Friday, December 19, 2014

All I want for Christmas... a winning wager.

The thing is, with time at a premium at this time of year, it's unlikely I've found one on Ascot's Christmas card.

Still, for those interested, here are some suggested plays against likely Ascot favourites that it would be wise not to take too seriously.

1.15 David Johnson Shawbrook Bank Graduation Chase

Irish Saint didn't convince when finishing third behind stablemate Vibrato Valtat in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown a fortnight ago.

Puffin Billy was allowed an easy lead when beating Killala Quay at this course the last day; the runner up did nothing for the form when well beaten at Doncaster last week.

Thomas Crapper was probably flattered to finish within a length of Vibrato Valtat on his penultimate start but in the main has jumped well.

Suggestion: Puffin Billy (2/1 generally).

2.25 JLT Long Walk Hurdle 

Zarkandar is the selection on ratings; this trip on soft ground isn't ideal.

Things fell right for Medinas the last day; they may well do again but I don't want to bet on it.

Reve De Sivola won last year's renewal but has been out of form recently; this will be the first time he encounters underfoot conditions to suit this term.

Pilot Lizzie Kelly can't use her claim on Aubusson while the Pipe yard has openly stated the ground will not help Dell'Arca's cause.

Suggestion: Reve De Sivola (9/2 generally).

3.00 Mappin & Webb Silver Cup Handicap Chase

In January The Young Master won handicap hurdles at Fakenham and Sedgefield off a mark of 103. Impressive when winning the Badger Ales at Wincanton last month, he was subsequently disqualified on a technicality but still has to start tomorrow's race on 144.

Houblon Des Obeaux won this last year, has conditions to suit and another seven pounds to carry; ran a huge race at odds of 50/1 to finish second in the Hennessy three weeks ago.

Some money for the bottom three; both Ardkilly Witness and Polisky race from out of the handicap.

Suggestion: Houblon Des Obeaux (4/1 generally)
Each-way alternative: Hey Big Spender (14/1).

3.30 The Ladbroke  

Two each-way longshots against the field in this ultra-competitive handicap...

Garde La Victoire won the Greatwood in some style last month but has been raised nine pounds for his trouble. Has to concede at least seven pounds to all his rivals so realistically he entertains place prospects at best (16/1 SkyBet paying 5 places).

Swing Bowler's fifth, beaten four lengths behind Splash Of Ginge in Newbury's Betfair Hurdle, reads well. I have a soft spot for David Pipe's mare who probably won't appreciate Ascot's stiff finish but on the plus side has run well after a break previously and Kieron Edgar's five pounds claim means she'll carry 10-11 (28/1 SkyBet paying 5 places).

With the in-laws due to arrive next week, I may well be 'hoping beyond hope' with these selections but indulge me - this and the King George on Boxing Day is all I have to look forward to.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cheltenham Christmas card 2014

The official going for tomorrow's Cheltenham card is good to soft yet only one race has more than eight declared, the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup due off at two o'clock.

Four weeks ago Caid Du Berlais won the Paddy Power Gold Cup (run over the old course) from Johns Spirit by a head with Edgardo Sol eighth, Ericht tenth and Easter Meteor pulled up.

Paul Nicholls' five-year-old heads the market for tomorrow's Gold Cup on the back of that run with the general consensus being the two mile five trip over the new course likely to suit.

Barrakilla can be effective with a racing weight and No Buts looked impressive at Newbury the last day while a case can be made for Attaglance who clearly likes Cheltenham (won the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at the 2012 Festival, finished fourth in the 2013 Paddy Power Gold Cup and second in a listed novices handicap chase at the 2014 Festival) yet he still has to secure that first chase win.

This doesn't look the strongest renewal so I'm going to chance Ericht. Nicky Henderson's charge appeared a little unfortunate to stumble two out when a close third in last month's Paddy Power - with Barry Geraghty back in the plate, Ericht rates an each-way wager at 10/1 (Stan James).

Eight in the International (3.10) but with The New One starting odds-on the race doesn't make much appeal as a betting medium. A couple of points of interest:

Is Bertimont (second in Wincanton's Elite Hurdle) good enough to make a place? Will Mad Moose consent to race?

The Relkeel (3.45) looks trappy.

Rock On Ruby took the 2012 Champion Hurdle when trained by Paul Nicholls but was disappointing in the Elite five weeks ago; he has never won over this distance so presumably connections feel this trip is what is now required.

