Welcome to the World of Horseracing

Record of the blog selections

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


There are NO affiliate links on this site to bookies from whom the author receives over 30% of the stakes from your lost wagers.ising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Saturday 12 December 2020

Saturday 12th December 2020

 I've been away for a few weeks as my laptop broke-down, and finding a replacement was difficult - one of the problems associated with Covid.  Anyway, enough of my 1st-world problems, onto the horseracing and a cracking day we have in store.

We are back at Cheltenham and before I move on, what a great win for MISTER FISHER yesterday - he really justified my opinion of him before he ran in the Paddy Power Chase over the C&D last month.  I reckon he was beaten by the ground that day, as were a lot in the field, and had he raced on better ground and put up the sort of performance we saw yesterday he'd have won the Paddy Power handicap off OR155.  

For today's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, I really cannot see Coole Cody repeating his win off a 6lb higher rating, and the one that takes my eye is CHAMPAGNE MYSTERY who could be well handicapped on OR139.  He does not have much experience and is chucked in the deep end here, but I cannot see Nicky Henderson doing this to give his owners a "jolly".

One of my wagers of the day is in the following race at 2:25pm, the 3-mile novices hurdle and it's ASHTOWN LAD.  He looks a major long-term prospect and his future is over fences, but he should be too strong for this field.  Unfortunately, there is no value in his odds and the best now available is 2/1 and I do not recommend wagers below 9/4.

At Doncaster, I'm really interested in the Gordon Elliott trained GLORIOUS ZOFF,  who was entered to run at Cheltenham today, but comes here instead.  Elliott's novice hurdlers are something else this season, and he will surely make full use of the 5lb he gets from the odds-on fav Monmiral here.  You can get 3/1 about Glorious Zoff in what essentially is a "match" race. 

With lots of decent racing you can take a view away from the major meetings, and at Hereford in the 12:47pm which is a 3m1f handicap chase the top-weight SANDY BOY will take all the beating. He ran a great debut chase 16 days ago, and there is possibly only one danger and that's Jabulani sent here by Sam Thomas.  Odds of 9/2 look great value to me.

My selections are:

SANDY BOY @ 9/2 - £10 win

GLORIOUS ZOFF @ 3/1 - £10 win

CHAMPAGNE MYSTERY - @ 16/1 £5 Eachway with Paddy Power - 6 places 

Thursday 12 November 2020

Friday 13th November 2020

Despite some questions on twitter, I stand by my selection  FANION D'ESTRUVAL  in the 2-mile handicap chase todat at 1:50pm at Cheltenham.  

I think the Venetia Williams' trained horse looks well-treated on OR150 as the last time we saw him, which was only his 2nd chase in this country, he started the 6/4 fav in a tough novice chase. I think that he could be (just could be) 160+ and racing off OR150 today he may be thrown-in.

Saturday's racing is an absolute belter of a day.  Not only do we have the "Paddy Power" handicap chase at Cheltenham, but we also have some great races at Uttoxeter and Wetherby, and if I get chance I will take a look at those before the day. Let's start with the feature race, and with 17-runners going to post it could take some working out which is the winner.  The fav is Saint Sonnet, trained by Paul Nicholls who - tho' having won this race a couple of times in the past - sends so many to contest it his stats are poor. Having watched him in run in the Marsh Novices Chase last March in the Festival, where he was well behind Mister Fisher, he's going to have to have improved some in the summer to justify being the fav. I reckon the Nicky Henderson trained MISTER FISHER is a much better proposition, as he definitely stayed the trip better that day and soft ground on Saturday will make this a true test. Colin Tizzard has a couple in the race, and both look worthy of being in the places: Slate House fell in this race when going well off OR147 and then won his next 2 races, he also stays 3-mile so wont be far away. And The Russian Doyen recently ran in a hurdle race where he did well and went into my notebook, he was 4th in the Novice Handicap Chase at the Festival in 2019 behind A Plus Tard. Running off OR141 that day he looks a handicap snip on OR138 as he went lame in his only other chase run since that festival 4th, and we know he's fit and well.

At the odds, I'm taking MISTER FISHER @ 11/2 with BetVictor and with William Hill offering 6-places at 5th odds a place, the 16/1 about THE RUSSIAN DOYEN looks a decent play.

Earlier on the card at 1:05pm there's a 3m1f handicap chase for amateur riders and top-weight KILFILUM CROSS could take some beating. Twice he's been 2nd in the "Kim Muir" handicap at the Festival and with rider Alex Edwards in the saddle he should get round safely.  The main danger will likely be Bermeo with likely only 9st 7lb to carry if jockey Angus Chelala can claim his 7lb in full. That will mean Kilfilum Cross is giving 34lb away to this horse, which will certainly tell after the final fence, but Bermeo is a slow old horse and he may find himself too far off the pace to catch up the leaders. 

I will take a look at the hurdle races on Saturday's Cheltenham card a bit later on. 

Wednesday 11 November 2020

Thursday 12th November

 We have some cracking racing this weekend with a return to Cheltenham, and a meeting that I very much like to attend - but this year, I will have to be content with watching on the tv.

I'm taking an early look to see if there's any antepost value in the markets, and the Class 2, Handicap Chase on Friday over 2-miles may be an opportunity, as I think the top-weight Magic Saint is going to struggle with 12st to carry in this field.  With On The Slopes, Beat The Judge and Ballywood all exposed LTO and needing to find improvement to win, and Born Survivor perhaps lacking speed over this trip (he's usually seen over 20f), and Azzuri and Full Glass looking outclassed (although Azzuri races for the first time since winning in April 2019 off a rating lower than the OR132 he won off that day); we are left with FANION D'ESTRUVAL and Eamon An Cnoic. Personally, I think the Venetia Williams' trained Fanion D'Estruval looks well-treated on OR150 as gthe last time we saw him, which was only his 2nd chase in this country, was when 5th behind eventual Arkle 4th Global Citizen and his stablemate Rouge Vif - and Fanion started the 6/4 fav that day, so we know who his stablelads thought was the better horse! As for Eamon An Cnoic, is no world-beater, but he's a horse that likes Cheltenham and is fairly consistent - and he's also had wind surgery, so could show improvement, but he does want it soft. At the odds, as I write FANION D'ESTRUVAL is 6/1 with Bet365 is a steal for a horse that could be (just could be) 160+ and racing off OR150.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

Wednesday 4th November

Another complete blank from the selections last Saturday, which was really disappointing.  I'm going to try and get a winner on the board this weekend, and I may leave the more competitive chase handicaps alone, and go for something a bit more modest.

 There is plenty of scope for a wager over the next few days, and Thursday's jumps meetings at Newbury and Market Rasen offer some opportunities.  At Market Rasen, the 3-mile (Listed) Mares' Chase should go to the fav CASABLANCA MIX. Nicky Henderson does well at this track and the likely only decent opposition will come from the 10yo My Old Gold, but Nicky Richards does not have a good record at this track in non-handicap chases. Henderson could well take the Mares' maiden hurdle with Ballingers Corner as he's well aware of the capability of the main danger Temple High as he trained it last season. Whether he can make it 3 wins from his 3 runners here with Captain Woodie in the Novice handicap chase is a bit more debateable. 

One horse I am going to have a wager on is at Newbury in the Beginners' Chase at 1:30pm over 2m6f, and that's ONE FOR THE TEAM.  Nick Williams has his horses running well, and he's only sent 2 chasers to Newbury in the past 5 seasons and 1 won. Actually, One For The Team won here over 3-mile in a hurdle race last February so likes the track. And he went well on his seasonal debut over an inadequate trip. The hot-fav is The Big Breakaway, but I'm not sure about Tizzards horse and he may need another season to show his best form.  

Friday 30 October 2020

Saturday 31st October 2020

Odds for selections as at 11am on Saturday morning:

BALLYOPTIC is 15/2; BLACK CORTON is 13/2; and WHOLESTONE is 6/1 - all with Bet365 - I'm on with an eachway "patent" 3x doubles and a treble

We had no luck last Saturday, and a weekday wager on Friday didn't come off either.  Sometimes the horses need a run under their belt before they come good,  and at such times you have to follow the stables in form and follow the winners.

Saturday 31st brings us the first of the seasons decent races with the Charlie Hall Chase (Grade 2) at Wetherby at 3:20pm.  There are 10 horses going to post, and the strong fav is the Paul Nicholls trained Cyrname, the highest rated chaser in training. It's a big field for this race, and that's almost certainly as just about everyone outside the Paul Nicholls stable reckons that Cyrname won't stay a yard beyond 2m6f given the way he ran in the 3-mile "King George" Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day 10 months ago.  Now, it's not totally clear-cut as the 2nd-fav Vinndication needs to find about 7lb of improvement to win as the winner should top 160+ in taking this race, and both his runs last season fell short of that level of effort. Ballyoptic won this race last year, and then ran to a higher level when last seen winning at Ascot over 3-mile.  Despite being 10yo, his is not a forloon hope and he wont be far away. To be honest, I think Sam Spinner has come to chasing too late to win this level of race, and Definitly Red is another who is past his best at 11yo. Nothing else in the race has any chance unless there is a multitude of fallers. At the odds, BALLYOPTIC looks fair value at 7/1 as we know he stays well, should run to the level of form required, and goes well fresh. But, be warned, you can never oppose Paul Nicholls lightly.

I think a better wager is in the 3-mile hurdle race at 2:45pm as I'm not convinced the mare Roksana is capable of staying 3-mile in this sort of race.  Lisnagar Oscar has only once run a poor race over 3-mile, but he's not worthy of a 160 rating in my book. As for Next Generation who knows how much ability he retains after 920-days away due to injury?  My money is on WHOLESTONE who was a top-class 3-mile hurdler till going chasing where he just wasn't good enough. He was 2nd in this race in 2017, and a repeat of that level of form should be good enough to win this. Again, nothing else in the race looks capable of winning a race of this level. I have already taken 10/1 on Friday morning about this horse and for me he should be the joint-fav at 3/1 with Lisnagar Oscar.

