What we learned from the weekend: 18th & 19th of February…

Image result for cue card

Cue Card sauntered to his ninth G1 win at the weekend!

We are now only three weeks away from the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

Let that sink in for a minute…Three. Weeks. Away. Wowzers!

As is to be expected there were plenty of festival contenders out last weekend. Some laughing at the opposition as they tuned themselves up for March (Cue Card), some making a bit harder work of their prep-run but getting the job done nonetheless (Yanworth) and some, well some just let a waft of air out of their shaky Cheltenham bubble and threw their plans into a bit of a spin (Jezki)! But that’s they joy of it all, isn’t it!

It wasn’t just Cheltenham preparations that were in full swing last weekend, however, we also had a full on Aintree Grand National trial at Haydock and that, along with some Cheltenham thoughts, form the basis of this weeks ‘What we learned from weekend‘ post…

What we learned from the weekend: 18th & 19th of February…

1. Cue Card is in fine form ahead of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival…

There probably wasn’t another Grade 1 horse for him to beat in this year’s renewal of the Ascot Chase but nevertheless he went about his job in imperious fashion and booked his ticket to the Gold Cup with a bloodless victory.

Can he really, however, win the Gold Cup aged ELEVEN?

You’re going to hear and read this stat for the next month until you’re sick to the back teeth of it but it is well worth highlighting the exact stat(s) that old Cue Card has to bust if he is to land the Gold Cup on the 17th of March…

The last horse to win the Gold Cup aged 10yo+ was Cool Dawn in 1998. Since then 72 have tried AND failed to win the Gold Cup aged 10yo or older.

That 72 includes the likes of Kauto Star (X3), Denman (X2), Beef Or Salmon (X2), Imperial Commander, Grey Abbey, First Gold, See More Business, Dorans Pride, Teeton Mill, Florida Pearl…

Further more…

The last horse to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup aged 11yo was What A Myth in 1969!

Before that it was the mighty Mandarin in 1962.

There is no doubt that on the age front Cue Card has a fair old task on his hands.

But there’s more…

If you look at all 163 Grade 1 races run at the last 15 Cheltenham Festivals you will only find THREE winners that had 29 or more career starts to their name (from 177 that tried).

Giving stats of (for the 29+ career starts gang)…

3/177 | 1.5% S/R | -£165.12 LSP

Look a bit closer and you will see that only ONE winner had 33 or more career starts to their name before landing one of the Grade 1’s.

Giving stats of (for the 33+ career starts gang)…

1/111 | <1% S/R | -£108.50 LSP

Cue Card now has 35 career starts on his CV…

From a trends/stats perspective Cue Card is going to really have to go against the grain to land the big one.

p.s. Let’s test your brain/guessing power again! Can you name those three horses that won a G1 at the last 15 Cheltenham Festival’s after having had 29 or more previous career starts?

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2. David Pipe has a serious Grand National player in Vieux Lion Rouge…

…or does he?

Before I get on to the negatives about Saturday’s winner (for the National itself) I have to say he seriously impressed me in holding off Blaklion down the Haydock straight and he is clearly a horse very much on a steep upward curve at present. The win took his record in the Dec-Feb period to 1U11111121 (8/10) and his record off breaks of 60+ days to 113011211 (6/9). Tom Scudamore is also now 11/15 when riding the horse (other jocks are 0/6, 0p on him) and the two of them are a seriously strong partnership together.

The 8yo French bred is unquestionably a rapidly improving horse and one who deserves his place near the head of the National betting, especially as we know he loves the fences and will be entering the race a good few pounds ahead of the handicapper.

On the stats front, however….

20 of the last 20 Grand National winners had THREE or more starts in the current season (those with 0-2 starts in the current season are 0/185)

VLR has only had two starts this season and his trainer stated after the Haydock race …“He had a big break between the Becher and here and he’ll have another break and go straight to Aintree”

18 of the last 20 Grand National winners had 10 or more Chase starts

VLR has only tackled fences nine times

18 of the last 20 Grand National winners wore NO headgear (those wearing headgear are 2/185 | 2% S/R)

VLR wears cheek-pieces

At this point I have to admit I’m not hard against him based on those stats (and he’s hardly failing them by a country mile) but they do temper my enthusiasm for him just a little and personally I’d like him to be just a bit of a stronger fit on the trends front for a race of such magnitude.

Vieux Lion Rouge’s form credentials are rock solid for the National but he could certainly be stronger on the trends front…

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3. Sutton Place continues to impress and improve away from the limelight…

After his convincing victory in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan on Sunday the 6yo son of Mahler now has career form figures of 3-1-1-1-1-1, three of those wins coming at Graded level and one coming at Listed level.

This recent win was yet another career best effort and his second start in a row where he’s recorded an RPR figure in the 160’s. This was his first time at 2m5f (all other runs have come at 2m) and he comfortably stayed this new trip and showed us that he’s got stamina as well as speed to go to war with.

At the minute he holds no Cheltenham Festival entries and his trainer, Gordon Elliott, seems more than happy to keep him ticking along this season before unleashing him over fences next term, where I have a feeling we will see an even more exciting individual and one who could very easily reach all the way to the top of the tree.

He could very well pick up a couple more graded hurdle victories before the end of this season but he’s firmly in my notebook for when he goes chasing next term. He’s nothing if not a hugely exciting talent…

Keep an eye on Sutton, he’s going to an even bigger Place when faced with fences…

 

p.s. I’m putting the finishing touches to my FREE Cheltenham Festival stats guide and I should have it out to the FREE NTF list within the week.

If you are not yet on that list then get your email in the box below…

 

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3 Comments

  • norman

    Reply Reply February 21, 2017

    2005 M F

    2008 I D

    2011 A R

    2014 no qualifiers

    2017 CUE CARD ?

    3 year cycle

    • Ben Aitken

      Reply Reply February 21, 2017

      Hi Norman

      Be surprised if that was something that came in 3 year cycles. Would love to see him win in but he’s surely right up against it on the stats…

      Ben (NTF)

  • Steve Newton

    Reply Reply February 21, 2017

    Hi Ben
    My email has gone t*ts up and this is my current , temporary one, please could you continue to email your updates etc to this new onw please ?
    Steve Newton

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