Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle Betting

When the Cheltenham Festival was expanded in 2005 to its current four-day format, the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices Handicap Hurdle was one of the very first new races added to fill out the schedule. It is named after famed jump jockey Fred Winter (1926~2004), a true legend of the sport.

Noted for his modesty and kindness as well as his talent and ability to inspire others, Winter was named Champion Jockey four times between 1947 and 1964. He won the Grand National twice, once each on Sundew (1957) and Kilmore (1962). He also left his mark on Cheltenham by taking 17 victories here as a rider, including back-to-back Gold Cups aboard Saffron Tartan (1961) and Mandarin (1962). Added to those wins were trophies from three Champion Hurdles and two King George VI Chases.

After his retirement from the saddle, Winter went on to greatness as trainer, winning twenty-eight races at Cheltenham. His finest horse was Gold Cup winner Midnight Court in 1978. Winter held the distinction of being awarded the title of British Jump Racing Champion Trainer eight times between 1971 and 1985. It was only fitting that his name be memorialised in this race the year following his passing.

The Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle, as it is commonly known, was established as a Listed Level handicap event. In 2009, it was promoted to a Grade 3 National Hunt hurdle, open only to four year old novices. As the sixth and penultimate race on Day Two of the Festival, it features eight hurdles and covers two miles and half a furlong on the left-handed turf of the Cheltenham Old Course.

No rider, trainer, or owner was able to claim more than a single victory in the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle in the first six years of its running. David Pipe came close, training the 2007 winneróthe 9/2 favourite, Gasparaóbut his 2008 entry, the 15/8 favourite Ashkazar, did not live up to the pre-race betting and lost to Emma Lavelleís 14/1-shot Crack Away Jack by two and a half lengths.

Apart from Gaspara and the 2010 winner, Sanctuaire, trained by Paul Nicholls and finishing at 4/1, the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle has not been particularly kind to horses priced at under 10/1. Only five of them have finished in the first seven places in six runnings, which makes this a very interesting market for punters. In 2006, Shamayoun rambled across the finish line for a triumph worth 40/1, and in 2009, first-place Silk Affair paid 11/1.

One of the most notable winners at long odds was the very first one, Dabiroun, coming home ahead of the field in 2005 by eight full lengths to claim victory at 20/1. What made this victory especially sweet was that it was ridden by Miss Nina Carberry. She became the first female jockey to win a Cheltenham Festival race since Gee Armitage did so on Gee-A in 1987.

Although there is no commercial sponsor for the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices Handicap Hurdle, the total prize purse is not inconsequential. In 2011, it was set at £70,000, unchanged from the previous year. The winnerís share was £42,758 in 2010.

The race has not been around long enough to have established many noteworthy trends, but one does jump out. Of the last five winners, every single one of them had been a winner the last time out. Weight does not seem to be an indicator, however, as Silk Affair carried only 10 stone 4 pounds en route to victory in 2009, while Crack Away Jack finished first the year before with 11 stone 10. The other winners have been everywhere in between.

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