What we learned from the weekend: 26th, 27th & 28th January…

Image result for brian ellison racingDoes Ellison have a live Gold Cup player?

A few more Festival cards were played last weekend, some hinting at a busted flush whilst others are possibly sitting with three of a kind, working on a full house…(yes, I was playing poker this morning!!).

Emotions were also running high, with the sad news mid-week of the passing of trainer Richard Woollacott. His wife, Kayley, has set up a just giving page here, with the proceeds going to some wonderful charities. Richard’s stable star, Beer Goggles, ran in his honour in the Cleeve Hurdle on Saturday and despite running wide for a majority of the latter stages of the contest still managed to put up a dogged battling effort until fading climbing up the hill. I’m sure Beer Goggles will continue to run his heart out and remind us of the talents we have been robbed of with the passing of his trainer…

 

What we learned from the weekend: 26th, 27th & 28th January…

 

1. Definitly Red put himself bang in the Gold Cup picture…

…or did he?

Brian Ellison’s lovable 9yo fired in a career best effort on Saturday with his 8L victory in the Cotswold Chase and in the process was shortened up to around 16-1 (best price 20-1) for Gold Cup glory in March. There is no denying it was an impressive effort and the way he scooted up the hill tells us he’s more than just a very good handicapper masquerading as a graded animal, but then again I think we all probably knew that.

The Gold Cup does have a certain ‘open’ feel about it this year but the Cotswold Chase, in it’s various guises, has rarely been a strong pointer towards Gold Cup success for the winner. Indeed in the last 22 years only ONE Cotswold Chase winner has gone on to complete the Cotswold-Gold Cup ‘double’ (in the same year) and that was 2000 winner Looks Like Trouble. Hardly a strong pointer towards Festival success for Definitly Red.

Widening the scope further, only two of the last 20 Gold Cup winners even ran in the Cotswold Chase in the season of their Gold Cup success, the aforementioned Looks Like Trouble and See More Business, meaning that the past 16 Gold Cup winners steered well clear of the Cotswold Chase as part of their Gold Cup preparations.

It’s simply not a good race to be running in if you have serious Gold Cup pretensions. It may well give you experience of the track and the fences and test your stamina reserves for the big one itself but for whatever reason(s) the chances of you going on to lift the Gold Cup after winning or running in the race are pretty damn low.

It’s also worth noting the following stat as well…

Only TWO trials day chase winners have gone on to follow up at the festival itself in the same year (in the past five seasons)

…and interestingly those two winners were Sprinter Sacre & Un De Sceaux, who both ran at trials weekend in a re-scheduled Clarence House Chase, which had been moved from an abandoned Ascot the previous weekend.

So looking at the normal chase races run at trials day (and excluding any re-scheduled contests)…

NO trials day chase winners have gone on to follow up at the festival itself in the same year (in the past five seasons)

Again, rather worrying for any Definitly Red Gold Cup backers.

To poor further cold water on Definitly Red’s chances…

15 of the last 15 Gold Cup winners had previous won at G1 level

DR has not…

14 of the last 15 Gold Cup winners had no more than 20 (UK) career starts

DR has now had 23 career starts…

He certainly deserves to line up in the race, there is no doubt about that, he’s earned his place with his form this season, but as for him winning the race? I’d very much be leaning on the side of definitely not!

There is Definitly a few Red flags against Ellison’s Gold Cup contender…

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2. The Twiston-Davies yard are bang out of form…

Check out the results of Nigel Twiston-Davies runners over the weekend…

4-P-8-0-4-3-8-2-8 (0/9, 2p)

…and the worrying thing is that plenty of them seem to be cutting out at the business end, leaving them empty for the final push to the line.

But it’s not just this weekend past where they’ve been running flat, take a look at their figures from the past couple of weeks (14 days)…

1/25 | 4% S/R | -£22.94 BFLSP – W&P – 6/25 | 24% S/R

74% below expectation 

Roll it back 18 days…

2/41 | 5% S/R | -£32.24 BFLSP – W&P – 12/41 | 29% S/R

66% below expectation

So clear to see something isn’t quite right at present with team NTD.

For January as a whole the yard are…

7/61 | 11% S/R | -£28.01 BFLSP – W&P – 18/61 | 30% S/R

25% below expectation

Which, in all honesty, is probably about where they should be, based on their January figures since 2010.

The average S/R for NTD in the month of January (since 2010) is 12%, so, although they are clearly going through a bit of a dry spell at present they are hitting the winners at roughly the rate you would expect them to at this time of the year. The stats are not pretty but they are in-line with an average January for them.

I’m not sure if this is indeed the case but it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that NTD has been giving his yard their vaccinations/flu-shots this month, a number of yards do administer them during January and that often does result in momentary dips in form.

But what does that mean going forward?

Well for starters some of the below-par runs from the NTD yard last weekend can, to a certain extent, be excused and not fully taken at face-value…

BALLYANDY ran like he was suffering from the hangover from hell, but we all know he’s better than that and the poor run was almost certainly exacerbated by the yards poor current form. If the handicapper drops him a few pounds for Saturday’s run then handicaps become a very interesting option for the 2016 Champion Bumper winner…

BRISTOL DE MAI, realistically, never looked all that happy in the Cotswold Chase and there is a chance his lackluster effort may be down to a number of factors, but if there is a valid reason for the dip in yard form then his third placed finish suddenly doesn’t look quite as bad…

FOXTAIL HILL finished bang last up at Doncaster, fading badly over the last couple, but we know he’s plenty better than that. On the plus side the handicapper should release him back down the weights after that bomb-out, which can only be a bonus…

WHOLESTONE, if something is effecting the overall form of the yard then his 2nd in the Cleeve Hurdle suddenly looks a hell of a lot better than it first did…

It also makes the victory of stable star THE NEW ONE from the previous week all that much more impressive…

So yes, on the face of it NTD is currently experiencing his own version of ‘dry January’ but it’s not completely unexpected and it may be worthwhile giving his runners during this ‘down-time’ a bit of leeway when it comes to assessing their form.

Keep an eye open for the Twister turning…

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3. Agrapart deserves plenty of respect when the mud is flying…

Give the Nick Williams horse Heavy or Soft ground and he’s always going to be a danger, he simply loves it when the ground is like soup!

I think it’s fair to say that the 7yo is somewhat still underrated, given that his last three wins have been a Betfair Hurdle, a Relkeel Hurdle and now a Cleeve Hurdle and although he does need that testing ground underfoot that should be no slight on his abilities, for when he meets with prime conditions he’s a very good horse indeed.

And I’ve have his prime conditions as…

Heavy or Soft ground | G2 level & below

Which gives a form line of 121112 (4/6, 2p – All 4 career wins)

He falls just below Grade 1 level but races such as the Rendlesham at Haydock would be comfortably within reach for him, providing the ground came up Soft or Heavy.

Respect Agra when there is plenty juice underfoot…

 

Ben (NTF)

 

Stats sourced from the excellent Proform Database

 

4 Comments

  • Rob

    Reply Reply January 30, 2018

    Think someone on the betfair forum as stated ntd gives his horses the flu jab in January ,like Paul nicholls does.

    • Ben Aitken

      Reply Reply January 30, 2018

      Hi Rob

      Yes I was pretty sure that was the case, certainly explains the drop-off in results for sure.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  • Paul

    Reply Reply January 30, 2018

    As well as NTDs horses, Colin Tizzard’s having an awful run currently. I don’t know what to make of Sizing Tennessee’s run therefore on Saturday, 2m 5f on heavy ground carrying 11st 12lbs may or may not be a decent run looking back.

    • Ben Aitken

      Reply Reply January 30, 2018

      Hi Paul

      Yeah Tizzard horses really not firing like you’d expect. I think Sizing Ten ran a solid enough race under the circumstances, he’s a tricky horse to fully get a grip on but I suspect/hope he could be winning again before seasons end…

      Ben (NTF)

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