Tag Archive for: Cheltenham racecourse

Racing Insights, 1st January 2022

It was nice to end 2021 with a few nice results, but now we turn our attentions to what will hopefully be a better year for all concerned.

Saturday's free feature is always the Trainer/Jockey Combo (TJC) report, bringing together the form of trainers and jockeys into a single composite report that has produced excellent results for users. Quite simply, some trainers turn to specific riders when they have one ‘ready to win’. This report quickly identifies the most profitable combinations and clicking on any row will reveal the entries for that trainer/jockey pairing : clicking on the entry will open the race in a new tab.

HINT: Look for a good sample size – ideally five or more – combined with a decent win percentage (30%+), and a positive figure in the profit column.

[Please refer to our User Guide for further information]
In addition to a daily free feature, we also have a selection of full free racecards open to non-Gold subscribers and with it being a busy day of racing, we've half a dozen free ones to consider...
  • 12.15 Cheltenham
  • 1.15 Exeter
  • 1.30 Fairyhouse
  • 2.15 Catterick
  • 2.18 Southwell
  • 3.10 Cheltenham
The last of those six interests me the most, so we'll take a look at the 3.10 Cheltenham. It's the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle where seven 5yo+ runners will go left handed over ten hurdles on soft ground. The trip is 2m4½f and these are the competitors seeking to land almost £40k...

Brewingupastorm is easily the best off at the weight based on handicap marks and is therefore probably the one to beat. A winner of three from four outings this year, including the Grade 2 National Spirit hurdle at Fontwell ten months ago, he defied a 212 day absence to win at Aintree last time out and although this is a tougher ask back up in class, he did win easily that day, but there are concerns over the yard's form after just 1 winner from 30 in the past fortnight (prior to Friday's racing, where both were beaten).

Guard Your Dreams has made the frame in six of his ten efforts over hurdles, winning five of them, including a Grade 2 success on this very track just three weeks ago taking his record here to 2 from 3. That was easily his best effort to date and more is needed here but he has already made the frame in a Grade 1 contest over this trip at Liverpool back in April and his trainer/jockey have excellent records here at HQ...

McFabulous is rated as being a pound better than when he won this race last season for his current yard/rider when the race was ran at Kempton. He has only raced twice since, finishing behind Brewinupastorm on both occasions by 5.5 lengths in the Gr2 National Spirit (they were 1st & 2nd) at Fontwell in February and then by 2.75 lengths in the Gr1 Aintree Hurdle (5th & 8th) at Liverpool in April. He seems to be held by Brewinupastorm on that evidence and a 268-day absence is another cause for concern, but he has had a wind op in that time and his trainer and jockey are both in decent form.

Dans Le Vent is only 3 from 21 over hurdles during the past 51 months, but has 2 wins and 2 runner-up finishes from 7 starts over the last 55 weeks, suggesting that the penny might just have taken a while to drop with him. His last three runs have seen him finish 2nd of 22 in a Gr3 at Aintree back in April, 2nd of 12 at Ffos Las in October after a 190-day break and he then won next/last time out, landing a 12-runner Grade 3 Stayers Hurdle at Haydock six weeks ago. He might not have the best strike rate of this field, but he's definitely on his best form right now.

On The Blind Side is a decent enough hurdler (5 wins and 5 places from 14) and was second in this event behind McFabulous last season at Kempton. It might well have been a different story had Cheltenham hosted the race, as he has two wins and a runner-up finish from three efforts over hurdles here. He was a valiant runner in a Gr2 at Newbury in November, but was only 6th of 8 beaten by 22 lengths at Ascot last time out, albeit in a Grade 1 contest. My concern here is that the trip won't be long enough for him, his last ten races over hurdles have been at longer trips than today with seven of them being at 2m7½f or further.

Indefatigable is now a non-runner, which is a pity, as she has a good record on soft ground, has dome well here at HQ in the past and has had enjoyed some good results at this level, winning a grade 2 just 2 starts and 2 months ago.

Stormy Ireland is a likeable mare who landed back to back Gr2 then Gr1 contests in Ireland back in April/May of 2021 before taking a six month break. On her return in late-November she was well beaten (36 lengths as 6th of 8) in another Gr1 at Fairyhouse. This is, of course, not quite as difficult on paper and she can be expected to come on for having had the run, but of her overall 8 from 21 record, she's 0 from 7 in the UK including four visits to Cheltenham.

Essentially, we've half a dozen quality horses here who could all land this based on their past performances, but Instant Expert can show us exactly how they score over the conditions they're expected to face here...

Field size is of no concern to any of these runners, they've all won their fair share of small filed contests and all bar Dans Le Vent have a good record at this trip. That said, aside from winning 3 of 7 in small fields, Dans Le Vent's numbers just don't stack up against the rest of them and I'm going to drop him from the reckoning here. The remaining five runners all have at least three blocks of green with both Guard Your Dreams and McFabulous only missing out on Class and Course respectively.

