Cheltenham Festival Tips and Trends – (DAY ONE: Tues 13th March 2018)

Cheltenham Festival Tips and Trends - (Tues 13th March 2018)

Each day of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, here at TRAINERS-QUOTES we’ll give you our quick-fire positive and negative trends for EVERY race. Apply these to the final cards and you will build-up a picture and a profile of which horses have historically done the best in recent renewals.

Did you know 28 of the last 34 Champion Hurdle winners won last time out?

We hope they help narrow down the fields and also help pin-point plenty of winners at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival for you……………………………………




Tuesday 13th March 2018

13:30 – SkyBet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle   2m ½f

2017 Winner: LABAIK 25/1
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Jack Kennedy


  • 18 of the last 21 winners won their last race
  • 12 of the last 14 winners had raced in at least 4 hurdles races before
  • 6 of the last 8 winners came from the first 4 in the market
  • 18 of the last 23 winners ran in the last 45 days
  • Irish-trained horses have won 15 of the last 26 runnings
  • 5 & 6 year-olds have the best record – winning 12 of the last 13 runnings
  • Willie Mullins has won the race 4 times since 2007 and for 3 of the last 5 years
  • 21 of the last 23 winners had raced that same calendar year
  • Owner Rich Ricci, Trainer Willie Mullins & Jockey Ruby Walsh have won 3 of the last 5 runnings.


  • Horses that FAILED to win last time out before coming here are just 3 from the last 21. In other words, look for horses that won last time out!
  • Since 1992 all horses (34) wearing head-gear have been beaten
  • We’ve seen just two ex-flat horses win since 2008

TQ VERDICT: Just like in recent years, we hit the ground running in the opening race with another Irish hot-pot – this time in the shape of Getabird. From the Willie Mullins camp, ridden by Ruby Walsh and owned by a certain Rich Ricci then this combination will be looking to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle for the fourth time in the last 6 runnings. This 6 year-old has done little wrong to date and heads here unbeaten after two NH Flat wins and two over hurdles. He very-much caught the eye last time when beating the useful Mengali Khan by an easy 9 lengths at Punchestown back in January and has been at the head of this market ever since. He should have the measure of that horse again here, however, those looking to take him on might notice that 12 of the last 14 winners of the Supreme had run at least 4 times over hurdles before (he’s run just twice), while 18 of the last 23 winners had raced in the last 45 days – Getabird’s last outing was 59 days ago. Having said that, with Mullins having a top record in this opening contest, and the fact this horse has already won over 2m4f, then his proven stamina will be a big plus in a race that is always run at a fair lick. He ticks a lot of boxes but, for me, rates poor value. If wading in at short odds I’d prefer to have seen him run against better rivals to know if all the hype is justified, and also having a bit more experience. I think the main opposition, and his biggest danger, can come from the recent Betfair Hurdle winner – KALASHIKOV (e/w) – and to me this 5 year-old looks fair value against the Mullins hot-pot. Trained by Amy Murphy, this powerful hurdler beat a decent 24-strong field in the Betfair Hurdle last time by 4 ½ lengths and let’s make no mistake that was a very good performance. It was a race that you could have made a case for about 20 runners, so to win it easily suggests the form is strong. It also came on ground that connections have said would be soft enough for him and they’ve made no secret of saying he’s better on good-to-soft conditions – which he should get here! Yes, he’s never raced at Cheltenham, but nor has the favourite. However, he’s a big strong sort that looks made for the test that Cheltenham provides, plus having won 3 of his 4 hurdles starts will have the experience edge over the jolly too. Of the rest, and despite flopping at odds-on last time, the Nicky Henderson-trained CLAIMANTAKINFORGAN (e/w) might be foolish to overlook. He was third in the Champion Bumper last season and was a good winner of the Supreme Trial at Ascot back in December. Yes, last time he ran poorly up at Musselburgh, but that tight track may not have suited that day and we can all forgive a horse one slightly below-par run – right? Take that performance out and he’d be a lot shorter in the betting than he is. If you are prepared to forgive that last poor run then he’d be a player for the powerful Henderson yard that – don’t forget – have won this race three times before and had many placed. Paloma Blue is another to consider from the Henry de Bromhead yard – this consistent 6 year-old was a decent third behind Samrco last time at Leopardstown and is yet to finish out of the first three from his 4 hurdles runs. Finally, Summerville Boy would certainly be a player based on his 4 length Tolworth Hurdle win and could be a bit of a forgotten horse in the race. He beat Kalashnikov by 4 lengths that day and with the expected improvement can’t be overlooked. I do question that Tolworth form though as it was run on desperate ground, plus he does fall down on the ‘recent run’ trend though as he’s not been out since early January. First Flow is the final one to get a mention. This Kim Bailey-trained horse has won his last three raced in effortless fashion, including a Grade Two last time at Haydock. This is, however, a big step up in grade but if the ground came up soft or worse he loves these conditions and could go well.


