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2021 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY TWO (Weds 17th March 2021)

2021 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY TWO (Weds 17th March 2021)

Each day of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts will give you all the quick-fire positive and negative stats for EVERY race. Apply these to the final cards and you will build up a picture and a profile of which horses have historically done the best in recent renewals.

We hope they help narrow down the fields and also help pin-point plenty of winners at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival for you!

The 'day two' feature is the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase - a race trainer Willie Mullins is yet to win!

 

Cheltenham Festival Trends

Wednesday 17th March (Old Course & Cross Country)

 

1.20 - Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 5f ITV

2020 Winner: ENVOI ALLEN 4/7 fav
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Davy Russell

Pluses….

  • 14 of the last 16 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 5 of the last 7 winners were unbeaten over hurdles
  • 10 of the last 12 winners came from the top two-rated on BHA ratings
  • 16 of the last 20 winners returned 17/2 or shorter
  • 20 of the last 26 winners won last time out
  • 25 of the last 26 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • The Irish have won 11 of the last 18 (6 of last 7)
  • Horses rated 150+ do well
  • 9 of the last 12 winners had won a Graded Novice Hurdle
  • 21 of the last 26 winners (including last 11) had won at least one bumper race
  • All of the last 15 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 9 of the last 10 winners were aged 6
  • In the last 10 runnings Irish-trained horses have filled 18 of the 30 top 3 places
  • 20 of the last 22 were NH bred
  • 14 of the last 22 had won a graded race before
  • Look for past Irish point-to-point winners (7 of the last 11 had won an Irish Point)
  • Respect Willie Mullins – 4 winners and 8 placed in last 15 years
  • Gordon Elliott has won 2 of the last 3

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 56 (since 1988)
  • Only two of the last 35 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 15 years)

 

 

1.55 - Brown Advisory Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 3m 80y ITV

2020 Winner: CHAMP 4/1
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Barry Geraghty

Pluses….

  • 4 of the last 12 winners ran in the Flogas Chase (Leopardstown, 4th Feb) that season
  • The last 19 winners had run in a Graded Novice Chase
  • 13 of the last 14 winners finished 1st or 2nd in a G1/G2 over fences
  • 23 of the last 26 winners had only one previous season over hurdles
  • Respect 7 year-olds – won 11 of the last 14 (16 of last 21)
  • 9 of the last 15 winners won last time out
  • 7 of the last 11 winners were beaten on their chase debut
  • 8 of the last 13 winners had won a bumper before
  • 6 of the last 14 favourites won
  • 18 of the last 20 winners had run between 3-5 times over fences
  • Every winner since 1997 had their chase debut the previous year
  • Irish bred horses are 20 from the last 24
  • 9 of the last 14 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 Chase
  • 6 of the last 12 winners were trained in Ireland
  • Trainers Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls often do well in the race (10 of the last 17 between them)
  • 23 of the last 28 were novice hurdling last season
  • 5 of the last 11 winners ran in the Albert Bartlett the previous season
  • Look for horses that ran that same calendar year (52 of the last 54 winners had)
  • 11 of the last 14 winners had raced at the Festival the previous year
  • The last 6 winners came from the top 3 in the betting market

Negatives….

  • No winner aged 9 or older since 1992
  • Just 4 winners younger than 7 since 1978
  • Avoid horses that had had 2 full seasons over hurdles prior
  • Just 2 of the last 21 winners had run less than 3 times over fences
  • The last 22 winners of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Feltham, Kempton 26th Dec) have lost
  • Avoid unbeaten horses (only 2 of the last 21 winners)
  • Mares are currently 0-from-11 in the race
  • Horses in headgear are currently 0 from 30

 

 

 2.30 - Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 5f ITV

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2020 Winner: DAME DE COMPAGNIE (5/1 fav)
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Barry Geraghty

 

Pluses….

  • 11 of the last 16 were 2nd season hurdlers
  • 17 of the last 20 winners raced less than 10 times over hurdles
  • 9 of the last 11 winners had run at the Festival before
  • 9 of the last 12 winners hailed from the top 8 horses in the weights
  • 9 of the last 12 winners were rated in the 140’s
  • 13 of the last 21 winners aged 6 or 7
  • 7 of the last 11 winners DIDN’T win last time out
  • 12 of the last 15 winners hailed form the top 7 in the betting
  • 19 of the last 26 winners won earlier that season
  • Respect JP McManus-owned runners
  • Respect trainers Nicky Henderson & Gordon Elliott (6 wins in last 11 years)
  • 10 of the last 19 winners were FRENCH-BRED
  • 14 of the last 27 won last time out
  • Respect Irish-trained runners (5 of the last 12)
  • Look for horses that had raced 4 or less times that season (last 12 winners)
  • 14 of the last 16 winners had run 32 days or longer ago (look for horses that have had a small break)
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott is 2 from 11
  • 5 year-olds do well from the small % that have run (win and place)

Negatives….

  • Just one winning favourite in the last 17 years (2020)
  • Only 3 winners since 2000 had run in 10+ hurdles races
  • Horses aged 10+ are just 3 from 308 to even place since 1999
  • Just 4 winners since 2000 aged 8+
  • Horses rated 150+ don’t have a great record, although the 2019 winner was rated 151
  • 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 – 41 runners – just two placed inside the top 2 (1 from 36 in last decade)

 

 

3.05 - Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) 1m 7f 99y ITV

 

2020 Winner: POLITOLOGUE 6/1
Trainer – Paul Nicholls
Jockey – Harry Skelton

Pluses….

  • 13 of the last 20 winners ran in the Tingle Creek Chase that season
  • 4 of the last 8 winners won the Clarence House Chase (Ascot) that season
  • 23 of the last 36 had won at the Festival before
  • Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson have won 9 of the last 13 between them
  • Nicky Henderson has won 5 of the last 9
  • 14 of the last 20 winners aged between 7-9
  • 14 of the last 19 winners won last time out
  • 16 of the last 18 winners had run that calendar year
  • 37 of the last 39 winners returned 10/1 or shorter
  • 15 of the last 21 winners returned 5/1 or shorter
  • 7 of the last 14 winners were French-bred
  • 11 of the last 18 winners were second season chasers
  • 14 of the last 16 winners had run 2 or 3 times that season
  • 18 of the last 22 winners came from the top 3 in the betting
  • 15 of the last 21 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 16 had run 4+ times that season
  • Horses that didn’t run in that calendar year are 2-from-30
  • Top Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, is yet to win this race (0-from-10)
  • Just 1 of the last 19 winners hadn’t won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • 12 of the last 15 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 47 years
  • Just one 11 year-old winner in the last 42 years
  • No Mare has ever won the race

 

Queen Mother Champion Chase Betting Trends

16/18 – Had raced within the last 8 weeks
16/18 – Had won at least 5 times over fences before
16/18 – Had run over fences at Cheltenham before
14/18 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
13/18 – Returned 5/1 or shorter in the betting
13/18 – Won last time out
11/18 – Placed favourites
11/18 – Winning distance – 5 lengths or more
10/18 – Had won over fences at Cheltenham before
8/18 – Irish bred
8/18 – French bred
7/18 – Winning favourites
6/18 – Won by an Irish-trained horse
6/18 – Won the Arkle Chase the previous season
4/18 – Ran in the Tied Cottage Chase (Punchestown) last time out
4/18 – Had won the race before
3/18 – Ran in the Game Spirit Chase (Newbury) last time out
The average winning SP in the last 18 runnings is 9/2

 

Other Queen Mother Champion Chase Stats

 

14 of the last 20 winners ran in that season’s Tingle Creek Chase (Sandown)
22 of the last 36 winners had previously won at the Cheltenham Festival
38 of the last 39 winners returned 11/1 or shorter in the betting
16 of the last 19 Arkle Chase winners to run the next season in this have finished placed or better
18 of the last 19 winners had won a Grade One Chase previously

 

Champion Chase – 23 Year Trends

17/23 – British-trained winners
6/23 – Irish-trained winners
Willie Mullins (Ire) is yet to train the winner
Nicky Henderson (UK) has trained 5 of the last 9 winners (won the race 6 times in total)
Paul Nicholls (UK) has trained 6 of the last 21 winners
Henry de Bromhead (Ire) has trained 2 of the last 10 winners
Jessica Harrington (Ire) has trained 2 of the last 18 winners

 

 

3.40 - Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase 3m 6f 37y ITV

 

2020 Winner: EASYSLAND 3/1
Trainer – David Cottin
Jockey – Jonathan Plouganou

Pluses….

  • The Irish have won 13 of the last 16 runnings
  • Respect Enda Bolger-trained runners (won the race 5 times)
  • 19 of the last 23 winners came from the top three in the betting
  • 9 of the last 16 ran in the December Cross Country race here
  • 13 of the last 16 winners had run on the course before
  • Respect Keith Donoghue, Richard Johnson and Davy Russell have 2 wins each
  • 13 or the last 16 winners were aged 10 or younger
  • 7 of the last 10 winners were aged 8 or 9
  • Trainer Philip Hobbs is 2 from 11 (5 placed in the top 5 too)
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott has won 3 of the last 4 runnings
  • 7 winners since 2005 owned by JP McManus
  • 8 of the last 16 winners had run in the NH Chase before
  • 3 of the last 6 winners were owned by the Gigginstown Stud House

Negatives….

  • Debutants over these fences/course have a poor record
  • Horses aged 7 or younger are only 3 from 98, but last year’s winner was 6
  • Trainer Willie Mullins is 0 from 15
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls is 0 from 13

 

 4.15 - Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m 62y ITV

 

2020 Winner: CHOSEN MATE 7/2fav
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Davy Russell  

Pluses….

  • 16 of the last 21 winners carried 11st or less
  • 14 of the last 17 winners had run at the Festival before
  • 8 of the last 17 winners ran in the previous renewal
  • Irish have won 4 of the last 8 runnings
  • 8 of the last 11 winners came from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • 9 of the last 12 winners novices or second season chasers
  • 11 of the last 17 winners were aged 8 or older
  • Henderson, Nicholls, King-trained horses are respected
  • Paul Nicholls has won 4 of the last 17
  • Respect JP McManus-owned horses (4 winners, 9 placed)
  • The last 10 winners were rated at least 138
  • 5 year-olds have a good record (from few runners of that age that have run)
  • Novices have won 6 of the last 12 runnings
  • 5 of the last 6 winners won after a 91+ day break
  • 7 of the last 10 winners were rated between 140-147
  • The last 10 winners rated between 138-150
  • 8 of the last 10 winners carried 10-11 or more in weight
  • 19 of the last 21 winners had run no more than 12 times over fences

Negatives….

