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Tuesday 31 December 2019

The Cheltenham Gold Cup antepost market 31-December

It's been a few weeks since the last blog, and with not being able to donate enough time to make selections and write a decent weekly blog, I've decided to concentrate on preparing for the Cheltenham Festival in March.
There has been plenty going on in the past few days, and here is the latest betting:-
KEMBOY - 6/1 (available generally - I do not consider the odds of 7/1 offered by 888Sport)
AL BOUM PHOTO - 7/1 (Coral and Betfred)
CLAN DES OBEAUX - 8/1 (Hills and Paddy Power)
LOSTINTRANSLATION - 8/1 (available generally - I do not consider the 9/1 offered by Betway)
DELTA WORK - 10/1 (Betfred and Paddy Power)
SANTINI - 10/1 (BetVictor and Paddy Power)
PRESENTING PERCY - 14/1 (Boylesports)
NATIVE RIVER - 20/1 (Hills and Paddy Power)
They are the front-8 in the betting and I really cannot see anything else coming out of the woodwork.

KEMBOY and the 2019 Gold Cup winner AL BOUM PHOTO head the market, with Kemboy just ahead. While I appreciate that Al Boum Photo is worthy of his position in the betting, I cannot say the same about Kemboy.
Sure, Kemboy won the Savills Chase (G1) in Dec18 beating Monalee into 2nd, and he went on to win at Aintree and Punchestown but (in my opinion) he beat CLAN DES OBEAUX and Al Boum Photo when they were possibly over-the-top after being trained for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Kemboy was also trained for that race but he fell at the 1st fence.
I rate his win in the Savills Chase as his best to date (165) whereas RPR rate his wins at Aintree and Punchestown superior to that effort.  What you can take from his career to date is that he does improve for a run from a break, so he is sure to find improvement from his recent run on 28-Dec.  I hope rather than expect he will be given another race before Cheltenham, as otherwise he will go into the Gold Cup too fresh. I'm also not sure he will stay the Gold Cup trip.
AL BOUM PHOTO easily won the Gold Cup last March, and he runs on Wednesday 1st Jan in a repeat of his preparation of last season. He will be only an 8yo in March 2020 and there's no reason he cannot repeat that effort.  On the downside, I did not rate his win was in a particularly strong Gold Cup. He should win easily on 1st January and in proving his well-being his odds will almost certainly shorten to probably 9/2, so if you think he can win again in March you had best place a wager today.
CLAN DES OBEAUX easily repeated his win in the King George on Boxing Day, and he did not have to repeat his winning effort of 2018 to do so. Can he win in March? Probably not, as he's run in 4 chases beyond 3-mile and been beaten each time, which (to me) indicates he lacks the stamina to win a Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
LOSTINTRANSLATION is a tricky horse to fathom, and I'm prepared to overlook him pulling-up in the King George on Boxing Day as I do not think he enjoys going right-handed. In beating Topofthegame at Aintree over 3m1f last April he showed he was one of the very best novice staying chasers and probably would have won the RSA Chase at the last Festival. He is an out-and-out stayer and is probably the best value in the market at the moment.
DELTA WORK is a horse that needs a stamina test, as he's not the quickest and that lack of zip was exposed in last seasons RSA Chase when he went from cruising along and looking the most likely winner, to being caught flat-footed and left in a matter of strides. He was ridden more aggressively at Punchestown and was rewarded with a much better performance and one that suggested he could have won the RSA with a similar ride. As such I would expect him to push for the race early come March and make it a gruelling contest. Again, he looks value in the betting.
Personally, I do not think we will see SANTINI race again this season, as he was a shadow of himself in his race at Sandown earlier this season and we have not seen him since.
PRESENTING PERCY has - in my opinion - had his chance and that was last season.
NATIVE RIVER is still a top class chaser, but his limits were exposed at the Gold Cup last March and he will be a 10yo come March and the young guns will be too good for him.
The pair in the betting that I like are:-
Lostintranslation and Delta Work and at 10/1 it's DELTA WORK for me.

Saturday 7 December 2019

Tingle Creek showdown at Sandown

What a tremendous day of horseracing we have, with top-class meetings at Sandown, Aintree, Chepstow and Wetherby.
The feature race of the day is the "Tingle Creek" over 2-miles at Sandown at 3pm. The favourite is DEFI DU SEUIL and on my ratings his best-ever performance was at Sandown as a novice, The manner in which he won at Aintree in November suggests he's improved a lot since then, but he didn't have to show it at Aintree. The Irish raider Un De Sceaux is not as good as he was, and I really cannot see him troubling the judge today. Politologue won this race in 2017, but he has not improved on that performance since, but he is very consistent. His stablemate Dolos was swept aside at Exeter by Janika, and that makes JANIKA a top-class prospect for this. Sceau Royal was beaten out of site in this race last year and maybe Sandown isn't his best track.
Looking at the form this morning, JANIKA is a stand-out wager for me at 9/1 with Bet365.  I rated his performance at Cheltenham (on the same afternoon Defi Du Seuil won) the best of the day. We have to see if he has the speed for top-class 2-miles chases, but he certainly has the class.

At Aintree, I am swerving the Becher Chase and the Grade 2 "Many Clouds" Chase over 3m1f has only 4 runners but it looks a cracker. If NATIVE RIVER is anywhere near fit, then he will win this race, and he usually goes well off a break. But at odds-on he's not for me.

I managed to put my Tote 10-2-Follow entries in last week, but was knocked sideways when Buveur D'Air was beaten at Newcastle and injured in the process. He was one of my "core". Overall, I chose 12 horses for the list, with a core of 8, and the other 4 entered in 6 pairs (any 2 from 4).
My core of 8 is:-
Buveur D'Air
Paisley Park
Defi Du Seuil
Delta Work
Benie Des Dieux

And my other 4 are:-
Clan Des Obeaux
Scaeau Royal

My advice today is take the 9/1 offered about JANIKA he looks a very decent eachway chance at least, and I'm on for £5 win and £5 eachway.

Friday 29 November 2019

Saturday 30th November & the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase

I expect most readers of this blog will be up and about early on Saturday morning, putting their entries in for the Tote Ten-to-follow. My thoughts and shortlist are on the blog entry below, so no need to go into it again here.
With advance going described as heavy at Newcastle, if it passes an 8am inspection, I'm loathe to spend too much time assessing the form of the racing there.
It's also likely to be heavy ground at Bangor, but at least they are expecting racing to go ahead there - no inspection planned. Only one race there is of interest, and that's the 3-mile Class 3 handicap chase at 1:20pm with 8-runners declared. This looks a weak Class 3 chase and so (unusually) I'm interested in the 10yo ASK THE WEATHERMAN who may well be the oldest horse in the race, but he's proven over the trip and the ground, and he goes well fresh, so should not be too bothered with this being his first run since April.  In December last year, he won a 2m7f hurdle on heavy ground at Exeter, so he does enjoy soft ground and a good trip.
However, most readers of this blog will not be interested in what's happening anywhere else other than at Newbury, and the race they will be focusing on is the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase run over 3m3f at 3pm. There are 24 runners, which means it will be a much tougher race than last year when only 12 ran. The ground at Newbury is good-to-soft so there will be no excuses and a decent pace is guaranteed.
The "Ladbroke" is a race I've had some good fortune in over the years and essentially you are looking for a young, improving chaser to win this. Last year was (in my opinion) an anomaly as only 12 ran, and the 10yo Sizing Tennessee (who has not raced since) took advantage to run the race of his life off a reasonable OR148 rating. Back in 2nd was Elegant Escape, who has improved since then but so has his rating. Yes he did win the Welsh National last December, but that was off OR151 and in this race he runs off OR160 which is too high. Dingo Dollar was 3rd last year off OR148 and I think the soft ground found him out, and it probably will do again.
Other than Sizing Tennessee last year, only one horse older than 8yo has won this race since 1998, and that was the mighty Denman. As such, I'm going to put a line through anything aged 9yo or older, and that's Beware The Bear, Yala Enki, Yorkhill, Robinsfirth, OK Corral, Two Taffs, West Approach, Joe Farrell, Royal Encore, and Shantou Village.  I can see one or two of them running into a place - possibly West Approach, and OK Corral - but I cannot see one of them winning.
OK Corral is one of the favourites for this, and for the life of me I cannot fathom why as his form on the track just does not justify the support.
Mister Malarkey is a stout stayer, but his form isn't strong enough to win this race off OR149.
Willie Mullins can never be underestimated and his Cabaret Queen won the Munster National LTO but this looks a tough ask to me, and there's no value in the odds.
A rating of OR149 looks tough for De Rasher Counter too, as he couldn't win a Class 3 chase last January off OR139 at Chepstow (was outstayed).
Gordon Elliot sends the Galway Plate winner Borice (in 2nd that day was Black Corton), but this one has plenty of experience and was particularly well handicapped at Galway. running off OR146 will likely find him out.
The horse I've had my eye on all week is ON THE BLIND SIDE.
Nicky Henderson knows how to win this race, and what I like about this horse is that he was given the tough task of taking on Talkischeap at Kempton in January over 3-mile. He was receiving 6lb and Talkischeap is now rated 12lb higher on OR157. so ONTHEBLIND SIDE is possibly a 155+ horse in-waiting, but he's running off OR149.
I was at Ascot when he ran his seasonal debut, and he was given a very easy time of it, only getting going in the final half-mile when he made some rapid progress not losing any ground on the leader in the process. I think this race will be perfect for the horse, and I'm very happy that Nico De Boinville has the ride.
The remainder of the card looks extremely tough, so I'm happy with my only selection being...
Newbury 3:00pm ONTHEBLINDSIDE, £5 win & £5 eachway @ 11/1 (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4,5 with Bet365), total = £15 staked
My quandary is whether to include ONTHEBLINDSIDE in my entry for the Tote Ten-to-Follow.

