Grand National 2018 Runner-by-Runner Guide

Thunder and Roses
Thunder And Roses has some solid form which would suggest that he would be suited to this race – he won the Irish Grand National in 2015. He unseated Mark Enright at a fairly early stage in this race last year, before going back to Fairyhouse and finishing 4th in the Irish National. Staying ability isn’t a great issue, but jumping is – he fell on both of his last two starts and has been out of sorts this season – even his 4th place finish in the Thyestes last January was a long way off his Irish National form.

Blaklion
Blaklion is undoubtedly a classy horse and was one of our selections last year when he finished fourth in this race carrying 9lb less than he is today. The hike in the weights is justified, with an impressive win in the Becher Chase last December showing his credentials for this. There is a debate over whether he failed to stay the trip last year or simply hit the front too soon, and whilst I would lean towards the latter, I can’t help but think that he has missed his chance off 9lb less. Expect him to put in a very good run today, but it’s hard to argue that he’s much of a value bet.

Anibale Fly
Tony Martin’s charge is probably the runner of most interest from those at the top of the weights or the top of the market. He ran a fantastic race to finish 3rd in the Gold Cup last time out and so is now officially 9lb well in, with the weights for this race having been released in February. Might Bite and Native River making the Gold Cup a real stamina test suited him and one would think that he should be seen to his best over this sort of trip.

The Last Samuri
This is his third time running in the race, having finished 2nd in 2016 and a more disappointing 16th last year. It’s hard to find an excuse for that run, but he chased Blaklion home in the Becher last December (having finished 3rd in that race the previous year). He definitely stays well and likes this unique test of jumping, and will be very much suited by the soft ground. He has been seen to good effect all season (including a decent 3rd in the Cross-Country at the Cheltenham Festival last time out) and he should put in a decent run again this year – although there is a sense that he may have left his chance of winning this behind back in 2016 when he carried a stone less than today.

Valseur Lido
Now 9 years old, the latter stage of Valseur Lido’s career hasn’t lived up to the early promise. He won the JNWine.come Champion Chase at Down Royal in November 2016 and then ran well to finish 4th in the Lexus a month later. He was then off the track for a full year due to injury and returned with a promising run in the race formerly known as the Lexus last Christmas. However, he didn’t come on from that run and has run poorly since, albeit over a shorter trip. This unique test could see him back to somewhere close to his best, but he runs off a mark of 158 and so is handicapped on the assumption that it will do so.

Total Recall
This has been the plan for Total Recall for quite a while and he has been in good form, winning at Leopardstown off a farcically low hurdles mark in February and running well before falling in the Gold Cup last time out. He would have a very good chance but has one major problem – he tends to run keenly and Paul Townend will have a very difficult job in trying to make him settle early on today. Whilst he would be a top contender if he does manage to settle, it’s too much of an “if” for him to be a bet around 12/1.

Alpha Des Obeaux
On his day, this is a very capable horse, but there are plenty of question marks – he ran poorly last time out and has had issues a few times in the last few years, having bled more than once. He’s a fairly unpredictable character, but there are a few patterns in his form which would suggest that this might not be ideal; all 5 wins have come in fields of 11 or less, all 5 wins came within 30 days of his last start (he hasn’t been seen for 69 days), all 5 wins came in January or earlier, and all 5 wins came at right-handed tracks.

Perfect Candidate
Now 11 years old, he showed that he has retained some ability when winning at Cheltenham last November. However, he has failed to impress on both subsequent starts and 154 looks like a fairly high mark considering his current form and his disappointing performance in this race last year when he carried just 2lb more than today.

Shantou Flyer
Shantou Flyer was pulled up in this race last year, having been fairly badly hampered. He has been in good form this season and certainly deserves a win, having finished 2nd on his last four starts. The last of these was in the Ultima at Cheltenham and he seems to have a chance here if he stays.

Tenor Nivernais
He simply looks to be very high in the weights based on recent form – he hasn’t shown any promise this season and it’s hard to see why this would bring out a better performance in him considering he didn’t challenge at all last year.

Carlingford Lough
Like a few of these contenders towards the top of the weights, Carlingford Lough has proven class, with his past victories including two Irish Gold Cups, a Punchestown Gold Cup, two grade 1 novice chases and a Galway Plate. He hasn’t really been at his best since that Punchestown Gold Cup win (and certainly not this season) and whilst his mark wouldn’t be insurmountable if he was to rediscover his best form, his jumping poses another question.

Delusionofgrandeur
The Grand National does tend to throw up some strange results and so it’s hard to discount anything. However, Delusionofgrandeur has an awful lot to find with a lot of these on past form (that’s not any poor reflection on the horse) and might prefer better ground. I also have suspicions that he may be more suited to a stiffer, more undulating track that Aintree, although that may not be of huge significance.

Tiger Roll
One of my favourite horses in training, Tiger Roll defied ground which wouldn’t have been ideal to record another Cheltenham Festival success in the Cross-Country last month. However, I’m not overly confident that he can back that up with another win today. I reckon he’s more suited by an undulating track like Cheltenham than he will be by Aintree, and I also think that he may not be at his very best following a tough run at Cheltenham. He tends to need a break (2 wins from 18 runs when back out within 30 days, 5 wins from 12 runs after a longer break. Even more impressive is his record after at least 60 days off – 3 wins and 3 places from 6 runs, including his three Cheltenham Festival wins). He ran at Cheltenham just 31 days ago in what was undoubtedly one of the toughest races of his career and probably his main target for the season. It’s also worth remembering that he was disappointing in the Irish National last year after winning at Cheltenham, after a similar break (34 days). Aside from these worries, jumping may be an issue – he’s physically a fairly small horse and may have some trouble with these Aintree fences.

Regal Encore
He put in a very good run last time out at Ascot and so comes into the race in better form than when running off the same mark last season. His eight-placed finish last year wasn’t overly impressive but he’s not an easy horse to disregard.

Vieux Lion Rouge
Vieux Lion Rouge has some form in the book which would suggest that he’s suited to the test – he won the Becher Chase in December 2016 and the Haydock Grand National Trial the following February, causing him to go into last year’s race at a price of 12/1. He only managed 6th, a slight improvement on the previous year’s 7th. He was probably undone by the stamina test both of the last two years, and it’s hard to see him coming out on top this year – he carries a higher weight than he did in either of the last two renewals which probably isn’t justified even if he ran a reasonably good race with blinkers on last time out.

Chase The Spud
Again, here we have a horse with form in the book that would suggest that he’s up for this, having won a Midlands National last year. He should stay and should enjoy the conditions but there haven’t been any real excuses for his last two starts (pulled up in both the Welsh National and the Eider). He’s very high in the handicap based on that form.

Warriors Tale
He has been running well of late, finishing a narrow 2nd in both of his last two starts. It’s possible that he’s not the type of horse that you want on your side in a battle approaching the line, and whilst there are major positives (his jumping has looked strong and Trevor Hemmings’ purchase has to be noted), I won’t end up backing a horse in this with such major question marks over staying ability and ability to see out a tough finish.

Seeyouatmidnight
He’s a very classy horse, having beaten some seriously good horses in the past. His jumping is also sublime and he was 3rd in the Scottish National in 2016, a key piece of form for this race. He’s the type of horse which would in theory be the perfect Grand National bet. However, only one start this season just a few weeks ago is hardly an ideal prep and I’ll have to be against him at 14/1 on that basis.

Gas Line Boy
The Becher is often seen as the most important piece of form for this race with experience over these fences a huge advantage. However, it’s worth remembering that Gas Line Boy won the Grand Sefton over these fences over just 2m 4f last December. He may be seen to better effect over a shorter trip, but did finish 5th in this race last year. This was a respectable placing considering he didn’t have a huge amount of luck in running. Robbie Dunne on board has to be a plus. He does carry 5lb more than last year which may be a big ask at the age of 12 but his 3rd to Buywise last time out was arguably as good as anything we’ve seen from him.

The Dutchman
The Dutchman landed the Peter Marsh at Haydock last January but was pulled up the following month back at Haydock in a gruelling Grand National Trial. It was later discovered that he had burst blood vessels on that occasion, but even with an excuse for that run, it’s hardly an ideal prep. I find him to be a tough horse to predict, particularly in terms of his jumping which seems to have good and bad days. The mud won’t be an issue but he’s not top of my list.

Pleasant Company
Pleasant Company seemed to be travelling very strongly in the race last season and looked a likely winner until fading in the last half mile. That could be excused, with a bad mistake at Valentines on the second circuit probably taking a lot out of him. He is a pound lower this year but widely available at 33/1 at the time of writing compared to 11/1 last year. However, there is a reason for this – he has run poorly on both starts this season, in the Paddy Power Chase and the Thyestes. It could be argued that he has been kept for the race or that a return to the course could revive him, but there are more attractive options in the field with less question marks.

