Cheltenham Festival Preview Evening Notes
On Monday evening I made my annual pilgrimage from Liverpool city centre to Aintree, where John Morris (Jumping Prospects) was hosting his excellent Festival Preview evening, raising hundreds of pounds for charity in the process.
As with previous years, you can find my notes below to absorb/digest/ignore as you please! 🙂
The panel: Andy Holding (AH) (analyst/pro punter/oddschecker/speed guru) / Dan Barber (DB) (Timeform/RTV) / John Parrott (JP) (Ex snooker player/racing anorak) / Jerry Williams (JW) (form guru/punter/bookie) / John Morris (JM) (MC/Jumping Prospects)
Please Note: (my editors notes/thoughts/commentary can be found in the brackets)
As always there’s plenty to flick through and ponder. My main focus is usually on what Andy Holding has to say, but it was a decent panel as always and plenty of laughter – and they all know their stuff. Andy is obviously very time focussed with his own methodology and I’m always intrigued as to what he has to say, and who has been ‘doing well on the clock’. Dan Barber also made an impressive debut at the event, as you’d expect.
There should be plenty to take from these notes moving forwards, especially if horse X does well on the day – as always there’s plenty of form that ties in together and as the week progresses it’s always worth pondering the results and working out who’s form has been boosted for subsequent races.
With that said, let’s crack on.
AH – The Royal Bond (1st Dec/Fairyhouse) is the best form of the season on his figures, for this division. Envoi Allen beat Abacadabras there and assuming the former doesn’t turn up, this is the fastest horse in the race on his numbers.
Fiddlerontheroof – he’s a decent chaser in the making but has run very fast times when the ground has been testing – IF it is testing on day 1, on the figures he should be bang there.
At the current prices AH likes Abacadabras and Fiddlerontheroof.
He doesn’t like Asterion Forlonge at all, his times are incomparable the others mentioned in this and runs as if he’s a stayer.
DB – at the current prices he didn’t think this was a good betting race at all. He can see the appeal of the two above but has questions over Abacadabras staying up the hill as well as others, and would have concerns over Fiddlerontheroof IF the ground dries out.
There wasn’t much love for Shishkin at the current prices and may lack the race conditioning for this, having not been tested at a higher level already, unlike some of his market rivals. Still, a thought that he could progress into the best of these and he hasn’t done much wrong.
Fakir D’oudairies + Notebook both have decent time figures/performances
Much discussion about how Fakir was ridden LTO and John Parrot was adamant they should revert to aggressive tactics and if he jumps as well as he can, he could get plenty of these in trouble. (I wasn’t sure Global Citizen would let him have a freebie and there’s a chance this is strongly run and something ridden more patiently picks up the pieces- but if Fakir gets loose/hits the front at any stage, he could be dangerous)
Some niggles over whether Notebook is a ‘fruitloop’ and how he may deal with the Festival atmosphere this year, based on how he bolted to the start LTO. Common consensus that Henry De Bromhead is a genius though, esp with these chasers. The horse hasn’t done much wrong. (Much pondering as to whether they will use earplugs down to the start or use a hood – which you can now do down to the start before being removed -these hoods are red, indicating they will be removed for the race)
AH – Brewinupastorm
May be the EW alternative/option in this – he has run two of the fastest times AH has for these this season – the time when he beat Good Boy Bobby was very good, and indicated he should be able to mix it in this year’s renewal if running his race.(Good Boy Bobby noted – he’s in a couple of the handicaps inc the Novices on Day 1 – if Brewin runs a big race, that could be a big positive for him – form ties in with Mister Fisher also – in any case i’d like to think Twister’s horse has handicaps in him somewhere from his mark and could be one to track this spring – Aintree/Ayr, but he may bolt up next week!)
DB – he likes Mister Fisher EW – there could be plenty of pace, he will be ridden patiently and may pick up the pieces.
JM – he’d spoken to Ben Pauling on the phone, (a regular on the panel who couldn’t make it this year) and he reported Global Citizen to be working very well at home (some on the panel thought he needs/is clearly best on flatter tracks, so has that to prove ) Ben also reported Kildisart to be going well and The Ultima is the plan – he could do with the ground drying out though.
I forget who said this but – if this was bottomless ground (looking unlikely now) Ballyandy could be of some EW interest at a price.
He really likes Pentland Hills– (Andy put him up at this preview last year for the Triumph at 20s, and was one of main reasons I put him up on the blog in the ‘through the card’ picks, having decimated the clock in that Plumpton run which suggested that performances was up to Triumph standard) – As an aside there’s obviously many ways that ‘clock watchers’ can compile times/interpret them – plenty of Andy’s work appears to focus on the final circuit time of any given race and how this compares to x,y,z. There will be far more to it than that of course but he’s always fascinating to listen to.
The Triumph time last year was very good and he doesn’t know how he got so close at Haydock given how hard he pulled – it was some sign of his latent ability that he wasn’t beaten far. He should have a pace to settle off here, on better ground, and come with a late surge.
