There are just 13 horses entered in the race at the time of writing – however, as is the norm at the festival, a few of these look unlikely to run, with other targets being preferred. Rather than deal with all 13 entries, I’ve tried to get an idea of the shape of the race on the day.
Invitation Only would be a surprising runner, considering the JLT looks the main target with the RSA as an alternative. The likeliness of his running in the JLT has surely increased now that favourite Willoughby Court has been confirmed a non-runner due to poison in his foot, meaning that Invitation Only now tops the betting. Similarly, stablemate Kemboy has been entered for all three grade one novice contests at the festival, but this one is probably not the target.
Nicky Henderson’s Robinshill is apparently being aimed at the Grand Annual on the Friday, while two Gordon Elliott entries also have engagements in handicaps – Tombstone is entered in the Plate on the Thursday over 2m 5f, and also in the JLT and RSA. I would suspect that he won’t run here. Likewise, Tycoon Prince is entered in the Plate, the Close Brothers and the Grand Annual.
Assuming that these 5 don’t run, we’re left with a likely field of just 8, and these are the horses for which I’ll be constructing and analysing profiles:
- Brain Power
- North Hill Harvey
- Petit Mouchoir
- Saint Calvados
- Sceau Royal
Asthuria is also entered in the Mares Hurdle, the Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase and the JLT, so it’s hard to know where she’ll go, but I have included her anyway.
- Overall Record: 14 runs – 6 wins – 1 place
- Cheltenham record: 2-0-0
- 8th in the 2m½f grade 3 Greatwood Handicap Hurdle in November 2016
- 9th in the Champion Hurdle in 2017
- He probably prefers better ground, with a record of 12-6-1 on ground with “good” in the going description, compared to 2-0-0 on soft ground.
- The best records in terms of jockeys are those of Peter Carberry (3-2-0), Barry Geraghty (2-1-1) and Sam Twiston-Davies (1-1-0). David Mullins (6-2-0) has also won on him, while Nico De Boinville (1-0-0) and Paul Moloney (1-0-0) are yet to taste success on him.
- He has tended to come up short in grade 1 company (5-0-0) and on his sole start in a grade 2 (1-0-0). 2-1-0 in grade 3 races and 6-5-1 at listed level or lower.
- He may prefer larger fields (9-3-1 in fields of 11 or less compared to 5-3-0 in fields of 12 or more).
- He can certainly run well fresh (3-2-0 after over 120 days off the track, and he also won first time out under rules) but runs similarly well when back out quickly (3-2-0 when back out within 30 days of his last start).
- He starts the season off very well (6-4-0 in November/December). 1-0-0 in January, 2-1-1 in February, 2-1-0 in March and 3-0-0 in April.
- He may prefer right-handed tracks (10-5-1 compared to 4-1-0 going left-handed).
- He seems to prefer flatter tracks (10-6-1 on flat tracks and those described as having slight undulations compared to 4-0-0 on more undulating tracks).
Overall, this profile is fairly discouraging. His Cheltenham record could be excused but the final two points back it up further, suggesting that it may not be his type of track. He should get his good ground here but will not get the preferable big field and his record in the second half of the season doesn’t instil confidence.
- Overall Record: 13 runs – 6 wins – 3 places
- Cheltenham record: 2-0-1
- 3rd in the Triumph Hurdle in 2016
- 4th in the Champion Hurdle in 2017
- He runs particularly well on softer ground – 7-5-1 on soft or worse compared to 6-1-2 on yielding or better.
- Paul Townend (3-3-0) has a very strong record on him, while Danny Mullins (1-1-0) has won on his sole ride on him. Ruby Walsh and Daryl Jacob have identical records on him (4-1-1) while David Mullins placed on his sole start on board (1-0-1).
- He seems to run well in small fields – 7-5-0 in fields of 7 or less compared to 6-1-3 in fields of 8 or more.
- He begins the season very well (2-2-0 in November, 3-1-1 in December) and this continues into the New Year (2-1-0 in January, 2-2-0 in February) but drops when the spring festivals come around (2-0-1 in March, 2-0-1 in April).
- Probably the most significant point to note about this horse is his massive improvement since going chasing (3-3-0 over fences compared to 10-3-3 over hurdles).
