Ultima Handicap Chase Tips 2021 – Cheltenham Festival Day 1 (2.50pm)

Nowadays, the Ultima Handicap Chase, run over 3 miles 1 furlong on the Old Course at Prestbury Park, has the distinction of being the first of nine handicaps staged at the Cheltenham Festival.

Just two favourites – namely Wichita Lineman in 2009 and Coo Star Sivola in 2018 – have won since the turn of the century, but 15 winners in that period featured in the first five in the betting. That statistic alone suggests that, even at this relatively early stage, the head of the market is where we should be looking for a likely winner.


Ultima Handicap Chase Odds

Paisley Park10/3bet365
Thyme Hill4/1bet365
Sire Du Berlais9/1William Hill
Benie Des Dieux14/1bet365
Roksana14/1William Hill
Flooring Porter16/1William Hill
Ronald Pump20/1bet365


Ultima Handicap Chase Preview

The first handicap of 2021 Cheltenham Festival week is the first real-time to have a strong each-way punt. The race is run on the old course and normally throws up some Grand National prospects. The 3-mile trip takes some getting and it is normally the strong stayers that come out on top.

It is usually a graveyard for favourites and a race that the bookies target, especially if the Supreme or Arkle favourites have already been beaten. The ante-post market is always wide open and at the time of writing you can get a best price of 14/1 for the favourite.


Ultima Handicap Main Contenders

  • Dickie Diver
  • Royal Pagaille
  • Secret Reprive
  • The Conditional


Dickie Diver

At the time of writing, the horse with the dubious distinction of being favourite is Dickie Diver (14/1), an 8-year-old owned by J.P. McManus and trained by Nicky Henderson.The Gold Well gelding finished an eye-catching fourth in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, but wasn’t seen in public again until finishing a respectable second in a novices’ limited handicap chase at Newbury in December, 2020. Exactly what that form amounts to remains to be seen, but both owner and trainer have a decent record in this race, as do novices in recent years, so Dickie Diver looks one to keep on the right side.


Royal Pagaille

More appealing, though, at the odds currently on offer is joint second-favourite Royal Pagaille (16/1), who holds various entries at the Cheltenham Festival, including in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Venetia Williams’ French import has started his second season over fences in Britain with two comfortable wins, which have already seen him rise 21lb in the weights. Still only a 7-year-old, he almost certainly has significant improvement left in him, so the danger must be that he will graduate from handicap company sooner rather than later. Furthermore, he is unraced on going faster than soft, although that is a lesser concern, granted the vagaries of the British weather.


Secret Reprive

The other joint second-favourite, Secret Reprieve (16/1), has a similar profile to Royal Pagaille insofar as he is a rapidly improving 7-year-old who has shown a propensity for testing conditions. Staying is clearly his game, as he demonstrated a comfortable winner of the Coral Welsh Grand National, over 3 miles 6½ furlongs, at Chepstow in January, 2021, despite his girth coming undone at the third-last fence. Trainer Evan Williams has suggested that the National Hunt Chase could be the next target for Secret Reprieve, who has risen 10lb in the weights, but he shouldn’t be inconvenienced by dropping back in distance if the going in his favour.


The Conditional

David Bridgwater’s 10-year-old is 10lb higher in the weights this time around, but is 2-2 over course and distance and appears less going-dependent than some of his main rivals. He has returned to action in decent form, finishing third in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury and second in the Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot and looks to have bright prospects of maintaining his 100% record on the Old Course.


Ultima Handicap Betting Tip

Horses that have previously run well in staying chases at the Cheltenham Festival, particularly in the Ultima Handicap Chase itself, have an excellent record, so for a selection we need look no further than last year’s winner, The Conditional (22/1).

EACH-WAY SELECTION: The Conditional – 22/1 with bet365.

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Ultima Handicap Trends

  • Age – 10 of the last 12 winners were aged 7-9
  • Price – 2 of the last 12 favorites have won, 7/12 winners were in the top 3 in the betting
  • Weights – 9 of the last 12 winners weighed between 10st 6lbs & 11st 8lbs
  • Last Run – 7/12 winners at least placed on their last run before Cheltenham, 9/12 winners had their previous run within the last 45 days
  • Previous Course Form – 9/12 winners had at least 3 previous runs at Cheltenham, 7/12 winners had a previous win at Cheltenham
  • Previous Distance Form – 10/12 winners had at least 5 previous runs over at least 3 miles, 12/12 winners had at least 1 win in a race of 3 miles or more
  • Previous Hurdle Form – 12/12 winners had at least 5 runs over hurdles, 12/12 had at least 1 previous win over hurdles
  • Previous Chase Form – 10/12 winners had at least 5 previous chase runs, 11/12 winners had at least 1 previous chase win
  • Rating – 11/12 winners had a rating of 132 or higher
  • Season Form – 10/12 winners had at least 3 runs that season, 9/12 winners had at least 1 previous win that season


Ultima Handicap Last 10 Winners

Year Horse Jockey Trainer
2011 Bensalem Robert Thornton Alan King
2012 Alfie Sherrin Richie McLernon Jonjo O’Neill
2013 Golden Chieftain Brendan Powell Colin Tizzard
2014 Holywell Richie McLernon Jonjo O’Neill
2015 The Druids Nephew Barry Geraghty Neil Mulholland
2016 Un Temps Pour Tout Tom Scudamore David Pipe
2017 Un Temps Pour Tout Tom Scudamore David Pipe
2018 Coo Star Sivola Lizzie Kelly Nick Williams
2019 Beware The Bear Jeremiah McGrath Nicky Henderson
2020 The Conditional Brendan Powell David Bridgwater


2020 Ultima Handicap Chase Result

1st – The Conditional (15/2)

2nd – Kildisart (10/1)

3rd – Discorama (11/2)

4th – Vindication (11/2)