St Patrick’s Day at the Cheltenham Festival always turns into a day to remember for a variety of boozy reasons – will you nail the winner of the first handicap of the day?
What happened in 2013?
A very fairly run race was won in classy fashion by the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Holywell, who always was in pole position to strike from the front.
Despite looking the second string on jockey bookings and seemingly handicapped up to the maximum of his potential, the application of blinkers worked the oracle and rung out that extra bit of improvement to land a big pot for connections.
Having started the season rated 119 but been raised a total of 21lb without winning, not many punters saw this victory coming and the starting price of 33/1 exemplified that.
Travelling strongly with the leaders, O’Neill’s little terrier never stopped galloping as others around him folded.
He did idle a little when he hit the front but his advantage over Captain Sunshine was always big enough to repel the late charge from Emma Lavelle’s charge, who relished the Cheltenham hill and will be of significant interest off a similar mark this season.
The third, Jetson, got outpaced running down the hill but stayed on well once he hit the rising ground, again giving the impression that there is races to be won with him at this track.
If any of those two rock up here again in 2014, they would have to enter punting calculations whatever their form is as previous form in this race is something punters should be looking for when picking their selections.
In the last fourteen years three winning Pertemps runners had been beaten in the previous year’s race.
The twisty, turning nature of the race means it takes a certain horse to be able to run well here.
2014 Major Players
Like all Festival handicaps, especially novice ones, it almost impossible to have a confident prediction about who will line up on the day. Please feel free to return here nearer the race for a lowdown on all the big challengers.
Betting advice: strong race trends
Only one place to start here, outsiders. Ignoring market leaders, especially those in single figures, is certainly the way to play this notoriously tricky race.
All of the last nine winners have had a starting price of bigger than 13/1 with Holywell’s win following in the footsteps of Creon (2004) and Kadoun (2006) of horses who were given slim chances of winning by the markets but defied their 33/1-50/1 odds.
However, in the 90’s this race did throw up good news for punters with six winners coming from the first three in the betting.
Ruling out last time out winners looks a foolish move when the Pertemps is in town. Horses with a ‘1’ next to their name in the race card have won this three mile gut buster nine times since 1995 from a very low representation percentage.
There’s plenty of qualifying races to monitor over the season.
The best one in terms of strike rate for this race is the Cheltenham qualifier run at the Showcase meeting in October as it has featured three of the last 10 winners.
Closer to the Festival, Haydock’s big qualifying race in February is also a key trial whilst in Ireland, the three mile slog at Leopardstown over Christmas for hurdlers is also worth watching for clues.
Bookmakers have yet to price up this market as there is little point in doing so as its nigh-on impossible to plan which horses will undertake this challenge. February will be the time to start plotting a punting angle on this race.