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20th October 2020

2020 Cheltenham Festival Tips and Trends – (DAY ONE: Tues 10th March 2020)

Each day of the 2020 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 30 of the last 36 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 2020 Cheltenham Festival for you.....................................

LET'S GET CRACKING!!

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL DAY ONE:

Tuesday 10th March 2020

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

2019 Winner: KLASSICAL DREAM 6/1
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Ruby Walsh

Pluses…..

  • 20 of the last 23 winners won their last race
  • 14 of the last 16 winners had raced in at least 4 hurdles races before
  • 8 of the last 10 winners came from the first 4 in the market
  • The last 8 winners have all won a graded novice hurdle before
  • 19 of the last 25 winners ran in the last 45 days
  • Irish-trained horses have won 16 of the last 28 runnings
  • 5 & 6 year-olds have the best record – winning 14 of the last 15 runnings
  • Willie Mullins has won the race 5 times since 2007 and for 4 of the last 7 years
  • 23 of the last 25 winners had raced that same calendar year
  • Owner Rich Ricci & trainer Willie Mullins have won 3 of the last 7 runnings.

Negatives…..

  • Horses that FAILED to win last time out before coming here are just 3 from the last 23. In other words, look for horses that won last time out!
  • Since 1992 all horses (37) wearing head-gear have been beaten
  • We’ve seen just two ex-flat horses win since 2008
  • Just 2 of the last 17 winners came here unbeaten
  • Betfair Hurdle winners are 0-from-7 in the last decade
  • Nicky Henderson is 1 from 36 since 1993 (Altior his only winner for this period)

There is talk of Envoi Allen running here instead of the Ballymore on day two – mainly due to the ground being heavy and Gordon Elliott not wanting a slog over 2m5f for his unbeaten 6 year-old. If last season’s bumper does turn up here, then he’s likely to go off favourite, but, for me, I think the main Henderson runner SHISHKIN might still have too much speed for him. This 6 year-old fell on his hurdles debut at Newbury early on so that is a slight worry, but has since jumped well to win as he liked at both Newbury and Huntingdon. He acts on any ground too. No previous run at Cheltenham would be a slight negative and Henderson currently just 1-36 in the race is a negative but having won last time over 2m3 1/2f then he clearly stays further than this 2m trip so that will help up the hill. Of the rest, Willie Mullins has a top record in the race – winning 4 of the last 7 – so his Asterion Forlonge can’t be overlooked. If the ground is soft that will increase his chance, but I just think the others look quicker and that might find him out when push comes to shove. Abacadabras ticks a lot of boxes too and will be looking to give Elliott his second winner in the race, while Tolworth winner – Fidderontheroof – if running here looks a fast-improving hurdler too – he’ll want it soft. At a bigger price, Soviet Pimpernel might be worth a small saver if running. He beat last season’s Triumph third – Gardens Of Babylon – well last time at Limerick and has been kept fresh for this with 72 days off since that last run.

14:10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase 2m

2019 Winner: DUC DES GENIEVRES 5/1
Trainer – Willie Mullins
Jockey – Paul Townend

Pluses….

  • 12 of the last 15 winners had won (or been placed) at Cheltenham before
  • 12 of the last 15 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 chase before
  • 14 of the last 20 had won a Grade 1 or 2 Chase that season
  • The last 10 winners won last time out (plus 15 of the last 19)
  • 19 of the last 20 winners returned 9/1 or shorter
  • 12 of the last 13 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 12 of the last 16 winners at run at the Cheltenham Festival previously
  • 11 of the last 19 winners were the top or second top-rated hurdler in the field
  • Nicky Henderson has won the race 6 times
  • Willie Mullins has won 4 of the last 5 runnings (all French-bred)

Negatives…..

