The 2021 Cheltenham Festival previews continue, with the Grand Annual, a Grade 3 contest over two miles. Past winners include Edredon Bleu, Pigeon Island and Croco Bay, along with last year's winner Chosen Mate. Our top tipster Daryl Carter takes a look at the race and picks out the key stats and trends of the race, along with a preview of each contender, before giving us his ante-post pick for the race.
GRAND ANNUAL OVERVIEW
The last ten winners rated between 138 and 150
Since 2004, no winner had won a h'cap chase that season
No repeat winners since 1959.
Only one novice winner since 2013.
Five from the last fourteen winners from the front three in the market from the previous year's race.
Only one winner this century had won a chase over further than 2m 3f
Last 6 winners had not been raced for at least 50 days
13 of the last 16 had run at a previous Festival
GRAND ANNUAL CONTENDERS
A WAVE OF THE SEA
Joseph O’Brien’s runner will need to defy the stat of “No winner had won a handicap Chase that season since 2004” after picking up a valuable handicap chase at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival in February. He was strong at the finish in that contest after showing very little worthwhile form earlier in the season but has some useful back form including when seventh in last years strong renewal of the Triumph Hurdle.
Had remained a Maiden until encountering the larger obstacles this season and comfortably made a winning debut over fences at Navan on seasonal return. He has competed in Grade 1 Company on two of his last three starts and had a stiff task at Navan sandwiched between them. He has given the impression that a handicap may have been the target for him with the way he has been ridden but an Irish handicap mark of 153 (will need to be assessed by the English handicapper) may put a cork in any of those plans.
Form from Novice Hurdle's ties in closely with that of Blackbow and he finished out last season with an excellent third in the County Hurdle off a handicap mark of 146 and he made much of the running and clocked an excellent speed figure. He showed an aptitude for fences on seasonal return when chasing home his talented but ill-fated stable mate Easywork at Navan. Touched off at the same venue by Andy Dufresne (149) next time he has put in two no shows in Grade 1 Company the next twice perhaps by design? He has a workable mark of 144 from the Irish Handicapper and he has to be taken very seriously despite being a Novice.
Looked a useful prospect when running away with a contest at Newbury on Chase debut and seasonal return but ran a shocker at Sandown under the same conditions next time in a strange race. He looks well treated on the balance but will need to take another step forward on what he has shown thus far to win a competitive race like this.
Has the back form to be involved and this drop in trip to 2m could see him in a better light after catching the eye in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup on seasonal return after a 693 daybreak. He ran poorly at Sandown when last seen but the handicapper is starting to relent by dropping him 4lbs for that run and he now sits on an attractive handicap mark of 138.
US AND THEM
Third in the race last year off a handicap mark of 148 and after two below-par efforts this season he now resides on a handicap mark of 143 (Irish) and those with repeat runs in this contest tend to go very well and at a large price he shouldn’t be written off.
ÉCLAIR DE BEAUFEU
The seven-year-old has been largely kept to hurdles this season but did finish second in this race last season behind stablemate Chosen Mate off a handicap mark of 149. He sits on 153 (Irish) this year but he shaped as though a return to form was imminent with a good sixth at the Dublin Racing Festival over hurdles and he is another not easily discounted.
Has gone from strength to strength this season over fences and took his form to a new level when bolting up at Xmas by 15 lengths. He has bumped into some useful horses including Envoi Allen at Down Royal and Janidil at Naas but the drop back to 2m looked to suit on just his third start over fences and he remains one to be excited about. His current handicap mark of 140 (Irish) with a couple of added pounds could underestimate him.
GRAND ANNUAL - BIG RACE VERDICT
Make no mistake about it this contest is very difficult but the top of the market is littered with horses that will be too high in the handicap and this race has a habit of producing big price winners so there is always value on the day. From an ante-post perspective I can see a gamble on January Jets should he run in this race off what looks a workable handicap mark but EMBITTERED on the evidence he has shown prior to his two disappointing runs in Grade 1 Company is surely ahead of his handicap mark of 144 and with an average of just 2lbs added last year to chasers by the English Handicapper I can see him going off favourite.
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