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BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS

From The Guardian.

Cheltenham Festival stat of the day, by Paul Ferguson
The last 18 winners of the RSA Novice Chase had contested a Graded race en route to the Festival and this is a negative for both Minella Indo and Allaho, who lack chasing experience but are high in the betting for this year’s contest. Despite boasting smart Grade 1 novice hurdle form, the pair have yet to race outside of beginners events in Ireland over fences. Only two horses in recent years – Florida Pearl and Don Poli – have won the RSA on the back of just two runs and both had won a Graded event last time out. Both were also unbeaten.

BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS

The record of four-year-olds in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper stands at just one winner from 80 runners since 1996. That winner was Cue Card, who would go on to prove himself at the top level for many seasons, whilst the previous four-year-old winner was the high-class hurdler Dato Star. This shows the kind of calibre of horse required to defy this statistic, and Panic Attack is prominent in the betting this year for the age group.

BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS

Willie Mullins boasts an enviable record in the Mares Hurdle, especially with French-bred mares. Nine of the 12 winners were French-bred from just 20% representation, so they are clearly over-performing in this sphere (as they do in the Mares Novice Hurdle). This statistic pointed punters towards 2018 winner Benie Des Dieux, who would have won this race again last year but for a final-flight fall. She looks one of the more rock-solid favourites of the week, in trends terms, should this end up being her chosen target.

BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS

Despite the victory of Espoir d’Allen last year, the record of five-year-olds in the Champion Hurdle is not strong. Such horses have won the race twice from 102 runners over the past 33 runnings and it remains notoriously difficult for horses of that age to break into top-level races, over any distance. This has to be an obvious concern for fans of last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Pentland Hills, for all that this year’s race looks a weak renewal.

BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS

The past eight winners of the Festival’s opening contest, the Sky Bet Supreme Novice Hurdle, had won a Graded novice hurdle earlier in the campaign. This is something which market-leader Shishkin will need to overcome, if he is to provide trainer Nicky Henderson with a fourth win in the race. Henderson has a mixed record in the Supreme, with Altior his only winner during the past 27 years (36 runners) and he has seen some big names beaten in this event, such as Sprinter Sacre, Binocular, My Tent Or Yours and Buveur d’Air to name just four.

bada bing1

Cheltenham Festival not for a couple of weeks?

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Bada
10th to 13th March

bada bing1

This title will be all the sweeter,given all the cheating, and shite we have had to put up with from Sevco, and the huns at Hampden.

bada bing1
bada bing1

The Club can either leave it, and think job done, we exposed the lies,or get Club lawyers onto Sky,hope it’s the latter.

The Gombeen Man

Bada,

I think everyone is on the previous article. This is just for Cheltenham chatter.

HH

Twists n Turns

Just to keep everything in one place I’ve copied this across

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On 18th Feb in London I was kindly once again asked to take part in a Cheltenham Preview evening alongside 11-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls.

During the evening we discussed all the major races throughout the meeting, and both gave our opinions on who was the best bets in the races at the time

Alongside that Paul Nicholls gave us the lowdown on his main hopes throughout the meeting from his vast string and horses to look out for not only at the festival but the future too.

Here are all big race trends and tips for the races, as discussed that night for you to use as you wish.

Please remember when betting ante post a lot can change, as can our opinions.

Good Luck

SUPREME NOVICES HURDLE
✓ 9/10 Ran within the last 59 days
✓ 9/10 Previously contested a Graded Race (8 had won)
✓ 8/10 Won at least 50% of their hurdle starts
✓ 8/10 Won last time out
✗ Only 1 winner started their career on the flat
✗ 2/42 is the record of Unbeaten Hurdlers
✗ 1 of the last 11 winners went off 11/1 or more
✗ All35 runners in headgear have been beaten
✗ 1 4yr old winner in the last 45 years

The curtain opener to the main event and both Paul Nicholls and I were in agreement that SHISHKIN was the horse to beat here. He’s fully of speed, looks full of class and has no problem staying either. If the ground were to become really testing, I feel that the owner’s other runner ASTERION FORLONGE would be bang in the mix. He doesn’t look to be the quickest, and in fact had an entry in the Albert Bartlett, but a test of stamina will suit him to the ground.

