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Centennial Celebration Chester Vase

Chester’s May festival begins, with a special opening day, as they celebrate the 100th running of the Chester Vase.

Known as the Roodee, Chester is officially the oldest racecourse still in use. Resting on the banks of the River Dee, the racing dates back to the early sixteenth century. The eastern part of the course stands alongside the City’s ancient wall, where once Roman trading vessels would moor. These days’ crowds gather along the wall in order to obtain outstanding views of the racing, without parting with a single penny.

The first recorded race took place in 1539, authorised by the Mayor, Henry Gee. It’s thought that the term ‘gee-gee’ is derived from his name. The course is small with a length at little more than a mile. The left-handed circuit is taken at almost a constant turn, and it’s a tight track that doesn’t suit all equine visitors.

It should come as no surprise to hear that Aidan O’Brien has proved the dominant force in the Chester Vase. The master of Ballydoyle has won the race eight times since 2007. Treasure Beach followed victory here in 2011, with success in the Irish Derby. In 2013, Ruler of the World won this prior to glory in the Epsom Derby. And last year, though Wings of Eagles could only manage a second-place finish, he too, went on to Epsom glory in the ‘big one’.

Going back to the early eighties, both Henbit and Shergar managed to achieve the Chester/Epsom double. The latter of course, became a Flat racing legend due to the emphatic nature of those victories.

Last year’s gathering proved something of a stellar occasion, producing a Derby winner in Wings of Eagles and an Oaks heroine in Enable – John Gosden’s filly having won the Cheshire Oaks at this meeting.

O’Brien has three runners as he looks to add to his outstanding record in the Centennial Celebration Chester Vase. It’s another competitive looking renewal, with Ryan Moore opting to ride Hunting Horn. The son of Camelot was third in Sandown’s Bet365 Classic Trial a few weeks back. He was behind Godolphin’s Ispolini that day, and the pair renew their rivalry.

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Fresh from his success in the 2000 Guineas, Donnacha O’Brien has the leg-up on the suitably named Family Tree. This son of Galileo has only had the one outing and is very much an unknown quantity.

Ballydoyle also have a trio of challengers in the Cheshire Oaks. Ryan Moore is aboard the Galileo filly, Magic Wand. Her two career runs have come in testing ground, and being out of a Dansili mare, she may well improve plenty for a sounder surface. Gosden and Dettori join forces with the Dubawi filly Award winning. Impressive at Wetherby last time, this is clearly a huge step up in class, though Gosden must feel that she’s up to the task.

Ralph Beckett knows how to produce a talented filly, and runs the unbeaten Kinaesthesia. Alright, she’s only run the once, but she’s by Sea The Stars, so we must take note.

The opening day looks a cracker, though it’s the Chester Cup on Friday that often proves the highlight of the meeting. The largest crowd will be in attendance to witness the meeting’s most valuable race. Run at around two-and-a-quarter miles, the prestigious handicap usually attracts trainers from both codes. Nicky Henderson, Donald McCain and David Pipe have all been successful in recent times. Sea Pigeon landed back-to-back renewals in the late 70s.

The Alan King-trained Who Dares Wins will be a popular choice for punters, especially with Ryan Moore booked to ride. Paul Nicholls looks set to let Act Of Valour take his chance. The four-year-old was a classy juvenile hurdler, and is set to be ridden by the trainer’s daughter Megan.

The three day festival is hugely popular, and this week’s gathering should prove no different.

King hopeful of Triumph Glory after Redicean Romp at Kempton

Redicean put in another dazzling display at Kempton and heads to Cheltenham as a leading contender for the Triumph Hurdle.

He’s now generally a 5/1 second-favourite for the juvenile showpiece behind Nicky Henderson’s Apple’s Shakira. He’s one of the few youngsters to have had the opportunity of proving his ability on both testing and quicker ground.

There’s no doubting he was mightily impressive on Saturday. Travelling powerfully throughout, his jumping was accurate, and when asked to quicken he instantly put the race to bed, showing the acceleration that had been evident on a more testing surface.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Malaya did best of the rest, though she was seven-lengths back at the finish. That form-line suggests that Redicean has more to find when he arrives at Cheltenham. Nevertheless, his ability to travel powerfully through a race and then quicken on demand makes him a realistic contender. He also stayed 1m6f on the flat, which suggests that famous hill should hold no fears. Trainer Alan King was winning the race for the fourth time and completed the Adonis/Triumph double back in 2005 with Penzance.

The trainer was clearly excited by the performance, saying: “He has probably jumped 200 hurdles since last time. It was a rush to get him here for the Christmas meeting as we only got him in October. He was then gelded, so he was on the back burner for a while. He was always going to get better. I thought he was very accurate today.

“He got a mile-six on the Flat so he will stay. I've not deliberately kept coming here, it was just that's the way it suited. Penzance never saw the hill and he managed to win a Triumph. I don't think the ground matters. This is the best ground he has raced on so far. Better ground will probably help. He hadn't beaten much up until today and he has come through it well.”

His jockey, Wayne Hutchinson, was similarly impressed: “Breathtaking - I was adamant he would jump better in a truer run race and he proved that today and he settled better, always in my comfort zone and he’s gone through the gears with ease.”

Meanwhile at Newcastle, the star of the show was the Nicky Richards-trained Baywing. This was the nine-year-olds first attempt at a marathon trip, and clearly won’t be his last. Given a peach of a ride by Ryan Day, this son of Winged Love revelled in conditions. Held up off the pace, he began to make a forward move turning for home, before being delivered perfectly at the final fence. A wonderful leap at the last ensured he grabbed the initiative from West Of The Edge, before powering to a four-length success.

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Richards told Press Association Sport: “He got into a good rhythm, jumped well and has seen it out well. After he won the Towton, though it was a good race to win at the time, it sort of limited our options to get experience into him. I've always thought he was a talented horse. Soft ground is important to him. It might be that we look at the Midlands National or something. We'll just see, we're in no rush and he's won a nice prize today.”