One racing tipster I have followed in the past and who gives good value for money is
 The Mathematician
and this being "Black Friday" week, he is offering a special deal of
1) The first 10-days of his service available for just £1;
2) A discount of £100 an a quarterly membership.
The link to these deals is below:-
The Mathematician
If you are interested, but do not want a long-term sign-up, he also offers a "Saturday only" service. I will be honest, and advise that I usually only subscribe to this service during the summer months.

Sunday 24 November 2019

Tote Ten to Follow #TentoFollow

It's back!
Perhaps the greatest competition of all-time, it will capture your imagination, eat into your dreams, give you heartache and joy in the same race.
It is the return of the Tote Ten-to-Follow.
For newcomers to the competition, strategy is a major part of being involved to the end.
There are 15 bonus races of which 5 are handicaps, the Ladbrokes Trophy, the Grand National, plus the Welsh and Scottish Nationals, and the Bet365 Gold Cup. If you can include the winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy in your entry then you will have a horse that is likely to be contesting graded races for the remainder of the season. Personally, I would not attempt to include any speculative horses that may have a chance of winning the next Grand National, or the other Nationals.
Irish races are included in the points scoring, which is very important. In the original competition, finding an Irish-based hurdler to mop-up a handful of Grade-1 hurdle races was a good tactic.
With 500+ horses in the list, you have to sort out the most likely highest point scorers, and you should consider the profile of a typical Grade-1 winning chaser (there are only 4 hurdling bonus races, the Irish Champion hurdle and the Champion Hurdle (at Cheltenham) plus the Stayers Hurdle and the Aintree Hurdle). I would focus on chasers more than hurdlers as, for this coming season, the hurdling division could be under a state of flux.
Finally, there is a "transfer" period just before the Cheltenham Festival when you can swap a couple on your lists, and I would use this to remove any non-performers and replace them with a couple of novice chasers likely to win at the Festival and possibly follow-up at Aintree or Punchestown.
That is the other major change in this competition. It used to end with the Grand National, but extending to the end of the jumps season means that the Punchestown Festival is included.
Therefore it seems sensible, with the strength of the Mullins and Elliot stables in Ireland, to be overweight in their representatives.
As with all horseracing, there is no room for sentimentality, and this was proven yesterday when Altior was beaten by Cyrname at Ascot. Age catches-up with every horse and the number of Grade 1 races won by a 10yo or older at the Cheltenham Festival is tiny. So my first task is to delete from the list all horses aged 9yo or older (that includes Altior). I'm also not going to include any novice chasers - not until the transfer period, anyway.
For this competition, you have to focus on proven experience. You might strike lucky and find an Espoir D'Allen, but you are more likely to find a nil-points scorer.  Every horse in your entry has to pull its weight and score points.
So, what to include in the entry?
Buveur D'Air - dual Champion hurdler and multiple Grade 1 winner, very consistent and the best 2-mile hurdler around.
Paisley Park - easily the best 3-mile hurdler in training, and could well with 3 or 4 Grade 1 races this season.
That's my hurdlers (for now).
As for the chasers:-
Defi Du Seuil - Since his chase debut, he's only been beaten by Lonstintranslation and Chacun Pour Soi, and looks destined to win a number of Grade 1 races at up to 2m5f this season.
Lostintranslation - Stepping-up to 3-mile has been the making of him as he beat the RSA winner Topofthegame at Aintree, and proved he is one of the best staying chasers in training by winning the Betfair Chase on 23rd November.
Delta Work - was considered the best Irish novice chaser going into the Cheltenham Festival, but probably came into that race a year too soon (he's a 6yo). He could improve considerably this season and provide Gordon Elliot with a Gold Cup winner next March.
They are my initial "core", and over the next few days I will return to this blog and add some more entries and notes.
Finding the winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap run on 30th November would give any entry a flying start.  However, be warned that including a horse that is not the eventual winner on Saturday will leave you at a disadvantage for the rest of the season.  If you are having multiple entries, perhaps include a "Ladbrokes" horse in only 1-in-3 entries. T
hose that look best suited (at this time 24thNov) are 
Champagne Classic - 8yo trained by Gordon Elliot, top-class 3-mile hurdler and decent novice chaser. 
Talkischeap - 7yo trained by Alan King, won the 3m5f Bet365 handicap last April. 
On The Blind Side - 7yo trained by Nicky Henderson, beat Talkischeap over 3-mile at Kempton on 28Jan19. Ran well at Ascot on 02Nov without being pushed.
Others to consider are:-
Cyrname - the highest rated chaser in training, and likely to dominate races at trips up to 3-mile. However, this favourite for the King George has yet to run over 3-miles, never mind win at the trip.
Clan Des Obeaux - Last years King George winner, so proven top-class at the trip, and may yet improve again on that level this season.
Altior - the 9yo was beaten over 2m5f by Cyrname and it's probable that he will return to 2-mile, but not before trying 3-mile for the first time in the King George on Boxing Day.
Al Boum Photo - the latest Gold Cup winner, he's likely to stay in Ireland until March and could easily win 2 or 3 Grade 1 staying chases there.
Chacun Pour Soir - I'm not so sure about this one, he easily beat Defi Du Seuil at Punchestown in April but he may have been flattered by that result - we shall see.
A better 2-miler may be Sceau Royal who is proven top-class and has won 5 of his 9 chase races.
Henderson always has a strong stable, and I've never not been impressed by Janika, and this 6yo could get to the very top this season over 2m5f.
One horse who has "Grand National" written all over him is Crievehill; already rated OR155 after winning twice this Autumn, he goes well fresh and could be put-away for the worst of the winter before emerging next April.
Don't forget the mares, as there are some top-class mares in Ireland  such as:-
Benie Des Dieux, who can win multiple graded races over there.
We have had some late developments with the reinstatement of Kemboy, and the terrific performance of Kalashnikov in defeat at Newbury. If you combine the news about Kemboy with the likelihood of Al Boum Photo not running until February, it makes sense to include Kemboy rather than Al Boum Photo in the lists. 
The revised "core" of the entry is:-
To be advised....

Saturday 16 November 2019

BetVictor Gold Cup - 16th November

A cracking day of horseracing and a bumper day from Cheltenham, as we lost yesterday to flooding on the track. The ground is likely to start Soft (heavy in places) but get more hard work during the day as the track cuts up.
These past few weeks I've not had much luck and I need to get a winner on the board, and this meeting has been a good one for me in years past. I'm hoping that WHOLESTONE takes the prize in the 3-mile novices chase at 1:15pm as he looks the best of these and we know he stays this trip. Over the season, I doubt he will be the best staying novice chaser, just as he wasn't quite the best staying hurdler, but he's not far off the best and that will surely be good enough today. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to get longer odds than 2/1 and - as long term readers of the blog know - I do not suggest wagers at odds of under 9/4; that's the USP of the blog.
The next race on the card offeres perhaps a better chance of some value. The 3m3f trip will take some staying on this ground and though Ramses De Teillee ticks a lot of boxes, 11st 12lb will likely stop him. West Approach is not as good a chaser as he was a hurdler, and this trip could well stretch him.
The 9yo Big River does not have many miles on the clock as this is only his 9th chase race. He was not far away at the Cheltenham Festival last March when 4th to Beware The Bear, and a repeat of that run will see him go close as he's run well on heavy ground before. What puts me off Big River is that he's just 4/1, and that does not look value to me. If there is value in this race then it's with POTTERS LEGEND who won a 3m1f Class 2 chase at Haydock on soft last March and a repeat of that run will see him take this off OR132. He's had a pipe-opener over hurdles and will be primed for this.  I also like Pop Rockstar but he needs to show this trip is within his scope.  For me POTTERS LEGEND at6 13/2 (available generally) looks value to me as I'm surprised he's not at least joint-fav with Ramses De Teillee.
The feature race of the day is the BetVictor Gold Cup run over 2m4f at 2:25pm. .Ideally, you are looking for a horse that is on the upgrade as a chaser, has won at Cheltenham, and ran at the last Cheltenham Festival.  I think this trip (and top-weight) will find out Us And Them.  However Siruh Du Lac could again defy the handicapper as Janika (2nd at Cheltenham) has since won the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter. In 3rd at the Festival (behind Siruh Du Lac) was Spiritofthegames, and he could be very interesting off OR150 so long as he's not given too much to do (likes to be held-up early on). The fav is Slate House based on his win LTO over C&D, but I think he was flattered by that result and his current odds offer no value at all.
There are 3 horses in the race that catch my eye: Springtown Lake, Happy Diva and Eamon An Cnoic. The 8yo mare Happy Diva has been very consistent over her chase career with 4 wins and 7 x 2nds over her 15 chase runs; she is probably a good eachway play at 12/1. Eamon An Cnoic was 4th in the race at the Festival won by Siruh Du Lac, snd he was 5th in this race last year so he obviously relishes this C&D. Trainer David Pipe knows how to aim one at this race and he will surely be in the 1st-5 home, so again at odds of 14/1 he's a good eachway play. Springtown Lake has the least experience, this will be his 7th chase race. The ground will be okay for him and he's been campaigned mainly over 3-miles as a chaser, but he was 5th at the Festival in the 2m4f and that he's come back for this suggests he will make his stamina an asset on this ground.
This is a tricky race to fathom, and if push comes to shove it will be EAMON AN CNOIC.