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ARKLE NOVICES CHASE
✓ 8 of the last 15 have won or been placed at a previous Cheltenham Festival
✓ Hurdle RPR rating of at least 153
✓ Finished in the top 2 in all completed Chase starts
✓ 9/10 RPR of at least 160
✓ 3 to 5 chase runs
✓ 9/10 Rated within 6lb of the top rated
✗ Horses 9+ are 0/27
✗ Horses that began on the flat are 0/28
✗ Only one winner in the last 18 wore headgear
✗ Bigger than 9/1
✗ 5yr olds are 0/6

Paul Nicholls believed BREWINUPASTORM of Olly Murphy’s sets the form standard of the UK runners. He has a horse called GREANATINE that has done nothing but improve this year and that ran well when winning last time out. A decision will be made on whether he will be going to Cheltenham over the next few weeks, but if showing up he’d be a big price and could run a nice race. He could just be an Aintree horse and is one to look out for
For me the horse to beat in this race is NOTEBOOK, he looks a class above the opposition and despite doing a lot wrong the last day at Leopardstown he still won with a bit in hand. He can be very fractious so if the occasion doesn’t get to him, he is the one to beat. I agreed with Paul that BREWINUPASTORM was the best of the Brits and will be in the top 3 barring any issues

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ULTIMA CHASE
✓ 9/10 No more than 5 runs that season
✓ 9/10 Had run at a previous Cheltenham festival
✓ 8/10 Were ages 7-9yrs
✓ 8/10 Officially rated 132-148
✓ 8/10 Had won over at least 3 miles
✓ 8/10 Top two finish on either or both of last two starts
✗ 2 of the last 11 winners were rated below 142
✗ 1 of the last 10 winners hadn’t run at the Festival before
✗ Only 1 of the last 10 winners were rated over 3lb higher than they started the season

The race wasn’t discussed on the night but for me a horse called NO COMMENT would be worth of support if he were to show up here. He has had a light campaign this year over, largely, trips too short. However, upped to his optimum trip, he was in the process f running a big race until coming down at Leopardstown in the Paddy Power Chase. Owned by JP McManus keep an eye out for money for this horse.

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CHAMPION HURDLE
✓ 10/10 RPR of at least 163
✓ 9/10 No more than 12 Hurdle runs
✓ 9/10 Had won a Grade 1 Hurdle
✓ 9/10 Aged 6-8yrs old
✓ 7/10 Won Last time out
✓ 8/10 Ran within the last 51 days
✗ 1 from 20 is the record of horses that were yet to place at the Festival
✗ 1/101 the record of 5yr olds
✗ 1 from 12 had run in more than 12 hurdle races
✗ 4 of the last 24 hadn’t won last time out

Felt that its one of the poorest Champion Hurdles in memory, Paul Nicholls believed PENTLAND HILLS was the horse they all had to beat.
I’m not as convinced on Pentland but don’t really have a strong opinion on the race. However, if we had a soft/heavy first day then I would be happy backing BALLYANDY and NOT SO SLEEPY each way. The former beat Pentland who doesn’t want soft ground, and the latter’s last race at Newbury can be totally ignored. Hughie had a near identical horse a few years ago (won at Ascot, pulled up Newbury) who placed in this race at 33/1

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MARES HURDLE
✓ 10/10 At least 9 career starts
✓ 10/10 RPR of 156+
✓ 9/10 Top Three finish in a grade 1 or 2 hurdle
✓ 8/10 Won last time out
✓ 9/10 Trained by Willie Mullins
✗ 0/25 horses wearing headgear
✗ Only one winner has come from outside the top 3 in the market

BENIE DE DIEUX, one of the bankers of the week for both of us

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CLOSE BROTHERS CHASE
✓ 7 Winners won last time out
✓ 8 winners spent only 1 season hurdling
✓ 8 winners were first time festival runners
✓ 5 of the last 7 had won a handicap Chase
✓ 2 winners had fallen over fences
✓ 7/10 were aged 6-7
✓ 10/10 rated 132-142
✓ 9/10 Top three finish last time out
✗ Only 1 winner had been off for more than 45 days prior to the race
✗ No graded Chase winners
✗ Only 2 winners priced bigger than 12/1
✗ Only 2 Irish trained winners

Paul had no opinion on the race but for me HOLD THE NOTE has been trained all year for this race, by the same owners and trainer as Mister Whitaker, who won this race under a near identical prep just 2 years ago.

