With the review of the horse alerts completed, I am eagerly awaiting the resumption of top-class jump racing for what should be a cracking jump season with plenty of competition amongst the chasers especially. Last year we started the jumps season in terrific form with the blog selections, and this year I am hopeful of a similar performance. Currently, I have just over 200 horses on my alert list with all but half a dozen aged no older than 8yo. If you remember, by 1st November 2015 there had been recommended wagers on 18 horses, of which 8 were subsequent individual race winners and 4 were placed (they were each-way selections). Profits, after Vintage Star won on 1st November, stood at £455 on stakes of just £195. Of course, those stakes are just a guide to measure the success of the blog - I know many of my followers place a lot more than the advised stake, and they reaped the increased rewards.
That start to last season will be a hard act to follow, but we can only try and I'm confident that the winners will flow as they have done ever since I started this blog in March 2010. My selections have been in profit every jumps season since - that is 6 consecutive seasons in profit. The 2nd-half of last season was a disappointment, with lots of hard-luck stories, but we still ended up with a profit of £227 to advised stakes of just over £1,000 - representing a 21% return in investment.
My opinion is that the 2015-16 jumps season was one of transformation; a handover of the baton of power from one generation to the next. We have seen this recently before when, in 2012, the Cheltenham Gold Cup was won by the superb handicap chaser Synchronised. That race was the final time we saw Kauto Star on a racecourse, and his stablemate Denman had already been retired; while Imperial Commander who had beaten the Nicholls-trained pair in 2010, was never the same horse after being injured.
As such, I have looked at the antepost market for the Cheltenham Gold Cup which, on the face of it, looks very open - it's 7/1 the field headed by the novice chaser Thistlecrack (7/1) and the latest Ryanair Chase winner Vautour (8/1). Thistlecrack looks an immense prospect but, until we've seen him jump a fence at speed, odds of 7/1 look far too short. For comparison, after Coneygree won the Aon Chase at Newbury in February 2015 (before going on to win the Gold Cup) he was quoted at 12/1 - so Thistlecrack should be at least 16/1+ at this stage, and I’d have him at odds equal to those available on last year’s best novice chasers, at about 25/1. We all know potential can only be proven on the racetrack, and there have been dozens of high-class staying hurdlers that have not made any impression when going chasing. I wish connections of Thistlecrack the best of luck.
This years (fortunate) Gold Cup winner Don Cossack is at 10/1 (with Paddy Power) and, personally, I can't see him retaining his crown in 2017. As much as I love the horse, it is also likely that Cue Card (11/1 for 2017) who would have won last March but for falling at the 3rd-last, has had his chance as well - age will be catching-up with him quickly this season.
I was disappointed that Willie Mullins was persuaded to run Djakadam (16/1 for 2017) in the Gold Cup last March, as he’s now shown he just isn't good enough to win a Gold Cup. Without a doubt, his stablemate Douvan (12/1) would be high on my list of potential Gold Cup winners were he not almost certain to go for the QMCC (he's best-priced at "evens" for that race). As for 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree (14/1 for 2017) will he come back from injury as good as he once was?
There is another horse that I've not yet considered; For me, VAUTOUR at 8/1 (Bet365, PaddyPower, Stan James, 888Sport and Skybet) looks the value. We know he loves Cheltenham, we know he stays 3-mile, and we know he's a serious quality chaser at OR170+. Looking at the betting, I'd say he should be the fav and, given the lack of strength in the opposition, I'd have him at about 4/1. He could certainly be the 2/1 fav at 4pm on Boxing Day should he win the King George Chase at Kempton.
Clearly, there will be possibly a strong challenge from last year's top novice chasers Black Hercules (25/1) or Blaklion (33/1), but neither looked potential Gold Cup winners to me, and I'd be more interested in some of the young handicap chasers like Wakanda or Virak making the step-up in class.
In the meantime, I've taken the odds of 8/1 about VAUTOUR for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Be sure to visit the blog Wayward Lad over the coming weeks as I will be posting. And, if you are interested, I will be accepting donations to go onto the email list and receive the blog early from 1st October. The terms will be the same as last season: £10 per month in advance.