Cheltenham ante-post: Tell Us More one for the handicaps?

Rewind a little more than 12 months and Tell Us More was one of the Willie Mullins team of ante-post favourites for the 2015 Cheltenham Festival.

He was as short as 6/1 for the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle and considered to have the speed to run in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over 2m until fluffing his lines in a Naas Grade 1 behind 33/1 stablemate McKinley at 2m4f.

Tell Us More eventually showed up in the Supreme at Cheltenham, travelling strongly for the most part and leading jumping the second last until finding nothing entering the home straight. He eventually finished a 22-length sixth to Douvan.

Optimism was again prevalent ahead of his novice chasing campaign and quotes are already available for the Festival’s bigger contests. Among them are odds of 20/1 for the JLT Novices’ Chase and 25/1 that he gets revenge on Douvan in the Arkle Chase.

However, based on Tell Us More’s two appearances so far this season in Beginners Chases in Ireland, he doesn’t look the type to compete at the top table.

His jumping was average at best at Leopardstown when a disappointing third on heavy ground, while he then won over a lesser distance of 2m2f at Gowran Park despite jumping notably to the left.

But should Mullins send Tell Us More down the handicap route at the Festival, he could be a major player.

There is no doubt that the horse has a serious engine, yet seemingly finds nothing when coming off the bridle. This may make him tailor made for the Grand Annual.

Tell Us More wouldn’t be the first of his type to land the 2m cavalry charge that closes the Festival. Bellvano benefitted from extreme hold-up tactics to pick a way through the field in 2012, while Savello also crept into it from off the pace to triumph in 2014.

If Tell Us More is going to win a big race, this is the tactic that is most likely to prove successful.

Another reason the Grand Annual could be under consideration is because he is treading a similar path to Blood Cotil from the Mullins yard 12 months ago.

Blood Cotil was heavily backed into 4/1 to win the Grand Annual in March, despite failing to win on his first four chase starts ahead of an eventual victory at Naas.

He ran poorly on the day, but it shows how well handicapped he was that he is now rated 12lb higher than he was at Cheltenham.

Like Tell Us More, Blood Cotil was clearly a talented horse that was being considered for the Grade 1 novice chases early in the season, but threw up a mixed bag in terms of his jumping.

The big question currently is what official rating Tell Us More will be given over fences, bearing in mind he may need to be rated in the mid-130s to be guaranteed a run in the Grand Annual.

Zabana, the horse which beat him at Leopardstown, has been allocated a mark of 133 for that success.

Where Tell Us More heads next could be significant to whether he has being regarded by Mullins as a handicap plot or general fodder for one of the star Festival attractions. The seven-year-old does hold an entry in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase in February.

Ladbrokes are offering 12/1 on Tell Us More winning the Grand Annual with usual ante-post rules and although it is a speculative punt that he will line up in the Festival curtain closer, he could be worth a small value play on the basis that he may be at least half this price if turning up on race day.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.