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NATIONAL HUNT CHASE
✓ 10/10 Ran at least 3 times over fences
✓ 10/10 Finished 1st or 2nd in a chase over at least 3m
✓ 9/10 Top 5 finish last time out
✓ 8/10 Aged 6-8
✓ JP McManus owned 6 runners
✗ 1 of the last 9 winners had not run in a graded chase
✗ No winners from Paul Nicholls or Nicky Henderson
✗ The last winner to have had run in less than 3 chases was in 1999

Paul Nicholls liked COPPERHEAD if he were to turn up here. For me the Mullins runner CAREFULLY SELECTED would be very hard to beat, his form has taken numerous boosts this year and he looks like he will stay all day. Will also be ridden by one of the best jocks in the race.

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I’ll cover day 2 a bit later this afternoon. Need to get the naps updated

jimthetim53

Twisty, a clever IT person could surely come up with a computer programme that would apply all those positive and negative attributes against a field of horses in a race and come up with a certainty! 🙂

JimmynotPaul

Jim.
A couple of problems, horses have off days and so do jockeys.

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Jim
Yeah I know what you’re getting at but I’m in agreement with JNP – so many variables. A bad jump, a faller in front of you, an off day, jockey error, all conspiring to frustrate you.

I do believe however that the more you study form the more chance you have. Added to trainer info you can at least give yourself a better chance.

Hopefully some of this Cheltenham stuff pays off for someone.

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Tonight for example – well in 10 minutes to be exact, Tom Ward thinks Cheeky Rascal has a good chance of winning at Wolves.

His logic is that removing all the headgear it normally wears will improve it, but I’m thinking he must’ve had the headgear on in the first place to try and eek more out of the horse. So I’m cautiously curious to see how it does.

It was 16/1 and I see it’s now 11:1 so there’s some money going on it but I’ve tempered my bet to a £5 ew at the 16/1 it was earlier.

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4 places in that race too so gives me a wee bit better a chance.

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Absolutely hammered in to 11/2 near the off and is beaten a length into second.

BOBBY MURDOCH'S CURLED-UP WINKLEPICKERS

Today’s stat.

Since the ratings ceiling for the Northern Trust Company Novice Handicap Chase (formerly the Close Brothers) increased to 145 a couple of years ago, only one of the 10 horses to finish in the first five raced from a mark below 141 – the 2018 winner, Mister Whitaker. This suggests that the race is becoming more compressed and it is probably best to focus on the top end of the handicap. Of last year’s 20-strong field, nine were rated 140 or lower.

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DAY 2

BALLYMORE NOVICES HURDLE
✓ 13 of the last 18 won last time out
✓ 6 of the last 9 won an Irish Point
✓ 10/10 Aged 5 or 6
✓ 10/10 Rated within 8lb of the top rated
✓ 10/10 RPR of at least 152
✓ 9/10 Won at least 50% of their hurdle starts
✓ 9/10 Won over 2m4f
✓ 9/10 Won a Graded hurdle
✓ 8/10 at least 3 runs over hurdles
✗ 1 of the last 11 winners went off 7/1 or bigger
✗ Only from of the last 18 had run further than 2m5f
✗ Horses ages 7+ are 0/54
✗ Challow Hurdle winners are 0/16
✗ Horses that started on the flat are 0/30 in the last 13 renewals

We were both in agreement that ENVOI ALLEN, on all form, is the horse to beat. Hard to knock anything he’s done and everything he’s beaten has come out and won too. It often isn’t as simple as that, but he is the horse they must beat.

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RSA CHASE

✓ 9 of the last 14 winners won last time out
✓ 10/10 did not run on the flat
✓ 10/10 Top three finish last time out
✓ 10/10 Had run in a graded chase
✓ Last run 24-53 days ago
✓ 8/10 7yr olds
✓ 6-12 combined hurdles and chase runs
✗ Only 1 runner in the last 18 years had run in less than 3 chases
✗ 2/30 the record of unbeaten horses
✗ 0/46 the record of horses running in their first graded chase

We both felt that Champ was an opposable fav in this race and whilst he is a classy horse his jumping leaves a lot to be desired and he wouldn’t get away with that here. Paul Nicholls felt that FAUGHEEN was the horse to beat if connections came here with him. Personally, I’m of the opinion he will go to the Marsh Chase (JLT) and the horses to beat hear are MINELLA INDO and ALLAHO (who also has a JLT entry). Minella a previous festival winner and both are closely matched

