2019 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY THREE (Thurs 14th March 2019)

Each day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts here at GeeGeez.co.uk 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 2019 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 

DAY THREE: Thursday 14th March 2019

13:30 JLT Novices' Chase   2m 4f

2018 Winner: SHATTERLED LOVE (4/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Jack Kennedy

Pluses….

  • 7 of the 8 winners were Irish-trained
  • Willie Mullins has trained 4 of the last 8 winners
  • 6 of the last 8 winners had won a Graded Chase before
  • All 8 past winners had run at the Festival before
  • 7 of the 8 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 6 of the last 8 winners came from the top 2 in the betting
  • 7 of the last 8 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 7 of the last 8 winners returned 7/1 or shorter
  • 5 of the last 8 winners won last time out
  • 5 of the last 8 winners ran at Leopardstown last time out
  • 6 of the last 8 winners ran between 47-54 days ago
  • 7 year-olds have won 6 of last 8 renewals

Negatives….

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

14:10 Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle   3m

2018 Winner: DELTA WORK (6/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Davy Russell

Pluses….

  • 7 of the last 13 winners were aged 8 or older
  • 8 of the last 9 winners started their careers in bumpers (6) or points (2)
  • 10 of the last 18 winners were from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • The last 8 winners were rated 138 or higher
  • 9 of the last 12 winners were rated between 132-142 (inc)
  • 9 of the last 14 winners had won over at least 2m7f
  • 9 of the last 12 winners had run 10 or less times over hurdles before
  • 8 of the last 18 winners won their last race
  • 3 of the last 10 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

Negatives….

  • Just 4 Irish-trained winners in the last 13 runnings
  • Avoid horses with less than 6 runs over hurdles
  • 5 year-olds have won just twice since 1973
  • French-bred horses are currently on a run of 1-80
  • All horses rated 150+ since 2000 have failed to finish in the top 2
  • 1 winning favourite in last 13 years
  • Paul Nicholls is currently 0 from 18 (One third and two 2nds in the last 5 runnings)
  • Horses aged 7 or younger and priced in single-figures are just 2 from 37

14:50 Ryanair Chase   2m 5f

2018 Winner: BALKO DES FLOS (8/1)
Trainer – Henry de Bromhead
Jockey – Davy Russell

Pluses….

  • 19 of the 27 winners and runners-up had won at the course before
  • 5 of the last 6 winners were 2nd season chasers
  • 9 of the last 11 had won at Cheltenham previously
  • 9 of the last 11 winners had won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • The King George VI Chase is often a good guide (7 from 25)
  • The previous year’s renewal is often a good guide
  • 10 of the last 13 winners returned 6/1 or shorter
  • 6 of the last 7 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • 10 of the last 11 winners were rated 161+
  • 4 of the last 14 winners were placed in the top 3 in the Ascot Chase last time out
  • 10 of last 14 winners were fav or 2nd fav
  • Trainers Jonjo O’Neill, David Pipe & Nicky Henderson are respected
  • Respect first time head-gear (2 from 7)
  • 8 of the last 11 winners DIDN’T win last time out
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Negatives….

  • The Irish are 3 from 43 runners in this race
  • Avoid horses priced 7/1 or bigger
  • Avoid horses aged 11 or older
  • Just one winner rated 160 or below
  • Just 3 of the last 11 won last time out
  • All winners ran 4 or less times that season
  • No winner was having their Festival debut

 

15:30 Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle 3m

2018 Winner: PENHILL (12/1)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend

 

Pluses….

  • 10 of the last 14 won last time out
  • 16 of the last 18 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 8 of the last 17 were French Bred
  • Respect the Cleeve Hurdle and Long Walk Hurdle form
  • 14 of the last 17 winners finished 1st or 2nd in all their hurdling runs that season
  • 12 of the last 14 winners started 10/1 or less in the betting
  • Respect past winners of the race

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses that didn’t finish either 1st or 2nd last time out (2 from 19)
  • A 5 year-old is yet to win the race
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has only won the race twice
  • Avoid front runners
  • The Irish are have won the race just three times since 1995
  • Avoid horses that were beaten in the race before
  • Previous Albert Bartlett winners have an overall poor record (1 from 16)
  • Horses wearing headgear are 0 from 63
  • Horses aged 10 or older have all been beaten since 1986 (0 from 52)

16:10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate   2m 5f

2018 Winner: THE STORYTELLER (5/1 fav)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Davy Russell

Pluses….

  • 26 of the last 31 winners were officially rated 141 or less
  • 9 of the last 10 winners carried under 11-0
  • Look out for French-breds
  • Venetia Williams & Pipe-trained runners should be noted
  • The Pipe yard have won 7 of the last 21 runnings
  • 16 of the last 18 winners returned at double-figure odds
  • 20 of the last 27 winners had run at the Festival before (but 6 of last 8 were having Festival debut)
  • 18 of the last 19 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
  • 17 of the last 19 winners came from outside the top 4 in the market

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses that are yet to win at Class 3 or better
  • The Irish have only sent out 4 winners since 1951
  • 2 winning favourites in the last 13 years
  • 3 of last 24 won with 11st+
  • Winners of a chase at Cheltenham before have poor records

16:50 Dawn Run Mares’ Novices Hurdle 2m1f

2018 Winner: LAURINA (4/7 fav)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend

A new race (Just three renewals)
Favourites have all three runnings
All three past winners won last time out
All three winners have been aged 5 years-old
Willie Mullins won the race in 2016, 2017 & 2018
Ruby Walsh has ridden the winner in 2016, 2017
Owner Rich Ricci has won 2 of the last 3 runnings

17:30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase   3m 1½f

2018 Winner: MISSED APPROACH (8/1)
Trainer – Warren Greatrex
Jockey – Mr N McParlan

Pluses….

  • Respect 8 and 9 year-olds
  • 3 of the last 8 winners ran in the BetVictor Handicap Chase (Open Meeting)
  • The last 7 winners ran off a mark of 137 or more
  • 7 of the last 9 winners carried 11st 5lbs+
  • Look for McCain, Pipe and Henderson-trained runners
  • Look for horses in the top half of the handicap
  • 17 of the last 19 winners ran over at least three miles in their last race
  • Look for non-claiming amateur riders
  • 7 of the last 8 winners wore headgear
  • 8 of the last 10 winners came from the top 6 in the market
  • Jamie Codd has ridden 4 of the last 10 winners
  • Nina Carberry placed 6 times, Derek O’Connor 2nd 3 times

Negatives….

  • Just two Irish winners for 35 years (but have won 2 of the last 5)
  • 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 20
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has a poor record in the race
  • Horses carrying less than 10-10 have a poor record
  • French breds are 0 from 56 since 2005
  • Avoid claiming jockeys – 1 from 85 since 2009

 

 

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2019 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY FOUR (Fri 15th March 2019)

Each day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts here at GeeGeez.co.uk 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 2019 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 

DAY FOUR: Friday 15th March 2019

 

13:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle   2m 1f

2018 Winner: FARCLAS (9/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Jack Kennedy

Pluses…..

  • 19 of the last 25 winners won last time out
  • Irish have won 4 of the last 6 runnings
  • French-breds have filled 9 of the last 12 places (last 4 runnings)
  • 11 of the last 14 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • Respect Henderson (6 winners), Nicholls, and King-trained runners
  • 7 of the last 15 first ran over hurdles by November (5 of the last 7 by mid-Nov)
  • 10 of the last 13 winners returned 13/2 or shorter
  • The Spring Juvenile Hurdle is a good guide
  • 6 of the last 10 winners had run in France before
  • Nicky Henderson has trained 6 winners of the race

Negatives….

  • 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
  • Be careful of horses rated 138 or lower – no winner in the last 11


14:10 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle   2m 1f

2018 Winner: MOHAAYED (33/1)
Trainer – Dan Skelton
Jockey – Bridget Andrews

Pluses….

  • The Irish have won 8 of the last 12 runnings
  • 4 of the last 11 winners ran in that season’s Coral.ie Hurdle (Leopardsotwn)
  • The last 13 winners were rated in the 130’s
  • 7 of the last 11 winners returned 20/1 or bigger
  • 5 of the last 10 winners had run in 6 or less hurdles races
  • 10 of the last 13 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 11 of the last 13 winners were priced in double-figures
  • 11 of the last 15 winners began their careers on the flat
  • Look for Mullins, Martins & Nicholls-trained runners
  • Respect the Imperial Cup (Sandown Park) winner
  • Ruby Walsh has ridden 4 winners in the last 15 years
  • 10 of the last 18 winners came from the top 5 in the betting
  • 13 of the last 15 winners were 1st or 2nd season hurdlers
  • 10 of the last 12 winners DIDN’T win last time out
  • Paul Nicholls is 4 from 27 (+19pts)
  • Willie Mullins is 4 from 30 (+49pts)

Negatives….

  • Strangely, previous course winners have a bad record
  • Since 1960 only 4 winners carried more than 11st 2lb
  • Since 1961, only 8 winners had run at the Festival before
  • Since 2005 134 runners rated 140+ have lost
  • Avoid runners that hadn’t raced at least 4 times that season
  • Avoid horses making their handicap debuts

 

14:50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle   3m

2018 Winner: KILBRICKEN STORM (33/1)
Trainer – Colin Tizzard
Jockey – Harry Cobden

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Pluses….

  • 9 of the last 14 winners had run at Cheltenham over hurdles before
  • 8 of the last 14 came from the top 5 in the betting
  • 9 of the last 14 winner ran 47 days (or more) ago
  • 12 of the last 14 had run in a race over 3m
  • 11 of the last 13 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 12 of the last 13 winners finished in the top 3 last time out
  • 4 of the last 13 favourites won

Negatives….

  • 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 1 from 32 in the race
  • Only 3 of the last 14 winners hadn’t raced that calendar year

 

15:30 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase   3m 2½f

2018 Winner: NATIVE RIVER (5/1)
Trainer – Colin Tizzard
Jockey – Richard Johnson

Pluses….

  • 15 of the last 19 winners ran in the Lexus or King George that season
  • 16 of the last 18 finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 13 of the last 18 had won or placed 2nd at the Festival before
  • 16 of the last 18 winners hailed from the top 3 in the betting
  • 17 of the last 18 winners had raced no more than 12 times over fences
  • 10 of the last 11 winners ran 3 or less times that season
  • 16 of the last 22 winners were bred in Ireland
  • 10 of the last 13 winners won last time out
  • 5 of the last 13 favourites won
  • ALL of the last 19 winners were aged 9 or younger

 

Negatives….

  • Non Grade One winners have a poor record
  • No winner older than 10 years-old since 1969 (0 from 70)
  • Horses rated 166 or less are only 4 from last 24
  • Avoid horses that had run on ‘heavy’ ground that season (0 from 80)
  • Horses wearing headgear have a bad recent record
  • Willie Mullins is yet to win the race, 0 from 26 (had last 4 of the last 6 seconds though)
  • Just 1 of the last 11 winners had raced more than 3 times that season
  • Horses that were beaten in their 1st Gold Cup are 1 from 67 when running again

 

16:10 St James’ Place Foxhunter Chase   3m 2½f

2018 Winner: PACHA DU POLDER (25/1)
Trainer – Paul Nicholls
Jockey – Miss Harriet Tucker

Pluses…..

  • 25 of the last 28 winners were aged under 11 years-old
  • 24 of the last 33 won last time out
  • 7 of the last 10 winners came from the first 4 in the betting
  • 26 of the last 30 started out in point-to-point races
  • 11 of the last 13 winners ran 34 days or less ago
  • Respect the Irish runners (won 6 of last 8)
  • 5 of the last 7 winners ran in the Leopardstown Inn Hunters’ Chase
  • 9 of the last 13 winners were aged 8-10 years-old
  • 7 of the last 10 winners returned 15/2 or shorter
  • 10 of the last 11 winners finished in the top 3 last time out

Negatives….

  • 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
  • 26 of the last 27 horses aged 11+ (priced in single figures) have lost
  • Avoid ex-handicappers rated 140+ in their careers
  • Avoid horses that raced 35 days or longer ago
  • Horses aged 11+ are just 4 from 221 since 1990

 

16:50 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase   2m ½f

2018 Winner: LE PREZIEN (15/2)
Trainer – Paul Nicholls
Jockey – Barry Geraghty

Pluses….

  • 15 of the last 19 winners carried 11st or less
  • 13 of the last 15 winners had run at the Festival before
  • 7 of the last 15 winners ran in the previous renewal
  • Irish have won 3 of the last 6 runnings
  • 7 of the last 9 winners came from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • 10 of the last 15 winners were aged 8 or older
  • Henderson, Nicholls, King-trained horses are respected
  • Keep the Irish horses on your side (won 3 of the last 6)
  • Respect JP McManus-owned horses (4 winners, 8 placed)
  • The last 8 winners were rated at least 138
  • 5 year-olds have a good record (from few runners of that age that have run)
  • Novices have won 5 of the last 10 runnings
  • 6 of the last 8 winners were rated between 140-147
  • 6 of the last 8 winners carried 10-11 or more in weight
  • 18 of the last 19 winners had run no more than 12 times over fences

Negatives….

  • Horses aged 10+ are just 1 win from the last 23 runnings
  • Horses that last ran 45 days or more ago have seen just six winners since 1990
  • Last time out winners are just 1 from last 13
  • Horses aged 6 or younger (from top 3 in the market) are just 1 from 27 since 2005
  • Just 2 winners rated 147+ since 1992
  • Horses that won a handicap chase that season have a bad recent record

17:30 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle   2m 4½f

2018 Winner: BLOW BY BLOW (11/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Donagh Meyler

Pluses….

  • 9 of the last 10 winners were 2nd season-hurdlers
  • Irish have won 5 of the last 8 (all making handicap debuts)
  • 28 of the 30 win and place horses were 1st or 2nd season hurdlers
  • Look for Henderson, Nicholls, Mullins, Elliot-trained horses
  • 8 of the 10 winners were placed in the top 4 last time out
  • 5 of the 10 winners won last time out
  • 7 of the 10 winners were rated 133-139
  • 7 of the 10 winners returned at a double-figure price (8 of the last 10 were 16/1 or less)
  • 5 and 6 year-old have won 9 of last 10 runnings
  • Look for jockeys that have ridden 20+ winners
  • Willie Mullins is 3 from 14 runners in the race (won 3 of the last 8 runnings)
  • Respect any Gigginstown House Stud-owned runners (4 winners, 3 places)
  • Paul Nicholls has won the race twice in the last 6 years

Negatives….

  • Despite being named after his father the David Pipe stable has a poor record so far (0 from 19, inc 3 favs)
  • Just 1 winning fav in the 10 year history (7/9 returned in double-figures)
  • Horses in headgear are currently 1 from 48
  • Only 2 winners have previous Festival experience

 

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2019 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY ONE (Tues 12th March 2019)

Each day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts here at GeeGeez.co.uk 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 2019 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 

DAY ONE: Tuesday 12th March 2019

13:30 – SkyBet Supreme Novices' Hurdle   2m ½f

2018 Winner: SUMMERVILLE BOY 9/1
Trainer – Tom George
Jockey - Noel Fehily

Pluses…..

