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Friday 30 December 2016

Notes for 30th December 2016

We have had an incredibly busy few days of horseracing with some terrific, and some extremely odd, results.  The oddest was the race contested at Wincanton where my only advised selection on Boxing Day which was declared void when none of the runners could finish after the majority had been brought down by a loose horse at the 6th fence.

At Kempton we saw the possible winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in Thistlecrack.  He routed the small field for the King George which, to be fair, contained only one serious rival in Cue Card. When you have been following a horse like Cue Card for as long as I have (he was my wager when he ran 2nd in the Arkle to Sprinter Sacre - I was on him in the "without the fav" market at 3/1) you get to know him well.  In my opinion, the horse stays 3-mile well but only when he is able to dominate the race - and that is what he wasn't able to do when faced with Thistlecrack. As such, with 3 fences still to jump, Cue Card was a beaten horse just plugging-on. This makes the form difficult to judge, and it was not helped by jockey Tom Scudamore dropping his hands and coasting in. Thistlecrack is somewhere between 165 and 180; my rating is 167 whereas the betting market for the Gold Cup in pricing him at 5/4 suggests he is closer to 180 than 165.  

Staying chasers that are better than 170 are rare beasts - by the way, I measure on my own ratings which (I hope) have not suffered from ratings inflation. For instance, Silviniaco Conti won the 2013 King George recording an RPR176 rating (my rating was 174) when beating Cue Card into 2nd (RPR173). That race was run on soft ground and the speed rating given was 147 to Silviniaco Conti. Thistlecrack has been awarded an RPR178, for this years win, on the back of a speed rating of 133 as the ground was "good".  Based on the speed ratings, Silviniaco Conti was 14lb better than Thistlecrack "in his pomp" - time never lies.

Before that we saw Yanworth race into contention for the Champion Hurdle and if that race were run at level weights then I would say he should be the 2/1 fav - but the mare Annie Power will receive a 7lb "mares" allowance and that just about makes her unbeatable should she return to racing in similar form. 

The handicap performance of Boxing Day was Definitly Red winning the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby over 3-mile. He was the horse I thought would win the race (see my Boxing Day blog) but I never thought he was so far ahead of the handicapper. He was confidently ridden and I was sure he would win about a mile from home as he was going so well. It was also welcome to see a return to form for Wakanda who stayed on strong to be 2nd. What went wrong with him I've no idea, but it may be he didn't enjoy running up against Grade 1 chasers as he just wasn't up to that class. 
We know he goes well right-handed and the old "BetBright" Chase run at Kempton in February looks perfect for him. Blaklion had to win this race to maintain Gold Cup ambitions, but I knew he wasn't good enough and he has hit his ability ceiling as a chaser. 

For me, the performance of the week was Native River in the Welsh National as that race is incredibly tough to win with more than 11st, and to do it in the style he did with 11st 12lb (even if it was a "compressed" handicap) marks out Native River as a very special horse indeed. I suggested to those on my email list to take the 20/1 for the Gold Cup before he won the Welsh National, and even afterwards when cut to 10/1 I considered those odds were are still value. Why? Because his stablemate Cue Card is almost certain to go for the Ryanair Chase instead; Don Cossack has not been seen since winning the last Gold Cup and could well (if fit) go straight to Cheltenham; Coneygree clearly has fitness problems and may not run at Cheltenham, Djakadam isn't Gold Cup quality and likely also goes for the Ryanair; and nothing else in the betting has a cat-in-hell's chance. My own opinion is that the market should be similar to the Denman vs Kauto Star year when "Kauto" had an SP of 10/11, and Denman was at 9/4. For me, Native River should be 9/4 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  I can see fewer than 7 horses running in the Gold Cup, and it would not surprise me to see a horse like Minella Rocco @ 40/1 or Many Clouds @ 50/1 snatch 3rd place and reward a brave antepost punter. 

Today we have lost the decent meeting at Haydock to the weather, but there is a decent Class 3 handicap chase over 3-mile at Taunton. The race-fav is Kerrow who will be having just his 2nd chase race but while his chase debut was promising it didn't suggest he would be up to winning this. Also in the race was Boa Island who came 3rd and has been raised 2lb by the handicapper which seems a bit harsh. As such, it makes Minellacelebration look interesting as he was going well on ground perhaps a bit too soft for him when falling LTO.  We have not seen much of Silver Commander in recent years but he is certainly better than his OR125 rating and has the excellent Richard Johnson in the saddle - but will he be fit enough for this? Abracadabra Sivola isn't good enough, but By The Boardwalk is on his day, I just feel this trip may be a bit short for him as he possibly wants more than 3-mile as will the horse that beat him LTO Moss On The Mill.  I must admit, I cannot understand why Tinker Time is at 12/1 for this race as he ran well over 3-mile at Ascot in November and was not suited by the 2m2f trip LTO here earlier this month. However, this "quick" ground is against him today. A trappy race all-in-all and possibly a race to swerve.

Monday 26 December 2016

God bless George Michael

This is it - possibly the busiest day of horseracing in the calendar. 

We have meetings at Fontwell, Huntingdon, Kempton, Market Rasen, Sedgefield, Wetherby and Wincanton; and Irish meetings at Down Royal, Leopardstown, and Limerick. All the racing is going ahead, it will be incredibly busy.

