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Between March 2010 and April 2017, this blog recommended wagers on 520 individual races on Jump Racing in the UK, resulting in a PROFIT of £1,525.39 on cumulative stakes of £5,726 - this is equivalent to a Return On Investment of 26.60%.


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advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Cheltenham 2019 - Day 4 (Friday 15th March)

Another cracking day for the blog yesterday when top selection DEFI DU SEUIL won the JLT Novices Chase - what a start to the day.  I've been saying on my blog since January that Defi Du Seuil is the best novice chaser we've seen this season and he will win whatever race he's entered in at the Festival, and I was right. I do not often advise £20 win wagers, but I felt certain he was the real deal.
Then FRODON (one of my late antepost wagers) in the Ryanair Chase led from the front and battled up the stright for a hard-fought but decisive win.
The blog is now seriously in profit for the week, it's been one of my best Cheltenham Festivals since I started blogging (if not the best for me) and there is still a day to go.
Top Notch was poor yesterday, but do not take anything away from PAISLEY PARK. After he won at the Trials day in January I wrote that Paisley Park should be odds-on for the Stayers' Hurdle (and as readers know, I do not advise wagers on horses at odds under 9/4 - you can pick those winners yourself).
Both my long-odds handicap selections ran good races but just not good enough to get into the places.

1:30pm Triumph hurdle run over 2-miles & 1 furlong
If you look at the betting, this race is all about SIR EREC,  and how far he will win by.  Well, we've seen races like this before at Cheltenham and it doesn;t always go to plan. There are only 4 other horses to consider, as the long-shots have virtually no chance. PIC D'ORHY has not run in the UK or Ireland yet, nor has he run anywhere since early November. Our first sight of this horse will be in the paddock. QUEL DESTIN, also trained by Paul Nichols (like PIC D'ORHY) but with lots of experience winning a string of top hurdles in the UK. TIGER TAP TAP has been beaten easily by the fav SIR EREC on both his hurdle starts. GARDENS OF BABYLON trained by Joseph O'Brien who trains SIR EREC, and beaten 6-lengths by him when they last met. 
If you want to bet on the race, have a small eachway wager on QUEL DESTIN @ 10/1 (fifth the odds a place 1,2,3) which is available generally, but theis is a race I expect to go to SIR EREC and I will be watching only.

2:10pm County Handicap Hurdle run over 2-miles & 1 furlong
With 8 of the last 11 winners going off at odds longer than 20/1 - and last years winner Mohaayed went off at 33/1 - you need luck and a crystal ball to find the winner. You do not want a horse that has won over trips longer than 2m1f, and stick to 5yo and 6yo's or horses with no more than 2 seasons of hurdling if older. I'm going to have a play with the 5yo LISP @ 25/1 (quarter-odds to 5 places with Bet365) as he's a come 1st or 2nd in 6 of his completed 9 hurdle races (he fell at the 3rd in the Martin Pipe Novices H'cap hurdle last year when 10/1 for the race), he can carry weight and has a touch of class about him, with trainer Alan King confident of a good run.
Selection: LISP, £5 eachway @  25/1 (quarter-odds to 5 places with Bet365)

2:50pm Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle run over 3-miles
This should be a good betting race as few horses stay a strong 3-mile over hurdles, but this race has now been won by a horse no shorter than 11/1 for the past 5 years, and in 2018 and 2014 the winner went off at 33/1. We are looking for a horse that has race experience (4 or more hurdle races) and shown the ability to stay 3-mile. There are 20 runners!
I am against the fave BIRCHDALE as he's only had 2 hurdle races, ditto ALLAHO and DICKIE DIVER, and DINONS hasn't run since November.
Of the market leaders LISNAGAR OSCAR @ 13/2 and COMMANDER OF FLEET @ 15/2 are interesting, but I'm going to take a stab with Noel Meade's CAP YORK, a 7yo who won over 3-mile  LTO and stays forever. The plan was to send him for the 3-mile Pertemps handicap hurdle (run yesterday) but they think he's good enough for this
Selection: CAP YORK, £5 eachway @ 25/1 (fifth odds to 4 places with Bet Victor)

3:30pm Cheltenham Gold Cup run over 3-miles, 2 furlongs & 70 yards.
This is the big one!
Right off, I am against PRESENTING PERCY.  His RSA winning form has been put to bed with Monalee running 4th in the Ryanair Chase behind Frodon yesterday, and ELEGANT ESCAPE being beaten by Frodon here at Cheltenham in January. He will need to have improved 7lb on his RSA winning form to win this, and off the back of a 3-mile hurdle race I would want odds of 10/1.
Last year I was on NATIVE RIVER, but this year in both his runs he's not looked the same horse, as hasn't the runner-up in last year's Gold Cup MIGHT BITE.  That race was a mighty battle, and has it left it's mark? NATIVE RIVER will need to match, and possibly surpass, last year's effort to win today and I just feel that the ground is not as testing as he would want it to be.
On my ratings, BELLSHILL is about 7-10lb below Gold Cup winning standard, but he is consistent and has the very capable Ruby Walsh in the saddle.
His stablemate, KEMBOY, is interesting as he appears to stay 3-mile very well and he is certainly worth his position in the market.
 I do not think ELEGANT ESCAPE is anywhere near good enough, but he is very consistent and stays forever, so he may well come on late for 3rd or 4th.
MIGHT BITE looks a busted flush, and the 10yo has age against him and a mountain to climb to recover his form. I expect he will be up with the pace on the 1st circuit but fade away in the final mile.  His last hurrah will likely come at Aintree where he won the "Bowl" last year.
I am surprised that Ruby Walsh is not riding AL BOUM PHOTO as I thought this horse would emerge this season as the Willie Mullins Gold Cup horse, and he has won his only start this season, albeit over 2m5f on 1st January. I'm assuming Walsh thinks this trip will stretch his stamina.
They say horses aged 10yo and more don't win the Gold Cup, but the 11yo THISTLECRACK is no back number based on his 2nd in the King George on Boxing Day, and he has every right to be among the market leader. As an eachway wager, there is no better value in my opinion, and he should be in the 1st 3 home, but I cannot see him winning.
ANIBALE FLY took advantage of the fierce pace set last year to steal 3rd passing beaten horses, and is doubtful to repeat the effort.
BRISTOL DE MAI and Cheltenham do not go together, and there has not been enough rain for him, and the others INVITATION ONLY, SHATTERED LOVE, DEFINITLY RED, SOUBLE SHUFFLE and YALA ENKI have next to no chance.
For me, the winner will be CLAN DES OBEAUX, as his win in the King George stamped his authority on the staying division, and the follow-up at Ascot confirmed his ability. Trainer Paul Nicholls sent Frodon out to win the Ryanair yesterday, and that horse would have been worthy of a place in the Gold Cup. CLAN DES OBEAUX has youth on his side, he is in form, he stays well, he jumps well, he has a lot of solid chasing experience.  For me, odds of 5/1 are generous as I would have him at 9/4 in this field as he has the beating of most of them this season - he has to run poorly or they they have to improve 7lb-plus to beat him - he holds all the aces.
Selection: CLAN DES OBEAUX, £15 win @ 5/1 (available generally)

That's it for me for this years Festival. It has been a great one so far with winners posted on the blog being DUC DES GENEIVRES @ 13/2,  BEWARE THE BEAR @ 20/1 (antepost),  TOPOFTHEGAME @ 5/1 (antepost), DEFI DU SEUIL @ 100/30, and FRODON @ 7/1 (antepost).
If you have enjoyed the blog please leave a comment, refer to it on twitter (and you can find me on instagram), and if you have won a few quid on the back of my advice don't be afraid to drop a "fiver"  via the donation button on the top right of this page.
All the best for now and I will be reviewing the Festival results so that we are ahead of the game for next year over the coming weeks.
Good luck from Wayward Lad.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Cheltenham 2019 - Day 3 (Thursday 14th March)

It was a good day on Wsednesday, not quite as good as Tuesday, but good enough.  My antepost wager on TOPOFTHEGAME was successful (see Monday's blog for a recap of my antepost portfolio), and I feel vindicated - following the fantastic run from POLITOLOGUE in the Champion Chase - that my wagers on Politologue for the Ryanair was the right policy.  Judging by that performance, I think Politologue would have gone very close in the Ryanair Chase.
I am on the course (in the Best Mate enclosure) today and tomorrow.
It is a busy day today.

