horse racing

What we learned from the weekend: 25th, 26th & 27th January…


Cheltenham trials day served up it’s usual splash of movers and shakers for the festival itself, with a few more cards being played over the Prestbury Park undulations, some hinting at a strong hand whilst others revealed they were probably playing with a busted flush from some way out.

Here is my take on the weekend action that’s just entered the form book, in the latest installment of… 

What we learned from the weekend: 25th, 26th & 27th January…

1. FRODON put himself bang in the Gold Cup picture…

…or did he?

Has there has been a horse/performance from the weekend just past that has split opinion more?

Ryanair or Gold Cup? Gold Cup or Ryanair?

Paul Nicholls has firmly stated that’s it’s the Gold Cup route he is going down but that hasn’t stopped the questions…

Will he or won’t he stay the Gold Cup trip seems to be the question on most punters lips but for me I think there’s a more important question at play…

Is FRODON actually a Grade 1 horse?

From what we have seen from him so far at the highest level the answer is a categorical NO.

His five starts in Grade 1’s have returned the following form line…

8-F-5-3-5 (0/5, 0p)

In those 4 completed starts he’s been beaten 17L, 46L, 18L & 37L, hardly a suggestion that he’s a Grade 1 player, let alone a Gold Cup winner in waiting.

It has to be said, however, that those five Grade 1 starts all came before this season and during last summer the 7yo did undergo a wind-op, something that has, based on what we’ve seen so far in his 4 starts this term, improved him. Well maybe not ‘improved’ him but it’s certainly provided a strong level of consistency to his form, three wins and a second in four high-quality races is testament to that.

If his wind was the issue with him bridging the gap to the top of the tree then the Gold Cup will tell us more.

However, there are other issues for me, with regards to his Gold Cup credentials…

19 of the last 20 Gold Cup winners had all previous WON at G1 level prior to winning their Gold Cup

The last horse to grab the Gold Cup without a prior G1 victory on their CV was Cool Dawn.

In the past 20 years horses lining up in the Gold Cup without a previous G1 victory to their name are…

1/129 | 0.75% S/R | -£103 LSP – W&P 14/129 | 11% S/R – 83% below expectation

The Gold Cup is not really the place to be breaking your G1 duck! Frodon, as we know, goes to the Gold Cup with a G1 victory on his CV…

To pour further cold water on Frodon’s Gold Cup chances…

19 of the last 20 Gold Cup winners had no more than 20 (UK) career starts prior to landing their Gold Cup

Horses with 21+ career starts are…

1/94 | 1% S/R | -£90.75 LSP – W&P 11/94 | 12% S/R – 83% below expectation

Frodon has already been to the racetrack 25 times (in the UK).

This is all before you factor in that only one horse has managed to do the Cotswold Chase/Gold Cup double (in the same year) in the past 20 (Looks Like Trouble).

As I said at the start, it’s not really about whether or not he stays the trip, it’s whether or not he’s good enough to WIN the race, that’s the starting point. He deserves a shot at the prize, that’s unquestionable, but is he good enough and can he stick two fingers up at those strong trends?

For now I’d be in the NO camp…

The stats are stacked against Frodon and potential Gold Cup glory…


2. It’s always worth keeping an eye on the Brennan/O’Brien runners at Cheltenham…

It’s no secret that the Paddy Brennan/Fergal O’Brien partnership are a team worth keeping on the radar, a fact that was exemplified in no uncertain terms when Brennan worked his magic on BENNY’S BRIDGE in the closing Handicap Hurdle on Saturday.

The pair love to have winners at Cheltenham and their overall record at the track since the start of 2015 makes for tasty reading…

12/69 | 17% S/R | +£44.38 LSP – W&P 27/69 | 39% S/R – 44% above expectation

Not too shabby at all…but with just a little digging those figures can be super-charged.

