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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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Sunday 27 November 2016

Native River wins the Hennessy Gold Cup

A top-drawer performance from NATIVE RIVER yesterday won the (final) Hennessy Gold Cup and readers of the blog were on at 6/1 - before a tsunami of office money caused the odds to plunge to an SP of just 7/2; and I predicted the SP of NATIVE RIVER being 7/2 on Wednesday's blog.

I was very confident that we were on the winner a long way out, although when Carole's Legacy came with a late challenge my confidence was dented. It was a tremendous run from Carole's Legacy who (at best) was well-handicapped as he won over 3m4f at Sandown in December last year off OR146 (he ran off OR148 yesterday) but that was after his seasonal debut - which he hadn't had this season, he came into the Hennessy fresh. Before I move on from that Sandown race, we will keep an eye out for the horse in 3rd that day Ballyheigue Bay as this one needs a RH track and good-to-soft ground and he's slipped from OR132 to OR127 as he's been running in unsuitable races.
It would not surprise me to see Carole's Destrier improve a few pounds for the run if he comes out again soon, and there are some suitable handicaps in December.

This Hennessy (this is the final year as the sponsor owner LVMH has decided to end 60 years of association with the race and concentrate on fashion advertising!) was a solid race for the form student, although trends followers fell (literally) at the first hurdle as no previous winner had come from a hurdle race LTO as Native River did. The winner is still about 10lbs short of the top-table on my ratings, but he is only a 6yo and come next March he could well be in the mix - what a problem for Tizzard having Native River, Cue Card and Thistlecrack in the stable. 

My other selection Virak did not run well at all, and something is amiss with the horse as he seems to have lost his mojo. There is no room for sentimentality in horseracing, especially if you are gambling on it, and that's the last time we will wager on Virak until he shows better form.  The winner of the race  OTAGO TRAIL skipped through the mud very easily and looks a lot better than his current OR146 rating and he could be 160+ especially on soft/heavy ground. We will be following this horse closely. 

The blog is now in profit for the season at £84.38 on stakes of £280.00, which represents an ROI of 30.13%.  Not quite as good as at this time last season, but doing well enough, especially as we have had a few near-misses in Double Shuffle beaten a short-head at 15/2, Ericht making a last fence blunder costing him the race at 7/1, and Oliver's Gold failing (having been in front on the run-in) by a neck on Friday at 7/1.  I'm disappointed with the strike-rate but that is the price for looking for winners at odds longer than 9/4.

I've been asked about antepost wagers, and while I am happy to give my opinion on a horse and it's ability, at the moment it is up to the reader to make their own decision whether to follow it and place a wager or not. My own wager on Vautour for the Gold Cup was lost last month when Vautour was injured on the gallops and had to be destroyed, and while I have placed another wager on Douvan - also for the Gold Cup - after yesterday, I think it is unlikely he will now go for that race and will likely stick to the Champion Chase. Such is the risk with antepost wagers. I do not think Cue Card will be able to be the first 10yo to win the Gold Cup since Cool Dawn in 1998, but his age may not be the barrier - it may well be his stablemates of Thistlecrack and Native River

What is interesting is that the race won by Thistlecrack on Saturday was also won by Native River last season and, while Native River ran an extra 60 yards (see Racing Post for details), the time was 23.15 seconds slower on similar ground. That's about the time it takes to run 200 yards (for a horse carrying 11st 9lb), so put simply Thistlecrack won his novice chase about 140 yards quicker than Native River did last year. Make of that what you will.

The selections for the season and profit and loss are on a separate page on the blog.

Saturday 26 November 2016

Hennessy GC Day at Newbury

What a busy Saturday. We have 4 jump meetings at Newbury, Doncaster, Newcastle and Bangor. There is a lot going on, so I may skimp over a few races and omit some altogether.

Newbury first where we have the Hennessy Gold Cup at 3:10pm but, before that at 12:55pm we have the next instalment of the Thistlecrack saga and he faces his sternest test to date. I think he may be worth opposing, and I will be having a small stake on Ibis Du Rheu at 8/1.

I've looked at the Hennessy Gold Cup a lot this week, and I think it is between the fav Native River and Scottish National winner Vicente.  They met in the National Hunt Chase over 4-mile at the Cheltenham Festival and, but for Vicente being impeded when jumping 3-out, I think there would have been little to split them at the finish. Vicente ticks a lot of boxes for the trends followers - 7yo, 2nd-season chaser, only 8 chase runs with a 50% win/run strike-rate, and a proven stayer - and it makes no sense why he's 20/1 as he has a great chance of being in the 1st-4.  The only downside is that he hasn't had a recent run (as he's being aimed at the Grand National next April).  As such, I reckon Native River will win, but Vicente won't be far behind. It's is not all that simple, as there are a couple of dark horses in the race in Henry Parry Morgan at 11/1 and Local Show at 50/1.  Wherever Native River finishes, Henry Parry Morgan will not be far away, and I reckon he did himself a favour losing his rider when going well in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown last April, as that race is a graveyard for winners. The same for Local Show only he last ran in that National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival with his stamina failing him in the final half-mile of that 4-mile race. He should be okay with today's trip, but this will only be his 4th chase race, so his experience is limited.  My opinion is that this years race isn't as strong as it can be, and Native River looks head & shoulders the best chance in the race.

Earlier at Newbury in the 1:30pm Class 3 handicap chase, my eye is caught by Final Assault at 12/1 as this 2m6f trip looks perfect for him and he could have a lot in hand here. He was needing further LTO over 2m4f but that race will have brought him to peak fitness for this. Trainer Lucinda Russell has sent 3 horses to Newbury today from Kinross in Scotland, but her success-rate south of the border isn't great - it is a long trip for a horse to make in a transporter on the road.  As such, while I respect the chance of Anthony in this race, I am going to have a personal wager eachway wager on the Henderson entry Full Shift at 22/1 who was well-fancied LTO but pulled-up early as he wasn't travelling, but has some good form from his novice season when he was highly tried. 

