Cheltenham Open Meeting 2012: Preview, Trends and Tips

Cheltenham Open Meeting 2012: Preview, Trends, Tips

Cheltenham Open Meeting: Preview, Trends, Tips

Cheltenham Open Meeting 2012: Preview, Trends and Tips

Cheltenham’s November Open Meeting, featuring the Paddy Power Gold Cup, is the first big meeting of the 2012/13 National Hunt season.

It runs from Friday to Sunday, and below is a full preview, including trends and tips, for all the major races.

Before that though, let’s consider some wider facts and figures on the meeting.

Cheltenham Open Meeting 2012 General Stats

Cheltenham Open Meeting 2012 Trainers

The big training battalions of Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Nicky Henderson each send large raiding parties to this meeting, and each about breaks even. Indeed, if you’d staked £1 on every one of their collective 199 runners over the past five Cheltenham Open meetings, you’d have won £4.32 at Betfair SP!

So, we won’t get rich (or poor) following that trio. Away from these big dogs, though, who are the lesser known handlers worth tracking here?

The first name to note is Jonjo O’Neill, whose horses are in fair form at the moment. Four winners from nineteen runners since 2007 have netted £17.15 profit at Betfair SP. He currently has fourteen entries across the three days, but history shows he’s far more selective than that with those entries which actually run. Keep a close eye on his that go to post.

And the other fellow to keep onside is Charlie Mann, whose ten runners in the last five years at this meeting, have bagged a brace of winners and £11.32 profit. He has declared Enter Paradise (due to run yesterday) and Seventh Sky (also entered at Wetherby) on Saturday.


Age is material. Of the 89 winners at this meeting since 2007, only seven were aged in double figures. Moreover, of those seven, four won the Cross Country race. In other words, of the 84 main course winners, 81 of them were aged nine or younger. Don’t bother with the old boys here.

Last Time Out Placing

As you might expect at such a prestigious meeting, strong recent form is important. To that end, 51 of the 89 winners in the sample finished first (37) or second (14) last time out. A further 22 finished third to sixth last time out, meaning that 73 of the 89 winners were in the top six last time out.

95 horses failed to complete on their previous start, and of those just four were able to win at this meeting. Each had either fallen (two) or unseated rider (two). Horses pulled up last time are 0 from 54 in the last five renewals of the Open Meeting.

Days Since a Run

Of the 89 winners at the meeting since 2007, 54 (61%) had run between seven and 45 days ago; and 29 (33%) had run between five months and a year ago (i.e. having their seasonal début).


In 89 races, only one horse priced longer than 20/1 was able to win at this meeting. The ‘sweet spot’ seems to be between 5/2 and 12/1, though of course it’s dangerous using odds ranges as a guide. Suffice it to say, if your horse starts at greater than 20/1 it almost certainly won’t be winning…


So, ideal types for the meeting are aged nine or younger; with a top six finish last time out; 20/1 or shorter; and, having run within 45 days, or not since last season. Surprisingly, that excludes a fair number of well fancied horses each year.

That completes the general principles, now let’s look at the Open Meeting race by race. Trends with thanks to Andy Newton.

Cheltenham Open Friday 2012: Preview, Trends and Tips


10/10 – Won by a horse aged 5 or older (last six winners all aged six)
9/10 –  Finished 1-2-3 last time out
9/10 – Maximum of one prior chasing win under rules
8/10 – Placed in the first two in their previous race
8/10 – Ran between 0 and 2 times over fences
8/10 – Priced 6/1 or shorter
7/10 – Raced at Cheltenham previously
6/10 – Raced at either Aintree (2), Cheltenham (2) or Auteuil (2) last time out
5/10 – Raced already that season
9/10 – French (four) or Irish (five) -bred horse
4/10 – Won over hurdles at Cheltenham previously
4/10 – Favourites that won
4/10 – First run over fences
4/10 – Won their last race

Just five go to post for the opener, but a pretty high class quintet they are, with three of them having been rated 150+ over hurdles at some point, and Unioniste as young as he is upwardly mobile.

Thehillofuisneach is the one which looks outclassed, but he is trained by that man Jonjo… That said, my suspicion is that this fellow will be targeted at something like the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Festival, and that this is very much a sighter of the fences.

Of the quartet with more likely winning chances, the fact that Unioniste is a four year old puts me right off, despite him being impressive in two chases to date, and having had seven races worth of experience over hurdles since October last year. Not for me, though he might turn out to be the next Azertyuiop (didn’t win at Cheltenham until a year older than Unioniste).

Carlito Brigante ostensibly has a bit to find with Unioniste on Aintree running, but Aintree and Cheltenham are as different as these two horses’ careers. Carlito loves it here, and won the Coral Cup, as well as a novices’ chase last month. The suspicion is that he’ll be better in a bigger field (as in the Coral Cup and when fourth in the Triumph Hurdle), but he’s likely to be a lot closer to his last day conqueror this time around.

The highest rated of these over hurdles was Dynaste, and by a fair bit too. In truth, he was probably flattered by his rating, as a consequence of coming closest to lowering Big Buck’s crown of invincibility in a muddling Cleeve Hurdle at the start of the year.

In terms of winning form over the smaller obstacles, he earned a Grade 3 fixed brush hurdle triumph at Haydock, and also a Class 2 handicap at Taunton previously. I reckon the trip and shape of this race will be ideal for him, and I can see Dynaste running a big race if he’s fit and well schooled, this being his first competitive attempt at fences.

The ‘famous five’ is concluded by Fingal Bay, a beast of a horse and the apple of trainer Philip Hobbs’ eye. Hobbs has gone on record with some bold statements about Fingal Bay, and it may have been disappointing to him that his star was so laboured in fending off the decent-though-not-stellar Tiger O’Toole. Saying that, Fingal does seem like a horse that takes a bit of getting fit, and he’ll have come on both for the fencing experience and the physical exertion of that Chepstow tussle with the Tiger.

I expect Fingal Bay will take a lot of beating and, whilst not the most inspired of first race selections, he’s hard to look beyond. He’s also a nigh on perfect profile fit for the race.

Selection: Fingal Bay 5/4 BOG

Click here for the latest odds.


