Cheltenham 2024 | Festival Focus 2024: Handicap Chases

Amongst all the championship races and the novice races, the Festival is littered with fantastic handicap chases. We deep dives into the most competitive races of the week.


Ultima Handicap Chase – 3m 1F – Premier Handicap

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This year, the race serves as the third hardest race of the day and could lend a hand to those in need. Last year Corach Rambler repeated an unprecedented success in the Ultima before going on to win the Grand National.

The favourite is a recent JP McManus purchase, Meetingofthewaters. He won the Paddy Power Chase over Christmas by a huge four-and-a-half lengths but couldn’t repeat the feat when unseating the first in the Leopardstown Chase. That still hasn’t stopped the handicapper raising him two more pounds but is full of promise.

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There is a curse on the Irish in this race, but The Goffer looks to have been campaigned for this race. He finished fourth last year off a mark of 149 and has dropped to 147 this time around. His best finish this season was fifth in the Kerry National and hasn’t been seen since the Munster National, possibly to protect the handicap mark.

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Spearheading the British challenge is locally trained Chianti Classico. Campaigned for this race since winning at Ascot, Chianti Classico is a fantastic jumper. He pulled up, along with others, in the Albert Bartlett last year but looks to have settled better over fences. There’s an argument that he prefers going right, but that, in my opinion, is nonsense.

Giovinco is Lucinda Russell’s top hope for the race and has been a delight to watch. A proper tough horse that could well take over from Corach Rambler in the future. Notably he managed to keep up with Stay Away Fay at Sandown which attracted some attention. He remains at the same winning mark for when he won his prep race at Newcastle.


Chianti Classico has all the trends in his favour. Novices seem to have the upper hand in recent years and Chianti Classico has outclassed many of his rivals in the division. If he gets in, as it stands, he will be incredibly well-weighted for the task. 8/1 (General).

Each-way: Trelawne looks to be an improving novice. He won at the start of the season but has ran into some good horses along the way. He could have just downed Tahmuras at Exeter last time out, but the heavy ground was against him. A winner over three miles over hurdles last season, he has a good mark to work on for his first test over the distance this season. 14/1 (General).

One horse who looks to get in is Annual Invictus, who will need the ground to dry out. He raced in last year’s Kim Muir, finishing eighth. But when racing at Cheltenham, he’s unbeaten on the old course. Despite on a career mark, he should carry a low weight and run to a place, at least. 25/1 (Unibet, BetUK).


Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – 1m 7F 199yds – Premier Handicap

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It’s not billed as the best handicap of the meeting, but it’s still worth getting stuck into with plenty of value around.

My Mate Mozzie has a good chance coming in this, off a back of a novice chase win back over C&D in October. He then finished behind Found A Fifty, who is one of the main hopes for the Arkle. However, the handicapper has been far too harsh on him, and it wouldn’t be a shock if the market opens up even further if he goes to the Arkle.

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The green and gold comes next in the market, with an unlucky loser in recent times. Saint Roi hasn’t won since the 2022 Racing Post Novice Chase and has constantly fell into some of the best two-milers around. With all that graded form, he could come in here and win well of a high weight.

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Harper’s Brook looks overpriced as third favourite. With just a four-pound rise after his win when stepping back to two miles, it looks very attractive. Particularly when connections aren’t mulling about with this race or the Ultima. This is his only entry and looks to take advantage of it.

Libberty Hunter ran a cracker of a race on New Year’s Day when beating the well fancied Matata. He will want plenty of dig in the ground. And with the going soft, he looks like he has an excellent chance to land a hattrick of wins.


Of the principles mentioned, I’d side with Harper’s Brook. However, my main pick is Path D’oroux. He’s ran two great races in second, with plenty in hand over the third placed horse both times. Despite that, he’s still looking for his first elusive win over fences. But Cheltenham’s top trainer has always delivered at every meeting, bar Trial’s Day, so far. 10/1 (William Hill, 888Sport, BetVictor, Betfred).

Each-way pick: Calico has gone under the radar this season yet put up a stormer of a performance against Triple Trade at the November meeting. He finished well behind Madara and then put up a good performance in the Great Yorkshire Chase. The handicap mark has been relatively untouched, now back to 143. He’s always ran to place at Cheltenham and can do once again. 16/1 (General).


