Cheltenham Festival News

Cheltenham Festival handicaps: Dan Overall's top analysis

By Dan Overall@OverandClear
Mon 13 Mar 2023

Our Tipstar Champion Dan Overall previews the nine handicaps at this month's Cheltenham Festival and has a couple chalked up at double-figure odds who look set to go close.


Ultima Handicap Chase

Notable ratings given to the Irish contenders:

  • Stumptown: 135 (+2)

  • The Goffer: 149 (+2)

  • Dunboyne: 141 (+3)

  • Death Duty: 141 (+2)

  • Punitive: 137 (no change)

  • Folcano: 138 (+8)

  • Coko Beach: 155 (+2)

Unlike the vast majority of Cheltenham Festival handicaps, the Ultima has not been a happy hunting ground for the Irish challengers. Since Dun Doire’s victory in 2006, they are 0-35.

That said, plenty have hit the frame since then, and they don’t tend to be that well represented; 35 runners in the past 16 renewals are paltry figures when compared to some of the other Festival handicaps.

Cheltenham form has proved crucial to finding the Ultima winner in recent years, which is a plus for Lord Accord (16-1), who won the same race The Conditional did back in October en route to Ultima success.

Lord Accord in winning action at Cheltenham in October

Neil Mulholland trained The Druids Nephew to win this race in 2015, and he has plotted a similar path with Lord Accord as both ran with credit in the Ladbrokes Trophy before prepping for the Ultima in the Cleeve Hurdle. At home on good ground, his rating of 137 is workable and he should run well provided the ground isn’t too soft.

Nassalam (8-1) has been well backed in recent days and is certainly worth a try at this distance having shaped like a stayer over two-and-a-half miles. Like Lord Accord, he has solid Cheltenham form to his name, but it would be almost unprecedented if he were to win on his first attempt over this sort of trip.

Into Overdrive (8/1) arrives here as one of, if not the most progressive horse of the past 12 months having won five of his last six starts. L’Homme Presse is the only horse to beat him since Februrary 2022. He lacks Cheltenham form, and a mark of 147 will demand another career best, but he is capable of delivering just that, while his Rowland Meyrick success has been boosted by Sounds Russian.

Threeunderthrufive (9/1) shaped better than the bare result in last season’s Brown Advisory when conditions went against him, and it was a similar situation in the Classic Chase where he showed up well under top-weight on stamina-sapping ground.

Corach Rambler (12/1) flew home last year under a superb ride from Derek Fox and looks as though he will line up here before an attempt at the Randox Grand National. Six pounds higher this time around, the manner of his victory 12 months ago suggests he can defy that in his attempt to replicate Un Temps Pour Tout’s back-to-back victories in this race; but his running style will always require a degree of luck in running. There have only been three back-to-back winners in the race’s history and with the Grand National mooted as his primary target, it may be wise to look elsewhere.

Oscar Elite (10/1) will bid to replicate the likes of Vintage Clouds and Beware The Bear by winning having placed in a previous renewal, and he is weighted to go close from just a 1lb higher mark compared with 12 months ago. However, he wouldn’t be for me given he has often flattered to deceive, and it took a three-runner Reynoldstown, that is a Grade 2 in name, only for him to claim his first victory over fences.

Perhaps the more intriguing returning runner is Happygolucky (16/1) who was sent off the 100-30 favourite when second in the 2021 renewal, and he caught the eye when third behind L’Homme Presse and Into Overdrive back in November. Still lightly-raced, he is only 3lb above his last winning mark and has an 8lb swing with Into Overdrive for a three-length deficit.

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

Notable ratings given to the Irish contenders:

  • Tekao: 135 (+5)

  • Nusret: 131 (+1)

  • Byker: 128 (+4)

  • Sir Allen: 131 (+4)

  • Risk Belle: 127 (+4)

  • Cougar: 129 (+2)

  • McTigue: 142 (+6)

  • Jazzy Matty: 125 (+4)

The Irish unquestionably have a stranglehold on this division, with Nusret’s (7/1) Adonis victory further exemplifying their dominance. He looks likely to skip Cheltenham, with connections stating he prefers to go right-handed.

Add to that the five consecutive Irish victories in this race, and it’s clear that their runners should be the first port of call.

Sir Allen (8/1) will look to extend the remarkable recent record of the Naas Rated Novice Hurdle ran in early/mid-February; three of the last four Boodles winners won that particular race en route to Cheltenham, with Brazil (2022) following on from Aramax (2020) and Band of Outlaws (2019).

