February 11, 2020

February Acorns – Clues for Cheltenham from Leopardstown

February traditionally hasn’t been the strongest month in terms of quality racing which is not surprising given its closeness to the Cheltenham Festival.

Arguably the biggest meeting in Britain in the month is the Betfair Super Saturday meeting at Newbury. The fixture features the £155,000 Betfair Handicap Hurdle, which is now the richest handicap hurdle in the UK. 

Over the Irish Sea we have seen the recent introduction of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown which takes place on the first weekend of the month. The meeting has eight Grade One Races and over 1.8 Million euros on offer in prize money.

This extravaganza is now a great racing festival, with the Irish Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle the feature races of the meeting.  But it’s also become an ideal prep for horses heading to Cheltenham.

This month’s acorns article looks at how you can profit at the Cheltenham Festival from following horses that had their last run at Leopardstown prior to coming to Cheltenham.

As ever the excellent www.horseracebase.com with its mine of detailed information and stats is the starting point for this month’s investigation. To get a decent sample size the stats used are from 2014 to 2019.

Last Time Out Leopardstown Runners at The Cheltenham Festival

Since 2014 the track that has provided the most winners at the Cheltenham Festival is Leopardstown.

Horses that had their last start at Leopardstown prior to running at Cheltenham have provided 35 winners only Cheltenham with 26 winners comes close to Leopardstown in terms of winners.

Before digging further into finding some profit angles. Let’s look at some general stats. Starting with race type:

National Hunt Race Type

Nothing stands out figures wise although bumper runners have provided a tidy profit for punters.

Handicaps/Non -Handicaps

Again, nothing stands out between handicap & non-handicap races although far and away more winners have come in non-handicaps.

Race Type:

Breaking the down the results further by race type:

Interestingly Leopardstown runners that raced in the novice handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival are struggling to make an impact with 0 winners from 13 runners 2 placed.

The two placed horses were Powersbomb, who finished 4th in the 2017 Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase at 22/1, and Orgilgo Bay 16/1 in the 2014 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

Last Time Out Placing:

Last time out Leopardstown winners and runners-up have produced 67% of winners from 47% of the total runners.

Previous Cheltenham Runs:

It’s said that previous experience of Cheltenham is a positive and the stats suggest that it has some bearing with runners who had their last run at Leopardstown.

Those with two runs at the track have produced 8 winners from 43 runners 19% +30.33, 18 placed 42% and have performed 39% better than market expectations producing a decent profit of £30.33 to a £1 level stake.


Just four horses from Leopardstown have gone onto win at Cheltenham wearing headgear. The win strike rate is poor but given 30% have placed then it would be wise to tread carefully when it comes to dismissing such horses’ chance.

As a point of information horses racing in first time headgear at the Cheltenham Festival are 2 winners from 14 runners 14% + A/E 1.38 6 placed 43% +9.50.

Best In Three Runs:

Looking at a horse’s best performance in the previous three runs. Those that finished first or second produced:

All but two winners had finished first or second on one of their last three starts which indicates some recent form has been important.

Origin of Horse:

Wins On Going:

Looking at those with one or two wins on the prevailing going. They have been performing 27% better than the market had expected.  That’s 57% of the winners from 36% of the total runners.

And if you had backed them all, you would have made a decent profit of £28.45 profit to a £1 Level stake.


Which are the trainers who have successfully used Leopardstown as a prep for Cheltenham? Here are the trainer results in numerical order.

Not surprisingly Willie Mullins has provided most of the winners and he’s eight ahead of his nearest rival Gordon Elliott.

Profitable Angles

Willie Mullins – Eight of his previous Leopardstown winners or 53% of his winners from just 21% of his runners had the following two traits:

  • Last time Out Placing: 1st
  • Horses Age: 4yo to 6yo

It’s worth noting that those results do include a 25/1 winner as Relegate won the Champion Bumper in 2018.

That said, even if you remove the 25/1 winner his qualifiers are still performing 44% better than market expectations.

If you had backed all his qualifiers each way you would have made a £31.66 profit.

System 27: Back last time out Willie Mullins Leopardstown runners racing at the Cheltenham Festival that are aged between 4 and 6 and had won their last start.

Gordon Elliott – Looking at the Gordon Elliott runners for a profitable angle. The best I can find is the following:

Five of the trainers seven winners who had their last run at Leopardstown had the following traits:

  • Runs at Cheltenham: 0
  • Ran at Leopardstown in February (Dublin Racing Festival)
  • Odds SP: 10/1 & under.

That’s a cracking win strike rate and if you backed all those qualifiers each way you would have made a profit of +24.40.

System 29: Back Gordon Elliott last time out Leopardstown runners racing at the Cheltenham Festival that ran at the Dublin Racing Festival, were having their first start at Cheltenham and are 10/1 & under.

Dermot Weld & Jessica Harrington

Finally keep an eye on Dermot Weld and Jessica Harrington runners who had their last start at Leopardstown.

Dermot Weld & Jessica Harrington

Finally keep an eye on Dermot Weld and Jessica Harrington runners who had their last start at Leopardstown.

He doesn’t have many runners at the Festival these days but note any he does.

Jessica Harington’s record is interesting albeit, again like Dermot Weld’s, from a small sample size.

Both her winners and her placed horse all ran in Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival – 2 winners from 5 runners 40% +13 3 placed 60% +15.40.

System 31: Back Dermot Weld last time out Leopardstown runners racing at the Cheltenham Festival.

System 39: Back Jessica Harrington last time out Leopardstown runners racing at the Cheltenham Festival that had their last start in February (Dublin Racing Festival).

Like many of the methods outlined above. The above figures are based on historic data and whilst history has a good habit of repeating itself, it often doesn’t.

It is important to remember that these bets are solely for the Cheltenham Festival in March and as such there maybe too many or indeed to few qualifiers for you, depending on your betting strategies.

Until next month, when I will once again be looking at some profitable Cheltenham Festival angles.

All the best

John Burke

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