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Record of the blog selections

Between March 2010 and April 2017, this blog recommended wagers on 520 individual races on Jump Racing in the UK, resulting in a PROFIT of £1,525.39 on cumulative stakes of £5,726 - this is equivalent to a Return On Investment of 26.60%.


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Saturday 26 December 2015

Boxing Day bumper card

Merry Christmas to all readers of the blog.
It is a really busy day of horseracing today so we will get straight into it and endeavour to make today a profitable one. I reckon on a day like today with so much racing that you can find some great wagers away from the main races where most punters focus.

Yes, the Kempton card is a cracker and the "King George" looks a race to savour, but there little value in the market. Both Don Cossack and Vautour ar 2/1 and 7/2 respectively, offer little value as both need to show they will stay 3-miles in this company on this side of the Irish Sea. If Don Cossack runs to his Punchestown Gold Cup form of last April then he will be thereabouts, but he is no 2/1 chance in this top-class field. The one who I think is "under-the-radar" is Silviniaco Conti who - despite having won the race for the past 2 years and who always comes on 10lb+ for his opening chase run - is at 10/1.  However, this is a tricky race to fathom as Smad Place, Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti will ensure there is no hiding place for those with doubtful stamina.

The Christmas Hurdle at 2:45pm has a 1/3 fav in Faugheen, but he's not worthy of those odds in this race in my opinion. On my ratings, there is very little to choose between Faugheen and THE NEW ONE and at 8/1 the latter horse is tremendous value in this race. We all know THE NEW ONE is one of the best hurdlers around and he's very consistent. Faugheen may have won this race last year but the opposition was weak, and I'm expecting him to be turned-over today.

It is disappointing that we have lost the Wetherby meeting as that has taken away one of the bst 3-mile handicap chases of the day. At Wincanton, the 3m1f handicap chase at 1:05pm looks there for the taking with a very poor field competing. I would not want to wager on Astigos winning, as he's a real plodder with just 1 win from 43 races. Marden Court the 5yo has not shown he will find this trip in his sphere; and top-weight Umberto D'Olivate ran a shocker LTO and cannot be relied upon. Letemgo stays this trip over hurdles and this is just his 3rd chase race, but he can jump a fence, in slowly. However, the 8yo Shockingtimes is also a reliable jumper and has been unfortunate to meet some well-handicapped horses recently. He can win a very weak race at the decent odds of 7/1.

Kempton 2:35 THE NEW ONE, £10 win @ 8/1 (available generally)
Wincanton 1:05pm SHOCKINGTIMES, £5 eachway @ 8/1 (available generally)

Saturday 19 December 2015

No selections due to Christmas office party

After having to attend two Christmas parties on Thursday and Friday, I'm in no state to write a blog this morning and it would be unfair of me to do so. 

I'd like to write a blog with some wagering recommendations, as there looks to be some great value, but I haven't had the time to put in the form study.

At Ascot, SAPHIR DU RHEU looks great value at 9/4 for the 2:25pm Long Walk hurdle as I have him about 6lb+ ahead of Thistlecrack  who is a year older than him too! 

And the feature race there at 3:00pm over 3-mile looks a cracker.  Pendra is the race-fav, but this field will test his stamina; especially the front-running WAKANDA who looks enourmous value at 12/1. However, this field is very strong and you cannot overlook Houblon Des Obeaux running off OR150 with a 5lb claimer in the saddle (he was 2nd over C&D last December running off OR161), not Salubrious who could make a mockery of his OR148 rating if his potential is seen today.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Top Graduation Chase at Newbury

As we move towards Christmas, the horseracing scene gets a bit quiet during the week, but we have a cracking pair of meetings at Newbury and Ludlow today.

Newbury is the better of the two, and at 2:25pm we have an intriguing "Graduation" chase over 2m7f with 4 terrific young chasers of which none can be discounted. We all know about Sausalito Sunrise who won LTO at Cheltenham over a trip of nearly 3m4f in a race that could prove to one of the more influential races of the season. The worry for me is that this race is over a much shorter trip (and Sausalito Sunrise looks to need longer than 3m1f to show his best) and that he has only 3 rivals will leave him nowhere to hide. "Sunrise" has been brought slowly into his races this season, appearing on the shoulders of the leaders with about half-a-mile to run - he wont be able to do that in this race. Kayserberg is difficult to assess as he's not completed 2 of his 3 chase races, and won the other - but he only had 2 others to beat in that race. However, the other pair are top-notch: O'Faolains Boy and Arpege D'Alene. The latter is a half-brother of Hennessy Gold Cup winner Triolo D'Alene, and this 5yo could well be a star of the future.  He shaped very well in his chasing debut last month and the 11lb he recives from Sausalito Sunrise puts him in the frame. As for O'Faolains Boy, if he can recapture his novice chase form, then he'd win this race with ease. He could be a 160+ chaser if back to his best, and he's still only an 8yo.  Yes, this is a very intriguing race, and I would not be wanting to take less than 7/4 about Sausalito Sunrise.

Earlier on the card at 12:40pm there is a competitve 2m7f Class 3 handicap chase in which I have a couple of alert list runners: Delgany Demon and Whats Left.  The soft ground will suit Delgany Demon (both his wins as a hurdler were on soft/heavy ground) so todays ground will suit him better than that he ran on at Ascot LTO when he was 2nd. However, both these horses met at Exeter 43-days ago (race was won by Saroque) and Whats Left was thereabouts until before 3-out when he started to weaken and eventually pulled-up. He possibly found the strong pace set by the winner was too much, but he meets Delgany Demon on 8lb better terms from that race and he can go well in this as there is unlikely to be a similar pace set. The half-sister of Whats Left (Candy Girl) was a 134+ chaser in Ireland who won on soft ground, and he should be as good as her.

Of the 3 market leaders in the race - Wuff, Local Show and Blameitonmyroots - the Paul Nicholls trained Wuff has the best credentials, as the ground will suit him; but I wouldn't think he was a 7/2 chance. Local Show is thrown in the deep end here on his chase debut and seasonal debut; and Blameitonmyroots could find things happening a bit too quick for him in this.

I really cannot understand why WHATS LEFT is 20/1 with some bookies (BetVictor, Stan James and Coral) and at 5th odds a place 1,2,3 he has to be worth an eachway wager.  The betting market for this race looks very odd and I'd have Wuff the race-fav at 4/1 with Delgany Demon at 5/1.  I can see Local Show and Blameitonmyroots drifting in the betting; and I'd have Whats Left as the 3rd fav at about 7/1 based on his win at Exeter on 8th October over 3-mile.

Newbury 12:40pm WHATS LEFT; £5 eachway @ 20/1 (BetVictor, Stan James and Coral; 5th odds a place 1,2,3)

Sunday 13 December 2015

Beaten by the weather

Not the best of Saturday's for me, with both selections being beaten - unfortunately both races were won by another horse off my alert list and that I'd overlooked.  In both cases, I overlooked the winning horses because of the ground.

At Doncaster, the going description was changed at 11am on Saturday morning (well after I had posted my blog online) after persistent and sustained rain had got into the ground making it very soft. As the overnight forecast suggested good-to-soft ground this meant the 3-mile chase in which my selection Straidnahanna was running in would be very testing and stamina sapping. As the weather made the ground softer, the advantage swung towards another from my alert list, Sego Success who last won when he raced in similar conditions at Warwick over an extended 3-mile in January. As I wrote in yesterdays blog, Sego Success was always going to enjoy ground softer than the forecast, and he relished the mud yesterday, and never looked like being beaten. He skipped away from his only realistic challenger on the run-in to win with plenty in hand. Sego Success looks the sort to do well in the Welsh National run at Chepstow on 27th December especially if the ground is soft, as it likely will be. The only worry I'd have is that race is on 15-days after this winning effort, and it may come a little too soon for him.

As for Straidnahanna, he is unlikely to be re-rated for this run and should remain on his OR131 mark, which - in my opinion - is very lenient. I reckon he's a 140+ horse, maybe 145+ at his peak which we wont see until 2017; so this is one that we will return to another day.  What we've learned is that he's not happy on very soft ground, nor does he like to work hard to get to the front.

At Cheltenham, the withdrawal of Irish Cavalier robbed me of what may have been a profitable wager, but nothing could have beaten the eventual winner Village Vic. As I wrote in the blog, the hints were there with jockey Richard Johnson almost certainly starving himself to make the 10st weight. Before this ride, he'd not ridden under 10st 5lb in the previous 14-days, and most of his rides have been over 10st 12lb - so to make 10st he really had to waste. Village Vic went onto my alert list after winning at Wetherby on 14th October; in fact the 1st-3 in that race went onto my alert list - and Village Vic has now won 4 of his last 5 completed chase races (he pulled-up last April when running over 2-miles at Haydock - no obvious reason why). He is clearly improving or, rather, fulfilling his potential as he ran in the 2012 Champion "Bumper" (won by Champagne Fever) at the  Cheltenham Festival and was highly tried as a hurdler. What I cannot understand is that he's previously struggled on soft (or worse) ground, and Cheltenham was certainly soft ground.  It could be that he had so much in-hand at the weights in the handicap, that was enough to overcome any disadvantage caused by the soft ground. If that's the case then when he races on better ground he could still be well handicapped, even after his re-rating.  Given his recent record, I took a look at the horse that was the last to beat him in a race, and that was Owen Na View who beat him by 11-lengths. He also ran yesterday at Cheltenham, but in the 2-mile handicap chase were he came in 5th at 66/1. He's been up to OR135 (from OR118 when he beat Village Vic) and is now on a rating of OR123 - but he's raced 14 times since they met in March! I'm not quite sure what trainer Fergal O'Brien is up to with this horse, but I reckon a race over an extended 2-miles on "good" ground should see him back in the winners enclosure if running off OR123.

As for my selection in the race Johns Spirit, I thought he'd been given an easy time when beaten when running in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, but it seems my impression was incorrect and he's running about 15lbs below his usual level of last season, and about 25lbs below his very best. It could be that trainer Jonjo O'Neill is giving the horse an easy time of is at home, in the hope of getting the horse down the handicap with the intention of a last hurrah at the Cheltenham Festival next March.

