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advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

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

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