Cheltenham Festival 2019: Review
Well, that was a tougher week than I’m used to on the official tips, and while I was probably due a mediocre week, it’s still bloody frustrating.
However, there’s plenty to take away and I hope that you get something from what follows including a few horses that it may pay to keep onside. I shifted -16 points on the week, including the Midland’s National, but have clawed back 9 of those since Sunday, so am in a better mood writing this than I could have been!
There should be something for you to take away below. There’s a look back at my results, staking, a question to you about EW betting, missed winners, where I can improve, wind ops (Nicky Henderson stats), and horses for the tracker…
Let’s crack on…
My official tips as advised, for Cheltenham…
35 bets / 2 wins / 10 places (inc wins) / -13 points
On the face of it this wasn’t great, however the placed horses compare favourably to previous years and in reality, that’s just how it goes. 2 or 3 more winners at the odds I play at, win only, is what makes the difference, and if they don’t arrive, that’s the result.
I had placed horses priced 12/1, 22/1, 16/1, 9/2, 8/1, 16/1, 14/1, 16/1
As a comparison…
2017: 32 bets / 4 wins / 13 places (inc wins) +43 points
2018: 31 bets / 5 wins / 12 places (inc wins) +69 points
I’ll just console myself with the 3 year record. You have to look on the bright side in this game!
To bet Each-Way or Not to bet Each-Way, that is the question…
Long suffering readers will know that I’ve always been more comfortable with a 1-point win approach, and as yet haven’t perfected an approach to each-way betting which is successful, not that I’ve tried for any length of time.
Betting all my 2019 Festival tips to 1 point EW, standard terms (1/4 4 places) resulted in a loss of -2.25 points.
That’s better than -13 of course, but twice the outlay. If including Coolanly who grabbed 5th at 33s, that improves to +7 points.
However, I’m not sure I wish to use/risk a 60-point bank for Festival Week! Maybe those dreaded ½ point EW bets need to be considered. Gulp. However, that could be an over-reaction to one below par year, and my win only approach is always going to have spells like this.
As is my want, I tend to take on those horses priced up under 8s in Festival Handicaps, and other big field races. In general this wasn’t the Festival to be doing that, certainly with outsiders win only, and I need to do some thinking on that front. The likes of A Plus Tard and Band of Outlaws were well advertised in the weeks leading up to the Festival, especially at preview evenings – as was Sir Du Berlais and the 1-2 in the Martin Pipe. Ideally you’d get on at bigger prices Ante Post, but that isn’t my style, so then it’s about how to treat these horses. Clearly I need to do more on judging the strength of their chance given the place in the market, and then work out how to attack the race. Maybe going EW on those I fancy at a price is the way forward, when these ‘shorties’ have such an obvious chance. Something for me to think about there.
What is your approach to EW betting?
I’d be interested to hear your approach, when you bet EW and why? As in truth, I’m not sure I have a clue on that front! 🙂 Do post a comment below.
This year I dived into the preview scene more so than I had done previously, absorbing views on those races that I wouldn’t usually target.
In effect this work influenced my ‘through the card notes’ which were my daily thoughts on races/horses not covered in my official tips.
In hindsight I should have stuck to those!
18 tips / 6 wins / +36 points
In general, I read the racing well enough during the week, but clearly made a few naff decisions on when to tip something officially or not. That’s something I need to ponder and maybe I need a more lucid approach to next year’s Festival, in terms of my target races etc.
Now, it’s my natural disposition to look back at every one of my 13 or so target races and to think that I should have found every winner. Clearly that’s impossible but it’s the right mindset to have in this game.
In reality there are just two winners that still leave me contorted with punting anguish, that I should have found, and if I’d have done so that profit pile would have been on +13. Nothing spectacular, but better than -13 and solid enough. A game of fine margins.
Le Breuil 14/1
This one hit my initial trends ‘shortlist’ of 8, and was also one of 3 who hit a few other stats. The trainer was in very good form, the horse had some decent form in graded novice races, ran as if worth a go at a marathon trip… AND… the main reason of course, Jamie Codd had been booked. Quite simply there wasn’t a compelling reason not to be with him at his price, especially as my assessment of the top of the market proved spot on.
So, that’s definitely one that got away. I’m not going to discuss the NH Chase here, it’s future, or what happened on the day. I think this one will come under the BHA’s microscope and from what I can gather I suspect they may tighten up the entry conditions, or there will be pressure to do so.
