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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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Tuesday 29 March 2016
The Festival opened-up with one of the most anticipated races of the day, as many had the 4 Mullins fav's on the first day in doubles, trebles and accumulators. The Mullins fav for the Supreme Novices Hurdle was Min, who had run inly twice this season, and was coming into the Festival off a break of 66-days. At this point, I will refer you to an excellent free-issue stats breakdown that has been issued by PROFORM - it is well worth becoming a registered free member to this site just for the excellent free issue stats. This looks a particularly good "Supreme" even by recent standards, as there appears to be more strength in depth, as even Mister Miyagi in 6th came into this race off a 110-day break and should find improvement. The race was run in a time only 0.90secs slower than the Champion Hurdle later in the day, and that was won in a course-record time. The quick times throw some doubt on the ground description of good-to-soft, and it was likely a lot more "good" than soft. The race was run at a strong pace thanks to Charbel who was only headed after jumping 2-out and only just failed to hold-onto 4th (much to my chagrin). The pace suited both Min and the eventual winner ALTIOR, and it was the Henderson-horse who was the most impressive, quickly establishing a winning margin on the run-in. He looks sure to challenge Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle next season. Min is likely to go novince chasing next season; whereas Buveur D'Air (a half-brother of Punchestowns) could stay hurdling over trips of 20f+. In 4th, Tombstone is another likely to be better as a chaser next season over trips of 20f+. I was very impressed with Charbel who came in 5th as he led for a long way, and he could develop into a high-class horse if stepped-up in trip.
The "Arkle" was a shoo-in for the 1/4 odds-on fav DOUVAN once his only realistic challenger Vaniteux fell going for a big-one at the 2nd-last fence. While I doubt Vaniteux would have beaten Douvan, he would certainly have run 2nd and the horse that filled that spot, Sizing John, has looked very ordinary this season. Overall, this Arkle has no real strength in depth and, for me, the jury is out on Douvan - he should make a high-class 2-mile chaser but will he win a Champion Chase? I can see Vaniteux making a useful handicapper next season, especially if he remains on OR152.
One of my favorite handicap chases of the year is the 3m1f Grade 3 chase on the opening day. It was a anti-climax this year (for me) as my selection lost his jockey mid-race when stumbling on the flat - he wasn't even jumping a fence! As such, I think Beg To Differ can be kept on the right side as he was progressing well to that point. This years race looks a cracker of a result, with high-class hurdler the 7yo UN TEMPS POUR TOUT winning a strongly run race. Given he went into the race running off OR148 it was a great effort to win beating last years Gold Cup 4th Holywell fair and square. The winner has been raised 11lb to OR159 and I agree with that assessment, as Un Temps Pour Tout looks a potential Gold Cup horse. This was, after all, only his 4th chase race, and LTO the trip of 2m5f was too short for him even though he was staying-on strong over the final half-mile (we should have paid more attention to that run). For his initial couple of chase runs he was just learning the trade after being a high-class 3-mile hurdler: he won the French Champion Hurdle over 3m1f (with Thousand Stars 10-lengths back in 2nd) and he ran well to be 6th in last years World Hurdle. He runs well at Cheltenham, stays well, and will be 8yo next season, and I'd rather take 40/1 about him for next years Gold Cup than many others quoted at shorter odds who (realistically) have next to no chance of winning. The runner-up Holywell always comes good at this meeting (he won the 3-mile Pertemps Final Hurdle in 2013; he won this handicap chase in 2014; he was 4th in the Gold Cup in 2015) and I'm surprised he didn't go for the Gold Cup. Had he run to this level in the Gold Cup, he would have run 3rd (based on my own ratings) and collected 3x the prize-money he won here. When you compare the race time with his winning time of 2014, it is bang there (remember, this year the race was extended by another 110 yards). This race was tip-top form.
Considering he started off running over 7-furlongs on the All-Weather at Wolverhampton, The Young Master has come a long way and he's only 7yo (seems to have been around for years). This was only his 2nd career-run in March and he's never run in the period April-August so we are unlikely to see him again before the autumn, so the suggestion is these were not his ideal conditions - but what a run! He's actually gone DOWN a 1lb in the handicap to OR148 and he has to go on the alert list for a race this autumn. The 4th home was Morning Assembly who actually beat this years Gold Cup winner Don Cassack when they met in November 2013. That was the last time he won, and he went on to run 3rd (behind O'Faolains Boy and Smad Place) in the 2014 RSA Chase. He missed last season entirely, and was off the track 21-months before returning in January this year. He's entered in the Grand National (for which he's 33/1) and I'd normally say such a horse would be a good wager, but he tried to go with the leaders in this from 3-out and quickly emptied-out. He could be placed, but I could not see him winning a Grand National. Nigel Twiston-Davies always aims a young stayer at this race, and this year he had two in Algernon Pazham (who readers of the blog know well) and Ballykan, and they both ran well. The good thing is that Algernon Pazham completed a race for the first time since running 2nd earlier in the season, this should be a huge confidence boost and he could run a big race NTO. Ballykan is a lot better than this and he heads for Aintree and the "Topham" Chase.
The Champion Hurdle brought together possibly the weakest field for the race that I can remember. That a horse can come into the race not having raced in almost 2-years, and come 2nd says it all. Sure, Annie Power won well, but all she had to do was run to her rating (at OR162 she had the highest rating in the race) and, together with her mares' allowance, she was virtually unbeatable. Personally, I didn't think she was able to run to OR162 as my ratings had her at about 160 over 20f+, but at 2-mile I had here at about 155. There is talk of her returning next year to defend her crown, but I wouldn't bother as Faugheen is possibly 10lb better than her, maybe more. I can't see any of this field returning next year and winning; and their only hope is to go chasing (which is what The New One should have done in 2014-15).
The Mares' Hurdle yet again went to a Willie Mullins trained horse (he's won every running bar the first one in 2008) in Vroum Vroum Mag, and I can't see another horse beating her next year (other than Annie Power, but that's unlikely). My wager on The Govaness went astray when she fell at the final flight (and was fatally injured) when disputing 2nd and she'd probably have been placed.
The result of the National Hunt Chase was very interesting as there had only been one 6yo winner since Boraceva in 1989 (that was Tricky Trickster in 2009), yet the 1st-2 home were both 6yo's: Minella Rocco and Native River. This race has recently gone to the highest-rated runner (all horses carry 11st 6lb) and Native River was the joint 2nd-top rated at OR149 (the other was Pont Alexandre who pulled-up with a fatal injury). My money was on the top-rated Vincente (OR153) who was going very well till hampered by a loose horse 3-out. He's been dropped 7lb to OR146 which seems like an over-reaction by the handicapper. It's fair to say that (prior to this race) Minella Rocco has not progressed well this season over fences, after looking a very decent novice hurdler last season. He finally got his act together LTO at Ascot over 3-mile when 2nd to Vyta Du Roc doing his best work that day in the 2nd-half of the race. The same thing happened in this, as he was under pressure mid-race before making progress in the final mile of this 4-mile race. There's talk of him being a potential Gold Cup horse, but his running style is more suited to marathon races. Native River is more interesting, as he's had a busy season and this 2-mile (Listed) hurdle winner looks well handicapped if dropped back to 3-mile. The Irish trained Measureofmydreams is tricky to weigh-up as he's a bit of a dark horse. This trip looked like it stretched him and, again, a drop to 3-mile (a trip over which he won on 14-Feb) looks the right move to bring the best out of him. This 4-mile trip certainly extended Southfield Royale, and this 6yo has time on his side. He looks better than his half-brother (Southfield Theatre) and looks a potential 160+ chaser next season over trips around 3-mile.
The closing race of the opening day, the 2m4f & 110 yards novices' handicap chase, was run at a strong pace. The winner was the 9yo Ballyalton who was 2nd here to Faugheen in the RSA Novices Hurdle in 2014. He came into this race with potential and nothing more as his novice form this season over fences was nothing to write home about. He is very lightly race for a 9yo and I expect he will be highly tried over the coming months to make up for lost time (he was off the track for 20 months till returning last November). After winning in January at Doncaster, I noted Bouvreuil for this race and he did connections proud by only just failing to win. He was also 2nd in the Juvenile Handicap Hurdle here last year, so clearly loves Cheltenham and maybe next year he will get his head in front. It is possible that Double Shuffle went for home too early and paid the price. As such, he escapes the attention of the handicapper and has been raised only 3lb to OR141, which looks a workable mark for this improving 6yo.
Reviews of the remainder of the Cheltenham Festival races are to follow over the next week before focus turns to Aintree and the grand National.
Tuesday 22 March 2016
The 2nd day provided respite for the bookies as hot-fav Yanworth was beaten (after being given possibly the worst ride of the week) by another Walsh-ridden, Mullins-trained horse in Yorkill.
