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Between March 2010 and April 2017, this blog recommended wagers on 520 individual races on Jump Racing in the UK, resulting in a PROFIT of £1,525.39 on cumulative stakes of £5,726 - this is equivalent to a Return On Investment of 26.60%.


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advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Presenting Percy to go straight for the Gold Cup

News issued early Friday morning (22nd February) was that Presenting Percy, the current 3/1 fav for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, is to go straight to the Festival in 3-weeks time without a prep-run over fences. Sure, he had a decent spin over hurdles when winning the 3-mile Galmoy Hurdle, but his last chase race was when winning the 3-mile RSA novice chase at Cheltenham on 14th March 2018.
Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of this and I've not had a penny on the horse for the Gold Cup and Patrick Kelly has only sent out 2 other winners this season (all 3 wins he's had this season have been over hurdles) and his only chase winner in the past 2 seasons has been Presenting Percy.  All I can say is that I would want a lot better odds than 3/1 to tempt me to place a wager, and I'd be looking for more than 12/1.
That said, my antepost portfolio is looking a little sick after last weekends results even though Clan Des Obeaux did me proud when winning at Ascot. I have £12 win at 12/1 on CDO but I wish I had a fair bit more. My largest antepost wager for the Festival is on Politologue for the Ryanair Chase, but he looked a most unlikely winner of that race when running 4th to stablemate Cyrname last Saturday, and I would be surprised if he goes to Cheltenham and we may see him next at Aintree.
We are now past the point of final preparatory runs for the vast majority of winners at previous Festivals. Last year, only Coo Star Sivola won off a break of less than 3-weeks (21 days), but in 2017 there were 4 such winners; Labaik (16 days), Apple's Jade (20 days), Flying Tiger (18 days) and Presenting Percy (19 days). However, there were no winners in 2016 off a break of less than 3-weeks.
Those races with more than 1 winner off a break of 21 days or less in the past 10 years are:
Supreme Novices Hurdle: 2 wins in 2009, and 2017
Ultima Handicap Chase: 4 wins in 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2018
Mares Hurdle (2m4f): 2 wins in 2009 and 2017
Novices Handicap Chase (2m4f): 2 wins in 2012 and 2014
"Fred Winter" Novices Handicap hurdle: 5 wins in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2017
"Pertemps" Final H'cap Hurdle: 3 wins in 2009, 2015, and 2017
Triumph Hurdle: wins in 2009 and 2010
Foxhunter Chase: 2 wins in 2010 and 2014.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that DEFI DU SEUIL goes for the "Arkle" and not the JLT Chase, but with JP McManus owning both Defi Du Seuil and the current 11/4 fav Le Richebourg, it's hard to see that happening and, at this stage, I can see both these horses winning their respective races.
In the 4-mile NH Chase (for amateur riders) I have to say that I've not been that impressed with the performances of OK Corral and if the race were run today I'd be looking to take the odds of 9/2 about DELTA WORK.  Much of this race will depend on the jockey bookings as top amateur riders are thin on the ground, but I would say that the Irish trainers appear to hold the aces in this race with Delta Work, Ballyward and (possibly) Mortal; the latter horse being my early antepost wager on the race.  

When you look at the form of Delta Work, if Le Richebourg wins the "Arkle" on the opening day then his odds for whichever race he's entered in will tumble.  He will start the fav for the race he lines-up in, but we are not sure if it will be the 3-mile RSA Chase or the 4-mile NH Chase.  Given that he had the speed to beat Le Richebourg over 2m4f on "good" ground at Fairyhouse on 2nd December (in what looks in hindsight to be top-class form), I would favour him going for the RSA Chase.  That would see him clash with another top class novice chaser in Topofthegame who although yet to win a chase race (he's been 2nd in both chase races he's contested) looks to be the best staying chaser on ratings this side of the Irish Sea.  I'm not convinced (yet) that Santini is as good a chaser as his potential suggests, and it may be we see the best of him when he drops in trip to 2m5f, a bit like Albertas Run who was a dual winner of the Ryanair Chase after not being top-class over 3-mile.