  • 19 of the last 22 winners won their last race
  • 13 of the last 15 winners had raced in at least 4 hurdles races before
  • 7 of the last 9 winners came from the first 4 in the market
  • 18 of the last 24 winners ran in the last 45 days
  • Irish-trained horses have won 15 of the last 27 runnings
  • 5 & 6 year-olds have the best record – winning 13 of the last 14 runnings
  • Willie Mullins has won the race 4 times since 2007 and for 3 of the last 6 years
  • 22 of the last 24 winners had raced that same calendar year
  • Owner Rich Ricci, Trainer Willie Mullins & Jockey Ruby Walsh have won 3 of the last 6 runnings.

Negatives…..

  • Horses that FAILED to win last time out before coming here are just 3 from the last 22. In other words, look for horses that won last time out!
  • Since 1992 all horses (35) wearing head-gear have been beaten
  • We’ve seen just two ex-flat horses win since 2008

 

14:10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase   2m

2018 Winner: FOOTPAD 5/6 fav
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey - Ruby Walsh

 

Pluses….

  • 12 of the last 14 winners had won (or been placed) at Cheltenham before
  • 12 of the last 14 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 chase before
  • The last 9 winners won last time out (plus 14 of the last 18)
  • 18 of the last 19 winners returned 9/1 or shorter
  • 11 of the last 12 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 11 of the last 15 winners at run at the Cheltenham Festival previously
  • 11 of the last 18 winners were the top or second top-rated hurdler in the field
  • Nicky Henderson has won the race 6 times

Negatives…..

  • Only 2 of the last 32 winners failed to win of finish second last time out
  • Just two of the last 28 winners started 11/1 or bigger in the betting
  • Only 3 of the last 27 winners were older than 7 years-old
  • The last horse aged 9 (or older) to win was in 1988
  • The last 28 ex-flat horses to run have all lost
  • Only 1 winner since 2000 won with headgear
  • 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

14:50 Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase  3m 1f 

2018 Winner: COO STAR SIVOLA 5/1 fav
Trainer – Nick Williams
Jockey - Lizzie Kelly

 

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Pluses….

  • 15 of the last 19 winners were officially rated 143 or less
  • 13 of the last 18 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 15 of the last 19 winners returned 11/1 or shorter
  • 14 of the last 18 were novices or second season chasers
  • 7 of the last 11 winners were rated between 142-146
  • Horses rated 140+ have won 11 of the last 18 runnings
  • 8 of the last 16 won last time out
  • 3 of the last 9 winners ran in the Cleeve Hurdle that season
  • 6 of the last 7 winners all wore headgear
  • Jonjo O’Neill, Alan King, Nicky Henderson, Tony Martin & David Pipe are trainers to note
  • All winners since 2000 had won over 3m+ before

Negatives….

  • Avoid any horses carrying 11-04 or more in weight – 9 of the last 14 carried 10-12 or less, although the 2017 winner carried 11-12
  • Horses aged 11 or older are just 2 from 48 to even get placed
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls-trained horses – he’s currently 0 from 22
  • Only 1 winner in the last 10 hadn’t raced at a previous Festival

 

15:30 Stan James Champion Hurdle   2m ½f

2018 Winner: BUVEUR D’AIR 4/6 fav
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey - Barry Geraghty

 

Pluses….

  • 29 of the last 35 won last time out
  • The Irish and Nicky Henderson have won 16 of the last 20 runnings
  • The Irish have won 12 of the last 20 runnings
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has won 4 of the last 8 runnings
  • 9 of the last 12 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 23 of the last 34 winners were placed in the first 4 at the previous season’s festival
  • The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is a good guide (4 winners, 4 places in last 11 runnings)
  • 14 of the last 23 winners started as flat horses
  • Look for horses that have raced at least once that calendar year
  • Trainer Nicky Henderson has won the race 7 times, including the last two years

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses that failed to finish in the top three last time out
  • 5 year-olds are just 1 from 101 since 1985
  • Since 1927 we’ve only seen 2 winners aged 10 or older
  • Just 1 of the last 12 winners had raced more than 12 times over hurdles
  • Christmas Hurdle (Kempton, 26th Dec) winners are 3 from 26

 

16:10 OLBG Mares' Hurdle   2m 4f

2018 Winner: BENIE DES DIEUX 9/2
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey - Ruby Walsh

 

Pluses….

  • Follow Irish-trained mares
  • The favourite (or 2nd fav) have won 10 of the last 11 runnings
  • 7 of the last 11 favourites have won
  • Willie Mullins have trained 9 of the last 10 winners
  • Look for Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Paul Nolan & Alan King runners
  • Novices generally do well
  • 6 of the last 8 winners had won over 2m6f+ before
  • Horses that began their careers in bumpers have done well

Negatives….

  • Avoid front-runners
  • All 25 runners to wear headgear have been beaten (just 1 placed)
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs and Noel Meade runners
  • Just 1 winner of the race to date began their career racing on the flat

 

16:50 The Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase   2m 4½f

2018 Winner: MISTER WHITAKER 13/2
Trainer – Mick Channon
Jockey - Brian Hughes

 

Pluses….

  • 10 of the last 14 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 13 of the last 14 winners raced in the last 45 days
  • Respect 7 year-olds
  • Look for any horses wearing first-time headgear
  • 6 of last 10 won last time out
  • 12 of the last 14 winners returned 12/1 or shorter
  • Respect JP McManus-owned runners (1 win, 2 2nds, 1 3rd)
  • Look for Henderson, O’Neill & Hobbs runners

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses outside the top five in the betting
  • Avoid horses with less than 4 starts in the last 12 months
  • The Irish are just 2 from the last 14 runnings

17:30 National Hunt Chase   4m

2018 Winner: RATHVINDEN 9/2
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey - P Mullins

 

Pluses…..

  • 11 of the last 17 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 9 of the last 13 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • Favourites have won 3 of the last 9 runnings
  • 4 of the last 8 winners were top-rated
  • 5 of the last 8 winners had run in a Grade One Novice Chase that season
  • 6 of the last 12 had run in a chase at Cheltenham before that season
  • 6 of the last 9 winners had run at a previous Cheltenham Festival
  • Note horses wearing headgear
  • 6 of the last 8 winners were rated 146 (or more)
  • Look out for JP McManus-owned (6 winners) runners
  • Jonjo O’Neill has trained 6 winners in the race
  • Jockey Derek O’Connor has 2 wins / 4 places (from 13 rides)

Negatives….

  • 5 and 6 year-olds are just 2 from 78 since 1989
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has NEVER won this race - he’s currently 0 from 18
  • Trainer Nicky Henderson has NEVER won this race

 

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2019 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY TWO (Weds 13th March 2019)

Each day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts here at GeeGeez.co.uk 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 2019 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 

DAY TWO: Wednesday 13th March 2019

 

13:30 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle   2m 5f


2018 Winner: SAMCRO (8/11 fav)
Trainer –Gordon Elliott
Jockey - Jack Kennedy


Pluses….

  • 12 of the last 14 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 14 of the last 18 winners returned 17/2 or shorter
  • 13 of the last 19 winners won last time out
  • The Irish have won 8 of the last 13
  • All of the last 13 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • In the last 8 runnings Irish-trained horses have filled 14 of the 24 top 3 places
  • 18 of the last 20 were NH bred
  • 13 of the last 20 had won a graded race before
  • Look for past Irish point-to-point winners (5 of the last 9 begin their careers in Irish points)
  • Respect Willie Mullins – 4 winners and 7 placed in last 14 years

Negatives….

  • Only one winner aged older than 6 has won since 1974
  • Avoid 4 year-olds too – just one winner since 1991
  • Horses aged 7 or older are 0 from 54 (since 1988)
  • Only two of the last 33 winners came from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • The last 16 Challow Hurdle winners have all been beaten
  • Avoid ex-flat horses (since 2005 all have been beaten)

14:10 RSA Chase   3m ½f

2018 Winner: PRESENTING PERCY (5/2 fav)
Trainer – Patrick Kelly
Jockey – Davy Russell

Pluses….

  • 4 of the last 10 winners ran in the Flogas Chase (Leopardstown, 4th Feb) that season
  • Respect 7 year-olds – won 9 of the last 11
  • 9 of the last 13 winners won last time out
  • 6 of the last 12 favourites won (50%)
  • Irish bred horses are 18 from the last 22
  • 8 of the last 12 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 Chase
  • 6 of the last 10 winners were trained in Ireland
  • Trainers Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls often do well in the race
  • 22 of the last 26 were novice hurdling last season
  • 5 of the last 9 winners ran in the Albert Bartlett the previous season
  • Look for horses that ran that same calendar year (51 of the last 52 winners had)
  • 9 of the last 12 winners had raced at the Festival the previous year

Negatives….

  • No winner aged 9 or older since 1992
  • Just 4 winners younger than 7 since 1978
  • Avoid horses that had fallen before over fences
  • Avoid unbeaten horses over fences
  • Avoid horses that had had 2 full seasons over hurdles prior
  • Just 1 of the last 19 winners had run less than 3 times over fences
  • All 21 winners of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Feltham, Kempton 26th Dec) have lost
  • Avoid unbeaten horses
  • Horses in headgear are currently 0 from 24

14:50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle   2m 5f

2018 Winner: BLEU BERRY (20/1)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Mark Walsh

 

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Pluses….

  • 11 of the last 14 were 2nd season hurdlers
  • 8 of the last 10 winners hailed from the top 8 horses in the weights
  • 11 of the last 13 winners hailed form the top 7 in the betting
  • 18 of the last 24 winners won earlier that season
  • Respect JP McManus-owned runners
  • Respect trainers Nicky Henderson & Gordon Elliott (2 wins each in last 9 years)
  • 9 of the last 17 winners were FRENCH-BRED
  • 13 of the last 25 won last time out
  • Respect Irish-trained runners (5 of the last 10)
  • Look for horses that had raced 4 or less times that season (last 10 winners)
  • 12 of the last 14 winners had run 32 days or longer ago (look for horses that have had a small break)
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott is 2 from 9

Negatives….

  • No winning favourite in the last 15 years
  • Horses aged 10+ are just 2 from 301to even place since 1999
  • Horses rated 150+ don’t have a great record
  • Only 4 of the last 18 winners had raced at the Festival previously
  • The last 74 horses wearing headgear have been beaten
  • Only 3 winners since 2000 had run more than 9 times over hurdles
  • Willie Mullins won the race last year, but overall has a bad record – 29 runners – just one placed inside the top 2

 

15:30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase   2m

2018 Winner: ALTIOR (Evs)
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Nico de Boinville

Pluses….

  • 11 of the last 18 winners ran in the Tingle Creek Chase that season
  • 3 of the last 6 winners also won the Clarence House Chase (Ascot) that season
  • 22 of the last 34 had won at the Festival before
  • Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson have won 7 of the last 11 between them
  • 15 of the last 16 winners had run that calendar year
  • 35 of the last 37 winners returned 10/1 or shorter
  • 14 of the last 19 winners returned 5/1 or shorter
  • 6 of the last 12 winners were French-bred
  • 11 of the last 16 winners were second season chasers
  • 16 of the last 20 winners came from the top 3 in the betting
  • 14 of the last 19 winners ran in the previous season’s Arkle or Champion Chase

Negatives….

  • Only two winners priced 11/1 or bigger in the last 36 years
  • Top Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, is yet to win this race
  • Just 1 of the last 17 winners hadn’t won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • 12 of the last 13 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
  • Be wary of horses older than 10 – just 2 winners since 1977

16:10 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase   3m 7f

2018 Winner: TIGER ROLL (7/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Keith Donoghue

Pluses….

  • The Irish have won 12 of the last 14 runnings
  • Respect Enda Bolger-trained runners (won the race 5 times)
  • 17 of the last 21 winners came from the top three in the betting
  • 8 of the last 14 ran in the December Cross Country race here
  • Respect Nina Carberry, Richard Johnson and Davy Russell-ridden horses (8 from 15 between them)
  • 11 or the last 14 winners were aged 10 or younger
  • Trainer Philip Hobbs is 2 from 10 (5 placed in the top 5 too)

Negatives….

  • Debutants over these fences/course have a poor record
  • Avoid horses aged 7 or younger – they are only 2 from 97
  • Horses rated 126 or less have a very poor record
  • Trainer Willie Mullins is 0 from 12
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls is 0 from 16

16:50 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle   2m ½f

2018 Winner: VENEER OF CHARM (33/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Jack Kennedy

Pluses….

  • 10 of the last 14 winners had run just 3 times over hurdles before
  • French bred horses have a good record
  • Respect Fillies
  • 7 of the last 8 winners all came from the bottom half of the weights/handicap
  • 10 of the last 14 had run in the last 25 days
  • David Pipe, Paul Nicholls, Gordon Elliot and Alan King-trained horses often do well
  • 6 of the last 7 winners returned between 25/1 and 40/1
  • Respect horses wearing headgear
  • The last 13 winners were ALL rated between 124-134
  • 8 of the last 11 winners were British-trained
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has won 3 of the last 9 runnings

 

Negatives….

  • Just 1 recent winner had last raced in January or further back
  • Trainers Willie Mullins, Philip Hobbs and Venetia Williams are 0 from 29 between them
  • Willie Mullins runners are 0 from 12 (and all not placed in the top 5 either)
  • Only 3 winners had run in a handicap hurdle before
  • No winner had raced at Cheltenham before

 

17:30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper   2m ½f

2018 Winner: RELEGATE (25/1)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Katie Walsh

Pluses….

  • 24 of the last 26 had won last time out
  • Respect Irish-trained runners (19 from 35)
  • 4 of the last 9 winners were won by UK-based trainers
  • 17 of the last 26 came from the top 6 in the betting
  • 20 of the last 26 were Irish-bred
  • 10 of the last 18 winners were second season horses
  • 12 of the last 13 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 16 of the last 18 had their debut runs in Ireland
  • 11 of the last 16 had been beaten in a race before
  • 6 of the last 9 winners returned between 14/1 and 40/1
  • Respect Willie Mullins (9 winners) – also had first three in 2018, but is just 3 from last 34 runners
  • The Irish lead the British 20-7 in the race history

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses with 4 or more NH Flat runs
  • 4 year-olds are 1 from 58 since 2000
  • Gigginstown, Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson don’t often focus on the race

 

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Tony Keenan: Cheltenham Festival Reprise 2018 (Take Two)

I had a look back at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival right after the meeting last March but eleven and a half months on we know a lot more so let’s see what has changed and if there is anything that might be of use in two weeks’ time.