9/10 – Carried 11-7 or less in weight
9/10 – Raced at Cheltenham before
9/10 – Won by a horse aged nine or younger
9/10 – Priced 8/1 or shorter
7/10 – Raced at least five times over fences previously
6/10 – Won from the top three in the betting
6/10 – Having their first run of the season
5/10 – Unplaced in their previous race
3/10 – Favourites that won
3/10 – Raced at Ascot in their last race
3/10 – Trained by Nicky Henderson (last 3 runnings)
3/10 – Ridden by Barry Gereghty (last 3 runnings)
2/10 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
2/10 – Won their most recent race
2/10 – Raced at Cheltenham last time out
0/10 – Irish-trained winners
The average winning SP in the last decade is 6/1

Ah, a nice fourteen runner ultra-competitive handicap chase… At least there are some strong pointers to help us out. Firstly, Nicky Henderson has won the last three of these, and has a decent chance again, courtesy of Kid Cassidy, who was sent off favourite on his last trip to Cheltenham in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase.

That first, and only, attempt at Cheltenham’s testing track saw him well beaten off in twelfth, and there’s little in the form book to suggest he’ll relish such a searching trial as this. He looks a flat track horse to me: aside from a Punchestown novice hurdle, his wins have come at Newbury, Ludlow and Doncaster.

The next port of call for any Cheltenham November handicap is David Pipe. His record with fancied runners (10/1 or shorter) is five wins from 24 runs, and another four placed, for a profit at SP of 18 units. Pipe Jr. saddles Consigliere here, and the nine-year-old has form to get involved, off a mark of 142. His last two wins were off 136 and 135, so he does have bits to find.

With six of his seven wins having been on soft or heavy ground, and six of them over fences, he looks to have conditions to suit. Indeed, his form over fences on soft or heavy ground reads 4111136313. That impressive sequence includes a third place over course and distance in the 2010 Grand Annual. I expect money for him, and he looks to have a really good each way chance under ideal conditions. He’s carried big weights to victory in deep ground before, so no worries on that score either.

Elsewhere, the top two – Astracad and Oh Crick – both have winning form round here but don’t have anything in hand of the handicapper; Takeroc is interesting on a few pieces of form and should appreciate this stiffer stamina test as well as being fitter for his seasonal bow; Free World has been very expensive to follow here (might be well backed again); Rio Gael wants it firmer and flatter; Silver Roque and Arctic Ben look outclassed (though both are progressive); Salute Him would constitute the ultimate Tony Martin coup if able to win this; Shooters Wood has only won a hunter chase; and, the bottom two are outclassed.

Selection: Consigliere 25/1 Stan James
Best each way: Takeroc 33/1 general, Astracad 13/2 PP

Click here for the latest odds


9/10 – Won by a horse aged 4 or 5 years-old
8/10 – Won between 1-3 times over hurdles previously
8/10 – Priced 8/1 or shorter
8/10 – Placed in the top 2 last time
7/10 – Never raced at Cheltenham previously
6/10 – Were in the first three in the betting
6/10 – Won their latest race
6/10 – Raced between 1-3 times over hurdles
3/10 – Irish-trained horse
3/10 – Favourites won
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 6/1

The young guns have dominated this in recent seasons, with all bar Emma Lavelle’s Self Defense being four or five years old. On that basis, I’m going to overlook the chances of Irish trio Ted Dolly, Magic Spear and Run With The Wind, which will leave me with five on which to focus.

Let’s start with the five year old hurdling débutante, River Maigue. Trained by Nicky Henderson, whose record in this race is a surprisingly poor 0/3 in recent seasons, this cheaply bought son of Zagreb doesn’t have the look of a world beater. Of course, time may show that statement to be folly, but on the evidence available – wins in a maiden point and a moderate Ayr bumper – he has a steep hill, if not a mountain, to climb to match the level of form presented to the race by Dodging Bullets.

Dodging Bullets is still a four year old, and has top class hurdle form. After a début second in the Grade 2 Dovecote Hurdle at Kempton, he ran a gallant fourth of twenty in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, before a slightly flatter mid-pack run in the Aintree equivalent. He was entitled to have been feeling the strain of the Cheltenham run and it’s also possible that he needs a sterner test than Aintree’s literal level playing field.

A month ago, on his seasonal return, he cruised home over course and distance in a little conditions hurdle. The form may not amount to much – although Racing Post has it as his best run to date – but it was a pleasing enough first run of the term. Bound to come on for it, he looks the one to beat.

The Irish have won two of the last three renewals of this race, and of their trio of entries for the 2012 edition – age notwithstanding – Magic Spear may be of most interest. Not beaten far in heavy ground last time, when the winner probably stole the race from the front, he was progressive at this trip beforehand, winning a bumper and a maiden hurdle.

He’d probably want a reasonable pace here, and that’s far from certain, but with just five career starts, there is plenty of scope for improvement on an already reasonable level of form.

Court Minstrel is interesting for the Evan Williams yard. He followed up a promising bumper career (culminating in a fourth place in a Grade 2 at Aintree) with a tidy win at the first attempt over hurdles, over course and distance. Whilst he has a lot to do to beat Dodging Bullets, he’s definitely on the upgrade, and ought to run well.

Duke Of Navan represents the mostly regressive Nicky Richards stable. Richards, a pale shadow of his father in training terms, has had very little success in recent years, though this term has thus far represented something of a renaissance. Indeed, the stable has had 27 winners from 144 runners this year, at an impressive 19% clip.

Nevertheless, on form, Duke of Navan has plenty on, and was beaten sixteen lengths by River Maigue in the aforementioned Ayr bumper. He has since won a Newcastle novice hurdle in good style, but that’s as far away from the pick of the form in this race as… well, as Newcastle is geographically from Cheltenham.

The one I’ve yet to mention, and perhaps the darkest beast in the field, is Jonjo’s Tominator. This five year old was rated 100 on the flat, and won a Listed handicap as recently as the start of September. Clearly, it’s not a given that he will transfer his smart flat form – third in the Cesarewitch on his first start for Jonjo after switching from Reg Hollinshead’s – to timber, but a twelve length winning margin on his first attempt gives hope.

Forgivably, Tominator was novice-y on that first hurdle run, and will need greater fluency here, but he does promise to take quite high rank in the novice division this season, and might be an interesting one for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, for which he’s a best priced 20/1 (Coral) currently.

Selection: Dodging Bullets 11/8 general
Interesting alternative: Tominator 9/2 bet365

Click here for the latest odds


9/9 – Either Irish (five) or French (four) bred
9/9 – Raced at Cheltenham previously
9/9 – Won by a horse aged nine or older (seven were in double figures)
7/9 – Won by an Irish-trained horse
7/9 – Returned 6/1 or shorter
7/9 – Carried 11-5 or more in weight
7/9 – Unplaced in their last race
7/9 – From top three in the betting
6/9 – Won at least five times over fences previously
6/9 – Raced over this Cross County course previously (four won)
5/9 – Trained by Enda Bolger
4/9 – Ridden by JT McNamara
2/9 – Favourites won
The average winning SP in the last 9 years is 15/2 (skewed by 28/1 Dix Villez)

And so to the Cross Country race. It is likely, after so much rain, that there will be no repeat of the horrific scenes here in March when both Scotsirish and Garde Champetre met their end on tarmac-like underfoot. I do enjoy these races, but that experience has tempered my enthusiasm considerably.