1:30 JLT Novices Chase run over 2m4f
Ideally, you are looking for a horse that has won a Graded race over hurdles or fences, and one that has also won at the Cheltenham Festival before.
A cracking race to start the day with, and I am very interested in the fav DEFI DU SEUIL who has won Graded races over both hurdles and fences, and has won at Cheltenham having won the Triumph Hurdle in 2017. By my ratings, he's the best novice chaser we've seen this season, not by much, but the best. I already have an antepost wagers on DEFI DU SEUIL and I'm confident they will be successful. Odds of over 3/1 look very generous about a horse who could be the best novice chaser of the season.
LOSTINTRANSLATION will not be far away, but I feel he would have been better placed in the RSA Novices chase over 3-mile instead of this race.  I rate the Irish trained REAL STEEL well behind this pair, and have more interest in VINNDICATION but again I feel he would have been better off running in the RSA Chase.
DEFI DU SEUIL - £20 win @ 100/30 Coral & Ladbrokes

2:10 Pertemps Network final Handicap hurdle run over 3-mile
Possibly the toughest handicap hurdle of the season to solve.  The winner will need to stay 3-mile at a strong gallop. Age is no barrier to success, combine that with LTO winners (if possible).
This is one of those races that you could spend a day studying the form and still not find the winner.  A good judge has suggested WALK TO FREEDOM, the 9yo trained by Mrs J. Harrington.  He carries top-weight of 11st 12lb but he is a decent handicapper who stays the trip and is unexposed at 3-mile having only raced the distance the once LTO when 2nd.
No bet race for me.

2:50 Ryanair Chase run over 2m4f & 166 yards
One of the best races for a wager, ideally you need a graded chase winner, a 2nd-season chaser, and horse that runs up with the pace. Hopefully, the horse should have won at Cheltenham before.
Although FOOTPAD won last years Arkle over 2-mile, he hasn't shown himself to be up to the usual standard since then and he looks a weak fav. The 2nd-fav ROAD TO RESPECT is normally seen over 3-mile, so dropping to 2m5f is interesting, and I wonder if he will be quick enough. MONALEE is his equal over 3-mile and probably better over 2m5f and looks to be the one to beat if FRODON is unable to repeat the form of earlier this season. FRODON flopped badly in this race last year after a busy season, and he's had fewer runs this time and maintained his form so far. UN DE SCEAUX has won this race before, but was easily swept aside by BALKO DES FLOS last year. It's a tricky race to fathom this year, but and I've already an antepost wager at 5/1 on MONALEE (a proven performer at this level) and also on FRODON @ 7/1 who I think may just struggle to hold-off these graded performers from the front.
No further wagers on this race from me as I was hoping that it would cut-up a bit more, and I'm sure had POLITOLOGUE run in this and not the Champion Chase yesterday, that he would have taken all the beating.

3:30 Sunbet Stayers' Hurdle run over 3-mile
The key to this race may lie in the race of 2018. 
SUPASUNDAE (who was 2nd) demonstrated that his best trip is 2m4f not 3-mile.  FAUGHEEN appears to have rekindled his career at 3-mile but do not forget that he is 11yo.  BACARDYS is no better now than he was in 2018 and looks outclassed. BLACK OP has a fair bit to make up to beat the fav, who he met here in January. KILBRECKEN STORM do not look good enough. However, TOP NOTCH could give the favourite a race as he loves this course and was a seriously top class hurdler as a novice, and this trip could bring out the best in him as he does enjoy coming off a strong pace. Don't get me wrong, I am expecting PAISLEY PARK to win and I think he should be 5/4 such is the form that he's shown this season, but TOP NOTCH at 16/1 ( he should pay his way.
TOP NOTCH £5 eachway @ 16/1 (5th odds a place 1,2,3,4 with Ladbrokes & Coral)

4:10 Stable Plate Handicap Chase run over 2m4f & 127 yards
This looks an incredibly tough handicap to fathom, and sometimes it pays to go on gut feeling. I think it was a bit tough on JANIKA to be raised 6lb by the handicapper for coming 2nd LTO to SIRUH DU LAC (who went up 7lb for a tiny winning margin) and I can't see either winning this race. In 2018, SPIRITOFTHEGAMES ran 5th in the 2-mile County Hurdle and he never seems to run a bad race. I do like horses with recent winning form in these handicaps, and Venetia Willams loves these handicaps here and right at the bottom with just 10st 5lb is DIDERO VALLIS who has only run in 4 chase races, won 2 of them, but failed to stay 3-mile LTO. Add that he's a prominent runner, and I like horses "in the van" and we have the makings of a wager - he's 25/1 with Bet365.
DIDERO VALLIS, £5 eachway @ 25/1 (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4 with Bet365)

4:50 Mares Novices hurdle run over 2-mile & 179 yards
I'm not going to bother with this race.  Some races you just have to pass over and as we saw with Apple's Jade and Laurina in the Champion hurdle, mares do have off days.

5:30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap (amateur riders) run over 3m2f
I found the winner of this race last year so let's have another go.
It's amateur riders again and jockeyship (or lack of it) will pay a part, so ignore all the claiming jockeys. 
YOUNG MASTER (Sam Waley-Cohen) was 6th in this race last year, but this horse is aimed for Aintree's Grand National.  
ANY SECOND NOW (Derek O'Connor) just does not look good enough on form and will he stay?
LIVELOVELAUGH (Mr P Mullins) is another with doubtful stamina.
MEASUREOFMYDREAMS is the ride of JJ Codd who has won two races already this Festival but he will need all his skill to get this one home as the 11yo looks past it.
CAPTAIN CHAOS (Miss Gina Andrews) could be the answer, as his 2nd LTO to Lake View Lad looks strong form now. A prominent runner who stays the trip well. 
ITS ALL GUESWORK (Mr B O'Neill) looks the best of the Irish challenge but he has little recent chasing form.
TOUCH KICK (William Biddick) looks an interesting entry from Paul Nicholls as he won over 2m7f LTO on soft ground, but all of his wins are when going right-handed.  
For me, it has to be... 
CAPTAIN CHAOS @ 20/1 £5 eachway (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4 with Bet365)

I am also putting
TOP NOTCH @ 16/1
DIDERO VALLIS @ 25/1
and CAPTAIN CHAOS @ 20/1  in 3 x £1 eachway doubles and a £2 eachway treble
Good luck

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Cheltenham 2019 - Day 2 (Wednesday 13th March)

What a day for the Blog!
The were 269 readers, quite a good tally, but no comments and no donations and yet WHAT ABOUT THE ADVICE?!?!
DUC DES GENEIVRES @ 13/2 never looked in any danger, wins by a street; 
and then
BEWARE THE BEAR, tipped-up on the blog on Sunday at 20/1, romps home. 

