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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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Thursday 28 March 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - horses for the alert list

Now that we've all had time to appreciate the horseracing, it's time to take a look back with fresh eyes and a clear view and find the horses that will be worth following in the next 12 months. Before we go there though, we need to pay attention to the ground over the Festival. 
This year, we started with soft (heavy in places) ground, and it's been soft (and near heavy) ground in 6 of the last 7 years (only 2022 was Good-to-Soft). Whether we like it or not, the rains come earlier these days and some of the trainers are going to have to relax a little and send out their horses to race on ground that is (perhaps) a little softer than they'd like.  Sometimes the horses quite enjoy it!  Take Twig who ran 2nd in the Ultima H'cap Chase at 28/1; his jockey commented post-race "this morning we debated even running Twig, he wants better ground; but we thought we could prep him for Aintree, and he's run like that - we're absolutely delighted!"

The Festival starts off with the Supreme Novices Hurdle and I thought this was a weak year, probably the weakest since 2019. There's possibly only one that may remain a hurdler; Mystical Power, who is bred to stay 2m4f+ but didn't get up the hill in this race after looking the likely winner jumping the final flight - only a 5yo, he could improve a lot over the next 12 months. Tullyhill was running a cracker till headed just before the final flight, and he may need a wind-op; I wouldn't give up on him.  It's a shame Asian Master is a 7yo as he's running out of time to make a decent chaser. Finally, considering it was only his 2nd hurdle race since joining Mullins, Mistergif  ran much better than his odds; and this 5yo could be anything; he's bred for the flat.

There can be no doubt now, that Gaelic Warrior is the best novice chaser we've seen since Douvan in 2016 (that means he's better than Shishkin), and could possibly be as good as Vautour - I cannot see this horse being beaten by anything in the next couple of seasons no matter what the trip.  And that makes Found A Fifty very interesting, as I think he's underestimated - he could be a 160+ chaser already, and he certainly will be if stepping up to 2m4f or more. Nothing else caught my eye in the "Arkle", but I will keep an open mind with Quilixios who was left at the start and ran no sort of race. The 6yo Il Etait Temps was in the wrong race, he should have been in the "Turners" over 2m4f, as his best run this season was when 2nd over 2m3f & 100yds to Gaelic Warrior with subsequent Festival winner Inothewayyurthinkin in 3rd

The Mares Hurdle run over 2m4f provided what was possible the wager of the day in Lossiemouth, and how we all missed combining her with Telmesomethinggirl.  She may be 9yo, but she loves running at the Festival, winning the Mares Juvenile in 2021; and brought-down when looking the likely winner of this race in 2022. The exacta paid £22 for a £1 stake. Regards Champion Hurdle potential of Lossiemouth, she may be capable of giving State Man a race (with the help of the mares allowance), but she's no chance of troubling Constitution Hill - or Ballyburn (in my opinion).

The Juvenile h'cap Hurdle over an extended 2-mile is difficult to assess, and the only one I take from this race is the Ndaawi who may have come 3rd but was 10lb better than anything else and was carrying 11st 12lb. 

The final race of the opening day was the NH Chase, and I'm not convinced by Corbetts Cross - if he's already OR157 then what must Grangeclare West be, OR164?  I'm not having that, as Flooring Porter is nowhere near as good a chaser as he is a hurdler, and he'd have to have run his best-ever chase performance when 3rd to that pair on 29-Dec to give them those high ratings. I expect we will see Corbetts Cross running in the "Charlie Hall" in the Autumn, but he doesn't look as good as the owners other top novice chaser Fact To File, who won the "Broadway" Novice Chase on the 2nd day of the Festival. 

The 2nd day started with another Willie Mullins trained winner: Ballyburn in the "Gallagher" Novices Hurdle. This winning performance was just a formality, as Ballyburn was much the best horse in the race. I will stick my neck out, and suggest that Ballyburn will be a match for Constitution Hill and will likely win the 2025 Champion Hurdle. Watching the replay, on the home turn every other horse in the race was under a hard-drive, whereas Ballyburn was just coasting: remarkable! There's the possibility that Ballyburn could go chasing next season, but he looks 10lb better than State Man (also trained by Mullins) and he will need to be to win the Champion Hurdle. Take the 10/1 currently on offer as Mullins wants a serious challenge for Constitution Hill  in 2025 - he doesn't want to win the Champion Hurdle by default.

The "Broadway" Novice Chase over 3-miles looked very good on paper (probably above average), and the winner Fact To File won in a manner that suggests he's a Gold Cup winner in the making, he certainly looks better than Corbetts Cross.  Unfortunately, the early odds available antepost are poor, just 4/1, and so I cannot advise taking those - but the 10/1 (Bet Victor) for the "King George" on Boxing Day looks tempting, and I'm on! Of the others, in 2nd was Monty's Star who showed improved form again, and he could be one to watch in a top handicap as he's been rated just OR150. And I was gutted when Giovinco was withdrawn from the Ultima H'cap Chase on the opening day, as this performance showed he would have gone mighty close to winning that had he run. He has been even better treated by the handicapper and will race off OR148 next time out.

I can see this post is going to be a long one: this is my 2nd update & addition to the original post. If you can access it, Paul Ferguson of Weatherbys has written a detailed review of the Cheltenham Festival (more detail than me) and it's a tremendous read. My blog isn't ripping-off that review - horseracing is all about opinions, and my opinion differs from Fergusons a fair bit.  

Suggested Antepost Wagers (28th March 2024)
King George Chase (Kempton): 
Found A Fifty (no odds offered yet - no idea why not); and Fact To File @ 10/1 (BetVictor)
Champion Hurdle (Cheltenham): 
Ballyburn @ 10/1 (Bet365)
QM Champion Chase (Cheltenham): 
Gaelic Warrior @ 9/2 (Coral & Betfred)
Ryanair Chase (Cheltenham): 
Found A Fifty @ 50/1; Il Etait Temps @ 33/1; Gaelic Warrior @ 5/1
Stayers' Hurdle (Cheltenham): 
Teahupoo @ 100/30 (Bet365)
Gold Cup (Cheltenham): 
Gaelic Warrior @ 25/1; and Galopin Des Champs @ 3/1

If you are interested in the wagers I've placed, (as of 28th March 2024) I've doubled-up the following:- 
Ballyburn with Gaelic Warrior (in Champion Chase, Ryanair, and Gold Cup)
Ballyburn with Galopin Des Champs (Gold Cup)
Galopin Des Champs with Gaelic Warrior (Champion Chase, Ryanair)
That's 6 x £2 WIN doubles.

Following the "Broadway" Chase on Wednesday, it was the Coral Cup (handicap) Hurdle, and what a tremendous achievement by Dan Skelton to bring Langer Dan back to complete a double in the race (having won it in 2023). Langer Dan is a Festival specialist (festival form is very useful in finding winners) and this was his 4th Festival, and he produced a career-best. It's worth noting that since 2010 this race has been won by Henderson (4 times), Elliott (3 times), Skelton (twice), and once for Mullins, and Nicholls, Other "top trainer" winners are Alan King and Jessica Harrison - as it's difficult to a small-time trainer to pull-off a coup with a rank outsider, consider the effort by Franciscan Rock in 5th sent by "Mouse" Morris at 50/1. He's been highly tried and could be interesting in a handicap, especially if reverting to chasing.  

There's nothing much to be said about the QM Champion Chase, other than perhaps the prize-money structure should be changed to try and have some more entries. Fair play to Venetian Williams who sent out her OR144 rated Funambule Sivola to be 3rd, collecting £54,826 in the process.

The 2-mile "Grand Annual" handicap chase is usually run at a frenetic pace, and isn't my cup-of-tea. Even so, I'm not sure how I missed Unexpected Party, as he's run well at Cheltenham before, and loves soft ground.  The winner is now the 4th 9yo or older to win in the last 8 years, which suggests this race favours experienced runners.  The ones to take from this race are Libberty Hunter who was 2nd as this was just his 3rd completed chase race; and Gemirande who possibly found the ground a bit to soft, and could find a handicap before his summer break.  

I've no idea what to make of the Champion Bumper, they all look decent on paper. So it's onto Thursday and the 3rd day of the Festival, and my favourite day - I just hope they don't change anything. The day starts with the Turners Novices Chase over 2m4f and looking at the list of past winners, there's not many that have gone onto better things. However, Grey Dawning may change that, as he's improved with every run this season, and his form on soft/heavy ground suggests he will be in his element in the autumn, and the Betfair Chase over 3-mile at Haydock must be on his radar.  In 2nd, Ginny's Destiny was beaten by a better horse (possibly outstayed), and while he's won on soft ground, I think he's better when there's "good" in the going description.  He's not one I'd expect to win the Ryanair next season; but he could win a couple of top handicaps at around 2m4f. 

Onto the 3rd, and hopefully, final leg of this monster blog.
The Pertemps H'cap Hurdle over 3-miles is a cracking race, and one I love to have a punt at.  I've said this before, and I will say it again: 3-mile hurdle races are (in my opinion) the best betting medium in NH Racing.  It takes a certain horse to have the stamina to stay 3-miles over hurdles and have the "speed" to win.   What was unusual about this years' winner Monmiral was that he'd not won a hurdle (or any other) race beyond 2m1f. I'm going out on a limb here, but this looks like a "Big Bucks" moment, and I'm expecting Paul Nicholls to think the same - so I'm taking the 66/1 currently offered by Bet365 for the 2025 Stayers Hurdle. Don't forget, Monmiral has won at Grade 1 level over hurdles already, and was 2nd in the G1 Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f in 2022. The form of the "Pertemps" looks strong to me: Kyntara in 2nd and Cuthbert Dibble in 3rd both ran a career-best - and what a run by the 50/1 chance Bold Endeavour sent by Henderson who's stable was under the cloud of a virus.  I'm putting the 1st-5 on my alert list as my selection in the race Emitom was 5th and he just couldn't match the front-4 over the final quarter-mile.

In the Ryanair Chase, I was right on the button with Protektorat who has been super consistent all season; I just wish I'd taken the 20/1 when it was confirmed he was a definite runner in the race. Even so, this was a weak Grade 1 race, and while occasionally there is a horse like Allaho that dominates over this 2m4f trip, invariably this race is for horses that are not good enough to compete in either the 2-mile Champion Chase or the 3m2f Gold Cup.  There's nothing from this race going onto my alert list.

The Stayers' Hurdle was again demonstrated to be a weak division. My money was on Flooring Porter who ran 2nd, and you have to wonder were it not for a training set-back last season, he's have won this race in 2023 making him a triple winner. Such is the lack of horses over the 3-mile trip that are "proper" Grade 1 level, you have to think that both Flooring Porter and the winner Teahupoo will be back again next year. The antepost odds offered on Teahupoo (100/30 from Bet365) are decent value given the lack of opposition. There is also plenty of 25/1 around for Flooring Porter and he may be a 10yo next year, but Sire Du Berlais won this race last year as an 11yo. There's plenty of room for new challenger, and Monmiral may be the one to disrupt the market.

The "Plate" Chase handicap over an extended 2m4f was an exciting race, but the only one I'm taking from it for my alert list is the runner-up Crebilly who was having only his 4th chase race - this 7yo has been highly tried this season, and could be one for the "Paddy Power" h'cap chase in the autumn.

The Grade 2 Mares' Hurdle is an anomaly to me, and that only 8 mares could be found to race in it suggests the BHA should have a rethink about its place in the Festival. Nothing took my eye.

There have been a few calls to remove the "Kim Muir" from the Festival, but not from me as I've found the winner a few times in recent years. Not so this year, as the winner Inothewayyurthinkin bolted-up to record its first chase win (won twice over hurdles) after an almighty gamble: going off as the 13/8 fav. How this horse remained a maiden chaser before coming here is beyond me, as he looks to have Grade-1 potential being just a 6yo. His full-sister Limerick Lace won the Mares' Chase the following day!  As such, you have to put Inothewayyurthinkin onto the alert list, but you wouldn't want to put anything else from the race on it; not even the 2nd Git Maker who tried to make a race of it but was quickly seen-off. 

Onto the final day of the Festival, which opened with the Triumph Hurdle - and I read this race completely wrong. These things happen, so it's best to try and learn from the mistakes. The stats indicate that whatever Paul Townend rides for Mullins in a G1 race, that's the one to be on, and he rode Storm Heart and he didn't shape like a "Triumph" winner when 2nd (to Kargesse) at the Dublin Festival. As such, I dismissed the form of that race almost entirely; as I did think Majborough needed 2m4f (and I still do!).  I'm adding the 1st-3 onto the alert list, as I can see Kargesse winning the Mares' Hurdle next season;  and Majborough could well in a G1 novice chase at Cheltenham (if he were mine, I'd keep him hurdling for another year); and Salver (a half-bro' of the top-class hurdler Saldier) could be a top-class hurdler next season. I shall be also keeping an eye-out for my selection in the race - Nurburgring - who eventually finished 4th having been held at the rear of the field until the final quarter-mile which, on the stamina-sapping ground, was entirely the wrong tactics. That the front-3 pulled so far clear should also take into account with the race time: this was 7.58sec FASTER over the same C&D as the next race on the card. 