So, at the moment, I'm toying with a double on LE RICHEBOUG (Arkle) and DEFI DU SEUIL (JLT Chase), and a small treble on the same pair plus DELTA WORK for the RSA. 
The £10 win double would return £157.50
and a £5 win treble would return £393.75 if successful.
All the best from Wayward Lad.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Cheltenham Festival latest

What an interesting weekend of horseracing. 
We had added another few pieces of the Cheltenham Festival jigsaw, and taken a few away, and the overall picture is starting to become a bit clearer.
The Arkle betting market had a re-jig following the win of Le Richebourg at Leopardstown in the Irish "Arkle" on Saturday.  Unfortunately, he beat nothing new, in fact he beat all the same horses that he had already beaten, only he did it a bit more easily.  He is definitely the best 2-mile novice chaser seen so far in Ireland, but the formlines are difficult to match-up with the British form.
Here in England, the market is still dominated by Lalor based on that phenomenal display on his chasing debut at Cheltenham, but don't forget he flopped when next out (and that was the last time we saw him).  Connections reckon he was beaten by the soft ground on that run at Sandown in early December, and they are deciding not to risk another run before the Festival. Based on the trends, that's not a good idea, and I would not be willing to take odds shorter than 5/1 for this horse. 
Kalashnikov is another who will likely go straight to the Festival without another run, but he was unable to contain Dynamite Dollars at Kempton on 27th December and that horse has since won again. I'm sure Cheltenham will suit Kalashnikov more than Kempton, but if there are less than 10 runners in the Arkle then he may not get the pace he craves. Dynamite Dollars is a consistent performer who gets the job done, and he should be capable of running a decent race in the Arkle; but (not being a top-class hurdler) he may find 1 or 2 too good for him on the day.
In the autumn of 2017, Cilaos Emery was on the verge of breaking through as a Grade 1 hurdler, but injury curtailed that season, and he reappeared at Gowran Park last week to win comfortably over 2-miles on his chasing debut. Unfortunately, he didn't beat much but what he faced in the race, he beat well. As such, it's difficult to know what to make of Cilaos Emery, as he will have to run about 20lb better than this (at least) to win the Arkle at Cheltenham.
Only one bookie is offering "non-runner, no bet" on the Arkle (Skybet) and so I would like to take the current odds about the horse that I think has shown the best chase form seen this season over fences, and that is DEFI DU SEUIL who won at Sandown on Saturday. For me, this was the performance of the weekend as I already thought "Defi" was the best novice chaser we've seen this season - he was giving Lostintranslation 3lb when they met at Cheltenham - and he proved it on Saturday.   I think he could on his way to being the best Arkle winner we've seen in a few years and so I've taken the 16/1 offered about him for the Arkle by Bet365. You can get 8/1 NRNB with Skybet but I think it's worth the gamble for the increased odds that he runs in the Arkle rather than the JLT.  He's a Triumph hurdle winner, he's very quick, he loves Cheltenham, he jumps well (he slipped on landing on loose turf at the first of the railway fences and recovered well) - how could connections not go for the Arkle? If he lines up for the Arkle I cannot see him starting longer than 4/1.
Apple's Jade looks like she can win the Champion Hurdle, but she's not a 165+ hurdler yet on what we've seen.  Remember she beat Supasundae 20-lengths on the 2nd Dec over 2m4f, so beating him again by 16-lengths on the same terms over 2-miles was always on the cards.  The disappointment was Melon, who looks to have lost his way, had he run to his rating (OR162) then he would have been a close 2nd, but I'd say Apple's Jade has improved about 7lb since she was 3rd in the Mares Hurdle last March. When you include the 7lb mares allowance, that means the colts will have to run to at least 167 to beat her in the Champion Hurdle. Now, on my ratings, Buveur D'Air hasn't run to 167 since winning the Aintree hurdle over 2m4f in April 2017, and he's going to find it very hard to contain Apple's Jade, but it is within his scope.
I'm none-too confident now about my speculative wager on Sharjah, but this horse does have a helluva turn of foot and he may be able to lay-up and come with a run, but will he cope with the Cheltenham hill? I'm confident that I should be able to lay-off my wager on him on the day and recover my stake.
Mortal may have had an issue with the ground, but I'm not so sure, as he travelled well enough when beaten behind La Bague Au Roi on Saturday. I've already placed small wagers on him for both the RSA and NH Chase but he doesn't look good enough, and I can see him not coming over for the Festival.

