Cheltenham Tips

Cheltenham Festival Focus: Ratings, form boosts and overreactions

Cheltenham Festival
Daryl expertly analyses all of the weeks Cheltenham related action.

It's week 16 of Daryl Carter's Cheltenham Festival Focus. Daryl offers his personal ratings for the Novice division and stacks of info on all the week's action...

  • Daryl gives his ratings for Novice chasers, hurdlers and Juveniles

  • Says Teahupoo hasn't proven stamina...yet

  • Rounds up stacks of action and Cheltenham clues

A smashing week's worth of racing and some big names on show!

Early week round-up

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Let's start at Thurles last Sunday, where Embassy Gardens won at 5/6f for Willie Mullins, immediately shot to the head of the Albert Bartlett market, and is now as short as a 5/1 favourite.

This seems like an overreaction.

He won very well by 35 lengths, but this was a nothing race, with the exposed 18-raced eight-year-old Kilbree Warrior rated 109 as his only real rival when Santonito failed to run his race.

There had been little between the winner and Santonito in a bumper last year, and Embassy Gardens was readily brushed aside by the useful Good Land on his penultimate run.

He may have improved a good deal for the step up from 2 1/2 miles to three, but it's a stretch to suggest this performance entitles him to be at the top of a wide-open Albert Bartlett.

At Fairyhouse on Wednesday, Three Card Brag 10/1 enhanced his Albert Bartlett claims with a commanding victory over Willie Mullins' Spanish Harlem in a small field contest by making all.

He is a big raw type and was still very green under pressure. He will be well suited for a step up in trip, and fences probably couldn't come quick enough for him.

It's a testament to his ability that he has managed to win over 2m (beat Sandor Clegane at Galway) and now 2m4f as stamina looks his forte.

Champ Kiely wasn't given an entry to the Albert Bartlett on Tuesday and only for the Ballymore.

Looks can be deceiving! Teahupoo's new Stayers Hurdle favourite

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At Gowran Park on Thursday, Teahupoo 4/11f sauntered to victory on his first outing over three miles to back up his excellent Hatton's Grace victory over Honeysuckle.

Before the race, I wanted to take him on. After all, stamina was a concern

. However, when going through the race with a fine tooth comb and looking for a potential villain to spoil the odds-on favourite's party, I quickly realised that the race was abysmal.

The Form

Longhouse Poet, although having won the Thyestes Chase on the card last year, had no previous worthwhile three-mile hurdles form. In fact, he looked like a non-stayer multiple times over hurdles in his career when tested beyond 2m4f.

His penultimate win over hurdles saw a laboured display, and on reflection, it was a shock that he went off a 5/1 chance when only needing to record an RPR in the 130s to win - he did 132, but that tells you all you need to know about that contest.

Beacon Edge is on the downgrade and hates headgear, so introducing the blinkers was a strange move. Summerville Boy is another on the downgrade and is now 11 with unproven stamina at 3m, and My Design (beaten 23 lengths) is rated just 123.

The options to take on the favourite were zero. Surprisingly, Teahupoo went off just a 4/11f, with the market suggesting there was an almost 30% chance he would lose when he should have been a 1/9 shot regardless of the distance.

I thought he travelled powerfully through the race and looked a class above those he was facing. I was impressed with how he quickened away from his field and was taken aback by the performance.

However, working with just your eyes can fool you, and I had written in the Betfair Daily News that there was a significant possibility that this race would not test his stamina, so, as per, I went to the clock to verify.

The clock tells us stamina was not tested here

Teahupoo's first circuit recorded a time of 3.06.60. That was 45 lengths slower than what he did on the final circuit.

In fact, the first circuit was 26.5 lengths slower than the slowest circuit recorded on the card, courtesy of 98-rated handicapper Bluebell Diva in the final hurdle race on the worst of the deteriorating ground.

Any 3m contest with a true pace should be near matching their circuit times regardless of what others do on the card.

