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Punting Angles: The Triumph Hurdle

Stubbornness and occasional obstinacy are two of my less desirable characteristics, writes Jon Shenton. That may explain my historically neutral view of the Cheltenham Festival. Sure, I look forward to it, enjoy the seemingly 12-month build up to the next one and attend every year for at least one day.

However, I haven’t really “got it” in the same way that others seem to. I’m sure I’ve spouted the cliché of a winner at Southwell pays the same as a winner at Prestbury Park on more than one occasion to a non-plussed audience (and perhaps in one of these articles, too!). However, that’s all starting to change, mainly through penning my latest articles on the novice hurdling programme and linking it to Cheltenham. Now it all suddenly and finally makes sense.

Invigorated by that exercise, then, this article will focus on entirely on the Triumph Hurdle, which kicks off proceedings on the final afternoon, Gold Cup Friday, of the four-day fixture.

Graded Race Form

My first port of call was to evaluate the paths that previous winners have trodden on the way to a place in the history books at the Festival. Below is a table documenting each winner dating back to 2010, containing all same season graded hurdle races with the associated finishing position and the winning horse name from the latest renewal.

The table has two clear pointers. Firstly, the market is broadly a good guide in establishing the name of the likely winner. Seven of the last ten winners have returned a single figure price (and Tiger Roll only just a double figure one at 10/1). Countrywide Flame and Pentland Hills bucked the trend with their more exotic 33/1 and 20/1 SP’s.

Secondly, as well as the market pathfinding for punters, Graded form looks to be important, with every single champ having cut their teeth at Graded level apart from the aforementioned Pentland Hills. I make it nine graded wins in total from 15 starts between the last ten Triumph winners.

The Pentland question is still important to acknowledge, with Nicky Henderson's charge either a trend-buster or a potential new trend-setter.  Last years’ champion prevailed following a single run (and win) over hurdles in a £4k Class 4 event at Plumpton after an only slightly ascendant flat career.

I’d be inclined to conclude that the Pentland way is more likely to be an irregular occurrence. Moreover, due consideration needs to be paid to the specifics regarding last year's renewal. It was a difficult affair, with the ill-fated Sir Erec going wrong in the early stages of the race. The market, vibes and form all pointed to the Joseph O’Brien starlet running a big race and his exit changed the complexion, and perhaps the result of the 2019 edition. All ifs, buts and maybes but I see very little reason to deviate from the tried and tested form and/or the market as the starting point.

In terms of specific staging posts en route to a Cheltenham coronation, it’s of little surprise that the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown is a key pointer to the Triumph. No less than five of the ten winners listed have taken in this (sort of) Dublin race on the Festival trail. That may be a tick in the box for A Wave of the Sea, Aspire Tower and Cerberus in terms of the key market fancies.

Taking the UK angle, the Adonis is interesting. It's a race which was won by Soldatino and Zarkandar in 2010 and 2011 respectively. For both, it was their only UK run prior to their triumphs in the Triumph: exactly the same set of circumstances apply to Solo of the 2020 vintage.

Expanding on this theme, the table below shows the chief protagonists for the 2020 renewal, with their graded form to date.  It’s sorted in current ante-post market order.

 

If graded form is a key then Solo, Allmankind, Aspire Tower, A Wave of the Sea, Cerberus and Burning Victory have the potential to unlock the Triumph Hurdle door. That spells bad news for Sir Psycho, potentially Mick Pastor (6th in the Prestbury Juvenile Trial) and, most strikingly, Goshen. The Gary Moore-trained horse has a lofty reputation and is currently a general 4/1 in the market after three bloodless wins in lesser company. There is no doubt that the Triumph will be a big step up in class, one which he may well be perfectly capable of taking, but he doesn't fit the recent mould of winners of this race. Luckily there are ratings available which present tangible data on how big a leap might be required to take the spoils back down to Moore's Sussex yard.

Rating the Triumph

To ascertain if Goshen and his rivals have displayed “good enough” credentials to indicate competitiveness in the Triumph, I thought it’d be of interest to compare ratings of their past performances against the historic winners dating back to 2010. For this comparison I’ve used Racing Post Ratings (RPR), which as far as I can tell have been generated using a consistent methodology over the ten-year period (I’m happy to be corrected if otherwise).

Only races over hurdles have been included. The RPR is helpfully part of the geegeez.co.uk toolkit so obtaining this intel is relatively straightforward, albeit manual in nature.

Prior to discussing the data, a quick explanation of the columns, in left to right order.

  • Win RPR – the Racing Post Rating given to the winner for their run in the Triumph
  • Price – Current Market Price for the 2020 Triumph contenders
  • 5LR to LR – 5th last run if applicable through to the last run (LR) RPR's
  • High – best RPR recorded over hurdles prior to the Triumph
  • Low – lowest RPR recorded over hurdles prior to the Triumph
  • Avg – the average RPR of all hurdle runs prior to the Triumph

It’s sorted by the last run (LR) column and I’ve signposted this year's crop with white rows, light blue relating to previous winners.

 

Laid out in this manner the table gives some valuable clues as to the likely shake up of the Triumph. The general shape reflects well on the class of 2020, showing that most of the main players have been pitching at a sufficient level over the course of this season to indicate that they have the potential to develop into Triumph winners.

Based on average RPR, three of the 2020 crop rank in the top five (Solo, Goshen and Aspire Tower). Although, it could easily be argued that there is a partial picture here, as it only includes winners from previous renewals, not the whole field. For example, Sir Erec ran to an RPR of 146 on his final outing prior to Cheltenham last year and, as he didn’t win, this is not included. However, even accounting for this it does indicate a high-quality renewal this year if all prospective runners make it to the starting tape.

It’s also logical to conclude that some of the longer shots (Mick Pastor, Sir Psycho, Burning Victory and Fujimoto Flyer) will have to improve significantly to prevail on Gold Cup Friday. Our old mate Pentland Hills’ Plumpton run gleaned an RPR of 128, demonstrating that a relatively low rating in a last run is not necessarily a barrier to onward success; but, PH aside, all other winners ran to at least 136 on their previous outing.

The lowest Triumph-winning RPR in the dataset is 144, and it belongs to household name Tiger Roll for his 2014 victory. This puts into context how much the animals with ratings in the 120’s or low 130’s last time out will have to improve. Notably, four of this year's field have already delivered RPR’s on or around that Tiger Roll winning rating and might be expected to improve further on the 13th March. It’s hard to see the horses at the lower end of the table improving beyond them if any of the main four take a step forward.

Solo’s 145 RPR from the Adonis is also noteworthy. The race was run just over four seconds slower than the Kingwell over the same course and distance on the same card. Perhaps the relatively high rating is a surprise, at first glance anyway. However, the RPR allocated to the winner of the Kingwell (Song for Someone) was a meaty 152 which gives a relative feel to the performance. It was visually impressive from Solo, and the RPR backs it up.

Arguably, Goshen is the most interesting in the RPR context given his lack of graded form. His RPR performance has metronomic consistency at 142 or 143 over the trio of his hurdle runs to date, having barely seen a rival in those three outings prevailing by a combined 68 lengths! Given his lack of experience at the higher level it should be of some reassurance to Goshen backers and fans that his race ratings are right on the money in these lower-class affairs. Based on ratings alone he is a very serious contender.

 

The trainers

Reviewing the trainers' record with juvenile hurdlers may offer another clue to the eventual winner. Using horseracebase the below table shows their complete records in juvenile hurdle events in the UK and Ireland.  It only includes trainers of horses that are 20/1 or shorter in the Triumph Hurdle ante-post market currently.

 

The data confirms that Gary Moore is a superb handler of juvenile hurdlers. There must be a couple of nice angles hidden within this table, perhaps for another time/edition of Punting Angles. The Nicholls operation, too, is meritorious and deserves closer inspection on another occasion.

Overall, it’s a nice insight but in terms of significant pointers for Cheltenham it doesn’t really help, so evaluating performance at the track should be an interesting and logical next step.

 

 

There are some astonishing numbers in the table above, one in particular: Willie Mullins’ 0-from-41 in juvenile hurdles at Cheltenham is the most extraordinary stat of all, although Gary Moore’s 1-from-40 is also equally startling. We’re fishing in small pools of data and the degree of relevance can be argued. That said, data are data and, consequently, a certain degree of bravery and belligerence is required to back Burning Victory or Goshen once you’ve digested these numbers.

To micro-analyse a little further, the table below shows performance only in four-year-old hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival. This includes data from the Triumph and the Fred Winter/Boodles.

 

 

All of Mullins’ 41 runners have been at 'the Fez' and include luminaries such as Footpad and Apples Jade. Moore hasn’t notched in 17 appearances, hitting the place crossbar only twice from those runs. Paul Nicholls' horses are obviously serious propositions; and Skelton, O’Brien and de Bromhead only have a handful of representatives between them, although it is worth noting that whilst Aiden O’Brien was the trainer of 2016 winner Ivanovic Gorbatov, it is widely rumoured that Joseph had a significant role to play in that victory. Overall though, trainer data points to negatives for Goshen and Burning Victory.

Race Composition – Pace to Burn

I’ve attempted to build a pace map of the chief protagonists below: it is constructed in line with the methodology and numbers deployed within geegeez pace maps.

  • 4 – led
  • 3 – Prominent
  • 2 – Mid-Division
  • 1 – Held up

 

Above is the individual race profile of each of the contenders in numerate form and below is a graphical representation of their average pace preference based on their hurdle runs thus far.

 

A lot of talk regarding this race is in relation to a likely pace burn up. The data backs that up with bells on. The top three in the market have all pretty much only ever cut out the running in their recent hurdles starts, with Cerberus and Sir Psycho preferring to race near the head of affairs, too. The addition of the other less fancied runners may further spice to the already fiery pace platter. It would be very, very surprising if this race is run at anything other than a fast and honest gallop.

Based on visual evidence, Goshen and Allmankind appear to be the ones that are most likely bolt on when the flag is dropped. There is a definite possibility of those two damaging each other by over-racing and it’ll be fascinating to see how they react to a bit of competition for the lead, although Goshen can take back as he did between the third and fifth flights last time.

Perhaps Aspire Tower gives the impression of being slightly the least headstrong of the trio which may mean he could pick up the pieces, but that equally could apply to any of the others. Despite the RPR numbers appearing to downplay the prospects of Burning Victory and Mick Pastor, maybe the race composition brings them into play a little.

 

Summary and conclusions

If you’re after a tip then you’re probably reading the wrong article! However, after evaluating each horse's path to the Triumph, their RPR performance, trainer records and the likely pace composition it’s fair to say that there are a plethora of pros and cons to evaluate, many of them ostensibly contradictory.

Of the four market leaders I favour Goshen the least: his lack of Graded form, Moore’s record at Cheltenham with juveniles, and his want-the-lead run style are all negatives in my view. Further, he has jumped markedly to the right in all three of his hurdle races, which is obviously sub-optimal in a Championship race at left-handed Cheltenham, and I do wonder how he will react under pressure as for the first time he is unlikely to get it all his own way, as the ratings and pace profile demonstrate.

Of the four I’d side with Aspire Tower, a perspective that’s driven by current prices as much as anything else. Along with Solo he has the best RPR from a previous hurdle race and I think he could be a good value play, although he is not the most likely winner and does have to bounce back from a fall in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The pace composition holds the key for me: a furious gallop could easily leave the door ajar for horses at the lower end of the pace profile, and maybe not the most fancied in the field. Based on evidence to date it’s likely to be a mega burn up, but if I know that then of course all the trainers, jockeys and pundits know it too. That makes it even more intriguing and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a change in tactics attempted by at least one of the main pace pushers. Good luck holding Goshen and Allmankind back though!

