Category Archives: National Hunt Chase

National Hunt Chase – An Overview

Class

It’s obvious that in a 4-mile novice chase, you’re going to need a tough horse with plenty of stamina. My angle on this race is a bit different, but even simpler – it’s all about class. In the last number of years, the class of horse competing in this race has improved significantly. 7 of the last 8 winners (including the last 4) were rated 143 or higher. The 5 winners before that were rated 127/129/130/123/120. Looking at last year’s race, 8 of the 16 runners were rated 143 or higher and their form read 1236FFU. The other 8 were rated 142 or lower and their form read 45PPPPPRU. The previous year, the first 5 home were all rated 143+, and these horses accounted for two thirds of the field.

It’s not really good practice to base this trend around the number 143 just because that was 2016 winner Minella Rocco’s rating. For this reason, I’m going to focus on horses rated 140 or higher. This has accounted for between one and two thirds of the field for the last few years:

Year % of Field Rated 140+
2018 50%
2017 67%
2016 65%
2015 35%
2014 20%
2013 25%
2012 16%
2011 19%
2010 6%
2009 11%

It would seem that the number of higher-rated horses competing has increased in the last 5 years, so I’m going to focus on those renewals now:

OR Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E
0-139 44 1 2.27 4 9.09 -34.58 0.71
140+ 42 4 9.52 11 26.19 12.56 0.85
145+ 27 3 11.11 10 37.04 15.53 0.92
150+ 6 2 33.33 3 50 25.82 2.38

It would appear that it’s a case of the higher the rating, the better. Rathvinden (last year’s winner) and Mossback (around 4th position when he fell 7 out) were the only two horses rated 150 or higher last year (both were rated 150). In 2017, it was just Tiger Roll (winner) and Edwulf (looked sure to finish 2nd until something went wrong after the last and he subsequently collapsed). In 2016, it was just Vicente (14/1 5th of 20) and in 2014, runner-up Shotgun Paddy.

Playing with the figures a bit will always change the results (if you include horses rated 149 it only adds two more runners but one was 2016 runner-up Native River) but the point is clear – the best-rated, classiest horses perform well in this race.

Experience

However, it’s hard to ignore the fact that this is a 4-mile chase at one of the most testing tracks in National Hunt racing. The percentage of horses which fail to complete the race each year is testament to this – in 2016, only 8 of the 20 runners completed, in 2017 10 of the 18 runners completed, and in 2018 (a particularly tough year considering the going) just 6 of the 16 runners managed to complete the race.

While we’ve already seen the importance of class, experience should in theory be vital too. This is backed up by the numbers – 5 of the last 10 winners had at least 8 starts over fences, despite these horses accounting for just 17% of the total field. They notably exceeded the expectations of the market and could have been backed blindly:

Chase Starts Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E
7 or less 144 5 3.47 22 15.28 -100.23 0.49
8 or more 30 5 16.67 8 26.67 36.69 2.82

It’s worth looking at this for just the last 5 years too, as we’ve seen already that the composition of the race and the type of horse that it attracts have changed in recent years. 3 of the last 5 winners had run at least 8 times over fences, despite the fact that just 13 such horses ran in that period:

Chase Starts Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E
7 or less 73 2 2.74 10 13.7 -51.55 0.37
8 or more 13 3 23.08 5 38.46 29.53 4.23

The W/P rates are fairly impressive too (bear in mind that although there are technically only 3 places in this race as it’s not a handicap, many bookies are likely to offer 4 on the day if there’s a big field).

So, we’ve got two clear angles here – we’re going to be looking for a horse who has proven class (we tested this by looking at those with higher official ratings) and plenty of chasing experience (we tested this by looking at those with 8 or more previous starts over fences).

The Ideal Candidate

When there’s a particularly strong angle into a race, as ever, I’m making out a “profile” for the ideal candidate for the race. As ever, it’s rare to find a horse that ticks all of the boxes, and strong past results aren’t too reliable as we’re basing the profile itself on the success of these horses. However, if we went with the following criteria:

  • OR 145+
  • 8+ chase starts

There would have been just 4 horses in the last 5 renewals which fit the bill – 2015 winner Cause Of Causes (8/1), 2017 winner Tiger Roll (16/1), 2018 winner Rathvinden (9/2) and 2018 runner-up Sizing Tennessee (8/1). The reason that I’ve focused on just 5 renewals is the fact that there have been more runners with higher ratings in recent years, and the race seems to be changing into more of a top-class affair. However, if we were to extend it back to the last 10 renewals, there would be two more qualifiers: 2011 winner Chicago Grey (5/1) and 2011 4th Alfa Beat (11/2).

