Having looked in detail at all of the 99 runners to take part in the past 5 renewals there seems to be some strong trends emerging as do what makes a Centenary winner. However, looking at the top of the market it seems the market has not caught on up on many of these yet.
I'm a big supporter of class being an important factor when deciding the chance of a horse in a race. In the past 5 years nearly 25% of the field had never run in a Class A under National Hunt Rules before this race. The finishing position they recorded is as follows.
2011: 5, 9, PU 2010: 6, 7, 9, PU, PU, PU 2009: 14, UR, F, PU 2008: 3, 8, 10, 14, PU, PU, F, UR, PU 2007: 8, PU
13 of them did not even finish, and of the 11 that finished ONLY ONE PLACED.
From a 25% representation they have only formed 5% of the placed horses and produced no winners.
If a trainer did not feel comfortable running them in a Class A before now (most had been in training 2/3 seasons) then why should they be capable of taking an especially fierce one first time out? Included in these 24 runners were the favourites for the last two years; Definity and Rivaliste.
2. How is this race different to other races the horses have been competing in so far?
1. Large Field 2. Strong Pace 3. Cheltenham
The large field and usual strong pace associated with a festival race is far flung from the small field novice events that horses have been taking part in over the winter. I would always want a horse who has proven he can handle such an event (be it over hurdles) as well as having some experience at the track. Having gone through all 99 runners these are the parameters I have come up with.
1. Large Field - Won in a 12+ field and placed in a 16+ field 2. Strong Pace - Achieved a Topspeed of 115+ 3. Cheltenham - Run at the course before
Looking through the 5 renewals it seems a horse can get away with missing out one of the factors but that's it.
The finishing positions of those that failed all 3 : 9, 11, PU, PU, PU, PU, PU
And those that failed two: 3, 5, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9, 11, 12, 13, PU, PU, PU, PU, PU, UR, UR
25 runners of which 13 finished and ONLY ONE PLACED. These included fancied horses such as The Hollinwell, New Little Bric and Dear Villez.
Being a Novice Handicap Chase at the biggest meeting of all it is a prime target for horses to be plotted at. So what's the easiest way to conceal your true hand?
Simple: Don't run in Handicap Chases before this race, be it in open company or Novice Events. It is far easier for a handicapper to gauge the ability of a horse in a handicap than in a small field novice event. However, looking at the market this year it seems the public have not caught on to this fact, with four of the top five in the betting (at the time of writing) having come through handicaps.
The record of horses who have run handicaps before are:
2011: 4, 7, 9, 12, PU, PU, PU, PU, PU 2010: 5, 7, UR 2009: 9, 14, UR, PU 2008: 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 14, PU, PU, PU, F 2007: 6, 8, 9, 13, F, PU
32 runners (almost a third of the field), yet they have produce NO WINNERS AND ONLY THREE PLACES.
Favourite at the moment is Triolo D'alene of Nicky Henderson who has run in a handicap before. Nicky Henderson in recent years has run Shakalakaboomboom, Oscric and Boomshakalaka who had competed in at least one handicap before and they finished - 9, PU, PU. Likewise, Alan King is represented by Bless The Wings who has had three runs in handicap chases already. 4 years ago King sent a similar sort The Hairy Lemon (11/1) to the race who was far too exposed after 4 handicap chase starts and finished 8th.
Even though you may think one run in a handicap won't do any harm it is still far easier the handicapper to get a handle on a horses ability. The figures of those who had only competed in one handicap is:
12, PU, PU, PU, 14, UR, PU, 3, 4, PU, 6, 13, PU
Also it makes sense that the fewer times the handicapper has seen a horse run the harder it will be for him to measure its full ability.
Horses with 3/4 runs over fences have produced 4 winners and 11 places. Compared to those with 5+ only producing 1 winners and 4 places. Those with five plus starts have made up only a third of the field but they have done worse than their proportion suggests they should do. The winner was L'antartique five years ago.
For that reason, I am happy to discount anything who has had more than four runs over fences.
There is also a strong preference for those horses who, on the figures, are on the upgrade. By this is mean horses who either won last time out or produced their best RPR over fences.
60% of the runners met this producing - 4 winners, 10 places 40% of the runners did not producing - 1 winner, 5 places
In conclusion, the factors I am looking at are:
a) Run in a Class A under National Hunt Rules before
2. Race Type - Meet at least two of the following Criteria
a) 115+ TS b) Run at Cheltenham c) Won in 12+ field and placed in 16+ field
a) Never run in a handicap chase b) Four or less runs over fences c) Either won last time out or recorded best ever RPR over fences
Applying these to the last five renewals you would have been left with:
23 runners producing 4 winners and 8 other places.
