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Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase preview

Not long now until the Festival begins! The first two races have Mullins hotpots dominating the market so it's not until the third race before we have a decent betting contest - the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase. Blog regular Chris Day, @chrisday100, steps up to solve this testing encounter.

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Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase
3m 1f, Grade 3
Race 3, 14:40 GMT


Before we get to see if Faugheen is the next Istabraq or The New One the next Ruling, there’s the little matter of the 3 mile 1 furlong Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase to consider, a red hot, fast and furious first day contest to warm us up and how royally it does.

The annual game in the run up to the Festival is to spot anything in green and gold making incredible improvement or being tenderly handled with a view to winning one of these big handicaps. With current favourite, Pendra, it’s not been so easy as he’s not been seen since November when emptying over shorter up the Newbury straight but has since had a wind op and sports first time cheekpieces. None of this would presumably have happened to win a Plumpton handicap and he’s feasibly treated on his third to Present View from a 3lbs lower mark same day last year. To back him, you’re basically asking Charlie Longsdon to have done a fantastic job but the trainer has always had the utmost faith in his charge and no doubt the beast’s season, and presumably his future, hangs on this race. I can see him running well, even winning but wouldn’t back him at 7-1 under such circumstances with my own money.

The Druids Nephew, for another high class up and coming trainer, looks very well treated on his Cheltenham November second to Sam Winner, who is now far higher rated and subsequently ran well to split Unioniste and Djakadam in The Hennessy. Freshened up, he travelled exceptionally well in The Cleeve Hurdle and Mulholland is shrewd enough to know when he has one well treated and what to do with it. Geraghty, as with the stable’s fancied handicappers, gets the leg up again and he looks sure to run a big race. Interestingly, the trends boys will tell you that a good performance in the Newbury feature does not usually translate into the same here.

Alan King, a trainer who regularly targets this with up and coming novices, has aimed Ned Stark here since he just held on in a Wetherby Grade 2 a few weeks ago having had a sighter here behind two high class animals in Ptit Zig and Champagne West over an inadequate trip at the turn of the year. Previously successful in a hot Newbury novice handicap, he’s got to have a big chance and travels so smoothly in his races that Denis O’Regan and him are a partnership made in heaven. I really do expect him to be swinging on the bit three out and can’t have him out of the places.

The 2 ½ mile handicap chase won here by 6 lengths by Niceonefrankie in December did not look a great race but Barrakilla stayed on from an unpromising position into second and winners have come out of the race. His previous Sandown third has also been franked and Evan Williams has avoided midwinter ground with a number of his well handicapped horses, a policy I can see paying off here and at Aintree this Spring. He’s progressive, jumps well and has every right to be one of the fancied contenders here.

Two I can’t have are Gallant Oscar, from Cheltenham handicap specialist, Tony Martin’s yard, who has it all to do at these weights and Gevrey Chambertin, from the Pipe yard who also do so well here but who has a worse Cheltenham record than Peter Moore's at the Cricket World Cup (no horse can be that bad - Ed.).

Mendip Express has won here on soft ground and may need those conditions to show his best but his handicap mark has been protected since filling the runner up spot at Aintree in November, presumably with this and The Grand National his two big Spring targets. Whether he’s classy or progressive enough to win this is open to question but he would benefit from more rain on all known form.

Annacotty won over shorter here on Trials’ Day but did beat 13 year old Big Fella Thanks into second and it would be a surprise if this former Feltham winner was good enough here although he has run well over the track in previous attempts.

Henry De Bromhead regularly targets big prizes with his classy recruits and Grand Jesture, who disappointed at Leopardstown over Christmas, could benefit from the better ground. The fact he went off 12-1 for The Paddy Power Chase, Ireland’s leading staying handicap chase, demonstrates the regard in which he’s held and I doubt he’s here to make up the numbers.

Colin Tizzard has won this before and his Theatre Guide has been so lightly raced in recent times that he’s only 4lbs higher than when a cracking third in The 2013 Hennessy and this test could be right up his street.

For the win bet, I’ll take Ned Stark to continue his trainer’s great record and hope Theatre Guide can sneak us a place to get things off to a bright start.

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