Grand Annual Chase Tips: Lisp to strike for King

A competitive field line up for the Grand Annual on Friday afternoon.
A competitive field line up for the Grand Annual on Friday afternoon.

Jack Cousin preview's Friday's hugely-competitive Grand Annual and picks out his best bet for the penultimate race of the Cheltenham Festival...

The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase is the penultimate race of the Cheltenham Festival, and is the oldest race at the four-day meeting. It is run on the new course, and they jump 14 fences over a trip of two miles and half a furlong.

This regularly proves to be a competitive heat, and the current market leader is the Paul Nicholls-trained Greaneteen. The six-year-old is three from three over fences so far, completing a hat-trick in good style at Fakenham last time out. A strong traveller, there could be plenty more to come off a mark of 150, but this looks his toughest test to date and this race often goes to more battle-hardened sorts.

Lisp has also run just the three times so far over fences, and represents the Alan King yard. He was keen and made mistakes behind Torpillo and Mister Fisher on his chasing debut at Warwick, but made amends when winning at a canter when long odds-on next time out. He qualified for this race after finishing a fine third behind Mister Fisher and Al Dancer at Doncaster, and he looks to have strong claims here. Indeed, Lisp has experience of running in big-field handicaps over hurdles, having finished second of 21 in the Betfair Exchange Trophy and fifth of 24 in the County Hurdle at the Festival last year. Those runs suggest he’s equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations of a contest such as this, and he has leading claims.

The last three Grand Annual winners - Croco Bay (2019), Le Prezien (2018) and Rock The World (2017) - had all been beaten in a previous renewal of the contest, and there are currently seven horses entered who contested the race last year. Croco Bay caused a massive upset when striking in this race last year, winning at 66/1 as a 12-year-old. He arrives here having run a perfectly good race when second behind Western Miller last time out, but he is another year older and 5 lb higher in the weights this year. 

Bun Doran and Brelan D’As finished second and third in the race last year, but look set to race in the Champion Chase and the Brown Advisory Plate, respectively, while last year's fifth Not Another Muddle hasn’t been seen since due to his planned reappearance at Newbury being abandoned. He had run very well fresh in the past, though, and has to be considered if taking his chance here.

Marracudja (eighth), Caid Du Lin (13th) and Gino Trail (PU) are three others who remain entered who ran in the race last year. Gino Trail is the one who makes most appeal from that trio, having made a winning start for Fergal O’Brien last time out. He’s 1 lb lower than when second in this race in 2018, so is handicapped to be competitive, though this will be a big as as a 13-year-old. Theinval didn’t run in the race last year but finished third in 2017 and fourth in 2018, and runs off the same mark of 141. He’s been out of form for a while now but should be monitored in the market as trainer Nicky Henderson routinely targets this race - with it being named after his father.

Two Irish entered horses in Éclair De Beaufeu and Paloma Blue ran against each other last time out, with the former coming out on top by two-and-a-half lengths. The winner was a good second behind the now 158-rated Notebook on his seasonal reappearance, the form of which made him look potentially well handicapped off 140. Paloma Blue would have perhaps finished close the last day if he wasn’t hampered at the final fence. Both are respected off 9 lb and 5 lb higher marks, respectively.

A stablemate of Éclair De Beaufeu is Chosen Mate, who also arrives in form having bolted up at Gowran Park last time out. A Grade 2 winner over hurdles, he was outclassed by the likes of Melon and Annamix on his first two starts over fences, but clearly appreciated being ridden more prominently when winning at Gowran Park last time out. He must back that performance up now in deeper waters, however. 

Meanwhile, Capeland was impressive at Ascot back in November for the Paul Nicholls team. He’s been held twice since though in strong graded races, including when behind Defi Du Seuil last time out. He'll face a stiff task here off a mark of 153, and the stable’s main hope is Greaneteen. Another to consider is Great Field, who is an interesting runner on his debut for Jonjo O’Neil. He was a Grade 1 winner back in 2017 ,but has failed to complete in four of his last five starts - which is a major concern. He’ll be dropping back into handicap company for this, which is a positive, but he nevertheless has enough to prove.

On The Slopes, Jan Maat and Adrratos all arrive on the back of a win when last seen. The former isn’t certain to get into this contest rated just 136, but won impressively last time out and if he could be popular in the betting if sneaking in. Meanwhile, neither Jan Maat not Adrratos look to have an awful lot in hand off their current marks, and the latter would need decent ground. As such, it looks worth siding with Lisp to take this. 


Grand Annual, Cheltenham Festival, Friday 13th March 2020 – back Lisp each-way at 7/1 

Grand Annual
Lisp silk

Lisp (EW)


He’s been well found in the market, but Lisp still makes significant each-way appeal at 7/1. His big field handicap form over hurdles should serve him well in a contest such as this. His run at Doncaster behind Mister Fisher and Al Dancer is a solid level of form, and he’s without a doubt well handicapped off 144. His trainer Alan King has also won this contest with a novice before, back in 2009 with Oh Crick, so everything points to a big run.  

The Cheltenham Festival
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