Antepost Punting: The Ultima Handicap Chase

1pt each-way Lieutenant Rocco in the Ultima Handicap Chase at 12/1 (NRNB – Skybet) + 1pt win at 18/1 (Bet365)

As I’ve shown in recent weeks I don’t mind backing two in a race if I feel that they both represent good value, therefore I am going to double up in the Ultima Handicap Chase and add Lieutenant Rocco to the portfolio.

When looking at the race last night I was drawn to both Lieutenant Rocco and Aye Right. The latter has been running well in quality handicaps all season long and could easily feature prominently if taking his chance in March. However, the former is lightly raced and has more scope for progression, and it was hard not he be impressed by his smooth success at Ffos Las earlier this month.

Indeed, Nick Mitchell’s six-year-old seemingly relished the step-up to 3 miles and fairly jumped for fun in the hands of Daryl Jocob. He defeated a 136 rated rival, whom received 5lbs (claim) and has twice been narrowly denied in competitive Newbury handicaps this season, by an eased down 8 lengths earning a rise of 7lbs to an official rating of 147.

Lieutenant Rocco was only beaten a shade over 6 lengths by smart novices Messire Des Obeaux and Protektorat in the rescheduled Grade 2 Dipper Novices’ Chase at Wincanton in January, and he very nearly caused at upset at Cheltenham in December when attempting to make all under Tom Scudamore and only giving way in the final 100 yards. Both of those races were contested over two-and-a-half-miles, and both efforts suggested that 3 miles would suit.

Obviously there are options aplenty as a novice, however, I can’t see connections wanting to take on Envoi Allen in the Marsh Novices’ Chase or Monkfish in the Brown Advisory, and I would imagine that connections may more inclined to stay at 3 miles following his Ffos Las success than drop back down on trip to contest the Paddy Power Plate. Therefore I would argue that the Ultima Handicap Chase is his most likely destination.

We know that he can operate at Cheltenham and his extremely fluent fencing, which has been a joy to watch thus far, will certainly stand to him in such a hotly-contested handicap. While a mark of 147 could easily underestimate the true level of his ability given his unexposed status over staying trips.

Escaria Ten, Remastered, Dickie Diver, Dashel Drasher, Alnadam, Coko Beach, Royal Pagaille and Secret Reprieve, who are currently the first eight horses quoted on Oddschecker, are all unlikely runners and the market could collapse at any stage – especially with the handicap entries being made this week. Therefore I intend to snare some of the 12/1 NRNB that is currently available with Sky Bet, and top that up with a small bet at 18/1 with Bet365.

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