Welcome to the World of Horseracing

Record of the blog selections

Since March 2010, this blog has 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 - equivalent to a Return On Investment of 26.60%.

For the 2016-17 Jumps Season, this blog recorded a LOSS of £40.87

from wagers on 55 individual races (6 winners, 12 placed)

Total Staked = £609.00

There are NO affiliate links on this site to bookies from whom the author receives 30% of your lost wagers.

advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Bobby Renton Chase at Wetherby

What I enjoy about jump racing are these good quality races that are run mid-week at the provincial tracks. Wetherby is in West Yorkshire right in the centre of the "golden triangle" formed by the cities of York, Leeds and Harrogate. In my opinion, the course provides a proper test of the chaser, it being a flat, left-hand oval with no open-ditches in the four fences in the straight that may catch out a tiring horse.

Today's Bobby Renton Handicap Chase at 3:45pm is run over 2m3f and has attracted 7 runners, headed by the fav Delusionofgrandeur trained locally by Sue Smith, who also runs Straidnahanna in this race. Delutionofgrandeur has won over 2m4f as a novice hurdler, but he's never run over a trip this short as a chaser, in fact his last win was at this track in March over 3-miles. He could do well at this trip, but in my opinion he will be at his best at trips of 3-mile and further. And the same can be said for Straidnahanna who won last season over 3m6f, although he has a good cruising speed and he could get into a good rhythm.

When I looked at this race yesterday afternoon, I was immediately drawn to Monbeg River who ran 4 times last season without winning, but with a lot of promise. Unfortunately, he was brought-down when racing over 2m4f at Aintree in December, and he ended the campaign when racing over today's C&D in January.  That was thought to be run on ground too soft for him, and he was beaten 6-lengths into 3rd. A repeat of that effort should see him in the frame, and any improvement will make him hard to beat. The biggest issue for me is that his trainer Martin Todhunter has such a poor strike-rate, and his stats for Wetherby are very poor: just 3 wins from 42 runners in the past 5 years.

Due to the support for Monbeg River, the odds on After Hours have lengthened to 4/1, and this 8yo looks to be on an attractive rating of OR120 considering he improved with every run last season without winning; coming home 2nd in 5 of his last 6 races. He jumps well, runs prominently, and should have no problem with the trip; probably his only issue could be the ground as he "may" want it a bit softer.

The French import Ballotin has his first run for Philip Hobbs, and this is his only runner today - Hobbs has a impressive 28% strike-rate here! Ballotin chased home subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Peace And Co in June 2014, after which Peace And Co was sold on to Nicky Henderson.  Ballotin then chased home Mick Jazz who is now a OR144 hurdler with Gordon Elliot. When chasing in France, Ballotin beat Buttercup who has since moved to Venetia Williams and ran-up a hat-trick of chase wins earlier this year and is now rated OR126. I've no doubt that Ballotin will be fit today and the ground and trip are perfect for him. His rating of OR139 looks a bit steep though, and while his amateur rider will take off 7lb he will need to be at the top of his game in this race.

I like the look of Katgary and he goes very well off a break - a repeat of his run in March (after a 9 month break) when 2nd to San Benedeto would see him hard to beat today - but I have no confidence in his amateur rider Liam Quinlan who has had only 3 rides in the UK in the past 5 seasons, and this is his first for Pauline Robson. 

Finally, we have Definite Future who is sent here by trainer Kerry Lee who has only sent 7 runners here in the past 5 seasons from her base in Hereford, and 3 have won. She has also booked jockey Jamie Moore and that suggests they mean business. This trip and ground will be perfect, LTO over 2-miles was too short - and a repeat of his run at Worcester in June off OR132 (he runs off OR137 today) will see him go close. Currently 10/1, DEFINITE FUTURE certainly looks the value in what is a tricky race as while his latest run may have been over an insufficient trip, being only 30 days ago it means he is proven race-fit.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

When to bet with confidence

No luck for Bigbadjohn on Saturday as, despite going well and and occupying a prominent position, he clouted the 6th fence and catapulted his jockey out of the saddle. 

The Chepstow meeting is a favourite of trainer Paul Nicholls, and he won the opening hurdle race there of the 2-day meeting with his 4yo Dynamite Dollars, and then followed-up with the mare If You Say Run in the 2nd race on the days card, and he was unlucky to bump into the well-handicapped Silver Streak in the 4yo 2-mile limited handicap otherwise his runner Dolos would have made it 3 wins on the day for the trainer. Silver Streak looks capable of following-up. Evan Williams, trainer of Silver Streak, followed-up with Court Minstrel in the Grade 3 hurdle and this horse seems to have found his mojo this summer and, considering he was competitive off OR157 in 2015-16 this 10yo is worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks as he is unlikely to go up much from his current Or142 rating.

The feature race at Chepstow on Saturday was the 3-mile Class 2 handicap chase (in which Bigbadjohn unseated his rider). The winner was Rock The Kasbah but I was not particularly impressed as his jockey (champion) Richard Johnson was hard at work a long way out and it was probably only the inexperience of the runner-up Petrou (this was only his 3rd chase race) that denied the useful claimer Bridget Andrews a winning ride. In 3rd was the well-exposed Ballykan, and I've rated this race using him as a yardstick and so I cannot see the winner following up.  Petrou however, is another matter, and he was yet another advert for the talent of his trainer Dan Skelton as, since joining him in May (5 months ago) he's won 4 and been runner-up twice from the 7 races he's competed in. He goes onto the alert list, along with the horse that beat him LTO the 7yo Midnight Shot trained by Charlie Longsdon.

On Sunday's card at Chepstow, I was most interested in the Veterans' Handicap Chase over 3-mile and, in these races, I focus on the youngest horses in the race which are the 10yo's.  I may be wrong, but I think last season only one Veterans' handicap chase was won by a horse older than 10yo which I think was the 11yo Loose Chips at Ascot in April this year. Sure enough, of the 14 runners on Sunday, 6 were older than 10yo and none of them finished in the 1st-3.  The race was won by the 10yo Bob Ford who was having his first run for trainer Alastair Ralph since leaving Rebecca Curtis. The horse was bought by Dr Richard Newland (who is better know as the trainer of Grand National winner Pineau De Re) at the sales in March for £7000 and he clearly thought there was money to be won with him as he last won in December 2015. I overlooked him for the race on Sunday as - despite his rating having slipped from OR142 to OR122 - all his previous winning form had been on heavy ground and I thought the "good" ground at Chepstow would be too quick for him.  Although he is reported as opening in the betting at 8/1, you can take it from me that at 11am on Sunday morning Bob Ford was available at 18/1.  As such, the gamble on him to an SP of 5/1 was phenomenal and he must have easily repaid his purchase price in winnings from the ring. This gives a valuable lesson in gambling on the jumps: if you know your horse (selection) is fit and well, stays the trip and is well handicapped, then you can bet with confidence.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Chepstow on 13th October, the first big Saturday jumps meeting of the season

This is what we've been waiting for since the end of April - the start of the jumps season "proper"!
For once, I've had a cracking flat season, thanks mainly to my share in the Cribbs Causeway syndicate. Five wins, yes 5 wins, this season - can't be bad.

