Day two of the Cheltenham Festival with the highlight of the day being the Champion Chase featuring Defi Du Seuil  and Chacun Pour Soi.

1.30 – Cheltenham – Wednesday 11th March 2020:

Ballymore Novices´ Hurdle (Registered As Baring Bingham Novices´ Hurdle) Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo+):

Distance: 2 miles 5 furlongs on the Old Course.

The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle is open to Novice Hurdlers of four years and upwards and is afforded Grade One status. It has a habit of producing classier horses than either the Supreme or the Triumph. Unlike the Supreme this race tends to be run at a steadier pace and suits speedier types who settle rather than stayers at the trip, although the slower ground this year could make this more of a test than usual. It’s a race where the classier types tend to prevail and those toward the fore of the market are the best angle into the race. This race has been an excellent trial for the Champion Hurdle. Given they tend to go relatively steady this race is not suited to keen types who are better off in the Supreme. A speedy type who has shown high class Novice form is the ideal type.

Positive Trends to consider:

4 of the last 6 winners were unbeaten over hurdles from just 12 qualifiers.

9 of the last 11 winners were top rated or second top rated on Official Ratings.

Horses that had won an Irish point, a Bumper and a Graded Novice Hurdle are 4 from 13 during the past 11 years

Respect horses rated 150 or higher.

Irish trained horses have won 10 of the past 17 renewals, including 5 of the last 6.

The last 10 winners had won at least one Bumper.

The last 10 winners started their career in Irish Points or Bumpers.

13 of the last 15 winners came from the first four in the betting.

15 of the last 19 winners returned 17/2 or shorter

6 of the last 10 winners had won an Irish Point.

19 of the last 25 winners won last time out.

24 of the last 25 winners finished first or second last time out.

9 of the last 10 winners had finished first or second in all hurdles starts.

9 of the last 10 winners had scored over at least 20 furlongs

All of the last 14 winners were aged 5 or 6 years old.

In the last 9 renewals Irish Trained horses have filled 15 of the 27 top three places.

19 of the last 21 winners were NH bred.

13 of the last 21 winners had formerly won a Graded race.

8 of the last 10 winners had at least three runs over hurdles.

Negative Trends to note:

The last 17 Challow Hurdle winners have all been beaten.

Only one of the last 27 winners wasn’t aged five or six.

Only one four year old has won since 1991.

Horses aged sven or older are 0 from 55 since 1988

Ex-Flat horses are 0 from 30 in the past 14 years.

Only 2 of the last 34 winners came from outside the top 5 in the betting.

Analysis:

Envoi Allen takes up this option rather than others that were open to him and comes into the race as a hot favourite having won all seven starts under rules. The winner of last season’s Champion Bumper but only one horse this century has achieved that and gone on to win a race at the following season’s Festival. Sire was a miler so his staying quality comes from the Dams side but there are doubts in testing ground on a track like this. Collateral form makes him the clear pick and this race often goes to a speedier type so his place in the market is understandable. However there are horses in opposition that  will be keen to test his stamina reserves and he looks worth taking on.

Sporting John has won all three of his starts over hurdles and is a slick jumper. Raised in grade here but  the step up to 21 furlongs could illicit the improvement he needs to bridge the gap to the principals. Beat Harry Senior on his hurdling debut, who subsequently won on trials day at this track, and has since easily won both starts since. Career best came when he tackled an extended 19 furlongs last time out and pedigree suggests he could improve for this stiffer test. Travels well and has a turn of foot. Has bags of potential and doesn’t need to find much to trouble the favourite.

The Big Breakaway easily beat Blackjack Kentucky on his hurdling debut at Chepstow in November and did did likewise when winning at Newbury under a six pound penalty. Yet to be tested in Graded company but looks a horse capable of significant progression and doesn’t need to find much to trouble the principals in this race.  Has plenty of scope for physical improvement and related to the useful Kildisart.

The Big Getaway, when winning his final Bumper at Punchestown, was awarded a mark just five pounds below that which Envoi Allen attained when winning the Champion Bumper here last season. Flunked his lines on his hurdling debut when making a bad mistake at the last but made amends when easily winning at Naas by 17 lengths on his next, and last, start in a Maiden. Led all the way on that occasion and needs a major step forward to repeat the scenario in this much better company. Given his connections he is probably capable of doing so but he is built for Chasing and hurdling at this track may not be ideal.

Of the others:

With only ten runners going to post there aren’t any outside the top four in the market that make much appeal.

