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Handicap success the route to Cheltenham riches


The Cheltenham Festival is now fast approaching and over the four days, no fewer than ten of the 28 races are handicaps.

In 2018, the median average SP of the handicap winners was 13.4/1, so landing just one of them can be rewarding. Often, these races represent the best option for punters seeking value. Here we look at four handicappers worth following at the 2019 Festival; conveniently, one for each day.

Ultima Handicap Chase: Give Me A Copper

We start off on the Tuesday with the Ultima Handicap Chase, a race over 3m1f. Unlike many races at the Festival, the Irish have had little success in this one, having last won it 2006. The other notable statistic is that this race rarely goes to horses at big prices; 2013 winner Golden Chieftain was the last winner priced at over 11/1.

This year, the current favourite for the contest, Give Me A Copper, for Paul Nicholls, has excellent claims. A winner in four of his seven starts to date, the unexposed nine-year-old made a most pleasing return from 446 days off when fourth in a good Sandown handicap in early February. Give Me A Copper visibly tired there on soft ground but fitness should be boosted now and his current 145 handicap mark looks well within range.

The Cheltenham Festival 2011 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by gidsey

Coral Cup: Burrows Edge

The Coral Cup on the Wednesday has gone to Ireland the last three years, but Nicky Henderson has won it twice since 2010; the joint-most in that period. Henderson, the most successful British trainer in Festival history, has a most interesting contender this year in Burrows Edge.

A dual novice winner last term, he ended the season finishing sixth in a valuable Sandown handicap, which has worked out very well. Upped to 2m5f, the same trip as the Coral Cup on reappearance, he rallied remarkably well to narrowly fail in a highly competitive Kempton contest. Based on that showing, 2m5f with the Cheltenham hill at the end of it could be just his handwriting and at current odds of 25/1, he may well appear in the tips at https://myracing.com/.

Pertemps Final: Sire Du Berlais

The Pertemps Final on the Thursday has gone to Ireland the last three years and jockey Davy Russell has ridden all three winners. Russell would be unlikely to ride Sire Du Berlais, but JP McManus` seven-year-old has a remarkably similar profile to last year’s winner Delta Work from the same stable of Gordon Elliott.

Like Delta Work, Sire Du Berlais has only won once over hurdles but he was a real eye-catcher when staying on for a never nearer sixth in a recent qualifier for this contest in Ireland. Delta Work finished third in the same race 12 months earlier, so this horse has a genuine look of one plotted towards this race and odds of around 10/1 look quite generous.

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys` Handicap Hurdle: Des Pictons

The Martin Pipe Conditionals handicap will close the festival this year. Ireland has won this fiendishly difficult contest for four of the last five years and last season, Blow By Blow led home a 1-2-3-4 for the Emerald Isle.

Gordon Elliott has trained the last two winners of the race named in honour of his former boss and mentor Martin Pipe, and he makes no secret of how important the race is to him. This time around Elliott’s Dallas Des Pictons (6/1 fav) looks an ideal sort for the race, having won novice contests at Punchestown (2m4f) and Leopardstown (3m) the last twice. Elliott’s previous winners of the 2m5f contest both had form over further so the latter success is particularly appealing and he looks an ideal sort for the often furiously run conditional jockeys-only race.

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