Well, the time has come to face the ante-post jury for a cold judgement of where we are as we approach festival week. Most of my tipping is done in tweets these days, although my wording does seem to cause a few chuckles. For those I believe you should have the maximum bet on that you can afford, my tweet begins ‘I strongly recommend . . .’ (The last one of those was an EW recommendation for Cue Card in the Champion Chase at 8/1 NRNB). My last ‘live’ one was for Cue Card at Ascot, strongly recommending that the 7/2 Cue Card be taken on the Tuesday before the Ascot race – Cue Card won at 15/8.
Any of my tweets other than that might say something like, ‘this should run well, this will outrun its price, such and such is worth a small bet’. So starting a tweet ‘I strongly recommend’ means I will be having my maximum bet on it.
A wealth warning here. I’m not a tipster. I run this blog and my twitter account for fun and because I enjoy the company and the craic. I know a few ‘connections’, owners, trainers jockeys but I never listen to tips from them, never. They are in this business because they are optimists. They are blinded by that optimism to the abilities of many of their opponents. Their judgement is not to be trusted.
I still listen to them, and read post-race comments because you can occasionally pick up something about a horse’s character, going preference, future targets. Occasionally, my ears prick up when a trainer or jock breaks with their ‘normal’ style. For example, Nicky Henderson has been talking about nothing except Binocular for weeks and is still going on about how well the horse is. Grandouet has been a fair bit shorter in the betting than Binocular for some time, yet we’ve heard little praise for him (though it now seems as though he might not have been burning up the gallops). I always thought Binocular over-rated and have never backed him, but I’ve had an EW bet on the strength of Henderson’s confidence and what I thought was a really nice prep run last time.
Had it not been for the fact that Binocular has not won going left-handed (Cheltenham is left-handed – anti-clockwise) for 3 years, I’d have had a decent bet.
Back to the caveats about betting tips . . . So I don’t have ‘inside info’ (true inside information is rare and almost never makes its way out to the likes of you and me) and I don’t study form or watch racing regularly. I watch the bigger races at weekends and if something catches my eye, I will note it. 50% of my annual betting would be ante-post on Cheltenham. If I think a horse is value, I’m happy to bet it many months in advance and take the chance of losing my cash if the horse doesn’t turn up on the day (those are standard ante-post rules, and that’s why so many punters wait for bookies to offer Non-runner No bet).
Anyway, I have no system or sequence. I am happy to trust my own judgement. Many people shy away from going against the pros – TV Tipsters, Timeform-writers, etc. I say learn to trust yourself once you’ve found a style of analysis and betting that suits. You’ll be wrong plenty times. I’ll be wrong plenty times. But don’t get yourself into financial trouble by risking more than you can afford, and don’t lose your confidence after a bad run. You are never as good as you think you are and never as bad as you think you are.
Okay, what have we in the Blog’s locker for this year? I blog a selection rather than tweeting it when I think some explanation is needed.
My first tip for the 2013 Festival was made about two weeks after the end of the 2012 one: Sanctuaire EW for the QM Champion Chase at 50/1.
It looked very sweet after Sanctuaire skated up at Sandown routing a decent bunch, unfortunately, the old Sanctuaire is back this season; inconsistent with RPRs of 155, 171, 143. Unless he finds his sparkle from last year, I fear we have little chance now of collecting on this bet, although some of you, I hope, will have traded out on Betfair at around 8s before his seasonal debut.
I tipped this just before the Paddy Power where I fancied the grey strongly, and he was cut to 8s for The Ryanair after winning the PP. But not long after the cash was down the horse was finished for the season when suffering a stress fracture. As it turns out, I’d now be torn between him and Cue Card. Cue Card is the better horse imo, but Al Ferof loves the track and the ground would have suited him.
This one will be particularly annoying! I backed him at 20s, he is half that price now but, frustratingly, looks like he’ll run in the NH Chase over 4 miles. Now considering the fact that I’ve backed Rival D’Estruval for the NH Chase at 12/1 (now 5/1), I need not tell you that BIF will come and beat him a short head!
He won The Greatwood (now The Racing Post Hdl), a race in which I’ve found a few champs, and although this was sub-standard for this race I suggested a fiver at 100/1 in case it came up testing. He looked like he’d finally hit the starting blocks for his career here, but he was tailed off next time in The Ladbroke and hasn’t been seen since. I’m assuming he’s gone amiss.
My final ante-post recommendation via this blog was Oscar Whisky at 7/1 for the World Hurdle. This was posted just after it was announced that Big Buck’s would miss the race. 7/1 seemed a crazy price about a horse who finishes his two-and-a-half-mile races so powerfully that I just do not believe he can’t get 3 miles. I had a decent bet on him to prove just that in The Cleeve hurdle but he was ridden conservatively that day and failed to catch Reve de Sivola.
Afterwards, jockey Barry Geraghty reportedly said that Oscar had shown none of his sparkle, and he’d been concerned about him from early in the race. The forecast soft ground will probably see him start at around 4/1 on Thursday and I’m still fairly confident he will win. the World Hurdle is rarely run at a hot pace – they regularly just hack for the first circuit. Doubtless there’ll be those wishing to test OW’s stamina to the full, but there will need to be a balance between trying to draw his sting and jeopardising your own chance in the race.
