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Five under the radar runners to take from the 2020 Cheltenham Festival…

Safe to say plenty has happened in the world since Al Boum Photo captured his second Gold Cup three weeks ago… 😟

Those of you that follow me on twitter will know I was personally impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, with Mrs NTF being struck down by a particularly nasty bout of the virus on Gold Cup morning. She is over it now, thankfully, but is still taking time to get back to full fitness. 

I suspect I also had a much milder version of the virus, although with little testing going on it’s impossible to say for sure.

It’s probably to much to ask but I really hope no-one reading this experiences any pain and suffering due to the outbreak. If you do, or indeed have, then you have my very best wishes, I know first-hand how hard it is to watch your loved one struggling for breath…

As they say, however, life must go on, in whatever fragmented process we can pull together during this period of lock-down.

With all that’s been going on over the past few weeks I’m obviously a bit behind my usual post-Cheltenham schedule but with health on the improve I can start to get things back on track, starting with my usual ‘five under the radar runners to take from the festival’ post.

The 2019/20 National Hunt season was officially ended yesterday (with Ireland doing the same earlier in the week) so the following five horses have very much been cherry-picked by myself with a view to next season (the 2020/21 NH season)…

Five under the radar runners to take from the 2020 Cheltenham Festival

AL DANCER (N Twiston-Davies)

5th in the Arkle Chase

Another ‘below-par run’ at the top levels from the 7yo, who now holds the following class splits…

Form at G1 & G2 level = 054242 (0/6)

Form at G3 level & below = 11121131 (6/8)

…and I suspect his best chance at a decent pot will come in a handicap, possibly up in trip to 2m4f/5f, so races like the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November could be an interesting option for him.

Twiston-Davies has won that race 3 times in the past 12 years so he knows the type of horse that is needed to take the prize and Al Dancer himself does have a decent enough record at Cheltenham…

Cheltenham form = 10125

…including a win on chase debut and a second behind Arkle winner PUT THE KETTLE ON at the November meeting, when giving that one 10lbs.

He could, potentially, prove up to G1/G2 level when stepping up in trip (although I remain to be convinced about that) but I’d be disappointed should he not at least manage to land a handicap pot somewhere off his current mark of OR 151.

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BEAKSTOWN (D Skelton)

5th in the Close Brothers Chase

The 7yo has not quite kicked on as expected over fences (now 0/4 over the larger obstacles) but this was a better effort and he showed plenty promise, something more akin to what could have been expected of him at the start of this season.

It’s well worth pointing out that both his Hurdle wins came on Good ground but all 4 of his Chase starts have come on Good to Soft or Soft, so he may just be one that needs decent ground to show his best, and in fairness to connections they haven’t shied away from taking on decent opposition over fences so far.

If they can find a handicap over fences with good ground to run on then he’d be interesting, with this effort telling us he isn’t scared to mix in a big competitive field and still holds plenty of promise.

He should benefit greatly for this first season chasing.

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SAINT SONNET (P Nicholls)

7th in the JLT Chase

This 5yo is another that looks to be entering next season on a very winnable mark (OR 147, boosted 2lbs for this run) and again he could be interesting in something like the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham’s November meeting.

He significantly outran his odds here and he would have finished plenty closer but for stumbling at the last and he should improve a bundle for this effort, which was only his second start on UK soil.

Nicholls knows how to get the best out of these young French-breds in handicap chases…

P Nicholls | Handicap Chases | 5yo FR bred | OR 147 or less | 0-1 (UK) Chase wins

24/94 | 26% S/R | +£39.31 BFLSP – W&P 43/94 | 46% S/R

27% above expectation (since 2011)

…so look out for some expert placing from the master trainer at the start of next season.

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CHAMPAGNE PLATINUM (N Henderson)

7th in the Kim Muir

Hard to know exactly what connections are up to with this one (he is a JP McManus horse after all!) but he’s already had a strange career trajectory after only 7 starts and he’s surely better than the 137-rated animal he currently finds himself as.

This was his first try over 3m+ (first try beyond 2m4.5f in fact) and he quite possibly just didn’t stay the trip here.

He moved smoothly enough into contention in this before flattening out up the hill, so a drop back to 2m4f/5f or even 3m on an easier track could see him take advantage of his mark next season.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him undergo a wind-op in the off season, there must be a chance his breathing is just stopping him fulfill his potential (for all that is complete conjecture on my part!).

He simply has to be better than a 137-rated horse…connections are probably fully aware of that as well…🤨

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ELUSIVE BELLE (N Henderson)

5th in the County Hurdle

A sound enough effort here from a horse who still looks well enough handicapped off OR 137 (she received a 1lb raise for this).

She maybe doesn’t full appreciate climbing the Cheltenham hill (form of 5-0 at track compared to 2-3-1-2-1-2-3-5 away from Cheltenham) although it may just be she doesn’t want to be going over quite as long a trip as this…

Form over 2m & shorter = 12212

Form over 2m0.5f+ = 33505

County Hurdle is run over 2m1f

It’s also well worth noting that she has close form with the likes of EPATANTE (ran 10L third to that one at Newbury when only receiving 3lb from the Champion Hurdler, she would now receive 25lbs from her!!) and RESERVE TANK (who went on to win two G1 Hurdles after beaten Elusive Belle by 2.25L at Sandown last February).

A tweak in conditions for the mare should see her winning off her current mark and she could well have a half-decent pot in her somewhere.

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The above five horses all ran better than their finishing positions suggested, given the conditions they were running under, and I would expect to see them all in the winners enclosure at some stage next term…when we eventually get there… 🤕😧

Stay safe out there everyone, we WILL get through this…

Ben (NTF)

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p.s. the Politologue image at the head of this post was taken by Michael Harris as Paul Nicholls’ grey soared over the water jump on his way to QMCC glory.

You can follow Michael on Twitter where you will see many more examples of his excellent equine photography. 

29 responses to “Five under the radar runners to take from the 2020 Cheltenham Festival…”

  1. thx for free info very much appreciated,wat is paramount is the well being of ur wife+family.takecare out there

  2. Thank you for taking the time to send this out, Ben. I really hope your wife is fully back on her feet shortly. Stay safe. Many thanks again.
    Sean

  3. Fantastic effort to produce such keen analysis at this trying time. It sounds like your poor wife has really been through the mill so best regards to her. Looking forward to getting back to normal and without wishing the summer away, the Bet Victor GC in November sounds one to look forward to already.

    • Thanks Michael

      Yes, BetVictor Gold Cup could be a cracker next season, lets just hope we’ve not been starved of racing prior to that… 🤞🤞

      Stay safe out there.

      Ben (NTF)

  4. Hi Ben. Really sorry to hear that your wife has been so I’ll with virus. Glad to hear that she’s on the road to recovery. Both of you keep well and safe.

    Much appreciated your comments and analysis on these 5 horses. Look forward to their renewed NH participation next season.

    Best wishes,Des Magrath.

  5. Pleased to hear your wife on the mend.
    As someone that missed subscribing for Chektenham, how was it for you and your subscribers?

    • Thanks Alan

      Was a tough Cheltenham this time round and one that has very much made me decide to attack the four days very differently in the future…

      Ben (NTF)

  6. Hi Ben,
    many thanks for your reply to my change of email address,
    hope you and your family are safe and well, look forward to hearing
    from you when this awful situation is over, best wishes Jeff.

  7. Hi Ben
    Glad to hear all on the mend. Worrying times.
    Can I just ask with regards to Elusive Belle does the fact she wears a hood concern you. Isn’t there also a start about horses with headgear running at Cheltenham Festival?
    All the best
    Dave

    • Thanks David

      Wouldn’t be concerned about the hood wearing in the overall scheme of things, no.

      Hood-wearers don’t have the best of records at the festival in recent years but 25 wore a hood this year and 2 won. Seems more of an ‘issue’ in non-handicaps though…

      Stay safe out there…

      Ben (NTF)

  8. Thank you for your Emails.Giving something back, Friday 13th Chelt,
    One to take out of the Martin Pipe, 5th placed THE BOSSES OSCAR ran
    an unbelievable race to finish 5th.Held up last most of the way he made it through the field meeting all sorts of trouble,nearly stopped
    after meeting trouble at the last and still made it up the hill for 5th.
    Imagine if he had been closer to the pace or goes up in trip hes sure to
    win a race

    • Hi Steve

      Yes, definitely agree with you regarding The Bosses Oscar, looks like one with plenty to more to offer and he’s still seriously un-exposed.

      One for the notebooks for sure.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  9. Hi Ben

    Thank you for the info much appreciated.
    Pleased to hear your wife is on the mend.
    All the Best Owen

  10. Continued thanks for the freebies,Ben.Glad to hear your wife is on the mend.Have to mention your good shout for Brian Hughes as possible champ last September,well done to all concerned !

    • Thanks Raymond

      Delighted for Brian Hughes. I’m sure he would have preferred to claim the title off the back of a full season but in fairness he looked the winner from some way out, delighted for him, top-class jockey.

      Ben (NTF)

  11. Hi Ben – Always read your free articles especially the ‘What did we learn at the weekend’ – Super stuff.

    Just a comment on Saint Sonnet – I know this horse is VERY highly rated at Ditcheat and ran a super race as you state in such hot company second time out in England. With the sad news on Dynamite Dollars yesterday, maybe Saint Sonnet is one they can really look forward to!

    Cheers
    Simon

    • Thanks Simon, glad you’ve been enjoying the ‘WWLFTW’ posts over the years 😁👍

      Absolutely agree with you on Saint Sonnet, could very well see him progress into a serious player for the Nicholls yard.

      Terribly sad news regarding Dynamite Dollars, I would have expected him to have had a massive season ahead of him in 2020/21…hopefully Saint S can fill the void…

      Stay safe out there…

      Ben (NTF)

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