Non-Smoking Man

Cheltenham NH Festival 2019

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Dublin Festival - implications for Cheltenham.

Ive done the speed figures for the Leopardstown Festival - and very interesting they are.

1. The hurdle course had extension to the railings on day 1 , which were taken down for day 2. As the Irish authorities dont publish information on this, as we do over here, I've had to guess the extra distance the hurdlers had to go on the Saturday. Ive used comparable examples from UK racing to do this. I arrived at approx 6 seconds for 2 miles. So the times for each day arent directly comparable - you have to make an allowance. (The chase looked the same from my pictures on the Racing Channel.)

2. Having made the above adjustment,  the fastest races on day 2 were around 3 seconds per mile slower than day 1 - a reflection of the fact that a lot of good horses were withdrawn on the Sunday because of the firm ground. Thus I dont consider any horses that ran on day 2 worthy of consideration for Cheltenham.

Concentrating on the Saturday then, here is the pecking order, fastest first:

1.Commander Of Fleet (Rhinestone 2nd) 12.3

2.Off You Go and Envoi Allen   12.0

4.Quamino 11.6

5. Apples Jade 11.5

6. Le Richebourg 11.0

This ranking is adjusted for class and reflects realistically what these horses will do in their respective races. For example Ive treated the Lacy and Partners Grade 1 (C of F) as a 0-140, and Apples Jade as a 0-165. Apples Jade will have raced absolutely faster than Commander but she competes against higher class horses; The Commander is a novice (but a good one).

As a consequence of the excellent time put up by the first 2 in the 2m6f Grade 1 Novice Hurdle that opened the card, coupled with the fact a lot of good horses were left way behind in a big field, Ive invested in the Commander Of Fleet for the Albert Bartlet and Rhinestone for the Ballymore, hoping connections will keep them apart.

Notable for their poor figures were 2 chases on Day 2: La Bague Au Roi's Flogas Chase and Belshill's Irish Gold Cup. 

Jack NSM

Postscript. Ive looked again at my punting Rhinestone @ Cheltenham with reference to the owner's other runners in the relevant races. JP McManus has Champ in the Ballymore and Birchdale in the Albert Bartlett. Birchdale was in the process of being turned over b4 Brewinupastorm fell so JP might think Birchdale has a lesser chance and bolster his chances in that race despite having to take on the Commander.  Whereas Champ is a favourite for the Albert Bartlett and has an obvious chance.

Therefore Ive had a tenner Rhinestone at 30 for the Albert Bartlett on top of my bet in the Ballymore. He is bt a soft ground sire so could improve for softer ground.

Edited by Non-Smoking Man

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With UK racing at a standstill due to the Equine Flu outbreak attention switches to Ireland for Cheltenham clues.

Impact Factor runs in the 3 50 @ Punchestown today and will provide a test of the Cilaos Emery form for the Arkle. CE is one that could have got away as i had been considering taking the early 20/1 on offer for the Arkle b4 it ran. I decided I couldnt bet a horse antepost for a grade 1 that had never seen a fence in public and left it alone. However, Ive had a 'hunch' about this thing, and given that the British 2 mile novices are nothing special, 20/1 was tempting.

We will see today. If Impact Factor gets beaten fair and square you can forget Cilaos E. for the Arkle. I gave CE a 65 for its novice chase win at Gowran - it was the third best race on time on the card. Typical values for a Cheltenham winner are 85-90 so it has some improving to do.

Im spending the day rereading my racing and betting books by the likes of Andrew Beyer, Ainslie, Nick Mordin, Mark Coton et. al.

Edited by Non-Smoking Man

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Super Wammer

Jack, does the Equine Flu mean that horses based on the mainland are not allowed to go over to Ireland to compete?

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Most certainly - the Irish would be repelling boarders at the ferry terminals with shotguns!

The last thing they want is Equine Flu.

Four horses from Gordon Elliot's yard ran at Ayr a few days ago, just before the announcement was made to shut down all UK stables, including flat stables, banning all movement. Connections were made aware of the problem after thay had run and were immediately redirected to a safe isolated yard in Ireland for fear of infecting his extremely valuable string. I wonder what they have done with Davey Russell, the jockey who rode all 4 of them, as humans carry the virus also.

I imagine he is confined in a safe house too.

The big question is how the ban will effect the British trainers ability to compete with healthy Irish horses at Cheltenham in March, and, indeed, whether the Cheltenham Festival itself is under threat.

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Racing is all set to resume tomorrow, I believe.

Most firms are going 'no runner no bet' now for Cheltenham,  thereby enabling them to shorten up the leading fancies and reducing the punters value.

Its time to shut up shop for the time being, but I had to have a small bet on Cepage for the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle (sp?) handicap (run on the Thursday). This is because the scribes and broadcasters will be turning their attention to the handicaps soon and the form of cepage's last run will be discussed - and it will be considered excellent (2nd to Frodon in the Caspian Caviar handicap, beaten a diminishing length and a quarter). With opinion leaders like Kealy and Segal pointing this up, which they must, the price will contract.

Negatives are that CEPAGE has gone up 4lbs and we dont know its a certain runner, or, if it is, whether it will get to post w/o mishap. What we do know is that Frodon's subsequent beating  of Elegant Escape in the grade 2 Cotswold Chase -, with Terrefort 2.25L in arrears in third - makes Cepage's proximity to a horse now being considered as a live Gold Cup hope, look very good form.

STOP PRESS Dynamite Dollars (one of the favourites for the Arkle) is out for the season states Paul Nicholls.

Edited by Non-Smoking Man

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I know I said I was finishing this thread, but its 'never say never' in this game..


Im writing this because of an interview I watched again replaying the racing Channels coverage of the Dublin Festival. It was with Rich Ricci (yes, that is his name) the owner of Min (and Saldier incidentally). Min had just won, and in the context of a question about Min's Cheltenham target (Ryanair or Champion Chase) Ricci said that Min is a better horse this year, that he wouldnt mind taking Altior on again (in the Champion), despite having been beaten by it in the Supreme and the 2018 Champion, and he didnt know if he would stay the 2m 5f (the Ryanair trip).

There and then I realised for sure that Min would go for the Champion Chase. This increases Footpad's chance of going for the Ryanair (same stable) but it also makes other horses who will run in the Ryanair a better bet at today's antepost prices.

The obvious 2 are Waiting Patiently and Monalee. Waiting Patiently has been kept in cotton wool by connections and is not a certain starter for any race in which its entered - and that makes it a dodgy antepost bet. It has won a Grade 1 - the Betfair Ascot Chase  over the right trip in 2018 - beating Cue Card, but it hasnt finished a top class race with more than 7 runners and has yet to race lefthanded in a chase.

Monalee has better credentials: it has won a Grade 1 over the Ryanair trip (The Flogas Chase) and finished 2nd in 2 other grade 1s (including the RSA). It jumps well (despite having fallen twice!) and has been brought along quietly to peak for the Ryanair by his able trainer Henry De Bromhead. Plus he is not entered anywhere else so will run, as they say in Ireland, 'God willing'. I have an 87 speed figure for it in the Flogas which is about the same as WP and only a few lengths behind Footpad.

There are others who could win - Balko Des Flos, last year's winner, Fox Norton etc, Shattered Love, Road to Respect but they are variously out of form, getting on in years or not sure to line up.

Accordingly, in the light of my belief that Min goes eleswhere the value lies with Footpad (which ive already backed) and MONALEE, currently available @ 8/1. (my bet £24 @9.4 Betfair)

Edited by Non-Smoking Man

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Highly satisfactory prep races run by both Monalee (for the Ryanair) and Sceau Royal (for the Champion Chase). Cyrname reiterated his new level of form by destroying the firld in the Grade 1 2m 5f chase. He has shortened for the Ryanair but he's well known not to like lefthanded tracks like Cheltenhamn and I suspect he wont run, especially as its close enough now.

Brilliant day for Paul Nicholls with 6 winners (at 4 0clock).


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I'm very much a part time gambler but do bet on pretty much every race at Cheltenham. I will be following this thread with great interest. It's brilliant that you put so much effort into sharing your expertise. 



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Thankyou Tony. Very kind of you..

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Its long been recognised that you need a fresh horse to win at Cheltenham, so most of the form has been laid down by now with only 3 weeks to go. (The prospect of a huge bonus available for a horse who won the Imperial Cup , run the Saturday b4 and a race at Cheltenham was sufficient incentive for martin Pipe to go for the double in past years. )

In a bland card at Punchestown tomorrow, though,Willie Mullins, with time running out, runs 3 in an attempt to win the Quevaga Mares Hurdle (named after his great Festival multiple winner), including the potential star, Laurina. The race lies between her and Stormy Ireland.

Laurina is the talking horse and Stormy the one that has fallen slightly short of top class. Stormy is capable of testing Laurina and we will find out 1. how good Laurina really is, and, 2, what her Festival target will be Mares OLBG or the Champion. (The scribes should pester Willie for an answer.)

The plot thickens when it is considered that both Laurina and Stormy Ireland are in the same ownership (Sullivan Bloodstock Limited). Further, the stable jockey has chosen Laurina.