If I was putting my money down today based on this analysis, I would side with Aspire Tower and maybe A Wave Of The Sea all things considered. Along with Solo they tick more of the boxes and possibly have more versatility regarding how the tactics play out. The unappealing price for Solo leads me to the other two, though it will be far from a shock should Solo win as he is the likely favourite.

It would also be no surprise to see Goshen or Allmankind break the field apart! Whatever happens, it’s a genuinely fascinating race: the more I’ve looked at it the more I can’t wait to see how things shake down. I’ll be there to watch it in the flesh, and I haven’t looked forward to a single race as much in my life.

- JS

Cheltenham Festival: Avoiding the Bad Bets

This article was originally written ahead of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, and was updated prior to the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. It has been further updated ahead of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival as most of the themes have gained strength since first publication.

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 eleven Festivals, going back to 2008, with commentary on the updated figures and performance at the 2018 and 2019 Festivals appended.

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 to 2017, that equated to 53 winners (Mares' Hurdle upgraded during the sample window) and 158 placed horses, from 635 runners. To that we add six winners and 17 placed horses from 2018, and a further six winners and 18 places from last year.

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.

2018 Festival Update: Native River won the Gold Cup wearing cheek pieces, with just one of the other twelve headgear-accoutred runners making the frame. So that's 55 of 59 open Grade 1's now: 93% of the winners from 82% of the runners.

2019 Festival Update: 15 headgear runners across the sextet of open G1 races, and no winners. In fairness, three were placed (Melon, Politologue, and Sam Spinner) at solid prices.

2008-2019 Picture

Those wearing headgear can win (QED) but are 4/142 (2.82% SR) with an A/E of just 0.43.

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.

2018 Festival Update: Two more 11+ year-olds ran in last year's Festival, including the wonderful Cue Card. Wonderful he may be but, sent off at 9/2 and pulled up, he was another mug punt for many. Worse than that, though, was the ten-year-old Un De Sceaux, who was turned over at 8/11. He was one of six ten-year-olds beaten last year.

2019 Festival Update: Nine double-digit aged runners in these big six races in 2019, and no winners. Just the still quite mighty Faugheen - who will bid to defy the stat again next week - made the frame, running third in the Stayers' Hurdle.

2008-2019 Picture

Horses aged ten-plus are now 4/121 since 2008 (3.31% SR), A/E 0.42.

[As an aside, the four winning ten-year-olds did so in the Champion Chase (two) and Ryanair Chase (two).]

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.

2018 Festival Update: Another blank for 16/1+ horses, who went 0/31 in the Grade 1 open races. Of the four who placed, only one was second - Midnight Tour in a lop-sided Mares' Hurdle - with the other three good enough for no better than third.

2019 Festival Update: The bad news is that there was a winner. 16/1 Espoir D'Allen won the Champion Hurdle as the race fell apart. The good news is that there were also 49 losers! Saying that, nine of the 50 made the frame, so these horses (obviously, duh) can win.

2008-2019 Picture

Overall, then, this group is now 4/416 (0.96% SR) with a loss at SP of 338 points (-81.25% !) and an A/E of just 0.32. Even at Betfair SP, the loss is 322.9 points. I remain happy to let these beat me.

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.

2018 Festival Update: Both Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson have usurped Nicholls at the top of the pile, each having now secured 11 such wins since 2008. Last year, Messrs. Nicholls, Hobbs and Meade went 0/4 (three Nicholls, one Meade) though two of them ran fairly well in fourth. Caution remains the watch word.

2019 Festival Update: Four more qualifiers last year, including a Nicholls winner (lovely Frodon), and two further placed horses. The other finished fifth, and I think rather than the 201-mentioned caution being the watchword, I'd be happy to lose this particular element. It will be expunged from the 2021 preview!

2008-2019 Picture

Overall the figures of 11/112 (-65.07) look like keeping on side. But, while there is normally a premium to be paid for siding with Paul Nicholls especially, he seems to have largely overcome a hiatus in fortunes of a few years ago and, as such, should not be opposed lightly. This one is about to be consigned to the dusty bin.

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.

2018 Festival Update: The above 'dodge the negatives' angle would have netted you five of the six open G1 winners (excluding the cheek pieced Native River) from just 25 bets. It would have been enough to make you a profit of 6.17 points at SP or a very tidy 13.82 points at BSP.

2019 Festival Update: The mini system had a fine week with wins for Al Boum Photo, Paisley Park and Altior in the big four races, as well as Roksana in the Mares' Hurdle. That was worth a profit of 5.74 points at SP and 6.95 at BSP. Espoir d'Allen was 16/1 and therefore just outside the range.

2020 Festival Angle: We'll remove the trainer element from the above for 2020. Results will be published in due course...

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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. To that we add six winners and 17 placed horses, from 76 runners, in 2018.

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 still account for the vast majority of wins - 57 of 60 from 2008 to 2018 - but perform little better than expected, 95% of the wins coming from 93% of the runners.

2019 Update: Headgear is a slight negative seemingly among the novice ranks. In the 12 years from 2008 to 2019, although there were only three winners (from 72 runners), two of them - both in 2014 - returned 33/1, for a profit of 6 points. The starting price A/E of 0.77 suggests these are still types about which to be wary, a feeling which has added credence in the form of two beaten favourites in 2019, Delta Work at 15/8 and Hardline at 10/3.

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

2018 Festival Update: No 9yo novices ran at the Festival last year.

2019 Festival Update: Two older novices ran, and were beaten, last year: Articulum ran well to be third at 25/1 in the Arkle (albeit beaten 17 lengths), and the ill-fated Knocknanuss was fifth in the same race.

2008-2019 Picture

These older lads and lasses are now 0 from 24, though Faugheen looks a live chance in a novice chase, probably the Marsh (former JLT) this time around.

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 16/1 or longer 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 at 16/1 or bigger in novice Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival. (With the exception of the Albert Bartlett)

2018 Festival Update: I think I got some sums wrong in the original above. The 16/1+ brigade were 6/379 (1.58% SR, -217, A/E 0.53) going into last year's Fez. Those priced at 16/1 or bigger were 1/42 at last year's Cheltenham Festival, and it was again the Albert Bartlett that provided the shock, with 33/1 Kilbricken Storm prevailing.

And that's now four of seven winning G1 novice rags since 2008 scoring in the spud race, so I'd be even more apprehensive around that event. Indeed, I might even be tempted to actively target outsiders therein. (Those priced 16/1 to 33/1 in the Albert Bartlett are 4/65, 12 places, +54 SP and +104 at BSP since 2008!)

2019 Festival Update: One more 16/1+ winner last year, and guess which race it happened in... yup, 50/1 (FIFTY!) Minella Indo emerged victorious in the Albert Bartlett. Aside from that race, the numbers were 0 from 29 for bigger-priced horses in the novice Grade 1's.

2008-2019 Picture

The overall figures now stand at 8/467 (1.71% SR, A/E 0.58) since 2008. Ignoring the Albert Bartlett, horses priced 16/1+ in novice Grade 1's are now 3/327 (0.92% SR, -251 at SP) since 2008.

The Albert Bartlett picture since 2008 is thus: 5/140 +30 at SP (+183 at BSP!)

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.

2018 Festival Update: Those unrated added another three duck eggs to their collective card, though all of the trio were 20/1+. Meanwhile, those unrated or rated 140 or less went 24 spins without so much as a place at last year's Festival.

2019 Festival Update: Three unrated horses ran last year in novice G1's, Minella Indo winning and Allaho running second in the same race. The Albert Bartlett does seem to be a special case.

Those with a rating below 140 were 0/22 last year, just two placed.

2008-2019 Picture

Overall since 2008, then, they're now 8/361 (2.22% SR, A/E 0.62, -187 at SP). But...

Minella Indo was the first such winner since Martello Tower in 2015. Before that, Very Wood in 2014, Weapons Amnesty in 2009 and Nenuphar Collonges in 2008 made it five Albert Bartlett winners from the eight winners to be rated 0-140. The Albert Bartlett usually asks horses to do something they've not done before and, in trying, the pack gets shuffled with slower-but-stronger-staying types able to show mettle beyond the classier horses that had been winning therebefore.

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.

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).

2018 Festival Update: Nicholls ran two novices in this context last year, Modus (8th of 9 at 12/1) and Black Corton (5th of 10, 5/1).

2019 Festival Update: Again, Nicholls was resurgent in 2019, with Topofthegame winning the RSA Chase at 4/1. This doesn't look an angle worth persevering with and will be dropped for the 2020 update.

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.

2018 Festival Update: If you'd followed this angle last year, you'd have found five of the six winners, 14 places (exception, Kilbricken Storm - see above) from 46 bets. That would have yielded a profit of +9 at SP and +17.41 at BSP.

2019 Festival Update: Not such good news here, as loads of runners and some short odds winners meant the angle lost 16 points at SP and 7.28 points at BSP.

2020 Festival Angle: We'll again remove the trainer angle but caution is advised with this micro generally. I'll not be following it this year.

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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.

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).

2018 Festival Update: Fillies and mares were 0/9 (1 place) last year.

2019 Festival Update: The females were 0/6 (1 place) last year.

2008-2019 Picture:

Overall since 2008, that now reads 0/42, 3 places.

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%)

2018 Festival Update: Nine more cheek pieced losers last year, and two more visored losers. Blinkered runners were 1/7 last year.

2019 Festival Update: Two headgear-clad winners last year, both in cheekpieces, though those otherwise accoutred were 0 from 17, wiping out the SP profit from the cheeky brace.

2008-2019 Picture:

There have been ten headgear-wearing winners of all aged handicap hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival since 2008, from 293 runners. That's a 3.41% strike rate for a loss of 119 points (ROI -40.61). Those without headgear won 37 from 865 (4.28% SR, -256 at SP, ROI -29.6%).

Headgear seems to be a negative, though ignoring such runners hardly helps the pursuit of winner isolation!

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. The two wins were both achieved by the same horse, Buena Vista, in the same race, the Pertemps Final.

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.

2018 Festival Update: All four handicap hurdle winners in this context last year were aged five to seven, with twelve 8yo's beaten, and eleven 9yo+ horses also seen off.

2019 Festival Update: The four winners in 2019 were aged six, seven, eight and nine. Those aged nine-plus were 1/19 for an SP profit of 10 points. William Henry it was who did the business (tipped at 40/1 in this preview), at 28/1.

2008-2019 Picture:

Age remains a factor, younger horses have much more improvement potential than their elders. William Henry was the first winner for the older battalion since that Buena Vista brace in 2010/11. Overall, the numbers read 3/148 (2.03% strike rate, -55% ROI, A/E 0.6).

Compare that with those aged eight or younger: 44/1006 (4.37% SR, -29% ROI, A/E 0.77).

And, further, with those aged five or six: 30/560 (5.36% SR, -8.7% ROI, A/E 0.83).

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.

2018 Festival Update: There was a 33/1 winner last year (Mohaayed in the County Hurdle), but the other three were 20/1 or shorter. Even allowing for the County winner, those priced at bigger than 20/1 were loss-making at SP (though an enormous BSP of 70 ensured a profit for intrepid exchange punters). Overall, the 22/1+ brigade are now 6/555 since 2008 in handicap hurdles at the Fez (Fred W aside).

2019 Festival Update: William Henry was again the blot on the copybook, he being the one bigger than 20/1 poke, from 47 to run, to win.

