Welcome to the World of Horseracing

Record of the blog selections

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%.


There are NO affiliate links on this site to bookies from whom the author receives over 30% of the stakes from your lost wagers.ising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Sunday, 26 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival 2023 - the Review (part 1)

When looking back over the results of the Cheltenham Festival, one of the things I like to do is see which trends were highlighted in the days beforehand, which ones came right and which ones fell flat. From my own perspective, I like LTO winners and horses that have run since Christmas Day; more than 84 days off the track (12 weeks) is usually enough to scupper the chances of nearly every horse. However, that trend came unstuck in the opening race.  I'm not going to look at every race in this review, for two reasons (1) it will take me about 4 weeks to do a proper review that I'd be proud of; and (2) there is an excellent race-by-race review of the Festival that has been written by Paul Ferguson of Weatherby's. 

The Supreme Novices' Hurdle was won in some style by Marine Nationale, sent into the race by owner-trainer Barry Connell, and this horse had not run since winning at Fairyhouse on 04Dec, but he was a LTO winner. I actually thought the horse would be more suited to the Ballymore Hurdle over 2m5f, but the Supreme was perfect. He looks like there's still more improvement in him and he could easily be a 160+ hurdler.  I reckon this was as good a performance as that put in by Shiskin when he won this race in 2020. The Mullins-trained Facile Vega, have flopped badly LTO when 4th, and was put in his place behind the winner.  He probably needs to step-up in trip now if remaining a hurdler - and he should have no problem staying 2m4f; but I expect this horse to be a novice chaser next season with the "Arkle" being his target.  The surprise of the race for me was Diverge in 3rd. Also trained by Mullins, this gelding was sired by Frankel and (given he pulled so much in the early part of the race) he finished really strong - he could improve a lot on this, and looks exciting for next season. Both Inthepocket and Il Etait Temps look horses that need 2m4f, and they will likely go chasing next season.

The Arkle Novices' Chase was the highlight of the Festival for me, as my antepost selection El Fabiolo came good (as expected) and won in devastating fashion. This is a tricky race to rate, as are all races when the winner spreadeagles the opposition. If we assume Jonbon was considered by Nicky Henderson to be capable of winning an Arkle, then he's likely to have run to 160, which is about the minimum level of performance required, but most Arkle winners run to 160+.  At 160 for Jonbon, that puts El Fabiolo at 167, and that makes his performance one of the best in the Arkle for some time - and this does have the look of being a vintage Arkle. El Fabiolo will have no problem staying 2m4f judging by his breeding, and Willie Mullins has a problem many would love to have looking forward to the 2024 QM Champion Chase, as he also trains Energumene.  I'm not sure where Jonbon goes now, as he looks outclassed at the top-table of 2-mile chase races, but would still be the best we have at the trip this side of the Irish Sea.  He's good, but he doesn't look as good as his half-bro' Douvan who won the Arkle, and I can't see him enjoying a step-up in trip and an attempt at the Ryanair Chase suiting.  The 3rd past the post Saint Roi is another who will be tough to place next season, as he's handicapped to the hilt, and just not good enough to race at Grade 1 level in 2-mile chases.  Dysart Dynamo is a horse who we could see back over hurdles next season; he possesses bags of pace, but his jumping is more hopeful than skilful and his riders just hang-on in hope. 

From the initial couple of races, the winners both look a bit special. With Marine Nationale, his future is largely dependent on what Constitution Hill does, as if CH remains as a hurdler (he could go chasing) then Marine Nationale looks a potential Champion Hurdler in the making, but the best odds available (10/1 with Boylesport) are not attractive. Regards El Fabiolo, he doesn't need another horse to step aside as I expect him to be a better 2-mile chaser than his stable companion Energumene this time next year.  As such, the best available odds about him for the QM Champion Chase of 7/2 (Corals) and 100/30 (Bet365) are interesting for multiple wagers.  To compare the novices, hurdle and chase, I'm going to abandon tradition and jump to Day-2 and the Ballymore Hurdle, and to Day-3 and the "Turners" Novices' Chase.

