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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 11 March 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - Ultima Handicap Chase (12Mar)

The weights are out, and the declarations are confirmed for the first of the major handicaps of the Festival: the Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f. Only 23 entries, one under the maximum, and there are a few surprise non-declarations: Annual Invictus and Giovinco.

If you have been reading the blog over the past week, you may have noticed that I've not been referring to any "trends" or stats. There's a couple of reasons; a) I believe the domination of the Festival by 3 or 4 trainers (and in particular, Mullins) has put a wrecking ball through the trends; and b) for me, trends only apply to races which are well supported and competitive, in other words, the handicaps.

I'm going to look at every runner in the Ultima Handicap, as you just cannot ignore any of them: we've had a couple of repeat winners (Corach Rambler and Un Temps Pour Tout), a veteran winner (Vintage Clouds); and a very young novice winner (Coo Star Sivola) in recent years. Right, let's go!

Eldorado Allen: 10yo, and you could describe him as a class horse, as he was in the Gold Cup last year (came 7th); he's not going to be far away based on his run in the old "Hennessey" on 02Dec; but he does find winning tricky (4 from 21). 
Run Wild Fred: 10yo, hasn't won since Nov21, and the handicapper hasn't given him much chance with OR149, as he'd need a career-best to win off that.
Highland Hunter: not the obvious type being an 11yo, and he's had 3 races since Xmas.
Stumptown: This 7yo ran 2nd in the "Kim Muir" (3m2f) last season, and won here on New Years Day; he looks the type to go close and Gavin Cromwell is no mug. 
Monbeg Genius: Nobody wants the owner to win this race, but this 8yo is running and his 3rd in the old "Hennessey" (beat Eldorado Allen) plus running 3rd in this races last year, puts him in the picture. Rated OR147, that's fair and odds of 12/1 put him on the shortlist.
The Goffer: the subject of a significant gamble so far, but I'm not convinced this 7yo is the one. Ran 3rd last season in this race off OR149, so running off OR144 suggests he could be well-in. However, he comes in off a 142 day break (last run on 22Oct) and that could be too much.
Meetingofthewaters: Bought recently by JP McManus, sure he won a decent handicap in Dec off OR130, but this is a lot more to ask of the 7yo especially off OR147, and he unseated his rider LTO.
Chambard: this 12yo won the "Kim Muir" in 2022, but surely won't figure in this race.
Minella Crooner: a top novice chaser, this 8yo has not set the world alight this season and may struggle, as recent run didn't suggest a change in form.
Kitty's Light: Loves Ayr, and the right-handed tracks of London; I can't see this 8yo enjoying Cheltenham, but could well stay on strong.
Gevrey: ran 4th in the "Plate" over 2m4f+ last season, then ran 2nd in the Irish National over 3m5f. Won the Munster National in October, but pulled-up twice since: OR145 looks tough.
Eklat De Rire: A top novice chaser in 2020-21, has had problems so is lightly raced for a 10yo, and if he retains any ability he has slipped to a very useful rating of OR144.
Victtorino: He didn't look suited to the track when racing here in
January, seems to handle right-handed tracks best.
Busselton:  Comprehensively beaten on 27Dec (race won by Meetingofthewaters), however ran 5th in "Hennessey" in 2022 off OR149, this 7yo likes to run prominently, so not without a chance. 
Trelawne: winner of a 3-mile hurdle, so could stay this trip, but stamina is unproven. 
Twig: this 9yo has never raced on ground worse than good-to-soft, however ran well when 2nd here on 28Oct. Didn't enjoy "Hennessey" on 02Dec, and not seen since; could be interesting.
Chianti Classico: this 7yo novice chaser looks the type to do well, but does make the odd error, and he's no experience of a big field like this.
Found On: this 9yo mare goes well off a break, but the ground may well be too soft for this "good" ground specialist. 
Lord Du Mesnil: this 11yo will stay the trip will, but likely in his own time.
Excello: this 5yo is tricky to gauge, he didn't look like he enjoyed the track in January, but his last race in France (before joining Henderson) suggests he should enjoy the trip and ground. Interesting.
Famous Bridge: this 8yo has winning form at the trip and on the ground, but trainer Nicky Richards tends to not do well when coming South of Birmingham. could stay on late.
Weveallbeencaught: a 7yo novice chaser, without looking a winner in 3 races to date.
Risk And Roll: a 10yo who probably should not be in the race, with just 3 wins from 19 chase races.

My shortlist is 
Stumptown: 10/1 with William Hill (6-places 5th odds a place);
Monbeg Genius: 14/1 (6-places, 5th odds a place) Bet365, William Hill, Betfred;
Twig: 20/1 (6-places, 5th odds a place) Bet365, William Hill, Coral;
I will also have a couple of "place-only" wagers on Excello and Busselton on the exchanges.

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