horse racing

What you should have learned from the 2015 Cheltenham Open Meeting…

More Of That with a sparkling display on chasing debut…

More of That – Back!

Sprinter Sacre – Back! (to a certain extent)

A simply fantastic three days of racing at Prestbury Park for the Paddy Power Open meeting and the return of the two jumping superstars mentioned above would have, rightly so, been many people’s highlights.

Although MOT & SS stole a majority of the headlines there was plenty else going on and here are just some of the vital facts and figures that you need to take away from the 2015 Paddy Power Cheltenham Open Meeting…

*figures sourced from the excellent Proform Professional Database


2015 Cheltenham Open Meeting: The Fallout…


14 of the 19 winners started with an SP of 12-1 or less…

For what was, in general, a tricky old meeting there wasn’t actually a huge amount of lofty priced winners doing the business…

SP 12-1 or less – 17/120 | 14% S/R | +£14.46 BFLPS – Win & Place 41/120 | 34% S/R – 8% above expectation

SP above 12-1 – 2/114 | 2% S/R | -£75.03 BFLSP – Win & Place 14/114 | 12% S/R – 38% below expectation

Nothing really outstanding in those stats, perhaps, but this meeting has often proved to be a place where you don’t want to be tilting at too many windmills.

Check the following stats for runners starting at SP 33/1 or more at the past TEN Paddy Power Open meetings (including this one)…

2/504 | 0.5% S/R | -£383.97 BFLSP – Win & Place 32/504 | 6% S/R – 65% below expectation

Only two winners have won when starting at SP 33/1 or bigger!

The outsiders at this competitive meeting are often just that; outsiders.

This year there were 40 runners over the three days that started at SP 33/1 or bigger. They produced ZERO winners and ONE placed runner!

The Paddy Power meeting again proved to be a place to avoid those in the deep dark corners of the betting market.

p.s. Can anyone name those two 33/1+ winners? No checking databases to get the answers either!


The older brigade struggled to land many significant blows…

It can often be a meeting for more progressive types and that certainly proved to be the case this year…

Horses aged 4yo – 7yo – 17/166 | 10% S/R | -£10.28 BFLSP – Win & Place 45/166 | 27% S/R

Horses aged 8yo+ – 1/63 | 1.5% S/R | -£60.03 BFLSP – Win & Place 8/63 | 13% S/R

The one winner? Sprinter Sacre. And that was in a race where five of the six runners were 8yo+ anyway!

It’s makes sense that this early season meeting plays to the hands of younger improving types, however, that doesn’t stop the older generation being backed as they were firing some 73% below expectation, so they were attracting plenty support.

It has to be said that the ‘oldies’ don’t usually fare quite as bad at this meeting as they did this year so maybe it’s just that there are a real solid and progressive bunch of youngsters making their may through the ranks at present. Certainly something to keep in mind….

It very much paid to keep the younger generation on side at the Paddy Power meeting.


17 of the 19 winners were making their seasonal debut or had only one previous start in the past three months…

Basically it paid to concentrate on runners that had been targeted at this meeting and hadn’t been to the well too many times in the past three months.

Runners that had already run two or more times in the three months prior to this meeting returned figures of…

2/58  | 3.5% S/R | -£38.67 BFLSP – Win & Place 12/58 | 21% S/R – 38% below expectation

Runners that had made four or more appearances in the three months prior to this meeting did even worse…

0/14 | 0% S/R | -£14.00 BFLSP – Win & Place 1/14 | 7% S/R

They had clearly left their race somewhere else and were pretty much over-the-top by the time the lined up at Cheltenham.

And that’s actually a recurring them at the Paddy Power Open meeting.

If we look at those types of runners (4+ runs in previous 3 months) from the past seven Paddy Power Open meetings we get the following set of figures…

2/118 | 1.5% S/R | -£112.49 BFLSP – Win & Place 15/118 | 13% S/R – 70% below expectation

The signs are pretty clear…

You want to be backing runners at this meeting that haven’t been to the well too much in the lead up to their target race.


David Pipe had an absolute mare…

17 runners – 0 winners – 2 places

I somehow doubt that was the plan at a meeting he, and his father before him, have dominated in the past.

Only Paul Nicholls had more runners over the three days than his west country rival so he went to the meeting with plenty in the way of fire-power and had the numbers to dominate.

It just didn’t turn out that way.

Nine of his team started at 8-1 or less and and there were a number of potential stars who seriously under-performed at the meeting. Indeed there were more than a few of his string that made serious moves to try and go on and win their respective race only to find the tank hitting empty long before any serious effort to climb the hill had started.

