Side with the Headlines act
David Myers takes a look at the trends that it may pay to follow in Saturday's Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown.
January 26 - Boylesports.com Hurdle, 2m (Grade B, 4yo+)
Formerly the Pierse Hurdle, Saturday's re-titled Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown is a valuable 2m handicap that has a reputation for being one of the hottest in the jumps calendar, boasting some classy winners along the way.
Age & experience
The younger, progressive types certainly came out best in this handicap, with 5-8 year-olds the ones to concentrate on - those aged outside this range came out at 0-35 since 2003.
It's also worth noting that each of the last 10 winners were very much on the unexposed side over timber with a maximum of 10 hurdle runs during their career, seven of whom had yet to win a single handicap hurdle. To put that into perspective, a total of 107 runners that had faced hurdles 11 times or more prior to Leopardstown all lost.
While representing the majority of runners each year, Irish or British-bred's did cater for each victor, in comparison to the remainder (French-bred etc) that returned a record of 0-54.
A lack of winning hurdles form over this 2m trip wasn't too much of a problem, as Final Approach, Penny's Bill and Xenophon all missed out. Good recent form was essential, though, with all bar one winner since 2003 making the top four last time, while fitness also proved important with eight victors having raced during the last 50 days.
Each of the last 10 winners of this race also ran over hurdles last time, counting against a total of 24 runners that arrived via fences, while those that lined-up having run at Fairyhouse, Leopardstown and Punchestown last time was also a positive - be wary of runners from Cork and Limerick that flopped at 0-37.
One of the key factors associated to the winner's profile, however, came via the amount of weight carried, with those around 10st 11lb or lower coming out on top having supplied all 10 winners, along with 21 that were placed. As you'd expect with the weights favouring those at the lower end of the handicap, an official rating of 114-126 proved ideal.
Runners whose energy was conserved for a late run also paid to follow, which would be of concern for pacey hurdlers that like to force it. In fact, of the last 10 front-runners to have attempted to make all here, their finishing positions were: 19th, pulled up, 20th, 21st, 17th, 18th, 5th, 6th, 17th & 12th.
While the 50/1 shot, Penny's Bill, took this in 2009, the remainder all returned at 16/1 or shorter, proving to be a big help for punters who can simply put a line through those at bigger odds. This tactic alone would have helped eliminate 49 runners, only three of which were placed.
A further glance back to 1997 tells us that the trio of Jessica Harrington, Pat Hughes and Willie Mullins landed this valuable handicap twice each, though Hughes boasts the best strike-rate at 2-10; Mullins was 2-38 (9 placed) and Harrington 2-15 (1 placed). The shrewd Tony Martin also tasted success once from just 10 runners, where two were placed, though it could pay to be wary of both Noel Meade and Edward O'Grady's runners, as they recorded respective records of 0-28 (0 placed) & 0-19 (1 placed).
There are some interesting runners with excellent 'trends profiles' entered for Saturday's renewal, though with preference for those at around the 16/1 mark or shorter, the likes of Gentleman Duke and Hit The Headlines have to be considered. Mallowney is another who is currently 20/1, but could be interesting if support arrives, while both Crocus Bay and Speed Dial make each-way appeal of the bigger prices; the latter may be out of the handicap, but is Pat Hughes' only entry.