Of all the puzzles to solve during the four days few are as fiendish as the penultimate race of day two, the Fred Winter.
With whoever ends up favourite set to go off no shorter than 5/1 it has been one of the most competitive additions to the schedule since its inaugural running back in 2005.
The big powerhouses of National Hunt racing are unsurprisingly in attendance, however, the prize has never returned to the same mantelpiece twice in its history.
Paul Nicholls (Keltus), David Pipe (Azza) and Gordon Elliott (Arzembouy Premier, Clarcam) have all secured maximum prize money before and they have the leading chances to become the first dual-winners.
With at least 16 runners set to go to post E/W backers will be undeterred of tackling the challenge but if help is required some useful pointers from the past are provided below.
Fillies have won four of the nine runnings despite only representing 10 per cent of all runners. (Azza)
Seven of the nine winners were beaten on their first two hurdling starts. (Arzembouy Premier, Solar Impulse, Clarcam, Katgary, Keltus)
15 of the last 24 win-or-placed horses were French-bred or French imports. (Noble Inn, Le Fin Bois, Ivan Grozny, Arzembouy Premier, Solar Impulse, Dawalan, Clarcam, Cadoudoff, Katgary, Astre De La Cour, Azza, Keltus)
Seven of the nine winners had run in the previous 25 days. (Solar Impulse, Goodwood Mirage, Hawk High, Handiwork, Certification, Raven’s Tower)
Three winners had won at Sandown earlier in the season. (Violet Dancer)
However, no racecourse or meeting has the unerring penchant for undermining statistics more than the Cheltenham Festival, especially in the handicaps, and the wide-open market is the clearest indication of what a minefield the race is.
Being impaled on the fence is not what the four days is about though and a horse that meets more of the criteria than any is Pondhouse’s Azza.
Likely to go off around the 9/1 mark he looks set to be there at the finish and lead his trainer into the winners’ enclosure for the second time of the meeting.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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