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advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Saturday's Skybet Chase & Cotswold Chase

It’s an early start for me on Saturday, as I’m heading off to Cheltenham - not just for the races but also to meet a few friends as we dedicate a bench to some departed, but not forgotten, racing souls in the morning before racing starts.
I really love going racing, and I love being at Cheltenham even more.  The atmosphere, the anticipation of the crowd, it permeates your body, warms the heart, and makes you feel alive. We all need to make the most of the short time we are on this earth, and experiencing a day out at Cheltenham amongst friends is – in my opinion – as good as it gets.
So, I’m writing this on Friday afternoon and will post later this evening; the odds that I quote will be the best available at time of writing but you may be able to obtain slightly better on Saturday morning (depending on the generosity of the bookmakers).

Away from Cheltenham first, and at Doncaster it was disappointing to see my early antepost wager on Singlefarmpayment go astray when he wasn’t declared for the race on Thursday morning – the perils of the antepost wager! There are just 11 left in the race, and I guessed wrong about Paul Nicholls: I thought he’d pull-out Art Mauresque and leave in Favorito Bucks, but he’s gone t’other way round.
With Warriors Tale (best odds 11/2) needing a career-best to win off OR153 (and his season target is probably the 2m5f “Topham” Trophy at Aintree in April), I’ve had another look at Art Maureque (best odds 9/1 Ladbrokes) and it looks better than I expected. His run at Ascot over 3-mile on 03Nov showed he gets this trip, and he was good enough to chase home Top Notch at Sandown over 2m6f last April (with O O Seven toiling in his wake at level weights).
As such, O O Seven (the 11/2 2nd fav) who won over C&D LTO on his only run so far this season; looks held and will require a huge effort to win off OR152.
With Go Conquer (best odds 15/2) beaten into 2nd that day by 007, I can’t see him being capable of reversing the places.
This 3-mile trip will suit Dingo Dollar (the 5/2 fav) a lot more than the 3m3f of the Ladbrokes Trophy as Dingo Dollar faded dramatically over the final 3-fences of that race. As such, I’m not convinced he will truly stay this trip as he was beaten at this meeting in the novice hurdle race over 3-mile back in 2017, and he was beaten on the run-in when racing at Ayr over 3-mile last April.
It is a big ask against these proven stayers to send Willie Boy over 3-miles for the first time in this race, and I have to overlook him.  It’s the same for Calipto who has never looked like staying beyond 2m4f; and there is little to recommend the others – Brian Boranha, Monbeg River, or Federici.
For me, ART MAURESQUE @ 9/1 could be the one to take this and he looks good eachway value as I would have him at 5/1 for this based on his Ascot run in November.

I’ve already looked at a couple of the Cheltenham races earlier this week, and for the Cleeve Hurdle last year my money was on WHOLESTONE in this race, when he was outstayed by Agrapart on the heavy ground. That rival will not have the ground in his favour this year, and Wholestone also has the beating of Lil Rockerfeller, Uknowatimeanharry, Sam Spinner.  With no worries over trip, ground, or course he can reverse the places with Midnight Shadow - who beat him LTO over 2m4f -  as that horse, and Black Op who reverts from novice chasing, has stamina doubts at this trip.To me WHOLESTONE looks tremendous value in a race filled with “what if’s and maybe’s” at odds of 10/1 with Ladbrokes, Hills and Corals

The result of the 3m1f &56 yard (Grade 2) Cotswold Chase depends on whether course-specialist Frodon (the 9/4 fav) can stay the trip. He was 2nd over 3-mile at Ascot in December 2017, and followed up that run with an emphatic win at this meeting over 2m5f the following month. He beat some proper 3-mile stayers that day, so there are no holes in the form, it just wasn’t strong enough to win this race. I think Frodon is a better horse now than he was then, but there is still a doubt about him staying this trip as all the recent winners have been “proper” top-class stayers.
Valtor (best odds 11/2) won that same 3-mile Ascot race last month, but he had the run of the green that day and I can’t see that happening here.  His stablemate Terrefort (best odds (4/1) was odds-on to win his seasonal debut, but his usual slick jumping fell apart, and he is on a recovery mission here. His win over 3m1f at Aintree last April (with Elegant Escape and Black Corton well beaten) puts him in with a great chance in this race, but he will need a paddock inspection if he turns up to run.  To see two Henderson horses in a race like this suggests (and this is me reading between the lines) there is no confidence in either.  I’m going to upset a few people here as I reckon Elegant Escape (best odds 11/4) is not improving at all, he is merely a super consistent and reliable horse. He has run (to my ratings) between 150-153 in 7 of his last 8 races, the only dip in form being here in the RSA Chase, and if Cheltenham doesn’t suit him that is not a good omen; he will need a lot of luck to beat Frodon. 
Minella Rocco (best odds 10/1) has struggled since running 2nd in the Cheltenham Gold Cup behind Sizing John in 2017 (with subsequent Gold Cup winner Native River in 3rd).  He’s been off the track since last February, and this would be his 1st run since having a wind-operation after falling in the Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown. He is also entered for the Skybet Chase at Doncaster.  He can go well off a long break as, following his win in the 4-mile NH Chase in 2016, he reappeared here in November 2016 to run a cracker off OR155 (and I was at Cheltenham that day and noted that he looked most unfit in the paddock, so his effort was all the more remarkable).  If he can get into a good rhythm, he may run a cracker.  With Allysson Monterg is completely outclassed, the only realistic rival to the fav is MINELLA ROCCO and at 10/1 (available generally) he’s worth a small wager but, to be honest, this looks a race to watch from the sidelines.

The remainder of the Cheltenham card looks tricky, although I do like the look of the top-weight in the novice chase SPIRITOFTHEGAMES.

Cheltenham 2:25pm MINELLA ROCCO; £5 win @ 10/1 (available generally)
Cheltenham 3:35pm WHOLESTONE; £5 eachway @ 10/1 (Ladbrokes, William Hill, Corals)
Doncaster 3:15pm ART MAURESQUE £5 eachway @ 10/1 (William Hill)
£2.50 eachway double with William Hill – both 5th odds a place 1,2,3

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