2008-2019 Picture:

Even with William limiting losses last year, outsiders continued to struggle. The long term picture now reads 7/602, 1.16% strike rate, -62.5% ROI, A/E 0.45. Compare that with 20/1 or shorter horses: 40/556, 7.19% SR, +0.18% ROI at SP (!), A/E 0.86.

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.

2018 Festival Update: Only the 40/1 shot Prime Venture represented this angle last year; he ran well enough in 8th of 23 in the Pertemps Final.

2019 Festival Update: Another barren year for the quartet with four mostly quietly fancied (16/1, 2 x 20/1, 33/1) runners finishing no nearer than 14th.

2008-2019 Picture:

That's now 0 from 63, just three places, with a remarkably even split between them: Longsdon and Meade are 0/15 each, Newland is 0/16 and Williams 0/17.

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.

2018 Festival Update: Even missing out on the County Hurdle last year, meaning there were only three winners to get, this angle made a profit at SP. In fact, it nailed three winners from 36 runners for +4 at SP and +18.07 at BSP.

2019 Festival Update: More losses on this angle with well backed winners spoiling the party. Still, figures of -13 at SP and -5.61 at BSP were not terminal.

2020 Festival Angle: A great angle down the years, I'll be rolling the dice for small stakes on this approach once more.

**

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.

2018 Festival Update: Just one unplaced female last year.

2019 Festival Update: Three more unplaced mares in 2019, all at big prices.

2008-2019 Picture: The handful of girls to run in Festival handicap chases are 0 from 23 but there's nothing really to write home about.

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.

2018 Festival Update: A blinkered runner, Missed Approach, again scored last year and, while cheek pieces went 0/14, four of them made the frame. Allied to Native River's Gold Cup win, I'm warming to the idea of cheekies on a chaser.

2019 Festival Update: Another cheekpieced chaser scored at huge odds, this time the veteran Croco Bay at a monster 66/1 (180 BSP). Two blinkered runners joined in as well, Any Second Now (6/1) and Beware The Bear (10/1) making it a great Festival for the headgear fencers.

2008-2019 Picture: Without getting too gung ho, it remains the case that chasers sporting headgear should not have their chance belittled on the basis of accoutrement.

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.

2018 Festival Update: Last year was non-standard in that all five handicap chase winners were aged six to eight. You'd have still lost money even focusing on that age bracket.

2019 Festival Update: The full spectrum was again covered, with Croco Bay's win at 12 being counter-punched by A Plus Tard's score as a five-year-old. The other three winners were aged six, seven and nine.

2008-2019 Picture: Very little in this angle, from a handicap chase collective perspective at least.

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.

2018 Festival Update: Incredibly, all five handicap chase winners last year were priced at single figure SP's. That's probably never happened before and will probably never happen again!

2019 Festival Update: After 2018's chalky quintet, 2019 largely followed suit with winners at 9/2, 5/1, 6/1, 10/1... and 66/1!

2008-2019 Picture: Backing all handicap chasers at 10/1 or shorter in the last two years would have won you nine of the ten main track races, and a profit of 20.5 points at SP (30+ at BSP). But longer term, since 2008, this no-brainer angle would have lost 10% ROI at starting price, though it would have made a small profit at exchange odds.

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.

2018 Festival Update: A good strategy this, as between them they saddled 30 runners in handicap chases, with just 15/2 Le Prezien in the final race of last year's Festival doing the business. Six of the 30 hit the frame.

2019 Festival Update: Again swerving this high profile quintet would have saved you money: their 21 runners yielded one winner - Beware The Bear (10/1) for a loss of 11 points.

2008-2019 Picture: Overall these chaps have nine handicap chase winners between them since 2008, from a whopping 310 runners! That's a 2.9% strike rate, an ROI of -54% and an A/E of 0.46. Compare that with all other runners in the handicap chases in the same period: 5.2% strike rate, ROI of -15% and an A/E of 0.87. Dodge these chaps.

 

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.

2018 Festival Update: The comment directly above was spot on. Just for the record the long-odds angle suggestion went 0/18 at last year's Cheltenham Festival.

2019 Festival Update: Surely nobody in their right mind would have followed this approach. But, if there was a contrarian nuts enough to have at it, he or she would have comfortably recouped last year's losses thanks to 66/1 winner, Croco Bay. He paid 180 at Betfair SP. That meant a profit of 32 points at starting price, and a monstrous one hit wonder return of 146 points at Betfair SP.

2020 Festival Angle: Nothing much really, though swerving the five named trainers will make life more manageable.

**

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!

2018 Festival Update: Nothing to add to the above, which pretty much nailed it at last year's show and may again provide valuable guidance this time around...

2019 Festival Update: These principles - they are guidelines rather than hard and fast rules - still largely hold true. I'd not be so negative about Paul Nicholls any more, with the exception of his (and those four other named trainers') handicap chasers; and I'm very interested in that emerging them in the Albert Bartlett: of all the Festival races at which to have a swing at a long price or three, that one is tops in my book.

However you play things, enjoy the ride, and be lucky!

Matt

2020 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY THREE (Thurs 12th March 2020)

Each day of the 2020 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 2020 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 

DAY THREE: Thursday 12th March 2020


13:30 Marsh Novices' Chase   2m 4f

2019 Winner: DEFI DU SEUIL 3/1 fav
Trainer – Philip Hobbs
Jockey – Barry Geraghty

Pluses….

  • 7 of the 9 winners were Irish-trained
  • The last 9 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • Willie Mullins has trained 4 of the last 9 winners
  • 7 of the last 9 winners had won a Graded Chase before
  • 7 of the last 9 winners had 7 or less runs over hurdles
  • 8 of the last 9 past winners had run at the Festival before (4 had won)
  • 8 of the 9 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 7 of the last 9 winners came from the top 2 in the betting
  • 8 of the last 9 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 8 of the last 9 winners returned 7/1 or shorter
  • 7 of the last 9 winners won last time out
  • 5 of the last 9 winners ran at Leopardstown last time out
  • 6 of the last 9 winners ran between 47-54 days ago
  • 7 year-olds have won 6 of last 9 renewals

Negatives….

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


14:10 Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle   3m

2019 Winner: SIRE DU BERLAIS 4/1 fav
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Barry Geraghty

Pluses….

  • 8 of the last 10 winners started their careers in bumpers (6) or points (2)
  • Irish have won the last 4 runnings
  • 9 of the last 12 winners placed in their last race (5 won)
  • 10 of the last 19 winners were from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • The last 9 winners were rated 138 or higher
  • 9 of the last 13 winners were rated between 132-142 (inc)
  • The last 9 winners were rated between 138-148
  • 9 of the last 15 winners had won over at least 2m7f
  • 10 of the last 13 winners had run 10 or less times over hurdles before
  • 8 of the last 19 winners won their last race
  • 3 of the last 11 winners finished in the first 5 in the Betfair Hurdle
  • Look for Jonjo O’Neill, Twiston-Davies, Mullins and Pipe-trained runners
  • Respect JP McManus-owned horses – won it again in 2019 too
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott has won the last two runnings
  • Jockey Davy Russell has ridden 3 of the last 4 winners

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses with less than 6 runs over hurdles
  • Horses that have won 3+ times that season are just 1 from 10
  • Since 2000 only 1 winner didn’t have a run that calendar year
  • 5 year-olds have won just twice since 1973
  • French-bred horses are currently on a run of 2-86
  • All horses rated 150+ since 2000 have failed to finish in the top 2
  • 2 winning favourites in last 14 years
  • Paul Nicholls is currently 0 from 18 (One third and two 2nds in the last 6 runnings)
  • Horses aged 7 or younger and priced in single-figures are just 3 from 41


14:50 Ryanair Chase   2m 5f

2019 Winner: FRODON (9/2)
Trainer – Paul Nicholls
Jockey – Bryony Frost

Pluses….

  • 21 of the 29 winners and runners-up had won at the course before
  • 6 of the last 7 winners were 2nd season chasers
  • 13 of the last 15 had won at Cheltenham previously
  • 9 of the last 12 winners had won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • The King George VI Chase is often a good guide (7 from 26)
  • The previous year’s renewal is often a good guide
  • 12 of the last 15 winners returned 6/1 or shorter
  • 7 of the last 8 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • 11 of the last 12 winners were rated 161+
  • 4 of the last 15 winners were placed in the top 3 in the Ascot Chase last time out
  • 11 of last 15 winners were fav or 2nd fav
  • 7 of the last 8 winners had 11 (or less) runs over fences
  • Trainers Jonjo O’Neill, David Pipe & Nicky Henderson are respected
  • Respect first time headgear (2 from 8)
  • 8 of the last 12 winners DIDN’T win last time out
  • Last 6 winners were French-bred

Negatives….

  • The Irish are 3 from 51 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 4 of the last 12 won last time out
  • All winners ran 4 or less times that season
  • No winner was having their Festival debut

 

15:30 Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle 3m


2019 Winner: PAISLEY PARK (11/8 fav)
Trainer – Emma Lavelle
Jockey – Aidan Coleman

 

Pluses….

  • 11 of the last 15 won last time out
  • 11 of the last 19 winners were second season hurdlers
  • 27 of the last 30 winners aged between 6-8 years-old
  • 17 of the last 19 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 8 of the last 18 were French Bred
  • Respect the Cleeve Hurdle and Long Walk Hurdle form
  • 15 of the last 18 winners finished 1st or 2nd in all their hurdling runs that season
  • 13 of the last 15 winners started 10/1 or less in the betting
  • Respect past winners of the race
  • 15 of the last 23 winners had won 7 or less times over hurdles

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses that didn’t finish either 1st or 2nd last time out (2 from 20)
  • A 5 year-old is yet to win the race
  • Horses that have lost previously in the race don’t fare well
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has only won the race twice
  • Avoid front runners
  • The Irish are have won the race just three times since 1995
  • Avoid horses that were beaten in the race before
  • Previous Albert Bartlett winners have an overall poor record (1 from 16)
  • Horses wearing headgear are 0 from 67
  • Horses aged 10 or older have all been beaten since 1986 (0 from 55)

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

2019 Winner: SIRUH DU LAC (9/2)
Trainer – Nick Williams
Jockey – Lizzie Kelly

Pluses….

  • 27 of the last 32 winners were officially rated 141 or less
  • 10 of the last 11 winners carried under 11-0
  • Look out for French-breds
  • 10 of the last 16 winners had won a race in Feb or March
  • Venetia Williams & Pipe-trained runners should be noted
  • The Pipe yard have won 7 of the last 22 runnings
  • 16 of the last 19 winners returned at double-figure odds
  • 20 of the last 28 winners had run at the Festival before (but 7 of last 9 were having Festival debut)
  • 19 of the last 20 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
  • 7 of the last 10 winners had 9 or less chase runs
  • 17 of the last 20 winners came from outside the top 4 in the market

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses that are yet to win at Class 3 or better
  • The Irish have only sent out 4 winners since 1951
  • 2 winning favourites in the last 14 years
  • Only 3 of last 25 won with 11st+
  • Winners of a chase at Cheltenham before have an overall poor record, but the 2019 winner did defy this trend.
  • Only 2 of the last 16 winners hadn’t run that calendar year

16:50 Daylesford Mares’ Novices Hurdle 2m1f


2019 Winner: EGLANTINE DU SEUIL 50/1
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Noel Fehily

  • A new race (Just four renewals)
  • Favourites have won 3 of the four runnings
  • 3 of the last 4 winners won last time out 3 of the 4 winners were French-bred
  • 3 of the 4 winners were unbeaten that season
  • Sullivan Bloodstock owners have won 2 of the 4 runnings (just 3 runners)
  • All four winners have been aged 5 years-old
  • Willie Mullins won the race in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019
  • Owner Rich Ricci has won 2 of the last 4 runnings

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


2019 Winner: ANY SECOND NOW (6/1)
Trainer – Ted Walsh
Jockey – Mr Derek O’Connor

Pluses….