McFabulous has only raced here once, so it was always going to be 0% or 100% and his sole run here was a Listed Bumper over three years ago, so it's not entirely relevant. Guard Your Dreams is only 1 from 3 on soft ground, but did win his only start on heavy, so with rain forecast, he should be fine there and as for being 1 from 5 at Class 1, he has also been a runner-up at Grade 1.

A small field on a big wide track like Cheltenham might lead this to be a tactical affair and in similar contests here...

...we're advised that being held up isn't going to do you any favours, which would have been another nail in the coffin of Dans Le Vent's chances, had I not already discarded that one...

The likely favourite Brewingupastorm has been held up in two of his last three runs too and this might pose a problem for him here, but based on their last three outings there's a suggestion that four of them will want to make this a pretty pacy affair.

Summary

Brewinupastorm is best off at the weights, comes here in good form, but steps up in class, his yard are out of form, he might left wanting rom the back of the field and neither he nor his stablemates have a particularly good record here at Cheltenham. He's failed to complete 2 of 3 runs here and was unplaced in the other, whilst Olly Murphy's record isn't good at just 2 wins from 50 on this track, so at odds of around 11/8, I just can't back him.

That said, he seems to have the measure of McFabulous, who he has beaten twice and the latter will probably need the run after nine months away from the track. Stormy Ireland was well beaten last time out although down from Gr1 to Gr2 with a run under the belt, 36 lengths is till a lot (too much for me) to find. She's likely to set the pace, making herself a target for one of the prominent runners to aim at.

On The Blind Side loves it here at Cheltenham and ran a good race in this contest last season, but he's better suited to staying hurdles in my opinion and had this been three (or more) furlongs further, then he'd have been ticking plenty of boxes for me, but it isn't and he therefore doesn't, bringing us finally to Guard Your Dreams, who likes it here and has won at this level here. His trainer and jockey both have good records at this venue and the horse will relish underfoot conditions. Just as I don't see the fav justifying being as short as 5/4 in places, nor do I see why this one is as long as 5/1 in places.

I don't fancy Stormy Ireland or On the Blind Side under these conditions and I think McFabulous probably won't beat Brewinupastorm, which puts the fav as runner-up here at worst. And I think that's where I have him (just!) Guard Your Dreams makes much more sense at the odds, so I'll take the 5's on offer from Bet365/888Sport.

Happy New year everyone,
Chris

 

Racing Insights, 11th December 2021

Saturday's free feature is the fantastic Trainer/Jockey Combo (TJC) report, which brings together the form of trainers and jockeys into a single composite report that has produced excellent results for users. Quite simply, some trainers turn to specific riders when they have one ‘ready to win’. This report quickly identifies the most profitable combinations. Clicking on any row will reveal the entries for that trainer/jockey pairing. And clicking on the entry will open the race in a new tab.

HINT: Look for a good sample size – ideally five or more – combined with a decent win percentage (30%+), and a positive figure in the profit column.

And in addition to this report, we also have the following free races of the day...

  • 11.30 Fairyhouse
  • 12.05 Cheltenham
  • 1.50 Cheltenham
  • 3.22 Fairyhouse
  • 4.30 Newcastle
  • 4.45 Wolverhampton

The Venetia Williams/Charlie Deutsch trainer/jockey combo are in sparkling form right now and prior to Friday's racing where they have/had two runners at Cheltenham, the partnership had 7 winners and 4 further placers from just 19 runners over the past 30 days and with 2 more handicappers booked in at Cheltenham on Saturday, that's where I'm heading with this piece.

So, basically...

Both geldings will run in Good to Soft ground chases, the 6yr old Frero Banbou tackles an 8-runner, Class 2 affair over 2m½f worth just over £15,600 whilst the 9 yr old Cepage is entered into a 15-runner, Grade 3 contest over 2m4½f in search of a prize of over £74k!

Before we look at the individual horses, let's consider those 19 runners above, as they include...

  • 7 wins, 4 places from 18 over fences
  • 4 wins, 4 places from 14 male runners
  • 4 wins, 2 places from 10 on Good to Soft
  • 3 wins, 2 places from 5 x 6 yr olds (0/1 with a 9yo)
  • 2 wins, 2 places from 5 at Class 2 (1 from 3 at Class 1)
  • 2 wins from 3 over 2m4½f/2m5f (0/1 at 2m½f)
  • and 0/1 here at Cheltenham

Plenty of encouragement from those stats, so let's start with Frero Banbou in the 1.15 Cheltenham...

Frero Banbou has been improving with pretty much each run that has seen him finish 331443 over fences with his best run to date coming when 4th of 18 in the Grade 3 Red Rum handicap at Aintree back in April, which came despite a 13lb rise for winning a Class 3 contest at Sandown four weeks earlier. He didn't run again after that Aintree effort until reappearing in a Listed race at Ascot at the end of October, where he was 4th of 10 despite a drop in quality and a 2lb easing in weight. Since then, he has dropped down to this Class 2 level and was eased yet another 2lbs, but could only finish 3rd of 12, beaten by 8 lengths at Newbury a fortnight ago. He's back up a pound here and is still 10lbs higher than his win, which makes life tough, but he's certainly not out of it so far.

Based on relevant past exploits, Editeur du Gite would appear to be the one to beat, but without much green in evidence elsewhere, Frero Banbou remains in contention.