Two years ago on this day I posted a couple of selections and advised a couple of single wagers and a double - and they both came in. There's little chance of that happening again as there is only one decent betting race and that's the 3-mile Class 2 handicap chase at 4:45pm. There are 14 runners as I write, and the ground is Good-to-Soft.

The early fav is Rock The Kasbah (3/1) who won over C&D in February and showed that was no fluke (his usual trip being 2m5f) when running 2nd at Uttoxeter NTO. He won on this card last season, and he looks a worthy fav. I selected Label Des Obeaux (8/1) hen he ran at the Cheltenham Festival in the opening days handicap chase. He didn't seem to enjoy Cheltenham and, when next out at Ayr, he demonstrated his ability with a win over 3-miles. If he comes here in similar form he will take all the beating as he looks ahead of the handicapper over even with an 8lb adjustment to OR154. Sizing Codelco (8/1) ended the season with a couple of wins in top handicap chases and starts this season on OR160; and I just cannot see him being able to win off that rating - if he does he will put himself into the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture. For instance, Potters Legend (13/2) meets Sizing Codelco on 22lb better terms than when they met at Aintree in April. Potters Legend went into that race as the 9/2 fav and this trip and ground will suit him, and he goes well fresh too. I can see him running a big race, but will he be good enough to win?  We are waiting for Venetia Williams first winner of the season, and I cannot see it being Marcilhac (16/1).  And this 3-mile trip is probably too much for Indian Stream (20/1) who is best at 2m5f. An interesting runner is Bigbadjohn (16/1 generally) as he a couple of good races last season on ground softer than he'd like, and I'm happy to ignore his run at Cheltenham. He stays 3-mile, usually runs prominently and with just 6 chase runs is relatively unexposed. His rating of  OR144 looks reasonable and odds of 18/1 (Coral and BetVictor) look generous.  Ballykan (9/1) is well exposed, and Boa Island will need a career-best to be involved.  Minellacelebration (20/1) was going well when brought-down LTO and is another that can go well, as is Henryville (25/1).  The remaining pair of Relentless Dreamer (12/1) and Junction Fourteen (20/1) would require a complete reverse of recent fortune to succeed. Whereas Petrou  (20/1) does not have the experience to win a race as competitive, if he does he's very decent.

Rebecca Curtis won this race last year and BIGBADJOHN looks well-placed to run a cracker, although the odds about several look decent.  It could be a very competitive race and in such cases I think it's best to take a punt on one at long odds.

I'm taking a break from writing a regular blog, but I will be having a few quid on BIGBADJOHN as I thought he'd be half his current odds and it would not surprise me to see him start this race at 8/1. I think the fav Rock The Kasbah can be opposed as although consistent last season, he didn't show any improvement from his debut chase to his final run in the Bet365 Chase at Sandown; as such, he looks vulnerable.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Cribbs Causeway - Living the dream

Link< Cribbs Causeway winning at Newmarket on Saturday 7th October >Link

Close friends, relations, and close horse-racing contacts will know that I've been part of the syndicate (managed by Nick Bradley) behind the 3yo filly CRIBBS CAUSEWAY. On Saturday at the end of a busy Newmarket card, she won the EBF Breeders' Fillies' Series Handicap (Class 2) over 1m4f - and she didn't just win it, she won with a tonne in hand. Her jockey on Saturday was non other than Frankie Dettori and, having hit the front 3-furlongs out, he dropped his "whip" just after passing the 2-furlong marker and it was a hands'n'heels ride from there on. Click on the link above to watch the official video of the race.

This was a tremendous performance, her best yet by a long way, and we are confident that there is more to come and she stays in training for 2018. What a year 2017 has been - 5 wins, £62,000 in prize-money, and progressing from OR62 to OR90 (maybe OR95 after the handicapper has rated Saturdays win).

When I was first sent the details of Cribbs Causeway in July 2016, it took me under an hour to make the decision to join the syndicate. The bloodline was there, as the dam Bristol Fashion is a half-sister to Midas Touch (5th in the Derby, and runner-up in the Irish Derby and St Leger). At the time (July 2016) I was unaware that Bristol Fashion was also half-sister to the filly Coronet who this season has won the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot over 1m4f, and then chased home super-filly Enable in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks.

Cribbs Causeway was the 1st-foal of Bristol Fashion, who was unraced due to her being very tall (according to Nick Bradley) so there was some risk attached.  However, I took into account the dam-side bloodline and also that the sire Rip Van Winkle was sired by champion sire Galileo, who traces back through champion sire Sadlers Wells who, in turn, was sired by the great Northern Dancer. Personally, I think the sire Rip Van Winkle is under-rated as his stock seem to be later developers and despite having most success on the course as a miler, his stock do well beyond 10-furlongs.

You can have the right horse, but without the right treatment you will not see the best performance so, credit where credit is due, Roger Charlton and his team at Beckhampton deserve the fullest praise. Fingers crossed, our good fortune will continue into the next year, and I cannot describe the euphoria experienced by myself and the other syndicate members on Saturday afternoon - this is what we all dream of when we join a horse-racing syndicate.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Jump racing steps up a gear

There are two jump race meetings today at Huntingdon and Warwick, and at the latter track we see some of last seasons familiar names return to the track in the 3-mile handicap chase at 4:25pm.
Just 7 horses go to post for this race yet it looks difficult to fathom as, at this stage of the season, fitness can be the most important factor.
Top-weight is the 9yo Sego Success who we know stays this trip well and he usually runs a good race on his seasonal debut, but he does also improve for the run. What is in his favour is that he's dropped to OR136 having not won in 5 races last season, and on that mark he should be competitive.  The 6yo Ballycross could be a big improver this season, but he had his chances last season to impress and didn't take them. Based on that form I think he's fairly handicapped on OR133 and will need to find improvement today to win, and he won't be racing on his preferred soft ground. As such, although he has youth on his side, his odds of 3/1 do not represent value in my opinion.
The horse I like the look of in this race is SHANROE SANTOS, who is a lightly raced 8yo - he only came to trainer Lucy Wadham as a 6yo in January 2015 from the point-to-point sphere - as he was off the track from April 2015 to November 2016.  He took a few races to get fit and learn his new trade of chasing, but it all came together in the February when he won over C&D. He then won again at Sandown the next month off OR126 before possibly a long season took it's toll when he was beaten some way in a Class 2 handicap chase at Haydock in April. If he can repeat his Sandown form-level today then he will take a lot of beating off OR129 and odds of 4/1 look fair value.

