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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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Monday 12 February 2024

Cheltenham Festival update - 12th Feb

Following on from Saturday's blog, I'm continuing with a look through the Cheltenham Festival programme in the search for value.  It's too early to consider the handicaps, there will be plenty of time to consider those when the declarations are made.

The 2nd-day of the Festival (13th March) opens with the
Baring Bingham Novices Hurdle over 2m5f
For a long time this was the premier novice hurdle of the season, but since Faugheen won in 2014, the winners of this race haven't really progressed as expected.  The race does illustrate the transfer of power from England to Ireland as in the past 10 years, there's only been one winner of the race trained in England and that was Willoughby Court in 2017.
I think Mullins will run Ballyburn in this race rather than the "Supreme" on the opening day. Why? Because this looks a weaker race, especially as Caldwell Potter is not running at the Festival; as such, Mullins trains all the main contenders. Slade Steel (de Bromhead) doesn't look anywhere near good enough; Mystical Power (Mullins) is more likely to run in the Supreme; as will Ile Atlantique (Mullins). As for Readin Tommy Wrong (Mullins) while he will likely run in this race, I feel he is more of a 3-miler and he also holds an entry for the "Albert Bartlett". 
Skybet offer odds of 2/1 (NRNB) on Ballyburn, and I'm taking that.

Brown Advisory Novice Chaser over 3-mile
This race, and the NH Chase on the opening day, look fairly open.  Mullins has only won this twice in the past 10 years, and his likely 1st-string Grangeclare West is apparently out for the season.  I'm expecting Fact To File (Mullins) to go for the "Turners" on Day-3 over 2m4f, and (with Gaelic Warrior seemingly unable to run left-handed) his main chance in this race was expected to be  one of  Nick Rockett, Minella Cocooner, or Embassy Gardens.  
Given how Nick Rockett and Minella Cocooner flopped yesterday, it should be Embassy Gardens and I'm tempted to take the 11/2 (NRNB) offered by Bet365.
However, the English trainers have a strong hand for this race in Stay Away Fay (PF Nicholls) and Grey Dawning (Dan Skelton). Both of these are proven at the trip and have very strong form.  The current odds offered on both Stay Away Fay and Grey Dawning are poor value, and I reckon you will be able to obtain around 9/2 - 11/2 on the day; and there's a strong possibility that Stay Away Fay will go for the NH Chase over 3m6f.
Right now, I'm only interested in the 11/2 (NRNB) offered by Bet365 on Embassy Gardens.

Queen Mother Champion Chase over 2-miles
It's near impossible to consider any other horse other than El Fabiolo winning this, and if he doesn't it will be Jonbon. However, in jump racing nothing is certain, as Jonbon proved LTO - there's always a possibility of jumping errors, although I hope that doesn't happen. What could be 3rd? There's a lot of support for Edwardstone after his win at Newbury on Saturday, but I'm not sure he's at his best at Cheltenham, and last year's runner-up Captain Guinness (currently 20/1 with Skybet) could be the one.

The only other non-handicap race (I'm not looking at the Cross Country race which should be run at another track and has no place at the Festival) is the "Bumper" but I'd want odds of 5/1 just to name a runner in the race, never mind the eventual winner.

Saturday 10 February 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - general update (10th Feb)

I've started this blog several times over the past couple of weeks, but then left it unfinished as the antepost odds available do not accommodate enough "risk" element to cover the potential of not running in the race on the day.  The "Non Runner, No Bet" (NRNB) odds are truly pathetic and I'm fairly sure that better value will be available at the Festival in March. So what's this blog about? Essentially, I'm going to try and narrow down the entries to identify the likely runners, and in the process endeavour to find some value - if it exists.

