Grand Annual Handicap Chase
Date of Tips: 08/03/2021
Disclaimer The odds for these selections were correct at the time of publishing (10:57 08/03/2021) but may have changed since. Please check the latest price before placing your bet.
The Grand Annual is always a compelling spectacle, as some of the best 2m handicap chasers go hell for leather. The race could potentially be even more speedily-defined this year, as it has moved to day two from its usual sit on the final day. Hence it will now be on the Old Course, which does favour slightly more pacey types compared to the stamina test of the New Course.
As opposed to the winner coming from the clouds, we might well see a few more fighting out the finish from a prominent early and mid-race position.
This could well suit our selection, the Joseph O’Brien-trained Embittered, who is advised at 15/2 each-way with 888 Sport, on the basis that they top price, 5 places for each-way terms, and also ‘Non-Runner, No Bet’. This last concession is important as Embittered does hold an entry in the Arkle, but surely the fact he has a chance of winning the Grand Annual, as opposed to being fifth or sixth in the Arkle, will sway connections.
Embittered has run in no fewer than five Grade 1’s in his career to date, and has a record in them that reads: 4th, 5th, 3rd, 4th, 4th. On the back of two of these Grade 1’s last season over hurdles, he went into the County Hurdle at the Festival off a mark of 146. He ran a huge race in that to finish a close up third, doing much the best of those horses that raced prominently. Every other horse in the first eight home came from behind Embittered in the run, and yet he was able to keep maintaining his gallop in the closing stages.
Embittered’s size and scope against smaller, more nimble types in the County Hurdle that day suggested that he would improve over fences. Strictly, he hasn’t done so as yet, but this is his fifth start of the season, runs off the identical mark of 146 that he did in last year’s County Hurdle, and he has very much caught the eye in his four chase starts.
Runner-up spots behind the classy Easywork and Andy Dufresne were followed by fourth spots in Grade 1’s the last twice. His run at the Dublin Racing Festival behind Energumene was much better than it looked in the end, as he was cruising in behind the leaders when hampered by the fall of Captain Guinness two out.
Joseph O’Brien has another chance in the race with Entoucas, but despite a few eye-catching runs from him of late, I am coming round to the fact that he isn’t the hardiest battler and hasn’t got the experience of Cheltenham that Embittered has. Plus, he could well be ground dependant also, whereas Embittered looks to be pretty versatile in that respect.
Elsewhere, Venetia Williams could hold chances with Ibleo, Fanion D’Estruval or Funambule Sivola. While you wouldn’t rule out Umbrigado in his current form, but I wonder if he is best on a flat track.
All in all, I think Embittered is a very good each-way bet at 15/2 with 888 Sport, to be very well suited to the unique Grand Annual test, and if confirmed for the race he could shorten significantly.