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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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Sunday 27 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival 2022 - thoughts for the future

In the (sober) light of day, it's a good idea to take a look back at the races and results of the recent Cheltenham Festival with an unbiased opinion to consider the performances, and to make note of any lessons learned. 

There were some tremendous performances by horse and jockey, and one of the very best came in the opening race when Constitution Hill didn't just run away with the Supreme Novices Hurdle, he put up one of the best performances seen on the track in many a year. This was comparable - if not better - than that of Altior, and he's a year younger at 5yo than that great horse was when he won this race.  Altior peaked at OR175, so will Constitution Hill top that rating and challenge the OR188 rating achieved by another Henderson champion: Sprinter Sacre? With the horse in good hands, Henderson looks set to improve his already great record in the Champion Hurdle next year with Constitution Hill.

The Arkle was not one of best, but it was a very solid performance from the 8yo Edwardstone.  What the future holds for him, I'm not sure, as I think he will struggle when coming up against the likes of Energumene, Shishkin and Ferny Hollow. My speculative selection Haut En Coulours looked like being involved before 2-out but it was not to be.  He's only a 5yo and he will have better days.

Honeysuckle has dominated the 2-mile hurdling division for a couple of years, but that's because the opposition is lacking depth. There was no Sharjah this year, Goshen is too unreliable, and Abacadabras hasn't developed into a proper Grade 1 hurdler.  If Honeysuckle were mine, I would be retiring her to stud with reputation intact.

The NH Chase was a shadow of better days, with just 6 runners, and 4 of those had no chance on form - although for some odd reason Vanillier was sent-off the 11/4 3rd-fav.  The race fav Run Wild Fred is a one-paced plodder who has now come 2nd 6x in 11 chase starts, and in beating him Stattler merely had to complete the race. However, it was a very strong pace set by RWF, as the race-time was 20sec faster than when Galvin won the race last year. No doubt Stattler has improved for going chasing, but so has stable-companion Galopin Des Champs - and GDC beat Stattler over 3-miles easily in a Grade 1 hurdle at Punchestown last April.  It will be interesting which of the pair develops into the Mullins Gold Cup horse for 2023.

It's difficult to know what to make of Sir Gerhard, as he could do no more than win, but he was made to work, and the overall pace was "sedate".  Remember, he only just beat stable-companion Kilcruit in the "bumper" in 2021, and that horse was put in his place in the Supreme by Constitution Hill. For me, Sir Gerhard was a fortunate winner of a weak race. He has a lot more to prove. 

The "Brown Advisory" Grade 1 novice chase over and extended 3-miles was a proper race. A strong field of 9 runners, and the 9/4 fav L'Homme Presse won with confidence.  The runner-up Ahoy Senor is a good yardstick and a horse I can see excelling over marathon trips, but likely to be just short of winning a Grade 1 chase over 3-mile. What was disappointing was the "fall" of Farouk D'alene 2-out when going very easily and with jockey Davy Russell looking like he was holding a double-handful. He was beaten by NH Chase winner Stattler on 30Jan, but showed his liking for soft/heavy ground 3-weeks later when beating Beacon Edge over 3-mile - Farouk D'alene would have gone very close to winning had he not fallen, and odds of 33/1 for the 2023 Gold Cup look interesting.

How on earth did I miss Commander Of Fleet and let him go off at 50/1 with not even £2.50 eachway on? In March 2019, on rain-soddened ground, he split future Gold Cup winner Minella Indo and Ryanair Chase winner Allaho in the Albert Bartlett over 3-miles. Sure, in the intervening period he's had problems resulting in just 3 runs in 30 months before finishing last of 5 in a 2m7f hurdle race at Thurles. He probably would've won NTO but fell 2-out; but he won his 3rd come-back race - a Grade B handicap at Navan in December. He didn't look up to Grade 1 or 2 in his next couple of runs, but wasn't beaten far when 3rd in a Grade 2 LTO only 22-days before winning this. 

I've said all I need to say about Energumene, he was my biggest winner of the Festival.  Over the same C&D later in the day, Andy Dufresne was unlucky to meet a resurgent 10yo Global Citizen who turned the formbook upside-down. This race looks rock-solid and while I do not expect the winner to repeat the performance, Andy Dufresne and the 3rd Frero Banbou, and 4th Editeur Du Gite look well handicapped.

I was at the Festival on Thursday and Friday, and the opening race the Turners Novices' Chase was disappointing. It was a mis-match between Galopin Des Champs and Bob Olinger; and let's be honest Bob Olinger would not have been in the 1st-3 in any of the recent running's of this race - he was very fortunate. It would not surprise me to see Bob Olinger revert to hurdles as he's never going to be a Grade 1 chaser based on this run. Galopin Des Champs came into the race on OR164 and he's well up to that level, possibly better as he would have won this race in a time significantly quicker than Allaho in the Ryanair Chase later in the day - he could be a Gold Cup horse in 2023. 

The Pertemps Handicap Hurdle over 3-miles is a race I have a good record in: and I tipped Third Wind for this on the blog.  He'd run 4th in this race in 2020, and he'd shown himself to be a better horse since then but he is a tricky ride needing a lot of work and having to lead close home. 

There's nothing much more to say about Ryanair Chase winner Allaho or Stayers' Hurdle winner Flooring Porter - they are both clearly the best in their division and should both be back here next year to make it a hat-trick of wins. I tipped Flooring Porter and I still cannot believe he went off at 4/1, so a personal thanks to Willie Mullins for running Klassical Dream, and creating the value in the betting.

I could not look back at the Festival without a mention of Coole Cody: since joining Evan Williams in August 2020 he's run 14 times in the intervening 19 months, 4 times - with 3 wins at Cheltenham. In that period he has been remarkably consistent - compare his form with the younger Spiritofthegames who ran 3rd in this race. Just 16 months ago, Coole Cody received 9lb from "Spirit", on 17Mar he was giving him 9lb. 

In the "Kim Muir", the 10yo Chambard was an interesting winner in that this was his Cheltenham debut, it was his first chase race with more than 10 runners, and it was his 6th run since 1st Jan - most Festival winners only run once between Christmas and running here.

