Welcome to Day One of the Cheltenham Festival Special. We have unusually small fields as it would appear trainers are looking to protect handicap marks rather than finish close up in a Championship race and ruin their horses for the next two years.
Only eight runners in the Supreme Novices’ and just six go to post for the Arkle. Great shame.
SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE
Last season we got off to a flier with SHISHKIN winning for us @ 6/1 and a good start always gets the confidence up.
I’m changing absolutely nothing with regards Profiling any race at the Festival this week and we’ll win, lose, or draw….no guarantees because it’s the most competitive racing of the year and every single horse will be trying for its life.
I’m disappointed to see BLUE LORD in here as he was my “Festival Dark Horse” and I fancied him strongly to win the County Hurdle later in the week. He is priced up around 10/1 here and you should take note of the fact that since 2014 Mullins has saddled eight French breds for this race, which has produced three winners and a runner up. In what has been a strange year, continue to expect the strange!
My first shortlist for this race consists of five and six year olds. They have won the last 10 running’s of this, between them….six year olds winning 6-4
That immediately rules out the current favourite as only two seven year olds have won this since 1971 and the last was CAPTAIN CEE BEE in 2008….before that TOURIST ATTRACTION in 1995 (trained by Willie Mullins).
- BLUE LORD
- FOR PLEASURE
- GRUMPY CHARLEY
- SOARING GLORY
The small field
Weight ranges would be my next port of call, when weight ranges are a factor but this year all carry 11st 7lb so I’ll move on to market position. The market very rarely gets this wrong and save for the freak result caused by LABAIK (25/1), the winner will normally be sited in the top three in the betting as now seen eight of the last 10 winners come from those heading the tissue, so we’ll pluck those horses from that list above:
I would be happy dutching that pair at the current odds of 4/1 & 11/2 but if I were looking for one to play 20/80 it would be METIER. He arrives unbeaten and my only concern would be the ground. All three runs have come on soft or heavy ground but then again, the only previous winner on ground as quick as it will be tomorrow is SOARING GLORY.
With just eight going to post it will be anything but a normal Supreme but all I can do is apply the runes and they say:
- DUTCH – METIER / BALLYADAM
- 20/80 – METIER
Last years winner of this was a stats buster but what he did do was reinforce the stat that you need to be aged six or seven to be winning this and I’d not want to be with a five year old….they struggle like crazy so, ALLMANKIND, as good as he has looked this season, has it all to do.
The last 10 winners of this have been six and seven year olds….only four five year olds have tried to win this in the last decade and one has placed.
It was very sad to hear that ENERGUMENE would be missing this as that takes away the interest. He was the only danger I could see to SHISHKIN, who won the Supreme at 6/1 for us last year but you’ll not get that this time around!
- CAPTAIN GUINNESS
- FRANCO DE PORT
- ELDORADO ALLEN
Only two of the last 10 winners came home a bigger price than 6/1, WESTERN WARHORSE springing a huge surprise @ 33/1 in 2014 and PU THE KETTLE ON last year @ 16/1
I’m therefore eliminating anything priced bigger than 6/1 because stats tell me it’s what I should do
Nothing I can do about it, I’m afraid. I’ve ruled out ALLMANKIND on account of age, he sits second favourite @ 4/1, it’s then 8/1 bar the front two and SHISHKIN trades 1/2
A race I will now simply watch as I expect the favourite to win but, I do not back odds on shots in novice events, if I can help it….even at Cheltenham!
ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE
I still remember the e-mails received following the win of THE DRUIDS NEPHEW in 2015, after I had put that up as “THE ONE”, when is was a decent double figure price, winning at 8/1. Brilliant.
We want to be with seven and eight year olds here. In the last decade only one six year old and 2 x 9-y-o’s have managed to scupper those two age groupings
Here we go:
- AYE RIGHT
- MILAN NATIVE
- DELIRE D’ESTRUVAL
- ONE FOR THE TEAM
- THE WOLF
A handicap….love them….my bread and butter.
Last year my weight stat was blown to bits but I will stick to my guns and I only want horses carrying 11st or more onside, as six of the last 10, and five of the last seven winners, have carried carried that weight.
- MILAN NATIVE
That’s age and weight sorted out….now onto the Market.
Not many priced “silly” win this, we are looking for nothing priced bigger than 14/1 and as nine of the last 10 winners fitted that Profiling:
- MILAN NATIVE
Just two left now and that’s the dutch sorted out.
- MILAN NATIVE
It has to be MILAN NATIVE.
