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The Inside Track on the Pertemps Final

The longest of the handicap hurdles at 3m, the Pertemps is the only one that features a series of qualifying races that horses must compete in to get into the big finale.

In only having to finish in the first eight in any of these practice races to qualify, some may think that certain horses may not be trying their absolute hardest before the big day. Certainly the art of finding a horse that peaks on the big day is the key to backing the winner here more often than finding the horse with the most obvious form case.

The last 10 winners have been priced between 14/1 and 50/1 and the last favourite to oblige for punters was back in 2003, so I’ll be avoiding the obvious again this year.

For those that do like a rock-solid form choice their candidate will be If In Doubt, the pick of a strong Philip Hobbs team and likely mount of AP McCoy for JP McManus.

This horse was second to handicap blot and stablemate Fingal Bay in the Exeter qualifier and with the champion taking over and a small advantage at the weights, this beast looks primed to go off a well-backed favourite to me.

I’m never afraid to take on a Hobbs-trained horse at the Festival though and for the selection I’m looking to Jonjo O’Neill to provide his fourth winner of the race in 12 years, having popped in a 25/1 screamer in Holywell last year.

UPSWING has a very similar profile to that horse as an improving six-year-old who showed his best form on his only career run at the 3m trip in their race preceding the Festival.

Holywell then showed massive improvement to peak on the big day and I’ve little doubt that Upswing can do the same, having won cosily in grinding out a hard-fought win in that qualifying run at Newbury from a good horse in Rydon Pines.

From a mark only 4lb higher. Upswing should sneak in at the bottom of the weights and the bonus is that last year’s winning jockey Richie McLernon should ride and he definitely knows the way to the winner’s enclosure.

The other horse that catches the eye in this is Colin Tizzard’s Grand Vision and he could easily be the best-handicapped horse at the Festival.

Two years ago this bold jumping grey led the field a merry dance in the Albert Bartlett Grade 1 novices’ hurdle at the Festival until caught close home, eventually finishing third.

That race was chock full of horses that have run in and won big races since, such as Boston Bob (Leopardstown Grade 1 novices’ chase), Lovcen (Aintree Grade 1 novices’ hurdle), Mount Benbulben, Rocky Creek and Meister Eckhart (second in last year’s Coral Cup) and is rock-solid form.

Most of them are 150+ rated hurdlers and chasers, but Grand Vision runs here from a mark of
142.

Grand Vision could easily be rated 10lb higher based on that run but unfortunately since then the horse has been injured and had a year off the track, before returning here in January and pulling up.

His next run in a qualifier for this race showed him to retain plenty of his old ability (but not too much!), finishing second under an amateur jockey. His latest run can be ignored over a trip was too short.

All of that leads me to think that this race has been the plan for the horse ever since he came back. Under the same conditions as his best ever run, from what could be a very fair mark, he’ll try
very hard and will give you a great run for your money.

Selection: Upswing

Alternative: Grand Vision