The Rehearsal Chase over 3-mile at Newcastle at 3:30pm looks a cracker, as Wakanda and Virak last years 1st & 2nd return to renew rivalry. I have Virak 3lb ahead and that could well be enough, as Bristol De Mai has not looked a potential 3-miler to me and his OR154 rating looks about right. The early fav is Definitly Red at 3/1 and his trainer Ellison is hoping the ground isn't too soft but I'm not sure about his stamina for this trip with Wakanda and Virak solid stayers. At 13/2 VIRAK looks the best of the pair, but Wakanda will not be far away and 9/1 is a stonking eachway price. I want to provide readers with a winner and the best chance of that (in my opinion) is VIRAK at Newcastle. Trainer Paul Nicholls does not travel to Newcastle much these days - he has only sent Irving (twice) and Virak to the track in the past 5 years - and this time, with Virak having missed the Hennessy Gold Cup to come here, I think he means business. 

Newbury 3:10pm NATIVE RIVER, £10 win @ 6/1 (available generally)
Newcastle 3:30pm VIRAK, £10 win @ 13/2 (Bet Victor, Paddy Power and Coral)  

Yesterday was a frustrating, but enlightening, day with both selections being beaten.
Unfortunately, Stilletto suffered a fatal injury in his fall - and left my "2nd-string" selection Roman Flight to win at 16/1 without me having any money on.  The main selection Stilletto fell for the 3rd time, but fell too early for us to know how well he'd have run. Personally, with the fav Three Musketeers struggling (as I expected) when losing his rider, it is probable that Stilletto would have run well enough to win had he stood up. I can make that assumption as the horse I reckoned was "2nd-best" Roman Flight won at 16/1. When this happens, many things go through your mind: should I have advised 2 selections in the race; should I always advise wagers on the horse with the longer odds; should I consider forecast wagers; should I advise in-running wagers? I know at least one reader of the blog wagered on Roman Flight in-running after Stilletto fell, so I will assume a fair percentage of readers also made that call.

My other selection Oliver's Gold really should have won as the race-fav showed his jumping inexperience with a fall at the 5th fence, and the most consistent rival King Of The Wolds also fell 3-out.  By my ratings the eventual winner Festive Affair only just bettered his rating, and I doubt he will find more next time; and so this was a missed opportunity for Oliver's Gold. He only went down by a neck but that is no consolation as were he fitter he would have won this by 6-lengths or more.

Friday 25 November 2016

Friday 25th November

The Newbury 2-day "Hennessey" meeting starts today heralding a busy weekend of top-class racing, so don't forget Doncaster and Newcastle.

There is a decent Class 2 handicap chase at 2:45pm at Newbury in which I've already advised those on the email list to have a wager.  Long-term readers of the blog will know STILLETTO from last season.  We were on him when he was on his way to winning in February at Wincanton at 6/1 but, unfortunately, he overjumped and fell 3-out with the race at his mercy. Sure enough, he followed-up 2 weeks later with a win at Leicester at the much shorter odds of 7/4, with his cover blown. He was then the subject of an almighty gamble at the Cheltenham Festival in March for his next race but fell again, at the 3rd fence before the race got going. He was probably over the top when 3rd of 3 for his final run of last season.
I have him 7lb ahead of his OR141 rating, and he should have the beating of this field tomorrow for this, his debut for trainer Johnny Farrelly (he was with Paul Nicholls last season).  The current race-fav Three Musketeers was disappointing last month and needs a major improvement to win, in my opinion. The remainder are handicapped to their best apart from rank outsider Roman Flight, who I expect will benefit from this longer trip as he was staying on LTO over 2m1f at Ascot last month.  Were STILLETTO not running, I would certainly be recommending an eachway wager on Roman Flight at his current odds of 14/1.

I'm not quite sure why Three Musketeers is only 11/4 for this except he won over C&D as a novice at this meeting last year having made a 20lb improvement on his chase debut 4-weeks earlier. I presume his supporters are expecting the same again tomorrow, but will they have cause to cheer?  STILLETTO was 6/1 last night when I sent out the email to donators, and he's 5/1 this morning (available generally) with those odds look generous considering he was only 11/2 (running off OR142) to win the "plate" novice handicap chase over 2m5f at the latest Cheltenham Festival. 

Earlier in the afternoon at 1:05pm there is a novice handicap chase over 2-mile which looks a tough nut to crack, but it should be well worth watching with notebook in hand. Similarly, the novice chase over 2m4f that follows at 1:35pm may only have 5-runners, but it should be a cracker as I would not discount any, although Our Kaempfer may struggle. And, it was in the Long Distance hurdle race at 2:10pm that Thistlecrack confirmed his brilliance as a 3-mile hurdler, and we have an interesting field for this years race, including Menorah who is usually seen in 3-mile chases of the top grade.   