One other service I use on such a day as this is Mal Boyle's Stat Attack on the Sporting Life website but it can take some finding there - so if you visit @malcolmboyle2 on twitter there is a link on one of his tweets and I have retweeted that link this morning.

Plenty to choose from, so I will be sticking to those races of Class 3 or better, and I will start with the 3-mile Rowland Meyrick Chase at WETHERBY at 1:50pm. This race looks to be between the 3 market leaders of BlaklionYala Enki and Definitly Red, as the remainder look outclassed other that Wakanda who has slipped to a reasonable OR149 rating but he has not run well for 12 months now, and we need to see some improvement. I think Blaklion is rated to his ability but he will run to his rating. I just wonder if Yala Enki was flattered at Haydock when winning LTO in the fog - did his rivals let him slip the field? 
For me, Definitly Red is the most likely winner and odds of 5/1 look fair. Yes, he was well beaten by Blaklion last Feb over C&D but that was on heavy ground which suited Blaklion but not Definitly Red, who I believe will run considerably better on good-to-soft ground. 

At 3:00pm, the Class 3 handicap chase over 2m3f looks an interesting opportunity as if Astracad can repeat his Cheltenham form (he didn't enjoy the Aintree "National" fences LTO) then he is chucked in here off OR134. I have no confidence in any of the market leaders making a decent race of it.

At WINCANTON the 2-mile handicap chase at 1:05pm only has 5-runners but there is a competitive look to it. Even so, Dusky Lark should be too good for these over a trip that is a touch on the short side for him but he is fit and in form which counts for a lot. Odds of 7/4 are not generous and he could be one for a Boxing Day "yankee".

At 3:25pm we have a 3-mile class 3 chase and the early fav is the one-raced chase novice Expedite who fell on his chase debut. The 2nd-fav is Ardkilly Witness who hasn't won in two years but looked capable of winning off this mark LTO. A course winner who stays the trip and will handle the soft ground, he looks interesting. Bear Rails does not look a 3-miler, and I'm not sure Sonny The One is either though he should run better in this as he's race fit now. The remainder look outclassed other than Dawson City who ran a cracker here last January over a slightly longer trip. He ran well again in March and possibly needed the run LTO in Nov when he met some top novice chasers and was outclassed. This is the only runner today for trainer Polly Gundry and she may have found an opening here.

At MARKET RASEN there is the 3m3f Lincolnshire National at 2:20pm and early fav Grove Silver does not look a marathon trip horse. Ultimatum Du Roy has never run well at Class 3 or better and he isn't good enough. Both Fill The Power and Godsmejudge need to turn back time to re-find former glories, although both will stay this trip but how well? The trip is an issue for most in this race, so we could have an unexpected winner; however the unexposed Gonalston Cloud is also guaranteed to stay the trip if fit enough and he has had the benefit of a recent run. 

There is a terrific card at KEMPTON and the Novice handicap chase at 1:30pm could be a cracker. The Henderson trained Gold Present looks a potential top class chaser and Henderson has won this race 5 times in the last 10 years, and having to concede 12lb to Poker School looks a big ask; however I reckon Gold Present has more scope. 

The Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at 2:40pm is tricky to assess but I think The New One should be able to confirm his recent good form was no fluke and take this race.  The odds of 7/4 are not great, but he's another who should be part of a Boxing Day yankee. As for the feature race of the afternoon, the King George VI Chase at 3:15pm, Cue Card should beat his stablemate Thistlecrack - not because he is the better horse, but because he is a more experienced chaser. There will be no hiding places in this race and Thistlecrack cannot afford to make a single error. Irrespective of the result, Thistlecrack will almost certainly run in the Gold Cup in March unless he his absolutely annihilated in this race, which I cannot see happening.  Odds of 5/4 about Cue Card look generous.

Lots of opportunities and I am having a personal "Boxing Day win Yankee" on
Wincanton 1:05pm - Dusky Lark @ 13/8
Kempton 1:30pm - Gold Present @ 7/2
Kempton 2:40pm - The New One @ 7/4
Wetherby 1:50pm - Definitly Red @ 5/1

A tricky day for a wager, but DAWSON CITY could have found an opening here at Wincanton in the 3:25pm at the generous odds of 8/1.

Wincanton 3:25pm DAWSON CITY, £5 eachway @ 8/1

Thursday 22 December 2016

Lookahead to Boxing Day

A poor performance from our selection Milan Bound yesterday at Ludlow, and it was not easy watching the front-three in the betting market fight out the finish when I'd based my interpretation of the race on all those 3 being possibly over-rated.  Nothing much I can say about my selection Milan Bound as he jumped well enough, but he just did not seem to be enjoying himself and was struggling to keep-up after they had barely gone a mile.  It was nothing to do with fitness, this horse does not seem to enjoy jumping a fence.

Okay, so the front 3 in the betting market filled the 1st-3 places but, with effectively on 5 of the 15 finishing the race (the 6th placed Cernunnos was 95-lengths behind the winner - that's about 300 metres) there was not much depth to it. I certainly would not be expecting the winner Fox Appeal to follow-up as jockey Richard Johnson had to almost "lift" the horse over the final couple of fences as he drifted left, then right, and back again as he tired from the run.

The Class 2 handicap chase over 2-mile went to the 6yo novice chaser Colin's Brother, who looked a little fortunate as the long-time leader Sizing Platinum looked to be running away with the race when he fell 4-out (at the 1st fence in the straight).  In doing so, he impeded badly the top-weight Baltimore Rock who (at the time) looked to be going very easily, but he lost all chance at that point.

