|One For The Team||16/1||Ante Post
Ultima Handicap Chase
Date of Tips: 26/12/2020
Disclaimer The odds for these selections were correct at the time of publishing (20:30 26/12/2020) but may have changed since. Please check the latest price before placing your bet.
Having just extolled the virtues of the form, pace and substance of the front-running effort of Shan Blue’s win in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, there were also a few eyecatchers in behind.
Many will think I am talking about The Big Breakaway, and of course his day will come in time. As, given he raced predominantly in rear at a track that doesn’t suit that style, made numerous clumsy errors, and yet still had the engine to get near Shan Blue – all strongly suggests that when his stable start to hit form again, (and possibly once he has developed and strengthened physically over time,) then The Big Breakaway will be a shoo-in for a top-level graded chase at a more galloping track.
But, for the more intermediate future, there was a horse beaten by Shan Blue that has caught they eye on more than one occasion over fences this season. Step forward the Nick Williams-trained One For The Team, who is available at 16/1 with William Hill and Unibet for the first handicap of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, the Ultima Handicap Chase on the Tuesday.
I may be barking up completely the wrong tree, but trainers are often creatures of habit, and given Nick Williams has many an expertly-executed win at past Cheltenham Festivals to boast of, including Coo Star Sivola in the 2018 Ultima Handicap Chase, it might be wise to take some of that 16/1 each-way now.
Hark back to last February, and One For The Team was running off a mark of 130 in a Newbury Pertemps Final Qualifier in an attempt to qualify and raise his mark sufficiently to get in to the Final at last season’s Festival. Instead of accomplishing the job, he simply smashed it to smithereens! Running away with that race raised his handicap mark to 140.
Put away in the hope that he would return this season in as progressive form over fences, he quickly suggested he was resuming his climb when finishing third to McFabulous at Chepstow on his reappearance. Since that pipe-opener, he has run in two above average novice chases without troubling the judge, and then ran a huge race behind Shan Blue in the aforementioned Kauto Star Novices’ Chase.
Jumping left, kept to the wide outside, and allowed to settle into his own tempo as Shan Blue cranked it up, One For The Team ran on very nicely in the closing stages into fifth – which tangentially would have seen him actually cross the line ahead of Frodon.
The interesting factor about novice chases, is that granted a certain set of conditions, a horse’s handicap mark can’t be raised if they don’t win. However, this doesn’t apply to Grade 1 races, and so the fact that One For The Team finished just behind the 141-rated Golan Fortune (who himself is an interesting handicap chase prospect), means that his mark of 140 shouldn’t suffer too much as a result of this run.
It’ll be fascinating to see where One For The Team runs next, if at all, before the Cheltenham Festival. While of course there could be a chance that I’m wide of the mark here, but intuition tells me different. So, at 16/1 each-way with William Hill and Unibet, I’m more than willing to side with One For The Team for the Ultima Handicap Chase at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.
With the threat of the Coronavirus affecting the Cheltenham Festival rescinding (famous last words) and the 5-day entry confirmations all finalised, now is the time to get stuck in a little deeper into the action.
So many of the novice race markets are subject to huge fluctuations over the next few days, as running plans and weather will have large bearing on where certain horses go, and thus the relevant markets.
Given the almost guaranteed soft ground at best on day one, I do feel there is an opportunity to have an investment in the Ultima Handicap Chase – the first handicap run at the festival.
Paul Nolan’s Discorama has been second at the last two Cheltenham Festivals – courtesy of runner-up finishes in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in 2018, and the National Hunt Chase of last year.
Since running below par in a couple of races before Christmas, he has been put away, had a wind operation – and will crucially run fresh with Bryan Cooper confirmed aboard on Tuesday. On the three occasions he has reappeared off the back of a 6-month break or more, he has won twice and chased home leading chaser Champagne Classic on the other occasion.
Given that Champagne Classic is a 150+ rated chaser, and Discorama was beaten just over 3 lengths giving him 5lbs, it could be argued that Discorama is potentially nicely handicapped off his current mark of 148.
A couple of pounds here or there are not the be all and end all by any stretch. It is much more the combination of being fresh, wind op, previous festival form, soft ground and the perfect trip of 3m1f all aligning to give Discorama a favourite’s chance in my eyes.
At 8/1, with the 5 places and the NRNB concession he is worth locking in, but if you were brave enough to take the 9/1 with Coral then so be it. Either way, he could be one that punters latch on to in the coming days, in a race that will be high on numbers but low on horses with a winning chance.