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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.