Tuesday 12th March
Supreme Novices' Hurdle:
Current fav is Ballyburn (WP Mullins) and while he looks a capable winner at this stage, I think he's a better horse at 2m4f+ (like his full brothers) and so he's more likely to go for the 2m5f hurdle on Day-2.  Mystical Power is a more likely runner for Mullins, but his form doesn't appear strong enough to suggest he's a likely winner. I'm expecting Mullins to have several runners in the race, one being Mirazur West a full-brother of Ferny Hollow, and another being Mistergif an expensive purchase given a run on 30th Jan. While you cannot ignore Henderson entries in this race, what we've seen of Jeriko Di Reponet does not suggest he's good enough to win this race.  With Gordon Elliott losing Caldwell Potter (now with Paul Nicholls) his main hope is Firefox, and this one beat Ballyburn over 2-mile on 02Dec. Firefox was then disappointing stepped-up to 2m4f, but if he lines-up for this and is in top form, he could go close. it would not surprise me to see Mullins have 4 or 5 runners in this race, and Ile Atlantique ticks a lot of boxes, and was only just btn LTO: on form, he looks the strongest Mullins entry after Ballyburn.Of the other entries, the JP McManus owned No Flies On Him could be anything as he won a good race on his sole hurdle run to date. Caldwell Potter may run in this race, but it would not surprise me to see him not run again this season, as his future is as a chaser.
I'm tempted to take NRNB odds about:
Mistergif @ 25/1 (Bet365); Ile Atlantique @ 16/1 (Bet365) and Firefox @ 10/1 (Bet365)

Arkle Novice Chase
I been taking a long-look at this race, and (even before the Dublin Racing Festival) I was liking the look of Found A Fifty and Il Etait Temps. Since they finished 1st & 2nd last weekend, I've taken the odds available about the pair, and will plump for one or the other closer to the Festival.  Found A Fifty hasn't run a bad race all season, and looks to want more of a stamina test in time, as such I'm leaning more towards him as my Arkle selection. Despite winning LTO, in my mind Il Etait Temps may be best suited by a flatter track than Cheltenham, and I see him more of an Aintree horse. What of Marine Nationale?  Beaten horses at the DRF tend not to recover and win at Cheltenham - it's not impossible, but it's unlikely. If (like Sizing Europe in 2010) he'd fallen at the final fence when looking the likely winner, I could take a more positive view - but he emptied out quickly suggesting something was amiss (breathing problem?).  One to keep an eye out for is 
My Mate Mozzie: he probably has too much speed, and not enough stamina to win the Arkle, but he looks to be well handicapped.
I'm on Il Etait Temps @ 5/1 (NRNB) and Found A Fifty @ 6/1 (NRNB)

Champion Hurdle
With the front two in the betting Constitution Hill and State Man, unlikely to be beaten by another on the day, there's the 3rd place spot to find.  I was all over Bob Olinger and had an eachway voucher at 33/1 on him - but he now goes straight to Aintree.  Zanahiyr filled 3rd spot last year, but is likely to remain chasing. However, Gordon Elliott has able deputies in Irish Point and Pied Piper, and both look more than capable of taking 3rd in this race. I need to find something similar in another Festival race for a long-odds eachway double.
 
Mares Hurdle 
I really cannot see Lossiemouth running in the Champion Hurdle unless State Man can't take part in that race, and she looks a near certainty to win this. She cannot be opposed.

National Hunt Chase
At this moment, I'm still surprised that Flooring Porter is the 3rd fav as I'd be surprised if he takes part. This race still looks fairly fluid regards what's going to take part, but the "Ten Up" Chase at Naas on Sunday 11th Feb is usually a good pointer. I'm taking Minella Cocooner to beat his stablemate Nick Rockett and leap to joint-fav for the NH Chase - he's currently 8/1 (NRNB). I'm not convinced (yet) by Embassy Gardens, and this looks a good opportunity to lock-in some value.

More to come...

Monday 15 January 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - general update

Some interesting results in the past week, and an update on the official entries for a slew of races at the Festival. First up, the results.
Banbridge beat a strong field to win the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase over 2m4f & 110 yds with the consistent Pic D'orhy in 2nd. Given this was the 1st run from Banbridge since winning at Aintree over a similar trip, it's possible that there's some improvement to come from the 8yo who has only had 6 chase runs (winning 4). He's entered for the Ryanair Chase at the Festival and so long as the ground isn't too soft (he was withdrawn from the "Turners" Novice Chase won by Stage Star last March, due to soft ground), he has to have a good chance.  However, in my opinion, Stage Star still holds all the aces: he loves Cheltenham, excels at the 2m4f trip, and has the best form at this stage. 
Sunday, saw the potentially talented Blood Destiny come-up against some equally talented peers and falter. Personally, I thought he was outstayed and the Arkle (run over 2-mile) will likely remain his target for the time being, although I expect how he performs in the Irish Arkle on 3rd Feb will determine his target at the Cheltenham Festival. My immediate impression is that he may not be good enough for a graded race at Cheltenham.
I was most impressed with the race winner Spillane's Tower - he was never under any pressure, jumped well throughout, picked-up the leaders and stayed on strong. He's won at 2-miles, but he looks a lot stronger at 2m4f, and if he takes up and entry to the Turners Novice Chase at Cheltenham, he'd certainly be on my shortlist.   

