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Horse Racing

Handicap Contenders Impress With Cheltenham On the Horizon

Monday 25th February 2013

We are now just over two weeks away from the 2013 Cheltenham Festival but there has still been plenty of betting clues for punters to keep an eye over the last few days. The majority of horses are in final preparations for the Festival but we have just seen one or two horses have a final run before heading to Prestbury Park next month. In particular, there have been some interesting performances from horses who are entered in the handicap races at Cheltenham and we have picked out the best of those.

The Racing Plus Chase at Kempton is always one of best handicaps after Christmas and we saw a hugely impressive winner at the weekend in the form of Opening Batsman. The Harry Fry trained seven year old has been highly progressive all season and he saw off a strong challenge from the well fancied Rolling Aces after the final fence on Saturday. Connections have said that the JLT Handicap Chase (10/1) and the Byrne Group Plate (12/1) remain under consideration for a horse who is clearly on an upward curve for an exciting young trainer

Another nice winner at Kempton on Saturday was Forgotten Voice for Nicky Henderson. The eight-year-old won the Dovecote Novices Hurdle over two miles for the Seven Barrows yard and he now looks on target for the Cheltenham Festival. Forgotten Voice is a former Royal Ascot winner on the flat but he has taken to hurdles well as he proved when winning the Dovecote aginst some smart rivals. Henderson was happy to nominate the County Handicap Hurdle for Forgotten Voice and one bookmaker was convicned enough from his run that he was cut from 25/1 to 10/1 to win on day four of this year's meeting.

We saw another very good performance with the Festival Handicaps in mind on Friday when Ballynagour hacked up on his British debut. The David Pipe horse made a mockery of the fact that he was running put of the handicap to easily win the Budbrooke Chase Handicap at Warwick. The French import was installed as the 5/1 favourite with one firm for the Byrne Group Plate following his Warwick success, although he is still in the Grand Annual and the JLT Handicap betting at this stage.

Another horse to have caught the eye midweek was Cheltenian who made his return to the track for Philip Hobbs at Doncaster. The horse was last seen winning the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in 2011 but he looked to have retained much of his class as he came a close second in a Novice hurdle on Wednesday. Cheltenian ran very fresh as you would expect but he should improve for the run next time with the Supreme Novices Hurdle very much on his agenda. The bookmakers cut the odds about Cheltenian winning the Festival 'curtain raiser' from 33/1 to 16/1 and he could prove to be a nice each-way price.

The run of Roi Du Mee in Ireland on Saturday is also worthy of a mention as he won the Bobbyjo Chase in dogged style for trainer Gordon Elliott. The Gigginstown owned horse plugged on well to hold off Prince De Beauchene and Seabass at Fairyhouse and he now has Aintree in his sights. It appears as though the Grand National is the main target for Roi Du Mee but he is also in the Ryanair Chase at the Festival with one bookmaker cutting his price for that race to 16/1 from 33/1.

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