The pace stats here for this type of contest are as follows...

...telling us that the ideal profile is one that gets away sharpish and stays right on the pace throughout. Prominent runners do well for the place, but tend not to catch the leaders often enough, so let's see how this field normally run...

Well, again it's Editeur du Gite who's the one to catch again with a perfect 16 for front-running pace, whilst Frero might well end up mid-division here which won't really enhance his chances, despite his obvious ability.

*

Our second race is, of course, trickier with almost twice as many runners competing over further at a higher grade for much more money! So, here's the 1.50 Cheltenham featuring Cepage...

Cepage bears top weight here on his return from almost nine months off the track, during which time all bar one (stable mate Farinet) of his rivals have seen some action. For his part, he has made the frame in over half (10) of his nineteen starts over fences, winning four times, although he's only 1 from 9 at Class 1. He has a win and three places from eight runs on this track and gets on well with Charlie Deutsch. He was beaten by just over 10 lengths here last time out off a career high mark of 158 and is only eased a pound, so this is no easy ride for him, especially as he's 0 from 10 after more than a month off track.

...and his relevant form under today's conditions don't exactly scream "back me!", Siruh du Lac looks the one to beat, but his recent form is poor and jhe's certainly not the horse who finished 1131111 from Nov'17 to Mar'19, but if running like he could, who knows? Fusil Raffles is the only other without any reds (or blanks).

As for pace, it's a similar story to the earlier race, where the advice is to set the pace to get as close to the leader as you can. If, however, you can't get close, then hang back a but further and settle in mid-division for a late run...

And the runners' pace scores suggest that Cepage's stablemate Farinet is likely to set the fractions alongside the afore-mentioned Siruh du Lac, but with the latter finishing 7th of 8 at Class 2 LTO and failing complete his previous three runs, he'd not be one for me to hang my hat on...

Cepage looks like he's going to end up second rank (prominent) which isn't ideal and he's probably going to have to step forward a little or step back a bit.

Summary

I think Frero Banbou is good enough to make the frame in the 1.15 Cheltenham and there's not much between him and the likes of Amoola Gold or Cheddleton, but one of the three is likely to miss out, as I've got Editeur du Gite winning this on form, Instant Expert, pace and much more! So, my play here is EdG to win at 11/4. Frero is only 9/2, so I won't be backing him E/W either.

As for the 1.50 Cheltenham, I'm not keen on Cepage's chances at all, if I'm honest. Don't get me wrong, he's a good horse and more than capable of landing such a race on his day, but for me he's too high in the weights, would prefer softer ground, will probably need the run and won't be well positioned, so he's a no from me, even at 16 to 20/1. Based on the above, I like Fusil Raffles at 8/1 and I'd take a small E/W punt there, especially if I can get on with a firm paying five places. Midnight Shadow would be another possible at the same price, whilst Siruh du Lac could surprise a few people at 16's.

Racing Insights, 10th December 2021

Friday's free feature is the Horses for Courses (H4C) report, which shows the full course history since 2009 of any horse running that has previously had a run at the track. It is sorted by number of wins, but this can be changed to any column at the user’s discretion.

As well as today’s race time, course, horse name, jockey and trainer name, there is a breakdown of runs, wins and places, and profit and loss calculations for both win and each way betting. As with all Geegeez reports, there is a ‘Today’ and a ‘Tomorrow’ (for the next day’s racing) view.

HINT: Layers might like to look towards the lower end of the report, for those with negative performance at the track.

[ Please refer to our User Guide for further information ]

In addition to this, we also have five free races of the day...

  • 1.50 Cheltenham
  • 3.00 Cheltenham
  • 3.45 Bangor
  • 5.45 Southwell
  • 7.30 Dundalk

...and here's my copy of the H4C report for tomorrow...

Queen of Kalahari's form at Southwell will all have been on the old Fibresand track, so whether that translates to the new tapeta surface is doubtful and I tend not to get involved in Irish racing, so my focus today switched back to the 'free' races, where the first on the list, the 1.50 Cheltenham, interests me most. It's an 11-runner, Class 3, 4yo+ mares handicap chase. They'll go left handed and take 16 fences over 2m5f (after a 95yd rail adjustment) on good to soft ground in a bid to win £8,169 and here's the card...

Of the eleven runners, just Fontaine Collonges and Timeless Beauty won last time out, but only top weight Vienna Court and bottom weight Jubilympics are winless in their last five outings, although both have made the frame in each of their last two starts and the former does drop two classes from a Listed race, whilst Rose of Arcadia also drops a class here.

Conversely Fontaine Collonges, Precious Eleanor, Dame du Soir, Timeless Beauty, Oriental Cross and Methodtothemadness all step up one level. None of this field have won here at Cheltenham before, but all bar Vienna Court, Dame du Soir and Pretty Little Liar have won over similar trips to this one. There's shouldn't be any rustiness today, as all eleven have raced at some point over the last two to five weeks.

