2018 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY THREE (Thurs 15th March 2018)

Each day of the 2018 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 2018 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 

DAY THREE: Thursday 15th March 2018

 

13:30 JLT Novices' Chase   2m 4f

2017 Winner: YORKHILL (6/4 fav)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Ruby Walsh

Pluses….

  • 6 of the 7 winners were Irish-trained
  • Willie Mullins has trained 4 of the last 7 winners
  • 5 of the last 7 winners had won a Graded Chase before
  • All 7 past winners had run at the Festival before
  • 6 of the 7 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 5 of the last 7 winners came from the top 2 in the betting
  • 6 of the last 7 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 6 of the last 7 winners returned 7/1 or shorter
  • 4 of the last 7 winners won last time out
  • 4 of the last 7 winners ran at Leopardstown last time out
  • 6 of the last 7 winners ran between 47-54 days ago
  • 7 year-olds have won 5 of last 7 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 7
  • Since 1990 all Festival Novice Chase winners have been aged 8 or younger
  • 3 winning favourites in 7 runnings (1 co)
  • Just 1 of the last 7 winners had less than 3 career chase starts
  • No winner had been off for more than 54 days

 

14:10 Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle   3m

2017 Winner: PRESENTING PERCY (11/1)
Trainer – Patrick Kelly
Jockey – Davy Russell

Pluses….

  • 7 of the last 12 winners were aged 8 or older
  • The last 8 winners started their careers in bumpers (6) or points (2)
  • 10 of the last 17 winners were from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • The last 7 winners were rated 138 or higher
  • 8 of the last 11 winners were rated between 132-142 (inc)
  • 9 of the last 13 winners had won over at least 2m7f
  • 8 of the last 11 winners had run 10 or less times over hurdles before
  • 8 of the last 17 winners won their last race
  • 3 of the last 9 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

Negatives….

  • Just 3 Irish-trained winners in the last 12 runnings
  • Avoid horses with less than 6 runs over hurdles
  • 5 year-olds have won just once since 1973
  • French-bred horses are currently on a run of 0-76
  • All horses rated 150+ since 2000 have failed to finish in the top 2
  • 1 winning favourite in last 12 years
  • Paul Nicholls is currently 0 from 17 (Two 2nds in the last 4 runnings)
  • Horses aged 7 or younger and priced in single-figures are just 1 from 34

 

14:50 Ryanair Chase   2m 5f

2017 Winner: UN DE SCEAUX (1st 7/4 fav)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Ruby Walsh

Pluses….

  • 18 of the 25 winners and runners-up had won at the course before
  • 4 of the last 5 winners were 2nd season chasers
  • 9 of the last 10 had won at Cheltenham previously
  • 9 of the last 10 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 12 winners returned 6/1 or shorter
  • 5 of the last 6 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • 9 of the last 10 winners were rated 161+
  • 4 of the last 13 winners were placed in the top 3 in the Ascot Chase last time out
  • 10 of last 13 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 10 winners DIDN’T win last time out

Negatives….

  • The Irish are 2 from 40 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 10 won last time out
  • All winners ran 4 or less times that season
  • No winner was having their Festival debut

 

15:30 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle 3m

2017 Winner: NICHOLS CANYON (1st 10/1)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Ruby Walsh

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Pluses….

  • 10 of the last 13 won last time out
  • 16 of the last 17 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 8 of the last 16 were French Bred
  • Respect the Cleeve Hurdle and Long Walk Hurdle form
  • 14 of the last 16 winners finished 1st or 2nd in all their hurdling runs that season
  • 12 of the last 13 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 18)
  • A 5 year-old is yet to win the race
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has only won the race once
  • Avoid front runners
  • The Irish are have won the race just twice since 1995
  • Avoid horses that were beaten in the race before (0 from 35 in the last 13 runnings)
  • Previous Albert Bartlett winners have a poor record (0 from 15)
  • Horses wearing headgear are 0 from 60
  • Horses aged 10 or older have all been beaten since 1986 (0 from 50)

Recent Stayers’ Hurdle Winners

2017 – NICHOLS CANYON (10/1)
2016 – THISTLECRACK (Evs)
2015 – COLE HARDEN (14/1)
2014 – MORE OF THAT (15/2)
2013 – SOLWHIT (17/2)
2012 – BIG BUCK’S (5/6 fav)
2011 - BIG BUCK’S (10/11 fav)
2010 - BIG BUCK’S (5/6 fav)
2009 - BIG BUCK’S (6/1)
2008 – INGLIS DREVER (11/8 fav)
2007 – INGLIS DREVER (5/1)
2006 – MY WAY de SOLZEN (8/1)
2005 – INGLIS DREVER (5/1)
2004 – IRIS’S GIFT (9/2)
2003 – BARACOUDA (9/4 fav)

Stayers’ Hurdle Betting Trends

13/15 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting
13/15 – Finished 1st or 2nd last time out
14/15 – Had raced within the last 10 weeks
12/15 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
12/15 – Had won over at least 3m (hurdles) before
12/15 – Went onto run at the Aintree Grand National Meeting later that season
12/15 – Aged 8 or younger
12/15 – Placed favourites
11/15 – Winning distance – 2 1/2 lengths or less
10/15 – Had won over hurdles at Cheltenham before
10/15 – Won their latest race
11/15 – Had raced that calendar year
9/15 – Rated 163 or higher
9/15 – Contested either the Cleeve Hurdle (6) or the Long Walk Hurdle (3) last time out
7/15 – French-bred
7/15 – Went onto win at Aintree later that season
6/15 – Winning favourite
4/15 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
5/15 – Ridden by Ruby Walsh
2/15 – Irish-trained winners
The average winning SP in the last 15 runnings is 5/1

Stayers’ Hurdle Stats:
Every winner since 1972 has been aged 6 or older
Since 1972 there have been 7 previous winners of the race
Horses that ran at the previous season’s Cheltenham Festival are 19 from 23
Horses that were placed fourth or better last time out have won 29 of the last 30 renewals
The top five in the betting have finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in 7 of the last 14 renewals
Just two Irish-trained winners since 1996 – Solwhit (2013), Nichols Canyon (2017)
All of the last 30 winners were aged 9 or younger

 

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

2017 Winner: ROAD TO RESPECT (1st 14/1)
Trainer – Noel Meade
Jockey – BJ Cooper

Pluses….

  • 26 of the last 30 winners were officially rated 141 or less
  • The last 9 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 20 runnings
  • 16 of the last 17 winners returned at double-figure odds
  • 20 of the last 26 winners had run at the Festival before (but 5 of last 7 were having Festival debut)
  • 17 of the last 18 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
  • 17 of the last 18 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 3 winners since 1951
  • 1 winning favourite in the last 12 years
  • 2 of last 23 won with 11st+
  • Winners of chase at Cheltenham before are currently 0-from71

 

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

2017 Winner: LET’S DANCE (1st 11/8 fav)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Ruby Walsh

  • A new race (Just two renewals)
  • Favourites have won both runnings
  • Both winners won last time out
  • Both winners have been aged 5 years-old
  • Trainer Willie Mullins won the 2016 & 2017 race
  • Ruby Walsh has ridden the winner in 2016 & 2017
  • Owner Rich Ricci has won the last 2 runnings

 

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

2017 Winner: DOMESDAY BOOK (1st 40/1)
Trainer – Stuart Edmunds
Jockey – Gina Andrews

Pluses….

