Grand Annual Chase

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Alderwood brought the house down at Prestbury Park by landing a gamble for JP McManus and AP McCoy.

The Irish raider was backed all day at odds from 6/1 and returned the 3/1 very well backed favourite as it seemed like the whole of Cheltenham had followed the coup, leaving the bookmakers with a sour taste in their mouths in the final race.

It was a 1-2 for McManus as Kid Cassidy followed the Tommy Mullins’ trained winner home in the famous green and white striped silks.

Alderwood was the sole Irish-trained runner in the field and already has a Festival win to his name by winning the County Hurdle, so it was quite a training feat by Mullins to keep his talented customer fit and under wraps in order to keep his mark low enough to land this prestigious event.

Jumping soundly and avoiding trouble on the inside, he challenged on the extended run-in – the last fence had to be bypassed – before asserting in the final 100yds. This race had apparently been the plan all season.

You had to feel a little for the runner-up Kid Cassidy.

He survived being electrocuted in the Newbury paddock in February 2012 when both Fenix Two and Marching Song lost their lives. He never really recovered from that experience, but Henderson has always held this horse in high regard, and although he got worried out of it by the winner in the closing stages, at least he is now confident enough to finish his races.

2014 Major Players

Like all Festival handicaps, it almost impossible to have a confident prediction about who will line up on the day. Please feel free to return here nearer the race for a lowdown on all the big challengers.

Betting advice: strong race trends

Attaching yourself to a novice is a very profitable way to play this handicap, winning 12 of the last 31 runnings.

With the race having a close association to Johnny Henderson, father of trainer Nicky, who saved Cheltenham racecourse from being turned into a housing estate in 1963, Nicky Henderson always targets the race with some his classy two mile chasers.

He’s only won it twice but year after year his horses are always primed for this race and have racked up numerous placed efforts. For example, in 2012 he saddled the winner, second and fourth from just four runners.

Follow him with confidence.

Key trials

It’s best to keep an eye on all noteworthy two mile handicap chases at Ascot, where contenders for a crack at the Grand Annual like to get a blow early in the season. The first of which comes in November.

The Byrne Group Handicap Chase has produced two winners of Cheltenham’s two mile showpiece handicap and last year’s third Oiseau De Nuit was pulled up in it. Also, the Carey Group Handicap Chase at the end of November has a habit of producing clues for the Grand Annual.

Ante post tip

Bookmakers have yet to price up this market as there is little point in doing so as its nigh-on impossible to plan which horses will undertake this challenge. February will be the time to start plotting a punting angle on this race.

Although when a market is formed, the smart players will be siding with a horse that has recently won and that has the look of a horse that the handicapper has yet to get a grip of.