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Alpine Star team excited for 2021 campaign

Connections of Alpine Star are looking forward to seeing what next season holds for the top-class filly following her narrow defeat on Arc weekend in Paris.

Successful on two of her three starts as a juvenile, the daughter of Sea The Moon made a spectacular start to her three-year-old campaign with a brilliant victory in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot under Frankie Dettori.

Jessica Harrington’s charge has since been touched off in the French Oaks at Chantilly, the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville and Prix de l’Opera at ParisLongchamp, most recently going down by a short neck to a fellow Irish raider in Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa.

Celebration time for Frankie Dettori and Alpine Star
Celebration time for Frankie Dettori and Alpine Star (Edward Whitaker/PA)

Alpine Star will now enjoy a winter break before being brought back for more top-level targets in 2021.

Alan Cooper, racing manager for owners the Niarchos family, said: “She ran another blinder in the Opera. She’s a tough, honest and very high-class filly.

“We’ll put her away now and bring her back for a four-year-old campaign next season. She’s very consistent and hopefully there’ll be more Group One races for her.

“It will be interesting to see what Jessie decides regarding trip next year. She seems equally capable over a mile and a mile and a quarter at the moment, which is very exciting.”

Sizing John retired following injury setback

Sizing John has been retired after sustaining an injury while being prepared to run in the Kerry Group Chase at Listowel on Sunday.

Though the injury is not life-threatening, trainer Jessica Harrington decided it was best to call it a day after several setbacks restricted the 10-year-old to just one run since December 2017.

Earlier that year Sizing John completed the rare treble of the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Punchestown Gold Cup.

He made a flying start to the following campaign in the John Durkan, but disappointed at Leopardstown over Christmas – and injuries then kept him off the track for more than two years.

He made his long-awaited return over hurdles at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve, but fell three flights from the finish.

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Injured in that tumble, he was unable go for a second Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup in February and was scratched from the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

“He has been retired. Unfortunately, he gave himself an injury this morning,” Harrington told Racing TV.

“It’s not life-threatening, but he won’t be able to run on Sunday. He did his last gallop and it just went wrong after that, so sadly we’ve decided we’ve had enough comebacks with him and we’re going to retire him now and he can have a happy retirement.

“He ran on New Year’s Eve and unfortunately fell and hurt himself. I thought I’d get him back, then I didn’t, and we were right back on track and Robert (Power) was absolutely thrilled with him. I felt very sad this morning ringing up the Potts family to say finally we have to retire him.”

Harrington recalled the spring of 2017 when Sizing John was in his prime and fulfilled the dreams of his owners Ann and Alan Potts by winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

“It was special and ended up being more special because first of all Ann Potts died, and three months later Alan died, so they did achieve what they wanted to do and win a Gold Cup,” she said.

“They ended up winning three Gold Cups, which was absolutely wonderful and they were all there to enjoy it.

“Cheltenham was unbelievable, magical. You don’t need an aeroplane to bring you home when things like that happen to you.

“Punchestown was another very special day. Ann and Alan Potts were both over for that as well. It was fantastic.”

Sizing John is likely to stay at Harrington’s Commonstown Stables in County Kildare, with the trainer adding: “I’m pretty sure he’ll stay with me.”

Sizing John won nine of his 21 races and amassed £776,806 in total prize money.

Cadillac speeds to impressive Leopardstown victory

Cadillac showed his rivals a clean pair of heels to run out an impressive victor in the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown.

Jessica Harrington’s charge was sent off the 11-8 favourite for the Group Two affair despite being edged out in the Futurity Stakes and settled on the outside by Shane Foley, tracking the pace set by Van Gogh.

Cadillac travelled well throughout the mile heat, and when Foley asked his partner to quicken inside the final furlong, the Lope De Vega colt displayed an electric turn of foot, quickly pulling clear to run out a three-and-a-half-length winner over Van Gogh. Reve De Vol was a further two and three-quarter lengths back in third.

Coral made Cadillac their 8-1 co-favourite for next year’s 2000 Guineas, with Betfair cutting him from 33-1 to 12-1 for the Newmarket Classic.

The latter also go 5-1 about his chances for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in the autumn and the trainer’s daughter, Kate, indicated America could be the next port of call.

She said: “You’d have to be delighted with him. You saw the real Cadillac there today and he’s a lovely horse.

“He’s a horse that just goes through the motions at home, you don’t really know how big an engine is in there, but it’s fairly big.

“He didn’t really learn much the first day, but learned a lot the last day and he did it right there today.

“It’s great for the syndicate (Alpha Racing 2020), which we started two years ago and this is the second running of it. We’re going to go forward with it next year and it’s great to have a high-profile horse like this.

“I’d say all being well his next start will probably be in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.”

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Monday (right) on her way to victory
Monday (right) on her way to victory (PA)

Monday (12-1) made every yard of the running to claim the Ballylinch Stud Irish EBF Ingabelle Stakes.

Fourth on her only previous run, Seamie Heffernan had his Aidan O’Brien-trained mount sharply away, with better-fancied stablemate and 9-4 favourite More Beautiful settled on her heels.

However, Ryan Moore was pushing the market leader from some way out and it was left to No Speak Alexander to throw down a challenge, but she fell short by three-quarters of a length at the line.

The winner was introduced as a 33-1 shot for next year’s 1000 Guineas by Betfair, and 25-1 by RaceBets, and she could now take a jump up in company.

O’Brien said: “She’s the first foal out of Ballydoyle. She can step into a Group race fairly quick, I’d say.

“She probably learned a lot the first day and learned a good bit more today. I’d say she won’t have any problem stepping up quick.

“The Boussac, Fillies’ Mile, all those races will be open to her.”

Tiger Moth (5-6 favourite) then made it a treble on the day for O’Brien with a clear-cut victory in the Paddy Power ‘Is It 2021 Yet?’ Stakes.

O’Brien also struck gold in the feature Irish Champion Stakes with Magical, and Irish Derby second Tiger Moth brought up the hat-trick with the minimum of fuss, coasting home by four lengths under Ryan Moore.

O’Brien said: “He’s a lovely horse. Obviously his last run was in the Irish Derby.

“We gave him a break, said we’d come back here and maybe have a look at the Melbourne Cup, but he probably won’t get in where he is. He’s 8lb below Santiago.

“I wasn’t sure a mile and a half was his thing and we would have been very happy going back to a mile and a quarter. It was a strong-run mile and a half and we were going to find out today whether he stayed or not.”

Safe Voyage (right) just prevailed for trainer John Quinn
Safe Voyage (right) just prevailed for trainer John Quinn (PA)

Safe Voyage and Sinawann produced a fantastic finish to the Clipper Logistics Boomerang Mile, with John Quinn’s British raider just grabbing the verdict in a photo.

Colin Keane, who had earlier struck Group One gold with Champers Elysees in the Matron Stakes, had to be at his strongest to get Safe Voyage (4-1) back in front on the line, triumphing by a short head.

He said: “I thought Ronny (Ronan Whelan, Sinawann’s rider) was just after nabbing me, but to be fair to my horse, when the other horse came to him he put his head down and tried very hard.

“He travelled very strong, quickened well and when he did get by him, my lad fought back very bravely.

“He’s been a revelation from winning the premier handicap in Galway to these Group Twos. It’s a brilliant training performance.”

Halimi claimed handicap honours
Halimi claimed handicap honours (PA)

Halimi (18-1) swooped inside the final furlong of the Irish Stallion Farms EBF ‘Petingo’ Handicap to collar the gutsy Springbank and repel the late thrust of Shoshone Warrior for Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning.

“I just spoke to the boss and he’s delighted with the horse. He’s a nice progressive type,” said Bolger’s daughter, Una Manning.

“We’re thrilled with him and he’ll go for more of the same. It’s nice to win a big pot like this on Champions Day.”

Song faces seven in defence of her Irish Leger title

Search For A Song is set to face seven rivals when she bids for back-to-back victories in the Comer Group International Irish St Leger at the Curragh on Sunday.

The Moyglare Stud Farm-owned filly provided trainer Dermot Weld with an eighth success in the final Classic of the Irish season 12 months ago, leaving him one short of the record set by the late Vincent O’Brien.

Search For A Song is winless in three starts this season, but did run with credit over an inadequate trip when third behind the top-class Magical in the Tattersalls Gold Cup on her latest appearance.

Twilight Payment is the likely favourite for Joseph O’Brien, after landing both the Vintage Crop Stakes and the Curragh Cup over the course and distance this season.

