It’s all about your approach to Cheltenham
11 March 2014
I love statistics. They point you in the right direction, but unless they are contextualised, or point you in the direction that you want to go in they can be pretty pointless.
Take the Skybet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, for instance. Sifting through all of the information on the opening race of the four-day Festival you keep being reminded that 15 of the past 17 winners won their most recent start.
So looking back on the past ten years by keeping that statistic onside, you would have had a better chance of nailing 40-1 shot Ebaziyan in 2007 than had you not been interested in statistics.
If you had concentrated on horses that had not won on their most recent start over the past 17 years you might have unearthed 20-1 shot Arcalis in 2005 and 12-1 chance Menorah in 2010. Backing both of those horses would have put you in a handsome profit, but also some painful losing runs, which then begs the question – how do you like betting the Cheltenham Festival?
Personally the small investment, big return tactic has served me fairly well during the National Hunt racing, as has laying short-priced favourites so with that in mind it’s crucial to stick with what you know and I shall doing so throughout the Cheltenham Festival. I hope.
Betting on the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is much like the first hand of a poker game – if you’ve got a great hand, and the odds are overwhelmingly in your favour you have got to go all in.
As humans were are programmed to be risk averse but it has paid big time to be dogmatic and be a layer in this race and I think it will do so again this time around.
For my money, Irving is far too short for a horse that has done most of his winning in small fields, has no Cheltenham experience, is not a fluent jumper and started his career on the Flat.
There will be 17 rivals to race alongside Paul Nicholls’s charge, and although a fast pace is sure to suit him, much as it did for Paul Nicholls’s other winners Al Ferof and Noland, his jumping could well be the undoing of him.
So what is going to beat him?
Wicklow Brave has been very impressive in his two hurdles starts, goes on any ground, is improving rapidly and is crucially proven in big fields. That Ruby Walsh has gone for Vautour instead, is largely down to not only greater experience but better experience. As strong stayer Vautour really should be favourite ahead of Irving.
I am also out to get Champagne Fever in the Racing Post Arkle Chase, but rather than laying a multiple Cheltenham Festival winner I’d prefer to split my stakes and hope for the best.
I just cannot see why a horse that was beaten comprehensively last time out, that lacks match practice and does not appear to jump well should be the 3-1 Arkle favourite. Sure, he is by far the best horse in the race, and will be much better than previously this season, but 3-1?
I backed Dodging Bullets 12 months ago and I think this year he can turn over Champagne Fever, it is not as if his form at Cheltenham is poor, having run five times at Prestbury Park for three wins.
I take the view that he was simply outstayed at Newbury last time in the Game Spirit Chase by Module and on unsuitable ground. I do not like to make excuses for horses in defeat much, but at the weights he came out best and at 5-1 he looks a fair price on that run.
I think any of Valdez and Hinterland can win the Arkle, but will have a saver on Trifolium, who put it all together and jumped brilliantly to slam Felix Yonger in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown in January.
He improved dramatically for being ridden closer to the pace and can take the step up in his stride for Bryan Cooper.
And finally, I’m going with The Fly. Walsh summed it up brilliantly on Racing UK on Monday. For all of the brilliance of Our Conor, five-year-olds and Triumph winners have a desperate record in the Champion Hurdle and I do not buy the line that he will improve past the champion.
My Tent Or Yours scares me, as does The New One, but, “they still have to take the step up to beat him,” and for me that step up is just a little too big for them.
Geoffrey Riddle's Cheltenham Tuesday tips:
1.30 Cheltenham: Lay Irving for a place
1.30 Chelteham: Back Three Kingdoms for a place
2.05 Cheltenham: Lay Champagne Fever
3.20 Cheltenham: Back Hurricane Fly