  • Horses aged 10+ are just 2 wins from the last 25 runnings
  • Horses that last ran 45 days or more ago have seen just 8 winners since 1990
  • Last time out winners are just 1 from last 15
  • Horses aged 6 or younger (from top 3 in the market) are just 1 from 30 since 2005
  • Just 2 winners rated 147+ since 1992
  • Only 2 of the last 16 winners were favourites
  • Just 2 winners since 2000 had run in more than 12 chases
  • Horses that won a handicap chase that season have a bad recent record

 

 

 4.50 - Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1) 2m 87y RTV

 

2020 Winner: FERNY HOLLOW
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend

Pluses….

  • 26 of the last 28 had won last time out (all of last 17)
  • 21 of the last 28 winners trained in Ireland
  • Respect Irish-trained runners (21 from 37)
  • 19 of the last 28 came from the top 6 in the betting
  • 21 of the last 28 were Irish-bred
  • 10 of the last 20 winners were second season horses
  • 14 of the last 15 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 18 of the last 28 winners aged 5 years-old
  • 18 of the last 20 had their debut runs in Ireland
  • 12 of the last 18 had been beaten in a race before
  • 6 of the last 11 winners returned between 14/1 and 40/1
  • Respect Willie Mullins (10 winners) – also had first three in 2018 and first and second in 2020
  • The Irish lead the British 22-7 in the race history
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott has won 2 of the last 4 runnings
  • 9 of the last 18 winners came from the top 3 in the betting
  • Mares are 3-17 in the last 18 runnings
  • The last 5 winners had run in February
  • Last 2 winners owned by Cheveley Park Stud

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses with 4 or more NH Flat runs
  • Just 2 winners failed to win last time out
  • Just 2 of the last 11 winners hadn’t run that calendar year
  • 4 of the last 11 winners were won by UK-based trainers
  • 4 year-olds are 1 from 64 since 2000 (Cue Card)
  • Gigginstown, Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson don’t often focus on the race

 

Hennessy living Festival dream with Heaven Help Us

A return to the Cheltenham Festival is next on the agenda for Heaven Help Us following her victory at Leopardstown.

On a weekend dominated by the all-conquering Willie Mullins, Heaven Help Us struck a blow for the smaller trainer at the Dublin Racing Festival when claiming a narrow verdict in the Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle for Paul Hennessy.

The Kilkenny-based handler is no stranger to big-race success, having produced two winners of the English Greyhound Derby in Jaytee Jet (2016) and Priceless Blake (2019).

However, having been a long-time friend of the Mullins family, Hennessy admitted he is still on cloud nine as he reflected on one of the greatest days of his professional life.

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He said: “I’ve just about come back down to earth. It was an unbelievable day – the stuff dreams are made of.

“We’re normally sat at home watching on TV. When you have a home-bred mare like this, you couldn’t dream of winning these races, and it was extra special to win it for John Turner (owner), who is a good friend of ours.

“Myself and Paddy (Mullins) were neighbours when I was a youngster and he’d often give me a lift to the races in the car. I remember going to the old Dundalk one day with him when it was a grass track.

“Those days fuelled my ambition for racing and I ended up doing the greyhounds after that, so it really was wonderful to win the race named after him on Sunday.

“I grew up with Willie and his brothers Tom and George. It’s a shame we couldn’t celebrate in The Lord Bagenal on Sunday night, but when the restrictions lift, we’ll have our night out – don’t worry about that!”

Heaven Help Us has already provided Hennessy with a winner at Cheltenham, having won a maiden hurdle at the track in October 2019, after which he said: “For us to win a race at Cheltenham is just ridiculous. You have a better chance of winning the EuroMillions.”

The seven-year-old subsequently returned to the Cotswolds to finish a creditable seventh in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – and Hennessy is hoping she might get into one of the handicaps at the showpiece meeting next month.

He added: “We have her entered in the Martin Pipe (Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle), we have her in the Coral Cup and we have her in the County Hurdle. We’ve even put her in the Stayers’ Hurdle, just to try to make sure we get a day out in Cheltenham of some description!

“We did think about running her in a Pertemps Qualifier at Punchestown next week, to try to get her in the Pertemps Final, but I don’t want to run her so soon after winning the race on Sunday, so we’ll chance one of the other handicaps if we can get in.

“I think she’ll be near the base mark in them all. Personally, I’d be looking to be going up in trip for the Martin Pipe or the Coral Cup, rather than back in trip for the County Hurdle, but we mightn’t have a choice – whichever one we squeeze into is the one we’ll go for.

“She’s already been around Cheltenham. She won her maiden hurdle and ran a fantastic race in the Supreme last year when we were boxing above our weight, but we got a huge thrill out of it.

“We’re having a great time with her. You couldn’t ask for even half of it, in fairness.”

David Cottin planning dual assault on Glenfarclas contest

Last year’s winner Easysland is set to be joined by stablemate Ajas in the Glenfarclas Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

The JP McManus-owned Easysland produced one of the most impressive performances of the meeting last season, when beating four-times Festival winner and dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll by 17 lengths in the cross-country race.

The seven-year-old could only finish fourth on his latest visit to the Cotswolds in November, but is reported to be in rude health by trainer David Cottin, who also plans to saddle potential Grand National contender Ajas.

“Easysland is in good form before the Festival. I’m very happy with him and he’ll go there fit and ready,” Cottin told thejockeyclub.co.uk.

“Ajas will also run, as I think it will be a good prep for him in view to the Grand National.

“It’s been a good stepping-stone for Tiger Roll in the past, so I think this is the ideal option for him too.

“Ajas is a very good horse. It’ll be interesting to see him run over a bit of distance and in a race with pace.

“I think he’ll adapt well as he’s easy to ride and respects his fences.”

Hobbs hopeful ahead of Thyme Hill trilogy with Paisley Park

Philip Hobbs feels youth will be on Thyme Hill’s side when the seven-year-old bids to exact revenge on Paisley Park in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Paisley Park collared Thyme Hill in the closing strides to claim the Long Walk Hurdle by a neck at Ascot in December, when the pair met at level weights.

That made the score between them one each as Thyme Hill had beaten Emma Lavelle’s nine-year-old by one and a half lengths at Newbury the previous month, in receipt of 3lb.

“You’d have to say Paisley Park didn’t have the best of runs and he did well to win the race, but Thyme Hill ran an extremely good race and hopefully he is still an improver. That would be the plus,” Hobbs told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s not had that much racing and our biggest hope really is he could still be an improver and is still going in the right direction, whereas Paisley Park you imagine at his age shouldn’t be.

“He (Paisley Park) is a formidable horse and is not going to be easy to beat whatever happens.

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“Thyme Hill was particularly well this (Wednesday) morning. Having a canter, he had a buck at the top of the gallop and is in really good nick. We are at the stage of thinking about a few gallops to wind him up before Cheltenham.

“He’s not a horse that needs a lot of work anyway. We’re very much looking forward to it.”

Trainer Philip Hobbs
Trainer Philip Hobbs (David Davies/PA)

Whatever the going at Cheltenham would not worry the Minehead trainer.

“I don’t think the ground really matters to him,” he said.

“I suppose you probably don’t want heavy. Anything else would be fine and he is the kind of horse who could cope with quick ground. The ground is the least important thing.”

Hobbs has named the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (formerly the RSA) over an extended three miles as Sporting John’s likely Cheltenham target, following his Grade One triumph at Sandown on Saturday.

The two-and-a-half-mile Marsh Novices’ Chase would be second choice, with Hobbs all but ruling the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy over two miles.

“He’s in the Festival Novices’ Chase. I think we can probably discard the Arkle with it being two miles, but he’s in the three-mile race which is more likely to suit him on the likely better ground,” he said.

“If it was soft at Cheltenham you might consider the Marsh, but I’d say the Festival Novices’ Chase is more likely.”

Sporting John booked his place at the Festival when landing a first success over fences in the Scilly Novices’ Chase, after being beaten at odds-on on his only other start over the bigger obstacles at Exeter in November.

Sporting John (right) battles to victory over Shan Blue at Sandown
Sporting John (right) battles to victory over Shan Blue at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We were delighted with him. At his best, he is very good,” said Hobbs.

“He’s a most lovely-looking horse and has also got a fantastic temperament. He’s just a really nice horse to have about.

“He’s had the six races. He obviously won’t run again before Cheltenham. I feel he’s probably got enough experience. If we’d been able to run him through the winter and he’d had another run that would be better, but I think he has enough experience and he’d have learnt a lot from Sandown the other day.

“It’s going to be the most important novice chase of the season, so why not?”

Martin to chart direct Cheltenham route with Bear Ghylls

Bear Ghylls is set to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival after trainer Nicky Martin admitted defeat in her bid to get another run into her stable star.

A 19-length winner of a bumper at Warwick last March, the six-year-old has continued in the same vein this season by completing a hat-trick of wins over hurdles.

Martin’s plan to give her charge a first outing at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day last month was scuppered by a waterlogged track, while the same issue ruled out an intended outing in Thursday’s Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon.

And with the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds now less than five weeks away, the Minehead-based trainer has decided to bite the bullet and prepare her charge for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle without the aid of another outing.

Martin said: “I think we’re going to go straight to Cheltenham now, simply because this weekend was my last hope (of running beforehand).

“We wanted to go to Huntingdon, but that has been abandoned. There’s nothing else for him really as if we wait any longer, it will all be getting too close to the Festival.

“I could send him away to do a bit of schooling next week at Henrietta Knight’s or somewhere like that, and then we can try to get a racecourse gallop in. That’s all we can do really.

“The one good thing is I know this horse needs to be fresh – he really needs five weeks between his races, as far as I’m concerned.

“He’s a big, raw horse and I was worried when we went to Exeter it was only 20 days since his last race.

“If you’re going to go for a big race at Cheltenham, I’d much rather he went fresh than three weeks after his last run or whatever.”

Skelton relaxed on Allmankind preparation for Cheltenham

Dan Skelton would not be worried about the timescale before Cheltenham for Allmankind should the Agetur UK Kingmaker Chase have to be rescheduled.

The current cold snap could cause problems for Saturday’s meeting at Warwick, but Skelton feels there is still enough of a gap before the Sporting Life Arkle Trophy at the Festival on March 16.

“Even if you looked a week down the line you’ve still then got three and a half weeks before the Festival,” the Alcester trainer told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast.

“I’m not worried about that, and Allmankind is not the type of horse who you’d be complaining about ground or track.

“He is just a simple horse. He just loves to run. Any opportunity you give him to run, he grasps it with both hands and gets on with it and loves it.”

The Arkle is one of the most eagerly-awaited races of the Festival, with Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin and the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene in the line-up.

“At Cheltenham, things can happen. It’s a horse race at the end of the day. They are three very talented, very genuine horses. We always knew Shishkin was going to be a shorter price than us going into the Festival,” said Skelton.

“He won the Supreme and as long as he can jump fences economically he is going to be the favourite or near favourite based on last year’s performances.

