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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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Friday 14 April 2017

Easter thoughts - a time of reflection

The 2016-17 Jumps season hasn't been successful for me, in fact it has probably been the worst for my betting bank since I started blogging back in March 2010.

I need to update the profit & loss scenario for advised wagers on the blog, but I'm putting it off as it probably won't be good reading. I think, or perhaps I know, what the problem for me has been this season, and that is time - or (rather) the lack of it.

The way horse-racing is developing now into a season fixated on the Cheltenham Festival - and that has been made very evident by the lack of competition for some of the Grade 1 races at last weeks Aintree "Grand National" meeting -    is that horses are being prepared slowly and you cannot know just when they will be at their peak.

A perfect example of this is Saphir Du Rheu who I advised a wager on for the 2m5f chase at Cheltenham on 28th January. The ground that day was soft, which was perfect for the horse as he'd won the Lanzarote Hurdle a Class 1 "Listed" handicap on soft, and the Grade 2 "Cleeve" Hurdle at this meeting in January 2015. His worst ever run on soft ground had been over an inadequate 2-mile when a novice hurdler. The 2m5f trip was also suitable as he'd won all 4 of his completed races at a similar trip (only failure was unseating his rider in a novice chase won by Coneygree). He should have been race-fit as he'd run 3rd at Ascot in October over 3-mile and he'd fallen early-on in the Hennessy Gold Cup so, all-in-all he should have started the short-priced fav for this race and not had an SP of 6/1 when running off OR153 - especially when you consider his good performance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month which has resulted in his Official Rating being raised to OR162.
Instead, he was given a "gentle" ride by his jockey and only started racing "proper" after the 3rd last fence by which time the eventual winner opened-up at least a 12-length lead. Sure, Saphir Du Rheu managed to peg-back the leader, and some may be wanting to describe this as an ill-judged ride. However, the horse was so tenderly ridden until the 3rd-last fence that I think his trainer was ensuring he still had something to work with for Cheltenham. Remember, when he won the "Cleeve" Hurdle in 2015, he went to Cheltenham as the 5/1 fav for the Grade 1 "World" Hurdle over 3-miles and came home 2nd beaten by Cole Harden - a horse who has not won again since - so it's possible that trainer Paul Nicholls wanted to get plenty of work into this horse in preparation for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Some will read this and say I'm just griping and that there are always hard-luck stories - that is the nature of placing wagers on horse-racing. And there is an element of that in this post, but I need to cleanse - draw a line under this jumps season and put it behind me. Writing this post is one of the steps that forms part of that process. The next will be formulating a way forward, and then finding a way of putting that into practise.  What I do know is that what I've been doing this season while being good, just isn't good enough.  Coming 2nd is not the same as winning.

Saturday 8 April 2017

The Grand National at Aintree, 2017

First thing, the great race itself.
I went through the runners earlier in the week, and my opinion hasn't changed. 
My opinion is that the ground is possibly on the soft side of good out on the National course and the race may be more testing than expected.  I want horses that genuinely stay the trip on my side and I want horses that are well prepared with this race in mind.  I've narrowed the field down to 4 horses - 
Blaklion (14/1), Perfect Candidate (50/1), Pleasant Company (16/1), and Thunder and Roses (33/1).

As for the other races on the card today, I am expecting CHARBEL to win the novice chase at 3pm, but then he is odds-on today. The handicap chase at 3:40pm over 3m1f looks a good race to be involved in and I am taken by POTTERS LEGEND who stayed well at Cheltenham LTO and looks the type to keep improving.  Some of the others still have to prove their stamina at this sort of trip, or have been off the course for longer than I would like, but Potters Legend is in decent form and has been running consistently. 

In the Stayers Hurdle over 3-mile at 4:20pm, I have thought this is the trip for Yanworth all season, but his run in the Champion Hurdle LTO was so poor that I feel he has something to prove today and I would not want to be on him. The Irish challenger Supasundae is on the upgrade and could be the one to be on, but this in another race for me to sit out.

As such, I'm concentrating on the Grand National and my idea of the eventual winner is BLAKLION. He has only 11st 1lb to carry and he has that touch of class having won the RSA Chase at Cheltenham as a novice last season. He has been prepared for this and I know him as a very consistent performer.  I am expecting big runs from the other 3 on my shortlist too.  PLEASANT COMPANY is another that has been aimed at this race by Willie Mullins and there is no better jockey than Ruby Walsh, so he will not lack for preparation. PERFECT CANDIDATE is on my shortlist as he stays the trip well, is a front-runner (and sometimes it is tricky to peg back the leaders in this race), and won LTO so comes here in top form. THUNDER AND ROSES is an Irish Grand National winner and is sent here by the trainer of last years winner, "Mouse" Morris.  He has been running well without winning all season and can go well here. 

