horse racing

What we learned from the weekend: 6th & 7th February…

Bristol De Mai put in another exemplary round of jumping over the larger obstacles.

Another step closer to the Cheltenham Festival and a few more bubbles popping, or at least momentarily deflating, after some high-octane weekend action.

Yes we are well and truly into that stage of the season and there were some serious festival players not quite doing the business at the weekend. The main perpetrators this time around being Ivanovich Gorbatov, Bellshill, On The Fringe, Road To Riches and Peace And Co, who all failed to justify cramped odds in their respective races whilst at the same time doing some serious damage to their Cheltenham Festival odds.

It’s all part and parcel of the game though and they haven’t irreversibly damaged their festival hopes (well maybe Peace And Co has!), just briefly let some wind out of their sails.

The weekend wasn’t only about those shorties getting turned over though, far from it, and there was plenty going on up and down the country to tickle our National Hunt taste buds, so here’s my sideways swipe on the jumping action in this week’s ‘What we learned from the weekend‘ post…


What we learned from the weekend: 6th & 7th February… 


1. BRISTOL DE MAI is probably even better than the bare form suggests…

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ 5yo fired in another round of exemplary jumping on his way to landing his first Chasing G1 at the weekend, landing the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase by a comfortable 6 lengths.

It was his 4th chasing victory from six starts and his third victory in a row at the 2m4f trip, a trip he is currently unbeaten at.

It’s not hard to come to the conclusion this was his most impressive performance to date, both visually and in respect to the horses he beat, but that wasn’t what stood out the most for me.

Pre-race I had noted the terrible record of the Twiston-Davies string at Sandown.

Since 2010 they had the following abysmally poor stats…

1/57 | 2% S/R | -£54.58 BFLSP – 82% below expectations

It should also be noted that the NTD chasers were 0/32 over the Sandown fences in the same period.

For some reason the Twiston-Davies string really were not acting around the demanding track. It’s not always abundantly clear why certain trainers runners fail to act as well at certain tracks but it happens all the time and Sandown had very much been a ‘blind spot’ for the NTD string in recent seasons, they had consistently underperformed.

When I see stats like that get ‘busted’ (for use of a better word) I take notice. It was a big negative for Bristol De Mai to overcome, but overcome it he did and he did with style.

It says plenty about this horse’s class that he was able to win so comfortably at a track that previously hadn’t suited the yards horses, and to me that makes the performance all that much better.

It’s clear NTD has a serious horse on his hands here, one that’s won six of his 13 starts including two G1’s and a G2, and he deserves to be talked about as a serious Cheltenham festival contender.

He’s currently entered in the JLT Novices’ Chase and the RSA Chase although it sounds like he’s very much being targeted at the shorter of the two (JLT) and that, to me, looks a very sensible option.

On the Dosage front he wouldn’t be a negative for the RSA Chase but he also wouldn’t be a positive. That race very much suits those with serious lashings of stamina in their pedigree and that’s not really Bristol De Mai’s strong suit, for all that he may well stay 3m+ trips in the future.

The JLT Chase is still in it’s infancy with only five previous renewals so it’s not one that I’m able to get a serious grip on from a Dosage, or indeed trends, perspective, however, Bristol De Mai has almost identical Dosage figures to the last four winners of the race, figures I would be expecting for a race of this nature based on similar races over C&D, and for me he looks a prime fit on the tentative trends I’m beginning to draw up for the race.

Only five renewals are not really enough to make a concrete assessment on the race from a Dosage perspective but even in these early days a trend is beginning to take shape and Bristol De Mai would very much fit that trend.

The JLT is definitely the correct race for him and I would be extremely disappointed should they not go down that route.

I do have one small (very small) quibble over the horse and that’s the fact that the two times he’s bumped into an equally exciting horse he’s been beaten (Garde La Victoire & Ar Mad) and beaten comfortably. In his defence they were both over the 2m trip and he’s clearly considerably better over the 2m4f trip, probably at least 10lbs better.

Make no mistake NTD has a serious horse on his hands in BDM.


2. The Gold Cup winner almost certainly wasn’t contesting the Irish (Hennessy) Gold Cup on Saturday…

The newly named ‘Irish Gold Cup’ was, in equal parts, a confusing, gripping, frustrating and unbelievable affair!

It’s never been the best trial for the Gold Cup anyway and none of the last 19 winners of the race have gone on to capture the Gold Cup itself; there’s a very good chance Carlingford Lough will make that none of the last 20, main reason being that the demanding fences take their toll on him at Prestbury Park, based on his previous two starts at the track.

