The Ultima Business Solution Handicap Chase, or simply, the first handicap of the Cheltenham Festival will be the bane of many and the bread and butter of others.
Some will look for that opening ‘plot horse’ of the week, running poorly throughout the season establishing a very lenient handicap mark, others will peruse the form with a fine toothcomb, others will turn to the trends.
And using Ladbrokes’ very own Festival Lowdown, we’ve gone through the 24 runners to pick out the potential challengers.
Looking at some of those stats, it becomes pretty obvious we are looking for a horse towards the bottom of the handicap, with higher rated charges struggling.
Setting the bar at 143, we can eliminate those near the head of the weights.
Another intriguing stat is that no runner in the Hennessy Gold Cup has won the race in 25 years, including the three already eliminated from our reckoning; What A Warrior bites the dust.
Carrying on from the stat against the top-rated horses, we see that only two winners in the last 15 runnings carried more than 11-00.
So with this, we bid farewell to recent Grade 2 winner Ned Stark and Grand Gesture.
However the pattern that puts paid to the chances to the biggest percentage of our shortlist is that nine of the last 11 winners placed in their prep race before the Festival.
Current favourite Pendra is one of nine to fall at this particular fence, after he finished fourth at Newbury last time out.
Through our strict implementation of the race trends we are down to our final quartet: Barrakilla, Gallant Oscar, Gevrey Chambertin and Azure Fly.
Tony Martin may well have taken the contest back in 2006 but the fact that the last seven races have gone to the ‘home’ team we’re focusing on the UK-based trio.
The first and last named horses in our quartet may have made it this far, but the fact they have yet to win over 3m puts us off.
There’s probably a good reason for this with each winner in the last decade having secured victory over this far.
David Pipe saddles GEVREY CHAMBERTIN looking to boost his record that has seen him win once and have a horse placed three times in the last six renewals.
His horse was a winner of the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock, a stat that could prove important with nine of the last 10 victors have won or placed in a race worth £39k or more.
He’s been in and out of form, but if anyone can prime them for a big handicap success it’s Pipe, and with most of the boxes ticked, he certainly has the right profile for this contest.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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