As one of the trickiest punting conundrums of the entire Cheltenham Festival, the Fred Winter falls under the radar of many operators, however, there is a way to crack this race….
What happened in 2013?
Flaxen Flare showed himself to be an extremely well handicapped juvenile hurdler off a mark of 127 as he easily strode clear under a cool ride by Davy Condon for shrewd trainer Gordon Elliot.
This is always a tricky race for punters to prosper in as it brings together 15-20 unexposed four-year-olds that have yet to show their true hand to the handicapper and the winner was hard to find yet again at a starting price of 25/1.
With two-thirds of the field having had just the minimum three runs over hurdles, Flaxen Flare’s performance shouldn’t be underestimated as he cruised clear of Caid Du Berlais by a cosy four lengths thanks to a fantastic leap at the final flight.
As always the pace was solid, and the race is certain to provide plenty of winners, especially with future Festival races in mind.
Flaxen Flare, who had finished behind subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Our Conor on his last outing in a Grade One, travelled through the race with plenty of class before running all the way to line under tender urgings from Condon. He obviously rated a lot better than the 127 he was allocated here but he failed to fire when stepped up to pattern level at Aintree next time out, when finishing a well beaten fourth behind L’Unique.
Don’t let that put you off following horses in behind, all of whom are open to plenty of improvement over hurdles next season and will win races. This certainly applies to the third Ptit Zig, who went onto win a big Sandown juvenile handicap and looks to have a bright future under trainer Paul Nicholls.
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
The sensational record held by fillies in this race didn’t take a knock despite Flaxen Flare’s win last year as none of the female variety ran. In nine years since the inception of this race, four fillies have run out victorious, plus a runner-up in 2006 too.
Considering that only 19 fillies have run, resulting in a less than 10% representation, it’s a damming and simple statistic that has helped punters find a big priced winner in recent years.
Inexperience and a very lightly raced profile also is a must for punters to keep on side. Eight of the last nine winners were all beaten on their last start while seven of the last nine winners had only run the minimum of three times before winning this competitive handicap.
Those two trends would have found you the winner Flaxen Flare in 2013. The key for connections is showing the handicapper as little as possible in regards to the horse’s ability before unleashing him or most likely her at full throttle on the day.
One trainer to watch when plotting a punting angle on this race is handicap maestro David Pipe, who has saddled one winner and four placed horses since 2007.
The tough, fast-run nature of this race means a horse needs to be strong to fully stay the distance so a prep run at Sandown is a big positive for finding the winner. Of the last six winners, three had a previous run at Sandown under their belt. The most relevant race is the Sandown Novices Hurdle run in February.
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.