Tag Archives: Cheltenham

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.

RSA Chase Profiles

Allysson Monterg

  • Overall Record: 7 runs – 2 wins – 2 places
  • Cheltenham record: 3-0-1
    • 2nd in a class 3 2m 4½f novices hurdle in January 2016
    • 6th in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in 2016
    • 7th in a 3m 2f listed handicap hurdle in November 2016
  • He seems to prefer heavy ground – 4-2-2 on heavy, 3-0-0 on soft or better.
  • Furthest win was over 2m 4½f. His record over further is 2-0-0 (over 3m and 3m 2f).
  • A P Cawley has won on him (4-1-2), as has J J Burke (1-1-0). Aidan Coleman and Richard Johnson are 1-0-0 each.
  • 2-0-0 in anything above class 3.
  • He seems to like small fields – 2-2-0 in fields of 7 or less, 5-0-2 in larger fields.
  • He’s 1-0-0 in November, 4-2-2 from December to February, and 2-0-0 in March and April.
  • He probably prefers right-handed tracks (3-2-1 compared to 4-0-1 going left-handed).
  • Summary: Heavy ground preferable. Unproven over this trip or at this class. Probably likes smaller fields, peaks slightly earlier in the season and runs better going right-handed.

Al Boum Photo

  • Overall Record: 7 runs – 3 wins – 2 places
  • Never ran at Cheltenham
  • He hasn’t really been seen on decent ground – 6-3-2 on yielding to soft or worse, 1-0-0 on good to yielding. Wins came on heavy (2-1-0) and soft to heavy (2-1-1).
  • Paul Townend has a strong record on him (3-2-0) as does Ruby Walsh (2-1-1). David Mullins is 2-0-1.
  • Unplaced on both starts when back out quickly (2-0-0 when back out within 30 days of his last start). 4-3-1 after a longer break.
  • 3-1-0 on undulating tracks wouldn’t be hugely encouraging – 4-2-2 on flat tracks and those with slight undulations
  • Summary: We don’t know whether he’ll handle good ground. He hasn’t been seen at Cheltenham but seems to be better on flatter tracks. He should be avoided when back out within 30 days.

Ballyoptic

  • Overall Record: 16 runs – 6 wins – 1 place
  • Cheltenham Record: 3-0-0
    • 4th in the grade 2 3m½f Cleeve Hurdle in January 2017
    • Pulled up in the Stayers Hurdle in 2017
    • 2nd in a class 2 3m 1f novices chase in November 2017
  • Soft ground is key. 10-5-1 on soft or heavy, 6-1-0 on good to soft or good.
  • Ryan Hatch has the best record (5-3-1), with Sam Twiston-Davies (4-2-0) and T Bellamy (1-1-0) also worth noting. Richard Johnson 4-0-0, J P McKeown (1-0-0), Z Blake 1-0-0.
  • He probably prefers left-handed tracks to right-handed (12-5-1 compared to 4-1-0).
  • Summary: Good to soft may be okay, but anything on the better side of good to soft is a problem. 3 good jockeys, Richard Johnson record is worrying. Left-handed is fine.

Black Corton

  • Overall Record: 18 runs – 12 wins – 4 places
  • Cheltenham record: 2-2-0
    • Won a class 2 3m½f novices chase in October 2017
    • Won a class 2 3m 1f novices chase in November 2017
  • Versatile in terms of ground. 10-7-2 on good (and 1-1-0 on good to firm), 2-1-1 on good to soft, 5-3-1 on soft.
  • Bryony Frost has an excellent record on him (8-7-1). Nick Scholfield’s 5-3-1 is decent too, as is Sam Twiston-Davies’ 5-2-2.
  • His record is slightly more solid after a break – 7-6-0 after over 30 days off the track, 10-6-3 when back out within 30 days.
  • 6-6-0 from July to October. October itself is his best month (4-4-0).
  • 5-5-0 on undulating and very undulating tracks.
  • Summary: Likes Cheltenham, performs on any ground. Ideally should be off for at least 30 days, have Bryony Frost on board, be at an undulating track. Start of the season is best.