 

  1. Festival Form

Year on year, the best guide to Cheltenham winners is regarded as the previous year’s Festival. The test provided by the meeting is unique and horses that respectively thrive and wilt there can be expected to do the same again. Yet while last season’s Festival form generally worked out for the rest of 2017/18 campaign, it hasn’t carried through quite so well into 2018/19.

Of the 28 horses that won at Cheltenham 2018, eleven have won a race of some sort in the current season which seems on the low side. More than that, few have won a race of consequence with only three winning at Grade 1 level: Buveur D’Air, Altior and Delta Work. Two of the 28, Benie Des Dieux and Penhill, have not run at all.

Their under-performance as a group is likely ground-related. The winter and spring of 2017/18 was an aberration for its extreme wet weather, this past winter has been an aberration for its mild and dry weather. It seems reasonable to question how well the soft and heavy ground form will translate to watered good-soft next month given it hasn’t done so for much of the campaign,

 

  1. Exception One: The RSA

In isolation though, the form of racing’s bay pimpernel, Presenting Percy, in the RSA might be working out best of all. Last year’s staying novice chasers are a strong crop and from the first four in this race alone we have had Monalee finish second in a Grade 1 at Christmas before winning the Red Mills Chase, Elegant Escape land the Welsh National, and Ballyoptic come second in a Scottish National.

Al Boum Photo fell when likely to come third, and won a Grade 1 subsequently at Fairyhouse and should have had another at Punchestown before looking better than ever at Tramore on New Year’s Day. Even those Irish novices indirectly related to Presenting Percy’s form like Snow Falcon, Dounikos, Invitation Only and Rathvinden have won valuable races in 2018/19.

Presenting Percy looked much the best of that crop last season so this is exactly what you’re looking for if you’re backing him, allowing that there are other concerns with him, particularly his lack of chase experience.

 

  1. Exception Two: Delta Work

While allowing that a batch of form may not be working out on the whole, one still needs to judge each horse on its individual merits. The Pertemps Final has not proven a strong race on balance but the winner might be the most successful of all last year’s Festival winners relative to expectations (though we’ll get to Altior anon).

Since his Festival win, Delta Work has been narrowly beaten in a Grade 1 novice hurdle before winning thrice over fences, two of them Grade 1s, the form looking strong as he beat Le Richebourg. All told, he seems to have a leading chance in the RSA where he will have a slight experience edge over Santini.

There is one niggling concern and that is the lack of a recent run. Historically a horse being without a run in the calendar year was a negative in the RSA but this is likely more to do with the individual than profiling the typical race winner. Delta Work has come off a break three times since joining Gordon Elliott and the improvement has been clear: Timeform have him improving 12lbs, 1lb and 18lbs for those runs while Racing Post Ratings have those figures at 4lbs, 14lbs and 28lbs.

None of those breaks came mid-season which may negate the concern a little while one can also argue that he was all ready to run in the Flogas at the Dublin Racing Festival so should have been kept plenty fit at home. As a backer though, it remains a worry.

 

  1. Exception Three: Altior

Altior is Altior and he just wins as he has again done through three starts this season. On those rare occasions he does look vulnerable, it seems down to pace and specifically not getting the strong gallop he wants, as in the 2017 Arkle when he traded at 8/11 in-running having been sent off 1/4.

Looking back at last year’s Champion Chase, the most striking thing is that there is now a Special Tiara-sized hole in the race, that stalwart setting the gallop in the last five runnings of the race and invariably at a generous pace. There is no such horse among the 18 entries for this year’s race with Un De Sceaux likely to go the Ryanair route.

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That would leave a horse like Saint Calvados potentially making the running and, realistically, he can’t go the pace Altior ideally wants on decent ground. There is also the possibility of Altior making his own running as he did at Ascot last time but that may bring its own problems as he jumped left there, so a race that hitherto looked a foregone conclusion may actually be tactically fascinating.

 

  1. The Gold Cup

Despite only two horses really getting into the race, last year’s Gold Cup was an epic with Native River becoming the first horse this century to win the race having been beaten in it on his first attempt previously (Kauto Star won, then was beaten, then won again); 66 others had tried, thank you Matt Tombs and your excellent Cheltenham Guide for that stat. With the race run on heavy ground and at a strong gallop, it actually suited the experience and toughness that the winner had in spades as the race developed into an old-school Gold Cup slog with the best stayer coming out on top.

That has not been the way in most recent Gold Cups however as younger horses typically come to the fore, often second-season chasers and it is worth remembering that the three that chased Native River home last year fit that category. With the race very likely to be run on better ground this year, it might be more prudent to expect more of a new-style Gold Cup with the winner being a Sizing John rather than Synchronized type.

All of this may make life tough on Native River who is in danger of being outpaced on better ground as he has been in his runs at Haydock and Kempton this season; the stiffer track will help but will it be enough to compensate for the going? This might be a race where the younger horses like Presenting Percy, Clan Des Obeaux and Kemboy to come to the fore.

 

  1. The Samcro Problem

In his weekly Irish Field column on time analysis, Simon Rowlands rated Samcro’s Ballymore win as the best hurdling performance at last year’s Festival and the form stacks up too, with the placed horses going on to win Grade 1 novice events at Aintree and Punchestown. It was visually impressive too with Jack Kennedy’s mount travelling best all the way and the horse finding himself in front sooner than ideal.

That was his best performance to date, better than anything he has done dropped to two miles in four starts since, and it was also the race in which his stamina was most drawn out over 21 furlongs on soft ground. Originally pegged as a future Gold Cup horse, the two-mile experiment has palpably failed but Gordon Elliott seems to have been leaning toward the stamina route for a while now, entering him in the Long Walk back in December when all the chat about him was Champion Hurdle.

In general, the comment that a horse wouldn’t run in a race unless it is flying at home is trite but it might just apply here; he remains one of Gigginstown’s great hopes and is off a troubled season so they are unlikely to run unless he can deliver a big performance. With that in mind, we could get Ballymore Samcro in a few weeks and that would put him right in the Stayers’ Hurdle mix.

 

  1. Mullins and the Gold Cup

Willie Mullins has never won the Gold Cup in 22 attempts (again, stat courtesy of Matt Tombs), six of his finishing second, and it seems likely he will go four-handed at the race this year with Bellshill, Kemboy, Invitation Only and Al Boum Photo. All have it to prove on the track however judged on last year’s evidence and that of previous Festivals.

That applies to Bellshill more than most having been beaten a combined 58 lengths on his three course starts. The first two of those came in the Champion Bumper and the Supreme so it could be argued that the trip was too sharp for him in both cases but he did quickly bounce back at Aintree afterwards which is concerning. His run behind Might Bite in the RSA was better though again the downhill part of the track may not be for him but he did at least give the lie to his preferring a right-handed track by winning a Grade 1 at Leopardstown last time.

The evidence for the other three not operating at the track is more flimsy but none were at their best here last year. Neither Kemboy nor Invitation Only jumped well enough in the JLT, though the argument can be made they needed further, while Al Boum Photo fell when looking set for third in the RSA.

 

  1. Mullins and Fallers

The jumping of the Mullins horses attracted plenty of comment last year with ten of his runners falling across all races; when looking at the last three Festivals, his total number of fallers at the meeting is 14 with Gordon Elliott a distant second on five, Colin Tizzard, Venetia Williams, Jonjo O’Neill and Paul Nicholls with four each.

Those numbers are raw and from a small sample size but there are all sorts of layers to this. Unseats, say, are not included and are mainly caused by jumping errors nor are pulled up efforts that may have been brought about by mistakes. Some trainers may have more runners over fences than hurdles which would produce more fallers and so on.

Yet faller rate is something the BHA seem to place plenty of stock in as their report on the 2018 Cheltenham Festival included the following recommendation:

individual trainers…who have an incidence of fallers significantly higher than the historical average will be required to engage constructively with the BHA to consider the drivers of, and actions to improve, high incidence rates.

Perhaps it’s just me but that does sound like the authority is telling trainers how to train their horses which is a particularly grey area but they are the regulator after all: their racing, their rules. One wonders if Willie Mullins has been ‘engaged with’ on this and what that ‘engagement’ would be.

It is easy to question what right have the BHA to tell the all-time leading trainer at the Festival how his horses need to jump but there are two other factors here. First, Mullins has said that neither Douvan nor Rathvinden had schooled much ahead of last year’s meeting while comments from some associated with the yard suggest nothing has changed this term; owner Colm O’Connell saying after Bachasson’s New Year’s Eve win that ‘he hadn’t seen a hurdle or fence since [he fell in] the Gold Cup.’

And second, Mullins does have the highest fall rate when compared to similar trainers. Looking at those trainers who had the most runners in all UK and Irish jumps races between the 2015/16 and 2017/18 seasons, Mullins comes out worst with a fall rate of 4.7%. Colin Tizzard is next with 4.1% followed by Evan Williams on 3.9% and Henry De Bromhead on 3.6%. The average for that entire group which takes in a sample of 31,917 runners is 3.1%.

I suspect that the jumping of his horses will be under close scrutiny in a fortnight’s time and this might be one of the most interesting aspects of the meeting especially given quite a few of his horses won’t have had the racecourse practice they might have had in a previous season with the weather as it is.

 

  1. The Irish in Handicaps

I’m just going to leave these two tables out there for anyone who wonders about Irish horses being badly treated in the Festival handicaps. Also, there were a record number of Irish-trained horses entered in Cheltenham handicaps this season.

 

Festival Handicaps 2018

Trained in… Winners Runners Strikerate Places Place Strikerate Level Stakes Actual/

Expected

Ireland 5 53 9.4% 13 24.5% +27.00 1.21
Elsewhere 5 166 3.0% 27 16.3% -101.00 0.56

 

Festival Handicaps 2014-2017

Trained in… Winners Runners Strikerate Places Place Strikerate Level Stakes Actual/

Expected

Ireland 17 222 7.7% 57 25.7% +20.50 1.11
Elsewhere 25 741 3.4% 111 15.0% -338.00 0.62

 

 

  1. Gordon Elliott in Handicaps

Of the 22 Irish-trained handicap winners since 2014, nine were trained by Gordon Elliott. That is some going. Elliott has won a wide variety of handicaps with different types of horses but one approach he used to great effect last year was running novices, an approach he uses with some success at home too, the likes of Duca De Thaix (twice), Dallas Des Pictons and Roaring Bull winning examples this season.

Since 2014, his open handicap runners that were novices at the time have a finishing string of 20975PU3111001. That doesn’t include runners in confined races like the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase and the Fred Winter Novices' Handicap Hurdle, the latter of which he has won twice and may well have had a third had Campeador not fallen at the last in 2016.

Three of his winners last season were novices running in open handicaps (Delta Work, The Storyteller and Blow By Blow) and he has a number of options that could do the same this year among them the aforementioned Duca De Thaix and Dallas Des Pictons.

- Tony Keenan

Trending Towards Cheltenham 2018

Traditional trend analysis for Cheltenham can be quite binary, particularly in the negative sense with comments like ‘horse X cannot win because it is the wrong age OR ran in the wrong prep race OR hasn’t had a recent outing’ not uncommon. Horse races – particularly some of the big fields at the Festival – tend to be more complex than that and while some of those trends have their place (says the fella that’s after writing about 8,000 words for the Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide!) it might be more pertinent to consider what has been going on in the current season. I’ve had a look at two patterns from the 2017/18 national hunt seasons, one from the UK and one from Ireland, to see how they might impact Cheltenham 2018. I suspect both will prove more useful for post-meeting analysis rather than be of predictive value ahead of it but are worth considering when that time comes.

 

Where has all the good ground gone?

National hunt racing is by definition a winter game but in most seasons there are halcyon days where good ground prevails and those meetings are often useful for finding winners at the Festival; conditions for these cards have most in common with the decent ground we get for Cheltenham in the typical year. For seemingly every major jumps meeting in the UK this season however the defining post-race image has been a mud-spattered jockey coming in and saying ‘it’s pretty testing out there today.’

If we take the 26 feature meetings since the start of the jumps season proper in November up to Kempton on Saturday February 25th (typically the last day for meaningful Cheltenham trials) we find that only six of them have been run with ‘good’ in the going descriptions. By ‘feature meetings’ I mean the main Saturday card each week and in some cases there was more than one while I also included the King George card on December 26th and Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

Kempton last Saturday was held on good ground and of the other five three were at Ascot (November 11th, November 25th, December 23rd) and one each at Newbury for the Hennessy and Sandown for the Tingle Creek. For reference purposes, the first Ascot meeting saw big handicap wins for Elgin and Go Conquer with Top Notch and Lil Rockerfeller winning Graded races on the second card and Sam Spinner and Hunters Call being the principal Festival fancies from the last one. Total Recall might be the key horse from the Hennessy (now Ladbrokes) meeting with Elegant Escape in there too, while Sceau Royal is the main runner from the Sandown meeting.

What is interesting is that there has been no Cheltenham meeting run on good ground since the start of November so perhaps the key form from that track will prove to be last year’s Festival; it is not unreasonable to think there will be wholesale form reversals from those cards. Furthermore, there have basically been very few good ground trials at any UK racetrack since the turn of the year.

There is a possibility – a good possibility in light of recent weather events – that we get a soft ground Festival and on one level you might expect the form from these meetings to work out. However, those winners and placers may now be starting to go over-the-top after a series of hard races on deep ground, so perhaps we need to look for fresher horses. But those runners coming off a break may struggle for conditioning on the ground! It’s not simple.

When reading through statistics on the Festival you can come across some interesting things about the record of horses coming off the last run on testing ground. Denis Beary (interviewed here last month) recently pointed out horses running in Grade 1 chases that had their last outing on heavy ground in the previous month are 0/43 with 6 places. In the Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide, Matt Tombs makes the point that in Gold Cups since 1996, the 79 horses that ran on heavy going that season were all beaten.

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That may be the case in the top-level chases and it does make sense that horses would find it difficult to overcome a hard race beforehand.  Overall, however, a final prep run on heavy ground has not been a negative. Below is a table of the record of UK-trained horses at the Festival since 2010 by the going description of their final prep run. I have focused on the UK-based runners as all the Irish races run are different degrees of heavy ground anyway!

 

Going Winners Runners Strikerate Places Place  Strikerate P+L Actual/

Expected

Heavy 29 506 5.7% 88 17.4% -112.09 0.90
Soft 36 965 3.7% 162 16.8% -505.42 0.60
Gd-Sft 38 837 4.5% 127 15.2% -381.57 0.67
Good 13 388 3.4% 53 13.7% -184.50 0.64
Gd-Fm 1 17 5.9% 4 23.5% -10.50 1.45
AW 0 67 0.0% 2 3.0% -67.00 0.00

 

While horses having the final pre-Cheltenham run on soft or good-soft have produced the most winners, it is the heavy going preppers that have the best win strike-rate, place strike-rate, the lowest loss to level stake and the highest actual over expected of those with a decent sample size. It seems a run on heavy ground, or at least a recent one, may not be ideal for top-level chases but it seems not to be a negative for other races.