I've rated this race through Buywise in 4th who ran his usual race arriving too late on the scene to win, but he is very consistent. On the basis that he ran to 150, I have rated Village Vic at 143 but he has the potential to reach 150 if he stays injury free for the remainder of the season. Champagne West must go onto the alert list as he ran a cracker off such a long break and over a trip possibly half a mile too short for him. This 7yo should have a very productive 18-months ahead of him. As for Buywise, he needs 2m6f+ if he's going to see the winners enclosure.

Saturday 12 December 2015

An old-timer to take the spoils

Saturday brings us another busy weekend with meetings at Cheltenham, Doncaster and Lingfield.
Yesterday at Cheltenham, the ground softened up a lot more than I anticipated and looked more heavy in places than the reported good-to-soft in places. As such, there were a number of non-runners and my only selection The Romford Pele, was given the run when he probably should have also been withdrawn on ground conditions.  He never looked happy on the ground, and was struggling on the 2nd-circuit when falling. He will be a better horse on proper good-to-soft ground or better. You could tell how deep the ground was as confirmed mudlark Aachen ran his rivals ragged over this stiff course and had them all struggling with half-a-mile to run, before running-out an easy winner.

Onto Saturday and, first, Doncaster where there is an interesting Class 3 chase over 2m3f at 12:20pm This is the one aspect of the jump racing season I don't like, and that is the early start times! You don't get a great deal of time to assess formlines as it is, and then make your selections in a written blog and issue online. There are 2 alert list runners in this race (Javert and Shimla Dawn) and over this trip I'm most taken with Shimla Dawn, who didn't seem to stay the 3-mile trip LTO.

However, the best race at this track is the Class 2, 3-mile handicap chase at 1:30pm. With the ground forecast at good-to-soft, there should be no hard-luck stories. From the alert list we have Indian Castle, Sego Success, and Straidnahanna in the race. Without a doubt, Indian Castle will strip fitter in this than LTO 3-weeks ago, and the ground and trip will be just about perfect for him. Not so Sego Success who will prefer ground a little softer and possibly a longer trip than this 3-mile. When he last ran, I thought Straidnahanna was looking the winner until he fell 3-out at Haydock. I think he'd have won easily that day had he not fallen, yet plenty think the eventual winner Vieux Lion Rouge ran a cracker (he was sent off the fav yesterday off a 7lb higher rating).  Therefore, Straidnahanna should be running-off a much higher rating than OR131, and he will take all the beating in my opinion.  Currently 4/1 with Paddy Power and William Hill, those odds look generous.

Cheltenham holds a cracking meeting yet again.  The Class 2 handicap chase over 2-mile at 1:15pm looks extremely competitive, yet last years winner (Sew On Target) was the longest-odds winner at 13/2 in the past 10 years. Given its competitive nature, I'm moving-on to the next on the card, the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, a Class 1, Grade 3 handicap chase over nearly 2m5f at 1:50pm.  There are a hatful of alert list runners in this, and I'm hoping one will turn out to be the winner. I've been waiting for an opportunity to wager again on Turn Over Sivola but, I fear, this race is not it as I cannot see him staying the trip. No such thoughts about Sound Investment who went close to winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup 4-weeks ago. Unfortunately, having top-weight did for him that day and it will likely prevent him winning again, although the soft ground is in his favour.
Before 2-out in that race, Irish Cavalier looked like running away with it, but faltered and didn't run-on. Even so, I rated it a career-best effort on my ratings and the Curtis stable have blamed the poor run of stable-form (exemplified by this run) to a bad batch of hay. He runs off the same rating and he could have gone close as he's better-off with all those who beat him that day - but I've learned that he's a non-runner. I'm expecting Annacotty to run another good race, but I cannot see him finding much improvement; and Buywise is a horse who needs luck in running and another furlong or two. Even so, he will likely be finishing the fastest of all. Little Jon will love the ground, but I think he will struggle to find more improvement as his development appears to have plateaued. This trip could be too short for Champagne West, who also has to cope with a break of 315-days since his last run. Another from my alert list is Village Vic who will run with just 10st on his back (I expect Richard Johnson will not have eaten since Tuesday), but the soft ground isn't something he will relish. The final horse on my alert list in the race is Johns Spirit, who has dropped to OR155.  I thought he was going well in the Paddy Power as, when his jockey knew he wouldn't win, he was eased over the final two fences. Don't forget, he was only just beaten a head in the Paddy Power in 2014 on soft ground off a rating of OR156 (after which he was raised to OR160), and his form when there is plenty of give in the ground cannot be faulted. He seems to have been around for ages but is only an 8yo. Perhaps the main issue with Johns Spirit is that his regular jockey isn't riding  It would be no surprise to see the same 4 or 5 horses that were contesting the lead at the 2nd-last in the Paddy Power, be occupying the same positions in this race.  However, I cannot ignore the chance of Johns Spirit who looks a juicy 16/1. It is likely that luck in running will play its part in this race, so being up with the pace will be of benefit.

Doncaster 1:30pm STRAIDNAHANNA, £10 win at 4/1 (Paddy Power and William Hill)
Cheltenham 1:50pm JOHNS SPIRIT, £5 eachway @ 16/1 (available generally, and some go quarter-odds 1,2,3,4 even with the non-runner)

Friday 11 December 2015

Tostao, Revilino, Pele

The weekend brings the return of top-class horseracing with a strong meeting at Cheltenham as well as supporting meetings at Bangor and Doncaster. There are a fair few runners from the alert list entered.

The Cheltenham meeting opens with a good novice chase over 3m1f which has been won on 4 of the the past 7 runnings by a horse from Paul Nicholls stable. He sends Vicente and that horse wont have an easy task giving weight away in this race.

I have been looking forward to the 3m2f Grade 3 handicap chase at 1:45pm all week and tho' it has cut-up somewhat, it still has a high quality field. The early fav is Sausalito Sunrise who won a competitive Grade 3 race here 4-weeks ago off OR148 and has been raised 6lb by the handicapper for that win. He may find life tough, as The Romford Pele (from my alert list) is weighted to reverse placings on that run with a 7lb pull for the 6-length deficit. He was staying-on strong off an easy ride and could find a lot of improvement on that run, and it is interesting that Paul Townend has been booked for the ride. Another from my alert list is Knock House who won for us at that meeting when ridden by Nina Carberry. He looks well-handicapped even after his re-rating to OR145 and I can see him topping 155 this season - but this trip will stretch him in my opinion and with plenty of strong stayers there will be no hiding place.  He was coaxed to victory LTO under an exemplary ride over a 3m1f trip that may well have been his limit. I must admit, I wasn't impressed by the win of Vieux Lion Rouge LTO and his 7lb hike to OR146 will find him out, I fear. The Druids Nephew's OR156 rating looks very tough, as do the current ratings of Wonderful Charm and Forgotten Gold. At the odds, the 12/1 about THE ROMFORD PELE looks decent value as I'd have him at 7/1 based on the form of his latest run. Yes trainer Rebecca Curtis has only had 2 winners since the beginning of November from 30 runners, but THE ROMFORD PELE matched the best of his novice form LTO and he wasn't even being pushed for most of the race. We should see another top performance from Sausalito Sunrise, but he will likely need to improve over 7lb on his LTO performance to maintain the advantage over THE ROMFORD PELE.

LATE NEWS: Sausalito Sunrise and Forgotten Gold are non-runners, and that makes the 12/1 with BetVictor about THE ROMFORD PELE very generous; he's 10/1 generally which is still generous.

At Bangor there is nothing really suitable, and I'm never happy placing wagers when there is heavy ground.  However, the 3-mile Class 3 handicap chase at 1:30pm has only 5-runners and I'd be happy to oppose the fav Hi Vic as he was beaten over 3m2f on his preferred soft ground last March when race fit.  As such, the form of his LTO win at Uttoxeter when he beat 4 rivals a long way may be dubious.  However, Kerry Lee seems to have found the key to Russe Blanc who was unfortunate to bump into a well handicapped rival LTO. The fly in the ointment is the Venetia Williams' runner Take The Mick who could improve a lot for his seasonal debut LTO as he did last season. The odds in this race are a bit too tight to play.

There is also nothing much to play at Doncaster.  The 3m2f Class 3 handicap chase at 1:55pm is on my radar, but I'm not convinced that the credentials of most of the market leaders are worthy.  This is a race that could well go to a long-odds outsider. Of the trainers, only James Ewart has any sort of record with his chasers at the course with 8 wins from 35 chase runners in the past 5 seasons, but his recent form is poor. Of the younger horses, I'm attracted to the 7yo Ballyben who won over 3m2f at Kelso in May, and who was (understandably, in hindsight) well beaten LTO when returning to that track over the same trip. He's been dropped 2lb to OR118 and could take some beating.

It is unfortunate that the novice chase at Doncaster is reduced to just 3-runners as I was very impressed with Katgary LTO and he could be worth a small wager to beat the chasing debutant Volnay De Thaix.  The latter was a top hurdler but he wouldn't be the first to fail to transfer hurdling ability to chasing - nothing is guaranteed. I'm expecting both his rivals, who have proven ability to jump a fence, to put his jumping to test this afternoon by setting a strong pace.

Cheltenham 1:45pm THE ROMFORD PELE, £5 eachway AND £5 win @ 12/1 (BetVictor, fifth-odds a place 1,2,3)
Total Staked = £15
Those on the email list were advised to take the 16/1 with Ladbrokes on Thursday evening which is now subject to a 20p in the £ Rule 4 reduction on winnings; making equivalent odds 12.8/1

Wednesday 9 December 2015

No need to risk losses in lower class races

I'm still smarting from the "wins" being snatched away from me on Saturday afternoon.  I'd like to have found swift recompense elsewhere, but the racing this week has been on the ordinary side, and the Leicester meeting today does not offer any Class 3 (or better) chase races.

There are a couple from my alert list running: Cloudy Bob in the 2:35pm, and Chicoria in the 1:35pm.  I'm not sure about Cloudy Bob as his season started well with a 3rd on unsuitable ground, and then he ran as well as could be expected on his next run (despite it being unsuitable ground again) but, LTO, when he had everything in his favour, he ran poorly making mistakes when jumping his fences. It puts me in a quandary as he's been dropped another couple of pounds to OR117 which - on the best of his form of last season - makes him very well handicapped.  When he last won in November 2014, he ran off OR121 and I rated the performance at 129 and the handicapper raised his to OR128.  Then, when he ran 2nd at Kempton in February this year off OR122, I rated that performance at 125. So, he's clearly well-in running off OR117 if he's fit enough. It is also interesting that he's dropped to Class 4 today, as most of his chase runs have been in Class 2 and Class 3.  I've made a "policy" decision to not advise wagers in races lower than Class 3 and I'm sticking to that today - but there's no doubt that Cloudy Bob ticks a lot of boxes today.

