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Thursday 17 March 2016

Cheltenham Festival 2016 - Day 3

1:30pm JLT Novices Chase (2-miles & 4-furlongs)
The day opens with the 6th running of this championship race for novice chasers.
· All 5 previous winners have been rated (at one time) at OR142 or better as hurdlers, thus meeting the same criteria of “Arkle” winners in being above-average hurdlers.. 
- All 5 previous winners contested a hurdle at the previous year’s Cheltenham Festival. 
Stick with LTO winners (certainly no worse than 2nd), and as this is a tough 2m4f, the selection should have proven stamina over this trip but not a win over trips in excess of 2m6f – that is a negative in my opinion. 
Those being discounted are: As De Mee; Mount Gunnery; and Zabana as all are not good enough.
Three Musketeers ran a stinker LTO and I’m not convinced he will improve to win this. King’s Odyssey looked every inch a 3-mile LTO when winning here on heavy ground, and his best form is on testing ground. L’Ami Serge may struggle to stay this trip and he’s not shown the class over jumps to win this.  Black Hercules has won over 3-mile on heavy ground. GARDE LA VICTOIRE easily beat BRISTOL DE MAI when they met over 2-mile last October, but he does not seem to have progressed since then, and there is a doubt about his stamina at this trip. OUTLANDER is unbeaten in 3 novice chases and won the old PJ Moriarty Chase at Leopardstown LTO (now the “Flogas”). That is top-class form. However, I was very impressed with BRISTOL DE MAI when he won LTO at Sandown to make it 4 wins from 5 since being beaten by Garde La Victoire, and odds of 5/1 look the value. I will also have a “saver” on Outlander at 9/2 to cover the stake.
BRISTOL DE MAI, £16 win @ 5/1 (available generally)
OUTLANDER, £4 win @ 5/1 (available generally)
Total staked = £20

2:10pm Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (3-miles)
With only 1 winning fav since 2003 (Fingal Bay in 2014) this race is one where you can take a punt on an outsider.  Last year, Call The Cops at 9/1 was only the 2nd horse at odds under 14/1 to win since 2005. This race is a tricky one for punters to solve.
· 16 of last 23 winners carried between 10st 7lb and 11st 3lb;
· 12 of the last 24 winners won LTO.
One horse that appears to fit the bill is SADDLERS ENCORE.  He’s a LTO winner and carries 10st 7lb.  He’s won 3 of his last 4 races and for a 7yo is very lightly raced and this will be just his 8th race since his track debut in November 2013. Followers of the blog were on him when he won LTO, and he never gave up that day, he was very resilient. He has only been raised 6lb for that win and, at odds of 18/1 he looks tremendous value as I do like a horse that travels well, and prominently, in this handicap. However, I cannot advise a wager in a race like this.

2:40pm Ryanair Chase (2-miles & 5-furlongs)
This race is now firmly established as a Festival Championship race, and is producing winners of the highest order.
· Winning course form at Cheltenham – 10 of the 11 winners previous winners had won at Cheltenham (Riverside Theatre in 2012 was the exception).
· Winning form in a Grade 1 chase – 7 of the last 8 winners (since the Ryanair became a Grade 1 chase) had previously won a Grade 1 chase (Imperial Commander in 2009 was the only exception).
· The Irish have yet to win the race, and sent over Don Cossack last year who started the fav and finished 3rd.
This race is all about VAUTOUR who should win this race in a canter, much as he won the JLT Novices Chase last year.  For the runner-up, let’s remove those who haven’t won at Cheltenham: Gilgamboa; Josses Hill; Oscar Rock; Vibrato Valtat; Smashing; Road To Riches; and Valseur Lido.
Of those that remain, Captain Conan is a spent force, and I do not think Village Vic has the class, nor Annacotty and Champagne West. Much as I’d like them both to do well, age is against Al Ferof and Dynaste – which leaves TAQUIN DU SEUIL who came back from a year off with one of his best performances since he won the JLT Novices Chase in 2014 as a 7yo. He could make a very attractive wager at 9/1 without the fav Vautour.