At Doncaster today, there is a Class 3 handicap chase over 2-miles at 12:55pm that looks very weak.
Only 6-runners go to post, and the 3/1 fav Festive Affair has only won 2 of his 19 chase races. He should be able to run to his rating of OR126, but his only win in handicap company was off OR121. The 2nd-fav Vital Evidence is having only his 2nd chase race, and though his chase debut was a fair effort, he was a very poor hurdler; so if the speed isn't there he won't find it chasing. King Of The Wolds is a dependable chaser, but this trip looks too short for him as he last won over 3-mile on soft ground at Ayr 18-months ago. In fact, he last ran over 2-miles nearly 3 years ago though, to be fair, his form at that time was a lot better then than it has been running over longer trips. Doncaster is one of the few courses Domtaline hasn't run at, but he is another who makes infrequent visits to the winners enclosure, and the soft ground is a big negative for him. For me, Oliver's Gold is the most interesting in the race as this time last year he won 2  chases and was rated OR132 (today he runs off OR122). He then had a 5-month winter break returning in April for a couple of hurdle races and a spin on the flat before returning to chasing in June. That was a Class 2 race, and he was out of his depth. Another flat race followed, then back to chasing in August in a Class 3 over 2m3f when the longer trip found him out, but he was in contention till his stamina failed him. He came back with a run at Kelso earlier this month and I expect he will come on a bundle for that run.  The remaining pair of Starkie and Treat Yourself both look outclassed. The market looks wide-open and the only horse with a hint of ability to win a Class 3 handicap chase is Oliver's Gold and at 7/1 (BetVictor, Corals, Paddy Power and Stan James) he looks decent value in a very weak race. I rate him a better than 3/1 chance against this opposition.

Doncaster 12:55pm OLIVER'S GOLD, £10 win @ 7/1
Newbury 2:45pm STILLETTO, £10 win @ 6/1 (advised on Thursday evening by email)

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Hennessey on the horizon

No selection yesterday and it is the same today (Wednesday) as midweek racing during the jumps season continues to be a poor assembly of novices and misfits competing on regional tracks.  It is at times like this when I wonder for the future of horseracing, especially jump racing, outside of the Saturday afternoon meetings and major festivals. 

At least we dodged a potential losing wager at Lingfield with my interpretation of the weather (see yesterday's blog) on the ground rightly forecast it would be heavy going. As such, Cloudy Copper stood no realistic chance as he does not act on heavy ground (soft yes, but not heavy).  With that knowledge, and that Minella Online was unlikely to stay the trip (he unseated his rider mid-race but was jumping left at the time, suggesting he was struggling in the ground) and that both Kap Jazz and Delgany Demon were both unlikely to trouble the judge; readers of the blog should have felt confident about the chance of the 9/4 joint-fav - and eventual winner - Royal Vacation, who never looked like being beaten once taking up the running mid-race .  

There is always plenty of information to glean from the narrative to adjust your wagering strategy once you have firm knowledge of the ground and racing conditions. I have to write the blog at least 4 hours before the first race of the day and, between the issue of the advance going at about 6:30am and the completion of the first race, there is precious little further information to go on.

Even Thursdays racing looks uninspiring, despite there being 3 meetings, and we may well have to wait until Friday for our next wagering opportunity.   

Saturday brings us the Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury, one of the premier staying handicap chases of the season.  The betting market is currently headed by the very worthy Native River, who will stay every yard of this trip of 3m2f. He had only one poor run last season when racing on heavy ground at Wetherby in February, but it will not be heavy for this, with the advance going being good-to-soft. This horse never stopped improving last season showing what his future may hold when winning the Grade 1 Novice chase at Aintree in April, with RSA winner Blaklion toiling in 3rd. Native River is one of 3 on my shortlist of potential winners of the race. Having wagered on the RSA with my money on Vyta Du Roc, I am surprised to see the 7yo as low as 8/1 for this race, but he does have a low weight of 10st 3lb thanks to his OR143 rating and he will stay the trip but I reckon his rating is about right based on his form of last season.

Finding the winner in a handicap race is about finding the horse that is best-placed to either exploit their rating, or exceed it; but in a race like the Hennessey GC which by its nature is so competitive, you are essentially only looking for a horse that can exceed its rating.  So, for Native River rated OR155, by my own ratings I expect him to be capable of running to 160+, while for Un Temps Pour Tout he needs his ideal conditions to hit 160+ which is unlikely to be at Newbury as he was beaten here last year Native River while in-receipt of 7lbs. That's a 10lb turnaround and 4-lengths he has to find. Similarly, Henri Parry Morgan nor Blaklion are likely to be able to reverse Aintree form with Native River. With Saphir Du Rheu exposed LTO (I think he needs to drop to 2m4f), and last years winner Smad Place unlikely to be able to get the better of his OR166 rating, the fav Native River is looking very strong.

As such, I'm looking outside of the "headline" horses for a potential "value" while trying not to overlook the strong potential of the current 6/1 fav - and there are a couple that I favour. Both Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls come here with a strong hand, and each supply a horse that I reckon could win. Henderson won this race with Triolo D'Alene in 2013 and while the horse has had his problems since, he showed last season there is some spark left in him and he has slipped to a rating of OR150, just 3lb above the rating he won off in 2013. The other is VIRAK, a horse we know well on this blog. I've long thought that Virak would be Paul Nicholls' Hennessey horse and he comes here off a decent effort at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall Chase, and I reckon he will come on a bundle for that run. We know he stays 3-mile-plus, and he has the high cruising speed required for a competitive handicap like the Hennessey, and he runs off OR155 which is 4lb below his rating when 2nd in the "Peter Marsh" Chase at Haydock. By my ratings he is about 7lb well-in when compared to his best form of last season - and he is only a 7yo. He runs off the same OR155 rating at Native River but, at his stage, while it is likely that Native River will turn out to be the better horse there may not be much in it on Saturday - and VIRAK is at 33/1 (he's 40/1 with Skybet) while Native River is 6/1.

There are a couple of others in the race that my outrun their odds, one of which is Houblon Des Obeaux who races off OR149 which is 7lb lower than he was on last year and, of course, he was 2nd in this race in 2014 off OR157. However, the only 9yo (or older) horse to win this race in the past 17 years was the mighty Denman, and only 2 of the last 11 winners carried under 11st. This is a race for high-class young horses.

No advice as yet, although Native River and Virak tick a lot of boxes (and Native River could start the 7/2 fav on Saturday) we need to keep an eye on the weather as should the rain turn the ground soft/heavy it will alter the complexion of the race.   