But on Day-3 (Thursday) the bookies were again running for cover as Walsh and Mullins combined to win the opener with the 4/1 joint-fav Black Hercules, and then to the days feature chase race, the "Ryanair" with the "evens" fav Vautour - who looked the easiest winner of the week, until Thistlecrack (also at "evens") won the World Hurdle in such emphatic fashion you thought it was a walk-over. The nail in the coffin for the bookies on Thursday was Limini (Walsh and Mullins again) winning the inaugural running of the "Dawn Run" Mares novices hurdle at 8/11.
Friday was another good day for the Irish but, this time, it was not Walsh and Mullins who provided Irish-trained winners Ivanovich Gorbatov @ 9/2; Don Cossack @ 9/4; and On The Fringe @ 13/8.
Where did this flood of short-priced winning favourites leave the "value" punter like me? Out in the cold, that's where. A major weapon in my armoury is that the fav takes a huge chunk out of the market and (if the fav gets beaten) there is value to be found in the market if you can find the winner. That is not to say there is value in wagers placed on short-priced fav's. When you consider Douvan had an SP of 1/4, you didn't need to be a betting aficionado to be able to form the opinion that Vautour and Thistlecrack (both with SP's of "evens") were value. And if they were value, then you could also consider the chances of odds-on winner Limini @ 8/11 was also better than her odds.
My 3 selections on the opening day (Beg To Differ, Vicente, and Five In A Row) were all beaten, producing a loss of £30 on the day to advised stakes although Vicente looked particularly unlucky in-running.
The 2nd day was no better, with my advised wagers in the RSA Chase (Seeyouatmidnight and Vyta Du Roc) being beaten, and Special Tiara in the Champion Chase running a cracking race to be 3rd but that wasn't good enough to return a profit for the blog as Sprinter Sacre showed his form this season really was better than any other 2-mile chaser. As such I ended the day £20 down (and £50 lost on the week).
The 3rd day of the Festival is always a busy day for me and is the day that makes or breaks my Festival - and we came close to making it back. Time will show us (as it did with Wishful Thinking in this race a few years ago) that the best horse in the JLT Novices Chase was my selection Bristol De Mai, but the 5yo was just outstayed on the day by Black Hercules. I was correct in pointing out that Vautour would win the Ryanair Chase in a canter, but the policy for this blog is to NOT advise wagers on selections at odds under 9/4. When Taquin De Seuil won the JLT Novices Chase here in 2014, I rated it at just 151 while RPR (Racing Post) rated the win at 164. Throughout last season he never looked like a 160+ chaser and I felt my assessment was vindicated. However, he came out and won from a year off at Warwick in February and I thought perhaps he'd managed to overcome a problem during the break, and returned a better horse. But no, he's a 151-153 performer and he never got a look in.
The World Hurdle looked a shoo-in for the fav Thistlecrack, and I wrote as much in my assessment of the race. As such, I was looking for a horse who would come at least in the 1st-3 and perhaps challenge the fav if in the best of form. But, in Saphir Du Rheu, I selected a horse who was struggling fully a mile from the finish. At £45 down on the day, I was hopeful for Stilletto to recoup the losses as he was the subject of a gamble from 10/1 to an SP of 11/2 - but he fell at the 3rd fence!
The final race on the card, the Kim Muir Chase finally provided some respite, but still we could not find the winner. Even so, both selections Silvergrove and A Good Skin ran great races to finish 3rd and 2nd (respectively). Had either horse won, then we'd have broken even on the day. Instead, we recovered £43.62 resulting in a profit of £28.62 on the race, but a loss of £31.38 on the day and £81.38 on the week, with the final day still to come.
Going into Friday, I was still hopeful of at least breaking even on the week, and maybe even securing a small profit. As my strength is in my interpretation of chasing form, I decided to concentrate on the 2 major chase races of the final day: the Gold Cup and the Foxhunter Chase. I made Cue Card my main selection of the day as he had (in my opinion) the strongest form this season, and really (in my opinion) he should have been the 9/4 fav for the race. We all know now that he didn't win but, had he not fallen at the 3rd-last fence, I honestly cannot imagine that he would not have won. He was going far the best of the front-3 and had taken-up the running. We all saw that Djakadam had nothing left in the tank, which was a result of an interrupted preparation and having not completed a race since 6th December 2015. As for the eventual winner Don Cossack, he had very little to do to win this race once Cue Card was out of it, and I rate his winning performance at 170 (using Don Poli as the base-mark at 155) which is 2lb behind Coneygree in 2015. As I wrote on the day, Cue Card had already run to 170+ six times in this career, and twice this season; and I've no doubt Cue Card would have won by at least 4-lengths had he stood up.