It should be noted that 12 of his 17 runners were making their seasonal debut and Pipe’s runners since the start of September that have been making their first start of the campaign have returned the following figures…

1/32 | 3% S/R | -£28.39 BFLSP – Win & Place 6/32 | 19% S/R – 78% below expectation

On the flip side his runners returning within 20 days of their last run, in the same period, have returned the following set of figures…

10/46 | 22% S/R | +£1.52 BFLSP – Win & Place 23/46 | 50% S/R – 32% above expectation

Are his team just needing their first run back?

Will his Cheltenham Open squad come good next time out?

Is there a bigger problem at large in the stable?

In truth I don’t think there is a simple answer and to confuse matters a bit more he had that one first time out winner yesterday at Fakenham in the shape of Katkeau (who turned over a Paul Nicholls hot-pot Southfield Vic in the process).

What is clear is that his Cheltenham plans went up in smoke in spectacular fashion this year and for the first time in a very long time there was no Pipe trained horse in the winners enclosure.

Can the Pipe Cheltenham runners bounce back to form next time out?


Venetia Williams ONCE AGAIN drew a blank at the meeting…

Four runners – 0 winners – Form string of P09P

But then again that was no surprise to us, was it?

She is now 0/41, 1 place at the past seven Paddy Power Open meetings.

Since 2003 she is 1/64, 6 places.

That’s insane!

Even with her terrible record there was still pockets of money for her Friday runner The Clock Leary…who finished pulled-up.

Her runners simply have not been handling the demanding test of the Open meeting in recent years and there were no signs of that changing this year.

Maybe she is fully aware of her disastrous record at the meeting, she certainly didn’t come to the track with a deep battalion in tow.

In amongst all this negativity, however, there was, in my opinion, one small glimmer of hope and that came from her battle-hardened chaser Rigadin De Beauchene, who finished 9th in the Murphy Group Handicap Chase on Saturday, beaten only nine lengths after being on the sharp end throughout and trying to kick for home around four out.

Conditions were not suitable for him here in the slightest and it’s fair to say he’s been in the handicap wilderness ever since his thumping 10L victory in the 2014 Haydock Grand National Trial.

He was hammered an extraordinary 16lbs for that win and he’s been struggling off lofty weights ever since. Now, however, he has finally been given a bit of leeway by the handicapper (dropped a further 2lbs to OR 127 after this) and there was plenty to like about this effort, especially given the fact Venetia’s usually run like drains here.

The ground will be coming for him now and he may just pop up somewhere at a big price in the next couple of months…

Always be wary of Venetia’s Open meeting runners, however, keep an eye on her old lad Rigadin going forward from this.


MORE OF THAT is back and he means business…

The former World Hurdle Champion had been off the track for 349 days prior to his chasing debut at Cheltenham on Saturday but that didn’t stop him sauntering to an impressive 2.5L victory at his favoruite track.

He’s only been beaten once in his life, when he clearly wasn’t right, and remains a very exciting prospect and a chaser with immense potential for the season ahead.

His sire Beneficial has produced plenty of Cheltenham chase winners (Benefficient, Cooldine, Gungadu, Tanks For That, Annacotty, Salsify…) but he has the potential to be better than all of them, indeed he has the potential to dominate the staying novice chase division this year before going on to become a full on Gold Cup prospect next season.

This contest has actually been a stepping stone for previous Gold Cup winners Denman and Imperial Commander as well as high class chase prospects, and top class festival performers, such as Grands Crus, Dynaste and Tarquin De Seuil; More Of That comfortably fits in with that lot.

Interestingly he’s entered in the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse at the end of the month although I would have though they would have been taking a slightly easier next step considering the time he’s had off the track.

It’s been a long time since a World Hurdle winner has made the step up to be a top class staying chaser so lets hope MOT can stay sound and do just that.

If MOT stay sound he will surely be a champion over fences. What do you guys think?

Ben (NTF)

With thanks to…

Proform Racing | The professional Formbook

12 responses to “What you should have learned from the 2015 Cheltenham Open Meeting…”

  1. Ground was very tacky and I am not sure how hard a race some horses will have had. I do feel the juvenile hurdles from last year were and are a very decent bunch and look well handicapped in the main but not sure how long for!!

    • Hi DJ

      Yeah there does seem to be plenty of well-handicapped juveniles lurking about, certainly could pick up a few more handicaps before this season is out.

      Still a couple of last years Triumph Hurdle runners to play their hands this term, be interesting to see how they get on…

      Ben (NTF)

  2. Yes – forget Tom Segal (‘Forget the ratings geeks’ in this week’s Weekender) – I like my visual impressions backed up by something so rest assured, the real Sprinter Sacre is back!