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Some pointers for the months ahead

There was some great racing over the weekend, and a couple of the old giants of jump racing came out and showed the new-kids that there was life in the old dogs yet!

The plaudits are equally shared between Cue Card and Sire De Grugy as they both, on my ratings at least, showed they had not lost anything with age. I have to eat a slice of humble pie here, as I had written off the pair of them but (fair play) they showed the kind of form that - if they can repeat it at Cheltenham next March - puts them in with a realistic chance of winning a championship race.

Cue Card ran a tremendous race given that Coneygree, winner of the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup and unbeaten as a chaser going into this race, led for 2m4f of this race and galloped the remainder of the opposition into the mud. The only question in my mind is what happened to Cue Card at Wetherby? Saturdays performance was a exceptional given the state of the ground, as he ran the race only 7.30 secs slower than when winning it in 2015. By comparison, last year the Class 3 handicap chase over C&D that followed was run in a time 8.50sec slower, but on Saturday it was run in a time 14.30sec slower than the Betfair Chase.  I was also very impressed with Coneygree considering it was his first race in 12 months (and that were barely a gallop). Providing he stays fit and well, he is bang there in with a chance of the Gold Cup in March as he will surely strip a lot fitter there.

Sire De Grugy had me spitting feathers, and not only because he upset my selection of the day Vaniteux. Always well placed, his jumping (and natural pace) took him well clear in the final half-mile and though he looked to be tiring late on, I thought he was just idling a little. He has never had any problem holding his form in the past and, providing he sticks to 2-miles, he should win several more races this winter. As for Vaniteux, it was his jumping that let him down as he does appear to have a decent engine in him, and it is not just me who thinks that as he was the subject of an almighty gamble from 11/4 down to 7/4. Given the form of his stable over the weekend (Henderson had 7 winners from 17 runners over Fri-Sun) it is unlikely fitness was an issue - so he must tidy up his jumping.  He still has time on his side to be a 160+ 2-mile chaser.

Overall on Saturday, we saw some great performances, especially at Haydock. CLYNE won the opening 2-mile handicap hurdle in some style relishing the ground, and a step up in trip and going chasing seems to be an exciting prospect for this 6yo. I was then very impressed (and kicking myself) when MYSTEREE won the 3m4f handicap chase.  The 8yo does not have many miles on the clock (this was only his 6th chase race) and the Welsh National looks the perfect race for him next. I'm kicking myself as he was a good 4th in the Eider Chase at Newcastle last February when he showed he was a potential 130+ marathon chaser, and I overlooked him on Saturday in this. Don't ignore the runner-up Chase The Spud as this was his seasonal debut and the way he ran suggests he can go one better next time. He does not appear to enjoy Chepstow, and pulled-up in the Welsh National last January, but he looks more than capable of picking up another marathon chase.

When you are reading the form, it pays not to focus on only the race winners as, at Ascot, we saw a particularly good novice chase race over 3-mile won by Nicky Henderson's BEWARE THE BEAR. The runner-up in that race Singlefarmpayment seemed to have the race in the bag when leading 4-out as he was jumping well and going strong. It may have been his chase debut but Beware The Bear picked-up the lead before the last and ran on well. Already proven at 3-mile over hurdles, his trainer rates him highly and he could be an RSA winner next March. Singlefarmpayment jumped very well throughout and was most unlucky to bump into such a good winner, he will find easier targets than this and looks a 145+ chaser in the making.

The feature race at Ascot, the 2m5f Stella Artois Chase, was a bit of a let-down as the 9/4 fav Dodging Bullets pulled-up after a mile (never travelling). That appeared to hand the race to God's Own but, although he ran to his form, a couple of others ran career-best performances to beat him. The winner was Royal Regatta who ran up to the form (on my own ratings) of his C&D win of last December, however on Saturday his race-time was 7.70secs faster. He is likely to go up to at least OR155 for this and that will make life tough for the 8yo.   Kylemore Lough confirmed his promise when almost snatching the lead in the dying strides of the race. The 7yo has not stopped improving and looks a potential Ryanair Chase winner next March.

There is an interesting Class 3 handicap chase at Lingfield at 3:10pm today but only 5 horses go to post.
There appear to be stamina doubts about the market leaders Minella Online and Royal Vacation, enough for me to consider their odds a bit on the short side. A horse may be able to run 3-miles on soft ground, but how long will it take them to reach the finish and will they have anything left in the tank to win the race on the run-in?
Delgany Demon should have won a 3-mile handicap chase by now as his form suggests (on his best runs) that he is a 130-135 chaser. Perhaps he's one of those horses that likes to run along, but never wants to be in the lead? The 6yo Kap Jazz does not seem entirely in love with the game, often needing "reminders" and getting going too late to win. That leaves top-weight CLOUDY COPPER who pulled-up unseated his rider at Fontwell LTO but, before that, won his first-ever chase at Ffos Las in April over 3-mile on soft ground. He has not had much racing as he made his racecourse debut as a 5yo in November 2012, winning both of this novice hurdles that season before going chasing in 2014-15.  Most of his racing has been on heavy going, ground which blunts his speed, so it was no surprise to see this horse win when racing on soft ground (he won on soft as a hurdler). Currently 8/1 (available generally) those odds look far too long to me, as I reckon he's a 5/2 chance - alongside the potential of Royal Vacation - should the ground stay soft. 

The worry for me is (as I live in Brighton, about 25 miles from Lingfield) we have had an awful lot of rain here in the past 24 hours and the ground may well be heavy or, at least, a lot softer than reported.

Saturday 19 November 2016

Can Cue Card win the Betfair Chase again?

Disappointing efforts from both selections on Friday.
Sometimes when assessing the form in the search for value, you can look too hard and overlook the obvious winner.