Trustatrader Plate Handicap Chase – 2m 4F 127yds – Premier Handicap

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There’s always a big handicap chase over two-and-a-half miles at every meeting at Cheltenham, and it sometimes one of the best races of the Festival.

Crebilly looks to be the best weighted horse in all the Festival handicaps. He looks like he’ll have almost a stone in hand by the declaration stage. Despite falling at Cheltenham on his first start this season, he looked as though he could well beat Ginny’s Destiny. On his second start at Cheltenham, he had an off day jumping wise but was back to his best at Exeter in testing conditions.

Theatre Man just didn’t have enough but lost nothing in defeat to Ginny’s Destiny. It was impressive considering it was his first time at that level. This might just be a level he’s not ready for. Despite looking well-weighted, he’ll have a tough order trying to peg back the favourite.

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Letsbeclearaboutit was impressive at the start of the season but was oddly stepped up to over three miles after a good performance in a big a handicap over two. This looks to be his true distance but might be a tad too high in the handicap anyway.

Madara is siding towards the Grand Annual and Ga Law will be supplemented for the Ryanair. So, Saint Felicien is next in the market. He is one who will need the ground testing. He managed to break his duck in the nick of time, beating Aime Desjy at Gowran. But the handicapper has been far too harsh on a horse who’s only started chasing and pulled up in last year’s Coral Cup.


Crebilly is the best weighted horse in the race full stop. Barring that fall in November, he may have beaten Ginny’s Destiny. His run at Exeter looked to be more professional and ironed out those novicey mistakes. He may be short in the market, but he’s the play. 4/1 (BetUK).

Each-way pick: Excello looked fantastic at Ascot at the Long Walk Meeting. But came to Cheltenham on Trials Day and looked to be with a chance at the third last. He wasn’t fluent and lost all of his momentum. He’s been dropped tow pounds. But you have a feeling he’s been prepped for a run at this. 25/1 (Unibet, BetUK).


Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase – 3m 2F – Premier Handicap

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Once again, it’s an Irish dominated field for the Kim Muir. This race is all about the amateur jockeys, so the next big name in jumps racing could come out and win this race.

Inothewayurthinkin is wildly stepped up in trip form two-and-a-half miles. It’s been gradual this season, but this is his biggest test. The handicapper has also given him top weight, even without a win this season. His handicap debut last time out was hampered by a faller, so can he bounce back this time?

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Good Time Jonny finished in front of Inothewayurthinkin but was far behind on his start after that when 59 lengths down in third. But he was last year’s Pertemps winner and goes off the same mark this year. But there’s a big question as to whether he’s good over the bigger obstacles.

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Perceval Legallois also has doubts over his jumping. Her’s fallen twice and was way behind in the Drinmore. He won on debut at Galway, but the form from the race was only franked by Meetingofthewaters. He will get the distance after winning over three miles over hurdles.

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You have to go way down the market to look for the first British runner to appear. Bowtogreatness for Ben Pauling has had a mixed season but seems to be hitting the spot just at the right moment. He was beaten by Forward Plan in the Coral Trophy and just couldn’t match the winner. But he ran a stellar race in his own right and remains on the same mark as last time out.


Last year’s winner Angels Dawn could make it back-to-back in the Kim Muir. He may be 11 pounds higher than last year but ran a cracking race in the Thyestes at Gowran. He looks to have been campaigned with this race in mind and despite a high weight, can take advantage of the poor jumpers at the front of the market. 10/1 (BetUK).

Each-way pick: Weveallbeencaught is going in one of the staying chases but looks to have a better chance here. He wasn’t on his day last time out and as a result has seen his handicap mark drop slightly. He has a liking for Cheltenham and can run to a place. 14/1 (General).

I really hope Where It All Began runs. It was the same race Angels Dawn ran in last season on his way to winning this race. He won the Irish National Trial at a canter and has crept into the conversation after the win. He’s constantly on the improve and worth a shot if he comes here. 20/1 (BetVictor, Unibet, BetUK).

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