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Cheltenham 2023 Tips - Five early handicap selections

Last updated: 19 Jan 2023
Jon Vine 19 Jan 2023
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  • Five early tips for the handicaps at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival
  • The 2023 Cheltenham Festival takes place between March 14th and 17th
  • We've tipped Gordon Elliott's Indigo Breeze and Martin Pipe for the Kim Muir and Martin Pipe
  • Gala Marceau, Amarillo Sky and Nassalam also feature in our handicap tips 
the real whacker
Indigo Breeze (left) finishing second to The Real Whacker (right) at Cheltenham in November. (Getty)
    Cheltenham Handicap Tips
  • Gala Marceau (Boodles)
  • Amarillo Sky (Grand Annual)
  • Nassalam (Plate Handicap Chase)
  • Indigo Breeze (Kim Muir)
  • Three Card Brag (Martin Pipe)

The build-up to the 2023 Cheltenham Festival is well-and-truly underway. Entries for the major Grade One races have been revealed this month and trainers will be busy plotting their routes toward the nine valuable handicap races staged during this famous meeting.

Today, we've taken a look through the ante-post betting and picked out five horses to back in the handicaps at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival.

Cheltenham 2023 Tips - Early Handicap Selections

Gala Marceau (Boodles)

Gala Marceau E/W2023 Boodles Handicap Hurdle TipsGET 12/1 HERE
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As if his stranglehold on National Hunt racing wasn't tight enough already, Willie Mullins welcomed an influx of talented French juveniles through his doors at the start of the season. Lossiemouth has been superb thus far and deservedly leads the Triumph Hurdle betting. Sitting second in the market is stablemate Blood Destiny, who's looked like a real powerhouse during both of his starts on Irish soil.

Given the strength of that duo and a distinct lack of depth in the Triumph market, Willie Mullins could point his other juveniles at the Boodles Handicap Hurdle. Tekao tops the ante-post market for the Boodles, with stablemates Zarak The Brave and Risk Belle also featuring prominently.

The Mullins runner I'd fancy most for the Boodles is GALA MARCEAU, who won a Listed Mares' Hurdle on her final start in France. Mullins plunged his recruit straight into the Knight Frank at Leopardstown on her stable debut and Kenny Alexander's filly was well-backed against Lossiemouth before the off. The favourite ran out an impressive winner on the day, but Gala Marceau kept on well to place second. If she's handed a rating between 127 and 132 by the British handicapper, then Gala Marceau could have a massive say in this year's Boodles.

Amarillo Sky (Grand Annual)

Amarillo Sky E/W2023 Grand Annual Handicap Chase TipsGET 20/1 HERE
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On the back of an impressive ten-length triumph at Newbury in January, AMARILLO SKY was fancied by many to win last year's Grand Annual. Sadly, the deluge of rain that hit Prestbury Park on day two turned the ground against Joe Tizzard's star and Amarillo Sky did well just to finish fifth.

Amarillo Sky has continued his progression with back-to-back handicap victories this season. Brendan Powell's mount held off a future winner in Fugutif to score over the Grand Annual course-and-distance in November, and followed up with an emphatic 14-length triumph back at Newbury on Coral Gold Cup day.

Tizzard has entered his seven-year-old in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot and also the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Yet, I fancy the team feels they have unfinished business with the Grand Annual Handicap Chase and Amarillo Sky would have a huge chance in that race, even off this career-high mark of 151.

amarillo sky
Brendan Powell riding Amarillo Sky on their way to winning The Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Cheltenham. (Getty)

Nassalam (Plate Handicap Chase)

Nassalam E/W2023 Plate Handicap Chase TipsGET 25/1 HERE
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It's been nine years since Gary Moore last tasted Cheltenham Festival success, winning the 2014 Champion Chase with Sire De Grugy. The Moore's have had a couple of near-misses since then, most notably when Goshen fell at the last with the 2019 Triumph Hurdle at his mercy.

Moore doesn't often send his runners up to Cheltenham, preferring to target valuable prizes at southern racetracks. NASSALAM, however, has twice made the journey to Gloucestershire this season and his performances will have given the Moore's plenty of reason to be optimistic.

Nassalam caught the eye as he stayed on up the hill to finish sixth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, having been hampered badly twice in that contest. On New Year's Day, Jamie Moore's mount came off the bridle fairly early but responded to pressure really well, and seemed to be gathering a head of steam as he jumped into the back of the fading Il Ridoto at the last, which meant he could finish no closer than third.

Moore handed Nassalam an entry in the Fleur Du Lys Chase over 2m6f at Lingfield, so he's clearly eyeing a step up in trip with this talented six-year-old. The Ultima would be an option if he was to prove his stamina in time for Cheltenham. The Plate Handicap Chase, run over two-and-a-half-miles, remains Nassalam's most likely target.

Indigo Breeze (Kim Muir)

Indigo Breeze E/W2023 Kim Muir Handicap Chase TipsGET 12/1 HERE
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The man to follow in handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival is undoubtedly Gordon Elliott. Prior to last year's meeting, which was unusually quiet by his standard, Elliott had won over a quarter of the handicaps staged at the Festival over the previous six seasons and Gordon will once again be targetting the lesser races at this year's meeting.

When the entries for the novice chases were revealed, INDIGO BREEZE wasn't entered in either the Brown Advisory or the National Hunt Chase. Elliott's seven-year-old finished eighth behind stablemate Commander Of Fleet in last year's Coral Cup, and ran a cracker on his return to Cheltenham at the November Meeting, where he was narrowly beaten by The Real Whacker - who went on to win the Grade Two Dipper Novices' Chase - on his first outing over three miles.

Elliott could run Indigo Breeze in the Ultima, a race Irish horses have a particularly poor record in. A more appealing option for Gordon would be the Kim Muir Challenge Cup, as Indigo Breeze is bound to be rated below the 145-ceiling for that contest and leading amateur, Jamie Codd would be itching to take the ride on this fluent jumper.

gordon elliott cheltenham
A delighted Gordon Elliott after training Commander Of Fleet to win The Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle. (Getty)

Three Card Brag (Martin Pipe)

Three Card Brag E/W2023 Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle TipsGET 10/1 HERE
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Of all the races at the Cheltenham Festival, one that Gordon Elliott enjoys winning more than most is the Martin Pipe. Pipe took Elliott under his wing during the fledgling stages of his career and Gordon often points two or three of his best novice hurdlers at the final race on Gold Cup day.

THREE CARD BRAG has been entered for both the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett, following a series of promising performances this term. Elliott's six-year-old thrashed Sandor Clegane on his hurdles debut and went on to place in Graded races at Navan and Naas, losing out by just a neck to Inthepocket in the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle.

Elliott has Irish Point earmarked for the Ballymore. American Mike - should he return to top form at the Dublin Racing Festival - hold entries for the Ballymore and the Albert Bartlett, where he could be joined by Favori De Champdou, who has already proven his stamina with a Grade Two win over three miles. With options in both Grade Ones, I could see Three Card Brag dropping down into the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle, where he'd certainly be in with an outstanding chance.

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