Are you getting excited for the Cheltenham Festival yet?
It seemed like only last week I was sitting down for Christmas dinner, and then welcoming in the New Year!!
However, we are now almost into March, and without wanting to wish my life away, that means only one thing for horse racing fans………… the Cheltenham Festival is now just weeks away!
Well, actually in 17 days to be precise, not that I’m counting!
So, we can expect the Festival talk to ramp-up several notches from now, with pundits offering their advice, bookie offers hitting our inboxes, preview nights galore and much, much more.
We’ll also be entering the ‘merry-go-round’ of which races certain horses will run in and, because of this, the old-fashioned ante-post way of betting is pretty much dead on its feet.
A lot of firms will offer a non-runner, no-bet on the bulk of the races by now, so that helps – but with that comes lower prices to compensate for this concession. Even the layers start to jockey for position and get worried which races certain horses are going for.
I prefer to just wait till nearer the time, as not only do we have the ‘which race will they run in’ puzzle to solve, there is ALWAYS a pre-Cheltenham injury scare surrounding one of the leading fancies. So, who will it be this year?
There will still be plenty of value to be had in the days immediately prior to the festival, and many more bookie offers to take advantage of, but we’ll be safer in the knowing which races certain horses are running in.
Anyway, enough of all that, let’s take a look at the best races around the tracks today.
We’ve three cracking cards on ITV4 to take, with Kempton and Newcastle providing the main jumping action, while all-weather fans get their fix as Lingfield stages their Winter Derby fixture too.
The 888Sport Handicap Chase Heads the Card
Another new sponsor for this Grade Three Handicap Chase – older racing fans will remember it as the Racing Post Chase, or in more recent times the BetBright and Betdaq Chase.
Several key trends to help along the way, including that 14 of the last 16 winners were rated 139 or higher – a stat that puts a line through the well-fancied 137-rated Glen Rocco.
14 of the last 16 winners also finished in the five last time out, while 11 of the last 16 carried 10st 13lbs or more in weight.
The Alan King-trained TALKISCHEAP ticks those key trends, and this 7-year-old is yet to finish out of the top three from his four chase starts.
His recent second to the useful On TheBlindSide over this course and distance last month reads well, and earlier this season he also ran well behind the classy La Bague Au Roi.
He’ll be looking to give trainer Alan King his first success in the race, and looks sure to go close.
The other horse that catches the eye is the Tom George-trained DOUBLE SHUFFLE (e/w). The yard has a good record in the race, with wins in 2009 and 2012, while don’t forget this 9 year-old was second in the 2017 King George VI Chase here – beaten just a length behind Might Bite.
Okay, he’s a horse that doesn’t win that often – just 2 chase wins from 19 – but he’s finished in the top three on 10 occasions over fences, and certainly wasn’t disgraced when running fifth in this season’s King George.
He was 31 lengths off the winner, Clan Des Obeaux, but that horse has since given that form a huge shot in the arm by winning the Denman Chase easily last weekend.
Double Shuffle is now back into a handicap, and the assessor has given him a squeak off a rating of 154. We know he loves the track too, his form figures here read 1-2-2-5, plus he was also runner-up in this race in 2017.
3.35 – 888Sport Chase (Handicap) (Grade 3) Cl1 3m ITV4
14/16 – Rated 139 or higher
14/16 – Finished in the top 5 last time out
13/16 – Aged 9 or younger
12/16 – Had raced within the last 8 weeks
11/16 – Won a class 2 chase or better before
11/16 – Carried 10-13 or more
11/16 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting
11/16 – Came from the top 4 in the betting
11/16 – Winning distance – 2 lengths or more
10/16 – Had won over at least 3m (fences) before
10/16 – Raced within the last 4 weeks
10/16 – Rated between 139 and 150
8/16 – Carried 11-5 or more
7/16 – Had won at least 4 times over fences before
7/16 – Won last time out
5/16 – Aged 8 years-old
5/16 – French bred
4/16 – Winners that went onto run in that season’s Grand National (all unplaced)
4/16 – Raced at Cheltenham last time out
3/16 – Ridden by Paddy Brennan
2/16 – Winning favourites (1 joint)
2/16 – Ridden by Richard Johnson (won it 5 times in all)
2/16 – Trained by Tom George
2/16 – Trained by Philip Hobbs (won it 4 times in all)
2/16 – Ran in the King George VI Chase last time out
2/16 – Winners that went onto run at that season’s Cheltenham Festival (1 winner)
The average winning SP in the last 16 runnings is 10/1
Stamina The Order Of The Day In The Eider
Run over 4m ½ furlong, this Saturday’s Eider Chase is not for the faint-hearted.
It goes without saying stamina in abundance is what’s called for, with ALL of the last 15 winners having won over at least 3 miles in the past.
33% of the last 15 winners had also won over 3m4f or further before, while it could pay to have horses aged 10 or younger on your side, as 13 of the last 15 winners ticked that particular stat.
Last year’s winner, Baywing, will be hoping to become the first back-to-back winner since Highland Wedding won the contest three times, between 1966 and 1969, but if this Nicky Richards-trained 10 year-old is to repeat the feat, he’ll need to do it off a 7lb higher rating.
Other key trends to have in mind are that 12 of the last 15 winners carried 11st or more, while 11 of the last 15 were Irish-bred horses.
We’ve only had two winning favourites in the last 15 runnings, but that doesn’t mean they don’t fare well as 8 of the last 15 market leaders were placed, plus 12 of the last 15 winners returned 11/1 or shorter.
The Paul Nicholls-trained VICENTE (e/w) catches the eye, and being a past Scottish National winner, we know he stays. He’s okay on a quicker surface too, and should be a lot fitter for a recent third at Taunton.
He’s also back down to the same mark that saw him land the Scottish National, while the Paul Nicholls yard had a cracking time of it last Saturday, so he’s sure to be popular.
WEST OF THE EDGE (e/w) is the other that catches the eye. He was runner-up in the race 12 months ago, and despite now being an 11 year-old, is also 3lbs lower this time. He can go well with just 10st 3lbs to carry and William Kennedy booked to ride.
Mysteree won the race in 2017, but has lost his way since and is hard to get excited about. Ange Des Malberaux is an improving stayer from the Dan Skelton yard that deserves to take the chance in this race, and with only 10st 5lbs he could be dangerous.
The Pipe-trained Daklondike is another to note too, but has failed to complete in three of his last four races, so is overlooked based on that.
Finally, JP McManus has two in the race, Kimberlite Candy and Rock On Fruity, both are proven course winners and head-off here on the back of good runs, so are sure to have their supporters.
But I’ll stick with the Paul Nicholls yard gaining their first success in this race with Vicente, while last year’s runner-up, West Of The Edge, is respected too.
2.40 – Vertem Eider (A Handicap Chase) Cl2 4m1f ITV4
15/15 – Had won over at least 3m before
13/15 – Aged 10 or younger
12/15 – Carried 11-0 or more
12/15 – Priced 11/1 or shorter in the betting
11/15 – Had raced within the last 4 weeks
11/15 – Irish-bred
11/15 – Winners came from the top 3 in the betting
10/15 – Winning distance – 4 lengths or less
10/15 – Placed in the top 4 last time out
9/15 – Officially rated between 131-140
9/15 – Aged either 8 or 9 years-old
8/15 – Placed favourites
5/15 – Won last time out
5/15 – Won over 3m4f or further before
3/15 – Carried 11-12 in weight
2/15 – Winning favourites
2/15 – Irish-trained winners
The average winning SP in the last 15 runnings is 10/1
Gosden and Frankie Look To Have Winter Derby In The Bag
Something for everyone today, as the ITV cameras are also at Lingfield on the AW to show two races from their Winter Derby fixture.
With a decent £56k on offer to the winner of the Winter Derby, it’s no surprise this race is now attracting some of the big-gun yards.
In recent years, the likes of Sir Henry Cecil, Roger Varian, Charlie Appleby and Michael Stoute have targeted the prize with success, and this time it’s the turn of John Gosden, who is looking for his first win in the race.
He looks to have a penalty-kick of a chance too, as he sends his 117-rated WISSAHICKON to Lingfield, a horse that’s already beaten one of his main rivals, Big Country, twice this season.
The official ratings give this 4-year-old a lot in hand, and with a certain Frankie Dettori, who will be looking for this third success in the race, having a stonking 40% record when riding 4+year-olds at the track, then that’s a further plus.
The 2018 winner, Master Of The World, can give the hot-pot most to think about, while Gosden also has Court House in the race, so could easily end up with a 1-2!
3.15 – Betway Winter Derby (All-Weather Championship Fast-Track Qualifier) (Group 3) Cl1 1m2f ITV4
16/16 – Winning distance – 2 lengths or shorter
13/16 – Won by a horse aged 6 or younger
12/16 – Priced 8/1 or shorter in the market
12/16 – Had run at Lingfield previously
12/16 – Won over at least 1m2f previously
12/16 – Had raced at either Lingfield (8) or Kempton (4) last time out
12/16 – Winning distance – less than a length
10/16 – Placed in their last race
10/16 – Drawn in stall 7 or less
10/16 – Came from the top 3 in the market
10/16 – Won at Lingfield previously
10/16 – Had raced within the last 8 weeks
9/16 – Won their last race
8/16 – Won at least 6 times previously
7/16 – Winning favourites
The average winning SP in the 16 renewals is 6/1
That’s your lot!
Except……. Have you got your copy of MatchBox #2 yet? If not – why not?? The best things come in small boxes! Grab yours HERE before the day’s racing gets underway. Then you’re all set, for today, and all the other race days. Can’t believe it’s only 99p – I’ll back that for a winner!
Have a cracking weekend
All the best,
for The Race Advisor