Bonbon Au Miel

  • Overall Record: 5 runs – 2 wins – 1 place
  • Never ran at Cheltenham
  • May prefer softer ground – 4-2-1 on heavy, 1-0-0 on good to yielding.
  • 3-2-1 over 2m 4f or shorter, 2-0-0 over further.
  • 1-1-0 with David Mullins, 3-1-1 with Ruby Walsh, 1-0-0 with Danny Mullins.
  • 3-2-0 when back out within 60 days of his last start. 1-0-0 after a longer break, and he was also beaten on his debut when running fresh (finished 2nd).
  • 2-1-1 on left-handed tracks is slightly better than 3-1-0 going right-handed.
  • 2-1-1 on flat tracks is slightly better than 3-1-0 on more undulating tracks.
  • Summary: Hard to tell whether he’ll perform on good ground, whether he’ll like an undulating track like Cheltenham, whether he’ll stay the trip. Left-handed may be a plus and needs 60 days off.

Dounikos

  • Overall Record: 11 runs – 4 wins – 2 places
  • Never ran at Cheltenham.
  • He seems to be fairly versatile in terms of ground, considering he has won on good (1-1-0) and on heavy (3-2-0). 3-1-1 on yielding or better, 8-3-1 on yielding to soft or worse.
  • The furthest he has run over is 2m 7f (3-1-1).
  • K M Donoghue, A Ring and Ruby Walsh are all 1-1-0 on him, while Nina Carberry is 2-1-0. Bryan Cooper and Katie Walsh are 1-0-1 each, while all others (Jamie Codd, Cian Collins, Luke McGuinness and Jack Kennedy) are 1-0-0.
  • Preference for smaller fields (8-4-2 in fields of 11 or less, 3-0-0 in fields of 12 or more).
  • His best record is in the first half of the season (7-4-1 from October to December, 4-0-1 from February to May).
  • He has only run twice on left-handed tracks (2-0-0) but 9-4-2 going right-handed is a strong record.
  • He hasn’t run much on flatter tracks (3-0-1) but he’s a strong 8-4-1 on undulating tracks such as Cheltenham.
  • Summary: He prefers smaller fields and the first half of the season. He may prefer left-handed, undulating tracks.

Elegant Escape

  • Overall Record: 11 runs – 4 wins – 3 places
  • Cheltenham record: 2-0-0
    • 5th in a grade 2 2m 4½f novices hurdle in January 2017
    • 7th in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in 2017
  • He may not like proper good ground (3-0-1 on good) but his record on good to soft is impressive (4-3-0). 4-1-2 on soft or worse (including 1-1-0 on heavy).
  • He has won over 3m½f (2-1-1).
  • T J O’Brien (5-2-1) and Harry Cobden (1-1-0) have strong records on him, but Tom Scudamore’s 5-1-2 is solid too.
  • He has come up short in grade one company (4-0-1). 2-1-0 in grade two races.
  • He probably likes smaller fields (5-2-3 in fields of 7 or less, 6-2-0 in fields of 8 or more).
  • He has a strong record when back out within 30 days of his last start (6-2-2, compared to 4-1-1 after a longer break).
  • His record is better in the first half of the season (10-3-3 from October to December, 4-1-0 from January to April).
  • He probably prefers right-handed tracks (4-2-2 compared to 7-2-1 going left-handed).
  • Summary: Ground and trip should be fine. He’s unproven at this level. May prefer smaller fields, right-handed tracks and the first half of the season. His last run was 31 days ago, which should be a plus.

Full Irish

  • Overall Record: 11 runs – 3 wins – 2 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
    • 5th in a class 2 2m 5f novices handicap chase in January 2018
  • Hard to tell what his preferences are in terms of ground – it may be that he needs a cut in the ground. 3-1-0 on heavy, 6-2-1 on soft, 2-0-1 on good to soft.
  • Aidan Coleman is 5-2-1 and Leighton Aspell 1-1-0. Tom Scudamore is 1-0-1. Nobody else has made the frame on him – Daryl Jacob 2-0-0, Davy Russell and Nick Scholfield are both 1-0-0.
  • He hasn’t raced at this level – 1-0-0 in a grade 3 is the closest he has come to it.
  • He was beaten on both of the occasions that he ran after a significant lay-off (2-0-0 after over 120 days off the track). However, he did win first time out.
  • He has a better record in the first half of the season (7-2-2 in November/December, 4-1-0 from January to March).
  • He may prefer right-handed tracks (5-2-1 compared to 6-1-1 going left-handed).
  • 7-1-1 on flat tracks and those described as having slight undulations, 4-2-1 on more undulating tracks.
  • Summary: Might not like proper good ground. Hasn’t been seen at this level. First half of the season is probably his time. An undulating track shouldn’t be much of a worry but he wasn’t great on his sole start at Cheltenham.

