Ultima Chase Tips – 25/1 Outsiders Can Come To The Fore

Horses stream over a fence at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival

Horses stream over a fence at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival

2021 Ultima Chase Tips

The handicaps at Cheltenham are always tricky to solve but Daniel Overall is confident his ante-post pick will go well on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, which features a string of top-class races.

Ultima Chase Overview

Following on from the Arkle, the Ultima is the first handicap of the festival. Somewhat surprisingly given the nature of the race, it has been quiet kind to punters in recent years, with the last seven winners going off at 11/1 or shorter.

Avoid the Irish

The Irish don’t do well in this race; a sentence that is rarely said in reference to Cheltenham these days, but it is true of the Ultima.  The last winner to be trained in Ireland was Dun Doire in 2006. Since then, 26 Irish trained runners have lined up here without success, although a few have placed, including Discorama (25/1) who finished third last season. 

Given their dominance in other festival handicaps, it’s hard to ascertain exactly why their record in this race is so poor. Perhaps it’s due to their preferential targeting of the Kim Muir, where they’d usually have the pick of the top amateur jockeys.

Regardless, it is something to bare in mind, particularly considering how the market can lean in favour of runners hailing from the other side of the Irish Sea. This year, Escaria Ten (10/1) finds himself at the head of the market, with the Kim Muir no longer an option given his Irish mark of 147. Considered a “dark horse” to follow for Gordon Elliott, if such a thing exists, he’s made a pleasing start to his chase career and he’s progressed with each run, chasing home Brown Advisory Festival Chase hopeful Eklat De Rire on his most recent outing. He could yet line up in the National Hunt Chase but he’d have a good chance if taking the handicap route.

Gordon also has Run Wild Fred (25/1) and Coko Beach (20/1) but they are more likely to run elsewhere; in the Kim Muir and the National Hunt Chase respectively. 

Returning Runners

Un Temps Pour Tout did the double with victories in 2016 & 2017; The Conditional (22/1) could attempt to repeat the feat this term. Just like last season, he ran with plenty of credit in the Ladbroke Trophy (or the Hennessy for the nostalgic amongst you) and his penultimate start at Ascot showed he remains in good form. He’s due to run in the Denman Chase on the 21st February; a big run there might tempt connections to take their chance in the Gold Cup, with the owner reportedly keen to have a runner in the big race.

Another One for Nick Williams?

From his six runners in the race, Nick Williams boasts an impressive record of one win and three placed, with Coo Star Sivola (33/1) winning in 2018. Now 7lb lower than he was back then, he has been well backed on a couple occasions this season and did show more spark on his most recent start. Pulled-up in the race in 2019, his mark of 135 means it will be touch and go as to whether he will get in the race as it would not have been high enough in two of the last three renewals. 

With that in mind, the trainers leading hope looks to be One For The Team (25/1). Third in the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at the start of the season, he’s made a decent transition to the larger obstacles racing against some of the leading British novices. After unseating late on into his debut over fences, he then went on to chase home Festival Novices’ Chase fancy, Next Destination, before finishing fifth in the Kauto Star.

Well beaten in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster when last seen, you can forgive that effort given how testing the ground was especially considering his clear preference for a sounder surface. Coo Star Sivola was also a novice when he won, but One For The Team does lack Cheltenham form which has often been crucial in finding the winner of this race.

Right Up His Street

Harriet Graham’s stable star Aye Right (25/1) has a fantastic profile for this race. He ran an admirable race to finish fifth in last year’s Festival Novices’ Chase despite making three bad mistakes and only ever having completed one race over fences before running at Cheltenham. Third in this season’s Charlie Hall, a performance which marked him down as a horse to follow, he backed that effort up with a solid second place finish in the Ladbroke Trophy, a race which has provided four of the last seven winners of the Ultima.

Last seen finishing second at Doncaster, you can mark that effort up as jockey Callum Bewley dropped his whip approaching the third last and his preparation for the race was far from ideal, while the race itself was run in a time five seconds quicker than the other three-mile handicap chase on the card. 

Now on a career high mark of 154, he’s still only had seven starts over fences and two of the last of four winners of this race did so off a mark in excess of 150. He continues to progress and he’ll be ridden prominently which suits in a race of this nature, while his jumping has improved markedly since his run at last year’s festival. 

Novices To Note

Fourth in last season’s Martin Pipe, Happygolucky (25/1) has won two of his three starts over fences, including a win at Cheltenham on his most recent start. At his best going left-handed, he was considered to be a contender for the National Hunt Chase but connections have seemingly had a change of heart. Kim Bailey has an impressive recent record in handicap chases at Cheltenham; Darna and Imperial Aura won in 2015 and 2020 respectively, while three of his other five runners since 2016 finished in the top five, including Vinndication who finished fourth in the Ultima last season. Likely to get a positive ride from David Bass, there’s a lot to like about his profile.

Now with Nick Mitchell, Lieutenant Rocco (25/1) won impressively last time out, clearly relishing the step up to three-miles having run creditably over short earlier in the season. Pulled-up in last season’s Albert Bartlett, he can be forgiven for that run given his inexperience and he’s clearly held in high regard. Off 147, he’d be of interest in an Ultima although connections could well aim for the graded races. 

Ultima Chase Big-Race Verdict

The two taken against the field are Aye Right (25/1) and Happygolucky (25/1). The former has been admirably consistent this term and deserves to land a big prize, while the latter is a novice with festival form; a combination which often pays dividends in this race.