Any Second Now 10/1>6/1
I’m going to share my ‘phase 1’ stats work here, which I pull together by around 12.30pm the day before for my target races… these are always my starting points, to be used as a guide…
5.30 – The Kim Muir
‘winning profile’ – OR 134 or higher / 11-4+ on back exc claims / 3-7 runs last 365 days / 4 or fewer runs in class… that profile leaves 10/72, 23p, +85 the last decade
That leaves 9…
Any Second Now / The Young Master / Kilfilum Cross / Squouateur / Speaker Connolly / Just A Sting / Out Sam / Arkwrist / Crievehill
You could use further stats to filter… 2-6 runs this season, aged 7-9, 0-2 handicap chase wins, non-claiming jockeys…
Six of those have an 8/8 profile…
Any Second Now (Derek O’Connor!) / Kilfilum Cross / Squouateur / Just A Sting / Arkwrist / Crievehill
You can see what I wrote in brackets next to Any Second Now- again, like with Codd, that should have been enough to wade in right then, even more so given connections/ the horse’s profile – 10s was fair
So, what went wrong?
As noted the day after, members had the right to throw rotten fruit at me. He was going to be the bet, but sadly Liverpool had a Champions League game scheduled. I was mentally fried, hadn’t been out the flat in 2 days (bar wondering around my tiny balcony – maybe I should go for more walks next year?!) and thought sod it, I’m off to the pub.
His price will hold. Damn.
When I got to him first thing the next day he was 7s across the board and shortening. I deemed that too short for a chase maiden and those -3 points lost made the difference to me. Maybe it was a mental thing – there’s something about 10s+ shots, seemingly appearing more compelling, when they have the odd question to overcome. Maybe even 8s would have tempted me in.
So, a slap on the wrist there! Apologies.
I did back the Each-Way banker in that race, The Young Master, at 22s…
Alas, win only!! 🙂
Thankfully Liverpool went through, that would have been a double whammy.
But, that’s an example of one of those horses that just jumps out, through instinct more than anything, on the back of the trends research. As did many in my ‘through the card’ notes, and maybe there’s something to be said for over-thinking.
As you become more experienced in this game, I suppose you should back your instinct more.
This game is all in the head, as we know.
In reality, on the official tips, finding those two in addition to the others, was the best I was going to this year.
So, work to do there. I wasn’t close to any 25/1+ winners this year. (unlike a few of my members!)
What can I improve on?
‘In-Race Price Disparity’
I didn’t know what to call this bit but what I’m getting at is those horses running in the same race who’s previous form ties in very closely – yet the prices are wildly different.
There are two examples, one of which I thought pre-race, the other came to me when looking back through the results…
Tobefair – 66/1 (2nd)
There’s a reason that I should have been much closer to backing him EW in the Pertemps, and that’s because I tipped/fancied Samburu Shujaa for Hobbs/Johnson.
Now, I tipped Tobefair LTO, when he chased home Samburu Shujaa at Chepstow, and wasn’t beaten far. It can often pay to be ridden cold in hurdle races on the New Course, so it was clear it may set up for a hold-up type.
In any case, how could I fancy Samburu at 11s or so, and not give Tobefair a squeak at 66/1?? Looking back there wasn’t a logical reason for why they should be that far away from each other again, and I thought SS would go close. Yes I may have expected the Hobbs’ horse to be in front of him, but not by far. A 1 point EW bet on him at 66/1 would have been a nice place return, and paid more than the Hobbs’ horse if he’d won. That’s where my lack of EW mindset costs me at times.
Minella Indo – 50/1
Now, I was nowhere near the Albert Bartlett winner this year, which is annoying given it’s another 50s shot that’s gone in. If there’s one novice or open graded race at the Festival in which to attack a few at 33s+, it is this race. No doubt they’ll be three years of shorties winning now. I stuck to my trends profile for this, which has found me and followers 2x 50/1 winners in previous 5 years.
However, the point I want to raise with this one is that on his last start he was beaten 4L into second by Allaho. That horse re-opposed here and was fancied at 8/1, third favourite. In that race at Clonmel, on decent ground, he was doing all his best work late. With a 3m point to point win on Heavy (no mean feat for a young jumper) it wasn’t impossible that he could get even closer to his conqueror LTO.
If you fancied Allaho, you had to fancy this one at more than 5x the price??
So, that’s something for me to ponder, looking at those fancied at the top of the market (and indeed those ones I like/are on my shortlist) and whether there are any horses at bigger prices that have got close to them on recent runs.