Anyway, my own disposition aside, it is a typically big field and there are plenty of interesting contenders. That ‘dark chapter’ Cheltenham winner, Balthazar King, steps forward again,  and he’s won four times here, though just the once on the cross country course. He has obvious chances and will likely be ridden prominently again.

Undoubtedly the most interesting rival he’ll face is the Czech ‘have a go hero’, Orphee Des Blins. She bolted up in that grand old race, the Velka Pardubicka, ridden by today’s jockey, Jan Faltejsek. If you doubt the merit of the form, then when I tell you that Nick Williams’ Maljimar was a forty length fourth, and Willie Mullins’ Uncle Junior was a 45 length sixth, you’ll understand that she has serious credentials for this. Serious. Credentials.

Kim Bailey, who won this back in 2000 and again in 2002, has two runners here: Midnight Haze and Wedger Pardy. Midnight Haze is an impeccable jumper, as evidenced by a sixteen race record with just one PU in non-completion terms. That sequence includes a sixth place in the Cheltenham Cross Country, and 15th in the Grand National. He has won races too, at up to 3m2f, but I don’t think he’s quite up to the pick of these unless something untoward happens.

Wedger Pardy has extensive Irish cross country form, when under Ted Walsh’s stewardship. Since moving to Kim Bailey, he’s finished third in that Festival Cross Country, and fell last time in a Listed cross country race in France. He’s got a definite place chance, and might be a price.

Uncle Junior is one of the slowest horses in training and, whilst he did win this last year, I can’t see him repeating the feat.

Sizing Australia first ran in this race in 2009, finishing a close up third. Since then, he’s finished third again in 2010, and also managed second at the 2009 December meeting, and first and fourth in the last two Festival Cross Country Chases. In other words, he’s the proverbial standing dish in the race. Still only ten (young in the context of this race), he can make the frame again, but he’s more likely to claim a minor medal than to snatch gold.

It’s hard to make a case for any of the rest, especially Deutschland, who might be backed. He’s never won beyond two miles and a furlong and, although they do lollop funereally slowly here, this is just about the same distance again and I can’t see him getting the trip even with a bus ticket.

No, I really like the look of Orphee Des Blins here, and she might be a bigger price than she should early doors, due to her relative obscurity from most punters’ awareness.

Selection: Orphee Des Blins 7/1 bet365
Each Way Alternative: Wedger Pardy 16/1 Ladbrokes

Click here for the latest odds


9/10 Aged 4-6yo
8/10 Trained by a Pipe (two), Henderson (three) or Irish (three)
8/10 Irish (five) or French (three) bred
6/10 11/1 or bigger
5/10 Unplaced / did not complete last time out
3/10 Won last time out
2.5/10 Favourites won (two clear and one joint favourite)

A difficult race. With a capital ‘D’. If you insist on wagering here, then at least insist on a double figure price, as six of the last ten winners have been. Nicky Henderson had won three in a row prior to last year, where he had to settle for second (and third!). You can count on the fact he will be trying to win again, so his pair of Titan De Sarti and Kings Lodge is an obvious starting point.

Titan has the better form and the better jockey – at this stage of their careers at least – and looks interesting. He ran a pleasing fifth on his first UK start at this meeting in 2010, before finishing down the field in the Fred Winter of 2011. On his most recent start, and his first for a year, Titan ran third over a shorter trip here in a reasonable maiden hurdle.

His breeding (by strong French sire, Kapgarde) gives hope that he’ll stay the 2m5f trip, and Jeremiah McGrath would have few superiors in the conditional riding ranks. An obvious bet in an impossible race.

Kings Lodge has at least had a dig at the trip, on heavy ground, where he was outgunned into second. It could be that he got bogged down in the mud there, in which case he’d be a dark one, off a feasible mark.

After the obvious then, it gets harder. Much harder. I’m inclined to look for trainers who excel in such handicap skirmishes: the likes of Pipe, O’Neill, and the Irish burglars. They are represented by Coffee (Jonjo); Waterunder, Top Wood (both David Pipe); Turner Brown, Slew Charm, Total Excitement, and Air Chief (Irish-trained).

Well that doesn’t especially help! OK, I’ll cross out anything older than six as this looks a young equine’s game, and that removes Slew Charm, Total Excitement, Turner Brown and Air Chief, all of the Irish quartet.

Jonjo’s Coffee, a dual handicap hurdle winner on good ground, was looking progressive prior to a sixth of eight last time on soft turf. It’s possible he needs it quicker, and it will be slightly more fleet underfoot here. He wasn’t beaten far in any case that last day, and Maurice Linehan is excellent value for his six pound claim in a race like this one.

David Pipe was the man to deprive Hendo of the four-timer last term, and he’d been second in 2010 with Dynaste, too. As such, Waterunder and Top Wood command closer scrutiny. Waterunder hasn’t run since unseating rider when second (and held) in a Wincanton novice hurdle. As a previous three mile point winner, it’s likely the two mile trip there was against him. Any support – implying fitness – should be heeded, as this fellow must improve for a step up in distance.

Top Wood is a simpler horse for which to make a case, having won four of his last five races, three of them in the French provinces. The ground will not be a concern, so long as it’s not too soft, and the manner of his last run – a win at Chepstow from Ulck Du Lin, the pair well clear – bellows ‘improver’.

It’s entirely possible I haven’t mentioned the winner, and so be it: these races are generally beyond me. But with trainers on my side, I’ll roll with Messrs. Pipe and Hendo to make it five in a row in this race for the duo.

Two against the field: Titan de Sarti 7/1 Ladbrokes, Top Wood 5/1 Ladbrokes
Two more against the field: Kings Lodge 25/1 general, Waterunder 8/1 Ladbrokes

Click here for the latest odds


10/10 Aged five to twelve (!)
10/10 16/1 or shorter (7/10 9/1 or shorter)
6/10 Trained by a Pipe (three) or Irish (three)
6/10 Unplaced last time out
2/10 Won last time out
1.33/10 Favourites won (one and a co-fav of three)

Your first 30 days for just £1

We round out day one of this three-dayer with an amateur riders’ handicap chase. Good news for bookmakers, precarious footing for impatient – and / or impetuous – gamblers. The range of ages of recent winners and the spread of odds, and the spread of trainers, pleads with punters to keep cash in pocket. This is not a ‘lucky last’ type of contest.

