Form Guru – Cheltenham Day 3

Day three of the Cheltenham Festival, the highlight being the Grade One Stayers hurdle at 3.30 pm.

1.30 – Cheltenham – Thursday 15th March 2018.

JLT Novices´ Chase (Registered As The Golden Miller Novices´ Chase) Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (5yo+)

Distance: 2 miles 4 furlongs on the New Course.

The JLT Novices’ Chase is a chase run over 21 furlongs and had its inaugural introduction at the 2011 meeting. It is open to horses five years old and upwards and was upgraded to Grade One status for the first time in 2014. With just seven renewals to work from there aren’t yet any strong patterns established. It lacks the prestige of the Arkle and the RSA but it appeals to Trainers who are reticent to target their horses at the more attritional RSA. Based on RPR ratings the winner of this race has produced a better performance than both some RSA and Arkle winners. This has become a serious race in it’s own right.

7 year key trends:

All 7 winners had won over the distance.

All 7 winners had run over hurdles at a previous Festival.

All 7 winners had an adjusted RPR of at least 161.

6 of the 7 winners were rated within 8Ib of the RPR top rated.

5 of the previous 7 winners had won a Graded Chase.

5 of the previous 7 winners had won a Graded race over hurdles.

5 of the previous 7 runners won last time out. Of the two that didn’t, one fell when looking likely to win and the other lost narrowly.

3 of the previous 7 winners began life on the flat.

3 of the previous 7 winners had won over hurdles at a previous Festival and they were all trained by Willie Mullins.

Only 1 of the 7 winners has been British trained.

Only 1 winner went off bigger than 7/1.

No winner had been off the track for more than 54 days.

No winner has been Officially Rated lower than 146.


Since it’s inception the Irish jave dominated the winners enclosure, winning six of the seven renewals. They again hold a strong hand with Invitation OnlyShattered Love and Kemboyare holding valid chances. Of the home contingent, Modus is the highest rated in the race and Finian’s Oscar has the potential to be the best the best horse. Terrefort will have to bust a few stats if he is to prevail but he has impressed in his two starts for Nicky Henderson. He is tactically versatile, an asset which could prove useful in a race which looks likely to be run at a generous pace. He was an easy winner  from a mark of 137 on his debut for current connections at Huntingdon and followed that by winning the Grade One Scilly Isles narrowly at Sandown. The runner up franked the form by easily winning a Grade Two subsequently. He tackles a left-handed track for the first time on these shores but he has done so in France so it’s not expected to cause him problems. He has impressed with his jumping so far and it was certainly put under pressure over Sandown’s searching fences. No five year old has yet won this race but Bristol De Mai, in the same ownership, did finish second in 2016. Testing ground has persuaded his Trainer to have a tilt at this and his decision can be rewarded. If there is a pace duel at the head of affairs it may be worth having having a small stake on Bigmartre. He seems to relish jumping fences and seems to be maturing as a Chaser. He has questions to answer regarding his stamina but he is related to horses who stayed this far and he could be ready for this test now he has learnt to settle in his races.

Selections: (Outlay – 4 pts)

Terrefort – 3 pts win. Available at 4/1. (Betfair)

Bigmartre – 0.5 pts e/w. Available at 28/1. (Bet365 – 1/4 odds first 3)

2.10 – Cheltenham – Thursday 15th March 2018

Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (CLASS 1) (5yo+)

Distance: Three miles on the New Course.

The Pertemps Final is a Grade Three handicap hurdle race run open to horses five years and upwards who have finished in the first six on at least one occasion in a Pertemps Hurdle Race (Series Qualifier) since the start of the current season. This is a good test of stamina and tough older horses are suited to this race more than most handicaps at this Festival.

10 year key trends:

9 of the last 10 winners had won between 20 and 22 furlongs.

8 of the last 10 winners carried no more than 11st 4Ib.

8 of the last 10 winners were aged six to eight.

8 of the last ten winners had six to ten runs over hurdles (other two had 22+)

7 of the last 10 winners were Officially Rated 132 to 142.

7 of the last 10 winners won a Class 2 or higher.

7 of the last 10 winners were off the track for between 19 and 48 days.

6 of the last 10 winners had won over at least three miles.

Other trends to consider:

The last 8 winners began in Bumpers (6) or Points (2).

All 16 horses this century to run off 150+ have finished outside the first 2.

Only one winner this Century was placed at a previous Festival.

Horses aged 7 or younger starting at single figure prices are 1 from 34 in the last 12 renewals.

Horses bred in France are 0 from 76 since 1994.

Paul Nicholls is 0 from 17.

The only five year old to prevail was back in 1988.

This race has tended to lack the quality of some of the other handicaps at the Festival but, in an effort to improve the standard, the race organisers have made a few changes. As of 2016 horses are only eligible to run if they have finished in the first six of one of the 17 qualifiers. Last time out winners have historically done well in this race. Favourites have a poor record with only two winning in the past 20 renewals. Horses from these shores have dominated this race this century, winning 13 of the 17 renewals, although the last two winners were Irish trained.


The handicaps at the Festival are very competitive and contain too many potential winners to list in detail so analysis will be mainly confined to those horses selected for backing purposes.

Only one five year old has won this race, and that was back in 1988 and French Breds are 0 from 76 since 1994. That would be enough for most to automatically dismiss Delta Work but it may be a mistake to do so. Earlier in the season he was beaten 13 lengths in a Grade Three Novice race by stablemate, Samcro, over 20 furlongs but he has bettered that form since he has been stepped up to three miles. He was beaten just under four lengths by Total Recall in a 16 runner Handicap at Leopardstown on his penultimate start and followed that when finishing third, beaten three and half lengths, in a 13 runner handicap at Punchestown last time out, despite being short of room in the latter stages. He has been left on the same mark by the British assessor and he could take advantage of his leniency for a yard who had an excellent day two at this Festival. He has won in been placed twice in the three starts where he has faced 16+ runners so he seems suited by both the pace and the hurly burly of such races. He has proven himself in testing ground and if his declared jockey passes the Doctor before racing his chances will increase.

Selection: (outlay – 1.25 pts):

Delta Work – 1.25 pts win. Available at 10/1 (Generally available)

2.50 – Cheltenham – Thursday 16th March 2018.

Ryanair Chase (Registered As The Festival Trophy Chase) Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (5yo+)

Distance: 2 miles 5 furlongs on the New Course.

The Ryanair Chase is afforded Grade One status and is open to horses five years old and upwards. It’s run at a trip which is an intermediate between the Champion Chase and the Gold Cup and it’s viewed by some, somewhat unfairly, that it’s a race for horses not good enough to win those Blue Riband affairs. It is usually run at a strong gallop and, more often than not, suits those that front run and stay the trip well.

10 year key trends:

The last 10 winners had an adjusted RPR of at least 165.

9 of the last 10 winners had already won a Grade One Chase

9 of the last 10 winners had won at the Course.

9 of the last 10 winners had no more than four runs since October.

8 of the last 10 winners had at least 7 runs over fences.

8 of the last 10 winners had a top two finish in at least one of their last two starts.

8 of the last 10 winners came from the first two in the market.

8 of the last 10 winners were in front at the top of the hill.

Other trends to consider:

2 of the 7 runners in first time headgear have won

5 winners, including 4 of the last 5, were second season Chasers.

5 of the last 8 winners had already won a Festival race.

No winner had run more than four times that season.

Only 3 of the 10 winners won their previous start.

Only 2 winners went off bigger than 6/1.

No winner was making their Festival debut.

3 of the 6 beaten favourites had won a Grade One Chase last time out.

Five winners had recorded a top four finish in a Grade One or Grade Two Chase over three miles plus.

Stamina for the trip is an important asset, especially since the race was elevated to Grade One status. Last time out winners don’t have a good record in this race. Horses that have run in the King George are often underestimated in the market and previous Cheltenham form is a positive. Up to 2016 this race was dominated by British trained horses, with all 32 Irish trained horses being beaten, but the Irish have won the last two renewals. Horses sporting first time headgear have done well and those to the fore in the market have dominated. Key races include last season’s renewal and the Paddy Power Gold Cup at the November meeting here.


Un De Seaux is back to defend his crown. He is one of the most admirable horses in training and often doesn’t get the praise he deserves. It’s unlikely that Douvan will turn out for this after his fall in the Champion Chase yesterday so that will just leave the six runners going to post. If there is one area that the favourite may prove fallible it’s his stamina for the distance in the ground. The presence of Cue Card should ensure this is run at an honest gallop so the favorite will need to stay, and stay well, if he is to retain his title. If he shows his natural exuberance it could be a problem. If he is to be beaten which of his five opponents is likely to do so? Cue card would be a popular winner and he showed at Ascot last time out that, even at 12 years old, he still retains plenty of ability. He will have to try and draw the finish out of the favourite and it will be a mighty effort if he manages to do and remain ahead at the line. Balko Des Flosand Sub Lieutenant have shown his best form on better ground and Cloudy Dream is a few pounds short of the ability needed to win this race if any of his opposition run to their best. That leaves Frodon who is 2 from 2 over this C/D and has improved this season. He has the added advantage of being able to handle very testing ground, although he has been busier than the usual winner of this race. He was too keen and paid for lying too close to the early pace behind Cue Card last time out and is better judged on his defeat of Shantou Flyer and Coo Star Sivola here on his penultimate start. That pair filled the first two places in the Ultima here on Tuesday and Frodon gave the winner 21 pounds and a 20 length beating. He has six pounds to find with Un De Seaux on Official Ratings but, under these conditions, he could bridge that gap.

Selection: (outlay – 1.25 pts)

Frodon – 1.25 pts win. Available at 10/1. (Paddy Power, Betfair, Bet365)

3.30 – Cheltenham – Thursday 15th March 2018.

Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo+)

Distance: Three miles on the New Course.

The World Hurdle is the least fashionable of the 4 Championship races and arguably the weakest.

10 year key trends:

The last 10 winners were aged 6 to 9.

The last 10 winners had run no more than four times since August.

9 of the last 10 winners has a top two finish on their last completed start.

9 of the last winners had an adjusted RPR of at least 165.

8 of the last 10 winners previously ran at the Festival.

8 of the last 10 winners were not out of the first two in all completed starts that season.

7 of the last 10 winners had won a Graded hurdle over at least three miles.

7 of the last 10 winners had run between 9 and 20 times over hurdles.

5 of the last 10 winners have been top on BHA ratings

Other trends to consider:

15 winners this century had won a Graded hurdle over an extended 20 furlongs or shorter.

9 of the last 15 winners had won (6) or been placed (3) in a Grade One hurdle at the Festival before.

This century winners were 19/23 in three mile Graded Conditions races in Britain that season.

12 winners this century went off 6/1 or shorter.

Only 11 of the 51 placed horses this century have come from outside the front four in the market.

 Albert Bartlett runners are 0 from 16, including 6 AB winners.

All 35 horses in the last 13 renewals beaten in the race before have been beaten again.

No five year old has won.

Horses aged 10+ are 0 from 50 since 1986.

Only Big Buck’s has won this century after an aborted Chasing campaign.

The record of Cleeve Hurdle winners is 117214213.


The form of  ‘trial races’ tends to hold up and it’s rare that the Stayers’ Hurdle winner is beaten in any of the 3 mile conditions hurdles races earlier in the season. They traditionally go steadily in this race so a winner usually needs to possess plenty of basic speed. It could be a different scenario this year with a plethora of runners who like to lead or force/pressure the pace Horses that win this usually prove their stamina by winning a recognised trial at around three miles. The Irish don’t seem to take much interest in this race so their record is misleading, although they did win this last year. Neither youngsters or veterans fare well. Headgear seems to have a negative effect and Albert Bartlett runners don’t do well. Key trials include the Long Distance Hurdle over three miles at Newbury in November, the Long Walk Hurdle over an extended three miles at Ascot in December, the Cleeve Hurdle here in January and the Silver Cross Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree in April.

