Cheltenham Festival 2022 – Day 1 Handicap Races Tips and Betting Preview

The handicaps are always a key feature of the Cheltenham Festival and that isn’t likely to be any different this year. They are often won at big prices and need quite some solving so it is fortunate that we like such a puzzle.

There are two handicaps to get stuck into on the opening day and we’re going to bet in both and go double handed in each of them given the strong field. We’ll start with the Ultima before the Boodles later.

14.55 Cheltenham: Ultima Handicap Chase


In the first of the handicaps, a 3 mile 1 furlong chase, the thing most commonly mentioned is that the Irish have very few winners in the race.  Whilst that is true, it is also true to say they don’t have many runners.  Until now, where they are responsible for 7 of the 24 strong field.   As always, this is incredibly open with bookies going around 8/1 the field & half the field trading at 16/1 or less.  I’m going double handed in the race.


The novice Tea Clipper is the first selection & he’s a horse with much more to give over fences.  He’s gone over fences just 3 times, winning on debut at Chepstow in a Listed race where he jumped brilliantly.  He’s been disappointing in his 2 runs since but this is the first run following wind surgery & the cheekpieces are on which could spark a return to form.  He did have some excellent form over hurdles, winning the Silver Trophy & finished 3rd in the Coral Cup here 12 months ago so that stands him in good stead as does course & big field handicap form.  He appears well handicapped on the form of his chase debut & should go really well for his small yard who are in excellent form with 6 of their last 10 runners winning.

I’m also taking one from Ireland & that’s the 10 year old Ben Dundee.  He’s won just 1 of his 13 starts but this race looks tailor made for him.  Firstly, he has excellent Festival form having finished 3rd of 20 in the Close Brothers behind none other than A Plus Tard in 2019 & then 5th of 23 a year later in the Brown Advisory when hampered by fallers at a crucial stage.  He’s since moved yards 3 times & has been lightly campaigned.  I’m convinced he’ll land a big handicap soon enough & came very close on his last run when 2nd of 28 in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown off a 5lb lower mark.  His previous chase start to that was when 4th in the Kerry National so it’s fair to say he likes these big handicaps & his record in chase starts with more than 16 runners reads 3-5-8-4-2.   Danny Mullins is an eyecatching jockey booking so I’m happy to be on each way at decent odds.


Back Tea Clipper (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 13.00 Betfred BOG (⅕ odds 1-7)

Back Ben Dundee (e/w) for a 0.75/10 stake at 17.00 Betfred BOG (⅕ odds 1-7)


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16.55 Cheltenham: Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle


A 22 runner handicap for 4 year olds has all the makings of being a tricky puzzle to solve & this is no exception.  That assumes that the talking horse, Gaelic Warrior, fails to live up to expectations.  Paul Townend, who has an incredibly strong book of rides, rates this as his best chance of a winner on Day 1 but there’s not really a great deal in the formbook to back it up.  In a race where a great deal of luck is needed, I’d definitely want to oppose.  The Tide Turns is the second favourite & he’d be more to my liking although I’m not convinced he’s that well handicapped.  It’s another race I’m going with 2 selections.


HMS Seahorse is the first selection & he has the ideal profile for the race having had the minimum number of 3 runs to qualify, hopefully helping him to protect his handicap mark.  On debut he finished 3rd behind Vauban & Pied Piper who are currently the front 2 in the Triumph Hurdle betting & then he finished 2nd of 20 to The Tide Turns, finishing just over 2 lengths behind.  However, he’s 9lbs better off today & that should be enough to turn the tables.  Last time out, he finally got off the mark beating Global Export in a maiden.  The runner up franked the form winning next time out.  He was rated 83 on the flat so his hurdle form is hardly a surprise & he has form in big fields which is another positive.  Steadily progressive, I expect him to go close in an open race.

More speculative is our 2nd selection in the shape of the filly Sea Sessions.  She’s had 4 starts over hurdles with impressive form figures of 2-2-1-2.  On debut, she finished behind Bell Ex One who had a sizeable experience advantage before again finding one too good, this time in the form of Fil D’Or who is well fancied for Friday’s Triumph.  She then got off the mark in a Listed race at Aintree before just failing to follow up in another Listed event, this time at Doncaster, where she had to shoulder a penalty.  That form is up there with some of the best on offer & were she trained by a Mullins or an Elliot, she’d be less than half her current odds.  A big field & fast pace is likely to be in her favour so she’s worthy of a few quid each way to hit the frame at huge odds.


Back HMS Seahorse (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 12.00 Bet365 BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)

Back Sea Sessions (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 41.00 Paddy Power BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)

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Author: Martha Chavez