14:10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase   2m


2017 Winner: ALTIOR 1/4 fav
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Nico de Boinville


  • 11 of the last 13 winners had won (or been placed) at Cheltenham before
  • 11 of the last 13 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 chase before
  • The last 8 winners won last time out (plus 13 of the last 17)
  • 17 of the last 18 winners returned 9/1 or shorter
  • 10 of the last 11 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 10 of the last 14 winners at run at the Cheltenham Festival previously
  • 10 of the last 17 winners were the top or second top-rated hurdler in the field
  • Nicky Henderson has won the race 6 times, including 12 months ago


  • Only 2 of the last 31 winners failed to win of finish second last time out
  • Just two of the last 27 winners started 11/1 or bigger in the betting
  • Only 3 of the last 26 winners were older than 7 years-old
  • The last horse aged 9 (or older) to win was in 1988
  • The last 28 ex-flat horses to run have all lost
  • Only 1 winner since 2000 won with headgear
  • Douvan (2016) and Altior (2017) were the first Supreme Hurdle winners (prev season) that have followed-up in this race since 1965
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has had 12 unplaced from his last 13 runners

TQ VERDICT: We’ve another Willie Mullins-trained short-priced favourite here in Footpad and if Getabird does take the opener then we can expect the bookies to be running for cover as early as the second race. This 6 year-old has made a smooth transition to fences – winning 3-from-3 – while many will remember him running a decent fourth in the Champion Hurdle last season. He’s a very good horse and the way he’s been winning over fences suggests he could be an even better chaser than he was a hurdler – time will tell. He beat Petit Mouchoir in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown in early February – a win that saw his odds for this race contract further. He jumped superbly from the front that day and it was hard to pick holes in the performance to eventually win by 5 lengths. However, for me, there are a few niggling doubts. Firstly, it’s the ground. He’s a horse that really needs it soft, so will he get that here – he might now after all the snow the track has had – but if it does dry out then it’s worth pointing out his form with some description of ‘good’ in the going reads 3-2-4-3. He’s also raced here at Cheltenham twice before and despite running well (3rd Triumph, 4th Champion Hurdle) he’s yet to win at the track – that would be another worry for me. There are a few alternatives too. Yes, PETIT MOUCHOIR has 5 lengths to find with Footpad based on their last clash in Ireland, but I feel this Henry de Bromhead-trained 7 year-old wasn’t given a hard time once beaten that day, plus it was his first run back from injury for around 3 ½ months. In fact, it was only his second run since running third in the 2017 Champion Hurdle, while that run at the Festival suggests he was also a slightly better hurdler than Footpad. Yes, he might need to brush-up his jumping, but he’s sure to have been well-schooled since that last run in Ireland and I expect him to have come on bundles for that too. He should now be spot-on for this. Therefore, I think there will be a lot less than 5 lengths between them this time – and hopefully this talented grey can overturn that last run form. Saint Calvados is another that will be popular against the favourite. This 5 year-old has won many fans with his attacking jumping style and comes here 3-from-3 over fences. He won the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase easily last time out and looks to have a big future. This will, however, be his biggest test and at 5 years-old some may feel he’s a bit young. Having said that, the likes of Well Chief and Flagship Uberalles won this race as 5 year-olds, so it is doable! He’s a likable sort that no matter what happens here looks to have a big future. Finally, it’s interesting that Nicky Henderson is persisting with Brain Power over fences. Yes, he’s unseated and fallen in his last two starts, but in the build-up to those races the vibes coming out of the Seven Barrows yard were very strong. He’s been given 52 days to get over that last race and some have criticised the rides he was given in those recent runs. On his chase debut at Kempton he was certainly impressive, while let’s not forget he was a 160-rated hurdler. He was, however, well back (8th) in the Champion Hurdle last season and his two runs at Prestbury Park have seen him beaten 20 & 30 lengths, so that would be a concern. With the main three in the market all having a liking for front running then this race could easily be set up for something to come off the pace and if his jumping holds up then Brain Power looks the only feasible one that could do that. Having said that. I’d still rather be siding with PETIT MOUCHOIR to find the necessary improvement to overturn his recent run with Footpad, but – as I say – there is still a niggle that I can’t get out of my head surrounding Brain Power and Henderson’s persistence to keep him over fences.