Cheltenham Festival Portfolio
Arkle (novices) Chase  
DEFI DU SEUIL, £10 win @ 16/1 (Bet365)
Cheltenham Gold Cup
CLAN DES OBEAUX, £12 win @ 12/1 (Bet Victor)
Ryanair Chase
POLITOLOGUE, £38 win @ 14/1 (average odds - current intention is to lay-off £28 at SP on the day)
POLITOLOGUE, £5 place @ 12/1 (William Hill & Betfair)
Champion Hurdle
SHARJAH, £20 win @ 12/1 (current intention is to lay-off £10 at SP on the day - Betfair)
RSA Chase (Novices 3-mile)
MORTAL, £11 win @ 16/1 (Paddy Power)
NH Chase (Novices 4-mile)
MORTAL, £9 win @ 20/1 (Paddy Power)

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Lookahead to the weekends Dublin Festival

The cold breath of winter has blown across the nation and a heavy frost has resulted in several meetings being lost.  Musselburgh has already raised the "white flag" and surrendered to the weather, which means only Sandown and Wetherby remain available for jump racing on Saturday.
As I write (Thursday afternoon), it is not certain the Sandown will get the go-ahead and a decision is to be made on Friday afternoon. Losing Sandown will be a blow, as there is a good Class 2 handicap chase over 2-mile, the Listed hurdle race over 2-mile which Buveur D'Air usually uses as a 'prep' race for the Champion Hurdle, and then there's the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices Chase over 2m4f. To follow, there's a 3-mile Grade 3 handicap hurdle, and a 3-mile Class 2 handicap Chase – an absolutely cracking card.
I'm going to give it until Friday afternoon before taking a look at the runners on Saturday at Sandown (the Wetherby card does not look anywhere near as good), and instead look at Ireland.
Leopardstown, situated just outside Dublin, holds the 2-day "Dublin Festival", and many of the top Irish-trained horses are having their final run before the Cheltenham Festival on either Saturday or Sunday. The top trainers Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins have many multiple entries for the races, and it remains to be seen which will actually take part: for instance, in the opening race on Saturday a Grade 1 novice hurdle over 2m6f, of the 25 entries Mullins supplies 6 entries and Elliott supplies 5 entries.
Because of the expected frost on Friday night, the course management has announced they are re-structuring the running-order of the races with the hurdles being run first and the chases later in the day to give the frost the opportunity to get out of the ground; so check race times before having a wager. 
On Saturday, the Dublin Chase run over 2m1f should see MIN confirmed as the top "2-mile" chaser trained in Ireland, but where will that will leave his stable companion Footpad?  It is probably too late now to target another race distance, so I'm expecting Footpad to head for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham (run over 2m1f) unless he's really well beaten, in which case they might pull-up stumps for the season and have a rethink.  The Irish "Arkle" novice chase over 2m1f (won by Footpad last year) looks a cracker, with 6 LTO winners amongst the 12 entries. This meeting will be a real test for the "prince" of trainers Joseph O'Brien, and his promising novice chaser LE RICHEBOURG will know he's been in a race after this.
The Irish Champion Hurdle over 2-miles has only attracted 6 entries, but I'm expecting all to go to post and this race should be won by MELON. I honestly think the mare Apple's Jade will not have the speed for this trip, and she will revert back to longer trips.  The interesting runner is Petit Mouchoir who won this race in 2017 before running 3rd at Cheltenham in the Champion Hurdle; he could be a live outsider as I'm sure his trainer would not persevere with hurdles if he did not think he had a chance.  
On Sunday, I will be very interested in the 4yo novice hurdle over 2-miles and the following "supreme" novices hurdle over the same trip. Then comes a race that could have a major impact later this Spring when RATHVINDEN runs in the 3-mile handicap hurdle.  I said after he won the 4-mile NH Chase last March that he was a long-term Grand National horse, and it looks like Willie Mullins is thinking along the same lines. Later in the afternoon come the 2 races we will all be interested in: the Grade 1 "Flogas" Novice Chase over 2m5f (this used to be called the Dr PJ Moriarty Chase) and the field for this looks top-class, followed by the Grade 1 Unibet Irish Gold Cup over 3-mile.  The novice chase includes Delta Work, La Bague Au Roi, and MORTAL and it is the latter who I think will win on Sunday and stamp his authority as the top staying novice chaser this season. I'm not sure which race he will run in at Cheltenham, so I've taken odds for both the RSA Chase (3-miles) and the NH Chase (4-miles).
The Irish Gold Cup will hopefully answer a few questions as we have not seen a top staying chaser emerge from Ireland since Sizing John who won the Gold Cup in 2017. The Mullins-trained pair of Al Boum Photo and Kemboy will both be trying to establish their credentials and one or the other should win as this field looks to lack depth in my opinion.    