Todays selections:
Cheltenham 1:50pm POTTERS LEGEND, £10 WIN @ 13/2 (Bet365)
Cheltenham 2:25pm EAMON AN CNOIC, £5 eachway @ 14/1 (available generally, 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5)

Friday 8 November 2019

Saturday 9th November

It was my 60th birthday (or fifty-tenth) on Friday 8th, and all-in-all it has been an interesting week for me and my horseracing.  After a day at Ascot where fate prevented me from having a 10/1 winner with £25 on (Capeland), I was at Plumpton on Monday and met with similar ill-fate.
I started the day off with a nice win on Paul Nicholls hurdler Calva D'Auge - Nicholls went into the meeting with 3 wins from 8 runners in the past 5 seasons at Plumpton in hurdle races. Nicholls sent 3 hurdlers to the track, but only one went off the fav (Get The Appeal) and that one was well beaten.  Too be fair, I thought his form was weak, so he had no money of mine on him, but I had no idea what would win the race. Unfortunately, having shortlisted his 3rd hurdler Dan McGrue - the 7/2 fav in the RP betting forecast - I overlooked him for the Gary Moore trained Not Never, who I thought had a lot in his favour. Sure enough, Dan McGrue won well at the rewarding odds of 13/2.
Nicholls is now 5 wins from 11 in hurdle races at Plumpton.
I thought I had a good-priced winner in Tzar De L'Elfe in the 3m1f novices handicap chase as he was cruising along and looked the most likely winner until he tried to pass the leader 4-out and had his jockey nearly knocked out of the saddle. He almost stopped and lost all momentum, but the way he finished suggested he was unlucky. Maybe next time.
Onto Saturdays racing, and I'm having another go at finding a successful winning double.
We have meetings at Aintree, Wincanton and Kelso and - as usual - I'm sticking to handicap chases of Class 3 or better. I'm keeping away from the novice chases for the time being until the form gets easier to interpret, I'm not one for betting on reputations.
At Aintree, the 2-mile Class 3 handicap chase at 1:30pm looks tricky. However, the next race on the card looks better, and I'm really taken by the overnight fav CEPAGE. This horse does not have many miles on the clock, but he goes well fresh, and was last seen chasing home Frodon at Cheltenham in December, and that was his only race last season.  If he can repeat that run he will be tough to beat even with top-weight in this handicap. There are a lot of holes in the opposition, and (sometimes) the best value is in the favourite. I think he could start at 9/4 and so you should take the early odds if you are reading this on Friday evening.
CEPAGE is trained by Venetia Williams, and she has already had a winner this season, in fact she's had 4 winners from just 13 runners in the past 14-days. When the mud is flying it's the time to follow her runners, and tomorrow she has only two out from her stable; Cepage at Aintree and ENOLA GAY at Wincanton in the Class 3 Conditional Jockeys handicap chase over 2m4f run at 1:15pm.
I like ENOLA GAY; he's a C&D winner which is an advantage, but he's also looked capable of running to a much higher rating than OR123.  It's possible that he had a breathing problem (he's been 2nd 4 times from 9 starts in chases, winning just once), and over the summer he's had a wind operation.  This could be the time to catch him to snap up the value, as this race does not look to be that strong on paper.
I've taken the early odds about this pair:-
Wincanton 1:15pm ENOLA GAY @ 4/1
Aintree 2:05pm CEPAGE @ 9/2
I'm on for a £10 win double.
I hope to be back on Sunday and update you on another event this week, which was both good (and bad) fortune at the same time - but that's how it is with horseracing, and that's why we love it.

Sunday 3 November 2019

Entertaining day at Ascot

It could have been a complete washout, but the worst of the rain hitting the South-East missed Ascot - in fact, when we arrived at 11:15am there was plenty of blue sky to be seen.
There was a good crowd but the betting ring looked sparsely populated, and the great days of old will never return now - internet betting dominates.
I was impressed with the performance of the Paul Nicholls trained ECCO who easily won the Class 3 novice hurdle under the talented jockey Bryony Frost.  This Ascot meeting is usually a happy hunting ground for Nicholls and, as I had selected a couple of his entries later in the day as my blog selections, I was feeling confident.
Sure enough, CAPELAND was given a terrific ride by Bryony Frost in the in the 2m1f handicap chase, as the early leader Hatcher faded in the final half-mile allowing the well-judged rides on Diego Du Charmil (ridden by Lorcon Williams) and Capeland - both trained by Nicholls - to come to the final fence looking like being 1st & 2nd. I thought CAPELAND was going much the better and expected that one to take the race, but we had an extraordinary incident at the final fence.  My view is that neither horse completed the course, but the stewards thought otherwise - such is the nature of racing. What I take from the race is my form reading was spot on, just that fate took a hand.
In the feature race, I had highlighted on the blog that VINNDICATION was well-handicapped on last seasons novice form, the only doubt being would he stay 3-miles. That he certainly did and could be called the winner before the 2nd-last fence he was going so well. On the basis of this result, we can probably consider last seasons top novice chasers to be above average. My selection Adrien Du Pont was given too much to do and while he would never have won, had he been ridden closer to the pace (he was held-up in the rear most of the race) he could well have been placed as I'm sure Nicholls would have expected him to finish close to his other runner Black Corton who came home 3rd.
At Wetherby, ELEGANT ESCAPE ran well on his seasonal debut in the Charlie Hall Chase, and only race fitness (in my opinion) stopped him from winning.  He found a lot of improvement after his seasonal debut last season, and he could be the one to be on next time out. The winner there, Ballyoptic ran very well, but he had already won this season and had race fitness on his side.  In 3rd, Aso looked like winning 4-out, his jockey seemed to think so, but he just doesn't stay 3-mile at this level.
In Ireland, we learned nothing from the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Chase over 3-mile. Road To Respect - who won this last year - probably ran to his best, but we know his best will not be good enough later in the season. CLAN DES OBEAUX will almost certainly find 10lb improvement on this run, maybe more, and his fans - which include me - can look forward to a profitable season following him.
I will be at Plumpton tomorrow, and if I have time I will post a few words on that meeting before setting off for the track.

Friday 1 November 2019

Ascot 2nd November (and the Charlie Hall Chase)

Last weekend was a bit disappointing as, with 3 fences to jump, both of my selections were in the leading group of 5 and going well. Unfortunately, the ground took its toll (it was almost unraceable in parts of the course at Cheltenham) and only Red Infantry found the places coming in 5th. Still, as I had advised taking the 33/1 about him the evening before the race at 5th odds a place, I managed a small profit of £18 on my £20 wager on the race.
Before getting onto Saturdays racing, the Sue Smith stable (in Yorkshire) do not seem to be able to get their horses running anywhere near their ability, and they are yet to have a winner from 31 runners in the past 5 weeks and their usual strikerate (at this time of year) is 10%.
Onto Saturday, and I will be at Ascot - unless the heavens open and the racing is abandoned - where the ground is good-to-soft. This has been a lucky meeting for me in the past and I'm hoping for a decent day at the races. I can't see me having a wager before the 4th race on the card which is the Listed handicap chase over 2m1f at 2:10pm. The ground may be a bit soft for the 5yo Ballywood, but he looks an interesting runner off OR147. One who looks better is Caid Du Lin who is a C&D winner and will not be too inconvenienced by soft ground. It's difficult to know what to make of the 2nd-season chaser Clondaw Castle, and Paul Nicholls' Capeland (also a 2nd-season chaser) may prove more interesting. All-in-all, a tricky affair, and I can only assume that stable confidence is behind The Last Day as what he's shown on the course does not merit his position at the head of the market.
The feature race at Ascot is the Sodexo Gold Cup over 3-mile at 3:20pm and 17 runners are likely to go to post.
I have the early fav Vinndication about 5lb ahead of his OR151 rating and he's an Ascot winner, but will he stay 3-miles? On The Blind Side was pulled-up in the 3-mile RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and I reckon he was flattered LTO over hurdles as the race collapsed. Mister Malarky has not shown to me he's worth an OR145 rating, but he does stay 3-mile. Larry is another uncertain to stay the trip, but he goes well right-handed (twice a winner at Sandown). Other than the fav, who has to prove his stamina at this trip, I can't get excited about many in this race, so I am going to look at this another way. Top weight is Paul Nicholls' Black Corton who is rated OR163 and hasn't a cat in hells chance of winning a handicap with that rating. However, his presence in the race means his stablemate ADRIEN DU PONT - who was 4th in this race last year - carries just 10st 12lb and his rider Lorcan Williams can claim another 3lb. Currently 16/1 (Bet365 quarter-odds the 1st-4) looks decent value to me as he's also had a wind operation over the summer.
It may prove to be a good call to tie the Nicholls-trained pair of ADRIEN DU PONT and CAPELAND in an eachway double, as the latter is 11/1 (Bet365 quarter-odds the 1st-3).

