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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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Wednesday 24 December 2014

Christmas KISS under the mistletoe

KISS: "Keep It Simple (Stupid)".
That's the motto for Boxing Day - with 79 races in Britain and Ireland between 12:10 and 4:45pm there is no need to make things complicated. As I explained to a young friend earlier this week, a successful double with both selections at 2/1 returns the equivalent of an 8/1 winner - and on a day like Boxing Day it is probably easier to find a couple of 2/1 winners than an 8/1 winner.

I'm looking to place my annual Boxing Day "Yankee" - 4 selections in a combination of wagers - and if I can find 4 winners at odds of 2/1 then I'll be a happy man on Boxing Day evening. There are jump race meetings at Fontwell, Huntingdon, Kempton, Market Rasen, Sedgefield, Towcester, Wincanton and Wetherby here in the UK; and I'll be concentrating my efforts on winner finding on those.  It can really help to find winners on busy days like this if you concentrate on the entries of the trainers and where they are sending horses, and where the best jockeys are riding - they will not all be at Kempton!

The meeting at Wetherby has one of my favourite races of the season on Boxing Day: the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase over 3m1f at 1:45pm, this year generously sponsored by William Hill. The fav will likely be last Saturday's winner Broadway Buffalo. Personally, I felt that race was presented to him on a plate as the early leaders went off far too fast. As such, I will be opposing him. The obvious candidate is Cape Tribulation who has been dropped to OR142 (he was rated OR165 when 5th in the 2013 Gold Cup won by Bobs Worth) and has a great chance is able to repeat last seasons effort when 3rd off OR153. However, I reckon a better chance is held by Vintage Star who ran well enough LTO when 3rd (with Broadway Buffalo behind), and will appreciate a strong pace (supplied by Corrin Wood) and also stays very well. Odds of 8/1 with Paddy Power look generous.
Keep an eye on Superior Fire in the opening race at 12:35 as this is the only runner her for Charlie Longsdon. Later in the afternoon, the useful chaser No Planning makes a belated seasonal debut in a handicap hurdle off a rating 15lb lower than his chase rating. Finally, Caroline Bailey has done well here in the past and sends out only 3 horses on Boxing Day; with a couple coming here including Galway Jack in the handicap chase at 2:55pm. He comes here in the form of his life and should run well.

This meeting has another good stayers' chase in the Lord Stalbridge Memorial Cup (Handicap) at 3:25. On the face of it, this looks a winning opportunity for the top-weight Saroque, who struggled on the soft/heavy ground at Sandown LTO. The main opposition will likely come from the Paul Nicholls trained Buck's Bond, but his jumping has let him down recently; even so he is a C&D winner. The only other interesting horse in this race is Harouet from Peter Bowen's stable. This is the sort of race he does well in and he's sure to come on for his recent run and I can see him taking 2nd or 3rd (he's currently offered at 14/1 with Paddy Power).
The 2-mile class 3 handicap chase at 1:05 looks a wagering opportunity, but I've not looked at the form yet as none of the trainers with a horse entered has an above-average strike-rate here. I may look at this on the morning of Boxing Day.

There are some trainers with entries here that have great strike-rates: McCain (28%), Jefferson (23%), Swinbank (22%) and Richards (21%). However, the race that grabs my attention is the 2:30 - a 2m4f class 4 handicap chase with just 6-runners. The likely fav is Cango who won easily LTO and has just a 7lb penalty for that win. That was over just 2-miles, but he's expected to stay this 2m4f trip and more. No such worries about the trip with King Rolfe, who is travelling from south Wales (279 miles) for Tim Vaughan. He also looks a much better horse than his rating and also won easily LTO.

This looks an ordinary meeting on paper, so that trainers like Kim Bailey, Tim Vaughan and Venetia Williams are sending solitary horses here is interesting. As such, pay attention to Bailey's Gaelic Myth in the 1:00pm; for sure, Gifted Island (sent by Tim Vaughan) should be on the shortlist for the "bumper" at 3:15pm (Vaughan has won 3 bumpers from 8 runners here); and Venetia Williams' Art Professor may be making a belated chase debut (he turns 11yo on 1st January) but stable jockey Liam Treadwell has been booked for the ride.

This meeting is all about the King George VI Chase at 3:10, and from my point of view it is very difficult to see past the fav Silviniaco Conti. This trip will suit him well (he won this race last season) and having Cue Card in the race to likely set a strong pace will mean the race is run to suit as well. If Champagne Fever was not running, "Conti" would be the 6/4 fav, and if (as I reckon) Champagne Fever is only as good as his official rating of OR158, then 5/2 about "Conti" is a real Christmas present. I expect Menorah to follow the fav home and fill the 2nd-spot.
The rest of the meeting should be dominated by the short-priced fav's.

Market Rasen
There is a good class 3 novice chase at 1:30pm that looks competitive, but it is the 3m5f Lincolnshire National at 2:10 that takes my eye. There are a couple of non-runners so only 7 go to post, and I cannot see the race-fav Many Stars staying this extreme trip (he didn't when tried over 3m6f at Sedgefield in October). The obvious formbook winner is Chac Du Cadran who was rated OR126 after winning over 3m6f at Catterick in Jan13, but he's an odd character who needs to be cajoled along and I'm hoping the use of 1st-time blinkers will do the trick. There is nothing else in the race likely to trouble him and he'll have another proven front-runner with him in Carli King.
Trainer Dr Richard Newland does well at this track and he has only one runner: Aficianado in the 3:20. He looks well capable of improving on his recent LTO win (he's only a 4yo) and the others all look held. The only one that may do better is Ourmanmassini but he needs to recover his old form.

I will be surprised if Meetmeatthemoon does not win the 12:55pm for trainer Phil Hobbs as this is his only runner here today and he's won with 9 of his last 32 hurdlers here. I'm more interested in Major Milborne in the hurdle at 1:30pm as he looks well capable of winning off todays OR115 rating, and he comes here with a win LTO just last week. The only doubt is the heavy ground, but he acts well enough on soft to suggest it wont trouble him.

Nothing here catches my eye, with the 5-runner chase at 2:25 looking very tight.

Short-list for the "Yankee"
Market Rasen 2:10 CHAC DU CADRAN
Market Rasen 3:20 AFICIANADO
Sedgefield 2:30 KING ROLFE
Wincanton 3:25 SAROQUE
Wetherby 1:45 VINTAGE STAR
Wetherby 2:55 GALWAY JACK
Fontwell 1:30 MAJOR MILBORNE

Boxing Day YANKEE
Market Rasen 2:10 CHAC DU CADRAN @ 100/30 (available generally)
Market Rasen 3:20 AFICIANADO @ 9/4 (Bet 365, 2/1 elsewhere)
Sedgefield 2:30 KING ROLFE @5/2 (Paddy Power, 9/4 elsewhere)
Fontwell 1:30 MAJOR MILBORNE @ 9/4 (Stan James, elsewhere 2/1)
£2 win yankee, that's 11 bets totalling £22

Boxing Day eachway Double
Wincanton 3:25 SAROQUE @ 7/2
Wetherby 1:45 VINTAGE STAR @ 7/1
£4 eachway double = £8

Good luck and Merry Christmas!

Monday 15 December 2014

Look-back at the weekends racing 13th/14th December

The feature race on Saturday was the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (Handicap) over 2m5f, and it turned out to be a cracking display from the eventual winner Niceonefrankie.

The horse didn't even show up in my pre-race review even tho' he'd won LTO at Ascot absolutely slaughtering a decent field of handicappers over 2m3f on 21st November. This was a significant oversight for me but, to be fair, Niceonefrankie won the same Ascot race off the same OR129 rating in very similar fashion (in 2nd was Double Ross off OR133 and he's now on OR159) in 2013, and subsequently ran consistently but was unable to compete off his revised rating (OR135-140).

Where I and, I expect, many others went wrong - as he started at the generous odds of 16/1 on Saturday - was that (apart from his next start at Newbury on 29Nov13) for the remainder of the 2013-14 season Niceonefrankie was campaigned over 3-mile. Also, little improvement was expected of him as he had already had 24 chase races in his short career. 

It seems fairly obvious now that his best trip is 20-21f and, given that behind him LTO at Ascot were:
King Edmund - ran 2nd (btn a short-head) on 24Nov and won on Saturday morning over hurdles (and has since won again today at Plumpton); and...
Al Alfa - won at Cheltenham on Friday (as I should know as he was on my alert list).

Full marks to Aidan Coleman for making full use of the horses strengths to make-all and build up an unassailable lead by running-on at a good pace. Much of the field were toiling about a mile out as they ran up the hill and altho' Niceonefrankie looked to be running on empty approaching the final fence, he'd managed to run the legs off his nearest challengers.

The only horse I was "right" about in the race was Barrakilla who was having only his 5th chase start (whereas Niceonefrankie was having his 25th chase start). Being a half-bro' to China Rock it was no surprise to see him staying on in the final mile, and I expect connections will try him over further next time. His half-bro' has been rated over 152 since winning a grade 3 chase over 2m7f at Punchestown in Oct-10, and Barrakilla looks to have the potential to follow him to be a mid-OR150 chaser. Definitely one for the alert list.

The only other horse to make a race of it on Saturday was Edgardo Sol. This was his best effort (judged on my ratings) since he was 3rd in the "Game Spirit" chase over 2m1f at Newbury in Feb-13. He's not won since April 2012, and it's to be hoped that the handicapper doesn't put him up for this effort as he's not a big horse and not the type to be able to give away lumps of weight in handicaps. Even so, he's a rock solid 150-154 chaser, possibly best over trips up to 2m4f.

Earlier in the afternoon, Sew On Target showed that his best trip (by a long way) is at around 2-miles - he doesn't stay any further than 2m1f with any confidence. He beat the useful yardstick Astracad very easily and had the rest strung out behind. He can defy a weight-rise so long as he's not pushed up in trip.

The remainder of the Cheltenham card looked top-notch. I couldn't quite work out why Port Melon started the 7/4 fav for the 3-mile novice hurdle, and he was comprehensively beaten by Blaklion who confirmed the form of their previous meeting. This result makes the winner of that race, Parlour Games, look very interesting in respect of next March's Albert Bartlett (being a 7yo then would not be in his favour for an attempt at the 2m5f Neptune Novice Hurdle). 

I had The New One running a career-best when taking the Grade 2 International Hurdle over 2m1f. He'll probably need to improve another couple of pounds to win the Champion Hurdle next March, but he seems a more complete horse now than he did then. However, the horse who impressed me most in this race was Olofi who, before he ran last month, had been off the track for 18-months since April-13. Remember, he won the old "Greatwood" hurdle at Cheltenham in Nov-12 off OR136 beating the usual top-quality field for that competitive handicap. As he was a well-beaten 3rd on Saturday, the handicapper is not going to be able to adjust his mark up by much (if at all), and he was looking very comfortable approachng 2-out before the front pair asserted their class. Off OR133 (or thereabouts) he looks very leniently handicapped.

Finally, the 9yo Rock On Ruby took the Relkeel Hurdle over 2m4f & 110 yards with a performance which wasn't far short of his best. While unlikely to win a Champion Hurdle again (unless a few of the better hurdlers don't show up), it would be no surprise should he line-up for the race next March that he comes in 3rd or 4th. He doesn't look the sort to go for the 3-mile World Hurdle but that does look a weaker race in-depth than the Champion Hurdle. In 2013, Solwhit won the World Hurdle on his first attempt at 3-miles, and I'd have Rock On Ruby a 7lb better horse over the Champion Hurdle trip than Solwhit ever was. Current odds of 20/1 for the World Hurdle would be interesting if connections could guarantee that he'd line-up for the race, but it may be that their prime objective will be another attempt at the Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f next April.

Saturday 13 December 2014

Buck Mulligan doesn't buck the trend

Yesterday just about summed-up my season so far over the jumps. There were only a couple of horses from my alert list running, and both were in the same race: Buck Mulligan and Al Alfa. Personally, I thought Al Alfa was best suited to "sharp" tracks where he was able to exploit his ability to make-all and dominate a race, and Cheltenham isn't that sort of track. Buck Mulligan is a frustrating horse: he should be rated about 10lb above his current OR124 rating (he has been rated OR135 before) but he just won't see his races thru' when victory is in sight - and yesterday was a case in point. He could never be a "win" wager with any confidence. In my write-up yesterday, I thought the race was a poor one on paper and I couldn't understand why Liberty One was the 7/2 fav on what he'd shown to date. At least I knew my alert-list pair were both consistent (if frustrating) performers and I should have stuck with them in combination forecasts, as the Exacta paid £54.70 to a £1.

On to today, and the only race I'm looking at while typing this is the feature race at Cheltenham - the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (Handicap) over 2m5f. Only 13-runners go to post, which is a bit disappointing but, even so, there should be some value in this race. The race-fav is the recent Paddy Power Chase winner Caid Du Berlais who is up 5lb for that win. As such, he'll need to find some improvement to win this race. The 2nd-fav Barrakilla ran very well on his seasonal debut in what has turned out to be a solid handicap. He should improve for that run today and OR135 looks lenient - he could run to 142+. Also in that Sandown race was No Buts, who has since won and re-opposes Barrakilla on 10lb worse terms, so it is hard to see him holding Barrakilla on ground that may not be soft enough for him. Darna is the fly-in-the-ointment in this race as LTO after 2-years off the track he won a class 3 chase over 2m4f in a canter. He's up 10lb for that win to OR144 but, when he won at Ascot as novice chaser in April 2012, he looked well capable of being a 150+ chaser in time. There is a "bounce" factor to contend with, but I don't think this horse is the sort to do that (ie: run well below form on 2nd outing after a long break) as he was so well handicapped LTO that he merely had to finish the race to win it. At odds of 12/1 he looks very interesting as an eachway wager. The 8yo Attaglance was unlucky not to win at the Cheltenham Festival last March, but he's rated OR143 now and his trainer Malcolm Jefferson has a poor record at Cheltenham, so I have to overlook him. Not so the trainer of Ericht - Nicky Henderson. This horse was my selection for the Paddy Power Chase won by Caid Du Berlais, and he was bang there in it still when clouting the 2nd-last fence. As such, he comes into this race on the same OR137 rating, and that Henderson and Geraghty have returned for this race suggests they think he probably should have been in the mix LTO.

That's good enough for me, and odds of 10/1 (available generally) look good value to me.

Cheltenham 2:00 ERICHT, £5 eachway AND £5 win @ 10/1 (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)
Total Stake = £15

All the best from Wayward Lad

Friday 12 December 2014

Cheltenham Friday 12th December

We  have a good meeting at Cheltenham, and it is a meeting that I've had some success at in the past.

The meeting opens at 12:30 with a novice chase over 3m1f & 110 yards which has been won by some decent types in the past. As such, we should pay attention to all the runners with an eye for the future.  Kings Palace looks the most obvious to do best after beating Sausolito Sunrise LTO. Kings Palace was also a very high-class novice hurdler and even tho' there is a turn-around in the weights of 8lb for a 4-length advantage, I can't see Sausolito Sunrise reversing the places. Don't overlook Vivaldi Collonges who is having his chase debut for Paul Nicholls, as this well-related 5yo is destined to be a much better chaser than hurdler and odds of 9/1 look interesting given he has an 8lb advantage.

The 2m4f handicap chase at 1:05 could provide a wagering opportunity. The front-running Al Alfa was 4th in this race last season off OR117, so it's unlikely he will improve on that running-off OR123.  The obvious form contentender is Gallery Exhibition, but I'm not sure this drop in trip will favour him today. Buck Mulligan has been running consistently without winning off OR124, but his best form is at around this trip (he doesn't stay much further) and the ground will suit him too. At 14/1 he looks a fair eachway wager opportunity in a race which should be run at a good pace but with questionmarks over a fair number of the runners.

The 2m1f handicap hurdle at 1:40 was last won by Nicky Henderson in 2009 and he sends the unexposed Lough Kent to be ridden by Barry Geraghty. It is hard to say how good this horse is, but Henderson thought he was worth a "County" hurdle entry at the last Festival. Street Entertainer will  enjoy this trip and wont be far away. The 2m5f trip here LTO found him out and he was passed on the run-in and, as a result of that effort, he's been raised 2lb - but I think he's the value in this at odds of 11/2, if Lough Kent isn't a handicap blot.

The 3m2f handicap chase at 2:10 has been won by some good handicappers, usually those on there was to a Grand National bid next April. It won't be easy for Hadrian's Approach with 11st 12lb, but expect this consistent chaser to run a cracker. I'm not confident that Cowards Close will go close in this as he doesn't seem to be improving.  You can't say the same of The Ould Lad who has won his last couple of chases and runs here effectively off OR127 (carries 10st which is 4lb less than the OR131 rated Standing Ovation). As he's been rated OR130 following his latest win, he's well-in and this lightly-raced horse looks exciting. While I can't see the 11yo Charingworth repeating his LTO win, I am expecting a big run from the 7yo Standing Ovation who goes well here. His run when 2nd on the "Old" Course over 3m1f in October looks good form now, but his run LTO in the "Badger" (a race he won in 2013) has left a questionmark as he pulled-up a long way out. Of the others, Samstown won a hurdle LTO and he looks a cracking staying chaser in the making - however, he's up 20lb for his last chase win to OR136. Lamb Or Cod seems to be at his best between April to October (4 wins from 8 starts), as he's only won once in the months of November to March from 12 starts and he pulled-up LTO.  The Ould Lad is the worthy fav, and odds of 4/1 could looks generous after the race, but Samstown at 10/1 (available generally, and 11/1 with Stan James) looks interesting as an eachway wager.

Of the other meetings, at Bangor at 2:30 the hurdler No No Mac should be able to recoup the losses from his seasonal debut when 2nd at Sandown LTO. Unfortunately, as his odds are less than 9/4 he can't be recommended as a wager - but 13/8 offered by Ladbrokes and Coral looks dangerous.

No recommended wagers from me today, but I'll be placing Buck Mulligan, Street Entertainer, and Samstown in small-stakes eachway doubles and trebles.

Monday 8 December 2014

Look-back at the weekends action - Tingle Creek and Peterborough Chase

There was some great racing over the weekend at Aintree, Sandown and Huntingdon, and some interesting results which could well be pointers (or false-hopes) for future glory at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The Aintree meeting started with what looked like a promising performance from the 5yo novice hurdler Ballybolley when making-all to win. Admittedly, he was a strong 6/4 fav - but this was no mean feat to make-all. While I can't see him winning at Cheltenham, he should make an interesting chaser next season.

The Becher Chase over the National fences went to veteran 13yo Oscar Time, who was given an exemplary ride by Sam Waley-Cohen. The place to be over these National fences is "in-the-van" and that's were Oscar Time was throughout the race; leading over the first few fences then settling-in behind the front runners until chasing and passing the weakening race-fav on the run-in. Behind him, I was taken by the run of Saint Are who ran-on to be 3rd. This 8yo didn't run in the National last April, but was a finisher (ran 9th) behind Auroras Encore in April 2013 off a rating of OR142.  He's slipped to OR127 and will struggle to get a National start off that rating (min OR138 in 2014) - but he's capable of running to 137+ on my ratings so he's clearly coming back into form. In 2nd was Mendip Express, who never seems to run a bad race. He is a very consistent performer who I reckon ran up to his OR144 rating - however, he seems to have reached his ceiling.
What was very upsetting was losing Balbriggan to a fatal injury. He appeared to jump the 9th fence well but sustained a leg-fracture a few strides after jumping the fence. I was disappointed that 5lb claimer Ryan Hatch was unseated from Benbens at the 12th fence, just as the horse seemed to be getting involved. The horse remains well-handicapped and relatively unexposed and one to keep on the right-side of.

Later in the afternoon, the Sefton Chase was won by Poole Master who has always been capable of running to his OR142 rating, but never seems inclined to do so - hence his SP of 25/1. Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen was in rare form having won the Becher Chase earlier and, in this, he was riding the talented - but lazy - Cedre Bleu, who looked like winning easily jumping the last fence but (as usual) found nothing. This horse is proving exasperating and, since he last won in March 2013, he's been 2nd x 4 times. He's at least 7lb better than his OR138 rating, possibly more than 10lb better, but he doesn't like putting his head in front.

At Sandown, the feature race was the Tingle Creek, and the result was a bit of a surprise as both the joint-fav's (God's Own and Balder Succes) made jumping errors and ran well below form. I'm prepared to forgive both these horses this run. Balder Succes ran the better of the pair, looking like being involved in the finish after jumping the 3rd last fence, but he'd made a succession of jumping errors over the "Railway" fences and these must've taken a lot out of him - and it must be remembered that he ran a stinker when well-beaten in the Henry VIII novice chase on this card last year. It could be that Balder Succes just doesn't like Sandown. I've rated this race thru' Somersby who is a consistent yardstick. Even so, I don't have him at OR162 as he hasn't run to 160+ since he was 4th to Cue Card at Ascot in Feb 2013 in my book. For me, he ran to 155 (just 3lb below his QMCC performance when 2nd to Sire De Grugy in March), and that puts the winner Dodging Bullets on 158 which is a probably his best chase performance to date. As such, had he jumped cleanly, I'm sure that Balder Succes would've won on Saturday, and so he's still my idea of the QM Champion Chase winner next March.

I was out Christmas shopping yesterday, so missed a cracking opportunity in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, where Wishful Thinking maintained his rich vein of form this season when winning at 13/2. Although he's sneaked up to OR159, the 6yo Wonderful Charm has never looked better than 155 in my book, so he looked held on the weights and will likely struggle in handicaps. And while the race fav Eduard has improved with every run as a chaser to-date, he hasn't entirely convinced me that 2m4f & 110 yards is his trip and, sure enough, he was unable to peg-back the eventual winner after jumping the final fence. Rajdhani Express was very disappointing (again) and was reported to have finished lame. I'll give Rajdhani one more chance, but I'm begining to think that his 3rd in the Ryanair (won by Dynaste) flattered him a bit - maybe he's more of a "Spring" horse.So, Wishful Thinking merely had to run up to the form of his handicap win at Cheltenham last January to win this and he probably had about 7lb in-hand at the line. Sending him off at 13/2 was a real Christmas bonus for connections and his supporters.

Friday 5 December 2014

Tingle Creek at Sandown

Sometimes luck just won't swing your way. Claimer Jack Sherwood sent selection Wilton Milan into a clear lead 4-out and that was probably a bit too early as he couldn't hold off the eventual winner when he stayed-on strong in the closing stages. Given that Wilton Milan started at 6/4 and I was on at 5/2, I'm justified to feel a bit miffed.

Saturday see's jump racing return to Aintree for the Becher Chase over the National fences. However, at 1:00 there is an interesting chase handicap over 2m4f and it is OUR MICK that catches my eye. Once rated OR145 after running 2nd to Golden Chieftain at the Cheltenham Festival, he's slipped to OR132 after a series of disappointing runs - but LTO over this C&D he ran his best race since that Cheltenham run in March 2013. If OUR MICK can build on that run, he could be absolutely thrown-in for this race. Of the others, I think that Distime is handicapped to beat Baileys Concerto and depending on the odds (I'm writing this on Friday afternoon) he could be worth a wager.

Both the handicap chases over the National fences look terrific events. It looks like there are 24 starters for the 3m2f Becher Chase at 1:30 and Troytown Handicap Chase winner Balbriggan could catapult himself into the Grand National picture if he continues his improvement with a win in this race off OR130. The horse has always looked to possess potential, and he was on my alert list for a long time, but he disappointed me too many times and I honestly thought (before he joined Gordon Elliot in Ireland) that he didn't stay 3-mile. I thought BENBENS was unlucky LTO at Cheltenham, and he comes into this on the same rating and with the benefit of 5lb claimer Ryan Hatch. That could be enough to get him into the frame for this.

The shorter 2m5f & 110 yard Sefton Chase at 3:15 looks just as competitive. Top-weight Rolling Aces could find life tough in this race, even though he is a very good jumper of a fence. Dolatulo always runs a good race, and the ground will suit him better than that he ran on at Sandown, so he could run a great race. I was on FOUNDATION MAN in that race at Sandown and he fell early-on without showing his true form. It would not surprise me to see him run well in this race.

The feature race of the day is the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown at 3:00pm. Run over 2-miles, this has 10-runners this year and should be spectacular. The race fav is BALDER SUCCES and I've been tipping this one to be the champion 2-mile chaser and winner of the Tingle Creek and QM Champion Chase next March at Cheltenham every since he won at Aintree last April. Strictly on the formbook, he's better than his recent conqueror God's Own, but not by much. The novice chaser God's Own has improved with every one of his 5 chase runs to date, and if his improvement continues then he's going to take some beating in this. Of the others, nothing seems to be capable of finishing in front of this pair. I'd put Dodging Bullets ahead of Oscar Whisky; and Hinterland has too many issues to be considered. The others look outclassed.

Wilton Milan to follow-up

The Hennessy Gold Cup blog last Saturday was one of the most read blog pages I've published in recent months. Many thanks to all who read the blog, and I hope you all voted for me in the UK Blog Awards.

I hope those who read it enjoyed yesterdays look at the racing career of HEY BIG SPENDER who won the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle for the 3rd time in 4 years last Saturday. If you haven't already done so, please take the time to read it as HEY BIG SPENDER is a considerable chaser, possibly one of the gamest chasers in training over the past few years; and keeping him at the very top of the handicapping tree has been a significant feat of training for Colin Tizzard and his team.

There are a couple of interesting meetings today at Exeter and Sandown but, after an early view of the cards, it's unlikely that there will be much in the way of value. At Exeter, the novice chase over 2m3f & 110 yards looks exciting, as it brings together Deputy Dan and Saphir Du Rheu who were at the top of the novice staying hurdlers last season. I reckon the official rating of Deputy Dan of OR145 seriously underrates the ability of that horse, while the OR165 rating given to Saphir Du Rheu is probably a bit too generous - as such, I don't think there is that much between them over this sort of trip. However, Saphir Du Rheu does have a 5lb advantage on the race conditions. Nothing else in the race comes close to the quality of this pair so, as long as one of them are still in the race after the final fence, the winner should be one of them. I can't split them, so it's a race to watch and enjoy.

The handicap chase over the same C&D which is the next race on the card at 1:40 is more interesting. The race-fav is the Paul Nicholls trained Wilton Milan who won very easily last Friday at Newbury over a similar trip. He has since been re-rated OR134, but runs off his old rating of OR123 today - he looks as near a certainty to win as it is possible to get over jumps. Of the opposition, Filbert could be the one to give him most to do, as he's slipped from OR135 to OR130, and this "in-between" trip of 2m3f & 110 yards could suit him perfectly. He doesn't stay much beyond today's trip, so LTO at Sandown he was never going to win - but his run wasn't bad in the circumstances, especially as the ground that day was far more taxing than the "good-to-soft" description (more heavy than soft in my opinion). However, odds of 4/1 are poor value in my opinion, and I'm more taken by WORKBENCH who last won over 2m2f at Fontwell in October, and showed enough to suggest he was capable of wining at this sort of trip when only losing out on 3rd place on the run-in at Cheltenham on 18th October (race won by Johns Spirit). He didn't have the stamina for the 3m1f Badger Ales Trophy LTO, but was still the 4th horse past the post. This trip will be much more to his liking and odds of 7/1 look fair eachway value. Even so, it is difficult to see past WILTON MILAN and if you can get odds of 9/4 or better then that's the one to be on. Stan James go 5/2 but I'm not sure how much they'll let you have on.

Exeter 1:40 WILTON MILAN, £10 win @ 5/2 with Stan James (odds of 9/4 available elsewhere)

Thursday 4 December 2014

Hey Big Spender - a tribute

At Newcastle, there was a tremendous performance from the veteran 11yo chaser HEY BIG SPENDER to win the 3-mile Rehearsal Chase with 11st 12lb. I’ve followed the remarkable progress of this horse since he won his 2nd chase at Newbury in November’09 carrying 11st 12lb. He went on to win a very competitive handicap chase at Cheltenham over 2m5f in January ’10, and that race has proven to be very informative (Midnight Chase - beaten 16-lengths into 3rd while in-receipt of 11lb – went on to be rated OR163 and ran 5th in the Gold Cup won by Long Run). 

On his seasonal debut in November ’10 he showed the handicapper he was under-rated by beating Big Fella Thanks (subsequently achieved a rating of OR154) at level weights when considered 5lb inferior. He followed that up with a brave effort when trying to make all in the Hennessy won by Diamond Harry, and then showed he also had some speed and well as stamina in his armoury when carrying 11st 12lb to victory over 2m4½f at Warwick in Feb’11.  His early chase career was hurt by jumping errors, and it was a poor round of jumping that did for his chance in the Racing Post Chase in Feb’11 at Kempton. A trip to the Cheltenham Festival followed, but he was aimed at the Ryanair Chase over 2m5f and he was outclassed in that. He’d have done better if going for the Gold Cup as he’d surely have beaten his old rival Midnight Chase who was 5th and may even have pipped What A Friend for 4th place.  He was pulled-up NTO when badly hampered early-on in a handicap chase at Aintree.
He ran his seasonal debut in November ’11 off OR151, which looked lenient based on his form of the previous season.  He ran 4th at Cheltenham over 3m3½f with subsequent Hennessy Gold Cup winner Carruthers beating him in 3rd while in-receipt of 5lb. Trainer Colin Tizzard surely had Newcastle’s Rehearsal Chase earmarked as the primary target as he came here next and victory never looked in doubt for the 5/2 fav, even with 11st 12lb on his back. The heavy ground at Chepstow in the Welsh National did for his chance there, but he made up for that a few weeks later. Rated OR156, he beat a very decent field of good handicappers, again lumping 11st 12lb, in what was possibly the performance of his career at Warwick over 3m5f. Unfortunately, injury prevented him going for the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup (won by Synchronised), but you have to think he’d have run at least 4th in that race and may even have forced himself into the 1st-3.

After a long break, he returned to the track in December ’12 but clearly needed the race. He ran better NTO at Sandown in January’13 (he gave 21lb and a 5-length beating to subsequent Hennessy Gold Cup winner Triolo D’Alene), but was still on a recovery mission. Unfortunately, the next race was out of his reach – being the Grade 2 “Argento” Chase at Cheltenham – and he was outclassed, and not helped by the heavy ground. He then returned to Warwick to try and win the 2m4½f chase he’d won in Feb’11 but by this time he needed 3-mile to show his best. His next appearance showed he still had the ability to mix-it and, having slipped to OR145, while he was conceding 5lb to the winner it was more likely his blunder at the 2nd-last that cost him the race. He then went to the Cheltenham, but that race started a sequence that he followed a good run with an indifferent performance, possibly as age was starting to catch up with him.
Put away after that, he was next seen in October’13 at Aintree in a Veterans’ Handicap Chase over 3m1f. Running off OR147, he looked in need of the run to bring him to peak fitness. Sure enough, he was back at Newcastle for the Rehearsal Chase in November ’13 and, as the handicapper had dropped him 7lb, he wasn’t required to carry top-weight. With only 11st 4lb he was able to hold-off the challenge of the progressive 7yo Vintage Star (in-receipt of 3lb) to record his 2nd victory in the race. Another attempt at the Welsh National followed in December ’13, but the heavy ground did for his chance. As in season 2011-12, he went next to Warwick to try and repeat his win in the 3m5f handicap chase off OR146. Unfortunately, he never looked happy in what turned out to be a rout of a useful field by the novice chaser Shotgun Paddy.  Connections must have considered he’d lost the plot, as they then sent him to contest the Cross-Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, in which he was well beaten.  Thankfully, it didn’t take much out of him, and maybe it did rekindle his enthusiasm as he came out just 2-weeks later in March ’14 for a Class 2 Veterans’ Chase at Ascot running off OR143. Being a drop in grade, he was again carrying 11st 12lb, but weight has never been an issue for Hey Big Spender and he beat a useful field at the very rewarding odds of 22/1. Clearly thinking they could make use of his return to form, he was entered to run at Haydock in April ’14 at Haydock but, as he’d shown the previous year, he followed a good performance with a poor one.

He started the 2014-15 season as he’d started the previous one, running in the Veterans’ Chase at Aintree in October. This time he ran off OR146, and ran better than in 2013 holding every chance at the final fence but lacking the “zip” to win the race on the run-in.
Onto Saturday and a 3rd attempt at the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle.  He was set to carry 11st 12lb running off OR145 and although I thought he held a great chance of being placed, I couldn’t envisage him winning. Was I wrong! Hey Big Spender didn’t just win, he put in one of the races of his career and I have it only 2nd to his win at Warwick in January 2012 as a 9yo. That was his 9th chase win from 32 starts. At his peak the handicapper rated him at OR157, but I had him a bit higher than that at 160+. Where it not for injury he would have gone very close indeed to taking the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Dame Shirley Bassey herself could not have been more proud of the horse when he won on Saturday.

Hennessy Gold Cup review

The Hennessy Gold Cup was a gruelling race, as I expected, with only 9 of the 19 starters finishing (there were no fallers in the race - all the none-finishers pulled-up).

The pace set by the early leaders for much of the race was punishing, and those "in-the-van" (What A Warrior, Annacotty, and Le Reve) all failed to finish. The blog selection Midnight Prayer was also amongst the leading bunch of 4, and was the only one of them to finish - albeit in 9th and last place. When watching the race "live", my opinion was quickly made that the horse did not seem to be enjoying himself and he was working hard to maintain his position. Jockey Tom Bellamy pushed the horse for a final effort 4-out but (thankfully) on realising there was nothing left in the tank, he allowed the horse to canter home at his own pace. Trainer Alan King was positive about the run, and he seems of the opinion that the horse will be primed for a big race in the Welsh National NTO.

The race fav - Djakadam - was given every chance by his rider Ruby Walsh, but the horse had nothing left to give when push came to shove. The Hennessy Gold Cup is a tough race, the most competitive chase handicap in the calender in my opinion - even more competitive than the Grand National - and it is no race in which to discover a horses stamina. Djakadam had never run beyond 2m5f before Saturday and, while a 3-mile chase looks within his grasp, for me the jury is still out.

The requirement for stamina was most evident when you consider that 3 of the 1st-4 home were all proven, dour, staying chasers. In 4th, Monbeg Dude was never likely to win (unless one of only a handfull of finishers) off a rating of OR146, yet his stamina carried him from a poor position from half-a-mile out and into the places. He is capable of a better performance than this, but not much, and (even if he'd run equal to his best) would never have beaten the 3rd-placed Merry King.

It is through Merry King that I have rated the race. Last year, Merry King ran 5th behind Triolo D'Alene on "good" ground and I rated that at 132. His best performances are on soft/heavy ground and, as such, I reckon he's run up to his best form of 140. The horse finished 6-lengths behind Houblon Des Obeaux at Ascot in Nov'13 over 3-miles when in receipt of 7lb; and this race suggests that Houblon Des Obeaux has improved a few pounds. Merry King never runs a bad race, and he goes forever, but he lacks a "gear" when it matters - and just one win from 13 chase starts proves it. For me, he could be an ideal Grand National horse and could be the one to provide AP McCoy with the perfect excuse to retire on a high should he win that race next April.

Houblon Des Obeaux defied his 50/1 odds - which were surely an insult given he was 6th in last years Hennessey and that this years soft ground was clearly more favourable. What was more debateable was whether he could repeat his form of last season when racing right-handed. He's run 4 cracking races at Ascot over 3-mile - winning twice - and if he was able to repeat that form at Newbury (going left-handed) he was surely going to be in the mix. He'd won on his seasonal debut for the past couple of years so, coming for this on his first run since April, this was not an issue. As I've written already, Houblon Des Obeaux ran a career-best on Saturday and if soft ground was guaranteed at Cheltenham next March, he'd be on my Gold Cup shortlist. I have him achieving 160, and when he jumped the 2nd-last in front I didn't think he'd be passed as stamina is his strength.

Where does this leave Many Clouds? It was a very good effort to peg-back Houblon Des Obeaux on the run-in, even if that rival was conceding 6lbs. But it was not a 160+ performance (Racing Post Ratings have assessed it as RPR164). It has to be taken into account that he'd never won beyond 2m4f before, and he'd been easily beaten by Black Thunder at level weights as a novice chaser last November over 2m7f (with Shotgun Paddy in 3rd). With Merry King on 140, this puts Many Clouds on 157.  By comparison, I rated Bobs Worth at 169  when he won the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2012 before taking the Gold Cup at Cheltenham - so (on that score) Many Clouds has a lot of improvement to make before he can enter the Gold Cup picture as a realistic candidate.
Even so, his half-brother The Tullow Tank, who is a novice chaser in Ireland, must surely have one of the Cheltenham Festival novice chase races as a target.

Saturday 29 November 2014

The Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury

A terrific day for the blog yesterday, the only downside was that my recommended wager lost!!! However, 3 of the other 4 horses mentioned on the blog won:
Wilton Milan at 3/1
Tullyesker Hill at 10/1
No Buts at 6/1
If I'd had a better start to the season, then I'd have had the confidence to nominate at least No Buts as a wager (he was 8/1 when I wrote the blog) and would possibly have included Wilton Milan as well (he was trading at 9/2 at the time of writing the blog).

Onto today, and I've already looked at the Hennessy Gold Cup earlier this week.
I'm very happy to oppose the Irish challenger Djakadam who has not run beyond 2m5f and fell when under pressure at the Cheltenham Festival in the race won by Taquin De Seuil.
The 2nd-fav Many Clouds does not look to be leniently treated on OR151, and Fingal Bay could be well-in on OR153 if he's learned to jump a fence in the last 2 years. Smad Place looks interesting, as does last years runner-up Rocky Creek, but they both need to run career-bests to win this. The Druids Nephew looks held on his OR141 rating.
There is one horse tho' that stands out at the weights, and that is Cheltenham Festival winner MIDNIGHT PRAYER. Only 5 chase runs, he is still very unexposed and can win his seasonal debut (which he did last October) and then ran a cracker here at Newbury in December over 3-mile. He won the National Hunt Chase over 4-mile at the Festival beating the 12lb higher-rated Shotgun Paddy a neck at level weights. What is interesting is that Alan King has put 5lb claimer Tom Bellamy on and so the horse will only by carrying 10st 5lb. I'm expecting a big run and I'm already on at 25/1 for £5 eachway and £10 win.

There are host of horses from my alert list running today, as I'd expect on a great day of racing. As such, I can't hope to look at all their chances.
Midnight Appeal looks well treated for the 1:20 at Newbury. He's not a "proper" 3-mile chaser and this shorter trip of 2m6f & 110 yards will suit him, and if he can get back to his best form of last season (no reason why he shouldn't) he could be up to winning this. The Irish entry Dushrembramdt will not enjoy the soft ground based on known form and he'll need to have 10lb in-hand to win this. Listen Boy is more interesting, but he'll know he's been in a race today. I prefer the chance of Bertie Boru who is just a 7yo and comes here in top form and is the ride of Richard Johnson. This is not an easy race though, and Noble Legend - who has been rated OR135 - could easily win this off OR129 if it's a going day, but only the horse knows that as he's unpredictable. A tight affair, and the winner will come from Midnight Appeal, Bertie Boru, Listen Boy or Noble Legend. No wager recommended.

There are also supporting meetings at Newcastle, Towcester, and Bangor.

The Rehearsal Chase over 3-mile at Newcastle at 2:40 looks a cracker. Last years 1st - Hey Big Spender, and 2nd - Vintage Star, return to battle again on identical terms. They've both had a run and both have shown themselves to be as good, if not better, as ever. Personally, I think the soft ground this year swings the balance in favour of Vintage Star. One to consider is Tutchec, who was running a good race until hitting the 3rd-last fence LTO. Broadway Buffalo ran his best chase race yet LTO and improvement is expected - but will it? Odds of 9/2 leave no room for error, so he's not for me. Indian Castle is another with potential being just 6yo, but he ran poorly LTO and trainer Ian Williams is not in top form. I think Lie Forrit will struggle to beat Hey Big Spender today on 5lb worse terms. For me, the safest wager is VINTAGE STAR at 13/2 eachway.

Newcastle 2:40 VINTAGE STAR, £5 eachway @ 13/2 (Bet365 quarter-odds 1,2,3 & BOG)
Newbury 3:00 MIDNIGHT PRAYER, £5 eachway @ 28/1 (Bet365 quarter-odds 1,2,3, 4 & BOG)

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Friday 28 November 2014

Day 2 of the Hennessy meeting at Newbury

A good job I didn't recommend any wagers yesterday as my reading of the races was way off the mark. Both Cloudy Bob and Ashes House ran very poorly, with neither horse looking like it ws enjoying the conditions. As for Mohi Rahrere at Uttoxeter, rather than being allowed to bowl along, he was held-up and seemed to lose interest in the race.
Trainer Alan King sent just 3 horses out - and they all won! And they were all ridden by different jockeys . That has to be good news for my Hennessy Gold Cup wager (see earlier blogs).

Other news yesterday was centred around Nicky Henderson and his heroes from the 2013 Cheltenham Festival: Simonsig and Sprinter Sacre.
Both have met further mishaps on the gallops and neither will be seen on the track before 1st January 2015. This means that Balder Succes is now the fav for the Tingle Creek Chase on 6th December at Sandown.
As I wrote on this blog on 16th September:-
"there seems to be a distinct lack of quality 2-mile chasers about. I expect trainer Alan King will have planned a campaign similar to that of his 2007 QMCC winner Voy Por Ustedes and we'll likely see a reappearance of BALDER SUCCES at Sandown in December for the Tingle Creek. A win in that race, and it is not unlikely, and BALDER SUCCES would be the new QMCC favorite. I'm on (for the QMCC) at £6 eachway and £13 win, that's a total of £25 staked at 14/1. A "place" returns £27, and a win returns £312".

Onto today, and at 12:55 we have a very open-looking handicap Class 3 chase over 2m2f & 110 yards. The race-fav is Comeonginger who has won his last 3 chase races since being dropped in trip from 3-mile to 2m4f. His last win was fairly facile and he's up another 5lb to OR120 and he's starting to look a bit vulnerable now as his hurdle rating is OR115. I quite like the look of Wilton Milan in this race as he's never looked like a 3-mile horse as a chaser, and this drop in trip could be the making of him as his last win was over hurdles over 2m4f at Southwell beating a useful field easily off a ratng of OR133. He's on OR123 today and this horse - who cost £85,000 - could be the answer.

From my alert list, in the 3-mile handicap hurdle at 1:30, TULLYESKER HILL looks well treated if he's able to hold his form since winning LTO. Unfortunately, he's up against a top-class stablement in Unique De Cotte who looks even better! David Pipe will likely take the next race as well with Dell Arca who was really thrown-in the deep end LTO for his debut chase. It wont be easy for him as OR165 hurdler Saphir Du Rheu from the Paul Nicholls stable is having his chase debut in this race, but he has to know how to jump a fence.

We haven't seen The Paparrazi Kid in nearly a year, but he looked useful when we did. As such, he looks about 7lb well-in on his OR141 rating for the 2:40 at Newbury. There are several that look well treated: Lamool, Pendra, and Cantlow (if he can regain his form) and it is unfortunate that Rolling Aces is a non-runner as I thought he'd do well in this. Paul Nicholls sends his recent Sandown winner Sound Investment for this, but I thought that horse benefitted from a run that day and he may well struggle to hold NO BUTS who was having his first run for David Bridgwater. He's 6lb better-off today and will strip a lot fitter  for having that run at Sandown on 8th November. At 8/1 (5th odds a place 1,2,3) he looks generously priced as it is difficult to see him being out of the 1st-3 home.

At Doncaster, there is an interesting handicap chase at 2:30 over 2m3f. There has been a market move for the James Ewart trained Premier Grand Crus, and Ewart does well with chasers at Doncaster (7 wins from 18 runners). However, that has meant that the morning fav BIG WATER is now best-priced at 9/4 (from 6/4) and we have no doubt that this horse is in good form as he beat a useful field (with some NTO winners) on 2nd November. With the front-runner Billy Cuckoo likely to try and make-all, the race will be set up for BIG WATER who likes to come late in the day.

Doncaster 2:30 BIG WATER, £10 win @ 9/4 (Bet365, PaddyPower, Ladbrokes & Coral - all BOG)

Thursday 27 November 2014

Day 1 of the Hennessy meeting at Newbury

What a great day of horseracing for a Thursday, with meetings at Newbury, Taunton and Uttoxeter.
The blog is being posted a bit late (unfortunately, I had a meeting to attend from 10:00 - 11:30) so this is more of a review of what's ahead.

Well handicapped, but roguish, chaser Loch Ba runs over hurdles at Newbury at 1:35 this afternoon, on what is surely a recovery mission to boost his confidence. Running off OR119 should make him the fav for this race as he raced off OR137 over fences last season (has since dropped to OR124) and looked well-in on occassion (eg: when 4th at Warwick in January on soft ground).

Later in the afternoon, from my alert list comes CLOUDY BOB who runs in the 2:45. This 2m6f &110 yard chase should really suit him after he won over a similar trip and ground at Market Rasen LTO. That win earned him a 7lb hike in the ratings to OR128, but he was running well last season off OR125 and he looks unexposed to me and capable of winning this. The only issue for me is that he seems best going right-handed, but he has won and run well going left-handed. The hot fav is the Alan King novice chaser Ned Stark, but he's no price at all at 13/8. The Paul Nicholls trained Ceasar Milan runs in his debut chase and this looks a tough task for him giving 5lb to a competent chaser like Cloudy Bob. The other novice being backed is Liberty One, but he'll need to improve a lot on his debut to be involved in this in my opinion. The other novice in the race Ashes House looks of more interest as the first-two in that race both won NTO and the form looks rock solid. Bet365 go quarter-odds a place 1,2,3 for this and 10/1 Cloudy Bob, and 12/1 Ashes House look interesting eachway chances.

Nothing jumps at me at Taunton, and Uttoxeter isn't much better, but the handicap chase at 3:05 seems to offer an opportunity to those who like to wager on the shorter-odds chances. With Hi Bob being a non-runer, only 4 horses go to post and it looks a match between Mohi Rahrere and Ray Diamond. The latter has been out of form for over a year and has slipped from OR117 in Jan13 to OR95 today. He has won a race in the intervening period, a class 4 at Exeter off the same mark he runs off today. What worries me about him is that he doesn't stay a yard beyond 2m4f (todays trip) and the ground at Uttoxeter is heavy. There are no trip worries for Mohi Rahrere who stays 3-mile well, and this front-runner will surely test the stamina of the others in the race. Odds of 7/4 about MOHI RAHRERE look generous to me, as I'd have him at about 11/10.

Looking ahead to Saturday and the Hennessy Gold Cup, my early selection MIDNIGHT PRAYER is sure to line-up and Alan King has even booked the useful 5lb claimer Tom Bellamy for the ride, as such he'll only be carrying 10st 5lb and I'm on at 25/1.

All the best and vote for the blog in the UK Blog awards if you haven't already done so.

Monday 24 November 2014

Look-back at the weekend's racing (22/23 November)

A profitable day of racing for the blog on Saturday, with SILVINIACO CONTI confirming that when faced with a proper stamina test he's the best staying chaser in training. Running on soft (or worse) ground for the first time since winning the King George VI Chase at Kempton on similar ground, the horse ran to about the same level as when he won the Betfair Chase in November 2012.
My reading of the race was just about perfect, with the only "blip" being that I under-estimated the ability of Menorah. The horse had previously shown he was capable of runing at this level when taking the Peterborough Chase (run at Kempton) in December 2012 on heavy ground - and he relished the conditions on Saturday.  Whether Menorah can find any more improvement is debateable, but he's running a lot better now than he was earlier this year.
Even so, looking at the betting for the King George on Boxing Day (for which there are currently 37 entries) the odds of 12/1 about Menorah look a decent eachway wagering opportunity. He's unlikely to rverse the form with SILVINIACO CONTI, but there is not much in the race likely to keep him out of the places.
Cue Card was very disappointing on Saturday and went out very tamely, running about 15lb below his best. Dynaste will need "good" ground to show improvement at Kempton, and I'm not convinced he's a true 3-mile chaser yet at this level.
Nicky Henderson's stable looks out-of-sorts and he's only sent out the winner of 3 chase races since 1st September, though his stable-form usually improves in December and again in the New Year.
As such, I really cannot fathom why SILVINIACO CONTI is not shorter, especially as this year's field looks weaker and he's already shown that he's as good (if not better) than ever.
So far, the only horse that looks likely to challenge him is stable-mate AL FEROF who also won on Saturday when taking the Amlin 1965 Chase over 2m3f for the 2nd year in succession. This was the horse's best performance since winning the Paddy Power Handicap Chase in Nov12, and he's put a couple of indifferent runs last season behind him. Although he was 3rd in the King George last December, I really cannot see him beating SILVINIACO CONTI in that race and his only chance would appear to be if his stablemate doesn't finish. Trainer Paul Nicholls would much rather target the horse at the QM Champion Chase over 2-miles. That seems unlikely and I expect that the horse will be entered in both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase, as he was last year. He looked to have at least 3lb in-hand on Saturday, maybe more, and if he goes to the Ryanair in this sort of form then he'll take some beating and the 16/1 offered by Ladbrokes looks very generous.

Another interesting performance was that of ACCORDING TO TREV in the 3m1f handicap chase at Haydock. This was a tremendous run from the 8yo when you look at the horses he beat. Renard again showed his love for soft-heavy ground with a near career-best run. Unfortunately when racing beyond 2m5f he lacks tactical speed and was outpaced (again, for the 5th time in succession) when passing that point, but stayed-on strong, if one-paced. Midnight Appeal possibly needs a trip a shade shorter than 3-mile as he is another who is one-paced but very consistent. As for Forgotten Gold in 4th, this was his best run since beaten a short-head at Cheltenham in April, and his form usually improves as the season progresses - he has to be one for the alert list.

We have the Hennessy Gold Cup this Saturday at Newbury and, with 7 x LTO winners going to post, it looks a cracker in the making. I'm very happy to oppose the Irish challenger Djakadam who has not run beyond 2m5f and fell when under pressure at the Cheltenham Festival in the race won by Taquin De Seuil. The 2nd-fav Many Clouds does not look to be leniently treated on OR151, and Fingal Bay could be well-in on OR153 if he's learned to jump a fence in the last 2 years. Smad Place looks interesting, as does last years runner-up Rocky Creek. The Druids Nephew looks held on his OR141 rating, and it's hard to believe that Hadrian's Approach is only a 7yo - he looks very interesting.  Black Thunder is another strong entry from Paul Nicholls, and he'll likely be on the premises. There is one horse tho' that stands out at the weights, and that is Cheltenham Festival winner MIDNIGHT PRAYER. Only 5 chase runs, he is still very unexposed and can win his seasonal debut (which he did last October) and then ran a cracker here at Newbury in December over 3-mile. He won the National Hunt Chase over 4-mile at the Festival beating the 12lb higher-rated Shotgun Paddy a neck at level weights. I cannot understand why this horse is 25/1 with Paddy Power and I can see him starting at half those odds on the day.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Betfair Chase at Haydock - 22nd November

A cracking day of racing lies ahead.
Be careful with the ground though as after a lot of rain it could be more heavy than soft ground being raced on.

Horse Alert List runners:
Haydock 12:10 Getabuzz - expect a better run than LTO
Haydock 12:45 Emperor's Choice - usually needs his seasonal debut
Haydock 2:25 Oscar Rock - will love the soft ground, and wont be far away.
Haydock 3:00 Harry Topper - see race review below
Haydock 3:35 Midnight Appeal - would be my idea of the winner of this race but isn't value at 11/2 as he is a bit one-paced and vulnerable to a late challenge.

Ascot 1:30 Hi Note
Ascot 2:05 Fox Appeal and Bury Parade
Ascot 2:40 Blue Fashion
Ascot 3:15 Brick Red and Parsnip Pete

The feature race of the day is the Betfair Chase won last year by Cue Card with Dynaste in 2nd. When he ran at Exeter recently, Cue Card looked a little lack-lustre but it was his first run since Boxing Day 2013. I'd expect him to find 7-10lb on that run which puts him in the mix for a repeat win. I'd expect Dynaste to be in the mix, but the soft ground is not in his favour, nor the 3m1f trip, so I can't see him winning if they all finish. For me, the horse that has all the qualities to win this race is SILVINIACO CONTI. He's won the race before, he's beaten both Cue Card and Dynaste at level weights in the past 12 months, the ground will not phase him and he'll appreciate it more than the "good" ground he's run on for his last 3 races, and he'll come into this race prepared to win it by Paul Nicholls. I really cannot see another horse getting in the mix, but one who may is Harry Topper who is still unexposed at this level and could run a great race if the ground is on the heavy side of soft by the time of the race. The odds of 7/2 look fair about SILVINIACO CONTI and he's the win wager in this race. Betfred are 9/2 but you may not get much money on.  For those who are adventurous, a reverse forecast with Silviniaco Conti and Harry Topper could prove lucrative.

At Ascot at 2:05 there is a terrific Grade 2 chase over 2m3f ("Amlin 1965 Chase") with just 6 runners, but what a field - this race would not look out of place at the Cheltenham Festival. Al Ferof is still capable of running up to his official rating of OR162 based on his performance in the Ryanair Chase last March. Nicholls' other runner, Bury Parade, is better than his rating of OR153 but even in receipt of 4lb he's going to struggle in this. Ditto Fox Appeal, but waht I like about this one is we've yet to see just how good he is as he likes to chase a target. Somersby will struggle as he's about 7lb below is OR164 rating.  Wishful Thinking is at the top of his game at 11yo - remarkable. If he goes as well as he did at Aintree LTO he'll take a lot of beating. However, he's never gone particularly well when running right-handed. The fly in the ointment is the Henderson runner Rajdhani Express. Based on his Ryanair 3rd (with Al Ferof behind him on levels) he has a terrific chance at the weights, even if the soft ground is supposedly against him. At odds of 7/2 about RAJDHANI EXPRESS looks very good value and, having won on heavy ground and going right-handed, he looks the one to be on.  I'm very surprised he's not the fav for this race at the weights.

Haydock 3:00 SILVINIACO CONTI, £10 win @ 7/2 (available generally)

Ascot 2:05 RAJDHANI EXPRESS, £10 win @ 7/2 (available generally)

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Friday 21 November 2014

Betfair Chase weekend at Haydock

A good day of racing today before we have the Betfair Chase at Haydock tomorrow.
The blog has been a bit sporadic lately as my "proper" job has been very busy lately. However, a change of scenery is on the horizon - not sure if it will be a good or a bad thing, only time will tell.

Just looking at the meeting at Haydock this afternoon as my brother who writes the blog http://sprinterstogo.blogspot.co.uk  will be attending the meeting. The opening race which is a 3-mile hurdle at 12:50, looks interesting and there are a couple that catch my eye. From my alert list is Night In Milan who is one of my favourite handicap chasers. He's rated OR144 as a chaser so comes into this on his hurdle rating of OR129. However, he ran in this race last season off OR125 and was well beaten before winning at Doncaster over fences NTO. I expect a similar performance from him in this today.  The market leaders look weak, and one that's caught my eye is MATHEW RILEY who ran a cracker here over hurdles at this trip and on similar soft ground last December. That looks even better form now than it did then, as he won't me a horse like Sausolito Sunrise in today's race. Odds of 8/1 look useful. Another interesting contender is Who Owns Me who has his first run for Michael Easterby - he could run well if the change of trainer has reinvigorated him.

The rest of the meeting could go to the short-priced fav's in what are small field races. TURBAN looks nailed-on for the 1:20, but this solitary runner for Willie Mullins (ridden by Ruby Walsh) is odds-on at 4/6.

In the novice hurdle at 1:55 over 2-mile, I wagered on THE BROCK AGAIN when he ran 3rd at Sandown on the 8th November. That ground was very heavy (not soft) in places and he looked the most likely winner till the ground took its toll and he stamina gave out. He'll strip fitter today and so long as the ground is proper soft, and not soft/heavy, he should win. Odds of 15/8 look very interesting as the only realistic challenger is Oscarteea who will struggle to concede 6lb to the Nicholls horse.

I don't agree with the market for the 2:30 which is a novice chase over 2m6f. Sure, the Nicholls horse Virak should be the race-fav but odds of "evens" are too short. What I find odd is that the odds about Nicky Hendersons only runner here today GOLDEN HOOF at 7/1 are too long - I'd have him more the 5/2 2nd-fav with Monkey Kingdom at 9/2 and Virak at something like 7/4.  GOLDEN HOOF beat a decent yardstick LTO at Aintree and this race is within his compass.

The final couple of races on the card should go the the Paul Nicholls horses; Vago Collonges and Abidjan.

No recommended selections from me today as MATHEW RILEY could only be a small eachway wager; and THE BROCK AGAIN is too short in the market (my minimum odds for a recommendation is 9/4).  Similarly, I expect GOLDEN HOOF to really push the Virak, but again it would have to be an eachway wager and odds of 7/1 are not juicy enough for that - it's win or bust.

Back again tomorrow for the Betfair Chase.

Saturday 15 November 2014

Paddy Power Gold Cup - 15th November

What a cracking day of racing we have ahead of us.  I've been looking at the races at Cheltenham for a few days and think I've spotted a couple who have slipped under the radar of the tipsters.

There are a few from my alert list running in the feature race itself: Cantlow, Johns Spirit, Kapga De Cerisy, Indian Castle and Buywise.  Later in the afternoon Theatrical Star and Vivaldi Collonges are horses on my alert list.

For the Paddy Power Gold Cup at 2:30, Buywise heads the market at 7/1 alongside Present View. Both these horses are very progressive and come here on the back of a recent run. Of the pair I prefer Buywise as this horse has never stopped improving and could be exceptional. Coming into this race on a seasonal debut can be tough (not impossible) and so I'm overlooking Indian Castle today - but he's on a cracking handicap mark and he'll exploit that this season.  Johns Spirit is a tremendously game and consistent horse, and odds of 11/1 - and some bookies go 5-places eachway - are very generous. If you want an interest in the race, and if he's improved again on his recent win at Cheltenham, you cannot go wrong with an eachway wager at 11/1 with the race sponsors who go 5-places.

However, I'm looking at exploiting those 5-place bookies and going for a couple under the radar who could sneak the race itself. The first of those is Nicky Henderson's ERICHT who was 3rd behind Johns Spirit and Persian Snow at Cheltenham and has actually been dropped 1lb by the handicapper. That was only his 6th chase race and he's 20/1 with the sponsors and 22/1 with Bet365 who also go 5-places eachway.

My second under-the-radar horse is from my alert list - KAPGA DE CERISY. We know this horse goes well on a seasonal debut as he won his only race last season at Ascot when demolishing a good field. Venetia Williams has her horses bouncing at the moment and the trip today and the ground will suit this horse down to a tee. I think this horse has immense potential and his rating of OR148 could be very lenient. He's also 22/1 with the bookies.

The other race I've looked at in depth is the 1:50 at Cheltenham and this is a 3m3f handicap chase. Without a doubt, the race fav The Druids Nephew could be well ahead of the handicapper, but there are a couple in this race who will give him a lot to think about. The 10yo Cape Tribulation is one of them. Remember this horse was a proper Gold Cup candidate as an 8yo and he loves Cheltenham. He's been thrown a huge chance by the handicapper who's dropped him to OR146 and I can see him running a big race - especially as trainer Jefferson has given him a recent spin on the flat to perk him up as he usually needs a run to show his best form. At 14/1 he represents good eachway value.  However, this race usually goes to a horse no older than 8yo and the one horse that is improving and looking like this race will suit him is the bottom-weight with just 10st to carry MASTER NEO. There is a lot of dead-wood in this race in my opinion, and Master Neo brings together a small trainer with an improving young horse that is proven race fit having won only last Sunday. Odds of 12/1 look very fair for a horse running with just a 5lb penalty for that win.

Cheltenham 1:50 MASTER NEO, £5 eachway @ 12/1 (Bet365, Paddy Power, Coral - quarter-odds a place 123)

Cheltenham 2:30 ERICHT, £5 eachway @ 22/1 (Bet365 and Paddy Power - quarter-odds a place 12345)
Cheltenham 2:30 KAPGA DE CERISY, £5 eachway @ 22/1 (Bet365 and Paddy Power - quarter-odds a place 12345)

That's £30 staked

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Friday 14 November 2014

Cheltenham Friday 14th November

It is a great opening day to the 3-day "Paddy Power" fixture at Cheltenham.
I'll get straight into the racing and the opening race is usually a good betting medium even though I try and avoid amateur-rider races like the plague. There are a couple of runners from my alert list in this race: Benbens and Handy Andy. 
The race-fav is Broadway Buffalo a 6yo sent here by David Pipe. After winning a 3-mile handicap hurdle at Haydock in May, he's been chasing but I'm not convinced about him in this sphere. Handy Andy won this race last year running off OR123, and he's only 6lb higher than that on OR129 today. His recent 3rd at Chepstow will have prepped him for this and a repeat of last years effort will see him go very close today as he'll have no problem with the soft ground. My other alert runner, Benbens, is lightly raced for a 9yo and this will be only his 6th chase race - but he has won 2 of those and been runner-up twice. His rating of OR134 looks reasonable and todays ground will be perfect for him. Charingworth was 2nd in this race last year to Handy Andy and meets him on 5lb better terms for 2½ lengths, but he's not won since December 2011 and being one-paced will need to be presented with this race to win it. Ballyoliver should be thereabouts but I think he'll be wanting further than this trip and will be staying-on at the end. The only other horse on my radar is Fruity O'Rooney and while I expect he'll be front-running again (along with Handy Andy) this soft ground isn't ideal.  At the odds, I think Benbens at 7/1 looks the best value as the soft ground should suit him best of the market leaders.

The 20-runner Class 2 handicap chase at 1:50 looks a nightmare to solve. As for the Novices Chase at 2:25, who is going to take a price on Colour Squadron after he threw away a winning opportuity LTO?

The Novice Hurdle over 2m5f at 3:00 should go to Blaklion, and the Cross Country Chase should be in the bag for Balthazar King.

Not much to go on today for value, and it could be a day which the bookies may want to forget with some solid fav's looking very likely to win their races. So, I'm going to give he day a miss.

The only race which looks a betting opportunity for me is the opener. My assessment is the race is between Handy Andy and Benbens, and I really cannot split them.  There is always another day.

Thursday 13 November 2014

FOXCUB rewards readers with a win at 11/1

What a result for those who follow the blog!
I've been following FOXCUB since October 2013 when he won by 14-lengths at Fontwell beating another consistent performer in Hi Note. This horse never runs a bad race and is as genuine as they come. There was a worry that the ground was softer than ideal, but when I saw the pictures from the course I was never in any doubt. FOXCUB ran his usual race, from the front, and had this field struggling to stay in contention well over half-a-mile out. The only other horse to make a race of it was the useful Clondaw Kaempfer who - like a few of McCains horses this autumn - was a little below his best and will surely come on for the run.
Trainer Tom Symonds has his small string in tip-top condition, and hinted that FOXCUB will probably go chasing at sometime this season.

In the 3-mile handicap chase, Venetia Williams managed to rekindle the enthusiasm of Howard's Legacy and he ran close to the form of his April run when 2nd at Chepstow. This horse has good days and bad days, so don't expect him to follow-up this win NTO.

There are a couple of jump race meetings today at Ludlow and Taunton. I've no horses from my alert list running. I can't see anything of interest at Ludlow but there are a couple that may be on the the premises at Taunton. On days like this I pay more attention to the trainers and where they are sending their horses and, as I wrote above, Tom Symonds has his stable firing on all cylinders and he sends Kings Apollo for the novice chase at 3:40 at Taunton. The horse will be race-fit from a recent run, we know he can jump a fence, and this 3-mile hurdle winner at Towcester will prefer this trip more than that which he encountered 3-weeks ago on his seasonal debut. The odds are skinny tho' so I'm not recommending a wager (my minimum wager odds are 9/4).

Another at Taunton is De Blacksmith in the 2:10 which is a 3-mile novice chase. His chase rating of OR118 looks very fair, and he's capable of winning off this. What is more interesting is that his trainer Gary Moore has his stable in good form - he's had 4 winners in the past few days - and this horse is his only runner today. The worry is that Paul Nicholls has the well-bred and expensive Chinatown Boy in the race running his chase debut. This makes the odds on De Blacksmith a bit longer than I'd expect at 7/1 but, with only 7-runners in the race, this isn't really and eachway wager opportunity. I'll be having a small personal wager - just on the off-chance that the Nicholls horse doesn't take to fences.

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Wednesday 12 November 2014

Voting for the UK Blog Awards now open

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Long-term readers of the blog will remember this corresponding day last year as I tipped the 25/1 winner Midnight Appeal.  Only 9 go to post for this years renewal of the race which is at 2:00pm at Bangor (the morning fav is a non-runner). I'm not sure about current fav Knock A Hand as he'll need to run a career-best to win today, and the 2nd-fav Bob Ford hasn't convinced me he truly stays 3-mile. Much the same can be said of What's Happening, but he looks to have more potential off his rating of OR134. Howard's Legacy is interesting, especially when you look at his 2nd at Chepstow last April. He beat stable companion Ballyoliver in that race and that one reappeared last week to win off the same rating - whereas Howard's Legacy has been dropped 2lb to OR125 as he didn't run well subsequently at Wincanton in May. He can go well when fresh and is certainly good enough to win off this rating if he's in the mood.  Herdsman is unexposed as a chaser and will love this soft ground.  He also has no stamina issues. The ground isn't right for Dursey Sound (prefers good-to-soft or better), and OR138 for Count Salazar looks harsh. Another attempt at the Grand National awaits Across The Bay, and although we know Ikorodu Road can win off a long break, it may be asking a lot to see him win this on his stable debut.  I'd go for What's Happening, but his trainer Tom George has an appalling record at this track. Still, the trainer has his stable flying and odds of 8/1 with Ladbrokes looks fair.

I much prefer the chances of an old favourite of mine later in the afternoon, FOXCUB. The trip and ground will be perfect for him, and we know the horse is race-fit as he's run twice this autumn already. I'd ignore his last run as he made a bad error early on which put him out of the race, but he stayed-on well to be 5th. The fav Kentucky Hyden was the runner-up in the Triumph Hurdle but subsequently ran poorly at Punchestown. This is a trip into the unknown for him. The 2nd-fav El Macca couldn't win with AP McCoy in the saddle LTO; and the rest of this field look very ordinary. The form of his win at Leicester over a similar trip and ground looks useful now and I was expecting his odds to be around 6/1 for this, so 11/1 with Bet365 and Ladbrokes looks generous and makes an eachway wager a viable proposition.

Bangor 3:00 FOXCUB, £5 eachway @ 11/1 with Ladbrokes or Bet365 - 5th odds 1,2,3

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Is Shutthefrontdoor a potential Gold Cup horse?

We saw a terrific performance from SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR at Carlisle yesterday when winning over and extended 3-mile off with the consistent chaser Vintage Star - who also ran a great race and jumped like a stag throughout - well beaten. This means that the 7yo Shutthefrontdoor has now won 9 or his 14 races, which include the Irish Grand National.
It may not have been a handicap yesterdxay, but he's sure to go up another 7lb at least for this win, maybe more, and he looks a chaser capable of achieving a rating of 165+ which puts him firmly in the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture should his trainer Jonjo O'Neill consider it.
Don't forget, O'Neill has won the Gold Cup before with a progressive handicapper in Sychronised who, at this stage in his career was only rated OR150. If he goes to Chepstow for the Welsh National and wins that then O'Neill will have a dilemma on his hands.

On Saturday I was at Sandown for the racing there (it was my birthday) and I managed to find a couple of winners. The 1st race fell my way thanks to the winner catching the eye of my girlfriend in the paddock ("he looks perky"). Unfortunately, as I fancied the eventual runner-up No No Mac more, my wager was only a small eachway. Thankfully, I stuck to my guns for the 2nd race and had a substantial wager on the Paul Nicholls novice chaser IRISH SAINT who was having his chase debut. It is a bit of a gamble with novice chasers but, so long as he was able to jump, this one was about 15lb better than his only other serious rival in the race. The odds of 4/5 looked generous in hindsight. Will this horse end up in the 'Arkle' or the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next March? He looks good enough to win either race to me.

The rest of the afternoon didn't go so well as the ground was a lot more testing that the official description of "good-to-soft". It looked more like 'soft - heavy in places' to me with the winners being those horses that stayed the trip best of all.

I was impressed with the novice hurdler Baron Alco from Gary Moore's stable, in fact Moore all the horses sent out by Moore to Sandown looked very fit and well placed.  The winner of the 4th race on the card Sound Investment confirmed his liking for Sandown (he was already a course winner) and that the ground was softer than reported. I'm hoping the runner-up Dolatulo isn't hit hard by the handicapper as he could run well next time, especially on better ground - and he will stay 3-mile.

The 3-mile chase went to the well-related La Reve, and this 6yo could be an exciting handicapper this season. Stamina seems to be his speciality, and this race was his a long way out. He is another who will probably run better on ground that isn't as soft as this.  My money was on the Venetia Williams trained Saroque and, on seeing him striding around the paddock beforehand, I thought the winnings were already in the bag.  Unfortunately, the ground did for him, but he stuck on to take 2nd place - albeit well beaten by the winner.

The rain was coming down heavily by the time of the final race and altho' Stonegate won easily, I don't like relying on form shown in extreme weather.

There's a cracking 3-day meeting at Cheltenham starting on Friday with the feature race being the Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday. Little Josh at 8yo in 2010 is the only winner of the race older than 7yo in the past 10 years, so keep with the 6yo's and 7yo's when considering the race. If Kapga De Cerisy from Venetia Williams stable takes part (currently 25/1) I'll be interested in him.

Friday 7 November 2014

Saturday at Sandown

Saturday 8th November is my birthday (55 years old), and I'll be spending the day at Sandown races where there is a decent meeting planned.

As the weather could change and seriously affect the ground, especially at Sandown, I've not recommended any selections, but you can tell which horses I'll be on from the narrative below. It'll be just my luck to have named a couple of 12/1 winners!

Looking at the runners there's a stack of alert list horses entered:
12:45 No No Mac
1:20 Irish Saint
2:30 Roudoudou Ville, Dolatulo, Bally Legend, Filbert, Loose Chips.
3:05 Valid Reason
3:40 Loch BA, Saroque

In the handicap hurdle that opens the meeting, the well-bred NO NO MAC is given an opportunity to open his campaign with a win. This looks a weak contest with the only question (in my mind) whether the Nicholls 4yo Rothman can fulfil his potential. Odds of 6/1 (I'm writing this at 8pm on Friday) look generous about NO NO MAC.

I've been looking forward to seeing IRISH SAINT jump a fence after his exciting campaign over hurdles last season. Unfortunately, this 3-runner race is not a betting opportunity.

At 2:30 we have the 2m4f & 110 yards Class 2 handicap chase. This looks very competitive and it's interesting that none of those from my alert list are amongst the market leaders. The lightly raced and well-bred Barrakilla could be a 150+ horse if he's as good as his half-bro China Rock, so it's no wonder he's the fav running off a rating of OR134. We've already seen Foundation Man run to a high level when winning the "Bobby Renton" last month, and I think he looks interesting in this race off OR135.  I don't think Sound Investment will appreciate this trip and he needs to improve on his best efforts to win this. Roudoudou Ville has only run 6 times since winning this race in 2011; if the ground isn't too soft he could go close. This trip is too long for Filbert, and I think the pace of this race will be too quick for Dolatulo. No concerns on trip or ground for Bally Legend - and he has had a pipe-opener over hurdles and I'm expecting a big run from him as he goes well right-handed. Much the same can be said of Loose Chips and if the rain comes and turns the ground heavy he is the one I'll probably be on. This is a tricky race and at the odds I'll probably have wagers on several in the race: for instance £10 win on Foundation Man @ 8/1, £10 win on Roudoudou Ville @ 8/1 and £5 eachway on both Loose Chips @ 10/1 and Bally Legend @ 16/1.

As soon as I saw the field for the 3-mile chase at 3:40 there was only one horse I wanted to be on: Loch BA. He started last season rated OR133 and was competitive off that so on OR124 he looks chucked-in. If you also consider that he goes very well right-handed and loves the soft ground and he could bolt in. The danger will likely be the novice chaser Lookslikerainted, but Caulfields Venture won like a decent horse LTO and seems to improve with every run. My other alert horse runner is Saroque and this could be the surprise contender. If he runs to the level he ran when 2nd at Exeter over 3-mile on soft ground then he'll be in the picture. This looks like another multi-selection race with say £10 win on both Loch BA @ 4/1 and Saroque @ 8/1.

Wincanton - Alert Horse runners
1:30 Horizontal Speed,
2:40 Ifyousayso, Dare To Endeavour, Just A Par

The Badger Ales Chase at 2:40 has been won by some talented chasers and Paul Nicholls is not afraid of sending a good one for this that is carrying a big weight. Unfortunately, I don't think my alert horse from Nicholls stable Just A Par is up to winning this with top-weight. I'm much more interested in the other pair who are both trained by Tom George - Ifyousayso and Dare To Endeavour. Stable jockey Paddy Brenna is on Dare To Endeavour and if he wins (or runs well) that will be a good pointer for Saroque at Sandown (see above). However, I prefer the other George runner Ifyousayso as he looks very leniently handicapped on OR130. He looks a great eachway wager at 20/1 as his run at Newbury when 2nd to the Henderson winner Thanks For Coming over 3-mile looks very good form.

Kelso - Alert Horse runners
2:50 Firth Of The Clyde

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter

I posted no selections on the blog yesterday but personally I broke my winner-finding drought with a couple of short-priced wagers on the AW at Wolverhampton and over the jumps at Kempton.

Confidence is everything when it comes to have a wager.
Without confidence you never stake enough when the winners come and, if you are over-confident, you throw good money at dodgy chances.

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to find a couple of good winning opportunities in Invincible Ridge at Wolverhampton and Fox Appeal at Kempton. Invincible Ridge meerly had to run up to his Official Rating of OR75 to win the "seller" at 2:50 over 5-furlongs when having his first run for trainer Eric Alston. It was his first win since he was a 2yo in 2010 and, as a 3yo he was competitve off a rating of OR95. He's not anywhere near that now, but this summer he was running well enough to suggest he was up to winning off OR75.
As for Fox Appeal, he really gave me a scare when wandering after taking up the lead; even so, I'll take a dead-heat. Hopefully, Theatre Guide wont be hit hard by the handicapper as he really had no chance of winning this until Fox Appeal lost-the-plot after jumping the 2nd-last fence 3-lengths clear. I think, when he's at his peak, Fox Appeal is 155-159 and it may be that he's a horse who runs best when chasing another in defeat, as he doesn't like being in front.

A great day of racing ahead at Exeter, featuring the Haldon Gold Cup over 2m1f and 110 yards. This race has provided some surprising results in the past, not least last year when Cue Card was swept aside by Somersby. As I expect Colin Tizzard will have repeated last years preparation (which resulted in a win in the Betfair Chase for Cue Card on his subsequent outing) I reckon the horse will not be at his peak today. He'll need to be as there are a couple of 6yo's more than capable of producing an upset at the weights even if Cue Card was at peak fitness: Hinterland and BALDER SUCCES. 

I like Hinterland, and he's on my alert list. When this pair met last December in the Henry VIII Novices Chase at Sandown, Hinterland won in the fashion of a very good chaser. Unfortunately, his next couple of runs proved nothing, and his last run at Aintree was a complete mystery. Nicholls says the horse is at his best when "very" fresh so if he is today then he'll take a great deal of beating with just 10st 4lb to carry. As such, BALDER SUCCES is giving Hinterland 10lb but he never stopped improving last season and won (in most convincing fashion) the race involving Hinterland at Aintree. I am fairly confident that BALDER SUCCES will prove the best 2-mile chaser in training this season and I'm already on him for the QM Champion Chase. So, if he's good enough to win that then he should be good enough to win today, so I'm taking the odds of 3/1 which is available with Hills, Ladbrokes, Corals and BetVictor.

Exeter 2:15 BALDER SUCCES, £10 win @ 3/1 (available generally)

Monday 3 November 2014

A look-back at the weekend of 1st-2nd November

After flirting with success on Friday afternoon, I was opeful of a good win on Saturday and put my full weight behind assessing a couple of races. Unfortunately, no winners could be found.
I must admit that I was astounded at the way Silviniaco Conti folded over the final few furlongs of the 3m1f Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
As I wrote in Saturday's blog, the horse is one-paced and needs to either stretch the oppositions stamina by going for home a long way out - as he did when he won this race back in 2012 - or grind them into the ground as he did when hauling back Cue Card in the King George last December. EVen so, I would have expected him to stay on a lot better, and this performance is a worry especially as the overall pace of the race was slow.
I think this form is dodgy. Without doubt, the race winner Menorah is a decent horse on his day and more than capable of running in the mid-160's.. It is no surprise that RPR has rated this win at 169, but I just can't have that. Why? Because if that rating is correct then both Tarquin De Seuil and Double Ross ran personal bests - and I can't have that. Double Ross is a super consistent performer who - in my book - ran his best race last season at 152 when 5th at Aintree in April. I don't think he bettered that effort on Satruday and, at best, he probably matched it. Which puts Menorah on 160 and Tarquin De Seuil on 151, which is the rating I gave him for winning at the Cheltenham Festival last March. My selection for the race Medermit, ran bravely and threatened with taking 2nd place on the run-in, but was never going to get there. He improved 10lb for his run in the Ryanair in March, and if he does that again for this effort then he may just be worth a final throw at a decent handicap chase before the "veterans" races come calling.

My efforts to find the winner of the handicap chase at Ascot ran-aground. Although a talented horse with potential, I was right to oppose Le Bec who was having his first attempt to race right-handed and struggled. My main selection was Roalco De Farges and what a stinker of a performance he gave. He was hating it from the off and hardly jumped a fence. He's won on similar ground so it was either the course he hated or he was just having an off day. I am more positive of Midnight Appeal who also didn't run well for most of the race, but stayed on to be a reasonable 5th when I thought he may be pulled-up at one point. I would expect him to run a lot better next time and he is a consistent battler of a horse. Readers of the blog will know I put up Black Thunder a few weeks ago on his seasonal debut. He needed that run as a confidence booster following his fall at the Festival in the RSA Chase and, as I rated him at 159 for beating Shotgun Paddy at Lingfield in December, so long as the handicapper isn't too hard on him he'll be hard to beat next time out, especially on softer ground. Race winner What A Warrior is finally showing the potential of his novice form and this was a career-best effort. Whether he can improve again is debateable, but not impossible.

In Ireland we had an impressive performance from Don Cossack in winning the Grade 2 Powers Irish Whiskey Chase over 2m4f easily beating Paul Nicholls Wonderful Charm by over 8-lengths. With Wonderful Charm holding an official rating of OR159, this puts Don Cossack into the mid-160's and that puts him into the realms of a Gold Cup chaser.