Previews, tips and trends for major horse racing fixtures across the UK. Detailed day-by-day reports and info on horses, races, courses, events and more.

Glorious Goodwood 2023: Day 1 Preview, Pointers, Tips

The wonderful carnival of racing that is the Qatar Goodwood Festival, or always 'Glorious Goodwood' to many, commences on Tuesday and there is a glut of top class racing and, indeed, races full stop. Eight contests punctuate the opening day, beginning with a big field five furlong sprint handicap and headlined later on by the Group 2 Lennox Stakes, arguably the best seven-furlong race in the British calendar, and the Group 1 Goodwood Cup.

My approach this week will be more short hand than has been historically the case, with one race previewed in depth and the remainder given the pointer treatment: I'll suggest what I think are some of the more material factors to consider in your own deliberations. I might lob in a selection or three where I feel that's appropriate. Anyway, you'll see what I mean as we proceed...

The going is currently good to soft, good in places, with plenty of rain forecast. The latest live weather station readings are here.

1.40 Coral Handicap (5f Handicap 4yo+, Class 2)

15 runners in what I suspect will be wet ground. Draw and pace will be factors but so too will an ability to handle the conditions of a big field and soft turf. These are more exposed runners so Instant Expert is a decent port of call. One horse stands out there: last year's Group 2 King George Stakes second over course and distance, Raasel.

The winner that day was Khaadem, subsequently a Royal Ascot Group 1 winner, and Raasel has been running very well in Group company this season. His Goodwood record is 112 and he handles all going. If there is a draw bias it might be towards low numbers, so trap four will be right in the mix. My only slight niggle is his general waited with run style, but he's tractable in that regard and could get a slightly more forward ride here.

Look for horses that can handle, the going, grade and, if they all go, field size. Then look for bookmakers offering bonus places!

2.15 British EBF Maiden Stakes (6f maiden, 2yo, Class 2)

Not really a race I know anything about. Perhaps look to Goodwood trainers such as Charlie Johnston (taking over from his dad but well advertised as having plotted a squad for this meeting), Andrew Balding and, to a lesser extent, Karl Burke and Charles Hills. Richard Hannon runs a lot of horses in Glorious Goodwood 2yo non-handicaps and occasionally hits the target, but he is expensive to follow (-55% ROI since 2016).

Nine of the last ten winners were sent off 13/2 or shorter, though the other was 100/1! The balance of probabilities is that the market will have this winner in its crosshairs.

2.50 Chesterfield Cup Handicap (1m2f Handicap, 4yo+, Class 2)

Team Johnston have won this four times since 2014 and usually at a price, so Outbreak is of immediate interest. He's up in trip from a mile to ten furlongs but was a length third over this range in a valuable handicap on the All-Weather Finals day consolation card. Showing at 14/1 with Sky - six places - that's plausibly playable on the trainer angle alone. The going may make things more testing, which is a concern, but he's a square price to have a cut at.

Moktasaab was third in this last year off a five pound higher mark and will benefit from a waiting ride from Hayley Turner, a fine exponent of such tactics. He's quite likely to have been 'jobbed up' for this and is 12/1 with the same firm and the same place concession.

3.25 Vintage Stakes (7f, Group 2, 2yo)

The first Group race of the week is a two year old event over seven furlongs. Winners of this have typically been strong market fancies, though it was a 14/1 shot that prevailed a year ago.

It's a bit too tricky for me.

4.00 Lennox Stakes (7f, Group 2, 3yo+)

An excellent race in prospect, and a clear and obvious favourite in Kinross. He was second in the race last year when ridden by Frankie Dettori, and that man remains in the saddle, as he has been in three subsequent wins the most recent of which was the Group 1 Champions Sprint over six good to soft furlongs. He ran well when third in the July Cup last time, again over six, and looks ready to return to seven-eighths. I think he'll win for all that that's a mightily unoriginal observation.

Of his rivals, I am not yet convinced by Isaac Shelby, whose second in the French 2000 Guineas has yet to be backed up by this lad. That said, he's had only the one spin since, when fourth to Paddington in the St James's Palace at Royal Ascot; the thinking may be that a true run mile stretches him whereas he can use his turn of foot over seven. Still, he's got it to prove, to me at least.

Pogo has plenty of classy runs to his name which, being a seven-year-old, he's had more chance to achieve. He seems to go on any ground and seven looks his best trip. I can see him running a nice race without having the class or youth to beat them all.

Al Suhail was less than three lengths behind Kinross in the G2 Park Stakes over seven at Donny last September and has picked up a packet of prize money in Dubai at the trip this spring. He ran a creditable race over six at Royal Ascot and can step forward again here. The Park Stakes third was on soft as is most of his best form.

A possible lone pace angle is Audience, who is a steady improver this season for the Gosden squad. He won two back in a fair handicap and then bolted up on seasonal debut this term in a Group 3 a month ago, Jumby his closest pursuer at a distance of two lengths. There are not many miles on his clock and, if he handles the ground - unraced on softer than good - he could be hard to peg back.

That was Jumby's sole defeat in his last five starts, progressing from a Class 3 conditions race to a Group 2 score in the Hungerford last time. He has it to prove on the slow ground but has an otherwise attractive profile.

Closest to 2000 Guineas winner Chaldean twice at the tail end of last season was Indestructible, and he opened his portfolio this year with a score in the Craven Stakes. He's since been battered in both the 2000G and the St J's P and has a good bit to prove at this point in terms of whether he's trained on (and whether his form is good enough anyway).

Winner of the Vintage Stakes last year, over the same course and distance, and also Group 2, was Marbaan. He returns to familiar climes then and may end up the pick of the three-year-olds. That said, Holguin has soft ground form aplenty and comes here off the back of a Listed 7f win at Chester last time. This, naturally, is a step up - two steps up - but conditions fit.

The best horse in this race on official figures, RPR's and Topspeed numbers is Kinross, and he also gets pretty much optimal conditions. Frankie needs to guard against tactical pitfalls in a race where the progressive Audience may get a soft lead; but he rarely misfires on the bigger stages and I think he'll win.

He's an unexciting price but it's hard to find an alternative bet: things look competitive for the places. Audience should get the run of it, while Holguin and Al Suhail are well suited to the conditions; meanwhile, Pogo is a warhorse at this level and Jumby may not be done with his upgrades yet.

But they're all a few pounds behind last year's second, KINROSS.

4.35 Goodwood Cup (2m4f, Group 1, 3yo+)

This looks very competitive indeed with four horses separated by one pound on official ratings. The least exposed is the Gold Cup winner from Royal Ascot, Courage Mon Ami, and that is reflected in his top of the market status. Coltrane, proven on softer turf, where CMA is not, looks a playable alternative to the jolly, though he does have a tendency to find one too good. He's hyper consistent.

At bigger prices Tashkhan stays well and loves the mud, but he has a good bit to find on the form; and Giavellotto is another who could feature. Very tricky.

5.05 Coral Fillies' Handicap (1m, Class 3, 3yo+)

You very likely need to be drawn low to win this. So far, first place has gone to the fillies drawn 1, 5, 5, 7, 15, 2, 3. The winner from 15 ended up winning the next season's Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot so was very smart. Unless there's an equally smart one in here I'd be staying low.

A feature of this field is there looks to be a ton of early speed on, so I'm now favouring low and midfield to held up. That gives me a tentative small stakes shortlist of Back See Daa, Miss Mojito and System (four length 5th in this last year).

Good luck, and don't blame me if trap 20 wins!

5.35 World Pool Fillies' Handicap (6f, Class 3, 3yo+)

If it's genuinely soft, high draws will have it all to do as the heatmap below outlines.


A handy position also looks helpful, which brings in plenty:


Kitai is a Johnston runner that fits the bill, but it's clearly tricky trappy truly treacherous territory.

Good luck.


Royal Ascot 2023: Day 4 (Friday) Preview, Tips

Day four, Friday, at Royal Ascot is the last of our previews this week, and I very much hope you've enjoyed the mix of in-house and guest writers who have covered the action so comprehensively. Do touch on some of the links within the post if you like the way our guests present things - they'll appreciate it.

Right, let's get down to business. Seven more head-scratchers, starting with a proper metaphorical case of nits...

2.30 Albany Stakes (6f, Group 3, 2yo fillies)

The Albany, as races come to preview, is always a race full of fun and games, mainly due to the lack of form on offer. Most of the runners have either never run, or only run once and won that race!

However, we do have a favourite emerging in Carla’s Way, who ran a blisteringly above par time at Doncaster at the start of the month for Simon and Ed Crisford. The horse is drawn well in stall 2, so she should be able to get to the rail and be prominent from the outset, which is of real value in a race of this kind (best case is to be drawn either low or high, and race prominently).

At the other end of the draw is Soprano for George Boughey and William Buick, out of stall 16 and another who is likely to be close to the pace. Boughey is notably operating at a 30% strike-rate with last time out winners, and it would not surprise me at all to see this one challenge for favouritism on the day. It should be noted that 17 of the last 19 winners were drawn in stall 10 or higher, but the two exceptions were in the last two years! They came from boxes 2 and 4, close to the rail.

Presented by the "Cleeve Racing" service
A recent run is also a good sign with all bar two winners (going back to the race's inception in 2002) having run within 35 days. Neither Soprano nor Do It With Style fit this stat.

Porta Fortuna looks attractive on paper, the draw from 8 is a bit of a put off as she will race in the middle of the pack, which can be a bit of a graveyard for wins; but the run at Naas was impressive enough and the booking of Frankie Dettori by Donnacha O’Brien cannot be ignored.

Ryan Moore rides Matrika, who will come out of stall 1, and therefore demands closer inspection. Another horse who was successful over Irish Guineas weekend at the Curragh, she ran above par that day and the money has certainly started to come.

Ascot is quite a stiff six furlongs, hence it is interesting to see that 11 of the last 12 winners had run over 6f at some point before their Albany win.

Carla’s Way 7/2
Porta Fortuna 7/1
Matrika 8/1


3.05 Commonwealth Cup (6f, Group 1, 3yo)

Preview by Matt Bisogno

The newest Group 1 at Royal Ascot and one of the best races of the week: a stallion maker, in fact. The likes of Muhaarar and Caravaggio have already sired Group 1 winners from the three colts with three-year-old crops, and it may be that Advertise joins them before the end of the campaign. So who among this year's cohort might join this illustrious band?

In the absence of Cold Case, a bakers' dozen go to post, headed by last season's champion juvenile Little Big Bear. He patently failed to stay in the 2000 Guineas (though his performance suggested it was more than just stamina that let him down that day), but bounced back over a sprint trip in the G2 Sandy Lane at Haydock last time. While that was a comfortable score, the horse in second there, Shouldvebeenaring, is a 25/1 shot here. You can make the case that the runner up should be shorter in the betting, or that the winner should not be even money here; but it's fairly tricky to argue the market disparity is about right.

Little Big Bear was still about five pounds below his two-year-old peak effort at Haydock and, again, you can argue that he's sitting on a season best or that he's not quite trained on as the horse he was. I don't really have a view on that except that he's evens, which is a price I'd need to be happy about all such questions. I am not.

Sakheer, a son of Zoffany, is second choice, and he too flopped in the 2000 Guineas, though less emphatically than LBB. His Mill Reef juvenile win was impressive, over this three-quarter mile trip, and he can't be discounted for all that we have only the soft ground mile run in 2023 on which to conjecture.

That is the case with Lezoo, too, after she finished eighth in the 1000 Guineas. Her only defeat in five races last year was a half length second to Mawj, subsequently 1000 Guineas winner, and her four wins include one over course and distance and one in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes. She looks an out and out six-furlong filly, and the fairer sex have won this twice in the eight renewals and hit the frame five more times, at a slightly better rate than the boys. Lezoo is berthed in the highest box so will need to break alertly and straight

Julie Camacho would be relatively unfashionable in the context of Royal Ascot Group 1's, but she knows how to train a sprinter as demonstrated by her expert handling of Judicial. Shaquille looks another in that mould, a prolific scorer in minor Pattern company - including an easy two length Listed score last time - fully deserving of a tilt at the big time. He's one of the front end pace angles, too, and if getting loose in the lead could take some pegging back.

Noble Style was three lengths behind Shaquille last time and has a bit to prove on his two '23 runs. In fairness, he was far from disgraced in the 2000 Guineas but that was a clunk the last day when odds on; first time cheekpieces might elicit a bit more verve: trainer Charlie Appleby has an astonishing - even for him - 40% hit rate when deploying the sheepskins (14/35, +31.04 at SP).

This is a race that has yet to be won by a horse priced bigger than 12/1, and it's very difficult to see that fact not surviving at least one more year.

On balance, Little Big Bear is comfortably the most likely winner but there remain unanswered questions for a horse trading at levels. I may be missing something with Sakheer because I cannot see how he's less than half the price of Lezoo (who is drifting as I write) - the filly's juvenile form is better than the colt's, and their Classic runs were virtual carbon copies of each other's.

It is possible that one or both hasn't trained on, market vibes suggesting Lezoo is the more likely to fall into those nettles. But I'm going to chance her, each way: on form, she's closest to the jolly and she's a comfortable each way price at 9/1, with books paying four places. And I very much respect the 'cheeky Charlie' angle for Noble Style, who is worth a small win single at double figure odds.


3.40 Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (1m4f, Class 2 handicap, 3yo+)

Presented by Sam Darby's "Winning Post Profits" service

This is probably my favourite betting race of the meeting, partly because the market rarely seems to consider the draw bias. Logic would dictate that a lower draw would be better around a bend like this but these big field handicaps are very rough and it seems getting a clear run down the outside is far more important than saving ground by going the shortest route. The PRB3 graph below shows just how crucial the draw can be here.

It’s also worth noting that prominent racers tend to do particularly well, presumably because there is so much trouble in running in these races, that being out of the way of the scrimmaging is a massive advantage.

The above image shows draw and pace bias in combination over this course and distance. The eyecatching overperformance comes from prominent/mid division racers from those drawn middle/high but it also shows the only run style you want to back from a low draw is prominent.

There doesn’t seem to be a great amount of pace on here and the pace seems to be dominated by Godolphin runners so you’d assume those horses won’t cut each others’ throats and harm their respective chances. That might put extra onus on the prominent racers in this.

With that in mind the one who sticks out like a sore thumb is the second favourite, Teumessias Fox. He ran well twice here last year and since being gelded he’s won both his races easily, tracking the pace and cruising clear on both occasions. The handicapper has had his say with a total rise of 16lbs following his last two wins.

He’s earned those rises given how impressive he’s been but there is very little substance to his recent scores, which does concern me. I’m a big fan of ‘hot form’ and those two races look to me like cold form. If his winning distances had been smaller I’d be very much against him; but it’s not his fault they’ve been poor races, and he’s won them both so easily it’s impossible to tell where his ceiling is. The main thing in his favour is he seems to be the perfect horse for this race tactically but is he still adequately handicapped?

Likely to be slightly more patiently ridden, but still within that hot zone of being drawn middle to wide and not ridden too patiently, is the early favourite for this, Al Nafir. Whereas Teumessias Fox’s form is a bit ropey, you can’t really get more solid than Al Nafir’s Old Rowley Cup win. He went up 10lbs for winning that race but the runner up is now 10lbs higher as well, plus the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 9th and 13th all won shortly after.

His overall profile isn’t as sexy as some others, he’s tasted defeat plenty of times, but he seems to have a very specific need for this trip and faster ground and the only time he had that was last season when winning one of the hottest handicaps of the season. This will be his seasonal debut which is a slight concern but Charlie Appleby has had many horses ready first time out this season, for instance King Of Conquest won the Suffolk Stakes off a similar absence in May and it’s likely this has been Al Nafir’s target for some time.

Well fancied 4yos have dominated this race in the past decade so that pair look the most likely winners but I’m reluctant to back Al Nafir at the price because of the absence and I can’t back Teumessias Fox because the races he’s been winning haven’t been strong enough for my liking. With so much else in his favour, I might feel very annoyed if Teumessias Fox is well placed and scoots clear off a no more than even gallop whilst everything else in behind meets trouble in running but so be it.

For various reasons I’m against the majority of the field (Nagano reluctantly because of his absence) but one at a big price I want to have on my side is HMS President. He’s run well in four races here previously without winning and he won a really hot contest last time out at Newmarket. The 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th and 11th have all come out and won and several that ran well are yet to run again so that race could look even hotter within the next few months. He’s only up 3lbs for that which seems very kind. That race was over a couple of furlongs further, on easier ground, but HMS President is equally effective in these conditions and even ran well here on fast ground over 10f last season so there are no concerns about his speed.

HMS President did win last time out but he’s seemed to shirk it in a finish previously, a trait that has seen him finish 2nd in nine of his 33 runs. I’m happy to back him each way at 25/1 with a few bookies at the time of writing, but I also acknowledge the aforementioned pair are more likely winners and could easily relegate him to 2nd if he does indeed run well. So as well as that each way single I’ll be looking to back both Al Nafir and Teumessias Fox in straight forecasts with HMS President finishing 2nd, just as consolation in case he again finds less than expected in a finish. 

Sam Darby - Winning Post Profits. You can join my private service for just £1 if you click here.Sam Darby's Winning Post Profits


4.20 Coronation Stakes (1m, Group 1, 3yo fillies)

Presented by John Burke's "Victor Value" service

The Group 1 Coronation Stakes run over a mile is one of Europe’s premier races for three-year-old fillies. First run in 1840 its been won by some great fillies in recent years including Attraction, Russian Rhythm, Sky Lantern, Winter and Alpha Centauri. The race often brings together the winners of Newmarket’s 1000 Guineas with the French and Irish versions and can be a defining moment in a filly's career.

Just seven have been declared for this year’s race. Sadly, that septet doesn't include 1000 Guineas winner Mawj who misses the race due to coughing. That means we won’t see the much anticipated rematch between Mawj and Tahiyra.

Tahiyra was runner-up at Newmarket and went one place better when running out a decisive winner of the Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh. With no Mawj in the line-up, Dermot Weld's entry is likely to go off a very short-priced favourite. She’s got the change of gear that stamps her a high class filly and it would be great to see her put in a performance that shows her to be the best Classic female miler in Europe. Despite being a big fan of Tahiyra, on quick ground I think she could be vulnerable. However, which if any of her six rivals can take advantage?

The reliable Meditate finished runner-up to Tahiyra in the Irish 1000 Guineas as she did in last year’s Moyglare Stakes. Strictly on the formbook she can’t beat the favourite but quick ground does give her a chance of doing so.

Comhra seemingly put in a much improved effort when 1½ lengths 3rd of 10 in Irish 1000 Guineas. The application of the first time cheekpieces probably played their part in that good performance and if they continue to have the desired effect there’s no reason why she won’t be in the shake up.

Sounds Of Heaven improved plenty on her juvenile form when winning a York Listed race last month. She had one of today’s rivals, Queen For You, a short head back in second that day and I think she can confirm placings with that filly. The daughter of Kingman seemingly appreciated the quick ground at York so underfoot conditions should pose no terrors for her. I think she’s an exciting prospect who’s open to plenty of improvement and could be the one to take advantage should the firmer turf prove to be the undoing of the favourite.

Verdict: Tahiyra is the one they all must beat, and she may be good enough to get away with quick ground on this occasion. At the prices, though, I have to take her on. The obvious one is the consistent Meditate who will love the ground and should give her running. If there were three places available, I would be interested in Comhra each way. However, there aren’t, so I’m happy to take a chance on the improving Sounds Of Heaven who can give her trainer Jessica Harrington a third success in the race since 2018.

Suggestion: Sounds Of Heaven – 12/1 general

Royal Ascot 2023: Victor Value


5.00 Sandringham Stakes (1m, Class 2 handicap, 3yo fillies)

Presented by Josh Wright from "Racing To Profit"

It’s highly unlikely lightning will strike twice for me this week in fillies only handicaps but in I dive into what looks another challenging contest, this one for 3YOs only. Yet again I’ll be using my own trends and trainer pointers to help me out.

The trainers…

As this is a race for fillies only, it’s worth recapping some of my musings from Day 2, which did help me land on Villanova Queen, having unearthed Jessica Harrington’s fine record with the girls at this meeting. She’s now 4/14,6p with Royal Ascot Fillies and runs Foniska in this contest. She couldn’t, could she?

As per my preview on Day 2, John/Thady Gosden and Simon/Ed Crisford all have decent records with their fillies and are represented here also with four runners between them. As do Roger/Harry Charlton, they have a reserve here, so require a couple to withdraw in order to get a run. Roger Varian has a few runners also, and he operates at a greater than 15% win SR with his fillies.

Looking more closely in this race and trainers’ records with 3YO Fillies, the majority have a solid enough record, all bar four trainers with a greater than 10% win SR with such types. Roger Varian, William Haggas, John Gosden, Charlie Appleby all have between 17% and 19.5% win SR with their 3YO fillies and could be a group to focus on more generally with such types, and maybe in this race. I’d advise against backing them all though as you’d quickly burn through your betting bank.

One other trainer I’ll flag is Owen Burrows… it could be worth noting that at Ascot (all meetings), in handicaps, straight course only, he’s now 15 bets / 4 wins / 6p / 26% wsr / +10 Betfair SP. With those sent off 10/1 or shorter, 4/10, 6p. He runs Embrace in this, who ran in the 1000 Guineas when last seen. The yard are flying, 3/7, 5p in last 14 days, 78% rivals beaten. This filly also makes handicap debut, and Burrows is 5/19, 8p +3 SP with such types in the last 2 years, another stat worth noting. He operates at a 26% win SR with all his handicappers, which is a bit mad really, he knows the time of day and is worth keeping onside more generally.

Whatever my pokes do in this race, hopefully some those stats are of use moving forwards.

Those yards represented who look in particularly fine fettle include…Charlie Appleby, Aidan O’Brien, Ed Dunlop, Jessie Harrington, Owen Burrows and John/Thady Gosden.

Turning our attention to the ‘trainer race records’ – those trainers to have won the race previously in the last 15 renewals, represented this year…

  • Coppice / Marksman Queen / Bridestones (John/Thady Gosden)
  • Clounmacon (Johnny Murtagh)
  • Magical Sunset / Rich (Richard Hannon)

As always, those runners are worth a closer look.


The trends…

The trends for this are not as ‘strong’ as some of the other races this week, but a profile of having placed at least once in the last two starts, having placed once or twice this season and having had 2+ runs this season would have found 12 of the previous 15 winners (12/131 qualifiers, 33 places, just +12 Betfair SP) although this profile was 0/13 last year… however, if it bounces back, we’d be looking at a long list of eight in which we could focus…

Coppice, Jackie Oh, Marksman Queen, Choisya, Clounmacon, Orchid Bloom, Novus, Balalaika


Winning on seasonal return isn’t impossible in this, Roger Varian’s Cell Sa Beela the only one trying to do so this year.

William Haggas (0/15, 2p) and Aidan O’Brien (0/9, 2p) haven’t hit the board in this race in the period, which could pose a question for trends qualifiers Jackie Oh and Orchid Bloom, although given the yards, maybe just a matter of time.


To the horses…

To my eyes this race is towards the ‘nearly impossible’ end of the Royal Ascot puzzle scale and I’ve banked on my trends helping me out. Unexposed 3YO fillies, most in form, some having been highly tried, others more battle hardened in handicaps. Some of these will relish a strong pace and take big steps forward. The ground could also be plenty fast enough, which is an unknown for a fair few.

I will just mention the pace/race set up… almost all the sustained pace looks to be drawn middle to high, with Mrs Harrington’s Foniska the only pace setter low – she could get free on the front end, dropped in trip, with fast ground an unknown and is no forlorn hope to make all.

But, those drawn in the lower third or so could have their work cut out, unless there’s a track bias and low just rides quicker come Friday. I’ve ended up with three horses drawn 18+, so we’ll see if I’m on the right side…

Jackie Oh – 7s – one for Aidan O’Brien who’s yet to win this but does have a couple of placed efforts to his name. She hits my trends and I was impressed with her Irish 1000 Guineas effort, not far off them 2f out and not exactly stopping come the line when others went forward. The front two in that are classy and this is quite the drop in class. Ryan can ride a patient race drawn high and there’s a chance she gallops all over these, able to cruise along at a higher speed than a fair few in here. Fillies under big weights have won this and she could outclass them for her red hot connections. Her half-sister won this in 2020 also.

Novus – 16/1 - 25/1 – the first of two bigger priced EW pokes. Gary Moore is in fine form, as is his filly, who could well relish this step up to a mile, given there’s stamina galore on the dam side. She certainly wasn’t stopping at Goodwood when bolting up, in a race working out well. She brings a touch of ‘handicap hardiness’ to the party which could be a positive, and she looks to be drawn in the right place and has Andrea Atzeni to help her. She’s got a low weight and just looks overpriced. I suppose fast ground is a question, given her recent form on softer, but it’s more of an unknown and she ran well on Good to Firm over 5f on debut. So, here’s hoping. But at the odds, worth an interest EW wager.

Balalaika – 50/1 - 66/1 – she may be nowhere good enough here but Hayley Turner has won this twice in the last four years and it could be significant that she’s been booked. The horse arrives in form and drops back slightly in trip from Hamilton’s stiff 9f, which looked to stretch her a tad. That was a Sunday Series handicap and they’re competitive affairs which should stand her in good stead here. She can take a pull and they were aggressive with her there. She’s the sort who may well appreciate being buried off a relentless gallop and these are the conditions that can transform horses like this, leaving behind previous form. She hits my trends, Rebecca Menzies is a very good dual-purpose trainer and I’ll trust in Hayley to sneak her into 5th or 6th, which would be a decent result. And you never know!

 It’s likely I haven’t mentioned the winner of course but I hope you’ve enjoyed the read and my other previews. You can read similar musings by joining my FREE Newsletter at the link below…

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5.35 King Edward VII Stakes (1m4f, Group 2, 3yo colts & geldings)

Presented by Gavin Priestley's "Festival Trends" service

Sandwiched in the middle of the Derby and Irish Derby, the 'Ascot Derby' is usually a poor shadow of either of those Group 1's, and the Epsom winner hasn't shown up here in a very long time. We have therefore to be content with the also rans from Epsom, a few that missed it for one reason or another, a number of lesser lights from the O'Brien stable and a few trainers tilting at windmills hoping to pick up some place money.

The trends say we need a run as a 2yo, 1-3 seasonal runs, 2-7 career starts and the most recent within the last 12-56 days in a class 1-3 race where they finished top 4 (unless it was the Derby). Interestingly, 12 of the last 16 winners had yet to win a Group race.

This year we have the Derby runner-up making an appearance which brings a bit of class to proceedings. The last time the Derby second turned up was in 2010 when At First Sight finished 4th here having chased home Workforce at 100/1 on his previous start. King Of Steel ran a remarkable race considering it was his seasonal debut and he only gave way in the last half furlong with the front two pulling four lengths clear of the remainder. He is a worthy favourite.

We also have the 7th, 9th and 10th lining up to give the race a Derby Consolation look about it.

It is worth noting that only six winners of the King Edward had their last run at Epsom since 1997 but four of those have come in the last six years and four of the six runners in this years field did contest the Derby. Those six winners in total had finished 3rd, 5th (twice) and 10th (three times). Bizarrely, simply backing the 10th home in the Derby when he shows up here would have given you results of 1-3-1-1-5 and a LSP of +12.25pts. That weird and completely accidental stat would point to the chances of Arrest who was sent off favourite at Epsom but seemed to lose his chance before the race had even been run having boiled over before the start.

The two that didn't run at Epsom are Relentless Voyager, who was third in the Italian Derby last time out, and Continuous, who had run third in the Dante but was only 8th in the French Derby. He'll be looking to bounce back from that run with the form of his York run giving him every chance. He's definitely the pick of the pair who side-stepped Epsom and can't be discounted given his illustrious connections (won the race last year with the Derby 5th).

With that emerging trend for trainers to target the race with an also ran from the Derby, usually with those that had failed to handle the course or had an excuse for a poor run at Epsom, I'm going to side with the beaten favourite from the Derby to continue that fine run of horses finishing down the Blue Riband field before running well here.

SELECTION: ARREST (WIN) at 3/1 general

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6.10 Palace Of Holyroodhouse Stakes (5f, Class 2 handicap, 3yo)

Preview by David Massey

There’s been some burn-ups over the years at Royal Ascot but I can’t remember the last time I saw one as loaded with pace as this is. 

Using Geegeez pace map it points to no fewer than a potential TWELVE front-runners if you look at the run styles from their last two runs, and that increases to 16 if you make it three runs. The potential for the pace to unravel in the last half-furlong is there for all to see and although I’ll be the first to say that hasn’t happened a lot this week as yet, we’re barely halfway as I write this and the ground is expected to continue to quicken up as the meeting goes on. 



So the way I’m looking at this at the moment is one that is very much an ar*e-covering exercise. I’ll chance my arm with something that might get clear and not come back, along with a couple that are likely to come from off the pace and weave through late, always an exciting watch at Ascot. 

Mick Appleby went quite close to winning this race with Fantasy Master back in 2021 and he’s got one of the fastest in the field in Michaela’s Boy, who now finds himself back in handicap company after good efforts in the 3yo Championships at Newcastle, where he again found 6f too far, and in the Listed Westow Stakes at York on his latest start where he had little chance on the figures but outran them to finish third. Freddie Larson has been unable to claim his 3lb on either of those starts but can do so here, so he takes off most of the 4lb he was raised for York. His early gate speed could take him clear of these and it’ll then be a matter of hanging on in the last 200yds. 

The other three I think are worth a mention are all “first-timers” of one description or another. 

In the case of Walbank, it’s a first start for Dominic Ffrench-Davis, with Amo Racing shuffling the pack as they do every now and then. Previously with David Loughnane, he went off favourite for the Norfolk last year and only found The Ridler too good. He lost little in defeat in the Molecomb but wasn’t seen after that until a below-par effort in the Westow, finishing well behind Michaela’s Boy. Ffrench-Davis doesn’t get too many first-time winners with other's castoffs though it’s interesting to note Maxi King won first time for him after leaving Loughnane earlier this year, so it can be done. The addition of blinkers might spark him back into life. 

Sweet Harmony looks one of those that will be held up off the pace to come through late, having form over both 6f and 7f, and there is the chance they’ll simply go too quickly for her. Having said that, she had the speed to lead over 6f at Haydock and looked worth a try at 5f on that running, finishing fourth to Get Ahead - just touched off in Group 2 company at Chantilly on her next start - after weakening late. Had she been equipped with blinkers she’d have been even more interesting, as trainer Richard Spencer has a very good record when applying such headgear first time, but she’s still of some interest with the cheekpieces today. 

A final swing will be Brave Nation, who looked a speedy 2yo last year, winning on debut and then finishing fourth in the Norfolk. Things unravelled rather quickly after that and in four starts since he’s only beaten two horses home. However, there was just a glimmer that all isn’t totally lost at Newmarket last time, as he travelled into the race nicely enough before finishing weakly again; hopes now rest on him being gelded since that effort. According to the H/S1 report, Michael Bell is 5-25 with first time gelded runners in the last two years (for a small profit to level stakes) and if it does turn him around you’ve a well-handicapped horse, being some 11lb lower than this time last year. There’s all sorts of risks attached, of course, but at 66-1 you don’t have to pay much to find out what, if any, ability remains. 


And that, dear reader, is that. 28 races covered by seven writers, five of them guests, across four days; and a great couple of winners already in their midst. Thank you for making a part of your Royal Ascot 2023 experience and, if you like what we do and are not yet a member of our multi-award winning* Gold racecards and form tools service, you can take it for a spin for as little as £1 at this link.


