The Cheltenham Festival is just days away, and 2023’s edition is shaping up to be an absolute blockbuster, with a number of in-form horses, jockeys and trainers ready and raring to take Prestbury Park by storm.
While the five feature races, the Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and Ryanair Chase are likely to dominate the headlines across the four days – there are a number of handicap fixtures worth keeping an eye on.
One of those races is the Ultima Handicap Chase, which pits thoroughbreds five years or older against each other over three-miles and one-furlong. The fixture has proven be extremely competitive in it’s long and storied history dating back to 1946, with only three horses having won the contest on two separate occasions.
The three multiple-time winners are Sentina (1957, 1958), Scot Lane (1982, 1983) and most recently Un Temps Pour Tout (2016, 2017). Nine-year-old Corach Rambler will have the opportunity to join that elite roll of honour in 2023, with the gelding vying to make it back-to-back Ultima Handicap Chase victories after reigning supreme in last year’s renewal by just shy of three lengths from Gericault Roque.
The Lucinda Russell-trained horse will need to overcome a run of bad form if he is to do, with his runs at Carlisle and Newbury late last year, in which he finished fifth and fourth respectively, not the sort of form you want to be taking into as competitive a meet as Cheltenham. As a result of his dip in form, Corach Gambler currently sits as the third favourite in the Cheltenham odds at 10/1 to take home the spoils in the handicap affair.
With that in mind, read on as we take a look at the two horses who are considered the most likely in the betting lines to stop Corach Gambler becoming just the fourth horse to secure multiple Ultima Handicap Chase successes.
Entering this contest on a two-race winning streak, 8/1 favourite Stumptown has looked impressive in 2023. After finishing the last calendar year with a disappointing performance at Punchestown, in which he placed seventh, the six-year-old showed all of his promise and then some in a blistering return to form at Thurles in January.
The Gavin Cromwell-trained horse would barely break a sweat en route to a 12-length victory, before putting forth another emphatic run together just weeks later to finish first past the post by seven lengths in the Alanbrooke Handicap Chase at Sandown. If he can jump fluently and find a good path late – he should have too quick a turn of foot for his opposition.
Largely a consistent performer over the past 12 months, eight-year-old Into Overdrive has secured wins in five of his last six. His last two outings have particularly impressed, with him losing narrowly by a length to a Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase winner in L’Homme Presse – before finishing over the top of 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup 20/1 hope Sounds Russian.
Given Into Overdrive’s recent form and the level of opposition he has been up against, coupled with his comfortability over the distance, and he could prove good value at 9/1.