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The Cheltenham Trail begins at Chepstow on Friday 8th October 2021

Hello everyone and welcome to the new season for The Cheltenham Trail.

I will be running two services again this coming season.

In The Cheltenham Trail I will be following the trail of graded hurdle and chase races leading through until the 2022 Cheltenham Festival – preparing many in depth previews and reviews along the way. This is not a tipping site but I am also very clear when I have had a bet; however, if you just want the name of a horse to back then this service is not for you. I prepare comprehensive previews and reviews throughout the season commencing with a review of the Grade Two Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow this coming weekend. More reviews will follow until the previews really kick in at the Cheltenham November meeting. I may prepare the odd preview prior to then for races like the Old Roan and the Charlie Hall; however they will just be bonus races if I find the time. As I say, the Cheltenham Trail proper begins at Cheltenham in the middle of November. You can subscribe to this service using the link below. The current price of £399 will remain available until 10th November 2021 after which it will increase by £50.        https://thecheltenhamtrail.co.uk/register/october-offer-tct-2022

My second service is called ‘Eye-catchers’ and will be available FREE OF CHARGE at least until the end of October – in this service I consider horses below graded class. On rare occasions there may be a cross over between the two services – maybe when a horse has won a handicap impressively and caught my eye before stepping up to graded class. This service commences this coming weekend and will gradually build up over the coming weeks from a slow starting point – hence it being available at no cost in the short term.  I must apologise in advance for the lack of imagination in the title; nonetheless, it does exactly what it says on the tin – that is, any races I consider/highlight are generated by a list of tracker horses which have caught my eye previously. At the moment I have 64 tracker horses in my list and a few of them are entered at Chepstow this coming weekend. I think the key to this service is not to back the Eye-catchers blindly – even on a busy weekend of 20 listed horses I would still be surprised to find more than one or two bets amongst the list. I don’t believe much in listing horses to follow so these tracker horses will only be of interest in very specific conditions. Moreover plenty of my tracker horses maybe noted for negative reasons and are ones I maybe hoping will be opposable and over estimated in the market. If you wish to receive this service for FREE please contact me on [email protected] and I will add you to the email list.

I thought I would commence this season with an extract from my new book – The Cheltenham Trail 2021 – A Modern Form Book. The extract is relevant to Chepstow this weekend.

The book is a very in depth look at last National Hunt season seen through the eyes of subscribers to TCT plus readers of my weekly Attheraces blog (Go to Attheraces.com and type ‘Andy Gibson The Cheltenham Trail’ into the search bar) You can pre-order my new book using the two links below.

Within UK – https://thecheltenhamtrail.co.uk/register/my-second-book-a-modern-form-book-the-cheltenham-trail-2021

Outside of UK – https://thecheltenhamtrail.co.uk/register/my-second-book-a-modern-form-book-the-cheltenham-trail-2021-outside-uk

Extract From My Second Book:

When The Market Moves In The Wrong Direction…

Making The Most Of A Trainer in Big Form

At Chepstow in early October 2020 Paul Nicholls appeared to have his horses in the best of form and some way ahead of his rivals. At that two day meeting he sent out eight winners from 15 entries which is an incredible record by anyone’s standards. Of course this is far from the only time that Nicholls has enjoyed a golden day when his horses appeared to hold a significant fitness advantage over their rivals. At Ascot on 16th February 2019 he sent out five winners from just nine entries. I remember on that occasion that there was more than a hint that many of his rival trainers were struggling having been forced to vaccinate their horses quite close to that meeting. Paul Nicholls tends to have his horses vaccinated in early January and, as a consequence, his horses had plenty of time to recover before 16th February and thus held an advantage over many of their rivals.

I am sure many of us will have fond memories of following a stable in hot form, whether it is over a period of a few weeks, days or even at one meeting. We just need to be quicker on the draw when a golden run of form occurs over a two day meeting, as at Chepstow in October; even more so when a trainers horses appear to hold a significant advantage over the course of one day as appeared to be the case for Paul Nicholls at Ascot on 16th February 2019.

You can read my post-race notes on some of those Paul Nicholls horses from that Chepstow meeting in the reviews for that meeting in Chapter One. You may notice a recurring sentence in some of those diary notes which is:

Paul Nicholls’ horses appeared to be simply more forward than most at this meeting and this will not always be the case”.

