QUALIFIERS - Pertemps sponsor qualifiers for this throughout the season on 15 different courses, 13 in the UK plus Leopardstown and Punchestown. You have to finish in the top six to qualify and then be a high enough handicap mark to get in. Its usually about 135.
Fingal Bay 2014 and Ballyfitz 2008 are the only winners in the last 21 to win this after actually winning a Pertemps Qualifier. In both cases the final was their next run and within 35 days of their Qualifier win. In 2018 seven of the qualifier winners made it into the Festival Final. The wonderfully named Tad Badalandabad the best of the seven in 4th. The next best qualifier winner home was Louis' Vac Pouch away back in 12th of the 22 finishers. The 1-2-3 last year all had finished third in the Punchestown, Leopardstown and Musselburgh qualifiers respectively
In 2017 none of the qualifier winners turned up in the final. Presenting Percy had previously jogged around in fifth in the Christmas Leoardstown Qualifier. In 2017 both placed horses Barney Dwan (Exeter) and Jury Duty (Chepstow) had made it to the Final through one of the last three qualifiers. In 2016, the first four home all finished in the first three of a qualifier. Mall Dini, 3rd at Leopardstown, Arpege D'Alene won at Chepstow, If In Doubt won at Wincanton, Tagliatelle 3rd at Musselburgh.
Qualifier winners this season so far are, The Mighty Don, Jersey Bean, Abolitionist, Younevercall, Aaron Lad, Eminent Poet, Isaacstown Lad, Padleyourowncanoe, Cuneo (Leopardstown), keeper Hill,Not Many Left. This is up to the end of January.
The Irish plots that may get in - Cuneo is up to 133 in Ireland so will be rated higher in the UK. Walk To Freedom finished well and will get in but the finest ride at Leopardstown and best watched on the head on coverage was Davy Russell gentling making his way home in qualifying sixth place on the JP owned/Gordon Elliott trained Sire Du Berlais. Off 142 that day, his first run over three miles. Words like 'held up' and 'never threatening' in the RP analysis. Could be wrong but D Russell seems to be riding a finish after its all over. Whole world was watching though and at the end of January, he is 10/1 fav for the Final. Davy has a decent recent record in this. Also remember that Not Many Left, the Huntingdon qualifier winner, is trained by Jessica Harrington.
AGE - Its over for Pragada winner in 1988. One of the big Cheltenham Stats big beasts was brought to its knees when Delta Work became the first five year old to win this in 30 yrs and only the second its 43 year history. Like Pragada, Delta Work was a novice but unlike Pragada, he had not won his previous 3 races. The Josh Gifford trained Pragada started at 16s and won by 12 lengths. Bless him. Delta Work, the only novice to run last year. Both Presenting Percy and Mall Dini were novices. One other in 2016 finished 12th, Two ran in 2015, best was Aqalim 5th in his first time visor. Before that Son Amix (2nd in 2011) was only the 8th to have been placed, 5 of which were Pipe trained.
Four 8 yr olds, three 9 yr olds and a 10 yr old have won in the last 14 from small numbers. 5 winners aged 9 in last 20.
But five of the last six since Cape Tribulation in 2012 not aged above six years.
Since ’91, The Tourad Man 4th 2017, Pineau De Re both 2014 at 11yrs only the 6th and 7th horses aged 10 or above to be placed. Buena Vista won as a 10 yr old in 2011. Last double figures before him was Willie Wumpkins aged 13 in 1981. Both won this more than once. Berties Dream 33s 5th 2013 when aged 10. Nothing older than an 8 yr old ran in 2016. Last year Mine Now was the oldest runner at 10, and unplaced.
WEIGHT - Only Buena Vista (10st 3lb and 10st 1lb), Creon ‘04 and Generosa ’99 in past 24 runnings carried 10st 5lbs or less after jockeys allowances. Creon first winner out of the handicap in 26 years and may be the last for a long time. 15 from last 19 carried no more than 11st 2lb. Not Presenting Percy who jogged around under 11st 11lb. A lot of crying done in 2017 by connections about his handicap mark. Davy Russell started to apologise to the cameras about his behaviour on Preview Nights as the horse jogged half way up the Pertemps run in. 'You're a wonderful man, Mr Phil Smith', cried the connections on TV in the unsaddling enclosure having previously abused the man for a fortnight. Didn't look all that great, now. And I'm a big fan of the horse. Water under the bridge but might be the reason behind Pat Kelly's current disinterest in talking to the press? He must be one helluva trainer. Bottom weight last year was 10st 6 lbs. Bottom weight in 2017 was only 11st 2lb so it wasn't like Percy was giving lumps away. The 11st 2 lb barrier broken by Holywell 11st 4 in 2015 and Fingal Bay 11st 12lb in 2014. Bottom weight in those two year was 10st 13lbs and all placed horses in 2013 and 2014 carried over 11st. In 2016 bottom weight 10st 7. Placed horses all carried at least 11st 4 lbs. In the last two years 4th place carried 11st 12. As with all Festival handicaps, it is now hard to get a run.
Rating needed to get a run 2018 to 2013 - 135 then 137, 135,135,135,135.
FORM - Only 14 from last 21, 1st, 2nd or 3rd in last completed start. But all of the last six. 13 from last 23 did win last time out from about 20% of total runners. Usually a field of 24. Of the 17 renewals this century that had had at least one last time out winner, 7 were won by last time out winners. Hope that makes sense. Only three last time out winners in 2018. None of them finished in the first 10. 8 qualifiers in 2017, only Percy placed. 2016, 6 qualifiers including 2nd and 3rd. 7 qualifiers in 2015 including 1st and 2nd. 6 qualifiers in each of the previous two years, Fingal Bay winning in 2014, Shutthefrontdoor best in 4th 2013. 3 qualifiers in 2012, best Bellflower Boy in 7th. In 2011, 3 from 23 best the great Knockara Beau in 4th. 2010 6 qualifiers, best Prince Erik 2nd, Cross Kennon 4th. I'm told that if you had backed all last time out winners this century, you'd be in front. Not sure by how much.
COURSE WINNERS - Fingal Bay joined Buena Vista to be the first previous course winners to win this since at least 1991 ('10 Buena Vista had also been second in '09 to Kayf Aramis). 2018 three course winners, all unplaced. In 2017, 7 of the 24 strong field were course winners. Best placing achieved was 8th. 2016 two course winners ran including unplaced 11/2 fav Leave At Dawn. In 2015 five course winners lined up, Unique De Cotte best in 2nd. Apart from Fingal, four other course winners in 2014 including Southfield Theatre beaten a nose (with Whisper winning the Coral Cup it was not a good year for this theory). 9 course winners 2013, best Captain Sunshine 2nd.
9 from last 13 had won at least at Class 2 level (not Delta, only a maiden hurdle winner but placed in two Graded novices, not Holywell, best before was 2nd in G3 handicap Haydock in November). Davy Russell did his best not to win a 15k Fairyhouse hurdle on Percy by too far. Fun to watch again, I tell you. He's good at that. Mall Dini only a winner of a £7k Thurles maiden hurdle. Placed in a Cl2. Call the Cops won Cl2 at Doncaster
17 from last 20 between 6 and 15 hurdle runs (Delta 7 runs,Percy 6 runs, Mall Dini 7 runs. Buena Vista - 21 in 2010, 29 in 2011). Better is that 10 of the last 12 between 6 and 10 runs over hurdles.
Front runners. Used to be never placed. But in the last seven years Berties Dream, Ballyfitz, Kayf Aramis, Buena Vista (twice) and some of the placed horses were kept prominent. As this race is now run on the New Course where they only jump 2 hurdles in the last mile, maybe less chance of making up ground? However front runners swallowed up in 2014 and again in last three years. Connetable, 3rd last year, was up with the pace. In 2015 both 1st and 2nd home were up with the pace.
All bar Delta Work of the five Irish winners in the last 14 ran in the Leopardstown Qualifier. Mall Dini was the only one of those four to get placed there. Mall Dini ran off 129 at Leopardstown, put up to 139 at Cheltenham. Needed to be 135 to get a run last year. 2015 Zabana also finished third in this qualifier last season off 130 before being touched off by Aux Ptit Soins in the Coral Cup. His rating that day was 144. Percy in 5th was off 129 at Leopardstown, ran off 146 at Cheltenham. Enough on that subject.
Irish trained have won 8 in last 24 from a small proportion of runners. But, more importantly, have won the last three. Four runners last year, 1-2 for Gordon Elliott (who incidentally on Preview Nights, was all over Glenloe). Five ran in 2017, 1st and 3rd home. Four runners up in the last nine. Seven ran in 2016, 1st and 4th. Only Edeymi at 8s ran 2015, unplaced. 3 in 2014, best Jetson in 5th warming up for Quevega at Punchestown. 2013, 5 ran best again Jetson 'never nearer' third. 6 ran 2012, Catch Me 2nd. 6 in 2011 best Son Amix 2nd, Sivota 3rd. 8 in 2010, best Prince Erik in 2nd). A fair performance.
Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls have never won this. Paul Nichols has run 18 in this, six placed, including Connetable 3rd last year at 33s.
Only 19 of last 27 had previously won over a minimum of 3 miles (Ok, Fingal Bay only 2m 7.5f at Exeter. But not Delta, Percy, Mall Dini nor Holywell. Percy won that 2m 4f h'cap, Mall Dini had won a 2m 6f maiden. Holywell had been close 2nd in the Warwick Qualifier and was fitted here with first time blinkers. Not Buena in 2010 but 2nd in this in '09). 11 from last 13 winning form over 2m4f to 2m 6f. Not Delta, had only won a two mile maiden. Fingal Bay had won the Challow three seasons before in 2011.
JP McManus has owned 3 winners two of which were priced 50/1. Does run a few. Glenloe 2nd last year from four (poor jump at the last may have cost him). Only For Good Measure in 2017, 9th. 6 in 2016, best If In Doubt in 3rd.
BREEDING - Another kick in the head. Delta Work became the first French Bred to win this since Tindari 1994. 79 others French breds have tried since. Mr Mix last to finish in 2017. 4 tried in 2016, Arpege D'Alene close but no cigar. The latter two both Nicholls trained.
RATINGS - Fingal on 148 broke the glass ceiling. Previous 12 rated between 120 to 142. Delta 139, Percy 146, Mall Dini 139, Call the Cops off 138. As stated, since it now takes you to be 135 to get in, not surprising that last seven winners rated from 138 to 148. Last 21 all rated between 120 and 150.
17 of last 28 had not run in the previous 30 days. However Delta 22 days, Percy 19 days, Mall Dini 26 days since last run, Call The Cops won 12 days before this and was winning under a 5lb penalty. Improving novices?
BLINKERS ETC - 10 Headgear wearers last year finishing 1st, 3rd and 4th. All three had worn their headgear before. In 2017 three headgear wearers, all finished own the field. 7 headgear wearers in 2016 including 2 first timers, only Tagliatelle in the first six. 7 Headgear wearers in 2015 including 3 first timers, best Henryville in 4th in a hood he always wore. 2013 Holywell won in first time blinkers (7 others tried 2013). Before that, Buena Vista, in 2010 was first blinkered runner to win in 14 races from 66 triers (2010 also Chamirey 3rd. '09 5 qualifiers Bueno Vista 2nd, Pennek 3rd). Buena also wore blinkers to victory 2011.
PRICE - Before Fingal 9/2 fav the previous 10 winners average price over 25/1. Inching Closer 2003 9/2 the only other favourite to win since '98. Call The Cops 9/1 third fav and the only other winner priced under 10s since 2003. Delta Work 5/1 second fave to Glenloe, Percy 11s, Mall Dini at 14s. In last ten years 37 horses aged 7 yrs or under have started at under 10s. 1-2 last year. Jury Duty placed at 9s in 2017. Call The Cops has won.
Buena Vista one of 5 winners to repeat success. Willie Wumpkins '79, '80, '81 the previous multiple winner.
Since 1983 8 novices have won off ratings up to 146 including the last three. Also Southfield Theatre 2nd in 2014 was a second season novice.
JOCKEYS - Since 1992 8 conditional jockeys have won this. But not recently. 5 claiming jockeys last year, none finished in the first ten. 2017, 8 claiming jockeys, including amateurs tried last year, best Kevin Dowling (10) in fourth. 4 tried in 2016, best the excellent Jack Kennedy(3) also fourth. 3 unsuccessful 2015 but Mr W Biddick (3) had a great spin in fourth. 6 unsuccessful 2014, 4 unsuccessful in 2013. Davy Russell the first jockey in 20 yrs to win this three times. Ruby has yet to win it. Inj last year, Isleofhopendreams unpl 2017 but he was about to have a four timer that day so I'm sure he got over the disappointment. No ride 2016.
This century no beaten fav last time out has won this. Three unpl triers between 2018 and 2017
If your bookie doesn't pay 5 places in this, with 24 runners, they are stealing from you. Take your custom somewhere else.
Wealth Warning. Any decisions made (or not) or the basis of any information in this site are the sole responsibility of the reader. There is no obligation on me to follow my own advice. I take no responsibility for (but am keen to hear of) any factual errors. (Bgault01@gmail.com, @gaultstats). Previous years ‘stats on stats’ would suggest we may identify a decent priced winner from manageable groups every three or four races. I tend to improve as a tipster as the week goes on, possibly too worried on the Tuesday. It is believed that Savello (2014 Grand Annual) took from Golden Chieftain (2013 3m hcap chase) the record for breaking the most stats in a race. Stands now at 8. Cole Harden equalised with 8 in the 2015 World Hurdle. Remember, after you have cursed/laughed at me and given up totally on trends, they will come back to bite. Always happens. Usually on Gold Cup Day Beware GO SEA - Groundless Optimism Syndrome Encouraged by Alcohol. A Cotswold condition very common at this time of year.