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Horses and trainers to look out for ahead of the November Cheltenham meeting

With the second Cheltenham meeting of the season upon us it feels as though we are really starting to get into the thick of the National Hunt action, so let’s take a quick look at how things are shaping up in terms of horses and trainers, and potential value.

A mixed bag for some big names

In the last few weeks we have already seen last season’s top novice hurdler Samcro reappear in what looked at face value to be a below-par performance, only managing second behind the 149 rated Bedrock (it must be added Samcro (160) was conceding 5Ib to the race-fit winner).

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Kalashnikov at the Smarkets Sporting Icon Raceday at Warwick 9th Nov 2018

Outstanding 19-length Arkle winner Footpad fell when looking beat by Saint Calvados at Naas. While ante-post Arkle favourite Kalashnikov made his reaparrence at Warwick but was far from slick and will have to improve his jumping considerably if he is to hold his position at the head of that market.    

Top mare Apple’s Jade showed something like her old form when winning a Grade 2 hurdle at Navan, this after disappointing when a short odds-on chance in both spring festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree last season.

And the ever-popular Lil Rockerfeller, who has spent the last two seasons mixing it consistently with the best hurdlers around, has finally gone over fences and in only two runs has already achieved 153, the same mark he peaked at over hurdles.

Three trainers to look out for

As for trainers, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the three in focus below have three of the more dominant National Hunt stables (Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls aside). It would be remiss not to mention Dan Skelton too: the former assistant trainer to Nicholls has racked up the quickest 100 winners in a British jumps season, even surpassing the legendary Martin Pipe, but the market has adjusted for his runners at this stage and as such they don’t offer any overall value.

The ‘Random’ column represents the number of winners that could have been expected due to random chance - (the sum of 1/(number of runners) - and so takes into account field size. ‘Win IV’ is the number of winners achieved divided by the number of winners expected at random. And ‘A/E’ (actual over expected) is how much better those winners performed than market expectations predicted. Obviously anything above one is an overachievement and the trainers highlighted - Philip Hobbs, Colin Tizzard, and Alan King - have all exceeded that threshold.

To delve further it’s worth looking at placed horses too. Winners alone are a very binary way of analysing data in horse racing, and if there is any statistical significance then placed horses should support that too.  

The table below has the breakdown for the same trio, and the numbers again come out very favourably.

The ‘%RB’ (percentage of rivals beat) column takes the place of A/E and adds further weight to the place values as it takes into account exactly where each horse finished in the field. 50% is seen as par, and all three trainers are hovering around 60%.

In terms of Nicholls and Henderson, both stables have been going well, but with respective actual-over-expected numbers for the last 30 days of 0.94 and 0.85 it seems the market has also caught up with their recent run of form and as such they are not performing as well as market expectations.

However since 2010 Paul Nicholls leads the way at this meeting with 22 winners from 126 runners for an A/E of 1.22, so while the betting market has corrected itself for his runners overall, due to the competitive nature of this meeting some of his horses will still offer value when analysed in the right circumstances, so don’t count him out when placing your bets.


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