That sounds obvious I suppose, but you have to proactively think about these things! I’ll add it to my pre-race/analysis checklist.
It’s all about the wind op?
Well it may not be of course but wins for both William Henry and Ch’tibello in big handicaps would indicate those runners are always worth close scrutiny – especially when trained by such target trainers for said races, and who we know can ready a horse at home for a Festival race. Vintage Clouds would be another from memory who arguably showed improved form on his first run after a wind op.
I often have blinkers on when looking at a horse that PU LTO, when running in a big feature handicap, and even at 33s that wasn’t enough for me to focus on William Henry. He seemingly had an excuse for his last run, was still lightly raced and had gone close in the race the year before. 33s. EW. Easy. Ah, hindsight.
Nicky Henderson /1st run after a wind-op
I’ve had a dive into the excellent Geegeez Query Tool>>>, and it’s obvious that Henderson knows when to have the wind tinkered with… so far anyway…
His runners on their first start after a wind-op…
34 bets / 13 wins / 18 places (inc wins) / 38% sr / +39.92 SP
That’s something to keep in mind.
Horses to follow?
Some of the following may be obvious enough I suppose. As usual I’ve added all of my festival tips into my tracker, especially the handicap hurdlers who are generally unexposed. Plenty of those will be winning again before this time next year, and maybe even back at the Festival. Hopefully I’m on when they do!
But, a few you may wish to add to your trackers…
Up For Review … he was travelling well before clouting 3 out, and that was that I think. In any case I think he could much better running Right-Handed. He travelled ominously well through this and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t have a decent muddy Irish handicap chase in him over 3m+
Vintage Clouds… an obvious one I suppose but the wind op appeared to help. He does have a National of sorts written all over him and he deserves a big staying chase to fall his way.
Lake View Lad… Nick Alexander has long said this is the best horse he’s trained and it’s not hard to see why. This was a very smart performance under top-weight off a break, and he must have some very good chases in him on this evidence. He travels and jumps so well, and clearly stays all day.
Big River … he’s run an extraordinary race in the circumstances here. He hit my trends for the race but I was put off him due to his hold up style/and his jumping – which still needs to improve. He was held up again here and his jumping took a few fences to warm up but his run in the final 3/4f is quite something, especially as the front 3 were not stopping. He does scream ‘national’ of sorts in time, as his jumping improves, on soft ground. I’d like them to ride him a bit further forward but that isn’t their MO in general in big staying races.
Flying Angel … I should mention him as he’s ran a lot better here than I thought he would and didn’t exactly lack for stamina – he was outstayed by others but on this evidence 3m at a flat track may be fine – maybe they will run him in the Red Rum handicap chase at Aintree, that could suit. He is so well handicapped now on plenty of form that when they find the key, he’ll win. This run would appear to open up options for them.
Huntsman’s Son… he was one of my stabs in this at a price. Alas everything bumped into a Grade 1 horse in a handicap, but he travelled well into this as they turned for home, before his stamina ebbed away in this soft ground. While he is 9, he’s lightly raced over fences and on this evidence, when faced with better ground, he’ll take some beating.
The Russian Doyen… he travelled well for a very long way in this and in time may need further. Given the horrid yard form going into this meeting I think this, along with the run of Lostintranslation (he has the Elegant Escapes about him) should be marked up significantly. This one races prominently and jumps well, which will always give you a decent chance in many handicap chases.
Brio Conti… another of my fancies in this, he travelled like the winner, before just giving way after the last. He wasn’t beaten far in 4th, but I think just found this hill in soft ground a bit too much. He must have a nice handicap hurdle pot in him back on better ground, possibly at Aintree or Ayr. He’s such a strong traveller who still looks well handicapped to my eyes.
Canardier … it looks like this small Irish yard have a decent horse in the making on their hands here. Barry Geragthy flagged this horse pre meeting as one he was looking forward to riding, but felt the ground may have gone for him if soft – which it was come race time. In the end he rode for his boss, but this 5th placed effort was credible. You could see him going well in a Punchestown handicap on good ground. A promising run and 141 looks like it underestimates him.
Knight In Dubai … an unexposed Skelton handicapper who hit my trends for the race and at 33s or so I couldn’t resist. He was bang there 3 from home and I was excited briefly, before he faded. He may have raced keenly enough I think, a bit fresh, and maybe he needs delivering much later. Still, given his profile you’d think he’s got a few handicaps in him and I won’t give up on him yet. A strongly run 2m4 on better ground may suit. Another for Aintree maybe!! He’s a strong traveller.