This year’s renewal was a slowly run affair, with Jazzy Matty (20/1), who hasn’t progressed as might’ve been expected, setting a sedate gallop. Always prominent was Sir Allen, who showed a willing attitude to get back up having been headed by Morning Soldier (25/1) at the last, with Byker (8/1) and Metamorpheus (33/1) staying on well at the finish having not been best placed as the race developed in the straight.

Just five lengths separated the first five at the finish, and the 80-109 handicap on the same card won by Luimneach was almost three seconds quicker, which casts some doubt on the reliability of this form.

Another negative for Sir Allen is that there has been just one British-bred winner of the Boodles and, unlike most, he began his racing career in France.

This race has taunted Willie Mullins, with Gaelic Warrior’s narrow defeat last year coming after near-misses for Saint Sam and Ciel De Niege. With Closutton’s depth of Juvenile talent seemingly increasing year-on-year, a win is surely on the horizon.

Tekao (4/1) heads the betting and has the type of lightly-raced, progressive profile which justifies his price. He’s taken a step forward with each run and wasn’t given a hard time once beaten in the Spring Juvenile last time out. His bare form suggests a mark of 135 is harsh, but he remains with potential.

Risk Belle (10/1), also representing Willie Mullins and JP McManus, was well-backed in the Mares’ Handicap Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival. An early faller that day, she had been highly-tried in Juvenile company prior to that run, shaping like a filly with more to come. If none the worse for that fall, she’s a live contender.

Bo Zenith (11/1) has been a talking-horse all season, with his Auteuil victory being well advertised by the runner-up, Blood Destiny. Shaping like a real stayer in the Victor Ludorum, he might find this too sharp, and it seems as though he will go straight to Aintree.

Perhaps the Dan Skelton-trained Punta Del Este (14/1) is the more interesting proposition to come from the Victor Ludorum, having crept into contention under a patient ride. Gary Moore also has Perseus Way (10/1); now off 132 after his second in the Adonis, he may have shown too much of his hand for a race of this nature. That run did pay a compliment to the Ben Pauling trained Samuel Spade (20/1), who will get a stone sway in the weights with Perseus Way for a three-length defeat.


Coral Cup

Notable ratings given to the Irish contenders:

  • HMS Seahorse: 145 (+6)

  • Run For Oscar: 147 (+2)

  • Winter Fog: 152 (+3)

  • Brandy Love: 149 (+3)

  • Haut En Couleurs: 151

  • Saint Sam: 152 (+2)

  • Fil Dor: 151 (+4)

  • Captain Conby: 143 (+6)

  • Tax for Max: 137 (+2)

  • Anna Bunina: 143 (+4)

  • San Salvador: 138 (+4)

A notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with eight of the past ten winners returning at a double-figure price, and four of the past five being 20-1 or bigger.

Still, it pays to focus on the less-exposed runners, with just four winners this century having run more than nine times over hurdles prior to lining up here.

Part of the dilemma with this race is that it’s extremely difficult to predict who will line-up, but one contender for who that isn’t a problem is HMS Seahorse (10/1), and his connections seemingly had this earmarked even before his impressive win at Navan.

Fourth in last season’s Boodles, he has reportedly benefited enormously from a gelding operation and remains thoroughly unexposed over this sort of trip.

Commander of Fleet’s shock win last season gave Gordon Elliott his third win in the race since 2011. That being said, he did have seven runners in last year’s renewal, and narrowing down who he will run here can be tough given many of his entries also have the option of the Martin Pipe. With that in mind, perhaps it’s not coincidental that four of his seven runners last season were rated above the 145 limit of the Martin Pipe, including the winner, and the 9/2 favourite, Saint Felicien. The likes of Fil Dor (14/1) and Zanahiyr (20/1) could fit that mould this time around.

Nicky Henderson is another trainer with an impressive record in this race, with four victories in the past 13 renewals. The quartet were all course winners, which makes Theatre Glory (14/1) a fascinating contender were she to line-up.

Having bolted up in a Listed Mares’ Hurdle when last seen, connections seem keen to supplement her for the Mares’ Hurdle, which dampens my enthusiasm at this stage.

A horse I’m keen to note here is Camprond (10/1). I backed him last year and all but threw my slip away when the heavens opened, but he ran remarkably well to finish fourth on ground he would have hated. Now 2lb lower than last year, he’s been well found in the market and for all that I can see the angle, I have no interest in him at the prices.