Ucello Conti
A familiar name to those who have followed the race in the last couple of years, Ucello Conti finished 6th in 2016 and unseated at Bechers on the second circuit last year (he seemed to be travelling well at the time). He ran well in the Paddy Power Chase at Christmas (although soundly beaten by Anibale Fly) and then disappointed in the Thyestes at Gowran. It’s worth watching some of his race footage – like Warrior’s Tale, he doesn’t seem to be particularly strong in a tough finish and with that in mind he’s probably not one to back (although it would be no surprise to see him put in a good run without winning).

Saint Are
Saint Are is a true veteran of the race, having run in the last three renewals – he was 2nd in 2015, pulled up in 2016 and 3rd in 2017. He has been pulled up on both starts this season, but this has likely been the plan since the beginning. He carries the same weight as last year despite being a year older. Although Aintree might bring out the best in him once again, it’s a very tough ask to come and win a Grand National on his fourth attempt.

Walk In The Mill
Walk In The Mill looks like a progressive type and has the advantage of Sam Twiston-Davies. However, his run in the Peter Marsh on testing ground was poor and calls his stamina into question.

Raz De Maree
He is now 13 years old, but Raz De Maree put any doubts of that nature to bed when winning the Welsh National last time out. Having said that, he’s likely to be ridden patiently with a view to making his move late and I have my doubts over whether he’ll be able to keep up in the early stages of the race, which have been run at a ferocious pace in recent years. Tough conditions will help but I’ll have to oppose him.

I Just Know
This is a runner who should probably be respected based on his stable – Sue Smith certainly knows how to train a National winner, with Auroras Encore winning at a big price in 2016. He won the Yorkshire National well last January but has taken a 14lb hike in the weights as a result. His relentless running style, endless stamina and strong jumping make him an obvious National type. However, I’m inclined to think that his weight looks slightly high and his price looks slightly short, considering he would have to put in a real career best here. That said, I’m not overly keen to overlook him.

Virgilio
Virgilio showed definite class as a novice but has been disappointing this season. He hasn’t been seen since December and has subsequently had a wind operation, but realistically it would have to have a major effect if he’s to make an impact here.

Baie Des Iles
A significant market-mover during the week, Baie Des Iles is an obvious type – she’s a definite stayer and a good jumper. She comes into this off the back of finishing 3rd in the Punchestown Grand National Trial. The form from that race is rock-solid, with the top two finishers (Isleofhopendreams and Folsom Blue) both running massive races in the Irish National. She’s likely to be knocked on the basis of being a 7yo but this isn’t overly worrying as she’s very experienced from her time in France, having started running over fences at a much earlier age than most of these. She’s a definite contender, although how much value exists at her current price has to be questionable.

Maggio
Maggio put in a memorable display when he won the race before the National the year before last, having missed the cut for the National itself. Last year he didn’t make the race due to injury, so this has definitely been the target for a long time. He’s now 13 and it’s possible that he has missed his chance, but there have been some suggestions that he has still got his old ability. He’s not the worst 100/1 ever.

Pendra
Pendra is a good horse on his day but has had plenty of injuries and complications, and was slightly underwhelming in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham despite the fact that he usually runs very well first time out. He’s not the most attractive proposition in this field.

Buywise
The major concern here is jumping – Buywise is prone to putting in the occasional dodgy jump, and there are 30 tough fences to contend with here. He actually did make it around on his sole other start in the race back in 2016, but was well beaten in 12th. He’s likely to be ridden patiently and could simply be left with too much to do. An unpredictable type of horse, he may put in a good run but is hard to back.

Childrens List
Willie Mullins tends to set his own precedent when it comes to stats and trends, but this horse has only had 4 chase starts and 2 of these were in beginners’ chases. He was pulled up in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown last time out and probably didn’t stay that trip, so this will be a tough ask even if the ground isn’t quite as testing.

Lord Windermere
A past RSA and Gold Cup winner, it’s rare that Lord Windermere actually gets his day in the sun but when he does he can be fantastic. He actually put in a respectable run in this race last year, finishing 7th, but fell in the Becher on his sole start since then. Again, he may not jump badly, but there are 30 of these fences to contend with today and his fall in the Becher wasn’t his first error that day. He has serious class, but it may be worth looking elsewhere rather than backing him to record his first win since the 2013 Gold Cup.

Captain Redbeard
Captain Redbeard comes from a small operation so this would be a fantastic story if he was to win. However, there are a number of negatives – he’s not a definite stayer in my book, his run over these fences in the Grand Sefton was disappointing and jockey Sam Coltherd’s inexperience over these fences also has to be seen as a concern.

Houblon Des Obeaux
Although he carries 5lb less than he did last year, he will have to run a lot better in order to improve on his finishing position of 10th. The more testing conditions underfoot and sudden yard form may cause this improvement, however, and he proved that he’s still capable of running to a good level when winning at Sandown in November.

Bless The Wings
There’s a massive negative here in my book and that’s that only 12 days have passed since we saw this horse being pulled up in one of the most testing races in recent memory, the Irish National at Fairyhouse. This alone is enough to put me off him.

Milansbar
Milansbar’s prominent running style is suited to a Grand National and he has some good recent form in the book (2nd in the Midlands National). He should stay all day if he’s able to find his own rhythm up front (this may not be too easy in a race such as this one). There are a couple of question marks (will Bryony Frost take to the National on her first attempt, has he been aggressively campaigned with 4 runs since Christmas, all on testing ground and all over 3m 5f or further) but he’s definitely of interest.

Final Nudge
Unlike some of the horses who are well in because of the National weights being released so early, Final Nudge would actually carry 3lb less if the weights were calculated following his disappointing run in the Kim Muir. He’s a definite stayer, however, and may be of interest off what is still a low mark.

Double Ross
Double Ross put in a massive run to finish 4th in the Kim Muir last time out. He ran a decent race in this in 2016 until his saddle slipped. However, it would seem that Blaklion is much more fancied by the stable.

Road To Riches
Unfortunately, Road To Riches hasn’t been seen to his best for almost two years now, and he really doesn’t seem to be the force of old. It’s hard to see why that should change here.

Ryanair Gold Cup

It’s sometimes difficult to analyse a race at Fairyhouse based on previous renewals, as the make-up of the race can be quite different each year due to the fact that the date of the meeting varies a lot in comparison to other big meetings in the spring. The proximity of Fairyhouse’s Easter meeting to Cheltenham varies each year, and it can fall on either side of Aintree’s Grand National meeting. However, it tends to attract a few high-class Irish novice chasers, a couple of which have come from Cheltenham.

Cheltenham Last Time Out

This brings us to the first point – most years, horses run here having had their last run at the Cheltenham festival. Overall, their record has been fairly poor.

Year Horse Days Since Cheltenham Run Odds Finishing Position
2009 Golden Silver 33 days 11/2 7th
2010 Nicanor 17 days 16/1 Pulled up
2011 Noble Prince 38 days 13/8 Fell
Mikael Dhaguenet 39 days 3/1 4th
Loosen My Load 38 days 4/1 2nd
Realt Dubh 40 days 9/2 1st
2012 White Star Line 26 days 16/1 6th
Call The Police 25 days 6/1 4th
2014 Ballycasey 39 days 11/8 Fell
2015 Apache Stronghold 24 days 5/1 Fell
Valseur Lido 24 days 4/1 6th
Smashing 26 days 25/1 3rd
2016 Mckinley 12 days 14/1 4th
Outlander 10 days evens 2nd
2017 Baily Cloud 31 days 66/1 4th
Road To Respect 31 days 7/2 1st
Some Plan 33 days 20/1 6th
Yorkhill 31 days 4/7 2nd

 

According to Betfair SP, this table should include 3.4 winners and 7.2 total places. It actually contains 2 wins and 6 total places, so there’s just a small underperformance.

Last year, the success did come from Cheltenham runners. However, it had been over a month since the festival. If we narrow this down to years in which the race came within 30 days of the Cheltenham start, the table is shorter and shows less success:

Year Horse Days Since Cheltenham Run Odds Finishing Position
2010 Nicanor 17 days 16/1 Pulled up
2012 White Star Line 26 days 16/1 6th
Call The Police 25 days 6/1 4th
2015 Apache Stronghold 24 days 5/1 Fell
Valseur Lido 24 days 4/1 6th
Smashing 26 days 25/1 3rd
2016 Mckinley 12 days 14/1 4th
Outlander 10 days evens 2nd

 

If we look at these horses alone, they underperformed, but only marginally – the market would have expected 1 winner and there were none, while according the Betfair SP there should have been 3 places (there were 2).

Willie Mullins

Mullins has traditionally been the man to follow in Irish National Hunt racing at the end of the season, but this race has been an exception. In the last 10 years he has had 18 runners, with no winners and 5 places (this record doesn’t get any better if you go back further, with no winners and just 5 places from 26 runners this century).

