3m1f (Old) Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Vintage Clouds is competing in his fifth Ultima Handicap Chase and a victory this year would be even more baffling with the forecast better going for day 1.
7 to 9 year-olds have had the better of it in this race with Irish horses having a terrible record. But the Irish have their biggest ever contingent with 30% of the runners and Gordon Eliott sends over two potentially well-handicapped horses.
Death Duty won a Grand National Trial at Punchestown last time is still weighted well-below his best form and could go well. His Cheltenham form puts me off slightly and his stablemate and four-years his younger, FLOUEUR, could be the one to be on off his revised British mark of 146.
Floueur finished third in the Martin Pipe Handicap at Cheltenham last year having carried top-weight of 11st 12lbs off a mark of 143. He was far back in that contest, but stayed on very well up the hill over an inadequate 2m 4f over hurdles.
The switch to fences looks to have brought significant improvement out of Floueur and this novice has a fair bit of scope for improvement judging by his last two starts. He won a decent Beginners Chase from Kim Muir favourite, Frontal Assault having made a terrible error at the last on his penultimate start and finished a good third behind Death Duty on his first start in an open handicap again making an error at the last before staying on into a decent third. He gets a 3lbs swing in the weights here with Death Duty owing to Jordan Gainford’s allowance and Floueur also has the necessary front-running style plus the stamina to do well in a race like the Ultima.
I like another novice here in FANTASTIKAS for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies. He looks a horse that has been targeted at this race for some time after some decent-looking performances in Grade 2 company behind Threeunderthrufive and then L’Homme Presse over an inadequate 2m 4f. Fantastikas is yet to go beyond three miles but looks a stayer in the making.
He will be ridden prominently, jumps well and should be bang there at the business end of the Ultima. Nigel Twiston-Davies doesn’t have many running this week, but Fantastikas has a lot of potential off his mark of 144 and is probably his trainers best chance of a winner this week from a small number of runners.
1pt each-way Floueur @8/1, 14:50 Cheltenham, Tuesday (1/5 odds, 1-7 places with Betfair)
1pt each-way Fantastikas @14/1, 14:50 Cheltenham, Tuesday (1/5 odds, 1-7 places with Betfair)