One interesting side point is the poor record of horses that had their final run on the all-weather. Some will have run on the flat but many took part in ‘jumpers’ bumpers’ and with the weather disruption it seems likely that there will be a few such runners this year; two of those cards are scheduled at the moment. My Tent Or Yours, second in the 2014 Champion Hurdle having won an all-weather bumper at Kempton, is one of only two such horses to place at the Festival from 67 runners.

 

Dublin Racing Festival – Too good for its own good?

The biggest change in the Irish jumps calendar in 2017/18 was the introduction of the Dublin Racing Festival and this led to some movement, time-wise, of the races at the meeting. While the races on the old Irish Gold Cup/Hennessy were basically where they had been, the Irish Champion Hurdle and Arkle were a week later while the Coral Hurdle and Leopardstown Chase were three weeks later. By and large, the races that made up the weekend were more competitive than they had been in their previous spots as Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott went at it for the Trainers’ Championship.

Perhaps the altered positioning of these races means nothing but how the contests were run could be important and over the two days, overall times suggest that three races in particular were run at championship pace relative to expectations which might be worth monitoring. Those races were the Dublin Chase, the Irish Arkle and the Spring Juvenile Hurdle and the likes of Min, Footpad, Petit Mouchoir, Mr Adjudicator and Farclas all feature towards the top of their respective ante-post markets for Cheltenham.

Leopardstown remains by far the preeminent Irish trialling ground for Cheltenham which is sensible if a little self-fulfilling; the track is left-handed, galloping with a somewhat uphill finish and often produces better ground than other Irish courses through the winter but most importantly it hosts the best races. Below is a table of the courses that the Irish-trained Festival runners since 2010 had their final pre-Cheltenham run at.

 

Track Winners Runners Strikerate Places Place Strikerate Level-Stakes Actual/

Expected

Leopardstown 43 349 12.3% 120 34.4% +50.69 1.19
Punchestown 13 131 9.9% 33 25.2% -56.64 0.83
Fairyhouse 9 90 10.0% 23 25.6% +16.23 1.27
Navan 8 84 11.9% 19 22.6% +11.88 1.42
Naas 5 72 6.9% 17 23.6% +29.00 0.78
Cheltenham 4 30 13.3% 11 36.7% +0.75 1.44
Thurles 3 42 7.1% 9 21.4% +0.25 1.13
Limerick 2 13 15.4% 13 23.1% +6.50 1.92
Clonmel 1 27 3.7% 8 29.6% -14.00 0.61
Gowran 1 78 1.3% 14 18.0% -69.00 0.20

 

Those that ran at Leopardstown dominate with Punchestown next in; I do wonder if we will see a drop off with horses trialling at Punchestown as their programme was weakened by the establishment of the Dublin Racing Festival. The one that stands out as a negative is Gowran Park. There are some decent meetings at the track, notably the Thyestes and the Red Mills day, but it tends to produce its own brand of testing ground – I think the clerk of the course recently described it as ‘heavy to off’ – which might be a negative for Our Duke and Presenting Percy this year amongst others.

Going back to the Dublin Racing Festival, an unusual aspect of the meeting was Willie Mullins running so many horses over the weekend, 42 in total; the trainer actually had fewer runners in some calendar months this season, with May, June and October seeing 40, 28 and 35 Mullins runners respectively. He is generally much more selective, at least at this time of the year, and he may almost have been going against his usual training methods to keep pace with Gordon Elliott who is much more of a volume trainer and used to running his horses more frequently.

None of this may matter at Cheltenham, in fact in probably won’t. It could be a significant factor at Punchestown though. There is a difference between going through the turn of the year from prep run to Cheltenham to Punchestown to going Leopardstown to Cheltenham to Punchestown with an extra hard race in there. I have always thought that horses running at the three spring Festivals of Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown (with Fairyhouse mixed in for some) was a tough ask and now we have an extra Festival beforehand. Some of the Mullins stars like Yorkhill and Vautour struggled at Punchestown 2016 having taken in Aintree after Cheltenham and that might be the case again in 2018.

- Tony Keenan

The REAL Reason The Irish Dominated Cheltenham

Last week, British-trained horses received a 'doing' the like of which had never before been witnessed. The Irish minority rode, almost literally, roughshod over the vast numerical superiority of the domestic defences in a manner that suggested this was more than a mere perfect storm.

One leading Irish trainer has mooted that the root cause lies in British racing's infatuation with high value handicaps, but that feels wide of the mark. Others argue that the Irish are better at 'plotting one up': even if that's true, the extent to which they outmanoeuvred both the BHA handicapping team and the British training ranks also feels somewhat of a convenient pigeonhole.

No, as always, the answer is likely to be far more nuanced than 'this' or 'that'; more likely a combination of elements which have been brewing for some time. To understand what went wrong this time, a spot of historical context is required. Let's start with the most basic of barometers, the UK vs Ireland tally for the last five Cheltenham Festivals.

 

Trainer location of winning horses, Cheltenham Festival 2012-17

Year Races UK Ire
2012 27 22 5
2013 27 13 14
2014 27 15 12
2015 27 14 13
2016 28 13 15
2017 28 9 19

 

This chart tells the story rather more succinctly:

 

Ireland's dominance is no overnight shock

Ireland's dominance is no overnight shock

 

In terms of pure winners, Ireland has been improving its tally significantly since 2013, and actually only enhanced their win score by four this term. That, of course, equates to an eight race swing and the smallest number of prizes for the home team ever.

But win samples are typically small, however, and this one is restricted to just 28 (27 prior to the introduction of the mares' novices' hurdle last year) races. So what of the place data?

 

Trainer location of placed horses, Cheltenham Festival 2012-17

Year Places UK Ire
2012 91 58 33
2013 90 53 35
2014 92 56 36
2015 92 48 44
2016 93 48 45
2017 94 53 41

 

Here's the chart for the place data:

 

The place data is a little more equivocal

The place data is a little more equivocal

 

Notice how there is convergence in the place data but not the overlap of the win graph? This is significant because it suggests that the emerald dominance of 2017, while hardly a surprise, has been magnified somewhat by the microcosm of the winners dataset.

[Incidentally, I prefer places to percentage of runners beaten because, aside from the challenges of quantifying non-completions, many horses are eased off significantly when their chance has gone, thus further muddying what is already at best translucent water]

Before moving on, let us also consider the number of placed horses as a percentage of the number of runners from UK and Ireland. This obviously requires us to know the number of runners from each 'country' taking part, which gets interesting. Check this out:

 

Placed horses as a percentage of runners (right hand columns)

Year Runners UK Ire Places UK Ire UK% Ire%
2012 483 356 126 91 58 33 16.29% 26.19%
2013 464 355 106 90 53 35 14.93% 33.02%
2014 487 363 121 92 56 36 15.43% 29.75%
2015 468 321 146 92 48 44 14.95% 30.14%
2016 492 346 143 93 48 45 13.87% 31.47%
2017 488 325 160 94 53 41 16.31% 25.63%

*there have been a few non-UK/Irish runners as well, hence the small disparity between total runners and the UK/Ire aggregate

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In case you missed it, let me help you out:

  1. The home team had a higher percentage of their horses placed last week than in any other Festival in the sample.
  2. Ireland registered its lowest percentage of placed horses to runners in the six year sample period last week.

 

Why? Simple. Ireland had their biggest raiding party since 2012 (at least), and Britain had very close to its smallest defensive battalion, 2017's 325 only surpassed by 2015's 321 (spread across one fewer race).

The graph of places as a percentage of runners looks like this:

 

Cheltenham Festival places as a percentage of runners: UK vs Ireland

Cheltenham Festival places as a percentage of runners: UK vs Ireland

 

In terms of the numerical strength of the Irish team, between 2012 and 2014 their runners amounted to circa 25%, against a British squad of 75%. From 2015 to 2017, that quarter to three-quarters was more like a third to two-thirds. Last week, Irish runners accounted for 32.8% of the entries, their highest figure as a percentage of runners in the sample, and fully ten per cent more in absolute terms than any other year (160 versus their next largest team of 146, in 2015).

So it may actually be the quantity as much as the quality of the Irish runners that is responsible for their huge margin of victory in everyone's favourite pointless contest, the Betbright Cup.

Why?

We now join the ranks of the hand-wringers to ask why the Irish are winning more Cheltenham Festival races. As noted above, the question doesn't relate solely to the most recent renewal, but to each one since 2013. What has changed during that time to bring about such an upturn in Irish fortunes? Let's consider three possible contributory factors:

- Prize money

- Handicap ratings

- Purchase price / source of acquisition

Prize Money

Willie Mullins posited over the weekend that perhaps owners want to have horses trained in Ireland due to the greater prize money, and because of the lesser programme book reliance on higher value handicaps. A quick review of last week's winners lends some credence to Willie's mullings: of the 19 Irish-trained winners, eight of them by my reckoning - Special Tiara, Supasundae, Sizing John, Yorkhill, Nichols Canyon, Let's Dance, Penhill and Rock The World - are owned by 'Brits'.

But with the exceptions of exiled Americans, Susannah Ricci and Mrs Rowley-Williams (now moved back to US), owner of Special Tiara, the others all have horses trained in Britain as well. True, the Wylies seem to be phasing out their Paul Nicholls team, but this looks more in the Gigginstown vein of performance-based decision-making rather than as a result of prize money, though a case can certainly be made for the latter...

The below table shows the five year prize money accrued by four of the top owners to have split their teams across UK and Ireland (figures derived from ownership data at RacingPost.com).

 

Owner Ire Prize Ire Runs Ire £/Run UK Prize UK Runs UK £/Run Differential
Ricci £4,262,102 545 £7,820 £2,462,702 116 £21,230 2.71
Potts £1,644,110 456 £3,606 £769,725 50 £15,395 4.27
Wylie £1,910,689 174 £10,981 £1,701,885 209 £8,143 0.74
McManus £8,960,364 4238 £2,114 £7,994,949 2669 £2,995 1.42

 

Although there is unquestionably some 'cause and effect' as a result of these owners having won at Cheltenham, that's precisely why they're included in the table. The 'Differential' column shows that, while the Wylies won only 74% as much from their UK endeavours compared with their Irish portfolios, Teams Ricci and Potts did much, much better with their British teams.

But probably the best barometer of this line of argument is JP McManus. Ol' Green n'Gold supports racing to a huge degree on both sides of the pond, and it can clearly be seen on which side his bread is best buttered. McManus' UK contingent net him 42% more per run than his Irish legion.

The fact is that Willie Mullins has performed incredibly well - peerlessly, in fact - at the Cheltenham Festival for a number of years. That success brings 'overseas investment', regardless of whether there are valuable Graded pots or handicaps in the run of things. Indeed, owners like Ricci are on record as saying that they are not interested in winning outside of Cheltenham in March, a week which is the alpha and omega of their involvement in the ownership game.

So whilst there is some smoke to Mullins' contention, it seems unlikely there is much in the way of fire generating those plumes.

Handicap Ratings

More interesting, perhaps, and going beyond the handicap races, is the allocation of handicap ratings. Much has been made - before, during and since the Festival - of the re-assessment of Irish horses for British races. The consensus beforehand from the Irish camp was that this was unjust. With the raiders claiming seven of the ten handicap prizes, there is less crabbing now than before, but the question remains: why were the Irish horses largely elevated from their domestic perches?

The answer may lie not in the errancy of the Irish handicapper's work, but perhaps in a general overstatement in the British figures. Put another way, it may be that the British horses are rated too highly by the BHA 'cappers rather than the Irish too low by theirs.

To be brutally honest, I struggled to think of an effective (and time-efficient) method to test this hypothesis, and so will leave it as a question that others of appropriate informational means may crunch and confirm/refute the suggestion.

I definitely have a 'feeling' that some horses, especially in the two mile divisions, both hurdle and chase, have been significantly over-rated. Such conjecture should have no place in a pseudo-empirical article, so I'll leave it at that.

UPDATE: I've been made aware of two articles from last year covering the inflation in UK ratings. This one is from Simon Rowlands, and this one from Kevin Blake, are both excellent corroboration of the perception which, it seems, is more than that.

Purchase Price / Source

One thing that fascinates me, as a jealous owner peering through the windows into the Tattersalls Cheltenham sale and the like, is how purchase price and source impact on Festival prospects. As more largely untested stock changes hands for north of £300,000 a head, is there any evidence of a correlation between purchase price and performance in the Cotswolds in March? Or are the winners arriving in the hands of their owners by other means than public auction?

To evaluate this, I looked at the winners of the last six renewals of each of the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers' Hurdle and Gold Cup. That's the same time frame used above for the UK / Ireland comparisons and gives us 24 horses - minus multiple winners - to look at. Remarkably, the only multiple winner in the period was Sprinter Sacre, whose story is an interesting one to which we'll briefly return shortly.

Of the 23 individual winners of the four main Championship races since 2012, 15 were acquired privately. The remaining eight including two home-bred's - Synchronised and Coneygree, both Gold Cup winners - and six purchased for or by their current owners at public auction.

The highest price paid at public auction for a winner of the Champion Hurdle (one), Stayers' Hurdle (two), or Gold Cup (three) was the £75,000 Jim Culloty (on behalf of Dr Ronan Lambe) gave for Lord Windermere.

This year's Gold Cup winner, Sizing John, was bought as a yearling for just €16,000, Thistlecrack cost €43,000, and Bob's Worth (RSA and Gold Cup winner) was a mere £20,000. Using 90p to €1 as a conversion metric, the six Championship winners sold at public auction averaged at £32,717. The median was £24,100.

We also know something of some of those acquired privately. For example, we know that Champion Chaser, Sire De Grugy, was bought for €50,000. And it is reputed that Sprinter Sacre, who won two Champion Chases, was part of a 'job lot' of 22 horses purchased from France for €300,000. While it may be unwise to apportion that price tag equally across the whole draft, we do arrive at a figure of €13,636, or £12,272 using the 90p/€1 conversion principle. For us small-time syndicateers there is something comforting in such mathematical folly.

Perhaps Cole Harden is worth a mention, too. He was led out not sold at £30,000 after winning his debut bumper. Acquired privately soon after, it is highly possible that the purchaser paid in the region of £35,000 given that the auctioneer will usually 'phantom bid' up to just below the reserve price.

It seems that only fools rush in via the sales ring and, although the auction houses probably don't want to admit it, they appear to be doing considerably better than purchasers from these multi-hundred thousand pound/euro deals over jumps: most of the best horses are either bought privately or snapped up for relative pennies.

In Summary...

There are a number of key takeaways from the data posted in this article. Probably the hardest to swallow is that Ireland actually under-performed against their numerical representation this year, in spite of 'winning' 19-9 in terms of race victors.

The natural selectivity of Irish runners - it's a long, expensive journey for a horse with no chance - is also a factor, though this year was one where expense was waived in favour of 'having a runner' more than ever before. This was supported by those higher Irish handicap ratings, meaning more of their horses actually got a run than would have been the case of their domestic pegs.

