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh, who has better form than the bare figures suggest. A Grade 1 winner in 2010 and Grade 2 winner last year, both over three miles, he ran a good race in defeat in Ireland, before finishing sixth at Ascot, when his jumping let him down. Down another 2lb by the handicapper, he looks to be at a very workable mark.
Tullamore Dew ran an absolute cracker when finishing a neck defeated by Massini’s Maguire in a thrilling finish in a three mile handicap chase last month at Ascot. He stayed on well to close down the strong front running Massini’s Maguire, and could be considered unlucky to not get up on the line, looking all over the winner two fences out. He has solid Cheltenham form of 2-3-F, which is impressive course form, given the difficulty of the track. The two negatives that could put punters off are the 6lb hike in the weights, and the fact the Nick Gifford stable are yet to have a chase winner in 2012. The horse that finished third that day Cappa Bleu will also take is chance, and the Grand National bound horse will turn out, however looks to be using this as a stepping stone to Aintree, and on the basis of his previous run, could find himself seriously outpaced in the middle stages of the race.
The Pipe yard are renound with the Cheltenham handicaps and it is no surprise to see the ante post money plough into several of his fancies already, and The Package is another who has seen considerable money. Nine out of the last eleven winners have come in with an SP of 8/1 or shorter, so the shorties are one to look at, so the price should not put punters off. Back from a serious lay off, the nine year old has not run since an unsuccessful run in the Badger Ales Trophy in 2010. He was a narrow loser in this race two years ago, losing by a head in slow motion finish, to 33/1 shot Chief Dan George. He is 2lb lower than his run then, and has to be respected.
Fruity O’ Rooney could be a lively outsider for the in-form Gary Moore yard, given the run of Sire De Grugy in the Imperial Cup, the yard are in good nick. He won a Class 3 handicap chase over three miles on 27th December, meeting trouble in jumping throughout but still beating subsequent winner Midnight Appeal by four lengths. He followed up that win with a good third in the Great Yorkshire Chase behind potential Grand National horses Calgary Bay and Shakalakaboomboom. That was a fair effort and he could be a terrific each way price come the day.CalgaryBay has further franked the form.
A horse that I have backed and followed for years since losing many ante post vouchers on him for the Neptune in 2010 is Quantitativeeasing for the Nicky Henderson stable, and is a horse that simply loves Cheltenham. The manner and style of his Gold Cup Handicap Chase win atCheltenham in December was superb, and the step up to three miles should further enhance the seven year old, who has the makings of a Grand National horse. The form of that last race has worked out well with Medermit finishing second in a Grade 1, and Tatenen, Imsingingtheblues and Calgary Bay all running with great credit since. He goes well fresh, and has a great record around Cheltenham, his last three runs there being 2-2-1. He is up 10lb, and would have to defy top weight with a mark of 155.
A relatively wide open contest, with several contenders, but when it comes down to looking at the key components such as course form, distance form, and actual form this season. All that considered, the strongest piece of form in the race is that of Quantiativeeasing. The manner of his Gold Cup Handicap Chase win at the December meeting was outstanding, and he stayed on running up the hill with great enthusiasm. Further runs by Calgary Bay and Medermit have only enhanced his claims. Tullamore Dew finished behind him last year in the Centenary Novices Handicap at last years festival and he should be running on into the places. Given the length of The Package’s absence, stamina doubts have to linger, and I can see him fading in the closing stages, with Fruity O’ Rooney running on from the back.
- Tullamore Dew
- Fruity O’ Rooney
- The Package
The Yorkshireman – Jack Milner (Follow Jack on Twitter @JJMSports!)
Back Quantitativeeasing at 13/2 with Ladbrokes and get a £75 free bet using free bet code FB75!
Photo Credits: sportinglife.com