A few lads in the office joined me in combination doubles and trebles, and I'm sure there were a few of you out there who have been reading this blog for the past 9 years and know and appreciate the value of my racing experience and knowledge. It was a cracking start to the Festival, thanks for reading and it would be appreciated if you leave a comment.
It will be difficult to repeat yesterday's success, but I can only try my best - Good Luck.

Day 2 - Ballymore Novices Hurdle run over 2m5f run @ 1:30pm
Since 2001, 9 of the 17 winners won LTO.
The mean number of days since previous race (for the winner) is 52 days.
The last winner aged 7yo or older was French Holly in 1998 - stick to 6yo's and 5yo's. 
Possibly the best "novice" race of the season (chase or hurdle) and the horses that win this are seriously top-drawer and will usually already have won a graded hurdle. Most winners have their final prep run in February and a minimum break of 28-days is required coming into this race. Stick with the market leaders.

The "Ballymore" is the shop-window of future NH Champions. Whether CHAMP will make the grade is debateable as he would be the first 7yo to win since 1998. 
I also don't think BATTLEOVERDOYEN is good enough and he certainly lacks racing experience. CITY ISLAND is difficult to assess as winning at odds of 1/5 LTO suggests the test wasn't up to much. BREWIN'UPASTORM looked to be about to win the 2m4f Grade 2 hurdle here on Trial Day but clipped the final hurdle and went down.  Unless something comes out of the long-shots (doubtful) the race looks to be between CHAMP and BREWIN'UPASTORM and I favour the latter. 
Not a betting race for me as there are too many imponderables.

Day 2 - RSA Insurance Novices Chase run over 3-miles & 80 yards run at 2:10pm
Since 2001, 10 of the 17 winners won LTO.
The mean number of days since previous race (for the winner) is 31 days.
Only one recent winner (Don Poli in 2015) did not have their last prep race in mid-February. Horses that win this race generally have not been top-hurdlers as chasing is the game for which they have been aimed. Experience is the key and those starting chasing before 31st October is a good guide.

I thought last years field was strong, but this years looks even better! 
The 12 runners are headed by DELTA WORK, and he looks a worthy fav especially as he's proven at the trip and won over 3-miles at last years Festival. SANTINI looks light on experience with only 4 hurdle races and 2 chase runs, and he isn't good value in the betting. I prefer his stablemate ON THE BLIND SIDE who is also light on experience but has the benefit of a winning recent run. The most likely danger to the fav will be TOPOFTHEGAME, who like the fav, ran well over hurdles at last years festival when 2nd over 2m5f.  I'm expecting 3rd place to go to either MORTAL (who I hoped would have run in the 4-mile NH Chase on Tuesday) or MISTER MALARKY who could be one of those horses that never seems to give up.
The odds on DELTA WORK have drifted as his trainer Gordon Elliott has not had a good start to the Festival, and at 11/4 he is worth a wager as he ticks a lot of boxes. 
DELTA WORK, £10 @ 11/4 (available generally).

Day 2 - Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle run over 2m5f run at 2:50pm
Since 2001, 8 of the 17 winners won LTO.
The mean number of days since previous race (for the winner) is 50 days.
Don't overlook those running off a very long break, Aux Ptit Soins (2015) won off a 181 day break; Sky's The Limit (2006) won off 102 days; Naiad de Misselot (2008) won off 83 days; Ninetieth Minute (2009) off 80 days. Although the 2018 winner hadn't won a race that season, 14 of the last 16 winners had.  

You need a horse that has already won once this season and comes into this race off a good long break.
The LTO winners BRIO CONTI, CANARDIER, HIGHEST SUN, ERAGON DE CHANAY, ERICK LE ROUGE, VISION DES FLOS and JOKE DANCER
I can't have CANARDIER as he's been off the track too long at 138 days. Paul Nicholls has a good record in this race so BRIO CONTI is interesting, except he's a hold-up horse and on this tacky ground it is going to be difficult to get into the race from off the pace.  I'm not happy ERICK LE ROUGE is ridden by a 7lb claimer as this isn't a place to learn the ropes. VISION DES FLOS appears to be handicapped to the hilt off OR150. Both JOKE DANCER and ERAGON DE CHANAY look to not have enough pace for a race like this. However, HIGHEST SUN has been running in some decent races, and has improved with every run this season.  He is untried at this trip but he looks like he's capable of laying-off the leaders and coming with a run at the business end.
Other horses that have won this season (but are not LTO race winners) that we should consider are WICKLOW BRAVE who I feel he is a bit old now at 10yo, as is the 10yo MONBEG THEATRE.  BALLYANDY looks to be a bit high in the handicap at OR148, but he may be on the premises. One that jumps off the page is SCARPETA, who was 4th behind Samcro in the Ballymore last year. It looks like he has been aimed specifically at this race and his handicap rating of OR151 looks fair given the ability he has shown.
My 2 against the field are:
SCARPETA, £5 eachway @ 22/1 (Bet365, quarter-odds for 5 places)
and
HIGHEST SUN, £5 eachway @ 18/1 (Bet365, quarter-odds for 5 places)

Day 2 - Queen Mother Champion Chase run over 2-miles run at 3:30pm
Since 2001, 13 of the 17 winners won LTO.
The mean number of days since previous race (for the winner) is 49 days.
It will take a mighty horse to lower the colours of 2018 winner ALTIOR. This isn't a race in which to seek an outsider, stick to the market leaders which are already Grade 1 winners over this trip.

It is very difficult to envisage anything beating ALTIOR who seems to show just enough brilliance to win his races.  The Mullins trained MIN is a two-miler who would win 4 out of 5 Champion Chases, but he's been unfortunate to come up against a horse that is perhaps one of the best two-mile chasers that we've seen in modern days. The only horse that I may consider punting on is MIN but it is more in hope than certainty.
Another no-bet race for me.

At this point in the afternoon, I am leaving the office for the 3-hour drive to Cheltenham.  I have absolutely no interest at all in the Cross-Country Chase, and a race like the Juvenile Handicap Hurdle over 2-mile really should not be given house-room at the Cheltenham Festival, and while I think the "bumper" is a worthwhile race, finding the winner is not easy unless you are close to the winning stable.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Cheltenham 2019 - day 1 (Tuesday 12th March)

There has been no overnight rain, but there is a rainstorm over Cheltenham for a few hours before racing, so the ground could be softer than expected.  As such, I will be watcing the opening race to see what effect the weather has on the ground, even though I am expecting the 4yo FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES to win.
Remember, this is a 4-day Festival, keep to your staking plans, don't dwell on losses and bad luck, remain optimistic and enjoy yourself. BE LUCKY.