Many of you will know I have tweeted regularly throughout the season about my confidence that Zarkandar and Bobs Worth have been trading far too big for the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup, almost all season. My first bet on them was 8/1 both. They’ve come steadily down recently, but I am still amazed and how long their prices held up for EW double purposes. After The Hennessy I posted a tweet saying I reckoned Bobs Worth should be no more than 7/2 for The Gold Cup, yet 5s remained available for many weeks.
One horse I advised recently via twitter was The New One at 7s for The Neptune with a small saver in case he went for The Supreme. Given the way things have turned out with the ground, I think his trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies will regret having taken him out of The Supreme. The horse has plenty speed and I’d fancy his chances much more of beating My Tent or Yours than I do of him beating this Irish hotpot Pont Alexandre.
I still believe he has an excellent chance of winning the Neptune. He’ll be dwarfed by the Irish favourite, a wonderful looking big slashing bay whose build even now would see him fit into the parade for The Gold Cup. The New One is much smaller, but he is very well put together and one of the most athletic movers I’ve seen over hurdles. He has a high cruising speed and a deadly turn of foot which was used up too soon last time. I’d expect him to be prominent throughout on Wednesday and to be held on to till after the last before delivering what I hope will be a killer challenge.
Two caveats: he is not the slickest of jumpers though seems to be improving with each race: there is a bug in the yard that has knocked out three proposed festival runners. TNO worked very well on Friday morning but sometimes the virus can lie low in a horse, erupting only when the animal is put under pressure. Although I think Pont Alexandre a fine prospect, I fear the yard bug more than the Irish giant. Whatever happens, I think The New One will eventually go to the top.
One other strong festival advice I posted on twitter was an EW double on Zarkandar and Silviniaco Conti when both were 5/1. I’ve never known quite what to make of Silviniaco Conti’s form; until Newbury last time I would not have feared him endangering Bobs Worth. SC isn’t much to look at and, like Bobs Worth, he’s not flashy in his running or jumping style. But handsome is as handsome does and his form now has a very solid look to it. He jumps, he stays, he has class and is still improving.
I suspect Bobs Worth has more improvement in him though; this will be just his 6th start over fences and his fifth outing at Cheltenham where he has a 100% record. I think he is a very good horse indeed and I suspect he and Silv Conti will finish some way clear of the others. I cannot remember the last time I had a reverse forecast, never mind in the Gold Cup, but I think I’ll be doing just that here.
I offer you my nap of the week – Cue Card, the most unpopular top class horse I’ve ever come across. People crib him for his head carriage (slightly high, which can signify a mental or physical problem with a horse), for his supposed need to ‘be alone’ up front, for his jockey, for his ‘disinclination to battle’, doubtless there’ll be other reasons before he lines up, (almost certainly) in The Ryanair on Thursday. It’s not impossible there’ll be a change of mind as his trainer has left him in the Champion Chase. If the ground’s like glue on day one, he might yet be rerouted to the 2 mile race. Again, last week I offered a ‘strongly recommend’ tweet to bet him each way at 8/1 for the QM non-runner-no-bet. He is far and away the 2nd best two-miler in the country and would be very difficult to keep out of a place. If Sprinter Sacre went wrong in some way, he’d dot up in the QM, I think.
But even in the Ryanair, even in bad ground, I will bet him with confidence as I have done since the start of his fencing career. His form is gold-plated in my opinion. He is, in general, a sound jumper and the key to his clean jumping, I feel, is a good pace. He doesn’t necessarily need to be in front; Joe Tizzard puts him there to ensure he gets the pace required to have a cut at his fences, which, to my eye, is the horse’s natural inclination.
Joe Tizzard though, will now only let him have a cut when Joe is confident he sees the stride; otherwise he lets the horse fiddle. A perfect example of this was in his third race over fences. He came to the last at Newbury having led pretty much throughout and put in a good round, he was three or four clear going to the last but JT decided to sit still and let him fiddle. The jock then made the situation worse by having a look round on landing (a habit he had for a while which he now seems to be shaking off), which didn’t help Cue Card’s balance. Anyway, he was caught in the last stride and beaten a short head by Bobs Worth.
Bobs Worth is a year older than Cue Card. Cue Card gave him half a stone that day. You might want to read that last sentence again.
Cue Card gave the year-older Bobs Worth, the same horse who went on to win the RSA, to open this season with a Hennessy win, to be 3s fav for Friday’s Gold Cup, half a stone. Had he jumped the last he’d have won a length or two.
Okay, it was Bobs Worth’s fencing debut and his seasonal debut (he’s no slouch first time out, as he’s shown). But it was only Cue Card’s third chase. On his fencing debut he thrashed Silv Conti, now 2nd best for the Gold Cup. In between those he started jt fav with Grands Crus, to whom he was conceding 5lbs (GC was flying at the time) only to unseat at the 11th, teaching his connections the valuable lesson that the horse disliked restraint and wanted to be travelling at pace.