  • Only 2 of the last 33 winners failed to win of finish second last time out
  • Just two of the last 29 winners started 11/1 or bigger in the betting
  • Only 3 of the last 28 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
  • 5 year-olds are 0-11 in the last 12 years
  • 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

A nice renewal, but probably not a vintage one. The winner of this will often get catapulted into the Champion Chase arena next season, but at the moment I’m not sure any of these are up to that level – but they’ve still time to improve. Notebook will be popular being 4-from-4 over fences – he beat Cash Back in the Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown last month but is a bit headstrong for me and that might take its toll at Cheltenham. FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES missed that Leopardstown race with the ground firming up but has close form with Notebook (2nd in the Racing Post Novices to Notebook in Dec) and of the two I’d prefer him at a track he’s a proven winner (hurdles). The reports are that he’s working well and being a lot more battle-hardened than most here (13 runs) that experience will be a big plus, while he also stays further than this 2m trip (won over 2m4f) and I always think that’s a positive in this race. Global Citizen, the strong-travelling Rouge Vif and Esprit Du Large would all have squeaks if they bring their A-games and improve a tad. Brewin’upastorm is another big player. The Olly Murphy team look to have some good chances at the Festival this year and this is one of them. Dickie Johnson has been booked ride and this 7 year-old is 2-from-2 over fences. He’s been kept fresh for this with a 117-day break and was a solid fourth in the Ballymore here at last year’s Festival – that staying power will be a plus. I’d just be worried about only having two runs over fences and not yet winning a graded race (hurdles or fences). The final pick – of those at bigger prices is – MAIRE BANRIGH (e/w). This Dan Skelton runner could be the forgotten horse in the race. Being a mare, she’ll get a handy 8lbs from the boys, while she’s looked impressive in winning all 4 of her chases so far. More is needed up in grade but she’s a solid jumper that also has winning form over further (2m4f). She’ll be carrying the yellow Hales colours that have tasted success in this race in the past with Azertyuiop (2003).

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

2019 Winner: BEWARE THE BEAR 10/1 Trainer – Nicky Henderson Jockey – Jeremiah McGrath

Pluses….

  • 15 of the last 20 winners were officially rated 143 or less
  • 14 of the last 19 came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 16 of the last 20 winners returned 11/1 or shorter
  • 14 of the last 19 were novices or second season chasers
  • 7 of the last 12 winners were rated between 142-146 (6 between 142-145)
  • Horses rated 140+ have won 12 of the last 19 runnings
  • 9 of the last 17 won last time out
  • Horses that have run well in the race before have a good record
  • 3 of the last 10 winners ran in the Cleeve Hurdle that season
  • 7 of the last 8 winners wore headgear
  • 8 of the last 10 winners had run at Cheltenham that season
  • Jonjo O’Neill, Alan King, Nicky Henderson, Tony Martin & David Pipe are trainers to note
  • All winners since 2000 had won over 3m+ before
  • The last 5 winners ran at Cheltenham’s January meeting

Negatives….

  • Be a bit wary of horses carrying 11-04 or more in weight – 9 of the last 15 carried 10-12 or less, although the 2017 winner carried 11-12 & the 2019 winner won with 11-8
  • 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 23
  • Only 1 winner in the last 11 hadn’t raced at a previous Festival
  • Only 4 winners since 2000 have returned bigger than 11/1
  • The Irish have won just 2 of the last 51 runnings (since 1967)

The Kim Bailey team might be licking their lips that they might have another Master Oats on their hands with Vinndication - a horse that’s been very impressive in winning three of his 5 chase starts. He’ll be popular here but does have a way to go to get to the Gold Cup class of Master Oats. I’d be worried about his big weight – 15 of the last 20 winners were actually only rated 143 or less – he’s rated 159! He also jumps a bit right in his races so going left-handed might not be ideal, plus he was well back in the JLT Novices’ Chase here last season. CD winner, The Conditional - ticks a lot of the main trends so if running has to enter the mix with a light weight. But the two I like against the field are KILDISART (e/w) and DISCORAMA (e/w). The first-named – Kildisart -looks to be running back into form after a much-better fifth at Kempton last time out and gets in here a pound lower. He’s a proven course winner too and wasn’t disgraced when fourth in the JLT Novices here last term. Yes, he might need the ground to dry out to be seen at his best but has won on soft conditions. There is also talk of the cheekpieces being added to help him settle and focus. Discorama was a close second in the 4m race here last season so staying won’t be an issue. He’s rated a pound lower this year too and has also had a wind op since his last run. With only seven runs over fences he might lack a bit of experience, but on a plus looks well-handicapped and has tasted the hustle and bustle of the Festival in the past.

