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


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Monday 30 January 2017

Yesterday's gone - RIP Many Clouds

A day tinged with sadness, that was Cheltenham on Saturday.

It was an incredibly brave run from the Grand National and Hennessy Gold Cup winner Many Clouds who ran the best race of his life to win the Cotswold Chase beating Thistlecrack in the process, but succumbed to a heart condition on crossing the line and finishing the race.  The horse gave his all, and it was a measure of his character that he fought back after losing the lead in the closing stages to lead again and win by a narrow margin.

We learned a lot from the race: we learned that Thistlecrack is a proper Grade 1 chaser at the 3-mile trip, but that he isn't a 170+ chaser that many of his fans want him to be. I'd rated his King George VI win at 167 (while Racing Post Ratings had him at 178) the reason being that the horses he beat that day finished too close. To award Thistlecrack 178 meant that Silviniaco Conti (who finished in 3rd beaten under 4-lengths) had to have run a 170+ performance too - and followers of jumps racing know full well that the old campaigner "Conti" is nowhere near his best these days. We also know that Many Clouds is not, and never has been, a 170+ chaser; although he has always been very game and consistent. I rated the performance of Many Clouds about 3lb better than his previous win in this race in 2015 (when Smad Place was in 2nd place) at 167, and that rating fits in well with my opinion of Thistlecrack.

What it means is that there is only a couple of pounds separating the most recent performances of Thistlecrack, Native River and Bristol De Mai.  It also means that Djakadam who has run 2nd in the last couple of Cheltenham Gold Cups and who is also capable of running in the region of 164-167 is firmly back in the Gold Cup picture as he is unlikely to meet a rival at Cheltenham of the quality of either Coneygree in 2015 or Don Cossack in 2016.  It also means that we should start considering the chances of "2nd-tier" chasers that may be capable of running a 160+ race and sneaking a place (or even winning the race as Lord Windermere did) should one or more of the main contenders not perform on the day. 

There is a body of thought that Thistlecrack may not enjoy the further furlong of the Gold Cup trip, and he will have had a hard season too - the ground on Saturday at Cheltenham was certainly testing. I'm also not entirely convinced Bristol De Mai will run to be best at Cheltenham over the Gold Cup trip. Native River has long been my idea of a Gold Cup winner, but there are others who have not been as highly tried this season yet maybe more than capable of winning on the day, and one I particularly like is Minella Rocco who easily beat Native River in the 4-mile National Hunt Chase last March and who has been given an easy time this season.   When I saw him at Cheltenham last October he was unfit and in need of plenty of work, yet finished 3rd after starting the 11/2 fav.  And then in December he probably would have chased Many Clouds close had he not fallen at the final fence. He looks a much better than 25/1 chance to me.

My other selections on Saturday ran well.  I think Singlefarmpayment would have gone close had he not been brought-down, but the winner Royal Vacation looked very good.   I felt cheated in the next race at Cheltenham which I felt I read particularly well, except that I had ignored the winner! Saphir Du Rheu possibly should have won this as he was coasting for much of the race and his jockey allowed the winner too much leeway up-front which he was unable to peg back - but the manner in which he reduced the deficit was eye-catching as the horse is seriously well handicapped  - he needs a better ride next time. I was also right about Tenor Nivernais who I wagered on place-only on the exchanges (I took 9/2 to be in the 1st-4), and who ran a cracker of a race.

At Doncaster, I read the form for the 2-mile handicap chase well, spotted the winner Upsilon Bleu but didn't tip advise him as a selection as the odds were not generous enough for me. I must admit, I did have a small wager on him, and then placed another in-running as he was going so well. He is a good 2-mile chaser for the grade, but the handicapper will have him now as he's likely to go up 7lb for winning this.

The Skybet Handicap Chase over 3-mile was ripped apart by last years winner Ziga Boy, who we knew was in-form and would love the race.  Unfortunately, I did not expect him to set such a strong pace and most of this field were struggling to keep up after they had barely run a mile. The pace was too hot for my selection Southfield Royale who was running in his seasonal debut today, and he may be one for next time as he looks very well treated for a horse who was one of last seasons top staying novice chasers.

Saturday 28 January 2017

Trials day at Cheltenham

A cracking day of racing lies ahead.
Most of today's blog was sent out on Friday evening so some of the odds in the narrative have now shortened-up. However, my advised wagers are at the odds available at 10am on Saturday morning.