The County handicap Hurdle was a run a "steady" pace, thus favouring those with a turn of foot, such as the winner Absurde. This was a tremendous performance by the winner considering his hurdling experience was sketchy coming into this race. The benefit of hindsight allows us the knowledge that the G1 Novice hurdle run at the Dublin Festival had 3 subsequent Cheltenham Festival winners in the 1st-4: Ballyburn, Slade Steel, and Absurde (keep an eye-out for Jit Langy; 5th in that race). I'd say that Absurde could be better than OR155 with more hurdling experience, but he may not be up to Grade 1 level.

It's been a significant effort putting this together, but we're in the home straight.
The Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle is a bit of an odd race, as sometimes if comes up with a top-class horse, but most of the time it doesn't. To be honest, I'm not sure about this years race. Why? The Jukebox Man should have won this having jumped the last so far in front. That he didn't, suggests that his best trip could be 2m6f; but then he is improving rapidly - so you never know. He is the best horse produced by his sire Ask in years, but that isn't a great recommendation.  The race winner, Stellar Story, probably should not have gone off at 33/1; he's beaten some good horses but has lacked-a turn-of-foot in recent races and has been crying-out for a stiff 3-miles on testing ground. I'm expecting this pair to go novice chasing next season, as will most of the rest in the race.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the highlight of the Festival, but this year I found the race underwhelming as the fav Galopin Des Champs is so much better than anything else in-training. Can anything beat him next year? So long as he stays fit, I really cannot see GDC being beaten next year by any horse not already residing the Mullins stable. If Gaelic Warrior steps-up to 3-mile, he has a good chance of beating GDC, that's why I've suggested having an antepost wager on him. I certainly can't see anything from this race beating GDC in 2025. The only other 2nd-season chaser to consider is Fact To File, but the current odds of 4/1 on him are poor. It may be worth having £5 on Fact to File and £20 on Galopin Des Champs, in the event that the champion doesn't run in 2025.

There was nothing worth noting in the Hunter Chase.
The Mares Chase was dominated by JP Mc Manus owned runners: with his Dinoblue now having started as the fav for 3 consecutive Festivals, but is yet to win a Festival race - how's that for a stat! Let's be honest: on ratings Dinoblue should have won this race by 10-lengths, which suggests she didn't stay 2m4f. The proximity of the 3rd placed Marsh Wren rated OR132 also suggests this form is unreliable. The Gavin Cromwell trained Limerick Lace is certainly consistent and holds a Grand National entry; but I doubt that she will improve enough on this to be involved in the finish of that race.

The Final race of the Festival, the Conditional Jockeys' handicap Hurdle over 2m4f has produced some very decent performers in the recent past. However, I'm not sure what to make of the winner Better Days Ahead, as his form coming into this wasn't special, and I'm more taken with the lightly raced 3rd, Quai De Bourbon - but at this stage I will just be watching the 5yo. 

That's it - I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it.  Fingers crossed, we have found a few winners. I have opened-up the comments to anyone with a Google account, but if I get any "obscure" comments from Nigerian businessmen asking if they can deposit funds into my bank account, then I shall have to close the comments down (again).