DAY 1 - Supreme Novice Hurdle over 2m & 87 yards run @ 1:30pm
Since 2001, 14 of the 17 winners won LTO.
The mean number of days since previous race (for the winner) is 39 days.
Since 2001; Labaik (2017) and Go Native (2009) won off a short 16-day break, and in all 12 of the 17 won off a break of 40 days or less - the others being Captain Cee Bee (2008) 115 days; Cinders And Ashes (2012) 52 days; Douvan (2015) 59 days; Altior (2016) 80 days, and Summerville Boy (2018) 66 days. 
On the day of the race it invariably pays to stick the the 1st-4 in the betting and that's the angle to play. The 2018 winner Summerville Boy was running in his 5th hurdle race, and that means that the last 10 winners have all had 4 or more hurdle races. 

The well-fancied ELIXIR DE NUTXZ is a non-runner (lame).
The race fav AL DANCER has the requisite 4 hurdle runs, unlike ANGELS BREATH (2 runs) and KLASSICAL DREAM (2 runs).  However, he has to concede 8lb to the 4yo FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES (4 runs) should he run in this race and not the Triumph Hurdle on Friday, and that looks too much to ask. GRAND SANCY is on the upgrade and there is not much between him and the 4/1 fav AL DANCER. 
At this stage of the older horses AL DANCER looks the one to beat, however with the 8lb 4yo allowance FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES (13/2 with Bet Victor) can win for the Irish.
A "no-bet" race for me.

Day 1 - Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase over 2-mile run @ 2:10pm
Since 2001, 13 of the 17 winners won LTO.
The mean number of days since previous race (for the winner) is 44 days.
Essentially you are looking for a high-class hurdler that runs a winning debut as a chaser with that debut coming before 7th December.  The 2018 winner Footpad had won a graded chase, and of the last 17 winners, 14 have won a graded chase before winning this - and there are not many such races for novice chasers. 

I am surprised that GLEN FORSA is as low 9/2 for this race, as he is - in my opinion - about a 145 chaser which is about 12lb below the level of usual "Arkle" winners. LALOR @ 6/1 did look interesting when winning his chase debut last year, but his run NTO at Sandown in December was very poor, and with no races since then he could be very ring-rusty on Tuesday, not one to take 4/1 about. Willie Mullins has not had much look with his 2-mile chasers, but his best representative is DUC DES GENIEVRES (13/2 generally) who looked much improved when winning LTO over 2m4f.  Do not underestimate this horse, he won LTO in a canter and in a quick time.  There has been a lot of good words recently for HARDLINE (5/1 generally) who comes from the Gordon Elliot stable and his form looks fair given he doesn't stay much beyond 2-mile. He was fortunate to beat Getabird at Limerick on 26Dec, as that rival made a bad blunder at the final fence when looking the winner, and he didn't have the stamina to compete with La Bague Au Roi over 2m5f at Leopardstown when he was last seen.
With doubts over the market leaders, what else is there in the race? PALOMA BLUE does not look good enough a chaser, and KALASHNIKOV needs to learn to jump a fence at speed. ORNUA was last seen (like LALOR) running at Sandown in December. The 9yo KNOCKNANUSS could have them all off-the-bridle and it's unfortunate that he fell when over in Ireland LTO.
About a week ago, I really fancied HARDLINE for this but, over the weekend, my opinion has favoured DUC DES GENIEVRES.
I've already placed £5 on HARDLINE @ 7/1 antepost
and will also have £10 on DUC DES GENIEVRES  @ 13/2 as I'm expecting him to win.

Day 1 - Ultima Handicap Chase run over 3m1f run @ 2:50pm
Since 2001, 8 of the 17 winners won LTO.
The mean number of days since previous race (for the winner) is 30 days - so it is imperative that your selection has had a good recent run. Since 2001, those that have won off the longest breaks were Joe's Edge (2007) off 114 days; Wichita Lineman (2009) 94 days; and Youllneverwalkalone (2003) 58 days - most winners had their "prep" race for this on the final Saturday in January.  
Look for a novice or 2nd-season chaser with less than 10 chase runs - you are trying to find a horse that is ahead of the handicapper. 9yo's plus are 2 wins from 102 in past 10 years; whereas 7yo & 8yo's are 7 wins from 100. 

The 2018 winner Coo Star Sivola ran off OR142 and only 2 of the last 11 winners have won from a rating under OR142. 

Always a very tricky to fathom as weight now appears to be no barrier to winning. Last years' winner COO STAR SIVOLA runs this year off only 3lb higher rating of OR145 but he does not come into the race on the same level of form as last year. I will be very surprised if current fav GIVE ME A COPPER wins as this will be only his 4th chase race. 

I posted an in-depth review of this race on Sunday afternoon, and my shortlist is:-
BEWARE THE BEAR @ 20/1: ran 4th in this race last year off OR150, races off OR151 and won LTO when in 1st-time blinkers he made all over 3m2f (6 of the last 7 winners of this race wore headgear) and with blinkers applied again, he can run a major race.
UP FOR REVIEW @ 14/1: Won a Grade 2 novice hurdle on 31Dec15, and was top-class novice hurdler in 2015-16. Injured for 2 years, was highly tried novice chaser last Spring (2018) and was only beaten by Grade 1 novice chasers at Fairyhouse last April. Off a long break, ran a great race to be 3rd in Thyestes Chase on 24Jan and looks on decent mark of OR148. 
OLDGRANGEWOOD @ 40/1: I did suggest this one on Sunday if the rain stayed away, but the soft ground has done for his chances. 
I've placed £10 win on all 3 on Sunday, but both UP FOR REVIEW (now 8/1) and BEWARE THE BEAR (now 9/1) have been gambled on so I cannot advise taking these reduced odds, but by all means take them if you are not already on.

Day 1 - Champion Hurdle over 2-mile & 87 yards run @ 3:30pm
Since 2001, 13 of the 17 winners won LTO.
The mean number of days since previous race (for the winner) is 49 days.
The best form for this race is usually the result of the previous year!  Ideally, you a looking for a horse that is already a Grade 1 winner over hurdles, and only one (Annie Power in 2016) winner had run in more than 11 hurdle races from the the last 12 renewals - so you do not want too many miles on the clock.

Is BUVEUR D'AIR (11/4 generally) about to become one of the all-time great hurdlers, or will we have another mare (with the 7lb mares' allowance) taking the title of Champion Hurdler? On the face of it, APPLE'S JADE (with 20 hurdle races on her CV) should win on known form, but have we yet seen BUVEUR D'AIR pushed to show his best? Regular readers will know that I've been on SHARJAH for a long time, mainly as I expect him to be the Mullins 1st-string and he could produce a turn-of-foot on the run-in that takes the race. We shall see. 
A "no-bet" race for me as I'm intending on laying-off my £20 on SHARJAH at some point as Ruby Walsh rides Laurina and the stable is not anticipating SHARJAH winning.
A "no-bet" race for me.

Day 1 - Mares' hurdle run over 2m4f run @ 4:10pm
Since 2001, 9 of the 11 winners won LTO (race was first run in 2008).
The mean number of days since previous race (for the winner) is 173 days, but this is distorted by 6-time winner Quevega who won 5 times off a break of over 300 days. Without Quevega, the mean number of days is 31 days. Personally, I think this race is increasing in quality. 

Ruby Walsh reckons BENIE DES DIEUX is his most likely winning ride and it's difficult tio imagine this mare being beaten.

Day 1 - Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase run over 2m4f &44 yards run @ 4:50pm
Since 2001, 8 of the 14 winners won LTO (race was first run in 2005).
The mean number of days since previous race (for the winner) is 33 days.
The 2018 winner Mister Whitaker was the 3rd winner in the last 6 years to come out of the Timeform Novice Chase run at Cheltenham on the last Saturday in January. 
This is a tightly-handicapped novice chase with only 9lb covering the field. You need an improving horse that won LTO - note that 7 of the last 10 winners WON LTO.

