- Cheltenham Festival – Day One Best Bets and Key Trends
- Cheltenham Festival – Day Two Best Bets and Key Trends
- Cheltenham Festival – Top Trainer a Three-Horse Race?
- Trainers Quotes: Loughnane Keeps Things Ticking Over…….
Hi, it’s been a desperate week with that horrible ‘Beast From The East’ and a storm named ‘Emma’ causing havoc across the country to the race meetings.
It looks like there is no let-up until early next week and we’ve already lost all the jumping fixtures on Saturday at Kelso, Newbury and Doncaster.
The good news is that at least this weather didn’t hit us in a few weeks time otherwise the Cheltenham Festival would have been in serious threat – that would have been ‘snow’ joking matter!!
Therefore, not much to report this week so we thought we’d take the chance to look ahead to Cheltenham in a few weeks.
We’ve got the best of the action from day one and two covered with our thoughts on the main races, plus the key trends to look out for. While we also take a look at the fascinating race for top trainer at the Festival. With Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Nicky Henderson all having big chances over the four days it will be a huge shock if one of this trio isn’t landing the top trainer prize – but which one will it be?
Hopefully the weather will be getting back to normal next week – after all it is meant to be Spring!
Have a Great Weekend!
This Week At Trainers-Quotes………Mark Loughnane Beats The Weather……
It’s been a week of limited racing, but the Mark Loughnane yard did give us a few things to shout about on the All Weather.
His Lord Murphy and Joys Delight ran solid each-way races, but it was BIG AMIGO that stole the headlines with a 9/2 win at Lingfield on Tuesday. Stepped in trip to a mile was a slight doubt but the horse was clearly suited by the extra yardage, while Mark was confident the horse would also be given a much better ride this time. He was right as jockey Eion Walsh came with a well-timed run up the Lingfield straight to take first prize by a comfortable ¾ of a length. Top stuff!
Here’s what Mark told members the morning of each race…………………………
“Big Amigo: Not given the best of rides last time – missed judged the pace of the race a bit. Up to 1m here, but we think he’ll get it, but will also be ridden to last the distance. Looks to have a decent chance and we’d be shocked if he’s not in the three – anything else a plus.”
1st 9/2 Mark Loughnane
“Joys Delight – Can be a bit of a monkey so not one to totally rely on, but certainly capable in this sort of race. Negative would be the wide draw, but a bad race so hoping she can have enough time over this extended mile to overcome that. First-time cheekpieces on too and Richard a top jockey booking. In good form so e/w claims – would probably be 4 stars if not for the draw.”
2nd 4/1 Mark Loughnane
“Lord Murphy: Another that is capable but doesn’t always put it all in – can save a bit for himself. But – like our other runner today – more than capable in a race like this. Having said that, it’s actually not a bad contest for the grade, but we are a CD winner here and the horses seem to be running well at the moment. Richard rides this one too. If pushed, probably my slightly better chance on the day – solid e/w chance.”
3rd 4/1 Mark Loughnane
Don’t forget the TQ VIEW daily selection is what the team feel is the ‘best quote’ of the day. With over 5 years’ experience speaking to all the trainers they are in no better place to sort the wheat from the chaff!
Yet again more proof that our TQ info that – don’t forget comes direct from the yards each day – is a must-have for any serious punter!
Also, a lot of our members use the TRAINERS-QUOTES info to lay horses as well as back them – there are plenty of angles these days with the betting exchanges!! Or even back other horses in certain races with the trainers also taking about other horses in races they’ve heard good words about!
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Cheltenham Festival – Day One Best Bets and Key Trends
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 in the shape of Getabird. From the Willie Mullins camp 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. Those looking to take him on might notice that 12 of the last 14 winners of this race had run at least 4 times over hurdles before, while 18 of the last 23 winners had raced in the last 45 days – Getabird’s last outing was 59 days ago. However, 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 for me, but does rates poor value and if wading in at short odds I’d prefer to have seen him run against better opposition to know if all the hype is justified. The main opposition can come from the recent Betfair Hurdle winner – KALASHIKOV (e/w) – and to me this 5 year-old looks the 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 and having won 3 of his 4 hurdles starts will have the experience edge over the jolly too. Of the rest, If The Cap Fits has done little wrong this season – winning 3-from-3 and we can expect this Harry Fry runner to run well too, while 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. Take that performance out and he’d be a lot shorter in the betting than he is, so if you are prepared to forgive that last poor run then he’d be a player for the powerful Henderson yard that have won this race three times before and had many placed.
