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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 24 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival 2023 - the review (and what went wrong)

That's it for another year, and when it's over the preparation begins for the next one. My own performance can only be measured as profit or loss; and let's be realistic, with just the one winner (El Fabiolo) it wasn't vintage. I've thought that perhaps I spread my assessments of the horses & races too thin, tried to hit too many targets when I should have been more specific.  I tell readers of the blog to pick &choose their targets - and then I didn't follow my own advice! We live and learn.
I'm not sure how this review is going to pan-out. I generally look at each race in-turn, and try and spot horse's to look out for in the coming weeks and months. And then I usually have a wrap-up and try and identify any potential wagers for 2024. 
This is my fantasy Yankee posted on 27-March 2022 for the 2023 Cheltenham Festival (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  
Not too bad; 2 winners from 4 selections, the successful double returning £135 to a £10 stake, that's £25 profit on the original 11 bets in the Yankee. Not only that, but I predicted Shishkin stepping-up in trip. I hope I can repeat this success at the end of this review when I post a "Yankee" for 2024.
Before I go any further and review the Festival race-by-race, let's have a brief look at the Gold Cup won by Galopin Des Champs. First, let us compare the ratings: RPR, Speed, Timeform, and My Rating with previous Gold Cups.

Most judges rate the performance by Don Cossack when winning in 2016 to be the best since Foot & Mouth disease caused the cancellation of the Festival in 2001.  From my "composite" rating detailed above, Don Cossack isn't the best, he's not even in the top-5 best winners since 2006.  I haven't gone earlier than 2007, as before that I wasn't keeping my own ratings.
Despite the above table putting Imperial Commander's winning performance in 2010 as the best recent run in the Gold Cup; personally, I have Denman as the best staying chaser we've seen since "foot & mouth" in 2001, as Denman met, and beat, a peak Kauto Star (who when on to win the Gold Cup again in 2009).  I'm fairly sure that had he not had his health issue's, Denman would easily have beaten Kauto Star in 2009. Why is that? 
The Gold Cup is an interesting trip, being a quarter-mile longer than a "standard" 3-miles, and having that final quarter-mile running up that hill (thank you Kate Bush). I believe the best trip for Kauto Star was the 3-miles of Kempton, and beyond that trip Denman was definitely superior. Or rather, "Kauto" could not achieve a performance in a Gold Cup within 5lbs of his best (which he ran at Kempton). However, Kauto Star was such a high-class chaser, he didn't need to perform to his best to win a couple of Gold Cups!  I'm sure Denman would have won the Gold Cup again in 2009, as that autumn he perhaps put in what I rate as the best performance of his life - and possibly the best staying chase performance seen since the days of Desert Orchid - when winning the Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury over 3m2f in November 2009, which I rated 184. When Kauto Star won the "King George" over 3-miles, he put in an amazing performance too, possibly equal to 184 - but he was so far in front of the horse in 2nd it's just a guess how good he was that day.
So what of Galopin Des Champs? As per the identical speed ratings (171), I don't think there's that much between this winning performance and that of A Plus Tard last year.  While speed ratings are not the be-all-and-end-all, they are an important consideration, as they give resonance to the overall rating.  Let's be honest here: ratings are subjective to opinion, that's why there's disparity in the table above. Even speed ratings have some interpretative factor within them, due to the effect of the ground on the race-time; but there's more of a calculation behind them. What is interesting from the table above, is that Galopin's speed rating of 171 has been matched or beaten by 5 winners since the surprise victory of Lord Windermere in 2014.  The highest speed rating in that period (176) was by Al Boum Photo in 2019, and he went on to win the Gold Cup a 2nd time in 2020. I tipped Al Boum Photo to win that 2nd Gold Cup (I didn't think he was good enough in 2019) mainly due to that high speed rating, which was the highest recorded in the race since Imperial Commander in 2010. There's no doubt in my mind that a fit and healthy Galopin Des Champs can win the Gold Cup again in 2024, but before you go out and put the mortgage on a 6/4, I would have said the same thing about A Plus Tard last year. In my opinion, the only chink in the armour of GDC is that a bold, prominent effort by a horse like Coneygree or Native River - who are considered more than 5lb below GDC - could give him a scare over the Gold Cup trip. And, there's always the possibility that he may not reach the starting line next year: injury is always a risk.

If we look at the above table in rank order, we see what look to me are anomalies.

The Timeform values in orange are (in my opinion) undervalues; and those in blue are overvalues.
Long Run won his Gold Cup when all his serious rivals - however good they may once have been - were all in serious decline, and that he never repeated that GC win - despite remaining a top grade 1 horse - suggests in 2011 he "got lucky", and he certainly didn't put in a better performance that day than when Denman won in 2008 beating a peak Kauto Star!  The same with Bobs Worth; how can he possibly have run to 176 when he won, but he couldn't beat Lord Windermere the following year when that horse recorded just 161?  One horse who I think had been underrated significantly, is Coneygre - he put in a phenomenal performance when winning the GC in 2015 as a novice chaser.

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