Analysis:

There is a doubt concerning Envoi Allen’s stamina and he looks worth taking on at a short price. The Big Getaway and The Big Breakaway bring considerable potential to the table but Sporting John has progressed in Novice affairs and has shown a smart turn of foot in testing ground. Bred to improve over this longer trip, he could play a stalking role and pounce late.

Selection: (outlay – 3 pts)

Sporting John – 3 pts win. Available at 7/2.

2.10 – Cheltenham – Wednesday 11th March 2020:

RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (CLASS 1) (5yo+):

Distance: Three miles 80 yards on the Old Course.

The RSA is afforded Grade One status and is open to Novice Chasers of five years old and upwards. The introduction of the JLT and the opening up of the four miler has led to field sizes shrinking in the RSA and it’s not as attritional as it once was. However horses still need to jump and stay well.

Positive Trends to consider:

The last 18 winners had contested a Graded Novice Chase.

Second season Chasers are 4 from 13 this century.

23 of the last 25 winners spent no longer than one season over hurdles.

8 of the last 13 winners had won a Grade One or Grade Two Chase.

4 of the last 10 winners had won over hurdles at the previous season’s Festival.

4 of the past 10 winners had contested the previous season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (two were successful)

7 of the past 10 winners were beaten on Chase debut.

5 of the past 13 winners had won an Irish Point

7 of the past 12 winners had won a Bumper

6 of the last 10 winners had run in at least 4 Chases.

2 GB bred horses have won in the past four years from only eight runners.

19 of the last 23 winners were Irish bred.

51 of the last 53 winners had run in the same calendar year.

22 of the last 27 winners were Novice hurdling the previous season.

11 of the past 13, and 16 of the last 20, winners were aged seven.

Every winner since 1997 had made their Chase debut before the turn of the year.

Respect proven form over three miles

Negative Trends to note:

No winner aged nine or older since 1992.

Just 4 winners younger than 7 have won since 1978

Avoid horses that have fallen before over fences

Avoid unbeaten horses over fences (only two of the last 20 winners)

Avoid horses that have had 2 full seasons over hurdles prior to going Chasing.

Just 2 of the last 20 winners had run less than 3 times over fences

All 21 winners of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton (formerly the Feltham) have lost

Horses in headgear are 0 from 29.

Mares are 0 from 11.

Be wary of high class hurdlers outside of Novice company.

Only three of the last 13 winners were sent off at double figure odds.

Over the past 13 years French bred runners are 0 from 33.

Only 2 of the past 20 winners were unbeaten.

Only one winner this century had only two Chase runs.

Analysis:

RSA winners tend to have a short career over hurdles, typically spending just the one season over the smaller obstacles. Horses that were earmarked as Chasers at an early stage tend to improve past those that spent an extended spell over hurdles. Graded form in Novice Chases is important. Horses need to have been in the heat of battle with good class horses prior to running in this race. It used to pay to ignore those with high hurdle ratings in favour of the slow maturing type that never showed much over hurdles and had been trained with a Chasing career specifically in mind, but the landscape is changing. None of the first six winners this century earned a RPR over hurdles above 134 but 8 of the last 13 winners had a hurdles RPR above 150. What hasn’t changed is the length of time RSA winners spend over hurdles. Only four winners this century had run in a hurdle race during more than one season. Winners of this race don’t see Chasing as something they do once they have reached their peak over hurdles but use their hurdling careers for experience before doing what they were bred for. Given that the typical winner has a short career over hurdles it follows that to get battle hardened, horses need to acquire plenty of experience over fences. The only Trainers to buck that trend have been Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson. Only two horses in more than 50 years has won this race without having a run in the calendar year. It used to be rare for RSA winners to have had previous Festival experience but 7 of the last 9 winners had run over hurdles at a previous Festival. Stamina for the trip is important but it’s not uncommon for horses to come into the race having only raced over shorter. 3 of the last 14 winners hadn’t run beyond 21 furlongs prior to being successful in this race. Proven jumping ability is important and only two winners in the past fourteen years had previously fallen or unseated in a Chase. Five year olds are opposable now that they receive just two pounds but none from that age group line up this season. Graded form is important and eight of the last eleven winners had run in a Grade One chase. Key trials include the Grade One Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, the Grade One Flogas Novice Chase at the same track in February, the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot in February and the Grade Two Fuller’s London Pride Novices’ Chase at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting.

Champ was a classy Novice hurdler last season, finishing second in the Ballymore Novices’ here, and confirmed his stamina for three miles when winning a Grade One at Aintree. Won his first two starts over fences at Newbury and looked set to win here over an extended 20 furlongs when falling two out on New Years Day. Habit of making the odd mistake a bit disconcerting and three mile win was gained off a slow pace so stamina could be tested in a race likely to be run at a strong gallop. Holds a major chance but arguably shorter in the market than he probably probably should be.

