Welcome to the World of Horseracing

Record of the blog selections

Profit for the 2016-17 Jumps Season = £84.38

from wagers on 26 individual selections (4 winners, 6 placed)

Total Staked = £280.00


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This blog is based on finding winners - if you want to lose your money then read another blog.
advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

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.
Selection:
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.
Selection
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.
Selection
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!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Cheltenham Festival 2017 - Day 2 (Wednesday)

Onto Wednesday, and this is not my favourite day of the week, I'm not a fan of the Cross-Country Chase or the "Bumper", and the QMCC looks like it is a walk-over for DOUVAN again with the remainder of the field looking poor by comparison.

Unfortunately, the opening "Neptune" also has little value in the betting market, and the RSA Chase could well go to MIGHT BITE if he confirms his promise of his Boxing Day run at Kempton (fell at the final fence when 16-lengths in front) .

1:30pm Neptune Novice Hurdle (2 miles & 5f)
Possibly the most important “novice” event (chase or hurdle) of the Festival meeting, if not the entire NH calendar.  The field for this race is exceptionally high-class and represents the cream of the crop - you should make a note of everything that runs in it for future reference.
-          There hasn’t been a winner older than 7yo in over 40 years;
-          25 of the previous 28 winners had run in at least 3 hurdle races (last year Yorkhill won this on his 3rd hurdle race);
-          19 of the last 23 winners have won at least twice coming into the race;
-          20 of the last 25 winners had won LTO;
As this is not a race for shocks, it may not pay to go too deep and stick to the market leaders.
A big field of 15 go to post, yet Neon Wolf (7/4) and Bacardys (3/1) dominate. Willoughby Court is possibly best of the rest, but do not underestimate well-bred and well-related Shattered Love trained by Gordon Elliot. 

2:10pm RSA Chase for Novices (3-mile & 110 yards)
This race seems to be going downhill as it is watered-down by the growing prestige of the 4-mile NH Chase on Day-1. Last years race, won by Blaklion, has not provided any class horses.
-          The last 16 of the last 17 winners had raced at least 3 times over fences;
-          21 of the previous 24 winners were a novice hurdler the previous season;
-          7yo’s have provided 14 of the previous 16 winners;
-          17 of the last 27 winners had won a 3-mile+ chase before winning this;
-          Only 1 of the last 50-odd winners had not run in the year of the race;
-          19 of the last 24 winners had at least 9 NH starts (hurdles and chases count, but not bumpers);
-          Last year’s winner Blaklion was the 1st in 24 years to have been placed in a Graded or Listed hurdle over less than 2m3f.
 
Chasing experience is what counts here not potential ability.
If we look for a 7yo (which omits 8yo Might Bite the 7/2 fav) with at least 3 chase runs, which was a novice hurdler last season, has had at least 9xNH races, and (hopefully) has won over 3-mile we have: Acapella Bourgeois and Royal Vacation.  Of that pair, I like Acapella Bourgeois  but the ground (he needs soft) looks to be against him. 

2:50pm Coral Cup Handicap (2-miles & 5 furlongs)
This race is a fiercely competitive handicap invariably run at a strong gallop. As such, it has some strong trends worth following, probably due to the large number of starters each year. Last year, Paul Nicholls produced Aux Ptits Soins to win this race on his UK debut having won twice from 3 races in France.
-          9 of the last 14 winners won LTO;
-          18 of last 23 winners had already won a race earlier in the season;
-          14 of the last 17 winners were aged 7yo or younger;
-          12 of the last 16 winners had only won one previous handicap.
It is not unusual for runners with big weights to do well in this race, and don’t be afraid of taking on the market. If you find a horse at odds longer than 14/1 that meets most, if not all, of the criteria above, then have a punt.
3:30pm Queen Mother Champion Chase (2-miles)
When this race is competitive it is the most exciting and exhilarating spectacle of the entire Festival.
-          The last 15 winners of the previous year’s Arkle to take part in the QMCC have been placed at least.
-          11 of the last 16 winners have contested the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
-          34 of the last 35 winners had an SP of no greater than 11/1.
-          14 of the last 15 winners won a Grade 1 chase prior to winning this race
I cannot see DOUVAN not winning this, but what comes 2nd is anyone’s guess.  Last year I was on SPECIAL TIARA in the "w/o the fav" market, but he came in 3rd, and that’s the position he has filled for the past 2 seasons.

4:10pm Cross Country Handicap Chase (3-miles & 7-furlongs)
This is not my favourite race and is not one that I will spend much time contemplating and, in its revised position on the card, I doubt many other will either.

4:50pm Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (2-miles & 110 yards)
This is one of the more intriguing races of the Festival, this is a race which has some trends similar to the Centenary Novices Chase
-          less than 5 hurdle runs and;
-          less than 2 hurdle wins;
-          a winning run coming LTO – these 3 factors ensure that the selection is unexposed and improving;
7 of the 12 winners won LTO, but only 2 of the last 6 winners;
Only 2 of the 12 winners of this race had won more than once over hurdles;
8 of the 12 winners had run in 3 hurdle races or less;
Fillies have provided 4 of the 12 winners;
This race looks a minefield of “dark-horses” and it may prove best to leave alone.

5:30pm Weatherby’s Champion Bumper “open” NH Flat Race (2-miles & 110 yards)
Another one of the races that I do not look forward to at the Festival as usually “bumper” form is thin on the ground. If you have a view then back it, but I will be using this time to look at the form for Thursday. 

NO RECOMMENDED WAGERS FROM ME TODAY.