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Energumene promises to be threat to all in the Arkle at Cheltenham
Energumene promises to be threat to all in the Arkle at Cheltenham (Niall Carson/PA)

“Energumene is obviously a much better chaser than he was a hurdler. He’s an attacking chasing type and has looked very good. He has looked unbeatable on what he has done so far, but Cheltenham is a different track and things can happen.”

One of Skelton’s main hopes at the Festival is Nube Negra in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The seven-year-old leapt into the picture when comfortably accounting for Altior at Kempton in December.

“Nothing frightens me with the way the race is going to be run with Nube Negra, because I’ve got a confident feeling we’re the fastest horse in the race,” said Skelton.

“He travels so well and however fast they go, I think our horse will be in his comfort zone.

“I feel if we get a good round of jumping to the back of three out we’ve probably got as much in the tank as we possibly can to go up the hill. And I think it’s game on then. We’re going to ride Nube Negra for speed.”

Nube Negra was too good for Altior at Kempton
Nube Negra was too good for Altior at Kempton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Skelton has no qualms about facing the short-priced favourite Chacun Pour Soi, from the Mullins stable.

“I’m not frightened of taking Chacun Pour Soi on with Nube Negra because I know we will be in our comfort zone,” he said.

“I have no concerns about Cheltenham as he went there as a juvenile twice.

“We’ve got to take lots of positives out of Kempton. We know Chacun is going to be hard to beat, we know Politologue is going to put up a struggle and we know Altior is not done with.

“I go there thinking we have a right chance because this horse will not be under pressure at any point in the race.”

Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi were among nine winners for Mullins at the two-day Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

Skelton believes the lack of strong opposition gives the Closutton trainer’s Cheltenham contingent an easier path to the Festival.

Chacun Pour Soi looms large for Willie Mullins at Cheltenham
Chacun Pour Soi looms large for Willie Mullins at Cheltenham (Niall Carson/PA)

“It is frustrating watching it. The lack of resistance means you are getting prep races in Grade Ones that aren’t taking anything out of his horses,” he said.

“That is the thing that makes him (Mullins) difficult to beat at Cheltenham, that his prep is easier than everybody else because his horses don’t have to go into the red in their prep races.

“Who is taking the easier route to the biggest day? This is where I think the magnification of Cheltenham is a potential downfall because people know they are going to get a hard race there. They are avoiding hard races en route because they want to go there with their biggest chance.

“That is why I think some races outside of Cheltenham Festival aren’t as supported as they should be because they (trainers and connections) know they are going to get a hard race. If they have a hard race, it’s going to be harder to get over.

“When Willie has a horse in a race he’s basically getting a freebie around the track in Ireland.

“I actually think preparation makes champions. The less you take out of the tank, the more is in there when you need it.”

2021 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY THREE (Thurs 18th March 2021)

2021 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY THREE (Thurs 18th March 2021)

Each day of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts will give you all the quick-fire positive and negative stats for EVERY race. Apply these to the final cards and you will build up a picture and a profile of which horses have historically done the best in recent renewals.

We hope they help narrow down the fields and also help pin-point plenty of winners at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival for you!

Day Three at the Cheltenham Festival features the Grade One Ryanair Chase - a contest that 13 of the last 16 winners had won at Cheltenham before. While we've also got the Grade One Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle - a prize we saw the Rebecca Curtis-trained Lisnagar Oscar win at 50/1 last season.

 

Thursday 18th March (New Course)

Cheltenham Festival Trends

 

 1.20 - MARSH Novices' Chase (Grade 1) 2m 3f 166y ITV

2020 Winner: SAMCRO 4/1
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Davy Russell  

Pluses….

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

Negatives….

  • Be careful of horses rated 146 or less
  • Just two British-trained winners so far (0-9)
  • The top-rated horse is just 1 from 10
  • Since 1990 all Festival Novice Chase winners have been aged 8 or younger
  • 4 winning favourites in 10 runnings (1 co)
  • 5 year-olds are 0-from-6
  • Just 1 of the last 10 winners had less than 3 career chase starts
  • Just 2 winners had been off for more than 54 days

 

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

 

2020 Winner: SIRE DU BERLAIS 10/1
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Barry Geraghty

Pluses….

  • 8 of the last 11 winners started their careers in bumpers (6) or points (2)
  • Irish have won the last 5 runnings
  • Sire Du Berlais has won the last 2 runnings
  • 9 of the last 13 winners placed in their last race (5 won)
  • 10 of the last 20 winners were from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • The last 10 winners were rated 138 or higher
  • 9 of the last 14 winners were rated between 132-142 (inc)
  • 9 of the last 10 winners were rated between 138-148
  • 10 of the last 16 winners had won over at least 2m7f
  • 10 of the last 14 winners had run 10 or less times over hurdles before
  • 6 of the last 8 winners ran 7 or less times over hurdles
  • 6 of the last 7 winners returned 11/1 or shorter
  • 8 of the last 20 winners won their last race
  • 3 of the last 12 winners finished in the first 5 in the Betfair Hurdle
  • Look for Jonjo O’Neill, Twiston-Davies, Mullins and Pipe-trained runners
  • Respect JP McManus-owned horses – won it again in 2019 and 2020
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott has won the last 3 runnings
  • Jockey Davy Russell has ridden 3 of the last 5 winners
  • Respect horses with headgear (7 since 2000)

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses with less than 6 runs over hurdles
  • Horses that have won 3+ times that season have a poor recent record
  • Since 2000 only 1 winner didn’t have a run that calendar year
  • 5 year-olds have won just twice since 1973
  • Just 1 horse rated 150+ since 2000 has finished in the top 2
  • 2 winning favourites in last 15 years
  • Paul Nicholls is currently 0 from 18 (One third and two 2nds in the last 7 runnings)
  • Horses aged 7 or younger and priced in single-figures are just 3 from 44
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  2.30 - Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f 127y ITV

 

2020 Winner: MIN 2/1
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend

Pluses….

  • 22 of the 30 winners and runners-up had won at the course before
  • 6 of the last 8 winners were 2nd season chasers
  • All 13 winners (since getting G1 status) had won over 2m4f
  • 13 of the last 16 had won at Cheltenham previously
  • 10 of the last 13 winners had won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • 10 of the last 13 had won or placed at the Festival before
  • The King George VI Chase is often a good guide (7 from 27)
  • The previous year’s renewal is often a good guide
  • 13 of the last 16 winners returned 6/1 or shorter
  • 7 of the last 9 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • 12 of the last 13 winners were rated 161+
  • 4 of the last 16 winners were placed in the top 3 in the Ascot Chase last time out
  • 12 of last 16 winners were fav or 2nd fav
  • 9 of the last 13 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 14 of the last 16 winners came from the top 3 in the betting
  • 7 of the last 9 winners had 11 (or less) runs over fences
  • Trainers Jonjo O’Neill, David Pipe & Nicky Henderson are respected
  • Respect first time headgear (2 from 9)
  • 9 of the last 13 winners DIDN’T win last time out
  • Last 7 winners were French-bred
  • All winners ran 4 or less times that season
  • 3 of the last 5 winners trained by Willie Mullins

 

Negatives….

  • The Irish are 4 from 55 runners in this race
  • Avoid horses priced 7/1 or bigger
  • Avoid horses aged 11 or older (1 from 12)
  • Just one winner rated 160 or below
  • Just 4 of the last 13 won last time out
  • No winner was having their Festival debut

 

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

2020 Winner: LISNAGAR OSCAR 50/1
Trainer – Rebecca Curtis
Jockey – Adam Wedge  

 

Pluses….

  • 11 of the last 16 won last time out
  • 12 of the last 20 winners were second season hurdlers
  • 28 of the last 31 winners aged between 6-8 years-old
  • 17 of the last 20 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 8 of the last 19 were French Bred
  • Respect the Cleeve Hurdle and Long Walk Hurdle form
  • 8 of the last 14 ran in the Cleeve Hurdle
  • 15 of the last 19 winners finished 1st or 2nd in all their hurdling runs that season
  • 13 of the last 16 winners started 10/1 or less in the betting
  • Respect past winners of the race
  • 15 of the last 24 winners had won 7 or less times over hurdles
  • The last 3 winners ran in the Albert Bartlett the previous season

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses that didn’t finish either 1st or 2nd last time out (3 from 21)
  • 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), but horses that ran in the race have won the last 3
  • Horses wearing headgear are 0 from 71
  • Horses aged 10 or older have all been beaten since 1986 (0 from 59)


Stayers’ Hurdle Betting Trends

16/18 – Had raced within the last 10 weeks
15/18 – Finished 1st or 2nd last time out
15/18 – Had won over at least 3m (hurdles) before
15/18 – Aged 8 or younger
14/18 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting
14/18 – Winning distance – 3 lengths or less
13/18 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
13/18 – Placed favourites
13/18 – Had raced that calendar year
12/18 – Went onto run at the Aintree Grand National Meeting later that season
12/18 – Had won over hurdles at Cheltenham before
11/18 – Won their latest race
11/18 – Contested either the Cleeve Hurdle (8) or the Long Walk Hurdle (3) last time out
10/18 – Rated 163 or higher
7/18 – French-bred
7/18 – Went onto win at Aintree later that season
7/18 – Winning favourite
4/18 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
3/18 – Irish-trained winners
The average winning SP in the last 18 runnings is 15/2
Stayers’ Hurdle Stats:
Every winner since 1972 has been aged 6 or older
Since 1972 there have been 7 previous winners of the race
Horses that ran at the previous season’s Cheltenham Festival are 22 from 26
Horses that were placed fourth or better last time out have won 32 of the last 33 renewals
The top five in the betting have finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in 7 of the last 17 renewals
Just three Irish-trained winners since 1996 – Solwhit (2013), Nichols Canyon (2017), Penhill (2018)
All of the last 33 winners were aged 9 or younger

 

Stayers Hurdle – UK v Irish

 

18/23 – British-trained winners
2/23 – French-trained winners
3/23 – Irish-trained winners
Trainer Paul Nicholls (UK) has trained 4 winners of the race
Willie Mullins (Ire) has trained just 2 winners of the race (2017, Nichols Canyon, 2018 Penhill)
Nicky Henderson (UK) has trained just 1 winner of the race (2000, Bacchanal)
Paul Nicholls (UK) has trained 4 of the last 11 winners
Jonjo O’Neill (UK has trained 2 of the last 16 winners

 

 

3.40 - Paddy Power Plate (Handicap Chase) (Grade 3) 2m 4f 166y ITV

2020 Winner: SIMPLY THE BETTS 10/3 fav
Trainer – Harry Whittington
Jockey – Gavin Sheehan

Pluses….

