Almost everything you’d want to know about Willie Mullins and the 2018 Festival

Courtesy of my friends at Racenews, who attended the Mullins press day, here’s an appetite whetter for the Cheltenham Festival.

Please see the trainer’s comments below:-

Augusta Kate: “She was second to Presenting Percy last time and I thought that run was good enough to let her take her chance in the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle.

“We will look at that, with the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle as backup.”

Bacardys: “He will go for the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle. We want to keep his novice status over fences for another season.”

Bachasson: “Connections of Bachasson are keen to go to Cheltenham for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. He is fantastic jumper but whether he can carry that weight over that trip – it will be a tough ask.”

Benie Des Dieux: “I would imagine she will go for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.

“Everything we ask her to do, she does, although I thought she would win easier than she did at Naas last time. I think David [Mullins] was easy enough on her.

“She has plenty of hurdling experience in France and schools over hurdles at home.”

Bonbon Au Miel: “I think Bonbon Au Miel is an RSA type, whereas Al Boum Photo could go for the JLT Novices’ Chase.

“I am not sure if I will divide them or they can both go for the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase, but Bonbon definitely goes for the RSA.”

Brahma Bull: “He is pencilled in for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle or the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

“He has only had one run over hurdles but won well and he jumps well. He had a little setback but I think he is in real good form since.”

Carter McKay: “He could go for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle or the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, depending on which way the races are going to cut up.

“He ran all right in Leopardstown and deserves to take his chance. I think he can do better.”

Douvan: “He has been pleasing me and doing everything right. He has a few good bits of work to do this week. He has to go for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, all being well.

“Not so long ago we were being told we could not train him for a year. It was a huge disappointment when it looked like he would miss the whole season but within a week or 10 days he was sound when we thought he should not have been sound. We started reinvestigating and revaluating some of the findings we got, then we said ‘right, he is sound, let’s do a bit more.’ We kept upping his work and he was good and sound, and stayed sound.

“We went back and did more tests on him. I think vets are like doctors in that they are over cautious. You would end up running a hospital rather than a training yard – you just have to kick on. There was obviously something there, maybe something he can live with. Maybe when he runs, it will come up again.

“I remember the morning that he got the injury. He did a bit of work and I remember saying ‘this is awesome,’ but of course he was lame the next morning. I can’t remember what he worked against but he flew. It was the fastest bit of work I had ever seen him do. I said to my team I do not want to see him do a piece of work like that again – save it for the racecourse! I thought it was frightening and I said to myself if he reproduces that on the track, he will be very hard to beat. Whether he will ever get back to that, I don’t know, but his work at the moment is certainly good enough.

“He has been away a couple of times already but it is day to day with him. I just hope I can get him back to the level he was at in November. Unless we are happy with him, he won’t go.

“Altior was very good in Newbury and he looked great as well. It could be a race to savour but we have got to get there first.”

Djakadam: “He has been disappointing this season, but this year’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup could be the most open he has competed in.

“There is a lot of feeling that he should go back for the Ryanair Chase, and that might happen, but I feel he should go for the Gold Cup.

“He doesn’t look the same horse this season on the track. His form is not good enough, although it wasn’t a bad run in the Irish Gold Cup to be third. He certainly has not fired like he has in previous seasons.”

Duc Des Genievres: “He is entered in everything from novices’ hurdles to handicaps. Noel [Fehily] rode him the last day and is happy that he wants to go a trip. I would say it could be the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle or the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

“Fabulous Saga in the same colours will go for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, I’d imagine.”

Faugheen: “He is on course for the Unibet Champion Hurdle along with Melon and Wicklow Brave.

“I don’t think Melon faced the hood on his last start, so we will take all the gear off at Cheltenham – he has run well there before.

“Faugheen worked well enough to run the last day and ran a grand race. But he will have to up his game to try and win in Cheltenham. He might not need to be as good as he once was. I still think he is competitive.

“We had plenty of time to get better from Leopardstown to the middle of March and we haven’t gone downhill at home. He is improving all the time.

“I would be delighted if he could come back to what he was but age is not on his side. He loves Cheltenham and hopefully that will reignite him a little bit.”

Footpad: “All is well with Footpad ahead of the Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase.

“He has a beautiful method of jumping fences and was good enough to run in a Champion Hurdle. He always had ability and his method of jumping has catapulted him right to the top.

“He could be a Gold Cup horse one day. We don’t have any problem with him staying, although with his method of jumping, could he be a Champion Chase horse? It is so much easier to keep them sound and right running over two miles than running over three and a quarter. Gold Cup racing is very tough.”

Getabird: “He is 100 per cent and was out there this morning. He goes for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

“His win at Punchestown shows he is improving all the time. He is not flashy at home, whereas a horse like Douvan is always flashy at home. Even working him the other day, I was not impressed but Sonny who rides him says he is in great order and he knows him better than anyone.”

Hollowgraphic: “The bumper horses are looking very good. I always thought Hollowgraphic was a fair sort and Blackbow has galloped himself into the picture.

“Squadron Commander and Tornado Flyer won well first time and then we put them away. Carefully Selected put himself in the mix yesterday at Naas, although Cheltenham may come too soon.

