Despite this being the final race of The Festival, this is one I suggest you should keep an eye on as it can produce some exciting horses which have included Don Poli, Kilultagh Vic and Galopin Des Champs over the years.
This contest usually favours young progressive horses so you want to be looking for five and six-year-olds that could potentially be ahead of their mark.
However the obvious starting point has to be Langer Dan who has been well-backed for this race in recent weeks. The main reason why he has attracted support is because finished a close second behind the already aforementioned Galopin Des Champs in this race last year.
For his seasonal return he was given a pipe opener at Taunton when he finished a moderate sixth with this race in mind and he was subsequently dropped 3lb by the handicapper for that run.
As a result that means he arrives here off a 2lb higher mark than when running in this affair twelve months ago but he keeps the relationship with Lorcan Williams, which looks to be a positive. Despite Dan Skelton specifically training him for this race and having a great chance on paper I have to take him on as I believe there could be others that might be able to improve further.
Stick with Gordon in the last
The one that my eye has been drawn to is the Gordon Elliott trained Hollow Games, who will be making his handicap debut off a mark of 143 which could prove to be lenient. This six-year-old gelding seems to fit the profile for this race and he was not disgraced when finishing third in the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy Novice Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.
He has always been highly regarded after he showed plenty of promise in bumpers last season and he has transitioned well over hurdles after being kept in graded company, which plenty of his rivals wouldn't have experienced. I think in time he could be a top class staying chaser, but he appears to have been primed for this and I believe he can give Gordon Elliott a third winner in this race.
Elliott also saddles two other contenders that have an each-way chance. The one I would be afraid of the most is The Goffer, who won the Grade 3 Michael Purcell at Thurles and he could be open to further improvement, which is the same path Blow By Blow took in 2018 when winning this race.
The other runner is Chemical Energy who looks to have been kept fresh for this, but I fear the ground might have gone against him here.
Willie Mullins always commands plenty of respect in Cheltenham Handicaps and he has an excellent record in this race winning it on four occasions. His main hope according to the betting looks to be Adamantly Chosen who bolted up when scoring in a maiden hurdle at Thurles last month. He could be open to plenty of improvement now switching into handicaps but I suspect he might just lack the experience here.
His other runner Five O'Clock is an interesting contender who is having his first run since finishing seventh in this race two years ago, where he was a real eye-catcher. He has clearly had some issues but if he is fit and ready to go he is definitely one to note for any market support.
Each-way shout to sign off in style
Elsewhere, it could pay to have an each-way saver on Cobblers Dream who was an impressive winner when landing the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton in January. Despite receiving a 8lb rise for that victory, the form of that race has worked out very well producing several winners including Marie's Rock and Green Book.
He is likely to be ridden up with the pace and Jack Andrews has some experience riding him after they won at Doncaster together earlier in the season. We still don't know where his limitations lie and if he can continue his upward curve he has to play a part here.
When it comes to my final thoughts on this race I cannot get away from Hollow Games, who is my main selection as I believe he is the classiest horse in the field and could be a Grade 1 Novice Chaser next season, while I would also recommend having an small each-way saver on Cobblers Dream who could still be ahead of his mark.
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