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
- 16 of the last 17 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
- Douvan (2016) and Altior (2017) were the first Supreme Hurdle winners (prev season) that have followed-up in this race since 1965
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 far as this one is concerned. This 6 year-old have 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 decent horse and the way he’s been winning over fences suggests he could be an even better chaser than his 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? His form with some description of ‘good’ in the going reads 3-2-4-3, so that would be a big concern. 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. There are a few alternatives too. Yes, PETIT MOUCHOIR has 5 lengths to find with Footpad based on their last clash, 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 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. I expect him to have come on bundles for that last run and should now be spot-on for this. Therefore, I feel there will be a lot less than 5 lengths between them this time. 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! However, I fell the forgotten horse in the race is SCEAU ROYAL (e/w). This Alan King runner has won 4 of his 5 chase starts and provides leading owners Simon Munir and Issac Souede, who also have Footpad, with a decent number two. He was an easy winner of the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown back in December, while his hurdling form wasn’t far off Footpad and Petit Mouchoir after running sixth in the Champion Hurdle 12 months ago. Add in that he’s actually won (hurdles) at Cheltenham and also raced over fences here (close 2nd) then he’s got that advantage over the other main players. Alan King has also won this race in the past with My Way De Solzen and Voy Por Ustedes so certainly knows what’s needed. With Footpad and Saint Calvados likely to go off in front then it might be a slog getting up the hill – we’ll see. But this could also set the race up nicely for the likes of Petit Mouchoir and Sceau Royal, so I’d rather have both of these on my side than take the short odds on Footpad – a horse that I also feel might have a bit to prove on the ground.
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
- 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 2 of the last 11 winners had raced more than 12 times over hurdles
- Christmas Hurdle (Kempton, 26th Dec) winners are 2 from 25
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 very thin on the ground 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 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 on form again on the track the safest option is to rule him out.
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
- Willie Mullins have trained 8 of the last 9 winners
- Look for Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Paul Nolan & Alan King runners
- 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
TQ VERDICT: Many people feel that the connections of APPLE’S JADE has 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, while 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 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. Of the rest, La Bague Au Roi has done little wrong – winning her last four starts – and was 7th in the Mares’ Novice 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 be overlooked – he’s landed this race a stonking 8 times in the last 9. His Novice Mares’ winner of 12 months ago – Let’s Dance – looks his main hope, but even this one is rated someway off Apple’s Jade, while last year’s runner-up in the race and 2016 winner – Vroum Vroum Mag – can’t be totally discounted if the Mullins camp have her back to anywhere near her best.
Cheltenham Festival – Day TWO Best Bets and Key Trends
13:30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle 2m 5f
2017 Winner: WILLOUGHBY COURT (14/1)
Trainer –Ben Pauling
Jockey – David Bass
- 11 of the last 13 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
- The Irish have won 7 of the last 12
- All of the last 12 winners were aged 5 or 6 years-old
- In the last 7 runnings Irish-trained horses have filled 12 of the 21 top 3 places
- 17 of the last 19 were NH bred
- 12 of the last 19 had won a graded race before
- Look for past Irish point-to-point winners (5 of the last 8 begin their careers in Irish points)
- Respect Willie Mullins – 4 winners and 6 placed in last 13 years
- Only one winner aged older than 6 has won since 1974
- Avoid 4 year-olds too – just one winner since 1991
- Horses aged 7 or older are 0 from 52 (since 1988)
- Only two of the last 32 winners came from outside the top 5 in the betting
- The last 16 Challow Hurdle winners have all been beaten
- Avoid ex-flat horses (since 2005 all have been beaten, 0 from 28)
