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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 24 December 2017

Boxing Day 2017

An action-packed day of racing for Boxing Day and, as usual, I'm trying to put together a "Yankee" wager and provide readers of the blog with a profitable Christmas bonus.  On busy days like Boxing Day, I'm looking for horses that have been overlooked by the market as at most meetings there will be a lot of punters who are unfamiliar with the form having a wager - and those punters will be focusing on top trainers, well known jockeys and the race favourites.  So I'm looking at those "long-distance travellers" and solitary runners from trainers with a good strike-rate at the tracks who horses are not the fav and maybe trading at a point or 2 longer than they should be.

I do not want to be diverted by the feature races at Kempton, so I'm starting my review of the racing with Wetherby's card - and that is where champion jockey Richard Johnson is riding and he could provide us with a few winners.  Johnson rides Petticoat Tails for Warren Greatrex in the opener at 12:30pm. Greatrex has a 28% strike-rate at Wetherby (25% in hurdle races) and he travels 198 miles to race here. Johnson also rides the stables Aloomomo in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at 2:10pm, and Bright Tomorrow in the handicap hurdle at 2:45pm. I like the chance of Aloomomo as he won off OR129 at Newbury over almost 2m7f on soft and he races off OR133 in this race. He could be a 140+ chaser based on that Newbury win, and he comes here race-fit from hurdling.
The Rowland Meyrick is a top handicap chase and last years 2nd Wakanda (an old favourite of mine) races off OR144 which is 5lb lower than last year, but his run LTO did not inspire my confidence in him. I think his stablemate Delusionofgrandeur has a better chance, but he's up 8lb to OR142 for his LTO win.  This Sue Smith trained pair will likely try and force the pace and this should suit Aloomomo.  Richard Johnson also rides Grey Gold for Kerry Lee in the 2m3f chase at 1:40pm, and though he's 12yo (he's 13yo on 1st Jan) this horse is Kerry Lee's only runner here and could go very well.
Market Rasen has the Linconshire National over 3m3f as the feature race, and this race has a few interesting runners.  There are 3 trainers with good strike-rates and only one runner entered at the meeting: Saint John Henry (David Pipe 30% in chases), Vinegar Hill (Stuart Edmunds 50% in chases); and Petite Power (Fergal O'Brien 24% in chases) - however, I don't think either of them look the likely winner. For me, BORIC who has been in the form of his life this season looks the most likely winner over this trip as he will stay every yard. So long as the ground does not turn heavy, he has a great chance.
Fontwell looks  tricky meeting. There are several that interest me: in the 2m2f handicap chase at 2:00pm Bredon Hill Lad is a C&D winner who won LTO and this could be an easy task for him. Dan Skelton has runners all over the place, yet he sends just one here in It's Afreebee who wears blinkers for the 1st-time in an effort to revive his form. I also like the look of Marienstar in the final race of the meeting who is the only runner here for Neil King.
Wincanton has a good Class 3 chase in the Lord Stalbridge Handicap over 3m1f at 2:05pm.  Last years race was a fiasco as a loose horse brought down all but one of the entire field and then the final horse standing pulled-up and refused to race. Kerry Lee (see Wetherby above) sends Krackatoa King for this and it's her only runner here - I think the horse has a great chance in this race as he is a dour stayer in good form.
Sedgefield has a good meeting, and the busy Dan Skelton sends a couple here too.  The horse travelling the furthest is Glimpse Of Gold in the 12:25pm sent by Tim Vaughan. Vaughan has a decent strike-rate here and this horse was in good form in the Spring. He ran in a chase LTO on 23rd October, and I think the horse has been aimed at this race. At 2:05pm there is a 2m3f handicap chase which looks like it lacks depth and the consistent Whitsundays could be the answer.  He wasn't beaten far over C&D back in March and had his first run after a 6-month break on 2nd December when he ran 2nd at Bangor over 2m1f, and it looks like this has been his target for some time.
Huntingdon is where Venetia Williams sends her only runner of the day: Becauseshesaidso in the 2m7f handicap chase at 3:00pm - however, I'm not convinced that the horse will stay this trip. Even so, the field for this race is so weak it will not take a lot of winning.
At Kempton, the novice chases at 1:20pm and 1:55pm are worth watching but they are too competitive to wager in. The feature race, the King George VI Chase at 3:05pm looks like being a cracker and for me the interesting thing is the entry of Fox Norton.  If Fox Norton can find some improvement - and it only needs to be about 5lb - then he's bang in there with a chance of winning this.  I'm not yet convinced Might Bite is the world-beater that people think, and at the odds I'm solidly behinf Bristol De Mai who I think should be the fav considering he's won at right-handed Sandown, and was a top-class novice chaser with form on good-to-soft ground.  Sure, he's a better chaser on soft ground (or worse), but he's no slouch on good-to-soft either.

So, my Yankee Shortlist is:-
Wetherby 2:10 - ALOOMOMO
Market Rasen 2:15 - BORIC
Fontwell 2:00 - BREDON HILL LAD
Sedgefield 2:05 - WHITSUNDAYS
Huntingdon 3:00 - BECAUSESHESAIDSO
Kempton 3:05 - BRISTOL DE MAI

The final Yankee is:-
Fontwell 2:00 - BREDON HILL LAD @ 3/1 (Stan James) very consistent performer
Sedgefield 2:05 - WHITSUNDAYS @ 3/1 (Stan James) looks like he has been aimes at this race
Wetherby 2:10 - ALOOMOMO @ 3/1 (Stan James) this horse could be 10lb ahead of the handicapper
For the final selection I will be on
Market Rasen 2:15 - BORIC @ 8/1 (Stan James) a dour stayer he will run to his rating but may need a bit of luck.
OR you could have...
Kempton 3:05 - BRISTOL DE MAI @ 9/2 (Stan James) this horse is a proven performer and he should be the fav for this race at 2/1, these odds are an insult.
£2 win yankee and £1.50 eachway yankee = £55 staked

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Have courage in your convictions

"Have the courage of your knowledge and experience.
If you have formed a conclusion from the facts and if you know your judgement is sound, act on it - even though others may hesitate or differ.
You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you.
You are right because your data and reasoning are right."
Benjamin Graham

This statement was written in respect of investment on the stock markets, however it resonates very well with the betting markets too.   Sometimes you have to wait for the best opportunities to come along and sometimes they are so obvious that you "refuse" to see them!  In hindsight, that certainly seemed the case with Blaklion last Saturday as he so dominated the Becher Chase that the returned SP of 7/4 was considered generous by some (for instance, Tom Segal "Pricewise" in the Racing Post).  But you always have to take account before the race the potential effect of luck on the eventual outcome and I don't think that was reflected in the odds.

This weekend's 2-day Cheltenham meeting isn't the best of the season although the 3m1f novice chase on Friday has produced some good horses and will be worth taking an interest in.  I am also looking forward to the 3m2f Class 1 handicap chase on Friday in which race-fav's don't have a great record. With 4 of the last 5 winners aged 9yo or older, experience has counted in the past, and of the only "older" horses in Friday's race Mysteree - who has won on his seasonal debut for the past 4 seasons (didn't run in 2014-15) - looks very interesting. 

Saturday's feature race at Cheltenham looks a tricky event but I'm hoping that STARCHITECT can make-up for  his defeat LTO.  He ran a cracker that day, always in the van and it was only because the winner (Splash Of Ginge) had the run of the race that he didn't succeed. 

Saturday 9 December 2017

So close, but no cigar

We hit the crossbar on Saturday when Sugar Baron came with a storming finish to fail by just a neck to peg back the long-time leader Benbens in the London "National" at Sandown.  We were on at the "value" odds of 11/2, as his SP was just 3/1, and I'm sure come the end of this season his rating will be above OR145. Unfortunately, his jumping wasn't the best I've seen and at numerous fences he lost a few yards - and that more than counted come the finish.  I expect Nicky Henderson will work on his jumping and we will see a more complete chaser next time out. Fair play to Benbens winning this race as a 12yo - he will be a 13yo in 3 weeks time. Benbens has come into his own in these marathon chases - twice 3rd in the Scottish National, 4th in the Bet365 Chase, 5th in the Welsh National - he really deserved to win a race like this.

At Aintree, Sametegal was given an easy ride out wide and off the pace, he looked to have no chance when going very wide at the "Canal Turn" and I even feared he may be pulled-up then, he was so far off the pace. But no, after jumping the 3rd last, he made up considerable ground on the long run to the 2nd last fence and I thought a horse of his class had it in the bag as they approached that fence. Unfortunately, he received a bump there and that possibly cost him the race as although he got going again - and was briefly in 2nd on the run-in - the effort was too much. Even so, I think had he been ridden closer to the pace he could well have won this or at least pushed the eventual winner very hard.

