Welcome to the World of Horseracing

Record of the blog selections

LOSS for the 2016-17 Jumps Season = £40.87

from wagers on 55 individual races (6 winners, 12 placed)

Total Staked = £609.00


Since March 2010, this blog has recommended wagers on 520 individual races on Jump Racing in the UK, at cumulative stakes of £5,726 - which has resulted in a PROFIT of £1,525.39 equivalent to a Return on Investment of 26.60%.


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advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Cavalier to stake Ryanair claims

Saturday brings us “Trials” Day at Cheltenham and, as I’m going there for the day’s racing, this blog is being written mainly on Friday afternoon.  Unfortunately, we had no success with the selection yesterday, Denali Highway, who was well supported to start the 4/1 fav – but he struggled on the soft ground, as did all the early leaders of whom too much effort was asked too early-on.

Along with Cheltenham today, there are meetings at Doncaster and Uttoxeter so, hopefully, we should be on for a busy, enlightening and profitable day.  We did well on this day last year finding 2 winners at Cheltenham and making some decent profit. Overall, the Cheltenham meeting today is usually very informative with regard to the Cheltenham Festival in March and, last year, 4 winners at the Festival ran at this meeting. The races to concentrate on for Festival pointers are the Juvenile Hurdle at 12:40pm; the Novices handicap chase at 1:15pm; and the Novice hurdle at 3:00pm.  These races have had the greatest impact on the Cheltenham Festival.

Although currently advertised as soft ground, heavy overnight rain will mean the ground is heavy at Cheltenham.  The Juvenile hurdlers are not my speciality, so I’ll be watching but not wagering on the opening race of the meeting. Only 6 go to post and it looks a high-class entry.

The 2m5f Novices Handicap Chase at 1:15pm is, for me, the highlight of the meeting as it always brings together some of the best novice chasing talent in the UK. This years’ entry looks no exception and there are a couple amongst the entries that are already on my alert list: Javert and Waldorf Salad. The top-weight Un Temps Pour Tout does not look well handicapped as a chaser so far, and on 2nd-glance the form of Javert looks flimsy despite 2 wins from 3 chase races. Viva Steve had some good horses behind him LTO and will not lack stamina, but will he have the pace? With winning form on heavy ground, and able to lead and set a good pace, Waldorf Salad has plenty going for him to suggest 14/1 is a generous price.

The feature race of the meeting is the Betbright Chase, a Grade 2 event over 3m1f run at 1:55pm.  This brings Djakadam, runner-up in the last Cheltenham Gold Cup, back to the UK for his final preparation race before the in one in March.  If he’s up to that form then he will take some beating, but I reckon that trainer Mullins will have left something to work on over the next 6-weeks.  Many Clouds won this race last year, but then put in a relatively poor effort in the Gold Cup before running-out an exceptional winner of the Grand National carrying 11st 9lbs. Clearly, had he ran to the level of his Grand National form in the Gold Cup he may well have come close to winning that race.  Smad Place was 2nd in this race last year, but he was receiving 8lbs from Many Clouds that day and, despite him winning the Hennessy Gold Cup since then, this looks a much tougher race.  The is nothing much to split Sam Winner and O’Faolains Boy on my ratings, and my abiding memory of Sam Winner is seeing him jump the final fence in the Dec-2014 “Lexus” Chase in front before losing the lead on the run-in to finish 3rd to Road To Riches (who went on to run 3rd in the Gold Cup). I’d favour O’Faolains Boy as he has a 4lb advantage in the weight.  The only other horse to consider is Wakanda who has been followed by this blog for all 3 of his wins this season and has done us proud. On his latest form, he needs to find 10lb to be in the mix in this race but, as we haven’t seen him bottom-out yet, he may well find that. This is a tricky race given the quality of the field, but I would not be wagering on Djakadam at odds-on – he should be about 9/4 for this race.  The value in this race, in my opinion, lies with Many Clouds (8/1), O’Faolains Boy (9/1) and Wakanda (20/1).

The 2:25pm Class 1 Handicap Chase over 2m5f looks a cracker!  I managed to find the winner of this race last season in Annacotty, and altho’ this horse comes here again in top form, he’s possibly needing some respite from the handicapper now as he’s rated 7lb higher at OR151. This looks a competitive field, and few can be discounted. However, there are a couple from the alert list that stand out: Irish Cavalier and Salubrious. The soft ground is a worry with Irish Cavalier, but I think he’s a 160+ horse who could have a realistic chance in the Ryanair Chase at the Festival.  So, running off OR154 he should hold an outstanding chance at odds of 11/2 at this trip, which is perfect for him. A big danger will be Champagne West, who is also on OR154 and should be expected to improve again for his seasonal debut in December, but his odds of 9/4 offer no value at all. That Salubrious runs again just 7-days after his last run suggests that his trainer means business. This horse acts well at Cheltenham, and the soft ground will be favourable.  He is rated well below his hurdle rating of OR153, and while not a true 3-miler he won’t lack for stamina over this trip of 2m5f.  Backed from 12/1 last night to 8/1 this morning, the eachway value has gone.