  • Respect 8 and 9 year-olds
  • 9 of the last 12 winners failed to win earlier that season
  • 3 of the last 9 winners ran in the BetVictor Handicap Chase (Open Meeting)
  • The last 8 winners ran off a mark of 137 or more
  • 7 of the last 10 winners returned 9/1 or shorter (top three in the betting)
  • 8 of the last 10 winners carried 11st 5lbs+
    8 of the last 11 winners ran in February
  • Look for McCain, Pipe and Henderson-trained runners
  • Look for horses in the top half of the handicap
  • 18 of the last 20 winners ran over at least three miles in their last race
  • Look for non-claiming amateur riders
  • 8 of the last 9 winners wore headgear
  • 9 of the last 11 winners came from the top 6 in the market
  • Jockey Jamie Codd has ridden 4 of the last 11 winners
  • Jockey Derek O’Connor 2nd 3 times and 1st in 2019
    Owner JP McManus often does well in the race

Negatives….

  • Just three Irish winners for 36 years (but have won 3 of the last 6)
  • Horses that fell or unseated that season have a poor record
  • Avoid Paul Nicholls-trained horses – he’s just 1 placed horse from his last 21
  • 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 59 since 2005
  • Avoid claiming jockeys – 1 from 89 since 2009
  • Just 1 of the last 17 winners won last time out

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2021 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY TWO

Each day of the 2020 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 2020 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 

DAY TWO: Wednesday 11th March 2020

 

13:30 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle   2m 5f


2019 Winner: CITY ISLAND 8/1
Trainer –Martin Brassil
Jockey – Mark Walsh


Pluses….

  • 13 of the last 15 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 4 of the last 6 winners were unbeaten over hurdles
  • 9 of the last 11 winners came from the top two-rated on BHA ratings
  • 15 of the last 19 winners returned 17/2 or shorter
  • 19 of the last 25 winners won last time out
  • 24 of the last 25 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • The Irish have won 10 of the last 17 (5 of last 6)
  • Horses rated 150+ do well
  • The last 10 winners all won at least one bumper race
  • All of the last 14 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • In the last 9 runnings Irish-trained horses have filled 15 of the 27 top 3 places
  • 19 of the last 21 were NH bred
  • 13 of the last 21 had won a graded race before
  • Look for past Irish point-to-point winners (6 of the last 10 had won an Irish Point)
  • Respect Willie Mullins – 4 winners and 7 placed in last 15 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 55 (since 1988)
  • Only two of the last 34 winners came from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • The last 17 Challow Hurdle winners have all been beaten
  • Avoid ex-flat horses (since 2005 all have been beaten. 0 from 30 in the last 14 years)


14:10 RSA Chase   3m ½f

2019 Winner: TOPOFTHEGAME 4/1
Trainer – Paul Nicholls
Jockey – Harry Cobden

Pluses….

  • 4 of the last 11 winners ran in the Flogas Chase (Leopardstown, 4th Feb) that season
  • The last 18 winners had run in a Graded Novice Chase
  • 23 of the last 25 winners had only one previous season over hurdles
  • Respect 7 year-olds – won 11 of the last 13 (16 of last 20)
  • 9 of the last 14 winners won last time out
  • 7 of the last 10 winners were beaten on their chase debut
  • 7 of the last 12 winners had won a bumper before
  • 6 of the last 13 favourites won (50%)
  • Every winner since 1997 had their chase debut the previous year
  • Irish bred horses are 19 from the last 23
  • 8 of the last 13 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 Chase
  • 6 of the last 11 winners were trained in Ireland
  • Trainers Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls often do well in the race
  • 22 of the last 27 were novice hurdling last season
  • 4 of the last 10 winners ran in the Albert Bartlett the previous season
  • Look for horses that ran that same calendar year (51 of the last 53 winners had)
  • 10 of the last 13 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 horses that had had 2 full seasons over hurdles prior
  • Just 2 of the last 20 winners had run less than 3 times over fences
  • The last 21 winners of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Feltham, Kempton 26th Dec) have lost
  • Avoid unbeaten horses (only 2 of the last 20 winners)
  • Mares are currently 0-from-11 in the race
  • Horses in headgear are currently 0 from 29

14:50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle   2m 5f

2019 Winner: WILLIAM HENRY (28/1)
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Nico de Boinville

 

Pluses….

  • 11 of the last 15 were 2nd season hurdlers
  • 8 of the last 10 winners had run at the Festival before
  • 9 of the last 11 winners hailed from the top 8 horses in the weights
  • 8 of the last 11 winners were rated in the 140’s
  • 7 of the last 10 winners DIDN’T win last time out
  • 11 of the last 14 winners hailed form the top 7 in the betting
  • 18 of the last 25 winners won earlier that season
  • Respect JP McManus-owned runners
  • Respect trainers Nicky Henderson & Gordon Elliott (5 wins in last 10 years)
  • 9 of the last 18 winners were FRENCH-BRED
  • 13 of the last 26 won last time out
  • Respect Irish-trained runners (5 of the last 11)
  • Look for horses that had raced 4 or less times that season (last 11 winners)
  • 13 of the last 15 winners had run 32 days or longer ago (look for horses that have had a small break)
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott is 2 from 10
  • 5 year-olds do well from the small % that have run (win and place)

Negatives….

  • No winning favourite in the last 16 years
  • Only 3 winners since 2000 had run in 10+ hurdles races
  • Horses aged 10+ are just 3 from 305 to even place since 1999
  • Horses rated 150+ don’t have a great record, although the 2019 winner was rated 151
  • Only 4 of the last 19 winners had raced at the Festival previously
  • Only 3 winners since 2000 had run more than 9 times over hurdles
  • Willie Mullins won the race in 2018 and had the second in 2019, but overall has a bad record – 35 runners – just two placed inside the top 2

 

15:30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase   2m

2019 Winner: ALTIOR 4/11 fav
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Nico de Boinville

Pluses….

  • 12 of the last 19 winners ran in the Tingle Creek Chase that season
  • 4 of the last 7 winners also won the Clarence House Chase (Ascot) that season
  • 23 of the last 35 had won at the Festival before
  • Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson have won 8 of the last 12 between them
  • Nicky Henderson has won 5 of the last 8
  • 14 of the last 18 winners won last time out
  • 16 of the last 17 winners had run that calendar year
  • 36 of the last 38 winners returned 10/1 or shorter
  • 15 of the last 20 winners returned 5/1 or shorter
  • 6 of the last 13 winners were French-bred
  • 11 of the last 17 winners were second season chasers
  • 13 of the last 15 winners had run 2 or 3 times that season
  • 17 of the last 21 winners came from the top 3 in the betting
  • 15 of the last 20 winners ran in the previous season’s Arkle or Champion Chase
  • 6 of the last 10 Arkle winners (previous season) to run have won
  • Past champions do well – 13 horses have won the CC more than once

Negatives….

  • Only two winners priced 11/1 or bigger in the last 37 years
  • Just 1 winner in last 15 had run 4+ times that season
  • Horses that didn’t run in that calendar year are 1-from-30
  • Top Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, is yet to win this race
  • Just 1 of the last 18 winners hadn’t won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • 12 of the last 14 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
  • Be wary of horses older than 10 – just 2 winners since 1977
  • Only 3 winners aged 6 or younger in the last 46 years
  • Just one 11 year-old winner in the last 41 years


16:10 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase   3m 7f

2019 Winner: TIGER ROLL 5/4 fav
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Keith Donoghue

Pluses….

  • The Irish have won 13 of the last 15 runnings
  • Respect Enda Bolger-trained runners (won the race 5 times)
  • 18 of the last 22 winners came from the top three in the betting
  • 8 of the last 15 ran in the December Cross Country race here
  • Respect Nina Carberry, Richard Johnson and Davy Russell-ridden horses (8 from 16 between them)
  • 12 or the last 15 winners were aged 10 or younger
  • Trainer Philip Hobbs is 2 from 10 (5 placed in the top 5 too)
  • Gordon Elliott has won the last 3 runnings
  • 3 of the last 5 winners were owned by the Gigginstown Stud House

Negatives….

  • Debutants over these fences/course have a poor record
  • Avoid horses aged 7 or younger – they are only 2 from 97
  • Horses rated 126 or less have a very poor record
  • Trainer Willie Mullins is 0 from 12
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls is 0 from 13


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

2019 Winner: BAND OF OUTLAWS7/2 fav
Trainer – Joseph O’Brien
Jockey – J J Slevin  

Pluses….

  • 10 of the last 15 winners had run just 3 times over hurdles before
  • French bred horses have a good record
  • Respect Fillies
  • 7 of the last 9 winners all came from the bottom half of the weights/handicap
  • 10 of the last 15 had run in the last 25 days
  • David Pipe, Paul Nicholls, Gordon Elliot and Alan King-trained horses often do well
  • 6 of the last 8 winners returned between 25/1 and 40/1
  • 10 of the last 15 winners returned a double-figure price
  • Respect horses wearing headgear
  • 12 of the last 15 winners were ALL rated between 124-134
  • 8 of the last 12 winners were British-trained
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has won 3 of the last 10 runnings
  • 11 of the last 15 winners had won no more than once over hurdles

 

Negatives….

  • Just 1 recent winner had last raced in January or further back
  • Trainers Willie Mullins, Philip Hobbs and Venetia Williams are 0 from 32 between them
  • Willie Mullins runners are 0 from 14 (just 1 placed in top 5 too)
  • Only 3 winners had run in a handicap hurdle before
  • No winner had raced at Cheltenham before
  • Horses with 2+ wins over hurdles are 0 from the last 10 years
  • British-bred runners are currently 0-51

 

17:30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper   2m ½f

2019 Winner: ENVOI ALLEN 2/1 fav
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Jamie Codd

Pluses….

  • 25 of the last 27 had won last time out (all of last 16)
  • 20of the last 27 winners trained in Ireland
  • Respect Irish-trained runners (20 from 36)
  • 4 of the last 10 winners were won by UK-based trainers
  • 18 of the last 27 came from the top 6 in the betting
  • 20 of the last 27 were Irish-bred
  • 10 of the last 19 winners were second season horses
  • 13 of the last 14 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 17 of the last 27 winners aged 5 years-old
  • 17 of the last 19 had their debut runs in Ireland
  • 11 of the last 17 had been beaten in a race before
  • 6 of the last 10 winners returned between 14/1 and 40/1
  • Respect Willie Mullins (9 winners) – also had first three in 2018, but is just 3 from last 35 runners
  • The Irish lead the British 21-7 in the race history
  • Gordon Elliott has won 2 of the last 3 runnings
  • 9 of the last 17 winners came from the top 3 in the betting

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses with 4 or more NH Flat runs
  • Just 2 winners failed to win last time out
  • 4 year-olds are 1 from 60 since 2000 (Cue Card)
  • Gigginstown, Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson don’t often focus on the race

 

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2021 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY ONE

Each day of the 2020 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 2020 Cheltenham Festival for you!

 

DAY ONE: Tuesday 10th March 2020


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

2019 Winner: KLASSICAL DREAM 6/1
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Ruby Walsh

Pluses…..