The final point on this profile has to be remembered – Footpad has been fantastic since taking to fences, and that recent form is probably more significant than his hurdling form from past seasons. However, these recent starts over fences have mainly been on his preferred soft ground (soft to heavy, yielding and soft). He’s unlikely to get that here, while his record in the spring isn’t great (however, both of his runs at the Festival to date have been solid). He’ll get his preferred small field in the Arkle.
- Overall Record: 7 runs – 3 wins – 1 place
- Never ran at Cheltenham before.
- He seems fairly versatile in terms of ground, having won on heavy, yielding and good to yielding.
- Ruby Walsh and Patrick Mullins have perfect records on him (both 1-1-0). David Mullins has also won on him (2-1-0), while Danny Mullins (2-0-1) and Paul Townend (1-0-0) have been less lucky.
- He may not like small fields (2-0-0 in fields of 7 or less compared to 5-3-1 in fields of 8 or more).
- Despite winning on his first ever start under rules, he seems to go well when out again quickly (3-2-0 when back out within 30 days of his last start, compared to 3-0-1 after a longer break).
- He may prefer right-handed tracks (4-2-1 compared to 3-1-0 going left-handed).
- He seems to like more undulating tracks (3-2-0).
There’s not a huge amount to go on here – good ground shouldn’t be a problem, but he’ll be running in a small field which may not suit. The fact that he hasn’t run in 54 days also doesn’t seem to be ideal, nor is running at a left-handed track. Cheltenham’s undulating nature may suit. However, as I said, there isn’t a huge amount of form to base this on.
North Hill Harvey
- Overall Record: 12 runs – 4 wins – 3 places
- Cheltenham record: 6-4-0
- Won a 2m 1f class 3 novices hurdle in December 2015
- 9th in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2016
- Won the grade 3 2m½f Greatwood Hurdle in November 2016
- 16th in the 2m 1f grade 3 County Hurdle in 2017
- Won a 2m class 2 novices chase in October 2017
- Won a 2m grade 2 novices chase in November 2017
- He seems to prefer a cut in the ground – 5-3-0 on soft ground, 4-0-3 on good to soft and 3-1-0 on good ground.
- Harry Skelton is the only jockey to have ridden him, with a record of 12-4-3.
- He has come up short in grade 1 company (3-0-1) but is a grade 2 (2-1-0) and 3 (3-1-0) winner.
- He seems to like smaller fields (8-3-3 in fields of 11 or less, 4-1-0 in larger fields).
- He runs well fresh (3-2-0 after over 120 days off the track) but is also capable of winning after a short break (6-2-1 when back out within 60 days of his last start).
- All of his success has come in the first half of the season (6-4-2 from October to December). This drops quickly after Christmas – 2-0-1 in February, 2-0-0 in March and 2-0-0 in April.
North Hill Harvey’s Cheltenham record stands out immediately – however, so does his poor record in the second half of the season (both of his losses at Cheltenham came at the Festival, with finishing positions of 9th and 16th). Proper good ground on the first day may inconvenience him slightly.
- Overall Record: 14 starts – 5 wins – 5 places
- Cheltenham record: 2-0-1
- 8th in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2016
- 3rd in the Champion Hurdle in 2017
- He has shown himself to be fairly versatile in terms of ground, having won on ground ranging from good (2-1-0) to soft (4-1-3).
- A number of jockeys have taken the reigns – notably Bryan Cooper (5-2-2), Davy Russell (2-1-1), Jamie Codd (1-1-0) and David Mullins (4-1-1). Jacques Ricou (1-0-1) and Paul Townend (1-0-0) are the others.
- He has a strong record in large fields (2-2-0 in fields of 16 or more), however this record stretches back to his days in bumpers and maiden hurdles.
- It’s hard to spot a major preference in terms of freshness – 3-2-0 after over 120 days off the track, as well as a win on his debut suggests that he runs well fresh. 9-2-4 when back out within 60 days of his last start.
- He has a very strong record at right-handed tracks (5-3-1, compared to 9-2-4 going left-handed).
