Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase preview

Just the six races on the third day of the Festival and it's the amateurs turn to take centre stage in this handicap over an extended three miles. The conditions have been changed this year slightly and the race is now open to horses rated 0-145 instead of the previous 140 ceiling. That change may well change the balance of power in term of the trends and that's a shame as the rating level was one of the strongest traits around in what was admittedly a weak race for trends.

The bottom weight has been rated 126, 127 and 129 for the last three seasons and that is likely to be higher again this season given the change to the race conditions so we wouldn't be mad keen to rely on previous weight and official ratings patterns for strong clues. Five of the last eight winners could be found in the relatively-tight ratings band of between 124-128 but that may not now be good enough to even squeeze in at the bottom of the handicap, given the five pound extension that has taken place at the top of the handicap. People placing Cheltenham 2012 bets should remember this.

So what help can we provide to hone down the field, well, British horses have like the Byrne Group Plate dominated over the recent few years and the Irish are 0-38, so we would be very wary of their challenge in this race, they last won the race in 1983 with Greasepaint and it's been blanks all the way ever since. Fans of Cheltenham betting should bear this in mind.

In terms of age group, those 7-10 are the ones to concentrate on with the six-year-olds holding a 0-19 record and anything older than ten being in a similar position. Being an amateur-riders' race, horsemanship is important and six of the last seven winners were ridden by non-claiming amateurs so experience in the saddle certainly does count in this handicap and we would be looking out for one of the more experienced riders and especially those that have experience around Cheltenham.

The race has also provided a decent "core" of trainers to follow Nicky Henderson, Donald McCain and Ferdy Murphy have the best recent record with three, two and two winners respectively, and there are also some names that it could pay to avoid among them Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Jonjo O'Neill all of whom have questionable records in the race.

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