Vienna Court has made the frame just twice (no wins) from seven attempts over fences, but was third of eight in a Listed contest last time out, hinting at some ability. A similar run down in class puts her right in the mix here, but the trip might be an issue, as she's generally a 2m/2m1f horse. Jockey is riding well, though, which might help...

Fontaine Collonges has 3 wins (1xNHF, 1xHrd, 1xChs) and a place from six career starts so far and stayed on well to win a 2m4½f chase at Warwick last month. She's up a class and 7lbs in weight, but she's clearly a progressive type and represents a yard and jockey in good form...

Precious Eleanor has been a runner-up on both chase starts so far, firstly at Fakenham over 2m6f and then by 2.75 lengths over 2m4½f at Warwick LTO when beaten by Fontaine Collonges above. She is, however, now 4lbs better off for the re-match which could make this very interesting.

Rose of Arcadia won her only bumper, won a 2m6f heavy ground handicap hurdle and has also won a PTP, so stamina shouldn't be in doubt, but she's never tackled fences under Rules before. She was fifth of twelve at Grade 2 back in March and recently returned from 224 days off track to finish third at Class 2 at Wincanton. She's entitled to come on for the run and now down in class, could go well here if adapting to fences aided by a jockey with a decent course record...

Dame du Soir has been a bit of a mixed bag over fences finishing 213FU3 in mainly small fields and the majority of her overall 16 starts have been at shorter trips than today. She was 3rd of 6 at Fontwell last time out, her best run for some time and her sire has good numbers with his younger chasers, but I think this is a big ask for her.

Molly Carew ended last season with three wins from four over fences, but looked like she needed the run at Ffos Las last month when only sixth off eleven, beaten by some 25 lengths, tailing off over a shorter trip. This trip should be more suitable, she'll get the ground conditions well enough and is only 1lb above her last winning mark.

Pretty Little Liar was in good form on the Flat and over hurdles in Ireland (172221) before winning by more than three lengths on her chase debut at Thurles five weeks ago. She was in the process of running another good race over the same course and distance last time out but fell at the 8th when right in contention. If there are no lasting effects from that fall, she could go well again here.

Timeless Beauty's last four efforts over hurdles saw her finish 3143 prior to her winning on her chasing debut at Lingfield last month, when two lengths clear over 2m4f on similar ground to what she'll face here. That was also her debut for her new yard and her first outing for over eight months so there's every chance that there's more to come from this 6 yr old, whose jockey is in tremendous form right now...

Oriental Cross was winless in six starts stretching back to December 2019 when she won at Ffos Las in mid-October, landing a 2m5f chase by half a length. The form from that race hasn't really worked out, as the six-runner field are subsequently 1 from 9, including this mare's 6th of 7, beaten by over 50 lengths last time out. Up in class and only down 1lb, it's hard to back her here.

Methodtothemadness seems to be under the grip of the assessor right now, as she's has finished 3rd of 5 twice and 3rd of 6 in her last three starts which has seen her mark go 113-112-111. She runs off 110 here which is still 4lbs higher than her last win and I think she needs to be eased further to get back to winning ways, even if her trainer and jockey are both in good form individually and also as a team...

Jubilympics completes our line-up and hasn't won any of her eight starts since scoring at Fakenham almost 14 months ago. She's now some 6lbs lower than that win and although hardly well beaten in two recent runner-up finishes at this grade, you'd have to expect her to find a few too good again for her here.

And that's how these horses have looked recently. More long-term and under similar conditions to today, Instant Expert has their overall NH handicap form...

As I said, Molly Carew will 'get' the ground and Timeless Beauty/Oriental Cross seem the ones to beat, but those numbers include old and/or hurdles form. Over fences, they look like this...

...and from a chase place perspective...

In fairness, there's not a lot of relevant chasing form to go off, so recent overall form might be the key here, as will also be the way they approach the contest. History tells us that you really want to be up with, if not setting the pace here...

and based on our field's recent exploits...

...most seem to have the right kind of pace profile for this contest. Ideally, I want at least 3 scores of 3 or 4 here, so that gives me Precious Eleanor, Fontaine Collonges, Vienna Court, Rose of Arcadia, Dame du Soir, Methodtothemadness and Timeless Beauty to choose from.

Summary

I've only omitted four so far and of the seven remaining, Fontaine Collonges must be a pick to at least make the frame, which sort of steers me towards picking Precious Eleanor too, as the latter is now 4lbs better off than when beaten by the former by less than three lengths LTO. I don't mind taking both as a pair, though, especially as they're top of the pace charts.

To join them as my three against the field, I think I've a marginal preference for Timeless Beauty ahead of Rose of Arcadia. The latter tackles fences for the first time here and might need the experience, whilst the former has already won over the larger obstacles.

I expect this to be a decent, competitive race with plenty of early pace and it might become a little attritional late on, but my 1-2-3 here is going to be Precious Eleanor - Fontaine Collonges - Timeless Beauty.

The bookies have my picks at 7/1, 5/2 and 7/1 respectively, so I'll have a small bet on Precious Eleanor at 7's, whilst I'd also be interested in an E/w bet on Timeless beauty if she were to drift our 8/1 and beyond.

