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· General Trends

TOP FESTIVAL TRAINERS - 2014 to 2018 - Mullins 31, Elliott 18, Henderson 10, Nicholls 10, Pipe 7, Harrington 4, O'Neill 4

W Mullins continues very steady, one up over his 5 yr average. G Elliott gallops past N Henderson moving from 10 to 18. N Henderson down from 12 to 10. W Mullins remains about 12% winners per runners and has won over £1m in prize money at each of the four Festivals, (well, he was £8k short last year). He has increased his numbers by 20 up to 255 over the past 5 Festivals. On a £1 stake he has gone from +£25 to minus £32 on the five year rolling average. Only 10 of those 31 Festival winners were chasers. From 2013 to 2018 G Elliott is +£92 for £1 stake, up from +£60 last year. Those 18 winners have come from only 99 runners (18%). Eight of the 18 were chasers. Shows no sign of stopping. N Henderson on a 6% strike rate. His 10 winners have taken 162 runners. Jonjo O'Neill has struck only once in the past four Festivals (Minella Rocco). P Nicholls and D Pipe have done well to target certain races though PN seems to have decent GC representation this year. Thinks he is going to win the Ultima. Hmmm. Trainer with current best percentage winners/runners is now P Kelly with his only five Festival runners winning three races, Presenting Percy and Mall Dini. That can't be fair.

W Mullins since 2003 is 29 winners from 50 Festival runners of those SP 3/1 and under. Two from four last year, Getabird and Un De Sceaux disappointing. In 2017 it was three from seven, the fantastic G1/G2 Thursday four timer but remember Melon, Limini, Douvan and Djakadam. Six from eight in 2016 (Min and Un De Sceaux beat). Only 14 from his total of 61 winners have been over fences but nine of those fourteen have come in the last four years. Has also trained 5 different Gold Cup runner ups so would be fair to say he knows what he is doing with the bigger obstacles. Hasn't really followed PN's view on 'being more selective'. Ran 64 over the four days last year which I think is his record, 45 in 2017, 61 in 2016 and 56 in 2015.  Be advised. I'm not sure that Mr Mullins cares that much for stats. 'Albert Bartlett winners have no chance in a Stayers' (Penhill). Cyborgo '96 last horse to win a Stayers without a prep run'(Penhill). All the bumper winners had different sires. Not now (Relegate, was such a nice stat, that.) 'None of his 24 runners have finished in the first two in a Coral Cup.' (Bleu Berry) Horses that have won graded hurdles have poor records in Coral Cups' (Bleu Berry),'You have no chance of winning a G1 Festival hurdle off the back off a fall' (Nichols Canyon). 'Willie has an awful record in the Albert Bartlett' (Penhill), 'Horses never carry over 11st 8 lb to win a County' (Arctic Fire), You just don't win a G1 Festival Chase of the back of a fall (Black Hercules). Don Poli winning an RSA with only two previous runs over fences? But surely RSA winners need to have run in the calendar year (Don Poli). Sired by Montjeu and getting up hills? You can't be serious. Champion Hurdle winners need a run in the calendar year? Supreme winners need to be out no more than 45 days beforehand and shouldn't lead the whole way? He can't do this to me. Keeps writing his own stats book. Has also won eight of the h'cap hurdles in the past nine years. I have made up my own Willie Mullins stat - 'If the stats say the Willie Mullins runner can't win, then seriously consider the Willie Mullins runner.'

We'll give him a few to target in 2019. Willie doesn't train winners of Festival h'caps above 2m 5f. He has never won the Bumper with a four yr old. Any interest in the Close Brothers Chase? Horse with only two hurdle runs takes Albert Bartlett? Horse win only 2 chases wins 4 miler? Should be enough to keep him going.

Gordon Elliott - 14 winners is the last two Festivals, is also beginning to rewrite his own stats. What, a Triumph Hurdle winner could win a four miler? Catch yourself on. French bred five year old takes the Pertemps? Get a grip.

Although no longer a trainer I still think it's a great thing that Colm Murphy's 13 placed horses came from a total of 20 Festival runners. Three placed from three runners in 2012.

9 of David Pipe's 14 Festival winners have worn blinkers. He has won 3 G1 chases, the G1 bumper and 10 handicaps. Only ran nine last year and eight in 2017 including Un Temps Pour Tout. Ran 11 in total in 2016. Knows how difficult it has become.

8 of Jonjo O'Neill's 9 handicap winners have been in races over 3m+.

All time Trainers Festival Wins leaderboard - W Mullins 61, N Henderson 60, P Nicholls 43, F Walwyn 40, M Pipe 34, F Winter 28, F Rimell 27, JJ ONeill 26, T Dreaper 26, V O'Brien 23, B Turnell 23. (Nicky leading trainer 9 times but Willie has won 5 of the last 8). Laurina in the Mares Novice gave Willie the lead. After 14 winners in the last two Festivals, G Elliott now on 22. Leading trainer in 2018.

In 7 of the last 9 Festivals, N Henderson has had at least 2 G1 winners. Altior and Buveur D'Air last year, three the year before. Whisper was his only winner in 2014, Call the Cops and Peace and Co (Triumph) 2015.

Trainers Cold List - P Hobbs was in tears on RUK after Defi Du Seuil in the 2017 Triumph broke the 55 losing run. She didn't mean it but Lydia's interview was nearly an intrusion on the man. (This is important to these people). Mr Hobbs had 8 course winners between the 2015 and 2016 Festivals but had been winnerless at the Festival since Fingal Bay benefitted from Darryl Jacob's photo misjudgement in the 2014 Pertemps. Since 2011 Mr Hobbs had only won with Fingal and Balthazar's Gift (twice in the X Country). He's a nice man. In January 2000 he took my call as I, a nobody punter, practically wept down the phone after Dr Leunt died after the Cotswold Chase in exactly the same circumstances as Many Clouds. (Sorry, I keep this story in here because I like to remind myself).

Current Cold Festival list, C Longsdon 60, A King 59, V Williams 58, D McCain 41, T Vaughan 41. It doesn't take long to build up a Festival losing run. Ask Jonjo 33 now, N Twiston-Davies, 37. Even ask Willie before Yorkhill in the JLT in 2017. He was well over 20 at that stage. Summerville Boy took Tom George off this list last year after a losing run of over 50 and a gut wrenching short head loss in 2017 with Singlefarmpayment (maybe it wasn't young Heskin's fault for not riding him out and he really is a rogue). Henry De Bromhead came off this list in 2017 with Special Tiara (RIP) in the QM. He'll never forget. On the 17th October 2017 Master Dancer won a Cl3 H'cap hurdle at Cheltenham trained by T Vaughan. 140 odd runners. And every trainer present came up to shake his hand. Great TV. He tweeted 'It. Just.Happened.' (This place is important...)

All Course Cold list. Leaders now, Seamus Mullins 15 yrs, (63 runners) Dartnall 9 yrs (40 runners), It seems harsh with the technical disqualification of Any Currency but Messrs Keighley, Webber, Richards Simply Ned, Guitar Pete or Mann have yet to saddle a Festival winner. A King came off the cold list with AP's final Festival winner, Uxizandre, in 2015 but its now 59 runners since that big day. Now out of the current top ten. 9 of his 15 Festival winners have been in G1s. But 0 from 17 with Festival Favourites.

CHAMPION TRAINER Paul Nicholls - I used to bleat on that he couldn't train winners of Festival handicap chases. As he has had to change tack due to the Irish invasion, his success in these has improved. Has had a career 145 odd runners in the h'cap chases. Five winners in total, Le Prezien 15/2, Solar Impulse 28s 2016, Andreas '07 and St Pirran '04. All four in the Grand Annual along with Chapoturgeon in '09 Jewson. Has won two of the last 11 Festival H'Cap chases. Eight ran last year. Ibis De Rheu in 5th Close Bros next best. Three of his last four Festival Chase winners close on the back of a Festival success. Le Prezien followed Pacha last year, Solar Impulse followed Ibis De Rheu in 2016 and Aux Petit Soins immediately preceeded Dodging Bullets' 2015 Queen Mother. Dodging broke a losing run of 81 in all types of Festival chases. (Momentum?). Dodging was his first stable Festival chase winner since Kauto Star's 2009 Gold Cup. Last year Mr Nicholls won a chase at the Festival for the fourth successive year. Eight of his last 10 successes were achieved in handicaps. He is all over Give Me a Copper in the Ultima, a race he has yet to win. I would suggest look out for Roman De Semain, Dolos 154, Le Prezien (only 1lb higher at 151). Definitely redressing the balance.

Apart from Big Bucks, he has only been successful with one out of 20 favourites in the past 9 Festivals (Sanctuaire, 2010 Fred Winter). Le Prezien, the ill fated Stilletto 2016 and both Saphir De Rheu and Silviniaco Conti beaten favs in 2015 (he has said, 'the festival isn't the be-all and end-all...its not all about Cheltenham...more enjoyable not having so many high profile horses going there.' Sure it is. Watching the TV coverage of him in the parade ring riding Frodon home in the Cotswold Chase might suggest different. Loved that passion). In the last 5 festivals Mr Nicholls has had 10 winners, Dodging Bullets, 7 handicappers (5 of which were hurdlers) and Pacha twice. With no big owner firepower any longer that is still an excellent performance. I have seen it suggested that Dodging Bullets won a handicap disguised as a Queen Mother Champion Chase but that's unfair. With none of the handicap winners being a favourite the average price for these winners has been about 16/1. No longer seems to have the Graded firepower but definitely worth thinking about his plots. Politilogue, Frodon, Clan Des Obeaux? Racing Post Feb 26th 2018, talking about the trainers championship 'I'm not going to waste bullets at Cheltenham. I do what I do every year, duck and dive and win what I can with all of them'. Still has run an average of 25 in each of the last three Festivals.

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