After the Newbury defeat by BW, he went back there to give For Non Stop half a stone and a 4L beating (Walkon, levels, was 11 lengths farther back). Cue Card then ran into the unstoppable Sprinter Sacre in The Arkle, beaten 7 lengths over a trip I believe to be short of his best (he stayed on well up the hill – it was the shortest trip CC has ever tried over jumps).
His seasonal debut saw him trounce Edgardo Sol by 26L and Menorah by 34L on his first attempt right-handed over 18f at Exeter. I then had the biggest bet I’ve had for a long time that he’d win the King George. I knew my fate at the first where he was on his nose, and he made another mistake at the 2nd. The KG ground was heavy for the first time since 1937 and many believe he didn’t get the trip. He certainly would have preferred better ground, but I think the early mistakes took their toll more than the going did, and I’d love to see him have another crack at the race on decent ground.
I managed to get my KG losses back through Coral being ultra generous, as they often are with this horse, when going 7/2 against him winning The Betfair Ascot Chase last month. He did so in some style (2m 5 and a half furlongs on soft ground on a stiff track). But the doubters were out in force again. Apparently CC was 3/1 in running as Captain Chris came to challenge, despite the fact that Cap Chris had been under strong driving from three out when all Joe Tizzard had done was change rein. JT later reported he’d still two gears in reserve and the horse won easily.
So, the upside of Cue Card not getting the recognition he deserves is that he will be a point or two longer in the betting for the Ryanair than he should be. As I always do, I have backed him (NRNB) with considerable confidence and I look forward to him making many people eat their hats.
Before I go, there’s another Tizzard horse which is well over-priced: Third Intention in the Jewson. He’s a horse I’ve been watching for a couple of seasons as I believe he will win at least one good race, probably more than one. He almost won last time at Sandown but idled on the run-in and Captain Conan beat him a neck. Cap Conan had beaten him twice before, easily, but that had been over the minimum trip. Third Intention almost turned the tables at 20f, The Jewson trip. Cap Conan is 4/1 for the Jewson – Third Intention is 16/1 – daft.
Third Intention ran well last year in The Coral Cup, finishing 8th of 28 carrying 11st 10lb. Arguably, he’d have preferred better ground but it was heavy last time when he ran so well. This will be his 6th Chase, and he is improving: he is at least twice the price he should be at 16s and I strongly recommend an EW bet on him NRNB. Expect to see Joe Tizzard hold onto him till after the last this time.
This blog will probably be pretty quiet throughout the festival but if I fancy anything I will tweet it.
Enjoy the festival, don’t risk too much because people like me, with strong opinions are often wrong. And horses are pretty crazy too: they probably have more quirks and personality disorders than humans do. In 1967 when I used to skip school to work at my local racing stable, Sun Tonic, a beautiful big chestnut with four white socks loved being hosed down with nice clean water. But AP McCoy could not have got him to step into a puddle: if he couldn’t walk round it, he’d plant himself and you had to turn back. Last week I heard of a horse who was afraid of the dark!
They kick at one end, bite at the other, and nobody can be sure what’s going through their heads during a race. Machines, they are not!
Have a brilliant Cheltenham, and, if you’re a reader and like Dick Francis-type mysteries, give Warned Off a try. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app for free on pretty much any device, including a good old fashioned PC.
All the best
During the coming week you’ll hear much talk of the Old Course and the New Course at Cheltenham. In October and November the Old Course is used, in December and January, the New Course. That’s the regular schedule. Only the spur was not used in January due to waterlogging.
Frost covers are already down. There’s been enough rain for the course to be declared officially soft everywhere and overnight temperatures in the coming 48 hours are set to plunge well below freezing, The upside of frost covers is that we almost always get to race. The downside is that they can trap moisture in ground that’s already very wet; this can leave sticky, cloying going for horses, although Andy Clifton, Cheltenham’s PR boss tells me the covers are breathable so let’s hope they breathe enough to prevent pudding-type ground but not enough to let frost through.
Sandown on Saturday looked sploshy and very wet, but horses and riders invariably prefer this as horses run through it, finding it easier to splash through than sticky ‘waterless’ mud. They’ll still be tired but not Tough Mudder tired.
Cheltenham’s a stamina-sapper as it is, and while it’s almost always better to race than not to, we could see some very tired animals slogging up that hill. Let’s hope for minimal use of the stick: the public will not be aware how well-padded whips are, and hitting exhausted horses climbing a muddy hill could bring us the kind of publicity we’d don’t need with the Grand National looming (April 6th).
Anyway, I am blethering away here, let me get to the point. The Racing Post carries just one course graphic for Cheltenham – that of the Old Course. The blessed Timeform display two. I’ve used them below. You can get them, along with course maps for every other track as a free download.
Although it’s a taxing track, whichever course you’re on, I’m never afraid to back front-runners at Cheltenham; I have no stats but from my many years watching racing here, I’ve formed the impression front-runners can do better than they would on tracks which appear to be easier.
Something you’ll hear at least once before the Champion Hurdle is that Zarkandar won his Triumph Hurdle in 2011 on the New Course whereas the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday will be on the Old Course, considered by many less of a stamina test because it is a slightly shorter run-in (In Tuesday’s field, Zarkandar should be much better suited than most of his rivals to a stamina test).