Chicoria is a novice chaser who won his chasing debut 3-weeks ago.  That was his first run since April, and the worry for me is that he won his seasonal debut last season, but then his form tailed-off. He should run well today and if he progresses as expected then he will likely be a 140+ chaser at his peak sometime in season 2016-17.

The horseracing for Thursday is not much better than today, and it is unlikely that I will be recommending my next wager until Friday when racing returns top Cheltenham for a 2-day meeting.  I'm not happy scrabbling around for a reason to have a wager as, with lower class racing, the results become more unpredictable and risky.  I learnt my lesson yesterday when I placed a "private" wager on  Zero Visibility in the 1:10pm Class 5 handicap Chase at Fontwell.  I thought the horse held an outstanding chase and should have been odds-on in what was a very weak 5-runner race; and I was really happy when I took 3.10 (approximately 2/1) on the exchanges. Sure enough, Zero Visibility travelled well through the race, and was well clear coming to the final fence with the 2nd-fav having already pulled-up - then he hit the final fence and fell!  

As such, I'm content to be patient and wait for the right opportunities to come along, and the weekend should provide them.  Looking ahead, we are nearing the period in the racing calender when we should all start taking an interest, if we are considering the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, in horseracing results.  The period from Christmas Day to Valentines Day is when 98% of all Festival winners have (historically) had their final race prior to winning at the Cheltenham Festival. From Boxing Day onwards, pay full attention to the horses who are likely to be contending races at the Festival - and the period includes horses racing in Ireland.

With the racing tomorrow looking unlikely to provide a wagering opportunity, I may forego issuing a blog on Thursday and concentrate instead on looking at the handicaps on Saturday and attempt to put together a shortlist for those who are on the email list (to go on the email list requires a donation of £10 per month).  So far this season, I've done this twice - and my 3-horse shortlists have provided the winners of the Paddy Power Gold Cup (Annacotty) and the Hennessy Gold Cup (Smad Place).

Sunday 6 December 2015

Special Tiara denied a win

Not the best of days yesterday, though (with a bit of luck) it could have been a great day.

As I expected, there was a lot of support for ALGERNON PAZHAM in the Becher Chase at Aintree, and he went off the 7/1 fav. From the off, his rider Ryan  Hatch (who has a 3lb claim) did not look comfortable. It may be that his saddle was loose, as he looked to be struggling to keep his balance. We will have to wait for next time to recover losses.

Next up was TOP WOOD, who started the 7/2 joint-fav. He ran a cracker, but possibly too much use was made of him in trying to keep-up with the pacemaker Rigadin De Beauchene whose rider was clearly trying to run-away with the race. When TOP WOOD took up the running 4-out and went well clear, I thought we had out first winner of the day in the bag - but he looked to be tiring as he came to the final fence (which he jumped slowly) and had nothing left to hold off the staying-on Tour Des Champs.  This was a great effort, but I fear it may have taken a lot out of the horse.

Then we had perhaps the biggest disappointment of the day when SPECIAL TIARA was denied a win in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.  Those on the email list had taken 5/1 about the horse on Friday afternoon (that's when I sent out the draft blog) and by the off his odds were reduced to 3/1. He was rekindling his challenge on the run-up to the final fence and - based on the ground he made-up on the run-in - we have to feel denied a win as he was severely impeded by the winner who knocked him sideways at the final fence. Sure, it was an unintentional error and no fault of his rider, but I think SPECIAL TIARA would have pulled clear had that not happened, and won by a length at least.  The winner Sire De Grugy is back to his best but, as I've never rated him better than 164 as a 2-mile chaser, I can't see him winning the QM Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next March.

Our final selection was FAGO back at Aintree.  He was brought quietly into the race and I thought with 3 to jump he may stay on to secure 3rd place as the front-pair had gone clear, and though he did pass Top Cat Henry (who faded quickly after the final fence) he was passed himself by the eventual 3rd, Distime, on the run-in.

There was another brave display from one of my favorite horses FOXCUB who was a gallent 2nd at Sandown at 12/1, and MANY CLOUDS ran a great race at Aintree when 2nd to Don Poli.

Onto today, and no advised wagers.

Saturday 5 December 2015

The road to the Grand National starts here with the Becher Chase

What a Saturday - super busy day of horseracing.
We have 4 meetings at Aintree, Chepstow, Sandown amd Wetherby and, on such a days as this, we have plenty of targets to choose from and no need to chance our arm on speculative wagers.  There are lots of runners from the alert list entered, so I'm not able to look at them all individually, and I'll only mention those in with a chance to preserve the list's integrity. I'm concentrating on the main meetings of Aintree and Sandown as there is nothing suitable at Wetherby, although there is a decent race worth looking at, at Chepstow.

First, yesterday's selection Umberto D'Olivate, was disappointing. I thought with the market strength we were going to get a strong run, but that did not materialise. However, readers of the blog should have been on the 8/1 winner Woodford County. He had already been a selection for the blog on his seasonal debut, but had travelled to Sedgefield (from Minehead in Somerset) for that run - and the journey was too long. The short trip to Exeter was much better for him, and it showed.

Aintree is my home town meeting (I was brought-up in Maghull just a few miles up the road from the course) and the feature race is the 3m2f Class 1 "Becher" handicap chase over the National fences. These fences are not as daunting as they used to be, and it is mainly the fierce pace at which these races are run-at which causes the most problems. Basically, if horses can get past the 3rd or 4th fence unscathed and with the pace, it will have a chance. I have 4 runners from the alert list in the race: Dolatulo, No Planning, Cowards Close, and Algernon Pazham and (by far) the one I'm most interested in is Algernon Pazham. Of the others; No Planning will likely find this trip too far; Cowards Close has been sold-out of Paul Nicholls stable (which would not have happened if he thought he could win with the horse), and Dolatulo did not run as tho' he liked these fences in the Grand National last April. The current fav is Goonyella, but he's not well handicapped, nor did he run well when in this race last year (behind when unseating). He's 13lb higher now on OR149, thanks to his good form in the Spring, and he doesn't inspire me. Thunder And Roses won the Irish Grand Nartional last April, but he loves Fairyhouse and his jumping isn't fluent enough to suggest he will do well here. He has to show he handles this course. We know Saint Are enjoys Aintree, as he was 3rd in this last year - but that was off OR127 and he runs off OR148 in this. I am really taken by Algernon Pazham and, with Ryan Hatch taking off 3lb with his claim, he could run these ragged. The 8/1 generally available, looks decent value.

Later in the afternoon, at 3:20pm, we have the 2m5f Grand Sefton handicap Chase over the National fences, and one that grabs me is from my alert list: Fago. He's had a couple of runs this season, and comes here race fit. His last run was over an inadequate trip of 2-mile, but this is more to his liking as he was going well in the Topham Chase (over the same trip, National fences) in April 2014 before falling at the 15th of 18 fences. He runs off a rating 1lb less than then, and this race looks made for him. Paul Nicholls loves having a winner at Aintree, and current odds of 12/1 look excellent as stablemate Rocky Creek will want another half mile, and Double Ross is one-paced off his current rating. Bennys Mist was 2nd in that April 2014 Topham Chase, but appears to have lost his love of the game this season. While Poole Master won this race last year, that was his 4th run of the season and his recent form isn't as good.

At Sandown, at 3:00pm, we have the 2-mile Tingle Creek Chase and (disappointingly) this looks one of the weakest renewals I can recall. I am not convinced that Vibrato Valtat is a grade 1 2-mile chaser, and the form of Simonsig's comeback race was dealt a blow last week. As such, the stand-out form line in the race is that of Special Tiara who won twice last season improving with every run, and who has had a "pipe-opener" already. Both last seasons wins were when going right-handed, and included a win at Sandown in April. With no worries over the ground or the track, and having top-class form, I advised those on the email list to take the odds of 5/1 last night and now they look very generous about the highest rated horse (on OR168) in the race, who is 7/2 at best this morning.

At Chepstow the Welsh National Trial handicap chase at 2:30pm over 3-mile looks weak, as 5 of the 9 runners are aged 9yo or older, and are well exposed.  The heavy ground here will be a major problem, and I'm expecting this race to be won by one of the unexposed horses in the race, with my choice being the 8yo Top Wood who ran fairly consistently in his novice season. I think he will develop into a 140+ chaser this season (hence, he is on my alert list) and he should relish these testing conditions. Top-weight Benvolio does not seem to have recovered from his run when 2nd in the Welsh National last December. Theatrical Star is on a recovery mission after two poor runs in November. Victors Serenade can win off OR134, but he's pulled-up in 5 of his last 10 starts, winning 3 of the remainder, so it seems everything has to go right for him. As it is with Firebird Flyer, who is inconsistent but very useful on his day - a repeat of the form of his Ludlow in January would see him go close in this.  Rebeccas Choice is too old at 12yo; Rigadin De Beauchene has gone at the game and who knows why he is the 4/1 fav.  Who knows how Tour Des Champs will fare on his first run in 634 days. For me, the 9/2 about Top Wood is very generous.

This is a really busy day and I'm fairly confident about all my selections.  With races over the National fences, there is always a possibility that events may take a hand (being brought down by another faller, loose horses, etc) so I will adjust my stakes accordingly.

Aintree 1:40pm ALGERNON PAZHAM, £5 eachway @ 8/1 (available generally)
Aintree 3:20pm FAGO, £3 eachway @ 12/1 (available generally)
Sandown 3:00pm SPECIAL TIARA, £5 win @ 5/1 (available generally at 5pm on Friday and advised to those on the email list)
Chepstow 2:30pm TOP WOOD, £4 eachway @ 9/2 (available generally)

in 3 x £1.50 eachway doubles AND a £1 eachway treble (£11 staked)

Total staked = £40

Friday 4 December 2015

The Betting Bank has doubled

It has been a quiet week for the blog as there have been no realistic opportunities for a wager. However, we could have a busy weekend, starting today.

Before that though, last weekend we topped £500 profit for the blog selections which is more than "double" what my original bank was.  As such, I will be increasing the stakes of wagers which will (I hope) accelerate the future gains. The stakes advised on the blog are for guidance only and are a way of measuring success.  I am aware that some of you out there are staking a much more than the advised stakes (and some of you stake less) and are reaping the rewards!

