Cheltenham Tipping – The Good The Bad & The Ugly

The Cheltenham Festival is without doubt the biggest week for horse racing in the UK, the amount of money that goes through the bookies in those 4 days is frankly scary!  Using the new computerised spreadsheet based system for tipping we took part in another tipping competition this year based purely on the maths, no feel, no gut, no names, just purely on the maths and a bit of value.  This is how we got on against 86 other punters putting their tips on the line.

Day 1 At Cheltenham

The spreadsheet pulled out Inthepocket for the first race of Cheltenham, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle.  This went against the general consensus with more than half the people backing Facile Vega.  As it turned out we were both wrong as Marine Nationale (backed by only 4 people) went on to win well by over 3 lengths.  Worried, us?  No.  Inthepocket came in at a close 4th, a neck behind 3rd.  The Arkle Challenge Trophy went better, El Fabiolo doing the business to destroy the rest of the strung out field by over 5 lengths.  Our first win and points on the board.  Oscar Elite was much fancied in the next race but disappointed in 5th place, Corach Rambler getting a close win right on the line.  Into Overdrive was well fancied in this race as well but ended up pulling up.  The big race of the day was the Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy and literally every metric said Constitution Hill was going to piss this race….and he did.  9 lengths clear of the very game State Men but just in a different league altogether.  Don’t think it would have took a genius to tip that.  The next 2 races were terrible for us, Brandy Love appeared good value but a resurgent Honeysuckle put in a dream performance and the justified end to an amazing career.  This is where it is hard to go with head over heart sometimes, if I was putting down my own fancies I would have backed Honeysuckle all day long.  Brandy Love ended up 5th.  The Juvenile Handicap Hurdle was no better, the spreadsheet said Perseus Way, Perseus Way finished 10th.  A really close 3 way battle was won by Jazzy Matty, definitely one for the name pickers there!  Only one person in the 87 strong field backed Jazzy Matty.  Last race of day one and it was another where every metric (as well as over 80 fellow punters) opted for Gaillard Du Mesnil, won comfortably.  So out of 7 races we ended day 1 with 3 winners and a couple of possible places depending on your bookie of choice.  Sounds good but overall we were only in 62nd place, the 3 winners were no great surprise.

Day 2 At Cheltenham

After a pretty much “to form” day 1 the rain came down and day 2 at Cheltenham turned in to a bit of a crap shoot.  Impaire Et Passe was massively tipped by a lot of people but what did we pick out?  Good Land.  4th.  Easily the worst pick so far in what was a pretty small field so a big disappointment to start the day.  The Brown Advisory Novice Hurdle was up next and things got even worse, our tip Sir Gerhard being the last horse to finish as the soft ground proved too much, the Real Whacker taking it on the line.  Pretty much everybody in he competition had Gerri Colombe who was the horse just beaten to 2nd.  The Coral Cup was next and this was the race for the day I was most confident in what the spreadsheet had put out.  An Epic Song seemed to be in with a really good chance in this and fair play it was right in the action in a close 3 horse battle.  Langer Dan winning by a head.  At least a good solid placing would get some points on the board.  The Queen Mother Champion Chase was by far the biggest disappointment of the day.  We were split 50/50 between Energumene and Edwardstone, roughly 40 people backing each with a few stragglers.  As it turned out Energumene ran an amazing race and Edwardstone finished 5th and the last runner, 29 lengths behind the 4th placed Editeur Du Gite, unbelievable.  The Glenfarclas Chase was another one of those races where I would have definitely picked different is I was going heart over head, although Franco De Port seemed a decent value bet I was much more confident that Delta Work would back up the previous year.  Delta Work was closely followed home by stablemate Galvin with Franco De Port an eternity (26 lengths) behind.  Still at least it was a placing.  Final Orders was the stand out favourite among the tippers for the next race but we had Global Citizen.  In what was another turn up for the books(bookmakers?) Maskada won quite easily, we got third and Final Orders further back in 5th.  More points for us.  Last race and last chance to get a winner for the day.  You could tell this race was wide open with no clear favourite at all among us, spreadsheet said It’s For Me, it was wrong!  5th and a poor end to a poor day.  A Dream To Share doing the business in a packed field where nobody really stood out.  We ended day 2 with a couple of placings and nothing more, we end up 80th for the day and fall down to 76th overall, this is not going well!

Day 3 At Cheltenham

More rain and more unpredictability.  Might Potter is the huge favourite in the first, the Turners Novices Chase, over 80 people have tipped it.  Going against the grain our numbers say Appreciate It.  We’re all wrong again.  Stage Star wins quite easily, we’re 4th but the only consolation is the much fancied Might Potter is only 1 place ahead of us.  What the hell has just happened in that race?  Is this how day 3 is going to go?  The bookies are going to love this!  The next race is a mixture of Thanksforthehelp, The Bosses Oscar and Walking On Air for us, we end up tipping Thanksforthehelp.   None of these horses do anything in a race won by the nobody fancied Good Time Jonny!  Well technically 2 people picked it, but out of 87 says something.  Thanksforthehelp comes home 12th.  This day is not going well.  The Ryanair Chase is up next and we’ve picked out a pretty decent near favourite, Janidil.  If there is any race today that is going to get us points then I’m confident this will be it.  7th.  It finishes 7th.  To be fair Envoi Allen ran a stormer but the big story here is Shishkin.  Backed by over 90% of the competition and an almost dead cert banker of the day.  Well beaten in to second place and never really looked like it was going to come home first at any point.  This is definitely not a day for the punters.  The big race is the Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle, something that is always a bit of a test of endurance anyway but with the ground getting softer as the day went on this could be anybody’s race.  Flooring Porter came out for us, Blazing Khal getting a lot of love and Home by the Lee also getting plenty of attention.  I don’t think any of us saw the aging Sire Du Berlais rolling back the years and putting in such an amazing performance.  At this point I’m sure the bookmakers were wetting themselves with excitement, what a day!  Flooring Porter in 4th did nothing for us.  The rest of the day was no better, Midnight River passing the line in 11th, Haut En Couleurs and So Scottish being the other tipped horses coming nowhere either.  Halka Du Tabert who actually well fancied by a lot of people placed in 3rd but again it was hardly close, Luccia the most tipped horse in the comp coming 4th with You Wear It Well (3 people out of 87 picked) taking another unlikely victory on a day of surprises.  The Kim Muir at the end of day 3 is always a bit random so on this day of all days I wasn’t expecting much.  Royal Thief did well enough to finish, most pulled up, but 6th place does nothing for the competition.  We end day 3 in 84th place with no winners at all and only 1 placing, the 57% spreadsheet strike rate is looking a joke at this point.  Overall we’ve moved to 83rd place after 3 days just down to how random that day was.  Bookies dream.

Day 4 At Cheltenham

Day 4 and Gold Cup day.  With the weather behaving itself a little better even though the ground is still rated as soft (good to soft in places) I was at least a little more confident in what was coming out of the tipping system.  The Triumph Hurdle reinforced that with Gala Marceau finishing in 2nd behind a much fancied (roughly 80%) Lossiemouth.  We were the only people on Gala Marceau so I was happy with that.  The County Handicap Hurdle didn’t turn out so well, Hunters Yarn never really got to grips with the race and 12th was the best it could do.  NOBODY picked Faivoir, with Pied Piper being well fancied but only managing second.  The Albert Bartlett was next and Corbetts Cross seemed to be the best bet in the competition.  We settled on Favori Du Champdou who pulled up, our first non finisher of the festival and competition though.  Stay Away Fay taking the win but with no love at all from the 87.  Time for the big race of the day, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  Predictably the competition was evenly split between Galopin des Champs and A Plus Tard with Bravemansgame picked up the rest.  This is another race where if I was picking myself I would have leant towards Galoping des Champs, but with the spreadsheet factoring value as well it opted for A Plus Tard so that’s what we stuck with.  Big mistake.  In what was a fantastic race the pace was too hot for A Plus Tard who looked well past best and it was left to Bravemansgame to challenge the strong favourite Galopin Des Champs.  Close but no cigar as Galopin Des Champs proved the class of the field, exactly as the spreadsheet would have predicted without value being included.  Big mention for Hewick as well, before falling at the last that was some run from a 50/1 shot in such a big race!  Next up the Hunters Chase had 2 fancied picks, Vaucelet and Billaway, we picked Vaucelet.  The result?  A 66/1 shot came in from nowhere in the shape of Premier Magic!  A moment made even more magic by us being in the pub with someone who not only put a tenner on it each way but also a bonus £10 to win.  Over a grand they won and to say they were on cloud 9 would be an understatement.  Alas it did nothing for our hopes in the tipping competition.  The Paddy Power mares race is the penultimate race of the festival and again there seemed to be 2 really fancied horsing running, Allegorie De Vassy and Impervious.  We just about all got this right though as it was a close race between the 2 best runners with Impervious just going ahead to win by a couple of lengths.  Again not the best result for us but at least we’d get placed points and after the last couple of races it was nice to be back on the score board again.  And that bring us to the last race of the Cheltenham Festival, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle, or as I like to call it the charge of the light brigade!  It’s always a chaotic race and this year was no different, the tipping competition saw no clear favourite but we had Iroko.  Great news then that for the first time in the whole 4 days we managed to tip a big winner out of a large chase field.  That gave us 1 in and 2 places on the last day, enough to save us from total humiliation in the tipping competition?

That last day and in particular the last couple of races (where we came 26th) managed to drag us up to a final position of 72nd out of 87, just about saving face.  The fact that our models only picked 4 winners from 28 races (14%) against a normal hit rate of around 30% with placings being well down as well goes to show you just how tough Cheltenham can be on the wallet.  On the other hand the horses that came in at 20+/1,  and even 50+/1 show just how profitable it can be if you get lucky.  Our modelling has always had an issue with such large fields and there is definitely something to be said for dialling down value versus probability in large fields so we’ve got plenty to work on.

Anyway that was how our Cheltenham went, what about you?



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