He endured a torrid time over fences earlier in the season and was brought down in bad looking incident on his return to hurdles. To my eye, he hasn’t looked right since and his jumping was poor on his most recent start. It would be a remarkable training performance to get him back to winning ways in such a competitive race.

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase

Notable ratings given to the Irish contenders:

  • Andy Dufresne: 155 (+3)

  • Dinoblue: 140 (+2)

  • Saint Roi: 153 (+1)

  • Final Orders: 150 (+1)

  • Dads Lad: 145 (+5)

  • Embittered: 145 (+4)

  • Fils D’oudaries: 142 (+5)

  • Magic Daze: 148 (+3)

  • A Wave Of The Sea: 148 (+3)

The green and gold hoops of JP McManus command unparalleled respect when it comes to Festival handicaps. The Grand Annual is no exception – and with good reason.

He has owned four winners of this race since 2005, with numerous others hitting the frame in that time. Once such runner is Andy Dufresne (9/1), who was subject to sustained market support last year which saw him go off the 10/3 favourite.

He couldn’t quite peg back the front-running Global Citizen but it was a fine effort in defeat in what was his first run in a handicap. He runs off 155, the same mark as last year and the record of the previous year favourite is very strong; in the past sixteen years, nine have returned the following year and three have been successful. This will be Andy Dufresne’s third start in a handicap, and while he will carry a large weight, he looks to have been laid out for this race.

JP could also be represented by Dinoblue (10/1), who would be a fascinating runner given her lightly-raced profile and her form with Impervious and Magic Daze.

However, in stark contrast to his record in handicap hurdles, Willie Mullins has a poor record in handicap chases; 0/30 over conventional fences, with just three hitting the frame. This would also be a negative for Dads Lad (14/1), who won over course and distance back in October; some may point out he had the now Champion Chase contender, Editeur Du Gite, back in third that day but he was not ridden with in his typical aggressive style, so that form is questionable at best.

Third Time Lucki (11/1) seems likely to skip Cheltenham in favour of Aintree, leaving the Skelton’s to be represented here by Unexpected Party (10/1). Yet to win over fences, he caught the eye over two-and-a-half miles on Trials Day behind Stage Star under a patient ride, but his trainer doesn’t seem sure he stays that far but I doubt he’ll be sharp enough for a test like the Grand Annual.

A bold bid from the ultra-consistent Aucunrisque (7/1) seems likely given his attitude and run style, but a mark of 147 in a race of this nature does ask a lot of him while he also has the option of the County Hurdle. A horse that is unquestionably well-handicapped on his best form is Rouge Vif (20/1), but we haven’t seen that form in over two-years, with his last win coming over course & distance back in October 2020 when bolting up in handicap off 156. Having moved to Paul Nicholls and now back with Harry Whittington, a mark of 137 is tempting and there was a glimmer of promise on his last start.

The progressive Saint Segal (20/1) is another to note. He would have made it three from three over fences last time out if ridden more aggressively, and he caught the eye in the Boodles last season. Thyme White (25/1) is at his best after a break and has been freshened up with this in mind, with Paul Nicholls looking for his fifth win in in the race since 2004.

Day 3

Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle

Notable ratings given to the Irish contenders:

  • Shoot First: 139 (+2)

  • Percevel Legallois: 140 (+5)

  • Maxxum: 145 (+7)

  • The Bosses Oscar: 145 (+7)

  • Salvador Ziggy: 147 (+2)

  • Shewearsitwell: 148 (+1)

  • Santonito: 137 (+4)

  • Good Tome Jonny: 142 (+4)

  • Level Neverending: 126 (+9)

The changes to the qualifying criteria have meant fewer entries than ever before and, perhaps refreshingly, the top of the market consists primarily of last-time-out winners as opposed to winners of the race for the sixth-place qualifying spot.

Shoot First (4/1) secured his place in the Final early this season with an emphatic victory in October; the two-length margin of victory underplays his superiority on the day, as he hit the front far too soon plus hung notably left in the closing stages, yet still found plenty up the hill.

Very well backed, the Charles Byrnes team clearly knew they had a well-handicapped horse on their hands and while a 10lb rise demands more, he looks capable of defying it.

Botox Has (14/1) gave the form of that qualifier a boost by winning the Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle on his next start, and he will reoppose Shoot First on 1lb better term here.

An Taillur (16/1) and Salvador Ziggy (9/1) were the others to qualify from that race; neither have been seen since, but the latter is of greater interest given he remains fairly unexposed over three miles, and Gordon Elliott’s superb record in the race.