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Royal Ascot 2023: Day 3 (Thursday) Preview, Tips

To the middle day of five, and the feature race of the entire week, the Gold Cup. Run over two and a half miles, and evoking recent memories of both Frankie Dettori and Stradivarius, but perhaps more poignantly of Her late Majesty The Queen and Estimate's win a decade ago. The Queen's enthusiasm and social mandate for the sport is irreplaceable, and it is to be cherished that King Charles - and perhaps especially Queen Consort Camilla - are sprinkling some of their patronage across a meeting so fondly enjoyed by the former sovereign.

Let's get to the sport: Thursday's septet of sizzlers tees off at two-thirty with the...


2.30 Norfolk Stakes (5f, Group 2, 2yo)

Presented by the "Cleeve Racing" service

A favourite has not won the Norfolk in the last 12 renewals; however it is not quite as open as you may first perceive, with 8 of the last 12 winners coming from the 2nd and 3rd favourite spots, respectively.

Unlike many races at the Royal meeting prior course form is not required with none of the last 12 winners having won at Ascot, but a win somewhere looks to be a must: 12/12 winners having had a previous run, and 11/12 having had at least one win in the build up to the race.

The question therefore is will Elite Status be the trend-destroyer? He was impressive on second start at Sandown, running a time way above par at the course and winning by an impressive five lengths. Surely if any horse is going to turn the grim record for favourites around, he is.

Noche Magica was beaten by Givemethebeatboys at the Curragh, that one running well in defeat on Tuesday in the Coventry Stakes. Noche Magica should improve for the surface and is dropped back to 5f, having won over that trip at Cork on debut. The 15/2 available at the moment looks more than fair, and it is of some note that the price is shortening. It is also very much worth mentioning that, from a small sample size, trainer, Paddy Twomey has his horses flying in the last 14 days.

A race where it typically pays to be up with the pace, the Wesley Ward talking horse, American Rascal, is likely to give them all something to aim at. Ward is quoted as saying, “he really is something” and, being the first foal of Lady Aurelia, herself a two-time winner here, in fantastic style in 2016 and 2017, out of the Breeders' Cup Classic winner Curlin, he could well be. If you are backing the Ward horse however, you are doing so out of the talk and hype largely and maybe, just maybe, that's enough!

Another horse, shortening as I write, is His Majesty for Ryan Moore and AP O'Brien, 10s in most places. A drop back to 5f will suit and he will be expected to improve for the surface, having won in Listed company at the Curragh on debut. It can pay to be drawn high and held-up in this race, and His Majesty will definitely make the short list.

Outside of those mentioned, nothing else leaps out of real interest. Elite Status looks to be the horse to break the trends and justify favouritism, but I will focus my attention on Noche Magica and His Majesty, the latter being one the market has caught on to.

His Majesty 10/1
Noche Magica 13/2


3.05 King George V Stakes (1m4f, Class 2 handicap, 3yo)

Presented by Gavin Priestley's "Festival Trends" service

25 of the last 26 winners finished top 3 last time out which is quite remarkable for such a competitive handicap while all of the last 13 winners finished top 2. Since 1997 there have been 22 winners to have won at least one of their last two starts with all four exceptions being maidens coming into this race.

All of the 13 winners since 2010 were rated 85-95. If we forget 2020 (the year of covid and a delayed start to the flat) we can also see that all of the last 13 winners had raced within the previous 40 days and had run at least twice that flat season.

Since 2007, all 32 horses to have raced in a maiden last time out have been beaten as have all 21 runners dropping down in trip compared to their last run. All 19 horses to have had their last run in a Group race this century have been beaten (Listed race runners are 1 win from 30 runners) while all five horses to race in a class 5 handicap last time have finished unplaced. Only two winners this century (2009 and 2012) had run more than seven times in their career up to this point with those two winners coming from the 59 horses with eight or more career starts.

Last year's winner, Secret State, was the first winner to carry more than 9-03 to victory since 2001. There had been 49 horses carrying 9-04 or more between those two winners.

John Gosden won this race in 1997 but has seen all 22 runners since then beaten with just four making the frame. His losers include 11 last time out winners, 20 that finished in the top four last time out and ten at under 8/1 including three favourites. He runs three this year with Burglar the mount of Frankie Dettori and the shortest price of the trio. He's won two of his three starts, both novice events either side of a defeat at odds on but the form from all three of those races looks poor with not a single winner coming from the 19 horses he's beaten.

Mark Johnston loved to have runners in this race and he won it five times between 2002 and 2018. He also had seven placed runners including the 3rd in 2020 and the 4th in 2019 from a total of 64 runners in the race. All five of his winners had run at least four times in their career, were rated 85+ and finished first or second last time out. Backing these Johnston types that were 12/1 or shorter would have given you the following results: 113014041017000 That's five winners and three places from 15 runners for a profit of +34.5pts. Son Charlie will be looking to restore the stable's great previous record in the race with Struth, who looks to fit the bill best of their two entries.

Another trainer looking to turn back the clock to former glories in this race is Sir Michael Stoute who won the King George V four times between 1998 and 2008 but has seen all 12 of his runners since get beaten (three placed). He's decided against running Nader King, despite having him jocked up earlier in the week, and that's thrown me a little as I had him down as my best handicap bet of the meeting. Back to the drawing board for me but that's probably a good sign to the chances of Perfuse who is now the only runner from the stable's three original entries.

I'm going to look away from the big name yards, though, to back a couple of outsiders. The first is DOUBLE MARCH who is one of only four runners to pass all the trends. He won at the course last time out in a race that has worked out very well with the 5th, 6th and 7th all winning since and both of the other two horses to have run since finishing second. In fact, in all of the races he's ever contested, there have been multiple subsequent race winners behind him including the Southwell maiden he won at the end of last season which has seen the runner up win his first two starts this season (now rated 91), the fourth win a maiden next time out at 28/1 (now rated 92) and the 5th win a novice event on his next start. Even the 9th home, beaten 12 lengths, is two from two this season and now rated 80. At Ascot last time Double March stayed on well to go clear in the final furlong before being eased close home and looking well worth a try at this longer trip. Up 7lb to 87 for that win I still think he's ahead of the handicapper and I fancy him to outrun his odds.

My other selection doesn't quite fit the trends but comes from the Hughie Morrison stable whose runners since 2010 have finished 35522. His runner this year, MR MISTOFFELEES is therefore greatly respected especially as he has been dropped a pound since his last run in the London Gold Cup handicap, a race that always provides lots of winners through the season. Plenty of subsequent winners have come out of the novice event he won at Kempton last December and he was only six lengths off Dante winner The Foxes in the Craven on his seasonal debut where subsequent easy winner Mostabshir was only a nose in front of him. We'll take as many places as we can and back him each way.


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3.40 Ribblesdale Stakes (1m4f, Group 2, 3yo)

Preview by Matt Bisogno

The Ascot Oaks as almost literally nobody calls the Ribblesdale has attracted a bumper field of 19 this year. That is the biggest since at least 1988, and the implication is that there's no standout contender. The betting suggests otherwise, however, with the undefeated-in-two Al Asifah a shade of odds on despite the massed ranks in opposition.

You'd be forgiven for asking, "Who?", because Al Asifah, trained by the Gosdens and ridden by Jim Crowley, only made her debut four weeks ago, in a Haydock maiden. She won by half the track, or just shy of five lengths to be more scientific, and then dished up in a Listed contest, again over ten furlongs, at Goodwood. The margin that day was six and a half lengths and she's clearly 'could be anything' material. Regardless of what she could be, she already is seven pounds clear of her nearest rivals on RPR's and, naturally after just the two appearances, retains a bundle of upside.

So what are the negatives? Well, one is inexperience and two is the chance of a troubled passage in such a congested field: she was held up on debut and raced mid-division last time out, but those were six- and seven-runner races respectively. It's one of the quirks of Ascot that a high draw over a mile and a half is actually a positive, which is counter-intuitive but well supported by any of win or place strike rate, or percentage of rivals beaten as the image below attests. Actually, it may be more accurate to say that low is inconvenienced because middle draws have done just fine, too. Al Asifah has stall 13.

She is also stepping up in trip and, though she's by Frankel, her dam was a miler though with stouter-staying horses close up in the pedigree: she's likely, but not certain, to stay on breeding for all that her visual impression was that she'll relish the extra quarter mile. The fact that the Gosdens have won four of the last six renewals of the Ribblesdale is another string to the bow of her chance.



But there are plenty of unexposed ascendant types bidding to topple her, led by Infinite Cosmos, Bluestocking and Warm Heart. The first named was only third to the Gosdens' Soul Sister in the Musidora, an Oaks trial, at York; but she had an unorthodox journey that day, missing the kick then pushed into the lead before fading from a furlong out. She may again be handy granted a level beginning but I'd expect a slightly more patient ride than bidding to make all. She is very much bred for this range, and beyond.

Bluestocking represents the Ralph Beckett Midas Touch with fillies; a dual Oaks-winning trainer, he's the only handler apart from Gosden and Aidan O'Brien to win the fillies' Epsom Classic since 2012! Bluestocking was a head behind Warm Heart when they met in the Listed Fillies' Trial at Newbury (10f, good) last time and was closing all the way to the line. Her pedigree doesn't scream middle distances but she'll get help from Frankie, who takes over from Rossa Ryan, in the saddle.

Ryan Moore partnered Warm Heart at Newbury and stays on board here. She's a typically well-bred Galileo filly, out of a mare who won three G1 sprints in Australia. Not necessarily a natural for twelve furlongs, then, and she was all out at the line over a quarter mile shorter last time; but she'd won over the same ten furlong trip on soft to heavy the time before and may see the longer yardage out.

One definitely bred for the gig is Maman Joon, by Sea The Stars out of a Norse Dancer mare. Her siblings include Candleford, a mile and a half winner at Royal Ascot last year, and Atty Persse, also a mile and a half winner at Royal Ascot, in 2017. Maman Joon is a two-race maiden, but the more recent of that brace was when fourth in the Oaks last time out. She's drawn wide in 15 and can improve enough to hit the frame with a reasonable conveyance through the race.

From France, Crown Princesse, trained by Fabrice Chappet, is an interesting contender: she has raced only on all-weather and very soft turf to date but the last of her four races - when a close third in the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary over ten furlongs, puts her in the mix. The fact she's travelled implies no going concerns, and she's the sort to have a strong turn of foot as can be seen from the sectionals at Parislongchamp:


She may need more luck in the run than many from stall five, but if the gaps open she is expected to finish well.

Of the massive outsiders, perhaps Understated's case may be exactly that: she's yet to finish outside the first two in three starts, and looked to struggle with the track at Goodwood when second in a Listed race there last time (good, 10f). Back on a more conventional circuit, and emerging from a middle draw, she's expected to race handily and is bred to stay well.

In summary, this is all about Al Asifah, who will very likely win if getting a clean run. That 'if' makes odds on unattractive, and I'd rather risk a cup of tea win and sticky bun place about the chance of something at a price. In that context, 22/1 Maman Joon is the unfortunate to be encumbered by my wild speculation.


4.20 Gold Cup (2m4f, Group 1, 4yo+)

Presented by John Burke's "Victor Value" service

The Gold Cup, run over 2m 4f, is one of the world’s most prestigious flat races, which has a long history dating back to 1807 and is arguably the highlight of Royal Ascot. The race attracts some of the best stayers in training, with notable winners including Yeats, who won the race four consecutive times from 2006 to 2009, and Stradivarius, who matched that feat between 2018 and 2021. In 2013 it was the late Queen’s mare Estimate who came out on top on a memorable day for the sport.

This year’s line-up doesn’t include a Yeats or Stradivarius. That said, fourteen have been declared for one of the trickiest renewals I can remember. I’m not really a trends player but I have noticed that four-year-old’s have a good recent record providing eight of the last 15 winners of the race. It’s also not really been a race for a shock winner with just one winner from 102 runners (-81, 9 placed) being returned 14/1 or bigger since 2008.

The bookies were going 10/3 the field on Wednesday morning with recent course winner Coltrane and last year’s St Leger winner Eldar Eldarov vying for favouritism.

Given that not many horses in the modern era stay a truly run 2m 4f it’s a bonus for supporters of Coltrane that the six-year-old is proven over course and distance having won the Ascot Stakes 12 months ago. He’s suited by a sound surface and won’t be far away. 

Eldar Eldarov was a good ½ length 2nd of 6 in Yorkshire Cup on his seasonal return. Has the class to win this and was doing his best work at the finish at York; he could well stay and may even improve for the step up to 2m 4f.  Trainer Roger Varian’s horses are going well so far this week.

Broome was a length further back in third in the Yorkshire Cup. I had fancied him for this after his win in the Dubai Gold Cup (2m) at Meydan, but Ryan Moore seems to prefer stablemate Emily Dickinson. She won a Listed race at Navan (1m6f) on her seasonal return but disappointed at Leopardstown last month. She has looked a thorough stayer, but it may depend what sort of mood she’s in: on a going day she’s a major contender. You have to respect Ryan’s choice, but Broome is a confirmed stayer and I think he’s overpriced. 

Subjectivist won the 2021 renewal but has only had two starts since suffering a serious tendon injury. He looked to have retained plenty of his old ability when a five-length 3rd of 15 to Broome at Meydan last time and, if he was back to his 2021 best, he would have an obvious chance. 

Courage Mon Ami made it a perfect three from three when winning a Goodwood handicap (1m 6f) on his appearance 26 days ago. On the evidence of his Goodwood success, he should stay 2m but whether he’ll stay 2m 4f is a an unknown, but looks worth a try. This is a huge step up in class.

Yibir was returning from a ten-month layoff when a respectable two length 4th of seven to Haskoy in Aston Park Stakes at Newbury last time. He shaped like the run was needed there and wants further than 1m4f these days. It is unclear if he will stay this marathon trip but he has the class to go close if he does.

Echoes In Rain is a smart hurdler who won a mares' Grade 1 hurdle at the Punchestown Festival last time. The seven-year-old showed she stays two miles on the flat when a neck 2nd of 30 to Waterville in the Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh last September and, while she has plenty to find on Official Ratings, she’s trained by Willie Mullins so you can’t totally dismiss her.

Trueshan looks on the downgrade, and usually only runs with soft in the description; but he’s had wind surgery since finishing a seven length 4th of six to Coltrane in the Sagaro Stakes here last month.

Verdict: Coltrane and Eldar Eldarov are worthy market leaders and of the pair I prefer the claims of the latter. If 2021 winner Subjectivist was back to his best, then he would be tough to beat. Courage Mon Ami is open to any amount of progress but we must take a chance on his stamina as well as his class. BROOME might be overpriced due to Ryan Moore opting for stablemate Emily Dickinson and he’s my pick at double figure odds. 

Broome – 12/1 general

Royal Ascot 2023: Victor Value


5.00 Britannia Stakes (1m, Class 2 handicap, 3yo)

Presented by Josh Wright from "Racing To Profit"

Ah, The Britannia Stakes… 33 unexposed 3 Year Olds, all still open to improvement run to run. Some will relish the occasion and relentless gallop we could see here, many will not. Nearly half the field won on their last start and you won’t be shocked to hear I’m relying on some help from my trends and trainer pointers…


The trends…

15/424, 60p (total winners, runners, placed horses)

  • 15/15 were top 2 at least once last three starts (were not: 067,4p)
  • 15/15 0-3 runs this season (4+ : 0/42, 2p)
  • 15/15 won by trainers with 1 or 2 runners in race (3+ : 0/71, 11p)
  • 14/15 had run over no further than 8.5f in career (had: 1/85, 10p)
  • 14/15 had not run at Ascot previously (had: 1/86, 8p)
  • 14/15 had won at least once last three starts (had not: 1/127, 13p)
  • 14/15 Top 5 last start (6th or lower: 1/98, 8p)
  • 14/15 did not run in a C1 race last start (did: 1/64, 6p)


Applying those pointers would have found 11 of the previous 15 winners (11/128 runners, 32p, +127 Betfair SP), although was 0/11 last year – that’s how it can go with this approach. If these trends bounce back this year, we’re looking at a long list of eight…

Quantum Impact, New Endeavour, Good Karma, Fort Vega, Naxos, Royal Cape, Highbank, Thunder Ball


The odds have been some guide in this, those sent off bigger than 28/1 SP 0/185,13p in the period. That could be something to keep an eye on.

An official rating of OR87-96 has been a sweet spot (excludes the top six in the weights this year) as has six or fewer career starts. Applying those pointers would leave five…

Quantum Impact, Good Karma, Fort Vega, Naxos, Royal Cape


The trainers…

Those to have won the race in the last fifteen renewals, with runners this year, are…

  • Quantum Impact (R Beckett)
  • New Endeavour (R Varian)
  • Royal Cape (H Morrison)
  • Carracci (A P O’Brien)

Of those trainers with runners in the race who look in particularly good form in the previous 14 days… Aidan O’Brien (6/19,11p, 75% RB - rivals beaten), Charlie Appleby (5/15,7p, 75% RB), Charlie Johnston (19/73, 31p, 57% RB), Jessie Harrington (6/25,10p, 62% RB), Dominic Ffrench Davis (3/9,3p, 57% RB)

That’s not to say other trainers are out of form of course, just those five yards are going particularly well.

In the last fifteen renewals this isn’t a race where the likes of Charlie Appleby (0/10,1p), Richard Hannon (0/20,2p) or John Gosden (0/25,5p)  have done overly well. Charlie Johnston has officially taken over the license from his dad Mark, and played an active role in recent years; but it isn’t a race they’ve done that well in either, now 0/34,3p. Maybe Charlie will have more luck under his own name. Of course, racing here is ultra-competitive and maybe one of those will get on the board this year, with nine runners between them.


To the horses…

In a race packed with unexposed 3YOs, including fifteeen last time out winners, I’ve stuck to my trends and trainer pointers and hope they work again. They may well do of course, and I’ve still picked the wrong ones from the long-list but my three against the field…

Quantum Impact – SP – the bookies are not taking many chances with Frankie’s rides this week but a few of his have drifted out nearer the off and it could be worth taking a chance on SP, if you don’t have ‘best odds guaranteed’. 6s could be getting on the short side in a race of this nature but the horse hits my profile and Ralph knows what’s required to win this race. Frankie is good friends with the owners and it will be significant he’s on.  He’s 8/21,12p +12 SP when riding for Ralph in the last year. There appears an even spread of pace on paper and it awaits to be seen if it’s best to be high or low. Hopefully there isn’t a track bias. The horse knows how to win and improved again stepped up to 1m on his last start. The 3rd there won a Class 2 on his next start so there’s substance to the form.

Royal Cape – 20/1 – another drawn low. Tom Marquand does well when riding for Hughie Morrison, 3/14,5p +18 SP in the last year, and the trainer knows what’s required around here. This horse was a bit keen at Haydock, got shuffled back and wasn’t in the best position when the tempo lifted. He ran on well under gentle encouragement, on ground he may have found plenty quick enough. The winner that day is fancied for the Group 3 Jersey Stakes on Saturday. He could well enjoy this sort of race set up, if patiently ridden and if settling early. Hopefully the occasion doesn’t get to him but he’s a big price for some fun interest.

Fort Vega – 22/1 – I thought it best to have one drawn high onside also, with pace that side also. Connections were thinking about the Irish 2000 Guineas and The Jersey Stakes for this horse, which suggests they think plenty of him and if they’re correct, he should be leaving behind a mark of OR89 in handicaps at some stage. Such Group level thinking may be fanciful but he’s got a progressive profile having won narrowly the last twice. He’s a powerful mover which should help in this sort of race and a more patient ride could also aid him, having hit the front plenty soon enough last time, but showing a great attitude to hold on. The third that day won his next start, adding some substance to the form. He’s a likeable horse who can hopefully outrun his odds, in another very tricky looking contest.

*Keep in mind almost all bookmakers are paying 1/4 1-2-3-4 in this race, with all profits on the race going to charity.

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5.35 Hampton Court Stakes (1m2f, Group 3, 3yo)

Preview by David Massey

Another race where, in recent times, you’ve not had to delve too deeply to find the winner, although Claymore’s upsetting of the applecart last year, defeating the long odds-on Reach For The Moon in a small field, bucked the trend a little. There will be no such odds-on poke this year and it looks a much more competitive event, with a few with recent solid form taking on horses with a little to find on the figures, but for whom improvement may well be forthcoming. It makes for interesting punting. 

We’ll start with the form horses and on that score Caernarfon comes out as well as anything. I had her pegged as a soft ground horse but she showed that thinking all wrong with her third in the Oaks, where she improved enormously. She arguably shaped like the second-best horse in the race and was only run out of the silver very late on after trying to chase the winner down; and, for all that was a big step up in trip, I don’t see a drop back to ten furlongs here being a problem. She gets a useful 3lb fillies' sex allowance, and stall 10 is no disadvantage - the last time we had a 16-runner Hampton Court, the winner and second both came from double-figure draws. She holds strong claims and heads up my shortlist. 

Waipuro’s sixth in the Derby was a solid effort and afterwards trainer Ed Walker thought he didn’t stay and that a drop back to 10f would suit; but he had a pretty hard race there and might have left his effort for this behind. I like the horse and am happy to be proved wrong but I feel it may be another day for him. 

Frankie rides Epictetus for the Gosdens and he too has form in the bank, but their other runner, Torito, ridden by Benoit de la Sayette, holds better claims from my perspective. This fast-improving colt won the Lester Piggott Handicap at Epsom with a bit left in the tank, where runner-up Silver Sword had impressed me when scoring easily at Southwell the time before, so I rate the form strongly. He has a turn of foot, never a bad thing when Ascot is concerned, and looks smart. He’s second on my shortlist and will be in my placepots, too. 

If there’s one at a big price - and I can’t resist a big price, you all know that - Oviedo fits the bill nicely. Having had six starts already he’ll be ignored by most punters but I can put the line straight through two of those as they were on soft/heavy ground, which I don’t think he wants. Concentrate purely on his good and good to firm ground form and things look a bit brighter. He won his maiden at Doncaster in eyecatching fashion (the pair behind both next-time winners) before being thrown in against Chaldean in the Acomb, again shaping very well for third. He didn’t encounter good ground again until last time out at Redcar where, stepping up to a mile and a quarter, he easily took care of City Streak, himself a ready Chester winner the time before. That form leaves him short by a few pounds but a 40-1 price tag makes up for that, as does his wide draw in 16 which could be ideal for one that will be ridden prominently. Extra places are on offer and I won’t be able to resist a couple of quid each-way. 


6.10 Buckingham Palace Stakes (7f, Class 2 handicap, 3yo+)

Presented by Sam Darby's "Winning Post Profits" service

It was great to see this race return in 2020 after it was replaced on the card for five years and, it has to be said, this year’s renewal looks as difficult as ever! On Tuesday the rain not only had an effect on the ground but also seemingly on the draw. Prior to the morning downpour it was the stands’ side that had the highest going stick (higher means faster ground) but after the rain fell the far side had the highest reading. The action developed far side to middle in the straight course races so at the time of writing a lowish draw does seem to be preferred.

Wednesday’s racing will tell us more, especially the Queen Mary Stakes and the Royal Hunt Cup which are the biggest field straight course races on day two. It’s worth noting that the near side is yet to be explored and, according to Tuesday’s going stick readings, the near side was faster than the middle so you may wish to hold your bets until those races have been run in order to gain more evidence.

Pace will also play its part in determining where the best part of the course will be and the pace map, as usual, makes interesting reading.

It looks like all the pace is together in the centre stalls so they may end up coming up the middle in an arrowhead formation rather than splitting into multiple groups.

The market is heavily leaning towards the more unexposed runners and it’s easy to understand why. Of those at shorter prices I’d probably want to be against Biggles and Baradar (ground, assuming they don’t get thunderstorms on Thursday) and also Croupier (trip) whilst I think Unforgotten could land a race of this nature but he’s short enough all things considered now that he’s favourite.

Kingdom Come is closely matched with Unforgotten on their most recent outing and I think over this shorter trip Kingdom Come will reverse form with that rival, so I much prefer him at the prices given some bookies have Unforgotten at less than half the odds.

Northern Express is another one near the head of the betting that I quite like. This looks the ideal race for a smooth traveller like him and he was unlucky to be beaten by Croupier last time out at York so Northern Express should be the shorter of the pair here. Michael Dods’ runner looks an improved performer again this year and he ran an excellent 4th in the International Stakes 11 months ago off a 5lb lower mark.

There is no standout bet for me in this and to get involved in a race where half the field have valid claims I really want some big prices on my side.

There are several things NOT to like about Spirit Of The Light in this race. He’s well exposed, he has a poor win record for a horse of his quality and he ran very poorly in not one, but two course and distance races last season which is a big red flag. However, so many of his runs this season give him claims here. He ran some excellent races at Meydan in the early part of the year and then continued that form back here. His 2nd at Musselburgh in April on ground that was softer than ideal was brilliant form given the 4th and 5th have won since and the 1st, 3rd and 6th have also gone close. He holds Northern Express on that form.

He followed that up with an excellent 3rd at Newmarket where he finished on the heels of the subsequent 1st and 3rd in the Victoria Cup. On his most recent start he found 6f at York too sharp but he was making up eyecatching ground after meeting trouble in running and he again shaped extremely well. His price ranges from 14/1 to 25/1 at the time of writing and I’d be inclined to back him win only given he’s drawn very high, which could be a negative. Those poor course runs are also a factor in suggesting he shouldn’t be a place bet.

I’m even more keen on Accidental Agent, though, who is pretty much the outsider of the field at 50/1. The 2018 Queen Anne stakes winner is clearly on the decline but his rating may have declined more than his ability at this stage. He’s run some of his best races at Ascot and Newmarket: those venues have been the scene of his last five successes on turf. He looks to be at his best on straight courses and on decent ground, he’s won five from 22 on straight courses on good or better ground which is a fine record given he’s been highly tried in his time.

On last season’s form he has a decent chance in this. He was beaten 3½ lengths and 2½ lengths in similar course and distance handicaps last season off marks of 112 and 109 respectively and he’s now down to a mark of 101. He’s 16lbs better off with Northern Express for a 2¼ length beating in the International Stakes so has clear claims of finishing ahead of him. Even on his seasonal debut spin this year at Newmarket, on good ground off a 3lb higher mark, he has a decent chance given he wasn’t beaten far after being held up off one of the steadiest gallops you’ll ever see. Stall 8 might be just about perfect for him and he should be seen to best effect here on what will hopefully be decent ground.

So, to summarise, I’m looking to have an each way wager on Accidental Agent at around 50/1 and a smaller win only bet on Spirit Of Light at 20/1.

Sam Darby - Winning Post Profits. You can join my private service for just £1 if you click here.Sam Darby's Winning Post Profits


That's a wrap on the third day of five for Royal Ascot 2023, and the third day of four here at It's tradition that readers are invited to rely on their own wiles for Saturday's card; but, before that, tune in again tomorrow for our 'home and away' previews of the Friday action.

Royal Ascot 2023: Day One Preview, Tips

It's the best week in the British flat racing calendar, and Royal Ascot 2023 promises to showcase the very pinnacle of the sport with runners from around the world competing on the greatest stage. With no more than a few showers forecast conditions are expected to ride on the quick side of good through five days of thrilling action.

In a change from tradition, necessitated by a badly timed dose of Covid and a longer than expected return to full fitness, I've drafted in some help to cover this year's Royal meeting. Specifically, I've asked six pals in the game to each preview one race per day Tuesday to Friday; and I will preview the other one each day. That should make for an interesting mix of styles, and it's an opportunity for a few of the best tipsters around to illustrate their work.

As I always say when I write 20,000 words-plus in the big meeting weeks, it's the same amount of effort that goes into the research whether the picks win or lose, so please try to keep an eye on each contributor's 'process' - how they present their case - as well as their performance in this tiny four-races-each sample. If you like what you read, you can check out more of their work at the links provided; but, of course, this is the Royal Ascot preview, so allow me to kick things off in the Queen Anne Stakes...


2.30 Queen Anne Stakes (1m, Group 1, 4yo+)

Preview by Matt Bisogno

About half an hour after the Royal Procession, which - crucially for racing - will include His Majesty The King and Queen Consort Camilla, a dozen older blueblood thoroughbreds will travel the same final mile, albeit at a considerably more rapid rate, in the Queen Anne Stakes, the now traditional opening act at Royal Ascot.

The straight mile takes some seeing out for both horses and riders and is a pure test of 'getting the fractions right'. As can be seen from the image below, held up horses have the best record on quick ground in this field size over the no turn mile track.



Indeed, it is worth dwelling on the fact that horses racing either on the lead or prominently are a woeful 2 from 85 (2.35% strike rate), whereas those ridden more patiently have won 14 from 122 (11.5% strike rate). The place percentages and PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) figures corroborate the win numbers: taking one's time is generally the way this gets done.

Fans of the top of the market need not fear, as both Modern Games and Inspiral usually rate in the middle to latter part of the field before making their big moves. Inspiral will be the first of 30-odd Frankie 'bogeys' for bookmakers and if she collects, expect further cuts to the odds of Signor Dettori's mounts later on the card. Her form case is strong, if hardly bombproof; to wit, she won the Fillies' Mile as a two-year-old on Newmarket's straight Rowley course, and she won the Coronation Stakes over the round mile here last year - both Group 1 contests. She also prevailed in last year's Prix Jacques le Marois.

But she was beaten in the Falmouth (straight mile, G1) when sent off 1-7, and was only 11/10 when missing the break in the QEII over course and distance last backend. In spite of winning five of her seven career starts, she's lost her most recent two. She has gone well fresh, which is a positive, but looking closer at the merit of her form, she beat the same filly, Prosperous Voyage, twice, before losing to her, and was four  lengths behind Modern Games in the QEII. Prosperous Voyage is a good filly but she wouldn't be 2/1 in this field, or 3/1.

Moreover, in France, she had a neck to spare over Light Infantry, who re-opposes as a 25/1 shot. Very few ride straight miles better than Jamie Spencer, which makes Light Infantry interesting at his price.

What of Modern Games? There was, for about half an hour, some chat about Charlie Appleby's team being out of form. It wasn't totally unmerited as his usual 25% and up strike rate dropped to a more everyman 12%. Then, of course, the blues started winning again and, at time of writing, he's showing at 38% in the past fortnight. More usefully, he's a 29% hitter over the past year. Modern Games won the Breeders' Cup Mile last autumn, a more different mile G1 you couldn't wish to find; but he also ran second in the QEII over this track/trip combo and won the G1 Lockinge down Newbury's straight eight.

It could be argued that the field that last day was less than stellar; given that a number of them also line up here, that argument is academic. Modern Games looks the more credible for match bet players against the filly, despite conceding three pounds sex allowance to that one.

Let's talk about ratings for a minute. Given that we are 2/1 each of two - Inspiral and Modern Games - you might expect that they'd have a clear ratings edge over the other ten. Well, they are top of the pile, the colt on 121, the filly on 120; but it's a yawning, erm, one pound back to the next pair, Mutasaabeq and Native Trail, both on 119, with Light Infantry 116, and Pogo and Berkshire Shadow on 115. That's quite a congested collective, just six pounds separating seven runners. Regardless of whether either of the two jollies win, the race is screaming for an each way play against them.

Mutasaabeq goes from the front, and although Circus Maximus was able to win in that manner under a masterful Ryan Moore ride in 2020, I'd be against such tactics normally. Mutasaabeq is likely to face contention from Pogo for the lead, and in any case has done his winning in small fields at Group 2 level. Native Trail often races prominently, and may also be a little closer to the heat earlier than ideal. His form is perfectly plausible, away from an abortive two-race ten furlong adventure. On his first spin this term, he ran flat behind the aforementioned Muta on what also his first start after a wind op.

