10th - 13th March

Festival Trendspotting: Sires and Specialists

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In this section of the Trendspotting guide we’ll take a look at profiles, including sires, specialists and the British and Irish challenges.


One of the most underused tools in finding a way to beat the bookies is breeding stats. Knowing which stallions historically produced individuals suited to Cheltenham’s unique contours can often find some big-priced winners in the market - for example, the track’s leading sire, King’s Theatre, was responsible for William Henry, who took the 2019 Coral Cup at 28-1.

Drilling down even further to find out which distances a sire’s offspring prefer can also prove vital, hence the following table which could prove worth checking during the 2020 meeting.

Top 10 sires at Cheltenham 2015-2020

Sire W-R £1 2m-2m1f 2m4f-2m6f 3m-3m2f 3m3f+
King’s Theatre 27-276 -34 5-55 13-91 13-97 2-30
Milan 24-191 -30 1-21 5-46 13-97 4-25
Kayf Tara 24-209 -54 11-60 2-69 10-58 1-22
Oscar 14-163 -39 1-34 5-61 8-65 0-3
Presenting 13-248 -186 2-51 4-79 5-91 2-26
Shantou 11-97 +5 2-12 5-31 3-49 1-5
Midnight Legend 11-155 -74 3-42 6-65 2-39 0-7
Beneficial 11-151 -45 4-41 6-56 1-43 0-11
Robin Des Champs 10-73 +35 1-23 4-26 4-21 1-3
Voix Du Nord 10-60 -12 6-21 4-30 0-8 0-1

*Data correct as of 24/01

King’s Theatre rules the leaderboard and holds some interesting entries in 2020, including Champ. Nicky Henderson’s novice chaser was runner-up in last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle prior to winning 2-3 over fences this term. While losing his unbeaten chase record in the Dipper at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, he may need further and could come into his own in the RSA Chase over 3m.

Both Milan and Oscar are another couple of sires whose runners need a trip here. The former could have Santini flying the flag in the Gold Cup, along with If The Cap Fits in the Stayers’ Hurdle, and both hold realistic chances. Oscar meanwhile, sired a good prospect in Latest Exhibition, who has yet to go beyond 2m4f, but should enjoy running in the Albert Bartlett over 3m.

It’s also worth noting which sires are continuing to produce winners at Cheltenham - rather than what happened three or four years ago - with King’s Theatre again in profit during the last year here at 4-40 (+£14). Likewise, Voix Du Nord showed his runners shouldn’t be underestimated in the market here, having produced two winners at the 2019 festival, including Espoir Dallen (16-1) in the Champion Hurdle.

Punters looking to track influential sires at the 2020 festival may also want to look out for which trainers combine well specific stallions - at all tracks. A good example was Dan Skelton/Flemensfirth, as the combo struck at 35-185 (+£21) while the Willie Mullins/Flemensfirth partnership also did well (41-128 +£22), along with Henry De Bromhead/Flemensfirth (20-105 +£17). The fact Flemensfirth sent out numerous winners at Cheltenham down the years supports the aforementioned approach.

Also capable of producing winners at Cheltenham is Authorized, whose return at this track since 2017 was a healthy 5-24 (+£35). With that in mind, the Gordon Elliott/Authorized combo (18-83 +£61) is one to look out for, as is Elliott/King’s Theatre (21-91 +£4) - the King’s Theatre/Nicky Henderson pairing also came good at 27-93 (+£16). Should Elliott enjoy another successful festival, then keep a note of any runner by Yeats, as the Elliott/Yeats pairing returned figures of 25-97 (+£33).


Below is a table of horses that have already shown their liking for Cheltenham’s unique track and can be relied upon to put in a solid round. The end column highlights their consistency in making the frame – a valuable tool for each-way punters.

Horse Wins Places Runs Each-Way %
Wholestone 5 6 13 85%
Summerville Boy 2 2 5 80%
Tobefair 2 2 5 80%
Defi Du Seuil 6 0 8 75%
William Henry 2 3 7 71%
Josies Orders 4 3 10 70%
Benny’s Bridge 2 0 3 67%
Mister Whitaker 3 1 6 67%
Kilbricken Storm 2 1 5 60%
Beware The Bear 2 1 5 60%
Elixir De Nutz 2 1 5 60%
Quel Destin 2 1 5 60%
Fact Of The Matter 2 1 5 60%
What A Moment 2 0 4 50%
Al Dancer 2 0 4 50%
Siruh Du Lac 2 0 4 50%

*Data correct as of 24/01

Only runners that raced this winter with 2+ career course wins, along with a 50%+ each-way course strike-rate feature above.

The final profile under the microscope involves the biggest contest of the week, namely the battle between Great Britain and Ireland for the Prestbury Cup. The interest in this contest has grown throughout the decades, and last year produced an amazing finale.

Prestbury Cup

2019 Ireland 14 Britain 14
2018 Ireland 17 Britain 11
2017 Ireland 19 Britain 9
2016 Ireland 15 Britain 13
2015 Britain 14 Ireland 13
2014 Britain 15 Ireland 12
2013 Ireland 14 Britain 13
2012 Britain 22 Ireland 5
2011 Britain 14 Ireland 13
2010 Britain 19 Ireland 7

Despite starting as 4-6 favourites to defend the crown last year, Ireland were held to a thrilling 14-14 tie, thanks to Britain winning the final day 4-3. The bookies remain unchanged in their decision as to who might win this year’s renewal, though, with Ireland again their odds-on favourites at 4-7. Britain are 15-8, with another tie 6-1.

The fact layers make Ireland even shorter this time around despite last year’s tie, suggests the respect shown for their strength in numbers this season - after all, 21 of this season’s 32 Grade 1 events (up to mid-January 2020) went to Ireland. A look back at last year’s festival also shows that Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott accounted for half of Ireland’s haul of 14 winners, and both look set for another strong meeting. In fact, some bookies offer 6-5 about Ireland to win and both Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott sending out seven or more winners between them.

Both Ireland and Britain will be well represented once more, and a glance at their average number of winners during the last five festivals gives an indication as to the mouth-watering battle set to take place.

Britain (average winners last five festivals) Ireland
Nicky Henderson – 2.6 Willie Mullins – 6.4
Paul Nicholls – 2.2 Gordon Elliott – 4.2
David Pipe – 0.8 Henry De Bromhead – 0.8
Nick Williams – 0.8 Patrick Kelly – 0.6
Colin Tizzard – 0.6 Enda Bolger 0.6

While Ireland boast the “big two” in Mullins and Elliott, the Brits have more strength in depth via the likes of Philip Hobbs, Alan King, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Dan Skelton, compared to Ireland’s supporting cast of Joseph O’Brien, Noel Meade and Tony Martin. It promises to be another enthralling battle between the two rivals, and one in which Britain would love to wrestle the cup back for the first time since 2015.

Festival Trendspotting: Sires and Specialists

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