14:50 Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase  3m 1f 

2017 Winner: UN TEMPS POUR TOUT 9/1
Trainer – David Pipe
Jockey – Tom Scudamore


  • 14 of the last 18 winners were officially rated 143 or less
  • 12 of the last 17 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 14 of the last 18 winners returned 11/1 or shorter
  • 13 of the last 17 were novices or second season chasers
  • 6 of the last 10 winners were rated between 142-146
  • Horses rated 140+ have won 10 of the last 17 runnings
  • 7 of the last 15 won last time out
  • 3 of the last 8 winners ran in the Cleeve Hurdle that season
  • The last 6 winners all wore headgear
  • Jonjo O’Neill, Alan King, Nicky Henderson, Tony Martin & David Pipe are trainers to note
  • All winners since 2000 had won over 3m+ before


  • Avoid any horses carrying 11-04 or more in weight – 8 of the last 13 carried 10-12 or less, although the 2017 winner carried 11-12
  • Horses aged 11 or older are just 2 from 48 to even get placed
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls-trained horses – he’s currently 0 from 21
  • Only 1 winner in the last 9 hadn’t raced at a previous Festival
  • No Irish-trained winner in the last 10 years

TQ VERDICT: The Nicky Henderson-trained Gold Present has been popular in the betting for this race for some time and it’s easy to see why. This improving 8 year-old has caught the eye when winning his last two at Newbury and Ascot, while the form of his recent 3 length beating of Frodon has since been franked. He is, however, up another 8lbs here but is certainly young enough to think there is more to come. He could even turn out to be a Gold Cup horse next season but he’ll have to go well in this if that’s the case. He’s got Festival form too, after running a close second in the Close Brothers Novices’ Chase over 2m4f here 12 months ago, while the Henderson team have won this race before – but that did come in 2000 with a horse called Marlborough. He’s a big player but with 14 of the last 18 winners rated 143 or less then off a mark of 155 he’s got this key trend to overcome. Those that are still with Gold Present should, however, note this trend might be taking a turn as the last 4 winners carried 11-3 or more. Henderson also has Beware The Bear in the race but he needs to bounce back from being pulled-up last time. The 145-rated Singlefarmpayment is another that is sure to be popular – don’t forget, he was a close second in the race 12 months ago. He’s 3lbs higher this time though and was 12 lengths behind Gold Present at Ascot two starts ago. He’s a horse that does like Cheltenham though – 1-1-BD-2-2-PU and is sure to be well-primed for another tilt at this by his trainer Tom George. However, for me, he’s more of a ‘placepot horse’ as he tends to hit the frame more than winning – he’s won just 1 of his last 10 but been placed in 5 of those. Another yard that have a cracking record in the race is the Pipes. They landed the pot for the last two seasons and three times since 2008 – at this stage they’ve Ramses De Telillee and Eamon An Cnoic entered. Not a single Irish-trained runner in this year’s race but that’s not too surprising as they don’t have the best of records in the race – no wins in the last 10. I do like COO STAR SIVOLA (e/w) here though. This Nick Williams 6 year-old warmed up for this with an easy 14 lengths win at Exeter last time out and before that wasn’t disgraced behind the likes of Finian’s Oscar, Kalondra and Frodon. Those three races all came here at Cheltenham so we know he likes this place and, don’t forget, he was a solid 4th in the Martin Pipe Hurdle here 12 months ago and a close third in the 2016 Fred Winter so knows what the Festival is all about. In fact, his overall Cheltenham form is not to be sniffed at 2-3-1-6-4-3-2-4. Yes, he’s up 7lbs for that recent Exeter win, but at 6 years-old here should be more to come, while he’s won on varied ground. Add in his good form here at Cheltenham then it’s hard not seeing him run a big race here. Yala Enki will like the ground if it remains soft, while Cogry, Shantou Flyer and Vicente are all proven course and distance winners that command respect based on that. The final play though is going to be CASSE TETE (e/w). This 6 year-old has won 3 of his 8 chase starts and was impressive last time at Warwick when chasing down Kylemore Lough. These connections had Baron Alco that ran well at the Festival last season too. He’s up just 5lbs for that but looks a horse in the up and the way he stayed on last time suggests this longer trip and stiff finish are big pluses and the Moore team have their horses in decent order at the moment.