There is a 3m1f hurdle race at Huntingdon at 3:05pm, but there is little to be confident about with many of the runners. The fav Air Squadron basically won a "match" against a non-stayer LTO and his stamina is unproven in my book. The 2nd-fav Dreamsoftheatre returns to hurdling for the first time in 4 years, and supporters are banking on his hurdling ability being better than his recent chase form.  There has been a sustained gamble on Generous Chief all morning - he opened at 14/1 - and his current odds are 9/1; he could be the answer as he stays the trip well, and handles right-handed Huntingdon. The value has possibly gone as - if Air Squadron is a true stayer then he could take some beating - but he's worth a punt on the place-only market on the exchanges.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Enable a superlative "Arc" winner

Without a doubt, the 3yo filly Enable confirmed she was one of the best fillies of recent times with an emphatic win in the Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe at Chantilly yesterday. I rated the performance at 127 which is about 5lb behind Treve when she won the same race as a 3yo - she then went on to win the "Arc" again as a 4yo.  However, I feel that Enable is good for a couple more pounds as she was possibly 5-lengths clear inside the final furlong before jockey Dettori relaxed and let her coast home a comfortable 2½ length winner. Given her superiority, and that this was only her 7th race, she has an excellent chance of repeating the win next season when the race returns to Longchamp.

The "Arc" draws a curtain on the flat season and now it is "all systems go" on the jumps!  There are meetings this afternoon (Monday 2nd October) at Newton Abbot and Stratford; Tuesday brings meetings at Sedgefield and Southwell; and on Wednesday there's a meeting at Bangor.

We also had a strong meeting at Market Rasen on Saturday with Ballybolley winning the 2m5f "Listed" Chase.  This horse has always looked a potential 140+ chaser, but never seemed to fulfil that potential. However, his repeat win in the Haydock "Middle Distance Chase Series Final" last April confirmed that trips around 20-21f are his forte.  He's run over further, but I don't think he's as good beyond 2m6f.   Guitar Pete was well fancied for the race and ran well to be 2nd, and the race-fit Poker School (who I expected to run well) came in 5th to frank the form. I reckon the 1st-3 home (Master Dee was 3rd) can all be followed in the coming months.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Early ante-post strategy for Jumps season 2017-18

One of the things I really enjoy about the jumps racing season is the familiarity of the racing programme, as that gives the long-term player the ability to take a view, make a judgement and (hopefully) place a winning wager at longer odds than will be available on the day of the event.

The antepost markets have been overlooked in recent seasons, but I think that is more to do with the attitude of today's gamblers than a change in how the sport is being campaigned by owners, trainers and bookmakers. The "modern" person of today wants a quick hit, instant satisfaction. The prospect of placing a wager and then waiting weeks, if not months, for the event is not something that the new breed of gamblers seems to want.  I may be wrong, and I hope I am (please enlighten me if I am). What I want to show through this blog is that there is still the capability to build a portfolio of "antepost" wagers that will result in a good profit. What I also want to (hopefully) demonstrate is that by playing a long-game, the punter can build-up a distinct knowledge of the horses competing in certain races and so place wagers in greater certainty. I've had some success in recent seasons with antepost wagers, most notably Coneygree in the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup (I advised taking the 12/1 available on 9th February 2015 - 5 weeks before the race), and with Cue Card in the 2013 Ryanair Chase (I advised taking the 5/1 available on 16th February 2013).  I've also had more than a few losers, but I will be trying to avoid those this season.

Putting together an antepost strategy, the initial priority is avoiding wasted wagers - placing precious stake-money on horses that never start the race has to be avoided.  So, at this stage of the season, the target races are going to be the "championship" Grade 1 races. In terms of the Cheltenham Festival, that is the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the "Stayers" Hurdle. I'm going to ignore the Ryanair Chase until after Christmas when we will have a better idea of which horses are more likely to compete in the Ryanair. Outside of the Cheltenham Festival, I will be considering races like the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day; the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November;  and also handicap races if the opportunity arises.

The Betfair Chase on 25th November is the first of these championship races to be run, and the market is currently headed by Sizing John who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March. Since joining Mrs Harrington, Sizing John has found a new level of consistency but I don't think he's shown yet that he is significantly superior to other staying chasers to warrant being the 2/1 fav for the Betfair Chase at this time. You also have to take into consideration the fact the Mrs Harrington very rarely sends horses to race in the UK outside of the Cheltenham Festival. It's my view that Sizing John won't line-up for the Betfair Chase. Last year's winner Cue Card is now an 11yo, but he has won the Betfair Chase for 3 of the last 4 years, his only defeat in the race being in 2014 when his trainer said he was suffering (at the time) from a back problem.  Kauto Star won the Betfair Chase as an 11yo, and Kauto Star had also won the Betfair Chase three times prior to that win, so the "omens" are there. His stablemate Thistlecrack would appear to have a better chance. He beat Cue Card fair & square in the King George VI Chase at Kempton and, if he were able to repeat his run when just beaten by Many Clouds in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on 28th January, that would be good enough in my opinion. However, his trainer may be aiming him for the King George VI Chase again. The current 2nd-fav at 9/2 in the betting is Might Bite but, for me, the jury is still out on this one's ability. Sure, he is a good chaser but I don't expect his trainer Nicky Henderson will send him straight to Haydock for this race.  I reckon we will see Might Bite run in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby first and, depending on his run in that, we will see if he goes for the Betfair Chase.
Other horses in the betting with odds under 20/1 are Bristol De Mai, Tea For Two and Whisper but, to be fair, none of those look remotely capable of winning a Betfair Chase.  The way Minella Rocco ran in the Cheltenham Gold Cup to be 2nd would really see him amongst the market leaders if the early-season form of his trainer Jonjo O'Neill was stronger but, invariably, Jonjo's top chasers are brought into the season slowly with the focus being on the Cheltenham Festival.
There are two others in the race who are very capable of winning a Betfair Chase, Coneygree and Native River. I am going to look at the latter horse first, and Native River had a tremendous season last year winning both the Hennessey Gold Cup (now re-named the Ladbrokes Gold Cup) and the Welsh National.  He "only" carried 11st 1lb in the Hennessey last year when running off a rating of OR155 and, with a rating of OR166 now, he will almost certainly carry 11st 10lb if he returns to Newbury, and I cannot see that happening. For me, the Betfair Chase over 3-mile at Haydock is tailor-made for the horse. He has everything you want, and he will only be a 7yo (which makes him a year younger than the 2nd-season chaser Might Bite). Current odds of 20/1 look huge to me as, should he line-up for this race (and there's no good reason to say he wont) he will have odds under 6/1 and he may even start the fav.
Coneygree ran in last years Betfair Chase starting at odds of  2/1 when returning from a year off the track through injury. He ran bravely but, ultimately, lack of race fitness told and he threw-in the towel with 2 fences to jump. He then ran a stormer at Punchestown (he missed the Cheltenham Gold Cup) when relishing the good ground. I would not be too worried if the ground is soft at Haydock (it usually is in November) as Coneygree won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on soft ground, but if the ground is heavy then that will not be to his advantage. He has been prepared to run in the Kerry National, so fitness should not be a problem this year. Paddy Power go 10/1 about Coneygree (he's 7/1 elsewhere) but, compared with the 20/1 available about NATIVE RIVER, finding the value in the Betfair Chase market is a no-brainer.

Antepost Advice:
25th November - Betfair Chase - NATIVE RIVER £10 win @ 20/1
(odds available with Skybet, BetVictor and Paddy Power)  

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Proposals for the 2017-18 Jumps season

Overall, last season was a difficult one for me as I was unable to find any consistency with my selections.  There were some high points, however (during the course of the season) I made selections in 55 races and (unfortunately) 9 of those selections ran 2nd, with some horses subsequently showing form that indicated they should have won.

