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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