Cheltenham Festival handicap pointers

Steve Hughes has two horses to look out for at the Festival

Soviet Pimpernel

A horse that has caught my eye all season.  He is entered in two races and is in the opening Supreme Novice.  However I am very much hoping he is aimed at the County Hurdle on the Friday for which he has an enticing weight of just 10-12.

He won at the third attempt in bumpers at the Listowel Festival, showing a decent turn of pace in the process.  However he has not looked back since going hurdling.  He coasted home at Gowran on his jumping debut and might only have been beaten by the bottomless ground at Cheltenham when worn down by Quel Destin up the run-in.  That horses has franked the form in style since – and he showed enough to confirm he handles the track.

He found Grade 1 company at Fairyhouse too hot, but bounced back to win a Grade 3 at Limerick over Christmas, again being delivered late for a strong run.  To me he has all the attributes to win top handicaps, ie a high cruising speed and the ability to quicken.  He has been kept fresh for the Festival since Limerick and a rating of 138 looks more than fair given Quel Destin is now rated 18lbs higher.


I was interested to see that Canardier has joined Willie Mullins since his last run and given his already decent track record, any level of improvement for the switch of yards must give him a great chance of a Festival handicap win.

He won a good novice over 2m5f at the autumn meeting at Cheltenham last season and was then kept fresh for a tilt at the Coral Cup over the same trip.  He finished a good fifth that day and he went on to place third at Aintree the following month.

He did not take to chasing for his old yard in the autumn, but he is entered in three handicap hurdles at the Festival. The Coral Cup could be a target, but he might be best off on the Martin Pipe in the meeting finale where he would have to carry top weight, but the class horses have a great record in this race – as do does Mullins.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way – Soviet Pimpernel – County Hurdle – 20/1 William Hill, Betfred or 16/1 Bet365 (non-runner no bet)

1pt each-way – Canardier – Coral Cup – 14/1 Bet365/ Paddy Power (non-runner no bet) and

Martin Pipe Conditional – 12/1 Skybet, BetVictor (non-runner no bet)









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