However, as my remit is to analyze and interpret, allow me to offer a few pointers if I can. Firstly, the Pipe’s (Martin two and David one) have claimed three of the last ten renewals. They’ve also been responsible for two seconds and a fourth. Swing Bill and Alderluck are on the shortlist then.

Swing Bill won this last year and was second the year before. But his recent form, 00P-P, does little to encourage investment. Precisely because of that, I may have half a crown each way, as the old boy clearly loves it here. His track record is 22710.

Alderluck is younger and more interesting, to me at least. A relatively lightly raced nine year, this boyo can claim just 22 runs, nine of which were placed efforts and five of those winning efforts. Neither trip nor ground will faze him and, on his first venture to Cheltenham, he could go home a winner, and at a nice price too.

If not Mr Pipe, then who will train this winner? I’ve no idea is the honest answer but, just for fun, let’s apply the filters mentioned at the top of the post: nine or younger, 20/1 or shorter, run in last 45 days (or five months to a year since), and a top six last time out.

That would give us a shortlist of Jamsie Hall, Categorical, Aimigayle, Alderluck, Jewel of the West, Bescot Springs, There’s No Panic, and Hunters Lodge. Hmm, hardly illuminating.

However, for my small stakes speculative here, I’ll scratch those who placed last time out (six of last ten winners were unplaced, and bigger prices too). Cheerio, then, to all bar Jamsie Hall, Categorical and Alderluck.

Jamsie Hall is trained by – I think – the pilot of the 2002 winner, Gordon Elliot (certainly the 2002 winner was ridden by Mr G Elliott), and the trainer Gordon Elliott – whether he’s the same man as that jockey or not – trained the winner of this race in 2008, Hoopy. Jamsie Hall ran a very eye-catching fourth, sticking on, over a half mile less here last time out, and will be well fancied to go one, or two or three, better here.

Categorical has been racing mainly in the north, and mainly on softer ground than this, and I’m finding it hard to muster much enthusiasm for his cause. He is consistent, and he does generally run his race, but it’s usually at a slightly lower level than he encounters this day. Not this time, not for me.

Each way suggestions: Alderluck 8/1 bet365, Jamsie Hall 7/1 Ladbrokes
Big priced, small stakes poke: Swing Bill 12/1 general

Click here for the latest odds

And that’s day one as I see it. What are you backing here? And, equally importantly, why? Leave a comment and turn on a light bulb in a geegeez reader’s mind. 🙂


Cheltenham Open Saturday 2012: Preview, Trends and Tips

Day two of the 2012 Cheltenham Open Meeting features the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase in the midst of a cracking six race card. We kick off with the…


A very strong early season juvenile hurdle, and one which generally has a bearing on the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival. While Katchit (2006) was the last winner to go on to Triumph glory, the likes of Fair Along, Franchoek, and Sam Winner have all made the Triumph Hurdle frame since 2005.

The leading trainers in the race are Paul Nicholls (three) and Alan King (two) in the last ten years, but going back a bit further Nicky Henderson also won this in twice in 1998 and 2001, including with Katarino, who went on to Triumph glory.

Eight of the last fifteen winners had won last time out, with another three having finished second or third, and a further three having their first hurdling start. Put another way, all bar one recent winner was top three last time or winning on hurdling bow. Alas, that helps little as all except Shabra Emperor qualify on that score.

Seven of the 33 runners carrying a penalty for winning previously in Class 1 to 3 prevailed here, and showed a slight profit in so doing. Only McVicar, from the Alan King yard, can boast that so he makes the shortlist.

All of those fifteen winners came from the top five in the betting, with eleven of them being first or second favourite. And the only winner to have an official rating already was Simarian, rated 130. I’d be happy to exclude anything rated below that, which excludes Foster’s Road, Outback and Shabra Emperor (again).

Ten of the fifteen sample winners were returning to the track within thirty days, or were hurdling débutantes. Whilst Far West’s 35 day absence is hardly a killer blow, it is slightly longer than the norm.

So what of the form? Well, of course, it’s pretty hard to interpret because we’re looking at a field of mainly unexposed three year olds, most of which will improve in this race. On what they’ve achieved so far, McVicar is the most likely winner. He’s run twice over timber, winning both. The first of that pair was when beating Fisher, a Gordon Elliott runner which had himself been unbeaten in two starts before giving best to McVicar.

The latter, a lower class race, was a facile victory at Huntingdon, and little more than a schooling round. As a fairly moderate flat horse, it’s possible that McVicar will be allowed to go off a bigger price than ought to be the case, and he has a hint of Katchit about him to my eye.

Dangers abound, and the most obvious are the Nicholls/Henderson pair of Far West and Vasco du Ronceray. Far West won well from Hamdazan on his first UK start, and that form received a boost when the runner up won at Aintree next time. It’s instructive to note that Hamdazan is trained by Alan King, so he should have a handle on what he’s up against here.

Obviously, Far West can be expected to improve, as they all can, and – if he’s not solely a mudlark, he’ll likely play a hand in the finish.

Vasco du Ronceray won an egg and spoon race at Hereford on his initial UK run, having won and been placed in French provincial bumpers beforehand. He’s apparently well enough liked by the Henderson team, but it strikes me they’ve used this race in recent seasons as a barometer of what firepower other stables possess, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor. To that end, they’ve had two beaten favourites and a beaten 15/8 second favourite (all well beaten, too) in the last four years. Vasco won’t be for me.

Dovils Date and Flashman can be given snippets of place chances, the former winning nicely in a Musselburgh novice. While that would be moderate form set against what’s needed here, it’s arguably no more moderate than what Vasco has achieved, and he’ll be a much bigger price.

Flashman bagged silver on début, in a Listed race no less, behind a Paul Nicholls inmate. Again, my perception is that the Nicholls team will have a good feel for the merit of that form, and will presumably fancy Far West to roll over Flashman. However, that was smart enough form from the Fahey runner, and he’s entitled to go better second time up. He’s got quite a nice pedigree for this too, and might just make the frame at a price.

It’s difficult to make too much of a case for the rest, although the unraced pair – Shelford and Roc d’Apsis – are interesting for different reasons. I suspect the former may well end up in the Fred Winter if he takes to the game, whilst the latter is capable of getting competitive here and has a similar(ish) profile to the yard’s Baby Mix, which beat up Hinterland (winner of this race last term) at the December 2011 meeting here.

Selection: McVicar
Obvious danger: Far West
Each way appeal: Flashman, Roc d’Apsis


A three mile novices chase next, and strong levels of form – either hurdling or chasing – brought to the party by all seven contenders. This has the look of a possible placepot buster and broad coverage may pay dividends (literally).

