Tony Keenan's Irish Angle

The Non-Runner-Money-Back concession means Cheltenham bets are slightly less risky and our Irish expert Tony Keenan has an interesting selection who's likely to run in the Albert Bartlett

  • Wednesday 27 February
  • Blog
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You can have a bet on most Cheltenham races anytime from the moment they pass the post the previous year to in-running on the day but now might be the best time of all to play. The non-runner, no-bet concession will be in with most if not all firms by next week which tilts the risk-reward scale in the favour of the punter, negating the worry that a horse may not turn up.

With any non-runner, no-bet play, a punter is looking for something that won’t be available after declarations which basically means ceding information (about ground or the full make-up of the field, say) and concessions (like extra places) for price and that trade-off is often worth making.

Some punters will be inclining towards the handicaps by now but I would still find them daunting. The reality is that of the raft of horses bunched between 12/1 and 20/1 in the current ante-post markets for handicaps, a handful will be 8/1 on the day but more will the same odds or bigger as they are priced defensively just now.

The release of the weights does help here, not only because we know what UK marks the Irish horses have but also where each horse sits in the ballot and what is to get a run which aids in narrowing the field. I do appreciate that it is psychologically rewarding to bet a handicap winner a fortnight out but it does boil down to effort versus reward and going through these races with so many horses having multiple entries can be a grind.

Graded races might still be the best races to concentrate on for now and a few of the markets remain ill-formed; looking at the likely runners and their available non-runner, no bet prices, the betting is overbroke or close to it in some cases. Getting deep into those races rather than the handicaps might thus prove rewarding but sometimes it’s simply an information edge that can present a good bet.

I’m not talking here about looking to be the fastest finger first when a horse is declared out of the meeting and seeking to back one of the other runners soon after though one to note is that the layers tend to cut the next six or eight in the betting following these announcements while the outsiders are left at similar prices. So if you were fancying a bigger-priced runner, now is a good time to play as it is essentially a without the (old) favourite bet at the same odds as when the horse was in the race.

Rather I am thinking of information about where horses might run, particularly with changing targets and horses that were doubtful participants being declared likely runners. The often-maligned media days and preview nights can be decent sources of this information and a couple of good examples from last year were Rathvinden and Terrefort.

Rathvinden was a general 16/1 shot for the National Hunt Chase when Willie Mullins said at his media day that he was a likely runner before returning 9/2. Terrefort was an uncertain runner at the meeting but was 8/1 non-runner, no-bet for the JLT with that doubt and was sent off 3/1.

Some connections are more reliable in sticking to plans than others but the non-runner, no-bet concession means there is no need to worry if you don’t mind tying your money up for a period. In the past week or so we have seen a couple of examples where there was value to be had with the Klassical Dream and Hardline in their new target races, the pair now more likely to go for the Ballymore and Arkle respectively when it had previously seemed probable they would go for the Supreme and the JLT.

There are bound to be another handful of similar opportunities over the next fortnight or so.


One appealing race for a non-runner, no-bet play at this stage is the Albert Bartlett. The staying event tends to go the way of a hardened type which makes this year’s renewal unusual as so many of the fancied runners remain inexperienced over hurdles. Commander Of Fleet has run three times over hurdles as has Relegate while both Birchdale and Dickie Diver have had only two goes.

RHINESTONE has had three hurdles runs himself but at least had four outings from bumpers and that blend of scope to improve and experience makes him preferable to some of his lightly-raced rivals. He looks overpriced relative to both Commander Of Fleet and Relegate judged on their most recent run at Leopardstown; there was little between him and the Gigginstown horse and he now gets a two pound weight pull while the Champion Bumper winner has seven lengths to make up.

The time-figure for that race was strong while the early signs are that the form is working out. Only one horse – the 17-length sixth Choungaya – has run from the race but he was likely to win a Pertemps Qualifier off 132 at Punchestown last Wednesday before falling at the final hurdle.

Perhaps Rhinestone’s price is due to the expectation that he will run elsewhere at the meeting and he does have entries in the Ballymore and the Coral Cup. But Joseph O’Brien said in a stable tour elsewhere on this site yesterday that ‘at the moment he looks most likely to run in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle’ and he looks like one that could go off much shorter on the day.

Tony Keenan's Irish Angle
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