The A-Z of Chel­tenham from our man on the spot

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The story of day one of the Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val was all about the Wil­lie Mullins ‘ma­chine’ and the in­cred­i­ble four-timer that nearly was. True, it wasn’t quite the four-timer that was en­vis­aged when An­nie Power fell at the last in the Mares Hur­dle, but Glens Melody was able to pick up the bro­ken pieces for his trainer and let the book­ies off the hook – a lit­tle.

It was cu­ri­ous watch­ing Rac­ing UK the next day to see the pre­sen­ters go­ing on about how the pun­ters’ pock­ets were stuffed with cash and the con­fi­dence was high in the war with the book­ies. You would have thought that it had been rain­ing money. But the truth was that if you had backed the Mullins hot­pots on Tues­day you would have re­turned 6.46 points; and, if you had backed the favourite in each race (I’m as­sum­ing that the RC team had done this by the way they were talk­ing), that would have rep­re­sented a loss on the day. Wed­nes­day was bet­ter with the two favourites re­turn­ing 8.13 points. There­fore, the to­tal re­turns for favourites over the first two days was 14.59 points which was an ROI of 104%.

The last two days saw just two more win­ning favourites.There wasVau­tour on the Thurs­day at 6/4F and Peace And Co on Gold Cup day at 2/1F.A to­tal of seven win­ning favourites out of 27 races,re­turn­ing 20.09 points. That was a loss of 6.91 points (-26%) for an ROI of 74%. So the book­ies won the day, as they in­evitably do. But how did our ante-post bets in the big races get on? The re­sults were as fol­lows: Cham­pion Hur­dle:The New One – Lost (Lark­spur Method Top Rated: Faugh­eenWON 4/5F)

Queen Mother Chase:Hid­den Cy­clone – Non-Run­ner

(Lark­spur Method Top Rated:Dodg­ing Bul­let­sWON 9/2) World Hur­dle:Whis­per - Lost (Lark­spur Method Top Rated: Lieu­tenant Colonel LOST) Gold Cup:Coney­gree 14/1 –WON 7/1 (Lark­spur Method Top Rated: Many Clouds LOST)

There­fore, back­ing the ante-post se­lec­tions and then hedg­ing with Lark­spur Method top-rated run­ners gave a re­turn of 22.3 points to level stakes of eight points. A profit of 14.3 points (+178.75%).

I at­tended the last two days of the Fes­ti­val and th­ese are my thoughts and mem­o­ries of those:

C: is for Coney­gree… not only be­cause he was my ante-post pick but due to the bril­liance of his per­for­mance. For a novice to take on the Gold Cup field from the first fence to the last and gal­lop them into sub­mis­sion was some­thing to be­hold. Paul Ni­cholls said he wouldn’t win.

Even Cham­pion train­ers can be blink­ered in their think­ing. I woke on Chel­tenham morn­ing and looked out at the rain and this is what Coney­gree’s con­nec­tions had wanted. The weather fore­cast had said that the ground would come right for them and their win­ning hand had been dealt.

H: is for hats… I have been to Ladies’ Day at Glo­ri­ous Good­wood and at­tended Royal As­cot on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions,

and the sum­mer cre­ations are more laugh­able than any­thing else.The Chel­tenham ladies wear hats for warmth and com­fort, but I couldn’t help think­ing that Greta Garbo had been rein­car­nated a thou­sand times over; and, if you were a lady wear­ing a black floppy hat, you were def­i­nitely not alone.

E: is for ex­pec­ta­tion… The roar that greeted the start of the Gold Cup was matched only by that of the run­ners set­ting off in the open­ing race on Fri­day. And when Nicky Hen­der­son’s Peace And Co got up to beat stable­mate Top Notch in the JCB Tri­umph Hur­dle you would have been for­given for think­ing that every­body in the Club En­clo­sure had backed the race favourite.

L:is for leg­end… AP McCoy got his last Fes­ti­val win­ner aboard Alan King’s Ux­izan­dre at 16/1; and while I wouldn’t want to deny a fel­low Gooner’s last mo­ment of Chel­tenham glory, it was galling to be on the same trainer’s other run­ner: Balder Suc­ces.

The same thing hap­pened in re­verse two races later. AP was on Kim Bai­ley’s Un Ace who fin­ished un­placed; the win­ner was Bai­ley’s Darna at odds of 33/1!

T:is for trainer…Wil­lie Mullins had his string in such in­cred­i­ble form it was fright­en­ing.Apart from the first day four­timer that in­cluded wins for Dou­van, Faugh­een, Un De Sceaux and Glens Melody, there were four other win­ners in­clud­ing 25/1 shotWick­low Brave in the County Hand­i­cap Hur­dle.

The eight wins were a record break­ing per­for­mance and there will be many who will be mak­ing a not-so short­list of Mullins horses for next year’s Fes­ti­val.

E: is for Enda Bol­ger… was I the only per­son who thought that Nina Car­berry was about to wal­lop French jockey Jonathan Plouganou af­ter his mount Toutan­car­mont had car­ried out Quan­ti­ta­tiveeas­ing in the Glen­far­clas Cross Coun­try Chase? Af­ter the agony, of what looked like a cer­tain victory be­ing snatched away, came the ec­stasy when Nina was able to ride Bol­ger’s Off The Hinge to victory in the St James Place Fox­hunter Chase.

N: is for Noble En­deav­our… Gor­don El­liott’s horse failed by a short-head to win the Martin Pipe Con­di­tional Jockey’s Hand­i­cap Hur­dle.

It wasn’t quite as close a call as that of Nicky Hen­der­son’s Top Notch who ran stable­mate Peace and Co to a neck.Both Noble En­deav­our and Top Notch are aptly named for this Chel­tenham busi­ness.

H: …is for his­tory. Each race writes an­other chap­ter in the an­nals of Chel­tenham’s rich his­tory. Bril­liant and spec­tac­u­lar.I have pre­vi­ously ques­tioned jump rac­ing’s pre-oc­cu­pa­tion with the Fes­ti­val. Now, I get it.

A: is for Ai­dan Cole­man…the jockey had rid­den Hou­blon Des Obeaux in the Den­man Chase where Vene­tia Wil­liams’ horse was beaten 7 lengths by Coney­gree. Af­ter the race the jockey jumped

off his mount and told Vene­tia Wil­liams that Coney­gree would win the Gold Cup. It would ap­pear that the jockey is a bet­ter judge of form than a cer­tain trainer, and we have Sue Brad­stock to thank for that lit­tle snip­pet which I picked up from an in­ter­view on Rac­ing UK.

She also said that they had kept Coney­gree’s op­tions open as he needed easy go­ing to be seen at his best, but if there was rain fore­cast for Gold Cup day then they may as well take their chance. As the rain came, I re­mem­bered Cole­man’s words and backed the Brad­stock’s horse.

M: is for Many Clouds… Oliver Sher­wood’s horse came out top of my rat­ings for the Gold Cup.

It was hard to be con­fi­dent about the horse’s chances af­ter his trainer was quoted as say­ing he would be happy if the horse fin­ished among the places. As it turned out, Many Clouds ran in be­hind the even­tual win­ner un­til the third last when he started to lose touch but plugged on gamely to fin­ish in sixth place.

On the way home we passed Many Clouds’ horse box. We waved and, they waved back from the cab, smil­ing. Their horse was go­ing home safe af­ter run­ning his heart out in the Gold Cup. It’s not just about the win­ners, they’re all he­roes.

TheTop Chaser Sys­tem

As we come to the end of the win­ter Jumps’ sea­son, I would like to share this fiendishly sim­ple win­ner find­ing method that I have in­tro­duced to the Top Rac­ing Sys­tems port­fo­lio.

It isn’t rocket science and it will not find ev­ery win­ner,but it is a neat way of high­light­ing a po­ten­tial win­ner in hand­i­cap chases.The rules:

• Hand­i­cap chases be­tween 6 and 14 run­ners

• Award points to the top three horses in the bet­ting as per the Lark­spur Method Form Score (Curtis Rat­ing Sys­tem) • The top-rated horse is the se­lec­tion • Check: is the horse the top-rated of all the run­ners in the race? • Check: is the horse a course win­ner? • Check: did the horse win last time out?

If you are not familiar with the Curtis Rat­ing Sys­tem,sim­ply add up the horses’ last three form fig­ures i.e.451 = 10 points. The horse with the low­est num­ber is the se­lec­tion.

The over­all re­sults are 16 win­ners from 57 se­lec­tions 28% for an ROI of 98%. Novem­ber was a win­ning month and at the time of writ­ing we are look­ing at 3 win­ners from 9 run­ners in March (31%) for an ROI of 131%.As I said,it is not per­fect, but it does work af­ter a fash­ion.

The Flat is back next month and we can start to look at our port­fo­lio of sys­tems that can hope­fully get us ahead on the level.

Un­til next month – Happy Rac­ing!

Glens Melody


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