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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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Thursday 29 September 2016

Early Days

I was correct about Johns Spirit yesterday. He seems to have lost his way completely as he should have been capable of winning this race even on last seasons form but, it appears, he's still going backwards.
If you read the blog and "layed" Johns Spirit to lose - even after the non-runners reduced the race-field to just 3 - then good luck to you and well done.  That is what the narrative of the blog is there for, to allow the reader to match the benefit of my opinion with their own assessment of risk.
The ground was too quick for most of the field, hence the non-runners.
Today there is a meeting at Warwick, but I will not be spending too much time over it.  At this time of the season, fitness can be more important than formlines.
There is an interesting Class 3 chase at Warwick at 4:10pm which sees the return of No Buts to the track after a break due to injury. Unfortunately for him, the trip of 3-miles is almost certainly beyond his stamina, and the "good" ground will be too quick for him - all his best form is on soft or heavy ground.
The unexposed Benzel won LTO but the value of that form is dubious as the horse he beat so easily over 3-miles that day clearly does not stay the trip.
Ready Token also won LTO, but that was in May.  However, he seems to be following the same path as last season when, afer a win in June, he won on 5th October, so it is likely his trainer Charlie Longsdon has him fit to race.  We know he stays 3-mile well, and he handles the "good" ground; the worry is he was raised 12lb for that win LTO to OR125 and that leaves little room for error.
The 9yo Velator has bundles of experience, stays 3-mile very well and will handle the gound, but he is a bit one-paced.  He's been knocking on the door for a long time now and if you discount his last couple of runs for which he has legitimate excusues, and focus on his 2nd to Bincombe on 12th July then you have got to think he has a strong chance here. The remaining pair of Horsehill and Follow The Swallow both look like they may have a small chance on old form but are hard to work out. If I was pushed to make a selection, it would be VELATOR at 5/1 (available generally) but as it would not be a surprise to see any one of the others (apart from No Buts) win then I can't make a recommendation.
Sunday brings us the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe from Chantilly in France and, on paper, it looks a decent race. If it all goes well, then Postponed will take all the beating, but things don't always go to plan and the current odds leave no room for comfort.
No selection today.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Tasty Bangor handicap

Interesting meeting at Bangor today, with a juicy little race at 3:10 which although having only 6 runners, brings together one of the best handicap chasers of recent years, plus a couple of possible contenders.
Followers of jump racing will readily know the name Johns Spirit; the 9yo has won some of the best handicap chase races of recent seasons clocking-up over £260,000 in prize-money.  Unfortunately, he's now on a long losing run and has dropped in the handicap from a high of OR160 (he ran 5th in the 2015 Ryanair Chase no less) to be running off OR136 today. Basically, he seems to have lost the will to win and while he should be capable - even based on last seasons poor form - of taking this race, you have to wonder whether he still has it in him.
Of his rivals today, the 7yo What Happens Now looks to be close to his ceiling as he was hard-pushed to win LTO (his 3rd win in 4 chase starts) and I'm not sure this drop in trip to 2m4f will suit him. The season sort of tailed-off for Final Assault in 2015-16 after a bright start. This could be just a preparatory race for him, but he's capable of much better than his current mark of OR132.  Were the ground softer I would almost certainly make him my selection, but he may just find things going a bit quick for him in the final stages of the race.
Germany Calling is too inconsistent for me, and I'm not sure that this 2m4f trip is best for him, as his best form is at 2-miles.  Court Dismissed caught my eye last season but, again, he is too inconsistent – but he is on my alert list and is one that is capable of better than his rating when the conditions are right.
The unexposed 9yo Racktiman is a possible "ringer" in the race. Along with the others, he's capable of running better that his current rating when the conditions are right, and today may be the day for him.
All-in-all, a real puzzler of a handicap for a Wednesday, just the sort of race that winter NH fans love.  Looking at the odds available, come 3:20pm the 9/4 available about Johns Spirit could seem a real snip, or we could all be thinking the horse needs to be put out to grass.  I'd be looking for odds of at least 3/1 before being tempted and for me one of the others possibly represents better value.  While the ground may not be soft enough for him to show his best, we know Final Assault can run well on "good" ground, and this early time in the season may be the time to catch him.  Currently he's 9/1 (Stan James) and, while I cannot recommend him as a wager, I won't put anyone off having a small punt on him.