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Aidan O’Brien saddles last year’s Irish Derby hero Sovereign, who was last seen chasing home Enable in the King George, as well as three-year-old filly Passion.

Jessica Harrington’s Barbados, the Willie Mullins-trained Micro Manage and Luke Comer’s Raa Atoll complete the home team, with British hopes carried by Roger Varian’s Ebor winner Fujaira Prince.

The first of four Group Ones on day two of Longines Irish Champions Weekend is the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes, which has attracted 15 high-class sprinters.

Denis Hogan’s prolific five-year-old Make A Challenge faces an eight-strong British contingent which includes the Michael Dods-trained Que Amoro – runner-up to Battaash in the Nunthorpe at York last month – and Simon and Ed Crisford’s course and distance winner A’Ali.

Joseph O’Brien’s hugely impressive Debutante winner Pretty Gorgeous is a short-priced favourite for the Moyglare Stud Stakes.

She is reopposed by Donnacha O’Brien’s Debutante runner-up Shale and Aidan O’Brien’s Debutante third Mother Earth, while Ken Condon has both Teresa Mendoza and Thunder Beauty in a field of 13 juvenile fillies.

The Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes throws up a fascinating Anglo-Irish clash between Master Of The Seas and Battleground.

The unbeaten Master Of The Seas bids to provide Charlie Appleby with a third straight win in the seven-furlong contest, following the recent triumphs of Quorto and Pinatubo.

Aidan O’Brien has won the race on 11 occasions and is represented by his star juvenile colt of the campaign so far in Battleground – winner of the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Vintage at Goodwood this summer.

The pair are joined at the head of the betting by Harrington’s Phoenix Stakes victor Lucky Vega in what could well be the strongest two-year-old race of the season so far.

Group Two honours are up for grabs in the Blandford Stakes, which features O’Brien senior’s Magic Wand and Harrington’s pair of Cayenne Pepper and One Voice.

Two-year-old Flat Debutants, Part 2

In part 1 of this series, here, I suggested that if we were looking to blindly back two-year-olds on their flat debut this season, our starting point should initially be those juveniles trained by Richard Fahey, Jessica Harrington and Ger Lyons, writes Chris Worrall. As well as that standout trio, I was also interested in those trained by Paul Cole, Eve Johnson Houghton and David Simcock, notwithstanding the reservations I highlighted about those three.

I went on to highlight in that opening piece that we may be able to eliminate some bad bets by focusing more on each trainer's runners based on a series of factors: track location, actual track, race class/distance/going, jockeys used, time of year and sex of horse.

Richard Fahey

So, if we start with our three headline acts, we can see that Richard Fahey's results with 2yo flat debutants from 2016-19 were as follows:

Closer inspection of those 381 runners showed no real bias towards either gender or for any particular reported ground conditions, but of the other five tested variables, I found (in sample size order) that those numbers included:

  • 55/363 (15.15%) for 135.66pts (+37.37%) over trips of 5 to 7 furlongs
  • 53/359 (14.76%) for 125.13pts (+34.85%) during April to September
  • 51/339 (15.04%) for 122.82pts (+36.24%) in Yorkshire, NW & Central England
  • 47/314 (14.97%) for 132.07pts (+42.06%) at Classes 4 & 5
  • 38/236 (16.10%) for 92.88pts (+39.36%) ridden by Tony Hamilton or Paul Hanagan

(all profit quoted is to Betfair Starting Price, BSP)

And when combine all those filters, we are left with...

Suggestion: back all Richard Fahey 2yo Flat debutants ridden by Tony Hamilton or Paul Hanagan at up to 7 furlongs in Class 4 or 5 races in Yorkshire, the North West or Central England during April to September.

Jessica Harrington

And now onto Jessica Harrington, whose 2016-19 stats were...

From which (in order of winners)...

  • 18/114 (15.79%) for 81.5pts (+71.49%) over trips of 5 to 7 furlongs
  • 15/122 (12.3%) for 23.28pts (+19.08%) in Leinster
  • 15/104 (14.42%) for 56.85pts (+54.67%) on ground declared as Good to Yielding or firmer
  • 15/80 (18.75%) for 80.7pts (+100.88%) during May to July
  • 13/95 (13.68%) for 26.94pts (+28.35%) with female runners

And combining trip, track location, going and time of year gives us...