The Ballymore Novices' Hurdle was  a very strong race on paper, and only the 9/4 fav Hermes Allen failed to shine, but (as I wrote on my blog several times) I didn't think he would; he will be a better chaser.  The race was dominated by Mullins-trained horses, with 3 of his 4 runners filling the 1st-3 places. The winner Impaire Et Passe is easily the best novice hurdler he has, and when you realise that he is only a 5yo and that this was just his 3rd hurdle race, then what a future he must have!  As I held odds of 10/1 on "Impaire" for the Supreme, I'm a bit gutted that he didn't go for that race - and I also had odds of 25/1 on Supreme winner Marine Nationale - right horses, wrong races. With time on his side, Impaire Et Passe is more certain of having a hurdling campaign next season, and odds of 6/1 for the 2024 Champion Hurdle (offered by Bet365 & Coral) look very fair.  Considering he is a better horse than State Man, if Constitution Hill goes chasing then "Impaire" could easily start the Champion Hurdle fav next year.   The runner-up Gaelic Warrior is also a 5yo, and with Mullins thinking he could stay 3-mile, perhaps a try at the Stayers Hurdle before going chasing is possible; he's generally 20/1.

What looked like being one of the races of the Festival, and yet again going to an Irish-trained winner, instead drew Paul Nicholls to the winners enclosure. The Turners Novices' Chase could possibly have been run at a stronger pace, and the eventual winner Stage Star was able to dictate from the front. Given he was proven over C&D, this was a tactical error by rival jockeys; and when the winner struck for home they had no chance of catching him. My immediate thoughts post-race, was that Stage Star was Nicholls "Gold Cup" horse for 2024, and there is plenty of stamina in his pedigree. The odds of 25/1 (Paddy Power) look very generous considering Bravemansgame is unlikely to better this years' performance (when 2nd in the GC), and promising novice Gerri Colombe needs soft ground. The surprise of the race was Notlongtillmay who came into this race on OR142, and ran a cracker. I expect this horse to stay ahead of the handicapper, and I reckon he could win a couple of 3-mile chases in the autumn.  Unfortunately, Mighty Potter was exposed here, this is as good as he gets over this trip, and as he was staying on (under a hard drive) he may also may need to step-up to 3-miles.

What do we have from these novice races going forward? 
Marine Nationale could probably be best-placed going chasing next season, in which case the "Arkle" would be the most likely target; however, the early odds of 5/1 being offered are not generous.
As Impaire Et Passe is more certain of hurdling next season, current odds of 6/1 for the 2024 Champion Hurdle (offered by Bet365 & Coral) look very fair, and probably should be taken.
El Fabiolo looks to be a better 2-mile chaser than his stable companion Energumene.  As such, the best available odds about him for the QM Champion Chase of 7/2 (Corals) and 100/30 (Bet365) are interesting for multiple wagers.
Stage Star? While, he looks an interesting horse for 2023-24, and I can see him running in the Gold Cup next March, he will need fortune on his side to figure in the finish of that race. 

Friday, 24 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival 2023 - the review (and what went wrong)

