horse racing

What we learned from the weekend: 18th, 19th & 20th December…

“Welcome to my Christmas blog
I’d like to thank you for the year
So I’m sending you this Christmas card
To say it’s nice to…

Aah forget it! It’s not happening 😫 Christmas is cancelled…there’s a mutant strain of Covid sweeping the country and the rest of Europe are holding us to ransom and putting us in isolation! Cheers one and all πŸ₯ƒ

On the plus side, Sturgeon shut the England/Scotland border so now the family can moan at her for the NTF clan not coming back for Xmas “I mean we would have made the 10-hour trip, we were really looking forward to it, honestly…but…you know…Nicola shut the gates…so…πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ”

It’s going to be a bit of weird festive period but then again it’s been a damn weird year…and it just keeps getting weirder?!? 

Still… King George, Welsh National, Rowland Meyrick, Leopardstown…got to look on the positive side I suppose πŸ₯ƒ

I suspect this will be the last free Blog of 2020, I generally have a bit of a break from here until the New Year as it’s a busy kinda schedule on the full members side of things.

Away from the nags it’s been a crap year, no doubt about that, racing is about the only thing that has kept me sane and I hope that the free NTF blogs have, in some small way, managed to keep you entertained and allowed you to forget about the ‘real world’ for a a few minutes every week. I appreciate every single one of you that has taken the time to drop in and spend some of your valuable time here on NTF and I’ll do my best to keep a bit of normality in your lives throughout 2021 🀞

Enjoy the next couple weeks as best you can and here is one last ‘What We Learned From The Weekend’ for 2020…

What we learned from the weekend: 18th, 19th & 20th December…

1. ITCHY FEET can’t find his feet on galloping tracks…

The form books tell us that ITCHY FEET only went down by 2l in the Graduation Chase at Ascot on Saturday but anyone who watched the race knows that doesn’t tell the full story.

Olly Murphy’s talented 6yo, and I have no doubt he’s a horse with serious talent, was struggling in the three-runner contest from some way out, indeed you could argue he simply never got into any sort of rhythmic groove until he turned into the homestraight for the final time and they were gunning for home.Β 

It was a similar type of story on his previous start in the 1965 Chase, also at Ascot, albeit not to quite the same exaggerated ‘never going before finishing strong’ type of effort.

Β I do, however, have a potential theory about the horse…

For me he just seems to get ‘lost’ on galloping tracks. If you break down his form using the Course Speed metric – Galloping (Ascot, Cheltenham, Haydock…) | Average (Ludlow, Sandown…) | Tight (Kempton, Musselburgh…) – then you start to see a pattern…

Form on Galloping tracks = 0/5

Form on Average or Tight tracks = 5/9

…which goes some way to backing up my thinking that he maybe just gets ‘lost’ on the galloping tracks.

He seems to need tighter tracks to almost keep his concentration and I’d prefer to be backing him at a Sandown or a Kempton rather than an Ascot or a Cheltenham.

He’s certainly not easy to nail down to Prime Conditions but the following are worth keeping in mind…

Average-Tight tracks | DSLR 150 or less = 114111 (5/6 – all 5 career wins)

…that might just about be the perfect place to catch him.

Look out for Itchy on tracks where he needs to be more nibble on his feet…


2. ALLART fired in an impressive first marker over the larger obstacles…

Not many horses kick off their chasing careers pitched straight into a Grade 2 and even fewer scoff at the challenge in the manner Allart did last Friday, with the Nicky Henderson 6yo cruising to victory in the Noel Novices’ Chase in the manner of one with a massive future ahead of him over fences.

Bar his first flight fall on Hurdling debut last November he’s always been one that has caught the eye on the racetrack, and there is plenty reason to believe he’s a serious chasing prospect for not only this season but quite probably many more seasons to come.

The win didn’t come as any great surprise to me as these are races that his trainer has long since had a strong hand in, with this victory further enhancing the record of Nicky Henderson Novice Chasers at Ascot under the following…

N Henderson | Ascot Novice Chases | Nov-Feb | Top 3 in market


15/25 | 60% S/R | +Β£21.48 BFLSP – W&P 19/25 | 76% S/R

43% above exp

Quite simply, Henderson does not mess around in these Ascot Novice Chases when he has a fancied one.

Keep those Henderson Ascot Novice Chasers well onside…


3. Genetics let HILL SIXTEEN down in the Tommy Whittle Chase…

The 11/4 fav for this year’s renewal of the Tommy Whittle Chase – HILL SIXTEEN – realistically never landed a blow at any stage of the 3m2f slog and the writing was quickly on the wall as they entered the straight.

A disappointing effort? Yes.

A surprising effort? Well, not really, not once you start digging…

A quick look at the sire stats suggest he was firmly up against it in the conditions.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ 7yo is sired by Court Cave and his offspring have regularly failed to cut the mu(d)stard over staying trips…

Court Cave offspring | 3m+ | ground with Heavy in it

4/74 | 5% S/R | -Β£53.30 BFLSP – W&P 11/74 | 15% S/R

56% below expectation

With that in mind this PU effort can be excused and he’ll be better judged when he has more suitable conditions to attack.