“To me, what Hollowgraphic did at Punchestown was a huge performance. We have been minding him to go to Cheltenham.

“Blackbow’s performances have been very good. He improved a good bit from his first to his second run, which has been the feature of a lot of our bumper horses this season. Their second runs have been better, which is encouraging.

“Blackbow is owned by Archie O’Leary’s family, so it is nice to have nearly Florida Pearl’s colours – different cap – going back to Cheltenham.”

Invitation Only: “He is another one who could go for the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase or the JLT Novices’ Chase.”

Killultagh Vic: “He goes for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

“He looked in a very good position in the Irish Gold Cup and I would not have been betting against him jumping the last. He had the momentum and looked like he was pulling away.

“I always think your first thought is your best thought. When you look at it after you see the other horses coming from behind, but they weren’t in the picture when you’re watching it live. I thought he had a really good chance going to the last.

“We were worried when he fell but he has schooled well since. It looked like he was too careful at Leopardstown. Hopefully, he will have learned and will be all right on the day.

“I would have no stamina concerns, not with his pedigree. He beat Thistlecrack in a three-mile novice hurdle.”

Laurina: “She goes for the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

“She is top-class and if they ever have a mares’ chase in Cheltenham, she is one you would be aiming for it. She is a big, scopey filly.”

Let’s Dance: “I would imagine it will either be the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle or the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle for Let’s Dance. She hasn’t fired at all this season, but at home she is getting there.”

Meri Devie: “She won the other day and has entries in a good few handicaps. We will see what the English handicapper makes of her and then make a decision.”

Min: “Everything has gone well and I could not see him going anywhere other than the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

“He is unbeaten this season, even though he was disqualified, and he is doing all the right things.

“Altior beat him in the Supreme – it will be hard to turn him over I think.”

Mr Ajudicator: “He will go for the JCB Triumph Hurdle along with Saldier and Stormy Ireland.

“Mr Ajudicator had a little bit of a cold last week but seems fine. He is as fit as a flea, so the fact he missed a couple of bits of work should not be a problem.

“Saldier did everything right the other day in Gowran Park. Perhaps he didn’t beat an awful lot but he did it well.

“Stormy Ireland missed a few engagements with a dirty nose. With her style of running, I did not want to chance it.

“Mr Ajudicator has gone out and done it, and is an ex-Flat horse as well, which I like, whereas Stormy Ireland and Saldier would not have the same experience – even race experience, never mind jump experience.

“Stormy Ireland produced a huge run at Fairyhouse. I don’t know what she beat but she just kept galloping. People thought she would pull up three out but she pulled out more again. It was awesome.”

Next Destination: “I have been aiming him at the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. That is probably where he should go along with Real Steel.

“A lot of people thought Next Destination wasn’t impressive as Naas but I thought the race itself did not work out like a championship race, given the early pace and middle pace of the race. It will be a different ball game in Cheltenham and that will suit him.”

Penhill: “All his work has been good and he will go for the Sun Bets’ Stayers’ Hurdle. The aim all season was to try and get him to Cheltenham and Punchestown.

“We sort of knew there would not be enough time for a prep race. It is a tough ask to try and win the Stayers’ Hurdle, perhaps more than any other, without a run.”

Rathvinden: “He could go any trip. I’m wondering whether to go for the National Hunt Chase or the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase. I think the four-miler might be the way we decide to go with him.”

Sharjah: “He will go for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. I think the ground was the reason he ran badly last time.

“Certainly at home when the ground is soft, he is not able to put one leg in front of the other but when it dries out, he is a different horse.”

Total Recall: “Our aim has been the Grand National but he probably needs to go for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. We were going to go for the Bobbyjo but it came too soon after Leopardstown.

“I think the Gold Cup gives us a good chance. He is a relaxed horse who jumps economically and that would suit him around Cheltenham in a Gold Cup. He will be switched off and won’t be using too much energy.

“It looks a fairly open Gold Cup and he deserves to have a crack at it.”

Un De Sceaux: “He has done tremendously well all season, although he has only had two runs. I think he is the ultimate iron horse.

“He is in great condition and we have plenty to work on still for Cheltenham, which is surprising because you see him there this morning – he could not wait to get going. He is always very strong in his work in the mornings.

“We are aiming for the Ryanair Chase. That is the target as far as we are concerned and I have not got any other plans unless something stupid happens to one of the other horses.”

Vroum Vroum Mag: “She will go for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. I did not think we would have her back, but from what I can see she is in great shape.

“We may cover her later on – we will have plenty of time after Cheltenham.”

Yorkhill: “I suppose the Unibet Champion Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase are the options for Yorkhill.

“We will have to see because he is not a great workhorse at home. He is very lazy and, as you have seen at the racetrack when he idles in front, he is a bit like that at home.

“I have always thought that he should maybe have a crack at the Champion Hurdle. But he would be a nice one to have along with Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair. I am not going to make that decision yet.

“He never fired in the Dublin Chase. You could see going down to the second or third fence that he wasn’t jumping like a two-mile chaser, on that day anyway. Yet you look at him at Christmas time, you would think he needs to come back to two miles because his jumping was so electric.