The Timeform Novices Chase at 12:35pm over a shade under 2m5f at Cheltenham looks a stonker of a race. I really like Singlefarmpayment as he is possibly 10lb better than his OR142 rating.  A course winner, he will stay this trip and more and he's won on good ground and on soft so he should have no issues at all. Royal Vacation is tricky to assess as he had no right winning the old "Feltham" on Boxing Day having been presented the race when the runaway leader fell at the final fence. Ibis De Rheu is another tricky to assess as the form of his Festival win last March hasn't exactly worked out and he looks to be still learning his way as a chaser. Burtons Well is a very lightly raced 8yo who could be better than his OR137 rating, and he is likely to be running prominently. Mercian Prince won well LTO and it is surprising to see this horse still rated under 140 by the handicapper, but he does indeed run off OR135. Only a 6yo, he could be the sort that you want to catch onto early. I think Champers On Ice needs 3-mile and he will be staying-on in the final half-mile.  Zarib was fortunate to find a weak Class 3 chase LTO, he may struggle in this. An interesting horse is More Bucks who was not disgraced LTO at Kempton in a Class 2 handicap against some decent rivals, and this drop in trip from 3-mile may well suit this front-runner who certainly won't give up without a fight. The odds of 6/1 about Singlefarmpayment look generous as I'd have him the clear fav at about 7/2, and I would certainly have More Bucks at about 8/1 as though he may not win (lacks a change of gear) he looks virtually guaranteed to be 2nd or 3rd if a few more fancied rivals don't perform.

The next at 1:10pm could be another chase in which Paul Nicholls has a hand in, as this 2m4f trip should suit Saphir Du Rheu perfectly, but this handicap of OR153 leaves no room for error. I really cannot see Thomas Crapper being up for this and if by some chance he wins then I will be calling for an enquiry. Shantou Flyer has been hit by the handicapper too hard in my opinion and could find it tough, and the same can be said for Aso, who runs this track well.  I'm not sure what to make of Walk In The Mill off his revised rating of OR138 as he's gone up 12lb, which looks like it's taken him out of the competition. Buywise is too unreliable, and of the remainder only Tenor Nivernais, who has held onto his form and was 2nd in the race last year unlike the winner that day Annacotty, looks interesting. All-in-all, this race looks there for the taking by Saphir Du Rheu should he run to form, but I'd expect a few of the others (especially Tenor Nivernais) to push him close.

I cannot see Un De Sceaux being beaten in Clarence House Chase at 1:45pm as he looks easily the best horse in the field at this trip.  While it is great to see Uxizandre back racing he will need to be at his very best to win this, and the same has to be said for Dodging Bullets. I'm sure that Special Tiara will try and push the fav into making a jumping error, but he looks held on known form.

The Cotswold Chase at 2:15pm sees Thistlecrack return to Cheltenham on what should be his final outing before the Gold Cup in March. Remember, this will be 4th chase race run over this ground and I expect it will have cut-up badly by 2:15pm and the race could prove testing.
Thistlecrack won't have things all his own way as last years 1st and 2nd, Smad Place and Many Clouds have both been running as well as ever this season and will stay every yard on a track they both handle well. I rated the performance of Smad Place LTO in the Hennessy GC better than when he won the race in 2015, but as he was rated 11lb higher on OR166 he had no chance. He could really test Thistlecrack tomorrow and I'm likely to take the 13/2 that is currently on offer.

The Doncaster card is equally impressive today and I always feel it is a shame that it clashes with the Cheltenham Trials meeting.

The Class 2 handicap chase over 2-miles at 1:55pm looks a tricky race to fathom and I am not sure that I can support the 5yo Romain De Senam against these hardened handicappers. I'm also not sure that Cyrius Moriviere can be relied upon and so it may be one of those days that Upsilon Bleu finds himself back in the winners enclosure as, on his day, he is a classy 2-mile chaser. We know he's fit and well and LTO the trip of 2m4f was too far for him and this trip today will suit him well. The odds look a bit poor though as he's only 6/1 at best.

The Skybet Handicap Chase over 3-mile at 3:40pm is a cracking handicap chase and a case can be made for several.  Those I expect to do well are Vicente, who will enjoy the ground but may want further than this trip, Coologue, who was 2nd in this last year and is fairly treated on OR145; Ziga Boy, who won this last year and is bang in-form and will love today; and finally Southfield Royale who has his seasonal debut today and looks very well treated for a horse who was one of last seasons top staying novice chasers. Running off OR147 this C&D winner (on heavy ground) looks the best handicapped in the race, and odds of 8/1 (Bet365 and Paddy Power) look very attractive.