  • 27 of the last 33 winners were officially rated 141 or less
  • 10 of the last 12 winners carried under 11-0
  • Look out for French-breds
  • 12 of the last 16 winners had run from 25th Jan onwards
  • 10 of the last 17 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 23 runnings
  • 16 of the last 20 winners returned at double-figure odds
  • 21 of the last 29 winners had run at the Festival before (but 7 of last 10 were having Festival debut)
  • 20 of the last 21 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
  • 8 of the last 11 winners had 9 or less chase runs
  • 17 of the last 21 winners came from outside the top 4 in the market
  • The last 5 winners were novices or second season chasers
  • 15 of the last 17 winners had raced that calendar year

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses that are yet to win at Class 3 or better
  • The Irish have only sent out 4 winners since 1951
  • Only 2 of the last 17 winners had run more than 12 times (fences)
  • 3 winning favourites in the last 15 years
  • Only 4 of last 26 won with 11st+
  • Winners of a chase at Cheltenham before have an overall poor record, but the 2019 and 2020 winners did defy this trend.
  • Only 2 of the last 17 winners hadn’t run that calendar year

 

 

4.15 – Parnell Properties Mares' Novices' Hurdle (Dawn Run) (Grade 2) 2m 179y ITV

2020 Winner: CONCERTISTA 9/2
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Daryl Jacob

Pluses….

  • A new race (Just 5 renewals)
  • Favourites have won 3 of the 5 runnings
  • 3 of the last 5 winners won last time out
  • 4 of the 5 winners were French-bred
  • 4 of the last 5 winners were top or 2nd top rated
  • 4 of the last 5 winners returned 9/2 or shorter
  • All 5 past winners started their careers in France
  • 3 of the 5 winners were unbeaten that season
  • Sullivan Bloodstock owners have won 2 of the 5 runnings (just 4 runners)
  • 4 of the 5 winners have been aged 5 years-old
  • Willie Mullins won the race in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020
  • Owner Mrs Susannah Ricci has won 2 of the last 5 runnings


Negatives….

  • Irish bred mares are just 1-from-44
  • British bred mares are 0-from-15
  • Nicky Henderson is currently 0-from-8

 

4.50 - Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase 3m 2f RTV

2020 Winner: MILAN NATIVE 9/1
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Mr R James  

Pluses….

  • Respect 8 and 9 year-olds
  • 10 of the last 13 winners failed to win earlier that season
  • 3 of the last 10 winners ran in the BetVictor Handicap Chase (Open Meeting)
  • The last 9 winners ran off a mark of 137 or more
  • 8 of the last 11 winners returned 9/1 or shorter (top three in the betting)
  • 8 of the last 11 winners carried 11st 5lbs+
  • 9 of the last 12 winners ran in February
  • Look for Elliott, McCain, Pipe and Henderson-trained runners
  • Look for horses in the top half of the handicap
  • 18 of the last 21 winners ran over at least three miles in their last race
  • Look for non-claiming amateur riders
  • 9 of the last 10 winners wore headgear
  • 10 of the last 12 winners came from the top 6 in the market
  • Jockey Jamie Codd has ridden 4 of the last 12 winners
  • Jockey Derek O’Connor 2nd 3 times and 1st in 2019
  • Owner JP McManus often does well in the race (3 of the last 9)
  • 17 of the last 18 winners DIDN’T win last time out

Negatives….

  • Just 4 Irish winners in last 37 years (but have won 4 of the last 7)
  • 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 22
  • 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 64 since 2005
  • Avoid claiming jockeys – 2 from 96 since 2009
  • Just 1 of the last 18 winners won last time out

 

Sly sets sights on Aintree aim for Eileendover

Pam Sly is to resist the temptation of Cheltenham for Eileendover and run her star filly at Aintree instead.

The Peterborough trainer feels the Weatherbys Champion Bumper will come too soon for her unbeaten charge and is to prepare her for the Goffs UK Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race on April 8.

Sly has just started to build Eileendover back up to full fitness after giving her a month’s break following her victory in a Listed bumper at Market Rasen.

“She’s had a month’s holiday. She’d been in since last February. It’s a long time,” said Sly.

“She’s on the walker this week. We can’t do much at the moment. It keeps snowing and we’ve had another frost this morning.

“I’m still aiming to go to Aintree. I know I should probably go for the Grade One at Cheltenham, but I just think it’s too early. I won’t have her fit enough for that.”

Sly was pleased to see the Market Rasen form franked on Sunday when the Willie Mullins-trained Grangee, who was beaten eight and a half lengths in third place, took the Grade Two mares’ bumper at Leopardstown.

“That was all right. She won 59 grand for that and ours was only 11. Their ground looked a bit better than ours,” she added.

“I always thought our filly wanted better ground and I still do.”

Nicholls favouring Aintree date for Hitman

Paul Nicholls reports Hitman to be none the worse after falling in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown on Saturday.

Hugely impressive on his British debut at Ffos Las in November, the French recruit subsequently chased home Dan Skelton’s Allmankind when stepped up to Grade One level for the first time in Sandown’s Henry VIII Novices’ Chase the following month.

The five-year-old returned to the Esher venue for another top-level assignment last weekend – and was still travelling strongly when coming to grief at the first of the Railway Fences.

Speaking on a call hosted by Great British Racing, Nicholls said: “It was very frustrating – I don’t think I’ve seen Harry (Cobden, jockey) that frustrated after a race for a long time.

“He was travelling extremely well and jumped impeccably. He was just a bit unlucky he landed a little bit steep.

“He’s come out of the race fine and we’ve just got to make a plan as to what we’re going to do with him going forward.”

Hitman holds entries in the Arkle Trophy and the Marsh Novices’ Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival, but could sidestep the showpiece meeting in the Cotswolds entirely.

Nicholls added: “I wouldn’t mind saving him for Aintree. He’s a horse who doesn’t want a lot of racing this year. He’s only just turned five and he’s going to improve physically for another summer.

“You wouldn’t do Cheltenham and Aintree and Cheltenham might come a bit quick off the back of a fall.

“I wouldn’t mind getting a clear round in somewhere on a small track and then go to Aintree.”

Mullins’ firepower giving Henderson food for thought

Nicky Henderson is “praying” Newbury’s meeting gets the go-ahead on Saturday so he can put the finishing touches to several of his Cheltenham team in preparation for taking on the in-form Willie Mullins squad.

As well as vital prep races for the likes of Altior and Champ, having witnessed Mullins’ domination of the Dublin Racing Festival, Henderson knows nothing less than 100 per cent will do at Cheltenham.

“I wish I hadn’t watched it actually – it was slightly frightening!” said Henderson of Leopardstown’s two-day fixture.

“I certainly haven’t shown it to one or two horses. I don’t think Epatante needed to see Honeysuckle, or Shishkin needed to see Willie’s two-mile novice (Energumene) and Altior needed to see Chacun Por Soi.

Honeysuckle won the Irish Champion Hurdle for a second time
Honeysuckle won the Irish Champion Hurdle for a second time (Niall Carson/PA)

“I saw them and it gave me a mighty fright. I’ve never seen anything like it. Well done Willie – it was the most staggering weekend.”

The Dublin Racing Festival also gives the Irish horses an extra week to get over their exertions before Cheltenham, and Henderson is just hoping for no hiccups at this late stage.

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“The timing for them is better than this weekend for us, to be honest, to Cheltenham. From the Irish point of view, it will be perfect,” Henderson said on a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“There’s always pressure. These aren’t trials, but for Champ (in the Denman Chase) it is a form of prep race as he hasn’t had one since the RSA. For Altior (in the Game Spirit), it’s more of a trial as I need to prove he’s a Champion Chase horse.

“He’s already won it, but he didn’t make it last year because of a splint.

Altior (right) needs to bounce back from defeat at Kempton
Altior (right) needs to bounce back from defeat at Kempton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“The dream is still alive with them, but by Saturday night the dream could be over and that would be blisteringly disappointing, because when you think you have a Gold Cup horse and a Champion Chaser, I need to go to bed on Saturday night still having them.

“If everything went badly wrong on Saturday from our point of view, it would be like being stabbed in the back, so we go into these sorts of days with a certain amount of trepidation.

“If for some reason Champ’s jumping went to pot, we’ve left him in the Stayers’ Hurdle so he could go down that route, but I know (owner) JP (McManus’) team and ourselves see that as a very reserve engagement.”

While Henderson is already worrying about the competition at Cheltenham, of more concern is that this meeting beats the weather.

“If this meeting was lost, we’d desperately request that both these races, and the Betfair Hurdle as that is important too, were saved. We’ve got to get runs into them,” he said.

“We could do an awful lot with them at home, but having watched last weekend in Ireland, we are going to have to be pencil sharp to take on Willie and everybody. You can see how good the opposition is, so we have got to be razor sharp.

“I’m praying because we are primed for it, I don’t need another week. Often you’d buy another, but I really don’t need it because it’s starting to get close to Cheltenham, so anything like a hard race and it’s getting short enough to recover.

Champ, who won the RSA Chase under Barry Geraghty last season, return on Saturday
Champ, who won the RSA Chase under Barry Geraghty last season, return on Saturday (Tim Goode/PA)

“I seriously hope and pray that if this weekend was unable to go ahead, they could reschedule the two big races, the Betfair Hurdle and I’d like the bumper as well. It would be nice to have all of them.

“We need to answer back this weekend, we need to stake a claim, all of us, or we’ll get whitewashed and we don’t want that. We’ve got a strong team with Altior, Champ, Santini and the Champion Hurdle squad is strong. Honeysuckle versus Epatante will be fascinating. Buveur D’Air wants his crown back as well.

“We’ve got to look forward to what is coming ahead.”

2021 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY FOUR (Fri 19th March 2021)

2021 Cheltenham Festival Trends: DAY FOUR (Fri 19th March 2021)

Each day of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival our horse racing trends experts will give you all the quick-fire positive and negative stats for EVERY race. Apply these to the final cards and you will build up a picture and a profile of which horses have historically done the best in recent renewals.

We hope they help narrow down the fields and also help pin-point plenty of winners at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival for you!

Onto 'DAY FOUR' and it's Gold Cup Day - did you know, all of the last 18 Gold Cup winners were aged 9 or younger?

 


Friday 19th March 2021 (New Course)

Cheltenham Festival Trends

 

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

2020 Winner: BURNING VICTORY 12/1
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend

Pluses…..

  • 21 of the last 27 winners won last time out
  • 8 of the last 12 winners were unbeaten over hurdles
  • Irish have won 5 of the last 8 runnings
  • French-breds have filled 10 of the last 16 places (last 6 runnings)
  • 11 of the last 16 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 10 of the last 13 winners returned 13/2 or shorter in the betting
  • Respect Henderson (7 winners), Nicholls, Hobbs and King-trained runners
  • 7 of the last 17 first ran over hurdles by November (5 of the last 8 by mid-Nov)
  • 10 of the last 15 winners returned 13/2 or shorter
  • The Spring Juvenile Hurdle is a good guide
  • 9 of the last 11 winners ran in the Finesse, Adonis or Spring Juvenile Hurdles last time
  • 7 of the last 12 winners had run in France before
  • Nicky Henderson has trained 7 winners of the race
  • Gordon Elliott has had 2 wins and 2 seconds in the last 7 years

Negatives….

