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


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Monday 1 February 2016

Mullins given a reality check by the King

It was certainly a glorious day at Cheltenham on Saturday.  Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to find a winner – but we came close.

Because of the forecast of heavy overnight rain, I woke early on Saturday morning to learn of the effects of the rain and have a review of the racing with that knowledge in mind.  The ground had deteriorated from soft to heavy, and it was certainly testing.  As such, I had another look at the novice handicap and thought that the form on heavy ground – as well as experience of forcing tactics – gave the Venetia Williams trained Waldorf Salad an excellent chance of success that was much better than his odds of 14/1. On that score, I was right as the horse set a strong gallop that had many struggling to keep up as they went up the hill (away from the stands) after running the first mile.  By the top of the hill, there was only the leading 3 of the 12 starters in with a chance of winning, and our selection Waldorf Salad was heading that trio. Unfortunately, he was headed 2-out and altho’ he stayed-on well he was never going to pass the eventual winner.  It would have been a tremendous start to the afternoon, having a 14/1 winner, but it was not to be.  My £5 eachway wager at 14/1 paid-out £22.50, recording a profit of £12.50.

Next up was the feature race at Cheltenham, the Betbright Chase over 3m1f.  The odds-on fav Djakadam, runner-up in the last Cheltenham Gold Cup, fell mid-race as they field started up the hill away from the stands.  As per my blog, I’d placed win-only wagers on Many Clouds @ 8/1 and O’Faolains Boy @ 10/1 as I didn’t think Djakadam was on odds-on chance. I also didn’t think Smad Place would be able to hold-off Many Clouds if he was as fit as he was when winning the race in 2015, but, as things turned-out, he was. 
As the leading pair pulled clear in the final mile and jumped the 2nd-last together, the Grand National winner Many Clouds didn’t seem to have moved a muscle and looked full of running. Unfortunately, that was all show as he had nothing left in the tank when asked for an effort, whereas Smad Place jumped the last 2-lengths clear and then when shook-up by his jockey (Richard Johnson) he quickly skipped away to a 10-length advantage.  It was unfortunate that Djakadam fell, but let’s take nothing away from Smad Place, as there were some rock-solid 160 performers left toiling in his wake.  Clearly, he loved the ground, but a return to the front-running tactics employed in winning the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury last autumn are also responsible for his good form. I’ve rated his performance in winning this at 166, which isn’t as good as how I rated Cue Card and Vautour in the “King George” on Boxing Day (172), but this was over further and at Cheltenham. He was 20/1 for the Gold Cup immediately after the race (with BetVictor) and I snapped that up for an eachway wager; and he’s best-priced at 12/1 now.  The win of Smad Place capped a glorious day for trainer Alan King who sent out 5 winners.

By this time, it was fairly obvious to all that the ground was very testing and that front-runners were managing to get away from their rivals – this was not a day for hold-up tactics. The handicap chase over 2m5f looked a cracker on paper, but the ground took no prisoners and by halfway some of the field were struggling – including my selection for the blog Irish Cavalier.  It was a very disappointing effort from Irish Cavalier, and I knew the writing was on the wall when jockey Barry Geraghty gave the horse a slap on the shoulder as they field passed the stands – and, sure enough, after jumping the next fence he pulled the horse up. Was it the ground, or was it something more?  Given the overall performance of the trainers’ horses over the weekend, it seems more likely a problem at the stable.

Going up the hill, the field fell away rapidly behind the leading pair, and soon there was only last year’s winner Annacotty and long-time leader Tenor Nivernais left in with a winning chance. Given Annacotty’s love of Cheltenham, there could only be one winner, and he soon took up the running.  The jockey went a bit too early as the runner-up came back at him on the long run-in (the final fence having been omitted due to the poor ground), but Annacotty stayed on to win, without having to better his performance when winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November, when I thought he’d have to better that run by 7lb.  This was a lesson learned for me (you should always have an open mind, it is never too late to learn) in that on testing ground, races can turn into a “match” with most of the field being unable to cope with the ground. In such circumstances, weight and rating matter little.

My final selection of the day ran at Doncaster in the Skybet Chase over 3-mile. I had narrowed my selection down to either Buywise or No Planning, and the “good” ground at Doncaster swung my opinion towards No Planning, as he’d won over 2m7f at Haydock on similar ground in April 2014. I thought the “good” ground description was dubious considering it was considered “sticky” the day before, which was another plus-point for No Planning as he’d won on soft and heavy ground as well. Unfortunately, No Planning ran no race at all as it looked like he was left at the start (from the tv pictures I could not tell what happened) and trailed behind throughout, before pulling-up with a mile still to run. It was reported that he’d bled from the nose, but this race was lost at the start.

All-in-all, a disappointing day, and my personal “rule” of not having a wager at odds under 9/4 kept me off good hurdle winners Yanworth @ 2/1 and Thistlecrack @ 4/5. Both these horses look destined for Cheltenham Festival glory at their respective targets.

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