What a week this has been. One of the most passionate and exciting Cheltenham Festival’s in a while has been and gone and by god it was one to remember. From Labaik kicking us off on day one all the way to Gold Cup race and Sizing John’s dominant win it has been one that thrilled us all. In case you missed it all week (if so where have you been?!?!) we have been running the inaugural Severn Sport Tipster League and ultimately have crowned a new resident tipster. Here is the Tipster League as it happened.
The Tipster League started as an idea weeks ago when I was sat there at work and thought “Yes! What an idea!” It was quite the eureka moment for me to put the league together. I thought about what Cheltenham is all about and its about excitement yet competition. Myself and Kelsey De Maria were the firsts to enter and quickly after speaking to the competitors one by one they were keen to get involved. Michael Hedley-Ward (also known as The Fox) was our resident tipster and was willing to put his title on the line, so fair play to him. Knowing horse racing as I do I knew you have syndicates and groups who own horses so that is where the idea for teams to enter came from. Once the competitors were in we needed to assign nicknames, ultimately we ended up with 10 competitors:
Ryan Butler – Bacon
Kelsey De Maria – The Press Officer
Michael Hedley-Ward – The Fox
Douglas Bowen – The Bear
Matt & Emma Yates – Mr & Mrs Severn Sport
Damon Highet – Sweet Prince
Gill Moore – Lady Gillian
Rosie Mayo & Maryanne Gay – The Gee Gee Girls
Matt Rose & Sam Avery – The Bearded Beauties
Joe Hanks & Zack Kotwica – On The Outside
Gloucester City and Severn Sport followers will notice the last two teams are teams made up of City players and legends, so firstly thank you to them and City manager Tim Harris for taking part and getting involved with us. It just so happened the two teams ended up being the old school vs new school. We will see how that battle ended later on.
Crazily, we had the competitors set before I had even finished the rules! Which is really a good thing. In the end the rules affected the league in a big way. The rules were:
Each competitor selects a winner, an each way shot and a reserve in the three selected races each day.
If either the winner or each way wins they score 3 points.
If the each way shot places they score 1 point.
If the competitors winner wins and the each way finishes 2nd they will receive a bonus point and score 5 points.
If the competitors each way wins and the winner finishes 2nd they will receive a bonus point and score 4 points.
If the competitor picks a winner of odds 10/1 or more they will score a bonus 2 points.
If the competitor picks a winner of odds 20/1 or more they will score a bonus 5 points.
If either of the horses tipped that run the race fall or fail to finish the race the competitor will be deducted 2 points.
So as you can see there was a lot of thought into the rules and scoring. Bonuses for what the competitor pick and consequences for picking a horse that falls or doesn’t finish the race, harsh as it may be. Anyway, with the competitors and rules in place it was now all about the racing.
Day one was exciting. From 25/1 shot Labaik winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle all the way to Apple’s Jade beating Vroum Vroum Mag in the Mares’ Hudle. The racing was phenomenal. In terms of tips we could see that some tipsters were reading off the same hymn sheet so to speak.
In race one, six competitors tipped River Wylde, Melon and Ballyandy to either win or place with 7 different names appearing amongst the tips. So the field was covered. After Labaik won the race we waited for the places. Melon and River Wylde. The result meant only three competitors scored points, with Bacon, On The Outside and Mr & Mrs Severn Sport nabbing a point for a place.
Race two, the Champion Hurlde, saw Moon Racer appear the most times amongst tips, varied between the winner, each way shot and the reserve. The favourite Yanworth was next popular along with Brain Power, receiving 5 tips each. The race saw two firsts for the league. The first win points (to The Press Officer, The Bear and On the Outside) and the first points deductions for Moor Racer pulling up. Suddenly it was all go!
Race three was the Mares’ and only six different horses featured in a variety of combinations in the tips with Vroum Vroum Mag appearing the most with 8 tips. Vroum Vroum Mag finished second to a strong and powerful Apple’s Jade with the favourite Limini finishing third meaning there were points for half of our competitors. There were winners for both Sweet Prince and The Gee Gee Girls, but a whopping 4 points for the reversed forecast going to The Press Officer Kelsey De Maria.
After day one the table looked as follows:
The new school of Gloucester City players On The Outside were joint top with The Press Officer on 5 points, with the latter second on the grounds he had -1 bonus points. Early on The Bearded Beauties, Lady Gillian and The Fox struggled and were the only competitors to successfully even tip a place. Day two however would be completely different.
