With that in mind, the focus turns to Glen Forsa, Lalor and Hardline, and that shortlist can be whittled down to just one when you take into account that 17 of the last 19 winners went into the race after at least three runs that season, which discounts Lalor. Glen Forsa is also ruled out as 10 of the last 12 winners were rated 152 or higher. Only Irish contender Hardline fits the criteria.
Four of the last eight winners of the Ultima Handicap Chase had made their previous start over hurdles.
Only two horses, Big River and Minella Rocco, come into the race with that preparation this year and could be worth backing at prices of 33-1 and 8-1 respectively.
Interestingly, Minella Rocco’s trainer, Jonjo O’Neill, ran 2012 winner Alfie Sherrin over hurdles before his victory.
Cheltenham day one tips and best bets by Marlborough
1.30pm Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
This looks ultra competitive with many demanding serious respect. The final vote goes to KLASSICAL DREAM. He showed admirable spirit when beating stablemate Aramon at Leopardstown and should have progressed for the experience. Angels Breath will also have learned plenty from his recent run at Kempton – just his second race – and has potential. Al Dancer steps up significantly in grade and, impressive as he has been, might find these rivals too strong. The form of the Tolworth Hurdle won by Elixir De Nutz is rock solid. Fakir D’oudairies is another live threat.
- Marlborough’s tip – Klassical Dream
- Marcus Armytage’s tip – Elixir De Nutz
- Ross Clarke’s tip – Mister Fisher
- Charlie Brooks’ tip – Angels Breath
2.10pm Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeple Chase
I have a feeling that GLEN FORSA might prove to be outstanding in due course. Normally, I would not consider a horse that has won over three miles for this speed contest, but the turn of foot that he utilised to destroy Kalashnikov and Dell Oro at Sandown persuaded me he is that rare beast, a stayer that can quicken. Us And Them has chased home Le Richbourg twice and that horse would have been favourite here had an injury not kept him at home.
- Marlborough’s tip – Glen Forsa
- Marcus Armytage’s tip – Glen Forsa (nap)
- Ross Clarke’s tip – Glen Forsa
- Charlie Brooks’ tip – Lalor
2.50pm – Ultima Handicap Chase
CRUCIAL ROLE fits many of the criteria of past winners in that he was a decent hurdler, has shown a fair level of form over fences and is unexposed. Mister Whitaker won here a year ago and should be suited by this trip. Minella Rocco finished second in the Gold Cup two years ago. He has had issues since but showed more last time when given a spin over hurdles. His mark is now unmistakably favourable. The softer the better for Coo Star Sivola, last year’s heavily backed winner.
- Marlborough’s tip – Crucial Role
- Marcus Armytage’s tip – Give Me A Copper
- Ross Clarke’s tip – Minella Rocco
- Charlie Brooks’ tip – Shantou Village