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Three to follow from the weekend...

What we learned from the weekend: 22nd & 23rd January…

The weather is taking another firm grip this week, so much so even Wolverhampton had to call an inspection ๐Ÿฅถ๐Ÿ‘€

Thankfully the high-class National Hunt cards managed to skip clear of the weather last weekend and we were able to get a decent chunk of the jumping stuff completed and in the form books.

So without further ado, let’s crack on with the latest copy of ‘What We Learned From The Weekend‘…

What we learned from the weekend: 22nd & 23rd January…

1. ROYALE PAGAILLE burst into the Gold Cup picture…

The list of horses that have won a Peter Marsh Chase from marks on or above OR 154 is a slim one. Prior to Saturday only JODAMI (OR 169), CLOUDY LANE (OR 155) and BRISTOL DE MAI (OR 154) had managed the task. ROYAL PAGAILLE (OR 156) can now add himself to that list after sauntering through the Haydock mud to slaughter his opposition by a commanding 16L.

The victory quickly had him zooming up the Cheltenham Gold Cup markets and he now finds himself sitting around the 8/1 – 10/1 price, a general co-second fav (it’s pretty congested in the betting behind Al Boum Photo, who naturally heads the market).

It’s hard to argue with that price in all honesty and I get why his odds shortened up…but I do, as things stand, have a couple queries about the Gold Cup credentials of Royale Pagaille…

The last 21 winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup had all previously won at Grade 1 level

In that period 125 horses have tried to win the Gold Cup without having tasted a Grade 1 victory and all 125 have been beaten (14 managed to place).

The last horse to win a Gold Cup without already having a G1 on their CV was COOL DAWN in 1998.

There are very limited opportunities between now and the Gold Cup for Royale Pagaille to rectify that situation. Breaking your Grade 1 duck in the Gold Cup has proven a serious stumbling block in recent times.


Only two of the 67 horses to try and win a Gold Cup when moving up from Handicap company last time out have been successful

The last one to successfully make the transition from a Handicap to Gold Cup winner was BOBS WORTH in 2013 and in fairness his Handicap was the Hennessy Gold Cup, which he won from the lofty perch of OR 160. That was also, at the time, his only handicap start after having spent his Novice Chase campaign in G1 & G2 company.

The other horse in in the past 20-odd years to make the Handicap to Gold Cup transition? Yep, you guessed it…COOL DAWN!

As things stand ROYALE PAGAILLE will need to overturn both those race trends if he is to become the 2021 Gold Cup champion. 

Not impossible and still time to get another race in somewhere to knock off one or both of those trends…but it’s certainly something to consider in the wider picture.

If Royale Pagaille went straight to the Gold Cup from here he’d be doing something that very few have managed to do in recent times (Break G1 duck and/or win off the back of a handicap start last time out).

Can Royale Pagaille do what 125 previous horses have failed to do?


2. BUVEUR D’AIR got turned over on his return to action…

The former Champion Hurdler made his return to action on Saturday after 420 days off the track and on paper it looked a simple enough opening…a three runner field against lesser rated rivals and receiving weight from both his opponents…

As it transpired it was anything but simple and he just couldn’t muster anywhere near enough oomph to glide past the 149-rated NAVAJO PASS down the Haydock home-straight. 

Reasons to be worried about what level of ability the 10yo still holds? Maybe, but looking at the stats tells us these types rarely deliver for Nicky Henderson, and by ‘these types’ I mean…

Nicky Henderson horses in Class 1 races returning off breaks of 300-days or more

…with the record of his horses under those conditions now reading…

4/64 | 6% S/R | -ยฃ33.37 LSP – W&P 21/64 | 33% S/R

55% below exp

*in a strange turn of events CRAIGNEICHE, who was also a qualifier on the above angle, won the G3 handicap at Ascot on Saturday, although given that was only his 4th career start and first in a handicap off a lowly OR 127 I think we can safely assume there were different plans for him over Buveur D’Air!

So with those stats in mind can we maybe give Buveur D’Air a pass mark for his effort on Saturday? Well, yes, probably.

But how do those types fair on their next run, especially when that next run is also at Class 1 level (which we can assume will be the case for Buveur D’Air)?

