In the latest of GG's 2021 Cheltenham Festival race previews, Daryl Carter takes a look at the Kim Muir Challenge Cup, in what looks to be a wide open ion the markets. Our resident tipster, takes us through key facts and stats, along with his thoughts on the key contenders and his selection to win the race.
KIM MUIR CHALLENGE CUP OVERVIEW
The Irish have saddled eight favourites in the last 17 and all were beaten.
Irish trained have won four in the last seven.
Irish based amateurs have ridden six of the last seven winners.
Jockeys to look out for - Jamie Codd has won four, Derek O'Connor has won one and he has been a runner up on three occasions
Avoid claiming jockeys as only three have finished in the frame in the last 12 renewals which includes last year's winner.
Ballabriggs 2010 last winner to win previous run.
The last 16 winners had raced at least twice this season
None of the last six winners of the race had won that season
8 of the last 10 winners wore some sort of headgear.
15 from the last 16 aged between 7 to 9 years
11 of the last 15 achieved their best RPR within their last two runs, three of the exceptions were JP owned and returned at less than 9/1.
Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins are yet to win this race
KIM MUIR CONTENDERS
DICKIE DIVER – 142
Nicky Henderson trained and JP McManus owned and he fits a lot of the criteria that is usually required to win this race and is an unexposed Novice Chaser that caught the eye on his seasonal return at Newbury. He hadn’t been seen for 655 days since his excellent fourth behind Minella Indo in the 2019 Albert Bartlett and that race has worked out extremely well in the context of his handicap mark of 142 for this race. He may be short on experience but makes up for it with an abundance of talent and heads the market in what is likely to be a highly competitive year. His unexposed profile means it’s hard to knock his claims and he ticks the box for course form and is a former winning point to pointer. Big chance
JERRYSBACK – 142
Hasn’t always shown what he is capable of but there is no denying that his handicap mark on the balance of his form is lenient and he is still unexposed over 3m+. Another JP owned runner who caught the eye on seasonal return at Ascot when third to Dashel Drasher (158) over 2m5f and the form of that race looks strong and the step back up to this trip will suit. He has excuses for his two poor runs at this Cheltenham venue with the first coming on the back of a 633-day lay-off and the other in the National Hunt Chase (finished third) in which he was hampered multiple times. He has been hard to keep right according to all accounts but is another live contender for an owner who does exceptionally well at this meeting.
LONGHOUSE POET – 142 (Irish)
Connections will be hoping for some kindness from the English Handicapper given his Irish Handicap mark of 142 and any more than 3lbs allotted will see him too high in the ratings for this race. He would be of serious interest if he was able to squeeze in here off top weight so he is worth keeping an eye on.
SCHOOL BOY HOURS
Trained by Noel Meade and owned by JP McManus he has only got his head in front once in his career and is 0-6 over fences but has been competing in some high-class races this term at Punchestown. He has chased home Latest Exhibition (153) when beaten two lengths then Asterion Forlonge (154) beaten seventeen lengths and Eklat De Rire (151) when beaten three lengths and his Irish handicap mark is currently 135. With the English handicappers in-put, he will likely be around 140 for this race which should see him in with an excellent chance and although his jumping will need to be brushed up he looks value at his double-figure price.
TIME TO GET UP - 138
JP McManus looks to have a stronghold on this race with plenty of candidates that look well-handicapped including this one trained by Jonjo O’Neil. He left Joseph O’Brien after catching the eye behind a certain Monkfish over hurdles at Fairyhouse but disappointed on his first two chase starts before sauntering home at Wincanton. He needed every yard of that 3m1f trip in heavy ground and he looked a potential improver. He now sits on a handicap mark of 138 and he looks to have been targeted at a Cheltenham Festival race and it could be this one.
ST BARTS - 137
Philip Hobbs trained and comfortably saw off his rivals when last seen at Newbury off a handicap mark of 128 and a 9lb rise in the weights to 137 doesn’t look overly harsh. He is unexposed at this trip and has some useful form over hurdles from his novice days and could potentially still be well handicapped. He is not one to dismiss lightly.
AT THE ACORN – 130 (Irish)
Will navigate new waters with a trip this far over fences but did catch the eye on multiple occasions last season over the larger obstacles and although 16lbs higher than his last winning mark he was very unlucky in a Grade A Handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival last season on his final start off a handicap mark of 131. He has been kept over hurdles this term in the likelihood to protect that handicap mark of 130 and the seven-year-old is very lightly raced for his age after just seven runs under rules.
DEISE ABA – 142
Got back to winning ways at Sandown in good style in February after two pulled up efforts at Chepstow and Haydock and now arrives back at this race off the same handicap mark as 2020. He failed to see out the trip on that occasions after travelling through the race strongly but did finish a creditable fifth and although it would be folly to write him off totally he may find one or two too good again.
KIM MUIR - BIG RACE VERDICT
This looks like a good ante-post race to get involved with because for plenty of those at the head of the market (not on this list) they are hoping for a miracle from the English Handicapper to get into this 0-145. AT THE ACORN has clearly been held back to capitalise on his handicap mark at the festivals and the hope is that its this one and this race. He has been brought along nicely over hurdles and will come here without a prep run over fences after he was balloted out at the Dublin Racing Festival. He will be towards the bottom of the weights and looks sure to be suited by the step up in trip. SCHOOL BOY HOURS is the other that is hard to ignore given he hasn’t been able to receive a rise in the ratings due to his runs in Beginners Chases in Ireland, how the English Handicapper will assess him is a different matter but he looks useful and is one to keep on side.
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