15:30 Stan James Champion Hurdle   2m ½f


2017 Winner: BUVEUR D’AIR 5/1
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Noel Fehily


  • 28 of the last 34 won last time out
  • The Irish and Nicky Henderson have won 15 of the last 19 runnings
  • The Irish have won 12 of the last 19 runnings
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has won 4 of the last 7 runnings
  • 8 of the last 11 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 22 of the last 33 winners were placed in the first 4 at the previous seasons festival
  • The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is a good guide (3 winners, 4 places in last 10 runnings)
  • 13 of the last 22 winners started as flat horses
  • Look for horses that have raced at least once that calendar year


  • Avoid horses that failed to finish in the top three last time out
  • 5 year-olds are just 1 from 100 since 1985
  • Since 1927 we’ve only seen 2 winners aged 10 or older
  • Just 1 of the last 11 winners had raced more than 12 times over hurdles
  • Christmas Hurdle (Kempton, 26th Dec) winners are 2 from 25

Recent Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle Winners

2017 – BUVEUR D’AIR (5/1)
2016 – ANNIE POWER (5/2 fav)
2015 – FAUGHEEN (4/5 fav)
2014 – JEZKI (9/1)
2013 – HURRICANE FLY (13/8 fav)
2012 – ROCK ON RUBY (11/1)
2011 – HURRICANE FLY (11/4 fav)
2010 – BINOCULAR (9/1)
2009 – PUNJABI (22/1)
2008 – KATCHIT (10/1)
2007 – SUBLIMITY (16/1)
2006 – BRAVE INCA (7/4 fav)
2005 – HARDY EUSTACE (7/2 jfav)
2004 – HARDY EUSTACE (33/1)
2003 – ROOSTER BOOSTER (9/2)

Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle Betting Trends

14/15 – Finished in the top 3 last time out
14/15 – Had raced at Cheltenham before
13/15 – Had raced within the last 7 weeks
13/15 – Aged 8 or younger
12/15 – Rated 159 or higher
12/15 – Had finished in the top 4 in a Cheltenham Festival race the season before
11/15 – Had won 6 or more times over hurdles before
11/15 – Won last time out
10/15 – Irish bred winners
10/15 – Placed favourites
9/15 – Had won at Cheltenham before
9/15 – Irish trained winners
9/15 – Aged 6 or 7 years-old
8/15 – Winning distance – 2 1/2 lengths or more
7/15 – Came from outside the top 3 in the betting
6/15 – Winning favourites (1 joint)
5/15 – Ran in the previous season’s Champion Hurdle
5/15 – Had won a race at the Cheltenham Festival the previous season
4/15 – Trained by Willie Mullins
3/15 – Trained by Nicky Henderson (has won the race 6 times in all)
The average winning SP in the last 15 runnings is 9/1

