Cheltenham: Bellenos to spoil AP McCoy’s Grand Annual party

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If the final race of “Champ” AP McCoy’s last ever Cheltenham Festival was destined to land him a poetic winner, the stars seemed to align in further fate when the powers that be decided to rename the Grand Annual Chase in his honour.

The first running of the A.P. McCoy Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup sees the perennial champion jockey retiree get the leg up on the favourite.

Besides having the destined McCoy on board, 4/1-shot Ned Buntline certainly has plenty going for him in the race.

He finished runner-up to Savello in this race last year and has made the frame in four of his five starts over fences.

However, a rise of 4lb in the weights takes him over 11st for the run, which is a negative in the eyes of the trends brigade.

Only three horses since 1997, including Savello last year, have won this race carrying more than that cut off and so it could well pay to swerve the romance like a recluse on Valentines Day and side with Bellenos.

Dan Skelton’s 25/1-shot carries 10-10 for the two-mile trip. That is a 16lb ease from his last run, a bustling third at Ascot in December over 17 furlongs, and as a dual-chase winner his price is too good to refuse each-way.

An owner to follow other than Bellenos’ is JP McManus. He’s had nine horses finish in the first three of this race in the last 12 renewals since 2003 and has, along with Ned Buntline, Eastlake at 7/1, 20/1-shot Bold Henry and Festive Affair at 25s.

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

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.