This is a gentle reminder to me and my members that as impressive as any of his horses may have appeared to be at Chepstow, they are far from guaranteed to run to a similar level the next time we see them. Obviously some of them may improve for their seasonal debut runs; however, even then, they may need to improve given the fitness advantage the Ditcheat runners appeared to hold at that early season meeting.

The winning horses at Chepstow’s two day meeting were:

Thyme White, McFabulous, Flic Ou Voyou, Present Man, Hell Red, Secret Investor, Grand Sancy and Knappers Hill.

Those eight winners produced a ‘next time out’ record of two winners from eight runs during that same season and this sequence includes three horses beaten as short priced favourites. One of the winners won at odds of 4/11 which left the bumper horse Knappers Hill as the sole positive representative of that group when winning at 9/2 on his next outing. The fact that Knappers Hill was the stable second string according to the betting plus the jockey bookings on that next day may have put plenty of people off his chances.

Back to Ascot on 16th February 2019 where the five winning horses from the Paul Nicholls stable produced figures of: 4 5 7 2 – in their subsequent race of that season. (Cyrname did not return to the track until the following season when he beat Altior in a three runner race at odds of 5/2).

Once again to remind me prior to their next race, I copied and pasted the phrase “The trainer is in especially good form at the moment which will not always be the case” on the end of each individual diary note. I tend not to write as much on ‘mare only’ races and bumpers; hence the omission of Silver Forever from my Ascot diary notes.

Brio Conti

16th February 2019 – Ascot – When comparing the first two races hurdle to hurdle he was about three seconds quicker than Russian Hawk with three to jump and maintained that advantage to the winning line. Along with his two stable companions he was held up right out the back which suggests the trainer felt this would be a very strong gallop. He was right as the front horses all fell away from the second last flight. Paul Nicholls thought he would need this as apparently he eats a lot and requires a lot of work. The trainer is in especially good form at the moment which will not always be the case.

Clan Des Obeaux

16th February 2019 – Ascot – This was a really slow pace with a relative sprint from after the fourth last fence until the winning line. He looked super impressive in beating very little. When comparing times he was next to Calipto at the sixth last fence and narrowly ahead of him at the line. He was also about two seconds behind Mister Malarky with five to jump and had gone ahead of that horse by the second last fence. He was then around two seconds quicker at the line. The trainer is in especially good form at the moment which will not always be the case.

Worthy Farm

16th February 2019 – Ascot – He raced too keenly last time out so was predictably held onto more here. He raced widest of all which was probably a major advantage. He has been raised to 130 which should still leave him on a competitive mark given normal improvement. The trainer is in especially good form at the moment which will not always be the case.

In my first book I discussed the subject of ‘Questioning A Stellar Performance’ and offered my view that:

‘When a horse does something out of the ordinary, he is going to be hyped for his next run and the one thing we can be fairly sure about is that he/she will be shorter than they should be the next time we see them’.

I think this strategy ‘Making The Most Of A Trainer In Big Form’ is on the same spectrum.

McFabulous, Hell Red, Grand Sancy and Flic Ou Voyou were particularly pleasing to the eye at that Chepstow meeting and were promoted further in the minds of many on the back of the inevitable media hype that followed. That particular quartet produced one winner at 4/11 and three short priced losers at 15/8, 11/10 and 4/5 on their next outings.

Clearly, the sample sizes from Chepstow and Ascot are far too small to be getting too carried away – nevertheless, the principle of this idea stands firm. The four horses were all shorter than their actual form merited due to the excitement of the post-race responses from the TV pundits closely followed by the enthusiasm of the written words from the racing press.

Whether questioning a stellar performance or when observing a horse winning impressively whilst holding an advantage that may not be present the next time we see them, I think it is far more useful to get into the habit of being wary of that horse on its subsequent run. On occasions they may be successful in their next race; however, they are fairly likely to be shorter in the market than they deserve due to the reasons discussed above. In the Paul Nicholls example, the horses in question may have less chance of living up to an extremely positive performance next time out – the market, however, may well be moving in the opposite direction.

In my view there is little upside to be gained from joining in with the eulogising and little downside to putting a quiet question mark next to any similar performances in the future.



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