             

of which the gender spilt is as follows....

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The females win more often, but the males generate more profit, so I'm not really convinced we should narrow it down either way.

Suggestion: back Jessica Harrington's 2 year olds on debut in Leinster (Bellewstown, Curragh, Fairyhouse, Gowran Park, Leopardstown, Naas, Navan) during May to July at trips up to 7 furlongs and on ground described as Good to Yielding or firmer.

Ger Lyons

The final member of our top trio is Ger Lyons, who qualified on his record over the last three seasons of...

Once again, we'll subject those runners to the filtering system, where it can be noted:

  • 30/130 (23.08%) for 90.71pts (+69.78%) over trips of 6f to 1m
  • 30/125 (24%) for 95.71pts (+76.57%) during April to September
  • 29/137 (21.17%) for 76.78pts (+56.05%) on ground deemed Soft or better
  • 29/136 (21.32%) for 79.30pts (+58.31%) in Leinster and Munster
  • 28/116 (24.14%) for 79.07pts (+68.16%) when ridden by Colin Keane

and when we combine those five sets of data, we end up with a fantastic set of numbers reading...

Once again both sexes fare well as follows...

...so we'll not differentiate between the two.

Suggestion: back all Ger Lyons' 2 yo debutants ridden by Colin Keane over trips of 6f to a mile in Leinster (see above for tracks) and Munster (Cork, Killarney, Limerick, Listowel, Thurles, Tipperary) on Soft ground or better from April to September.

*

Those were the three main protagonists from part 1 of this series; combining their two-year-old flat debutants under the specified conditions brings us to 66 winners from 293 runners (22.53% SR) and 266.74pts of profit at an excellent ROI of some 91.04%.

Clearly it will be difficult to fully repeat those numbers but if they only do half as well in the next three or four years we'll still be looking at 130+ points.

*

So what of our 'second string' trio of Paul Cole, Eve Johnson Houghton and David Simcock? Are there conditions under which we might follow their juvenile debutants?

The easiest way to find out is to dive into the data, starting with...

Paul Cole

Cole's base figures with 2yo first-time starters are:

That's a small sample size so caution is advised, but they do include of note...

  • 6/35 (17.14%) for 68.1pts (+194.57%) in Classes 4 and 5
  • 6/30 (20%) for 73.1pts (+243.67%) over trips of 5 or 6 furlongs
  • 6/29 (20.69%) for 74.1pts (+255.52%) during April to July
  • 6/14 (42.86%) for 89.1pts (+636.43%) at Brighton, Leicester & Newbury
  • 5/28 (17.86%) for 31.35pts (+111.96%) in SE England
  • 3/10 (30%) for 60.92pts (+609.2%) with Raul Da Silva in the saddle

You probably don't need me to point out how Paul got all of his six original winners, but combining those first four filters gives...

Suggestion: keep an eye out for Paul Cole 2yo firsters in Class 4 or 5 races over 5 or 6 furlongs at Brighton, Leicester or Newbury from April to July, especially if Raul da Silva's on board, even if it's a big price.

Eve Johnson Houghton

Next up is Eve Johnson Houghton, whose own record during the last four seasons was...

...which, like Paul Cole previously, was a smaller than ideal sample size, but did include...

  • 8/52 (15.38%) for 141.35pts (+271.82%) excluding April and July
  • 7/62 (11.29%) for 98.02pts (+158.10%) in Classes 4 and 5
  • 7/46 (15.22%) for 106.94pts (+232.48%) over 6 or 7 furlongs
  • 6/47 (12.77%) for 120.04pts (+255.41%) in SE England
  • 6/41 (14.63%) for 88.22pts (+215.16%) ridden by Charles Bishop
  • 6/37 (16.22%) for 142.18pts (+384.26%) from female runners
  • and 5/21 (23.81%) for 42.74pts (+203.52%) on Good to Soft or Soft ground

Combining class, month, distance and going gives us...

...and despite this dozen qualifiers include 4 from 7 (57.1%) for 48.5pts (+392.7%) for Charles Bishop, 3 from 6 (50%) for 43.6pts (+726.2%) for females and 3 from 6 (50%) for 31.4pts (+524%) in the South East, there is an uneasy feel to the exclusion of April and July - I can't come up with a logical reason why the horses would fail to fire in that month. Instead, I've taken a more straightforward view...