Examples being:-
As De Mee selected at 7/1 on 12th November, ran unplaced, and then won next-time-out at 4/1.  
Courtown Oscar selected at 16/1 on 17th December pulled-up, and then won next-time-out at 8/1.
Milan Bound selected at 16/1 on 21st December pulled-up, and then won next-time-out at 12/1 
Otago Trail selected at 10/1 on 21st January ran 2nd, and then won next-time-out at 4/1
Label Des Obeaux selected at 20/1 on 14th March (Cheltenham Festival opening day 3-mile handicap chase) ran unplaced, and then won next-time-out at 12/1.

I had a better handle on the top-staying chase races, nominating via the blog Native River as an eachway Gold Cup wager at 20/1 on the morning before he won the Welsh National, and again at 10/1 after he'd won that race when (in the blog of 30th December) I suggested he should be 9/4 for the Gold Cup. 
Also (in that 30th December blog) I suggested taking 40/1 eachway about Minella Rocco for the Gold Cup.  Minella Rocco and Native River subsequently ran 2nd and 3rd in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Via the blog, I only found 6 winners in the season from the 55 races in which I made a selection, and this resulted in a loss of £40.87 to recommended stakes - stakes which totalled £609. 
It is a surprise that the loss was not worse (given the small number of winning selections) but my selections did result in a large number of placed horses, 12 in total (9 x 2nd and 3 x 3rd) at decent odds mitigated the deficit. That return in 18 of the 55 races (1-in-3) is the target I set myself, I just wish a few more of the placed horses could have won in the races in which I wagered on.  Season 2016-17 was the first jumps season in which my selections have shown a loss over the entire season since I started writing my blog in March 2010. One losing season in 7 isn't too shabby a strike-rate, even if I say so myself. 

However, I have found finding the time to write the blog, and conduct the form study to make it all worthwhile, a real struggle in the past 12 months and so I have decided to scale back and reduce the burden.  As such, although I will continue writing the blog it will probably only be once or twice a week during the coming jumps season. 

 My intention is to write a blog that is more commentary and opinion than selection based - although I am hoping the odd betting coup will occur.  There will also be more focus on the Cheltenham Festival races and I will be endeavouring to find a winner there come March 2018 about which I have long antepost odds. In the meantime, I thank you for your support in the past and hope you will continue to read the blog.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Holiday reflections

I'm currently on holiday (Sri Lanka) and I've been thinking about the blog and the way forward.
My opinion is that betting in general on horse-racing is becoming tougher mainly due to the expansion of rating services which is chiselling the "edge" away from old hands like me.  Horses which used to go off at 10/1 are now running with an SP of under 5/1 - what that means is that the "risk" factor is being reduced. 

To explain, I generally try and operate on a winner from every 5 wagers (20% strike rate), so to break-even my winners have to have odds of 4/1.  To make a profit, my selections have to have average odds of 9/2 or longer.  After building-in "margin" (about 2pts) and risk of the unexpected (another point), I'm looking for wagers at odds of 8/1 or longer on horses that I consider to have a chance on my odds-line of 4/1 or shorter.  Those opportunities are getting fewer, and I am looking at ways of overcoming the situation.

I've been reading a book called "Against The Odds - the remarkable story of risk" by Peter Bernstein.  It confirms what I had already concluded myself (although I do not consider myself a scholar or professor) that knowledge of risk is understood by very few.  I have made note of a passage which summarises the 1992 paper (by Kahneman and Tversky) titled "Prospect Theory": "Theories of choice are, at best, approximate and incomplete... Choice is a constructive and contingent process. When faced with a complex problem (ie. horseracing) people use computational shortcuts and editing operations." Since 1494, when Luca Paccioli set out the basics of algebra in his book Summa de arithmetic, geometria et proportionalita, mathematicians have tried to ascertain how to measure risk as a formula and, essentially, all have failed - although in the intervening years each advance in risk management has brought a greater understanding of risk and its complexities. What reading this book has confirmed to me is that few people understand what risk is, so if you don't understand it how can you value it? However, if you are to make a long-term profit from gambling on horseracing then you must at least make due allowance for risk in the structure of how you wager.  Right now, I don't think enough people take risk into account when placing a wager, and so they accept odds that do not accommodate a reasonable element of risk. It is not good enough just to bet on the winner of a race if the odds do not accommodate risk and offer the punter "value" - unless you are capable of finding winners at a very high strike-rate; and by high I mean over 40% of all wagers must win. If you do not accommodate risk within your odds assessment, then you will lose in the long run. 

What this has led me to consider is that with high a turnover of wagers, shortcuts have to be taken and, in taking shortcuts, you end up making decisions with incomplete or approximate information. As such, I will be intending to reduce the number of wagers I make in the coming 12 months to enable me to take as much information into account as possible.  With a reduced number of wagers, there needs to be a corresponding increase in the stake applied. Some years ago, I suggested that in order for wagers to have significance they should be at a level at which losing would "hurt". I took this from the memoirs of Sir Clement Freud and, at the time, I suggested the wager amount should be a days wage.  This produced a fair amount of comment back then, and I expect it will do the same again. As a freelance consultant in construction, I know what my daily rate is but, if you don't and you are on a salary then you have to divide your salary by 230 which is approximately the number of days a typical person works in a year. You can do this in your head by dividing your salary by 100 (if your salary is £40,000 divide by 100 equals £400), then halve that number (half of £400 is £200) and taking off another 10% (that is 10% of £200 which is £20), so £180 is a days wage for someone on £40,000pa.

I will be trialling this approach over the coming weeks, and the Royal Ascot meeting will provide several suitable races. I will be using every tool in my betting armoury to make a profit including laying-off my stake before the off should the odds provide the opportunity.

Post-blog notes: some differing responses via twitter with one suggestion being to give up betting on horseracing altogether, and another suggesting I increase the number of wagers and reduce the stake rather than reduce them and increase the stake. I have tried that latter suggestion before privately, but that is akin to adopting horseracing betting as a full-time occupation. This blog is essentially to provide readers with entertainment and information that will (hopefully) provide a profit. 

Friday, 14 April 2017

Easter thoughts - a time of reflection

The 2016-17 Jumps season hasn't been successful for me, in fact it has probably been the worst for my betting bank since I started blogging back in March 2010.

I need to update the profit & loss scenario for advised wagers on the blog, but I'm putting it off as it probably won't be good reading. I think, or perhaps I know, what the problem for me has been this season, and that is time - or (rather) the lack of it.

The way horse-racing is developing now into a season fixated on the Cheltenham Festival - and that has been made very evident by the lack of competition for some of the Grade 1 races at last weeks Aintree "Grand National" meeting -    is that horses are being prepared slowly and you cannot know just when they will be at their peak.

