Grand Annual Chase Date is March, 19, 2021
Type: Grade 3 National Hunt Steeplechase (2 miles ½ furlong)
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The Grand Annual is not only the oldest race the Cheltenham Festival covers, it is in fact the oldest race anywhere on the National Hunt calendar having first been run in 1834 in Andoversford, near Cheltenham.
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Grand Annual Chase 2021 Preview & Tips
Preview By Frank Monkhouse
Former professional boxer who is now a content writer specialising in sports and betting. Has worked for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Coral and Betfair covering all manner of sports, from boxing and football to horse racing. A student of the formbook, he loved stats, trends, numbers and how they can guide punters towards a winner.
It goes without saying then that this is a race packed with history and is therefore one that punters, jockeys, owners and trainers all want to be successful in, nobody more so than Nicky Henderson.
The popular trainer’s father, Johnny, had his name added to the race title in 2005 in honour of he and his colleagues choosing to buy the racecourse to safeguard its future when the land was under consideration for property development.
This time around the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase will be run on Friday March 13th, the fourth day of the Cheltenham Festival, at 4.50PM, the penultimate race of the meeting, and will be worth some £110,000. A handicap chase over two miles and half a furlong, the Grand Annual holds Grade 3 status and features fourteen fences over the New Course.
Antepost Key Runners & Favourites
As we’ve been at pains to point out on our early overviews of other Cheltenham Festival races we have various challenges here, namely that we’re a long way out from knowing who will run, this is a handicap meaning at this stage we don’t know what weights they will carry and even if we second guess those things correctly we have to attempt to determine what level we think each of the contenders will be at come March.
All of this is without knowing what form each of the yards will be in and what sort of ground we will encounter come March 13th, but in any case with a small handful of online bookmakers offering us early odds on this race we can have a crack and getting ourselves a couple of reasonable ante post bets in the bag for the Grand Annual.
The most interesting contender named among the early price quotes was Paul Nicholls’ French-bred eight-year-old Capeland. With 14 chases under his belt thus far he’s no novice, but he has reached a new level this season and it could be that there’s even more to come from him.
Should he improve further upon the excellent run he put in to land an Ascot handicap chase in November then he could be considered for graded races away from the handicap sphere, but despite having gone up to a mark of 153 for that win it remains possible that he could be considered well handicapped should a new career best be on the way.
Joining him in the line-up may well be Alan King’s young chaser Lisp and we like his profile too. Only a six-year-old, he may lack some experience but he was a good hurdler who has already reached the same mark of 144 over fences showing that he has taken to the larger obstacles well.
His second chase start was a very, very easy win in novice company at Plumpton and while the handicapper may not know how to judge that particularly well, we think it was decent despite the lack of credible opposition and so if arriving on a similar mark in March, he’d be very well weighted.
Not That Fuisse
Up and coming chaser Not That Fuisse is very much one of interest too for the Dan Skelton yard. Over hurdles he showed a liking for Cheltenham which can be crucial, while over the larger obstacles he began with two runner-up efforts including one around here behind good yardstick Al Dancer who may yet be in opposition once again.
He went off the boil in November and December but that is not his true ability, in fact if anything it may well prove to have accidentally just looked after his official mark somewhat and so in handicap company it’s felt that he will be particularly dangerous if turning up to the Festival in good form.
He’s potentially well handicapped, loves this course and distance and hails from a yard that knows how to get the job done so is very much at the head of the reckoning up to this point.
To complete the shortlist, we didn’t want to leave out a potential Nicky Henderson runner given that, as the race is named in honour of his late father, the master trainer perennially looks to have a live one in the field.
It’s hard to know this far out what Henderson will decide to even run, but the one with the most potential handicap-wise is most likely Whatswrongwithyou and he’d be one to keep onside in the ante post market.
A seven-year-old with 7 chases under his belt, he is ideal for a Cheltenham handicap race on paper and in fact he was 7th in this event only last year. While he was beaten fair and square that day we must keep in mind that he was nowhere near experienced enough twelve months ago but, he was beaten only ten lengths, has gone down 6lbs in the handicap since and has had three more spins over fences in the meantime in order to give him the knowledge he needs and that makes him a very fair proposition.
Grand Annual Stats & Trends
With leading rider in this race Graham Bradley long since retired and no other jockey having won it more than once in the last ten years, there’s little we can glean from the stats of the pilots involved.
The most successful trainer in the Grand Annual of all time however is Paul Nicholls with four wins and he will once again be sure to have at least one strong candidate for the race, likely to be last year’s favourite Magic Saint.
We can gather more from the form, age and place held in the market by the last ten winners and that’s what can help us narrow down this field.
