With this week’s Cheltenham Open Meeting, I thought we’d take a look at how the top yards are performing, plus there are a few others to look out for….
DR RICHARD NEWLAND (3 winners from his last 5 runners, 60% strike-rate): Royale Knight has been flying the flag for the yard of late with three wins on the spin and the fact he holds 4 entries this week then I suspect there is a good chance we’ll see him again soon – most likely on Tuesday at Huntingdon. With a fantastic 24 winners already this term then despite it only being November this is already going to be their best-ever season with 22 (2010-11) their previous best. AP McCoy tends to get the odd ride for the yard, but it goes without saying that when he does the price seems to plummet, but they are cashing in on young Christopher Ward and his handy claim – he’s been on two of their 3 recent winners. The final thing to note is that this term 19 of their 24 winners have been with their hurdlers, but if there is one tiny negative it could be they are just 1-from-26 with their runners at Cheltenham and at this stage have two entered at Prestbury Park later in the week.
Upcoming entries and track stats: Huntingdon (5 from 24, 21%), Taunton (2 from 9, 22%), Ludlow (2 from 18, 11%), Cheltenham (1 from 26, 4%)
VENETIA WILLIAMS (5 winners from her last 11 runners, 45% strike-rate): This yard are normally quite slow starters, so the fact they are banging in the winners all over the place at the moment should be noted. Since last Thursday they’ve had 5 successes from just 11 sent to post and at fancy prices too – three 9/1 shots a 12/1 and a 7/2. Aidan Coleman and Grand National-winning jockey, Liam Treadwell, have been on all of their recent winners, but Sam Thomas is mopping up a few spares at the moment too. This puts them on 28 winners for the season, and that’s already over half of what they managed last term (52). 89 was their best tally to date (2003-04), so it will be interesting to see if they can get near to that over the next 5 months or so, while so far this campaign they are showing a +£28 level stakes profit. They do slightly better with their chasers, but looking back over the last 5 seasons there is actually not a lot in it (114 plays 108), but they are one of those yards that once they do hit a bit of form should be followed. As the season goes on look out for any runners they send to Perth, Cartmel, Fakenham and Market Rasen – all tracks they’ve done well at with the limited runners they’ve sent there, while – did you know they’ve not had a single runner at Sedgefield in the last 5 years?
Upcoming entries and track stats: Lingfield (1 from 24, 4%), Huntingdon (5 from 63, 8%), Sedgefield (no runners), Bangor (12 from 94, 13%), Exeter (5 from 57, 9%), Ludlow (9 from 52, 17%), Taunton (14 from 63, 22%), Cheltenham (10 from 124, 8%)
NICKY HENDERSON (11 winners from their last 25 runners, 44% strike-rate): An excellent strike-rate at present, but at the time of writing it is worth pointing out their last winner came on the 5th November – 8 runs back. That said, they’ve had four seconds during that period and with some big prizes up for grabs at this week’s Cheltenham Open Meeting then it will be a huge shock if they don’t bag at least a few winners. Henderson is already 4/9 to win the trainers’ title, with Nicholls 2/1, and despite trailing by around £200,000 you suspect it won’t be long before that gap is closed. In terms of sheer winners the Henderson camp are on 38, with 55% of all their runners so far this term finishing third or better. Obviously they’ve got bundles entered at Cheltenham later in the week, most notably Darlan, who heads the betting for Saturday’s Racing Post Hurdle, while their classy Broadbackbob could make his debut over fences at Prestbury Park too.