“He won the JLT Novices’ Chase last year which makes you think he should go for the Ryanair Chase, but he did not jump well the other day. That is the reason I’m wondering if he should go back over hurdles. We know in a Champion Hurdle that there will be plenty of pace to bring his stamina into play.

“I think he would be a lot easier to ride in a Champion Hurdle than a Ryanair Chase. We will leave the decision until much later but I would say it is 60-40 in favour of the Champion Hurdle at the moment.”

Willie Mullins stable visit – Monday, February 26, 2018

Closutton, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow

Synopsis – Willie Mullins is the leading Irish trainer at The Festival, with 54 successes, and second in the all-time trainers’ list at the four-day Cheltenham highlight. He has won The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award at five of the last seven Festivals (2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016) and just lost out last year to Irish rival Gordon Elliott, with both saddling six winners.

He sent out a record-breaking eight winners at The Festival in 2015, beating Nicky Henderson’s seven achieved in 2012. The eight included a record-equalling four-timer on the opening Champion Day – Henderson also had four on the second day in 2012.

Mullins has built up a formidable team of horses at his Co Carlow base and has been Ireland’s champion Jump trainer for the last 10 seasons and 11 times in all.

Born – September 15, 1956

Background – Six-time amateur champion rider in Ireland, Mullins both rode and trained Wither Or Which to win the 1996 Weatherbys Champion Bumper. He also partnered two other winners at The Festival, both in the National Hunt Chase, Hazy Dawn (1982) and Macks Friendly (1984).

He hails from one of Ireland’s most famous racing families, one of five children of the late Paddy Mullins, the outstanding all-round trainer, whose most famous star was Dawn Run, winner of the 1984 Champion Hurdle and 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup (the only horse to win both races).

Willie started training in 1988, having been assistant to his father and Jim Bolger. He is married to Jackie, who is very involved in the training business, and their son Patrick has been Ireland’s champion amateur rider for nine of the last 10 seasons.

First Winner as a Trainer – Silver Batchelor, M & J Gleeson INH Flat Race, Thurles, February 18, 1988. He also rode the horse.

Cheltenham Festival wins (54)
1995: 1 – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Tourist Attraction)
1996: 1 – Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Wither Or Which)
1997: 1 – Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Florida Pearl)
1998: 2 – RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Florida Pearl), Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Alexander Banquet)
2000: 1 – Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Joe Cullen)
2002: 1 – JCB Triumph Hurdle (Scolardy)
2004: 1 – RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Rule Supreme)
2005: 1 – Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Missed That)
2007: 1 – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Ebaziyan)
2008: 2 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Fiveforthree), Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Cousin Vinny)
2009: 3 – OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Quevega), Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Mikael D’Haguenet), RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Cooldine)
2010: 2 – OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Quevega), Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Thousand Stars)
2011: 4 – Unibet Champion Hurdle (Hurricane Fly), OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Quevega), Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Final Approach), Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Sir Des Champs)
2012: 3 – OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Quevega), Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Champagne Fever), JLT Novices’ Chase (Sir Des Champs)
2013: 5 – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Champagne Fever), Unibet Champion Hurdle (Hurricane Fly), OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Quevega), National Hunt Chase (Back In Focus), Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Briar Hill)
2014: 4 – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Vautour), OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Quevega), Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Faugheen), Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Don Poli)
2015: 8 – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Douvan), Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase (Un De Sceaux), Unibet Champion Hurdle (Faugheen), OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Glens Melody), RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Don Poli), JLT Novices’ Chase (Vautour), Randox Health County Hurdle (Wicklow Brave), Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Killultagh Vic)
2016: 7 – Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase (Douvan), Unibet Champion Hurdle (Annie Power), OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Vroum Vroum Mag), Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Yorkhill), JLT Novices’ Chase (Black Hercules), Ryanair Chase (2016 Vautour), Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Limini)
2017: 6 – JLT Novices’ Chase (Yorkhill), Ryanair Chase (Un De Sceaux), Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (Nichols Canyon), Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Let’s Dance), Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Arctic Fire), Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Penhill)

Winner of The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award at The Festival: 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

Willie Mullins’ entries so far at The Festival

CHAMPION DAY – TUESDAY, MARCH 13 (OLD COURSE)

1.30pm £125,000 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f
Duc Des Genievres, Getabird, Laurina, Makitorix, Next Destination, Real Steel, Sharjah, Whiskey Sour

2.10pm £175,000 Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m
Asthuria, Footpad, Invitation Only, Kemboy, Montalbano

2.50pm £110,000 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f
Pleasant Company

3.30pm £450,000 Unibet Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f
Bapaume, Faugheen, Melon, Min, Wicklow Brave, Yorkhill

4.10pm £120,000 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f
Asthuria, Augusta Kate, Benie Des Dieux, Karalee, Lagostovegas, Let’s Dance, Meri Devie, Pravalaguna, Vroum Vroum Mag

4.50pm £125,000 National Hunt Chase (Novices) (Amateurs) (Grade 2) 4m
Al Boum Photo, Augustin, Bonbon Au Miel, Invitation Only, Livelovelaugh, Pylonthepressure, Rathvinden, Up For Review