Away from the racecourse, there was important Cheltenham Festival news delivered by Colin Tizzard. In a meeting with owner Jean Bishop, the decision has been made to run Cue Card in the Ryanair Chase, rather than take on the Gold Cup. “We've discussed it and we thought he was in very good form over two-five, he has won the Ryanair, and the Gold Cup is a hard race and the best chance of winning is the Ryanair,” said Tizzard.

The trainer continued: “It was not a hard decision in the end. Our heads are ruling our hearts and it's the most obvious race for him and we can concentrate and go straight on into it. He is race fit and if we take that form from here to Cheltenham, we will have a chance. Paddy (Brennan) will be on board.”

Having lost to Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle of 2012, Cue Card returned a year later and romped to a stunning success in the Ryanair Chase, defeating First Lieutenant by nine-lengths. A month later he ran arguably his best ever race, when getting within five lengths of Sprinter Sacre in the Melling Chase at Aintree. Henderson’s superstar was at the peak of his powers, yet for much of the race Cue Card had the audacity to share the stage.

He was to step-up in trip late in 2013 and impressed in winning the Betfair Chase at Haydock. A month later he lost the King George having looked sure to win halfway up the straight. A poor season followed, before the sensational winter of 2015. Now aged nine, he took the Charlie Hall, the Betfair and the King George, but at Cheltenham came down at the third last when seemingly in with a great chance of landing the Gold Cup.

Having won another Betfair Chase in 2016, he came off second-best to Thistlecrack in the King George. Another terrific performance followed in the Ascot Chase at 2m5f, but connections could not resist stepping up for another crack at Cheltenham’s blue riband. Sadly, Cue Card was again to crash out at the third last, though on this occasion looked to be struggling at the time.

This campaign hadn’t gone to plan thus far, but he appeared back to somewhere near his best when chasing home Waiting Patiently at Ascot last time. A decision needed to be made as to his Cheltenham target. Tizzard had mentioned the ‘unfinished business’ of the Gold Cup, yet opting for the Ryanair is without doubt the sensible choice. Aside from Waiting Patiently, he hammered classy types in Frodon and Top Notch in that recent Ascot Chase. If he’s as good at The Festival, the 12-year-old may yet deliver a show-stopping finale.

Festival Fever – Decisions to be made

With the Cheltenham Festival now less than three weeks away, news on intended targets for the leading contenders will likely be released daily.

Yesterday, it was several of Colin Tizzard’s team that came under the microscope. A decision on Cue Card is yet to be made, with the trainer saying: “Whether he goes for the Ryanair or Gold Cup, if you read Monday's paper it was all decided but it is not. We will let that run for a while. Jean (Bishop, owner) is coming down for three days to have a little holiday with the family and we will make a decision then for sure. There is no reason why we shouldn't go for the biggest one. Is that harder to win than the Ryanair? Possibly, yes.”

Of another Gold Cup contender, Native River, the Dorset handler said: “We are a lot stronger this time round. He has just had the one run, but we had him ready at Christmas to run. He was equally as good (at Newbury) as he had ever been. He has got a wonderful chance. I think at the moment we have got it dead right with him. We've had a little skirmish round Newbury and sprinted for half a mile up the run-in over the last three fences, and that should put him spot on. He was ready to run first time, but he is bound to improve, as every horse does. How much he has got to improve, we will find out.”

Though not quite certain, Tizzard appears to be favouring the Ryanair Chase for Fox Norton. Last year’s Champion Chase runner-up has been absent since a disappointing performance in the King George. The trainer explained: “After he ran in the Game Spirit last year he was lame in his back and we had to give him a few injections for a kissing spine. He had that after this year's King George. That is why he didn't jump at all. He is absolutely fine now. We missed the Game Spirit with pus in his foot.

“I expect we will go for the two-and-a-half-miler, unless Altior frightens everyone off, then we might take him on. He does look the business, but we must not run away from one horse.”

The trainer looks likely to send Elegant Escape to the RSA Chase, though the four-miler is still under consideration. Tizzard said: “This is a beautiful young horse. Black Corton is a very good horse, but he beat him at Newbury and we were closing on him fast at Kempton as well. I think Cheltenham will be right for him. At the moment we are definitely leaning towards the RSA, but if a top Irish jockey (amateur) became available, that might change it.”

Nicky Henderson has also been mulling over the fact that he has favourites for three of the championship races. The Seven Barrows handler said: “I think of the three, Might Bite probably has the most to prove, whereas the other boys are proven. He has got to stay and make sure no funny quirks develop.”

He added: “It’s a nice position to be in, of course it is, and I’m a lucky boy. I’m fortunate these horses have come around at the same time.” Nevertheless, having such a powerful team heading to the Festival puts a huge amount of pressure on him and the team. He went on: “I’d rather have the pressure, or the responsibility of minding these guys, to get them there and get it right, than having nice peaceful nights and not worrying about it all.”

Alan King will be hoping for a better Festival than 12 months ago. Messire Des Obeaux, Who Dares Wins and Dusky Legend all managed third place finishes, but this year’s team looks stronger. The Barbury Castle handler has confirmed that Yanworth will line up in the Stayers’ Hurdle. He’d won a couple of races over fences during the winter and the RSA had looked likely. But having defeated Supasundae (currently favourite for Stayers’) at Aintree in April the team can’t resist another crack at the Irish raider in March.

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The team have also announced that Who Dares Wins is being aimed at the Pertemps Final. Third at 33/1 in last year’s Coral Cup behind Supasundae, the six-year-old filled the same spot in a qualifier at Kempton in November. He ran a cracker in the Ascot Stakes during the summer and is sure to be suited by decent ground at Cheltenham. Expect him to be available at a tasty each-way price.

King is also set to parachute Elgin into the Champion Hurdle. This vastly improved six-year-old took the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton last week and has won three of his five starts this term. He’s no Buveur D’Air, but in a very open looking Champion, he’s possibly an each-way player.