Looking at this year’s market, ante post favourite Ok Corral is rated 153 but has only run twice over fences. Delta Work is likely to run in the RSA (and only has 3 chase starts anyway), Cubomania has run 10 times over fences but is rated just 142, Mortal is rated 148 but has only run twice over fences, Ballyward has run just twice over fences, and Santini is likely to run in the RSA (and has only run twice over fences). If Cubomania was to put in a good run at the Dublin Racing Festival, he would likely be of interest. However, we could end up with no “ideal candidate” this year (there were none in 2012, 2013, 2014 or 2016) or with something at a big price.

National Hunt Chase Analysis

The class of horse we see in this race has undoubtedly improved over the last few years. My angle into the race isn’t a particularly complicated one – if anything, it’s very simplistic. 6 of the last 7 winners (and 4 of the last 5) were officially rated 143 or higher. Horses rated 143 or higher have filled 75% of the total places from 38% of the total field in the last 5 renewals of this race.

Looking at last year’s race, the finishing positions of those rated 143 or higher were 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th (5 failed to finish). In contrast, those rated 142 or lower had finishing positions of 6th, 8th, 10th (3 failed to finish). The ratings are increasing, so we’re talking about two thirds of last year’s field. However, this still gives us an angle from which to take on the race. It seems that horses with a high official rating have the edge over those without – in other words, class has come to the fore here in the last few years.

For this reason, I’m going to focus on the following horses, all of which are rated at least 140 (based either on their UK or Irish ratings over fences).

  1. Barney Dwan – probably runs in the Close Brothers
  2. Dounikos – runs in the RSA
  3. Duel At Dawn
  4. Fagan
  5. Jury Duty
  6. Keeper Hill
  7. Mossback
  8. No Comment
  9. Rathvinden
  10. Sizing Tennessee – he has been left in the race, but it will be interesting to see whether he’s left in the RSA too
  11. Ms Parfois

With that as a starting point, I’m going to take a look at each of them individually. I’ll construct a profile for each horse, attempting to identify trends and patterns in their form which tell us the conditions under which they excel. I’ll also be trying to identify which of them will stay this trip – there aren’t many tests tougher than 4 miles at Cheltenham.

Duel At Dawn

  • Overall Record: 9 runs – 3 wins – 4 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
    • 2nd of 4 in a class 2 3m 2f novices chase in December 2017
  • It’s hard to see a preference in terms of ground, with winners having come on good (2-1-1), good to soft (2-1-1) and soft (5-1-2). It could be argued that 4-2-2 on good to soft or better is better than 5-1-2 on soft, but it hasn’t been shown to be a major preference.
  • He’s 3-2-1 over 2m½f and his only start over further was when he finished 2nd at Cheltenham over 3m 2f.
  • K K Woods is usually on board (6-2-2). Leighton Aspell is 1-1-0 and H A A Bannister and Bryan Cooper are 1-0-1 each.
  • He probably runs better when back out relatively quickly after his last start – 4-2-1 when back out within 30 days and 6-3-2 when back out within 60 days. 2-0-1 after over 120 days off the track.
  • There isn’t a huge amount to go on here and it’s hard to find very many patterns in his form. Ground won’t be an issue and his last start was 59 days before this race.

Fagan

  • Overall Record: 11 runs – 4 wins – 2 places
  • Cheltenham record: 2-0-2
    • 2nd in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in 2016
    • 2nd in a class 2 3m½f in October 2017
  • He has a preference for good ground – 6-2-2 on good and 1-1-0 on good to soft, compared to 4-1-0 on soft or worse.
  • He has won over 3m (4-1-1) and placed over 3m½f (1-0-1).
  • Richard Johnson is 6-3-0 on him, while Davy Russell is 3-1-2. G B Watters and K M Donoghue are 1-0-0 each.
  • The highest level he has won at is class 4 (5-4-0 at class 4 and below). He did place in an Albert Bartlett, however.
  • He may prefer larger fields (7-2-1 in fields of 7 or less, 4-2-1 in fields of 8 or more).
  • His best records are in the summer (4-2-0 from July to September) and across the first half of the season (3-2-1 from October to December). This drops in the New Year (4-0-1 from January to April).
  • He would want the ground to be decent on the first day. His Albert Bartlett run aside, he hasn’t necessarily shown himself to be up to this standard. He should get a decent-sized field here, but his form in the second half of the season is discouraging.