Check out the following mini-angle…

(since 2015) O’Brien/Brennan| Cheltenham | Listed level or below (race worth less than 18k to winner) |DSLR 90 or less

Which returns the following…

9/28 | 32% S/R |+£63.88 LSP – W&P 15/28 | 54% S/R – 116% above expectation

A mini-angle well worth keeping in your back pocket.

Keep those Brennan/O’Brien runners firmly in mind at Cheltenham…


3. It’s almost impossible to go against Willie Mullins runners in beginners chases at Fairyhouse…

…under certain circumstances, anyway.

I was acutely aware of this angle prior to REAL STEEL’s wide margin victory in the opener at Fairyhouse on Saturday but even I was shocked by quite how strong the stats are once I really started digging into it.

I’ll let the stats do the talking…

(since 2014) Mullins runners in Beginners chasers at Fairyhouse| SP less than 3-1 | 1 or 2 previous chase starts

…which returns the following rather startling form line…


14/16 | 88% S/R | +£15.19 BFLSP

The angle had a 100% record in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018 and is currently 100% (1/1) in 2019.

It’s not going to make you rich but damn those are some set of figures.

Don’t mess with Willie Mullins in Fairyhouse beginners chases…

Ben (NTF)

p.s. I’m continuing to build up my Cheltenham Festival stats behind the scenes and I’ll shortly be providing the FREE NTF list with the first of my FREE Festival Guides.

Make sure you don’t miss out on the action by hooking up today…

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14 responses to “What we learned from the weekend: 25th, 26th & 27th January…”

  1. Not sure i would want to follow O’Brien/ Brennan combination any where. You certainly have found a past niche and they got a winner Saturday at Cheltenham. However,this is a stable on the decline, having problems or rebuilding. This season O’Brien has had only 33 winners (only 2 in Jan )and are firing at 11%.
    Brennan is a different character. I know somebody who has decent national hunt horses( had a runner in gold cup) He would never put Brennan on one of his,claims he is aloof and difficult. He also believes he sits too far back on horses in the saddle not just in the race.. Its funny the Rooneys have horses in the O’Brien stable but would never have Brennan on them if they can get somebody else to ride. He has also had a lot of stables and picks up very few outside rides in decent stablea apart from the odd ones with George and very occasionally with Tizzard. Be careful with him.

    • Hi

      Not sure they are on decline, they’ve already had the same amount of winners as they had for the full season in 2015/16 and there is still plenty time to get near their total from the last couple years (60 both seasons). They may not quite get there but I wouldn’t have them in decline just yet.

      Shame the Rooney’s don’t use Brennan more as he actually fires above expectation on their horses (in past 6 years), although you are correct, they have hardly used him the past 12 months or so.

      Brennan in the saddle wouldn’t personally put me off. As for his character, I couldn’t really comment as I’ve never met him.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

      • Great stats Ben, as usual.

        I would stay away from these two At the festival itself,
        my figures for
        those two together are 9-0.
        Paddy’s not rode a winner at the festival in over 8 years.
        Obrien not had a winner in 19 attempts.

        • Thanks Ian

          Yes, different matter for Brennan/O’Brien at Festival but the 18k or less filter will mean there are no qualifiers on the angle in March anyway so all good on that front.

          Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  2. Hi Ben,
    Just wanna throw my tuppence into Frodon.
    I think Nichols is plain wrong, Frodon simply will NOT stay the Gold Cup trip.
    Saturday’s race was not run at a break-neck pace on the first circuit as the Gold Cup will be.
    Yet, even so, Frodon was clearly out of gas coming up tht hill.
    Add to that very little form over 3 miles, this was only his third run over that trip, I believe, AND his excellent form credentials over 21/2miles makes the Ryanair obvious.
    At less so to me.
    So, what’s the one fly in the soup?
    Seem to recall you being equally emphatic abkout the chances of a certain Native River.
    Hmm, now what was the outcome again…?
    Keep up the great work Ben.

