Thanks to James of racingtracker.co.uk for the following article. You can follow him on Twitter at @racingtracker. (Article Originally Written on 12th Feb 2018
With the Cheltenham Festival fast approaching and all the Festival chatter going on, it is generally the time of year that I start reviewing my Racing Tracker Ratings and look at who are horses to follow and avoid at the greatest show on turf. This month I will take you through the four Grade 1 Championship Races, Unibet Champion Hurdle, Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle and the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
RTR – Racing Tracker Top Rated Horses (TR – Top Rated, NB – Next Best, TB – Third Best, FB – Fourth Best, 5B – Fifth Best, 6B – Sixth Best)
Rating – Score
CD – Course and Distance Wins – (C – Course Win, C D – Course Win and Distance Win not at Course, CD – Win at Distance at Course)
DSLR – Days Since Last Run
HG – Headgear to Be Worn by Horse
OR – Horses Official Rating
Weight – Weight horse will carry in Race in ILBs
TSp – Top Speed Rankings
TLr – Top Last Race Rankings
TTr – Top Trainer Rankings
TJo – Top Jockey Rankings
TTo – Top Rankings based on days race conditions (Ground, Course, Class Form, Distance, Weight)
TSt – Top Stallion Rankings
Jockey – Horses Jockey
Trainer – Horses Trainer
POS – Finishing Position
BSP – Betfair Starting Price
Whether you make your selection on the ratings, form or the horse’s name there are sure to be plenty of Cheltenham betting tips for this year’s Festival.
Unibet Champion Hurdle
On day one of the festival we have the Unibet Champion Hurdle. Apart from reigning champion Buveur D’air, there are questions that need to be answered and entries that may turn up here instead of other festival targets to take advantage of an open opportunity outside of Buveur D’air.
Buveur D’airs last two runs have been very solid indeed, with ratings over 850. He will more than likely be Top Rated and possibly get over the magic 900 Racing Tracker ratin. Going into the race last year he was rated 7th, but with obvious progression. He came into the race with Class 4 and Listed Race victories (Rated 647). His TSp (Speed) rating could be better.
Faugheen produced a decent performance in the Irish Champion Hurdle. However overall form of that race ratings wise will not be strong, I expect Faugheen to be outside the top 3, he was rated in the mid-900s for his Champion Hurdle victory in 2015 and he is way below that and needs significant improvement to regain his crown of Champion Hurdler and at 10 years old it’s highly unlikely, even for Willie Mullins.
My Tent or Yours, is a great old horse at 11 years old. His win at Cheltenham before Christmas ahead of The New One and Melon was solid. It has been franked a little bit by The New One since but took a severe knock by the disappointing Melon in the Irish Champion Hurdle. I expect his rating to improve a little to around 850 depending on who turns up on the day. He could be in the Top 3, but his age would be a big concern.
Yorkhill has an excellent Cheltenham record, but he also had excellent form going into those Cheltenham Festival races. This year he looks like he has fallen out of love with the game and his ratings are on the decline unlikely to be rated in the top 6 for the race. It would take a massive return to form for him to have any chance.
Melon is not good enough to win the Champion Hurdle on what we have seen this season, he is a solid Grade 2/Grade 3 rated horse but not a Grade 1 performer. Defi Du Seuil falls into this category and the form of his Festival win last year is weak.
Min is very interesting, if he turns up he would be a big challenge to Buveur D’air based on Racing Tracker Ratings, a lot will depend on Douvan if goes in the Champion Chase. Ratings wise he is bang up there on his Chase Ratings. If he can convert that back into hurdle form at a general 20/1 he is worth a little NRNB punt.
Mick Jazz is interesting outside of the top ones in the betting, he has had 2 very solid runs, yes he won a weak Irish Christmas Hurdle and that took him from a rating of 686 to 782 in the Irish Champion Hurdle, he will go up a little bit for that into the realms of 800 for finishing 3rd, he will definitely turn up and like Min, he is definitely an EW interest at 33/1 NRNB.
Ch’tibelo and The New One will do well to place if they both run, I want to make one honourable mention for Cliffs of Dover, been off the track for a very long time but holds an entry and he would be a very interesting runner but ratings wise he will be way down the list.
Based on the current entries and last 2 ratings performances and based on the other potential runners Buveur D’air should retain his crown, Min as my second-best option if he turns up and Mick Jazz who has excellent place potential at a big price. My view has been that Faugheen if he runs will struggle to get into the places unless his star has one last time to shine.
Betway Champion Chase
Day 2 sees us watch the speedster chasers flying the fences and this race has some of the best horses in its history books. Last season was a shock result, and no-one can doubt that after Douvans’ demise so what is in store this year.
Altior is clearly some horse, despite his slightly unusual low head carriage, he travels like a dream. He is so good he has yet to be fully tested. The Game Spirit he came in after a long layoff with a Racing Tracker Rating of 897 and he dispatched Politilogue with ease in a slowly run race and that suited Altior as the ratings suggested, he is likely to be in the mid-900s with his record at Cheltenham and will be very tough to beat.
Min as already stated was much back to his best at the Dublin Racing Festival. However. he has too turn around 7 lengths with Altior from the Supreme two years ago. That race has thrown up so many excellent horses. He will be rated in the high 800s, but he will have to improve or Altior will have to not run to his best to win this, as mentioned a lot will be down to Douvan and his fitness in relation to Min.
Douvan would be a contender if he is fit but he will need to be 100% based on his previous form. A lot would depend on the gallop and Special Tiara could make the race very interesting. That could take the sting out of Altior and Douvan could pick up the pieces. I expect Douvan to be well down the Racing Tracker Ratings, if he shows up he would be a good EW bet to nothing, a definite market to watch.
Great Field has not been seen all season and is likely to wait for this race if ready and fit, but as a NRNB at around 14/1 he is a solid price. He made rapid progress last season and finished off with a 739 rating and that is decent for a Novice Chaser. Therefore, I really think Mullins has a few issues and I also think there will be some surprise moves amongst his entries. At least this year there are 48-hour declarations.
Other Notable entries, Un De Sceaux could be interesting if he turns up, will probably attempt to defend his Ryanair title. Special Tiara will give it a crack from the front and that always makes it interesting, will appreciate the better ground, will do well to place.
Fox Norton has definite place potential and at 12/1 is likely to run, you could get better on the day though, I would wait and watch the markets for him for an EW bet.
With the remaining entries I honestly couldn’t point anything else out. through the ratings or on form that could turn up and trouble the main contenders. I have left Politilogue out as I feel he has a massive amount to prove and was disappointing in The Game Spirit.
It is Altior’s Champion Chase to lose, Min likely second, if Douvan doesn’t show, if he does and he is 100% fit Douvan will be second. Fox Norton if you want some EW play in this but wait for the day.
Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle
Day 3 sees the stamina laden hurdlers battle it out for their title. It’s been a year where a horse or two could put themselves in the limelight as the stars of this division.
Supasundae for me is short in the betting and there is no value backing him now. I think he is likely to go off at slightly bigger prices, here is why. He produced a very good performance to win the Irish Champion Hurdle and his ratings will increase from 785 probably into the 830s and that’s solid. But here is my issue with him, I really don’t think he is a stayer. All his best form and best ratings are over shorter trips. He ran a good 2nd behind Apples Jade at 3m, but that is his best form at the trip. He is one to take on.
Sam Spinner is my idea of a very solid contender. Stepped up markedly in trip has seen massive improvement and he has some engine. He will go way up the ratings from his 625 rating before his win at Ascot to a Racing Tracker Rating in the 800s, he has never finished outside the top 2 and has stamina in abundance, it is how he does it that will make this one true test. He has a big Chance on what he has achieved this season.
Penhill is a very interesting contender, his Albert Bartlett win has incredibly strong form, my horse from that race at that time moving onto this was Constantine Bay but he is injured. Penhill followed up with a 2nd at the Punchestown Festival and that form does not scream out, Stayers Hurdle winner to me. He has also been off the track for some time. His rating will likely be in the high 600s to low 700s and that is not quite good enough to win this.
Looking at other entries, Apple’s Jade would be a fantastic runner, but her price reflects the fact she will go to the Mares Hurdle where she would be an absolute banker. Bacardys just isn’t quite good enough and he has been poor on his 2 runs this season.
L’ami Serge could be a fascinating runner and would not be without a chance each way if he shows up. He is a very tough ride and Davey Russell found that out on not one of his better rides last time out at Doncaster.
Yanworth likely to go elsewhere, The New One like with the Champion Hurdle is not quite up to the levels to win this. Unowhatimeanharry now falls into the same bracket, it would be a strange decision to have Faugheen run in this, why risk him? Wholestone is a solid contender but he needs a shorter trip. Of all the other runners La Bague Roi is interesting but will she go to the Mares Hurdle?
She has decent form and has won her last 4 runs, the last 2 at the stayers’ trip, so there is no questioning her stamina. And at around 12/1 is worth an EW NRNB.
In conclusion Sam Spinner is the likely winner of the Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle, Supasundae I would avoid, this could bite me, but he has not won over the trip and that concerns me. Penhill could be geared up for this so I would watch the markets on the day. My outsider selections if they turned up would be L’ami Serge and La Bague Au Roi.
Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup
Day 4 means it’s big the one of the Cheltenham Festival for the Staying Chasers and this year will be an absolute corker. A few horses running well but not spectacular, some unlucky and a couple on a recovery mission. Let’s see who comes into this historic race with the best ratings and form.
Might Bite has won both his starts this season but not in overly spectacular fashion, he went into the King George with a Racing Tracker Rating of 851, and he ran more like an 810 to 820 and that is not good enough for a Gold Cup. It was an underwhelming performance and the proximity of Double Shuffle doesn’t inspire me with confidence, I think Might Bite will struggle to close out the race in the last furlong. He may well win but for me and looking at his ratings profile I will be avoiding him on the day.
Native River looked very good indeed in the Denman Chase, but he was aimed at it from a long way off. Colin Tizzard said this was always going to be his target and he will now be ready for the Gold Cup. It wasn’t a bad Grade 2 field and he won it very well. I expect him to be up there in the top 3 come race day. The only concern with Native River is will he set it up for the closers like last year, I suspect he will.
Sizing John is on a recovery mission of big proportions after a very disappointing Christmas Chase performance. Quite a few ran below form that day, you could say there are excuses, but the form of the Christmas Chase (Lexus) in recent years has been a very big pointer to the Gold Cup. He will be way down the ratings and I do not think he will retain his crown this year however, after a longer break he could run into a place.
Coney Island is a bit difficult to way up, he has a solid set of ratings, but they are not Gold Cup winning ratings, he could though be very progressive. The negative thing with him is that he has not won over 3 miles in the last couple of years and that does not fit a winning profile in recent times. But a general 10/1 NRNB, he is not one to rule out.
Killultagh Vic had the right rating going into the Irish Gold Cup and all but for a novicey mistake at the last when ahead he surely would’ve won, he was not fully under the pump and we would be looking at a near 900 possibly over 900 Racing Tracker Rating and that is a Gold Cup winning rating. He has some real class and was the only horse to beat Thistlecrack over the stayers hurdle trip when he became a superstar in that discipline. He is my idea of a definite Top 3 finisher. At the price (10/1) NRNB, if he gets more schooling as he is really a novice he has a very big chance. He will go off a lot shorter on the day.
Road To Respect won the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown, but the race did cut up quite a bit with some poor performances. The top 3 in the market performed very poorly and the second and third are not what you would call Gold Cup contenders. He will achieve an 800 plus Racing Tracker Rating and that will give him a chance, he will enjoy the better ground, plus won at the festival last year and Cheltenham form is important. Has an EW chance and like Killultagh Vic will go off shorter on day. Take the 10/1 if you like him NRNB.
Of the remaining entrees likely to run Our Duke needs to up his game, he did smack one a couple out in the Irish Gold Cup, but he was going backwards at the time, has a lot to do to win this. Definitely Red is another that could sneak a place and out run his place. On Official Ratings he has a bit to find and he would prefer it softer.
Disko for me is the best value bigger priced entry at the moment. He will be somewhere in the top 5 in the ratings and at 25/1 NRNB he is worthwhile bet EW. The Same can be said for Total Recall if he shows up. I cannot see anything else entered getting close to winning, but it would be incredible if Edwulf could repeat the fortunate win in the Irish Gold Cup.
On the big day my money will be on Killultagh Vic already taken the 10/1 NRNB prices, as I think he will win this, Road To Respect will also go very close as will Disko who also has some of my early money NRNB. Of the UK horses I’d side with Native River to be ahead of his counterparts.