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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, 28 January 2019

A look-back at Saturdays racing - 26th Jan


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

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