On official ratings Volnay De Thaix has every chance but he appeared to have a hard enough race behind Aubusson over three miles at Haydock three weeks ago - presumably connections feel the step back in trip is what is now required.

Lac Fontana has to concede four pounds to his four rivals but first-time cheekpieces may bring about improvement. 4/1 is tempting but on balance the weight concession means I'm not going to play.

In the Albert Bartlett at 2.35 I considered Emma Lavelle's Parish Business as a play against Blaklion but in the Weekender the trainer tells us she thinks her charge is 'high enough' in the handicap after finishing second to Fletchers Flyer at Ascot. Nonetheless,  'He's a real galloper and jumps superbly.'  
Only four in the field for the novice chase at 12.50 with this engagement Virak's second preference; the intention is to go to Doncaster for the bet365 Novices' Chase at 2.50. With Virak priced up favourite there, I'll be interested to see how Killala Quay performs.

Back in January I thought Killala was something to bet on at 5/1 in Warwick's Leamington Novices' Hurdle but he ran no sort of race on heavy ground and was pulled up.

He was well beaten behind Puffin Billy at Ascot on his chase debut three weeks ago but it was very soft that day; he'll certainly appreciate this step-up in trip.

A comment I heard after that Warwick run was the gelding prefers better ground - it doesn't look as though he'll get that tomorrow but I may take the chance if bookies are offering 7/2...

Friday, December 05, 2014

Two Sandown selections, one Becher Chase longshot

A capacity crowd of 42,000 is expected at Aintree tomorrow following the course's initiative to hand out free tickets for Betfred Becher Chase day.

I've spent my time looking at Sandown's Tingle Creek card but my throw-away suggestion for the Aintree feature at 1.30 is Mr Moonshine who clearly handles the National fences having finished third behind Chance du Roy in this race last year (and subsequently completed the Grand National in fifteenth).

The going on the course is officially described as good to soft, soft in places which should help the cause and Sue Smith's charge also has a couple of runs under his belt. Granted, the gelding appears to have his fair share of weight but pilot Daragh Bourke claims five.

At the time of writing Mr Moonshine, 22/1 with William Hill who pay a quarter the odds five places, rates a sporting each-way wager.    

The Tingle Creek (3.00) tops the bill at Sandown.

Layers appear to have taken the view that Alan King's Balder Succes, beaten five lengths in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter (Pepite Rose fifth, Somersby sixth, Hinterland pulled up), should reverse placings with Tom George's God's Own on seven pounds better terms.

The star turns, Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy, may be missing but several in the field are closely matched on official ratings:

163 Balder Succes (3/1)
162 God's Own (4/1)
162 Somersby (17/2 Skybet)
158 Dodging Bullets (10/1 Boylesports)
157 Oscar Whisky (13/2 bet365)

In addition Harry Fry's Vukovar (152) has come in for market support during the week and is currently rated an 8/1 chance.

4/1 looks a fair price about God's Own - handler Tom George is pretty bullish in a piece published in today's edition of The Times.

10/1 Dodging Bullets is value but in the past he has shown a tendency to jump left on occasions when racing right-handed.

Oscar Whisky is very talented but this is his first try at two miles over fences and his jumping may suffer, particularly at this most exacting of tracks.

God's Own gets the nod.

There's No Panic beat Court By Surprise in last year's London National but Emma Lavelle's charge hasn't made the final declarations for this year's renewal at 3.35.

Emperor's Choice, second to Gas Line Boy at Haydock a fortnight ago, should appreciate underfoot conditions.

At 9/2 with William Hill and Coral, Emperor's Choice is the selection for Sandown's finale.        

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday, Hennessy Saturday

After Black Friday comes Hennessy Saturday...

In the past decade nine winners of the Hennessy Gold Cup have been aged either six or seven years old; a five-year-old has never won the race yet Willie Mullins' Djakadam is the clear market leader, priced as low as 4/1 with Boylesports.

This year in particular I'm struck by the bigger prices available about horses who can boast decent form on soft/heavy ground.

Last year's winner Triolo D'Alene may prefer better underfoot conditions but is rated a 33/1 chance while Merry King (fifth in 2013) is 16/1 with William Hill and Houblon Des Obeaux (sixth) is another priced at 33/1.