What are my wagers today?
The money has come in for SINGLEFARMPAYMENT so I hope those on my email list took the 6/1 available when I sent out the email last night, as he's 9/2 now.  
Betfred and Tote go 6/1 (Stan James is 11/2) about SAPHIR DE RHEU and that looks very generous to me.
I will also be taking the 8/1 on SOUTHFIELD ROYALE.
And finally a small personal wager on the 7/1 available on SMAD PLACE.

Advised Selections
Cheltenham 1:10pm SAPHIR DU RHEU, £5 eachway @ 6/1 with Betfred and the Tote
Doncaster 3:40pm SOUTHFIELD ROYAL, £5 eachway @ 8/1 with Bet365

Thursday 26 January 2017

Notes from Wayward Lad for 26th January

No success for the selection on Saturday, but I reckon I read the race about right. My error was to overlook the potential for eventual winner Bristol De Mai to improve with the knowledge that he was proven to say the 3-mile trip.
There were no prisoners taken by the strong pace of the race and, by my opinion, this was top-class staying chase form from the winner.  

My selection Otago Trail ran a cracker and I thought we had a chance of success with 4 to jump, but the class of the 6yo winner told and Otago Trail was exhausted jumping the 2nd-last fence and we were (perhaps) lucky that he was able to clear the final fence and finish the race.
Is Bristol De Mai a potential Gold Cup winner? He could well be.  My only doubt is that he did not stay well at Cheltenham last March over 2m5f and it may be the uphill finish there that he cannot cope with.  To be fair, that is my only doubt over Thistlecrack - will he stay the extra couple of furlongs of the Gold Cup trip? We know his stablemate Native River certainly will.
My narrative on Saturday morning looked at three races, but for my advised selection I gave the name of the only loser of the 3. Waiting Patiently easily beat the Nicholls-trained fav Politologue and I hope readers took my advice and had a small wager on him. I'm not sure he's good enough to be a potential "Arkle" winner, but he could be.
And then our old friend The New One came up trumps in the Grade 2 hurdle, but then he did not have to do much to win it as the opposition was poor.  In the circumstances, he should have started with an SP of slightly odds-on and so (again) I hope readers took advantage of the morning odds as I advised.
No racing from Fakenham today as it has already been abandoned, and there is nothing else suitable for a wager.
I'm not hopeful that we will have a wagering opportunity tomorrow (Friday) either, as the racing looks ordinary with nothing outstanding.
Saturday though, brings us some top class racing at Cheltenham, Doncaster and Uttoxeter.
The Cheltenham meeting holds a 9-race card with the inclusion of the Clarence House 2-mile chase brought from the Ascot meeting lost to the frost last weekend. That race now looks more interesting with the possible inclusion of Uxizandre (he holds entries in several races at both Cheltenham and Doncaster) and Special Tiara to oppose Un De Sceaux. I still feel that the Irish challenger Un De Sceaux holds the aces in this race.
The highlight of the Cheltenham card will be the Grade 2 "Cotswold Chase" over 3m1f, in which we see Thistlecrack make his next venture of his phenomenal novice chase season. This race will be completely different from the King George VI chase at Kempton which he won LTO as his stamina over these undulations will be put to test by some proven high-class performers in Many Clouds (my selection in the race last year), Smad Place (last years winner) and possibly Silviniaco Conti.  Another interesting entry from Paul Nicholls is Vicente (the 2016 Scottish National winner). This race could be all about the ground as it is unlikely to get much softer than the current good-to-soft, although if the frost gets into the ground overnight and we have a thorough thaw during the course of the day, by 2:15pm there will have already been 3 chase races run on the ground and it could be loosening-up. I'm again looking at Many Clouds or Smad Place as being my idea of the winner should the ground become more testing, as neither of this pair have looked to be waining in their powers.
Saturday will be a long day for Cheltenham punters with the first race off at noon (as such it is unlikely that I will be going). That race is the 2m1f juvenile hurdle and it looks like being a duel between the unbeaten pair of Defi Du Seuil and Charli Parcs. Then we have possibly the most interesting race of the day from a punting point of view, with the Class 2, 2m5f Timeform Novices Handicap Chase and, if this race goes to "form", then virtually every runner should be placed into the notebooks of punters. This could be a tough race to crack, so I will likely be focusing more attention on the next race on the card over the same trip and hoping that it does not fall apart like it did last year.
I will be ignoring the Cross-Country chase, and another novice race I will be paying attention to is the 2m4f Grade 2 novices hurdle. This looks like it could have a very competitive look about it if many of the current 15 entries stand their ground.
Last year, I saw Thistlecrack smash a decent field in the Cleeve hurdle over 3-mile, and it would not surprise me to see Uknowhatimeanharry do the same thing on Saturday. Whether many punters will still be on the course for the Class 2 handicap hurdle at 4:35pm remains to be seen.

