What we learned from the weekend: 9th, 10th & 11th of February…

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Amy Murphy and her stable star Kalashnikov continue on their upward curve.

Another weekend in the form book and a few more steps closer to the 2018 Cheltenham Festival…

Once again there were Cheltenham pointers aplenty during last weekend’s action and here’s my own take on a few of the mud-splattered nuggets of the action, in the latest edition of…

What we learned from the weekend: 9th, 10th & 11th of February…

1. The Betfair Hurdle once again went the way of an unexposed handicapper…

Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle turned into a procession job down the home-straight as the unexposed KALASHNIKOV gunned down his opponents in blistering style, in the process bolstering the following stat…

12 of the last 20 winners of the Betfair Hurdle had 0 or 1 previous Handicap Hurdle starts

Furthermore all of those 12 were aged 5yo or 6yo.

Further still they had all finished in the top two on one of their last three starts AND had been plonked on a mark of between 132 & 151.

Clearly this is a race that suits a heartily unexposed youngster who has some solid recent form on the table and has been given a workable handicap mark.

That something for you to put in the long term memory banks. For the more immediate future, however, we should concentrate on the winner, Kalashnikov.

The Tolworth second had to dig deep down the back-straight to hold his position but once they straightened up for home down the Newbury straight he really started to come into his own, pulling on his stamina reserves, and in the end winning the valuable pot relatively comfortably. Talk, naturally, now starts to turn to his Cheltenham Festival target(s).

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle have both been mooted as his likely port of call and he’s currently around the 7-1 mark for the shorter trip (Supreme) and 14-1 for the mid-range trip (Ballymore).

My stats flag up a bit of a warning, however…

NONE of the last 20 Supreme winners ran in a Handicap last time out.

47 tried to win the Supreme off the back of a Handicap run, zero were victorious and only six managed to place. Get Me Out Of Here almost managed to pull off the feat…but ultimately he didn’t quite manage it.

The stats for the Ballymore aren’t much better…

NONE of the last 20 Ballymore winners ran in a Handicap last time out either.

39 tried to win the Ballymore after running in a Handicap, zero were victorious and only two managed to scrape into the places.

Not great signs for Kalashnikov’s likely festival targets…

Indeed if you look at ALL 88 Grade 1 Hurdle races at the Cheltenham Festival since 2003 you will only find TWO horses that ran in a Handicap last time out and then go on to land one of the G1 Hurdle races at the Festival.

I totally get why they are switching back to Non-Handicap Graded company with Kalashnikov, he was raised a whopping 13lbs for his Betfair Hurdle victory to a mark of OR 154 and that will undoubtedly make handicaps significantly harder for him, but the stats are very much suggesting he’s got a fair old job on his hand to turn that handicap form into a G1 victory, certainly on his next start in any case.

Will Kalashnikov bust that Handicap to Cheltenham G1 hoodoo?

Sticking with the Betfair Hurdle…

2. Beaten horses in this year’s Betfair Hurdle could prove a rich source of future Handicap winners…

As already highlighted Kalashnikov won this year’s renewal in the manner of a horse that was someway below the ceiling of his abilities. As such the rest were, in theory, significantly up against it and at best just playing for the places.

With that in mind it’s well worth looking a bit deeper into the beaten horses as I’ve a strong feeling we’ll be seeing a fair few of them battling out the finishes of some valuable Handicap Hurdle pots before seasons end…

2nd – BLEU ET ROUGE

Given that this one is a previous G1 winner (2016 Deloitte) it’s not hard to think that his current OR of 145/146 is a winnable won. He travelled into the home-straight looking to hold a serious chance in the Betfair but he just didn’t pick up enough when asked, possibly due to the fact that he ideally wants 2m4f/5f to show his best. He’s a different type to the winner (Kalashnikov) and I just wonder if clan McManus are just keeping his handicap mark sweet over these 2m trips before unleashing him in something like the Coral Cup at the festival over a longer trip.

4th – COEUR BLIMEY

If connections can get this one jumping then I’m convinced he hoses up and lands a decent pot. A change of jockey with a different riding style could be the key to get him being slicker at his flights.

6th – LOUGH DERG SPIRIT

The deteriorating ground possibly scuppered his chances here but he stuck on well and the upshot of the run is that he’ll still be on a very tasty mark come the spring festivals. He should also come on plenty for this effort given it was his first start for 3 months. He was dropped 1lb to OR 137 for the run.

9th – MISTERTON

Was still in the mix prior to a mistake 3 out and that just seemed to knock the stuffing out of him a bit. It was his first start for 3 months so he should come on plenty for the outing and he could be interesting in a Cheltenham Festival handicap given that he ran a close second in the Greatwood in November. He was dropped 1lb to OR 141 and that certainly looks a winnable mark for the 7yo.

11th – MOON RACER

Still very lightly raced for a 9yo (this was only his 9th career start and 5th Hurdle start) and he was ridden tenderly enough here, on his first start for almost a year and first start after a wind-op. I think they made a big mistake running him in the Champion Hurdle as novice last term (on only his 3rd hurdle start) but as such he’s started this season on a very workable mark (OR 142, remains on same mark after re-assessment) and given Cheltenham form of 111P he could be another one that is of interest for a festival handicap come March.

18th – PROJECT BLUEBOOK

Never involved at all in this but he was dropped 5lb to OR 136 and that certainly makes him a player again.

Those mentioned above are just the ones that particularly caught my eye when doing my Weekend Notes for full NTF members but I suspect cases could also be made for a handful of others from the race as well, it really did look like a deep renewal and one that will, hopefully, prove fruitful to follow in the coming weeks and months.

Keep a close eye on future entries for the beaten runners from the Betfair Hurdle, it could prove a rich source of future profits…  

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3.Native River confirmed himself bang on track for another tilt at the Gold Cup…

The Tizzard’s have kept their Gold Cup player wrapped up this season, with the sole aim of having him primed and ready to gun for another shot at the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Saturday’s Denman Chase was part of that plan and it’s safe to say that plan is still firmly intact. His unchallenged 12L saunter round his beloved Newbury fences (4 from 4 over Newbury’s larger obstacles) was just what the doctor ordered and he’s should be bang ready to try and improve upon his 3rd in last years Gold Cup.

But I’ve a couple of issues…

First up, for all the firepower Tizzard has had at his disposal, especially in recent years, his festival record is nothing special, indeed it’s bang average at best.

These are his stats since 2003…

5/95 | 5% S/R | +£22.50 LSP – W&P 13/95 | 14% S/R

13% below expectation

Yes he’s returned a decent level stakes profit but that’s because he’s had two 40-1 winners and a 28-1 winner amongst his five overall winners.

The overall 5% S/R and 14% win & place S/R are, as I said, bang average.

If you ignore his really big outsiders and only look at those at 25-1 or less then you get…

2/43 | 5% S/R | -£36.50 LSP

Perhaps the real worry is, however, his record at the festival in the past four seasons, probably the time when he’s had the strongest team to go to war with.

Take a look at his stats from those past four Cheltenham Festivals…

1/50 | 2% S/R | -48.00 LSP – W&P 5/50 | 10% S/R

68% below expectation

That would be the real worry, at a time when he has really had the firepower to do some damage he quite simply hasn’t managed it.

There’s a further worry for Native River though, away from his trainers stats, and that’s the record of those returning for another shot at the Gold Cup having been beaten on their first attempt at the race

0/67 | 0% S/R | -£67.00 LSP

*since 2000

67 times horses have tried to win a Gold Cup after having failed to win the race at their first attempt and all 67 attempts have drawn a big stinking blank.  

There is no denying the Gold Cup is a bloody tough race, that lung-bursting final climb up the hill can take a serious amount out of a horse and having gone through the pain barrier once and failed to collect the pot it seems that the desire and/or ability to try and do it again just isn’t there. If a horse was beaten in the Gold Cup on it’s first attempt it’s highly unlikely the exceptional level of class needed to win the race will suddenly appear in subsequent renewals.

Now I’m a fan of Native River, I think he’s a fantastic animal and his record on the track can’t be questioned, he’s well worth his place in the Gold Cup field and he adds plenty spice to the Gold Cup picture, but as for being a potential winner of the Gold Cup? I think that bubble was, unfortunately, burst last season.

It looks an uphill struggle for Native River to improve upon his placed effort last season…

 

Free Cheltenham Festival stats guide…

With jumps racing biting the soggy turf today I’m free to get properly stuck into my free Cheltenham Festival stats guide that I’ll be releasing to members of the FREE NTF List. All being well that will be ready for you all by the end of this week.

If you are still not yet on the free NTF list then get your name down HERE.

 

Ben (NTF)

 

*Majority of stats for this post were sourced from the excellent Proform Professional

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