One of the team’s most exciting Cheltenham prospects is the unbeaten juvenile hurdler Redicean. An easy winner of his two starts to date, he’ll be running this Saturday in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton. It’s a recognised Triumph Hurdle trial, and this fella has huge potential.

All doubt over Samcro’s Festival target was removed on Monday when Gigginstown racing manager Eddie O’Leary confirmed the horse would head for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. “He runs in the Ballymore and that’s final,” said O’Leary. “We think he will be a nice chaser over three miles for next season so, even though he won the Deloitte over two miles, he won’t be running in the Supreme.” Now odds-on across the board, the undefeated six-year-old is seen by many as the banker of the meeting.

Another well-fancied festival contender is the Jed O’Keeffe-trained Sam Spinner. As short as 4s for the Stayers’, he was taken to Newcastle on Tuesday for a spin. The trainer remains pleased with his preparation, saying: “It was a strong canter really, just to get him away for the day and do something different. We were really happy with him. It wasn't a serious workout. He's very fit already. It was just to stretch his legs and go somewhere a bit different.”

The trainer added: “It's fairly straightforward what we'll do between now and Cheltenham. He'll have a few easy days after being away and then just one or two easy pieces of work at home. He'll have a school, maybe two, as we get closer to the Festival. He's basically ready now. I'm counting down the days - nervously and anxiously.”

The main event is coming around fast. Plans for many will no doubt change and then change again. We’ll do our best to keep Geegeez readers updated as the opening day draws near.

Gladiators Gather for Newbury Showpiece

The Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (formerly the Hennessy) takes place on Saturday, and despite the ground likely to be a little lively for him, the money continues to come for Harry Fry’s American.

Three from three during an impressive novice campaign, his trainer couldn’t be happier as the ‘big day’ draws near. “We’ve made no secret that this race has always been the plan,” said Fry. “It’s no easy task first time out but we’ve been very happy with him at home. He’s fragile, but we’ve given him away days at Wincanton and Newbury recently, and he’s in good form. We were delighted with everything he did last season, but he’ll have to improve again on that form to win at Newbury.”

He’s also entered in the Welsh National as back-up. But with the going currently described as good to soft at Newbury, he looks likely to take his chance.

American is tussling for top spot in the betting with the Willie Mullins-trained Total Recall. An impressive winner of the Munster National last time, he takes a huge hike in the handicap, and it’s tough to assess whether he arrives at Newbury on a handy mark or not.

“He did one or two bits of work and it looked like his rating might be a little low with the type of work he was doing at home,” said Mullins, referring to his Limerick win. “A lot of things went his way and he won very handily at the end. You need a lot of luck in those races and he got it that day. He is doing everything right at home.”
“I don't know whether the handicapper has caught up with him or not,” the trainer added. “If the weights stay as they are, it's a lovely racing weight. The trip won't be a problem and jumping won't be a problem, so he has a lot going for him.”

Whisper has also been popular with punters and Nicky Henderson is clearly pleased with his preparation: “That was a good race at Kempton. I know it was a two-horse race, but there was not much in it. The extra trip will help him. It was exactly what we wanted to do. The timing was right. It was nice to see Clan Des Obeaux win at Haydock. To be fair, this horse has had a good time ever since. He schooled on Friday and we will give him one more pop and off we go.

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“Davy (Russell) gets on with this horse really well. He will already have an idea of where he is going to go and what he is going to do. He is a great jockey and is pretty cunning and he will have a plan. He has got the hang of this horse very swiftly. He lets him warm up over the first few fences. You can't afford to be hunting around the back to get him through a few gears as the race will be gone. I think he has got enough experience of him now. His work was good on Saturday.”

The Master of Seven Barrows has won three of the last dozen renewals and has another fancied contender in last year’s sixth Vyta Du Roc. The eight-year-old is 3lb better off this time around and has seen his price half in recent days. “He had a run over hurdles at Aintree the same day Top Notch had a run and you saw how much good that did for him last Saturday (winning at Ascot),” said Henderson. “I'm quietly hopeful that will put him exactly where he needs to be and if he comes back to the last day at Sandown last year where he was only beaten a nose, he might have a chance.”

In his ‘Weekender’ column trainer Alan King wrote of his hopes for Label Des Obeaux. The son of Saddler Maker was third to Might Bite last time at Sandown and looks sure to be suited by this extended trip. “We have to try to find some improvement in him, so we schooled him in cheekpieces the other day. They seemed to sharpen him up and he’ll probably wear them on Saturday,” King penned.

King’s Smad Place landed the prestigious event in 2015 and the trainer appears hopeful rather than confident of further success, cautiously adding: “My fear is that he has too much weight. Smad Place was handily treated, whereas Label Des Obeaux doesn’t look handicapped to win a race like this.”

Stat of the Day, 15th November 2017

Tuesday's Result :

1.50 Lingfield : Arden Denis @ 9/2 BOG PU at 11/2 Mid-division on inside, mistake 6th, weakened, tailed off when mistake 4 out, pulled up before 3 out.

Next up is Wednesday's...

2.50 Bangor :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Midnight Tour @ 4/1 BOG

A Class 2, 4yo+, Handicap Hurdle over 2m3.5f on Soft ground worth £14,076 to the winner.

Featuring a 7 yr old mare who won a Listed hurdle race by 6 lengths last time out. That was at Cheltenham some 30 weeks (approx 7 months) ago, but this reappearance certainly represents a drop in class for a runner that is...

  • 3/7 going left handed
  • 4/6 at odds shorter than 5/1
  • 2/5 since moving to Alan King's yard
  • 2/4 in handicap hurdles
  • 2/3 on Soft ground
  • 2/3 after a break of longer than 4 months
  • 1/2 under jockey Wayne Hutchinson
  • 1/1 here at Bangor
  • and 1/1 running in November

Her trainer, Alan King's handicap hurdlers who won LTO are 16/83 (19.3% SR) for 26.3pts (+31.6% ROI) since the start of 2013, from which...

