Cheltenham Expert Eye: Three handicappers to back on Friday October 22

Cheltenham's first meeting of the year can't come soon enough for jumps fans, and our three handicap selections might just help you turn a profit on the day.

But before we get into the reasons why, here's a quick rundown of our picks - click on the horse's names to go to Planet Sport Bet and place your bets.


Annual Invictus (3.40 Cheltenham)

Captain Morgs (4.15 Cheltenham)

Debden Bank (4.50 Cheltenham)

Top trainers with runners

Despite the Irish dominating the Festival in recent years, it's Nicky Henderson who can boast the most winners (41 and counting) over the course of the last five seasons, comfortably ahead of Gordon Elliott (24). Captain Morgs is his sole runner this afternoon.

Top jockeys with rides

Nico de Boinville, who'll get the leg up on Captain Morgs, his only booked ride at the time of posting, shares top jockey honours with Harry Skelton over the same period, with 18 winners apiece.

But the former can boast a better strike rate of 16% and if you'd backed all his rides blind, you'd have made a healthy profit of £31.04 to £1 level-stakes.

Nico de Boinville has a good strike rate at Cheltenham

3.40 Cheltenham - Annual Invictus

Just the five runners and two of them clashed at Uttoxeter 19 days ago, when Faivoir dished out a two-and-a-half lengths beating to Annual Invictus off level weights.

This afternoon, the runner-up enjoys an 8lb pull and that alone should allow him to at least go close to reversing the form, with the step up to 2m4f another thing in his favour given that he stayed on at the Midlands track to reclaim second close home.

Both horses were making their seasonal debuts and the market suggested that Faivoir was the fitter of the pair, so the selection is also entitled to step up with that run under his belt.

As a 136-rated hurdler, who managed a highly creditable fourth of the 23 runners in the Betfair Hurdle when last seen out in that sphere, he promises to be even better over fences and this looks a good opportunity for him to break his duck.

4.15 Cheltenham - Captain Morgs

We like to think we can spot a well handicapped horse when we see one and while there are several candidates in today's contest, none look better treated than Nicky Henderson's charge.

Granted, things haven't exactly gone well for him since winning getting off the mark in a hot novice hurdle at Ascot last October, but he's had excuses and shouldn't be too harshly judged on his three subsequent odds-on defeats.

While he'll jump a fence one day, he has "unfinished business" over hurdles, according to Henderson in a recent stable interview, and he's likely to have the five-year-old teed up on his first run back in what is a valuable contest.

Nicky Henderson likes Captain Morgs a lot

Annual Invictus, whom he beat in that Ascot contest, is now rated 136, while the distant third Strike A Pose is on a perch of 128, having won twice since, so it'll be disappointing if the selection can't at least be competitive off his current mark of 125.

4.50 Cheltenham - Debden Bank

A field of 18 are set to go to post for this 3m1f handicap chase confined to amateur jockeys, and it's safe to say a fair few of the equine participants have their best days behind them.

Not so Martin Keighley's Debden Bank who as a seven-year-old has relatively few miles on the clock, and arrives here on a roll having won his last three chase starts.

The last of those came at Southwell in July, when he brushed off an 8lb rise to win decisively, and a further 9lb rise might not be enough to stop this progressive sort going in again, especially if recent wind surgery has eked even further improvement out of him.

His trainer, who has had a winner and two seconds from his four runners in the last fortnight, has booked one of the best amateurs riding in James King, and the partnership should prove hard to beat if taking to the course.