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Charlie McCann: Handicap Fancies For Wednesday At Cheltenham


Before we continue our look at handicaps and examine those on Day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival, I would just like to highlight the renaissance in the form of the Oliver Greenall stable and the riding skills of 7lbs amateur Toby Wynne who, at the time of writing, has won on his last three mounts. He will not be claiming 7lbs for long.

I have had a look at the weather forecast for Esher this week and the BBC website are suggesting no rain for Sandown between now and the weekend. The first of our recent horses to follow has been entered with Beakstown (3.35pm) due to drop back to 2m 4f for the novices’ handicap chase at Sandown. If the forecast – appreciate that is a big if – is correct the Skelton horse must run a big race. He is 14/1 with William Hill and Paddy Power and gets the each way vote.

Recommendation: Beakstown (Paddy Power Novices’ Handicap Chase – Sandown 3.35pm – Saturday) @ 14/1 with Paddy Power (Each-Way)

Pertemps Handicap Hurdle – 2.50pm on Thursday

You have to go back to 2015 for the last British trained winner of this 3m handicap hurdle when Nicky Henderson saddled Call The Cops to land the prize. In the past decade there have been two well backed market leaders Fingal Bay 9/2 in 2014 and Sire Du Berlais 4/1 in 2019. 

There has only been one horse land the prize whose SP was over 14/1 in the last ten years and that was the unexposed subsequent Grade 1 winning chaser Holywell (25/1) whose next start saw him finish runner up to champion hurdler Solwhit in the G1 Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree. Thus, the stats suggest we stay near the top of the market, and I concur.

It would be fair to say that Alaphilippe (2.10pm) had a number of positions in last season’s Albert Bartlett when Paddy Brennan took his usual Cheltenham hurdles route coming wide down to two out before switching inside to the middle of the track after the last. He has only raced once in the last 12 months when he pulled hard and chartered a wide course at Warwick in one of the qualifiers for this final. I thought it was an eye-catching run.  

The handicapper has dropped the each way selection a couple of pounds for that run and he will meet the winner Sporting John on 6lb better terms. The selection has never raced on ground quicker than good to soft and he might not take his chance if the word soft does not appear in the going description, but he is potentially very well treated, and it looks as if the Pertemps has long been the plan.

Fergal O’Brien has never saddled a Festival winner. It would be a fitting conclusion to what has been a tremendous season for the stable if he broke his duck next week. He has two terrific chances on Thursday with Imperial Alcazar holding a leading chance in the Plate.  

Recommendation: Alaphillipe (2.50pm Cheltenham – Thursday) @ 8/1 with Betfred (Each-Way, 5 places, NRNB)

Kim Muir Handicap Chase – 5.30pm Thursday

The Irish have won the last three renewals of the Kim Muir while the Gordon Elliot stable have won three of the last six renewals. The winner has carried 11st or more on every occasion in the last decade and this is another handicap which has been won by those at the front or near the top of the market of late. Seven or eight-year-olds have won 8 of the last 9 runnings of the race. 

Frontal Assault has been all the rage for Elliot in recent days but the word coming out of Festival preview nights across the Irish Sea suggests Jamie Codd, who last rode the winner of the race in 2016 on Cause Of Causes, is likely to ride another Irish raider.

My two against the field are again British trained representatives Omar Moretti and Gericault Roque (5.30) with the vote going to David Pipe’s French-bred 6-y-old who is still a maiden after four outings over fences having run very well in defeat on all four starts.

The selection was the only one to make a race of it with Éclair Surf in the Warwick National Trial on his latest start in January and the winner is now rated a stone higher having finished second in the Eider Chase on his subsequent start. 

Pipe has saddled the winner of the corresponding race twice previously, latterly with The Package in 2015, and had four others placed in the race. The stats suggest the novice is too young for the race, but this looks as if it has been the target since Warwick and he gets the each way vote.

Recommendation: Gericault Roque (5.30pm Cheltenham – Thursday) @ 16/1 with bet365 (Each-Way, NRNB)