A peculiarity of the New Course is that only 2 hurdles are jumped in the last seven furlongs – 42% of the race gets just 25% of the jumps.
The only other course at Cheltenham is the cross-country, a race you love or hate. I love it. I enjoy the spectacle of watching the jocks figuring out the twists and turns (many don’t manage it!). I like to see the horses scale the banks and face all different sorts of obstacles. Racing should have more of them – I’d be amazed if newcomers to the sport, especially youngsters, don’t enjoy them.
You’ll see by the map why the jocks need a GPS (some senior jockeys refuse to ride in these races for fear of ‘taking the wrong course’ bans).
The map and the fence illustration are courtesy of the talented folk at Chestnut Creative
Let’s hope the Cheltenham exec has updated the signage for jockeys on this maze of a course. We don’t want to see something like this happening this week . . .
Finally, an aerial pic of the track to give you a truer perspective on how the courses wind through those famous undulations in our modern-day Colosseum, where you can gaze in horror while live humans are devoured by bookmakers.
If your brain needs a break from form study, try the Kindle version of Warned Off, a snip at £2.50. It’s a Dick Francis-type mystery which has garnered 95 reviews on Amazon (UK &.com), most 4 & 5 star.
Good Luck for Cheltenham
Bookie Geoff Banks is a bit of a throwback – the arch-enemy of punters, but one with a face. We’re all used to tilting at the corporations like Hills and Ladbrokes without experiencing the pleasure of visualising the pain in their eyes as they pay out.
Geoff is bred for it, his father being the Frankel of bookmakers, the great John Banks, who died ten years ago. I remember John well; I was at my first Ayr meeting as a boy, it was a hot day, and as I stood looking at John’s board he reached down and gave me a choc ice – God knows how he kept them cool for his punters. John was cooler than any ice cream and pulled off some great PR stunts, managing, at the same time, to irritate Cyril Stein of Ladbrokes. But those tales are for another day.
I ought to make it clear now that I have no association with Geoff and take no reward of any kind for promoting his business. I admire him because he lays a decent bet and, more importantly for me, he was first to go non-runner-no-bet for Cheltenham. The majority of my punting is ante-post and the comfort of knowing your stake doesn’t go west with a non runner is worth a lot at any time never mind on the approach to the biggest meeting of the year.
Around this time I like to dig out a fiver each way treble for the festival, to try to win an amount which for many would be life-changing. Geoff Banks offers best price NRNB on the three I’ve chosen this year.
If you don’t already have an account with Geoff, you can open one here. It can take a few hours to get your account approved. Once it is, you have the option of credit or the standard deposit with a debit card. Geoff tells me that one of his most popular services is the text service – you just text what you want in plain English and get a quick acknowledgement.
Geoff has kindly agreed to hold these prices as long as he can for readers of this blog.
If you just want to get on with it, here are the selections:
Update, March 13th
Prices have changed, but I still think these three are well worth an EW treble: Third Intention is now 20s with Betvictor, though GMOOH is down to 9/1 & TGB is 14s in places.
Jewson Chase – Third Intention 16/1
World Hurdle – Get Me Out of Here 12/1
Gold Cup – The Giant Bolster – 16/1
Return on a £5 win treble is £18,785: a winning EW treble returns £19,285: a place treble returns £500.
And here’s the reasoning . . .
Third Intention is a horse I’ve been watching for some time; I think there’s at least one good race in him, and I believe he’s close to twice the odds he should be for the Jewson. Two things are important to him: decent ground and a hold-up ride (he can idle badly in front).
At last year’s festival he ran well to finish 8th in the Coral Cup with 11st 10lbs. Since going chasing he’s had three unsuccessful attempts at beating Captain Conan who will probably start favourite for the Jewson if Dynaste misses the race. But last time at Sandown I think Third Intention would have beaten Cap Conan had he not idled after being in front a long time – he was beaten a neck at levels.
Many say Captain Conan did not show his true form that day, but I always take the view that such conclusions should be treated with caution. Despite that being a substantial turnaround on earlier form, I think there’s every chance that TI was much better suited by the step up in trip (previous runs against CC were at 2 miles, this one was 2m 5f: Jewson is 2m 4f)
Third Intention is better going left-handed, better on decent ground and is improving: 16/1 is far too big and even if Dynaste runs here I think TI will be hard to keep out of a place.
Get Me Out of Here is another I’ve always liked, and one I’ve believed capable of winning good races. He’s been 2nd four times at Cheltenham, three of those being at the festival. Like Third Intention, decent ground is important for GMOOH, much more so than TI. This will be his first attempt at 3 miles, but he stayed on for pressure when 2nd in the Coral Cup last year carrying 11.12.
Jonjo, the master of getting them cherry-ripe for the festival will have him spot on. AP rides. It’s a fairly open race and he has every chance of being placed and perhaps just nicking the race late. My main fancy here is Oscar Whisky but GMOOH definitely represents value.
