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Novices, Irish Trained, Course winners, Prep races.

HANDICAP CHASES - NOVICES - Last year Angels Dawn, the only novice to win one of the four h'cap chases, In 2022 Corach Rambler (Ultima) alone. 2021 novices won three. Mount Ida, The Shunter and Sky Pirate. 2020 it was all five for novices when we still had the novice handicap chase. 

IRISH TRAINED - Irish trained horses have now won 37 of the 67 handicaps over the last seven Festivals. Five from nine last year, four in 2022, seven from nine in 2021. G Elliott top invader with 11 wins in that time. (plus Mount Ida for Mrs Foster). Last year all five for different Irish trainers and none for WPM. In 2022 all four handicap wins from four different trainers, In 2021 the same. Seven handicaps again all won by different Irish trainers. Confirms the strength of Irish racing and not just those trained by Gordon, Willie or Henry. 

NUMBERS - Last year there were 205 runners in the nine handicaps, 96 from the Emerald Isle, a slight decrease from 2022. Then we had 190 runners in these races, 103 were Irish Trained or 54%. However last year there was plenty of success. 21 of the 36 places (1st to 4th) went to Irish trained. Best ever performance. Five winners, three of the h'cap chases. In 2022 it was 14 of the 36 places, 4-0 in wins to h'cap hurdlers from 65% of the runners in those races. Only five GB trained in the Martin Pipe from 23 runners. In 2021, 194 runners, 64 Irish trained or 33%. 16 of the 36 places Irish trained. Hurdlers better than chasers - 5 wins to 2. In 2020 there were 229 total runners in the h'caps, 74 Irish trained (32%). 5-0 in wins to the hurdlers, Gordon won four, Willie one. Also improved from 2019 with 21 of the 40 total places (52.5%). Hurdlers again better than chasers 14 places to 7, four wins to one.

Handicap Entries over the past decade - 2023: 585, 2022: 654, 2021: 676, 2020: 856, 2019: 812, 2018: 766, 2017: 882, 2016: 897, 2015: 930, 2014: 923 . Sign of the times, for me. Not enough quality in GB racing. 285 of the 585 in 2022 were Irish Trained. The numbers for the Pertemps went to go down as only the first four home from each qualifier are allowed in. Only 21 at the five day stage and all ran.

IRISH TRAINED HANDICAP CHASERS (not the Cross Country). There are a maximum of 92 runners over the four chases now, with the demise of the Novice H'Cap Chase. With lots of bookmakers offering up to 6 places in these, the Irish returns can be even bigger. Little grid below illustrates that more are having a go. With success. Remember no novice handicap since 2020.

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2023 - Three Irish trained win. With close seconds from Fastorslow, Dinoblue and Stumptown.

2022 - Four handicap chases last year won by British trainers with busy horses, each having their 6th run of the season.

2021 - The Shunter and Mount Ida oblige, both as fav, 17 turned up, Farclas chases The Shunter home, and Entoucas, with a better run, should have got closer to Sky Pirate.  

2020 -  Milan Native and Chosen Mate won, places for Discorama, Galvin, The Plan Of Attack, Eclair de Beaufeau and Us and Them. All priced 10/1 or less. For those who can get those extra places Ben Dundee 5th, Fitzhenry and Mithouka 6th, the latter at 33s.

2019 - Again two winners, A Plus Tard and Any Second Now, Tower Bridge and Ben Dundee placed in the Close Bros. Measureofmydreams unpld 3/1 Irish fav in Kim Muir.

2018 - 16 came. The Storyteller won at 5/1 fav, Mall Dini and Squouateur placed (Three Stars 5th).

2017 - Tully East, Road To Respect 16s and Rock The World all won, places achieved by Noble Endeavour, Powersbomb, The Last Goodbye (5th) and Dandridge. Two Irish BFs were Diamond Kingin Mildmay and Squouateur in Kim Muir both SP priced 5/1.

2016 - Two wins with Empire of Dirt 14s and Cause Of Causes and four places

2015 - Larger than usual raiding party of 21 tried over the five h'caps. Returned with 6 of the 20 places, no winners but placed at 28s, 25s twice and 20s.

KEVIN BLAKE - Lovely fella. Read the sage's opinion on ATR. Especially when the handicap marks come out. The bellweather. The less Kevin complains, the more the Irish are thrown in. Confirmed to me in 2020 that he 'wasn't as sanguine as 2019, but it's not all doom and gloom.' 2021, 'there's some good news and some bad news.' Didn't see that much bad, myself. In 2022 Kevin has continually been complaining that the English handicapper has been dropping GB trained horses with 'indecent haste.' Not sure it made much difference. In 2023 he wasn't too worried. With good cause it seems.

HANDICAP HURDLES - last time placed horses, beaten favourites and course winners - Jazzy Matty 18/1 Boodles first since Diego Du Charmil 13/2 2016 Fred Winter to have been a beaten favourite last time. Jazzy beat in that 4 yr old hurdle at Naas. Diego had been a BF in France They join Whisper 2014 and Ted Veale 2013 to become the only such winners since Silver Jaro (County Hurdle '08) That's 121 handicap hurdles. 14 didn't win in 2022,, 16 the year before. 13 unsuccessful in 2020. 17 in 2019, none won, including two beaten favs here.

That means that since Whisper in the 2014 Coral Cup no horse has won any of the 48 handicap hurdles having been a BF in a handicap hurdle last time out. Over exposed, maybe?

Only 20 of those 121 winners were placed 2nd or 3rd last time out. None last year but all five h'cap hurdle winners in 2022 were 1-2-3 last time. Commander Of Fleet at 50s, Third Wind at 25s, Belfast Banter at 33s 2021 certainly made this an interesting idea. Once again it has become a lot more difficult to 'lay' one out as trainers want to guarantee getting in for a run?

Previous Course Winners continue to strike back - Nine tried in 2023 including 33/1 County winner Faivoir. Twice a course winner, just to rub it in. 14 came in 2022, none successful. Nine came 2021, Heaven Help Us 33s obliged. Had won that 2m maiden hurdle from the October meeting. 2020, stat buried. Dame De Compagnie 5/1F, Sire du Berlais 9/1 and Indefatigable 25s all won handicap hurdles for Course Winners (C). In Dame De Compagnie's case, her third course win. In 2019 William Henry led home a 1-2-3 (Wicklow Brave 28s, Ballyandy14s ), all course winners in the Coral Cup. Before that the previous 68 course winners had failed to win any of the 21 handicap hurdles going back to 2014. And there was me pre Coral 2019 being very smug. In 2014 Whisper, Fingal Bay and Lac Fontana all won handicap hurdles having already been previous course winners. Those three and W Henry had won course novice hurdles and Lac Fontana had come from winning that 2m handicap that closes Trials day. 20 course winners ran between William Henry and Dame de Compagnie. All beaten.

Nicky Henderson has won four Coral Cups, all since 2009. All with previous course winners.  Heaven Help Us was the first course winner to win a Coral Cup and not be trained by Nicky.

That makes only 13 winners from the last 121 handicap hurdles had a capital C beside their name. But like Faivoir, some at big prices. The previous ones were Buena Vista '11, Spirit River '10, Andytown '09 and Master Tern '00. Those four (and Lac) were winning their second course handicap hurdle in the space of 12 months. Dame De Compagnie and Sire du Berlais likewise, Sire repeating Buena's success in the Pertemps. Both Dame De Compagnie and Indefatigable had previously won Mares Listed Novice Hurdles on course in the 2019 April Mares meeting. It now pays to back course winners in h'cap hurdles. Aargh..

58 of the last 121 handicap hurdles have been won by a horse that was winner last time out (from about 25% of the runners) Only Iroko last year from the 29 that came. Three won 2022 from 21 triers, Banbridge, Brazil and State Man. 31 came in 2021, Heaven Help Us at 33s covered their entry fee. 27 qualifiers in 2020. Dame De Compagnie, Aramax, Saint Roi and Indefatigable. Only only one out of the five in each of the previous four Festivals (Band of Outlaws, Blow By Blow and Presenting Percy).

Conditions Hurdle last time out, now in a handicap hurdle? - Since 2008 none of the Fred Winter winners had their last race in a handicap. Very few of the runners in that will actually have competed in one. Of the 56 other handicap hurdles run over the last 14 years, 26 winners had their last race in a non handicap hurdle. Only Langer Dan, who jogged round the back in the Relkeel. All five winners in 2022. 18 of the 26 were Irish trained e.g. State Man in a maiden hurdle, Belfast Banter in a Navan G2 Novice, Saint Roi in a maiden hurdle, Early Doors in a 3 mile Graded, Blow By Blow Killultagh Vic and Don Poli in Graded Novices, Third Wind was a long way behind in a Rendelsham, Aux Ptit Soins came straight from a French 4yr old hurdle, Kayf Aramis won a Warwick Novice, Andytown last of 4 in a Novice Chase. Third Wind joins, Mohaayed 3rd in the G1 Xmas hurdle, Pause For Clause (U in a G2) and Indefatigable a Mares Listed, along with Langer Dan, came from an English Non handicap Hurdle. SThis may change now with the four runs for a Novice to get in rule.

Both Mrs Milner and Heaven Help Us came from the DRF Mares Handicap. Sire du Berlais, Delta Work and Bleu Berry had last raced in handicaps.

DAYS SINCE RUN - Courtesy of @Cheltmental - There have been 46 winners in the last 10 years who raced inside 28 days of The Festival. 27 of those landed handicaps which equates to 30% (8/20 Tuesday, 2/20 Wednesday, 12/30 Thursday, 5/20 Friday). None won in 2023.

CARRYING A PENALTY - Chambard cracks a lovely stat being the first h'cap chase winner since Holmwood Legend in 2011 to win carrying a penalty. The Venetia 40/1 shot had won at Ludlow 11 days previous. Previous one to Holmwood Legend was in 2000. Call The Cops carried a 5lb penalty to win Pertemps H'cap Hurdle in 2015. Huntsmans Son and Oh Land O'Bloom unplaced 2019, Eragon De Chanay unpl in Fred Winter 2018.

WEIGHT CARRYING IN HANDICAP CHASES - 11st or more. All four last year, only Coole Cody in 2022r, two from four in 2021, 4 out of 5 2020. 3 in 2019, 4 of the 5 normal h'cap chases in each of the previous five years, only one out of 5 as far back as 2013. 'Normal' means not cross country, a conditions race. In nine of the last ten years this weight carrying stat has been 'skewed' with squeezed handicaps.