Festival Trendspotting: Key Trials and Final Pointers

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The final part of the Trendsetting guide focuses on trials and pointers, looking back at which races and tracks past festival winners trod before arriving at Cheltenham.

Highlighted below are a set of reliable trials that threw up direct winners at Cheltenham next time out – for instance, Ascot’s Clarence House Chase from mid-January supplied eight Champion Chase winners since 1997, including Altior in 2019.

TOP FESTIVAL TRIALS

Race Subsequent Cheltenham races won
Clarence House Chase 8 Champion Chase winners
Cleeve Hurdle 8 World Hurdle winners
Irish Champion Hurdle 7 Champion Hurdle winners
Spring Juvenile Hurdle 6 Triumph Hurdle winners
King George VI Chase 6 Gold Cup, 4 Ryanair Chase winners
Gr1 2m5f Novice Chase (Leop, Feb) 5 RSA winners
Adonis Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle 5 Triumph Hurdle winners
Deloitte Novice Hurdle 5 Supreme Nov, 4 Neptune Nov winners
P.P. Hogan C Country Chase (Punc, 3m) 4 Glenfarclas Chase winners
Arkle Novice Chase (Leop, Feb) 4 Arkle Chase winners
World Series Hurdle (Punchestown) 4 Mares Hurdle winners
Ascot Chase 4 Ryanair Chase winners
Betfair Hurdle (Newbury) 4 County Hurdle winners
World Series Hurdle, Punchestown 4 David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle winners
Denman Chase 4 Gold Cup winners

The Clarence House Chase stands proud in joint-top of the trials table, but could go clear should this season’s impressive winner, Defi Du Seuil, go onto land the Champion Chase.

Having supplied six Gold Cup winners and four Ryanair Chase winners since 1997, the King George is traditionally a solid guide for the festival, as witnessed two seasons ago when the Kempton third, Native River, went onto land jump racing’s blue riband event. This season’s third, Footpad, may also step up to gain compensation at Cheltenham if making another attempt for the Ryanair Chase where he broke blood vessels last year.

Last season’s World Hurdle winner, Paisley Park, used January’s Cleeve Hurdle over the same C&D as an excellent stepping stone for the festival, and it will be interesting to see how this season’s field line-up for that Grade 2 trial on 25 January. Indeed, there are numerous crucial trials to take place throughout February prior to the festival, including Leopardstown’s Deloitte Novice Hurdle on 1-2 February, which produced five Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winners and four Neptune Novices’ Hurdle since 1997 - one of which was Klassical Dream 12 months ago.

Punchestown’s P.P. Hogan C Country Chase staged on 9 February should also be watched, having supplied four Glenfarclas Chase winners. Last season’s winner, Josies Orders, almost improved that record when runner-up in the Glenfarclas.

POINTERS FROM CHELTENHAM 2019

One of the key factors when studying for the Cheltenham Festival is respecting form from the previous year’s festival. The ability to have proven form over the course in the hottest company stands up year after year, with the best horses delivering when it matters. Therefore, it could be worth looking back at what happened 12 months ago to find out which races produced the strongest subsequent form, as there could be more to come from the protagonists at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.

2019 Race Result W-R since % £1 Best
Supreme Nov Hdle 1.Klassical Dream 2.Thomas Darby 3.Itchy Feet 14-53 26% -7 3 x Gr1
Arkle Nov Chase 1.Duc Des Genievres 2.Us And Them 3.Articulum 4-41 10% -27 2 x Gr1
Ultima Hcp Chase 1.Beware The Bear 2.Vintage Clouds 3.Lake View Lad 10-72 14% -3 1 x Gr1
Champion Hurdle 1.Espoir D'allen 2.Melon 3.Silver Streak 8-26 31% +6 3 x Gr1
OLBG Mares Hurdle 1.Roksana 2.Stormy Ireland 3.Good Thyne Tara 8-26 31% -6 1 x Gr1
Novices’ Hcp Chase 1.A Plus Tard 2.Tower Bridge 3.Ben Dundee 8-66 12% +41 1 x Gr1
NH Challenge Cup Ch 1.Le Breuil 2.Discorama 3.Jerrysback 5-51 10% -18 1 x List
Baltimore Nov Hdle 1.City Island 2.Champ 3.Bright Forecast 16-48 33% +3 3 x Gr1
RSA Novices’ Chase 1.Topofthegame 2.Santini 3.Delta Work 7-35 20% -11 3 x Gr1
Coral Cup Hcp Hdle 1.William Henry 2.Wicklow Brave 3.Ballyandy 17-79 21% -31 1 x Gr2
Champion Chase 1.Altior 2.Politologue 3.Sceau Royal 6-26 23% -10 3 x Gr1
Glenfarclas Chase 1.Tiger Roll 2.Josies Orders 3.Urgent De Gregarine 2-34 6% -25 1 x Gr3
Fred Winter Juv Hd 1.Band Of Outlaws 2.Coko Beach 3.Ciel De Neige 9-78 11% -40 1 x Cl2
Champion Bumper 1.Envoi Allen 2.Blue Sari 3.Thyme Hill 15-38 39% -4 4 x Gr1
JLT Novices’ Chase 1.Defi Du Seuil 2.Lostintranslation 3.Mengli Khan 12-36 33% +3 5 x Gr1
Stayers Hurdle 1.Paisley Park 2.Sam Spinner 3.Faugheen 17-66 26% -1 2 x Gr1
Plate Hcp Chase 1.Siruh Du Lac 2.Janika 3.Spiritofthgames 4-60 7% -39 1 x Gr1
Mares Novices’ Hdle 1.Eglantine Du Seuil 2.Concertista 3.Tintangle 13-83 16% -48 1 x Gr1
Kim Muir Hcp Chase 1.Any Second Now 2.Kilfilum Cross 3.The Young Master 8-82 10% -20 2 x Cl2
Triumph Hurdle 1.Pentland Hills 2.Coeur Sublime 3.Gardens of Babylon 9-44 20% -16 1 x Gr1
County Hurdle 1.Chtibello 2.We Have A Dream 3.Countister 10-90 11% -34 1 x Gr2
Albert Bartlet Nov Hdl 1.Minella Indo 2.Commander Of Fleet 3.Allaho 10-56 18% -10 1 x Gr1
Cheltenham Gold Cup 1.Al Boum Photo 2.Anibale Fly 3.Bristol De Mai 5-37 13% -23 1 x Gr1
Foxhunter Chase 1.Hazel Hill 2.Shantou Flyer 3.Top Wood 7-30 23% +15 1 x Cl2
Grand Annual Chase 1.Croco Bay 2.Bun Doran 3.Brelan Das 6-69 8% -36 2 x Gr2
Martin Pipe Hcp Hdle 1.Early Doors 2.Dallas Des Pictons 3.Defi Bleu 16-98 16% -38 1 x Cl2


Of the 28 winners at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, 14 ran at the previous 2018 festival, with three from the Coral Cup and two from the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. Should any of the protagonists from the 2019 renewals return this March then they should be noted, as should runners from last season’s Champion Bumper - a race that historically produced smart individuals. Last year’s winner, Envoi Allen, holds good prospects in the Baltimore Novices’ Hurdle, while the Champion Bumper third, Thyme Hill, may opt for the Albert Bartlett should it be decent ground at Prestbury Park in March. Last season’s Champion Bumper fourth, Abacadabras, also progressed since and holds sound prospects in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

The 2019 JLT Novices’ Chase also looks strong, with Defi Du Seuil beating Lostintranslation. The pair accumulated two Grade 1 chases since and both could be adding to that haul with the former going for the Champion Chase and the latter attempting Gold Cup glory.

But, let’s not forget the Ballyimore Novices’ Hurdle from last term, as it produced 16 victories since for a small profit - three of which came in Grade 1s. The winner, City Island, could run a big race at juicy odds on his return to Cheltenham as both chase outings this term came on soft when pulled up and then runner-up. Just 2l back in second in the Ballymore wasChamp, who heads this year’s market for the RSA Chase.

LAST TIME OUT

2010-2019

Track W-R % £1
Leopardstown 58-513 11% +37
Cheltenham 35-530 7% -251
Kempton 23-326 7% -52
Punchestown 16-188 9% -87
Newbury 16-357 4% -172
Navan 11-97 11% +42
Naas 9-104 9% +33
Exeter 6-85 7% +6

Of the 273 Cheltenham Festival winners since 2010, 148 came via the above five tracks, namely Leopardstown, Cheltenham, Kempton, Punchestown and Newbury. While runners arriving at this year’s meeting via one of those five tracks should be respected, extra attention should go to those that ran at Leopardstown last time out, more so last time out winners from Leopardstown , as they struck at 30-150 (+£63). Don’t underestimate Leopardstown runners beaten 1-4l last time either (8-59 +£46) - for the record, those beaten under 1l from Leopardstown last time were only 2-33 (-£17).

Other runners to note from Ireland include those coming via Navan (11-97 +£42) and Naas (9-104 +£33). When looking for such runners from Navan and Naas, stick to those at 33-1 or shorter (20-168 +£108) - those bigger were 0-33 here - while backing them each-way saw a further 32 runners placed at Cheltenham for an increased profit of +£156 (20 winners & 32 placed from 168 runners).

Form figures ahead of Cheltenham
There is simply no getting away from the fact that of the last 273 festival winners since 2010, a large number of them finished first or second last time out - 181 to be precise (7%). While that figure points punters in the right direction, the bad news is they collectively returned a huge loss of -£728 from a mammoth 2414 runners. However, the 7% strike-rate of runners who finished first or second last time out still reads a lot healthier than those who finished third or worse the outing prior to Cheltenham at 90-2359 (4%).

As for a simple approach to following first or second last time out runners here, then stick with those that made the top two in a Grade 1 the outing before Cheltenham, as they connected here at 52-249 (+£73).

Headgear
While headgear can often be frowned upon in major events, it is indeed possible to triumph wearing blinkers, visors or cheekpieces at the festival, though it needs noting the strike-rate remains low. The two mild exceptions being the application of a hood or blinkers, as they produced a better strike-rate.

Blinkers: 18-3289 (6%) -£6
Cheekpieces: 18-503 (4%) -£165
Hood: 7-127 (4%) -£47
Visor: 2-63 (3%) -£29

As for those wearing headgear for the first time in the UK at the festival, they returned a collective record of 14-279 (-£10). However runners wearing a visor, hood or blinkers for the first time did better at 9-142 (+£48), compared to those wearing cheekpieces for the first time (5-134 -£55).

Penalties in handicaps
Trying to win a race at Cheltenham is hard enough, but trying to do so while carrying extra weight via a penalty makes life even tougher, hence why only two triumphed from 38 to have attempted the feat:

5lb: 2-37 (-£1)
9lb: 0-1 (-£1)

For the record, both penalised winners earned their penalty for winning by 4.05-5l last time out (2-7 +£29).

Festival Trendspotting: Key Trials and Final Pointers