Always a very competitive race, I managed to find the winner last year, can I do it again?
Of the LTO winners, MILITARIAN with 10 runs is too exposed, ditto WALT (11 runs).  THE RUSSIAN DOYEN may be best at 2-mile, but ROARING BULL ticks all the boxes, as does RIDERS ONTHE STORM. There is probably not much improvement left in 9yo HUNTSMAN SON. The 6yo QUAMINO has a great race profile but will he stay? LOUGH DERG SPIRIT looks the best of the home team, or is he? I was at Cheltenham when HIGHWAY ONE O ONE was 2nd in the Timeform Novice Chase and a similar run here will see him on the premises. He is best-priced at 12/1 and is well worth an each way wager..

Day 1 - National Hunt Challenge Cup (amateur riders) Novices' Chase run over 4-mile
Since 2001, 6 of the 17 winners won LTO.
The mean number of days since previous race (for the winner) is 46 days.
In recent years, the official ratings has been the best guide, and 2 of the top-3 rated in 2018 finished 1st & 2nd (the other fell). Due to the 4-mile trip, chasing experience is a good guide to a horses chance, and 2018 winner Rathvinden was having his 11th chase race, and the 2nd Ms Parfois was having her 6th chase race.  One of the best betting races of the Festival once you know what is running at the 48hr declaration. 

In recent years this race has been the most significant staying novice chase at the Festival, much more influential than the RSA Novice Chase. The best horse on official ratings if OK CORRAL on OR153, but I feel this rating is inflated. Next best is BALLYWARD and for his last race, he won off a super confident ride by Ruby Walsh. A faller at the final fence that day was DISCORAMA and he was under a hard drive from a long way out, and I can't see him beating BALLYWARD. None of the 1st-3 in the betting have had more than 3 chase races, but IMPULSIVE STAR was 4th in this race last year and has shown himself to be an improved horse this year, He can be in the 1st-3 and is an eachway wager at 12/1. LE BREUIL has the best amateur in the business in the saddle in JJ Codd, but I can't see that advantage getting him home first.  Of the others, if JERRYSBACK can last out this trip he could be in the picture, and ATLANTA ABLAZE has the 7lb mares' allowance so she is effectively on 150 and she stays well. And I am surprised that CHEF DEC OBEAUX has not more support as he stays well and seems to have learnt to jump a fence.  For me, this is all about BALLYWARD and odds of 11/4 look decent. 

Advised Wagers:
2:10 - DUC DES GENIEVRES £10 win @ 13/2
4:50 - HIGHWAY ONE O ONE £5 eachway @ 12/1
5:30 - BALLYWARD - £10 win @ 11/4

Monday, 11 March 2019

Cheltenham 2019 - one day to go and the tension builds!

The Cheltenham Festival for 2019 commences tomorrow at 1:30pm when the most welcome roar in sport will herald the start of the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
I've no real handle on the juvenile hurdle form, but having watched FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES demolish what was supposed to be top-class field on 26th January, after which he was considered a major player in the 4yo Triumph Hurdle market, I cannot understand how he's 11/2 for this race when he is in-receipt of the 8lb "4yo's" allowance. With a rating of OR150, he'd be competitive without the allowance, so if he's as good as he was in January then he will take all the beating.
The opening day is one of the best days' racing in the calendar, and while there are championship races on all the other 3 days of the Festival, the opening day is the best.
Straight after the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, we have the Arkle Novices Chase over 2-mile and how this race develops will depend on the effect of the weather the evening and through the night. A real rainstorm is expected and we could end up with soft ground in the morning, which would not be good for the likes of LALOR. If the ground is on the soft-side, it could pay to support a horse with the ability and stamina to stay 2m4f and there is a horse that's under the radar in this respect in DUC DES GENIEVRES trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Paul Townend.  This horse massacred a talented field of novices at Gowran on 16th February over the same C&D as the Grade 2 "Red Mills" Chase won by Monalee (with 2018 Gold Cup 3rd Anibale Fly in 2nd ) and he did it in a time that was considerably quicker. That's food for thought. So far, I've considered 3 horses capable of being involved in the finish of the "Arkle" and all 3 - Duc Des Genievres, Hardline, and Knocknanuss - go to post.
Yesterday I posted a preview of the "Ultima" Handicap Chase over 3m1f and came up with a shortlist of 3: UP FOR REVIEW, BEWARE THE BEAR and OLDGRANGEWOOD. Since posting, there has been an almighty market move for UP FOR REVIEW from 14/1 to 8/1 as the world and his dog cotton's on to the fact that this horse could be "chucked-in" running off just OR148.  As I said to my old mate @EpsomAl yesterday afternoon "this horse could be another Total Recall" (Total Recall won the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase off OR147 and is now rated OR155).
I still think BEWARE THE BEAR has an excellent eachway chance, and if the rain stays away from Cheltenham (doubtful, but you never know) then OLDGRANGEWOOD will make a mockery of his 80/1 odds.
The disappointment of learning the declarations for Tuesday & Wednesday was learning that MORTAL was not in the 4-mile NH (Novices) Chase, and was running in the 3-mile RSA Novices Chase instead.  The RSA Chase is a much tougher assignment for MORTAL and while I hold a 16/1 antepost voucher on his for the race, I doubt he's much chance of beating the market leaders.
I was glad to see MIN declared for the Champion Chase as that means he will not be in the Ryanair Chase on Thursday. Unfortunately, POLITOLOGUE has also been declared for the Champion Chase so my slim possibility of laying-off my antepost wager on his for the Ryanair has gone.
The final 3 races on the card on Wednesday: the Cross Country, the 2-mile Juvenile (4yo) handicap hurdle, and the Bumper; hold no real interest for me. So I will be leaving the office at about 4pm on Wednesday and driving to Cheltenham to meet friends old and new, drink a few beers and enjoy the atmosphere.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Cheltenham 2019 - 2 days to go - ULTIMA CHASE H'cap

