2016-open-meeting

What you should have learned from the 2016 Cheltenham Open Meeting…

Image result for simonsigR.I.P grey boy…

Well no doubt that was one hell of an emotional weekend of racing…

Three days of epic racing over the demanding undulations of Prestbury Park.

The legend that is Sprinter Sacre retired, safe and sound to live out his days basking in the glory of his many top-flight victories.

Quickly followed, unfortunately, by the sad and devastating news that Sprinter’s stable-mate Simonsig had to be put to sleep after falling in the Shloer Chase.

It’s a bloody emotionally charged game at the best of times this racing business but that weekend, gee-whizz, that was pushing all sorts of buttons.

We were just about getting over the loss of Vautour. I think, in some ways, we were secretly happy that Sprinter Sacre was retired. Unfortunately, however, we didn’t really get much time to let the Sprinter Sacre news seep in before Simonsig was cruelly snatched from us.

It’s a tough game for sure…

I don’t like wallowing though, I prefer to look back on the many great achievements of those three magnificent beasts. Sad as the losses of Vautour and Simonsig may be they did leave an indelible mark on this sport, much like Sprinter Sacre, and although it’s right to feel a tinge of sadness it’s better to remember their breathtaking performances on the track and celebrate their achievements rather than wallow in despair. All three were, in their own individual ways, modern day superstars.

Looking forward though, as we have to, and there was some outstanding racing taking place over the Cheltenham undulations and here are just some of the vital facts and figures that you need to take away from the 2016 Cheltenham Open Meeting…

*figures sourced from the excellent Proform Professional Database

2016 Cheltenham Open Meeting: The Fallout…

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14 of the 20 winners started with an SP of 8-1 or less…

For what was, in general, a tricky old meeting there wasn’t actually a huge amount of lofty priced winners doing the business…

SP 8-1 or less – 14/78 | 18% S/R | +£1.24 BFLSP – Win & Place 30/78 | 38% S/R

There were, admittedly a number of winners in the 12-1 – 20-1 range (5 to be precise) but when you look at the longer priced winners (22-1+) things become trickier…

SP 22-1 or bigger – 1/55 | 2% S/R | -£19.37 BFLSP – Win & Place 7/55 | 13% S/R 

Nothing really outstanding in those stats, perhaps, but this meeting has often proved to be a place where you don’t want to be tilting at too many windmills.

Indeed those at 33-1+ drew a total blank – 0/39

If we check the stats for runners starting at SP 33/1 or more at the past TEN Cheltenham Open meetings (including this one) then we get…

1/483 | <0.5% S/R | -£431.27 BFLSP – Win & Place 32/483 | 6.5% S/R – 82% below expectation

Only one horse has won when starting at SP 33/1 or bigger at the Open meeting!

The outsiders at this competitive meeting are often just that; outsiders.

The Open meeting again proved to be a place to avoid those in the deep dark corners of the betting market.

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Those returning within two weeks of their last run struggled to make an impact…

A recent run, in some cases, can be a major benefit, at this meeting, however, it’s potential more of a hindrance…

0/25 | 0% S/R | -£25.00 BFLSP – Win & Place 5/25 | 20% S/R

I would never suggest blanket ignoring any group of runners, far from it, in fact I backed one of the two week returners Modus, but this has proven to be a group to be cautious of at this meeting.

If we look back at the two week returners group from the past ten Open meetings we get…

10/244 | 4% S/R | -£159.67 BFLSP – Win & Place 52/244 | 21% S/R

So it certainly can be done but the percentage call is to have plenty else going for you before plumping for one of these types. The effects of a recent run in their legs does not, in general, help them get up the hill with extra gusto.

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Colin Tizzard had his string in outstanding form…

To be fair to Tizzard he’s had his string in outstanding form since the get-go this season and it was no difference over the three days of Cheltenham…

3/13 | 23% S/R | +£22.10 BFLSP – Win & Place 8/13 | 62% S/R

Clearly the Tizzard string has been bolstered substantially by the relocation of the Ann & Alan Potts horses and they did provide the bulk of the Tizzard runners at the meeting; 9 runners producing 2 winners and 3 further placed horses.

