Andrew Mount sifts through Day 4 of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival with an array of Key Stats & Trends for all the feature action, unearthing some value picks in the process...
1.30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle
Sir Erec won key trial the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last month, sauntering home by 6L from stablemate Gardens Of Babylon. That was all the more impressive as he’d only won a maiden hurdle the time before and it’s rare for a maiden hurdle winner to make the transition to Grade 1 hurdle winner in a single step. Tuesday’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Klassical Dream arrived at Cheltenham with an identical profile.
Gardens Of Babylon re-opposes and he could be the one for the forecast or the each-way alternative.
If there’s to be an upset it could come in the shape of Ecco. He was only sixth at Kempton on his British debut but the ground was fast enough for this French import and he clocked a good time despite going down by 20L. The likely strong pace will suit and we saw plenty of hurdlers outrun their odds by coming late and wide towards the stands’ side rail yesterday, tactics that he could well adopt based on that first British run.
Shortlist: Sir Erec, Gardens Of Babylon, Ecco
Alan King has had a season to forget when it comes to the big races – scoring with just two of his 86 hurdle/chase runners on Saturdays since 1st October. One of the exceptions was Lisp and the race will be run to suit. However, jockey Wayne Hutchinson has a terrible habit of going around the inside and the ground was markedly slower there yesterday. The steady pace was against him when only eighth in the Betfair Hurdle at Ascot last time and he’ll appreciate the likely end-to-end gallop.
Trainer Dan Skelton has a good strike-rate with runners returning from a wind operation, including 25-1 shot King D’Argent who was placed here on Wednesday. CH’TIBELLO is the latest qualifier and his yard has won two of the last three renewals of this race, both times with a horse having their first start of the calendar year – last year’s 33-1 winner Mohaayed had been off since December and 2016 winner Superb Story had been missing since the previous November. The form of his last-time out narrow second to Midnight Shadow in a 2m4f handicap hurdle at Aintree in December was franked when the winner won a Grade 2 at Cheltenham next time and the 97-day break can be viewed positively.
Selection: Ch’tibello (1.5pts each-way, 8-1 William Hill, five places)
The last five winners were priced at 33-1, 16-1, 11-1, 14-1 and 33-1.
All had run at least four times over hurdles.
Those who ran in an Irish Grade 2 contest last-time out have provided five winners from 15 runners, 33.33%, +£94.00 to £1 at SP, +£137.27. Derrinross is the sole qualifier.
Fergal O'Brien has yet to have a winner on its first start after a wind operation but Aye Aye Charlie, sixth to yesterday’s Stayers Hurdle winner Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle over course and distance last time, will appreciate the likely strong pace. Hopefully, Paddy Brennan will bring him to challenge towards the stands’ side rail where the ground looked much quicker yesterday. He was beaten by 28 lengths that day but was only four lengths behind Sam Spinner, who was second to Paisley Park yesterday.
We were out of luck with Henry Daly’s Atlanta Ablaze in the four-miler on Tuesday – she was in with very chance when falling two out – and I’m keen on the yard’s STONEY MOUNTAIN in this. He has 14L to make up with Lisnagar Oscar on their running in a Grade 2 race at Haydock last time but he was left with plenty to do that day on a track that was strongly favouring those who were up with the pace throughout. He’s only once finished out of the first three since his debut, when mid-division in the Champion Bumper last season. Horses that come from off the pace do well in this race – had we simply bet any horse who was ridden patiently when in the first three last time out, we would have won six of our 55 bets and made a profit of £61.00 to a £1 stake.
Commander Of Fleet also qualifies on the above system and is 3-3 over 2m4f+ if we include his point-to-point success. However, he’s only had three runs over hurdles and those with three of fewer runs over hurdles are 0-47 in recent years.
Selection: Stoney Mountain (1pt each-way, 25-1 Coral, five places)
Danger: Aye Aye Charlie (0.5pts each-way, 40-1 Coral, five places)
3.30 – Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup
Last year’s runner-up Might Bite has disappointed in both starts this season – finishing last of five in the Betfair Chase before his 37L seventh in the King George. However, he’s since had a wind operation and Nicky Henderson has won with 13 of his 33 runners returning from this procedure (39.4% strike-rate) for a profit of £40.91 to a £1 stake (largely thanks to William Henry, who landed the Coral Cup at 28-1).
With the ground possibly not soft enough for last year’s winner Native River the each-way suggestion is Tony Martin’s ANIBALE FLY. He ran a fine prep race when runner-up to Monalee over an inadequate 2m4f at Gowran Park last month and he was third at 33-1 in this race 12 months ago before his fourth place in the Grand National. He’s had four runs in total at the big spring festivals – Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown - winning once and placing in the other three.
Clan Des Obeaux is 0-4 at Cheltenham but has was second on three occasions and all those runs took place over 2m1f-2m5f. He has improved considerably since going 3m+.
Selection: Anibale Fly (0.5pts each-way, 25-1 William Hill, Ladbrokes, BetVictor, all four places)
Dangers: Might Bite, Clan Des Obeaux
Clan Des Obeaux is part of our Tasty Treble for Friday.
Last year’s one-two Le Prezien and Gino Trail again do battle. Le Prezien is only 1lb higher than last year and has clearly been laid out for this again by owner J P McManus. Gino is a 12yo but looks the sole pace in the race and could place again off the same mark.
Brelan D’As represents the same trainer/owner as Le Prezien and clearly failed to stay 2m4f when fifth to Siruh Du Lac and Janika in a Grade 3 handicap chase here in January. That pair fought out the finish of the Stable Plate here yesterday and he won at Fakenham next time.
Selection: Brelan D’As (1pt win, 14-1 generally)
Most winners lined up after a break of between three and six weeks since their last start and came from the top ten in the weights, carrying 11-00 or more. Backing all qualifiers would have hit the winner eight times in ten years (from 55 runners) for a profit of £77.00 to £1. Narrowing it down further to those who finished in the top five last time out produces a shortlist of If You Say Run, Dallas Des Pictons, Coolanly, Style De Garde, Garo De Juilley and Disordinantly.
New Customers only. Deposit and place a £5 qualifying bet on any race at Cheltenham, excludes cashed out bets. £35 Free Bets split into 7 bets of £5 each, Valid on Any Horse Racing Market at Cheltenham, on Friday 15th March. Valid at Cheltenham from 17:30GMT on Thursday 14th March until the start of last race 17:30GMT on Friday 15th March. Credit or Debit card only. Geographical Restrictions. See below for full T&Cs. Please Gamble Responsibly