Ante-Post Cheltenham Festival Race

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For the next 5 weeks I will be looking through some of the Grade 1 races to try and find the Ante-Post value

6 SELECTIONS - 1 NR / 1 WINNER 11/4 / 2 PLACED @ 20/1 & @ 25/1 +3.75PTS

BOODLES JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE (added 7th March)
(formerly the Fred Winter)

Trends Guide HERE

Top Trends To Note:

  • All of the 14 winners were rated 134 or less
  • 13 of the 14 winners made their British/Irish debut from 20th November onwards (exception 2014 winner Hawk High debut October 27th)
  • 13 of the 14 winners had run Top 3 in at least 1 of their last two starts
  • 12 of the 14 winners were by Group 1 winning sires (on the flat). Exceptions won at Group 2 or 3 level
  • 12 of the 14 winners had run 2+ times since January 1st
  • 12 of the 14 winners had run within the last 37 days
  • 12 of the 14 winners had run 2-5 times in GB and Ireland
  • 10 of the 14 winners did not win over hurdles until at least their 3rd start
  • 7 of the 14 winners had raced against older horses
  • 6 winners began their careers as French NH Horses (from just 59 such runners)
  • None of Willie Mullins' 12 runners have finished in the first 5

The three best trials for this race are;

Adonis Hurdle (Kempton)
1st: Fusil Raffles 4/1f 2nd: Beat The Judge 10/1 3rd: Praeceps 14/1

Finale Hurdle (Chepstow)
1st: Quel Destin 7/4 2nd: Adjali 4/6f 3rd: Averne 10/1

Spring Juvenile Hurdle (Leopardstown)
1st: Sir Erec 13/8f 2nd: Gardens of Babylon 5/1 3rd: Surin 7/1

ANALYSIS

This is one of my favourite races of the meeting. It has some strong trends associated with it and there have been plenty of big priced winners in the race's 14 year history (6 of the last 7 winners have been 25/1+).

All of the 14 winners were rated 134 or less and were by a Flat Group race winning sire. A win over hurdles isn't that important as 3 of the 14 winners were still maidens but a maximum of 5 starts in the UK or Ireland is a trend shared by every winner of the race. In the early runnings of the race it used to go to a horse that didn't win until at least it's third start but 4 of the last 6 winners won first time up over hurdles. Interestingly none of the 14 winners had won their second start over hurdles.

Gardens Of Babylon looks sure to carry topweight here so we can expect the weights to rise just 2lb. Topweights have won once,  finished runner up on three occasions and been placed a couple more times but no horse has ever won from a rating higher than 134. Going on past history and the number of entries it's unlikely any horse rated less than 125 will make the cut.

The Dr Newland pair Katpoli and Rose Sea Has are interesting outsiders who look well handicapped although the first named will have to bounce back from a very disappointing run last time out. If it turns into a mud bath at Cheltenham then I'd definitely be backing Rose Sea Has who was never going the pace in the Adonis Hurdle but had some nice French form in the soft.

Paul Nicholls' must be over the moon with the 129 rating his Friend Or Foe has been given and his record in the race speaks for itself. But the horse has been well touted at the Cheltenham Preview evenings recently and the price has collapsed as a consequence. William Hills offer a standout 9/1 with 5 places which looks an excellent each way bet but I prefer to back another of the trainer's runners at nearly four times the price.

DOGON was being talked of as a Triumph Hurdle candidate before his UK Hurdles debut when pitched up against Fakir Doudaries in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham but those dreams were short lived as he was never going and had been pulled up before the last flight. He did better next time out when running second against his elders in a novice hurdle at Wincanton where another 4yo, Katpoli, was sent off favourite but finished well behind the selection. Dogon kept on well without really challenging the eventual winner but did earn a 5lb drop in the ratings for that run which puts him bang into the required ratings band for this race. He's by a Group 1 winning Sire, has the right trainer, a perfect rating, had a recent run against his elders and is a second season French hurdler. These are all big positives and the recent rain is a big plus. I take him to outrun his big odds.

