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


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advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Top handicap chases a rich hunting ground for top-weights?

Days like Saturday are what writing this blog is all about. 
Yes, it was a day of freezing rain and a blisteringly cold wind - but the horses and their riders competed as if it were a Spring day in the sunshine, and full credit goes to the stables and connections for ensuring armchair fans like me had a terrific day of sport on the tv.
After watching the blog selection Singlefarmpayment miss-out on a win on Friday, I thought we were going to get ample compensation on Saturday afternoon when I watched blog selection CEPAGE sit on the tails of the leading pair Frodon and Baron Alco, biding his time and waiting for a crack to appear.  The first to crumble was Baron Alco, who was under a hard drive from his rider to maintain his position from 4-out and dropped away after jumping the 3rd-last. At the top of the hill, Mr Medic appeared to be about to make a strong challenge but he then hit the 4th-last fence hard.  His jockey recovered well and the horse moved into 3rd at the 15th fence (3-out) and so I'm more inclined to think it was the softening ground rather than the mistake 4-out that did for his chances.    
As the leaders turned-in for home, top-weight Frodon was jumping well and responding to the urges of his rider, Bryony Frost (and what a cracking good rider of a horse she is).  As the leading pair approached the 2nd-last fence I briefly thought my selection CEPAGE was going to stay-on and win, but he dragged his hind legs through the top of that fence and lost a bit of impetus, and that was enough to cost him the race. The way he stayed-on up the hill from the final fence on the run-in, suggested it was possible that without the jumping error he'd have finished closer to the winner, but would he have won - that's debatable.
For this race, I gave readers 3 horses that I thought would be contesting the finish, and 2 of them (Frodon & Cepage) finished 1st & 2nd (remember, I gave the 1st-2 for the Bet Victor Gold Cup in November: Baron Alco & Frodon).  If readers had put those 3 horses into a combination Exacta (6 bets to find the 1st-2 in correct order) 6 x £1 exactas would have returned £127.50.

I write this blog for a number of reasons: to boost my ego (I make no apologies for this); to focus my own betting; but also to educate the reader.  I do not profess to be a master at my subject, but I think I'm damn good at what I do, and my record since starting this blog in March 2010 demonstrates that. Most readers will have found this blog via twitter, and on Sunday's there can be some interesting "conversations" on horseracing that take place on Twitter. What I love about that medium is that it puts you into direct contact with people who normally you would have no opportunity to swap words with. 
Yesterday, Matt Tombs (@thespeiler) who wrote the Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide for Weatherbys from 2016-2018 (he now writes for Racing UK) said this about Frodon; "just won off 164, a tribute to the better handicapping these days but also be a siren call to run Gr1 horses in big handicaps. 170+ horses have a good record and its much easier for them now."
He followed that up with; "lots of horses in the c130-160 bracket are rated up to 10lb higher than horses of the same ability a decade ago. That's made it easier for top handicappers like Frodon who's a mid 160s handicapper. But Gr1 170 horses can be thrown in."
For a number of years now, I have complained about "ratings inflation", which is horses being rated much higher than their racecourse ability has afforded. Initially, I thought this phenomenon was confined to the top echelon of chasers, as handicappers sought to find a horse comparable to Arkle in the 1960's. For those not old enough to remember - or even know - who Arkle was, he was the dominant chaser of the 1960's by a very long way and was rated by Timeform at 212. To put that rating into context, Timeform's current top-rated chaser is Altior rate 179; in other words were Arkle and Altior to meet over 2m4f in a handicap, Arkle would carry 11st 10lb and Altior would carry 10st - and be 9lb overweight!
The silly business of ratings inflation started with Kauto Star and his rivalry with stablemate Denman, and the legions of fans of both horses over who they thought was the best and, unfortunately, handicappers pandered to that rivalry. Personally, I don't think Arkle was anywhere near 212, but he was a phenomenally good chaser, consistent, and long-standing (he won 3 consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups in 1964, 1965 & 1966). He was difficult to rate as in the top Grade 1 chase races he was so superior he had little opposition and consequently won with ease. His rating (at a time when only Timeform created published ratings) was built around his performance in handicaps, but horseracing fans with some experience know that for some horses weight does not always stop a horse (weight can slow a horse down, but taking off weight will not necessarily make it run quicker). Take Frodon as an example, he handles the 2m4f/2m5f of Cheltenham exceptionally well, he's raced it 7 times winning 3 times with 2 of his defeats coming in the Spring months of March/April (he's run 5 times in March/April and never even been placed - take note Ryanair backers). He's race 13 times with 11st 5lb or more on his back, and won on 6 of those occasions - weight does not appear to slow this horse down (for 9 of his best 10 speed ratings, he's carried 11st 5lb or more).
This is were handicap ratings hit a quandary: I expect Frodon to have his rating raised from OR164 to maybe OR167, perhaps even OR169, but if he'd come up against his stablemate Politologue (rated OR168) on Saturday then Frodon would have been receiving 4lb - and even so you would expect Politologue to have given him a good beating. Why? Because Politologue is essentially a 10lb quicker horse than Frodon - even if the official ratings do not demonstrate that advantage.
How does this help the punter?
If we go back to the tweets sent out by Matt Tombs yesterday "lots of horses in the c130-160 bracket are rated up to 10lb higher than horses of the same ability a decade ago." I've thought the same for some time, and it has been the backbone of my selection technique for years - to take advantage of this anomaly I seek out young, improving chasers that have shown the speed to achieve high ratings but have yet to fulfil that potential on the course; because once they do my advantage is lost (unless I think they are capable of much better, and a good recent example of this is the chaser Wakanda in his 2nd-season who won 3 races in succession).
What I hadn't quite considered was how well handicapped the very best chasers are when compared to those considered just below top-class. As Matt Tombs wrote: "170+ horses have a good record and its much easier for them now; Gr1 170 horses can be thrown in." Perhaps I should stop complaining about ratings inflation and look at is as a gift that keeps on giving!
On Sunday, I did a quick scan of my memory of recent top horses winning major handicaps with big weights:
Tidal Bay (once rated OR166) winning the Bet365 (handicap) Gold Cup at Sandown off OR154 (carrying 11st 12lb - and he went on to be subsequently rated OR171);
Neptune Collonges Grand National (handicap) off OR157 (he was rated OR174 when 4th in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2009);
Denman twice winner of the Hennessy (now Ladbrokes Trophy) off OR174 and OR161 with 11st 12lb - what is interesting is that the common denominator of these top handicap winners is the trainer Paul Nicholls - who is also the trainer of Frodon.
Clearly, Paul Nicholls knows that his top chasers hold an advantage in handicaps even when carrying top-weight and giving plenty of weight away.

My Saturday was made extra special when my selection BRAIN POWER, in the only other race I looked at, romped home. Brain Power was advised to readers of the blog on the Friday evening and was 7/1 - as I've said before, I may not write as many blogs as I used to, but the information these blogs contain is still 1st-class.


  1. A first class summary of first class selections, as always.

  2. new reader , excellent blog.


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