Cheltenham Festival: Are we still breathing?

Heading into day three, things are delicately poised with some success and some disappointment on day two. So what can we make out of today’s races?

Day two review: 

Wins for the well fancied pair Samcro and Altior helped provide the blog with two clear winners albeit at short prices and had you gone with each-way bets on William Henry and Tiger Role, who was highlighted as one of three contenders in the cross country, you’d have had a good day.

In hindsight, the respect shown for Presenting Percy should have been a little more, given his fine win, with Black Corton having no answers.

Then in the bumper, the insight that the Willie Mullins trend state was disingenuous and that “Mullins has 5 runners and of course its not possible for all runners in this scenario to win” was spot on, but he did manage to train the first three. The token selection made by this blog was the best placed of the non-Mullins clan, finishing fourth.

And what about the bonus tip for Sam I in the bumper at Huntingdon. He ran a cracker on debut, only beaten by another impeccably bred sort who had the benefit of first run. Put Sam I in your tracker, there’s hopefully a lot more to come from him.

presenting percy

Onto day three…

13:30 JLT Novices’ Chase   2m 4f

  • 6 of the 7 winners were Irish-trained
  • Willie Mullins has trained 4 of the last 7 winners
  • 5 of the last 7 winners had won a Graded Chase before
  • All 7 past winners had run at the Festival before
  • 6 of the 7 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 5 of the last 7 winners came from the top 2 in the betting
  • 6 of the last 7 winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
  • 6 of the last 7 winners returned 7/1 or shorter
  • 4 of the last 7 winners won last time out
  • 4 of the last 7 winners ran at Leopardstown last time out
  • 6 of the last 7 winners ran between 47-54 days ago
  • 7 year-olds have won 5 of last 7 renewals

A tricky race to call, whether you base the selection on trends or not, the problem lies in the question marks lying over many of the runners.

This is certainly the case for Finian’s Oscar, who was pulled up on his last outing here at Cheltenham. Having had a wind-op since, he could be worth chancing at a fair price with his trainer Colin Tizzard saying “all the signs are really good.”

Terrefort is an interesting contender for Nicky Henderson, having made it 2 from 2 after coming over to Britain, but his youthfulness as a 5yr old is a little off putting.

Willie Mullins has the favourite in this race with Invitation Only, but with Ruby Walsh out of the festival following his tumble on Al Boum Photo, the situation feels different enough to instil doubts for a horse that probably wouldn’t have been favourite based on his form alone.

And so perhaps the one to go with is Shattered Love, who has showed solid form in winning 4 out of his 5 chase starts this year, with his defeat coming behind Jury Duty (who disappointed on Tuesday), but in front of Presenting Percy (who won yesterday).

Suggestion: Shattered Love each-way to modest stakes.

Shattered Love Fhouse 13
Shattered Love

14:10 Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle   3m

  • 7 of the last 12 winners were aged 8 or older
  • The last 8 winners started their careers in bumpers (6) or points (2)
  • 10 of the last 17 winners were from outside the top 5 in the betting
  • The last 7 winners were rated 138 or higher
  • 8 of the last 11 winners were rated between 132-142 (inc)
  • 9 of the last 13 winners had won over at least 2m7f
  • 8 of the last 11 winners had run 10 or less times over hurdles before
  • 8 of the last 17 winners won their last race
  • 3 of the last 9 winners finished in the first 5 in the Betfair Hurdle (Haydock)
  • Look for Jonjo O’Neill, Twiston-Davies, Mullins and Pipe-trained runners
  • Respect JP McManus-owned horses

Respecting JP McManus-owned horses (signified by the iconic jockey colours of green and yellow horizontal stripes) is normally good advice in Cheltenham handicaps, but the trouble can be which one to back and in this race there are four; Glenloe (current favourite), Sort It Out, A Great View and Protek Des Flos.

Yet I’m not totally convinced with any of their chances, but the same can be said for the rest of the card. None of the runners stand out as particularly strong on a trends basis or serious well handicapped.

Thomas Campbell‘s 5th in the Martin Pipe at last years festival makes him a worthy consideration as does Who Dares Wins 3rd in last years Coral Cup for this contender.

But perhaps Jonjo O’Neill has the answer in his runner Forza Milan who looks like a likely handicap type for this particular trainer.

Suggestion: Far from a case of Who Dares Wins, Forza Milan offered as a token suggestion.

These two team up on Glenloe

14:50 Ryanair Chase   2m 5f

  • 18 of the 25 winners and runners-up had won at the course before
  • 4 of the last 5 winners were 2nd season chasers
  • 9 of the last 10 had won at Cheltenham previously
  • 9 of the last 10 winners had won a Grade 1 Chase before
  • The King George VI Chase is often a good guide (7 from 25)
  • The previous year’s renewal is often a good guide
  • 10 of the last 12 winners returned 6/1 or shorter
  • 5 of the last 6 winners were aged 7 or 8 years-old
  • 9 of the last 10 winners were rated 161+
  • 4 of the last 13 winners were placed in the top 3 in the Ascot Chase last time out
  • 10 of last 13 winners were fav or 2nd fav
  • Trainers Jonjo O’Neill, David Pipe & Nicky Henderson are respected
  • Respect first time head-gear (2 from 7)
  • 7 of the last 10 winners DIDN’T win last time out

If we assume Douvan won’t run (still a runner at time of writing, but ran and was a faller in Champion Chase on Wednesday) this is a race that evolves around two horses.

Un De Sceaux, the exciting but head strong horse that gallops rivals into the ground and who won this race last year and Cue Card, a favourite of many a punter after winning so many big races, but has this 12yr old has begun to show the effects of his age increasing age this year.