Elliott will be mod-handed, with Maxxum (7/1), Level Neverending (25/1) and the 2021 runner-up, The Bosses Oscar (8/1) all qualified.

Maxxum had been as short as 3/1 following a facile victory in the Leopardstown qualifier over Christmas, with some going as far as to nominate him as a contender for the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Some of that shine was lost after a below-par effort at the Dublin Racing Festival, although he did have some excuses that day, and he is not dismissed. The Bosses Oscar has been in-and-out since a fine effort in this race off 151 back in 2021 but showed some of his old spark when third in at Musselburgh last time out.

Nicky Henderson noted at Kempton on Tuesday that he could run six here, with the highly regarded Walking On Air (8/1) seemingly the pick of the bunch. Despite coming into this season having only won a Maiden Hurdle, there was talk that he might develop into a Stayers’ Hurdle contender; that hasn’t materialised, for all that we won nicely last time out in a modest enough race. There’s still potential there, but he looks short enough based on what he's achieved.

Mill Green (25/1) can outrun his odds after a very encouraging reappearance at Haydock. Third in this race last year, he runs off the same mark and while he looks vulnerable for win purposes as an eleven-year-old, it would be no surprise were he to hit the frame again.

I’m bordering on the cliché here, but it would be remiss not to mention JP McManus and his impressive record in this contest. He’ll be looking for a sixth win in the race and has a couple of live contenders in the form of Perceval Legallois (6/1) and Thanksforthehelp (7/1).

Perceval Legallois was 26 lengths behind Maxxum in the Leopardstown qualifier but delivered a career-best when bolting up at the Dublin Racing Festival. A mark of 140 will demand more, although this six-year-old is still on the upgrade despite having 12 starts over hurdles to his name

A mark of 128 would have only made the cut for this race once in the past ten years, but the reduced number of qualifiers gives Thanksforthehelp every chance of lining up. The combination of wind surgery and first-time cheekpieces worked the oracle last time out in what was the final qualifier for this race, and like Percevel Legallois, he is a six-year-old on the up.

Magners Plate Handicap Chase

Notable ratings given to the Irish contenders:

  • So Scottish: 143 (+5)

  • Fastorslow: 150 (+3)

  • Adamantly Chosen: 153 (+1)

  • Haut En Couleurs: 157 (+1)

  • French Dynamite: 155 (+3)

  • Mars Harper: 138 (+7)

  • Call Me Lyreen: 145 (+4)

JP McManus was quick to purchase 2021 winner, The Shunter, who is trained by Emmet Mullins, following his victory in this race; but with the memory of that success still relatively fresh, JP decided to acquire So Scottish (9/2) prior to Cheltenham in hope of bolstering his squad.

Also trained by Mullins, whose reputation precedes him when it comes to targeting big handicaps, So Scottish is a lightly-raced novice who ran well behind Boothill when last seen.

While that form perhaps hasn’t been bosted as much as might’ve been hoped, that was over two miles and there is little doubt So Scottish can improve for a return to this intermediate trip, given he looked to need every yard of two-and-a-half miles at Carlisle on his penultimate start. He is entitled to plenty of respect.

Given the series of two-and-a-half-mile handicap chases run at Cheltenham throughout the season, it’s no surprise to see Il Ridoto (8/1), Midnight River (10/1) and Fugitif (12/1) towards the head of the market.

Il Ridoto improved markedly for the application of cheekpieces and more positive tactics when fending off Fugitif at Cheltenham in January, with the pair pulling 15 clear of the remainder. The past four winners of the Plate had won at Cheltenham earlier in the season, which bodes well for Midnight River, who won on New Years’ Day. Il Ridoto was 8 lengths back in fourth there, and they’ll meet on the same terms here should both line up. Willie Mullins’ record in handicap chases, as discussed earlier, is poor, and yet four of his entries are towards the top of the market: Adamantly Chosen (8/1), Haut En Couleurs (8/1), I Am Maximus (14/1) and Kilcruit (14/1). In truth, all four are unlikely runners.

Last year’s Coral Cup runner-up, Fastorslow (11/1), would be a fascinating runner. He isn’t a novice due to winning over fences as a three-year-old in France, and he’s been tough to place this year, but did shape very encouragingly in the John Durkan.

Not sighted in the Dublin Chase next time out, it’s key to note that he improved notably for the application of a tongue-tie last season, which has been missing on his two runs this term. It will be interesting to see if it is reapplied but, regardless of that, he is a leading contender.