  • 20 of the last 23 winners won their last race
  • 14 of the last 16 winners had raced in at least 4 hurdles races before
  • 8 of the last 10 winners came from the first 4 in the market
  • The last 8 winners have all won a graded novice hurdle before
  • 19 of the last 25 winners ran in the last 45 days
  • Irish-trained horses have won 16 of the last 28 runnings
  • 5 & 6 year-olds have the best record – winning 14 of the last 15 runnings
  • Willie Mullins has won the race 5 times since 2007 and for 4 of the last 7 years
  • 23 of the last 25 winners had raced that same calendar year
  • Owner Rich Ricci & trainer Willie Mullins have won 3 of the last 7 runnings.

Negatives…..

  • Horses that FAILED to win last time out before coming here are just 3 from the last 23. In other words, look for horses that won last time out!
  • Since 1992 all horses (37) wearing head-gear have been beaten
  • We’ve seen just two ex-flat horses win since 2008
  • Just 2 of the last 17 winners came here unbeaten
  • Betfair Hurdle winners are 0-from-7 in the last decade
  • Nicky Henderson is 1 from 36 since 1993 (Altior his only winner for this period)

 

 

14:10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase   2m

2019 Winner: DUC DES GENIEVRES 5/1
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend

 

Pluses….

  • 12 of the last 15 winners had won (or been placed) at Cheltenham before
  • 12 of the last 15 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 chase before
  • 14 of the last 20 had won a Grade 1 or 2 Chase that season
  • The last 10 winners won last time out (plus 15 of the last 19)
  • 19 of the last 20 winners returned 9/1 or shorter
  • 12 of the last 13 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 12 of the last 16 winners at run at the Cheltenham Festival previously
  • 11 of the last 19 winners were the top or second top-rated hurdler in the field
  • Nicky Henderson has won the race 6 times
  • Willie Mullins has won 4 of the last 5 runnings (all French-bred)

Negatives…..

  • Only 2 of the last 33 winners failed to win of finish second last time out
  • Just two of the last 29 winners started 11/1 or bigger in the betting
  • Only 3 of the last 28 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
  • 5 year-olds are 0-11 in the last 12 years
  • 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 

2019 Winner: BEWARE THE BEAR 10/1
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Jeremiah McGrath

 

Pluses….

  • 15 of the last 20 winners were officially rated 143 or less
  • 14 of the last 19 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 16 of the last 20 winners returned 11/1 or shorter
  • 14 of the last 19 were novices or second season chasers
  • 7 of the last 12 winners were rated between 142-146 (6 between 142-145)
  • Horses rated 140+ have won 12 of the last 19 runnings
  • 9 of the last 17 won last time out
  • Horses that have run well in the race before have a good record
  • 3 of the last 10 winners ran in the Cleeve Hurdle that season
  • 7 of the last 8 winners wore headgear
  • 8 of the last 10 winners had run at Cheltenham that season
  • Jonjo O’Neill, Alan King, Nicky Henderson, Tony Martin & David Pipe are trainers to note
  • All winners since 2000 had won over 3m+ before
  • The last 5 winners ran at Cheltenham’s January meeting

Negatives….

  • Be a bit wary of horses carrying 11-04 or more in weight – 9 of the last 15 carried 10-12 or less, although the 2017 winner carried 11-12 & the 2019 winner won with 11-8
  • 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 23
  • Only 1 winner in the last 11 hadn’t raced at a previous Festival
  • Only 4 winners since 2000 have returned bigger than 11/1
  • The Irish have won just 2 of the last 51 runnings (since 1967)

 

15:30 Unibet Champion Hurdle   2m ½f

2019 Winner: ESPOIR D’ALLEN 16/1
Trainer – Gavin Cromwell
Jockey – Mark Walsh

Pluses….

  • 30 of the last 36 won last time out
  • Horses unbeaten that season often do well (7 of last 9)
  • The Irish and Nicky Henderson have won 17 of the last 21 runnings between them
  • The Irish have won 13 of the last 21 runnings
  • Owner JP McManus has won 5 of the last 10 (8 in total)
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has won 4 of the last 9 runnings
  • 9 of the last 13 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 12 of the last 21 winners had won at the Festival before
  • 23 of the last 35 winners were placed in the first 4 at the previous season’s festival
  • The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is a good guide (4 winners, 4 places in last 12 runnings)
  • 14 of the last 24 winners started as flat horses
  • Look for horses that have raced at least once that calendar year
  • Trainer Nicky Henderson has won the race 7 times, including two of the last 3 years
  • 5 of the last 11 winners contested the Christmas Hurdle (Kempton)

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses that failed to finish in the top three last time out
  • 5 year-olds are just 2 from 102 since 1985, but the 2019 winner was a 5 year-old
  • Since 1927 we’ve only seen 2 winners aged 10 or older (0-28 in the last 37 runnings)
  • Just 1 of the last 13 winners had raced more than 12 times over hurdles
  • Christmas Hurdle (Kempton, 26th Dec) winners are just 3 from 27
  • Just 2 horses have regained the race since 1975

 

16:10 Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle   2m 4f

2019 Winner: ROKSANA 10/1
Trainer – Dan Skelton
Jockey – Harry Skelton

 

Pluses….

  • Follow Irish-trained mares (10 of last 12)
  • The favourite (or 2nd fav) have won 10 of the last 12 runnings
  • 7 of the last 12 favourites have won
  • 11 of the last 12 winners had won over at least 2m4f
  • Willie Mullins have trained 9 of the last 11 winners
  • Look for Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Paul Nolan & Alan King runners
  • Novices generally do well
  • 9 of the last 12 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 before
  • 6 of the last 8 winners had won over 2m6f+ before
  • Horses that began their careers in bumpers have done well
  • Respect French-bred mares – won 9 renewals
  • 10 of the last 12 winners had won (or placed) in a graded race against the males

Negatives….

  • Avoid front-runners
  • British-bred mares are currently 0-78 (only 7 have been placed)
  • All 27 runners to wear headgear have been beaten (just 1 placed)
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs and Noel Meade runners
  • No ex-flat horses have won the race yet

16:50 Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase   2m 4½f

2019 Winner: A PLUS TARD
Trainer – Henry De Bromhead
Jockey – Rachael Blackmore

 

Pluses….

  • 11 of the last 15 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 11 of the last 12 winners had run 3 or 4 times over fences
  • 14 of the last 15 winners had won no more than twice over fences (11 had won no more than once)
  • 14 of the last 15 winners raced in the last 45 days
  • Respect 6 and 7 year-olds
  • 3 of the last 7 winners ran in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase
  • 6 of the last 15 winners had run at the Festival before
  • Look for any horses wearing first-time headgear
  • 6 of last 11 won last time out
  • 8 of the last 13 winners had run in a bumper race before
  • 13 of the last 15 winners returned 12/1 or shorter
  • Respect JP McManus-owned runners (1 win, 3 2nds, 1 3rd)
  • Respect 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 15 runnings
  • Look for horses rated 141 or higher

 

17:30 National Hunt Challenge Chase   3m6f

2019 Winner: LE BREUIL 14/1
Trainer – Ben Pauling
Jockey – Jamie Codd

 

Pluses…..

  • 11 of the last 18 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 10 of the last 14 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • Favourites have won 3 of the last 10 runnings
  • 4 of the last 9 winners were top-rated
  • 5 of the last 9 winners had run in a Grade One Novice Chase that season
  • 7 of the last 13 had run in a chase at Cheltenham before that season
  • 7 of the last 10 winners had run at a previous Cheltenham Festival
  • Note horses wearing headgear
  • 7 of the last 9 winners were rated 145 (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 14 rides)
  • Derek O’Connor, Jamie Codd & Patrick Mullins have won 6 of the last 9 (2 each)
  • Gordon Elliott has won the race 3 times from just 7 runners

Negatives….

  • 5 and 6 year-olds are just 2 from 80 since 1989
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has NEVER won this race - he’s currently 0 from 18
  • Trainer Nicky Henderson has NEVER won this race
  • Horses with less than 3 chase starts don’t fare well
  • Horses rated in the 130’s have a poor record (1 from 8)

 

 

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Festival Reflections 2019

The stands have once again fallen silent after four breathless days of racing on Cleeve Hill, and the Cheltenham Festival 2019 is now confined to the memory banks and the history books. It was a captivating, challenging, emotional roller coaster of a week; these are my Festival reflections.

Champion Hurdler?

In the build up to the opening day, pundits and punters alike were relishing a duel between Apple's Jade and Buveur d'Air - or in some cases a three-way-go including Laurina - but what came to pass was one of those everyday 'you couldn't script it' scenarios for which racing's glorious uncertainty is known.

First, Apple's Jade was taken on at a helter-skelter lick by Melon, her chance seemingly compromised by this manoeuvre as she faded tamely into sixth. Meanwhile, reigning two-time champ, Buveur d'Air - with his trademark slick low jumping - took a liberty, and a consequential tumble, at the third flight. In so doing, he brought down Sharjah.

With the top two out of the race, as well as one of the key form line horses, surely it was Laurina's Champion Hurdle to lose? Lose it she did, the talk of her ascendancy proving some way wide of the mark. She was the only one of the supposed main three that had the chance to run her race, and she failed big time on this step up in grade. No obvious excuses there.

For Apple's Jade, it was a fourth visit to Cheltenham and a third defeat at a track where she seems to be beset by misfortune whether it's being in season, getting compromised on the lead or something else. It is not unreasonable to assume, given the full body of her work, that she is unsuited by the track.

And what of the winner and the placed horses? Espoir d'Allen, a progressive five-year-old bringing an eight-from-nine career record to the party, enhanced that to nine out of ten on this second attempt at Grade 1 company. He was soundly enough beaten in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle, his sole previous G1 effort, in February last year but may have been unsuited to the steady pace there.

This was fiercely run. Mark Walsh sat in midfield, away from the crazy tempo up top and, avoiding the fallers, came through almost in his own time to saunter fifteen lengths clear of a gallant but spent Melon, with 80/1 poke Silver Streak back in third.

Handicapping the race is difficult, especially for those intent on literal interpretations. Fortunately, some clever bods - notably Simon Rowlands in this piece on the ATR website - have confirmed what the peepers were suggesting: that they went way too fast early and slowed up dramatically late.

To contextualise that, Rowlands notes that the Champion Hurdle was run four seconds - about twenty lengths - faster to the third flight, and yet the differential at the line was a mere two-and-a-half lengths. Pace collapse territory. That enabled Mark Walsh and Espoir d'Allen to record even fractions throughout in a sort of tortoise and hare setup - if it's not beyond rude to refer to a Champion Hurdler as a tortoise!

The fact that Melon, spoiler-in-chief for the favourite, was able to cling valiantly to second in spite of running remarkably inefficiently anchors the form in my book. Five-year-olds have a notoriously weak record in the Champion Hurdle and, while that alone is far from sufficient to crab the victor, the nature of the run of the race with - as Rowlands again notes - the first six home in the Supreme bettering the Champion Hurdle runner-up's time leads me to downgrade the race in form terms.

Projecting to this time next year, Espoir can certainly win another Champion Hurdle: he'll be a year older and stronger, and he has that crucial track experience to boot. But he's a lousy price at 7/2 in a place (6/1 tops still not enticing). Buveur d'Air will be nine next year, an age that didn't stop Hurricane Fly or Rooster Booster this century, and won't stop him if his appetite is undiminished after this spill. Apple's Jade will surely not contest this again; ditto Laurina. Melon at 25/1 could be interesting each way though he's shown himself to be beatable, albeit in very different setups and where he's run above himself both times.