  • Respect 8 and 9 year-olds
  • 3 of the last 7 winners ran in the BetVictor Handicap Chase (Open Meeting)
  • The last 6 winners ran off a mark of 137 or more
  • 6 of the last 8 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 18 winners ran over at least three miles in their last race
  • Look for non-claiming amateur riders
  • 6 of the last 7 winners wore headgear
  • 7 of the last 9 winners came from the top 6 in the market
  • Jamie Codd has ridden 4 of the last 9 winners
  • Nina Carberry placed 6 times, Derek O’Connor 2nd 3 times

Negatives….

  • Just two Irish winners for 34 years (but have won 2 of the last 4)
  • Horses that fell or unseated that season have a poor record (0 from 69)
  • Avoid Paul Nicholls-trained horses – he’s just 1 placed horse from his last 19
  • 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 52 since 2005
  • Avoid claiming jockeys – 1 from 77 since 2009

 

 

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2018 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY FOUR (Fri 16th March 2018)

Each day of the 2018 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 2018 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 

DAY FOUR: Friday 16th March 2018

 

13:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle   2m 1f

2017 Winner: DEFI DU SEUIL (1st 5/2 fav)
Trainer – Philip Hobbs
Jockey – Richard Johnson

Pluses…..

  • 19 of the last 24 winners won last time out
  • Irish have won 3 of the last 5 runnings
  • French-bred have filled 8 of the last 9 places (last 3 runnings)
  • 11 of the last 13 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • Respect Henderson (6 winners), Nicholls, and King-trained runners
  • 7 of the last 14 first ran over hurdles by November (5 of the last 6 by mid-Nov)
  • 10 of the last 12 winners returned 13/2 or shorter
  • The Spring Juvenile Hurdle is a good guide
  • 5 of the last 9 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 Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle   2m 1f

2017 Winner: ARCTIC FIRE (1st 20/1)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend

Pluses….

  • The Irish have won 8 of the last 11 runnings
  • 4 of the last 10 winners ran in that season’s Coral.ie Hurdle (Leopardsotwn)
  • 11 of the last 12 winners were rated in the 130’s
  • 6 of the last 10 winners returned 20/1 or bigger
  • 5 of the last 9 winners had run in 6 or less hurdles races
  • 9 of the last 12 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 10 of the last 12 winners were priced in double-figures
  • 10 of the last 14 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 14 years
  • 10 of the last 17 winners came from the top 5 in the betting
  • 12 of the last 14 winners were 1st or 2nd season hurdlers
  • 9 of the last 11 winners DIDN’T win last time out
  • Paul Nicholls is 4 from 26 (+20pts)
  • Willie Mullins is 4 from 25 (+54pts)

Negatives….

  • Strangely, previous course winners have a bad record
  • Since 1960 only 4 winners carried more than 11st 2lb
  • Since 1961, only 7 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 67 since 1993)

 

14:50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle   3m

2017 Winner: PENHILL (1st 16/1)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend

Pluses….

  • 8 of the last 13 winners had run at Cheltenham over hurdles before
  • 8 of the last 13 came from the top 5 in the betting
  • 9 of the last 13 winner ran 47 days (or more) ago
  • 11 of the last 13 had run in a race over 3m
  • 10 of the last 12 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 11 of the last 12 winners finished in the top 3 last time out
  • 4 of the last 12 favourites won
  • Jonjo O’Neill (2) and the Irish (4) have won 7 of the last 12

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 34)
  • Willie Mullins is 1 from 29 in the race
  • Only 2 of the last 13 winners hadn’t raced that calendar year

 

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

2017 Winner: SIZING JOHN (1st 7/1)
Trainer – Jessie Harrington
Jockey – Robbie Power

Pluses….

  • 15 of the last 18 winners ran in the Lexus or King George that season
  • 15 of the last 17 finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 12 of the last 17 had won or placed 2nd at the Festival before
  • 15 of the last 17 winners hailed from the top 3 in the betting
  • 16 of the last 17 winners had raced no more than 12 times over fences
  • 9 of the last 10 winners ran 3 or less times that season
  • 15 of the last 21 winners were bred in Ireland
  • 9 of the last 12 winners won last time out
  • 5 of the last 12 favourites won
  • ALL of the last 18 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 18 runnings
  • No winner older than 10 years-old since 1969 (0 from 70)
  • Horses rated 166 or less are only 3 from last 24
  • Avoid horses that had run on ‘heavy’ ground that season (0 from 79)
  • Horses wearing headgear have a bad recent record ( 0 from 42)
  • Willie Mullins is yet to win the race, 0 from 18 (had last 4 of the last 5 seconds though)
  • Just 1 of the last 10 winners had raced more than 3 times that season
  • Horses that were beaten in their 1st Gold Cup are 0 from 66 when running again

Recent Cheltenham Gold Cup Winners

2017 – SIZING JOHN (7/1)
2016 – DON COSSACK (9/4 fav)
2015 – CONEYGREE (7/1)
2014 – LORD WINDEMERE (20/1)
2013 – BOBS WORTH (11/4 fav)
2012 – SYNCHRONISED (8/1)
2011 – LONG RUN (7/2 fav)
2010 – IMPERIAL COMMANDER (7/1)
2009 – KAUTO STAR (7/4 fav)
2008 – DENMAN (9/4)
2007 – KAUTO STAR (5/4 fav)
2006 – WAR OF ATTRITION (15/2)
2005 – KICKING KING (4/1 fav)
2004 – BEST MATE (8/11 fav)
2003 – BEST MATE (13/8 fav)

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Cheltenham Gold Cup Betting Trends

15/15 – Aged 9 or younger
14/15 – Had raced within the last 3 months
13/15 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
13/15 – Had run over fences at Cheltenham before
13/15 – Finished 1st or 2nd last time out
13/15 – Had won over at least 3m (chase) before
12/15 – Winning distance – 2 lengths or more
11/15 – Won last time out
10/15 – Placed favourites
9/15 – Irish bred
9/15 – Had won 5 or more times over fences in the UK or Ire before
9/15 – Rated 170 or higher
8/15 – Winning favourites
8/15 – Had last raced in the previous year
7/15 – Had won over fences at Cheltenham before
5/15 – Last race was in the King George VI Chase (Kempton)
5/15 – Irish-trained winners
3/15 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
3/15 – Won the Denman Chase (Newbury) last time out
2/15 – Ran in the Lexus Chase last time out
2/15 – Trained by Nicky Henderson
The average winning SP in the last 15 renewals is 5/1

Other Cheltenham Gold Cup Stats

Only one horse (Kauto Star 2009) has ever regained the race
23 of the last 24 winners have been aged 9 or younger
9 of the last 16 winners came here fresh – did not race that same calendar year
15 of the last 17 winners were rated 166 or higher
17 of the last 19 winners had won a race already that current season
12 of the last 17 winners had finished second or better at the Cheltenham Festival before
11 of the last 18 winners had run in that season’s King George VI Chase (Kempton)
All of the previous 18 winners had won a Grade One Chase contest before
The last winner aged older than 10 was in 1969 (What a Myth, 12)

 

Cheltenham Gold Cup – 20 Year Trends

15/20 – British-trained winners
5/20 – Irish-trained winners (3 of last 4 though)
Willie Mullins (Ire) never trained the winner
Nicky Henderson (UK) has trained 2 of the last 7 winners
Paul Nicholls (UK) has trained 3 of the last 11 winners (4 in total)

 

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

2017 Winner: PACHA DU POLDER (1st 16/1)
Trainer – Paul Nicholls
Jockey – Bryony Frost

Pluses…..

