Tony Keenan's Irish Angle

Differences between the Irish and UK handicappers opens up betting opportunities which Tony Keenan explores, as well as looking at current Irish trainer form

  • Wednesday 06 March
  • Blog
£20 Risk Free First Bet

WEIGHT ANOMALY BETTING ANGLE

Just when we thought we might get away without a handicapping controversy ahead of the Festival, it was announced on Monday that three of JP McManus’s Irish-trained runners – Jezki, Ivanovich Gorbatov and De Name Escapes Me – would not be making the journey as connections felt they were badly treated.

That’s as may be but the reality remains that Irish horses punch substantially above their weight (pun intended) in Cheltenham handicaps. Below are the records of all horses trained in Ireland and elsewhere at the last five Festivals:

Trained In…

Winners

Runners

Strike Rate

Places

Place Strike Rate

Actual / Expected

Ireland

22

275

8.0%

70

25.5%

1.13

Elsewhere

30

907

3.3%

138

15.2%

0.61

As is well-known by now, the UK handicappers keep distinct marks for Irish horses rather than employing a blanket raise which understandably makes some horses look well-treated and others not so much which in turn makes some connections (generally quietly) happy and others (almost always aggressively and publicly) aggrieved.

Kevin Blake has pointed out elsewhere on the site that on average Irish hurdlers have been put up an average of 3.8lbs and chasers are up an average of 2.4lbs, both of which are higher than last year and both of which are reasonable in my view given the recent record of Irish-trained handicappers at the meeting.

I’m less interested in arguing the toss on this subject however than finding horses that might be well-treated in the short-term with the meeting only a week away and one that jumps out is POKER PARTY who – amazingly – has been left on his Irish mark of 138 for the Close Brother Novices’ Handicap Chase.

There is nothing remotely ‘plotty’ about the Henry De Bromhead-trained seven-year-old; he has won his last two starts, both in novice handicaps, the most recent coming in a good time where he showed a willing attitude to win despite three of his rivals travelling better than him into the straight at Naas.

His jumping has improved lately, he handles any ground and has more handicap experience than most in the field but what makes him most interesting is his mark relative to some of the other Irish-trained entries. Speaker Connolly, for instance, who beat him at Leopardstown in December, is up 7lbs in the UK from 132 to 139.

Four horses that finished behind him at Naas have also been raised: Getaway Kid from 124 to 132, Impact Factor from 134 to 138, Beyond The Law from 133 to 136 and Peacocks Secret from 124 to 127. There are a number of other Irish-trained entries in the race who have gotten similar raises too.

Currently number 37 on the ballot weighted with 11-5, there is every chance Poker Party won’t get in (though number 48 made the cut last year) and even if he does he may not run as the trainer said it would come too soon in a stable tour elsewhere on the site.

But the horse may never be as well-treated again, at least relative to his Irish rivals, so this could be a hard opportunity to pass up and a small non-runner, no-bet play makes sense, allowing that the trainer may believe he has at least one other (A Plus Tard is currently among the favourites) that can go well.


CHELTENHAM TRAINER FORM

There are times when Cheltenham appears to operate in a stable form bubble all of its own, yards that had hitherto been quiet sparking out of nowhere, trainers than had been firing all winter suddenly going cold.

Those are the perils of so much emphasis being on four days of the year but it makes sense to have some awareness of the stables that are going well or otherwise coming into the meeting.

Below are the records of the top Irish yards in terms of strike rate in national hunt races since the start of January through last Sunday by win and place strike rates with a minimum of 30 runners needed for inclusion. Alongside, for comparative purposes, is their win and place strike rates in the last three full jumps campaigns 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18.

Trainer

Win Strike rate

Last 3 Seasons Win Strike Rate

Difference

Place Strike Rate

Last 3 Seasons Place Strike Rate

Difference

W. Mullins

17.8%

30.0%

-12.2%

38.5%

52.9%

-14.4%

G. Elliott

16.7%

16.0%

+0.7%

34.6%

39.2%

-4.6%

J. O’Brien

16.3%

14.2%

+2.1%

45.9%

37.7%

+8.2%

P. Nolan

16.2%

6.9%

+9.3%

32.4%

26.5%

+5.9%

N. Meade

15.5%

13.9%

+1.6%

28.9%

37.1%

-8.2%

H. De Bromhead

12.3%

14.7%

-2.4%

32.7%

36.5%

-3.8%

T. Mullins

12.1%

8.1%

+4.0%

30.3%

29.7%

+0.6%

G. Cromwell

8.8%

9.1%

-0.3%

17.5%

25.0%

-7.5%

J. Harrington

8.3%

13.2%

-4.9%

30.6%

33.4%

-2.8%

There are positives here, notably for Joseph O’Brien and Paul Nolan, and most of the other yards are chugging along fine with any differences negligible in terms of a statistical significance.

But Willie Mullins, while still top in terms of win strike rate, has seen his returns, both win and place, drop markedly compared to historical averages. For the first time in ages, he is not the favourite for top trainer at the meeting, both Gordon Elliott and Nicky Henderson shorter in the betting.

The doubters have been out before with Mullins and been proven wrong but he will need to defy the last few month’s form to get close to the eight, seven, six and seven winners he has had at the last four Festivals.


Tony Keenan's Irish Angle
Sign up to bet365
Up to £30 in free bets
Get £20 in free bets
£20 Risk Free First Bet
Up to £30 in free bets
Up to £30 in free bets
Up to £50 in bonus funds
Up to £30 in free bets & 30 free spins
Up to £25 in free bets
Up to £100 in free bets

Existing User?

Forgot your password?

New User?

Sign up using our simple one-page form and you'll be able to access free video form, tips and exclusive content straight away.