It's now less than three weeks until the Cheltenham Festival, dear reader, and I've been scouring the form and trends for the first big novice chase of that illustrious meeting, the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.
Reviewing the last ten runnings (stretching back to Flagship Uberalles in 1999, due to foot and mouth in 2001), there are some interesting lines that give a number of the highly fancied runners a fair bit to do.
I uncovered the following trends:
Age: 9/10 5-7yo (5/10 7yo)
SP: 5/4 - 11/1 (Ave: 13/2)
Chase Runs: 1-5 (Ave: 3.5; 8/10 3-5 runs)
Chase Wins: 10/10 at least one win; only 4/10 won all starts; Ave 74% wins
Best Chase Run: 9/10 1st Cl4+ Nov Ch; 7/10 1st or 2nd G2+ Nov Ch
LTO: 8/10 1st or 2nd (plus one faller and one 3rd)
Layoff: 23-65 days (Ave: 39 days)
Trained: 8 UK, 2 Ire
Best Hurdles: 9/10 won over hurdles; 6/10 1st G1/2 Hdle
Cheltenham Form: 6/10 1st or 2nd; 3 never raced there; 1 4th Ballymore
Official Rating: 147-154 (Ave: 151; 7/10 No OR)
Topspeed: 112-150 (Ave: 140; 9/10 138-150)
Racing Post Rating: 131-167 (Ave: 151; 8/10 141-167)
The only winner in the last decade older than 7, was the extremely high class Moscow Flyer, who went on to win two Queen Mother Champion Chases.
Captain Cee Bee, the 7/2 favourite for the race this year, is nine. The last 9yo to win was Danish Flight, back in 1988, and before that it was Sir Ken in 1956. I'd want to be against the old boy on 16th March.
Sizing Europe, second or third favourite in most lists, is an 8yo and doesn't look to be Moscow Flyer class. Moreover, he has a big black mark against his name with the way he went out like a light when looking good in the Champion Hurdle last year.
The biggest priced winner since 1999 was Flagship Uberalles, at just 11/1. In fact, it's twenty years since a longer priced horse took the Arkle.
No Arkle winner has won on fencing debut, so Mikael D'Haguenet has a mountain to climb, if he even gets to Cheltenham. Furthermore, all of the last ten Arkle winners had already won a chase, but 6/10 had been beaten in their chase careers.
70% of winners in the last ten renewals had placed 1st or 2nd in a Grade 1 or 2 race. Captain Cee Bee fell on his only Graded chase start, behind Sizing Europe.
All of the last 22 winners, except Moscow Flyer (fell) and Contraband (3rd) finished in the first two on their previous start. Osana could only manage 3rd last time out.
Despite the race being sponsored by the Irish Independent, and boasting Moscow Flyer on its alumni list, the Brits have won eight of the last ten, compared to Ireland's two. The Irish are always well represented, both numerically and at the top of the market, so this seems to be a material stat. (Side note, Forpadydeplaster did strike for the Irish last year!)
It's especially interesting in the context of four of the first seven in the market being Irish. [Note, I have excluded Long Run from calculations, as he seems certain to race in the RSA Chase.]
Of the last ten winners, six had finished first or second at Cheltenham previously, one finished fourth in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle at the Festival (Forpadydeplaster), and three were making their first visit. So, whilst we can't exclude Cheltenham debutants, we should be wary of horses who have failed to perform when they have raced there.
This counts against The Nightingale, Shakervilz, Mad Max and Kangaroo Court.
Looking at the figures from the Racing Post, pretty much all of the runners at the top of the market fit within the Racing Post Rating bracket, so these data are not too instructive. However, if we review the Topspeed figures, we get a different perspective.
9/10 recorded a Topspeed best of 138-150. Sports Line and An Cathaoir Mor, amongst others, have a lot to find in terms of raw speed (though they have been racing on heavy ground).
Applying all this info to the likely field for the Arkle points squarely at one horse for me. He's two from three over fences, finishing second in a dawdle race last time (reminding me of Tidal Bay in the process); he's from THE top stable of Paul Nicholls; he's the right age; has won a Grade 2 novice chase already; had the right layoff; and has little or nothing to find on both speed and form ratings.
