2m½f Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) – Wednesday 11th March 2020
The Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (better known as the Fred Winter) is run over two-miles on Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival, and is the last Hurdles race of the week ran on the Old Course. The race is for four-year-old Horses only, and serves the purpose of taking lower rated Horses out of the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle. Despite some seemingly less talented Juveniles running in the race, it is usually extremely competitive due to the nature of improving young Horses. The race has been won by some nice types in the past, with the likes of Sanctuaire, Diego Du Charmil and more recently Band Of Outlaws victorious. French recruits have an extremely good record in the race, but the last two winners have come off the Flat – including Joseph O’Brien’s 8/1 winner for this blog last year.
Before looking at trends, it is worth noting the Handicap marks which have been required to get a Horse into the race over the past ten renewals. I’ve also listed the top weight and winner’s rating for reference.
The Fred Winter has steadily progressed to be a stronger race over the past ten renewals, with the Winner’s Rating rising from 127 to 139, and the bottom weight increasing from the low 120s toward the high 120s. This gives us an average Winner’s Rating of 129 (rounded) and an average bottom weight of 124, however these numbers are skewed by the abnormally low 2011 renewal. This can be shown by looking at the averages excluding 2011, with the bottom weight going up to 126, and the Winner’s Rating rising to 131 (rounded). The average top weight has remained fairly consistent throughout the past ten years, averaging at 139.
Paul Nicholls is the most successful trainer in this race since 2010, recording three victories (Sanctuaire 2010, Qualando 2015 and Diego Du Charmil 2016). Gordon Elliot is the second most successful trainer, winning twice (Flaxen Flare 2013 and Veneer Of Charm 2018). Irish trainers have won four of the last ten renewals, whilst British trainers have won the other six.
No Jockey has ever won the Fred Winter more than once.
Only one British-bred Horse has won the Fred Winter since its inception in 2005, with Crack Away Jack winning for Emma Lavelle in 2008. Six of the fifteen winners have been French-bred, with the remaining eight Horses all Irish-bred. Five of the last ten winners started their careers on the Flat, with the other five all running in French Hurdle races.
My first selection for the Fred Winter is Gordon Elliot’s Aramax, who has improved bundles so far this season. Starting his career with Guillaume Macaire in May 2019, this half-brother to Aramon (Rated 148 and a Grade 1 winning Hurdler) finished a promising third at Dieppe in a three-year-old Hurdle. Confirming that promise wasn’t misguided, Aramax subsequently bolted up in another 3yo Hurdle at Vittel in July, winning by five-lengths. After this good performance, Aramax was subsequently sent to Gordon Elliot, in order to continue his career under the ownership of JP McManus.
Starting off his Irish career in the deep-end, Aramax was pitched straight into Grade 2 company at Leopardstown on Boxing Day. Racing in mid-division, this youngster was given a nice educational ride to get used to the new style of Hurdles, making a mistake at the second flight in the process. Aramax never really got into the race that day (like most Horses!) behind impressive runaway winner Aspire Tower, and He made a tired mistake at the second last causing him to take a tumble. Despite falling at Leopardstown, Aramax put in a much-improved performance just over two weeks later, when running in a four-year-old Conditions Hurdle at Fairyhouse. Chasing the leaders under Mark Walsh, Aramax disputed third before the second last where he Jumped left. Despite the Jump hindering his momentum, this Son of Maxios was going extremely well and was almost on terms with the leaders at the second last, but tired late on – finishing third. Although not able to get his head in-front, Aramax faced the tough task of trying to give Wolf Prince (136) 5lbs that day – a Horse who would’ve been my idea of the Fred Winter winner had he not been ruled out of the Festival.
Aramax was last seen on the track at Naas earlier this month, when running in a four-year-old Novice Hurdle. Taking a lead from Gin On Lime (131), Aramax was asked by Mark Walsh to press on from the third last, going upsides the leader with stablemate Recent Revelations making a line of three. Disputing the lead with his stablemate thereafter, Mark Walsh asked his charge to press on after the second last, and Aramax duly obliged – lengthening away up the run-in to record an impressive eight-length victory. The form has substance to it with Jessica Harrington’s Filly bolting up in France before finishing fourth in a competitive Grade 3 Mares Novice Hurdle, whilst stablemate Recent Revelations had won by eight-lengths on his previous start – so it clearly was a nice performance from Aramax to put distance between himself and those rivals. A further positive comes from the fact that this race was won by Band Of Outlaws last season, en route to Fred Winter glory.