At Doncaster there is a Class 2 handicap chase over 2-mile at 1:30pm that looks interesting; but it is the Skybet Chase over 3-mile at 3:15pm which is the focus of my attention.  With Holywell running, there are a few in this race on interesting weights; the likes of Coologue and Le Mercurey for instance.  Dolatulo also looks fairly handicapped on OR146 despite winning the “Rowland Meyrick” at Wetherby in December 2014, which was his last handicap chase over regulation fences (has run over hurdles and the National fences at Aintree in his 4 races since then). If this was being run on a right0handed track then I’d seriously consider Le Reve, but his form on left-handed tracks is awful. For me, the form of Buywise suggests this 3-mile trip could be just what he wants.  He’s won over 2m5f-2m7f and he’s always a strong finisher in his races.  The ground should be suitable too, as he’s won on soft and heavy ground; and odds of 8/1 look good eachway value to me.  I feel that Holywell will not be at his peak till March in the Gold Cup so altho’ on a useful mark of OR159, he’s overlooked by me.  The only other horse I’m considering is No Planning who unseated early on LTO when running over the National fences at Aintree but, before that, ran well on unsuitable heavy ground at Haydock. He’s slipped from a high of OR147 to OR137 for this, yet he’s not lost any ability – in fact he’s won over hurdles and been well-placed in competitive chases. He runs in this race off 10st4lb, which is 14lb less than Buywise, and Sue Smith (who runs Wakanda at Cheltenham) has secured the services of Paddy Brennan for the ride. Odds of 16/1 look very attractive.

I cannot bring myself to have a wager in the Betbright Chase at Cheltenham.  Either Djakadam will win easily or, more likely, he will be beaten – but who will do it? I’m fully expecting Irish Cavalier to catapult himself into the Ryanair picture with a good win and, at Doncaster, after seriously considering the chance of Buywise, on reflection the odds about No Planning look huge.

Selections
Cheltenham 1:15pm WALDORF SALAD, £5 eachway @ 14/1 (available generally, quarter-odds a place 1,2,3)
Cheltenham 2:25pm IRISH CAVALIER, £10 win @11/2 (BetVictor, William Hill, Stan James)
Doncaster 3:15pm NO PLANNING, £5 eachway @ 16/1 (BetVictor, William Hill)

Total staked = £30

Friday, 29 January 2016

Get out on the Highway!

This weekend we have some exciting racing at Cheltenham and Doncaster.  But, before that, we have another great day of racing today, with meetings at Huntingdon and Doncaster and, for the first time this week, we have what looks to be a value wager in what could be a weak race for the grade.

The meeting at Doncaster did look like it was going to present us with a wagering opportunity earlier in the week when I reviewed the entries, but the races have not developed as I’d hoped.  The most interesting race there is the 3-mile novice chase at 3:05pm with a small field of 5-runners. The race-fav is Thomas Brown sent by Harry Fry, but I’m very interested in Saint Roque trained by Paul Nicholls, and Vintage Vinnie trained by Rebecca Curtis and ridden by Barry Geraghty. The booking of Geraghty is interesting, and connections will be hoping he can rekindle the early season enthusiasm about Vintage Vinnie today.  This is a tricky race to decifer and none of these can be fully discounted – it should be a race worth watching and taking note of, especially with the Cheltenham Festival in mind.

For today’s selection I’m looking at Huntingdon, and the 2m4f Class 3 handicap chase at 2:10pm. There are 9-runners going to post and one of them has been on my alert list for a few seasons: Denali Highway.  He is Caroline Bailey’s only runner here today, and soft ground and 2m4f are the conditions under which he’s done best in the past.  This season he’s had just 2 runs, the first of which was after a break from the track of 18 months from March 2014 to November 2015. That was over this C&D and he ran well to be 2nd, clearly looking like the run would do him some good after such a long break from the track.  Next time out, over 3-miles at Warwick, he ran well again but he’s never been a 3-mile chaser and again looked like he didn’t stay the trip in this race. As such, he’s slipped down the ratings to OR120 today, and I reckon he’s an OR130+ horse over this sort of trip and ground.  He will be race-fit today, and it could be that his trainer has aimed him at this race since his seasonal debut here last November.

