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Ultima Handicap Chase betting tips: Two against the field for Tuesday's big Cheltenham handicap chase

Brian Healy looks ahead to Tuesday's first big handicap race at the Cheltenham Festival, and he picks out two against the field who should run well.

The first big handicap of the Cheltenham Festival goes to post at 2.50pm as the third race of the afternoon, and the 3m 1f contest will feature a maximum field of high-class handicappers each vying for a first prize in excess of £60,000.

Always a hugely competitive contest, this race has been won in the past by the likes of Coo Star Sivola - who will be back to defend his crown - as well as dual-winner Un Temps Pour Tout, Holywell - who went on to land Grade One success - and Wichita Lineman, who was the beneficiary of one of the best ever rides in Cheltenham Festival folklore by then-champion jockey AP McCoy to snatch the spoils.

Defending champion Coo Star Sivola (14/1, William Hill) was rated 142 and carried 10-10 when getting the better of Shantou Flyer in this race twelve months ago, but Nick Williams’ charge is 3lbs higher here, and he arrives out of sorts having ran disappointingly here last time out behind Cogry.

The Assessor gelding could bounce back though returned to a more suitable surface, having struck twelve months ago in heavy ground. He shouldn’t be underestimated if he can bounce back to form on more favourable ground.

Can Coo Star Sivola win a second Ultima Chase crown from 3lbs higher in the weights?

But Brian Healy casts his eye over the potential big-race field for the first of the Cheltenham Festival handicaps, and he picks out two against the field to be interested in.

Twelve months ago, MISTER WHITAKER (10/1, Ladbrokes) won on this card when getting the better of Rather Be to claim the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap, and Mick Channon’s charge could well prove up to the task of winning a second Cheltenham Festival prize.

The Court Cave gelding made a winning return to action when beating the ultra-consistent Happy Diva - who has acquitted herself very well since, including winning at Huntingdon - and she was subsequently sent off favourite for a red-hot renewal of the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Given too much to do there, she eventually finished a fair fourth behind Baron Alco, finishing well; and there wasn’t much wrong with a subsequent fourth behind runaway winner Cyrname at Ascot next time out, although she finished a fair way behind the leader.

He was conceding weight to the front trio, including 13lbs to Happy Diva who finished ahead of her; and the form has been boosted since in no uncertain terms by the winner blitzing a top-class field in the Ascot Chase last month.

He looked ready for a step up in trip in that Ascot contest, and this extra half-mile could well coincide with a jolt of improvement; while he probably needs a shade more at the weights, he is a big strapping brute of a horse and he remains open to progress with a proven ability to handle soft ground well. 

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him posting a big effort and he can go well if lining up.

JERRYSBACK (16/1, Ladbrokes) was a winner between the flags earlier in his career prior to joining Philip Hobbs, but the Jeremy gelding has largely been kept to shorter trips; he could however prove a force stepping up in trip as he switches to handicapping, and following improving novices in Cheltenham handicaps can often bear fruit.

A dual-winner over hurdles, which includes on heavy ground at Plumpton, he returned from a 633-day absence to post a fair fifth of seven runners here behind Count Meribel back in November, clearly in need of the run.

However, he has shown himself to be a very useful sort since, building on that performance to strike at Bangor in December, beating Mulcahys Hill; and he followed up that performance by chasing home Vinndication at Ascot in the Grade Two Novices’ Chase, beaten just over one length.

He found only one too good again at Haydock in January, beaten five lengths behind Castafiore in the Grade Two Altcar Novices’ Chase; that winner subsequently made a good fist of things when finding only Bags Groove too strong in the Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton.

Philip Hobbs’ charge could benefit from a step up in trip, and having won in a point-to-point and in heavy ground, there are reasons to be confident that the Jeremy gelding could find a jolt of improvement switching to a handicap from what appears a very workable mark.

He is yet to tackle a field as big as is likely in the Ultima Chase, but he could prove to be a progressive sort who may have plenty more to come over fences in the handicap ranks and he can post a big effort.


MISTER WHITAKER (10/1, Ladbrokes), JERRYSBACK (16/1, Ladbrokes)

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Ultima Handicap Chase betting tips: Two against the field for Tuesday's big Cheltenham handicap chase

Brian Healy looks ahead to Tuesday's first big handicap race at the Cheltenham Festival, and he picks out two against the field who should run well.

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