  • those priced at 6/1 and shorter are 14/49 (28.6%) for 8.6pts (+17.6%)
  • those ridden by Wayne Hutchinson are 9/43 (20.9%) for 43.5pts (+101.1%)
  • and those ridden by Wayne Hutchinson at 6/1 and shorter are 7/27 (25.9%) for 7.8pts (+29%)

Whilst since the start of last year, Alan's runners are 9/25 (36% SR) for 13.8pts (+55.1% ROI)  here at Bangor, including...

  • under Wayne H : 7/20 (35%) for 6.6pts (+33.1%)
  • hurdlers are 5/12 (41.7%) for 6.4pts (+53.6%)
  • and handicappers are 4/9 (44.4%) for 9.8pts (+108.5%)

The last thing that I'm going to mention is that Midnight Tour was sired by Midnight Legend. Regular/long-term readers of SotD will read extensively about the prowess of the Midnight Legend offspring, so I'm not going to churn out loads of data today, but suffice to say that his female handicap hurdlers do really well and they don't mind a bit of mud!

...directing us to... a 1pt win bet on Midnight Tour @ 4/1 BOG which was widely available at 5.50pm on Tuesday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 2.50 Bangor

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Wonderful Warwick – Castle and All

Death Duty’s return to action on Tuesday reminded us that the new Jumps season is beginning to gather pace. With the Arc now behind us, thoughts will soon be turning to the likes of Wetherby’s Charlie Hall, Cheltenham’s Paddy Power (yes, I know it’s the BetVictor Gold Cup nowadays) and the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

The Skelton’s continue to set the pace, and were yesterday amongst the winners thanks to a double at Bangor-On-Dee. Today National Hunt fans are to be treated to the Autumn Meeting at Warwick. The West Midlands racecourse is a favourite of mine, not least because I can get there in little more than an hour.

It’s a cracking course, set on the very edge of the market town. The town itself is quite small, but has enough to occupy a visitor prior to racing. It is of course famous for the castle, something that really shouldn’t be missed while you’re visiting. Dating back to the time of William The Conqueror, it’s a truly magnificent structure, with towers, ramparts, mottes and a dungeon. Open all-year-round, the kids will love it.

But back to the reason for this article, the racecourse. It’s one of the oldest in the country, with racing dating back to the late 1600s. When established, it was hoped that the sport would attract wealth to the area following the devastating fire of 1694. In the early 1800s the first stand was built, parts of which remain to this day.

One of racing’s greats, Red Rum, ran at the track in 1967. And it proved to be a year to remember, with the course being purchased by The Jockey Club. The group had acquired Cheltenham in 1964, with Wincanton following in ’66. The purchase would help ensure the long-term prosperity and ongoing investment in the course.

Warwick has plenty in common with another Midlands favourite of mine, Uttoxeter. Relatively small yet beautifully formed, both have great facilities for the racegoer, are flattish tracks with slight undulations, and are easily accessed by road or rail.

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Warwick possibly has the edge on the quality of racing throughout the winter. The Betfred Classic Chase Meeting in January attracts high-class staying chasers for the main event. One For Arthur took this year’s renewal and went on to win the Grand National at Aintree. Willoughby Court was also a winner on the day, and he went on to success at the Cheltenham Festival, when capturing the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle in thrilling fashion from the ill-fated Neon Wolf.

In February the course play host the Kingmaker Chase, a two-mile novice event that over the years has gone to Flagship Uberalles, Voy Por Ustedes, Long Run and Finian’s Rainbow. Willie Mullins has also taken to sending horses to the meeting, with talented hurdlers Open Eagle, Arbre De Vie and Glens Melody all successful in recent years.

One of the stars of today’s action is sure to be novice chaser Sceau Royal. Alan King’s hugely talented five-year-old was a high-class hurdler, winning the Elite Hurdle last November and putting in a solid performance to finish sixth in the Champion at Cheltenham. He sports the familiar silks of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, a duo that are gathering a formidable battalion of National Hunt horses. They are responsible for the likes of Bristol De Mai, Top Notch and L’Ami Serge.

Sceau Royal has a look of Top Notch about him, and I’m sure Alan King would be thrilled if he was to have such an impressive first season over fences. Nicky Henderson’s young chaser stepped-up in trip during his novice chase campaign, finishing a terrific runner-up to Yorkhill in the JLT at the Cheltenham Festival. Sceau Royal may well possess a few more gears, and there’s every chance that we could see him back at Warwick in the spring contesting the Kingmaker.

It could prove a fruitful day for King, with Sego Success favourite for the stayers’ chase, and a JP McManus owned favourite running in the opening novice hurdle. With Hobbs, Tizzard and Twiston-Davies all in attendance, those making the trip to Warwick look set to be rewarded with a fine day’s racing. Don’t forget The Castle.

Cue an Aintree Tizzard Treble

The Randox Health Grand National Festival kicks-off today, with Cue Card’s appearance in the Betway Bowl the undoubted highlight.

Cheltenham had promised so much for trainer Colin Tizzard. Indeed at Christmas, the Dorset handler had the top three in the betting for the Gold Cup, and many were talking of a ‘blue riband’ clean sweep. Injury to Thistlecrack was a major blow, and when the big day arrived, Cue Card came down at the third last, whilst Native River, though putting up a brave performance, could only manage a third-place finish behind Sizing John.

Tizzard’s team suffered another pre-Cheltenham blow, when leading Neptune Novices’ Hurdle contender Finian’s Oscar, was ruled out due to a minor setback. And further frustration was forthcoming, when the fast finishing Fox Norton came within a whisker of capturing the Grade 1 Champion Chase.

Last year’s successful Aintree assault was led by Cue Card, with Thistlecrack and Native River adding further gloss to a wonderful few days. Tizzard will be hoping for more of the same, though the protagonists differ slightly.

His stable star is favourite for today’s Betway Bowl Chase, having romped to success 12 months ago. Empire Of Dirt may prove to be his toughest challenger, though Cue Card at his best, or anywhere near, would surely win this with the minimum of fuss. And I expect him to do so.