The others in the race all appear to have doubts over them, be it either trip or ground.  Artifice Sivola is unproven at this trip; Cadoudoff does not look happy on soft ground; and The Clock Leary has been unable to repeat his chase debut form and is possibly over-rated.  The only one I fear is another from my alert list; Dusky Lark who ran well on his chase debut despite having no luck in running, yet hit the 1st-fence hard LTO and lost his confidence. He could go well if he starts this race well.
Overall, I’m happy to go with DENALI HIGHWAY and although we have missed the early 6/1 on offer, he’s currently 5/1 with several bookies (Bet365, BetVictor, and Paddy Power etc) and I think he will go off the clear fav at the off at around 7/2.

Selection

Huntingdon 2:10pm DENALI HIGHWAY, £10 win @ 5/1 (available generally)

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Big weekend of racing on the way

Reading todays Weekender on the train into London, it seems that it’s not just me who is concerned that the continuing heavy ground is playing havoc – not just with racing generally but, also, the preparation plans of trainers for the Cheltenham Festival in March.
As I’ve written before, in the period between Christmas Day and Valentine’s Day (14th February) it is near essential to race your horses if you are seriously considering having a winning chance at the Festival.  That’s not to say winners cannot emerge from the period before the Festival but, generally, horses need to come into the Festival fresh.
For the punter, the form of the past month – which has mainly been raced on heavy ground – could be inconsequential when considering Cheltenham; as that meeting will almost invariably start off on good-to-soft ground which (barring a downpour of epic proportions) will get quicker as the meeting progresses.  For the form-student, it is essential not to be drawn into false hope, giving greater emphasis to races run on heavy ground than would normally be the case.
Let’s take Saturday’s race at Haydock (the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase) in which our selection Virak ran 2nd to the well-handicapped Cloudy Bob.  The winner (Cloudy Bob) had started the season as one of the 99 on my initial alert list, but he’d dropped-off the list as he appeared to be lacking “zip” when placed on his previous run. I thought he would continue to struggle against younger horses, but trainer Sue Smith has managed to reinvigorate his enthusiasm and confidence, and he stayed-on strong.  After he won the “Rowland Meyrick” in December 2013, I thought he was a 160+ 3-mile chaser, and he confirmed that ability when chasing home Captain Chris NTO at Ascot.   He won’t be getting back to that level again, but he should continue to pay his way for the remainder of 2016. As for Virak, when he was left in 2nd place (behind Cloudy Bob) after the long-time leader fell, I thought he’d almost certainly win; however he was giving 24lb to Cloudy Bob and that was too much in the circumstances.  Even so, it was another exceptional effort by Virak, and reconfirmed the form-lines involving Wakanda.
Our other selection on Saturday was Salubrious who, in the circumstances, was given too much to do by his jockey and finished a gallant 4th.  By way of a bonus, he’s been dropped 2lb by the handicapper to OR144 and this horse (in my opinion) is a good winner waiting to happen, as if my judgement is anything to go by he’s a 150+ chaser.
Looking at the changes in the BHA official ratings – see the Weightwatcher section of the Weekender – I’ve noticed that Straidnahanna has been dropped 3lb to OR128, and What A Good Night (this pair finished 1st and 2nd in a decent handicap chase earlier in the season) has been dropped 2lb to OR129.  This pair will be in the winners’ enclosure soon.
There is some very good racing this weekend, and I’m planning on being at Cheltenham for the “Trials” Day meeting on Saturday.  I’m hoping the rain stays away and that the ground description has the word “good” in it, but it is more likely to be soft ground. Altho’ all eyes will be on the feature races (Cleeve Hurdle and Betbright Chase), my attention will be on the novice chase over 2m5f at 1:15pm as this race invariably brings together some of the top novice chasing talent to be seen before the Cheltenham Festival.  If nothing else, make note of what runs in this race.  There is also top racing at Doncaster, where the ground is more likely to be good-to-soft than soft, and that is a great bonus.  The feature race there on Saturday is the 3-mile Skybet Chase and this usually goes to a 7yo or 8yo.  With Holywell looking to use this race as a “prep” for the Gold Cup, there are some attractively weighted horses, and the Rebecca Curtis pair of Doing Fine and Audacious Plan at the foot of the handicap could give their best on Saturday.
That’s it for now.

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Saturday, 23 January 2016

It could be a big day for Paul Nicholls

No loss from the mid-week selection Ballinvarrig, as he came home a distant 3rd to take the place odds. As we were on at 10/1 (5th odds a place 1,2,3) we recouped a £5 profit from the £10 stake. There is no point in frittering away hard-won profits when the ground is heavy, so wagers recently have been reduced.