Tully East (Ire 133, UK 138), winner of the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase, was the most notable beneficiary as his Irish mark was insufficient to make the cut for the race.

There is unlikely to be anything material in the Mullins line about British fascination with a handicap-driven programme, certainly if the major owners are anything to go by. But I'm fascinated by the evidence published by Messrs Rowlands and Blake around potential inflation in UK handicap ratings: it looks like there may well be something in that.

And if you love the idea of owning a Cheltenham Festival champion, it would appear that your best chance is to either a) acquire privately, either from France or from a small stable out of an Irish bumper; or b) buy a relatively cheap ticket at the sales and hope that your luck is in!

So here's to next year, when I expect Ireland to have less winners, perhaps significantly less on the evidence of their overall performance rather than merely the microcosm of the winners' enclosure.

Matt

Cheltenham Festival: The Role of Luck

When the Festival concludes next Friday, praise will be variously doled to the talent involved, writes Tony Keenan. Horses, trainers, jockeys, maybe even stable staff, will get credit for their efforts in victory. Much of it will be deserved but the one thing unlikely to be mentioned is luck.

Part of this is simply our thinking biases; humans operate under the illusion of control, overestimating the role we play in outcomes. Another aspect is that luck is hard to quantify in racing; we can all recall specific examples of luck in action, when a horse fell when seemingly going best or failed to get a clear run when travelling strongly or simply a narrow defeat, but gauging trainers who are the victims of variance over time is more difficult. Surely not all of them are equally lucky, especially at the Cheltenham Festival where there are only 28 races, a very small sample size.

Data analysts or sabremetricians have sought to quantify this in other sports, specifically those based in the US. Pythagorean expectation, the formula that estimates how many games a team should have won based on their scoring, have proven a better predictor of future success than past win-loss records in sports in baseball, basketball and American football. These theories have crossed into European soccer too with numbers on shots, shot quality and expected goals now playing a part in some sensible conversations on the sport.

Translating this into racing isn’t easy but it seemed worth a try going back as far as the 2010 Festival.

Rather than taking just one criterion, I decided to use three to see if the same trainers were unlucky across the different metrics. Firstly, the old favourite expected winners -the number of winners a trainer should have had judged on market prices - to see who was lucky and unlucky, overachieving and underachieving. From there, I took the number of seconds and placed runs relative to winners to uncover who was getting close without winning.

Finally, I looked at the in-running markets from Betfair for all the races since 2010 to see how many odds-on in-running trades trainers had, as sometimes the place results may not tell the whole truth, for instance when a horse that looked set to be involved in the finish fell close home. I used 2.0 as my cut-off point as an odds-on trade reflects a view held by someone (rightly or wrongly) that a horse was more likely than not to win a race at a given point.

 

Cheltenham Festival: Trainer Performance Based on Market Expectation

Trainer Actual Wins Expected Wins Difference Actual/Expected
W. Mullins 33 29.5 +3.5 1.12
N. Henderson 21 21.8 -0.8 0.96
P. Nicholls 15 18.0 -3.0 0.83
D. Pipe 11 9.9 +1.1 1.11
JJ. O’Neill 10 6.2 +3.8 1.61
G. Elliott 8 5.3 +2.7 1.51
N. Twiston-Davies 7 5.2 +1.8 1.35
P. Hobbs 7 6.6 +0.4 1.06
C. Tizzard 5 3.3 +1.7 1.51
R. Curtis 4 1.6 +2.4 2.50
T. Martin 4 1.7 +2.3 2.35
D. McCain 4 3.5 +0.5 1.14
A. King 4 6.5 -2.5 0.61
J. Culloty 3 0.3 +2.7 10.00
E. Bolger 3 3.1 -0.1 0.97
H. De Bromhead 3 2.4 +0.6 1.25

 

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It seems scarcely credible but these figures suggest the Festival markets still hasn’t totally caught up with Willie Mullins; he is outperforming expectations despite breaking records at the meeting.

Perhaps this year, when the yard has had so much bad luck ahead of the meeting, will finally see his runners overbet. Paul Nicholls could be Mullins of five years in the future; after a period of being top trainer at the meeting (he won it five times between 2004 and 2009), he now has one of the poorer records among the top trainers, with only Alan King having a lower actual/expected figure.

This is the top group of trainers in terms of winners sent out at the meeting, however, and unsurprisingly most are doing better and/or are luckier than the betting suggests. That could well simply reflect their skill and the quality of their horses but one obvious conclusion is that there must be an awful lot of smaller yards really struggling for a winner who have negative figures.

Gordon Elliott and Jonjo O’Neill are two that stand out in terms of luck though with Elliott it seems likely the market will take full cognisance of the level he is currently operating at; whereas in past seasons, he was slightly under-the-radar, now he is a presumptive Champion Trainer with the favourite or second favourite in seemingly every handicap at the meeting. O’Neill is a different case and his results might be down to how his stable performs through the winter; it seems that every March, his runners come into the Festival under a cloud and the markets have to have them at bigger prices as a result.

Alan King is one of the unluckiest big trainers – a point we’ll return to later – while Jim Culloty is the luckiest and it’s not even close. His actual over expected ratio is off the charts but this looks a case of pure randomness rather than skill; everything else we have seen in his training career thus far says he is not this good and, realistically, no trainer could maintain such figures. Trusting those figures and betting his horses at the Festival would be to fall prey to an extreme form of survivorship bias.

 

Cheltenham Festival: Seconds and Places

Trainer Wins Seconds Difference Places (2nd, 3rd and 4th) Winners to Places Ratio
W. Mullins 33 22 +11 69 2.09
N. Henderson 21 21 0 57 2.71
P. Nicholls 15 19 -4 43 2.87
D. Pipe 11 9 +2 24 2.18
JJ. O’Neill 10 8 +2 15 1.50
G. Elliott 8 7 +1 22 2.75
N. Twiston-Davies 7 6 +1 14 2.00
P. Hobbs 7 2 +5 18 2.58
C. Tizzard 5 2 +3 8 1.60
R. Curtis 4 0 +4 3 0.75
T. Martin 4 1 +3 5 1.25
D. McCain 4 5 -1 8 2.00
A. King 4 6 -2 25 6.25
J. Culloty 3 0 +3 0 0.00
E. Bolger 3 2 +1 5 1.67
H. De Bromhead 3 4 -1 10 3.33
D. Weld 2 3 -1 4 2.oo
M. Morris 1 5 -4 7 7.00
N. Meade 1 2 -1 9 9.00
E. Lavelle 1 3 -2 5 5.00
M. Keighley 0 3 -3 5 0.00
T. George 0 3 -3 8 0.00
N. Williams 0 1 -1 11 0.00

 

In terms of simple winners to seconds difference, Mullins comes off best again. Philip Hobbs is next in with five more winners than runners-up while Rebecca Curtis could well be called "the milk-woman" in that she always delivers with not a single runner-up and only three places to go against her four winners. The unlucky trainers in this regard are Paul Nicholls, Mouse Morris, Martin Keighley and Tom George.

Winners to place ratio is simply places divided by winners; the places here don’t include winners. By my reckoning, a ratio of above 3.00 suggests bad luck while below suggests good luck; there are 3 places available in each race with only one win. Alan King’s misfortune is the one that jumps out here with an amazing 25 places to four winners for a ratio of 6.25 which is more than double what would typically be expected. Both Mouse Morris and Noel Meade have higher ratios but King’s comes from a bigger sample size. Nick Williams, too, has had a lot of horses run well without winning and is still waiting for a first Festival winner.

 

Cheltenham Festival: In-running Trades

Trainer Sub-2.0 Trades Winners Difference
W. Mullins 20 33 +13
N. Henderson 19 21 +2
P. Nicholls 17 15 -2
D. Pipe 11 11 0
G. Elliott 10 8 -2
JJ. O’Neill 6 10 +3
A. King 6 4 -1
N. Twiston-Davies 4 7 +3
E. Bolger 4 3 -1
T. George 4 0 -4
M. Keighley 4 0 -4
N. Williams 3 0 -3
D. McCain 3 4 +1
M. Morris 3 1 -2

 

These in-running histories would surely make for grim reading for many a punter though perhaps not as much as they do for Paul Nicholls; in back-to-back renewals of the Gold Cup in 2010 and 2011 he watched both Kauto Star and Denman trade odds-on in-running before getting beaten. That’s rough.

Nicky Henderson – 2011 Supreme with both Spirit Son and Sprinter Sacre – was only other trainer that happened to in the period covered. These Betfair numbers basically back up a lot of what we’ve seen already: Willie Mullins, Jonjo O’Neill and Nigel Twiston-Davies have been lucky; Tom George, Martin Keighley and Nick Williams have not.

So who should we be looking at for some regression, positive or negative, next week?

Overall, Willie Mullins, Rebecca Curtis and Jonjo O’Neill might see their winners drop while Tom George, Martin Keighley, Noel Meade and Alan King could be heading the other way. That of course depends on whether you think they were lucky or good and as they always say, it’s better to be the former than the latter!

- Tony Keenan

2017 Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey Betting Guide

The ‘Top Jockey’ betting at the Cheltenham Festival is always a fascinating market and provides punters with another sub-plot to keep them interested over the four-days of top-notch National Hunt action.

No Barry Geraghty this year after the JP McManus-retained pilot has been ruled out through injury, but with top jockeys like Ruby Walsh, Richard Johnson, Noel Fehily, Aidan Coleman, Bryan Cooper, Nico de Boinville, Sam Twiston-Davies and Mark Walsh then racegoers will be hunting through the entries trying to plot which of the leading jockeys have the best rides.

In recent year’s Ruby Walsh has dominated this market – ridding the most winners over the four days 8 times in the last 9 seasons, including in 2016, and 10 times in all. His association with the powerful Willie Mullins team, that fired in another seven Festival winners in 2016, makes him the clear favourite again in the 2017 Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey betting market and with that in mind it’s easy to see why the ‘silver fox’ pilot, who has ridden a total of 52 Cheltenham Festival winners, is already odds-on to take his Cheltenham Top Jockey Title haul to 11.

Walsh will have the pick of all the main Mullins horses over the Festival – like Douvan, Vroum Mag, Limini, Un de Scueax and Yorkhill, while he’s sure to also get the leg-up on plenty of spares if Mullins doesn’t have a runner in the race.

So, Ruby is a worthy favourite?

With no Barry Geragthy – who looked to have a cracking array of horses for his boss, JP McManus, to pick from – this will certainly help Ruby’s cause as most of Geragthy’s rides will now be spread out to a handful of other top jockeys. JP’s second retained rider – Mark Walsh – has naturally come in for support in the betting after it was confirmed that he’ll be riding leading Champion Hurdle hope – Yanworth – plus former Ryanair winner, Uxizandre.

However, those looking for other options away from Ruby Walsh, might sway towards Noel Fehily. This likeable jockey looks likely to pick up some more of Geraghty’s spares in the form of Unowhatimeanharry (Stayers Hurdle) and Buveur D’Air (Champion Hurdle), while he’s also on the well-touted Neon Wolf, who heads the Neptune Investment Hurdle betting.

Of the rest, top Irish jockey Bryan Cooper, who will ride the main Giggintown Stud horses, is interesting with such a large number of decent horses to pick from. His best chances look like coming from Petit Mouchoir, Apples Jade, Empire Of Dirt and Death Duty.

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With the festival over four days then it really is numbers game, and without stating the obvious a mixture of 2 or 3 bankers in your locker, plus rides in almost all the available races (don’t forget there are a few amateur or conditional races) is the perfect cocktail to being the top jock at Cheltenham.

Did you know? Back in the 1990’s former champion jockeys Richard Dunwoody and Peter Scudamore landed the top jockey title with only 2 wins! But, don’t forget the festival was held over 3 days back then! 

Another name to mention is Sam Twiston-Davies, who will ride the best of the Paul Nicholls runners, but although it will be a shock if Nicholls isn’t picking up a few races, he doesn’t seem to have any real banker material this year so it’s hard to see Twiston-Davies challenging for the top jockey title.

Aidan Coleman might be a better outsider – he’s likely to ride a lot of the Jonjo O’Neill and Venetia Williams horses, plus he’s already been confirmed for My Tent Or Yours (Champion Hurdle) and Minella Rocco (Gold Cup).

Nico de Boinville is worth a mention too – he looks sure to go in with Altior in the Arkle Chase so that should get him off the mark on Day One, and with the powerful Nicky Henderson team behind him too then he’s another that might be worth a small cover bet against Ruby.

The champion jockey – Richard Johnson – is another that is sure to get on the score sheet, but a bit like Twiston-Davies he’s bound to have plenty of rides, but with no real bankers then he might be scrapping around a bit, and even at a double-figure price it’s hard to get too excited.

So – yes – there are a few cases to be made for taking on Ruby Walsh, with Noel Fehily, Bryan Cooper and Nico de Boinville looking the best alternatives, but really it’s hard to get away from the ‘Silver Fox’. Okay, no Annie Power, Faugheen or Vautour this year, but he’s still got more so-called ‘bankers than any of the other top jocks and that’s good enough for us.

Finally, the last thing to note when it comes to this market is don’t forget that seconds, thirds and even fourth-placed finishes can help land a jockey this prize. In the event of a tie (winners) then the amount of seconds, and then thirds will be taken into account!

Best Bet: RUBY WALSH
Danger: Noel Fehily

 

Recent Cheltenham Festival ‘Top Jockey’ Hall Of Fame

2016: Ruby Walsh (5)
2015: Ruby Walsh (4)
2014: Ruby Walsh (3)
2013: Ruby Walsh (4)
2012: Barry Geraghty (5)
2011: Ruby Walsh (5)
2010: Ruby Walsh (3)
2009: Ruby Walsh (7)
2008: Ruby Walsh (3)
2007: Robert Thornton (4)
2006: Ruby Walsh (3)
2005: Graham Lee (3)
2004: Ruby Walsh (3)
2003: Barry Geraghty (5)
2002: Richard Johnson (2)
2001: Meeting Abandoned
2000: Mick Fitzgerald (4)
1999: Mick Fitzgerald (4)
1998: Tony McCoy (5)
1997: Tony McCoy (3)

 

Leading Current Jockeys At The Festival

Ruby Walsh (52)
Barry Geraghty (34)
Richard Johnson (20)
Davy Russell (17)
Tom Scudamore (9)
Ms Nina Carberry (7)
Sam Twiston-Davies (7)
Paddy Brennan (6)
Bryan Cooper (6)
Mr Jamie Codd (5)
Nico de Boinville (4)
Andrew Lynch (4)
Paul Townend (4)
Sam Waley-Cohen (4)

2017 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY ONE (Tues 14th March)

Each day of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts here at GeeGeez.co.uk 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 2017 Cheltenham Festival for you!