The Giant Bolster. This bugger’s jumping flaws must make him horribly frustrating to train; he rarely puts in a clear round and in his early days was regularly on the floor. But he has bags of talent and loves Cheltenham. His record at the track, when he has stood up, is 6112: that 2nd was in last year’s Gold Cup (I’d backed him at huge prices and was going mental as they went for the last!).
His trainer and jock think he needed the race at Newbury when blown away by Silviniaco Conti who was giving him 4lbs. One thing we do know with him over Silv Conti, he loves Cheltenham.
My main bet here is Bobs Worth but of the outsiders I was between TGB and Cape Tribulation. TGB’s comparative youth, his fine run last year and Cape Trib’s habit of dropping in the odd poor run (never completed a hat trick) swayed me toward The Giant Bolster.
So there you are. Risk a tenner and it might just give you something to shout about. If they all get placed, come back and buy a copy of Warned Off!
The victory of Bobs Worth in the Hennessy Gold Cup franked the form of Cue Card who had failed by just a short head to give that top class horse half a stone at Newbury last season over 2m 4f. Some say Cue Card would have won that day had his jockey not looked round after the last fence.
Cue Card went on to run 2nd in the Arkle to the brilliant Sprinter Sacre who beat the Tizzard horse 7 lengths. But Cue Card was 22 lengths clear of the third, Menorah with Al Ferof (who’d made a bad mistake) back in fourth. Sprinter Sacre’s astounding performance at Sandown yesterday forged a gold edged seal on that Arkle form.
First time out this season Cue Card won the Haldon Gold Cup over an extended 2 miles 1 furlong, by 27 lengths. Best Mate won the Haldon Gold Cup by 20 lengths the year before he won his King George.
Cue Card has won over 19f on soft ground at Newbury and over 20f on good at Chepstow where he comfortably beat fellow chasing debutant Silvianaco Conti.
Cue Card can be a tricky ride; he dislikes restraint and often has to make is own running. The hot pace of the King George should suit although it will also test his stamina on his first attempt at 24 furlongs. His jumping, touch wood, is pretty sound these days though, like Sprinter Scare, he is not always straight in the air – there can be a degree of lateral movement which sometimes leads to him screwing slightly on landing.
Still, I would say he has the most solid form in the race. I fear Al Ferof and have had a saver on him, but the 7/1 about Cue Card holds strong appeal. The race is definitely his target according to his trainer and unless a training mishap derails him, he will be there on the day. I suspect, by then, the 7/1 will have shrunk to 11/2.
Bearing in mind that ante-post bets are losers if your selection does not run, some might be willing to sacrifice a point or two in price and wait for the day.
If you decide to back him for the King George, you’d be as well having a small bet at 33s for the Cheltenham Gold Cup too. If he wins well at Kempton he might drop to a single figure price for the festival showpiece.
Long Run might be the superstar many think he is, but I believe he still has quite a bit to prove to merit his 9/4 ante-post Gold Cup price for 2012. The 6-year-old beat Riverside Theatre in the King George with an arguably past-it Kauto Star not running to form, Albertas Run pulling up suspected lame (sound on inspection) with the rest a relatively poor bunch.
Impressive as he was in the Gold Cup, filling the places were Kauto and Denman, almost twice Long Run’s age. Remember that the 2nd fav, Imperial Commander pulled up and was found to be lame as well as bleeding from a broken vessel.
So there has to be value somewhere in the Gold Cup market, but where is it? RSA winner Boston’s Angel, though game and consistent, doesn’t seem up to Gold Cup class (trainer reportedly thought him a Midlands National horse prior to Cheltenham).
Arkle winner Captain Chris’s owner commented after Cheltenham that the horse probably wanted two and a half miles but a crack at the King George would be on the agenda. A fine jumper but his stamina would need to be taken very much on trust.
Wishfull Thinking is in the same ownership as Captain Chris. Despite defeat in the Jewson at the festival, he went on to win at Aintree and Punchestown, showing he’d found his niche with front-running. His trainer says he has bags of pace and he is another likely King George contender.
Plenty pace and good jumping are admirable qualities but a stayer’s what you want for the Gold Cup. The first two in todays’ Bet365 Charlie Hall, have plenty stamina and with 16s and 20s available, you can try and narrow it to the best value, or have a bet on each of them.
William Hill pushed Time For Rupert out to 16s after today’s defeat. He was very fresh in the race, I thought, and ran with the choke out for much of the way. He’s also a big, gross horse who who should improve markedly for the outing.
It’s the first time he has led pretty much throughout. I suspect it was more by accident than design and jockey Will Kennedy decided to let him stride on rather than fight him, but it led to him taking too much out of himself and he’ll do much better held up off the pace in future.
He jumped cleanly throughout apart from a tired effort at the last, though he lugged noticeably left at a few fences and gave Weird Al a bit of a bump two out. Weird Al was giving him 3lbs so on paper it’s hard to argue that TFR can beat him in the Gold Cup, especially as Weird Al is relatively inexperienced and entitled to improve too.