That it is simply because HAPPYGOLUCKY trades favourite and they have finished F, 0, 2, 0, 0, 0, 2, 1, 0, 3 in the last 10 running’s of this race.
MILAN NATIVE is no stranger to winning at a Festival, having won the Kim Muir last season and comes here running first time following a wind-op and he has won or placed in six of his completed starts over fences.
Last year I said it was the weakest Champion Hurdle I could remember. I’m also thinking back to last year and I remember reading the quote that, “HONEYSUCKLE, who was taken out of the Champion Hurdle because she would have struggled for pace over the two miles of that race”
So, what has changed? This year she is here but it’s going to be no worse than good to soft and two of her last three wins have come over 2 miles 4 furlongs on soft, her latest win over 2 miles coming on soft/heavy. If she still lacks the pace, as they thought last year, then she’ll struggle against true decent ground two milers.
All I can do is work as normal and see what the runes throw back at me.
You have to an exceptional horse to win this if arriving aged eight, or older. Only ANNIE POWER and HURRICANE FLY have managed that in the last 10 seasons and nothing in here tomorrow could hold a candle to either of those two.
Anything aged five is binned too….only one horse aged five has won this in that same 10 year period, last years winner, ESPOIR D’ALLEN. Before that you had to go back to KATCHIT in 2008, who became the first 5-y-o to win it since SEE YOU THEN in 1985….rare as rocking horse manure they are.
Plain fact is, seven of the last 10 winners were aged six or seven so my first shortlist comprises of:
Market next, even though something daft could actually happen here, with a more staying type coming from off the pace as the ones that have gone off fast up front, regardless of how good they might be, lose their legs up the hill.
If you’ve looked outside the front four on the tissue in the last 10 years, you’ve lost MONEY on eight of those occasions.
At this point last year I was left with just EPATANTE even at this early stage in proceedings and she didn’t let me…or you….down. This year?
You can dutch that trio to make a profit at the current prices available and that’s my game. If I can turn a profit, that’s what I aim for.
Which of that trio is most likely to win, though?
I do not see why ABRACADABRAS should reverse form this season with either SHARJAH, who beat him 24 lengths at Leopardstown over Christmas, or make up the 10 lengths HONEYSUCKLE beat him at that same track in February.
On official Ratings EPATANTE and HONEYSUCKLE are the same horse….both race off 161 and race off 11st 3lb and because I think back 12 months to that comment about the current favourite lacking the pace for 2 miles at Cheltenham, and EPATANTE proving last season that she most definitely doesn’t, I’ll side with the current champion
I would love to see HONEYSUCKLE retain her unbeaten record tomorrow but I’m financially involved and that removes sentiment!
CLOSE BROTHERS MARES HURDLE
Not really a race that lends itself to Profiling in the normal sense, as it’s a race Willie Mullins usually farms and he would have made it nine winners from the last 11 running’s, had BENIE DES DIEUX not fallen at the last two years back.
Just to remind you of something I mentioned earlier, HONEYSUCKLE, who was taken out of the Champion Hurdle to run in this race because she would have struggled for pace over the two miles of that race.
I felt last season that brilliant mare was given the best ride and won because of that, when she beat BENIE DES DIEUX by half a length, having stolen ground when turning in. If you ever want to see a proper race winning move, rewind to this race 12 months ago.
One of two mares wins this and had Dan Skelton not bottled going for the Stayers and taking on PAISLEY PARK, then CONCERISTA would have been long odds on for this race. As it is, ROKSANA makes it interesting but you have to understand that this race goes to younger mares that ROSANA, who is a nine year old. The only mare older than seven to win this was QUEVEGA, who won it as a nine and 10 year old. ROKSANA is no QUEVEGA.
Seven year olds have won five of the last 10 running’s and, if you take out QUEVEGA’s monopoly of the race they have, in essence, won five of the last seven….if you see what I mean.
On eight of the last 10 occasions this race has been run, one of the front two on the tissue has won it. It should have been nine and would have been had BENIE DES DIEUX not fallen at the last, handing this race to ROKSANA in 2019.
Irish trained horse have won nine of the last 10 running’s and, again, it would, and should have been 10-10.
The only selection I can make, based on stats, is CONCERTISTA.
BOODLES JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE
In 2018 I went through this race with a fine tooth comb and came up with VENEER OF CHARM, who won it at 33/1. It was the Fred Winter then and run on the Wednesday
I remember posting up about those races that chuck out the most surprise results and this one was top of the shop. Just to remind you, so you know to expect the unexpected, five of the last six winners won at 40/1, 25/1, 33/1, 25/1 and 33/1.