 

Cheltenham chief Renton keen to see Festival lift the nation’s mood

Cheltenham’s regional director Ian Renton admits preparations for this year’s Festival have been like no other – but he hopes attention can now switch to action on the track.

Twelve months ago, almost 70,000 were at Cheltenham to watch Al Boum Photo secure back-to-back Gold Cups.

Few could have imagined then the year which lay ahead, with large gatherings banned almost immediately after the Festival.

When racing returned in June following a near three-month hiatus it was without crowds – and barring a handful of occasions, it has remained that way – but of all courses, the one that will feel the absence of a crowd most is surely Cheltenham.

Paul Townend celebrates with Willie Mullins (left) after winning last year's Gold Cup
Paul Townend celebrates with Willie Mullins (left) after winning last year’s Gold Cup (Jacob King/PA)

“We’re looking forward to what will be a very different Festival,” said Renton.

“Obviously it is the first time it has been behind closed doors, so the build-up has been extremely different to usual.

“It’s been an interesting build-up, concentrating on the racing rather than on those who would normally be coming here, but we’ve also been looking at what we can do for them at home.

“This is one of the highlights of the sporting season, the four best days’ jumping you will ever see. Yes, there won’t be the same atmosphere on course but we can all look positively to what’s ahead of us.

“We’ve got some superlative racing to look forward to with Al Boum Photo looking to join the likes of Arkle, Cottage Rake and Best Mate. When you think two years ago Willie Mullins had never won the race to now be going for three in a row it’s quite incredible.

“It’s always great to see the champions return – and all five will this year – but to show how competitive it is only Al Boum Photo is favourite.

“We’re really delighted to be partnering with WellChild, too, a charity who look after seriously ill children and have their headquarters in Cheltenham.”

Of course, no crowds at the Festival and barely any income for a year has hit hard financially – and while there is an insurance policy which covers some of the damage, there is still a large shortfall.

“Thankfully we’ve had a three-year insurance policy which remains in place and which has been extremely beneficial to us and Jockey Club Racecourses,” said Renton.

Racegoers using hand sanitiser at last year's Cheltenham Festival
Racegoers using hand sanitiser at last year’s Cheltenham Festival (Simon Cooper/PA)

“The cover is limited to losses directly attributed to the Festival – but other areas, such as annual members and box holders, we suffer all those losses as well as all the other activities which haven’t taken place.

“The Jockey Club lost £90million in revenue in 2020, and this year we continue to count the cost of the pandemic with virtually all our revenue streams stopped completely or significantly reduced.”

Not only have Cheltenham officials had to cope with the financial strain, there have been many stories in the past 12 months related to the pandemic which have mentioned last year’s Festival and the crowds in attendance.

Coupled with the recent Gordon Elliott headlines, after a picture was shared on social media of him sitting on a dead horse, racing has some ground to make up in the public’s perception.

Over 50,000 spectators a day attended the Festival last year
Over 50,000 spectators a day attended the Festival last year (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The British Horseracing Authority’s chief medical adviser Dr Jerry Hill said: “I’ve spent a lot of time learning over the last 12 months – learning about our industry, relationships, resilience – and I’ve learned a hell of a lot about Covid as well, which was knowledge we didn’t have a year ago.

“The elephant in the room is last year’s Festival. Would we have done something different with a different set of knowledge? And of course history teaches us different things. The situation we are in now, we know so much more about the disease and how best to control it, how to continue functioning as a society.

“We have learned a great deal. A year ago we were at the beginning of the learning curve and seeking information, like everyone else. The information has gradually become available. At the time we sought information from experts and followed their advice.”

Renton hopes that, with the vaccine rollout and infection rates dropping, the Festival may be seen as a springboard to better times.

The meetings at Cheltenham this season have taken place in front of empty stands
The meetings at Cheltenham this season have taken place in front of empty stands (David Davies/PA)

“The mood, hopefully, within the nation is beginning to look forward to the country opening up again and all the positives that can bring,” he said.

“At the Festival, we tend to be the harbinger of spring and the beginning of things opening up for the summer, and I think we can be that again.

“All the negatives that have been referred to, I’d love to think we can park those, put them behind us and look forward to four fantastic days. Look at the 28 races – I don’t think anyone can fail to be excited by them.”

Racing Insights, 11th December 2020

Thursday's race didn't go exactly to plan, but a satisfactory outcome nontheless. I said I fancied the 2/1 Zambella and she won by the best part of four lengths at 9/4, which funded my two forecasts involving Midnightreferendum and Pink Legend. The latter finished fourth having faded on the run-in, conceding third place in the process, but Midnightreferendum ran a great race to finish second, completing a nice 10.3/1 exacta for all the exotics backers.

And so, after a much-needed profitable afternoon, I approach Friday with renewed vim and vigour and the feature of the day is the wonderful Horses for Courses (H4C) report, whilst our free racecards are for the following contests...

  • 1.15 Cheltenham
  • 1.35 Punchestown
  • 3.00 Cheltenham
  • 3.45 Bangor
  • 5.15 Southwell
  • 6.45 Southwell

And like many spectators, I'm always fascinated by the cross country events at HQ, so I'm going to cast my eye towards the 3.00 Cheltenham, the 11-runner, Class 2, Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase over 3m6f on Good to Soft ground for a top prize of £17,517.