Invitation Only

  • Overall Record: 9 runners – 5 winners – 1 place
  • Never ran at Cheltenham.
  • He seems fairly versatile in terms of ground – 2-2-0 on yielding or better, 7-3-1 on soft or worse.
  • The furthest he has won over was 2m 4f (5-2-0), and he has only run once over further (1-0-1 over 2m 5f).
  • Patrick Mullins (2-2-0) and David Mullins (1-1-0) have 100% records on him, while Paul Townend (2-1-1) also has a strong record. Ruby Walsh is 4-1-0.
  • He runs well when back out relatively quickly (5-3-1 when back out within 60 days, 3-1-0 after a longer break). He did win on his debut, however.
  • Summary: Ground will be fine. Back out within 60 days is a plus (he ran 38 days ago). Ruby Walsh wouldn’t be as much of a plus as one might suspect. He’s unproven over this trip.

Kemboy

  • Overall Record: 6 runs – 2 wins – 2 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
    • 5th in the Neptune Novices Hurdle in 2017
  • He probably prefers softer ground – 2-0-1 on good to yielding or better, 2-1-0 on yielding, 2-1-1 on heavy.
  • Paul Townend (2-1-1) and Ruby Walsh (1-1-0) have won on him; Danny Mullins (1-0-1) and David Mullins (2-0-1) haven’t.
  • He has come up short at this level, finishing outside of the places on both grade one starts (2-0-0). 1-0-1 in grade two’s.
  • Unplaced on both starts in the spring (2-0-0 in March/April). 4-1-2 in December/January.
  • His success has mainly been at right-handed tracks (4-2-1 compared to 2-0-1 going left-handed).
  • Summary: Hasn’t run up to this level. He may be better at right-handed tracks and may be better in mid-winter than spring.

Livelovelaugh

  • Overall Record: 14 runs – 4 wins – 6 places
  • Cheltenham record: 2-0-0
    • 15th in the Champion Bumper in 2015
    • 10th in the Neptune Novices Hurdle in 2017
  • Maybe a slight preference for tough ground (8-3-1 on soft or worse, 6-1-1 on yielding to soft or better). He seems to be able to deal with any sort of ground, though, with wins on heavy (1-1-0) and good to yielding (3-1-1).
  • 3-1-0 over 2m 5f is the furthest he has won over. 2-0-0 over 3m.
  • Paul Townend has a very strong record (4-2-1), while Patrick Mullins and Ruby Walsh are 2-1-0 each. Katie Walsh is 3-0-1, David Mullins is 1-0-0 and Danny Mullins is 2-0-0.
  • He has consistently come up short at this level (3-0-0 in grade one races, 5-0-1 in grade two and three races).
  • He seems to like larger fields (9-4-1 in races with 8 runners or more, 5-0-1 in fields of 7 or less).
  • He may prefer right-handed tracks (10-4-2 compared to 4-0-0 going left-handed).
  • Summary: Ground is fine. Might not be up to this level. Will like the larger field but probably prefers going left-handed.

Monalee

  • Overall Record: 10 runs – 4 wins – 4 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-1
    • 2nd in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in 2017
  • He prefers a cut in the ground (6-4-2 on soft or worse, 4-0-2 on good to soft or better).
  • 5-2-2 with Danny Mullins, 1-1-0 with Noel Fehily, 2-1-0 with Davy Russell, 2-0-2 with D Roche.
  • He runs well after a break (2-2-0 after over 120 days off the track, and he also ran well to make the frame on his debut). 7-2-2 when back out within 60 days of his last start.
  • 2-2-0 in November is strong but it drops to 2-0-1 in December. 2-2-0 in February is also strong. 2-0-2 in March and 2-0-1 in April.
  • Possibly prefers right-handed tracks (6-3-2 compared to 4-1-2 going left-handed).
  • Summary: He’s seen at his best on soft ground. A break is beneficial. Right-handed tracks might be better.

