A lack of recent horse racing on the grass and the fact that I have taken a break to concentrate on the upcoming Cheltenham Festival. All means that this week’s article is slightly different, as there are no horses for your trackers this week.
That said there is plenty look at with the next week or so in mind. As I mentioned last week I am going to look at some of the key stats for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. While the insight on the weekend feature will take a peek at Sandown’s Imperial Cup.
Well, the freezing grip of the “Beast from the East” has given way to milder conditions and with it waterlogged tracks, as I write this Exeter’s jumps card had been abandoned for that reason. It’s looking increasingly likely that Day 1 of the Festival will start on soft ground with plenty of rain being forecast for the weekend.
I am torn on how much rain the track should get as plenty of my ante-post advice would prefer a sounder surface but the 33/1 about Saint Calvados for the Arkle is looking good if it does arrive as forecast.
Insight on the Weekend
The weekend’s big betting handicap is the Matchbook Imperial Cup at Sandown
Sandown 2:25 – Matchbook Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) – 2m
One of the best handicap hurdles of the season although in recent years the emphasis on the County Hurdle at Cheltenham has meant the race has lost a bit of its prestige despite the valuable prize on offer to the winner.
The past ten years of the race have produced the following: 10 winners from 195 runners 37 places. Four of the last ten renewals have been run on the soft or heavy ground. At the time of writing this, the going is being described as soft.
Here are some of the Key trends:
Horses aged 4 to 6-year-old are – 8 winners from 114 runners 25 placed
Horses that have not won on the going are – 8 winners from 84 runners 18 placed
Horses 10lb or more below the top weight are – 10 winners from 150 runners 28%
Horses running 16 to 45 days since their last start are – 9 winners from 114 runners 23 placed
Trainer David Pipe has won two of the last ten renewals and those of his runners that had their last race 16 to 45 days previously and were aged 4 or 5 are – 2 winners from 5 runners 40% +7.33 3 placed 60%
Verdict: Silver Streak ran well enough when second to Hunter’s Call in a similar race at Ascot before Christmas, off 3lb lower, to have a chance if the going was to be good to soft or better. The five-year-olds trainer Evan Williams is 0wins from 4 runners in the race but two of them have placed at 20/1 & 25/1.
David Pipe saddles the 5-year-old Friday Night Light who was runner-up to Le Patriote at Ascot on his last start. Drop back to 2m demands more improvement but he seems to be progressing and his best runs have come on soft ground. Given the trainer’s record in the race, he needs respecting and the 14/1 available with Coral (1/4 odds 4 places) looks about right to me.
Cheltenham Gold Cup: The Key Stats
The Gold Cup is the ‘Blue Riband’ race of the Festival and of the jumps flat season. The last ten-year results contain – 10 winners from 120 runners 30 placed. So, what should we be looking for as far as the key trends are concerned:
Horses are aged 10+ are – 0 wins from 33 runners 5 placed
Horses without a win in a Grade 1 race are – 0 wins from 57 runners 4 placed
Horses with an Official Rating 165 or below – 1 winner from 80 runners 8 placed – The only recent winner rated below 166 was Lord Windermere (152) and he has won the previous year’s RSA at the Festival
Horses that won their last race are: 8 winners from 53 runners 20 placed – The two winners who didn’t win their last start are Lord Windermere and 2009 winner Imperial Commander who had won the previous year’s, Ryanair Chase.
Horses Sent off at odds of 8/1 & under are – 9 winners from 38 runners 22 placed – Lord Windermere is the only winner to off at 9/1 or higher when sent off at odds 20/1.
Profile: Horses aged 10+ have difficulty winning Championship races at the Festival so it will probably pay to concentrate on those runners aged 9 & less. A win in Grade 1 race is even more important. As far as Official Ratings are concerned horses rated 166+ are favoured as are those who won last time out. Although Lord Windermere did win at big odds back in 2014, those horses at the front end of the market, look to be the ones to concentrate on.
Verdict: Although Sizing John was only 7th on his last start he did win this race last year so can’t be ruled out if he gets a sound surface.
Might Bite heads the market and he won the King George on soft ground but the extra two furlongs on such going would stretch his stamina.
No problems with stamina for Native River who, like Might Bite ticks all the key trends above and will be suited by plenty of juice in the ground. He is a solid contender to go two places better than last year.
Besides Sizing John trainer Jessica Harrington saddles Our Duke and last year’s Irish Grand National winner is another who ticks all the right trend boxes. Like 2016 winner Don Cossack he comes into the race having run over 2m 4f distance on his last start.
Road To Respect won the Grade 1 Christmas Chase at Leopardstown and won a handicap chase at last year’s Festival. He handles soft ground well enough but like Sizing John he would probably prefer a sounder surface over the trip.
Despite his big odds, you couldn’t rule out “miracle horse” Edwulf who won the Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on his last start. Rated 164 he would need to improve a bit more to win a Gold Cup but the extra distance of the race could help to bring it out. His chance would be enhanced on soft or heavy ground as all his career wins have come on soft going or worse.
I think the market has underestimated Edwulf who looks capable of getting into the places if in the same form as last time. Road To Respect would need plenty of respect if the going is good to soft or better on the day. Our Duke could do best of the Jessica Harrington pair if the going is riding on the soft side but his jumping which has been a bit ‘iffy’ this season will be severely tested.
If he stays Might Bite is the most likely winner but at a best priced 25/1 with William Hill, a modest each way nibble on Edwulf could well pay a dividend for those looking for a bit of value.
All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s betting.