Statistics and trends are now part and parcel of the analysis of the Cheltenham Festival; here are five of the strongest from the six handicap chases at the meeting that have taken our eye in the run-up to this year’s meeting.
JLT Specialty Steeple Chase
The first handicap chase of the meeting and one where it is wise to eradicate any horses aged 11 and over from your thoughts, since 1997, not even one of this age group has placed. There were two contenders last year and the best that those two could finish was an 8th place from The Sawyer, aged 11. Those following the Cheltenham betting should remember this.
Glenfarclas Handicap Cross Country Chase
Quite simply experience over these fences is essential and supporting debutantes over the course makes life very difficult in punting terms. You have to go back to 2001 to find any first-time out winner over the cross country course at Cheltenham and it really should be safe to rule out any horse having its first experience of the Cross Country course at the Cheltenham Festival. Last year’s winner Sizing Australia has already had a few sighters over the course. People looking for 2012 Cheltenham betting tips need to bear this in mind.
Byrne Group Plate
Just about the hardest race at the Festival to find the winner at, the last ten winners have all started in double figures, the shortest being a pair of 12/1 winners in 2004 and 2007. One group of runners that are unlikely to help you find the winner of the race are the Irish trained runners, they have had just the one winner in this race since 1951, and last year the 9/2 favourite Irish trained Beautiful Sound was beaten into third place.
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase
A race for amateur riders and as with plenty of these type of races throughout the season experience in the saddle counts for plenty and a non-claiming amateur is a major plus. Look out especially for the top-class Irish amateurs coming over to take rides, as last season theu partnered four of the first five home.
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase
For such a competitive and strongly run race it is somewhat surprising how lightly raced over fences the majority of the last ten winners of the race are. Until last year when Oiseau De Nuit took the prize none of them had run more than 12 times and that fact is backed up by how well novices run in this race – winning the past two out of the last three years and lowly weighted novices should always be respected in this race.