First up, here's the racecard...

And like yesterday, I'm going to approach the race in a different way to usual and here's why. There's really no other races like these events at Cheltenham with the different types of fences and the routing etc. Yes, there are other long-distance chases, but this is a different kettle of fish altogether and I don't think your "normal" way of race reading would be enough here, we need something extra in addition to the tools I always use.

I want to start by saying that on first glance, my initial preference is for Step Back who seeks a hat trick but more on his shortly. The extra tool I want to use today is historical data, because in the past the horses that have won this race have tended to fit most if not all of the profile...

  • top 4 in the market
  • top 2 finish LTO
  • Sub-8/1
  • 14-35 days since last run
  • aged 7+
  • 4 to 7 runs in the last year
  • ran here at Cheltenham LTO

Applying those filters, we are left with the top four in the market who tick some if not all of those boxes and it's those four we'll now consider in more detail. All were first or second LTO 17-33 days ago and all are aged 8-11. Step Back has only run three times in the last year, but was a non-runner due to the going on another occasion, whilst the other three have been seen four times. Both Beau de Brizais and Kingswell Theatre ran here LTO four weeks ago.

That was in the November Cross Country event here when KT and BDB were the first two home, separated by five lengths and the runner-up is 5lbs better off here today.

Now back to the tools after my shortcut to a 4-runner shortlist...

As you'd expect for such a unique race, the pace tab isn't going to offer us much of an inssight, so we'll press on by looking at our four possibles...

Step Back has the ideal going for his action here and is 3 from 4 on Good to Soft ground. He also has a win and a place from three efforts over 3m5f and was deemed to have enough about him to take a crack at the 4m2f Grand National, so stamina shouldn't be an issue here. he's a former Grade 3 winner and goes well in cheekpieces, so he looks set fair for a big run.

Back to back wins in the last seven weeks seem to have sparked him into life and if this becomes attritional, it'll play right into this old boy's hands (hooves?)

Neverushacon has just the one run on Good To Soft when fifth in this race last year, but has raced in Ireland sixteen times on ground varying from Good to Yielding through to Yielding to Soft and has only won one of the, He has, however, won 5 of 19 on ground deemed Soft or worse. He was impressive when winning the Risk Of Thunder Chase at Punchestown over 3m on heavy ground by some 11 lengths 17 days ago and has completed both runs on this track, finishing fifth and eighth.

Of obvious interest from a stats/trends perspective, but has never won beyond 3m1f, so has something to prove here on ground a little quicker than he'd prefer.

Kingswell Theatre was a winner around this circuit just four weeks ago, just as he was in the November 2017 running. Clear by five lengths having made all, he was his usual bullish self. He stays all day (has won at 3m7f), jumps well (no fall in 30 races) and can win on any ground ranging from Good all the way through to Heavy.

He won off 145 last time out, but is rated 140 here so there are very few reasons why he won't go well again here, other than his age (getting no younger at 11) and the fact that second time out he isn't always as good as his seasonal reappearance.

Beau du Brizais was the runner-up in that C&D contest here four weeks ago, making him the only one of the four not to win LTO, but that doesn't mean he can't win this. He's now 5lbs better off than his rival, Kingwell Theatre, has won on good to soft and has completed over 4 miles in a Grade 3. He does tend to run well at this time of year (3 from 6 in December), but I'm concerned about the jockey booking. BdB has just a 10% strike rate (2 from 20) under Michael Nolan who is currently on a 50-race losing streak, whilst the horse is 3 from 16 (18.75%) wih other jockeys.

I was rather hoping Richard Johnson would be booked for this contest if I'm honest.

Summary

Any of the four could win, I expect one of the four to win and I expect that if all four get round, then three of them will be the first three home.

Do I have to stick my neck out? If so, I'm backing Step Back at 7/1. I think that aside from conceding weight all round that he's the one to beat if maintaining his recent form and 7/1 is a terrific price. Kingswell Theatre would be my next best, but his current odds of 4/1 offer no real value.

I don't have much between Neverushacon and Beau de Brizais to be honest. The former is possibly slightly better, but the latter receives plenty of weight and is a better pick from a value (13/2 vs 10/3) perspective.

 

Racing Insights, 13th November 2020

Westerner Point was run out of it in the closing stages at Clonmel, finishing third just over half a length behind a faster finisher, whilst Getaday laboured to be placed seventh of fourteen.

Friday is almost upon us and Horses for Courses is the free feature, whilst the free racecards are for the fallowing half dozen contests...

  • 12.18 Newcastle
  • 1.23 Newcastle
  • 1.50 Cheltenham
  • 4.05 Cheltenham
  • 5.00 Dundalk
  • 8.15 Wolverhampton

And I'm going to take a look at the first of the two at HQ, the 1.50 Cheltenham, a 9-runner, Class 2, Handicap Chase for 4yo+ over 2m on Good to Soft ground worth £22,522 to the winner, but who will that be? As ever, our opening clues come from the racecard...

