James Jack, @materialista27, runs through the field for the final race of the week...
The Grand Annual closes the festival on Friday and is a Grade 3 handicap for 5 year olds and older The runners will tackle 14 fences over 2 miles and a half furlong on the New Course. Despite it's position in the running order of the festival, the Grand Annual is the oldest race of the week and was first run in 1834. As the race carries the name of his father, Nicky “oh gee I've had another winner” Henderson has 6 runners in race, so if like me you haven't backed many of them, you'll have plenty of chances in this and even if he comes up dry, his smug mug will be all over the racing news for the next few weeks so we can all look forward to that. We have 1 previous winner in the field this year in the form of Oiseau De Nuit.
French Opera 11-12
Henderson's first entry was 2nd in this race 2 years ago and 3rd the year before that. Slowly getting back to form finishing 2nd at Newbury on his seasonal reappearance, but the main concern is that he's carrying a stone more than most of the market leaders.
In with a chance for a place.
Decent chaser, with a few good efforts over 2 miles, but 10 now and an amateur hasn't won this race in the last 40 years.
Doubtful to get in the frame.
Oiseau De Nuit 11-2
Reigning champion, but as this week has panned out, he isn't Big Buck's so unlikely he'll win. Hasn't won since that effort last year and is 7lb higher than last year.
Tanks For That 10-13
Another one for the man who's face you'd never tire of punching. Geraghty takes the ride on this one for Henderson, won over 2 miles here in November but 22lbs higher in this race. Still, cannot be written off based on the form these 2 are in this week.
Small EW play on this one.
Kid Cassidy 10-9
Looks like he-who-must-not-be-named's first string. McCoy takes the ride, but he's been largely quiet this week, so it's be typical for him to pop up in the winner's enclosure here. Fell on chase debut, but bounced back with 2 wins. Never been out of the frame when completing the course. Has never run at Cheltenham so we'll see how he handles the hill but 2nd over hurdles at Sandown shows he can handle an uphill finish.
There or thereabouts.
The Twiston-Davies team have been quiet at the festival since Imperial Commander's Gold Cup triumph in 2010. However he's had a bit of a break since winning over course and distance in December and the race will be run to suit.
Include in all forecasts.
Has produced a few good efforts this season for Venetia Williams but as a result has vaulted up in the ratings. Won last time at Taunton when back to this trip. Manfully finished 4th at Cheltanham on New Year's Day but that was over 2 miles 5 furlongs so should be discounted. I've had a niggly feeling all week that Venetia will have a winner in one of these handicaps, so this is her last chance.
Not for me.
Alan King's charge had taken well to fences this year, and finished 2nd in the Albert Bartlett last year. Wears blinkers for the first time which should help in this type of race. Improved when tried in a visor on the flat, looks like a pointer for this effort.
Looks like the winner for me.
Nicholls and Walsh, punters' friends for the last few year at the Festival, bounced back with Big Bucks' stunning victory, but with questions over the yard, he might not be at his best and his best is what'd be required in this race.
King Edmund 10-7
Donkey, even with promising claimer Declan Cannon on board. Best form has come at Ascot, and Cheltenham is very different. I would be surprised if he's anywhere near the frame.
Don't even think about it.
Mainly run in novice chases this season for Eddie O'Grady and has acquitted himself well. Andrew Lynch will be hoping to make up for his final “fence” blunder on Sizing Europe. Yet to run on these shores, so it's unknown how he'll handle the trip and the conditions.
I'll give him a miss.
Henderson's 6th string on paper, too many questions over the hill, the ground and the jockey. Has only beaten 10 horses over fences.
Don't touch it.
Tara Royal 10-3
*Bottle-job” McCain got a well deserved defeat with Peddler's Cross in the Jewson. Tara had his best effort at Musselburgh last time out in winning his first chase since debut over fences at Haydock in summer 2010. Hard to believe he'll make the jump to winning this, but Maguire looked masterful in the first race of the festival, so it'd be nice symmetry if he could book-end the meeting with the winner here.
It's been a while since I talked about a Nicky Henderson runner in this, so let's have another one. Most of his success has come in small fields against shire horses. Even with Paul Carberry on board, he won't find much off the bridle, so he'll plod up the hill in 10th or 11th.
Stick with me folks, this is Hendo's last one, and this is the sneaky one the stable lad will have his million on. Finished 6th in the race last year and despite falling and finishing last on his previous 2 starts, Henderson has said a word about this one, so he'll likely come stonking up the hill and complete a memorable festival for the Henderson team just to spite me.
Will probably finish either first or last.
Lucky William 10-2
Thomas Cooper brings this one over from Ireland after running in Grade 1 chases last twice. Likes a softer track than this as last two wins came in soft and heavy conditions including a 2 mile chase at Punchestown in October. Will be running well at the finish, but as he'll be outpaced by faster ground runners, he'll be running on in 8th or 9th.
Leave it out.
Brian Ellison saddles this one, and although winning last time out at Doncaster, this is a much tougher test and the booking of a 7lb claimer doesn't inspire confidence. His only other chase win came on good to firm, after his somewhat mince hurdling career.
I wouldn't touch it with your betting slip.
Free World 10-0
Still with me? Nearly there now. Ran over hurdles last time out as he was pulled up on his last 2 chasing efforts, and although he'll probably complete this time, it seems unlikely he'll be in with a shout. Owner Clive Smith will be pre-occupied with the great Kauto earlier in the day, so he won't mind this one dawdling home a good few lengths behind the rest.
De Boitron 10-0
Ferdy Murphy provides the ride for the delightful Lucy Alexander. Finished 4th in the race last year, and despite a couple of lamentable efforts at Donny and Ascot, was much better at Mussleburgh last time out. Course and distance winner in the past and looks to be regaining that form. Probably the last and best chance for a female jockey winner this week.
Will go very close.
You don't see many American bred winners at the Cheltenham festival, and this won't be one of them. Nina Carberry on board for Paul Cashman, he won 3 weeks ago at Naas on soft ground, but still could be dangerous from this weight if Nina can get over her various disappointments this week.
Small EW chance.
Norther Bay 10-0
Will likely make the running for Eoin Griffin and Paul Townend, and will probably throw Paul off at some point. You may have seen him last time out finishing last over 1 mile 5 furlongs on the Dundalk AW, and based on his last win at Listowel, has plenty to find and should probably be switched back to hurdles last season.
Back it only if you're daft or rich.
Spread your 10 points on:
4pt win Kumbeshwar
2pt win De Boitron
1pt win Tara Royal
0.5pt ew Tanks For That
0.5pt ew Astracad
0.5 pt ew Idarah