Nigel Twiston-Davies has won this three times in the last decade, and so What A Warrior deserves a second glance. Clearly held in high regard, this son of Westerner has won a bumper, two hurdles and a novices chase to date. He’s also raced five times at either Aintree (two) or Cheltenham (three). The last of those course runs was behind Carlito Brigante over two and a half miles, and he was outpaced before fighting back at the end. This extra half mile looks right up his alley, and I reckon he’ll run well.

Paul Nicholls is represented by Sire Collonges but, last year’s win notwithstanding, this hasn’t been a very lucky race for the Doyen of Ditcheat. His entry was a course and distance winner on his last start, surviving an over-jump to see of the re-opposing Sea Of Thunder by two lengths. The latter gets a three pound pull in the weights here, but in truth there’s little  reason for him to turn the tables. Saying that, it ought to be close again, and if a big enough price, he may well be the value choice of the pair.

White Star Line was pulled up in that race, when smashing into the fourth last. It’s easy enough to forgive that run, but less simple to excuse his penchant for finding one too good. Indeed, he’s won just one of his fifteen career starts, but finished second no fewer than six times. That a prudent wager does not make. Form students will point to his second to Hunt Ball in the Festival novices’ handicap here in March, and good luck to them. I couldn’t entertain him for anything but forecast material… and I won’t be betting the forecast in this affair!

The septet is completed by a trio of extremely promising nags: Masters Hill, Sraid Padraig, and Our Father. The first named has wily old Colin Tizzard tending to his training needs, and having won an Irish point (haven’t they all?!), he then claimed his novice chase win at the second time of asking in a Chepstow three-miler. It’s impossible to quantify that form except to say it’s a lower level than the beasts alluded to already above, and there is significant scope to improve. I wouldn’t be wagering that he wins here, though I’ll be interested to see how he goes.

Sraid Padraig is another which won a three mile Irish point (yes, they have all!), and he scored at the first fencing under rules attempt in mid-October. He was a 16/1 shot that day, but must be held in some esteem to be making the ferry journey over. Tony Martin has some very good yardsticks with the likes of Bog Warrior, so cash for this fella would be material.

That just leaves Our Father, rated 148 over hurdles and sent off favourite for handicaps at both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals in the Spring. He disappointed in both races, and might be better suited to softer turf. Certainly, his first four starts – which yielded two wins and two seconds – were all on soft, whereas the two duffed up finishes were on quicker sod.

He’s a chasing first-timer too, and against more seasoned novices I’m prepared to let him beat me if he’s good enough.

Each Way Selection: What A Warrior
Lively outsider: Sraid Padraig

1.55 – Henrietta Knight Handicap Chase Grade 3 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) CH4 3m3f110y

10/10 – Returned 9/1 or shorter in the betting
10/10 – Had won a 3m+ race over fences before
9/10 – Had run at Cheltenham before
8/10  – Had won between 3 and 5 times over fences before
7/10 – Carried 10-10 or less in weight
7/10 – Officially rated between 135 and 146
6/10 – Finished in the top 3 last time out
6/10 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
6/10 – Had won over fences at Cheltenham before
5/10 – Irish bred
5/10 – Ran within the last month
5/10  – Ran at either Cheltenham (3) or Sandown (2) last time out
5/10 – French bred
3/10 – Won last time out
2/10 – Winning favourites (1 co)
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 6.3/1

Plenty of material stats, and as usual it’s the younger horses who prevail, even in a three and a half miler. Not today, Mon Mome. Winning form in a three mile chase is a pre-requisite, which counts against Deal Done and Fredo.

I’m looking for a lightly weighted (less than eleven stone) classy staying type here, and Any Currency might be it. He was second in this race in 2010 before missing most of the 2011 season. Since his comeback, he’s been fourth in a good Sandown handicap; seventh in the Grade 2 Argento Chase here; eighth in the Scottish National; and, third in the Bet365 Gold Cup.

This season has started with a nice enough win over this trip at Wincanton (good ground) and, though a nine year old, Any Currency doesn’t have that many miles in the legs. In sixteen chase starts, he’s won three and been placed another five times (50% win/place strike rate).

Moreover, local trainer Martin Keighley may have found the key to getting the best from this one, with the application of an eyeshield. I’m not normally a fan of headgear (the hood aside) but, in two runs with just an eyeshield, Any Currency was third in that bet365 Gold Cup and won last time. He wears the bit of kit again here.

The other one I quite like is the Fergal O-Brien-trained Bradley. This chap has plenty of course experience, with five spins here bearing two wins, a second and a big field fourth last time. He’s only run nine times under rules in chases, and has four wins and three seconds. Off a perfectly feasible mark of 133, and looking like the small step up in trip will suit, he ought to go well.

It’s a fiendishly competitive race, and these two will give us some bang for our bucks.

Two against the field: Any Currency, Bradley

2.35 – Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase (Handicap) Grade 3 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) CH4 2m4f110y

10/10 – Raced at Cheltenham previously
10/10 – Won over at least 2m4f (fences) previously
9/10 – Won by a UK-based stable
8/10 – Won by a horse aged 6 or 7 years-old
7/10 – Won only 2 or 3 times (fences) previously
7/10 – Placed in the top 4 in their latest race
7/10 – Carried 10-13 or less in weight
7/10 – Won at Cheltenham previously
6/10 – Came from the first 3 in the betting
6/10 – Favourites placed
6/10 – Won by a horse aged 7 years-old
4/10 – Won on their latest outing
5/10 – Won on their seasonal reappearance
4/10 – Trained by the Pipe yard
3/10 – Favourites to win
3/10 – Raced at Carlisle last time out
3/10 – Raced at Cheltenham last time out
3/10 – Ridden by jockey Timmy Murphy
1/10 – Irish-trained

2 Irish-trained winners since 1960

The Pipe yard have won the race 9 times (1987, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 & 2011)

The last horse to win aged in double-figures was in 1975

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has sent out just 6 placed horses (no winners) from his last 21 runners

Lots of strong trends here and many of them count against Grands Crus, Hunt Ball and Al Ferof: three of the first four in the betting. Specifically, only Our Vic and Cyfor Malta have carried 11-07 or more to win in this since 1995; and it was that same 1995 winner, Dublin Flyer, which prevailed rated higher than 154.

Weight stops trains they say, and it is only two years since a horse beaten here went on to win both the King George and the Gold Cup (Long Run). If you want to back Grands Crus, good luck. He’s a great horse, but he’s not value here. Not at all.