Here’s what the stats say…

N Henderson | Class 1 races | horse’s last run was at C1 level off a break of 300+ days

2/43 | 4.5% S/R | -ยฃ36.37 BFLSP – W&P 14/43 | 33% S/R

70% below exp

Hmmm…also not great, especially not on the win front…

No horse should be written off after one below par effort but it has to be said the stats don’t look great for those Class 1 long-term Henderson absentees…

Will Buveur D’air manage to recapture his old sparkle?


3. Nick Alexander is building some strong Handicap stats at Musselburgh…

Away from the main Saturday meetings, Friday’s sole surviving National Hunt meeting at Musselburgh provided some much needed action north of the border.

Amongst the winners was BROADWAY JOE from the Nick Alexander yard, with that horse fitting the following angle I had plugged into my Proform database

N Alexander | Musselburgh NH Handicaps | DSLR 45 or less | SP 8/1 or less

15/44 | 34% S/R | +ยฃ50.22 BFLSP โ€“ W&P 25/44 | 57% S/R

87% above expectation

You are much more likely to catch a Nick Alexander winner at Musselburgh in handicap company than in non-handicap company (2/42 (5% S/R) in non-handicaps compared to 16/120 (13% S/R) in handicaps) and the majority of those handicap winners can be found in the highlighted angle above, indeed the last 11 qualifiers on the angle have returned the following form line… 1212F122711.

An angle that is well worth keeping on your radar…

Keep an eye open for those Alexander Handicappers at Musselburgh…

Before I go, some more info on David Punshon’s All-Weather service, which I will be helping to run over the coming weeks/months…

First up, many thanks for all the comments and emails regarding Dave’s work and analysis, it’s fantastic to hear so many of you enjoying the content.

It won’t be for everyone but both Dave and I are more than comfortable with that.

The All-Weather service will not in any way be a simple ‘bet on horse x, y and z and you get nothing else for your money’ type of service, if you are after this type of service then please donโ€™t sign up when the doors open, you will almost certainly be disappointed.  Dave aims to provide content that will interest and hopefully help people with their A/W betting and if he feels the race is worthy of a selection he will certainly say so, but he wonโ€™t just put up something that he himself is not willing to bet. 

The content Dave has already provided here on NTF is an excellent indicator of what the service will be about, with some extra bells and whistles to go along with the main analysis (albeit I feel the term bells and whistles really doesn’t do Dave’s work justice!!).

Dave and I are currently sorting the finer details of the service but both he and I are excited to get it started and get the show on the road…

As always I will keep everyone informed in due course, with the best place to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the news being the FREE NTF mailing list…

>>>sign-up to the free NTF mailing list here

Cheers – BEN (NTF)

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24 responses to “What we learned from the weekend: 22nd & 23rd January…”

  1. Will Royal Pagaille even go for the Gold Cup?

    He looks nailed on for the National Hunt Chase for me and as a novice, that’s where I would be going with him.

    Re Buveur D’Air to my eyes, he travelled well throughout the race, readilly accounting for a solid yardstick in Ballyandy before lack of fitness took it’s toll against a better horse on the day (who jumped with absolute precision, as Matt Champman went into hyperbolic overdrive about!)

    Was it a Champion Hurdle winning performance? Absolutely not. But at 22/1 for a trainer who sent out the likes of Punjabi and My Tent or Yours in CH’s, he looks a cracking e/w bet.

    • Hi Peter

      Yeah. options certainly open for Royale Pag, I guess it depends on where Rich Ricci wants to go…

      As for Buveur D…yeah, I could see him fighting it out for a place in the Champion, for sure. Travelled well on Saturday, just depends if his finishing effort was due to fitness or that he doesn’t want to go through the ‘pain barrier’ anymore when push comes to shove (for all there wasn’t too much pushing and shoving from the saddle in the last couple furlongs!!).

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  2. A bit of boasting here as I backed Royal Pagaille at 50/1 non runner no bet on Betfair sportsbook after Paul Kealy tipped it up in the Weekender.

    I think that I should lay some back now after reading those stats but a nice problem to have.
    I had exactly the same bet with Clan des Obeaux before his first King George and look where that got me !!!!!!!!

  3. The stats are certainly damning but Royal Pagaille travels , jumps low & quick , appears to stay & with 11 starts over fences has the experience . A tough call but sometimes you only get one chance & I would be Gold Cup bound if he were mine

    • Hi Ally

      Yes, no doubt the horse has plenty in his favour and his French form certainly give shim that added bit of experience.