Presenting Percy

  • Overall Record: 16 runs – 8 wins – 3 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-1-0
    • Won the 3m listed Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle at the 2017 festival.
  • Probably seen to his best on soft ground (10-6-3 on soft or worse, 6-2-0 on good to soft or better).
  • Davy Russell has a strong record on him (11-6-1), as do Katie Walsh and Sean Flanagan (1-1-0 each). S D Bohan and Danny Mullins are 1-0-1 each, while Jane Mangan is 1-0-0.
  • He has come up short in grade one company (2-0-0) but is 4-2-1 in grade two races.
  • His record is slightly stronger in the second half of the season (9-4-3 from January to April compared to 7-4-0 from October to December).
  • Summary: Soft ground is beneficial, runs well at the end of the season, has come up short at this level.

Pylonthepressure

  • Overall Record: 9 runs – 4 wins – 2 places
  • Never ran at Cheltenham.
  • He has won on good (1-1-0) and on soft to heavy (2-1-1) so seems fairly versatile.
  • 3-0-0 over 2m 4f or further.
  • Patrick Mullins (3-2-1), Paul Townend (2-1-1) and Robbie Power (1-1-0) have strong records on him. The others to have rode him are Ruby Walsh (1-0-1), Danny Mullins (1-0-0) and Jane Mangan (1-0-0).
  • He runs particularly well when back out relatively quickly (4-3-1 when back out within 60 days of his last start). 4-0-2 after a longer break.
  • An undulating track such as Cheltenham should be no cause for concern – 6-4-1 on undulating tracks compared to 3-0-2 on flat tracks and those with slight undulations.
  • Summary: Ground shouldn’t be of any concern. A run within the last 60 days is a plus. Unproven at Cheltenham but it’s not a major concern.

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).
  • Summary: 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).
  • Summary: 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.

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).
  • Summary: 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).

Up For Review

  • Overall Record: 10 runs – 4 wins – 2 places
  • Cheltenham record: 2-0-0
    • 18th in the Champion Bumper in 2015
    • Pulled up in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle in 2016
  • His record is best on heavy ground (3-2-1 on heavy, 2-1-0 on soft, 1-0-1 on yielding, 4-1-0 on good).
  • Ruby Walsh has the best record on him (2-2-0). Patrick Mullins is 2-1-0, Paul Townend 3-1-0, Katie Walsh and Danny Mullins are 1-0-1 each and David Casey is 1-0-0.
  • He has come up short in grade one company twice (2-0-0). 2-1-0 in grade two races.
  • He has finished outside the places on both starts when back out quickly (2-0-0 when back out within 30 days of his last start). 7-3-2 after a longer break, and he also won when fresh on his debut.
  • Strong record at the start of the season (combined record of 3-3-0 in November and December). 5-0-1 from January to March but 2-1-1 in April.
  • Seems to prefer right-handed tracks (5-3-2 compared to 5-1-0 going left-handed).
  • He may prefer flatter tracks (4-3-0 on flat tracks and those with slight undulations, 6-1-2 on more undulating tracks).
  • Summary: Likes testing ground. A break of over 30 days is a plus. Probably better in the first half of the season but his April record would say otherwise. Prefers right-handed, flatter tracks.
  • His form seems to dip at the end of the season (6-0-1 from February to April, although he is 1-1-0 in May). 2-1-1 in October, 3-0-1 in November, 5-1-0 in December, 3-1-1 in January.
  • He may prefer left-handed tracks (14-3-3 compared to 6-1-1 going right-handed).
  • Summary: Yet to win from 9 starts at Cheltenham. Ground shouldn’t be a concern. He may not be up to this level. He seems to like small fields and left-handed tracks, but his form at the end of the season is poor.