At Wetherby, the Charlie Hall Chase hangs on whether La Bague Au Roi returns to racing as good as she was last season. However, if she runs as strongly as she has done in the past that may well set the race up for the strong staying ELEGANT ESCAPE who has abundant stamina having won the Welsh National last season (with Ballyoptic well beaten behind him that day). I think we have seen the best of the 10yo Definitly Red, and we have no idea if Aso will stay this trip at this level. Without a doubt, La Bague Au Roi is a worthy favourite at 5/2, but the 8/1 odds offered about ELEGANT ESCAPE are very tempting.

Advised wagers
Ascot 2:10pm - CAPELAND - £4 eachway @ 11/1 (Bet365 quarter-odds the 1st-3)
Ascot 3:20pm - ADRIEN DU PONT - £4 eachway @ 16/1 (Bet365 quarter-odds the 1st-4)
PLUS £2 eachway double on the above pair.
Wetherby 3:40pm - ELEGANT ESCAPE - £5 win @ 8/1 with PaddyPower

Friday 25 October 2019

Cheltenham 26th October

The first Cheltenham Saturday meeting of the 2019-20 Jumps season, and what a welcome return it is. I'll be honest, while I enjoy watching the best of the flat racing, I find it a difficult medium to get excited about for wagering purposes. For me, the comfort blanket of the jumps, the familiar names, the characteristics of the tracks, the enthusiasm of the crowds and the camaraderie of the entire package make even losing wagers seem pleasurable.
I didn't post a blog for Friday's meeting, due to time constraints, and I didn't find a winner with my personal wager of the day which was a win bet on Plantagenet who (having led most of the way) succumbed to a late challenge and came home 2nd.
I wrote this blog on Friday evening, and there are a few non-runners:
Cobra De Mai (no surprise there); Rock The Kasbah (didn't think this would be pulled and we may see Richard Johnson "jock off" another rider); Shantou Village, and The Young Master.
As such there has been a dramatic change to the betting - good luck to those who read this blog on Friday evening!
The new fav is West Approach at 7/2 and that looks a bit short to me, but he should run well. Last nights odds on my chosen pair have long gone: BACK TO THE THATCH is now 10/1 from 20/1, and RED INFANTRY is 25/1 from 33/1. The early bird catches the worm!
Long term readers will know that handicap chases are my bread & butter, and Saturdays card start with a Class 2 handicap chase over 3m1f. No 10yo or older horse has won this race in the past 10 years, and 6yo's and under are also best avoided; so I'm discounting Onefortheroadtom, Cogry and The Young Master. Those carrying over 11st 7lb also struggle, the only such winner being Coologue (who I tipped on this blog) in 2016; so I'm discounting Cobra De Mai and Rock The Kasbah. I cannot see Minella Rocco doing anything, and Rocky's Treasure does his best work in fields of 5 or under. Of those remaining that are under 9yo, Captain Chaos ran a stinker in this last year, and Cheltenham possibly isn't his course. I really like the 7yo Back To The Thatch who likely found the Midlands National over 4m2f too far when falling at the final fence, but his 2nd at Haydock on soft ground over 3m3f looks right for this. If the ground was "good" (it's on the soft side of good-to-soft) then I would really like Bob Mahler and Rolling Dylan. I think this trip will stretch The Conditional, and Mindsmadeup.
The 9yo Crosspark possibly wants further than this, and possibly the same goes for Royal Vacation. Shantou Village needs to be at his best to win this off OR142.  West Approach could not get his head in front last season and went up from OR143 to OR150 in the process, as such he's not my idea of a winner of this race. The Irish trained Na Trachalai Abu has only won 2 of his 24 chase races in Ireland and he will face a tough task in this. Since winning the Rowland Meyrick in 2017 Get On The Yager has not been the same horse despite wind surgery. Red Infantry will find this trip to his liking and has scope off OR138, he could go close.
I think this race will be between BACK TO THE THATCH and RED INFANTRY, and this pair are both at long odds and well worth an eachway wager.
Suggested wager:
Cheltenham 2:00pm
BACK TO THE THATCH - £5 eachway @ 20/1 (BetVictor 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5)
RED INFANTRY - £5 eachway @ 33/1  (BetVictor 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5)

At Kelso, I reckon VINTAGE CLOUDS could be the one to beat in the 3:00pm Class 2, 3m2f handicap chase. He has only 7 rivals and has won his seasonal chase debut for the past couple of seasons. He was due to run in the handicap chase reviewed above at Cheltenham, but has been diverted here instead. Odds of 9/2 look more than fair for a horse who will almost certainly be in the 1st-3 with a clear round and he is usually a very safe jumper.

All the best and good luck with your wagers.
PS: I think I've sorted out the security issue with the blog (some chancer was trying to extort money) but if you do get a dodgy email purporting to be from me, it will be fake so please just delete it.

Saturday 12 October 2019

Chepstow 12th October

The autumn 2-day Chepstow meeting is traditionally considered the opening day of the Jumps season proper.  I remember watching this day on the old BBC sports programme Grandstand.
I have had some good luck at this meeting in past years, and sometimes finding winners at this time of the year can be as easy as finding the fittest horse in the race.
The 2m7f handicap chase at 3:20pm looks a fair wagering opportunity.
Only 8 runners go to post and the market is headed by Cloth Cap (9/2) and Lil Rockerfella (4/1). Personally, I think Lil Rockerfella needs to improve on his chasing to win off OR145 as he didn't look up to that racing in his novice season last year.  The soft ground is likely to be the undoing of Cloth Cap as he's been a "good" ground horse and confined to that by his trainer so far.
Ballyoptic (11/2) will need to be at his very best running off OR152, and Relentless Dreamer (11/2) hasn't been seen since winning at Cheltenham this time last year.
The horse that takes my eye is CAPTAIN CHAOS who ran in this race last year when the ground was "good" but he much prefers soft ground. He was also badly handicapped last year running off OR142 as he had won a couple of novice chases in the autumn of 2017.  This year he runs off OR135 as he ran a couple of cracking races in defeat at Newcastle and Wetherby in December over 3-mile. He is 6/1 with Bet365 and Ladbrokes/Coral and that looks good value as I'd have him at 4/1.
Later in the day at 5:05pm the Class 2 handicap chase over 2m3f should go to Charbel who won this race last year. I would name him as my selection, but I also have a soft spot for Activial who is well-up for winning off OR149 over this sort of trip (had no chance when last seen in the Grand National) and was very consistent last year.

Just the one selection £10 won on CAPTAIN CHAOS @ 6/1, but those more adventurous may split their stake and have £5 win on both Charbel and Activial in the 5:05pm race 

Monday 7 October 2019

Time to concentrate on the 2019-20 Jumps season

Sunday was a tremendous day for horseracing, even if the horse we hoped to win the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe only came 2nd.
The season has been one of triumph for Enable and her trainer John Gosden, propelling both into the history books as true greats at the sport. Personally, I think the average horseracing fan underestimates the craft of a trainer in producing a horse to run to its peak over a number of years in a specific race.  Producing Enable to do just that for 3 consecutive seasons in the most competitive 12-furlong flat race in Europe, if not the World, is the sign of a truly brilliant trainer, and John Gosden is certainly at the peak of his craft.

It is that time of year again when I look back at the previous jumps season and the performance of the blog, and what I propose to do with the blog for the coming jumps season.   Last year I changed the personality of the blog, and made it more commentary based than results based. I still provided advice on wagers during the seas0n, but didn't measure success on the results and profits obtained.  I did however, continue to provide the reader with what I consider to be top-class opinion on the jump racing season, and that culminated in what turned out to be my most succesful Cheltenham Festival since starting this blog in 2010.

Since last season, my workload outside of writing the blog has increased, and I've been in two-minds whether to actually continue writing the blog or give it up for a year or two and concentrate 100% on my day-job. The thought of Cheltenham 2020 is too big, and while the blog may be more sporadic during the season, my main focus will be on carrying the reader through to the Festival in March when I intend to beat last seasons performance of winners posted on the blog 
BEWARE THE BEAR @ 20/1 (antepost),  
TOPOFTHEGAME @ 5/1 (antepost), 
DEFI DU SEUIL @ 100/30, 
and FRODON @ 7/1 (antepost).

As the  strategy worked well last seaon, I'm going to repeat it.
While I wont be seeking donations for the regular emails, and the blog will be free to all, there remains the option for the reader to make a donation for any winners when they occur or if the reader considers the blog was worthy of a donation.  If you do make a donation, I will include you in personal horseracing opinion outside of the blog (sent by email only) that I consider to be worthwhile. 

My betting strategy results in a long term profit.  

Friday 5 April 2019

2019 Grand National - Final briefing

I've been watching the Grand National since 1965 when Jay Trump won, although my memory of that race is hazy (I was only 5yo), and so my earliest good memory of the race is 1967 when Foinavon won and there was the mass pile-up at the 23rd fence.
This year's Grand National looks more competitive than last year, and it will not be so easy for the 7/2 fav TIGER ROLL who attempts to become the first two-time winner of the race since Red Rum in 1974 (and Red Rum then went on to win the race for a historic 3rd time in 1977).  What further complicates the race is the recent rain, with the ground now soft and rain-soddened throughout.  We could have a race in which fewer than 10 of the original 40 starters will complete the race and, of those that complete, only 2 or 3 will be actually involved in the finish of the race. 
Unfortunately, the horse that I had decided was the most likely race winner, MALL DINI, was declared a non-runner on Thursday due to a leg injury. As such, I delayed the publication of this blog by 24 hours to Friday evening to a) make sure that my selection is a confirmed runner, and b) to see what effect the rain has,and is having, on the ground for the Grand National course.