Just minutes after posting yesterdays blog, the twitter rumour went round that MONALEE was missing the Ryanair Chase and heading for the Gold Cup. Honestly, the only reason that I can think of taking the possible fav for the Ryanair Chase out of a race that he might well win and entering the Cheltenham Gold Cup which he almost certainly won't win is to give the owner the kudos of being in the paddock before the premier race of the festival.
This morning, the 48hrs declarations came out for the opening day of the Festival, and with this information in mind, I am taking an in-depth look at the Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f to be run on Tuesday.
One of the best handicap chases of the season, we have 24 runners going to post and it is difficult to discount any of them. Since 2001, of the 17 winners, 8 have been "last-time-out" (LTO) winners. The "mean" number of days since that previous race for winners of this handicap is 30 days - so it is very important that your selection has had a recent run, and a good one at that. Horses aged 9yo or older are 2 wins from 102 runners in the past 10 years, whereas those aged 7yo & 8yo are 7 wins from 100 runners - last years winner COO STAR SIVOLA was the only 6yo winner.
I avoid horses which last ran before Christmas Day this season, as it is very difficult to win top competitive races at the Festival off such a long break - not impossible, but very difficult. That rules our COO STAR SIVOLA (88 days), NOBLE ENDEAVOUR (94 days), BIG RIVER (86 days) and SINGLEFARMPAYMENT (88 days). 
Horses with more than 15 chase runs are probably too exposed to win a handicap as competitive as this, so that rules out SIZING CODELCO (23 runs), ROYAL VACATION (15 runs), CALIPTO (16 runs), VINTAGE CLOUDS (15 runs), GENERAL PRINCIPLE (18 runs), FLYING ANGEL (17 runs), and CATAMARAN DU SEUIL (16 runs) .
Those horse's that remain, let's look at in some detail:-
LAKE VIEW LAD: won LTO (prestigious Rowland Meyrick handicap chase at Warwick on Boxing Day), and up 8lb to OR155 will need a career-best effort (capable of being involved in the Gold Cup) to win this race.
O O Seven: Only 1 win from 6 chase races at 3-mile, his best form is around 2m5f.
MINELLA ROCCO: was 2nd in 2017 Gold Cup, but not shown similar form since and it's a leap of faith to consider him a likely winner.
ACTIVIAL: Well beaten on only attempt at 3-mile as a novice chaser, and didn't stay on both attempts at 3-mile as a hurdler.
MISTER WHITAKER: never run beyond 2m5f before, not sure this is the right race to find out if he stays beyond 3-mile.
BEWARE THE BEAR: ran 4th in this race last year off OR150, races off OR151 and won LTO when in 1st-time blinkers he made all over 3m2f (6 of the last 7 winners of this race wore headgear) and with blinkers applied again, he can run a major race.  He's 20/1 with Bet365.
 MAGIC OF LIGHT: Probably will stay this 3m1f trip but handicap mark of OR149 looks tough.
CRUCIAL ROLE: Only 4 chase races, a 3-mile hurdle winner and won LTO over extended 2m6f on 25Feb, however he is prone to bleeding.
UP FOR REVIEW: Won a Grade 2 novice hurdle on 31Dec15, and was top-class novice hurdler in 2015-16. Injured for 2 years, was highly tried novice chaser last Spring (2018) and was only beaten by Grade 1 novice chasers at Fairyhouse last April. Off a long break, ran a great race to be 3rd in Thyestes Chase on 24Jan and looks on decent mark of OR148. Currently 14/1 with Bet365.
GIVE ME A COPPER: Only had 3 chase runs, and 2 were in 2017 before returning off an 18 month break to run 4th on 02Feb over 3-mile. That form wasn't great and he needs to find 15lb to be involved in this, but trainer Paul Nicholls talks a good race!
WILLIE BOY: Did not look a 3-mile chaser when beaten on his 1st attempt at the trip LTO and OR145 looks a tough rating for him.
SHANTOU VILLAGE: Hasn't looked like a 3-mile chaser (beaten both attempts) and best at 2m5f.
OLDGRANGEWOOD: Run once (at Aintree) over 3m1f, and the soft ground probably beat him that day.  So long as the ground isn't soft, he could well run a big race as he looks to have been prepared for this race. Currently he's 40/1 with BetVictor.
My shortlist of 3 is:-
BEWARE THE BEAR @ 20/1
UP FOR REVIEW @ 14/1
OLDGRANGEWOOD @ 40/1
And I've placed wagers on all three.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Cheltenham 2019 - 3 days to go

Alfter reviewing my antepost wagers yesterday, I've been reading up a few of the journalists blogs (Lydia Hislop on Sportinglife.com is excellent) and trying to make some sense of the multiple entries of some of the fancied runners.
The handicaps are still a story in the making as we won't know the make-up until the final declarations but there are a few horses that we might be able to take a view on.
I'm looking at placing a few multiple wagers today and the first place to start is with the "Arkle" on Tuesday as this looks like being one of the weakest I can remember (well, not quite as weak as last year when Footpad won a virtual "walk-over"). If Defi Du Seuil goes for the JLT Chase on Thursday (which seems very likely) then we could be in for a surprise winner, but which horse will it be?
My opinion is currently split between HARDLINE and KNOCKNANUSS.
The next race to consider is the Champion Hurdle, but this race has little in the way of value as current champion Buveur D'Air is too short in the market given his dubious recent form, and Apple's Jade (who ran well below form in the Mares' Hurdle last year after which she was found to be "in season) who gets the mares 7lb allowance but may need every ounce of it. I've already struck and antepost wager on SHARJAH and that's enough investment for me in this race.
The opening day's race that catches my eye is the 4-mile NH Chase, as this race the form invariably works out. Those who regularly read this blog know that I do not rate the form of the fav OK CORRAL very highly (not as high as the official handicapper, nor Racing Post Ratings) and so there could be an opportunity.  I have already placed a wager on MORTAL, and I feel he has a cracking chance at this trip but, having watched his latest race, BALLYWARD looks the most likely winner. 
Having run 4th in the Albert Bartlett last March (just 3-lengths behind OK Corral in 2nd) he very nearly won his chase debut, before winning - in convincing manner - his next race over 3-mile on soft ground at Naas.  DISCORAMA fell at the final fence in that race, when upsides Ballyward, but Discorama had been under a hard-drive from a long way out while Ballyward was always looking comfortable. One for the shortlist.
On Wednesday the day starts with the Ballymore Novices Hurdle, but I've no handle on novice hurdle form this season. So it is on to the RSA Novices Chase over an extended 3-mile, but the more I look at this form, the more I think DELTA WORK the current 7/4 fav, is the most likely winner. I'm not impressed by SANTINI as a novice chaser as Rocky's Treasure (RT), who Santini beat on his debut, is only rated OR147 now (and I doubt that RT ran to that level when beaten).  And whatever way you look at it, Santini struggled at Kempton when 3rd behind La Bague Au Roi and TOPOFTHEGAME. We will have a better handle on Santini after watching how OK Corral gets on in the NH Chase on Tuesday.  Of those at longer odds, MISTER MALARKY who has won his last two 3-mile chase races, looks more than capable of being in the mix at the business end. What is interesting is that of the 13 runners declared, only two are from Ireland and there's nothing entered by Willie Mullins.
Thursday opens with the JLT Novices Chase over 2m4f and I'm not looking anywhere else other than DEFI DU SEUIL.  I reckon "Defi" has too much speed for Lostintranslation, and the Irish-trained REAL STEEL needs to find about 12lb of improvement; the same goes for KILDISART. 
Later in the day, we have the Ryanair Chase and this looks a good race for a wager, or is it? The betting is headed by the Mullins-trained pair of FOOTPAD and MIN, and which to prefer depends on who Ruby Walsh rides.  My opinion is that Walsh will ride neither, and he will ride UN DE SCEAUX. I'm expecting Footpad not to go to Cheltenham (and wait for Aintree and Punshestown instead) and for MIN to challenge Altior in the Champion Chase over 2-miles. With ROAD TO RESPECT taking the Gold Cup route, and TOP NOTCH running in the Stayers' Hurdle, this race will be essentially between MONALEE and FRODON.
Of that pair, I favour MONALEE as he's a model of consistency and this trip seems to be his best. Frodon was beaten out of sight in the Ryanair Chase last year and I would say he's only improved about 5lb since then but he never runs well in the Spring - 5 career runs in March/April without a win.  Monalee is also (on my ratings) a slightly better horse on average.
My shortlist for multiple wagers is:-
Tues "Arkle" - HARDLINE @ 7/1 and KNOCKNANUSS @ 14/1
Tues NH Chase - BALLYWARD @ 7/2 and MORTAL @ 14/1 
Wed RSA Chase - MISTER MALARKY @ 16/1
Thurs JLT Chase - DEFI DU SEUIL @ 7/2
Thurs Ryanair Chase - MONALEE @ 9/2

Possible "yankee"
HARDLINE / BALLYWARD / DEFI DU SEUIL / MONALEE
Possible long-odds "patent"
KNOCKNANUSS / MORTAL / MISTER MALARKEY

Friday, 8 March 2019

Next stop Cheltenham 2019

It's been a busy few months, and the weekend is going to be even busier as the focus will be entirely on Cheltenham.  When I look at the racing week as a whole, I try to pick my targets and not get too bogged-down in the incidentals; this is when trends can help formulate shortlists.
A few ground rules:
- You cannot find the winner of every race, so don't try to.
- If you selection doesn't win (or even run well) don't abandon the horse. If your procedures are valid then it could just be that the horse had an off-day or the course didn't suit it.
- Pace yourself, spread your bets and give yourself time to think between wagers.

