Betfred columnist Owen McMahon shares four antepost tips for four handicap races ahead of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival

Christmas has been and gone, we’ve seen in the New Year, and now – for me at least – all roads lead to Prestbury Park in March.

As well as being NRNB for the big four – Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers Hurdle, Gold Cup – Betfred now have all 28 races priced up, including the nine handicaps. I’ve picked out a few fancies in the handicaps, but first let’s take a quick look at my early antepost tips from October last year.

Ferny Hollow, tipped up for the Arkle at 10/1, is now a Grade One winner over fences and one of the shortest-priced favourites for the entire Festival at 6/4. Stattler, suggested at 14/1, is now a 5/1 shot for the National Hunt Chase. Ginto, put up at a massive 40/1 for the Albert Bartlett, is also a subsequent Grade One winner and as short as 7/1. Gypsy Island unfortunately hasn’t been since May, and wasn’t included in her trainer’s stable tour last year.

Overall, I’m very happy with those. The handicaps are a whole different ball game, though. Let’s give it a go.

 

Remastered – Ultima Handicap Chase (20/1)

At this stage, Remastered at 20/1 for the Ultima Handicap Chase is one of my more confident handicap picks.

David Pipe’s nine-year-old enjoyed a brilliant novice campaign over fences last season, winning three on the bounce – including a Grade Two (clip below) – before a respectable effort, finishing 23 lengths behind the winner Galvin (now-second favourite for the Gold Cup), in one of the best renewals of the National Hunt Chase at last year’s Festival.

He returned this season with a lovely spin over hurdles at Aintree before taking in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, in which he was running a great race, arguably looking the most likely winner, before falling four out. That would have been hugely disappointing for connections, but the silver lining is that his mark of 146 couldn’t go up as a result of the fall.

That mark remains the same after his last run in the Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at Haydock. He put up another very decent effort, in the mud off top-weight, finishing second to a horse carrying over a stone less.

So, what this means is that despite Remastered having had three runs this season, recording the two highest RPR’s of his career so far in the process, he’s on the same mark as he finished last season on.

This is a race the UK trainers farm – and only Jonjo O’Neill has won it as many times (3) as his trainer David Pipe since the turn of the millennium.

 

Buddy Rich – Grand Annual Handicap Chase (16/1)

The Grand Annual might just be my favourite handicap of the Festival, and I’ve had Buddy Rich, currently trading at 16/1, in mind for a while now.

He was, I think it’s fair to say, a modest hurdler for Gordon Elliott last season, but in the last few months he’s developed into a very useful novice chaser, boasting form in beginners and novice chases behind the likes of Dancing On My Own, Cape Gentleman, Third Time Lucki and Ballyadam.

Last time out, the nine-year-old had his first venture into handicap company and ran what I thought was a pretty eye-catching fourth in a race at Fairyhouse in November (clip below) – the form of which has been strongly advertised in recent weeks.

Buddy Rich was just over 6L behind the winner, Dunvegan, who has since won another handicap and earned himself a new rating of 156. The second, Grange Walk, is rated 137 after winning a decent handicap at Leopardstown on Boxing Day. The two horses in behind Buddy Rich, January Jets and Paloma Blue, were already rated 137 and 146 respectively, and were well beaten.

I think we’re looking at a well-handicapped horse in Buddy Rich, and the fact he’s been left alone since suggests I’m not the only one who believes that. If the English handicapper isn’t too harsh on him in March, he must have a big chance.

 

Dunboyne – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (16/1)

I must be mad, tipping a horse for the Pertemps in January. Truthfully, I could have picked ten (most of whom are also housed at Cullentra) and made a good case for them, but I’ve settled on Dunboyne at 16/1.

Gordon Elliott’s seven-year-old boasts some decent novice form, with back-to-back seconds against well-above average horses in Bob Olinger and Capadanno before a maiden hurdle win in the mud over 2m7 – showing his staying abilities – and then a modest effort in a big Fairyhouse handicap at the end of last season.

Cheltenham Festival Betting Odds

The bare form of his first two runs this season admittedly amounts to very little, but it’s his effort last time out in a 27-runner Pertemps qualifier at Leopardstown that I want to focus on.

He finished fifth, meaning he’s qualified for the Final in March, and it was a very eye-catching run indeed (clip below). He was travelling as well as anything in the race before two out, when he stumbled and lost his position. He kept on nicely after that though, under a sympathetic ride by Jack Kennedy.

Elliott has entered most of his potential Pertemps horses in a qualifier at Warwick this week, presumably as a bit of a scouting mission with the Festival in mind. Dunboyne has been given a mark of 134 by the English handicapper, which I’m happy with. Hopefully he’ll go straight to the Festival now.

 

Broomfield Burg – County Hurdle (16/1)

Finally, I like the look of Broomfield Burg at 16/1 for the County Hurdle.

He looks an obvious candidate for this race, being a horse that looks good enough to compete at the Festival but not good enough to enter the reckoning for a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle when you consider that his trainer Nicky Henderson already has the top two in the market in Constitution Hill and Jonbon.

He’s a strong traveller with a high cruising speed and has plenty of gears. He’s relatively experienced for a novice hurdler, with four runs under his belt already, and I’m certain he’s better than his current mark of 134.

He might not be 134 come raceday, though, as I believe he will be taking in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury at the end of February. I think he could win a race like that off this mark, go up around eight pounds in the handicap and still be competitive in a County Hurdle.

And there you have it. A lot can change between now and March, of course, but let’s hope we, at the very least, get a run for our money with these tips!

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