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CORAL CUP

✓ 9/10 Rated 135-149
✓ 9/10 Had a break of 32 days or more prior to the race
✓ 9/10 no more than 4 runs that season
✓ 9/10 no more than 9 hurdle runs
✓ 8/10 had won that season (4 won last time out)
✓ 8 of the last 12 started in bumpers
✓ 8 of the last 10 came from the top 8 in the weights
✗ 1 of the last 10 came from the top 4 in the market
✗ 2 of the last 16 winners hadn’t won that season
✗ 1 of the last 11 had run in more than 9 hurdles races
✗ Only 4 of the last 18 had run at the festival before
✗ Horses in headgear are 2/135
✗ No first season novice has won

Paul Nicholls will be entering DANNY KIRWAN and MCFABULOUS but both would need a bit of luck to get in. MCFABULOUS is currently rated 132 which would be right at the bottom of the weights, but if he were to sneak in, he’d have a big chance, he’s always worked like a good horse and certainly better than 132. If he doesn’t make the cut, he will most likely be at Kempton on the Sunday after and will run a big race. I feel that the Nicky Henderson mare DAME DE COMPAGNIE will run a big race here. A huge eyecatcher in the Greatwood she flew home and beat one of Pauls better hurdlers Quel Destin who won a listed hurdle on his next start. Shes raced once since, winning with ease and will be well suited by the race.

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CHAMPION CHASE
✓ 10/10 Won over at least 2m1f
✓ 10/10 At least 7 runs over fences
✓ 9/10 Grade 1 Chase winner
✓ 8/10 No older than 9
✗ Bigger than 5/1

Paul Nicholls will be entering DYNAMITE DOLLARS and POLITOLOGUE and feels that both are hugely overpriced. He was very strong on the chances of DYANMITE DOLLARS who he feels has been totally overlooked despite only being beaten after the last by Altior coming back from a long layoff. The horse has come on plenty for that run and at around 20/1 he feels he’s a cracking each way bet. For me, ALTIOR is the horse they all need to prove that they are good enough to beat. He’s still unbeaten over the trip and has only ever found once horse to good for him. He will hit his flat spot, but he’ll also hit the line better than any. We both felt the biggest danger to our selections was DEFI DE SEUIL and neither of us felt Chacun Poir Soi would be involved.

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CROSS COUNTRY CHASE

✓ 10/10 Won over at least 3 miles
✓ 8/10 Trained in Ireland
✓ 7/10 at least 13 chase runs
✓ 6/10 Won or places in a cross country chase at Cheltenham or Punchestown
✓ Prominent racers
✗ Outside the first three in the market
✗ 7 or younger
✗ Festival Debut
✗ Willie Mullins 0/12

TIGER ROLLS race and shouldnt have any trouble winning it

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JUVENILE HURDLE (FRED WINTER)
✓ 6 of the last 7 went off 25/1 or bigger
✓ 2 of the last 5 horses carrying a penalty have won
✓ 9/10 Officially rated 125-134
✓ 9/10 Top 3 finish in either of the last two starts
✓ 8/10 Had lost their maiden tag
✓ 8/10 won within their last 3 starts
✗ Only 2 winners had run in a handicap hurdle
✗ None of Willie Mullins 12 runners have finished in the top 5
✗ No winner had previously run at Cheltenham

Paul Nicholls will have both HITMAN and THYME WHITE in the race with the latter named having the better chance. It’s a race Paul has done very well in and this horse is an improver who won last time out. He gave the horse a good chance. I had no opinion on the race.

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CHAMPION BUMPER
✓ 8 of the last 18 from the top 3 in the market
✓ 14 of the last 26 had been beaten
✓ 7 of the last 18 runners hadn’t run this calendar year
✓ 10/10 won last time out
✓ 9/10 Aged 5 or 6
✓ 7/10 had won a bumper with at least 14 runners
✗ Only 2 from 26 hadn’t won last time out
✗ Only once in the last 12 Runnings has the apparent Mullins first string, judged on market, performed best
✗ 4yr olds 1 from 58 the last 18 years
✗ Henderson & Nicholls generally don’t target the race

Mullins has a typically strong hand and for me APPRECIATE IT is the horse they all need to beat. A very impressive winner at Leopardstown last time out he won a race that’s thrown up numerous past winners of this. Another of Mullins runners that will run well if arriving here is FERNY HOLLOW, a horse full of ability if a little quirky. He needs a perfect ride but will be well suited by the hustle and bustle of a big field. Paul had no runners of note and no opinion on the race

