Handicap Lucky 15 Tips – Big-Priced Fancies To Bash The Bookies

The Conditional (right) holds off West Approach to win at Cheltenham's Showcase Meeting.

The Conditional (right) holds off West Approach to win at Cheltenham’s Showcase Meeting.

2021 Cheltenham Festival Lucky 15 Tips

We’ve tasked Daniel Overall to come up with a Lucky 15 for the ages as he attempts to make big money from a handicap Lucky 15

Gowel Road (25/1 County Hurdle, Friday, March 19)

Gowel Road is considered to be one of the livelier outsiders for the Supreme, which I can understand given his progressive profile. While it’s a weak renewal of the festival opener, if he’s a 25/1 shot for that race then surely he should be shorter than 25/1 for the County considering his mark of 137.

And in a recent interview with Nigel Twiston-Davies, they seem to be leaning towards the handicap route with their progressive novice, noting that “the County Hurdle probably should be better”. He also noted that “he’s one of the nicest young horses we’ve had for a long time”. While those words must be taken with a pinch of salt, it is still encouraging to hear with a view to this race.

His debut behind the Ballymore contender, Bear Ghylls, was full of promise. Conceding experience to that rival, he traded at a low of 1.2 in-running as he mounted his challenge but he was very green in the final two furlongs, which allowed Nicky Martin’s promising novice to grind out a narrow victory. Still, it was a very encouraging effort and the front pair pulled clear of the remainder.

He was a tad disappointing next time out in what was a slowly run Introductory Hurdle at Newbury, which wouldn’t have aided Gowel Road’s cause given that he was held up. Again, he looked green once asked for his effort but he did stay on well at the end to finish a never-nearer fourth, while the fifth has since won his next three starts.

An impressive winner off 122 on his handicap debut, he justified strong market support that day despite momentarily looking in trouble while he demonstrated his versatility in handling the testing conditions. It must also be seen as a positive that he has run in a handicap given how frantic the County Hurdle can be.

His last run came back in novice company where he faced off against Good Ball, who had previously beaten the selection. Gowel Road was four-pounds better off with his old foe this time around and he duly reversed the form under a more positive ride, pulling away impressively in the closing stages to win by over five lengths. Given that we was conceding nine pounds to Good Ball, who is rated 131, there are reasons to believe that a mark of 137 underestimates Gowel Road, who still has plenty of scope for improvement.

With five-year-olds winning eleven of the last twenty-two renewals, novices also have an impressive record in the race; the selection ticks both boxes. It’s also worth noting that thirteen of the last fifteen winners were rated in the 130s.

The new course should suit him given how strongly he finishes his races, while a strongly run race promises to bring out the best in this young horse who is bred to appreciate further in time.

 

 On The Slopes (25/1 Grand Annual, Wednesday, March 17)

Now run on the Old Course as opposed to the New Course, that will favour those that prefer to race prominently.

One such runner is On The Slopes, who was the ante-post favourite for this race last year but his mark of 136 was not high enough for him to make the cut. As a result, he went to Kempton instead where he comfortably dispatched on Return Ticket who has improved a fair bit since then.

Plenty was expected of him this term, with many thinking that we would land a big handicap at some stage of the season but things have not yet gone to plan. He shaped as if in need of the run on his seasonal reappearance behind Rouge Vif which led to him being very well supported next time out. However, he was slightly disappointing but Richard Johnson reported that he heard a noise and he had a wind operation just two days later. Interestingly, four of the last ten Grand Annual winners ran in either of the two Cheltenham handicaps that he contested earlier in the season.

He had a run in a Jumpers’ Bumper back in February to shake off the rust and get a run under his belt while this is his only entry, so it may well have been the target for some time. Off a mark of 140, he should be guaranteed a run and while he is not yet fully exposed.

Given that he’s usually a sound jumper that races prominently, that should hold him in good stead and he stands out at an attractive price.

 The Bosses Oscar (7/1 Pertemps Final, Thursday, March 18)

While he would not be a particularly original selections, it is hard to imagine that The Bosses Oscar will be far away at the finish despite the best efforts of the British handicapper.

He’s been a leading fancy for this race ever since his staying on fifth in the Martin Pipe, with Sire Du Berlais finishing fourth in that race back in 2018 before recording back-to-back victories in the Pertemps. While Gordon Elliott technically won’t have any runners at Cheltenham, with Denise Foster taking over the licence at his yard, it would still be fair to assess her runners as if they were his. With that in mind, Gordon’s recent Pertemps record is phenomenal. He’s won the last three renewals, recording 1-2’s in 2018 and 2020, while all nine of his runners since 2016 have finished in the first five.

While a mark of 151 is certainly no gift, they have discussed the possibility of using a claimer to take some of the weight off which may assist while this wouldn’t appear to be the deepest renewal, although the likes of Champagne Platinum and Lynwood Gold have emerged as contenders following their late qualification.

The Bosses Oscar has been running consistently well throughout the season and while he not a typical Pertemps “plot”, this would’ve undoubtedly been the target for some time and a bold big should be on the cards.

 Gentleman De Mee (11/2 Martin Pipe Hurdle, Friday, March 19)

Readers of the 28 previews in 28 days may recall that I was sweet on the chances of Gentleman De Mee back in late February when he was a relative outsider.

He has been well found in the market now having been allocated a mark of 139, and it’s not hard to see why given his profile.

His connections have tasted plenty of success in the Martin Pipe; Willie Mullins has trained three winners of this race since 2011, while JP McManus won it back in 2019 while he also owned the two-market leader’s last season; like in all of the handicaps, the green and gold hoops are to be respected.

The form of his second start in France looks solid, with the first and third chasing home the top-class Le Berry in graded company subsequently while he made an impressive Irish debut in a two-mile maiden hurdle at Naas. There were four races over that distance on that card, with Gentleman De Mee’s win being recorded in the quickest time. One of those races, the Rated Novice Hurdle, was won by a leading Boodles contender, Druid’s Altar where he beat another contender for that race in Zoffanien yet Gentleman De Mee was over two-seconds quicker while carrying over a stone more than both.

That run came after a 460-day absence, with Willie saying after the race that he had a little setback earlier in the season and that he’d improve significantly for the run. He also noted that he’d be more of a Ballymore type than a Supreme type, which isn’t surprising as there is plenty of stamina in his pedigree. Indeed, he’s a half-brother to smart staying chaser, As De Mee.

There are plenty of similarities between him and Willie’s first winner of this race, Sir Des Champs. Both only had one run for the yard, which also came over two miles after the turn of the year having shown some smart form in France before lining up in the Martin Pipe.

The six most recent Irish winners of this race were all novices, five of whom had never run in a handicap so that’s another tick for the selection, while I remain optimistic that he can prove much better than a mark of 139.