Today’s post has a real Cheltenham theme to it.
Cheltenhamheld its last fixture before the Festival on Saturday. Trials Day, as it’s become known, has developed a reputation for pinpointing winners for the Cheltenham Festival in March. More of that and some other Cheltenham Festival stats later.
Firstly, let’s have a look at the story that was making the racing headlines off the track.
Racecourse Attendances Fall Again
On Thursday the Racecourse Association (RCA) announced that for the third year running average attendance’s at British racecourses has fallen. Granted, horse racing continues to maintain its position as the second most popular spectator sport, behind football, but 3% less people went to the races last year compared to 2017.
Jumps racing fared slightly better, being down only 1.6% compared to the previous year, but there was a 4.7% decline for flat racing.
Paul Swain from the RCA told the Racing Post: ” We’re disappointed that the figure is down again, but there were clear headwinds against the sport last year such as the World Cup and the weather, which were significant challenges to overcome. With those in mind, we’re content, but disappointed that attendances are down overall.”
Clearly the World Cup would have had an impact on attendances. However, I am not sure what Swain meant with regard to weather. Yes, we did have the “Beast from the East” early on in the year, but that didn’t have any impact on flat racing.
Surely a sunny & hot summer should have seen crowds at flat racing courses go up, rather than down. Let’s just hope that this year we don’t get a cold wet summer then, or the drop in numbers will likely be even bigger.
I think the attitude of the RCA is complacent to say the least. Yes, attendance at the big meetings is holding-up, and actually went up compared to 2017. But at the lower end of the sport, a congested fixture list, with too much mediocre midweek racing and small fields, just isn’t a product that’s tempting people through the gates anymore.
Paisley Powers to Festival Favouritism
Cheltenham Trial Day managed to attract some decent sized fields, and produced some excellent performances.
The best has to be Paisley Park in winning the 3m Cleeve Hurdle. The 7-year-old, who had won a Grade 1 at Ascot before Christmas, simply stormed away from his field, when taking it up coming to the last, to win by 12 lengths.
On paper it looked a strong renewal of the race, but in all truth there was only one horse in it.
The race was run at a strong pace with Lil Rockefeller and Sam Spinner at the head of affairs. The strong gallop clearly benefitted the winner, who doesn’t have a real change of gear, but is a resolute galloper who has plenty of stamina.
He’s certainly the best staying hurdler in Britain and, not surprisingly, his odds for the Stayer hurdle were cut to just 7/2.
Last year’s winner, Penhill, awaits him at the Festival and, if the race is tactical one, I would still fancy Penhill to come out on top. If however, it’s run at the end-to-end gallop of Saturday’s race, then it’s a different story altogether
Bryony Rides Them To Sleep
Frodon beat five rivals to land the Cotswold Chase. Out in front from the off, his Bryony Frost got the 7-year-old into a good jumping rhythm, and he never really looked like he would be caught. It looked to me that his stamina was running out at the end of the 3m 1 ½ f, and he was all out to hold off Elegant Escape.
Frodon, who goes really well at Cheltenham, could win a Ryanair Chase, but I suspect connections will go for the Gold Cup. I doubt he will be afforded the luxury of an uncontested in the Gold Cup, and he will be coming up against better horses too. He deserves to have a go at the race should connections decide to roll the dice.
The runner-up, Elegant Escape, didn’t have the speed to get past the eventual winner, which is not surprising as he wasn’t stopping at the end of the Welsh Grand National. I fancy he would finish ahead of Frodon in a strongly run Gold Cup. That said, his jumping can be sloppy at times, it was here, and jumping wins you Gold Cups…
It’s Girl Power Over Fences
The best jumping performance of Festival Trials Day came not from Frodon, but the Nick Williams trained Siruh Du Lac ridden by Lizzie Kelly. The 6-year-old has really taken to fences and he’s 5 from 7 over the larger obstacles.
Lizzie had him up with pace from the off, although she didn’t have the luxury of an uncontested lead. Coming to three out the William’s horse faced a challenge from Ballyhill, and then 5/2 favourite Janika. He saw off the former, but the latter looked like he would win when taking it up after the last.
Credit to the eventual winner, you couldn’t fault his battling attitude to get up in the shadow of the post.
Where next for Siruh Du Lac? It looks like he will head for the festival and one of the handicaps. Given the quality of his jumping and his likeable attitude in a finish, he will be competitive where ever goes next.
This week’s stats section continues the Cheltenham theme. I look at how runners from Cheltenham Trials Day and Scottish Trials Weekend have fared at the festival.
Cheltenham Trials Day: A Good Guide to March?
Since 2014 there have been 138 winners from 2398 runners 464 placed at the Cheltenham Festival. Those who had their last run at Trials Day produced 13 winners from 124 runners 35 placed.
Those stats suggest we can expect a winner or two at the Festival to have run on Trials Day.
Runners at the Festival from Trials Day with the following traits:
Odds SP: 14/1 & Under
Last Time Out Placing: Top Five
Produced 12 winners from 55 runners 22% +40.75 29 placed 53%. Such runners have been performing 35% above market expectations.
Scottish Trials Weekend: Not A Good Pointer!
Next weekend we have the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown. This side of the Irish Sea it’s the Bet365 sponsored Scottish Cheltenham Trials Weekend at Musselburgh.
Unlike the Cheltenham Trials meeting, the one at Musselburgh hasn’t been a great pointer to success at Cheltenham in March.
Since 2014 the fixture has produced just 1 winner from 68 runners 1% -59 10 placed 15%. Last year Missed Approach became the first horse to win at Cheltenham after running at the Scottish Trials meeting. He had finished runner-up in the Edinburgh National Handicap Chase before going onto win the Kim Muir Handicap Chase at the Festival.
There will no doubt be some good performances next weekend, but I doubt we’ll be seeing any Cheltenham Festival winners among them.
Avoid the Right Turn!
Before I finish the Cheltenham stats it’s also worth noting four other tracks that don’t produce Cheltenham Festival winners. There are four, all right-handed and speed favouring racecourses to avoid, when looking for winners at the festival.
Since 2014 horses who had their last runs at Huntingdon, Ludlow, Taunton and Wincanton have produced the following set of results:
0 winners from 13 runners -133 17 placed 13%
There should have been 7 winners in the period, which underlines just how poor these runners are performing.
Huntingdon – 0 winners from 43 runners 6 placed 14%
Wincanton – 0 winners from 42 runners 4 placed 10%
Taunton – 0 winners from 24 runners 5 placed 21%
Ludlow – 0 winners from 24 runners 2 placed 8%
I think you would need some very compelling reasons to back at horse at Cheltenham whose last run took place at one of those four racecourses.
Sandown Trainer Stat:
I will end with a non-Cheltenham related stat. On Saturday we have another meeting from Sandown. Nicky Henderson is a trainer whose well-fancied handicap hurdlers are always worth a second look. Those of his runners sent-off 15/2 or less have produced:
9 winners from 24 runners 38% +21.75 14 placed 58%.
They are also performing 78% better than market expectations, which means they are going-off at value price.
See you next week.
All the best,
for The Race Advisor