Minella Indo was the winner of the Albert Bartlett here last season and followed that up by winning the Punchestown equivalent from Allaho. Two starts over fences has seen him finish second to Laurina, beaten eight lengths, at Leopardstown over 20 furlongs and winning over three miles at Navan. The horse he beat in the latter race was a maiden over fences but has since won a Grade Two Novice Chase by six lengths and is now rated 142. However that still leaves him with a bit to find with the best of these and he is priced up on potential rather than what he has actually achieved. Could find the improvement necessary to take this but, even in testing ground over three miles, he may find some of these too quick for him.

Allaho was closely matched withE Minella Indo over hurdles but has achieved more than that rival over fences. He was beaten narrowly by stablemate Easy Game over 21 furlongs on his Chase debut and followed that by significantly improving to beat the 138 rated Milan Native, who has franked the form since, by 21 lengths at Fairyhouse over an extended 21 furlongs. Steps up to the trip at which he showed his best form over hurdles for the first time over fences and, if he improves again, he will arguably set a fair standard for the rest.

Copperhead was a progressive hurdler last season and it has been a similar story, only to a much higher standard, over fences this season. Very impressive in winning the Grade Two Reynoldstown last time out at Ascot even though the two market leaders didn’t give their running. Held an entry in the National Hunt Chase and, as a winner over 26 furlongs, stamina would seem to be his strong suit. Could be outpaced by a few of these on quicker ground but the prevailing conditions will play into his hands. A strong traveller who jumps well and has an appealing profile for this race.

Easy Game beat stablemate Allaho on his Chase debut and then almost wore down another one, the imperious Faugheen, on his last start. That form entitles him to respect but both those races were over 21 furlongs and all his hurdle form was over the same trip or shorter. Not sure to improve for three miles so he has probably a bit to find with the principals.

Of the others:

Battleoverdoyen has won seven of his nine starts, including two at Grade One level, but he disappointed in the Ballymore Novices’ hurdle here last season (pulled up after never travelling) and weakened disappointingly when headed at Leopardstown last time out. He wouldn’t be out of this on his best form but there are enough doubts to give him a swerve. Slate House didn’t cut much ice as a chaser last season culminating in a well beaten eighth in the Arkle here. However he won three of his first four starts this season and would’ve probably won the other had he not come down at the last when challenging. However he was never travelling when pulling up in the Grade Two Cotswold Chase over an extended 25 furlongs on the New Course here last time out. Returned to Novice company he could bounce back but this is a tough race in which to do it.

Selection: (outlay – 2 pts)

Copperhead – 2 pts win. Available at 11/2.

2.50 – Cheltenham – Wednesday 11th March 2020:

Coral Cup (A Handicap Hurdle) Grade 3 (CLASS 1) (4yo+):

Distance: 2 miles 5 furlongs on the Old Course.

The Coral Cup is a Grade Three handicap run over 21 furlongs and is open to horses four years and upwards.This is fiendishly competitive and, with a field of 26, there are likely to be more than a few hard luck stories. This is becoming a classy limited handicap favouring the better horses toward the top of the handicap. Winners more often than not come here in good form. In common with many Festival handicaps the mark required to get into the race is stiff nowadays, being mid to late 130’s in recent seasons.

Positive Trends to consider:

9 of the last 11 winners were in the top eight in the weights.

8 of the last 10 winners were rated 139 to 151.

8 of the last 10 winners carried at least 11 stone.

7 of the last 10 winners were aged 5 to 7.

7 of the last 10 winners won a race earlier in the season (three won last time out)

7 of  the last 10 winners won between 18 and 22 furlongs over hurdles.

9 of the last 10 winners were French bred.

11 of the last 15 winners were second season hurdlers.

8 of the last 11 winners were rated in the 140’s.

7 of the last 10 winners didn’t win last time out.

18 of the last 25 winners won earlier in the season.

Respect J.P. McManus owned runners

Nicky Henderson and Gordon Elliott have won 5 of the last 10 renewals.

Irish trained runners have won 5 of the last 11 renewals.

The last 11 winners had raced four times or less that season.

13 of the last 15 winners had run 32 days or longer ago.

Five year olds have fared well from a small representation.

Negative Trends to note:

Only three winners this century had run in more than nine hurdle races.

Only three of the last ten winners won last time out.

There has been no winning favourite in the past 16 years.

Horses aged ten plus are 3 from 305 to even place since 1999.

Horses rated 150 plus don’t have a great record.

Only 4 of the last 19 winners had raced at the Festival previously.