It's been a few years since the Triumph Hurdle produced an outstanding horse, but Vauban could be just that. This race looked above average, and though the pace was moderate (the race was run 4.60 secs slower than the County Handicap hurdle over C&D) when the pace quickened Vauban always looked in control. He's likely to be racing on the flat for the next 18 months, and I doubt he will jump another hurdle until November 2023 - but he could be considered for the Champion Hurdle in 2024.

A potential Champion Hurdle horse for 2023 could be the County Hurdle winner State Man: if you ignore his French debut, this was only his 2nd completed hurdle race - yet he was ridden with supreme confidence in one of the top handicaps of the season.  He's been raised 10lb by the handicapper to OR151, and I think he could be 160+.  He's likely to go for a Grade 1 at Punchestown.  The runner-up First Street was also ridden with confidence, and he could be a very interesting novice chaser next season.

The Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle over 3-miles is developing into a serious race despite 7 of the last 10 winners starting at odds of 14/1 or longer; and The Nice Guy winning at 18/1 is no negative on his potential future.  The Mullins stable main hope was runner-up Minella Cocooner, but he was soundly beaten 5-lengths. The dam of The Nice Guy is a half-sister to Massini's Maguire who won the 2007 Ballymore Hurdle, so class runs through his veins. This was his 1st attempt at 3-mile and the way he won suggests he could be a top-class novice staying chaser next season.  Don't give up on Minella Cocooner, as he met a good one here.

The final race of this review is the Gold Cup, and I don't think anyone will disagree with me that we saw one of the best Gold Cup performances of the last 10 years from A Plus Tard. It's hard to believe that he won the novice handicap chase over 2m4f at the 2019 Festival off OR144 - since then he has been super consistent.  He is at his best coming off a strong pace and I can't see anything beating him next season, even if he returns about 7lb below this. Mullins has a handful of potential Gold Cup challengers: Stattler, Galopin Des Champs, and Allaho - while Gordon Elliott could have a decent one in Farouk D'alene - but, other than Allaho, they need to find significant improvement. 

My fantasy "yankee" for the 2023 Cheltenham Festival is (odds from Paddy Power):-
Champion Hurdle: CONSTITUTION HILL @ 2/1
QMCC: ENERGUMENE (as I expect Shishkin to step-up in trip to 3-miles) @ 7/2
Stayers' Hurdle: FLOORING PORTER @ 5/1
Gold Cup: A PLUS TARD @ 4/1  

Saturday 19 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival 2022 - Recap of the Results

 What a week for the blog!  This week was the best ever set of results for the selections posted. Here is a recap, of the selections, and from when.
30-Dec: Gold Cup - ASTERION FORLONGE - £5.00 ew @ 25/1 Staked = £10.00
30-Dec: Ryanair Chase - ASTERION FORLONGE - £2.50 ew @ 16/1 Staked = £5.00 
15-Jan: Arkle Chase -  HAUT EN COULEURS - £5.00 ew @ 14/1 Staked - £10.00
23-Jan - QMCC - ENERGUMENE - £20.00 win @ 3/1 Staked = £20.00 WON = £60.00 (p)
05-Mar: QMCC - ENERGUMENE - £20.00 win @ 4/1 Staked = £20.00 WON = £80.00 (p)
05-Mar: Arkle Chase -  HAUT EN COULEURS - £5.00 ew @ 7/1 Staked = £10.00
05-Mar: Ryanair Chase - FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES - £5.00 ew @ 12/1 Staked = £10.00 NRNB 
05-Mar: Stayers' Hurdle - FLOORING PORTER - £20.00 win @ 7/2 Staked £20.00 WON = £70.00 (p)
06-Mar: Brown Advisory - STATTLER - £2.50 ew @ 12/1 Staked = £5.00 NRNB 
06-Mar: Brown Advisory - BEACON EDGE - £2.50 ew @ 16/1 Staked = £5.00
06-Mar: NH Chase - DOES HE KNOW - £5.00 ew @ 12/1 Staked = £10.00 NRNB 
06-Mar: Ultima H'cap - THREEUNDERTHRUFIVE - £5.00 ew @ 12/1 Staked = £10.00 NRNB 
06-Mar: Multiple wager - 3 x £2.50 doubles & £2.50 ew treble Staked £20.00 NRNB
    Ultima Handicap Chase: THREEUNDERTHRUFIVE @ 12/1 
    NH Novices Chase: DOES HE KNOW @ 12/1 
    Ryanair Chase: FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES @ 12/1
06-Mar: Multiple wager - 3 x £3.00 win doubles & £3.00 win treble Staked £12.00
    Arkle Chase -  HAUT EN COULEURS @ 7/1 
    Stayers' Hurdle: FLOORING PORTER @ 7/2 WON (double) = £40.50 (p)
09-Mar: Ultima H'cap - FURY ROAD - £5.00 ew @ 16/1 Staked = £10.00 NRNB 
09-Mar: Ultima H'cap - RAPPER - £5.00 ew @ 25/1 Staked = £10.00
09-Mar: Ultima H'cap - FANTASTIKAS - £5.00 ew @ 10/1 Staked = £10.00
14-Mar: Ultima H'cap - FULL BACK - £5.00 ew @ 14/1 Staked = £10.00
15-Mar: Brown Advisory - BEACON EDGE - £5.00 ew @ 12/1 Staked = £10.00
15-Mar: QMCC - ENERGUMENE - £15.00 win @ 7/2 Staked £15.00 WON = £52.50 (p)
16-Mar: Pertemps Hurdle - THIRD WIND - £2.50 ew @ 25/1 Staked £5.00 WON = £75.00 (p)
16-Mar: Stayers' Hurdle - FLOORING PORTER - £15.00 win @ 4/1 Staked £15.00 WON = £60.00 (p)
16-Mar: Kim Muir - AIN'T THAT A SHAME - £2.50 ew @ 8/1 Staked £5.00
17-Mar: County Hurdle - BARDENSTOWN LAD - £2.50 ew @ 18/1 Staked = £5.00 WON = £6.50(p)
17-Mar: Gold Cup - A PLUS TARD - £15.00 win @ 3/1 Staked = £15.00 WON = £45.00 (p)
Total Staked = £287.00
Stakes returned as NRNB = £65.00
Nett Staked = £222.00
Returns (including returned Stakes) = £616.50
PROFIT = £394.50
Return on investment (profit / nett stakes) = 177.70%
That was one helluva week!