My advised wagers are
BLAKLION - £6.00 win @ 14/1
PLEASANT COMPANY - £3.00 eachway @ 16/1
THUNDER AND ROSES - £2.00 eachway @ 33/1 
PERFECT CANDIDATE -  £2.00 eachway @ 50/1
Most bookies are a minimum of quarter-odds a place to 5-places, but NOT Betfred or Ladbrokes so avoid those two.

Friday 7 April 2017

Aintree Day 2 - Friday 7th April

We had no luck yesterday as Bristol De Mai never took a single jump cleanly and lost a couple of lengths at nearly every fence.  He managed to keep himself in contention even so, and if he can just learn to jump better then he could be top class.  If he cannot master jumping fences then perhaps Hobbs will do a "Big Bucks" and send him hurdling over trips around 3-miles.

Top Notch looked over-the-top in the opening race, and I expect he's done now for the season.  I have noticed in recent seasons that Henderson can bring his horses to a peak at Cheltenham from which they can only go downhill from if racing again that season.

As for Cue Card, it was a brave effort but he's not the performer of old and this was a run of pure guts. I rated him at 165 yesterday, about the same as his win at Ascot in February and the same as his win in this race last year. However, last year he was a 10lb better horse and had plenty in hand - this year he was flat out.  That puts Tea For Two on 165 as well, and what is good about this horse is that he's improved with every run this season.

Today we have a couple of hurdle races and then the Grade 1 Novice chase over 3m1f.  This brings together the 1sts & 2nd from the RSA Chase at Cheltenham last month: Might Bite and Whisper. There should be no excuses for Might Bite this time and we should see another fantastic effort from him.  However, Whisper loves this course and has won twice before over hurdles at this meeting, so he will be in his element.

The Grad 1 Melling Chase at 3:25pm is very competitive and, on my ratings Fox Norton, Sub Lieutenant and God's Own are separated by only 3lbs. Also, both Kylemore Lough and Royal Regatta are capable of running above 155. With Fox Norton having to prove he stays this 2m4f trip for me this is a toss-up between Sub Lieutenant and God's Own.  However, with the Ryanair form taking a knock yesterday (both Aso and Empire Of Dirt ran poorly) my head goes with GOD'S OWN.  There will not be much in this and the odds offer no real value.

I'm not going to attempt to fathom the 30 runner "Topham" Chase over the National fences, so onto the 3-mile Grade 1 novices hurdle which looks a bit tricky.  The front pair in the betting - The World's End and Constantine Bay - both suffered in the 3-mile novices hurdle at Cheltenham and are running on "what-if" rather than form. As such, I'm more taken with the 3rd-fav West Approach who even though a novice was raced in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham after running 3rd in the "Cleeve" hurdle in January.  He could be a lot better than this field as he has the highest official rating at OR157 which is 8lb better than The World's End.  Odds of 6/1 (BetVictor) look fair eachway value (5th odds a place 1,2,3) but you have to wonder if the Official Rating is realistic.

The ground looked a little testing out on the National course yesterday and that puts me more in favour of BLAKLION for the big race on Saturday. However, I will almost certainly be sticking to my 4 of Blaklion, Perfect Candidate, Pleasant Company and Thunder And Roses.

No advised wager today.

Thursday 6 April 2017

Aintree Fesival - Day 1 (Thursday)

Small fields and short fav's today at Aintree, so "value" may be in short supply.

It really is a great feast for the horseracing fan with 4 Grade 1 races on todays card and they start at 1:45pm with the 2m4f Novices Chase which should go to the fav TOP NOTCH.  We were on TOP NOTCH at Cheltenham and I feel we were most unlucky that day as had he jumped the 2nd-last fence cleanly (he dropped about 4-lengths) then I am as sure as I can be that he would have won.  There are plenty out there who think Yorkhill had something up his sleeve, but time will tell on that score.  I have TOP NOTCH about 10lb ahead of these on my ratings and he is almost certain to be followed home by Cloudy Dream who won over this sort of trip (as a hurdler) at Doncaster. It may be worth taking the straight-forecast on this pair.

Next up at 2:20pm is the "Doom Bar" Juvenile Hurdle over 2m1f and again is should go to the fav in DEFI DU SEUIL who is so far ahead of the other 7 in the race in ability that it may be only not finishing the race that prevents him from winning.  He is certainly not flashy and, as such, many pundits snipe at this horse, but DEFI DU SEUIL can't do any more than beat the horses he races against and he's been very good at doing that this season. I expect him to remain unbeaten as a hurdler but whatever happens today he looks very exciting for next season whether he goes for the Champion Hurdle or novice chasing and the Arkle.

