Grand Annual Handicap Chase Tips: Libberty Hunter one to watch

 | March 12 | 

6 mins read

Grand annual tips

The second of the handicap races on day two at Cheltenham is the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase, once the final race of the entire meeting, but now relocated to the midpoint.

They run over a frantic two-miles on the Old Course and last year's winner Maskada is back to defend the crown for Henry de Bromhead, seeking to become only the third repeat winner since this race was inaugurated in 1946.

Grand Annual Handicap Chase Tips

Runners

1. Dancing On My Own (Henry de Bromhead/Rachael Blackmore) @ 12/1  

One of three for De Bromhead in the race and seemingly the choice Rachael Blackmore. He was beaten 34-lengths in this in 2022 off 143 on heavy ground, but won here on good going in October from a 5lb lower mark than this. Hadn't sealed the deal when main rival exited at the final jump in the autumn, however, and this a classier event.

2. Saint Roi (Willie Mullins/Mark Walsh) @ 13/2

Once touted as the next major 2m hurdler for this yard but it didn't work out. Won a Grade 1 novice chase in December 2022 and third in last year's Arkle. Efforts in graded company this season not so convincing and questions.

3. Maskada (Henry de Bromhead/Darragh O'Keefe) @ 7/1

Mare was a very good winner of this last year, beating Dinoblue by more than six lengths. Rated 8lb higher now but has been running sound races in graded company in Ireland this season and should give a good account.

4. Solness (Joseph O'Brien/JJ Slevin) @ 14/1

Winner of a Listed Fairyhouse handicap chase in December and still improving based on a third-placed effort behind Madara since at the Dublin Racing Festival off a 9lb higher mark. Bumped up another 2lb for his troubles.

5. Sa Fureur (Gordon Elliott/Jack Kennedy) @ 9/1

Just three starts over fences, falling on debut at Navan in November before scoring fortuitously at Fairyhouse in December when Hunters Yarn came down in the lead at the last. Second to Quilixios since at Naas (2m, soft) and now reverts to a handicap.

6. Madara (Sophie Leech/James Reveley) @ 7/1

Winner here in December and earned the plaudits and €60,000 prize money for going to the Dublin Racing Festival last month and beating the Irish on home soil. 10lb higher now and more to do, but is a 5YO on the up still.

7. Calico (Dan Skelton/Tristan Durrell) @ 16/1

Dual winner over fences last season, running well this term in defeat. Behind Madara when fourth here in December, but more like it in January at Doncaster under this rider - needs more still.

8. Path D'oroux (Gavin Cromwell/Keith Donoghue) @ 9/1

Perhaps unfortunate at Christmas when hampered and fell at the last at Leopardstown when holding every chance. Silver medals at Fairyhouse behind Hunters Yarn and the DRF behind Madara since. 4lb better off with that rival now and cheek-pieces have been added.

9. Harper's Brook (Ben Pauling/Kielan Woods) @ 7/1

Has come in for a lot of market support in the countdown to this after Sandown success last month, but In Excelsis Deo departed when contending at the last in that race. Has a nasty habit of stopping in front late on and has poor form in four starts around this venue.

10. Libberty Hunter (Evan Williams/Harry Cobden) @ 6/1

Faller on chasing bow at Chepstow in November but 2-2 since following a comfortable Wincanton success with New Year's Day score here (heavy). 7lb higher now but that form is solid and has more to offer with Harry Cobden standing in for injured Adam Wedge.

Libberty Hunter

11. Unexpected Party (Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton) @ 14/1

Has run solid races over further in four chase starts here without ever really looking like winning. Good winner at Chepstow (2m3½f, soft) on comeback in October, but not really seeing his races out since and is hard to know if this sharper test will completely suit.

12. Triple Trade (Joe Tizzard/Brendan Powell) @ 25/1

Beat Calico over C&D in November and won the lottery at Ascot (2m3f, good) in December when Harper's Brook jammed on the brakes. Well held since back over 2m at Lingfield in January and may have reached a ceiling.

13. Gemirande (Venetia Williams/Charlie Deutsch) @ 40/1

Progressive last season, with figures of 212123, latterly in a Grade 2 Limited Handicap over 2m4½f here, wandering at the finish. Well beaten at Newbury 11 days ago on sole start since and could find things happening too fast in this.

14. The Folkes Tiara (Henry de Bromhead/Johnny Burke) @ 22/1

Improved performance when scoring at Leopardstown (2m1f, yielding) in December, but put in his place back there in a stronger race won by Madara last month. Only eighth in that and rated 3lb higher now.

15. Frere D'armes (Dan Skelton/Ciaran Gethings) @ 22/1

Won his first two over fences at Kempton and Newbury in November 2022 and has proved consistent since, though well held over 2m4½f here in January and now drops in trip. On a fair mark.

16. Hardy Du Seuil (Jamie Snowden/Gavin Sheehan) @ 16/1

Really promising novice chasing campaign in 2021/22 and held his form after reverting to hurdles last season. Shaped with plenty of promise from the rear at Sandown (2m, soft) last month back chasing after 293 days off. Same mark now and not without a squeak off 10st 4lb.

17. The King of Prs (Gavin Cromwell/Sean Flanagan) @ 33/1

Won minor events at Wexford and Limerick in November/December to launch chasing career and decent third behind 158-rated First Flow at Lingfield in January when upped in class. Last month's Thurles effort has rather taken the shine off that and a bounce back needed in first-time cheekpieces.

Tips:

Libberty Hunter @ 6/1

Madara @ 7/1 

Last year's winner Maskada is respected but has more on her plate now, while fellow Irish raiders Saint Roi and Sa Fureur have a bit more to prove if they are going to win this.

LIBBERTY HUNTER might be the answer for Evan Williams. He tipped up on chasing bow at Chepstow in November, but that has been the making of him and he's 2-2 since, picking off Matata in ready fashion here on New Year's Day.

A mark of 139 looks fair and soft ground will really suit, while stand-in pilot Harry Cobden is a more than able deputy for Adam Wedge.

French import MADARA has found his feet after four runs for Sophie Leech and, while raised 10lb for last month's Leopardstown success, he was always the likely winner in that valuable contest and his hat-trick claims are solid.

Madara

Find more Cheltenham Tips here at Betfred Insights.

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