Day two started with the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle and this would be the first race that highlighted the influence the points deductions could be. Going into the race the favourite Neon Wolf appeared 6 times, front runner Bon Papa 5 times and second favourite Bacardys a whopping 8 times (1 as reserve). The race finished with 14/1 shot Willoughby Court romping home, giving 3 points for the win and a bonus 2 points for the price to The Bearded Beauties. However, the main talking points were both Bon Papa & Barcardys failed to finish the race meaning there were deductions all over. Amazingly, The Gee Gee Girls, Bacon and Sweet Prince all received -4 points.
In the second race Whisper was the favourite for our tipsters, appearing 7 times across the board and the tips looked like sound advice when after Might Bite veered off on the straight Whisper took the lead. However, Might Bite straightened up to hold on by a nose. Had Whisper won the race then the table would have been completely different with 5 competitors choosing Whisper to win! Out of the 5 only Sweet Prince picked up points as he had Might Bite to place, meaning he took home 4 points to counter the -4 he suffered in the first race.
The final race of day two was The Queen Mother Champion Chase and the much fancied Douvan. The hotly anticipated favourite who force more misery onto our competitors as an injury hampered Douvan, who ended up finishing in the middle of the pack. The story of the race was that Special Tiara comfortable won the race having finished 2nd last year. Tiara was followed home by Fox Norton and 50/1 shot Sir Valentino. The points went to those who picked Special Tiara as 2 bonus points meant 5 points went to Sweet Prince, On The Outside and The Gee Gee Girls. A productive day for the former as he still took home 5 points despite a 4 point deduction.
After day two the table looked as follows:
We had a new leader in Sweet Prince after a mixed day for him. Consistent performers were becoming apparent in On The Outside and The Bear. The Gee Gee Girls were performing better than they thought they would where as there was still disappointment for The Fox, Lady Gillian and Mr & Mrs Severn Sport. Crazily, Bacon was languishing in 8th position despite successfully picking 3 placed horses. Day three would be where we would finally begin to see who could be in with a shot of winning the Tipster League.
Day three saw a couple of big favourites running throughout the day, including Yorkhill and Un De Sceaux. The first race saw 10 different horses selected across the tips, including Rocklander, Tobefair and Isleofhopendreams. The result saw co-favourite Jury Duty finish 3rd, meaning The Fox scored 1 point. Apart from that there were 0’s across the board. A side note was that due to late tips, Lady Gillian was deducted 3 points and all tips were voided. It turned out that if they were on time she would have scored 5 points throughout the day.
The second race was the RyanAir Chase which saw Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh combine on Un De Sceaux to storm to victory. It was a big result for our tipsters as winning points were dished out like sweets in a chocolate factory. In fact only The Fox, The Bear and The Press Officer failed to get any points, let alone winning points. In the race Sub Lieutenant and 40/1 shot Aso placed, meaning that for both Mr & Mrs Severn Sport and The Gee Gee Girls their reserves placed, meaning that they both missed out on an extra couple of points.
Race three saw Cheltenham legends Village Vic and Thomas Crapper the two outstanding tips between the competitors. The race was won by Road to Respect and unfortunately for On The Outside and Mr & Mrs Severn Sport (again!!) their reserve won the race. There were deductions for The Bear and The Gee Gee Girls after both Diamond King and Tango de Juilley pulled up before the final few fences. Barring that there weren’t many points won.
After day three the table looked as follows:
There were two front runners threatening to pull away from the pack in On The Outside and Sweet Prince. However, it was confirmed on Severn Sport’s Facebook page that night that in addition to the final three races for the tipster league we would ask the competitors to pick the winner for the Gold Cup and the winner only. If they successfully tipped the winner they would receive double points. So it was all to play for!
Day four began with the favourite Defi du Seuil being the favourite amongst our tipsters. It was the favourite who duly obliged, being followed home by fancied Mega Fortune and Bapaume. For all of On The Outside, The Bearded Beauties, Lady Gillian, The Bear and Bacon there were 3 points for the winner. Place points went to The Gee Gee Girls but importantly the reversed forecast bonus point went to Sweet Prince who took home 4 points.
It would be the second race of day for where we would see a major swing in the momentum for the Tipster League Crown. Finally we would see first hand the benefit of picking a reserve after Mick Jazz was declared a non-runner. This meant the reserves for The Bear, The Bearded Beauties and On The Outside would come into play. The race was won by 20/1 shot Arctic Fire, second place was L’ami Serge and fancied Air Horse One would finish fourth, just behind Ozzie The Oscar. There were place points for Bacon, The Gee Gee Girls, The Fox, On The Outside and The Bearded Beauties. But the main talking point was the fact the reserve for The Bear in L’ami Serge would give him the reversed forecast of 4 points. In addition to this the price of Arctic Fire meant that he was awarded 5 bonus points, taking home 9 points in total. Magnificent and a game changer.
