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


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Monday 15 January 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - general update

Some interesting results in the past week, and an update on the official entries for a slew of races at the Festival. First up, the results.
Banbridge beat a strong field to win the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase over 2m4f & 110 yds with the consistent Pic D'orhy in 2nd. Given this was the 1st run from Banbridge since winning at Aintree over a similar trip, it's possible that there's some improvement to come from the 8yo who has only had 6 chase runs (winning 4). He's entered for the Ryanair Chase at the Festival and so long as the ground isn't too soft (he was withdrawn from the "Turners" Novice Chase won by Stage Star last March, due to soft ground), he has to have a good chance.  However, in my opinion, Stage Star still holds all the aces: he loves Cheltenham, excels at the 2m4f trip, and has the best form at this stage. 
Sunday, saw the potentially talented Blood Destiny come-up against some equally talented peers and falter. Personally, I thought he was outstayed and the Arkle (run over 2-mile) will likely remain his target for the time being, although I expect how he performs in the Irish Arkle on 3rd Feb will determine his target at the Cheltenham Festival. My immediate impression is that he may not be good enough for a graded race at Cheltenham.
I was most impressed with the race winner Spillane's Tower - he was never under any pressure, jumped well throughout, picked-up the leaders and stayed on strong. He's won at 2-miles, but he looks a lot stronger at 2m4f, and if he takes up and entry to the Turners Novice Chase at Cheltenham, he'd certainly be on my shortlist.   

Unfortunately, the official entries have come out for the Stayers' Hurdle over 3-miles at the Festival, my my antepost selection Bob Olinger isn't entered, which is a bit of a blow as I thought he had a fair chance of success in that race, but he's no chance in the Champion Hurdle for which he is entered. There is a possibility of him running 3rd, but only if Impaire Et Passe gives the race a swerve and goes straight to Aintree for the 2m4f Aintree Hurdle. I've no doubt that we can recover our antepost loss on him in the weeks to come.

Finding potential antepost wagers isn't easy, as first you have to decide which race the horse is going to run in, and then decide if the horse has a realistic chance of winning, and finally do the current odds represent value. Sure, the odds may be longer now than they will be on the day, but do they include an element of risk that the horse won't run; and even if the horse does run, will it have it's preferred ground?

Looking at the novice hurdle races, the Supreme Novices Hurdle which opens the Festival looks a mess to me.  The current fav Mystical Power ran for the first time today (14Jan) since 31July and could do no more than win a 4-runner race in comparative ease. Just how good is he? It's difficult to say, but probably better than OR145, but is he? The 2nd-fav Jeriko Du Reponet has form even more vague, all we can go off is stable gossip. Ballyburn will almost certainly go for the Ballymore Hurdle over 2m5f for which he's the current fav. 
Caldwell Potter? His full-brother Mighty Potter was a top-draw novice hurdler over 2-miles, so there's potential in him. Then, A Dream To Share hasn't run in nearly a year. 
At Naas on Friday 12Jan, Readin Tommy Wrong beat his well-regarded stable companion Ile Atlantique over 2m4f with another well-regarded runner Firefox back in 4th. RTW is likely to go for the Ballymore, but his owners have another of interest in the Supreme: It's For Me, who beat Caldwell Potter when they met in November. He looks the sort who could well find a lot of improvement, as he wasn't beaten far in the Champion Bumper last March. This is a bit of a punt, but so far It's For Me has run well to a high level in his races, but has always failed to settle. If he can calm his enthusiasm, this is a horse that could be very interesting. Unfortunately, Hills - who are the only NRNB bookie - go a paltry 8/1; so I'm recommending a small interest at 20/1 (without the NRNB protection) in It's For Me and we can keep an eye on the horse. 

Antepost Selection:
Supreme Novices Hurdle: IT'S FOR ME 
£2 win @ 20/1 (available with Bet365, Skybet, PPower, Betfair, Betfred)
and £1 ew @ 20/1 (5th odds a place 1,2,3)
Total Staked = £4.00

Other wagers to date:
Ryanair Chase: STAGE STAR - £8 win @ 7/1 with Bet365
£2 WIN double with Paddy Power : Stayers Hurdle: BOB OLINGER @ 25/1 and Ryanair Chase: STAGE STAR @ 13/2 
Stayers Hurdle: BOB OLINGER - £5 eachway @ 14/1 with Hills (NRNB: 5th odds a place 1,2,3)
Stayers Hurdle: BOB OLINGER - £2 WIN @ 25/1 with Paddy Power

Sunday 7 January 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - Antepost Guide - Ryanair Chase

