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Five Handicappers To Follow At The Cheltenham Festival

Tuesday 8th March 2016

With a week to go until the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, we have elected to delve deeper into the plethora of handicaps that will take place over the four days, and have picked out a quintet of eye-catching contenders that could feature prominently, so check out our five handicappers to follow here.

Southfield Theatre - Ultima Handicap Chase
25/1 with Ladbrokes

Twelve months ago Southfield Theatre was chasing home Don Poli in the 2015 RSA Chase, but while that Irish raider has blossomed over fences and is one of the leading fancies for the 2016 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, the former has failed to build on a promising novice chasing campaign.

However, the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old can propel back into the limelight on the opening day, and the 25/1 available with Ladbrokes for him to win the Ultima Handicap Chase, which will be the first handicap of the week, is far too big to ignore for a horse who has twice filled the runner-up spot at the Cheltenham Festival.

Second to Fingal Bay in the 2014 Pertemps Final, the Ditcheat inmate then ran a cracker at last season's Prestbury Park extravaganza, as he was a six-length second to Don Poli, and running off 150 in this contest, he has the potential to land a blow if he can recapture the form that saw him sparkle at GL50 the last two seasons.

Broadway Buffalo - Ultima Handicap Chase or Kim Muir
Ultima Handicap Chase - 25/1 with bet365 NRNB
Kim Muir - 20/1 with Paddy Power NRNB

Like the aforementioned Southfield Theatre, Broadway Buffalo is another who has already picked up a Cheltenham Festival silver medal, when he finished second in the National Hunt Chase last season, but David Pipe's charge is one to look out for again at this year's jamboree and the 20/1 Non Runner No Bet with Paddy Power for the Kim Muir Handicap Chase is eye-catching.

He is also entered for the Ultima Handicap Chase on day one, but the slightly longer trip in the Kim Muir will aid his stamina-laden attributes and having chased home Grand National hope Bishops Road in the Grand National Trial at Haydock Park last month, he will head to Cheltenham in fine fettle.

With the trip no issue, this eight-year-old is certainly one to be catching the eye in the closing stages of the race, and while he will be in the upper echelons of the handicap for the Kim Muir, he has shown on previous occasions that he relishes a battle, and having performed admirably on his previous visits to the track then he is worth a second look.

Blue Hell - County Hurdle
12/1 with Coral NRNB

Five starts over hurdles had seen Blue Hell fail to break his maiden tag, but having switched to Alan Fleming's stable he produced a sparkling display when storming to a three-length success in a Grade B Fairyhouse handicap hurdle, and it would be no surprise to see him build on that effort in the County Hurdle, which will take place on the final day of the festival.

Currently a best-priced 12/1 with Coral, the five-year-old not only left a lasting impression when pulling comfortably clear of his rivals, but it was the rivals in behind him that day that have enhanced the form as the likes of Diamond King (won next time out at Fairyhouse), and Henry Higgins (won Coral.ie Hurdle) have both impressed in recent months, so Blue Hell could be superior to his current 141 mark.

One of the most competitive races in the National Hunt calendar, the County Hurdle is going to be awash with well-handicapped horses, but if Blue Hell can build on his win last time out then he could be the best of the lot and bag a Friday winner for Ireland.

Next Sensation - Grand Annual
10/1 with Paddy Power

Next Sensation produced a faultless display en route to victory in last season's Grand Annual, which will draw the curtain on the Cheltenham Festival, and the Michael Scudamore-trained star can duly record back-to-back wins in the 28th and final race of the meeting.

A 10/1 ante-post favourite for the race, the nine-year-old has failed to sparkle since his win in this race 12 months ago, but the handicapper has eased him in recent months, and he will line up off a 1lb higher mark in this year's renewal, and with Tom Scudamore likely to adopt the same front-running tactics once again then he will tough to catch.

He is one horse that will be hoping for the ground to dry out at Cheltenham, but if the rain were to stay away in the lead-up to the race then he is sure to be well-backed and the current 10/1 will be a distant memory and with this two-mile trip ideal for him then he is one of our five handicappers to follow

Nabucco - Coral Cup, County Hurdle, Martin Pipe
Coral Cup - 25/1 with bet365 NRNB
County Hurdle - 33/1 with Betfred NRNB

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle - 25/1 with BetVictor NRNB
A Listed winner on the Flat for John Gosden, Nabucco made a serene switch to the hurdling sphere, as he racked up a trio of wins over timber for John Ferguson, but having been last seen finishing eighth behind Champion Hurdle hope Old Guard in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in October, he could well look to catapult back into action at Cheltenham next week.

Ferguson has given the seven-year-old multiple entries, and he is firstly a 25/1 shot with bet365 for the Coral Cup, while a 33/1 chance with Betfred for the Coral Cup, and finally a 25/1 play with BetVictor for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey's Handicap Hurdle.

With his destination not known then it's paramount to place your bet with a bookmaker who is offering the non runner no bet safety net, but whatever race he turns up in he is one that could improve for a few months off the track, and if the wet stuff was to stay away then he could well outrun his lofty odds, and is one for the notebook when aiming to decipher the form guides for the multitude of handicaps available next week.

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