Friday brings us meetings at Exeter, Sandown and Sedgefield. While there is nothing suitable at Sedgefield, there are some potential opportunities elsewhere.  At Sandown, there is a Class 4 novices handicap hurdle at 3:40pm over 2-mile which includes an entry for the interesting Proofreader. I don't usually drop to Class 4 when looking for a wager, but this looks a unique opportunity as Proofreader (who is on my alert list following his LTO win) is a half-brother to the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup winner African Story. That alone does not make his a wagering opportunity, but he is fairly talented for a hurdler having a "flat" rating of OR91 and, last-time-out, he showed some of that inherent ability when winning his 1st hurdle race in a fast time in emphatic fashion. Unfortunately, the best odds available are 11/8, and so I cannot make Proofreader an advised wager.

Before that race, we have the Class 3 handicap chase for amateur riders over 3-mile and this race includes Umberto D'Olivate, who was last seen running 3rd behind Saroque at Exeter and added to my alert list as a consequence. The form of that Exeter race has been upheld, and I'm confident that Umberto D'Olivate can run well today.  The question is whether he can concede 21lb to the 6yo Conas Taoi who has won 5 chase races since 21st June and who has been raised 10lb for his most recent win. I think he can, as he ran well off OR132 this time last year, and his rider Joshua Newman has a 5lb claim implying that he is effectively running off OR122 today. Last years winner Firm Order has slipped 8lb to OR119, but he needs a major form revival given his recent efforts. The 2nd-fav Silvergrove usually needs his seasonal debut to get race-fit, and he may struggle today. Current odds of 5/1 suggest we can take a chance with Umberto D'Olivate as I cannot see him finishing any worse than 2nd, and he would be 5/2 in my book to win.

On 29th October, we had a wager on Woodford County and he ran a stinker.  He's out again today at Exeter in the 3m6f handicap chase at 1:40pm. What is in his favour today is that he stays this marathon trip and is likely to be placed, but he's one-paced. He is well-handicapped though, and that may be enough to see him go close, as the market leaders St Dominick and As De Fer have to prove themselves at this sort of trip. Heronshaw has the potential to stay this trip, but is unproven and this is only his 2nd chase race. As such, I'm more inclined towards Auvergnat who is another unoproven at this trip but the 5yo ran well over 3-mile LTO and this expensive purchase (220,000 Euros) could be finding his way. Overall, this race has the look of being wide open, and nothing gives me confidence for a wager.

I'm placing an eachway wager on UMBERTO D'OLIVATE at 11/2 with Bet Victor (quarter-odds a place 1st or 2nd) as that looks good value to me.

Sandown 3:10pm UMBERTO D'OLIVATE; £5 eachway AND £5 win @ 11/2 with Bet Victor (quarter-odds a place 1st or 2nd)
Total £15 staked

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Another case of ratings inflation?

As is usual after a major race meeting, we have a lull in the quality of horseracing.  It is something I appreciate, as it gives me time to review the results and take stock of the performances.

I employ my own ratings system which isn't based on any particular formula or comparison – it is based upon my own intuition and knowledge gained over the past 5 decades of watching horses race. Generally, I work on the principle that horses show their inherent ability early-on in their career and then either plateau or, if they are particularly talented, improve as their jumping technique and stamina develops.  This is the case with a horse like Wakanda who has already shown himself to be capable of running to 150+ and who will likely test the upper 150’s before the season ends next April.

You have to be confident about your selections when placing wagers on horseracing, and having confidence in your own ability to rate a performance – especially when that rating is contrary to other “experts” – is the key to finding value in my opinion.  For instance, with Smad Place my “before race” assumption was that he would run a performance in-excess of 160; and he did.  However, while I have rated the winning performance at 163, the Official handicapper has re-rated him to OR168 (up 13lb from OR155), Timeform have rated the performance at 165, and RPR (Racing Post Ratings) have rated it at 175.  So then – who is right?

Let’s consider the beaten horses in the Hennessy: this was a poor renewal, and that was evident even before the race started. Watch a replay of the race and, for the final 3 fences, Smad Place had every one of the following group of 6 being ridden – and they were not making any impression.  To arrive at 175, in my opinion RPR has used the 4th placed Fingal Bay (with an OR144 rating) as the benchmark. However, Fingal Bay does not stay this 3m2f trip as a chaser, and he pulled-up in the Hennessy last year after jumping the 3rd-last fence.  I simply cannot use Fingal Bay as the benchmark for the race.  In 3rd came First Lieutenant, who hasn’t won a race since April 2013 and has run 15 times since.  He was found wanting on the run-in when contesting the race in 2012 (when 3rd to Bobs Worth) and has been on the decline since running 2nd to Boston Bob in the April 2014 Punchestown Gold Cup.  I cannot see how First Lieutenant could run any better than his official rating of OR147.  As such, I’ve used the runner-up Theatre Guide as my benchmark for the race.  The horse spent last season on my alert list, so I know him well. He is a horse who is best caught fresh, having won on his seasonal debut (or off a very long break) in Feb’12; Nov’12; and Nov’14 (he’s only won 5 times from 22 starts).  He’d already run this season, when 3rd to Wakanda at Wetherby in October so, while he’d appreciate the longer trip in the Hennessy, I wasn’t expecting a massive improvement in performance, given his history.  Theatre Guide was out with the washing before 3-out and merely plodded-on past tired horses to take 2nd so it is very hard for me to think he ran any better than his OR139 rating.  There is no way he ran a performance comparable with his 2013 effort, when 3rd to Triolo D’Alene, as he had some seriously good stayers behind him in that race. I'm, therefore, fairly confident that in giving Theatre Guide a rating of 135 and using that as the benchmark for the race is near enough without being silly. At a 1lb per length, that puts SMAD PLACE on 163. It also ties in fairly well with some other horses in the race (Bobs Worth and the beaten-fav Saphir Du Rheu).

Saphir Du Rheu appears to have plateaued at about 150 in my book, and connections have decided to continue with hurdling for the remainder of the season (tho' he may go chasing after the Cheltenham Festival). He is only a 6yo, and another season may see him mature into a 160+ chaser. 

I'm having a bit of a think over the blog at the moment as the performance of my selections this autumn has been spectacular.  I want to give the donators a bigger “edge”, and I’m considering options on what I post online “on-the-day” and what I provide to donators; and staking plans which better secure profits when the winners come.  Not only that but, with Christmas on the horizon, it is time for me to start considering putting together the Cheltenham Festival Bulletin for 2016.  There was no bulletin last year (due to time constraints) and, if circumstances dictate, it may be difficult to issue a bulletin next February – but I am hopeful of pulling it together.  The bulletin is a considerable effort on my part, about 60 hours of study and writing, and I don’t want to start something that I may not be able to finish or produce something that isn’t up to the same quality as the blog and previous bulletins.

Monday 30 November 2015

Days don't come much better than this - a Black Saturday for the bookies!

What a day for followers of the blog on Saturday.
Just 3 selections given, and all 3 returned in profit with Top Notch failing by just a "neck" having traded at under 1.30 on the exchanges "in-running", and both WAKANDA and SMAD PLACE winning at odds of 8/1 and 15/2 respectively. On the day, for £35 staked we turned a profit of £138.13.  And from the emails from those who donate (to obtain the blog via email) I know many of you combined the selections in doubles and trebles. For instance, the 3 selections in 3 x £2 eachway doubles, and a £2 eachway treble (total stake of £16) would have returned £219.41 profit.

Some bad news I received yesterday, and that is that VINTAGE STAR who won for us so well a few weeks ago, has died at his home stables.  I'm not sure about the circumstances, apparently the news is in today's Racing Post newspaper.  The horse gave this blog good service and went onto the alert list when he ran well (beaten by his stablemate, Cloudy Too) on his chasing debut. Some of his best performances were in defeat, like when pushing Hey Big Spender close in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle in November 2013, and then being headed 75 yards from the post when 2nd in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock in January 2014. He didn't like racing at Cheltenham, and he didn't have the stamina for a National, but he did us proud.

No selections today.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury

A tremendous day of jump racing lies ahead, with 4 meetings at Newbury, Newcastle, Doncaster and Bangor. We therefore have a lot of opportunity to pick and choose our target races.

Before that, a look back at Friday's selections and unfortunately Maximiser fell when leading 6-out. Given that the fav Activial was easily beaten, had Maximiser completed the race I'm fairly confident that he'd have won this race. Next up was Upepito, and he gave us a great run, jumping the final fence in front before tying-up on the run-in to be 2nd. That was very disappointing. I did have a doubt over the trip beforehand, but thought he had so much in-hand he could counter that. As it happened, it's not stamina he lacks but a will to win.

Onto today's racing, and the ground is "heavy" at Bangor, so I'm passing that meeting over as (with heavy ground) results can sometimes be unpredictable.

Doncaster has an interesting Class 3 novice handicap chase over 2m3f at 1:55pm, and I'm drawn to the 6yo Katachenko who won his seasonal debut on 31st October (which was his 3rd chase race) and he looks a progressive horse. His rating of OR129 looks lenient as he looked like making OR135+ as a hurdler, and he stays this trip.  The ground will also be in his favour, and I will be watching this race with interest.

Newcastle has soft ground, and that may be too testing for many.
The feature race of the meeting is the "Fighting Fifth" Grade 1 hurdle over 2-miles, which has been won by some very good horses.  Last year, Irving won and he returns to try and repeat the victory. He certainly looks a better horse this season than last, but he's not the horse with the highest rating in the race; that is the Irish-trained Wicklow Brave. Personally, I think OR166 for Wicklow Brave is generous, and I have him about 10lb light of that - but he could (potentially) be a 160+ hurdler. I am more inclined to fancy the chance of the 4yo Top Notch sent by Nicky Henderson. Beaten just over a length last week, the 4yo is certain to improve on that run and I reckon he should reverse the places with Irving this time. Note than Henderson does not visit Newcastle often, and he has sent only 4 runners here since May 2011, and 3 have won!  Unless there is an upset, the others look outclassed and odds of 5/1 about TOP NOTCH look great value, and even offer eachway potential - those are the odds that were available when the email was sent out last night.