  • 25 of the last 27 winners were aged under 11 years-old
  • 24 of the last 32 won last time out
  • 7 of the last 9 winners came from the first 4 in the betting
  • 26 of the last 29 started out in point-to-point races
  • 10 of the last 12 winners ran 34 days or less ago
  • Respect the Irish runners (won 6 of last 7)
  • 5 of the last 6 winners ran in the Leopardstown Inn Hunters’ Chase
  • 9 of the last 12 winners were aged 8-10 years-old
  • 7 of the last 9 winners returned 15/2 or shorter
  • 9 of the last 10 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 3 from 209 since 1990

 

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

2017 Winner: CHAMPAGNE CLASSIC (1st 12/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – J Slevin

Pluses….

  • All 9 winners were 2nd season-hurdlers
  • Irish have won 4 of the last 7 (all making handicap debuts)
  • 27 of the 29 win and place horses were 1st or 2nd season hurdlers
  • Look for Henderson, Nicholls, Mullins, Elliot-trained horses
  • 7 of the 9 winners were placed in the top 4 last time out
  • 4 of the 9 winners won last time out
  • 7 of the 9 winners were rated 133-139
  • 6 of the 9 winners returned at a double-figure price (7 of the last 9 were 16/1 or less)
  • 5 and 6 year-old have won ALL 9 runnings
  • Look for jockeys that have ridden 20+ winners
  • Willie Mullins is 3 from 11 runners in the race (won 3 of the last 7 runnings)
  • Respect any Gigginstown House Stud-owned runners (3 winners, 3 places)
  • Paul Nicholls has won the race twice in the last 5 years

Negatives….

  • Despite being named after his father the David Pipe stable has a poor record so far (0 from 18, inc 3 favs)
  • Just 1 winning fav in the 9 year history (6/8 returned in double-figures)
  • Horses in headgear are currently 0 from 44
  • Only 2 winners have previous Festival experience

 

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

2017 Winner: ROCK THE WORLD (1st 10/1)
Trainer – Jessie Harrington
Jockey – Robbie Power

Pluses….

  • 15 of the last 18 winners carried 11st or less
  • 12 of the last 14 winners had run at the Festival before
  • 6 of the last 14 winners ran in the previous renewal
  • Irish have won 3 of the last 5 runnings
  • 7 of the last 8 winners came from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • 10 of the last 14 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 5)
  • Respect JP McManus-owned horses (3 winners, 8 placed)
  • The last 7 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 9 runnings
  • 6 of the last 7 winners were rated between 140-147
  • 5 of the last 7 winners carried 10-11 or more in weight
  • 17 of the last 18 winners had run no more than 12 times over fences

Negatives….

  • Horses aged 10+ are just 1 win from the last 22 runnings
  • Horses that last ran 45 days or more ago have seen just five winners since 1990
  • Last time out winners are just 1 from last 12
  • Horses aged 6 or younger (from top 3 in the market) are just 1 from 27 since 2005
  • Just 1 winner rated 147+ since 1992
  • Horses that won a handicap chase that season have a bad recent record (0 from 106)

 

 

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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.

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!

 

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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

Cheltenham Festival 2018: Avoiding the Bad Bets

The Cheltenham Festival is almost upon us and soon we'll be faced with the unenviable - though highly enjoyable - task of trying to find winners in 28 deeply competitive races. Many sensible players will focus on a subset of the full four-day card but, regardless of your plan of attack, there are some rules of thumb worth keeping in mind.

I've broken the races down into four categories: open Grade 1's, novice Grade 1's (excluding the Bumper and Triumph Hurdle), handicap hurdles (excluding the Fred Winter), and handicap chases. The following races, in addition to the trio mentioned above, are also excluded: NH Chase, Mares' Novice Hurdle, Cross Country Chase, and the Foxhunters' Chase.

That leaves 21 races spread across four groups upon which to focus. For each I was looking for negative angles: in so doing, I'm happy to forego a small percentage of winners if it means there is a far more workable residue of runners who comprise most victors and, crucially, a value edge.

The sample covers the last ten Festivals, going back to 2008.

Cheltenham Festival Open Grade 1's

The open Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival are the Champion Hurdle, Mares' Hurdle, Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase, Stayers' Hurdle, and the Gold Cup: six in total. Across the ten years, that equates to 53 winners (Mares' Hurdle upgraded during the sample window) and 158 placed horses, from 635 runners.

Headgear

Those wearing no headgear won 50 of the 53 open Grade 1's in the last decade, from 521 runners. That's 94% of the winners from 82% of the fields.

Just one of the 94 runners sporting blinkers or cheekpieces won - Our Vic in the 2008 Ryanair - and such horses' place strikerate is poor, too.

Be wary of horses wearing headgear, especially blinkers or cheekpieces, in Open Grade 1's at the Festival.

Age

Horses aged five to nine won 49 of the 53 open Cheltenham Festival Grade 1's in the last decade. The other four were aged ten. From 45 runners, 11+ year-olds have failed to win. These include such sentimental veterans as Cue Card, Big Buck's and Kauto Star, all of whom were sent off at 9/2 or shorter since 2012.

Avoid backing horses aged in double digits in Festival Open Grade 1's.

Starting Price

None of the 238 horses sent off at 25/1 or bigger managed to win an open Grade 1 at the last ten CheltFests. Moreover, only three priced bigger than 14/1 scored, from 335 to face the starter, with this group losing 274 points at SP. Meanwhile, those priced at 14/1 or shorter won 50 races from 300 starters, and lost just two points at SP. That converted to a BSP profit of 51.75 points.

Ignore horses priced at 16/1 or bigger in Cheltenham Festival Open Grade 1's.

 

Trainers

Paul Nicholls is still the winning-most Open Grade 1 trainer in the past decade, with ten such victories to his name. Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins each have nine, and the next best of Jonjo O'Neill, with four.

But... the denizen of Ditcheat has led just one beast - Dodging Bullets in 2015 - into the winner's enclosure since 2012, with none of his eight such runners at the last two Festivals reaching the first four. Notwithstanding that all bar one of that octet was sent off a double-figure price, he's a trainer about which to be apprehensive in this context.

Philip Hobbs is 0 from 17 in this type of race in the review period, and has only had one horse placed. That was Fair Along, third in the 2008 Champion Chase, and Hobbs tends to fare better at Aintree, though he's had a wretched season blighted - one suspects - by a touch of the virus.

