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Record of the blog selections
Current Profit for the 2015-16 Jumps Season = £458.09
from wagers on 54 individual selections (11 winners, 10 placed, 32 unplaced or fell, & 1 non-runner)
Total Staked = £547.00
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advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.
Saturday, 6 February 2016
We have jump race meetings at Sandown, Ffos Las and Wetherby today, with perhaps the best of the racing at Sandown as it is doubtful whether racing will take place at Ffos Las. But first, our selection yesterday Cloudy Joker, fell mid-race when in 2nd-place. Difficult to know where he’d have finished had he not fallen, but it’s unlikely that he’d have beaten the eventual winner Raktiman. By the way, Raktiman was beaten in his previous race by our selection on Thursday, Stilletto – who also fell. My form reading is in the right place, it’s just the fences keep getting in the way! Stilletto, looked capable of winning his race by 10-lengths till he fell when leading - most disappointing as we were on at 6/1.
Sandown is where we will start with a look at the day’s racing, and the ground there is soft/heavy.
There are a couple of chase handicaps that look interesting, the first of which is a Class 2 race over 2-mile at 1:50pm. There are only 6 entries, headed by likely joint-fav’s Bold Henry and Arthur’s Oak. This pair met LTO over C&D on 2nd Jan, and Bold Henry won that day. As such, he 5lb worse off with Arthur’s Oak for a winning margin of just over 2-lengths. That seems tough, but he looked like he won with something in-hand then and he may well hold the advantage again today. However, I may take a chance with Chris Pea Green who could be a lot better than his OR142 rating should he complete the course error-free.
The “Scilly Isles” novices’ chase at 2:25pm is one of the key “Arkle” trials of the season. It is a race that Paul Nicholls strives to win every season, but he’s not had much luck in recent years. Interestingly, Irish trainer Willie Mullins had 5 entered mid-week but has none starting. Essentikally, this race is a “match” between Tea For Two and Bristol De Mai. Both are on my alert list and, on the face of it, I’m more inclined to favour the latter, as the 5yo Bristol De Mai looks to have more speed and potential than his rival. There wont be much in this.
I don’t usually have wagers in handicap hurdles, but I do like 3-mile hurdle races as few horses can stay this sort of trip effectively at “racing” speed. After saying that, you’d expect me to suggest Baywing who is bidding for his 5th win this season; however, his trainer Nicky Richards has a pretty awful record when sending his horses south of Manchester to race. As such, I think there is plenty of value in this race without the fav. Can anyone discount an Alan King runner (Medinas) after last weekend? I’m not sure Ibis Du Rheu will see out this trip as he looked one-paced over 2m5f LTO. And the winner of that race Yala Enki, didn’t stay 2m7f when tried over the trip at Haydock in November. Next in the market is Saddlers Encore, and this horse won over 2m7f in April 2015 as a 5yo, after which he was injured and not seen again till 26thDecember 2015 when he was a close-up 5th beaten just over 4-lengths after being ridden prominently all the way and (most likely) only giving way due to lack of fitness. Currently 13/2 at best with the bookies, those look fair odds about a horse that could be well-treated on OR129 - those on the blog email list were advised to take the 7/1 available last night.
The 3-mile Class 2 handicap Chase at 3:35pm brings a fair few old hands to the races. Last years winner Le Reve returns to repeat the feat, this time off a rating of OR144 which is 5lb higher than last year. If he’s in the same form, then he looks to hold a favourites chance, as he ended the season running 3rdover this course in the Bet365 Gold cup off off OR147. Trainer Charlie Longsdon had entered Drop Out Joe for this, but now relies on the 12yo Pete The Feat who I think will struggle on this ground. Saroque had a hard race in the Welsh National, although Black Thunder was running well until unseating his rider. He’s dropped 3lb to OR149 (he was rated OR155 last season) and he could run a big race. I thought Black Thunder could develop into a 160+ chaser this season, but he's struggled along with others from his stable. But the horse I like is KNOCK HOUSE, who looked like he had a lot in hand when winning at Cheltenham in November off OR140 and looked like running a big race until hitting the 3rd-last fence LTO. He looks unexposed and, so long as the ground isn’t bottomless, he looks capable of winning this race, so odds of 7/1 with Paddy Power look generous.