Possibly the best race of the day will be at Ascot, where a field of 14 go for the 3-mile Sodexo Chase.  I think there are a couple we can discount quickly and they are Might Bite and Blaklion - horses generally don't come back from injury. The 10yo Walk In The Mill may be worth OR150 at Aintree, but away from the National fences he's no better than 140.  Townshend may have won over C&D in January, but that was an amateur riders race, and he looks outclassed. Royal Encore had a cracking season last year, and was 2nd in this race, but this 12yo may have gone too much to the well. Django Django would be interesting if Jonjo O'Neill had booked another rider. I've nothing against Nick Schofield, but O'Neill hasn't given him a chase winner in 5 seasons. Surely, after 24 chase races, the 9yo Flying Angel is in the grip of the handicapper, and he's not won beyond 2m5f. Adrian Du Pont who I tipped in this race last year, is ridden by 5lb claimer Bryan Carver who isn't a bad lad but he will need to work hard to cajole this horse to win. For me, Militarian is going backwards and may find this race too tough. I'm not convinced about Whatmore, and I think his best trip is 2m4f anyway. Valtor has been done no favours by the handicapper, and while he won't be far away, I don't think he's good enough at 11yo.  Mister Malarkey is an odd one; when he puts it together he's a good handicap chaser as he proved when winning over 3-mile at Kempton in February beating Black Corton who he meets in this race on 2lb worse terms. The problem is, when he's not in the mood, you may as well burn your money, and we won't know that until he starts running. So this race, in my opinion, is between BLACK CORTON and the current fav Commanche Red. We all know about Black Corton, he will have no problem in this race off 11st 12lb, but can he concede 11lb to the fav? For me, Commanche Red did nothing last season to justify a rating of OR150 over 3-mile, and he's not proven to act at this trip either.  On form alone, the wager has to be BLACK CORTON.

All the best.

Friday 23 October 2020

Cheltenham 24th October 2020

 It has been a really interesting week, and I'm not just talking about the horseracing.

Those of you who know me will know that I have had involvement with racing syndicates for a number of years, starting off with the White Diamond Syndicate and a couple of their early horses, one of whom took me into the post-race enclosure for the first time at Plumpton - our little mare came 2nd.  Then I was with Middleham Park Racing and a gelding bought at the Horses-in-Training sale called Almuheet. This gelding did everything bar win, and then - when we thought winning wasn't on the cards - up he pops and wins well at 13/2.  It meant that when we sold him we recovered our investment, but I had hoped for a better ending.

Next on the cards was Cribbs Causeway who was introduced to me by Nick Bradley. and this filly took me to the very heights of racing, winning 5 times.  I endeavoured to replace her with another filly, Great Dame, again provided by Nick Bradley, and she managed a couple of wins including  the "Lily Agnes" Stakes at the Chester May meeting - what a day that was!  I've struggled to find a replacement for Great Dame as - living in Brighton - I do like to be able to include stable visits and take part in life outside the racecourse, and Great Dame was trained in Yorkshire. 

As such, last year I approached local National Hunt trainer Nick Gifford who trains on the South Downs at nearby Findon.  He didn't have a space on the Racing Club (20 members only) at the time, but offered me a share - the last one - in a mare he had that was just about to run in her debut bumper at Warwick, Rose Of Aghaboe.  I wasn't too sure, as the cost of the 5% share was more than I was expecting to make and thought I'd just wait and see how she got on.  Wrong move! She only went and won at 40/1 - that share was well and truly sold before she'd returned to the winners enclosure.  On Monday, Rose Of Aghaboe won again, only this time it was in the Josh Gifford Memorial Trophy race at Plumpton. In the past 12 months, she's strengthened-up and looks every inch a mare going places as she should with her dam being a half-sister to the Sussex National winner and winner of the Haydock Grand National Trial in 2013, Well Refreshed. And that came at the end of a fantastic few weeks for Nick Gifford, which started when Jungle Prose won at Warwick on 22nd September for the Nick Gifford Racing Club, which I was invited to join from 1st February this year.  Jungle Prose has run again since, over hurdles at Exeter, showing great promise; and our other "club" horse Mystic Dreamer ran well despite not enjoying the ground at Lingfield on Thursday.  Fingers crossed for their future.  Trainers like Nick Gifford are the life-blood of the industry, and if you can support them, please do. There is nothing quite like going racing, and the camaraderie on-course between owners is unbeatable - there's no such thing as a loser!

I've also been involved in a bit of pinhooking, but more of that on another blog in the future.

Cheltenham on Saturday see's racing return to the epicentre of National Hunt. It's early days to be having a "proper" punt on the horses over jumps, but it's always worth keeping your eye in. My bread & butter is staying chases, and the 3m1f chase handicap at 3:50pm looks a cracker. Old favourite Frodon, still only 8yo, heads the field with 11st 12lb giving away 17lb the the next horse in the handicap, West Approach who was 2nd in this race last year.  If West Approach could not win this off OR140 then I can't see him doing so off OR147.  As for Frodon, I'm sure he will have his supporters, but he earned his OR164 rating racing over 2m5f and not 3m1f.   Cogry, who was 3rd last year, also returns on a higher rating and I can't see the 11yo winning this.  Bob Mahler pulled-up in this race last year, and he may again need the run, and I think his target this season is the Grand National, he looks perfect for it.  Manofthemountain went into a lot of notebooks when he won LTO at Bangor, but the close 2nd and 3rd have both let that form down since, and for me there is a questionmark as to whether he was due another hike in the handicap to OR137. On Wednesday, I went through the form and came up with just the one horse who ticked all the boxes. He was 16/1 at the time, and I advised my close friends to take advantage of a chaser who has won at Cheltenham over 3m2f, has never fallen in 26 chase races, and while slipping from a rating of OR153 to OR140 he's still only 8yo.  COBRA DE MAI was 6th behind The Conditional in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Festival last March. In his 26 chase races, he's run over 3-mile (or further) just 7 times, and when rated below OR145 he's always been on the premises if not winning. He wsa given a pipe-opener at Fontwell over 2m5f and I think Dan Skelton has had this race in mind since March. He is the preferred ride of Harry Skelton, with Bridget Andrews taking the ride on Captain Chaos - who Harry Skelton rode last year!

I'm glad I took the 16/1 earlier this week on COBRA DE MAI, but I may have a forecast on the Skelton pair to finish 1st and 2nd as well.  Good luck.  

Saturday 10 October 2020

Chepstow 10th October 2020

What a cracking day ahead of us - not only good racing, but good weather.

We came close to taking the Arc de Triomphe with selection IN SWOOP last Sunday, and the colt came with a rattling run in the final quarter-mile.  Let's see if we can keep the ball rolling today.  However, if any readers of the blog are switched-on to dealing with the internet, there seems to be an issue with this blog in that I've had nearly 3000 hits on the last couple of blogs, and normally there's about 200-300.  There must be a search-engine (or something similar) which is bombarding this blog with hits - why?

Back to today's horseracing - and those on my select "inner-circle" were advised to take the 14/1 available earlier this week on GREAT WHITE SHARK who is now the fav for the Cesarewitch being run at Newmarket at 3:35pm. Fingers crossed for this one, but he looks a better horse than he was when running in the race last season (lost his jockey on the way to the start that day, and ran no sort of race), and he's down 3lb in the Official Handicap.  Must have a great chance.

My focus will be on Chepstow, unofficially the "start" of the jumps season proper.  I've had some good success at this meeting in the past (notably in 2015), and there's a couple of races of interest.  Being a member of the Nick Gifford Racing Club, I will be shouting support for Didtheyleaveyououto (DTLYO2) in the 2-mile handicap hurdle run at 14:12. There has been sustained support in the betting for this one, as Nick Gifford has his horses running well, and DTLYO2 has his perfect conditions today: he doesn't really have the stamina for 2m4f, and "good" ground brings out the best in him, and he's slipped to OR130.  

My main selection of the afternoon is in the 2m 7f & 131yds handicap chase at 2:47pm at Chepstow, and it's BOLDMERE. He's won both his completed starts over fences (just the 4 runs) and he should have won his last start as he had the race at his mercy when falling at the final fence.  I'm sure trainer Caroline Bailey will have him fit to win this (if he's good enough). I don't think the fav Secret Investor has shown himself to be good enough to justify his OR153 rating, and there's no value in his odds at all.    Potterman won LTO and has had 3 races since the resumption of racing, so he's race-fit but (again) I don't think he's good enough for his OR142 rating.   This 3-mile trip is an issue for Seddon, the risk is will he stay? No such issue about last years winner Ballyoptic, but does he retain his ability?  He will qualify for veterans races from 1st January, and while he ran a career-best LTO when winning at Ascot (almost certainly would have gone close in the Grand National), he's now rated 11lb higher than when he won this 12 months ago, and for me that is too big an ask for a horse who will probably be aimed at the Grand National this season. Nicky Henderson's horses can never be ignored, and Brave Eagle has won 4 of his 7 chase races too! But his inflated rating was b rutally exposed when well beaten in his last couple of top handicaps, and yes he was 3rd in this race in 2018 but that was off OR145 and he races off OR156 today.  He could well go close today, but if he does he will likely be rated 160+ and I can't see him as that level of horse.

Odds of 9/2 about BOLDMERE are very decent, as I think he'd be the 5/2 fav if Secret Investor wasn't in the race, and I think he should be the 3/1 fav for this.

In the 2m 3f & 98yds handicap chase at 4:32pm, I may well have a small wager on Spiritofthegames if he drifts in the betting to something like 9/2. This looks a tough race, but Spiritofthegames was left at the start at Cheltenham, and finished really strongly.  He was my selection that day, and I was hoping to recoup losses when he next ran - but then all racing was suspended!  If he runs to that form today, then he will be tough to beat.