  • Take on horses that have won at 2m2f or further in the past
  • Avoid horses that last ran 56 days or longer ago
  • Avoid horses that had run 3 or more times over hurdles
  • Just 2 of the last 16 winner returned bigger than 12/1
  • Be careful of horses rated 138 or lower – no winner in the last 12
  • Willie Mullins has fairly poor record despite winning the 2020 race – currently 1-from-29

 

 

  1.55 - McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 179y ITV

 

2020 Winner: SAINT ROI 11/2 fav
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Barry Geraghty

Pluses….

  • The Irish have won 9 of the last 14 runnings
  • The last 6 winners were trained by Willie Mullins or Dan Skelton
  • Willie Mullins has won 5 of the last 11 runnings
  • 16 of the last 20 winners were novices or second season hurdlers
  • 4 of the last 13 winners ran in that season’s Coral.ie Hurdle (Leopardsotwn)
  • 14 of the last 15 winners were rated in the 130’s
  • 7 of the last 13 winners returned 20/1 or bigger
  • 6 of the last 12 winners had run in 6 or less hurdles races
  • 11 of the last 15 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
  • 11 of the last 22 winners aged 5
  • 6 of the last 7 winners had run at Cheltenham before
  • 9 of the last 14 winners Irish-trained
  • 8 of the last 13 winners started their careers in France
  • 12 of the last 15 winners were priced in double-figures
  • 13 of the last 17 winners began their careers on the flat
  • Look for Mullins, Martins & Nicholls-trained runners
  • Respect the Imperial Cup (Sandown Park) winner
  • 9 winners since 2002 ran in the Ladbrokes or Betfair Hurdles that season
  • 11 of the last 20 winners came from the top 5 in the betting
  • 14 of the last 17 winners were 1st or 2nd season hurdlers
  • 11 of the last 14 winners DIDN’T win last time out
  • The last 5 winners hadn’t raced in the last 72 days
  • Paul Nicholls is 4 from 30 (+16pts)
  • Willie Mullins is 4 from 38 (+47.5pts)
  • Trainer Dan Skelton has trained 3 of the last 5 renewals (2 of last 3)
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Negatives….

  • Strangely, previous course winners have a bad record
  • Only 2 winners since 2000 winning with a mark of 150+
  • Since 1960 only 5 winners carried more than 11st 2lb
  • Since 1961, only 9 winners had run at the Festival before
  • Since 2005, just one winner rated 140+ (158 runners)
  • Avoid runners that hadn’t raced at least 4 times that season
  • Avoid horses making their handicap debuts, although last year’s winner defied this trend
  • 0 of the last 7 winners ran no more than 4 times that season
  • Just 2 of the last 14 winners returned a single-figure price
  • Nicky Henderson has a poor record (0-from-32) since 2000
  • Gordon Elliott has a poor record (0-from-17) last 10 years

 

 

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

2020 Winner: MONKFISH 5/1
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend

Pluses….

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

Negatives….

  • Horses that ran in the last 23 days haven’t fared well
  • Avoid horses that DIDN’T finish 1st or 2nd last time out
  • Be wary of horses that have raced less than 3 times over hurdles (1 from 16)
  • Willie Mullins is 2 from 38 in the race, but has won 2 of the last 4
  • Gordon Elliott is 0-from-7
  • 5 year-olds have a poor record
  • Only 4 of the last 16 winners hadn’t raced that calendar year

 

 

3.05 - WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1) 3m 2f 70y ITV

 

2020 Winner: AL BOUM PHOTO (12/1)
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend

Pluses….

  • 17 of the last 21 winners ran in the Savills Chase or King George that season
  • 18 of the last 20 finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 18 of the last 21 winners were 2nd or 3rd season chasers
  • 10 of the last 15 winners had run 9 or less times over fences
  • All of the last 21 winners were Grade 1 winners
  • 16 of the last 20 had won or placed at the Festival before
  • 17 of the last 20 winners hailed from the top 3 in the betting
  • 19 of the last 21 winners had raced no more than 12 times over fences
  • 12 of the last 13 winners ran 3 or less times that season
  • 16 of the last 24 winners were bred in Ireland
  • 16 of the last 20 winners won last time out
  • 6 of the last 15 favourites won
  • 9 of the last 18 winners were favourirtes
  • 12 of the last 16 winners yet to win beyond 3m 1/2f
  • ALL of the last 21 winners were aged 9 or younger
  • 20 of the last 21 winners aged between 7-9 years-old
  • 19 of the last 21 winners were in their first three seasons over fences
  • Horses placed in a previous Supreme Novices’ Hurdle have a good record (6-from-6 this century)

 

Negatives….

  • Non-Grade One winners have a poor record
  • No winner older than 10 years-old since 1969 (0 from 71)
  • Just one winning 6 year-old since 1964
  • Horses rated 166 or less are only 5 from last 34
  • Avoid horses that had run on ‘heavy’ ground that season
  • Horses wearing headgear have a bad recent record
  • Willie Mullins has only won the race twice (2020, 2019), 2 from 33 (had 4 of the last 8 seconds and the 2019 & 2020 winner though)
  • Only 2 winners since 2000 returned 9/1 or bigger
  • Just 1 of the last 13 winners had raced more than 3 times that season
  • Horses that were beaten in their first Gold Cup don’t fare well
  • Only 2 winners since 2000 had previously been beaten in the race
  • No winner since 2000 ran in that season’s Cotswold Chase

 

Cheltenham Gold Cup Betting Trends

18/18 – Aged 9 or younger
17/18 – Had raced within the last 3 months
16/18 – Had run over fences at Cheltenham before
16/18 – Finished 1st or 2nd last time out
15/18 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
15/18 – Had won over at least 3m (chase) before
14/18 – Winning distance – 2 lengths or more
14/18 – Won last time out
12/18 – Placed favourites
11/18 – Had won 5 or more times over fences in the UK or Ire before
11/18 – Rated 170 or higher
10/18 – Irish bred
9/18 – Winning favourites
8/18 – Had last raced in the previous calendar year
8/18 – Had won over fences at Cheltenham before
7/18 – Irish-trained winners
5/18 – Last race was in the King George VI Chase (Kempton)
4/18 – Won the Denman Chase (Newbury) last time out
3/18 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
2/18 – Ran in the Lexus Chase last time out
2/18 – Trained by Nicky Henderson
The average winning SP in the last 18 renewals is 11/2

Other Cheltenham Gold Cup Stats

Only one horse (Kauto Star 2009) has ever regained the race
26 of the last 27 winners have been aged 9 or younger
9 of the last 19 winners came here fresh – did not race that same calendar year
17 of the last 20 winners were rated 166 or higher
20 of the last 22 winners had won a race already that current season
14 of the last 20 winners had finished second or better at the Cheltenham Festival before
11 of the last 21 winners had run in that season’s King George VI Chase (Kempton)
All of the previous 21 winners had won a Grade One Chase contest before
The last winner aged older than 10 was in 1969 (What a Myth, 12)

 

Cheltenham Gold Cup – UK v Irish

 

16/23 – British-trained winners
7/23 – Irish-trained winners (3 of last 5 though)
Willie Mullins (Ire) has trained just two winners
Nicky Henderson (UK) has trained 2 of the last 9 winners
Paul Nicholls (UK) has trained 3 of the last 13 winners (4 in total)

 

3.40 - St James's Place Foxhunter Chase 3m 2f 70y ITV

 

2020 Winner: IT CAME TO PASS 66/1
Trainer – Eugene O’Sullivan
Jockey – Miss M O’Sullivan

Pluses…..

  • 26 of the last 30 winners were aged under 11 years-old
  • 25 of the last 35 won last time out
  • 17 of the last 18 winners Irish or French bred
  • The last 14 winners were yet to win over this trip
  • 6 of the last 11 winners finished in the top 5 in the race last year
  • 8 of the last 12 winners came from the first 4 in the betting
  • 28 of the last 32 started out in point-to-point races
  • 11 of the last 15 winners ran 34 days or less ago
  • Respect the Irish runners (won 7 of last 10)
  • 5 of the last 9 winners ran in the Leopardstown Inn Hunters’ Chase
  • 10 of the last 15 winners were aged 8-10 years-old
  • 8 of the last 12 winners returned 15/2 or shorter
  • 11 of the last 13 winners finished in the top 3 last time out
  • 9 of the last 11 winners rated 134 or higher (6 of last 8, rated 138+)

Negatives….

  • Horses that ran in a handicap race that season haven’t got a good record
  • Avoid horses that hadn’t won a race under rules
  • Just 2 winners in the last 44 years aged 12 or older
  • 27 of the last 29 horses aged 11+ (priced in single figures) have lost – but the 2019 winner – Hazel Hill – defied this trend
  • Just 1 6 year-old winner in the last 33 runnings
  • Only 2 winners aged 7 since 2000
  • Avoid ex-handicappers rated 140+ in their careers
  • Avoid horses that raced 35 days or longer ago
  • British bred horses are 0-81 (last 18 runnings)
  • Just 2 winners since 2000 hadn’t run within the last 53 days
  • Horses aged 11+ are just 5 from 245 since 1990
  • Just 4 winners since 2000 didn’t finish in the top 3 last time out

 

 

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

New Race – No Key Trends

 

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

 

2020 Winner: INDEFATIGABLE 25/1
Trainer – Paul Webber
Jockey – Rex Dingle  

Pluses….

  • 11 of the last 12 winners were 2nd season-hurdlers
  • 9 of the last 10 winners placed in the top 3 last time
  • All of the last 12 winners carried 11-1 or more
  • The last three winners had top-weight
  • All 12 winners aged 7 or younger
  • 7 or the last 9 winners rated 139+
  • 10 of the last 12 winners had 8 or less runs over hurdles
  • 4 of the last 7 winners were Irish-based Novices
  • Irish have won 6 of the last 10 (5 making handicap debuts)
  • 35 of the 37 win and place horses were 1st or 2nd season hurdlers
  • Look for Henderson, Nicholls, Mullins, Elliot-trained horses
  • 10 of the 12 winners were placed in the top 4 last time out
  • 6 of the 12 winners won last time out
  • 6 of the last 7 winners had run over a longer trip that season
  • 7 of the 12 winners were rated 133-139
  • 8 of the 12 winners returned at a double-figure price (9 of the last 12 were 16/1 or less)
  • 5 and 6 year-old have won 10 of last 12 runnings
  • Look for jockeys that have ridden 20+ winners
  • Willie Mullins is 3 from 19 runners in the race (won 3 of the last 10 runnings)
  • Respect any Gigginstown House Stud-owned runners (4 winners, 5 places)
  • Paul Nicholls has won the race twice in the last 8 years
  • Gordon Elliott has won 2 of the last 4 runnings

Negatives….

