Front Runners vs Hold Up horses at the Festival – Who does the best?

Cheltenham Champion Hurdle 2018

The Cheltenham Festival is fast approaching, and something many punters will be considering prior to placing their bets is how their selection is likely to be ridden. Do race tactics make a significant impact at the Festival though? Here at myracing, we are looking at previous renewals of the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers Hurdle and Gold Cup to see if there is any bias to how a horse should be ridden in those races. We have ante-post selections for the Festival on site now in our Cheltenham Festival Tips section.

Champion Hurdle

Below is a list of the last ten winners of the Champion Hurdle and a note on how they were ridden throughout the race.

  • 2018 – Buveur D’Air – Tracked leaders
  • 2017 – Buveur D’Air – Mid Division
  • 2016 – Annie Power – Made most
  • 2015 – Faugheen – Made all
  • 2014 – Jezki – Mid Division
  • 2013 – Hurricane Fly – Mid Division
  • 2012 – Rock On Ruby – Tracked leaders
  • 2011 – Hurricane Fly – Mid Division
  • 2010 – Binocular – Mid Division
  • 2009 – Punjabi – Tracked leaders

As you can see, eight of the last ten renewals of the Champion Hurdle have gone to horses either tracking the leaders or settled comfortably in mid-division. As the race is often run at a frantic pace, those that have managed to conserve some of their energy for the business end of the contest clearly hold an advantage to those that have raced prominently. This year’s renewal looks interesting from a tactical perspective, with Apple’s Jade likely to try and make all. As the above shows, this may prove beneficial for her main market rival Buveur D’Air – who needs a good pace to aim at. Read our views on the Champion Hurdle in our Champion Hurdle tips page.

Queen Mother Champion Chase

  • 2018 – Altior – Mid Division
  • 2017 – Special Tiara – Made most
  • 2016 – Sprinter Sacre – Tracked leaders
  • 2015 – Dodging Bullets – Tracked clear leader
  • 2014 – Sire De Grugy – Held up
  • 2013 – Sprinter Sacre – Tracked leader
  • 2012 – Finian’s Rainbow – Tracked leader
  • 2011 – Sizing Europe – Tracked leader (led from seventh)
  • 2010 – Big Zeb – Mid Division
  • 2009 – Master Minded – Mid Division

The Queen Mother Champion chase takes centre stage on Day Two, and as you can see, it has an impressive role of honour – with the likes of Master Minded, Sprinter Sacre and Altior all winning recent renewals. The aforementioned Altior will be bidding to retain his crown this year, but, whilst he is not afraid to front run, he is usually best tracking a lead. Unfortunately, due to the sad loss of Special Tiara – who had cut out the running in the last five renewals of this race – there is not a confirmed front runner in this line-up. Although Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados has performed those duties in the past. In reality, however, Altior looks tactically versatile enough to handle either outcome on race day. Read our views on the Champion Chase in our Champion Chase tips page.

Stayers Hurdle

  • 2018 – Penhill – Held up
  • 2017 – Nichols Canyon – Held up
  • 2016 – Thistlecrack – Mid Division
  • 2015 – Cole Harden – Made all
  • 2014 – More Of That – Held up
  • 2013 – Solwhit – Held up
  • 2012 – Big Buck’s – Tracked leaders
  • 2011 – Big Buck’s – Tracked leaders
  • 2010 – Big Buck’s – Mid Division
  • 2009 – Big Buck’s – Mid Division

These stats are slightly skewed due to Big Buck’s winning four of the last ten renewals. Interestingly though, since his last win in 2012, four of the last six winners were held up. Current favourite Paisley Park travelled in mid-division when demolishing the field in the Cleeve Hurdle last time – and he will likely try and secure a similar racing position here. Read our views on the Stayers Hurdle in our Stayers Hurdle tips page.

Gold Cup

  • 2018 – Native River – Made all
  • 2017 – Sizing John – Mid Division
  • 2016 – Don Cossack – Tracked leaders
  • 2015 – Coneygree – Made all
  • 2014 – Lord Windermere – Held up
  • 2013 – Bobs Worth – Mid Division
  • 2012 – Synchronised – Held up
  • 2011 – Long Run – Tracked leaders
  • 2010 – Imperial Commander – Tracked leaders
  • 2009 – Kauto Star – Tracked leaders

The Cheltenham Gold Cup often produces a smart winner and this year’s renewal looks no different. Two of the last four Gold Cups have been won by a horse that has made all of the running, the more recent of those being Native River last year. Colin Tizzard’s charge looks likely to try and repeat those tactics once again. Presenting Percy has been the favourite for this race for most of the season, and he will likely be held up here, that may not be the ideal style of racing when looking at the last ten winners, but he has the right man aboard in Davy Russell – who deployed similar tactics to land this race with Lord Windermere in 2014. Clan Des Obeaux looks versatile in regard to his style of racing, but he has been ridden fairly cold the last twice – so it would be of no surprise to see those tactics used once again. Read our views on the Cheltenham Gold Cup in our Cheltenham Gold Cup tips page.

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