The fact that he was able to go 45 lengths quicker on the final circuit suggests this race was not truly run, and therefore stamina was not tested.

Teahupoo's final circuit time recorded a time of 2.55.34. and here is how it compares to the others on the card.

Teahupoo - 2.55.34
Hands Of Gold (2m4f Maiden) - 2.58.57
Listenheretomejack (2m) - 2.56.00

We need to take the comparisons with a pinch of salt because we already know he is a Grade 1 performer, and he didn't have to come out of third gear to land this.

But the vital information received from this performance is that the sedate early pace did not test his stamina, and, quite frankly, it was an average final circuit.

This does not say he can't win the Stayer's Hurdle. But it does say he isn't truly proven over 3m yet.

While saying all of that, this year's renewal really does look poor, and there is little doubt with the potential he offers, he should be at the top of the market.

Sir Gerhard makes a floorless start to life over fences

The headline is a joke and a play on the commentary of the RTV Pundits, who suggested Ballymore winner Sir Gerhard was faultless on his chase debut.

This was simply not the case.

He made a crashing error at the third, which could have easily ended his race, but he did warm to the task. He went right at one or two, was very careful at a few more and put in extra strides that immediately ruled him out of a fast run Arkle.

His engine is certainly there for all to see, and the mention of the Brown Advisory over 3m confused many, including myself.

The stats are against him for that contest - 27/29 had run at least three times over fences, and only seven (including last year's winner) from the last 36 winners have won on their first crack at three miles. Saying all that, it's not the strongest year for 3m Novice Chasers.

Mares Chase scene is hotting up!

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Jeremys Flame downed the admirable Zambella with ease at Huntingdon on Friday to skip away an excellent winner.

She had shaped well on her previous start in Ireland behind Champion Chase contender Blue Lord in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown, and back against her own sex, she was dominant.

She has been cut into 12/1 for the Mares Chase on the Betfair Sportsbook, and that price doesn't look too shabby. She is improving and has earned her Cheltenham slot.

No show from Jupiter Du Gite turns Triumph into a two-horse race

At Cheltenham on Saturday, the promising Jupiter Du Gite blew out in the Triumph Hurdle trial leaving Comfort Zone and Scriptwriter to fight out a narrow finish.

Gary Moore's runner was far too keen, having bolted off by 15 lengths before being swallowed up when his jockey quickly gave up the ghost.

He was the one in the race with the potential to blow the Triumph Hurdle market wide open. Still, with his headstrong characteristics highlighted by Gary Moore after his impressive Newbury debut, he is now an unlikely runner in the contest.

Comfort Zone, ridden with a bit more patience here, outbattled Scriptwriter in a driving finish. The pair ran to the low-130s, an improved performance by both horses who would have finished narrowly ahead of the final handicap hurdle winner Hacker Des Place.

They are both entitled to take their chance in the Triumph Hurdle but will need another ten pounds on the average race winner in the last ten years.

In the Novices Timeform Chase, Stage Star carried top weight to victory and interestingly, the first three places were filled by those at the top of the handicap.

However, Stage Star, who led his field, would have been stone cold last in the Paddy Power Handicap at four-out and three-out and would have been beaten 13 lengths by Il Ridoto and Fugitif.

Il Ridoto and Fugitif pulled 15 lengths clear of their rivals in the Handicap contest in an excellent time figure, and we await the handicapper's assessment with a view to March.

Both horses ran an exceptional race here and are 8/1 and 14/1 for the Plate Handicap. This was the strongest run handicap at Cheltenham this season, and compared to the Clarence House, Il Ridoto would have been beaten just 8.5 lengths over the 2m circuit.

Champion Chase market rocked by Editeur Du Gite's all-the-way win

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The Champion Chase market was flipped on its head as Gary Moore's Editeur Du Gite made all of the runnings to down hot pots Edwardstone (2nd) and Energumene (3rd).

This was a gutsy performance by Editeur Du Gite, who showed a tremendous battling attitude to get back on top of Edwardstone after being headed on the run in. Edwardstone traded at 1.011/100, Energumene 1.330/100 and Editeur Du Gite a high of 8079/1, but it was the latter than finished out his race stronger.

Edwardstone finished out his race faster than the winner from three out to the finish by around five lengths, but there is little reason to think the winner stole this from the front.

A more plausible theory would be that Edwardstone would sharpen up for the run, with Alan King suggesting he needed to get an outing into him before March.

Energumene ran well for a long way here despite some suspect jumping, including when slamming through the final flight when Paul Townend had yet to pull the stick through.

However, there are a couple of ways to look at him.

The form of his Champion Chase win last term is very poor, and he was slower than the Mares Chase winner Impervious at Cork on his seasonal return.

His Punchestown victory at the back end of last year is not strong either, and neither was his Hilly Way victory in 2020.

In fact, on a form basis, it's very hard to find any subsequent Grade 1 winner that he has beaten in his entire career and the only time he has faced a genuine Grade 1 horse, he was beaten in this race last year by Shishkin.

This is a huge concern. However, he travelled through this race like the best horse in the contest and was not asked for maximum effort.

He shaped as though he needed the run, having tired after the final flight, and it would be no surprise if a completely different animal turned up in the spring.

I spoke to Willie Mullins an hour after the race.

I can't go into what he said but he gave the compliment of saying, "You will be the only one to get the honest answer...", as we spoke, but out of respect that conversation remains private.

Edwardstone is now your 7/4f Champion Chase favourite, with Energumene 5/2 and Editeur Du Gite 5/1.

Ahoy gets gold in Cotswold thriller

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Ahoy Senor ran a cracker in the Cotswold Chase to give real life to his 8/1 Gold Cup claims. Back on a left-handed track at Cheltenham and a proven spring horse, his claims are now there for all to see.

This was particularly impressive because his jumping was still not as perfected as you like, and perhaps he doesn't have the capacity in his brain to meet every fence on a stride, but his engine is substantial.

He is no match for Bravemansgame in that the jumping department, but he was far better when getting a lead off of Frodon here.

Interestingly he ran a scorcher in the Brown Advisory behind L'Homme Presse when taking a lead from that one, and this was an almost identical performance.

He looked as though he would drop out the back of the TV after being shuffled back to fourth at five out, but I think he just lacks pace mid-race.

Ahoy Senor was under the pump coming down the hill and still only fourth when jumping three out but ran from that point to the line as quickly as anything on the card, including the Clarence House winner. This could suggest that a stronger pace could have been on offer from Frodon.

The runner-up, Sounds Russian, is an improving horse and gave a good boost to the form of Into Overdrive, who was pulled from the Skybet Chase at Doncaster after a dirty scope and now looks like a ridiculously well-handicapped horse off 147 (surely get a couple of pounds for collateral form). Into Overdrive could be an Ultima Horse, for which he is 12/1.

Sound Russian is a 20/1 chance for the Gold Cup and did excellently well here despite some jumping blemishes, and the running on third Noble Yeats is 7/1.

Noble Yeats was another completely outpaced, but this was at least an improved performance on his Ultima Handicap run at this venue last term, and he stuck on well up the hill closing to the line and found plenty for pressure. A stronger pace in March will suit him.

Protektorat is another that lacked the gear of the winner at a crucial point in the race but was well-positioned to strike and had little excuse as Noble Yeats passed him after the second last, but he caught the eye running on strongly at the finish.

This was a carbon copy of Protektorat's Gold Cup performance last season, and flat tracks may best serve him at the top level.

Dan Skelton commented after the race that he was happy with the run and left a bit to work on for the Gold Cup, but I find that hard to believe, having come here after 70 days off and fresh from a Betfair Chase demolition.

Haydock can exaggerate winning distances, and Ahoy Senor and Noble Yeats showed him a clean pair of heels between the third and second last. He is now 20/1 for the showpiece in March.

Stayers Hurdle conundrum continues!

Alarm bells rang for favourite backers when you saw Paisley Park travelling too well in the Cleeve Hurdle. A strange thing to say but it signalled that there wasn't a strong enough pace on for him to hit his trade mark flat spot.

Still, he didn't hit the line hard here, and there is a genuine case suggesting that he may not be the force of old.

I suspect a better run at a Championship pace in the Stayers Hurdle for which he is 20/1, but he was no match for this impressive winner Gold Tweet.

Small in stature but a sizeable heart and a smart turn of foot would give Gold Tweet every chance should he be supplemented for the Stayers Hurdle on this evidence.

He won with any amount in hand, jumped well and tanked through the race.

The British handicapper had awarded him a rating of 135 on his French form, but he proved that to be all wrong here. He was impressive and is only six years old and open to significant improvement at this distance.

Connections expressed after the race that they are "not rich" and supplementing him would be "expensive", but they will decide shortly, and he has huge claims on this evidence having run well into the 150's.

The Ballymore market was not Rocked

The Ballymore Novice Hurdle market wasn't shaken up by the victory of Rock My Way as the Novice Hurdlers in Britain continue to run below that 140 range.

However, his win boosted Weveallbeencaught's Albert Bartlett claims and Hermes Allen, who destroyed the Nigel Twiston-Davies runner by ten lengths back in November.

Hermes Allen remains a 5/2 chance for the Ballymore, and Weveallbeencaught is a 10/1 chance for the Albert Bartlett.

It was a strongly run Grade 2 River Don at Doncaster, which Maximilian landed from Paul Nicholls' Stay Away Fay.

The former benefitted from sitting at the rear early on, and the horse to take out of the race could be the runner-up and the third Hurricane Bay, who battled gamely on the sharp end of the pace for much of the contest.

However, this race shouldn't have much baring on the Albert Bartlett, for which Maximilian and Stay Away Fay are both 25/1 chances.

Form boosts and knocks!

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At Doncaster, Epatante won in excellent style, but don't get carried away with. She was entitled to win this contest and was well clear of her inferior rivals dropping back in grade into a Mares race.

She still has plenty to find with Constitution Hill on her two outings this season and Maries Rock, who she found too good at Punchestown over the longer distance and could be one for Aintree.

Jonbon didn't run this weekend, but one of his only real form lines did -Boothill, who was readily put in his place by Tommy's Oscar at Doncaster.

Jonbon has faced a total of six rivals in two outings, and all six have been beaten, with Boothill the only one to boost his form with a win at Ascot before being well held by Tommy's Oscar here.

Boothill has now topped out at a rating of 148, with him possibly able to run to a maximum rating of 150 in my book. Jonbon readily beat him by eight lengths at Sandown, confirming the 160 performance we initially gave the Nicky Henderson runner back in early December.

In turn, Tommy's Oscar gave Bandbrige's November Cheltenham form a boost and collaterally, Mighty Potter, who won the Drinmore, arguably the season's best Novice Chase.

It would be no surprise to see Banbridge head to the Arkle, and he is a big 16/1 chance. Connections of Tommy's Oscar are keen to wait for Aintree.

Over at Fairyhouse, Ashroe Diamond won the Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle in a race that finished with just two lengths covering the first four horses home.

She made heavy weather of this jumping out to her left and asked for maximum effort but got on top close to home. She was cut into 11/4 favourite for the Mares Novice Hurdle.

I maintain that the Irish Mares Novice form is not up to the usual standard.

Probably the best performance on the Fairyhouse card came from Gordon Elliots Found A Fifty, who clocked an excellent time winning his 2m Maiden contest in fine style over odds-on shot Parmenion and Tag Man (third to Good Land at Leopardstown).

This was a really taking performance, and given the form of his point-to-point, it would be no surprise to see him supplemented! Keep a very close on him.


Here is how I rank some of the leading players in the Novice Chase division

Mighty Potter (2m4f) 162
Jonbon (2m) 160
El Fabiolo (2m) 159
Appreciate It (2m) 157
Banbridge (2m) 157
Dysart Dynamo (2m) 155
The Real Wacker (2m4) 155
Gaillard Du Mesnil (2m4f 155 (3m) 158
Gerri Colombe (2m4f) 154
Thyme Hill (3m) 152
James Du Berlais (2m4f) 152
Tommys Oscar (2m) 152
Boothill (2m) 149
Stage Star (2m4f) 149
Journey With Me (2m4f) 146

Here is how I rate some of the leading Novice Hurdlers

Facile Vega (2m) 153
Gaelic Warrior (2m) 152
Hermes Allen (2m4f) 152
Marine Nationale (2m) 148
Favori De Champdou (3m) 147
Champ Kiely (2m4f) 147
Impaire Et Passe (2m) 146
Good Land (2m4f) 146
Hiddenvalley Lake (3m) 146
Corbetts Cross (3m) 146
Irish Point (2m4f) 145
Rare Edition (2m) 144
Inthepocket (2m4f) 142
Tahmuras (2m) 141
Luccia (2m) 140
Sandor Clegane (2m5f) 140
Embassy Gardens (3m) 140
High Definition (2m) 139
American Mike (2m4f) 138
Weveallbeencaught (3m) 136
Ashore Diamond 137
Grey Dawning (3m) 134

Here's how I currently rate the Juveniles

Blood Destiny 144
Lossiemouth 142
St Donats 135
Gala Marceau 134
Comfort Zone 134
Mctigue 133
Tekao 130
Scriptwriter 130
Cougar 130
Nusret 129
Jazzy Matty 129
Risk Belle 126
Common Practice 128
Sir Allen 125

I've decided against a bet this week. I know who I want to get on this list going forward and right now is not the time to add.

However, the likes of Good Land, who runs at the Dublin Racing Festival this week is a potential market shortener should he win the Nathaniel Lacey, and his 12/1 for the Ballymore could be long gone if you like him.

Honeysuckle could see her Champion Hurdle price cut should she scalp Stateman, and in turn for the Mares should she not.

Blue Lord is a potential shortener in the Champion Chase market after this week's Clarence House result should he win at Dublin.

In other news, Klassical Dream is out to 40.039/1 for the Stayers Hurdle on the Betfair Exchange.

I am in Dublin next week, so this column will return on Tuesday 6th February.

Daryl's running P/L

Three Stripe Life for the Brown Advisory -1pt

Bravemansgame for the Ryanair -1pt

Meet And Greet for the Stayers Hurdle -1pt

Champ Kiely for the Albert Bartlett -2pt

Daryl's ante-post list

Back Facile Vega for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle @ 7/2 1pt win NOW 12/1

Back The Storyteller for the St James' Palace Hunters Chase @ 12/1 1pt win NOW 14/1

Back Stattler each way for the Cheltenham Gold Cup @ 16/1 0.5pt e/w NOW 8/1

Back Thyme Hill for the Brown Advisory Novices Chase @ 12/1 1pt e/w NOW 6/1

Back Banbridge for the Turners Novices' Chase @ 10/1 1pt win NOW 12/1

Back El Fabiolo for the Arkle Novices Chase @ 6/1 1pt win NOW 11/2

Back Grangeclare West for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle @ 8/1 1pt win NOW 20/1

Back Tellmesomethinggirl for the Mares Chase @ 14/1 1pt win NOW 20/1

Back Blood Destiny for the Triumph Hurdle @ 33/1 1pt win NOW 7/2

Back So Scottish for the Plate Handicap Chase @ 16/1 1pt win NOW 5/1

Back Mighty Potter for the Turners Novices Chase @ 7/2 2pt win NOW 7/2

Back Shishkin for the Ryanair Chase on the Betfair Exchange @ 8.07/1 1pt win

Back It's For Me for the Champion Bumper at 4/1 1pt win NOW 7/2

Back Allmankind for the Grand Annual at 40/1 1pt win NOW 50/1


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