What happened in 2013?
Rajdhani Express, in the colours carried by Long Run and ridden by top amateur Sam Waley-Cohen, proved he’s a horse that may have many more fruitful days at the Festival in years to come by winning this competitive handicap off a mark of 140.
The joint-top weight had hated the bad ground on his prep in January but the sounder surface was right up his street and after jumping very shrewdly saw off a late surge by 50/1 shot Ackertac.
The stiffer track at Cheltenham obviously proved no bother and a crack at the Paddy Power Gold Cup back in November seems the logical target before perhaps setting his sights at one of the Grade Ones at the Festival in March. He’s a three mile chaser to watch out for this coming season.
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
Radjani Express’s success was a real blow for trends followers in this race who had followed a very strong trend of horses that had either won or finished second on their previous start.
All eight winners prior to Nicky Henderson’s chaser’s victory had either won or finished second before heading to Cheltenham, which would have eliminated over 50% of the field in many of the races. Although that trend did go out of the window, Radjani Express’s win did strengthen the case that it takes a quality horse, with winning form, to prosper in this novice’s handicap.
Despite the strong last-time out winning trend, staying clear of horses running under a penalty is a must for any punter looking to turn a profit.
Arthur’s Pass and Howard’s Legacy only added to the poor record of penalty carrying horses as they both pulled up. Only one horse from 10 penalised runners has even hit the frame, which includes a couple of well fancied runners, most notably Carrickboy in 2012, who was backed off the boards following a win in a handicap chase eight days before but could only finish down the field at Cheltenham.
It’s also worth noting that six of the last nine winners had won no more than once over fence as it pays to side with a lightly raced progressive horse that hasn’t shown the handicapper the full capabilities of his talents.
It’s hard to really nail down a key race with this race in mind as there are plenty of intriguing novices races run around the country which all differ in strength year-on-year. One race specifically to keep a close eye on could be the strong novice chase run at Cheltenham in November that has been won by Dynaste, Imperial Commander and Denman in recent years.
The winner obviously is unlikely to end up running in this handicap but horses that finish down the field do, as shown by the 2011 renewal where the fifth, sixth and seventh all ran big races dropped down in class for this handicap.
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.
Although when a market is formed, the smart players will be siding with a horse that has recently won and that has the look of a horse that the handicapper has yet to get a grip of.