Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle Betting

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Open to horses aged five years old and upwards, the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle has been run at the Cheltenham Festival each March since 1974. It is a Class A listed National Hunt hurdle race that covers three full miles with twelve obstacles to be jumped on the left-handed turf of the Cheltenham New Course.

To enter this race, horses must have qualified for the final at one of eight preliminary events that take place during the preceding five months. The qualifier races are held at various racecourses in Britain and Ireland as follows: Cheltenham in October; Kempton Park, Auteuil, and Newbury in November; Sandown Park and Wincanton in December; Leopardstown in January; and Haydock Park in February.

When the race was first introduced at the Festival, it was as a replacement for the George Duller Handicap Hurdle, run from 1963 to 1973. The initial sponsors were Coral bookmakers, who held the title spot and called it the Coral Golden Hurdle Final for twenty years.

American Express assumed sponsorship in 1993, followed by Hamlet Cigars in 1994 and 1996, Astec Vodafone in 1995, Hamlet Extra Mild Cigars in 1997, Unicoin Homes in 1998, and Stakis Casinos in 1999. When ladbrokes acquired Stakis Casinos in 2000, they assumed the title role, which was yielded to the current sponsor in 2002.

Pertemps, of course, is one of largest job search and recruitment agencies in the United Kingdom, established in 1961 and recently named as one of Britain’s Top Employers based on a comprehensive research programme carried out by Corporate Research Foundation (CRF) in 2010. The total prize pool for the 2011 Pertemps Final was set at £70,000, down slightly from the previous season’s high of £75,000.

Noteworthy trainers who have brought champions here include two three-time winners. Jane Pilkington claimed the hat-trick with Willie Wumpkins in 1979~1981, while Jonjo O’Neill did it with a trio of different steeds: Danny Connors (1991), Inching Closer (2003), and Creon (2004). The jockey/horse combination of Jim Wilson/Willie Wumpkins also holds the record for most victories at three.

Irish horses are heavily gambled in this race, which happens to fall on St Patrick’s Day in 2011. It is always a good idea to watch the odds closely as race day draws near. Big market moves can be expected in the few days preceding, and on the morning of the race, monster wagers are not unusual at all.

Trends to be aware of for the Pertemps Final are several. In 36 runnings of the race, only one five-year-old has crossed the finish line first—Pragada back in 1988. Nine of the most recent 15 winners were also winners their last time out, and 13 of the last 18 had previously won over distances of three miles.

The existence of qualifiers should make the Pertemps Final a bit easier to handicap than many of the other Cheltenham races, but outsiders still find a way to pull off upsets here. Since 1990, only two favourites have lived up to handicappers’ expectations—Miracle Man at 9/2 in 1995 and Inching Closer at 6/1 in 2003. Worthy of note, no single-priced winner has emerged from the most recent six runnings, although two of those races were taken by runners priced at 50/1—Creon in 2004 and Kadoun in 2006.

In 2010, the top prize of £42,758 went to nine-year-old Buena Vista, trained by David Pipe, ridden by Hadden Frost, and paying 16/1. There were 24 starters for that running, a typical number in recent years, although the field has been as small as 17 (1976) and as large as 31 (1992).

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