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DAY 3
JLT NOVICES CHASE
✓ 4 of the last 6 winners had run in the Ballymore
✓ 6 of the last 8 had a prep run at Leopardstown
✓ 6 winners had already won a graded chase
✓ 7 of the last 8 were distance winners
✓ 6 out of 8 were rated within 8lb of the top rated
✗ 1 Winner went off higher than 7/1
✗ No winner having their first run in a graded chase

Paul Nicholls liked the Henderson runner MR FISHER for the race, of his own horses he has MASTER TOMMYTUCKER (runs Saturday) and SAINT SONNET (runs at Newbury next week) both of whom will have to win to warrant an entry here. If FAUGHEEN runs here then he feels he is the one to beat. Personally, I hope that ALLAHO turns up in this race because he will be well suited by it, an out and out-front runner he will be suited by the track and stay too. Of the Brits ITCHY FEET has a great chance and looked very good at Sandown last time out, a race won by Defi Du Seuil last year before taking this.

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PERTEMPS HANDICAP HURDLE FINAL
✓ 8 of the last 10 had wining form from 2m4f to 2m6f
✓ 8/10 had between 6-10 runs over hurdles
✓ 7/10 Rated 133-142
✓ 7/10 Had run in the last 48 days
✓ 8/10 Carried no more than 11st 4lb
✓ Last three winners were Irish trained novices
✓ The last 5 winners had all gone off the first 6 in the market
✗ All 17 horses running off of 150+ have finished outside the top 2
✗ No winner in the past 18 years had been off more than 61 days
✗ 1/79 the record of French bred horses

Paul had no opinion and no intended runners, at the time, on the Pertemps so left it with me. For me PHOENIX WAY is the horse they all have to beat, and we have already backed him at 25/1 for the race. He won with stacks in hand last time out and has only gone up 7lb. At a bigger price is a horse called GEORDIE B who will only run if the ground is soft. He qualified back in November under a ride that was very eye catching, he hasn’t run since, but it could be because they want his mark protected. If he runs and the ground is soft, he will be too big a price.

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RYANAIR CHASE
✓ 9/10 Had an RPR of at least 170
✓ 9/10 were rated within 6lb of the top rated
✓ 9/10 No more than 4 runs since October
✓ 8/10 Top 2 finish in at least one of their last two starts
✓ 8/10 Course winner
✓ 1 season hurdlers
✓ 5 winners were previous festival winners
✗ Festival debut (no winners)
✗ Only 3 winners won last time out
✗ Only 2 winners were bigger than 8/1
✗ Horses without a Grade 1 win

Paul Nicholls reported FRODON to be in great heart and looking superb, he’s improved no end since Kempton and expects a bold effort to retain his crown. I can’t disagree and feel that he is the each way bet to nothing, however the horse they have to beat is A PLUS TARD should he show up. A previous festival winner has looked imperious this term, as Frodon did the last

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STAYERS HURDLE
✓ 10/10 Aged 6-9
✓ 10/10 Ran no more than four times since August
✓ 9/10 Top two finish last time out
✓ 8/10 No worse than 2nd on all completed starts that season
✓ 7/10 Won a graded hurdle over at least 3miles
✓ 7/10 had ran between 9-20 times over hurdles
✓ In the last 18yrs winners were 19/23 in Graded conditions races in Britain that season
✗ All 65 horses in headgear have been beaten
✗ Horses beaten last time out are 0/37 in the last 14 Runnings
✗ Horses ages 10+ are 0/52 in the last 31 Runnings
✗ No 5yr old has won
✗ Only Big Bucks has won having started the campaign as a chaser

PAISLEY PARK impossible to oppose. Another banker of the week for us both

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BROWN ADVISORY & MERRIBELLE PLATE
✓ 10/10 Had won between 2m3f and 2m5f
✓ 9/10 Carried no more than 10st 13lb
✓ 9/10 Had no more than 12 runs over fences
✓ 8/10 Had won a class 3 or higher
✓ 8/10 Officially rated 135-145
✓ 5 of the last 11 went off 25/1 or bigger
✓ Irish bred horses have won 6 of the last 9
✓ Prominent runners
✗ Only 2 winners in the past 18 have gone of shorter than 12/1
✗ Graded chase winners have lost all the last 10 runnings (Last 5 winners had lost in a Graded chase)
✗ All 77 horses in the last 15 renewals that had won a chase at Cheltenham have been beaten
✗ Horses rated 150+ are 0/33 this century

