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You ready? It’s Almost Here…

The Cheltenham Festival is now just one day away. It doesn’t seem that long ago we had just had Champion Day. Maybe its age, but time just seems to go faster these days.

As I am sure you were expecting, this Monday’s article is centred on the next four days at the home of National Hunt racing.

But before looking at the good stuff, I am going to take a quick look back at Saturday action at Sandown and Wolverhampton.

But before looking at the good stuff, I am going to take a quick look back at Saturday action at Sandown and Wolverhampton.

Saturday Highlights

The big betting race of the weekend was the Imperial Cup. The race isn’t what it was, but it has, after all, been going since 1907. In those early years, it was considered the most important hurdle race of the season, or at least it was, until the first running of the Champion Hurdle in 1927. It remained a big betting race until recent years, but today more and more connections prefer to target their horses at races at the Cheltenham Festival, like the County Hurdle.

Just the thirteen went to the post for this year’s race. Even though there is a £100,000 bonus to the winner of the race who then goes onto win a race at the Cheltenham Festival

Late money for top-weight Call Me Lord meant last year’s runner-up was sent off the 3/1 favourite. The favourite was arguably the pick of the paddock before the race. Despite the three non-runners, and the recent good form of the Paul Nicholls yard, his runner, Malaya, was weak in the market.

Imperial Heads to Malaya

Speredek and the ultra-keen Our Merlin cut out the running at a strong pace. Three out the former went a few lengths clear of the field. He was eventually headed by the well fancied Monsieur Lecoq, two out, who went a couple of lengths clear.

At the same hurdle Malaya, who had travelled as well as Monsieur Lecoq for most of the race, made what looked like a race-ending mistake. Her jockey Harry Cobden was lucky to stay in the saddle. The mare did well to recover, although coming to the last it didn’t seem like she would catch the eventual runner-up. A good jump at the last made all the difference, and to her credit, the mare battled on all the way up the hill, and eventually got to the front in the final 50yds. 

She will probably head to the County Hurdle and go for the bonus. A strongly run 2m and soft ground really play to her strengths that’s for sure. It will be the 5-year-old’s first run at Cheltenham and, if she handles the track, she should go close.

Call Me Lord made steady headway from the rear and coming to two out was travelling as well as the front two. Unfortunately, his big weight just anchored the 6-year-old, and he could only stay on at the same pace on the run-in. Still it was a good effort from the top weight in finishing third.

Flat Season on the Horizon

You can tell the start of the flat turf season isn’t far away, indeed it’s just three weeks away, as Wolverhampton staged the Lincoln Trial on Saturday.  The race was won by the Andrew Balding trained Zwayyan. The 6-year-old came from the rear and was produced to win his race inside the final furlong. He will now head to the Lincoln on the back of this win and, as he showed here, he’s well suited by a strong pace, which he should get at Doncaster.

Haggas Has Sights Set on Finals

Victory Bond, trained by William Haggas, could be the one to take from the race. The 6-year-old was sent off the 7/2 co-favourite and ran well for long way. He was still in contention coming to the furlong mark before his lack of race fitness seemed to take its toll.

This run should tee him up nicely for All-Weather Middle-Distance Championships race on All-Weather Final’s Day. It’s a race he won last year, and he must have a good chance of winning it again.

Cheltenham Festival

Not sure how you approach the Cheltenham Festival, but trainer stats are a key part of my betting armoury for the four days.

Not sure how you approach the Cheltenham Festival, but trainer stats are a key part of my betting armoury for the four days.

Conditional Jockeys Underperform

Taking out the Martin Pipe Conditional Handicap Hurdle, there have been 42 handicap races in the past five years. Conditional jockeys are 3 winners from 147 runners 2% -92 A/E 0.46 22 placed 15% in such races.

Two of those conditional jockeys’ wins came last year, with Bridget Andrews winning the County Hurdle on Mohaayed, and Lizzie Kelly winning the Ultima Handicap Chase on Coo Star Sivola.

Despite those two wins, it seems that Conditional jockeys with a claim struggle at the Cheltenham Festival.  Looking at the stats experienced jockey’s really do come to the fore, and I would need compelling reasons to back a Conditional jockey’s rides this week.

With that negative stat out of the way, here are two positive trainer angles to note this week.

Gordon Elliott: One Runner Angle

Gordon Elliott needs no introduction. Since 2008 he’s had 22 winners from 137 runners 16% +110 A/E 1.54 53 placed 39%.

He will no doubt have a few winners this week. So where can we find most of his winners. This simple micro angle looks interesting.

Horse Age: 4yr to 9yr olds

Runners in Race: 1

Last Race: Non-handicap

His runners with those traits have produced the following set of results:

16 winners from 53 runners 30% +115.98 A/E 2.34 27 placed 51% (Each way +152.30)

That’s 73% of the trainers Cheltenham Festival wins from 39% of his runners.

Philip Hobbs: The Richard-Johnson Connection

Since 2008 Philip Hobbs has 8 winners from 179 runners 4% -110.5 A/E 0.68 30 placed 17%. He’s certainly not a trainer to back blind this week, but there is an angle that looks interesting and has provided him with 75% of his winners from 12% of his total runners.

Jockey: Richard Johnson

Odds SP: 16/1 & under

Last Time Out Winner

This angle has produced the following results:

6 winners from 22 runners 27% +27 A/E 2.09 12 placed 55% (Each way +38.38)

Good luck with your Cheltenham punting.

John Burke

I have a MA in International Politics and having spent a number of years working in political campaigning but I eventually I realised that politics was not the world where I wanted to work I had been interested in horse racing since the late 1980s but in the early years I was merely just betting and watching racing like most people as a bit of fun and a hobby, then the hobby becomes a passion and that’s what happened to me with horse racing. I soon realised that to make money from my hobby I had to learn as much as I could about the sport and betting in general. The whole process took time but after a number of successful years of betting, I decided in 2011 to take the plunge, gave up my full time day job and decided to bet on horse racing as a part time business and I haven’t looked back since. I like to specialise in the better class of races and I love to solve the puzzles posed by big field handicaps the latter races often provide punters with great value betting opportunities. Whilst most of my time is spent reviewing previous races I like to keep things as simple as possible as even the biggest field handicaps can usually be pruned down to half a dozen strong contenders with the right sort of approach.

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