Earlier in the day at Aintree, we saw Blaklion win the Becher Chase, and it was an emphatic win, he never looked in danger of not winning from about the 4th last fence. However, as I wrote in my blog, Blaklion is a most consistent horse, he was the same as a hurdler, and I didn't see any improvement in today's performance - the others just weren't good enough to beat him. However, the handicapper won't see it like that and if he goes up 5lb or more then he may find winning another handicap this season tricky.

The performance of the day was from novice chaser Sceau Royal in the Henry VIII chase at Sandown - he looked an exceptional chaser and if I have seen the winner of the "Arkle" next March, this is it. So whether to take the 8/1 on offer for that race depends on whether he goes for that race or the JLT Novices Chase over 2m4f for which he's 12/1 - he certainly looked like he would stay that trip no problem today and the JLT is the easier of the two in my opinion.

Jack Frost nipping at your nose....

The frost has descended on the country and (so far) we have 3 meetings going ahead at Aintree, Wetherby and Chepstow. There is an inspection at Sandown at 10am.

Aintree has the best racing going ahead as I write with the feature being the Becher Chase at 1:30pm.  There are 16 runners going to post headed by Blaklion on the meagre odds of 5/2 - however, the 8yo who was  4th in the Grand National over this course last April has a favourites chance as he handles the course, handles heavy ground (it will be heavy when the frost burns off) and is consistent enough to be capable of running to his rating of OR153. He also comes here race-fit having chased home Bristol De Mai at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall Chase. So, can he be beaten today?

Of those closest in the market, I think the heavy ground will find out Highland Lodge. He may have a great record in this race, but heavy ground with tax his stamina. Vieux Lion Rouge won this race last year and also handles soft/heavy, and he won't be far away. The Last Samurai will need a career-best run to win this off OR159 carrying 11st 12lb and I don't think he will be capable. While As De Mee won over these fences last season, it was over 2m5f and this trip will likely find him out.  The one that I like is Goodtoknow - a prominent runner, who handles these fences, and goes well on soft/heavy. He stays this trip well too and his rating of OR142 puts him in with a good chance. Odds of 12/1 look fair value, especially as Ladbrokes go quarter-odds for 4-places, as it's hard for me to see him not finishing worse than 4th. However, Blaklion should win this race but I cannot bet on him in this race at odds of just 5/2 as he should be at least 9/2 in my opinion.

The other race over the National fences today is the Grand Sefton, a Class 2 chase over 2m5f and I think the class horse in this race is SAMETEGAL who is relatively unexposed and could be a lot better than OR144. He's won on soft ground over 2m4f at Newbury from a rating or OR143 and with this being only his 7th chase race he could have a lot of improvement in his still to come. Gas Line Boy has a favourites chance being a front-runner who handles the ground, but the 11yo may be unable to hold off the younger horse. Odds of 6/1 look good value on Sametegal.

At Sandown, the Henry VIII novices chase at 1:45pm looks a cracker, and while Brain Power could be another Altior for me, the jury is still out. At the odds, I'm looking to take him on and North Hill Harvey could be the horse to upset the odds as he showed his class when winning the Greatwood Hurdle off  OR141 with 11st and Modus in 2nd carrying 4lb less.  Odds of 6/1 look value to me as he should have too much speed for Finians Oscar and he's a better horse (as far as the form book shows) than Sceau Royal and Capitaine; so it all depends on whether Brain Power is the real-deal or not.

Whatever the result, Henderson has a great chance in the last race on the Sandown card with SUGAR BARON at odds of 11/2.  He just lacked a finishing kick in the Bet365 over C&D last April but he is very well handicapped to me on OR135 and I reckon he will be in the mid-140's by the end of the season.  The only danger I can see will be coming from top-weight Southfield Theatre who made a big step in th right direction LTO and with a 7lb claimer on, he could be interesting. The fav Doing Fine is a consistent performer but his rating of OR137 is about his ceiling.

Today I will be having a couple of win wagers on SAMETEGAL @ 6/1 and SUGAR BARON @ 11/2, and a place-only wager on Goodtoknow at 3.10 (1st-4 finish) on the exchanges. I will also have a small wager on North Hill Harvey.

Sunday 3 December 2017

When Saturday comes...

Three selections - two winners at SP's of 6/1 and 11/4 and available at 7/1 and 9/2 when I posted the blog.  Not only that, but my 3rd selection - Missed Approach - was named midweek for one of the strongest handicap chases of the season at odds of 33/1 and started at 20/1. You won't find me tipping odds-on chances on this blog and shouting "boom!"

I'm really enjoying my racing at the moment.  This season has been a breath of fresh air to me and I think it is because I've dropped the subscriptions element and that has reduced the pressure to perform to order. Essentially, I'm going through the same motions to find my wagers:-
- choosing the best races;
- seeking to oppose a weak favourite;
- finding a horse with proven form at the trip and on the ground;
- ensuring that (in my opinion) it should be in the 1st-2 in the betting;
- finding that the odds are a lot longer than I expect.

When you have days like yesterday with 4 meetings at Newbury, Newcastle, Bangor and Doncaster and with top-class racing at a couple of those meetings, finding a "blot" in the market isn't too difficult for me. What I have found difficult in recent years is writing up the reasons behind my selection in enough depth and clarity to provide comfort and confidence to readers behind the selection.

Over the years, I think I've proven my ability to find winners, and so I'm taking a back seat on the blogging and writing a shorter synopsis of which yesterday's blog was a good example.

I do hope readers - 106 read yesterdays blog, and 147 read my Ladbrokes Trophy analysis in midweek - were on the selections. Even the losing wager on Missed Approach was very entertaining - I thought we were on the winner for a long while and was riding the horse along with Richard Johnson!

Keep visiting and reading the blog, especially on a Saturday.  And I promise to do my best to ensure the winners keep coming.

Saturday 2 December 2017

Saturday 2nd December

It's a big day for me, as I nailed my colours firmly to the mast of MISSED APPROACH for todays Ladbrokes Trophy (handicap) Chase earlier this week, having place antepost wagers back in September and October - I'm on at 66/1.

I think the preparation for the horse is perfect as he comes here fresh, with the best jockey available in the saddle in Richard Johnson, and he has blinkers on 1st-time to keep his focus on the race.

There is some great racing today, and I will be having some other wagers as there is plenty of sport to choose from. At Bangor in the 1:35pm which is a 3-mile Class 3 handicap chase only 5lb covers this field of 7-runners and I'm taken with BELLS OF AINSWORTH who stays well, has form on soft ground and should improve for his recent run.  Odds of 7/1 look very generous to me.

At Newcastle, I think BEWARE THE BEAR has an excellent chance of winning the Rehearsal Chase over 3-mile at 3:20pm. He will love the soft ground and has abundant stamina and odds of 9/2 look fair. The dangers will be Bishops Road, if he can reproduce his run in this race of last season, and Our Kaempfer who at his best form will be in with a great shout.

But the attention will be on Newbury at 3pm, and if you are not on already, the 25/1 offered on MISSED APPROACH could be the best value of the day.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