Further to my earlier blog on the Stayers' Hurdle, I've been asked why I've sided with Bob Olinger when post-race comments from de Bromhead suggested that the Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f was the main target. I've no special information, it's just that (to me) the Stayers' Hurdle appears to be there for the taking, and would really suit Bob Olinger. 
De Bromhead hasn't had a runner in this race since 2019, and that was Petit Mouchoir who never won a race beyond 2-mile - so the Stayers Hurdle is not a race that is usually on his radar. 
However, there's a long gap between now and Aintree, and it seemed odd that Bob Olinger came to Cheltenham on 1st Jan.  Again, de Bromhead doesn't send much to UK outside of the Cheltenham Festival.  He says he wants to avoid Constitution Hill, but that horse with be in the Aintree Hurdle, so there's no avoiding him there - however, Consitution Hill won't be running in the Stayers' Hurdle, that's an absolute certainty.

The next race I'm taking an in-depth look at is the Ryanair Chase over 2m4f & 127 yards. The Cheveley Park owned Allaho and Envoi Allen are now both 10yo's and I'm not convinced that either of them are at the level of form that has seen one of them take this race for the past 3 seasons. My personal preference of this pair is for Envoi Allen, who won this race last March beating Shishkin in the process, and that looks fairly strong form now.  With it being almost certain that Shishkin will be aimed at the Gold Cup, I really can't see anything coming out of the 2023 race and beating Envoi Allen. So, what of his challengers?
In the King George on Boxing Day, Allaho ran well for a long way, but the horse doesn't stay 3-miles at the same level of ability that he runs at trips around 2m4f. He was gifted the race at the 2nd last when Shishkin lost his rider and Bravemansgame was badly impeded, losing at least 4-lengths and valuable momentum; but he still couldn't win the race, and finished 3rd. He doesn't have the form this season to merit his position as the current favourite.
Stage Star won the Turners Novice Chase last March over a trip 162 yards (and 10.37 secs) shorter; and while he could do no more than win, and win decisively, he would need to improve on that effort to topple Envoi Allen. And improve he has - an exceptional performance in the "Paddy Power" saw him confirm the form with Notlongillmay (2nd in the Turners), and the well-beaten 3rd & 4th (Il Ridoto and Fugitif) subsequently fought it out for a top handicap chase at Cheltenham in December. Since then, Stage Star was raced on unsuitable heavy ground on New Years Day, and was pulled-up, but he still looks to be the one to beat in this race. I think he will likely go straight to Cheltenham now without another run, and the 7/1 offered by Bet365 looks tremendous value to me, as I think he should be either the fav, or joint-fav with Allaho.

Of the others likely to run, the 2022 Arkle winner Edwardstone just doesn't look good enough on paper, and I'm not convinced he'd stay tis trip if he was good enough.  Just to be clear, in my opinion if a horse equals or betters a performance at at shorter trip when racing at a longer trip, he stays. Edwardstone - currently rated OR162 - would easily beat a horse rated around OR140-145 that was proven at a trip of 2m4f at level weights (or maybe even be capable of giving that horse 7-10lb), but he may struggle to beat a trip-proven horse rated OR150-155. 
The Mullins-trained Appreciate It just doesn't look good enough, and probably wasted a season in "bumpers" when he should have been hurdling, and then another season being aimed at the Champion Hurdle when he should have been novice chasing.  With more positive campaigning, he may well have been up to winning this race last season as a 9yo, who knows?
After him, the betting is a bit erratic, and I would be more interested in something like Notlongtillmay (currently 40/1 with Bet365) sneaking into 3rd, as the horse clearly handles Cheltenham, even if he's a few pounds behind Stage Star. 
A horse that isn't quoted in the antepost betting, but has shown himself to be a potential G1 horse, is the 7yo Feronily trained by Emmet Mullins. Unbelievably, he made his chase debut (under rules) in a Grade 3 over 3-miles at Cork, and beat the one top-class and multiple Grade 1 winner (at 2-miles) Chancun Pour Soi.  He then when to the Punchestown Festival and won the Champion Novice Chase there over 3-miles in superlative fashion. Unfortunately, he ran a stinker in October at Galway, so he still has to confirm that he is a proven grade 1 performer, and not just a horse who happened to be fortunate.  
The only other likely runners in the race on the day are going to be handicappers like Fugitif, who won't be able to mix-it at Grade 1 level.

Antepost Selection:
Ryanair Chase: STAGE STAR 
£8 win @ 7/1 with Bet365

£2 WIN double with Paddy Power
Stayers Hurdle: BOB OLINGER @ 25/1
Ryanair Chase: STAGE STAR @ 13/2 

Total Staked = £10.00

Total Antepost Stakes to date = £22.00

Friday 5 January 2024

Cheltenham Festival 2024 - Antepost guide

It's been a long time, but the Wayward Lad blog is back with a focus on the 2024 Cheltenham Festival and building-up a profitable antepost wager portfolio.  There's been some tremendous racing in Britain and Ireland over the Christmas and New Year period, which has been (as  usual) very informative.   

