2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase
Tuesday 10 March | Age: 5yo+ | Prize: £110,000
The Ultima (Festival Trophy) Handicap Chase is a Grade 3 National Hunt steeplechase handicap and is one of the big betting races on Day One of the meeting. Open to horses aged five years or older, the Festival Trophy Handicap Chase is run on the Old Courseover a distance of about three miles and one furlong (3 miles 1 furlong).
THE Ultima is the first handicap of the festival and is often one where I often feel that I do quite well in.
Like many of these handicaps, previous festival form is quite useful and for this one in particular you really need a horse that will stay the full distance of 3miles 1 furlong.
Vindication looks likely to be sent off as favourite and his claims are obvious, having previously been fancied for some of the top graded races. He will need to carry a welter burden over this trip though on what looks like being soft ground so I'm passing him by at the shorter prices.
Discorama is probably the one that I like at the single figure prices but I would rather take two pokes at big odds in this race, particularly with extra place terms on offer.
The first one that I am hoping will run well is ATLANTA ABLAZE for the classy Henry Daly yard.
This mare ran really well at a big price in the National Hunt Chase as a novice last season before falling two out when in third place. She is a nice each way price now on a handy handicap mark after a run over an inadequate trip last time and has been saved for this race by the look of things.
I am slightly concerned about her lack of experience in this frantic field but if Tom O'Brien can get her hunting around in a safe spot she should be bang there as they turn for home. Worth a dabble at a big price.
My second selection is one that I put up on the podcast last week and that's the Lucinda Russell trained BIG RIVER. He has previous festival experience having finished 4th in this race last year.
If you go back and watch the race you wouldn't believe that he would get 4th as they come over the last because he was miles behind but finished like a train. If Derek Fox can get him a bit handier this year he should finish closer and could snatch it at big odds.
Betway are paying 6 places each way and offering very good odds so that's who I'll be using for this race.
THE CONDITIONAL has slipped in near the foot of the weights in a wide-open 3m 1f Ultima Handicap Chase.
David Bridgwater’s gelding beat West Approach over course and distance earlier this season before his gallant second to De Rasher Counter in the Ladbrokes Trophy (old Hennessy Gold Cup) at Newbury.
The Conditional travelled like the winner of the Warwick Classic next time but didn’t stay 3m 5f (fourth) behind Kimberlite Candy and Captain Chaos. That form is working out well and he has enjoyed a nice eight-week break.
Mister Malarky jumped like a buck when repelling Black Corton at Kempton and a repeat of his fourth to Topofthegame in last year’s RSA Chase will make Colin Tizzard’s gelding a player.
Discorama is sitting on an attractive mark and has been well found in the market since being tipped up last week by Pricewise, while Kildisart looks to have been laid out for this handicap.
Like all handicaps at the Festival, this one's extremely competitive, which makes it a nightmare to find a winner.
I could write about every horse in the line-up, and say how they have got a good chance, but unfortunately it could get long (already is long).
I wouldn’t advise a bet in the race as a tip, but if I was to have a play in the race it would be The Conditional, who is trained by David Bridgewater. David is operating at a 20% SR this season, and he places his horses extremely well.
This horse's form is strong, he won a handicap at the track earlier in the season, beating the likes of Cogry¸West Approach & Captain Chaos, to name a few.
He then finished second in the Hennessy at Newbury. His last run was decent enough, he ran out of steam in the last few furlongs but looked like a winner when approaching the final bend. His best runs have come off a lower weight, and tomorrow he runs off 10st 6lbs.
A few other horses to mention are Vindication, who has always looked like a thorough stayer. He won very well at Ascot last time out, beating Regal Encore.
He probably deserves to be favourite, but carrying top weight of 11st 12lbs, he’s got a tough race on his hands.
Discorama will stay every inch of this trip. He finished second to Le Breuil at the Festival last year in the Amateurs Race. Paul Nolan is great at targeting horses for big races, and he’s definitely got a great chance.
It wouldn’t shock me to see Elwood run a nice race on handicap debut for Gordon Elliot, off a mark of 135. He’s competed in some hot novice chases and slips in off a low weight.
Catch the Voice of Valaue's ante-post thoughts on the Championship and novice Races at the Festival in his indepth podcasts with John Egan and Chris Dickson.
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