DATE POSTED: 13th March 2019
We post a 'Big Race' preview for our shareholders most Saturdays. 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.
DAY THREEThe Thursday action sees The Pertemps, Ryanair and Kim Muir take place, along with a strong supporting card, but its the former we concentrate on today - probably the most difficult race of the week to fathom!
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.
This is probably the toughest handicap race to predict in the whole festival, possibly because runners are perhaps treated sympathetically in the various qualifying races (they only have to finish in the first six to qualify for the Final), thus preserving their Handicaps, which may explain why winners of those races have only won the Final on two occasions in the last 20 years. However we like a challenge and hope that some of the statistics from previous years can provide a few clues.
We dont have to worry about Nicholls, Henderson or Mullins runners as theyve all ducked the race this year. There is a pretty strong Irish contingent, with 6 of the 24 runners (at the time of writing) and all of these are in the top 10 of the market.
There are six winners from the Qualifiers running in the Final, namely Eminent Poet, Aaron Lad, Not Many Left, Flemcara, and Samburu Shujaa, as a result they have all gone up in the handicap ratings.
An unusual statistic is that there has only been one French-bred winner in the race. This year there six French-bred runners, A Toi Phil, Sire Du Berlais, Culture De Sivola, Cuneo, Wait For Me and Samburu Shujaa.
Only two 5yos have ever won this race. Gordon Elliott saddled French-bred 5yo Delta Work to win this last year, thus breaking several statistical hoodoos. This year he saddles two fancied horses, 7yo Sire Du Berlais, and 9yo A Toi Phil, again both French-bred, so maybe Gordon could add to the French-bred tally â€“ especially with the former, who is currently a well-backed favourite.
It must be said that SP favourites dont usually fare very well here, with only 3 winning in the last 25 years, but renowned gambler and owner of Sire Du Berlais, JP McManus loves to win this race, this year ensuring that he would have a runner by saddling no less than seven of the 23 runners in the Leopardstown qualifier.
JP has won this race twice with 50-1 shots so it would be unwise to completely ignore his other runner in this race, the lightly-weighted Aspen Colorado, trained by Jonjo ONeill and ridden by 5lb claimer Jonjo junior. Jonjo has won the Final four times and Aspen Colorado may benefit from recent wind surgery, so is maybe worth an each-way saver.
It is very rare for an older horse to win this and this fact seems to rule out 11yo, Abolitionist.
The 9yo, Champers On Ice, has caught our eye. David Pipes charge has run at Cheltenham seven times, finishing 3rd in the Albert Bartlett at the 2016 Festival. He qualified for the Pertemps by finishing 4th in the Haydock qualifier last month following a 428 days break and is not without market support. He could well put up a good fight.
Thermistocles has improved since tackling 3m races and finished a good 3rd in the Leopardstown qualifier and another good run is possible here.
We have to follow the money in this on so will stick with SIRE DE BERLAIS and suggest CHAMPERS ON ICE as a place proposition.