Noel Meade has an infamous record at the Festival and, while he's 0 from 13 in this section of races, his Road To Riches was third in both the 2015 Gold Cup and the 2016 Ryanair Chase.

Nevertheless, Messrs. Hobbs and Meade are 0 from 30, three places, which is hard to overlook. Nicholls' 1 from 30 record since 2013 is equally difficult to excuse.

Tread carefully around Cheltenham open Grade 1 runners trained by Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs and Noel Meade.

 

Cheltenham Festival Open Grade 1 Micro System

Pulling all of these negative stats together makes for a nice little micro system. Specifically:

- No horses wearing blinkers or cheekpieces
- No horses trained by Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs or Noel Meade
- No horses priced at 16/1+
- No horses aged 10+

That would have netted 36 winners from 180 runners (20% strike rate, 69% race win strike rate) and a level stakes profit of 46.48 points at Starting Price. That bloats to +69.95 at BSP. Moreover, the approach was profitable in eight of the ten years, exceptions being 2016 and 2009.

**

Cheltenham Festival Novice Grade 1's (excl. Bumper & Triumph Hurdle)

The novice Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival are the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Arkle Chase, Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle, RSA Chase, JLT Novices' Chase, and Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle: six in all. Across the ten years, that equates to 54 winners (JLT upgraded during the sample window) and 159 placed horses, from 723 runners.

The Bumper is excluded because it has no obstacles, and the Triumph Hurdle because it is for four-year-olds only.

Here are the negatives

Headgear

Those wearing no headgear again account for the vast majority of wins - 51 of 54 - but perform little better than expected, 94% of the wins coming from 93% of the runners.

Age

Again, little of note here except that those novices aged nine or more running in Grade 1 novice races at the Festival have done poorly. They are 0 from 22, though then nine-year-old Whisper nearly benefited from Might Bite's errant course up the hill last year in the RSA Chase. It is worth noting that nine of those 22 were priced at 7/1 or shorter.

Avoid novices aged nine and up in the novice Grade 1's.

Starting Price

There is the occasional shock result in Cheltenham Festival novice Grade 1's. But four, out of 54, is not a percentage on which to hang one's wagering hat. Interestingly, perhaps - or maybe just coincidence - two of the four winners at bigger than 16/1 in the last decade came in the Albert Bartlett. It does seem a race where all of the preceding trials have been run on different ground and/or under very different pace scenarios.

Even allowing a little latitude in the 'potato race', the four rags came from a total population of 336 horses sent off greater than 16/1. They were 'good' for a loss of 208 points at SP.

Naturally, then, the other 50 winners came from horses priced at 16/1 or shorter, the 381 such runners losing just 31 points at SP, and breaking even at BSP.

Be wary of horses sent off a bigger price than 16/1 in novice Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival. (With the possible exception of the Albert Bartlett)

Official Rating

Despite being novices, most horses running in the Festival novice races have an official rating. The 39 in the last decade which didn't were all unplaced bar one. Indeed, horses rated 140 or below, including those without a rating, are a combined seven from 308 for a loss at SP of 185 points.

Those rated higher than 140 won 47 races and lost a relatively small 54 points at SP and 2.75 points at BSP.

Avoid horses rated 140 or below.

 

Trainers

Willie Mullins is the dominant player in this sphere over the last decade, his fifteen winners almost double that of the next man (Nicky Henderson has eight). No other trainer has more than two novice G1 wins in the past decade, excluding as we are the Bumper and Triumph Hurdle.

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Paul Nicholls is again a man to treat with caution: his one winner, Al Ferof, from 43 starters came in 2011. In PFN's defence, he only had one runner last year, and just two in 2016.

Other handlers to be given a wide berth may include Colin Tizzard (0 from 15, 2 places), Warren Greatrex and Charlie Longsdon (both 0 from 9, no places), and Venetia Williams (0 from 8, no places).

Keep in mind that Paul Nicholls does not have the firepower he once did in this category (and indeed many others).

 

Cheltenham Festival Novice Grade 1 Micro System

Again, we can fashion something of a micro system by dodging these negative angles, thus:

- No horses aged nine-plus
- No horses rated 140 or lower, or unrated
- No horses sent off greater than 16/1
- No horses trained by Paul Nicholls

44 of the 54 winners in the sample came from avoiding these negatives, from just 38.5% of the runners. They were collectively worth a profit of 7.57 points at SP, and a slightly more worthwhile 31.15 points at BSP.

**

Cheltenham Festival Handicap Hurdles (excluding Fred Winter)

Let us now take a look at the handicap races, beginning with the handicap hurdles but excluding the four-year-olds-only Fred Winter (which will be won this year by geegeez.co.uk syndicate horse, Oxford Blu... we wish!!)

Fred Winter aside, there are four handicap hurdles at the Festival: the Coral Cup, Pertemps Final, County and Martin Pipe. The last named was introduced in 2009, meaning we have a sample size of 39 races with which to work. Those races were contested by 964 runners.

Gender

The fairer sex have recorded just one placed effort from 27 starters in the ten year review period. That 3.7% place strike rate (and 0% win rate) compares with a 16.4% place rate for the boys.

It may be safe to exclude fillies and mares in all age Cheltenham Festival handicap hurdles. (Incidentally, fillies have an excellent record in the Fred Winter).

Headgear

Cheekpieces are again a negative. This time, 84 horses have worn them without a win, and just six places. Conversely, 11 of the 84 blinkered horses (one also wearing a hood) made the frame, and four won. Two of the 45 hood wearers also won, another eight placing; while the visor went 0 from 21, no places.

Cheekpieces or visors appear to have no positive impact on Cheltenham Festival handicap hurdlers. (This is in line with overall Cheltenham Festival statistics, where visor use has a 2.86% win rate in the last decade, compared with cheekpieces 3.15%, hood 4.92%, blinkers 5.57% and no headgear 5.96%)

Age

Handicap hurdling at the Festival is a young man's game. Of the 964 runners in such races in the past ten years, 842 (87%) were aged five to eight (ignoring the Fred Winter). They won all bar two of the races (95%), and claimed 92% of the places.

But it is worth further squinting at the data, because it relates that those aged five or six notched 27 of the 39 wins (69%) from just 49% of the runners. Those victories were worth 94 points profit at BSP.

Chuck out horses aged nine and above, and be unforgiving with those aged seven and eight.

Starting Price

506 of the 964 starters in all-age Cheltenham Festival handicap hurdles since 2008 have been sent off at greater than 20/1. Five have won, at a collective loss of 343 points.

It follows then that the other 34 victors were priced at 20/1 or shorter, of which there were 458 runners. Remarkably, backing all such runners returned an SP profit of 35 points. That mushroomed to 127.5 points at BSP.

Only five of the 102 horses sent off shorter than 9/1 prevailed, for a 66 point loss at SP (60 points at BSP).

Make 20/1 your cutoff in all-age handicap hurdles, and beware the shortie.

