Cheltenham - At The Races

16:50 Cheltenham 15 Mar 2019

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5YO plus)

Winner £61,897 - 19 ran

6

2m 62y

Good to Soft

View Course Guide

Weighed In

Gary Nutting
by Gary Nutting

Published 5th March

BUN DORAN is my pick again for the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase after agonisingly missing the cut by one last year.

The frustration was compounded by two non-runners that were announced too late for him to get in the race as first reserve.

As a result he ran in a 2m4f handicap at Kempton the following day, finishing third on ground softer than ideal, but a strongly-run contest at this shorter trip is what he wants and Tom George has taken no chances with his rating this time - a wise move given the safety limit has been reduced from 24 to 20 runners.

The trainer had predicted a stronger, improved horse for his seasonal debut here at the November meeting - based on his impressive home work with 159-rated Gods Own - and he duly delivered, travelling powerfully throughout under top-weight and pulverising the opposition.

Runner-up Movie Legend and third home Peppay Le Pugh gave timely boosts to the form when scoring at Doncaster last week and Bun Doran, now up 10lb to a mark of 148, will arrive fresh and firing after being trained specifically for the race.

It’s probably significant that George has elected to keep him under wraps until now, adhering to his early-season pledge: “We’ll have to work from an important day backwards.”

The ‘fresh’ angle is probably key as he couldn’t justify short-priced favouritism on his return to Cheltenham in December, though finishing second to freewheeling Ozzie The Oscar in a small field hardly rates as a disappointment.

It’s probably significant that George has elected to keep him under wraps until now, adhering to his early-season pledge: “We’ll have to work from an important day backwards.”

Progressive novice BALLYWOOD in not sure to get in off 140 due to the reduced field size but may be worth including nonetheless.

Alan King won this race with a similar type in Oh Crick ten years ago and it was mentioned as a target after the five-year-old won at Doncaster in January.

The ex-French recruit has since chased home hotpot Dynamite Dollars on disadvantageous weight terms in a Grade 2 event and though he has no Cheltenham experience, the manner in which he travelled when winning a Taunton handicap previously suggests he’s got the right tools for the job here.

Gary's Recommended Bets (scale 1-5 points):

JOHNNY HENDERSON GRAND ANNUAL (Friday 15th March)

1pt win BUN DORAN (25-1 Coral, 20-1 general with other NRNB bookmakers)

1pt win BALLYWOOD (16-1 general with NRNB bookmakers)

Gary provides regular ante-post updates on Twitter. His username is @horsetraderinfo

Previous Winners
Year Going Ran Winner Draw Age Weight OR Form Last run Trainer (Distance) Jockey SP Time
2018 Soft 22 Le Prezien 7 11 8 150 38P-238 90 days P Nicholls (69 miles) B J Geraghty 15/2 4:21.80
2017 Good 24 Rock The World 9 11 5 147 222080 146 days Mrs J Harrington R M Power 10/1 4:01.40
2016 Good 24 Solar Impulse 6 11 0 140 2263-3P 92 days P Nicholls (69 miles) S Twiston-Davies 28/1 3:59.20
2015 Soft 20 Next Sensation 8 11 2 143 145-604 104 days M Scudamore (23 miles) T Scudamore 16/1 4:09.30
2014 Good 23 Savello 8 11 5 147 11-3439 54 days A J Martin D N Russell 16/1 4:01.30
2013 Soft 23 Alderwood 9 10 11 140 11-S312 40 days Thomas Mullins A P McCoy 3/1 4:17.60
2012 Good 21 Bellvano 8 10 2 138 2P-1621 30 days N Henderson (51 miles) Paul Carberry 20/1 3:58.00
2011 Good 23 Oiseau de Nuit 9 11 6 145 2-U6483 28 days C Tizzard (83 miles) Mr S Clements 40/1 3:52.80
2010 Good to Soft 19 Pigeon Island 7 10 1 129 F222F5 34 days N Twiston-Davies (1 miles) P Brennan 16/1 4:07.60
2009 Good to Soft 18 Oh Crick 6 10 0 130 1423F2 26 days A King (44 miles) W Hutchinson 7/1 4:07.50