Al Ferof and Hunt Ball are also very very good horses, but they couldn’t be considered under their big weights against such progressive rivals either. And Triolo d’Alene – at five – is bidding to do something that only Cyfor Malta, the first time round, has achieved in the 52 year history of the race. No thanks.

So much hacking with a blunt statistical instrument has rendered the top end of the market a far clearer place, with just Walkon still standing from the leading quintet in the betting.

Walkon is trained by Alan King, and he goes very well fresh. He has a sexy weight, and a perfect trends profile for the contest, right down to being pulled up on his last start, something both Cyfor Malta (again) and Our Vic managed to overcome.

Seven-year-olds have won six of the last nine versions of this and, lest we forget, Walkon is a Grade 1 winning hurdler, and has just five chase starts to his name, making him pretty unexposed over the bigger barriers. Yes, Walkon makes my ticket.

The other I like is the Hendo lass, Nadiya de la Vega. She’s on the up-and-up and, if you can forgive her paddling in the heavy ground at Chepstow on her penultimate start, she’s got tidy form figures of 311, the ‘3’ being recorded in a Grade 2 chase. Now that was a soft enough Graded chase in truth, but there are reasons to believe she’s improved since then.

Her win last time, over this course and distance, was comfortably her best effort to date, and Tony McCoy will ride: hardly a negative. 16/1 is very tempting and I’ve backed her already at bigger on the exchanges.

Divers was third in this race last year, and also won the novices’ handicap chase at the Festival here, so clearly loves the track. His overall record here is 2513U4, all in double digit fields, and good ground is spot on. He’s six pounds lower than when taking bronze last year, and still only eight. He ought to go well again too, and can make the frame.

Most of the rest either have too much weight, are too old, are handicapped out of it, or simply aren’t good enough. Of course, a part of the triumvirate of Grands Crus, Hunt Ball and Al Ferof could win, and I’m excited about all of their prospects in level weights Graded fare as the season progresses. But this is a handicap, and one in which they’ll each have to give a stone and more to my three against the field, two of which are three, four, five times the price.

Three off the tee: Walkon, Nadiya de la Vega, Divers

3.05 –
 Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race) (CLASS 1) (4yo+) CH4 3m1f110y

10/10 – Had between 2 and 5 previous hurdles wins
9/10 – Aged 7 or younger
9/10 – Officially rated 126 to 137
9/10 – Carried 10-11 or less in weight
8/10  – Ran at either Cheltenham (3), Aintree (3) or Chepstow (2) last time out
7/10 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
7/10 – Had won over at least 2m6f (hurdles) before
7/10 – Ran within the last month
5/10 – Winning favourites (1 joint)
5/10 – Had run at Cheltenham before
5/10 – Returned 11/4 or shorter in the betting
5/10 – Won their last race
2/10 – Won by the Pipe stable
2/10 – Won by an Irish-trained stable
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 9/2

Despite the big field, this has been a good race for favourites, with five winning and eight placing from the last ten. In other words, the market generally knows what’s what here. Moreover, seven of the last ten winners came from the top three in the betting.

That means we could easily over-think this one and, in the sort of race where a profile horse is a good play, I like the look of Goulanes from the shrewdy old David Pipe team. They love love love this meeting, as two winners on day one testify, and this chap won his first start out of points (yes, Irish points) in March, before being put away for the season.

That race has worked out really well, with the second, third, fifth, sixth and tenth all winning since; and he can be expected to step forward from a very low burden this day. Pipe Jr. has been trying to win this for years, and has had third, fourth, fourth in the last three years. Hopefully he can go one or two better this time.

Themilanhorse may not want a trip this far, despite stout breeding. Good ground is important to him, but the distance and his weight are enough to put me off. He’ll be very good if he’s able to overcome both.

Lovcen on the other hand showed he is a smart beast when beating Fingal Bay in a Grade 1 at Aintree. That was following up a fine fourth behind the late Brindisi Breeze and, although he has almost twelve stone to lug here, he might just have the class to do it on this quicker going.

Monetary Fund is another with a chance, and he is improving and trained by a very in form trainer in Venetia Williams.

Selection: Goulanes

Dangers: Lovcen, Monetary Fund, plenty of others (!)

3.40 – Centaur Novices´ Handicap Hurdle (CLASS 3) (3yo+ 0-125) CH4 2m110y

9/10 – Aged 5 or younger
9/10 – Carried 10-10 or more
9/10 – Never raced at Cheltenham before
8/10 – Returned 7/1 or shorter in the betting
8/10 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
7/10 – Officially rated between 105 and 109
6/10 – Carried 11-7 or more
6/10 – Won a hurdles race before
6/10 – Won between 1 and 2 times over hurdles before
6/10 – Ran within the last 5 weeks
6/10 – Irish (3) or French (3) bred
6/10 – Won last time out
5/10 – Winning favourites
4/10 – Won by the Pipe stable
3/10 – Ridden by AP McCoy
2/10 – Ridden by Timmy Murphy
2/10 –Trained by Jonjo O’Neill
1/10 – Irish-trained winner
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 6/1

A very trappy race to finish, and one which has been won by smart horses in the past, including Cheltenham Festival winner and placer Edgardo Sol and Sunnyhillboy,

Four and five year olds have the call, which chops away seven unlikely winners who have either shown too much or simply don’t have the same scope to up their games.

Surprisingly (to me at least), five of the last ten renewals were won by the favourite, and eight were priced 7/1 or shorter. In truth, it isn’t a race I have a strong opinion on, especially with so many likely to be better than they’ve shown to date.

My advice, such as it is, is to either a) back one of the top three in the betting and see if you’re in luck, or b) wait until tomorrow (much more sensible play).

Selection: nothing, but check top end of market

What’s your fancy for today’s fare? Leave a comment and let us all know.


Cheltenham Open Sunday 2012: Preview, Trends and Tips

The third and final day of the first big Cheltenham jamboree of the 2012/13 National Hunt season, and well done if you’re in front so far. If you’re not, then don’t fret unduly, as there are six more races to go before the Open Meeting calls it a day. Starting with…

1.10 – Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices´ Chase (Registered As The November Novices´ Chase) Grade 2 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) CH4 2m

9/10 – Favourites placed
9/10 – Placed in the top three in their last race
9/10 – Ran within the last 6 weeks
9/10 – Won by a horse aged 6 or younger
9/10 – Raced (hurdles or fences) at Cheltenham previously
8/10 – Winner from the top 3 in the market
8/10 – Priced 10/3 or shorter in the betting
8/10 – Raced just once previously over fences
7/10 – Ran in the Arkle Chase at the Festival later that season (1 won, Azertyuiop, 2002)
6/10 – Trained by Paul Nicholls (inc last 4 years)
6/10 – Favourites that won
6/10 – Won their latest race
5/10 – Won previously over fences
4/10 – Ridden by jockey Ruby Walsh
4/10 – Won by a French bred
3/10 – Won by a German bred
3/10 – Won by Irish bred
3/10 – Fell in the Arkle Chase later that season
3/10 – Raced at Cheltenham in their latest race
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 11/4

A high octane start to the final day, and a race won in recent seasons by such luminaries of the speed chasing division as Azertyuiop and Al Ferof. The most eye-catching stat is that Paul Nicholls has won six of the last ten renewals, including all of the last four. His Rebel Rebellion is then of instant interest.