Step forward Tataniano. When he got beaten in that muddling race last time, Nicholls was quick to blame himself, saying he shouldn't have run the horse on the soft ground and over the 2m2f trip. Taking it as read that Tataniano is (much) better on better ground and over two miles (and also assuming that Cheltenham will be good to soft or firmer!), Tataniano represents great value at 16/1 (William Hill), and I reckon he must be shorter on the day.
The liveliest outsider might well be French Opera, should he run in the race. He's far more exposed than most, having had seven chase runs stretching as far back as November 2008 (I'm not sure why he's still a novice, but he is). But he has the best speed figures in the race, has won three on the bounce (including his last two here at Cheltenham, beating decent experienced handicappers), and is trained by Nicky Henderson - a man with few peers at Cheltenham. I much prefer his chance to Henderson's other fancied runner, Riverside Theatre, who hasn't run since 27th December and will now go straight to the Festival. Frenchie on the other hand is entered on Saturday in a hurdle race, in order to get him up to race fitness.
The one reservation I have about French Opera is that he might well go for something like the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual, a handicap over the Arkle trip and named in honour of Henderson's father (!). The weights are out, I believe, this Friday, so it might be prudent to wait until then before striking a wager. If he does go for the Arkle though, I can see him running a nice race at a nice price.
If you want to look at the data, after the problems with Excel for the Grand National dataset earlier in the week, I've created a pdf version this time.
Selection: Tataniano (16/1, William Hill)
Best value outsider: French Opera (33/1 general, 48 on Betfair win, 12 Betfair place for a few pennies) - hold fire until the handicap declarations are made - I think on Friday.
Now then, it's been a while so I guess it was overdue. Last night / this morning, I lost my rag with a few of the commenters on the blog. My dander was up by the pedantry brigade which, in fairness, is tantamount to hypocrisy on my part, as I'm such a pedant myself. I was probably more annoyed with me than them.
[The problem, chaps, is that I write this as I would speak to a friend, and I do make grammatical errors in my conversational speech alas.]
But that was as nothing to the acute irritation I felt when my integrity was brought into question regarding my review of the Betfair Conspiracy.Â You see, I offer my opinions on here to anyone who cares to listen, and I proudly offer them on a completely unbiased and independent basis.
Where I do have a personal interest, such as with Horse Racing Experts or any other of my products, I absolutely make that clear.
When it comes to system reviews, I am only able to review products for up to a month due to:
a) the time overhead, and
b) the sheer volume of systems released
As such, it's difficult to give anything other than a flavour of what the system is about and how it performs in that microcosm of time that it took its turn in the Geegeez spotlight.
When I review products, I present the facts, and I offer an opinion. Facts are incontrovertible, my opinion is debatable. And I welcome healthy debate, as we very often have in the comments section.
What I don't particularly welcome, and what has caused me quite a personal disappointment, is people questioning my honesty and integrity. Those personal traits mean far more to me than the relatively small beer I receive in commissions on the rare occasions when I make a favourable review (probably less than one in five system reviews ends favourably).
And, on the subject of commissions, I have long since added some verbiage to my 'About' page, explaining how reviews on Geegeez work. You can read that here: http://www.geegeez.co.uk/stuff/about/
In short, I stand by my review yesterday (of course), and I respect the opinions of others who believe the system will ultimately fail. I respect their opinions, but I don't agree with them, based on my own rudimentary research.
But I draw the line when people suggest I'm being dishonest as that I find personally offensive.
Anyway, (more than) enough already.
On the interesting and relevant comments about Betfair Conspiracy, there was a concern aired about liquidity. That is, would the amount of people wanting to bet the same horse in the place market cause the price to full considerably.Â I can tell you that the place market for the 2.45 race contained Â£174,416, of which Â£64,407 was matched on our selection. That is, there's plenty of cash available to back these horses.
I identified the following races to play on the Betfair Conspiracy system today:
1.50 Ludlow (I didn't play, too short - WON - 1.12)
2.45 Lingfield - WON - 1.41
3.55 Lingfield (I'm not playing, too short)
I also considered but discounted on form grounds the following races:
You may have a slightly different view of the selections from me, which is fine, as the system is methodological as opposed to absolute (if that makes any sense).
[Sidenote: I know you know this, but I'll just remind you again that if you click that link and decide to buy, I will receive a part of your purchase price. You will pay no more than if you acquired the product directly from the vendor, but my company - Summum Bonum Ltd - will receive a credit.]
Sorry for the rambling rant, and thank you for bearing with me there.
Have a great day!