      Coneygree would be the perfect recent example of you sometimes only get one crack at a Gold Cup…so yes, you would have to think the Gold Cup is firmly near the front of their minds. A few options they could head down come March though…

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

      • I would never run, just look at conygree, heโ€™s shot to bits, injured all the time, heโ€™s never right, that GC he won has ruined his career in racing.

  4. COOL DAWN! also pulled up on his last start in a ‘cap. Like Frodon he won the Gold Cup in front jumping ‘the wrong way’ stopping Strong Promise and Doran’s Pride getting in an attack much like Frodon in King George.

    • Yes! Cool Dawn, Pulled up in a handicap before taking the Gold Cup and then pulled up on 3 of his final 4 starts after the Gold Cup!?!

      One of life’s great mysteries…๐Ÿ˜‚

      Ben (NTF)

      • Not a mystery, itโ€™s proven, the Gold Cup ruins novices to the point that they never fulfil their true potential after it.

        • Hi Darren

          It’s a mystery as to how he managed to win a Gold Cup in the first place is what I was saying. Plus Cool Dawn wasn’t a Novice when he won the Gold Cup…

          Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  5. Hi Ben. Hope you enjoyed your Butteries?

    I have been following your Jan horses with some success 1 running tonight. Are these to be followed thru FEB ? If not do you have a follow up list? ie for March April.

    Great reading as ever.

    Mike, Fife.

    • Butteries scoffed in record time thanks Mike. Eagerly awaiting the next shipment from up north…

      What horses to follow are you thinking about? Was it the link to Matt Bisogno’s All-Weather horses by any chance?

      Cheers and hope all is well in the Kingdom ๐Ÿ‘

      Ben (NTF)

      • No it was the Andrew Mounts list I think, for horses that win in Jan Jumps and flat.
        Winners, Petite Ganach, 10s, Star Assending 14s. etc. Looking if there is any for Feb,March, April.?

        Cheers again.


        • Hi Michael

          Ah, OK, you’d need to check Andrew’s Twitter feed or the twitter feed for that.

          Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  6. The average OR of Saturday’s race was 141. For a Gold Cup winner coming from a race of that quality you’d have to go back to……….you’ve guessed it! I was at Cheltenham the day Cool Dawn won and I backed it at 33’s. I can’t recall why I backed it, fastish ground possibly, but I will never forget the hangover at work on the Friday morning. Like Peter above, I cannot see them going the Gold Cup route this year but best of luck to Gary with his 50/1 voucher!

    • Bloody Cool Dawn! Turns stats on their heads left, right and centre that day ๐Ÿ˜‚

      Yes, a few options for Royale Pag…but I suppose if the Gold Cup cuts up for any reason, and I guess travelling due to Covid could still become an issue, then you’d have to think they’d be tempted by the Gold Cup this year…

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  7. Brilliant reporting and how you think Royal Pagaille is in with a good chance for the gold cup, and so do I think he’s capable after that performance he showed. Yep, I’ll have a slice of that at 8/1. Pity I didn’t get him a 50/1anyway, can’t moan, still a good price at Befair. Money back for a non runner. Great stats Ben ๐Ÿ™‚
    Themanhimself Ed!

    • Hi Ed

      Well as things stand I don’t think I’d be backing him for the race this year. Still time for things to change of course and stats can and will be broken, but I’d personally just want a G1 on his CV before the Gold Cup…

      Cheers and best of luck – Ben (NTF)

    • Hi Simon

      Yes, I’d be pretty sure he was the last Novice that lined up in the Gold Cup. He did have a G1 already on his CV though (and 4 G2’s).

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  8. Just looking at Cool Dawn’s win in the 98 GC again and it seems to me that it was pretty much down to not being hassled for the lead. With a stronger pace surely Doran’s Pride would’ve run him down?

    CD wasn’t a G1 winner but he had previously placed third in the Irish National in 96 (with Jodami second).

    Also See More Business was carried out in the GC that year; clearly that was a great help.


    • Hi JJ

      Yes, taking nothing away from Cool Dawn but See More Business being carried out early(ish) certainly helped matters ever so slightly…

      I generally blame the See More B incident for screwing up the trends for that renewal…๐Ÿ˜ฃ๐Ÿ˜‚

      Ben (NTF)

      • Hi Ben

        I think you’re right about SMB; an old friend from university had backed him at some tasty prices for that renewal so the air was blue when he was carried out! How it goes sometimes.


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