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Last Year's Winner: Sire Du Berlais
- B J Geraghty
- G Elliott
- Starting Price:
- Season Form Figures:
- Previous Best:
- 4th - Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, Cheltenham (Mar 2018)
Eleven of the last 24 winners also won on their previous outing which is a very high strike rate for a Cheltenham Festival handicap hurdle so that is the key opening trend.
The class acts have been coming to the fore recently as Sire du Berlais won off 11st 9lb last season, Presenting Percy led home a 1-2-3 for horses in the top six in the weights in 2017 and the previous year the second, third and fourth could be found in the top five in the handicap. Moreover, in 2014 the top weight beat the second top weight into second and, for good measure, the third and fourth in the handicap finished fourth and fifth.
Eleven of the last 24 winners also won on their previous outing which is a very high strike rate for a Cheltenham Festival handicap hurdle.
As for the qualifying races that have fared best as a guide in more recent years, point number one is that only two winners of any qualifier have gone on to also win the Final in the last 23 runnings. 2017’s winner occupied the sixth and final qualifying position at Leopardstown and then was put away for three months (some have argued that was the ride of the season from Davy Russell!) meaning that five of the last 15 winners of the Final qualified via that route. Three of the last four winners qualified at Punchestown in February finishing 313 meaning that the last four winners were all Irish trained.
The most successful British qualifier has been the very first in the series as the Cheltenham Qualifier back in October has featured three of the last 16 winners. Not that they featured heavily though in their qualifier as they were beaten out of sight finishing 887 so wouldn’t have even qualified on that basis for this season. Staying in Britain and outside of the qualifiers, or even including the qualifiers, comfortably the best guide of late has been the Betfair Exchange Handicap Hurdle (formerly the Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle) at Haydock on Betfair Chase day with three of the last 11 winners of the Final finishing in the first five.
Jonjo O’Neill has won the Final on four occasions, two of which for J P McManus who looks set to be strongly represented this season and also won it with Kadoun and Sire du Berlais for other stables. Gordon Elliott saddled last season’s winner, the winner and runner-up in 2018 after being responsible for the third and fifth in 2018 and will be the go-to man for many punters. Paul Nicholls has yet to win the Final but he could not have gone any closer than when Southfield Theatre was edged out by a nose five years ago and he supplied the runner-up again the following season and the third at a big price in 2018. Seven of his 17 runners have finished between second and fifth so he has been there or thereabouts.
Novices can win this staying handicap, seven of them have done so going to back to Danny Connors in 1991 though none for eight years until Mall Dini three years ago. Only Pragada and Delta Work have won for five-year-olds since it was first run in 1974.
What was a strong race for grizzled, tough, hardened handicappers has gone back to favouring younger horses again like between 1983-1997 when all bar two winners were aged no older than seven. Horses aged 8+ won on as many as nine occasions between 1998-2012 but the last five winners were all younger. They will usually have lower handicap marks and the highest rated winner for many a moon has been 148.
At a glance summary
- Last-time-out winners
- Top six in the weights
- Contested the Leopardstown, Punchestown or Cheltenham Qualifier
- Six and seven-year-olds
- Contested the Betfair Exchange Handicap Hurdle at Haydock
- Representing Jonjo O’Neill and/or J P McManus
- Winner of a qualifier
- Officially rated 150+