There has been some considerable rain at Haydock, and the ground for Saturday is heavy going. Given the uncertainty of the form of some of the runners on the ground, the Betfair Chase is a no-bet race for me.  I expect Coneygree to win, but do not underestimate Seeyouatmidnight. I would love to see Cue Card win the race again but, I fear, age is catching up with him.

The heavy ground has resulted in a disappointing turnout for the 3-mile handicap chase run after the Betfair Chase. Only 6 horses go to post, and the market is headed by the 9yo Saroque who will probably be at his best today as his seasonal debut is the time to catch him. Firebird Flyer pulled-up in this race last year, so may have had a better preparation this time - but he did have a good season last year (2nd in the Welsh National, and winning the Midlands National) so perhaps they will have done things just the same. Three Faces West looks harshly treated on OR135, and Midnight Prayer is (I fear) too old at 11yo to beat this field. Trainer Sue Smith sends a couple: Straidnahanna who we know well, and De Vous A Moi who has not looked a 3-miler in two previous attempts at the trip but enjoys the ground. Straidnahanna looked like winning this last year (we were on him) but he fell 3-out when leading and going well. He looks the most obvious winner to me, and his odds of 4/1 are fair.

At Ascot, there are a couple of races of interest. 
In the feature race at 2:05pm, God's Own looks the most likely winner as we know he stays this trip and likes the ground.  With Dodging Bullets it all depends on if stays this 2m5f trip, as he's not looked like staying this far in previous attempts beyond 2-miles.  Trainer Paul Nicholls reckons he can and, if he does, in receipt of 10lb from God's Own he would be a shoo-in. Kylemore Lough is the dark horse, and he may well be up to the task. However, he has done most of his racing and winning on softer ground than today and it is his presence in the race (rather than Dodging Bullets) that is preventing me from having a wager on God's Own at 11/4.  

In the Coral Hurdle at 2:40pm I am happy to oppose Yanworth as he looked a much better horse on soft ground in January than he did on good ground in March. He may need this run, but which of Zarkandar or Garde La Victoire will beat him and win I'm not sure. I prefer Garde La Victoire as he is a younger horse and we know he's fit and in tip-top form - and he's also 7/1. But this race could well get tactical, and you can never discount the tenacious Lil Rockerfeller even if he is giving weight away all round.

The 2-mile handicap chase at 3:15pm could be the race in which we have our wager of the day. VANITEUX looked a top class horse last season, and I'm sure he would have pushed Douvan in the Arkle but for unseating 2-out. His stamina was stretched over 2m5f at Sandown in April and this drop back to 2-mile should see him at his best. Rated OR154, he looks a 165+ 2-mile chaser to me and I'm expecting an exciting performance.
Generally priced at 5/2 (he is 9/4 with a few bookies), he was 11/4 with Bet365 last night and I advised those on my email list to take that price. He looks head and shoulders better than this field and I am sure his superiority will show. .
For those who are more adventurous, VANITEUX is currently 33/1 for the Champion Chase. After he wins this, his odds will be under 10/1 tomorrow (I'm sure of it) and when Willie Mullins decides to send Douvan for the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup (as I'm sure he will now Vautour is dead) he will be in the top-3 in the Champion Chase market.  Nicky Henderson does know a bit about preparing a Champion Chaser!

Just the one selection advised.

Ascot 3:15pm VANITEUX, £10 win @ 11/4 (advised on Friday evening to those on my email list)

Friday 18 November 2016

Big weekend of racing starts today Friday 18th Nov

Friday brings us a couple of decent meetings at Ascot and Haydock with a supporting meeting at Ffos Las, and there are a fair few runners from my alert list to consider. With the ground at Haydock advertised as soft, heavy in places; I will leave that meeting alone (nothing suitable at Ffos Las).

It is the handicap chases at Ascot that catch my eye, and the first of them at 2:45pm looks like it may have thrown-up a bit of value even though only 7 runners go to post.  We were on CADOUDOFF when he ran a couple of weeks ago, and although it is doubtful that he would have beaten Sandy Beach that day - had he not fallen - I reckon he was going well enough to have pushed Ericht to be 2nd. The form of that race looks solid now, and I was impressed the way Cadoudoff moved through the race before looking like he over-jumped and crumpled on landing just as the race got going.  He is currently 8/1 (Friday evening) for this chase handicap, and I reckon that is good value for a horse who goes well right-handed (is a winner over 2m4f at Huntingdon) and at 6yo still has plenty of potential for improvement.

Of the others, Paul Nicholls has his 6yo Present Man in the race, but he's up to OR132 for a facile win several weeks ago, and this looks like a quick-fix of a race as he fell LTO. I would not consider The Clock Leary until he shows he is in the right mood again. He wins this race in a canter off OR114 at his best - and that is why he is only 2/1 for this, but we haven't seen that "best" in 2-years. Fox Appeal is another who wins this at his best - he was rated OR152 this time last year and running well - but he's not looked like being up to his revised OR138 rating in a couple of runs this autumn. Go Conquer is an unexposed 7yo who could be interesting as he likes to make all the running, and his OR132 rating looks reasonable. Fitness is an issue this being his seasonal debut, but he has gone well fresh before.  Wings Attract does not look a particularly quick horse, but he does appear to be a safe jumper; and the same can be said for Rothman.  

CADOUDOFF looks too long in the betting this morning at 10/1 (Bet Victor, Ladbrokes, Corals) and with some doubts over the others, I reckon he should be a lot shorter in this market and I'd rate him on a par with Present Man at 3/1.

