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Cheltenham Top Jockey: What do Timeform ratings tell us (part 2)?

Barry Geraghty has an even stronger book of rides this year

"After such rich pickings last year, worryingly for his rivals Geraghty has even stronger squad on paper than he did last year."

In the second of his articles looking at the top riders at the Festival, Michael Williamson applies Timeform's unique jockey ratings to Barry Geraghty and Tony McCoy... 

#3 Barry Geraghty - 25 winners

Last season, it was apparent some time in advance of Cheltenham that Nicky Henderson's yard was overflowing with Festival firepower - just ask stable lad Conor Murphy who became a millionaire on the back of his ante-post accumulator. The trainer gets them there, but the rest is up to the jockey, and Barry Geraghty, who rode five of Henderson's six winners at the Festival, gave a Cheltenham masterclass.
  
The five winners each called for something different by Geraghty, from the sublimely easy Sprinter Sacre to the ridiculously hard Riverside Theatre, and all bar Simonsig came over fences, where he really excels:

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In both handicaps and the championship events, there is no rider who has outperformed Geraghty in chases on the Old Course at the Festival. Since the foot and mouth crisis scuppered the 2001 running, Geraghty has each year had an above-average book at the Festival. Only 2008 saw that figure dip below + 2lb, which coincided with his only failure to secure one of the championship races.

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Remarkably, Geraghty looks to have an even stronger squad on paper than he did last year. Two of his best horses are also well aligned with his own strengths. Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig will be strutting their stuff over fences on the Old Course, where Geraghty hardly ever fluffs his lines. 

Predicted Rides
Champion Chase - Sprinter Sacre; Gold Cup - Bobs Worth; Ryanair Chase - Riverside Theatre; Champion Hurdle - Grandouet; World Hurdle - Oscar Whisky; Arkle Chase - Simonsig; RSA Chase - Hadrian's Approach; Triumph Hurdle - Rolling Star; Supreme Novice's Hurdle - River Maigue; Neptune (Baring Bingham) Hurdle - Whisper; Albert Bartlett (Spa) Hurdle - Utopie Des Bordes;

This represents an average strength of +9.19 against predicted fields. Other notable chances include Captain Conan in the Jewson Novice's Chase. 

Whereas Sprinter Sacre is as near to a certainty as you can get in jumps racing, Simonsig does have a couple of legitimate challengers, though he's Timeform top-rated and carries the 'large P', indicating there should be much more to come. 

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The data sample with the '+' and 'p' horses tells us that Geraghty is incredibly efficient in helping horses realise their potential on the big day. 

The common perception is that Geraghty can't have as stellar a Festival as he did in 2012; but actually he can. The strength of his predicted squad, coupled with his elite ratings in the aligned disciplines, means that lightning may very well strike twice.  


#2 A.P. McCoy - 27 Winners

It's the London bus syndrome for McCoy and the Thomas Pink award. Two came along at once, when he was top jockey at the Festival in both '97 and '98, but he's been waiting ever since, albeit with the odd ride-of-the-century contender in the meantime, Wichita Lineman springing to mind. 

Synchronised last year, likewise over fences, was another McCoy special, and his Festival breakdown reveals a rider who, so far at least, has proved all the more potent over fences than hurdles at Cheltenham, backed up by his Impact Values in the two spheres. 

Interestingly, compared to the other jockeys under the microscope, there is also a significant disparity between the market value of his handicap rides vs. non handicap rides. There is no correlation with an increase in jockey rating or Impact Value, but the familiar J.P. McManus betting ring plunge may again be on the cards this year.

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* McCoy won the Ryanair Chase aboard Albertas Run on 17/03/2011 (6/1). This is not included in our ratings as no Timeform rating was available pre-race.

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Despite recording no more than two wins at any single Festival since 2006, McCoy has always gone there with a strong team:

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Although he does have a steady strike rate of success in the championship events, McCoy's apparent inability to convert good chances into wins has cost him a challenge for the top rider award.

In the 14 times since 2002 he has ridden a horse rated between 10 and 20lb higher than the field average, he has failed to register a victory and didn't complete on four occasions. Needless to say, his record is much more impressive when his mount is over 20lb higher than average, winning aboard Black Jack Ketchum in the 2006 Spa Novice Hurdle and second on the other two occasions.

Riding a horse who's 20 lb higher above the norm for a race is a privileged position to be in, but how about as much as 30 lb? McCoy has one such horse this year. My Tent Or Yours, in the Supreme, is that horse, and it's the only instance of such clear supremacy in any of the data collated for these pieces.

Predicted Rides
Supreme Novice - My Tent Or Yours;  Ryanair - Albertas Run; Champion Hurdle - Binocular; World Hurdle - Get Me Out of Here; Albert Bartlett - At Fishers Cross;  Gold Cup - Sunnyhillboy; Neptune - Taquin du Seuil; Triumph - Vasco du Ronceray.

This represents an average strength of +5.91 against predicted fields. 

In the championship races, McCoy's best chances of success are on paper in the novice hurdle races, with all three having excellent chances on the ratings. His lower hurdle jockey ratings and Impact Values may be a small bone to pick, but for the Supreme and Albert Bartlett he is still above the average.

With total book strength of +5.9lb and solid Festival ratings, McCoy is well placed to add to his 27 Festival wins, and in an ordinary year he'd be a contender for top jockey, but this looks no ordinary year, given the greater strength in depth at other riders' disposal.

Read Part 1 and Part 3 of our Cheltenham Top Jockey series.

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04 March 2013

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