The Wetherby meeting will likely be run on heavy ground, and holds no races of interest for me. As for Ffos Las, if it goes ahead it will undoubtedly be run on bottomless, heavy ground and I can't consider a wager there.
Sandown 3:00pm SADDLERS ENCORE, £4 eachway @ 7/1 (odds of 13/2 are generally available)
Sandown 3:30pm KNOCK HOUSE, £4 eachway @ 7/1 (generally available)
£2 eachway double on the above selections
Friday, 5 February 2016
When luck is against you, then there is little you can do but keep plugging on.
Yesterday’s selection STILLETTO, took up the running with half-a-mile to run, and looked set to stay-on and win at attractive odds but, unfortunately, he stumbled on landing at the 3rd-last fence and couldn’t recover his feet.
It was particularly galling as I’d managed to obtain 7/1 on the exchanges and was on for my maximum personal wager - £40 win.
Basically, the only way I could see him losing was if he didn’t finish! The result showed that I’d read the race well, with Quite By Chance and Gores Island filling the 2nd and 3rd places, but neither ever looked like winning, as I’d expected. Eventual winner As De Fer was matched at 999 on the exchanges when looking beaten, but was virtually presented the race when STILLETTO fell.
Onwards and upwards they say and, with horseracing, that’s the only attitude to have.
There are a couple of jump race meetings at Catterick and Chepstow today, and I have a few from my alert list running. At Catterick in the 2m3f Class 3 handicap chase at 4:00pm, one of my old alert list horses Cloudy Joker is running. He took a long time to come back to full fitness and recover his novice chase form of 2013-14 and, as such, I removed him from the alert list yet since then he has won his last two races here at Catterick. He’s up to a rating of OR125, but is still 3lbs below his all-time high of OR128 to which he was raised after winning here in January 2014. On the face of it, he looks well-treated, and his most obvious rivals look to need to improve significantly to beat him today. While we should see an improved performance from The Cobbler Swayne over this trip – 2m5f possibly too far LTO – he still has to show his revised rating of OR122 (up 16lb for his winning chase debut) is within his scope. And Specials Wells hasn’t yet shown he has the aptitude to be a chaser yet in his previous 3 chase races. A greater challenge to Cloudy Joker may come from the 10yo Rear Admiral, who has a 6lb “pull” for a 2-length beating on their meeting LTO. As such, current odds of 4/1 about Cloudy Joker look fair as, based on his novice chase form of 2013-14, he could possibly end up rated 130+.
At the Chepstow meeting, there are a couple of horses from my alert list running. In the 1:40pm, which is a Class 4 novice hurdle over 2-mile, there is Nansaroy (best odds 4/1) who faces just 4 rivals. He looks to be facing a tough task at level-weights with the fav Robin Of Locksley, who looked decent when winning LTO over 2m4f on heavy ground. As such, trainer Evan Williams has put-up 7lb claimer Lewis Gordon, but I’m never happy wagering on horses ridden by claimers who aren’t known to me.
In the next at Chepstow at 2:10pm there is Baltimore Rock in the Class 4 Novice Chase over 2-mile. He won his chase debut well, when trained by David Pipe, on 29th December but – for some unknown reason – his owner has moved him to Neil Mulholland. I reckon this 7yo could be a 150+ chaser in the making and, while he’s giving 6lb to all his rival today, he should be able to beat his main dangers of Oscar Sunset and Lockstockandbarrel. The latter was with Willie Mullins in Ireland last season and now races from Jonjo O’Neills stable. He’s well bred, his dam is a half-sister to top staying chaser Hey Big Spender and, being by Flemensfirth, he will relish the mud today. He just may find this 2-mile trip a bit on the short side.