The next race on the Newcastle card is the "Rehearsal" Chase, a Listed handicap over 2m7f, and we have the eagerly awaited course return of Wakanda, who won for supporters of the blog LTO when we "lumped-on" the night before the race and secured the best value. The handicap is a cracker, and gives me plenty to think about, as I also have alert list horses Cloudy Too, BallykanSaroque, and Final Assault in the race. Personally, I cannot see Saroque winning at this level as his jumping will likely let him down. This will be too tough for the 5yo novice Ballykan.  Cloudy Too could run a big race, especially as the ground is soft but, for me, it is between Wakanda and Final Assault.  The trip of 2m7f will test the stamina of Final Assault and, as I think Wakanda could be capable of reaching OR155+ this season, and he has no stamina doubts, he is the selection. WAKANDA was available at 8/1 last night and those on the email list have taken those odds.

Newbury holds the feature race of the day in the Hennessy Gold Cup handicap chase over 3m2f.
I looked at this race earlier in the week, and sent out my preview of the race to those on the email list. Essentially, my thoughts are that Smad Place should be the favorite as I think he's potentially a 5-7lb better horse than last season. He's the horse I expect to win today, and odds of 15/2 offered by BetVictor and William Hill are tremendous value about a horse I think should be 4/1.
Houblon Des Obeaux won't be far away either, with conditions in his favour and a favourable handicap mark.  It is very difficult to see him not being in the 1st-4 and the 14/1 (available generally) is very fair. If Saphir Du Rheu wins today then he could be capable of winning a Gold Cup, but as I'm expecting a 160+ run from SMAD PLACE, the Saphir Du Rheu will have to run to 168+ to win this, and I'm not sure he's capable of that.  Both Bobs Worth and If In Doubt should be thereabouts, but their odds do not represent value. This years race looks a weak renewal, and the market leaders should come to the fore.

Newcastle 2:05pm TOP NOTCH, £5 eachway @ 5/1 (quarter-odds a place 1,2)
Newcastle 2:40pm WAKANDA, £5 eachway AND £5 win @ 8/1 (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)
Newbury 2:00pm SMAD PLACE, £5 eachway @ 15/2 (BetVictor, William Hill quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4)

Friday 27 November 2015

Newbury "Hennessy" meeting - Day 2

Another profitable return yesterday, when blog selection Belmount ran 3rd at 9/1 having been advised as an eachway selection. Only 6yo, this was encouraging from Belmount and he remains of interest and on the alert list. I was right to avoid the favorite in the race Wuff, as he ran very disappointingly.

There is a cracking day of racing today, with another excellent card at Newbury. With such an array of decent races to choose from, I'm going to pass over the Class 3 hadicap chase over 2m2f for Conditional Jockeys' at 12:55pm.  The next on the card is the 3-mile Class 3 handicap hurdle and while I don't usually have wagers in hurdle races, I do like 3-mile hurdles (as very few horses can stay 3-miles effectively at a decent racing pace) and we have alert list runner in the top-weight Open Hearted who won for readers of the blog LTO, and the form of that race has worked out very well. Also, Open Hearted ruins off a hurdle rating of OR142 which is 3lb lower than his chase rating (OR145) and that may well be lenient, too. With those at the head of the market looking a bit vulnerable: Sykes has been raised 7lb for his LTO win, and Missed Approach not having run since last December - the 12/1 available on Open Hearted (Coral, and Stan James) looks fair eachway value for a horse we know will stay the trip, is race-fit and can win with top-weight.

We have other alert list runner in the Grade 2 novice chase over 2m4f at 2:05pm in Sametegal and Maximiser though, at the weights, I'm only really interested in Maximiser. The race fav is Activial who is having his chase debut in this race, which is a tough ask. There is no substitute for chase form in novice chase races, and you have to see a horse jump a fence in a race before you can place a wager on it, in my opinion. Three Musketeers at 9/2 is the 3rd-fav, and needs to find a fair bit of improvement on his chase debut to win this, which is not impossible but I'd want longer odds than 9/2 to take the chance. However, Maximiser jumped well LTO when 2nd to Silsol (who has won again since) and the odds of 3/1 look fair, and I can see him starting at under 11/4. The race conditions (which see Sametegal conceding 7lb to Maximiser) make life tough for Sametegal.

The Class 2 handicap chase over 2m4f at 2:40pm looks a cracker of a race. From the alert list we have Upepito who runs again off OR128 and has (in my opinion) about 7lb in hand, and the trip and soft ground will be in his favour. Also, he will be ridden by the capable Harry Skelton, brother of the trainer Dan Skelton,  Odds of 4/1 look very fair as he will be receiving weight from the entire field. I am expecting a good run from alert list horse Royal Regatta who was left at the start LTO and did well to run 6th, but the trip will stretch him. Other alert list horses in the race are Upsilon Bleu and Roc D'Apsis.  Back in 2013, Upsilon Bleu was 4th in this race when a 5yo, and he's improved a lot since then and looks interesting off OR147 and the soft ground will suit him. He could run a big race, but this looks a big ask for Roc D'Apsis who is up 10lb for his LTO win. If Niceonefrankie is in the form of last autumn he could take some beating, and the same can be said for Monetair - but both are 9yo and I prefer younger horses in these competitive handicaps.

Newbury 2:05pm MAXIMISER, £5 win @ 3/1 (available generally)
Newbury 2:40pm UPEPITO, £10 win @ 4/1 (available generally)
£5 win double on MAXIMISER and UPEPITO
Total staked = £20

Thursday 26 November 2015

"Hennessey" meeting Day 1

The 3-day Hennessy meeting opens today at Newbury. 

Firstly, there was a development yesterday in the Hennessy Gold Cup to be run on Saturday with the withdrawal of Valseur Lido, which was the more fancied runner of the pair entered by Willie Mullins. That means that if Ruby Walsh rides in the race he will most likely be on Ballycasey, currently priced at 33/1 but unlikely to be those odds if Walsh is in the saddle.  However, it seems more likely that Ruby Walsh will be at Newcastle on Saturday.

At Newbury today, we could see a future star chaser in the opening novice hurdle in MODUS.  Bred to be a “Derby” winner, he’s not particularly quick (hence only 2 wins from 6 starts in NH flat races) but he hacked-up on his hurdling debut on 12th November, and should win his race today at 12:30pm – but, as he’s quoted odds-on at 8/15, he’s a “no-bet” from me.

The novice chases today at 2:10pm and 2:45pm should both watched with interest as they will provide a host of potential decent chasers for the future.  In the Grade 2, novice chase over 2m7f at 2:10pm, the fav is the David Pipe trained Un Temps Pour Tout, who was trained to win the World Hurdle over 3-mile at the Festival last March, but was unplaced. He was beaten on his chase debut 12-days ago and so should be fitter for this today.  However, Pipe’s horses are not winning as many races as they should be and I don’t think this horse is a value wager at 15/8.  I think it is interesting that Paul Nicholls, who has a good record in this race, has sent Port Melon (he also had LTO winners Silsol and Katgary entered) , and I am expecting a big run from this horse and 14/1 looks interesting.

The novice handicap chase over 2m6f at 2:45pm has been won in 2 of the past 3 years by Paul Nicholls, and he sends the top-weight with 11st 8lb, Warriors Tale (current odds 6/1). Although the weights in this handicap go down to 10st 5lb, the last 4 winners have all carried 11st-plus to victory, suggesting the better class horses usually prevail.  African Gold was a tremendous novice hurdler but has suffered through injury for the past 2 seasons. Whereas Nitrogen is a half-brother to triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate, and could develop into anything, such is his potential.  Not an easy race in which to find the winner.

There is one off my alert list running at Newbury today, and that’s BELMOUNT in the Class 3 handicap chase over 3-mile for amateur riders at 1:00pm. He’s a big horse who has won on heavy ground and tho’ he struggled LTO at Exeter (started the fav but pulled-up 4-out) that race was run at a fairly strong pace on testing, soft ground.  His amateur jockey rode the runner-up in a similar race at Cheltenham recently (readers of the blog were on the winner, Knock House ridden by Nina Carberry) and retains his 7lb claim.  Currently 9/1 this looks a weak race, and BELMOUNT should be 5/1 for this based on his two completed chase races.  He possibly won’t beat the 2/1 fav Wuff, but Baby Shine usually needs a race under his bealt and this is his seasonal debut, and he may have more to fear from Russe Blanc who was also in the Exeter race but was well beaten in 6th.  But, it looks unlikely that he will finish out of the 1st-3 (in my opinion) and he could well sneak a win.


Newbury 1:0pm BELMOUNT, £5 eachway @ 9/1 (BetVictor, 5th odds a place 1,2,3 – other bookies go 8/1)

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Sing when you are winning!

No wagering opportunities for me today, as I stay away from class 4 (and lower) race and maintain my focus on alert list runners and the races they contest.
However, on the horizon we have a feast of alert list horses entered for the weekend’s racing – and the weekend starts on Thursday!

Before that though - this week the Wayward Lad blog posted its 800th Blog Page! 
This is no fly-by-night horseracing blog post.  I've been posting horseracing blogs since March 2010, and I aim to continue posting blogs for another 5-years and more. 
What is more, for every jump season this blog has been in profit for advised wagers. Sing your own praises, and sing when you're winning!

The “Hennessy” meeting at Newbury opens on Thursday with some good –looking races that could offer wagering opportunities.  There are two novice chases – one a Grade 2 over 2m7f which has been won by some decent horses in the past; and the other a Class 3 handicap over 2m6½f which has (possibly) and even better roll-call – and I will be studying the form of the entrants for these races closely, as well as making note of the performances on the day.
There is also the “Gerry Feilden” hurdle, a “Listed” handicap race over an extended 2-mile which looks like being contested by a few of last season’s best juvenile hurdlers.  There is also a supporting meeting at Taunton and, with these busy weekends, I like to ponder the multiple entries of the trainers. For instance, Nicky Henderson has only one horse entered at Taunton where he has a 23% strike rate (7 wins from 31 runners since 1st May 2011) and that is William Henry in the novice hurdle; but he has 11 entered at Newbury on the same day, including an entry for William Henry in the opening day’s novice hurdle.

Friday brings us meetings at Doncaster and Musselburgh but, looking at the cards and entries, we may be lucky to find any wagering opportunities there.  However, Newbury brings us another top card which includes the novice chase in which eventual Gold Cup winner Coneygree was introduced to chasing (he’d already refused to race at Plumpton earlier in the season).  This card has one of my favourite races of the season in the Class 2, 2m4f handicap chase at 2:40pm. I looked at my blog for this day last season and, of the 4 races I reviewed, I found 3 winners but the only loser was the horse I advised as a definite wager!  Let’s hope that I’m more focused this week.