Previous Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude is 25/1 and Peter Marsh Chase winner Wychwoods Brook is 28/1 (betVictor), as is Dan Skelton's unexposed sort What A Warrior (William Hill).

You pays your money and takes your choice.

With prices like these I've ignored the market leaders and had an each-way wager on Wychwoods Brook (25/1 with SkyBet paying a quarter the odds five places) who had a nice pipe opener over hurdles at Worcester last month.

I also looked closely at Houblon Des Obeaux who will relish underfoot conditions despite top weight and would be in the mix if showing a return to his very best form - the downside is this is his first outing since April.

Back in March More Of That retained his unbeaten record to collect the Ladbrokes World Hurdle in some style.

The gelding makes his reappearance in the Long Distance Hurdle at 2.25 but Warren Greatrex's Cole Harden is likely to have a fitness edge and at 4/1 represents a play against the odds-on favourite whose stable is currently in the midst of a lean spell.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Haydock Betfair Chase meeting 2014

Faugheen is the stand-out horse at Ascot tomorrow but Haydock has the better card with the Betfair Chase (3.00) the highlight.

Last year's first, second and third [Cue Card, Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti] head the market but they come into the race with questions to answer; Taquin Du Seuil can be considered a contender on the back of his second to Menorah in the Charlie Hall three weeks ago with underfoot conditions here likely to suit.

I was surprised to see Cue Card backed into favouritism for the Haldon Gold Cup on his first appearance after suffering a pelvic injury at the beginning of the year. Well beaten at Exeter, the longer trip here will help but that run was just 18 days ago - last year's winner doesn't come to this in the same form as last year and I remain unconvinced.

I tipped Dynaste for the race last year but on his seasonal reappearance he came up just short and I suspect we may see a repeat performance tomorrow.

Paul Nicholls ran Silviniaco Conti in the Charlie Hall as a preparation for this; the handler felt his charge was a little short in this race last year.

Silviniaco, sent off even money favourite at Wetherby, was somewhat disappointing in fifth and sports cheek pieces for the first time.

I was tempted by Taquin Du Seuil who can look awkward on occasions but did nothing wrong the last day; the value has disappeared though - he's just a 5/1 chance now.

Silviniaco Conti is priced 4/1 with Ladbrokes this evening yet on official figures has 15lbs in hand over Jonjo's horse - Silviniaco Conti gets the nod.

At least Melodic Rendezvous (regular jockey Nick Scholfield is riding at Ascot) provides some level of opposition for The New One in the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle (1.50) but it will be a major shock if Twiston-Davies' charge doesn't come home in front.

The three mile 'fixed brush' handicap hurdle at 2,25 is very difficult.

Aubusson and Vieux Lion Rouge are horses I like but, pressed for an each-way selection, I have sided with Sybarite who at eight years of age is older than ideal but should stay this trip on the ground - Ladbrokes offer 14/1 at the time of writing while Skybet quote 12/1 and pay five places.

Regular readers will know I've followed Polly Peachum quite closely since her win at Warwick back in March. Following victory at Wincanton two weeks ago, the handicapper has had his say and raised Nicky Henderson's mare a further eight pounds to a mark of 155.

She held a five-day entry for tomorrow's fixed brush hurdle at Haydock but also holds an entry for the listed hurdle at Kempton on Monday (2.10). Both Woodland Walk and Hi Note hold entries for that same Kempton event but connections have opted to run in tomorrow's 1.30 at Ascot instead.

Should Polly make the line-up on Monday, she'll be attempting a trip of three miles for the first time and easy conditions underfoot will be far from ideal.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cheltenham Open meeting 2014 - Saturday

Eighteen face the starter for tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup at 2.30 - earlier today a low sun resulted in fences being omitted in the novice chase but a request to bring forward the off-time of Saturday's feature has been rejected by the BHA.

Last year Johns Spirit won carrying 10-2 racing off a mark of 139; tomorrow, together with Oscar Whisky, he carries 11-12 and races off 156. Jonjo O'Neill's charge looked impressive when winning over course and distance last month but the stable has only recently emerged from a spell in the doldrums.

In the past decade no horse has carried more than 11-8 to victory; seven of those winners carried under 11-0.

Jamie Snowden's Present View heads the market, despite suffering a slight setback when returning with a cut after finishing a head second to Vicente in a hurdle race here last month.

The gelding won the Rewards4Racing Novices Handicap Chase at the Festival in March (Buywise fifth and Persian Snow sixth); Buywise, in receipt of three pounds, was beaten seven lengths that day but appeared to be making ground up the hill after a couple of indifferent jumps on the way round - this one has been well tipped up.

In an ultra-competitive renewal I'm going to stay loyal to Johns Spirit who has shown his liking for Cheltenham in the past. This evening Paddy Power offer 11/1 and pay a quarter the odds five places so Johns Spirit is the each-way selection.

Philip Hobbs is having a terrific season and saddled a treble earlier today with Bold Henry (14/1), Champagne West (7/2) and Balthazar King (4/7f).

In the novice chase at 1.15 I'll oppose the David Pipe trained Kings Palace with Sausalito Sunrise (11/4 Ladbrokes, Skybet, bet365).

Finally Kilronan High went into my notebook when beating a Nicky Henderson hotpot seven lengths at Towcester last May.

The mare sweated up badly before making all to win at Perth a couple of months back; at 14/1 (Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, bet365) she is worth a small each-way interest in a competitive-looking bumper.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Wincanton Badger Ales / Elite 2014

Back at the beginning of September in a post entitled 'Back in training' I wrote:

"At a Warwick midweek meeting last March Nicky Henderson's mare Polly Peachum caught my eye while King's Tempest claimed the concluding bumper for the Twiston-Davies operation; both will be of interest when they re-appear."

King's Tempest, now with Warren Greatrex, finished two lengths second to Jollyallan in a novices' hurdle at Exeter on Tuesday while Polly Peachum makes her seasonal debut in a Class 2 mares' handicap hurdle at Wincanton tomorrow.

On her last run in a listed Sandown hurdle Polly, in receipt of three pounds, finished a short head second to the well-regarded Southfield Theatre (odds-on favourite for the novice chase at 1.30).

Polly Peachum is a smart mare with a decent turn of foot but my primary concern for this race is she ideally needs good ground to show that turn of foot to best effect. She also has to concede upwards of 12 pounds to her ten opponents but Woodland Walk, Lily Waugh and Mini Muck are obliged to race from out of the handicap.

This evening layers offer 9/2; I'll consider a wager if the going remains no worse than good-to-soft.

A maximum field of 18 will face the starter for the feature Badger Ales Trophy at 2.40; securing a decent racing pitch early on will be important.

Standing Ovation won last year's renewal off 120 and tries to repeat the trick this time off a rating of 131; he should be thereabouts having had a seasonal pipe-opener, a comment that also applies to Emma Lavelle's Court By Surprise, third in last year's race and four pounds better off for eight and a quarter lengths.

At a price I considered Tom George's Date To Endeavour in a race that often goes to a younger horse but most of his chase form is in small fields.

In the past decade the favourite has obliged on four occasions with the winner coming from the top four in the market on eight occasions; Court By Surprise (12/1 William Hill) is no more than a tentative each-way suggestion.

Much of the pre-race talk surrounding the Elite Hurdle (3.15) centres on Irving (unbeaten in this country before disappointing in the Supreme at Cheltenham last March - later found to be coughing) and 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby.

Several in the field make their seasonal debut so, in search of some value, I've concentrated on those with a recent run under their belts.

Bertimont won a farcical race at Chepstow the last day but could be anything while Hint Of Mint, Forgotten Voice and Starluck finished in that order behind The New One at Kempton three weeks ago.

That trio raced at level weights at Kempton so Nico De Boinville's three pound claim is probably the reason why Forgotten Voice is as low as 5/1 with William Hill.

Starluck is not the force of old but he won a Cheltenham handicap hurdle off this mark in April last year; 40/1 (Stan James) is a big price about a horse whose style of racing is suited to the course.

Since tackling hurdles, Hint Of Mint has raced exclusively on right-handed tracks - priced at 10/1 this evening, Hint of Mint is the each-way suggestion for the Elite; in the past ten years all the winners have been aged between five and seven years old.

Friday, October 31, 2014

An Ascot sensation?

Silviniaco Conti, the form choice for Wetherby's Charlie Hall at 3.15 , is priced accordingly and I'm fast running out of reasons to oppose.

So far this season Paul Nicholls' runners have tended to need their first outing but Silviniaco had a racecourse spin last week - connections see this race as a prep for Haydock's Betfair Chase in three weeks' time.