Originally bought by Charlie Mann after the obligatory win in an Irish point-to-point, Nicholls took Rebel Rebellion on at the start of the 2010 season, and duly won two novice hurdles with him. First time up this season, the Rebel won his novice chase, beating some promising sticks at Exeter over two and a quarter miles.

However, Rebel Rebellion was a good stone inferior to some of these over hurdles, and there are reasons to look elsewhere despite the monopoly stranglehold the Doyen of Ditcheat has had in this contest in the recent past.

Captain Conan, from the Nicky Henderson yard, is the likely favourite, despite not yet having publicly jumped a fence. This fellow was good enough to win a Grade 1 hurdle last term, and underscored the merit of that with two further silver medals in Grade 2 events.

If he jumps well – and the fact he’s pitched in here for his first fencing effort suggests he is expected to – then he’ll take a heck of a lot of beating.

David Pipe is having a meeting mirabilis, as his old man did so many times here in November, and he saddles His Excellency. The second most experienced here, with four chase starts to his name, His Excellency has won three of those races, two of them for former handler, Gordon Elliott in Ireland.

Most recently, His Excellency scored over course and distance when wearing down the re-opposing Third Intention, and that form, allied to his stamina, should see him in the mix. His track record suggests he wouldn’t want it too soft though, so any further rain would be a negative.

Third Intention himself has a chance of reversing form with his last time out bester. He’s got plenty of solid efforts on this course, and he’s another capable of going close in what is a trappy affair.

Sire de Grugy is a talented horse too, but the vast majority of his form has been on flat tracks and, in any case, wouldn’t be to the same level as a few of these. One for good handicaps in due course, I suspect.

As you’ll have gathered by now, it’s a very difficult race to call. Captain Conan would be hard to catch if jumping fluently. If he doesn’t, then there’s a host of possibles, and perhaps His Excellency, still only a four year old, can take advantage.

Tentative Selection: Captain Conan
Possible alternative: His Excellency

1.45 – Paddy Power Intermediate Handicap Hurdle (CLASS 3) (4yo+ 0-140) CH4 2m5f

10/10 – Won between 1-3 times over hurdles previously
9/10 – Raced at least 3 times over hurdles previously
9/10 – Won by a horse aged 5 or 6 years-old
9/10 – Won a hurdles race previously over at least 2m4f
8/10 – Carried 10-10 or more in weight
6/10 – Having their first run of the season
6/10 – Came from the top three in the market
6/10 – Came in the top 3 in their latest race
5/10 – Favourites unplaced
4/10 – Won at a double-figure price
4/10 – Raced at Cheltenham previously
3/10 – Favourites that won
3/10 – Trained by the Pipe yard
2/10 – Ridden by jockey Timmy Murphy
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 10/1

That’s more like it: a 24 runner handicap. Ahem. OK, so we’re going to need the trends to help us out here. Firstly, I’m only interested in five and six year olds, as nine of the last ten winners have been. Next, I want a hurdles winner over at least two and a half miles. And finally I want to see evidence of soft ground form.

The three of interest to me then are Persian Snow, Ruben Cotter and Maller Tree. And I’ll lob in the Pipe wild card, Close House. All of this quartet is in the top seven in the weights, but that doesn’t concern me too much as it’s a race that generally goes to one of the classier in the field.

Persian Snow won over this trip on heavy ground at Huntingdon last season in an everyday affair, but he’s since shown a lot more when finishing third here last time out. That was over a half mile shorter and he was, predictably, plugging on up the hill. The extra trip, which we know he gets, will be ideal, and he can go well.

Ruben Cotter is a Paul Nicholls beast and, as such, will be short enough in the market, but he deserves to be. He won a big field three mile handicap hurdle last time, and that was the same class level as this. Although this would be more competitive, he’s obviously improving and conditions will be optimal.

Maller Tree is the second top weight, and his form on soft ground reads 2211, with both the wins over two and a half miles, a similar trip to today’s. Barring one heavy ground run, he’s been in the first four in all of his other eleven races and, as such, can be expected to run his race. And Al Ferof was able to win off second top weight yesterday so why not this fella?

As for Close House, well he’s done no better than third on soft ground, but his only effort at a longer trip (over this course and distance, too) was when fourth in the Neptune at the Festival. That’s an excellent run and puts him right in this, if he goes on the ground. At around the 6/1 mark, he’s worth a saver at least.

Obviously, there are plenty of others with a squeak, and there’s a fair few Irish trainers – besides Jessie Harrington – and they’ll have designs on this despite only bagging one of the last ten renewals.

Two with a shout: Persian Snow, Maller Tree
Two more with a shout: Ruben Cotter, Close House

2.20 – Shloer Chase
 (CLASS 2) (5yo+) CH4 2m

3 previous runnings
3/3 – Won by a horse aged 8 or older
0/3 – Favourites that won
Trainer Evan Williams is only 1 from 20 (5%) with his chasers at the course

A newish race, and one with very good alumni in Well Chief and Gauvain (twice). This time, despite the defection of the most exciting chaser of last term, Sprinter Sacre, the race still features hardened professional, Wishfull Thinking.

Wishfull Thinking is clearly the best in the field and, back in January 2010, he actually beat a certain Grands Crus over hurdles on soft.

Barring a fall, then, he should win, and it’s imprudent to suggest anything else. Doeslessthanme might bustle him up early and is on the upgrade, but in reality WT has to falter significantly to see him beaten. It’s possible, but I won’t be betting it.