For me BEN DUNDEE has been laid out for the race. He has had a light campaign but ran his best race on debut this season. Looked after since he looks a horse whose mark has been protected for this meeting and Davy Russell riding would be significant. 3rd, albeit a distant one, to A Plus Tard last year he has proven form around here

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KIM MUIR
✓ 1 season hurdlers
✓ 10/10 We rated 134-142
✓ 9/10 Aged from 7 to 9
✓ 8/10 Had run over 3m last time out
✓ 8/10 Had won over 3 miles
✓ 8/10 No more than 11 runs over fences
✓ 8/10 Ran at a previous Festival
✓ 6/10 Finished in the top 2 on either or both of their last two starts
✗ Claiming jockeys are 1/86
✗ Paul Nicholls & Willie Mullins are 0-26 in the race, none placed
✗ All 26 handicap debutants were beaten
✗ Only 2 of the last 12 had run in more than 11 chases
✗ French breds are 0/56 in the last 13yrs

GLENLOE is another horse that for me has been laid out for this and looks a brilliant each way bet to nothing. Beaten a nose in the Pertemps last year he has been running over trips too short this year and behind some very good horses. This looks a typical JP McManus plot. Yet to be given a handicap mark he can’t get more than 138 in my opinion, rated 141 over hurdles he looks to have an outstanding chance. Paul Nicholls left this race alone

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DAY 4

TRIUMPH HURDLE
✓ Last run within 55 days
✓ 9/10 won at least 50% of hurdle races
✓ 9/10 Top 3 finish last time out
✓ 9/10 RPR of at least 150
✓ 8/10 By a Group 1 winning sire
✓ French bred horses have 3 wins and 3 2nds in the last 4 renewals
✓ Henderson trained 6 winners, Hobbs 3, King, Elliott and Nicholls 2 a piece
✓ 7/10 ran 2 or 3 times over hurdles
✗ 2 of the last 13 hadn’t run over hurdles since the turn of the year
✗ 1 of the last 14 has gone off bigger than 10/1
✗ Last winner from a break longer than 55 days was 1992

Paul has a whole host of possible for this race but most notably SOLO, MICK PASTOR and SIR PYSCHO who would all have good chances if they got here. SOLO has an entry at Kempton on the weekend and is a horse to follow, full of class he’s expected to go a long way in the coming years. MICK PASTOR wouldn’t want the ground too soft. I am also keen on the chances of any of Pauls three if they were to turn up. If the ground is very deep GOSHEN will get through it better than most, his form took a huge boost at Ascot on the 14th Feb.

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COUNTY HURDLE
✓ 10/10 achieved their best RPR going left handed
✓ 9/10 Rated 134 to 139
✓ 8/10 Carried no more than 11st 1lb (Both exceptions were trained by Willie Mullins)
✓ 8/10 Ran no more than 12 times over hurdles
✓ 8/10 Aged 5 to 6
✓ 7/10 No previous festival form
✓ 7 of the last 11 winners went off 20/1 or bigger
✓ Second season hurdlers have won 12 of the last 15
✗ Handicap debutants 0/72
✗ Only 1 winner in the last 18yrs had a top 5 finish in the festival
✗ Only 2 of the last 12 winners had won last time out

Paul has CHRISTOPHER WOOD and ECCO entered for the race, but Christopher Wood may be diverted to Sandown instead, where he would have a good chance. ECCO will be here if the ground is soft and was better than the bare result in the Betfair Hurdle. For me the mare of Willie Mullins CIEL DE NEIGE will be well suited by this race and finished just half length shy of Pic Dorhy in the Betfair Hurdle. She travelled like the best horse in the race but got to the front too soon, she’s quirky but shes fully of ability and this race will suit her to a T. Mullins always has a strong hand in this and his horses are always to be looked at