15:30 Unibet Champion Hurdle 2m ½f

2019 Winner: ESPOIR D’ALLEN 16/1
Trainer – Gavin Cromwell
Jockey – Mark Walsh

Pluses….

  • 30 of the last 36 won last time out
  • Horses unbeaten that season often do well (7 of last 9)
  • The Irish and Nicky Henderson have won 17 of the last 21 runnings between them
  • The Irish have won 13 of the last 21 runnings
  • Owner JP McManus has won 5 of the last 10 (8 in total)
  • Trainer Willie Mullins has won 4 of the last 9 runnings
  • 9 of the last 13 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
  • 12 of the last 21 winners had won at the Festival before
  • 23 of the last 35 winners were placed in the first 4 at the previous season’s festival
  • The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is a good guide (4 winners, 4 places in last 12 runnings)
  • 14 of the last 24 winners started as flat horses
  • Look for horses that have raced at least once that calendar year
  • Trainer Nicky Henderson has won the race 7 times, including two of the last 3 years
  • 5 of the last 11 winners contested the Christmas Hurdle (Kempton)

Negatives….

  • Avoid horses that failed to finish in the top three last time out
  • 5 year-olds are just 2 from 102 since 1985, but the 2019 winner was a 5 year-old
  • Since 1927 we’ve only seen 2 winners aged 10 or older (0-28 in the last 37 runnings)
  • Just 1 of the last 13 winners had raced more than 12 times over hurdles
  • Christmas Hurdle (Kempton, 26th Dec) winners are just 3 from 27
  • Just 2 horses have regained the race since 1975

Not a vintage Champion Hurdle, but that comment has probably applied to the last three renewals too! Since winning the Christmas Hurdle back in December, the Henderson-trained Epatante has topped the market, but with scares of coughing in recent weeks that’s not ideal preparation in my book. Yes, she was an impressive winner of the Christmas Hurdle last time but Kempton is a totally different track to Cheltenham – this is backed up with only 3 of the last 27 Xmas Hurdle winners going onto win the Champion Hurdle – in more recent years Faugheen and Buveur d’Air and the only two. She also gets the handy 7lbs mares’ allowance here and Annie Power, when winning in 2016, showed how valuable that was to have. She’s got a big chance but having flopped at the Festival in the Mares’ race last season – albeit Henderson blaming that on her having a flu jab – I’m not so sure she’s any value. Sharjah is the top-rated in the field but needs to bounce back from a dire effort at Leopardstown last time out, while Henderson also has last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner – Pentland Hills – in the race. We saw a 5 year-old win the race in 2019, but as we all know we don’t see many – it’s still only 2-from-102 – so that rules Pentland Hills out for me. Coeur Sublime and Fusil Raffles are two other 5 year-olds in the race. I think SUPASUNDAE (e/w) can go well, but probably not win it. This consistent 10 year-old will have the age stats against him, but the talk is that he’s come on a lot for his recent fourth in Ireland and in a poor renewal could be the each-way value in the race. He likes the track and stays a lot further than this 2m trip – he’ll just need to keep tabs on them during the first half of the race. If he does, then his proven stamina will be a big asset up the hill. A case can be made for Ballyandy to place too but not win – he’s another course winner that rarely runs a bad race but is just shy of the top level. Darver Star is another to note, but I think the Willie Mullins-trained CILAOS EMERY, who was recently supplemented for the race at a cost of around £22k, looks a top alternative to the likely favourite. He’s rated the same as Epatante, but, of course, has to give away 7lbs so that won’t be easy. However, he’s done little wrong this season winning over fences and hurdles and has now won 7 of his 12 starts (both codes). He’s tasted the Festival before too, when fifth in the 2017 Supreme and won’t mind the soft ground. A recent easy win at Gowran Park will have him spot-on for this – he’ll be looking to give trainer Willie Mullins his fifth win in the race since 2011. Finally, the other to have a small saver on is SILVER STEAK (e/w). This 7 year-old never runs a bad race. Yes, he’s another that is just short of top class, but he was third in the race last year at 80/1 and did you know, from three runs here at Cheltenham he’s yet to finish out of the top three! He was only 5 lengths behind Epatante in the Xmas Hurdle last time, but this track is likely to suit him better. Okay, it will be a poor renewal if he actually wins, but as a place or each-way alternative to those at the head of the market I think he ticks a lot of boxes.