Putting this list of wagers together allowed me to look back at previous blogs and the comments made by myself: consider this from 30-Dec "I think APT is about 10lb better than this performance at his best (such as when he won at Haydock) and for me he is the one to beat in the Gold Cup come March.  At current odds he's 7/2 (available generally), but I cannot see him starting much shorter than 3/1 on the day (if he goes there next) so hold on before placing a wager until you can get non-runner - no bet."

This year was the 4th year in succession that I've delivered a significant profit for Cheltenham Festival week.
In 2021 it was £183.50 profit on total stakes of £237.00; that's 77.47% Return on Investment.
In 2020 it was £104.16 profit on total stakes of £186.00; that's 56% Return on Investment.
In 2019 - unfortunately, I can't find the records for 2019, but with selections advised like the following winners: DUC DES GENEIVRES @ 13/2 / BEWARE THE BEAR @ 20/1 (antepost) / TOPOFTHEGAME @ 5/1 (antepost) / DEFI DU SEUIL @ 100/30 / and FRODON @ 7/1 (antepost), a profit was guaranteed. 

Friday 18 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival 2022 - Day-4 Friday

What a week it has been so far! Just 3 selections put up on the blog yesterday, and we had 2 winners.
THIRD WIND was advised as an eachway selection at 22/1, and won at an SP of 25/1 returning a £75.00 profit on the £2.50 ew stake. 
FLOORING PORTER was advised as a £15 win wager and won at 4/1, returning a profit of £60.00.
The 3rd selection ran unplaced, losing the £5 staked. Overall, that's £130 profit on the day!
And on 6th March, my multiple advice was 

Arkle Novices Chase: HAUT EN COULEURS @ 7/1
Queen Mother Champion Chase: ENERGUMENE @ 4/1
Stayers' Hurdle: FLOORING PORTER @ 7/2
3 x £3 win doubles AND £3 win treble = £12 staked

With Flooring Porter winning, we had a successful double and another £64.50 profit. I will do a full recap at the weekend, and give you the profit for the Festival on wagers placed.

Can we keep this ball rolling? 
The first race I'm looking at is the "Albert Bartlett" Novices hurdle over 3-miles, mainly because this race will take winning by a decent horse due to the 3-mile trip: there are not many that can win a race like this.  Winners also keep coming-in at long odds, so potential to win can be hidden in the form. The fav Hillcrest looks beatable as he's been winning his races easily: probably due to the lack of depth of the races he's in - LTO he easily beat a horse rated OR125 which he should being rated OR140. The Irish-trained Ginto looks more interesting, but I would have liked him to have run since the 2nd Jan. Minella Cocooner won LTO on 05Feb making-all over 2m6f, he will have to be very good to try that in today's race, and I don't think he is.  The Nice Guy has just run in the one hurdle race, I'm guessing he will need more experience. The ground may not be soft enough for Shantreusse, and Good Time Jonny does not look good enough. The 7yo Bardenstown Lad has been aimed at this since winning over C&D in October, and was not seen again till winning LTO over 3-miles on 05Feb.  Trainer John McConnell means business when sending one over from Ireland with a 33% strike-rate in hurdle races, and while this race is tough to win he could be one that stays on well. The last one I will mention is Stag Horn who was a very decent horse on the flat over 2-miles rated OR103; and he's taken well to hurdling and while he does not lack race experience, he may find this race a tough task.  Some bookies are offering 5-places (5th odds) and if the ground were good-to-soft I'd favour Minella Cocooner, but I fear he may be stopping in the final half-mile on the soft & tacky ground today, and BARDENSTOWN LAD @ 20/1 (Coral 5-places, 5th odds) looks a decent eachway play.
Selection: BARDENSTOWN LAD - £2.50 eachway @ 18/1 (sorry, as I was writing this the 20/1 has gone) with Bet365 & Coral

The Gold Cup is the big one: and let me start by saying last years' race was one of the better years. It is very difficult to win this race twice with the same horse and Minella Indo has looked jaded in his 3 runs since then, but then he did last season! Trainer de Bromhead is not in the same form either, he was fortunate to win with Bob Olinger yesterday, and the mare Honeysuckle is dominating a weak 2-mile hurdle division (she won't do that next season).  So, with de Bromhead also training A Plus Tard can he win the Gold Cup? What I like about A Plus Tard is that he is consistently very good, and occasionally impressive. LTO when beaten on-the-line by Galvin was, in my opinion, more of a jockey error as the race should have been put to bed before then. For me, Galvin does not look good enough: beaten by Frodon over 3-miles in October, and then only a length ahead of Kemboy LTO at Leopardstown, is not strong enough for to justify his place in the betting.  The Nicholls-trained Protektorat is the fly-in-the-ointment: Nicholls has struggled to find a Gold Cup horse in the last decade, and I think he's gambling a lot with this one.  Sure, he's a decent horse but he will need to improve at least 10lb when tackling the longest trip he's ever run - he's only twice run beyond 2m5f and was beaten by the OR146 rated Empire Steel in one of those races. Then there's Al Boum Photo: twice a Gold Cup winner and 3rd last year, he looks as good as ever and will not be far away. The ground is unlikely to be soft enough for Royale Pagaille, although trainer Venetia Williams is having a great Festival with 2 wins already and 2x 3rd's. I just think the pace will be too quick for him, as it was last year, and he will be staying-on but too late. The King George at Kempton has not provided a Gold Cup winner since Long Run in 2012, and I very much doubt Tornado Flyer will break the pattern, and I can also put a line through Asterion Forlonge.  The remainder, Chantry House, Santini and Aye Right just do not look good enough. 
For me, A PLUS TARD looks the most likely winner of the race and, if he'd won LTO by a short-head instead of losing, then he'd be 2/1 and not 3/1.  I'm expecting the 1st-3 home last season to fill the 1st-3 places again but in a different order.  We should see A Plus Tard win, with Al Boum Photo in 2nd and Minella Indo in 3rd. 
Selection: A PLUS TARD - £15 win @ 3/1 (William Hill and Bet365)

In the opening race of the day, is Vauban the likely winner of the Triumph Hurdle? There's two ways of looking at this: the Irish horses are 15lb better than anything in the UK, or they are so closely matched that they can't all be very good (can they?).  I can't split the Irish horses Vauban, Pied Piper and Fil Dor, and perhaps the value in the Irish entries is Il Etait Temps who was very good on his debut hurdle race and is sure to come on for that run. And I also like the UK-trained pair of Porticello and Knight Salute, and they may not be as far away as the betting suggests.  This is a no bet race for me. 