Before I leave the Gold Cup, I must state how disappointed I am at the ratings attributed to the race by the Racing Post (RPR). Don Cossack has been awarded a rating of RPR182 which is clearly bonkers given how the race collapsed with the fall of Cue Card. The runner-up Djakadam was not the same horse this year as he was last year - and you don't need to be a racing professional to see that. Yet RPR reckon this run was even better by 3lbs than his defeat (by Don Cossack) at Punchestown last April. Next, Don Poli, a horse who has struggled to top RPR160 but who (apparently) ran a career-best last week when he was never closer to the winner than the 14-lengths he was beaten at the post. Finally, Carlingford Lough who last year was awarded RPR151 when beaten 28-lengths by Coneygree but, this year was awarded RPR164.
This 164 rating is only 1lb below the rating RPR awarded him for winning the Irish "Hennessey" when beating OR158 rated Foxrock.
I'm very happy that my rating of the race is more realistic than that of the Racing Post.
There is no place in horseracing for "ratings inflation", and it should be stamped out.
My final selection of the Festival was Mendip Express in the "Foxhunters" and I was disappointed that the horse was not in the 1st-4 but he just wasn't pushed hard enough by his jockey.
Overall for the week, I ended up £111.38 down.
Over the next week I will be undertaking a complete review of the Festival results to see if we can unearth any value for Aintree, Punchestown and the Cheltenham Festival for 2017.
In the meantime, apologies for the poor performance of the selections last week.
Friday 18 March 2016
I know readers of this will very likely have already formed an opinion on which horse they will be supporting in the Gold Cup. However, this is a race in which recent form is very important, and the horse with the very best recent form is CUE CARD. He beat LTO at Kempton non-other than Vautour who romped home yesterday looking every inch a 170+ horse. CUE CARD has run to 170+ six times in his career over fences, with two of those performances this season. The only doubt is will he stay this slightly longer trip, but for that we are able to obtain odds of 4/1. Djakadam has had an interrupted preparation (suffered a deep cut requiring many stitches when he fell LTO), and Don Cossack ran like a non-stayer in my opinion when falling at Kempton 2-out in the race won by Cue Card. Don Poli is the fly in the ointment as he’s done nothing wrong this season, but he will need to improve about 15lb on what we’ve seen. Smad Place is another who will stay the trip but this will be his 6th race at the Festival and he’s yet to win here. I just cannot see him winning this. Based on this years’ form, CUE CARD should be the 9/4 fav.
Thursday 17 March 2016
The day opens with the 6th running of this championship race for novice chasers.
· All 5 previous winners have been rated (at one time) at OR142 or better as hurdlers, thus meeting the same criteria of “Arkle” winners in being above-average hurdlers..
- All 5 previous winners contested a hurdle at the previous year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Stick with LTO winners (certainly no worse than 2nd), and as this is a tough 2m4f, the selection should have proven stamina over this trip but not a win over trips in excess of 2m6f – that is a negative in my opinion.
OUTLANDER, £4 win @ 5/1 (available generally)
· 16 of last 23 winners carried between 10st 7lb and 11st 3lb;
· 12 of the last 24 winners won LTO.
One horse that appears to fit the bill is SADDLERS ENCORE. He’s a LTO winner and carries 10st 7lb. He’s won 3 of his last 4 races and for a 7yo is very lightly raced and this will be just his 8th race since his track debut in November 2013. Followers of the blog were on him when he won LTO, and he never gave up that day, he was very resilient. He has only been raised 6lb for that win and, at odds of 18/1 he looks tremendous value as I do like a horse that travels well, and prominently, in this handicap. However, I cannot advise a wager in a race like this.
· Winning course form at Cheltenham – 10 of the 11 winners previous winners had won at Cheltenham (Riverside Theatre in 2012 was the exception).
· Winning form in a Grade 1 chase – 7 of the last 8 winners (since the Ryanair became a Grade 1 chase) had previously won a Grade 1 chase (Imperial Commander in 2009 was the only exception).
· The Irish have yet to win the race, and sent over Don Cossack last year who started the fav and finished 3rd.