That's it for another year, and when it's over the preparation begins for the next one. My own performance can only be measured as profit or loss; and let's be realistic, with just the one winner (El Fabiolo) it wasn't vintage. I've thought that perhaps I spread my assessments of the horses & races too thin, tried to hit too many targets when I should have been more specific.  I tell readers of the blog to pick &choose their targets - and then I didn't follow my own advice! We live and learn.
I'm not sure how this review is going to pan-out. I generally look at each race in-turn, and try and spot horse's to look out for in the coming weeks and months. And then I usually have a wrap-up and try and identify any potential wagers for 2024. 
This is my fantasy Yankee posted on 27-March 2022 for the 2023 Cheltenham Festival (odds from Paddy Power):-
Champion Hurdle: CONSTITUTION HILL @ 2/1
QMCC: ENERGUMENE (as I expect Shishkin to step-up in trip to 3-miles) @ 7/2
Stayers' Hurdle: FLOORING PORTER @ 5/1
Gold Cup: A PLUS TARD @ 4/1  
Not too bad; 2 winners from 4 selections, the successful double returning £135 to a £10 stake, that's £25 profit on the original 11 bets in the Yankee. Not only that, but I predicted Shishkin stepping-up in trip. I hope I can repeat this success at the end of this review when I post a "Yankee" for 2024.
Before I go any further and review the Festival race-by-race, let's have a brief look at the Gold Cup won by Galopin Des Champs. First, let us compare the ratings: RPR, Speed, Timeform, and My Rating with previous Gold Cups.
                                                RPR    Speed    TF      MR   Total      Ave       Position
2023 Galopin Des Champs    184        171     181     170     706      176.50      5th
2022 A Plus Tard                    183        171     179     176     709      177.25     4th
2021 Minella Indo                  179        168               170     517       172.33
2020 Al Boum Photo              172        152               167     492       164.00
2019 Al Boum Photo              178        177               168     514       171.33
2018 Native River                  177        176                169    513       171.00
2017 Sizing John                    171        166               168    496       165.33
2016 Don Cossack                  182        174    18    170    709       173.33     8th
2015 Coneygree                      178        175               172    525      175.00     6th
2014 Lord Windermere           168        149               161    478      159.33
2013 Bobs Worth                    179        148    179     174     680      170.00
2012 Synchronised                 171        167               168     506      168.66
2011 Long Run                       181        159    184     170     694      173.50     7th
2010 Imperial Commander    182        181    182      182    727      181.75     1st
2009 Kauto Star                     185        172                177    534      178.00      3rd
2008 Denman                         184        178    181      179    722      180.50     2nd
2007 Kauto Star                     175        144                165     484      161.33
Most judges rate the performance by Don Cossack when winning in 2016 to be the best since Foot & Mouth disease caused the cancellation of the Festival in 2001.  From my "composite" rating detailed above, Don Cossack is 8th best since 2006.  I haven't gone earlier than 2007, as before that I wasn't keeping my own ratings.
Despite the above table putting Imperial Commander's winning performance in 2010 as the best recent run in the Gold Cup; personally, I have Denman as the best staying chaser since "foot & mouth", as Denman met, and beat a peak Kauto Star (who when on to win the Gold Cup again in 2009). 
The Gold Cup is an interesting trip, being a quarter-mile longer than a "standard" 3-miles, and having that final quarter-mile running up that hill (thank you Kate Bush). I believe the best trip for Kauto Star was the 3-miles of Kempton, and beyond that trip Denman was definitely superior. Or rather, "Kauto" could not achieve a performance in a Gold Cup within 5lbs of his best (which he ran at Kempton). However, Kauto Star was such a high-class chaser, he didn't need to perform to his best to win a couple of Gold Cups!  Had Denman not suffered heart problems, I'm sure he'd have won the Gold Cup again in 2009, as that autumn he perhaps put in what I rate as the best performance of his life - and possibly the best staying chase performance seen since the days of Desert Orchid - when winning the Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury over 3m2f in November 2009.
So what of Galopin Des Champs? As per the identical speed ratings (171), I don't think there's that much between this winning performance and that of A Plus Tard last year.  While speed ratings are not the be-all-and-end-all, they are an important consideration, as they give resonance to the overall rating.  Let's be honest here: ratings are subjective to opinion, that's why there's disparity in the table above. Even speed ratings have some interpretative factor within them, due to the effect of the ground on the race-time; but there's more of a calculation behind them. What is interesting from the table above, is that Galopin's speed rating of 171 has been matched or beaten by 5 winners since the surprise victory of Lord Windermere in 2014.  The highest speed rating in that period (176) was by Al Boum Photo in 2019, and he went on to win the Gold Cup a 2nd time in 2020. I tipped Al Boum Photo to win that 2nd Gold Cup (I didn't think he was good enough in 2019) mainly due to that high speed rating, which was the highest recorded in the race since Imperial Commander in 2010. There's no doubt in my mind that a fit and healthy Galopin Des Champs can win the Gold Cup again in 2024, but before you go out and put the mortgage on a 6/4, I would have said the same thing about A Plus Tard last year. The only chink in the armour of GDC is that a bold, prominent effort by a horse like Coneygree or Native River - who are considered more than 5lb below GDC - could give him a scare over the Gold Cup trip. And, there's always the possibility that he may not reach the starting line next year: injury is always a risk.