In those last 10 races, he has failed to train a winner despite his runners accounting for 27% of the total field. On that basis, they’ve underperformed just marginally in terms of making the frame, filling 24% of the total places from 27% of the total field.

However, if we look at the horses behind these numbers we see that this underperformance is more significant than it may seem at first. Mullins trained the favourites in 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 at 4/7, evens, 5/4 and 11/8 respectively. They finished 2nd, 2nd, 4th and fell. Whilst it seems clear that Mullins horses underperform, it’s possible that they’re also overestimated by the market – the market certainly doesn’t seem to factor in this poor record. Based on Betfair starting prices, Mullins would have been expected to train 3.7 of the last 10 winners (actual number is 0) and 8.3 horses to make the frame (actual number 5).

2018 Renewal

Footpad was due to represent Willie Mullins here, and may have been a favourite worth taking on with these two angles in mind. However, it is interesting to see that the majority of the field are either trained by Mullins (only he and Elliott are represented in the race) or ran at Cheltenham:

  1. Al Boum Photo – Willie Mullins, ran at Cheltenham
  2. Invitation Only – Willie Mullins, ran at Cheltenham
  3. Montalbano – Willie Mullins
  4. Saturnas – Willie Mullins
  5. The Storyteller – ran at Cheltenham
  6. Tombstone
  7. Tycoon Prince – ran at Cheltenham
  8. Up For Review – Willie Mullins
  9. Shattered Love – ran at Cheltenham

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Cheltenham – Half-Way Observations

We’re half-way through the greatest four days of jumps racing on earth, and while there is never really time to sit back and reflect while the festival in ongoing, it might be worth making a few observations:

Irish Raiders Rule The Roost

This goes without saying – while we’re used to a few Irish bankers coming in on day one, their domination on Wednesday was incredible. Mullins has picked up 5 winners from 31 runners and has had another 5 runners make the frame. This is an over performance according the the market – his horses would have been expected (based on starting prices in the win and place markets on the exchanges) to win 3 times and place a further 6 times. It’s hard to believe, but Mullins runners could still be underestimated in the market this week.

Gordon Elliott has run less horses so far but has been similarly successful – 3 wins and 4 places from 17 runners. Again, this has been an over performance – his horses would have been expected to win twice (243% implied probability) and place another 4 times (572% implied probability). Odds-on favourite Apples Jade’s loss would have put a dent in these figures, so the performance of Elliott’s horses is most definitely worth noting.

While the Irish have been running Cheltenham, Nicky Henderson has won with both of his stable superstars so far, with Buveur D’Air and Altior getting the job done. He has had 16 runners, 2 winners and a further 5 places. This has actually been the most significant over performance of the 3 in therms of places – he would have been expected to have 2 winners (162%) and another 2 places (412%). He may not be firing in the same high-profile fashion as Ireland’s top two, but his horses are most definitely in top form.

Ruby Walsh

What can I say here – it’s absolutely sickening to see Ruby injured again. He had been riding fantastically, with two winners on the first day, and seemed to be back to his best.

His rides will essentially be taken over by Paul Townend for the remainder of the week. Townend is a very talented rider in his own right and this should be of no great concern, particularly in hurdles contests. However, in chases at Cheltenham he doesn’t have the strongest record ever. Townend has won just once and placed another 4 times from 43 rides over fences at the track. He obviously hasn’t ridden the same caliber of horse over fences at the track as Ruby has, but the odds would suggest that Townend should have done slightly better, with implied probability of 2 winners and a further 7 places.

This isn’t a definite negative, and Townend gave Min a good ride yesterday to finish 2nd, but if Invitation Only and Un De Sceaux were to be beaten today, the figures may look slightly more worrying.

Our Tipping Partner

As usual, if you’re looking for tips throughout the festival, A Racing First is highly recommended. Their results are on their website, and so far this festival include some very solid places at big prices such as Mengli Khan (advised each-way at 14/1), Rather Be (advised each-way at 12/1), Monalee (advised at 16/1), Topofthegame (advised at 20/1) and Min (advised at 20/1), as well as a couple of winners. Their members will be confident and in profit going into the last two days at the festival, and I would advise anybody to take a look at their website to find out more.

Stayers Hurdle Profiles

Bacardys

  • Overall Record: 11 runs – 5 wins – 3 places
  • Cheltenham record: 2-0-1
    • 3rd in the Champion Bumper in 2016
    • Pulled up in the Neptune Novices Hurdle in 207
  • It’s hard to see a preference in terms of ground, with wins varying from good to yielding (2-1-1) to heavy (1-1-0).
  • The furthest he has won over is 2m 4f (1-1-0). 1-0-0 over 2m 5f and hasn’t run over further.
  • Patrick Mullins has the best record on him (5-4-1). Ruby Walsh is 3-1-1 and Paul Townend is 3-0-1.
  • He seems to prefer smaller fields – 6-4-1 in fields of 11 or less, 5-1-2 in larger fields.
  • He needs a relatively recent run – 7-4-1 when back out within 60 days of his last start, 3-0-2 after a longer break. He did win on his debut, however.
  • It’s hard to tell whether there is a particular preference in terms of the time of year – he’s just 2-0-1 in November but 3-2-0 in December and 1-1-0 in February. This drops to 2-0-1 in March but picks up to 3-2-1 in April.
  • He may prefer flatter tracks – 6-4-0 on flat tracks, 5-1-3 on more undulating tracks.
  • Summary: Ground not an issue. Not a proven stayer. Likes small fields. Needs a run within the last 60 days. May prefer flatter tracks.

Diakali

  • Overall Record: 13 runs – 6 wins – 2 places
  • Cheltenham record: 2-0-1
    • 4th in the Triumph Hurdle in 2013
    • 4th in the grade 3 2m 1f County Hurdle in 2014
  • Soft ground is the preference – 7-2-1 on good to soft or better, 6-4-1 on yielding to soft or worse, including 4-3-0 on heavy.
  • There’s no reason to think that this would be his trip – 8-6-1 over 2m, 5-0-1 over further.
  • Ruby Walsh has a strong record on him (5-4-0), as does Paul Townend (5-2-1). Danny Mullins placed once (1-0-1), while A P McCoy and David Casey are 1-0-0 each.
  • He may prefer smaller fields (10-6-1 in fields of 7 or less, 3-0-1 in fields of 8 or more).
  • He hasn’t run well when back out very quickly (4-0-1 when back out within 30 days). 8-5-1 after a break of at least 30 days, and he also won on his debut.
  • He seems to begin the season well (this makes sense considering the last stat) with a record of 2-2-0 in November. 3-1-1 from December to February and just 3-0-1 in March, but this picks up to 3-2-0 in April.
  • He seems to prefer right-handed tracks (6-4-0 compared to 7-2-2 going left-handed).
  • He runs well at undulating tracks – 6-2-1 at flatter tracks and those with just slight undulations, compared to 7-4-1 at more undulating tracks.
  • Summary: Soft ground is better. Not a proven stayer. Small fields. At least 30 days off. First half of season. Right-handed, undulating track.

Knight Of Noir

  • Overall Record: 20 runs – 5 wins – 5 places
  • Cheltenham record: 3-0-2
    • 2nd in a class 3 2m 5f handicap hurdle in November 2014
    • 2nd in a class 2 3m handicap hurdle in January 2015
    • 9th in the listed 3m Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle at the 2015 festival
  • It’s difficult to find a preference in terms of ground – 13-3-4 on good to soft or better, 7-2-1 on soft or worse. He has won on ground ranging from good to heavy.
  • The records worth noting are Noel Fehily (5-2-1), A P McCoy (1-1-0) and Tom Scudamore (7-1-3). Nick Scholfield is 4-1-0, Paul Townend 1-0-0 and J A Best 2-0-1.
  • He hasn’t run at this level – 1-0-0 in grade 3 races. His highest win was actually in a class 3, and his record at class 2 or higher is 5-0-1.
  • He has a poor record both when back out within 30 days of his last start (5-0-1) and after a long layoff (3-0-1 after over 120 days off). However, after a break of between 30 and 60 days (he has never run after a break of between 60 and 120 days) his record reads 11-5-2.
  • Place records would suggest that he’s seen to his best at a left-handed track (11-3-4 compared to 9-2-1 going right-handed).
  • Summary: Any ground is fine. 30-60 days off. Unproven at this level.