TQ VERDICT: This has been a decent race for the Irish in recent years with 7 winners in the last 12 runnings, including three of the last four runnings, and it could be more of the same in 2018. All eyes here will be on the horse dubbed ‘ the monster’ – SAMCRO. This Gordon Elliott runner has been all the rage for this race for a while, but cemented his claims with an easy win in the Deliotte Novices’ Hurdle at Leopardstown last time. He looks set to go off odds-on and heads into the Festival as many people’s main banker. That recent 5 ½ length win took his tally to 6-from-6 and being a horse with an already huge reputation then anything other than a win here will be deemed a poor result by his fans and connections. So, can he be beaten? For me, he has looked impressive and although it’s easy to get caught-up in all the hype, there is no mistaking that he’s looked hugely impressive in his recent races. He beat a horse called Jetz a few starts ago and that one could be the benchmark horse, with one of his main dangers – Next Destination (Willie Mullins) – having also beaten that one. Samcro, however, slammed Jetz by an easy 12 lengths, whereas Next Destination, who don’t forget, was also 4th in the Champion Bumper last season, has beaten that same horse 7 and 8 lengths. However, Gordon Elliott, who handles Samcro, also trains a horse called Cracking Smart that was only a length behind Next Destination this season so must know where he stands with this Mullins runner. Mullins does have a decent record in this race though – winning it four times since 2008. Mullins also has another live chance with Duc Des Genievres. This 5 year-old was, however, 5 ¼ lengths back in second behind Samcro last time out, so despite being lightly-raced (3 career runs) would need to find a bit more improvement and fairly quickly. So, for me, the bigger danger can come from the Nicky Henderson-trained On The Blind Side. This horse has caught the eye this season and take Samcro out the race would be all the rage here. He’s 3-from-3, but also has winning form here at Cheltenham so we know the track suits. Certainly a likeable sort that shows a willing attitude and it’s always dangerous to rule out horses who are yet to taste defeat – no one really knows what’s left in the locker! With only three career starts under rules, then we can expect more improvement, while the Henderson team took this in 2012 with Simonsig. He rates a big danger to Samcro in my book and is clearly the better value, but the Elliott yard clearly feel they’ve got a good one on their hands here and I agree.
14:10 RSA Chase 3m ½f
2017 Winner: MIGHT BITE (7/2 fav)
Trainer – Nicky Henderson
Jockey – Nico de Boinville
- 4 of the last 9 winners ran in the Flogas Chase (Leopardstown, 4th Feb) that season
- Respect 7 year-olds – won 8 of the last 10
- Irish bred horses are 18 from the last 21
- 8 of the last 11 winners had won a Grade 1 or 2 Chase
- 5 of the last 9 winners were trained in Ireland
- Trainers Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls often do well in the race
- 21 of the last 25 were novice hurdling last season
- 5 of the last 8 winners ran in the Albert Bartlett the previous season
- Look for horses that ran that same calendar year (50 of the last 51 winners had)
- 8 of the last 11 winners had raced at the Festival the previous year
- No winner aged 9 or older since 1992
- Just 4 winners younger than 7 since 1978
- Avoid horses that had fallen before over fences
- Avoid unbeaten horses over fences (2 from 29)
- Avoid horses that had had 2 full seasons over hurdles prior
- Just 1 of the last 18 winners had run less than 3 times over fences
- All 20 winners of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Feltham, Kempton 26th Dec) have lost
TQ VERDICT: Last year’s Pertemps Final Hurdle winner – Presenting Percy – will be very popular here after making a decent transition to chasing this season. He’s won two of his four starts over the bigger obstacles and wasn’t disgraced when finishing second to Our Duke, who heads for the Gold Cup on Friday, last time out. 7 year-olds have won 8 of the last 10 runnings of this race, while the Irish have won 5 of the last 9 runnings. He’s a big player and with Festival-winning form he knows what this meeting is all about – 8 of the last 11 winners had run at the Festival the season before. However, although I feel he’s dangerous to rule out, he’s also a horse that doesn’t look great value to me and also looked a bit vulnerable last time at Gowran Park. Yes, that run came over 2m4f – a trip on the sharp side for him – but that would have also been the case for the winner that day. In short, I just feel here are a few others in the race with similar chances so at the prices would rather be siding with them. The Paul Nicholls last took this race in 2007 with Denman and although Black Corton is certainly not the new tank, he’s a 7 year-old that is rapidly improving. He’s now won 8 of his 11 chase starts and been second in the other three, while he’s also 2-from-2 here at Cheltenham over fences. With 22 career starts then he’s also one of the more experienced in the race despite his age and has built-up a fabulous partnership with jockey Bryony Frost. He likes to get on with things from the front, and, yes, this might set the race up for something else, but he also gets this 3m trip very well. He looks one decent option away from Percy. It would be silly to overlook any Willie Mullins runner