SELECTION: DOGON (EW) 33/1 LOST


 ALBERT BARTLETT (added 1st March)

Trends Guide HERE

Top Trends To Note:

  • All 14 winners had been rested for at least 26 days prior to this race
  • All 14 winners had raced at least 3 times over hurdles
  • All 14 winners had placed in Graded company (11/14 won)
  • 12 of the 14 winners were aged 6 or 7yo (+one 5yo & one 8yo)
  • 13 of the 14 winners had won a race at 2m4f or further
  • 12 of the 14 winners finished in the top 4 of a Grade 2 hurdle last time out (1 exception Grade 1 last time out)
  • 10 of the last 13 winners had run 3-6 times over hurdles in GB and Ireland
  • 6 of the 14 winners were second Season novices
  • 3 of the 14 winners had won a handicap earlier in the Season

Willie Mullins is 1 win from 32 runners to date

The three best trials for this race are;

Albert Bartlett Bristol Novices Hurdle (Cheltenham)
1st: Rockpoint 11/2 2nd: Lisnagar Oscar 8/1 3rd: Rocco 12/1

Ballymore Novices Hurdle (Cheltenham)
1st: Birchdale 2/1 2nd: Buster Valentine 16/1 3rd: Jarveys Plate 5/2

Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices Hurdle (Haydock)
1st: Lisnagar Oscar 6/1 2nd: Ask Ben 6/1 3rd: Stoney Mountain 6/1

ANALYSIS

We've no doubt seen the winner have his prep race by now which probably came in a Grade 2 Trial where he finished top 4. The winner will probably be a 6 or 7yo with at least 3 hurdle runs and a win at 2m4f or further.

This pretty much leaves us with the 1-2-3 from the Prestige Novices Hurdle and Jarveys Plate who ran third in another good trial for this on Cheltenham Trials Day.

The way in which Lisnagar Oscar won at Haydock would make it highly unlikely the second or third could feasibly reverse the placings whilst marking himself down as a very decent staying novice. He has a very solid profile for the race and looks just the type to run very well in the Albert Bartlett. We've backed him in the Route 66 Service and I certainly wouldn't put anyone off him if they aren't already on.

Jarveys Plate didn't run too well at Cheltenham on Trials Day but had looked decent in two previous visits to the track when also appearing to need further. He was also shouldering a 5lb penalty that day meaning he gave weight to every runner and back at level weights over another 2 1/2 furlongs further he could be a bit of value for an each way bet. The trainer has stated that he is favouring the Ballymore Hurdle so it's very important to take the NRNB concession on this particular bet.

SELECTION: JARVEYS PLATE (EW) 25/1 NRNB (Bet365) - NR -


JLT NOVICE CHASE (added 21ST FEBRUARY)

Trends Guide HERE

Top Trends To Note:

  •  All of the 8 winners had their last run in a Graded race (6/7 Grade 1 or 2)
  • All of the 8 winners had run 2-5 times over fences
  • All of the 8 winners were aged 6 or 7yo
  • All of the 8 winners were rated 144+
  • All of the 8 winners ran 31+ days ago
  • 7 of the 8 winners finished Top 2 in their last race (exception fell at last fence when clear)
  • Irish trainers have won 7 of the 8 runnings of this race
  • 6 of the 8 winners had their last run at Leopardstown

The three best trials for this race are;

Neville Hotels Novices Chase (Leopardstown)
1st: Delta Work 8/15f 2nd: Mortal 7/1 3rd: Blow by Blow 10/1

Ten Up Novices Chase (Navan)
1st: Chris's Dream 5/2 2nd: Champagne Classic 5/4f 3rd: Any Second Now 7/2

Arkle Novices Chase (Leopardstown)
1st: Le Richebourg 11/10 2nd: Us and Them 11/1 3rd: Mengli Khan 5/1

ANALYSIS

We now have 8 years of data for the race and some strong trends have emerged. They point to an 6 or 7yo rated 144+ that has been off the track for at least a month as being the likeliest winner. Between 2 - 5 career Chase starts including the last run which ideally came in Graded company (being at Leopardstown is a big plus) and a run at last years Cheltenham Festival should help narrow down the field a bit more.

We've now gone past the 31 days barrier so the winner has probably now had his/her prep race and with the Irish dominating this race so far it's probably best to look at the Dublin racing festival and the big Christmas Leopardstown meeting for our winner.

Le Richebourg would be the obvious choice here but looks more likely to go for the Arkle so I'm going to chance Gordon Elliott's MENGLI KHAN at a big price each way. He was favourite to beat Le Richebourg over Christmas but could never get on terms with the winner that day and it was a similar story on a return to that track in February where he was even further behind that rival. He did stay on quite well over the last couple of fences that day and ran a similar race in last year's Supreme Novice's when third.

I think the extra distance of the JLT will suit him better than the Arkle and he's a big price if heading down that route. We also have the safety net of NRNB which gives us a bit of insurance should connections stick with the 2 mile option (or miss the meeting entirely).

SELECTION: MENGLI KHAN (EW) 25/1 PLACED


 

GOLD CUP (added 14TH FEBRUARY)

Trends Guide HERE

Top Trends To Note:

  • All of the last 18 winners were aged 6-9yo (Cool Dawn in 1998 was the last winning 10yo)
  • All of the British winners since 1999 were rated 166 or higher
  • All of the last 17 winners had their last start in a Graded Chase
  • All of the last 14 winners had been rested at least 31 days since their last start
  • All of the last 14 winners finished in the top 6 last time out (12/14 top 2)
  • All of the last 14 winners had run a maximum of 5 times that season
  • 17 of the last 18 winners returned 8/1 or shorter
  • 16 of the last 17 winners had their last start at just 1 of 3 tracks (Kempton 6, Leopardstown 5 or Newbury 5). All 37 runners coming on from Cheltenham got beat.
  • 10 of the last 12 winners had won their last race

The three best trials for this race are;

The King George (Kempton)
1st: Clan Des Obeaux 12/1 2nd: Thistlecrack 15/2 3rd: Native River 9/2

Savills Chase (Leopardstown)
1st: Kemboy 8/1 2nd: Monalee 11/2 3rd: Road to Respect 9/4f

Irish Gold Cup (Leopardstown)
1st: Bellshill 2/1 2nd: Road to Respect 5/6f 3rd: The Storyteller 8/1

ANALYSIS

The trends point to a 7-9yo that is rated 166+, probably won last time out and had completed his prep run in a Graded race by now. Fancied in the betting and with a maximum of 5 races this Season makes up a typical Gold Cup winner.

With Newbury being abandoned last weekend it rather messes these trends up a bit as this meeting usually signals the cut off point for a horses prep race but if we stick with the major trends we are left looking at 3 strong trends contenders who won 3 of the best trials for this race: Clan Des Obeaux, Kemboy and Bellshill

Kemboy had finished in front of Bellshill in the Savills Chase over Christmas and certainly wasn't stopping that day giving the impression that the extended distance of the Gold Cup should pose no problems. He goes on any ground and is my pick of the Mullins horses at the moment.

I fancy him to go very well but Mullins' has yet to win the Gold Cup and I feel he may just struggle to hold the King George winner Clan Des Obeaux. A lot of people were saying this Season's King George was one of the most competitive renewals of recent times and Paul Nicholls' winner absolutely destroyed the field to come home an impressive winner. He goes for the re-routed Denman Chase at Ascot this weekend, which he should win, and that will put him spot on for Cheltenham.

SELECTION: CLAN DES OBEAUX 10/1 (William Hill) LOST


 

CHAMPION HURDLE (added 7TH FEBRUARY)

Trends Guide HERE

Top Trends To Note:

  • All of the last 21 winners had run since Christmas
  • All of the last 19 winners had won at 2m-2m1f
  • All of the last 14 winners had finished in the top 4 on both their previous starts (when completing)
  • All of the last 11 winners were rated 157+
  • 13 of the last 14 winners finished in the top 3 on their previous start (2014 was 4th)
  • 11 of the last 12 winners had run 12 or fewer times over hurdles
  • 18 of the last 20 winners had been placed at the previous Cheltenham Festival
  • 17 of the last 20 winners were aged 6-8
  • 2008 winner Katchit is the only 5-y-o winner since See You Then in 1985
  • Since 1951 there have only been 4 winners aged 9 or over
  • Only 2 of the last 13 winners (Binocular & Jezki) had finished outside the top 3 in any completed start for that season

The three best trials for this race are;

The Fighting Fifth (Newcastle)
1st: Buveur D'Air 11/8 2nd: Samcro 6/5f 3rd: Vision Des Flos 14/1

Christmas Hurdle (Kempton)
1st: Verdana Blue 11/2 2nd: Buveur D'Air 1/4f 3rd: If The Cap Fits 7/1

Irish Champion Hurdle (Leopardstown)
1st: Apples Jade 8/11F 2nd: Supasundae 4/1 3rd: Petit Mouchoir 12/1

ANALYSIS

The trends point to a 6-8yo that is rated 157+ with a top 4 finish last time out and a run since Christmas being the most likely winner. All of the last 13 winners had finished top 4 on both their previous two starts (when completing) with the vast majority of those having had 12 or fewer hurdle runs.

A strict interpretation of the Trends at this stage would leave us with 2 Willie Mullins challengers: Sharjah and Melon who both ran at last year's Festival.

Sharjah has been in fine form over the Winter and has picked up a couple of Grade 1 wins on his last two starts. The second of those wins saw him beat Supasundae by 3 1/2 lengths in what looked at the time a good renewal of the Ryanair Hurdle but with Apples Jade managing to beat that one out of sight in the Irish Champion Hurdle last Sunday it does leave him with a bit to find.

Mullins other hopeful MELON ran in both those races but has failed to fire this year and finished 4th both times. It was a similar story last year when he got beat in the International Hurdle by a couple of pensioners (3rd) and then the Irish Champion Hurdle (5th) but saved his best form for the Spring when giving Buveur D'Air a real scare in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle (2nd). He was also second in the 2017 Supreme Novices Hurdle so has no problems with the track at that time of year. William Hill have pushed him out to 20/1 (Skybet 16/1 NRNB) which looks too big to ignore and I think an each way bet on him is in order.

SELECTION: MELON (EW) 20/1 - PLACED -


 

STAYERS HURDLE (added 31ST JANUARY)

Trends Guide HERE

Top Trends To Note:

  • No 5yo has ever won the World Hurdle / Stayers Hurdle
  • Every winner this century has been 14/1 or shorter
  • The last 15 winners were all rated 153+
  • 12 of the last 13 winners had raced 9 times or more over hurdles
  • 19 of the last 20 winners had run in the last 3 months/90 days (exception Seasonal debut)
  • 30 of the last 31 winners finished in the first 4 last time out (exception fell)
  • 11 of the last 13 winners finished top 2 last time out (exceptions 4th & fell)
  • 17 of last 20 winners were aged 6-8yo (2 of the 3 exceptions were previous winners of the race)
  • 14 of the last 17 winners had previously run at the Festival

The three best UK trials for this race are;

Long Distance Hurdle (Newbury)
1ST: Unowhatimeanharry 11/4f 2ND: Clyne 14/1 3RD: The Mighty Don 16/1

Long Walk Hurdle (Ascot)
1ST: Paisley Park 8/1 2ND: West Approach 40/1 3RD: Top Notch 10/1

Cleeve Hurdle (Cheltenham)
1ST: Paisley Park 10/3f 2ND: West Approach 20/1 3RD: Black Op 11/2

There have been only 3 Irish winners since 1996 and they have come in the last 6 years (Solwhit, Nicholls Canyon and Penhill). 2 of these 3 winners were classy 2 mile hurdlers who had been placed in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

ANALYSIS

A 6-8yo who last ran top 4 in a Graded Hurdle is a good start when building a typical winners profile for this race. A minimum of 9 career starts with a maximum of four runs this Season fills in the gaps and should have you looking at the Stayers Hurdle winner.

Previous Cheltenham Festival form is a bonus as is being fancied in the betting. A top 2 finish in all completed starts this Season and being near the top on ratings is good but being beaten in this race previously or winning the Albert Bartlett is bad (although Penhill did manage to break that trend last Season). Also worth noting is that horses running here after an aborted Chase campaign have a poor record in the Stayers hurdle (just Big Bucks has managed it this century)

We still have a few weeks until the Festival and there are a couple of minor 'trials' left for the Stayers Hurdle but most of the recent winners had seen the track by now and had also laid claim to the prize by lifting one of the major pointers to that race already. There are currently 51 declared runners but very few fit all of the main trends and that includes the current race favourite Paisley Park who has just 8 hurdle runs to his name but in his favour is the fact that he's won 2 of the 3 main trials including when very impressive last Saturday in the Cleeve Hurdle where all of the top UK stayers had lined up. That pushed his rating up 12lb to a new mark of 168 which leaves him with nothing to fear from anything this side of the Irish Sea.

Those from the other side of the Irish Sea have won this 3 times in the last 6 years and they will probably field the biggest challenge to the current favourite. However, the majority of those runners towards the top end of the market are failed chasers (Bacardys), injured horses on the sidelines (Samcro), old timers (Faugheen), horses beaten in this race before (Supasundae) and horses with other race targets (Apples Jade). This just leaves last year's winner Penhill as the Irish danger. He won the Stayers Hurdle last year on his Seasonal debut and it's looking likely that similar tactics will also be employed this time around. They went pretty slow early on in the race last year and that allowed him to creep through the field, pounce late approaching the last before sprinting away up the hill. I doubt he'll have it quite as easy this year and I'm not so sure that he'll get away with not having had a run when faced with such an in form runner.

So if we can overlook PAISLEY PARK's slight lack of experience and focus on his current form along with the rest of his profile I think we have a very strong bet for the Cheltenham Festival.

SELECTION: PAISLEY PARK 11/4 WON


 

 

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