On official ratings Taquin Du Seuil, in receipt of five pounds, still has ten to find with the favourite while Menorah comes form a stable bang in form but has had his share of jumping problems in the past.

In the previous two renewals of this race Wayward Prince finished second (beaten 11 lengths by Silviniaco in 2012 and a  neck by Harry Topper last year) and would have made some appeal as an each-way wager had eight been declared...

In search of better value I've been drawn to Ascot's Byrne Group chase at 2.20.

Only nine go to post but the layers bet 4/1  the field.

Michael Scudamore's Next Sensation was well tipped up for the Grand Annual at Cheltenham in March and the gelding looked to have the spoils in the bag when three lengths clear at the last but he was headed in the final 100 yards and finished fourth, beaten a neck to third by Claret Cloak; the latter named finished down the field at Cheltenham a fortnight ago but is sure to have gained some benefit from the run.

Back in March Manyriverstocross beat Bellenos a short-head over course and distance - Alan King's charge is two pounds better off but Dan Skelton's six-year-old looks less exposed while course and distance winner Ulck Du Lin is not readily dismissed with Sean Bowen able to claim seven.

A tight handicap but I'm swayed by confidence shown by Michael Scudamore in midweek.

With the trainer's brother Tom in the plate, Next Sensation gets the nod (4/1 William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power).       

Friday, October 24, 2014

Chepstow trio

The Old Roan Chase is the highlight on Aintree's card tomorrow where Barry Geraghty has been booked for the ride on favourite Uxizandre following the fall of Wayne Hutchinson from McCabe Creek at Southwell yesterday.

I've decided to concentrate on the Chepstow card; champion jockey Tony McCoy returns from a spell on the sidelines with two rides, Son Du Berlais in the Persian War at 3.35 and Regal Encore in the Silver Trophy at 4.10.

McCoy's last ride was well over a week ago aboard Goodwood Mirage at Wetherby but he can still boast 151 wins so far this season and a strike rate of 32.9%; he appears on course for 300 winners, injuries permitting.

Writing in the Weekender, Andrew King has a bullish word for course and distance winner Sausalito Sunrise in the novice chase at 2.25 and I'm not inclined to disagree. That said, both Mosspark and Leo Luna are closely matched with Philip Hobbs' charge on hurdle ratings. 

Sausalito Sunrise is the selection.

Those contemplating a wager on Jackies Solitaire in the totescoop6 The Millionaire Maker Handicap Chase at 2.55 should note Anthony Honeyball's comment in this week's Straight From The Stable article:

"She's definitely better over hurdles than fences but we will probably mix her over the two disciplines."

McCoy's mount Son Du Berlais has had the Persian War as his target for some time - four-year-olds have a good record in the race and the favourite has obliged on five occasions in the past ten years - but there are other interesting runners who offer better value including Blaklion, withdrawn from the race won by Vicente at Cheltenham a week ago, and course and distance winner Restless Dreamer while The Pirate's Queen receives a stone from the top two and hails from a yard bang in form although six of her seven rivals all have the benefit of a recent run.

Blaklion was market leader when withdrawn on veterinary advice at Cheltenham yet he's priced up at 11/2 with Paddy Power this evening - I'll chance Blaklion.

The Silver Trophy looks very competitive.

In complete contrast to the previous race just two of the twelve have a recent run under their belts and they can both boast course and distance winning form - Boondooma and Shelford.

A win for Garde La Victoire (2.00 Aintree) may point to the chance of Vieux Lion Rouge as David Pipe's charge was just six lengths adrift conceding four pounds when the pair met at Aintree in April.

L'unique is a game mare who perhaps shows her best in the spring but course and distance winner Aubusson is one I like. Nick Williams' gelding really was impressive when beating Regal Diamond at Cheltenham on New Year's Day with Ballyalton fourth - Ballyalton subsequently finished second  to Faugheen in the Neptune at the Festival.

Priced at 10/1 with both Ladbrokes and BetVictor this evening, Aubusson is worth an each-way wager.

Finally a couple of races that may have passed you by in the past week...

On Friday 17 October Cambridge beat Oxford in the inaugural running of the Varisty Horse Race over Newmarket's Rowley Mile.