Not only have none of the last 19 winners of the race gone on to do the Gold Cup double but only ONE of the previous 19 Gold Cup winners have even run in the Irish Hennessy that season before going on to win at Cheltenham (Lord Windermere – 2014).

For me Valseur Lido should really have won on Saturday. He was cruising coming to the last and Ruby had yet to press any buttons on him. If he had jumped that fence cleanly he would have won, hands down. But he didn’t jump it cleanly and he didn’t win. End of.

Even if he had won I couldn’t have him as a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner as his Dosage figures are completely wrong for the race.

Hot fav Road To Riches, who was being talked of as a lively Gold Cup outsider in plenty of places, ran a very odd race on Saturday and it’s probably a miracle he even managed to finish second in the end (helped no end by the departure of Valseur Lido). For me he’s a shade below the top of the tree players at 3 miles anyway, as proven by his third placed finish in last seasons Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup. That’s as good as he is in my eyes.

Third placed Fine Rightly ran a blinder at lofty odds…or did he? He actually just equalled his best chase mark, which he has run to on each of last three starts. He ran to form basically, which doesn’t bode well for those in behind him.

Foxrock (4th) doesn’t travel well (as in actually travel, not travel in his races, which he does well enough).

Gilgamboa (5th) probably doesn’t stay 3 miles.

…and I won’t bother talking about the others and their Gold Cup ‘hopes’!

I’d be shocked if this race turned out to have any bearing on the Gold Cup in March.

As is often the case it’s the Christmas G1’s that we should be looking towards for Gold Cup clues (King George & Lexus) with 11 of the last 15 Gold Cup winners finishing in the top 2 of that years King George or Lexus (14/15 at least ran in that seasons King George or Lexus).


OK that actually leaves us with CUE CARD, VAUTOUR, & DON POLI!!!

An argument could be made to give DON COSSACK a free pass into that little group as well (obviously he didn’t officially finish in the top 2 but as I said an argument could be constructed…maybe…).

The Irish (Hennessy) Gold Cup was a fair old race but once again it’s unlikely to provide us with the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner…


3. LE REVE proved he’s a bit of a demon when he gets his prime conditions…

…and boy did he have his prime conditions on Saturday at Sandown.

His form had been a bit in and out on his four previous runs this term but that was no surprise as he is a horse that needs a certain set of conditions to be at his best.

Those conditions are…

Right-Hand flat or slightly undulating tracks

Good to Soft or Soft ground

Fields of 10 or less runners

Class 2 level or below

2m3f – 3m trips

Prior to Saturday he only had those conditions once before this season and that’s when he finished a solid second behind the clearly well-handicapped Kruzhlinin. A horse who had also been rejuvenated for the switch to Philip Hobbs.

When you look at his form under only the conditions highlighted above you get the following form line…


That’s ALL six of his career wins from only 33% of his career starts. When meeting with the conditions described above he’s yet to finish out of the first two. That’s a trend horse if every I’ve seen one!

For me the most important angle of the lot is a right-handed track.

That’s backed up by his form line when racing on left-handed tracks…


The closest he has finished has been a 17 length 10th (when racing left-handed).

He’ll most likely get put up to a career mark for this latest win, and that brings it’s own questions, but as long as he’s going right-handed he should run his race (even if not all the other conditions highlighted above are met).

So suitable targets going forward from this?

BetBright Chase at Kempton – Irish National at Fairyhouse – Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown…

Sure he won’t get all his favourite conditions met but he’ll be going right-handed and he’ll be able to give his all going his preferred way round.

Un-suitable targets for him?

The Aintree Grand National for one.

Except that is indeed the plan!

Trainer Lucy Wadham stated on Sunday that “Le Reve is back on track. The Grand National dream is still alive and I think that’s where we are looking at going. That will probably be it now and I would think we will wait for the National.

One major, glaring problem with that though… Aintree is LEFT-HANDED!

And I’ll just highlight that left-handed track form again…

4-U-U-3-P-P-0-6 – never nearer than a 17 length 10th!

In fact if you look at the prime condition I highlighted for LE REVE he probably won’t be meeting with any of them at Aintree in the spring, except maybe the ground conditions.

Hmmmmm, I reckon there could be better plans for this likeable horse…

Irish National over Aintree National would surely be a better target for Le Reve?


FREE Cheltenham Festival trends guide…


With the 2016 Cheltenham Festival just over a month away I’ll shortly be releasing a FREE Cheltenham trends guide to all members of the FREE NTF list.