Analysis:

This handicap is very competitive and contains too many potential winners to list in detail so analysis will be confined to those horses selected for backing purposes.

Champagne Well is a second season Novice who has been placed in eight of his nine starts over hurdles, winning once. That consistency means it would be difficult to say he is well weighted but his sole victory came over this C/D and he enters handicap company for just the second time. Beaten by a thorough stayer at Doncaster over an extended three miles last time out and drop back to 21 furlongs here will suit. Three length second to the classy Thyme Hill over C/D in November is strong form and his ability to handle both track and ground will hold him in good stead. Represents a yard with a very profitable 13% strike rate at this track in recent seasons.

Protektorat is also a second season Novice hurdler who has placed in all four of his starts over hurdles this season, winning once. That victory came over an extended 20 furlongs here on his penultimate start and he followed that with a third to the unexposed and Albert Bartlett bound Harry Senior last time out over the same C/D. Enters handicap company for just the second time and, although on a stiff looking mark, his profile is one of a progressive horse. Lightly raced and unexposed over this sort of trip, he has thrived since the fitting of a hood which is retained here. Best form has come in testing ground.

Selections: (outlay – 3 pts)

Protektorat – 1 e/w. Available at 14/1. (Generally available – 1/5 odds first 6)

Champagne Well – 1 pt e/w. Available at 14/1. (Paddy Power – 1/5 odds first 7)

3.30 – Cheltenham – Wednesday 11th March 2020:

Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (5yo+):

Distance: Two miles on the Old Course.

The highlight of day two, the Queen Mother Champion Chase is a grade One Chase run over two miles and is open to horses five years and upwards who have been allocated a mark of 130 or above by the BHA Handicapper. It is the ultimate test of jumping at top speed. Having the speed to go the gallop and the ability to quicken off that gallop in the latter stages are just two of the important assets required to win this race. Bold jumping at speed with very little or no error is just as important. It’s a myth that this race is won by 20 furlong horses, true 20 furlong horses are unlikely to be able to lay up with the pace of genuine two milers.

Positive Trends to consider:

36 of the last 38 winners returned 10/1 or shorter

15 of the last 20 winners returned 5/1 or shorter

23 of the last 35 had won at the Festival before

17 of the last 21 winners came from the top 3 in the betting

15 of the last 20 winners ran in the previous season’s Arkle or Champion Chase

11 of the last 17 winners were second season chasers

The last 16 winners ran in a Non-Handicap Graded Chase last time out.

The last 16 winners last win came in a Non-Handicap Chase at Graded level

The last 16 winners wore no headgear

The last 16 winners had no more than 22 Chase starts

The last 16 winners were ridden by today’s jockey at least twice previously

16 of the last 17 winners had run that calendar year

15 of the last 16 winners were Officially Rated 159+

15 of the last 16 winners previously won at Grade One level

15 of the last 16 winners had no more than 27 career starts

15 of the last 16 winners had a break of 31-60 days prior to the race

15 of the last 16 winners won 1 of last 2 starts

15 of the last 16 winners had 1 or 2 starts in the last 90 days

15 of the last 16 winners started at 5-1 or less in their last race (those who started at greater than 5/1 are 1 from 51)

12 of the last 19 winners ran in the Tingle Creek Chase that season

4 of the last 7 winners also won the Clarence House Chase (Ascot) that season

Paul Nicholls & Nicky Henderson have won 8 of the last 12 between them

6 of the last 13 winners were French-bred

Negative trends to note:

Only two winners priced 11/1 or bigger in the last 37 years

 Willie Mullins is yet to win this race

Just 1 of the last 18 winners hadn’t won a Grade 1 Chase before

13 of the last 14 winners had run in no more than 16 chases

Be wary of horses older than 10, they have won just twice since 1977.

Analysis:

The defection of Altior, who would’ve been going for his third win in succession in this race, has taken some of the gloss off the occasion. It now looks between Defi Dy Seuil and Chancon Pour Soi to fight out the right to be crowned Champion Chaser. With only six runners going to post, and the principals vying for favouritism at short prices, this race doesn’t appeal from a betting perspective.

Selection: (outlay – 0 pts)

No bet.

4.10 – Cheltenham – Wednesday 11th March 2020:

Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (A Cross Country Chase) (CLASS 2) (5yo+):

Distance: 3 miles 7 furlongs on the Cross Country Course.