At 2:50pm we have possibly the most competitive race of the day in the Grade 1 Betway Bowl over 3m1f.  The race is between the 3 market leaders: last years winner Cue Card, the Irish challenger Empire Of Dirt, and the 6yo Bristol De Mai. Up first, Cue Card and this track suits him much better than Cheltenham and we could see the best performance of his season in this, as he won this in a canter last year.  If he can match the level he showed at Ascot in February over 2m5f then he will win today in the same fashion as he won here last year. I'm not sure about Empire Of Dirt as he was comprehensively beaten in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, and much has been made of his run when 2nd to subsequent Gold Cup winner Sizing John in February over this sort of trip. Personally, he needs to find at least 7lb on that February run to come close to Cue Card on an "ordinary" day, and if Cue Card hits the spot then Empire Of Dirt will be soon toiling. Bristol De Mai is more interesting as a challenger. His win in the Peter Marsh Handicap at Haydock in January confirmed he stays this trip, and though outclassed in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham he was going better than Cue Card when the latter fell 3-out.  There is likely to be a decent pace in this race and that will suit BRISTOL DE MAI and odds of 6/1 look value to me. 

I'm going to split my stake on this race between Cue Card and Bristol Du Mai, as I really cannot see Empire Of Dirt winning and the remainder are all outclassed. 
BRISTOL DU MAI - £9.50 @ 6/1 (available generally)
CUE CARD - £5.50 @ 7/4 (available generally)
Total Stake = £15

The Betway Aintree Hurdle at 3:25pm could be a race that sees the hot-fav beaten, as this 2m4f trip will be the furthest that Champion Hurdler Buveur Dair has raced over and, on my ratings at least, based on their best form shown this season there is not that much between the fav and the 2nd-fav The New One who has won this race before and is a proven stayer. Of course, if Buveur Dair is as good at this trip as he was in the Champion Hurdle then it's "game over", but there is a slight doubt and I would not be a taker at odds of 2/5.

The Foxhunters Chase over 2m5f at 4:05pm is not the sort of race I usually wager in, and it looks to be between the market leaders On The Fringe and Pasha Du Polder.  Of the pair, this shorter trip should suit On The Fringe more than the 3m2f of Cheltenham LTO (race won by Pasha Du Polder) and he should win this in the same fashion that he did last year.

Advised Wager
Aintree 2:50pm
BRISTOL DU MAI - £9.50 @ 6/1 (available generally)
CUE CARD - £5.50 @ 7/4 (available generally)
Total Stake = £15

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Early thoughts on the Grand National

I've taken a break from the blog since the Cheltenham Festival to refresh the batteries, and consider future options. As such, the Aintree Festival this week could well be the last time the blog is presented in this format, looking at races in-depth and advising wagers. I've a few ideas of where to take the blog for next season and I will consider the options over the summer.

This Saturday we have the most famous horse-race in the World taking place at Aintree, the Grand National. As I grew-up within a few miles of the track and regularly went past the course on the bus into Liverpool, the course and the race are a special place.
This is a race in which I try extra-hard to find the winner of.  I may have written this before but, many years ago, I read the biography of legendary gambler Alex Bird who "retired" in 1985. Unfortunately, the only bit of interesting information that I extracted from the book was his quip that he'd found the winner of every Grand National since 1946. Keen to fathom out this factor, I studied the records of the winners and realised at that time that 9 out of 10 winners carried more than 10st in weight - in effect reducing the field from 40 to perhaps less than 10 on which to focus your fom study.  The book quickly paid for itself as I was able to select 1987 winner Maori Venture (ante-post at 40/1) who won at an SP of 28/1 carrying 10st 13lb.

The race has been transformed in recent years, and not just by modifications to the course and the trip - the "handicap" has been compressed considerably which, as we have found out at the recent Cheltenham Festival, has put the "edge" in favour of those at the top of the handicap. The problem with ratings inflation is that the very best horses are pretty much of the same ability year-in, year-out. A Cheltenham Gold Cup winner is typically rated OR166-172 and very few, less than 5 horses, are truly better than OR170 in any given year.   The ability of horses (in my opinion) does not follow a statisticians "standard deviation curve" - the vast majority of racehorses are of poor-to-ordinary ability, that is rated (over jumps) at OR65 to OR90 and many never rate good enough to even achieve a rating. The higher-up the ability scale you go, the fewer horses hit the standard. However, ratings inflation pushes horses outside of their comfort zone by awarding ratings that the horses are not truly comfortable with.  Horses such as The Last Samuri, and Shantou Flyer are running off inflated ratings, and if The Last Samuri could win this weekend's Grand National carrying 11st 10lb giving weight to horses that ran well in last months Cheltenham Gold Cup then he should really have been running in that race rather than this.  I don't think The Last Samuri is a potential Gold Cup winner, do you?