Lami Serge

  • Overall Record: 19 runs – 6 wins – 7 places
  • Cheltenham record: 4-0-3
    • 4th in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2015
    • 3rd in the JLT Novices Chase in 2016
    • 2nd in the grade 2 2m 4½f Relkeel Hurdle in January 2017
    • 2nd in the grade 3 2m 1f County Hurdle at the 2017 festival.
  • Soft ground is a big plus – 10-5-2 on soft or heavy compared to 9-1-5 on good to soft or better. He has won on good, though (3-1-2) so he’s hardly majorly inconvenienced by a sounder surface.
  • Barry Geraghty has a particularly strong record (4-3-0), while the others are Nico De Boinville (3-1-2), Daryl Jacob (11-2-4) and Davy Russell (1-0-1).
  • He may prefer smaller fields (15-6-5 in fields of 11 or less, 4-0-2 in fields of 12 or more).
  • Very strong record when back out quickly (3-3-0 when back out within 15 days of his last start). 15-2-7 after a longer break. He has won after a break of 299 days, and also won on his debut, so going fresh isn’t a major concern either.
  • His record is strongest from November to January (combined record of 11-5-4). This drops to 2-0-0 in February, 3-0-2 in March and a slightly better 3-1-1 in April.
  • He could prefer right-handed tracks (6-3-2 compared to 13-3-5 going left-handed).
  • Summary: Soft ground and a very recent run are both major pluses, but not vital. November to January.

Lieutenant Colonel

  • Overall Record: 24 runs – 6 wins – 3 places
  • Cheltenham record: 3-0-0
    • 6th in the Neptune Novices Hurdle in 2014
    • 10th in the Stayers Hurdle in 2015
    • Pulled up in the Stayers Hurdle in 2016
  • He seems to like some sort of a cut in the ground (just 10-0-2 on good to yielding or better, 14-6-1 on yielding or worse). However, he is just 3-0-1 on heavy ground.
  • The best records are Bryan Cooper (10-4-2), J J King (1-1-0) and B T O’Connell (2-1-0). Less impressive records are those of Davy Russell (3-0-1), David Mullins (3-0-0) and Jack Kennedy (5-0-0).
  • Although he has been unplaced on both starts when back out within 2 weeks of his last start (2-0-0), his overall record when back out within 30 days is still decent (10-4-1). After a longer break he’s 12-1-2.
  • His best record is in the first half of the season – 12-5-2 from October to January, 3-0-1 in February, 3-0-0 in March, 5-1-0 in April and 1-0-0 in May.
  • His wins have generally come at right-handed tracks (16-5-1 compared to 8-1-2 going left-handed) but these are similar place records.
  • Summary: some sort of cut in the ground. Back out within 30 days. October to January. Right-handed tracks.

Lil Rockerfeller

  • Overall Record: 29 starts – 7 wins – 10 places (6 of these starts, 2 of the wins and 1 place were on the flat, so I’m going to focus on his National Hunt record of 23 starts, 5 wins and 9 places).
  • Cheltenham record: 5-0-3
    • 3rd in a class 2 2m½f hurdle in October 2015
    • 2nd in the grade 2 2m 4½f Relkeel Hurdle in January 2016
    • 7th in the Champion Hurdle in 2016
    • 4th in the grade 2 2m 4½f Relkeel Hurdle in January 2017
    • 2nd in the Stayers Hurdle in 2017
  • He probably prefers better ground – 15-4-6 on ground with “good” in the going description, 8-1-2 on anything softer.
  • Trevor Whelan usually rides (19-4-8), while Sean Bowen is the only other jockey to have won on him (1-1-0). Noel Fehily is 1-0-1, while Richard Johnson and Harry Skelton are 1-0-0 each.
  • It’s hard to see very many patterns in his form based on the other variables which we would usually check.
  • Summary: Ground with good in the going description.

Old Guard

  • Overall Record: 28 starts – 9 wins – 5 places (3 runs, 1 win and 2 places were on the flat so I’m focusing on the National Hunt record – 25 runs, 8 wins, 3 places).
  • Cheltenham record: 10-3-1
    • 9th in the Triumph Hurdle in 2015
    • Won a class 3 2m½f handicap hurdle in October 2015
    • Won the grade 3 2m½f Greatwood Handicap Hurdle in November 2015
    • Won the grade 2 2m 1f International Hurdle in December 2015
    • 3rd in the grade 2 2m 1f International Hurdle in December 2016
    • 7th in the grade 2 3m½f Cleeve Hurdle in January 2017
    • 7th in the 2m 5f grade 3 Coral Cup at the 2017 festival
    • 3rd in the grade 3 2m½f Greatwood Handicap Hurdle in November 2017
    • 5th in the grade 2 2m 1f International Hurdle in December 2017
    • 4th in the grade 2 2m 5f Relkeel Hurdle in January 2018
  • He’s 3-0-0 on heavy, but other than that it’s hard to see any strong preference. He can certainly cope with soft (8-2-2) as well as good ground (6-3-0). 8-3-1 on good to soft.
  • Harry Cobden’s 8-4-0 is an impressive record. Bryony Frost is 4-1-1, Nick Scholfield 3-1-0 and Sam Twiston-Davies 10-2-2.
  • He has tended to come up short at this level (4-0-0 in grade one races, 7-2-0 in grade 2 races).
  • He begins the season well (9-5-1 in October/November). This begins to drop (6-2-0 in December, 5-1-0 in January/February, 5-0-1 in March/April).
  • Summary: Possibly doesn’t like heavy ground. Has come up short at this level. First half of the season.

Penhill

  • Overall Record: 27 runs – 11 wins – 3 places (The majority of this form is on the flat, but I’m going to take it into account as his record of 9 runs, 6 wins and 1 place over jumps will be difficult to find patterns in).
  • Cheltenham record: 1-1-0
    • Won the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in 2017
  • It’s hard to see a preference in terms of ground – 13-4-2 on good (mostly on the flat), 4-3-0 on soft or worse.
  • Just including National Hunt jockeys, Ruby Walsh is 6-3-1 on him and Paul Townend is an impressive 3-3-0.
  • He has finished outside the places on all starts in large fields of 16 runners or more (4-0-0). 23-11-3 in fields of 15 or less, including a particularly impressive 8-6-1 in fields of 7 or less.
  • He has a very strong record when back out quickly – 5-4-0 when back out within 15 days of his last start. However, he has also won after a long break (3-2-0 after over 120 days off the track).
  • He seems to love undulating tracks such as Cheltenham – 7-5-1 at undulating tracks, 20-6-1 on flatter surfaces and those with just slight undulations.
  • Summary: Fields of 15 or less – 7 or less is ideal. Back out quickly or long lay-off. Undulating tracks.

Sam Spinner

  • Overall Record: 9 runs – 6 wins – 3 places
  • He has never run at Cheltenham.
  • He has shown versatility in terms of ground, having won on heavy (1-1-0), soft (3-2-1) and good to soft (5-3-2).
  • J Colliver’s record on him (6-4-2) is almost identical to that of Brian Harding (3-2-1).
  • He may have a preference for smaller fields, with a rock-solid record of 6-5-1 in fields of 11 or less (form of 121111) compared to 3-1-1 in fields of 12 or more (form of 221).
  • One of his defeats came in April (1-0-1) and one came in October (1-0-1). His record between November and February reads 7-6-1.
  • Summary: Smaller fields may be a positive but it’s really hard to knock him on anything.

Supasundae

  • Overall Record: 17 runs – 6 wins – 4 places
  • Cheltenham record: 6th in the Champion Bumper in 2015
    • 7th in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2016
    • Won the 2m 5f grade 3 Coral Cup in 2017
  • Soft ground seems to be a plus – 8-4-3 on yielding to soft or worse, 8-2-1on yielding or better. However, 3-1-1 on good suggests that no ground should be of any real worry.
  • The records of Robbie Power (8-3-2), Andrew Tinkler (1-1-0), Barry Geraghty (1-1-0) and J J Burke (4-1-1) are worth noting. Danny Mullins is 1-0-1, while Jamie Codd and Noel Fehily are 1-0-0 each.
  • He seems to run better when back out relatively quickly (10-4-3 when back out within 60 days of his last start compared to 6-1-1 after a longer break). He did win on his debut, however.
  • Summary: Back out within 60 days.

The New One

  • Overall Record: 36 runs – 20 wins – 7 places
  • Cheltenham record: 14-6-3
    • Won a 1m 6½f listed bumper in January 2012
    • 6th in the Champion Bumper in 2012
    • Won a class 2 2m 5f novices hurdle in October 2012
    • 2nd in a grade 2 2m 4½f novices hurdle in January 2013
    • Won the Neptune Novices Hurdle in 2013
    • Won the grade 2 2m 1f International Hurdle in December 2013
    • 3rd in the Champion Hurdle in 2014
    • Won the grade 2 2m 1f International Hurdle in December 2014
    • 5th in the Champion Hurdle in 2015
    • 4th in the Champion Hurdle in 2016
    • Won the grade 2 2m 1f International Hurdle in December 2016
    • 5th in the Champion Hurdle in 2017
    • 4th in the grade 3 2m½f Greatwood Handicap Hurdle in November 2017
    • 2nd in the grade 2 2m 1f International Hurdle in December 2017
  • Completely versatile in terms of ground, from 10-5-2 on good to 4-3-1 on heavy.
  • Sam Twiston-Davies usually rides, and has a record of 32-18-6 on him. Z Baker is 1-1-0, Noel Fehily is 1-0-1 and Richard Johnson is 2-1-0.
  • His record after a lay-off is worth noting – 6-6-0 after over 120 days off the track. He also won on his debut.
  • He starts the season particularly well (9-8-0 in October/November). This drops to 8-3-4 in December but he’s a very strong 7-6-1 in January. This drops again in March (6-1-1) and April (6-2-1).
  • Summary: Long lay-off beneficial. Start of the season.