Unfortunately, the official entries have come out for the Stayers' Hurdle over 3-miles at the Festival, my my antepost selection Bob Olinger isn't entered, which is a bit of a blow as I thought he had a fair chance of success in that race, but he's no chance in the Champion Hurdle for which he is entered. There is a possibility of him running 3rd, but only if Impaire Et Passe gives the race a swerve and goes straight to Aintree for the 2m4f Aintree Hurdle. I've no doubt that we can recover our antepost loss on him in the weeks to come.

Finding potential antepost wagers isn't easy, as first you have to decide which race the horse is going to run in, and then decide if the horse has a realistic chance of winning, and finally do the current odds represent value. Sure, the odds may be longer now than they will be on the day, but do they include an element of risk that the horse won't run; and even if the horse does run, will it have it's preferred ground?

Looking at the novice hurdle races, the Supreme Novices Hurdle which opens the Festival looks a mess to me.  The current fav Mystical Power ran for the first time today (14Jan) since 31July and could do no more than win a 4-runner race in comparative ease. Just how good is he? It's difficult to say, but probably better than OR145, but is he? The 2nd-fav Jeriko Du Reponet has form even more vague, all we can go off is stable gossip. Ballyburn will almost certainly go for the Ballymore Hurdle over 2m5f for which he's the current fav. 
Caldwell Potter? His full-brother Mighty Potter was a top-draw novice hurdler over 2-miles, so there's potential in him. Then, A Dream To Share hasn't run in nearly a year. 
At Naas on Friday 12Jan, Readin Tommy Wrong beat his well-regarded stable companion Ile Atlantique over 2m4f with another well-regarded runner Firefox back in 4th. RTW is likely to go for the Ballymore, but his owners have another of interest in the Supreme: It's For Me, who beat Caldwell Potter when they met in November. He looks the sort who could well find a lot of improvement, as he wasn't beaten far in the Champion Bumper last March. This is a bit of a punt, but so far It's For Me has run well to a high level in his races, but has always failed to settle. If he can calm his enthusiasm, this is a horse that could be very interesting. Unfortunately, Hills - who are the only NRNB bookie - go a paltry 8/1; so I'm recommending a small interest at 20/1 (without the NRNB protection) in It's For Me and we can keep an eye on the horse. 

Antepost Selection:
Supreme Novices Hurdle: IT'S FOR ME 
£2 win @ 20/1 (available with Bet365, Skybet, PPower, Betfair, Betfred)
and £1 ew @ 20/1 (5th odds a place 1,2,3)
Total Staked = £4.00

Other wagers to date:
Ryanair Chase: STAGE STAR - £8 win @ 7/1 with Bet365
£2 WIN double with Paddy Power : Stayers Hurdle: BOB OLINGER @ 25/1 and Ryanair Chase: STAGE STAR @ 13/2 
Stayers Hurdle: BOB OLINGER - £5 eachway @ 14/1 with Hills (NRNB: 5th odds a place 1,2,3)
Stayers Hurdle: BOB OLINGER - £2 WIN @ 25/1 with Paddy Power

Sunday 7 January 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - Antepost Guide - Ryanair Chase

Further to my earlier blog on the Stayers' Hurdle, I've been asked why I've sided with Bob Olinger when post-race comments from de Bromhead suggested that the Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f was the main target. I've no special information, it's just that (to me) the Stayers' Hurdle appears to be there for the taking, and would really suit Bob Olinger. 
De Bromhead hasn't had a runner in this race since 2019, and that was Petit Mouchoir who never won a race beyond 2-mile - so the Stayers Hurdle is not a race that is usually on his radar. 
However, there's a long gap between now and Aintree, and it seemed odd that Bob Olinger came to Cheltenham on 1st Jan.  Again, de Bromhead doesn't send much to UK outside of the Cheltenham Festival.  He says he wants to avoid Constitution Hill, but that horse with be in the Aintree Hurdle, so there's no avoiding him there - however, Consitution Hill won't be running in the Stayers' Hurdle, that's an absolute certainty.

