Pertemps Final Tips: Class to prevail in tough Cheltenham handicap
There's a sensational renewal of the Pertemps Final on Thursday afternoon, and our man Steve Chambers takes a look at the 2m 7f 213y contest and picks out his best bet...
Dual winner of this race Sire Du Berlais will attempt to claim a third crown in the competitive handicap hurdle on day three of the Cheltenham Festival, and the Gordon Elliott-trained ten-year-old is one of the leading fancies in the betting, and it's hard to not see him running a huge race for owner, JP McManus. A winner in 2019 and 2020, Sire Du Berlais stepped out of handicap company at last season's festival and took his chance in the Grade 1 Stayers' Hurdle, and he performed with huge credit as he finished second to Flooring Porter in that prestigious event.
Now, dropping back down in grade for this event, SIRE DU BERLAIS will line up off a 4lb higher mark in the 2021 running of the race, but Elliott has called on excellent amateur Rob James to take 7lbs off his star's back, so he looks very attractively handicapped. He warmed up for this contest with an encouraging fourth placed finish at Warwick back in January, and having been handed a helpful 2lb drop by the handicapper, he's primed for a huge bid for the hat-trick.
While Sire Du Berlais has shown his hand to the handicapper, one contender that could line up off an attractive mark is the Emmet Mullins-trained Winter Fog, who was a fine runner-up at Leopardstown in the qualifier and off 138 is a leading player. Still unexposed at three miles, he has been handed a decent hike by the handicapper for that Leopardstown outing, but with few miles on the clock he could be capable of a lot more and he could be one of the main dangers to Sire Du Berlais here.
Fergal O'Brien's Alaphilippe has been targeted at this race for a long time, as having finished fourth in last season's Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle the progressive eight-year-old has only been seen once this term, and that saw him finish just behind Sire Du Berlais in that Warwick qualifier. Dropped from 140 to 138 in the aftermath of that event, O'Brien's charge looks to have a sensational chance at a track he performed at well last festival, and he could well be the solid each-way play.
Six of the 24 runners contesting the race are trained by Gordon Elliott, and while Sire Du Berlais is the proven class in the race and spearheads the Cullentra House team, Elliott will also saddle the bottom-weighted Dunboyne, who caught the eye when fifth in a Leopardstown handicap hurdle two starts ago, and while he failed to land a blow last time out, it maintained his attractive mark, and off a featherweight he has to be a huge challenger.
Second in the 2019 Martin Pipe, Dallas Des Pictons will be another shot fired by the Elliott gun and if he can recapture the form that saw him finish second at Punchestown earlier in the season then he has to be a player, while Folcano is another eye-catching Elliott runner here.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyandy has been in scintillating form this season, winning his last two, and the 11-year-old Naunton inmate. who was classy enough to contest the 2020 Champion Hurdle, has to be a leading British raider here, as he relishes the hustle and bustle of a big race field, and he can run a huge race from the upper echelons of the weights.
Nicky Henderson had a sensational opening day at the Cheltenham Festival with Constitution Hill and Marie's Rock prevailing, and the Seven Barrows handler will saddle an eye-catching contender in the shape of Dame De Compagnie. A former winner of the Coral Cup off a mark of 140, the classy mare will take her chance off 139 on Thursday, so has to be another that comes into calculations.
Of the others, Ronan McNally's The Jam Man disappointed last time out, but had previously finished an excellent second two starts ago, while the likes of Cheltenham regular Kansas City Chief and the Philip Hobbs-trained Pileon add more depth to the race, and that duo line up at big prices.
However, this is a race that could be dominated by the front few in the betting, and it's a race that can see class rise to the top and Sire Du Berlais can duly land a third Pertemps crown in fine fashion.