ANIBALE FLY - was 4th in the race last year, and is possibly a slightly better horse now he's a year older at 9yo, but he's carrying 2lb more; however, the ground is on his side this year (was heavy last year) and he won't be far away, but I cannot see him winning.
VALTOR - bought from France to run in this race, and showed his ability when winning on his UK chase debut at Ascot, but he's been raised 12lb by the handicapper for that and with it have gone his chances.
TIGER ROLL - has won both his recent races, and looks better than ever, but he carries 6lb more than when winning this last year and he only just got home to win by a "head" that day. He should be at his peak, and will be thereabouts but he's more like an 8/1 chance in my book.
OUTLANDER - now 11yo and not the horse he was, but he's never run well outside of Ireland and his best form is behind him - also, he's for sale.
DON POLI - at once high-class 10yo who's better days are behind him, and he's also for sale. However, he could run better than his odds.
GO CONQUER - a chase winner at 3-mile, that looks to be his limit and most of his racing has been on right-handed tracks; but he will love the likely "good" ground, and will be in the front rank.
MALA BEACH -   has only race once in the UK when 2nd at Ascot over 2m5f in Dec-15. He was then off injured for nearly 2 years but won the 3-mile "Troytown" Chase in Nov-17. This has been his target, but he is a bit slow and will want soft ground.
MINELLA ROCCO - after pulling-up LTO he is on a recovery mission, and I don't think his heart is in this game anymore.
LAKE VIEW LAD - this 9yo grey will be one of the leading fancies for the race, but his best form has been on soft ground and he may not be able to get involved on the 2nd-circuit, but he is a safe jumper and stays 3-mile.
PLEASANT COMPANY - another who would prefer soft ground, which he got last year when just failing to win. However, in 2017 when he ran in this race, the ground was good-to-soft and it was too quick for him and he finished 9th. The recent rain will have helped his chances.
BALLYOPTIC - ran a career-best when 2nd in the Scottish National in April-2018 on "good" ground, and so I can forgive him his run on soft ground in the Welsh National in December, but his run LTO at Haydock when he pulled-up was disappointing. He could run a big race, or he may not enjoy it, and with 11st 1lb he's not off to a good start.

I believe those carrying more than 11-stone will struggle to win this years Grand National on this soft ground, and those horses named above all carry more than 11-stone.
DOUNIKOS -  last seen winning over 3m4f at Punchestown on 10th February, so we know he will stay this sort of trip, and the ground will suit, he has (in my opinion) an outstanding chance, so I've already taken 100/1 on Betfair last week. Was just short of being one of the top novice chasers of last season. Has been brought slowly to hand and comes here with one helluva chance.
RATHVINDEN - After he won the 4-mile NH Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, I said this horses would be aimed at this years Grand National, and here he is the 12/1, 2nd fav. When he won at Fairyhouse in February he looked top-class and he will take all the beating.
ONE FOR ARTHUR - since winning this race in 2017, he's not completed another race, and whether he still has the ability to be competitive is unknown. 
ROCK THE KASBAH - Champion jockey Richard Johnson has never won this race, but this horse should give him a great run - if he's in the mood! He has two-ways of running and will either go well, or throw-in the towel, but after a long break (an he last raced in December) he usually goes well. Could be thereabouts.  
WARRIORS TALE - didn't last the trip last year, and the ground was against him too. And now the ground will be against him (best on no softer than good-to-soft).
REGAL ENCORE - Was beaten a long way in the 2017 race, and there's no reason why he would do better this time.
MAGIC OF LIGHT - this mare does not look capable of winning off this mark of OR151.
A TOI PHIL -most racing experience is over 2m4f, and it's a leap of faith to expect him to stay this marathon trip.
JURY DUTY - was aimed at a 2m5f hurdle race in the Autumn in the USA worth £200,000 which he won; he then won his next chase over 3m2f on 16th March. What worries me about him is that he didn't stay 4-mile in the NH Chase won by Rathvinden, and he was well beaten in Kerry National. 
NOBLE ENDEAVOUR - Disappointed on latest run at Cheltenham and looks well below his best after nearly 2 years off the track.
MONBEG NOTORIOUS - Well beaten in all his recent races and you have to go back 12 months to find a decent effort .
RAMSES DE TEILLEE - The youngest horse in the field at 7yo, with need a superlative effort to win, but could be thereabouts, as he enjoys the mud and stays very well.
TEA FOR TWO - far too highly tried after coming 3rd (to Thistlecrack) in 2016 "King George", last seen pulling-up at Taunton in January when it looked like he'd gone at the game.
STEP BACK - Was on my initial shortlist, but his run LTO at Warwick suggests he likes to dominate from the front and doesn't like it when challenged. He's unlikely to get his own way in front in this and the soft ground could well find him out.
ULTRAGOLD - May divert to the Topham Chase over 2m5f which he won last year, has run four-times over the National fences and not finished worse than 3rd (with 2 wins), but if he goes for the "National" his stamina will be stretched. 
BLOW BY BLOW - In 4 chase races over 3-miles he's only beaten 3 horses, so it is difficult to see him being involved in this race for very long.
UP FOR REVIEW - Looked like being involved in the finish of the "Ultima" handicap chase at Cheltenham until his stamina ran out with 2 fences to jump, so difficult to see him being involved in the finish of this race.
SINGLEFARMPAYMENT - This horse has been called some names having finished 2nd no-less than 9 times - and on 4 occasions the margin of defeat has been only a few inches; but he jumps well, stays well, and has the ability to pick up the leaders from off the pace.  He will (hopefully) be avoiding early trouble at the rear and will take closer order as the field passes the stands before heading out on the 2nd circuit; could run a huge race as his most recent run at Cheltenham will have set him up for this.
VIEUX LION ROUGE - Didn't stay the trip when 6th (beaten 27-lengths) in 2017, and was well beaten again last year. Handles the course though (was 2nd in the Becher Chase in December and the best he can hope for is a distant 5th or 6th.
VALSEUR LIDO - Somehow won a Grade 1 chase over 3-mile in Nov16, but hasn't looked a 3-mile chaser since, most recently was easily beaten by Rathvinden in February.
VINTAGE CLOUDS -7th in the April-2017 Scottish National; 4th in the Jan-2018 Welsh National; and 3rd in the April-2018 Scottish National which all proves he stays well. Likely to be near the front-rank throughout.
GENERAL PRINCIPLE - won Irish National over 3m5f last April, but easily swept aside by stablemate Dounikos in February and has since disappointed at Cheltenham, needs soft ground.
LIVELOVELAUGH - hasn't looked like a 3-mile chaser, and best form shown on soft/heavy ground.
WALK IN THE MILL - Won the 3m2f Becher Chase over the National fences last December, but that was the 21st chase race for the (then) 8yo and he'd not looked a 3-mile chaser before then. Needs soft ground.
FOLSOM BLUE - if he runs he will just be making up the numbers. 
CAPTAIN REDBEARD - Fell last year (at the 7th fence) and as his jumping isn't great, he's unlikely to complete.
JOE FARRELL - the 10yo came late to chasing having his first chase race in October 2017. Just 6 months later he won the Scottish National over 4-miles. Is probably still improving and could be an interesting runner. 
JUST A PAR - wasn't good enough when at his peak, and now at 12yo and having his 3rd attempt at the race is unlikely to be involved for long. 

With the ground being "soft" those likely to be involved in the finish are;
The marathon trip and the speed at which this race is run - a unique feature of the Grand National - puts a greater emphasis on stamina, and although there have been winners of the race carrying more than 11st, there have not been many. Since Neptune Collonges (with 11st 6lb) won in 2012, there have been 52 runners in the race carrying 11st or more (2018 = 10; 2017 = 11; 2016 = 7; 2015 = 7; 2014 = 6; 2013 = 11), but only 5 have finished in the 1st-4  and only 19 in total completed the course. 
As such, if TIGER ROLL wins with 11st 5lb  on the soft ground, it is going to be one hell-of-an effort.
The weight angle also rules out BALLYOPTIC, but at 40/1 (Skybet 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5) he's worth an small eachway interest, but I'm inclined to pass him over.
I'm already on DOUNIKOS at 100/1 so I'm very happy that he's taking part.  He is just an 8yo so he could have plenty of improvement in him as he was very highly thought of as a novice chaser and his LTO win suggests he's back to his best. As such, at 40/1 (BetVictor and William Hill 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5 & 6) he's worth an small eachway interest.
JOE FARRELL makes too many jumping errors for my liking and at 20/1 he does not represent value in my book.
And the same can be said for VINTAGE CLOUDS at just 14/1, as too often he's lacked the pace to win the race.
Both SINGLEFARMPAYMENT and RATHVINDEN will be held-up towards the rear early-on and you have to hope a) they don't get brought-down by a faller, and b) they don't get too far behind and are pulled-up. If they are taking closer order entering the 2nd-circuit then they could go close, and so they both interesting propositions, with SINGLEFARMPAYMENT at 66/1 (William Hill, 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5 & 6). 
As for RATHVINDEN, he looks a very interesting horse over this marathon trip as he has abundant stamina and looks to me to be one of the most likely winners of the race.
This has been one of the trickiest races I've analysed for a long time, and in a race like the Grand National I can usually narrow my shortlist down to one horse; but this year it has been very difficult. However, every year I select one horse as the "most likely to win" and this year it's RATHVINDEN - having Ruby Walsh in the saddle and winning form over 4-mile on heavy ground suggests he will not be far away at the finih. 

My advised wagers (based on a £30 total stake)
RATHVINDEN, £5 win & £5 eachway @ 10/1 (BetVictor and William Hill 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5 & 6) 
DOUNIKOS, £5 eachway @ 40/1 (BetVictor and William Hill 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5 & 6) 
SINGLEFARMPAYMENT, £2 eachway @ 50/1 (William Hill 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5 & 6) 

Aintree Grand National Meeting - Day 2

The rain at Aintree was an unwelcome guest yesterday, and it's immediate effect was a change in my plans for the Grand National. IT wsa combined with the news that there were 2 withdrawals from Saturdays race: first came PAIROFBROWNEYES and then in mid-afternoon came the news that MALL DINI was also a non-runner.  This was a particularly bitter blow for me, as I thought the horse looked exceptionally well-in on the formbook even though he is yet to win a chase race. I was going to make MALL DINI my main Grand National selection, and now I'm having to reconsider my strategy to take into account the rain-softened ground.

Yesterday, the racing was good, but not exceptional. In the Manifesto Novices' Chase over 2m4f, the fav La Bague Au Roi was below her best and KALASHNIKOV didn't have to find much win and, on a line through 3rd-placed Mengli Khan, neither Defi Du Seuil or Lostintranslation have anything to fear from this bunch. 

In the Juvenile hurdle, how PENTLAND HILLS was allowed to go off at 11/4 is anyone's guess.  What value! In my blog yesterday, I rated the horse a 7/4 chance and never expected the odds to lengthen so much, but maybe the rain-soaked ground put the majority of punters off him. I'm hoping readers of the blog noted the drift in the odds and saw the opportunity - that's why I write the narrative and not just give names of horses.

KEMBOY ran away with the Betway Bowl Chase over 3m1f and my initial reaction was it was a good performance. However, the proximity of Balko Des Flo in 3rd (splitting Clan Des Obeaux and Bristol De Mai) suggests this winning performance was well below the Gold Cup winning performance of stablemate Al Boum Photo last month.

Finally, Buveur D'Air ran right up to his form shown this season but couldn't beat SUPASUNDAE.  I've rated Buveur D'Air at 156-157 for each of his races this season, and he ran to 156 on my rating in this. The Champion Hurdle winner ESPIOR D'ALLEN looks so far ahead of the hurdling division that the 5/1 currently on offer for next years Champion Hurdle should be taken - I'm surprised bookies haven't priced him at 2/1.

On to today's racing at Aintree, and the result of the Novices' Hurdle at 2:20pm is likely to be affected by the soft ground. ITCHY FEET came 3rd (beaten 5-lengths) at Cheltenham on similar rain-softened ground, and given his previous run before that was in November, there must by some improvement in him today for race-fitness.  Odds of 4/1 look fair in this 7-runner race. 

In the Mildmay Novices' Chase over 3m1f at 2:50pm we have a very interesting clash between Topofthegame and Lostintranslation. Both are exceptional novice chasers, and it is tricky splitting the pair. One who could upset the party is Top Ville Ben who fell early-on in the RSA Chase won by Topofthegame LTO, but who has won since then, and at 18/1 he is worth a speculative "place-only" wager on finishing 2nd should one of the leading pair not be on their "A" game today.

The feature race today is the JLT Chase over 2m4f and we have a select band of 6 runners, including last year's winner Politologue and runner-up Min.  We also have a rare appearance from Waiting Patiently - but they will all have to step-up their game to match the performance of TOP NOTCH when he won at this trip in January at Kempton beating good yardstick Black Corton. Odds of 10/1 are generally available and I think he has a terrific chance on this soft ground - remember he was beaten less than 6-lengths over 3-mile by Paisley Park in December on similar ground. 

That's it for me, and I will see how the ground looks today before posting my Grand National blog at about 5pm tonight.

Just the one wager: 
Aintree 3:25pm, TOP NOTCH, £5 win & £5 eachway @ 10/1 (quarter-odds a place 1st or 2nd)

Thursday 4 April 2019

Aintree Grand National meeting - Day 1

For me, the Aintree Grand National meeting is just as exciting as the Cheltenham Festival.  I've been watching horseracing since I was a toddler, and my earliest memory is watching Freddie - the 7/2 fav for the 1965 Grand National - beaten under a length in a close finish by Jay Trump. Watching the old black & white film of the race on YouTube, you are reminded of just how huge Bechers Brook used to be.
We've come a long way since then, and the National fences have been completely re-designed and remodelled, and the length of the race has been reduced, but - somehow - the magic pull of the race still captures the imagination of the public and, for 15 minutes, nothing else matters.
I have already written my appraisal of the big race on Saturday, and I was going to wait until Friday evening before posting it, but I think I'm going to post my Grand National preview this evening as I'm expecting some significant betting market moves in the final 24 hours before the race at 5:15pm on Saturday and I do not want readers to miss out on what could be some considerable value in the market.  My expectation is that the support for the fav Tiger Roll will subside and he will lengthen in the market from his current 4/1 odds, and that there will be major moves for several other entries. Over the past week, the more I've looked at the Grand National form, the more competitive a race I think it will be - it looks like being a cracker.  

On to today's racing from Aintree, and in the opening race at 1:45pm the Manifesto Novices' Chase over 2m4f, the mare La Bague Au Roi looks a worthy fav, and odds of 7/4 (with Paddy Power) look fair value. Long time readers of this blog know that I do not recommend wagers on horses that are under 9/4, that's not my angle, so while I expect the mare to run well and win I can't recommend having a wager on her. But she may not have things all her own way, and I reckon that BAGS GROOVE could push her all the way.  He ran a stinker at Kempton on Boxing Day when La Bague Au Roi beat him over 3-miles, but he's since won again over this trip at Kempton, and at his best he's not far off the level of the fav.  Before Cheltenham, I thought Glen Forsa needed to find 15lb to win the Arkle, and I think he will have his limitations exposed in this race today, and while Kalashnikov should run better going left-handed here, he also needs to find about 10lb of improvement to win this.  On known form, both Mengli Khan and Spiritofthegames look outclassed.  For me, BAGS GROOVE at 8/1 looks a fair eachway wager (quarter-odds a place 1st or 2nd).

At 2:20pm the Juvenile Hurdle over 2-mile & 1-furlong looks to be in the hands of Triumph Hurdle winner PENTLAND HILLS, and I'm surprised that odds of 9/4 are available, as he looks the best 4yo hurdler in this race.  Is he value? For that you have to reckon he should be considerably shorter in the betting than 9/4, and I don't as to be value I would have to rate Pentland Hills a 5/4 chance and I don't, he's probably a 7/4 chance. 
The Betway Bowl at at 2:50pm over 3-mile & 1-furlong has a select band of top class chasers. I'm discounting Balko De Flos and Elegant Escape as they just aren't good enough at this level. The grey Bristol De Mai never seems to run well after Cheltenham and was easily beaten in this race in 2017 and 2018. Maybe he's a better horse now, but I'm not so sure.  Road To Respect is one of the most consistent chasers in training, and this trip and track could be right up his street. He has to find over 7-lengths to beat Kemboy based on their meeting at Leopardstown over 3-mile on 28th December, but that race was run at a slow tempo, and the resultant quicker pace over the final half-mile perhaps suited Kemboy better than Road To Respect. As for Clan Des Obeaux, I think he had a hard race at Cheltenham and he was also beaten in this race last year (finished behind Bristol De Mai).  All things considered, I think ROAD TO RESPECT is the way to go in this, and odds of 5/1 look decent considering he has no questions to answer, while each of the other rivals does.

BUVEUR D'AIR won the Aintree hurdle over 2-mile & 4-furlongs in 2017 with perhaps the best performance of his career, and I cannot see him losing this race today. Nothing else comes close to him on ratings or likely performance, and he could well go off at odds-on.

I'm giving the Foxhunters Chase over the National fences, and the Red Rum handicap chase over 2-miles a miss, as well tas the closing bumper.

My best bet of the day is ROAD TO RESPECT @ 5/1 (available generally) in the 2:50pm Betway Bowl.