Unfortunately, the weather continues to wreck havoc on the racing calender, and we lost Chepstow yesterday, leaving us with just the meeting at Market Rasen.  I couldn't see a value wager, so no blog was posted. From the alert list, Straidnahanna was running in the 2m5f Graduation Chase, but the conditions of the race meant that he was giving a lot of weight away and he needed 1 or 2 of the others to not complete to be able to finish in the frame, and that didn't happen.  I'm not sure what to think about this horse, it may be he's been pushed to hard at too young an age and is in need of a break or change of scenery to rekindle the enthusiasm.

Saturday brings us some top-class action at Ascot (advance going is Soft) and Haydock (advance going is Heavy), as well as a supporting meeting at Taunton.  The meeting at Ascot has a couple of interesting races, the first being a race for amateur riders at 1:15pm and, given the ground and trip and that Ascot is a right-handed track, I'm automatically drawn to Cloudy Bob.  He was on the alert list (he's since come off) at the start of the season and was the initial wager for the blog back in September when  he ran 3rd. If ever he is going to win, it is with today's criteria which put a tick in every box - however, he has only won the 1 chase race from 23 starts to date.

The feature race at Ascot is the Grade 1 Sodexo Clarence House Chase run over 2m1f.  This is being billed as a clash between the old-timer Sire De Grugy and the "new-kid" on the block, Un  Des Sceaux.  On the face of it, there is unlikely to be a winner of the race other than Un Des Sceaux - providing he completes the course unscathed.  He fell LTO, when under no pressure at all, so I expect he's undergone some significant schooling at home since then to ensure his jumping is foot perfect. Even so, I'm sure this field will do their best to expose any potential issues. For me, this race is about who comes 2nd, and that could well provide us with a wagering opportunity. I've never considered Sire De Grugy to be in the same league as most Champion Chasers and, at his peak, I have him at 164 on my personal ratings, and he's not that good now as a 10yo.  For me Vibrato Valtat is a 155-157 chaser, and he has been for about the past 12 months, and he's not improving.  For me, the value for a straight-forecast wager is Simply Ned who, despite being a 9yo, is relatively unexposed at this level, yet on my personal ratings is capable of running above 160.

Possibly the betting race of the meeting is the 3:35pm Bet365 Handicap Chase over 2m5f.  There are several from my alert list in the race, and the one that possibly will do best is SALUBRIOUS.  This will be only his 4th chase race, and this trip will suit him a lot better that the 3-mile over which he ran here in December. That was a top handicap chase, and he suffered no disgrace when fading as his stamina gave out on that day. Earlier that same day, Royal Regatta made a fool of me as he was on my alert list as being well-handicapped for 2-mile handicaps, but won that day over 2m5f on his first attempt at this sort of trip as a chaser. Whether the headgear he wore for the first time will have a similar effect is debatable.  Venetia Williams loves a winner on the London tracks, and she has 3 entered, but I don't fancy the chances of any of them.  Regal Encore looks thrown-in the deep end here.  He should stay this trip as he won a hurdle race at Exeter over 2m7f, but his chase rating of OR144 looks a bit steep for what he's done so far in his 4 chase races to date. There is a lot of focus on Reve De Sivola who looks thrown-in off OR139 given his hurdle rating is OR160. but this will be is first chase start since December 2011 (5 years ago) and this 11yo had plenty of opportunity to show his ability then and didn't.  He also has an entry at Haydock in the Peter Marsh Chase and is more likely to go for that race.

At Haydock we have the Peter March handicap chase over 3-mile at 3:15pm.  This is one of the great staying handicaps of the season and we have a strong field.  For my selection, we go back again to that race at Ascot on 19th December won by Wakanda, and there we find VIRAK.  This horse has been mighty unlucky to come up against Wakanda twice this season, but this time the way is clear.  I think Virak is near Gold Cup class on what we've seen this season and more than worthy of a place in that line-up.  He has a couple of possible dangers in the race, one is Reve De Sivola who I think should be 10/1 given the uncertainty of his chasing ability.  Fingal Bay is unlikely to stay this trip as he's shown in his past couple of runs. Cloudy Too could recoup his form but I think the next race he wins will be a veteran handicap chase. As for Algernon Pazham, this heavy ground will likely take its toll if he tries to make all, but he has plenty of ability as shown on his seasonal debut.

Selections
Haydock 3:15pm VIRAK, £10 win @ 5/1  (Ladbrokes and others)
Ascot 3:35pm SALUBRIOUS, £10 win @ 6/1 (Ladbrokes)
plus £5 win double
Total £25 staked


Thursday, 21 January 2016

Fingers crossed for Wincanton

There is some good racing planned this weekend, with top meetings at Haydock and Ascot on Saturday.