A perfect example of this is Saphir Du Rheu who I advised a wager on for the 2m5f chase at Cheltenham on 28th January. The ground that day was soft, which was perfect for the horse as he'd won the Lanzarote Hurdle a Class 1 "Listed" handicap on soft, and the Grade 2 "Cleeve" Hurdle at this meeting in January 2015. His worst ever run on soft ground had been over an inadequate 2-mile when a novice hurdler. The 2m5f trip was also suitable as he'd won all 4 of his completed races at a similar trip (only failure was unseating his rider in a novice chase won by Coneygree). He should have been race-fit as he'd run 3rd at Ascot in October over 3-mile and he'd fallen early-on in the Hennessy Gold Cup so, all-in-all he should have started the short-priced fav for this race and not had an SP of 6/1 when running off OR153 - especially when you consider his good performance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month which has resulted in his Official Rating being raised to OR162.
Instead, he was given a "gentle" ride by his jockey and only started racing "proper" after the 3rd last fence by which time the eventual winner opened-up at least a 12-length lead. Sure, Saphir Du Rheu managed to peg-back the leader, and some may be wanting to describe this as an ill-judged ride. However, the horse was so tenderly ridden until the 3rd-last fence that I think his trainer was ensuring he still had something to work with for Cheltenham. Remember, when he won the "Cleeve" Hurdle in 2015, he went to Cheltenham as the 5/1 fav for the Grade 1 "World" Hurdle over 3-miles and came home 2nd beaten by Cole Harden - a horse who has not won again since - so it's possible that trainer Paul Nicholls wanted to get plenty of work into this horse in preparation for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Some will read this and say I'm just griping and that there are always hard-luck stories - that is the nature of placing wagers on horse-racing. And there is an element of that in this post, but I need to cleanse - draw a line under this jumps season and put it behind me. Writing this post is one of the steps that forms part of that process. The next will be formulating a way forward, and then finding a way of putting that into practise.  What I do know is that what I've been doing this season while being good, just isn't good enough.  Coming 2nd is not the same as winning.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Grand National at Aintree, 2017

First thing, the great race itself.
I went through the runners earlier in the week, and my opinion hasn't changed. 
My opinion is that the ground is possibly on the soft side of good out on the National course and the race may be more testing than expected.  I want horses that genuinely stay the trip on my side and I want horses that are well prepared with this race in mind.  I've narrowed the field down to 4 horses - 
Blaklion (14/1), Perfect Candidate (50/1), Pleasant Company (16/1), and Thunder and Roses (33/1).

As for the other races on the card today, I am expecting CHARBEL to win the novice chase at 3pm, but then he is odds-on today. The handicap chase at 3:40pm over 3m1f looks a good race to be involved in and I am taken by POTTERS LEGEND who stayed well at Cheltenham LTO and looks the type to keep improving.  Some of the others still have to prove their stamina at this sort of trip, or have been off the course for longer than I would like, but Potters Legend is in decent form and has been running consistently. 

In the Stayers Hurdle over 3-mile at 4:20pm, I have thought this is the trip for Yanworth all season, but his run in the Champion Hurdle LTO was so poor that I feel he has something to prove today and I would not want to be on him. The Irish challenger Supasundae is on the upgrade and could be the one to be on, but this in another race for me to sit out.

As such, I'm concentrating on the Grand National and my idea of the eventual winner is BLAKLION. He has only 11st 1lb to carry and he has that touch of class having won the RSA Chase at Cheltenham as a novice last season. He has been prepared for this and I know him as a very consistent performer.  I am expecting big runs from the other 3 on my shortlist too.  PLEASANT COMPANY is another that has been aimed at this race by Willie Mullins and there is no better jockey than Ruby Walsh, so he will not lack for preparation. PERFECT CANDIDATE is on my shortlist as he stays the trip well, is a front-runner (and sometimes it is tricky to peg back the leaders in this race), and won LTO so comes here in top form. THUNDER AND ROSES is an Irish Grand National winner and is sent here by the trainer of last years winner, "Mouse" Morris.  He has been running well without winning all season and can go well here. 

My advised wagers are
BLAKLION - £6.00 win @ 14/1
PLEASANT COMPANY - £3.00 eachway @ 16/1
THUNDER AND ROSES - £2.00 eachway @ 33/1 
PERFECT CANDIDATE -  £2.00 eachway @ 50/1
Most bookies are a minimum of quarter-odds a place to 5-places, but NOT Betfred or Ladbrokes so avoid those two.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Aintree Day 2 - Friday 7th April

We had no luck yesterday as Bristol De Mai never took a single jump cleanly and lost a couple of lengths at nearly every fence.  He managed to keep himself in contention even so, and if he can just learn to jump better then he could be top class.  If he cannot master jumping fences then perhaps Hobbs will do a "Big Bucks" and send him hurdling over trips around 3-miles.

Top Notch looked over-the-top in the opening race, and I expect he's done now for the season.  I have noticed in recent seasons that Henderson can bring his horses to a peak at Cheltenham from which they can only go downhill from if racing again that season.

As for Cue Card, it was a brave effort but he's not the performer of old and this was a run of pure guts. I rated him at 165 yesterday, about the same as his win at Ascot in February and the same as his win in this race last year. However, last year he was a 10lb better horse and had plenty in hand - this year he was flat out.  That puts Tea For Two on 165 as well, and what is good about this horse is that he's improved with every run this season.

Today we have a couple of hurdle races and then the Grade 1 Novice chase over 3m1f.  This brings together the 1sts & 2nd from the RSA Chase at Cheltenham last month: Might Bite and Whisper. There should be no excuses for Might Bite this time and we should see another fantastic effort from him.  However, Whisper loves this course and has won twice before over hurdles at this meeting, so he will be in his element.

The Grad 1 Melling Chase at 3:25pm is very competitive and, on my ratings Fox Norton, Sub Lieutenant and God's Own are separated by only 3lbs. Also, both Kylemore Lough and Royal Regatta are capable of running above 155. With Fox Norton having to prove he stays this 2m4f trip for me this is a toss-up between Sub Lieutenant and God's Own.  However, with the Ryanair form taking a knock yesterday (both Aso and Empire Of Dirt ran poorly) my head goes with GOD'S OWN.  There will not be much in this and the odds offer no real value.

I'm not going to attempt to fathom the 30 runner "Topham" Chase over the National fences, so onto the 3-mile Grade 1 novices hurdle which looks a bit tricky.  The front pair in the betting - The World's End and Constantine Bay - both suffered in the 3-mile novices hurdle at Cheltenham and are running on "what-if" rather than form. As such, I'm more taken with the 3rd-fav West Approach who even though a novice was raced in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham after running 3rd in the "Cleeve" hurdle in January.  He could be a lot better than this field as he has the highest official rating at OR157 which is 8lb better than The World's End.  Odds of 6/1 (BetVictor) look fair eachway value (5th odds a place 1,2,3) but you have to wonder if the Official Rating is realistic.

The ground looked a little testing out on the National course yesterday and that puts me more in favour of BLAKLION for the big race on Saturday. However, I will almost certainly be sticking to my 4 of Blaklion, Perfect Candidate, Pleasant Company and Thunder And Roses.

No advised wager today.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Aintree Fesival - Day 1 (Thursday)

Small fields and short fav's today at Aintree, so "value" may be in short supply.

