Follow the old firm of Johnson and Hobbs at Cheltenham this weekend

Thu 14 Nov 2019

Timeform's Andrew Asquith delves into the stats to find out which jockey-and-trainer combinations have been worth following at Cheltenham’s November meeting - and it's a familiar pairing who are at the top of his list.

Philip Hobbs and champion jockey Richard Johnson have teamed up for 11 victories at a strike rate of 34 per cent at Cheltenham’s November meeting in the past five seasons, registering more winners than any other combination in that period.

It has been highly profitable to follow the pair too, with those 11 winners returning a level-stakes profit of 51.50 at Betfair SP.

They are likely to have plenty of chances over the three days at this year’s meeting, with Thyme Hill looking one of their better prospects in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Hyde) which has been moved to the Saturday of the meeting.

Thyme Hill finished third behin Envoi Allen in the Champion Bumper

He was one of the best around in bumpers last season – he finished third to Envoi Allen in the Champion Bumper at the Festival – and landed some nice bets when making a winning debut over hurdles in the Persian War Novices' Hurdle at Chepstow last month, conceding hurdling experience to most the field but still passing the test with flying colours.

Thyme Hill earned the Timeform 'large P' at Chepstow – signifying that significant improvement is expected – and he looks set to take high rank among the novice hurdlers this season. He is one to follow.

Hobbs saddled no fewer than six winners at this meeting in 2014, with the undoubted highlight coming courtesy of Garde la Victoire, who provided his trainer with a fourth win in the Greatwood Hurdle.

Hobbs’ other previous winners of that race included Rooster Booster (2002) and Detroit City (2006), both of whom carried the famous yellow and black silks of Terry Warner, and he will be hoping to see the same colours in the winners’ enclosure this year, with Gumball featuring prominently in the ante-post betting after winning a competitive handicap at Ascot last time. That was a career-best effort on Timeform ratings.

Hobbs could also run Zanza, who comes out with an excellent chance on ratings as he can compete off the same mark as when successful in a conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle at Newbury last week.

Watch how Zanza scored at Newbury last time out

Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan have been another profitable pair at the November meeting, recording four wins over the past five seasons at a level-stakes profit of 41.29 at Betfair SP.

Local trainer O’Brien likes targeting this meeting, and teamed up with Brennan to win the aforementioned Ballymore Novices' Hurdle with Coolanly twelve months ago.

This year, the yard is set to be represented in the race by Champagne Well, who finally got off the mark over hurdles on his reappearance in a novice over C&D last month, but he didn’t need to improve to do so and will need to find some progress from somewhere to mix it in graded company.

Benny’s Bridge holds better claims in the Greatwood Hurdle on Sunday. This six-year-old was well backed on his return when winning a C&D handicap for conditional riders by eight lengths, scoring with plenty in hand having been given a confident ride by Connor Brace.

Benny's Bridge bolted up at Cheltenham in October

This track clearly suits his style of racing (two from two at Cheltenham) and a fiercely-run race will be perfect for this strong-travelling sort. A 10lb higher mark now in a stronger race makes life more difficult, but he has likely been targeted at this.

Colin Tizzard and Harry Cobden have a 100 per cent strike rate when teaming up at the November meeting, winning on all three occasions. They took the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle with Elixir de Nutz 12 months ago and also won the race the previous year with Slate House, who is one of the favourites for the BetVictor Gold Cup, the feature race of the meeting.

Tizzard has been turning to Robbie Power this season where possible, so Cobden’s opportunities for the trainer may be limited, but the combination need to be respected if teaming up.

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