Before then, we have a couple of interesting meetings at Ludlow and Wincanton. Unfortunately, both are being run on heavy ground (again) which has decimated the declared runners. For instance, the 3-mile Class 3 handicap chase at 2:30pm at Ludlow had 29 entries but that has been reduced to just 8 declared runners. With 4 of the amateur riders able to claim a 7lb allowance, this does not look to be the sort of race we should be having a wager in.  Since writing this, Ludlow has been lost to overnight frost, and the meeting is abandoned.

Wincanton looks better, and the Class 3 handicap chase over 2m4f at 2:10pm has a field of 9 runners (from 21 entries) despite the heavy ground. We know some horses will love the mud, such as an old fav of the blog, Renard.  He's been running over 3-mile recently, but he's best known to me running over this sort of trip and his last win was over 2m4f at Chepstow on heavy ground. One who looks fairly well treated and who will love the ground is Ballinvarrig and if he can get his act together he looks to have a good chance off OR122. the Paul Nicholls trained Wuff has had his limits exposed in recent runs. I'm not sure about the fav Alder Mairi, as he has won a couple of facile races easily and gone up 18lb whereas he looked one-paced in his previous 6 chase races, and he may have been flattered by his recent good fortune.  Gores Island may be pushed to last out this 2m4f trip and Quite By Chance may have won LTO but his form seems to have reached its ceiling.

The more I look at this race the more I like the chance of BALLINVARRIG who has slipped to OR122 which is 11lb below his peak and 4lb below his last winning rating (over 3-mile at Kempton). He appears to have been beaten this season for lack of fitness and, even tho' he has won at 3-mile, his best trip is more like this 2m4f.  The big worry is the heavy ground, but he possibly has the ability off this rating to make light of it.

Selection
Wincanton 2:10pm BALLINVARRIG, £5 eachway @ 10/1 with Bet365

Theree is an 8:00am inspection but at the time of writing, the Clerk of the Course is confidant that racing will take place.  Best odds at 8:30am (this blog was emailed to donators at 9pm on Wednesday evening) on the selection are 9/1.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Keeping one eye on the Cheltenham Festival


Not the best of days for the blog selections on Saturday, with all 3 selections well beaten. This was most disappointing as I had considered all 3 to have better chances than their odds suggested in the morning.

First up was the Paul Nicholls' trained Silsol, and I had expected him to at least match the form of his previous race as that would have put him in the frame for this. This wager was a "value" play as while we knew the likely ability of our selection, the odds-on fav was running essentially on reputation only - and sometimes these horses don't live up to the hype.  The proximity of Definitely Red suggests that the eventual winner Black Hercules didn't run much above 150.  However, the winner looked to have plenty in-hand and should turn out to be a 160+ chaser.  Even so, Silsol threw-in the towel a long way out and this was not the form we expected at all.  Paul Nicholls' horses are appearing to lack the ability to mix with the best, and the form of the stable this season has been inconsistent when compared to previous years.

Next up was Upsilon Bleu, and this horse was most consistent last season showing good form between 151-155 suggesting that his current OR144 rating was lenient.  He had everything in his favour on Saturday too, but was beaten a long way out.  His trainer could offer no explanation, and I will keep him on the alert list for another race to see if it was just one of those things.  As could be expected (given the poor effort by our selection), the race was fought out by the other two principals; Gardefort and Sir Valentino.  As I wrote in Saturdays blog, if Gardefort was on a going day then he had plenty in hand to beat Sir Valentino as he'd well beaten him comfortably when they last met. It all depended on whether Gardefort would be in a racing mood, and he was, running out a convincing winner. He should be capable of following-up and he goes onto the alert list.

Our final selection What A Good Night, had a dose of bad luck.  The heavy ground had taken a fair toll of the field at his point of departure, almost certainly contributing to a number of the fallers.  With 8 fences to jump, our selection was going well in about 8th position when a couple of fallers at that fence badly impeded him, and he lost a lot of ground.. His jockey decided at that point that continuing was a lost cause, but perhaps he was a bit too quick to pull the horse up.  There were eventually only 5 finishers and while I doubt he'd have troubled the 1st-2 home, the 3rd placed runner was out on his feet 3-out and ended-up well beaten. There is plenty of stamina in the make-up of What A Good Night, and he was jumping well enough up until the 15th fence to suggest he wasn't going to be a likely faller. Personally, I think we were unlucky not to recoup the place-part of our eachway wager at 16/1.