Jury Duty

  • Overall Record: 16 runs – 4 wins – 9 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-1
    • 3rd in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle in 2017
  • He’s very much proven on softer ground (12-4-6 on yielding to soft or worse). However, 4-0-3 on yielding or better is a strong place record.
  • The furthest he has actually won over is 2m 6½f (3-2-0). However, he has placed 6 times from 7 starts over further (7-0-6, all over 3 miles).
  • Jack Kennedy (5-2-2), Robbie Power (4-1-2) and Davy Russell (2-1-1) are the jockeys to have won on him. The others to have rode him were Nina Carberry (1-0-0), K M Donoghue (2-0-2), David Mullins (1-0-1) and K C Sexton (1-0-1).
  • He certainly runs well fresh (2-2-0 after over 120 days off the track). However, his two other wins both came when back out within 30 days of his previous start (8-2-5). 1-1-0 when back out within 2 weeks.
  • His wins have mostly come at the start of the season (6-3-3 in October/November). However, he’s 3-0-2 in December/January, 3-1-1 in February, 2-0-2 in March and 2-0-1 in April.
  • Could be some question marks over his ability on good ground, but he has run well on it. Hard to knock him, although he may peak in the first half of the season.

Keeper Hill

  • Overall Record: 12 runs – 6 wins – 1 place
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-1
    • 7th in the Neptune Novices Hurdle in 2017
  • Hard to see any preferences in terms of ground – 4-2-1 on good, 5-2-0 on good to soft, 3-2-0 on soft.
  • He has won over 3 miles (1-1-0). Unplaced on his sole start over further (1-0-0).
  • Andrew Tinkler (1-1-0) and Wayne Hutchinson (1-1-0) have perfect records on him. Gavin Sheehan is 7-3-1 and Adrian Heskin is 3-1-0.
  • His best record is in the first half of the season – 7-5-1 from November to January, 2-1-0 in February and 3-0-0 in March/April.
  • He may prefer right-handed tracks (4-3-0 compared to 8-3-1 going left-handed).
  • He’s 2-0-0 at very undulating tracks such as Cheltenham – it’s a small sample, but may suggest that he prefers flatter tracks.
  • Hard to knock him on a lot of things and he has been a fairly consistent horse. However, he seems to run best in the first half of the season and may prefer right-handed tracks.

Mossback

  • Overall Record: 9 runs – 3 wins – 1 place
  • Never ran at Cheltenham
  • It looks like heavy ground is ideal – 2-2-0 on heavy, 4-1-0 on soft to heavy 3-0-1 on soft or better. However, he hasn’t been seen much on good ground.
  • The furthest distance he has won over is 2m 4f (2-1-0). 3-0-0 over further, including 2-0-0 over 3 miles.
  • E Dwan (1-1-0), Bryan Cooper (2-1-0) and Jack Kennedy (4-1-1) have been on board for his wins. The other jockeys to have rode him were Davy Russell and Sean Flanagan, who are 1-0-0 each.
  • He has come up short in graded contests (3-0-0).
  • He doesn’t seem to like small fields (3-0-0 in fields of 7 or less). 6-3-1 in fields of 8 or more.
  • Again, not much to go on. He might want it really heavy, but he hasn’t been seen very much on better ground. He hasn’t proven himself over this trip and has come up short at this level. He won’t be in a very small field here, which is a plus.

No Comment

  • Overall Record: 12 runs – 4 wins – 5 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
    • 7th in the class 2 2m 4½f Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at the 2017 festival
  • While he hasn’t won on proper good ground (4-0-2 on good), he seems fairly versatile – 3-3-0 on good to soft, 4-1-2 on soft or worse.
  • His furthest win was over 2m 5f, with a place over 3m (1-0-1) and 3m 1f (1-0-1).
  • Previous winners on him were Jamie Codd (1-1-0), Barry Geraghty (5-2-2) and Richard Johnson (3-1-2). T J O’Brien (2-0-1) and C Gethings (1-0-0) have also been on board.
  • He has come up short in races higher than class 3 (5-0-2), including 4-0-2 in graded contests.
  • He seems to run well when back out relatively quickly (6-3-3 when back out within 30 days of his last start). It may not need to be as short as 30 days – when we extend this to within 60 days, the stat barely changes (7-3-4). He’s 4-1-0 after a longer break.
  • Ground shouldn’t be an issue. Not proven at this level or over this trip. Needs a relatively recent run.

Rathvinden

  • Overall Record: 16 runs – 7 wins – 4 places
  • Cheltenham record: 2-0-2
    • 2nd in a grade 2 2m 4½f novices hurdle in January 2014
    • 3rd in the Neptune Novices Hurdle in 2014
  • He seems to be completely versatile in terms of going conditions, with wins ranging from good (4-1-2) and good to firm (1-1-0), to soft (3-1-1) and worse (5-3-1).
  • He has won over 3m 1f (1-1-0) and this is the longest distance he has run over.
  • Ruby Walsh (6-3-1) and Paul Townend (5-2-2) have good records on him. Maxine O’Sullivan (1-1-0) and Patrick Mullins (2-1-0) have also won on him. David Casey (1-0-0) and Barry Geraghty (1-0-1) haven’t.
  • He has come up short in grade 1 and 2 races but has managed to make the frame (4-0-2 in grade 1’s, 2-0-1 in grade 2’s) and has a good record in grade 3 races (2-2-0).
  • His record in larger fields (12 runners or more) is very strong (5-3-1). However, 11-4-3 in smaller fields is decent too.
  • He’s 7-6-0 from June to November. This drops from December (4-1-1) to January (2-0-1) and February (1-0-0). 1-0-1 in March and 1-0-1 in May.
  • He seems to have a preference for right-handed tracks (7-5-2 compared to 9-2-2 going left-handed).
  • He may prefer undulating tracks such as Cheltenham (4-2-2 compared to 12-5-2 on flatter tracks and those with slight undulations).
  • This is a decent profile overall. Preference for right-handed tracks a concern, and form in the second half of the season isn’t fantastic.

Sizing Tennessee

  • Overall Record: 20 runs – 5 wins – 3 places
  • Cheltenham record: 9-1-2
    • 21st in the Champion Bumper in 2013
    • 20th in the grade 3 2m 1f County Hurdle in 2016
    • 2nd in a class 2 2m 4½f novice chase in November 2016
    • 3rd in a class 2 2m 5f novice chase in December 2016
    • Pulled up in the Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase at the 2017 festival
    • Fell in a class 2 3m½f novices chase in October 2017
    • Won 3m 2f class 2 novices chase in December 2017
    • 2nd in a grade 2 2m 5f novices chase in January 2018
    • 3rd in a class 2 2m 5f novices chase in January 2018
  • He seems to want a cut in the ground. 11-1-2 on good to soft or better compared to 9-4-1 on soft or worse.
  • He has won over 3m 2f (1-1-0).
  • Patrick Mullins (2-2-0), A E Lynch (2-1-0), Bryan Cooper (6-1-2) and J J Burke (3-1-0) are the jockeys with the best records on him.
  • He has come up short in graded and listed races (6-0-1).
  • He seems to prefer smaller fields – 13-4-2 in fields of 8 or less compared to 7-1-0 in fields of 9 or more.
  • He runs particularly well after a lay-off – 4-2-2 after over 120 days off the track.
  • He definitely seems to peak in December (6-3-0) and January (4-2-1). 4-0-2 in October/November and 6-0-0 from February to April.
  • His place record would suggest a preference for left-handed tracks (13-3-3 compared to 7-2-0 going right-handed).
  • He would prefer the ground to come up soft or worse. He isn’t proven at this level. Prefers smaller fields. His form in the second half of the season is poor. A longer layoff would be ideal.

Ms Parfois

  • Overall Record: 12 runs – 6 wins – 0 places
  • Cheltenham record: 2-1-0
    • 7th in a listed 2m½f bumper in November 2016
    • Won a class 3 2m 5f handicap chase in December 2017
  • She seems versatile in terms of ground, having won on good to soft (3-1-0). However, 9-5-0 on soft or worse is slightly better.
  • She has won over 3m (4-2-0).
  • Noel Fehily has a perfect record on her (2-2-0). Daryl Jacob and Sean Bowen are 2-1-0 each, Harry Cobden is 1-1-0, Aidan Coleman is 4-1-0 and D G Noonan is 1-0-0.
  • The season gets off to a slow start (3-0-0 in November) but picks up quickly (3-2-0 in December, 2-2-0 in January). This drops to 2-0-0 in February but she’s 2-2-0 in March/April.
  • She has only had two runs at right-handed tracks but has finished outside the places on both occasions (2-0-0, compared to 10-6-0 going left-handed).
  • Everything here is positive, it’s hard to knock her based on her profile. Soft ground would be beneficial to her.

While these profiles are here in order to assist you in your own analysis, my view on the race is that Jury Duty looks to have the best chance from this shortlist. He has been running to a very high standard in decent races in Ireland this season. The only real concern in his profile was his record in the second half of the season, but his 3rd place finish in the Pertemps was probably a career best effort at the time. Jamie Codd being booked to ride is an obvious plus – his last five rides in this race have finished 4th at 7/1, 5th at 33/1, 1st at 8/1, fell at 15/2 and 5th at 4/1. In other words, they seem to always be there or thereabouts.

Codd being booked to ride this horse is probably an indication of Elliott’s view on the horse too. Elliott’s record itself is of great interest – the form of his runners in the race to date reads 1P1F1. This will be the first year that he has had more than one runner, with Fagan, Mossback and Jury Duty all due to run.

As ever, the evening before the race the bookmakers are offering good prices to draw in punters, and Jury Duty is 9/2 with William Hill at the time of writing, having been shorter during the week. 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.