But the one which might be most appealing for long-range forecasters is City Island. The Ballymore winner has a much better record than the Supreme winner in the Champion Hurdle, and Martin Brassil's six-year-old was comfortably the best with all the right horses close enough behind to suggest there was no fluke to the performance. Enthusiasm for the 33/1 is tempered markedly by connections referencing the Stayers' Hurdle (for which he is 20/1) as his target in post-race debriefs; with that in mind, splitting stakes may be more sensible (if taking a price 359 days before an event is ever sensible).

*

National Hunt Chase 'Disgrace'

The National Hunt Chase is the second oldest race at the Festival, after the Grand Annual, but it has been run the most times due to the latter named being dropped for a chunk of the late 1800's - so wikipedia tells me, anyway. I also learn there that the race was considered the second most important, after the Grand National, in the calendar until the 1930's.

It is a four mile race for novice chasers ridden by amateur riders. For as long as I've been blogging and previewing Cheltenham - which is eleven years now, gulp - I've made mildly condescending noises about it. That's because I'm not a traditionalist, you see; I view most races through the prism of the sport as I see it and, naturally, as a wagering conduit.

This year, with welfare and good intentions aforethought, a number of jockeys in the race - notably Declan Lavery, who rode third placed Jerrysback - got into hot water with the stewards for persisting when their horses were considered by the arbiters to be too tired. These decisions have been roundly lambasted by horsemen of all vintages.

I am neither a traditionalist, as mentioned, nor a horseman, and additionally I have sympathy with the less militant parts of the welfare lobby, which leads me to an often conflicted head space on jump racing, a pursuit I love more deeply than flat racing. In that confused context, here's where I've got to: there WAS a problem in the National Hunt Chase - there simply has to be when, despite changes to attract a better class of horse and despite amateur jockeys being closer to their professional counterparts in ability terms than at any other time in history, eighteen horses set out and only four finished.

Of the fourteen non-completions, eight fell, one of which sustained fatal injuries.

Quite frankly, that is bullshit.

I happened to watch the race with a fairly senior member of the BHA, and we both audibly winced when the wonderful mare Atlanta Ablaze came down two out. It was a bridge too far for a pair of hardened NH spectators.

Here's the thing: this race is hideously anachronistic. It is probably twenty years past its sell by date, hence the ongoing tinkering with its conditions.

I know that the trads will lobby for its retention and I understand the reasons why. But it cannot be countenanced for another year in its current format. Blaming the jockeys for trying their best in a race which makes extraordinary demands of both humans and equines, each group inexperienced in the context of the meeting as a whole, is big-time deflection.

The issue here is the race, or rather its conditions. Here is a suggestion, not intended as a 'we should do this' blueprint, but as a strawman starting point to be discussed, pulled apart, iterated and refined.

The National Hunt Chase should be run over three and a half miles. It would still be the longest main track race at the Festival but it would be one-eighth less attritional. It should be contested only by horses with a defined level of experience and also, potentially, with an approved level of jumping ability. It should have a ratings ceiling to prevent the dilution of the RSA Chase, and a floor to prevent horses being outclassed and put at risk. Horses should be six or older (almost all are), and carry eleven stone rather than 11-06 (and jockeys will have to be able to do the weight without wasting/fasting). Jockeys should have a defined level of ability/experience to ride.

All of the above would make the race less testing; none of the above would make the race less compelling. Let's sort this crap out and stop blaming jockeys for the errors of history and the programme book.

*

Joyful Thursday

If racing has a propensity to shoot itself in the foot, it also continues to produce human (and equine) interest stories of almost universal appeal. Last Thursday's racing looks set to be as enduring as it was endearing - it truly was one of the great days of racing.

Victory for the resurgent former Triumph Hurdler, Defi Du Seuil, was a terrific start. JP McManus is one of the more likeable of racing's mega-rich, for all that he is domiciled in Switzerland for tax efficiency purposes (he does distribute funds across a number of sports in Britain and Ireland which, I guess, is a more expedient direct contribution to racing), and his colours were worn to victory three times on this day.

Defi is a bit of a forgotten horse in a way. Considering he's won eleven of his sixteen races, and five of seven races at Cheltenham, he has been spoken of in somewhat disrespectful tones in the lead up to the JLT Chase. But he showed his usual class and some of his more occasional mettle to repel a regular rival, Lostintranslation, and confirm the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase form. This was the first winner of the Scilly Isles to double up in the JLT, breaking a sequence of second places.

That was but an amuse bouche for a couple of scintillating main courses. Before those, there was the Geraghty master class on Sire du Berlais, a horse that was sent off 4/1 favourite but traded as high as 240 in running. He looked cooked but BJG conjured a magic ride to get by one challenger and repel another in a tight finish.

Then came those delicious appetisers, starting with the Ryanair. This is a race which has been - rightly, in my view - called out in the past as a hiding place for second tier Champion Chase or Gold Cup prospects; but the 2019 renewal was a proper horse race, one packed with legitimate two-and-a-half-milers and legitimate Grade 1 horses.

From the veteran Un De Sceaux to Gold Cup non-staying fourth, Road To Respect, to Arkle victor, Footpad, to Cheltenham specialist, Frodon, all were worthy players for whom, with the possible exception of Footpad, this was undoubtedly the right race. Chuck in last year's winner Balko des Flos and another winner from Festival 2018, The Storyteller, as well as high class second season chaser, Monalee, and it was truly a deep and classy field.

Sometimes such setups disappoint, runners failing to show their true ability left and right. Not this time. It was a super race from start to finish, with a fairy tale outcome.

Frodon, incredibly, has only recently celebrated his seventh birthday and yet seems to have been around forever. Since joining Paul Nicholls he's made Cheltenham home, winning five of nine chase starts at the track. That palmarès was rounded off prior to Joyful Thursday by a huge performance off 164 (and top weight) in handicap company, and a battling victory in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase over a trip beyond his comfort zone. Here he added a first Grade 1 success in typical front-running heart-on-sleeve style.

In the aftermath it was left to Frodon's rider, Bryony Frost, to speak for her horse. Her affection for their partnership, her joy at what they'd just achieved together, and her youth and exuberance are the sorts of PR racing can't buy. Her post-race anthropomorphism of Frodon to any microphone that was turned on was beautifully sincere, faintly bonkers and, frankly, absolutely bloody marvellous. That Bryony adorned many of the newspaper front pages as well as their other covers on Friday morning was a much-needed shot in the arm for a sport sometimes struggling for relevancy in a world that increasingly fails to 'get it'.

And, if that wasn't enough, Cheltenham Thursday - so often the poor relation of the four day meeting - was able to sustain the Festival feel-good factor through the day's other championship event, the Stayers' Hurdle. This time it was Andrew Gemmell, a racing nut who has been blind since birth, who was the centre of attention.

His Festival had already been noteworthy when Discorama, a horse he part owns, ran a brave second in the National Hunt Chase. But this lad, owned outright and a strong favourite for the long distance hurdle crown, was the one that carried his hopes and dreams. Trained by Emma Lavelle and ridden by Aidan Coleman, both seeking their first Festival Grade 1's, those who could watch the race were left in no doubt from some way out about who would win; at least not until a horlicks at the last which would have floored a more fatigued horse.

Gemmell, reliant on the on-course commentary, would also have heard a cacophony of gasps to attest to the late drama which unfolded at the final flight. But Paisley Park, and Coleman and Lavelle, and Andrew Gemmell were not to be denied this joyful moment on Joyful Thursday.

What a day of racing that was. Alas, racing is never all 'up'.

*

Triumph and Disaster

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

Kipling's these days almost trite verse about the journey to manhood will rarely have been more apposite than in the case of the boy-man Joseph O'Brien and the emerging brilliance of his four-year-old, Sir Erec. O'Brien is more than a chip off the old block, he is a carbon copy of the determination, diligence and intelligence of his father, Aidan.

Not 26 until May and rider of the winners of two Derby's, a 2000 Guineas and a St Leger, he already has a Classic victory and a Melbourne Cup win as a trainer. Although not named on the license at the time of Ivanovich Gorbatov's Triumph Hurdle win of 2016, he was widely rumoured to have been the trainer then; this was his chance to get a first Grade 1 win at the Festival.

But disaster tragically did strike. On the landing side of the fourth flight, Sir Erec broke a leg - I'm not sure how, I haven't been able to bring myself to watch the recording yet - leading to his inevitable euthanizing.

As I've already said, I'm an animal lover and a fan of the sport. In these days of heightened sensitivity in all walks of life - it sometimes feels like we're returning to a 17th century puritanical era - harmonising those two attributes, animal lover/NH fan, is increasingly difficult to explain to those who don't follow the game.

How can you love a sport where horses of the quality, beauty and, yes, purity of Sir Erec are allowed to be sacrificed? It's a deep and nuanced question, and it has different answers depending on who is asking. It's a huge issue, maybe for another day, but suffice it to say that I was reminded of Our Conor and that difficult day, and the nausea in the pit of the stomach remained through the rest of Friday afternoon.

But there is more to life. Indeed, JPOB probably couched it better than anyone when he was quoted as follows:

Horse racing in the moment is everything, but when we pull our heads from the trough and see the stuff going on outside...

*

Gold Cup win no silver lining

We need to talk about Willie. Again. Some won't hear of such as what is to follow, but the evidence is growing and only faintly masked by the excellent performance of Al Boum Photo in winning the Gold Cup. At a time when, as mentioned already, racing is fighting a battle against a rising tide of animal welfare sympathisers, faller - and especially fatality - rates are something which are going to be closely scrutinised.

Any horse can fall of course, and misfortune is as accepted as it is unwelcome in the winter game. But some incur greater levels of misfortune than others. To paraphrase the peerless Oscar Wilde (without intention to belittle the subject),

To lose one horse may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness

The Mullins stable saddled two of the three horses fatally injured at last week's Festival.

Obviously that's a tiny number and could easily be noise. Indeed it is very likely noise in and of itself. But, when looking at larger datasets, we see a similar pattern. Here, for instance, are the fall/unseat rates at this year's Festival:

Total Fall/Unseat - 32/498 (6.4%)
WPM Fall/Unseat - 5/59 (8.5%)

That's still a tiny sample, so let's expand to 2009+ at the Festival, eleven years and all of the data in geegeez.co.uk's Query Tool:

Total Fall/Unseat -  368/5315 (6.9%)
Total Fall/Unseat excl WPM - 327/4852 (6.8%)
WPM Fall/Unseat - 41/463 (8.9%)

Regardless of how many more competitive runners the trainer has, this is a significant outlier at the top of an unwelcome chart. Comparing with his most immediate Cheltenham Festival peers - Messrs. Elliott (14/181, 7.7%), Henderson (19/401, 4.7%) and Nicholls (23/321, 7.2%) - fails to improve the picture by relativity.

And yet still some may contend that the samples are too small. So, as one final set of data, here are the fall/unseat figures (chase races only) for all starters in UK and Irish races since 1st January 2015 for a select group of top trainers:

 

 

The obvious next question is, "Why?".

It is not for me to answer that: I don't have any 'in' on the yard nor do I think value is added by speculating on the basis of nothing. However, I will reference this quote from the trainer regarding Cilaos Emery, a horse who missed the Festival, that might just offer a window on this world:

He pulled a muscle schooling in Navan the other day. That's why you didn't see him this morning. We'll have to wait and see how he's going to come out of it. If he doesn't come out of it in the next seven days, then I think we might have to draw stumps for Cheltenham. That's a disappointment, but when you school them you take your chance.

When you school them you take your chance...

