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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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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.

Saturday 14 October 2017

Chepstow on 13th October, the first big Saturday jumps meeting of the season

This is what we've been waiting for since the end of April - the start of the jumps season "proper"!
For once, I've had a cracking flat season, thanks mainly to my share in the Cribbs Causeway syndicate. Five wins, yes 5 wins, this season - can't be bad.

Two years ago on this day I posted a couple of selections and advised a couple of single wagers and a double - and they both came in. There's little chance of that happening again as there is only one decent betting race and that's the 3-mile Class 2 handicap chase at 4:45pm. There are 14 runners as I write, and the ground is Good-to-Soft.

The early fav is Rock The Kasbah (3/1) who won over C&D in February and showed that was no fluke (his usual trip being 2m5f) when running 2nd at Uttoxeter NTO. He won on this card last season, and he looks a worthy fav. I selected Label Des Obeaux (8/1) hen he ran at the Cheltenham Festival in the opening days handicap chase. He didn't seem to enjoy Cheltenham and, when next out at Ayr, he demonstrated his ability with a win over 3-miles. If he comes here in similar form he will take all the beating as he looks ahead of the handicapper over even with an 8lb adjustment to OR154. Sizing Codelco (8/1) ended the season with a couple of wins in top handicap chases and starts this season on OR160; and I just cannot see him being able to win off that rating - if he does he will put himself into the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture. For instance, Potters Legend (13/2) meets Sizing Codelco on 22lb better terms than when they met at Aintree in April. Potters Legend went into that race as the 9/2 fav and this trip and ground will suit him, and he goes well fresh too. I can see him running a big race, but will he be good enough to win?  We are waiting for Venetia Williams first winner of the season, and I cannot see it being Marcilhac (16/1).  And this 3-mile trip is probably too much for Indian Stream (20/1) who is best at 2m5f. An interesting runner is Bigbadjohn (16/1 generally) as he a couple of good races last season on ground softer than he'd like, and I'm happy to ignore his run at Cheltenham. He stays 3-mile, usually runs prominently and with just 6 chase runs is relatively unexposed. His rating of  OR144 looks reasonable and odds of 18/1 (Coral and BetVictor) look generous.  Ballykan (9/1) is well exposed, and Boa Island will need a career-best to be involved.  Minellacelebration (20/1) was going well when brought-down LTO and is another that can go well, as is Henryville (25/1).  The remaining pair of Relentless Dreamer (12/1) and Junction Fourteen (20/1) would require a complete reverse of recent fortune to succeed. Whereas Petrou  (20/1) does not have the experience to win a race as competitive, if he does he's very decent.

Rebecca Curtis won this race last year and BIGBADJOHN looks well-placed to run a cracker, although the odds about several look decent.  It could be a very competitive race and in such cases I think it's best to take a punt on one at long odds.

I'm taking a break from writing a regular blog, but I will be having a few quid on BIGBADJOHN as I thought he'd be half his current odds and it would not surprise me to see him start this race at 8/1. I think the fav Rock The Kasbah can be opposed as although consistent last season, he didn't show any improvement from his debut chase to his final run in the Bet365 Chase at Sandown; as such, he looks vulnerable.

Monday 9 October 2017

Cribbs Causeway - Living the dream

Link< Cribbs Causeway winning at Newmarket on Saturday 7th October >Link

Close friends, relations, and close horse-racing contacts will know that I've been part of the syndicate (managed by Nick Bradley) behind the 3yo filly CRIBBS CAUSEWAY. On Saturday at the end of a busy Newmarket card, she won the EBF Breeders' Fillies' Series Handicap (Class 2) over 1m4f - and she didn't just win it, she won with a tonne in hand. Her jockey on Saturday was non other than Frankie Dettori and, having hit the front 3-furlongs out, he dropped his "whip" just after passing the 2-furlong marker and it was a hands'n'heels ride from there on. Click on the link above to watch the official video of the race.

This was a tremendous performance, her best yet by a long way, and we are confident that there is more to come and she stays in training for 2018. What a year 2017 has been - 5 wins, £62,000 in prize-money, and progressing from OR62 to OR90 (maybe OR95 after the handicapper has rated Saturdays win).

When I was first sent the details of Cribbs Causeway in July 2016, it took me under an hour to make the decision to join the syndicate. The bloodline was there, as the dam Bristol Fashion is a half-sister to Midas Touch (5th in the Derby, and runner-up in the Irish Derby and St Leger). At the time (July 2016) I was unaware that Bristol Fashion was also half-sister to the filly Coronet who this season has won the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot over 1m4f, and then chased home super-filly Enable in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks.