TAQUIN DU SEUIL, £5 eachway @ 10/1 with William Hill without the fav Vautour

3:30pm World Hurdle (3-miles)
This race has developed into a very interesting betting race now that Big Bucks no longer dominates. This year, we have another hot fav in Thistlecrack. 
Likely trends:- 
· The age of the winner should be between 6yo and 9yo;
· Good recent form is very important and the winner will likely have run 1st, 2nd or 3rd LTO;
· The betting market is usually good at highlighting the winner and it is unlikely that the winner will not be amongst the 1st-4 in the betting (certainly at odds less than 10/1);
· It is very likely that the winner will have run at last year’s Cheltenham Festival; 
· The last horse to win this after taking part in a Champion Hurdle was Nomadic Way in 1992.

Last years 1st and 2nd Cole Harden and Saphir De Rheu return, but all the focus is on THISTLECRACK who has been a revelation this season. If he repeats the form of his win here in January then it is unlikely that he will be beat.  Last year I was on Saphir Du Rheu and he everything right then bar enough to beat the winner. He showed he was a serious top-class 3-mile hurdler NOT at Aintree, and I think he looks better than his 10/1 odds (he was the 5/1 fav last year). As I do not think Alpha Des Obeaux is good enough on what we’ve seen, for me the wager is SAPHIR DU RHEU.
Saphir Du Rheu, £5 win AND £5 eachway @ 11/1 (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)

4:10pm Festival Plate Handicap Chase (2-mile & 4½-furlongs)
This race has had winners at odds of 25/1 (three times), 33/1 (twice), 50/1 and 66/1 in past 10 years, so don’t be afraid of backing your own judgement and opposing the market.
· 19 of the last 23 winners carried under 11st;
· 13 of the previous 18 winners came here off a break of no more than 39 days;
· 21 of the last 23 winners were rated between OR128 – OR141;
· Irish trainers have only won this race once since 1951.
If you look only at those rated OR128 – OR141 then you omit all those carrying 10st11lb or more. I’m prepared to bend that rule and include LTO winner STILLETTO on OR142. There is also another LTO winner in this group, the mare LA VATICANE trained by David Pipe, and she’s due to run off OR142 but (with her 5lb win penalty) runs off OR138.  Personally, I think STILLLETTO is a 150+ horse, and he’s going to be my main wager.
STILLETTO, £5 win @ £5 eachway @ 10/1
You places your money and you take you chance - good luck!

4:50pm Mares’ Novices Hurdle (2m & 179 yards)
A new raced and one that I’m going to give a miss.

5:30pm Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge (for Amateurs) Handicap Chase (3-miles, 1-furlong & 110 yards)
Unfortunately, this grand race has been put back 40-mins to accommodate the new Mares’ race.
This is another Festival race suffering from “handicap compression” and there are only 2 entries carrying under 11st. 

· 7 of the last 11 winners have carried 11st 4lb or more
· No winner in over 20 years was younger than 7yo;
· Only 6 of the last 36 winners was a 7yo;
· There has been only one Irish-trained winner since 1983, that was Spring Heeled in 2014.
As all the riders are amateur you need to consider the talents of the jockeys. Nina Carberry won here on Knock House last November, and that horse is well handicapped on that win. Cause Of Causes won this with JJ Codd in the saddle, and runs in this off a 4lb lower rating. Upswing has the services of Derek O’Connor, and this trip of 3m2f will suit him. I have been waiting for both A Good Skin and Silvergrove to run since they met last month, and both look to have excellent chances, and both have decent riders. Silvergrove at 14/1 looks decent value, but I will also be having a smaller wager on A Good Skin at 25/1. 
SILVERGROVE, £5 eachway @ 14/1 (available generally, quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4)

A GOOD SKIN, £2.50 eachway @ 25/1 ( Bet365 who are quarter-odds 1,2,3,4,5) 

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