At Plumpton the following Monday Gemma Pallett (aged 13) won the Shetland Pony Gold Cup on Galloping Goring. Little Bucks, possibly in the same ownership as Big Buck's, finished down the field...

Friday, October 17, 2014

October Cheltenham chances

Heavy ground may appear a distinct possibility for tomorrow's Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot but at Cheltenham the going is described as good, good to soft in places.

According to the market, the opener at the Cotswolds' track is between In The Rough and Vivaldi Collonges. On New Year's Day the latter-named trailed in last of six over two and half miles and was well beaten at Warwick the next time but when upped in trip he won a Class 3 handicap hurdle at Ayr with some ease; on official ratings Paul Nicholls' charge has five pounds to find with his market rival.

Last year Johns Spirit won the 2.35 off a mark of 129; tomorrow he tries to repeat the trick off a rating of 147. A tall order but we should remember Jonjo O'Neill's charge went on to take the Paddy Power Gold Cup four weeks later (Champion Court seventh, Astracad eleventh) and had Champion Court, Bennys Mist (would prefer more cut) and Sew On Target behind when finishing fourth to Ballynagour in the Byrne Group Plate at the Festival.

Several will be using the race as a stepping stone to the Paddy Power - Johns Spirit (13/2 Stan James) is the suggestion although it's worth noting that Astracad is over 20 pounds better off for a five length defeat in last year's running.

Triumph Hurdle form is on display in the 3.10 with Festival winner Tiger Roll set to give Calipto (fourth in March) four pounds; the latter-named was beaten over eight lengths but that only tells half the story as Daryl Jacob lost his irons two from home that day.

Many will fancy Nicholls' charge to reverse the form - it's not a race I'll get involved in.

Ainsi Fideles (5.00) is something of rarity - a four-year-old who has taken well to chasing.

He has the beating of Splash of Ginge on recent Perth form but David Pipe's charge looked a tad fortunate to collect that day with Howwoulduno (beaten five lengths by Court Minstrel earlier today) idling in the shadow of the post. Splash Of Ginge is expected to strip fitter for that Perth run.

Finally some interesting sorts in the concluding bumper. In April Moon Racer won a Fairyhouse bumper on his racecourse debut at odds of 50/1 for handler Michael Ronayne; the gelding is now with David Pipe and unlikely to start at anywhere near those odds tomorrow. Chezzy is a mare who impressed at Carlisle on her debut while How About It won an Irish point-to-point in the spring.

Warren Greatrex and Gavin Sheehan are a combination worthy of note. The stable has done well in this type of event in the past and I don't think Going For Gold would be entered if connections felt he was going to be outclassed.

I'll take a small each-way interest provided the price is 12/1 or bigger.

Friday, October 10, 2014

One chance at Chepstow

It's taken me 5 attempts to log on,,,

Popped up? Of course I am.

Over the years the form of the Nicholls runners has been key to this Chepstow meeting.

At Newton Abbot earlier today Wonderful Charm obliged but Arenice Et Pictons (even money favourite ) was pulled up while Solar Impulse (8/11f) was beaten by Llittle Jon.

Southfield Theatre looks the answer to the 3.40 but will be no price and isn't guaranteed to take to fences.

The market tells us the 4.20 is between the three horses allocated 11-2; Nicky Henderson's Dawalan wasn't the best at his hurdles last term while  Brian Ellison's Manhattan Swing has no more than a Market Rasen novice hurdle to his name in this country.

In the circumstances a chance is taken with Nicholls' Dormello Mo (7/2 or better).


Friday, October 03, 2014

Small fields at Fontwell

Small fields at Fontwell today and the same applies tomorrow - the recent dry weather has meant trainers have decided to keep their charges under wraps until the rains arrive.

Of course small fields don't necessarily make picking winners any easier; 10/1 chance The Wallace Line beat odds-on favourite Mercouer in the opener today while 1/5 favourite Salubrious held Drum Valley (9/2) a neck in the novice chase.

Finding a value play on tomorrow's card at the Sussex track looks a challenge - I intend to keep my powder dry.

In the opener (2.15) Anthony Honeyball's mare Lily Waugh has decent form to her name. She finished third in a mares' listed handicap at Newbury in March and was far from disgraced when eighth behind Polly Peachum next time out at Cheltenham; the Honeyball stable boasts three wins from three runners over the jumps in the past month.