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Weekend update for 24th/25th September

While not the best of results for the blog with our initial selection for the 2016-17 jumps season, BALLYKAN ran well enough to be 3rd on Saturday which meant we only lost £1.25 of our £15 stake money and recovered the balance. There was a point in the race as the leaders turned for home that I thought our selection was going to come and take the race as he was going very well in 2nd place just behind the eventual winner. unfortunately, when he was asked a question by his rider, he found little and was only able to stay on into 3rd.

The race winner was Vintage Vinnie who was another from my alert list - along with Cernunnos and Ballykan - and while this wasn't an improvement on his best chasing form, it was a positive in the manner of his racing.  It seems that a bit of maturity has helped this horse to settle in his races, as although he still wants to be prominent, he isn't fighting for the lead in the way he did in his races last season.

What this performance did was to confirm a couple of points:-
1) the Rebecca Curtis stable appears to be fighting fit and back to full strength after a season when something was definitely amiss;
2) a direct effect of last season is that (due to the poor performance in general of the stable last season) the Curtis horses are well-handicapped for 2016-17 and we should pay close attention to them going forward.

The may be some more to come from Vintage Vinnie, especially over a longer trip than this, so he stays on the alert list. However, I'm not sure that Ballykan will be remaining on the alert list as this race seemed to suggest he's reached his ceiling of ability.

Earlier on the Market Rasen card, the extended 2-mile handicap hurdle looked like it was going to last years race winner CLOONACOOL. He had eased himself into a challenging position approaching the 2nd-last flight without much effort. Unfortunately, he clipped that flight, lost his footing and crumpled on landing.  Cloonacool was already on my alert list, but I wasn't quite sure of his fitness and he was having his first run since last March, and he'd spend the latter part of the 2015-16 season chasing. What I had already deduced was that he was a lot better than his OR135 hurdles rating (and he showed that on Saturday); and we know he can jump a fence too - and he looks a lot better than his OR140 rating in that sphere.  He looks one to be on next time out wherever he races.

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All the best from Wayward Lad

Saturday 24 September 2016

When Saturday comes...

When Saturday comes, the tough go racing, and this Saturday brings us the first decent weekend jumps meeting of the new season, with Market Rasen staging a couple of "Listed" races - one over hurdles and one over fences. I am a big fan of this meeting and, last year, I managed to advise the 9/2 winner of the chase handicap - Oscar Rock. 

The year before (2014) I thought the winner was going to be Fox Appeal as he jumped the 2nd-last fence.  Unfortunately, he found nothing when asked the question. Fox Appeal goes for the race again but off an 8lb lower rating of OR143 - will that swing the pendulum in his favour?  He won NTO at Kempton over 2m4f & 110yards, dead-heating with Theatre Guide (who won the Betbright Chase at Kempton last February) and with Annacotty, no less, back in 3rd btn 5-lengths.  Since then, Fox Appeal has been raced mainly over trips around 3-mile - he ran a cracker when 3rd at Ascot on 31Oct16 behind Pendra and Double Ross, but I think this trip is his best s he's never looked to be a true 3-mile chaser.  The worry is that he usually comes on a bit for his seasonal debut, but he's sure to be thereabouts.
Fox Appeal is 11/2 with William Hill.

Another horse I'm considering for the race is the 6yo Ballykan, who has won his last two chase races during the summer. He showed last February when 4th to Theatre Guide in the Betbright Chase that staying 3-mile is within his scope, but his latest couple of wins have come over 2m4f and this trip of 2m5f could well see him at his best. He's running off OR141 which is only 4lb above his latest wining mark.
Ballykan is 7/1 with Bet365, Betfred and BetVictor. 

When Ballykan won LTO he had Cernunnos behind him that day, but they meet on different terms in this, with Cernunnos 6lb better-off. That race could well have prepped Cernunnos perfectly for this and the trip and ground should suit, although it may be a bit too lively for him (his only chase win came on soft ground at Leicester). Cernunnos is due a change of luck after taking a hefty bump at the final fence LTO, and falling when disputing the lead the time before that. He also swerved the Cheltenham Festival last March to go to Kempton on the 19th March where he unfortunately met a decent horse in Portway Flyer who is now rated 16lb higher. Will that bit of luck come today?  
Cernunnos is 14/1 generally, which looks tremendous eachway value.

Considering that the ground will likely be riding on the quicker side of "good" as there's been little rain over the past few days, my opinion of the others in the race:-

Croco Bay needs to prove he stays this trip.
Presenting Arms would prefer some give in the ground (last 4 wins on ground with "soft" in description).
Father Edward won his debut for David Pipe, but he's up 13lb for that win and I think this horse wants 3-mile-plus, plus softer ground.
Seefood is another who possibly wants 3-mile and softer ground.
Roman Flight looks like he wants a trip under 2m2f to show his best.
Wadswick Flight meets Ballykan on 6lb worse terms that when they met last month and, though he won NTO at Cartmel on 29th August, I doubt he's found the improvement to beat Ballykan.
Princeton Royale is a hard one to assess with just 3 chase races and he only beat one rival LTO.  However, he is a winner at 3-miles over hurdles and that suggests he wants further than this trip of 2m5f.
Vintage Vinnie won a hurdle race easily earlier this month but he likes to get his own way and I can't see that happening in this race; plus he needs to find some improvement to justify his OR129 rating.
Anteros was beaten by Princeton Royale LTO and I can't see him figuring in this.

For me, it's difficult to split BALLYKAN and CERNUNNOS with the 6lb-pull to the latter, although the ground is more in favour of BALLYKAN and the odds of 7/1 look excellent as I expected him to be the 7/2 fav. Even so, I would not put anyone off having a small eachway wager (or certainly place-only on the exchanges) at 14/1 on CERNUNNOS

Market Rasen 3:10 BALLYKAN; £5 eachway and £5 win @ 7/1 (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)
Total staked = £15

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Wayward Lad blog for Wed 21st Sept 2016

This time last year the blog warmed-up with its initial wagers, including the 9/2 winner Oscar Rock in the Listed Chase at Market Rasen.  In todays' "Weekender" we have the early entries for Saturday's race and, after a brief perusal, I reckon that I've narrowed the likely winner down to one of 3 of the 17 potential  runners.
Winner-finding at the time of the year at such an early stage in the jumps season "proper", it can be tricky finding winners as much comes down to the actual fitness of the horses: some can come to their seasonal debut ready to race at their best, but many others need a race to bring them to peak fitness, and more than a few need more than one race!  Yet the rule book says that each horse should come to the races prepared to run to its merits.
Some trainers always have their horses fit and ready to run, certainly the top trainers do such as Henderson, Nicholls, Twiston-Davies and King. Away from that quartet, there are a few others who I like to keep on my side with regards horse fitness and readiness to race, and in this respect I was sorry to learn last week that a small trainer whom I've followed for the past 5 or 6 seasons over the jumps was having to close their stable due to lack of support – and that is Caroline Keevil.  Caroline always had her horses well-prepared, especially her chasers, and you always knew that you'd get a good run for your money.
There are no odds published yet for Saturdays jumps card at Market Rasen, so I can't advise an early wager, but I will be keeping close-tabs on the bookies – and also the weather.  With no significant rain forecast over the next few days, together with temperatures rising slightly towards the weekend, the ground could be on the fast side of "good" which will likely puncture the chances of some horses that will be hoping for some juice in the ground.
As with last season, I will be confining my selections to races of Class 3 and above.  Expect another blog posting on Friday when we should have some odds to consider and a better indication of the likely ground conditions on Saturday.

Sunday 4 September 2016

The 2016-17 Jumps season is starting to get rolling

There will be a slow build-up during the month of September, as flat racing still dominates the horseracing calendar. However, "Wayward Lad" has been trawling through the formbook, updating the alert list, and seeking out underrated horses.

With the jumps season yet to hit full swing, it is unlikely that a selection will be advised before the end of the month but, if the circumstances are right, we could place a wager. 