I'm not a Timeform subscriber, so I've only obtained the ratings used from Twitter and the free essays on the Timeform website.  If anyone can "fill in the blacks" with the ratings given to other Gold Cup winners - for their gold Cup performance - please send them to me via twitter, or via a comment on this blog.

Friday, 17 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival 2023 - Day 4 (Friday)

What can I say? Yesterday was a day for the bookies, with none of the fav's winning. For the blog it started badly when Mighty Potter struggled to pick-up the pace over the final couple of fences in the opening race; he ran to his best, but that wasn't good enough.  The Pertemps hurdle was a blanket finish, and the selection The Changing Man stayed on but just missed out on a place.  Like many, I thought Shishkin was unbeatable in the Ryanair, but he wasn't placed well by his jockey, and his jumping suffered. Fair play to Envoi Allen, he's won the Bumper, the Ballymore, and now the Ryanair Chase. The final nail in my Festival coffin was Sire Du Berlais winning the Stayers' hurdle at 33/1 at the age of 11. Flooring Porter ran a brave ace, but he's 10lb below his best; and Klassical Dream just didn't want to race: very disappointing. Any hope of a confidence boost was snuffed out when Fugitif was beaten into 2nd on the run-in of the Plate having looked the winner jumping the last fence. I wasn't interested in the Mares race, and then in the Kim Muir, the selection Ballykeel was given every chance but just wasn't good enough.

Just the one winner - El Fabiolo in the Arkle - posted this week, it has been disappointing.

1:30pm Triumph Hurdle over 2-miles
Unbelievably, Willie Mullins trains the top-4 in the betting: Lossiemouth, Blood Destiny, Gala Marceau, and Zenta. With the stable jockey Townend on Lossiemouth, that's the fav and probably the most likely winner. A no bet race for me.

2:10pm County handicap Hurdle over 2-miles
Very competitive race, and one won by Mullins 6 times. He has 4 entries, including the well fancied Hunters Yarn but this looks a big ask for the 6yo who is very lightly race. The one I like is Winter Fog who loves these big-field handicaps, ran 4th in the Pertemps Final last year, joined Willie Mullins in December and immediately won a h'cap hurdle over 2-miles. Gordon Elliott has 2 runners, and his Pied Piper is a decent hurdler but OR154 looks a tough mark to win from. Gavin Cromwell has just Path D'Oroux and this one looked destined for the "Supreme" when winning his debut hurdle in October, as he was then sent for a couple of Grade 1's. Not quite than level, he won LTO when dropped in grade and his OR141 mark looks fair. 

2:50pm Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle over 3-miles
When you look at the odds of past winners, probably the first horse to strike off the list is the fav. You can make a case for more than a few in this, so let's just try with one: Gordon Elliott's Favori De Champdou.  Yes, he's an 8yo but he's had very little racing and he looked decent when winning a Grade-2 at Xmas. Elliott knows his hurdlers, especially at 3-miles, and while he also has Three Card Brag in this race, that horse needs to prove his stamina today. 
For me, Favori De Champdou looks to hold a fair chance in this race.