That's it for me today - time for breakfast and heading to the course.
It has been another very enjoyable and profitable Cheltenham Festival - it's always good to enter the final day well ahead - and I hope you have all enjoyed the journey. Looking at the stats, there has been about 300 readers of the blog this week. If you have made a profit, and you are feeling generous, there's a donation button on the blog above my photo if you want to buy me a pint!

Thursday 17 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival 2022 - Day-3 Thursday

Back in the game!

After a difficult opening day, what a way to bounce back - ENERGUMENE romped home an easy winner of the QMCC, and I have been plugging this horses chances for nearly two weeks.  This is what wrote on 5th March: Mullins would not race this absolute top-class 2-mile chaser in the QMCC if he thought he had no chance of reversing the places of the Ascot race, and the QMCC trip and Cheltenham could suit him well.  Odds of 4/1 (NRNB) are massive about a horse who - without Shishkin - would be about 1/3 odds-on for this race.  I was on ENERGUMENE at 4/1, and again at 7/2 - this was my biggest wager on a horse since I tipped Cue Card for the Ryanair Chase which he won in 2013: that's how confident I was.

The ground started off soft before turning heavy, and it was fortuitous that I restricted selections when there were a couple of winners at 50/1 (Commander Of Fleet) and 28/1 (Global Citizen), with the only other losing fav being Shishkin (trainer Henderson has blamed the ground).

Ground starts off heavy again, but with a dry day forecast it could get better - the word is could, not will.
The opening race at 1:30pm is pretty much a match between Bob Olinger and Galopin De Champs. On the level of form over jumps that we've seen from the pair, I favour GALOPIN DES CHAMPS, but there may not be much in it.

The Pertemps Hurdle Final handicap over 3-miles is more my cup-of-tea, especially on this ground - we could see a 20-length winner! Sire Du Berlais may have only won 4-times in 21 races, but he's won this race twice, including on soft ground in 2020.  He looked as good as ever LTO at Warwick on soft ground. Irish trainer Gordon Elliott sends 6 for this, including Sire Du Berlais, and his Sassy Yet Classy has Davy Russell in the saddle. This mare stays 3-mile well, handles soft ground but is a hold-up horse, so don't expect to see her till late-on. Elliott also qualified Tullybeg for this race in October and we've not seen this horse since, but the ground may well be too soft for him. Trainer Hughie Morrison is better known for flat-racing, but his small band of jumps horses do well, and my eye is caught by THIRD WIND who looks extremely well-handicapped on OR141 when he was rated OR153 after beating ex-Stayers Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar in February last year over 3-mile on soft ground. Thta was his last win, and he wasn't far off that form when running 3rd at Warwick (in front of Sire Du Berlais) in January off OR146 - and he's been 4lb better-in with the fav today.  He would not normally be considered up to winning this race, but he's a stout stayer on this ground and odds of 28/1 with 7-places (William Hill) look worthy of a wager.

The Ryanair Chase over 2m4f & 127yds is one of my favourites, but it is near impossible to see the odds-on ALLAHO not winning the race.  The ground may well slow him down though, so who will get close enough to make a race of it? There's not much on official ratings, and it's the the Mullins-trained pair of Janadil and Melon who look best placed. It' a no-bet race for me.

The Stayers' Hurdle over 3-mile was won by FLOORING PORTER last year, and readers of the blog were on him at 14/1.  He's still one of the youngest horses in the race at 7yo, and looks as good as last year, if not better, and I think he's the one to be beaten. Klassical Dream is the obvious challenger, but he's on a recovery mission today after a stinker of a run in January.  Previous Stayer's winner Paisley Park ran a career-best when 3rd in this last year, and despite winning the Cleeve Hurdle in January in style, I don't think he's good enough. Champ was beaten in that race and looked exposed at the trip, and Thyme Hill has been off since before Christmas (which is not good) but is a Festival winner.  I already have a Flooring Porter in a double with Energumene, so I have a big investment in this race.  It's FLOORING PORTER all the way for me at 4/1.

The chase handicap "Plate" over 2m4f is a tricky race to fathom. A horse I have followed all season is FUSIL RAFFLES and he started the season off OR156 after chasing home Chantry House here last season. I thought he was unlucky here in December over C&D when he made errors, and he clearly didn't stay 3-mile LTO at Doncaster. Back down to this optimum trip, and he's won on soft ground, he is also down to OR149 and he's my idea of an eachway wager. Unfortunately, now a non-runner!

I'm going to give the Mares Novices Hurdle a miss and go onto the Kim Muir handicap chase over 3m2f, for amateur riders.  When I was reviewing the Ultima Handicap last week, one that was diverted early from that race was Ain't That A Shame, and while he is very lightly-raced, his form stands up to scrutiny. It was probably inexperience that got him beat LTO, and he stays and travels very well. Odds of 8/1 (available generally) look fair for a small eachway wager. The master amateur rider, JJ Codd is on Smoking Gun, but unless this horse has been seriously showing improved form at home, then he may struggle in this.  The race fav School Boy Hours won LTO, but that was his 1st win in 10 chase races, however he has run well in those 9 defeats - odds of 5/1 look a bit skinny though.

