RACING fan Gaurav Chaddah (@GauravChaddah) begins looking ahead to the upcoming Cheltenham Festival by providing his ante-post thoughts on the Martin Pipe Hurdle.
Cheltenham Festival | Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle | Friday 13th March 2020
It might seem an age away but on Tuesday it will be just six weeks until the 2020 Cheltenham Festival gets under way.
The coming months will see many punters trying to get any ante-post value they can across the week, with running plans for many horses becoming more apparent over the next month or so.
Whilst many will be looking at the obvious big Championship races, where the runners can be easily predicted, there is perhaps more value trying to solve some of the bigger handicaps and this week I’ll be looking at the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle, which is incidentally the final race of the week.
McManus looking for more success
It’s no secret that owner JP McManus often targets these big handicaps at the Festival with horses, who are often ran through the season with Cheltenham in mind and very much a case of protecting their mark.
It’s no surprise to see that it is one of his horses that heads the betting, with the Gavin Cromwell-trained Ilikedwayurthinkin a best price of 6/1 with Betfair to give McManus a second successive win the race following Early Door’s victory in 2019.
He was last seen finishing fifth in a handicap hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas and was ridden clearly with future targets in mind. He is rated 132 and is sure to go close, however, 6/1 is a very skinny price for an open looking handicap and there could perhaps be more value to be had elsewhere.
Elliott can reign supreme again
There is certainly a lot more value to be ahead below the favourite and Column Of Fire (16/1 Coral) stands out as a strong bet.
He is trained by Gordon Elliott who has won two of the last three renewals of the race. He also had the favourite in the race last year, Dallas Des Pictons, who looked as if he was going to give Elliot a third successive win last year before being beat into second by Early Doors.
Elliot has been known to target the race due to his relationship with Martin Pipe, who he worked with when coming through the ranks as a trainer and looks like Collumn of Fire could be his main challenger this year, and there is no doubt it wouldn’t be as big as 16/1 on the day.
Mark could be lenient for unexposed six-year-old
After six attempts, Column Of Fire broke his duck over hurdles at Punchestown last week, where he ran out an empathic 13-length winner and was given a mark of 132 by the Irish handicapper.
It’s likely that mark will be adjusted by the handicapper in England but he still will likely to be looking extremely well treated.
He has some smart pieces of form to his name that could mean he is a lot better than this mark. He was beaten only a length by Longhouse Poet in December, who is now rated 142 after finishing third to Envoi Allen and was also third to the 146 rated Elixir D’ainay.
He also has some impressive bumper form going back to his early days, finishing second to the now 149 rated stable mate, Commander Of Fleet, who was second in last year’s Albert Bartlett.
It’s an open race and a case can be made for many but with Elliott’s impressive recent record in the race and perhaps a lenient looking mark, Column Of Fire is certainly an appealing each-way bet.
Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle – Column Of Fire (16/1 each-way Coral)
This article was published on Sunday 26th January 2020.