Of those at bigger prices, a case can be made for Call Me Lyreen (33/1). A horse that needs good ground, he hasn’t been seen since October but did produce some promising efforts during the summer; a narrow defeat to Visionarian, when staying on strongly under a patient ride & conceding weight, reads well now while he was going well behind Easy Game and Kemboy at Listowel before falling at four from home.

Winner of the Liffey Handicap Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last season, he ran off top weight in last season’s County Hurdle – which was an impossible task - but off 145 here, he is more feasibly treated.

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys' Handicap Chase

Notable ratings given to the Irish contenders:

  • Stumptown: 135 (+2)

  • Mr Incredible: 145 (+1)

  • Dunboyne: 141 (+3)

  • Amirite: 142 (+4)

  • Angels Dawn: 131 (+2)

  • Folcano: 138 (+8)

  • Punitive: 137 (unchanged)

  • Fakiera: 135 (+3)

  • Royal Thief: 138 (+5)

  • Western Zara: 132 (+3)

Largely due to uncharacteristically good results, the Kim Muir is one of my favourite races of the season. Usually run at an excessively strong gallop, patience is often rewarded, and the top amateurs tend to come to the fore.

Despite unquestionably being one of them, Patrick Mullins is yet to win this race, which is mainly due to his father, Willie, rarely having a runner.

This year is an exception, however, as Mr Incredible (5/1) looks set to take his chance. Following an encouraging start to his career, he didn’t kick on as Henry De Bromhead would have hoped, but now with Mullins, there were more encouraging signs in the Classic Chase at Warwick (watch below). A thorough stayer, the ability is there, but so is a questionable temperament.

Irish novices often attract the most attention, as many can be campaigned with this race in mind from an early stage, and they often have form ties to some of the top novice chasers. Amirite (14/1) is one such contender, having chased home Thedevilscoachman and Ramilles on his most recent start. Henry De Bromhead, who had Plan Of Attack go close in 2020 (and he fell when travelling ominously well in 2021), could also run Royal Thief (16/1), who returned from a 782-day absence when winning emphatically at Punchestown, beating Fakiera (20/1) by ten lengths. Effectively up 15lb for that success, this will demand more, but he’s only had three starts over fences, so further progress cannot be discounted.

Percy Warner (25/1) was given two quiet runs over two miles before staying on well over two-and-a-half on handicap debut and is another to note if he runs. A smart novice hurdler two seasons ago, he’s also bred to appreciate further.

Gordon Elliott has a good record in this race, although his likely runners are more exposed than ideal. Folcano (18/1) would be an exception, and the form of his run at Galway looks very strong but the British handicapper has taken stringent action in the form of an 8lb rise.

The progressive Stumptown (4/1) currently heads the market following an impressive win at Sandown, and the British handicapper has been relatively kind to him. There’s a feeling that Angels Dawn (10/1) has been left off lightly too; only given 2lb by the British handicapper, she was still going well when unseating two out in the Grand National trial, which she was the 15/8 favourite for. She’s attracted strong market support since the weights were released.

Next Destination (14/1), last seen finishing second in the 2021 National Hunt Chase, has slipped down to a mark of 145 due to his absence from the track. You’d be taking a lot on trust, but he’s unquestionably well handicapped on his old form and he’d be a fascinating runner were he to line up.


McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle

Notable ratings given to the Irish contenders:

  • Filey Bay: 141 (+4)

  • Hunters Yarn: 147 (+4)

  • Path D’oroux: 141 (+3)

  • Il Etait Temps: 155 (+7)

  • Winter Fog: 152 (+3)

  • Sharjah: 155 (unchanged)

  • Pied Piper: 154 (+1)

  • Zanahiyr: 157 (unchanged)

  • Da Capo Glory: 139 (+4)

State Man made it Willie Mullins’ sixth win in 13 renewals last year, while a further nine filled the frame in that time. State Man was in the “Saint Roi” mould; a lightly-raced, progressive novice hurdler, but with the novices’ now requiring four runs to qualify for Class 1 and 2 handicaps, we could see a shift away from this type of profile.

He does have two novices entered in the form of Il Etait Temps (12/1) and Hunters Yarn (9/1), although the former is all but certain to run in the Supreme. Hunters Yarn is a possibility, but from a mark of 147, they may be tempted to take their chance in the opener given the complexion of that race.