3:30 Cheltenham Gold Cup over 3 miles & 2 furlongs & 70yards
This time last year, I posted up A Plus Tard to win the Gold Cup, and he duly did capping a great week. He's not had the best of time in the past year, running only once and being pulled-up, but he did look outstanding last year, and nothing has come close to that level in the intervening period. What's more, trainer Henry de Bromhead is in great form and there's no reason to doubt that if A Plus Tard is here, then he's in good form too. The talking horse is the short-priced fav, Galopin Des Champs who fell at the final fence here last year when looking likely to easily win the "Turners" over 2m4f.  He's won 3 races since then, proven he stays 3-miles LTO, and looks the one to beat. Bravemansgame has done nothing wrong this season, and in many a year he would be the fav today after winning the King George at Kempton in good style LTO. With Paul Nicholls having his horses running well this week, he looks the value in the betting market as, when you look at the remainder of the runners, there is nothing much else in the race that you can consider to be a potential winner. Noble Yeats may sneak 3rd, but he really should not be winning this race.
I already have an antepost wager on Protektorat, but that looks a poor wager now, and if I had to have a wager it would be an eachway punt on Bravemansgame, but I expect the fav Galopin Des Champs to win, and hope A Plus Tard runs a gallant race.
That's it from me for today, and I will review the results over the coming couple of weeks in more depth. 

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Cheltenham Festival 2023 - Day 3 (Thursday)

Not a great day yesterday. I had an antepost wager on Impaire Et Passe at 10/1, but it was in the "Supreme" hurdle and not the "Ballymore"; just as I had an antepost wager on the Supreme winner Marine Nationale at 25/1, but it was in the Ballymore - right horses, wrong races! Hats off to The Real Whacker winning the "Broadway" chase from the front, but in doing so he beat Gerri Colombe into 2nd (he probably should have been in the NH Chase over 3m6f); while my antepost on Thyme Hill was well off target. In the Coral Cup h'cap hurdle, Fil Dor didn't enjoy the experience at all and dropped-out mid-race. Like a lot of people, I was sucked into the Edwardstone camp for the QMCC, but the writing was on the wall early, and Energumene has now won this prestigious race twice without having a decent blow. I made no selection in the Grand Annual, but Thyme White (on my shortlist) was going well when falling 2-out. 

So, we go into the third day with Mighty Potter needing to win the "Turners" to complete a £10 win double with Arkle winner El Fabiolo.

1:30pm Turners Novice Chase over 2m4f
Based on the form this season, Mighty Potter looks much the best horse in this line-up. The only chink in his form is his failure to complete in the Supreme Hurdle last season. His rivals today don't look good enough to beat him unless Mighty Potter underperforms. The British-trained Balco Coastal (Henderson) and Stage Star (Nicholls) may be the ones to give the fav most trouble. Stage Star ran a tremendous race here on Trials Day in January, but before that you would not have considered him capable of winning this race, and I think he needs to find another 10lb of improvement. I like Balco Coastal, as he won a decent handicap at Kempton on his 2nd chase race, and was just outstayed by Gerri Colombe LTO, and that form looks strong. He would be my eachway selection at 12/1. The Irish trained Appreciate It and Banbridge both don't look good enough. 

2:10pm Pertemps Final handicap hurdle over 3-miles
What a cracking race this is, and we found the winner at 25/1 last year. It takes an exception horse to win this race with more than 11st to carry, but this years' race looks weaker than usual, so we may get a strong show from Walking On Air on 11:5 who was a late qualifier winning LTO in Feb. However, my money is on The Changing Man a 6yo who is improving with every run, travels strong and stays 3-mile well, and he's won on soft ground - he's 25/1 with Bet365, and 22's elsewhere (6-places, 5th odds).
Selection: THE CHANGING MAN - £5 eachway @ 25/1 (6-places, 5th odds a place)