Last year started with a win in the Craven, second in the 2000 Guineas and a win in the Irish 2000 before running a close third in the Eclipse; it ended, one run later, with a pasting at the hands of an imperious Baaeed in the Juddmonte International at York. Back at a mile and if ridden with restraint, he can reverse form with his last day conqueror, though he doesn't look any sort of bargain in the market.

Chindit is another who tends to race up with the pace, as he did when the middle man of seven in this race a year ago; he was whacked eight lengths by Baaeed there, but one must remember that Baaeed dished out plenty of spankings in 2022. It should also be noted that, during the closing stages of the Lockinge, in which Chindit finished second to Modern Games, he tried to bite that rival! Presumably that was a one off but it does rather bring into question his temperament...

Let's come back to Light Infantry. David Simcock's globetrotter has run some crackers in defeat: he was a staying on second over an inadequate seven furlongs in last year's G1 Prix Jean Prat, was a staying on neck second to Inspiral next time out in the G1 Jacques le Marois, and was a two length staying on sixth of 20 over seven and a half in the G1 Golden Eagle at Rosehill, Australia, after that. Sure, he's taken time to find his form this season but, on his third and most recent outing was a short neck second in the G1 Prix d'Ispahan over nine and a half furlongs. He actually led there but, if Spencer bides his time here, this fella is likely to finish well. And he's 20/1. He's my each way against the field, four places with 365 if you can get them.


3.05 Coventry Stakes (6f, Group 2, 2yo)

Presented by the "Cleeve Racing" service

Royal Ascot, Day 1... and for the Royal meeting, Cleeve Racing's head advisor, Mike C, will be previewing some of the major 2-year-old races, and providing a shortlist for Geegeez punters to consider.

Tuesday, is the Coventry Stakes... this is a race, in more modern times, where it has paid to look away from the favourite, with winners at 150/1, 11/1 and 8/1 going in in the space of the last three renewals. A wise man once said, "trying to make sense of 2 year-old form is similar to Michael Fish predicting the weather"... but was he right?

Well, looking at the market, the impressive River Tiber sits 2 wins from 2 runs and has posted speed figures above par at Navan and Naas respectively. Asadna burst onto the scene for the Boughey yard, and on the clock, is arguably the quickest horse in the race (when one considers weighting - they will all run off a level 9st 3lbs here).

Bobsleigh, at a much bigger price, catches the eye after chasing down the front-running Balon D’Or at Epsom just before the line. That hold up style, however, may prove his undoing as he will need to be passing some serious horses this time. Jockey Charles Bishop may be wise to ride him sightly more prominently on what is likely to be decent ground (assuming the rain largely stays away!). 11 of the last 12 Coventry winners won their prior start, an angle which removes five from the field, though none shorter than 40/1.

Givemethebeatboys has secured the Dettori magic for the race, and had the beating of Noche Magica (well regarded for the Norfolk on Thursday) when scoring at the Curragh on Irish Guineas weekend. Jessica Harrington’s horses come into the meeting with a 26% strike rate over the last 14 days, and she's 7 from 29 at Ascot in the past five years, so her runners are not to be ignored.

A 66/1 shot here, Politico won over 6f at Chester and James Doyle has been jocked up by Charlie Johnston. If able to improve for the firmer ground, this front-runner is well drawn in 4, and will certainly want to get out and see it all before him; if he gets rolling, and you can get extra places with your bookmaker (Sky 6 places, 365 5 places), he may take some catching if the race falls apart behind.

Politico and Bobsleigh are big prices, and at 66/1 & 20/1 would be the each-way plays at small stakes, and I'd certainly be looking for extra places or other concessions. River Tiber looks the right favourite and you would be brave to not think AP O’Brien and Ryan Moore will rule the meeting once more; at the odds, however, towards the top of the market, Givemethebeatboys, who goes through the sales ring Monday ahead of the meeting, looks worthy of an each way play. The Frankie factor may shorten the odds further in the morning, hence if you fancy that one, get on overnight.


3.40 King's Stand Stakes (5f, Group 1, 3yo+)

Presented by Gavin Priestley's "Festival Trends" service

Since 1997, we have had 11 winners from the 26 renewals of the King's Stand that were trained outside of the UK and Ireland (France, America, Hong Kong, Spain and Australia) making it the most 'international' race run at Royal Ascot in the last quarter of a century. Ireland's contribution in that time consists of dual winner Sole Power, who is the only Irish-trained horse to win the King's Stand since 1987, with 32 Irish-trained horses to have tried since 1997.

Australian runners top the table of international raiders with five wins this century, all five having contested the Group 1 Lightning Stakes at Flemington that February. Four of the five won that Group 1 with the other (Nature Strip) failing by a short-head in second. This year's winner, Coolangatta, is set to line up and she must therefore be respected having won that very important trial by ½ length from the subsequent Group 1 winner I Wish I Win.

We've had a 3yo, 4yo, 5yo, 6yo and a 7yo win in the last six years with a pretty even spread of those age groups throughout this century but no horse over seven has won the King's Stand in the history of the race as a Group 1 (1973). Based purely on the win % strike rate of each age group the 6yo and 7yo's just shade their younger counterparts.

Charles Hills has probably been the best trainer record in the race with his last nine runners finishing 272722145. These runs have come from just three horses including his runner again this year, Equilateral, who has finished 2-7-5 in the 2019/2020/2022 renewals. He'll be bidding to become the oldest ever winner of the race but it's difficult to see him winning as an 8yo when he was unable to win in his younger days as a 4,5 or 7yo.

Six of the seven winners between 2003 and 2009 were overseas winners that didn't have an official BHA rating but the odd one out through those seven years, and all of the last 13 winners, have been rated 111+. That means a lot of the runners in this year's field don't quite 'cut the mustard' compared to a typical King's Stand winner. This includes the well fancied filly Dramatised (currently rated 108).

But, five of the seven winners between 2010 and 2016 had their previous run in the Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock and, although the race hasn't provided the winner since then, there have been seven horses to come out of that race to finish top five here including at odds of 50/1 and 66/1. Dramatised beat Equilateral in this year's Temple Stakes by a length with Existent 4th and Mitbaahy, Happy Romance, Annaf and Twilight Calls further behind in 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th respectively. All five winners and the nine further placed horses that last ran in the Temple Stakes had all finished in the first seven. Annaf and Twilight Calls therefore have it to do to reverse form here.

Fillies or mares have only won the race four times this century but those winners came from a much smaller number of runners than their male counterparts which actually gives them a better overall % strike rate. You would be foolhardy to dismiss any female runner in this race based purely on their sex especially as we find three exceptional female sprinters at the head of the betting market: two 3yo fillies from opposite sides of the globe, Coolangatta and Dramatised, and the multiple Group 1-winning 6yo mare Highfield Princess.

On both the trends and current form it would seem that the race winner is likely to come from this trio with my preference being to side with HIGHFIELD PRINCESS. She racked up a Group 1 hat-trick last Summer before rounding off her year with a 4th in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. She's a versatile mare who has won Group 1's on ground ranging from Soft to Good to Firm and has won from 5f to 7f. She made a very encouraging seasonal debut when, despite her sex allowance, she still had to give weight to the entire field yet just failed by only ½ length to hold on in the closing stages of the Group 2 Duke of York Clipper Stakes at York.

This is going to be fast and furious with some international 'speedballs' who like to race from the front sure to make it a real five furlong dash, and that might just help the selection who likes to race prominently herself and who will be quite content to get a tow into the race before unleashing her stamina-packed finish.

For those looking for a bigger price to get stuck into, I'm also having a small each way bet on BRADSELL who returns to the scene of his greatest victory to date, last year's Coventry. Things haven't really gone to plan since with defeat in last season's Phoenix Stakes and two 3rd place finishes so far this year but he's had excuses and this drop back to 5f looks a great move from his trainer. He hasn't quite got home in either of his starts in 2023 but both times he came through to lead at around the furlong pole and this fast run 5f race could be just what he needs to see him return to something like his best.

SELECTIONS: 5/2 HIGHFIELD PRINCESS WIN / 33/1 BRADSELL EW (As many EW places as you can get)

Click here for news of Gavin's 'Horses to Follow from Royal Ascot'


4.20 St James's Palace Stakes (1m, Group 1, 3yo)

Presented by John Burke's "Victor Value" service

The St James's Palace Stakes has a rich history and has seen some of the best three-year-old milers in the sport compete for the winner's first prize. It often attracts top-class horses who have previously contested one of the mile colts' Classics earlier in the season. It offers a chance for the leading three-year-old milers to establish themselves as the best in their age group. Nine have been declared for this year’s renewal and it promises to be the race of day one of Royal Ascot.

All the Guineas form lines come together in this year’s race: we have Newmarket’s 2,000 Guineas winner Chaldean and the third home Royal Scotsman; the Irish 2,000 Guineas form is represented by winner Paddington, and we also have the French 2,000 Guineas runner-up, Isaac Shelby. Add in a couple of progressive up in class contenders in Cicero's Gift and Mostabshir and we have the makings of a cracker of a contest.

It was good, good to firm in places on the round course on Monday morning and so far most of the thunderstorms/heavy rain missed Ascot with light rain forecast for Tuesday. If the ground has eased that will be a big boost to the chances of ante post favourite Chaldean. The son of Frankel is likely to be ridden prominently. However, there looks to be plenty of pace on and horses ridden more patiently to tend to be the ones to be with over this round mile.

Second in on my ratings is Paddington. The son of Siyouni has won all three starts this season and created a good impression when winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas. Tactically versatile, he’s open to more improvement than Chaldean and is bidding to give Aidan O’Brien a ninth success in the race.

Royal Scotsman ran terribly in the Irish 2,000 Guineas last time. That performance was too bad to be true and whist I think the round track will suit the colt better he does have questions to answer after his run at the Curragh.

Isaac Shelby was runner-up in the French 2,000 Guineas and should be suited by the anticipated strong pace. He's another who is ground versatile, having won on good to firm as a juvenile and nearly won a Classic on very soft last time, and I think there could be more to come from this colt who has solid each way claims.

Cicero's Gift has been well supported in the ante-post market. A winner of his sole juvenile start, he has won both his races this year and produced a Group 1 level turn of foot to win at Goodwood last month. He's yet to race on quick ground but there’s no reason on pedigree why he can’t be effective on it.

Mostabshir is another who has been well backed in the ante-post betting. He's back up in class after winning a novice stakes last time, but there was plenty to like about that quick ground success at York.

I find it difficult to make a case for the other three runners Galeron, Charyn and Indestructible. Of the three, Galeron was just 3¼ lengths behind Paddington in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and should be suited by the likely pace of the race.

Verdict: Of the front two in the betting - Chaldean and Paddington - I’m firmly in the latter’s camp. The price has gone on Cicero's Gift but he remains an exciting prospect. The same can be said of Mostabshir but there’s a bit of juice left in his price, and he could drift on the day. The market seems to be underestimating Isaac Shelby’s French Guineas form, but I think it would be unwise to do so, and I think he can go close. Paddington is the most likely winner but at 10/1 Isaac Shelby looks the value each way play.

Isaac Shelby – 10/1 @ Paddy Power & Betfair Sportsbook (paying 3 places)



Royal Ascot 2023: Victor Value


5.00 Ascot Stakes (2m4f, Class 2, 4yo+ Handicap)

Presented by Josh Wright from "Racing To Profit"

The trainers...

As always a thorough stamina test awaits this year's runners and riders, with the trip just shy of 2m4f. It's an unsettled forecast which is never overly helpful and the course could receive up to 6mm of rain on race day, on watered ground. It has been very dry, however, and whether this changes the ground too much it awaits to be seen, but even on decent ground there is rarely a hiding place in this contest. I'll assume it will be no worse than 'good'.

Unsurprisingly given the distance, dual purpose trainers, many with a focus on the jumping game, have done very well in recent years. Willie Mullins leads the way, winning this on four occasions in the last eleven renewals, from nineteen runners. Ryan Moore has ridden three of those winners and that combination, with last year's second Bring On The Night, heads the market with the odds compilers taking few chances.

Ian Williams knows how to win this race also, having bagged it twice in recent years. He's throwing four darts at this year's contest: Zinc White, Law of The Sea, The Grand Visir and East Asia. Alan King (Tritonic) and Nicky Henderson (Ahorsewithnoname) are the two other trainers with runners in this year's renewal to have won the Ascot Stakes previously. Their runners deserve an even closer look.

Keeping an eye on those trainers who've previously been successful in a race is a worthwhile 'way in', as you'd like to think they've targeted the race again and know the type of horse required to get the job done. In these big Festival handicaps I do also like using my own trends to help narrow down the field. The danger with trends and 'shortlists' is that you can be blinded to other runners, but again, as a 'way in' or 'starting point', I find them useful.


The trends...

My 'trends profile' for this race, looking at the last 15 renewals...

15/287 total runners, 61 placed horses (including winners) 

15/15 had 11+ career runs (10< : 0/70,13 places)

14/15 had won at Class 3 level or above (had not: 1/84, 13p)

14/15 had won over at least 2 miles in career (had not: 1/78, 12p)

14/15 had never run in race (had: 1/39, 2p)

14/15 had 2+ handicap wins in career (0-1: 1/118, 20p)


Applying those trends would have found 12 of the previous 15 winners, 12/91 runners, 29 placed horses (including winners), +151 points to Betfair Exchange Starting Price, if backing them all. The horses to hit the profile this year are:

Ahorsewithnoname, Callingthewind, Zoffee, Solent Getaway, Tritonic, Urban Artist, Prince Imperial, East Asia 

Every winner in the previous 15 renewals has also run in at least four handicaps. Plenty with fewer than four have placed, but as yet none have got their heads in front. From that list above, Ahorsewithnoname and Urban Artist need to overcome their handicapping inexperience.

For those of you who enjoy finding your own winners, those initial eight 'qualifiers' could be a worthwhile starting point, along with the trainers list above also.


So, where does that leave me... after much cogitating...

Calling The Wind - I want to have the Richard Hughes runner onside here at double figures, with as many places as I can get my hands on.


Any users of Geegeez Gold and the 'Instant Expert' tab will see why he appeals as an EW proposition in this race - see above.

Provided he drops his head we should get a run for our money and he's one of the few horses in here proven over the trip on the flat (and over further), which should count for plenty as they enter the final 1/2 mile. He also won't mind what the weather does. The horse hits my trends profile and has yet to be out of the places at Ascot, with a course record of 1/5, 5 places. Two of those places were in the last two runnings of the Queen Alexandra Stakes, which is over a couple of furlongs further and that distance may just stretch him here.

This trip looks his optimum, especially if he can get a more prominent position and just lob along. If he settles (he was a bit fresh when last seen), he should just keep galloping at the end, when many have had enough. He's just a very likeable stayer and this mark of 99 looks workable. With Billy Loughnane's useful 3lb claim, he's just 2lb higher than when winning a decent handicap at Goodwood over 21.5f. In fact this is just his second ever flat handicap over 20f or further, and there could still be some upside potential in such conditions. I'd like to think this has been the plan and Richard has his string in fine form... 5/22,8p in the previous 14 days, 59% rivals beaten. Everything looks set for a monster run here and he should be able to get out and slot in handy. Hopefully he can give the favourite something to think about entering the final couple of furlongs...

Of course, the rest of the field may be chasing home Bring On The Night. I don't think anyone is going to be shocked if he puts up a bold show and maybe he will just win. He hasn't been seen since finishing second in this race last year, but we all know Willie can ready one off a long break. Hopefully he may be plenty fresh enough but, if he repeats last year's effort, he sets a rather good standard, given he bumped into Coltrane that day; that one has since won at G3 and G2 level, and is now 19lbs higher than when taking this. I'm not sure there's a future Coltrane in this line up, and Bring On The Night is open to plenty of improvement also and a worthy favourite, but not a price I like diving into in these sorts of races.

Calling The Wind: 1 point each-way 10/1-12/1

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5.35 Wolferton Stakes (1m2f, Listed, 4yo+)

Preview by our own David Massey

The Wolferton looks a wide-open affair this year with bookmakers currently going 7-2 the field (4s if you’ve a Bet365 account, you lucky people). 

Saga heads them up for the King and Queen, and the Gosden/Dettori combination, so I don’t need to tell you he’s bound to be well backed on the day; if Frankie’s already got a winner or two on the card, he'll be shorter still, with bookmaker liabilities on the multis running up. Nearer the time you’ll need to consider whether Saga has simply been overbet if that scenario unfolds, in which case there will be value elsewhere. 

However, right here right now, we’ve no idea what’s going to happen and so I’m trying to find what value there is today. Saga has only won one of his ten starts to date - in itself, not a problem, as recent winning form is no barrier to winning this - and his Ascot record in full reads 1628, his second coming in the Britannia here last year when he would have won with a better start. He still has to fully prove that a mile and a quarter is his trip though, and almost on that alone I’d want to try and take him on. 

The first one that caught my eye for this was Sir Michael Stoute’s Solid Stone, purely as I was at Sandown on Brigadier Gerard night and to my eyes he looked badly in need of his seasonal outing. He was meant to make the pace for Desert Crown that night but in truth he didn’t set much of one, the fractions to halfway not quick, and once he was headed I expected him to drop right away, given his level of fitness.

However, to my surprise, he rallied well in the closing stages to get back past Cash for third, a most promising seasonal debut. Last year he only needed the one run to put him straight before winning at Windsor on his second outing, and he then went on to finish third to Juan Elcano in this very race. He’s fully effective on the ground and at the trip, and clearly handles Ascot, so there are plenty of plus points. I’d expect Richard Kingscote to ride him forward from stall 11 - even though there are plenty of pace-pressers, front-runners are somewhat thinner on the ground - and race front rank throughout. 

At an even bigger price I’ll be risking a few shekels each-way on Checkandchallenge with Skybet’s 5 places each-way. He’s yet to even try ten furlongs but the pedigree - he’s a half brother to White Shaheen, who was a winner at 12f, amongst others - gives hope and so do the visuals, often getting a little outpaced in his races before staying on at one pace again. He’s been very highly tried in Group 1 and Group 2 company on his last four starts, taking on the likes of Modern Games and Bayside Boy, beaten only 2½l in the QEII last year  and he’ll be one that’s ridden cold out back with Atzeni looking for the gaps late. I’m expecting prices north of 25-1 tomorrow and at that point, he’ll be getting a few of my hard-earned quids. 


6.10 Copper Horse Stakes (1m6f, Class 2 Handicap, 4yo+)

Presented by Sam Darby's "Winning Post Profits" service

Before going through the field in a race like this I prefer to review potential draw and pace biases so that I can upgrade/downgrade each runner as I look at them, based on how advantaged/disadvantaged they are likely to be.

You don’t get too many big field races over this marathon distance at Ascot unfortunately and this race itself has only had three previous renewals so I’m not going to get overly attached to any pace or draw data due to the small sample size.

From the data we do have, prominent racers enjoy a fair sized advantage with mid-division next best. Extreme rides (either on the pace or held up) seem disadvantaged. There only seems to be one habitual front runner in this field, although a few others have made the running on just one of their most recent starts. I think this race will be run at no more than an even gallop which won’t suit those held up or the ‘grinders’, it will suit those near the pace and those with a relative turn of foot at these distances.

As for the draw, again due to the limited sample size I’m taking these figures with a slight pinch of salt but the higher draws have struggled on what limited evidence there is.

Rolling three stall average percentage of rivals beaten at the Copper Horse Handicap distance

Rolling three stall average percentage of rivals beaten at the Copper Horse Handicap distance

I’m using some fairly broad parameters to increase the sample size but judging by this PRB3 data I’d rather be on a horse drawn in single figures than double figures.

There will be plenty of interest in this race due to the inclusion of Vauban in the field. Willie Mullins’ 2022 Triumph Hurdle winner is a fascinating contender and you’d have to assume he’s well in here off a flat rating of 101 given his hurdle rating is 160.

Mullins also has the second favourite in this race for good measure in the form of Absurde. How much he has in hand from a mark of 101 completely depends on how much he’s improved for the switch to Mullins from his previous trainer in France and it’s just speculation really.

I can never really be a backer of these Mullins horses in Royal Ascot handicaps. So many of them run well but they are nearly always very short, most of them are unproven on fast ground when they come here and it’s pure guesswork as to how well handicapped they are .

My general approach is just to hope they get beaten, be it on merit or by luck, and look for some each way value against them. Vauban may well win but I think you’ll find better 7/4 shots at Thirsk or Ripon this week (amongst other places).

The Joseph O’Brien-trained Point King is probably the most likely front runner and, although he has a ‘bad’ draw in 16, by going forward he could easily negate that. He’s fairly unexposed but has been showing his hand to the handicapper by running well in Listed races around this distance so I wouldn’t be in a rush to back him.

The conjecture continues with Charlie Appleby’s Ruling Dynasty, who makes his handicap debut after winning a 12f novice contest on his only run this season. He’s by far the least exposed in the field having had just three runs but his form last season at least is nothing special. On his second career start he beat a now 69-rated rival off level weights by less than 2 lengths. He was impressive last time out at Haydock, stepped up in trip, but it’s almost impossible to determine the strength of that form. Out of principle I’m against anything making a handicap debut off 97 in a race like this, especially a horse by Night Of Thunder, a sire who has had limited success beyond 12f.

I would have been quite interested in a small each way bet on Raymond Tusk given he’s generally available at 66/1 and has run several good races here before. He’s drawn really wide and I can’t understand how the handicapper has put him up 2lbs for finishing a well beaten 3rd last time out so I’m swerving him.

If Ascot really caught the thunder showers I’d be keen on Postileo but I’m not sure he’s as well handicapped on faster ground as he is in softer conditions. Meanwhile Cemhaan is a horse I’ve followed for some time and conditions are ideal for him but he’s surely badly handicapped now having gone up 9lbs for winning easily last time when getting a very soft lead on a day when Kempton was really favouring front runners.

On the assumption of fast ground there are two horses I’d consider as possible bets…

The best piece of flat form from any of these runners has to be finishing 2nd (beaten a neck) in the 2020 St Leger and we have the opportunity to back that runner, Berkshire Rocco, off a mark of 99 here. Not only that, he’s finished 2nd in a Group 3 over this course and distance and won a Listed race over it.

Having missed most of last season through injury, he hasn’t quite returned the same horse that was rated 116 at his peak but he has generally been running well at his new level. That was at least the case over the winter but on the face of it he’s run below par on both runs since a 58 day break. He was definitely below par on All Weather Finals Day at Newcastle, however his last run, when 10th beaten 7 lengths in a handicap at Newmarket, is better than it first looks. The 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th and 11th have all come out and won since and Andrew Balding is adamant he wants better ground, so that run can probably be upgraded a fair bit given it took place on soft turf.

He’s drawn a little wider than seems ideal (11) but he should be well placed if he races prominently, as he often does. Decent ground should suit him perfectly and it’s been almost two years since he ran on good or better ground so we could see an immediate improvement from him based on underfoot conditions.

I’ve also got some interest in another runner who missed most of last season and that’s Aaddeey. He’s been a particularly frustrating horse for me to follow as I was convinced he was very well handicapped off marks around 100 in 2021 due to several good runs in warm races but I was also convinced he wanted good ground. He’s won twice since then on soft ground!

I do think he might be even better on top of the ground though and, after losing his form in his final two runs last season for Simon & Ed Crisford, he’s back this season for Archie Watson. That stable switch, and a wind op, seemed to get him back to form last time out as he won pretty cosily at Ripon. He had the run of the race that day and it wasn’t a particularly strong event but he’s at least proved his well being again, even if it’s cost him a 4lb rise.

He’s only gone this far once before and didn’t seem to quite get home but that was in soft ground and a few other things didn’t go his way that day so whilst the jury is still out on his stamina, it’s certainly not as though he definitely doesn’t stay. He used to be held up for previous connections but I’d be quite happy to see him track the pace this time from his lowish draw. If he does that it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s one of the runners going best turning for home.

This race looks a lot tougher than previous renewals due to several unknowns but I do think there is a little bit of value in backing both Aaddeey and Berkshire Rocco each way given they are both generally available at 16/1 (bigger in places) at the time of writing. I couldn’t be massively confident though so I could only advise very small stakes on this one.

Sam Darby - Winning Post Profits. You can join my private service for just £1 if you click here.Sam Darby's Winning Post Profits



And so endeth a bumper yomp through the form of day one of Royal Ascot 2023. For the first time this week, my thanks go to the team of smart judges who have each taken a turn at the wheel across the seven races. They'll all be back for Day Two, as will I. Let's get this party started!


Spring Mile / Lincoln Video Preview

To mark the return of flat turf racing to Britain, I've recorded some thoughts on the two big field mile handicaps being run at Doncaster tomorrow. The Spring Mile and the Lincoln are both Class 2 straight mile handicaps and both have 22 runners as I write. The ground is currently soft, heavy in places, with the sky taps still turned on - so heavy might be what we get.

With all that in mind, I share my thoughts in the video below. In it, I share:

- Common features between the races
- Draw / run style biases
- Instant Expert overviews
- Some picks!

[*As ever, if I speak too slowly for you, use the little cog icon bottom right on the video to choose a faster playback speed]

Good luck!



Cheltenham Festival 2023: Day Four Preview, Tips

Cheltenham Festival 2023: Day Four Preview, Tips

We're onto Give Back Friday, which is bad news if you're already in negative equity. Traditionally the hardest of the four days, this year Day Four looks as fiendish as ever. Still, where there's light there's hope...

1.30 Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m1f)

Time was when the Triumph Hurdle, for four-year-old novices only, could throw up a shock or three. And, in 2019, the winner was returned 20/1 in spite of being unbeaten in one over hurdles and trained by Nicky Henderson; a year later, in 2020, the winner was 12/1 even though she was unbeaten in one over hurdles and trained by Willie Mullins. Go figure.

With the advent of the Fred Winter (Boodles) handicap for the same age group, Triumph fields tend to be a little thinner these days: the average field was 26 between 1997 and 2004, compared with 16 since 2005, the first year of Fred Boodles. In the past five years, the average field size has been just eleven runners. Yet this time, we have 15, in a few cases as a result of the Boodles over-subscribing and, therefore, the dreaded 'social runners'.

In recent seasons, only Henderson (twice) and Philip Hobbs have managed to repel the Irish raiders, and this season looks virtually certain to result in another 'away win'. That man Willie - Triumph winner in 2020 and 2022 - and before he was a 'thing' in 2002, with Scolardy, ridden by Charlie Swan - has the market in a half nelson this time, courtesy of his t'riffic triumvirate of Lossiemouth, Blood Destiny and Gala Marceau, along with four others!

Lossiemouth was considered the pick of the Closutton squad, even though she finished behind Gala Marceau in the key prep, the Spring Juvenile Hurdle. There, she endured a difficult transit and Gala scampered clear. There's no doubt Lossie was unlucky in second, and there's little doubt that the margin would have been narrower with a clear passage for her; but the market has them further apart than perhaps they ought to be. Gala Marceau was having her first run away from France when a seven length second to Lossiemouth the time before, and she would have narrowed that margin the last day regardless of clear or troubled trips in behind. She has more experience and could improve again.

Blood Destiny is harder to fathom, having not yet faced Graded company. He was second to Bo Zenith, whose limitations have since been exposed, in France before Willie sent him unbeaten in two. He won his maiden by five lengths in a field of 20 from Sir Allen (two from two since), and then sauntered 18 lengths clear of 131-rated Common Practice and subsequent Adonis Hurdle winner, Nusret.

Still Willie has more. Zenta won a Listed hurdle at Auteuil, jumping flawlessly, and was again brilliant - apart from annihilating the flights in the straight! - at Fairyhouse (Grade 3) last time. I wonder if the sun was in their eyes that day because those blemishes were out of character with everything else she'd done. Mullins suggested it might have been because she was in front, in which case she'll be ridden patiently in the Triumph. She has a similar profile to Burning Victory and is a big price in that context.

Milton Harris has enjoyed an incredible renaissance in the past two seasons, plenty of which is down to his inspired campaigning of juvenile hurdlers. The flag-bearer in that discipline this term is Scriptwriter, bought off the flat from Aidan O'Brien and a winner of his first two hurdle races. That double included the Grade 2 Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle here; but he's since run a close second to Comfort Zone - again at Cheltenham - and, more concerningly, was thumped in the Adonis. Perhaps that more speed-favouring hurdle track did for him, or maybe he was feeling the effects of some hard races; either way, he's now a precarious proposition in this company.

The rest don't look good enough, though Je Garde is a total unknown after a debut third at Auteuil. The winner has won her two starts since, and the runner up won next time, too, all in and around Paris, so the form - in French terms at least - stacks up.

Triumph Hurdle Pace Map

Not one to take too literally with the limited amount of form on the table; but it would be wrong-headed to think that (at least) one of the Willie's won't go to the front. It might be Blood Destiny, but not necessarily.

Triumph Hurdle Selection

This is a Willie cartel. It's not a question of whether he wins but with which of his many options he does so. Lossiemouth and Gala Marceau should be in close proximity to each other, while Zenta and especially Blood Destiny are unknowns at this level and could be better or, more probably, worse than the G1 proven pair. Lossiemouth is the most solid and probably ought to be favourite on track performances; but obviously the yard has a line on the perceived hierarchy.

Suggestion: Tricasts or trifectas with Lossiemouth/Gala Marceau, and Blood Destiny/Zenta, might be a way to get almost everything right about the race and still lose money!


2.10 County Hurdle (Grade 3 Handicap, 2m1f)

For such an open handicap, this race has been dominated by a handful of trainers in recent times. Paul Nicholls bagged four of them between 2004 and 2014, Dan Skelton - Nicholls' protégé - claimed three of his own between 2016 and 2019, and, of course, Willie Mullins has his fingerprints all over this trophy as well: six wins since 2010. That's 13 of the last 19 County Hurdles shared among them.

If we, sensibly, extend the sequence to 20 races to render it slightly less arbitrary, we will note that six of the remaining seven renewals were won by another Irish trainer. So, in the past two decades, the score reads W Mullins 6, rest of Ireland 6, P Nicholls 4, D Skelton 3, rest of UK 1. This is a handicap that has been contested by 24+ horses in all but one of those 20 years. Wow.

My shortlist is Sharjah, Hunters Yarn, Path d'Oroux and Pembroke.

Sharjah is top weight, and that's because he has been there, seen it, done it. He's in the Arctic Fire mould of Willie County winners, as a dual Grade 1 winner just 15 months ago. Though he might be a touch below that level now, he's still run close to State Man twice this season before a lovely trial for this at Gowran last time. He's going to cruise all over these through the race and then it's a question of whether either of age and/or weight tell in the closing stages. They might not.

Willie also saddles Hunters Yarn, a high class novice and winner of his last two hurdling starts, most recently a Listed novice at Navan. He bolted up there, in a small field, and was 13 lengths too good for two dozen rivals on his previous run; but this is a significant step up in class. The fact he's handled a big field is a plus and I have already backed him; I'd be less attracted by his current odds from a value perspective, however.

Lower down the field is the potentially very kindly weighted Path d'Oroux. This fellow won a bumper and a maiden hurdle, both in huge fields, before his sights were raised to Grade 1 novice company. He pulled up behind Supreme winner Marine Nationale on his first attempt, and was then fourth to Supreme runner up Facile Vega on his second G1 try, beaten far enough. An easy score in lesser grade since will have boosted confidence and he might be a 'lurker' for his shrewd trainer, Gavin Cromwell.