My wager today is:  Chepstow 2:47pm BOLDMERE, £10 win @ 9/2 (Bet Victor)

and a £5 eachway double with BOLDMERE combined with DIDTHEYLEAVEYOUOUTO in the Chepstow 2:12 @ 5/1 (Bet Victor)

Saturday 3 October 2020

Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe - 4th October 2020

 This is a big weekend for horseracing.

The late news on Saturday that both of the O'Brien runners - MOGUL and SERPENTINE - had been withdrawn due to contaminated feed, dominated the the market. Personally, I don't think either of them was capable of winning today, but one (or both) could have been in the 1st-3 home.  The withdrawals  has certainly made the chance of ENABLE (attempting to win the race for the 3rd time) a fair bit easier, but the heavy ground still is the biggest obstacle. Enable should win, but it's not guaranteed, and I think the value is in the improving 3yo colt IN SWOOP who is unexposed but definitely worthy of his place in this field. 

At Longchamp in France, we have the culmination of the European flat racing season with the Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe run over 12-furlongs - the very best of the European stayers chasing the ultimate prize, with the winner collecting £1,450,000.  

There are 6 Group 1 races on the card:
1:15pm Grand Criterium for 2yo's run over 7-furlongs
1:50pm Prix Marcel Boussac for 2yo fillies run over 1 mile
3:05pm Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe run over 12-furlongs 
3:50pm Prix De L'Opera for fillies and mares run over 10-furlongs
4:25pm Prix De L'Abbeye run over 5-furlongs
4:55pm Prix De La Floret run over 7-furlongs

The feature race of the day has ENABLE attempting to win the race for the 3rd time, having been successful in 2017 and 2018, but coming 2nd last year.  To be fair, the heavy ground will not be in her favour, even though she won this race on soft ground in 2017, as she faltered in the closing stages run on very soft ground last year. As such, I don't expect jockey Dettori to hit the front on her with over 300 yards to run as he has done previously. 
Trainer John Gosden also sends champion "Cup" horse Stradivarius, but I think it is too big an ask to expect him to win this race run over a trip at least half-a-mile short of his preferred distance. 
Sottsass was 3rd in this race last year, and the previous year's race is usually a good guide, but his form this season does not provide confidence of a repeat.
I do not expect any of the other older horses to threaten the Gosden trained pair, so that discounts Japan, Persian King, Sovereign, Deidre, and Royal Julius.
It's the 3yo's who may give the favourite a race. Chachnak has not won beyond 10-furlongs, and he only just scrapped home LTO, so he will be an unlikely challenger. Gold Trip was last seen coming 3rd in the Grand Prix De Paris behind Mogul (1st) and In Swoop (2nd) and he's not bred to win a race like this. The filly Raabihah is bred to win a race like this, but her 2nd LTO did not inspire confidence and she will have to find about 15lb of improvement to win this race.  Derby winner Serpentine possibly needed the run when 4th in the Grand Prix De Paris LTO, and he could be interesting.  However, that trainer Aidan O'Brien also sends the winner of the Grand Prix De Paris Mogul for this race, suggests there's not much between the pair.  My opinion is that Mogul is the best of the O'Brien pair, and he won't be far away at the finish.. 
The final 3yo to consider is IN SWOOP who was having only his 4th race when chasing home Mogul LTO.  I thought he was given lot to do that day, and I'm hoping jockey Ronan Thomas does not have him too far behind with half-a-mile to run.  I will be honest here, I took 50/1 about In Swoop for this race (just a tiny wager, £2.50 ew) before he ran in the Grand Prix De Paris as his breeding suggested he could spring a surprise, and he very nearly did.  After he ran 2nd, I had a proper wager at 33/1.  Unfortunately, having drawn 1 isn't an advantage, as I expect he will likely be at the rear for the early part of the race, and I just hope his jockey tracks the more experienced riders of Dettori (Enable) and Moore (Mogul) and is perfectly placed about 4 or 5 lengths off the leader with half-a-mile to run.

 Of the other races on the card, I would love to see FEV ROVER take the Prix Marcel Boussac, but the fav Pretty Gorgeous looks very strong, although on this heavy ground there could be a few surprise results.  Certainly, Tiger Tanaka who won on heavy ground LTO could be worth an interest at 9/1 in that race. 

And in the Prix De L'Abbeye it is difficult to look beyond last year's winner GLASS SLIPPERS who looks in-form and a better filly than she was going into the race last year.

Let's hope history is made at Longchamp with ENABLE coming home the winner, but Dettori will need all his skill on this ground with his stablemate Stradivarius sure to make it a thorough test of stamina.

Tuesday 29 September 2020

What is the future of horseracing

It’s been a long, hot summer; and a very strange one too. 

The Cheltenham Festival last March feels like it happened in a dream, and it very nearly didn’t come off at all.  I was there for the Gold Cup, and the Ryanair Chase the day before, and (even if I knew then what I know now) I’d go again if I had the chance.

None of us will see many dual Gold Cup winners in our lifetime, and I’m lucky enough to have witnessed 5 now (Arkle, L’Escargot, Best Mate, Kauto Star and Al Boum Photo) over the past 55 years, but I’ve only been in-attendance to witness the feat with my own eyes with Al Boum Photo.

With horseracing closing-down in March after the Cheltenham Festival, we lost the festivals at Aintree and Punchestown and, as such, horses with championship aspirations have missed vital top-class races which are imperative in their education.

Going into the 2020-21 jumps season “proper”, there are a lot of questions to answer, not least how is horseracing going to finance itself with no spectators!  I’ve been saying for as many years as I’ve been writing this blog that horseracing is due a restructuring, and the current crisis is almost certain to accelerate that restructure.

What I’m hoping is that the “powers that be” are recognising this likelihood and are planning for it.

Having attended Warwick races last Tuesday (as an owner) I had 1st-hand experience of the situation on-course, and there was much to like. Given the vast amount of outdoor space available at a racecourse, I really cannot see why limited numbers of spectators can’t be safely accommodated – when I watched the races from the stands there were never more than 5 other people stood with me, and the 500 who attended on the Monday would have been easily accommodated safely. 

The one thing that probably will never return (without a vaccine for Covid) is on-course bookmaking.  As much as I hate to say it, that factor has died.

Right now, if I was in the BHA I would be negotiating with the Hong Kong Jockey Club about using their “tote” software and business model and looking to either purchase (or acquire a significant shareholding) of UK Tote Group Ltd; or set-up their own BHA “tote” as an income-stream for horseracing.

If the BHA are not thinking ahead, then I can see dire consequences coming, and coming fast. Chester racecourse has already declared that without spectators, they are not going to open for business in 2021.  We can expect many more tracks to come to that same conclusion very soon, especially the winter jumping tracks which – let’s be honest – are already operating on a shoe-string budget.  Without tracks you cannot race.  Adding more meetings to courses wont help the matter as the ground (especially in winter) won’t be able to cope.  The last thing we want to see is injuries to horses caused by running them on poor ground due to overuse.

Reduced prize-money is a double-whammy.  Last Tuesday, our club horse Jungle Prose won just £2,274 coming home in 1st in the bumper. After fees and commissions, what is left is barely enough to cover 3-weeks training bills – I sometimes think I’d be better-off owning a greyhound at nearby Hove.

This season, I will be writing my usual weekend blog, and probably a review of the weekends racing on a Monday; with the aim of putting together a portfolio of wagers for the Cheltenham Festival in March 2021.  It seems to have worked well over the past couple of seasons, and I can also hopefully spot the occasional winner on a Saturday afternoon. 

I’m also tinkering with the idea of posting a Saturday “tip-sheet” available by donation-only, and I’m trying to locate a payment portal with a link that I can attach to my twitter feed; any suggestions would be gratefully received (via twitter: @wayward_lad).

There’s a couple of meetings today, but there's nothing much to recommend.

Friday 29 May 2020

You are never to old to learn

Nobody can not be aware of the recent events which led to a close-down of horseracing in the UK and Europe.  Thankfully, for the industry, that close-down is coming to an end on Monday 1st June, when we have the first meeting of the new flat season run on the all-weather surface at Newcastle.
During the forced break, along with millions of others, I was required to work from home on "furlough" from 23rd March and managed to keep myself busy.
Then, on 8th April, I noticed something - horseracing was still operating in Hong Kong.
Having lived in the city for 7 years between 1990-97, and been a regular visitor to Happy Valley, as well as a very regular punter, I was more than interested in resuming an old relationship.
That first day was exploratory: I knew nothing of the horses, jockeys, form. A couple of small eachway wagers lost, but my enthusiasm was rekindled and I vowed to be back for the following Wednesday on 15th April. I chose the best race on the card that I had the best chance of finding the winner in - a Class 3 over 1200m - and I chose well, having an eachway wager on Island Shine at 8/1.
Since then, I've used the Hong Kong racing to review and reflect on my betting strategy.
I make no secret (via my twitter account) that I regularly revisit the Nick Mordin book "Winning Without Thinking" for inspiration and a confidence boost, and I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone who wants to place a regular wager on horseracing to read this book (with a highlighter and post-it notes).
There amongst the pages was advise that has really fine-tuned my gambling in recent weeks: nobody who seeks to gamble on horses with any degree of success does so unless they produce their own odds-line, and you cannot produce your own odds-line unless you produce your own ratings.
Producing ratings has been the backbone of blog since 2010.  Not everyone agrees with them, but that's the point - ratings are your OWN estimation of the form of the horses. If everyone had the same ratings, betting on horses would be a whole lot less profitable.
As soon as I became interested in Hong Kong's horseracing, I started producing ratings, and with just 2 meetings a week and every race televised, that was a simple operation.
Producing an odds-line was a bit more difficult.
For that I had to go back nearly 20 years to 2002, when I was a subscriber to a mail-only racing club called "Smartsig" (there was also an email forum, as this was before the days of the internet as it is now).  The raw data produced by Smartsig was groundbreaking stuff, and formed the basis of my odds-line calculations.
What I was striving to do was remove any unconscious-bias from my selections. I wanted to select horses based purely on race-form combined with the most likely circumstances that produced winners. I wasn't interested in gossip or hype, gallop reports, jockey opinion, or bookmakers publicity. So I produced a spreadsheet in 2002 that ran (luckily) in Excel which rated the horses in a race dependent on the data that I input, and that values attributed to that data.
Guess what?  It worked! Brilliantly in fact.
The first race I reviewed of the spreadsheet in its final form was a 3-mile chase at Folkstone, and the spreadsheet came up with a 12/1 chance in a field of 10 (trained by Paul Henderson). A tentative eachway wager came up trumps when the horse won easily.  Why didn't I continue? It was taking me nearly 2 hours to input the data per race, so I could only review one race a day.  My day-job (plus my complex personal life) was in the way, and the spreadsheet was saved to the hard-drive - until 13th May when I used it to prepare for the Happy Valley meeting that day.
I reviewed 4 races, and the spreadsheet came up with "best value" wagers on
Smart Leader - Won @ 9/4
Blastoise - 2nd @ 7/1 (beaten a neck)
Surrealism - Won @ 4/1 
Shamport - unplaced @ 11/2 (given poor ride, carried wide)
Since then, the spreadsheet has highlighted well-handicapped horses, that are fit, in-form and well-drawn, and available at value odds, and my profits have reflected that advantage.
I'm rethinking how I approach UK racing again, almost certainly reducing the number of races I look at and wager on, almost certainly produce ratings for more races than is required.
You are never too old to learn new tricks!