DAY ONE: Tuesday 14th March 2017

13:30 – SkyBet Supreme Novices' Hurdle   2m ½f

Pluses…..

  • 18 of the last 20 winners won their last race
  • 11 of the last 13 winners had raced in at least 4 hurdles races before
  • 6 of the last 7 winners came from the first 4 in the market
  • 17 of the last 22 winners ran in the last 45 days
  • Irish-trained horses have won 14 of the last 25 runnings
  • 5 & 6 year-olds have the best record – winning 11 of the last 12 runnings
  • Willie Mullins has won the race 4 times since 2007 and for 3 of the last 4 years
  • 20 of the last 22 winners had raced that same calendar year
  • Owner Rich Ricci, Trainer Willie Mullins & Jockey Ruby Walsh have won 3 of the last 4 runnings.

Negatives…..

  • Horses that FAILED to win last time out before coming here are just 2 from the last 20. In other words look for horses that won last time out!
  • Since 1992 all horses (33) wearing head-gear have been beaten
  • We’ve seen just one ex-flat horse win since 2008 (50 runners)

 

14:10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase   2m

Pluses….

  • 10 of the last 12 winners had won (or been placed) at Cheltenham before
  • 10 of the last 12 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 chase before
  • 15 of the last 16 winners returned 9/1 or shorter
  • 9 of the last 10 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 9 of the last 13 winners at run at the Cheltenham Festival previously
  • 9 of the last 16 winners were the top or second top-rated hurdler in the field
  • Nicky Henderson has won the race 5 times
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Negatives…..

  • Only 2 of the last 30 winners failed to win of finish second last time out
  • Just two of the last 26 winners started 11/1 or bigger in the betting
  • Only 3 of the last 25 winners were older than 7 years-old
  • The last horse aged 9 (or older) to win was in 1988
  • The last 28 ex-flat horses to run have all lost
  • Dovan (2016) was the first Supreme Hurdle winner (prev season) that has followed-up since 1965

14:50 Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase  3m 1f 

Pluses….

  • 14 of the last 17 winners were officially rated 143 or less
  • 11 of the last 16 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 12 of the last 16 were novices or second season chasers
  • 6 of the last 9 winners were rated between 142-146
  • 7 of the last 14 won last time out
  • 3 of the last 7 winners ran in the Cleeve Hurdle that season
  • The last 5 winners all wore headgear
  • Jonjo O’Neill, Alan King, Nicky Henderson, Tony Martin & David Pipe are trainers to note

Negatives….

  • Avoid any horses carrying 11-04 or more in weight – 8 of the last 12 carried 10-12 or less
  • Horses aged 11 or older are just 2 from 48 to even get placed
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls-trained horses – he’s currently 0 from 19

15:30 Stan James Champion Hurdle   2m ½f

Pluses….

  • 27 of the last 33 won last time out
  • The Irish and Henderson have won 14 of the last 18 runnings
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has won 4 of the last 6 runnings
  • 7 of the last 10 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 21 of the last 32 winners were placed in the first 4 at the previous seasons festival
  • The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is a good guide (3 winners, 4 places in last 9 runnings)
  • 13 of the last 21 winners started as flat horses
  • Look for horses that have raced at least once that calendar year

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses that failed to finish in the top three last time out
  • 5 year-olds are just 1 from 98 since 1985
  • Since 1927 we’ve only seen 2 winners aged 10 or older
  • Just 2 of the last 10 winners had raced more than 12 times over hurdles
  • Christmas Hurdle winners are 2 from 24

 

16:10 OLBG Mares' Hurdle   2m 4f

Pluses….

  • Follow Irish-trained mares
  • The favourite (or 2nd fav) have won all 9 previous runnings
  • 7 of the last 9 favourites have won
  • Look for Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Paul Nolan & Alan King runners
  • Novices generally do well
  • The last 6 winners had won over 2m6f+ before
  • Horses that began their careers in bumpers have done well

Negatives….

  • Avoid front-runners
  • All 21 runners to wear headgear have been beaten (just 1 placed)
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls, Gordon Elliott, Philip Hobbs and Noel Meade runners

16:50 JT McNamara National Hunt Chase   4m

Pluses…..

  • 11 of the last 15 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 8 of the last 11 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • Favourites have won 3 of the last 7 runnings
  • 3 of the last 6 winners were top-rated
  • 4 of the last 6 winners had run in a Grade One Novice Chase that season
  • 5 of the last 10 had run in a chase at Cheltenham before that season
  • 4 of the last 7 had run at a previous Cheltenham Festival
  • Note horses wearing headgear
  • 4 of the last 6 winners were rated 146 (or more)
  • Look out for JP McManus (6 winners) owned runners
  • Jonjo O’Neill has trained 6 winners in the race

Negatives….

  • 5 and 6 year-olds are just 2 from 74 since 1989
  • Be cautious of Paul Nicholls runners – he’s currently 0 from 17 in the race

17:30 The Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase   2m 4½f

Pluses….

  • 8 of the last 12 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • Respect 7 year-olds
  • Look for any horses wearing first-time headgear
  • 5 of last 8 won last time out
  • 10 of the last 12 winners returned 12/1 or shorter
  • Respect JP McManus-owned runners (1 win, 2 2nds, 1 3rd)
  • Look for Henderson, O’Neill  & Hobbs runners

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses outside the top five in the betting
  • Avoid horses with less than 4 starts in the last 12 months
  • The Irish are just 1 from the last 12 runnings

2017 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY TWO (Weds 15th March)

Each day of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts here at GeeGeez.co.uk 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 2017 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 

DAY TWO: Wednesday 15th March 2017

13:30 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle   2m 5f

Pluses….

  • 19 of the last 22 win and place horses came from the top 4 in the betting
  • The Irish have won 7 of the last 11
  • All of the last 11 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • In the last 6 runnings Irish-trained horses have filled 12 of the 18 places
  • 16 of the last 18 were NH bred
  • 12 of the last 19 had won a graded race before
  • Look for past Irish point-to-point winners
  • Respect Willie Mullins – 4 winners and 6 placed in last 12 years

Negatives….

  • Only one winner aged older than 6 has won since 1974
  • Avoid 4 year-olds too – just one winner since 1991
  • Horses aged 7 or older are 0 from 51 (since 1988)
  • Only two of the last 31 winners came from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • The last 16 Challow Hurdle winners have been beaten
  • Avoid ex-flat horses (since 2005 all have been beaten, 0 from 27)

14:10 RSA Chase   3m ½f

Pluses….

  • 4 of the last 8 winners ran in the Flogas Chase that season
  • Respect 7 year-olds – won 8 of the last 9
  • Irish bred horses are 17 from 20
  • 8 of the last 10 winners had win a Grade 1 or 2 Chase
  • 5 of the last 8 winners were trained in Ireland
  • Trainers Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls do well in the race
  • 21 of the last 24 were novice hurdling last season
  • 5 of the last 7 winners ran in the Albert Bartlett the previous season
  • Look for horses that ran that same calendar year (49 of the last 50 winners had)
  • 8 of the last 10 winners had raced at the Festival the previous year
Your first 30 days for just £1

Negatives….

  • No winner aged 9 or older since 1992
  • Just 4 winners younger than 7 since 1978
  • Avoid horses that had fallen before over fences
  • Avoid unbeaten horses over fences (2 from 28)
  • Avoid horses that had had 2 full seasons over hurdles prior (0 from 76 since 1993)
  • Just 1 of the last 17winners had run less than 3 times over fences
  • All 20 winners of the Kauto Star (Feltham, Kempton) have lost

14:50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle   2m 5f

Pluses….

  • 9 of the last 12 were 2nd season hurdlers
  • 6 of the last 8 winners hailed from the top 8 horses in the weights
  • 10 of the last 11 winners hailed form the top 7 in the betting
  • 17 of the last 22 winners won earlier that season
  • Respect JP McManus-trained runners
  • 8 of the last 15 winners were FRENCH-BRED
  • 13 of the last 23 won last time out
  • Respect Irish-trained runners
  • Look for horses that had raced 4 or less times that season (last 8 winners)
  • The last 12 winners had run 32 days or longer ago
  • Respect Gordon Elliott and Nicky Henderson-trained horses (2 wins each since 2010)

Negatives….

  • No winning favourite in the last 13 years
  • Horses aged 10+ are just 2 from 27 to even place since 1999
  • Horses rated 150+ don’t have a great record
  • Only 3 of the last 16 winners had raced at the Festival previously
  • None of the last 12 winners had run in the last 32 day – look for horses that have had a small break
  • Only 3 winners since 2000 had run more than 9 times over hurdles

 


15:30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase   2m

Pluses….

  • 11 of the last 16 winners ran in the Tingle Creek Chase that season
  • 3 of the last 4 winners also won the Clarence House Chase (Ascot) that season
  • 21 of the last 32 had won at the festival before
  • Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson have won 6 of the last 9 between them
  • 13 of the last 14 winners had run that calendar year
  • 34 of the last 35 winners returned 11/1 or shorter
  • 6 of the last 10 winners were French-bred
  • 10 of the last 14 winners were second season chasers
  • 15 of the last 18 winners came from the top 3 in the betting
  • 12 of the last 17 winners ran in the previous season’s Arkle or Champion Chases

Negatives….

  • Only one winner priced 11/1 or bigger in the last 35 years
  • Top Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, is yet to win this race
  • Just 1 of the last 15 winners hadn’t won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • None of the last 11 winners had run in more than 16 chases
  • Be wary of horses older than 10 – they are just 2 winners since 1977

16:10 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase   3m 7f

Pluses….

  • The Irish have won 9 of the last 12 runnings
  • Respect Enda Bolger-trained runners (won 4 times)
  • 8 of the last 11 winners carried 10-13 or less
  • 15 of the last 19 winners came from the top three in the betting
  • 7 of the last 12 ran in the December Cross Country race here
  • Respect Nina Carberry, Richard Johnson and Davy Russell-ridden horses (8 from 12 between them)
  • 8 or the last 12 winners were aged 10 or older
  • Trainer Philip Hobbs is 2 from 9 (5 placed in the top 5 too)
  • The favourites are just 1 from the last 10

Negatives….

  • Debutants over these fences/course have a poor record
  • Avoid horses aged 7 or younger – they are only 2 from 92
  • Horses rated 126 or less have a very poor record
  • Willie Mullins is 0 from 11
  • Paul Nicholls is 0 from 16

16:50 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle   2m ½f

Pluses….

  • 8 of the last 12 winners had run just 3 times over hurdles before
  • 19 of the last 30 (win/place) were French bred
  • Respect Fillies
  • The last 6 winners all came from the bottom half of the weights/handicap
  • 9 of the last 12 had run in the last 25 days
  • Pipe, Nicholls, Elliot and King-trained horses do well
  • 4 of the last 5 winners returned between 25/1 and 40/1
  • Respect horses wearing headgear
  • 11 of the last 11 winners were rated between 124-133

 

Negatives….

  • No recent winner had last raced in January or further back
  • Trainers Willie Mullins, Philip Hobbs and Venetia Williams are 0 from 28 between them
  • Only 2 winners had run in a handicap hurdle before
  • Not winner had raced at Cheltenham before

17:30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper   2m ½f

Pluses….

  • 22 of the last 24 had won last time out
  • Respect Irish-trained runners (17 from 33)
  • 4 of the last 7 winners were won by UK-based trainers
  • 16 of the last 24 came from the top 6 in the betting
  • 18 of the last 24 were Irish-bred
  • 9 of the last 16 winners were second season horses
  • 10 of the last 11 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 14 of the last 16 had their debut runs in Ireland
  • 10 of the last 14 had been beaten in a race before
  • 5 of the last 7 winners returned between 14/1 and 40/1
  • Respect Willie Mullins (8 winners), but is just 2 from last 27 runners
  • The Irish lead the British 18-6

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses with 4 or more NH Flat runs
  • 4 year-olds are 1 from 50 since 2000
  • Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson don’t often target the race
  • 1 winning favourite in the last 10 runnings

2017 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY THREE (Thurs 16th March)

Each day of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts here at GeeGeez.co.uk 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 2017 Cheltenham Festival for you!

DAY THREE: Thursday 16th March 2017

13:30 JLT Novices' Chase   2m 4f

Pluses….

  • 5 of the 6 winners were Irish-trained
  • Willie Mullins has trained 3 of the last 6 winners
  • 4 of the last 6 winners had won a Graded Chase before
  • All 6 past winners had run at the Festival before
  • 5 of the 6 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 10 of the 16 top three finishers won last time out
  • 5 of the last 6 winners ran between 47-54 days ago
  • 7 year-olds have won 4 of last 6

Negatives….

  • Be careful of horses rated 146 or less
  • The top-rated horse is yet to win
  • Since 1990 all Festival Novice Chase winners have been aged 8 or younger
  • 2 winning favourites in 6 runnings (1 co)
  • No winner had less than 3 career chase starts
  • No winner had been off for more than 54 days


14:10 Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle   3m

Pluses….

  • 7 of the last 11 winners were aged 8 or older
  • 10 of the last 16 winners were from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • The last 6 winners were rated 138 or higher
  • 9 of the last 12 winners had won over at least 2m7f
  • 8 of the last 10 winners had run 10 or less times over hurdles before
  • 7 of the last 16 winners won their last race
  • 3 of the last 8 winners finished in the first 5 in the Betfair Hurdle (Haydock)
  • Look for Jonjo O’Neill, Twiston-Davies, Mullins and Pipe-trained runners
  • Respect JP McManus-owned horses
Your first 30 days for just £1

Negatives….

  • Just 2 Irish-trained winner in the last 11 runnings
  • Avoid horses with less than 6 runs over hurdles
  • 5 year-olds have won just once since 1973
  • Horses rated 142 or higher have a poor record
  • French-bred horses are 0-68
  • 1 winning favourite in last 11 years
  • Paul Nicholls is currently 0 from 14
  • Horses aged 7 or younger and priced in single-figures are just 1 from 32


14:50 Ryanair Chase   2m 5f

Pluses….

  • 17 of the 23 winners and runners-up had won at the course before
  • The last 4 winners were 2nd season chasers
  • 8 of the last 9 had won at Cheltenham previously
  • 8 of the last 9 winners had won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • The King George VI Chase is a good guide
  • The previous renewal is often a good guide
  • 9 of the last 11 winners returned 6/1 or shorter
  • The last 5 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • 8 of the last 9 were rated 161+
  • 4 of the last 12 were placed in the top 3 in the Ascot Chase
  • 9 of last 12 winners were fav or 2nd fav
  • Trainers Jonjo O’Neill, David Pipe & Nicky Henderson are respected
  • Respect first time head-gear (2 from 7)
  • 7 of the last 9 winners DIDN’T win last time out

Negatives….

  • The Irish are 1 from 37 runners in this race
  • Avoid horses priced 7/1 or bigger
  • Avoid horses aged 11 or older
  • Just one winner rated 160 or below

 

15:30 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle 3m

Pluses….