The best of the British could very well be the Dan Skelton-trained Pembroke, whose profile screams County Hurdle. A lightly raced novice having won his bumper this time last year, he was seventh to Grade 1-winning Tahmuras on seasonal bow. He then easily won a pair of novice hurdles, one in a big field, before running second in the Grade 2 novice on Trials day over two and a half miles. That will have been a perfect prep for this and, if anyone can from this side of the water, Dan can, with easily the best race record in the past decade.

Many more can win, natch, including Filey Bay, an Emmet Mullins-trained runner who has done everything he can to show the UK handicapper he's not as good as he actually is, while still winning twice and running second in the Betfair Hurdle last time. He also has a lovely racing weight but a commensurately skinny quote.

County Hurdle Pace Map

The Chris Gordon pair may be to the fore, as might something from the Mullins quartet; and so might a number of others. This is unlikely to be a pedestrian gallop.

County Hurdle Selection

The more I look at this, the more I think old boy Sharjah (8/1) still retains more than enough talent to overcome his weight allocation. He has no secrets from the handicapper, but sometimes the good ones just win, don't they? And I think 9/1 Pembroke is sure to run well, even allowing for the hard time UK novices have had against their Irish counterparts. He's with the right man, and has a featherweight to carry. I'll probably have a small bit of 16/1 Path d'Oroux as well. Keep the extra place concessions in mind again here.

Suggestion: Back a few each way with extra places, perhaps including some/all of the above trio.


2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1, 3m)

The Spuds Race. Ten years ago, At Fishers Cross won at a starting price of 11/8. Since then, eight winners have returned a double figure SP, including 50/1 and 33/1 twice. Willie Mullins has had winners at 16/1 and, last year, 18/1 since 2017. It's that sort of a race.

There are lots of credible horses at the top of the market, notably another Emmet green and golder, Corbetts Cross (who did remarkably well to win over two miles last time), Hiddenvalley Lake and Favori de Champdou. Literally nobody will be shocked if one of those, or Three Card Brag or Embassy Gardens, wins. But that's not the way to play this race, is it?

We need to ask, and answer, the question, "why do so many big prices win the Spuds?"

My contention - and a lot of other peoples', also - is that it is to do with the juxtaposition of pace between the trial races and the Albert Bartlett itself. In plain English, five runner 2m6f Grade 2's do not translate well to 16-runner three mile Grade 1's. In the latter, they go faster and demand less class but more stamina and steel.

A quick look at some of those big priced winners reveals an identikit of sorts:

The Nice Guy was stepping up more than half a mile in trip after winning a huge field maiden
Vanillier was another big field maiden scorer before getting outpaced in an 8 runner race. Was wrong in G1 before Cheltenham
Minella Indo was 3rd in small field maiden and 2nd in a small field Grade 3 (3m) before relishing this stiffer test
Kilbricken Storm won at Cheltenham (3m) before getting outpaced/not handling heavy in G1 (2m5f)
Penhill had actually won a small field 3m G2 on his prior start and was just a big price on the day
Very Wood was stepping up to 3m for the first time having finished 3rd of 3 over 2m4f

Small field preps, up in trip seem to be the main clues. Let's see if that can be applied to anything at a bumper price this year...

Sandor Clegane fits the bill but is too short a price having run third in a G1 last time. I'm unashamedly swinging at the big odds here and obviously that probably means a losing bet; but the risk/reward ratio is in our favour based on the nature of the beast.

Gigginstown-owned and Gordon Elliott-trained is Search For Glory, keeping on in third behind subsequent G1 winner and Ballymore fourth Good Land over 2m4f; and then keeping on for a much closer third over 3m in a five-runner Grade 3 last time. He's very interesting for this assignment.

Affordale Fury is trained by Noel Meade, who saddled 33/1 Very Wood in 2014. A winner from the front in a 14-runner maiden (2m6f, soft), he then fell at the last when contesting in a 2m4f G3. Most recently he was outpaced all the way in the G1 Lawlor's of Naas (2m4f, soft) but made some minor headway. I'm not sure that's good enough even when looking through the big-priced prism.

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle Pace Map

Expect many fewer than the number which start to finish. There is plenty of pace on, and it will be the tough and hardy blokes over the classy but flimsy snowflakes - if you'll pardon the phrase - that prevail.

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle Selection

The horses I'm interested in are all far less credible winners on the evidence of the form book, so if you're following me you need to know they might bomb out completely. In that scenario, win only is the way to go (and we can cry together later when rounding out the minor podium positions!!) - and I'm going with Search For Glory and Sandor Clegane against the top of the market. This is a race where it feels like we'll have a bit of a chance with our windmill-tilting; at least, it often is that way.

Suggestion: Back something that has been getting outpaced in smaller fields and/or over shorter trips. 25/1 Search For Glory and 14/1 Sandor Clegane are my guesses against the field. Lots of more obvious horses, so this is a bet where I'm happy to wave goodbye to the tenner.


3.30 Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1, 3m 2 1/2f)

This is the big one, the Blue Riband. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the pinnacle of the sport and is always a fantastic spectacle, though winner-finding can be tricky.

This season, one horse towers above the rest in terms of his chance; that horse is Galopin Des Champs. Trained by, you guessed it, Willie Mullins, Galopin Des Champs won the 2021 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle and would have cruised home in the Turners Novices' Chase a year ago but for falling at the last. Since then, he's won three straight Grade 1's, a novice at Fairyhouse's Easter fixture and two opens this campaign, the John Durkan and the Irish Gold Cup.

The margin of victory in that trio of G1 was scores was 18L, 13L and 8L, and he appeared to answer the stamina question with his three mile win last time - partially, at least. The Gold Cup is, of course, three miles two and a half furlongs, and that's another quarter mile and more than he's gone to date. So will he stay? That's simply not an easy question to answer. His sire, Timos, has had no other runners in Britain or Ireland; himself a German-bred (by Sholokhov out of a Surumu mare), he raced in lower Group class on the level at ten to twelve furlongs. His dam, Manon Des Champs, was by a US-bred stallion, Marchand De Sable, who won a heavy ground ten furlong Group 1 as a two-year-old. Helpful? Not really, I know. Where I get to is that there must be at least some chance he won't stay in a truly-run Gold Cup, especially if the going is on the softer side. But if stamina holds, he is the clear form pick.

There are pro's and con's with all his main market rivals. Let's consider a few, starting with A Plus Tard. The pro's are that he won last year's Gold Cup and was second in the race a year prior; thus, we know he stays, we know he handles the track and we know he has the class to win the race. But the con is a big one: he has only been seen once since this day last year, when bombing out completely in the Betfair Chase, a race in which he'd pulverised his opposition twelve months earlier. Add to that the fact that he was due to run at Christmas - his trainer related to, "he got a bang that ruled him out of Christmas, so we said back in January that we’d go straight to the Gold Cup". You've got to take a lot on trust to side with A Plus Tard at this stage against something of a changing of the guard - some high class second and third season chasers.

One such second season chaser is Bravemansgame, winner of the King George in dominating fashion at Christmas. A look at the Paul Nicholls-trained star's form profile renders most of the names he's been called grossly unfair: as well as that G1 King George, he's won the G1 Challow Hurdle, the G1 Feltham/Kauto Star, and the G2 Charlie Hall. His sole Cheltenham run was at the 2021 Festival when he was third to Bob Olinger in the Ballymore. He tried to make all that day in a bigger field than he's typically faced, and was spent in the run to the line. This season, he's raced more patiently under Harry Cobden, and followed a gutsy win at Wetherby with a classy one at Kempton.

But is he a "flat track bully"? Yuk, it's such a horrible phrase - I apologise for using it; and I only do it to counter the barb. As you can see from the image below, in the 'Profile' section, he's only run on flat tracks over fences - that means he can't handle undulating tracks no more than a horse encountering different underfoot for the first time.


What it does mean is we don't know whether he'll handle it or not; but what we do know is that he has excellent form this season, stays pretty well, jumps well, has class and can be ridden wherever. Given his odds, that's a lot of positives on which to take a chance that he might not handle the track.

This time last year, Noble Yeats was finishing slightly better than midfield in the Ultima Handicap Chase, which is not a well known springboard to the Gold Cup! Of course, he followed that effort up with a dazzling 50/1 triumph in the Grand National. It didn't pan out first time this season at Auteuil but he then doubled up at Wexford (Listed) and Aintree (Grade 2) before running a fair third in the G2 Cotswold Chase in late January. That looked every inch a prep - think last season's Ultima - for his spring targets, which are this race and a defence of his National title. Noble Yeats obviously stays well and he handles any ground, too. It could reasonable be argued that his best form is on flat tracks, too, though.

Stattler was a staying-on second to Galopin Des Champs in the Irish Gold Cup and won the NH Chase at last year's Festival; so he is another second season chaser and has stamina in abundance. He has also demonstrated his aptitude for the track, albeit Old and New courses here are different tests; and he seems to handle most terrain. This season he was just pipped in a sprint (relative, it was heavy ground) finish over 2m6f before beating all bar GdC last time: his is a nicely progressive profile.

Running here rather than the Ryanair, where Conflated fell a year ago when likely booked for second, is a nod to the regard in which his trainer, Gordon Elliott, holds the horse. A look at his form implies this is the right race: a pair of three-mile Grade 1 wins at Leopardstown have been supported by a silver medal in the 3m1f G1 Aintree Bowl, and it's not impossible this longer trip will eke out a couple of pounds further improvement. If it does, he's another who figures on the premises.

Lucinda Russell trains the hugely popular second season chaser Ahoy Senor, second in last year's Brown Advisory Novices' Chase and winner of the G1 Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree. This campaign started on the back foot with a hard race in the Charlie Hall, the mark from which was probably left when he ran flat enough at Aintree and Kempton subsequently; but he got right back on track last time when beating Noble Yeats and Sounds Russian in the Cotswold Chase. The problem is that Sounds Russian, though progressive, is some way short of the ability required here; and, further, that Noble Yeats is expected to be a different proposition fitness-wise this time. All that said, Ahoy Senor does have a chance to control the pace and, if doing that easily, may be difficult to shake off in the finish.

One of the great under-rated horses of recent Cheltenham Festivals is Minella Indo. Winner of the 2019 Albert Bartlett (at 50/1!), he showed that was no fluke when running up to Champ in a memorable (for all the wrong reasons if you, like me, punted him) 2020 RSA Chase. Then, at the top table, he won the Gold Cup in 2021 from A Plus Tard, and got closest to that one last year - granted, that was no closer than 15 lengths. He's only had one run this season, a win, in the previously referenced New Year's Day Chase at Tramore. Trainer Henry de Bromhead is calling his quiet lead up "the best preparation he's ever had for Cheltenham" and, even aged 10, his Fez form of 1212 commands plenty of respect: he's been here and got the T-shirt, so to speak.

Two and a half lengths behind Minella Indo last year, and nearly twenty back from A Plus Tard, was Protektorat. On the face of it, he has a mountain to climb; but he was only seven then and one year more mature now - a good age for a Gold Cup challenger. He barrelled clear of the Betfair Chase field in November, scoring by eleven lengths, but was behind Ahoy Senor, Sounds Russian and Noble Yeats in the Cotswold Chase on his sole run since. He was sent off 5/4 favourite there, so presumably was fit enough; nevertheless, he's sure to come on for the run and is another on a very long list of place possibles and, on the Haydock run, not out of it for the win.

There are others with good form that doesn't quite match up to a Gold Cup. Royale Pagaille will again have his followers - all of them rain dancers - and he may again lollop into fourth or fifth; but he's unlikely to get the pace setup, though he may get the deep ground, he needs to outstay smarter oppo.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Pace Map

It might be that Ahoy Senor gets a free hit on the lead, which would be optimal for his legion supporters. There is a group of others who like to race handily and it's no more than evens that something from that cohort contests with the Senor.

Cheltenham Gold Cup Selection

A very tough race to weigh up. If you think Galopin Des Champs will definitely stay, there's your bet as he's looked a Rolls Royce for a couple of seasons. If you don't, or you want to bet something each way, it's trappier. You're asked to take a lot on trust with A Plus Tard, you have to assume Bravemansgame will handle Cheltenham's undulations, or you have to believe that the likes of Minella Indo and Royale Pagaille still retain sufficient verve to mix it with the kids.

Or you can just back Noble Yeats each way and see how close he gets.

Suggestion: Back 9/1 Noble Yeats each way with four or, preferably, five places.


4.10 Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase (Class 2, 3m 2 1/2f)

The hunter chase gold cup (small 'g', small 'c') and always a good - if sometimes faintly bonkers - watch. As with the Gold Cup itself, the previous renewal is often the best form guide. Twelve months ago, it was heartbreak for David Christie and Winged Leader as his notable lead was whittled to nothing a stride from the line and Billaway pipped him. Billaway himself was certainly not winning out of turn, having been second in 2020 and 2021. Although he's eleven now, that's more a positive in a race where the last eight winners were all aged ten or eleven and where there have been three back-to-back winners since 2012.

After Cheltenham last year, Billaway won a thriller against another rising star from the Christie yard, Vaucelet, but, on debut this season, he was thrashed by yet another Christie inmate, Ferns Lock. Since then, Willie Mullins' star hunter has somewhat unconvincingly despatched a lesser field. Though he always brings his 'A game' to Cheltenham, he arrived in slightly better nick the previous twice, I feel. He tends to race on the lead and there might be a little more contention for that this season, which could add a further challenge to his defence.

Vaucelet is the chosen one of Christie's three and, aged eight, would be the youngest winner since Salsify in 2013 (who had also won aged seven a year earlier). Based on his form, youth won't stop him and, as a winner over three and half miles in the Stratford Champion Hunter Chase late last spring, he ought not to fail for stamina either. He's progressive where Billaway might be slightly on the downgrade, the fine margin between them at Punchestown a year ago perhaps not enough in the champ's favour now.

The British challenge - historically strong, as shown by four of the past six winners - is headed up by Chris Barber's Famous Clermont. Another eight-year-old, he's sent the likes of Shantou Flyer and Envious Editor packing this season, including when romping to victory in the Walrus Hunter Chase, a high class contest in the sector run in February. Famous Clermont made a few errors in the Intermediate Final at Cheltenham's April hunter chase meeting last year and was eventually pulled up (as the 6/5 favourite), and his continued propensity for a mistake is a niggle.

Paul Nicholls has won this four times since 2004, with Earthmover, Sleeping Night, and Pacha du Polder twice. Since PdP's last win, in 2018, Nicholls is 0/4, though Bob And Co failed to jump round as his sole representative in the past two seasons - at short prices both times. This year, the Ditcheat yard have Secret Investor as their main hope. Now eleven, all of his best form - both as a hunter and previously under Rules - was on decent ground, so the wet week in the run up may be a concern. Cat Tiger, for the same yard, handles softer terrain and, while seemingly a little out of form this term, he's been racing in Class 2 and 3 handicap chases under Rules. His 2nd of 23 in last year's Aintree Hunter Chase (2m6f) gives him a squeak if he stays this far.

Bob And Co is now with Harry Derham, Nicholls' former assistant and, if he can jump round, he'd be a place player even at the age of 12. But I don't like backing horses who fail to complete.

Meanwhile, former Gold Cup runner Chris's Dream has won two point to points recently and comes here in form. He has obvious back class but he didn't get home in the Gold Cup and has never won over this far. His last win of any description under Rules was more than three years ago.

One of the first questions in this race is often, "What's Jamie Codd riding?" Answer: The Storyteller. A former Festival winner on soft ground, his stamina for this longer shift is presumed rather than established; but we do know he handles the other conditions and represents the most robust of connections: Gordon Elliott still trains him.

Rocky's Howya is a bit of a 'wise guy' horse getting some love on the preview circuit. He's young - seven - and been bashing up his rivals in point to points to a fair level of form. But I feel he should be a bigger price: he's one for the guessers - which, in fairness, most of us are in this race, if not the other 27 at the Festival!

A couple to mention in the long grass are Dorking Cock, Mighty Stowaway and I K Brunel. Dorking Cock has form with Vaucelet that gives that one only a small edge over this bigger priced runner. It's possible - perhaps likely - that Vaucelet was under-cooked that day; and DC had previously been thumped by Billaway. Still, he stays and handles all ground. Mighty Stowaway was third last year and represents the top UK point yard of Alan Hill; he might just be regressing aged twelve now but he'll surely run better than his early season form. From the same yard and still on the ascendant in this sphere is I K Brunel. He was a 130-rated chaser last season for Olly Murphy and comfortably beat Not That Fuisse in a hunter chase last time. He probably wants quick ground.

Maybe the ground has come right for Shantou Flyer, a horse that loves it soft and stays very well. He's 13 now, which is probably too old, and he's ridden by Paul Nicholls' daughter, Olive, who will obviously have grown up around horses and be very well schooled.

Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase  Pace Map

Pinch of salt pace map because we don't have point form so these are Rules races only.

Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase Selection

I hope Vaucelet wins, for connections of Winged Leader who was so cruelly denied on the line last year; but he's a short enough price. Billaway is an obvious horse to run close and is around 8/1 - he was the horse to pip the Leader last year, and has run 221 in this the past three years. In the longer grass, horses like The Storyteller and perhaps Shantou Flyer may still have enough gusto about them to hit the board.

Suggestion: Back 8/1 Billaway each way with extra places and you'll probably get close to the winner's enclosure and hopefully the payout window.


4.50 Mares' Chase (Grade 2, 2m 4 1/2f)

The Festival is pretty much over for me at this point, I have to concede. I have little interest in the Mares' Chase and know I'm not good enough to handicap the Martin Pipe. So let's keep it brief...

Allegorie de Vassy is a classy mare, winner of all four races - two hurdles and two chases - since moving from France to Willie in Ireland. Her two fencing scores were in Grade 2's, the same level as this, and she bolted up on both heavy and yielding so there are no grounds for concern, as it were. She has jumped right on occasion which, given this is a left-handed track, would mean she concedes a few lengths at her obstacles potentially: that, clearly, is undesirable for all that she may have a few lengths in hand of the rest.

The obvious danger is Impervious, herself a winner of three straight, including in G2 and G3 the last twice. She handles soft very well and had the beating of Grand Annual runner up (should have won) Dinoblue by three lengths two back. She's tough and seems to stay well.

Jeremys Flame is tough and consistent, graduating this season from handicaps to win a Listed race at Huntingdon last time. She's nine though, a veteran of 29 races, and her form is not as compelling as the other pair. She just about fits on the pick of her ratings, however.

Magic Daze has to prove she staze - sorry, stays; and the rest, most notably last year's winner Elimay, need to revert to the pick of their back class to feature. Zambella does look like getting her optimal soft turf and 2m4f trip

Mares' Chase Pace Map

A good bit of pace on, which will test jumping. Allegorie de Vassy, Magic Daze and Zambella are expected to be front rank.

Mares' Chase Selection

This looks between the top two in the betting but they're not that far clear on ratings. What they do have is more scope than most of their rivals, and I think Impervious looks slightly better suited to the task, particularly with no reservations about her jumping (please don't let me have jinxed her jumping).

Suggestion: Back 5/2 Impervious to win, or retire to the bar and watch.


5.30 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3, 2m 4 1/2f)

To the lucky last. Erm. We're probably looking for a potential Grade 1 horse of the future. The alumni for this final race includes Sir Des Champs, Don Poli, Killultagh Vic, Galopin Des Champs and Banbridge. All those mentioned were Irish-trained, too. So that will be my starting point.

The top three in the betting are all defensively short at time of writing: around 5/1 each. They are Spanish Harlem, Imagine, and Cool Survivor.

Spanish Harlem cost €360,000 at the Arqana sale last summer, and he'll pocket... checks notes... £39,000 if he comes out on top here. More to the point, if he does win, he's probably smart enough to be contesting for bigger purses in the not too distant future. He's gone to Willie's and, though a hurdle winner in France already, has yet to add to that tally in three races since the stable switch. Of course that might very well be by design and, in any case, he's been running in small fields where his French victoire was against 16 rivals.

Gordon has the other two at the top, Imagine another to pepper the places without winning in recent efforts. He steps up from two miles to this two and a half, and was still entered in the three mile Albert Bartlett until 48 hour decs: clearly connections have few reservations about his stamina. He's been second in a Grade 3 and a Listed race since November and this will have been the plan.

Cool Survivor is also a Gordie runner and he, too, was in the Spuds before routing here. He finished fourth in a 2m6f G1 at the DRF last time and, prior to that, had won and been second (G3) over three miles. This step back in trip is a small niggle for a horse who, while doubtlessly having a splash of class, seems to stay very well.

At bigger prices, Firm Footings is in the same ownership and trainership (sic) as Imagine; he's had plenty of practice in defeat and steps up in grade for handicap debut with, like many others, the handibrake presumed off now. And Haxo is another Willie possible. Like all those previously mentioned, he's making his handicap bow after a couple of mark-securing efforts. His sixty length sixth in last year's Ballymore doesn't read as promisingly as some of the other form lines but he could still run well.

If there is to be a British winner, it's most likely to be from the barn of either Dan Skelton or Paul Nicholls. Skelton saddles two, Molly Olly's Wishes and West To The Bridge, but both are hooj prices and not remotely obvious winners even allowing for Dan being the UK Man in this setup. Dr Ditcheat has a credible contender in Irish Hill, a highly progressive handicapper that has won his last three, including most recently in a good Class 2 at Ascot. His problem is that we know pretty much what he is: he could improve three or four pounds but the winner here is probably going to find eight to ten pounds on its published rating.

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle Pace Map

Plenty of pace on, as you'd expect for a big field handicap hurdle at Cheltenham; perhaps more so because it's a conditional jockeys' race.

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle Selection

I obviously don't know. The market has been a fair guide to the Martin Pipe winner, with seven of the last nine sent off 12/1 or shorter (and one other at 14/1). I'd rather have a small interest in the top of the market than set fire to money lower down the lists; and I'll be a bit left and right by this point anyway - Friday is Brown Bear hostelry day!

I'm not trying to be too clever here, and I've had a quid each on 9/2 Spanish Harlem and 5/1 Imagine, win only. I told you I wasn't trying to be clever.

Suggestion: Back Spanish Harlem and/or Imagine, win only. Or bet something else. It's your life, after all 😉


And so, the end of a testing but glorious four days is in sight. Win or lose, it's a pleasure to fritter so many hours in the form book, and to share my cogitations with you: it's normally the case that I get many more points for the 'working out' than for scribbling down the correct answer. But, for weirdos like me (and maybe like you, too), the joy is almost all in the working out; in the puzzle. All the same, it obviously helps when we land on a fat one or two.

Be lucky.


2023 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY THREE (Thurs 16th March 2023)

Each day of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts will give you all the quick-fire positive and negative stats for EVERY race. Apply these to the final cards and you will build up a picture and a profile of which horses have historically done the best in recent renewals.

We hope they help narrow down the fields and also help pin-point plenty of winners at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival for you!

Day Three at the Cheltenham Festival features the Grade One Ryanair Chase - a contest that 14 of the last 18 winners had won at Cheltenham before. While we've also got the Grade One Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle - a prize we saw the Irish-trained Flooring Porter land in 2021 and 2022.

Thursday 16th March (New Course)

Cheltenham Festival Trends

    1.30 - Turners Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m 3f 166y ITV

2022 Winner: BOB OLINGER 6/5
Trainer – Henry De Bromhead
Jockey – Rachel Blackmore
UK/Irish: Irish-trained


  • 9 of the 12 winners were Irish-trained
  • 11 of the last 12 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • Willie Mullins has trained 4 of the last 12 winners
  • 9 of the last 12 winners had won a Graded Chase before
  • 11 of the last 12 winners ran in a Graded Novice Chase last time
  • 9 of the last 12 winners won a Graded Novice Chase last time
  • 9 of the last 12 winners had 7 or less runs over hurdles
  • 10 of the last 12 past winners had run at the Festival before (5 had won)
  • 11 of the 12 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 9 of the last 12 winners came from the top 2 in the betting
  • 11 of the last 12 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 10 of the last 12 winners returned 7/1 or shorter
  • 9 of the last 12 winners returned 4/1 or shorter
  • 3 outright winning favourites in the last 8 runnings
  • 9 of the last 12 winners won last time out
  • 11 of the last 12 winners French (4) or Irish (7) bred (6 of last 7 Irish bred)
  • 5 of the last 12 winners ran at Leopardstown last time out
  • 6 of the last 12 winners ran between 47-54 days ago
  • 7 year-olds have won 8 of last 12 renewals
  • 7 of the last 8 winners rated 151+
  • 3 of the last 12 winners owned by Gigginstown House Stud
  • Gordon Elliott is 2 from 5
  • JP McManus has owned 2 of the last 4 winners


  • Be careful of horses rated 146 or less
  • Just 3 British-trained winners so far (0-9)
  • The top-rated horse is just 1 from 12
  • Since 1990 all Festival Novice Chase winners have been aged 8 or younger
  • 4 winning favourites in 12 runnings (1 co)
  • 5 year-olds are 0-from-7
  • Just 2 of the last 12 winners had less than 3 career chase starts
  • Just 3 winners had been off for more than 54 days

    2.10 - Pertemps Network Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade 3) 2m 7f 213y ITV

2022 Winner: THIRD WIND (25/1)
Trainer – Hughie Morison
Jockey – Tom O’Brien
UK/Irish: UK-trained


  • Irish have won the last 6 of last 7 runnings
  • Last 11 winners aged 8 or younger
  • Sire Du Berlais has won 2 of the last 4 runnings
  • 9 of the last 15 winners placed in their last race (5 won)
  • 11 of the last 22 winners were from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • 11 of the last 12 winners were rated 138 or higher
  • 11 of the last 16 winners were rated between 132-142 (inc)
  • 10 of the last 12 winners were rated between 138-148
  • 11 of the last 18 winners had won over at least 2m7f
  • 9 of the last 11 winners had run 10 or less times over hurdles before
  • 6 of the last 10 winners ran 7 or less times over hurdles
  • 7 of the last 9 winners returned 12/1 or shorter
  • 8 of the last 22 winners won their last race
  • 5 of the last 7 winners ran at Leopardstown last time out
  • 3 of the last 14 winners finished in the first 5 in the Betfair Hurdle
  • Look for Jonjo O’Neill, Twiston-Davies, Mullins and Pipe-trained runners
  • Respect JP McManus-owned horses – won it again in 2019 and 2020
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott has won 3 of the last 5 runnings
  • Jockey Davy Russell has ridden 3 of the last 7 winners
  • Respect horses with headgear (7 since 2000)
  • 6 of the last 7 winners wore a tongue-tie
  • 6 of the last 7 winners Irish-trained
  • 5 of the last 7 ran in the Leopardstown  Qualifier (Christmas)


  • Avoid horses with less than 6 runs over hurdles
  • Horses that have won 3+ times that season have a poor recent record
  • Since 2000 only 1 winner didn’t have a run that calendar year
  • 5 year-olds have won just twice since 1973
  • Just 1 horse rated 150+ since 2000 has finished in the top 2
  • Only 2 winning favourites in last 17 years
  • Just 1 winner in the last 40 aged 10+
  • Paul Nicholls is currently 0 from 19 (One third and two 2nds in the last 9 runnings)
  • Horses aged 7 or younger and priced in single-figures are just 3 from 48

    2.40 - Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f 127y ITV

2022 Winner: ALLAHO (4/7 fav)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend
UK/Irish: Irish-trained


  • 14 of the 18 winners had won at Cheltenham before
  • 7 of the last 10 winners were 2nd season chasers
  • All 15 winners (since getting G1 status) had won over 2m4f
  • 11 of the last 15 winners had won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • 12 of the last 15 had won or placed at the Festival before
  • The King George VI Chase is often a good guide (7 from 29)
  • The previous year’s renewal is often a good guide
  • 15 of the last 18 winners returned 6/1 or shorter
  • 9 of the last 11 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • 14 of the last 15 winners were rated 161+
  • Horse rated 170+ have won 4 of the last 5
  • 4 of the last 18 winners were placed in the top 3 in the Ascot Chase last time out
  • 14 of last 18 winners were fav or 2nd fav
  • 11 of the last 15 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 16 of the last 18 winners came from the top 3 in the betting
  • 9 of the last 11 winners had 11 (or less) runs over fences
  • Trainers Jonjo O’Neill, David Pipe & Nicky Henderson are respected
  • Respect first time headgear (3 from 11)
  • 9 of the last 15 winners DIDN’T win last time out
  • Last 9 winners were French-bred
  • All winners ran 5 or less times that season
  • 5 of the last 7 winners trained by Willie Mullins
  • Last 11 winner aged 9 or younger
  • The Irish have won 6 of the last 7 runnings


  • Avoid horses priced 7/1 or bigger
  • No winner aged 11 or older
  • Only 1 of the last 14 winners aged 10
  • Just one winner rated 160 or below
  • Just 6 of the last 15 won last time out
  • No winner was having their Festival debut

    3.30 - Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 7f 213y ITV

2022 Winner: FLOORING PORTER (4/1)
Trainer – Gavin Cromwell
Jockey – Danny Mullins
UK/Irish: Irish-trained   


  • 13 of the last 18 won last time out
  • 7 of the last 9 winners were second season hurdlers
  • 20 of the last 23 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 30 of the last 33 winners aged between 6-8 years-old
  • 18 of the last 22 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 17 winners since 2000 returned in single-figures
  • 8 of the last 21 were French Bred
  • Respect the Cleeve Hurdle and Long Walk Hurdle form
  • 8 of the last 16 winners ran in the Cleeve Hurdle last time out
  • 8 of the last 16 ran in the Cleeve Hurdle
  • 19 of the last 23 winners finished 1st or 2nd in all their hurdling runs that season
  • 14 of the last 18 winners started 10/1 or less in the betting
  • Respect past winners of the race (Flooring Porter has won the last 2 runnings)
  • 17 of the last 26 winners had won 7 or less times over hurdles
  • 3 of the last 5 winners ran in the Albert Bartlett the previous season


  • Avoid horses that didn’t finish either 1st or 2nd last time out
  • A 5 year-old is yet to win the race
  • Horses that have lost previously in the race don’t fare well
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has only won the race twice
  • The Irish are have won the race just 5 times since 1995 (but have won the last 2)
  • Avoid horses that were beaten in the race before
  • Horses wearing headgear are 0 from 74
  • Just 3 winners aged 9 in the last 33 runningss
  • Horses aged 10 or older have all been beaten since 1986 (0 from 62)

4.10 - Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m 4f 166y ITV

2022 Winner: COOLE CODY (22/1)
Trainer – Evan Williams
Jockey – Adam Wedge
UK/Irish: UK-trained


  • 28 of the last 35 winners were officially rated 140 or less
  • 11 of the last 14 winners carried under 11-0
  • Look out for French-breds
  • 14 of the last 18 winners had run from 25th Jan onwards
  • 11 of the last 19 winners had won a race in Feb or March
  • Venetia Williams & Pipe-trained runners should be noted
  • The Pipe yard have won 7 of the last 25 runnings
  • 17 of the last 22 winners returned at double-figure odds
  • 22 of the last 31 winners had run at the Festival before (but 8 of last 11 were having Festival debut)
  • 22 of the last 23 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
  • 9 of the last 13 winners had 9 or less chase runs
  • 18 of the last 23 winners came from outside the top 4 in the market
  • 6 of the last 7 winners were novices or second season chasers
  • 17 of the last 19 winners had raced that calendar year
  • Respect Gigginstown House Stud horses
  • 4 of the last 7 winners won last time out
  • The last 4 winners had won at Cheltenham that season


  • Avoid horses that are yet to win at Class 3 or better
  • The Irish have only sent out 4 winners since 1982
  • Only 3 of the last 19 winners had run more than 12 times (fences)
  • 4 winning favourites in the last 17 years
  • Only 5 of last 28 won with 11st+
  • Just 1 winner older than 9 in the last 11 years
  • Only 2 of the last 19 winners hadn’t run that calendar year

    4.50 – Jack De Bromhead Mares' (Dawn Run) Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 179y ITV

2022 Winner: LOVE ENVOI
Trainer – Harry Fry
Jockey – Jonathan Burke
UK/Irish: UK-trained


  • A new race (Just 7 renewals)
  • All 7 winners aged 5 or 6
  • 6 of the last 7 winners trained in Ireland
  • Favourites have won 3 of the 7 runnings
  • 4 of the last 7 winners won last time out
  • 4 of the 7 winners were French-bred
  • 4 of the last 7 winners were top or 2nd top rated
  • 5 of the last 7 winners returned 5/1 or shorter
  • 5 of the last 7 past winners started their careers in France
  • 5 of the last 7 winners had run at least 4 times over hurdles
  • 4 of the 7 winners were unbeaten that season
  • Sullivan Bloodstock owners have won 2 of the 7 runnings (just 4 runners)
  • 4 of the 7 winners have been aged 5 years-old
  • Willie Mullins won the race in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020
  • Owner Mrs Susannah Ricci has won 2 of the last 7 runnings


  • British trained runners are 1-from-49
  • British bred mares are 0-from-23
  • Nicky Henderson is currently 0-from-10
  • JP McManus owned are 0-from-8
  • 7 year-olds or older are 0-from-20

    5.30 - Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase 3m 2f RTV

2022 Winner: CHAMBARD
Trainer – Venetia Williams
Jockey – Lucy Turner
UK/Irish: UK-trained


  • Respect horse aged between 7-9 year-olds
  • 11 of the last 15 winners failed to win earlier that season
  • 10 of the last 11 winners ran off a mark of 137 or more
  • 10 of the last 11 winners rated between 137-143
  • 9 of the last 13 winners returned 9/1 or shorter (top three in the betting)
  • 9 of the last 13 winners carried 11st 5lbs+
  • 8 of the last 12 winners hadn’t win that season
    10 of the last 14 winners ran in February
  • Look for Elliott, McCain, Pipe and Henderson-trained runners
  • Look for horses in the top half of the handicap
  • 19 of the last 23 winners ran over at least three miles in their last race
  • Look for non-claiming amateur riders
  • 8 of the last 12 winners wore headgear
  • 11 of the last 14 winners came from the top 6 in the market
  • Jockey Jamie Codd has ridden 4 of the last 14 winners
  • Jockey Derek O’Connor 2nd 3 times and 1st in 2019
  • Owner JP McManus often does well in the race (3 of the last 11)
  • 18 of the last 20 winners DIDN’T win last time out


  • Just 5 Irish winners in last 39 years (but have won 5 of the last 9)
  • Horses that fell or unseated that season have a poor record
  • Avoid Paul Nicholls-trained horses – he’s just 1 placed horse from his last 24
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has a poor record in the race
  • Horses carrying less than 10-10 have a poor record
  • French breds are 1 from 74 since 2005
  • Jus 2 of the last 18 winners aged 10+
  • Avoid claiming jockeys – 3 from 102 since 2009
  • Just 2 of the last 20 winners won last time out










2023 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY FOUR (Fri 17th March 2023)

Each day of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts will give you all the quick-fire positive and negative stats for EVERY race. Apply these to the final cards and you will build up a picture and a profile of which horses have historically done the best in recent renewals.

