All you need to know about the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham racecourse on Thursday 17 March.
Where and when can I watch it?: 1.55pm on Thursday 17 March, live on Racing TV in stunning HD.
What Grade? Grade Three. What course? New Course What distance? 3m (12 hurdles).
Prize-money? £75,000 Ages: For 5yo+ Weights and Allowances: Handicap
Sponsor: Pertemps Network Group
Key statistics and trends:
Shown their hand?
Only two winners this century had actually won a qualifier.
Irish on a roll:
This race was often a British "banker" but Irish-trained runners have won the past six renewals from 34 runners, enjoying a one-two-three in 2020 and a 1-2-4 last season.
Keep an eye on the Leopardstown qualifier:
Seven of the eight Irish winners this century ran in the qualifier at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival qualifier. 2016 winner Mall Dini was previously the only one of this group to finish in the frame in that qualifying race, but Mrs Milner finished fourth before Cheltenham Festival victory last season.
The best fit:
Nowadays you are looking for a lightly-raced hurdler unexposed at this three-mile trip. Generally, it pays to avoid those runners who have had ten or more runs over hurdles, or are rated 150 or higher. Sire Du Berlais was an exception in 2019 but he was defending his crown. Seven winners this century have worn headgear, with first-time blinkers reviving Sire Du Berlais two years ago.
Favourites’ poor record:
Only Sire Du Berlais (2019), Fingal Bay (2014) and Inching Closer (2003) have justified favouritism since the turn of the century. Ten of the past 14 winners were sent off at double-figure odds.
Horses that had previously run over fences have a good record in this race, with Fingal Bay, Freetown, Creon, Kadoun, Buena Vista and Cape Tribulation all having tried chasing before coming back over hurdles to win.
Twenty of last 28 winners had previously won over a minimum of three miles. Mrs Milner was an exception last year but boasted strong form at the distance, finishing a neck behind On The Blind Side in Listed company at the November Meeting at Cheltenham.
Five of the past 14 winners have carried more than 11st to victory.
Trainers to note:
Gordon Elliott has landed three of the past four renewals and, remarkably, the other seven runners from his Cullentra base to contest this race have all been placed. The Bosses Oscar was the stable's only runner last year and finished second for temporary licence-holder Denise Foster.
David Pipe has won the race twice since 2010 as well as having five horses placed. Jonjo O’Neill is a three-time winner this century.
The race was introduced to the Cheltenham Festival in 1974, replacing the George Duller Handicap Hurdle. Pertemps have sponsored the race since 2002.
Run over three miles, the Pertemps Network Final is the final of a series. Horses must finish in the first six in any of the scheduled qualifiers to be eligible for the Pertemps Network Final.
Qualifiers are held in Britain, Ireland and France. Forgive ‘N’ Forget is the only Cheltenham Gold Cup winner to have won what is now the Pertemps Network Final, beating 22 rivals in 1983 and going on to take the Gold Cup two years later.
The 2014 Grand National winner Pineau De Re warmed up for Aintree by finishing a close third in the Pertemps Network Final the previous month.
Recent renewals of the Pertemps Final:
2021 - Mrs Milner
Mrs Milner landed the Pertemps Final for the sixth time in a row for Ireland with a commanding performance for trainer Paul Nolan and jockey Bryan Cooper.
Always travelling powerfully, the six-year-old missed a few jumps on the final cicruit but she got better the further the race went, travelling hard on the bridle with her rivals toiling approaching the last and coming home five lengths clear of The Bosses Oscar (100/30F) in second with Come On Teddy (10/1) half a length further adrift in third. Milliner (7/1) finished fourth.
This was a big victory for Cooper, who burst on to the scene at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival with three winners and subsequently riding a host of top-class horses as the retained rider to Gigginstown House Stud, most notably Don Cossack in the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup. The jockey had since struggled and this success marked an important stage in his renaissance.
“It’s great," said Cooper. "I can tell you it’s been a lonely couple of years walking out of this place without any winners when you get used to riding them.
“I had to start at the bottom and work my way up - there was nobody going to hold my hand and do it for me. I’m a big boy now and it was up to me to change things around and I’m just so grateful to be getting these rides, and to be riding for Willie here this week as well, and getting the opportunities. I just have to start enjoying it now again.”
2021 - Mrs Milner
2020 – Sire Du Berlais
Sire Du Berlais led home a Gordon Elliott one-two as he recorded back-to-back victories.
