I would say that was a pretty decent Hennessy we witnessed at the weekend. Wouldn’t you?
Apart from the fact it was great to see Oliver Sherwood back in the big time with MANY CLOUDS it was also, in my opinion, a race that should throw up plenty of future winners. Unusually for a race of that stature I would think there were a few in there that had their sights set on other lucrative targets. As such it’s definitely beneficial to take a dig through the beaten horses and looking at them from a future targets perspective.
One that I’m pretty sure was ‘in it to win it’ but realistically didn’t have the chance the market suggested was the fav DJAKADAM and he forms part of my thinking behind the opening ‘What we learned from the weekend‘ thoughts…
What we learned from the weekend: 29th & 30th November…
1. Willie Mullins has serious problems with his UK handicap raiders…
Away from Cheltenham that is.
DJAKADAM, the well-fancied 5-1 fav for the Hennessy Gold Cup, was just another in a long line of misfiring Willie Mullins UK handicappers away from Prestbury Park.
Take a guess at the last handicap winner Mullins had in the UK outside of Cheltenham. Go on, have a think.
I’ll tell you. It was none other than HEDGEHUNTER in the 2005 Aintree Grand National!! Yeah, crazy isn’t it? That’s so long ago I wasn’t even married! Hell I wasn’t even going out with Mrs NTF then!
Since Hedgehunter won that National Willie Mullins has trained 61 (yes, SIXTY ONE!) consecutive losers in UK handicaps away from Cheltenham.
In that time I’ve…
Gotten married, bought and sold a house and then bought another one, moved from Aberdeen to Kirkcaldy to Birstall, acquired four retired greyhounds, written a book and had it published and started NTF!! (I’ve done other things, obviously, but you get the picture!).
Mullins poor record is conveniently disguised by his Cheltenham dominance although even then the handicap stats are not great as he has ‘only’ saddled 5 Cheltenham Handicap winners in that time-frame.
Still, the hard facts are that Willie Mullins has not trained a winner of a UK handicap (away from Cheltenham) for the past NINE YEARS!
Here are the actual figures…
Willie Mullins UK Handicappers (away from Cheltenham) since the beginning of 2006
0/60 | 0% S/R -£60.00 BFLSP – Win & Place 7/60 | 12% S/R
That is quite a record for a trainer of his stature.
But people keep backing his handicappers. Djakadam was well-touted for the Hennessy on Saturday. There were plenty of strong words for the horse and the word from Mullins himself was that he expected the horse to win.
The stats fully suggested otherwise.
The stats were right and Djakadam continued that miserable handicap record.
0/60 in the last nine years. Wow! Some may even say “Faugheen hell that’s crazy”! (That’s me, I say that).
I was so taken aback by those stats that I’ve checked at least 20 times to make sure they are correct. Unless I’ve completely forgotten how to use a database then those figures are indeed correct.
Are his handicappers coming over here only half-cocked? Are they all poorly handicapped? Is he just targeting the wrong horses at the wrong races?
Not really easy to determine the exact cause but then again you don’t always have to know the exact cause, sometimes you just need to know it is happening and take it into consideration before getting the hard-earned down.
Sometimes a Willie is a handicap in itself…
2. Jonjo finished off a poor month with a mis-firing stable star…
November was an average month, in winners to runners terms, for Jonjo O’Neill.
I’m sure that would have all been shrugged off, however, had stable star and reigning World Hurdle champion MORE OF THAT cemented his staying hurdler crown with victory in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.
As the form books now show that did not happen. Not only did it not happen, it didn’t happen by 25 lengths. Ouch.
As mentioned, however, O’Neill’s runners had been in the doldrums a little last month so we maybe shouldn’t read too much into the downing of the staying hurdle champ.
His overall stats for November read…
4/61 | 6.5% S/R | -£17.22 BFLSP – Win & Place 20/61 | 33% S/R – 38% below expectation
Is that, however, anything to be concerned about?
Well yes and no to be honest.
If we look at the past five seasons we see his strike-rates for November were…
2009 – 16/116 | 14% S/R
2010 – 16/96 | 17% S/R
2011 – 15/105 | 14% S/R
2012 – 4/84 | 5% S/R
2013 – 15/108 | 14% S/R
Generally he has been turning in 15 or 16 winners at around a 14% S/R in November. Except in 2012, where he fired in four, for a paltry 5% S/R, not too dissimilar to this season in fact.
In the December of 2012 he followed up that poor November with a fit and firing 13 winners from 75 runners for a healthy 17% S/R. Essentially he bounced back in fine style from his sub-par November effort. He also pulled in a £63.95 profit to Betfair SP. There is obviously no guarantee that will happen again this year but it does at least give an indication that the slow month may not be anything to worry about as he has recovered from a ‘slump’ without any bother in the past, in the very recent past no less. Hell it may not even be a slump, he may just be taking his time this season and looking at the bigger and longer picture.
Could that indeed be what he is doing with MORE OF THAT? At the end of the day they were taking on two race-fit rivals in the shape of MEDINAS and COLE HARDEN and, based solely on the TV pictures (and remember the camera does add at least 10lbs!!), Jonjo’s horse did look as big as a bull for his seasonal return. He may well have grown a shade over the summer or, perhaps more likely, he just needed the run to shed some of the excess pounds he put on during his summer long break to Croatia (that’s where all the cool kids go these days, innit?!).
Personally I would like to see MORE OF THAT go chasing now. He looks made for the chasing game to these eyes. Yes, I’m sure he has plenty more hurdle races in him but by god I’m sure as sure can be he would be a monster over the larger obstacles. Unfortunately it looks like they have their minds set on another campaign over timber…
Don’t be put off by Jonjo’s average November, he’s bounced back from similar spells in the past.
3. The Tizzard string are FINALLY hitting form…
October was a miserable time for Colin Tizzard followers.
His figures were a crushingly poor 1/33 (3% S/R).
Indeed his figures since the start of the 2014/15 season in May until the end of October were a rather worrying 1/59 (1.5% S/R). OOF!
There were definite signs of life through November, however, and then on Saturday it all clicked!
Three sent up to Newcastle and all three won!
Native Road – 10/1
Hey Big Spender 12/1
Kingfisher Creek 6/1
All expertly ridden by Brendan Powell. It was quite a day in the North-East for the duo!
That gave November figures of…
8/39 | 21% S/R
That’s more like it!
They didn’t have any runners on Sunday but they sent two to Plumpton on Monday and picked up another winner; Dusky Lark, this time ridden by Daryl Jacob.
The yard clearly weren’t quite right in the early part of the season and just were not firing on all cylinders. Whatever the reason for that seems to be fully rectified now and it’s worth keeping an eye on team Tizzard going on from this.
Expect some more Tizzard winners in the coming weeks as they make up for the slow start.
Cheers and Happy Punting – Ben (NTF)
Figures sourced from the excellent Proform Database