Vintage Clouds

  • Overall Record: 21 runs – 3 wins – 13 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
    • Fell in the grade 3 3m 1f Ultima Handicap Chase at the 2017 festival
  • May prefer softer ground – 12-2-8 on soft or worse, compared to 9-1-5 on good to soft or better.
  • He has won over 3m 1f (4-1-2).
  • Brian Hughes has a strong record on him (2-1-1). Danny Cook usually rides (15-2-10). Harry Haynes is 1-0-1, J England is 2-0-1 and Sean Quinlan is 1-0-0.
  • He has come up short in everything above class 3 (10-0-6 in class 2 or better). 1-0-0 in grade one races but 3-0-2 in grade two contests.
  • He may prefer smaller fields (14-3-11 in fields of 11 or less). 7-0-2 in fields of 12 or more.
  • 3-0-0 in March and April isn’t as strong as 18-3-13 earlier in the season.
  • Summary: He should be fine on the ground but might prefer it softer. Trip isn’t an issue. May not be up to this level, may prefer smaller fields and may run better earlier in the season.

Mias Storm

  • Overall Record: 12 runs – 6 wins – 1 place
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
    • 9th in a 2m 4½f mares handicap hurdle in December 2016
  • Good ground seems essential – 5-5-0 on proper good ground, 3-1-1 on good to soft, 4-0-0 on soft or worse.
  • Wayne Hutchinson has a strong record (7-4-1), as do Denis O’Regan and T J Cannon (2-1-0 each). Jamie Moore is 1-0-0.
  • She hasn’t won at this level (1-0-0 in grade one races and 1-0-0 in grade two races). 2-1-1 in listed races.
  • Her record is stronger after a break of over 60 days (4-3-0, compared to 7-3-0 when back out within 60 days of her last start).
  • She has a preference for left-handed tracks (7-5-0, compared to 5-1-1 going right-handed).
  • Summary: Needs proper good ground. Left-handed tracks are preferential, as is a break of less than 60 days. She hasn’t won at this level yet.

Pearl Royale

  • Overall Record: 8 runs – 2 wins – 4 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
    • 5th in a 2mf½ listed bumper in November 2016
  • Soft ground is definitely not an inconvenience – 4-1-2 on soft and 3-1-1 on heavy. However, she has only run once on ground better than soft (1-0-1 on good), so it’s difficult to call soft ground a preference.
  • Sean Bowen (1-1-0) and Gavin Sheehan (1-1-0) have been on board for her wins. Jockeys to have made the frame on her were T Bellamy (1-0-1), Tom Scudamore (1-0-1) and Aidan Coleman (2-0-2). T J Cannon and Harry Cobden are both 1-0-0 on her.
  • She hasn’t run at a level above grade 2 (1-0-0). 1-0-0 in listed races too, with her highest win coming in a class 3 (1-1-0).
  • She has run well in small fields (5-2-2 in fields of 7 or less). 3-0-2 in fields of 8 or more.
  • Summary: Ground shouldn’t be an issue. She hasn’t won at this level. Small fields may be preferential.

Shattered Love

  • Overall Record: 14 runs – 8 wins – 4 places
  • Cheltenham record: 1-0-0
    • 12th in the Neptune Novices Hurdle in 2017
  • She has a very strong record on testing ground – 10-7-3 on yielding to soft or worse. 4-1-0 on good to soft or better.
  • Jack Kennedy has a perfect record of 5-5-0 on her. Mark Walsh and Luke McGuinness also have 100% records, at 1-1-0 each. Bryan Cooper is 5-1-2. Sean Flanagan and David Mullins are 1-0-1 each.
  • She may prefer smaller fields – 11-7-3 in fields of 11 or less, 3-1-1 in fields of 12 or more.
  • She may prefer flatter tracks – 7-5-1 on flat tracks and those with slight undulations compared to 7-3-3 on more undulating tracks.
  • Summary: Prefers soft ground. Jack Kennedy has a very strong record. Possible preferences for smaller fields and flatter tracks.

 

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. 

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. 

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.

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Apples Jade – Does She Need The Run?