It really is a great feast for the horseracing fan with 4 Grade 1 races on todays card and they start at 1:45pm with the 2m4f Novices Chase which should go to the fav TOP NOTCH.  We were on TOP NOTCH at Cheltenham and I feel we were most unlucky that day as had he jumped the 2nd-last fence cleanly (he dropped about 4-lengths) then I am as sure as I can be that he would have won.  There are plenty out there who think Yorkhill had something up his sleeve, but time will tell on that score.  I have TOP NOTCH about 10lb ahead of these on my ratings and he is almost certain to be followed home by Cloudy Dream who won over this sort of trip (as a hurdler) at Doncaster. It may be worth taking the straight-forecast on this pair.

Next up at 2:20pm is the "Doom Bar" Juvenile Hurdle over 2m1f and again is should go to the fav in DEFI DU SEUIL who is so far ahead of the other 7 in the race in ability that it may be only not finishing the race that prevents him from winning.  He is certainly not flashy and, as such, many pundits snipe at this horse, but DEFI DU SEUIL can't do any more than beat the horses he races against and he's been very good at doing that this season. I expect him to remain unbeaten as a hurdler but whatever happens today he looks very exciting for next season whether he goes for the Champion Hurdle or novice chasing and the Arkle.

At 2:50pm we have possibly the most competitive race of the day in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl over 3m1f.  The race is between the 3 market leaders: last years winner Cue Card, the Irish challenger Empire Of Dirt, and the 6yo Bristol De Mai. Up first, Cue Card and this track suits him much better than Cheltenham and we could see the best performance of his season in this, as he won this in a canter last year.  If he can match the level he showed at Ascot in February over 2m5f then he will win today in the same fashion as he won here last year. I'm not sure about Empire Of Dirt as he was comprehensively beaten in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, and much has been made of his run when 2nd to subsequent Gold Cup winner Sizing John in February over this sort of trip. Personally, he needs to find at least 7lb on that February run to come close to Cue Card on an "ordinary" day, and if Cue Card hits the spot then Empire Of Dirt will be soon toiling. Bristol De Mai is more interesting as a challenger. His win in the Peter Marsh Handicap at Haydock in January confirmed he stays this trip, and though outclassed in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham he was going better than Cue Card when the latter fell 3-out.  There is likely to be a decent pace in this race and that will suit BRISTOL DE MAI and odds of 6/1 look value to me. 

I'm going to split my stake on this race between Cue Card and Bristol Du Mai, as I really cannot see Empire Of Dirt winning and the remainder are all outclassed. 
BRISTOL DU MAI - £9.50 @ 6/1 (available generally)
CUE CARD - £5.50 @ 7/4 (available generally)
Total Stake = £15

The Betway Aintree Hurdle at 3:25pm could be a race that sees the hot-fav beaten, as this 2m4f trip will be the furthest that Champion Hurdler Buveur Dair has raced over and, on my ratings at least, based on their best form shown this season there is not that much between the fav and the 2nd-fav The New One who has won this race before and is a proven stayer. Of course, if Buveur Dair is as good at this trip as he was in the Champion Hurdle then it's "game over", but there is a slight doubt and I would not be a taker at odds of 2/5.

The Foxhunters Chase over 2m5f at 4:05pm is not the sort of race I usually wager in, and it looks to be between the market leaders On The Fringe and Pasha Du Polder.  Of the pair, this shorter trip should suit On The Fringe more than the 3m2f of Cheltenham LTO (race won by Pasha Du Polder) and he should win this in the same fashion that he did last year.

Advised Wager
Aintree 2:50pm
BRISTOL DU MAI - £9.50 @ 6/1 (available generally)
CUE CARD - £5.50 @ 7/4 (available generally)
Total Stake = £15

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Early thoughts on the Grand National

I've taken a break from the blog since the Cheltenham Festival to refresh the batteries, and consider future options. As such, the Aintree Festival this week could well be the last time the blog is presented in this format, looking at races in-depth and advising wagers. I've a few ideas of where to take the blog for next season and I will consider the options over the summer.

This Saturday we have the most famous horse-race in the World taking place at Aintree, the Grand National. As I grew-up within a few miles of the track and regularly went past the course on the bus into Liverpool, the course and the race are a special place.
This is a race in which I try extra-hard to find the winner of.  I may have written this before but, many years ago, I read the biography of legendary gambler Alex Bird who "retired" in 1985. Unfortunately, the only bit of interesting information that I extracted from the book was his quip that he'd found the winner of every Grand National since 1946. Keen to fathom out this factor, I studied the records of the winners and realised at that time that 9 out of 10 winners carried more than 10st in weight - in effect reducing the field from 40 to perhaps less than 10 on which to focus your fom study.  The book quickly paid for itself as I was able to select 1987 winner Maori Venture (ante-post at 40/1) who won at an SP of 28/1 carrying 10st 13lb.

The race has been transformed in recent years, and not just by modifications to the course and the trip - the "handicap" has been compressed considerably which, as we have found out at the recent Cheltenham Festival, has put the "edge" in favour of those at the top of the handicap. The problem with ratings inflation is that the very best horses are pretty much of the same ability year-in, year-out. A Cheltenham Gold Cup winner is typically rated OR166-172 and very few, less than 5 horses, are truly better than OR170 in any given year.   The ability of horses (in my opinion) does not follow a statisticians "standard deviation curve" - the vast majority of racehorses are of poor-to-ordinary ability, that is rated (over jumps) at OR65 to OR90 and many never rate good enough to even achieve a rating. The higher-up the ability scale you go, the fewer horses hit the standard. However, ratings inflation pushes horses outside of their comfort zone by awarding ratings that the horses are not truly comfortable with.  Horses such as The Last Samuri, and Shantou Flyer are running off inflated ratings, and if The Last Samuri could win this weekend's Grand National carrying 11st 10lb giving weight to horses that ran well in last months Cheltenham Gold Cup then he should really have been running in that race rather than this.  I don't think The Last Samuri is a potential Gold Cup winner, do you?

As I found when looking at the entries for the 3m1f handicap chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, it may be more beneficial in a race as competitive as this, to produce a shortlist of 4 or 5 in the race to wager on - for instance, my shortlist of 4 on the opening days handicap at Cheltenham came up with the winner (Un Temps Pour Tout) and the runner-up (Singlefarmpayment) with the Exacta paying £89 to a £1 stake.