On his record, the ground seems key to Weird Al – Wetherby rode much slower than the official ’good’ ground, and most of his racing’s been on soft. He’s also one of those frustrating horses with lots of talent but little luck. A fracture kept him out of the 2010 RSA. In this year’s Gold Cup he broke a blood vessel. After an early hurdles victory, he needed oxygen.
The one disappointing run he seemed to have no excuse for was last year’s Hennessy, 8th of 18 beaten 42L. That was far and away the biggest field he’d faced over fences and I wonder if that might be a weakness? Having said that, if Long Run does not blot his copybook, he might scare a few Gold Cup prospects away, leaving a comparatively small field.
After today, Weird Al’s rider Timmy Murphy said he’d barely been off the bridle and idled towards the end. I’ll back Weird Al and Time For Rupert at 20s and 16s respectively. If you want just one bet, Weird Al is probably the better value.
A stronger and taller Long Run exercised today in preparation for his return to action in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park on Saturday, November 19 and Britain’s top chaser has his first schooling session of the season with Sam Waley-Cohen up at Yogi Breisner’s tomorrow.
Nicky Henderson could not be more happy with his 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.
The trainer said: “Long Run has grown an inch and is quite heavy at the moment. He is also quite laidback, which is good. Everything is cool. We have not woken him up in his work yet and I really need to get on the grass with him. “He will probably do plenty tomorrow in the schooling session. We all know he can gallop down and jump five fences in a row but he just needs to get the technique right.
“Long Run is nice and relaxed at the moment. He will get a change of scenery tomorrow because of his indoor session at Yogi’s and then in a couple of weeks he will jump five fences before going back to Yogi just ahead of the Betfair Chase. “It is just about getting his technique right – before last season there were plenty of doubters about whether his jumping was accurate and neat enough for English fences but the doubters have wilted a little bit after the King George and the Gold Cup but we have got to keep working at getting Long Run into our style of jumping fences and away from the French style.
“His jumping tends to be little bit French at times. Yogi is a big help to the horses and the jockeys. From Sam’s point of view it is a good session for him because he cannot be riding every day of the week. The horse has got a good attitude to life and so has Sam. Sam keeps fit and never seems to be under pressure going into any of these races – he takes it all in his stride. I think I am the one who lives on the pressure button. “I get asked the question, wouldn’t you love to have McCoy or Geraghty on the horse, and the answer is no. Long Run is Sam’s horse and he has done a brilliant job on him. Sam knows the horse very well.
“I like to think we will get on the grass on Saturday. The horses could just do with two bits of work on the grass. This weekend will be the first real test of our horses. We had a second yesterday at Haydock with Pippa Greene but he had been running all summer so that does not tell us anything. “We really haven’t run much. Of the new ones, I was pleased with Bear’s Affair at Aintree – A P said he thought Bear’s Affair would turn out to be the best horse in the race but he was still green – it was only his third jump race of his life.
”If the horses are behind, they are behind – we cannot push them. Long Run has been back here plenty of time – he came here straight from the field in early July. I think he had a good summer at Robert Waley-Cohen’s, with eight weeks of doing nothing. “I went to see Long Run three weeks before he came back here and I thought he was someone else when coming out of the stable. I nearly did not recognise him because he was considerably bigger and had grown quite a lot. Horses will go on growing but at six they should be getting to full maturity. If a horse has grown, he must be getting stronger. There should be more to come.
“I don’t know what that means but he is a fantastic-looking horse. He is a beautiful horse and it is quite nice when the form book follows the rule book that the correct good-looking horse that does look like a natural athlete is the natural athlete. “Long Run takes his races well – he soon bounces back. The pressure will be on us this season as he has to defend his crown.
“We want to start in the Betfair, which is a relatively new race, as it is ideally placed in the calendar before the King George. I want to win the Betfair and then the King George. He will be wound up the best we can but the horses might be a bit behind because of the dry weather we have had.”
Long Run’s schedule is the £200,000 Grade One Betfair Chase, the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, maybe Newbury’s AON Chase and then the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 16.
The trainer commented: “I hate looking further forward than one race at a time but if we wanted a race between the King George and the Gold Cup then the AON Chase would be the obvious one. There is a huge gap to Aintree this year (after the Cheltenham Festival) and that might be a target too (Betfred Bowl). “Long Run will remain at three miles and he proved he stays three and quarter in the Gold Cup last season so I don’t think he will be dropping back in trip for the Ryanair.
“It probably wasn’t the best decision to start him off in the Paddy Power last season – going flat out around Cheltenham over two and a half miles. As soon as he got back to three miles, it was so much easier for him to get into his comfort zone.”
Of the potential challengers to Long Run this season, Henderson is most afraid of Master Minded. “I cannot believe that was his form at Aintree last weekend and he would be the standout horse if taking to three miles. “Then there are horses like Wishfull Thinking. I am sure there will be plenty of horses ready to bounce out of the woodwork – it is never easy. We just have to concentrate on what we have to do – anything can go wrong at any minute and getting them there is half the battle.”
Long Run was one of 36 horses out with Henderson’s third lot this morning under regular work rider Nico de Boinville.
Why bother studying festival form? Should we just back Ruby and Mullins, lay AP and PFN for a fat profit?