Champion Hurdle Stats:
5 year-olds are just 2 from 101 since 1985
28 of the last 34 winners won their previous race
22 of the last 32 winners were placed in the top 4 at the previous season’s Cheltenham Festival
20 of the last 22 winners had a race that calendar year (i.e we are looking for horses that have run in 2018)
24 of the last 27 winners hailed from the first 6 in the betting market
Just 2 of the last 27 Christmas Hurdle winners has gone onto win the Champion Hurdle that season (But Faugheen did the double in 2014-15)
Irish-trained horses have won 12 of the last 19 renewals

Champion Hurdle – 20 Year Trends

12/20 – Irish-trained winners
8/20 – British-trained winners
Willie Mullins (Ire) has trained 4 of the last 7 winners
Nicky Henderson (UK) has trained 3 of the last 9 winners

TQ VERDICT: Okay, this shouldn’t take long. If BUVEUR D’AIR stays on his feet then he should be collecting his second Champion Hurdle – right? Well, with little opposition in the race then it’s hard to disagree with that statement. Nicky Henderson’s 7 year-old has won his four races since landing this 12 months ago and despite many feeling he’s not really been tested, he can do little more than win. He’s been heavily odds-on in all four of his wins this season, but with this division void of anything coming through the ranks then this should be a penalty-kick for the current champ. He’ll be looking to become the first horse to successfully defend his Champion Hurdle crown since Hardy Eustace won the race back-to-back in 2004 & 2005. Yes, we are still likely to see the 2015 champion – Faugheen – run in the race and it might be foolish to ignore the horse dubbed ‘The Machine’. However, from what we’ve seen this season the machine might need a bit of patching-up and at the age of 10 now doesn’t look the same horse we saw mopping up these big Grade One 2m hurdles a few seasons ago. Of course, the return to Cheltenham could spark him back to life – don’t forget, he’s never lost here (2-from-2), but it is worth pointing out that since 1927 we’ve only seen two winners aged 10 or older! There is one better alternative to Buveur D’Air though – his stablemate MY TENT OR YOURS (to be placed). Okay, this horse at 11 years-old is even older than Faugheen, and let’s get one thing straight – I’m not saying he’s going to win. However, he’s got a cracking hurdles record at being placed and with little else in the race he looks likely to fill one of the places again here. He was runner-up last year, plus twice before that in this race and we can be sure Henderson will have him ready to do himself justice again.

Did you know, My Tent Or Yours has also raced 20 times over hurdles and been placed in the top three on 19 occasions? Impressive stats! He’s won 7 of those and been second 9 times, so that’s a stonking 80% strike-rate of finishing in the top two from his 20 outings over the sticks – not bad, hey?

This will be his fourth run in the race, and his fifth time at the Festival, but with an overall Cheltenham track record that reads 2-2-2-2-2-1 then surely, he’s got to be a cracking alternative just to be placed over the hot-pot, and current champion, Buveur D’Air.

Of the rest, last season’s JLT Novices’ Chase winner Yorkhill, who also landed the 2016 Neptune, is an interesting addition to the race, but this Willie Mullins-trained runner has been well below-par in his last two runs so backing him would require a fair bit of faith. Yes, his Festival record is outstanding and you couldn’t totally rule him out based on that, while the return to hurdles could spark him back to life – we’ll see, but until we see that form again on the track he’s a horse with a bad reputation at the moment so the safest option is to rule him out. Course winner Elgin, plus Wicklow Brave and Melon are others the value hunters may latch onto and a case can be made for them being placed but all would have to bank on the current champ running well below-par to win so, for me, I’ll be hoping for Henderson 1-2 repeat of last year with Buveur D’Air and My Tent Or Yours leading the field home.


