Part of the Festival since Olympian won the inaugural event in 1993, this is probably the most prestigious handicap hurdle race of the meeting now.
It’s always fiercely competitive and with many firms likely to offer 5 places on the day it’s only a race to get involved with this early if a bit of pricing value can be found.
Interestingly throughout the history of the race no winner has been rated higher than 147. Some pretty good ones have tried and come close though with Get Me Out of Here running second off 155 last year. Nevertheless this stat for winners can’t be totally ignored.
I’m not a fan of 5yos in handicap hurdles at this meeting but 3 of them have triumphed since 2006 and there is no distinct age criteria for winners of this race – many have been second season hurdlers though.
There’s a bumper entry of 165 runners currently – 134 needed to get in last year but this year there are still 79 above that figure so cut off could be higher still.
At the top of layers markets currently:
Wonderful Charm (Paul Nicholls)
Poliglote (10.6f) — Victoria Royale (FR) (Garde Royale (11.2f))
Widely touted as another future Nicholls star at the beginning of the season we’ve only seen this one once in a Chepstow novice event where he convincingly beat the now 137 rated Ballybough Pat by 6 lengths giving him 3lbs. His mark here of 149 doesn’t appear harsh but with the ratings stat against him and lack of experience is he really a 6-1 shot? If you fancy him I can’t see that price being any less if not more on race day and you’ll get an extra place. I wouldn’t feel shocked if he wins but value he ain’t!
Edeymi (A J Martin)
Barathea (IRE) (9.7f) — Edabiya (IRE) (Rainbow Quest (USA) (11.3f))
Looks the potential ‘plot’ horse of the race and I doubt his prep run at Leopardstown was a true reflection of his ability. 139 rating is fair enough on his Fred Winter second here last year but layers aren’t taking too many chances at this stage with 12-1 quotes. Tony Martin has won this race with Xenophon in the past but he came here with much more exposed and better form in the run up to the event. He’ll need to be a 150 horse masquerading under a lower rating for me to win this and I’m just not convinced he’s quite that level although the step up in trip may be what he needs.
Cotton Mill (John Ferguson)
Tiger Hill (IRE) (11.0f) — Mill Line (Mill Reef (USA) (11.2f))
Falls flat on the rating stat but I could still see Cotton Mill being well in off 150. The Betfair Hurdle has been a good pointer for this race in the past and longer trip may well suit but at the moment we just don’t know if he will take up this option, the County Hurdle or the Champion Hurdle. Can only appeal as a NRNB at this stage and those that offer 12-1 currently don’t offer that
Son of Flicka (Donald McCain)
Groom Dancer (USA) (10.0f) — Calendula (Be My Guest (USA) (10.1f))
Last year’s winner off a mark of 135 and a close second in the Martin Pipe off 140 the season before (only beaten by Sir Des Champs), he’s crept in again off a tempting 137 here. The problem is that just like last year he has shown very little form in between and in his last four runs has been described as ‘tailed off’.
You are heavily dependent on McCain’s training skills to get him right again for this race and to be a modern-day Willie Wumpkins! Last year he came here with similar poor credentials but was available at 66-1 in the morning before the wholesale gamble down to 16/1 set in. This year its 16-1 top price currently and that’s far less appealing.
Meister Eckhart (Alan King)
Flemensfirth (USA) — Carrabawn (Buckskin (FR ) (12.5f))
Trained by Rebecca Curtis last season, Meister Eckhart was a useful novice who performed better than his 5th place in the Albert Bartlett suggest by taking on Brindisi Breeze a long way out and paying for that effort up the final hill.
He didn’t reappear for his new stable until last weekend at Fontwell when quite a heavily backed second to 149 rated Prospect Wells. Alan King promptly made the Coral Cup the designated aim while awaiting the handicapper’s reassessment. He can’t have been displeased to see this one raised just one pound to 143 after having the 150 rated Dark Lover behind him that day and may have been closer still but for a mistake down the back straight when the race was starting to develop.
The noises made from the stable and the promise shown last season make me think he could be a 150+ horse in the future.
Pendra (Charlie Longsdon)
Old Vic (13.0f) — Mariah Rollins (IRE) (Over The River (FR ) (12.7f))
Prominent in the market at 14-1 and seems a confirmed runner but a first season novice has never won this race from what I can see and it’s a huge ask to throw one so inexperienced in this race – 139 is an ok mark but doesn’t appear as being ‘thrown in’ either. Not for me at these odds.
Master of The Sea has won his last four and his risen significantly in the handicap to go with it at 142. Another huge leap needed for this race and also entered in the Martin Pipe Conditionals Hurdle.
Abbey Lane and Tennis Cap both represent the best Irish handicapping form this season. You can’t think the handicapper has given them much leeway with their marks here and both have multiple entries at Festival and may not be running here anyway.
Mr Watson drew comments from Tony McCoy that he’s a bit of a thinker and he may not be using the whip on him next time – I’m not sure this is quite the race for him given that snippet of info!
Gevrey Chambertin is well to the fore in betting lists also but is entered in 4 other events as well so it’s anyone’s guess where he will end up. A 145 mark isn’t something to get too excited about yet for me and I feel that all through his career he has been under-priced simply because he is Grands Crus’ full brother.
Orsippus has run some fine races at the Festival as a 4 and 5yo including a third in this race to Carlito Brigante off 136. He has also been performing well on the flat over the summer. If he could get into this race off 134 he would be a live outsider as the strong pace seems to bring out the best in him.
Philip Hobbs has a decent record with his runners in the race. I can’t get tempted by Sadlers Risk’s mark of 150 for a 5yo though. If a miracle occurred and Village Vic was to get in off 132 he would be of definite interest. As it stands however the Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle looks a likelier race for him
As ever a tough race to crack but a couple appeal as small betting propositions at this stage in expectation that they may be shorter on the day. MEISTER ECKHART ran a race full of promise last week and hasn’t been punished by the handicapper at all for that effort. Stamina was an issue for him in the Albert Bartlett last year but this trip should suit much better. Orsippus may not get in but his record at the Festival should not be discounted if he does.
With NRNB available with some firms now who offer the best prices also it makes sense to advise with them.