Big class edge and superb record over C&D
Cheltenham 14:10: Sire Du Berlais 1pt e/w 5/1
It's rare for me to back a favourite but I can't get away from thinking that Sire Du Berlais is a good bet in this contest.
He's a two-time winner of this race, the first of those in 2019 off 145 and then the following year off 152 when him and The Storyteller looked like they could have finished much further clear of the rest of the field if they had got into a battle sooner.
Sire Du Berlais has since shown he's capable of performing very well in Graded company, winning a Grade 2 at Navan before finishing third in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown and then finishing second behind Flooring Porter in the Stayers Hurdle at last year's Festival.
His campaign this season has set him up to have a strong chance of making it a third victory in the Pertemps. He started it off by finishing second to Darasso at Navan and then ran disappointingly in the Christmas Hurde. He was sent to Warwick for a qualifier and cheekpieces replaced the usual blinkers. Despite being struck into, he ran respectably to finish fourth.
He was dropped 2lb for that run and is now off a 4lb higher mark than when he won the race in 2020. Rob James takes the ride for the first time and is far better than the average 7lb claiming jockey having ridden over 250 winners in point to points.
While some of his rivals might have yet to fully show their hand, Sire Du Berlais has a big class edge over the majority of this field and everything looks set up for him to run another big race with the blinkers back on. Any 9/2 or bigger appeals.
Rare runner in handicaps in recent times
Cheltenham 14:10: Third Wind 0.5pt e/w 20/1
Third Wind has been intriguingly campaigned in recent seasons with connections seemingly very keen to 'roll the big dice'.
Since finishing second off 141 in a Grade 3 handicap at Haydock in November 2020, the only handicap that he's run in since was the Warwick qualifier where he finished third off a 5lb higher mark than he runs off today.
Three of the other five runs since have been in Grade 1 company and he's been understandably outclassed in those races but he did manage to win the Grade 2 Rendlesham at Haydock last season.
He finished well beaten in that race on his latest start but conditions were desperate that day and at least the ground at Cheltenham will have dried out a little so it shouldn't be quite so testing today as it was that day.
I think a big field and good pace suits Third Wind as he needs to be delivered with a late challenge and any 16/1 or bigger appeals.
5lb drop for Huntingdon defeat looks generous
Cheltenham 14:10: Honest Vic 0.5pt e/w 28/1
Chasing didn't go to plan for Honest Vic this season and I'm hoping the switch back to hurdling can pay off today.
He finished fifth in the 2020 Coral Cup off 140 and won quite comfortably off 141 on the Old Course on his next start. He was then tried in Grade 2 company and ran quite well when finishing fifth behind Thyme Hill at Newbury.
His jumping often let him down over fences this season and he was switched back to hurdling for his latest start at Huntingdon. I thought the small field and steady pace didn't suit him at all and he wasn't ridden as handily as expected given how he's been ridden in the past.
The return to a big field today should suit and it's interesting that they are going back to applying blinkers for only the third time on a horse who has frequently worn a visor which suggests that he has worked well in them. Any 25/1 or bigger appeals.