And so we perhaps have a decision as to whether head rules heart. The head says Un De Sceaux should win if he doesn’t beat himself. But the heart wants to see Cue Card run to glory to what would surely be a rapturous reception from the Cheltenham crowd.

Suggestion: Heart wins the battle, Cue Card to win.

cue card

15:30 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle 3m

  • 10 of the last 13 won last time out
  • 16 of the last 17 winners came from the top 4 in the betting
  • 8 of the last 16 were French Bred
  • Respect the Cleeve Hurdle and Long Walk Hurdle form
  • 14 of the last 16 winners finished 1st or 2nd in all their hurdling runs that season
  • 12 of the last 13 winners started 10/1 or less in the betting
  • Respect past winners of the race

The favourite Sam Spinner hits so many trends its very difficult to look past this runner for Jedd O’Keeffe and Joe Colliver.

One suspects had the name Mullins been on the card the 7/2 on offer now would have been closer to 7/4 so there appears to be some value here as well.

2nd favourite Yanworth is high class however, so this won’t be an bloodless victory, Sam will need to run well to secure the spoils.

Supasundee runs off the back of winning the Irish Champion Hurdle over 2 miles, but this horse is so versatile he could be a contender back at 3 miles. The same can probably not be said for long time favourite of festival goers The New One, who is trying 3 miles for the first time at the age of 10.

Suggestion: Trust Jedd and Joe to give you a good Sam Spinner for your money.

sam sp2

16:10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate   2m 5f

  • 26 of the last 30 winners were officially rated 141 or less
  • The last 9 winners carried under 11-0
  • Look out for French-breds
  • Venetia Williams & Pipe-trained runners should be noted
  • The Pipe yard have won 7 of the last 20 runnings
  • 16 of the last 17 winners returned at double-figure odds
  • 20 of the last 26 winners had run at the Festival before (but 5 of last 7 were having Festival debut)
  • 17 of the last 18 winners had run in no more than 16 chases
  • 17 of the last 18 winners came from outside the top 4 in the market

Another tricky handicap, where cases can be made for many runners, even Shanahan’s Turn at the foot of the market, priced at 66-1, with the former Galway Plate winner returning from a wind operation.

Eyes also register the credentials of King’s Odyssey, Guitar Pete and Harry Fry’s Drumcliff, but given the Pipe’s record in this, their sole runner King’s Socks looks another likely type to strike.

Having done most of his racing in France, the gelding has run once for his current stable finishing a modest third in a four runner chase at Kempton, but it could well be that was a preparation ready for the main target of today’s race.

Suggestion:King’s Sock to put his best hoof’s forward.

guitar pete
Guitar Pete in action

16:50 Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices Hurdle 2m1f

  • A new race (Just two renewals)
  • Favourites have won both runnings
  • Both winners won last time out
  • Both winners have been aged 5 years-old
  • Trainer Willie Mullins won the 2016 & 2017 races
  • Ruby Walsh has ridden the winner in 2016 & 2017
  • Owner Rich Ricci has won the last 2 runnings

With Ruby Walsh missing and the Mullins favourite being owned by Sullivan Bloodstock Limited rather than Ricci Rich, trends will be broken here, but it’s still difficult to look away from Laurina who has won her two races for Mullins with ease.

The only concern might be that Laurina has had it to easy and that if it should come down to a battle will she know what to do?

The same can’t be said for Stuart Edmunds, Maria’s Benefit who battled all the way to the line at Doncaster last time, recording a 5th victory in a row in the process. The key for her chances will be whether she can get close enough in the closing stages to ask Laurina that question.

Suggestion: At the prices, Maria’s Benefitcould be the better play as an each-way bet to nothing, but it would still stand as a surprise to see Laurina beaten.


17:30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase   3m 1½f

  • Respect 8 and 9 year-olds
  • 3 of the last 7 winners ran in the BetVictor Handicap Chase (Open Meeting)
  • The last 6 winners ran off a mark of 137 or more
  • 6 of the last 8 winners carried 11st 6lbs+
  • Look for McCain, Pipe and Henderson-trained runners
  • Look for horses in the top half of the handicap
  • 16 of the last 18 winners ran over at least three miles in their last race
  • Look for non-claiming amateur riders
  • 6 of the last 7 winners wore headgear
  • 7 of the last 9 winners came from the top 6 in the market
  • Jamie Codd has ridden 4 of the last 9 winners
  • Nina Carberry placed 6 times, Derek O’Connor 2nd 3 times

As touched on, Ruby Walsh may be missing in action today, but that didn’t prevent a Walsh entering the winning enclosure yesterday as sister Katie Walsh delivered the winner in the concluding bumper on yesterday’s card and she has the chance to repeat the feet today on Sugar Baron for Nicky Henderson.

However, there are many in this race that fit trends and hold excellent claims, including favourite Mall Dini, well backed Missed Approach for Warren Greatrex and Penda for Derek O’Connor who was second in this last year, but hasn’t run since.

Jamie Codd partners Squouateur for owner JP McManus in the race and trained by Gordon Elliott, all factors that would attract you in fancy the horses chances, but in terms of trends things don’t look as great. Similar can be said for The Young Master, but his current mark and the knowledge he’s returning from a wind-operation could tempt some to overlook this and recent erratic form.

Suggestion: Sometimes its sensible to trust your first instinct; Sugar Baron to provide the Walsh’s with yet another winner.

sugar baron

Agree or disagree with these selections? Why not tell share what you think in the comments below?

Be Gamble Aware Link:
Link to Racing Post race cards:
Trends quoted are courtesy of:


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