Saturday looks a tremendous day of jump racing. I have already looked at the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and sent out a provisional advice to those on the email list.  The “Hennessy” is followed by a Class 2 handicap chase over an extended 2-mile, and one of the entries is Turn Over Sivola who was withdrawn on Saturday morning last weekend from a planned race at Ascot.  There is a great meeting at Newcastle which would be good enough to be the feature meeting of any other Saturday as there is the Grade 1 “Fighting fifth” hurdle over and extended 2-mile, followed by the Class 1, “Rehearsal” Chase over 3-mile which sees the return of Wakanda to the track (he won for us last month) as well as Final Assault and Saroque. The race also holds an entry for Cloudy Too and, to be fair, this race is possibly an better target than the “Hennessy” at Newbury for him.

All-in –all, we have plenty of top class racing to look forward to over the next few days, and we should have a host of betting opportunities – so I am not too worried that we’ve not had an wager since last Saturday.  The way to profitable betting is to pick and choose your targets.

I sent out a preview of the Hennessy Gold Cup by email to those on the email list yesterday, with a shortlist of 3 antepost advices.   For the Paddy Power Gold Cup 2-weeks ago, I gave those on the email list the names of 3-horses to take antepost odds on 2-days before the race itself, and that shortlist of 3 included the winner Annacotty.

If you want to be included on the email list - and receive the blog by email about an hour before it goes online, or the day before when I think the selection is exceptional value and holds and exceptional chance (we've hit that goal twice with Wakanda and Vintage Star), then the terms are a £10 donation per month to be included on the email list. The donation button (payment via Paypal) is on the right of this message.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Rain makes horseracing heavy going

This week, which leads up to the "Hennessy" meeting at Newbury, is fairly quiet, with most races at the lower end of the racing scale.
I find that, rather than "trying" to find a wager, it is better to hang on and wait and be patient for the better quality racing which will come in a few days time.
That said, I always peruse the day's racing to see if there are any "ricks" in the betting, or to follow-up on any alert list horses that are declared to run.
We have an alert list runner today at Lingfield in the Class 3 2m7f handicap chase at 3:00pm. There has been an enormous amount of rain over Sussex in the past 24-hours and, understandably, the ground is "heavy". When it is heavy at Lingfield, the ground is almost bottomless and, as I write this, I'm getting less and less likely to advise a wager today. The alert list runner is UMBERTO D'OLIVATE who went onto the list after running 3rd to Saroque at Exeter 3-weeks ago.

I've just learned (9:25am) that Umberto D'Olivate is a non-runner.

Given the state of the ground today I have decided that it is probably best to give the day's racing a miss. It will come down to which horse moves through the mud best and has the best attitude to racing in what will be atrocious conditions - and the winner will likely have little to do with known formlines.

Tomorrow, there are meetings at Fontwell and Wetherby and, while there are no suitable races at Fontwell, we may have an opportunity at Wetherby in the 2-mile Class 3 handicap chase at 2:25pm. The advance going is soft, so it will all depend on how much rain falls today, and how many horses remain entered in the morning. At this stage there are a couple of alert list runners in the race.

Thursday brings the opening day of the "Hennessy" meeting at Newbury, and there are several suitable races that day, so I'm happy to wait and be patient.  In the meantime, I will look ahead a the form for the big race itself - the Hennessy Gold Cup (handicap) Chase - on Saturday and try and find a value wager in the race.

It's likely that any antepost value in the Hennessy Gold Cup will be advised by email to those on the email list on either Thursday or Friday.  For the Paddy Power Gold Cup 2-weeks ago, I gave those on the email list the names of 3-horses to take antepost odds on 2-days before the race itself, and that shortlist of 3 included the winner Annacotty.

If you want to be included on the email list - and receive the blog by email about an hour before it goes online, or the day before when I think the selection is exceptional value and holds and exceptional chance (we've hit that goal twice with Wakanda and Vintage Star), then the terms are a £10 donation per month to be included on the email list. The donation button (payment via Paypal) is on the right of this message.

Sunday 22 November 2015

The fences are there to be jumped - the 800th blog page!

We should be celebrating a great weekend of winners today, but our run of bad luck has continued. After Friday's selection LOOSE CHIPS threw-away a 2-length lead just 75-yards from the finish, yesterday STRAIDNAHANNA came into the 3rd-last fence holding a definite advantage over his stablemate No Planning, with most of the field merely plodding on - but ran straight into that fence giving himself no chance of clearing it.

When you look at how the rest of the race panned-out - with No Planning one-paced and not staying-on; and Sun Cloud (who has won at 3m6f) doing his best work in the final half-mile to take 2nd place - the only rival Straidnahanna would have had to worry about was the eventual winner Vieux Lion Rouge.  Whether he would have been able to close-down the lead is debatable and, in my opinion, I don't think he's have done it. Had Straidnahanna not tried to take the 3rd-last fence out of the ground by its roots, I reckon he'd have won the race by over 10-lengths - he was clearly the best handicapped horse in the race.

My other selection in the race Indian Castle, ran well for a long way and only started to look in trouble after jumping the 4th-last fence when it became clear that his tank was empty and he was running on fumes. He did well to keep going and take 4th place, and I was impressed with his jumping and the way he maintained his position throughout the race - he will come on a lot for this seasonal debut.

Our Ascot selection Turn Over Sivola was a non-runner, with trainer Alan King withdrawing the horse at about 10am. Watching the race, I wasn't overly impressed with the winner, and reckon with a better round of jumping the runner-up Dunraven Storm would have won easily - which makes me reckon that had Turn Over Sivola run he would have won this fairly easily. Why he was withdrawn, I don't know and, perhaps, Alan King will state the reason in Wednesday;s Weekender.

At Haydock, the Betfair Chase was won by Cue Card, who has returned to the form of 2013.  It was a brilliant win, made even more impressive by the fact he had Silviniaco Conti on the ropes at the 3rd-last fence and jumped the final two fences for fun. In this sort of form he would push Coneygree in the Gold Cup, if he stays the extra couple of furlongs. He certainly has an excellent chance in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, as that race looks made for him.

No selections for Sunday.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Fortune favours the bold

Who could have predicted what happened yesterday with LOOSE CHIPS? Always thereabouts, jumped the last fence in front and opened-up a "winning" lead - and then he pulled himself up!  That was a winner in all but name - we were desparately unlucky there; and the odds were good too.  It shows just what good value he was last week at Cheltenham in the Cross-Country chase (in which he fell early-on) when we were on him at 16/1.

Let's move on, and a top day of racing lies ahead of us, even is some of the races are not well supported by the trainers!  Haydock holds the day's feature race, but it that is very likely to go to the outright fav Siliviniaco Conti, and there is no value in that race - unless you want to take a chance on one of the others and hope the fav does not complete the race.

The Haydock meeting also holds one of the key handicap races of the season when considering the staying-chases, that is the Grade 3 "Fixed Brush" handicap hurdle over 2m7f. This is not a proper hurdle as the "fixed brush" type are larger obstacles which creates more of a "jumping" than hurdling action is required to take them. There is a horse in this race which has been off the track for 336-days and hasn't won a race since December 2012; BOLD SIR BRIAN has been on my alert list since November 2011 and he's only been prevented from becoming a top-class chaser by injury. At his peak he was a 160+ performer, so off OR130 in this he could be given a great opportunity, if he's fit to do himself justice and retains 85% of his ability.  He is only 9yo and the trip and ground will suit him - he's 33/1 but a paddock inspection is required.

The Class 2 handicap chase over 3-mile at 3:35pm looks very much more interesting, and there are 4 alert list runners in the race - all of whom look likely winners on paper!  No Planning has been a grand servant for the alert list, but I've always thought him vulnerable at 3-mile and (now the races have been remeasured) he's actually been winning over 2m7f. I much prefer his stablemate Straidnahanna and this 6yo looks well-handicapped on OR131.  Two-weeks ago, Royal Palladium only just failed to win the "Badger" Chase, and he will be well-prepared for this race by Venetia Williams.  I just think that he is meeting a stronger field in this race. Another on my alert list is Indian Castle who did followers of the blog proud when running 4th at Cheltenham last March in the 3-mile handicap chase on the opening day of the Festival. It is worth noting that Indian Castle beat Annacotty at Cheltenham over 2m5f in the novice handicap chase at the January meeting (always one of the best novice handicaps of the season) on heavy ground, and he's still only a 7yo.  Toby Lerone is fit from a hurdling win LTO, but I'm not confident he will last out this trip, tho' he will handle the ground. In my opinion OR140 for Vieux Lion Rouge is about 10lb too much on what he's shown in 2 novice chases. There is not much scope for Sun Cloud off OR138, though he will appreciate the soft ground.  I would not overlook Theatrical Star, as he loves a slog, but all his chase wins have come in races of less than 10 runners. He couldn't go the pace LTO and I'm expecting Royal Palladium to do the same again.  Finally, Firebird Flyer is a good yardstick, and on his day he's a good horse, but when he's not he can be very lacklustre. At the odds, my selection is between two: Straidnahanna at 11/2 (available generally) and Indian Castle at 12/1.

At Ascot, the soft ground will likely make the course very testing and, in the 2m1f Class 2 handicap chase at 3:15, the ground will be the key.  Four weeks ago, at the Cheltenham meeting, I made TURN OVER SIVOLA my selection of the day and he ran well - looking the most likely winner 2-out - but then ran out of puff on the run-in. He was prepared to run in the Paddy Power Gold Cup last week, but missed the cut-off - so he's come here instead, and trainer Alan King is very bullish about his chances in the Weekender. He needs a strong pace, and I think he will get it in this race and, having had a run, he should run much better than last time. The market leaders Cold March, Workbench and Fago will all go well, but none have the scope to find the improvement I'm expecting from Turn Over Sivola. He is 12/1 (William Hill) and those odds look huge to me as I'd have him at under 7/1.

Ascot 3:15pm - TURN OVER SIVOLA, £4 eachway @ 12/1 (available generally, Bet 365 go quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)
Haydock 3:35pm INDIAN CASTLE, £4 eachway @ 12/1 (available generally, 5th odds a place 1,2,3)
Haydock 3:35pm STRAIDNAHANNA; £5 win @ 11/2


Total Staked = £25

Friday 20 November 2015

Pick up the Loose Chips

As I wrote yesterday, it's not about winning - it's about value.
The premise being that you cannot win with every wager so, if you maintain a "value" based betting ethic then you will profit in the long-run, I was completely blown-away by the performance of the Dartford Warbler yesterday, who made a mockery of his OR117 rating with an all-the-way win at a very strong pace over a trip I thought he would not stay (not as a chaser, anyway).  That was only his 8th chase race and he could be one to follow for his next 2 or 3 runs. The pace he set did for the pair in the race that I considered; with neither alert-list runner Cloudy Bob, nor selection Rio Milan, able to get in a blow.  I took my eye off the ball with this race and, once I had assessed that alert-list runner Cloudy Bob was no longer value, I should have let the race go and not looked for a "substitute" selection.

Before I move on to looking at the day's racing; I must comment on an event which happened on Thursday - one which probably would not have happened before the advent of social media. Racehorse trainer Sheena West, whom I know as she trained the first syndicate horse that I was involved in a few years ago, sent out 4 horses to race at Wincanton and Lingfield.  All 4 were (are) moderate animals yet, for some unknown reason, a gamble began rolling in mid-morning.  None of the horses ever got near the winner and everybody was left bemused.  What is particularly awful, is that Sheena West was subjected to a fair amount of abhorrent abuse on twitter - for something that was nothing to do with her at all.  How the rumour started on twitter (it was promoted by a number of odds-comparison sites with the intention of receiving commissions on losing wagers) should be investigated and the culprits named and shamed.

For a Friday, there are a lot of alert-list runners; although some we cannot consider because of the race conditions and the odds available. There has been a lot of rain (the Ffos Las meeting for today was abandoned yesterday), and the ground will be soft, if not heavy, at both Ascot and Haydock.

At Haydock, the opening 2m7f handicap hurdle looks interesting and we have a couple of alert runners in it: Oscar Blue and Hidden Justice.  It was May 2014 when Hidden Justice last ran over hurdles, when he won at Haydock over 2m5f, and on OR125 he looks well handicapped, but the soft ground is against him today. Oscar Blue has gone into many a notebook for his two wins over hurdles this autumn, but his opening rating of OR125 looks a bit rich as he won both those races by a "neck".

Also on my alert list at Haydock are novice chasers Doctor Phoenix and Silsol, but both run in 3-runner races and their odds are under 9/4 which means they are too short to be advised as a wager - but I expect both to go close.

At Ascot, Loose Chips makes a quick reappearance after falling at Cheltenham last Friday, in the 3-mile Class 3 handicap chase at 3:15pm.  Unfortunately for us, he's the current market leader at 9/2. So, is that value? The 2nd-fav is the 5yo French-import having his UK debut Achille, sent by Venetia Williams - your guess is as good as mine with this one. Bob Tucker is a stablemate of Loose Chips, but he's not shown any real form on soft/heavy ground, with 3 wins on "good". However, he is race fit with a decent win LTO.  Sands Cove just about clambered over the final fence when winning LTO.  That was the first time he'd tackled 3-mile (normally seen over 2-miles) and his stamina is unlikely to last out in this stronger race. For a 9yo Desert Joe hasn't seen much racing, and he pulled-up LTO on his seasonal debut, but he ran well enough last season to suggest he's in with a chance here if he gets into a rhythm, but there is a doubt about the ground if it is very soft.  Caulfields Venture is another who will not appreciate the soft ground, even if he's a LTO winner.   Financial Climate will be having his 22nd chase race today, and he's very consistent and capable of winning this at his best. He should handle the ground, with wins on both soft and heavy in his form, and the trip of 3-mile is no problem as he's won over 3m2f. Today is his seasonal debut, but he ran well on his debut last year on ground that was a bit quick for him, and he has a better chance than his 10/1 odds suggest. As I consider that LOOSE CHIPS has about 8lb in-hand on my personal ratings, he's worth a wager today with conditions in his favour and fairly weak opposition.

Ascot 3:15pm, LOOSE CHIPS, £10 win @ 9/2 (Stan James, Bet Victor, Ladbrokes, Betfred)

Thursday 19 November 2015

It's not about winning, it's about value

When I looked at the racing meetings in yesterday's edition of the Weekender, the one horse I thought could be a wager was CLOUDY BOB at Market Rasen in the 2m5f class 3 handicap chase at 1:30pm. When I looked at the early odds available at 5pm last night, Ladbrokes were offering 7/1 about Cloudy Bob, which I thought looked interesting, and Bet365 were offering 6/1 with no other bookies yet priced-up.  When I next looked at the odds for the race at about 8pm, Cloudy Bob was 5/1 across-the-board.

We know Cloudy Bob needs soft ground and about 20-21f, and if you throw-in a right-handed track, even better!  He has all those ticks today, and the last time he had them he ran 2nd at Kempton off OR122 (he is on OR119 today) recording an RPR of 128.  Currently, he's best-priced at 7/2. So, is that value?

Dartford Warbler has never won on soft (or worse) ground, or at trips beyond 2m4f; so it's unlikely that he will win today. Rio Milan won on soft ground in April, and goes well right-handed. He also ran well over 3-mile LTO, in a race were the form has stood-up well. he looks a big danger. Shockingtimes is at about his level on OR120.  He's very consistent, but one-paced, and will likely be tapped for speed on the run-in again. Russborough is a bit of an unknown quantity, and his trainer Venetia Williams likes to keep you guessing with her young horses. His seasonal debut wasn't anything special and he may well have needed that run, so improvement is expected. Cayman Islands is going the right way, and won his first chase LTO.  He's also won over hurdles on soft ground, and he is another who could improve a lot on what we have already seen, even tho' he's up 7lb for that LTO win. Up For An Oscar could win this doing cartwheels if he's in the mood off OR120, but he seems to have lost the plot since winning at Worcester over 2m7f in September last year. He's not run since May this year, so being fresh may put him in the mood - or it may not.
Harristown is another potential improver, as he's having only his 2nd chase race.  He was gently introduced on his chase debut, and this is a lot tougher, but he was rated OR132 over hurdles and will handle the soft ground and stay this trip (based on his hurdles form), so running off OR125 is interesting - except that he's carrying 11st 12lb and giving weight away all-round. The final pair of Owen Glendower and She's Late are outclassed.

I make this race between Cloudy Bob, Rio Milan, and Cayman Islands and, at the current odds - there is no value in Cloudy Bob at 7/2.  Cayman Islands is interesting, especially at 10/1 with William Hill (also 9/1 with Coral and Skybet), but the one that looks a potential winner and good value is RIO MILAN, at 7/1 with Paddy Power, BetVictor, Stan James and Boyles. Trainer Fergal O'Brien hasn't had many winners recently, but he has a great strike-rate at Market Rasen (24%) and he's booked Paddy Brennan for the ride, and Brennan rides most of the winning horses coming out of the O'Brien stable.  I'd have RIO MILAN at 4/1 for this, so 7/1 is good value in my book.

Market Rasen 1:30pm: RIO MILAN; £5 eachway @ 7/1 (available generally, 5th odds a place 1,2,3)

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Blog landmark passed - 300,000 page views

The blog had it's 300,000th page view this week.

That is on 300,000 occasions, someone has visited this blog and read a page.
These are not "click-thru" stats (generated by "pings" from search engines), but actual visits from people who stop and read the blog.
Many, many thanks to all those who read the blog.

Way back in March-April 2010, on some days fewer than 10 page views were registered, but I persevered. The blog isn't just about finding winners, it is about the spirit of horseracing, and jump racing in particular.
In a few days, the blog will reach another landmark - its 800th posting (this is page/post number 796).

It is a quiet week this week, and we may not have many wagering opportunities. As such, I've been catching up with updating the alert list and looking ahead at some of the upcoming major races to see if there is any potential value to be had.

Reading the Weekender (out today, Wednesday), the weekly paper is suffering in my opinion from losing Nick Mordin (he is apparently now living in Hong Kong providing assistance to a betting syndicate) and there is a dearth of intelligent comment.  The only shining lights are the words of Paul Kealy and Malcolm Heyhoe.  Personally, I would happily see the back of Tom Segal (Pricewise) as he offers no great knowledge in-depth on horseracing, except griping when he's not finding winners.

We may have a wager tomorrow, depending on the odds offered, in the 2m5f Class 3 handicap chase at Market Rasen.  Unfortunately, the horse I'm looking at - Cloudy Bob - has been tipped by James Hill in the Weekender today.

Ascot has a couple of interesting Class 3 handicap chases on Friday, and the 3-mile chase includes an entry for Loose Chips, who fell in the Cross-Country Chase (with our money on) at Cheltenham last Friday. Going right-handed at Ascot is another tick in the box for him, and we know he's race-fit. I'd prefer him to aim for this race than the other that he's entered for at Haydock on Saturday over 3m4f.

At Haydock on Friday, there looks like being a top novice chase over 2m5f at 3:15pm. With 9 of the 14 entries being LTO winners, this could be one of the best novice chases seen so far this season.

It may well be Betfair Chase day on Saturday, but the race at Haydock that I will be paying most attention to is the Class 3 handicap "Fixed-Brush" hurdle over 2m7f.  This is a hot-bed of young chasing talent, and anything under the age of 8yo that lines-up should be of interest for the rest of the season. Thinking of Saturday's racing; the 1st race at Haydock is at 12:10pm and the last race at 3:35pm - we are now in winter-racing mode!  As such, it is likely that blogs will be sent out by email the evening before racing to those on the email list, and then posted online at about 10am when the weather, going, and odds are known for the day ahead.

Looking at the Betfair Chase on Saturday, having had the benefit of a run, there is little likelihood of anything beating Silviniaco Conti, whatever the weather or ground. Cue Card may have won the "Charlie Hall" LTO but, when he was at his peak after winning the Betfair Chase in 2013, he couldn't beat Silviniaco Conti when they met at Kempton in the "King George" on 26Dec13.  With "Conti" probably losing the Betfair Chase that year as he came into the race off a long break, with the run under his belt he is race-fit and odds of "evens" are about right in my opinion.

As such, we will almost certainly be looking at other races on Saturday for our value wagers.

Monday 16 November 2015

So close, and yet, so far...

On Wednesday, last week, I sent this private message out to those on the email list (to gain a place on the email list requires a donation of £10 per month).

