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Handicapper Watch: Indian Castle has claims in Festival Chase

The first big handicap of the week is the Festival Handicap Chase on Tuesday over three miles. Many of the leading fancies have multiple entries but you can now bet at NR/no bet on all Cheltenham races.

Several of the top weights are already destined for bigger targets, notably Triolo D’Alene and Teaforthree in the Gold Cup. Bury Parade is set to swerve the meeting so those lower down the handicap could sneak a run.

The early favourite is Shutthefrontdoor but he looks one to avoid after trailing home last behind Sam Winner here in December. He has never won his races by a big margin and will take all of McCoy’s persuasion to get home in front.

Sam Winner is another with several entries but he may be better staying in novice company and a smaller field. Double Ross has been admirably consistent this season but the handicapper appears to have caught up with him with a mark of 152.

Nicky Henderson is a natural pessimist when it comes to his horses so it was surprising to hear him extolling the virtues of Hadrian’s Approach recently. This talented chaser has blundered away his chance on more than one occasion and was an early casualty in the Hennessy Gold Cup.

The big field could be a concern for him but he has the class to run well with 11st if Barry Geraghty can give him a clear sight of his fences. He was a close second to Bury Parade in November and did nothing wrong when winning at Newbury last time out.

Cause Of Causes has no less than seven engagements at the festival but this looks to be one of his more realistic targets. He has been slow to adapt to fences after being a particularly smart hurdler but has been a close second in two big handicaps in Ireland.

Carrying the JP McManus colours, he is sure to be well fancied for whichever handicap they elect to go for. With just 10st 8lb and three miles on soft ground, he looks worth a bet at 12-1.

This is a tough race for a  novice but they don’t come much tougher than Donald McCain’s Indian Castle. Having only his third start over fences, he battled on determinedly to beat Annacotty here in January and his trainer has voiced satisfaction at his handicap mark.

Selections: Hadrian’s Approach 12-1, Cause Of Causes 12-1, Indian Castle 10-1 (NR-No Bet)