Byrne Group Plate Betting

The two-mile, five-furlong race known today as the Byrne Group Plate has a long, illustrious history as part of the four-day Cheltenham Festival held each March. The Class A Grade 3 handicap chase started out in 1951 as the Mildmay of Flete Handicap Chase, named in memory of 2nd Baron Mildmay of Flete (1909~1950), who was an amateur National Hunt jockey and three-time winner at the Festival.

Oddly enough, the very first running took place not in March but in April due to waterlogging of the track. Even more of a surprise was the inaugural result—a dead heat tie between two nine-year-olds, Ryan Price’s Slender with Fred Winter in the Saddle and Ivor Anthony’s Canford ridden by Glen Kelly.

In the six decades since then, many champion chasers have appeared in this event, including two-time winners The Tsarevich (1985~86) and Elfast (1992, 1994). Fred Winter completed his hat-trick here—the only jockey to do so—by riding Sy Oui to victory in 1953, followed by Caesar’s Helm in 1958.

Three trainers have claimed four wins over the seventeen fences. They include Bobby Renton with Tudor Line (1954), Caesar`s Helm (1958), Siracusa (1959), and Merry Court (1968) and Martin Pipe with Terao (1997), Majadou (1999), Dark Stranger (2000), and Blowing Wind (2002). Nicky Henderson recently joined them, training The Tsarevich (1985, 1986), Liberthine (2005), and Non So (2006).

From 2006 to 2008, the Racing Post sponsored the race and it was known as the Racing Post Plate. A special edition was announced in 2009, honouring the late Scottish bookmaker “Fearless” Freddie Williams (1942~2008). Although the Freddie Williams Festival Plate was run only once, it caused quite a stir, first by upping the purse to £90,000 and then by crowning a 33/1-shot, Something Wells, after a breathtaking ¾-length win over favourite Ping Pong Sivola, both horses trained by Venetia Williams. It was a show that Williams would have heartily enjoyed.

In 2010, the Byrne Group, a project management and construction company assumed title sponsorship and the total prize pool was set at £80,000. In 2011, the purse was reduced slightly, to £75,000. Conducted as a handicap, the Byrne Group Plate is open to horses aged five years or older and run on the left-handed turf of Cheltenham’s New Course.

In recent years, handicapped novices have fared quite well in the Byrne Group Plate against their more experienced rivals. However, that is expected to change from 2011 on, owing to the introduction of the slightly more lucrative Jewson Novices Chase, which is run over two and a half miles. It can be expected to lure many potential challengers away. 1st: £45,608

If trends remain an indicator of success, look for the continuation of a string of winners at double-digit odds. Since 2000, the very lowest payout for victory was 12/1, delivered by Tikram in 2004 and Idole First in 2007, while the highest was 66/1 in 2008, when eleven-year-old Mister McGoldrick romped home a full 13 lengths ahead of the nearest contender. Only a single favourite has succeeded here since 1981, that being Majadou at 7/4 in 1999, and the nine most recent odds leaders have ended their races unplaced.

In 2010, six-year-old Great Endeavour gave trainer David Pipe his first Byrne Group Plate, worth £45,608 for first place and rewarding backers with a lovely 18/1 payout. It also marked a rare feat for Ireland, as French-bred entries have captured six of the last 11 renewals and come in second in four of the remaining five.

Among other trends, form is a definite consideration. Of the most recent 19 winners, 17 were among the first four finishers their last time out. Similarly, 17 of the 19 had run at the Cheltenham Festival before.

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