Suggestion: Look out for Eve Johnson Houghton's Class 4 and 5 runners over 6 or 7 furlongs on Good to Soft or Soft ground. Add a bonus point if you see Charles Bishop down to ride.

David Simcock

And finally for this look at trainers who perform well with juvenile first time starters, we'll put David Simcock under the microscope, despite his sobering record last season (0 from 20). Even with that abject campaign, his four year score is...

and again we've only a small number of runners to consider, but they do include...

  • 6/31 (19.4%) for 18.65pts (+60.17%) when ridden by Jamie Spencer
  • 4/20 (20%) for 49.15pts (+245.76%) over a mile
  • 4/15 (26.7%) for 27.4pts (+182.66%) at Yarmouth
  • 3/14 (21.4%) for 23.6pts (+168.6%) for Jamie Spencer over a mile
  • 3/9 (33.3%) for 28.6pts (+317.8%) for Jamie Spencer at Yarmouth
  • 3/7 (42.9%) for 30.6pts (+437.1%) over a mile at Yarmouth
  • and 3/6 (50%) for 32.69pts Jamie Spencer over a mile at Yarmouth

Obviously the Jamie Spencer angle is interesting, especially over a mile at Yarmouth, but I feel that particular stat lends more to the excellent record the jockey and trainer have together at that venue (a story for another day, perhaps?), but as for this piece...

Suggestion: Note, but don't necessarily back, David Simcock two-year-old flat debutants.

*

All of which second team deliberation leaves us with just the Paul Cole and Eve Johnson Houghton runners, whose suggested angles combine for 11 winners from 22 runners (50% SR) and 144.84 pts (+658.6% ROI) as a juicy-looking - but less reliable based on sample size - supplement to our top trio's 66 winners from 293 runners (22.53% SR, +266.74 BSP, ROI of 91.04%).

Hopefully, we'll soon be able to "live trial" these angles. Fingers crossed and all that, but for now, thanks for reading and I'll be back with more soon.

 - CW

Stat of the Day, 21st March 2020

Friday's pick was...

4.00 Dundalk : Cautious Approach @ 7/2 BOG Race Void (Injured rider on track forced a stoppage)

Saturday's pick runs in the...

3.10 Thurles :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection between 8.00am and 8.15am and I then add a more detailed write-up later within an hour or so of going "live".

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

Who?

Sizing Pottsie @ 9/4 BOG

...in the 9-runner, Pierce Molony Memorial Novice Chase (Grade 3) for 5yo+ over 2m2f on soft ground worth £29,204 to the winner... 

Why?...

Might be a predictable looking pick, but (a) I've not many races to go at, (b) there's a host of stats to support the pick and (c) I expect to have a winner here and I suppose that's the most important right now!

He's a hat-trick seeking 6 yr old gelding who won a similar Grade 3 Novice Chase at Navan under today's jockey last time out. That was 18 days ago over 2m on heavy ground taking his chase record to 2 from 3, having already previously won over 2m1.5f on heavy ground (also under today's rider).

He clearly has the ability to go in again, won't mind the trip or the going and obviously gets on well with jockey Robbie Power, who's in good nick of late having won 9 of 42 (21.4% SR) of rides over the last month. Those are good numbers, but even more so when you consider he was 0 from 15 at Cheltenham (now 0/40 there over three years).

So if we consider just his rides here in Ireland, he's 8 from 25 (32% SR) over the past month, including 7 from 18 (38.9%) for today's trainer, Mrs John (aka Jessica) Harrington and that includes 4 winners from 6 (66.6%) over fences.

Whilst, since the start of 2016, Robbie is 8 from 28 (28.6% SR) for 6.28pts (+22.4% ROI) over fences here at Thurles and these include...

  • 7/18 (38.9%) at odds shorter than 5/1
  • 6/20 (30%) for Mrs H
  • 6/17 (35.3%) on male runners
  • 6/14 (42.9%) with soft in the going description
  • 5/12 (41.7%) over this 2m2f course and distance
  • and 3/9 (33.3%) on 6 yr olds...