Saturday 14 March 2020

The 2020 Cheltenham Festival Blog performance

What a cracking final day of the Cheltenham Festival for the blog selections.
We went into the day with a £57.50 profit (typo y'day) on cumulative stakes of £141 - that's a 40% return on investment. Plenty of professional tipsters will be bragging about 25% ROI.
On the final day I advised wagers in just 3 races.
First-up was the Triumph Hurdles, and the jungle drums had been sounding out that GOSHEN was the best horse trainer Gary Moore had ever handled. I suggested a £5 win wager at 11/4 and a straight-forecast Goshen to beat Sir Psycho (the Paul Nicholls 2nd-string). If anyone watching the race thought Goshen would not win with half-a-mile to run, they must have been on the wacky-baccy.  coming to the final flight he was 15-lengths ahead - then disaster. Jumped a tad early, hit the hurdle but stood up, and then catapulted the jockey out of the saddle! The horse cantered on riderless for another 150 yards before the eventual winner caught him up. that's racing for you.
Next up the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
for me there was only one horse to wager on, and that was last years winner AL BOUM PHOTO. Talking to a horseracing sage before the event, we concluded that in Al Boum Photo we were getting 3/1 about a 6/4 chance - this was a Mullins trained Gold Cup winner going off at 3/1.
With that thought fresh in my mind I doubled my usual stake.
Was there ever any doubt?
The advised wager of £20 @ 100/30 was indeed very generous and another £66.65 into the profit.
I was full of confidence about the final selection of the day and of the week SHANTOU FLYER, as he had everything in his favour. The only danger I could see was the Mullins (as ever) trained Billaway who was tricky to rate. For the first 3-miles of the race, I thought Shantou Flyer was in the driving seat, but then Billaway started to make ground along with the 66/1 outsider It Came To Pass (last seen in January, pulling-up in a point-to-point at Kilfeacle in Ireland - I don't know where that is either - before that, he was 7th of 16 on Boxing Day at Down Royal when he was 23-lengths behind Billaway and carrying 2lb less). I can accept being beaten by the Mullins trained Billaway, but a 66/1 rank outsider? The only inkling of ability is that he's a half-brother to the Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere.

After a tremendous final day, and had Goshen jumped the final flight it could have been a much better result for the blog, we ended up with profit of £104.16 to recommended stakes of £186.00 - that is a return on investment of 56%.

I really hope you have enjoyed reading the blog, with my thoughts and reasons, and following me in on the wagers. It has been a great year. If you fancy buying me a pint for the pleasure, use the donate button and send me a few quid. All the best, and keep safe for next year.

Over the next few weeks I will make a full review of the results and give my thoughts for lessons learned.

Day 1 - Tuesday
Cash Back LOST (£10.00)
Mister Malarky LOST (£10.00)
Ballyandy LOST (£10.00)
Conerstone Lad LOST (£10.00)
Lord Du Mesnil LOST (£10.00) 
Carried Forward = £4.00 profit
Staked = £64.00

Day 2 - Wednesday
Copperhead LOST (£20.00)
EASYSLAND - WON - £35.00
Carried forward = £19.00 profit
Staked = £30.00 (cumulative = £94.00)

Day 3 - Thursday
Itchy Feet LOST (£10.00)
MIN - WON - £25.00
Frodon LOST (£2.00)
Spiritofthegames LOST (£10.00)
BOB MAHLER - 3rd (advised eachway) £13.00
Carried forward = £57.50
Staked = £47.00 (cumulative = £141.00)

Day 4 - Friday
Goshen LOST (£10.00)
AL BOUM PHOTO - WON - £66.66
Delta Work LOST (£5.00)
Shantou Flyer LOST (£10.00
Profit for the Week = £104.16
Cumulaive Stakes for the Festival = £186.00
Return on Investment = 56%

Friday 13 March 2020

Cheltenham Festival - Day 4 (Friday)

We went into the 3rd day of the Festival holding a £15 profit on £94 staked over 5 races.
Day 3 is probably the trickiest as it holds 3 handicaps, alongside 3 championship races and a mares hurdle. Unfortunately, the selection in the 1st race, Itchy Feet, fell. However we were back in the game with the 2nd race when my narrative suggested that TOUT ES PERMIS would give you a good run for your money, and he ran 3rd after looking a like a winner 2-out. The Ryanair Chase saw the blog in profit pn the day as I advised a £10 win wager on eventual winner MIN at 5/2 (£25 profit).
The Stayers Hurdle threw-up a shock winner, but again the narrative suggested a long-odds placed horse in BACARDYS at 33/1.
In the handicap chase, we just missed a payday when selection Spiritofthegames came 6th, just a nose behind the 5th horse. Keep an eye on this one next time he runs, as he was left at the start and rattled home in the final mile and should have in the 1st 4.
There was no mistake over what won the Mares Hurdle: selection CONCERTISTA romped home (£5 win advised) at 9/2; that's £22.50 profit.
Finally, the Kim Muir, and I thought I'd found a handicap blot with Bob Mahler. Had he kicked-on after jumping the 3rd-last and opened up a lead, he would not have been caught. He stayed-on strong from the final fence to take 3rd (£5 ew advised at 18/1 = £13 profit).
Into the final day with £75.50 profit on £141 staked.

To be honest, I thought earlier this week that we would be watching these races being run behind closed doors, but the course will be open for business.

1:30 Triumph Hurdle over 2-mile and 179 yards
The whisper in the industry is that Goshen is the best horse trainer Gary Moore has ever had, and when you see how he's won his 3 hurdle races to date, you can see why. Which all makes you wonder what the handicapper was smoking when he rewarded Solo with a rating of OR157 for his debut (and only UK) win in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton? That is 6lb higher than GOSHEN. Of the others, Allmankind was impressive when winning LTO on 27Dec, but that 77-day break is too long to come here off for me (ave 34 days, Zaynar in 2009 was 55 days). Aspire Tower fell LTO and the record of fallers LTO winning at Cheltenham is dire, can anyone name one? He's a talented horse, but maybe on another day. Paul Nicholls (who trains Solo) also has Sir Psycho in the race, and this horse has improved for every run and was also impressive LTO when winning on 15Feb. While Solo may be the stable star, it would not surprise me to see this one trouble Goshen most.
Suggested Wager:
GOSHEN: £5 win @ 11/4
and £5 Exacta (Forecast) 5 (Goshen) to beat 9 (Sir Psycho)

2:10 County (handicap) Hurdle over 2-mile and 179 yards
Of the last 12 winner, 8 went off at odds longer than 20/1.
Stick to horses which have NOT won over trips longer than 2m1f, and 5yo and 6yo horses have a good record. The LTO winner CHRISTOPHER WOOD trained by Paul Nicholls looks interesting. He wasn't far behind Pentland Hills in a G1 at Aintree last April and he had a wind-op since then. He could be a lot better than his OR145 rating, and he looks a bit of a dark horse in this, he's 33/1 with Ladbrokes, and I only put him up as a "fun" wager if you want to get involved.

2:50 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle over 3-mile
You would think that a championship hurdle race over 3-mile would be a decent betting race, but in the past 6 years the shortest SP for the winner has been 11/1 - last years winner Minella Indo went off at 50/1 and there was silence from the crowd! To be honest, I have not a clue about this race, and with 19 going to post, it would seem that the majority of trainers don't know either and that's why they are chancing their arm with an entry. The current 28/1 chance REDFORD ROAD has won over C&D which is (perhaps) useful information, and he seems to need a stamina test as he was one-paced when dropped to 2m4f NTO, but again I only put him up as a "fun" wager if you want to get involved.