Part two of a potential Aintree treble is the Champion Chase runner-up Fox Norton. He runs in the Melling Chase on Friday, and is currently the market leader. This step-up in trip should surely suit the gutsy young chaser, who finished with such a rattle at Cheltenham.

He faces tough opposition, especially in the form of Tom George’s nine-year-old God’s Own, who landed this event 12 months back. He was half a dozen lengths behind Fox Norton at Prestbury Park, but arguably has stronger form at Aintree. He’ll also enjoy the trip, and a sound surface, though I can’t see him reversing the Champion Chase placings.

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Sub Lieutenant will look to build on an outstanding campaign, and could prove a sterner test for the favourite. Runner-up to Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair last time, he filled the same spot behind Sizing John in the Kinloch Brae in January, and ran a cracker when third to Djakadam in the John Durkan back in December. Those performances are outstanding, and I’d expect him to be ridden aggressively by Bryan Cooper, and prove hard to pass.

This looks a hugely competitive renewal, with Uxizandre looking to bounce back from a disappointing Cheltenham, and Kerry Lee’s pair of Top Gamble and Kylemore Lough both capable of going close. But it’s Fox Norton for the Tizzard’s that looks to possess the class to come out on top in a battle-royal with Sub Lieutenant.

A win there for Tizzard and owners Ann and Alan Potts, will raise hopes of a famous double for connections, when Finian’s Oscar goes for the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle on Saturday. No doubt gutted to have missed Cheltenham, the team have a potential star in this undefeated novice hurdler. He’s been impressive in his three starts under rules, especially when a comfortable winner of the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle earlier in the season. This better ground should suit the son of Oscar, as should the two-and-a-half-mile trip.

Messire Des Obeaux brings strong form to the table, having finished third in the Neptune behind Willoughby Court and Neon Wolf. Alan King’s five-year-old carries the familiar silks of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, and is without doubt a classy sort. But I’d be surprised if Finian’s Oscar were turned over, though this is certainly his toughest test to date.

A ‘Tizzard Treble’ at the home of the Grand National would be no less than the handler deserves, after such a sparkling campaign. The Cotswolds in March may have proved a little disappointing, but Merseyside in April could once again prove a whole lot more satisfying.

Cheltenham Festival: The Role of Luck

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cheltenham Festival: Trainer Performance Based on Market Expectation

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Cheltenham Festival: Seconds and Places

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

 

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

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

 

Cheltenham Festival: In-running Trades

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

 

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

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

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

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

- Tony Keenan

Kempton Course Key to Saint BetBright Bid

Attention turns to Kempton and Newcastle on Saturday, with the former hosting an exciting card, including the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle, the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle and the BetBright Chase.

All eyes will be on Nicky Henderson’s young hurdler Charli Parcs in the juvenile, as he looks to add to his course success in December, and bolster his already lofty reputation. The Seven Barrows team also have a leading contender in the Dovecote, in the form of two-time Ludlow winner River Wylde. He faces stiff opposition, including Team Ditcheat’s Capitaine, and course winner Elgin, trained by Alan King. I like the latter, especially if the ground remains good.

The BetBright Chase is as competitive as ever. First run in 1949, it has a classy looking roll of honour. Crisp and Pendil were successful in the 1970s, whilst Rhyme ‘n’ Reason and Rough Quest took this before winning the Grand National. Desert Orchid loved Kempton, and won this race as an 11-year-old in 1990. Last year’s renewal went to Colin Tizzard’s Theatre Guide, and he returns in an attempt to emulate Pendil and Docklands Express, by winning in successive seasons.

It’s a tough task for Tizzard’s 10-year-old, as he’s a stone higher in the handicap this time around. Nevertheless, this race has been won by numerous runners lumping top-weight around the track, and he clearly likes the place. He’ll appreciate the sounder surface, and the trip looks ideal. I’m anticipating a bold bid.

Aso looked a progressive sort, until disappointing at Cheltenham last time. Though only a seven-year-old, there’s a chance he’s already in the grip of the handicapper. He also lacks experience over this trip, and is possibly a better horse with a little more juice in the ground. His age suggests there’s more to come, but it may not come tomorrow.

Three Musketeers is another seven-year-old, stepping up in trip. His pedigree at least suggests that the three miles should suit, and he arrives here off the back of a strong performance at Market Rasen. Dan Skelton has always thought plenty of him, and he does look a horse with untapped potential. I can see him running a huge race, though I’m not sure I trust him enough to throw money his way.

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Similar can be said of Double Shuffle, who won over course and distance in December. He wore a hood last time, and was having his first run at three miles. He’s another that cannot be discounted, though I’m not sure his form stacks up with some of these. He’s another that can throw in the odd stinker.

Paul Nicholls has won two of the last 10 renewals, and goes with Irish Saint this time. He’s a horse I like, and looked to be returning to something like his best when going well for a long way at Sandown last time. He missed a whole season due to injury, having looked a classy novice chaser prior to the absence. I fancy this trip stretches him a little, though he certainly enjoys Kempton, being three from three at the track. Indeed, his six career wins have all come when going right-handed. I fancy he’ll go close.

The trends suggest that horses of any age can win this event, and Nicky Henderson’s only previous winner was the 12-year-old Marlborough. He has a pair entered this time, with the one that interests me being Triolo D’Alene. The 10-year-old has proved hard to keep right, but on his day, with ground in his favour, is an extremely talented gelding. This ground will suit, and his handicap mark has dropped to its lowest since 2013. His odds of 20/1 are very tempting.

Finally, I need to mention the Twiston-Davies trained Ballykan, who came fourth in the race last year. He has a bit to find if he is to get the better of Theatre Guide, but there’s every chance that he’s strengthened from six to seven, and he carries the now familiar, and very successful colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. He’s on a mark that makes him very competitive, and he could go very close.

In a race that I’m finding tough to read, I have finally sided with Irish Saint, and will have a little each-way on Triolo D’Alene. There are several others that I fear, and I’m certainly not as confident as I’ve been in recent weeks. Best of luck to all those having a punt.