With one race and the Gold Cup winner left for the tipsters the first three of Sweet Prince, The Bear and On The Outside were only separated by two points. The third race would be where the defining moment that effectively secured the destiny of the Tipster League after fancied The Worlds End and favourite Death Duty fell at different intervals of the race. That meant that deductions were to be made to 8 of our tipsters. The two who crucially avoided deductions were The Gee Gee Girls and The Bear (who received 1 point for the placing Wholestone). This meant we had a new leader in The Bear who now lead by two points from Sweet Prince. The result also meant that despite only being three points behind the leader On The Outside were now out of the race due to the fact they, like The Bear had tipped Native River in the Gold Cup.
The Gold Cup race itself was won by Sizing John, meaning there were 6 points for Bacon and The Press Officer who both rose up the table. There were deduction points for The Fox, Lady Gillian and The Gee Gee Girls who all backed Cue Card in the race, Cue Card who fell at the penultimate fence. The festival was over for the Tipsters and it meant that the final table looked as follows (note: unfortunately we do not have a graphic):
1) The Bear (17 points)
2) Sweet Prince (15 points)
3) On The Outside (14 points)
4) Bacon (11 points)
5) The Bearded Beauties (7 points)
6) The Press Officer (7 points)
7) The Gee Gee Girls (5 points)
8) The Fox (-2 points)
9) Mr & Mrs Severn Sport (-2 points)
10) Lady Gillian (-6 points)
And it is official, the new resident tipster for Severn Sport is The Bear after an inspired final day which saw him finish in front of the two overnight leaders. Arctic Fire and L’ami Serge doing enough to see him rise into contention before The Worlds End and Death Duty falling him seeing him take to the top. Other points of note were On The Outside and Sweet Prince who both stayed in the top 3 throughout the festival. Also the latter took home the title for most winners, with 5. Five was the lucky number for Bacon who managed to tip 5 placed horses throughout the week (joint highest with The Bear) to finish a strong 4th. The Bearded Beauties finished 5th after being bottom after day one. Despite going nearly 2 days without picking up a point The Press Officer finished 6th due to successfully picking Sizing John in the Gold Cup race. There was a great showing for The Gee Gee Girls who were unfortunate to finish as low as 7th, It was disappointing for ex-King Tipster The Fox who was the only tipster to fail to tip a winner all week. Mr & Mrs Severn Sport were unlucky as they suffered a lot of points deductions and saw three or four of their reserves go on to win races. Lastly, after a voided day on day three Lady Gillian was let down again after both her selections fell in the final race. Overall the tipster league was competitive until the very end and like the best quality of horse racing the winner came from out of nowhere, to the front and took home the prize.
We have some final thoughts from some of the competitors:
Joe Hanks from On The Outside said: We really enjoyed the Tipster League but it was just a shame that we didn’t come in first place. However, it wasn’t really a shock for us to have appeared in the podium positions. If only we had picked more winners!!
Sweet Prince Damon Highet said: I feel I did myself proud and if a few more horses stayed on their feet or didn’t pull up it is pretty likely I would have stayed at the top of the pile. I have hopefully put my stamp on the Severn Sport Tipster League and both listeners and participants alike now know that the Sweet Prince is as shrewd as his name sounds!! I hope that people were able to make a lot of money from the tips provided but even if they didn’t I hope they enjoyed themselves. It’s nice to be apart of something that promotes responsible gambling having worked in the industry down the years.
One half of Mr & Mrs Severn Sport Matt Yates said: We found it both fun and challenging due to early marital disagreements! It was good to have something riding on the races (pardon the pun). It helped us actually develop an understanding of horse racing and in particular the Cheltenham Festival as we didn’t know anything before. I also found it most entertaining seeing Kelsey talk a big game and failing to deliver.
Former Champion The Fox Michael Hedley-Ward: I really enjoyed the week even though I did awful! The writing was on the wall early on for The Fox and with Cue Card falling at the same fence as last year pretty much summed up the week as a whole for me. The Fox will be back though!
And lastly, we leave you with the thoughts of the Severn Sport King Tipster, The Bear Douglas Bowen: As you know, Cheltenham is magical at festival time and the Tipster League added excitement to the mix for me. I did think I was down and out after day three but having followed the Cheltenham form and getting lucky with Mick Jazz being pulled out the last day went my way. Well done to all those involved and I will see you all at Aintree. Much love, The Bear.