He also had the monster that is Thistlecrack, who was having his second chasing outing on Saturday. Despite a couple of ‘interesting’ jumps, which I feel was down to Scudamore playing a bit of cat and mouse on the pace front, he did a fine job and although we learned nothing new about him you still can’t help but be taken by him. Whether he’s a Gold Cup winner in waiting this season is another thing altogether and although I’m not a fan of novices’ in the top events (despite Coneygree’s Gold Cup win) I do like the approach Tizzard seems to be taking with his superstar. He knows he needs to get plenty of experience into Thistlecrack if he is to go for Gold Cup glory this year and he’s already aiming for something at the Hennessy meeting at the end of the month. That’s a smart move in my opinion and four chase starts before the turn of the year (assuming they go for something at Xmas time) would be ideal for him. That would then leave something like the Pillar Chase on trials day or the Denman Chase at Newbury as a Gold Cup warm-up spin.

Thistlecrack may not, however, be the only serious Cheltenham Festival player that Tizzard had on show this weekend…

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Fox Norton pushed himself further up the QMCC pecking order…

Sunday, in the Shloer Chase, was the 6yo’s first start for new connections since his big money (?) move from the Neil Mulholland yard.

The win backed up his handicap victory last time out in style and although the others probably did just have questions marks against them under the conditions he went about his job in a commanding and imperious fashion and continued his climb up the 2 mile ladder.

He’s now 3/5 over the Cheltenham fences and he’s gaining some solid course form for his QMCC tilt in March. The speed figure he achieved (using Proform Speed figures) was comfortably a career best (7 points above his previous best) and on those figures it does put him bang in the QMCC picture.

Indeed looking closely at the figure he banged in on Sunday (PF Speed figure of 92) compares very favourably with the last 10 QMCC winners. That mark alone is higher than anything the last 10 winners of the big one recorded when winning the big race itself. It’s not always wise, however, to compare different races like for like so I also had a look at the BEST speed figures the individual winners recorded in the races prior to their QMCC win (in the same season as their QMCC win). Once again Fox Norton is bang there. Indeed only three of the last ten winners had recorded a Proform Speed figure in the 90’s prior to winning their QMCC and only two (Sprinter Sacre & Dodging Bullets) had recorded a mark HIGHER than Fox Norton did on Sunday.

The speed figures are, admittedly, only one analysis stream and we do yet have to see what the mighty Douvan records this term (one suspects it will also be a beast of a figure!) but Fox Norton is, so far, steamrollering his own path to festival glory and he’s doing it in double quick time.

He also blitzed his previous best RPR figure as well, returning a mark of 170, 6lbs higher than his career high, which incidentally was gained last time out, again indicting he a horse on a serious upward curve.

Early indications are that the Fox should not be ignored…

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Moon Racer continued his quest for double festival glory with a stylish victory…

There was plenty to like about the effort from the Moon Racer on Sunday in the Grade 2 Novice Hurdle and the fact he’s only been beaten once in 6 starts (defeat was a 3/4L 2nd in a G1) tells you all you need to know about how good he could potentially be.

He’s now 3 from 3 at Cheltenham and although he’s relatively old for a novice (he’s a 7yo) he doesn’t seem, at the minute, susceptible to younger rivals.

What is perhaps more of a concern (for the Festival in March) is that Pipe’s record in the Cheltenham Festival Novice Hurdles since 2010 is a rather average 0/19 and it has to be said that his high-profile novices do have a knack of letting themselves down come the big stage in March.

This one could well buck that trend, he is after all already a festival winner, but if he goes for the Supreme Novices’ (the most likely target) he would also have to be bucking the age trend in that race…

16 of the last 19 winners were aged 5 or 6 and horses aged 7yo+ are only 2/47, 2 places.

There is plenty water to go under the bridge prior to that though and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him head to the festival unbeaten over timber. What he does when he gets there, however, remains to be seen…

Ben (NTF)

 

Proform Racing | The professional Formbook

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