16:10 Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle 2m 4f

2019 Winner: ROKSANA 10/1
Trainer – Dan Skelton
Jockey – Harry Skelton

Pluses….

  • Follow Irish-trained mares (10 of last 12)
  • The favourite (or 2nd fav) have won 10 of the last 12 runnings
  • 7 of the last 12 favourites have won
  • 11 of the last 12 winners had won over at least 2m4f
  • Willie Mullins have trained 9 of the last 11 winners
  • Look for Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Paul Nolan & Alan King runners
  • Novices generally do well
  • 9 of the last 12 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 before
  • 6 of the last 8 winners had won over 2m6f+ before
  • Horses that began their careers in bumpers have done well
  • Respect French-bred mares – won 9 renewals
  • 10 of the last 12 winners had won (or placed) in a graded race against the males

Negatives….

  • Avoid front-runners
  • British-bred mares are currently 0-78 (only 7 have been placed)
  • All 27 runners to wear headgear have been beaten (just 1 placed)
  • Be wary of Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs and Noel Meade runners
  • No ex-flat horses have won the race yet

Both Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle could have taken in other targets like the Champion Hurdle or the Stayers’ Hurdle, but fair play to connections for supporting this race – we’ve not got a fascinating match-up. For me, Honeysuckle has done little wrong and the way she battled back last time at Leopardstown when looking in a bit of bother was the sign of a classy mare. However, she meets a much tougher rival here in BENIE DES DIEUX and her lack of a run outside Ireland, let alone having never run at Cheltenham is a big negative for me. Benie, on the other hand, is running at her third Festival – winning this race in 2018 and then falling last year when looking all over the winner. She’s bounced back with three wins since and looked better than ever last time at Gowan Park when slamming Penhill by 21 lengths over 3m. She’s rated 4lbs higher than Honeysuckle and with proven Festival form I think it’s best to not overcomplicate things here. Of the rest, I feel Stormy Ireland, who has won her last three well, can do best of the rest and pick up the pieces if any of the main two run below-par.

16:50 Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase 2m 4½f

2019 Winner: A PLUS TARD
Trainer – Henry De Bromhead
Jockey – Rachael Blackmore

Pluses….

  • 11 of the last 15 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 11 of the last 12 winners had run 3 or 4 times over fences
  • 14 of the last 15 winners had won no more than twice over fences (11 had won no more than once)
  • 14 of the last 15 winners raced in the last 45 days
  • Respect 6 and 7 year-olds
  • 3 of the last 7 winners ran in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase
  • 6 of the last 15 winners had run at the Festival before
  • Look for any horses wearing first-time headgear
  • 6 of last 11 won last time out
  • 8 of the last 13 winners had run in a bumper race before
  • 13 of the last 15 winners returned 12/1 or shorter
  • Respect JP McManus-owned runners (1 win, 3 2nds, 1 3rd)
  • Respect Henderson, O’Neill & Hobbs runners

Negatives….