This race is all about VAUTOUR who should win this race in a canter, much as he won the JLT Novices Chase last year. For the runner-up, let’s remove those who haven’t won at Cheltenham: Gilgamboa; Josses Hill; Oscar Rock; Vibrato Valtat; Smashing; Road To Riches; and Valseur Lido.
TAQUIN DU SEUIL, £5 eachway @ 10/1 with William Hill without the fav Vautour
· The betting market is usually good at highlighting the winner and it is unlikely that the winner will not be amongst the 1st-4 in the betting (certainly at odds less than 10/1);
· It is very likely that the winner will have run at last year’s Cheltenham Festival;
· The last horse to win this after taking part in a Champion Hurdle was Nomadic Way in 1992.
Last years 1st and 2nd Cole Harden and Saphir De Rheu return, but all the focus is on THISTLECRACK who has been a revelation this season. If he repeats the form of his win here in January then it is unlikely that he will be beat. Last year I was on Saphir Du Rheu and he everything right then bar enough to beat the winner. He showed he was a serious top-class 3-mile hurdler NOT at Aintree, and I think he looks better than his 10/1 odds (he was the 5/1 fav last year). As I do not think Alpha Des Obeaux is good enough on what we’ve seen, for me the wager is SAPHIR DU RHEU.
Saphir Du Rheu, £5 win AND £5 eachway @ 11/1 (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)
· 19 of the last 23 winners carried under 11st;
· 21 of the last 23 winners were rated between OR128 – OR141;
· Irish trainers have only won this race once since 1951.
If you look only at those rated OR128 – OR141 then you omit all those carrying 10st11lb or more. I’m prepared to bend that rule and include LTO winner STILLETTO on OR142. There is also another LTO winner in this group, the mare LA VATICANE trained by David Pipe, and she’s due to run off OR142 but (with her 5lb win penalty) runs off OR138. Personally, I think STILLLETTO is a 150+ horse, and he’s going to be my main wager.
You places your money and you take you chance - good luck!
4:50pm Mares’ Novices Hurdle (2m & 179 yards)
· Only 6 of the last 36 winners was a 7yo;
· There has been only one Irish-trained winner since 1983, that was Spring Heeled in 2014.
SILVERGROVE, £5 eachway @ 14/1 (available generally, quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4)
Wednesday 16 March 2016
Tuesday 15 March 2016
NO ADVISED WAGER
Monday 14 March 2016
Saturday 12 March 2016
Hurdle races are not my thing, especially 2-mile handicap hurdle races and I much prefer hurdles over 2m5f or more. So I'm giving this race a swerve and looking at the handicap chases on the same card. At 2:35pm there is a Class 3 handicap chase over 3-mile which looks interesting. The last time he ran we were on Bertie Boru who looked very well handicapped on old form. He is a bit of a monkey as he drops himself out the back early then stays on strong - if he's in the right mind! That is exactly the way he won for the last time, back in November 2014 at Newbury when ridden by Richard Johnson who is in the saddle today. He was rated OR135 after that and runs off OR128 today. The current fav Benenden has gone up 10lb in the ratings to OR125 for a facile win LTO over 3-mile, but that looks an over-reaction by the handicapper. Relax was going well Last week in the Veteran's Chase won by Shotavodka till unseating his rider, and he's a C&D winner too. He will set a strong pace out from on a track that does suit his front-running style, but it may also be just the pace Bertie Boru needs to come good. Mosspark was 2nd in this last year, but came into the race in good form then. This season he's only had one run last November when disappointing. And the winner last year, Financial Climate, hasn't come near repeating that form since, and he's racing off 6lb higher now from OR128. The novice Dawson City looks very exciting judged on his good 2nd to Golden Chieftain at Wincanton. The winner was running well and in command when coming down NTO, and DAWSON CITY could be a lot better than his OR129 rating. As the 7yo is also the youngest in the race, he has the most potential to find improvement today, and odds of 15/2 look very fair, as I think he should be joint fav with Relax on 4/1. He certainly would be if he were with a headline trainer and not with Polly Gundry. But I've no concerns on that score, as I know the horse will come here in possibly the best condition of any in the race.
Value looks thin on the ground at both Ayr and Chepstow and I'm sticking with DAWSON CITY as my only advised wager of the day.
Sandown 2:35pm DAWSON CITY, £5 win @ £5 eachway @ 15/2 (Corals and Bet365 for quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)