There is nothing at Bangor today that warrants further analysis and, with no racing on Friday 23rd or on Saturday 24th, we have a few days to contemplate the feast that will be Boxing Day. On Monday 26th we will have (weather permitting) meetings at Fontwell, Huntingdon, Kempton, Market Rasen, Sedgefield, Wetherby and Wincanton; and Irish meetings at Down Royal, Leopardstown, and Limerick.  Last year we were unfortunate to lose the meeting at Wetherby, which was a double blow as that meant we lost one of the best handicap chases of the day in the 3-mile Grade 3 "Rowland Meyrick". Given the very mild weather we are having (due to global warming and the melting of the Polar ice-cap - will we still be enjoying horseracing in 20 years time I wonder?) it is unlikely that we will lose any meetings to inclement weather this year. Last year, I managed to find a 7/1 winner of a handicap chase at Wincanton, and that is likely to be my ploy this Boxing Day - finding an overlooked race with more than a good dose of value to bring us some Christmas cheer.

All eyes will likely be focused on Kempton where we have Cue Card versus Thistlecrack in the King George VI Chase.  While it is extremely sporting of trainer Colin Tizzard and the respective owners of the two horses to meet each other in this race, to be fair, it will take a superlative effort by Thistlecrack to beat his stablemate Cue Card over this trip at level weights. Maybe Thistlecrack is capable of running to a level of 170+ over 3-miles as a chaser, but I would not be wagering on him at odds of just 5/4 to find out.

For me, better value lies in the earlier race in the Grade 1 Christmas hurdle over 2-mile. At this trip, I would not want to be taking odds of just 7/4 about Yanworth as they way he won at Cheltenham last January over 2m4f and again at Ascot last month over 2m3f, this minimum trip could expose him as he looks a horse who needs every yard of 2m4f.  I realise that Willie Mullins considers his 7yo mare Vroum Vroum Mag to be better than OR154, otherwise he wouldn't be sending the horse over from Ireland, but she will likely need every ounce of her 7lb "mares" allowance to hold off a resurgent THE NEW ONE.  He may not have won this race previously (2nd in 2015 and 2013, having missed the race in 2014 and 2013), but he is as good as ever he was - in my opinion - and odds of 7/2 (Bet365, BetVictor and Ladbrokes) look generous to me.  My idea of a reasonable "market" for this race would be 9/4 joint-favs The New One and Vroum Vroum Mag, with Yanworth at 4/1 and My Tent Or Yours at 10/1.

When I have more information on the racing plans of the intended runners, which will likely be sometime on Christmas Eve, then I will start looking at the other races on Boxing Day.

Remember, the focus on the Cheltenham Festival in March starts on Boxing Day as 95% of all winners at the Festival will have their final run (before the Festival) between Christmas Day and Valentines Day (14th February 2017), and 55% of all winners at the Festival will have WON their previous race. So, with the Cheltenham Festival in mind, pay attention to whatever is running from now on and make note of any impressive winners.  

Merry Christmas

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Quality on display at Ludlow

It was a difficult day to witness on Saturday.
When I went through the results on Saturday evening it was apparent that, for a "value" punter like me, there was no value to be had. The winners were either rank outsiders such as Silver Cup winner Regal Encore - for which you'd have needed a crystal ball to consider as a potential winner before the race - or at very short odds such as Top Notch (5/4), Uknowhatimeanharry (6/5), or Battle Of Shiloh (5/4).

I was impressed with Poker School who beat useful yardstick Dusty Lark, and he could well be worth following this season. And nobody could be anything other than impressed with Yala Enki who tore the Tommy Whittle chase apart with a bold front-running display. He was a very useful and consistent hurdler last season, and he looks an even better chaser. Given this was his UK chase debut and his chasing form in France as a 4yo was nowhere near this level, he looks another worth following and could be a 155+ chaser. His trainer Venetia Williams is unlikely to keep him in his stable to protect his handicap mark (even after it has been revised for this win) but he looks just the sort of horse to go well in the 3-mile handicap chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Today we have a cracking meeting at Ludlow which has a couple of top-class handicap chases. The Class 3, 3-mile chase at Ludlow at 2:40pm is a welcome pre-Christmas bonus. There has been a market move for Fox Appeal overnight, probably due to the booking of Richard Johnson, but this horse has been badly out of form this season and - in my opinion - cannot justify being 9/2 for this on recent runs. The 4yo Calett Mad has huge potential, being a half-bro to high-class chaser Ar Mad, but this is a big ask for the 4yo who will be having only his 2nd chase race having won his debut last month on soft ground. I feel todays ground being good-to soft will be too quick for him. Nicky Henderson's Sugar Baron will likely start the fav, and he does have potential, but falling when under pressure LTO suggests he may not be capable of taking this - also Henderson has not had a chase winner at Ludlow in the past 5 seasons. Daveron did not attempt 3-mile as a hurdler, and did not look a 3-mile chaser LTO when fading 2-out. Cernunnos is well handicapped on last seasons form, but this season his form has been awful. Gentleman Jon is interesting as he still looks well handicapped and this right-handed track will suit him, but the ground may be too soft for him (all best form on good or quicker).   King Of The Wolds does not stay this trip and Gone Too Far is another who will want quicker ground than this. The one that catches my eye is MILAN BOUND trained by Jonjo O'Neill.  This 8yo will be running in only his 3rd chase race, but he won his latest chase over 2m4f when ridden by Richard Johnson. That Johnson is on Fox Appeal is probable reason for MILAN BOUND being 16/1 for this, but he does not deserve to be such long odds.  He stays 3-mile well as a hurdler, and he goes well on this sort of ground. He ran well on his seasonal debut over hurdles in October when O'Neills stable was out of form, and that could (and should) have prepared him well for this. Given the question-marks over some of the market leaders, I'm expecting MILAN BOUND to run well and he looks just the type of chaser O'Neill does well with.