Suggested Antepost Wagers (2nd April 2024)
Stayers' Hurdle (Cheltenham): 
Monmiral @ 66/1 (Bet365)

Horse's for the Alert List:
Asian Master
Found A Fifty - over 2m4f
Quilixios - untold potential
Il Etait Temps - over 2m4f.
Fact To File - looks the type who could win several Grade 1 chases at 3-mile next season
Monty's Star - handicaps at 3-mile or thereabouts
Giovinco - handicaps at 3-mile or thereabouts
Franciscan Rock - handicap at 2m5f to 3-mile either hurdles or chase.
Libberty Hunter - sure to improve as only run in 4 chase races
Gemirande - needs "good" ground to show best form
Crebilly - could be anything, exciting
Inothewayyurthinkin -may be a marathon horse, Welsh National type
Majborough - potential top-class novice chaser
Kargesse - could easily be the best mare in training next season (after Lossiemouth)
Salver - needs soft/heavy, potential top-class hurdler

Sunday 24 March 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - the post-meeting review

After a tremendous day of success in the betting-ring on Thursday, the final day of the Festival was a bit flat for me. 
In the Triumph Hurdle, Majborough made the most of his stamina to sit behind the leaders and stay-on strong to win. Stamina was a factor all through the Festival (due to the ground), and race winners had to be racing prominent: therefore it was so disappointing to see my selection Nurburgring held at the rear until the home turn, and then stay-on well passing beaten horses to be 4th - whoever thought those tactics would work clearly hadn't paid attentioni to the 1st-3 days of the Festival. 
My pair of selections in the County Hurdle were both affected by the ground, with Encanto Bruno (keep a lookout for him) being a non-runner, and King Of Kingsfield being right there at the final flight but not staying on.  Harry Skelton very nearly made it 5 winners for the week with L'Eau Du Sud, who went off the 7/2 Fav. The formbook suggested the Skelton horse was well handicapped, but the horse was certainly showing better form on the home gallops that on the course. Skelton was also responsible for last years fav for this race, Pembroke. You can take nothing away from the winner Absurde, or the training performance of Willie Mullins who has improved this horse with every run over hurdles - will he be as good as another "County" winner for Mullins: State Man?
For the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, my interpretation of the form was decent (in my opinion), with The Jukebox Man running 2nd - as he was 3rd LTO to my selection Captain Teague. It's likely that Captain Teague didn't stay the trip at this level, as the writing was on the wall over half a mile out. He was beaten over 2m5f in November in a Grade 2 when he started odds-on, and perhaps in hindsight I should have paid more attention to that race. I also should have paid a lot more attention to the to the 3-mile trip and the heavy ground on the day: as the race winner Stellar Story was by proven staying sire Shantou and looked sure to appreciate a step-up to 3 miles.
This was the first year I've not had a wager on the actual Cheltenham Gold Cup since I returned to the UK in 1997 after living and working in Hong Kong for 7 years. My antepost wager for the race was Shishkin, and I was on him after he ran a cracker in the "King George" at Kempton on Boxing Day. After Protektorat won the Ryanair Chase, thereby confirming the form of the "Denman" in February which Shishkin won, I'm convinced that Galopin Des Champs would have had to equal or better his 2023 effort to win this race; in the event, he merely cantered to victory having led 2-out.  I had a "place-only" wager on Bravemansgame, but the ground was softer than I expected it to be (the rails are moved and they race on fresh ground in the Gold Cup) and he was passed by a couple of plodders in Gerri Colombe and Corach Rambler. Right now it's difficult to see anything beating Galopin Des Champs next year, certainly none of this years best novice chasers seem capable of stepping-up; and it must also be taken into account that the best staying novice chasers - Corbetts Cross and Fact To File - are trained by Willie Mullins to trains Galopin Des Champs. 

Willie Mullins currently has the jumping game in a stranglehold, and he's absolutely dominating the entire programme.  There's nothing that can (or should) be done to change the rules to "level" the field, as doing that will destroy the integrity of the sport. When I was watching the Cheltenham Festival in the 1980's it was British trainers who dominated the sport, and that dominance was led by trainers like Michael Dickinson based in Yorkshire.  I can't remember the British suggesting back then that the rules of racing be changed to allow the Irish trainers to win a few more races at the Cheltenham Festival.  Horseracing is a "fashion" and always has been; it goes in-and-out of favour depending on who influences it, and where public opinion lies.  
What the BHA should be doing is avoiding shooting itself in the foot: and it does that by providing a template for the sport which exudes excellence and exclusivity. It has to do that as horseracing is incredibly expensive - to keep a horse in training, be it a selling plater or a Derby winner, cost in-excess of £100 a day. Sure, some trainers will offer their services for a bit less (and the more successful ones, a bit more), but the vet's bills, entry fees, transport, farrier, tack etc are the same for every horse.  
The structure of the racing calendar (which is controlled by the BHA) should be about promoting excellence, and if I could suggest one thing to the the BHA it would be to reduce the amount of races at the "bottom-end" and establish a cut-off rating to remove horses which are not good enough. 
The exclusivity of horseracing is essential to attract new owners into the sport and advertisers and race sponsors.  A casual wander through the shopping village at the Cheltenham Festival quickly informs you that the wealthy are there and they want to spend their money.  A few years ago, I spoke to some people who were associated with the Bentley outlet, and I learned that Bentley sold more of their vehicles at the Festival than at any other sporting event in the UK - has Bentley ever sponsored a race at the Festival? The BHA really need to up their game when it comes to race sponsorship, and if they don't have the skills then they should out-source the selection and negotiation of potential race sponsors.  

I expect most readers of this blog will say "what about the ordinary punter?" Horseracing has always been the great social mixing-pot, where people from all types of backgrounds meet on equal terms for one reason: to strike a wager.  That is the sole reason for horseracing; you can talk about improving the breed, but horseracing is about having a wager. If the BHA improve excellence, we have a more competitive sport, and with more competition we have a more opportunities of races without odds-on fav's. And with increased excellence, and emphasis on exclusivity we should see more prestigious race sponsors and increased prize-money. And with more prize money and exclusivity, that should attract new, wealthy owners. So long as the trainers are good enough on both sides of the Irish Sea, to attract the new owners to invest, then we should see the balance of power - currently in favour of Ireland - become more "equal". 

As for the Festival itself from a punters viewpoint, this was the 15th year for me. I first attended in 2004, then in 2007, 2011, and every year since (could not attend in 2021, the year of Covid). The worst year for attending was 2022, as the record attendance and subsequent crowds made the event virtually unbearable. The best year, was when the attendance was blighted by Covid, 2020; as for those attending it was a pleasant experience. If I had control of the Festival, I would limit tickets to 50,000 per day. I have used the "Best Mate" stand several times, and the view from there is superb - for me and a few other Cheltenham regulars, the view of the racing is better than from the "Club", as support pillars obscure a clear view (not so in the "Best Mate").  It just lacks the facilities of the Club/Tattersalls area. As such, I'd significantly reduce the admission charged for entry into the "Best Mate" and make it £20 for the 1st 3-days, and £25 for the Gold Cup. There was a lot of talk on the forums regards prices in the "Club" (to be honest, it's pointless buying a Tattersalls ticket as you cannot gain entry to about 75% of the stands area, and the walkways are so crowded it's near impossible to walk from the paddock to the Tattersalls viewing are during racing). In my opinion, the ticket prices are fair value considering the level of the sport that you have the pleasure of watching. The top price for the FA Cup Final in 2023 was £115, and for that game you are guaranteed only 90 mins of action; a day at the races is approximately 270 minutes long. If the prices to the "Best Mate" are reduced, I'd increase the price of entry to the "Club". 
To be honest, I don't go horseracing with the intention of eating; so if you haven't eaten before you get there, then you are going to have to pay the going price. I've already had a hearty breakfast, and possibly a sandwich or pie on the way to the course. Yes, I do like to have a pint when I'm there, but I'm there for the horseracing, not to get drunk - I can go to the pub and do that without paying an admission fee. As for getting to and from the course, I really cannot see a problem with parking somewhere away from the course and catching a shuttle-bus there and back. Using the shuttle-bus (£4 per per, per trip) was cheaper than a taxi from the centre of town (£21 = £5.25pp; 4 passengers), and also a lot quicker. 

I'm taking a look at the results over the next week or so, and producing a list of possible horses to follow and/or look out for in the coming weeks. So please keep an eye out for messages on "X" (twitter), and make a note to return to the blog over the coming weeks.  

Friday 15 March 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - Day 4 (15th March)

What a cracking day it was yesterday. 
We started off with a winner in the opening race, when Grey Dawning stayed on best of all to win at odds of 5/2. Then we had a great ew wager on Emitom in the Pertemps Final at 28/1; the day was to get even better.  Protektorat, the selection in the Ryanair Chase, romped home at decent odds of 9/1 (recommended taking on the blog). Finally, we very nearly pulled-off a tremendous wager in the Stayers' Hurdle when Flooring Porter looked to be going on to win, only to be caught and passed on the run-in.

Let's look at Gold Cup day:
1:30pm Triumph Hurdle 4yo's only (2m1f)
This race isn't my usual hunting ground. 
This looks a tricky race for the punter. The fav is Majborough based on his promising debut when staying-on to be 3rd, and he's closely matched with Storm Heart who was 2nd in that race.  Personally, I don't think the winner of this is coming out of that race, which also cancels-out Kargesse who won, and Bunting who was 4th; these horses are too closely matched. I've had Nurburgring in my notebook since Xmas when he ran a cracker, giving weight away, to be 3rd to Kala Conti. Nurburgring is the horse with the most potential at today's trip and on the soft ground. I feel Majborough needs 2m4f already, and the others just aren't quick enough. 
William Hill offer 11/2 on Nurburgring, and there's plenty of 5/1 available; I'm having £5 win.

2:10pm County Hurdle (2m1f)
This is a difficult race. I was not happy Pied Piper (2nd in this race last year) didn't run in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, but he does run in this. It's a big ask to win this with 12st.  I feel trainer Gordon Elliott is using Pied Piper to allow a lesser-light a decent weight to run off. He has the race-fav King Of Kingsfield who has been running well in races similar to this and looks primed for a big run, but he's only 5/1. Dan Skelton, who won this last year with Faivoir, has had 4 winners this week, and is the handicap king at the Festival. Faivoir could emulate Langer Dan and become a double winner handicap winner, and the horses is in top form just failing to win the Imperial Cup at Sandown on Saturday. Skelton also has L'Eau Du Sud who looks to have been aimed at this race. However, I'm going left-field and Encanto Bruno trained by Gavin Cromwell also looks to have been aimed at this race since winning here over 2m4f last October. Kept quiet since, we know Cromwell can produce one on the day, and so long as he handles the ground, he won't be far away: odds of 33/1 are generally available and I'm having £2.50 eachway (6-places, 5th odds a place).
I would not put you off have a few win wagers on those heading the betting.

2:50pm Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle (3-mile)
This looks like being another winner for Willie Mullins via the fav Readin Tommy Wrong, who looks a strong contender.  Personally, I don't think the 2nd-fav Gidleigh Park is the strongest of the British entries, I think it's Captain Teague, who has always been top-drawer, and looks sure to stay the trip well. There's 8/1 available (4-places, 5th odds a place) and I'm having £5 eachway; and I may well have Readin Tommy Wrong and Captain Teague in a Forecast.

3:30pm Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (3m 2f)
Now that Shishkin is a non-runner, I feel that Galopin Des Champs is a near certainty to win this. Shiskin would have given the fav a race, of that there's no doubt following the win yesterday in the Ryanair Chase by Protektorat (beaten easily by Shishkin at Newbury LTO). The 2nd horse home is likely to be Fastorslow, as he's been consistently good over the past 12 months. There are some "exotic" markets on this race, and several bookies have odds to finish in the 1st-3 - so not an eachway wager (win & place), but place-only. To come 3rd maybe Bravemansgame, who was a good 2nd last year, and has been running a bit below that level since then but he's the only horse other that the fav and 2nd-fav who is (in my opinion) capable of running a high 160+ rating. 
William Hill offer 3/1 on Bravemansgame to be in the 1st-3, and I'm having £10 on.

That's it for me. I will probably watch the Hunter Chase and have a small wager on something (probably Premier Magic); and then I will head for the exit and the drive home.  It's been a great week.

Thursday 14 March 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - Day 3 (14th March)

It's the 3rd day of the Festival, and it's fairly obvious now that the quality of horse trained in the UK - Constitution Hill excluded - is at the poorest level in my lifetime. Maybe I'm being over-dramatic, but I don't know where it goes from here, but if horseracing isn't competitive - Willie Mullins saddled the 1st-5 in the Grade 1 Gallagher Novices Hurdle, from 7 starters - then the majority of supporters will lose interest. 
I had no luck on the day, with both selections not finishing in the places. And the remainder of the card didn't provide betting opportunities except for those fortunate with a lucky pin.

Let's try our hand on Day-3 (Thursday)
1:30pm Turners Novices' Chase (2m4f)
We have 11 runners going to post, which should provide some interest. The fav is Facile Vega, and I expect Mullins will be hoping the extra distance (all chase races have been over 2m1f) will bring about some improvement. Given how testing the ground is, Grey Dawning having won over 3-mile LTO should have sufficient stamina to be involved at the finish.  When they met as hurdlers last season, Grey Dawning got the better of Ginny's Destiny, and if the ground wasn't as soft as it is, I might fancy Ginny's Destiny - but on this ground a horse needs stamina. If Iroko - off the track since early November - wins it will be a helluva training performance, but I can't see that happening. Nothing else looks good enough. For me it's Grey Dawning, but the odds are not attractive enough to warrant advising a wager. However, do not ignore the chance of Letsbeclearaboutit, sent by Gavin Cromwell, ignore LTO as he didn't stay 3-mile on heavy ground but this trip will suit him well - and he wasn't far behind Found A Fifty (2nd in the Arkle this week) on 03Dec - he's worth a small ew at 33/1. 

2:10pm Pertemps Hurdle Final H'cap (3 mile)
One of my favourite races of the season. This is not an easy race to fathom, but you do need a horse that is a proven stayer at the trip, and there are not many of those.  And unless you find a bold front-runner (like Buena Vista) and the benefit of good ground, it's best to have a hold-up horse. 
I've narrowed it down to a couple, Emitom who runs off OR137 and won a decent handicap at Newbury last month, and Gabby's Cross who has been running well recently.  What I like about Emitom is he was 4th in the Stayers' Hurdle in 2020 when rated OR153, and Alan King has revitalised the horse since he started training him.  Gabby's Cross is an OR140 chaser running off OR127.  
Both are worth an eachway wager:
Gabbys Cross:  81 available generally - 6-places, 5th odds
Emitom: 28/1 with Paddy Power - 6-places, 5th odds

2:50pm Ryanair Chase (2m5f)
This race is looking one of the most open Grade 1's of the entire Festival. On the one hand, Envoi Allen won a stronger race last year, but hasn't done much in the past 12 months: should he be the fav? Hitman was 3rd last year and hasn't improved in the last 12 months. Banbridge, despite winning well LTO, does not have suitable ground, and may well be withdrawn. Stage Star won the Turners last year, but I'm not sure he's up to winning this race as you have to take his well-being (he pulled-up LTO when the fav) for granted. Capodanno and Conflated don't look good enough to win over this trip.  The horse that jumps out for me is Protektorat: he has been consistently good this season, running some of his best races in defeat as he's been giving away a lot of weight at times. He's a bold front-runner and this could be his day in the sun - there's plenty of 9/1 and 4-places at 5th odds a place.

3:30pm Stayers' Hurdle (3 miles)
Another race worth having a wager in. Teahupoo had his ground last season and couldn't win.  Is he a better, stronger horse this season? Noble Yeats does not lack stamina, but let's be honest, he was getting 6lb off Paisley Park and only just beat him. If I thought Sir Gerhard would stay this 3-mile trip on soft ground, he would be the selection, but he's never shown the required stamina before. I haven't thought Crambo as good enough to win this since his win at Ascot LTO, and nothing has changed that opinion. If Crambo isn't good enough, neither is Paisley Park; and lightning does not strike twice, so I'm putting a line through Sire Du Berlais as a 12yo. There's one horse who is a proven stayer, proven on the ground,  and ran well in this last season of a short preparation - Flooring Porter. He's had no problems this season with fitness, and he is the dark horse in this race, odds of 14/1 Paddypower look generous. I'm on at 25/1 as I never thought he'd make the grade as a chaser, and I've gone in again at 

I'm going to overlook the Plate at 4:10pm and the Mares' Hurdle at 4:50pm (lack of time), and go to the final race of the day:
5:30pm Kim Muir h'cap chase (3m2f)
Amateur riders are usually best avoided, but you can't do that in this race. The best amateurs ride the best horses, so you have to respect Derek O'Connor on Inothewayyurthinkin the 5/2 fav. The 8yo Amirite has McParlan in the saddle, and this decent stayer could go well. However, the one I like the look of is Bowtogreatness, ridden by Jack Andrews who knows his way around Cheltenham. Still a maiden chaser, he's mainly race over 2m4f but he's twice run at 3-mile coming 2nd at Aintree on 15Apr and 3rd LTO at Kempton which was probably his best effort to date - so he's in form.  He looks well handicapped on OR133.  
Bowtogreatness - £2.50 ew @ 16/1 Bet365 , 6-places 5th odds.

Good luck all.