At Doncaster, the 2-mile Class 2 handicap chase could be an intriguing puzzle, especially if Uxizandre misses this race and goes to Cheltenham instead, as the weights will probably go up 14lb. This Doncaster meeting is one of my favourites and it is a shame that it clashes with the Cheltenham trials meeting as the Grade 2, 3-mile novices hurdle run at 2:30pm always brings together a classy field and is probably a stronger race than the 2m4f Grade 2 novices hurdle being run at Cheltenham.
Then we have the feature race of the Doncaster meeting, the Class 1 (Listed) 3-mile SkyBet handicap chase. Last years winner Ziga Boy runs off just a 4lb higher handicap mark of OR137, and he could prove tough to beat but there are a host of horses above him in the handicap that are possibly knocking on the door of a big win, and my old friend from last season Wakanda could be the one.  This time last year he ran in the Cotswold Chase and was completely outclassed, and that race left it's mark on him.  He's taken time to forget that race but LTO he ran his best race since winning at Ascot in December 2015.

All-in-all, we have a very busy Saturday coming up.

Saturday 21 January 2017

Venetia to be on the winning trail at Haydock

I thought we would have a good day of racing with 3 jump meetings at Ascot, Haydock and Taunton - but we have lost Ascot and Taunton to the frost and so only Haydock is left.

This is disappointing as I thought there was some potential value at the Ascot meeting in Un De Sceaux who would have taken all the beating in the Clarence House Chase, and in Kylemore Lough who looks ore than capable of beating the field in the Class 2 handicap chase. 

Haydock puts on a grand meeting and has a couple of races that may provide us with a wagering opportunity.  The Grade 2 novice chase at 1:30pm looks a cracker with the Paul Nicholls trained Politologue but he wont have things all his own way as Its' A Freebee, Waiting Patiently and Maximiser all look decent prospects as chasers.  At the odds, Waiting Patiently at 4/1 may be worth a nibble as I am sure OR142 under-rates his ability and were he with a "premier" stable then he would possibly be rated 7lb higher already. Were this a handicap then I would have no hesitation to be on him, but there may be enough in the 3lb concession he has to swing the race his way. 

The Champion Hurdle "Trial" at 2:40pm over 2-miles may be a close run race.  He may be having to concede weight, but The New One should be capable of beating L'Ami Serge on these terms and on this ground - if it turns heavy then he will have a problem, but he should be capable on soft ground.  I just don't think L'Ami Serge has shown enough "zip" over hurdles to win this, and the 15/8 about The New One looks generous to me.

The next race on the card is the "Peter Marsh" handicap chase at 3:15pm and run over 3-mile, and this is one of the races that I enjoy tackling during the jumps season.  We have a big field of 14-runners and the current fav Definitly Red will need to find some improvement to win off OR149. He will handle the track, ground and trip but may find one or two too good for him. Bristol De Mai looks a better prospect in this now he has shown he is competitive at 3-mile. Alary is one that I cannot consider on his UK chase debut, however his form may look in France.  Bishops Road is perhaps on too high a rating and probably wants heavy ground. I'm not sure about Otago Trail as he may be a horse that goes well fresh, but his odds of 10/1 look fair enough. Sausalito Sunrise will not be far away as he does enjoy a slog through the mud and he looks fairly treated. Virak has yet to recover his form of last year and the remainder look out of it. 

At the odds, OTAGO TRAIL at 10/1 (he is 12/1 with Stan James) looks fair value as he beat both Definitly Red and Bristol De Mai at Newcastle, and that form looks top notch. At todays weights he should be able to confirm the form and as such he should be trading at 5/1 in my opinion.