  • Despite being named after his father the David Pipe stable has a poor record so far (0 from 20, inc 3 favs)
  • Horses aged 8+ are 0-from 48
  • Just 1 winning fav in the 12-year history (8/11 returned in double-figures)
  • Horses in headgear are currently 1 from 59
  • Only 4 winners have previous Festival experience
  • Horses with 11st or less are currently 0-from-89

 

Can Le Breuil Finally Come Good In Edinburgh National?

The weather continues to claim fixtures on a regular basis and Sandown’s card on Saturday will remain in some sort of doubt until a morning inspection. Prospects seem more encouraging at Musselburgh so we’ll head there for Saturday’s preview on one of their live ITV races.

The Edinburgh National at 4.15pm looks a really interesting contest. Testing ground and a marathon trip of 4m1f will make it a gruelling test and hopefully we can rule a fair few out based on conditions alone.

As usual we’ll go through the race using a number of tools available through a Geegeez Gold subscription.

Pace

Generally speaking the longer the distance, the less there is a hereditary front running pace bias in racing so let’s see if there is any pace bias over this 33f trip.

There is very limited data for this distance so it seems best to open up a few of the parameters here, especially the distance. Looking at chases that have taken place at Musselburgh over distances of 3m+ there does seem to still be a pace bias. It’s not with front runners though but with those that tend to race prominently.

Prominent racers have won 17.09% of qualifying races they have contested which is more than mid division and held up have provided combined. Those that race prominently have a better win percentage, place percentage, win PL, each way PL and IV than any other run style.

Front runners produce better results than mid division and held up so there is clearly an advantage in being closer to the pace than patiently ridden. Win percentage, place percentage and IV are very similar between mid division and held up but in terms of market expectancy mid division massively outperforms held up with win PL and place PL far worse for those held up compared to mid division.

How about the pace setup for this particular race?

We’re probably not going to see a hectic gallop and a steady early gallop should amplify the advantage of those that race prominently. It could also help those with slightly questionable stamina.

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Little Bruce could find himself with an uncontested lead with The Ferry Master, Mighty Thunder, Le Breuil and Billy Bronco likely to race in the ‘perfect’ position for this course. That quartet could be worth marking up in our estimations.

Dino Boy and Saint Xavier are amongst the more fancied runners that have been patiently ridden more often than not on recent starts and that pair will do very well to win from the rear if that’s how they are ridden here once again. Dino Boy was prominently ridden last time though when winning so we may well see a repeat of those tactics here.

Instant Expert

The place data with some loose parameters should give us a fair idea of which runners are more likely to give their running than others in this contest.

It’s understandable that most horses should come out with a decent place record with the above filters and any ‘red’ results should be fairly concerning, especially if the data sample is more than a couple of races.

Perhaps the main standouts from a positive perspective here are The Ferry Master who has hit the frame for all filtered races as well as Dino Boy and Bob Mahler who display very solid profiles.

Saint Xavier looks a huge negative considering his odds, he has failed to place in all races in this going or in this field size and he also has a poor record in class 2 or class 3 races. Stay Humble also has some worrying stats, including four failures to place in soft ground. He does have a 100% record of placing at Musselburgh at least.

There are no real negatives over this extreme distance, although it’s worth noting that half the field haven’t gone anywhere near this far before so there are certainly some stamina question marks in the field.

Keeping those loose parameters but looking at win records, we obviously see a lot more with red profiles now.

The profile of The Ferry Master now looks a lot less attractive from a win perspective but Dino Boy remains a positive overall. Bob Mahler has a 100% win record at Musselburgh that’s only from one run.

Classic Escape and Billy Bronco look worth taking on from those nearer the head of the betting based on the bare statistics whilst further down the odds list Little Bruce is worth closer inspection solely because he has a decent strike rate at staying trips.

Stamina

Stamina will be key here and we seem to have two distinct groups of runners, those proven over staying trips and those who are yet to test their stamina over anywhere near this far. First let’s look at those with the proven stamina as they are more likely to throw up a solid each way bet.

Runners With Marathon Experience

Little Bruce was previously mentioned as a runner worth examining more closely because of two wins from five over extended trips. His latest run came in a 2m NHF flat race at Newcastle so a poor run there is of no concern over this much different test. He was beaten over 40 lengths on his two previous runs though without too many excuses and he was beaten the best part of 20 lengths in this last year when finishing 4th. This has presumably been the target once again but he’s only 2lbs lower than last year and doesn’t look in the right form to win this.

Last year’s winner, Bob Mahler, is arguably the most ‘proven’ runner here. He won this race last year in similar conditions and followed up with a good 3rd in the Kim Muir. He’s been in no sort of form this season though, pulled up in all three runs. A wind op hasn’t improved him and he’s another you couldn’t back with any confidence at the minute., for all he's interesting on last year's form.

Dino Boy was marked as a runner that looked interesting based on Instant Expert. Relatively lightly raced for an 8yo, he was pulled up on seasonal debut on his first start for Iain Jardine but put that run behind him on his first start beyond 3m2f last time when winning over an extended 4m, proving his stamina for this contest in the process. He has a leading chance on that form but it was noted by the stewards that the trainer declared the horse stripped fitter for his seasonal debut but also improved for returning to a left handed track. Musselburgh is of course a right handed track and he was also a beaten favourite a year ago at Wincanton (also right handed) so backers beware.

Le Breuil is the favourite here and a runner who has tested himself over extreme trips on a few occasions. He won almost two years ago over 1.5f shy of this trip at the Cheltenham Festival but has been fairly expensive to follow since (beaten favourite on three of his last four starts). He found things happening too quickly at last year’s Festival over 3m2f but ran creditably over the same distance on his first two starts this season. His best two runs since his last win have both come over 3m5f at Warwick and it’s likely that the extra trip has been the key there. That especially seems to be the case as he’s been outpaced even at those trips before staying on again and this step back up in trip looks a very smart move. Connections also reach for the cheekpieces here and he didn’t run brilliantly on his previous run with them on, for all it was a completely different test, so he’s a slightly risky favourite with that in mind for all he could be a class above here and ticks lots of boxes.

Classic Escape and Billy Bronco have both tried this sort of trip before without success. Both have placed though. The former has a fairly consistent profile and he ran with credit last time behind Dino Boy when 2nd. That pretty much proved his stamina but he was beaten 15 lengths that day so it can’t really be argued that he ran brilliantly. Billy Bronco has finished 2nd over 3m6f but he’s been pulled up on his last two runs at that kind of distance and didn’t seem to stay 4m2f in the Midlands National a few years ago so looks a risky proposition.

Runners With Stamina To Prove

The Ferry Master had a solid place profile for this according to Instant Expert but looked less impressive from a win perspective. He’s won his last two starts over trips just shy of 3m and is yet to try anything like this kind of distance. His sire was a 1m winner on the flat and the furthest any of his offspring have won over is 3m1f so his stamina is certainly questionable. He is two from two in cheekpieces though and would have an excellent chance if he stays.

Saint Xavier had some serious question marks across the board according to Instant Expert so let’s take a closer look at his chances. He’s certainly not the most consistent and has been very up and down for both Paul Nicholls and Richard Hobson on these shores. He’s been gradually finding his feet this season though for Hobson and put in his best performance for quite some time last time out at Kempton over 3m in a first time visor. This will be a very different test though, going up in trip by a mile and he now tries first time blinkers. He is related to Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint but his inconsistency is a worry as much as anything else.

The Delray Munky refused at the last on her most recent run when a remote 2nd but had won her previous race comfortably. She’s an extended 3m winner on heavy but she’s not always the strongest finisher and looks another suspect stayer in this. His trainer does have an IV of 1.65 in marathon handicaps though so it’s perhaps taking notice when one runs over this sort of trip for the first time. Her sire has had five runners at this distance and none have placed but three of them fell or were brought down and one of the two finishers was a 66/1 chance so it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions. Her sire has had a winner at 3m6f in the past.

Fortified Bay tried an extended 3m4f last time out at Haydock in very deep ground and although he finished 2nd, he was beaten 45 lengths. He’s been given 77 days to get over that run which seems a wise move. His trainer has an IV of 1.36 with handicap runners returning from a 60+ day break so that too is reassuring. His sire seems to get more than his fair share of 2m winners and hasn’t had any winners at further than 3m so a big stamina question mark over this one.

Stay Humble was 2nd on his only previous run here but that was over just 2m4f last time out. He’s run okay on his two tries over distances further than 3m though and he does have some potential off this sort of mark at that kind of trip at the very least. He is a prominent racer which is a bonus here but the big questions is his stamina. His sire has had a couple of 3m1f winners but he’s 0 from 11 at 3m4f+ according to the Profiler. The horse’s better runs have also come on slightly better ground.

Mighty Thunder completes the field at big odds. He’s run here four times over hurdles and those efforts include and win and a 2nd at 13/2 and 22/1 respectively. He won on his penultimate start when making all and similar tactics wouldn’t be a huge disadvantage here but he was beaten a very long way last time out at Kelso. Whether or not he’s well enough handicapped to win this, will stay the trip or in better form this time around are all question marks and that’s at least one too many but if he is back to form and does stay he’ll outrun his odds.

Verdict

None of those without proven stamina look to be crying out for the step up in trip and many have form, or well being, question marks too. The Ferry Master would be very interesting over shorter but is short enough with such a stamina doubt. If they don’t go a very strong gallop and he is well placed off that gallop he might get away with it and would be ideally positioned and he would be one to potentially consider in running depending on how strong the early pace is.

Several of those with proven stamina or near proven stamina have to prove their well being so the two most reliable selections could end up being Le Breuil and Dino Boy. If there wasn’t the question mark over Dino Boy being as good right handed as he is left handed he would be the first choice here but he’s no guarantee to run as well around this course. Le Breuil has been expensive to follow and does have to prove himself in the cheekpieces but those cheekpieces could be the making of him. He does come with risks attached but that can be said about every single runner in this field and on the balance of things he looks the most likely to win this, for all he’s not the greatest value play you’ll ever see on a Saturday.

Two Cheltenham Festival Side Bets to Consider

February is upon us and, with it, the focus on the Cheltenham Festival becomes more intense. Regardless of the debate about the middle March showpiece overpowering the National Hunt calendar's narrative, there is no denying it offers a rich range of options from an ante post perspective. So, during this short hiatus from decent turf action, I thought it might be worth looking at a couple of the more interesting 'side bets'.

The growth of 'request a bet' type functionality has been a boon for bookmakers, with ambitious punters adding more and more elements which must occur in an event in order to trigger the cumulative payout. These are largely to be avoided though the related contingency (i.e. one element having a direct bearing on another element within the wager) factor can occasionally make such plays of interest. Here are two which might appeal - they did to me!