I’m tempted by the 4/1 available on Cloudy Joker (he’s 9/2 with Stan James) but Don McCains horses can be a bit unpredictable when it comes to keeping their form. He’s not one to put the housekeeping on, but let’s hope he can recover yesterday’s losses.
Catterick 4:00pm CLOUDY JOKER, £10 win @ 4/1 (generally available)
Thursday, 4 February 2016
Small fields and heavy ground – when will we see the first dry days of Spring?
We should see some interesting horses entered for races in the next 2-weeks as trainers endeavour to “get a run in” with those entered for the Cheltenham Festival. With time running out – trainers essentially need to race their horses on or before Saturday 20th February at the very latest – and the heavy ground that has dominated horseracing since Christmas Day preventing most racehorses from running; trainers will be seeking any opportunity that presents itself.
We have a couple of jump race meetings today at Towcester and Wincanton, and while Towcester’s card is low-key stuff, there are a couple of interesting races at Wincanton worth casting an eye over. In particular, the 2m4f Class 3 handicap chase at 3:40pm which has a field of 11 runners including the interesting trio Stilletto, Quite By Chance, and Gores Island. I know the race-fav is the 10yo As De Fer, and he won LTO at Warwick only last week (so should be more than race-fit) and races today off a mark 11lb lower than his re-rating; but he’s not been the most reliable horse to follow-up in the past and it’s more a case of taking a view “in-running” as to whether he’s capable of running a winning race or not.
Paul Nicholls runs the lightly-raced novice chaser STILLETTO and I like this horse a lot. I think he bumped into a good one LTO in Violet Dancer and he could be a lot better than his OR132 rating. We also know that he handles soft/heavy ground and that he stays this sort of trip. The 7yo Quite By Chance has a lot more experience and this will be his 15th chase race. He beat our selection LTO (Ballinvarrig on 21st Jan) into 3rd place, and also the Paul Nicholls trained Wuff into 2nd. He’s up 6lb to OR129 for that win which I think is a bit harsh in the circumstances, and he may be found wanting today when push comes to shove. Finally, Gores Island and although he’s a 10yo he generally holds his form well and is a fairly consistent performer. He was also in the race won by Quite By Chance LTO, but was brought-down by another faller mid-race and so is 6lb better-off with the winner today. I just think this trip stretches him as both his chase wins (from 20 chase starts) have come over the minimum trip of 2-mile.
I have to admit, while I did not think STILLETTO would be the fav for this race, I certainly expected him to be the 2nd-fav at about 4/1, and so it is a real bonus to see him priced at 6/1 – and those odds are available generally. This looks a good winning opportunity and at generous odds too, and it would not surprise me to see SITLLETTO win today and then go on to run well at the Cheltenham Festival.
Wincanton 3:40pm STILLETTO, £10 win @ 6/1 (available generally)
Monday, 1 February 2016
It was certainly a glorious day at Cheltenham on Saturday. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to find a winner – but we came close.
Because of the forecast of heavy overnight rain, I woke early on Saturday morning to learn of the effects of the rain and have a review of the racing with that knowledge in mind. The ground had deteriorated from soft to heavy, and it was certainly testing. As such, I had another look at the novice handicap and thought that the form on heavy ground – as well as experience of forcing tactics – gave the Venetia Williams trained Waldorf Salad an excellent chance of success that was much better than his odds of 14/1. On that score, I was right as the horse set a strong gallop that had many struggling to keep up as they went up the hill (away from the stands) after running the first mile. By the top of the hill, there was only the leading 3 of the 12 starters in with a chance of winning, and our selection Waldorf Salad was heading that trio. Unfortunately, he was headed 2-out and altho’ he stayed-on well he was never going to pass the eventual winner. It would have been a tremendous start to the afternoon, having a 14/1 winner, but it was not to be. My £5 eachway wager at 14/1 paid-out £22.50, recording a profit of £12.50.