Haydock 3:15pm OTAGO TRAIL, £5 eachway @ 10/1 (generally available quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)

Thursday 19 January 2017

Notes for Thursday 19th Jan 2017

The cold snap I've been experiencing this week apparently exists only over the South-East of England, but there is an inspection at 8am at todays Wincanton meeting, though Ludlow has no issues.

There is a 3-mile Class 3 handicap chase at Ludlow for amateur riders at 3:35pm which could provide a wagering opportunity.  The 9/4 fav is Still Believing but he does not look capable of winning at 3-mile at this level. Yes, he has won here twice (once on heavy ground) but he's been raised 10lb for his latest win to OR126 and that puts a different complexion on things. For me, the 2nd-fav Port Melon is more interesting as he is the quality horse in the race, and lightly raced for a 9yo. Port Melon goes well fresh (won first-time-up in Nov15) and his run at Kempton last April suggests that he could be well-in by about 7lb.  My worry is that the ground may be a bit too soft for him.  The 10yo Valleyofmilan is just too unreliable to be considered.  Capard King has slipped down the ratings from OR139 to OR127 today - and he's won 3-mile chases off OR135 and OR136 - but both those wins were at Southwell and Ludlow is a completely different track to that one. Will he be able to handle it?
Royal Palladium could possibly dominate throughout from the front, that's where he likes to be and there does not seem to be another in the race to challenge him for the lead. He ran well in this race two years ago off OR124 till falling 3-out, but that was only his 4th chase race and I can excuse him that error.  If he is challenged for the lead then he will throw-in the towel.  The ground probably is not soft enough for I Am Colin, and the remaining pair of Gallery Exhibition and Gone To Far don't look capable of winning this.  
Trainer Paul Nicholls does not send many horses to Ludlow and although PORT MELON isn't the main reason for coming here today - he runs the fav Amour De Nuit in the opening 2m5f maiden hurdle and he could be heading for the Cheltenham Festival - it looks like the horse has been prepared with this race as his main target.  Odds of 9/2 look fair to me as he is unlikely to be out of the 1st-3 home.

At Wincanton, the Somerset National Chase Handicap over 3m2f is the feature race of the day. The race-fav is Dawson City who was my Boxing Day selection but the race was voided.  He followed that up with a good 2nd at Plumpton which suggested he would have gone close on Boxing Day. He was also 2nd in this race last year off OR125, so off just 2lb higher in the handicap he should not be far away, and we know he's in good form. There is no way I can consider the 12yo Alfie Spinner, and Onderun looks held by the fav judged on their meeting at Plumpton LTO.  Also in that race was Sartorial Elegance who unseated his rider 4-out when going well, and he looks unexposed.  The winner of that Plumpton race, Morney Wing runs off a 5lb higher rating of OR128 and that may well find him out, though he should run well again.  The 10yo Saroque has slipped from OR132 to OR119 today, but his recent form looks poor and I cannot see he turning that around today. Abracadabra Sivola was a highly tried novice chaser who has needed his runs this season and it's hoped that he is fit to run to his best form today which would be enough to put him in the picture. All-in-all this looks a tricky race to fathom, and it looks like any of those that ran at Plumpton LTO (Dawson City, Onderun, Sartorial Elegance, or Morney Wing) could go close in this race and the market looks to have this race about right. 

Although PORT MELON should be in the places, amateur rider races are not the best of betting mediums and so there is no advised selection from me today.  There is some good racing this weekend and I'm hopeful of finding a decent winning wager then.

Saturday 14 January 2017

Warwick Class Chase

We have been knocking on the door of a good win recently, with two named horses on the blog last Saturday but I selected the wrong one for the wager as the other one won at 9/2, and on Thursday I thought we had a great chance of a long-odds winner but the jockey came late with his challenge and was a fast-finishing 2nd. 

