Cheltenham Tips

Coral Cup Handicap Tips: Skelton holds all the aces with talented duo

Coral Cup
Ch'tibello is one of two possible Skelton runners in the Coral Cup

"Ch'tibello 26.025/1 may be an 11-year-old, but he is a well-handicapped and classy sort who has been crying out for a step up in distance..."

Daryl Carter is here with his final Cheltenham Festival 2022 ante-post preview for Betfair and, this time, tackles the highly competitive Coral Cup handicap.

The Coral Cup is shaping up to be a very tricky puzzle for punters to solve, but looking back over the last 12 years can give us an excellent guide to what type of horse it takes to win such an event.

In the last 12 years

The Coral Cup, run over a trip of 2m5f and on the old course at Cheltenham, is as much of a speed test as a stamina one, and a race that has seen trainer Nicky Henders score in four of the last 12.

Nine of the last 12 were aged between five and seven.

Ten of the last 12 have previous course form, and ten of the last 12 had at least one run over 19 to 21 furlongs.

Twelve of the last 12 had won at least two hurdle races.

Ten of the last 12 rated higher than 140.

Unexpected improving Skelton seven-year-old

Unexpected Party 1280 x 860.png

Unexpected Party 10.09/1 currently heads the market for the Coral Cup after a smooth success at Ascot, and he has now registered two wins from six starts over hurdles.

He has been given a whopping 12 pounds rise in the handicap from a mark of 130 to 142 for his latest demolition job, and with connections announcing after his win at Ascot, this race was high on the agender he looks an intended runner.

He was a big eye-catcher back in November over course and distance off of a 22 pounds lower handicap mark when doing best of those from the rear off of a steady gallop when blasting home up the Cheltenham Hill.

He has improved all season for the yard, and his defeat at Wetherby, when given arguably a poor ride by Harry Skelton, has recently been boosted by the winner at Newbury.

He has a new handicap mark to defy in what will be his toughest test to date in this contest, but he looks every inch a worthy favourite at the time of writing and ticks plenty of boxes on the stat front.

Gowel Road 15.014/1 beat Unexpected Party, giving him plenty of weight at Cheltenham in November, but he was flattered by his racing position. He will need a good jolt of improvement to defy his handicap mark of 145 and confirm the form.

Henderson could take a two-pronged attack at the Cup?

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With a great record in the race, Nicky Henderson could throw two darts at the contest this year with recent eye-catcher and Ascot runner-up to Unexpected Party, Fils D'oudairies 17.016/1, and mare Marie's Rock 17.016/1 (Has the Mares Hurdle as a more probable option).

The former returned from more than 1,000 days off the track to put in a good showing at Ascot and ran like a potential improver. He is sure to strip fitter for that outing and must be considered on his previous form when third to Envoi Allen at Punchestown in 2021.

He had been over the larger obstacles for his former trainer, and this was a bright start for his new yard. Whether new connections opt to go back over fences is up in the air, but he has a bit of class and is completely unexposed over hurdles after just three runs.

Marie's Rock has the option of the Mares Hurdle, and her target will likely depend on the handicapper's reaction after victory at Warwick at the weekend. She is now starting to fulfil her early potential, and the bright turn of foot she has over this trip could prove an excellent asset.

The mare is now two for three over this 2m5f trip, with her sole defeat coming when badly hampered in the Lanzarote for which she was the joint-favourite. She is a very likeable seven-year-old and proved the course was no concern when an eye-catching finisher in the Greatwood Hurdle - a race that has worked out remarkably well.

From Persian War victory to Coral Cup triumph?

Philip Hobbs' Camprond 21.020/1 has been lightly raced this term since his seasonal return victory in the Persian War and caught the eye in the Greatwood Handicap over what will likely prove a trip short of his best.

He lacked the pace to seriously get involved in that contest but was previously an easy winner at Cheltenham over 2m4f. He stuck to the task well in his latest assignment, and stepping back up in distance will see him in a better light. He could bump into one or two better handicapped, but his form looks strong, and the course is no issue, so he must hold valid claims should connections opt for this race.

Good Time Jonny 13.012/1 leads the charge of the Irish at the time of writing and has a bit to find with Unexpected Party on their meeting at Cheltenham in November. Still, he has since landed two handicaps since, including at the Dublin Racing Festival and is now 12 pounds higher in the handicap but is firmly on the upgrade. His improvement may be seen to greater effect over 3m, so he could prove vulnerable at this shorter trip.

Dans Le Vent 26.025/1 really should have found a Pertemps Qualifier, given his improvement came for the three-mile trip at Haydock, but it looks as though connections will have another crack at the Coral Cup. He stayed on strongly at the death in this contest last term, and that has been a similar trait he has shown for much of the season this time around. He will no doubt be finishing strongly and could be an each-way contender, but he is probably vulnerable to a progressive horse at the age of nine.

Skelton's Ch'tibello not to be forgotten

Skelton Ch'tibello and Rocksana 1280 x 860.png

Ch'tibello 26.025/1 may be an 11-year-old, but he is a well-handicapped and classy sort who has been crying out for a step up in distance. It would be fascinating should connections give him a wind operation before this assignment, given his record after such a procedure. He has been tenderly handled this season and, consequently, has fallen in the weights.

He may not be the force of old, but he does like it here at Cheltenham, and he is four pounds lower than when winning the County Hurdle in 2019.

Race Verdict

It's tough to be confident on a runner let alone a winner at this moment, but the shortlist consists of Unexpected Party, Camprond and Ch'tibello with a preference for both the Skelton runners given this is highly likely their intended target and it's challenging to know that about Camprond. This is set to be a cracker!

1.Unexpected Party

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