...whilst trainer Mrs Harrington's chasers are 8 from 28 (28.6% SR) for 2.23pts (+8% ROI) backed blindly here at Thurles since the start of 2017. I accept that 8% isn't massive, but the strike rate is good from blind backing and when filtered, those runners include...

  • 8/22 (36.4%) for 8.23pts (+37.4%) with 5-7 yr olds
  • 8/22 (36.4%) for 8.23pts (+37.4%) in fields of 6 or more runners
  • 8/21 (38.1%) for 9.23pts (+44%) at odds of 7/1 and shorter
  • 7/19 (36.8%) for 9.93pts (+52.3%) with horses rested for up to 25 days
  • 6/20 (30%) for 5.4pts (+27%) with jockey Robbie Power, as above
  • 6/12 (50%) for 12.27pts (+102.3%) on ground with soft in the official description
  • and 4/13 (30.8%) for 5.32pts (+40.9%) over this 2m2f course and distance...

...whilst from the original 8 from 28 record, 5-7 yr olds at 7/1 and shorter in 6+ runner races at 1-25 dslr = 7/11 (63.6% SR) for 17.94 pts (+163.1% ROI) and these include...

  • 6/9 for Robbie Power
  • 5/7 with soft featured in the going
  • 5/7 for Robbie with soft mentioned
  • 4/6 over C&D
  • 4/6 for Robbie over C&D
  • 4/5 over C&D with soft mentioned
  • and 4/5 for Robbie over C&D with the word soft in the going description

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Sizing Pottsie @ 9/4 BOG as was quite widely available at 8.15am Saturday, but as always please check your BOG status. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 3.10 Thurles

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

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

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

Attrition Rate in Irish National Hunt

Killultagh Vic a High Profile Casualty

Killultagh Vic a High Profile Casualty

Killultagh Vic was the first high-profile Irish horse to miss Cheltenham with injury but you can be sure he won’t be the last, writes Tony Keenan. We are in that horrible space between the conclusion of most of the trials and the start of the Festival where owners, trainers and, yes, punters live in terror of hearing that their horse will miss the meeting with a late setback.

It makes sense that injuries should occur at this time. No more than a human athlete getting ready for a career-defining event, the revs are being cranked up to the max in preparation and it is inevitable that a gasket or two will blow in the process. Some trainers has succeeded more than others in avoiding – or preventing – the last-minute injury; Willie Mullins stands out in terms of getting his Cheltenham horses to end point and punters can rightly have faith in backing one of his runners ante-post at a short price in the relatively safe assumption that they will get to post. But other handlers have not been so fortunate (though perhaps fortunate is the wrong word as it is surely a skill to keep horses sound).

Predicting which trainers’ runners will make or miss Cheltenham by looking at data is difficult if not impossible and it makes more sense to look at a more global sense of how successful they are in keeping their horses sound from season to season. In the table below, I’ve focussed on the top 15 Irish trainers in terms of winners sent out in the six seasons from 2009/10 to 2014/15, leaving out those who are no longer training, i.e. Dessie Hughes and Charlie Swan.

I found every horse they had in that period that acquired an Irish official rating of 130 or more and went through their racing career in totality regardless of whether it began before 2009 or continued beyond 2015. I was looking for how many ‘full seasons’ they had in their careers and I took a very loose definition of what a full season was: a season in which a horse ran twice or more in the Irish National Hunt campaign which takes the Punchestown Festival as its start and end point.

To my mind, this is quite a lenient definition of a full season – many owners would want their horses to run far more regularly – but I was giving trainers the benefit of the doubt and I didn’t penalise for a horse only running once in their first season as trainers often want to start them off slowly. With the number of full seasons and missed seasons I worked out a figure called ‘attrition rate’ which expresses as a percentage how often a trainer’s horses miss a season in relation to their career as a whole.

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Take Tony Martin as an example. In the period covered, he has 131 full seasons from his 130-plus rated horses and six missed seasons; I add the two together to get a total season figure which is 137 and then divide the missed season number into it to leave an attrition rate of 4.4%. As a back-up figure, I also added in how many runs a trainer’s horses averaged per season over that period.

This methodology is far from perfect. Firstly, it looks only at horses rated 130 or more, but the data was so overwhelming that were I to look at them all I’d struggle to have it finished for Cheltenham 2017! It also supposes that every National Hunt horse threads the same campaign trail, starting its season in the autumn and running through to the late spring/early summer. This is not the case with summer jumpers and many horses will have a winter break to avoid the worst of ground.