Selection: Wishfull Thinking

2.50 – Racing Post Hurdle (Handicap) Grade 3 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) CH4 2m110y

9/10 – Won no more than 4 times previously over hurdles
9/10 – Won a 2m1f (or further) hurdles race previously
8/10 – Rated 140 or higher
8/10 – Priced 9/1 or shorter
7/10 – Ran within the last 6 weeks
7/10 – Won by a horse aged 4 or 5 years-old
7/10 – Carried 11-4 or more in weight
7/10 – Placed in the top two in their latest race
7/10 – Winning distance – 2 lengths or further
7/10 – Raced 6 or fewer times over hurdles
6/10 – Raced at Cheltenham previously
6/10 – Favourites placed
6/10 – Winners from the first three in the market
5/10 – Won by an Irish-bred horse
5/10 – Won their latest race
4/10 – Carried 11-12 in weight
3/10 – Trained by Philip Hobbs
2/10 – Ridden by jockey Richard Johnson
2/10 – Favourites to win
2/10 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
1/10 – Won by an Irish-trained horse
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 17/2
3 of the last 4 winners ran in the previous season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Formerly known as the Greatwood Hurdle, and a decent enough trial for the Champion Hurdle itself, this looks a very good race. We’re looking for a highly rated and improving horse here, so focus on the top end of the weights.

There’s one horse which stands above this lot on form, and he’s the top weight and favourite, Darlan. Although he’s not had a run this term – something which seven of the last ten winners had – there has been a LOT of cash for him, implying he’s bullet fit and ready to fire.

The one concern is that he’s not shown he can act on soft ground. As a son of Milan, there’s every reason to believe he will be fine on it. And I think he’ll win this, potentially with authority.

[Stop press: Darlan is a non-runner]

For those looking for a bit more than 9/4 about an each way poke – we will get four places here – then I’ve three to throw up.

Firstly, the very lightly raced ten year old, Snap Tie. He won his only start last term, a fiercely competitive handicap hurdle over at Punchestown on bottomless ground over this trip. So, he goes well fresh, he’ll love the ground and trip, and he’s fine in a big field: there were 25 of them there!

Next, Domination from the Charles Byrnes stable. He’s got decent (non-winning) form on soft, stays the trip and is game and consistent. Fit from winning a nice flat handicap at Newmarket, he’ll avail himself of any chinks in Darlan’s condition armour, and looks highly likely to run close to the frame.

And finally, I was put onto Glam Gerry by Cathryn Fry, a freelance journo specialising in Irish National Hunt. She’s sure this fellow has a good bit more to offer, and he’s a 33/1 shot here. A winner in a big field flat maiden over two miles last month, on soft ground, he can’t have enough rain.

Glam Gerry was also third in last year’s Byrne Group Plate at the Festival, so he’s track form too. At the price, and in the conditions, he’s a very interesting contender.

Selection: Darlan
Each way alternatives: Snap Tie, Glam Gerry, Domination


We get a break from the big field handicaps with this fascinating Grade 2 hurdle over two miles five furlongs. Five year olds have won the last six renewals, and all of the last ten winners have been priced 15/2 or shorter. As such, it doesn’t make sense to get too cute here.

Philip Hobbs has won this twice in that past decade, and he saddles Village Vic here. Village Vic was a decent bumper horse and, as they say, ‘caught a Tartar’ last time in The New One.

[The etymology of the phrase comes from the 1660’s apparently, and is suggested to mean that one takes a prisoner who is more powerful than oneself, as in the following joke:

Soldier (shouting from within the brush): I’ve captured one of the enemy.
Captain: Excellent! Bring him here.
Soldier: He won’t come.
Captain: Well, then, you come here.
Soldier: I would, but he won’t let me.

Don’t say you never learn anything here!]

Getting back to Village Vic, it’s possible that there is another ‘Tartar’ in this field’s midst, and it might be Paul Nicholls’ Fox Run, unbeaten in two, and yes, one of the pair was an Irish point-to-point. The other was when bolting up at Worcester over two and a half miles.

According To Trev, from the same yard as the aforementioned The New One, that of Nigel Twiston-Davies. Another from Irish points, Trev may just have a bit to do and may also not enjoy the underfoot here, as alls runs/wins to date have been on good to soft or quicker.

Gordon Elliott’s Bondage acts on soft but has far less scope for improvement than most of these and I’d expect something to perform to a higher level than he’s achieved to date.

Awaywiththegreys is of a tad more interest, as he has progressive soft ground form, reading 5311. The trip will be fine too, and though this is a huge step up in class, he could bridge much of that and appeals a bit from an each way perspective.

Selection: Fox Run
Danger: Village Vic
Each way alternative: Awaywiththegreys


A Listed National Hunt Flat race to close out the meeting, and it’s a good contest historically. Two wins apiece for Paul Nicholls and Jonjo O’Neill, and three for the Irish-based trainers in the past decade mean they’re a sensible place to start in a race short on form in the book.

Nicholls saddles one of the few with form, the once raced bumper winner, Fascino Rustico. This boy was bought for 29,000 quid and sold after that bumper win for £310,ooo! Nice work if you can get it.

The bare form of that Carlisle win is not bad, as the second won next time out and third has won both his subsequent starts. All of those wins were after the big sale was made, so clearly someone knew something.

Jonjo is not represented this time, but the Irish have come and they go to war with the unraced Makethedifference and the once raced Anonis. The former also ran Ted Dolly at this fixture on Friday, and that one finished last so I wouldn’t hold too much hope for Makethedifference.

Anonis, for his part, has been off for eighteen months, since being beaten a short head and a head in a Thurles bumper. It’s a race that has worked out no better than moderately, and whilst it’s interesting they’ve brought the horse across, I’d be surprised if he was good enough.

Monkey Kingdom is far more likely, and if you want to buy into a Cheltenham runner, here’s your chance. Yes, you can grab 50% for… £120,000?!

They’ve actually moved it to Price on Application on, but that was what he was on there for. A bit out of my price range, but if you fancy it, you’ll have a live chance here, based on his début win on soft and his subsequent silver medal over course and distance.

But AP McCoy usually rides Rebecca Curtis’ horses, as he has on both Monkey Kingdom’s runs to date, and he’s instead on Warren Greatrex’s Westward Point. That looks like a tip to me, and I note that this one was an easy winner first time out, despite being 16/1.

But then there’s also The Liquidator, who was a narrow second to the well touted Clondaw Kaempfer, and has since changed hands for a hundred grand. The winner has won again since, as have a couple who finished down the field, so the form might be all right.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is not a race to bet in. If you’re at the track, try to get out of the car park before the masses. If you’re in the bookies, scour the form of the virtual racing (JOKE!!!!). If you’re at home, flick over for the footy. Because if you’re not in front by now, you’re banking on a big slice of luck to bail you out here.

Selection: Guinness, please.

And that’s your lot. I hope this first foray to the home of The Festival has been fortuitous for you. If not, pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and know that you’ve got 114 days to rehearse your lines ahead of the main event.

Until next time…


p.s. leave a comment and let us know what you’re backing on Sunday.

Your first 30 days for just £1
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *