Weekly Eye-Cathers – Horse Racing

Last week’s blog post had a Cheltenham Festival feel and today is similar. 

This week, and each Monday for the next six weeks, I will be taking a look at a festival race from an ante-post perspective. Starting with the Champion Hurdle.

Before that, lets have a look back at the weekend, and a good Saturday for owner J P McManus and trainer Gordon Elliott.

J P’s Saturday Foursome

Thankfully both Sandown and Leopardstown managed to beat the freezing weather to race on Saturday. It was a big Saturday for owner J P McManus who had four winners across both cards.

At Sandown, Buveur D ‘Air won the Contenders Hurdle at long odds-on. A race later it was second Sandown winner for the owner asDefi De Seuil held off the rallying Lostintranslation on the run-in.

Over at Leopardstown, Off You Go was yet another winner for J P McManus after taking the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle for the second year running, and off a 20lb higher mark. 

The winning hadn’t ended, as Le Richebourg took the Irish Arkle Novices Chase, to enhance his claims for his Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival. His jumping was excellent, and if he jumps as well at Cheltenham as he did here, he will make them all go next month.

The Apple of Gordon’s Eye

Gordon Elliott might not have had a four timer, but he still managed a hat trick on day one of the Dublin Racing Festival. His first win came courtesy of Commander of the Fleet in the Grade 1 Novices Hurdle that opened the Leopardstown card. 

Then it was Apples Jade’s turn to get into the winner’s enclosure, with an easy win in the Irish Champion Hurdle. A couple of races later Envoi Allen battled on well to win the Grade 2 bumper.

The two-day Dublin Racing Festival is likely to provide punters with plenty of clues for Cheltenham, like it did last year.

Cheltenham Festival 2019

Champion Hurdle – Ante Post Preview

The feature race of day one at the Cheltenham Festival is the Champion Hurdle.

Reigning Champion Hurdler, Buvuer D’Air, is bidding for a hat trick of wins in the race. Only one horse has lowered his colours this season, and that was his stable mate Verdana Blue at Kempton over Christmas.

In all truth, Buvuer D’Air’s form is in a different league to his likely opponent’s in this year’s renewal. You can see why he’s best-priced 13/8 for the race. On soft ground, he surely wins, doesn’t he?

Apples Jade was sensational in winning the Irish Champion Hurdle. Dropping back from 3m, she made all to beat a distant yardstick in Supasundae by no less than 16 lengths. 

Make no mistake, the mare is better than ever, and a genuine contender for the Champion Hurdle. However, she is more likely to go for the Mares rather than the Champion Hurdle.

Laurina is plenty short enough in the betting for what she has achieved on the racecourse so far. The 6-year-old has won all her five starts since joining the Willie Mullins’ yard. 

At least she showed her well-being when beating one rival at Sandown last month ,and the trainer told the Racing Post after the race that, “At this stage of her career she must be as good, if not better, than any of them (Annie Power and Quevega)”. 

High praise indeed. She could be special, but her form so far doesn’t say she should be 7/2 for the Champion Hurdle.

Verdana Blue would be a serious contender if the ground was good, but how likely is she to get her favoured underfoot conditions? She’s also 0 wins from 3 runs at Cheltenham, and maybe is a better horse on flatter tracks.

Of the rest, the two I like most are:

Brain Power whois a third contender for trainer Nicky Henderson. The 8-year-old didn’t really take to chasing, and the switch back to hurdles paid dividends when he landed the International Hurdle at Cheltenham back in December. 

He hadn’t won on his four previous starts at Cheltenham, but there seemed no issues with the track in the International.

He travelled powerfully through the race, and showed a nice change of gear to win after the last. It looked like he would win by more than the 2-length margin of victory, but he idled on the run-in.

Granted, he was well beaten in the 2017 Champion Hurdle, but he was too keen in the early stages of the race which put paid to any chance he had. It is worth remembering he was sent off just 13/2 for that race.

The key to his chance is good, or good to soft, ground at worst. His form figures on such going over hurdles is 1211191. Make no mistake Brain Power is a classy horse who looks a good each way contender if he gets his optimum going.

Mohaayed is another with an each-way chance. The 7-year-old won the County Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, so we know he goes well at the track and the festival. 

He’s maintained his form this season and put up a career best, according to Racing Post Ratings, when winning the valuable Handicap Hurdle at Ascot before Christmas.

He didn’t run particularly well at Haydock on his latest start, when only 4 th of 5 in the Grade 2 Champion Hurdle Trial last month. But I am hoping he wasn’t suited by the sharp Haydock track. 

Unlike Brain Power, he probably wants soft ground to be at his best at Cheltenham and, if he gets it, I can see him outrunning his big ante-post odds.

Champion Hurdle Verdict:

Buvuer D’Air has the best form and, if there is plenty of give underfoot, he will take all the beating. 

The race could really cut-up come the day, and if you are looking for some big priced alternatives to the market leaders you will probably do worse than Brain Power & Mohaayed.

Mohaayed – 50/1 @ BetVictor (paying 4 places 1/5 odds)

Brain Power – 14/1 @BetVictor (paying 4 places 1/5 odds)

Next week I will look at the Ryanair Chase.

Stats Corner:

There is racing at Chelmsford on today, and it could pay to note the John Best runners in the Class 6 or 7 handicaps.


Trainer John Best has a good record with his runners in Class 6 & 7 handicaps at Chelmsford. Since the start of 2015 he’s had 11 winners from 46 runners 24% +37.13 A/E 1.59 19 placed 41%.

That record improves if you focus on those runners that had yet to win at the course – 11 winners from 36 runners 31% +47.13 A/E 2.08 17 placed 47%. Those ridden by Kieran Fox are 9 winners from 19 runners 47% +41.63 A/E 2.88 11 placed 58%.

Later in the week we have racing at Doncaster and Bangor and a trainer to note at each course:


Paul Nicholls does well at Doncaster with his runners racing over 2m 3f/ 2m 3 ½ f. Since 2015 he’s had 7 winners from 15 runners 47% +11.84 A/E 2.09 8 placed 53%


Donald McCain is a trainer to note in novice hurdles at Bangor. Since 2015 he’s had 17 winners from 54 runners 31% +33.19 A/E 1.61 22 placed 41% in such races. Those who had 1 to 4 career runs produced 15 winners from 35 runners 43% +31.69 A/E 1.88 18 placed 51%.

Betfair Handicap Hurdle – Newbury

Saturday’s big betting race is the Betfair Handicap Hurdle at Newbury. Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the race twice in the past nine years; 2 winners from 7 runners + 31 3 placed 43%. Both winners were novice hurdlers.

He’s got the ante-post favourite in this year’s race in the novice Al Dancer, whose a best priced 7/2 and only 10/1 for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

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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