Sunday 20 October 2019

Five key tips to a profitable Cheltenham Festival

James Pyman has some essential Cheltenham betting advice

Apple’s Jade will be the subject of plenty support from Irish punters whether she runs in the Champion Hurdle or the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. Photo: Sportsfile
Apple’s Jade will be the subject of plenty support from Irish punters whether she runs in the Champion Hurdle or the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. Photo: Sportsfile

James Pyman

Stayers with class are perfect fit for four-miler

The National Hunt Chase is a searching test of stamina for novices. You must consider if horses will get the four-mile trip, but equally important is whether they possess the requisite talent.

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Chasers with a touch of class who stay well have an excellent record.

In runnings since 2011, chasers officially rated 150+ have achieved finishing positions of 1125P1F1 for a €1 level-stakes profit of +€23.75.

Last season's winner Rathvinden had this profile, as did 2017 winner Tiger Roll, who won the Randox Health Grand National last season.

Five of the last eight winners of the four-miler have been trained in Ireland, following a prolonged spell of dominance for British stables, who won every running between 2000 and 2010.

Irish have upper hand in handicap hurdles

Before the final day last season the Irish had wrapped up the BetBright Prestbury Cup - the annual competition between Irish trainers and their British counterparts based on most Festival winners.

Handicaps are a key battleground and the last three Festivals suggest horses from Ireland could dominate the hurdles, but are unlikely to get their own way in chases.

Irish trainers have won 11 of the last 15 handicap hurdles. Gordon Elliott supplied five of the winners, from 30 runners, for level-stakes profits of €49.

Interestingly, the betting has often proved an unreliable indicator when Elliott has been represented by more than one runner. Four winners were not a stable first-string based on starting prices.

By contrast, just six of the 15 handicap chases in this period went to Ireland. Elliott has made his presence felt with two winners from 11 runners (+€0.50), but generally handicap chases have been a happier hunting ground for British trainers, who have enjoyed nine winners.

Follow favourites in mares' races

The Festival's two mares' Graded hurdles are an incentive for owners/breeders to keep top mares in training, but these races can lack strength in depth, underlined by the excellent record of favourites.

Since 2009, favourites have achieved finishing positions of 111111F113131 in these contests for a level-stakes profits of +€6.69. Quevega supplied the first six figures in this sequence by winning the race a remarkable six seasons running.

When looking for Festival bankers, runners strongly fancied to win mares' hurdles are a good starting point, and if Apple's Jade lines up in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle instead of the Champion she will be a very warm order.

The Mares' Novices' Hurdle was introduced in 2015 and all runnings have gone to favourites trained by Willie Mullins.

Nail your colours to Nicholls in two-milers

Ten-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls has celebrated a winner at The Festival for the last 16 years.

Given his stable has been in rude health this season we can expect him to extend that record. History suggests his 2m chasers merit close inspection. He has won the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase five times, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual four times and the Racing Post Arkle twice.

The stable has won two of the last three runnings of the Grand Annual. Solar Impulse scored at 28/1 in 2016 and stablemate Le Prezien was a 15/2 chance when winning last season. These two were second-season novices.

The yard's Modus, twice a course winner, has this profile and he would be an attractive contender this time. Nicholls has aimed Dynamite Dollars at the Arkle and the improving chaser advertised his claims when landing the Wayward Lad Novices' Chase in December, beating the highly regarded Kalashnikov.

Don't discount big prices in Boodles Hurdle and Plate

As a rule of thumb you should be guided by the betting at The Festival, given that in the last 10 years roughly half of the winners were from the first three in the market.

However, trends suggest it may be worth ignoring prices in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (registered as the Fred Winter).

This race was won by 33/1 Veneer Of Charm last season and he was the sixth winner in seven runnings to return an SP of 25/1 or bigger.

Those who like to study form have little to go on in the Boodles, which is fiercely competitive and made up of four-year-olds with limited hurdling experience, so the trend may well continue.

The Storyteller (SP 5/1) last season, and Salut Flo (9/2) in 2012 were well-backed winners of the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, but this is another handicap with a history of throwing up surprises with four winners since returning SPs of bigger than 20/1.

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