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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Three of our expert tipsters give their initial fancies for the handicaps

Barney Dwan (right): finishing second to Presenting Percy in last year's Pertemps Final
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With entries for the ten handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival revealed on Thursday, three of our tipsters pick out a horse or two who catches their eye

Barney Dwan
Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase (10-1 generally)
Last year's Pertemps Final second has some Graded entries, but was dropped a handy 2lb by the handicapper for his Musselburgh win and he has been confirmed as being on target for this race. He is crying out for a strongly run contest over fences and better ground, out of which his jumping is likely to improve.
Paul Kealy, betting editor

Style De Garde (Nico de Boinville) wins easily at Newbury

Style De Garde
Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle (16-1 with Hills and Betfair)
It's hard to believe Nicky Henderson has only one entry in the Fred Winter, but it might just be all he needs. He relies upon Style De Garde who was very impressive on his British debut at Newbury, giving 6lb and an eight-length beating to a horse rated 124.

That suggests his current mark of 137 is not too harsh and you can put a line through his recent Huntington flop as he was too keen which ruined his chance. He is a lot better than that and looks an ideal Fred Winter type, a race in which he should have less trouble settling. 
David Jennings, deputy Irish editor

Don't Touch It: looks to have been targeted at the Grand Annual

Don't Touch It
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (14-1 generally)
Form figures of 546U might not get you too excited but you sense the Grand Annual has been the plan for some time with Don't Touch It. He's a Grade 1-winning novice hurdler, who had Petit Mouchoir, Brain Power and Yorkhill behind when winning at Punchestown, and he jumped well enough to win a traditionally hot handicap chase back at that venue last season during his first campaign over fences.

Expect to see the cheekpieces (not worn since his last win) reapplied for the festival and Jessica Harrington won the race last year with Rock The World off a mark of 147. Don't Touch It's Irish mark is 2lb higher, but I suspect he is a more talented individual than last year's winner. He'll relish quicker ground, too.
David Jennings, deputy Irish editor

Braqueur D'Or: has a good chance in the Kim Muir

Braqueur D'Or
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (33-1 with bet365)
Non-runner, no bet concessions have made the minefield of reading connections a relatively risk-free process and Braqueur D'Or is just the sort of horse I'm much more confident in backing this year than previously.

An unexposed seven-year-old in the Paul Nicholls yard, Braqueur D'Or was a deeply impressive winner at Ludlow in the autumn and was placed in good handicaps on his next two starts, including the Ladbrokes Trophy. The emphasis was on speed at Doncaster on his most recent run and that can be safely discarded.

Now rated 2lb lower than at Newbury and freshened up for a spring campaign, Braqueur D'Or has three Cheltenham options (also entered in the Ultima and National Hunt Chase) but, with his mark as it is, the handicap route would be the most appealing way to go, while getting a good amateur up is not a problem his trainer is likely to encounter.
Keith Melrose, reporter and analyst


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He's crying out for a strongly run contest over fences and likely better ground, out of which his jumping is likely to improve
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