Last Year's Winner: Old Guard
- Harry Cobden (7)
- P F Nicholls
- 10st 10lb
- Starting Price:
- Season Form Figures:
- Previous Best:
- 1st - Handicap Hurdle, Cheltenham (Oct 2016)
A decent race for punters with five winning favourites in the last 17 years and just four winners were sent off at any bigger than 10/1 since Mr Percy in 1997 and three of those were trained by Paul Nicholls.
A handicap it may be but six of the last 14 winners have gone on to start in the first three in the betting for the Champion Hurdle four months later. In fact, three Champion Hurdle winners since 1997 contested this handicap with Celtic Shot and Rooster Booster completing the double whereas Make A Stand made dramatic improvement in the following months having only finished fifth to that season’s Champion Hurdle third, Space Trucker, in the 1996 renewal. The Greatwood Hurdle has not matched that quality in more recent years but it has been a good race for trends followers.
Rooster Booster and Khyber Kim have proven that real class tells in this handicap regardless of age being the only winners aged over six in the last 20 years as they went on to win and finish second in that season’s Champion Hurdle which demonstrates how hard a task it can be for the more exposed campaigner.
Therefore the percentage call has to be ally yourself to a young horse and five-year-olds have the best record winning 50% of the last 18 renewals from approximately one-third representation.
The quality of four-year-old hurdlers in general has improved notably in recent seasons however and they supplied the 1-2 last season after the 1-3-4 three years ago having also been responsible for the winner and third three years earlier.
Only Detroit City had previously won for four-year-olds since 1988 and he went on to start favourite for the Champion Hurdle later in the season. Stick to four and five-year-olds.
Ten of the last 15 winners were officially rated 140+ which is some going given they have been readily outnumbered to tune of approximately 3:1 during that time span.
Class has shone through with the top weight winning four of the last 15 runnings and, even when unsuccessful, the best horse heading into the race has finished placed on six occasions in the last ten years. The 2014 1-2 could be found in the top three in the handicap.
Ten of the last 15 winners were officially rated 140+ which is some going given they have been readily outnumbered to tune of approximately 3:1 during that time span, though surprisingly in retrospect, one of those that did not was the race’s classiest-ever winner, Sizing Europe, who was rated 137 at the time of his victory.
Numide is by a country mile the lowest-rated winner of the last decade winning off just 124 eight years ago. A point not to be underestimated is that five of the last 12 winners ran at Grade 1 level on their most recent start underlining the class factor again.
No individual race stands out as a strong guide but three of the last 14 winners won at the previous spring’s Cheltenham Festival; Rooster Booster took the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle, Detroit City the JCB Triumph Hurdle and Menorah entered the race as the reigning Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner. It is also worth bearing in mind that seven of the last 11 winners were handicap debutants over hurdles.
Philip Hobbs likes to aim his best hurdler at this handicap having won it with Rooster Booster, Detroit City and Menorah who all started at no bigger than 9/2 to win the Champion Hurdle later that season but also the respect the Irish having plundered this prize with Accordion Etoile and Sizing Europe in the last 12 years and they sent over the third and fourth last year.
All three of Paul Nicholls’s winners were relative surprises and last year Old Guard became his third double-figured price winner when striking at 12/1 following the bigger surprises of Rigmarole and Brampour. His Sametegal only found the David Pipe-trained Dell’Arca too good three years ago. The Pipe stable also won this race on four occasions between 1990 and 2001.
Also note any Alan King-trained contenders. He may not have won this handicap but five of his last 11 contenders have placed and just two of those 11 runners finished out of the first six.
Brian Ellison is another name to respect having trained the second, third, fourth and fifth in the last seven years as is Gary Moore who is noted for his big two-mile handicap hurdle record and has saddled a winner and two placed horses in the last decade.
At a glance summary
- Officially rated 140+
- Aged four or five
- Contested a Grade 1 race last time out
- Handicap debutants
- Won at last season’s Cheltenham Festival
- Trained by Philip Hobbs, Paul Nicholls, David Pipe, Alan King, Brian Ellison or Gary Moore
- The favourite
- Aged four or five
- Officially rated under 130
- Likely to start at a double-figure price