*

Give Back Friday

On a wagering note, the week went well for me personally, and also for keen followers of the previews I penned on here. 40/1 advised William Henry was an obvious highlight from an odds perspective, though I was far more invested in shorter-priced runners, including my biggest bets of the week on Road To Respect - who blew his chance by bungling all of the last three fences - and Native River, who ran a creditable race which was only good enough for fourth. I'd had an overstaked each way bet on Anibale Fly at 33/1 which took some of the heat out of the Gold Cup situation but that, and small nibbles at big prices on Hazel Hill, could not quite cover the Friday losers elsewhere.

The County Hurdle (We Have A Dream 2nd at 25/1), Grand Annual (failed to have a small bet on the 66/1 winner, first time I've not backed him in four spins in this race) and Martin Pipe (over-staked bet on Dallas Des Pictons 2nd at 7/2) are races where you're not supposed to pick up. In fact the first and last of that trio were perfectly gettable - just not by me.

Adding into that a personal and perennial inability to identify the winners of either the Gold Cup or Triumph Hurdle, and the crap shoot that is the Albert Bartlett and oftentimes the Foxhunters as well, you'll see why I consider it 'Give Back Friday'; though of course that assumes that you've borrowed some off those lovely bookie types from Tuesday to Thursday.

*

How was it for you? Feel free to leave a comment below - I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Matt

 

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:

 

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

Ayr Sprint Cups and the Draw…

Ayr's Western meeting is headlined by the Gold Cup, a very high class six furlong handicap. Such is its popularity that the meeting also hosts not one but two consolation races, the Silver and Bronze Cups.

What that means is a reasonable body of big field evidence from which to conjecture about the draw. Geegeez Gold also has some pretty neat tools to support those ruminations.

First, we need to establish the likely going. With a largely dry forecast, the ground should be somewhere between good and good to soft by Saturday, when the Silver and Gold Cups are hosted. Today, the official going is soft, good to soft in places. We'll use the history of all big field six furlong sprints since 2009 at the track.

 

Ayr 6 Furlong Draw (Overall)

Here's how the high/middle/low split looks in six furlong races of 16 runners or more since 2009 at Ayr:

All 16+ runner 6f races at Ayr since 2009

All 16+ runner 6f races at Ayr since 2009

 

As you can see, low is marginally favoured over middle, which in turn is favoured over high. That's based on place percentages across a sample of almost 600 runners.

 

Ayr 6 Furlong Draw (Good, Good to Soft, Soft only)

Because we have a reasonable (relative to other course/distance combinations) sample size, we can restrict our going range to something closer to this weekend's reality. In this image, I'm looking only at soft to good ground:

Ayr big field 6 furlong races on good, good to soft, or soft ground

Ayr big field 6 furlong races on good, good to soft, or soft ground

 

Here we can see that low is still favoured, though not by as much, with high some way behind. All of these views show the place percentage, which allows for a slightly largely sample of placers than winners. Focusing only on winners would show a similar 'low and middle dominating high' perspective.

 

A More Granular Look...

So that's cut and dried then, no? Low to middle favoured. High can win but historically not so much. Sadly, it's not quite as simple as that. Look at this race-by-race breakdown of the draw positions of the placed horses in 16+ runners six furlong races run at Ayr on ground ranging from good through to soft, since 2009.

 

Ayr 6f place draw breakdown, 16+ runners

Ayr 6f place draw breakdown, 16+ runners

 

What is striking - to me - is how 'random' the spread of stall positions is. But look more closely and you might be able to discern a 'cluster' effect: groups of proximitous stalls appearing in the same result.

 

Holy Clusters, Batman!

Last year, the Gold Cup first four were in stalls between four and nine; and the Silver Cup saw three of the first four home in adjacent boxes two to four. Indeed, in the image below we can see how prevalent this place clustering actually is.

 

Ayr 6f big field place clustering

Ayr 6f big field place clustering

 

Note the red comments, where three or all four placed horses came from a small portion of the draw. This starts to look anything but random. And yet, we still have the challenge of establishing, ahead of time, where these 'pockets of success' might be. The crucial thing is that, over the course of seven years, they have - on different occasions - been spread across the track.

 

What About Pace?

So perhaps there is no discernible draw bias. Is that possible? In the below table, I've added some early pace information. Below the table, I'll explain what it means.

 

Effect and location of early pace in 6f big field Ayr sprints

Effect and location of early pace in 6f big field Ayr sprints

 

This was somewhat labour intensive, and is a little bit subjective, in terms of using pace comments to determine those with early dash in the races. However, as a totality, I think there are some interesting findings.

The green numbers in the placing boxes are placed horses that had early pace in the race. The stall positions, quantity, and placed quantity, of early pacers are in the three right hand columns.

Of the 460 runners to contest these 19 races, 76 filled out the first four placings (16.5%). The 131 early pacers (28.5% of the runners) managed to claim 29 of the 76 top four placings (38%), which is a third higher than random.

So we can be reasonably confident that early pace is generally favoured in these races, something borne out by Gold's pace tab:

 

Performance, by run style, of all 6f races at Ayr since 2009

Performance, by run style, of all 6f races at Ayr since 2009

 

The table below the blobs shows a clear linear relationship, especially on place percentage, by run style. Early leaders are almost twice as likely to win than random, while those held up perform significantly below expectations. Of course, the 'tail end Charlie' group includes a lot of no-hopers in open race company, which over-emphasizes the point but, nevertheless, a prominent/front rank early position is generally advantageous.

Although the data are far from unequivocal - sadly, pigeonholes rarely work effectively when trying to solve the biggest racing puzzles - it would seem that pace is a more important commodity than draw, although being drawn close to some 'community pace' looks a solid advantage.

 

Who's going to win? Bronze Cup

This is the bit where I put my money where my mouth is. Using the info above, as well as the Instant Expert and various other bits and bobs, I'll offer a suggestion or two. Keep in mind that the scope for egg on face here is high, so caveat emptor!

Pretty much all of the early zip looks to be low, as you can see here:

Ayr Bronze Cup: pace looks to be low

Ayr Bronze Cup: pace looks to be low

 

Here's what the Instant Expert makes of the form in the book:

Instant Expert's view of the Bronze Cup

Instant Expert's view of the Bronze Cup

 

Ocean Sheridan, drawn nine, and a fan of softish ground, has shown he can handle big fields and is a distance specialist. He represents a northern trainer who targets the meeting, and should run a big race at around 10/1.

Giant Spark has an obvious chance, one which is very well accounted for in a quote of 5/1.

At bigger prices, Marjorie Fife's Best Trip could blaze a trail for a long way, and come out best of her three entries. 25/1 should give a run for your money at least.

A good egg on face avoidance strategy is to take one from 'the other side' just in case (!), and Adrian Keatley's Anonymous Lady has plenty of juice in her quote of 25/1. Keatley showed yesterday he's in fine fettle, and has a belting overall record at the track.

Adrian Keatley's Anonymous Lady may be drawn on the wrong side, but she has a decennt profile otherwise

Adrian Keatley's Anonymous Lady may be drawn on the wrong side, but she has a decent profile otherwise

 

Who's going to win? Gold and Silver Cups

Here at geegeez, we try to teach people to fish, as the old adage goes, and we have top of the range rods and bait inside Geegeez Gold. So it is that, with a nod of encouragement, I invite you to do your own angling for a tasty fish supper in Saturday's races. If you come up dry, don't carp about it though (groan)!

Good luck,
Matt

 

p.s. Geegeez Gold is £30 monthly but, for the next few days only, you can secure a huge discount by signing up as an annual subscriber. £197 gets you twelve months' access here: http://www.geegeez.co.uk/invest-in-gold/

Please note: Annual subs will rise for new annual subscribers only to £249 from next Monday, 19th September. If you're on a trial, or have already upgraded to Annual, you will be unaffected by the price rise and will be 'grandfathered' in on the soon-to-be old rate for the term of your subscription. (NB it is your responsibility not to let it lapse!)

 

Here's that link again: http://www.geegeez.co.uk/invest-in-gold/

Glorious Goodwood: Draw and Pace Angles

One of my favourite meetings of the year is Glorious Goodwood. Its setting is arguably the finest in Britain, the Sussex Downs providing a quintessentially British canvass upon which to paint the high class action, at what is one of the most casual and 'everyman' of the Summer Festivals.

When the sun shines at Glorious Goodwood, all is right with the world. But still, a couple of extra quid in the pocket upon departure aids the journey home, especially when one's carriage is the seemingly interminable rattler back to Smokey.

The purpose of this post, then, is pennies in pocket. Specifically, its ambit is to review the draw and run style data within the Geegeez Gold database in search of profit pointers.

Much is written about draw biases across the webosphere, though caution is advised due to the partial or parochial approach many authors take to what is a multi-faceted and deeply nuanced subject. Despite its many vagaries, Gold's remit is to present the information in a readily consumable format. We do that through the use of draw, pace, and draw/pace tables and visualations, using familiar colour codes to underpin the raw data.

Before I illustrate the above using Goodwood as an example, a word on how our data is collated.

Draw Information in Geegeez Gold

For draw, we offer two views: 'Card' and 'Actual'. 'Card' relates to the advertised stall number on your racecard, and 'Actual' is real draw position after non-runners have been accounted for. On wet days, when multiple withdrawals have been made, the difference can be significant.

Select going and runner ranges, and choose 'Card' or 'Actual'

Select going and runner ranges, and choose 'Card' or 'Actual'

The impact of the weather on where jockeys choose to race can also be significant, sometimes completely reversing the established draw perceptions, for example at Brighton. As such, Gold's draw information can be viewed across a 'going' range of your choosing.

Personally, I often expand the going range to be one description north and south of the official going, in order to get a slightly bigger sample size of races.

Finally, the field size can also be tweaked to your preference. Again, if the sample size is small, I'll expand this range in search of more data, albeit with a possible minor diminution in accuracy.

Once the controls have been set - or you can just leave them as the defaults, which pertain to the race as it is defined on the card - you are presented with summary and constituent views of the data, each with its own graph. Here's an example of the summary view, with the graph displaying 'place %'.

Summary draw data, charted by your preference of six data elements

Summary draw data, charted by your preference of six data elements

 

Both graphs can be viewed by Win %, Place %, Win Profit/Loss, Each Way P/L, Actual vs Expected and Impact Value. More info on A/E and IV, and how we use it, can be found here.

 

Pace Information in Geegeez Gold

To ascertain how pace affects a race, we assign a numeric value to each horse for each run. Let's be clear: by 'pace' we are talking about 'run style', and specifically where in the field a horse was in the early exchanges.

In the absence of more 'unambiguous' data, we use the in-running comment from our supplier. The geegeez database goes back to the start of 2009, seven and a half years' worth of data, and covers just over 911,000 individual runs. Of those, we have scored more than 863,000 - 94.7% - of them. The remaining 5.3% did not have clear positional data in the comment.

A dataset of this magnitude offers no concerns about the unscored 5%, with the 95% assumed to be representative of the remainder.

Horses are scored between one and four, as follows:

4 - Led, with leader
3 - Prominent
2 - Midfield, in touch
1 - Held up, in rear, etc

 

Clearly defined run styles stand out readily in Gold's pace charts

Clearly defined run styles stand out readily in Gold's pace charts

 

Despite the fairly crude breakdown, Gold's pace charts are actually incredibly effective at highlighting the shape of the race. For those who like to trade in-running, or 'dob', it is invaluable assistance. For the rest of us, who like to try to find a value winner, we need to consider pace data in conjunction with how run styles have historically fared on a given course and distance.

So we recently introduced 'pace blobs' to our output, to frame the race in a broader track and trip past performance context. Here's how they look...

