Coming into the Cheltenham Festival on the back of a positive performance or even a win last time out may be seen as a necessity, but that’s not completely true when it comes to the handicaps.
The 11 races of their kind at the Prestbury Park showpiece have seen just 30 per cent of their winners start the race as last time out winners since 2011.
In fact, only around half of the horses winning the handicaps during the March week even finished in the first three on their previous start.
With that in mind, it could be that there are horses lurking down the betting ahead of some of the Festival races who might be well-handicapped to go well.
We’ve picked out three horses who could be capable of running better than their official rating suggests…
Just two starts ago Noel Meade’s seven-year-old was finishing third in the Greatwood Hurdle at Prestbury Park, but two poor runs since mean he could take his chance in the County Hurdle off that same mark.
The form of that race has worked out well with winner Old Guard going on to take the International Hurdle, while Renneti who was behind in fourth was subsequently placed in the Ladbroke Hurdle.
The Meade yard has endured a quiet few months, so if the stable can step out of the doldrums in time for the Festival, they could have a well-rated sort who could deliver for owner JP McManus who is known to have one pop up in a handicap or two over the course of the week.
You have to go back to 2005 for the last winner of this race to have won on the back of success elsewhere, making it the perfect contest for a horse to win at tasty odds.
Paul Nicholls’ gelding was pitched in at the deep end for his handicap debut in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, travelling strongly throughout.
He failed to quicken up the straight, eventually finishing sixth in a respectable run. A subsequent disappointing performance over course and distance can be taken with a pinch of salt as it came on unsuitably soft ground.
On a better surface, off a three pound lower mark the six-year-old could run a big one at a track he has triumphed at before.
A two-mile contest on decent ground looks to be the ideal conditions for Philip Hobbs’ gelding, but unfortunately for connections he doesn’t seem to have faced them in nearly a year.
The way in which he faded last time out on soft ground over two-miles three-furlongs to finish a well-beaten sixth suggested that both a step back in trip and a return to a sounder surface would help.
His fourth at Newbury over two-miles behind Grey Gold was a solid performance with third place Pearl’s Legend winning since, but his only triumph of fences came at Perth last April.
He’s now rated just one pound above that rating and with his trainer enjoying a season to remember could return defy his mark if Prestbury Park avoids any substantial precipitation in March.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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