Everybody loves a handicap! The JLT Specialty Handicap Chase, also known as The Festival Trophy Handicap Chase, is the third race on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival and can be classed as somewhat challenging for the betting fraternity out there.
If the Arkle is the race of the formbook, then perhaps it could be said that this race is the race of the bookmakers. The first handicap chase of the festival is certainly prone to throwing up some interesting results. In many respects we should expect this; in recent years the betting has often favoured the tail end of the market, with a 33/1 winner and a 50/1 winner over the past 5 years.
In terms of betting on the race, it seems that The JLT Specialty Handicap Chase is one for us punters to be weary of! Although there is usually some value to be found after extensive handling of the formbook, in my opinion there are many other races at the Cheltenham Festival that offer better options for those of us looking for a good value bet.
In any case, dust yourself off after the Supreme Novices and The Arkle and perhaps have a couple of quid each way on a progressive horse that appears to be well handicapped and that has a bit of form over course and distance. Why not? The Cheltenham Festival only happens once a year after all!
The Festival Trophy Handicap Chase is a grade 3 national hunt chase.
In recent years, the race has been run at a start time of 14:40 and takes place on the first Tuesday of the Cheltenham Festival.
Age qualification for the race is 5 years old and upward.
The race is a gruelling 3 miles and 110 yards long.
In 2011 the total purse was £75,000, with the winner taking home circa £45,000.
There are a total of 19 fences for the field to contend with over the 3 mile trip.
- 8 of the previous 11 winners won the race at odds of less than 10/1.
- 8 of the previous 10 winners started the race in the first 4 of the betting.
- The average age of the winner over the past 10 years is 8.7.
- Over the past 10 years, only one winner has carried 11 stone or more.
- Over the past 10 years, only one trainer has won the race twice, Alan King.
- Robert Thornton enjoys an excellent record over recent years, winning 3 times over a period of 10 years.
- Only three 6 year olds have won the race in 65 years and no 5 year olds have won the race in this time.
- Only one favourite, Wichita Lineman in 2009, has won the race in the last 16 attempts.
- There have only been 2 winning favourites in the last 35 years.
- 6 out of the last 8 winners of the Handicap Chase won on their previous start.
In a race that has thrown in both a 33/1 winner and a 50/1 winner in the previous 5 renewals, it seems like we should be looking at betting on an outsider for a bit of value.
This is all well and good, however if we look more closely at the betting statistics for the past 10 years, those horses starting at the front end of the betting market have actually performed surprisingly well.
8 of the past 11 winners have won at single figure odds and 8 of the last 10 have started in the front four of the betting.
Assessing the form of some recent winners makes for interesting reading; both Chief Dan George (2010) and Joes Edge (2007) had limited form at Cheltenham, or The Cheltenham Festival. Joes Edge came into the race with no form to speak of for the year (SP 50/1) whereas Chief Dan George (SP 33/1) won last time out.
Whereas Joes Edge seems to be a genuine anomaly, Chief Da George does share some similar attributes to previous winners of the Festival Trophy Handicap Chase.
Two previous shorter priced winners, Wichita Lineman (SP 5/1 Favourite) in 2009 and An Accordion (SP 7/1) in 2008 also share some similar statistics. They both ran off an official rating of low 140s (as did Chief Dan George), with a high 10 stone weight, form at Cheltenham and a winning run last time out.
In my personal opinion, and this is not a race I like to bet on, I would be looking at horses who have a minimum of place form at Cheltenham, have an official rating of around 140, are between 7 to 9 years of age and who won on their last outing.
Good luck in this race folks, it is certainly one of the more challenging betting heats on offer at the Cheltenham Festival.
A simple bit of advice for betting on handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival, or any handicaps for that matter, is just to identify your key criteria without over complicating and try to identify a progressive horse, with form and as a minimum some solid course and distance form. Good luck!
For the 2012 Cheltenham Festival the leading offers are: Bet365 £200 free bets, BetVictor £25 free bet, and Stan James £150 free bets.
History Of The Race
The first big handicap race of the Cheltenham Festival was known as The Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase in 2011. The race was sponsored by successful businessman Andy Stewart, whose son suffered a serious spinal injury a number of years ago. He effectively sponsored the race on behalf of the Spinal Research charity.
Before the 1980s saw the race sponsored for the first time, the original name of the race was simply “The National Hunt Handicap Chase”. From 1981 to 1996, the race was sponsored by premium casino brand, The Ritz Club, and William Hill consequently took over as the events main sponsor between 1998 to 2010. If you ask anyone involved in the betting industry, they may still refer to the race as the William Hill Handicap Chase.
One really interesting element to this race, is that the tough fences and rigorous 3 mile distance, make it a good measure of those horses that may eventually go on to be a winner of the Grand National (link). There have been a number of winners of the Cheltenham National Hunt Handicap Chase who have eventually gone on to win the Grand National, including: Rough Quest, Team Spirit, Royal Tan, West Tip and Seagram.