Should we expect Cheltenham Festival victors to come to the fore at Aintree?
The Aintree Festival always comes relatively soon after Cheltenham and this year is no different, with the meetings separated by just three weeks, writes Alexander Peperell. In horse racing terms that’s not that long and it can be asking a lot of a horse to put in another performance out of the top drawer at both Festival meetings.
It is plausible that the exertions of a Cheltenham Festival race take more out a horse than other more workaday events, simply because of the ultra-competitive nature of the contests. Therefore the thought of repeating that feat just a few weeks later can be a daunting one. In spite of this, scores of horses attempt the double each year.
I have taken a look at both festivals over the past five years to see how win and placed horses at Prestbury Park fared at the Grand National meeting the following month. I have calculated the placings on the basis that 5-7 runners pay two places, 8-15 three places and 16 or more runners pays four places.
Cheltenham winners that ran at Aintree the same year, 2012-2016
|Cheltenham Winners||Ran at Aintree||Won at Aintree||Placed at Aintree||Win %||Place %||Win & Place %|
Looking at this table you can immediately see that it pays to take heed of winners at Cheltenham. 2015 was a bit of blip, but that was also the year with the lowest number of victors lining up at the latter festival. Across all five years an average of 60% of horses that won at Cheltenham went on to be placed or better at Aintree, with 18 (32%) notching the Festival double.
Cheltenham placed horses (excluding winners) that ran at Aintree the same year, 2012-2016
|Cheltenham placed horses||Ran at Aintree||Won at Aintree||Placed at Aintree||Win %||Placed %||Win & Place %|
The number of placed horses at Cheltenham running at Aintree has steadily increased over the past five years, these stable stars being campaigned aggressively in search of more prize money.
Cheltenham Festival placed horse fare predictably less well compared to winners, but the average of the win and place percentage (right hand) column is a pleasing 45%, testament to the quality and endurance of the horses competing.
Win and placed Cheltenham horses that ran at Aintree the same year, 2012-2016
|Cheltenham win & placed||Ran at Aintree||Won at Aintree||Placed at Aintree||Win & Place %|
Taking the samples as a whole it’s clear to see the Aintree success of horses that do well in the Cotswolds: exactly half of the win and placed horses from Cheltenham that compete in Liverpool have gone on to make the frame over the past five years.
In terms of specific races, the Liverpool Hurdle has been a lucrative race for Cheltenham winners, with the only time in the past five years it hasn’t gone the way of a same year festival winner being 2015. However, that season's World Hurdle victor was second in the Aintree equivalent. I will be looking very closely at Nichols Canyon in this year's renewal if he shows up.
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle horses have done well in Aintree’s Top Novices’ Hurdle with three second places and a third from Cheltenham subsequently triumphant in the latter race; while the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle has been won three times by horses that finished in the frame in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle.
When it comes to picking what to follow from festival to festival, one of the first things I would look for is British-trained placed horses that were behind Irish runners, as the majority of Irish Cheltenham contenders either head to Punchestown or swerve the remaining spring festivals entirely. The likes of River Wylde, Top Notch, Native River, Fox Norton and Claimantakinforgan would be runners to follow.
As the Grand National Festival looms, it seems that many of the Aintree winners are right in front of us in the results table from Cheltenham, but it’s still not easy to complete the puzzle.
- Alex Peperell
Alex completed a Sports Journalism course at the start of the year and holds a Diploma from the College of Media and Publishing. He has a monthly column in Racing Ahead magazine as well as his own blog.