The Worlds End

  • Overall Record: 10 runs – 5 wins – 1 place
  • Cheltenham record: 2-0-0
    • Fell in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in 2017
    • 4th in the grade 2 3m½f Cleeve Hurdle in January 2018
  • He’s 2-0-0 on heavy ground but 3-2-1 on soft and 5-3-0 on good to soft or better.
  • Paddy Brennan and Wayne Hutchinson are both 1-1-0, while Adrian Heskin has rode him on all of his other starts (8-3-1).
  • It’s hard to see any real trends based on the other variables which we’d normally check.
  • Summary: Might not like heavy ground.

Unowhatimeanharry

  • Overall Record: 26 runs – 11 wins – 10 places
  • Cheltenham record: 5-4-1
    • Won a class 3 2m 5f handicap hurdle in November 2015
    • Won a grade 2 3m novices hurdle in December 2015
    • Won the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in March 2016
    • Won the grade 2 3m½f Cleeve Hurdle in January 2017
    • 3rd in the Stayers Hurdle in 2017
  • 14-7-5 on soft or worse is slightly better than 12-5-4 on good to soft or better. However, if we exclude his record on heavy and look at just his record on soft, it reads 8-6-2. It’s possible that he likes a cut in the ground but doesn’t necessarily like very testing conditions. Having said that, he has won on ground ranging from good (5-1-3) to heavy (6-1-3).
  • The strongest records are those of Noel Fehily (6-5-1), Barry Geraghty (6-4-2) and Liam McKenna (1-1-0). The others are Chris Davies (3-1-1), Paul Moloney (7-0-4) and C V Ring (3-0-2).
  • His record since moving to the yard of Harry Fry is extremely consistent (13-10-3).
  • He may be better after a break (8-4-3 after at least 60 days off compared to 17-6-7 when back out within 60 days of his last start). He also won on his debut.
  • Summary: Soft ground ideal (just soft, not heavy). 60 or more days off ideal.

Wholestone

  • Overall Record: 14 runs – 6 wins – 6 places
  • Cheltenham record: 7-4-3
    • Won a class 3 3m novices hurdle in October 2016
    • 2nd in a grade 2 2m 5½f novices hurdle in November 2016
    • Won a grade 2 3m½f novices hurdle in December 2016
    • Won a grade 2 2m 4½f novices hurdle in January 2017
    • 3rd in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in 2017
    • Won the grade 2 2m 5f Relkeel Hurdle in January 2018
    • 2nd in the grade 2 3m½f Cleeve Hurdle in January 2018
  • His record on good ground is very strong (5-3-2). 9-3-4 on softer, though, including 2-1-1 on heavy, so no ground should be a major issue.
  • Daryl Jacob normally rides (13-5-6). Sam Twiston-Davies is 1-1-0.
  • All of his wins have come in smaller fields (11-6-3). 3-0-3 in fields of 12 or more.
  • Summary: 11 runners or less is a plus.

Yanworth

  • Overall Record: 18 runs – 12 wins – 3 places
  • Cheltenham record: 5-2-1
    • 4th in the Champion Bumper in 2015
    • Won a grade 2 novices hurdle over 2m 4½f in January 2016
    • 2nd in the Neptune Novices Hurdle in 2016
    • 7th in the Champion Hurdle in 2017
    • Won a grade 2 2m 5f novices chase in January
  • He has an extremely strong record on softer ground (7-6-1 on soft or heavy compared to 11-6-2 on good to soft or better).
  • Barry Geraghty has a fantastic record on him (13-10-2). AP McCoy (3-1-1) and Gerard Tumelty (1-1-0) have also won on him, while Mark Walsh (1-0-0) hasn’t been as lucky.
  • He’s probably better after a break – 4-4-0 after over 120 days off the track (he also won on his debut when fresh). His record after between 30 and 90 days off is similarly strong (6-4-1) but the majority of his defeats have come when back out within 30 days of his last start (7-3-2).
  • March is probably his worst month (3-0-1, all at the Cheltenham festival). This picks up in April (1-1-0) and May (1-1-0). He begins the season well (combined record of 6-5-0 in October and November). He has lost twice in December (4-2-2) but has a strong record in January and February (combined record of 3-3-0).
  • He may have a preference for right-handed tracks, although not a major one (9-7-1 compared to 9-5-2 going left-handed).
  • He probably likes flatter tracks (2-2-0 on flat tracks and 8-6-2 on tracks with slight undulations compared to 8-4-1 on more undulating tracks).
  • Summary: Soft ground is ideal. At least 30 days off, 120 days ideal. Might like right-handed tracks, flat tracks.

Augusta Kate

  • Overall Record: 13 runs – 5 wins – 2 places
  • Cheltenham record: 2-0-0
    • 7th in the Champion Bumper in 2016
    • 6th in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in 2017
  • She’s 2-0-0 on proper good ground but 3-2-0 on good to yielding. 8-3-2 on yielding or worse.
  • Patrick Mullins has the strongest record (3-3-0). David Mullins is 3-1-1, Ruby Walsh is 4-1-1, Paul Townend is 2-0-0 and Danny Mullins is 1-0-0.
  • Her record is stronger in larger fields (7-4-1 in fields of 8 or more, 6-1-1 in fields of 7 or less).
  • She seems to begin the season well (3-3-0 from September to November) and finish it well (4-2-1 in April) but she’s just 6-0-1 from January to March, including 2-0-0 in March itself.
  • Summary: Might not like real good ground. At least 8 runners. First half of the season.

Colins Sister

  • Overall Record: 14 runs – 5 wins – 3 places
  • Cheltenham record: 4-0-2
    • 4th in a class 3 2m½f bumper in October 2015
    • 5th in a listed 2m½f bumper in November 2015
    • 3rd in the grade 2 2m 5f Relkeel Hurdle in January 2018
    • 3rd in the grade 2 3m½f Cleeve Hurdle in January 2018
  • Her best record is on soft ground (6-4-1). 3-0-2 on heavy isn’t bad, making her overall record on soft or worse 7-4-2. In comparison, she’s just 5-1-0 on good to soft or better.
  • Paddy Brennan is usually on board (10-5-2). C P Shoemark is the only other jockey to have rode her, with a record of 4-0-1.
  • 3 of her wins have come in fields of 7 runners or less (5-3-0). She’s 9-2-3 in bigger fields.
  • 4-0-1 when back out within 30 days of her last start so this is probably a negative. 9-5-2 after a longer break.
  • She hasn’t tended to be as effective at the end of the season (3-0-1 from March to May). 5-3-0 in October/November, 6-2-2 from December to February.
  • 4 of her wins have come at left-handed tracks (10-4-2, compared to 4-1-1 going right-handed).
  • Summary: Soft ground or worse. At least 30 days off. End of season not ideal.

Jers Girl

  • Overall Record: 15 runs – 5 wins – 4 places (3 runs, 1 win and 1 place were on the flat, so I’m going to focus on her 12 runs, 4 wins and 3 places in National Hunt races).
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
    • Fell in the Mares Hurdle at the 2017 festival
  • It’s hard to see a strong preference in terms of ground. She has won on yielding (3-2-0) but is 2-0-1 on good to soft and 1-0-0 on good to yielding. Her record on soft or worse is strong (9-3-3).
  • A number of jockeys have rode her in the past. Richard Johnson, J A Heffernan and G N Fox are all 1-1-0. Robbie Power and R P Cleary are both 2-0-1, Mark Walsh in 1-0-0 and Barry Geraghty is 7-2-2.
  • She hasn’t been successful in very small fields – 5-0-2 in fields of 7 or less. 10-5-2 in fields of 8 or more.
  • She has a preference for right-handed tracks (7-4-3 compared to 8-1-1 going left-handed).
  • Summary: At least 8 runners. Right-handed track.

