Cheltenham Festival: The Ultimate Guide - 2021-03-05


Happygolucky can reward the faith


Tom Collins

Clondaw Castle Widely fancied to make his mark in this race after his Grade 3 Close Brothers Handicap Chase success at Kempton, although connections put water on the fire by suggesting the Bowl at Aintree may well be his target. Long considered a Graded horse, Clondaw Castle lived up to the hype when he got his conditions (flat track and good ground) last time while also proving he has the stamina to land a competitive three-mile contest. A flick back through his form suggests Cheltenham is far from his ideal, so sticking to the Grand National meeting at Aintree may see him in the best light. Cloth Cap It isn’t unheard of that Grand National runners have their prep in the Ultima, and Cloth Cap fits that bill with stamina in abundance and the want for a proper test. He has been largely kept away from the spotlight throughout his career and stands out as a bona fide long-term Aintree prospect. Nevertheless, he was given a crack at the Kim Muir last year, in which he finished a distant eighth after struggling to go with the early gallop. There were hints that this could be his season when his reappearance run at this track ended in a creditable third to Frodon and first-time cheekpieces provided a spark in the Ladbrokes Trophy. He’s a player if he is ready to go after a break, although his form figures first time up aren’t promising. Coko Beach Few horses have as many Cheltenham entries as Coko Beach, whose name appears in the ante-post betting for five events. The in-form six-year-old, who is unbeaten since the application of blinkers at Gowran Park in January, looks to be fulfilling his early potential and has twice run well at the festival in the past, highlighted by his runner-up effort in the 2019 Boodles Juvenile Hurdle. A string of early defeats this season can be excused given the majority came over an inadequate trip, and the strong stayer warrants a second look depending on his handicap mark. Escaria Ten An unexposed profile often attracts supporters and thus his presence at the top of the Ultima market is no surprise. A point winner who cost £100,000 at the 2019 Cheltenham sales, Escaria Ten has long shaped like a horse who is desperate for a stamina test over fences and a well-devised plan this season has left him on an attractive mark for his main target. However, the three-time winner showed signs of vulnerability last time out at Naas with several questionable leaps and this test demands plenty from a novice. Although he may entice you, his price should be enough to put you off. Happygolucky “We’d certainly like to be back here in March” – that was the quote from trainer Kim Bailey after Happygolucky’s December success at this track. It looks like the plan has worked to perfection and the Ultima may be the chosen destination for the talented seven-year-old, who finished fourth in last year’s Martin Pipe. It is no secret that Cheltenham brings out the best in Happygolucky and jumping is clearly his strong suit – although he is prone to being a bit too enthusiastic and bold at his fences. In a field chock-full of exposed handicappers, Happygolucky may prove to be one of the classier conveyances lining up. With Graded potential, take him on at your peril. Jerrysback A lofty reputation invariably leads to disappointment and following two impressive novice hurdle victories in early 2017, Jerrysback has generally failed to shine for his powerful connections. Clearly a tough horse to train with several long absences in the form book, Jerrysback has only once entered the winner’s enclosure after running in a chase. That success came at 50-1 in a beginners’ event at Bangor, yet he often receives support from punters in high-class events. Two Cheltenham visits have ended in 50- and 48-length defeats, while jumping issues must be at the forefront of your mind. He may have the ability to win, but we are yet to witness said ability on the track. Lieutenant Rocco A cheap store purchase who passed through the hands of Paul Nicholls without a run before showing early promise in novice hurdles for Colin Tizzard. Considered a dark horse for the Albert Bartlett last year, Lieutenant Rocco ambitiously set the pace and unsurprisingly found the task at hand too tough and was eventually pulled up. Now with his third trainer, Lieutenant Rocco is starting to draw attention as a staying chaser and few questions can be asked about his jumping after his most recent Ffos Las success. Whether or not he can repeat that impressive display here is another question, but it would be a big story if he won. Milan Native The sole former Cheltenham Festival winner in this field, Milan Native proved a notable handicap blot when plundering the Kim Muir last year on his first start in the sphere off a mark of 141. Stepped up to a trip in excess of three miles for the first time that day, Milan Native took off up the hill and readily outpointed 22 rivals to make a mockery of his rating. Following a narrow victory on his reappearance this campaign, Milan Native has barely been seen in three subsequent events over a variety of trips, although he has caught the eye on more than one occasion. This race appears to have been the plan for a year, but the handicapper hasn’t been as lenient as connections would have liked. One For The Team Talented sort who has taken an unorthodox course to the Cheltenham Festival. Second to Next Destination in the Grade 2 John Francome Novices’ Chase in November, One For The Team then found himself taking on some of the best horses around in that division in Grade 1 company, before swiftly facing his experienced elders in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster. That display was by far the worst we have seen from him this season and he will need to bounce back to feature here. Nick Williams knows what it takes to win an Ultima after Coo Star Sivola’s 2018 success. Sam Brown This nine-year-old knows how to win – eight races have produced five victories – although he looks thoroughly ground dependent. Clearly suited by an out-and-out slog and therefore kept to testing conditions, Sam Brown’s sole start on a going description that involved good ended up in a markedly sub-par performance and unless the weather forecast leading up to the festival is completely wrong, he won’t get his ideal surface. With that in mind he is best avoided. VERDICT Milan Native looks to have been primed for a second Cheltenham Festival victory but he may still be a pound or two high in the weights and Irish raiders have a poor record in this race. Although he is respected, preference is for the stout jumper Happygolucky. Kim Bailey’s charge seems best suited to the track, trip and conditions of this race and is fancied to put up a bold display on his return from a break. 1 Happygolucky 2 Milan Native 3 Cloth Cap



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