A reasonable showing from Lily Waugh might point to the chance of another mare, One Lucky Lady, who goes in the Class 2 handicap hurdle at 3.20; Nicky Henderson's inmate finished some 13 lengths behind Lily in that Cheltenham race won in some style by her stablemate Polly Peachum. Workbench won a Class 2 handicap chase at the track this afternoon but is also declared in this - it would be a surprise to see connections allow their charge to take his chance over the smaller obstacles.

Kim Bailey's yard is in excellent form at present - seven winners from fifteen attempts in the past four weeks. Up For An Oscar (3.55) has been running in novice chases of late with a fourth behind Drum Valley (beaten a neck by Salubrious earlier today) sandwiched between two wins at Worcester.

Just six face the starter but this is a trappy event - as I indicated, I'm going to keep my powder dry and wait for the rain to arrive.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Rum and Rasen

The 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Perthshire may be the focus of attention for many this weekend but for this observer Perth's two day midweek meeting held as much interest.

In the past I have found the meet has proved a reasonable guide to the well-being of Nigel Twiston-Davies' horses.

This year Blacklion took the opening race of the meeting at odds of 4/9 but there were some notable disappointments in between before five-year-old mare Kilronan High built on her impressive win at Towcester last May with victory in the meeting's concluding bumper.

2/5 chance Ballyboley was beaten some 33 lengths by 80/1 shot Last Supper while Splash Of Ginge, winner of last season's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, didn't appear to appreciate the larger obstacles in the latter stages of the novice chase, finishing some 47 lengths behind David Pipe's game four-year-old Ansi Fideles.

Tomorrow's opener at Market Rasen (1.45) was won by Barizan in 2009 (went on to finish second in the Triumph Hurdle) and Nicky Henderson's Royal Irish Hussar obliged last year (went on to finish sixth in the Triumph).

Twiston-Davies saddles course and distance winner Goodbye Dancer (rated 139) and I've no doubt he'll hope for similar things for his charge but stable form isn't convincing and the price looks tight enough. In the past the gelding has made all but may not have things all his own way with the filly Full Day in the field while David Pipe's French import Unanimite looks interesting on his debut in this country.

Those looking for a wager may want to consider trainers in form including:

Charlie Longsdon - six winners from last seven runners;
Kim Bailey - seven winners from eleven runners in past month;
John Ferguson - four winners from seven entries in September;
Dr R P Newland - three winners from six in past month;
Neil Mulholland - three-timer at Worcester earlier today.

The listed hurdle at 2.15 looks very difficult.

John Ferguson's Mijhaar is priced up favourite but in the past he hasn't been the most consistent.

A couple of 'old friends' (I use that term advisedly) try their luck again.

Peter Bowen has declared Dineur in this hurdle (rating 126) rather than the following handicap chase where he was set to run off 134. He's a talented individual but this is his first run for over a year and his first run in a hurdle for over two...

I tipped Solaras Exhibition as an each-way outsider for this race last year but he ran an absolute stinker; in the past he was described as a 'lively outsider' for the Fred Winter at Cheltenham but he's not one to trust implicitly.

Purple 'N 'Gold narrowly failed to bring home the bacon when carrying my money three weeks ago but he has failed again since and looks up against it.

The listed handicap chase at 2.50 isn't any easier but Rum And Butter is a young horse with time on his side. He failed to show in the Galway Plate in July and lacks chase experience compared to some in this field but he has won around here before.

McCoy prefers Dursey Sound so Rum And Butter can be no more than a speculative each-way suggestion, priced up at 14/1 this evening.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Back in training...

Having been sent out to grass over the summer, I've only recently 'come back in' and as result will need  a few more weeks before coming to hand...

At a Warwick midweek meeting last March Nicky Henderson's mare Polly Peachum caught my eye while King's Tempest claimed the concluding bumper for the Twiston-Davies operation; both will be of interest when they re-appear.

Since then Warwick has held its final Flat meeting (Bank Holiday Monday, August 25th) as the course pursues its aim of becoming 'a top quality small jumps course.'

A few miles down the road Towcester has sold off seven of its NH fixtures deeming the decision  to diversify into greyhound racing a commercial necessity.

And Peddlers Cross, the 2011 Champion Hurdle runner-up, has been retired.