Arkle Chase - Shishkin to win by six lengths-plus (10/3 Skybet)

On first inspection, I was apprehensive of this. Not because I think the horse in question is poor value: on the contrary, I think he's a very, very likely winner where the biggest dangers are expected to be the form of his stable and the 13 fences between the rising tapes and jam stick.

Of stable form, it can be seen from the right hand part of the chart that the Henderson hordes have not been firing at their highest rate in recent months. Nor, mind you, has the win percentage been anything other than aspirational for most other yards.

Moreover, there is plenty of time for an uptick should such a thing even be necessary: it's not prevented Shishkin from strolling home in his three chase runs this season, most recently by eight widening lengths from a 150-odd-rated animal on Saturday.

And in terms of jumping acuity, he has yet to make a serious mistake in three chases. True, all were small field affairs, but the Arkle, too, will quite likely cut up to a handful of contenders.

The opposition looks a rung below Shishkin, with perhaps Energumene the only credible danger. A fortnight ago, he beat a rival of similar ability by the same margin as Shishkin won on Saturday; if that was a parallel performance, there is little doubt about the 'remaining gears' differential in my view. Moreover, Willie Mullins' charge was a little novice-y in places that day for all that he was entitled to be on just his second fencing start. One further slight question mark is whether Energumene needs to lead in his races: he has led or disputed in all four of his starts over obstacles though whether that was a function of class and staying out of harm's way, or is a tactical prerequisite, is moot. What is clearer is that, if he does go forward, he will very likely face a challenge from Allmankind who appears to have no plan B when it comes to run style.

All of the above verbosity is by way of suggesting that Shishkin will probably win assuming he turns up in one piece (never a given). But a top priced 8/11, whilst still very far from offensive in value terms, is unexciting for those of us with limited elevens to risk in the pursuit of eights. And here is where the winning distance comes in.

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Skybet are actually offering prices on winning margins of 2+ lengths (10/11), 4+ lengths (2/1), 6+ lengths (10/3), 8+ lengths (5/1) and 10+ lengths (7/1). I'm interested in 6+ as the optimal value play. And here's why.

Last year, Put The Kettle On was a 16/1 chance when winning by a length and a half. There were 18 lengths back to the third placed horse. In the five previous renewals, the race went more in keeping with the form already in the book as 5/1 Duc Des Genievres was the only one of the quintet of Arkle winners between 2015 and 2019 to score at odds against. His winning margin was 13 lengths. The four odds-on scorers, in reverse chronological order Footpad, Altior, Douvan and Un De Sceaux, scored by, respectively, 14 lengths, six lengths, seven lengths and six lengths.

The tl;dr (bit late now, I realise) is that five of the last six winners - four of them, like Shishkin, odds-on favourites - won by six lengths or more. In that context, Shishkin - who has won all of his completed starts, by 8L, 11L, 11L, a neck, 23L, 13L, and 8.5L - looks very fairly priced at 10/3 to win the Arkle by six lengths or more.

The link to this market is here.

**

Queen Mother Champion Chase - Chacun Pour Soi to win by four lengths-plus (4/1 Skybet)

Suggesting an ante post position on a hitherto infamously infrequent racecourse attendee may seem a tad gung-ho, all the more so when said runner was withdrawn on the morning of the race last year. But there is a growing belief, in the heart and mind of this scribbler at least, that the 2020/21 Chacun Pour Soi model is a more robust one.

Exhibit A to that end are the two races - both comfortable victories, in Grade 2 and Grade 1 company - in one month, the final month of last year. If that's the good news, the less good news is that Exhibit B must likely follow this weekend at the (outright excellent) Dublin Racing Festival; and Exhibit C requires him to cross the Irish channel in mid-March sans sicknote.

That's a risk and there are no two ways about it: if you don't like that risk, don't make this bet. Indeed, don't make any bet on CPS without the 'non runner no bet' concession.

But if, like me, you think 4/1 more than accommodates the chance of his non-participation, then let's talk about the opposition and the winning margin, oppo first.

This season, I've been a Put The Kettle On fan and a Politologue fan and a Chacun Pour Soi fan. The first two have bombproof Cheltenham form while the headline act - in the context of this proposed wager - has had a look around Cleeve Hill but not yet galloped there in anger. If anything was to happen to CPS, I'd split my stake between the other two named here, and might chuck in Rouge Vif in the unlikely event we get a six week drought henceforth. I can't have Altior, as much as my heart wrestles my head to consider him: he's just too long in the tooth now, before we even consider the depth of the Kempton form behind Nube Negra (a horse arguably a good bit better suited to Aintree than Cheltenham, though he has run well at the Festival).

Chacun was imperious at Christmas, value for plenty more than the official six and a half lengths. He will again face the second horse from that Grade 1, Notebook, if both stand their ground at the weekend, and the fact that Notebook is circa 5/1 third choice for Dublin's Festival Chase speaks of the paucity of opposition once more. There is the not inconsiderable frame of Min betwixt and between in the weekend market but, in the same ownership as Chacun Pour Soi, it is unclear what might be gained from that pair locking horns. Mind you, they did last season, CPS prevailing by most of four lengths.

Put The Kettle On jumped poorly under Sean Flanagan when slammed by CPS and Notebook last time but can be expected to improve both for a return to Cheltenham and the presumed return of Aidan Coleman to the saddle. In that light, she's of minor interest at 14/1 each way and also worth at least a second glance when the 'without the favourite' market emerges. But it is hard to see her turning tables with her last day vanquisher.

Of the home team, Politologue had been under-rated a touch in my view: his Festival record is excellent and he is the reigning champ. He'd looked good this season before being undone by an absolutely terrific performance from First Flow at Ascot ten days or so ago. Kim Bailey's charge reminded me of something between Denman's belligerence and the young Master Minded's panache: he has some way to go ratings-wise to be within a half furlong of that pair but his Ascot performance was, visually, everything jump racing should be.

In terms of race tactics at Cheltenham, if First Flow and Politologue again have at it a mile and more from home, as they did at Ascot, they'll be spent when CPS presents arms at the turn in, and that one ought to run away from them thereafter, assuming he handles the track.

The margin of victory of Champion Chase-winning favourites in recent years is thus: Altior 2019 (1 3/4 lengths), Altior 2018 (7 lengths), Sire De Grugy 2014 (6 lengths), Sprinter Sacre 2013 (19 lengths), Master Minded 2009 (7 lengths).

If Chacun Pour Soi runs and wins at the Dublin Racing Festival this weekend - he's currently a best priced 4/9 so to do - he'll be shorter for the winning margin bets and odds on for the Champion Chase. If he doesn't run, he'll be circa evens on the day assuming he shows up. If he runs and gets beaten, who knows? But, like I say, I think he's a more robust animal this season, and I'm prepared to back that perception.

So here's the rub: if Chacun Pour Soi wins the Champion Chase, I believe he'll win by a 'fresh air' margin. And if he doesn't... well, you might as well have 4/1 as 6/5 about the same loser.

The  link to this market (at the bottom, in the 'lengthen the odds' section) is here.

**

There will be lots of to and fro in the six weeks from now until the Cheltenham Festival gets underway. A few positions on shorties at fancier prices, for all that the spectre of our picks winning but not by far enough looms, may help to wile the worst of these remaining Covid days.

Matt

Lingfield Preview: Bookies Overlook Profitable Trainer Change Angle

Cheltenham's abandonment means three races from Lingfield will be shown on ITV and that includes their 3.30pm, a class 3 mile handicap that looks a nice betting heat despite just the seven runners.

As usual I’ll be looking at this race using the form tools and racecards on offer with Geegeez Gold, many of which can be accessed for free on various days with a free geegeez account.

Pace

I’ve looked at a few different mile handicaps here over the winter and the data shows that front runners can have an advantage.

The smaller the field the less ground hold up horses need to make up in most cases so it’s no surprise that in fields of this sort of size the front runner advantage isn’t quite as strong. The majority of winners in smaller fields here over this distance are held up but they have the worst win percentage record of just 12.02%. This steadily climbs the closer to the pace you get, 18.8% of front runners are victorious here. We also see similar increases in the place percentage and IV metrics as you get closer to the pace.

One thing that is worth remembering is that although hold up performers can be at a disadvantage over this course and distance, Lingfield is well suited to speedier hold up types that have a turn of foot. We saw this a couple of weeks ago when Intuitive won a nice handicap over track and trip. Grinders, that are typically suited to straight courses or long straights and take plenty of winding up tend to do much less well here and are the kinds of hold up horse to oppose.

Looking at the pace map for this race:

Unsurprisingly in a seven runner contest, there is little pace on offer here. Golden Force looks the lone pace angle but he’s unlikely to make it much of a test. He’s led on three of his last seven runs and has been close to the pace in all but one of those. He seems a horse that doesn’t need to lead but is happy to do so when it provides him with a tactical advantage.

Atheeb may well be close up. He had been ridden fairly patiently for Sit Michael Stoute previously but on debut for George Boughey last time out he led in the first furlong before tracking a pretty strong pace. The new connections probably see him as a horse that likes to race handily and it would be no surprise to see him ridden fairly positively again.

The majority of the remaining runners tend to be patiently ridden so there should be little pressure on the leaders here.

Draw

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The data here suggests a slightly peculiar trend:

In seven runner fields here low drawn runners have a PRB (Percentage of Rivals Beaten) of just 0.44 whilst middle and high draws have a PRB of 0.53 and 0.54 respectively. For some reason stalls 1 and 2 both perform much poorer than any other stall in this field size. Now this could be a quirk of the data as there is no obvious reason why those stalls should perform much worse but stall 1 has the worst PRB in field sizes of 8 runners whilst in 9 runner contests stalls 1 and 2 are amongst the three worst stalls for PRB. So there is potentially something in this and Lethal Lunch is stall 1 and Tadleel in stall 2 could be at a slight disadvantage here.

The Runners

Looking at each of the seven runners here in early market order:

Catch My Breath

A winner of his last two starts here, Catch My Breath carries a 5lb penalty whilst jumping up two classes. The impressive Laura Pearson rides but she also rode last time so there is no additional benefit from her claim today compared to last time.

It seems strange that in the very early betting this horse is just 13/8 so he could well be a day of race drifter. He’s a 5yo, off a career high mark going up to class 3 company for the first time. The race he won last time didn’t look particularly strong but he is unbeaten in two course and distance runs and on his only other start here he ran fairly well in a warm handicap over 10f so this course is clearly bringing the best out in him and he can’t be ruled out.

Golden Force

The likely pace angle in the race has been in good form since racing resumed in June, winning 3 of his 8 starts. He’s 10lbs higher than his defeat to Lalania in June which is a race that worked out extremely well with the winner going up 16lbs in the ratings since then, that 10lb rise isn’t guaranteed to find him out based on that run.

