Four big-priced Cheltenham outsiders including one who 'need not fear the hill'
The Cheltenham Festival is closing in and we've picked out four horses at big prices for you to consider in the lead-up to the big week . . .
One For The Team
Ultima Handicap Chase, Tuesday, March 16
20-1 with bet365, 16-1 generally
Nick Williams has a mixed history with the Ultima. The ghosts of Maljimar's agonising defeat to Wichita Lineman and an inspired AP McCoy were finally exorcised in 2018 when Coo Star Sivola pulled off something of a long-term plan to win the race under Lizzie Kelly.
Few are better than Williams at training to a target and it is fancied that the Ultima could be the destination for his leading novice chaser One For The Team. He is entered in Graded staying novice chases, but his trainer will know that a handicap mark of 140 offers a less exacting route to Cheltenham glory and the signs have been there that he can master that sort of mark.
One For The Team gave Next Destination a race at Newbury and then stayed on admirably to not be beaten far in the Kauto Star. A real test of stamina will suit him, so he need not fear Cheltenham's hill. He looks just the type to give his trainer another big-race success.
Coral Cup, Wednesday, March 17
25-1 with bet365, 20-1 generally
Black Tears finished second behind the well-handicapped Dame De Compagnie in a strong-looking Coral Cup last season, with the pair pulling clear of the likes of Honest Vic, Protektorat, Bachasson and a host of other future winners. She looks very likely to go for that race again rather than run in the Mares' Hurdle, where she may have to face the likes of Concertista and Roksana.
Gordon Elliott says she's a better horse in the spring, so the fact she has finished third twice in mares' races this season is of no great concern. Hopefully she will have one more run to sharpen her up for the festival, possibly at Punchestown on February 24, where she also ran last season.
She will appreciate a strongly run race and she clearly enjoys running at Cheltenham, having also finished a close fourth behind Eglantine Du Seuil in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle in 2019. She was sent off at 12-1 for the Coral Cup last year and therefore the 25-1 still available makes plenty of appeal, although there's also 20-1 available with the non-runner no bet concession.
I Am Maximus
Champion Bumper, Wednesday, March 17
33-1 with bet365 and William Hill
Of Nicky Henderson's 68 Cheltenham Festival winners that are spread out over 20 of the races on the current programme, he has yet to post a victory in the Champion Bumper. He's had a few who have gone close in the race – notably Inca and Trabolgan (runner-up in 2000 and 2003 respectively) and Claimantakinforgan (third in 2017).
But the six-time champion trainer has a sporting chance of opening his account in the race this year with I Am Maximus, who is available at odds of 33-1. The five-year-old certainly created a favourable impression on his racecourse debut when beating My Drogo on rain-soaked ground over 2m½f at Cheltenham in October – the same track (Old course) the championship event will be run over next month.
Although the runner-up was a 50-1 chance, he's since given the form a solid look with two hurdle victories, including in a Grade 2 event at Ascot in December. I Am Maximus, who hasn't been seen in public since, is evidently a very highly regarded sort who is open to a stack of improvement and he makes plenty of each-way appeal at the price.
Stayers' Hurdle, Thursday, March 18
25-1 with William Hill, 16-1 generally
Mouse Morris was unable to run Sams Profile in last year's Stayers' Hurdle but hopefully he'll get his chance this time around. Prior to a pair of chase runs to start off this campaign, he had been absent since a narrow Grade 1 defeat at the 2019 Punchestown festival over hurdles.
Those aforementioned appearances over fences were fair efforts, but reverting to hurdling in the Galmoy showed us what he's really capable of. Given plenty to do off the home turn, he picked up willingly in heavy ground and, despite an untidy leap at the last, he regained his momentum quickly to fend off old foe Diol Ker in gutsy fashion.
Given the manner of that success and the attitude he displayed, the festival's Thursday feature should be right up his alley. He's run on just two occasions over the three-mile distance and he remains thoroughly unexposed as a stayer. Spring ground should bring out the best in him and he's also run with credit at Cheltenham before, which is always a positive. At his current price, he's surely the dark horse of the race.
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