16:10 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle   2m 4f


2017 Winner: APPLE’S JADE 7/2
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – BJ Cooper


  • Follow Irish-trained mares
  • The favourite (or 2nd fav) have won 9 of the last 10 runnings
  • 7 of the last 10 favourites have won
  • Look for Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Paul Nolan & Alan King runners
  • Willie Mullins have trained 8 of the last 9 winners
  • Novices generally do well
  • 6 of the last 7 winners had won over 2m6f+ before
  • Horses that began their careers in bumpers have done well


  • Avoid front-runners
  • All 23 runners to wear headgear have been beaten (just 1 placed)
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs and Noel Meade runners
  • No winner of the race to date began their career racing on the flat

TQ VERDICT: Many people feel that the connections of APPLE’S JADE have taken the easy Festival route here and missed a good chance to win the Stayers’ Hurdle on the Thursday. Being a mare Apple’s Jade would have got an allowance in that race and would have certainly been a big player – she beat the current favourite of that race – Sudasundae – over 3m last time at Leopardstown! However, what would you do? Yes, this is a much easier race, but with the chance of getting a Festival win on the board then I think I’d rather opt for race. Plus the introduction of Yanworth to the Stayers’ that race is starting to look a lot more competitive than it did a few months ago. Let’s also not forget Apple’s Jade is the reigning champ of this Mares’ Hurdle and we all love seeing the returning winners defend their titles – right? It also actually looks a much easier race than 12 months ago, when see beat the Ricci pair of Vroom Vroom Mag and Limini, while having won all of her four starts since she heads here as a red-hot favourite and another day one banker for punters to get stuck into. Of the rest, La Bague Au Roi has done little wrong – winning her last four starts – and was 7th in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at the Festival last season. She’s improved since and looks one of those that can battle things out for the places. Of course, anything Willie Mullins runs should also not discounted – he’s won this race 8 times in the last 9. He’s got two in the race, but his 7 year-old Benie Des Dieux looks his main player. A winner of her last three and she’s a mare with some useful form and remains 3-from-3 for the Mullins/Ricci camp. She looks the biggest threat to the favourite but is still rated 11lbs inferior to her. Last year’s runner-up Vroum Vroum Mag would have made life harder for Apple’s, but she’s now been retired to stud. So, all things considered, it’s hard to see beyond Apple’s Jade successfully defending her title.

16:50 JT McNamara National Hunt Chase   4m


2017 Winner: TIGER ROLL 16/1
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Mrs L O’Neill


  • 11 of the last 16 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 9 of the last 12 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • Favourites have won 3 of the last 8 runnings
  • 3 of the last 7 winners were top-rated
  • 4 of the last 7 winners had run in a Grade One Novice Chase that season
  • 6 of the last 11 had run in a chase at Cheltenham before that season
  • 5 of the last 8 winners had run at a previous Cheltenham Festival
  • Note horses wearing headgear
  • 5 of the last 7 winners were rated 146 (or more)
  • Look out for JP McManus-owned (6 winners) runners
  • Jonjo O’Neill has trained 6 winners in the race
  • Jockey Derek O’Connor has 2 wins / 4 places (from 12 rides)
  • Trainer Gordon Elliott is 3 from 7 in the race


  • 5 and 6 year-olds are just 2 from 77 since 1989
  • Paul Nicholls has NEVER won this race – he’s currently 0 from 18
  • Nicky Henderson has NEVER won this race

TQ VERDICT: Top Irish handler – Gordon Elliott – has been the man to follow in this race in recent years – He landed the prize 12 months ago, and also in 2011 and 2015. He’s well-represented again this year but with his Tiger Roll going in at 16/1 last year then don’t be afraid to back one of his bigger-priced runners. JURY DUTY looks his main runners though and after 5 runs over fences has won 2 and finished second three times. He’s been second in a Grade One Novice’s Chase at Leopardstown and also runner-up in a Grade Three at Naas last time (behind Moulin A Vent and Shattered Love). Don’t forget, he was also third behind Presenting Percy in the Pertemps last year so also has proven Festival form. The step up to 4m (both those recent runs have been over 3m) is an unknown, but connections clearly feel he’ll get the trip – if he goes off favourite, we’ve actually seen 3 of the last 8 market leaders go in so despite it’s competitive nature it’s actually not been a bad one for punters. He looks a big player and with a certain Jamie Codd riding will further add to his chances – he gets the call. Generally, the best amateur jockeys win this race and you could do a lot worse than perm up the best 4 or 5 pilots in combination forecast and tri-cast bets – this has paid off many times in the past in these Cheltenham amateur races! The Philip Hobbs-trained No Comment can’t be overlooked and was 7th in the Martin Pipe last year but with just one run over fences that would be a concern, while the Hobbs camp are having a very quiet season. Mossbank – another for Elliottand Rathvinden (Mullins) are others with leading chances for Ireland, while on the domestic front KEEPER HILL (e/w) can go well for the Greatrex team – the yard also had the second in this race 12 months ago. This 7 year-old was in the process of running a big race last time at Musselburgh when falling four out. He won over 4m the time before so if worth a crack at 4m, while with just 4 runs over fences there should be more on offer. while previous course winners Ms Parfois and Sizing Tennessee also look to have fair chances if getting the trip.

