Stat angles - the middle-distance handicap chase series at Cheltenham....

Last Updated: 26.01.2022

Wednesday, 26th January 2022

Stat angles - the middle-distance handicap chase series at Cheltenham….

Ascot hosts multiple C2 handicaps up the 7f straight during the flat season – and they generally attract big fields….

If there’s an equivalent set of races in the winter game it’s the series of G3 handicaps Cheltenham serves up over fences at middle-distance trips between November and March….

November – the Paddy Power Gold Cup – run over 2m4f on the Old course and won this term by Midnight Shadow….

December – the Racing Post Gold Cup – run over the extended 2m4f on the New course and won most recently by Coole Cody….

New Year’s Day – the Paddy Power New Year’s Day Handicap Chase over the same trip and strip of track and won earlier this month by Vienna Court….

March – the Paddy Power Plate over the extended 2m4f trip on the New course and won last year by The Shunter….

Before that – on Saturday – it’s the Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase. Cepage won last year for Venetia Williams….

  • Feel the rhythm.... 

Punters have the opportunity to get into a real rhythm with these races – given multiple horses turn out in multiple contests….

And rhythm is a key consideration with horses in these races too. Some clearly appreciate how the track works – its undulations, the pace you’re required to travel at, positioning of the fences, opportunities for breathers, opportunities to stride on etc….

Take a horse like Coole Cody….

He’s run in this series 6 times – winning a Paddy Power Gold Cup and a Racing Post Gold Cup. He also placed in a Paddy Power Plate. Earlier this term he crashed out of the Paddy Power Gold Cup when looking certain to play a big hand….

It’s a cracking record. The track, the trip, and the unique demands it places on horses within a race clearly suit the 11yo – playing to his strengths, his racing style and perhaps even his build and constitution….

It’s no surprise he entered in Saturday’s race. His whole season will be about this set of races….

And he’s not the only specialist technician to produce multiple decent performances in this series across the last decade (in fields where 12+ runners attended)….

Midnight Shadow (213); Simply The Betts (1662); Frodon (011021); John’s Spirit (154299P); Village Vic (12300) & Splash Of Ginge (F1712P0P) all repeatedly produced big performances….

Nobody should underestimate such horses running on Saturday. Course and distance form is significant. Form in this sequence of races doubly so….

  • Pace & weight.... 

In the last 37 editions of races within this series in which 12+ runners  went to post (the races I’d bet in) 24 of the winners ‘made all’; ‘led’; or earned comments like ‘prominent’; ‘in touch’; ‘tracked leaders’ or ‘chased leaders’….

In short, they were on or close to the pace rather than further back in the early exchanges….

Of course, 24 from 37 is a small sample. And it only amounts to 65% of the winners. And in racing – of course – there are never any concrete rules you can rely on 100% anyway….

But facts are facts – and I report them as I find them. The horses on or close to the early pace have been the percentage play in terms of producing winners in this sequence of G3 handicap races….

Another observation worth extracting from the stats is this: 27 of our 37 winners carried less than 11-00….

Again, it’s not a stat you’d take to the trenches. But it’s another fact. And whilst facts are not winner-finding formulas, they are nevertheless instructive….

Any horse in Saturday’s race which likes to travel on or up with the pace and which is set to carry less than 11-00 is surely worth a few minutes of investigation….

  • In the plate.... 

If a specific track and trip demands a specific rhythm that suits individual horses and enables them to produce high-grade performances time and again….

….I don’t think it’s a reach to suggest that certain jockeys might be more suited to that specific track and trip than other riders….

The data supports the view….

Some riders have done better than others in these handicaps over the last decade (I’m focused on the races with 12+ runners)….

The table below presents the relevant figures….

Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase Jockey Record

Sam Twiston-Davies tops the chart in terms of win volume – with 4 winners. Aidan Coleman has 3. But I can’t help but notice that most of their decent work was done in the first half of the decade….

Looking at the races run over the last 5-years, the table looks like this….

Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase Jockey Record

No rider dominates in terms of wins….

But with total place strike rates of 55.6%, 46.2% and 42.9% it is clear that Tom O’Brien, Harry Skelton, and Jamie Moore have been the most effective riders in this series of races since the beginning of 2017.

They are the riders with records currently on the up. If they ride on Saturday their mounts are worth scrutiny….

  • The final word….

That’s all for today. Back tomorrow. Meanwhile….

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Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd