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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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Friday, 12 February 2021

Countdown to the 2021 Cheltenham Festival

It's that time of the year again, reputations are still intact, hopes are flying high.  It's been a funny year since last March - no Aintree, no Punchestown, and now (due to the weather) no jump racing at a key point in preparation for the Cheltenham Festival. It all points to a few surprise results in March, there ain't gonna be no certainties!

I'm just about to start my Festival preparation: going thru' last years results and updating my personal stats sheets.  The Irish: you cannot ignore Mullins and Elliot, but don't leave out de Bromhead and Meade.  For the "British" trainers, Nicholls has his strongest stable in a few years, but it is probably a season off peaking. Henderson is having his worst year since I can remember, and while his top horses look tremendous, there is not much depth to his stable. It may be Venetia Williams and even Jonjo O'Neill, who may help balance the books - but the UK trainers just don't have the owners with deep pockets to buy the best, and the 2nd-best, and the 3rd-best horses.  When you look at some of the horses that Mullins casts-off that don't make the grade, they can be £250,000 3yo store-horses - but they aren't good enough for Mullins.


It's pointless looking at the handicaps just now, stick to the graded races.

The Arkle looks like being a classic - and it would not surprise me to see Henderson, Mullins and Elliott all put their top horses in to the hat; it would be very interesting if Elliott takes on Shishkin and Energumene with ENVOI ALLEN and I'm tempted to split my stake and have half at NRNB @ 5/2 and half on at 10/1 or more, just in case Gordon does just that.


The Champion Hurdle looks like going to Honeysuckle, as she has much the best form - but only if CONCERTISTA goes for the Mares' hurdle which looks a walkover for her.  Personally, if we are to have Mares' only races, then in the Championship races there should be no such thing as a Mares' allowance - if mares' are not "strong" enough to meet geldings at level weights, then they should race against their own sex.  Lots of people don't seem to understand that if the mares are good enough to beat geldings on level terms, then giving them a 7lb allowance makes it near impossible for a gelding to beat them. If Concertista goes for the Champion Hurdle, then I can see mares finishing 1, 2, 3 this year, and if that happens then we will almost certainly see the BHA take some sort of action regarding the allowance.  


What we have to hope for over the next couple of weeks is that the weather gets a bit better and the ground is able to dry-out, or we could have a soft/heavy day-1.  We've no racing this weekend with Newbury and Warwick already cancelled, which is not good news for Henderson as he planned to give Champ his first run since winning the RSA Chase - sometimes these trainers forget that the best laid plans can be upset by the weather! I've no idea what Henderson will do now with the horse. Sure, he sent Bobs Worth to win the Gold Cup off a break of 104 days (after he had won the old Hennessey Gold Cup, now the Ladbrokes Trophy), but to go there for his seasonal debut will take some doing.


I have updated my stats spreadsheet which has confirmed that last-time-out (LTO) winners are even more dominant at Cheltenham than they used to be. Since 2002, the year after we lost the Festival to foot & mouth, LTO winners have won 264 of the 483 races run, that's 54.65%. In the past 10 years LTO winners have taken 157 of the 275 races run: that's 57.15%. LTO winning form is getting even more important, and your first consideration has to be winning form last-time-out.

Furthermore, if you include placed LTO (2nd, 3rd or 4th) then the stats are even more dominant: over the past 10 Festivals, only 53 of the 275 races - 19.27% - have been won by a horse that was unplaced, fell or pulled-up LTO.

Last season, there were only 4 such winners: Ravenhill (LTO: fell); Champ (fell), Politologue (UP), It Came To Pass (UP).

The year before (2019) there were only 2 such winners: William Henry (PU) and Sire Du Berlais (UP).


It is also unusual for a Festival winner to come to Cheltenham off a break of more than 12 weeks (84-days). Those 84-days usually take you to Boxing Day. It can happen, but if it does it's either a weak race (Mares' Hurdle or the Cross-Country Chase), or something has been laid-out for one of the handicaps. Generally, the average time since the previous run is 49-days, so give or take 10-days either side gives you the period Saturday 18th January to Sunday 7th February (or thereabouts, depending on whether the race is on Day-1 or Day-4 of the Festival).


Just using these 2 filters will remove a lot of potential losing wagers. Yes, you may miss the odd winner (Ravenhill and Politologue last year) but you won't be chucking money away on silly wagers. And these stats happen year-in, year-out.


If you can, I'd advise watching Lydia Hislop and Ruby Walsh chatting on "The Road to Cheltenham" on You Tube. It is excellent stuff and they both compliment each other with rock-solid opinion. 


Unusually for me at this time of year, I'm not holding a single antepost wager - not one.

So I'm going to spend a few hours this weekend looking at the form of races like the Ryanair Chase (which could be a classic), The NH Chase (the final race on Day-1), and the two 3-mile hurdle races: the Stayers on Thursday (which I think is wide-open), and the Albert Bartlett on Friday.


A few years back I used to write a comprehensive Cheltenham Festival Bulletin, but I just don't have the time for that these days.  It was a huge effort - about 18,000 words - and I never sold enough to justify the time spent, which was about 3hrs per race.  However, I can recommend a similar Festival preview prepared by Richard Stoddart who runs Racing Bulletin which can be found via this link  - I've been in contact with Richard Stoddart for about 10 years and our approach to form interpretation and value are very similar. There is a fee payable, it's not free, and I will receive a small commission for every purchase made via this link.


In the meantime, I'm going to be posting my thoughts and opinions on the Cheltenham Festival here on this blog on a regular basis over the next few weeks - and I may have an experiment with pod-casting!

Just to remind you, last year the Profit for the Festival was £104.16 on cumulative "advised" stakes of £186.00. That is equivalent to a Return on Investment of 56%.  And I know a lot of my readers place wagers in multiples of my advised stakes, so they had a very good Festival indeed!

All the best from Wayward Lad.

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