McManus Launches Champion Hurdle Assault

The JP MCManus decision to switch Buveur D’Air from fences back to hurdles came as quite a surprise, though it shouldn’t have.

Nicky Henderson’s talented youngster looked sure to be heading for the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in March, but suddenly finds himself a live Champion Hurdle contender. JP clearly believes that the Mullins contingent are vulnerable, and now is the time to attack with everything at his disposal.

Binocular in 2010, and Jezki in 2014 are the most recent winners of the Champion Hurdle to carry the famous Green and Gold silks, though it was Istabraq who famously carried the colours to a hat-trick of victories from 1998 to 2000.

This year’s Champion Hurdle is starting to resemble 2014’s, when McManus sent Jezki, My Tent Or Yours and Captain Cee Bee into battle against the Mullins favourite Hurricane Fly, and a young unexposed The New One. On that occasion, Jess Harrington’s charge defeated the more fancied My Tent Or Yours in a thrilling finish, with the ‘Captain’ back in fifth. ‘The Fly’ was then a 10-year-old, and though I hesitate to say it, was probably somewhat past his best. For what it’s worth, it’s my view that The New One was outpaced by the front two before staying on for a third-place finish. Understandably, Mr Twiston-Davies has a different opinion.

The field for this year’s renewal continues to evolve. Annie Power met with a setback and will not be there, and Mullins, though sounding confident, must be a little concerned over the wellbeing of Faugheen. The Champion Hurdle favourite, and winner from 2015, has not been seen on a racecourse for more than a year, and missed his intended return last weekend after a slight muscle issue. Chances are that he will now head directly to Cheltenham in March, without a prep-run. He’s a ‘tank’ of a horse, and is known to improve for a run or two.

It’s hard to believe that Faugheen will arrive on the opening day of the festival firing on all cylinders. The question is whether a 90% primed ‘Machine’ will be enough to repel a McManus assault.

Yanworth was expected to deliver the sternest challenge, having impressed in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Alan King’s seven-year-old was due to run at Sandown this weekend, but has also met with a minor setback and may also now head straight to the Festival. In his ‘Weekender’ column, King, writing before the injury came to light, said: “He could have gone straight to Cheltenham, but he’s had only two races this season, and it’s a long time from the Christmas Hurdle to the Champion. It will do him no harm to have a bit more match practice.”

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Unfortunately, yesterday JP McManus' racing manager Frank Berry announced: “He's just met with a small problem. He's tweaked a muscle in behind, it's nothing serious but he can't run this weekend. Hopefully it won't take too long to come right and we can get going with him again. Whether he runs again we'll just have to play it by ear, he could go straight to Cheltenham.” Again, by no means ideal, but at least Yanworth has had a couple of runs this winter.

In his absence, it looks like Buveur D’Air will now head to Sandown for the Contenders Hurdle. It was anticipated that Henderson’s hurdler, turned chaser, turned hurdler, would head north to Kelso in a couple of weeks, but a rather busy Frank Berry announced: “Obviously Buveur D'Air is in at Sandown, so it's still an option. We'll see how he is in the morning and we'll come to a decision then I'd imagine. Nicky had mentioned taking him up to Kelso, so we'll just see.”

On Twitter Henderson tweeted: “Change of plan! With Yanworth not going to Sandown, Buveur will now head there instead. Lots of chopping & changing this week!”

A trip to Sandown means that Henderson now has the top two in the market, with Brain Power already an intended runner. An impressive winner at Ascot prior to Christmas, I’m a huge fan of the horse, but this will come as a major test. He’s bred to become a chaser, and certainly has the physique to excel in that sphere. I’m not sure he’ll possess the speed to cope with Buveur D’Air on Saturday.

Decisions made by McManus have certainly given the Champion Hurdle picture a shake. In Nicky Henderson and Alan King, he has trainers that know how to win the main event in March. A McManus-Mullins clash is on, and let’s just hope that all the main contenders now arrive at the start on a thrilling opening day of the Festival.

Robin to Rock at Newbury

The Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle is the centrepiece of Newbury’s card on Saturday.

Run at just over two miles and four furlongs, the race has a short yet illustrious roll of honour. Classy types have taken this, and gone on to take high order over hurdles and fences.

Large Action was successful in 1993, before finishing third in the Champion Hurdle a few months later. Trained by Oliver Sherwood, he went one place better the following year, when chasing home Alderbrook at the Festival. Cornish Rebel won the Challow in 2003, and went on to become an outstanding staying chaser. Third in the RSA at Cheltenham in 2005, he came second in a Scottish National, third in a Welsh National and third in the Hennessy Gold Cup.

A horse that went on to become one of the great staying chasers, took this in 2006, though the race was run at Cheltenham. Denman finished runner-up in the Neptune that season, but returned to the Cheltenham Festival to win the RSA and of course the Gold Cup. His demolition of Kauto Star was one of the most incredible performances I have ever witnessed. His victories in the Hennessy were no less impressive. He was a true warrior on the track, a mighty racehorse.

Wichita Lineman took the Challow the year after Denman. He too went on to festival success when winning the stayers novice hurdle at Cheltenham. His most memorable win came over fences at Prestbury Park, when taking the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase, thanks to an incredible ride from AP McCoy. Only the ‘Champ’ could have got the horse home in front that day.

Further top-class winners of the Challow Novices’ Hurdle include; Diamond Harry, Reve de Sivola, Fingal Bay, Taquin du Seuil, and last year Barters Hill.

This year’s renewal has attracted a similar array of talented looking contenders, though the final line-up is still uncertain. Gordon Elliott has a talented team engaged, though it would come as no surprise should none arrive. Death Duty for Gigginstown and Baltazar D’Allier owned by JP McManus are the two outstanding challengers. The former has arguably been the most impressive Irish novice hurdler so far this winter. Should he travel over, he’ll take all the beating.

