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2021 Grand Annual Handicap Chase Tips – O’Brien has the strongest hand to play

  • We’ve published our guide to the 2021 Grand Annual
  • This handicap chase is the sixth race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival
  • Sky Pirate and Entoucas top the betting
  • Embittered is our top tip in the race at 8/1
county hurdle cheltenham
Embittered (right) tries to fend off Saint Roi after the last in the County Hurdle. (Getty)

The penultimate race on day two of the Cheltenham Festival is the Grand Annual Handicap Chase. The Grand Annual is the oldest race at the meeting, having first been run in 1834. For year, the Grand Annual brought the curtain down on the entire Cheltenham Festival, but in 2021, the race was moved to the sixth slot on day two to make room for the Mares’ Chase.

Three of the first four horses past the post last year were novices, so it’s no surprise to see several first-season chasers dominating the current betting.

2021 Grand Annual Odds


Name
Odds
Sky Pirate6/1
Entoucas7/1
Embittered8/1
Zanza11/1
A Wave Of The Sea12/1
Eldorado Allen12/1
Ibleo12/1
Tamaroc Du Mathan12/1
Bar14/1

*Odds taken from Betfair on 5/3/21*

2021 Grand Annual Trends


I’ve taken a look through the last decade of results from the Grand Annual and picked out four key recurring trends.

  • All of the last 10 winners had won at least twice over two miles
  • of the last 10 winners were rated between 138 and 147
  • of the last 10 winners had run in at least one Grade One race (Hurdles or Fences)
  • of the last 10 winners had either run in a previous Grand Annual or the County Hurdle

I really fancied Sky Pirate for the Grand Annual, after Jonjo O’Neill’s chaser cruised to a superb victory over Ibleo here at Cheltenham in December. 

I don’t really know why O’Neill has bothered to run Sky Pirate twice more over fences. He was never going to contend in a race like the Arkle. All it’s done is push Sky Pirate’s rating up from 145 to 152. So instead of carrying 10-13, he’ll have to shoulder 11-6, and I think there are contenders who’re better off at the weights.

2021 Grand Annual Tips – Embittered

Joseph O’Brien had his first runner in the Grand Annual 12 months ago, with Us And Them finishing a respectable third. Although O’Brien hasn’t enjoyed his most prolific season over jumps, he could enter this year’s Grand Annual with three strong challengers.

A Wave Of The Sea was victorious over two miles when last seen at Leopardstown. While he remains very well-handicapped, he’s more of a staying prospect than a two miler, and I suspect he’ll take up his entry in the Paddy Power Plate.

Entoucas has been backed into favouritism for this historic handicap in recent weeks, have shown consistent form in Irish handicaps this term. However, I think his stablemate EMBITTERED is the best bet in this race, having been handed a lenient mark of just 146.

Embittered jumped nicely on his first two starts over fences, losing out by three lengths to two odds-on shots in Easywork and Andy Dufresne. O’Brien then threw his charge into two Grade Ones at Leopardstown, but neither race went according to plan.

Having travelled sweetly, Sean Flanagan tried to sneak through on the inside as they rounded the final bend in the Racing Post Novice Chase. Darver Star slammed the door in his face, forcing Embittered to check his run, and that interference scuppered all of his momentum.

Embittered was then hampered by the falling Captain Guinness two from home in the Irish Arkle, but still set off in pursuit of Energumene down the home straight, only to tire in the closing stages.

Having run in a couple of Grade Ones over hurdles last season, O’Brien dropped Embittered into the County Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. JJ Slevin kept his mount up with the pace throughout and, despite a welter burden of 11-8, only a couple of very classy sorts in Saint Roi and Aramon were able to pass him.

Embittered’s jumping has improved with each of his chase starts. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a better chaser than a hurdler. Yet, he’s rated just one-pound higher over fences than hurdles, and will carry just 11-00 into this handicap. I’m all-in on Embittered at a tasty each-way price of 10/1!
US

Verdict

Based on what he's achieved over fences this term, Embittered looks really well handicapped, and can better the third-place finish he managed in last year's County Hurdle. 

2021 Grand Annual Handicap Chase Tip: Embittered Each-Way @800.00 at BetMGM - 15 Units

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