3:30 Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase over 3-miles 2-furlongs & 70 yards
This is the big one of the day, and it looks an intriguing race.
Last year, I wrote that I was surprised Ruby Walsh wasn't riding AL BOUM PHOTO in what turned-out to be his final Cheltenham Gold Cup. There was a doubt back then over the stamina of Al Boum Photo, but the way he won the race last year he blew those doubts away. Personally, on my own ratings, nothing since has bettered that run, and Al Boum Photo could be one of the better Gold Cup winners of recent years.  I'm expecting him to win again, and put himself in the record books.
So what can beat him? Delta Work has improved immeasurably this season and they will get a better run out of him in this than they did in the RSA Chase last year, but there is also (in my opinion) a doubt over the jockey Mark Walsh, who rides the horse for the 1st time. I don't doubt his ability, but this will be a tough race to ride a horse for the 1st-time in.
I was at Cheltenham in January when Santini beat Bristol De Mai, and that day I didn't think we'd seen a Gold Cup winner. Bristol De Mai made a bad error 3-out and though he got back into the race, the effort told on the run-in. For me, Santini has to improve at least 7lb on that run to win this race.
Last year I was on Clan Des Obeaux, and he held every chance 2-out but he didn't stay the final 2-furlongs. He has since repeated his win in the King George at Kempton over 3-miles and that looks to be his best trip, and I would be looking for more than 12/1 to tempt me to placing an eachway wager on him to be placed as I just cannot see him winning.
Lostintranslation is interesting, when you look at his form in the autumn, but that he pulled-up LTO at Kempton and hasn't run since, plus his trainer Tizzard is having a terrible Festival (just 1 placed from 12 runners) you have to question his chance in this race.
Kemboy was a 1st-fence faller last year, then went on to win 2 x G1 chases including beating his stablemate Al Boum Photo at Punchestown. unfortunately, he's not looked the same horse so far this year, and will need to improve to win.  I'm also not happy that the amateur PW Mullins is riding as he's much better in hurdle races than as a jockey in chases.
Nothing else really has a chance in this, unless there are multiple fallers, and so I think this is between AL BOUM PHOTO @ 100/30, and Delta Work @ 5/1.
The odds are not great, I'm already on Al Boum Photo at 9/2 and Delta Work at 7/1 (see earlier blogs from this year).
Suggested Wager:
AL BOUM PHOTO: £20 WIN @ 100/30 (available generally)
DELTA WORK (saver bet): £5 WIN @ 5/1 (available generally)

4:10 Foxhunters Hunter Chase over 3-miles 2-furlongs & 70 yards
Last years 1st Hazel Hill and 2nd Shantou Flyer return, and this race is between that pair, the race fav Minella Rocco who was 2nd in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2017, and has looked a decent hunter-chaser this season, and the Irish challenger Billaway.
Minella Rocco has the beating of Hazel Hill from when they met on 1st Feb, and the Irish trained Billaway does not look good enough to me being only 8yo and rated only OR135.
So, can SHANTOU FLYER beat Minella Rocco? Absolutely!
He loves Cheltenham, he is still relatively young at 10yo (the same as Minella Rocco) but he's a much more professional horse, with no issues. Since being 2nd in this last year, he has switched stabled to Mrs Rose Loxton and lookes back to his best form - remember in March 2018, he was 2nd in the Ultima Handicap Chase on the opening day of the Festival running off OR152. Odds of 11/2 look good to me, and I'm rounding off my Festival with a win wager on him before heading off home to Brighton.
Suggested Wager:
SHANTOU FLYER: £10 win @ 11/2 (available generally)

Many thanks for reading the blog, it has been (again) a successful Festival for me. Whatever happens today I will be in profit for the week, and you cannot ask for more than that.  If you have enjoyed it, please send your thanks via twitter on @wayward_lad.
I've had to close the comments section on this blog to followers only due to repeated abuse, otherwise I would appreciate your response.
Aintree next!

Thursday 12 March 2020

Cheltenham Festival - Day 3 (Thursday)

What a start for the blog!
Okay, I didn't post a wager for the 1st race won by the odds-on ENVOI ALLEN, but I did write this "The unbeaten Grade 1 winner will prove difficult to beat, and it may pay to combine the fav with his stablemate Easywork, for a Gordon Elliott one-two" - the Exacta paid £9.60 to a £1 stake. It pays to read the blog!
Copperhead was disappointing, but not as disappointing as Defi Du Seuil.
In the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle, again I didn't post a wager, and again I provided a gem of advice; "If you want to have a wager, perhaps the Gordon Elliott trained BLACK TEARS might oblige as this mare ran a cracker at Leopardstown on the 2nd Feb, and then followed up with a good run in a Grade 2 hurdle. Could be under the radar." Black Tears ran 2nd @ 12/1.
Finally, the blog selection EASYSLAND ensured that we go into the 3rd day £15 up after he won well in the X-Country Chase - I did write that you might not find an easier 7/2 winner this week!

Onto today, and the 3rd day of the Cheltenham Festival is my favourite, because I am usually there (I will be today), and I've found some good winners over the years, especially in the handicaps.
The day opens with a really decent novice chase.

1:30 Marsh Novices Chase (Grade 1) over 2-mile & 4-furlongs
A really strong race, and one in which Graded race-winning form is important. Race-fav Itchy Feet ticks the boxes having won the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown LTO, and he was also 3rd in the Supreme Hurdle last year. If Faugheen wins there wont be a dry eye in the house. We will know more about his chance after watching Allaho in the RSA on Wed.
Melon was a top-class hurdler and could certainly be the best of these, but he flopped LTO and has yet to run over this trip as a chaser. For me ITCHY FEET should be the 7/4 fav and, as such,odds of 4/1 look mighty generous.
Suggested Wager:
ITCHY FEET: £10 win @ 4/1 (available generally)

2:10 Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle over 3-mile   
A front-runner that stays, that's the ideal horse for this race, and I can't see one that fits the bill. I'm tempted by Third Wind as trainer Hughie Morrison has done really well with a small string of hurdlers and bumpers, but this would be a step into the unknown stamina-wise for him. A horse that looks very interesting is TOUT ES PERMIS trained by Noel Meade who has sent only 3 horses over for the Festival, and this is the best of them. Rated OR155 as a chaser, he runs off OR136 in this hurdle and we know he stays 3-mile, travels well, and Meade has put a talented 7lb claimer on. I've been reminded that Meade has a poor Cheltenham record, but there is a lot to like about this horse, and there is plenty of 20/1 about this horse who could give you a good run for your money.

2:50 Ryanair Chase over 2-mile 4-furlongs & 127 yards
One of my favourite races.
There has been a huge gamble on A Plus Tard, who won  the Novice H'Cap Chase over 2m4f last year in a canter, so (on his day) he's a decent horse, but he will need to improve 7lb on that run to win this. I think he will meet his match in MIN who was unlucky to be up against Altior over 2-miles and steps up in trip. He's won Grade 1's over 2m4f at Aintree and Punchestown and he can win again here. Frodon ran the race of his life to win this last year, and he may have to do the same again this time - I'm not sure he will, but the horse that beats him will surely win. What's in the favour of Frodon is that he stays 3-mile at Cheltenham and he could just run this field ragged.
Riders Onthe Storm is the new kid on the block. When he won at Ascot LTO my immediate thought was that he'd follow up in this, but now I think he will need to find another 7lb of improvement to win. The others look outclassed at this trip and it will be a huge surprise if they are involved.
For me, A Plus Tard is a false fav, and the true fav should be MIN on 7/4 which makes MIN the value wager.  Frodon is the only runner that I can see beating MIN and so a saver wager on him is worthwhile as he's 5/1.
Suggested Wager:
MIN : £10 win @ 5/2 and FRODON : £2 win @ 5/1 (odds on both horses are generally available)

3:30 The Stayers Hurdle (Grade 1) over 3-mile
Paisley Park won this last year and there is nothing to suggest that he won't do it again, except that I think he will be pushed all the way by not one, but two horses - Summerville Boy, who chased him home in the Cleeve Hurdle over 3-mile in January; and Penhill, winner of this race in 2018. The thing is, will either of them be able to beat him? As the ground is soft/heavy which will favour PAISLEY PARK then likely not, and though this might suggest a forecast wager opportunity, I'm expecting Summerville Boy and Penhill to fade in the run-in and a solid 3-miler like Bacardys might well stay-on to take the runners-up spot.  Willie Mullins would not send this horse for this if he didn't think it had a chance of being placed, and while he runs Penhill thatmay be more on sentiment.

4:10 The BA & M Stable Plate Handicap Chase over 2-mile & 4-furlongs & 127 yards
As always, a tough handicap to fathom.
Simply The Bett is the fav as he won the C&D h'cap here on Trials Day in January beating Imperial Aura who won his handicap on Tuesday. Recent winning form is a good sign, and Oldgrangewood loves it round here, but he ran in this race as a 7yo off the same OR147 rating and was pulled-up. Another old favourite is Spiritofthegames who was 3rd in this off OR147 last year, he's now only 2lb higher, he must be in the frame. Another LTO winner is Springtown Lake who was 5th in a h'cap chase here (won by A Plus Tard) last year off OR141, he's a better horse now. the mare Happy Diva won here in November off OR142 and isn't out of it off 7lb higher.
A tricky race, and I keep coming back to SPIRITOFTHEGAMES who was unlucky to bump into a well-handicapped Cepage LTO who held-up that form on Tuesday in the 3m1f h'cap and while 2lb up in the handicap on last year, he's carrying 3lb less weight on his back.
Suggested Wager:
SPIRITOFTHEGAMES: £5 eachway @ 16/1 (available generally, 5th odd a place 1st-5)

4:50 Mares' Novice Hurdle over 2-mile 1-furlong
Not a race I usually look at, but the front-3 in the market look like providing the winner of this. The fav Minella Melody beat 3rd-fav Colreevy when they met on 25Jan, and though on a 1lb worse terms, it is difficult to see colreevy reversing the placings over this furlong-shorter trip. So that points the finger at CONCERTISTA trained by Willie Mullins (as is Colreevy). The form of her run when 3rd to Black Tears on 02Feb was confirmed when that horse ran 2nd in the Coral Cup h'cap off 8lb higher. It looks like Concertina is coming to her peak again for this race, as she was just beaten a short-head in this race in 2019. She can win this, and odds of 4/1 look fair.
Suggested Wager:
CONCERTISTA: £5 win @ 4/1