...where Fanion D'Estruval tops the Geegeez ratings and his form figures catch the eye, although that's tempered by his 322 day absence from the track. Beat The Judge has been in decent nick and On The Slopes also ended last season on a high. Magic Saint hails from the red-hot Nicholls yard who have been firing in winners, so maybe he could defy top weight.

On the flip side, both Eamon An Cnoic and Full Glass are returning from lengthy breaks away from UK racecourses, whilst the former's form has been patchy at best and the same could be said for Azzuri. Perhaps they've not had optimal conditions of late and we'll see if Friday's conditions might suit them better by looking at the Instant Expert tab...

...after looking at those place records in chases, Beat The Judge and On The Slopes catch the eye with a full row of green, whilst at this point, I start to whittle down the field by getting rid of Born Survivor and Full Glass from my process. I then click the win button and I see...

...which is pretty self explanatory. For me, the field size is the least important of the six columns above (still important, but not massively so on a wide track like Cheltenham where there's plenty of room) and as they only score green on field size, it's now time to say goodbye to Ballywood and Azzuri ahead of our assessment on the pace make-up of the race...

...which suggests that On The Slopes and Magic Saint would be best suited by following their normal tactics, as 25 of the 33 races (75.8%) represented above have been won by those who have led or raced prominently with 59 of the 87 placers (67.8%) following that plan too.

Based on the cards, Instant Expert and now the pace, I'm going to discard both Eamon An Cnoic and Fanion D'Estruval from my considerations, as I just feel they might both need a run before hitting any kind of form. I'm very aware that Fanion was a machine in France and will probably have a great career here in the UK, but his jumping wasn't quite spot on in two outings on these shores last season and I think he'll need to blow the cobwebs away after a long break.

All of which leaves me with a trio of possibles, Beat The Judge, Magic Saint and On The Slopes, so let's take a quick look at each before (hopefully) coming to some form of conclusion.

Beat The Judge : was a decent if unspectacular hurdler, but has really come into his own as a chaser finishing 3113 to date, including landing a Class 2 handicap at Fontwell by nine lengths two starts ago before finishing third ahead of On The Slopes (fifth) and Ballywood (sixth) here over course and distance at the October Meeting. If he keeps up with the pace early on (did dawdle a little LTO), he could well be a player late on, as he does tend to finish well. I'd expect him to be around the 5/1 mark.

Magic Saint : all his best work has come at this shorter trip and he drops back half a mile again after a reasonably promising return at Aintree in the Grade 2 Old Roan last month. Considering he hadn't raced for 10 months and the trip was too long for him, he did pretty well to only be beaten by nine lengths having faded late on.

Down in class and trip here to more favoured situations, he should come on for the run (also won second time out last November) and Bryan Carver's 5lb jockey claim effectively puts him on the same mark as last November's win at this grade at Newbury. A major contender here for me and should probably be around the 11/4 mark.

On The Slopes : as mentioned above, a couple of places (and 1.25 lengths) behind Beat The Judge over course and distance three weeks but now re-opposes 1lb better off, which should make it a little closer. Prior to that run here last month, he had been off the track for 223 days, so he's another who can be forgiven for not quite being at this best last time out. He had ended last season on a high, winning back to back contests on Good to Soft at Kempton in February and March.

His form on Good to Soft is decent at 2311, whilst he has won 2 of 3 at trips of 2m2f and shorter. I wouldn't write this one off easily either and I'd expect him to be around the 7/2 to 4/1 mark.

Summary

Having gone through the card and arriving at a shortlist of three, I probably won't have a proper bet here after all. I was hoping that my research/analysis would lead me to a standout selection, but it hasn't. I should stress that this is perfectly fine.

I now look at the market, in case one of my possibles appears to offer enough value for a small action bet and I was a little surprised to see On The Slopes shorter in price than Magic Saint. don't get me wrong, both have a great chance, but I though the latter would (a) be the one to beat and (b) be the more popular.

Beat The Judge looks to be the value pick at 6/1 and drifting slightly. Who knows, it might even drift enough to be worth an E/W or 20/80 punt.

So, my conclusion is sadly inconclusive. You could back none, one, two or all three here with justification. Sometimes that's how it is and it's OK for it to be like that!

Racing Insights, 23rd October 2020

Sod's Law was very much in force at Wolverhampton this afternoon, as my four-runner shortlist filled three of the four places offered by SkyBet amongst others. Sadly, the one I omitted from my final advice went on to win at 11/2. I was, however, pleased with Leodis Dream finishing fourth at 9/1, only a length and a half off the winner and backed at an advised 16/1.

As for the winner, I did say..."I thought HSB might have been a bit longer than that and although I might regret it, I'll give him a miss at 14's" and thus the law of Sod kicked in.

So, neither happy nor sad about that outcome, we move on to Friday, where the daily free feature is the Horses for Courses report and the free racecards cover...