King D’Argent … a decent running-on 4th here. It looks like the Skelton’s have an ok handicapper on their hands and it will be interesting to watch how he develops. He ran here as if he wants further already as he wasn’t stopping come the line. He could be one for next year’s Martin Pipe, or maybe he’ll turn into a Pertemps sort!
FanFan Du Seuil … a good run from the Tom George horse here and potentially one to follow in the longer term, given the yard’s MO. (usually all about chasing down the line) Still he was staying on here, may want further and indeed better ground. He looks a smart enough prospect and he’s already proven he knows how to win.
Praeceps… A good run from this one and I do wonder if the track/hill found him out. I could be wrong but he has a bit of speed about him and a flatter track/better ground may bring out even more improvement. He’s had a decent season. Flatter tracks/better ground…ah yes, Aintree or Ayr! 🙂
Got Trumped… one of my pokes in this who did prefer this softer ground – sadly it all appeared to happen too quickly, and he ran as if wanting further. He stayed on well enough here. One I’ll keep an eye on as he may pop up in Ireland at some point, especially when stepped up in trip.
Siruh Du Lac… like most I’ve touched on I suppose they won’t go under the radar and certainly not this race winner. I was on the second and third here and part of my reason for opposing him was that I thought he’d do too much up front/would fade late on. How silly I was! The fact he stayed up there the whole way (much like Frodon) and still had enough to power away again after the last, marks him down as a very smart chaser in the making I think. He’s smart already but it’s not impossible he could become better than a handicapper. We will see. He travels and jumps so well and has guts. He could be one for the Ultima next year, another Coo Star Sivola.
Spirit of The Games… I was on him here and was confident most of the way. He does have a handicap chase like this in him, again maybe when he can use his speed. He probably won’t be missed on his next start and in hindsight I wish Harry had ridden him further forward – however there was no doubt a reason for such tactics. I thought if his starting position was upsides Janika through this, he’d have been right there at the line as he used up plenty from the back to get into a challenging position.
Countister … I I took a chance on this one at 16s and she ran a screamer, given the break/inexperience. She’s cruised through this and just ran out of steam after the last. Connections have always thought highly off her and she could be one to watch in the spring and beyond. I’ve no doubt she’ll be thrown in off this mark, when it all clicks.
Mr Adjudicator … I was bullish on a big run from this one given his profile. He travelled well enough into this swinging for home and stayed on. Maybe he got going too late, had too much ground to make up, or wants further now. It was his first run in 120 days or so and given the strength of his form I’d like to think 149 still makes him look well handicapped. I’ll be keeping an eye on him in the coming weeks, as he has a handicap win in him. His novice form ties in with this year’s Champion Hurdler.
Due Reward… given connections this must be a chaser in the making and he’s run well to a point here, beaten 10L come the line. He’s ran the last twice if well worth stepping up in trip now. He could be one for chasing next season and beyond. Maybe next year’s Plate, if he isn’t graded level by then.
We Have A Dream… any horse that goes close in a Festival handicap hurdle carrying 11-11 is clearly smart and worth following. Whether or not he’s up to a higher level I’m not sure – he could be stuck between a rock and a hard place, but I’ll be tracking him. A very good run.
I think that will do for horses that caught my eye/will interest me moving forwards. Of course, many of these races are worth tracking and can often work out very well.
Any horse that relishes a strong gallop/big field handicap is worth keeping an eye on. They can usually only get those conditions at big Festivals, or big Saturday handicaps.
As usual the same names came to the fore, dominating the week really.
For the UK – Nicholls, Henderson and Skelton. Nick Williams showed what a good trainer he is and good to see Hobbs have a G1 winner. Ben Pauling clearly knows when to run one at the Festival also, with a win and some decent placed efforts.
For Ireland – Outside of the obvious I’ll mention Henry De Bromhead, who had a good week, and his runners could be given even more respect next year by me. He’s clearly getting better at knowing what to send here I think and, in any case, his association with Cheveley Park Stud could bear plenty of fruit in the years to come.
Joseph O’Brien confirmed himself as a Festival trainer to follow, especially with his young hurdlers. I suppose that was known but I noted his clear ability to target one at a Festival Handicap, seemingly with stacks in hand.
I think that’s more than enough for this article! Well done if you’ve got this far 🙂 Hopefully there’s something for you to take-away from the above which will help in your battle against the bookies.
As always any questions or comments are welcome,
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