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ALBERT BARTLETT
✓ 10/10 At least 3 hurdles runs
✓ 9/10 Had won over at least 2m5f
✓ 8/10 Top 3 finish in a graded hurdle last time out
✓ 7 Winners had won a graded hurdle
✓ The last 5 winners were all a double figure price
✓ 8 of the last 12 were rated 6lb or more below the top rated horse
✗ All 36 that had run less than 3 hurdles races were beaten
✗ Willie Mullins is 1/32
✗ No winner had run in a graded bumper at the three big Spring Festivals

Paul had nothing intended he liked but I feel that LATEST EXHIBITION of Paul Nolan’s is the horse to beat. He looked super impressive at Leopardstown and won with plenty in hand, providing the handicapper isn’t to harsh he will have a big say. At a price COBBLERS WAY is very closely matched to the first named horse and has a very similar profile to that of Minella Indo who won this race for this yard last year, a big run can be expected from him if he makes it here.

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GOLD CUP
✓ 12 of the last 15 had only run over hurdles for 1 season
✓ 10/10 Grade 1 chase winner
✓ 9/10 aged 7-9
✓ 6/10 Had run in the King George or The Savills Chase (Lexus)
✓ 9/10 won over at least 3 miles
✓ 8/10 Had two to five runs that season
✓ 8/10 Won a graded chase that season
✓ 8/10 Won or placed previously at the festival
✗ All 68 runners ages 10+ were beaten
✗ All 86 horses that had run on heavy ground that year were beaten
✗ Horses placed in the previous years Gold Cup have an appalling record (Native River the exception)

Possibly Paul Nicholls strongest chance of the week in the best race. He couldn’t have been any sweeter on the chances of CLAN DES OBEAUX if he tried and says the horse is twice the horse, he was last year. He felt that he trained him all wrong last year by sending him out to win at Ascot before Cheltenham and that the horse needs to be fresh. The King George win came as no surprise and the horse has never been in better shape than he is in now. He has no fears about the track and as a man that’s won this race more than most, he was very convincing. I preferred DELTA WORK and couldn’t see how the Gordon Elliott trained runner would be far away, he has Cheltenham form and was given a poor ride in last years RSA to finish 3rd. He looks to have improved and for me is the one to beat. Nicholls Mentioned that Topofthegame, who is in grand form and will be back next year, won the RSA that Delta came 3rd in. He wouldn’t consider Topofthegame in the same league as CLAN DES OBEAUX.

Twists n Turns

FOXHUNTER CHASE
✓ 10/10 Ran between 20 and 41 days ago
✓ 9/10 Won over at least 3m
✓ 9/10 Top three finish last time out
✓ 8/10 Aged 7-10
✓ 7 of the last 16 came from the first 2 in the market
✓ 7 winners in the last 18 had won or placed in the race before
✗ No winner for 10 years had more than one season over hurdles
✗ Only 5 jockeys in the last 18 years had ridden out their claim
✗ 1 from 18, running with a break of more than 41 days
✗ Only 8 of the last 32 winners hadn’t won last time out
✗ Only 5 of the last 30 didn’t begin their career in points or hunter chases

Paul has ALCALA and BOB & CO entered for the race and both will be trying to win the same race at Fontwell on Monday. He’s hoping he can get the 1-2 in the race and that both horses can get qualified. Both would have a fair chance in this.

Twists n Turns

GRAND ANNUAL CHASE
✓ 10/10 Had won at the distance
✓ 9/10 No more than 12 runs over fences
✓ 10/10 Aged 9 or under
✓ 8/10 Rated 138-150, all of the last 8
✓ 8/10 Hadn’t won that year
✓ 8/10 Top 3 finish at least 1 of the last 2 starts
✓ 7/10 Carried no more than 11st 2lb
✓ 7/10 Had run at a previous festival
✓ 6 of the last 9 went off 16/1 or bigger
✓ 13 of the last 18 were first or second season chasers
✗ Horses that had won a chase that season are 0/111
✗ 2 of the last 9 winners came from the first 5 in the market
✗ 1 of the last 8 rated under 140
✗ Only 1 winner in the last 18 had run in more than 12 chases
✗ Only 2 of the last 15 winners were having their first festival run

Paul Nicholls will have MAGIC SAINT and CAPELAND entered and feels that CAPELAND has the best chance of the duo and is far too big a price. He’s a rapidly improving chaser. In my opinion Nicky Henderson has been training WHATSWRONGWITHYOU for this all season. It’s a race he loves to win, for obvious reasons, and this horse was given an abysmal ride in it last year. He’s 6lb lighter this time round and although hasn’t been in the best of form I wouldn’t be shocked if he were to bounce back.

