Last year’s race
- Winner: Le Prezien
- Jockey: B J Geraghty
- Trainer: P F Nicholls
- Owner: Mr John P McManus
- Age: 7 Weight: 11st 8lb
- Starting Price: 15/2
- Season Form Figures: 238
- Previous Best: 3rd - BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3), Cheltenham (Nov 2017)
Tough going for punters of late with nine double-figure priced winners since 2006, seven of which were sent off at 16/1+. Up until and including 2005 as many as 28 of the previous 31 winners were despatched at no bigger than 10/1 giving an indication of how much more competitive the race is now.
Due to three fatalities in last season’s race, the Grand Annual maximum field limit has been reduced from 24 to 20 but that shouldn’t affect the nature of the race, though it will be trickier to sneak a lower-rated novice into the bottom of the handicap of course.
Thirteen of the last 37 runnings have been won by novices (and four of the last ten) but they are very well represented these days so we now have to look for trends within trends and this is where official BHA ratings can come in handy as no novice in recent history has won off a handicap mark higher than 140. It is not just this handicap chase in the spring where novices have excelled over two miles having also won nine of the last 16 runnings of the Red Rum Handicap Chase, the equivalent race at the Grand National Meeting. Given that novices have such a strong Grand Annual record, it should not come as a shock to note that lightly-raced chasers very much hold the call to the extent that 19 of the last 20 winners had contested no more than 12 steeplechases.
Particularly note Irish-trained horses who ran over hurdles on their previous start like three of their last six winners.
Prior to Savello’s success off a handicap mark of 147 five years ago, we had to go back 22 years to My Young Man to locate the last winner rated over 145 so the Grand Annual but then Rock The World also won off 147 in 2017 and Le Prezien struck off 150 last year so it’s another handicap at the Festival which is a classier race than even five years ago.
Seven of the last ten British-trained Grand Annual winners (plus the Irish-trained Alderwood in 2013 and Rock The World in 2017) had won at Cheltenham before but also respect last year’s renewal as seven of the last 12 winners had run in the race before. Four of those seven winners were well beaten on their previous attempt to land this prize whereas the other three were improving on a placed effort 12 months earlier. Last season’s 1-2-3-4 were Le Prezien, Gino Trial, Top Gamble and Theinval.
With seven wins and five seconds in the last 19 runnings, the Irish have sussed out how to crack the Grand Annual. Particularly note Irish-trained horses who ran over hurdles on their previous start like three of their last six winners, two of which were trained by Arthur Moore.
Also look out for J P McManus’s runners, be it Irish or British-trained as he has had three winners and two seconds in just the last seven years to add to his victory in 2005 with Fota Island. His latest winner, Le Prezien, was giving Paul Nicholls a fourth Grand Annual success. Since this handicap was named in honour of Nicky Henderson’s father in 2004, the Seven Barrows team have saddled two winners, four runners-up (two of which were novices) and four other placed horses from 37 runners.
The best Irish guide has been the Dan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse in January won by Duca Des Thaix, the final prep race for two of their last three Grand Annual winners. Generally though, winners of a handicap chase earlier in the season have shown their hand too early, the last such winner being St Pirran in 2004.
At a glance summary
- Ran in the Grand Annual in a previous year
- Contested the Dan Moore Memorial Chase
- Novices officially rated under 140
- Previous course winner
- Trained by Nicky Henderson or Paul Nicholls
- Owned by J P McManus
- Had their prep run over hurdles
- Ran more than 12 times over fences
- A handicap chase winner earlier in the season