The 3-mile handicap chase at 3:20pm looks a tough nut to crack.
The race-fav Minella Daddy won LTO and looks a safe, strong chaser over this trip and his handicap mark of OR131 looks lenient. That should be enough to win a normal race, but there is plenty of competition from the other 12 rivals, notably Alternatif who was well supported LTO. Running off a mark 2lb lower than his last winning mark (and when 3rd at Cheltenham last November) he looks primed for a big run today. Lamb Or Cod is another who looks capable of running a big race today if he returns from 18-months off the track in similar form. Horatio Hormblower is another young chaser with potential, who beat decent yardstick Belmount when last seen in March. On that form, running off OR129, he looks well-in andlso goes well fresh. I reckon Mustmeetalady and Blameitalonmyroots will both go better on softer ground than todays good-to-soft. Daveron steps up in trip to 3-mile for the first time but looks held by the handicapper, as does Ready Token (whose regular rider - Richard Johnson - has opted for Lamb Or Cod). And you can never know what sort of run Leo Luna will put in as, on his day, he is a 140+ chaser over 3-mile and he runs off OR129 as he's pulled-up in 4 or his last 6 races. He did win in a canter off OR124 at Warwick over 3m2f in the middle of those runs though.

It would be no surprise to see any of the top 4 in the market win this race, and my immediate thought was to go for Alternatif.  Now that I have looked at the race in more depth he seems to be the one with least question-marks and, as David Pipe's only runner at Ascot this weekend, looks to have been aimed at this race.  Odds of 6/1 are generally available, but Bet365 offer 13/2 if you are quick, take eachway as the competition is fierce.

Ascot 2:45pm CADOUDOFF, £10 win @ 10/1 (with various bookies) 
Ascot 3:2pm ALTERNATIF, £5 eachway @ 13/2 (Bet365)

Odds advised were available to those who have donated to be on the email list at 7:45am this morning.

Thursday 17 November 2016

Wayward Lad blog for Thursday 17th November '16

Reading the Weekender yesterday and looking at the racing to come, I was surprised that Smad Place isn't running in the Betfair Chase on Saturday and not waiting for the Hennessey Gold Cup in two-weeks time.

Yes, I know Smad Place won the Hennessey last year, but he's up 11lb in the handicap to OR166 and will almost certainly carry top-weight of 11st 12lb on 26th November.
Much as I would love to see him repeat that win, he is no Denman. However, 3-mile round Haydock looks perfect for him and it also looks like he retains his form of last season which would put him bang in there with a chance of winning on Saturday - if he were entered (he's not).
There's no way I could wager on Cue Card at 13/8 for the Betfair Chase after the way he ran LTO and, to be honest, I cannot see the winner of this race coming out of the Charlie Hall Chase run at Wetherby last month. In my opinion, Silviniaco Conti did not run particularly well in Ireland LTO and he will have to find plenty of improvement from that run to win on Saturday.  For me, the race hangs on two horses: Coneygree - if he is within 10lb of is best he wins this race; and Seeyouatmidnight - this horse has not stopped improving, stays forever, has speed, jumps like a stag; and I was very impressed the way he won his "match" with Bristol Du Mai on his seasonal debut. I reckon Seeyouatmidnight can run to 160+ over 3-miles and that would put him ahead of everything that has run this season apart from Menorah - in fact, I do not understand why Menorah is 20/1. My 1,2,3 for the Betfair Chase is Coneygree, from Seeyouatmidnight, with Menorah in 3rd.

The feature race at Ascot, the Stella Artois Chase over 2m5f could be an interesting play as Dodging Bullets, the current 9/4 fav, looks dodgy over this trip.  Trainer Paul Nicholls may have spoken of him as a possible King George (3-mile chase) horse, but he's not looked like staying much beyond 2-miles to me.  The Phil Hobbs trained Royal Regatta won over C&D last season, and this softer ground will be much more to his liking that when he ran LTO. Even so he will be unlikely to reverse the form with God's Own who is undoubtedly the class act in the race, at this trip, on known form. If (and it is a big if) Dodging Bullets stays this trip then he should win given the race conditions, but I do not think he will stay 2m5f.  A more likely danger to God's Own is the other entry from Phil Hobbs, Garde La Victoire. He has been running very well this autumn and looks an improved horse. The current odds of 10/1 look decent eachway value as he ticks a lot of boxes: is race fit, in form, and he has some top-class form in the book. He won't be far behind God's Own and could have enough class to nick it, as I don't have God's Own at OR166 in my book and I rate Garde La Victoire a tad better than OR154. 

My main focus will be on the chase handicaps and there are a couple of crackers at Haydock on Saturday, and I will be looking at then both in some depth over the next couple of days.

There are a couple of better grade hurdle races being run today, with a Class 2 handicap hurdle over 2m4f at Market Rasen. The interesting runner is Oscar Rock who long term readers will remember us being on when he last won - here at Market Rasen in Sept-15. His 3 subsequent runs last season were all indifferent, so I've no idea what sort of horse will turn up today, but he does wear blinkers for the first time over hurdles, and the handicapper has given his a great chance dropping him to OR140. Alan King sends Big Chief Benny and this one looks the most likely winner of the race to me. He never ran a bad race last season, and his rating of OR131 looks more than fair. The 4yo Duke Street comes here race-fit after a running 2nd last week, but he will need to step up significantly on that effort today in my opinion.  I was expecting Big Chief Benny to be the race-fav at around 9/4, so his current best-odds of 3/1 don't have much fat in them.  However, the bookies are taking no chances with Oscar Rock and if office punters make him shorter (he's currently100/30) we may see 7/2 or more about Big Chief Benny which would make him value.

No advised wager today, but there are several pointers for the more adventurous amongst you.

Sunday 13 November 2016

Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham

I had a good day at Cheltenham yesterday even though I didn't find a winner.
The ground was very testing as the overnight rain soaked in and I thought it was soft/heavy. It was no surprise to see horses which favoured testing ground (Taquin De Seuil has won 4 times from 4 races on heavy ground for instance) come to the fore.  It was therefore disappointing that selection COGRY was knocked-out of his race by the loose-horse when going well.