17:30 The Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase   2m 4½f

2017 Winner: TULLY EAST 8/1
Trainer – Alan Fleming
Jockey – Denis O’Regan


  • 9 of the last 13 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time ou
  • 12 of the last 13 winners raced in the last 45 days
  • Respect 7 year-olds – another winner 12 months ago (5/11)
  • Look for any horses wearing first-time headgear
  • 5 of last 9 won last time out
  • 11 of the last 13 winners returned 12/1 or shorter
  • Respect JP McManus-owned runners (1 win, 2 2nds, 1 3rd)
  • Look for Henderson, O’Neill & Hobbs runners


  • Avoid horses outside the top five in the betting
  • Avoid horses with less than 4 starts in the last 12 months
  • The Irish are just 2 from the last 13 runnings

TQ VERDICT: De Plotting Shed and Any Second Now have been popular horses in the betting in the lead-up to this race after the weights were announced. Both look to have serious chances based on their marks and form this season, but unless you were on at much fancier prices there seems to be little value in siding with them now. De Plotting Shed, who will be ridden by Davy Russell, is another Gordon Elliott runner so is naturally going to attract interest anyway. He was a 150-rated hurdler so his chase mark of 143 looks very interesting and this is mainly why he’s been so popular. Yes, on hurdles form he looks a player, however, he’s 0-from-4 over fences so far and this will also be his first run at Cheltenham. Two fairly big negatives in my book, while the Irish are also just 2 from 13 in the race. The Ted Walsh-trained Any Second Now has a similar make-up – he’s also 0-from-4 over fences – but has been highly-tried of late behind the likes of Footpad (twice), Invitation Only and Monalee. On a plus, his owner – a certain JP McManus – loves to target this race with 1 win, 2 2nds and a 3rd in recent years. He’s consistent and looks interesting, however, he’s another that’s never raced at Cheltenham. Fergal O’Brien’s Barney Dwan has been impressive this season and won well at Musselburgh last time. I would have liked to have seen Keepers Hill stand up in that last race though to further uphold the form. He was, however, second in the Pertemps last season so is proven at the Festival – one for the shortlist with Brian Hughes riding. Henderson also looks to have a decent hand here too with RATHER BE and Divine Spear. Rather Be unseated in the Martin Pipe 12 months ago when hampered but has won 2 of his 3 chase starts and of the Henderson pair edges it for me. Ok, he fell at Plumpton in January when 1/7 but has since bounced back to win easily at Fakenham. The step up in trip should slow things down and that will help his jumping, while it’s interesting Henderson has kept him to the lesser tracks and easier opposition this season – probably in a bid to get his confidence sky high before heading here. He fits plenty of the key trends and can’t be ruled out with the in-from Jeremiah McGrath riding. Divine Spear, who will have Nico riding, has a similar profile to Rather Be and the fact he was beaten at 1/3 last time might put some off. However, the softer ground here will help and it’s possible the tight Musselburgh track didn’t suit as well as they’d hoped last time. He’s got a bit to prove over the trip too, with all wins coming around 2m, but I can’t help feeling he’ll run better that last time. Kalondra and the improving TESTIFY (e/w) are others to note – especially the last-named. This 7 year-old has won many fans this season after winning all three of his starts over fences and there could be more to come. He’s a good jumper that has won over further. Yes, if the ground dries out that would be a bit of a worry as his best form has been with significant cut underfoot but we know he stays and connections could make full use of that from the front.