Friday 29 March 2019

2019 Grand National - some early thoughts

There's been a massive gamble on TIGER ROLL, and judging by his last couple of wins he's better than ever this season however his win over the Cross-Country course at Cheltenham is difficult to evaluate (but it certainly looked good).
He's no sort of price for a race as competitive as the Grand National, and as I tipped him to win the race last year I think I'm better-placed than most to give a fair and impartial view of his ability to win the race for a 2nd time next week.
He made a few errors last year, notably resulting in jockey Davy Russell losing his irons, and he also wandered about in the final 200 yards of the run-in losing a significant advantage to just last out and hold on at the line.
With Bristol De Mai a definite non-runner the weights will go up 4lb, so Tiger Roll will carry 11st 5lb which is 6lb more than he carried last year, and weight does matter in these marathon races and especially so when in a race like the Grand National as the pace is unrelenting.
If he gets round (and there is always an "if" in a race like the Grand National), then he will be in there with a great shout.  With the likelihood of having 10-plus stablemates running in the race - it may look like a the Tour De France protecting the team leader - there may be one or more stablemates in with a chance at the 2nd-last fence, and at that point "team tactics" have to go!
Which ones that Gordon Elliott will declare to run is debatable, and it's unlikely Alpha Des Obeaux will run (has a bruised foot), and I'm not sure that The Storyteller should be in the race as his best form is at 2m4f.  Outlander looks seriously out of his depth in this off OR158. We have not seen much of Don Poli since he was 3rd to Sizing John (who went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup) in Feb 2017, but he would need to at his best to be in with a chance off OR157.
The 11yo Mala Beach looks to have his best days behind him and will struggle off OR156. Shattered Love is another who looks best at 2m4f, but he did win a Grade 1 novice chase over 3-mile - however, the front 2 in the betting (Monalee and Rathvinden) fell, so that form isn't strong. It was Jury Duty who was 2nd in that race and while he hasn't set the world alight, he looks fairly treated on OR151 and comes here on the back of 2 recent wins, the last one over 3m2f.
Noble Endeavour has had a couple of runs this season after a 2-year break, and this marathon trip looks to be in his compass, and this 10yo could well be staying-on strong  The ground will likely be too quick for Monbeg Notorious, but he is a staying chaser; and I really do not know why they've entered Blow By Blow (except as a "spoiler").  General Principle will likely be better aimed at the Irish National (a race he's already won) on 22nd April, that this.
It's doubtful that any of those rated lower than General Principle (Nr 46 on OR144) will get into the race, so the only other Elliott entry to consider is the 8yo DOUNIKOS who was last seen winning the Grand National Trial (handicap) over 3m4f at Punchestown on 10th February.  He was ridden that day by Davy Russell, but he's certain to take the ride on Tiger Roll. So we know he will stay this sort of trip, and the ground will suit, it's whether he will get a run. If he does, he has (in my opinion) an outstanding chance, so I've taken the 100/1 available on Betfair. If he doesn't then I will likely be able to recover my losses (and more) in the Irish Grand National later in April.   
Those entries not attached to the Elliott stable that (at this stage) hold a realistic chance are:-
Lake View Lad, although he would prefer soft ground, so if there is rain next week (unlikely) he could be worth a wager. But then, the same can be said for last years runner-up Pleasant Company as on good-to-soft ground in 2017 he was well beaten despite finishing. 
RATHVINDEN has been aimed at this race since winning the 4-mile novice NH Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival. A top-class novice hurdler, he missed 3 years to injury before being brought steadily through the novice chase ranks in 2017. He probably would have contested the 2017 and 2018 Gold Cups but for the injury, and when he won LTO (respected Bobbyjo Chase) he looked like there was plenty of improvement in him and OR154 looks a very fair rating.
Rock The Kasbah will love the ground and stay this trip, but he does like things to go his way, and when they don't he chucks the towel in; so I get the feeling that he's one who will not enjoy this race. 
In the recent Cheltenham Gold Cup, trainer Patrick Kelly was given some criticism (including by me) for his preparation of Presenting Percy, and he can recoup his reputation if MALL DINI runs a big race.  A winner of the competitive 3-mile handicap hurdle at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, we know he stays well and he will handle the likely "good" going at Aintree. His trainer knows how to get him fit for a target race, and he will be well up for it next week, and I think he will be right there at the business end.
There are only two others that I think have a chance of winning the race and they are Vintage Clouds and Singlefarmpayment.
I'm sure there will be plenty scoffing at me including Singlefarmpayment, as he's been 2nd no less than 9 times and on 4 occasions the margin of defeat has been only a few inches. But the horse stays well, jumps well, is a very strong traveller, and he's unlikely to be worried out of the race if jumping the last fence well clear of the remainder.  His recent run will have prepared him well, and if this were any other handicap race he'd be trading at around 12/1 and not 66/1.
I've been saying for 12 months that Vintage Clouds will win a "National" and he's run 7th in the April-2018 Scottish National; 4th in the Jan-2018 Welsh National; and 3rd in the April-2018 Scottish National. He stays well, travels well and has a very similar profile to that of Singlefarmpayment, yet he's only 14/1 - which should make you realise what great value Singlefarmpayment is.
There was only one other horse that I was considering, but that was Blaklion, and he was declared a non-runner this morning.

A more detailed look will be posted on the evening before the race.

Friday 15 March 2019

Cheltenham 2019 - Day 4 (Friday 15th March)

Another cracking day for the blog yesterday when top selection DEFI DU SEUIL won the JLT Novices Chase - what a start to the day.  I've been saying on my blog since January that Defi Du Seuil is the best novice chaser we've seen this season and he will win whatever race he's entered in at the Festival, and I was right. I do not often advise £20 win wagers, but I felt certain he was the real deal.
Then FRODON (one of my late antepost wagers) in the Ryanair Chase led from the front and battled up the stright for a hard-fought but decisive win.
The blog is now seriously in profit for the week, it's been one of my best Cheltenham Festivals since I started blogging (if not the best for me) and there is still a day to go.
Top Notch was poor yesterday, but do not take anything away from PAISLEY PARK. After he won at the Trials day in January I wrote that Paisley Park should be odds-on for the Stayers' Hurdle (and as readers know, I do not advise wagers on horses at odds under 9/4 - you can pick those winners yourself).
Both my long-odds handicap selections ran good races but just not good enough to get into the places.

1:30pm Triumph hurdle run over 2-miles & 1 furlong
If you look at the betting, this race is all about SIR EREC,  and how far he will win by.  Well, we've seen races like this before at Cheltenham and it doesn;t always go to plan. There are only 4 other horses to consider, as the long-shots have virtually no chance. PIC D'ORHY has not run in the UK or Ireland yet, nor has he run anywhere since early November. Our first sight of this horse will be in the paddock. QUEL DESTIN, also trained by Paul Nichols (like PIC D'ORHY) but with lots of experience winning a string of top hurdles in the UK. TIGER TAP TAP has been beaten easily by the fav SIR EREC on both his hurdle starts. GARDENS OF BABYLON trained by Joseph O'Brien who trains SIR EREC, and beaten 6-lengths by him when they last met. 
If you want to bet on the race, have a small eachway wager on QUEL DESTIN @ 10/1 (fifth the odds a place 1,2,3) which is available generally, but theis is a race I expect to go to SIR EREC and I will be watching only.

2:10pm County Handicap Hurdle run over 2-miles & 1 furlong
With 8 of the last 11 winners going off at odds longer than 20/1 - and last years winner Mohaayed went off at 33/1 - you need luck and a crystal ball to find the winner. You do not want a horse that has won over trips longer than 2m1f, and stick to 5yo and 6yo's or horses with no more than 2 seasons of hurdling if older. I'm going to have a play with the 5yo LISP @ 25/1 (quarter-odds to 5 places with Bet365) as he's a come 1st or 2nd in 6 of his completed 9 hurdle races (he fell at the 3rd in the Martin Pipe Novices H'cap hurdle last year when 10/1 for the race), he can carry weight and has a touch of class about him, with trainer Alan King confident of a good run.
Selection: LISP, £5 eachway @  25/1 (quarter-odds to 5 places with Bet365)

2:50pm Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle run over 3-miles
This should be a good betting race as few horses stay a strong 3-mile over hurdles, but this race has now been won by a horse no shorter than 11/1 for the past 5 years, and in 2018 and 2014 the winner went off at 33/1. We are looking for a horse that has race experience (4 or more hurdle races) and shown the ability to stay 3-mile. There are 20 runners!
I am against the fave BIRCHDALE as he's only had 2 hurdle races, ditto ALLAHO and DICKIE DIVER, and DINONS hasn't run since November.
Of the market leaders LISNAGAR OSCAR @ 13/2 and COMMANDER OF FLEET @ 15/2 are interesting, but I'm going to take a stab with Noel Meade's CAP YORK, a 7yo who won over 3-mile  LTO and stays forever. The plan was to send him for the 3-mile Pertemps handicap hurdle (run yesterday) but they think he's good enough for this
Selection: CAP YORK, £5 eachway @ 25/1 (fifth odds to 4 places with Bet Victor)

