Longshot Ted: Three Festival handicappers to get stuck into

Bachasson was an eye-catching third in last month's Boyne Hurdle at Navan.
Bachasson was an eye-catching third in last month's Boyne Hurdle at Navan.

With just over seven days to go until we hear that iconic Cheltenham roar, Ed Quigley has picked out three bets in the Festival handicaps, including two double figure-priced fancies in Wednesday's Coral Cup...

The Coral Cup is always fiercely competitive but with the meeting on the horizon, the two horses that have been at the top of my shortlist for this for some time appear to have been given the green light to have a crack at this. BIRCHDALE and BACHASSON will be my 'two versus the field' if you like, and both make appeal by bringing contrasting profiles to the table. Birchdale has had somewhat of a stop-start schedule over the last few months, but the appeal is off 146 returning to hurdles, he could easily prove better than that rating. He was last seen at Ascot in November when making a wholly unconvincing chasing debut at Ascot when finishing well beaten in third, where he looked far from a natural. As a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle winner at Cheltenham last season over a similar trip to this assignment, this will be much more in his comfort zone. Nicky Henderson admitted he ran Birchdale 'in the wrong race' (Albert Bartlett) last year, although he travelled well for a long way before emptying up the home straight so this looks his trip. I think this looks perfect for him and I could easily see him starting half the price he is now by the time the tapes go up.

The nine-year-old Bachasson has had a few more bites of the cherry, but is still relatively unexposed having had only the 10 starts over the smaller obstacles and winning five of them. He made a very pleasing comeback in the Boyne Hurdle last month after a year off the track when finishing third to Cracking Smart. He travelled well for a long way, before understandably tiring in very deep ground where his lack of a recent run told. He should have stripped a lot fitter for that outing, Willie Mullins says the 'plan is to run' and like Birchdale, it is his only entry at the Cheltenham Festival. Allotted a handicap mark of 148, he is officially 11 lb lower than his Chase mark, which makes him a fairly attractive proposition. Given the lack mileage on the clock for a horse his age, he isn't your stereotypical nine-year-old, and looking at his portfolio, he looks very flexible in regards to ground requirements. I think he looks rock-solid.

PALOMA BLUE has been knocking on the door in recent times, and although he doesn't look obviously well handicapped in the Grand Annual, I think the demands of this contest will bring out the absolute best in him. He can be a bit of a free-going sort, but a serious end-to-end gallop over a stiff two miles will see him to best effect. He has run well at this meeting before when only beaten three lengths in the 2018 Supreme Novices' Hurdle and I think at 16/1 who represents fair value. The weather forecast for Cheltenham at one stage looked abysmal, but any drying of the ground by the end of Festival week will only aid his cause for a Henry de Bromhead team that are having a good season.

Advice

Coral Cup, Wednesday 11th March 2020 - Birchdale, 1pt win at 12-1 (Hills)

Coral Cup, Wednesday 11th March 2020 - Bachasson, 1pt win at 16-1 (generally)

Grand Annual, Friday 13th March 2020 - Paloma Blue, 1pt win at 16/1 (generally)

Coral Cup
Birchdale silk

Birchdale

lost

Has had something of a stop-start schedule over the last few months, but it's interesting that this is now the aim after a lacklustre chasing debut at Ascot last November. Indeed, he was a Grade 2-winning novice over timber last term, and could prove to be better than his hurdling rating of 146. He travelled well for a long way before running out of steam in the Albert Bartlett last year, and this ease in trip could play to his strengths. 

Coral Cup
Bachasson silk

Bachasson

lost

Lightly-raced type, but he's shown plenty of ability when making the track, winning five of his 10 starts over hurdles to date. He caught the eye when third in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan on his first start for a year last month, travelling well for a long way before tiring in very deep ground late on, and he could prove to be on a nice mark - one that's officially 1 lb lower than his chase rating. 

Grand Annual
Paloma Blue silk

Paloma Blue

lost

Solid performer at this level, who's shown plenty of ability at the Festival in the past, only being beaten by three lengths in the 2018 Supreme Novices' Hurdle. He perhaps isn't the best handicapped in this, but the demands of this contest - a serious end-to-end gallop over two miles - should suit him well, and he could be knocking on the door if the ground continues to dry.

Cheltenham Festival Tips
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