Positive Trends to consider:

The Irish have won 13 of the last 15 renewals

Respect Enda Bolger-trained runners (he has won the race 5 times)

18 of the last 22 winners came from the top three in the betting

9 of the last 15 ran in the December Cross Country race here

Respect Nina Carberry, Richard Johnson and Davy Russell-ridden horses (8 from 15 between them)

12 or the last 15 winners were aged 10 or younger

Trainer Philip Hobbs is 2 from 10 (5 placed in the top 5 too)

Negative Trends to note:

Debutants over these fences/course have a poor record

Avoid horses aged 7 or younger,  they are only 2 from 98

Horses rated 126 or less have a very poor record

Trainer Willie Mullins is 0 from 13

Trainer Paul Nicholls is 0 from 16.

Analysis:

This has never been a race in which we have a strong opinion and we will do what we always do, sit it out and just enjoy the spectacle as Tiger Roll goes for his third win in succession.

Selection: (outlay – 0 pts)

No bet.

4.50 – Cheltenham – Wednesday 11th March 2020.

Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (registered as the Fred Winter) Grade 3 (CLASS 1) (4yo).

Distance: 2 miles half a furlong on the Old Course

The Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle is a Grade Three handicap open to four year olds only. Another big field affair which is no easier than the Coral Cup for punters. First run in 2005 a horse has to have a minimum of three runs before it can qualify for this race. This is a bit of a lottery with six of the last eight winners going off at 40/1, 25/1, 33/1, 25/1, 33/1 and 33/1. A field of 22 very lightly raced four year olds that have been campaigned with their handicap mark in mind means this is a very difficult race to assess. There is no rating ceiling for this race but the presence of the Triumph Hurdle means it is effectively a 0-145 handicap.

Positive Trends to consider:

10 of the 15 winners had run just three times over hurdles.

4 Fillies have won since 2007 from just 16 qualifiers

French bred horses have a good record

7 of the past 9 winners came from the bottom half of the handicap.

10 of the 15 winners had run in the last 25 days.

6 of the last 8 winners returned at prices between 25/1 and 40/1.

10 of the last 15 winners returned at a double figure price.

Respect horses in headgear.

8 of the last 12 winners were British trained.

Respect Paul Nicholls, Gordon Elliott and Alan King trained runners.

7 of the 15 winners had run against older horses.

12 of the 15 winners were rated between 124 and 133.

11 of the 15 winners had won no more than once over hurdles.

3 maidens have won the race.

8 of the 15 winners started their careers in France.

4 of the last 9 winners ran in a Graded race last time out.

Negative trends to note:

Only two winners had won more than twice over hurdles (none in the past ten years).

Band Of Outlaws was the only winner rated higher than 134.

British bred horses are 0 from 51 over the past 11 years.

Willie Mullins has only had one horse placed from 14 runners.

Only 5 of the 15 winners were sent off at a single price.

Just one recent winner had raced in January or further back.

Willie Mullins, Philip Hobbs and Venetia Williams are 0 from 32 between them.

Only three winners had raced in a handicap before.

No winner had raced at Cheltenham before.

Analysis:

As stated earlier, analysis will only be done for those selected for backing purposes in these large field competitive affairs.

Blacko has won both his starts on these shores and did so with a degree of authority. He beat the re-opposing Zoffee in the first of them and that rival franked the form by winning next time out. The horse he beat under a penalty (The Pink’n) last time out at Warwick has also subsequently been successful. He has been allocated an initial mark of 135 and that demands improvement but, after just four career starts, that looks likely. A French bred who started his career there, he has an attractive profile for this race and has been aimed at it by a Trainer whose horses often run well in this.

Saachoandvanzetti bombed out in a big way in a Grade Two at Leopardstown on Boxing Day but his absence since may imply something was amiss. That absence is not ideal coming into this race but he was progressive in his first three starts over hurdles and his win under a seven pound penalty at Punchestown in November was gained in gritty fashion. He is not badly weighted here judged on that effort. Both his victories in Juvenile races have been gained in soft ground under today’s jockey and he could outrun his odds if all is well with him.

Selections: (outlay – 3 pts)

Blacko – 2 pts win. Available at 6/1. (Unibet, Sportingbet)

Saachovanzetti – 0.5 pts e/w. Available at 40/1. (Generally available – 1/5 odds first 5) 

5.30 – Cheltenham – Wednesday 11th March 2020:

Weatherbys Champion Bumper (A Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race) Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (4-6yo):

Distance: Two miles half a furlong on the Old Course.

This has never been a race in which we have dabbled in or studied. It’s almost impossible to tell which of these is likely to show the most improvement. Late market moves, especially in respect of the Irish challengers, are worth noting. It invariably produces top quality future hurdlers/chasers even among those to finish down the field so it’s an interesting watch for future reference.

Selection:

No bet.

All prices correct via oddschecker as of 11.10 hrs