The Ladbrokes Trophy run at Newbury on 2nd December

Another tremendous day on Saturday, and at this time of year we are certainly spoiled with the volume of good jump racing.  The feature race of the day is the inaugural running of the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (which is a renamed Hennessey Gold Cup). Outside of the Grand National, this race is (in my opinion) the most prestigious staying chase handicap of the season. The best horses that win this are capable of winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
I’ve had some good luck in this race over the years, and I’ve tipped recent winners Smad Place in 2015 and Native River in 2016. Both were short in the betting market, and generally you should not look further than 10/1 for the winner.  However, this year I am going out on a limb and will be wagering on a horse that’s been at odds longer than 40/1 for most of this week, and that is Missed Approach - a horse that I selected and wagered on for this race on 15th September.
Back then in September I was re-watching the Cheltenham Festival races, looking for clues, and (again) I thought that the 4-mile NH Chase provided some of the best novice chase form seen at the Festival.Having disputed the lead for most of that race, MISSED APPROACH was looking like a potential winner coming to 3-out where he lost the lead there to the eventual winner Tiger Roll.  He then resolutely stayed-on to be 2nd (with A Genie In Abottle well behind in 5th). The following month he confirmed that 4-mile wasn't his trip when he ran next in the Scottish National. As such, I think he will relish a return to the 3m2f of Saturday’s race run at Newbury.
He comes into this race on OR145 and when you consider he slammed Label Des Obeaux over 3-miles at level weights last January - and Label Des Obeaux went on to win a Class 2, 3-mile novice chase handicap on Scottish National day at Ayr and is now rated OR153 - you can see how well MISSED APPROACH is handicapped - he could easily be 10lb well-in on OR145. Interestingly, MISSED APPROACH won a 3-mile hurdle race at Newbury's "Hennessey" meeting back in 2015 and I think this race - the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (handicap) - is tailor-made for the horse. We know he likes Newburygoes well fresh (had a pipe-opener over hurdles recently), stays the trip well, and he's well handicapped: what more can you ask for? Well, he has the very capable Richard Johnson booked for the ride, and that must be worth a few pounds advantage. Trainer Warren Greatrex has aimed the horse at this race and this will be his “Gold Cup”.
What of the opposition? I don’t expect Coneygree to recapture old glories in this race, along with Whisper he’s a bit long in the tooth. If American wins this off OR157 on his seasonal debut then he’s a viable Gold Cup contender, but I don’t think he is, and he possibly needs to find over 7lb of improvement to win. The race fell well for Carole’s Destrier last year (when 2nd) and that may not happen again.  Label Des Obeaux is poorly handicapped according to his own trainer, and I’m not confident that A Genie In Abottle has the stamina for this race.  The Mullins trained Total Recall is far too short in the betting for what he’s done, I’d be looking for 12/1 plus about him.

A couple of horses that you cannot ignore are Cogry and Singlefarmpayment, with the latter now 5lb better-off for the 4-length defeat when they met at Cheltenham. Personally, I reckon that Cogry should maintain the advantage, as Singlefarmpayment seems to want everything to fall right to win. However, Sam Twiston-Davies isn't in the saddle on Cogry, and he was thought to be the reason behind the horse jumping better LTO.  The other horse that I like the look of is Pleasant Man who won the "Badger" LTO and comes here in top form.  Vyta Du Roc was 6th in this race last season off OR143 and is 3lb lower this time, but I just think he needs marathon trips to show his best nowadays.

Overall, I think this years race looks a bit below par, and I am more than happy to take on the market leaders who appear to be there mainly on reputation - be it past or perceived - and not on true merit. The only horse under 10/1 that I can consider betting on is Singlefarmpayment, but he just does not give me the right feeling.  I'm already on MISSED APPROACH at 66/1 antepost, and the preparation has gone just as I expected - in fact, it's better as I never expected Richard Johnson to be in the saddle.  Fingers crossed it will be a winning combination.

Friday 24 November 2017

Betfair Chase at Haydock

This is a big day for jump racing and we were reminded this week of 2011 when Kauto Star came back from what some considered "oblivion" to win the Betfair Chase at the age of 11yo.
Can Cue Card repeat that feat? Well, I think he has a better chance of winning that Bristol De Mai, mainly because of the trip being and almost 3m2f. On both occasions that Bristol De Mai has race beyond 3-mile his stamina has failed him. However, as much as I love Cue Card, I think there is a horse in the race that can beat him in this race and that's TEA FOR TWO.

We have an early start to racing and so I'm writing this on Friday evening. Any updates will be posted or advised via twitter on @wayward_lad.

Tea For Two loves 3-mile plus and a stamina test. He was doing his best work in the final quarter-mile of the "King George" last December, and he beat Cue Card over 3m1f at Aintree last April. He had a warm-up race behind Smad Place over an inadequate trip last month at Aintree and, for me, he represents the best value by far in the race, being generally available at 10/1. He is certainly better than Outlander at this trip by about 7lb on my reckoning, and he has plenty of good form on soft/heavy ground. In my opinion TEA FOR TWO should be the same odds or shorter than Outlander, and Outlander is 5/1 - in fact I'd have Bristol De Mai, Cue Card and Tea For Two at joint-fav's.

Earlier on the Haydock card, we could well see one of the easier winners of the day when COURTOWN OSCAR goes for the 3m4f handicap chase at 12:40pm.  Back in Feb2016, Courtown Oscar beat subsequent Grand National winner One For Arthur at Carlisle over 3-mile on heavy ground. Yes, he was in-receipt of 16lb that day but he won easily and his current rating of OR130 could underestimate his ability.  We've not seen any decent form from Emperor's Choice for 2-years, and Russe Blanc has also had his day in the sun. The heavy ground is against Hainan, and the same can be said for Belmount. However, Dawson City who is a horse we have followed on the blog for the past 12 months will relish the heavy ground and the trip, and he could be the one to chase home Courtown Oscar.  I will likely be placing a reverse forecast on this pair.

The day's racing is top class, and I haven't even looked at Ascot's card yet. The Graduation Chase at 1:15pm looks a cracker, and I think CLAN DES OBEAUX can defy the weight he gives away to Born Survivor and Big River and win this race again for Paul Nicholls. It is not a race to place a wager on though, and this is just a race for watching.

At Ascot, the feature race there is the Christy 1965 Chase over 2m5f run at 2:05pm and on my own ratings I have Top Notch about 3lb ahead of Smad Place and with the benefit of a 3lb pull in the weights, TOP NOTCH looks the value at 3/1 (William Hill and Betfred). I'm sure Smad Place will give his all and he usually finds over 5lb of improvement for his seasonal debut, but he may find that his younger rival has also improved since last season and he has also had a spin over hurdles. 

Also on the Ascot card is the Shawbrook Handicap, a Class 2 chase over an extended 2-miles. This was won last year by ex-Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy and he returns again but I feel this year he is not going to be up to it. The Paul Nicholls trained San Benedeto should not be far away, but I feel he is a better horse over further. Were Vaniteux in better form I would nominate him as a selection, as I feel he is a 160+ chaser at his best but he rarely shows that form.  Long term readers of this column will know that I have affection for Upsilon Bleu who, if he were trained south of Birmingham rather than north of Manchester, would be rated a tad higher than OR142. Unfortunately, he was well beaten off OR143 last year in this race. However, in 2nd last year was QUITE BY CHANCE and he looks a better horse this year, comes into the race in top form as looks value at 9/2.

What a cracking day of racing, let's hope it all goes well and we have some great memories.
To recap, my advised wagers for Saturday are:-
Haydock 12:40pm COURTOWN OSCAR @ 9/4 with a reverse forecast including Dawson City
Haydock 3:00pm TEA FOR TWO @ 12/1 (Paddy Power, 10/1 elsewhere)
Ascot 2:05pm TOP NOTCH @ 3/1 (Betfred, 11/4 elsewhere)
Ascot 3:15pm QUITE BY CHANCE @ 9/2 available generally

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Blog writing can be hard work

Believe it or not, but I stared writing this blog on Saturday morning!
I wasn't able to post it on the day due to a family commitment at lunchtime and by the time I got back to it, the day's racing was gone.  I did post my selection for the BetVictor Gold Cup on twitter (Starchitect who ran 2nd beaten only a neck) but I'm not sure how many saw it. for the time-being, I will be posting any selections I make on twitter; the reason being is that it is near impossible for me to put in the form study that I used to do (now I don't know how I did it before).
That, and I also have "issues" with my wrist which is made worse by using the laptop to search the formlines.  Typing isn't so bad, as that is more use of my fingers, but using the "mouse" requires thumb use and that is painful these days.  It has been creeping up on me for a couple of years, but now it is almost intolerable.  To try and alleviate the situation, I've even removed most of my social media apps from my phone.

I also started a new job last week, working from an office in Canary Wharf just a stones throw from the Racing Post offices, and now that retirement is probably less than 10 years away I'm having to concentrate more and more on paid work rather than blogging. The Pension Pot has to be filled.

As I have written before, I'm finding value is getting harder for the average punter to find, and you certainly won't find it in the big handicaps unless you are fortunate. Recently, I've been concentrating on smaller races which are more specialist, such as 3-mile handicap hurdles.  What I'm finding is that the formlines for the jump racing is more than reliable enough to make a decent profit, in fact it has reinforced my belief that jump racing is a better gambling medium than flat racing. I'm sure flat racing fans will disagree. However, the compromise that I've had to make to take advantage is that more and more I'm having to break the "no less than 9/4" rule for my wagers.  For instance, on Sunday, Fox Norton was sent off the 4/5 fav for the Shloer chase despite having about 10lb in-hand over his 4 rivals. I did point out he looked tremendous value the day before the race (on twitter) and I duly took advantage. The only way I could see him not winning was if he didn't finish the race and, as he's never fallen before, that was unlikely. I thought he should have been 1/3 maybe even 1/4 - he certainly won in that manner.

We've a good weekend of jump racing coming up, and I will be making some notes on Thursday with the intention of posting a blog on Saturday morning.   

Friday 10 November 2017

Badger Ales Handicap Chase at Wincanton

Updated @ 0930 Saturday morning due to ground at Wincanton

A big Saturday of jump racing with meetings at Aintree, Wincanton and Kelso.
The Aintree meeting has some decent horses turning out, and what I've noticed in recent weeks is how much trainers are using 3-mile hurdle races to bring their handicap chasers to peak fitness without affecting their chase rating. The 3-mile handicap hurdle at 1:40pm has Vyta Du Roc, Earthmoves, and Bon Chic amongst the 10-runners and they all spent last season chasing. I expect Vyta Du Roc is under preparation for a run in the Ladbroke Gold Cup at Newbury on 2nd December, as he ran in a hurdle race at this meeting last season before going to Newbury .
This particular 3-mile hurdle race looks a bit weak and I am prepared to oppose the 5yo fav Louis' Vac Pouch as he's not yet raced over 3-miles. Winnintry was well beaten behind Beer Goggles LTO and although 10lb better-off for that race he does not look good enough. Beer Goggles has gone up 30lb in the handicap to OR152 since winning at Ayr in April and he was beaten over C&D in May off OR135. Forza Milan hasn't proven he has the stamina for this trip, and he was beaten LTO over 2m7f by HOLLY BUSH HENRY and it is this horse who looks the value. HOLLY BUSH HENRY won again at Plumpton off OR129, and I thought he was unlucky LTO at Cheltenham and I think he's worth another chance at Class 2 level.

The feature race at Wincanton is the Badger Handicap Chase over 3m1f being run at 3:35pm.  This race looks wide-open with the current fav being the Paul Nicholls trained Present Man at 15/2 and he does not look good enough to me.  Nicholls sends 3 horses for the race including Mr Mix and Southfield Theatre. Last year, Southfield Theatre looked poised to win when falling at the final fence. In his only other run after that, he did not show the same zip and so comes here off a 337-day break with fitness to prove.  However, I do like MR MIX who has improved with each of his 4 runs as a chaser and looks a major player based on his LTO win on 29Oct here at Wincanton over 3m2f.  Based on his hurdles form he looks weighted to beat  the current 2nd fav Yala Enki, a horse who likes to dominate and when he does he's up to his rating of OR151. He may not get the free-reign he needs to win though and his trainer Venetia Williams also has Vic De Touzaine and he looks ahead of the handicapper on OR139, as the horse he beat LTO - Boric - then ran a cracker to be 2nd in the Durham National. The worry with Vic De Touzaine is the ground and it may be too quick for him unless it turns soft.
I think Southfield Royale has the potential to be at 150+ chaser but his two runs last season were well below that level and he needs to show he is a player again.
Fletchers Flyer is also ahead of the handicapper on OR143 but he only ran twice last season and the 9yo will almost certainly need this run - he probably has one good handicap win in him. 
I cannot see Double Shuffle winning off OR151, or Theatre Guide winning off OR154. 

At the odds I like MR MIX at 10/1 (available generally on Friday evening), and I can see there being a bit of a gamble on the horse in the morning and it would not surprise me to see him start the 5/1 fav. Younger horses have a good record in the race with 5 of the last 10 winners being 6yo or 7yo, and the longest odds winner in the past 10 years was Court By Surprise at 16/1 in 2014. 

The ground at Wincanton is now officially soft and that puts VIC DE TOUZAINE firmly in the picture. As such, I have split my stake between the pair of MR MIX and VIC DE TOUZAINE. 

Sunday 5 November 2017

Antepost wager on Bristol De Mai landed - 10/1 winner

On Wednesday, I wrote that there was scope for an upset in Saturday's Charlie Hall Chase and if BRISTOL DE MAI was in the form of his win in the Peter Marsh Chase last January then he would take all the beating; the odds then were 10/1. Well, he didn't have to be in that form and he won anyway with (what looked to me) plenty in the tank when holding-off his stablemate Blaklion. The SP was 6/1.

I've changed tack for this jumps season with an intention to focus on better quality races and target antepost value, and the first race I aimed for (that has been run) has been a hit. I hope readers took the advice on Wednesday, or if not then at least the early morning odds yesterday.

Another antepost advice that I made in September regarding NATIVE RIVER for the Betfair Chase (to be run at Haydock) will almost certainly not come off. After the Charlie Hall Chase, which included another the fall by Cue Card (blamed on low sun by jockey Paddy Brennan) I speculated that perhaps Native River would become the main Tizzard stable hope for the Betfair Chase. However, it was pointed out to me that the Tizzard's are aiming Native River at just one race prior to the Cheltenham Gold Cup and that is likely to be the "Denman" Chase run at Newbury in February. Even so, it would appear to me that the old horse Cue Card isn't quite the same and maybe it's time we accepted age is catching up with him.

Is Bristol De Mai a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup winner? Possibly, although he didn't stay the trip when running in the race last March, but he has certainly improved and for the time being he looks the best there is at 3-mile.  Certainly, Sizing John will need to be at his best to beat him should they meet at Haydock on  25th November.

The 3-mile Sodexo Chase was torn apart by the winner Go Conquer who appears to be miles ahead of the handicapper at the moment. I did not consider him for this race as I thought his best trip was at about 2m5f, and I had not given enough credence to his run in the 3m1f Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last March in which he ran 5th, but he did lead until just before the final fence - a top class effort in the most competitive handicap chase of the season. I reckon Go Conquer ran to 155 yesterday - a phenomenal performance.

Saturday 4 November 2017

Clash of the Titans

Today is a bit like the days of Ali vs Frazier, as Cue Card and Coneygree line-up to do battle again - as they did 12-months ago - but then it was in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, and today it is in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby over 3-mile.  Last year at Haydock, it was Cue Card who reigned supreme but then he had already run in this race and, although he had been beaten, he did have the benefit of a run. This time I can see Coneygree gaining revenge over Cue Card, not least because he has age on his side (Coneygree is a 10yo whereas Cue Card is 11yo) but also he ran a great race at Punchestown last April and I'm sure that connections now will no longer be saving something back for next the Gold Cup next March if, due to circumstances out of their control, Coneygree does not make it to Cheltenham.

However, I am confident that in taking the antepost 11/1 on Bristol De Mai, I have done the right thing.  Bristol De Mai is a 6yo, 4 years younger than Coneygree and he has shown, when winning the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase over 3-mile at Haydock in January, that he is capable of a performance worthy of winning this race.

Before we watch the Charlie Hall Chase, I will taking an interest on the 3-mile Grade 2 hurdle race as the horse that I think may win the new Ladbroke Gold Cup (used to be the Hennessey Gold Cup) has a pipe-opener - it is MISSED APPROACH.  
I've been watching the Cheltenham Festival races again looking for clues and I think (again) that the 4-mile NH Chase has thrown-up some of the best novice chase form seen at the Festival.  Having disputed the lead for most of the race, Missed Approach was looking like a potential winner coming down the hill for the 3rd-last fence but he lost the lead to the eventual winner Tiger Roll. He appeared to like the uphill finish at Cheltenham and he did resolutely hung on to be 2nd - however, he confirmed that 4-mile wasn't his trip when he ran next in the Scottish National at Ayr. I think he will relish a return to an extended 3-mile on a flatter track.
He starts the season on OR145 and when you consider he slammed Label Des Obeaux over 3-miles at level weights in January - and Label Des Obeaux went on to win the Class 2, 3-mile novice chase handicap on Scottish National day at Ayr and is now rated OR154 - you can see how well MISSED APPROACH is handicapped - he could be 10lb well-in on OR145.  I think the old "Hennessey" is tailor-made for this horse. He's 33/1 at the moment and we know he:-
- likes Newbury; stays the trip well; he's well handicapped. 
What more can you ask for? I think off OR145 he has a great chance and with Richard Johnson booked for today, it would seem this is his intended mount come December.