Aramax has earnt himself an Irish rating of 134 over Hurdles for his exploits to date – the same mark which Band Of Outlaws was given this time last year. The British Handicapper added an extra 5lbs onto his mark at Cheltenham, so you’d imagine that Aramax will do well to get a British rating lower than that – but this wouldn’t put me off his extremely strong chances. In regard to trends, Aramax obviously graduated from French Hurdles, and is trained by the second-most successful trainer in the race – Gordon Elliot. One trend that is massively against Aramax is the fact that he is German-bred, but the sample size is so small that I wouldn’t have any qualms about him busting that stat. With many Horses in the Fred Winter betting set to defect into the Triumph Hurdle, this looks the perfect time to get on Aramax – who’s been confirmed by Gordon Elliot to be running in the race.
Aramax 2pts Each/Way (4 Places) @ 7/1
My second selection for the Fred Winter is Langer Dan, who is seemingly a bit of a forgotten Horse in the race. This Ocovango Juvenile made his debut for the Dan Skelton yard at Ludlow in October, where he ran a really taking race – travelling powerfully and ultimately scoring cosily – beating Brambledown by two-and-a-quarter lengths despite drifting left after the last. In fact these little quirks meant you could upgrade his performance in my eyes, as he was having a good look around down the home straight, and was learning plenty on his first day at work. The Skelton’s clearly agreed with this assessment as his next start came at Wetherby in November in their Listed Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle. Once more travelling powerfully throughout the race, Harry Skelton had Langer Dan covered up right up until the final flight, where he completed a masterful ride to thread the eye-of-the-needle between the leading pair to gamely score by just over a length. The form of that race is now looking fairly strong; the second Maria Magdalena ran out when looking like winning at Catterick, and the third placed Nordano (140) bolted up at Ascot last weekend by sixteen-lengths – having previously finished behind the likes of Allmankind and Goshen.
Langer Dan went to Cheltenham in December for his next start, running in the Class 2 Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle. Tracking the leader throughout, Langer Dan jumped and travelled very professionally, but just couldn’t get past Gary Moore’s Botox Has (139), who I think is up there with the best Juvenile Hurdlers around this season. Despite finishing five-lengths behind a good Horse that day, Langer Dan ran strongly to the line and produced a fast Jump at the last despite being under pressure from his Jockey. This Jump ensured he finished four-lengths clear of Elysian Flame in third, with Group Stage (131) further back in fourth – a Horse who has since finished a close second behind Thyme White in a Listed Juvenile Hurdle. Langer Dan was last seen on the track back at Ludlow earlier this month, when running in a Novices’ Hurdle. Despite being sent off an odds-on favourite, this was likely a nice lowkey preparation race for the Cheltenham Festival; as Harry Skelton buried him in midfield of a thirteen-runner race, before asking his mount to go and claim leader Garry Clermont (131) in the home straight. Langer Dan put in some fantastic jumps at the final two flights, but his Jockey never really drew the whip on him – using hands and heels to finish one-and-a-half lengths behind his more experienced rival. Garry Clermont is due to run in the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle this weekend which could give the form a significant boost, but it was the perfect preparation for Langer Dan’s Fred Winter bid with the pair pulling ten-lengths clear of the rest.
Langer Dan’s mark of 135 was unchanged by the British Handicapper following on from his Ludlow preparation, which will guarantee him a run in the Fred Winter. This is actually the same mark which 2018 Fred Winter favourite Nube Negra had when finishing third for the Skelton’s, who underwent an extremely similar preparation; finishing second in the December Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham before running in a Novice Hurdle at Doncaster. Langer Dan looks to have a fantastic chance of going equally as well as his stablemate, as his slick jumping is a strong asset. It’s also pleasing to see Langer Dan has ran in field sizes of 11 and 13 during his career, as the experience of running in a large field alike to Cheltenham is a lot different to a six-runner Juvenile Hurdle. This seems to suit his running style perfectly, as Harry Skelton will be able to cover him up in midfield before producing his mount at the second last. Langer Dan is Irish-bred so he fits the current trend, with the last three Fred Winter winners matching that trait. One question mark Langer Dan does have to answer however is that he never ran over the Flat nor in French Hurdle races. Whilst his Jumping wouldn’t be of any concern, perhaps he could be lacking in experience compared to some of his rivals. Despite this minor concern, Langer Dan looks a massive price at 33/1.
Langer Dan 1pt Each/Way (5 Places) @ 33/1
Good luck! – Jake Price