Today we have several good meetings at Kempton, Wincanton and Wetherby; but the feature race of the day is the Warwick Classic Chase over 3m5f which looks very open.
If Sego Success can run to the level of his win at Doncaster last season then he will be tough to beat if he stays this trip, but he doesn't look a marathon horse to me.
There are no such doubts over Shotgun Paddy who won this race 3 years ago on 2014 (he was my selection that day). He comes here fresh and running off OR139 the handicapper has given him a chance. No problems with the soft ground.
Kiki De La Prix does not look good enough nor capable of staying this trip, and another potential non-stayer is Viva Steve.  
The 6yo Ballycross is too young for this trip and it could break the horse. I would like to see a lower-age limit for races longer than 3m1f.
Doctor Harper is the possible value as he is a winning 3-mile hurdler and a good one too. Lightly raced as a chaser, his run LTO over 3m2f at Cheltenham bodes well for this race and he will handle the soft ground. Remember he was the 4/1 fav for the Kim Muir at the Festival last March off OR141 and he runs off OR143 today - odds of 11/1 look fair value as I would have him at the joint-fav for this race.
I cannot see One For Arthur winning off OR137 as that looks to be his ability ceiling.
However, old friend Houblon Des Obeaux showed when 3rd in the Hennessy LTO that there is life in the old dog. Running off OR152 on soft ground will see him in his element and he should be thereabouts come the final fence. 
Spookydooky is interesting as he ran well (beaten only 7-lengths) in the Midlands National last March off OR141, and he runs off only OR131 today. He has run only 3 races since then, pulling up in the Scottish National on unsuitable ground, and running without zest on unsuitable good ground twice this season. He could be chucked-in off OR131 in this and Jonjo O'Neill has a habit of getting his horses right on the day that matters. 
The only other horse that catches my eye is Knockanrawley who reappears today after 14-months off through injury.  Running off OR136 if he can run as well as when we last saw him then he will go close today as he is a prominent runner who stays all day long. Possibly one to wager on in-running after he has jumped a couple of fences to judge if he has come out well.
A tricky race and I would have a shortlist of Spookydooky, Shotgun Paddy, Doctor Harper and Houblon Des Obeaux.

At Kempton, the 2m4f handicap chase at 12:55pm has cut-up and we have only 7 runners going to post including the 11yo ERICHT. He may be long in the tooth but he has been running really well this season, and I thought he was most unlucky to meet Astracad on a good day LTO. That day I rated him at 140, which puts him 8lb ahead of the handicapper as he runs off OR132 today. He won here last season over C&D and if he goes close to that form today then he will be very hard to beat, and odds of 11/4 (he is 3/1 in places) look fairly decent value as he probably should be about 2/1.

Later on in the afternoon, Vaniteux and Vibrato Valtat cross swords in a 4-runner chase over 2m4f which I think puts the advantage with the Paul Nicholls horse Vibrato Valtat. While Vaniteux does run well at this trip, he is vulnerable and he will have to be at the top of his game to beat the consitent Vibrato Valtat who is available at 9/4.  

Then at 3:15pm we have a cracking 3-mile Class 2 handicap chase in which SANDY BEACH holds a tremendous chance at the weights. He has won over 2m7f so he should stay todays trip and that is the only doubt over him, as I have him about 6lb ahead on my ratings. The danger in my mind is the top-weight Volnay De Thaix at should stay this trip - he tries 3-mile for the first time - but his rating of OR150 surely underestimates his ability when you look at his form as a hurdler. However, I cannot see him conceding 15lb to SANDY BEACH who could be rated in the 140's after this race. Odds of 9/2 look fair about SANDY BEACH and he is my main selection today. 

Kempton 3:15pm SANDY BEACH - £10 win @ 5/1 (Betfred and Tote) 

Thursday 12 January 2017

Notes from Wayward Lad for 12th January 2017

This week is transitional for me as my current contract ends in London and from Monday I'm working just a few minutes from my home in Brighton. Overall, not only will the move be good for my health as I won't be rising at 5:40am every morning and not returning home until after 7pm - but the extra hours of "freedom" will allow me more time to put to important form study. It used to be a simple exercise to read the race-form on the internet on journeys on the train into London, but a combination of more complex websites - and the RacingPost website with it's flashing add-on's and pop-ups doesn't help - and more people demanding bandwidth to stream tv programmes and movies has meant that reading the form on the train using the internet is near impossible.

This week has also brought us a string of bad news stories in horseracing.  It started with the confirmation that Coneygree would not run in the Gold Cup, and that was followed by the news that last years Gold cup winner Don Cossack has been retired due to injury; and - in between - we learned that Kempton Park racecourse is to close sometime after 2020.  With the news of the latter, there is already a "Save Kempton" campaign but, with no further investment heading down the A3 to the Sunbury track, unless a "buyer" can purchase the track from its current owners then that campaign is doomed to failure. I just hope readers followed my advice and took the 20/1 about Native River for the Gold Cup on the morning before he won Welsh National. 

Today brings us interesting cards at Catterick and Leicester, with the 3m6f "North Yorkshire Grand National" being run at Catterick at 2:50pm. This extreme trip will take some staying and my initial thoughts were Gonalston Cloud and Doing Fine both of whom will be suited by this trip and ground. Another that you cannot ignore is course winner Straidnahanna who won here last February over 3m1f on soft ground, but he's looked short of that level since.  Gonalston Cloud is also a two-time course winner, so there is a lot in his favour. Ballyben has run well this season for his latest trainer Malcolm Jefferson but he's gone up 12lb in the handicap in the process to OR127 and his last win was off OR114.  Alto Des Mottes is clearly a soft/heavy ground horse with both his wins on heavy and his 2nd here (only 5 finished from 12 starters) was on soft ground. Ballyculla possibly also prefers soft ground judging by his decent run at Punchestown 20 months ago, and while he should come on for his run LTO there is no guarantee he will. I really cannot see Harry The Viking winning off OR127 although he is in good form and should go well.

Currently priced at 12/1 (quarter-odds eachway 1,2,3) GONALSTON CLOUD is a lightly-raced 10yo who runs prominently and stays all day long. We know he appreciates this Catterick track and the ground will also suit him, as such I'm expecting him to run a big race as he's only been raised 5lb for his win on Boxing Day over 3m3f. It would be no surprise for him to start the 6/1 2nd-fav to Doing Fine but, if we get some more juice in the ground, the conditions will suit Gonalston Cloud more than any other that I can see in this race.

Catterick 2:50pm GONALSTON CLOUD, £5 eachway @ 12/1 (available generally)    

Fridays cards look poor, but Saturday brings us several decent races to consider.
At Kempton the 2m4f Class 2 handicap chase at 12:55pm brings together a couple of well handicapped horses in Ericht and Dusky Lark.  Later in the afternoon it will take a good horse to beat Aso in the Class 1 "Listed" chase over 2m4f. And I expect Sandy Beach to be a warm favourite in the 3-mile Class 2 handicap chase - he looks a very exciting prospect.  The other meetings at Wetherby and Warwick will depend on the weather over the next couple of days, and it is likely that racing plans will not be firmed-up until Friday morning. One horse I am hoping can recapture his form is Virak who in entered in the 3m5f Betfred Classic handicap chase to be run at Warwick.

Saturday 7 January 2017

Wayward Lad's notes for Sat 7th Jan 2017

A quiet Saturday with only 2 jump meetings at Sandown and Wincanton, with perhaps the highlight of the day being the 3-mile Veterans Chase which - in my opinion - should be part of the Cheltenham Festival.It is the final of the Veterans series and what a fantastic group of handicap chasers has it brought together - tremendous.

What is disappointing is that the horse I was going to advise this morning, is now a non-runner - Forgotten Gold. So it is back to the drawing board. I cannot entertain Dynaste as he hasn't looked to be enjoying the sport for a long time now. I think the OR145 rating is too much for Gas Line Boy, but he will run well, he always does his best.

Aerial isn't up to this as he showed LTO, and I consider this trip too short for Rocky Creek although he does love running right-handed and looks to be the quality horse in the race. Theatrical Star has been going backwards for a long time now and even OR127 isn't enough to help him win. Cloudy Too has a lot of support but he needs it soft/heavy and all his chase wins have come on soft heavy ground, and the same goes for Wychwoods Brook. The softening ground is against Shuil Royale, and Aachen at 13yo is surely too old for this.

Loose Chips loves running right-handed and this 3-mile trip will suit him much better, as he did not stay beyond 3-mile in the race won by Rocky Creek LTO - that was over nearly 3m5f. I can see him going a long way in this race as he is only 2lbs above his rating when winning  C&D in November. If this race were over 2m5f then I would be all over Ericht as he is about 8lb better than his OR132 rating - but he does not stay a yard more than 2m6f and he could well be thereabouts 2-out only to fail to run on and come home 3rd or 4th. He looks a good place-only wager on the exchanges.

At odds of 16/1, Loose Chips looks an interesting eachway wager, but the class horse in the race and one that will appreciate the ground and enjoy going right-handed is ROCKY CREEK and at 9/1 (available generally) he looks the value wager as, having won here LTO and the time before, he should be the 5/1 fav in my opinion.

At Wincanton, I am not surprised that there has been a market move for WALK IN THE MILL in the 2:05pm chase over 2m4f as he looks well-in on recent form being possibly 10lb better than his OR126 rating.