    I just wanted to say what a great run by Sound Investment carrying 11 12 and beaten just over a length 3rd in the Paddy Power – only the above scored better figures from the three days.

    • Hi Andy

      Sound Investment just seems to keep on improving, was a mighty run from him. Now rated 162 and surely that must be it for handicaps for now!

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  3. Hi Ben, I am a big fan of David Pipe and his father Martin before him and have been relatively well off due to their early season form over the years and decades. But I am deeply concerned that the yard is not firing on all cylinders for what ever reason this year and would like to know if you feel there is an underlying problem of some sort?? I would love to know some figures from past seasons opening month to this.

    • Hi Gary

      Hard to tell from the outside if there is an underlying problem in the yard although I would suspect there isn’t as it seems primarily a fitness issue. I guess however that could be the indication of a bug or something from the summer which took Pipe a bit longer to get the team fit.

      Previous Oct/Nov strike-rates read…

      2011 – 18%
      2012 – 15%
      2013 – 20%
      2014 – 18%
      2015 – 8%

      So clearly a fair bit off the norm.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  4. Ben

    What did you think of MOT’s jumping BTW. Economical or a bit flat? Certainly not exhuberent and that worries me a bit as it is what you normally associate with the very best. Ob cannot question ability and class tho.

    • Hi Mal

      Wasn’t to concerned by his jumping to be honest. Think Geraghty was just keep a tight-ish reign on him for his first start for a year, that maybe just kept his jumping in check for his first chase run, possibly not wanting to over exert him at this stage.

      My assessment was that they were just ‘looking after him’ a little. Will be able to tell more next time out hopefully…

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  5. Hi Ben, great article as usual.

    Regarding Pipe, I think this month and the previous months s/r compared to previous years is definitely a cause for concern. I had a look at the dates of the winners to see was there something like a glut of winners in the last few days of the months that could be skewing this months figures but it doesn’t seem to be the case, they’re spread pretty evenly 1/3 each to Nov 1-10, 11-20 and 21-30. A slight number more in the last 10 days of the month but nothing significant.

    I thought Neil Mulhollands stable might be similar, I’ve noticed their November form has been atrocious too, but by comparison to October – he had his best October ever sewn up by the 20th (39% s/r 1st to 20th Oct!) From the 21st until the end of the month the figures collapsed to 1/16, and continued with 0/32 up to the 12th Nov. His luck changed on Friday the 13th though and he has 3/17 after Fridays racing (20th Nov)

    The point that concerns me with Mulholland is the completely uneven spread of winners and the 1/48 continuous streak with only 9/47 other runners even making the place positions. Plain bad luck can’t explain such a drastic downturn in results, otherwise there would be a much higher number in the place positions that got touched off, stumbled at the last etc, but a place rate of below 25% seems incredibly low to me compared to previous results.

    I wonder is there a correlation between bad runs in different yards where horses have been in near proximity to each other, such as at a racecourse. Much like 1 kid coming into school with chicken pox infection that’s not visible to the eye yet, then passing it onto the whole classroom!

    Long term future, I’d like to know by declarations if there was antibiotics or anti-virals used in the yard within 14/28 days or something similar. It could help explain horses running below par, and also the whisper “Don’t go near X’s horses, there’s a cough in the yard”

    Finally on a side related note, I remember reading in the Racing Post a few years ago about a yard which had a similar disastrous few months where the horses were constantly coughing or running way below expectations. It turned out the bedding straw was the problem, it was either too dusty or had mould spores, either way it was wrecking the horses breathing. Straw shed emptied and hosed from top to bottom, new supplier, horses back on the winning trail in a few days. A happy ending! 🙂

    • Thanks Brian

      Very interesting and informative commenting from yourself, good work.

      I once talked about trainer form with Jeremy Gask and he thought the reason yards went in and out of form at various times of the year was due to atmospheric reasons, as in changes happening around the yards in surrounding fields and such like.

      Not sure that would apply to Pipe & Mulholland however as they are around 70 miles apart (is that close enough for atmospheric reasons? not sure). 70 miles is in the ball-park though and I guess they could have had course gallops together possibly.

      I actually think the Pipe figures are hard to put a cause to as although a lot are emptying out at the business end you still have ones like Dynaste & Ballynagour coming 2nd & 3rd in the Charlie Hall Chase (saying that they could be argued as not having gone fully through with their efforts that day).

      Interesting, frustrating, fascinating, annoying stuff for us punters!

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

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