 

Traffic light style pace blobs highlight favoured run styles

Traffic light style pace blobs highlight favoured run styles

 

In this example, it is pretty clear that those racing closer to, or on, the speed have fared best. Although there is a 'natural selection' element at most courses - that is, a lot of bad horses are at the back because they're not fast enough, or not 'expected' enough, to be anywhere else - it is also the case that less can go wrong in terms of traffic problems for a front-rank racer.

This is especially true at Goodwood, where a combination of big fields and a quirky cambered track lead to countless hard luck stories. It's a course where you want to be in front, or circling your field: anything else requires more luck than judgement, and jockeys who win by coming through the pack have given rides that were lucky, not well-judged.

Draw / Pace Information in Geegeez Gold

Draw information can offer a real insight into favoured positions within the starting gate, and pace data can shine a light on which run styles are best suited by a particular course/distance combination.

The natural evolution of this is to combine draw and pace/run style data into a single view of the world. The problem with this is that often the sample sizes are small, with the number of race runners, winners and placers being divided by twelve (three draw positions - high, middle, low - and our four pace positions) in Geegeezworld.

So, while this information can be interesting, care has to be taken when the samples are limited. That is why, as well as our 'heat map' view, we also publish a sortable table of draw/pace combinations. Here's an example:

 

Overlaying run style to draw position can be highly instructive

Overlaying run style to draw position can be highly instructive

 

This example, sorted by place percentages and taken from the five furlong track at Goodwood in races of 14+ runners on good to soft or quicker, shows a general gravitation from low to middle/led (good) to high/mid-div to held up (not so good).

Phew. Still with me? Good. Although this has been a fairly extensive introduction to the actual meat of the post, I think it important to understand from where the numbers come. This helps to decide whether one is happy with their validity as well as with what they are trying to convey. I have personally found these tools to be of enormous utility, having only included draw data by popular demand (i.e. I didn't think it had merit!). That is to say, I am a convert. 🙂

Draw and Pace at Glorious Goodwood

Finally, we arrive at the heart of the subject matter: draw and pace angles at Glorious Goodwood. There was something of a spoiler in the last section when I touched on the quirks of the course, so let's see how the data bears that out.

Goodwood 5f

Front rank is the place to be, with early leaders and those racing prominently in the first furlong or two performing profitably and above expectation.

goodwood5fpace

 

Goodwood 6f

It's a similar story over six furlongs, though the extra eighth of a mile eats into the 'backability' of those racing prominently but not on the lead.

goodwood6fpace

 

Goodwood 7f

More of the same at seven furlongs from a pace perspective but, as we move onto the round course - and a fairly pronounced home turn - it is worth overlaying the impact of the draw this time. See the second image below.

goodwood7fpace

Both of the below views - constituent draw and draw/pace heat map - are sorted by place percentage, with the data based on races run on good or quicker, with 11+ runners since 2009. The advantage to low is as emphatic as is the disadvantage to high. Those racing on the lead from a low draw have hit the frame 50% of the time.

goodwood7fpacedraw

 

Goodwood 1m

If you want an archetypical example of why a midfield sit is a suicidal manoeuvre at Goodwood, the one mile pace blob view is that. With just four of 139 mid-division racers in the sample able to extricate themselves sufficiently to win, at a lamentable Impact Value of 0.28, these really are a group to avoid like the proverbial bubonic!

(Remember, a point which applies universally to this post, that we only know the 'actual' run style of a horse during and after the race. Sometimes a horse will race in an unexpected position and there's now't much we can do about that. But when a horse has displayed a propensity for a particular run style unfavoured at today's track/trip, avoidance tactics should be deployed, or a healthy chunk on the avaiilable odds demanded).

goodwood1mpace

 

Goodwood 1m1f

With just one race run over the nine furlong trip at Glorious Goodwood these days, we'll move on to the more oft-raced ten furlong range...

 

Goodwood 1m2f

A familiar story in terms of front-runners performing above random - 53% better in this case - but a profit of just £2.81 means this blob could very soon have a more honey-coloured glow to it.

(Green blobs are achieved by an IV greater than 1.00 AND a positive level stakes profit; Amber is awarded when one of those two criteria are met; and Red is for a double fail on those bases).

It is worth pointing out that midfield racers over this longer trip - with more time get themselves sorted out - have a much higher Impact Value score than at the mile distance. Despite a range of all three traffic light colours in the 1m2f blobs, there is little of punting nourishment in run style here.

goodwood1m2fpace

 

Longer Distances

The general principle that those racing closer to the pace is maintained at longer distances, though not to any noteworthy degree from a wagering standpoint.

 

Conclusions, and How To Use This Info

The data show that Goodwood, in common with most tracks, favours front-runners and prominent racers. There are nuances worth considering, and the bias is stronger at some distances - such as seven furlongs - than others.

Clearly, draw and pace are two pieces of a much broader form vista which demands careful study. Gold users have time-saving shortcut tools like the Instant Expert to assist, but regardless of the racecard you use, a holistic approach to consideration of draw/pace framework, as well as horse and trainer form is optimal. But, of course, you knew that already.

With regards to pace, none of the above will be relevant if your fancy is compromised by the run style of others in the race. Specifically, take care backing front-runners when three or more horses like to lead, and generally be apprehensive of later runners unless you can factor their probable track position disadvantage into the odds available. In other words, demand a price!

Good luck with your Glorious Goodwood punting, and I hope the above nudges you to towards a decent winner or three.

Matt

p.s. If you're not already a Gold subscriber, you can take a seven day trial - covering all of both Glorious Goodwood and the Galway Festival - for just £1. Click here to start your trial.

How to Prepare for the Cheltenham Festival

Let BSM teach you how to drive Cheltenham profits up.

Let BSM teach you to drive Cheltenham profit up

The Cheltenham Festival 2014 is almost upon us and, with the unending bombardment of data, stats, bookie offers, stable whispers, preview nights, and tips (many of them emanating from these virtual pages, it should be added!), it can be hard to see the winning wood from the information overload trees.

So, in this post, I'll outline my 'Driving to Cheltenham Profits with BSM' methodology. It's nothing to do with a certain car training school, but everything to do with a three step process to keep yourself honest in the midst of what is always a week of frenzied activity.

Now, before I go any further, I should say that if Cheltenham's four day Festival is just another race meeting for you - if you do nothing differently from any other racing day - then fair play, this post will probably have limited utility.

If, however, you take the 27 races which comprise National Hunt's Olympics as a sort of personal, maybe even professional, challenge, then this will hopefully act as a timely aide memoire to retaining sanity, at the very least.

OK, with that said, let me introduce you to the first of my BSM components:

Bank

As I've scribbled above, and you probably know, there are 27 races spread across the four days of Cheltenham. From the big fields of unexposed novices to the even bigger fields of wily handicappers - many of whose talent lights have been hidden under various inappropriate engagement bushels for the larger part of the season - the Cheltenham Festival is a minefield for punters.

Consequently, it makes sense to allocate a separate ring-fenced betting pot, specifically for the week. By doing so, you'll be forced to think in terms of four days and 27 races, rather than lurching from race to race, wager to wager.

The nature of the Festival is that a significantly disproportionate amount of the publicity is focused on the first day. It's usually correct to say that Cheltenham Tuesday offers the highest calibre of racing; but that doesn't necessarily translate into it having the best wagering opportunities. Bookies are looking to get online accounts loaded on Day One, so you bet with them subsequently, and the vast majority of the best offers relate to the first day as a result.

But those who burn brightly on Tuesday only to fizzle out by early Thursday face a long walk home, in purely metaphorical terms of course (at least, I hope that's the case!)

So how much are you setting aside to wager across the Festival? And how might you divide that fund over the four days?

If you know you like a couple on Friday, make sure you've either already backed them, or you've left an adequate slice for that purpose. There's little in betting more soul-destroying than doing it in before your main fancy comes along; then limping onto it because you're 'short-stacked'; and seeing it romp home. That's an ugly, and wholly avoidable, scenario.

Finally on Bank, it doesn't make sense, unless you're following a tipping service, to bet level stakes, especially if you're intending - like me - to bet in every race, to some degree or other. Which brings me on to my second element of BSM...

Strengths

Know your strengths. As trite as that may sound, keep it in mind as the week progresses. What's your wagering / handicapping forte? Are you a judge at picking out 'plot' horses in handicaps? Do you have an all-seeing eye when it comes to Championship races? Can you skilfully infer improvement in novice horses?

Unless you're a full-time pro, the truth is likely to be that you're none of the above. But you will still be more akin to one of those types than the others. As such, it makes sense to focus more of your energies on that which you are most adept, and less on that which you are most inept.

For me, this means a primary focus on the Championship races and some of the novice events, and a cursory review of the handicap form using a few tools and techniques I've developed to shortlist the fields.

Obviously, then, betting one point level stakes across that varied punting panorama is plain daft. I will be wagering in line with the strength of my opinions, and I will live or die (again, metaphorically only!) by those opinions.

That means I will be getting stuck into a couple of Championship events; I will be having a reasonable tickle on some in the novice races; and I'll generally be mucking about in the handicaps, hoping to get lucky at a price (which, of course, is perfectly possible at Cheltenham, where lots of good horses are sent off at a price).

[Note, if you've been following my Cheltenham race previews, you'll know I've hammered one handicapper, though it's not one of the traditional handicap events... Hint: I've only previewed one handicap 😉 ]

So, what are your strengths? Give it a bit of thought if you haven't already, and try to "gear your portfolio" accordingly.

That leads us nicely into the final third of my punting triptych (good horse, she was)...

Mindset

Incorporating pieces of both Bank and Strengths, Mindset is crucial when betting, especially when we're exposed to the searing heat of a furnace of fetlocks and fancies for four full days.

It's always interesting to note the reactions of big punters - those whose responses can be publicly viewed, anyway - like JP McManus. They seem to maintain a Kipling-esque stoicism, greeting "those two impostors" of Triumph and Disaster even-handedly.

Of course, inside, they're probably cartwheeling or crying. But managing those emotions is the key to not losing - or gaining - too much confidence.

The thing with a meeting like Cheltenham is that plenty of winners are sent off at 12/1, 14/1, 16/1 and bigger. If your modus operandi is, like mine, to be frequently involved at that sort of price, then - even if you're very good - you'll incur longish losing sequences.

It is of paramount importance to remember that this is par for the course, and to continue to trust yourself. The worst thing bettors can do if they have an overall knack of finding enough nice-priced winners to pay for the losers and manage some bunce left over, is to chase the top of the market in the hope of clawing things back.

Firstly, it's not a part of the market for which you'll have the same 'value barometer'. And secondly, even when you do catch a winner - or even two - it's unlikely to return the fund to parity.

What we're actually doing when we adopt this approach is seeking comfort in correctness: a little ego stroke and reassurance when the winners have absented themselves. Always keep in mind one of the maxims of geegeez in times like this:

"What do you really want? Winners? Or profit?"

Finding winners at Cheltenham is bloody hard. But if you're safe in the knowledge that when they're unearthed, they generally pay for a lot of losers, then you're ahead of the pack mentally. Don't give in to self-doubt. After all, if you've set aside a bank and you've still got some of it to tickle the Grand Annual, the final race of 27, you've done well, win, lose or draw.

And keep in mind another geegeez maxim too:

"If it's not fun, we might as well go and get a job"

The most important aspect of mindset - even if you're a professional - is to enjoy Cheltenham's slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

It's going to be great!!! 🙂

Matt

p.s. here's Rudyard with a poem so utterly magnificent it's been confined to cliché in pieces such as this. But if ever a man captured the very essence of what it is to engage in the betting battle at Cheltenham, it was - unwittingly - the fellow whose namesake baked exceedingly good cakes.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

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