Festival Plate Tips: Farclas the pick on Day 3 at Cheltenham

Festival Plate Tips: Farclas the pick.
Festival Plate Tips: Farclas the pick.

Festival Plate Tip

Farclas at 15/2 with 888 Sport.

The Festival Plate was the Cheltenham's strongest handicap last March, with a minimum rating of 140 needed to cement a place in the lineup. After the removal of the novice handicap over a similar trip and Envoi Allen’s presence likely scaring some away from the Marsh, I had expected this year’s Plate to be an even deeper race this year. That hasn’t quite been the case, and this year’s Plate field looks one of the hardest hit by the overall Festival theme of low entry numbers. Nevertheless, it still provides one of the week’s trickiest punting puzzles.

This time last week, The Shunter held entries in five Cheltenham Festival races, so it is interesting Emmet Mullins has opted to run him here. The eight-year-old was an eighteen race maiden when joining from John Clifford in the summer, but is now a much improved proposition and has mixed hurdling with chasing to good effect this season. He took advantage of a low weight to win the Greatwood here in November and went well back over fences when third in the Matheson at the Dublin Racing Festival. A trip back to Britain for the Morebattle Hurdle less than a fortnight ago was successful, and he is now chasing the £100,000 bonus available to the winner of that Kelso race if they follow up at Cheltenham. The booking of impressive 7lb claimer Jordan Gainford is a plus, and he could remain potentially well treated.

Prior Festival form is always a huge plus in an event of this nature, and the market suggests that FARCLAS, one of two previous Cheltenham heroes in the field, is the biggest threat to the favourite His 2018 Triumph victory remains his only win over hurdles, but Farclas quickly surpassed that tally over fences, winning all three starts as a novice chaser in the summer of 2019 before missing the main body of the season with an injury. 

Cheltenham Festival tips

He’s clearly none the worse for that issue, and has acquitted himself well when finishing front-rank in a trio of top Irish handicaps this campaign, including placed efforts in the Paddy Power Chase and the Leopardstown Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival last time out. Farclas has confirmed this season that he is able to get home over three miles nowadays, but a stamina test at this sort of intermediate trip is a scenario that should see this seven-year-old at his best. His current mark of 146 looks fair on what he’s achieved as a chaser so far, and it remains with potential upside given his exploits as a hurdler. He has to be respected at the top of the market.

Three of the last four renewals have fallen to novices, and Joseph O’Brien’s five-year-old A Wave Of The Sea will look to carry on uphold their fine record in this year’s contest. Like Farclas, he was a Grade 1 winning juvenile hurdler, though could only manage seventh when pitched into the Triumph last season. He also produced his best performance over fences at the Dublin Racing Festival last time out, when winning a highly competitive renewal of the Matheson Chase, sticking his neck out to fend off the late challenge of stablemate Top Moon.

I think that was a good race, with The Shunter and consistent Entoucas both behind, and though he has primarily been campaigned over two miles, he was able to win a beginners’ chase over two-and-a-half earlier in the season and isn’t a pure speedball, so I would consider him to have a solid chance of staying the trip here. This is the deepest race he’ll have lined up in, though, and has to contend with a 14lb rise with Mark Walsh replacing claimer Simon Torrens in the saddle.

Joseph O’Brien will also be represented by another novice in the shape of Fils D’Oudairies, who will be making his handicap debut here. The six-year-old was a late faller on his chasing debut, but made no mistake when winning a reasonably strong beginners’ chase at Navan on his next outing. Pitched into Graded company on his last two starts, Fils D’Oudairies ran a fine race in defeat when second to Envoi Allen at Punchestown, though looked badly out of his depth in the Flogas last time. His best form has all come on heavy ground, though, so he does need to prove his aptitude for a quicker surface. The handicapper has given him an opening mark of 145, which could be lenient if handling the going and producing the same level of form as his Punchestown performance. The O’Brien third string, Assemble, has also shown smart novice form and is capable of outrunning his odds if his jumping holds up.

 

One of Nicky Henderson’s four winners of this event, 2005 heroine Liberthine, now has a Festival race carrying her name, and he’ll be represented this year by Caribean Boy. The Munir & Souede-owned grey won on his second chase at Haydock midway through February last season, though due to the premature finish of jumping calendar last year, he was able to carry his novice status forward to the early part of this season, and took full advantage of that when an impressive winner of the Grade 2 Berkshire Novices’ Chase at Newbury. He hasn’t quite been in the same form in two starts since, though, and I’m not whether he has been given too much leeway by the handicapper.

Familiar Festival faces Mister Whitaker and Oldgrangewood also line up here, and I think Oldgrangewood may be overpriced to at least match his fourth in the race last season. The ten-year-old showed he retains all ability on his first two starts of the season, finishing fourth in both the Old Roan and a competitive Newbury handicap won by Clondaw Castle. His unseat at Warwick last time was the first in his career, and he’s generally a very safe conveyance. He’s now 1lb lower than when running well in a better renewal of the race last year, and his overall Cheltenham profile- he also edged out Saint Calvados in a handicap here on the first day of 2020- is enough to make me think he’s likely to be in the mix. He’d be the selection from an each-way perspective, as I don’t think he’d be too far away from the frame with a replica of his good efforts prior to Christmas.

Thu 15:40 - Paddy Power Plate
Farclas silk

Farclas

placed
Cheltenham Gold Cup runners
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