5.30pm £70,000 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (0-145) (Listed) 2m 4½f
Asthuria, Demi Sang, Livelovelaugh, Patricks Park
LADIES DAY – WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14 (OLD COURSE & CROSS COUNTRY)

1.30pm £125,000 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 5f
Ballyward, Brahma Bull, Burrows Saint, Carter McKay, Duc Des Genievres, Fabulous Saga, Getabird, Next Destination, Real Steel, Redhotfillypeppers, Salsaretta, Scarpeta, Sharjah, Whiskey Sour

2.10pm £175,000 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 3m ½f
Al Boum Photo, Bonbon Au Miel, Invitation Only, Kemboy, Livelovelaugh, Pylonthepressure, Rathvinden, Up For Review

2.50pm £100,000 Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade 3) 2m 5f
Abbyssial, Bleu Berry, Bleu Et Rouge, Burrows Saint, Carter McKay, C’Est Jersey, Deal d’Estruval, Didero Vallis, Dolciano Dici, Duc des Genievres, Karalee, Lagostovegas, Let’s Dance
Max Dynamite, Meri Devie, Orion d’Aubrelle, Pravalaguna, Sandsend, Sympa des Flos, Voix du Reve, Whiskey Sour

3.30pm £400,000 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) 2m
American Tom, Douvan, Great Field, Min, Un De Sceaux, Yorkhill

4.10pm £65,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase 3m 6f
Entries close February 27

4.50pm £80,000 Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m ½f
No entries

5.30pm £75,000 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1) 2m ½f
Entries close February 27

ST PATRICK’S THURSDAY – THURSDAY, MARCH 15 (NEW COURSE)

1.30pm £150,000 JLT Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f
Al Boum Photo, Asthuria, Bonbon Au Miel, Footpad, Invitation Only, Kemboy, Livelovelaugh, Pylonthepressure, Rahthvinden

2.10pm £100,000 Pertemps Network Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade 3) 3m
No entries

2.50pm £350,000 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m 5f
Bachasson, Belshill, Benie Des Dieux, Djakadam, Douvan, Killultagh Vic, Min, Un De Sceaux, Yorkhill

3.30pm £325,000 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m
Augusta Kate, Bacardys, Faugheen, Let’s Dance, Penhill

4.10pm £110,000 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (Handicap Chase) (Grade 3) 2m 5f
Livelovelaugh, Patricks Park, Pleasant Company

4.50pm £90,000 Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 1f
Entries close February 27

5.30pm £70,000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase (Amateurs) (0-145) 3m 2f
Pleasant Company

GOLD CUP DAY – FRIDAY, MARCH 16 (NEW COURSE)

1.30pm £125,000 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f
Eoline Jolie, Mr Adjudicator, Saldier, Sayo, Stormy Ireland
2.10pm £100,000 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 1f
Abbyssial, Bleu Berry, Bleu Et Rouge, Bunk Off Early, Deal d’Estruval, Dolciano Dici, Duc des Genievres, Karalee, Lagostovegas, Makitorix, Max Dynamite, Meri Devie, Pravalaguna, Sandsend, Voix du Reve, Whiskey Sour

2.50pm £125,000 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m
Ballyward, Brahma Bull, Burrows Saint, Carter McKay, Deal D’estruval, Duc De Genievres, Fabulous Saga, Getabird, Kesselring, Next Destination, Real Steel, Scarpeta

3.30pm £625,000 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) 3m 2½f
Bachasson, Djakadam, Killultagh Vic, Total Recall

4.10pm £45,000 St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase 3m 2½f
Entries close February 27

4.50pm £70,000 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (0-145) 2m 4½f
Abbyssial, Bleu Berry, Bunk Off Early, Burrows Saint, Carter McKay, C’Est Jersey, Court Artist, Deal d’Estruval, Didero Vallis, Dolciano Dici, Duc des Genievres, Karalee, Lagostovegas, Max Dynamite, Meri Devie, Pravalaguna, Sandsend, Voix du Reve, Whiskey Sour

5.30pm £110,000 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m ½f
American Tom, Patricks Park, Pleasant Company, Townshend

Champion Day – Tuesday, March 13 (Old Course)
Time Race Distance Prize Money
1.30pm Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f £125,000
2.10pm Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase (Grade1) 2m £175,000
2.50pm Ultima Handicap Steeple Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f £110,000
3.30pm Unibet Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m ½f £450,000
4.10pm OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f £120,000
4.50pm National Hunt Chase (Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase) (Grade 2) 4m £125,000
5.30pm Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed) 2m 4½f £70,000
Total £1,175,000

Ladies Day – Wednesday, March 14 (Old Course & Cross Country)
Time Race Distance Prize Money
1.30pm Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 5f £125,000
2.10pm RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 3m ½f £175,000
2.50pm Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 5f £100,000
3.30pm Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) 2m £400,000
4.10pm Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase 3m 6f £65,000
4.50pm Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m ½f £80,000
5.30pm Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1) 2m ½f £75,000
Total £1,020,000