in this race – he’s won it four times, with Don Poli (2015) and Cooldine (2009) his most recent. AL BOUM PHOTO (e/w), who was a good second last time out at Leopardstown and they way he finished there suggests there could be more on offer over this 3m trip. However, at 6 years-old does have this age stat against him, but he looks a horse with more to come and looks decent each-way value. Invitation Only was third in that Leopardstown race, and not beaten far either. He’s a winning Pointer over 3m, but under rules all his races have been over shorter than this trip, so there would be a slight query surrounding the distance. However, the horse that won that Leopardstown race – The Flogas Novice’s Chase – could the answer – step forward MONALEE. This 7 year-old did it the hard way from the front that day and with 4 of the last 9 winners of this race having run in that contest then it’s clearly a good guide. He was second in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival 12 months ago and that’s been another decent guide – 5 of the last 8 winners also ran in that race. Yes, he fell two starts back, so that’s a slight concern, but the way he jumped last time suggests the Henry de Bromhead camp have done a lot of work with him since. He also only won by ¾ of a length last time, but you got the impression he was always holding the rest of the field and had more in the locker. If he’d not fallen two starts ago then he’d probably be heading here 3-from-3 over fences and with that would also arguably be coming into this race as the market leader.
15:30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase 2m
2017 Winner: SPECIAL TIARA (11/1)
Trainer – Henry De Bromhead
Jockey – Noel Fehily
- 11 of the last 17 winners ran in the Tingle Creek Chase that season
- 3 of the last 5 winners also won the Clarence House Chase (Ascot) that season
- 21 of the last 33 had won at the Festival before
- Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson have won 6 of the last 10 between them
- 14 of the last 15 winners had run that calendar year
- 34 of the last 36 winners returned 10/1 or shorter
- 6 of the last 11 winners were French-bred
- 10 of the last 15 winners were second season chasers
- 15 of the last 19 winners came from the top 3 in the betting
- 13 of the last 18 winners ran in the previous season’s Arkle or Champion Chase
- Only two winners priced 11/1 or bigger in the last 36 years
- Top Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, is yet to win this race
- Just 1 of the last 16 winners hadn’t won a Grade 1 Chase before
- 11 of the last 12 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
- Be wary of horses older than 10 – they are just 2 winners since 1977
TQ VERDICT: Another fascinating race to look forward to a this season’s Festival, with all eyes being on last year’s Arkle winner – ALTIOR. Yes, he’s had a few issues over the summer and had wind surgery, but I think it’s fair to say that op worked! With punter not sure if he’d return the same horse, or not, his return run at Newbury in the Betfair Exchange Chase was always going to be key. However, he bolted-up by an easy 4 lengths that day and had this season’s Tingle Creek winner – Politologue – trailing back in second, so it’s hard to see that Paul Nicholls-trained 7 year-old turning the tables on Altior. Yes, some people might look to the dreaded bounce factor, or the fact he’s only been out once since last April, but let’s not forget he’s now 7-from-7 over fences. He’s gone well fresh in the past and backed that up in his following race too, so there is little reason to take him on. He’s a two-time Festival winner, after taking the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and last season’s Arkle, while he had one of his main rivals in this race – Min – 7 lengths back in that Supreme. Okay, some might feel the Willie Mullins-trained Min has improved and the way he won at Leopardstown in February was impressive – but, let’s get one thing straight – he didn’t have an Altior in that race! Of course, Min is still a very decent horse and he’s 4 from 5 over fences, but he did get beaten at 2/7 on over Christmas so is vulnerable, while – did you know his trainer – Willie Mullins – is yet to win this race? Some might feel he’s also got a bit to prove at the track – we’ll see. Douvan is the other potential fly in the ointment, if returning to his best. He was sent off the short-priced favourite in this race 12 months ago, but ran no sort of race to be 7th. That clearly wasn’t his true running and he was found to be injured after the race. He’s been off the track since, so a lot has to be taken on trust if he’ll return the same horse as we saw winning 9 times over fences. Of the rest, it would be foolish to totally rule out the current champion – SPECIAL TIARA (e/w). This 11 year-old likes to get on with the job and can be expected to make a bold bid from the front again. With little depth to the race outside the main players he rates the best of the rest and if you are looking for an alternative to backing Altior then siding with the reigning champ each-way would not be the worst shout in the world.
