Previously known as the Mildmay Of Flete, the Festival Plate is a handicap chase run over the intermediate trip of 2M 4F 127 yards of the new course. Novices have an excellent record in the race with 6 of the last 7 winners in their first or second season over fences. The past 7 winners have contested a graded novice hurdle or novice chase.
Stables that have done well in the race in the past include David Pipe, who collectively with his father Martin have won 7 of the last 25 renewals, whilst both Venetia Williams and Nicky Henderson have won the race multiple times. Ireland have won 4 of the last 7 renewals. Last year’s 22/1 winner Coole Cody broke a four-year run of well-backed horses winning.
Haut En Couleurs
Willie Mullins’s representative heads the weights and has a touch of class about him. Fell at the last when looking likely to beat the smart Fakir D’Oudairies at Thurles in January and chased home Janidil, who heads for the Ryanair earlier in the card, at Gowran Park in a grade 2. First handicap here and will be ridden by Michael O’Sullivan who excelled when winning the opening race of the meeting on Marine Nationale and is excellent value for his 3lb claim.
Two For Gold
Smart last year but pulled up in last season’s Grand National and only 5th in Grand Sefton at Aintree on re-appearance. Kim Bailey’s veteran needs to bounce back here with regular rider David Bass riding.
Capable on best form and his runner-up to Midnight River over course and distance on New Year’s Day gives him a squeak but flopped last time at Warwick and has questions to answer now under Sam Twiston-Davies for trainer Sam Thomas.
Has won 2 of his 3 starts this season for Dan Skelton including over course and distance on New Year’s Day by 2 1/4L. 7lb higher here and on a career-high handicap mark. Brother Harry is in the saddle and is suited by the mud.
One of three Gordon Elliott runners ridden today by Aidan Heskin. A bit hit-and-miss nowadays but has small each-way claims on his very best form.
In good form this season winning well at Chepstow over Christmas and followed that up with a highly credible second beaten a length to Il Ridoto over course and distance. 2lb better off today and Richard Hobson’s charge has each-way claims especially if any more rain hits the track.
Trainer Paul Nicholls has talked this one up coming into the Festival. Appeared to see the trip out better when winning over course and distance in January in first-time cheek pieces and if working for a second time is a serious player here.
A novice trained by Jamie Snowden who’s kept good novice company in his six starts over fences. Up another 4lb for latest second to Solo in a grade two. Creeping up the handicap but has a good shout to hit the frame.
7th in the Grand Annual last season. Running well enough in handicap company in Ireland this season for trainer Joseph O’Brien though has to prove he truly stays this intermediate trip. Bryan Cooper rides.
Useful novice last season (4th in Arkle here). Came back to form last time in a first-time tongue tie but needs to step forward again for West Country trainer Joe Tizzard.
Last year’s winner can race today off of a 2lb lower mark. Loves this track but showed precious little on his last two starts and hard to fancy now especially as Even Williams’ charge is now 12 years old.
Sold to JP McManus since his promising runner-up effort at Ascot in November and reportedly aimed at this contest. 8lb higher now though and any rain would be against him as his best form is on good. In the hands of the shrewd operator Emmet Mullins and has to be taken seriously if not too soft.
Irish trained (John McConnell) and bolted up in 16 runner Leopardstown handicap chase over this trip over Christmas winning by 13L. Handicapper has clobbered him since though having shunted him up 20lb. 5lb claimer Ben Harvey takes the ride.
Marvel De Cerisy
One of two Henry De Bromhead runners. Lightly raced over fences and this is his fourth start over them today. Rachael Blackmore rides in his first handicap and could be well treated.
The second Henry De Bromhead runner will be ridden by Aidan Coleman today. Also lightly raced over fences but has not been seen since runner-up over course and distance last October and has a 146-day absence to overcome.
Won well on re-appearance at Exeter and was well backed in a handicap over course and distance when finishing 5th of 16 beaten 11L to Midnight River and now 7lb better with that rival. Owned by Harry Redknapp and trained by Ben Pauling. Likely outsider.
Lightly raced novice trained by Gordon Elliott. Ran well only 11 days ago at Leopardstown in finishing runner-up but hasn’t won for a while and needs a personal best under Jordan Gainford.
Another Gordon Elliott runner who won at Limerick last October but flopped last time on heavy ground and hasn’t been seen for 110 days. Sam Ewing rides.
Not been seen for 125 days and this John McConnell trained eight-year-old may struggle on ground that may be too soft for him.
Has dropped to his last winning mark following three efforts this season. In the hands of Philip Hobbs and Johnson White and not without an each-way shout here with Michael Nolan doing the steering.
Dropped in the weights and has each-way claims here. Trainer Venetia Williams has been out of form this last week mind and that’s a worry.
Born By The Sea
Been a while since Paul Gilligan’s nine year old worried the judge and hard to fancy much here today. A big outsider.
Captain Tom Cat
Not seen for 104 days and has plenty on here for the Dr Newland camp. Charlie Hammond rides.
Lightly raced over fences. This is only his fifth start over the bigger obstacles. Will need to up his game here for local handler Ben Pauling and jockey Kevin Brogan.
Gemiranda (1st Reserve)
In form Venetia Williams trained seven-year-old. Each-way claims if getting in the race although stable form has to be a worry.
Il Courra (2nd Reserve)
Big outsider and hard to fancy for Irish trainer C W J Farrell even if getting a run.
Magners Plate Handicap Chase Tips
A wide-open renewal of the Plate Handicap Chase. So Scottish has been on my radar for this race for a while but I could only fancy him if the ground was on the good side having been bought since his last run by JP McManus. Top weight Haut En Couleurs can be competitive but preference today to small stakes each way is the Paul Nicholls-trained Il Ridoto who appeared to benefit from first-time cheekpieces last time and can go well despite an 8lb rise.
2 Haut En Couleurs @ 7/1 with Betfair
3 So Scottish @ 4/1 with Bet365
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All odds are correct at time of writing.