Last year’s race
- Winner: Flying Tiger
- Jockey: R Johnson
- Trainer: Nick Williams
- Owner: The Macaroni Beach Society
- Age: 4 Weight: 11st 5lb
- Starting Price: 33/1
- Season Form Figures: 614
- Previous Best: 1st - Jack Berry House Juvenile Hurdle, Newbury (Jan 2016)
This will be the 14th running and it has been tough going for punters with winners at 40/1 (x2), 33/1 (x2), 25/1 (x2) and 20/1 though a couple of favourites have been successful so maybe chance a couple at bigger prices rather than homing in on the market leaders.
All bar Diego du Charmil had run from February onwards with as many as ten of the 13 in the previous 25 days. Paul Nicholls elected to protect that winner’s handicap mark not running him at all since he acquired him from France so he had not run since November.
French breds or French imports have won eight of the 13 runnings from approximately one-third representation so they are over-performing. In fact, 26 of the last 40 win-and-placed horses were French-bred including what would have been a 1-2-3-4-5-6 in 2016 had Campeador and Voix Du Reve not fallen at the final flight when they looked like they might be the pair to battle it out for Ireland.
That left the Nicholls pair of Diego du Charmil and Romain de Senam to lead home the pack. We must seriously respect any Paul Nicholls-trained contenders with French origins having saddled three winners and six placed horses including when Qualando led home a 1-2-5 (all French breds) for the stable’s three runners in 2015. It is worth noting that the Aga Khan bred the first two Fred Winter winners and also supplied the runner-up in 2008 and 2011. His horses are bred to stay well on the Flat so are particularly well suited to this stamina test for juvenile hurdlers.
French breds or French imports have won eight of the 13 runnings from approximately one-third representation so they are over-performing.
David Pipe has also fared very well with his French imports winning with Gaspara and saddling two seconds and two more placed horses from 2007 onwards from his 13 runners. Gordon Elliott’s runners also command respect. Flaxen Flare bolted up in first-time blinkers in the 2013 running and Clarcam and Campeador were going like winners until they fell in two of the next three years. Willie Mullins, on the other hand, has struggled so far with all 12 of his runners failing to place though his Voix De Reve would have very close two years ago but for his last-flight fall.
Less runs equals fewer opportunities for the Handicapper to obtain a true reflection of a horse’s ability which equals greater probability of underestimation of their capabilities. Therefore, I like the angle that nine of the 13 winners had run the bare minimum of three times over hurdles in order to qualify, though expect half the field or more to have this profile. The first seven winners failed to win on either of their first two starts over timber but four of the last six have, so trend has turned on its head.
The scoreline is 6-7 for last-time-out winners against horses beaten on their most recent start but the last-time-out winners have been from a significantly lower proportion of runners. Of the seven winners that failed to win last time out, five were beaten in a Grade 1 or 2 contest in that final start though, two of which finishing unplaced in the Adonis. Not one of the three Irish-trained winners won on their most recent start so there is quite a contrast as to how the mind sets of each country’s connections work. It is also worth noting that four of those British-trained winners beat older horses on their final start.
Three of the last 11 winners had won over hurdles at Sandown, a real stamina-sapping course on the hurdles track in winter and also make a note of the highest-rated Flat performer as Dabiroun (20/1), Silk Affair (11/1) and What A Charm (9/1) entered the race as best horse from off the level.
There have not been too many well-fancied fillies take their chance recently which is a shame given that they won four of the first eight runnings in addition to supplying the runner-up in 2006.
At a glance summary
- Exactly three runs to qualify
- French-breds or French imports
- Trained by Paul Nicholls, David Pipe or Gordon Elliott
- Beat older horses last time out
- The highest-rated horse from the Flat
- Having won at Sandown
- Bred by the Aga Khan
- Failed to win last time out (if British-trained unless in the Adonis)
- Not run in the previous month