St Patrick’s Thursday – Thursday, March 15 (New Course)
Time Race Distance Prize Money
1.30pm JLT Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f £150,000
2.10pm Pertemps Network Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Grade 3) 3m £100,000
2.50pm Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) 2m 5f £350,000
3.30pm Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m £325,000
4.10pm Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (Handicap Chase) (Grade 3) 2m 5f £110,000
4.50pm Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m 1f £90,000
5.30pm Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup A R Handicap Chase 3m 2f £70,000
Total £1,195,000

Gold Cup Day – Friday, March 16 (New Course)
Time Race Distance Prize Money
1.30pm JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f £125,000
2.10pm Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 1f £100,000
2.50pm Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m £125,000
3.30pm Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1) 3m 2½f £625,000
4.10pm St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase (Amateur riders) 3m 2½f £45,000
4.50pm Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle 2m 4½f £70,000
5.30pm Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 2m ½f £110,000
Total £1,200,000

Record prize money for The Festival 2018 – £4.59 million, up £285,000 (+ seven per cent)

Cheltenham Racecourse
Cheltenham Racecourse is situated in Prestbury on the northern outskirts of the historic spa town of Cheltenham.

The Home of Jump Racing, Cheltenham Racecourse is the venue for the world’s pre-eminent Jump meeting.

The Festival, which happens in March over four days every year, next takes place in 2018 from Tuesday, March 13, to Friday, March 16, 2018 inclusive and tickets are on sale.

Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham Racecourse is a stunning natural arena and offers the highest-quality action throughout the Jump season.

More information is available at http://www.cheltenham.co.uk and through Twitter (@CheltenhamRaces), Facebook http://www.facebook.com/thehomeofjumpracing and Instagram (@CheltenhamRaces).Defending champion Sizing John & King George hero Might Bite head Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup entries

TV Tips Saturday 24 February 2018

Post racing update: enjoyable day’s racing in which we saw at least one future star in Redicean; possibly two given the way Global Citizen won.

£7 on 5 races today: 2 winners at 4/7 and 10/11 gives a return of £3.48 adding £3.52 to the deficit which is now £14.02

 

Two of today’s TV races are at Lingfield’s all weather track.  I have no interest in all weather racing so will not be tipping anything there.

But there’s some good pre festival racing at Kempton and Newcastle so let’s see if we can make further inroads into the  £10.51 deficit.

As usual, I will update the figures after racing.

If you are new to the blog, best read this page before having a bet

Kempton

1.50

I’ve been impressed by Cyrname this season and won’t oppose the odds on chance in a race where his trainer has sent out seven of the last ten winners.

Cyrname 4/7

 

2.25

Redicean has accelerated in the style of a class horse on his last two runs and I won’t oppose him despite short-priced favourites being beaten here in the last two runnings (Charlie Parcs and Gibralfaro).

If there’s to be a shock I suspect it will come in the shape of the filly Harmonise who’s in receipt of 10lbs from the fav. She ran a fine race at Ascot at 50/1 on her debut, still in with a chance when brought down at the last. Still very green, she then won at Plumpton.  At her price I am tempted, but Redicean looks a top prospect who could go very close in the Triumph Hurdle next month.

Redicean 10/11

 

3.00 Kempton

Since 2007, Nicky Henderson has won this race 4 times and Alan King has won 3. King has two in the race, the more fancied being the ex-flat horse Scarlet Dragon. On flat ratings, there’s not that much between Scarlet Dragon, Carntop and Henderson’s Humphrey Bogart. Scarlet Dragon holds a Supreme entry whereas Humphrey Bogart has not been entered at the festival. That fact makes it difficult to work out if the non-entry is a positive or a negative. Are they thinking he is a horse for the long term who doesn’t want a tough festival race at this stage?

Who knows?

He was 5th in the 2016 Derby and has run only twice in Britain since. At the price, I think it’s worth taking a chance with him.

Humphrey Bogart 9/1

 

3.35

I’ve always liked Theatre Guide and he’s been kept unusually fresh this season, reportedly with this race in mind. He was third in it last year and won it in 2016. He has his ground and track and despite the big weight he will run his usual honest race and could well win it.

I’ve tipped As De Mee for the National. His trainer put us away last weekend saying Black Corton would improve a lot for what was supposedly a Cheltenham prep race. He’s saying the same about As De Mee here in that it’s his Grand National prep, but that race is still almost 7 weeks off, so I’ll have £1 on him too.

Theatre Guide 16/1

As De Mee 18/1

 

Newcastle

2.45

If you have any lengthy tasks today, make a start on them when this race goes off; you’ll be done in time to see the finish of this extended 4 miler on heavy ground.  Sometimes I think the finishes of such races do more damage to racing’s image than any whip use. But ours is not to reason why.

It’s a race that’s been won a number of times by small yards and I’m recommending two outsiders rather than have an each way bet on one. My main fancy is Silver Tassie trained by Micky Hammond whose yard is in fine form with a 26% win rate and 47% place rate.  Silver Tassie’s been around a long time, but older horses have a decent record in this with two 11-y-olds and two 10-y-olds winning in the past ten years.

He’s a game type if a bit slow and in his only two runs well beyond three miles he’s been pulled up. But he looks to me like a stayer and he’s fine on this ground. He’s broken blood vessels, and there’s an obvious risk there. But he seems to be coming to form having run well last time here behind Smooth Stepper, the first time that today’s jockey Alain Cawley rode him.

On past form, he’s the same horse at these weights as Baywing. They’ve met twice and Silver Tassie has come out on top in both. He’s four times the price of Baywing in this and he will do for the main selection.

The one I like for a saver is Themanfrom Minella, another who has stamina to prove but he’s ground it out like a dyed in the wool stayer in his last two wins. Blinkers appear to have made quite a difference to him and he is also from a smallish yard.

Silver Tassie 33/1

Themanfrom Minella 16/1

 

Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

Back Elgin at 16/1 without the favourite

After a solid victory in yesterday’s Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, it looks like Elgin’s owners. Elite Racing, will pay the £20,000 fee to supplement him for the Champion Hurdle. The 6-y-o gelding was already having a good season before lining up to try to give weight to the field yesterday. And, as is often the case with good horses, particularly those who are improving, it’s not so much what you do, it’s the way that you do it.

Cliffs of Dover had set off as though the devil were after him and the others were forced to ignore him, rather than necessarily choosing to, so quickly did he go clear. They caught him approaching the turn in and as they straightened for home we saw the first clue. Elgin was not only travelling better than the rest, but he was moving with power and purpose. Taking it up two out he steadily forged clear, never looking like being caught.

Elgin is well made and looks to be getting stronger with racing. He shows an appetite and gameness that is undiluted by quirks and – as he showed in the Greatwood at Cheltenham – will do battle all the way to the line.  That course win will serve him well (he was 7th in The Supreme in his only other Cheltenham run).

Alan King, his trainer, says the horse has flourished in the past five weeks and while it’s always best to treat the comments of close connections with care (they are all optimists), King is fairly level headed and, more importantly, we saw evidence yesterday of that improvement. His rating should hit 160 now and that entitles him to run in the big one, even more so because he’s on an upward curve and might go there five or six pounds better than he is now. The last 4 winners of the Champion Hurdle lined up off these ratings: 157: 162: 169: 165.

That 157 rating for Buveur D’Air has now risen to 169, but we have the immense benefit of being able to bet without the favourite. Not only that but we can bet each way without Buveur D’Air, and take the 16/1 available with Betfair (sportsbook) and Paddy Power. The latter also have High St shops if you do not bet online.  But you shouldn’t hang about as this price is twice what it should be in my view, with the added bonus of money back if Elgin doesn’t line up. It won’t last 48 hours.

Other than Buveur D’Air, it’ll be a sub-quality Champion Hurdle unless Faugheen bounces right back. For example, Ch’Tibello, who was comprehensively beaten by Elgin yesterday, is just 8/1 in this without the fav market (quite how they work that out I don’t know; Elgin gave him 4lbs and beat him comfortably).

For newer punters, the without the fav market means that if your selection wins the race or finishes second to the favourite, you get paid the full win odds. If the fav is in the first three and your horse is in the first four, the each way part of your bet is paid at 1/5th win odds.

I strongly recommend* that you back Elgin each way, NRNB at 16/1 in the market without Buveur D’Air  at 16/1

Despite all the positives surrounding this, as ever, don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

*For an explanation, see here

 

 

Minella Daddy (7/1) looks well handicapped

Ascot 2.25

I tipped Minella Daddy among today’s TV tips and with the main danger Gold Present now a non runner, I’m happy to make him a recommended bet (see here for explanation)

Sean Bowen rides Minella Daddy for his father. He’s won at Ascot and achieved his best Racing Post Rating here when 2nd to Regal Encore in December 2016.  His next outing was in a hot Kauto Star Chase at Kempton where he went off the same price as Might Bite (who fell in the lead at the last). Minella Daddy was pulled up that day and I’m assuming the reason for the non-complete was what kept him out for 13 months.

He reappeared here at Ascot last month, leading and looking in good heart until tiring badly and finishing a long way behind Acting Lass. Still, I thought he showed enough that day to merit close consideration for this. Prior to that PU last season, his form figures were 22112. He lined up at Kempton on a rating of 145 and here he is, just one run later, off 8lbs less. I think the handicapper has blundered and Minella Daddy looks the value bet of the day and I recommend that you back him.

Minella Daddy 7/1 NAP

Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

TV Tips Saturday 17th February 2018

We start the day £19.76 behind to £1 win unit stakes for 2018. If you are new to the blog or if you haven’t yet read my breakdown of how confident I am with tips, I recommend you read the Tipping page

Post-racing update: a profit of £9.25 today knocks the deficit down £10.51. Shame about Minella Daddy who jumped big throughout, conceding ground, but hit the last just when he needed a clean jump. Starting at 4/1, there must have been plenty cash for him but the yard has now blown the good handicap mark he was on.

Ascot

1.50

Black Corton’s had a fine season although I’m confident he would not have won last time had Fountains Windfall stood up. And Nicholls says about this race, “He’s in good shape but we’ve left plenty to work on as it’s his prep race for Cheltenham. He’ll improve for the run.”

Ms Parfois is on the up, going for her 4th successive win having been raised 12lbs for her Warwick victory. She doesn’t do things smoothly but puts her head down and looks a proper stayer. The way she jumped the last two at Warwick suggests she had a fair bit left in the tank and I think she idled on the run in. She’s the selection.

Ms Parfois 15/8

2.25

Tenor Nivernais won this last year on his seasonal debut. I tipped him on this year’s seasonal debut where he pulled up at Doncaster. Brian Hughes takes the ride – just the 6th of his career for Venetia Williams, and his first for her at a southern track.

Gold Present looks to have the making of a high class staying chaser but he’s gone up 13lbs in all for his 2 wins this season. I fear him but believe he will just fail to give the weight to Minella Daddy.

Sean Bowen rides Minella Daddy for his father. He’s won at Ascot and achieved his best Racing Post Rating here when 2nd to Regal Encore in December 2016.  His next outing was in a hot Kauto Star Chase at Kempton where he went off the same price as Might Bite (who fell in the lead at the last). Minella Daddy was pulled up that day and I’m assuming the reason for the non-complete was what kept him out for 13 months.

He reappeared here at Ascot last month, leading and looking in good heart until tiring badly and finishing a long way behind Acting Lass. Still, I thought he showed enough that day to merit close consideration for this. Prior to that PU last season, his form figures were 22112. He lined up at Kempton on a rating of 145 and here he is, just one run later, off 8lbs less. I think the handicapper has blundered and Minella Daddy looks the value bet of the day.

Minella Daddy 12/1 NAP

 

3.00

Kildisart catches the eye, but he didn’t look nearly as comfortable last time on soft ground as he had the time before in good to soft. He’ll face soft ground again today and I’d rather take the chance that first time cheekpieces will sharpen Le Patriote enough to win this.

He’s been unplaced in both runs since coming from France, where he won on soft and heavy. But those two UK races were pretty good and have a chance of working out well. Remiluc, who won at Cheltenham, went on to run a cracker in the Betfair as did Spiritofthegames who was 2nd in the Kempton race in which Le Patriote finished 7th. The 3rd, Red Indian was 2nd next time and the 4th, Topofthegame won a 17-runner, £50k handicap at Sandown.

Le Patriote 11/2

 

3.35

I made the case in Wednesday’s post for Waiting Patiently and my confidence remains high.  If you missed the 11/4 I think he’s still worth betting today and, more importantly perhaps, for the Ryanair NRNB although the 7/1 has dropped one point.

Waiting Patiently 9/4

 

Haydock

2.05

Everyone has at least one bogey horse; I have two or three and one runs in this – Zarkandar. I thought a lot of him when he won the Triumph although I didn’t back him then. I did back him numerous times but never when he won, including in this race last year.

Anyway, Agrapart ought to be well suited to ground and trip although I’m not the biggest fan of Lizzie Kelly after watching her twice in cross country races where she seemed all at sea. But she knws this horse well and there should be no traps awaiting her in this small field other than my Zarkandar hoodoo.  You have been warned!

Agrapart 4/6

 

3.15

Blaklion is in magnificent form and, fortunately for his Grand National supporters, is remarkably tough. I’m not sure that many trainers would send a Grand National favourite here in such desperate ground to hump 11.12 over almost 3m 5f. Haydock heavy seems a different heavy from many tracks. He failed trying to carry 11.12 in this last year (off a 9lbs lower mark) and that was on good to soft, although, to be fair, recent performances suggest he now prefers softer ground.

I’m reluctant to desert Silsol who I fancied for the Weslh National where he was a staying on 5th. I was disappointed by his jumping that day although the superb Noel Fehily rides today and could make a difference, especially as the horse will be sharper.

But the one I’m going with is Mysteree who has run some fine races since moving from Lucinda Russell to Michael Scudamore at the beginning of last season. On his yard debut he won at Haydock over this trip on heavy ground so that will hold no fears. He was pulled up on his next start but then won the Eider Chase and ran a close second in the Midlands National.

Again he pulled up on his seasonal debut in the Welsh National, so he does run the odd poor race. But all in all he’s a consistent horse who jumps well. He gets 23lbs from Blaklion and if he is back on song he’ll go close here.

Mysteree 10/1

 

Wincanton

2.45

Alan King has won 3 of the last 9 runnings of this (Katchit, Mille Chief, Yanworth) and I’ll go with him to do it again with the game and consistent Elgin. Ch’Tibello has been running well but finds it hard to win, a feat he’s accomplished just twice since coming to the UK.  Both wins were going left handed and four of his defeats have been going right handed as he will be here.

Call Me Lord won nicely last time given the weight he was carrying. The 4th horse has won since and 4 more from the race have been placed. It was on heavy ground too and he acts well on it so I’d fear him.  But Elgin might well want this type of test now too, having looked to relish every yard uphill in soft ground when winning the Greatwood. Before that he won a good handicap at Ascot from which 8 winners and 8 placed horses have come, although his next two races have not worked out nearly as well formwise.

Still, at the price, he appeals much more than the first two in the market.

Elgin 11/2

Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cash in on Waiting Patiently

The 7-y-o bay gelding Waiting Patiently is unbeaten in more than two years. He was 2nd in his first two runs and has won all six since. Five of those were over fences, and he has the classic profile of an improving horse heading for the top.

His first official rating was 120 (January 2016). Here’s how he has progressed in the eyes of the BHA handicapper.

120

123

136

142

150

156

164

Screenshot of Numbers (14-02-2018, 18-19-43)

His Kempton victory last time accounted for his 8lbs rise, but there is every chance that underestimates the progress he’s making. He conceded 4lbs to the 2nd and 3rd – Art Mauresque and God’s Own – beating them 8 lengths and 12 lengths. It wasn’t so much what he beat as how he beat them, travelling well and taking it up just after two out then powering clear in the style of the top notch, fast-improving horse that he is.

His connections had believed until that point that soft ground was important for Waiting Patiently, but that Kempton win, like his Carlisle victory, was on good to soft. He’s due to run at Ascot on Saturday where the going is currently soft. You can get 11/4 for that and I strongly recommend backing him, though wait for the final declarations tomorrow in case he steps on a stone; the price should not change that much.

I also recommend, even more strongly that you bet Waiting Patiently now for the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Connections say they will decide after Saturday whether he goes there, but you can get 7/1 non-runner-no-bet with online bookie Betway.

Good luck, and remember the Lazybet motto: don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

As De Mee the Grand National value at 66/1

Update: April 4th: As De Mee misses the race, injured

Weights for the Randox Health Grand National were unveiled today and the one that caught my eye was As De Mee who, at 66/1, looks at least twice the price he should be.

As De Mee is an 8-year-old, as was One For Arthur who won last year. Rule The World in 2016 was 9, and the 2015 winner Many Clouds was 8. Prior to that a run of comparative oldies won five in a row: three were 11 and two 10, but the shape of the race changes over the years as the handicap is tinkered with and the quality of entries, in general, improves.

There’s nothing of standout quality this year. Bristol De Mai, a horse I’m fond of, will miss the race, according to his trainer, to run in a three-miler over Aintree’s conventional fences.  Top weight is the improving Definitly Red who is also bound for the Gold Cup, a race that will take plenty out of him.

Bristol De Mai’s trainer, politely called enigmatic by some, has the antepost favourite for the Grand National in Blaklion who had a smooth victory in the Becher Chase at Aintree in December. Blaklion was 4th in the 2017 National and there’s no denying his chance here. But he’s very short at 12/1.

As De Mee is something of a character and that has undoubtedly helped boost his price for this.  Sometimes he responds to pressure and sometimes he doesn’t. He tends to carry his head high in a finish but shows no signs of temperament during the race and he appears to enjoy jumping. Crucially, he particularly appears to enjoy the unique Grand National fences notwithstanding his recent unseat in Blaklion’s Becher.

As De Mee had run over the Grand National fences three times previous to that, finishing 7th of 29 and 5th of 29 in The Topham, and winning the Grand Sefton.  His stamina needs to be taken on trust although he won nicely on his first attempt at 3m 2f at Kelso to beat Wakanda seven lengths. Wakanda went on to win the Skybet Chase at Doncaster. Of the Kelso run, Sean Bowen, his jockey reported that he’d got into a good rhythm and that once he hit the front it was plain sailing.

Still, he’ll have to cover a mile and half a furlong more at Aintree in April and his pedigree doesn’t offer many clues. His sire Kapgarde has had just 15 runners in the UK and Ireland beyond 3m2f and none has won, though the sample is very small. His dam Koeur De Mee has had just one other runner and that one – Capsy De Mee – has not run beyond 3 miles.

The dam’s sire Video Rock has had one winner from 6 runners at 3m4f and is 0 from 27 beyond that distance (UK & Ireland figures only).

So, I’m not concerned about As De Mee’s jumping, but there has to be a stamina concern and until he’s tried this, we simply won’t know. But the risk is well compensated for in the price, I think.

He has 10st 8lbs allotted although the weights will go up if the top horses drop out. I think there’s a very strong chance that Bryony Frost will ride. She rode him to be 2nd on his seasonal debut in October and the Stewart family, who own As De Mee in partnership with Dame Judi Dench, are big fans of Bryony’s skills. Bryony is a fantastic character and half the media are already in love with her. If she does ride this, you are looking at him going off perhaps 50 points shorter than he currently is. Dame Judi’s involvement will add to the public interest.

As De Mee is a good looking, rangy individual (the long header image at the top of this page was taken at Kelso in October and As De Mee is the horse showing in 2nd. The featured image on this blog post is of him jumping that fence you see in the top photo). He’s improving, having achieved his highest official rating this season, he’s hopefully mature enough, loves the Aintree fences and if he stays this trip and has luck in running, he’ll take some beating off 10.8, although if he leads at the Elbow and puts his head up, you’ll have the most exciting finish – one way or another – of your life.

As ever, the usual antepost caveat applies; if he doesn’t turn up at the start your money is lost. For those who want to forego a 16-point advantage to ensure a non-runner-no-bet clause then Skybet (online only) offer 50/1. He will be half that on the day and even shorter if Bryony rides and I recommend you bet him at the price of your choice.  66/1 is available with a number of online bookies. Ladbrokes are the only High St bookmaker offering 66/1.

Full list of prices at Oddschecker.

Good luck

Remember the lazybet motto: don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe