2016 CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL – DAY ONE – Who Will Take The Champion Hurdle Crown?
2016 Cheltenham Festival Free Tips – DAY ONE – Well the wait is over as the tapes go up for the 2016 Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday 15th March and we are going to be with you all week to give you our take, and free Cheltenham Tips, on the best races each day, plus the main positive and negative stats to take into the features races.
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13:30 – Supreme Novices' Hurdle 2m ½f
THATSBETTINGTIPS VERDICT: We get underway, as normal, with Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and unless you’ve been with Tim Peake on the International Space Station you’ll know that all the talk surrounding this year’s curtain-raiser is about one horse – Min. This exciting French recruit, who represents the powerful Willie Mullins /Ruby Walsh/ Rich Ricci, will be looking to give that trio their third win on the spin in this race. There has been a lot of talk about his excellent speed figures and how he’d probably not be out of place in this year’s Champion Hurdle. However, talk is cheap and he’ll need to prove himself – not only at the track, but also with the hustle-and-bustle the opening day at the Festival brings. There are some key stats (plus and minuses) to take into the race below, but you will quickly see that MIN does tick a lot of the positive ones – including age, recent form and, of course, having proven winning connections. Those against him will say he’s not beaten a lot and the horse that finished second to him last time didn’t exactly frank the form next time. However, the horse he beat into third that day – Ball D’Arc – has advertised the form well by winning twice since. He also falls down with the stat that tells us 17 of the last 21 winners ran in the last 45 days, as his last outing was 66 days ag, so those against him might cling to this. Mullins also has Yorkhill in the race and his horse has done little wrong too, winning both hurdles starts. There has been a lot of support for him in the last week or so, but that might just be the each-way thieves out there as he does look to have a great chance of at least hitting the frame. The Henderson camp will be the main yard that punters will latch onto if wanting to take the Mullins horses on as they have Altior and Buveur D Air in the race. Alitor has at least got solid course and distance form to his name after winning at Prestbury Park back in November, and followed that up with a top win at Kempton on Boxing Day. However, with 20 of the last 21 winners having raced that same calendar year that’s a huge stat against this Henderson 6 year-old, who, as we say, was last on the track in December. In contrast, the other Henderson runner, Buveur D ‘Air, was last out just 46 days ago when recording an easy win at Huntingdon. This will be a big step-up, but the yard clearly hold him in high regard and, for us, might just have that little bit more improvement in him. As the stats below tell us Nicky Henderson has won the race twice in the past, and has had many horses placed since his last victory in 1992, but in recent years he’s seen his last 19 runners (some well-fancied too) all turned over and that might prove the case again this year. So we’ll be hoping to get off to a flyer here with MIN, who could simply have too much toe for this lot. Of those at a price – you could do little wrong than have a small saver on Moon Racer (e/w) – yes, this Pipe-trained 7 year-old has had his problems, but don’t forget he won the bumper at the meeting 12 months ago, and connections won’t risk him if he’s not 100% (or at least very near).
- 17 of the last 19 winners won their last race
- 17 of the last 21 winners ran in the last 45 days
- Irish-trained horses have won 14 of the last 24 runnings
- 5 & 6 year-olds have the best record – winning 10 of the last 11 runnings
- Willie Mullins has won the race 4 times since 2007 and for the last 3 years
- 20 of the last 21 winners had raced that same calendar year
- Rich Ricci, Willie Mullins & Ruby Walsh have won the last 3 renewals
- Nicky Henderson has won this race twice in the past, but the last came back in 1992 – he’s seen all 19 runners in the last 12 years beaten.
- Horses that FAILED to win last time out before coming here are just 2 from the last 19. In other words look for horses that won last time out!
We’ve seen just one ex-flat horse win since 2008 (48 runners)
14:10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase 2m
THATSBETTINGTIPS VERDICT: If Min wins the first then the bookies will be starting to get a little bit worried with all the day one and festival accas still well-and-truly on! Especially, as this next race is set to have one of the ‘banker-bankers’ running in it. DOUVAN is the horse in question as last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has made a real splash now running over fences and looks as good as them come in this sphere. Another from the powerful Willie Mullins yard that is owned by Rich Ricci and will be piloted by Ruby Walsh – you suspect something drastic would have to happen to prevent this one going in! He’s scared away most of the runners in the race – not that there were seemingly many in his class anyway – and having won his two chase races by 18 lengths and 15 lengths, then it’s hard to see him being beaten. Add in that he’s got course form – albeit over hurdles – but has also tasted the Festival before then he really does look ‘bomb-proof’ – we’ll see! Of the rest, anything Nicky Henderson runners should always be respected here with his good record in the race – Vaniteaux – looks his best option, but the each-way value could sit with the Philip Hobbs-trained Garde La Victoire, who has won his last three races here at Cheltenham (2 hurdles, 1 fences).
- 9 of the last 12 winners had won (or been placed) at Cheltenham before
- 14 of the last 15 winners returned 9/1 or shorter
- 8 of the last 9 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
- 8 of the last 12 winners at run at the Festival previously
- 8 of the last 15 winners were the top or second top-rated hurdler in the field
- Nicky Henderson has won the race 5 times
- Only 2 of the last 29 winners failed to win of finish second last time out
- Just two of the last 25 winners started 11/1 or bigger in the betting
- Only 3 of the last 24 winners were older than 7 years-old
- The last horse aged 9 (or older) to win was in 1988
- The last 28 ex-flat horses to run have all lost
No Supreme Hurdle winner (prev season) has followed-up since 1965
15:30 Stan James Champion Hurdle 2m ½f
THATSBETTINGTIPS VERDICT: Onto the ‘big one’ and, as we all know, the shine has been taken off this race a little with last year’s champion – Faugheen – missing the contest, plus it wasn’t soon after that news broke that we also found out the 2015 runner-up Arctic Fire would also not be running this year. A double blow for the Mullins team, but it just goes to show their strength-in-depth as they still have the first two in the betting – Annie Power and Nichols Canyon. Annie Power was re-routed here after the Faugheen news as she looked more likely to head for the Mares or World Hurdle, but being installed as clear favourite underlines just what a good chance the bookies think she’s got. She will be looking to become the first mare since Flakey Dove (1994) to land the Champion Hurdle and after her final flight tumble at last year’s festival in the mares’ race there will be no bigger cheer if Ruby can steer her home here. We know she stays further, having also finished second in the World Hurdle in 2014, but this versatile horse is not short of speed either, and getting 7lbs (mares allowance) from the rest is another huge plus for her. That fall 12 months ago was her only real blot having won 10 of her 12 hurdles starts and been second in the other. In what many feel is a slightly sub-standard Champion Hurdle it will be a brave punter that takes her on and she does look the most-likely winner – but is she value? Nichols Canyon looks sure to play his part, and was a solid third in the Neptune here last year, but for us still has a bit to prove and might just be a small notch behind the very top level. The Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle has been a great guide in recent years, so this year’s winner, Identity Thief, rates the better each-way play to us. Yes, this will be his first run at Cheltenham, but he’s a consistent sort that has plenty of speed and if handling the hill looks a big player. My Tent Or Yours was runner-up in 2014, but has had his problems since and the jury will be out as to whether he’ll return the same horse after almost 2 years out. Old Guard could surprise at a price for the Paul Nicholls team as he’s won his last three races here at the track – albeit at a slightly lower level – but at double-figures he’s an interesting each-way player. While THE NEW ONE (e/w), is the last one worth a mention and is our each-way play in the race. This 8 year-old has won just over £700k in total prize money and despite only managing fifth in the race 12 months ago looks to have a fair chance of hitting the frame at least – with the first and second last year now not running. He’s done little wrong this term and was only 7 lengths behind Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle on Boxing Day. He’s since beaten Rayvin Black at Haydock, who has done nothing but frank that form since, and don’t forget he was an excellent (close) third in the race in 2014 when getting badly hampered when Our Conor fell. He’s finished first or second in 17 of his 19 hurdles starts and being one of the most consistent horses in training then, for us, rates a solid each-way alternative to those ahead of him in the market.
- 26 of the last 32 won last time out
- The Irish and Henderson have won 13 of the last 17 runnings
- Willie Mullins has won 3 of the last 5 runnings
- 7 of the last 9 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old
- 21 of the last 31 winners were placed in the first 4 at the previous seasons festival
- The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is a good guide (3 winners, 4 places in last 8 runnings)
- 13 of the last 20 winners started as flat horses
- Look for horses that have raced at least once that calendar year
- Avoid horses that failed to finish in the top three last time out
- 5 year-olds are just 1 from 94 since 1985
- Since 1927 we’ve only seen 2 winners aged 10 or older
- Just 1 of the last 9 winners had raced more than 12 times over hurdles
- Christmas Hurdle winners are 2 from 24
Best Of The Rest: The Ultima Handicap Chase at 2.50 looks set to be an ultra-tough race, but with 8 of the last 11 winners carrying 10-12 or less, and the fact 11 of the last 15 came from the top 4 in the betting then these are key stats to take into the race. Also respect anything the Jonjo O’Neill, Nicky Henderson, Alan King, Tony Martin and David Pipe yards run as they’ve all fair record in the race. In contrast, be wary of Paul Nicholls-trained horses as he’s not had a winner from his last 18 sent to post. The last 4 winners all wore headgear, so that’s another thing to look for, while 7 of the last 13 (54%) won last time out. With all that taken into account the David Pipe-trained DOCTOR HARPER (e/w), who gets in here with a light-weight, and was only beaten 5 lengths by the classy Garde La Victoire two runs back, looks interesting. The OLBG Mares’ race at 4.10 looks VROUM VROUM MAG’s to lose and give the Mullins yard their eighth win in-a-row in this race. Polly Peachum, who was a head second in the race 12 months ago looks best of the rest. The National Hunt Chase at 4.50 looks a tough one to call, but the stats suggest looking for horses that finished first or second last time out (10 of the last 14), while 7 and 8 year-olds have won 8 of the last 10 runnings. Paul Nicholls is 0 from 16 in the race, but note any JP McManus-owned runners, or horses trained by Jonjo O’Neill – step forward MINELLA ROCCO. We end the card at 5.30 with the Novices’ Handicap. Respect 7 year-olds here, and look for horses placed first or second last time out. First-time headgear is another good trend to note, while the Nicky Henderson, Jonjo O’Neill and Philip Hobbs yards have often done well in the race, as has owner JP McManus.
Enjoy Day One!
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