Tag Archives: gordon elliott

The Irish Grand National – One For The Small Yards

This year, the Irish Grand National will play a vital role in the year’s Trainer’s Championship, which both Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott desperately want to win. Mullins has 4 runners, which Elliott has an incredible 13. Last year was similar, however, with Elliott running 9 horses but the race ultimately going to Jessica Harrington’s Our Duke.

Whilst Harrington’s can hardly be called a small yard, it has been worth looking beyond the obvious powerhouses in this contest in the past. In the last 10 years, only Mouse Morris has won the race twice. 5 of the last 10 winners were their yards’ sole representatives at the track that day, and these horses (96 of them in total) were, as one might expect, underestimated by the market (Betfair SP’s would have suggested that they would account for 3.3 winners – although the Betfair place market would have suggested 13.9 places, despite only 9 of them actually making the frame).

It’s quite incredible that neither Elliott nor Mullins has ever won this race despite the attractive prize money on offer and the fact that both have won the English equivalent. Mullins has fired 23 darts at the race in the last 10 years and has had just 2 placed horses to show for it, despite 7 of his runners going off at 10/1 or less (none of these 7 even made the frame). Elliott, meanwhile, has had 20 runners in the last 10 years and has come away with just 3 places. He hasn’t trained as many contenders at the top of the market as Mullins has (just one horse with a starting price of 10/1 or less), but last year his runners took up around 30% of the total book and just one made the frame.

This is not a critique of either Mullins or Elliott – the reason for their ducks in this race aren’t clear and it’s never an easy task to win a National of any description, but it may be worth looking beyond the obvious big names (particularly in a race which attracts once a year punters who are likely to back horses from iconic yards, causing their prices to contract). Indeed, at the time of writing, 7 of the top 8 in the market are trained by either Mullins or Elliott. It may pay to look beyond the obvious.

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Cheltenham – Half-Way Observations

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

Irish Raiders Rule The Roost

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

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

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

Ruby Walsh

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

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

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

Our Tipping Partner

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

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.