Figures for the past five festivals suggest a cold-blooded approach to profit might well be best served by backing certain jockeys and trainers and laying others. But is it as straightforward as it seems?
Listed below are the records for jockeys, trainers and Ruby/trainer combinations over the past 5 festivals.
In order the list reads:
number of runners/rides
number of winners
return on investment at Betfair odds where 100% = break even
cash profit/loss at £100 unit stakes (Betfair commission omitted)
NB this combination ran at a slight loss before the victory of Final Approach last week
Interesting that the 100 non-Walsh ridden runners for PFN produced just 4 winners and a substantial loss for backers. Also, the 70 (from 100) non-Walsh ridden Mullins horses also managed just 4 winners.
Ruby’s 7 ‘outside rides didn’t provide a winner. Following Ruby when riding for his two main ‘suppliers’ brings this result:
Building a ‘system’ on betting Ruby’s mounts would need to be a long-term strategy. Had you begun following Ruby on day one of the 2007 festival, you would not have gone into profit until he rode American Trilogy (returned at 22.2 on Betfair) to win the County Hurdle in 2009.
Also, layers will be a shade wiser come next March and Ruby’s mounts will get tighter in price though whether they are ‘overbet’ to the extent that AP’s are (on the basis of these figures) is debatable.
Still, AP backers since 2007 would never have reached profit at any time; the bottom of their punting pit, at £100 stakes, being as low as £4,351 in losses.
A judicious combination of backing Ruby and laying AP might prove the best solution.
UPDATE: OFFICIAL GOING AS REPORTED BY TIMEFORM THIS MORNING IS GOOD TO SOFT, GOOD IN PLACES, SO BEST HOLD FOR JOCKEYS REPORTS
Seasonal form figures of 4FP are the type that give a horse a bad name and a big price coming into a Grade One race at the festival. Albertas Run, last year’s Ryanair winner, has had a poor season by his standards; he fell when under pressure against Master Minded at Ascot then pulled up in the King George next time (jockey thought AR had ‘gone wrong’ but the horse finished sound).
An RSA trophy alongside his Ryanair one didn’t prevent the ruthless boys at Timeform giving him the dreaded and thoroughly undeserved squiggle (all they needed to do was check his going requirements).
He has won seven of his nine races over jumps on good ground (Timeform going description used). In the other two he was 2nd to Kauto Star in the King George and 3rd to Madison Du Berlais at Aintree. Assuming good ground tomorrow as forecast, failure to make the first three would be a career first, yet he can be backed each way at around 6/1.
His Ascot fall was his first ever (he can hit the odd fence) and it might have left its mark mentally, but at 6/1 I am willing to take the chance that his favourite surface and track (won 3 of his 4 races over jumps at Cheltenham) will see him back to his best.
We invited the racing professionals on Twitter to send us their best four bets in the form of a Yankee. The horse nominated first in each group is that person’s nap.
Iain Turner, PR guru for WBX.com and racing manager for horses like Walkon and Mille Chief, very kindly agreed to put up a prize of a charity bet with WBX.com on the John Smith’s Grand National of £250 to the winning tipster – £500 if all 4 horses are successful in the winning Yankee.
So, here they are. Good luck and thanks to all who entered.
Respected journalist and broadcaster of long standing Mike Vince offers his four:
I’m Singing the Blues
Four from the man who brought twitter terror to the turf layers with Tenor Nivernais, Richard Hoiles
Tenor Nivernais Fred Winter
Big Bucks Stayers
Big Zeb QM
Habbie Simpson Albert Bartlett
From James Knight, Coral odds guru, racehorse owner and journalist:
Sparky May David Nicholson, Mares Race
Grands Crus World Hurdle
Wishfull Thinking Jewson
Head of Communications at the British Horseracing Authority, Paul Struthers offers these . . .
Dunguib Champion Hurdle
Rock Noir Arkle
Kalahari King Ryanair
Get Me Out Of Here County
Simon Rowlands, Timeform’s Head of Research/Handicapping, nominates his four (you’ll note the CAPS on his nap):
TENOR NIVERNAIS Fred Winter, Weds
Cue Card Supreme Novices’, Tues
Time For Rupert RSA Chase, Weds
Shoreacres J Henderson, Fri.
From Simon Walton, founder and MD of ProForm Racing
Big Bucks World Hdle
Peddlers Cross Champion Hdle
Zarkandar Triumph Hdle
Woolcombe Folly Queen Mother
Phil Taylor, jockey’s valet of 25 years standing, sends us these:
Sparky May Mares
Cue Card Supreme
Peddlers Cross Champion Hurdle
From Ian Robinson, syndicate Supremo who has won wtith 92.7% of the horses he’s bought including Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander.