A lot of his rivals - other than Fox Appeal - have something to prove and Fox Appeal is unreliable. Yes, he won like a good thing LTO but I will be surprised if he runs like that again today. Even at 7/2, WALK IN THE MILL looks fair odds but we have missed the value. 

Sandown 3:00pm, ROCKY CREEK - £5 eachway @ 9/1 (available generally, quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4)

Wednesday 4 January 2017

Notes for 4th January 2017

It was a bit of a bloodbath for punters at Cheltenham on New Years' Day, wasn't it?

Winners at 50/1, 20/1 and 16/1 meant the bookies left the course with full satchels, and why wouldn't they? The rain came and turned the ground soft, and the recent formlines (gained on "good" and sometimes good-to-firm ground) were turned upside-down. Maybe that's a bit harsh as the race-fav's finished in the 1st-3 for every race and there were 4 x 2nds beaten a head, a neck, half-a-length, and 3-lengths.  

I doubt many were on 50/1 winner Tour Des Champs, but f he were to win it would be on his seasonal debut on soft/heavy ground, and I cannot see him repeating that effort NTO unless he races under similar circumstances. He is unlikely to get soft/heavy ground at Aintree, where I expect the runner-up Doctor Harper is being aimed.  Doctor Harper won a 3-mile Grade 3 handicap hurdle at the National meeting at Aintree in 2014, and he will go better on "good" ground, as such he could be David Pipe's National horse.  In 3rd, and looking a tad unlucky, was Arpege D'Alene who we knew would not enjoy the soft ground but whom we also knew was well handicapped on OR140 (as his hurdle rating is OR149). I can see Arpege D'Alene returning to Cheltenham for the 3-mile handicap chase on the opening day of the Festival. Behind them was A Good Skin who ran well for a long time (on ground he clearly hates) again displaying how well he likes Cheltenham - this one is looking well handicapped

The "Dipper" novice chase over 2m5f went to the 9yo Whisper, who took advantage of an error by Clan De Obeaux. This is a tricky race to evaluate as the time was a bit slow. If the error by Clan Des Obeaux was down to experience then it is promising, as the way he stayed on up the him it will unlikely have been to lack of stamina. I'm not sure what to make of Whisper but, at 9yo, time is not on his side and he will likely be thrown in the deep end now.

Given Shantou Flyer had won at Cheltenham on heavy (correction, it was "good" ground - see comments) ground as a 5yo novice chaser over 3-mile in Oct-15 beating Vicente (subsequent Scottish National winner), A Good Skin, and Ballykan - as well as Village Vic (who fell 3-out in that race) - at level weights then we should not have let him start at 20/1. A horse who goes well in the mud, he was lightly raced in 2016, and came into this fresh from a 6-month break. He is only a 7yo, and it is likely that there is more improvement left in him and 2017 could be a very good year for him with races like the Midlands National in March and the Welsh National next December much more likely to be run on soft/heavy ground.

Why am I looking at results of recent races more closely? Because, in respect of the Cheltenham Festival, the period from Boxing Day (26th December) to Valentines Day (14th February) is when 95% of all winners at the Cheltenham Festival in March will have their final preparatory run. As 55% of all winners at that Festival will have WON their previous race, then it makes sense to pay close attention to every winner if that horse has some expectation of running at the Festival. Another reason is that the racing today, tomorrow and Friday does not look to have anything worthy of a wager; being mainly Class 4 races or lower grade.  There are a couple of Class 3 races, mainly hurdle races, but we will have to see how they cut-up.

Another reason is that in todays' RP Weekender, Tom Segal (otherwise known as "Pricewise") has declared that last seasons top-chase form to be rubbish. Sometimes I wonder how this man has obtained such a position in racings premier publication as he has declared on more than one occasion that he is no student of form, merely giving the runners a cursory glance. That shows in his appalling strikerate. To me, when he does occasionally hit the target with a long-odds winner, it is courtesy of being given "the nod" by a trainer who knows his horse has an outstanding chance. His sweeping statement in todays Weekender ignores the fact that Vautour - just pipped by Cue Card in the King George VI Chase - would likely have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March had he taken part (he went on to win the Ryanair Chase in a canter instead). It ignores that fact that subsequent Gold Cup winner Don Cossack has not run since due to injury.  It also ignores the fact that he and his colleagues at the Racing Post have been ramping-up the ratings and are guilty of inciting "ratings inflation" in the absurd quest to find a modern-day Arkle - a horse with a rating topping 200.