The wet weather continues to wreck havoc on the fixture list with heavy ground.  As such, we have had a number of meetings abandoned and, with heavy ground, horses can quickly become unhappy - even those that have won on heavy ground before. I've been going through the results in some depth since the beginning of December, and updating my alert list accordingly, with an eye of the Cheltenham Festival in March.  Those being added to the alert list are mainly those born in 2009, as they are now 7yo's for 2016; and this is the age-group were many of the improving handicap chasers of the next 12 months will come from.
We haven't had a big winner for a few weeks now, but I have been keeping wagers in-check to avoid losing the profits gained so far this season. With the slowdown, I have lost a few names from the email list so, if you have renewed your donation - many thanks. I hope to repay your faith before the end of January.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Betfred Classic at Warwick

We had no luck with our only selection this week, Jac The Legend was the subject of a significant gamble from 10/1 down to an SP of 5/1 but, unfortunately, he fell about halfway through the race.

There are just 2 jump race meetings today at Wetherby and Warwick; and there is a 2-mile handicap chase at Wetherby at 2:05pm that catches my eye as we have alert list runner Upsilon Bleu running.  his last win was over C&D (13-months ago) on soft ground, and he upheld that form in two subsequent races. He was aimed to take the same race again, but that meeting was abandoned and he had a spin over hurdles instead LTO. As such, he comes here fit and well and running off just a pound higher mark (OR144) than when winning here. I can see him going very close as the race-fav Sir Valentino looks exposed and in the handicappers grip off OR143 and a bigger danger will likely be Gardefort who can be very good on his day.  He hammered Sir Valentino when they met last season (Sir Valentino has won 4 races since then, and gone up 18lbs in the handicap) yet meets him on 12lb better terms! Even so, it is a leap of faith that it's a going day for him, and so the 4/1 about UPSILON BLEU looks the best value.

Before we leave Wetherby, spare a thought for Lucinda Russell who has VOYAGE A NEW YORK in the 3:15pm handicap chase. The last horse he beat (he's pulled-up twice since and finished a tailed-off last of 8) was none-other than Wakanda.  What has gone wrong with this 7yo who held so much promise this time last year?

Onto Warwick, and the novice chase over 3-mile at 1:50pm could be a cracker. Paul Nicholls won this with Rocky Creek in 2013, and sent Black Thunder in 2014; so SILSOL comes highly rated. Yes, he's giving weight away, but he's proven over fences and at the trip and on heavy ground. Black Hercules may have been sent over by Willie Mullins, but he's no odds-on chance in my book and should be opposed at those odds. He was well beaten when starting the 5/2 fav for the Albert Bartlett 3-mile novice hurdle at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival on soft ground, and that suggests he's not quite "bomb-proof". Remarkably, SILSOL is available at 6/1.

The Betfred Classic Handicap Chase over 3m5f will be a tough race to win on this heavy ground. I expect there will be only 5 or 6 finishers from the 14 lining-up at the start. There are several from my alert list running: Midnight Prayer; Loose Chips; What A Good Night; Sego Success; and Algernon Pazham

Of those, Loose Chips has no chance, and Midnight Prayer does not look like he is is likely to reproduce his form of 2014 again. It will be a mighty task for Sego Success to win with 11st 12lb on this ground, so he is overlooked too. For me, it looks between Algernon Pazham and What A Good Night who met each other at Bangor last November.  As What A Good Night outstayed his rival that day he is taken to do the same again today, and odds of 16/1 look fair value.

This will be a gruelling race, so not one to put the mortgage on, and small eachway stakes only.

Selections:
Wetherby 2:05pm UPSILON BLEU, £10 win at 4/1 (available generally)
Warwick 1:50pm SILSOL, £10 win @ 6/1 (available generally)
Warwick 3:35pm WHAT A GOOD NIGHT, £5 eachway (available generally, quarter odds a place 1,2,3)



Thursday, 14 January 2016

Catterick Yorkshire National

Following on from yestrerdays blog, the 3m6f North Yorkshire National being run at Catterick at 2:50pm today looks to be a wagering opportunity.
The current fav is Nial 'M at 9/2, and he last won at Sedgefield over 3m2f in March 2014.  He was then off the track for 18 months before returning last November when he probably needed the run.  He followed that up with an improved effort LTO and I'm expecting him to go close today but, his odds do not represent value given the ground conditions - this will be a gruelling race.

Jack The Legend won his chase debut here at last season (March 2015) over 3m1f, and the he won his seasonal debut over hurdles at Sedgefield over 3m3f. He followed that up with a decent effort her at Catterick over 3m1f when he looked better the further he went. As such, this marathon trip could be just what he wants.