Using my method, horses could miss two calendar years but only one racing season. Monksland, say, missed 730 days between December 2012 and December 2014 but raced three times in the 2012/13 season and the same in 2014/15 campaign so is only penalised for being absent in 2013/14.

Furthermore, trainers are not penalised for horses having a short career of a season or two but they are hit for getting a horse back off an absence of a season or two for just one run, despite the fact that this could be a major achievement if that horse has had serious problems. Despite all this, I think there is enough in the data to make it interesting to look at, if not necessarily of vast predictive value.

Trainer Horses Rated 130 Plus Attrition Rate Average Season Runs
C. Byrnes 19 15.9% 5.4
C. Murphy 13 10.3% 4.5
N. Meade 53 8.8% 5.0
W. Mullins 171 7.0% 4.2
R. Tyner 6 6.7% 4.7
M. Hourigan 16 6.5% 7.3
M. Morris 17 5.6% 6.0
T. Martin 39 4.4% 5.4
G. Elliott 58 4.3% 6.1
H. De Bromhead 36 4.1% 4.7
P. Nolan 22 3.2% 5.2
E. Doyle 7 2.6% 6.3
J. Hanlon 8 2.4% 5.6
E. O’Grady 27 1.6% 5.4
J. Harrington 31 1.6% 6.1

 

We’ll start with Willie Mullins as we generally do. He has a highish attrition rate and the lowest average season runs so comes out quite badly on these numbers though I doubt Rich Ricci, Graham Wylie et al will be moving their horses in light of them! In fairness, he has improved recently with most of his absentees coming in the early part of the period covered though it must be said that he has quite a few horses that are in danger of missing this campaign, the likes of Abyssial, Jarry D’Honneur, Champagne Fever and Analifet all on the easy list at the moment.

Charles Byrnes has a very high attrition rate, 5.6% higher than the next highest, so perhaps landing gambles takes its toll! His achievement in bringing the nine-year-old Solwhit back to win at Cheltenham and Aintree in 2013 was a notable one but it seems significant that so many of his best horses have missed chunks of time, the likes of Mounthenry, Pittoni, Trifolium, Weapons Amnesty and Our Vinnie all having stop-start careers.

Colm Murphy is another that comes out poorly on the numbers, having not only a high attrition rate but also a low average runs per season, though the reason behind this could be one discussed in a previous article of mine on fall/unseat rate where he came out as one of the highest in the country. Falls and unseats will clearly cause plenty of injuries.

One trainer who does quite well is Gordon Elliott, his horses generally sound and running often, and it needs to be pointed out that he gets quite a few stable switchers. That can be viewed positively or negatively; either someone else has done all the hard work or you have to rectify another trainer’s mistakes.

Noel Meade is having a torrid season in terms of injuries, with Road To Riches having a curtailed campaign and Apache Stronghold out for the year. His attrition rate, third overall, would suggest this is not uncommon. One thing to admire with Meade is that no one else comes close in terms of openness around his horses’ health and he must be praised for that.

In terms of positives, Jessica Harrington stands out as having a low attrition rate and a high average number of runs. I would put this down to two things: she tends to mix flat and jumps campaigns, the former clearly less attritional than the latter; and she will often give her horses mid-winter breaks to avoid the worst of ground, something she frequently references in stable tours.

Edward O’Grady has the name of being hard on his horses but the numbers suggest otherwise, coming in the equal of Harrington in attrition rate. Henry De Bromhead has relatively a low attrition rate too, albeit with not many average season runs, and tends to do well in keeping older horses sweet. Sizing Europe is the daddy of them all but the likes of Sizing Australia and Darwins Fox are further feathers in de Bromhead’s cap.

Finally, mention must go to Michael Hourigan. His attrition rate percentage is only average but he is brilliant in terms of getting runs into his horses, his average of 7.3 a full run per season better than anyone else. I won’t say his horses are always in form but at least they’re out there competing and it is notable that eight of his 16 horses rated 130 plus raced at least 30 times. There are some real heroes in there like Dancing Tornado and Church Island and of course A New Story who ran an amazing 110 times, often over staying trips, and was still racing at fifteen.

- Tony Keenan