So then, from the top...
The Last Samuri (OR161) 11st10lb - he couldn't win this last year (came 2nd) off OR149 and carrying just 10st 8lb
More Of That (OR159) 11st 6lb - ran 6th in Gold Cup and stays well; looks fairly treated, 14/1 is fair value.
Shantou Flyer (OR156) 11st 5lb - won a novice chase over 3-mile but looks best at 2m6f.
Perfect Candidate (OR156) 11st 5lb - won well LTO, stays 3m2f+, front-runner, very interesting at 50/1.
Saphir Du Rheu (OR162) 11st 5lb - 5th in Gold Cup, looks the best handicapped (about 6lb well-in), but trip an issue.
Roi Des Francs (OR150) 11st 3lb - looks poorly handicapped.
Wounded Warrior (OR150) 11st 3lb - was useful novice chaser, but not progressed.
Wonderful Charm (OR142) 11st 2lb - was OR159 at peak, ran well LTO but much improvement needed
Tenor Nivernais (OR160) 11st 1lb - not a natural staying chaser.
Blaklion (OR156) 11st 1lb - very consistent and stays well, big run expected and 14/1 looks fair (4lb well-in)
Drop Out Joe (OR152) 11st 1lb - Not run since 26June16.
Le Mercurey (OR151) 11st 0lb - not a natural 4-mile chaser in the making. 
The Young Master (OR148) 10st 13lb - should stay the trip, but didn't run well here in December 
Cause Of Causes (OR142) 10st 13lb - ignore run here in 2015, is potentially a 155 chaser, but will he be left behind early-on?.
Regal Encore (OR150) 10st 13lb - not sure this marathon trip is what he wants, as 3-mile is his limit.
Vieux Lion Rouge (OR155) 10st 12lb - stays well, handles National fences, well-treated  (6lb well-in).
Definitly Red (OR159) 10st 12lb - stays well, jumps and travels well, potentially best handicapped and could be 10lb well-in. 
Ucello Conti (OR145) 10st 12lb - 6th last year off OR149 carrying 10st 8lb, hasn't improved since.
Double Shuffle (OR152) 10st 12lb - improved form over 3-mile, but only 7yo and may need another year.
Houblon Des Obeaux (OR142) 10st 12lb - recent form poor, but so was Venetia Williams' 100/1 National winner Mon Mome! Ran 3rd in the Welsh National off OR153 at Christmas and a repeat would put him in the mix.
Pleasant Company (OR148) 10st 12lb - aimed at this since winning last April, won "Bobbyjo" Chase LTO and is main hope of Willie Mullins. 
One For Arthur (OR148) 10st 11lb - terrific win LTO and comes here in top form - is he still improving?
of the others:-
Lord Windermere (OR146) 10st 10lb - won Cheltenham GC in 2014 but not come close to that form since.
Saint Are (OR147) 10st 10lb - 2nd in 2015, but pulled-up last year, back to form LTO, so could go well.
Vicente (OR146) 10st 10lb - Won Scottish National last year but recent form isn't good enough.
Rogue Angel (OR145) 10st 8lb - won Irish Grand National last year and will stay the trip but this will be his 33rd chase race and further improvement is unlikely.
Thunder And Roses (OR144) 10st 7lb - placed 2nd in two top Irish handicaps this season, and won Irish National in 2015 beating subsequent 2016 Grand National winner Rule The World.
Doctor Harper (OR140) 10st 6lb - ran well on New Years Day and will be well prepared for this by handicap king David Pipe.

Of those above, I'm shortlisting  
Perfect Candidate @ 50/1
Blaklion @ 14/1
Vieux Lion Rouge @ 10/1
Definitly Red @ 10/1
Pleasant Company @ 16/1
Thunder And Roses @ 33/1
and if VYTA DU ROC @ 66/1 gets in on 10st 0lb I will be seriously interested as he stays 4-mile, jumps well and is very consistent. 

If push came to shove, my selection (at this stage, Wednesday) would be BLAKLION, but I can see the 3 on my shortlist at longer odds, that is Perfect Candidate, Pleasant Company, and Thunder And Roses all going well.  I feel, with luck, Vieux Lion Rouge and Definitly Red will run big races but their respective odds of about 10/1 are a bit short in a race which has (in recent years) become a great leveller.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Cheltenham Festival 2017 - Day 4 (Friday)

We were most unlucky with TOP NOTCH yesterday in the opening race as, but for that one mistake at the 2nd-last fence which looked like it cost him about 5-lengths, he probably would have won well. He certainly looked the best horse in the race to me and he stormed up the hill on the run-in from the last fence almost catching eventual winner Yorkhill.
In the Ryanair, Josses Hill just wasn’t good enough. Eventual winner UN DE SCEAUX did not have to do much other than stay the trip, which I felt he only just did, and he was helped in that matter by his euphoric jumping display which nearly cost him mid-race when he landed on a fence. However, it looked a poor Ryanair to me with little depth as show by ASO running in 3rd place. By my ratings, the winner didn't have to top 160 to win this, and trainers really should start having a go at these short-priced horses.

My 3rd selection Champagne At Tara never looked like going and was soon pulled-up, which was disappointing. Of the others mentioned on the blog, Hadrian’s Approach fell and Sutton Manor (after some support on the betting market) ran a positive race to be 5th in the 3-mile handicap hurdle. 

In the Stayers’ Hurdle, Unowhatimeanharry disappointed, running about 7-10lb below his best form. The proven stayers Lil Rockerfella and Cole Harden ensured it was a true test and eventual winner Nichols Canyon looked more at home at this trip – his first attempt at 3-miles – than he had at 2-miles. The leading pair are young enough to dominate this 3-mile hurdle division for the next couple of seasons.
Onto the final day and we could do with a winner!
Todays opening Triumph Hurdle over 2-miles is dominated by the McManus owned Defi Du Seuil, Charli Parcs and Landofhopeandglory. However, I was most impressed by MASTER BLUEYES winning the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton LTO (Charli Parcs fell 2-out), and the ground today will suit this decent flat performer well who took his time to take to hurdling but looks top class now. Odds of 7/1 look generous for a race that may have little depth to it.
The County Handicap Hurdle looks like a real head-scratcher to me and I’m happy to leave that to others and so I will move onto the 3-mile Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle. This race takes some winning by a proper staying horse and the 2/1 fav Death Duty has yet to race beyond 2m4f so we are looking at opposing him. Augusta Kate hasn’t enough experience in my mind (only 1 completed hurdle race), however Monalee won over 3-mile LTO on heavy ground. But it is Wholestone who has won 4 of his last 5 races, winning at 3-mile and over C&D on “good” ground that ticks a lot of boxes. With The Worlds End and Constantine Bay evenly matched on form (via No Hassle Hoff), and the remainder looking outclassed, WHOLESTONE looks like being a worthy wager at 7/1 as there are not many in this race with winning form at 3-mile and on this ground.
Finally, the Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (3-miles and 2½ furlongs)
16 of the last 18 winners had already won a race that season;
15 of the last 16 winners were in the 1st-3 in the betting (exception was Lord Windermere @ 20/1); 
No winner aged 10yo or older since Cool Dawn (aged 10yo) won in 1998 (and he was a 25/1 outsider) and before that Cool Ground (also 25/1) who was also a 10yo when winning in 1992.
This horse is usually won by the best horse in the race, and I know readers of this will very likely have already formed an opinion on which horse they will be supporting in the Gold Cup.
However, this is a race in which recent form is very important. There is a big field of 14-runners and this race looks like producing a surprise result to me as I just cannot see the 3/1 fav Djakadam winning a Gold Cup as he just isn’t good enough. On form this season I have Cue Card and Native River closely matched (and better than Djakadam) and age puts me on the 7yo Native River. The form of Sizing John took a hit yesterday when Empire Of Dirt was well beaten in the Ryanair. The form of Outlander isn’t strong enough (Don Poli is a 155 horse at best), but Champagne West is interesting as he handles Cheltenham well and is back to his best with trainer Henry De Bromhead – but is his best good enough?  Bristol De Mai has questions to answer after his run LTO, and the others look outclassed other than MINELLA ROCCO.  He won the 4-mile NH Chase last year, beating Native River into 2nd in the process, Scottish National winner Vincente in 5th and Vieux Lion Rouge in 6th – this was a “vintage” NH Chase. His season started at Cheltenham when 3rd to Viconte Du Noyer over 3m3f when I thought he looked most unfit beforehand. He then fell at the last fence when trying to beat the ill-fated Many Clouds at Aintree in December (and Many Clouds beat Thistlecrack NTO). LTO he unseated his rider at the 5thfence in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February. If he can get a clear round in today then I am sure he will be in the shake-up as he will strip a lot fitter than he did when here in November.  
I advised those on my email list and readers of the blog to take the 20/1 about Native River on the morning of the day he won the Welsh National, and he is the most likely winner of the race. So, if you are on at 20/1 then don't bother adding to that today, if not then the 9/2 looks fair as I'd have NATIVE RIVER at 3/1 for this race, maybe even a bit shorter.
Todays advised selections
Cheltenham 1:30pm MASTER BLUEYES, £10 win @ 7/1 (available generally)
Cheltenham 2:50pm WHOLESTONE, £10 win @ 15/2 (Paddy Power, with 7/1 generally available)