Be wary of those Court Cave kids in the mud over staying trips…

…and that’s probably it for me on the free blog until 2021. Enjoy the rest of 2020 (as much as you possibly can 😏) and I’ll see you on the other side…

Stay safe

Ben (NTF)

p.s. I’ll leave you with my favorite Christmas tune… (Warning! Explicit language throughout, if easily offended…well probably don’t watch it πŸ˜‰)


24 responses to “What we learned from the weekend: 18th, 19th & 20th December…”

  1. Itchy feet needs longer as his trainer suggested after Ascot,I looked sectionals and I think the trainer is right and by his running style he took this race instead as the conditions assumingly of the race rather than the distance suited him ,these graduation races I ain’t keen on,he would of had to run in the 3m listed hcap chase otherwise

    • Hi Rob

      Further a possibility, yes. Don’t think it’s a necessity though, reckon he has enough boot to keep tabs early doors over 2m4f/5f on a more suitable track.

      Would certainly be interesting to see him over 3m though, for all I don’t think that’s what got him beat on Saturday.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  2. Ben, always enjoy reading your blogs every week . They are very informative,interesting and thought provoking. These days I only ever really bet on a Saturday, and this is basically the only reason I’ve not signed up thus far . Anyway, have a merry Christmas and great new year, ah the best fae Arbroath.


    • Thanks Billy, glad you enjoy reading the blogs, always good to hear and hope you continue to throughout 2021 😊

      Interesting fact…first football match I ever went to was Elgin City V Arbroath in the 1989/90 Scottish Cup (first round). I’m originally from Elgin.

      If memory serves me right we beat Arbroath but then got tanked 8-0 by Brechin in the next round!!!!

      Have a great Festive period!

      Ben (NTF)

  3. Thanks Ben for the great posts. Wishing you and yours all the best for the festive season.
    PS. I think Allart will be very, very good!

  4. Thanks Ben for the great posts. Wishing you and yours all the best for the festive season.
    PS. I think Allart will be very, very good!

    • Thanks Mal

      I agree with you that Allart has the potential to be a high class animal, hopefully we get to see plenty more of him this season…

      Ben (NTF)

  5. Yes, really love your blogs, Ben and I am a bit like another of your commenters in that I only really have time on a Saturday due to work commitments. Your musings are ones that I keep though as they are very useful. Hoping you and your family have a great 2021. Vince

    • Thanks for your comment Vince 😎

      As long as you enjoy the free posts them I happy with that, I enjoy doing them so as long as people enjoy reading them then that’s all cool by me πŸ‘

      Enjoy the festive period

      Ben (NTF)

  6. ITCHY FEET also way he stayed on and with Sandown and Leicester as winning tracks (Carlisle next?). Clearly a sticky jumper unless pace broken up somewhat I guess. He also bled and strictly on RPR he’s fine at Ascot albeit the Imperial Aura form is surely a guess at present as was Saturday’s.

    I’d not be dogmatic given his jumping and might be looser in terms of when I would back. Fresher over further at right odds might trigger me.

    Interested on where your track descriptions come from? Or your own view?

    • Hi Jon

      I use both Horse Race Base & Proform to compile the track descriptions. I’ve compiled my own matrix for ease of use.

      I wouldn’t say it’s 100% as some tracks can fit into more than one description and you have to be careful when there is a difference between the hurdle tracks and chase tracks at certain places, but I’m happy with the descriptions and they can lead you to some underused angles/conditions that are overlooked by plenty.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

    • I agree with da Silva about fiddlerontheroof formline. Allart aside ,in general ,this horse is overrated imo ,this is what happens when you win a graded race in name only like the vast majority of novice graded races ,the handicapper goes overboard because of the graded status.i was myself taken in by itchy feets grade one novice chase win and fiddlerontheroofs as well ,I will be amazed if they win a grade one again

      • I’d be surprised if Itchy Feet wins another G1, yes, but he’s certainly better than what he’s shown so far this season, races to won with him if they tweak conditions…

        As for Fiddlerontheroof…yeah, jury out on him at the minute. Always feel the Tolworth is an odd G1, can produce some top class animals but more often than not the winners just don’t quite seem to follow up on their G1 status, not on a regular basis anyway…

        Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  7. Hi Ben, thanks for all your hard work through the year, your blogs and week-end notes in particular. Have a great Christmas and looking forward to your thoughts in 2021.

  8. Hi Ben wishing you and yours all the best for the festive period and new year. Thank you for all the informative blogs through out the past year.

  9. Hi ,
    First of all thanks for all the info blogs etc.
    As a family we have have had an awful year apart from the virus but a ray of light for me has been reading the blogs and having a punt, helped me enormously, so many thanks , have a wonderful Christmas and a healthy 2021

    • Hi Alan

      Sorry to hear you’ve had an awful year, I can empathise with you, let’s hope 2021 brings a bit more joy…

      Delighted to hear the NTF blogs have given you at least a small ray of light, very kind of you to say so and hopefully they continue to bring joy through 2021 and beyond.

      Stay safe and have a healthy festive period 😊

      Ben (NTF)

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