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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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Monday 9 March 2015

Cheltenham 2015 - Day 1 Preview

It’s what we’ve all been waiting for and it can’t come soon enough.  Preparation for the 2016 Festival starts today!  This year’s festival has all the makings of being a cracker with some wide-open Championship races.  
Before we get stuck into the runners & riders for Day 1 of the Festival a quick reminder that the most important Festival trends to take account of are:- 
- The performance of ”Last Time Out” (LTO) winners – over 55% of races are won by a LTO winner (180 from 317 since 2002);
- Weight carried in handicaps – it takes an exceptional horse to carry more than 11st to victory in a chase handicap ;
- The number of days since a horse last ran – the average break from the last run is 35-days, and very few races are won by horses off a break longer than 84-days (12 weeks). There have been only 26 races (from a total of 317) won since 2002 by a horse off a break of more than 84-days.  These wins have been mainly in the “weakest” races: the “bumper” (x3 in ’03, ’07, 09); the “Foxhunter” (x3 in ’07, ’08, ’09); the “Mares” hurdle (x5  in ’10, ’11. ’12, ’13, ’14) and the X-Country Chase (x3 in ’09, ’12, ’14).
My stats go back 13 years to 2002, which was when the Festival re-started after we lost the 2001 Festival to the outbreak of Foot & Mouth disease.

1:30pm Supreme Novices Hurdle, 5yo’s plus (2-miles & 110 yards)
Always an eagerly anticipated race, all the more for the quality of the field which is usually exceptional. Play it safe and stick to tried and tested rules.
LTO winners have provided 11 of the last 13 winners.
An interesting observation is that only 4 of the last 13 winners ran more than 35-days previously - so make sure your selection has had a run in the past 35 days. This race rarely goes to a horse with an SP longer than 14/1 but with only 12 runners this year, that is unlikely.  Don’t bother considering anything older than 6yo but there is only a single 7yo ion the race. 
It all hinges on the performance of the race fav Douvan who is expected to win convincingly. I'm going to oppose him with QEWY, who won in impressive fashion LTO and should handle the ground. The odds of 14/1 look fairly generous for a horse who looks capable or running 10lb+ better than he did LTO. No advised wager from me on this race.

2:05pm Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase, (2-miles)
The “Arkle” is one of my favourite races.  The race is usually run at a searing pace and, on undulating track like Cheltenham, it is stamina sapping. As such, I also like my selection to have winning form in a chase further than 2-miles.
You have to go back to Moscow Flyer in 2002 for a winner older than 8yo.
The likely winner will have finished either 1st or 2nd in every completed chase start.
Novice chasers capable of winning the “Arkle” have usually shown their hand early in the season. Note however, that trainer Nicky Henderson tends to start his novice chasers a bit later (recent winners Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig ran their chase debut’s on 9th December and 21st December respectively) so don't overlook Josses Hill for the fact his chase debut was on 19th Dec.
This year’s race hangs on the ability of Un De Sceaux who was entered for last year’s Champion Hurdle, but missed that and won a Grade 3 hurdle in France instead. I will be looking to take him on as there is no way I think any novice chaser can be the 4/6 fav for the Arkle.  It's a bit left field but I really liked the way Three Kingdoms battled back to win LTO and he's also well matched with Vibrato Valtat on their meeting in December at Kempton. The odds of 22/1 look really generous to me as this horse has a real engine and if his jumping improves then he will be a serious 2-mile chaser. Again no selection for me, but I will be having a small ew double on the opening couple of races. 

2:40pm Festival Handicap Chase (3-miles & 110 yards)
This is perhaps my favourite chase handicap of the jumps season (excluding the Grand National).
Last year’s winner Holywell was the highest rated winner since 2001, and with 11st 6lb, became only the 2nd horse since 1997 to carry more than 11st to victory. He showed how well-in he was by following up at Aintree in a Grade 1 novice chase.
This is a race for an improving horse, either a novice or 2nd-season chaser with fewer than 10 chase races.
12 of the last 13 winners have been rated no higher than OR143.
With 8 of the last 11 winners priced at odds under 8/1 it pays to look at those at the head of the market. 
Pay attention to LTO winners in the race (7 of last 13 winners won LTO) and also look at those with a recent run. The “mean” period is 39-days, but the last 5 winners ran no more than 24-days previously. 
Personally, I’d put a line thru’ anything which has not run in the past 35-days, and anything 10yo or older
He's not a LTO winner but his best run this season came 22-days ago, INDIAN CASTLE was the 7/2 for for the Kim Muir chase last year and was in the process of running a cracker when a mistake at the final fence did for his chances. Now with Ian Williams, he runs off OR139 that's 1lb lower than last years effort and at 22/1 (Betfred and Bet Victor who both go 5-places eachway) he looks a great ew wager.
INDIAN CASTLE, £5 eachway @ 22/1 (Betfred and Bet Victor who both go 5-places eachway)

3:20pm Champion Hurdle (2-miles & 110 yards)
Another Championship race which revolves around the chance of a Willie Mullins “hop-pot”; this time is Faugheen who won the Neptune Novice Hurdle last year over 2m5f. It could be Faugheen the best hurdler we’ve seen since Istabraq, but that has yet to be proven on the track. If he is then he’ll win this by a country mile but, at his current odds, he has to be opposed.
You can examine trends, but this year the key players meet them – apart from reigning Champion Hurdler Jezki. As such, I feel he is the value in the market as last year’s race was good, even if it wasn’t one of the best. A repeat of that form will require Faugheen to improve considerably on what he’s shown this season. 
No advised wager.

4:00pm David Nicholson Mares Hurdle (2-miles & 4-furlongs)
This race has been “promoted” and brought forward to this slot.
For me, this another race that is out of place at the Festival. Thankfully, Quevega is now retired but, if Mullins has sent an able replacement in ANNIE POWER for this race it will be another virtual walkover.

4:40pm National Hunt Challenge Cup for Amateur Riders (4-miles)
This race is the oldest race of the Festival.
The first point to note is that this is an amateur riders race, and so jockeyship and finding the right jockey is as much a part of winning as finding the right horse!
The second point of note is that this is a Challenge Cup were every horse carries the same weight (11st 6lb) excepting mares which receive a 7lb weight allowance.
The horse with the highest Official Rating (OR) has won this for 3 of the past 4 years and last year top-rated Shotgun Paddy was 2nd. This is the first place to start when looking for the winner – it really is that simple.
This race is dominated by 7yo’s and 8yo’s.
 No 5yo has won in 37 years and there is only a single win for a 6yo in 25 years.
The top-rated are: Cause Of Causes (OR146), Return Spring (OR140), Sego Success (OR143), Thunder And Roses (OR148), Very Wood (OR147). Perfect Gentleman at 10yo is too okl to win this. The obvious candidates are LTO winners Sego Success and Very Wood who have terrific riders in Same Waley-Cohen and Nina Carberry respectively. However, I think CAUSE OF CAUSES has been aimed at this race all season and he has the excellent JJ Codd in the saddle. Unfortunately 8/1 is the best odds you will find. 

5:15pm Centenary Novices Handicap Chase (2-miles & 4½-furlongs)
I think it is a tremendous race, and it is a great shame that organisers have placed this as the last race on a 7 race card.  I would really like to see this race brought forward in the card, and it should be swapped with the Mares Hurdle given the prominence it deserves.
This is a very competitive race and a real head scratcher. No horse has won this at odds longer than 14/1 so the market is a good guide.
Being a novice handicap chase, the statistical trends are fairly obvious;
less than 5 chase runs; and…
less than 2 chase wins; and…
having won LTO – these 3 factors ensure that the selection is unexposed and improving. 
Two that fit the bill are Generous Ransom and Horizontal Speed. 
Generous Ransom won a very exciting race at the trials meeting in January LTO and could be well handicapped on OR136. He won't be far away and neither will be Horizontal Speed who come here prepared by Phil Hobbs who knows what is required to win this race.  Odds of 16/1 with Bet Victor who also goes 5-place eachway looks generous.
HORIZONTAL SPEED. £5 eachway @ 16/1 (Bet Victor who goes 5-places eachway)

Good luck all.


  1. What a great day for the blog!
    Both selections were placed, and returned profits of £22.50 (Indian Castle) and £15.00 (Horizontal Speed). I also had an eachway double that paid over 15/1.
    Not only that, but I gave a very strong word for the winner Cause Of Causes.

  2. Well done, Ian. Always well informed and a number of big priced selections going very well. Keep up the good work.

    All the best,


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