Grand Annual Chase Tips: Zanza to strike for Hobbs and Johnson

Grand Annual Chase Tips: Classy Zanza to power to glory
Grand Annual Chase Tips: Classy Zanza to power to glory

Alex Stearn provides his Grand Annual Chase tips in a race that is set to be a tough betting heat for punters to work out on day two of the Cheltenham Festival...

Alex Stearn's Grand Annual Tip

Zanza at 7/1 with Paddy Power

A huge field heads to post for the Grand Annual Handicap Chase over two mile on Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival and it looks to be fiercely competitive. Paul Nicholls has won the contest four times since 2004 and he saddles an intriguing contender in Ashutor.

He was largely progressive in 2020 during a summer campaign that saw his chase career begin and was never out the frame in four starts but his winning came in what are usually below-standard races for the code. However, only being seven leaves him open to the possibility he could still have leniency in his handicap mark and his seasonal return was encouraging when trying to give plenty of weight away to a now 135 rated performer, over a trip that looked to stretch him. His price is too big.

Ibleo, Sky Pirate and Zanza all have a piece of form tying them together which makes for interesting reading in the hunt for the winner. Sky Pirate had the beating of Ibleo back in December on the New Course when cantering nearly four lengths clear of him. That race also saw Zanza fall three out when still cruising and he would have been a serious contender if his jumping didn’t let him down. 

Since then, Sky Pirate has won again and been a distant second to Arkle fancy Allmankind, seeing his handicap mark rise from 134 to 152 in the process. Ibleo has won twice since, in contests at Sandown and Doncaster, but as a result has seen his mark increase to 156. Zanza, however, hasn’t been seen since that fall, avoiding the winter ground. But because of this, his handicap mark remains on 145 giving him a huge 18lb pull with Sky Pirate on the Cheltenham form. Now on ground that will suit him more, he must have an excellent chance of coming out of top – providing his jumping holds up.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

Joseph O’Brien has had a quiet National Hunt season and saddles three here with two solid chances despite both still being maidens over fences. Embittered lines up for Gigginstown House Stud and reunites with Rachael Blackmore from his chasing debut - a good performance behind owner-mate Easywork and has since been aiming high in Graded contests. He runs off the same mark he had when 3rd in the County Hurdle last year, and if a similar test in this sphere brings out the best in him, he is a live player. 

His second runner is Entoucas for the powerful combination of J.P. McManus and Mark Walsh. He’s had the five starts over fences this season and has always run respectable races in defeat on soft and heavy ground. Given his hurdle win came on the quickest ground he has encountered; he could have more to come when that variable is in his favour. The English handicapper however, has raised his handicap mark 4lb from his Irish mark for his visit which makes life a little harder. 

Dan Skelton runs two and intriguingly, Harry Skelton rides the bigger priced of the pair. Not That Fuisse has only jumped fences once in his last three stars after benefitting from the plethora of Jumpers' Bumpers meetings that were arranged and his mark of 137 looks appealing, especially in a strongly run two mile contest. Amoola Gold is the other, who still has high class form to his name, notably when second to First Flow on his penultimate start and isn’t without merit himself.

Last year's winner, Chosen Mate, lines up again in a bid to defend his crown but he heads into this year’s renewal in much worse form having ether pulled up or been well-beaten on his two attempts at this trip and the handicapper hasn’t given him a chance. The third from last year, Us And Them, is in similar form to when heading to Prestbury Park last year and now off a 3 lb lower mark, his chance is more appealing if the longer lay-off isn’t an issue, but he still doesn’t jump out as a contender.

This is an intriguing conundrum to solve with plenty threatening to outrun their current prices. Zanza tops the list of likely winners given his weight pull with Sky Pirate, who is another still with bold claims and posting the strongest form of the field. Ashutor and Not That Fuisse at bigger prices make appeal and pose the biggest threat to Philip Hobbs’ charge.

Wed 16:15 - Grand Annual Chase
Zanza silk

Zanza

Pulled Up
Cheltenham Gold Cup
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