Weekly Eye-Catchers – Horse Racing

Altior: The Best National Hunt Horse I Have Ever Seen!

Since winning a Chepstow novice hurdle, back in October 2015 by 34 lengths, Altior has never been out of the winner’s enclosure.

On Saturday he made it 17 wins from 17 runs, 12 of them over fences, when beating two rivals to win the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

Jockey Nico De Boinville sent the 9-year-old into the lead from the off, and he was never headed. Beating Fox Norton by a comfortable 7 lengths.

Altior is a better horse when he gets a lead but, as he showed here, he can do it from the front if required.

Visually it wasn’t a faultless round of jumping as he started to jump to his left the longer the race went on, but he was still far too good for his rivals.

Now there are some who believe that a horse who is jumping markedly either left or right, as Altior did, is perhaps suffering from some discomfort.

In the next few days we should hear from his trainer whether that is the case here or not.

I think his jumping to the left was more a case of him not totally enjoying the track. The jumps track at Ascot is inside the flat track, so it’s a much tighter track than many people think.

I have seen been plenty of horses on the chase course jumping markedly to their left. So personally, I don’t subscribe to the physical discomfort argument.

Runner-up Fox Norton was having his first start since pulling up in the 2017 King George VI Chase. The 9-year-old was very fresh in the early part of the race and although he was no match for Altior this was a good return to action.

Surely he will now be aimed at the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, rather than take on Altior in the Champion Chase.

Altior looked in fantastic shape before the race. He might not have the looks of a Sprinter Sacre, hey I have seen much better-looking flat horses than Frankel, but there is a big engine within that frame of his.

This racing game, that we so love, is full of opinions and it is mine, that Altior is the best National Hunt horse of the last 50-years. 

They don’t come around very often, but when they do, we have to enjoy them in action.

Cyrname’s Not for Catching

The performance of the day wasn’t Altior’s though it came from Cyrname in winning the handicap chase 35 minutes earlier.

The 7-year-old took up the running at the second fences and, jumping like a stag, he was well clear three from home whilst his nine rivals couldn’t keep up with his pace.

He beat a good field of handicap chasers by 21 lengths. On the form of his two previous runs this season he had no chance. But on the best of last year’s form he was on a very competitive mark.

How can you explain his win? I think there are two main reasons: 

Firstly, he gets out in the front and into a good jumping rhythm, as he did here, and he’s a very difficult horse to peg back. 

Secondly, and this hasn’t really been highlighted, the hood he’s been wearing on his twelve starts for trainer Paul Nicholls was dispensed with for this race.

Now we rightly take note of trainers opting for the first-time headgear for their runners, but don’t note trainers removing headgear from their horses. 

Maybe we should?

More on this subject in this week’s stats.

Of the rest, only Mister Whitaker comes out with the future in mind and he finished 4th. This was his first start since his 4th of 10 in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham back in November.

He should be fitter with this run under his belt. He could never get in to the race and, not for the first time, he is looking like a horse who needs to step-up to 3m if he’s going to progress further.

This Weeks Stats: Taking The Hood Off

As I mentioned above, it may worth looking out for those trainers who are most adept at placing their horses to win when they remove headgear from their runners.

Interestingly, looking at Paul Nicholls’ record, since the start of 2015, he’s had 12 winners from 30 runners 40% +6.07 A/E 1.34 16 placed 53% , with chasers that have had the hood removed. 

Such qualifiers have also been performing 34% better than market expectations.

I decided to have a look further at this. Since the start of 2015, horses with the following traits:

  • Race Type: Chase
  • Headgear: None
  • Headgear Previous Race: Hood

Have produced the following set of results:

86 winners from 584 runners 15% -5.61 A/E 1.09 184 placed 32%

So, Paul Nichollsis really adept with such horses, having had 14% of the winners from just 5% of the total qualifying runners. In fact, he’s had eight more winners than his nearest rival Willie Mullins.

Looking at hurdlers using the same qualifying criteria. They have produced the following stats:

134 runners 1557 runners 9% -173.61 A/E 0.9 382 placed 25%

Willie Mullins tops the trainer table with 7 winners from 22 runners 32% +6.3 12 placed 55%. Granted not as good a win strike rate as Nicholls, but still they are performing 49% better than market expectations.

Mullins is certainly doing better with such runners than fellow Irish trainer Noel Meade, who’s had 1 winner from 17 runners 5% -15 6 placed 30%.

Weekend EyeCatcher

Ballydine, trained by Charlie Longsdon, is the week’s EyeCatcher.

The 9-year-old remains a handicap chaser in good form. Just collared in the final few yards in the Manadrin Handicap Chase, 3 weeks earlier. 

Connections put the first time cheekpieces on the gelding for the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock, and the headgear worked.

Still very much in contention coming to three out. He made a mistake at that fence, which put him on the back foot. 

I thought he would probably weaken after that error but, credit to the horse, he battled back and managed to grab third at the line.

He probably needs further than 3m 1 ½ f these days, and a more galloping track, but this run proves he remains on a competitive mark and can win a decent pot befor the season ends.

See you next week.

All the best,
John Burke
for The Race Advisor

John Burke

I have a MA in International Politics and having spent a number of years working in political campaigning but I eventually I realised that politics was not the world where I wanted to work I had been interested in horse racing since the late 1980s but in the early years I was merely just betting and watching racing like most people as a bit of fun and a hobby, then the hobby becomes a passion and that’s what happened to me with horse racing. I soon realised that to make money from my hobby I had to learn as much as I could about the sport and betting in general. The whole process took time but after a number of successful years of betting, I decided in 2011 to take the plunge, gave up my full time day job and decided to bet on horse racing as a part time business and I haven’t looked back since. I like to specialise in the better class of races and I love to solve the puzzles posed by big field handicaps the latter races often provide punters with great value betting opportunities. Whilst most of my time is spent reviewing previous races I like to keep things as simple as possible as even the biggest field handicaps can usually be pruned down to half a dozen strong contenders with the right sort of approach.
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