We hope they help narrow down the fields and also help pin-point plenty of winners at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival for you!

Onto 'DAY FOUR' and it's Gold Cup Day - did you know, all of the last 20 Gold Cup winners were aged 9 or younger?

Friday 17th March 2023 (New Course)

Cheltenham Festival Trends

    1.30 - JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 179y ITV

2022 Winner: VAUBAN (6/4 fav)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend
UK/Irish: Irish-trained


  • 23 of the last 29 winners won last time out
  • 9 of the last 14 winners were unbeaten over hurdles
  • Irish have won 7 of the last 10 runnings
  • French-breds have filled 13 of the last 22 places (last 8 runnings)
  • 13 of the last 18 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 12 of the last 15 winners returned 13/2 or shorter in the betting
  • Respect Henderson (7 winners), Nicholls, Hobbs and King-trained runners
  • The Spring Juvenile Hurdle is a good guide (Last year’s winner Vauban won that race too)
  • 9 of the last 12 winners ran in the Finesse, Adonis or Spring Juvenile Hurdles (7 of the last 11) last time
  • 9 of the last 11 winners had raced by Christmas time
  • 6 of the last 8 winners began their careers in France
  • Nicky Henderson has trained 7 winners of the race
  • Gordon Elliott has had 2 wins and 3 seconds in the last 9 years


  • Take on horses that have won at 2m2f or further in the past
  • Avoid horses that last ran 56 days or longer ago
  • Avoid horses that had run 3 or more times over hurdles
  • Just 2 of the last 18 winner returned bigger than 12/1
  • Be careful of horses rated 138 or lower – no winner in the last 14
  • Willie Mullins has fairly poor record despite winning the 2020 and 2022 races – currently 2-from-34
  • Last 8 Adonis Hurdles winners have all lost (all unplaced too)


2.10 – County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 179y ITV

2022 Winner: STATE MAN (11/4)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend
UK/Irish: Irish-trained


  • The Irish have won 11 of the last 16 runnings
  • 7 of the last 8 winners were trained by Willie Mullins (4) or Dan Skelton (3)
  • Willie Mullins has won 6 of the last 13 runnings
  • 18 of the last 22 winners were novices or second season hurdlers
  • 13 of the last 17 winners were rated in the 130’s
  • 8 of the last 15 winners returned 20/1 or bigger
  • 7 of the last 14 winners had run in 6 or less hurdles races
  • 13 of the last 17 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 12 of the last 24 winners aged 5
  • 6 of the last 9 winners had run at Cheltenham before
  • 11 of the last 16 winners Irish-trained
  • 9 of the last 15 winners started their careers in France
  • 13 of the last 17 winners were priced in double-figures
  • 13 of the last 19 winners began their careers on the flat
  • Look for Mullins, Skelton, Martins & Nicholls-trained runners
  • Respect the Imperial Cup (Sandown Park) winner
  • 9 winners since 2002 ran in the Ladbrokes or Betfair Hurdles that season
  • 12 of the last 22 winners came from the top 5 in the betting
  • 12 of the last 16 winners DIDN’T win last time out
  • 5 of the last 7 winners hadn’t raced in the last 72 days
  • Paul Nicholls is 4 from 31 (+15pts)
  • Willie Mullins is 4 from 48 (+40.25pts)
  • Trainer Dan Skelton has trained 3 of the last 7 winners


  • Strangely, previous course winners have a bad record
  • Only 2 winners since 2000 winning with a mark of 150+
  • Gordon Elliott has a poor record (0-from-19) since 2011
  • Nicky Henderson has a poor record (0-35) this century
  • Horses aged 9+ are 0-from 35 in last 15 runnings
  • Since 1960 only 5 winners carried more than 11st 2lb
  • Since 1961, only 9 winners had run at the Festival before
  • Since 2005, just 2 winners rated 146 this season
  • Avoid runners that hadn’t raced at least 4 times that season
  • Avoid horses making their handicap debuts, although last 2 winners have defied this stat
  • Just 2 winning outright favourites in last 21
  • Just 3 of the last 15 winners returned a single-figure price


    2.50 - Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 7f 213y ITV

2022 Winner: THE NICE GUY (18/1)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Sean O’Keeffe
UK/Irish: Irish-trained


  • 9 of the last 18 winners had run at Cheltenham over hurdles before
  • 15 of the last 18 winners contested a Graded Hurdle last time out
  • 7 of the last 18 winners won the Hyde or Bristol Classic that season
  • 15 of the last 18 winners won or placed in a Graded Novice before
  • 7 of the last 11 winners had won a Point
  • 7 of the last 9 winners trained in Ireland
  • 10 of the last 14 winners had won at least twice over hurdles
  • 9 of the last 12 winners had won or been placed in a bumper
  • 9 of the last 18 came from the top 5 in the betting
  • 10 of the last 18 winner ran 47 days (or more) ago
  • 14 of the last 18 had run in a race over 3m
  • 15 of the last 17 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 14 of the last 18 winners were 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 16 of the last 18 winners finished in the top 3 last time out
  • 12 of the last 18 winners had 4+ runs over hurdles
  • 15 of the last 17 winners finished in the top 3 last time out
  • 4 of the last 17 favourites won
  • Respect Jonjo O’Neill runners (2 wins, from 2 runners!)
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has won 3 of the last 6 runnings


  • Horses that ran in the last 23 days haven’t fared well
  • Avoid horses that DIDN’T finish 1st or 2nd last time out
  • Be wary of horses that have raced less than 3 times over hurdles
  • Willie Mullins is 3 from 44 in the race, but has won 2 of the last 5
  • Gordon Elliott is 0-from-9
  • Be wary of ex flat horses (1 from 18)
  • Nicky Henderson is 0-from-14 in the last 10 years
  • 5 year-olds have a poor record (1 from 17)
  • Only 4 of the last 17 winners hadn’t raced that calendar year


    3.30 - Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1) 3m 2f 70y ITV

2022 Winner: A PLUS TARD (3/1 fav)
Trainer – Henry de Bromhead
Jockey – Rachael Blackmore
UK/Irish: Irish-trained


  • 19 of the last 23 winners ran in the Savills Chase or King George that season
  • 19 of the last 22 finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 18 of the last 23 winners were 2nd or 3rd season chasers
  • 11 of the last 17 winners had run 9 or less times over fences
  • 22 of the last 23 winners were Grade 1 winners
  • Every winner since 2000 only had one season hurdling
  • 18 of the last 22 had won or placed at the Festival before
  • 18 of the last 22 winners hailed from the top 3 in the betting
  • 20 of the last 23 winners had raced no more than 12 times over fences
  • 13 of the last 15 winners ran 3 or less times that season
  • 17 of the last 26 winners were bred in Ireland
  • 16 of the last 22 winners won last time out
  • 10 of the last 20 winners were favourites (50%)
  • 13 of the last 18 winners yet to win beyond 3m 1/2f
  • ALL of the last 23 winners were aged 9 or younger
  • 22 of the last 23 winners aged between 7-9 years-old
  • 20 of the last 23 winners were in their first three seasons over fences
  • Horses placed in a previous Supreme Novices’ Hurdle have a good record
  • 5 of the last 12 winners ran in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase the previous season


  • Non-Grade One winners have a poor record
  • No winner older than 10 years-old since 1969 (0 from 73)
  • Just one winning 6 year-old since 1964
  • Horses rated 166 or less are only 6 from last 41
  • Avoid horses that had run on ‘heavy’ ground that season
  • Horses wearing headgear have a bad recent record
  • Willie Mullins has only won the race twice (2020, 2019), 2 from 36 (had 4 of the last 10 seconds and the 2019 & 2020 winner though)
  • Only 3 winners since 2000 returned 9/1 or bigger
  • Just 2 of the last 15 winners had raced more than 3 times that season
  • Horses that were beaten in their first Gold Cup don’t fare well
  • Only 2 winners since 2000 had previously been beaten in the race
  • No winner since 2000 ran in that season’s Cotswold Chase


   4.10 - St James's Place Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase 3m 2f 70y ITV

2022 Winner: BILLAWAY (13/8 fav)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Patrick Mullins
UK/Irish: Irish-trained  


  • 28 of the last 32 winners were aged under 11 years-old
  • 26 of the last 37 won last time out
  • The last 8 winners aged 10 or 11
  • 19 of the last 20 winners Irish or French bred
  • The last 16 winners were yet to win over this trip
  • 7 of the last 13 winners finished in the top 5 in the race last year
  • 9 of the last 14 winners came from the first 4 in the betting
  • 30 of the last 34 started out in point-to-point races
  • 13 of the last 17 winners ran 34 days or less ago
  • Respect the Irish runners (won 8 of last 12)
  • 5 of the last 11 winners ran in the Leopardstown Inn Hunters’ Chase
  • 12 of the last 17 winners were aged 8-10 years-old
  • 9 of the last 14 winners returned 15/2 or shorter
  • 13 of the last 15 winners finished in the top 3 last time out
  • 11 of the last 13 winners rated 134 or higher (7 of last 10, rated 138+)
  • 3 back-to-back winner in the last 11
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has won the race 4 times


  • Horses that ran in a handicap race that season haven’t got a good record
  • Avoid horses that hadn’t won a race under rules
  • Just 2 winners in the last 46 years aged 12 or older
  • 27 of the last 34 horses aged 11+ (priced in single figures) have lost – but the 2019 winner – Hazel Hill – defied this trend
  • Just one 6 year-old winner in the last 35 runnings
  • Only 2 winners aged 7 since 2000
  • Avoid ex-handicappers rated 140+ in their careers
  • Avoid horses that raced 35 days or longer ago
  • British bred horses are 0-86 (last 20 runnings)
  • Just 2 winners since 2000 hadn’t run within the last 53 days
  • Horses aged 11+ are just 5 from 256 since 1990
  • Just 4 winners since 2000 didn’t finish in the top 3 last time out


    4.50- Mrs Paddy Power Mares' Chase 2m 4f 127yds ITV

2022 Winner: ELIMAY (1st 9/4)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Mark Walsh
UK/Irish: Irish-trained

  • Only 2 previous runnings
  • Willie Mullins trained both winners
  • Willie Mullins has a good record in ‘mares’ only’ races at the Festival
  • Both winners returned 9/4 2nd favourite
  • Both winners won last time out
  • Both winners rated 150+
  • Both winners aged 8
  • Both winners had run well at the Cheltenham Festival before


5.30 - Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (0-145) 2m 4f 56y RTV

2022 Winner: BANDBRIDGE (12/1)
Trainer – Joseph O’Brien
Jockey – Mark McDonagh
UK/Irish: Irish-trained


  • 13 of the last 14 winners were 2nd season-hurdlers
  • 10 of the last 12 winners placed in the top 3 last time
  • All of the last 14 winners carried 11-1 or more
  • 3 of the last 5 winners had top-weight
  • All 14 winners aged 7 or younger
  • 8 or the last 11 winners rated 139+
  • 12 of the last 14 winners had 8 or less runs over hurdles
  • 6 of the last 9 winners were Irish-based Novices
  • Irish have won 8 of the last 12 (6 making handicap debuts)
  • 36 of the 38 win and place horses were 1st or 2nd season hurdlers
  • Look for Henderson, Nicholls, Mullins, Elliot-trained horses
  • 11 of the 14 winners were placed in the top 4 last time out
  • 7 of the 14 winners won last time out
  • 6 of the last 9 winners had run over a longer trip that season
  • 8 of the 14 winners were rated 133-139
  • 9 of the 14 winners returned at a double-figure price (11 of the last 14 were 16/1 or less)
  • 5 and 6 year-old have won 12 of last 14 runnings
  • Look for jockeys that have ridden 20+ winners
  • Willie Mullins is 4 from 22 runners in the race (won 4 of the last 12 runnings)
  • Respect any Gigginstown House Stud-owned runners (4 winners, 5 places)
  • Paul Nicholls has won the race twice in the last 10 years
  • Gordon Elliott has won 2 of the last 6 runnings
  • Trainer Joseph O’Brien has won 2 of the last 4
  • Nicholls, Elliott, Mullins and O’Brien have won 9 of the last 10 between them


  • Despite being named after his father the David Pipe stable has a poor record so far (0 from 23, inc 3 favs)
  • Horses aged 8+ are 0-from 59
  • Just 1 winning fav in the 14-year history (9-12 returned in double-figures)
  • Horses in headgear are currently 1 from 75
  • Only 4 winners have previous Festival experience
  • Horses with 11st or less are currently 0-from-96









Cheltenham Festival 2023: Day 3 Preview, Trends, Tips

Cheltenham Festival 2023: Day 3 Preview, Tips

And so to the second half. Still 14 races to go at, including the Stayers' Hurdle, Ryanair Chase and, of course, Friday's Gold Cup. Lots of smaller supporting fish that might also taste sweet, starting with...

1.30 Turners Novices' Chase (Grade 1, 2m 4f)

A bigger field than last year's though, with just four then, that's not difficult!

We have a worthy favourite in Mighty Potter, who brings a four-race unbeaten streak and a career tally of seven wins from nine starts to the table. He's a Grade 1 winner on both his most recent spins, each over this sort of trip, and on form he is clear of his field. If you want a counterargument, it's this: in last year's Supreme he arrived similarly solid-looking off the back of a Grade 1 novice hurdle gold; but he was just not engaged on the day, pulling up a long way out. This will be only his second cross-water away day and, while a body of evidence of one race is hardly bombproof, it is a niggle.

If MP should falter, who may benefit? Most obvious would be Banbridge, winner of the Martin Pipe a year ago and second to El Fabiolo over an inadequate trip most recently. He was beaten ten lengths there, and 18 lengths the time before by Mighty Potter, so one might reasonably argue that the jolly will have to notably under-perform in order for that form to get spun around. It is also the case that Banbridge seems to prefer better ground, his two wins on soft coming in run of the mill novice hurdles where he probably outclassed his rivals.

A veteran at nine, in the context of a novice chase, is Appreciate It, winner of the 2021 Ballymore, second in the 2020 Champion Bumper, and only 10/3 in last year's Champion Hurdle, where he ran well for a long time before lack of race fitness told. There are no such fitness concerns this time after three seasonal outings, two of them wins, but he was comprehensively outpointed by Blue Lord last time and now steps up half a mile in trip. As a son of Jeremy it's not a foregone conclusion he'll stay, especially on rain softened ground; but he travels like he probably will (he did win a bumper over this trip very early in his career, and was a point to point winner before that, for whatever that form is worth now).

The first UK runner in the lists is Balco Coastal, a close up second to Gerri Colombe in the G1 Scilly Isles last time. He'd previously won a decent novices' handicap chase on soft ground lending credence to his claim to underfoot apathy, but his overall level seems a little below the Irish trio.

Stage Star has been a super horse for his myriad enthusiastic owners, and comes here having won seven of his 12 starts, including the G1 Challow Hurdle in 2021. He then pulled up in Grade 1's at both Cheltenham and Aintree, but has got back in the groove this term over a fence. To wit, he's notched three times from four starts - second on the other occasion, in Grade 2 company - and loves it soft. Conditions will be ideal but I'm not convinced he's up to this exacting level.

James du Berlais a hard horse to peg. He was second in Grade 1's at Auteuil and Punchestown over hurdles, and bolted up from the front in a beginners' chase on soft ground. But, in Mighty Potter's G1 last time, he was stuffed. It's possible he'll appreciate the softer ground but he'll certainly need to to reverse those positions.

Turners Novices' Chase Pace Map

This has pace, mainly from Stage Star, Appreciate It and Christopher Wood, but also Banbridge can go forward; so it'll be a true test. Mighty Potter is expected to be handy without getting involved in the battle for the lead.

Turners Novices' Chase Selection

There is every chance Mighty Potter just wins but he's an unexciting price after flopping so badly twelve months back. As such, it might be worth chancing the old man of the party, Appreciate It, in what could be a fair slog if it doesn't stop raining. I feel Banbridge might want better ground, and the rest of the Irish - and all of the British - don't look good enough.

Suggestion: Back Appreciate It at 4/1.


2.10 Pertemps Final (Grade 3 handicap, 3m)

Another absolute melee. Coming into last season, the Irish had won the previous six renewals, and held most of the aces for a seventh. But it didn't play out that way. In fact, not only was Hughie Morrison's Third Wind first past the post, but home team runners filled out the podium and five of the first six places. Hmm...

Some of that will be down to happenstance and some at the hand of the BHA's handicapping team, who have recalibrated the relationship between UK and Irish ratings. Whatever, it's an interesting additional consideration to lob into the pot.

My shortlist is Thanksforthehelp, The Bosses Oscar, Level Neverending and Walking On Air. This quintet is trained and owned by 'the right people', has the right unexposed profile, and looks sure to handle conditions.

The Bosses Oscar was second in this off a nine pound higher mark two years ago. He pulled up in it last year but that was after a season chasing where he mainly pulled up. Back to hurdling this term he's been on the premises throughout, and a fast run big field is no problem to him. He's trained by Gordon Elliott, triple Pertemps winner between 2018 and 2020.

He also saddles Level Neverending for the same owners, Bective Stud. This one is far less exposed, having made his handicap debut in the Warwick qualifier, staying on into a qualifying position and never nearer. He's a big price dark horse for all that he might not be good enough against this level of opposition.

Walking On Air runs for Nicky Henderson and Mrs Michael Tabor - Doreen, in fact. He's another lightly raced sort who opened his handicap account in the Exeter qualifier. All form so far has been on a sound surface, which is a concern unless the track dries out pronto.

David Pipe is a Pertemps winner - twice in fact, with the same wonderful stick, Buena Vista. His old man won the race further back and 'Dave' has a good chance with Thanksforthehelp, facile winner of the Chepstow qualifier last time. The notion that last day winners 'have shown their hand' doesn't really fit with the fact that last day winners have taken ten Pertemps Finals since 1997, from 108 qualifiers, for a +11 SP profit. They've also hit the frame at a 26% clip. The flip side is that the last to achieve a winning double was Presenting Percy in 2017.

Lots of others to consider, naturally.

Pertemps Final Pace Map

Potentially furiously run, it will certainly be strongly run. That might suit the strong travellers further back, who can hold a position through the early heat and play their hand late.

Pertemps Final Selection

This is another race where extra places give us extra chances. In that spirit, I want The Bosses Oscar, Level Neverending and Thanksforthehelp on my ticket - and I don't mind splitting (unevenly) between three picks at all. If you only want to back one, take your choice from that trio or any of the other horses in the field!

Suggestion: Make sure you get all the extra places you can, and consider one or more of the three above.


2.50 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1, 2m 4 1/2f)

The much maligned Ryanair is one of my favourite races of the week. I get the argument that it dilutes the Champion Chase and Gold Cup, but the corollary is that it produces a high class heat all of its own for those not fast enough for the former and without sufficient stamina for the latter: it is truly an intermediate Championship race.

Take Allaho in the past two years, for example; he's blitzed his rivals from the front and, in so doing, has recorded a pair of the best performances at those respective Festivals. Prior to that, Frodon and Bryony provided one of the stories of the week in 2019, and the likes of Un De Sceaux, Vautour, Cue Card, Imperial Commander, and Albertas Run give the roll of honour a robust look. So, no, not for me that the Ryanair is a misstep: it's a cracking race and, generally, a very good betting race.

Perhaps not this season, however, on the latter point at least. Because, in the absence of Allaho, we have Shishkin. The winner of a Supreme and an Arkle pulled up in last year's Champion Chase and flunked behind Edwardstone in this season's Tingle Creek: missing, presumed gone at it. Until, that is, a wind op and a step up in trip conspired to elicit a performance as good as he's ever produced in the Ascot Chase over this trip.

That level of form, and plenty of other from prior to last season's Fez flop, puts him a mile - or maybe half a stone in ratings terms - clear of his field here. But before going all in, consider that he was similarly well-fancied off a similarly rated prep a year ago. That big effort left its mark, albeit that the manner of the result was visually a lot more punishing, Shishkin going toe to toe with Energumene in a heavyweight scrap for our time.

So who, if anyone, can lower Shishkin's black and yellow checkerboard colours? With the news that Allaho would miss the party, Willie was never going to be troubled in shuffling his pack to find a sub. He's come up with Blue Lord, who looked world-beating at Christmas before failing to live with barn mate Gentleman De Mee at the Dublin Racing Festival last month. Prior to that, Blue Lord had done well to hold off former King George winner Tornado Flyer on his seasonal bow over the Ryanair trip. He's high class, but I'm just not sure what his trip is - two and a quarter miles, perhaps?

Janidil got closest to Allaho last year, having been held up away from the tearaways on the front. That turned out to be a good tactic as, although he got nowhere near 'the speed of the speed' Allaho, he plugged on past; but it's reasonable to argue he may not even have been second had Conflated not fallen two out. Janidil had two subsequent spring spins, both non-completions, and has had just one go this season. That was in the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park, where he held off Haut En Couleurs in a small but fairly select field.

This distance may be the making of Fury Road, who has struggled to see out three miles at the top table on a number of occasions. He won a Grade 2 over 2m4f in early November last year before taking bronze in a brace of Leopardstown three mile G1's; further back, he was just outstayed by Monkfish in the 2020 Albert Bartlett.

What to make of Envoi Allen? Winner of the 2019 Champion Bumper and the 2020 Ballymore, he's actually won a couple of Grade 1's since including as recently as this season. He's six from eight at around this distance, hurdles and fences, and, if you can overlook a very poor showing in the King George, he's a place player.

I don't give the rest much of a chance.

Ryanair Chase Pace Map

Steady away here, most likely; Chacun Poir Soi, fabulous old boy, may be near the front but won't be tearing off. Should be a good even tempo.

Ryanair Chase Selection

This is Shishkin's race to lose. He looked very, very good in the Ascot Chase last time and a run with seven pounds of that is probably good enough. I don't really like the 'without' market so that's it - Shishkin.

Suggestion: Back 8/11 Shishkin to generate some eights for any spare elevens you have* - or just watch a champ in action.

*this does not constitute robust financial advice. Caveat emptor.


3.30 Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1, 3m)

The second highlight of day three is the Stayers' Hurdle, run over three miles. Bizarrely, it is not always the test of stamina the name suggests: in the last two seasons, Danny Mullins has ridden his rivals into a trance aboard Flooring Porter with, last season, his stop-start tempo on the front end before gearing up in the run to two out. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me thrice?

Although FP's form figures look a little less appealing this season, he's been running to a similar level of form and he seems to handle most ground. Trainer Gavin Cromwell will have again peaked him for this gig, but very few horses manage to win three Stayers' Hurdles (or indeed three of any Festival Championship race). That said, there isn't a bundle of obvious pace alternates in the field.

We haven't seen a lot of the seven-year-old Charles Byrnes-trained Blazing Khal, but what we have seen has typically been other horses following him home. Indeed, he's had just four races since 2020, three of them the following year and all of them victories. That two were achieved around Cheltenham is a boon to his prospects, as is his proven speed for shorter trips as well as three-mile winning form. This will be a first step up to Grade 1 company but, after three successive G2 scores, he's ready. Byrnes tends to know what he has and so the layoff - sole spin since 2021 was last month - isn't unduly concerning, though there is scope for the dreaded 'bounce' with that profile. There is a small niggle about his rider, the trainer's son, who will be unable to claim his allowance here.

Ex-French-trained Teahupoo was in the care of Gabriel Leenders prior to his rehoming at Gordon Elliott's Cullentra House yard, and his former conditioner has Gold Tweet in this year's line up. Let's deal with Teahupoo first. He's a typically early blooming French-bred who has won seven of his nine Irish starts, including this season's Hatton's Grace Hurdle, Grade 1. He was soundly beaten last term in both the Champion Hurdle and the Punchestown equivalent, but has resumed winning ways over further either side of the new year. Most of his good form is on soft or heavy ground so he won't mind any rain, and if it turns into a slog that ought to suit him.

Gold Tweet is another for whom wet ground holds no terrors: it was soft when he won the Cleeve, and very soft when he scored at Fontainebleu in November. But defeating Dashel Drasher and Paisley Park, both fantastic sticks but surely on the decline now, probably leaves him with plenty to find in this deeper field. Gold Tweet has never won above G3 in France (and that in a chase race).

Another I'm struggling to quantify is Home By The Lee. Joseph O'Brien trains this eight-year-old whose timber-topping form prior to this season was 218U113P100P226R; he's managed to put back-to-back wins together, in a Grade 2 and then a three mile Grade 1, so what gives? A charitable perspective of his Stayers' run last year would show that he stayed on having been outpaced mid-race; his case hangs on it being a thorough stamina test, which is by no means a given. In any event, he's short enough in a race of if's and but's.

Willie sends Klassical Dream and he might just be the over-priced one. Sure, he's quirky, and he probably needs to be delivered on the line because he travels a lot better than he finds when let down; but he's a six-time (SIX!) Grade 1 winner including three of his last four Grade 1's - so no back number - and comes here off the back of a narrow defeat by Teahupoo over an inadequate two and a half mile trip.

Of the rest, Ashdale Bob might be involved in making the pace - he's led or been prominent in his last three, and clung tough for 3rd of 23 in last year's Coral Cup - and is admirably consistent. His form in the last three seasons reads 11F912U373232342: almost always thereabouts when completing. I really hope he puts it up to Flooring Porter (though, of course, there will be others who wish the opposite!).

It's tough to make much of case for the stars of yesteryear like Paisley Park and Dashel Drasher.

Stayers' Hurdle Pace Map

Surely Flooring Porter doesn't get an easy lead for a third year running? Surely?! Maybe he does, though both Ashdale Bob and Dashel Drasher can go from the front, too. The French runner, Henri Le Farceur, led last time but is more typically waited with.

Stayers' Hurdle Selection

Very difficult indeed. I'm taking a chance on Klassical Dream, win only, in the hope that they go fast and he can cruise into contention. He's as likely to flop as to win so not an each way play, but hoping he'll give a run for the money.

Suggestion: Back Klassical Dream win only at 10/1.


4.10 Festival Plate (Grade 3 handicap, 2m 4 1/2f)

Another borderline impossible handicap, this time a chase, and the first of two such races on the day. This is the least trends'y race of the week, with the Irish faring well enough, so too the Brits; young horses and old, exposed and unexposed, all getting on the roll of honour. It's a race that Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins have never won, Gordon Elliott has only won once and Nicky Henderson hasn't won since 2006! It's also a race where four of the last five winners were priced 5/1 or shorter, which is disappointing unless you fancy So Scottish.

That horse, in the care of Emmet Mullins, Plate winning trainer two years ago, looks an obvious contender for all that he's likely to face deeper ground and has been off longer than most winners; though Ballynagour in 2014 returned after the exact same 117 day layoff to win.

Il Ridoto was a soft ground winner over course and distance last time and, up eight pounds, still looks viable for Nicholls. He might again bid to make all. And a really interesting one if he stays is Frero Banbou. Trained by Venetia Williams, three-time Plate winner, this lad was desperately outpaced in last year's Grand Annual over two miles before making up ground on a fading field into eventual third. He's in the right hands and should be able to lie up with them more easily over this longer range. Venetia also runs Gemirande, a trip specialist who has progressed by more than a stone this season and, not out of the first two in his last six starts, may still be improving.

Millions of others with chances.

Festival Plate Pace Map

There's not a massive amount of early go, though Gemirande and Coole Cody will be there. So, too, perhaps Shakem Up'Arry and Embittered. Should be a fair chance for most.

Festival Plate Selection

The simple answer is So Scottish, and he might be a win saver. But, with as many bonus places as I can get, I'll be splitting my stake between the Brits Il Ridoto, Frero Banbou and Gemirande, and hoping for the best.

Suggestion: Take a couple of your choosing, and save on So Scottish.


4.50 Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m 1f)

We all have a least favourite Festival race, and this one is mine. I'm generally accepting of the new races but definitely struggle with the mares' novices' hurdle. Anyway, that's my problem, and it will have a winner to find, so let's get on to that.