La Bague Au Roi

  • Overall Record: 13 runs – 10 wins – 0 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
    • 7th in the Mares Novices Hurdle at the 2017 festival
  • Her defeats have come on good (6-4-0) and on soft (3-2-0) so it’s hard to see where the preference lies. 4-4-0 on good to soft ground.
  • All 3 defeats have come with Gavin Sheehan on board (6-3-0). Richard Johnson is 3-3-0, H A A Bannister is 3-3-0 and Noel Fehily is 1-1-0.
  • All 3 defeats have come in grade one (1-0-0) and grade two (3-1-0) races. 4-4-0 in listed races and 5-5-0 in class 4 or lower.
  • She’s 9-9-0 in fields of 11 or less, and just 4-1-0 in fields of 12 or more.
  • 2 of her 3 defeats came after a break – she’s 5-3-0 after over 90 days off the track, compared to 7-6-0 after a shorter break.
  • Her defeats have all come in the spring – 8-8-0 from October to January, but just 5-2-0 in March and April.
  • All 3 defeats have come at left-handed tracks (9-6-0, she’s 4-4-0 going right-handed).
  • Summary: Hard to tell if these are real negatives or not, but possible negatives would be: Gavin Sheehan, grade one/two, 12 or more runners, over 90 days off, spring, left-handed.

Lets Dance

  • Overall Record: 14 runs – 6 wins – 4 places
  • Cheltenham record: 2-1-0
    • 4th in the Triumph Hurdle in 2016
    • Won the Mares Novices Hurdle at the 2017 festival
  • Her wins were on ground ranging from good (3-2-0) to soft (2-2-0). 5-2-2 on anything between those two, and 4-0-2 on ground worse than soft.
  • Ruby Walsh has rode her more than any other jockey (10-4-4-). Danny Mullins is 1-1-0 and Paul Townend is 3-1-0.
  • She has come up short in grade one races (5-0-3) but is 3-2-0 in grade two contests and 2-2-0 in grade three races.
  • She seems to prefer left-handed tracks (7-4-2 compared to 7-2-2 going right-handed).
  • Summary: Probably doesn’t want it worse than soft. Has come up short in grade one company. Left-handed.

 

Champion Chase Profiles

Altior

  • Overall Record: 15 runs – 13 wins – 1 place
  • Cheltenham record: 3-3-0
    • Won a grade 2 2m½f Supreme Novices Hurdle Trial in November 2015
    • Won the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2016
    • Won the Arkle in 2017
  • He has proven himself to be effective on any going description, from 5-5-0 on good, to 4-3-1 on soft.
  • Nico De Boinville has a perfect record on him (10-10-0), as does Noel Fehily (3-3-0). Barry Geraghty (1-0-1) and Katie Harrington (1-0-0) were beaten on him in his bumper days.
  • He is unbeaten in fields of 7 or less (8-8-0).
  • He’s unbeaten when back out within 60 days of his last start (8-8-0).
  • Really, the main thing to take from this profile is that he is proven at the track, versatile in terms of ground, and unbeaten in his last 12 starts, including 5-5-0 over hurdles and 7-7-0 over fences.

Charbel

  • Overall Record: 15 runs – 5 wins – 2 places
  • Cheltenham record: 2-0-0
    • 5th in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2016
    • Fell in the Arkle Chase in 2017
  • Seems to prefer softer ground – 5-3-1 on soft or worse, compared to 10-2-1 on good to soft or better.
  • Patrick Mullins has a 100% record on him (2-2-0), while D R Bass has also done well on him (11-3-2). The only other jockeys to have rode him are Noel Fehily (1-0-0) and K E Power (1-0-0).
  • He has tended to come up short in grade 1’s (7-0-0). 2-0-1 in grade 2’s and 1-1-0 in listed races.
  • His record isn’t particularly strong in small fields (8-2-1 in fields of 7 or less). However, he has finished outside the places on both starts in fields of 12 or more (2-0-0). 5-3-1 in fields of between 8 and 11 runners.
  • He seems to run well fresh – 3-2-0 after over 120 days off the track, and he also won on his first start of his career. 11-2-2 after a shorter break.
  • He starts the season well (2-2-0 in October). This makes sense considering his strong record after a long break. It does drop to 5-0-2 in November/December but his record in February is strong (2-2-0). 3-1-0 in March and 3-0-0 in April.
  • A slight preference for left-handed tracks is possible (7-3-1 with form of 11251F3 compared to 8-2-1 with form of 14215244 going right-handed).
  • He has a strong record on flat tracks (4-3-0). 6-1-2 on tracks with slight undulations and 5-1-0 on more undulating tracks.

Douvan

  • Overall Record: 14 runs – 13 wins – 0 places
  • Cheltenham record: 3-2-0
    • Won the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2015
    • Won the Arkle Chase in 2016
    • 7th in the Champion Chase in 2017
  • He has won two grade ones at the festival. However, it could be suggested that Douvan doesn’t run as well here as elsewhere. If we look at his novice hurdling season, Douvan beat Sizing John by 12 lengths at Gowran before beating him by just 7 lengths in the Supreme, then by just over 7 lengths at Punchestown. In his novice chasing season, he beat Sizing John by 18 lengths at Leopardstown, then by 7 lengths in the Arkle, then by 22 lengths at Punchestown. If we use Sizing John as a yardstick, we see him getting closer than ever to Douvan on the two occasions that they ran at Cheltenham. Of course, Sizing John’s subsequent Gold Cup win suggests that the reason for this could just be that he runs very well at Cheltenham.
  • He is proven on all types of ground, from good to soft (4-3-0) to heavy (2-2-0).
  • 3 jockeys have taken the reins – Patrick Mullins (1-1-0), Paul Townend (3-3-0) and Ruby Walsh (10-9-0).
  • There is no real point in going through his whole profile as he has won on almost all of his starts.

Gods Own

  • Overall Record: 31 runs – 7 wins – 8 places
  • Cheltenham record: 4-0-1
    • 14th in a class 3 2m 5f handicap hurdle in November 2013
    • 2nd in the Arkle in 2015
    • 4th in the Champion Chase in 2016
    • 5th in the Champion Chase in 2017
  • It could be the case that moderate ground is key – 15-5-4 on good to yielding and good to soft. 8-1-2 on soft ground and 8-1-2 on good ground, so something in the middle may be best.
  • Paddy Brennan has rode him on the majority of his starts (22-6-5). Adrian Heskin has been less successful on his 7 rides (7-0-2), while Barry Geraghty (1-1-0) and Aodhaghan Conlon (1-0-0) each rode him once.
  • He is a proven grade one horse with 3 wins at this level (12-3-3).
  • Win records may suggest a slight preference for smaller fields (25-6-6 in fields of 11 or less, 6-1-2 in fields of 12 or more). However, win/place strike rates are almost identical.
  • Winless when back out within 2 weeks of his last start (3-0-0). Howver, being back out relatively quickly seems to be a plus – 20-5-7 when back out within 90 days of his last start compared to 7-1-1 after a longer break.
  • Despite good records in November (7-3-1) and February (3-1-1), his overall record from October to March (24-4-6) isn’t as strong as at the end of the season (7-3-2 in April/May). 4-0-1 in March.
  • He probably runs better at right-handed tracks (18-5-4 compared to 13-2-4 going left-handed).
  • His record at very undulating tracks such as Cheltenham isn’t great (7-1-1) compared to flat tracks and those with less extreme undulations (24-6-7).

Min

  • Overall Record: 8 runs – 6 wins – 2 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-1
    • 2nd in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2016
  • He has actually been beaten twice on better ground (3-1-2 on good to soft or yielding). 5-5-0 on yielding to soft or worse, including 2-2-0 on heavy. I’m not sure that better ground is actually an inconvenience, but he clearly handles difficult conditions.
  • Ruby Walsh usually rides (5-4-1). Paul Townend (2-1-1) and David Mullins (1-1-0) have also been on board in the past.
  • Both of his losses were in grade one contests (3-1-2). 2-2-0 in grade two races.
  • Both losses came at left-handed tracks (5-3-2). 3-3-0 going right-handed.
  • It’s dangerous to go through as horse’s form and find reasons for losses when there are only two of them – in this case, he ran a very good race in the Supreme to finish 2nd behind Altior, who went on to prove himself to be a fantastic horse. He was also beaten at Leopardstown over Christmas despite passing the post first – this could be down to the bounce factor or race tactics, but he certainly wasn’t himself that day.

Politologue

  • Overall Record: 14 starts – 7 wins – 1 place
  • Cheltenham Record: 3-0-0
    Unseated in a 2m 1f class 3 novices hurdle here in December 2015
    20th in the Coral Cup in 2016
    4th in the JLT in 2017
  • Wants some sort of cut in the ground – 3-0-0 on good ground, 3-3-0 on good to soft and 8-4-1 on worse.
  • Sam Twiston-Davies normally rides (12-5-1) but Harry Cobden has been on board twice (2-2-0).
  • Probably prefers a smaller field (10-6-1 in fields of 7 or less, 4-1-0 in fields of 8 or more).
  • Starts the season well (2-2-0 November, 5-3-0 December, 1-0-1 January, 3-2-0 February) before this drops (3-0-0 in March and April).
  • Strong preference for right-handed tracks (6-6-0 compared to 8-1-1 going left-handed).
  • Possible preference for flat tracks (5-3-1 compared to 9-4-0 on tracks with more undulations).