The earlier Class 2 handicap chase over 2-mile at 1:35pm looks very competitive. For me, the class horse in the race is Baltimore Rock and, even with 11st 12lb and giving lumps of weight away, he should go close to winning this.  The doubt is whether he can give 23lb (likely to be 26lb as talented Jamie Bargary will claim his 3lb allowance) to the progressive 6yo novice chaser Colin's Brother. I do not think Sizing Platinum will be far away, but he needs to find improvement to win this and I don't think he has any of that left in him.

Ludlow 2:40pm MILAN BOUND, £5 eachway @ 16/1 (BetVictor and Coral, quarter-odds 1,2,3)

Saturday 17 December 2016

Paul Nicholls to the punters rescue

We have had a week of fairly indifferent horseracing, and it has been left to Saturday (again) to rescue the sport. 

With 3 race meetings at Ascot, Haydock and Newcastle we should have a wager.  
I've already outlined the chance of LE MERCUREY at Ascot in the 3-mile "Silver Cup" at 3pm this afternoon to those on my email list on Friday evening.  He was 12/1 when I sent out the email, and that is long gone now with 9/1 the best of what is available - so I hope those on the email list all got on.

Why do I like LE MERCUREY? 
Initially, my  thoughts are that Minella Daddy looks to be ithe best chance, as the fav Go Conqueris untried at this sort of trip. The Nicky Richards horse Eduard looks very well handicapped if coming-on for his recent run, which was his first race in over 18-months. Again there is a stamina doubt but he has the class to overcome that, but there is also the doubt that he will be able to overcome the long trip from the Cumbrian stable of his trainer - who's horses are nortoriously bad at travelling long distances to race.. Irish Saint does not look a 3-mile chaser, let's hope he does not prove me wrong today.  While we know Minella Daddy is, and we know he handles this Ascot track, I'm not sure he's particularly well handicapped now running off OR142, up 11lb for his LTO win. 
The "value" looks to be Le Mercurey as he stays 3-mile, is race-fit, handles right-handed Ascot, and looks to still be improving being only a 6yo.

At Haydock we have the 3-mile "Tommy Whittle" Chase at 2:40pm and what is interesting is that Venetia Williams sends the hurdler Yala Enki for his chase debut in this race. Yala Enki has plenty of experience chasing in France as a 4yo but he was running nowhere near his current rating of OR139 at that time.  
The fav for the race is Corrin Wood who is having his debut chase run for Dan Skelton, and if he can recover the form of his novice chase season then he is absolutely chucked in (he beat OR155 rated Black Thunder by a couple of lengths in Jan2014) and even the best form of season 2014-15 when on OR144 he would win this as he runs off OR128 in this. 
I prefer real form to potential form, and that brings in the unconsidered COURTOWN OSCAR a 7yo who has won 3 of his 7 chases on ground that is soft or heavy. With TrickawayVieux Lille and Kayfleur all doubtful stayers at this 3-mile trip and Top Woodand Upswing both needing to recover their form of old. this race could go to an outsider and Courtown Oscar has all the attributes. He stays the trip well. likes to go with the pace, and what I like about him is that he seems to do just enough without attracting the handicappers attention.  He possibly needed the run LTO when having his seasonal debut over hurdles yet he still ran well.  He looks tremendous value at 16/1 (as the bookies are paying 4 places eachway).

I am also having a small eachway double wager on the pair.

Haydock 2:40pm COURTOWN OSCAR, £5 eachway @ 16/1 (available generally, at quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4)
Ascot 3:00pm LE MERCUREY, £5 eachway @ 12/1 (as advised to those on the email list)

£2 Eachway double 
COURTOWN OSCAR @ 16/1 and LE MERCURY @ 9/1 (Bet Victor quarter-odds a place 1,2,3) 

Saturday 10 December 2016

Cup day at Cheltenham

We managed just a place from one or the two selections when Valhalla came 3rd at Cheltenham in the 3-mile hurdle. I thought he put in an improved performance on the better ground, but he just didn't stay well enough and it may be that he's best at trips around 2m6f. Unfortunately, my other selection Subtle Grey just wasn't good enough, and it may be that he needed the run so (for now) we will keep an eye on him.

The feature race of the day at Cheltenham went to that old warrior Theatre Guide, who had run 2nd in this race off OR147 back in 2013. This win was right up with his best efforts, but he is unlikely to find more improvement.  In 2nd, beaten just a nose, was long-time leader Perfect Candidate who repeated his effort of last April here when he won over C&D. Trainer Fergal O'Brien has found plenty of improvement in this horse in the past 18 months. 

We have a few from the alert list running on Saturday at Cheltenham, but none are running in the initial couple of races on the card which should both go to the market leaders in Defi Du Seuil and Different Gravey.  At 1:15pm we have an extended 2-mile Class 2 handicap chase in which Vaniteux is the market leader at 5/2.  Despite looking, I cannot find anything to oppose him at this trip and I am sure he will find more than 5lbs of improvement from his seasonal debut.  The opposition looks fairly poor apart from the unexposed Baltimore Rock, but he isn't really value at the odds available (he's 15/2). My only worry about Vaniteux is that his jumping can let him down, and he cannot afford to make an error in this race.

The main race is the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup over 2m4f & 166 yards at 1:50pm.  The market leader is Bouvreuil and he looks well handicapped on OR146.  However, this looks a top-class renewal as Kylemore Lough looks even better handicapped on OR156, however, there is a doubt as to whether he will appreciate this "good" ground. The 6yo Aso is also very well handicapped on OR144 as he looks a 150+ horse and I'm sure he would have won LTO had he not thumped the 2nd last fence.  However, there is a doubt whether he will act on this ground as well. I cannot see Village Vic repeating his efforts of LTO as he's been raised 3lb. This looks a tough ask and the winner could well be a very decent horse.  Bouvreuil is guaranteed to handle the ground, but if either Kylemore Lough or Aso handle this ground then they should beat him - it is a very tough call.

For my wager of the day I'm looking to Doncaster and the 3-mile chase at 12:50pm. This Class 3 event has attracted a decent field but one horse stands out to me and that's KNOCK HOUSE who we were on when he won at Cheltenham last November off OR140.  He races off OR141 in this and he will love the "good " ground here.  A run similar to his win at Cheltenham or when he returned there for the Festival and ran 4th off OR144 should be good enough to take this race.  I reckon Sego Success is best on soft ground and Ziga Boy may need another run under his best to reach peak fitness, while the remainder of the field look in the grip of the handicapper. The odds of 11/2 (as advised to those on the email list on Friday evening) look to good to miss, as I reckon KNOCK HOUSE should be the 3/1 fav.

Doncaster 12:50 - KNOCK HOUSE, £10 win @ 11/2 (et365, BetVictor and Paddy Power) 
This wager was advised to those on the email list on Friday evening at 17:35pm

Friday 9 December 2016

Three meetings, two selections

As expected, Waiting Patiently won his 2nd novice chase at Newcastle and while it was disappointing that Ash Park fell before the race got going, he will be back on another day. Then at Warwick, the market leader Briery Belle and the game Desert Queen dominated the race after both of the "talking" horses The Organist and Rock On The Moor failed to mount a serious challenge.
Sometimes, the value in the betting market lies with the early favorite!

Onto Friday, and we have a few cracking races at Cheltenham, including a Class 3 chase over 3m2f at 1:30pm in which I really want to have a wager in and yet the market odds look to be about right. The early fav is Southfield Theatre and but for a last fence fall at Wincanton LTO he would have won.  Even so, the handicapper has put him up 7lb in the handicap to OR154 which leaves little room for error in my book, but this trip should suit him well as will the ground, and we know he handles Cheltenham too. I feel the next pair in the market of Sausalito Sunrise and Out Sam are in the grip of the handicapper, so it is my old friend A GOOD SKIN who catches my eye as I reckon he found the sub 3-mile trip too short LTO, and this race over a trip about 550 yards further should suit him well. He was 2nd over C&D last March, and so his stamina is proven. I just think 7/1 is a bit skinny as there are a couple in this race who (if they put their best foot forward) they could go very well.  They are Shutthefrontdoor who could be well treated if he is fit to race off OR148, and Cogry, who (to be fair) is well handicapped on OR134 but has failed to complete in his 3 chases this season. Albeit he was unlucky at Cheltenham, and he may well have not enjoyed his Aintree experience last weekend. 

One horse that is on my radar at Cheltenham is in the 3-mile hurdle at 2:40pm and that is VALHALLA who looked unsuited on the soft ground here last month, but was game enough to stay on to be 4th.  Dropped a 1lb by the handicapper, he could be well-in and we know he stays this trip, handles the track and todays ground suits. Odds of 8/1 look fair in what could be a weak 3-mile handicap and I'd have thought he would start the fav for this.

At Bangor, there are 14 runners in the 3-mile Class 3 handicap chase at 1:15pm.  The fav Kaki De La Pree ran some good races without winning last season, and came out and won a novice chase last month. I just think he's a bit slow, but he is a reliable safe jumper who stays this trip. We haven't seen Willoughby Hedge since he ran in February and he just might need the run. I like Waldorf Salad, and soft ground here will be in his favour, but I don't think he stays this trip as he was very tired at Ascot in February when tackling 3-miles on soft ground. The horse I like in this is SUBTLE GREY who was going well in the Midland National in March till impeded by a faller and being pulled-up. He looks to be on a fair mark of OR135.  Gonalston Cloud should run better this time despite pulling-up on his seasonal debut last month, and Audacious Plan is well handicapped on his best form, but will he show it? Odds of 10/1 on SUBTLE GREY look very fair as I thought he'd be a tad shorter in the market around 6/1.

I am expecting A GOOD SKIN to run well, but he does have a habit of finding one too good for him, so I will pass him over. I think SUBTLE GREY would have gone close in the Midlands National had he not pulled-up after being impeded, and I think he will end this season a lot higher than his current OR135 rating. Whichever way I look at it it's difficult to see VALHALLA not being in the 1st-3 home.

We have a big day at Cheltenham tomorrow, and I will be pouring through the weights as soon as the final declarations are known this afternoon.

Bangor 1:15pm SUBTLE GREY, £5 eachway @ 10/1 (available generally, quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)
Cheltenham 2:40pm VALHALLA, £5 eachway @ 8/1 (Bet365, PaddyPower, and William Hill quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)  

Thursday 8 December 2016

Lookahead to the weekend

Opportunities for value wagers have been thin on the ground the past couple of weeks but, come Friday, that could all change as we have a solid couple of days of racing action with meetings at Cheltenham, Bangor and Doncaster. 

Today (Thursday) we have 3 meetings at Newcastle, Taunton and Warwick but value opportunities are thin on the ground.  At Taunton we have good-to-firm ground in December and, as a result, several of the races have 4 or fewer runners including both the class 3 chases.

At Newcastle, where the ground is a respectable good-to-soft, there is an interesting Class 3 novices chase at 12:40pm.  The 5yo Waiting Patiently went into my notebook when he won his debut chase last month and although the handicapper has rated him at OR136 he looks potentially a 10lb better horse than that. He should be capable of beating Forest Bihan who also won his chase debut last month, and who is a more experienced hurdler. While Waiting Patiently stays 2m4f, Forest Bihan does not appear to hold similar stamina reserves and that could be essential in what looks a decent novice chase. Also in the race is Ash Park who ran 2nd in his chase debut over 2m4f when he (perhaps) did not see out the trip, but he did have a couple of NTO winners behind him including the useful looking Knockgraffon - so maybe that form is a lot better than it looked. There is plenty of 11/2 available on Ash Park, and he could be the one to put into a forecast with the fav Waiting Patiently.

At Warwick at 1:20pm there is a very decent "mares" Listed chase over 2m4f, and were it over 2-mile then I am sure Stephanie Frances would be the fav. However, it is debatable whether she will stay this trip, as she didn't as a hurdler. Briery Belle has been aimed at this race since winning her chase debut last month at Carlisle over 2m4f when she looked an impressive, natural chaser - as such she is a worthy fav. Desert Queen also won her debut chase when beating a useful experienced rival over 3-miles. Se will not be far away, but having to concede 6lb to the fav Briery Belle will be tough. Rock On The Moor was the best of these over hurdles, coming 2nd at Cheltenham in the "Mares" hurdle over 2m4f.  She has had a run over fences in Ireland which showed she needed more experience at jumping, and it is interesting that her capable trainer has sent her over from Ireland to Warwick for this. She will need to improve a lot on what she showed LTO though. The Organist beat Briery Belle at level weights over 3-mile in March, and she probably would have won her debut chase but for a bad error at the 2nd-last fence which cost her the race. Today she has Barry Geraghty in the saddle and this is the ride he's come to Warwick for (he has only one other booked ride on an exposed horse in the NH flat race). Odds of 9/2 are generally available and they look enticing in what should be a very informative mares chase race.

You can never be too sure in these novice chases so, unless you are super confident, it is best to keep stakes small.  No advised wagers today, but those amongst you who are more adventurous have some scope in the races described above.  I'm sure we will have a wager tomorrow.

Monday 5 December 2016

Weekend review (3rd/4th December)

No selections advised on Saturday, but there was plenty of pointers to winning wagers for those who read the blog.

The highlight was Un De Sceaux winning the feature race of the day, the Tingle Creek at Sandown. I wrote on the blog that Un De Sceaux had the best form on offer, he held all his rivals on known form and that as I considered him a 5/4 chance his morning odds of 2/1 looked value - and, sure enough, his SP was 5/4.  I know I certainly took advantage of the 2/1, and while it may have looked a close-run race with Sire De Grugy running to his best form, had Un De Sceaux not hit the 2nd-last he would have won comfortably.

For the final race at Sandown on Saturday, I wrote on the blog that should Doing Fine run to the level of his 3rd at Chepstow in Oct-15, then he'd likely win this race as he was very well treated running off OR126. He cruised through this race and - to me - looked the most likely winner a long way out, and I'm sure he would have won had he not been impeded in his progress by the faltering eventual 3rd, Morney Wing. On the run-up to the last fence, Doing Fine had to switch ground as Morney Wing was clearly tying-up, and he was again impeded as they came away from the fence certainly lost more ground than the losing margin of a "neck" to Rocky Creek. While this was a good effort from the 10yo Rocky Creek, who loves these right-handed "London" tracks of Sandown, Kempton and Ascot, it was about 12lb below his peak and he may struggle if the handicapper is hard on him for this. His future is in veteran's chases.

The Becher Chase over the National fences at Aintree almost was won again by last years winner Highland Lodge - I did write in Saturday's blog that he had been well prepared for a repeat bid. The 20/1 chance only faltered in the final 100 yards and had he been kept to the far rail (along which eventual winner Vieux Lion Rouge mounted his challenge) then he'd likely have held on. It was a tremendous run by The Last Samurai with 11:12 to be 3rd as I considered the handicapper had lost the plot rating him at OR159; even so, he may have trouble running as well over a standard track off this rating. In winning the race Vieux Lion Rouge looked made for this course and, since winning at Towcester in May last year he has improved with every run.  He is a big horse, and that may make him seem "laboured" in his action, but he is relentless and a "National" of some kind must go to him this season.