Cheltenham Festival Portfolio
Cheltenham Gold Cup
CLAN DES OBEAUX, £12 win @ 12/1
Ryanair Chase
POLITOLOGUE, £38 win @ 14/1 (average odds - current intention is to lay-off £28 at SP on the day)
POLITOLOGUE, £5 place @ 12/1
Champion Hurdle
SHARJAH, £20 win @ 12/1 (current intention is to lay-off £10 at SP on the day)
RSA Chase (Novices 3-mile)
MORTAL, £11 win @ 16/1
NH Chase (Novices 4-mile)
MORTAL, £9 win @ 20/1

Monday, 28 January 2019

A look-back at Saturdays racing - 26th Jan

It was a great day of racing on Saturday at Cheltenham, even if all my recommended wagers went astray, and meeting-up with old friends to dedicate a bench on the lawns and raise a glass to departed, but not forgotten friends, warmed the heart.
The weather was kind as I was expecting the wind to be bracing and the weather to be wet, and Cheltenham was rewarded with a good crowd, knowledgeable and friendly as always.
Finding a place to read the form inside, and to rest the legs, proved tricky as the racecourse management have decided to remove nearly every table and most of the chairs.  Those chairs that remain look to be on their "last legs" and I very much doubt that they will be replaced.
Racing is mainly about the social aspect for about 60% of the crowd, with 30% wanting to have a wager for the fun of it, and the remaining 10% truly interested in what is taking place on the course and place a "proper" wager. And the racecourse should not forget that 10% - who have no intent in propping-up the bar for 4 hours buying Guinness at £5.80 a pint, or paying £10.50 for a burger (chips are an extra £3.50) which you have to eat standing up – no plate, no table, no cutlery, no service.  I can get better quality food in my local pub for less cost and eat it sat at a table off a plate.  I understand the course is only used on race-days and running-costs have to be covered, but come on!
The racing fortunately, did not disappoint.
From the off there were Festival pointers, and that young man Joseph O'Brien sent only 2 horses over from Ireland for the day, and they finished 1st & 2nd in the opening Triumph "trial" hurdle; with winner Fakir D'Oudaires absolutely taking the race apart and leaving leading British hope Adjali left toiling. This was Joseph O'Brien's first winner at Cheltenham and it won't be the last; he looks a king-in-waiting likely to takeover residency of Ballydoyle from his father in due course. What I took from that opening race was that the ground was more testing than the description good-to-soft suggested. Some parts of the course looked soft to me, and having proven stamina led me to the winner of the 2nd race Kildisart in the novices handicap chase over 2m5f (race distance extended by 113 yards).
The softer ground turned me against Spiritofthegames as while I thought he'd stay the trip, he didn't have the look of a 3/1 fav to me, and so I swapped allegiance to the morning fav Kildisart who had eased to 9/2 in the betting (from 3/1). Kildisart had won twice over the trip including LTO at Ascot, and on soft ground in a Class 2 hurdle at Kempton last March; so no stamina doubts at all and he handled the ground.  He didn't jump particularly well, but he had enough in-hand to easily rein-in the leader and assert his authority on the run-in. There is scope for improvement and he looks a 150+ chaser in the making.  
I didn't have a wager in the 3rd race on the card, and the finish was disputed by the two 6yo's in the race; Siruh Du Lac and Janika. Daryl Jacob, who rode Kildisart, nearly had a 2nd winner on the day in Janika but was denied on the line. That Janika was having only his 2nd race for Nicky Henderson since arriving from France (where he won his last 3 races there, all chases) and he holds a Ryanair Chase entry was reason enough to make him the 5/2 fav for this, especially as he met defeat on his UK debut only due to a well-handicapped rival having a "going" day when everything came together. Unless he can find another 10lb of improvement, he isn't winning a Ryanair Chase in 6 weeks' time, but providing the handicapper isn't too tough (and he shouldn't be) he looks a very serious handicap horse come the Festival whichever race he contests.