Let's start with the Championship races, and to be fair I was going to look at the main races in depth; but they look fairly well cut & dried. It's very difficult to see anything beating Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle.  Then Galopin Des Champs laid down a significant marker to suggest he will be able to retain his Gold Cup crown. And with Energumenee injured, there appears nothing capable of preventing last years Arkle winner El Fabiolo from taking the Champion Chase

The current best odds available (from Bet365) are 4.1/1 on Constitution Hill, Galopin Des Champs, and El Fabiolo all succeeding and, to be honest, those odds appear a fair shout to me; you would likely snap the bookies hand-off to get 4/1 come the morning of Tuesday 12th March.

If you want to find longer odds for an antepost wager, then you are going to have to seek wagers amongst the other races on offer. The Championship race that looks wide open is the Stayers' Hurdle over 3-miles. 

The current fav is Teahupoo at 4/1; but he couldn't win last year (ran 3rd) and he shows his best form invariably when going right-handed on very soft or heavy ground - and he will get neither of those at Cheltenham in March!  
The 2nd-fav is the French-trained Theleme (available at 9/2); who has never run outside of France and (other than his debut flat race at Pau) has only ever raced at Auteuil - a figure-of-8 track which usually has heavy ground. Based on his win there in May-23 with Klassical Dream in 3rd and Hewick in 4th, it certainly seems that he has the ability to win the Stayers Hurdle - if it was run at Auteuil. However, I think for him to come to Cheltenham and win on the first-time of asking outside of his usual comfort zone will prove difficult, especially as I don't think he will hold enough of a distinct ability advantage. I'd rate him at OR158-160.
Irish Point is a new kid on the block: and he looked a good winner of the 3-mile Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown on 28Dec. Personally, I don't think that he's shown he's good enough just yet and, at his current best odds of 6/1, he doesn't look value. 
That can't be said of Impaire Et Passe who won the Ballymore over 2m5f last March in impressive fashion, and would certainly be my idea of the winner if he lines-up for this race. I just feel he's more likely to run in the Champion Hurdle if he runs at the Festival, as his ultimate target is the 2m4f Aintree Hurdle.  I will hold-off punting on him just yet until his plans are known, but I would not put anyone off taking the 10/1 offered by Bet365 and Betfred. 
Crambo, who won the recent "Long Walk" Hurdle at Ascot, doesn't look good enough to me. Sure, he went head-to-head and beat Paisley Park at Ascot, but that horse is nothing near the horse that won this race in 2019 beating Thistlecrack.  Crambo is only a 7yo and is still improving, but remember he was well behind Irish Point (also a 7yo) at Aintree last April, and I'd say based on that race that Irish Point still holds the upper hand. As above, I don't think Irish Point is good enough, so (by default) neither is Crambo.
Sir Gerhard appears to have his best days behind him, and he didn't win a particularly strong race at Punchestown on 31Dec which, based on the comments post-race from trainer Mullins, has thrust him into contention. Sir Gerhard has not looked 'comfortable' at trips around 3-miles, and in my opinion that trip is beyond his stamina limits.
I will be very surprised is any of the old-hands of Sire Du Berlais, Paisley Park, or even Flooring Porter can win this race come March. I'm sure that they will be on the premises, but age catches-up eventually.
For me, the value in the betting is BOB OLINGER: after a period in the doldrums trying his hand, and failing, at chasing; he bounced-back with a good win on New Years Day at Cheltenham over and extended 2m4f.  I will be honest and advise that I took odds of 33's (just a couple of quid) before he won the NYD race.  He's another "Ballymore" winner, and while he's probably not as good as Impaire Et Passe, this race likely represents his best chance of Cheltenham glory given the weakness of this race and the likelihood that his main rivals could well give this race a miss. He's only raced at 3-miles once as a hurdler, but he was out-of-form at that time, so I'm ignoring that run. It's possible that he will go for the Champion Hurdle, but why run 4th in that race when there's a potential winning chance if running in this?

Antepost Selection:
Stayers Hurdle: BOB OLINGER 
£5 eachway @ 14/1 with Hills (NRNB: 5th odds a place 1,2,3)

Stayers Hurdle: BOB OLINGER 
£2 WIN @ 25/1 with Paddy Power

Total Staked = £12.00
The intention is to add to this selection over the next few weeks, and combine with another 1 or 2 into doubles and trebles.