This is how my Cheltenham Festival "Antepost" Portfolio stands.
Arkle (novices) Chase  
DEFI DU SEUIL, £10 win @ 16/1 (Bet365)
JLT (novices) Chase
DEFI DU SEUIL, £15 win @ 7/2 (Bet365)
Cheltenham Gold Cup
CLAN DES OBEAUX, £12 win @ 12/1 (Bet Victor)
Ryanair Chase
POLITOLOGUE, £38 win @ 14/1 
POLITOLOGUE, £5 place @ 12/1 (William Hill & Betfair)
FRODON, £10 win @ 7/1 (Boyles)
MONALEE, £15 win @ 5/1 (Boyles)
Champion Hurdle
SHARJAH, £20 win @ 12/1 (current intention is to lay-off £10 at SP on the day - Betfair)
RSA Chase (Novices 3-mile)
MORTAL, £11 win @ 16/1 (Paddy Power)
TOPOFTHEGAME, £7.50 eachway @ 5/1 (Boyles)
NH Chase (Novices 4-mile)
MORTAL, £9 win @ 20/1 (Paddy Power)

I'm of the opinion that DEFI DU SEUIL is the best novice chaser we have seen this season, and whatever race he goes for he will win. I'm hoping that he goes for the Arkle over 2-miles on the opening day, but it looks like he is going for the JLT Novices Chase on Thursday over 2m4f.
My next antepost on the opening day will be SHARJAH in the Champion Hurdle, and I'm surprised that you can still find 12/1 as I think he could be no longer than 7/1 on the day as I reckon there is not much ability seperating the mares Laurina and Verdana  Blue, yet Laurina is 7/2 whereas Verdana  Blue is 12/1.  Much will depend on which horse Ruby Walsh chooses as his mount, and if (as I expect) he chooses SHARJAH then the odds on him will tumble.  I'm expecting this one to be upsides the leaders "on the bridle" on the turn for home.

My final wager on the opening day is on MORTAL in the NH Chase over 4-miles.  This horse was clearly unsuited by the 2m5f of the "Flogas" when last seen, as he had nothing to find on the run-in after travelling and jumping well throughout.  Based on his final fence mistake at Leopardstown, there is not much between him and Delta Work, and if Delta Work was in this race than he would be the 5/2 fav.  The current fav is OK Corral and he is also the highest-rated on OR153.  Official ratings are usually a very good guide to the winner of this race, so I cannot ignore them, but I'm not convinced about this horse.  Of the Irish pair of Ballyward and Discorama, my preference is for the latter, but he may well run in the "Ultima" handicap chase earlier in the day and if he does he will take a great deal of beating.

Wednesday and my next antepost wager is in the RSA Novices Chase over 3-miles.  I have a "saver" on Mortal, should he go for this race, but I'm expecting him to run on Tuesday now, so I've taken the odds about TOPOFTHEGAME. To be honest, I am expecting DELTA WORK to win this, but his odds are so small (currently 7/4) that I'm on TOPOFTHEGAME merely to take advantage of any misfortune that may occur. I cannot see TOPOFTHEGAME not being in the 1st-3 so with my eachway wager struck I should not lose my stake.

Thursday will be a big day, no less because I will be on the course.  If DEFI DU SEUIL goes for the JLT, then I will be having a significant wager on the horse.  The odds should be fairly generous on the day, as there will be support for Lostintranslation and Vinndication as well as the interesting Irish challenger Real Steel; so I'm hoping to be able to find 7/2 and have £50+ on.

Later in the day (on Thursday) we have the Ryanair Chase and it's almost certain that my wager on Politologue is lost. For his novice and 2nd-season as a chaser, I thought Politologue was about 155, and then he went and beat MIN at Aintree last April. That win made me think he was better than 155, and what I now realise was that MIN was over-the-top when he was beaten at Aintree.  In an effort to recoup losses, I've gone back into the market with wagers on FRODON and MONALEE.  The current race-fav is last years Arkle winner FOOTPAD, but he's looked nowhere near good enough this season, and looks over-rated to me. I reckon MIN will go for the Champion Chase and with Top Notch committed to a run in the Stayers' Hurdle this race could have less than 9 runners lining-up on the day.

Finally, I am super-happy that I placed a wager on CLAN DES OBEAUX after he won the "King George" on Boxing Day.  He looks to have by far the best form seen this season as a top-class chaser, and were it not for the fans (fanatics?) behind PRESENTING PERCY then  "Clan" would be trading at about 9/4 and not 7/2. The only thing that may prevent him winning is if the rains come and we have a soft/heavy ground Gold Cup.  All being well, I could be having one of the biggest wagers of my life on-course on CLAN DES OBEAUX on Friday. 

Friday, 22 February 2019

Presenting Percy to go straight for the Gold Cup

News issued early Friday morning (22nd February) was that Presenting Percy, the current 3/1 fav for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, is to go straight to the Festival in 3-weeks time without a prep-run over fences. Sure, he had a decent spin over hurdles when winning the 3-mile Galmoy Hurdle, but his last chase race was when winning the 3-mile RSA novice chase at Cheltenham on 14th March 2018.
Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of this and I've not had a penny on the horse for the Gold Cup and Patrick Kelly has only sent out 2 other winners this season (all 3 wins he's had this season have been over hurdles) and his only chase winner in the past 2 seasons has been Presenting Percy.  All I can say is that I would want a lot better odds than 3/1 to tempt me to place a wager, and I'd be looking for more than 12/1.
That said, my antepost portfolio is looking a little sick after last weekends results even though Clan Des Obeaux did me proud when winning at Ascot. I have £12 win at 12/1 on CDO but I wish I had a fair bit more. My largest antepost wager for the Festival is on Politologue for the Ryanair Chase, but he looked a most unlikely winner of that race when running 4th to stablemate Cyrname last Saturday, and I would be surprised if he goes to Cheltenham and we may see him next at Aintree.
We are now past the point of final preparatory runs for the vast majority of winners at previous Festivals. Last year, only Coo Star Sivola won off a break of less than 3-weeks (21 days), but in 2017 there were 4 such winners; Labaik (16 days), Apple's Jade (20 days), Flying Tiger (18 days) and Presenting Percy (19 days). However, there were no winners in 2016 off a break of less than 3-weeks.
Those races with more than 1 winner off a break of 21 days or less in the past 10 years are:
Supreme Novices Hurdle: 2 wins in 2009, and 2017
Ultima Handicap Chase: 4 wins in 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2018
Mares Hurdle (2m4f): 2 wins in 2009 and 2017
Novices Handicap Chase (2m4f): 2 wins in 2012 and 2014
"Fred Winter" Novices Handicap hurdle: 5 wins in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2017
"Pertemps" Final H'cap Hurdle: 3 wins in 2009, 2015, and 2017
Triumph Hurdle: wins in 2009 and 2010
Foxhunter Chase: 2 wins in 2010 and 2014.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that DEFI DU SEUIL goes for the "Arkle" and not the JLT Chase, but with JP McManus owning both Defi Du Seuil and the current 11/4 fav Le Richebourg, it's hard to see that happening and, at this stage, I can see both these horses winning their respective races.
In the 4-mile NH Chase (for amateur riders) I have to say that I've not been that impressed with the performances of OK Corral and if the race were run today I'd be looking to take the odds of 9/2 about DELTA WORK.  Much of this race will depend on the jockey bookings as top amateur riders are thin on the ground, but I would say that the Irish trainers appear to hold the aces in this race with Delta Work, Ballyward and (possibly) Mortal; the latter horse being my early antepost wager on the race.  

