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I've mentioned over the last couple of days which races people don't like, this is probably up there for the one I dislike the most, it's the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle.

In the past, to get into this race horses would have to run in qualifiers in Ireland or the UK and they would have to finish in the top 6, which would cement you a place in this race, as long as you are high enough in the handicap. That format has changed over the last couple of years and they have opted for only the top 4 will qualify. This has made it a little bit tougher for horses to get into the race, as in the past a good way of picking out the winner would be to look at the Irish qualifier, normally at the DRF and see what finishes 6th or 5th, as they would often be targetted those positions, so they could get in the race, and not get put up by the handicapper if anything dropped a few pounds.

Cheltenham 2:10 – Le Milos 15/2 (0.5pt EW, Bet365) & Icare Allen 15/2 (0.5pt EW, SkyBet 8pl)

Chantry House has been spoken about this race since the start of the season, the manner in which he has been raced through this season would suggest this has been the long-term plan and he managed to qualify at Huntingdon 49 days when finishing 4th. He will love the ground, stays the trip very strongly and is well-handicapped on old form, but once again the Nicky Henderson yard is going through a rough patch at the minute and something isn't quite right with their stable so that definitely has to be considered if backing him.

Le Milos will have to go against recent history to win this at the age of 9, with the last winner being 8yo+ was back in 2011, but I do think he has a squeak in this. We all know how good a target trainer Dan Skelton is, he has shown it time and time again, even at the Cheltenham Festival when winning the county hurdle 3x and the Coral Cup last year he is mustard with the handicap hurdles, not only at Cheltenham but everywhere in the UK. This is a race he has only had two runners in, so isn't a normal target race, with the last runner coming in 2021 who came in 8th. It's evident that Le Milos has been set to run for this race since running in the Grand National last year, and his life was made easier when qualifying on seasonal reappearance in a small field race at Market Rasen. He was never intended to win that race, quietly ridden by Skelton, never really put into the race and the job there was done. He was then put in a 2m 4f race at Ascot which was never going to suit him given he has won a Coral Gold Cup over 3m 2f, so it was clearly just a run for fitness and to edge his handicap mark down for today, which saw the handicapper reduce him by 4lbs.

This race hasn't been won by the great Willie Mullins, but he doesn't send many horses for it, so it's not a great surprise. In the last ten years, he has had two runners in this race, 7th in 2021 and 14th in 2017, but I don't think either of those had the same chance as Icare Allen does. This horse has always had ability and has always looked like a strong stayer, so it's strange that he has only raced once over 3m, which came last time out in November in the qualifier at Aintree. I think that is a great bit of placing by Willie to send him over to Aintree to get qualified as the Irish races are normally big fields and trying to gently ease him into the top four can be hard. He was hardly asked for an effort at Aintree, Jonjo Jr is great at hiding his efforts on a horse, but he was never really trying on Icare Allen. He was cruising in contention off 12st, but the main aim was to get a spot for today's race and they did that. He has the class to win this, as we saw him finish 4th in the Triumph back in 2022 and his runs at the Galway Festival enhance those claims.

the 12yo, Mill Green would be of major interest for this race for me if the yard weren't having their problems. This horse has finished 3rd in this race two years in a row is running off 135 with Freddie Gordon taking off 5lbs, meaning he is 3lbs lower than his previous two attempts for this race. Ground won't be a problem. Maybe he is one for the placepot with the doubts around Henderson's yard.

Obviously plenty arrive with a decent chance in this race, the Gordon Elliott, Henry De Bromhead and E McNamara horses have been looked at with serious thought, but unfortunately, you can't back every horse in the race.

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