With seven renewals so far, Willie won the first five - sigh/wow! - before Henry de B took over with a 1-2 in 2021, where there was an Irish 1-2-3-4, none of them Willie. Then, last year, up rocked Love Envoi, trained by a Brit, Harry Fry, with another Brit in second, Willie third.

And it's a UK mare, Luccia, who is short at the top of the betting lists this time around. She's been an easy winner of all four starts to date, two bumpers and two novices, but hasn't jumped on softer than good ground yet. She could well be the winner; the problem is that this is one of those races where there are a number of unexposed types whose form lines are untested against each other.

Henry de Bromhead has options in a race named after his late son - poor family 🙁 - and it will be unbearably poignant if one of his can win. Chief among them might be Magical Zoe, herself unbeaten in three. She's won on soft in Grade 3 company and, while not as visually impressive as Luccia, she's expected to appreciate any stiffer test of stamina as a result of a fast pace. She was 18/1 that last day and beat the first two in the market into second and third: it didn't look fluky.

A really interesting contender, not to be confused with the de Bromhead runner, is Princess Zoe. You might know her from such as her Group 1 Prix du Cadran score or multiple Galway triumphs. She scraped home in a dead heat on hurdling debut over 2m4f, and it might be that a truly run two miles or so with a bit of cut is optimal. Her jumping lacked a little polish on that timber-topping bow, as it was entitled to do, and, if well schooled since, she's unquestionably high class.

Four of Willie's five Dawn Run winners were five-year-olds, which might just be coincidence; but more Dawn Runners tend to be six or older. Mullins' 5yo entry is Lot Of Joy, who has a Lot To Do on the ratings; but she looks a typical improver, having run up in her first two spins in huge fields before putting a dozen lengths between herself and the nearest of 14 rivals last time. She was 1/7 that day so did nothing unexpected, but that brings her to Cheltenham on an improvement arc and less exposed than many others.

You Wear It Well was second to Hermes Allen in the Grade 1 Challow, a race working out very well. I don't know how Hermes has done at time of writing, but a big performance from him in the Ballymore would clearly be a hint towards this mare's chance. She's fine on all ground and easily won a Grade 2 last time. Both the Challow and that G2 were over further, however, so the drop back in trip is not certain to suit.

Two more to mention, from a cast of 21, are Poetic Music and Halka Du Tabert. Poetic Music was a very good bumper filly, running sixth in Facile Vega's Champion Bumper as a four-year-old. She's taken well to hurdling, winning twice, though was no match for Luccia when they met three back. She wants a battle and she wants a strong pace, and she'll get both of those here: outside squeak.

Halka Du Tabert was well touted and showed the rumours to be on point when slamming Eabha Grace, a Grade 3 winner at the weekend, in a big field maiden. She was outpaced in a small field G3 last time, and this is much more her setup: she could be a contender.

Mares' Novices' Hurdle Pace Map

Hard to know how this will go with so many inexperienced mares. On what we've seen, Fox Girl and Halka du Tabert will be forwardly placed from the outset, while Luccia is more likely to track those trailblazers.

Mares' Novices' Hurdle Selection

Lots who will turn out better than they've had a chance to show so far, and Luccia - whilst an obvious win chance - is a measly price. Against her, I'll chance a couple each way: Magical Zoe and Halka Du Tabert. Both are likely to relish a strong pace and possess the battling qualities required for a scrum amongst 20+ inexperienced mares.

Suggestion: Back either or both of Magical Zoe and Halka du Tabert, each way a pleasure.


5.30 Kim Muir Challenge Cup Chase (Class 2 Handicap, 3m2f)

The second handicap chase of the day, this one over three and a quarter miles and the exclusive domain of amateur riders. However, a quick squint at the winning jocks in recent years demonstrates the level of professionalism in the amateur ranks: just two of the last nine were claiming, and both have now gone professional. Jamie Codd has won the Kim Muir four times since 2009.

In betting terms, there were two 40/1 winners in the past eight years, both British-trained, and the other six were all single figure returns, four of them trained in Ireland.

Favourite this year is Stumptown, on the hat-trick and trained by Gavin Cromwell. He popped up at Sandown last time, eking out seven lengths over the second that day and earning enough of a ratings bump to book his Kim Muir ticket. Although he won a maiden hurdle on soft, his recent best has been achieved on a sounder surface; that doesn't mean he won't handle wetter as well as drier, just that he might not - and he's awful short if you're not sure.

Mr Incredible bids, I think, to be Willie Mullins' first handicap chase winner at the Festival. I believe he's 0 from 37 though he's had some placed. That's clearly not fuelling optimism and the horse - claimed by his rider to be a nutjob - has form figures that lurch from a Scrabble rack to a clutch of podium positions. Which Mr Incredible will show up today?

A horse we were interested in buying a couple of years back is Farinet, and he's been a fine servant for connections. He's trained by the first lady of Cheltenham Festival handicap chases, Venetia Williams, and wasn't beaten too far over course and distance on New Year's Day.

Beauport arrives here rather than the Ultima, and that may be the proverbial tip in itself. Trainer by the Twister, Nigel Twiston-Davies, he loves soft ground and a trip.

At the other end of the handicap, Ben Pauling - winning trainer of the Grand Annual last year - saddles a couple, the more interesting of which is probably Anightinlambourn. He's won three of his last four and was second on the other occasion; two of those runs were here over this sort of trip, but on quicker ground. If it dries out he becomes very interesting, I think.

And I've almost certainly not mentioned the winner!

Kim Muir Pace Map

It's Venetia to the fore and aft, everyone else in between. Farinet likely goes to the front while Chambard will be played late. Lots of other occasional pace pressers means this will be a stern examination of jumping over an exacting distance.

Kim Muir Selection

Tricky. Very tricky. I'm going to try Beauport and Anightinlambourn (good to soft or quicker only) against the field.

Suggestion: Back a couple against the field, with lots of extra places. Maybe the same two as me, and maybe not!


It's a very tough day is Thursday at the Festival, so well done if you come out in front. If you don't, there's always Gold Cup day...

Good luck!


Cheltenham Festival 2023: Day Two Preview, Trends, Tips

Cheltenham Festival 2023: Day Two Preview, Trends, Tips

Day two, Wednesday, and a similar combination of novice races, handicaps and a Championship race, this time the Queen Mother Champion Chase. As ever, it's a one-thirty start for the...

1.30 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m5f)

They say the Ballymore/Neptune/Baring Bingham is more of a speed test than the Supreme and, if very recent history is anything to go by "they" are right. The winners' finishing speeds in the Supreme in the past two years - the only two for which CourseTrack sectionals are available on the RTV website - were 100% each time, with the runners up coming home in around 94% each time. Meanwhile, in the Ballymore, the winners' closing sectionals were 102.2% and 106% while the runners up recorded 101.4% and 103.8%. What does it all mean? Well, simply that we might be looking for a horse able to travel and quicken rather than one who gallops relentlessly.

To the form, and the only place to start is with the talking horse's talking horse, Impaire Et Passe. Reputedly the latest Pegasus on the Willie Mullins production line, he's unbeaten in a Nancy bumper before transferring to Closutton (for €155,000) and winning a brace of novice hurdles, the second of which was the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer. That race has been a stepping stone in the past for the same trainer's Mikael d'Haguenet, Vautour, Douvan and Min, amongst others. The first of those named won the Ballymore next time, while the other three all went Supreme (two of them winning, Min running second to Altior). So it is arguably the trusted prep for Mullins' top novice hurdlers, although the Grade 1 at the DRF is a more obvious candidate in that regard.

A winner of his maiden hurdle by 18 lengths, in a field of 24, that form looks very ordinary: none of the runners behind that day have won since, and they've collectively amassed 42 starts! Still, that's hardly Impaire Et Passe's fault as he fulfilled his end of the bargain by going so far clear. In that Moscow Flyer, run this year on heavy ground, he jumped well in the main though was a little clumsy at the last. The key thing with his chance, given that on form he has a bit to find, is the stable confidence. Mullins has a raft of talented novice hurdlers and yet this is the one seemingly most talked up: he must be good. But he is inexperienced and, as I say, does not yet have the best form.

Mullins also saddles Gaelic Warrior, second in last year's Fred Boodles and winner of all three of his starts this term, including in a valuable handicap hurdle, shouldering top weight, at the DRF. That form has already had some lustre added to it and, where IEP is a tad shy on experience, GW brings much more as a second season novice.

Splitting the Willie pair in the betting is the Paul Nicholls-trained Hermes Allen. Triumphant in all three of his races so far, he must have surprised a few at Ditcheat because he started out in a Stratford maiden hurdle before claiming the Grade 2 Hyde Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Grade 1 Challow at Newbury. That Challow form has worked out superbly well, with the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th and two of the pulled up also-rans winning since; not only winning, but three of them scoring in Pattern company. Hermes Allen is already a heck of a hurdler, but he could be a monster over fences next season.

The third string to Mullins' extremely stringy bow is Champ Kiely, winner of the Grade 1 Lawlor's Of Naas Novices' Hurdle last time. There he beat Irish Point, who won a Grade 3 at Naas on Sunday; the overall level of that form looks below others in the field, however. That said, the Champ handles any ground and has won four of his five career starts to date.

Barry Connell, boutique trainer of his own horses, has not just Marine Nationale in the Supreme but also Good Land in this. He's winner of his three completed starts this term, having unseated at the first in his hurdling debut. He was last seen winning the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy over 2m6f at the DRF, and that is normally top form as illustrated in this article by Jon Shenton. [For info, the best novice hurdle run annually in Britain or Ireland tends to be the one at DRF won this year by Il Etait Temps].

Ho My Lord is a further Willie wunner, and is unbeaten in completed starts, a French bumper and an Irish maiden hurdle either side of a tumble at Leopardstown at Christmas. He completely unexposed, and as such wouldn't be a total shock winner; but his known level of form is stones below that in the book for some of his rivals.

I liked American Mike for the Supreme after his Champion Bumper second last year, but he seems to have completely lost his way since. It's not unheard of for horses to rediscover their best form at the Festival, but it is usually slightly more planned by connections - who were aiming at a handicap until running out of time to get the requisite fourth run under their belts. Mike looks somewhat homeless in terms of race fit this year; hoping he'll be back next season over a fence.

Ballymore Pace Map

Plenty of early dash, with Hermes Allen and American Mike, along with probably one or more of the Mullins lesser lights. Might be a little quicker than normal in the early stages.

Ballymore Novices' Hurdle Selection

I have come round to the hype surrounding Impaire Et Passe, a horse who will have plenty of peers against which to compare his level at home. His stablemate Gaelic Warrior has the best public level of ability but the vibes are all for IeP. Still, the Warrior will likely be hard to keep out of the three and represents a fairly solid each way tickle.

Suggestion: Probably a race to bet Impaire Et Passe, even at relatively skinny odds. 5/1 Gaelic Warrior is a solid-looking each way alternative.


2.10 Brown Advisory Novices' Chase (Grade 1, 3m)

Widely recalled as the RSA Chase, this is in fact the Broadway Novices' Chase, currently sponsored by Brown Advisory, an independent investment management firm apparently. No matter: it always has been and presumably always will be a three mile novice chase and an early opportunity for chasers to advertise future Gold Cup credentials: in that context, it's typically a very good race. The last couple of winners, L'Homme Presse and Monkfish, have absented for the following year's Gold Cup; but going back a decade, Bobs Worth and Lord Windermere were back to back Broadway/Gold Cup doublers.

This year, the most fancied runner is Gerri Colombe, and not without good cause. He's already a dual Grade 1 winner, in the Faugheen at Limerick at Christmas and in the Scilly Isles at Sandown last month; and, though both of those races were over half a mile shorter than he'll face here, he's been going on to assert at the finish each time. Still, he's not guaranteed to stay in a top class test such as this. One asset that will help is his jumping, which was outstanding at Sandown: long or short, he was always clever and didn't tickle a twig at any of the 17 fences. Gerri is a very worthy favourite.

One thing the jolly has not yet done is race around Cheltenham; the same cannot be said of The Real Whacker. Patrick Neville's seven-year-old is unbeaten in two chases at the track, most recently when beating Monmiral three lengths in the Grade 2 Dipper. He, too, has been very good at his obstacles to date and may have more to give: perhaps he'll need to as a line through Monmiral gives him a bit to find with GC - though it's fair to say the collateral horse wouldn't be a reliable yardstick even if reliable yardsticks were a reliable yardstick, if you see what I mean. In any case, his defeat of Thunder Rock (reopposes) was much more in line with Gerri C's margin over the same horse, so if you're into collateral you can choose your poison.

Philip Hobbs has recently announced a joint licence plan whereby long-time assistant Johnson White will share the honour; but before that Thyme Hill will test his mettle for the current sole licensee here. A couple of years the senior of Gerri and the Whacker, Thyme Hill has been a top class staying hurdler, running second in last year's Stayers' Hurdle as well as winning the G1 Liverpool Hurdle, the G1 Challow as a novice, and running third in the 2019 Champion Bumper here. He was also fourth in the Albert Bartlett of 2020, giving him Festival form of 342 in Grade 1's.

Although it feels like this feller has been around forever he only spent three seasons hurdling; and the manner of his Feltham/Kauto Star win at Kempton on Boxing Day - by 15 lengths from McFabulous - was striking. The form however has plenty of question marks with the second pulling up as odds on favourite next time; and the other two runners at Kempton failing to complete. Thyme Hill came from off a sizzling pace that day to barrel away from a couple of tired rivals, an approach that perhaps again gives him a chance to pick up pieces here.

Remember Sir Gerhard? Sporting the union flag colours of Cheveley Park but raced in Ireland for better prize money (sigh), he cost four hundred grand at the end of the 2019. That looked a fairly chunky price tag but he's since recouped more than half of it, which is more than most racehorses achieve! A win here would add another hundred bags to the total and offer the prospect of him getting his nose in front financially (obviously, ignoring training and transport costs - who bothers with those?!).

More materially, what of his form chance? Well, he infamously 'stole' the 2021 Champion Bumper from Kilcruit (pocket talk) and went on to win last year's Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Festival. This season he's been sighted just once, when bagging a beginners' chase by 38 lengths from the occasionally-very-good-but-not-on-this-particular-occasion Largy Debut. That was in spite of a horlicks of an error, which would be a concern here in terms of chasing experience. Yes, he won a point to point back yon but this wouldn't be the gig to come in underdone. Still, he's plenty of class and ability, so is not easily discounted.

The aforementioned Thunder Rock has been beaten by both Gerri Colombe and The Real Whacker so what chance has he here? Both of those defeats were at around two and a half miles, and the run behind the Whacker was at Cheltenham (2m5f, soft) where the closing comment was, "stayed on final 110 yards". That doesn't really tell the full story: Thunder Rock was last of five three furlongs out and closed all the way to the line. Meanwhile, The Real Whacker - who'd led them a merry dance from flag fall - was getting to the end of his soap-on-a-rope. This extra three furlongs is what brings Olly Murphy's charge into the picture, and he's a price against the top of the market.

The mare Galia Des Liteaux seems to be very well regarded by the Skelton yard, and has looked very good a couple of times this term. Her best run was her most recent, when surging 13 lengths clear of her field in a Grade 2 three mile novice chase at Warwick. The going was heavy that day, as it was when she won a Listed novice chase at Bangor earlier in the season, and that appears to be the key to her: the wetter the better. She was pulled up in the Kauto Star/Feltham when failing to get into a rhythm; that can happen to a horse without necessarily being the death knell to its Festival chance - see for example Bobs Worth.

By contrast, Adamantly Chosen has plenty of good ground form. In his latest pair of races, he's been second in two and a half mile Grade 1's to Mighty Potter and Gerri Colombe - not beaten comprehensively either time, and staying on both times - which puts him in the picture here. He's been supplemented for this, another indication that his chance is credible.

RSA Chase Pace Map

Likely just an even gallop here, with Harry Skelton the prime contender to take them along on Galia Des Liteaux. The Real Whacker has gone forward the last twice, however, so there's a chance of some early contention.

RSA Chase Selection

A race where Gerri Colombe is an obvious and legitimate favourite but a bit on the skinny side pricewise. Of his rivals, I quite like the claims of Sir Gerhard, Galia Des Liteaux (soft ground only), Thunder Rock and Adamantly Chosen (good to soft or quicker), and I think it's an each way sort of a race - though we may end up playing for the place part behind Gerri.

Suggestion: Consider 15/2 Galia Des Liteaux (soft or heavy) or 18/1 Adamantly Chosen good to soft or quicker) each way or without the favourite.


2.50 Coral Cup (Handicap, Grade 3, 2m5f)

A big field handicap hurdle, inscrutable in the extreme to these peepers. A bit of 'black box' shortlisting leaves me with HMS Seahorse, Beacon Edge, Captain Conby, and Bold Endeavour.

HMS Seahorse runs for Paul Nolan, the trainer of Mrs Milner, last year's Pertemps Final winner. He seemed to improve a good bit when needing a few extra pounds to get in here stepping up in trip last time; and he won in the style of a horse with a good bit more up his sleeve.

The Noel Meade-trained Beacon Edge was third Stayers' Hurdle favourite Blazing Khal in the G2 Boyne Hurdle last time, and was a G2 winner at this trip a couple of years ago. He's handily weighted for this handily-cap debut.

Eddie Sheehy is the sort of 'no name' trainer whose runner slips a tad under the radar in races like these; and who can get the job done a la Peter Fahey and Paul Hennessey two years ago. Captain Conby is tough and consistent, and was good enough to still be in the mix in the G1 Mersey Novices' Hurdle when coming down at the second last a year ago. He seems to handle any ground, too.

Best of the home team might be the Nicky Henderson-trained Bold Endeavour, who reverts to hurdles after running second (of three) in the G2 Reynoldstown last time. He looks on a very fair mark so, although the last Festival handicap hurdle winner to have been chasing on its most recent start was Andytown in 2009, that horse was trained by Hendo - and returned a similarly fat price to this one's likely SP. The King of Seven Barrows has attempted the feat eleven times since, faring no better than 7th (in 2021, Mill Green, 40/1) - that obviously tempers enthusiasm.

Coral Cup Pace Map

Probably not crazy fast early despite the huge field, with Bold Endeavour a possible designated driver. Could be a bit of elbows out action turning into the straight with doubtless a dozen and more still holding chances.

Coral Cup Selection

Skybet are *eight* places on this race and that feels the way to go, as long as their win price is competitive with best available. I'll be perming 12/1 Captain Conby, 10/1 HMS Seahorse and 12/1 Beacon Edge - another three very possible place prospects and three darts at hitting the win jackpot.

Coral Cup Suggestion: Split your stake three or four ways - and bet each way with as many extra places as you can find.


3.30 Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1, 2m)

The Champion Chase is the championship speed test for high class steeplechasers. Remarkably, when Energumene claimed the spoils a year ago, it was Willie Mullins' first Champion Chase success at the 15 time of asking. The other 14 included Un De Sceaux (2nd at 4/6), Douvan (7th at 2/9), and Chacun Pour Soi (3rd at 8/13), so it will have been good for him to get that monkey off his back. This year, Mullins saddles only one: Energumene, the reigning champ.

Energumene comes here off a less than convincing prep in the G1 Clarence House in late January (run here rather than its usual Ascot home). There, he was still in the mix before a shocker at the last curtailed his claim. Prior to odds on disappointment there he'd won ten from eleven, the only blemish being a narrow defeat in 'that' race with Shishkin at Ascot. It is reasonable to assume he was not quite at concert pitch in January and further reasonable to say that he will be this time, in which case he may be the one they all have to beat.

Gentleman De Mee - who misses the race with an infection - previously had an Aintree G1 verdict over Edwardstone, while that one won convincingly in last season's Arkle at Cheltenham. And Edwardstone was imperious in the Tingle Creek earlier in the season, though he himself has since been turned over by Editeur Du Gite.

The management summary is that any of a number of these could conceivably win the Champion Chase, a race that is likely to be further confuddled by a pace profile featuring a broad cast of prospective forward-goers. All of this makes for a fascinating and thrilling spectacle but a nightmare of a punting puzzle.

Further down the lists are very-good-on-their-day types like two mile specialist Funambule de Sivola (chase form of 1121121126451 at or around two miles), whose season took a marked turn for the better with a bold front-running display in the Game Spirit; Greaneteen, who was closest to Edwardstone at Sandown but a bit floppy behind Funambule at Newbury; and Nube Negra who all but won the 2021 Champion Chase but has been in and out since.

And then there's Captain Guinness, representing three-time Champion Chase-winning trainer, Henry de Bromhead, who of course suffered the ultimate distress not long ago: what a phenomenal story it would be if the Captain could get home in front. Heart-warming, but unlikely.

Champion Chase Pace Map

Two or three who can go forward but, with none of them needing to do so, it's not clear how this might play out. Editeur Du Gite and Energumene will fancy their win chances to may rein back slightly off Funambule de Sivola, whose prospects are more wild card. Still, I'd expect it to be at least truly run.

Champion Chase Selection

This might just be a straight shoot out between Edwardstone and Energumene, and it might not. As unhelpful as that sounds, I'm not really sure where to go with it. If Energumene tracks the pace rather than contests it, he gets first run on Edwardstone who will be played later. In that scenario, he might win; or he might set it up for the last challenger, probably Edwardstone.

Editeur Du Gite's chance may be compromised by a duel with Funambule de Sivola, another fast horse early, and another classy contender (though not quite in the Eddie/Energ quality category).

Incredibly, perhaps, this is a no bet race for me. It ought to be a cracking watch all the same.


4.10 Glenfarclas Chase (Cross Country, Class 2, 3m6f)

Another of the 'not for the purists' races, arguably; but I have to concede to very much enjoying the different spectacle of a big field of often familiar names jogging around quirky ever decreasing spiral before shaking loose onto the main course for the sprint to the line. In the olden days, this used to be the almost exclusive province of Enda Bolger but, since 2017, there's been a new sheriff in town. Gordon Elliott (and, in 2021, his proxy, Denise Foster) has won five of the last six renewals of the Glenfarclas Chase and saddled the second and third in the year he didn't win during that spell.

This season, he will be responsible for the first two in the betting, Delta Work and Galvin. Now ten, Delta Work was fifth in the 2020 Gold Cup and was the panto villain a year ago when beating everybody's darling, Tiger Roll, by less than a length. He followed that up with third in the Grand National and he's a worthy and obvious favourite. If there is a vulnerability in his profile it might be that he much prefers wet ground: it was heavy when he bested the Tiger but looks unlikely to be that deep this time.

His stablemate Galvin by contrast prefers top of the ground, though he was good enough to claim silver in the 2020 novices' handicap chase at the Festival on soft. A year later, having retained his novice status, he won the NH Chase; and, last year, he was fourth in the Gold Cup. That's very classy form against this field.

And there is another top tier entry this season in the form of Franco De Port, trained by Willie Mullins. He's run respectably in Grade 1 three mile chases the last twice, a level good enough to mix it with Elliott's duo, but he's never raced in public over cross country fences; that's a knock. He looks sure to stay, however, on the basis of his fine third in the Grand Steeplechase last May.

To be honest, I'm struggling to make a case for anything else. Back On The Lash won the cross country handicap in January here but he's 20-odd pounds wrong with Delta Work, and has fluffed his Festival lines in this exam last season (may have hated the ground, in fairness) - any chance he might have is ground dependant. Snow Leopardess would be a very popular winner, and she did have a sighter over the track in January and arrives on the back of a very good run in the Grand National Trial handicap chase last month. She was fourth in Galvin's National Hunt Chase of 2021, handles genuine soft ground and could be a bit of each way value if/when the bookies offer five places.

Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase Pace Map

This will be run at its usual sedate pace for the first three miles or so, with Lieutenant Rocco and Back On The Lash the most plausible for name checks throughout. The gorgeous white mare Snow Leopardess will be easy to spot and may not be far from the front, while Galvin, Delta Work, and especially Franco De Port, will probably be further back during the first half of the race.

Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase Selection

It looks a straight shootout between the Elliott pair Delta Work and Galvin. On good ground, it's the reigning champion's to lose; soft or heavy would tilt the scales in favour of Galvin; while good to soft would render it pretty much a coin toss between the pair. I don't see anything else representing much value, nor am I mad about punting the short ones at the top at their current prices. I would be tempted by Galvin at bigger than 9/4 on soft ground though that may be asking too much from the layers. If you want an each way with extra places, that might be Snow Leopardess, who looks very likely to improve on her first gallop round this unique circuit.

Suggestion: Back Galvin at 5/2+ if the ground is soft; consider 25/1 Snow Leopardess each way with bonus places, or in any 'without the front two' markets.

4.50 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 2m)

Impossible. For me, at least. I've backed Coeur Sublime after his 'not quite off for the lot' fourth in a Grade 1 two back and his 'still not quite off' second in a Grade 3 last time out. It's possible he has too much weight or is not good enough - of course it, perfectly possible - but I think this has been the plan all season. He's been second in a Triumph Hurdle and was only 12/1 for a Champion Hurdle so he's classy all right.

Aside from Coeur, the market is a little over-enamoured with the Irish challenge given that the raiders have won just twice since 2014, though they did have the 1-2-3 in 2020 and the second horse home in the two runnings since. Andy Dufresne was one of those silver medallists, last year, and he has been laid out for this since. He'll need to have been because his recent track efforts have been lamentable. On his full body of work, however, he has a clear chance even off top weight (and the same mark as twelve months ago).

I feel as though Joe Tizzard may go close in a handicap this week and he has Elixir De Nutz in this one. Easy winner of a Class 2 handicap a couple of spins back, he was no match for Champion Chase-bound Funambule de Sivola last time, though of course he'd got a qualifying mark by then. Elixir runs in the same Terry Warner colours as former winner (and third placed on another occasion) Oiseau De Nuit, who was trained by Joe's dad, Colin. He's a Grade 2 winner at the track over hurdles, but wouldn't want too much rain.

Grand Annual Pace Map

Fast and furious always. Last year's winner, Global Citizen, and my fancy, Elixir De Nutz, need to be careful not to compromise each other's chance; especially with fancied runners like Final Orders and Dinoblue snapping at their hooves. Expect it to be frenetic.

Grand Annual Selection

I have backed Coeur Sublime and think he can run a nice race; and if it's not too wet - it might be - I'll have a small each way bet on Elixir De Nutz with as many places as I can find.

Suggestion: Your guess is better than mine. I'm guessing 11/1 Coeur Sublime and 16/1 Elixir de Nuit, and hoping to be lucky rather than good.


5.30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1, NH Flat, 2m 1/2f)

Some shrewd judges go to the bar when this is on; even shrewder judges make a lot of paddock notes for future reference. It's not really a betting race, with whispers and hearsay trading far more strongly than form lines - on the basis that most of the horses have very few of those, and even the ones they do possess were earned in vastly different circumstances.

To offer a hint into the opaqueness of the race, how many do you think Willie Mullins has entered this year? Five? Six? Nope. Ten. TEN!!

One who has shown top class bumper form is A Dream To Share and that's why he's favourite. At least you know he can run fast and good. Obviously, plenty of the others are capable of running faster and gooder than ADTS, we just haven't seen that yet.

Better Days Ahead is a Bective Stud/Gordon Elliott entry, and was a good winner last time from Chapeau de Soleil ("gwarrn the sun hat!") in a small field. Who knows that form amounts to?

Willie has won this with some of his unexposed bigger priced runners, such as Briar Hill (25/1, ridden by Ruby Walsh), Relegate (25/1), Champagne Fever (16/1) and Ferny Hollow (11/1). So the advice is to split a small stake between a few of the unexposed Mullins bombs, and hope to be lucky.

Backing all last day winning Willie Bumper runners at bigger than 10/1 in this would have yielded six winners and six more places from 42 starters, and an SP profit of 67 points! A point each way would have returned a surplus of 77.4 points, and that before you include the two fourths and three fifths that some bookies would have paid out on. You'll be taking a good few this time around but it's a less annoying way to play things than betting the buzz horse and watching it crawl home midfield.

Champion Bumper Pace Map

Pinch of salt stuff here, but for what it's worth, this is what we've discovered about the field so far in terms of run style.

Champion Bumper selection

No idea!

Suggestion: Bet the big priced Willies. Perhaps 16/1 Western Diego and 20/1 Westport Cove, e/w with five places in a couple of shops.


These seven skirmishes will deliver us to our half time cup of tea. We might need something stronger by then! Regardless, we've another 14 chances at redemption / further glory / giving it back* [*delete as applicable]

Good luck!


Cheltenham Festival 2023: Day One Preview, Tips

Cheltenham Festival 2023: Day One Preview, Tips

We're back! The 2023 Cheltenham Festival is here, and it's going to be a belter! 28 races, almost all of them head-scratching puzzles in terms wagering possibilities... and that's just as it should be! Let's get straight to it.

1.30 Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 1/2f)

Half past one on the middle Tuesday in March is when the roar reverberates around the Cotswolds as racing regulars and occasionals alike release 361 days' worth of waiting for the first of seven races on the first of four days of fiercely contested battles.

The Supreme is sometimes won by a clear cut favourite - think Appreciate It or Douvan - but, more often than not, the waters are muddier and the multiple returned for finding the winner more appealing. This year falls into the latter bracket, and surely bookies all over the country will be desperately trying to 'get' Facile Vega. That is not, of course, because he can't or won't win; but rather that his price probably over-states his chance currently. Here's why...

Ignoring the fact that he was a terrific bumper horse - winning Grade 1's both here and at Punchestown - and the fact that he's Quevega's son, his actual hurdling form is not out of this world. A maiden win against a field that has managed a solitary handicap hurdle victor, off a perch of a relatively lowly 106, from 27 runs between them, was followed by a much more impressive Grade 1 score where he beat three subsequent winners. That legitimately put Facile Vega in short at the top of the market; but, since then, he's run a very poor race over the same course and distance in a G1 at the Dublin Racing Festival (DRF). Excuses have been proffered for that clunk: he was messed about with by High Definition, he went too fast, etc. But they didn't go crazy fast, and High Def mainly messed with himself as he tumbled at the fourth. Word is (take it or leave it, obvs) that FV was lame for a week after Leopardstown so, if you've backed him ante post you'll see that as legitimacy and hope, and if you haven't you'll see it as a concern and a reason to look elsewhere. Such is the way of value betting...

I've backed him at shorter than he is now and I am not remotely inclined to go in again!

But assessing the remainder is also tricky. Marine Nationale was the early season poster boy - and he might perhaps be the late season heartthrob, too, except that we've not seen him since early December; his form has taken a few dents in the interim. In fairness, he's an unbeaten-in-four Grade 1 winner so it will be no shock if he's the best of these but that 100-day layoff would be the longest by a winner since Captain Cee Bee in 2008 and only the second triple-digit absence since at least 1997.

Il Etait Temps has to be a player. Only fifth and fourth behind Vauban in the four-year-old Grade 1's at Cheltenham and Punchestown a year ago, Willie Mullins has had a novice hurdler with plenty of experience to work with this term; and he's been rewarded with wins either side of getting closest to Facile Vega at Christmas. Of course, most recently Il Etait Temps won 'that' race in which HD dived and FV bombed. Although he was a bit awkward early in transit that day, he powered through the line and was just on ten lengths clear of second-placed Inthepocket, Dark Raven a neck back in third. Despite his relative hurdling experience, IET can look a bit slovenly at a flight for all that he's generally safe across them.

High Definition is obviously a very high class ex-flat horse; he was favourite for the Dante as a three-year-old and ran second in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup and third in the Group 1 Coronation Cup last year. The problem is that, as obviously and unsurprisingly fast as he has been, he jumps like, well, like a Dante favourite. I think he's very likely to be found out in a race as hot as this, especially with other pace players from the get go.

