- Mister Whitaker - 12/1 Ultima Handicap Chase - Betfair
- First Assignment - 11/1 Pertemps Final - Betfair
- Magic Saint - 8/1 Grand Annual - Ladbrokes
The weights are now out for the 11 handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival, so what better time to get stuck into the Cheltenham betting to find those handicap winners.
One of the most important factors for me is previous course form and previous Festival form, with the course being such a unique test. A horse such as Native River often gets outpaced at more conventional tracks, but the test of the Cheltenham Gold Cup suits him down to the ground.
Another angle is to find the progressive young improvers, horses that have had less runs and are therefore open to much more improvement - they are the ones that will be well-handicapped at Cheltenham. Here's three bets that really caught my eye for the Cheltenham handicaps:
Mister Whitaker Tipped For Double
Last year Mister Whitaker prevailed in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival, when staying strongly up the famous hill. He now looks like going for the Ultima Handicap Chase, for which he is a best priced 12/1 with Betfair.
He's now two wins from two runs at Cheltenham, and he's had his excuses for going off the boil a little this season; He seemed to get a little outpaced in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November, when the front runners had things their own way, causing a messy race in behind.
Then at Ascot over 2m5f, Cyrname stormed 20-lengths clear, leaving no rival with a chance of victory. He's since come out and won the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase.
Significantly for the antepost favourite Give Me A Copper (6/1 Bet365), 10 of the last 10 Ultima Handicap Chase winners have run at Cheltenham before. Mister Whitaker relishes the test at Cheltenham and both times over mid-range trips he's stayed on strongly to get up near the line.
There's obviously a question mark about his stamina now stepping up to 3m1f for the Ultima Handicap Chase, but trainer Mick Channon has also entered him in the Cheltenham Gold Cup - he's always looked like a stiff test would suit.
Pertemps Assignment for Williams?
Trainer Ian Williams has a knack of landing big handicaps over jumps and on the Flat and he looks to have a very live chance in the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle betting.
His First Assignment is available at 11/1 with Betfair for that 3m test, having improved massively for the step up to that trip. Already at Cheltenham, he's won 10- and 20runner handicaps including in November by a massive nine lengths.
Williams was forced to run First Assignment shortly after that due to the big hike in his handicap mark, and that went against him at Haydock in the Betfair Exchange Stayers Handicap Hurdle.
He travelled like the winner, but just tired late, getting beaten by leading Cheltenham Stayers' Hurdle hope Paisley Park and Shades Of Midnight, who went on to win the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle by nine lengths. That form looks extraordinary.
He shaped like the best horse in that race and it's significant he has been given a break since, before returning to qualify for the Pertemps Final.
Magic Worthy Grand Annual Favourite
Trainer Paul Nicholls won the Grand Annual Handicap Chase last year and has the current favourite this year, Magic Saint, who is 8/1 with Ladbrokes.
He has been the hype at many Cheltenham preview nights, with jockey Daryl Jacob claiming he's a Grade 1 horse, so there's every chance he could go off very short in the betting on the day.
He's only had three runs for Nicholls and two of those were over a trip too far, where he travelled well but didn't stay the distance. However, he was dropped to 2m last time out at Wincanton and absolutely cantered all over his rivals, winning with anything in hand.
The big field and strong pace of the Grand Annual over 2m should play into his hands with him being such a strong traveller and accurate jumper. Trainer Paul Nicholls has a fantastic record in the race winning the race four times, including the 2016 and 2018 renewals.