Upcoming entries and track stats: Huntingdon (35 from 104, 34%), Bangor (18 from 60, 30%), Exeter (5 from 16, 31%), Ludlow (34 from 101, 34%), Clonmel (no runners), Taunton (9 from 44, 20%), Cheltenham (52, from 313, 17%), Haydock (11 from 69, 16%)
DONALD McCAIN (9 winners from their last 23 runners, 39% strike-rate): Two more winners up at Carlisle on Monday to further enhance their current good strike-rate, and that now puts them on 65 winners for the season. Overturn got off the mark over fences at the first time of asking at Sandown on Saturday and should be aimed at the Arkle next March, while I thought their Kie also did well on his chasing debut up at Musselburgh last week and could be one to look out for. 46 of their 65 winners have been over hurdles, while keep an eye on any bumper runners as they are 7 from just 30 with their NH Flat runners this term. Cinders and Ashes, last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, will be one of their leading hopes as he tries to make the leap into the Champion Hurdle grade and I know that a lot of shrewd judges are already adding him to their ante-post portfolio, being around 12/1 at the moment. As the season moves on look for any runners they send to Newton Abbot, Ayr or Fontwell as these are all tracks they boast 30%+ strike-rates at, but in contrast it could pay to know that with the Cheltenham Open Meeting this week they are actually only 4 from 86 with their runners at Prestbury park.
Upcoming entries and track stats: Sedgefield (26 from 104, 25%), Huntingdon (2 from 20, 10%), Bangor (64 from 324, 20%), Exeter (5 from 20, 25%), Ludlow (4 from 33, 12%), Newcastle (12 from 59, 20%), Cheltenham (4 from 86, 5%)
NICK ALEXANDER (5 winners from his last 16 runners, 31% strike-rate): Based up in Perth, Scotland then this could be a yard to have in your sights this season. Yes, they’ve only had 11 winners, but with their limited string and the fact that tally is their best-ever then they are slowly but surely starting to make a name for themselves. It’s also helped that daughter jockey, Lucy, has been making a name for herself not only riding for her dad, but also for the likes of Ferdy Murphy. Lucy’s ridden four of their 5 recent winners, with Brian Harding getting the leg-up on the other. It goes without saying that you’ll find the bulk of their runners at the Northern tracks, but look out in particular for any they send to Hexham – a track they currently boast a 21% strike-rate at.
Upcoming entries and track stats: Sedgefield (0 from 3), Newcastle (4 from 34, 12%)
PAUL NICHOLLS (5 winners from his last 19 runners, 26% strike-rate): Of the ‘big gun’ yard then it’s probably Nicholls that will be feeling a bit hard done by of late. Yes, he’s still got a 26% strike-rate, but they’ve also had 8 seconds during that period too. Zarkandar was a neck winner from his stable mate Prospect Wells at Wincanton on Saturday as that pair got their Champion Hurdle campaigns up and running, while Ruby Walsh’s recent rides for the yard read an impressive: 1-1-3-1-1-1-2-2-4-2-2-2-2-2-1. I’ve already mentioned that they are around £200,000 in front of Henderson and can be backed at 2/1 to regain his trainers’ title – I suspect he’ll still have his supporters. Like, Henderson they’ve got entries all over the place over the next week, but if there is one key trend to note it’s that Nicholls is still to win the Paddy Power Gold Cup despite having some leading fancies over the years – in fact he’s only had 6 placed from his last 21 runners – can Al Ferof end that particular hoodoo for him this Saturday?
Upcoming entries and track stats: Huntingdon (3 from 16, 19%), Exeter (37 from 122, 30%), Taunton (53 from 143, 37%), Ludlow (5 from 29, 17%), Cheltenham (60 from 373, 16%)
DAVID PIPE (1 winner from their last 28 runners, 4% strike-rate): Yes, in a normal week it goes without saying that the Pipe yard would not have even got close to a place in this feature. But, it’s no secret that the stable often do well at this week’s Cheltenham Open Meeting so I thought it would at least be worth knowing how they are heading into the weekend. Of course, there are 3-4 days for them to improve these stats and it will still be a shock if they can’t bag a winner or two at a meeting they love, but with Grands Crus the Paddy Power Gold favourite, a race they’ve won 9 times in all, then those against their classy grey might cling to the stable’s slightly poor run at present. On a plus they did land the big race – the Badger Ales Trophy Chase – at Wincanton on Saturday with The Package.
Upcoming entries and track stats: Lingfield (3 from 20, 15%), Exeter (14 from 157, 9%), Taunton (15 from 161, 9%), Ludlow (4 from 39, 10%), Cheltenham (22 from 257, 9%)
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