Looking back at yesterday, I was not particularly impressed with Thistlecrack. I wont be putting any money on him to win a Gold Cup based on yesterdays performance.

Onto Sunday, and another strong programme of racing from Cheltenham. The ground is officially soft. In the opening race at 12:45pm Ballyandy and Moon Racer meet again, and I would expect Moon Racer to maintain his superiority over his rival.  However, do not ignore Keep In Line who was at his best on soft ground on the flat and looks well up to winning this.

The novice chase at 1:20pm is one of the most informative of the autumn and Paul Nicholls usually aims his best novice chaser at this race and Le Prezien should go well, as he handles soft ground and has a weight advantage having not won his debut chase LTO. One to watch is Three Stars (trained by Henry De Bromhead) who will set a decent benchmark for the race but, if Le Prezien runs to the level expected, he won't be able to concede 6lb.

Henry De Bromhead also sends Special Tiara today for the Shloer Chase (Grade 2, Class 1) over 2-miles at 1:55pm, however this horse usually needs his seasonal debut. I would be surprised if Fox Norton has found 15lb of improvement since running 3rd to Douvan in the "Arkle" last March, and so Simonsig comes into the picture. He may be a 10yo but he has few miles on the clock as showed he was no back-number at Punchestown in April. If he runs to that level today, he will take some beating - and he goes well on soft/heavy ground. Top Gamble is having to concede plenty of weight on these terms, and Simply Ned flopped here in this race last year. At odds of 7/2, Simonsig looks fair value to break the trends merchants.

The Greatwood Handicap Hurdle at 2:30pm has been one of the most informative handicaps in the racing calendar recently, and this year will likely be no different. Keep your notebook handy!
There will be a fair few improvers in this race, and so it will be tricky to find the winner this morning. However, we do have some off the alert list running: Sternrubin, Modus, and John Constable. After winning LTO, Sternrubin looks to be still improving and he loves these races.  Modus was in 3rd that day staying-on well, and he could well come on for that run. He lost his way last season, and his OR140 rating looks light given his potential (was 2nd in the Champion Bumper to Moon Racer in 2015).  I noted John Constable when he was 2nd to Sternrubin at Newbury last November when he gave that horse 9lb.  Now he gets 8lb which is a 17lb turnaround for a 4-length beating. OK, he was also in the Ascot race won by Sternrubin last month, but he goes best on soft ground and we could see a big improvement in his running today.

No selections advised today, and I will update the blog to include a page with this seasons results later today.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Bet Victor Chase day at Cheltenham

We were close yesterday.  Watching the race, I always thought Ericht was moving easily behind the leaders but he traded at long odds mid-race on the exchanges. The leading pair jumped the final couple of fences neck & neck and I expected Ericht to stay better up the hill - as did many as he went odds-on on the exchanges before the final fence - but it was not to be. Maybe his jockey needed to make more use of him to use that stamina, but Ericht is a horse who does not like to be alone in front.

When this pair met over C&D in Octber 2014, there was not much between them and (quite possibly) this was the best run from Astracad since that Autumn of 2014 - trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said he had struggled to get the horse fit.  It is possible in this current form that he could run up a sequence, but they should both be noted for NTO and we were unlucky to meet one in such good form.

There are 3 meetings today at Wetherby, Uttoxeter and Cheltenham but all focus is on Cheltenham which has a couple of cracking handicap chases of the top-order. 
The 3m3f Class 3 handicap chase at 1:50pm could be tough, as there has been plenty of overnight rain and the ground is softening. Last years winner Sausalito Sunrise returns and bids a repeat off a mark of OR158 which is 14lb heavier than last year. Minella Rocco has to be opposed as trainer Jonjo O'Neill is so out of form. 
Cogry comes here 15lb better-off with Sausalito Sunrise for a 2-length margin, and must be respected. Cogry is even 2lb well-in with Upswing, and the latter will be wanting softer ground. Doctor Harper was gambled on like defeat was out of the question in the Kim Muir, but ran a stinker - can he recoup losses?  Based on this race last season, Shotgun Paddy is the best handicapped down 5lb to OR140, but has he recovered from running in 3 nationals (Welsh, Midlands, and Scottish) as well as the Eider Chase at Newcastle? Perhaps not, but with only 10st 8lb to carry he will think it is his birthday.
I doubt Fourth Act has the stamina for this trip, but he was staying on LTO, and it is likely neither will his stablemate Viconte Du NoyerBeg To Differ is another Jonjo O'Neill runner.  
Alvarado may be 11yo but he has won on 3 of his 5 seasonal debuts and has won over C&D (Nov 2013). Last seen running 2nd in the Scottish National, he will stay forever and the ground isn't a problem - he looks a place-only wager. 
When you look at this race as I do, there appear only 2 in with a realistic chance: COGRY and Shotgun Paddy, and there is a doubt over "Paddy" and if he retains his form. 
With COGRY at 8/1 generally this morning, he looks the one to be on eachway over this long trip, and I advised those on my email list to take the 9/1 available yesterday evening.. 