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One that does look certain to make the start is the Dan Skelton trained Robin Roe. Sensational at Aintree on his hurdling debut, he has an eye-catching pedigree, being by Robin Des Champs out of a Flemensfirth mare. He’s a gorgeous looking gelding, built for fences. It’s always unwise to go overboard on the back of such little evidence, but he does look to have huge potential.

Alan King is set to run Messire Des Obeaux, who last time gave 7lbs and a beating to the useful Ballyandy. He got the better of Nicky Henderson’s Cultivator on that occasion, and the two are set to clash again. They appear closely matched and set a solid standard, though maybe lack star quality.

Geordie Des Champs has been kept busy by trainer Rebecca Curtis, and is three from three so far over hurdles. Like Robin Roe, he is by Robin Des Champs and is likely to make a lovely chaser. He showed plenty of guts last time, winning under a double-penalty at Warwick. Owned by JP McManus, this fella looks sure to go close.

Colin Tizzard has been sweeping all before him, and should Elegant Escape take his place at the start, he’d be impossible to dismiss. His jumping was somewhat patchy last time, when battling bravely to win at Ascot. He’s undoubtedly talented, but this marks a huge step up in class. I’d expect him to run well, but likely come-up a little short at this level.

In the likely absence of Gordon Elliott’s best performers, I hope and expect that Robin Roe will prove too good, though his lack of experience is a slight concern. I believe that the battle-hardened Geordie Des Champs is his main danger.

Stat of the Day, 2nd December 2016

Thursday's Result :

2.45 Wincanton : Tikkapick @ 5/2 BOG non-runner (Meeting Abandoned)

Friday's pick goes in the...

2.25 Sandown :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Messire Des Obeaux @ 7/2 BOG

Why?

This 4 yr old gelding warmed up for this race by winning by 10 lengths 23 days ago and has won his only start on good to soft ground and on his only ride under Daryl Jacob.

Trainer Alan King's runners are in great form, winning 9 of 43 (20.9% SR) in the past fortnight and 6 of 21 (28.6%) in the last 7 days, whilst jockey Daryl Jacob's figures in that same time frame are 10/33 (30.3%) and 8/18 (44.4%) respectively. And Daryl is 19 from 66 (28.8% SR) for 49.5pts (+75% ROI) here at Sandown since the start of 2012.

In addition to the above , since 2010 Alan King's Class 1 to 3 runners are 15/93(16.1% SR) for 14.1pts (+15.2% ROI) here at Sandown, whilst his runners over trips of 2m4f to 3m1f are 11/46 (23.9%) for 48.2pts (+104.8%)

AND...Alan King / Class 1-3 / 2m4f to 3m1f / Sandown / 2010-16 = 11/44 (25% SR) for 50.2pts (+114.1% ROI)

...and...a 1pt win bet on Messire Des Obeaux at 7/2 BOG from Betfair Sports and/or Paddy Power, as of 6.05pm on Thursday. To see your preferred bookies' odds, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 2.25 Sandown

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

Robin Roe Steals The Show

Neil Mulholland will have been thrilled with Saturday’s trip to the Cotswolds, thanks to excellent performances from stable stars, Fox Norton and Shantou Village.

Both were sent off favourite for their respective events, and neither let the punters down. Fox Norton romped to victory in the Randox Health Handicap Chase. Travelling well throughout the two-mile contest, he was allowed to stride on fully four fences from home. Stretching clear down the hill, he met the second-last with a 10-length advantage, and never looked in any danger.

Third in the Arkle, Mulholland has always thought plenty of the gelding: “We felt there was marked improvement in him through the summer and he'd been working particularly well. It was his first run in a handicap but I sense it could be the last and we're going to have to raise his sights now, possibly towards the Shloer back here. He wears a hood because he can be a bit of a handful until you get him ‘jocked-up’, but touch-wood, it's all good now.”

Later in the day Shantou Village was a heavily backed favourite, and though pushed all the way by Colin Tizzard’s newcomer, Mick Thonic, he proved too strong at the finish, pulling four lengths clear at the line. His jumping was solid in the main, bar an error at the 12th, and though he’s not short of speed, the way he finished off the race suggests a step-up in trip is likely.

Speaking of the winner, Mulholland said: “He was struck into in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival but we have always known fences would bring out the best in him. Apart from that one blip, I was pleased with his jumping, and in the end he's done it really well. Noel was delighted and so am I. It's been a good day.”

Arguably the best performance of the meeting came in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle, where Sceau Royal ran-out a stunning winner, completely out-classing his opponents. Alan King’s four-year-old travelled like a dream throughout, and swept to the front approaching the last. Asked to go and win his race, he stormed up the famous hill, to win by 11 lengths. This was a huge step forward on anything he’d produced as a juvenile. And it will be interesting to see where King sends him next.

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The trainer said of the performance: “He's always been a very good horse but he wasn't right at both the Festival and Aintree. Last year he used to pull up in front and that's why Daryl held on to him for as long as possible. I was thankful they went a good gallop up front because it enabled him to settle. I'm not getting carried away at this stage but we will certainly get together and discuss the big handicap at Ascot next Saturday, because normally he doesn't take long to get over his races.”

Over in Ireland, Identity Thief proved a natural over fences when winning the two-mile beginners chase at Punchestown. Last year’s Fighting Fifth winner was a high-class hurdler, and looks sure to make a huge impact now switched to the larger obstacles. Henry de Bromhead has had a terrific start to the campaign, and knows a thing or two about classy two-mile chasers. He trained Sizing Europe to become one of the best in the business, winning the Arkle in 2010, and capturing the Champion Chase 12 months later.

At Aintree yesterday Team Tizzard struck in the Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase, thanks to their unpredictable talent, Third Intention. Taking over from Vibrato Valtat approaching the last, he held off a late charge from God’s Own. The runner-up was perhaps a little unfortunate, having been stopped in his tracks at the third last, when Royal Regatta decided to up-root the fence. The winner is set to head for the Hennessy, though it was the runner-up who left the impression that plenty more exciting days lie ahead.

