Your five keys to a profitable festival
James Pyman with the essential advice for punters
Evidence makes strong case for Jury verdict
For the first time last season Gordon Elliott was the joint leading trainer numerically at the Festival with six winners, the same figure as Willie Mullins. Elliott, however, had more second places to back up that success.
Across the previous three Festivals combined, Elliott recorded five winners, with his 2017 runners returning a chunky €1 level-stake profit of €46.75 and an impressive 23pc hitting the target.
A race Elliott has farmed is the National Hunt Chase and the four-mile novices’ contest for amateur riders was upgraded to Grade 2 status last year, meaning your search for the winner should focus on staying novices with a touch of class.
Since 2011 Elliott has won the race three times from just five runners, most recently with Tiger Roll last season. His two other winners, Chicago Grey and Cause Of Causes, had previously run in a Grade 1 novice chase, and this makes the stable’s Jury Duty a prime contender this time as in December he was runner-up in a Leopardstown Grade 1.
Mullins first port of call in handicap hurdles
Willie Mullins may have narrowly missed out on the leading trainer crown for the fifth time running last year, but he won the most hurdles races, four from 34 runners yielding level-stake profits of €17.37.
The stable is focused on Grade 1s, but Mullins will be well represented in handicaps. At the last eight Festivals if you had backed his runners in handicap hurdles at 25-1 or shorter you would have enjoyed profits of €53.50, courtesy of seven winners from 52 bets.
Importance of the French connection
With six of the last 12 winners of the Boodles Fred Winter Hurdle returning odds of 25-1 or more you might be tempted to reach for a pin, but analysis of the types who run well in this contest shows one profile that outperforms all others.
Last season’s runner-up Divin Bere was the latest example of an unexposed juvenile hurdler making a big impression in the Fred Winter. Since 2010, horses sent off at single-figure odds in the race who had run no more than once over hurdles in Britain/Ireland and had run in a French hurdle have finished 2102F12 (+€5.50). The two winners, Sanctuaire and Diego Du Charmil, were trained by Paul Nicholls.
It’s tricky for the handicapper to assign accurate marks to horses with this profile, and those the betting suggests are likely to be well treated are often running to a level better than their official ratings.
Codd can net more Festival winners
Be on the lookout for notable jockey bookings at the Festival, particularly in races restricted to amateurs as demand for the best riders is always high.
Jamie Codd is as good as the top pros and is the jockey whose services every owner wants to secure in amateur races. He has ridden seven Festival winners from just 23 rides since 2009. His record is so strong that his mounts at the last nine Festivals have generated profits of €35.83. Most of Codd’s recent Festival rides have been for Gordon Elliott and this combination’s runners have achieved placings of P1F2111U since 2013 (+€19.50).
Stick to last-time-out winners in Pertemps
Changes to the qualification system have made it harder for a trainer to lay out a horse for the Pertemps Network Final.
There used to be just eight qualifying races with a horse needing only to run in one to qualify. Now there are 20 qualifiers in Britain and Ireland, plus five in France, with a hurdler required to finish in the first six to be eligible for the Festival.
Now, horses who had been off the course no more than 32 days and are last-time-out winners are enjoying disproportionate success. Since 2008, runners fulfilling these criteria have achieved four wins – Ballyfitz (18-1), Fingal Bay (9-2), Call The Cops (9-1), Presenting Percy (11-1) – from 19 runs (21pc, +€27.50), and two of the beaten runners finished second.
Focus on winners of the three qualifiers closest to the Festival staged at Exeter, Haydock and Chepstow as these feeder races take place within 32 days of the final.