When you look at the form of Delta Work, if Le Richebourg wins the "Arkle" on the opening day then his odds for whichever race he's entered in will tumble.  He will start the fav for the race he lines-up in, but we are not sure if it will be the 3-mile RSA Chase or the 4-mile NH Chase.  Given that he had the speed to beat Le Richebourg over 2m4f on "good" ground at Fairyhouse on 2nd December (in what looks in hindsight to be top-class form), I would favour him going for the RSA Chase.  That would see him clash with another top class novice chaser in Topofthegame who although yet to win a chase race (he's been 2nd in both chase races he's contested) looks to be the best staying chaser on ratings this side of the Irish Sea.  I'm not convinced (yet) that Santini is as good a chaser as his potential suggests, and it may be we see the best of him when he drops in trip to 2m5f, a bit like Albertas Run who was a dual winner of the Ryanair Chase after not being top-class over 3-mile.

So, at the moment, I'm toying with a double on LE RICHEBOUG (Arkle) and DEFI DU SEUIL (JLT Chase), and a small treble on the same pair plus DELTA WORK for the RSA. 
The £10 win double would return £157.50
and a £5 win treble would return £393.75 if successful.
All the best from Wayward Lad.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Cheltenham Festival latest

What an interesting weekend of horseracing. 
We had added another few pieces of the Cheltenham Festival jigsaw, and taken a few away, and the overall picture is starting to become a bit clearer.
The Arkle betting market had a re-jig following the win of Le Richebourg at Leopardstown in the Irish "Arkle" on Saturday.  Unfortunately, he beat nothing new, in fact he beat all the same horses that he had already beaten, only he did it a bit more easily.  He is definitely the best 2-mile novice chaser seen so far in Ireland, but the formlines are difficult to match-up with the British form.
Here in England, the market is still dominated by Lalor based on that phenomenal display on his chasing debut at Cheltenham, but don't forget he flopped when next out (and that was the last time we saw him).  Connections reckon he was beaten by the soft ground on that run at Sandown in early December, and they are deciding not to risk another run before the Festival. Based on the trends, that's not a good idea, and I would not be willing to take odds shorter than 5/1 for this horse. 
Kalashnikov is another who will likely go straight to the Festival without another run, but he was unable to contain Dynamite Dollars at Kempton on 27th December and that horse has since won again. I'm sure Cheltenham will suit Kalashnikov more than Kempton, but if there are less than 10 runners in the Arkle then he may not get the pace he craves. Dynamite Dollars is a consistent performer who gets the job done, and he should be capable of running a decent race in the Arkle; but (not being a top-class hurdler) he may find 1 or 2 too good for him on the day.
In the autumn of 2017, Cilaos Emery was on the verge of breaking through as a Grade 1 hurdler, but injury curtailed that season, and he reappeared at Gowran Park last week to win comfortably over 2-miles on his chasing debut. Unfortunately, he didn't beat much but what he faced in the race, he beat well. As such, it's difficult to know what to make of Cilaos Emery, as he will have to run about 20lb better than this (at least) to win the Arkle at Cheltenham.
Only one bookie is offering "non-runner, no bet" on the Arkle (Skybet) and so I would like to take the current odds about the horse that I think has shown the best chase form seen this season over fences, and that is DEFI DU SEUIL who won at Sandown on Saturday. For me, this was the performance of the weekend as I already thought "Defi" was the best novice chaser we've seen this season - he was giving Lostintranslation 3lb when they met at Cheltenham - and he proved it on Saturday.   I think he could on his way to being the best Arkle winner we've seen in a few years and so I've taken the 16/1 offered about him for the Arkle by Bet365. You can get 8/1 NRNB with Skybet but I think it's worth the gamble for the increased odds that he runs in the Arkle rather than the JLT.  He's a Triumph hurdle winner, he's very quick, he loves Cheltenham, he jumps well (he slipped on landing on loose turf at the first of the railway fences and recovered well) - how could connections not go for the Arkle? If he lines up for the Arkle I cannot see him starting longer than 4/1.
Apple's Jade looks like she can win the Champion Hurdle, but she's not a 165+ hurdler yet on what we've seen.  Remember she beat Supasundae 20-lengths on the 2nd Dec over 2m4f, so beating him again by 16-lengths on the same terms over 2-miles was always on the cards.  The disappointment was Melon, who looks to have lost his way, had he run to his rating (OR162) then he would have been a close 2nd, but I'd say Apple's Jade has improved about 7lb since she was 3rd in the Mares Hurdle last March. When you include the 7lb mares allowance, that means the colts will have to run to at least 167 to beat her in the Champion Hurdle. Now, on my ratings, Buveur D'Air hasn't run to 167 since winning the Aintree hurdle over 2m4f in April 2017, and he's going to find it very hard to contain Apple's Jade, but it is within his scope.
I'm none-too confident now about my speculative wager on Sharjah, but this horse does have a helluva turn of foot and he may be able to lay-up and come with a run, but will he cope with the Cheltenham hill? I'm confident that I should be able to lay-off my wager on him on the day and recover my stake.
Mortal may have had an issue with the ground, but I'm not so sure, as he travelled well enough when beaten behind La Bague Au Roi on Saturday. I've already placed small wagers on him for both the RSA and NH Chase but he doesn't look good enough, and I can see him not coming over for the Festival.

Cheltenham Festival Portfolio
Arkle (novices) Chase  
DEFI DU SEUIL, £10 win @ 16/1 (Bet365)
Cheltenham Gold Cup
CLAN DES OBEAUX, £12 win @ 12/1 (Bet Victor)
Ryanair Chase
POLITOLOGUE, £38 win @ 14/1 (average odds - current intention is to lay-off £28 at SP on the day)
POLITOLOGUE, £5 place @ 12/1 (William Hill & Betfair)
Champion Hurdle
SHARJAH, £20 win @ 12/1 (current intention is to lay-off £10 at SP on the day - Betfair)
RSA Chase (Novices 3-mile)
MORTAL, £11 win @ 16/1 (Paddy Power)
NH Chase (Novices 4-mile)
MORTAL, £9 win @ 20/1 (Paddy Power)