Cribbs Causeway was the 1st-foal of Bristol Fashion, who was unraced due to her being very tall (according to Nick Bradley) so there was some risk attached.  However, I took into account the dam-side bloodline and also that the sire Rip Van Winkle was sired by champion sire Galileo, who traces back through champion sire Sadlers Wells who, in turn, was sired by the great Northern Dancer. Personally, I think the sire Rip Van Winkle is under-rated as his stock seem to be later developers and despite having most success on the course as a miler, his stock do well beyond 10-furlongs.

You can have the right horse, but without the right treatment you will not see the best performance so, credit where credit is due, Roger Charlton and his team at Beckhampton deserve the fullest praise. Fingers crossed, our good fortune will continue into the next year, and I cannot describe the euphoria experienced by myself and the other syndicate members on Saturday afternoon - this is what we all dream of when we join a horse-racing syndicate.

Thursday 5 October 2017

Jump racing steps up a gear

There are two jump race meetings today at Huntingdon and Warwick, and at the latter track we see some of last seasons familiar names return to the track in the 3-mile handicap chase at 4:25pm.
Just 7 horses go to post for this race yet it looks difficult to fathom as, at this stage of the season, fitness can be the most important factor.
Top-weight is the 9yo Sego Success who we know stays this trip well and he usually runs a good race on his seasonal debut, but he does also improve for the run. What is in his favour is that he's dropped to OR136 having not won in 5 races last season, and on that mark he should be competitive.  The 6yo Ballycross could be a big improver this season, but he had his chances last season to impress and didn't take them. Based on that form I think he's fairly handicapped on OR133 and will need to find improvement today to win, and he won't be racing on his preferred soft ground. As such, although he has youth on his side, his odds of 3/1 do not represent value in my opinion.
The horse I like the look of in this race is SHANROE SANTOS, who is a lightly raced 8yo - he only came to trainer Lucy Wadham as a 6yo in January 2015 from the point-to-point sphere - as he was off the track from April 2015 to November 2016.  He took a few races to get fit and learn his new trade of chasing, but it all came together in the February when he won over C&D. He then won again at Sandown the next month off OR126 before possibly a long season took it's toll when he was beaten some way in a Class 2 handicap chase at Haydock in April. If he can repeat his Sandown form-level today then he will take a lot of beating off OR129 and odds of 4/1 look fair value.

There is a 3m1f hurdle race at Huntingdon at 3:05pm, but there is little to be confident about with many of the runners. The fav Air Squadron basically won a "match" against a non-stayer LTO and his stamina is unproven in my book. The 2nd-fav Dreamsoftheatre returns to hurdling for the first time in 4 years, and supporters are banking on his hurdling ability being better than his recent chase form.  There has been a sustained gamble on Generous Chief all morning - he opened at 14/1 - and his current odds are 9/1; he could be the answer as he stays the trip well, and handles right-handed Huntingdon. The value has possibly gone as - if Air Squadron is a true stayer then he could take some beating - but he's worth a punt on the place-only market on the exchanges.

Monday 2 October 2017

Enable a superlative "Arc" winner

Without a doubt, the 3yo filly Enable confirmed she was one of the best fillies of recent times with an emphatic win in the Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe at Chantilly yesterday. I rated the performance at 127 which is about 5lb behind Treve when she won the same race as a 3yo - she then went on to win the "Arc" again as a 4yo.  However, I feel that Enable is good for a couple more pounds as she was possibly 5-lengths clear inside the final furlong before jockey Dettori relaxed and let her coast home a comfortable 2½ length winner. Given her superiority, and that this was only her 7th race, she has an excellent chance of repeating the win next season when the race returns to Longchamp.

The "Arc" draws a curtain on the flat season and now it is "all systems go" on the jumps!  There are meetings this afternoon (Monday 2nd October) at Newton Abbot and Stratford; Tuesday brings meetings at Sedgefield and Southwell; and on Wednesday there's a meeting at Bangor.

We also had a strong meeting at Market Rasen on Saturday with Ballybolley winning the 2m5f "Listed" Chase.  This horse has always looked a potential 140+ chaser, but never seemed to fulfil that potential. However, his repeat win in the Haydock "Middle Distance Chase Series Final" last April confirmed that trips around 20-21f are his forte.  He's run over further, but I don't think he's as good beyond 2m6f.   Guitar Pete was well fancied for the race and ran well to be 2nd, and the race-fit Poker School (who I expected to run well) came in 5th to frank the form. I reckon the 1st-3 home (Master Dee was 3rd) can all be followed in the coming months.