horse racing

What we learned from the weekend: 14th & 15th February…

As much as I’m a fan of AP McCoy (he’s a living legend, right?) I wasn’t planning on jumping on the ‘AP McCoy on tour‘ ‘see him before he retires‘ bandwagon. That’s going on elsewhere, you can’t really avoid it, you don’t need me to shove it down your throats as well.

Unfortunately my hand has been forced this week.

I can’t not mention him in this weeks post.

And the reason for that?

Well you know McCoy is setting out to take over the Dick Francis, John Francome mantle as the most successful fictional crime writing ex-jockey on the planet? Yeah?

Well he has only gone and called his second novel ‘Narrowing The Field‘!!

Even more crazy is the fact the plot is about some Scottish dude who sits and analyses horse racing from alternative angles whilst walking his four greyhounds and playing the occasional game of squash!?!?

OK, that bit is a lie. But his new novel really is called Narrowing The Field!

Some people may be a tad disappointed when they get a horse racing stats book from 2009/10 looking at the Dosage Method instead of AP McCoy’s new novel!!

Anyway, that’s enough on McCoy for now (I’m sure I said that last week as well!!), there was plenty else going on this weekend, especially with the Cheltenham Festival creeping ever closer, so lets crack on with this weeks installment of ‘What We Learned from The Weekend’…


What we learned from the weekend: 14th & 15th February… 

1. Balder Succes is slap bang in his comfort zone over the middle-distance trips …

Alan King’s stable star started the season with the Champion Chase as his most likely target, and that was fair enough, he had been plying his trade primarily over two miles. Three defeats from three at the start of the season over the two mile trip, however, prompted a switch of plans and boy has that kicked him on a gear or two.

On Saturday he followed up his Listed success at Kempton in January over 20.5f with an even more impressive success at Ascot in the Grade One Betfair Ascot Chase over 21.5f, a victory that brought his form over trips of 18f+ to 181111 (the 8 coming in a heavy ground Ffos Las Welsh Champion Hurdle).

His trainer Alan King commented after the race that “Over two and a half miles they just go half a stride slower early on. Those good two milers were just getting him at it and taking him out of his comfort zone.”; I would fully agree with that.

Saturday’s win also brought his January & February record to 111183111 and this early part of the year is clearly a time where he is at his optimum.

The victory also boosted his record in fields of 7 or less to 10 wins and 2 places from 16 starts (10 of his 12 career wins), a clear sign he is at his happiest with plenty of space around him (his record in fields of 8+ is 11FU08U54 – both wins coming early in his career when he simply outclassed the opposition).

The next stop on his travels is the Ryanair Chase.

But that does bring a couple of worries that the horse needs to dispel…

a) He needs to dramatically change his Cheltenham record of FUF.

Unlucky or something about the track he doesn’t like?

b) He needs to prove that he isn’t just a small field performer.

Can he cut it at the top level against a deeper (in numbers) field?

I would also have a small query about his Dosage figures for the Ryanair Chase.

His figures are – 3-3-14-0-0 | 20 | 20+ | 1.86 | 0.45 – and whilst they wouldn’t be a major negative to his chances they wouldn’t be bang on for the contest either.

So whilst he may be in bouncing form over 2m4f/2m5f at present will it be the same under festival conditions in the Ryanair?

The mid-distance trips are ideal for Balder Succes but can he put himself bang at the top of the tree at the Festival…


2. Champagne Fever won like the good horse we know he can be…

…but where the hell will he be aimed at in March?!

Willie Mullins, as is generally the case, is keeping his cards close to his chest but it’s safe to safe the horse will be going down either the QMCC route or the Ryanair Chase route.

Saturday’s victory, in the Grade Two Red Mills Chase, was over the 20f trip. That now brings his record over 2m4f to 311F1 (whats to say he wouldn’t have won when falling at the last two starts ago as well?).

That also now brings his February to April record to an impressive 1111213 (compared to his December & January record of 223413F) and these are the months he excels in. There won’t be many horses in better shape come the Festival than this grey boy, he will be bouncing sharp and ready to fire.

Those are the positives for him.


He’s a front-runner and front-runners don’t have the greatest record in G1 chases at recent festivals. Of the last 31 Grade 1 chases (at the last 6 Cheltenham Festivals) only two have gone the way of front-runners. It’s a difficult place to front-run to victory, as Champagne Fever found out himself in last season’s Arkle Chase.

Willie Mullins has only scored with 1 of his last 31 Grade 1 chasers at the festival (3% S/R – 62% below expectations).

Ruby Walsh hasn’t landed in the winners enclosure with any of his last 27 Grade 1 rides at the Cheltenham Festival (only 3 have managed to place).

I think it’s also fair to say that Champagne Fever is yet to beat a proper Grade 1 animal over fences who is at the top of their game.

All that will have to change if he is to record his third Cheltenham Festival victory next month…

Champagne Fever is good, but is he good enough…


3. Monbeg Dude was clearly not in the Grand National Trial at Haydock to win it…

…and why would he have been. The Aintree Grand National weights were announced today (Tuesday 17th February), a win on Saturday would have blown his handy handicap mark clean out of the water.

He finished 7th in last season’s National from OR 146. He went into Saturday’s Grand National Trial on a mark of OR 144. Anything remotely close to winning would have stuck him up over that 146 mark, a mark he clearly can’t win the big race from. 2lbs less doesn’t make him nailed on to go better this time around but it’s better to be running from a lower mark than a higher mark when you couldn’t win from the higher mark at the first attempt.

‘Luckily’ enough for connections the horse didn’t come remotely close to winning. He sauntered home 19 lengths third. Some decent prize money in the bank and a handicap mark still in tact.

And what happened when the weights were announced today for the big race? Monbeg Dude was slotted into the race in 40th place!! If all runners stand their ground (which clearly they won’t) then ‘The Dude’ is guaranteed a run from slap bang bottom weight. Handicapping job done, handbrake can be released, unleash the Dude!

But why is this of any real significance?

Bookies offers, that’s why.

Friday evening William Hill sent out an email letting us all know that…

Since AP McCoy announced his retirement at the end of the season, he has been riding out of his skin with plenty of winners. He takes the ride on Monbeg Dude in the Grand National Trial at Haydock (2:55), and from 8:30am we’re offering 7/1 he guides him to victory.

Very good guys. But let’s face it the horse was never going to be winning the race. McCoy was always more likely to guide the horse into a place than to victory. There are bigger plans in the pipe-line for this horse, you were simply cashing in on the McCoy mania.

Beware of bookies enhanced prices and price boosts, they are very rarely all they are cracked up to be …


…and with Cheltenham now firmly in our sights…

Free NTF Cheltenham Guide…

…for all members of the FREE NTF service.

Yes I will shortly be releasing a free NTF guide to everyone that is signed up to the free NTF updates service.

This year I will be supplying you with the following NTF Guide…

Cheltenham 2015: Ten essential Cheltenham Festival stats you NEED to be aware off

This guide will be packed full of essential information to help you get stuck into the nitty gritty of Cheltenham 2015.

Ten of what I consider to be KEY pointers to help with your study.

If you like the ‘What we learned from the weekend guides‘ then you will love this FREE NTF Guide.

If you are already on the free list then you need do nothing more than sit and wait for the guide to drop in your in-box. If you are not yet a member then simply go to the follow page and do the necessary… 

Happy Punting – Ben (NTF)

*Stats sourced from the excellent Proform Professional Database

4 responses to “What we learned from the weekend: 14th & 15th February…”

  1. Hi Ben

    Great blog as always.

    Couple of things I thought I’d mention.

    1) with regards to champagne fevers target I think Matt Toombs at oddschecker has it right that Paddy Power know where the Mullins horses are aimed when you look at which race they are shorter for. Btw his road to cheltenham blog is a good read

    2) unless you’re a mug punter all price offers, boosts enhancements and ads in bookies windows are to be avoided. There’s a reason ray appears at half time in the footy to sucker you in!

    Cheers Ian

    • Thanks Ian

      Interesting thinking with Paddy Power/Willie Mullins link. Worth keeping a check on for sure.

      I agree that price enhancements are simply not worth the paper they are written on or the breath in Ray’s lungs! They make a ‘mistake’ about 1 in every 30 (that’s a rough guess, obviously) but generally they are there to sucker people in.

      Ben (NTF)

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