Well, that’s another Cheltenham Festival done and dusted. Still jumps racing hits the accelerator button in the next month or so with the Aintree Festival and of course with it the Grand National. There is the Irish & Scottish Grand National’s, throw in the Punchestown Festival at the end of April and jumps fans have plenty to look forward to.
Flat racing fans will be welcoming the return of racing on the grass this weekend with the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster on Saturday and Lincolnshire Handicap at Naas. Before we know it will be Derby Day.
This week’s bumper column looks back at last week’s Festival with five tracker horses for you but I will also be taking a peek at some of the key trends for Saturday’s Lincoln.
Cheltenham Festival Eyecatchers
In the Eyecatcher Pro column after Cheltenham Trial’s Day at the end of January, I was impressed by Mister Whitaker’s win. This is what I wrote:
“Mister Whitaker – Had never run on ground worse than good to soft but he showed he could be just as effective on soft ground here. Had more in hand than the official margin of victory 1 ¾ lengths suggest as he did idle on the run in.
The Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase on day one of the festival will be on his agenda now. The 20/1 available with William Hills (NRNB) for that race looks decent each-way value for this progressive 6-year-old”.
Hopefully, some of you got on at the 20s and had a great start to the Festival.
Tuesday 13th March – Day 1
Ibis Du Rheu – Paul Nicholls – The 7-year-old was having only his second start since pulling up at the previous seasons festival. He was still very much in contention coming to three out but didn’t really pick up on the rain-softened ground when asked and had to settle for 5th at the finish. He would have preferred a sounder surface and although he is 0 wins from 6 runs over the larger obstacles he looks capable of being competitive in handicaps at Aintree or Ayr if he gets better ground.
Wednesday 14th March – Day 2
Nube Negra – Dan Skelton – The juvenile hurdler will have caught plenty of eyes no doubt. Twice a winner over hurdles, last of which came at Doncaster when winning at long odds on back in January. Backed into favouritism for the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle prior to the race. Travelling powerfully for much of the race he took it up two out and was only headed coming to the last. He wasn’t disgraced in finishing 3rd and just came up against a well-handicapped winner. Should make a nice chaser next season but there is a handicap hurdle in him before the season is out.
Thursday 15th March – Day 3
The Young Master – Neil Mulholland – The 9-year-old has been out of sorts since winning the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown back in April 2016. But his run in the Kim Muir Handicap Chase was very much a step in the right direction for future engagements. He was out paced coming to four out but was staying on nicely at the finish to take 6th. He has won over 3m 5f so 3m 2f in this company is probably on the short side these days.
He’s now 18lb lower than for his last win and has become a very well handicapped horse. He’s not likely to get into the Grand National but another tilt at the Sandown race looks likely.
Friday 16th March – Day 4
Dream Berry – Jonjo O’Neill – Was having his first start since finishing 2nd in handicap hurdle at the Punchestown Festival last April. Held up off the pace wasn’t the place to be in the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle which was steadily run. The 7-year-old was making steady headway from two out and ran really well in finishing 7th on ground that would have been plenty of soft enough. His best form last season on RPR’s came when runner-up in big field handicaps at Aintree and Punchestown on good ground. His best four runs on RPR’s have now come in field sizes 19+. One to note for a big handicap hurdle at the upcoming spring festivals!
Theinval – Nicky Henderson – The 8-year-old wouldn’t have been suited by the rain softened ground. But he still ran a cracker in finishing 4th in the Grand Annual beaten just 5 ¼ lengths into 4th. Effective between 2m & 2m 4f his three best performances on Racing Post Ratings came last April at Aintree and Ayr when finishing runner up on all three occasions on good or good to soft ground.
He doesn’t win enough for a horse of his ability but he’s on a winning mark based on last season spring form and goes to Aintree & Ayr with a good chance of popping up in one of those handicaps this year.
Saturday 24th March – 32Red Lincoln Handicap – Doncaster
All the anticipation of a new flat season starts this Saturday at Doncaster. The Lincoln Handicap may not have the prestige it once had. Does anyone do the spring double anymore? Still it’s a competitive betting heat and a race I like, albeit it the result can be dependent on the draw.
Given the recent weather its more than likely that race will be run on soft ground, maybe even heavy although it has to be said that Doncaster’s track does dry out quickly and there hasn’t been a heavy ground Lincoln in the last 20 years.
Let’s have a look at some of the key race trends from the last ten running’s. The results contained below are 10 winners from 210 runners 40 placed:
- Age: 4 to 6-year-olds – 10 winners from 159 runners 31 placed
- Weight: 9-4 and Less – 10 winners from 174 runners 33 placed
- Wins at Distance: 0 to 2 – 10 winners from 162 runners 30 placed
- Runs at Distance : 10 or less – 10 winners from 148 runners 31 placed
- Runs in Last 90 days: 0 – 10 winners from 141 runners 31 placed*
*Should be noted that Secret Brief in 2016 and Ocean Tempest in 2014 both ran at Meydan prior to winning the race.
- Last Race Code: Turf – 9 winners from 125 runners 25 placed
- Headgear: None – 9 winners from 166 runners 37 placed
Profile: I will be looking at the younger horses aged 4 to 6, that had won no more than twice over the distance of a mile, weighted 9-4 & under and had not run in the last 90-days in Britain.
Verdict: At the time of writing Fire Brigade is the 7/1 favourite. The 4-year-old is just 4lb higher then when quickening up to win at Leicester in good style back in November. Ryan Moore has booked for the ride and he ticks the key trends apart from having won 4 races over a mile. At 8/1 is the David O’Meara trained Lord Glitters who is 5lb higher than when just getting up on the line in valuable 1m handicap at Ascot on Champions Day. All four of the 5-year-olds career wins have come on soft or heavy ground, He would be a bit of a trends buster, as the last horse to carry more than 9-4 to victory was in 2004 and in the past 20 years the highest weighted winner carried 9-5. So, 9-10 will be tough to win off although it’s not hard to think Lord Glitters could be a Group horse in the making and the trainer won last year’s race and has a 45% win/place strike rate with his 11 runners in the race. Also on 8/1 is the William Haggas trained Addeybb. The 4-year-old made it 3 wins from 5 runs when winning the Silver Cambridgeshire at Newmarket last September. The trainer is 1 win from 4 runners 2 placed in the race and his runner is thought capable of being a Group performer this season. Closely weighted with him on that Newmarket running is the Charlie Hills trained 4-year-old Afaak. A winner over C&D last summer on soft, the colt maybe a better horse on a sounder surface but at 20/1 in the betting he makes each way appeal if he was to run. John Gosden could have an interesting runner in Taqdeer who hasn’t raced for 692 days, He has been gelded since his last run and the 5-year-old has only had three career starts. Soft ground would be an unknown but his sire Fast Company’s progeny do well on rain softened ground and he’s out of a Pivotal mare. Interesting that connections have kept him in training and Gosden is 1 winner from 2 runners 2 placed with 4-year-old+ runners in handicaps racing from a 365 day or more lay off. He can be backed at 20/1 but at number 35 isn’t certain to get into the race. The Martyn Meade trained Chelsea Lad ran well in a number of good handicaps last season, 4th in the Cambridgeshire, he ended last season with a good second in the November Handicap here over 1m 4f. Despite the big drop back in trip he shouldn’t be underestimated although the 5-year-old may find one or two better handicapped in the field. I think the winner will come from this select group of horses.
All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s betting.