As I've already hinted at, this race will likely be gruelling and, given the conditions, a case can be made for several of the runners even those at long odds, such as last years winner Scotswell (20/1), Delgany Demon (20/1) who ran a cracker at Exeter earlier this season but who has followed-up, and LTO winner Valleyofmilan (14/1).

However, most of this field look exposed, whereas JACK THE LEGEND has only had 3 chase runs and looks underrated by the handicapper.  Hopefully, some of you have taken the early 10/1 that was available with Corals following my "heads-up" yesterday, as he's now best-priced at 15/2, and he is the wager.

Selection
Catterick 2:50pm JACK THE LEGEND; £5 eachway & £5 win @ 15/2 (Paddy Power & Bet Victor)

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Weather affects the racing

The continuous very wet weather over the country is likely to turn to snow this weekend, and that could hit racing again with meetings being postponed.  Betting opportunities have been thin on the ground recently which, combined with the Christmas holiday season, has led to a reduction in the number of wagers being placed.

I thought we were going to do well last Saturday with Woodford County in the Welsh National, as he looked to hold every chance with 4 to jump but (unfortunately) he weakened thereon to be just touched-off for 4th place.  However, all was not lost as we were on with Paddy Power at 16/1 and they paid out to 5th place to quarter-odds.  As such, the advised wager returned a small profit of £10.
My overall assessment of the race was fairly good (in my opinion) as although eventual winner Mountainous was overlooked, I highlighted the chances of the 25/1 runner-up Firebird Flyer and of 3rd-placed Shotgun Paddy who looks to be one to note for the remainder of the season.

There will be heavy ground for tomorrow's meeting at Catterick, and for Friday's meetings at Huntingdon and Sedgefield. The "North Yorkshire Grand National" run at Catterick, and starting at 2:50pm could be an interesting race. Run over a trip of 3m6f, there hasn't been a winner of the race carrying more than 11-stone in the last 10 years and so I'm most interested in those at carrying under 11st.  The 7yo Jac The Legend is an out-and-out stayer who should revell over the trip and on this ground; but I will wait until the odds are published in the morning before making a selection (if any).

There are no suitable Class 3 races (or better) at either Huntingdon or Sedgefield on Friday, so it looks as though we will have to wait until Saturday for the next confirmed wager.  This is fairly normal for the time of year as midweek racing struggles to maintain the interest of punters.  Perhaps with the demise of Channel 4 Racing when television coverage switches to ITV in 2017, with the reduced fixtures on tv we will see more pressure to return some better quality races to midweek slots.

Saturday brings us meetings at Warwick and Wetherby, with both forecast to be run on heavy ground (and with snow forecast) it will be fingers crossed for a winning wager. At Warwick, the Betfred Classic Handicap Chase over 3m5f could turn out to be a gruelling race. There are a number of horses in the race that look to have winning potential, and most will be on everyone's shortlists; the likes of Doing Fine, Midnight Prayer, Algernon Pazham and Sego Success.

I'm about to start writing my Cheltenham Festival Bulletin for 2016, with a target issue date of Saturday 20th February.  The intention is to follow the format of previous issues, with a review of the trends behind each race and a few antepost selections in the championship races. Keep reading the blog for details of progress.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Mid-season review and look-ahead to the Welsh National

What a terrific jump season it has been so far, not just in the quality of horseracing but also in the performance of the blog selections.  This season has been my best ever since I began writing the blog in 2010, and (usually) the 2nd-half of the season is when I have my best results!

Looking back at my own performance, there are a couple of changes that I made this season that have been significant:- (1) being very ruthless with my alert list following the end of the 2014-15 season and reducing it from about 240 horses to just 99; and (2) making an early decision to concentrate on only Class 3 races or better and thus avoiding the lower-quality racing where results are more unpredictable.

What I haven't done - and this is something which I should have done - is exploit my advantage by increasing stakes placed.  There have been a couple of instances when I have been very confident about my selection, but I've merely maintained my level of stake - whereas I should have increased it to reflect my own confidence. As such, you will likely see increased stakes on the 2nd half of the season.

Looking at the jump season as a campaign, now is the time when we should be starting to focus on the coming Cheltenham Festival in March. At the Festival, 95% of race winners will have run their previous race between Christmas Day (25th December 2015) and Valentines Day (14th February 2016).  Normally, horses do best with up to 28-days rest between races but it's not the same for the Cheltenham Festival. For that meeting, race winners generally need to come into the Festival fresh, with at least 28-days rest but (most importantly) no more than 84-days rest. Very few races at the Cheltenham Festival are won by horses that have been off the track more than 12 weeks (84 days). So right now, you should be ensuring that you are focusing on race-form and making your shortlist of potential Festival winners.

