Tony Stafford: My Cheltenham Week

Tony Stafford

Tony Stafford

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford 

Friday at Cheltenham was typical of all the Festival days I’ve ever experienced over more than 40 years’ attendance – I started late! – encapsulating the undying appeal of the experience. Rain, bad ground, bad luck and above all dashed hopes were there in equal measure.

I’ve always loved the Triumph Hurdle, but until Friday, no winner I’d backed – a fair number and some of the Henderson ones – or more frequently the near misses, even remotely challenged for my “best performance ever” accolade in competition with Golden Cygnet, the 1978 hero of the Supreme Novice Hurdle.

He won it by 15 lengths, making it six wins in a row over hurdles after a Flat-race career starting as a four-year-old with a win and a debut first but disqualified before taking up his true metier.

Edward O’Grady had picked him up for 980 punts. That price had long been shown as the bargain of the century for the first-crop son of star jumps stallion Deep Run when he lined up or the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr. This was the first run outside novice class for Golden Cygnet and he was in the process of beating two great Peter Easterby-trained Champion Hurdlers, Sea Pigeon (who gave him 1lb) and Night Nurse, receiving a few pounds, when he sustained the last-flight fall that ended his career.

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This was still an extraordinary effort by a novice, but after being taken to Edinburgh University to make his recovery from the injuries, he died some days later from a brain haemorrhage.

O’Grady has been one of Ireland greatest Cheltenham Festival trainers, and another of that ilk, Dessie Hughes has not only produced a son, Richard, to be reigning champion jockey in Great Britain, but has known just how to win a Champion Hurdle, Hardy Eustace collecting the race twice at age seven and eight.

The 2013 Triumph Hurdle attracted the right horses from the right stables. Henderson, Nicholls and Mullins were all well represented, just as they had been all week, with feasible candidates, but they all were just making the numbers up. In the event Our Conor gave a display that for me was the best individual performance I’ve ever seen, certainly in the Triumph and probably in any Festival race, such was his superiority.

Unbeaten in three starts at home, the first two at odds on, the third remarkably at 100-30, simply because Mullins-trained Diakali, an Aga Khan-bred import from France had started his jumping career with a 12-length maiden win and then a 28-length Grade 3 romp over the subsequent Fred Winter winner Flaxen Flare, Our Conor had already shown everything needed leading up to the Triumph.

Not quite in the less than a grand Golden Cygnet class of bargain, he was still purchased for just 4,500 Euro before winning a couple of his six Flat races all at age three. A son of Jersey Stakes winner Jeremy, he campaigned at around a mile, but the stamina he displayed at Cheltenham earmarks him as a potential Group-race winner if sent over longer distances on the level.

Whether Dessie will be prepared to risk him changing codes again, though, is questionable, even with an eye-catching 84 Flat rating. No doubt, though, his ever-shrewd son will be mentally calculating how best to exploit him once the riches of Punchestown have been added to the Men About Town Syndicate’s swelling coffers.

I’ve not actually dwelled on the bare statistics of his run. Second behind his old adversary Diakali from the outset, he strolled along unconcerned until Bryan Cooper sent him into the lead around the home bend. He simply cantered away with nothing more than minimal urging, jumped the last as though he was starting his race, and surged up the hill for a 15-length win over Far West (Nicholls), winner of all four British runs after a debut third in France. Samategal, Nicholls again, was third, Diakali fourth and Henderson’s Vasco Du Ronceray and Rolling Star the next two home.

Trainers always reckon the five-year-old season is tough for grade 1 hurdles winners, but Katchit, nine-length winner of the 2007 Triumph, won the Champion the following year while Punjabi, fourth to him as a four-year-old, chased him home back in third in 2008 before winning his own championship the following year.

I’ve no doubt that Our Conor, injury apart, will win next year and maybe emulate See You Then, the triple winner in the three years after he just failed to win the Triumph as favourite after I’d secured 25-1 about him earlier in the season.

Punjabi was already in the saddling area, six years on from his Festival debut, while Our Conor was striding up the hill. Conditions were worsening as the rain intensified, but that possibly does not account for all the extra five seconds it took the 27-runner field of smart, experienced hurdlers to complete the County Hurdle ordeal.

Punjabi’s mud-spattered colours could be seen (?) running on into 13th, and Barry Geraghty told Nicky Henderson and me (yes those two talked to me before they won the Gold Cup!) that he was outpaced but stayed on and is sure to get two and a half miles. That seems reasonable enough given that old adversaries Solwhit and Celestial Halo fought out the business end of Thursday’s Stayers’ Hurdle, and Raymond Tooth hopes Punjabi will line up at Aintree for one of the handicaps.

Horses don’t like mud. Nor do phones, binoculars, spectacles, shoes, trousers or coats. My keen-to-get-away passenger showed not a jot of politeness in going missing at the time of our designated early getaway for his (not my!) hostelry, so I made my way to the car thinking he’d already be there.

Instead we had to conduct a conversation about whether to turn left out of the weighing room area, (“I said left!”), “so, I go right?” and that was repeated four times, until I set a new standard for the conduct of beached whales as I slipped in the mud within 20 yards of the car. Down on all fours with caked mud everywhere and phone and binoculars thrown clear into an even muddier patch, I was stuck. I wish I’d been able to catch up with the oldish couple who walked serenely past me presuming me to be drunk. Well I did have a tomato juice with extra Worcestershire sauce.

Not to worry, the winning bet of the day was that on Friday morning I’d replaced the ancient and irreplaceable Crombie with a warmer-, wetter-weather option in the Barbour raincoat with the deep pockets. Pity I’d not kept either my Racing Post (wet through) or bins in them. As to my long-lost and even a fair bit older colleague, when he finally arrived to see my dishevelled state, he merely said, “I slipped twice”, to retain the moral high ground. “Well you weren’t trying to give directions to a cretin, were you?” should have been my last word on Cheltenham 2013. To retain my dignity, I refused to wash the mud from the left side of my face until armed with some wet wipes from his car, I performed the task with due ceremony in Burford High Street an hour later.

Well I Declare : 15th March 2013

Well I Declare: 15th March

Well I Declare: 15th March

It's the grand finale of this year's Cheltenham Festival today and there's aslo action at Fakenham, Lingfield and Wolverhampton on...

...FRIDAY 15/03:

Cheltenham Day 4:

1.30--Triumph Hurdle: Four of the last fourteen favourites have obliged which not a bad record considering the competitive nature of this opening event.  Nine market leaders finished in the frame during the study period.  Irish trainers have not lifted this prize since 2002, with Philip Hobbs (2/10), Paul Nicholls (2/14), Alan King (2/20) and Nicky Henderson (2/13) all having trained two winners during the study period.

2.05--County hurdle: Although backed up by only six placed representatives in the last thirteen contests, five-year-olds have won this competitive event no less than eight times during the period.  Forty of the last fifty winners hailed from the five and six-year-old vintages which should sway you towards younger horses in the contest.  Horses carrying a maximum weight of 11-1 have won eleven of the last fourteen renewals.

2.40--’Albert Bartlett’: Favourites have won three of the eight renewals whilst market leaders have secured seven toteplacepot positions.  Six-year-olds lead the seven-year-olds 4-3 to date.  Previous course winners account for half of the winners to date whilst the fill scoreboard reads: Britain: 5--Ireland: 2--France: 1.

3.20--Cheltenham Gold Cup: Six of the last ten market leaders have won the ‘Blue Riband’ with Kauto Star being a beaten favourite on two occasions.  Eight of the ten favourites finished in the frame.  Bobs Worth has won all six of his races when racing left-handed thus far, whilst his record at Cheltenham is 4/4.  The last Cheltenham Gold Cup winner to only have one outing during the season before the big race was Garrison Savannah back in 1991 who like Bobs Worth, had won the RSA Chase the previous season.  At the odds on offer at the time of writing (3/1), Bob’s Worth rates as my bet of the week.  Only the progressive Silviniaco Conti emerges as a danger from my viewpoint.

4.00--Foxhunters Chase: Three market leaders have won via the last fourteen contests, the figure increasing to seven during the period when taking the first three horses in the betting into account.  Four of the last seven winners have scored at 33/1 (twice) and 20/1 (twice).

4.40--’Martin Pipe’ Conditional: Two of the four favourites have finished in the money to date (one winner).  David Pipe has saddled two beaten favourites in the race which he is desperate to win for obvious reasons.

5.15--’Grand Annual’: Every winner during the last eleven years carried a maximum burden of 10-13, whilst eight gold medallists carried 10-7 or less.  Novices have a great record in the ‘Johnny Henderson’, whilst horses with decent each way form leading up to the race can be expected to figure prominently.  Eight renewals have slipped by since a favourite obliged, whilst Nicky Henderson’s runners always demand respect in a race run in honour of his late father.  Nicky’s novice Tetlami would be my each way selection if the trainer chooses this race for his seven-year-old.




Number of races at Fakenham: 13

Favourite stats: 4 (30.8% of races--includes joint and co favourites)

Odds on ratio: 2/2


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Trainers of winners at Fakenham in 2013:

1--Mick Channon (10/11*)

1--Sean Curran (11/1)

1--Nicky Henderson (2/5*)

1--Paul Henderson (7/1)

1--Alan Hill (9/4*)

1--Lawney Hill (2/1)

1--Neil King (3/1)

1--Anabel K. Murphy (3/1)

1--David Pipe (10/1)

1--Renee Robeson (11/2)

1--Oliver Sherwood (15/2)

1--Tim Vaughan (6/5*)

1--Lucy Wadham (9/1)


Trainers of beaten favourites:

2--Alex Hales (6/4 & 11/8)

1--Mick Channon (2/1)

1--Ed Dunlop (2/1**)

1--John Ferguson (2/1**)

1--Polly Gundry (15/8)

1--Renee Robeson (11/8)

1--Oliver Sherwood (10/3)

1--David Thompson (11/10)

1--Venetia Williams (7/4)

Class 3 handicap hurdle scheduled for 3.35 over the minimum trip: Six-year-olds have won four of the last six (and six of the last eleven) contests.  Four favourites have obliged in the last ten years.

Foxhunters event due to be contested at 4.15: Five favourites have prevailed via the last ten contests, nine winners of which started at 9/2 or less.  Nine-year-olds have secured three of the last five renewals.

Closing conditional jockey’s event scheduled for 4.55: The biggest priced winner in this event via the last ten contests before last year’s 33/1 shocker was returned at just 4/1, statistics which included four successful market leaders during the last six years.  Four-year-olds have won five of the last ten renewals.



The next potential William Jarvis runner is Laudation on this card, the trainer having saddled two gold and one silver medallist via his last three representatives.  Williams boasts an LSP reading of twenty-four points at Lingfield via an 18% strike rate during the last five years.



John Gosden held a couple of entries at Wolverhampton this week at the time of writing, with the trainer offering a 27% ratio in recent times.

Well I Declare : 14th March 2013

Well I Declare: 14th March

Well I Declare: 14th March

So, we're already at the midway point of the 2013 Cheltenham Festival, but there's another day of top-class action scheduled today. We've all the details of those races alongside the meetings planned for Hexham, Towcester and Wolverhampton on...

...THURSDAY 14/03:

Cheltenham Day 3:

1.30--’Jewson’ Novice Chase: An exceptionally ‘good NH judge’ expects a first-rate showing from Third Intention in this event, though as expressed on Sunday evening, ‘Joe’ was less than happy at the decision for Dynaste to contest this event rather than the RSA which had seemingly been the target not so long so.  Colin Tizzard’s raider should still reward each way investors with a decent run for their collective monies however.

2.05--‘Pertemps Final’: The last nine favourites have been beaten with just one market leader finishing in the frame.  Going back further in time, only one favourite has prevailed during the last sixteen years, whilst seven of the last nine gold medallists carried weights of 10-9 or less as have twenty-six of the thirty-six horses to have secured toteplacepot/each way positions during the period.  Only one five-year-old winner has been recorded in the last thirty-eight years.  Cape Tribulation was the third eight-year-old winner twelve months ago via the last six renewals.  David Pipe has saddled two of the last three winners, albeit Buena Vista won both events.

