· 5yo’s & 6yo’s have won 19 of the last 22 renewals;
· As in 2012, last year the 1st-3 had all the benefit of at least 3 previous hurdle runs;
· Of the last 17 winners 15 won LTO;
· Of the last 14 winners, 12 had run their previous race no more that 42-days previous (ie. on or after the 28th January 2014).
This is a fiercely competitive race one that I usually don’t get heavily involved in. What tempts me to have a wager is a horse which has won LTO with that win coming on or after the 29th January (ie: in the past 6-weeks). I would avoid any 7yo’s and older. It seems to be that novice hurdlers are being given much more exposure and those with 3+ hurdle runs have started to dominate this race. Only these meet all the criteria:
Irving @ 5/2 - RPR156
Splash Of Ginge @ 25/1 - RPR149
Vaniteaux @ 10/1 - RPR148
Vautour @ 3/1 - RPR157
This is a no-bet race for me, altho' I did highlight the chance of GILGAMBOA in my Festival Bulletin when at 33/1 on 3rd March - he's the 10/1, 4th fav now and the Pricewise selection.
2:05 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (Grade 1) over 2-miles· 13 of the last 14 winners had an official rating of at least 142 as a hurdler;
· 10 of the last 14 winners having already won a novice chase on or before the 1st Saturday in December prior to the Festival (ie before 7th December 2013);
· 25 of the last 27 winners have either won, or were 2nd, in their previous race.
It always pays to concentrate on those with hurdle ratings above OR142.
Novice chasers capable of winning the Arkle usually show their hand early in the season.
The Arkle is usually run at a searing pace and, on undulating track like Cheltenham, it is stamina sapping. As such, I also like my selection to have winning form in a chase further than 2-miles.
This race has just 9-runners, and only these meet the criteria:-
Dodging Bullets @ 6/1 - RPR 171
Grandouet @ 10/1 - RPR167
Ted Veale @ 22/1 - RPR146
Trifollium @ 9/2 - RPR168
I can't have Champagne Fever as he does not look to have the experience and at just 3/1 he's not value. Ditto Rock On Ruby at 11/2. The gound will be against Trifolium who wants it soft, and so I'm taking the 6/1 on DODGING BULLETS. He stays the trip and more and will love the likely ground.
Selection: DODGING BULLETS, 1pt (£10) win @ 6/1 (paddy Power & Bet Victor)
2:40 Festival Handicap Chase (Grade 3) over 3-miles & 110 yardsThis is perhaps my favourite chase handicap of the jumps season (excluding the Grand National).
· none of the last 14 winners have been rated higher than OR143;
· since 1997, only Bensalem (who won in 2011 with 11st 2lb) has carried a weight greater than 11st to victory;
· Last year, only one of the 1st-9 finishers carried more than 11st. Weight is a big handicap in this race and I’d be inclined to overlook anything carrying more than 11st;
· 6 of the last 12 winners won LTO;
· 9 of the last 13 winners were in the 1st-4 of the betting;
· 3 of the last 10 winners being a novice chaser.
Previous Festival form is a big plus, with 2nd placed OUR MICK going one better than his 3rd in the same race in 2012. Altho’ the 2013 winner GOLDEN CHIEFTAIN hadn’t run at a previous Festival, he did have placed form at Cheltenham in competitive chase handicaps.
My ideal type for this race is a strong travelling, prominent runner that jumps well and stays 3-mile.
The Shortlist: Vintage Star (OR143); King Massini (OR131); Tour Des Champs (OR129).
I've looked at this race in depth for the Bulletin, and I don't like any of those at the head of the market. The weighs have gone up 4lb, and that may have dulled the chance of Vintage Star. Tour Des Champs ran 8th in this last year off OR139 and - despite running well - has slipped 10lb to OR129, so at 16/1 he looks eachway value. The LTO winner King Massini ticks a lot of boxes and, being a novice chaser, is unexposed. A course winner, he stays 3-mile well. Tour Des Champs was 20/1 and King Massini was 25/1 when advised to donators yesterday, and Tour Des Champs is the RP Spotlight selection.
KING MASSINI, ½pt (£5) eachway @ 20/1 (Betfred)
TOUR DES CHAMPS, ½pt (£5) eachway @ 16/1 (available generally)
3:20 Stan James Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) over 2-miles & 110 yardsLast year HURRICANE FLY confirmed his place as one of the very best hurdlers in modern history.
· 17 of the last 21 Champion Hurdle winners won LTO;
· Of the last 19 winners, 18 ran in the calendar year the race was run - the exception was Rock On Ruby in 2012 who had his last race before the Festival on Boxing Day at Kempton when running 2nd in the Christmas Hurdle.
