I have been meaning to write this post for a little while and I thank those who have prodded me in comments on previous blog posts. Firstly there are NO bets in this post. So if you are looking for any ‘tips’ or ante-post picks you will not find them here, not yet anyway.
The aim of this post is to briefly explain my approach to Cheltenham, why there are no ante-post bets and what you can expect on this blog.
However, I want to start with a moan.
I don’t like the way that Cheltenham engulfs National Hunt racing. I find it tiresome. I find it boring. I find it predictable and it annoys me.
This is not to be confused with my childish excitement as the best week of the year on earth gets nearer. Monday the 9th March is like Christmas Eve (as a child!) and it’s bloody exciting.
But, much like Christmas, we appear to start taking about The Festival earlier and earlier every year. Given the high class racing that generally takes place every weekend during the main National Hunt season there really is no need.
Maybe it’s best to use an example to demonstrate my annoyance.
Let’s pick a horse. A very good horse. A horse that will go down as a legend. He will have a race named after him. A statue will be built. 22 Grade 1s. Let me repeat that. 22 Grade 1s.
Hurricane Fly is his name and he is an equine machine. A one off.
Every time he wins another race, another Grade 1, attention switches straight to Cheltenham. Maybe it’s the people I follow on twitter or the things I read. Maybe, much like the thousands of race goers at Leopardstown, the majority of people can appreciate him, and his achievements, for what they are.
However Cheltenham looms large and, in this context, it annoys me. ‘Who will Ruby ride at Cheltenham?’. ‘Let’s dissect Jezki’s run’ ‘Barry gets a better tune out of him’ ‘His aim is Cheltenham, he wasn’t ready’ ‘He needed a stronger pace’ ‘He will over-turn the form at Cheltenham’. ‘Hurricane Fly is the lay of the meeting’ etc etc Just talk about the fact that he has just won his 22nd Grade 1, at the age of 11!
All of this before The Fly has even reached the winner’s enclosure. Ridiculous. He has nothing to prove and if Cheltenham has to enter your thoughts when trying to appreciate the achievements of the horse and the trainer (because yes it’s so easy to keep a horse at the top of his game for so long, I mean Henderson does it all the time with his decent chasers!!!) then I feel sorry for you.
This immediate fascination with Cheltenham after a brilliant performance from a horse happens regularly throughout the season. I think it is barmy and it irks me. I dare say I’m in a minority but I like to appreciate a horse for what it has just achieved. I like to savour the moment. I like to look at the result in isolation from The Festival, even more so when a horse is making history.
That is my moan over. I dare say I am unique in my view and given that I look at racing from day to day, week to week, that is maybe why. Cheltenham creeps up on me and it is a nice surprise come this time of year when it’s only a few weeks away.
Anyway, Onto the Festival 🙂
This section is dedicated to punting. My approach to betting obviously affects my approach to Cheltenham.
Firstly I am not a big ante-post punter. Indeed the only ante-post bet I have struck this season was on Hawkes Point at 14/1 and that was only a couple of days before the race. He went off at 15/2 so I got the value. It’s not something that has ever fascinated me.
I like to have as much information as possible when betting. That includes trends, race conditions (including the going), knowing all the runners, pace analysis, information on a horses latest run and most importantly profiling a horse (most important in handicaps for me. A horse may have a great record in races with fewer than 12 runners, but have never placed in a race with more than 16 runners, from 10 attempts say) It doesn’t suit my approach to back horses so far before the day they are going to run when I don’t have all the information available. That is just my personal opinion and approach.
I know lots of you will enjoy an ante-post flutter. Indeed having fun bets on a few horses at decent prices makes the spectacle all the more enjoyable I imagine. This is an area of the game that I probably should invest more time in. However for the time being I am comfortable with my approach. Indeed if you asked me now I wouldn’t be able to give you a strong fancy for the festival. I do want Many Clouds to win, that is for sure. Whether that pull on the heartstrings manifests itself into a bet only time will tell!
Last year was my first go at covering a Festival on the blog. Back then I don’t think many people were reading it. Mainly friends I guess and a few people on twitter. If you trawl back far enough through the posts you will be able to find them. Winners included Very Wood 50/1 (1/2 point EW), O’Faolain’s Boy and Lac Fontana. I made 45 points profit over the four days, two of which were complete blanks. However, I was happy enough with the week.
At this stage I don’t know what races I will cover. It will depend on what I fancy come the night, or two nights before. My approach to each race will be exactly the same as my approach to ‘Big Race Previews’.
The blog will be updated the evening before the next day’s racing. I anticipate that I will cover a minimum of 3 races a day, as well as advising some interest/fun bets. Of course I can’t wait to get stuck into the handicaps. I may not have a winner all week in them but it will be good fun!
I don’t think you should approach Cheltenham with the aim of making lots of money or backing lots of winners. That sounds negative but such is the competitive nature of the racing it’s tricky to find winners. Above all we want to enjoy the week. For me that means not losing too much. If I am about to watch a Championship race cursing or thinking about previous losses I will have failed.
Having reflected on it in recent weeks I know why I bet. I bet to solve the puzzle. The satisfaction from deciphering a race in unparalleled. Maybe it’s the recognition I like and the slight arrogance of knowing I’ve been proved right. Having increased the blogging, and launched a service, I know there isn’t a better feeling than knowing others have successfully backed your selections. It makes the winners much sweeter. On the flip side it makes the losers much worse. I am still cursing that I didn’t advise backing Annacotty and Big Fella Thanks EW on Saturday. Those thoughts will have vanished come tomorrow!
I can’t wait for Cheltenham to start, but at this moment in time it doesn’t dominate my thoughts. I struggle to think about one horse in isolation from its rivals and given there are still so many outstanding questions I would rather leave it. The tools I use (HRB profiling, trends, Geegeez Racecards/pace analysis) mean it is a lot harder and time consuming looking at horses this far out as well. A lot can change between now and the Festival. For example what if a trainer in form at the moment suddenly doesn’t have a winner between now and the Festival and goes into that week 0/30 say.
There will be comprehensive coverage on the blog during the Festival, covering those races that suit my approach and that I enjoy analysing and betting in. Basically, the more a race is dominated by exposed horses the better. There are much better judges than me when it comes to the Novice races.
I would snap your hand off to make +45 points again, but that will be tough, especially given that Very Wood accounted for about half of that profit. I would expect to be betting between 20-30 points during the week. I won’t be cursing if I lose it all and I will be more upset because I will have failed to solve the puzzle.
What about you?
I would love to hear about your approach to the week. Do you give yourself a budget and just have some fun? Or is it a big profit making week for you which makes a difference come the end of the year? How have you done in the past?
And of course, if you have any ante-post picks please leave a comment and say why you fancy them.
I will start to gather my thoughts during February and start to get on top of the main trends. If anything does grab my attention you will of course be first to know.
So, that’s it for this extended contribution. Thanks for reading it all the way through.