This Season’s Form
You’ll see from the list of the last ten champs that Grand Annual winners have tended to take in less runs as the years have gone on, perhaps in order to keep themselves fresh. 8 of the last ten winners have been placed that season but other than that, there’s not a whole lot to go on in such a competitive handicap.
Croco Bay was a real anomaly both in terms of his age and his SP, so we’re happy to take him out of the equation here, leaving 8 of the last nine winners aged 7-9 which seems to be ideal for a race of this nature.
Only one favourite has won this in the past decade, while there have also been wins at 40/1 and 66/1. Putting those things together you’d think that it would be nigh impossible to be able to use the market as a guide in the Grand Annual, but not so.
6 of the last ten winners went off at odds of between 15/2 and 20/1, the average SP taking out the one favourite and the two freakish outsiders being 16/1 and that’s right in the desired area. Horses ranging from around 8/1 up to 20/1 could well feature the winner.
Grand Annual Chase Tips
There is so much information to take in and, more pertinently, so many unknowns among the variables that picking out one or even two solid ante post bets is tough for this race.
That said, the very nature of ante post markets means that we will get some chunky prices on our horses so we can afford to back them to small stakes while using what knowledge of the game we have to attempt to get one over on the bookmakers.
Given that he’s already been aimed at this race before but is now in a better position to challenge for it, Nicky Henderson’s WHATSWRONGWITHYOU would be one to keep on the right side of and at an early 33/1 we can’t say we’re being robbed.
A small each-way bet, or better still one with a ‘non-runner, no bet’ caveat attached would be wise as it would be no surprise to see him go well on the day. Likewise, Dan Skelton’s NOT THAT FUISSE who is undoubtedly capable of much better than what he’s shown in his last two runs should be sided with, again at 33/1.
He’s already been aimed at a major Grade 3 handicap chase having gone off no bigger than 7/1 for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and it’s certain that his day will come at some point, with this two-mile trip perhaps being considered by his trainer.
Grand Annual Ante Post Bets: NOT THAT FUISSE & WHATSWRONGWITHYOU
Grand Annual Chase Offers
As the battle for online custom continued to intensify before reaching fever pitch, the week of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival proved to be utterly vintage for offers and promotions.
Such was the largesse of the major online firms, Cheltenham deals were listed as a contributory factor in the overall gambling yield falling in Britain last year but despite this, they remain in deep need to attract new customers in and so if you’re ready to open an account around Festival time, then make sure you do so with a very good bonus.
We hope that bookmakers at least repeat some of the great deals from last time around, including Coral’s non-runner money back special on all Cheltenham races and Paddy Power’s Cheltenham special of a £20 risk free bet with money back in cash if your horse loses for newbies only.
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Grand Annual Chase Betting Guide
Right now, it’s all about the rather incomplete ante post market for the Grand Annual, but as more trainers state their intentions and more prep races are run, we should see a much more active market.
Around half of all bets placed online on this race have been for Magic Saint, though in fairness there haven’t been too many of them so we shouldn’t read too much into that.
When the final declarations are made for this event on Wednesday March 17th, two days before the race, we will know the exact each-way terms offered by each layer as well as the crucial ground conditions and finals weights meaning we can nail down a better selection and take advantage of the widely offered ‘best odds guaranteed’ promotion.
Past Grand Annual Chase Winners
There are 10 Past Grand Annual Chase Winners:
|2019||Croco Bay||2||12||66/1||Kielan Woods||Ben Case|
|2018||Le Prezien||238||7||15/2||Barry Geraghty||Paul Nicholls|
|2017||Rock The World||080||9||10/1||Robbie Power||Jessie Harrington|
|2016||Solar Impulse||3P||6||28/1||Sam Twiston-Davies||Paul Nicholls|
|2015||Next Sensation||604||8||16/1||Tom Scudamore||Michael Scudamore|
|2014||Savello||3439||8||16/1||Davy Russell||Tony Martin|
What Happened in 2019?
When the Grand Annual gets underway, such is the history surrounding this event, there is no feeling that the Cheltenham Festival is winding down at all even towards the end of four gruelling days and that was the case in 2019.
As the tapes went up Paul Nicholls’ Magic Saint was the market leader at 9/2 followed by Not Another Muddle at 6/1 and Mind’s Eye, a 7/1 chance.
The market was lively, as always, but the one nobody had considered was Ben Case’s 66/1 chance Croco Bay. The old warrior, twelve years of age by that stage, had run just once since his Grand Annual 5th in 2017 and was basically unconsidered by backers and layers alike.
Having led at the tenth fence though, Kielan Woods’ mount battled on manfully right to the line to cause a real shock in the world’s oldest National Hunt race.