2:50pm Ryanair Chase over 2m5f
This should be a shoo-in for Shishkin, as he is easily the best of these.  Shishkin is probably the the equal of Energumene even now after his health problems, and I cannot see anything coming close. All my antepost doubles etc involving the horse have gone down (although I did post on 31Dec that readers should include him in doubles & trebles as he was available at odds of 8/1 for the Ryanair Chase) so, what can follow him home? I think it will be Fury Road and Envoi Allen who will battle it out for 2nd & 3rd; and I shall have a couple of straight-forecasts with Shishkin to win and that pair to be 2nd.  Both stay the trip and more, but this trip is probably their best; and both have run well at the Festival in previous years.

3:30pm Stayers' Hurdle over 3-miles
This years race is a tricky affair. Most of the trials during the season have been indifferent races, always excuses for one horse or another. Flooring Porter has won this race for the past couple of years, and readers of the blog know that - we've been on him both times! However, in the run-up to winning those races he'd posted performances at around 160 (he's rated OR164), and this season he's run a couple of poor efforts below 150. If Gavin Cromwell has brought him here in top-form, he will prove tough to beat. Teahupoo has his ground, and showed when winning the Hatton's Grace (Honeysuckle was 3rd) that he's a high-class 3-miler. Come the race, the weather forecast is heavy rain this afternoon, which is reminiscent of when Klassical Dream won the Supreme in 2019, so he should cope today, and he goes well off a long break.  If there's one trainer who can bring a horse to win a race like this off a long break, it's Mullins, so I'm very interested in this one at odds of 9/1 (with Bet365, 4-places 5th odds).  I've already advised an eachway antepost wager on French-trained Gold Tweet, and I won't put anyone off having and eachway punt on him at 11/1 (Bet365), although I cannot see him winning today. I don't think Blazing Khal is good enough on form to be the 2nd-fav, and Home By The Lee found nothing when asked in this race last year. For me, the winner is one of Flooring Porter, Teahupoo and Klassical Dream, and though it pains me to do it, at the odds and based on this season's form, I'm advising an eachway wager on Klassical Dream to be the recipient of some Mullins magic, with a "saver" on Flooring Porter, just in case.
Selection: KLASSICAL DREAM - £5 eachway @ 9/1 (Bet365, 4-places, 5th odds)
plus: FLOORING PORTER - £3 win @ 11/2 (available generally)

4:10pm Plate handicap chase 2m4f & 127yds
This looks a difficult race to fathom, especially as the weather looks awful this afternoon, heavy rain. This can go to a rank outsider, but the winner is usually well supported in the market. I was very impressed by both Il Ridoto and Fugitif when they battled-out the finish over C&D on Trials Day here in January, and of the pair I think Fugitif looks primed to run well in this race and odds of 10/1 (Bet365, 6-places, 5th odds) look fair; but I can't recommend a wager in what looks a competitive race.  

I'm going to give the Mares hurdle a miss, and go straight to the:
5:30pm Kim Muir (amateur riders) h'cap chase over 3m2f
Jockeyship is very important in this race, and any horse ridden by JJ Codd (who has won this 4 times) has to be considered. As such, Duboyne trained by Gordon Elliott and recently 2nd in the Thyestes Chase in Ireland is one to note. Also note Angels Dawn who was fav for the Grand National Trial in Ireland LTO but unseated his rider mid-race when going well. Different jockey today, and he can go well in this race. I also like the other Elliott-trained runner, Ballykeel who has been aimed at this race for some time. He has a decent jockey on board as Mr Swan has won 10 races for Elliott and odds of 25/1 (6-places, 5th odds) or 33/1 (PaddyPower, 5-places, 5th odds) look fair. There will not be many finish this race I reckon, and I'm happy to take the 33/1, for a small wager.
Selection: BALLYKEEL - £5 eachway @ 33/1 (PaddyPower, 5-places, 5th odds)