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Cheltenham Festival 2017 - Day 3 (Thursday)

1:30pm JLT Novices Chase (2-miles & 4-furlongs)
The day opens with the 7th running of this championship race for novice chasers. 
· All 6 previous winners have been rated (at one time) at OR142 or better as hurdlers, thus meeting the same criteria of “Arkle” winners in being above-average hurdlers.. 
- All 6 previous winners contested a hurdle at the previous year’s Cheltenham Festival. 
Stick with LTO winners (although last year’s winner Black Hercules was a faller LTO) and as this is a tough 2m4f, the selection should have proven stamina over this trip but not a win over trips in excess of 2m6f – that is a negative in my opinion. 
Only 8 go to post, and for me there are only 2 in with a winning chance: TOP NOTCH and Yorkhill. Of the others, Disko has been trying trips which are (borderline) too long, and Politologue just does not look good enough. Of the leading pair, TOP NOTCH was the better hurdler, and he has more experience than Yorkhill. At the odds, TOP NOTCH at 4/1 could be the value wager of the Festival.
TOP NOTCH, £10 win @ 4/1 (Paddy Power)

2:10pm Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (3-miles)
With only 1 winning fav since 2003 (Fingal Bay in 2014) this race is one where you can take a punt on an outsider as only 2 horses have won this at odds under 14/1 to win since 2005. This race is a tricky one for punters to solve. 
· 17 of last 24 winners carried between 10st 7lb and 11st 3lb;
· 12 of the last 25 winners won LTO.
A difficult race, however the 6yo SUTTON MANOR has only run 6 times and never finished worse than 4th. He was 2nd in the qualifier in Ireland on 5th Feb, then won LTO on 23rd Feb. Trained by Gordon Elliot, he could have any amount of improvement left in him and early odds of 25/1 look mighty interesting.

2:40pm Ryanair Chase (2-miles & 5-furlongs)
This race is now firmly established as a Festival Championship race, and is producing winners of the highest order. 
· Winning course form at Cheltenham – 11 of the 12 winners previous winners had won at Cheltenham (Riverside Theatre in 2012 was the exception).
· Winning form in a Grade 1 chase – 8 of the last 9 winners (since the Ryanair became a Grade 1 chase) had previously won a Grade 1 chase (Imperial Commander in 2009 was the only exception).
This race hangs on whether Un De Sceaux can stay the trip as he has only raced around this trip in France. The 2nd-fav Empire Of Dirt won over C&D last year in the Novice handicap, but needs to find at least 7lb to match the fav. Uxizandre won this race in 2015 and has been off since then with injury returning to chase home the fav over 2-mile here in January. If he could find another 7lb of improvement then he has a chance. I cannot see Sub Lieutenant winning, and I am more interested in JOSSES HILL who if repeating his latest winning effort (ignore his King George run) may not be far away.  Odds of 9/1 look eachway value for a stable we know will have him fit to run to his best.
JOSSES HILL, £5 eachway @ 9/1

3:30pm World Hurdle (3-miles)
This race is dominated by Unowhatimeaanharry who should win this in authorative manner. 
Likely trends:- 
The age of the winner should be between 6yo and 9yo;
Good recent form is very important and the winner will likely have run 1st, 2nd or 3rd LTO
the betting market is usually good at highlighting the winner and it is unlikely that the winner will not be amongst the 1st-4 in the betting (certainly at odds less than 10/1);
It is very likely that the winner will have run at last year’s Cheltenham Festival;·

4:10pm Festival Plate Handicap Chase (2-mile & 4½-furlongs)
This race has had winners at odds of 25/1 (three times), 33/1 (twice), 50/1 and 66/1 in past 10 years, so don’t be afraid of backing your own judgement and opposing the market.
· 20 of the last 24 winners carried under 11st;
· 13 of the previous 19 winners came here off a break of no more than 39 days;
· 21 of the last 24 winners were rated between OR128 – OR141;
· Irish trainers have only won this race twice (Empire Of Dirt won it for Ireland last year) since 1951.
If you look only at those rated at OR141 or below then you omit all those carrying 10st10lb or more, which leaves 11 of the 24. Take out those who last ran more than 39 days ago, and that drops to just 6 horses; Ballykan, Rock Gone, Champagne At Tara, Mad Jack Mytton, Katachenko, and Thomas Crapper. Of those, I prefer CHAMPAGNE AT TARA a LTO winner who is at 25/1.
CHAMPAGNE AT TARA £5 eachway @ 25/1

4:50pm Mares’ Novices Hurdle (2m & 179 yards)
I’m going to give this race a miss.

5:30pm Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge (for Amateurs) Handicap Chase (3-miles, 1-furlong & 110 yards)
Unfortunately, this grand race has been put back 40-mins to accommodate the new Mares’ race.
This is another Festival race suffering from “handicap compression” and there are only 2 entries carrying under 11st. 
· 8 of the last 12 winners have carried 11st 4lb or more
· No winner in over 20 years was younger than 7yo;
· Only 6 of the last 37 winners was a 7yo;
· There has been 2 Irish-trained winners in past 3 years (after a break of 31 years).
As all the riders are amateur you need to consider the talents of the jockeys, the best are Codd, (Katie) Walsh, Biddick, Legg, Waley-Cohen, Harding, and (Gina) Andrews.  I think the market leaders (Squouateur, Mall Dini, and Southfield Royale) look weak in this race and can be opposed. Doctor Harper is an interesting entry for David Pipe, but the best recent form in the race is that of HADRIANS APPROACH @ 18/1 who ran 4th in the Hennessey GC and trainer Nicky Henderson has booked the capable Biddick for the ride. 

Overall, 3 firm selections but I would not put you off having a small eachway wager on both SUTTON MANOR and HADRIANS APPROACH both available at long odds. This could be quite a day for Nicky Henderson - again!