A thirty-grand two-mile handicap chase at Cheltenham today and Fox Norton could be called the winner well before they turned down the hill: he was absolutely tanking along. He threw some athletic, energetic leaps, even late in the race and his handicap mark should go up at least 10lbs to 156. That would still leave him a fair bit short of the mark of a normal Champion Chase winner, but he’s only 6 and looks to have come on a ton since last year.
Douvan is 1/1 fav for the Champion Chase just now, but given what can happen between now and then plus Willie’s penchant for changing a horse’s target, I think 50/1 Fox Norton is a good value bet to keep you warm between now and March.
His form suggests he might benefit substantially from a long rest between races and Nick Williams, who used to train him said early last year that he doesn’t want too much racing. Yet, he had a busy season, and finished 3rd in The Arkle.
Also, it might be that proper good ground is important to him and Cheltenham will open on good to soft at best, as it always does (the Champion Chase is on day 2).
Still, a wee bet at 50s represents value, even with those caveats. And, going by my experience, a wee bet is all you will get at 50/1. The only established bookmaker displaying that price is Bet365 who offered me a maximum of £2.50 ( yes, £2.50, not £25.00).
Another informative run from Don Cossack today. He has a very awkward action, especially behind where both feet come out almost like a breast-stroking swimmer – he tends to do it more with his off-hind. I suspect it’s this action that makes him tilt his head quite often (much more noticeable rounding bends, or when initially trying to pick up under pressure). His ears go one way, his nose the opposite. At Kempton his nose went left, at Aintree it went right. His long stride too makes it very difficult for him to put in a short one; he can do it, but it tends to break his rhythm and lose him ground. He also jumps quite flat at times, and I think he’s going to need an awful lot of luck at Cheltenham to win a Gold Cup.
He’s a horse I’ve always liked, and I backed him to win the Betfair Million (he did not run in leg 1). But the more I see of him, the more inclined I am to keep my cash in my pocket.
He has a mighty engine, but that action looks even more awkward coming down the hill at Cheltenham. All in all, I think he’s going to find things happening too quickly for him. It’s highly unlikely he’ll get into a rhythm, and he’ll probably belt at least one, and need scrubbing along. I don’t think headgear will make a jot of difference. He strikes me as a most honest horse, and not at all lazy; it’s just that when something happens that requires a quick move from him, he cannot make it; he’s just too big and gangly.
It’s not just errors that cause him problems. When Vautour took it up in the King George and raised the pace, Don Cossack could not go with them and got shuffled back. That pace increase happened as they went into a bend, which disadvantaged him further.
He’ll be a place lay for me in the Gold Cup where I suspect young Cooper will be aboard Don Poli.
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 . . .
Scu is the 16th entrant trying to win a big charity bet from WBX.com with his Yankee recommendation in the first ever Twitter Tipster Trophy Challenge.
You can see Scu’s bet along with all the other entries here. Just scroll down the page to the comments section.
Celebs, you have until midnight to enter and try and win up to £500 for a charity bet on the John Smith’s Grand National.
Poor old Tidal Bay. If he were human and had a good QC, he’d have won a dozen defamation cases against his detractors.
Many people have a soft spot for him, and I’m one of them. For a ‘villain’ he’s been pretty consistent; jumps placings:
Not out of the first two in his first 17 NH outings. He’s won at least once each season in all bar his first, and only been out of the first 4 twice in his life. he’s won two Grade 1s and two Grade 2s (three of these Graded victories at Cheltenham) His racing style, with that high head carriage, makes me think something is hurting him. Owner Graham Wylie had his back checked last season and they believed they’d found, and fixed, the problem, but, a bit like the ancient pop group Status Quo, he still keeps turning out the same old performances, his version of the 12 bar blues for supporters.
When he finally pops his platinum plates, I wouldn’t be surprised if an autopsy found some physical defect which will leave racing fans swooning and reflecting ‘if only’. One of the best hurdlers of the ’70s, Birds Nest, used to get called all sorts of names because he’d swerve badly across the course near the finish when under maximum pressure. When he died, they opened him up and found he had a serious heart defect.
I doubt Tidal Bay will win the Gold Cup but I’ll bet the roof comes off the stand if he does. Unfortunately, I don’t think his form with Imperial Commander at Haydock can be taken literally. I had the good fortune to speak to Ian Robinson last night – Ian heads the syndicate that owns Imperial Commander – and he told me that not only did IC suffer a serious cut during the Betfair ‘chase, they found out later that when they thought they’d had him 90% fit for the race, he was just 75% to 80% fit.
The romantic in me would love to see Tidal Bay blunder his way round in his usual fashion, trade at 999 on Betfair two out, and storm up the hill to win by a nose in a four-way photo-finish. I don’t think he will but with old TB, you never, ever know.
Good luck if you’ve backed him.
We already have selections from six of racing’s professionals and the competition does not close till midnight on Monday.
Sign up to Twitter Updates, or email updates (both on right side of this page) for news as more entries are posted.
You can see current entries by clicking here and scrolling to the comments section at the bottom
Racing pro? Please enter by tweeting me your selections, nap mentioned first, or simply leave them as a comment on this page
I know that many of you employed in racing, especially journalists and broadcasters, jockeys and trainers, PR reps for the major bookmakers et al, are admired by racing fans and your opinions eagerly sought at Preview Nights and by your Twitter followers.
This blog is now getting around 1,000 views a day and rising so there will be many who’d love to see your best bets for Cheltenham all in the one place.
If you’d like to tweet me your Festival Yankee, or, indeed, leave it below this article as a comment, along with your name, your fans can see your selections and perhaps have a bet themselves.
My good friend Iain Turner, PR Supremo at WBX.com and form-superbrain, has kindly agreed to give the competition winner a free £250 charity bet – (£500 if picking all four winners) – on the John Smith’s Grand National.
I will provide a nice Trophy for the victor and I will keep this article updated with your selections as they come in by posting them in the comments section below.
The competition is open to anyone on Twitter who is professionally involved in racing, including owners. (I will tweet some personal invitations to the pros not following me).
Entries close at midnight on Monday 14th March
Please make the first horse mentioned in your tweet/comment your nap
Winner is the one with highest total return to a £1 stake Yankee on their selections at industry SP.
If no one gets two winners, the best priced nap (first selection mentioned) wins
Good luck, and to those brave enough to enter, a big . . .
Stats and trends have become hugely popular in the past few years, especially for festival meetings. Maths was never my strong point – if I could work out a £2 double at 11/4 and 9/2 I was happy.
So when stats came to the fore in racing, I, like many, welcomed them. They were the S-Plan diet for form students – lose work, gain time painlessly.
The first time I was alerted to the cracks in the stats ceiling was in 2008 when I had a very strong fancy for Captain Cee Bee in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham.
But the stats boys said – “Ignore seven-year-olds, they have a very poor record”. The Supreme is a race for novice hurdlers aged four and older. I set about digging a bit deeper and found that in the previous ten years, only a handful of seven-year-olds had run in the Supreme. That blew the stat’s credence, making it a non-stat. It also helped Captain Cee Bee go off at a longer price so the ‘stat’ was helpful to me in the end.
Another, bound to pop up somewhere before next Friday, is “ignore six-year-olds (Long Run) who have a very poor record in the Gold Cup” But as the popular Paul Jones, the man who is to stats what Brian Epstein was to The Beatles, tells us in his annual Festival Guide , only three six-year-olds have run in the race since 1963.
My simplistic view is that, unless stats are published with a sample size, treat them with extreme caution. For a much more comprehensive and learned insight, you will find James Willoughby’s article, enlightening.
Another excellent article from Timeform’s studious stats guru, Simon Rowlands is here
Good luck with your betting.
NB links are provided for easy access by readers; I do not get paid affiliate fees