Special Tiara

  • Overall Record: 32 runs – 7 wins – 9 places
  • Cheltenham record: 8-1-3
    • 3rd in the listed 2m Shloer Chase in November 2013
    • 6th in the Champion Chase in 2014
    • 3rd in the Champion Chase in 2015
    • 3rd in the Champion Chase in 2016
    • 3rd in the grade 2 2m Shloer Chase in November 2016
    • 5th in the grade 1 2m½f Clarence House Chase in January 2017
    • Won the Champion Chase in 2017
    • 3rd in the grade 2 2m Shloer Chase in November 2017
  • He probably prefers decent ground (18-5-5 on good to soft or better, 14-2-4 on yielding to soft or worse). However, he is 3-0-2 on heavy, so has shown some versatility in this regard.
  • A large number of jockeys have been on board throughout his career – Noel Fehily (13-3-4), Phillip Enrihgt (5-2-3), Barry Geraghty (2-1-0) and Bryan Cooper (2-1-0) are the only winners. The others were A E Lynch (4-0-1), Davy Russell (2-0-0), D P McDonagh (1-0-1), and Andrew McNamara, Robbie Power and Brian Hayes (1-0-0 each).
  • He has been successful in grade one company (including this race last year). 12-3-4 at this level.
  • He may prefer larger fields (4-2-2 in fields of 12 or more).
  • He seems to run well when back out relatively quickly (20-6-4 when back out within 60 days of his last start, 11-1-4 after a longer break).
  • 7-0-2 in October/November but 4-2-1 in December. 3-0-0 in January/February but 5-1-2 in March and 6-2-1 in April. 4-1-3 from May to July. 2-0-0 in August, 1-1-0 in September.
  • He has a slightly better record going right-handed (16-5-4 compared to 16-2-5 going left-handed).
  • The majority of his wins have come on flat tracks (11-4-2). 21-3-7 on more undulating tracks (a fairly similar place record).

Ultima Handicap Chase – The Unexposed Chasers

There’s generally a full field in this race these days, although this hasn’t really resulted in compression of the rates to the same extent as in some other festival handicaps. The horses towards the top of the handicap have done well. However, one point which is definitely worth noting is that classy horses with strong form over hurdles who are relatively unexposed over fences have a very strong record in recent years.

This stands to reason – if a horse hasn’t run in very many races over fences but has shown talent over hurdles, the mark that they run off in this is unlikely to reflect the full extent of their potential. This theory is backed up by a number of stats:

  1. 8 of the last 10 winners had previously run in 9 or less chases – these horses filled 67% of the total places from 48% of the total field in the last 10 years. In the last 5 years, they’ve filled 70% of the total places from 49% of the total field.
  2. 9 of the last 10 winners were either novices or second-season chasers – the exception was The Druids Nephew in 2013, who had previously run in 12 chases and was a third-season chaser. This stat just backs up the idea that we want something relatively unexposed over fences, who could be a couple of steps ahead of the handicapper. The three novices to win had all won a hurdles race worth £10,000 or more to the winner, which brings us on to the next point…
  3. 5 of the last 10 winners ran off a chase mark at list 7lb lower than their hurdles mark. 5 of the last 10 may not seem like a huge number, but there were only 14 horses in the last 10 years which fit this description. There were no horses which fit the description last year, but there are a couple of contenders this time around.

These stats give a clear idea of the type of horse we’re looking for – in their first or second season over fences, they’re relatively unexposed over these obstacles but showed some good form over hurdles (more specifically, were officially rated 7lb higher over hurdles than over fences).

Let’s begin by looking at the horses which fit all 3 of these trends (although I’ll be lenient on the 7lb requirement)

  1. Snow Falcon – A novice chaser, having run just 4 times over fences, he’s officially rated 149 over these obstacles (compared to 157 over hurdles).
  2. Knight Of Noir – A second-season chaser who has run in 6 chases (but also ran in 5 hurdles races since going chasing). He’s rated 142 over fences and 147 over hurdles.
  3. Ballydine – A novice chaser with just 4 chase starts to his name, he’s rated 135 over fences and 139 over hurdles.
  4. Gwencily Berbas – A second-season chaser who has run in 8 chases and is officially rated 132 over fences compared to 149 over hurdles.
  5. Ibis Du Rheu – A second-season chaser who has run in 5 chases and is officially rated 141 over fences and 146 over hurdles.

These aren’t a definitive shortlist, but it is one angle into the race and so I’m going to profile each of these horses in order to find out whether any of them will be particularly suited by the conditions in this race:

Snow Falcon

  • Overall Record: 32 runs – 9 wins – 9 places (7 runs, 2 wins and 1 place were on the flat so for the purposes of this profile I’m focusing on 25 runs, 7 wins and 8 places in National Hunt races)
  • Cheltenham record: 2-0-0
    • 5th in the Neptune Novices Hurdle in 2015
    • 5th in the Stayers Hurdle in 2017
  • Seems versatile in terms of ground – 12-4-4 on yielding or better, 13-3-4 on yielding to soft or worse.
  • 2-0-1 over 3m 1f but he has won over 3m (6-1-2).
  • Sean Flanagan usually rides (15-4-4) but G N Fox has a very strong record (3-2-0). Nina Carberry also has a good record (3-1-2) and the only other jockey to ride him was Paul Carberry (4-0-2).
  • His win record is better in smaller fields but his place record is almost identical so it’s probably not a major preference (12-5-2 in fields of 7 or less, 13-2-6 in fields of 8 or more).
  • He’s definitely able to run well fresh (3-2-0 after over 120 days off the track) but again, it doesn’t seem to be a major preference.
  • His record from October to February (17-6-6) is better than in March and April (6-0-2).
  • He has run well at left-handed tracks but it would appear to be a minor preference (16-5-5 compared to 9-2-3 going right-handed).
  • He may prefer flatter tracks (17-6-4 on flat tracks and those described as having slight undulations, compared to 8-1-4 on more undulating tracks).

Knight Of Noir

  • Overall Record: 20 runs – 5 wins – 5 places
  • Cheltenham record: 3-0-2
    • 2nd in a 2m 5f class 3 handicap hurdle in November 2014
    • 2nd in a 3m class 2 handicap hurdle in January 2015
    • 9th in the 3m listed Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle at the 2015 festival
  • He has a strong record on good ground (6-2-1). 14-3-4 on good to soft or worse is strong too, however, and includes a win on heavy (2-1-0), so he’s definitely versatile.
  • He has won over 3m 1f (1-1-0). 1-0-0 over 3m 1½f.
  • Noel Fehily has a strong record on him (5-2-1), as does Tom Scudamore (7-1-3). Nick Scholfield is 4-1-0, Paul Townend is 1-0-0 and J A Best is 2-0-1.
  • 2-0-0 in fields of 16 or more may be worth noting but it’s a small sample size to start with – 6-1-1 in fields of 7 or less isn’t overly impressive either, while 12-4-4 in fields of between 8 and 15 is more encouraging.
  • He has a poor record when back out within 30 days of his last start (5-0-1) and after a break of over 120 days (3-0-1). The rest of his starts have come after a break of between one and two months, and his record after this length of time off the track is 11-5-2.
  • His place record would suggest a definite preference for left-handed tracks (11-3-4 compared to 9-2-1 going right-handed).
  • He has a strong record on flat tracks (5-2-2), and while his record on more undulating tracks isn’t encouraging (15-3-3), his record on tracks with extreme undulations such as Cheltenham is decent (7-2-2).

Ballydine

  • Overall Record: 9 runs – 3 wins – 3 places
  • Never ran at Cheltenham.
  • His form is generally on soft ground – 6-3-3 on soft, 1-0-1 on heavy. 2-0-2 on good, so it may not actually be that important.
  • He has won over 3m (1-1-0) and placed over 3m½f (2-0-1).
  • T J O’Brien (1-1-0), Richard Johnson (2-1-1) and Sean Bowen (1-1-0) have won on him. Noel Fehily (1-0-0), Brian Hughes and J J Burke (2-0-1 each) haven’t.
  • He may prefer larger fields (6-3-1 in fields of 8 or more, including 3-2-0 in fields of 12 or more, compared to 3-0-2 in fields of 7 or less).
  • His record is very strong when back out quickly (3-3-0 when back out within 30 days of his last start).
  • Contrary to the last stat, he starts the season well (3-2-1 in October/November). 1-0-1 in December, 2-0-1 in January, 1-1-0 in February and 2-0-0 in March/April.