My ‘Fifteen essential Cheltenham Festival trends you NEED to know‘ guide is a must read for anyone that’s serious about making a profit at this years meeting.

It won’t be your standard trends and it won’t be information that’s readily available in the open market so you won’t want to miss this.

If you’re already a member of the FREE NTF list then rest easy, you will definitely be getting the guide.

If you are not yet a member of the FREE NTF list then pop your details in the box below and you will be guaranteed a copy when it’s released…

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Cheltenham 2016. It’s almost here…


Ben – NTF


Stats sourced from the excellent Proform Database

Proform Racing | The professional Formbook


8 responses to “What we learned from the weekend: 6th & 7th February…”

  1. I’m still spewing about Le Reve on Saturday. I’d had a decent ew bet in the skybet at Donny (5 places so as all good each bets do he finishes 6th). On the basis that I thought he would see out the trip better than most on what looked a fair bit slower than the good ground described.

    Kicking myself now I see your stats about going right handed etc etc!!!

    • Hi Ian

      Probably wasn’t a bad run for him, all considered, at Doncaster.

      Just needs those RH tracks to fully show his best…

      Ben (NTF)

  2. bristol de mai is one of my fav novice chasers this season,there was no shame in his 2nd to ar mad as that horse i believe is top class going right handed over 2 miles and also first time out he was 2nd to garde la victoire.

    my only concern regarding cheltenham is the ground,i tend to agree with the jockey that he is versatile but better the heavier i think on heavy or very soft hes going to be top class around 2m4f trip in future seasons ,but is more vulnerable on good ground.

    also the jlt stats ive read somewhere is course form is important and he as yet to run at the track.the ground though for me is the major factor imo,if we did get a soft ground festival than i cant think i’d really bet against him but good ground my gut feeling he will find at least one too good

    • Hi Rob

      Very much agree on the AR MAD point, all being well he should be a major force over 2 miles for the next few seasons, he has fired in some big figures already over fences.

      I’m open on the ground angle for BDM, ran well enough in the G1 Juvenile at Aintree last spring (G/S) and although Good ground is a different matter the chances are we won’t get/they won’t let Good ground at the Festival.

      Like with the Dosage stats it’s early days to be looking at trends for JLT although admittedly to date all JLT winners had run at Cheltenham previous to winning this. Benefficient & Noble Prince hadn’t won at track though and indeed Benefficient had been stuffed at track only time he previously ran there so no real evidence that it’s an important trend. Not yet anyway…

      Ben (NTF)

  3. A very good paddock judge told me road to riches needed the run before the race I hasten to add so he was definitely ridden too aggressively.
    I think G Cup picture is foggy at best as I am sure the king George is the key race but which of cue card, vautour sad place (if allowed to dictate) or Don cossack remains a mystery wrapped up in an enigma!!

    On a positive the weekend showed again how good I believe the British novice hurdlers are namely Yanworth and Altior just a shame I didn’t believe the whisper for Yanworth when it was 25/1!!

    • Hi DJ

      Interesting to hear paddock comments about RTR. He ha been off track for a good few months so I guess no real surprise he may have needed run.

      It’s not easy to separate the Cue Card/Vautour/Don Cossack jumble, I agree.

      Don Poli the one to come and stay on past them up the hill as they squabble it out amongst themselves maybe…

      Ben (NTF)

  4. Starting to think Cue Card could have his year. 10/19 v 3/9 left handed v right. 3/4 wins at 3m+ LH, 6/14 wins and 11/14 places left handed in G1+2.
    8pts+ in DP, yes
    DI of below 1.4, yes
    CD below 0.33, yes
    DQ, yes
    Looks a great place chance at 6/1 generally without checking further runners!

    O’Faolains Boy was one from Ben’s Gold Cup Dosage Analysis I looked at, doesn’t seem to do it at the graded level for me although he is impressive on dosage.

    From a non-betting viewpoint it could be a brilliant Gold Cup as so many horses have as many pro’s for them, as they do con’s. From a betting viewpoint, it’s a bitch of a race!

    Definitely one I’ll have to look into over the weekend now that a rough 30 or so can be narrowed down. Your Gold Cup Dosage Analysis is a great help, many thanks Ben,


    • Hi Brian

      Totally agree, it’s shaping up to be a cracker of a race.

      Unusually odd on the Dosage front this year I have to say, would have expected a lot more in the Green zone than there is.

      O’Faolains needed to have kicked on by now to have been in with a shout. Could have been an outside player but can’t really say that now.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

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