We are past the halfway stage and Ash Symonds has taken a look at the three handicap races on the Thursday of the Cheltenham Festival for Bestofbets.
THURSDAY – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle
I’m with the British in this race as I think Nicky Henderson could be starting off the day extremely well.
WALKING ON AIR (10/1) was my Ballymore horse last season from an ante-post perspective before being ruled out of the race – a disappointment at Aintree at the end of the season and two further poor performances in December this season had me questioning whether he was as good as I once thought.
However, his victory in a Pertemps Qualifier at Exeter on his last run was extremely good – Nico de Boinville was virtually hands-and-heels on him after the last and the handicapper has only given him a five-pound penalty, a lenient one in my books, so I think he could be one to look forward to next season, and he has a great chance in this year’s Pertemps.
I’d also give a small shout to LEVEL NEVERENDING and HECTOR JAVILEX at two bigger prices.
The former is 20/1 with William Hill and was a good staying-on third at Warwick in the Pertemps Qualifier and was just behind Perceval Legallois in a 2m4f maiden hurdle 11 months ago, some people’s idea of the winner in this race before connections decided not to declare him.
As for the latter, he bolted up over course and distance on soft ground on New Year’s Day and got himself qualified by finishing fourth last time out – Charlie Longsdon thinks this is his best chance of the week and he could hit the frame at 16/1 with William Hill.
THURSDAY – Plate Handicap Chase
We move on to one of my favourite handicap races of the week, the Festival Plate Handicap Chase.
I have just one Irish horse on my radar this year and it’s MARVEL DE CERISY at 16/1 with William Hill.
This six-year-old is one of the most unexposed horses in the line-up if you can forgive his 47-length defeat at Fairyhouse in December, he has to be right there.
He started the calendar year of 2022 by finishing second in a big field maiden hurdle to the now 149-rated Meet And Greet by three lengths before bolting up by 19 lengths on his next start.
On his first start over fences, he was set to be the runner-up to Impervious at Wexford on heavy ground before falling at the last, something he quickly put behind him by gliding home on his next start to beat the nifty Aarons Day.
If he can bounce back at a distance he seems to relish, he can be very competitive off 142 for Henry de Bromhead having been given a break of 85 days to freshen him up.
THURSDAY – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase
There’s a horse at the top of the market I like for the Kim Muir, and it’s my first Willie Mullins horse.
I will be taking a chance on MR INCREDIBLE off top weight as I believe he is one of the most unexposed horses in the line-up.
He has had a weird season so far having been brought down in the Paddy Power Chase when well-backed to 7/1 at the fifth fence two starts ago – before that, he pulled himself up at Tramore in April and refused to race in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase in December 2021.
However, on his most recent start in the Warwick Classic Chase, he was staying on extremely well behind Iwilldoit and finished just three lengths away off a mark of 142 – now rated 145, Mullins believes he could be a Grand National horse, and if they decide to send him to the Kim Muir, he will be a horse carrying my money.