It seems to be written about every big handicap that to find the winner, you need to seek out a young, unexposed improver. But that is far from a cliché when it comes to the Greatwood Hurdle.
In fact you have to go back 16 years to find the last winner of the race that had previously won more than one handicap hurdle, highlighting the importance of protecting that big race mark
So when searching for the winner of the feature on Cheltenham’s Sunday card, we need to disregard those regular handicap winners, no matter how short in the betting.
This, by our accounts, puts paid to the chances of Baltimore Rock, recent Sandown winner Exitas, Roman Flight and Raven’s Tower.
But further to that, there are a quartet of other trends that feature prominently when looking at the last 20 winners of the race.
- 17/20 finished in the first two on their last completed hurdles start
- 16/20 had run in no more than five handicap hurdles
- 15/20 were first or second season chasers
- 15/20 had raced over hurdles no more than nine times
While the majority of the field hit some of those stats, Pine Creek, Katgary, Pearl Swan, and 2012 winner Olofi fall short more than most, so are discounted.
Furthermore, 14 winners in the last two decades were ex-flat horses, while 12 had run in a Listed or Graded hurdle on their previous start. Garde Le Victoire and Hammersly Lake did neither and are the next to bite the dust.
We’d love to pick out a big price winner to round the Open meeting off with but unfortunately that looks unlikely here; no winner in the last 15 years has been a bigger price than 12/1.
Seven of our remaining shortlist are bigger than that in the market, so end their journey there.
Barry Geraghty’s decision to ride Vaniteux (3/1) in this race rather than head to Ireland for a ride on Jezki speaks volumes, and can only be an indicator of the high regard in which he holds the horse.
However, 11-12 is a big weight to carry in a competitive handicap such as this, and with seven of the last 10 winners carrying less than 11-7, we are going for one with a lighter burden on their back.
Goodwood Mirage (10/1) is young and improving, but he only just held on for victory last time out in a weaker race and has gone up 10lbs for that win, so could be another with too big a weight to carry.
The two remaining do have one major positive to their name in that they are in the care of Irish master Willie Mullins.
Clondaw Warrior (5/1) hasn’t raced over hurdles in more than a year, but did claim Leopardstown’s November Handicap in good style last month. But his hurdles form is nowhere near as good, with his only win coming in his maiden.
Instead, our choice is for DANEKING (8/1). Another of the army of stars owned by Susannah and Rich Ricci, the five-year-old looks a good one to be on.
Form in these big field handicaps are what sets him out from the rest, with victories in 17 and 22 runner affairs on his last two runs.
He has yet to finish outside of the first three on five runs over timber, and ticks every one of the recent trends, so gets a vote from us.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing
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