His good form since June could be down to the change of headgear to a visor, which he continues to race in here. He’s also seemed particularly well suited to Wolverhampton, producing form figures of 131 there (the 3rd was a close third, beaten less than a length). On polytrack however his form figures have been 499376. He failed to beat a runner home when sent off 11/4 on his only previous run at Lingfield and that would be a concern. The form of the Charlie Fellowes yard would also be a slight concern. He’s not had a winner since Golden Force won a month ago, that run spans 18 runners, 8 of which were shorter than 5/1 so better runs would clearly have been expected for many of those.

Masked Identity

Masked Identity was behind Golden Force on his last two runs at Wolverhampton, beaten 1.75 lengths and 3 lengths respectively. He was unsuited by a slow gallop when beaten 3 lengths and although only 2lbs better off now, he does have claims of turning that form around given question marks over Golden Force’s suitability to this track.

Masked Identity has his own question marks here though. He’s raced 12 times on the all weather, producing 2 wins and 6 top 3 finishes but he’s yet to race at Lingfield. He’s run well in defeat at Chelmsford on several occasions though. His latest when a staying on 3rd over a furlong shorter having met trouble in running and he also finished 3rd last time he raced at a mile there, behind two subsequent winners when rated 3lbs higher. He’s raced at 4 all weather courses and finished at least 2nd at all of them so Lingfield shouldn’t be a worry. He’s won off a 1lb lower mark in the past and although he might be vulnerable for win purposes, he’s well capable of running well.

Lethal Lunch

Some serious questions to answer for this runner. On his stable debut, last time out, he was dropped into claiming company and despite being sent off a 5/4 chance he was beaten 10 lengths. He hasn’t shown anything since finishing 6th in the Wokingham in June and this is his first run over a mile so there are so many reasons he could run poorly. He has won at Lingfield, and is one of those speedy types that could do well if held up over this trip, but his current well being has to be taken on trust and stall 1 is potentially a disadvantage too. One to keep an eye on in the market though.

Atheeb

Surprising to see this runner available at 8/1 in the very early betting. He won over course and distance on his penultimate outing in a race that worked out well. The 2nd and 3rd have both won off higher marks and there were several other winners in behind. He’s 5lbs higher but he won that race cosily and beat other well handicapped runners so is certainly still of interest off 85.

That was his only run as a 3yo. Presumably he had problems and he was later sold, reappearing as a runner for George Boughey earlier this month. He was 6th, beaten almost 5 lengths, so certainly needs to improve on that bare form but there are reasons to think he will. Firstly that looked a really strong race and he probably chased too fast a pace (the pace setters finished 9th and 11th).

There is also the fact he was having his first start in 223 days for a new trainer. George Boughey has inherited 25 runners from other yards in the past 5 years and not one of those 25 runners has won first time for him. A huge 18 of those were single figure prices and 10 were shorter than 5/1 so his horses clearly don’t run well first time when joining from other yards.

Now what is really interesting is 22 of those 25 runners have had more than one run for Boughey and 9 were successful on one of their next two outings so they clearly come on for that first run.

Rossa Ryan has only ridden for the yard on three occasions in the past 5 years and he’s produced form figures of 133.

There is obviously some risk involved given he does need to come on for that last run but the evidence suggests he will, both based on the above data and also the fact that he was a 6/1 shot early for his last race and went off at 12/1.

Mohareb

Mohareb outran his odds two weeks over course and distance when 3rd in a class 2 handicap. That run merits plenty of respect but the winner won by 3.5 lengths and it’s worth noting the 2nd favourite and joint 4th favourites were both below par that day so finishing 3rd might not be the achievement it first seemed.

His record here at Lingfield over 7f or a mile reads 133 and he’d be more than capable of finishing around 3rd or 4th here but that doesn’t make him of betting interest in this contest.

Tadleel

Along with Lethal Lunch he’ll be looking to improve the record of low drawn runners in this. He has been successful over 7f in his career but 7f around Lingfield looks too sharp a test so his defeat last time out here over shorter is forgiveable, for all he was definitely below par having failed to beat a runner home. He was beaten half that distance on his previous run against a pace bias at Chelmsford off a 144 day break so that Lingfield run was definitely a step backwards.

He was competitive over this distance in class 2 handicaps at York in the summer off this sort of mark so he probably doesn’t deserve to be as big as 16/1 early but he clearly needs to bounce back from that lesser effort last time out. That was his only run at Lingfield so perhaps it’s a case of the course not suiting. He’s best watched here but it would be no surprise if he won over a mile in the near future.

Verdict

Masked Identity is capable of running well in this and is probably more interesting than Golden Force due to the latter possibly being better suited by tapeta than polytrack. Golden Force will be one of the better positioned runners though.

Catch My Breath and Atheeb both bring 100% c&d records into this race. Catch My Breath seems really well suited to this course so is respected and he should run well but he’s of much less interest at short odds given he’s facing much better horses here than he previously has done.

Atheeb on the other hand has beaten progressive, well handicapped horses over course and distance and seems to have far more scope to be better than his current mark. The angle with the progression of Boughey new recruits from first run to subsequent runs is a very interesting one and is more than enough to help me favour Atheeb for this contest.

The selection will hopefully track Golden Force early and get first run on the rest of the field going into the straight. Given there is a chance he doesn't improve from last time you'd probably want to go win only even if there were three places on offer so with two places on offer for each way bets it's even easier to decide to back him win only.

Course Form Could Prove Crucial In Tough Ascot Handicap

With Haydock’s card still in doubt we head to Ascot for Saturday’s preview, specifically the bet365 Handicap Chase which will be run at 3pm. The race will be shown on ITV4 and looks a fiendishly difficult puzzle to solve but as usual the aim of this preview will be to shed some light on possible angles using the brilliant form tools on offer with Geegeez Gold.

Pace

As usual we begin with pace to find what run style might be best suited to this contest here.

The Pace Analyser shows us that this sort of distance at Ascot on the chase course often most suits those who race prominently. We don’t have a huge amount of data here admittedly but the win percentage and place percentage figures speak massively in favour of prominent racers and from just 10 races prominent runners have produced a huge Win PL of 62.5 and an IV of 2.44.

Front runners are next best according to the data we have ahead of mid division and then hold up performers.

If we narrow things down further to races run only on soft or heavy ground we lose some of our data so I’ve included slightly smaller fields too to add some more data in. In total we are looking at seven races and five of those have been won by prominent racers. Prominent racers have also provided twice as many placed finishers as any other running style. Front runners and prominent racers combined have produced 60% of the placed horses from less than 50% of the runners.

Let’s have a look at the pace map for this race:

There could be a contested pace here with Colorado Doc, Bennys King and Dashel Drasher all likely to be keen to get on with things. Of that trio Bennys King is the only one who has proven he can dominate and win in big fields at this kind of level.

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Prominent racers were most favoured by the course pace analysis and Young Wolf, Espoir De Guye and Good Boy Bobby seem most likely to fill those prominent positions just off the pace.

Instant Expert

Instant Expert is always extremely useful in races of this nature. Let’s first take a look at the place data across all codes:

Now the win data, only for chases:

Both are sorted by course record as I always like proven right handed form at right handed courses over jumps, especially course form.

Good Boy Bobby and Jerrysback seem most reliable in this sort of going, the former has extensive experience in soft or heavy ground and seems guaranteed to go through it with few problems. The runners with the biggest going questions marks are relatively unconsidered in the betting it seems.

Plenty of runners have a decent record of at least placing in class 2 races. Espoir De Guye has won both his chases in class 2 company whilst Dashel Drasher and Acting Lass are both 2 from 3 in class 2 races. Good Boy Bobby may have failed to win in both his class 2 chases but he was runner up in both contests so shouldn’t be judged harshly.

Bennys King and Dashel Drasher both have a 100% record of placing at Ascot whilst Espoir De Guye and Acting Lass are 2 from 3 and 2 from 4 respectively in terms of placing. There are six course chase winners in the field. Espoir De Guye has 2 wins from 3 runs here with Dashel Drasher the only horse showing off a 100% win record over these fences.

Good Boy Bobby has not yet raced here which can’t be held against him but what does stand out as a worry is his failure to win in four runs at this kind of trip.

It was previously mentioned that Benny’s King has proven he can dominate big fields, he has won two of his three races in this sort of field size whilst Espoir De Guye is one from two.

So according to Instant Expert Espoir De Guye, Dashel Drasher are potentially amongst the most solid contenders, for all Dashel Drasher is unproven in big fields, with Gold Old Bobby having a fair few question marks hanging over him for one that is so well fancied in the betting.

Trainers

With Ascot such a prestigious track it could be interesting to see how each of the trainers involved here perform at the course. For this we can use the Query Tool.

Sean Curran comes out on top in terms of course IV from the past five years but with just two runners in that time we can’t draw too many conclusions. That’s certainly not a negative for the chances of Domaine De L’Isle though.

Jeremy Scott has also had limited qualifying runners from two from seven is a very good strike rate and that would be a another plus for Dashel Drasher.

Of the trainers with much more experience here over the past five years Harry Fry, Paul Nicholls, Venetia Williams, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Philip Hobbs all have more than their fair share of winners whilst the records of Jonjo O’Neill, Brian Ellison and Philip Kirby are less than impressive, although the latter two trainers have only had limited runners here.

Jockeys

Going can have an effect on jockey performance so let’s take a look at how these jockeys have performed here at Ascot on soft or heavy ground over the past five years:

Matt Griffiths, jockey for Dashel Drasher, has only had one ride here on soft or heavy but it was a victorious one and it would be quite remarkable if he could make it two from two here. Brian Hughes and Harry Skelton, who ride Windsor Avenue and Bennys King respectively, both have more experience and strong records here on testing ground.

The data suggests Harry Cobden, Sean Bowen and Daryl Jacob underperform at Ascot in soft or heavy ground so that is possibly a negative against the chances of Capeland, Acting Lass and Good Boy Bobby.

Verdict

Good Boy Bobby does have some questions to answer but he certainly brings strong form into this. His Cheltenham run a month ago, when 4th, has been working out nicely with three subsequent winners in behind and the winner going on to finish a decent 3rd next time. He’s short enough in the betting though so happy enough to leave him alone.

Bennys King is well proven around here and for him it’s mainly a question over whether he’s still well enough handicapped to win a race like this. He should run well but could be slightly vulnerable for win purposes.

Dashel Drasher has lots going for him and is two from two at Ascot over fences and hurdles. Ability to run well in bigger fields can be overlooked in races like this and he wasn’t at his best in bigger fields earlier in his career and much of his best form has come in smaller fields so he could be worth opposing here.

Espoir De Guye’s name kept popping up in Instant Expert as a solid contender and he represents a trainer that does pretty well here for a jockey that does pretty well here in testing conditions. He’s still lightly raced, proven at Ascot and should be well enough placed. He clearly didn’t stay 3m on his last run and a return to this trip will suit (he wouldn’t mind dropping even further in trip in all likelihood). He’s a fair enough price for an each way punt in what looks a really tricky race.

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