2.40--Ryanair Chase: Albertas Run has two gold and one silver medal to his name in this race though the ground (best on a sound surface) might have gone against him this time around.  Only two favourites have prevailed via eight contests though that said, seven of the winners scored at odds of 6/1 or less. Twenty four Irish raiders have tried and failed to win this contest.  Nicky Henderson (responsible for both successful favourites), Jonjo O’Neill and Paul Nicholls all have two winners to their name, the other successful trainers being David Pipe and Nigel Twiston-Davies.

3.20--World Hurdle: Eight favourites have won via the last eighteen contests during which time, thirteen gold medallists emerged from the front three horses in the betting.  The biggest priced winner during the last eleven years was returned at 8/1.  Get Me Out Of Here has finished runner-up in all three Cheltenham Festival assignments thus far.  Beaten a head in the ‘Supreme’ in 2010, GMOOH fell victim to a minimum margin defeat (nose) twelve months later (County Hurdle) before securing the silver medal again in the ultra competitive Coral Cup last year.  If any horses deserves to score at the Cheltenham Festival this year, Get Me Out Of Here is the beast!

4.00--Grade 3 Byrne Group Plate:  Last year’s successful market leader was only the second favourite to oblige during the last twenty-nine years.  Although eight-year-olds have ‘only’ won four of the last fourteen renewals, vintage representatives have secured twenty-three of the last forty-three available toteplacepot/each way positions.  Horses carrying a maximum burden of 10-10 have won eight of the last ten renewals.

4.40--’Kim Muir’ Chase: Nine-year-olds have won nine of the last fourteen contests whilst claiming twenty-one of the last available forty-eight toteplacepot/each way positions.  Twelve of the last fifteen renewals have been secured by horses carrying 10-13 or more, as have thirty-four of the last forty-seven available toteplacepot positions.  Ferdy Murphy’s Cheltenham record with his outsiders stands up almost as well as any other trainer, especially if you take the Nicky Henderson out of the equation.  Riguez Dancer could go well at rewarding odds, whilst other stable representatives this week to keep on a back burner include Going Wrong, De Boitron and Poker Di Sivola



Class 4 novice hurdle event due to be contested at 2.55: Three of the five market leaders have prevailed (5/6-5/6-10/11), the other market leaders having secured silver medals.  Six-year-olds have won three contests whilst all five winners carried a minimum burden of eleven stones.

Four mile handicap chase scheduled for 3.35: Just one favourite has obliged via the last ten renewals during which time, horses carrying weights of 11-2 or less have secured eight contests.

Three mile handicap hurdle scheduled for 4.15: Six of the last ten contests have been secured by market leaders, with seven-year-olds leading the eight-year-olds 5-3 during the period.  Five of the last six winners have carried a minimum burden of 11-2.

Two and a half mile handicap chase scheduled for 4.55: The last eight winners have carried a maximum weight of eleven stones, whilst just one favourite has obliged during the last decade.



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Number of races at Towcester: 13

Favourite stats: 6 (46.2%--includes joint and co favourites)

Odds on ratio: 4/4


Trainers of winners at Towcester in 2013:

2--Philip Hobbs (4/5* & 8/13*)

2--David Pipe (7/4* & 1/2*)

1--Kevin Bishop (11/2)

1--David Bridgwater (11/2)

1--Tony Carroll (9/1)

1--Claire Dyson (5/1)

1--Caroline Keevil (9/2)

1--Donald McCain (4/5*)

1--Jamie Snowdon (7/1)

1--Tim Vaughan (4/1)

1--Venetia Williams (3/1*)

All thirteen winners sent off at a top price of 9/1


Trainers of beaten favourites:

1--Kate Buckett (3/1)

1--Sarah Jane Davies (5/2)

1--Robin Duickin (9/4)

1--John Ferguson (15/8)

1--Sophie Leech (9/4)

1--Michael Roberts (11/4)

1--Richard Woolacott (11/4)

Two mile five furlong novice hurdle event scheduled for 1.55: Six-year-olds have secured five of the seven contests during which time, the biggest priced winner was returned at 13/2 (four successful market leaders).

Three mile handicap chase due to be contested at 2.30: Three clear and two joint favourites have prevailed via seven renewals.

Class 4 two-mile handicap hurdle scheduled for 4.25: Five-year-olds have won three of the last six contests, whilst four of the last five favourites secured toteplacepot positions, statistics which include one winner.

Closing conditional jockey’s event scheduled for 5.35: The last five winners have scored at 16/1--14/1--12/1--15/2--7/2 following the successful inaugural (5/4) market leader back in 2004.



Gerard Butler’s only two entries this week at the time of writing were at this venue, where Gerard boasts fifty-two points of level stake profits via a 24% strike rate in recent years.

Cheltenham Festival Day Three Pack

Your #1 geegeez Cheltenham Pack

Your #1 geegeez Cheltenham Pack

It's day three of the Festival, and that means the World Hurdle plus the Ryanair Chase, as well as the Jewson and some fiendish handicaps!

Here's what's on geegeez for you today.

Cheltenham Festival LIVE BLOG!

Yes, folks! Back by popular demand, I'll be live blogging this afternoon for Day Three of the Festival. Your company is requested - and to some degree, required (as it'll be no fun on my own!) - for the seven races kicking off at 1.30pm.

One slight caveat is that my train from Gloucester doesn't get to Paddington until 1237, and I've to get across to Geegeez Towers for 1.30pm!

So, do bear with me if we're a few minutes late starting. Transport in London has a habit of frustrating...

The live blog will be happening here...

Competition Day Three

A single person each managed to pick the three big winners yesterday: Medinas, Flaxen Flare and Briar Hill, and they lead the charge. But there is still plenty of opportunity to get a big-priced score on the board.

Pick three horses running at Cheltenham today, and enter them in the comments box here, along with your BetVictor username.

Cheltenham Festival Tipping Competition is here.

More Bookie Offers

Various Sprinter Sacre specials will have beaten up bookies again yesterday, and there's a slightly muted look to the offers page today. However, we do still have plenty of five places action in the handicaps, and money back if second to the favourite with a couple of firms. If you like a horse but are worried about the likes of Dynaste, Sam Winner or Ballynagour, that's a nice insurance policy.

Cheltenham Festival Day Three Bookie Offers are here.

Day Three Preview, Trends and Tips

A really frustrating day for me personally with three decent bets just failing to come off: Boston Bob, Meister Eckhart and Regal Encore. But there's plenty more to go at today, and my thoughts, some hard facts, plus a tip or three can be found here.

Cheltenham Day Three (Thursday) Preview, Trends and Tips are here.

The geegeez Cheltenham Festival One Stop Shop

Tying everything together for the Festival is this one little linkie.

Click here for all of geegeez' Cheltenham Festival coverage in one place.

Well I Declare : 13th March 2013

Well I Declare: 13th March

Well I Declare: 13th March

Today is Day 2 of the 2013 Cheltenham Festival and we've full details of today's races from Prestbury Park, as well as the action scheduled for Huntingdon, Kempton and Southwell on...

...WEDNESDAY 13/03:

Cheltenham Day 2:

1.30--4 mile NH Chase: Seven-year-olds have won five of the last eight contests whilst just three favourites have prevailed in the last eighteen years.  Horses in the first three in the betting have a poor record in the race.  Fifty four relevant horses have lined up during the study period producing six winners and ten place positions, leaving thirty-eight representatives finishing out with the washing.

2.05--2 mile 5 furlong Grade 1 ‘Baring Bingham (Neptune)’: Five and six-year-olds have secured sixteen of the last eighteen renewals of this event, securing an additional thirty-one toteplacepot positions for good measure.  Six-year-olds come to the gig on a hat trick this time around having secured four of the last six renewals.  Six favourites have won during the period though the figure only extends to nine when taking the first three market leaders into account.

2.40--RSA Chase: Seven-year-olds rule supreme in the ‘Sun Alliance’ having won thirteen of the last eighteen contests.  Vintage representative has secured an additional sixteen toteplacepot positions down the years for good measure.  Only five favourites have won during the study period and just eight when extending the stats by taking the first three horses in the betting into account in the relevant races.  Irish runners have won three of the last four contests, whilst Willie Mullins has trained two winners and two placed horses during the last decade via fifteen representatives.

3.20--Queen Mother Champion Chase: Ten of the last thirteen winners of the ‘Queen Mother’ have emerged from the front three horses in the betting, whilst five favourites have won via the last eighteen renewals.  If you fancy taking Sprinter Scare on, it’s worth noting that nine-year-olds come into the contest on a four timer. To pour further fuel on the potential flames, Sprinter Sacre is attempting to become only the fourth seven-year-old winner since 1970, the last relevant gold medallist being Azertyuiop back in 2004.

4.00--Coral Cup: Ten of the last twelve winners of the Coral Cup have carried weights of eleven stones or less whilst just one favourite has scored since 1993.  Only four winners have emerged during the period from the front three horses in the market during the study period.  Five-year-olds have won three of the last seven renewals.

4.40--’Fred Winter’: Two favourites have won via just eight renewals, though readers should be aware that other gold medallists have prevailed at odds of 40/1-40/1-20/1-14/1-11/1-9/1.  Seven of the eight winners have carried a maximum burden of 11-4, whilst fillies have secured half of the contests thus far.

5.15--’Championship Bumper’: Five-year-olds have secured six renewals during the last decade.  The market used to be a decent guide but it is as well to digest the fact that seven renewals have slipped by since a favourite was successful, recent winners having scored at 40/1-33/1-16/1-14/1-12/1-11/2-9/2.  Willie Mullins has saddled seven of Ireland’s fourteen winners in race which only has twenty renewals to its name.




Number of races at Huntingdon: 28

Favourite stats: 8 (28.6%--includes joint and co favourites)

Odds on ratio: 4/5


Trainers of winners at Huntingdon in 2013:

6--N. Henderson (4/9*-4/7*-11/10*-11/10*-3/1-15/8)

2--Kim Bailey (8/1 & 7/1)

2--Henry Daly (10/1 & 9/1)

2--Paul Nicholls (4/5* & 4/9*)

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2--Richard Phillips (8/1 & 16/1)

2--Oliver Sherwood (7/2 & 11/2)

1--David Arbuthnot (6/1)

1--Caroline Bailey (6/1)

1--Chris Down (25/1)

1--Warren Greatrex (5/1)

1--Diana Grissell (5/2*)

1--Martin Keighley (6/1)

1--Gary Moore (12/1)

1--John O'Neill (22/1)

1--A.E. Price (5/1)

1--T. Symonds (8/1)

1--Venetia Williams (9/2)

1--P. York (11/8*)

24/28 winners were sent off at odds of 10/1 or less


Trainers of beaten favourites:

3--Philip Hobbs (5/2-4/1-11/4)

3--Jonjo O'Neill (3/1-10/3-7/2)

3--Venetia Williams (11/4-5/2-7/2)

1--Roger Curtis (9/2)

1--Vic Dartnall (9/2)

1--John Ferguson (4/5)

1--Tom George (13/8)

1--Lawney Hill (7/2)

1--Brendan Powell (9/2**)

1--Jeremy Scott (9/2**)

1--Oliver Sherwood (3/1**)

1--Pam Sly (7/2)

1--Colin Tizzard (4/1)

1--Bill Turner (13/8)

1--Tim Vaughan (3/1**)

1--Lucy Wadham (4/1**)

1--Nick Williams (4/1**)

Three mile handicap chase scheduled to be contested at 2.55: Just one clear and one co favourite has scored via eight renewals.  Other gold medallists were sent off at 25/1--20/1--16/1--10/1--8/1--7/2.  Four of the ten market leaders have secured toteplacepot positions thus far.  It’s worth noting that the toteplacepot pools for the other meetings during Cheltenham Festival week also take a hike if you are interested in the wager.

Two mile five furlong handicap hurdle scheduled for 3.35: Six-year-olds have secured three of the five contests.

Three and a quarter-mile handicap hurdle scheduled for 4.15: Nine of the last ten winners carried a minimum burden of eleven stones, whilst the same number of gold medallists started at odds of 7/1 or less (two winning favourites).

Four-year-olds come into the closing bumper event (scheduled for 5.30) on a five timer.  Five favourites have scored during the last decade albeit, gold medallists have also prevailed at odds of 100/1 & 22/1.



Jockey John Fahy boasts an LSP figure of over sixty points at Kempton which should come as no great surprise to readers, given that 26% of John’s (119) winners during the last five years have been gained at this venue.