Siruh Du Lac maintained his unbeaten run winning his 3rd race this season.  From an opening rating of OR114 in his debut chase (when he pulled-up), Nick Williams has guided this chaser to win 5 of his 7 races and on Saturday he won off OR134 – he looks very capable of being a 140+ chaser over this sort of trip. His only defeat in completed races has been on heavy ground.
The Cotswold Chase over 3m2f (the distance was increased by 151 yards) was intriguing for the punter: would the highly rated Frodon stay the trip, or would Welsh National winner Elegant Escape grind him down in a stamina battle. In the favour of Frodon was the ground, being good-to-soft meant that there was more likelihood of him staying. When I assessed the race earlier in the week, I thought Frodon had a favourites chance as he was clearly the best horse in the race by some margin and winning was dependent only on his stamina; as such I'm surprised to learn that he didn't actually start the race the fav as that went to Elegant Escape whose SP was 2/1.  Unfortunately, my judgement had been swayed by Minella Rocco who looked very fit in the paddock and I was expecting this old campaigner to show the younger horses a thing or two: how wrong I was.
Watching the race, it panned-out as I expected (if excluding Minella Rocco who threw-in the towel about a mile out) and after jumping the 2nd last fence in the lead, I thought I saw Frodon starting to tie-up on the run to the final fence. At that point I expected Terrefort to be the likely winner but he had little left for the run-in, and it was Elegant Escape - who was about 6-lengths off the leader jumping the final fence - who stayed-on best up the hill.
Personally, I don't think Frodon could have held on to the lead for much longer, and I can't see him winning a Gold Cup or even finishing in the 1st-3 against proper Grade 1 stayers like Native River, Thistlecrack, or Clan Des Obeaux.  However, Paul Nicholls knows how to market his training operation and on the run-up to the Gold Cup having "newspaper darling" Bryony Frost riding Frodon will ensure his stable is mentioned in just about every newspaper and television article!  Elegant Escape won't win a Gold Cup even if he starts running now as he's just too slow, and has no tactical speed to employ in the race. But I would be interested to know what the plans are for the 6yo Terrefort as I could see him winning a top-handicap chase off OR158.
How do I rate this race? The previous Cotswold Chase run on similar Good-to-Soft ground was in 2012 when OR158 rated Midnight Chase won in a time of 6m32.44; which was 3.16 secs quicker than Frodon but we do not have an accurate idea of the race distance.  If they ran over exactly the same trip (unlikely) then at 3-lengths per second, that's equivalent to about 10lb.  Midnight Chase was rated RPR166 for his 2012 win, so why is Frodon rated RPR170?  Surely, Frodon should be at about 156-158 if Racing Post Ratings are consistent?  When previewing the race last week, I suggested expecting Frodon to run to between 158-162 and I think that's what he did.  I thought we saw a career-best from Elegant Escape and I've rated him at 155, and that puts Frodon who carried 2lb more and beat him nearly a length, 3lb higher at 158. Rating a race isn't an exact science, much of it is opinion, but you should always rate the performance and NOT the race - that's my opinion.
Next on the card was the Ballymore Novices Hurdle over 2m5f (the race distance was extended by 132 yards) and I'm fairly sure Brewin'Upastorm would have won easily but for clipping the final hurdle and coming down. The race is difficult to rate in the circumstances, as LTO winner here Jerveys Plate ran a stinker and never looked happy, although the eventual winner Birchdale looks better than 140.  That suggests Brewin'Upastorm is 145+ but as he was unable to cope with OR150 rated Champ at Newbury on 29Dec then he's not quite at that level, but he does handle Cheltenham well.
The Cleeve Hurdle over 3-mile brought the performance of the day, when the 7yo Paisley Park destroyed a field that represented the best of the UK trained 3-mile hurdlers. I clearly vastly underrated his win LTO at Ascot in my assessment of that race. As it was , my selection Wholestone never ran his race on Saturday and was tailed-off nearly a mile-out, so I would draw a line through this run as he is usually very consistent. In 2nd was West Approach who also chased him home at Ascot LTO and who was 3rd in this race in 2017).  I thought West Approach matched his rating of that day at 145 (he was rated RPR155), which puts Paisley Park on 163. With Black Op even further back in 3rd, along with Sam Spinner (4th) and Lil Rockerfella (5th) it is no surprise that the early quotes of 7/2 for the Stayers' Hurdle have gone and he's a best-priced 11/4 (Boylesports) for the race. Remember, Unowhatimeanharry started the Stayers' Hurdle in 2017 as the 5/6 fav; and Thistlecrack went off the "evens" fav in 2016 – and I can see Paisley Park going off no longer than 7/4 in March at the Festival.
The final race of the day was won by Benny's Bridge off OR120 in the manner of a horse with tons in-hand. Whether he will be able to win from a revised mark will depend on the opinion of the handicapper, but he probably should be followed next time out.
At Doncaster, I couldn't quite work out what was going on as the ground was being reported as "good" but the good-ground horses took a walk in the market and there was something amiss with Warriors Tale as he was as low as 5/1 on Friday having been gambled on all week, yet went off friendless at 14/1. How the trainer's rep could not offer an explanation is beyond me as the ground was (on paper) even better for him this year than it was last year when he ran 2nd in the race.
As it was, Warriors Tale never went a yard in the race and was pulled-up well out. The question of the trainer's rep should have been "did you have a wager on Warriors Tale and, if not, why not?"
I was right to look closely at the 3-mile run at Ascot over 3-mile on 03Nov in relation to Art Mauresque, but I took the wrong one out of the race, as behind him in 3rd that day was Go Conquer. This horse has retained his consistency this season, and with other rivals either not performing (O O Seven, Art Mauresque,and Warriors Tale), or not really staying the trip, Go Conquer was able to virtually make all at his own pace leaving enough in the tank for a final effort to win well.  Doncaster suits horse that run prominently, so I'm not sure why tactics were changed on Dingo Dollar (the 3/1 fav) but the change didn't work. If he were mine, I would miss Cheltenham and aim for the 3m1f handicap chase at Aintree instead.
I'm fairly happy with my antepost portfolio for the Cheltenham Festival and I am considering doubling-up my stake on CLAN DES OBEAUX before he runs next at Newbury in the "Denman" Chase. Presenting Percy didn't really show much last week other than he is fit and well and can win a 3-mile graded hurdle, the performance didn't add anything to his chances of winning a Cheltenham Gold Cup, and there's plenty of value elsewhere.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
CLAN DES OBEAUX, £12 win @ 12/1
Ryanair Chase
POLITOLOGUE, £38 win @ 14/1 (average odds - current intention is to lay-off £28 at SP on the day)
POLITOLOGUE, £5 place @ 12/1
Champion Hurdle
SHARJAH, £20 win @ 12/1 (current intention is to lay-off £10 at SP on the day)