Advised wagers for today:
2:10pm - THIRD WIND - £2.50 eachway @ 22/1 (William Hill 7-places  5th odds) 
3:30pm - FLOORING PORTER - £15 win @ 4/1 (available generally)
5:30pm - AIN'T THAT A SHAME - £2.50 eachway @ 8/1 (Bet365 6-places, 5th odds)
Total = £25.00 staked

Tuesday 15 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival 2022 - Day 2 Wednesday

The less said about the opening day, the better, It was not the best of starts to the Festival for the blog. I completely misread the form of the Supreme Novices Hurdle, and thought the Henderson pair were overrated - wrong! Then in the Arkle, the answer was there all the time - Edwardstone - how on earth did I miss that one? 

I went for several in the Ultima handicap, but only Fantastikas gave us a race, but he was under a hard-drive from before 2-out and faded into 7th. There was no denying Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle, but this performance was no better than last year when you have OR153 rated Epatante in 2nd and Zanahiyr in 3rd - the top of tree of the hurdle division are a poor bunch. 

Onto Wednesday, and what can bring us back into the game? It is not going to be the odds-on Sir Gerhard in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle. 

The Brown Advisory Novices Chase at 2:10pm looks more interesting. The Nicholls-trained Bravemansgame is a worthy fav and odds of 3/1 look fair value to me. He stays the trip and looks solid. With several having questions on stamina (L'Homme Presse) or on a recovery mission (Capodanno and Fury Road), the obvious challengers are Ahoy Senor and Beacon Edge - and I favour the latter.  Beacon Edge does relish the 3-mile trip and should improve on his LTO 2nd to Farouk D'Alene when conceding that one 7lb, and the ground should favour him too - odds of 12/1 look eachway value.

My main wager of the day, if not the week, is in the Champion Chase at 3:30pm. We all know that when they met at Ascot in January, Shishkin beat Energumene. This time I reckon the places will be reversed. It is a shorter trip (by about 200 yards) and I'm hoping that by the time they reach the final fence, ENERGUMENE will hold a winning advantage.  I will be upfront: this is my biggest wager on a race at Cheltenham since Cue Card won the Ryanair Chase, and I am confident that in Energumene I will be on the winner.

No other races on the card interest me.

My advised wagers:

Cheltenham 2:10pm - BEACON EDGE - £5 eachway @ 12/1
Cheltenham 3:30pm - ENERGUMENE - £15 win @ 7/2

Monday 14 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival 2022 - Day 1 Tuesday

This is it - we are back at Cheltenham for the Festival.
It's been difficult, but - let's put things in perspective - for most of us, the events of the past couple of years have just been an inconvenience.
Onto the racing - and the main things to remember about the Festival is that 55% of all the races are won by a last-time-out (LTO) winner - from a representation of about 15% of all the runners; and very few races are won by horses which last ran over 84-days (12 weeks) ago - basically, before 26th December 2021. If you stick to these two factors you may miss the odd winner, but you will avoid 95% of the losing horses! 

The racing looks top-class today, even if some of the fields look a bit on the small side, with some very open events presenting some wagering opportunities. It has been tricky to post selections early due to multiple entries, but the declarations on Sunday have allowed us a period of time to assess the form.  
Remember: there will be NO Selections posted on this blog at odds of under 9/4 - for example, while I reckon Honeysuckle is near unbeatable in the Champion Hurdle, I will not be recommending a wager. 

The opening race: the Supreme Novices Hurdle over 2m & 87yds is one I'm going to pass over. I did expect Mullins to send Sir Gerhard (who won the bumper last year) but he's now sending that one for the Ballymore.  I'm not confident about the Henderson pair of Constitution Hill and Jonbon, they don't look good enough to win this in my opinion. It may therefore pay to have an interest in the 5yo LTO winner Mighty Potter, trained by Gordon Elliott, who is improving rapidly, and looks an eachway play at 6/1. 

The Arkle Novices Chase over a trip 21yds short of 2-miles, looks wide open. I looked at this race in-depth last week, and while I think Edwardstone is a good 2-mile chaser, at 8yo if he wins this it is either a weak year or he's one of the best of the past 20 years.  That Willie Mullins still had 5 entered at the 5-day stage suggests he has no clear idea of his best chance: and so I've gone for the promising but unproven Haut An Couleurs antepost. This is probably a race to watch, and I've only included HAUT EN COULEURS in a small stakes multiple wager.

The 3rd race on the card is the Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f: one of the best handicaps of the season. I have already reviewed this race in depth last week.  I selected 3 horses last week and two are declared to run: Fantastikas and Rapper.  I think both are really good eachway wagers as they are proven stayers and improving novice chasers.  It is disappointing that Fury Road is not running, but I will replace him with Full Back who is improving and looks well handicapped - stamina is no problem, but he would prefer ground on the soft side of good. I'm on all 3 at £5.00 eachway with Skybet who pay 7-places to 5th odds a place.
RAPPER @ 33/1
FULL BACK @ 14/1

The Champion Hurdle is the feature race of the day, and I just cannot see the mare Honeysuckle being beaten - she is head & shoulders better than anything else in the race and she has the mares' allowance!  

The Mares' hurdle over 2m4f looks like going to the Mullins-trained Burning Victory. Mullins has sent his top-rated mare e Concertista chasing, and this one is an able deputy having already won at the Festival (won the Triumph Hurdle) and then was just btn at Newmarket in the Cesarewitch on the flat. She looks classy and won LTO over this trip. Current odds of 9/1 look generous, and certainly eachway value with Skybet paying 5-places. But I've not looked at this race in depth. 

The Juvenile handicap hurdle looks a nightmare, with 7 of the last 10 winners going off at 25/1 or longer and last years winner Jeff Kidder winning at 80/1 - If you fancy one, don't let the odds put you off.  

The NH Chase has cut-up badly and only 7 horses go to post.  It is hard not to look in the direction of the favourite Run Wild Fred despite the fact he's only won once in 10 chase races.  But, apart from Stattler who has little experience of chasing (this will be his 3rd run) there is not much else in the race capable of beating the fav.  No bet race for me (again).

