With all the excitement of last weekend’s Cheltenham’s November Meeting. I completely forgot the final instalment of trainer and their use of first time headgear series. I have rectified that this week.
There's plenty to get through today. Inside today’s main piece I look at trainers and their use of cheekpieces for the first time. Plus, I continue my look ahead to Saturday’s action.
Jonbon Coasts to Chase Debut Success
Jonbon coasted to success on chase debut at Warwick on Wednesday. It was an impressive success from the 6-year-old who was hardly out of second gear.
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A couple of novicey jumps apart he jumped well in the main. He saw off a useful sort in Monmiral four from home and the other runner West Cork couldn’t live with the pair from early in the race. Monmiral jumped well enough but couldn’t match the winners speed and needs further.
Jonbon has started his chase career off in good style. The quicker they went the better his jumping was which will hold him in good stead for better races.
However, the 7/4 for the Arkle Novices Chase at the festival is a ridiculous price at this stage. Especially as we haven’t seen any of the Willie Mullins contenders out yet.
Looking Ahead To The Weekend – Part 2
I like to focus on one of the weekend’s big handicaps. This week it came down to a choice between the Jim Barry Wines Hurst Park Handicap Chase at Ascot and the stayers handicap hurdle at Haydock. In the end and plumped for the latter.
Betfair Exchange Stayers' Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap) – Haydock
This race was formerly known as the Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle. The Fixed Brush Hurdles haven’t been used since the 2016 renewal but apart from that the race remains a competitive handicap hurdle with a £125,000 in guaranteed prize money and £75,000 on offer to the winner.
Looking at the trends for the last 14 renewals of the race – 14 winners from 216 runners 51 placed.
Odds SP: 18/1 & bigger – 0 winners from 93 runners 9 placed.
Official Rating: 131 & under – 0 winners from 49 runners 10 placed.
All fourteen winners had also finished first, second or third in at least one of their last three runs.
In addition, all fourteen winners had never won at the distance previously.
The winning most trainer is David Pipe with – 4 winners from 14 runners 29% +11 5 placed 36%.
The Pipe record improve to – 4 winners from 9 runners 44% +16 5 placed 56% using the above trends.
Other profitable nuggets to be found are top-weight qualifiers – 3 winners from 6 runners 50% +15.5 4 placed 67% and 5-year-old’s are healthy – 6 winners from 18 runners 33% +29.5 11 placed 61% (each way +43.38).
Run For Oscar will be this year’s top-weight if he runs, and he meets all the above trends. There’s just one 5-year-old Gentleman At Arms among the 18 entries left in at Monday’s final confirmation stage. He also meets at the trends and if he’s 16/1 & under would make plenty of appeal looking at those 5-year-old stats.
David Pipe has a couple of entries Main Fact who won this in 2020, off the same mark and Brinkley. Main Fact does fail the best in last three runs trend. Brinkley might turn out to be the best of the Pipe pair and if its soft or heavy ground he’s on a handy mark. Given the good form of the yard, If the 7-year-old comes in for market support its probably worth heeding.
Might I head’s the ante post betting with Run For Oscar. The 6-year-old had useful form in novice company last season including placed efforts behind Constitution Hill and Jonbon. He improved for the step up to 2m 4f when 2nd of 12 to Three Stripe Life in the Grade 1 Mersey Novices' Hurdle at Aintree in April. Given he’s a half brother to staying chaser Stattler he should stay 3m and likely improve for the step up in trip.
Others for the shortlist
Good Risk At All made a winning return to action at Carlisle (heavy) last month. He’s up 6lb but remains on a competitive mark. The more testing the ground the better although 3m is an unknown stamina wise.
Trainer Dan Skelton thinks that Get A Tonic could be a Graded hurdler this season. The mare is just 3lb higher than when winning at Ayr in April and must be respected from a yard that saddle the winner in 2015. Mind you her win at Ayr came over the distance she needs to bust the distance winner trend. Botox Has is a consistent staying hurdler who came up a well treat horse when a 2 length 2nd of 15 at Cheltenham on his seasonal return. Should be there or thereabouts once again.
Complete Unknown won the valuable EBF Novice Handicap Hurdle at Sandown in March on handicap debut. He’s 9lb higher now but 3m on soft ground should suit the 6-year-old who set to go novice chasing after running here.
