The Cheltenham Festival is almost upon us. And for one week of the year, horse racing punters are glued to the action on the track. Cheltenham is fantastic and the showpiece event of the season for many horses. However, there are some who use it to gear up to Grand National in April. There are a few entries expected to run at Cheltenham before running at Aintree. In particular, there are two races to keep your eye on from a Grand National perspective.
The Ultima Handicap Chase – 2:50 pm Tuesday 12th March
There are two horses of note in the Ultima. Currently, they are first and second favourites to win the race at Cheltenham. The first is the Paul Nicholls trained Give Me A Copper, who is favourite for the Ultima right now, on odds of 11/2. He is also 25/1 to win the Grand National. A win at the Cheltenham Festival and that second price will be long gone. He is a horse that Paul Nicholls likes a lot and believes that the further he goes, the better he will be.
The Ultima is run over three miles and one furlong and he will need to stay strong in that race to show that he can handle a further mile in the National a month later.
The second horse in the Ultima is Minella Rocco. A horse who has previously won the four-miler at the Festival, he should have the stamina for both this race and for the National. If he goes there after this. He is 9/1 second favourite at the moment for the Ultima. Grand National odds of 25/1 are also available. Although, just like Give Me A Copper, if he wins at Cheltenham that price will drop significantly.
Minella Rocco, trained by Jonjo O'Neill, brings some class into the race and has previously finished second in the Gold Cup. He should relish the test and is handicapped to run well in both races.
The Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase – 4:10 pm Wednesday 13th March
There is only one horse to look at here. That is, of course, the reigning Cross Country and Grand National champion, Tiger Roll. He completed a famous double last year winning both events. Back again in 2019, he is looking for a repeat performance in both races. The current favourite he is priced up at 5/4 to win the Cross Country and 10/1 to win the Grand National.
The quirky tests of both of these races suit him down to the ground. And we know he has the stamina to see out both. Vital experience at both tracks is a massive advantage which will stand him in good stead.
The field for the Cross Country looks to be very similar to last season’s and he is considered are one of the bankers of the meeting by many punters. And while he has more weight to shoulder, you certainly wouldn’t be against him at Aintree.