Trainer Evan Williams is enjoying a marvellous season

Cheltenham Festival tips: Mark Howard Portfolio January 11

Mark Howard reflects on the recent action and identifies a horse available at 50/1 he's looking to get on side in the Grand Annual market.

It hasn’t been a bad winter for Evan Williams.

Coole Cody got the ball rolling when making virtually all in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November, Star Gate landed a Grade 2 prize at Sandown on only his second start under Rules and Silver Streak gained a much deserved Grade 1 success in the Christmas Hurdle on a track he adores.

However, Secret Reprieve’s win in the Welsh National on Saturday will have provided Williams with as much pleasure as any of his victories throughout his highly successful training career.

The Welshman has been longing to win the Chepstow showpiece since taking out a professional licence and the seven year old stuck to the script over the weekend with an authoritative display under a battered and bruised Adam Wedge.

It is thirteen years since High Chimes gave the Glamorgan based outfit their one and only Cheltenham Festival winner when taking the Kim Muir Chase. There have been plenty of near misses since, including when Barizan nearly pinched the Triumph Hurdle in 2010.

Williams is set to be well represented in March, including the lightly raced THE LAST DAY in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual, which is due to be staged on day two of the Festival this year – note the race will be run on the Old course as opposed to its usual slot on the New course on the final afternoon of the fixture.

Very much one for a plan, Williams has had the two miles event in mind for the nine year old for some time now and it is highly unlikely we will see him in action between now and the spring.

A half-brother to the smart Chantry House, he has only raced half a dozen times over fences and is officially rated 141 – he would have carried 10st 12lb in last year’s race off such a mark.

An impressive five lengths winner of a decent handicap at Aintree last season, he never recovered from an early mistake at Ascot next time.

Absent for the remainder of the season, the Oscar gelding has raced only once this term finishing fifth over hurdles behind Albert’s Back at Haydock last month. Wedge’s mount travelled strongly in the two miles three event until tiring after the second last. A strongly run two miles and fences are more his cup of tea but Williams wanted to run him over timber in order to protect his chase rating.

The reason The Last Day won’t be seen again between now and March is the fact he is best fresh and, while he has yet to experience the contours of Prestbury Park, his form figures on stiff/undulating tracks (ie. Carlisle, Chepstow and Exeter) are 1121.

There is one proviso, though – he does want some cut in the ground, but that looks more likely on day two of the meeting than 48 hours later, when the Grand Annual has been staged in the past. Officials will ensure the ground is at least good to soft, even if there isn’t much rainfall.

There is currently plenty of uncertainty regarding the participation of Irish runners at the meeting which means there could be no shortage of value to be had amongst the home trained horses.

The Last Day is available at 50/1 with bet365, 40/1 with Sky Bet, while Paddy Power are offering 33/1 (NRNB) which makes plenty of appeal. It wouldn’t be the first time Williams has won a big prize this season.

Published at 1200 GMT on 11/01/21

Click here to place your Grand Annual bets with Sky Bet

Cheltenham Festival tips: Already advised

Mark Howard Portfolio (January 4) - Fury Road in Stayers' Hurdle at 20/1

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