3:30pm Cheltenham Gold Cup run over 3-miles, 2 furlongs & 70 yards.
This is the big one!
Right off, I am against PRESENTING PERCY.  His RSA winning form has been put to bed with Monalee running 4th in the Ryanair Chase behind Frodon yesterday, and ELEGANT ESCAPE being beaten by Frodon here at Cheltenham in January. He will need to have improved 7lb on his RSA winning form to win this, and off the back of a 3-mile hurdle race I would want odds of 10/1.
Last year I was on NATIVE RIVER, but this year in both his runs he's not looked the same horse, as hasn't the runner-up in last year's Gold Cup MIGHT BITE.  That race was a mighty battle, and has it left it's mark? NATIVE RIVER will need to match, and possibly surpass, last year's effort to win today and I just feel that the ground is not as testing as he would want it to be.
On my ratings, BELLSHILL is about 7-10lb below Gold Cup winning standard, but he is consistent and has the very capable Ruby Walsh in the saddle.
His stablemate, KEMBOY, is interesting as he appears to stay 3-mile very well and he is certainly worth his position in the market.
 I do not think ELEGANT ESCAPE is anywhere near good enough, but he is very consistent and stays forever, so he may well come on late for 3rd or 4th.
MIGHT BITE looks a busted flush, and the 10yo has age against him and a mountain to climb to recover his form. I expect he will be up with the pace on the 1st circuit but fade away in the final mile.  His last hurrah will likely come at Aintree where he won the "Bowl" last year.
I am surprised that Ruby Walsh is not riding AL BOUM PHOTO as I thought this horse would emerge this season as the Willie Mullins Gold Cup horse, and he has won his only start this season, albeit over 2m5f on 1st January. I'm assuming Walsh thinks this trip will stretch his stamina.
They say horses aged 10yo and more don't win the Gold Cup, but the 11yo THISTLECRACK is no back number based on his 2nd in the King George on Boxing Day, and he has every right to be among the market leader. As an eachway wager, there is no better value in my opinion, and he should be in the 1st 3 home, but I cannot see him winning.
ANIBALE FLY took advantage of the fierce pace set last year to steal 3rd passing beaten horses, and is doubtful to repeat the effort.
BRISTOL DE MAI and Cheltenham do not go together, and there has not been enough rain for him, and the others INVITATION ONLY, SHATTERED LOVE, DEFINITLY RED, SOUBLE SHUFFLE and YALA ENKI have next to no chance.
For me, the winner will be CLAN DES OBEAUX, as his win in the King George stamped his authority on the staying division, and the follow-up at Ascot confirmed his ability. Trainer Paul Nicholls sent Frodon out to win the Ryanair yesterday, and that horse would have been worthy of a place in the Gold Cup. CLAN DES OBEAUX has youth on his side, he is in form, he stays well, he jumps well, he has a lot of solid chasing experience.  For me, odds of 5/1 are generous as I would have him at 9/4 in this field as he has the beating of most of them this season - he has to run poorly or they they have to improve 7lb-plus to beat him - he holds all the aces.
Selection: CLAN DES OBEAUX, £15 win @ 5/1 (available generally)

That's it for me for this years Festival. It has been a great one so far with winners posted on the blog being DUC DES GENEIVRES @ 13/2,  BEWARE THE BEAR @ 20/1 (antepost),  TOPOFTHEGAME @ 5/1 (antepost), DEFI DU SEUIL @ 100/30, and FRODON @ 7/1 (antepost).
If you have enjoyed the blog please leave a comment, refer to it on twitter (and you can find me on instagram), and if you have won a few quid on the back of my advice don't be afraid to drop a "fiver"  via the donation button on the top right of this page.
All the best for now and I will be reviewing the Festival results so that we are ahead of the game for next year over the coming weeks.
Good luck from Wayward Lad.

Thursday 14 March 2019

Cheltenham 2019 - Day 3 (Thursday 14th March)

It was a good day on Wsednesday, not quite as good as Tuesday, but good enough.  My antepost wager on TOPOFTHEGAME was successful (see Monday's blog for a recap of my antepost portfolio), and I feel vindicated - following the fantastic run from POLITOLOGUE in the Champion Chase - that my wagers on Politologue for the Ryanair was the right policy.  Judging by that performance, I think Politologue would have gone very close in the Ryanair Chase.
I am on the course (in the Best Mate enclosure) today and tomorrow.
It is a busy day today.

1:30 JLT Novices Chase run over 2m4f
Ideally, you are looking for a horse that has won a Graded race over hurdles or fences, and one that has also won at the Cheltenham Festival before.
A cracking race to start the day with, and I am very interested in the fav DEFI DU SEUIL who has won Graded races over both hurdles and fences, and has won at Cheltenham having won the Triumph Hurdle in 2017. By my ratings, he's the best novice chaser we've seen this season, not by much, but the best. I already have an antepost wagers on DEFI DU SEUIL and I'm confident they will be successful. Odds of over 3/1 look very generous about a horse who could be the best novice chaser of the season.
LOSTINTRANSLATION will not be far away, but I feel he would have been better placed in the RSA Novices chase over 3-mile instead of this race.  I rate the Irish trained REAL STEEL well behind this pair, and have more interest in VINNDICATION but again I feel he would have been better off running in the RSA Chase.
DEFI DU SEUIL - £20 win @ 100/30 Coral & Ladbrokes

2:10 Pertemps Network final Handicap hurdle run over 3-mile
Possibly the toughest handicap hurdle of the season to solve.  The winner will need to stay 3-mile at a strong gallop. Age is no barrier to success, combine that with LTO winners (if possible).
This is one of those races that you could spend a day studying the form and still not find the winner.  A good judge has suggested WALK TO FREEDOM, the 9yo trained by Mrs J. Harrington.  He carries top-weight of 11st 12lb but he is a decent handicapper who stays the trip and is unexposed at 3-mile having only raced the distance the once LTO when 2nd.
No bet race for me.

2:50 Ryanair Chase run over 2m4f & 166 yards
One of the best races for a wager, ideally you need a graded chase winner, a 2nd-season chaser, and horse that runs up with the pace. Hopefully, the horse should have won at Cheltenham before.
Although FOOTPAD won last years Arkle over 2-mile, he hasn't shown himself to be up to the usual standard since then and he looks a weak fav. The 2nd-fav ROAD TO RESPECT is normally seen over 3-mile, so dropping to 2m5f is interesting, and I wonder if he will be quick enough. MONALEE is his equal over 3-mile and probably better over 2m5f and looks to be the one to beat if FRODON is unable to repeat the form of earlier this season. FRODON flopped badly in this race last year after a busy season, and he's had fewer runs this time and maintained his form so far. UN DE SCEAUX has won this race before, but was easily swept aside by BALKO DES FLOS last year. It's a tricky race to fathom this year, but and I've already an antepost wager at 5/1 on MONALEE (a proven performer at this level) and also on FRODON @ 7/1 who I think may just struggle to hold-off these graded performers from the front.
No further wagers on this race from me as I was hoping that it would cut-up a bit more, and I'm sure had POLITOLOGUE run in this and not the Champion Chase yesterday, that he would have taken all the beating.

3:30 Sunbet Stayers' Hurdle run over 3-mile
The key to this race may lie in the race of 2018. 
SUPASUNDAE (who was 2nd) demonstrated that his best trip is 2m4f not 3-mile.  FAUGHEEN appears to have rekindled his career at 3-mile but do not forget that he is 11yo.  BACARDYS is no better now than he was in 2018 and looks outclassed. BLACK OP has a fair bit to make up to beat the fav, who he met here in January. KILBRECKEN STORM do not look good enough. However, TOP NOTCH could give the favourite a race as he loves this course and was a seriously top class hurdler as a novice, and this trip could bring out the best in him as he does enjoy coming off a strong pace. Don't get me wrong, I am expecting PAISLEY PARK to win and I think he should be 5/4 such is the form that he's shown this season, but TOP NOTCH at 16/1 ( he should pay his way.
TOP NOTCH £5 eachway @ 16/1 (5th odds a place 1,2,3,4 with Ladbrokes & Coral)

4:10 Stable Plate Handicap Chase run over 2m4f & 127 yards
This looks an incredibly tough handicap to fathom, and sometimes it pays to go on gut feeling. I think it was a bit tough on JANIKA to be raised 6lb by the handicapper for coming 2nd LTO to SIRUH DU LAC (who went up 7lb for a tiny winning margin) and I can't see either winning this race. In 2018, SPIRITOFTHEGAMES ran 5th in the 2-mile County Hurdle and he never seems to run a bad race. I do like horses with recent winning form in these handicaps, and Venetia Willams loves these handicaps here and right at the bottom with just 10st 5lb is DIDERO VALLIS who has only run in 4 chase races, won 2 of them, but failed to stay 3-mile LTO. Add that he's a prominent runner, and I like horses "in the van" and we have the makings of a wager - he's 25/1 with Bet365.
DIDERO VALLIS, £5 eachway @ 25/1 (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4 with Bet365)

4:50 Mares Novices hurdle run over 2-mile & 179 yards
I'm not going to bother with this race.  Some races you just have to pass over and as we saw with Apple's Jade and Laurina in the Champion hurdle, mares do have off days.

5:30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap (amateur riders) run over 3m2f
I found the winner of this race last year so let's have another go.
It's amateur riders again and jockeyship (or lack of it) will pay a part, so ignore all the claiming jockeys. 
YOUNG MASTER (Sam Waley-Cohen) was 6th in this race last year, but this horse is aimed for Aintree's Grand National.  
ANY SECOND NOW (Derek O'Connor) just does not look good enough on form and will he stay?
LIVELOVELAUGH (Mr P Mullins) is another with doubtful stamina.
MEASUREOFMYDREAMS is the ride of JJ Codd who has won two races already this Festival but he will need all his skill to get this one home as the 11yo looks past it.
CAPTAIN CHAOS (Miss Gina Andrews) could be the answer, as his 2nd LTO to Lake View Lad looks strong form now. A prominent runner who stays the trip well. 
ITS ALL GUESWORK (Mr B O'Neill) looks the best of the Irish challenge but he has little recent chasing form.
TOUCH KICK (William Biddick) looks an interesting entry from Paul Nicholls as he won over 2m7f LTO on soft ground, but all of his wins are when going right-handed.  
For me, it has to be... 
CAPTAIN CHAOS @ 20/1 £5 eachway (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4 with Bet365)

I am also putting
TOP NOTCH @ 16/1
and CAPTAIN CHAOS @ 20/1  in 3 x £1 eachway doubles and a £2 eachway treble
Good luck