Looking at the feature race at Cheltenham, the Bet Victor Chase at 2:25pm.
As with the earlier chase handicap, until we see a change in fortune at Jonjo O'Neills stable we are going to oppose all his horses which means opposing the fav in this race More Of That
To be fair, the horse would have to be Gold Cup standard to win off OR154 and I don't think he is. 
Frodon is only a 4yo, and Paul Nicholls is a brave man to enter the horse but, were the horse with any other trainer, he'd be a 20/1 chance. 
As De Mee has much better claims if he can run to his best form. We have seen glimpses of class in his runs to date, but the jury is still out. Even so, he has been aimed at this by his trainer and has the benefit of a run, winning at Fontwell LTO in October.
Double Shuffle ran well for us LTO but this is no race to come from a long way off the pace. It could be the ground was too quick for him LTO but the handicapper has put him up 5lb to OR145 and that looks tough. 
Bouvreuil is another Nicholls runner (he is leaving nothing to chance) and he was unlucky to be beaten at Cheltenham in the novice chase, but he was beaten. Off  7lb higher rating he has it all to prove. 
Another aimed at this race is the Venetia Williams trained ASO, and he won LTO in April beating Fourth Act over 2m5f at level weights. He looked a class act then, but was it just the soft ground that he favoured that day? 
If (and it is a big if) STILLETTO handles this ground, then he has to have a hell of a chance.  He is the only horse I reckon who is perhaps 7lb (or more) well-in.  The more rain the better for him. 
The ones on my shortlist are As De Mee @ 8/1; and Stilletto @ 16/1 - and a split stake is called for.

Cheltenham 1:50pm COGRY - £5 eachway @ 9/1 (advised to my email list last night)
Cheltenham 2:25pm 
STILLETTO, £5 win @ 16/1, and AS DE MEE, £5 win @ 8/1
Total Staked = £20

Friday 11 November 2016

Cheltenham Friday 11th November

Yesterday evening as soon as I saw the early odds, I knew what my first wager of the weekend would be. 
I could not type quick enough to ensure that those on my email alert list did not miss the early value.

Cheltenham starts at 12:55pm with a cracking Veterans chase over 2m4f and the field looks competitive on paper, but I reckon I may have found our wager of the day in ERICHT. He ran a great race LTO when meeting an unexposed improver, and this is his trip and ground.  His form can be sporadic, but the handicapper has given him a chance with OR131 as he was 4th in the 3m1f handicap chase on this card last season off OR130 (a trip he does not really stay), and he was 3rd over C&D in October 2014 off OR138. I know he is usually at his best when fresh, but for his last win (over this trip at Kempton in February) he wasn't "fresh" as he had run 4 weeks earlier, and a repeat of that effort will see him win easily today.

He looks value as Realt Mor may be a false favourite as nobody can assess his recent Irish form for which he carries a penalty for a LTO win - and the market is playing safe.
Shuil Royale is essentially a 3-mile chaser and he usually likes to win off a break, as he did at Aintree last month. He is also up 6lb for that LTO win (a race which fell apart in my opinion) and he is unlikely to be able to repeat that effort over this shorter trip. Both Astracad and Dunraven Storm are essentially 2-mile chasers and though Astracad  likes Cheltenham, he isn't one to rely on.

I would take Eastlake more seriously over this 2m4f trip if his trainer Jonjo O'Neill was in better form, but the horse ran a stinker LTO (in the race won by Shuil Royale). The odds of 7/1 about ERICHT look generous in my opinion, and he really should be 3/1 for this if not shorter.

The 2-mile handicap chase at 1:30pm is not the sort of race I usually wager in, but I may make an exception as (if my personal ratings are correct) Monbeg River should be the fav for this, and he would be if he were trained in the South of England.  He was 6/1 last night, and has been trimmed to 9/2 (5's is available), so the best of the value has gone.  However, those more adventurous may risk taking what's on offer. The fav Sizing Codelco is having his first run for trainer Colin Tizzard, but even he will struggle to find about 10lb in improvement required to make him competitive in this race, and he also has to have taught the horse how to jump a fence!

The novices chase at 2:05pm will be very informative. The betting market suggests that Barters Hill is some sort of wonder horse, but he is a 4lb lower-rated hurdler than Rock The Kasbah, and "The Kasbah" is a novice chase winner already.  The weight conceded by Rock The Kasbah may be too much, and this is a race best watched.

I will pass over the next couple of hurdle races and move on to the 3m1f amateur riders handicap chase. At this juncture I'd like to congratulate Nina Carberry (who rode our selection in this race to victory last year) who has just announced that she is pregnant and so will not be race-riding for the remainder of this jumps season.  I've done well in this race over the years as the better quality amateur riders races have more reliable form.

The race is a handicap with 6 of the last 10 winners carrying 11st or more. No winners longer than 14/1, so the betting market is fairly reliable. While I rate the 5/1 fav Silvergrove, his target this season is the Grand National so I doubt he will be hard-pushed today. I generally do not look at those aged 9yo and older (as those that old have an awful record at this meeting), 4 of the last 6 winners of this race were aged 9yo or older. What A Moment, the 11/2 2nd-fav, will be having only his 2nd chase race today and is not value in my mind.
The 9yo Top Wood has been on my alert list for some time and I reckon he is a lot better than OR136 - he just keeps meeting better handicapped rivals. He has also fallen a couple of times when going well which is annoying as you are never sure if the fall is due to fatigue or racing outside of their comfort zone. If Top Wood holds it together, he could go close. Fayette County is ridden by Mr JJ Codd who is possibly the best rider in the race, but even he may struggle to make sure this horse stays the 3m1f trip as he has only run once beyond 2m4f and that was when he won LTO beating 4 others to win a novice chase - not the strongest of form.
I missed the 8yo Troika Steppes winning last month, and he may have more improvement in him. He certainly loves this track and trip, likes to lead at a good pace and is a safe jumper. There will be worse 11/1 chances.  
Not an easy race to fathom, and it may be best splitting your stake between Top Wood and Troika Steppes who are both priced at 11/1; but no advised wager from me in this.

Just the one selection today, but trainer Nicky Henderson has his stable in top form and I'm sure ERICHT will give us a good run.

Cheltenham 12:55pm - ERICHT, £5 win and £5 eachway (£15 staked) at 7/1 (Bet365 are quarter-odds a place 1,2,3, while Paddy Power and Bet Victor are 5th odds a place)