16:10 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase 3m 7f
2017 Winner: CAUSE OF CAUSES (4/1)
Trainer – Gordon Elliott
Jockey – Jamie Codd
- The Irish have won 11 of the last 13 runnings
- Respect Enda Bolger-trained runners (won 4 times)
- 8 of the last 12 winners carried 10-13 or less
- 16 of the last 20 winners came from the top three in the betting
- 7 of the last 13 ran in the December Cross Country race here
- Respect Nina Carberry, Richard Johnson and Davy Russell-ridden horses (8 from 13 between them)
- 8 or the last 13 winners were aged 10 or older
- Trainer Philip Hobbs is 2 from 10 (5 placed in the top 5 too)
- Debutants over these fences/course have a poor record
- Avoid horses aged 7 or younger – they are only 2 from 94
- Horses rated 126 or less have a very poor record
- Trainer Willie Mullins is 0 from 12
- Trainer Paul Nicholls is 0 from 16
TQ VERDICT: Often referred to as the ‘marmite race’ of the Festival with punters either loving it, or heading to the bar when this is run. Staged over the unique Cross Country fences it’s always a spectacle though and for me personally a nice addition to the Festival since it was first staged in 2005. The Irish often do well in the contest – winning it 11 times in the last 13 runnings – and in particular trainer Enda Bolger, who has won the race four times. He’ll have the 2016 winner – Josie’s Orders – as his main hope, who has won over the this course three times. He’s closely-matched with another Bolger runner in Auvergnat after the pair were separated by just a short-head last time at Punchestown, but now off level weights, Josie’s Orders, who was giving away 2lbs, should have the edge. Bolger also has Cantlow, but at 13 years-old he’s not getting any younger. It’s also worth noting that the Bolger team actually last won this race in 2009 – so we can often get carried away when talking about the Bolger good record in the race. So, for me, it’s hard to get away from last year’s winner – CAUSE OF CAUSES. We can try and find reasons to take him on, but really, we’d be clutching at straws. He powered away to win by 9 lengths 12 months ago and followed that up with a second in the Aintree Grand National. He blew away the cobwebs last month at Leopardstown over an inadequate 2m5f trip and should be spot on for this. He also loves the Festival – fact! He’s now won at this meeting for the last three season (all different races), so clearly loves this place. At just 10 years-old he should also have more to come and we all love the returning champions coming back to defend their titles. He gets the call! Of the rest, the 13 year-old Bless The Wings is another that often runs well in these Cross Country races – this recent form at the track reads 3-4-2-2-2-1 – plus has been runner-up in this race for the last two years.
Cheltenham Festival – Is The Top Trainer a 3-Horse Race?
Another market that has become ever-popular in the build-up to the four-day 2018 Cheltenham Festival is which trainer will end up with the most winners?
The powerful Nicky Henderson team have fired in a staggering 58 Cheltenham Festival winners over the years and has ended up as top trainer 9 times since 1980. The Seven Barrows handler added Might Bite, Altior and Buveur D’ Air last year and with that trio all well-fancied in their respected races again in 2018 then it would be a huge shock if Henderson isn’t on the score sheet again. With that in mind, it’s no wonder Nicky Henderson will be popular in the ‘Cheltenham Festival’ Top Trainer betting again in 2018, and at this stage looks a fair alternative to Willie Mullins, who heads the market.
However, a certain Gordon Elliott might have something to say to both Mullins and Henderson. Don’t forget, Elliott landed the top trainers title for the first time in 2017 after firing in 6 winners at the meeting 12 months ago, and he’s sure to be well represented in most of the races again.
THAT’S YOUR LOT!!!
Have a GREAT Weekend