As I found when looking at the entries for the 3m1f handicap chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, it may be more beneficial in a race as competitive as this, to produce a shortlist of 4 or 5 in the race to wager on - for instance, my shortlist of 4 on the opening days handicap at Cheltenham came up with the winner (Un Temps Pour Tout) and the runner-up (Singlefarmpayment) with the Exacta paying £89 to a £1 stake.

So then, from the top...
The Last Samuri (OR161) 11st10lb - he couldn't win this last year (came 2nd) off OR149 and carrying just 10st 8lb
More Of That (OR159) 11st 6lb - ran 6th in Gold Cup and stays well; looks fairly treated, 14/1 is fair value.
Shantou Flyer (OR156) 11st 5lb - won a novice chase over 3-mile but looks best at 2m6f.
Perfect Candidate (OR156) 11st 5lb - won well LTO, stays 3m2f+, front-runner, very interesting at 50/1.
Saphir Du Rheu (OR162) 11st 5lb - 5th in Gold Cup, looks the best handicapped (about 6lb well-in), but trip an issue.
Roi Des Francs (OR150) 11st 3lb - looks poorly handicapped.
Wounded Warrior (OR150) 11st 3lb - was useful novice chaser, but not progressed.
Wonderful Charm (OR142) 11st 2lb - was OR159 at peak, ran well LTO but much improvement needed
Tenor Nivernais (OR160) 11st 1lb - not a natural staying chaser.
Blaklion (OR156) 11st 1lb - very consistent and stays well, big run expected and 14/1 looks fair (4lb well-in)
Drop Out Joe (OR152) 11st 1lb - Not run since 26June16.
Le Mercurey (OR151) 11st 0lb - not a natural 4-mile chaser in the making. 
The Young Master (OR148) 10st 13lb - should stay the trip, but didn't run well here in December 
Cause Of Causes (OR142) 10st 13lb - ignore run here in 2015, is potentially a 155 chaser, but will he be left behind early-on?.
Regal Encore (OR150) 10st 13lb - not sure this marathon trip is what he wants, as 3-mile is his limit.
Vieux Lion Rouge (OR155) 10st 12lb - stays well, handles National fences, well-treated  (6lb well-in).
Definitly Red (OR159) 10st 12lb - stays well, jumps and travels well, potentially best handicapped and could be 10lb well-in. 
Ucello Conti (OR145) 10st 12lb - 6th last year off OR149 carrying 10st 8lb, hasn't improved since.
Double Shuffle (OR152) 10st 12lb - improved form over 3-mile, but only 7yo and may need another year.
Houblon Des Obeaux (OR142) 10st 12lb - recent form poor, but so was Venetia Williams' 100/1 National winner Mon Mome! Ran 3rd in the Welsh National off OR153 at Christmas and a repeat would put him in the mix.
Pleasant Company (OR148) 10st 12lb - aimed at this since winning last April, won "Bobbyjo" Chase LTO and is main hope of Willie Mullins. 
One For Arthur (OR148) 10st 11lb - terrific win LTO and comes here in top form - is he still improving?
of the others:-
Lord Windermere (OR146) 10st 10lb - won Cheltenham GC in 2014 but not come close to that form since.
Saint Are (OR147) 10st 10lb - 2nd in 2015, but pulled-up last year, back to form LTO, so could go well.
Vicente (OR146) 10st 10lb - Won Scottish National last year but recent form isn't good enough.
Rogue Angel (OR145) 10st 8lb - won Irish Grand National last year and will stay the trip but this will be his 33rd chase race and further improvement is unlikely.
Thunder And Roses (OR144) 10st 7lb - placed 2nd in two top Irish handicaps this season, and won Irish National in 2015 beating subsequent 2016 Grand National winner Rule The World.
Doctor Harper (OR140) 10st 6lb - ran well on New Years Day and will be well prepared for this by handicap king David Pipe.

Of those above, I'm shortlisting  
Perfect Candidate @ 50/1
Blaklion @ 14/1
Vieux Lion Rouge @ 10/1
Definitly Red @ 10/1
Pleasant Company @ 16/1
Thunder And Roses @ 33/1
and if VYTA DU ROC @ 66/1 gets in on 10st 0lb I will be seriously interested as he stays 4-mile, jumps well and is very consistent. 

If push came to shove, my selection (at this stage, Wednesday) would be BLAKLION, but I can see the 3 on my shortlist at longer odds, that is Perfect Candidate, Pleasant Company, and Thunder And Roses all going well.  I feel, with luck, Vieux Lion Rouge and Definitly Red will run big races but their respective odds of about 10/1 are a bit short in a race which has (in recent years) become a great leveller.