    • Hi David

      I don’t think he won’t stay the Gold Cup trip but he will find it tricky to dominate the race, if most of the main players turn up, and that in itself will put serious strain on his stamina. He may have a better chance of dominating a Ryanair field from the front, so on that angle alone that may be the ‘better’ option. Albeit I have no issue with him heading down the Gold Cup route, worth a crack.

      As for Native River…you gotta stick your neck out plenty in this game, by doing that you’ll get plenty wrong as well as right! I’m comfortable with that notion, that’s just life, I’m not scared of being wrong 😁

      Cheers and thanks for taking the time to comment

      Ben (NTF)

  3. Hi Ben,

    Great column as always.

    I’m in the NO camp with Frodon I really like the horse but he’s just a notch below top class. When running these handicaps he can dominate against inferior horses that struggle with his front running style. In Grade 1 company the opposition can easily cope with his tactics and I could see native river et al having him in trouble before the stamina element even comes into play going championship pace.

    The Ryanair would look to be the better option but again the above thoughts apply.

    • Thanks Ian, much appreciated.

      I’d be agreeing with you in that he just slides a shade below the top level and he won’t be able to out-hustle the likes of Native River and co off the front end, they could have him broken long before stamina comes into play, I agree.

      Ryanair all depends on who goes there (never that clear at this stage) but he would probably have a better chance of taking some out of their comfort zones in that but ultimately the better horses will probably just saunter past him coming down the hill for the final time.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  4. The frodon debate is a simple one for me The horse is an improve’er This season and that is down to the wind op every horse will get every trip it just about the time it takes them to do it everyone was willing to accept Elegant Escape as a possible Gold Cup horse yet Frodon beat that horse giving weight over the same Gold Cup trip given the rail placements so Nicholls is correct he is definitely a Gold Cup Horse that is the first point out of the way the 2nd is could he win a Gold Cup and that is an unknown but should the ground be good on the day then he could be if it was softer then maybe not the horse runs best when he is allowed to dictate and that would be the most important point for me if they left him alone on the front setting his own pace he could be a player on good ground but ha has yet to prove he is a G1 horse and Nicholls has one such horse in the yard and if he believes he has another in Frodon then i wouldn’t doubt him he is also a man who has had two Gold Cup winners in his yard at the same time so if Frodon lines up with his conditions he could be a decent e/way bet but again Nicholls wouldn’t run a horse in the wrong race if he believed he could win another G1 with him so let the trainer guide you but with NRNB in Action on these races you would be daft not to hedge your bet and take the odds available now before the horse is confirmed as a starter for either

    • Hi Bob

      The pace angle is a definite fly in the ointment for Frodon as the chances are he would have company on the front end in the Gold Cup, with Native River surely looking to occupy that position.

      He’ll add spice to the Gold Cup field though, no doubt about that.

      Ben (NTF)

  5. Look, I don’t think Frodon will win the Gold Cup either but at seven years old one has to give it a go and what a wonderful story it is.Both he and Bryony Frost have lit up this NH season and you never know horseracing has a habit of throwing up fairy stories and this could be another one.

    • Hi John

      I agree he deserves to go for the race, if you’re not in it you can’t win it and all that, and yes, it would be a superb story for the sport. However, an easy way to harm you’re betting bank is to back the potential stories!!

      I’m a fan of the horse, absolutely love him, but from a punting perspective, as things stand, I can’t see myself backing him in the big one.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  6. Regarding Benny’s Bridge on Saturday, the horse is a 113 rated bumper horse, I think in time we’ll see he’s a bit better than his opening OR of 120, now up 6lbs and he’ll improve for stepping up in trip as well. The stiff new course at Cheltenham would have suited him very well also. One to keep an eye on I would think.

    • Hi Steven

      Yeah he was sneaking in on a very lenient mark on Saturday and 6lbs raise looks pretty light. Think they will be entering him in the Supreme (as well as some handicaps) so they obviously have high hopes for the horse…

      Ben (NTF)

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