Saturday 12 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival - plans for the blog

Just a few days to go now until Tuesday 15th March and the roar that heralds the start of the Supreme Novices hurdle erupts from the crowd.  Due to work constraints, the blog during the Festival will not be as in-depth as it has in previous years - but I will endeavour to maintain the quality of the selections.

The main things to remember about the Festival is that 55% of all the races are won by a last-time-out (LTO) winner - from a representation of about 15% of all the runners; and very few races are won by horses which last ran over 84-days (12 weeks) ago - basically, before 26th December 2021. If you stick to these two factors you may miss the odd winner, but you will avoid 95% of the losing horses! 

I've tried over the past week or so to identify horses that are available at generous odds and highly likely to run in the race I've chosen to wager in.  Lot's of horses have multiple entries, and some of these entries (in my opinion) are spurious.  For instance, Energumene holds entries for the QMCC (odds of 7/2) and the Ryanair Chase (odds of 5/2): yet this horse has only once run beyond 2m 1f when winning a beginners chase, and is probably equal - if not better - than dual QMCC winner Altior. If Altior and Shishkin were running in the QMCC, they would be 5/4 joint-favs; and I reckon we will see one helluva plunge on Energumene on Wednesday.  While I don't think Shiskin will be dislodged as the fav, but he could start at "evens", and I'm expecting Energumene to go off at 7/4.  
Overall, I will be incredibly surprised if Energumene runs in the Ryanair Chase: and I actually know one of the directors of B&HAFC (club Chairman is Tony Bloom) and he will be flying in the helicopter to Cheltenham on Wednesday with Tony Bloom: owner of Energumene - that suggests the horse will be running on Wednesday.

The handicap hurdles can change in complexion when the declarations are made: it's near impossible to find winners before then.  But you do need to look for horses that run prominently, it's very difficult to come into the race from off the pace and win at the Festival - many try, few succeed, and when it comes off the jockeys are hailed as riding the race of a lifetime. Remember: prominent runners!
 Keep an eye out for the Mullins-trained JUNGLE BOOGIE: he has 3 entries and his best chance is likely the "Turners Novices Chase" over 2m4f on Thursday - but it would not surprise me if he missies the Festival altogether.

Look for opportunities in the races: For instance in the Ryanair Chase while I think Allaho is unopposable, that suggests the race will really cut-up. Unfortunately, my early antepost on the race Fakir D'Oudairies is a non-runner; but Mullins has a strong hand in this race, and I like Asterion Forlonge - if he has a clear run!  One strategy is to completely oppose the fav in the race, and place a reverse forecast on those you reckon should be 2nd & 3rd - then if the fav does not finish - as Envoi Allen didn't when falling as the 4/9 fav for the "Marsh" - you could find yourself with a 100/1 winning forecast!  So which odds-on chances have potential to not complete?

Above all, enjoy yourself!

Wednesday 9 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival - Ultima Handicap (early wagers)

One of the great betting races of the festival; the Ultima is a race I love to target and I managed to find the winner in Beware The Bear in 2019 (tipped at 20/1 on the Sunday before the race) and The Conditional in 2020. The race requires stamina, pace, and usually a progressive profile. Last year, the 11yo Vintage Clouds threw all the trends in the bin to make-all and win; so use trends wisely - they are not the be all & end all.  Vintage Clouds won because he was well handicapped after a couple of poor runs, and his trainer capitalized on that by getting him back to his peak for one last top race.  There was also a lot of horses with unproven stamina, and Vintage Clouds was absolutely guaranteed to stay the trip.

That's what you need to focus on in this race, stamina. That and horses that have shown good form and are improving - 75% of those that finish in the 1st-4 are carrying 11st or more

As of today, there are 41 still entered in the race, but only a maximum field of 24 can run.  This year, unusually, the race is dominated by the top-weight, the 2019 Ryanair Chase winner Frodon. To be honest, I don't know why he's in the race as on recent form he is most unlikely to be involved in the finish.  This is a big ask - but he's been asked big questions before!
Fury Road on 11st 8lb (OR160) has won a Grade 1 novice chase over 3-miles, but he pulled-up in the Stayers Hurdle last year, and perhaps 3-miles could stretch him - he does look a class horse though, and an 8yo - he ticks a lot of boxes.  
The Gold Cup 3rd in 2020, Lostintranslation, is not the horse he once was yet is still runs off OR155.  Stamina is not a problem for Does He Know (OR152) but mid-race pace is, and if he runs in this he will be staying-on strong but perhaps too late. 
The Jam Man (OR150) last ran in a chase when winning the Troytown National in Nov-20, and has been hurdling since; he needs soft/heavy ground. 
That's the top of the handicap done and - if Frodon is a non-runner and the weights go up 4lb - I've looked at those likely to be carrying  11st or more: statistically, the winner is likely to be amongst that bunch.  I will look at - in more depth - those who a glance at their form suggests they may be in with a shout. 
Fortescue: won LTO, has won 6x at 3-mile and only an 8yo! Most wins on soft/heavy though. 
Ben Dundee: last win was 4 years ago.  Was unlucky LTO but form has not held-up well from that race.
Noble Yeats: interesting - 2nd LTO in "Towton", trained by Emmet Mullins, watch the betting.
Floueur: interesting, but OR146 looks a tricky rating for one not guaranteed to stay the trip.
Foxy Jacks: not proven at 3-miles.
Doctor Duffy: on best form has a chance, but that form was some time ago.
Tea Clipper: unlikely to stay 3-miles
Fakir D'Alene: unlikely to stay 3-miles.
Death Duty: managed to beat subsequent NH chase winner Rathvinden as a novice, didn't win again for 4 years till LTO, over 3m4f on heavy - and he's11yo. Unlikely to win this.
Fantastikas: LTO winner on heavy, has a win on good-to-soft, stays 3-mile, is on the upgrade - looks an exciting prospect, one for the shortlist.
Vintage Clouds: won this off OR143 last year, and I doubt lightning will strike twice.
Of the remainder:-
Rapper: goes well at Cheltenham (7th of 24 in the 2020 Pertemps Hurdle), stays 3-mile and handles good & good-to-soft ground, OR143 looks a fair rating for this 8yo novice chaser.
Discordantly: 6th off OR142 last year, so unlikely to do better off OR143.
School Boy Hours: finds it difficult to win, has been highly tried. LTO winner but goes best when fresh (200+ days) and not sure if this is too soon a reappearance.
Grumpy Charley: Not guaranteed to stay 3-mile, and OR142 looks tough.
Kiltealy Briggs: interesting novice, but not guaranteed to stay 3-miles.
Full Back: appears to run better in small fields, but he is improving and looks well handicapped. Stamina no problem, but would prefer soft ground. 
Corach Rambler: Rating of OR140 looks high for what he's done.
The Wolf: ran 2nd to Full Back at Cheltenham, stamina no problem, but well btn in this race last year.
Run To Milan: all best form at Exeter, not sure he will enjoy Cheltenham.
Farinet: unreliable and not likely to stay 3-miles.
Lord Accord: looks in need of more experience, but stays 3-mile well.
Mindsmadeup: off 122 days which is not a good sign for this 11yo.
All the remainder are well out of the handicap, and are unlikely to be involved if Frodon stays in the race.