He’s had his wind done since (Henderson is the best trainer around with 1st time wind ops since the data was made public)
AH – doesn’t like Epatante at all – can’t have her and wants to take her on, and maybe even lay her.
Coer Sublime EW wouldn’t be the worst of bets – common consensus that this felt a poor/open renewal of the race
Sharjah needs good – and on decent ground he has the best form out of all of these, on the clock. (Maybe one to watch for Aintree/Punchestown when the ground dries out, but he’s a very smart operator in his conditions – and you never know, Chelt can dry quickly!)
Benie Des Dieux –
Common consensus that she will win this as she likes, if standing up.
AH- her times are off the scale, in the top 2/3 performances of the season so far on his methodology. He thinks Honeysuckle should be avoiding her – she simply cannot be beaten, and she should have just gone for an open looking Champion Hurdle.
A view amongst the panel that if there’s a concession on the morning – and some bookies may push her out to Evens for ‘max stake X’ – then get on as much as you can/afford to lose etc. (the usual ‘bet responsibly’ caveats!)
Stormy Island – could be an option in the ‘without the fav’ market.
Day 1 Handicaps
DB – he’s on Shattered Love NRNB in both the handicaps she’s entered in. She has Festival form, graded form and this is only her 2nd run in a handicap, from what is looking an attractive mark. (she’s also comes out well on AHs figures)
AH – Novice Hncp Chase
He likes Hold The Note who has good figures.
And also Imperial Aura – this is based on the time of his race LTO when chasing home Simply The Betts (looks very solid for hncp later in the week) – Simply The Bets ran the final circuit of his race LTO 20 Lengths quicker than Cepage did, when winning a handicap over the same distance later on the card. (that’s some indication of when times give you an idea of the form achieved)
JP – He liked Discorama in the Ultima (I think he was put up by pricewise at 20s – I’ve been flicking through the race before I properly attack it, and he did look interesting – one of the group I was there with reported that his trainer, Paul Nolan, had said this was the target – and that they planned to ride him cold out the back, and come through late – my heart sinks at such thoughts – if he has the ability to race more prominently he should – he may need plenty of luck in running if he is ridden like that – it’s hard to come from too far back in handicap chases around Cheltenham)
He likes Hold The Note (obv connections have done well in the race previoulsy) and Espoir De Guuye
AH – Envoi Allen has the best form / best performance on the clock of those in this race.
Sporting John – it took a while but the market has finally caught up to him being the 2nd best novice in this division, based on his performances on the clock. (the 1-2 – reverse forecast for fun? – he may well be one for Aintree where unlikely Envoi A rocks up, but who knows, he may beat him here)
AH + DB –
Both really like Copperhead – he just looks the right sort of horse for this – you really need to jump and stay, and he does both very well. Ticks all the boxes. (with my thoughts on Copperhead, pondered Fingerontheswitch – he is 10 but could run in a handicap – he got within a few lengths of Copperhead at Wincanton, dotted up at Kempton – weak enough race mind- before then running a cracker in the SkyBet Chase- which AH told me was a decent race on the clock- where he chased home the unexposed OK Corral, front two miles clear – he does need better ground though so Chelt may not be for him – but it’s not impossible he has another handicap chase in him somewhere and may be worth tracking – well even more so if Copperhead runs a big race)
They also respected Minella Indo, and thought this was between the two of them, certainly at the prices.
AH – saw no reason why Allaho would overturn form with Minella Indo
Allaho seems more about speed than stamina, that’s the question he has for a test like this.
A chance that ‘pace/running style’ is the way into this, with the front 3.
DB thought they may be aggressive with Chacun Pour Soi and try to make all – and that’s how he could get the other two beat – they may have a sharper turn of foot, but if he’s 6L clear approaching the last say, it won’t matter.
AH – on time figures achieved this season, it’s all about Chacun and Defi.
He was rather negative on Altior – given his age, his efforts could be catching up with him, and his figures this season are nowhere near the other two- he’s just nowhere near them on the numbers.
He thought laying Altior and thus having the other two onside may be the way to play this.
Marsh Novices Chase
Itchy Feet generally got a warm reception on the panel and looked solid.
(Although I must admit I was a bit distracted when they discussed this race – my bid for these jockeys’ breeches was successful and I was looking at who had signed them. All to a good cause – Marie Curie- The Guinness may have been seeping in by this point also…)
AH – A Plus Tard looks very hard to beat on the figures achieved so far this season. He has the fastest times of thos in this race.
Riders On The Storm – he is a very talented horse and one to keep onside – a fear that Ascot race may have taken plenty out of him and that may impact his performance in this – however he’s a nice horse for the future but shouldn’t be discounted in this.
A general consensus that Paisley Park will be near enough impossible to beat (Jerry Williams said you may as well put him in a double with Benie in the Mares- as bombproof a double as you can get in this game!)
The market to play in may be ‘without the Fav’
RONALD PUMP –
AH is very excited about this one, betting EW without PP in the market – gave the impression this is one of the biggest bets of the meeting for him so far.