Twists n Turns

MARTIN PIPE
✓ Officially rated 133-144
✓ 9/10 aged 5 or 6
✓ 9/10 Top three finish in one of their last 2 starts
✓ 9/10 No more than 8 hurdle runs
✓ 8/10 Won that season
✓ 6/10 Came from the first 6 in the market
✓ 4 of the last 5 making their handicap debuts
✓ Willie Mullins 3, Gordon Elliott 2 account for the 5 Irish trained horses, 4 owned by Gigginstown
✓ 7/10 Carried 11st 1lb to 11st 5lb
✗ Only 2 winners hadn’t contested a graded hurdle
✗ Only 2 winners had run at the festival before
✗ David Pipe is 0/19

Paul will have DANNY KIRWAN, MCFABULOUS and TAMAROC DU MATHAN entered. All will be at the foot of the weights, if they don’t make they cut they should be kept an eye out for on the Saturday at Kempton, especially TAMAROC DU MATHAN who Paul thought would have an excellent chance on the Saturday card after Cheltenham. I’m strongly of the opinion that COLUMN OF FIRE has been laid out for this by Gordon Elliott, again for obvious reasons he targets this race.

Twists n Turns

Gold Cup

An alternative to the fancied runners. I got this about a week or so ago, and it might interest the price hunters amongst you. Now 20’s not 25’s on PP. Might be bigger elsewhere.
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Not too long to go now
People enjoying the usual chatter
Which horse wins the Blue Riband

Most of these horses
You can make a strong case form
You can also rip them all apart too
The arguments go round in circles

There is no right answer
To some of the bigger dilemmas
Such as will certain horses stay
How will some recover from prep runs

My take is this

There are only 11 horses

Who are under 100/1 now

NATIVE RIVER is a 10yo
All 78 his age were beaten since 1999

Several have breeding issues
And are not guaranteed stayers

CLAN DES OBEAUX

Horses sired by Kapgarde
Running in Listed and Graded races
Racing over 3m 1f and more
Have a 0-20 record so far

DELTA WORK

Massive chance on form
I can understand why people like him
But nobody is questioning his stamina

Horses sired by Network
Running over 3m 1f or more
Running in Graded races
Have a 0-27 record so far

CHRIS’S DREAM is only rated 146
Looks to plenty too much to find

BRISTOL DE MAI is a 40/1 chance
Surely he is not going to win this

PRESENTING PERCY has his fans
But are becoming fewer and fewer
Not many would have him first choice

SANTINI

Winning plenty over
But still has his critics
Ruby Walsh one of the latest
A little inexperienced with 9 races
Recent winners had these career runs
12 20 16 26 9 15 11 18 17 15 30 13 20
What worries me about him most
He has just had a very hard race
Winning a Cotswold Chase on soft
That hasn’t been a good trial race
Can we be sure he will recover ?

KEMBOY

Unseated at the 1st in last years race
Probably going to end up Mullins no 2

LOSTINTRANSLATION

Flopped in the King George
Trying to repair his reputation now
Could easily win just as easily lose

AL BOUM PHOTO

Won last year
Wouldn’t be a shock if he won

MONALEE

Don’t see why he can’t win

One of the lower rated horses
From the 11 horses that can win

He has strong festival form

Most people would say
He doesn’t get the trip well
His pedigree looks fine to me

You can argue some are better
Maybe that is true at this stage
But he has only had 12 chase runs
Every chance he can improve more

Deliberately missed all the trials
That could work in his favour here
5 recent winners were like him
Horses aged 9 with 2-3 months off

Career best figures last time
Racing Post Rating of 170 there
That should give him a big chance
When so many have question marks

Selection

MONALEE 25/1

jimthetim53

Just listened to the 2nd episode of Ben Hur on R4extra. It’s fantastic. This is the lead up to the great chariot race. Lots of stuff about the horses. How our hero builds up a relationship and trust with the horses. They are all named after stars. Huge amount of betting going on of course – even in those days! Wish I could get a bet on this race. Our hero wins despite the cheating from that pig Messala.

Cosy Corner Bhoy

Really enjoying reading ALL the stuff about Cheltenham from the contributors.At least I’ll know more about why I backed a loser?

1TimMalloy

Brilliant Idea Mick and Twists.
Avid reading for the next 2 weeks.

HH