A furiously difficult handicap to predict over two miles. Jumping technique is key as they go a fair pace from the off….
Who won in 2016?
Fair to say the race favoured those that race prominently but that shouldn’t take anything away from Superb Story, who gave his talented trainer Dan Skelton his first Cheltenham Festival winner. The five-year-old could be called a winner a long way out as he was travelling all over his rivals as they swung for him.
Jockey Harry Skelton probably hit the front too soon, but it mattered little as those held up couldn’t get near the easy winner.
Whether we’ll see him back at Cheltenham is an unknown as he was pulled up when last seen at Galway in the summer.
How to pick the winner?
Jockey angles are always key in this race. Ruby Walsh won’t be too far away from the winner’s enclosure again soon.
The fast run, tactical nature of this race is hugely suited to the style of Walsh’s riding and it’s no surprise to see that he’s won four of the last 13 renewals of this helter-skelter handicap.
There is no better man on the circuit to give a horse a perfectly timed hold up ride over hurdles at the Festival. Also look out for Barry Gergahty – his timing is exceptional in this race.
This also isn’t a race for highly rated hurdlers at the top of the weights.
Only one horse rated more than 145 has won since 1998 and the last 10 winners were all rated in the 130’s, giving the impression it’s best to latch onto a potential improver.
Blimey. It’s hard to pinpoint any value at this stage, but a horse to keep an eye on is last year’s runner-up Fethard Player.
He was a bit unlucky last year that they had to bypass the last hurdle otherwise he would have finished much closer.
He’s had a lightly raced campaign and off a mark 5lbs higher has the ability to go close again.