Petit Mouchoir isn’t a horse with a lot of trends and patterns in his form to date – he has run well at the track and has shown himself to be versatile on different types of ground. His preference for right-handed tracks may be a slight concern, while jockey bookings will also be interesting.
- Overall Record: 3 runs – 3 wins – 0 places
- Never ran at Cheltenham.
- This is not a horse particularly suited to profiling as he has only run 3 times in the UK. He had 4 previous starts in France (3 wins over hurdles before finishing 6th in the grade 2 Prix Amadou, a 2m 3½f hurdle). He then switched yards to Venetia Williams and then quickly to Harry Whittington, for whom he has run 3 times and won 3 times. It is worth noting that all 3 victories came on tracks much flatter than Cheltenham (Newbury and Warwick) on ground much softer than he is likely to encounter on the Tuesday of the Festival (soft and heavy).
It’s hard to draw any solid conclusions from this. However, my instinct would be that he hasn’t experienced a test which is anything like Cheltenham thus far in his career.
- Overall Record: 18 runs – 9 wins – 3 places
- Cheltenham record: 5-2-1
- Won a class 2 2m 1f juvenile hurdle in December 2015
- 12th in the Triumph Hurdle in 2016
- Won a class 2 2m 1½f hurdle in October 2016
- 6th in the Champion Hurdle in 2017
- 2nd in a class 2 2m novices chase last October
- He has proven himself to be very versatile in terms of ground – 6-3-2 on good, 5-3-0 on good to soft and 7-3-1 on soft.
- Daryl Jacob has rode him more than any other jockey (15-8-2). Wayne Hutchinson has taken the reins twice (2-1-1) and K J Dowling has been on board once (1-0-0).
- All of his success has been in small fields (14-9-2 in fields of 7 or less compared to 4-0-0 in fields of 8 or more).
- He starts the season well (5-2-3 in October and a combined record of 8-7-0 from November to January) but tends to come up short in the spring (1-0-0 in February, 2-0-0 in March and 2-0-0 in April).
- While the sample size is small, his record at right-handed tracks is worth noting (4-3-0, compared to 14-6-3 going left-handed).
- Like Footpad, the main point to note here is his strong record since taking to fences – 5-4-1 compared to 11-4-2 over hurdles.
This is fairly mixed. His Cheltenham record is strong, although his two festival starts are the low points. No ground should cause any major concerns, and the small field should suit him well. His record in the second half of the season is a concern.
- Overall Record: 10 starts – 4 wins – 3 places
- Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
- 5th in the 2m 1f grade 2 Mares Novices Hurdle in 2017
- She has proven herself to be quite versatile in terms of going conditions – 4-2-1 on yielding or better, 6-2-2 on soft or worse, with wins coming on ground varying from good (2-1-0) to soft to heavy (3-1-1).
- Ruby Walsh has a very strong record on her (4-3-1). Paul Townend has also been successful (4-1-1) while the others to have rode her were Robbie Power (1-0-1) and Danny Mullins (1-0-0).
- She has come up short in graded company (3-0-1) but did place in a grade 1 (1-0-1).
- It’s hard to find very many patterns or trends in her form to date in terms of freshness, field size, time of the year, or the characteristics of the course. Possibly the most telling statistic is that all of her success has come when she went off the clear favourite (6-4-1) compared to 4-0-2 when she didn’t.
As I’ve mentioned, Asthuria isn’t a horse with strong patterns in her form. However, the last point is interesting – she has won races impressively, but they have been much weaker races than this.
Brain Power would not be a betting prospect based on his profile, while the limited evidence available to us suggests that Montalbano isn’t particularly suited to this race. Asthuria is probably the least likely runner of the eight, and she’s not the kind of horse who would be fancied to pull off a big shock. Saint Calvados’s profile is also based on very little evidence, however he has plenty of questions to answer and he looks a fairly poor price. This leaves North Hill Harvey, Footpad, Sceau Royal and Petit Mouchoir. The former has a very poor record in the second half of the season and may be seen to better effect on softer ground.
Footpad may also dislike the good ground in the Arkle, but his festival form would suggest that he can handle it. Petit Mouchoir is an interesting one, with no really strong negatives. Sceau Royal is similarly interesting, with the main concern his record in the spring.
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