With that in mind, the one that makes plenty of appeal is Sharjah (14/1). I’ll concede that, as a ten-year-old, history is against him (there has been no winner aged older than eight since Pedrobob in 2007), but he is undoubtedly a classy sort, and horses with a similar profile have run well before. Mullins had Arctic Fire win the County from a mark of 158 following a 418-day absence and he, like Sharjah, had previously finished second in a Champion Hurdle (Sharjah has been second twice!).

Sharjah has had excuses on his three starts this term, with a combination of slowly-run races, race-ending blunders and unsuitably soft ground all realistic reasons that we haven’t seen the best of him. If lining up, this will be his first handicap since 2018 and a strongly run race on better ground looks sure to suit, while the British handicapper has left him unchanged on a mark of 155.

The omission of West Cork stung some ante-post punters, with Dan Skelton’s bid for a fourth win in eight years set to be spearheaded by Pembroke (8/1). The smooth-travelling novice didn’t see out the two-and-a-half-mile trip behind Rock My Way on Trials Day, and so a return to two-miles seems wise. Playful Saint (20/1) would also be of interest, particularly if the ground was soft.

Filey Bay (6/1) is 8lb higher than when second in the Betfair Hurdle, but he’s far from fully exposed and would be favoured to reverse the form with Aucunrisque (16/1), who led from start-to-finish at Newbury on rattling-fast ground; he also has the option of the Grand Annual.

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle

Notable ratings given to the Irish contenders:

  • Three Card Brag: 142 (+4)

  • Spanish Harlem: 135 (+4)

  • Favori De Champdou: 141 (+4)

  • Cool Survivor: 140 (+5)

  • Blue Sari: 140 (+4)

  • Firm Footings: 134 (+4)

  • Imagine: 139 (+4)

  • Santonito: 137 (+4)

  • Riaan: 135 (+5)

  • Sa Fureur: 137 (+7)

  • Au Fleuron: 135 (+5)

There is no better feeling than going out on a winner, and one man more determined that most to do so is Gordon Elliott – who entered 18 for this race.

Deciphering who will run is an unenviable task, although based on market indications since the weights were released, Imagine (7/1) looks one of the more likely.

Well-regarded having looked impressive in a Punchestown bumper, he has raced exclusively over two miles and while he shapes as though stepping up in trip might suit, the majority of recent Martin Pipe winners had already proven their stamina. That is no such concern for Three Card Brag (7/1), who should have no problem staying three miles and therefore looks likely to run in the Albert Bartlett instead, although he would have a huge chance here off 142.

Gigginstown have owned the winner of this race four times, and they have two worthy contenders in the form of Cool Survivor (8/1) and Favori De Champdou (10/1). Both trained by Gordon Elliott (shock, horror), both have won over three miles and so the Albert Bartlett could be on the agenda for one, if not both. Currently, I envisage Cool Survivor being the chosen representative for the Martin Pipe.

Spanish Harlem’s (11/2) current price is indicative of the weight the word of Willie carries. Asked for a handicapper/dark horse, Spanish Harlem was nominated as “one to look out for”; although, based on the reaction of the market, others clearly heard “get stuck in”. While he has shown promise on his three starts for Willie, to me, he still looks a work in progress, exemplified by his inability to beat Riann (16/1) last time out. I am more than happy to swerve him at the prices.

It's almost impossible to discuss Langer Dan (7/1) without referencing the Martin Pipe; he seems destined to run in this race every season until he finally gets his head in-front. Second to Galopin Des Champs in 2021, he was brought-down at an early stage last year and while it was too soon to draw conclusions, his subsequent Aintree victory suggests he would have gone very close. Four-pounds higher than last year, he hasn’t shown too much this season but it would be no surprise were he to return to form in the Spring.

Two at bigger prices to consider are Irish Hill (16/1) and Iroko (20/1). Irish Hill’s progression showed no signs of stopping at Ascot, where he won a shade cosily and a six-pound rise is more than fair; Paul Nicholls won that same race in 2019 with Brio Conti, who subsequently finished fourth in the Coral Cup, which Irish Hill is also entered in. Iroko also holds both entries but given the lack of JP McManus colours towards the head of this market, I wonder if he Iroko might run here.

Highly tried as a juvenile last season, he’s improved notably for the break and a step up in trip, beating a decent field at Wetherby in facile fashion last-time out. With JP’s connections, the booking of a top conditional could see his price contract significantly.

Dan Overall's best bets in the handicaps at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival:

Ultima Handicap Chase: LORD ACCORD at a general 16-1.

McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle: SHARJAH at a general 14-1.












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