Sprinter Sacre Supreme
First Lieutenant Neptune
Gagewell Flyer Albert Bartlett
A Yankee from the top team at The Racing Forum
Champion Hurdle – Binocular
Supreme Novices – Cue Card
RSA Chase – Time For Rupert
Ryanair – Albertas Run
Robert Gibbs who authors the Becher’s Brook blog protests ‘I’m not a Celeb!’. He is in my book having tipped half a dozen or so winners in the past few days, among them 66/1, 20/1 10/1. Robert specialises very successfully in the lower grade racing but happily has agreed to offer us this Yankee for the festival:
Maljimar x country
Cannington Brook NH chase (sub: Williams Wishes in the Grand Annual)
Realt Dubh Arkle
The Giant Bolster RSA
The highly esteemed Graham Cunningham of RUK fame and much battle-scarred elsewhere sends us these:
Steve Mullington, Aintree fanatic, manic tweeter with a huge Blog following sends us his Yankee:
Kalahari King Ryanair
L’Ami Cross Country
Oh Crick Grand Annual
Cathryn Fry, freelance racing journalist and linch-pin of the Owners & Trainers reception at Aintree, offers these:
Hurricane Fly CH
Big Zeb QM
Plan A Fred Winter
On The Fringe-Foxhunter
Stats superstar Paul Jones, author of Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide
sent us these:
Eight-times champion jumps-jockey, Peter Scudamore tweeted this entry:
Master Of The Hall RSA
Big Bucks World Hurdle
Imperial Commander Gold Cup
Top blogger Ian Dykes, our Wayward Lad comes into the festival on the back of a 14/1 winner on Saturday - his sole advice
GHIZAO for the Arkle.
PEDDLERS CROSS for the Champion Hurdle
For the Ryanair, POQUELIN
Gold Cup, IMPERIAL COMMANDER
Highly respected trends and stats author and blogger
Ben Aitken, sends his selections:
Loosen My Load Jewson
Divers Centenary Chase
On The Fringe Foxhunters
Sir Des Champs M Pipe Conditional Hdl
Top Flat jock, James Millman has kindly sent us four:
Kalahari King Ryanair
Tony Coleman, Paddy Power’s racecourse PRO in the UK and writer for Horse & Hound offers these wine-fuelled selections:
Some Target NH Ch
Great Endeavour Stewart Family Hcap Ch
The Giant Bolster RSA
Junior Kim Muir
Paddy Power’s democratic Studio Team got together to nominate 1 horse each in the following:
Good luck to all entrants and for taking the time to offer these, a big . . .
Cheltenham’s clerk of the course, Simon Claisse has very shaky form with his going descriptions for day one of the festival meeting. Good to soft has been his verdict in four of the past five years (soft in 2008).
Timeform, using race times as well as other information, has disagreed with that description four times in the same period. Simon Rowlands’, (head of research and handicapping at Timeform), article on this is here.
Many readers know that the going is the key factor for most form students. Millions will be bet on Cheltenham runners over the next four days but until we hear the verdict of the jockeys after the first race each day, no one who is serious about their betting can back a horse with any real confidence.
Accuracy advocates put plenty work into trying to get things changed.
A thread on the Betfair forum, faithfully noted official going descriptions and compared them with time-based ones, publishing the results, for two full seasons. One of the architects of that thread voted in my blog poll and left the following comment:
“His (Simon Claisse) stick readings defy belief , He has Champion Hurdle day (2010) as softer than when Grand Crus won the Cleeve!!!!! But until you dig around and find out when a lot of the readings were taken(up to FIVE days old!!) then you are not going to get a lot of sense out of them
Take them 2 hours before the first and an hour after the last if you want them to have ANY meaning”
So, who cares? It’s Cheltenham, the NH season’s X Factor now, with almost all other big races being treated as an extended equine ‘boot camp’ for contenders. Maybe many people don’t care. The ‘holiday’ atmosphere of the festival, tempts them to abandon discipline for the duration and treat their bank as spending money.
A week ago I opened a poll on this blog based on the question Do you agree with festival policy on producing easy ground for day one? I placed a link on my home page, inviting votes. The home page has over 2,000 views yet only 198 people chose to click through to the poll. Of those 198, just 70 voted. The top ‘answer’ with just over 31% was “I don’t mind, so long as the going description is accurate”
Only 10% opted for ‘Yes, it’s the best strategy for welfare and safety‘ (You can see all results by clicking here then clicking ‘View results’ on the bottom left of the panel)
I’m no pollster. I intended to be objective in compiling and wording the options though perhaps I missed in that aim thus discouraging people from voting. The result was as I expected – most of those experienced in betting on horseracing, don’t care what the going is so long as it is accurately described.
How much will be bet on the Supreme tomorrow and what percentage of that on Cue Card? He’s seen as a banker by many yet, based on Timeform’s going descriptions, his only hurdles defeat has come on good ground.
Just 70 voters would cut little ice with statisticians, I suspect, the sample size being considered too low. But isn’t it time Racing for Change started looking seriously at this subject? Much of RFC’s focus seems to be on attracting newcomers, yet every marketer will tell you that it is much cheaper to retain current customers than to recruit new ones.
Racing’s dilemma here: the more that people learn about horseracing, the less attractive it will seem as a betting medium compared with sports where full and accurate information is available. A description of the going, which punters can trust, at every track, is essential to the long-term financial health of the sport. It might not be an easy objective to achieve, but we must find a solution.
For a start, when racecourse execs sit down to compile their list of “stakeholders”, they ought to add, close to the top, “off-course punter”