Continuing a fine Festival for Elliott as well as jockey Barry Geraghty and owner JP McManus, the 10-1 winner was revitalised by wearing blinkers for the first time.
Sire Du Berlais, carrying top-weight, got on top close home to land the spoils by half a length. Tout Les Permis was six and half lengths away in third place, with Third Wind fourth and Relegate a never-nearer fifth.
Asked which of his his pair he had been shouting for, Elliott said: "I didn't care! Both of them ran well and the horses are running out of their skin. He won it a bit easier than last year, the blinkers help him travel that bit better.
2019 – Sire Du Berlais
Ride of the Festival?
Barry Geraghty produced one of the best Cheltenham rides in recent memory to boot home Sire Du Berlais and deliver salvation for favourite backers in last year’s Pertemps Final.
The well-backed 4-1 favourite was scruffy over the first three obstacles, he was tight for room at the top of the hill and hit as high as 240 in-running on Betfair.
Still with plenty to do jumping the last, Geraghty was at his strongest as Sire Du Berlais ran on gamely to record an unlikely success.
“It was a masterful ride, he didn’t panic,” said trainer Gordon Elliott. “That’s why Barry is a man for the big days.”
2018 - Delta Work
Delta Work just held Glenloe after a nail-biting duel on the climb to the line to give Ireland a are one-two in the race.
The 6-1 shot, giving trainer Gordon Elliott and owners Gigginstown House Stud a quickfire double after the victory of Shattered Love in the opening JLT Novices' Chase, was all out to hold his stablemate, who was sent off the 9-2 favourite.
Davy Russell showed he was none the worse after being stood down for the last two races on the second day, after a fall from Bless The Wings, when just getting the better of Barry Geraghty by a nose.
Gigginstown boss Michael O'Leary admitted: "I thought we'd lost it on the bob of heads. It was a great finish. Two master jockeys, Barry and Davy, going hammer and tongs.
"Davy is worth a couple of pounds around here, particularly in these handicaps."
2017 - Presenting Percy:
Presenting Percy completed his sharp ascent through the handicap ranks with a dominant display in the 2017 Pertemps Final off a 31lb higher mark than he had been allotted earlier in the season.
His three-and-three-quarter length success came as no surprise to trainer Pat Kelly, who held the horse in the highest of regards as he explained: “Presenting Percy is a very nice horse and one going places. I'm not worried about the handicapper - if the handicapper was right, I wouldn't have won, so I'm delighted to tell them that they're wrong again”.
2016 - Mall Dini:
Mall Dini was Pat Kelly’s first ever runner in the Pertemps Final and he proved an instant hit for the trainer, although he needed to survive a stewards’ inquiry having edged quite significantly to his left immediately after the final flight, taking runner-up Arpege D’Alene with him.
Winning jockey Davy Russell insisted all the credit should go to Kelly, describing him as a “genius” afterwards.
Mall Dini was quite lightly-raced over hurdles at the time but connections were keen to switch him to chasing, which they did immediately.
2015 - Call The Cops:
Nicky Henderson’s sole Pertemps Final success came in 2015 when Call The Cops continued his progress through the handicap ranks with an authoritative one-and-three-quarter-length success under Andrew Tinkler.
He looked to have got in lightly carrying just a 5lb penalty for his effortless romp in a Doncaster handicap hurdle less than two weeks earlier, and he once again travelled strongly, despite the much tougher company, before finding loads for pressure to assert up the hill.
He failed by just a head to go in again at Aintree the following month, where he was racing off a 7lb higher mark.
2014 - Fingal Bay:
The 2014 renewal produced a crackerjack of a finish, with just a nose and two necks separating the first four home but it was top-weight Fingal Bay who prevailed. In doing so he became just the second horse to justify favouritism in the Pertemps this century.
As a Grade One-winning novice, the handicapper had given Fingal Bay a real chance off a mark of 148 and he went on to run creditably back over fences in seasons to come.
2013 - Holywell:
Holywell had finished second in three competitive handicaps that winter but Jonjo O’Neill’s decision to add blinkers for his first Cheltenham Festival appearance proved an inspired move as the seven-year-old bounded to a career-best performance under Richie McLernon at 25-1.
Holywell had looked the stable’s second string on paper with Shutthefrontdoor, ridden by Tony McCoy, a much-fancied 6-1 second favourite but, as he went on to prove throughout his career, Holywell was a horse who came alive in the spring and a second Festival success came his way just 12 months later.
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