We might have seen the best from Run For Oscar over hurdles and he an Might I look the right market leaders to me. The David Pipe race record means anything fancied he runs needs respecting. If more rain arrives to turn the ground heavy Brinkley can be competitive. I’m a fan of Good Risk At All, especially if the ground is soft or deeper, but I wonder if he might prove better over a bit shorter than 3m. Both Get A Tonic and Complete Unknown are contenders as is the consistent Botox Has who’s capable of winning a race like this. Of those at bigger odds Gentleman At Arms makes each way appeal as he goes well on rain softened ground.
Trainers with runners in first time headgear: Cheekpieces
Cheekpieces are sometimes referred to as ‘French Blinkers’. They are strips of sheepskin that are fitted to the horse's bridle and are designed to have the same effect as a visor or blinkers, in restricting the side vision of a horse when racing. The cheekpieces are used to aid concentration in a similar way to blinkers. However, they are much easier and quicker for trainers to apply and are not as severe as blinkers. That’s probably why they are the most common type of headgear used as you can see here.
You often see horses race sheepskin nosebands; Andrew Balding horses can be often seen racing in them. They are designed to stop a horse putting its head up during a race. Unlike cheekpieces they don’t need to be declared and thus aren’t shown on the racecard.
As with the other types of headgear I have mentioned punters often tend to look out for horses racing in the first time cheekpieces. However, as with other forms of headgear they don’t often lead to an improved by the wearer.
As with the use of the first time blinkers and visor. There are trainers who use the headgear to good effect and there are trainers who don’t.
Digging into horseracebase I found a few trainers who seem to know what they are doing when fitting the cheekpieces for the first time.
The group of trainers below have all had at least three winners or have at least a 20% win strike rate when using the first time cheekpieces.
If you had backed all those trainers qualifiers, you would have had 74 winners from 304 runners 24% and would have made a £417.74 profit to a £1 level stake and +612.29 to BFSP and a profit has been made for each of the last five years.
Before I finish here are a group of trainers who don’t have stellar records with their runners in the first time cheekpieces.
Breaking those results down by trainer:
As ever the usual caveat applies. Past performance is no guarantee of future results
On to Today’s action.
The best of the action is across the Irish Sea at Clonmel this afternoon where it’s Clonmel Oil Day.
King George winner Tornado Flyer is set to make his first appearance of the season in the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase (2.53). The Willie Mullins trained 9-year-old faces three rivals who include stablemate Blue Lord who is ridden by Paul Townend. Darasso and Pencilfulloflead complete the line-up. Not the biggest of fields but an interesting contest, nonetheless.
Elimay and Scarlet And Dove first and third respectively in the Mares' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival are also set to make their seasonal returns in the Listed T.A. Morris Memorial Irish EBF Mares Chase (2:23).
Clonmel Oil Chase (2:53)
Willie Mullins has saddled the winner of the race six times in the past decade, so Tornado Flyer and Blue Lord have serious chances. Paul Townend has opted for the latter and he seems to be the stable number one. He get’s 4lb from the King George winner and although this is his first start beyond 2m 1f over fences he shapes like the step up in trip will suit.
Blue Lord’s biggest rival could be the Gordon Elliott trained Pencilfulloflead. A smart novice chaser two seasons back on soft/heavy ground we haven’t seen him since he fell at the 9th in a Graduation Chase won by L'Homme Presse last December. In his Racing Post Stable Tour Gordon Elliott said, “He could be one for the Thyestes at Gowran Park in January. I have my eye on that race for him”. He might need the run over a trip slightly short of his best, but the soft ground is a plus.
I’m off to Market Rasen for today’s selection and its Bridge North in the Pertemps Hurdle Series Qualifier) (3:05). The 6-year-old caught the eye when an 8 ½ lengths 5th of 11 at Aintree on his seasonal return. He came in good for support that day (5/1). However, it proved too much of speed test returned to 2m 4f. Today’s softer ground a step up to 2m 7f will see him in a much better light. Yard couldn’t be in better form either 6-16 (38%) in the past two weeks. He’ll be short odds but around 3/1 he’s today’s nap.
3:05 – Bridge North – 3/1 – Gen.
Good luck with your Thursday bets.