Both Inthepocket and Dark Raven have a place chance on that DRF form: they each brought unbeaten in three records to the G1 party there and each emerged with a degree of credit, Inthepocket having found himself exactly that at a key point in the race. Crucially, both are entitled to be wiser for their first exposure to top class company.

What of the British challenge? The most obvious contender is Tahmuras, winner of a maiden hurdle at Chepstow, a Listed at Haydock and the Grade 1 Tolworth at Sandown. There have been six subsequent winners from his maiden, and the Tolworth form is standing up too: the third there won a G2 next time, the fourth won a novice and was then second in the same G2, and the fifth - Authorised Speed - easily reverted to winning ways back in shallower waters. He's won on soft and good to soft so no ground concerns. The question is how the UK level compares with its Irish counterpart.

Rare Edition was very disappointing when only second in the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon, a race won in 2020 by Shishkin en route to Supreme glory. He apparently scoped dirty after the race and there has been some whispering about back spasms, both of which appear to have now been resolved. Trainer Charlie Longsdon is bullish about his chance and, on the evidence of the book, he's a place possible at least... if the British form holds its own.

The talking horse in recent days has been Diverge, who won a 22 runner maiden hurdle by 23 lengths. None of the eleven horses to run again since that race have won, and only one hit the frame: the form is weak regardless of how good Diverge might turn out to be. He's inexperienced, too, and for those reasons, as the Dragons say, I'm out.

Olly Murphy runs two in the race, Chasing Fire and Strong Leader, and my preference of the pair is for the former. He's unbeaten in a point, a bumper, and three hurdle races and, though untested in Graded company, he's kicked to the kerb everything he's faced hitherto. I feel like the quicker they go the better for him, as he looks a very strong stayer.

Fennor Cross is a massive price but is a dual Cheltenham hurdle winner this season, the second of which was in the Grade 2 Supreme trial. That was in mid-November, however, and he's not been seen since as, presumably, he needs good ground - the underfoot for both those course scores. Alas, it looks unlikely that will be the description for race one, day one.

Supreme Novices' Pace Projection

Likely to be quick, as forward-goers like High Definition and Rare Edition collide with an ocean of adrenaline coursing through the jockeys' veins for the first rising tape of the week.

Supreme Novices' Hurdle Selection

I don't have a strong opinion here except that the favourite is poor value. Note, I don't think he is sure to lose, just that his win probability may be lower than his price implies. That's a general take through all of the races: any horse can - and, at Cheltenham, often does - win any race. So we're looking for something that might have a better chance than implied in its price. In this race, I think Il Etait Temps is a fair price, especially if you can find four each way places; and it wouldn't surprise if Tahmuras ran a big race either, especially with his trainer in terrific form.


2.10 Arkle Challenge Chase (Grade 1, 2m)

The first chase of the week is a speed test for novices, and frequently advertises the claims of a potential Champion Chaser of the near future. This season, battle lines are drawn between Britain and Ireland and, as with the Champion Hurdle two races later, team captains are Messrs Henderson and Mullins.

For the home squad, Hendo saddles Jonbon, second (third if you include yawning daylight) in last year's Supreme behind Constitution Hill. In the absence of that monster, Jonbon won the G1 Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree, beating a chap called El Fabiolo. This season, the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old has won all three chase starts, mostly in the manner of a good'un; that said, he was more workmanlike than striking in his Festival prep in the Kingmaker at Warwick. There, he eventually eked out a five-length margin over Calico in a match. The form of that race has received a boost with the runner-up - a twelve-length winner in Class 3 handicap company before Warwick - going in again at Doncaster in a £20k Class 2 handicap since. Obviously, this is a different kettle of gravy, but there's also every chance that Jonbon was under-cooked for his preparatory spin: he'll be cherry ripe now.

Pop back to that Aintree G1 and we find our other joint favourite. There was little between Jonbon and El Fabiolo in Liverpool and they may again be hard to separate. Willie's contender has had two chasing starts, winning by 19L and 10L, the latter in the Grade 1 Irish Arkle at the Dublin Racing Festival. Handy enough throughout, he pounced on trailblazing Dysart Dynamo approaching the second last and had enough energy left to go clear of a three-way picture for the places between Banbridge, DD and Appreciate It.  If they all stand up it's hard to see the placed horses reversing with the winner, in spite of the argument that the furlong and a bit shorter trip might favour the pace horse. That said, El Fabiolo did not impress with his jumping at Leopardstown.

Those that fell or unseated last time are 1 from 14 in recent times with nine of them sent off 11/1 or shorter: it's not obviously a positive for the chance of Saint Roi but nor is it a terminal knock. This lad was fourth in last year's Champion Hurdle and won a Grade 1 novice chase at Christmas, so he's oodles of class; but he was hurdling for four seasons including his time in France which sometimes makes it more difficult for horses to make a chasing shape thereafter. He's bang there on talent but that leaping has to be a concern.

The rest are unlikely to be good enough.

Arkle Pace Projection

There looks to be plenty of early speed in this line up with each of Ha d'Or, Dysart Dynamo and Jonbon leading in their most recent three races. Jonbon is expected to sit slightly off the fiercest of the sizzle.

Arkle Chase Selection

A race that will probably play out in line with the market expectation of a duel between Jonbon and El Fabiolo. If El Fab's jumping holds up, I think he'll win, and if it doesn't I think Jonbon will win. I don't really see Dysart Dynamo sustaining his front-footed charge and prefer Saint Roi to travel round in his own time and pick up the each way pieces. Not especially a betting race if you haven't already played, I don't think.


2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3 handicap, 3m1f)

The first of nine handicaps and I'll tell you now that my thoughts will be (mercifully) brief. This race has been won by the home team exclusively since Dun Doire and Tony Martin wrested it away in 2006. They actually don't run many - just three darts this year - and I'll be fielding against them, perhaps carelessly.

My shortlist is Corach Rambler, The Goffer (though he is Irish), and the Tizzard pair, Oscar Elite and The Big Breakaway.

Corach Rambler won the race last year and will again be played late; he was much the best that day and is only six pounds higher now. A fine fourth of 15 in the Coral Gold Cup (Hennessy as was) in November was his most recent run, though that was 108 days ago. Joes Edge defied a 114 day absence in 2007 though such extended layoffs are exceptional when it comes to Ultima winners.

The Goffer won a Grade A handicap chase at Leopardstown last time off a mark of 138. He's got 149 here, as a result of both that win and the recalibration of Irish marks to British ones; while that seems a hefty enough elevation to overcome, the step back up to an extended three miles could be in his favour. He's a novice and so remains somewhat unexposed.

I had a good bet on Oscar Elite in this last year. That partially paid off - the place part specifically - as he finished third. Given he was subsequently found to have bled from the nose, and he is now just a pound higher in the weights, and that he won last time out, I like his chance again. He won't want it too soft, though. Tizzard's other runner, The Big Breakaway, on the other hand loves the wet. He was third in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase two years ago and a game second in the Welsh National at the end of last year - carrying 11-13 - last time. He jumps, he stays, he handles the track and ground and he's very much a runner for me.

Ultima Pace Projection

It will be frenetic, due to the field size and the number of jockeys having their first ride of the week. Luck in running is needed, and usually patience, too.

Ultima Handicap Chase Selection

Skybet are paying EIGHT places on this race, and a couple of others are seven places deep. That gives us plenty of chances and the first name on the team sheet is Corach Rambler, whose run style lends itself to hitting the frame even without extended places! I'm slightly on weather watch with Oscar Elite, very much liking his chance on good to soft but less keen on softer. I'd rather take shorter when knowing the ground with him. In the end, I'm swerving The Goffer on the basis of the Irish record, which will of course be the wrong thing to do one of these years; but I definitely want a bit of the The Big Breakaway with the extended places as well.

Suggestion: With as many as eight places on offer, you can take two or three each way and potentially be rewarded on all places while trebling your chance of hitting the win jackpot. In that context, back any/all of 6/1 Corach Rambler, 11/1 Oscar Elite (wait for ground news is my advice), and 14/1 The Big Breakaway.


3.30 Champion Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 1/2f)

The undoubted highlight of day one is the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle. Since just under two hours before last year's Champion Hurdle, Constitution Hill has been close to, or outright, favourite for the 2023 renewal. The reason for that was his destruction of a solid-looking Supreme Novices' Hurdle field in the 2022 curtain raiser, where he easily despatched Jonbon et al in a very fast time. True, both Dysart Dynamo (joint favourite with CH that day) and Mighty Potter, unbeaten in four since, both failed to complete; but that is, after all, a fairly important part of the challenge.

Since sauntering home a year ago, Nicky Henderson's six-year-old son of Blue Bresil has bolted up by a dozen lengths from Epatante in the G1 Fighting Fifth, and hosed in by seventeen lengths from the same rival in the G1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. He's won his last four starts, all Grade 1's, by 12L, 22L, 12L, and 17L - and had won his previous start by 14L. His speed figures are just about off the scale and he can take a position wherever in the field meaning tactics are not a worry. Given he's normally an excellent jumper, there are essentially no holes in Constitution Hill's profile whatsoever and he's a very worthy odds-on favourite.

If this year's Champion Hurdle is not to be a procession, the most obvious candidate to make a race of things is State Man. Since 2009, Nicky Henderson leads Willie Mullins - in whose care State Man resides - 5-4 and, in search of the equaliser, Mullins' Man has very strong credentials. At least, in any other year he would have. To wit, he's unbeaten in six straight completed starts, a sequence that includes last year's County Hurdle followed by four consecutive Grade 1 races. In that quartet of G1 scores, he's earned closing comments as follows: "easily", "comfortably", "easily", "comfortably".

Well, something has to give, and the market is fairly confident it will be the British champion lording it over his Irish counterpart. I'm also confident that will be the case having not been overly impressed with what State Man found off the bridle in the County, the only time he's needed to be pushed out to the line. But I don't have enough threes to try to steal some ones at the prevailing odds. So how else to play? We'll come to that. First, what of the supporting cast?

Willie has more than just State Man; he also saddles last year's Triumph Hurdle winner, Vauban, and he's an interesting contender. While Constitution Hill and State Man are likely to be on or close to the pace, Vauban has been ridden a lot more patiently and, as a result, has finished his races off well in respectable defeats to State Man. If State Man tries to force things against the favourite - and it's unlikely the Closutton team will be riding for a place - then Vauban may be the one to hoover up any crumbs.

The second possible in that context is I Like To Move It, whose Greatwood and Kingwell Hurdle wins have advertised his 'dark horse' claims. True, he was well seen off by Marie's Rock in the Relkeel, though that was over an extra half mile; and he was no match for State Man in the County a year ago. He has some impressive performances to his name, most of them on genuine good ground, but I can't quite shake that County clunk from my memory banks.

Not So Sleepy has a fair record in the race: 5th two years ago and 6th last year, but he's eleven now; and I don't give Zanahiyr or Jason The Militant any material chance.

Champion Hurdle Pace Projection

Any of Jason The Militant, Not So Sleepy, or the big pair of Constitution Hill and State Man could take them along. Most likely is that the top two in the betting will mark each other behind the rags, with Vauban expected to be ridden cold at the back of the field.

Champion Hurdle Selection

The win market is all about Constitution Hill, who better ratings judges are suggesting is the best we've seen in a very, very long time. If that's right, he's a fair enough price for those who like playing big at short. Each way is not an option in a seven-runner race generally, still less with such a domineering jolly; but 'without the favourite' is a way in. That market has its own shortie, too, in State Man but I feel Vauban 'without' is a credible alternative given how the race is likely to pan out. If State Man and Constitution Hill have at it from far enough out, it's possible that SM cracks; Vauban wasn't far behind him in steadily enough run G1's in Ireland and can come through for silver.

Suggestion: Back Vauban without the favourite at anything better than 7/2 (4/1 with Hills at time of writing).


4.10 Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m4f)

There has been plenty of chat on the Maremite Hurdle - some love it, some hate it. Me? I'm in the love camp, and I don't really understand the naysayers who I feel are only rehashing the argument, which has surely had its day now, that it denigrates the Champion Hurdle. Let's just accept the new world and move forward - and what better time to do that than in a year which features the winners of THREE Champion Hurdles?

Well, why aren't they running in that race then, I hear (one of) you cry! The answer, of course, is trajectory; and that is the byword for attempting to solve this wagering puzzle. Cast back to 2020, and a six-year-old Epatante was winning the Blue Riband while forty minutes later Honeysuckle, also six, was winning this race. Five-year-old Marie's Rock had won a Listed mares race at Taunton, and Love Envoi was a year away from making her debut.

In 2021, Epatante could only finish third in the Champion Hurdle, behind Honeysuckle. Marie's Rock had recently run third in a mares' Grade 2 at Doncaster and Love Envoi was about to win a Wexford bumper on her first start. A year later, last year, and Honeysuckle again won the Champion Hurdle with Epatante her nearest pursuer on this occasion. Marie's Rock had graduated to winning the Mares' Hurdle and Love Envoi the Mares' Novices Hurdle.

And so to this term. Honeysuckle, heretofore unbeaten in 16 Rules races and a point to point, is now without a win in her two seasonal spins. Third to the improving - and very good on soft ground - Teahupoo over this sort of trip, and then second to the improving - and just very good - State Man over two miles is hardly poor form; but it is a step down from where she was previously. The question then is whether Honeysuckle is regressing slowly enough to still have something in hand of Epatante, herself steadily on the downgrade, and of the progressive Marie's Rock and highly progressive Love Envoi: that's what makes this such a fascinating conundrum.

Epatante has been thumped twice in Grade 1's by Constitution Hill this season; and then beat a field of inferior mares in appropriate fashion. She's only run once at this longer distance, when winning the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle easily last season. Her main market rival that day fell at the last as Epatante was looming upsides, but she looked to have had him covered at that point. She is holding her form fairly well and is unexposed at the trip.

Marie's Rock has been a revelation since winning a handicap hurdle in December 2021: from that point on, she's won five of six - pulling up having been hampered on the other start - a sequence that includes the Mares' Hurdle and Punchestown equivalent (both G1) last season and the Relkeel Hurdle on her only start this year. My reservation, aside from the very light 2022/23 campaign, is the substance of her form: in last year's Mares' Hurdle she beat 150-rated Echoes In Rain, who doesn't seem to stay this far, and a bunch of 140-something mares; at Punchestown, she beat a conceivably over the top Epatante (who had run 2nd in the Champion Hurdle and won the Aintree Hurdle in the previous six weeks); and in the Relkeel she beat an array of dodgy geezers the likes of which would not look out of place outside an East London boozer (I should know!). She might win - she's just about favourite after all - but her rising star may have just about reached its apex to my eye.

As for Love Envoi, she needs the rain to continue her own ascent. She has won eight of her nine starts to date, including last year's Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle here and her only defeat - second to Brandy Love - was on yielding turf. She's tough, loves the mud and has improved her top Racing Post Rating in each of her last seven races; it's not a big price that she'll improve on it again - the question is whether she can do it to a sufficient degree to usurp those above her. Trajectories, eh?

Brandy Love has been very lightly raced but is a Grade 1 winner at this range, when seeing off Love Envoi who, by contrast, was having her sixth battle of last season. I don't expect her to confirm the form with Harry Fry's mare.

Mares' Hurdle Pace Projection

This looks like it will be run at a sensible even gallop.

Mares' Hurdle Selection

A fantastic race in terms of stalwarts of the game and in competitive terms. Finding the winner will be difficult. Having backed Honeysuckle, I didn't think she'd face such a deep field - and I don't think connections did either. But she's still just about the one to beat, along with Epatante. I'm against Marie's Rock - fully mindful that it might look preposterous post-race - and, if it is soft, I'd want Love Envoi onside, too. It's that kind of contest!

Suggestion: The each way 'bet to nothing' (it doesn't exist, but you know what I mean) is 9/2 Epatante, who looks sure to be bang there; and I'm going to have a small bit on 9/1 Love Envoi as well, if the ground is soft.


4.50 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Fred Winter, Grade 3, 2m 1/2f)

Too difficult. I've backed loads of them, which is ridiculous, because I haven't got a clue who wins. The average winning SP since 2012 has been 27/1, and there have been nine winners priced 20/1 or bigger since the race's inception in 2005; so the market doesn't have a clue who wins either! The suggestion, then, is to ignore anything shorter than 16/1 and try to make a case for two or three darts, win only, for small change.

In that spirit, I offer the following:

Afadil - a Paul Nicholls French import a la Sanctuaire, Qualando and Diego du Charmil, all of whom won this for PFN

Metamorpheus and Jazzy Matty - with thanks to Gavin Ryan for this snippet: this pair both ran in the Naas race that has thrown the winner of the last four Fred Boodles. So, too, did Byker, Sir Allen, and Morning Soldier - and the one I had most on for this prior to that race, Almuhit. He blew the start and was left 30 lengths!!!

Boodles Handicap Hurdle Pace Projection

A good half dozen possible pace angles here, headed perhaps by Mighty Mo Missouri. Expect thrills and spills.

Boodles Handicap Hurdle selection

I cannot with clean conscience propose you bet anything in this race on my say so. I've backed a few, including the three mentioned above. 

Suggestion: One for a blindfold and Mr Felt Tippy, your magic marker


5.30 National Hunt Chase (Grade 2, 3m 6f)

The four miler is not quite the race it was, and not just because it's only three miles and six furlongs in distance these days. This oldest race of the Festival and monument to the Corinthian nature that characterised National Hunt racing for a million years has undergone more nips and tucks to its race conditions than <insert your preferred surgically enhanced pantomime dame here>.

Its current format, borne somewhat legitimately out of the ugly optic that was the 2019 renewal, where just four of 18 starters completed and 'encouragement' was outside of what might be termed the comfort zone for even the most stoic of country sports fans, comprises more than just a reduced race distance. That range truncation implies a reduction in the number of fences, and there are indeed two fewer - 23 versus the previous 25 - and, additionally, no horse rated below 120 or with fewer than two chase starts (including one in the current season and one over about three miles or more) will qualify. The upshot is that a race that drew 17-20-18-16-18 runners up to 2019 has, since the amendments, attracted 14, 12 and, last year, just six runners. It's another smallish field this year, with ten going to post.

The market has been headed for a long time by Gaillard du Mesnil, a hyper consistent horse but only an occasional visitor to the winners' enclosure. To wit, in 13 Rules starts he's finished in the places on all bar one occasion, but has won just four times - and only once in eight starts in the past two years. That's got to be a concern about a horse priced around the even money mark, for all that many of those form lines give him a clear edge on his field. He was third in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase last year and filled the same position, in a field of 27, in the Irish Grand National a month later. This season, GdM followed up a good second to Mighty Potter over an inadequate two and a half miles with one of those elusive wins - and by eight lengths no less - against Churchstonewarrior, a surprise defector at the final declaration stage, in a three mile Grade 1 at Christmas. He was again beaten by the Potter when dropped back to the Potter's trip territory in a G1 at the DRF, and will clearly relish this more stamina-emphasised test. But did I mention that he doesn't win all that often?

The key to Chemical Energy appears to be in the turf. His form on good ground is 112111, while on softer he's 140854. It's bound to be softer than good and he has some stamina questions to answer, too. He's not for me.

Mahler Mission ran a fair race (7th of 16) in last year's Albert Bartlett and, though he was whacked in a novices' chase at Cheltenham early in the season, that was surely a sighter on ground much faster than ideal. More recently he's won a beginners' and then ran a gallant second to Churchstonewarrior.

Minella Crooner was a good staying hurdler, running second to Minella Cocooner in the Nathaniel Lacy at the 2022 DRF. He's one from four over fences though was also second in a Grade 2 in early season. The balance of his performances is not at the level of some of his rivals, and he might not want it too soft either. However, an interesting outsider to consider is Tenzing: he's still a maiden after three chase starts but that trio includes finishing close to Gerri Colombe and Ramillies before being beaten a little further last time by Mahler Mission. On the pick of those runs, he could again challenge for the frame.

Best of the (limited) British defence is probably Mister Coffey, a perma-bridesmaid trained by Nicky Henderson. He's finished second in five of his last six starts, a run that includes the G1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase of last year and the Kim Muir a month later. He looked a strong stayer at last season's Festival and this test might be just the ticket.

Of the big prices, Coolvalla has nothing like the ratings to be in the shake up at this level. And yet, he's won handicap chases by 19 lengths and 17 lengths the last twice, has proven stamina, jumps well, and comes here nicely rested. He might outrun his 66/1 odds.

National Hunt Chase Pace Projection

A few possibles for the lead, most notably Mahler Mission, Minella Crooner, and perhaps Bellatrixsa. At the other end of the field, Chemical Energy will probably be patiently ridden by that master of the waiting ride, Jamie Codd.

National Hunt Chase Selection

On official ratings, Gaillard du Mesnil is clear of his field and he obviously has the talent to win; but his inability to put races to bed, even if they have been higher level races, has to be a worry at the price. Against him, there is a clutch of horses separated by only a few pounds on ratings, and it will be the one that adapts best to this somewhat unique test who is the each way bet. That might be the ultra-consistent Mister Coffey, who has placed Festival form to his name.

Suggestion: Back Mister Coffey each way at 9/1.


It's a fascinating start to the week, with top class horses aplenty and deep, deep fields in the main. Good luck with your betting in the opening quarter!


London Racing Club Cheltenham Preview Night Notes

In front of a packed and enthralled gathering at South Kensington Holiday Inn, London Racing Club's annual 'best of breed' Cheltenham Preview Evening unfurled. Gently and eloquently compered by Racing Post senior writer, Lee Mottershead (LM), the panel further comprised stats man extraordinaire and former author of Weatherby's annual guide, Matt Tombs (MT), Racing TV's outstanding host and form judge, Lydia Hislop (LH), and - with a line from the odds makers, Sam Hockenhull of Fitzdares (SH).

What follows are their thoughts as far as I was able to scribble them down while still mainly aiming to enjoy the show!


Supreme Novices' Hurdle

LH - Concerned by Facile Vega's last run. Was reportedly lame after: that's a worry. Prefer Rare Edition each way, who was impressive at Christmas but came back with a dirty scope after his race at Huntingdon. Not dismissing Il Etait Temps, though he can pull hard.

MT - Is FV ground dependent? Best form seems to be on soft, could be a place lay on a sounder surface. Il Etait Temps is unsexy but is a good value e/w play. Like Rare Edition as well. At longer prices, Diverge and Doctor Bravo are mildly interesting in what looks a very open and potentially substandard renewal.


SH - Hard to separate the top two in the betting

MT - Strongest view of day 1: on form, El Fabiolo should be clear favourite. Jonbon jumped right at Warwick and, while El Fab also has jumping concerns, he's always jumped well immediately after making his mistakes. Dysart Dynamo is probably the best jumper in the field but if he goes too hard on the front could bomb out completely.

LH - Feel like the Warwick race has been overplayed in terms of Jonbon form. Calico (2nd there) showed he'd improved when winning next time. Not worried about Jonbon adjusting right. El Fabiolo "occasionally quite clumsy", but agree the Irish Arkle is the best form on show so far. But this race is likely to be the best form by season end. Saint Roi is interesting - "jockey admitted falling off" last time. Won't get involved in any pacey business on the front end and so is playable e/w at the prices.

Champion Hurdle

MT - Think Constitution Hill might be better than Istabraq; he's the complete package.

LH - It's a horse race ("thankfully"), and stuff can go wrong; but it will very much have to for CH to get beaten in the CH. I Like To Move It the "wise guy" horse but his forward-going style may not be suited to the tactical shape of the race.

Mares' Hurdle

SH - Epatante is a very interesting supplement. Want to lay Honeysuckle. Love Envoi is backable on softer ground.

LH - Can't make a strong case for Honeysuckle, but can see why she's stepped up to Mares' Hurdle distance. Epatante appears to be regressing more slowly than Honeysuckle and "mullered" some lesser horses at Doncaster last time. Interested in Love Envoi and Maries Rock if she shows here, but not Echoes In Rain.

MT - Can see a wall of money for Honeysuckle on the day so might be a back to lay opportunity. Maries Rock probably going to Stayers' Hurdle but would "really fancy her" if turning up here.

Rest of Tuesday

SH - Ultima: Happygolucky ran well at Newcastle off a big break before tiring in the straight. Was given a sighter at Cheltenham next time. Form looks decent and trainer Kim Bailey thinks a lot of the horse. Can't see Corach Rambler winning from behind again. Don't like Tekao in the Boodles, don't think he'll get up the hill.

MT - 'Waited with' run style can be a positive in the Ultima where plenty of jockeys go off too quickly. Gaillard du Mesnil is opposable at the prices in the NH Chase. Don't think that race's profile suits such a strong stayer any more. Churchstonewarrior could be a playable alternative - going slower could suit him.

LH - Happygolucky in the Ultima. Into Overdrive is interesting, too. Afadil in the Boodles. Want to oppose GdM in the NH Chase, with Mahler Mission and Chemical Energy viable options.



Ballymore Novices' Hurdle

SH - Impaire Et Passe (IeP) the recent money horse.

LH - IeP has the right combination of speed and jumping. Ruby/Willie vibes are very strong. Inthepocket is interesting up in trip; didn't the run of the race at the Dublin Racing Festival. Might need playing late but looks fair e/w.

MT - Would love to own Hermes Allen, but wouldn't run him in this race! Nicholls doesn't tend to hard train novice hurdlers. IeP is "nap of the whole Festival". He has everything you need for this job.

Brown Advisory Novices' Chase

LH - Thyme Hill form awful, the time was "glacial" 😆 Rain might be important for Gerri Colombe. Without rain, not sure he'll enjoy downhill sections of the track. Like The Real Whacker, but form has taken some knocks.

SH - Don't like Thyme Hill

MT - Lay of the meeting is Thyme Hill. Want to oppose Sir Gerhard who is inexperienced over fences and would probably be running over shorter if trained by anyone else than Willie. Gerri is a banker if it's wet. Like TRW as well. Thunder Rock could be an 'in running' play if he's travelling well in the first mile.

Champion Chase

MT - Edwardstone seems to be the momentum horse. Most likely winner but Editeur du Gite is some value - he's underestimated. Gentleman Du Mee is the horse liked most at the prices: looks progressive.

LH - Energumene jumps right which is a problem at Cheltenham; cannot have him at all. EdG is a fair price, and he might be Gentleman's problem if he doesn't allow that one to dominate from the front. Edwardstone probably just wins, after a good prep when a lot went wrong last time. He's the nap of the day.

Rest of Wednesday

MT - Cross Country: Gordon Elliott is the man for this now, with a stranglehold on the race. Delta Work probably wins if the ground is soft, Galvin probably wins if it's quicker. In Grand Annual, Rouge Vif and Sizing Pottsie have interesting profiles.

LH - Rouge Vif had a nice prep for the Grand Annual at Doncaster, but would be worried about rain for him.



Turners Novices' Chase

SH - Betting each way at shortish prices is not for everyone, but Banbridge will surely be hard to keep out of the frame and has a solid win chance, too.

LM - Nicky Henderson likes Balco Coastal at a big price

MT - Tipped Banbridge early season... for the Brown Advisory! In the Balco Coastal camp, possibly got there too soon in the Scilly Isles, and might appreciate going left-handed. One of the e/w bets of the week.

LH - Worried about Mighty Potter potentially not handling the travel/prelims again after last year. Could be different story this time but he has to overcome that and is very short in the betting considering. Banbridge is more straightforward and Balco Coastal is interesting at a bigger price, too. Appreciate It might be "a bit aged" to be winning this.

Stayers' Hurdle

SH - If Blazing Khal runs, he will go off favourite and looks the most likely winner.

LH - Will BK make it? The jockey - trainer's son - is a slight concern, too, as he won't be able to claim his usual five pounds. Maries Rock is very keen, while Teahupoo needs soft ground (might get it). Flooring Porter has had issues in the build up; Home By The Lee is improving but has more to find... which leaves Gold Tweet. The French horse has had a perfect prep, and jumps brilliantly.

MT - Ground important for Teahupoo who wants "proper soft". Blazing Khal has fitness and jockey concerns. Quite like HBTL though he wouldn't want a dawdling pace. If Maries Rock settles, she might be the bet.


MT - Hitman without the favourite (Shishkin) looks a good bet.

LH - Shishkin is a very likely winner; he "towers above the opposition". French Dynamite playable without the favourite: should like the return to Cheltenham, is improving but can make mistakes. Not interested in hold up types like Fury Road in this.

Rest of Thursday

LH - Mares' Novices: Luccia very good but Halka du Tabert, Magical Zoe and Harmonya Maker are all possibles, too. Check the ground before betting in this one. In the Festival Plate, Frero Banbou has been shaping like he needs this step up in trip.

SH - In the Mares' Novices, You Wear It Well keeps improving and wasn't far behind Hermes Allen in G1 Challow. Will stay on up the hill. Main danger might be Ashroe Diamond.

MT - Frero Banbou in the Plate. In the Mares' Novices, Halka du Tabert didn't get a good ride last time: she's better than that. In the Pertemps Final, Good Time Jonny could be a good old fashioned Tony Martin plot. Ran in Albert Bartlett last year, and been a mixed bag this season: very well weighted on his best form.



Triumph Hurdle

MT - 'Vibes' have been for Blood Destiny, but not a betting race

LH - Preview-night yak has raised the possibility Paul Townend might ride Blood Destiny, which would move him into favouritism. Lossiemouth has to prove herself in an end to end gallop, while Gala Marceau probably didn't get the credit she deserved last time: she's overpriced in relation to Lossiemouth. All three of those are Willie horses, so jockey bookings will be instructive. Comfort Zone can run well and could be the e/w play, though Aintree might be more his bag.

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle

MT - This is a great betting race, as it's a different test from most of the races through the season and throws up some big priced winner as a result. Only one winner shorter than 11/1 in the past nine years. That said, may need to be more open-minded this year. Favori de Champdou and Affordale Fury are two of interest, but whatever you like, swing win only rather than each way.

LH - Hiddenvalley Lake one to be with. Profile of race has changed: now less seasoned horses can win. Absolute Notions a player if running here; so too Dawn Rising. Will be looking at unexposed types at the 48 hour stage.


LH - Galopin Des Champs is a very likely winner but, at bigger prices, Ahoy Senor could have a perfect setup in this test. Noble Yeats looks good to pick up place pieces. Although Bravemansgame may prefer flatter tracks, he has the strongest form in the race this season. Strongly against A Plus Tard's profile coming into the race. Even at his best, which we've not seen for a year, GdC would beat him anyway.

MT - Coming round to Bravemansgame having not been a fan early season - he's very hard to knock. Ahoy Senor may attempt a Coneygree off the front. Heart says GdC, value is Bmg. Against APT.

Rest of Friday

SH - Mares Chase: Allegorie de Vassy might be in a different league.

LH - Mares Chase: Allegorie de Vassy "jumps wildly right". Along with Thyme Hill, she's the one all week to field against the strongest! Jeremy's Flame looks solid while Elimay is too big a price.

MT - Hunter Chase: Rocky's Howya is a young horse and a complete unknown quantity. He's 5/5 in points this season, some of the form of which has worked out nicely.



LH - The Real Whacker in Brown Advisory Novices' Chase (SP)

MT - Balco Coastal e/w in the Turners Novices' Chase (16/1)

LM - Milkwood e/w in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (40/1)


A Data Driven Look at Cheltenham Festival Handicaps

It's less than two weeks until the tapes rise on the 2023 Cheltenham Festival and, while the Grade 1 action features the very best British and Irish (as well as a soupcon of French) National Hunt horses, it is the handicaps where the biggest scores are often made.