  • 10 of the last 12 won last time out
  • 15 of the last 16 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 8 of the last 15 were French Bred
  • Respect the Cleeve Hurdle and Long Walk Hurdle form
  • 14 of the last 15 winners finished 1st or 2nd in all their hurdling runs that season
  • 11 of the last 12 winners started 17/2 or less in the betting
  • Respect past winners of the race

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses that didn’t finish either 1st or 2nd last time out (1 from 17)
  • A 5 year-old is yet to win the race
  • Willie Mullins is yet to win the race
  • Avoid front runners
  • The Irish are have won the race just once since 1995
  • Avoid horses that were beaten in the race before (0 from 34 in the last 12 runnings)
  • Previous Albert Bartlett winners have a poor record (0 from 14)
  • Horses wearing headgear are 0 from 57
  • Horses aged 10 or older have all been beaten since 1986 (0 from 48)


16:10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate   2m 5f

Pluses….

  • 26 of the last 29 winners were officially rated 141 or less
  • The last 8 winners carried under 11-0
  • Look out for French-breds
  • Venetia Williams, Pipe and Henderson-trained runners should be noted
  • The Pipe yard have won 7 of the last 19 runnings
  • 15 of the last 16 winners returned at double-figure odds
  • 20 of the last 25 winners had run at the Festival before

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses that are yet to win at Class 3 or better
  • The Irish have only sent out 2 winners since 1951
  • 1 favourite in the last 11 years
  • 2 of last 22 won with 11st+
  • Novices are 1 from 38 since 2005


16:50 Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices Hurdle 2m1f

A new race (runs just once before) Willie Mullins won the 2016 race with Limini


17:30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase   3m 1½f

Pluses….

  • Respect 8 and 9 year-olds
  • 3 of the last 6 winners ran in the BetVictor Handicap Chase (Open Meeting)
  • The last 5 winners ran off a mark of 137 or more
  • 6 of the last 7 winners carried 11st 6lbs+
  • Look for McCain, Pipe and Henderson-trained runners
  • Look for horses in the top half of the handicap
  • 16 of the last 17 winners ran over at least three miles in their last race
  • Look for non-claiming amateur riders
  • 5 of the last 6 winners wore headgear
  • 7 of the last 8 winners came from the top 6 in the market
  • Jamie Codd has ridden 4 of the last 8 winners

Negatives….

  • Just two Irish winners for 33 years (but have won 2 of the last 3)
  • Horses that fell or unseated that season have a poor record (0 from 65)
  • Avoid Paul Nicholls-trained horses – he’s just 1 placed horse from his last 18
  • Horses carrying less than 10-10 have a poor record
  • French breds are 0 from 47 since 2005
  • Avoid claiming jockeys – 1 from 67 since 2009

2017 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY FOUR (Fri 17th March)

Each day of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts here at GeeGeez.co.uk 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 2017 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 


DAY FOUR: Friday 17th March 2017


13:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle   2m 1f

Pluses…..

  • 18 of the last 23 winners won last time out
  • 10 of the last 12 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • Respect Henderson (6 winners), Nicholls, and King-trained runners
  • 7 of the last 13 first ran over hurdles in November
  • 9 of the last 11 winners returned 13/2 or shorter
  • The Spring Juvenile Hurdle is a good guide
  • 4 of the last 8 winners had run in France before
  • Nicky Henderson has trained 6 winners of the race

Negatives….

  • 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
  • Be careful of horses rated 138 or lower – no winner in the last 10


14:10 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle   2m 1f

Pluses….

  • The Irish have won 7 of the last 10 runnings
  • 4 of the last 9 winners ran in that season’s Coral.ie Hurdle (Leopardsotwn)
  • The last 11 winners were rated in the 130’s
  • 5 of the last 8 winners had run in 6 or less hurdles races
  • 9 of the last 11 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 9 of the last 11 winners were priced in double-figures
  • Look for Mullins, Martins & Nicholls-trained runners
  • Respect the Imperial Cup (Sandown Park) winner
  • Ruby Walsh has ridden 4 winners in the last 13 years
  • 10 of the last 16 winners came from the top 5 in the betting
  • 12 of the last 13 winners were 1st or 2nd season hurdlers
  • 8 of the last 10 winners DIDN’T win last time out

Negatives….

  • Strangely, previous course winners have a bad record
  • Since 1960 only 3 winners carried more than 11st 2lb
  • Only 6 winners had run at the Festival before
  • Since 2005 116 runners rated 140+ have lost
  • Avoid runners that hadn’t raced at least 4 times that season
  • Avoid horses making their handicap debuts (0 from 63 since 1994)

 

14:50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle   3m

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Pluses….

  • 8 of the last 12 winners had run at Cheltenham over hurdles before
  • 8 of the last 12 came from the top 5 in the betting
  • 9 of the last 11 winner ran 47 days (or more) ago
  • 10 of the last 12 had run in a race over 3m
  • 9 of the last 11 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 10 of the last 11 winners finished in the top 3 last time out
  • 4 of the last 11 favourites won
  • Jonjo O’Neill (2) and the Irish (4) have won 6 of the last 11

 

Negatives….

  • 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 (0 from 32)
  • Willie Mullins is 0 from 25 in the race
  • Only 1 of the last 12 winners hadn’t raced that calendar year

 

15:30 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase   3m 2½f

Pluses….

  • 15 of the last 17 winners ran in the Lexus or King George that season
  • 14 of the last 16 finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 11 of the last 16 had won or placed 2nd at the festival before
  • 15 of the last 16 winners hailed from the top 3 in the betting
  • 15 of the last 16 winners had raced no more than 12 times over fences
  • 15 of the last 20 winners were bred in Ireland
  • 8 of the last 11 winners won last time out
  • 5 of the last 11 favourites won
  • ALL of the last 17 winners were aged 9 or younger
  • 9 winners since 2000 HADN’T run in the calendar year

 

Negatives….

  • Non Grade One winners are 0 from the last 17 runnings
  • No winner older than 10 years-old since 1969 (0 from 68)
  • Horses rated 166 or less are only 3 from last 16
  • Avoid horses that had run on ‘heavy’ ground that season (0 from 72)
  • Horses wearing headgear are 0 from 38
  • Willie Mullins is yet to win the race, 0 from 17 (had last 4 seconds though)
  • Just 1 of the last 9 winners had raced more than 3 times that season

 

16:10 St James’ Place Foxhunter Chase   3m 2½f

Pluses…..

  • 24 of the last 26 winners were aged under 11 years-old
  • 23 of the last 31 won last time out
  • 25 of the last 28 started out in point-to-point races
  • 9 of the last 11 winners ran 34 days or less ago
  • Respect the Irish runners (won last 6)
  • The last 5 winners ran in the Leopardstown Inn Hunters’ Chase
  • 8 of the last 11 winners were aged 8-10 years-old
  • 7 of the last 8 winners returned 15/2 or shorter
  • 8 of the last 9 winners finished in the top 3 last time out

Negatives….

  • 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
  • 25 of the last 26 horses aged 11+ (priced in single figures) have lost
  • Avoid ex-handicappers rated 140+ in their careers (0 from 53)
  • Avoid horses that raced 35 days or longer ago
  • Horses aged 11+ are just 3 from 197 since 1990

 

16:50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle   2m 4½f

Pluses….

  • All 8 winners were 2nd season-hurdlers
  • 23 of the 25 win and place horses were 1st or 2nd season hurdlers
  • Look for Henderson, Nicholls, Mullins, Elliot-trained horses
  • 6 of the 8 winners were placed in the top 4 last time out
  • 4 of the 8 winners won last time out
  • 6 of the 8 winners were rated 133-139
  • 5 of the 8 winners returned at a double-figure price
  • 5 and 6 year-olds have won ALL 8 runnings
  • Look for jockeys that have ridden 20+ winners
  • Willie Mullins is 3 from 8 in the race
  • Respect any Gigginstown House Stud-owned runners (2 winners, 3 places)

Negatives….

  • Despite being named after his father the David Pipe camp has a poor record so far (0 from 17)
  • Just 1 winning fav in the 8 year history (5/7 returned in double-figures)
  • Horses in headgear are currently 0 from 38

17:30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase   2m ½f

Pluses….

  • 15 of the last 17 winners carried 11st or less
  • 11 of the last 13 winners had run at the festival before 5 of the last 13 winners ran in the previous renewal
  • 9 of the last 13 winners were aged 8 or older
  • Henderson, Nicholls, King-trained horses are respected
  • Keep the Irish horses on your side
  • Respect JP McManus-owned horses (3 winners, 8 placed)
  • The last 6 winners were rated at least 138
  • 5 year-olds have a good record (from few runners)
  • Novices have won 5 of the last 8 runnings
  • 5 of the last 6 winners were rated between 140-147
  • 16 of the last 17 winners had run no more than 12 times over fences

Negatives….

  • Runners carrying more than 11st haven’t run well in recent years
  • Horses aged 10+ are just 1 win from the last 17 runnings
  • Horses that last ran 45 days or more ago have seen just four winners since 1990
  • Last time out winners are just 1 from last 11
  • Horses aged 6 or younger (from top 3 in the market) are just 1 from 26 since 2005
  • No winner rated 147+ since 1992
  • Horses that won a handicap chase that season are 0 from 97, since 2005

Trending Towards Cheltenham

Trends can be a dirty word at this time of year. Cheltenham is peak ten-year-patterns season and believers will be trotting out lines about five-year-olds and the Champion Hurdle as the sample size boys argue back with doubts about the statistical significance of such numbers, writes Tony Keenan. I’d tend towards the latter group more than the former, allowing that these amateur ‘statisticians’ do stumble upon the odd interesting angle.

The patterns I’m interested in here however are more general ones about the Irish national hunt season and given we’ve had 1,154 races run in the 2016/17 campaign (as of Monday February 2oth) that seems a fair sample size. There has been some strange stuff going on this season, at least when compared with the ones that went before, and it is worth considering how these might impact events at Cheltenham in three weeks.

 

Willie Mullins – The Nightmare Season

"Nightmare" might be a little strong when comparing the Mullins campaign to most other yards in the country but that’s not really the point; for years now, the only real comparison for Mullins has been himself. Using those standards, 2016/17 has been disappointing even allowing that the reasons for the disimprovement are mainly obvious: the loss of the Gigginstown horses and a run of injury misfortune that the yard had previously avoided.

No yard can sustain those sorts of losses and hope to compete at or near the same level as previously. This though is not fully reflected in the ante-post markets for the Festival where Mullins is a top price of 8/13 to be the leading trainer at the meeting as well as having the first or second favourite in 13 of the 28 races at present. Cards on the table time: I think this is crazy and punters adopting the Mullins strategy to the meeting – where you find the short-priced Closutton horse and back it – seem destined to lose this year.

Let’s consider the type of horse Mullins tends to win with at the meeting by price, going back as far as the 2010 Festival:

Starting Price Wins Runs Strikerate Places Place Strikerate Actual/Expected
3/1 or shorter 21 34 61.2% 30 88.2% 1.41
10/3 or longer 12 242 5.0% 56 23.1% 0.62

 

That Mullins wins with short-priced horses is up there with "dog bites man" in terms of newsworthiness but the ruthless efficiency with which his bankers run well is striking; only 4 of the 34 horses priced 3/1 or shorter in this period failed to hit the frame. Basically, Mullins wins with the horses the formbook flags up and – in the main – a lot of his bigger priced runners are overbet due to his reputation.

It’s been a broadly similar story on the home front this season too. Of the 147 winners he’s had in 2016/17, only two were returned at 11/2 or bigger. His ability as a target trainer was in full evidence this Christmas when he had 22 winners across the two Irish meetings at Leopardstown and Limerick but again their SP returns were striking; the biggest price was 9/2, the next two were 3/1 and 7/4 with 13 of them sent off at odds-on.

The problem for Mullins going into Cheltenham is he simply doesn’t have that many of this type of horse. There is no Faugheen, Annie Power, Vautour or Min, all of whom would likely have been short prices for their respective targets and his number of sub-3/1 runners is likely to be well down on the eight there have been in each of the past two Festivals. As things stands, Mullins looks to have four such types this year – Douvan, Vroum Vroum Mag (if she runs in the Mares), Yorkhill (again, if he runs in the JLT) and Airlie Beach – with the slight possibility that Melon, Un De Sceaux and Carter McKay could shorter further.

The shortage of bankers also has negative knock-on effects for the overall Mullins challenge. There was a time when Mullins could redirect some of his second-tier types into handicaps instead of running them in graded races as he already had a strong fancy for the latter race – an example would be Arctic Fire running in the 2014 County Hurdle when the trainer won the same year’s Supreme with Vautour – but that may not be the case in 2017. Something like Royal Caviar might have gone to the Grand Annual if Min had been fit for the Arkle but he will now likely go to the novice race; the replacement level talent simply isn’t there now.

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Perhaps Mullins will surprise us all with another big Festival but the evidence of this season and comparison points with seasons past suggest otherwise. The trainer’s winners line for the meeting is set at 5.5 currently (it was 7.5 in 2016) and while the under is a chalky 4/6, it should win. The 8/13 about him being top trainer is tight too – the top trainer at this year’s meeting could easily win with just four or five winners – while a knock-on effect is Ruby Walsh’s price of 8/11 for top jockey being under the odds, too, as he is unlikely to ride for anyone else at the meeting.

 

The Henry and Noel Show

Gordon Elliott has understandably garnered the bulk of the attention in this season’s narrative but one shouldn’t forget the rise of Henry de Bromhead and the resurgence of Noel Meade. Both yards have made life difficult for Mullins though their strong campaigns have come in different ways. De Bromhead is having a career season when compared with his 5-year numbers:

 

Henry de Bromhead Last Five Seasons

Season Wins Runners Strikerate Level Stakes A/E
2016/17 62 355 17.5% -38.41 0.96
2015/16 48 296 16.2% -49.25 0.92
2014/15 49 325 15.1% -68.75 0.88
2013/14 48 315 15.2% -98.77 0.89
2012/13 32 220 14.6% -87.02 0.75

 

The basic winners/runners figures stand out here; with his numbers having levelled off in the three previous seasons, they have sky-rocketed in 2016/17 to such a point that before the end of February he has already left his previous best behind. An improved strikerate shouldn’t be forgotten though and it would have been hard to foresee this at the end of the summer when Alan Potts removed the remainder of his horses from the yard. It is the increased support of Gigginstown that has brought this improvement about: where de Bromhead was a minor part of that operation prior to the current season, he has essentially become their second trainer after Gordon Elliott with a long distance back to the third.

As I write, Gigginstown have supplied 19 winners and 82 runners for de Bromhead but the trainer has certainly played his part too, improving a number of horses that came from other yards. Sub Lieutenant has risen 18lbs in the ratings, Petit Mouchoir 15lbs and Valseur Lido 6lbs while he has also drawn improvement from Roger Brookhouse horses like Champagne West (12lbs), Stellar Notion (12lbs) and Some Plan (hard to judge as has switched from chasing but has won thrice including the Irish Arkle).

