by Harvey Mayson, 06.03.2022
The weights were announced this week for the nine handicap races at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival. Several of the races were heavily over-subscribed so owners and trainers face an anxious wait to see if their horse makes the final cut. With most bookmakers now offering non-runner – no bet, we have taken a closer look at the weights and picked out ten horses who could finish in the money at rewarding odds.
Ultima Handicap Chase – Diol Ker 14-1
The first handicap of the week is the 2022 Ultima Handicap Chase on Tuesday over three miles. Corach Rambler catches our eye with just 10st 2lbs to carry but he is currently down at number 52 with only 24 set to go to post. Gordon Elliott has plenty of options here and nominated Death Duty as his best handicapped horse. We prefer the claims of Noel Meade’s Diol Ker, a creditable fourth in the Thyestes Chase at the end of January.
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Saint Segal 12-1
The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle is the target for four-year-olds who may not quite be good enough to contest the Triumph Hurdle. There has already been a major gamble here on the Willie Mullins-trained Gaelic Warrior, even though he is yet to race outside of his native France. Connections clearly feel he is well handicapped and he is now as short as 11-4. A better value each-way bet may be the 12-1 chance Saint Segal who finished runner-up in a Grade 1 at Chepstow before winning easily at Warwick.
Coral Cup – Gowel Road 16-1, Camprond 14-1*
The Coral Cup has attracted a massive entry of 110 which will be cut down to 26 starters. There are going to be plenty of disappointed connections here, almost certainly including well-backed horses like Winter Fog, Good Risk At All and Chemical Energy. Unexpected Party will be a popular choice despite a steep rise in the weights but we like the chances of two horses here. Gowel Road is a course and distance winner and is guaranteed a run. The prospects of Camprond getting into the race from number 45 are touch and go but he ran well in the Greatwood Hurdle and is proven over the distance.
Grand Annual Handicap Chase – Embittered 14-1
Sky Pirate was a rare winner for British-trained runners last year and bids for a repeat victory under top weight. He is handicapped to reverse previous course form with the bold-jumping Before Midnight but could be anchored by his big weight. This looks to have been the target all season for Joseph O’Brien’s Embittered, a faller when going easily in the corresponding race last year. That was one of the few blips for jockey Rachael Blackmore during Festival week and the horse is racing off the same mark.
Pertemps Network Final – Winter Fog 12-1
The Pertemps Final is a handicap hurdle over three miles on day 3 of the festival. Sire Du Berlais is likely to attempt a record-equalling third victory in this race. The top weight will probably be ridden by a 7lbs claimer which will give him every chance. Alaphilippe has been well supported ante-post and is guaranteed a run but preference is for Irish raider Winter Fog. Trainer Emmet Mullins has saved the gelding for Cheltenham since his eye-catching run at Leopardstown over Christmas. He can go very close with just 10st 8lbs on his back.
Plate Handicap Chase – Celebre D’Allen 6-1
The Plate Handicap Chase over two and a half miles has attracted 67 entries with a 24 maximum field. This could be the best opportunity for impressive course winner Imperial Alcazar, although he has gone up 8lbs for that success. Birchdale is 12lbs higher than his last run in Ireland and is by no means certain to confirm the form with runner-up Foxy Jacks. Ante-post favourite Celebre D’Allen should get a run (currently number 35) although there may not be much value left at 6-1.
Kim Muir Challenge Cup – Gericault Roque 16-1
The Kim Muir Challenge Cup is restricted to amateur riders over the Gold Cup distance of three and a quarter miles. David Pipe’s Gericault Roque has virtually no chance of getting a run in the Ultima Handicap Chase earlier in the week but could sneak in here from number 43 (maximum 24). Noel Meade could run either School Boy Hours or Diol Ker in this instead of the Ultima and the hint would be worth taking. The ante-post favourite Frontal Assault looks short at 5-1 so Gericault Roque is a tentative selection.
County Hurdle – West Cork 8-1
The County Hurdle is one of the most competitive two-mile handicaps of the season and is the second race on Gold Cup day. 81 entries will be whittled down to 26 and the powerful Irish stables of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott currently have 11 of the top 26 between them. Mullins also has fancied runners below the cut-off point in State Man (33) and Deploy The Getaway (35) so plenty still to be decided here. West Cork won the Greatwood Hurdle in November and that race has produced numerous subsequent winners. Trainer Dan Skelton has freshened him up for this and he could run a big race.
Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle – State Man 5-1
The final race of the Cheltenham Festival 2022 is the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle. Once again, Willie Mullins has a strong hand in this and appears to be leaning towards running the novice State Man. He holds no fewer than five festival entries but he was ridden by a conditional jockey when winning at Limerick and is guaranteed a place in the line-up at number 23. The likes of Camprond and Deploy The Getaway would be respected if failing to get in their respective races earlier in the week.
*Camprond is currently 22-1 for the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle. We recommend taking advantage of the non runner no bet concession for all Cheltenham Festival bets. This means that your stake will be returned if your horse does not run.