There are 3 horses that I keep coming back to in the Paddy Power:-
Johns Spirit - loves this C&D and even off OR157 he cannot be ignored, he's 12/1
Annacotty - another who loves this C&D, goes well fresh and trainer Alan King is very positive in the Weekender today. Looks about 6lb well-in on my ratings, he's 14/1.
Present View - 3rd in the race last year off OR144 and races off OR143 on Saturday. Has been aimed at this race for a long time, you can ignore his run at Sandown over 3-mile (beaten by Pendra) as he does not stay a yard further than 2m5f.  He led 2-out last year and I expect him to be thereabouts on Saturday - he's 20/1.

Then, on Saturday morning, I wrote this on the blog:
As the rain has got into the ground, then Annacotty's chance has improved and at 20/1 (available generally) we should get a good run from the horse who is having his debut for trainer Alan King.

Unfortunately, as the rain came down on Saturday morning and the ground softened, I thought there were more horses likely to hold winning chances than I was comfortable with to suggest a single selection on the race. Yet again (as with Saroque winning at Exeter at 10/1 two-weeks ago), my natural reticence held me back and I missed advising a winning wager. 

What I do know is that many of those on the email list placed a wager on ANNACOTTY to win the Paddy Power Chase.  Well done to you.  

Saturday was not a complete washout, as the selection at Cheltenham in the 3m3f handicap chase KNOCKANRAWLEY, ran an absolute cracker of a race and was only beaten by two others - Sausalito Sunrise, of whom I wrote was possibly the best handicapped horse in the race (he was); and the totally unexposed novice chaser Upswing, who looks on his way to being a 150+ chaser, especially on soft/heavy ground. The form of this race is top-notch, of that there is no doubt.  The only worry - and it is a big one - is that the pace of the race was so strong that some of these horses may have been bottomed-out. I did think that Sausalito Sunrise looked at the end of his tether on the run-in,  Most of these are to be aimed at the Welsh National next month, and we will all be waiting on the reaction of the handicapper to this race. 

The other blog selection on Saturday, Voyage A New York, was very disappointing, especially as he was so well supported in the betting market being gambled on from 9/2 in to an SP of 5/2.  I did think beforehand that the trip of 2m3f was on the short-side for him, but his overall performance was abject.  I don't think we can keep him on the alert list, it was so poor.

Back to the Paddy Power Gold Cup, by my own ratings I reckon Annacotty equalled his performance of last January when he won the 2m5f handicap chase at Cheltenham.  He's hit this high 3 times now (on my ratings) and it may be tough for Alan King to find more improvement with him. The runner-up Buywise came into the race from a long way back (perhaps 15-lengths off the lead 3-out) and, while some claim he was unlucky, he loves weaving through tired and beaten horses and this is the risk punters take with him - that he will arrive at the scene too late.  Personally, he needs to step-up to 3-mile and maybe up in grade to - and try and follow the example of Ballynagour in a Grade 1 chase. In 3rd Sound Investment was given a tremendous ride, only failing in the final strides of the run-in to snatch victory. I wrote on Saturday that I thought he was a potential Ryanair Chase winner next March, and this performance showed that was not wishful thinking on my part. The other potential Ryanair winner is Irish Cavalier who was cantering coming down the hill to the 3rd-last fence, and led at the final fence but found little on the run-in. Such was the manner he came down the hill, I will forgive this 6yo his undoing on the run-in as his half-brother (Make A Track, in-training with Gordon Elliot) has not won beyond 2m6f in 8 attempts, and his best form has been on "good" ground. As he ran 5th in this race, Irish Cavalier is unlikely to go up in the ratings, yet he looked a lot better than OR156 on the run to the final fence on Saturday!

We were back at Cheltenham on Sunday, where we witnessed the rekindled career of Sprinter Sacre, who was able to put a talented field to the sword in indecent fashion. Much was made afterwards (on twitter) about just how good this performance was, and was the old-master back to his best? Well, let us consider his rivals. Croco Bay (OR151) was outclassed and should have been 100/1 not 12/1,  Mr Mole (OR162) was conceding weight all-round and had to be in the form of his life to win. Simply Ned won LTO, but he's never won a Class 1 race (from 6 attempts), and his trainer (Nicky Richards) hasn't sent a winner to Cheltenham since 2006 - he's clearly doing something wrong when sending horses on a long trip from Cumbria. Savello (OR154) is fairly consistent in that he either runs well, or he doesn't - and on Saturday he ran well and to his rating. Using Savello at the benchmark, that puts Somersby on 154 - which is about as high as he's been since February 2013 on my ratings.  Somersby has been a very consistent horse throughout his career and (on my ratings) hasn't run over 160 since December 2011. This puts Sprinter Sacre's performance on 168 - which is 10lb better than anything he ran last season, and 10lb below his performance when beating Cue Card at Aintree in April 2013.  On my ratings, if he'd run to 168 last March, then he'd have WON the Champion Chase by about 8-lengths from Dodging Bullets. 

So then, Sprinter Sacre is not back to his best - but he doesn't have to be to be the best 2-mile chaser in training this season, this side of the Irish Sea.   

Saturday 14 November 2015

She's "Simply the best!"

Nina Carberry - yet again - demonstrated what a superbly talented jockey she is yesterday with 2 wins at Cheltenham, including steering blog selection KNOCK HOUSE to a tremendous win.  I wrote that I thought Knock House had about 10lb in-hand going into the race, and he was going so easily when jumping upsides the leader 5-out that you could call him the winner then.  Nina Carberry could have won the race by 20-lengths, but she won the race with a supremely confident ride by just a "neck".  The handicapper will have a job on to catch hold of this one!  Both the other selections lost, and while Loose Chips will have another day, Silver Roque has had his final run from the alert list.

Another tremendous day's racing ahead of us at Cheltenham. But first, the alert list runners and, being Cheltenham, there is a stack from the alert list running, and they cannot all win. As on previous Saturday's, I will not name all those on the alert list that are running (to preserve the integrity of my list), only those that I consider have a great chance. There is the likelihood over heavy rain in the morning, so the ground may be softish for the first race, but getting quicker as the day progresses.

One from the alery list is Vintage Vinnie in the 3-mile Class 2 novice chase at 1:15pm at Cheltenham. This race is a definite step-up in grade from his previous race (in which he fell), but I reckon he will show just how good he is in this race, and while he may not win, he should go close.

The 3m3f Grade 3 handicap Chase at 1:50pm is a favourite race of mine, as I tipped Monbeg Dude to win the race in 2012 when he won at 25/1 (I also tipped him when he went on to win the Welsh National with his next race).  The ground will be key in this race, as it has changed to Good-to-soft due to overnight rain.  As such, I've had to re-write the blog this morning! The ground now suits Black Thunder and despite top-weight his OR153 rating is lenient as I think he's a 158-160 horse. . The same can be said for Shotgun Paddy, who has slipped to OR145 - the softer ground will be in his favour. There are a couple that must be on the shortlist: Godsmejudge who was 5th in this in 2013 off OR148, and races off OR139 which is the rating from which he won the Scottish National in 2013. He was aimed at the Grand National last season, but the race didn't suit him. The Romford Pele ran well off a very long break LTO, and we should see an improvement for that run.  If he can repeat the form of his win in the "Summer Cup" of 29June14 over 3m2f he will be bang in the mix. Knockanrawley will be having only his 7th chase race, but he's looked a stayer with a future in his last 2 races in 2014-15, and his OR136 rating looks very lenient.  The 6yo Audacious Plan is another young horse on the way up, who will also also prefer the softer ground. Sausalito Sunrise looked like he was capable of beating Drop Out Joe (who won again last week) when they met at Chepstow, but was pulled-up. Nothing was wrong, and he comes into this possibly the best handicapped horse in the race. The betting has an 8/1 fav in Upswing (who will be a better horse on soft ground), which shows how wide-open the race is. I could choose 4 or 5 and not find the winner, but Kim Bailey has his stable firing on all cylinders. His entry KNOCKANRAWLEY will stay every yard, love the ground, and at 14/1 (available generally) he looks great eachway value.

The feature race of the day is the Grade 3 Paddy Power gold Cup handicap chase over 2m4f & 78 yards at 2:25pm.  With 20 top class handicappers going to post, this looks a very tough nut to crack, especially as I think there are two potential Ryanair Chase winners in the race in Sound Investment and Irish Cavalier. If either of these horses are capable of winning the Ryanair Chase next March, then they will go very close (if not win) today.  No horse older than 8yo has won this in the past 10-years; this race is all about untapped potential held in young horses. With only one winner carrying over 11st in the last 8 years; weight is also a pointer for the most likely winner. Earlier this week, I gave those on the email list 3 horses in the race that I thought would be "market movers" and likely to be involved in the finish: Johns Spirit; Annacotty, and Present View. If Johns Spirit wins the race I will be cheering him home as he's provided me and blog readers with some great days and plenty of profit, but I feel there will be 1 or 2 too good for him - he 's a great "place-only" wager on the exchanges.  The change in the ground has affected my selection. Had it remained "good" it would likely be a bit too quick for Annacotty; and I'd favour Present View, who I think has been aimed at this since he was 3rd in the race last year off OR144. He comes here on OR143 which means he's 2lb better-off with Johns Spirit on last years run.  As the rain has got into the ground, then Annacotty's chance has improved and at 20/1 (available generally) we should get a good run from the horse who is having his debut for trainer Alan King.  I've not mentioned the race-fav Kings Palace as I feel this race is a bit of a fav's graveyard, and this year looks one of the best renewals of recent years; it's an immense field.
After a re-think due to the ground, there are just too many now with a chance with the softer ground, and I could name 5 or even 6, and still not have the winner.

At Wetherby in the 2:05pm, alert list runner Voyage A New York has his seasonal debut. Last February, he beat Wakanda, which is good enough for me. Yes, he received 8lb from the runner-up but we all know Wakanda is a very good horse. This trip of 2m3f is a bit short - he would prefer 2m6f+ but the ground is soft which will test stamina, and odds of 9/2 (Bet365, Bet Victor) look generous to me.

Cheltenham 1:50pm KNOCKANRAWLEY; £5 eachway @ 14/1 (available generally, quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4)
Wetherby 2:05pm VOYAGE A NEW YORK; £10 win @ 9/2 (Bet 365, Bet Victor)
Total staked = £20