brennan's brief | 

Why I expect to see Cheltenham handicaps won by 20/1, 25/1 and 33/1 shots as top picks penalised

Chacun Pour Soi, with Paul Townend up, jumps the first on their way to winning the Ladbrokes Dublin Steeplechase during day two of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Chacun Pour Soi, with Paul Townend up, jumps the first on their way to winning the Ladbrokes Dublin Steeplechase during day two of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

John Brennan

The Winter Olympics are going full ski ahead in Beijing, but for Irish sport, the ‘real’ Olympics are still five weeks away at Cheltenham when the finest jumps horses in the world gather to do battle.

But it is going to be hard for punters, Irish or otherwise, to make money beneath Cleeve Hill this year.

So many of the Championship races, in particular, are going to have short-priced Irish hotpots that backers will have to hope that last Sunday at Leopardstown is repeated. When Gallopin des Champs, Chacun Pour Soi, Honeysuckle and Sir Gerhard all won to give many people a very nice accumulator.

Otherwise punters will have to look at the handicaps and there it is going to be very hard to find a winner. Not only will those races be as fiercely contested as ever, but the British handicapper is going to burden Irish challengers with, literally, a ton of weight.

The Brits are used to seeing an Irish horse come over and win a handicap at Cheltenham. What they are not used to see are horses like Jeff Kidder, Heaven Help Us and The Shunter bolting up in handicaps, running away from their rivals, as they did before the silent stands last year.

This time every Irish horse is going to get about half a stone more than his Irish handicap rating when it goes for a Cheltenham handicap.

So top trainers like Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and the smaller yards that lay out a horse for Cheltenham, are going to need to have a beast that has 10 or 12lbs in hand if they are going to win.

And it is very hard to do that when the horse has to show enough ability, to earn a high rating, to get into the race in the first place.

So I expect to see Cheltenham handicaps won by 20/1, 25/1, 33/1 shots, British or Irish. Good look with finding them at the race meeting where everyone wants a winner. I’ll try to give you a couple when we get the entries and the weights for the handicaps, but don’t hold me to my selections. This is going to be difficult!


Today's Headlines

More Horse Racing

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices