horse racing

What we learned from the weekend: 14th, 15th & 16th of February…

Safe to say racing is still taking a bit of a battering from the elements at the minute, so much so that we’ve a couple of ‘Bumpers Jumpers’ A/W cards on the horizon.

Nothing against them in the slightest but I think it’s only fair I wheel out the following Cheltenham Festival warning…

Cheltenham Festival runners that had their last run on the All-Weather or Flat have returned the following figures…

0/162 | 0% S/R | -£162.00 LSP – W&P 10/162 | 6% S/R

Yep, a big fat stinking ZERO winners!

You best be praying that your Festival fancies don’t decide to have a spin in a ‘Jumpers Bumper’ in the coming few days…🥴

That’s to come though, what about this weekend just past?

Main talking point, obviously, would be the defeat of CYRNAME in the Ascot Chase. 

Is he maybe not the Grade 1 best horse in training we’ve been led to believe he is? He’s now 1/5 at G1 level (5/11 at G2 level & below) and Saturday was a distinctly flat effort.

Did the ‘match’ with Altior bottom him? Did trying 3m in King George for first time leave its mark? Is he just not as good as he’s been hyped to be? Question marks against him now you’d have to say…🤨

Away from Cyrname, however, what else was catching my eye last weekend?


What we learned from the weekend: 14th, 15th & 16th February…


1. BALLYOPTIC fired in a career best effort aged ten on his 27th career start…

…a career best on the RPR scale that is, with the Twiston-Davies horse running to a mark of 167 at Ascot in the Listed 3m Handicap on Saturday.

And it’s hard to argue with that lofty rating, given he demolished his field by 8.5L off a mark of OR 157.

In fairness he was running under his absolute prime conditions…

Soft/Heavy | 3m1f or less | Field of 15 or less | Feb-Nov

…where he is now…

11141212111 (8/11, 1p – 8 of 9 career wins)

The 10yo is entered in the National, where he’ll get to run off the same mark instead of the 163 mark he finds himself on after Saturday’s victory. 

You have to think, however, the National really isn’t the place for him.

He’s been over the ‘big’ fences three times previously and has returned the following form line…


…beaten 81L that one time he did complete.

In truth I’m not sure there are ‘obvious’ options for Ballyoptic but you know, you wouldn’t rule out something like the Grade 1 Aintree Bowl in April if it came up as a mud bath. He’s only twice had prime conditions when tackling G1 company, once when he won the Sefton Novice Hurdle at Aintree and then when finishing a decent 4th in Presenting Percy’s RSA, and if things were to turn unseasonably soft at the National meeting I reckon a switch of targets would be an interesting move…

A muddy spring would open up options for BALLYOPTIC…


2. Nicky Henderson made a rare chasing venture to Haydock on Saturday…

That trip was made with his French recruit CARIBEAN BOY and he made it a worthwhile one, with the 6yo turning the tables on Tom George’s The Big Bite with a cracking round of jumping off the front end.

Henderson, surprisingly, doesn’t send that many chasers to Haydock – he’s ‘only’ had 40 Chase runners resulting in ten winners at the track since 2003 – but all ten of his winners could be found using the following…

N Henderson | Haydock Chasers | 2m5.5f or shorter | 10 or less runners | 8 or less Chase starts

…giving figures of…

10/21 | 48% S/R | +£19.12 LSP – W&P 14/21 | 67% S/R

…Caribean Boy fitting that angle.

The horse himself looks to have benefited remarkably from his debut run for the yard at Doncaster on the 14th of January, which is no real surprise as that was his first run for some 632 days.

The form of that race has so far, from limited runners, worked out well, with the first three home that day – The Big Bite, Senior Citizen & Caribean Boy – finishing 2nd, 1st & 1st next time out. The remainder of the field are yet to run again but if the front three are anything to go on it could be worth keeping an eye out for them in coming weeks.

Look out for those rare Henderson Chasers at Haydock…


3. MAGIC OF LIGHT bombed badly in the Boyne Hurdle…

When it came to the G2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan on Sunday most eyes were on dual National winner Tiger Roll, who was making his seasonal debut in the 2m5f contest. 

Also in the line-up, however, was Jessie Harrington’s mare MAGIC OF LIGHT, who finish second to Tiger Roll at Aintree last spring. She was sent off as 3/1 second fav on Sunday and was expected to run a big race.

That’s not, however, what materialized, with the 9yo mare trailing home a distant 32L 8th of the eight runners. 

On the face of it, it looked a mightily poor effort.

For me, however, I reckon the run is easily explainable.

For starters her trainer Jessie Harrington has a pretty average record in Class 1 Hurdles at Navan…

2/33 | 6% S/R – 54% below expectation

…it’s just not an area where her string excel.

Secondly, Magic Of Light regularly goes a bit AWOL during the February to March period, returning the following form line…

4-2-4-0-2-U-7-8 (0/8, 2p)

…for whatever reason it’s just not a period of the year where she’s running to her best.

She’s plenty better than Sunday’s effort and I reckon it’s easy enough to explain away the effort.

Don’t give up hope on Magic Of Light just yet…

Free Cheltenham Festival 2020 Guide…

Hopefully most of you reading this will have managed to pick up the first of my Free Cheltenham Festival guides.

If you are still to get your hands on it then don’t worry, all you need to do is click on the following image and follow the instructions… ⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇

The second free guide will be with members of the free NTF list in a couple of weeks…

Cheers – Ben (NTF)

Majority of stats sourced from the excellent Proform Professional database

Narrowing the Field - Proform

6 responses to “What we learned from the weekend: 14th, 15th & 16th of February…”

  1. Great as always Ben.

    I’m going to dive into the world of Dosage post Cheltenham any suggested reading to go with your own publication?

    Also, your thoughts on SOLO for the triumph. Now with P Nicholls entered in the Adonis similar to Zubyr & Zarkandar and usually remains a Colt! ( is it a beast and be worth a fortune at stud?!)

    • Thanks Ian

      Good luck with the Dosage stuff, sadly not something I utilise any more, not sure what else is currently out there at the minute as the main guy behind it all (Dr Steve Roman) retired from the sport a couple years back.

      Hard to know what to make of SOLO until we see him on the track over here but his French runs look above average (at the very least) on paper.

      If he wins well on Saturday then his price will at least halve, probably more, I don’t think it looks an exceptional Triumph at present…

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  2. Not entirely convinced about the Jumpers Bumper angle. I can’t see a downside in running a horse in one of these assuming you have no other option. If however the trainer is ducking a trial that would be a negative.

    • Hi Kevin

      Hard to know exactly why the stats are so poor but my own ‘theories’ would be…

      A Jumpers Bumper doesn’t a give sufficient enough tune-up


      The transition between an A/W race to a full on helter skelter jumps race is too much for the horse to transition

      Those are, however, only very loose theories, I could be wide of the mark, but the overall stats are hard to ignore, with the win & place stats not much better…

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  3. Hi Ben
    The two hurdle races that Shishkin won at Newbury/Huntingdon respectively, have the winners from any of them won the Supreme before?
    Also has placed horses from the Leopardstown Arkle ever won the Cheltenham equivalent before? and who are they?

    Thanks, Elisha

    • Hi Elisha

      Huntingdon in general has been an awful warm-up track for Festival runners – since 2003 horses that ran at Huntingdon on their last start before the festival are 0/128, 16p, To level that out a bit only 16 of them started at a single figure price at Cheltenham so Shishkin will be one of the better horses to try and bust that stat.

      The Newbury race…not sure but pretty sure no, not as far as I can tell.

      As for the Irish Arkle…

      Forpadydeplasterer finished a head second in the 2009 Irish Arkle before going on to win the Arkle at Cheltenham, he was the last to place in the Irish version then win the Cheltenham version.

      Before that you are looking at 2002, with Moscow Flyer falling in the Irish version before winning at Cheltenham. Moscow Flyer busts a few Cheltenham stats if truth be told, he was a bit of a freak in that sense!

      That’s it up until 1997 (not sure before that)….

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

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