I have taken a look at the 3-mile Sodexo Chase at Ascot run at 3:35pm as I have a good record with it. I doubt the early fav Thomas Brown will enjoy this trip, and Braqueur D'Or has been raised 10lb for that win LTO. Emerging Force is a lightly raced horse who could do well today and he looks well-handicapped. This trip isn't got Go Conquer and even if Anthony repeated last years effort, he would do well to win - the race fell perfectly for him last season. Dark Flame is another for whom 3-mile is an unknown. One who will need every yard but should go well is Fourth Act, he ran 4th last year off OR137 and races today off OR129, he should be in the frame. There is no reason that Junction Fourteen should not go well as he is 6lb lower in the handicap than when 2nd in this race last season.  However, I do like Bigbadjohn and I think he's a sleeping giant - yes he makes the odd blunder and it cost him LTO but he could rip this race apart if he gets his act together.  Junction Fourteen should make the frame again, as should Fourth Act. The one with the best chance on form to me is EMERGING FORCE as he stays the trip, races prominently, jumps well and has tonnes of potential and he is my main wager, with a small eachway on Bigbadjohn.

Friday 3 November 2017

Will Sametegal be up for it today off a 608-day break?

It was not to be yesterday for Cribbs Causeway, despite a valiant effort to make a race of it from the front having had the disadvantage of being drawn 12 of the 13 starters (officially drawn 13, but there was a non-runner).  The race went pretty much as I expected and it was a good "Listed" race considering the runner-up Melodic Motion had been beaten just half-a-length in the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster in September.  In the paddock beforehand, I was very taken with the filly Daphne who went on to win the race and, having read the post-race comments of the trainers wife (who was in attendance), the stable had worked hard to ensure she was up for this race as it was probably the last opportunity for this 4yo filly to obtain so "black-type". There was certainly a gamble on the horse which was 7/1 in the morning and started at 7/2 - and I don't think it was due to her owner The Queen! That could be it for the season for Cribbs Causeway, but she will return in 2018, and maybe we could see a step-up in trip as I don't think it was a lack of stamina that beat her yesterday.

I also had an eye on the jump racing at Sedgefield yesterday, in particular the Durham National Handicap Chase over 3m5f, and the short 6/4 fav in that race Audacious Plan may well have won but he only just held-on to win by a neck from the strong finish of Boric.  The runner-up was last seen being caught on the line by Vic De Touzaine on 19-Oct,  and that makes Vic De Touzaine very interesting for the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot tomorrow (Saturday).

We have a couple of good meetings over the jumps today at Wetherby and Uttoxeter.
At Wetherby we have the "Listed" Bet365 Chase over an extended 2m3f, and it is an intriguing contest of 7 runners. When I went through the form the horse that grabbed my attention was the 9/4 fav Sametegal, but he has been absent from racing for 608 days and while I expect him to be fit for this race there is always a doubt with horses returning from a long lay-off. However, he has done this before and won and while this is a tougher race than that one, he does have a decent rating of OR144 to race off.  The one that I think will outrun his rating in this race is MARQUIS OF CARABAS who had a run 35-days ago and while he was outclassed by the winner of that race (who has since won again) his rating of OR129 looks lenient. I think Royal Vacation is not as good as his OR152 rating, and I will be surprised if Guitar Pete can find any more improvement as he was race-fit LTO. I am not sure that Marquis Of Carabas can win this afternoon, but he could be worth including in a speculative forecast with the race-fav Sametegal. I can't make Sametegal a selection as I do not think his odds of 9/4 are value, and I would be looking for something longer than 3/1 before having a wager.

There is a lot of good racing tomorrow and, when you have the prospect of good wagering opporunities, it can pay to be patient and play another day. 

Wednesday 1 November 2017

Exciting weekend of jump racing coming-up

Jump racing steps-up a gear this weekend with the top-class meetings at Ascot, Ayr and Wetherby on Saturday.  Regular readers of the blog will remember this weekend from 2015 when I tipped Wakanda at 8/1 on the Friday, Pendra at 8/1 on the Saturday and then Vintage Star at 10/1 on the Sunday - heady days!
Before then, we have a good meeting at Sedgefield on Thursday which includes the Durham National over 3m5f. However, on Thursday, I will be at Lingfield watching the filly Cribbs Causeway - in which I have a share in the owners syndicate - endeavouring to obtain some "black-type". While she is unlikely to be the fav for the race, the 3yo filly Melodic Motion should be the fav, I'm hopeful of a very good effort from Cribbs Causeway but she will have to do it the hard way having been drawn 13 of the 14 runners. There are quite a few hold-up horses in the race, so I'm hoping she gets an easy lead and then kicks-off from the front with about half-a-mile to run.
The Wetherby meeting on Friday is a good one too, with an interesting 3-mile novice chase but also the "Listed" Class 1 Bet365 handicap chase over and extended 2m3f.
However, on Saturday, all eyes will be on Wetherby for the "Charlie Hall" Chase over 3-mile as it brings the best of the staying chases together for the first time this season. Old-stagers Cue Card and Coneygree take centre-stage, but they may find things not going their way.  Certainly, should Coneygree run as well as he did LTO at Punchestown then he will be in the mix. I think connections now realise that they have to take every race as it comes with Coneygree, there is no point in holding some back for later as he is prone to injury and they may not get another chance. I know Cue Card has won this race before 1st-time-out, but he usually needs a run. The 6yo Bristol De Mai is a bit unpredictable, certainly on his best days he could go close, but those best days are hard to predict.  I do not think Blaklion is anywhere near good enough, as was shown when 3rd over C&D on Boxing Day last December. The winner that day was Definitly Red, who went on to win at Doncaster but, in between, he was beaten by Bristol De Mai when they met in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock and if Bristol De Mai is in thatb sort of form on Saturday then he will take all the beating.    The 9yo More Of That is a horse with unfulfilled potential as a chaser, but this 2014 "Stayers Hurdle" winner over 3-mile at the Cheltenham Festival certainly has the class.
I think given the ages of the front pair in the betting, I think there is scope for an upset and at the odds I am interested in the chance of BRISTOL DE MAI at 10/1 generally (Paddy Power have him at just 7/1). There will be plenty of pace on in the race and that will suit Bristol De Mai, and we know the horse stays this 3-mile trip well

Sunday 29 October 2017

Are handicap chases a good betting medium?

Today we have the "Monet's Garden" chase at Aintree, a Class 2 handicap which brings together 13 of the best handicap chasers in-training but running over the trip of 2m4f on a track which many would describe as "trappy". A liking for the Aintree "Mildmay" circuit is a big positive, as well as a love for the turf there which - probably due to the loamy nature of the soil structure - is possibly the nearest horses will get to racing on an athlete's "running track".

As usual for these top chases, trying to find the winner is more than a puzzle, it is a test not just of theory but of imagination. There are so many unknowns: which of the horses are fit; which will be at their peak; which are being prepared for another day; which are racing at their optimum trip; which will be racing on their preferred ground? And then there is the fact that the race is a handicap, so you have to consider which of the horses are ahead of the handicapper, if any - and if none, which are least affected by the weights?

After watching the racing at Cheltenham yesterday it made me think if these top staying chasers were a good betting medium or if they were just too much trouble for the end benefit. I mean, a 13/2 winner is a 13/2 winner whether it's a Class 2 at Cheltenham contested by 16 horses, or a Class 5 hurdle at Kelso contested by just 11 runners - or am I just being a spoilsport?

I admit that Cogry was on my alert list at the start of last season as his run at Cheltenham in Nov'15 (4th to Sausalito Sunrise) suggested he was a possible 145+ chaser over 3-mile-plus. Unfortunately, the only race he's won since then was a 3-mile hurdle and his best races over fences have been at marathon trips. Was he a 13/2 chance over 3m1f yesterday given the opposition? I'd say no, as before the race we didn't know that he'd be given a good tow in the race by Sonneofpresenting. Also, I think when we look back next April, we will realise that had Singlefarpayment been race-fit then he would have won. I also think there were some other horses that didn't perform to their peak: such as Coologue, Viconte Du Noyer, and Southfield Vic.  That said, if Cogry returns for the 3m3f Grade 3 chase at Cheltenham on BetVictor Gold Cup day then he will have a great chance of following-up over a trip that will suit him even better. There is talk of the old Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury, but unless the handicapper rates him about 7lb higher for this win, he will likely be outside the handicap.

Later in the afternoon, in the 2-mile Class 2 chase we also saw the fav beaten into 2nd but this time by only a neck. The fav was Le Prezien who was clearly well-handicapped on OR144 based on his novice chase form but the odds available on him were silly, and they got shorter as the day wore on. I can see Le Prezien being rated over 155 by the end of this season. The winner Foxtail Hill is a horse who (in my opinion) was well-exposed and in the hands of the handicapper on OR140. To see him at his best he needs to have an uncontested lead - and he got one in this race! Having won over 2m5f at Cheltenham in January with similar tactics, it shows how good Le Prezien is to get so close to him when coming from so far back. Again, there were horses that didn't perform: Poker School and Cobra De Mai should both have done better considering they were race-fit.  My selection Vaniteux suffered a bad bump at the start and I thought Tom Scudamore did well not to have been knocked out of the saddle, instead he trailed the field on the run-up to the first fence which the horse "ballooned". He was given time to settle down, so it was impressive that he made significant progress in the final half-mile to be 7th and if he returns to Cheltenham for the Raymond Mould Handicap in which he ran 3rd last season off OR154, then he could have a great chance.