I’ll say what I said back in 2018, “I’ll not be looking for a pint if I nail this thing, I’m am Edradour man.” I’m still well stocked off the back of that result back then….thanks!
I would normally hold juvenile handicap hurdles at arms length….never work on them normally because so many are making handicap debut and nobody has a blind clue about how good, or not, they are.
No point looking at age group, they are all 4-y-o’s so, weight kicks us off.
The last seven winners all carried 11st or more, but nothing so far has carried more than 11st 8lb so, my first shortlist is:
- SAINT SAM
- CABOT CLIFFS
- DRUID’S ALTAR
- RIVIERE D’ETEL
- BALKO SAINT
- HELL RED
- GLORIOUS ZOFF
I have mentioned previously that the top trainers are most definitely the ones to concentrate on, because although the prices of those winners have been huge, six of the last 10 winners have come from the yards of Nicholls (25/1, 13/2), Henderson (40/1), and Elliott (25/1, 33/1, 13/2….now trading as “Sneezy” Foster, of course), with one a 33/1 shot, trained by Tim Easterby.
Surprisingly, perhaps, Willie Mullins has only had one place from his 11 runners, over the last decade, in this race.
So if I make a shortlist of horses from those yards within the weight range, we have hope (ish):
- RIVIERE D’ETEL
- HELL RED
- GLORIOUS ZOFF
The first and third named are trained by Gordon Elliott…sorry, Sneezy….the middle named trained by Paul Nicholls.
I’ll most certainly set up a three horse dutch as they trade bonkers prices 12/1, 16/1 and 25/1
Now I’m not for a split second saying I’ve got this boxed off but I have worked this race in exactly the same fashion that produced us a lovely 33/1 winner a couple of years ago….so I have credit here and if I live to punt another 20 of them, I’ll still be miles ahead!
- RIVIERE D’ETEL – 12/1
- HELL RED – 25/1
- GLORIOUS ZOFF – 16/1
Irish trained horses have won the last three running’s of this event and they would appear to have it boxed off again. Yes, Nicholls trains the current favourite but with only one winning favourite in the last 10 years, and the last two pulling up, they are hardly stats giving HOUX GRIS a thumbs up.
Jockey bookings suggest RIVIERE D’ETEL is the most likely of that Irish trained pair and I’ll make that horse my 20/80
NATIONAL HUNT CHASE
I came so close to putting up RAVENHILL as “the one” last season following the injury to CHAMPAGNE CLASSIC, who would have won this for the same yard, doing handsprings, but they have moved him from the Kim Muir, which I thought he would win, to this race….but didn’t and, as we know, it won @ 12/1
I did say that if Profiling like him, “I’ll be in like Flynn”. He went out at the very first hurdle…age. Yes, I still kick myself. I did try my best to point out the positives regarding that horse and I do know that a few Irish lads made merry in a pub that night off the back of it:
“If you have backed him, the plusses are:
Trained by Elliott, who has trained three of the last nine winners
Jamie Codd rides
In the front five on the tissue
Only seven 10 year olds have run in this in the last 10 seasons, one won, two placed”
I cannot ignore the fact that I should have ignored last year, that seven and eight year olds hold the secret to this race. They have won six of the last 10 running’s although, no eight year old has won now since 2013.
So, first shortlist:
- EDEN DU HOUX
- ESCARIA TEN
- NESTOR PARK
- SOLDIER OF LOVE
Now we look at the Market because they all carry 11st 6lb
I’d not be interested in anything outside the front five on the tissue. Eight of the last 10 winners were fancied and three favourites have won in that decade, although none since 2013. The last three favourites have fallen, or unseated. I’m cutting loose anything priced longer than 16/1
- ESCARIA TEN – 4/1
- GALVIN – 2/1
- REMASTERED – 15/2
Down to three and they trade as priced.
- ESCARIA TEN – 4/1
- GALVIN – 2/1
- REMASTERED – 15/2
As everyone….or most everyone….knows, I have been backing GALVIN for this since October last year. I gave my reasoning in the Podcast. Am I concerned I’ve lost the 7lb+ advantage Jamie Codd would have given me against his fellow amateurs? Of course I am. That made him a certainty in my eyes.
He has moved to a yard that has not saddled an NH winner from the 32 runners he has had in Ireland, in the last five seasons.
His ex-stable mate ESCARIA TEN, is is 5lb his inferior on official figures but races off level weights. REMASTERED is a lb worse off that nthat.
In the last 24 hours I’ve seen a plunge on NEXT DESTINATION 7/1 > 7/2 and with professionals riding, he could be a fly in my ointment but I’m sticking to my guns and running with GALVIN.