The next race I'm taking an in-depth look at is the Ryanair Chase over 2m4f & 127 yards. The Cheveley Park owned Allaho and Envoi Allen are now both 10yo's and I'm not convinced that either of them are at the level of form that has seen one of them take this race for the past 3 seasons. My personal preference of this pair is for Envoi Allen, who won this race last March beating Shishkin in the process, and that looks fairly strong form now.  With it being almost certain that Shishkin will be aimed at the Gold Cup, I really can't see anything coming out of the 2023 race and beating Envoi Allen. So, what of his challengers?
In the King George on Boxing Day, Allaho ran well for a long way, but the horse doesn't stay 3-miles at the same level of ability that he runs at trips around 2m4f. He was gifted the race at the 2nd last when Shishkin lost his rider and Bravemansgame was badly impeded, losing at least 4-lengths and valuable momentum; but he still couldn't win the race, and finished 3rd. He doesn't have the form this season to merit his position as the current favourite.
Stage Star won the Turners Novice Chase last March over a trip 162 yards (and 10.37 secs) shorter; and while he could do no more than win, and win decisively, he would need to improve on that effort to topple Envoi Allen. And improve he has - an exceptional performance in the "Paddy Power" saw him confirm the form with Notlongillmay (2nd in the Turners), and the well-beaten 3rd & 4th (Il Ridoto and Fugitif) subsequently fought it out for a top handicap chase at Cheltenham in December. Since then, Stage Star was raced on unsuitable heavy ground on New Years Day, and was pulled-up, but he still looks to be the one to beat in this race. I think he will likely go straight to Cheltenham now without another run, and the 7/1 offered by Bet365 looks tremendous value to me, as I think he should be either the fav, or joint-fav with Allaho.

Of the others likely to run, the 2022 Arkle winner Edwardstone just doesn't look good enough on paper, and I'm not convinced he'd stay tis trip if he was good enough.  Just to be clear, in my opinion if a horse equals or betters a performance at at shorter trip when racing at a longer trip, he stays. Edwardstone - currently rated OR162 - would easily beat a horse rated around OR140-145 that was proven at a trip of 2m4f at level weights (or maybe even be capable of giving that horse 7-10lb), but he may struggle to beat a trip-proven horse rated OR150-155. 
The Mullins-trained Appreciate It just doesn't look good enough, and probably wasted a season in "bumpers" when he should have been hurdling, and then another season being aimed at the Champion Hurdle when he should have been novice chasing.  With more positive campaigning, he may well have been up to winning this race last season as a 9yo, who knows?
After him, the betting is a bit erratic, and I would be more interested in something like Notlongtillmay (currently 40/1 with Bet365) sneaking into 3rd, as the horse clearly handles Cheltenham, even if he's a few pounds behind Stage Star. 
A horse that isn't quoted in the antepost betting, but has shown himself to be a potential G1 horse, is the 7yo Feronily trained by Emmet Mullins. Unbelievably, he made his chase debut (under rules) in a Grade 3 over 3-miles at Cork, and beat the one top-class and multiple Grade 1 winner (at 2-miles) Chancun Pour Soi.  He then when to the Punchestown Festival and won the Champion Novice Chase there over 3-miles in superlative fashion. Unfortunately, he ran a stinker in October at Galway, so he still has to confirm that he is a proven grade 1 performer, and not just a horse who happened to be fortunate.  
The only other likely runners in the race on the day are going to be handicappers like Fugitif, who won't be able to mix-it at Grade 1 level.

Antepost Selection:
Ryanair Chase: STAGE STAR 
£8 win @ 7/1 with Bet365

also:-
£2 WIN double with Paddy Power
Stayers Hurdle: BOB OLINGER @ 25/1
Ryanair Chase: STAGE STAR @ 13/2 

Total Staked = £10.00

Total Antepost Stakes to date = £22.00