Weighed In: Hobbs' choice | Statistical insight and horses to follow

Defi Du Seuil returns this weekend
Defi Du Seuil returns this weekend

Ben Linfoot takes a statistical look at Cheltenham's November Meeting ahead of the weekend while adding a couple of eyecatchers to his tracker following the recent action.

Statistical Insight - Cheltenham November Meeting

Northern yards have struggled

We’ve had some excellent jumps racing over the last few weeks but there’s little doubt Cheltenham’s November meeting, run from Friday to Sunday this weekend, has always been the first really big occasion in the National Hunt season.

If you're of a certain vintage you’ll probably think of Martin Pipe when looking back on this meeting, a man who dominated the fixture in the 1990s and 2000s, winning the feature (Murphy’s, Thomas Pink, Paddy Power) BetVictor Gold Cup on seven occasions between 1996 and 2005.

It is a meeting where some yards have done really well and others have not, and northern yards in particular have struggled to make an impact in recent years.

Nicky Richards, Donald McCain, Lucinda Russell and John Quinn all have entries at Cheltenham this weekend but they are a combined 0/73 at the meeting between them, which is a fair chunk of evidence that they’ve struggled to make an impact against their southern counterparts.

Table 1...
Table 1

Such barren spells aren’t confined to the north, however, with Charlie Longsdon and Tim Vaughan not registering a November meeting win between them from 67 goes, while Evan Williams is only one from 48.

Perhaps more surprising are the figures of Dan Skelton and Gordon Elliott, two top trainers you normally associate with very healthy strike-rates.

Given Skelton’s North Hill Harvey won at consecutive Cheltenham November meetings, including a Greatwood, it’s surprising that he hasn’t managed to get another horse over the line in front at the event, while Elliott is on a losing run of 29 at the meeting, with his two winners coming from his first four goes over 10 years ago.

Philip Hobbs in non-handicaps

The trainers that have thrived at this meeting are as you would expect; Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs, Nicky Henderson and David Pipe unsurprisingly top the charts.

Table 3
Table 2

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ numbers are perhaps lower than you’d think and Alan King, too, has only a single-figure strike-rate, suggesting this meet is not the be all and end all for him.

The handicaps are obviously ultra-competitive at Cheltenham, so it’s tough to amass any sort of outstanding record in those, but if we take them out of the equation we get a good idea of who thrives with their novices and in the graded events over the three days.

Table 3
Table 3

There are some good records in the table above, but none stand out quite like the record of Philip Hobbs, with his 20 winners from 61 runners at almost 33 per cent a terrific figure as is the near 69 per cent number in the rivals beaten column.

He’s brought Champagne West, Fingal Bay and Defi Du Seuil to win novice events at this meeting, while the likes of Garde La Victoire and Wishfull Thinking have been amongst his winners in the graded races.

Back when the X Country wasn’t a handicap he won that with Lacdoudal and Balthazar King (twice), too, while he also won the Sunday bumper with Crooks Peak a couple of years ago.

Clearly, he targets his best horses at this meeting and looking at his entries this weekend he could well bolster his superb non-handicaps record even further.

Impressive Persian War winner THYME HILL is a possible for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Friday, a race Hobbs won with Fingal Bay, while DEFI DU SEUIL goes for the Shloer Chase on Sunday, a contest Wishfull Thinking landed seven years ago.

In the Crooks Peak bumper, too, Hobbs’ EVERGLOW could bid to go one better than he did at Chepstow a month ago where he was narrowly denied by David Pipe’s Make Me A Believer.

Monitor Pipe & Martin in the handicaps

Talking of David Pipe, he’s done a pretty good job of following in the footsteps of his father and targeting this meeting.

He comes out pretty well in the overall table and in the non-handicaps, as well, but when you drill down to his handicappers he really comes to the fore in relative terms.

Table 4
Table 4

Second only to Paul Nicholls in number of handicap winners, his strike-rate of 10.83 per cent is third best and his profit and loss to starting price from a £1 level-stake is clearly number one, suggesting his runners have been a little underestimated.

Jonjo O’Neill excels with his handicappers at the November meeting, too, while Tony Martin has the best strike-rate at 12 per cent, although the -16.88 figure tells you the market doesn’t usually miss a trick with him.

Pipe has several interesting handicappers lined up for this weekend including EAMON AN CNOIC, RAMSES DE TEILEE, REMASTERED and UMBRIGADO, while Jonjo O’Neill’s POP ROCKSTAR is probably the most interesting of his entries and GOLDEN SPEAR could represent Martin in the Greatwood.

Bigger fish to Fry

Predicting the trainers who could penetrate that top 10 in Table 2 in the coming years could be the route to profit and the below five trainers are top of the list.

Table 5
Table 5

Harry Fry’s strike-rate stands out and he’s clearly made a good start from selective runners at this meeting over the last few years, so it will be interesting if his sole entry over the three days this time around, ISHKHARA LADY, runs in the mares’ bumper on Saturday.

She won by 15 lengths on debut at Plumpton almost a year ago and Fry won the same Cheltenham race with Bitofapuzzle in 2014, who was also coming off a long break to win.


*Note to readers – I’ll be looking at something statistical every week, be it trainers, jockeys, sires, course specifics, combinations, headgear, whatever you can think of. It’ll be relevant to upcoming racing (e.g, I won’t look at Glorious Goodwood sire stats in December) but if there’s anything you want me to look into get in touch via racingfeedback@sportinglife.com or via twitter @BenLinfoot


My Stable Eyecatchers

MIDNIGHTREFERENDUM (Alan King)

Being beaten 49 lengths in the Richard Barber Memorial Mares’ Handicap Hurdle is nothing to write home about on the face of it, but I thought Midnightreferendum shaped much better than the bare result at Wincanton on Saturday.

Well backed on her first start for 198 days, she eventually finished only ninth, but she shaped like she needed the run after travelling into the contest smoothly before finding nothing off the bridle when asked to get into the race on the turn for home.

Tom Cannon went easy on her after that and it should be remembered she needed her first run last season, when beaten 25 lengths, and she improved markedly on her second start of the campaign when winning at Fontwell.

Left alone on a mark of 123, she could well be a big price next time out due to this result but I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss her from calculations in the right circumstances.

CHAMBARD (Venetia Williams)

Sandown is no easy place to go for your chasing debut and it all looked a bit too much too soon for Venetia Williams’ Chambard on Sunday.

His jumping was sketchy, but the experience will have done him the world of good and he’ll have easier jumping assignments this winter.

It could be he bumped into a very good horse in Champagne Court, but to beat the rest, including a couple of race-fit horses from good yards, was a feather in his own cap considering the way he jumped.

He can improve for the experience and is worth sticking in your trackers as Venetia Williams can place him to advantage sooner rather than later.


Weighed In: My Stable Horses To Follow

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