  • 2.25 Cheltenham
  • 3.00 Cheltenham
  • 3.43 Sligo
  • 5.03 Doncaster
  • 8.00 Newcastle
  • 8.15 Dundalk

So, let's take a look at the first of our free races, the 2.25 Cheltenham (you know it's the jumps season when Chelts appears on the cards) : a 6-runner, Class 2 Novices Chase for 5yo+ over 3m on good ground, with the winner receiving a more than useful £12.5k. My initial feeling was that I liked Soldier of Love for this race with Clondaw Caitlin being a possible E/W punt at double digit odds (hopefully)

But when you already like two runners in a field of six, it pays to look closer at the race, because you might have missed something, so here goes...

Plenty of good recent form for jockeys and trainers (14, 30) and whilst we've only got six runners, their formlines are littered with wins. In fact, between them they have won 28 times in 71 efforts, a strike rate of almost 40%, so some good runners on show here.

Instant Expert for this race tells us that...

...from a place perspective, all those who have raced on good ground have fared well enough, the top three especially so. Not much class/course achievement to discuss, whilst the four who have tackled this trip have managed to see it out successfully at least once with Doctor Duffy and Soldier of Love looking like proven stayers. I don't always set much too much stall out for field size, but a small number of runners hasn't proved a problem for these six in the past.

Sometimes, a Geegeez report will be inconclusive and I think the above doesn't really do much for us today, so let's consider the win element of the same report...

...where Soldier of Love's record at this trip is a standout piece of data here.

Now, many people think pace is mainly relevant to shorter trip Flat and A/W contests and surely wouldn't have much bearing on a 3m+ chase, but they'd actually be very wrong. The pace make-up of any race is important and in such contests here at HQ, you don't want to go off too quickly nor too slowly. You want to be "handy", shall we say? Anyway, as ever, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I''ll stop rambling...

Once again, Soldier of Love looks to have a positive pace make-up for this race, as does Clondaw Caitlin, but now let's take a closer look at the six runners individually...

Ask Dillon : Reasonable record over hurdles, including wins at 2m5.5f and 2m6f, whilst also making the frame in both starts at 2m7.5f. This is a bit further for him, but as all his hurdles form was on Good to Soft or softer, stamina shouldn't be an issue.

Fergal O'Brien's chasers sent at 14/1 and shorter are 7 from 29 (24.1% SR) here at Cheltenham since 2016, but this one has no win higher than Class 3 and has been off the track for over seven months, since being well beaten by 36 lengths here in March and carries joint top weight now.

Clondaw Caitlin : The only mare in the race, therefore receiving weight all round. A former bumper winner who was three from three over hurdles last season, including landing a Gr2 over 2m2f at Kelso back in February when taking the boys on for the first time.

Her breeding suggests she'll take to fences, but she has also been off the track for over seven months and steps up markedly in trip today, but trainer Ruth Jefferson has an 18% strike rate (18 from 100) with her runners stepping up in trip, of which LTO winners are 7 from 21.

Doctor Duffy : has already competed over fences seven times, winning twice and making the frame on three other occasions. Has finished 113F since adopting a visor and I'm happy to overlook that fall last time out, when he was bumped by a rival at the first fence. Prior to that (non)run, he had won a Gr2 at Ballinrobe followed by a third in a Gr1 at Listowel.

Galvin : Trainer Gordon Elliott has won this race twice (2010 & 2011) and will have high hopes about this one who was a runner-up at the festival here in March behind Imperial Aura.

A winner of three novice events in Ireland so far this season, including a Gr3 last time out early this month and will be expected to make bold bid of improving his yard's record of 7 wins from 34 (20.6%) in Class 2 chases here at Cheltenham since 2016.

Mossy Fen : First time over fences, but this son of super-sire Milan was 3 from 5 over hurdles, including landing a Gr2 at Warwick in January before finishing a creditable if fairly well beaten (23 lengths) firth behind Envoi Allen in the Ballymore at the festival here back in March.

He's inexperienced/unexposed depending on your viewpoint, he'll get the trip and had bundles of ability, but the lack of a chase run might undo him. Mind you, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has 17 from 71 (23.9%) record in October with first time chasers, including 13 from 51 (25.5%) in Novice contests.

Soldier of Love : trainer Paul Nicholls has won this contest four times in the past fourteen runnings and will have every chance of going five from fifteen with this seven year old gelding who has been a revelation since a wind op.

One win in seven pre-operation and a formline of F1111 since, with a fall at the last when leading at Kempton the only post-surgery blemish. The going/trip/field size will all suit him and he gets on great with jockey Harry Cobden and the only negative I have with him is that he has never raced at a higher level than Class 3.

Summary

I set about this race, because I had a gut feeling that I'd need to pick between an E/W bet on Clondaw Caitlin, a win bet on Soldier of Love or both, but now I'm really not so sure. You can actually make a good case for all six runners, whilst there are reasons for not backing any of the six.

This now looks like a really good contest and I'd expect it to be very competitive and as such, I'll not be placing a bet at all. This is perfectly fine with me and also with the ethos of Geegeez overall. If the analysis of a race doesn't make the decision any easier or any clearer, then I'm of the opinion, you leave it alone.

However, I might have highlighted something above that ticks an extra box for you and I certainly won't put you off having a bet, but I'll be sitting this one out with my feet up and a cold beer.