Though Tizzard took main honours, it was Dan Skelton’s novice hurdler Robin Roe, that produced the most eye-catching performance at Aintree. The gorgeous looking son of Robin Des Champs, out of a Flemensfirth mare, moved stylishly through the pack before storming clear from the last, for a 12 length success. It was a mightily impressive display, and Skelton was more than satisfied when saying: “We're obviously very happy with him. I hoped he'd win, but I can't say I expected him to win like that. He's a very talented horse and the plan now is to go straight to the Challow. We're lucky to have him.”

We must remember that we are still in October, and it’s easy to get carried away by eye-catching performances. Nevertheless, I’ll allow myself to get a little carried away by Robin Roe.

Stat of the Day, 23rd September 2016

Thursday's Result :

5.40 Pontefract : Highly Sprung @ 11/2 BOG 7th at 4/1 (Prominent, ridden 2f out, no impression over 1f out, weakened entering final furlong)

Friday's pick goes in the...

5.15 Worcester :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Miss Crick at 4/1 BOG

Why?

This 5 yr old mare is in fine form at present with three wins and a runner-up finish from her last four efforts over hurdles (1121) and she's well suited by conditions here, as she's 3 from 4 under today's jockey Wayne Hutchinson, she's 3/5 going left handed, she's 1 from 1 at this track, 1 from at Class 3 and although this is her first crack at 2m4f, she is 1 from 1 at 2m3f.

In addition to those details, jockey Wayne is 5 from 21 (23.8% SR) here at Worcester since 2013 when riding for Alan King, including 3 wins from 9 (33.3% SR) for 70.6pts (+78.5% ROI) over hurdles, including a win on Miss Crick here back in May of this year.

And if her own stats and those of the trainer/jockey aren't quite enough to persuade you, then a quick look at her breeding might. She's one of many offspring of one of my favourite sires, the recently departed Midnight Legend, about whom there are a myriad of profitable angles to follow, but the one I'm going to share here is very simple indeed...

...Midnight Legend offspring / Class 3 hcp hurdles / 2009 onwards = 35/160 (21.9% SR) for 190.8pts  profit at a whopping ROI of 119.3%.

And of those 160 runners...

  • those who last ran 11-90 days ago are 30/125 (24%) for 169.5pts (+135.6%)
  • those racing over 2m1f to 3m are 29/110 (26.4%) for 194pts (+176.4%)
  • females are 19/75 (25.3%) for 136.5pts (+182%)
  • 5 yr olds are 7/33 (21.2%) for 42.6pts (+129.1%)

and females racing over 2m1f to 3m, 11-90 dslr are 13/47 (27.7% SR) for 120.4pts (+256.2% ROI).

...resulting in...a 1pt win bet on Miss Crick at 4/1 BOG, which was available from Bet365, Betfair Sports and/or BetVictor at 5.25pm on Thursday (it was 5/1 at 5.20!), but to see your preferred bookies' odds, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 5.15 Worcester.

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard...

Triumph Test For Nicholls Newcomer

The BetBright Adonis Juvenile Hurdle is the last recognised trial for four-year-olds with ambitions of heading to contest the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival.

It has a habit of producing talented winners with two of the last 10 following up with victory in the Triumph at Prestbury Park. It’s an event that has favoured lightly raced youngsters rather than those with plenty of hurdling experience under their belt. Indeed, Zarkandar took the Grade 2 in 2011 on his hurdling debut before heading to Cheltenham three weeks later and winning the juvenile feature on just his second hurdles start.

A year earlier Soldatino was making his UK debut when taking the Adonis prior to winning the Triumph at the Festival.

Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls have shared six of the last 10 renewals. They have become the dominant force in juvenile events in recent times, having also struck in five of the last 10 Triumph Hurdles. Those bred in France also feature strongly with six wins from the last 10 renewals. And juveniles contesting under a penalty have also fared well in recent years.

It pays to side with a fancied runner in the Adonis. The top two in the betting account for almost 70% of the winners over the past two decades. Favourites have a terrific record with 9 wins from the last 19 renewals. Zarkandar was the biggest odds winner in the past decade when sent off at 8/1.

Alan King’s Gibralfaro looks sure to go off favourite having impressed in his two hurdles wins to date. Though bred in Ireland, he arrived in King’s yard having run on the flat in France. He has plenty of racing experience and has taken well to the change in codes. He beat Nicholls’ Connetable at Ascot last time, and that form has taken a boost since. He is owned by the McNeill family, and their famous silks were carried to third in the Triumph Hurdle of 2012 by Grumeti.

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Paul Nicholls has several entered with the shortest priced being the hurdles newcomer Zubayr. Formerly owned by the Aga Khan, he ran twice on the flat at Longchamp as a three-year-old before being purchased for a huge sum at the Arqana sales in July. Anthony Bromley of Highflyer Bloodstock along with Harold Kirk representing Willie Mullins and Tom Malone, on behalf of Paul Nicholls, were all bidding for this exciting youngster, and his hurdles debut has been eagerly anticipated.

Pilansberg is another possible newcomer from Ditcheat. Also arriving from France, he was group class on the flat and has some outstanding form in the book. He got to within two lengths of Erupt at Chantilly in June, and that colt went on to finish fifth in the Arc. If he can transfer that kind of form to his hurdling career he could be a really exciting prospect.

Of the remainder, it is always sensible to take note of any juvenile carrying the Munir-Souede silks. Nicky Henderson has a couple entered for connections, with Omessa Has looking the most likely to run. He has plenty of experience having run eight times at Auteuil in 2015. His form is solid rather than spectacular, and although his profile rather goes against the typical Adonis winner, he has to come under consideration when representing such powerful connections.

On what we have seen over hurdles thus far, Gibralfaro is the rightful favourite. However, I’ll be taking a chance with the Paul Nicholls newcomer Zubayr. Ditcheat’s expensive juvenile is finally set to be unleashed and we will find out if the huge outlay was money well spent.