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Sunday, 09 December, 2018

Rating the bankers - the festival favourites figures suggest we should back

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Got your Cheltenham festival bankers sorted yet? With the countdown gathering pace it’s becoming clearer which horses are likely to be popular in the betting and accurately forecasting the fate of the shorties is integral to getting a edge at the meeting.

Let’s assess the favourites for the non-handicaps – excluding the St James’s Place Foxhunter – from the perspective of whether based on RPR achievement they seem value at current prices.

Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle

Target RPR 157 (winning average last ten years)

Favourite Getabird (odds 2-1) 

Getabird: could still be too short for the Supreme Novices' at 2-1

Verdict Too short

Getabird could be a warm order for Willie Mullins who has won this three times in five seasons. However, Getabird’s best of 152 is 5lb shy of the Supreme ten-year winning average and a pound lower than the 153 Kalashnikov was given for comfortably defying a mark of 141 in the Betfair Hurdle. Kalashnikov looks a value alternative.

Supreme Novices' Hurdle card

Racing Post Arkle

Target RPR 167

Favourite Footpad 11-8

Footpad: is a short price for what looks a red-hot race
Verdict Too short

Footpad ran 168 when winning the Irish Arkle – this is a pound higher than the typical level needed to win the Arkle. However, he could face three novices who would be worthy Arkle favourites in a weaker year. Saint Calvados achieved 168 in the Kingmaker and Sceau Royal (166) is just a couple of lengths off this level based on his Henry VIII win. Petit Mouchoir was five lengths adrift of Footpad in the Irish Arkle but was running for the first time since October, and he was ahead of Footpad and Sceau Royal in last season’s Champion Hurdle.

Arkle card

Unibet Champion Hurdle

Target RPR 169 

Favourite Buveur D’Air 4-7

Buveur D'Air will be tough to beat in the Champion Hurdle

Verdict Right price

When winning last season Buveur D’Air produced a performance a pound above the Champion Hurdle’s ten-year winning average. Four comfortable wins since have cemented the view he could be capable of better this time and the opposition doesn’t look strong. 2015 winner Faugheen achieved 171 first-time-out this season, but subsequent defeats at 2-11 and 9-10 suggest it’s unlikely he will produce something similar at Cheltenham. It’s almost four years since My Tent Or Yours registered a 170-plus RPR.

Champion Hurdle card

OLBG Mares’ Hurdle

Target RPR 149

Favourite Apple’s Jade 4-6

Apple's Jade: value to win the OLBG Mares' Hurdle
Verdict Value

Apple’s Jade’s has eclipsed the Mares' Hurdle winning benchmark of 149 in all of her last eight races, her Hatton’s Grace success last time earned a RPR of 157, 7lb superior to her winning figure in this race last season. There is an outside possibility she may line up in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle.

Mares' Hurdle card

National Hunt Chase

Target RPR 150?

Favourite Presenting Percy (4-1 NRNB) 

Verdict Right price

Upgraded to a Grade 2 last season when winner Tiger Roll achieved 157. Presenting Percy is seemingly RSA bound, but a bunch of others have achieved 150+plus RPRs. Two stand out – Elegant Escape and Jury Duty. Elegant Escape has posted 159 and two 158s in his last three races, reproducing this level would likely be enough for a top-three finish. Jury Duty’s last three RPRs of 156, 157 and 157 suggest he can have a say in the finish.

National Hunt Chase card

Ballymore Novice Hurdle

Target RPR 159

Favourite Samcro 4-5

Samcro might find things tougher than his price suggest with On The Blind Side expected to line up

Verdict Too short

Samcro is being talked up as a certainty, but RPRs reveal how dollops of potential and hype are built into his price. Bare form suggests Samcro ran to 154 and 152 in his last two races, both times he could have won by further but a figure of at least 159 is usually required to win the Ballymore. Samcro might scare off a number of threats, but unbeaten On The Blind Side is expected to line up. He achieved 152 at Sandown in December and rates a value bet against Samcro.

Ballymore card

RSA Chase

Target RPR 163

Favourite Presenting Percy 3-1

Presenting Percy: last year's Pertemps winner looks around the right price for the RSA

Verdict Right price

By finishing a length second to Gold Cup contender Our Duke last weekend, Presenting Percy proved he has the ability to win an up-to-scratch RSA Chase, particularly when you consider the 2m4f trip was on the sharp side. Presenting Percy earned a RPR of 160 and over a longer 3m½f is capable of a bigger figure. 

RSA card

Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

Target RPR 176

Favourite Altior 8-11

Altior: looks value to extend his unbeaten chase record
Verdict Value

Unbeaten chaser Altior has produced back-to-back RPRs of 177 which are of the standard needed to win. The latter in the Game Spirit came when not fully tuned up following wind surgery, and he could eclipse 180 in the Champion Chase. Douvan’s best is 178 but that was achieved in December 2016 and we haven’t seen him since his 2-9 flop in this last year. Min’s 174 last time when winning by 12 lengths suggests he can push Altior. However, until Min backs up the performance there has to a question mark over the form - prior to this win he had not managed a figure above 165.

