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Monday, 19 November, 2018

Don't go into festival war without reading this

Michael Robson examines the Racing Post Cheltenham Festival Guide for 2017

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Racing Post Cheltenham Festival Guide 2017 (edited by Nick Pulford)

£12.99, published by Racing Post – racingpost.com/shop

What will you be doing over the next few weeks? If you are a punter and jump racing devotee, it’s a fair bet you’ll be burning a lot of midnight oil trying to nail down some winners at the Cheltenham Festival.

Unearthing a winner at the showpiece meeting might only have the same positive impact on your wallet as a similar-priced success at Plumpton but in the satisfaction stakes success at the four-day spectacular is hard to beat.

Watching the top horses vie for supremacy at a magnificent venue and making some money in the process has to be the holy grail for jumping aficionados. It won't be enough to spend 30 minutes looking at the Racing Post on the day of the race, and some will leave nothing to chance with a careful, more considered approach spending hours weighing up the runners’ lifetime form on the Racing Post website.

Others, though, will not have the time or opportunity to properly research the intricacies of the 28 races – and will try to gain valuable clues by attending one of the many preview nights that are staged across the UK and Ireland. Some excellent advice along with tips will be dispensed but after a convivial evening much of it will be quickly forgotten.

However, a better way of ensuring that you have all angles covered in the build up to March 14 is obtaining a copy of the Racing Post Cheltenham Festival Guide 2017. This is a book you will want to thumb through frequently as the complexities of the 18 championship events and ten handicaps are explored and explained by a team bursting with expertise and experience.

As in previous years the detailed guide comprehensively investigates all the winner-finding methods available to a punter. The majority of the contests at the festival are always difficult to solve and even two blue riband events fall into that category this year.

With Thistlecrack – featured on the front page of the guide but injured shortly after going to press - and the last two winners Coneygree and Don Cossack absent the Timico Gold Cup is ripe for an upset. Similarly, the Stan James Champion Hurdle is a wide open affair with the last two winners Faugheen and Annie Power on the sidelines.

The golden nuggets imparted by the best writers in the business will be needed more than ever this time round and will help to steer punters in the right direction.

As well as offering invaluable punting advice, the book is an absorbing read and whets the appetite for an exciting four days.

The 208-page guide begins with Views from the Specialists in which the Racing Post’s top tipsters and form experts, along with the major bookmakers, pick their fancies and debate the major issues. The section also includes festival factors, Racing Post Ratings, Topspeed, returning stars, course specialists, pedigree pointers and analysis of the key trials.

The Inside The Stables section features leading trainers Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls discussing their main hopes; there’s a broader view of the Irish challenges, trainer analysis, jockeys to watch and tips from the training centres.

The final section has a race-by-race guide with a comprehensive form analysis of the main contenders by Racing Post betting editor Paul Kealy with all the key trends.

The book will instil you with confidence in the search for festival winners and inspire you to get your betting boots on. Sadly, it’s impossible to guarantee a profit over the four days but the guide will give you a better chance than most in taking some money from the bookmakers’ coffers.


Logical approach in easily digestible form

Well-Handicapped Three-Year-Olds by Jon Gibby

£7.99, published by Raceform – racingpost.com/shop

Given a bit of time to mature and a step up in trip, horses can improve out of all recognition from two to three. The question is which horses – and fortunately we have Jon Gibby's annual survey to point us in the right direction as the author reviews last year's two-year-old form to produce a list of those he considers to have been allotted a potentially lenient handicap mark for their upcoming three-year-old campaign.

Gibby has a good track record, and last year's success stories included a phalanx of three-time scorers, namely Black Bess, Captain Peacock, Coarse Cut, Jordan Sport, Symposium and Weekend Offender. There are 72 horses on this year's list, mainly potential middle-distance types, and I won't name any of them here – you need the book for that.

"Most of these two-year-olds have been campaigned with their future three-year-old handicap careers in mind and their form to date has either been poor or unexceptional," says Gibby, who narrows his field by crunching trainer and pedigree stats. No prizes for guessing who takes first place among trainers with a 29 per cent strike-rate, but he answers to the name 'Sir Mark'.

Though backing Gibby's list horses blindly can be profitable, he does not recommend any such course of action, instead giving pointers for likely distance and going requirements. More intriguing, though, are 'Predictive Ratings' (PR), which offer a means of analysing whether a seemingly well-handicapped horse is all it seems. Using, among other things, a combination of averages from a trainer's past record and sire and dam's previous offspring, he produces what is in effect a best-estimate median of the official mark the horse in question can be expected to achieve. Then, by clever use of RPRs and Topspeed, he shows us how to calculate whether a horse can still be well handicapped, even if his official mark exceeds the PR.

Persuasive stuff indeed, offering a logical approach in easily digestible form. And, while it's small (only 67 pages), it's also cheap as chips.

Nicholas Godfrey

This is a book you will want to thumb through frequently as the complexities of the 18 championship events and ten handicaps are explored and explained by a team bursting with expertise and experience
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