Trainers

Willie Mullins has a fantastic record in open handicap hurdles at the Fez, scoring seven times from just 60 starters in the past decade. He's also added another ten placed horses for a brilliant 28% place strike rate. Gordon Elliott has performed even better in place terms, hitting the frame with twelve of his 34 such runners (35%). He also has a win and two places in the Fred Winter, from 11 starters.

Paul Nicholls has a very good record in handicap hurdles, too, in contrast to his Grade 1 performance in recent seasons. But the likes of Evan Williams and Charlie Longsdon (0 from 31, 0 places, between them), Noel Meade and Dr Richard Newland (0 from 27, 3 places, collectively) are probably best passed up.

Approach Messrs. Evan Williams, Longsdon, Meade and Newland with caution.

 

Cheltenham Festival Handicap Hurdle Micro System

Throwing all of the negatives into a mixer gives the following:

- No female horses
- No horses wearing cheekpieces or a visor
- No horses aged nine or above
- No horses sent off at greater than 20/1
- No horses trained by Evan Williams, Charlie Longsdon, Noel Meade or Dr Richard Newland

Applying those negative filters would have left 375 qualifiers. They collectively won 32 of the 39 qualifying races, for a profit of 80 points at SP, and a tasty 165 points at BSP.

**

Cheltenham Festival Handicap Chases

That leaves us with the handicap chases: Festival Handicap Chase, Novices' Handicap Chase, the Festival Plate, the Kim Muir, and the Grand Annual. With all five races having been run throughout the review period, that gives us fifty races to go at. (I've excluded the Cross Country, which has been run as a handicap but is currently framed as a conditions race).

A whopping 1,086 runners have contested these handicap chases.

Gender

As with the handicap hurdles, it's been hard work for the girls. Only 19 have shown up but, while they have failed to win, they have recorded an impressive five placed efforts (26.32% place rate vs 18.18% for the boys).

Nothing especially of note.

Headgear

Bizarrely given what we've seen hitherto, the fitting of any kind of headgear has outperformed the large 'no headgear' group in terms of win percentage. Cheekpieces, up until now shunned as a universal negative, have been worn by no fewer than seven of the fifty winners, at a rate of 5.26%. Blinkers have been worn by nine handicap chase winners, a 7.5% clip; and the visor and the hood were responsible for a win apiece from 22 and 23 runners respectively. Crikey!

Those unaccessorized won 32 handicap chases from 786 runners (4.07%, the lowest in the sample).

I'll stop short of saying that no headgear is a negative (!), but suffice it to say that the sporting of any kind of 'go faster' kit has not been a portent of failure.

Age

Although most winners were clustered in the six to nine years bracket, neither youth nor experience has been a killer blow in handicap chases. Winners have emerged from across the spectrum, with the winning-most ages from a number of victories perspective being the losing-most from a betting perspective.

Starting Price

Again we see winners up and down the odds boards, with the sweet (but highly unpredictable and potentially coincidental) spot being north of 25/1 and south of 80/1. Those unconsidered athletes have bagged nine of the 50 races for a profit of 23 points at SP and 331 points at BSP (thanks almost entirely to one enormous return).

Just too unpredictable to work with.

Trainers

David Pipe has a terrific 8 from 75 record in the last decade in Festival handicap chases, for a small SP profit. On the flip side, Nicky Henderson's two winners have come from 83 runners (-45 at SP); Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Philip Hobbs are an aggregate of five from 153 (-68 at SP); and poor Charlie Longsdon is 0 from 23 (two places, -23 at SP) to make the cold list once more.

Steer clear of the volume boys: Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Philip Hobbs and Charlie Longsdon.

 

Cheltenham Festival Handicap Chase Micro System

Very little to go at here. We have some negative trainers, and we could try ignoring those:

- No horses trained by Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Philip Hobbs and Charlie Longsdon

That gives a fat 827 qualifying runners for a loss of 104 points at SP. A bumper profit at BSP was secured courtesy of Mister McGoldrick's 66/1 victory which returned 310 on the exchange!

Perhaps, just for kicks, we could add a long-odds SP range:

- No horses trained by Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Philip Hobbs and Charlie Longsdon
- No horses shorter than 28/1

We now only have eight winners, from 291 runners, but an SP profit of 40 points. At BSP, for the reason highlighted above, it becomes a juicy 341 points.

But we all know that there's nothing really of use in this section. The handicap chases are a crap shoot and, in negative elimination factor terms, should be avoided at all costs.

**

Summary

Ignoring the highly unpredictable handicap chase segment, there are some consistent negative factors worth keeping in mind throughout Cheltenham Festival week.

Firstly, don't get too gung ho by ploughing into the longshots. Unless you fancy one to shorten to 20/1 or less, there is a strong likelihood you've done your money.

Secondly, favour unexposed youth over established age/experience.

Thirdly, cheekpieces have been more about futility than utility outside of handicap chases.

Fourthly, beware Paul Nicholls outside of handicap hurdles, and Charlie Longsdon and Noel Meade universally.

The micro-systems above will provide plenty of action for those who like a mechanical approach. Better yet, they may assist in whittling fields to more manageable numbers with a view to poring over the form on the remaining runners.

However you choose to use this information - indeed, whether you choose to use it or not - enjoy the Fez. There's nothing quite like it!

Matt

2018 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY ONE (Tues 13th March 2018)

Each day of the 2018 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 2018 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 

DAY ONE: Tuesday 13th March 2018

 

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

2017 Winner: LABAIK 25/1
Trainer - Gordon Elliott
Jockey - Jack Kennedy

Pluses…..

  • 18 of the last 21 winners won their last race
  • 12 of the last 14 winners had raced in at least 4 hurdles races before
  • 6 of the last 8 winners came from the first 4 in the market
  • 18 of the last 23 winners ran in the last 45 days
  • Irish-trained horses have won 15 of the last 26 runnings
  • 5 & 6 year-olds have the best record – winning 12 of the last 13 runnings
  • Willie Mullins has won the race 4 times since 2007 and for 3 of the last 5 years
  • 21 of the last 23 winners had raced that same calendar year
  • Owner Rich Ricci, Trainer Willie Mullins & Jockey Ruby Walsh have won 3 of the last 5 runnings.

Negatives…..

  • Horses that FAILED to win last time out before coming here are just 3 from the last 21. In other words, look for horses that won last time out!
  • Since 1992 all horses (34) 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

2017 Winner: ALTIOR 1/4 fav
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey - Nico de Boinville

 

Pluses….

  • 11 of the last 13 winners had won (or been placed) at Cheltenham before
  • 11 of the last 13 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 chase before
  • The last 8 winners won last time out (plus 13 of the last 17)
  • 17 of the last 18 winners returned 9/1 or shorter
  • 10 of the last 11 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 10 of the last 14 winners at run at the Cheltenham Festival previously
  • 10 of the last 17 winners were the top or second top-rated hurdler in the field
  • Nicky Henderson has won the race 6 times, including 12 months ago

Negatives…..

  • Only 2 of the last 31 winners failed to win of finish second last time out
  • Just two of the last 27 winners started 11/1 or bigger in the betting
  • Only 3 of the last 26 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 

2017 Winner: UN TEMPS POUR TOUT 9/1
Trainer – David Pipe
Jockey - Tom Scudamore

Pluses….

  • 14 of the last 18 winners were officially rated 143 or less
  • 12 of the last 17 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 14 of the last 18 winners returned 11/1 or shorter
  • 13 of the last 17 were novices or second season chasers
  • 6 of the last 10 winners were rated between 142-146
  • Horses rated 140+ have won 10 of the last 17 runnings
  • 7 of the last 15 won last time out
  • 3 of the last 8 winners ran in the Cleeve Hurdle that season
  • The last 6 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
  • No Irish-trained winner in the last 10 years

Negatives….

  • Avoid any horses carrying 11-04 or more in weight – 8 of the last 13 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 21
  • Only 1 winner in the last 9 hadn’t raced at a previous Festival

 

15:30 Stan James Champion Hurdle   2m ½f

2017 Winner: BUVEUR D’AIR 5/1
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey - Noel Fehily

 

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Pluses….

  • 28 of the last 34 won last time out
  • The Irish and Nicky Henderson have won 15 of the last 19 runnings
  • The Irish have won 12 of the last 19 runnings
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has won 4 of the last 7 runnings
  • 8 of the last 11 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 22 of the last 33 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 10 runnings)
  • 13 of the last 22 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 100 since 1985
  • Since 1927 we’ve only seen 2 winners aged 10 or older
  • Just 1 of the last 11 winners had raced more than 12 times over hurdles
  • Christmas Hurdle (Kempton, 26th Dec) winners are 2 from 25

Recent Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle Winners

2017 – BUVEUR D’AIR (5/1)
2016 – ANNIE POWER (5/2 fav)
2015 – FAUGHEEN (4/5 fav)
2014 – JEZKI (9/1)
2013 – HURRICANE FLY (13/8 fav)
2012 – ROCK ON RUBY (11/1)
2011 – HURRICANE FLY (11/4 fav)
2010 – BINOCULAR (9/1)
2009 – PUNJABI (22/1)
2008 – KATCHIT (10/1)
2007 – SUBLIMITY (16/1)
2006 – BRAVE INCA (7/4 fav)
2005 – HARDY EUSTACE (7/2 jfav)
2004 – HARDY EUSTACE (33/1)
2003 – ROOSTER BOOSTER (9/2)

Key Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle Betting Trends

14/15 – Finished in the top 3 last time out
14/15 – Had raced at Cheltenham before
13/15 – Had raced within the last 7 weeks
13/15 – Aged 8 or younger
12/15 – Rated 159 or higher
12/15 – Had finished in the top 4 in a Cheltenham Festival race the season before
11/15 – Had won 6 or more times over hurdles before
11/15 – Won last time out
10/15 – Irish bred winners
10/15 – Placed favourites
9/15 – Had won at Cheltenham before
9/15 – Irish trained winners
9/15 – Aged 6 or 7 years-old
8/15 – Winning distance – 2 1/2 lengths or more
7/15 – Came from outside the top 3 in the betting
6/15 - Winning favourites (1 joint)
5/15 – Ran in the previous season’s Champion Hurdle
5/15 – Had won a race at the Cheltenham Festival the previous season
4/15 – Trained by Willie Mullins
3/15 – Trained by Nicky Henderson (has won the race 6 times in all)
The average winning SP in the last 15 runnings is 9/1

Champion Hurdle Stats:
5 year-olds are just 2 from 101 since 1985
28 of the last 34 winners won their previous race
22 of the last 32 winners were placed in the top 4 at the previous season’s Cheltenham Festival
20 of the last 22 winners had a race that calendar year (i.e we are looking for horses that have run in 2018)
24 of the last 27 winners hailed from the first 6 in the betting market
Just 2 of the last 27 Christmas Hurdle winners has gone onto win the Champion Hurdle that season (But Faugheen did the double in 2014-15)
Irish-trained horses have won 12 of the last 19 renewals

Champion Hurdle – 20 Year Trends

12/20 – Irish-trained winners
8/20 – British-trained winners
Willie Mullins (Ire) has trained 4 of the last 7 winners
Nicky Henderson (UK) has trained 3 of the last 9 winners

 

16:10 OLBG Mares' Hurdle   2m 4f

2017 Winner: APPLE’S JADE 7/2
Trainer - Gordon Elliott
Jockey - BJ Cooper

Pluses….

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

Negatives….

  • Avoid front-runners
  • All 23 runners to wear headgear have been beaten (just 1 placed)
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs and Noel Meade runners
  • No winner of the race to date began their career racing on the flat

 

16:50 National Hunt Chase   4m

2017 Winner: TIGER ROLL 16/1
Trainer - Gordon Elliott
Jockey - Mrs L O’Neill

Pluses…..

  • 11 of the last 16 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 9 of the last 12 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • Favourites have won 3 of the last 8 runnings
  • 3 of the last 7 winners were top-rated
  • 4 of the last 7 winners had run in a Grade One Novice Chase that season
  • 6 of the last 11 had run in a chase at Cheltenham before that season
  • 5 of the last 8 winners had run at a previous Cheltenham Festival
  • Note horses wearing headgear
  • 5 of the last 7 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 12 rides)
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott has won 3 of the last 7 runnings

Negatives….

  • 5 and 6 year-olds are just 2 from 77 since 1989
  • Paul Nicholls has NEVER won this race - he’s currently 0 from 18
  • Nicky Henderson has NEVER won this race

 

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

2017 Winner: TULLY EAST 8/1
Trainer – Alan Fleming
Jockey - Denis O’Regan

Pluses….

  • 9 of the last 13 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 12 of the last 13 winners raced in the last 45 days
  • Respect 7 year-olds – another winner 12 months ago (5/11)
  • Look for any horses wearing first-time headgear
  • 5 of last 9 won last time out
  • 11 of the last 13 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 13 runnings

 

 

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2018 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY TWO (Weds 14th March 2018)

Each day of the 2018 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 2018 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 

DAY TWO: Wednesday 14th March 2018

 

13:30 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle   2m 5f


2017 Winner: WILLOUGHBY COURT (14/1)
Trainer –Ben Pauling
Jockey - David Bass

 

Pluses….

  • 11 of the last 13 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 13 of the last 17 winners returned 17/2 or shorter
  • 12 of the last 18 winners won last time out
  • The Irish have won 7 of the last 12
  • All of the last 12 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • In the last 7 runnings Irish-trained horses have filled 12 of the 21 top 3 places
  • 17 of the last 19 were NH bred
  • 12 of the last 19 had won a graded race before
  • Look for past Irish point-to-point winners (5 of the last 8 begin their careers in Irish points)
  • Respect Willie Mullins – 4 winners and 6 placed in last 13 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 52 (since 1988)
  • Only two of the last 32 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, 0 from 29)

 

14:10 RSA Chase   3m ½f

2017 Winner: MIGHT BITE (7/2 fav)
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Nico de Boinville

Pluses….

  • 4 of the last 9 winners ran in the Flogas Chase (Leopardstown, 4th Feb) that season
  • Respect 7 year-olds – won 8 of the last 10
  • 9 of the last 12 winners won last time out
  • 5 of the last 11 favourites won (45%)
  • Irish bred horses are 18 from the last 21
  • 8 of the last 11 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 Chase
  • 5 of the last 9 winners were trained in Ireland
  • Trainers Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls often do well in the race
  • 21 of the last 25 were novice hurdling last season
  • 5 of the last 8 winners ran in the Albert Bartlett the previous season
  • Look for horses that ran that same calendar year (50 of the last 51 winners had)
  • 8 of the last 11 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 (2 from 29)
  • Avoid horses that had had 2 full seasons over hurdles prior
  • Just 1 of the last 18 winners had run less than 3 times over fences
  • All 20 winners of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Feltham, Kempton 26th Dec) have lost
  • Avoid unbeaten horses – they are just 2 from 28
  • Horses in headgear are currently 0 from 23

 

14:50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle   2m 5f

2017 Winner: SUPASUNDAE
Trainer – Mrs John Harrington
Jockey – Robbie Power

Pluses….

  • 10 of the last 13 were 2nd season hurdlers
  • 7 of the last 9 winners hailed from the top 8 horses in the weights
  • 11 of the last 12 winners hailed form the top 7 in the betting
  • 18 of the last 23 winners won earlier that season
  • Respect JP McManus-owned runners
  • Respect trainers Nicky Henderson & Gordon Elliott (2 wins each in last 8 years)
  • 8 of the last 16 winners were FRENCH-BRED
  • 13 of the last 24 won last time out
  • Respect Irish-trained runners (4 of the last 9)
  • Look for horses that had raced 4 or less times that season (last 9 winners)
  • 12 of the last 13 winners had run 32 days or longer ago (look for horses that have had a small break)
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott is 2 from 8

Negatives….

  • No winning favourite in the last 14 years
  • Horses aged 10+ are just 2 from 30 to even place since 1999
  • Horses rated 150+ don’t have a great record
  • Only 4 of the last 17 winners had raced at the Festival previously
  • The last 66 horses wearing headgear have been beaten
  • Only 3 winners since 2000 had run more than 9 times over hurdles
  • Willie Mullins has a bad record – 24 runners all placed outside top 2

 

15:30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase   2m

2017 Winner: SPECIAL TIARA (11/1)
Trainer – Henry De Bromhead
Jockey – Noel Fehily

Pluses….

Your first 30 days for just £1
  • 11 of the last 17 winners ran in the Tingle Creek Chase that season
  • 3 of the last 5 winners also won the Clarence House Chase (Ascot) that season
  • 21 of the last 33 had won at the Festival before
  • Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson have won 6 of the last 10 between them
  • 14 of the last 15 winners had run that calendar year
  • 34 of the last 36 winners returned 10/1 or shorter
  • 13 of the last 18 winners returned 5/1 or shorter
  • 6 of the last 11 winners were French-bred
  • 10 of the last 15 winners were second season chasers
  • 15 of the last 19 winners came from the top 3 in the betting
  • 13 of the last 18 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 16 winners hadn’t won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • 11 of the last 12 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
  • Be wary of horses older than 10 – they are just 2 winners since 1977

Recent Queen Mother Champion Chase Winners

2017 – SPECIAL TIARA (11/1)
2016 – SPRINTER SACRE (5/1)
2015 – DODGING BULLETS (9/2)
2014 – SIRE DE GRUGY (11/4 fav)
2013 – SPRINTER SACRE (1/4 fav)
2012 – FINIAN’S RAINBOW (4/1)
2011 – SIZING EUROPE (10/1)
2010 – BIG ZEB (10/1)
2009 – MASTER MINDED (4/11 fav)
2008 – MASTER MINDED (3/1)
2007 – VOY POR USTEDES (5/1)
2006 – NEWMILL (16/1)
2005 – MOSCOW FLYER (6/4 fav)
2004 – AZERTYUIOP (15/8 fav)
2003 – MOSCOW FLYER (7/4 fav)

 

2018 Queen Mother Champion Chase Betting Trends

14/15 – Had raced within the last 8 weeks
13/15 – Had won at least 5 times over fences before
13/15 – Had run over fences at Cheltenham before
11/15 – Won last time out
11/15 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
11/15 – Returned 5/1 or shorter in the betting
9/15 – Winning distance – 5 lengths or more
9/15 – Placed favourites
8/15 – Had won over fences at Cheltenham before
7/15 – French bred
6/15 – Irish bred
6/15 – Won by an Irish-based horse
5/15 – Won the Arkle Chase the previous season
5/15 – Winning favourites
4/15 – Ran in the Tied Cottage Chase (Punchestown) last time out
3/15 – Ran in the Game Spirit Chase (Newbury) last time out
3/15 – Had won the race before
The average winning SP in the last 15 runnings is 5/1

Other Queen Mother Champion Chase Stats

11 of the last 17 winners ran in that season’s Tingle Creek Chase (Sandown)
20 of the last 33 winners had previously won at the Cheltenham Festival
35 of the last 36 winners returned 11/1 or shorter in the betting
15 of the last 16 Arkle Chase winners to run the next season in this have finished placed or better
15 of the last 16 winners had won a Grade One Chase previously

Champion Chase – 20 Year Trends

14/20 – British-trained winners
6/20 – Irish-trained winners
Willie Mullins (Ire) is yet to train the winner
Nicky Henderson (UK) has trained 3 of the last 6 winners (won the race 4 times in total)
Paul Nicholls (UK) has trained 5 of the last 18 winners
Henry de Bromhead (Ire) has trained 2 of the last 7 winners
Jessica Harrington (Ire) has trained 2 of the last 15 winners

 

16:10 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase   3m 7f

2017 Winner: CAUSE OF CAUSES (4/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Jamie Codd

Pluses….

  • The Irish have won 11 of the last 13 runnings
  • Respect Enda Bolger-trained runners (won the race 5 times)
  • 8 of the last 12 winners carried 10-13 or less
  • 16 of the last 20 winners came from the top three in the betting
  • 7 of the last 13 ran in the December Cross Country race here
  • Respect Nina Carberry, Richard Johnson and Davy Russell-ridden horses (8 from 13 between them)
  • 10 or the last 13 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 (1 from 53)
  • Avoid horses aged 7 or younger – they are only 2 from 94
  • 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

2017 Winner: FLYING TIGER (33/1)
Trainer – Nick Williams
Jockey – Richard Johnson

Pluses….

  • 9 of the last 13 winners had run just 3 times over hurdles before
  • French bred horses have a good record
  • Respect Fillies
  • 6 of the last 7 winners all came from the bottom half of the weights/handicap
  • 10 of the last 13 had run in the last 25 days
  • David Pipe, Paul Nicholls, Gordon Elliot and Alan King-trained horses often do well
  • 5 of the last 6 winners returned between 25/1 and 40/1
  • Respect horses wearing headgear
  • The last 12 winners were ALL rated between 124-134
  • 8 of the last 10 winners were British-trained
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has won 3 of the last 8 runnings

 

Negatives….

  • No 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

2017 Winner: FAYONAGH (7/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Jamie Codd

Pluses….