Looking at the influential Kempton meeting on Boxing Day, while I was cheering loudly for Cue Card to get up and win the "King George", I was very impressed with the run of Vautour. You have to remember this was the first time the horse had run over 3-miles - and he was pipped on the post! For me, the horse looks every inch a potential Gold Cup winner and if Ruby Walsh is in the saddle on the day then I can see him starting a lot shorter than his current best odds of 10/1 for the race. Those bookies going non-runner = no bet (NRNB) only offer 6/1 at best.

Onto Saturday, and the Chepstow meeting (with feature race the Welsh National) is being run on heavy ground. This means the Welsh National has been pulled forward to at start time of 1:45pm hopefully avoid the race being cancelled. This race has some strong trends worth taking note of; (1) to win this race carrying a weight more than 11st the horse must be capable of winning a Cheltenham Gold Cup, and (2) horses of 10yo and older have a very poor record in the race.  The race-fav Upswing holds a fair chance as he's fairly treated at the weights and the heavy ground will hold no fears for him. He may have only had 4 chase runs but he's potentially a 150+ horse. The 2nd-fav is Cogry who was 3rd behind Upswing LTO on what was his seasonal debut. The heavy ground and trip wont faze him either. Mountainous is too old at 11yo;and last seasons winner Emperor's Choice has too much weight running off OR141. The same can be said for Shotgun Paddy, who was 5th in the race involving Upswing and Cogry. He lost his way last season but, if he comes on for the run LTO, he could well be in the mix, even off 11st 5lb.  Tour Des Champs beat our selection LTO, but I've never thought of him as a potential Welsh National winner.  Bob Ford seems to save his best for Ffos Las and will likely only win if he's the last horse standing. In this race last season, Woodford County started joint-fav despite only having had 6 starts. He ran 7th and the effort left its mark for the remainder of the season and, as such, he started this one well handicapped.  He needed the run at Sedgefield in October, and romped home LTO at Exeter over 3m6f on heavy ground. He is 16/1 for this race and looks a stronger horse this year.  Of the others only Firebird Flyer is capable of making an impression, but he seems to need everything to fall right.  At the odds, I cannot ignore the chance of WOODFORD COUNTY and 16/1 is too generous to miss, especially with Paddy Power going 5-places at quarter-odds (Stan James are 20/1 but only offer 4 places eachway).

This is my only wager of the day and this race is likely to be gruelling.

Selection
Chepstow 1:45pm WOODFORD COUNTY; £5 eachway AND £5 win @ 16/1 with Paddy Power (quarter-odds a place, 1,2,3,4,5)

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to readers of the blog.
It is another bumper day of horseracing today with a top-class meeting at Cheltenham. The only downside is that the ground is heavy, and that means we need to be careful in how much we wager - results could be unpredictable.
This is likely to be short
At Cheltenham, the opening hurdle doesn't interest me, and the 3m2f handicap chase at 12:45pm should go to the race-fav Alternatif, but he's no real value at 9/4.
The novice chase at 1:20pm looks a cracker, and should be a treat to watch. Of this talented field of novices, some still have to prove they are worthy of inclusion in this race but one who doesn't is Seeyouatmidnight who looks a 160+ chaser in the making. He handles heavy ground well as a hurdler and it should not inconvenience this horse.  At 5/1, he goes on my shortlist.

It is the next race on the card at 1:55pm that is my main focus. A Class 1 handicap chase over nearly 2m5f, this has a very competitive field, with the fav being Village Vic who is unbeaten this season. Has he reached his peak? Raised 8lb to OR144 for his latest win, he started the season on OR125 and I think he may find this race tough to win. The value in this race is with another alert list runner who we wagered on earlier this season - A Good Skin. He looked like winning the "Badger" over 3m1f at Wincanton in November, but faded to be 3rd in the final half-mile.  This trip on this testing ground could suit him, and he looks very well handicapped as he's actually been dropped 1lb to OR136 by the handicapper. He only has to carry 10st 2lb today and at 9/1 he looks a good eachway wager.  I have been waiting patiently to wager on this horse, and if the ground were not heavy then (even in this competitive race) he would be a win wager.  Of the others; Mon Successeur has been hammmered by the handicapper, Tenor Nivernais has struggled to hold form in the past, and Top Gamble is finding his OR153 rating tough.

In the 2m4f Relkeel hurdle at 3:05pm, Top Notch did us proud LTO but this longer trip on heavy ground may find him out, so I cannot advise a wager on him today even though I think he's the best horse in the race on todays terms.  

Just the one selection today - A GOOD SKIN in the Cheltenham 1:55pm £5 eachway and £5 win @ 9/1 - but be quick as those odds a tumbling!