Every year, we hear the same rumours that certain horses are “festival bankers”. This year is no different, with 4 favourites on the Tuesday all supposedly “banker material”. However, it has paid in the past to try to pick holes in these favourites and identify reasons that it may be better to oppose them.

Apples Jade is a difficult one. Since winning this race last year, she has looked fairly bulletproof with 4 wins from 4 subsequent starts (3 of them in grade one company). However, the only real question mark over her is that she will go into the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham after a break of 75 days.

Apples Jade has won 10 times from 14 starts over hurdles. Three of her four losses do have something in common. The first came at Cheltenham in the 2016 Triumph Hurdle when she came 2nd behind Ivanovich Gorbatov. Interestingly, this came after a break of 83 days (she hadn’t run since Leopardstown over Christmas). After this, she went on to win two successive races at the end of the season at Aintree and Punchestown. In hindsight, one would wonder whether she needed the run at Cheltenham to shake off the cobwebs.

In the 2015/16 season, she made her seasonal debut at Down Royal following a break of 188 days. She was beaten into 2nd that day behind Rashaan in what was probably the most disappointing performance of her career. She ran again just 3 weeks later in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, finishing 2nd behind Irving. Again, she was the beaten favourite, but after this shorter break her performance was far better than on her seasonal debut. Yet again, one would wonder whether she needed the break to shake off the cobwebs.

After another quick turnaround, she ran in the Hattons Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in early December and won (narrowly beating Vroum Vroum Mag). This was to be her last start for 80 days, until she ran at Punchestown in late February. Again, she was beaten after a break, finishing 2 lengths behind Limini. However, just a couple of weeks later she would go on to reverse this form at the Cheltenham Festival, and finished off the season with another win at Punchestown.

This season has been slightly different. Her first start of the season came at Navan in November and she did win despite the break of 197 days. She probably still improved from that start to the next, winning the Hattons Grace for a second consecutive year before winning at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Despite having been beaten following a break after Christmas in each of the last two years, the decision has been made to run fresh at Cheltenham. However, her form after a break of over 50 days now reads 12221, compared to 11211111 after a shorter period off the track.

The Opposition

While opposition looked scarce, Willie Mullins announced last week that 2016 winner Vroum Vroum Mag will in fact return to the race this year, hoping to reverse the form with Apples Jade from last year’s race.

Vroum Vroum Mag has won 7 times from 11 starts over hurdles – however, she has also won once from 4 starts in bumpers and has a perfect record of 6 wins from 6 chase starts. We’ll ignore 6 of these starts (her first 6 runs in bumpers and over hurdles in France) and focus on her career since moving to Willie Mullins’ yard.

She was unbeaten in her first two seasons with Mullins, the second of which culminated in a victory in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Punchestown Champion Hurdle a few weeks later in April 2016. She then faced a long break and wasn’t seen for 219 days before running in the Hattons Grace at Fairyhouse. She was beaten that day by Apples Jade but ran more or less to form. She went on to win the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown and the grade 2 Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster at the end of January before heading to the 2017 Cheltenham Festival to be beaten by Apples Jade again. After that, she was 6/4 favourite for the Punchestown Champion Hurdle but was well beaten in 7th – her first ever real underperformance. It later emerged that she had been injured.

Throughout this season, it has been unclear whether Vroum Vroum Mag would stay in training or go to be covered. The decision has been made to run her at Cheltenham, but having her covered is still considered a strong option later on in the season. Mullins’ comments were simply, “She’s in great shape. I didn’t think we’d get her back. She hasn’t been covered yet, but we have plenty of time and she could well be later in the year.”

Of course, if Apples Jade is expected to need the run then the same should be said for Vroum Vroum Mag. However, a look through her past form wouldn’t suggest that there’s any real history of needing a run – she seems to perform to the same standard when fresh as she does when she has run recently. Coming here without having run this season may seem like a negative, but Mullins is more than capable of getting a horse fit and ready for the big day without running them that season. Quevega won this race in 2011, 2013 and 2014 without having run earlier in the season, while Arctic Fire won the County Hurdle without having seen a racecourse last season. Overall at the Cheltenham festival, Mullins has had 4 wins and a place from 11 runners which had yet to run that season.