  • 23 of the last 25 had won last time out
  • Respect Irish-trained runners (18 from 34)
  • 4 of the last 8 winners were won by UK-based trainers
  • 17 of the last 25 came from the top 6 in the betting
  • 19 of the last 25 were Irish-bred
  • 10 of the last 17 winners were second season horses
  • 11 of the last 12 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 15 of the last 17 had their debut runs in Ireland
  • 11 of the last 15 had been beaten in a race before
  • 5 of the last 8 winners returned between 14/1 and 40/1
  • Respect Willie Mullins (8 winners), but is just 2 from last 29 runners
  • The Irish lead the British 19-7 in the race history

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses with 4 or more NH Flat runs
  • 1 winning favourite in the last 10 runnings
  • 4 year-olds are 1 from 54 since 2000
  • Gigginstown, Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson don’t often focus on the race

 

 

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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

 

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:

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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

 

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.

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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.

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! 

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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

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….

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  • 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

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….

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  • 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

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….

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  • 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

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

 

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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

Cheltenham Festival Pointers – Let Leopardstown Shine A Light

It should come as no surprise to see that Cheltenham Festival winners tend to take-in high profile meetings at elite tracks en-route to glory in March.

The better racecourses usually hold the more prestigious events, attracting better prize money and thereby tempting leading trainers to send their yards most talented inmates. The Hennessy meeting at Newbury; Betfair Chase Day at Haydock; Christmas at both Kempton and Leopardstown, and Cheltenham’s Trials Day, are just some of those significant events that attract the best that jump racing has to offer.

I had a quick look at where last year’s Festival winners ‘warmed-up’ for the big event, and the usual suspects sat proudly at the top of the pile. Leopardstown led the way, providing four winners, followed by Cheltenham, Kempton, Punchestown and Ascot with three apiece. Smaller tracks cannot be ignored, but more often than not, future Festival heroes will complete their preparation at the likes of Punchestown rather than Plumpton.

And it’s an Irish racecourse that I wish to focus on for today’s Cheltenham Festival piece. Leopardstown host several top-class meetings throughout the winter, with leading trainers such as Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins battling over prestigious and extremely valuable prizes. Their Christmas Festival often shines a light on those with a bright future.

Races include the Lexus Chase, won in previous years by Best Mate, Denman, Synchronised and Bobs Worth. The Ryanair Hurdle (often known as the December Festival Hurdle) is another Christmas highlight, which is targeted by those with outstanding two-mile hurdlers. It has a roll of honour that includes, Istabraq, Brave Inca and Hurricane Fly. And there’s the Racing Post Novices’ Chase which has produced wonderful two-mile chasers, including, Native Upmanship, Moscow Flyer, Sizing Europe, and in 2015 Douvan.

The length of time from Leopardstown at Christmas until the Cheltenham Festival in March clearly makes the meeting an unlikely event for final preparation’s, though it has been known. Timing plays a major part in all sport, and having a horse ‘cherry-ripe’ for the Festival is a crucial factor in having any hope of success. That’s sure to be in the minds of connections as they send their best hopes to Leopardstown in early February.

It’s this particular meeting that has provided so many pointers to Cheltenham success in recent years. With several prestigious races on the card, the timing of the event (usually five weeks prior to The Festival) fits in perfectly with those trainers targeting Jump racing’s Olympics.

The Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle usually attracts the best four-year-old’s in Ireland, with an eye on the Triumph Hurdle in March. The race doesn’t always go to plan for the ‘leading lights’, but a Festival winner is likely to be lurking among the contenders. Four of the last five Triumph winners have prepped in this, though only one of those won the Leopardstown race.

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Our Conor was that exceptional juvenile, and he romped to victory in Ireland before destroying the best youngsters at Cheltenham in March 2013. His 15-length success was extraordinary, and he looked set to become a star of the sport. Tragedy struck the following March, when a fall in the Champion Hurdle cost him his life.

Last year Ivanovich Gorbatov flopped in unsuitable heavy ground at Leopardstown, but proved a different beast when arriving at Prestbury Park. He defeated Apple’s Jade, Footpad and Let’s Dance in lifting the Triumph Hurdle, under a classy ride from Barry Geraghty.

Tiger Roll finished second to Guitar Pete in the Leopardstown event of 2014, but improved plenty to reverse the form at Cheltenham a month later. And in 2012 it was Countrywide Flame that could only manage third at Leopardstown, before once again reversing Irish form in capturing the main event at Cheltenham. Unaccompanied only just failed in her bid to win the Triumph, when second to Zarkandar in 2011, a month after winning the juvenile hurdle at Leopardstown.

Mega Fortune and Bapaume came first and second in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle a couple of weeks back, and will head to Cheltenham as leading contenders for the Triumph Hurdle. Soft ground possibly suited Gordon Elliott’s runner, though the stiff finish in March will also be in his favour. Bapaume got the better of their encounter at Christmas on a sounder surface, and they look closely matched.

Along with strong recent Triumph clues, Leopardstown in February is host to the Deloitte Novice Hurdle, so often another strong Festival pointer, especially for the Supreme and Neptune. In its time the race has been won by Istabraq, Like-A-Butterfly, Brave Inca, Champagne Fever and Vautour.

The 2016 renewal failed to produce a Cheltenham Festival winner, though Tombstone and Petit Mouchoir ran well in the Supreme, and are now contenders in a wide-open renewal of the Champion Hurdle. In 2015, Nichols Canyon defeated Windsor Park in the Deloitte, but when the two met at Cheltenham it was the latter that gained revenge when winning the Neptune Novices’ with Nichols Canyon back in third.

Vautour and Champagne Fever won the prestigious Leopardstown event in 2014 and 2013, before going on to Supreme Novices’ glory. Willie Mullins was responsible for the first and second home this time around. Bacardys finished powerfully to get the better of the classy looking Bunk Off Early. The former has the potential to go close in the Neptune, whilst the latter is likely to head for the Supreme Novices’.

The Flogas Novice Chase is another that has provided plenty of Festival clues over the years, though has been less fruitful in the last couple of years. In 2013, Lord Windermere came third before going on to take the RSA. Bostons Angel won both in 2011, and Weapon’s Amnesty finished runner-up at Leopardstown before winning the RSA of 2010. In 2009, the winner and runner-up went on to Cheltenham Festival glory, when Cooldine, having won in Ireland went to the Cotswolds to capture the RSA, with Forpadydeplasterer taking the Arkle.

This year’s Flogas looked a classy affair, and though Our Duke will not be heading over to Cheltenham, there’s every chance that Disko will prove a tough nut to crack in either the JLT or the RSA.

Finally, a mention for the Foxhunters at Cheltenham, with the Leopardstown Hunter Chase providing the winner on so many occasions. Indeed, the last five renewals have delivered the last five Festival winners. On The Fringe is a dual winner at Prestbury Park, and the way he ran a couple of weeks back behind Foxrock gives hope of a hat-trick. Prior to him, Tammys Hill and Salsify (twice) completed the double.

Studying the results from Leopardstown’s February meeting has proved fruitful in recent years, and I’ll be hoping that 2017 follows a similar pattern.

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.

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.

 

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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

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