In the lead up to this Festival Supersundae headed the market but the testing ground has raised issues concerning his ability to see out the trip in the prevailing conditions and he has been on the drift. Sam Spinner now heads the betting and this unexposed, progressive six year old will ensure there is no hiding place. He has stepped up to around three miles on his last two starts and he has put the opposition to the sword, including some who re-oppose here. He is an uncomplicated ride and has forged a good partnership with his unfashionable jockey. He is the horse with the most potential and is joint rated according to BHA ratings. There are plenty in opposition who hold valid claims but most of them either have to buck a few trends or have questions of one sort or another to answer. Even though he has seven victories to his name, L’Ami Serge has his own ideas about the game, but there is no doubting his talent. He is a very good traveler and was just under three lengths behind Sam Spinner when they met in the Long walk at Ascot in December. Since then he has gone very close at Doncaster in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase from a mark of 152. He has performed up to his best in three previous Festivals and this race could be run to really suit his patient style. What he finds at the business end of the race will be up to him on the day but, at a double figure price, it looks worth risking that he makes the frame at the very least.

Selection: (Outlay – 2 pts)

L’Ami Serge – 1 pt e/w. Available at 11/1. (Sunbets, Betfred, Totesport, Betway – 1/5 odds first 4)

4.10 – Cheltenham – Thursday 15th March 2018:

Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (A Handicap Chase) Grade 3 (CLASS 1) (5yo+):

Distance: 2 miles 5 furlongs on the New Course.

10 year key trends:

The last 10 winners had won between 19 and 21 furlongs.

9 of the last 10 winners had won a Class 3 or higher.

9 of the last 10 winners were Officially Rated 135 to 145.

9 of the last 10 winners carried no more than 10st 13Ib.

9 of the last 10 winners started at 14/1 or greater (5 were priced 25/1, 33/1 (twice), 50/1 and 66/1.)

8 of the last 10 winners had run no more than 12 times over fences.

None of the last 10 winners had been placed in one of the big 20/21 furlong handicaps run at Cheltenham that season.

Other trends to consider:

Ireland have won the last two renewals but their last winner before that came in 1982.

2012 was the first winning favourite since 1999, there hasn’t been once since.

4 of the last 6 winners had been well beaten on their previous start.

The Pipes are 7 from 51 in the last 20 renewals.

The last 9 winners were winning their first Graded race.

9 winners this century were in at least third season over fences.

14 winners this century had shown their best Chase form over 19-21 furlongs.


This has proved to a Bookmakers benefit over the years with no less than eleven winners being priced 25/1+ since 1988. The only two successful favourites in almost three decades were both sent out from Pond House by the Pipe team. 24 of the last 30 winners had a prep run within six weeks of the race. This race has not been kind to those rated above 141, although the last two winners were rated 142 and 145. French breds perform well in this race as they tend to do in all Chases at the Festival up to 21 furlongs. This isn’t a race the Irish target. David Pipe, Nicky Henderson and Venetia Williams have all done well in this race but Paul Nicholls hasn’t, only 2 of his 24 runners have hit the frame.

Given the yard’s record in this race, King’s Socks could be a significant improver on his second start for current connections. He had some serious form in France against the likes of Footpad and Optimus Prime and he may have got in here lightly on a mark of 140. He wasn’t suited by the muddling pace at Kempton last time out, his first start for 607 days, and he is likely to be seen to much better effect in a race of this nature as well as stripping fitter. He will know more about the British fences this time and he will have been well schooled in preparation.  The form of the yard has been a concern this season but, despite that, their handicappers over fences have recorded a profitable 16% strike rate, last season they had a 9% strike rate to a big loss. At a bigger price, Guitar Pete is more exposed than the typical winner of this race and he will have to bust a few starts if he is to win this. He has already won Graded Chases and has been successful in a big Cheltenham handicap this season. That came in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase where he was the beneficiary of the unfortunate fatal injury suffered by Starchitect. Fortunate or not he still ran out a good winner and the form looks strong. He was put up four pounds for that effort but has been dropped two pounds subsequently for unseating his rider while going well at Ascot. That still leaves him well weighted and four of his six best career performances over fences have come this season. The yard are in cracking form, send just the one to the Festival and have a very profitable 21% strike rate with their Chasers in handicaps in recent seasons.

Selections: (Outlay – 3.5 pts)

King’s Socks – 2 pts win. Available at 13/2. (Generally available)

Guitar Pete – 0.75 pts e/w. Available at 20/1. (Bet365 – 1/4 odds first 5)

4.50 – Cheltenham – Thursday 15th March 2018.

Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Registered As Dawn Run Mares´ Novices´ Hurdle) (Grade 2) (CLASS 1) (4yo+):

Distance: 2 miles 5 furlongs on the New Course.

This was a new addition to the Festival in 2016. Willie Mullins is imperious with his Mares at this Festival and has won the two previous renewals of this race. He has a quartet of entries this season and it’s his Laurina who heads the market at a best priced 4/6. The whispers are that she only has to get to the start to win. Things are rarely that simple but it’s not a race that is of much interest to us from a betting perspective so we will keep our powder dry and take a watching brief.


No Bet

5.30 – Cheltenham – Thursday 15th March 2018:

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Amateur Riders) (CLASS 2) (5yo+ 0-145):

Distance: Three miles two furlongs on the New Course.

Ten year key trends:

9 of the last 10 rated within 7Ib of the RPR top-rated

9 of the last 10 winners were Officially Rated 134-142.

9 of the last 10 winners were aged 7-9.

8 of the last 10 winners ran over at least three miles last time out.

8 of the last 10 winners had won over at least three miles.

8 of the last 10 winners had run no more than11 times over fences.

6 of the last 10 winners had finished in the first three in either or both of their last two outings.

6 of the last 10 winners had won a handicap chase.

Other trends to consider:

6 of the last 7 winners sported headgear.

Every winner this century had previously run over at least three miles.

5 of the 9 winners on the New Course had been placed at the Festival before.

5 of the 9 New Course winners have been won by horses from the first three in the market.

11 winners this century hadn’t run over hurdles in more than one season.

All 26 Handicap Chase debutants this century have been beaten.

Claiming jockeys are 1 from 77 in the New Course renewals.

Horses that had fallen or unseated are 0 from 69 in the past 12 renewals.

French breds are 0 from 52 in the last 12 renewals.

Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins have not had a top three finish from 25 entries between them.

Only 1 of the 9 New Course winners had won a Chase, other than a Beginners’ or an ungraded Novice, that season.


A 0-145 handicap chase for amateur riders.  The classier types have come to the fore in recent seasons, with 6 of the last 9 winners carrying 11-6 or more. Jockeyship plays an important part in this race and in recent years it’s been the non-claiming amateurs who have done best. The vast majority of win and place positions over the past five seasons have been filled by non-claiming jockeys. Eight and Nine Year olds have by far the best record and the last six year old to be successful was back in 1971. Donald McCain, David Pipe and Nicky Henderson do well in this race but Paul Nicholls has had only one place from 17 entries. This is not high on the list for Irish Trainers but they won it twice in the last four seasons. With some of the jockeys having a tendency to go off too fast, stamina becomes an important part in the latter stages.

Aubusson has improved with each of his outings this season and has finished second in his last two starts. He has been left on the same mark by the assessor and he has back form which suggests he can get very competitive from it. He has won on soft/heavy and is now six pounds his hurdle rating. Claiming jockeys don’t have a good record in this race but ChesterWwilliams in a stylish, improving rider who has a profitable 22% strike rate this season.Missed Approach is another to improve with each of his outings this season and he has also been placed on his last two starts. He is seven pounds below the mark from which he started the campaign and his ability to stay further is not a bad asset in a race of this nature. He has won on soft/heavy ground and this is his first start post wind surgery. Today’s jockey was on board when the partnership were second in the four miler here last season. The Young Mastermay not be as good as he once was but he has fallen to a mark from which he can be competitive. He unseated early on when reappearing at Ascot in November and may have still needed the race when finishing sixth in the Becher Chase the following month. He improved on those efforts to finish third to Fountains Windfall at Kempton, despite jumping badly left on a few occasions, in January and should be seen to better effect going back anti-clockwise. He was said to have sulked when pulling up at Newcastle last time out and the first time tongue tie he wore there is discarded here. He has wind surgery since then and he could run very well if that has any positive effect.

Selection: (outlay – 4.25 pts)

Missed Approach – 1.25 pts win. Available at 11/1. (Betbright)

Aubusson – 0.75 pts e/w. Available at 16/1 (William Hill – 1/4 odds first 4)

The Young Master – 0.75 pts e/w. Available at 16/1. (Skybet, Ladbrokes, coral – 1/5 odds first 5)