Laurina's form is full of holes: yes she won the grade 2 mares novice at Cheltenham last year but the 2nd, 3rd (who was 80/1) and the 4th have yet to run again; and the third, Maria's Benefit, has proved a consistent and worthy mare in lesser company only; further, Laurina has had one race this year against 1 moderate opponent in a race where 2 other contenders were withdrawn on the day for tenuous reasons (imo).

On time Laurina fares little better recording a 60 @ Cheltenham (a PB) compared with Stormy Ireland's 65, recorded in winning a Listed mares hurdle in Punchestown (tomorrow's track). That was followed by a respectable (no more)  second place to Espoir D'Allen in a Grade 3 hurdle. Plus SI gets a few lbs from the fav on tomorrow's terms.

I reckon the 2 are under orders (as in Formula 1) to finish 1, 2 in market order..

Nevertheless, I have stuck my neck out and backed the value hoping for a fair race: £10 win STORMY IRELAND at 13/2

Edited by Non-Smoking Man

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Quevaga Mares Hurdle:

Re the above post, Laurina duly obliged in workladylike fashion, and put the frontrunning Stormy Ireland in her place carrying a penalty. Laurina strengthened her credentials for the Champion Hurdle, but so did Stormy her credentials for the Mares Hurdle. Clearly this was the result that was wanted and expected. A welcome upshot for me was the hardening of Stormy Ireland for the Mares, from 15 to 10 on the exchanges. ( I backed her as big as 24 some weeks ago.) Laurina concomitantly drifted for the Mares as its now obvious she will contend the Champion.

My trainer has the favourite for the Mares Hurdle in Benie Des Dieux, and another string to his bow in Limini. That Stormy is a frontrunner is in her favour in terms of what Mullins will actually run as she can make the running for a better fancied stablemate; and, we now know she will get the trip.

I threw away a tenner to see if Laurina was that good but Ive gained some leverage in the Mares Hurdle market having backed SI to win £280 at prices from 15-24.

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Al Dancer(Supreme) and Lisnagar Oscar (Albert Bartlett) did their Cheltenham prospects no harm by winning in decent fashion last Saturday. (And Dickie Diver (previouslly runner up to the latter) also franked LO's form by winning.) Both improved their speed figures to 65 LO and  78 AD. LO still has a bit to find with Commander of Fleet (78) and Rhinestone (77). Personally I will be very interested in what Gallant John Jo (3rd to those 2) does n.t.o.

Weights are published for the handicaps on Wednesday - yippee!

I find Cheltenham handicaps a bit of a lottery. There is absolutely no value in the markets at the mo due lack of liquidity on the Exchanges, and multiple entries. However, I count myself a bit handy when it comes to high class 2 mile handicaps, so the Grand Annual Chase and the County Hurdle will come under close scrutiny.

I see Vision Des Flos won the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on Saturday, following We Have a Dream's romp in a minor race. So both the horses I backed at huge odds for the Betfair hurdle, (where they were both withdrawn), won subsequently. Great!


Le Richebourg (Arkle fav.)out for the season.

Edited by Non-Smoking Man

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This is a championship race for novice staying chasers. None of the contestants will have tackled a trip as far as this 4 miles and so there is a good deal of uncertainty as to which of the runners will stay.

Not a race to have a serious bet in, yopu might think..

However, form is form, and if the front two in the betting of any race have poor form or time or both we have a betting opportunity on our hands. Such is the case with the NH Chase..

I refer to my old friend OK Corral the 7/2 fav and Ballyward the 6/1 second fav.

OK Corral was a useful staying hurdler last season (place Albert Bartlett) and has run x2 over chases in this his novice season. He won a novice chase at Plumpton and a Listed Chase at Warwick - both in the slowest time of the day (adjusted for class etc.). The form of the Warwick race is poor..apart from the fact there were only 4 runners (meaning its a weak race), the second, Secret Investor was only 4th of 4 n.t.o. OKC's speed figure of 47 is 30L+ short of what would be required to win a race at Cheltenham.

Ballyward won an ostensibly competitive race l.t.o ( a 0-140 chase at Naas) and the form has been franked by the second (winner since) but the time was atrocious (confirmed by viewing a rerun of the race).

There was a 3 mile Grade 2 chase at Ascot (The Reynoldstown) that looks a more promising source of the NH Chase winner. Mister Malarkey won off a mark of 142, beating Now McGinty 1.5L with a decent yardstick in third and the 150 rated and undefeated Top Ville Ben well beaten off, last of the five runners. a 67 for the winner and 66 for Now Mcginty looks decent compared to those preferred in the market.

Will they both stay 4 miles and will they choose the NH Chase over their other engagements?

I went back over their hurdle exploits last season for answers. Mr M never raced beyond 2.5M over hurdles, but Now McGinty was a very good 2nd over 3 miles at the Grand National meeting. This indicates NM may be the better stayer, and also that he may be more likelly to go for the 4 miler rather than 3 miles of the alternatives. Looking at the finish of the Ascot Chase NM was clawing back his victor at the death and may well reverse the form over further.

Further Mister Malarkey, having wo n a hurdle race last season in good style, flopped next time out - could history repeat itself?

At twice the odds I plumped for Now McGinty over Mr Malarkey at the very generous price of 40 to win £250 on Betfair.

That was a few days ago and I went back in today to have another few quid on it but its down to 27 so I left it alone, happy with my existing bet.

Now McGinty, a good jumper, is the hopeful selection in the NH Chase and represented good value at that 40 (39/1). If there is any indication from the stable that this race is its intended target, 27 would still be value in the knowledge that it will take part.

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As indicated above, the handicap weights have been allotted, and, at last, the list of entries is in order of weight to be carried, rather than in alphabetical order. The advantage here is one can see which horses are likely to get in, given restrictions on the number allowed to race according to established safety standards. (Also, it tells you which horses are in which weight ranges - e.g., in the brown Advisory most winners have carried < 11 stone, Kim Muir > 11 4 etc.)

There are some problems with backing in any of the handicaps at this stage, notably:

1. Multiple entries;

and, 2. uncompetitive pricing.

On the latter, it is necessary to explain 'the overound'.

The overound is the percentage 'take-out' (profit) should any horse win. For example if there are 4 runners @ 3/1 each runner takes out 25% of the book - and 4 x 25% = 100%. So, in this case there is no overound - the bookie breaks even. If there were 5 runners @ 3/1 the overound is 25% and the bookie makes a profit of £25 in every hundred in the satchel.

I have just done the overound on the Bet365 (and this will be the same for all the books (they hate being 'out of line') prices for the Kim Muir Handicap Chase. Here they are, with the take out for each batch of runners at a given price:

(92 entries, all priced up)

66/1   £1.50

50/1   £2 00

33/1    £39

25/1    £82

20/1   £100

16/1 £78

14/1  £26

12/1   £42

10/1   £27

Total £397.50

The recognised industry standard is around 15-20 % overound, so you can see the odds are stacked heavily in the bookmakers' favour. Betfair, the punters' mutual exchange site where punters bet against each other is no better because nobody has started to bet, so there is no liquidity in the market.

Given all this, my advice is to hold fire until there is more definite information as to what will run where.

(I suspect some trainers and owners know and some are undecided. Some OWNERS are so powerful (McManus, Gigginstown, Suede & Munir) they will be having an influence wanting their horses with different trainers to avoid each other. It wouldnt surprise me if some trainers, brushing into each other at the racecourses, are having muffled conversations about their respective intentions..)

WE are left in the dark and they have the edge - for the moment.


PS Penhill an absentee from the Stayers and Ciloas Emery doubtful for the Arkle

Edited by Non-Smoking Man

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Posted (edited)

RYANAIR part 2.

When I posted on the Ryanair  on Feb 14th, the overt situation with that stable (Paul Nicholls) was that Clan Des Obeaux, who had won the Racing Post Chase (grade 1, 3 miles) would be a definite starter for the Gold Cup (obviously), but that Frodon, who had won the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham over £3m 1F and 56X (plus 151X through rail movement), having proved he stayed the trip would accompany him to the Gold Cup.

Since then Frodon has drifted markedly for that race. I only spotted the drift a day or so ago when I saw that Frodon was remarkably short in the betting for the Ryanair given all the talk was of how it would stay the trip and be competitive in the Gold Cup. So I checked and Frodon (CDO's stable companion) was 50 for the Gold Cup and 10 or 10.5 for the Ryanair. That was yesterday - this a.m. Frodon is 70 for the Gold Cup!

Its clear that P. J. Vogt's Frodon is running in the Ryanair.

Also, at the same time I did the speed figures for the Gowran meeting (Feb 16th) and noted Monalee's poor figures in the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase. I did a visual check on the VT and the tempo throughout was pedestrian. OK, Monalee did enough to win but a 50 is not impressive.

Therefore I backed Frodon to win the same as I win with Monalee and Footpad (£180).

The stable are quoted as stating that Frodon will run where it has its best chance and have not decided which of the 2 races to go for. The betting says the Ryanair - and this keeps Frodon and the Barbers' Clan Des Obeaux apart.

Can Frodon win on time?

Indeed it can:

Frodon 103, 90, 74

Monalee 87 (RSA), 60, 50

Footpad 94

What is disquieting about Frodon, as can be seen from the temporal sequence, is that its figures have diminished through the season, yet its official mark has increased from161 to 164, and , finally, to169 in the same 3 races.

Edited by Non-Smoking Man

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