  • 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 15 runnings
  • Look for horses rated 141 or higher

The Mick Channon yard took this race in 2018 with Mister Whitaker and they look to hold another big chance this time with HOLD THE NOTE (e/w). This 6 year-old is yet to win over fences, but has only run three times over fences and was an excellent second last time at Warwick to a useful sort. That came over 3m so the drop back to 2m4f is a plus and he handles soft ground. He ran 4th in a bumper at the track in 2018 too so that will help and with a 25% record with his chasers at the track then trainer Mick Channon does well here over fences. Imperial Aura is another for the shortlist, having run well the last twice – he ticks a lot of the main trends and is sure to be in the shake-up. But, for me, the form of his second to Pym here back in December has taken a few knocks since. If Galvin runs here, then he has to be respected too. He was 6th  in the Ballymore at the Festival last season and has been kept fresh for the Festival – having last run 105 days ago – the negative would be the Irish are only 2 from the last 15 in the race. JP McManus-owned runners are worth a second look in a race he often likes to target – so if running Champagne Platinum, Tower Bridge, Musical Slave and Belargus are entered at the early stage but may not get into the race. Of the rest, Champagne Court, Deyrann De Carjoc and Knight In Dubai are others that enter calculations.

 

17:30 National Hunt Chase 3m6f

2019 Winner: LE BREUIL 14/1
Trainer – Ben Pauling
Jockey – Jamie Codd

Pluses…..

  • 11 of the last 18 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 10 of the last 14 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • Favourites have won 3 of the last 10 runnings
  • 4 of the last 9 winners were top-rated
  • 5 of the last 9 winners had run in a Grade One Novice Chase that season
  • 7 of the last 13 had run in a chase at Cheltenham before that season
  • 7 of the last 10 winners had run at a previous Cheltenham Festival
  • Note horses wearing headgear
  • 7 of the last 9 winners were rated 145 (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 14 rides)
  • Derek O’Connor, Jamie Codd & Patrick Mullins have won 6 of the last 9 (2 each)
  • Gordon Elliott has won the race 3 times from just 7 runners

Negatives….

  • 5 and 6 year-olds are just 2 from 80 since 1989
  • Trainer Paul Nicholls has NEVER won this race - he’s currently 0 from 18
  • Trainer Nicky Henderson has NEVER won this race
  • Horses with less than 3 chase starts don’t fare well
  • Horses rated in the 130’s have a poor record (1 from 8)

If punters are having a bad time on the opening day then we can expect the Mullins-trained Carefully Selected to be all the rage here. His horse is held in high regard by connections and has now won all three of his chase starts. He beat City Island by 24 lengths two runs ago and Forza Milan by 4 lengths last time at Naas. He’s also tasted the Festival in the past when a neck second to Relegate in the 2018 Champion Bumper. The talk is of big things for this 8 year-old and on form he looks the clear one to beat. Those against him might look to his jumping as not being the best. He’s made the odd mistake in his chase races to date and he might not be able to get away with that at Cheltenham. Yes, he looks like he’ll get the extra distance, but this will also be the furthest he’s gone by some way, so even though there is no doubting he’s a classy sort he’s no value for me with the trip and his jumping good enough reasons to take him on at the price. It goes without saying that anything Jamie Codd and Derick O’Connor will ride will be well supported too, but this will be reflected in the betting. If running, the Elliott pair of Battleoverdoyen and Ravenhill would have the form to go well, while Lord Du Mesnil has improved bundles this term and has the services of Sam Waley-Cohen. We can expect a bold bid from the front from this 7 year-old, but he looked to have a hard race last time at Haydock in the mud and I feel that might leave it’s mark – especially off a 6lbs higher mark. The call is to take a chance on SPRINGFIELD FOX (e/w) and FORZA MILAN (e/w) against the hot favourite. The former is from the Tom George yard and has been very impressive in winning his two runs over fences by 12 and 17 lengths. This is a step up in grade and he’s up 15lbs for the last win but looks the sort to have more to come. Then Forza Milan only has 4 lengths to find with Carefully Selected and over this longer trip it might suit him better. Yes, they are off level weights here and with 6lbs between them last time then this make life harder still, but I feel there is a big chance he’ll stay this trip and that will help up the hill.

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