We need to go back to the Leopardstown card on 28th December –
On the same card over the same distance, Apples Jade won her G1 race, and there was also the Pertemps Qualifier, in which Ronald Pump came a decent 1L 2nd –
On the final circuit of this race, Treacysenniscorthy (winner) ran the Pertemps qualifier in a time that was 50 Lengths quicker than what Apples Jade did. AH couldn’t believe his eyes when doing the comparison in his office- (I can only assume with that info he may have had a good go at Treacy when winning at 8s on his next start)
Obviously Apples Jade may not be up to much these days, but still, some comparison from what was a G1 on paper vs a handicap on the same card. You would maybe ‘assume’ Apples Jades run was better than a handicap, certainly at the time.
Ronald Pumps times suggest he’s the best of the Irish in this race and has the rest of the English beaten also, bar Paisley Park.
DB – he doesn’t like Solo at the prices – didn’t beat much LTO for all that he looked visually impressive.
He really likes Goshen – thinks he’s a beast and would be a ‘Cup’ horse on the flat. Could be the best horse Gary Moore has ever had. Just a relentless strong galloper.
Jerry made the salient point that this is on The New Course and it’s always worth remembering that there are only 2 hurdles in the final 6f – (so less emphasis on jumping and plenty more on stamina/class etc)
AH – Solo is a short price based on the figures he achieved LTO – solid but unspectacular
There were x3 2m hurdles on that Kempton card, and when looking at the circuit sectionals, Solo‘s time was comparable with Highway One O One (So – if Solo runs well – that’s a mark up for the C Gordon horse you’d say, who by all accounts is being aimed at Aintree)
AH – has questions about how Goshen jumps to his right and that would concern him at the price.
You can pick holes in the top of the market and it could pay to look further down.
Sir Psycho – he’s the EW bet at 12s for him esp if getting 4/5 places- AH likes his performance on the clock at the likes of Exeter – he’s ridden off the pace and in what could be a strongly run affair, could pick up the pieces.
DB – Thyme Hill – hard not to like him and last year’s Cheltenham Bumper form couldn’t be working out much better. Some niggles over his Temperament – of his damn’s offspring he’s the only one to have done anything of note, she showed temperament and this one has flashed his tail before – so maybe some niggles there at the price.
AH – Thyme Hill has clocked good times, so no concerns on that front.
AH likes Monk Fish – good time performances etc esp at Fairyhouse back in Nov – was an indication he could be smart.
(NOTE: the horse who beat him in that race is called Diol Ker – trained by Noel Meade – he hasn’t been seen since so I assume he had a problem, unless he’s no longer with us – but the Monkfish form is good so worth keeping an eye on – a strong maiden hurdle performance)
Andy reminded us all that this race can throw up some biggies – as we well know on this blog, with tipped winners at 50/1, 10/1 and 50/1 winners found in the last six years (somehow my unique trends work well on this race, fingers crossed for 2020) –
At a decent price he fancied Run Wild Fred to run a decent race, good time figure LTO
A view that this could be a small field and there isn’t anything we don’t know about the main participants.
A question about pace but everyone thought Bristol De Mai will try to make all.
Santini – a view that he was more bombproof than Delta Work, who can take the odd fence home with him and wouldn’t want to be doing that in this.
Felt open enough with no strong views on the panel.
Handicaps / other thoughts
He liked Alfa Mix, wherever he turned up (Coral Cup/ Martin Pipe)
He will lay Appreciate It at 7/4- a silly price.
The Story Teller – thinks he wins the Pertemps, or goes very close- very good time figures and 149 looks very workable against his chase exploits
Simply The Betts – has to be with him in The Plate based on his time performance LTO/profile (Note – an eye on what Kim Bailey’s does in the Novice handicap on Day 1- if he takes that well, this one’s price may contract further)
He likes Carnardier on first start for Willie Mullins – could get plenty of improvement out of him, has Chelt form. Has lots of ability.
He thinks Easyland could beat Tiger Roll this year. Could be the best horse by some way that Tiger has faced in this race- the GN is clearly the main aim and a chance he’s not fully tuned up this time?
Likes Christmas In April in Kim Muir, but could be aimed at Midlands National
DB thought it could be worth having a few at big prices onside in the NH chase –
Likes Springfield Fox as a horse, one to keep an eye on, pos NH chase, but a chaser to track moving forward.
Thought Ocean Cove may be of some interest at a monster price in NH chase, if it was a proper slog – as he just stays and wants a trip. Useful to note moving forward – runs like a proper slogger/staying chaser in the making.
JP – He liked Paloma Blue and Lisp in The Grand Annual
JP – A Plus Tard – Ryanair (JP is a 4/4 on his last 4 charity bets, although that included Paisley Park twice last year!)
DB – Goshen – Triumph
AH – Ronald Pump – Stayers, without the Fav market, EW . Also The Storyteller in Pertemps
Jerry W – The double – Benie Des Dieux & Paisley Park
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