Festival Focus: Cheltenham Day Two Handicaps

Cheltenham prepares for the 2023 Festival.

The second day of the Cheltenham Festival is for the two-mile chasers as the Champion Chase takes centre stage at 15:30.

Wednesday also sees the Grand Annual immediately follow over the same course and distance, a race that is the second handicap of the day thanks to the ultra-competitive Coral Cup earlier in the card.

Therefore, BestOfBets has taken a look through both races to try and find a few interesting fancies.


WEDNESDAY – Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle 

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Difficult. Very difficult. 

The first horse that stands out is BEACON EDGE for Noel Meade in the famous Giggingstown House Stud silks at 12/1 with William Hill. 

Since his Grade 1 Drinmore Novices’ Chase victory nine starts ago, the nine-year-old has had a tough time of things in Graded company having failed to finish in the places in five of his last six starts. 

However, since returning to hurdles, he ran a great race behind Blazing Khal, the now Stayers’ Hurdle favourite, in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle last time out, and the British handicapper has only brandished him with an extra two pounds for the run.  

For a horse who was a close third to Honeysuckle in the 2020 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle in November 2020, he can be competitive off a mark of 147 on his first handicap attempt. 

Of the rest, I am again sticking with the Irish here as both TAX FOR MAX and THE VERY MAN look to be very interesting.

The former ran a good race behind Gaelic Warrior in the Liffey Handicap Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival but found a few horses too quick for him and this step up to 2m5f should suit very well.  

As for the latter, he is relatively unexposed at this distance, having finished third to Darver Star, a 149-rated hurdler, in September 2022 when carrying 10 pounds less than the winner. 

He was slightly disappointing in the Martin Pipe last season, however, he ran a great race in the ‘Up The Yard Challenge Race’ last time out at Punchestown, a race that isn’t in the formbook of this horse on the Racing Post, beating the nifty Scaramanga when giving away six pounds on the flat – Scaramanga is officially rated 147 by the British handicapper, so with The Very Man running off 139, he looks to be well handicapped, especially with seven-pound claimer Conor Smithers booked for the ride.


WEDNESDAY – Grand Annual Handicap Chase 

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We are three races into the handicap analysis and I am yet to fancy a British horse (apart from the mention of Cloudy Glen in the Ultima).  

Does this change now?  


Two horses are on my radar for the Grand Annual, and the first is trained by the very in-form David Pipe team who are running at a 26% strike rate at the time of writing. 

I’m taking a big swing and hoping he returns back to form, but SIZING POTTSIE is a massive price at 25/1 with William Hill.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first: he has been soundly beaten on his last two starts in Graded company in both the Desert Orchid Chase and Clarence House Chase. In his most recent spin, he was held up right at the back alongside Edwardstone, tactics that have rarely seen him win in the past and this was a similar case in the Desert Orchid too. 

Before that, he bolted up on stable debut in a novice hurdle at Ayr when well-fancied and he was only beaten by five lengths in the Listed Newton Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock in November – the winner of that race was Tahmuras, a Grade 1 winner in the Tolworth Hurdle and a general 10/1 shot for the Supreme.

Harking back to his days with Jessica Harrington in Ireland, he was rated 155 at his peak when beating the likes of Master McShee, Entoucas (second in the 2021 Grand Annual), and Cut The Mustard, as well as holding solid form behind Melon, Energumene, and Captain Guinness (in a maiden hurdle). 

The handicapper has given him a right chance off 140 having dropped him 15lbs from just three chase races. He may not be at his best anymore, but for this nine-year-old, I’m happy to take the chance off this rating.

It wouldn’t be a handicap chase at Cheltenham without mentioning a Gordon Elliott runner and I think he could have a nice one in CALL ME LYREEN at 20/1 with William Hill.

There was talk that this seven-year-old could have been heading to the Plate Handicap Chase instead, but it seems like connections have decided to come here.

His form behind Visionarian from July has worked out very well and he was running two very good races behind much higher-rated horses in Kilarney and Listowel earlier this season before a terrible mistake hualted his progress.

Off a workable 145 rating, he could be a potential Graded horse in a handicap if his race behind Kemboy and Easy Game, a contest he fell in when travelling ver well, is anything to go by.

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