After the extensive build up to Cheltenham, the festival was over in the blink of an eye. Fortunately the racing public never have to wait too long for the next marquee event on the calendar and, accordingly, the 2019 Grand National Festival at Aintree is now upon us. Though the focus for many will naturally be drawn to the Grand National itself, more seasoned fans will be eagerly anticipating three days of supreme racing action.
With such a short turnaround between the two festivals, there is a long-running debate over how you should approach Cheltenham horses that are running at Aintree. One point of view is that, owing to how competitive Cheltenham is, three weeks isn’t a sufficient recovery period for the horses to perform at their best. However, another school of thought suggests that such a brief hiatus is a firm indicator that horses who have performed well will carry their form over.
To try and unearth the truth, we looked at every Cheltenham winner who went on to compete at Aintree since 2013, in order to find out exactly which of the theories is nearer the mark.
In 2014, nine of Cheltenham’s champions ran at Aintree and they enjoyed a fair amount of success. Holywell, Whisper & Lac Fontana went on to win again and a further three horses placed.
A year later participation at Aintree dropped slightly, with only eight of the winners taking part. The results dipped significantly as well; On The Fringe was the only horse that managed to convert his Cheltenham triumph into a festival double, although a further two did place.
The 2016 Grand National Festival witnessed a huge rise in the number of carry overs from Cheltenham, with half of the 28 victors taking part. Additionally there was a significant resurgence in terms of form from the dip of the year before, as five of the 14 were victorious with a further four finishing in the places. There were some huge names among the winners with Douvan, Annie Power, Yorkhill, Thistlecrack and On The Fringe all claiming the festival double, the latter of which managed it for a second consecutive year.
Only seven Cheltenham winners travelled to Aintree in 2017, however statistically it was the most successful year of the five. Buveur D’Air, Might Bite and Defi Du Seuil all won with an additional three in the places. Consequentially, anybody who had embraced the philosophy of backing horses who had succeeded at Cheltenham would have enjoyed a return on 85% of the runners that they had supported that year, comfortably higher than the 67% in 2014 which ranked second on the list.
The number of participants dropped further in 2018 with only four of the winners taking part in both festivals. Fittingly, this year’s Grand National favourite, Tiger Roll, was the only horse to land the double with the remaining three all failing to place. Tiger Roll triumphed in the Cross Country Chase before edging victory in the Grand National by a nose over Pleasant Company, in one of the most exciting finishes the race has seen.
So what does this information tell us? Over the five year period that we studied, 42 Cheltenham winners then ran at Aintree, 13 of which won and another 12 placed. If you had backed each of these horses, you would have landed a return, place or win, on 60% of your selections, indicating perhaps that there is an element of truth in the idea that the form carries over.
From Cheltenham, the Foxhunter Chase and the Champion Hurdle were the most successful races, both producing two horses that went on to land the double. At Aintree the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, Liverpool Hurdle, Mersey Novices’ Hurdle, Fox Hunters’ Chase and Aintree Hurdle each produced two winners, suggesting that those are races which are to be kept in mind if following this strategy. Should you wish to support it, there is plenty of opportunity this year, with eight Cheltenham winners currently scheduled to run. The full list is as follows;
Thursday – 14:20 (4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle) – Band Of Outlaws, Pentland Hills
Thursday – 15:25 (Aintree Hurdle) – Ch’tibello
Friday – 14:50 (Mildmay Novices’ Chase) – Topofthegame
Saturday – 13:45 (Handicap Hurdle) – Sire Du Berlais
Saturday – 15:40 (Stayers’ Hurdle) – Roksana, William Henry,
Saturday – 17:15 (Grand National Handicap Chase) – Tiger Roll