February 26, 2021

The Racing Horse – On the Bit

It is always advantageous to have an overview of a subject/topic and it is this visualisation we want to expand on in preparation for the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.

Visualisation is a formation of a mental image of something and recognising the orientation is of huge value. Elite athletes routinely use visualisation techniques as part of training and competition, and I believe professional sports bettors do something similar.

These techniques are used to cultivate a disciplined mindset, mental awareness, confidence, and a competitive edge.

So, if emotional issues impede success in sports betting a mathematical rationale must assist, so our betting is built upon an assemblage of numbers and structure, within the visualisation described. 

The Cheltenham Festival is totally unique and comes with its own personality, type and quality – a failure to understand this quintessential aspect negatively impact attempts to profit. 

The character of the Festival makes demands not applicable elsewhere and, if the reader believes (as we do), that mathematics is the governing force of horse racing betting they need to recognise, absorb then act on our acuminated numbers.

FACT: There will be a fairy story or two again this year BUT, and BE ASSURED, of the 27 races the vast majority will be won by the BEST NATIONAL HUNT TRAINERS. 

Last year, we told members well ahead of the festival: “It is not a secret who the best National Hunt trainers are, and confidently predict that Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Gordon Elliott and Paul Nicholls will train at least half of the winners.

Reality dictates they will be successful in 12 to 16 of the 27 races, these numbers are virtually concrete and irrelevant of media noise. The number 12 is a conservative estimate or a worst-case scenario figure.”

So how accurate was our forecast?

The Big Four won 19 of the 27 bona fide races for 70.37%.

We also predicted continued success for fifth seed Henry De Bromhead and he saddled 2 more winners, so in effect finding the winning trainers for 21 of the 27 races for a 77.78% strike rate.

This strike rate figure is both big and meaningful in a sporting context especially if it comes with a promise of replication, not just this year but the next few!

Some might argue the information was blinking obvious – but was it?

If it was it was neither reflected in the Racing Post Selections column nor the Racing TV channels. Yes, punters are marginally aware of the Big Four influence prior to the festival, but largely oblivious of dialectic evidence and besides, any initial awareness dissipates quickly once the commotion starts.

Looking ahead to the 2021 Festival the majority will mistakenly view each race as a totally random entity with little to no commonality. Furthermore, they will readily employ personal bias, hype, and the last thing they heard into their thought processes before wagering.

They will mistakenly believe seasoned trainers like Venetia Williams, Gary Moore and Kim Bailey et al will have equal opportunities, and the same right to win individual races as per Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, Gordon Elliott and Paul Nicholls – they do not, they will not! 

We fully expect a similar showing from the Big Four this year.

For the record we examine their winning totals from 2017 when Gordon Elliott ostensibly came to the fore. These numbers confirm our posting and not only is there zero evidence of them suffering fatigue or a reconciling, but this year’s problems also will further enable their stranglehold.

  • 2020: Willie Mullins 7 Gordon Elliott 7 Nicky Henderson 4 Paul Nicholls 1
  • 2019: Willie Mullins 4 Nicky Henderson 4 Paul Nicholls 2 Gordon Elliott 2
  • 2018: Willie Mullins 7 Gordon Elliott 7 Nicky Henderson 2 Paul Nicholls 2
  • 2017: Willie Mullins 6 Gordon Elliott 5 Nicky Henderson 3 Paul Nicholls 1

Looking back from 2019 these three years show 12, 18 and 15 winners in total.

The past four years now show 64 winners from the Big Four for an average of 16 (59.26%) per festival.

Is 16 going to be this year's par figure? 

We think it might, it is a reasonable assumption given their skill, numbers, backers, finances, and a type of horse especially bought for the rigours of a Cheltenham Festival.

This year we will have to factor in a change of input.

The Festival is to be seriously compromised from an Irish runner’s perspective by a polycephaly (Covid -19 & Brexit). Realistically we must expect less runners from individual trainers coming across the Irish Sea meaning space for others to occupy but first some more useful numbers: 

  • The last 5 festivals Irish trained horses win just under 60% of the races
  • Last year 120 individual trainers ran horses at the Festival
  • Last year the 37 Irish trainers provided 44% of the total runners
  • Mullins and Elliott runners accounted for almost a quarter of the runners

It is our belief Mullins and Elliott will NOT be affected by the uncertainty and confusion, and within the next weeks will target key races with even more relish. Those races previously won by other individual Irish trainers (other than Mullins and Elliott) will provide opportunities for English trained horses though probably in the handicap divisions.

We all rate trainer's differently but here is our 10 top ranked 2021 Cheltenham Festival Trainers based on recent and specific festival success:

1 Willie Mullins (72)
2 Gordon Elliott (31)
3 Nicky Henderson (62)
4 Paul Nicholls (45)
5 Henry De Bromhead (7)
6 Dan Skelton (2)
7 Mrs J Harrington (7)
8 Colin Tizzard (7)
9 Philip Hobbs (17)
10 Joseph O'Brien (1)

The rankings are based on trainers having the talent, wherewithal, and type of horse to win at this specific type of competition. 

Paul Nicholls is seeded four and just above Henry De Bromhead, and note from his 45 Cheltenham Festival winners only 6 of those have come in the last 4 years. One notable absentee from the winner's enclosure in recent years include Jonjo O'Neill who has been squeezed out post Elliott, from his 25 winners his last success was in 2016.

With his experience, backing and facilities it is almost criminal that he does not make our rankings.

Taking into account all things polycephaly we are certain the 10 trainers registered on our ranking board will win the vast majority of the races this year. Even without knowing the declarations one could expect the top ten winning 21 of the 27 races for 78% meaning the other 100 plus trainers feeding from scraps off the top table.

Acknowledging these figures highlights the folly of betting outside the top 5 yet alone the top 10. The perceived value of that action has not just been compromised it has been savaged! 

Yes, the mathematics says there will be another fairy story winner this year but the chances of finding it are remote.

Our advice for each, and every race this year is to put a line through/eliminate all those runners not trained by our ranked trainers.

Kind Regards

Paul Moon


Featured Image: (CC BY 4.0)https://www.flickr.com/photos/43555660@N00

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Steve Carter

Steve Carter is the Associate Editor of On Course Profits magazine. He has relied on his betting skills and knowledge for his income for the past 15+ years. He specialises in horse racing and football betting & trading and knows what it takes to make a living from betting. He is always looking for new angles for himself and On Course Profits readers.

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