Jumps Season - At The Races

Ultima Handicap Chase

    Cheltenham, Tuesday 13th March 2018.
  • Stats Guides

Last Year's Winner: Un Temps Pour Tout

Jockey:
Tom Scudamore
Trainer:
David Pipe
Age:
9
Weight:
11st 12lb
Starting Price:
9/1
Season Form Figures:
1036
Previous Best:
1st - Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil (Grade 1), Auteuil (June 2013)

A quality piece of previous Cheltenham Festival form is a notable positive and, better still, that piece of quality form being achieved in a previous running of this staying handicap chase.

Last season Un Temps Pour Tout followed in the hoofprints of Scot Lane in 1982 and 1983 to win back-to-back runnings when edging out the novice, Singlefarmpayment, who had won at Cheltenham earlier in the season. The 2014 winner, Holywell, also went close to becoming a dual winner when finishing runner-up in 2016. Nine of the last 20 winners had finished in the first four at this meeting before, four of them 12 months earlier. Remarkably, Un Temps Pour Tout became the fourth winner since 2010 to prep in the Cleeve Hurdle on Festival Trials Day in January.

Only two favourites have won since 1977 but as many as nine second-favourites have won since 1984 and 12 winners since the turn of the century could be found in the first four in the betting. In fact, last season’s 1-2-3 were the three most fancied runners according to the market.

All change with regards to trends for official ratings. The 14 winners prior to 2014 were rated no higher than 143 heading into the race but there has been ongoing increase since then with the last four winners rated 145, 146, 148 and then 155. In victory off 155 last season, Un Temps Pour Tout became the first winner rated in the 150s since fellow dual-race winner, Scot Lane 34 years earlier. If you prefer the weights-carried angle in your effort to narrow the field down further, 12 of the last 17 winners carried less than 11st from approximately one-third of the total runners and two of the last six winners were successful off bottom weight.

12 of the last 17 winners carried less than 11st from approximately one-third of the total runners.

What was once a mighty difficult race for novices who went 37 years without a winner up until Fork Lightning won in 2004, has been turned on its head having registered five successes in the last 14 runnings. Singlefarmpayment went within a short head of making that six last season. If pressed, I would side with a novice having their first run in a handicap chase as was the case with the three most recent British-trained novices.

Jonjo O’Neill has trained three of the last nine winners of which Wichita Lineman and Alfie Sherrin won in the colours of J P McManus, whose silks were also carried to victory in the 2003 running with the Irish-trained Youlneverwalkalone. O’Neill also went close on three more occasions with second-place finishes for Keen Leader, Carbury Cross and Holywell since 2002 so this is clearly a handicap that he likes to target.

David Pipe loves the Festival handicap chases and has also won this race on three occasions which is extremely good going given that he has held a trainer’s licence for only ten years. In addition to two wins for Un Temps Pour, he won with An Accordion as well The Package placing on three occasions before he won the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir.

Nicky Henderson may not have saddled the winner since Marlborough in 2000 but a winner and six places from 18 runners in the last 16 runnings is consistent going. Alan King is another trainer who likes to target this race. His record of two winners and a close-up third since 2003 catches the eye and Bensalem also looked the probable winner seven years ago but for his late fall. Take special note if King runs a novice. Paul Nicholls, however, is 0-20.

As for the Irish, they supplied the second and third three years ago in a race they haven’t really gone after in a big way down the years. When they have sent over fancied runners, however, it has paid to take note as we saw in 2014 and Noble Endeavor was third last season. When Youlneverwalkalone was ending their 38-year drought in 2003 he was sent off 7/1 third-favourite and Dun Doire won at the same odds three years later having been sent off second-favourite.

Just six of the 23 runners four years ago arrived here directly off the back of a victory including the 1-2 at 10/1 and 33/1 which was a welcome return to the days when last-time-out winners had a strong profile winning six times between 2003-2010. A paucity of last-time-out winners in recent seasons has made it difficult for horses with such a profile to emulate the superb record of winners that had also been successful on their previous start compared to around 20% of the field over the previous ten years.

As for horses aged over ten, give them a wide berth as just two have placed from 48 to try since 1997.

At a glance summary

Positives
Likely to start in the first four in the betting
Novices
Won or placed at the Cheltenham Festival in another year (notably in this race)
Contested the Cleeve Hurdle
Trained by Jonjo O’Neill, David Pipe, Alan King or Nicky Henderson
Won last time out
Owned by J P McManus
Negatives
Officially rated higher than 150
Aged 11+
Trained by Paul Nicholls

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