That's a shortlist of:-
Fury Road - current best odds 16/1 (William Hill)
Fortescue - best odds 14/1 - best on soft/heavy, will it be too quick for him? 
Fantastikas - best odds 10/1
Rapper - best odds 25/1
School Boy Hours - best odds 14/1 (Corals) - is this run too soon after winning LTO?
Full Back - best odds 12/1 - stamina in abundance, may want further than this.

Fury Road @ 16/1 - looks massive odds for a class horse - £5.00 eachway 
Rapper @ 25/1 - on the upgrade, he could be very interesting - £5.00 eachway
Fantastikas @ 10/1 - very progressive, and just a 7yo - £5.00 eachway
TOTAL = £30.00 staked

Sunday 6 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival Preview (part 2) - 6th March

So far, I've looked at the following races and come up with some selections:
Arkle Novices Chase: HAUT EN COULEURS @ 7/1
Champion Hurdle: Honeysuckle (no advised wager)
Queen Mother Champion Chase: ENERGUMENE @ 4/1
Ryanair Chase: FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES @ 12/1 (eachway wager)
Stayers' Hurdle: FLOORING PORTER @ 7/2

The Ballymore Novices Hurdle over 2m5f and the Brown Advisory Novices Chase over 3-miles don't appear - at this time - to look like races with any value in as they are dominated by their respective market leaders. Personally, for the UK, I think Paul Nicholls has a strong hand in the staying novice chase division with Bravemansgame and Threeunderthrufive. Both have multiple entries and much depends on whether Nicholls selects the race that represents their best chance of winning. For Bravemansgame, I think his best chance will in the Brown Advisory as we know he stays the 3-mile trip well and the Irish pair of Galopin Des Champs and Bob Olinger are not proven beyond 2m5f. Unfortunately, Bravemansgame is just 2/1 for this race, which is appalling. I'm hoping Willie Mullins sends Galopin Des Champs for the Turners Novices Chase over 2m4f, leaving STATTLER to go for the Brown Advisory for which he is currently 12/1 (NRNB), rather than the NH Novices Chase over 3m6f (amateur riders).  Stattler ticks a lot of boxes for the 3-mile novice chase: proven at the trip, a good hurdler, lightly raced and a 7yo. He is just 5/2 for the NH Novices Chase over 3m6f but there is not much on form to split the top-end of the market leaders in that race.  I'd rather take the 12/1 NRNB in a race in which he has a good chance of winning, than 5/2 in a race in which he may not even be placed in the 1st-3.  Another Irish horse which improved for the step-up to 3-mile LTO was BEACON EDGE - his only entry for Cheltenham is the Brown Advisory and he looks potentially a class chaser over this trip.  He is almost guaranteed to run and odds of 16/1 (NRNB) look great value about a horse than 4th in the Stayers' Hurdle last year on his debut at 3-miles.

For the NH Novices Chase, a really good way of finding the winner is to note the horse with the highest official rating.  Current fav at 5/2 is Run Wild Fred, but he keeps coming 2nd - and he's had 10 chase races winning just the once. For me, he is highly opposable. I'm going to go out on a limb in this race and ignore the Irish-trained horses heading the betting as they are all round-about the same on form; I'm looking at a UK-trained entry who looks like he will stay all-day-long: DOES HE KNOW.  Currently the fav for the 3-mile Ultima Handicap Chase earlier in the day, he is 12/1 (NRNB) for this race. A multiple Cheltenham winner, and a winner on ground from Good thru-to Soft. After his win LTO he's rated OR152, and while that's lower than Run Wild Fred on OR158, Does He Know has won 3 of his 4 chase races - he knows how to win.

Brown Advisory Novices Chase: STATTLER @ 12/1 NRNB (eachway wager)
Brown Advisory Novices Chase: BEACON EDGE @ 16/1 NRNB (eachway wager)

NH Novices Chase: DOES HE KNOW @ 12/1 NRNB (eachway wager)

At the start of this blog I mentioned THREEUNDERTHRUFIVE, but I've not mentioned a race for him.  That's because I think Nicholls if planning a handicap coup in the "Ultima" on the opening day.  He's entered Frodon rated OR164, who has 11st 12lb and top-weight.  It's not impossible for horse with top-weight to win this handicap: Un Temps Pour Tout did it in 2017. And it's not impossible for a horse aged 10yo (or older) as the 11yo Vintage Clouds did it last year. However, of the 16 (yes, 16) races he's won as a chaser, 11 were single-figure fields and 4 wins were in fields of no more than 14 (the odd one was the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in Dec-16).  Frodon is unlikely to win this - so why is he entered? To allow Threeunderthrufive to run with 11st off OR152 - and I think he's chucked-in as this 7yo novice chaser will be 160+ by the end of the season.  He is 12/1 (NRNB) and Skybet and PaddyPower are paying 5-places eachway.