With the review of the horse alerts completed, I am eagerly awaiting the resumption of top-class jump racing for what should be a cracking jump season with plenty of competition amongst the chasers especially. Last year we started the jumps season in terrific form with the blog selections, and this year I am hopeful of a similar performance.  Currently, I have just over 200 horses on my alert list with all but half a dozen aged no older than 8yo. If you remember, by 1st November 2015 there had been recommended wagers on 18 horses, of which 8 were subsequent individual race winners and 4 were placed (they were each-way selections).  Profits, after Vintage Star won on 1st November, stood at £455 on stakes of just £195.  Of course, those stakes are just a guide to measure the success of the blog - I know many of my followers place a lot more than the advised stake, and they reaped the increased rewards.

That start to last season will be a hard act to follow, but we can only try and I'm confident that the winners will flow as they have done ever since I started this blog in March 2010.  My selections have been in profit every jumps season since - that is 6 consecutive seasons in profit.  The 2nd-half of last season was a disappointment, with lots of hard-luck stories, but we still ended up with a profit of £227 to advised stakes of just over £1,000 - representing a 21% return in investment.

My opinion is that the 2015-16 jumps season was one of transformation; a handover of the baton of power from one generation to the next.  We have seen this recently before when, in 2012, the Cheltenham Gold Cup was won by the superb handicap chaser Synchronised.  That race was the final time we saw Kauto Star on a racecourse, and his stablemate Denman had already been retired; while Imperial Commander who had beaten the Nicholls-trained pair in 2010, was never the same horse after being injured.

As such, I have looked at the antepost market for the Cheltenham Gold Cup which, on the face of it, looks very open - it's 7/1 the field headed by the novice chaser Thistlecrack (7/1) and the latest Ryanair Chase winner Vautour (8/1).   Thistlecrack looks an immense prospect but, until we've seen him jump a fence at speed, odds of 7/1 look far too short. For comparison, after Coneygree won the Aon Chase at Newbury in February 2015 (before going on to win the Gold Cup) he was quoted at 12/1 - so Thistlecrack should be at least 16/1+ at this stage, and I’d have him at odds equal to those available on last year’s best novice chasers, at about 25/1.  We all know potential can only be proven on the racetrack, and there have been dozens of high-class staying hurdlers that have not made any impression when going chasing.  I wish connections of Thistlecrack the best of luck.

This years (fortunate) Gold Cup winner Don Cossack is at 10/1 (with Paddy Power) and, personally, I can't see him retaining his crown in 2017.  As much as I love the horse, it is also likely that Cue Card (11/1 for 2017) who would have won last March but for falling at the 3rd-last, has had his chance as well - age will be catching-up with him quickly this season.

I was disappointed that Willie Mullins was persuaded to run Djakadam (16/1 for 2017) in the Gold Cup last March, as he’s now shown he just isn't good enough to win a Gold Cup.  Without a doubt, his stablemate Douvan (12/1) would be high on my list of potential Gold Cup winners were he not almost certain to go for the QMCC (he's best-priced at "evens" for that race).  As for 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree (14/1 for 2017) will he come back from injury as good as he once was?

There is another horse that I've not yet considered;  For me, VAUTOUR at 8/1 (Bet365, PaddyPower, Stan James, 888Sport and Skybet) looks the value. We know he loves Cheltenham, we know he stays 3-mile, and we know he's a serious quality chaser at OR170+.  Looking at the betting, I'd say he should be the fav and, given the lack of strength in the opposition, I'd have him at about 4/1.  He could certainly be the 2/1 fav at 4pm on Boxing Day should he win the King George Chase at Kempton.

Clearly, there will be possibly a strong challenge from last year's top novice chasers Black Hercules (25/1) or Blaklion (33/1), but neither looked potential Gold Cup winners to me, and I'd be more interested in some of the young handicap chasers like Wakanda or Virak making the step-up in class.

In the meantime, I've taken the odds of 8/1 about VAUTOUR for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  Be sure to visit the blog Wayward Lad over the coming weeks as I will be posting. And, if you are interested, I will be accepting donations to go onto the email list and receive the blog early from 1st October.  The terms will be the same as last season: £10 per month in advance.