5:30 The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir h'cap Chase over 3-mile 2-furlongs
One of my favourite races and don't forget it is for amateur riders. Punters have no cottoned-on that only the best amateurs can win this, and the usual suspects are all on the market leaders: JJ Codd (Le Breuil), Derek O'Connor (Champagne Platinum), William Biddick (Deise Aba), PW Mullins (Fitzhenry).  I cannot see Le Breuil repeating his win in the NH Chase last year, in this. His form this year isn't close to what's required. Deise Aba won well LTO on 01Feb at Sandown, and looks to be on the upgrade, and a 7lb hike to OR142 may not stop this 7yo. The Irish-trained Fitzhenry has been knocking on the door of a h'cap win in Ireland all season, and looks most likely to be placed. This trip will test the stamina of Champagne Platinum, so odds of 4/1 look a bit tight. The partnership of Greatrex and McParlan teamed-up to win this with Missed Approach in 2018, and they have BOB MAHLER a LTO winner over 4m1f, so stamina is no issue, and Bob Mahler is treading the same path. He also won a 3-mile h'cap chase here last April so handles the course, he's a good jumper and should be there at the finish, he's 18/1 with Bet365 and Bet Victor.
Suggested Wager:
BOB MAHLER: £5 eachway @ 18/1 (5th odds a place 1st-5 with BetVictor)

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Cheltenham Festival - Day 2 (Wednesday)

Not a bad start to the Festival, but it could have been better.
Very disappointing from Cash Back, thought we'd get a run for our money, but no.  The form of the Arkle looks a bit "iffy", but then that's a bit of sour grapes as well - these things usually pan-out in the end and I'm sure the winning mare PUT THE KETTLE ON is as good as previous Arkle winners.
We hit the back of the net with THE CONDITIONAL in the Ultima Handicap Chase, who I advised early on Monday morning at 9/1.  My main fancy in the race, Mister Malarky, was well there until his stamina gave way. We emerged with a profit of £40 on the race to advised stakes of £24.
The Champion Hurdle went the way of the betting, with the fav EPATANTE winning well.  This Irish Graded hurdle form came to the fore, and showed-up just how poor the hurdlers are on this side of the Irish Sea.  Take note for the handicaps to come!
What can I say about LORD DU MESNIL? That rogue JJ Codd did it again, didn't he!  Coming down the hill I thought the good Lord had it won, but no.
Overall, we have ended the day even.

Onto Wednesday, and another quality racecard.

1:30 Ballymore Novices Hurdle over 2-mile & 5 furlongs
Given the way the Abacadabras ran in the Supreme Hurdle that opens the Festival, then ENVOI ALLEN looks nailed-on. The unbeaten Grade 1 winner will prove difficult to beat, and it may pay to combine the fav with his stablemate Easywork, for a Gordon Elliott one-two.

2:10 RSA Novices Chase over 3-mile
The winner of this race is usually a proper staying chaser, bred to do the job. That Minella Indo has won a Grade 1 hurdle is not a good pointer. Champ is also a Grade 1 hurdle winner, and apt to drop a leg, so he's not on my shortlist either.  Allaho has only had 7 races under rules (a bit short on overall experience) but he looks to have bags of natural talent. But the horse I like the look of is COPPERHEAD, who has improved with every run as a chaser, will have no trouble with the ground or the trip, and his latest win at Ascot was easily - in my opinion - the best run by a novice over 3-mile that we've seen this season, anywhere. After that Ascot race, I compared his time with that of Riders Onthe Storm who won the next race on the card over a 3-furlong shorter trip, and Copperhead was quicker over 2m5f than Riders Onthe Storm in his race. A tremendous performance and, if repeated in this race, he could win with a lot in hand.
Suggested Wager:
COPPERHEAD - £20 win @ 9/2 (available generally)

2:50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle over 2m5f
I'm giving this race a wide berth, it looks wide open.
If you want to have a wager, perhaps the Gordon Elliott trained BLACK TEARS might oblige as this mare ran a cracker at Leopardstown on the 2nd Feb, and then followed up with a good run in a Grade 2 hurdle. Could be under the radar.

3:30 Queen Mother Champion Chase over 2-miles
Much of the interest has gone with the late withdrawal of Altior, but it is still an intriguing duel between DEFI DU SEUIL and Chancun Pour Soi. On my ratings I can barely split them, and my leaning towards Defi Du Seuil is because he has won me so much money over the years.
There is no value in the betting, so no recommended wager.

4:10 Cross Country Chase over 3-mile and 6-furlongs
Not a race that I think should be run at the Festival, and this year is no different. However, this year we have a very good X-Country runner in EASYSLAND who has won over C&D, and his main rival - Tiger Roll - surely is being prepared for a date-with-destiny at Aintree rather than this race.
You might not find an easier 7/2 winner this week.
Suggested Wager:
EASYSLAND - £10 win @ 7/2 (Bet365)

4:50 Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle over 2-miles and 87 yards
Not a race for me, I will have a look overnight, but likely to give this a miss.

5:30 Champion Bumper over 2-miles and 87 yards
This is a race for those "in-the-know". Not much form to go on, and what there is, is tricky to interpret.  I've heard a whisper for the David Pipe trained mare, PANIC ATTACK but, honestly, this is a race for the purist.

Monday 9 March 2020

Cheltenham Festival - Day 1 (Tuesday)

This is it, the big one, what we've been waiting for.
First-up a bit of advice - you cannot hope to find the winner of every race, so don't even try. Pick your targets, and if you must have a wager in a race you haven't studied, make it a small one, and maybe just have a fiver in the place-only market on the exchanges or with the Tote.
Remember, over 50% of all the Festival races are won by a last-time-out winner (LTO), finding the winners can be that simple!

I've posted several blogs over the past week with my thoughts on the Festival, and some more detailed analysis, so I'm not going to repeat it, but take a look at the earlier blogs by scrolling down the page.

1:30 Supreme Novices Hurdle (2-miles & 87 yards)
Stick with LTO winners, and the market leaders. You do not get surprises in this race.  I have really liked the Mullins runner ASTERION FORLONGE for a few weeks since he won well on 2nd Feb. He could well be the best of these, but do not ignore the Gordon Elliott runner Abacadabras who is likely to improve a lot on his last run. Of the English horses, Fiddlerontheroof is likely to be best. All these 3 horses have already won a G1 hurdle, and graded form is the best line to follow. It may be worth combining the 3 in 6 x £2 straight forecasts.

2:10 Arkle (novice chase) over 2-miles
For me, there are only two horses in the race: Notebook and CASH BACK.
Brewin'upastorm has been off the track too long (117 days) and the mare Fakir D'oudairies meets the colts without a mares allowance for the first time. My preference is for CASH BACK as I think this 8yo could be something special, he will lead from the off and this track does suit a front-runner. Both these horses know how to jump at speed, and fingers crossed we are going to be in for a classic.
I'm on CASH BACK already, and I cannot believe that odds of 7/1 are available, even Notebook is available for 100/30. I'd have this pair 2/1 joint-favs.
Suggested Wager: CASH BACK £10 win @ 7/1 (available generally)

2:50 Ultima Handicap Chase over 3-miles & 1 furlong
I reviewed this race on Sunday (posted the blog early Monday morning) and my selections are:
Take a look at yesterday's blog for how the stakes are split, £24 wagered.

3:30 The Champion Hurdle over 2-miles & 87 yards
This race looks absolutely wide open. I would not even bother having a punt on any of those under 10/1, and this could well go to a long odds winner.  There are a couple that look a bit too long in the market: BALLYANDY @ 18/1 (available generally) and CORNERSTONE LAD @ 28/1 (available generally).
Both these horses held the current 2nd-fav Pentlands Hills when they met at Haydock on 18th Jan. On that form they should both be trading at under 10/1. Ballyandy "loves" Cheltenham: was 3rd in the County Hurdle last year, 4th in the Supreme Hurdle in 2017, and won the Champion Bumper in 2016.  Cornerstone Lad has never been out of the 1st-3 since going hurdling, that's 14 races!
Suggested Wager:
BALLYANDY £5 eachway @ 18/1 and
CORNERSTONE LAD £5 eachway @ 28/1
5th odds a place 1,2,3,4

4:10 the Mares' Hurdle over 2-mile 4-furlongs
This should be dominated by the front-3 in the market and as likely winner BENIE DES DIEUX is at odd-on there is no point in having a wager.

4:50 Novices handicap chase over 2-mile 4-furlongs
A very tricky race to fathom, and one that I have not studied.

5:30 National Hunt Chase over 3-mile 6-furlongs
One of my favourite races of the Festival, remember this is for amateur riders. Only the best riders win this: JJ Codd, Sam Waley-Cohen, Derek O'Connor.
This race invariably goes to the highest-rated horse in the race, it is as simple as that. This year that is LORD DU MESNIL on OR153, the race fav is Carefully Selected on OR152 but he's not as experienced as Lord Du Mesnil, and this is a race in which the younger horse can go well.
As soon as I saw Sam Waley-Cohen had been booked for Lord Dun Mesnil, he was included in my multiple wagers.
Suggested Wager: LORD DU MESNIL £10 win @ 6/1 (Bet365, PaddyPower, Betfred)

All the best.

Cheltenham Tuesday - the Ultima Handicap Chase

Last year, I managed to find the winner of this race - Beware The Bear - on Sunday, when his odds were 20/1. This morning, the 48hrs declarations came out for the opening day of the Festival, and with this information in mind, I am taking an in-depth look at the Ultima Handicap Chase over 3m1f to be run on Tuesday.
One of the best handicap chases of the season, we will have 24 runners going to post - so we have to sort out the possibles from the impossibles. I will look at this the same as last year.
Since 2001, of the 18 winners, 9 have been "last-time-out" (LTO) winners.
The "mean" number of days since that previous race for winners of this handicap is 30 days - so it is very important that your selection has had a recent run, and a good one at that. Beware The Bear ran 70-days before winning this, and only Wichita Lineman (94 days in 2009) and Joe's Edge (114 days in 2007) won off a longer break.
Horses aged 9yo or older can win this race, but it is more likely the winner will be aged 7yo & 8yo.
I avoid horses which last ran before Christmas Day this season, as it is very difficult to win top competitive races at the Festival off such a long break - not impossible, but very difficult; which rules out Vinndication (129 days); Brave Eagle (101 days); Atlanta Ablaze (94 days); Soupy Soups (122 days).
Horses with more than 15 chase runs are probably too exposed to win a handicap as competitive as this, so that rules out Cepage (17 runs); Vintage Clouds (23 runs); Cogry (33 runs); Townsend (17 runs); and Cobra De Mai (24 runs).
Those horse's that remain, let's look at in some detail:-
Mister Malarkey - ticks a lot of boxes, LTO winner, ran 17-days ago, won a 3-miles, wears cheekpieces (7 of the last 8 winners have worn some form of headgear), prominent runner. On the shortlist.
Kildisart - not won since beating Mister Malarkey at Aintree and looks out-of-form.
Discorama - hasn't won a 3-mile chase and looks one paced. Likely to fill the places.
Who Dares Wins - hasn't raced beyond 2m4f , let alone won, an unlikely winner.
Activial - 6th last year off OR151, so off OR145 will be thereabouts if in the same form - but he's not.
Mulcahys Hill - has won over 3-mile, but it wasn't a strong race, and he was easily beaten LTO.
Burbank - another who ticks the boxes, his win at Newbury in December over 2m6f was decent, but he struggled at Doncaster next time out. Wears blinkers, potential stamina doubt.
Big River - 4th in this last year off OR140, so interesting off OR141 especially having won LTO. But he was mainly passing beaten horses last year, and at 10yo he's not a likely winner.
The Conditional - 5th in the 2-mile Arkle last year (well beaten) he's looked a better horse over 3-miles, but his improvement has stagnated. Wears 1st-time pieces, and that may result in a repeat of Ladbroke Trophy run. On the shortlist.
Elwood - I was disappointed that Gordon Elliott did not keep Shattered Love in this handicap, so that he's only this 6yo running is interesting, except that the form of the horse is ordinary and he makes a lot of mistakes.
Quarenta - if he'd won the Class 2 handicap at Kempton on the 27th Dec (btn a head) he'd be about 3lb heavier. He's proven at the trip, on the ground and is on the upgrade, and Jonjo O'Neill knows how to prepare one. On the shortlist
No Comment - fell LTO (not a good sign), and could not win the Kim Muir off OR138 last year, so I'm not sure he's well handicapped on OR137, but could be placed.
Vivas - not won beyond 2m5f, and attempts at 3-mile have been poor.
Ice Cool Champs - won at Wetherby in Jan off a break of 323 days, but only beat 4 others, and flopped NTO in Feb, so maybe he's had his day this season.
The shortlist is:
MISTER MALARKEY - For me, this horse should be the fav, and that he's 12/1 is tremendous value as he was seriously considered a potential RSA horse last season.
THE CONDITIONAL - probably most likely to be placed than win, but 9/1 is fair.
QUARENTA - very interesting this one, as trainer's son rides Mister Malarkey.
I'm aware that my simplistic trend-sorter has dismissed the favourite Vinndication, but I really cannot have a horse that is both top-weight and returning from a break of 129 days.

My suggested wager is
£4 eachway & £2 win @ 12/1 (available generally, 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5)
£5 eachway @ 9/1 (William Hill, 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5)
£2 eachway @ 25/1 (available generally, 5th odds a place 1,2,3,4,5)
PLUS: 6 x £1 straight-forecasts combining the above 3 to be 1st and 2nd
A small stake, but potentially high return (if I'm right)

At this time, I also like to fall-back on a couple of renowned shrewdies who take an alternative view to my own (which is purely form-based):
they are Marten Julian - who has his contacts up & down the country and here's the whispers that many of us learn AFTER the race has been won, and
The Mathematician - who has long-delved into the statistics of horseracing, but sorts the wheat from the chaff, and finds nuggets of pure gold, he is currently offering a Cheltenham Festival Deal  which includes Aintree and is well-worth taking advantage of.

Good luck.

Friday 6 March 2020

Cheltenham Festival 2020 - Early thoughts

Early thoughts? The Festival starts next Tuesday.
But is has been a strange jumps season, I feel like very little has happened and it has sneaked-up on us. I keep hearing the phrase "I've not had an antepost wager this year" - so it's not just me then!

I've been looking at the championship races, as there is very little point in looking at the handicaps unless you have some very good knowledge, and here are a few pointers.

Day 1 - Tuesday
Supreme Novice Hurdle - this isn't a betting race for me, but the form on the ground looks pretty sparce, which could indicate a long-odds winner, or it could indicate that the best of the novices is a lot better than the others.  For me, and I said this on twitter a few weeks ago, ASTERION FORLONGE has the best form in the book. Throw-in he's trained by Mullins and we could be looking at a decent start to the Festival. But do not go overboard!

Day 1 - Tuesday
Arkle - on the formbook this is between Notebook and CASH BACK. There is a possibility that Brewin'upastorm could figure, but he's not raced since November and that is not a good sign. For me, CASH BACK at 13/2 (today) could be one of the bets of the Festival. He is very lightly raced for an 8yo, and looked a decent hurdler in his short spell over hurdles.

Day 1 - Tuesday
Ultima Handicap - several catch my eye: Mister Malarkey ticks a lot of boxes; ROCK THE KASBAH does too; and if he gets in The Conditional.

Day 1 - Tuesday
NH Chase - this race invariably goes to the best form-horse in the race, the top-rated. At the moment that is LORD DU MESNIL on OR153, add that he's ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen in this amateur riders race, and so long as the sun doesn't shine too much and we have soft ground on the opening day, this one looks like being hard to catch, odds of 8/1 look long.

Day 2 - Wednesday
RSA Chase - this revolves around Champ, if he jumps well, he wins. But will he jump well? Odds of 3/1 look fair to me on that score, but you may want a saver on the "next-best", COPPERHEAD who looked a very good novice chaser when winning over 3-mile at Ascot LTO. Odds of 4/1 could look decent on the day, but he's sure to be in the 1st-3 for eachway multiples.

Day 2 - Wednesday
QMCC - You are either a fan of Altior, or you aren't. He will need to be at his best to win this, and will he be at 10yo? For me it is between DEFI DU SEUIL and Chancun Pour Soi, and a reverse forecast on that pair may be a money-spinner.

Day 2 - Wednesday
X-Country Chase - not a race I usually wager in, but the prime target for Tiger Roll is a 3rd Grand National, and that means EASYLAND should romp home in this.

Day 3 - Thursday
Ryanair - a race that could cut-up a lot, but one I think has improved in leaps and bounds this season is RIDERS ONTHE STORM, he could be seriously good, and if Cepage runs well on the opening day in the Ultima Handicap, you will not find 7/1 on the day.

Day 4 - Friday
Gold Cup - I've looked at this race a lot. Nothing has come close to the form of AL BOUM PHOTO when he won this last year, and he won it in a canter. It will have to be one of last years' novice chasers that beats him (if one can) and that's Santini, Lostintranslation, or Delta Work. Personally, I think DELTA WORK would have won the RSA Chase last year had he pushed-on after the 3rd-last.
So it is between those two.

At this time, I also like to fall-back on a couple of renowned shrewdies who take an alternative view to my own (which is purely form-based):
they are Marten Julian - who has his contacts up & down the country and here's the whispers that many of us learn AFTER the race has been won, and
The Mathematician - who has long-delved into the statistics of horseracing, but sorts the wheat from the chaff, and finds nuggets of pure gold, he is currently offering a Cheltenham Festival Deal  which includes Aintree and is well-worth taking advantage of.

Good luck, more on the handicaps later.

Saturday 8 February 2020

Newbury showdown

We have a great day of racing at Newbury this afternoon, with ALTIOR and NATIVE RIVER both endeavouring to show their potential as Festival winners.  They've been there before, and landed the spoils - can they do it again?
ALTIOR is the one that troubles me the most. Let's be honest, if you looked at his run at at Ascot over 2m5f in November, it was lacklustre.  The pace was not scintillating and the winner Cyrname looked like he had a good 7lb up his sleeve. Personally, I thought Altior was well below the performance he ran when winning the QMCC last March, and I think he's going to have to run in the high 160's to win this race today, and he's not done that for nearly 2 years.
Who could beat him?
Kalashnikov would go close if the race was over further, but not today perhaps.
Sceau Royal perhaps if he's at his best and he may well be.
It will be an interesting race.
For NATIVE RIVER, today's run will likely be a formality. He looked back to his best LTO, and if he is then he cannot be opposed today.

Monday 3 February 2020

Is Delta Work the real-deal?

On Sunday, DELTA WORK powered through the yielding ground, and stayed on strongest of all (from off the pace) to put the 9yo Presenting Percy firmly in his place, and made sure that the 8yo Kemboy knew he had been in a race. It was a performance that puts him firmly in the picture for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, and is amongst the best we've seen over 3-miles this season.
Watching the race unfold, you cannot expect either Presenting Percy or Kemboy to reverse the places with Delta Work over the 3m2f Gold Cup trip, as stamina is something Delta Work does not lack.
So far, we've seen some great performances from Lostintranslation, Clan Des Obeaux, Santini, Native River and now Delta Work - and I cannot split them.
From those 5, it would seem that we can discount Clan Des Obeaux from the Gold Cup picture as he went into the race in tip-top form last season, he held every chance 2-out, but he found nothing in the final quarter-mile suggesting that the Gold Cup trip is slightly beyond him.
The old boy Native River finished in front of Clan Des Obeaux, passing him on the run-in. When he won the Gold Cup in 2018, Native River ran to a higher level (in my opinion) than Al Boum Photo did (when winning the Gold Cup) and it could be that he was still feeling the "burn" of that winning performance. However, when Native River won at Aintree in December (absolutely running the OR163 rated Black Corton ragged in the process) he looked at lot like his old self, and we could see a bold effort from the 10yo come March.  Native River is certainly capable of finishing in the 1st-3 in the Gold Cup and, in some respects, connections may be tempted to give the "Denman" chase on Saturday a miss and take him fresh to the Festival. 
Two other good 2nd-season chasers are Lostintranslation and Santini, and the former ran a stinker at Kempton in the "King George"(won by Clan Des Obeaux). However, before that he beat Bristol De Mai over his favourite C&D to win the Betfair Chase and a repeat of that form would see him thereabouts, but he does not have great speed figures and 7 of the last 10 CGC's have required a Speed Rating of 160+ to win, and Lostintranslation has not recorded better than 143.
Santini has a similar profile to Lostintranslation, but having had only 5 chase races to date, he could well have more improvement to come. However, I know he beat Bristol De Mai in January at Cheltenham but he looked a beaten horse 2-out.  Bristol De Mai looked very strong that day but (unfortunately) made a very bad error when jumping 3-out which cost him a lot of momentum. It took a supreme effort to get back in front from there - but he did - and that likely cost him the race.
I'm also a bit worried about the trip for Santini, as he failed to stay up the hill when 3rd in the Albert Bartlett (3-mile) Hurdle as a novice (for which he was 11/4 fav), and he failed to stay up the hill when 2nd to Topofthegame (having led over the final fence) in the 3-mile RSA Chase last March.
Yes, Delta Work was in 3rd that day, but he was tanking along in front coming to 2-out looking very much in control and it could be that the sharp bend before the 2nd-last fence caused him to have a 2nd-look at that fence which cost him momentum and the race.  He has since won 3 x Grade 1 chases over 3-mile, so his class is now not in any doubt.
So from this seasons performances I am siding with DELTA WORK, but is he good enough to beat AL BOUM PHOTO?
You have to go back to Imperial Commander in 2010 to find a Gold Cup winning performance with a speed rating better than ABP's 177 - and Imperial Commander was being chased home by Denman, who had recorded a Speed Rating of 178 when winning the Gold Cup in 2008. Those were heady days for staying chasers, and when you watch Al Boum Photo put the opposition in their place in the final quarter-mile of last seasons Gold Cup, you have to wonder is he better than we thought at the time?