It should be pointed out that similar has happened with some of the Potts horses leaving de Bromhead, Viconte Du Noyer looking a different horse for Colin Tizzard and Sizing John developing into a Gold Cup contender for Jessica Harrington. Potts has been a whipping boy for his perceived disloyalty to de Bromhead but it’s hard to argue that the split hasn’t worked out for both of them and looking at these results perhaps the whole trainer loyalty angle is overdone.

Where de Bromhead has thrived with horses he has acquired from other yards, Meade has worked well with what he already had in his stable; he did get some Gigginstown switchers but by and large they have been disappointing.

 

Noel Meade Last Five Seasons

Season Wins Runners Strikerate Level Stakes A/E
2016/17 48 288 16.7% -59.07 0.92
2015/16 30 220 13.6% -81.54 0.91
2014/15 50 344 14.5% -112.98 0.83
2013/14 45 367 12.3% -143.71 0.73
2012/13 47 344 13.7% -135.68 0.71

 

Meade seems certain to have his best season in the last five and it will likely be his best since 2008/9 when he had 62 winners from 486 runners. Like de Bromhead, he has had a much improved strikerate this season and his big successes – Coral Hurdle winner Ice Cold Soul and Flogas Novice Chase victor Disko – were with Gigginstown horses that were already in the yard. His other class horse has been Snow Falcon and like the aforementioned pair he’s a horse that had suffered injury problems in the past; Meade has been excellent this year in keeping his stock sound which has been an issue in seasons past.

Both trainers will be very hopeful of Festival winners and they could hardly be going into the meeting in better order. Petit Mouchoir is the obvious de Bromhead fancy for the Champion Hurdle having won the two key Irish trials (albeit from the same horses in underwhelming renewals) while Champagne West is an outsider with a chance in the Gold Cup after putting up a big figure in the Thyestes. Meade’s Cheltenham woes have been well-covered at this stage but he has two live chances in the novice chases with Disko and the strong-staying A Genie In Abottle.

 

Handicap Kings

Gordon Elliott has been the story of the Irish handicap scene this winter, his series of wins in valuable chases unparalleled in my memory, and not surprisingly comes in at the top of the table of handicap winners in 2016/17:

 

Trainer Wins Runners Strikerate Level Stakes Places Place SR% A/E
G. Elliott 28 305 9.2% -48.75 86 28.2% 0.75
T. Mullins 14 62 22.6% +27.38 34 54.8% 1.46
J. Hanlon 12 101 11.9% +31.50 32 31.7% 1.21
W. Mullins 11 66 16.7% -17.61 23 34.9% 1.16
C. Byrnes 10 52 19.2% -13.12 18 34.6% 1.09
J. Ryan 9 87 10.3% -30.34 21 42.5% 0.89
E. McNamara 9 41 22.0% +49.50 14 34.2% 2.15

 

It’s difficult to know if this is a positive or negative for Elliott’s chances of having handicap winners at Cheltenham: on one hand his horses are going into the meeting in good form but on the other they could find themselves too high in the weights. Chief BHA handicapper, Phil Smith, has tended not to treat the Elliott runners as well as some of those from other Irish yards but the trainer has still managed four Festival handicap winners since 2011 including two last year. One thing we can be sure of is that he will be mob-handed in these races; already this season in Ireland, he has had 305 handicap runners, with Denis Hogan next in with 117 followed by John Hanlon's 101.

Hanlon, aka, "The Shark", has had a quietly strong season in 2016/17 (which is about the only thing that is quiet about him) but his horses simply don’t have high enough marks to get into the Festival races. Tom Mullins’s runners do, however, and he’s been having a brilliant time across the board in terms of winners, strikerate, places and place strikerate. It’s not as if he doesn’t have some pedigree at Cheltenham either, with two handicap winners from eight runners: Alderwood in both cases as he took the County Hurdle and Grand Annual in successive years.

Mullins’s chief patron is of course one John P McManus, not averse to having a Cheltenham winner, and he looks to have three possible runners in Scoir Mear, Oscar Knight and That’s A Wrap. The last two are particularly interesting, Oscar Knight one that looks well-treated if getting his jumping together while That’s A Wrap is a horse that could thrive in a strongly-run race.

- Tony Keenan

How Cheltenham Trials Day has pointed to the Festival

It's a stupendous nine-race card at Cheltenham tomorrow (Saturday), as the traditional Trials Day has inherited two races, most notably the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase from Ascot's abandoned fixture a fortnight ago.

Without wishing to belittle what is essentially a mini-Festival in its own right, this Trials Day card may offer pointers towards the chances of runners whose next engagement will be six weeks hence at the same venue. Here is how it has played out in recent seasons...

Finesse Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2)

The Finesse Juvenile Hurdle kicked off a compelling afternoon last season, with 25/1 outsider Protek Des Flos outstaying his rivals on heavy ground. He led home a 123 for French-bred and -raced horses but did not take his chance at the Festival. However, the second and third, Clan Des Obeaux and Consul De Thaix both did run in the Triumph Hurdle, finishing sixth and tenth on much quicker ground.

A year earlier, Peace And Co had prevailed on soft ground on Trials Day and doubled up in a soft ground Triumph, albeit as the 2/1 favourite.

It came up heavy in 2013 and 2014 at this January meeting, so no real surprise that the Finesse winners, Rolling Star and Le Rocher respectively, failed to feature in the Triumph: Le Rocher didn't show while Rolling Star was beaten into sixth behind the brilliant but ill-fated Our Conor on good to soft ground.

In 2012, the ground was good to soft in January and good in March, and Trials Day victor, Grumeti, ran well in third on Festival Friday, again as favourite.

A year earlier, Steve Gollings' Local Hero claimed Finesse glory and, on similar ground, ran a reasonable ten-length eighth of 23 at 20/1.

Finesse Hurdle (Grade 2) Summary

Prior to Peace And Co, we have to go all the way back to 2007, and the loveable Katchit, for the previous Finesse/Triumph double winner. In the interim, Kempton's Adonis Hurdle and Leopardstown's Spring Juvenile Hurdle - both run in February - have emerged as the top trials for the Triumph Hurdle. However, when Trials Day has been run on decent ground, as it will be this year, the winner has tended to run very well on similar underfoot at the Festival.

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Novices' Handicap Chase

This competitive handicap chase, run over an extended two and a half miles, has offered numerous Festival pointers, though typically not from the race winner. Such is the game of cat and mouse between connections and the handicapper in the run-up to middle March!

Last year, Un Temps Pour Tout could muster only fourth, beaten sixteen-plus lengths. But, come Festival Tuesday, he romped seven lengths clear of Holywell, and nine and more clear of the other 21, to bolt up in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase on a quicker surface, at 11/1.

The year before, Generous Ransom won the January contest by small margins from Astigos and Irish Cavalier. Two months later, in the novices' handicap chase at the Festival, the Cavalier reversed placings, also at 11/1.

Nothing much of note in 2014, but in 2013 Vino Griego won the January contest before running a gallant second in the Byrne Group Plate on Festival Thursday (at, you guessed it, 11/1), and managed to sneak in an Ascot win in between. The third placed horse, Battle Group, skipped Cheltenham but actually won TWO races at the Aintree meeting of that year!

Further back, in seventh, was Rajdhani Express, who came back to win the novices' handicap chase at the Festival on soft ground, having been beaten 151 lengths on heavy. There, he beat Ackertac a neck. That horse was fifth at 40/1 on Trials Day before getting chinned at 66/1 in Raj Express's Festival win.

Novices' Handicap Chase Summary

The message here seems pretty clear. Plenty are having a prep run, with three horses placed second to seventh in the Trials Day novices' handicap chase winning at the Festival six weeks later. Two more ran second. Watch out for the also ran's using Trials Day for an, erm, trial.

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Grade 3 Handicap Chase

This has been won by some smart horses in recent times - Annacotty twice, Wishfull Thinking twice, and The Giant Bolster since 2011 - but how does it rank as a Festival prep?

Not very well is the short answer, and that makes sense when you think about it. Unlike the novices' race, where plenty are still able to mask their ability to some degree, here we are dealing with more established - and exposed - handicappers. The better ones have been aimed at the Ryanair, the poorer ones have not had enough in hand to get competitive against those campaigned more wilily (is that a word?!) in Festival handicaps.

Grade 3 Handicap Chase Summary

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A betwixt and between sort of race in terms of a Festival trial, and one where the form may generally be downgraded in March.

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Cotswold Chase (Grade 2)

This may be unfairly described as a plodders' paradise, but its bearing on the Gold Cup tends to support that unkind monicker. Last year, Smad Place was a good winner - after Djakadam departed mid-race - and I got suckered into an each way bet for the GC. Smad Place could do no better than sixth in the big race in March, continuing a run of beaten Cotswold Chase winners in the Gold Cup stretching back to Looks Like Trouble in 2000.

Djakadam however did run second in the Gold Cup, as he had done a year before, and a certain Thistlecrack - odds on favourite for the Gold Cup already - is scheduled to face the starter tomorrow.

Forgetting the future for a moment and focusing on this weekend's race, there look to be a couple who could take Thistlecrack on early - Smad Place and Silviniaco Conti - which could put the brilliant Colin Tizzard-trained horse under hitherto unasserted pressure. How he jumps in such circumstances will be fascinating.

This is also further than he's raced before, though he's never looked to have suspect stamina.

From a future form perspective, what may be more interesting is that two winners - Neptune Collonges and Many Clouds - have gone on to win the Grand National either the same, or the following, season.

Cotswold Chase (Grade 2) Summary

The balance of 21st century history suggests the Cotswold Chase is a poor trial for the Gold Cup. But rarely, if ever during that time, will it have been graced by a horse of such class and potential as Thistlecrack. He has to stand up this time to win, most likely, and perhaps the same again in March. It figures to be his sternest fencing examination to date given the battle-hardened stout-staying street fighters against which he'll line up. And I'm very much looking forward to it!

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Classic Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2)

The extended two and a half mile novices hurdle has only been in inception since 2005, and there was no race in 2006, meaning just eleven renewals to date. But during that time, it has established itself as a top class portender of Festival credentials.

Last year, Yanworth was highly impressive on Trials Day before running a quarter mile further than anything else under an 'artisanal' ride (think, botched improvisation on the big stage) in the Neptune at the Festival. He finished second, beaten less than two lengths, making it hard to avoid the suspicion that he ought to have won.

Back in second in that heavy ground Trials Day slog was Shantou Village, and he was sent off favourite for the Albert Bartlett (known affectionately as 'the potato race'). But the exertions of his prep run seemed to take their toll as Neil Mulholland's charge was pulled up on Festival Friday.

In 2015, Ordo Ab Chao was a surprise winner on soft ground. He could fare no better than seventh in the Neptune on quicker turf. Nothing else from the top six has done anything of note since. But, in seventh, was a certain Thistlecrack, who skipped Cheltenham's Festival to embark upon his new superstar career by romping away with the Grade 1 Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree.

Another footnote from the race was Colin Tizzard's other entry, Native River, who fell two out when holding every chance. Like the winner, he too was a 16/1 shot that day, but is now no better than ten points shorter for the Gold Cup itself. Between then and now he ran midfield in the Albert Bartlett before his conversion to fences heralded that rapid elevation in rating.

The 2014 field was thin and weak, Red Sherlock seeing off Rathvinden, the pair mustering just three subsequent runs between them. In fairness, one of the trio was Rathvinden's third place finish in the Neptune six weeks later.

2013 was At Fisher's Cross's year. Rebecca Curtis's star beat a small but select field, with the next three places filled by, in order, The New One, Coneygree and Whisper. At Fisher's Cross doubled up in the potato race, and subsequently made the first four in the next two World Hurdles in spite of some terrible back problems.

The New One has run commendably in Grade 1 hurdles since, amassing most of a million quid in prize money; and Coneygree showed his superb talent when not injured by barrelling to an all-the-way pillar to post victory in the 2015 Gold Cup.

Neither of the first two in 2012 were seen at the Festival, and a big field offered testimony to the lack of a standout performer.

Classic Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) Summary

A touch hit and miss, when this race - registered as the Classic Novices' Hurdle - has been good, it has been very good. Without the aid of the proverbial crystal ball, it is hard to say which way this renewal will go; but I have the suspicion that Wholestone might be pretty smart. And, if he wins, it's worth having a pound each way on Peregrine Run - the only horse to beat Wholestone in his last four starts - for the Neptune. Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge would be more feasible for the Albert Bartlett, I suspect.

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Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2)

A trial for the World Hurdle. Or the Stayers' Hurdle, nomenclature to which it will revert under sunbets' stewardship this season. Thistlecrack waltzed away with this last year before waltzing away with the stayers' crown less than two months later.

Cole Harden was only fourth in the 2015 renewal before a wind operation helped bring about the requisite improvement to claim World Hurdle glory.

The year before that was More Of That's stayers' crown, though that fellow completed his track preparation a month earlier in Cheltenham's Relkeel Hurdle. The Cleeve that season (2013/14) was a 'changing of the guard' as Big Buck's finally relented and George Charlton and Jan Faltajsek had a well deserved moment in the sun with the titanium tough Knockara Beau.

Big Buck's won the Cleeve in 2009 and 2012, the only two years prior to 2014 that he entered, normally wrapping up his winter business in the Relkeel in December.

In the pre-BB era, it was Inglis Drever who prevailed for a third time in the Stayers' Hurdle as he notched the Cleeve-Stayers' double in 2008, having run second in the previous Cleeve en route to his middle Stayers' crown.

Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2) Summary

This is a very good trial for the Stayers' Hurdle. Most Stayers' winners to contest the Cleeve won it, but both Inglis Drever (second time around) and Cole Harden were beaten in the trial before reversing form in the main March event. So it is certainly worth considering those within hailing distance of the winner for a possible spot of Festival value.

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Trials Day Conclusions

Naturally we'll all be wiser after Saturday's mega card. In this post I've tried to flag a few under the radar runners who will emerge from the non-winners, and who might be expected to progress between now and the Cheltenham Festival itself.

I will be especially interested in the five or six behind the winner (who will succumb to an inevitable penalty) in the novices' handicap chase, though beware the dangers of trying to second guess in which heat they'll actually take part.

Elsewhere and we don't need history to tell us that strong performances from the likes of Unowhatimeanharry and, most notably, Thistlecrack give them big chances in the Championship events.

The Classic Novices' Hurdle looks hard to predict, while the Grade 3 handicap chase has not been a strong pointer to the Festival. And when the Finesse Juvenile Hurdle has been run on decent ground it has usually thrown up a solid contender for the Triumph Hurdle, though rarely at a value price.

I have not covered the Clarence House or the Cross Country race, both borrowed from other fixtures, though there will be strong Festival contenders emerging from the pair, perhaps particularly the Cross Country handicap chase.

Matt

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