Next up was the feature race at Cheltenham, the Betbright Chase over 3m1f. The odds-on fav Djakadam, runner-up in the last Cheltenham Gold Cup, fell mid-race as they field started up the hill away from the stands. As per my blog, I’d placed win-only wagers on Many Clouds @ 8/1 and O’Faolains Boy @ 10/1 as I didn’t think Djakadam was on odds-on chance. I also didn’t think Smad Place would be able to hold-off Many Clouds if he was as fit as he was when winning the race in 2015, but, as things turned-out, he was.
As the leading pair pulled clear in the final mile and jumped the 2nd-last together, the Grand National winner Many Clouds didn’t seem to have moved a muscle and looked full of running. Unfortunately, that was all show as he had nothing left in the tank when asked for an effort, whereas Smad Place jumped the last 2-lengths clear and then when shook-up by his jockey (Richard Johnson) he quickly skipped away to a 10-length advantage. It was unfortunate that Djakadam fell, but let’s take nothing away from Smad Place, as there were some rock-solid 160 performers left toiling in his wake. Clearly, he loved the ground, but a return to the front-running tactics employed in winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury last autumn are also responsible for his good form. I’ve rated his performance in winning this at 166, which isn’t as good as how I rated Cue Card and Vautour in the “King George” on Boxing Day (172), but this was over further and at Cheltenham. He was 20/1 for the Gold Cup immediately after the race (with BetVictor) and I snapped that up for an eachway wager; and he’s best-priced at 12/1 now. The win of Smad Place capped a glorious day for trainer Alan King who sent out 5 winners.
By this time, it was fairly obvious to all that the ground was very testing and that front-runners were managing to get away from their rivals – this was not a day for hold-up tactics. The handicap chase over 2m5f looked a cracker on paper, but the ground took no prisoners and by halfway some of the field were struggling – including my selection for the blog Irish Cavalier. It was a very disappointing effort from Irish Cavalier, and I knew the writing was on the wall when jockey Barry Geraghty gave the horse a slap on the shoulder as they field passed the stands – and, sure enough, after jumping the next fence he pulled the horse up. Was it the ground, or was it something more? Given the overall performance of the trainers’ horses over the weekend, it seems more likely a problem at the stable.
Going up the hill, the field fell away rapidly behind the leading pair, and soon there was only last year’s winner Annacotty and long-time leader Tenor Nivernais left in with a winning chance. Given Annacotty’s love of Cheltenham, there could only be one winner, and he soon took up the running. The jockey went a bit too early as the runner-up came back at him on the long run-in (the final fence having been omitted due to the poor ground), but Annacotty stayed on to win, without having to better his performance when winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November, when I thought he’d have to better that run by 7lb. This was a lesson learned for me (you should always have an open mind, it is never too late to learn) in that on testing ground, races can turn into a “match” with most of the field being unable to cope with the ground. In such circumstances, weight and rating matter little.
My final selection of the day ran at Doncaster in the Skybet Chase over 3-mile. I had narrowed my selection down to either Buywise or No Planning, and the “good” ground at Doncaster swung my opinion towards No Planning, as he’d won over 2m7f at Haydock on similar ground in April 2014. I thought the “good” ground description was dubious considering it was considered “sticky” the day before, which was another plus-point for No Planning as he’d won on soft and heavy ground as well. Unfortunately, No Planning ran no race at all as it looked like he was left at the start (from the tv pictures I could not tell what happened) and trailed behind throughout, before pulling-up with a mile still to run. It was reported that he’d bled from the nose, but this race was lost at the start.
All-in-all, a disappointing day, and my personal “rule” of not having a wager at odds under 9/4 kept me off good hurdle winners Yanworth @ 2/1 and Thistlecrack @ 4/5. Both these horses look destined for Cheltenham Festival glory at their respective targets.