Cheltenham Countdown: The Trend Horses

The key races at the Cheltenham Festival have key trends developing, so in this installment of my Cheltenham Countdown I am going to break it down so that our shortlist of horses will meet the criteria that the trends match…

Here, I have handpicked a selection of races – I have purposely gone away from the big Championship events.

Supreme Novices: The curtain raiser, one of the best races at the Festival and usually a good guide to future festivals. Just take last year’s winner (Al Ferof); a strong fancy for this year’s Arkle. Irish runners usually go well here (8 of last 13 winners were Irish), which bodes well for Steps to Freedom. 13 out of the 15 winners won last time out, a strong stat. The Deloitte Hurdle this Sunday has been a great guide, providing Like-a-Butterfly and Brace Inca in the last decade. Captain Conan currently heads the betting for the race at present. The thing with stats is you either follow them religiously or take them with a pinch of salt. Personally, I like them, but you will find that your fancy won’t meet all the stats all the time. In this race, I have a big each way fancy, Colour Squadron, who finished behind Captain Conan at Sandown. He’s not Irish and didn’t win last time, so I must be on a loser? As I say, stats are what you want them to be. The trends though would be pointing to Step to Freedom and Captain Conan (if he wins on Sunday).

Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle: Irish horses dominate this one again, with 5 out of the last 8 winners. Representing them this year are Boston Bob and Monksland. Boston Bob was impressive in the mud at Leopardstown last time. The Willie Mullins trained 7 yr old as a lot going for him and Willie likes this race (Mikael D’Haguenet and Fiveforthree in recent years). Nicky Henderson is 0-22 in this race. Quite a stat, considering his fire power. At this stage Boston Bob would be a tentative selection on trends. Fingal Bay has been impressive this year, but Challow Hurdle winners have a poor record.

Coral Cup: One of the big betting races at the Festival. Make sure you bet with a bookmaker offering 5 places. At the present moment, we will need to see the weights come out as I’m sure there will be a plot or 12! Things to look out for: Before last year’s race, 3 of the last 5 winners had not run during the calendar year – interesting – and no winner officially rated above 147. So that suggests a lightly raced handicapper who has not shown his hand to soon. Watch out for JP Mcmanus runners as he likes a punt at the Festival and Khayrawani matched those trends a few years back.

Grand Annual: Now the last race of the 4 days, so getting out stakes will be on the agenda for many a punter. Before last year, 9 of the last 10 years went to a horse rated between 129 and 134, quite a narrow bracket, so check out these runners. These types of races usually tend to see the same runners year in year out. Greenhope and Andreas won after running in this before. De Boitron meets that trend (4th last year) and Ferdy Murphy targets Cheltenham handicaps better than most. So there we are, a few ‘trend’ races, take it on board and hopefully we will pinpoint a winner. Hopefully…

Article submitted by Rob Holmes.

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