The only horses to reach the criteria this season are:
Mic's Delight Shot From The Hip White Star Line
My first selection for the race is Victor Darntall's Mic's Delight who is currently available at 20/1 NRNB. A useful bumper performer, he won a Kempton bumper at a big price before just failing to give tons of weight under a penalty to the useful mare L'accordioniste.
In his first two starts over hurdles he finished behind useful sorts Kilcrea Kim and Golden Chieftan and he entered handicaps off a very lenient mark of 112. He won at his first try by 7l before dropping back to novice company and beating a good field including Barbatos, Bless The Wings, Safron De Cotte and Time For Spring. His best performance of the season came when only failed by a nose to win the EBF Final with horses such as Dynaste and Invictus in behind. He finished off the season with a disappointing second at Perth.
Sent over fences this year he's looked equally as good if not better and after coming second to the potentially useful Penny Max he has won twice cosily at Market Rasen. Both times he has been ridden very confidently and Dennis O'Regan has not had to get the bottom of him at all using only hands and heels. The field last time was good with Maringo Bay and State Benefit in behind. Off 135 he looks potentially very well handicapped and is proven in big fields, so the hustle and bustle if anything (judging by his hurdle form) should improve him. What also encourages me greatly is how much he found off the Bridle in the EBF final last season. After front running he slipped 5 lengths back and only between the final two did O'Regan go for him at which point he really began to motor. So far he hasn't been asked for anywhere near that much effort over fences, so I believe he could be potentially very well handicapped.
The one slight worry is all his form is right handed, however, having spoken to a connection of the horse they don't see why he shouldn't be equally as effective going left handed. Another point in his favour, is that if he takes his chance he is likely to have the fantastic Dennis O'Regan aboard. Being a big field with inexperienced horses you want as much help as you can from behind the saddle (shown by the previous winning jockeys and the shocking record claimers have in the race) and O'Regan certainly ticks that box. He has multiple entries (two 3 mile handicap chases) so it is worth getting involved but only on a NRNB basis.
With Shot from the Hip likely to miss Cheltenham according to his trainer, we are left with White Star Line. However, his price isn't up to much and although I may play him on the day if he takes his chance, he doesn't appeal ante post. One that does though is Nearest The Pin who finished ahead of both White Line Star and Shot From The Hip over Christmas, and is better off with them at the weights.
A massive talking horse (still entered in the Arkle) the key to him seems to be decent ground, which he has only had a few times in his career. After a few runs to get qualified for a handicap over hurdles he bolted up when he first met with decent ground.
Over fences, his first two runs were on Heavy ground which hated and on the second of those he was described by Racing Post as being given a "noticeably quiet ride". Interestingly that day he was very close in the market to Flemenstar, so he is obviously very well thought of. His best run of the season is when he chased home the very useful Hidden Cyclone with White Star Line and Shot From The Hip in behind.
On the back of that he was sent off 7/4f favourite for a Grade 2 last time on soft ground. However, that day he finished lame so I think it's fair to put a line through it. Once again, the price he was sent off, shows the regard he is held in. The main reason he fails the stats is his poor run last time but like I say I thnk it's fair to forgive him that as he finished lame behind. He's been given a mark of 136 which seems more than fair and he should be capable of being very competitive off it.
He is ridden by Paul Carberry or Ruby Walsh usually, so also he is likely to have one of the best jockeys on him if he is allowed to take his part. With his connections (Tony Martin trained) I can see him being a massive gamble and going off a single figure price on the day.
Although he has not yet to prove himself over the trip, his sibling Hold The Pin improved it. Nearest The Pin has tried it once, however, he was being qualified for a handicap then and the ground was soft. With another year on his back and better ground he has every chance of seeing it out and going close. Like Mic's Delight I have no idea if he'll run (other entries in Arkle/County Hurdle) but if he does I can't see him being anywhere near 20/1, so the NRNB available looks huge.
Stonking write-up as ever EC ...many thanks.Difficult race to get involved in with running plans uncertain at present,although NRNB is ample insurance.May I ask your opinion on Far Away So Close who seems to meet most if not all of your criteria ...thankyou.
Stonking write-up as ever EC ...many thanks.Difficult race to get involved in with running plans uncertain at present,although NRNB is ample insurance.May I ask your opinion on Far Away So Close who seems to meet most if not all of your criteria ...t