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As any experienced punter of Cheltenham Festivals gone by will tell you, respecting previous Festival form is a piece of logic to keep firmly on your side.
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In comparison to races at other times of the season, Festival form is usually very strong and reliable, especially in the handicaps as every horse is bound to be wound up to perform at their maximum level.
Barney Dwan puts a huge tick in that box with his run in the Pertemps Final last season when second behind the very classy Presenting Percy. It’s that piece of form added to his impressive runs to date over fences that gives him a very strong chance in the Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase on the Tuesday – the last race of the day.
At his current odds of 8/1, he’s well worth backing as I can see this horse getting punted strongly over the next week as long as the rain doesn’t turn the ground really testing. Trainer Fergal O’Brien has already confirmed Barney Dwan for the race, despite him being entered and possessing an each-way chance in the Grade One RSA Chase.
In any other year, we’d be raving about Barney Dwan being a hugely impressive winner of the Pertemps but he bumped into a Grade One performer in a handicap.
O’Brien’s horse travelled like an absolute beast in behind the leaders and took three lengths out of the field turning for home – it looked a race winning move but Davy Russell and Presenting Percy were waiting to pounce in behind. Barney Dwan stuck to his task well up the hill but was just outclassed by a superior rival.
One year on, he comes back to the Festival as a talented novice chaser racing off the same mark in what looks a far easier race than what the Pertemps was. There doesn’t seem much to worry about in terms of his rivals at the top of the market either.
The talking horse in the build-up has been De Plotting Shed for Gordon Elliot, however, despite looking like a classy jumper, he’s been outbattled three times up the run-in over fences this season and looks a bit soft. The Paul Nicholls yard holds Movewiththetimes in high-regard but he’s never looked comfortable at Cheltenham and surely will prefer a flatter track like Aintree.
It’s a tough ask for class horses to get a mark for this race as the handicap is very compressed between 140-145.
Those that maybe have held a bit of their ability back in order to try and get a decent opening mark may be rated too low to get in, while those have shown good graded form may find themselves rated too high above the 145 ceiling. Not Barney Dwan, though.
The handicapper has been really kind to drop him 2lbs for his win at Musselburgh, so he gets in here off 143, which is the same as the mark in the Pertemps.
I would be stunned if he doesn’t rate at least 10lbs better in time. This looks to be Barney Dwan’s day. Get on.