The potential for a windfall is created by deep fields in terms of both quantity and quality: landing on the right one is usually tough. In what follows, then, I'll attempt to focus the lens on areas of punting potential based on recent history. In plain English, I'll share some stats that might find a winner or two in the Cheltenham Festival handicaps.

As a starting point, my mate Ben Aitken (at Narrowing The Field) has kindly given permission for me to share a subset of the excellent research he's put together in a free guide he calls the 'Cheat Sheet'. You can download the full report (it's short but punchy, not unlike me!) here: Grab Ben's CheltFest Handicap Cheat Sheet >>

Ben's research covers the winners and places at the most recent five Festivals, and I'll use the same period for my contributions. I'll suffix Ben's with (NTF).


Handicap Hurdles

First off, we'll look at the handicap hurdles as a collective, excepting the Fred Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. That leaves the Coral Cup, Pertemps Final, County Hurdle and Martin Pipe: four races times five years equals 20 handicap hurdle winners and 80 placed horses. Those wins and places were drawn from 478 individual runners.

The first thing to note is that 14 of the 20 winners were trained in Ireland, as were 47 of the placed horses. That majority of both major and minor spoils was accumulated from a minority of the total runners (70% winners, 59% placed horses, from 44% of the runners).



However, the volume of Irish representation has increased notably in just those few years as the chart below illustrates:



In 2018 and 2019, there were 34 and 35 raiders respectively; last year, there were 61. Expect another glut of Irish-trained handicap hurdle challengers in 2023.

Some features of non-juvenile handicap hurdle winners in the past five years are as follows:

- All 20 had had ten or fewer handicap hurdle runs, representing 100% of the winners (and 95% of the placed horses) from 90% of the runners (NTF)

- All 20 (100%) winners - and 91% of the placers - had last run between 18 and 98 days ago, from 87% of the runners. Obviously, those numbers are conveniently precise but a recent run or much more than three months away is not a positive. That said, the places are pretty much in line with numerical representation (NTF)

- 19/20 (95%) had no more than one prior handicap hurdle win, from 77% of the runners. 86% of the placed horses also met this criterion (NTF)


Other notable snippets include:

- 4 of 20 winners (17 placers) were making their handicap debut (20% of the winners, 21% of the places, from 16% of the runners). While 'cap debs have slightly outpunched their numbers, they've been expensive to follow, losing 45.75 points at SP (-59% ROI - ouch!). The four winners included State Man, Galopin Des Champs and Saint Roi, all subsequent G1 winners.

- 9 of 20 winners (33 placers) ran in a Grade 1 or Grade 2 (or a Grade A or B handicap) last time, out of 140 qualifiers (45% winners, 41% placers, from 29% of the runners). They returned +88 at starting price.

- Focusing only on horses that ran 123 in 'actual' G1 and G2 races last time, they accounted for 5 of 20 winners and 10 placers from just 24 runners. That's 25% of the winners and 12.5% of the placers, from just 5% of the runners. And they were wildly profitable to follow, too: +127 at SP, and each way betting returned +170 for £1 e/w on each - a total that excludes 25/1 and 33/1 6th places, which many bookmakers would have paid down to.

- 13 of 36 female runners have finished in the top five, including four winners. The four winners were good enough for +43 after paying for the 32 'win only' losers. £1 e/w at standard four place terms would have returned £60.25 with 25% of the 36 females hitting the first four. The four fifth placed females included three at 20/1 and one at 25/1.

- Two of the six UK-trained non-novice handicap hurdle winners (Ch'tibello 12/1 and William Henry 28/1) were making their first start after wind surgery from a cohort of 13 runners. The other eleven finished 10th or worse! 🤷‍♀️

- Only one of the 20 races (5%) was won by a horse aged nine or above, seven placing (9%). 77 (16% of) runners were of that level of maturity.


Handicap Chases

As with the handicap hurdles, there were until recently five handicap chases, one of which was a novice handicap chase. That has been usurped by the Mares' Chase - pause for your own personal interjection here - leaving a quartet comprised of the Ultima, Grand Annual, Kim Muir and Festival Plate. Here are a few handicap chase snippets, some care of (NTF).

There were 409 runners in those 20 handicap chases, no dead heats so 20 winners, and 79 placed horses.

- All 20 had finished top 3 in at least one of their previous three starts, as had 70 of 79 placed horses (100% of the winners, 89% of the placers, from 83% of the runners) (NTF)

- 19/20 had previously run at Grade 1 or Grade 2 level (95% winners, 84% placers, from 74% of the runners) (NTF)

Whereas Irish-trained horses won 14/20 in the handicap hurdle section (excluding Fred Winter), it is UK-trained horses that have won 14/20 in the handicap chase division, including a clean sweep in 2022. The six Irish-trained winners in the last five years were all single figure prices, four of them favourite and four trained by Gordon Elliot (or his in absentia proxy, Denise Foster). Irish-trained horses sent off at a double-figure price were 0/54, just three places, in the 20 races in question. (However, they did enjoy greater success in the five years prior).

Conversely, last year's quartet of UK winners were priced at 10/1, 22/1, 28/1 and 40/1!

Willie Mullins rarely saddles a handicap chaser at the Festival, the eight he has done since 2018 failing to make the frame between them.

Handicap chase win and place rates were almost identical for horses wearing headgear compared with those that were not. Likewise, largely, age was not a factor, though the 11- and 12-year-olds placed a little higher than expectation (and won three times) from 30 runners.

Horses that failed to complete last time, or were beaten 30+ lengths, won twice (10% of the winners) and placed 15 times (19% of placers) from 107 runners (26% of runners). The win component saw a circa 80% negative ROI. Oof.

Conversely, last time out winners, or horses beaten two lengths or less, won eight times and placed 26 times from 116 starters (40% of the winners, 33% of the placers, from 28% of the runners). The 169 point profit (142% ROI) at Betfair SP was due entirely to the magnificent but sadly ill-fated Croco Bay's 179/1 winning exchange return.



There are lies, damned lies, and Festival handicap stats, so please consider the above with caution aforethought. Plots, back class, and luck in transit are all notable imponderables in the punting puzzle. The flip side is that, typically, we'll be getting a square price about any horse we identify that hits its mark, win or place.

Good luck,



2023 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY ONE (Tues 14th March 2023)

Each day of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts will give you all the quick-fire positive and negative stats for EVERY race. Apply these to the final cards and you will build up a picture and a profile of which horses have historically done the best in recent renewals.

We hope they help narrow down the fields and also help pin-point plenty of winners at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival for you!

The 'day one' feature is the Grade One Unibet Champion Hurdle - a race in which 33 of the last 39 winners won last time out.

2023 Cheltenham Festival Trends

Tuesday 14th March 2023 (Old Course)   

1.30 - Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y ITV

2022 Winner: CONSTITUTION HILL 9/4 jfav
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Nico de Boinville
UK/Irish: UK-trained


  • 23 of the last 26 winners won their last race
  • 14 of the last 19 winners had raced in at least 4 hurdles races before
  • 11 of the last 13 winners came from the first 4 in the market
  • 10 of the last 11 winners had won a graded Novice Hurdle before
  • 21 of the last 28 winners ran in the last 45 days
  • Irish-trained horses have won 17 of the last 31 runnings
  • 5 & 6 year-olds have the best record – winning 16 of the last 18 runnings
  • Willie Mullins has won the race 7 times in total and for 5 of the last 10 years
  • 8 of the last 10 winners were either (5) Mullins or (3) Henderson-trained
  • 26 of the last 28 winners had raced that same calendar year
  • Owner Rich Ricci & trainer Willie Mullins have won 3 of the last 10 runnings
  • 6 of the last 9 winners had been rated 153 or more
  • 9 of the last 10 winners returned a single-figure price
  • 9 of the last 14 winners were previous bumper winners


  • Horses that FAILED to win last time out before coming here are just 3 from the last 26. In other words, look for horses that won last time out!
  • Since 1992 all horses (38) wearing head-gear have been beaten
  • We’ve seen just two ex-flat horses win since 2008
  • Just 3 of the last 20 winners came here unbeaten
  • Just 1 of the last 20 winners aged 7 or older
  • Just 2 outright winning favourites in the last 18 runnings
  • 4 year-olds are 0-15 since 2000
  • Betfair Hurdle winners are 0-from-8 in the last decade

2.10 - Sporting Life Arkle Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 1m 7f 199y ITV

2022 Winner: EDWARDSTONE (5/2 fav)
Trainer – Alan King
Jockey – Tom Cannon
UK/Irish: UK-trained


  • 14 of the last 18 winners had won (or been placed) at Cheltenham before
  • 17 of the last 23 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 chase before
  • The last 13 winners won last time out (plus 18 of the last 22)
  • 21 of the last 23 winners returned 9/1 or shorter
  • 13 of the last 17 winners had won at least twice over fences before
  • 14 of the last 16 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 15 of the last 20 winners had run 3 or 4 times over fences
  • 14 of the last 19 winners had run at the previous year’s Cheltenham Festival
  • 8 of the last 11 winners were unbeaten over fences
  • Nicky Henderson has won the race 7 times
  • Willie Mullins has won 4 of the last 8 runnings (all French-bred)
  • 8 of the last 11 winners trained by Willie Mullins or Nicky Henderson (4 each)
  • 8 of the last 11 favourites have won


  • Only 2 of the last 36 winners failed to win of finish second last time out
  • Just 3 of the last 32 winners started 11/1 or bigger in the betting
  • Only 4 of the last 31 winners were older than 7 years-old
  • The last horse aged 9 (or older) to win was in 1988
  • Ex-flat horses have a poor record
  • Only 1 winner since 2000 won with headgear
  • 5 year-olds are 0-16 in the last 13 years
  • Shishkin (2021), Douvan (2016) and Altior (2017) were the first Supreme Hurdle winners (prev season) that have followed-up in this race since 1965
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has had 12 unplaced from his last 13 runners

    2.50 - Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f ITV

Trainer – Lucinda Russell
Jockey – Derek Fox
UK/Irish: UK-trained


  • 16 of the last 23 winners were officially rated 143 or less
  • 15 of the last 22 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 18 of the last 22 winners returned 11/1 or shorter
  • 16 of the last 22 were novices or second season chasers
  • 8 of the last 15 winners were rated between 142-146 (7 between 142-145)
  • Horses rated 140+ have won 14 of the last 22 runnings
  • 9 of the last 20 won last time out
  • Horses that have run well in the race before have a good record
  • 9 of the last 11 winners wore headgear
  • 10 of the last 13 winners had run at Cheltenham that season
  • Jonjo O’Neill, Alan King, Nicky Henderson, Tony Martin & David Pipe are trainers to note
  • All winners since 2000 had won over 3m+ before
  • 5 of the last 8 winners ran at Cheltenham’s January meeting
  • 4 of the last 9 winners ran in the Ladbrokes Trophy that season
  • 11 of the last 14 winners had run at the Festival before
  • Northern-based runners have a good record


  • Be a bit wary of horses carrying 11-04 or more in weight – 12 of the last 18 carried 10-12 or less, although the 2017 winner carried 11-12 & the 2019 winner won with 11-8. The 2022 winner (Corach Rambler carried 10st 2lbs)
  • Horses aged 11 or older are just 3 from 54 to even get placed
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls-trained horses – he’s currently 0 from 24
  • Only 3 winners in the last 14 hadn’t raced at a previous Festival
  • Only 5 winners since 2000 have returned bigger than 11/1
  • The Irish have won just 2 of the last 54 runnings (since 1967)
  • Irish-trained runners are 0-35 in the last 16 runnings

    3.30 - Unibet Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 87y ITV

2022 Winner: HONEYSUCKLE (1st 8/11 fav)
Trainer – Henry De Bromhead
Jockey – Rachael Blackmore
UK/Irish: Irish-trained


  • 33 of the last 39 won last time out
  • Horses unbeaten that season often do well (10 of last 12)
  • The Irish and Nicky Henderson have won 20 of the last 24 runnings between them
  • 9 of the last 14 winners came from the Henderson or Willie Mullins yards
  • The Irish have won 15 of the last 24 runnings
  • Owner JP McManus has won 6 of the last 13 (10 in total)
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has won 4 of the last 12 runnings
  • 27 of the last 33 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old (11 of last 16)
  • 14 of the last 24 winners had won at the Festival before
  • 25 of the last 38 winners were placed in the first 4 at the previous season’s festival
  • The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is a good guide (4 winners, 6 places in last 15 runnings)
  • 14 of the last 27 winners started as flat horses
  • The last 8 winners were unbeaten that season
  • Look for horses that have raced at least once that calendar year
  • Trainer Nicky Henderson has won the race 8 times, including 3 of the last 6 years
  • 6 of the last 14 winners contested the Christmas Hurdle (Kempton)
  • Mares are currently 4 from 9 during last 9 runnings
  • 9 of the last 14 winners were (4) Mullins or (5) Henderson-trained


  • Avoid horses that failed to finish in the top three last time out
  • 5 year-olds are just 2 from 111 since 1985, but the 2019 winner was a 5 year-old
  • Since 1927 we’ve only seen 2 winners aged 10 or older (0-30 in the last 39 runnings)
  • Just 1 of the last 16 winners had raced more than 12 times over hurdles
  • Christmas Hurdle (Kempton, 26th Dec) winners are just 4 from 32, but – Epatante 2020) – did the Christmas Hurdle/Champion Hurdle double.
  • Just 2 horses have regained the race since 1975
  • International Hurdle winners are 0-from-13 (last 19 years)
  • Only 2 of the last 24 winners hadn’t raced at the Festival before
  • The last Supreme Novice’ Hurdle winner to win the Champion Hurdle the following season was 52 years ago (Bula)

    4.10 - Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 3f 200y ITV

2022 Winner: MARIE’S ROCK
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Nico de Boinville
UK/Irish: UK-trained


  • Follow Irish-trained mares (12 of last 15)
  • The favourite (or 2nd fav) have won 11 of the last 15 runnings
  • 8 of the last 15 favourites have won
  • 12 of the last 12 winners aged between 5-7 years-old
  • 14 of the last 15 winners had won over at least 2m4f
  • Willie Mullins has trained 9 of the last 15 winners
  • Look for Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Paul Nolan & Alan King runners
  • Novices generally do well
  • 10 of the last 15 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 before
  • 6 of the last 11 winners had won over 2m6f+ before
  • Horses that began their careers in bumpers have done well
  • Respect French-bred mares – won 9 renewals
  • 11 of the last 15 winners returned 6/1 or shorter
  • 12 of the last 15 winners had won (or placed) in a graded race against the males


  • Avoid front-runners
  • British-bred mares are currently 3-86
  • Just 1 outright favourite in the last 8 runnings
  • Just one winner from last 31 runners to wear headgear have won
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs and Noel Meade runners
  • Benie De Dieux is the only ex-flat horse to win the race
  • Just 1 winner aged 8+ (Quevega)

    4.50 - Boodles Juvenile Hurdle (Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle) 2m 87y) ITV

2022 Winner: BRAZIL (10/1)
Trainer – Padraig Roche
Jockey – Mark Walsh
UK/Irish: Irish-trained


  • 10 of the last 18 winners had run exactly 3 times over hurdles before
  • French bred horses have a good record
  • 9 of the last 18 winners started their careers in France
  • Respect Fillies
  • 12 of the last 18 winners carried 11st+
  • 9 of the last 18 winners won last time out
  • 8 of the last 12 winners all came from the bottom half of the weights/handicap
  • 11 of the last 18 had run in the last 25 days
  • David Pipe, Paul Nicholls, Gordon Elliot (3 of last 10) and Alan King-trained horses often do well
  • 6 of the last 11 winners returned between 25/1 and 40/1 (7 of the last 11 priced 25/1+)
  • 12 of the last 18 winners returned a double-figure price
  • Respect horses wearing headgear
  • 13 of the last 18 winners were rated between 124-134
  • 8 of the last 15 winners were British-trained
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has won 3 of the last 13 runnings
  • 13 of the last 18 winners had won no more than once over hurdles


  • Just 2 recent winners had last raced in January or further back
  • Trainers Willie Mullins, Philip Hobbs and Venetia Williams are 0 from 38 between them
  • Just 3 of the last 18 winners rated 135+
  • Horses bred in Britain are 0-59 (last 14 years)
  • Willie Mullins runners are 0 from 18 (just 2 placed in top 5 too)
  • Only 3 winners had run in a handicap hurdle before
  • No winner had raced at Cheltenham before
  • Horses with 2+ wins over hurdles are just 2 from 18

    5.30 – National Hunt Chase (Amateur Riders' Novices' Chase) (Grade 2) 3m 5f 201y RTV

2022 Winner: STATTLER 2/1
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Patrick Mullins
UK/Irish: Irish-trained


  • 13 of the last 21 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 12 of the last 17 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old (23 of the last 32)
  • 9 of the last 13 winners had run 5+ times over fences
  • 10 of the last 12 winners had run in a Graded Novice chase
  • 6 of the last 12 winners had run in a Grade One Novice Chase that season
  • 8 of the last 16 had run in a chase at Cheltenham before that season
  • 9 of the last 13 winners had run at a previous Cheltenham Festival
  • 9 of the last 12 winners returned a single-figure price
  • Respect horses wearing headgear
  • 8 of the last 12 winners Irish-trained
  • 9 of the last 12 winners were rated 145 (or more)
  • Look out for JP McManus-owned runners (6 winners)
  • Jonjo O’Neill has trained 6 winners in the race (5-from-22)
  • Jockey Derek O’Connor has 2 wins / 4 places (from 16 rides)
  • Derek O’Connor, Jamie Codd & Patrick Mullins have won 8 of the last 12 (3, Codd, 3 Mullins, 2 O’Connor)
  • Jockey Jamie Codd has won 3 of the last 8
  • Gordon Elliott has won the race 4 times from just 10 runners
  • 3 of the last 5 winners owned by Ronnie Bartlett


  • 5 and 6 year-olds are just 2 from 81 since 1989
  • Just 4 of the last 12 winners were top-rated
  • Favourites have won just 3 of the last 13 runnings
  • Just 2 of the last 32 winners were aged 6 years-old
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has NEVER won this race - he’s currently 0 from 19
  • Trainer Nicky Henderson has NEVER won this race
  • Horses with less than 3 chase starts don’t fare well
  • Horses rated in the 130’s have a poor record (1 from 12)
  • Just 2 winners in the last 14 returned bigger than 12/1








Cheltenham Festival: The 15 year View

It is almost that time! For many, the Cheltenham Festival is the highlight of not just the National Hunt season, but the whole racing year, writes Dave Renham.

In this article I will attempt to break down the facts and figures going back as far as 2008. This gives us 15 years’ worth of data to crunch, which is plenty to get our teeth into. Fifteen is also a neat number as we can easily compare 5–year periods (2008–2012; 2013–2017; 2018–2022) to see what, if anything has changed.

My main focus will be looking at the data as a whole – market factors, last time out (LTO) factors, etc. At the end I will delve briefly into Grade 1 contests only. In terms of profit and loss, I am going to use Betfair Starting Price, and take into account commission on potential profits.

Cheltenham Festival Stats for All Races

Since 2016 there have been 28 races in total at each year's Cheltenham Festival and that will be the same in 2023: four days with seven races on each day, and a rich variety of different race types and distances.


Market Factors

Let's first examine the results by market price. Although I am quoting profits/losses to BSP, the market price bands I am examining are based on Industry SPs. This is simply because we have more defined prices for this group:


The Evens to 9/4 bracket has proved the most profitable in ROI terms and, taking shorter priced runners as a whole, the market has been a pretty good guide. Combining all runners priced 6/1 or shorter we have seen 182 winners from 807 (SR 22.6%) for a small BSP loss of £7.42 (ROI –0.9%).

Despite these relatively positive figures, there are strong fluctuations year on year as the graph below shows.



As you can see, the win percentage / strike rate peaked in 2016 at 33.33%, whereas 2010, 2014 and 2017 saw percentages dip under half that figure. Eight of the years would have turned a profit, seven a loss. Hence one needs to be aware that results for runners priced 6/1 or shorter are difficult to predict for a one–off Festival, 28 races always being a small sample size. However, having said that, taking the overall data into account, one could do worse than focusing attention on this price band.


Performance of Favourites at the Cheltenham Festival (2008-2022)

A look at favourites next. Taking all favourites as a group (clear and joint favourites), they have secured 113 wins from 443 races (SR 25.5%). However, backing all of them would have returned £43.12 less than staked, equating to a loss of nearly 10 pence in the £. Before ‘binning’ favourites as a betting option though, let me share the stats comparing clear favourites with joint favourites:



There is quite a difference here! Of course, it is sometimes difficult to predict who the favourite will be pre-race which can be an issue for trying to exploit ‘market data’. However, as a general rule, the stronger the favourite the better. What I mean by that is, horses who are a much shorter price than the second horse in the betting tend to do best here at the festival. AND of course this type of favourite can be confidently predicted before the off.

For favourite fans here are a few profitable angles in relation to clear market leaders:



The best figures come from horses aged 7 to 9: we do need to be careful bracketing runners by age, in case there is back-fitting in play. However, this age bracket of runner is around the optimum age for high level jump racing and much is known about such runners. By that I mean we usually have detailed form lines for runners within this age bracket. Of course there are races at the festival where 7 to 9yos do not take part, but in the races they do, if any clear favourite is in this age band, I believe it demands close scrutiny.

We will examine Irish trainers versus UK trainers in more detail later, but Irish-trained clear favourites have done well. If we combine the clear favourite records of Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Henry De Bromhead, 39.1% of them won (54 wins from 138) for a profit of £27.25 (ROI +19.7%). The ‘rise’ of Irish runners will be a theme of this piece, and this can be seen when we look at a year by year breakdown of clear favourites that were trained in Ireland.



The graph illustrates a clear upwards trajectory with the last four years averaging out at just under 20 per meeting (19.5 to be precise). Essentially this means that around 70% of all races in the past four years have had an Irish-trained favourite. Compare this to the first five years (2008 to 2012) where the average was 7.4.


Last Time Out (LTO) performance

Cheltenham Festival Performance by LTO finishing position (2008-2022)

Onto last time out factors now with my initial focus being on where a horse finished in its most recent race:



Although horses that either finished 3rd LTO or 5th or worse have made a profit, this is down to big prices skewing the figures. As we can see, strike rates are low across the board, but if there is an area to concentrate on, it does seem to be last day winners. This is because they are the biggest group, have by far the best record win wise, and they have just about broken even.

Earlier I noted that LTO winners that went on to head the market at the festival have proved profitable. What about other areas?


Performance of LTO winners by Gender of Horse 

I want to share some gender data with you in terms of the gender of horse. Male LTO winners make up around 90% of all such runners, but female LTO winners have comfortably outperformed their male counterparts at the festival in terms of strike rate:



194 female LTO winners have run at the festival with 31 winning. Not only that, if you had backed all of them ‘blind’ they would have secured you a profit of £116.24 (ROI 59.2%). If sticking to solely mixed sex races (races open to both sexes) the stats, albeit from a small sample, are even more impressive: 13 wins from 69 (SR 18.8%) for a profit of £116.14 (ROI +168.3%). Indeed, looking at the last three festivals (2020, 2021 and 2022) LTO winning female horses running in mixed sex races have won 8 races from just 20 runners!


Performance of LTO winners by LTO Race Class

Time to examine whether the class of race that the horse won last time out makes a difference... and it certainly seems to!



Horses that won a Grade 1 contest LTO have scored close to one race in every four which is impressive. Backing all runners would have yielded a good profit also of over 22p in the £. Horses winning LTO in either Grade 2, 3 or Listed company have very similar strike rates, but it is Listed LTO winners who have created the best profit (£49.48 returning 41p in the £).

LTO winners outside Graded and Listed company have by far the poorest strike rate as you would expect. They have incurred losses of £116.97 (ROI -8.3%) over the period of study. LTO winners outside Graded and Listed company have not surprisingly struggled even more when the race at Cheltenham is a Graded one – in these races their record reads 50 wins from 957 (SR 5.2%) for a loss of £149.46 (ROI -15.6%). Losses have been steepest in Grade 1 contests with your £1 bet returning on average 79p (loss of 21p in the £).


Performance of LTO winners by LTO Course

The next question I will try and address is, does the track at which the horse ran LTO make a difference? One might expect that horses that ran at a top track last time would outperform those that didn’t. The table below looks at any course that has sent 75 or more runners next time out to the Cheltenham Festival. I have ordered it by win strike rate:



What immediately resonates is the record of Irish tracks: the top four in the list are all Irish tracks and runners from all four (Thurles, Leopardstown, Naas and Navan) have secured decent profits at the festival to BSP. Irish tracks also take positions 6 and 7, giving them six of the first seven spots in the list. Focusing on those top four courses, here is win strike rate breakdown by 5-year groups:



The last decade has seen a notable uptick in performance which mirrors the type of pattern we saw earlier in terms of the increasing number of Irish runners that have started clear favourite. In that favourite data, the years 2008 to 2012 saw the smallest market leader numbers by some margin. Of course, we know about the dominance of Irish winners at recent Festivals but there is still plenty on which to chew in relation to possible value edges.

Before moving on, any system punters out there may want to consider an angle based on last time out runners from these four Irish tracks. It combines some positives we have already noted and is as follows:

  1. LTO run at Leopardstown, Naas, Navan or Thurles
  2. LTO run in Graded / Listed Race
  3. Finished in first three LTO

The results were:


Ten of the 15 years would have yielded a profit, and a very good one in nine of those ten positive renewals. Three years made small losses, two years quite big losses.

Sceptics will naturally be highlighting the fact that this system idea is back-fitted, and to a great extent they would be right. However, the rules are simple, logical, and there are not many of them, all of which is positive from a system building perspective.

I am definitely not advocating that this system is one that punters should use ‘blind’ at the 2023 festival, but it may offer a potential starting point, to at least give you a pool of runners to consider. Also, for readers with little time to study form, I am confident there are plenty of systems around that are less likely to produce a profit at the Festival than this one.


Irish runners versus UK runners

We have already noted some positives connected with Irish runners or those that raced in Ireland last time. It goes without saying that the vast majority of horses racing at Cheltenham that raced in Ireland last time out would have been from Irish stables; in fact 97% of them were. Hence there definitely has been a strong Irish bias.

Below is a breakdown of the records of all UK trainers versus all Irish trainers:



Looking at this, we can the Irish bias in all its glory. Irish-trained runners have more than twice the strike rate of their counterparts trained in UK. Moreover, they've enjoyed a 55p in the £ difference in their returns, and a clear differential between the A/E indices.

In recent years their stranglehold has got stronger and stronger. Below shows the number of Irish wins by 5-year groups:



These figures are skewed inasmuch as the last five years have seen a big increase in the number of Irish horses travelling across. However, the win strike rate for Irish runners in the five years from 2008 to 2012 was 6.8%, whereas in the past five years (2018 to 2022) it has been 9.7%. So the Irish are sending more runners than they did more than a decade ago, and are winning on average more often. That, obviously, is a potent combination.

Indeed, Irish runners have outperformed UK runners in terms of win strike rate in the last ten festivals starting from 2013 as the graph below neatly illustrates.



The UK runners did close the gap in 2022, after a dreadful 2021. Will they be able to get any closer this year? Only time will tell, but you have to expect the Irish to come out on top overall once more.


Grade 1 Races

For the final segment of this article I want to have a brief look at Grade 1 races. These races comprise 50% of the 28 Festival contests and, in the last 15 years, they have accounted for roughly the same percentage of all the Festival contests (some of the newer races being upgraded during the review period).

The betting market comes under the spotlight first.


Market Factors in Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 Races

I have split the prices as I did earlier in the article and here are the Grade 1 only figures:



The data show a poor record for odds-on runners, but in general short- to mid-range prices do quite well. The cut off price looks to be at 14/1 – at this price and bigger Grade 1 runners have performed poorly. Strike rates are below what is the 14/1+ norm for all National Hunt races and losses have been significant.

If we look at market position data instead, clear favourites in Grade 1 races have just edged into profit, albeit by only £6.77 (ROI +3.6%); backing ALL runners in the top four in the betting would have yielded a profit of £55.24 (ROI +6.8%).


LTO performance in Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 Races

One group of runners to avoid in Grade 1 races seems to be those that ran relatively modestly or poorly last time out. Horses that finished 5th or worse on their prep run have accounted for just eight winners from 282 runners (SR 2.8%) for a hefty BSP loss of £129.01 (ROI -45.8%). Meanwhile, last day winners have secured 141 wins from 1200 runners (SR 11.8%). They, too, made a loss but nowhere near as severe, at -£50.53 (ROI -4.2%).


LTO Race Class

A look next at race class on their previous start (all Cheltenham Grade 1 runners).



There is a sliding scale of strike rates as you would expect. Horses that raced outside Graded/Listed company have a poor record.

If we focus only on LTO winners, it is interesting that each LTO Graded category made a small individual profit to BSP, as did those who won a Listed contest.


LTO course

In terms of the course Grade 1 Cheltenham Festival entries ran at last time, Irish courses have again outperformed UK ones. This time around I have grouped all courses in each country for the comparison:



It is no surprise to see horses that ran in Ireland LTO coming out on top in terms of strike rate, returns and A/E indices. There is, however, one Irish course where caution might be advised, and that is Gowran Park. Just 2 winners from 90 runners in the last 15 years prepped there, with losses amounting to over 88p in the £.


Gender of Horse (LTO winners only)

We saw earlier that LTO winners that were female had a better strike rate than males, as well as proving profitable. Focusing on Grade 1 races only, this pattern is replicated once more:



A strike rate of close to 1 in 5 is excellent and female LTO winners have secured a profit in Grade 1 races of £66.94 (ROI +85.8%). Hence any female running this year at Cheltenham who won last time out might be a horse to consider as a betting opportunity.


Irish runners versus UK runners

It is abundantly clear from what we have seen to date that, in general, Irish-trained runners outperform those trained in the UK at the Cheltenham Festival. From the LTO course (by country) figures we can see that this is also the case in Grade 1 races (as most of the runners that ran in Ireland last time are Irish-based). What I would like to share is the number of Irish wins in Grade 1 races broken down by year:



The last ten years (from 2013 onwards) have seen Irish runners dominate these events more and more. Indeed, in the last two years we have witnessed double figure victories and, considering there were only 14 Grade 1 races in each of 2021 and 2022, this is mightily impressive (or concerning, if you're a British-based racing administrator, trainer or owner). To spell it out, in the most recent two Cheltenham Festivals, Irish runners have secured 22 wins compared with just six for the UK.


Key Takeaways

Before winding down, here are some of the key stats I suggest you keep in mind:

  1. The betting market is a good guide. Clear favourites are reasonable value in all races including Grade 1 contests. Focusing attention on horses priced 6/1 or shorter should give a sporting chance of making a profit. In Grade 1 races avoiding horses priced 14/1 or bigger will usually save you some cash.
  2. Irish runners are likely to outperform their UK counterparts. This is especially probable in Grade 1 races. The trainers Henry de Bromhead, Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins have good records with favourites.
  3. Female horses have a good record when following up a win last time. This is true even in Grade 1 contests.
  4. A prep run at Leopardstown, Naas, Navan or Thurles has provided good profits over the past 15 years.
  5. Last time out Grade 1 winners are generally decent value.
  6. In Grade 1 races it looks best to avoid horses that finished 5th or worse in their final prep.


Hopefully this article has offered some good general guidance to follow, with the hope that it will find a winner or two along the way. This is my last article before Cheltenham, so good luck, and I'll see you on the other side with some early thoughts for the 2023 flat campaign!

- Dave R

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