Ultima Handicap Chase: THREEUNDERTHRUFIVE @ 12/1 NRNB (eachway wager)

My multiple wager is: 
Ultima Handicap Chase: THREEUNDERTHRUFIVE @ 12/1 NRNB (eachway wager)
NH Novices Chase: DOES HE KNOW @ 12/1 NRNB (eachway wager)
Ryanair Chase: FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES @ 12/1 (eachway wager)
3 x £2.50 eachway doubles AND £2.50 eachway treble = £20 staked

Arkle Novices Chase: HAUT EN COULEURS @ 7/1
Queen Mother Champion Chase: ENERGUMENE @ 4/1
Stayers' Hurdle: FLOORING PORTER @ 7/2
3 x £3 win doubles AND £3 win treble = £12 staked

Ultima Handicap Chase: THREEUNDERTHRUFIVE @ 12/1 NRNB (eachway wager)
£5 eachway = £10 staked

Brown Advisory Novices Chase:
STATTLER @ 12/1 NRNB (eachway wager)  - £2.50 eachway
BEACON EDGE @ 16/1 NRNB (eachway wager) - £2.50 eachway
Total = £10 staked
Gross Stake = £52

Saturday 5 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival Preview (part 1) - 5th March

Given the events in the Ukraine, I need to give myself something to look forward to. No matter who you are, or where you live, life isn't ever going to be the same again. How did we allow one man to have so much power?

So, I'm not looking at today's racing - I'm looking ahead to the Cheltenham Festival and laying-down the groundwork of what I hope will be another successful Festival week for the blog. The races I'm looking at today are the championship races, beginning with the Arkle Novices Chase over 2-miles on the opening day.  This isn't usually a betting race as 7 of the last 10 winners have started at odds-on, but this year it looks wide-open. First-off, I'm opposing the fav Edwardstone: he's a very good horse, but he's not quite good enough to win an Arkle.  He's also 8yo and, since 1990, only 2x 8yo's have won the Arkle: Moscow Flyer and Sizing Europe and Edwardstone isn't as good as that pair. The 2nd-fav Blue Lord is also not my idea of the winner: he seems to lose concentration, having fallen at the final flight in last years Supreme Hurdle, and idling on the run-in LTO when just holding-on to beat the mare Riviere D'Etel. Personally, I don't think there is much more improvement in him. I've more respect for Riviere D'Etel, mainly for when she chased home Ferny Hollow on 26Dec; that looks better form than when 2nd NTO to Blue Lord as she looked beaten coming to the final fence and (in the end) was flattered to get so close to Blue Lord on the run-in. Personally, I think she's a better horse on soft ground, and she's unlikely to find that at Cheltenham - also she was only rated OR133 as a hurdler and couldn't win the Juvenile handicap hurdle off OR134 at the Festival last year.  I expect Saint Sam is only in the race to guarantee a good pace, as he does not look good enough. And that brings me to HAUT EN COULEURS: very lightly raced (just 5 runs), ran 3rd on his stable-debut in last years Triumph hurdle and beat the fav Zanahiyr into 4th. On his chase debut he easily beat Gentleman De Mee (races today at Navan) and was well-fancied for the Irish Arkle but made a novice error at the 3rd fence firing his jockey out of the saddle. Odds of 7/1 (NRNB) are not great as we are taking potential over actual form, but I think this 5yo has a tremendous future ahead of him, and I do consider this year to be a weak Arkle: Ferny Hollow would be long odds-on to win this were he not injured.

The Champion Hurdle should be won by HONEYSUCKLE: she is head & shoulders better than anything else in the race.  Mullins could not beat the mare with Sharjah last year, and his entry Appreciate It will need to have found over 12lb of improvement since we last saw him when winning the Supreme hurdle. It would be one helluva training feat.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase should be a classic.  I'm going to start off by opposing Shishkin as I think 2-mile trip just a bit too short, he definitely needed the extra furlong (220 yards) at Ascot to beat Energumene. If you want to have an antepost wager on Shishkin, take the 12/1 offered for the King George at Kempton next Boxing Day as I think he will step-up in trip next season and the King George looks made for him. So, if not Shishkin who? It has to be ENERGUMENE: Mullins would not race this absolute top-class 2-mile chaser in the QMCC if he thought he had no chance of reversing the places of the Ascot race, and the QMCC trip and Cheltenham could suit him well.  Odds of 4/1 (NRNB) are massive about a horse who - without Shishkin - would be about 1/3 odds-on for this race.

The novice chase races Turners over 2m4f on the 3rd day of the Festival, and the Brown Advisory over and extended 3-miles are much dependent on riding plans: Bob Olinger is entered in both races as is Bravemansgame and to make a selection now may not be the best use of limited stake money.  There looks like a bit of place value in the Ryanair Chase in FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES who was 2nd in it last year when going off at 11/2 - he's currently 12/1 (NRNB) with some bookies. While I cannot see Allaho being beaten in this race, it's almost impossible to see Energumene (current 2nd fav) lining-up, or the Gold Cup fav A Plus Tard; and ditto Chancun Pour Soi.  With recent Grade 1 winner Conflated aimed at the Gold Cup, it looks like only Envoi Allen (currently 14/1) is the only horse likely to stop him filling one of the places. He has to be included in any eachway multiple wagers. 

The 3rd day is the Festival is my favourite: every race presents a betting opportunity, and I've fond memories of cheering home winners of every race on the card.  The Stayers' Hurdle over 3-miles provided the blog with it's best winner last year in FLOORING PORTER who we were on at 14/1 . There's nothing he beat in the race last year that has a hope of reversing the form this time around. What of the new challengers?   Thyme Hill has won 3 of his last 4 races off a long break, so coming into this race off an 89-day lay-off wont inconvenience him, but I just don't think he's good enough. Klassical Dream has also won 3 of his last 4 races off a long break, but LTO he ran a stinker and he will have to be at his peak to beat Flooring Porter. As a novice hurdler, Champ wasn't the best of his year, and I can't see him winning this at 10yo. The 7yo Sporting John is interesting if he brings his "A-game" to the Festival; on his last visit to Cheltenham he couldn't win a 3-mile handicap hurdle off OR151 which - if he's going to win this race - he should have won easily (he went off the 5/4 fav). It may be worth considering a long-odds chance if 4-places are on offer on the day; but Flooring Porter at 7/2 looks good value to me.