My opinion is that in both of these races, the "value" was in the fav at the early morning odds.

Did I have a win yesterday? Yes I did, and (as has been usual recently) I found a 3-mile handicap hurdle at Kelso at 4:40pm in which the 4/1 fav Just Chilly had never won in 10 career races, nor had raced beyond 2m5f. With Irish Hawke at 13/2 also never having raced beyond 2m5f, and Broadway Belle at 6/1 another that had run 10 time and never won, together with Apache Prince at 11/2 who had never won beyond 2m4f and whose best run at 3-mile was when 2nd over 3-years ago - this looked a very weak 3-mile race considering 5 of the 11 runners were at odds of  20/1 or longer. That left only 2 runners with form at 3-mile: Buckled and Too Many Chiefs - and they filled the 1st-2 places in that order. They had met last April in a race Too Many Chiefs had won and for which Buckled was the fav; however, in Saturdays race Buckled was 5lb better-off and also had a 5lb claimer in the saddle; and that weight swung the advantage.  I thought Buckled should have been the fav at under 3/1, especially as he was race-fit (very important at this stage of the season) which meant he was easy to back at up to 9/2 before the off. I took me about 5 mins to find Buckled, whereas I spent about a couple of hours (and more) on both the handicap chases at Cheltenham and ended-up only having a speculative wager on a long-odds chance who I think will come good once this season..

It has made me think about my betting strategy, and I will probably come back and write again on this. Will I be having a wager at Aintree? Probably on the chaser ASO trained by Venetia Williams as he's a horse that looks underrated on OR156 and if he ever gets his act together he could be very exciting indeed. But the horse is a puzzle regards best trip and conditions, so Aintree and the unique Mildmay course could tick the boxes; but his is also capable of dropping a leg at a fence.

Such is jump racing.

Saturday 28 October 2017

Day 2 of the Cheltenham Open meeting

If you read the blog yesterday and followed my suggestions then you would have done well.
First up was the 2-mile novice chase which looked an absolute cracker on paper beforehand and fulfilled it's promise. I suggested a wager on the chase debutante North Hill Harvey who had won last seasons Greatwood handicap hurdle run at Cheltenham. Connections kept him hurdling last season as they knew he wasn't in the same league as Altior, who won the "Arkle" (the 2-mile novice chase championship race) at the Cheltenham Festival last March; so this suggested they thought he was special. Sure enough, he jumped well throughout and when challenged by the race-fav Sceau Royal (who had the benefit of a winning run) he held him off under pressure. The SP was 100/30 but at the time of posting the blog there was plenty of 4/1 available. He will need to find a lot of improvement to win the Arkle next March.

Next up was the novice chase over 3-mile, and this had a hot fav in the Irish-trained Fagan, but I thought the Paul Nicholls trained Black Corton had decent form in the book and suggested taking the 4/1 that was on offer. Well ridden by his jockey Bryony Frost, he looked beaten before the 2nd last fence where the leader Sizing Tennessee fell (crumpled on landing). 
Would he have won anyway? Possibly.
I reckon (in most situations) when a horse falls late in a race it is due to exhaustion; certainly Black Corton kept going well up the hill despite struggling over the final fence.
I then thought I was on for a winning treble when my selection in the 3rd race I looked at, Sporting Boy, went clear on the run to the 3rd-last fence (was trading at under 2/1 on the exchanges), but unfortunately he ran out of stamina at that fence and had no more to give.  The gamble of the race Indian Castle was given a tender ride - as I expected - but still didn't have enough in the tank to peg back the winner What Happens Now who won with a lot to spare.

Today at Cheltenham the card opens with a Class 2 handicap chase over 3m1f, and I found the winner of this race last season in Coologue. He's running again today off the same handicap rating and with Richard Johnson in the saddle - he will go close. However, this looks an easier race for Singlefarmpayment than the one he ran in at the Cheltenham Festival LTO. He was 5/1 fav for that and was beaten only on the nod in a pulsating finish.  If he's in that form he should win today even off a 4lb higher rating,

The horse that most interests me today runs in the 3rd race on the card at 3:10pm, the 2-mile Class 2 handicap chase, and that is top-weight VANITEUX.  He was sold out of Henderson's yard for £125,000 and has his first run for David Pipe.  Clearly, to be sold out of a top yard suggests that there is limited scope for improvement, but his win at Ayr in April suggests that on his day over two-mile he can perform to near top-level.  He does not stay beyond two-mile well as his form deteriorates and he's vulnerable, but two-miles is his trip. Pipe has Vaniteux wearing a tongue-tie today and that may make a difference as he was in 1st-time cheekpieces for that Ayr win. If he wins today, then he will go up 5lb at least (he runs off OR158 today) and that elevated rating could mean the end of handicaps for him this season.  I think he will come into the race fit to win and the Pipe stable love a winner at Cheltenham.  There are some well-handicapped horses in this race, but nothing as classy as VANITEUX over this trip who is 14/1 with William Hill and Bet Victor (12/1 elsewhere).   I'm on at 14's eachway.

Friday 27 October 2017

First day of the Cheltenham "Open" meeting

Yes, I know it's not officially the "Open" meeting - due to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club complaining that using the word "open" would confuse people who associated that word with the British "Open" Golf Championship - but I'm fed-up with horse-racing continually "kowtowing" to television, advertisers, sponsors and now other sporting bodies about the use of words and names. I object to golf using the word "ancient" as the golf club only started in 1754.  I associate ancient with something that occurred before the Roman invasion of Britain. Horse-racing at Newmarket racecourse was founded in 1636, so the world of golf can just go and "do-one".

We had a good meeting at Carlisle yesterday and we saw an exemplary ride by Danny Cook when making-all on NEVER UP in the 2m4f Class 4 handicap chase.  Trainer Sue Smiths' horses had looked in need of a run so far this autumn, and so as Never Up was technically having his seasonal debut (he last ran in May which is technically this season) and he'd not shown a liking for heavy ground before I overlooked him. However, Danny Cook made great use of the horse and saw off a sustained challenge from the runner-up Calivigny who had slipped from OR122 to OR113 despite not running poorly and would certainly appreciate this testing ground. Never Up looks the sort of chaser who could run-up a sequence of wins this season.
It looks a tricky card at Cheltenham this afternoon, and if you are having a wager then I would advise sticking to small stakes (unless you have better knowledge than me).  I will be very interested in watching the 2-mile novice chase run at 2:35pm as we could well see the next "Arkle" winner here in the Alan King trained Sceau Royal who has already won a novice chase. He faces two decent rivals who will be having their chase debut in Movewiththetimes and North Hill Harvey, and of that pair I think that North Hill Harvey - who won the Greatwood handicap hurdle last November here at Cheltenham - looks the most interesting.

The other novice chase on the card over an extended 3-mile at 3:45pm also is an intriguing contest despite having only 5 runners.  However, unless something shows significant improvement, the race looks between the fav Fagan, trained by Gordon Elliot, and Black Corton trained by Paul Nicholls. On form there looks little to split them so, at the odds, I'd be inclined to take the 4/1 about Black Corton than the 7/4 about Fagan.

The 3m1f amateur riders handicap chase at 4:20pm can be an interesting betting race as you can usually rule out most of the horses down to the quality of the riders. Last night, Indian Castle was 10/1 with Bet365 but with vitrually every man and his dog tipping the horse due to the booking of Gold Cup winning rider Sam Waley-Cohen for this horse who has been off the track for 541 days, his current odds are 6/1. That looks a bit short to me, as while I'm sure he will be fit for this race, his stamina always failed him when racing beyond 3-mile before his injury and enforced break, and he will need tender handling to last the trip today.  I also think the fav Presenting Julio is far too short at 4/1 considering that he may have won a 3-mile hurdle race, but he's not won a chase beyond 2m5f.
There will be a good pace on in this race from the likes of Azure Fly, What Happens Now, Bugsie Malone and Sporting Boy, and it is the latter who looks the most interesting. Sporting Boy is a tenacious horse who holds his form well and comes here on the back of an emphatic win over 3-mile. Despite his 6lb penalty for that win, the handicapper has put him up (for future races) 13lb - so he's 7lb well-in today and has the benefit of the capable Mr W Biddick in the saddle. Odds of 7/1 look fair (as I'd have him the fav on the formbook) and due to the gamble on Indian Castle, we could see slightly longer odds at the time of the race. 

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Looking forward to the weekend

After a good couple of weeks, yesterday wasn't a good day for me; but then you can't win every day no matter how much you try.

I was absolutely right about the 3-mile handicap chase at Exeter and, in hindsight, I should have left well alone - or at least stuck with the advice I wrote in my own blog!  Unfortunately, as the day progressed it played on my mind that Barry Geraghty had been booked for Cernunnos and I convinced myself that the key to the horse had been found, as he's a good deal better than his current rating when he wants to be. However, once the race started it was soon apparent that today wasn't a going day and the horse was pulled-up with about a mile still to run. Thankfully, I had a small "saver" on the 12yo Alvarado who, as I expected, stayed on strongly and looked like possibly winning after jumping the 2nd-last fence but it was not to be. It should be noted that 3-miles around Exeter is not for the faint-hearted and 7 of the 16 starters pulled-up, and 4 of the 9 finishers - including the 7/2 fav Vieux Lille - were beaten at least a distance, that is over half-a-furlong.
If that wasn't bad enough, my main wager of the day Midnight Glory in the 2m7f hurdle looked like she was going really well with half-a-mile to run but stopped quickly and was pulled-up so it's likely something went amiss with the mare.
Later in the afternoon, Yanworth confirmed his superior ability with a comforatable win over Sternrubin in the Beginners' Chase over 2m1f. Quite how good that form is we will have to wait and see, but the signs are that Yanworth is a 150+ chaser.

Nothing much doing today, despite there being a couple of jump race meetings at Sedgefield and Worcester. I may take an interest in the Class 2 handicap hurdle at Worcester at 3:55pm being run over 2m4f and, if I do, then I will post my selection on twitter.

Thursday brings us 3 jump race meetings at Carlisle, Ludlow and Southwell and, at Carlisle, we have a Class 3 handicap chase over 3m2f which - with the ground being soft there - could take some staying. Also on that Carlisle card is a Class 3 Beginners' Chase which has been an introduction to chasing for some decent horses with recent winners including Cloudy Dream, Pendra and Bury Parade.   

Friday brings us the opening meeting of the season at Cheltenham, and it looks a cracking card with my particular highlight being the 3m1f, Class 3 handicap chase for amateur riders. Sure to be a big field for this race and, with riding ability as much a requirement as race-form of the horses, we should be able to quickly find a value wager. We are back at Cheltenham on Saturday, for another terrific card with at least 3 decent races in which I shall probably be wagering.  I found the winner of the opening Class 2 handicap chase over 3m1f last season (with Coologue), but the 2-mile Class 2 handicap chase is also a race that can throw-up a decent winner. And as I've been paying attention to 3-mile hurdle races recently, I will be looking at the "Pertemps" qualifier too. Do not forget there is a meeting at Kelso on Saturday, and there is an attractive Class 2 handicap chase over 3m2f there which has a decent set of entries.

Finally, to make this weekend extra special, we have the Aintree "Monets Garden" meeting on Sunday - and I found the winner of this race last season (with Third Intention).  There is also a good handicap chase being run on Sunday at Worcester so, all-in-all, we have a busy and entertaining weekend as jump racing gets into full swing.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Exeter chase debut for Yanworth

All eyes will be on Exeter today and the chasing debut of Grade-1 hurdler Yanworth, winner of 8 of his 10 hurdle races - both defeats came at the Cheltenham Festival. He wont have it all his own way, as also in the field is solid handicapper Sternrubin who has been freshened up for this jumps debut with a season on the flat. I really like Sternrubin, he's a tough street-fighter of a horse and it will come as no surprise to me if he pushed the fav all the way to the line.

Before I look at the other races on the Exeter card, yesterday I had a detailed look at the 3-mile hurdle run at Plumpton. Unfortunately, as the ground loosened and became good-to-soft, we had a couple of non-runners in the race which included the fav (and my selection) Beneficial Joe , who was pulled-out at 3:55pm just 35mins before the race.  I quickly referred to my analysis on the blog (never rely on memory if you have taken the trouble to make notes) and reinforced my belief that the new market leaders (Clondow Bistro @ 9/4 and Linguine @ 7/2) were able to be opposed and so sought a likely winner. With Invicta Lake @ 6/1 returning from injury and 18mths off the track, I focused on Oh Land Abloom - a 7yo that had a win over 2m7f plus a couple of 2nd's at 3-mile and (according to Racing Post Ratings) was a consistent performer at a level on a par with his OR129 rating. With Linguine trying to make all and running his best race in some time, the strong pace was to the benefit of Oh Land Abloom, and he was going very well as they raced along the back straight for the 3rd time on this small Plumpton circuit and, apart from when he steadied on jumping the final flight, his jockey - 7lb claimer Harry Teal - knew he had the race won. 

I think these stayers hurdle races are a really good betting medium as I'm convinced that very few horses truly stay 3-miles over hurdles when there is a decent pace being set. There are a couple of handicaps at Exeter today, a 3-mile Class 3 chase at 3:20pm with 16-runners, and a 2m7f Class 4 hurdle race at 3:50pm.

The chase handicap looks very tricky to fathom, and the betting reflects this with the current fav being Vieux Lille at 5/1, and while he's a 3-time course winner over hurdles, he didn't look to stay this trip when running over C&D last November. Has Cernunnos finally found his trip at 3-mile following his LTO win? Personally, I wouldn't bet on it despite being on a great handicap mark. I'm not convinced by Duelling Banjos or Bindon Mill, and only Umberto D'Olivate will know if he's going to win today. The more I look at this race, the more wide-open it looks and if you are going to have a wager in it then I think it may pay to go with reliable old campaigner Alvarado who may be 12yo but will stay all day long and 1st-time-out may be when you have to catch him. He's 16/1 with Stan James and he could very easily be among the 1st-4 and may even reach the winners' enclosure with a bit of luck.

The 2m7f handicap hurdle looks more of a betting race to me. I took a look at this race yesterday evening and a couple jumped to the fore: the 6yo Sutter's Mill and the 5yo Waterloo Warrior.
Sutter's Mill stays 3-mile well, in fact he may find this 2m7f trip on the short side, but his negative is that he's a plodder and not improving - but he is consistent. Waterloo Warrior is bred to be a decent staying chaser, and he best race over hurdles to date was over C&D last March when he stayed-on well to be 2nd. The fav for the race is the 5yo mare Midnight Glory who was last seen coming 3rd to Beer Goggles, and that (in hindsight) looks decent form, and she could be well-in running off OR113. Of the others, I'm surprised Dreamsoftheatre is at 10/1 for this as we know he stays very well, and he's usually consistent, plus he won LTO over 3m1f.  Up 9lb for that win to OR114, my doubt is that the trip may be a tad too short and the ground may be a bit soft.
All-in-all a tricky race to fathom but I liked the way MIDNIGHT GLORY was ridden LTO by Richard Johnson, who takes the ride again today, as it was a confident effort but (unfortunately) he met an exceptionally well-handicapped winner that day in Beer Goggles.

Monday 23 October 2017

Review of the weekend & Plumpton pointers

Overall, it was a really good weekend for me on the horses.
I've been gently easing my way into the jumping season, and we've already seen some strong form lines coming through.
On Thursday, trainer Venetia Williams had her first chase winner of the season with Vic De Touzaine at Carlisle and she was unlucky not to have a 2nd on Saturday with Burtons Well who was beaten just a neck by the race-fit and LTO winner Romain De Senam.  I can see this race producing a lot of future winners as I've rated the race via 3rd-placed Voix D'Eau who I thought ran to his best (tail flashing on the run in) and he will probably benefit from a drop in trip to under 2m4f.   Burtons Well is lightly raced and this ground was probably as quick as he wants but he went down fighting and on soft or heavy NTO he looks one to be on. This was a big step-up by Romain De Senam, but there may not be much improvement left in him as this was the 5yo's 16th run for Paul Nicholls and his 9th chase race.
Paul Nicholls has certainly hit the ground running as he's had 15 winners from his 45 runners in the past 14-days. I was on Friday's winner Orbasa at Wincanton and this talented yet temperamental horse finally put his head in front with probably his best run since he was 2nd at Newton Abbott in April. We you consider that he was only beaten a length when in-receipt of 5lb by Definitly Red at Ayr in April 2016, and that one is now rated 22lb higher, you have to wonder if "finally" the game has clicked into place. Nicholls has followed that win up with another double on Saturday, and then 4 wins at Kempton on Sunday from the 6 horses he sent there - and he had 2 in the same race; so 4 wins from 5 races contested. I took advantage of the early 7/4 about Old Guard in the "Listed" hurdle race over 2-mile as his only real danger was stablemate San Benedeto.  However, it was really no contest as San Benedeto was a consistent but ordinary hurdler before he went chasing, and Old Guard had show he was at least 10lb better than him in this sphere - and it was no contest.
On Saturday for me the feature jump race of the day was at Ffos Las, where the 9yo The New One took the Welsh Champion (handicap) Hurdle showing his ability is not dimming with age; he remains a rock-solid 160 hurdler over 2-mile.

Today, we have the first winter meeting of the season at Plumpton, my local jump racing track. This is a tight little left-handed track with a particularly awkward fence at the start of the back straight which is on a downhill slope - it can catch out an over-exuberant jumper. The race I'm looking at here is the 3m 1f handicap hurdle at 4:30pm, mainly as in my opinion stayers hurdle races are one of the safest betting mediums in racing - not many horses truly stay 3-miles. I'm therefore taken by the fav Beneficial Joe who has won 3 times at 2m7f - 3m. Sure, he's not looked like staying much further in 3 completed races beyond 3m 1f but this opposition looks weak. The 2nd-fav Clondaw Bisto needs to prove he stays this far as he's not raced beyond 2m5f. Linguine stays 3-mile but his 7 x 2nd's from 18 races proves he's one-paced at the business end.  The 10yo Teak would be interesting if he could recover his from of a few years ago but, LTO, he looked a shadow of his former self. Similarly, the 10yo Invicta Lake could be on my shortlist, but this is his first run since being injured in Feb-16. I really cannot consider any of the others in the race, and BENEFICIAL JOE should merely have to complete to take this race.  Curently best-priced at 5/2 (Bet365) and at 4.00 (or 3/1) on Betfair, I can see this one starting at 2/1 or maybe even 7/4.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

The Bobby Renton Chase at Wetherby

What I enjoy about jump racing are these good quality races that are run mid-week at the provincial tracks. Wetherby is in West Yorkshire right in the centre of the "golden triangle" formed by the cities of York, Leeds and Harrogate. In my opinion, the course provides a proper test of the chaser, it being a flat, left-hand oval with no open-ditches in the four fences in the straight that may catch out a tiring horse.

Today's Bobby Renton Handicap Chase at 3:45pm is run over 2m3f and has attracted 7 runners, headed by the fav Delusionofgrandeur trained locally by Sue Smith, who also runs Straidnahanna in this race. Delutionofgrandeur has won over 2m4f as a novice hurdler, but he's never run over a trip this short as a chaser, in fact his last win was at this track in March over 3-miles. He could do well at this trip, but in my opinion he will be at his best at trips of 3-mile and further. And the same can be said for Straidnahanna who won last season over 3m6f, although he has a good cruising speed and he could get into a good rhythm.

When I looked at this race yesterday afternoon, I was immediately drawn to Monbeg River who ran 4 times last season without winning, but with a lot of promise. Unfortunately, he was brought-down when racing over 2m4f at Aintree in December, and he ended the campaign when racing over today's C&D in January.  That was thought to be run on ground too soft for him, and he was beaten 6-lengths into 3rd. A repeat of that effort should see him in the frame, and any improvement will make him hard to beat. The biggest issue for me is that his trainer Martin Todhunter has such a poor strike-rate, and his stats for Wetherby are very poor: just 3 wins from 42 runners in the past 5 years.

Due to the support for Monbeg River, the odds on After Hours have lengthened to 4/1, and this 8yo looks to be on an attractive rating of OR120 considering he improved with every run last season without winning; coming home 2nd in 5 of his last 6 races. He jumps well, runs prominently, and should have no problem with the trip; probably his only issue could be the ground as he "may" want it a bit softer.

The French import Ballotin has his first run for Philip Hobbs, and this is his only runner today - Hobbs has a impressive 28% strike-rate here! Ballotin chased home subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Peace And Co in June 2014, after which Peace And Co was sold on to Nicky Henderson.  Ballotin then chased home Mick Jazz who is now a OR144 hurdler with Gordon Elliot. When chasing in France, Ballotin beat Buttercup who has since moved to Venetia Williams and ran-up a hat-trick of chase wins earlier this year and is now rated OR126. I've no doubt that Ballotin will be fit today and the ground and trip are perfect for him. His rating of OR139 looks a bit steep though, and while his amateur rider will take off 7lb he will need to be at the top of his game in this race.

I like the look of Katgary and he goes very well off a break - a repeat of his run in March (after a 9 month break) when 2nd to San Benedeto would see him hard to beat today - but I have no confidence in his amateur rider Liam Quinlan who has had only 3 rides in the UK in the past 5 seasons, and this is his first for Pauline Robson. 

Finally, we have Definite Future who is sent here by trainer Kerry Lee who has only sent 7 runners here in the past 5 seasons from her base in Hereford, and 3 have won. She has also booked jockey Jamie Moore and that suggests they mean business. This trip and ground will be perfect, LTO over 2-miles was too short - and a repeat of his run at Worcester in June off OR132 (he runs off OR137 today) will see him go close. Currently 10/1, DEFINITE FUTURE certainly looks the value in what is a tricky race as while his latest run may have been over an insufficient trip, being only 30 days ago it means he is proven race-fit.

Tuesday 17 October 2017

When to bet with confidence

No luck for Bigbadjohn on Saturday as, despite going well and and occupying a prominent position, he clouted the 6th fence and catapulted his jockey out of the saddle. 

The Chepstow meeting is a favourite of trainer Paul Nicholls, and he won the opening hurdle race there of the 2-day meeting with his 4yo Dynamite Dollars, and then followed-up with the mare If You Say Run in the 2nd race on the days card, and he was unlucky to bump into the well-handicapped Silver Streak in the 4yo 2-mile limited handicap otherwise his runner Dolos would have made it 3 wins on the day for the trainer. Silver Streak looks capable of following-up. Evan Williams, trainer of Silver Streak, followed-up with Court Minstrel in the Grade 3 hurdle and this horse seems to have found his mojo this summer and, considering he was competitive off OR157 in 2015-16 this 10yo is worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks as he is unlikely to go up much from his current Or142 rating.

The feature race at Chepstow on Saturday was the 3-mile Class 2 handicap chase (in which Bigbadjohn unseated his rider). The winner was Rock The Kasbah but I was not particularly impressed as his jockey (champion) Richard Johnson was hard at work a long way out and it was probably only the inexperience of the runner-up Petrou (this was only his 3rd chase race) that denied the useful claimer Bridget Andrews a winning ride. In 3rd was the well-exposed Ballykan, and I've rated this race using him as a yardstick and so I cannot see the winner following up.  Petrou however, is another matter, and he was yet another advert for the talent of his trainer Dan Skelton as, since joining him in May (5 months ago) he's won 4 and been runner-up twice from the 7 races he's competed in. He goes onto the alert list, along with the horse that beat him LTO the 7yo Midnight Shot trained by Charlie Longsdon.

On Sunday's card at Chepstow, I was most interested in the Veterans' Handicap Chase over 3-mile and, in these races, I focus on the youngest horses in the race which are the 10yo's.  I may be wrong, but I think last season only one Veterans' handicap chase was won by a horse older than 10yo which I think was the 11yo Loose Chips at Ascot in April this year. Sure enough, of the 14 runners on Sunday, 6 were older than 10yo and none of them finished in the 1st-3.  The race was won by the 10yo Bob Ford who was having his first run for trainer Alastair Ralph since leaving Rebecca Curtis. The horse was bought by Dr Richard Newland (who is better know as the trainer of Grand National winner Pineau De Re) at the sales in March for £7000 and he clearly thought there was money to be won with him as he last won in December 2015. I overlooked him for the race on Sunday as - despite his rating having slipped from OR142 to OR122 - all his previous winning form had been on heavy ground and I thought the "good" ground at Chepstow would be too quick for him.  Although he is reported as opening in the betting at 8/1, you can take it from me that at 11am on Sunday morning Bob Ford was available at 18/1.  As such, the gamble on him to an SP of 5/1 was phenomenal and he must have easily repaid his purchase price in winnings from the ring. This gives a valuable lesson in gambling on the jumps: if you know your horse (selection) is fit and well, stays the trip and is well handicapped, then you can bet with confidence.