Later in the afternoon, Many Clouds put in a run that was as good (if not better) than when he was 2nd in this race to Don Poli last season, and this previous Grand National winner put himself back in the picture and amongst the top staying chasers of this season.  Had he run in the Hennessey GC last week, he'd have gone close based on this run and, if connections are of the opinion, he is worthy of a place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup line-up.

Last month I tipped As De Mee for the BetVictor handicap chase at Cheltenham; unfortunately he couldn't cope with the hurly-burly of that race but, at Aintree on Saturday, over the National fences he came alive again. This was his 2nd race over these fences as he ran in the Topham Trophy last April when he was well beaten off OR145, and he had shown inklings of better form last season such as when 2nd at Sandown in February to suggest he was well handicapped at OR137 (which was 2lb lower than his rating at Cheltenham last month - I missed that re-rating). He is only a 6yo so if the handicapper does not react too harshly, he could find himself another race this season.

Finally at Chepstow, my reading of the 3-mile Class 2 handicap chase was right on-the-mark, as I wrote on the blog that if Lamb Or Cod retained his ability then he was on a lenient mark and would be hard to beat. Further, I wrote that Potters Cross held the key to this race as he'd won over C&D in October and was unsuited by the conditions he ran in LTO. Sure enough, this pair were 1st & 2nd with Lamb Or Cod chasing long-time leader Potters Cross from 6-out and the pair drawing well clear of the remainder of the field.

Overall, it was one of those days when I could have put up 4 selections and been wiped-out, and the racing was very competitive.  I've been thinking these past few months that finding value is getting much tougher these days, especially with the lack of decent midweek races. Maybe it is the effect of the plethora of information on the internet with so much data freely available to the ordinary punter, and the various specialists who are closing the "gates" on trends, trainer-stats, sire-preferences and the like which (combined with bookies unwilling to go against the flow and produce their own odds) is starting to constrain the betting market.

Saturday 3 December 2016

Tingle Creek day at Sandown

Azure Fly went close yesterday, but 2nd wasn't good enough.  We can take some comfort from the fact we had the value having obtained 6/1 on Thursday evening.  
Plenty of racing on Saturday with meetings at Ascot, Sandown, Chepstow and Wetherby and some top class racing as well.  Having pondered the cards overnight I think that with the earlier start times on a Saturday for the race meetings that, in previous seasons, I've put myself under pressure to get selections out on the blog before I have properly considered the races. As such, I am going to restrict my wagers to horses that I consider tick all the boxes, and not rely on an element of "gut feeling". 

At Aintree today we have the Becher Chase at 1:35pm with a huge field declared, and while I'd love to put one up for this it is too big an exercise to analyse in full. Some of these ran at Cheltenham a few weeks ago, and my selection in that 3m3f race (which was won by Viconte Du Noyer) was Cogry who was (unfortunately) brought-down by a loose horse.   Cogry was going well that day and he could be the answer as these modified "National" fences are not the big-issue that they once were.  I'm expecting a better run from Silvergrove, but his trainer only has the National in mind this season as do a few others. Ziga Boy is another that fits this "National target" bill. Alvarado ran a cracker at Cheltenham as the ground was a lot softer than he likes, and I'm expecting a big run from him even if he'd prefer a longer trip. There is some quiet support about last years winner Highland Lodge who has been well prepared to repeat the win by trainer James Moffatt.

Later in the afternoon, the "Grand Sefton" handicap chase over 2m5f of the National course looks just as competitive a race. They won't hang about in this with Troika Steppes likely to lead from the off. Overall, the racing at Aintree looks entertaining but tricky for the punter.

At Sandown we have a fairly competitive looking "Tingle Creek" over 2-miles at 3:00pm; even so, it will be a surprise to me if the 8yo Un De Sceaux is beaten given his brave front-running display at Cheltenham last March. That is the best form on offer, and he should be able to win this. I don't recommend wagers at odds under 9/4 but, given the opposition, I would have Un De Sceauxat 5/4 for this so the current offer of 2/1 (available generally) looks generous to me. The 6yo Ar Mad has to find about 10lb to win, the others are held on known form. 

Perhaps the most interesting race at Sandown is the last of the day at 3:30pm, the London National over 3m4f. Based on his 3rd at Chepstow 14-months ago over a 3-mile trip off OR132, Doing Fine looks well-treated here off OR126. He's down the handicap having lost his form, like a lot of horses did, when with Rebecca Curtis last season. She's turned the corner now, and her stable has returned to form, but connections of Doing Fine evidently decided to give their horse a change of scene. He ran well over hurdles last month and that should have set him up for this. There are a couple of others in the race that look capable of winning: Jimmy The Jetplane and Five In A Row. Both will likely stay the trip (though JTJ is more of a proven stayer), and both will handle the ground - my feeling is that Jimmy The Jetplane is the least exposed and more likely to find improvement. Belmount  was exposed LTO.  I cannot see Loose Chips beating this level of opposition off OR139 even though he loves Sandown, and if he cannot win the neither can Court By Surprise.  I am not confident Cona Tois can be effective off OR121, and I will have to see it first. It is nearly 2 years since Rocky Creek won the Betbright Chase at Kempton off OR154, and while he is possibly capable of a decent effort, it is unlikely he will put it together. 
The "good" ground has swung me towards JIMMY THE JETPLANE as on a similar surface he is 5 wins and 4 x 2nd's from 10 runs, whereas many of the others including Doing Fine will be wanting softer ground.  The odds of 11/1 look more than fair about JIMMY THE JETPLANE and he's worth an eachway selection.  However, be aware that should Doing Fine replicate his run at Chepstow of October last year, then he wins this.

Chepstow has a 3-mile handicap chase at 3:20pm and with Champion Jockey Richard Johnson riding here there is lots of support for Lamb Or Cod.  If he has retained his ability then he is on a very lenient handicap mark and will be hard to beat. If you hasn't, then there are a couple of others that come to the fore: Fergal Mael Duin and Potters Cross. Colin Tizzards Fergal Mael Duin ran well LTO and because of the stable form he has attracted a lot of support, but that race at Fontwell fell apart somewhat and his best form has been on soft ground, whereas it is good ground there today. As such, I reckon Potters Cross holds the key to this race as he is a prominent runner who did not enjoy the loose, soft ground at Cheltenham LTO but, before that won over C&D here in October and is a very lightly raced 9yo.  Odds of 10/1 look fair eachway value but with only 3 places on offer the odds are too short for me to recommend a wager.

A busy day, but a day for small stakes and watching with interest from the sidelines.

Friday 2 December 2016

Friday 2nd December

We have some interesting racing today at both the meetings at Exeter and Sandown.

At Exeter in the 2m3f handicap chase at 12:55pm we have a couple of promising 6yo's in Present Man and Wishing And Hoping heading the market. However, it is the 7yo Dark Flame who went into my notebook when he won his debut chase on 06Nov at Sandown over 2m4f giving 3lb and a good beating to the well-fancied Paul Nicholls horse, More Bucks (more of him later).  He has been rated OR134 for that win, which appears fair and the only reason that I am not making him a wager at 7/1 for this is that he probably wants longer than 2m3f. That and the Alan King trained Wishing And Hoping also has a lot of scope to improve and is on a very favourable mark of OR128. That 3 promising novice chasers are in this handicap suggests they are all expected to do well this season.

The next on the card at Exeter is a handicap chase over 3m6f and this race always takes some winning. It can be a very gruelling slog and it is interesting to note that younger horses do not seem to do well in it, with 6 of the last 10 winners aged 9yo or older. With 7 of the last 10 winners also carrying 11st plus, it is worth noting that the 9yo Barton Gift with 11st 3lb to carry is 20/1 with some bookies, especially as he was a C&D winner last April. Raised 7lb for that win, his next run was his latest when tailed-off a Chepstow on 16Nov. He ran in this race last year, but that was on heavy ground (which he absolutely hates), and  was pulled-up. If he gets into a good rhythm early on, then he could have a great chance, and he's one to probably wager on in-running after taking the first few fences. I don't think this is a suitable race for the 5yo Cyclop, and Woodford County ran a stinker LTO, and the stamina of Vice Et Vertu is in doubt as is that of Bear Rails.  This race looks ripe for a long-odds winner.

Earlier this week, I anticipated finding a wager at Exeter over Sandown, but the way the field for the opening 3-mile class 3 handicap chase for amateur riders has cut-up has left me considering that the 8yo AZURE FLY looks value at 6/1 for the 12:40pm at Sandown. The fav is the Paul Nicholls trained More Bucks but, although this gelding is related to Big Bucks, he does not have anywhere near the same ability.  In fact, he has yet to demonstrate that he will stay this 3-mile trip and he looks more of a grinder.  Next in the market is Vikekhal and he is another who does not appear to stay this 3-mile trip.  Beating just a couple of rivals LTO does not convince me that the horse effectively stays 3-mile off a rating of OR122.  However, that race does produce a line of form linking up with AZURE FLY through the runner-up in that race (Brownville) who finished behind Azure Fly LTO at Cheltenham. On that form AZURE FLY holds Vikekhal, and he also holds Dreamsoftheatre on their meeting at Ludlow last season. African Gold has never taken to chasing and the remainder of the field look an ordinary bunch providing a safe seat for their riders rather than winning chances. I'm happy with the 7lb claimer Mr Nailer who rode AZURE FLY well enough at Cheltenham LTO, and I believe that this horse also goes best right-handed.  

AZURE FLY will have no trouble with the trip or the ground and, if you consider that he was running off OR136 this time last season, then this 8yo looks well handicapped running off OR122 given that we know he's fit and well. Providing they don't go too quick for him early-on (which is unlikely, as none look quick horses) this looks a fairly safe eachway wager. Of course, More Bucks could improve 10lb for the step-up in trip, but I'd wager that he won't

I advised those on my email alert list to take the 6/1 available last night which was a good move as the money has come in and he's at best 9/2 now, 4/1 generally.

Finally, we have a cracking novice chase at Exeter at 3:15pm which will be worth watching. Talented hurdler The New One goes chasing, possibly a season too late at 8yo, and he faces some excellent rivals in Rock The Kasbah and Frodon, as well as Barney Dwan. Given the support Frodon had at Cheltenham LTO when he started 6/1 for the Bet Victor Chase my opinion is that he's the one they have to beat.  Certainly, The New One will need his A-game today over a trip of 2m3f that may well stretch him.  As such, odds of 7/2 about Frodon look tempting.

Sandown 12:40pm AZURE FLY, £5 eachway @ 6/1 (advised to those on my email list on Thursday evening)