Sunday 2 February 2020

One for the Notebook

Yesterday at Leopardstown we could have seen the most likely winner of the "Arkle" to be run at Cheltenham on 10th March. Notebook was ridden with a lot of confidence behind a forceful ride on the eventual runner-up Cash Back.  To me, it looked a tough race as this pair slugged it out over the final half-mile, and so it may not have been a surprise to see the 25/1 Gallant John Joe staying-on after the final fence to finish just over 7-lengths behind the winner.
Notebook is now a best-priced 3/1 for the Arkle, but to be fair you have to ask if Cash Back is capable of reversing that form at Cheltenham and, given that this was the first serious test for Cash Back, it's is likely that he can only improve on that. So, will Cash Back go for the Arkle or the "Marsh" Novices Chase over 2m4f (won last season by Defi Du Seuil)?
It was disappointing not to see Fakir D'oudairies not line-up yesterday, but I'm not sure that he would be able to reverse the placings with Notebook after being beaten by him when they last met. I get the feeling that connections may try a step-up to 2m4f with him at Cheltenham and go for the "Marsh" instead (for which he is a best-priced 9/1).
Nothing other than this pair (Notebook and Cash Back) looks capable of winning the Arkle at the moment, and I'm having a punt at 7/1 on CASH BACK to be the main challenge from Willie Mullins for this.
Mullins also had a helluva result in the earlier race Dublin Chase over the same C&D, which he dominated with Min and Chancun Pour Soi.  This race looked top-class, especially as the time was 3.60sec faster than the novice chase won by Notebook (carrying the same weight).  The winning margin of nearly 4-lengths was decisive, and Min in 2nd is no slouch, so in my opinion this was the best "two-mile" chase we've seen this season. On the back of this CHANCUN POUR SOI should be the fav for the QMCC, which is a bit galling for me as I thought we had already seen the most likely winner in Defi Du Seuil.
Prior to winning on Saturday, Chancun Pour Soi had run 2nd to A PLUS TARD again over this C&D and now we have to regard this winning performance in a better light.  Combine that form with the emphatic 16-length win (as the 5/1 fav) in the Novices' handicap chase over 2m4f on the opening day of last years Cheltenham Festival, and we are looking at a serious candidate for the Ryanair Chase. Now I realise that he is already 5/1 for the Ryanair, but trainer de Bromhead knows what he's doing, and to be honest I do not think that Min (the 4/1 fav for the Ryanair) is as good over 2m4f as he is over a shorter trip. Without a doubt, Frodon (who won the race last year) showed he was as good as ever when winning at Kempton last month over 2m4f, and he will undoubtedly start as the fav on the day given the crowd will absolutely love him. One horse who I think is flying under the radar in this is KALASHNIKOV who ran a cracker to be 2nd behind Oldgrangewood at Newbury (and that horse went up 7lb and won again at Cheltenham NTO), and a repeat of that performance in the Ryanair will put him in the frame for this, as the form of the "Supreme" novices' hurdle in which he was 2nd in 2018 is now looking to be right up to the usual standard.  Kalashnikov is 16/1 and I'm sure he will line-up in the race in March and (should he do that) he will be trading at under 8/1.

Friday 24 January 2020

Cheltenham Trials Day 25th January

One of my favourite days of the year, and I will be getting up before 6am to meet a good friend for breakfast before we both head-off for Cheltenham.  It should be a cracker, though I am disappointed that DELTA WORK is not making the trip over.
I've not written a blog recently (due to the pressure of my day job) and this is being written mainly as a guide for myself tomorrow. I should also be able to look at the Skybet Chase at Doncaster as that is also a cracking meeting.
The ground is SOFT and it is likely to be on the testing side, especially at the end of the afternoon.
If anyone wants to say hello at the races, please do as I'm always up for a chat.
The opening race of the meeting is the 2m1f Triumph Hurdle Trial at 12:40pm. Unfortunately, only 6 horses go to post, and there is no way I could support a debut hurdler  - even one trained by Nicky Henderson - to go off at "evens" for this. Rowland Ward looks a plodder to me, and may not enjoy a slog in the mud. Galahad Quest had a tough race 18-days ago and is Nick Williams only runner here but his form does not inspire. The one I like the look of is GEROLAMO CARDANO who won very easily on heavy ground at Hereford and looks a lot better than the OR115 rated runner-up. If he's OR130+ then he could take a lot of beating and the 6/1 available looks juicy.

The 2nd race on the card is one for the notebook - these are the best novice handicappers in training this season. A decent field of 12 are headed by the 5/2 fav Imperial Aura who was easily swept aside by PYM here in December, and he will need to improve on that to win this. When I looked at the form for this race earlier in the week, I was impressed with Champagne Court who is unbeaten in 2-chase races and he looks a lot better than his OR143 rating. The ground and trip will not be a problem and he was 4th in a handicap hurdle here at the Festival last March. Cloudy Glen needs to hold his jumping together and if he can he is on a decent rating. Ben Pauling provided last years winner, and he send Gowiththeflow who was unlucky to meet a well-handicapped one at Sandown LTO. He beat Paisley Park when they were both novice hurdlers, so he has a lot of potential and must be ahead of the handicapper. Mercy Mercy Me is enjoying chasing more than hurdles and this Paul Nicholls trained 8yo will win races but this race could be too high-class for him and his stamina will be stressed.  The handicapper may have Simply The Betts on OR140, and On The Slopes does not look good enough. With 7 of the last 10 winners starting at odds of 8/1 or less, it pays to focus on the head of the market, and I'm drawn to Champagne Court and GOWITHTHEFLOW,  however the latter was the better hurdler and carries 10lb less than his rival in this. Odds of 7/1 look good value.

The handicap chase over 2m4f at 1:50pm looks very competitive, even with only 10 runners. I'm not surprised that Highway One O One is the early fav at 5/1 as he was 2nd in the novice handicap over C&D on this day last year. If he repeats last years form, and there's no reason he wont unless the ground is a bit too soft for him, then he will go close. I think the 6yo My Way will find this race a bit tough and I've not been impressed with him in his recent races.  My money was on Spiritofthegames in the novice handicap last year, and he was just beaten into 3rd by Highway 101. He is on 1lb worse terms than last year, but I think he's the better horse this season and so long as he's not coming from too far off the pace he could snatch it on the run-in. Warthog is now in the handicappers grip unless he can find another 5lb of improvement.  Lalor could be the one, as his excellent performance LTO on his first attempt at a trip beyond 2m1f and I can see him being pushed harder this time, as his jumping looked very slick. All the others look out of it. For me, LALOR looks the one with the most potential to beat his handicap mark and he will be prominent throughout the race (alongside Warthog).  Odds of 6/1 are not great though in this very competitive race.

The Cotswold Chase looks interesting, but would be a much better race if Delta Work had turned up.
Honest, I cannot have a penny on Santini at 7/4. For me he is yet to prove he is a 160+ chaser. Black Op has never looked like being a 3-mile chaser, so beating him at level weights is no recommendation for the novice Slate House.  I do like Top Ville Ben and his win in the Rowland Meyrick on Boxing Day looked decent, but most of the opposition have seen better days and Wetherby is his home track. Can he not just repeat, but better that performance here?  De Rasher Counter is not up to this, and Mr Whitaker has to prove his stamina. That leaves BRISTOL DE MAI and come 2:40pm tomorrow we could all be wondering why this proven chaser was allowed to go off at 9/4 with the opposition having so many holes in it. Even if he just repeats his performance when 3rd in this race in 2018 he would go close, but remember he was 3rd in the Gold Cup here last March! Anything close to that level of form will see him win fairly easily.

I'm taking a look at the Doncaster card now, and in the Skybet Chase it could be worth considering Nicky Henderson's runners. Not OK Corral - unless Derek O'Connor can work a miracle on him - but BURBANK. Yes, he is a novice chaser and yes he went up 11lb after winning LTO to OR145, but he was 5th in the 2018 Coral Cup handicap hurdle at the Festival off OR143 and he is clearly a better chaser than a hurdler. Also Henderson does not come to Doncaster unless he means business: 21 wins from 76 runners in 5 seasons, and 30 of those that didn't win came either 2nd or 3rd. Odds of 9/1 look generous about this prominent racer who we know is in top form.

All the best and look out for me on TV - I will be wearing my flat cap!