Gwencily Berbas

  • Overall Record: 13 runs – 3 wins – 2 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
    • 9th in the grade 3 2m½f Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the 2015 festival.
  • Seems to prefer softer ground (9-3-1 on yielding to soft or worse, 4-0-1 on yielding or better).
  • 1-1-0 over 3m 1f.
  • Paul Townend (1-1-0) and Adrain Heskin (5-2-0) have been on board when he won. Denis O’Regan (7-0-2) has been less successful.
  • 4-1-0 on undulating tracks isn’t as strong as 9-2-2 on flat tracks and those with slight undulations.
  • It’s hard to see very many trends and patterns in his form.

Ibis Du Rheu

  • Overall Record: 12 runs – 1 win – 2 places
  • Cheltenham record: 4-1-1
    • 6th in the a grade 2 2m 1f juvenile hurdle in January 2015
    • Won the class 2 2m 4½f Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at the 2016 festival
    • 3rd in a class 2 2m 5f handicap novice chase in January 2017
    • Pulled up in the Ultima Handicap Chase last year
  • His sole win was on good ground (1-1-0), 3-0-1 on good to soft and 8-0-3 on soft.
  • He hasn’t won over further than 2m 4½f (1-1-0). 7-0-3 over further. Being pulled up in this race last year was the furthest that he had ever run over.
  • J Sherwood was on board for his win (2-1-0). Harry Cobden (1-0-1), Sam Twiston-Davies (8-0-3) and Nick Scholfield (1-0-0) have also rode him.
  • He has come up short at anything better than class 2 (6-0-1, with the place coming in a listed race).
  • His win came in a large field (24 runners in the Martin Pipe). 4-0-0 in fields of 7 or less, 4-1-4 in fields of 8 or more.
  • Almost all of his success has come after a moderate break – 3-0-0 when back out within 30 days, 3-0-1 after over 120 days off the track, but 5-1-4 on the rest of his starts, which came after a break of between 30 and 60 days.
  • 9-1-3 going left-handed is better than 3-0-1 going right-handed.
  • 7-0-2 on flatter tracks, 5-1-2 on more undulating tracks such as Cheltenham.

Update on March 12th: Interestingly, only 1 of these 5 horses will run in the race tomorrow – Knight Of Noir.

While many firms are offering enhanced each-way terms for this race by adding an extra place, it’s worth noting that most of these are offering only a fifth of the odds for a place. William Hill are still offering a quarter of the odds each-way. If you open an account with William Hill using this link, you’ll receive €30/£30 of free bets once you place your first bet of €10/£10 or more. If you’re interested, take a look at our Free Bets page to find out how you could win some cash prizes from The Parade Ring as well as picking up your free bets. 

Enda Bolger’s Cross-Country Runners

Enda Bolger was the cross-country genius when the race was first introduced to the Cheltenham Festival. His horses came into this better prepared than any others. While he still has a reputation for being the man to follow in this race, his record has not been as strong in recent years – in fact, he hasn’t trained the winner on the day since 2009, despite having had 24 runners in that period of time (I say on the day as Josies Orders was eventually named the winner after Any Currency was disqualified after winning in 2016). Interestingly, he trained the favourite in 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2017. My theory would be that despite his record in the race having deteriorated significantly, his reputation is factored into the price of his horses in the race – they tend not to represent value for this reason.

The reason for this may be the growing trend of trainers bringing their horses to Cheltenham before the festival in order to school them over the cross-country course. This could mean that Bolger’s edge is decreasing. It could also mean that proven cross-country specialists are no longer the horses to follow in the race, as they might not have the advantage that the form book suggests.

Auvergnat

Auvergnat is one such cross-country specialist from Bolger’s yard. Since arriving from Jonjo O’Neill in 2016, 6 of his 11 starts for Bolger have come over banks either at Cheltenham or Punchestown. His form in such races reads 3U14F1 – Punchestown may well be the preference (311 compared to U4F at Cheltenham). Having said that, he finished a creditable 4th in this race last year in what was a respectable effort. That piece of form gives him over 11 lengths to find with Cause Of Causes, however.

  • Overall Record: 20 runs – 3 wins – 5 places
  • Cheltenham record: 3-0-0
    • Unseated in a 3m 6f Cross Country Chase in January 2017
    • 4th in this race in 2017
    • Fell in a 3m 6f Cross Country Chase in November 2017
  • He probably prefers a cut in the ground – 12-3-4 on yielding to soft or worse, 8-0-1 on yielding or better
  • The majority of jockeys have only rode him once so there’s no point in giving a full list. The one worth noting is Mark Walsh (3-1-1).
  • He has a strong record in February (4-2-1) and while it drops in March (2-0-0) it’s 2-1-0 in May. He may be seen at his best at the end of the season.
  • His record is far better at right-handed tracks – 11-2-5 compared to 9-1-0 going left-handed.

Cantlow

The second Bolger horse in the field is Cantlow. He also arrived in Bolger’s yard in 2016 and began to be campaigned in cross-country races. Like Auvergnat, he might prefer Punchestown, where his form reads 2212, compared to 012342 at Cheltenham – however, the latter record is more than respectable. He was only 11th in this race in 2016 but, having found form the following winter and putting in a good run to finish 2nd over course and distance in January 2017, he went off favourite last year and finished 3rd. Like Auvergnat, this leaves him with form to reverse with Cause Of Causes, who finished 10 lengths ahead of him that day.

  • Overall Record: 46 runs – 7 wins – 12 places
  • Cheltenham record: 11-1-5
    • 10th in a handicap hurdle in November 2011
    • 3rd in the Pertemps Final in March 2012
    • 2nd in a grade 3 2m 5f handicap chase in December 2013
    • Fell in the Festival Plate in March 2014
    • 13th in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November 2014
    • 10th in this race in 2016
    • Won over course and distance in December 2016
    • 2nd over course and distance in January 2017
    • 3rd in this race in March 2017
    • 4th over course and distance in November 2017
    • 2nd over course and distance in December 2017
  • Completely versatile in terms of ground – records range from 3-1-2 on good to firm, to 6-2-2 on heavy.
  • A few noteworthy jockey’s records include Mark Walsh (8-3-1), Adrian Heskin (2-0-2) and Nina Carberry (2-0-2).
  • He seems to love small fields (5-3-2) in fields of 7 or less. Even in moderately sized fields he has a decent record (27-7-8 in fields of 15 runners or less) but large fields seem to be a disadvantage (19-0-4 in fields of 16 or more).
  • All of his wins have come when back out within 30 days of his last start (21-7-5). However, he’s just 7-0-2 when back out within 15 days of his last start. 24-0-7 when back after a break of over 30 days (10-0-1 when back out after over 60 days).

Josies Orders

The most fancied of Bolger’s 4 runners at the time of writing, Josies Orders technically won this race in 2016 despite having passed the post in 2nd, with winner Any Currency later being disqualified, having tested positive for a banned substance. Another recruit from Jonjo O’Neill’s yard, Josie’s Orders seems to love the Cheltenham cross-country course, with form of 1113 there including his win in this race. His form over the banks at Punchestown reads U122. This season he finished 3rd over course and distance in December before putting in an awful run in a handicap hurdle in Cork at the beginning of January, before coming back to form last month over the banks at Punchestown, finishing 2nd behind Auvergnat.

  • Overall Record: 30 runs – 7 wins – 5 places
  • Cheltenham record: 5-3-1
    • 22nd in the Pertemps Final in March 2014
    • Won over course and distance in November 2015
    • Won over course and distance in December 2015
    • Won this race in 2016 (after first past the post was disqualified)
    • 3rd over course and distance in December 2017
  • Good ground would probably be the preference – 16-5-3 on good to soft or better, 14-2-2 on soft or worse.
  • Nina Carberry is the main jockey worth noting – 5-4-0 is an outstanding record. Mark Walsh is 5-0-3 and M J Linehan is 3-1-0.
  • His win record suggests a preference for larger fields (16-5-1 in fields of 12 runners or more, 14-2-4 in fields of 11 or less). However, these are fairly similar place records.
  • 7-0-0 after a break of over 60 days. 22-7-4 after a shorter break.
  • He seems to really shine during the first half of the season – 19-5-4 from October to December, 10-2-1 from January to May.

My Hometown

My Hometown would be considered the outside of the Bolger quartet, with 29 lengths to find with Auvergnat from Punchestown last month. That was only his third start in cross-country races, with a respectable 4th over the banks at Punchestown last November and a 6th place finish over this course and distance in December.

  • Overall Record: 15 runs – 1 win – 0 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
    • 6th over course and distance in December
  • His sole success came on heavy ground at Limerick in a maiden hurdle.
  • Obviously it’s more or less impossible for us to create a profile for this horse on the same basis as the others, as he has just one win to his name and no places.