DATE POSTED: 9th March 2020
We post a 'Big Race' preview for our shareholders most Saturdays in our Racehorse Manager. It's a full analysis of the biggest and most competitive handicap of the day - and usually the biggest betting heat. It's a free extra service we provide to our shareholders, written by our own racing professionals. For the Cheltenham Festival we're making these 'Big Race' postings public - with a posting for every day of the meeting.
DAY ONEThe 2019 Festival starts! There's plenty to look forward to over the next few days, but everything gets going today with the big races right from the get-go. The Supreme Novices Hurdle gets things started and then we've the Mares Hurdle, the Arkle and of course the Champion Hurdle. Our Big Race preview is for the Ultima Handicap Chase.
Our Festival Big Race Preview starts today and goes right through the week. The big race of the day is posted the evening before racing.
So why choose the most competitive race of the day? We like to focus on one large handicap per day at the Festival, as they usually have big fields and less chance of returning odds-on favousites. Our aim with these posts during Cheltenham week is to rely on the statistics from previous runnings to help weed out the less-likely winners and point out the horses with the closest fit.
The 3m 1f Ultima Chase is a good place to start. 23 runners will go to the post (at the time of writing). The average winning SP since the millennium is 13-1, with only 4 winners priced above 11-1, so finding a long-shot winner isn’t too easy.
16 of the last 25 winners were from the top four in the betting so it’s a better than even chance that this will happen again this term. All of the winners since 2000 had already won at 3m or more. This would seem to rule out Cepage, Activial, Burbank, Elwood and Discorama, although the latter has had a lot of market support and was 2nd in the 4m Amateur Riders Chase here last year, so clearly gets the trip and is worth a look.
Ultima winners have usually already raced at a previous Festival; seventeen of the last twenty five winners had done so. Indeed, this is true for 10 of the last 12 winners,so must be a very good pointer. This stat works against Cobra De Mai, Elwood, Soupy Soups, Quarenta, Ice Cool Champs and The Conditional, who are all Festival virgins. The Conditional won over 3m2f here at Cheltenham in October last year, and ran well in defeat in good races at Newbury & Warwick after that, so if any horse can defy this statistic it could well be him.
Runners carrying more than 11st have won only 8 of the last 25 runnings. However, as 6 of these wins were in the last 10 years, there could be a trend developing and it would be unwise to ignore the heavyweights this year.
It is rare for a horse to carry 11st 12lb to victory although this did happen in 2017, when Un Temps Pour Toi followed up his Ultima win of the previous year, making him one of just three horses to win this twice since the race began in 1946. Kim Bailey’s 7yo, Vinndication, shoulders that weight this year. He won his latest race at Sandown in November in fine style, which brought about a 7lb rise in the ratings. He’s has since been given a break and a wind-op, but we feel he might just have too much on his plate here. Also, SP favourites have won just 4 of the last 25 runnings.
7yo’s have won 5 of the last 25 runnings. 8yo’s have done better, with 9 wins, while 9yo and 10yo’s have won 4 apiece. 11 yo’s have won just once but it’s worth mentioning COGRY, who has run at Cheltenham no less than sixteen times, and on the evidence of his three runs at Cheltenham this season (including a win in the BV Gold Cup) has lost little of his sparkle. We make him our choice to provide a bit of each-way excitement despite the stats saying that 11yo’s are just 2 from 48 to even get a place.
Townshend was original trained by Willie Mullins but moved to Nigel Twiston-Davis in 2018. He’s been ridden successfully by 7lb claimer Jamie Nield and the featherweight of just 10st 2lb puts the 9yo in with a chance of completing a hat-trick of chase wins.Alan King’s 8yo, Who Dares Wins, has smoothly made the transition from hurdles and classy stayer on the Flat, to a promising novice chaser. It’s possible he could make his presence felt here. Mulcahy’s Hill is the best fit with our stats but despite 2 wind ops he’s still not showing enough Form for us to support him (poor 2nd in a two-horse race at Newcastle last run).
However, we are interested in the 9yo, NO COMMENT, owned by JP McManus who has had many winners here, including a few in this race. The horse is making his 4th successive visit to the Festival, including 5th place in the Kim Muir last year. He is still a maiden over chase fences but has been backed in the usual McManus fashion and could well bring off the gamble.
Finally, remember the bookies will be falling over themselves to provide inducements to punters (especially extra places for each-way bets) so, if you do feel like a wager, check their special offers. Enjoy Cheltenham!
Enjoy your racing this week at Cheltenham!
View this race at Racing Post for latest updates and prices
Enjoyed this Big Race preview? We post a 'Big Race' analysis at the weekend for all our shareholders, posted to our Racehorse Manager. It's one of the most-viewed pages of information we offer. Considering getting involved in racehorse ownership this summer? We have summer jumpers and plenty of flat horses still available, some of which will be racing pretty soon.