On paper it is hard to find something that can beat Hurricane Fly. For a 10yo, Hurricane Fly seems to have lost none of his verve, and is now unbeaten in 9 Grade-1 races since running 3rd behind Rock On Ruby in the 2012 Champion Hurdle. It won’t matter what state the ground is in, all he needs is a strong pace and that is virtually guaranteed. His trainer Willie Mullins considers the horse as good, if not better, than he has ever been.
The New One has stepped-up his form and progressed since winning the “Neptune” novice hurdle at the last Festival and it also won’t matter a jot what the ground is like. The chink in his armour is that he was beaten at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle by MY TENT OR YOURS after blundering thru’ the final hurdle. Would he have won that day without the mistake?
Comparing Cheltenham Festival form, you have to favour both Hurricane Fly and The New One over My Tent Or Yours as the latter was unable to hold-off Champagne Fever in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last March. However, that Supreme Novices was run in a time 3.75secs quicker than the Champion Hurdle on the same afternoon over C&D.
The 5yo’s Our Conor and Ptit Zig just do not look good enough just yet; and neither does Jezki. Personally, I think Melodic Rendevous should have gone chasing this season as he was never going to be good enough to win a Champion Hurdle and hasn’t the stamina to contest the World Hurdle over 3-mile.
This race is a tight one with not much seperating the top-3 in the betting and (when I wrote my bulletin) I was leaning towards My Tent Or Yours, purely due to being the longest odds. Now, I'm thinking that 3/1 about Hurricane Fly could be the best value of the week.
Selection: HURRICANE FLY, £1pt (£10) win @ 3/1 (available generally)
Selection: HURRICANE FLY, £1pt (£10) win @ 3/1 (available generally)
4:00 OLBG (David Nicholson) Mares Hurdle (Grade 2) over 2-miles & 4-furlongsQUEVEGA has won this for the last 5 years and is over 25lb better than anything else in the race. Such is QUEVEGA’s domination of this race it is unlikely that there will be anything to challenge her in 2014.
This is a no-bet race for me,
4:40 Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Challenge Cup for Amateur Riders (Listed) (4-miles)Including the 2013 winner Back In Focus, the stats to take from the race are:
· 7yo’s have won 5 of the last 9 running’s of the race;
· No 5yo has won in 36 years and there is only a single win for a 6yo in 24 years.
· Winning form LTO is a great pointer, with LTO winners in 1st, 3rd & 4th in 2013.
The first point to note is that this is an amateur riders race, and so jockeyship and finding the right jockey is as much a part of winning as finding the right horse!
The second point of note is that this is a Challenge Cup were every horse carries the same weight (11st 6lb) excepting mares which receive a 7lb weight allowance, and the horse with the highest Official Rating (OR) has won this for the last three years!
So, the place to start when looking for the winner is the horse with the highest Official Rating, and that is SHOTGUN PADDY on OR151. The next best on ratings are, Shutthefrontdoor on OR146 and Foxrock on OR143. The ground is an issue, but that is the same for Foxrock. He does tho' stay forever, which is a doubt over Shurthefrontdoor. Odds of 5/1 look very generous.
SHOTGUN PADDY, ½pt (£5) eachway plus ½pt (£5) win @ 5/1 (available generally)
5:15 Rewards4Racing Novices Handicap Chase over 2-miles & 4½-furlongsThis race has developed into one of my favourites of the Festival.
With this being a novice handicap chase, the statistical trends are fairly obvious.
· less than 5 chase runs and;
· less than 2 chase wins;
· a winning run coming LTO – a combination these 3 factors ensure that the selection is unexposed and improving;
As noted in previous bulletins, there is some duplicity in this race with the Festival Plate run over 2m5f on Thursday. The winner of this race is usually a horse that is improving rapidly. It is likely that the contenders will not be known until the final declarations. It is unlikely that any runner will carry less than 11st as the race suffers from “handicap compression”. The last 4 winners have all carried more than 11st.
Unusually, none of the 1st-3 in 2013 had won LTO, but this may have been just a blip.
Pay attention to the entries of Nicky Henderson who finally won this race in 2013 having sent the runner-up in 2011, 2008 and 2006.
I've narrowed this down to 3 possibles: Ericht; Present View, and Persian Snow, and with PERSIAN SNOW being 28/1 with Bet Victor, he is the eachway selection.
Selection: PERSIAN SNOW, ½pt (£5) eachway @ 28/1 (Bet Victor)