It would be typical of David Nicholls to saddle winners when the majority of punters were ‘looking the other way’ this week and his one hundred and sixty points of level stake profits at Southwell during the last five years merits plenty of consideration.

Cheltenham Festival Day Two Pack

Your #1 geegeez Cheltenham Pack

Your #1 geegeez Cheltenham Pack

It's day two of the Festival, and I really hope you're enjoying it so far. I am, despite a break even sort of Tuesday. (Actually I'm a very small amount down, but in the grand scheme that's ok!)

To Wednesday, and the beastly beauty that is Sprinter Sacre. He's an absolutely fantastic horse and if you ever get the chance to see him in the flesh, you'll know what I mean. Equine machine.

Here's what's on geegeez for you today.

Competition Day Two

No big leaders after day one, as both Golden Chieftain (28/1) and Randjhani Express (16/1) eluded everybody. That means the leader is on 6.63 points which is one modest priced winner in the context of the Cheltenham Festival. So, if you haven't entered already, you still can and there's £100 of bets up for grabs.

Pick three horses running at Cheltenham today, and enter them in the comments box here, along with your BetVictor username.

Cheltenham Festival Tipping Competition is here.

More Bookie Offers

Some of the bookmakers half killed themselves yesterday with offers around the Supreme Novices Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle. But there are still plenty prepared to offer no deposit free bets, extra places, refunds for seconditis sufferers, and a very innovative Sprinter Sacre handicap race!

Cheltenham Festival Day Two Bookie Offers are here.

Day Two Preview, Trends and Tips

After a modest day one - which is generally the case when the shorties win - and some frustration with Fruity O'Rooney, Kauto Shiny (100/1), and Colour Squadron all finishing fifth, we move on to day two.

And my thoughts, some hard facts, plus a tip or three can be found here.

Cheltenham Day Two (Wednesday) Preview, Trends and Tips are here.

Punting Confessional Cheltenham Special

Our man, Tony K, is back with another Punting Confessional, and he's honed in on the Cheltenham Festival this week.

You can read that here.

Tony's Cheltenham Punting Confessional is here.

The geegeez Cheltenham Festival One Stop Shop

Tying everything together for the Festival is this one little linkie.

Click here for all of geegeez' Cheltenham Festival coverage in one place.

Cheltenham Day One Pack

Your #1 geegeez Cheltenham Pack

Your #1 geegeez Cheltenham Pack

So, there's lots of different things for your Cheltenham punting edification here at geegeez, and in the interests of expediency, I thought I'd do a 'round up' of what and where. Hope that's of use. (As always, let me know with a comment whether you find it useful, and thanks).

OK, so first up, there's a Cheltenham Festival tipping competition.

Yay! £100 of betting vouchers from the lovely people at BetVictor. Full details of that are here. These have been very popular so far, and we'll be doing a lot more of them in the coming weeks and months. But this week is obviously a special week with some wonderful, competitive action to go at.

Next, there's bookmaker offers galore.

I am deadly serious when I say that I've NEVER seen a cut-throat price war like this around horse racing betting, and the bookmakers are offering massive loss-leaders just now, which demand attention (and availing).

My original post on the six best was here.

Your first 30 days for just £1

And now the day of race stuff has kicked in, there's plenty more here. Some of these are 'new customers only', and some are all and sundry offers. No point getting upset if you don't qualify: just crack on with those offers that are available to you. Basically, if you've got half an hour today, you can almost certainly make money and enjoy your punting even more.

Well I Declare has a Festival special

Mal Boyle, top stats man and long-term expert racing scribbler, marks your Cheltenham card in his own inimitable way, and that will be online from 10am here. He's consistently highlighted the chances of big priced winners in the time he's been writing for and there's every chance of him nailing another monster this week.

Matt's monster previews

As always, my self-indulgent tendency towards verbosity gets its platform on this 'ere bloggie, and I've huffed and puffed all over the Cheltenham Festival card this year, as every year.

I have a few stronger fancies, a few lesser fancies, and plenty of double-digit possible to give you some ideas if you're that way inclined. Day one's (Tuesday) preview is here.

Matt's ante post portfolio (or most of it, anyway)

I actually discovered a couple of other bets I'd placed with BetVictor as part of their non-runner free bet promo yesterday. Seriously, I've been banging on about this all Winter, largely because most of the (few) non-runners I've had have been refunded in the form of free bet cash. Now, true, that's not money back in my pocket (yet!), but it's a damn sight better than fresh air!!

Well done to Victor for this promo which will probably cost them a few quid. Let's hope they do it again next year. (They're already doing it on the Grand National 🙂  )

Anyway, aside aside, here's the portfolio piece.

The BEST Cheltenham Festival News, Previews, Tips and... well... Everything!

There's one link which joins pretty much all of the Cheltenham stuff together in a handy little bundle, and it's this one.


All right, so now you know. Enjoy the Festival and, of course, I'll be back tomorrow, win, lose or draw!


Six Best Cheltenham Festival Bookmaker Offers

Six best Cheltenham Festival bookmaker offers

Six best Cheltenham Festival bookmaker offers

Six Best Cheltenham Festival Bookmaker Offers

It's Cheltenham Festival silly season, dear reader, and that means that the bookies are falling over themselves to get us to give them our cash. In fact, so ridiculous has it got that they're now actually giving punters cash!

Most of the bookie offers for the Festival focus on Tuesday, as a means of getting money in the betting accounts to ensure players are betting with their firm. And, naturally, we can turn this to our advantage, by playing the bookie game with the ten best Cheltenham Festival 2013 bookmaker offers!


1. Bet Victor will refund ALL losing bets on the Supreme Novices Hurdle, up to £50

Bet Victor has covered itself in glory in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival with their unique and hugely popular non-runner free bet all season; and they are the bookie that keeps on giving, as they're now promising to refund all losers on the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the opening race of the 2013 Cheltenham Festival.

Note, this is not conditional on My Tent Or Yours, the hot favourite, or any other particular horse, winning. No. Here's how this one works: you place a bet on the race with Bet Victor and, if it doesn't win, you get your stake refunded to your account as a free bet.

If you want to get the meeting off to a flyer, you could whack fifty quid on My Tent Or Yours. If he wins (currently 6/4), you'd get £75 profit plus your £50 stake back. If he loses, you get your £50 back. No. Brainer. No?

They're also going non-runner money back now as well, so if your fancy fails to show up, you get your cash back. And they'll match your first deposit if you're a new customer with a free bet of up to £25.

2. SkyBet will FLAT OUT GIVE YOU £10 to bet - no deposit required! PLUS Four places on the Supreme

SkyBet have been running this promotion for ages, and if you haven't taken advantage of it already, what better time than just before Cheltenham? This is a really simple offer: register an account with SkyBet, and they'll immediately deposit £10 into your account to bet with. Any winnings can be withdrawn straight away.

Why wouldn't you?!

3. Coral will lay you up to £20 at evens on Sprinter Sacre to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase

Although this is not a free bet, it's as close to one as you'll ever get at the Cheltenham Festival. Sprinter Sacre is the highest rated horse in training. He's a mile clear of his rivals, most of which are dodging him and running in a different race. Even money means you get 100% interest on your loan to Coral in the space of a week. That's almost as good as the burglars behind do!

Your first 30 days for just £1

Obviously, in the interests of transparency, I need to remind you that certainties do get beaten, and that you shouldn't bet this if you can't afford to lose. But, getting evens about a 1-5 shot is about the best value this side of free money (see 2. above and 4. below)

Oh, and for new customers, they'll match your first deposit with up to £50 of their own betting vouchers. So you'll have more wonga to wager when Spwinta wins the Kween Muvva. (sorry)

4. Racebets will give you a free £10 bet, plus money back if My Tent Or Yours wins the Supreme, or Hurricane Fly wins the Champion

Yes, another free tenner bet (terms apply). Race Bets will also match your initial deposit with up to £100. But the fun really starts with their race concessions.

1. RaceBets refund losing Champion Hurdle Ante-Post bets if Hurricane Fly wins

2. RaceBets refund losing Supreme Novices Hurdle day of the race bets if My Tent or Yours wins

3. If your horse finishes 2nd to the SP favourite in any race at Cheltenham, RaceBets will refund your losing bet

4. If your horse loses by a nose in any race anywhere, RaceBets refund it

5. If your horse falls at the first in any race anywhere, RaceBets refund it

Those are pretty nice concessions indeed and, allied to the free betting voucher - enter 'geegeez' in the Bonus field to get that (see this post for full details) - this is a no brainer account to avail of.

5. bet365 are non-runner money back AND best odds guaranteed all Cheltenham Festival races

Not quite such a standout as some, but still well worth considering if you fancy anything they're best price on. As well as guaranteeing to pay you SP if that's bigger than the price you take, they'll also return your wedge if your nag no-shows.

And, for new customers, they'll give you £200 in free bets (some qualifying conditions apply, as even they're not that generous!)



6. Bluesq will refund your stakes if your horse is second, beaten three lengths or less in Championship events

Five of the last eight Champion Hurdles were won by three lengths or less. So too were three of the last four World Hurdles. If yours is the unlucky beast to bag a close up silver medal, Bluesq will refund your losing stake.

This offer applies to the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, World Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

New customers can also look forward to £25 in free bets, through Bluesq's 'free bet Friday' promo. Very nice too.




Those six offers - all of which are available to new and existing clients - should net you at least £40 (2 x £10 free bet, plus £20 when Sprinter Sacre wins). If things go your way in the Supreme or the Champion Hurdle, they'll net you more... or at least you'll get your cash back.

Armed with information, you'd be mad not to thank the bookmakers for their rare outbreak of Cheltenham Festival fever, and the generosity it engenders!


p.s. if you know of any other bookie concessions, do please leave a comment below, so we can all get involved. (Thanks)

Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase Preview and Tips

Will it be A New Story in the Cross Country Chase?

Will it be A New Story in the Cross Country Chase?

Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase Preview and Tips 2013

Of the 27 races run at the Cheltenham Festival, the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase, or the Cross Country as it's better known, is perhaps the easiest to solve. Now, before you think I've gone mad, let me clarify: that doesn't mean it's easy to solve; just that it's easier than most of the other races.

Bold statement made at the top of the piece, let's look in more depth at what it takes to win this unique challenge, and which nags are best placed to plunder the prize.

Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase Trends 2013

This will be the ninth time the Cross Country Chase has featured at the Festival, and the first five were all won by a horse priced 4/1 or shorter. Since then, things have got a little more random, with 25/1, 13/2 and 11/2 winners... or so it seems.

But closer inspection shows that the big-priced winner, A New Story, had finished 3rd and 4th in the two previous renewals, so knew exactly what was needed. 13/2 winner, Sizing Australia, had also run in the race before, finishing eleventh (but had three other placed finishes over the course outside the Festival).

And last year, I suspect that Balthazar King, though well fancied, profited most from the ugly and unnecessary (in my opinion) fatalities of Scotsirish - who I thought was banker material - and Garde Champetre. He too had had a previous look at the course, when running out in the comedy race run at 2011's December meeting here.

So, all winners had cross country experience, and that looks a stone cold certainty for a likely winner of the race.

The next thing to note is that Balthazar King was the first non-Irish-trained winner of the race and, again, I feel he wouldn't have won had Garde Champetre and Scotsirish completed the course. Let me put that another way: I will be strongly favouring Irish entries over British ones.

Indeed, A New Story - at fourteen years young - failed by just a head to match Balthazar King and retain the Irish stranglehold on the race. And ex-Irish Wedger Pardy was next best, back in third.

So look to the Irish entries for the most likely winner.

Enda Bolger is a specialist trainer in these types of races, and his reward is that he's trained four winners from the eight renewals, plus three runners up. With the loss of Garde Champetre, and the retirement of the likes of Spot Thedifference and Heads Onthe Ground, it seemed Enda's grip was loosening. But he's got some new names to go to war with this time around, most notable perhaps, Arabella Boy, who uncharacteristically unseated on his sole spin around this weird circuit.

Respect Enda Bolger's entries.

The nature of this contest on this course is different from any other race at the Festival. The Cross Country course is inside the Old and New Courses, and winds its way inside and out like a knotted shoelace. As such, whilst stamina is needed - it's most of four miles, after all - there's never an all out gallop because the tight turns and many and varied obstacles don't allow for too much use of the accelerator pedal.

The race does often look wide open turning in for the final quarter mile, before thinning out to just a couple of contenders, and so a turn of foot / something in reserve is crucial.

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A New Story was second last year, as I've written, aged fourteen. He won it aged twelve, as did Native Jack and Spot Thedifference. Ten year olds have also bagged a brace of Cross Country Chases at the Festival.

I do have a slight suspicion that the days of the veterans enjoying a last day in the sun are passing, and that this is - if not quite a young man's game - at least the province of the eight to ten year olds.

There are plenty of familiar names entered which are older than that - the likes of A New Story, Freneys Well, Double Dizzy, Wedger Pardy, Uncle Junior and Sizing Australia - but I'm happy (unless the price is too good to resist) to look towards the new breed and generally favour eight to ten year olds.

Weight is probably less important here than in any of the other handicaps at the Festival. Again, I suspect it's because of the tight track constitution, but the upshot is that the experienced cross country boys prevail over the seemingly attractively-weighted newcomer brigade time and again. Heads Onthe Ground was the only winner to carry less than 10-08, and he had already garnered plenty of cross-country experience, including when third over the course at the previous December meeting.

Ignore weight, and instead favour cross-country experience.

As a specialist sort of race, there are a few key trials for this. The previous year's renewal is a good place to start, with three winners - one repeater - coming back to claim the prize the following year. Also, the PP Hogan Chase at Punchestown in February has had a bearing with three winners of that coming on to win here. And the December meeting cross country chase is perhaps the best form guide of all, with fully six of the eight winners having run there.

A recent hurdle spin has been used by three winners too.

Favour horses which ran in one or more of last year's race, the December Cross Country here, the PP Hogan Memorial Chase, and/or a hurdle race last time.


Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase Preview 2013

OK, so that's the sort of profile we're looking for. Now how do the contenders shape up against it?

Well, the first thing to say is that they currently bet 6/1 the field so there is a nice enough return to aim at, whichever horse wins. Also, there are four places paid on the race as a handicap, so there might be a couple which look close to banker place material.

Sharing favouritism are last year's winner, Balthazar King; Arabella Boy; and, Outlaw Pete. Balthazar has a win and a place in his last two Cross Country starts here at Cheltenham, and won on the park course as well in between. He comes here in great form, we know the track holds no fears, and he is the right sort of age.

But it's difficult to follow up in this contest - only one repeater despite the specialist nature of cross country chases - and he was readily outpointed by Uncle Junior, albeit on ground which might have been too testing for him. In fact, the ground is likely to be on the soft side this time, having been like a road (criminally so, in my view) last term. That give will probably blunt Balthazar's speed and he's not for me, despite an otherwise robust profile for the race.

Arabella Boy is clearly held in high regard by the Bolger team, and is likely to be the pick of his possible quartet. He won the PP Hogan last time, having previously unseated at this course late in the race at the Grand National fence. He'll be spot on for this but must have it on the soft side to show his best.

Outlaw Pete won that last day when Arabella Boy unseated, and was given a very nice stalking ride before quickening away smartly. It's interesting that he's taken his chance in a couple of conventional handicap chases since, thus avoiding a clash with any of his rivals here. Outlaw Pete has form on all ground but prefers some cut. He'll probably get that, and ought to be thereabouts again if his jumping holds together.

Uncle Junior and Bostons Angel come next, and both have experience of this course. Uncle has won the November race here for the past two years, but has finished 78U on his three runs later in the season. He was a well held fourth to Arabella Boy in the PP Hogan and it's difficult to envisage him reversing the form here.

Bostons Angel was even further behind that day, having run up to Arabella Boy and Outlaw Pete on his previous two starts. He looks one paced and whilst likely to be thereabouts is also likely to find at least one too good.

Former winner, Sizing Australia, is a 14/1 shot but I feel fairly confident his best days are behind him now, and he'd need the going to be at least good to make the frame. The course is currently soft, good to soft in places.

A couple of interesting entries figure next, in Big Shu and Chicago Grey. The former was a length behind Arabella Boy at Punchestown last time, but in all his races he's given the impression that he barely gets three miles, let alone the (relatively easy, granted) near four miles here. He's also yet to have sight of this course and, on balance, he can beat me if he's good enough.

Chicago Grey has two wins at Cheltenham, including in the four miler at the Festival, and he also won last time out. But he's never even raced in a cross country chase, and that's a massive negative in a race like this.

The rest probably don't count, though A New Story is worth an honourable mention, with an incredible race record of 34132. Yes, he's fifteen now (!), but he was fourteen last year when beaten only a head, and twelve when he won the race. He goes on any ground and was given a lovely prep in a hurdle race last week. 33/1 (8.25/1 a place 1-2-3-4) is too big despite him being a serious veteran even in the context of a race like this.

Finally, Reste Demohaison is a mildly interesting French raider. Although only eight, he's a thoroughly experienced cross country horse, having already had seventeen races over fence, wall and birch in his native France. It remains to be seen who will ride, and that is a factor here, for sure. He stays the trip and has bundles of seasoning, so might just offer a run for your money.


Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase Tips 2013

Overall then, it's a race which is unlikely to be as competitive as the current 6/1 the field implies, which means there is value for us early birds before most people focus even remotely on the contest.

Arabella Boy retains a slight stamina doubt, but his jumping is usually assured and he'll get a grand ride from Nina Carberry, who I assume will continue her association. And Outlaw Pete must be thereabouts if he can carry the bigger weight this time.

But I am drawn to A New Story. He never seems to have much form coming into this race, and he's as old as Cleeve Hill itself. But. But... he's 34132 in this race, and was just a head shy of winning as a 14yo. That was a taking prep last time over two miles - ahem - and 33/1 offers plenty of throwaway value.

Most Likely Winner: Arabella Boy 6/1 general (5/1 NRNB BOG bet365)
Next Best: Outlaw Pete 6/1 BOG Paddy Power
Great Value Each Way Outsider: A New Story 33/1 Stan James 1/4 1-2-3-4

Good luck!

Monday Musings: 15 days…

A National winner at Fairyhouse?

A National winner at Fairyhouse?

The National Hunt jamboree that is Cheltenham Festival 2013 draws ever closer, dear reader, and - at time of writing, there are just fifteen days and a few hours before tapes rise on the first of 27 championship events.

Excitement is bubbling up nicely, and in today's post I'll be covering a range of subjects, plenty of them related to Chelters' big Fezza (as I heard it referred to this morning!). So, in no particular order, I've got some thoughts on the weekend racing with Cheltenham/Aintree in mind; a Monday placepot; news of a special bonus offer later in the week; a quick tipping competition update; and, a Monday placepot!

Let's go to it...

We'll start with the weekend racing action just passed. Dan Kelly will have a more analytical take later in the week on some of the key events, but until then, here are my rather less scientific notes.

Friday saw the third favourite for the Arkle have his final prep race for Cheltenham in a three runner Sandown event. That he was beaten was unfortunate. That he was stuffed out of sight means he's surely a fair price to even make the Arkle field now. I'd already warned against backing a horse with nine chase starts under his belt for the Arkle, on the basis that there's very little improvement to garner from such a beast, and Fago ran like a horse which has seen too much action recently.

Indeed, he's had six races since mid-September, and four of them in very high class company. Allied to the fact he was returning to the track after just thirteen days - and a very hard race - and it's not altogether surprising he flopped. Nice horse, but not an Arkle winner.

Onwards to Saturday, and an interesting card at Kempton, though with surprisingly few Festival clues on offer, in my view. I was lucky enough to be in attendance, and as a guest of Tony 'Irish Big Race Trends' Mac in a hospitality suite (nice fellow, that Tony Mac!). Pie crust scoffed, it was to the action, and despite three Grade 2's and the feature Grade 3 Racing Plus Chase, there was just a smallish handful of horses to note.

In the opener, Triangular gave up the outside to no horse and, having been outpaced, stayed on well to be a never nearer thirteen length fifth. A stiffer track and slightly longer trip will see him in the winner's enclosure again, but he won't be going to the Festival. The third horse, Milarrow, looks the other to take from here. He had tried to make all before getting badly outpaced when the tempo quickened - dropping back like he'd be pulled up - but then rallying robustly to be less than nine lengths back in third. He's entered in a similar contest on Wednesday - as is Saturday's winner, Midnight Sail - but I'd want to see Milarrow over three miles now.

Irish Saint did well enough to win the Adonis - normally a strong Triumph Hurdle trial - from Vasco du Ronceray. Off what looked a dawdling pace (both the Dovecote and the bumper later on the card were a second or so quicker), Irish Saint found himself a few lengths from the leaders, but showed good acceleration to get to them, and then good tenacity to outscrap Vasco in the final furlong.

While I'd mark Irish Saint up on the bare form here, he was well enough tonked - albeit under a different, pace-setting ride - last time at Cheltenham, by Vasco's stable mate, Rolling Star. Indeed, it's fair to believe that both Nicholls (Far West) and Hendo (Rolling Star) have better options than they ran here.

Grandioso further polished the Denizen of Ditcheat's stellar record in the Pendil Novices' Chase. His form string in the contest now reads 112111311 since 2006. Crikey. Despite that, none of those managed to trouble the judge at the Festival, and it's unlikely that either Grandioso or Molotof, his closest pursuer here, will be wager material in two weeks time.

The Dovecote was next, a Grade 2 hurdle for all age novices, and it's a race that is hard to get a handle on. The winner, Forgotten Voice, was emphatic in victory. The second, Brick Red, probably ran close (ish) to his mark of 146. If we say he ran to 140, then Forgotten Voice - value for twice his five length margin - probably ran to around 150. That would put him in the shake up for the Supreme... if he was entered there.

In fact, he's in the County Hurdle only and, off a mark of 138 plus a penalty - and with stable mate Petit Robin likely to keep the Voice's weight down - he might be one of the more interesting contenders.

Certainly a stronger pace would help him settle (although he seemed to have overcome that problem on Saturday), and the way he travels - allied to his obvious class, being rated 113 on the flat - offers hope. He's a general 14/1 shot for the County, though Stan James were impressed, showing just 8/1 about his prospects.

The big race was a first big race success for a trainer I've been banging on about since he took out a license in his own right, Harry Fry. Lest you didn't know, he trained Rock On Ruby to win the Champion Hurdle last year. Whilst that was from Paul Nicholls' former satellite yard in Seaborough, Dorset - a training facility now managed by Fry - there is no doubt that the young Harry was directing Ruby's regime.

Opening Batsman was a well-weighted novice here, and he'll now be a less well-weighted novice. He's in four different handicaps at the Festival and, on that basis alone, I'd need a better steer from connections before taking close to single figure prices about his chances there. Progressive horse, but not a Cheltenham proposition until plans are known, if at all.

Meanwhile, over at Fairyhouse, the Bobbyjo Chase - a strong Grand National trial, in which all runners were entered for the Aintree showpiece - was won by in good style by the extremely progressive Roi du Mee from odds-on jolly and National second favourite, Prince de Beauchene. It's very hard to crab a horse which has won eleven of 32 career starts, and five of seven this term.

In truth, I'm not even remotely sold on the stamina of either of that pair for the Grand National, and I suspect that they simple outpaced the likes of Oscar Time, who was allowed to coast home some way back. From this field, if any are of interest to me at current prices, it is the fourth horse, Rare Bob, who is currently 80/1 (non-runner free bet) with BetVictor (same price Stan James, all in run or not).

He has bags of Aintree form, is clearly being trained specifically for the National (two runs this season, a handicap hurdle and the Bobbyjo), and he's trained by super shrewd Dessie Hughes. Whether he's good enough is another question, but he has a pretty sound profile for the race, and 80/1 each way is tempting: certainly more so than 10/1 Prince de Beauchene or 25/1 Roi du Mee (both French bred which is still a negative overall, for me).


Onwards, and now that some of the bookmakers are going non-runner no bet, it's time to start flagging the best priced horses with those bookies, as it clearly makes sense to bet with them if you fancy one that's top-priced with them. Victor is non-runner no bet; and bet365 is the same and also Best Odds Guaranteed. Unfortunately, the latter's BOG concession means they're offering pretty tight odds in most cases, though with a few exceptions.

The below is a list of top ten market contenders in each Championship race where one or both of BetVictor or bet365 are top (or joint top) price.


Supreme Novices Hurdle: Pique Sous 20/1 with both bet365 / BetVictor

Arkle Chase: Overturn 11/4 bet365

Champion Hurdle: Zarkandar 5/1 bet365; Cinders And Ashes 14/1 bet365; Countrywide Flame bet365 / BetVictor

Neptune Novices Hurdle: Un Atout 20/1 BetVictor

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RSA Chase: Super Duty, Sire Collonges both 25/1 BetVictor

Queen Mother Champion Chase: Sprinter Sacre 1/4 (!), Sanctuaire 20/1, Somersby 33/1 all BetVictor

Jewson Novices Chase: Module 10/1 BetVictor, Argocat 16/1 BetVictor, Third Intention 16/1 bet365 / BetVictor

Ryanair Chase: For Non Stop 20/1 bet365

World Hurdle: Solwhit 12/1, Get Me Out Of Here 16/1 BetVictor

Triumph Hurdle: Diakali 20/1 BetVictor

Gold Cup: Bobs Worth 3/1 bet365, Captain Chris 20/1 bet365 / BetVictor, Katenko 25/1 BetVictor

Foxhunters: Chapoturgeon 5/1 BetVictor, Cottage Oak 10/1 bet365, Bold Addition 16/1 bet365, Dante's Storm, Goonyella both 20/1 BetVictor

Like I say, if you fancy any of the above, it'd be foolish to bet anywhere else, especially where bet365 are top price. In those cases, you'll get money back if the horse doesn't run, and bigger odds if the horse is sent off at... well, bigger odds!


A quick update on the tipping competition, as we start the second of its two weeks. Currently, Ian Friend has a healthy lead, thanks to four winners last week, including 12/1 and 20/1 scorers. He's on a superb 36.5 which means, even with a completely blank week, he'll have 26.5 at the end of the comp. So, if you want to catch him, you've lots of time but you need to start getting some nice priced winners!

Remember, too, that we have a prize for the top-priced tip in the competition which currently stands at 20/1, and is held by... Ian Friend! That's only on countback though, as both he and S Dhillon had the 20/1 scorer, plus a 12/1 scorer. Ian has a third winning pick at 13/2, but if S Dhillon finds an unanswered 7/1 or better winner, he'll leapfrog into the lead.

Of course, if any of you find a 22/1 or bigger winner, you'll overtake the pair of them! So, get tipping. Here's the link to the competition.


My sincere thanks to the 474 of you who have completed the Geegeez Survey. It's your feedback that makes Geegeez what you tell me you'd like it to be. I always share the survey results, and this year will be no different. So, do please take five minutes (or perhaps ten) to complete the survey, and I'll have an update on it later this week or early next.

And thanks a lot in advance. 😀


Couple more things: two things happening later this week, and a Monday placepot.

First, on Wednesday, I'll be back at Kempton for something I've not been involved with since 30th July 2001. That was the last time I had a share in a horse which was unraced, making its debut. The horse was called Tern Intern, and he was not very good. In fact, he was terrible. The highest rating he ever had was 54, when he was first handicapped, and he regressed down to a mark of 30...!

Well, on Wednesday, I'll have hope renewed that Vastly, the new nag, offers a glimmer (or perhaps a shaft) of light and hope for the future. The portents are fair: he was trained by none other than Sir Henry Cecil until the end of last year when, due to Vastly's size (yes, he's well enough named) it had not been possible to get him to the track.

Now, for Sir Henry to persist until the end of a horse's third year, without a run, implies the perception of at least some ability. Add to this the fact that Vastly's half-brother is none other than Await The Dawn, a winner of his most recent Meydan start plus five other races, and £285,074 in career prize money, and we are quite hopeful that our boy can at least win a race (or perhaps two) in due course.

Their mum, Valentine Band, also bred Putney Bridge, a Listed winner who is a full brother to Vastly; and Spruce, which Julia trained to win four races on the spin back in 2010.

So yes, we're very hopeful that he might be nice.

On Thursday, I'll have a special bonus offer for you. I can't say too much at this point, but suffice it to say that I've been tracking this little system since May last year, and it's a corker. Stay tuned for my bonus message on Thursday. 🙂


And finally, how about a bit of a bet on this dreary cold Monday? Let's try to plunder the Plumpton placepot. Now, as time has moved on, and I've work to do, we're going to take a few chances today. As a result, there's a fair prospect of a losing attempt, but better that than 'get' the placepot up but return less than we staked!

So, here goes:

Leg 1: Leviathan has two decent pieces of hurdles form, and won't mind the slight firmer footing. In a race with lots of runners but few with chances, he's a banker to kick us off.

A: 7

Leg 2: It's bar a fall for Violin Davis and, whilst this is a novices' chase, she's looked assured in three runs over fences to date, and she's a banker too.

A: 1

Leg 3: This looks tricky. Sir Fredlot is a big price but has a course and distance win to his name just four starts back, and has a number of other boxes with ticks in them. He'll go on A, despite his price. Tornado In Milan and Manshoor have both been well supported this morning and go on A, the latter with course/distance form too.

I'll bolster A with some B action, in the form of Right Stuff for local in-form trainer, Gary Moore, and Nemo Spirit. Engai, for David Bridgwater, sneaks in on that sole reason.

A: 2, 4, 6
B: 1, 7, 8

Leg 4: Jupiter Rex has the best form and the best jockey. But he's not been a fan of this quicker ground historically, and he's only had a short break (five days) since his last win. And this left-handed, slightly tighter circuit may not be ideal either. He's still the one to beat, and is the sole A runner.

But I'm firming up with a couple of B's too, in the shape of big-priced pair, Digger Gets Lucky and Sole Agent. Both have conditions to suit and could make the frame here, especially if Jupiter Rex under-performs.

A: 5
B: 2, 3

Leg 5: Absolute Shambles started his career here 39 runs ago and looks to have a chance today, despite being 12/1. His form here is 4515214, and the quicker the ground the better. All seven of his wins have been on good to soft through to good to firm, so he could bounce back this afternoon. He gets a call on B.

Favourite Stop The Show looks opposable, despite AP McCoy taking the ride. He's twelve now and has only made the first two in four of his 26 chase starts, and only won once. True, this race is awful, but he's just a very slow horse, and I doubt he'll win and he could well be out of the frame.

Red Anchor is a lot less exposed and won last time. That's more than enough to make A here.

Lawney Hill is a trainer I admire, and her Champion Versions drops in class today. He's a contender on that basis, and joins the A crew.

And thrice-winning hurdler, Acosta, gets the B call up, due to being well backed this morning.

A: 2, 5
B: 1, 8

Leg 6: Wily Susan Gardner does well enough round here, and she steps handicap débutante, Southway Queen, up half a mile this afternoon. Obviously expected to improve for that, judged on plenty of cash around for her today, she's an A sort. McCoy gets back on Old Dreams here, having won and been placed on her on his two previous rides, and she's an A type too.

Lady From Geneva ran well on her handicap bow last time, and she completes the trio on A, and the placepot perm.

A: 3, 5, 11

A's only: 1 x 1 x 3 x 1 x 2 x 3 = 18 bets

A's and B's:  1 x 1 x 6 x 3 x 4 x 3 = 216 bets

ABX Perm:

Monday Placepot at Plumpton

Monday Placepot at Plumpton


And that's it for a marathon Monday musing. Hopefully you've found something of interest in the above, and do let me know your thoughts on any points mentioned there, or indeed on anything racing/betting related!

p.s. Particularly, is the best odds breakdown on the big non-runner no bet races useful? Leave a comment and let me know.

Seven ‘Bets to Nothing’ at the Cheltenham Festival 2013

Cheltenham Festival 'bets to nothing'

Cheltenham Festival 'bets to nothing'

Incredibly, three weeks from now, the Cheltenham Festival will be over for another year. That's too sad a thought to contemplate, so how about it's only two weeks until the 2013 Cheltenham Festival? Much better... 🙂

As regular readers (and competition entrants) will know, I've been promoting BetVictor a fair amount lately. The reasons for this are more than just because they gave me £200 to give to you (via the competitions). In fact, that came after I approached them.

The main reason I recommend BetVictor just now is because of their excellent 'Non Runner Free Bet' concession for both the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National. We'll save the latter treat for another day, but in this post I want to focus on seven horses who I consider are 'bets to nothing' at the Festival.

First, let me quickly explain the Non Runner Free Bet rules. (Note, these shouldn't be treated as a substitute for you scouting full chapter and verse here)

  • Maximum refund per horse per customer is £50 (so if you back the same horse in multiple races, take care not to breach the ceiling)
  • Maximum refund per race is £100 (so you could back two non-runners in a race for £50 and receive cash back as a free bet)
  • Only win or each way SINGLES are eligible. No multiple wagers (as if!)
  • Refunds will be applied to your account as promo cash on the morning of the race from which your nag failed to show (e.g. back a NR in the Champion Hurdle, and you'll get your promo cash on the Tuesday before noon)
  • Maximum total promo cash refund on non-runners, with the other rules above taken into account, is a monkey (or £500 if you prefer).
  • IMPORTANT: all promo cash must be used to place a bet on racing within 24 hours of it being credited, before it turns into a pumpkin (or expires, at least)

In essence then, bet the horse you like and if it doesn't run, you'll get betting vouchers to the same value, to be used on the same day as the race in which your fancy failed to turn up. Simples!


(And wouldn't you just know it?!)

OK, so with caveat emptor in place, here are seven horses which I believe have an excellent chance IF they show up in the race for which I've flagged them... and of course, if they don't you'll be able to back something else in a 'bet to nothing'.


Supreme Novices' Hurdle - Champagne Fever 16/1.

This is a very good horse. In fact, he was good enough to win the Champion Bumper last year at the Festival over course and distance (though without the timber-framed impediments it should be said).

Since then, he's had a curious campaign: first he swum home in front in appalling conditions in a Grade 1 bumper at Punchestown (yes, I was unfortunate enough to be there); then he won a maiden hurdle at odds of 1/8 (better than you'll get at the bank); then he was beaten a length and a half by Jezki on soft in a Grade 1; then he was stepped up in trip and walloped in a Grade 2; and then he was stepped back down in trip to two and a quarter miles and won the Grade 1 Deloitte.

He's got three Grade 1 scores on his card, including at the Festival last year, and on his last start. He was beaten less than two lengths by Jezki in a fourth Grade 1, and that rival is now as short as 5/2 with Ladbrokes, despite having to prove his aptitude both for faster ground and Cheltenham's unique undulations.

Champagne Fever is 16/1.

Of course, there are plenty of others in here with squeaks, most obviously My Tent Or Yours. But he's a best priced 13/8 (I backed him at 7/2 straight after his romp last time! with... yes, BetVictor non-runner free bet - in case he goes for a bigger pot).

And it's instructive to note that only one of the 31 horses rated about 142 have managed to win this. Besides, Paddy Power are bound to go money back if MTOY wins the Supreme. 🙂

So, 16/1 is too big and, with Champagne Fever also holding - less likely - entries in both the Neptune and the potato race (Albert Bartlett), and BetVictor joint-top priced, he readily makes the septet of 'bet to nothing' wagers.


Arkle Challenge Trophy - Arvika Ligeonniere 8/1

Probably the most unpronounceable / unspellable horse name at the Festival, but one with a real squeak nevertheless. He's most likely to run in the Arkle for the same trainer as Champagne Fever, Willie Mullins. But he does also have an entry in the Jewson, over five furlongs further.

I was going to put him up as a 10/1 poke, but Fago (formerly 3rd choice in the Arkle betting) has just been beaten and our man is now only 8/1. Still that is decent enough in a race where I simply don't like the chance of Overturn and where Simonsig has been off a long time (and, whisper it, may not even show up).

Fago has now drifted out to 25/1 highlighting what I'd already highlighted here in my Arkle preview.

The form case for Arvika  is robust too: four runs over fences, three wins, two in Grade 1 company, and a soft fall last time, also in Grade 1 company when he'd surely have won otherwise. Those runs were all on boggy ground, but a win at the Punchestown Festival and a fourth in the 2010 potato race, on good turf, show both an alacrity for any going and a compatibility with Cleeve Hill.

The Arkle invariably goes to a well fancied horse, with fourteen of the last fifteen winners coming from the top quintet in the betting. Interestingly (perhaps), only two of those were favourite, and the 8/1 still looks perfectly fair.

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If anything besets our potential hero 'twixt today and tapes up, we'll get the cash back to bet elsewhere.

Champion Hurdle - Oscar Whisky 20/1

Yes, yes, I know he'll probably go for the World Hurdle. But on anything remotely soggy in the going description (or better yet, the actual going, as the two tend rarely to align on Cheltenham Tuesday), this fellow has a proper chance in the shorter race.

"He's a two and a half mile horse" they constantly bleat. And yet his record at two miles stands close scrutiny. At the shorter distance, he's 1114131. At two and a half miles, he's 1F1111. At three miles, he's 52. There's no two and a half mile Festival target.

The 4, 3, 5, and 2 were all at Cheltenham but, lest you think he's not so good here, he also has a 1111 to add to that.

The 4 was in the Supreme, race comment "Chased leaders, mistake 4th, right there when not much room 3 out, staying on same pace when not fluent last" - no room and mistake at the last.

The 3 was in the Champion Hurdle on good ground and when Hurricane Fly was in his pomp. (He may still be but there's an argument to say he's a fraction slower now he's nine).

Softer ground and a well judged pace-pressing ride would see Oscar go very close for the frame and have a chance to win too. 20/1 non-runner free bet is a 'bet to nothing'.



National Hunt Chase - Merry King 14/1

Now, the first thing to say here is that it's four miles, right about twenty amateur riders, and hopefully the same number of amateur (or novice, if you'd prefer) horses over 25 brutish fences. So, in all honesty, it's not a fantastic punting proposition, and luck will play a significant part.

My nominee here makes the septet to bet on the basis of his own strong staying record and his trainer's track record. Let's start with his trainer, Jonjo O'Neill, who has won this race four times since 2002. In that time, he's saddled twenty runners, and has also had a third and a fourth placed nag.

Merry King for his part has shown three key attributes for this: stamina (as evidenced by a very close second to stout stayer, Cannington Brook, over three heavy Haydock miles), jumping ability (no reference of a jumping error in four chase starts over ten and a half collective miles), and class (his official rating has risen from 120 to 139 in his last three runs).

He does have entries in other events at the Festival, and that's why non-runner free bet is a good option. Clearly, you need luck as well as class and guts to win a race like this, and if he has any of the first named, 14/1 will be fair enough.


Champion Chase - Mail de Bievre 16/1

This is a race with a solid, and deserved, favourite in the daunting shape of Sprinter Sacre. He's a machine and if he gets there fit and jumps round, nothing gets too close to him. But with ten declarations at the moment, including a couple with little to no hope, and the bookmakers chancing their arms on quarter the odds 1-2-3, there is serious scope for an each way 'bet to nothing'.

Throw into the mix the facts that Cue Card is far more likely to go to the Ryanair Chase (for which he's 7/2 favourite); last year's winner, Finian's Rainbow, has finished last on his two most recent runs (and at ten, is older than all recent winners bar the brilliant Moscow Flyer); and Sizing Europe is eleven now and, whilst I love him, it's a big ask here.

That leaves the recalcitrant but occasionally very good Wishfull Thinking (remember the French photographer who copped it when WT skewed and tumbled in front of the stands last year?!); the not good enough Tataniano and Realt Dubh; Somersby, who is a horse without a trip (but might have a place chance at a price); Sanctuaire, who looks over-rated to me (by the official handicapper I mean)... and our fellow.

So what of him, after the circuitous and occasionally tenuous process of elimination?

Well, he's a Frenchie, sure enough. Mais oui, but he's also not even entered in the Champion Chase.

What?!! Now hold on. Before you think I've lost my Gallic marbles, there's talk of him being supplemented for the race and, in a contest where all bar the jolly have at least some sort of a flaw, Mail de Bievre represents a strong level of French form (second to Rubi Ball, one of their best chasers; and a dual Graded chase winner in his last four runs).

MdB was having his first run for a year and a half on his British debut, and it's possible too that he could 'bounce' (run flat after over-exerting off a long break). But he fairly flew for the first two miles of that race, and a drop to the minimum would be exciting at the very least.

Given he's not even entered currently, it would be silly to bet without the 'bet to nothing' safety net. So 16/1 non-runner free bet it is.


Ryanair Chase - Grands Crus 20/1

How do you solve a problem like Grands Crus? Well, to my eye it's simple, relatively at least. You stop trying to make him run over three miles. He is NOT a three miler, despite his win in the Feltham, a race so infamous for producing RSA non-winners that they ought to re-measure the distance of the Kempton contest. (Note, 2012 Feltham winner Dynaste might not even run in the RSA this year).

Oh, and one other thing. You stop running him on soft ground which he patently hates. Look at this:

Chase form on soft ground or at three miles plus: 14P3P

Chase form on better ground or 2m5f to 3m: 111

Two miles five furlongs on decent ground and, if they've not broken his heart already, Grands Crus could uncork a very bold showing at the Festival. You can forget his run last time (3m2f on heavy) and two starts before that (soft ground, has needed the run generally on seasonal debut). In between, he was third in the King George, an easy three miles which probably aligns fairly well in stamina test terms to the Ryanair's 2m5f.

He has class, we know that. He stays this interim trip fine, we know that. He wants decent ground, (I think) we know that. 20/1 if he turns up here is too big. And if he doesn't, we'll be able to bet something else.


World Hurdle - Grands Crus 20/1

Yes, it's Grands Crus deja vu. This is GC's other entry at the Festival, and he's got form to go close. In fact, back in March 2011 - not so very long ago - GC came closest to lowering Big Buck's' colours, being beaten less than two lengths at the line, in this very race.

But hold on Matt, didn't you just say that Grands Crus doesn't stay three miles? And isn't the World Hurdle three miles? Yes. And Yes.

There is a really obvious difference. Hurdles and fences are different. As Captain Fizz-Goggler would say, they're different words, with different meanings, pronounced differently. Not only that, but they're also different obstacles.

Put it like this: if I asked you (in your prime) to run 400m over hurdles, it might take a while and you'd be pretty tired at the end. If I asked you to run the same 400m over the steeple chase barriers, you'd more likely clamber over a few and maybe have a paddle on the landing side at the water jump. At least, I would.

And I'd be absolutely battered at the end. So yes, a shorter race, or shorter obstacles, do sort of amount to the same thing... I think.

OK, if that sounds reasonable, then you'll be interested to note that on decent ground, Grands Crus is a hurdler of some repute. In fact his record is 11122. The 22 was when second to the aforementioned Buck's who is Big in the Grade 1 events at Cheltenham and Aintree.

With no BB to bother GC this time, he's overpriced, IF the ground comes right and IF he runs here.

Given that BetVictor are insuring the latter position, it's close to a 'bet to nothing'. And of course, we are allowed to back him in two races without falling foul of the rules. 🙂


So there you have it: a septet of precarious 'take a chance' wagers, all insured by those lovely people at BetVictor. As and when other firms go non runner no bet, I'll add that detail here.

Until then, if you don't have a BetVictor account and you like the look of any of my Secret / Magnificent* (delete to denote your preferred cliché) Seven, they'll match your first punt up to a pony (or £25 for those what speak proper). Lovely.

Two weeks and a weekend to go. It's almost bed-wettingly exciting!!!


p.s. who do YOU think is a good 'bet to nothing' opportunity in the context of non runner free / no bet? Leave a comment and let us all know. 🙂

Win tickets to Cheltenham Festival 2013

Big Buck's - No fifth World Hurdle this season

Who will take Big Buck's' World Hurdle crown?

Win tickets to the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham!

As one of the biggest events in horse racing, the eyes of everyone involved in the sport will be on the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Some of the world’s finest horses and jockeys will be in action, while over quarter of a million people will attend the event to soak up the atmosphere and maybe try to win a few quid.

There are many great races over the four days, including the famous Cheltenham Gold Cup and of course, the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.

In the run-up to Cheltenham, we’re giving away two free tickets to the Ladbrokes World Hurdle on Thursday 14th March, the third day of the event.

The competition offers you the chance to see for yourself why everyone in the sport raves about the Cheltenham Festival by allowing you and a guest access to the greatest race meeting on earth.

Check out Ladbrokes Cheltenham festival betting odds to see for yourself which horses are taking part, and what their odds are for next month's big staying race.

To Enter

The competition will take the form of a tipping contest over the course of this week. There will be two races a day in which to find winners.

To enter, simply leave a comment below with your selections for the day's nominated races. The winner will be the person who has accumulated the most profit from the ten races, Monday to Friday, this week.

In the event of a tie, the winner will be the person with the highest cumulative tote return and, if things are still tied, it'll go to count back on the next highest placed horse selected.

OK, hopefully that's clear(ish).

Basically, pick as many good priced winners as you can! Winners only, please, no each way selections.

Today's races are the 3.40 Catterick and the 4.30 Wolverhampton. (I know about the broken image links on the colours - we're working on it!)

I've added a comment with my own selections so you get the idea - feel free to add a thought or two if you like, but there are no bonus points available for your 'working out'! 😀


Sunday Supplement: Cheltenham Prospects Aplenty…



Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

We came, we saw, he conquered. Just five days after I’d turned away in the nearest thing I can manage to anguish after Darlan’s horror fall at Doncaster, I was at Newbury on Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed My Tent or Yours’ domination of the Betfair Hurdle so-called puzzle.

The only interruption to watching the coronation of JP and AP’s replacement for the putative king of hurdling was to scan back to see old Punjabi’s white face plodding along in 14th place, 42 lengths behind the winner.

It would have been easy – and probably most people have – to make the assumption that the 2009 Champion Hurdler has dropped off the scale, but then Saturday’s combination of problems also proved equally testing for such as the well-fancied trio Baby Mix (15th, another 16 lengths behind), Cause of Causes, 16th and Pearl Swan, 17th of 18 finishers.

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Be dogmatic if you will and declare the winner, a novice of 149, a potential champion and Cotton Mill, second off 145 on this comeback and the previously-unbeaten Swing Bowler as possible Festival  winners all, but there must be a serious caveat.

In the days leading up to the meeting, there were encouraging noises about the state of the going by clerk of the course Richard Osgood, with good to soft firmly in his predicted range. Heavy rain all the way from London and an unbroken grey canopy set in for the day, precluded any chance of that, and in the event, 4.7 was the arduous going reading for the hurdles track.

It was reckoned to be good to soft for last year’s race won by the smart Zarkandar. Saturday’s, won in such style by My Tent or Yours, took an extra 18 seconds to complete. If the rains desist in the next month, then Cheltenham will offer a markedly different problem for horses and assumptions made definitively after Saturday could well end up being wide of the mark.

I’ve never known jumping ground like this season’s in all my years’ watching racing. In the old days I used to think that when it was muddy I had my best results tipping-wise, but that instinct was rather dashed when a close colleague said I do best on good.

Some trainers – especially those with 100-plus horses that all cost around 100 grand – just seem to bash on regardless and often get away with it. Once again on Saturday it was the Henderson, Nicholls and in Ireland, Willie Mullins show, but for all the publicity regarding their dominance, I admire trainers who simply refuse to risk their horses in extreme conditions.

It must be galling – the knowledge that if you keep insisting to owners it’s wisest to wait, these often impulsive characters will be looking out for the postcodes for Seven Barrows or Ditcheat before long. It’s a bit like footballers struggling on 50 grand a week awaiting the call from Manchester City, United or Chelsea.

The obvious observation, once the heavy going card has been implanted in the equation, is that My Tent or Yours will still be dangerous wherever he runs, but that the Champion Hurdle would probably be a bit fast for Cotton Mill. That said, he’ll get a hike – I reckon the handicapper will set the race level between third and fourth home – so around 153 might be strong for the Coral Cup for John Ferguson’s horse.

Fergie has got a load of Cheltenham entries, especially in the three all-aged novice races, but such has been the paucity of action this winter, and hard to define merit levels, that several of his horses have two, two miles five furlong and three miles entries.

When we get this close to the Festival, there’s no chance for more than a single prep race for serious contenders and John will probably have been a little disappointed with the runs of Ruacana (third) and Buthelezi (43 lengths fifth) in their races on the Leopardstown under-card. The former could still have a shot at the Fred Winter.

Talking of the Festival, I’ve had a couple of annual dates recently on the Preview circuit. My long-standing Bedfordshire Racing Club date with Howard Wright, official handicapper David Dickinson and Corals’ Ian Wassell  goes ahead as usual on the eve of the opening day, but Bridlington has been replaced by newcomers Billericay.

My co-performers at this charity do for a young girl who died tragically early, will be the Quinlans, trainer Noel and jockey Jack, and the latter can update us about Cotton Mill, on whom he had been unbeaten before Saturday’s excellent second place. Barry Dennis will also be joining us on Sunday March 3 and hopes his great friend David Johnson – owner of Swing Bowler and like Barry a local – might be able to come along too.

My own agenda, looking at the recent exploits of Raymond Tooth’s “jumpers”, on the Flat at Lingfield and Kempton, had I owned the beautifully-bred daughter of champion sire Galileo and admirable jumping mare Lady Cricket, would be to look for a Flat race to get some proper black type. I’m sure the Daves, Johnson and 40-year-old trainer Pipe junior, have already thought it through.

For the Tooth team, though, it’s back to Lingfield on Wednesday with soft-ground hating Cousin Khee, who will appreciate the step up to 13 furlongs for his second proper Flat run. Thank God Hughie Morrison took him out of the Betfair overnight or he’d have still been running!

Arkle Chase 2013: Preview, Trends and Tips

Simonsig - top of the crop for Fair Mix

Simonsig - most likely winner if he shows up

Arkle Chase 2013: Preview, Trends and Tips

The Tuesday of the Cheltenham Festival is my favourite day. It has the best racing, it is the day which sates a year long anticipation and, in my opinion, it is the day when winners are easiest to come by. (Note, that does not mean they are easy to come by: merely that they are easier to come by!)

The day gets off to a bang with the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, and boasts the Champion Hurdle as its afternoon zenith. And, sandwiched in between those two lofty championship timber contests, is a meaty old filling - and I'm certainly not talking in the Findus sense of the phrase! (apologies)

Yes, the Arkle Challenge Trophy is a serious speed chasing event and one of the most watchable of even the Cheltenham Festival's majesty of riches. Mix inexperience with danger, liberally sprinkle tip top talent and add more than a soupçon of jockeys' desire to get on the scoresheet, and you have a recipe for thrills, spills and high class equine skills.

This year's Arkle seems / seemed to be at the mercy of a horse of Nicky Henderson's called Simonsig. I use the present and past tenses to reflect the fact that, at time of writing, Simonsig is due to miss his intended prep race for Cheltenham due to a tracheal wash which was "only 95%". This wonderfully open-ended, and typically Hendo-esque, sound bite gives hope both to short-priced money buyers and value hunters alike.

Those who have many fives which they're prepared to risk for the addition of fours (yes, he's a 4/5 shot) will be praying that all is well enough for the 'sig to make the stage still. Those who sniff around for a less likely winner at a more lively price will be sensing the propensity for profit in the prospective absence of one of jump racing's most ascendant stars.

In this post, I'll look at the trends, the form as it stands, and project my likeliest - and best value - options for wagering ante-post on the Arkle.

Let's first look at the trends...

Arkle Chase 2013: Trends

The first obvious thing to note is the shortness of Simonsig's price. If you're a fan of his, then you'd surely want to be betting 'with a run', in case he doesn't make it. Taking slightly shorter (8/11) to insure the position, in light of this week's news, is surely a no brainer.

But what of previous shorties in this race? Since 1997, eleven horses have been sent off 3/1 or shorter. Nine of them have been beaten, including 11/10 Mulligan, 7/4 Decoupage, and 7/4 Noland. The two winners in that price range were Azertyuiop at 5/4, and Sprinter Sacre at 8/11 last year.

Now it's my opinion that Simonsig is not the second coming of Sprinter. Of course, he might turn out to be as good, but at 4/5, there's a heck of a lot to be taken on trust, even assuming he shows up!

For all that, the Arkle is a good race for the top end of the market. In fact, only once in the last fifteen years has a horse outside of the top quintet in the wagering outsped his better fancied rivals. That was the wonderful Flagship Uberalles back in 1999, and that was in one of the most open Arkles in many a long year (4/1 the field that term!)

Indeed, only five of the 44 win and place positions in those fifteen years have been claimed by horses outside of the top six in the betting, so the message is clear: don't get too cute here.

Last time out winners have claimed ten of the last fifteen renewals, with those finishing second (three) and third (one) making up the number. Of course, that only tallies to fourteen and we need to mention the brilliant, but occasionally too risky, Moscow Flyer, who fell prior to winning here. He was an iffy horse in the sense that his form tended to be 1F1F1F. 😉

So, don't be prepared to forgive a poor last time out run: it's highly unlikely the offender will be able to turn over a new leaf here.

The Arkle is a young man's game. The last nine year old-plus winner was Danish Flight in 1988, and before that Sir Ken in 1956. Now it's true that not many horses of that age take their chances here, but some do and this year the 9yo Overturn looks set to try to, erm, overturn the tide of history. (Well you try and come up with a better finish, given that open goal!)

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To put a little perspective on that, only one 9yo+ even made the frame from twelve triers in the last decade and a half. That was Nipper Reed before we became 21st century boys (1999). He was a 10/1 chance that day, but shorter gold-plated oldies have failed to hit the board, including Barton (9/2) and Captain Cee Bee (5/2) as recently as 2010.

Given that Overturn is the second favourite, we have a situation where it's possible (though not probable) the favourite won't run, and where the second choice is too old in the context of history. It's then double figures the rest in a race which often produces short fields (just five horses took Sprinter Sacre on last year, though that could be because they were scared off).

Five to seven year olds have won nineteen of the last 21 renewals, and it makes sense to focus energies there. In that context, it may interest you to know that Arvika Ligeonniere is eight, and is the third favourite! Do you see where I'm going with this?

It seems obvious that in a race like the Arkle, where there's nowhere to hide, chasing experience is important. The statistics seem to bear that out, with twelve of the last fifteen winners having had three to five chase starts (three had three chase starts, eight had had four chase starts, and one had five chase starts).

Those with five or more chase starts are one for 64. Those with two or less chase starts are three for forty. Simonsig has had two chase starts... Fago, the fourth favourite, has had eight chase starts...

Mulligan (11/10), Decoupage (7/4), War Of Attrition (11/4), Noland (7/4), and Somersby (4/1) were all short-priced horses to try - and fail - to overcome relative inexperience here.

Well Chief, Tiutchev and Champleve did all defy relative inexperience and all were priced between 13/2 and 9/1, so I guess the summary is demand a fair price if you're chancing a rookie fencer.

Pulling all of this together implies we would be well served to look for a horse which is in the top five in the betting; won last time (or was at least second in Graded company); aged five to seven years; and had two to four chase starts.

The trends shortlist would thus be the Hendo pair, Simonsig and Captain Conan.

Is Arvika a viable alternative?

Is Arvika a viable alternative?

Arkle Chase 2013: Form Preview

Trends are interesting enough, and they clearly help to sharpen the pencil around certain aspects of a horse's prospects. But it's form in the book - or promised to the book - which will identify the champ in the chaff.

Let's start at the only sensible place: with market leader, Simonsig. As I've said, he's had a small setback and misses his intended prep race tomorrow. All too often for my tastes, horses from the Henderson yard become late scratches from big races. The news from Seven Barrows this week is a concern, but it doesn't stop there for odds-on players either.

As a novice hurdler last season, Simonsig's Cheltenham and Aintree championship wins were over 2m5f and 2m4f respectively. In his two chase starts, he won over 2m3f first time out, and then hacked up in a two miler at Kempton. That last run showed he has speed, but it was extremely testing there and he nicked a few lengths at the start putting all others under a bit of pressure from the outset.

Now, let's be clear: if he shows up, Simonsig is the horse to beat. On soft ground, where his stamina would come into play, he's the likely winner for me. But if the ground is faster, there are a few questions to be answered: is he quick enough in a two mile championship event? Can he jump fluently enough for one so inexperienced? Is he fit enough after nearly three months off the track? Those are questions to which odds-on backers should know answers before pulling on the betting boots, to my mind.

But there are chinks in the armour of most of his rivals too.

Firstly, Overturn is nine now. You've seen the statistics, and yet here he is, a 7/2 chance. He's beaten seven finishers in winning three four-runner races. Sure, he's beaten them senseless, in the manner that a robust front-running sort might be expected to.

And that brings me onto the likely pace scenario in the Arkle. Now, we don't yet know who will show up but, assuming Simonsig and Overturn both do, we already have a possible speed duel on the front end. Overturn is a front-runner through and through, while Simonsig is more versatile. But if Hendo decided to try to make use of 'sig's stamina, it could compromise the chance of both market protagonists.

In reality, that's unlikely to happen, but there's a decent chance that another horse will take Overturn on for the lead. I just can't see him winning, and I think 7/2 is very, very short about that eventuality. Lay material for those of that bent.

Fago is next, and he's a seasoned chaser. Seven French chase runs and only one win is not that impressive and, despite a career high effort on his first run for Paul Nicholls, this fellow has surely not got much room for improvement after so many goes over the big brutes. Pas pour moi, as they'd have said over la Manche.

Arvika Ligeonniere is interesting, assuming you can spell and/or pronounce his name. Yes, he's eight, which is older than ideal. And yes, he fell last time, which doesn't bode well (unless he's another Moscow Flyer: possible but unlikely). But his form in winning three novice chases in Ireland this term is the best from over there, I feel. He does tend to want to lead, which might be interesting in the context of the aforementioned Overturn pace scenario.

But he's a dual Grade 1 chase winner, and arguably sets the form standard. I like him, especially at around 10/1.

Captain Conan is three from three, and if he turned up and the ground was soft, he'd be a player. Surely he'll go the Jewson route though, after his narrow win in the Scilly Isles Novices Chase last time.

After those five, it's 25/1 the field, which means there's probably some value in there somewhere. Oscars Well finished sixth in the Champion Hurdle last year, and fourth in the Neptune the year before - both top class efforts on good ground - and if it came up boggy he'd have a place chance.

But this is a race where few look to hold realistic prospects, and as stated at the outset, it makes sense to concentrate on the top few.

Arkle Chase 2013: Tips

Usually in a race like this, it's fairly easy to make cases for the top several in the market. But I'm really struggling to present a compelling argument for Overturn, the second favourite; and the same comments apply to Fago, the third favourite. Simonsig has an obvious chance, and his price reflects that. He might be a horse to back on the day as a saver if you're that way inclined.

Otherwise, there looks to be tremendous each way value in the race if you share my contentions about the top trio.

Thus Arvika Ligeonniere (Arr-vee-kuh Lee-jee-on-ee-air), with Ruby Walsh likely to ride, looks a belting each way tickle. It was a soft slithering fall the last day, and he was yet to be asked for any effort (nor, in fairness, were his two rivals), and the 10/1 with Paddy Power and Stan James is value for me.

He's 8/1 with BetVictor, non runner free bet. And it might pay to go that route if you're a more cautious type. But I reckon he goes in the Arkle and, despite the presence of other pace pressers, and the probable presence of Simonsig, AL is the value alternative to the favourite.

Selection: Arvika Ligeonniere 10/1 (Paddy Power), 8/1 Non-Runner Free Bet (BetVictor)
(Obvious) danger: Simonsig



Ladbrokes World Hurdle 2013: Preview, Trends, Tips

Reve De Sivola goes for World Hurdle glory at the Cheltenham Festival in March

Can Reve de Sivola fulfil World Hurdle dream?

Ladbrokes World Hurdle 2013: Preview, Trends, Tips

With the sad defection of Big Buck's due to injury, the Ladbrokes World Hurdle has become one of the most interesting betting races of the entire 2013 Cheltenham Festival.

The top of the ante-post market is dominated by horses which may or may not run in this race, and that has to open up the prospect of value elsewhere in the bookmakers' lists. Let's start, as tradition dictates, with the trends for the World Hurdle, before looking at the current levels of form for the main contenders, and then finally I'll offer a World Hurdle tip or two. OK?

Ladbrokes World Hurdle 2013: Trends

The first thing to say is that the winner's roster for this race has featured numerous multiple winners. This is mainly because the staying hurdling crown has historically been one of the less sought after prizes at the meeting, with a perception (not wholly unjustified) that this is a place for slow hurdlers and failed chasers. Even the mighty Big Buck's himself would not have taken this route if it wasn't for some shoddy fencing in the Hennessy Gold Cup of 2008.

Nevertheless, it's hardly a bad race, and with the way clear of previous victors, it's a wide open punting affair, with bookies offering 7/1 the field!

Age: Every single winner bar one since 1972 has been aged six to nine. If you like a horse older or younger than that bracket, history is avalanching against you. Indeed, the only nine year olds to win since Gaye Chance in 1984 were repeat winners. In that context, and with no repeat contender this time, I'm inclined to side with those aged six to eight.

That would count against any of Tidal Bay, Solwhit, Quevega and Thousand Stars, who might line up here.

Last time out: All bar two of the World Hurdle winners since Nomadic Way in 1992 finished in the first two on their prior start. As I write (23rd January), there's a good chance of many of the contenders having another run before the Festival. Proceed with caution if they fail to register a gold or silver finish, irrespective of the ground conditions. History is against such beasts.

Indeed, even 40/1 Anzum matched this requirement. (Actually, he was probably one of the biggest 'gimme's' in the history of Cheltenham: second in the race the year before, right age, second last time, and went on the ground. 40/1!!!)

Official rating: Although four of the last fifteen winners were unrated, all bar one of those with a mark were rated 157+. That excludes a lot of potential runners this term and, even in what may turn out to be a moderate renewal, it's hard to fancy the likes of Oscara Dara and Coneygree on what they've done so far, in that context.

Days since a run: Cyborgo in 1996 was the last horse to have been off the track for longer than ninety days prior to winning the World Hurdle. In what was a brilliant training performance, he was having his first run since finishing second in the previous year's running of what was known then as the Stayers' Hurdle.

At this stage, those who need to race soon in order to defy this negative omen are Quevega (though she has an exceptional record fresh, and I wouldn't eliminate her solely on this basis. Saying that, she is also older than ideal); Peddlers Cross (entered on Saturday, but not run since the last Cheltenham Festival); Rite Of Passage (also goes well fresh, but not as reliably as Quevega); and, Wonderful Charm (who is a five year old, in any case).

Class: Nine of the last sixteen winners had previously won a Grade 1 hurdle. Of the other seven, five had won a Grade 2; and five (overlapping but not the same five) had placed second in a Grade 1.

If your fancy hasn't won or run second in a Grade 1 hurdle, it's going to struggle here.

Track form: Thirteen of the last fifteen World Hurdle winners had at least placed previously at Cheltenham. The two exceptions were My Way de Solzen, who ran down the field in the Supreme, but went on to win twice more at the track; and Baracouda, the crack Frenchie, who was having his first sight of the Festival course.

If you like one without a course placing, you're probably barking up the wrong birch.

Form: Fourteen of the last fifteen - exception being Anzum - had won one of their last three starts. Anzum had finished second (and was second in the previous World Hurdle) last time. Although most of the main contenders sail through this, there are a few highly rated horses - Peddlers Cross, Celestial Halo, Smad Place, Get Me Out Of Here - who have two strikes to their name and would be a wobbler if losing again before tapes up in March.

Distance: The last fifteen Ladbrokes World Hurdle winners have included ten three mile winners. Of the five who had failed to get their nose in front over the World Hurdle distance, all were unexposed at greater than two and a half miles (four had won from a handful of tries at 2m5f or 2m6f, and Bacchanal was a neck second due to a bad last flight blunder on his only try at 2m6f).

Look for either proven three mile stamina, or a strong indication that three miles is within the horse's range.

World Hurdle Trends Summary: On the basis of recent history, the ideal profile for a World Hurdle winner is a horse aged six to eight; with a run in the three months prior to mid-March; a win in its last three starts (and first or second last time); Grade 1 winner or second place already in the book; placed form at Cheltenham already; officially rated 157+ (or no rating); and, either proven at the trip or unexposed at slightly shorter.

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That gives me a shortlist of Oscar Whisky, Monksland, Reve De Sivola, and Get Me Out Of Here (needs a 1-2 finish in Betfair Hurdle on 9th February).

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Ladbrokes World Hurdle 2013: Form

The trends are instructive and probably point us well on the way towards the winner. However, this year does look 'non-standard' in a number of respects:

Firstly, the enormously dominant staying hurdler of the past four years will not be competing. His record casts a shadow over plenty of contenders whose Grade 1 second places may well have been first places, were it not for the brutish Big Buck's.

Secondly, the state of the ground for the entire National Hunt season proper has been soft to boggy, and there's no guarantee that Cheltenham will ride so in middle March.

Thirdly, a few of the main form contenders may well take in other races. This means we have to play the non-runner no/free bet (NRNB/NRFB) card, and we may want to take a punt on a big priced horse in the hope that a) it runs, and b) some of the big guns don't!

With that in mind, let's review the current form in the book...

Favourite in most lists is Quevega, despite the fact that she is almost certainly headed for the Mares' Hurdle, a race she's won for the past four years. It is possible that she could take in both races but, given that the Mares' race comes on the Tuesday and the World Hurdle on the Thursday, there's very little recuperation time. She surely couldn't be much shorter even if winning the first named. No, no, no. Not even with non-runner no bet.

Next in is Oscar Whisky. I love this horse. I've lost plenty on him, generally because he goes for different races than I believe he should, but it's impossible for me not to feel affection for such a high class trier as him. He might still go for the Champion Hurdle, and I've backed him for that. But if he turns up here, ignore his poor show last term, and keep him in your wagering thoughts.

Put simply, he's a winning machine, especially on deeper ground. If it comes up soft or worse, I think he'll cruise round and win. On soft or softer ground, his record is 11111, including two Grade 2 contests at the intermediate distances.

He's a dual Grade 1 winner, acts on good (but I think better on soft), and - despite the majority saying he 'flopped' - he was only beaten thirteen lengths in last year's World Hurdle. The first two from that renewal won't run, meaning that Smad Place is the one to beat from last year. I'd bet OW over SP any and every day.

Monksland comes next in the bookie odds at around 8/1, and Noel Meade's second season hurdler has consistent high class form, including when third in last year's Neptune Hurdle at the Festival, when second in a Grade 1 over an inadequate trip, and when winning a three mile Grade 2 last time.

Although it was behind a very high class horse in Simonsig, that Neptune bronze was fairly distant, and was on the fastest ground he's encountered (except for when he ran out on even faster ground in a point-to-point). As such, I suspect he's ground dependant and wants it softish. On form, he has a bit to find with Oscar Whisky, but then so do the rest. And, with improvement likely after just six hurdle starts, he could make the frame though is not too tempting a proposition at the current odds.

We then come to the trio of Tidal Bay, Reve De Sivola, and Peddlers Cross, all at around the 10/1 mark. Tidal Bay will surely go for the Gold Cup, is surely too old, and surely flatters to deceive too often (despite a 'fell in his lap' win in the Lexus Chase last time).

Peddlers Cross hasn't run since bring royally tonked in the Jewson last term. In truth, chasing didn't look natural to him but, that defence aside, there has to be a serious stamina reservation about him staying three miles. He's not won beyond two miles five furlongs, and he's taking in a jumpers' bumper on Friday (25th) rather than the Champion Hurdle Trial, for which he was also entered, on Saturday.

I'm not sure where they're going with him, but it will probably be a shorter trip than the World Hurdle. No thanks, not even with NRNB.

Which brings me to Reve De Sivola. This chap stays. And he goes on any ground. And he's quite high class. He has an entry in the Cleeve Hurdle and seems sure to run well on the prevailing soft turf. In his last five hurdle starts, his form is 12121, a string which includes three Grade 1 successes.

He is perhaps the archetypal example of the failed chaser reverting to staying hurdles (if Big Buck's is not), and I think he's a decent bet for the race.

I'm not really interested in Rite Of Passage, who is older than optimal and has a layoff to overcome; nor do I like Solwhit or Thousand Stars, both of whom are probably better at two and a half miles. Of this trio of Irish nags, Thousand Stars is comfortably the most appealing.

Further down the lists, and into the realms of the speculative, cases of sorts could be made for Smad Place, Get Me Out Of Here, Kauto Stone, and Lovcen.

Smad Place was, as I've alluded to, third in last year's World Hurdle. He's very consistent, having been 1-2-3 in nine of his eleven completed hurdle starts. He does seem to have a preference for decent ground and, if it were to firm up a bit between now and seven weeks hence, he'd have place prospects again at around the 20/1 mark.

Get Me Out Of Here is one of the more interesting runners in the race. His Cheltenham record of 26222 marks him down as a one-pacer, but that's harsh. It's fairer to highlight the merit of some of those runs: just failed behind Menorah in the 2010 Supreme Novices Hurdle; mugged on the line in the County Hurdle, carrying 11-7; less than two lengths behind Oscar Whisky in the Relkeel Hurdle; and, second in the Coral Cup lugging top weight of 11-12.

Those are all excellent efforts, and the last two were over two miles and five furlongs. He's a horse at his best on better ground - though he has won on softer - and if he takes the World Hurdle route from a range of options, he could run a fine race on decent ground. Non-runner free/no bet the way forward here, for sure, at around 16/1.

Kauto Stone was last seen when duffed up in the King George at Kempton. Before that, he'd won a weakish Grade 1 chase at Down Royal. All his hurdling form is over shorter trips, but he might stay all right now he's a year and a bit older. Certainly, his stable has to find a successor to Big Buck's, irrespective of whether he returns next season or not, and this chap might match up to the part.

Certainly, French bred horses have done well in this race in recent times, having won seven of the last eleven, and been second in the other four. Kauto Stone is in the Cleeve Hurdle on Saturday, and that race looks like being instructive with a view to the World Hurdle over (approximately) the same course and distance.

He's the sort to shorten if running well at the weekend, and may appeal to the traders amongst you as a back to lay opportunity.

And finally, Lovcen is a bit of a forgotten horse. Ostensibly for good reason, after four poor runs this term. But, look more closely and you'll note that he was seriously disadvantaged by a pathological dislike of both mud and fences. See that failed chaser theme emerging once more?

Anyway, if you can legitimately excuse a horse a poor run (or a sequence of them), then you can find value, based on the inherent recency bias which afflicts all betting markets (due mainly to the fact that they are closely aligned to weight of money, and human nature is such that we place most weight on what happened most recently, irrespective of the 'bigger picture').

Anyway anyway, all that blah-blah pop-psychology mumbo-jumbo is long hand for me thinking Lovcen has a chance at a big price. He wasn't the most fluent hurdler historically, so it's little surprise that he hated steeplechasing. But he's a Grade 1 winner over the smaller obstacles on good ground, and was doing his best work at the end of the potato race (Albert Bartlett) at last year's Festival.

In short, back over hurdles and on better ground, he can be expected to run a much improved race at a big price. That big price is 66/1 non runner free bet, with BetVictor.

Ladbrokes World Hurdle 2013: Tips

So those are the trends and form pointers, such as they are to date. But where does that leave us in terms of finding a bet? Well, the horses which interest me at the prices are Oscar Whisky win only at 6/1 Non Runner Free Bet (BetVictor); Reve De Sivola, win only, who is highly likely to run in this, at 8/1 (Boyle, PP, Lads); and, for those of you who like to tilt at windmills, Get Me Out Of Here at 16/1 each way, Non Runner Free Bet (BetVictor); and, Lovcen at 66/1 each way, Non Runner Free Bet (BetVictor).

Those of you of a trading bent might like to take a back-to-lay chance on Kauto Stone, who will definitely shorten from current odds around 25/1 if running well in the Cleeve Hurdle on Saturday.

Win Selections

Oscar Whisky 6/1 BetVictor NRFB
Reve De Sivola 8/1 Boylesports, Paddy Power, Ladbrokes

Each Way Alternatives

Get Me Out Of Here 16/1 BetVictor NRFB
Lovcen 66/1  BetVictor NRFB

NB: BetVictor's offer, unsurprisingly, has a few terms, the most high profile of which is probably that there is a £100 cap per race. You can review full chapter and verse here.

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