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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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Friday, 14 April 2023
Sunday, 2 April 2023
With the novice hurdle and chase championships looked at, let's move onto the graded races; and first-up is the Champion Hurdle over and extended 2-miles. What more can be said about Constitution Hill? He is an absolute monster of a horse, and just 6yo; right now anything is possible. Just how good was the performance? Well, in my opinion it was much better than that by the ill-fated 5yo winner Espoir D'Allen in 2019, and 10lb better than any other winner until you get to Hurricane Fly in 2013; so it was immense. What next for the horse? He can run-up a sequence of wins in the Champion Hurdle, and it's easy to see him winning this race another couple of times - but what would that prove? Consider trainer Nicky Henderson; he's 72yo and he's been given the horse of a lifetime - he will want to win a Gold Cup with him. I expect Henderson (with the agreement of the horse's owner) to campaign Constitution Hill in a way that could establish him as one of the very best there has been. Expect CH to go chasing next season, with a Gold Cup attempt in 2025 as an 8yo. Therefore, it's no surprise to see him heading the Arkle betting at 7/4; and I cannot see him going for the "Turners" over 2m4f. There is an outside chance he may go for an audacious attempt at the QM Champion Chase; but that's unlikely in my opinion. The runner-up in the Champion Hurdle, State Man, possibly isn't as good as his OR166 official rating, and I much prefer the "Ballymore" winner Impaire Et Passe for the 2024 Champion Hurdle, and it is no surprise that the odds of 6/1 have now gone, and the best available is now 4/1. That said, I would not ignore State Man as I expect him to remain hurdling in 2023-24 and if events don't go as expected, current odds of 7/1 could look interesting next March.
Yet again, the QM Champion Chase was virtually gifted to Energumene when his main rivals failed to show their best form. This was a better performance that last season, but not by much, and this race looks primed for a new "champion" chaser to emerge, especially as Energumene will be a 10yo next year. That is likely to be El Fabiolo who won the Arkle in tremendous style, and I cannot see any other horse emerging other than Constitution Hill, and (as I wrote above) I don't think that's likely.
Thursday, and the 3rd day brings us the Ryanair Chase and of all the Grade 1 chase races, this is always he most open as the trip of 2m4f & 127yds is an odd one. This year, the hot-fav Shishkin never looked like he was enjoying the experience, jumped badly, and just sheer class pulled him into 2nd on the run-in. For me, Shishkin needs to prove himself again at top-level as he's only won 1 of his last 4 races and he's nowhere near hi official rating of OR173. Quite how the punters allowed Envoi Allen to go off at 13/2 and record his 3rd Grade 1 Cheltenham Festival win, I will never know. I did think his class would ensure a good run, but I placed a straight-forecast (advised on the blog) of Shishkin 1st, Envoi Allen 2nd - the right horses, but the wrong way around! The Exacta paid £17.70 and the CSF paid £13.47 - there was value to be had. Envoi Allen has now won 5 of his 7 chase races at about this trip, and he was the 4/9 Fav to with the "Turners" in 2021 when falling at the 4th fence. Yes, he's won a G1 over 3-miles, but (to be fair) this is his trip, and I think he had more in the tank winning this race, but didn't need it. There is 10/1 available for the 2024 Ryanair (Paddy Power), and that looks fair. In 3rd we had Hitman who I reckon ran a career-best, but this was the 14th chase run for the 7yo and he's never going to win a Grade 1 chase. The handicappers French Dynamite and Ga Law were firmly put in their place and shown to be not good enough, but they are consistent and give depth to the overall rating of the race.
Next on the card was the Stayers' Hurdle over 3-miles, and what a turn-up for the book when the 11yo and multiple Festival winner Sire Du Berlais stayed best of all on the run-in to take this Grade 1 race. Let's be honest, we all thought going into the race that it was wide open, and that this season's form for 3-mile hurdle races was all over the place. As such, I put my faith in Flooring Porter (who was going for a hat-trick of victory's in the race) and Klassical Dream (a G1 winner and trained by Mullins), and never gave a 2nd-thought to Sire Du Berlais, which was an error as he had form in the book. He was 2nd in this race in 2021 (to Flooring Porter), and he had twice won the Pertemps (Final) h'cap hurdle over C&D; and he had beaten Flooring Porter over 3-mile at Aintree in April-2022. Unfortunately, he hadn't won since that day in 5 subsequent races and it looked like he was going downhill with age - how wrong we were! This wasn't a top-class event, and the 10yo Dashel Drasher coming 2nd underlined that, as he's never really been a 160+ horse, but he is game, and he went into this on OR153 and ran to that level (in my opinion). In 3rd was the fav Teahupoo who had everything in his favour, yet still couldn't win; he was staying-on but the winner stayed-on better. The 8yo Flooring Porter ran exactly the race we expected, trying to make-all, but lack of fitness did for him in the end. Even so, it was his best run this season, and I expect if he goes onto Aintree he will be a fitter horse there and could take all the beating. Home By The Lee ran to the level he did in this race last season, and he's just not good enough at at Grade 1. I keep saying that horses do not suddenly find pounds of improvement, but pundits, journo's, and tipsters seem to think they do. The rest of the field were outclassed, which considering this was as bad a Stayers' Hurdle as when Lisnagar Oscar won in 2020 is not a good omen. I can see Flooring Porter coming back again next season as a 9yo and having a decent chance, but Teahupoo needs soft ground and that's not guaranteed. What I find amazing is that odds of 25/1 are available on Flooring Porter for the 2024 Stayers' Hurdle, and if he runs well (likely) at Aintree, then he's right back in the picture for next season. Remember, both Inglis Drever and Big Bucks won as 9yo's recording their 3rd and 4th wins in the race, and while Flooring Porter isn't as good as that pair, I don't think he needs to be considering the level of opposition.
I've already reviewed the Gold Cup result in depth on 24th March, so let's consider a Fantasy Festival Yankee for 2024. Had I reviewed the Festival a bit quicker, I would have immediately pencilled in Impaire Et Passe for the Champion Hurdle, but the early 6/1 has gone and the best now available is 4/1 which isn't good value, but still interesting. I'm much more confident in El Fabiolo in the QM Champion Chase, as I think he's a better horse than Energumene, and thoughts of Constitution Hill going for this race as a novice chaser are fanciful. Best odds available are 7/2 (Coral) on El Fabiolo in the QMCC and he's in the Yankee. As I've written above, for the Ryanair Chase the odds of 10/1 available on this years' winner Envoi Allen look very decent, and he goes into my Yankee. Finally, I'm taking those huge odds available on Flooring Porter for the Stayers' Hurdle.
Thursday, 30 March 2023
Continuing my review of the recent Cheltenham Festival, I will look at the remainder of the novice races, then the "graded" races, and finally scan the handicaps.
This years National Hunt (NH) Chase over 3m6f was disappointing for me, as I had advised Mahler Mission as an eachway antepost wager at 9/1 and he looked to be romping away with the race when falling 2-out. There's a chance he could have been caught, but more "judges" than me reckon he wouldn't - we will never know for sure, although the results of his next few races should indicate whether he had the stamina to stay on or not. Certainly, the eventual 2nd Chemical Energy ran out of steam on the run-in, having been given a sympathetic ride by JJ Codd. The winner, Gaillard Du Mesnil stayed-on well but he'd been under a hard-drive from 4-out and I don't think he ran much better than when 3rd in the "Broadway" Novices Chase in 2022 to L'Homme Presse. As such, I can't see him making much of an impression in Grade 1 chases over 3-mile next season. I'm going to give Mahler Mission a provisional rating of 158 for this run, and assume he could have won by 3-lengths. What we have to note is the result of his previous race when 2nd beaten under a length by Churchstonewarrior as that one goes next for the Irish National and looks well-handicapped on OR147 should he run. Also make a note of the 3rd, Flanking Maneuver as that was his debut chase off a 2-year break and he was only btn just over a length. He surely "bounced" NTO, and that drop in trip to 2m4f probably didn't suit either; but he's worth keeping an eye on.
The final nail in my antepost portfolio came in the Brown Advisory (Broadway) Novices' Chase over 3-mile, when antepost wager Gerri Colombe just failed by a short-head to catch The Real Whacker. I had an interest in two horses in this race, the other being Thyme Hill who was disappointing (trainer reported he lost his jumping confidence). Connections of The Real Whacker had considered a Gold Cup entry after he'd won the "Dipper" Chase on 1st Jan, and he'd surely have been well outclassed in that race; but he was placed well in this given an enterprising ride by his jockey. He looks to be an adaptable horse who could return here next year with either the Ryanair or the Gold Cup as his target - if he were mine, I'd be looking at the former (as Albertas Run did when twice winning the Ryanair after taking the "Broadway"). As for Gerri Colombe, he looks destined for the top-table over 3-miles in Grade 1 races, as he probably should have won this race - although he did lack pace coming down the hill and was under a hard-drive for a long way. He looks a horse who will appreciate the 3m2f of the Gold Cup, but maybe 3-mile may be too sharp for him. The big surprise of the race was Bronn, just a 6yo and at the longest odds (50/1) of the 5 (yes, five) Willie Mullins runners. The horse never missed a beat, and it was only 150 yards from the line that he faltered. I will be surprised if he runs again this season as this was a tough race for him, and as he's been given a rating of just OR150 he could pick up a valuable handicap chase in the autumn. Unfortunately for Sir Gerhard the 3-mile trip found him out. He was very "raw" with his jumping, and his ability and brute strength took him into a challenging position before 2-out, just before his stamina gave-out. He's entered for the 2m4f Grade 1 Novices Chase as Fairyhouse on 09April, and he could be very interesting if lining-up for that race. If not, he could be a Ryanair Chase horse next season, but he does need to improve his jumping.
Sunday, 26 March 2023
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.