Queen Mother Champion Chase card

Glenfarclas Chase

Target RPR of 149?

Favourite Cause of Causes 100-30

Cause Of Causes: very tough to beat

Verdict Value

Reverting to a level-weights contest in 2016 has made the Cross Country easier to win with a higher-rated chaser. Festival regular Cause Of Causes fits the bill. He registered 158 when winning last season and a repeat would make him tough to beat. Garde Champetre is the only horse in the last ten years to achieve a figure bigger than 158 in a Cheltenham Cross Country chase.

Weatherbys Champion Bumper

Target RPR 139

Favourite Blackbow 6-1

Blackbow: his last winning RPR would have been good to win eight of last ten Champion Bumpers


Verdict Value

RPRs suggest the key trial was the Fairyhouse Grade 2 won by Blackbow earlier this month. Blackbow’s RPR of 142 is good enough to have won eight of the last ten Champion Bumpers. It’s the highest figure recorded in a bumper since March 2014. Blackbow and Rhinestone – second at Fairyhouse achieving 140 – are conceivably overpriced at respective odds of 6-1 and 8-1.

Champion bumper card

JLT Novices' Chase

Target RPR 160

Favourite Willoughby Court 5-1

Willoughby Court: too short for JLT
Verdict Too short

The JLT could cut up but Willoughby Court’s price seems skinny. His best RPR of 157 is 3lb shy of the race’s winning average, and he was beaten eight-and-three-quarter lengths when last seen. Nine other horses entered in the JLT have achieved a 157-plus RPR over fences, another ten have clocked RPRs between 154 and 156.

JLT Novices' Chase

Ryanair Chase

Target RPR 171

Favourite Un De Sceaux 3-1

Un De Sceaux: represents value for the Ryanair Chase

Verdict Value

Front two in the betting, Un De Sceaux and Waiting Patiently, are closely matched on figures. Waiting Patiently’s best of 174 was recorded last weekend, while Un De Sceaux has a 174 to his name as recently as January last year and has clocked 170-plus four times in five outings. To find the value you need to look beyond ratings. Crucially, Un De Sceaux acts at Cheltenham (course figures of 1211) and Sprinter Sacre is the only horse to have beaten him at this track. Waiting Patiently would be making his first Cheltenham appearance and his trainer Ruth Jefferson is concerned about the course’s suitability for her chaser.

Ryanair card

Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle

Target RPR 170

Favourite Supasundae 4-1

Supasundae (left): looks short in an open race

Verdict Too short

In vintage years winners exceed 170, but favourite Supasundae has yet to run above 165, and, on their best figures, Unowhatimeanharry (166), Yanworth (165), Sam Spinner (164), L’Ami Serge (161) and Penhill (155) are pounds below the usual winning standard. Faugheen has four 170-plus RPRs on his CV, but you couldn't be confident he retains the ability to win or will stay. Apple’s Jade has a best of 162 and would be a major player with a 7lb sex allowance.

Stayers' Hurdle card

Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices' Hurdle

Target RPR 147?

Favourite Laurina 5-4

Laurina: might find things tough against Maria's Benefit

Verdict Too short

Laurina (best of 148) has impressed enough to suggest she would have been thereabouts in the two previous runnings. However, Maria’s Benefit has posted back-to-back 148s and is unlikely to be easily brushed aside.

Mares' Novices' Hurdle

JCB Triumph Hurdle

Target RPR 151

Favourite Apple’s Shakira 3-1

Apple's Shakira: has been doing her winning in small fields and might come unstuck in Triumph

Verdict Too short

Apple’s Shakira leads the way on RPRs when you factor in the 7lb allowance for fillies, but has been doing her winning in small fields and doesn’t have much in hand over Stormy Ireland – also a filly – and gelding Mr Adjudicator. Unlike Apple’s Shakira, these two are backable at each-way prices.

Triumph Hurdle

Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle

Target RPR 153

Favourite Next Destination 3-1

Next Destination: might not stay the trip
Verdict Too short

It could be third time lucky for Cracking Smart. He has finished second to Next Destination in two 2m4f Graded hurdles, but was reducing Next Destination’s lead close home in their last encounter. The longer 3m could see Cracking Smart reverse placings. Cracking Smart has achieved a 1lb higher RPR than his rival, posting 153 when winning over 3m in his only previous race beyond 2m4f.

Albert Bartlett card

Timico Gold Cup

Target RPR 178

Favourite Might Bite 3-1

Verdict Too short

In an open year the winner may not need to hit the ten-year winning average of 178. Sizing John’s Gold Cup success last year was rated 173 and the best figures this season of the fancied horses are in the early 170s/late 160s. RPRs suggest Might Bite has nothing in hand over Native River and Sizing John.

Gold Cup card

If you are interested in this, you might also like:

Pietro Innocenzi's essential betting tips for the Cheltenham Festival

Beware the Irish banker: five good things who failed to fire at the festival

Blackbow’s RPR of 142 is good enough to have won eight of the last ten Champion Bumpers

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