At Stratford tomorrow I'm tempted to chance David Pipe's Purple 'n Gold in the 3.55 provided the tissue price of 5/1 is available on the day. This one was beaten by Roman Flight over course and distance in May but held every chance before making a mess of the last. Although racing from out of the handicap here, at the weights he holds a chance of reversing the form and jockey Kieron Edgar claims five.

That said, having just returned from the summer vacation, I'm racing some way off the pace.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Market Rasen Summer Plate 2014

This race, one of the highlights of the summer jumping programme, is a regular target of Peter Bowen; the Welsh handler boasts a decent record in the race but hasn't won any of the past five renewals.

This year Jonjo O'Neill saddles four - Lost legend, It's A Gimme, Dursey Sound and course and distance winner The Nephew.

McCoy has chosen It's A Gimme but has previously won on each of the three stablemates so the champion jockey should certainly know what's required.

Of the Bowen pair Lamboro Lad was well beaten behind The Romford Pele last time (Pantxoa pulled up) while previously he found Guess Again too good at Perth; Book'Em Danno, racing in a first-time tongue-tie, beat Grandads Horse over course and distance last month and probably holds the better chance.

I note that six of the fifteen strong field have the form comment 'made [virtually] all' recorded for a recent race (Kie, Pantxoa, Guess Again, Creevytennant, The Nephew and Woodbank) and Book'Em Danno also likes to race with the pace, all of which suggests it could be cut-throat up front; good fencing will be at a premium.

The weather is likely to prove problematic as well with sporadic torrential downpours forecast - it's difficult to know exactly how the ground will ride.

Guess Again hasn't always been the most fluent of jumpers but he's a tough customer who has won over further and won't be inconvenienced by any rain that falls. At the prices this evening (10/1 BetVictor) he looks a reasonable value each-way play.

Friday, July 04, 2014

World Cup wagers - update

Following on from my last post, with all the group stage matches now completed, I have been asked to provide updated figures for the predictions made by Nicolas Scelles and his research team at the University of Stirling.

So, here goes...

The correct score prices quoted were the best available as shown on the Oddschecker site on Wednesday-Thursday 11-12 June, before a ball had been kicked in the competition.

Interestingly, in the correct score markets Ladbrokes were best or joint-best priced on 31 of the 48 matches (64.58%) while BetVictor were best or joint-best priced on 12 of the 48 matches (25%).

Six correct scorelines were predicted from the 48 group games as shown below:

Chile 3 Australia 1 - 15/1 BetVictor

Ivory Coast 2 Japan 1 - 11/1 Ladbrokes

Argentina 2 Bosnia-Herzegovina 1 - 17/2 Ladbrokes

Ghana 1 USA 2 - 12/1 Ladbrokes

Australia 0 Spain 3 - 13/2 Paddy Power

Portugal 2 Ghana 1 - 8/1 Ladbrokes / BetVictor

Figures to nominal £1 bet per match:

Win strike-rate:  6/48 - 12.5%

Outlay: £48.00

Return: £67.00

Profit: £19.00

Profit as % of turnover: 39.58%

Monday, June 16, 2014

World Cup wagers?

For the first time in many years I've had to forgo Royal Ascot form study.

The World Cup has proved a distraction, particualry the article entitled 'Prediction' compiled by researchers at the University of Strirling and published on The Scorecard website.

Bravely, the team at Stirling has predicted correct score outcomes for all matches at the 2014 World Cup.

As an exercise, using Oddschecker as the comparison tool, I noted the best prices in correct scores markets for the 48 scheduled group games before a ball had been kicked in the competition.

At the time of writing the team has predicted three correct scores from eleven completed games:

Chile 3 Australia 1  (15/1 BetVictor)
Ivory Coast 2 Japan 1 (11/1 Ladbrokes)
Argentina 2 Bosnia 1 (17/2 Ladbrokes)

A nominal £1.00 correct score wager on each of the completed games to date shows a healthy-looking profit of £25.50 on £11 staked.

Of course, as always, past results are not necessarily a guide to future performance...    

Friday, June 06, 2014

Epsom Derby 2014

I usually indulge myself by taking a small interest in the Epsom Derby although my record in the race is thoroughly abysmal.

Tomorrow's renewal is a one horse affair according to layers who bet 7/1 the field bar favourite and form choice Australia, priced up at 6/4. Ruler Of The World was the biggest priced winner in the past decade when returned at odds of 7/1 last year.

The going is reported to be drying out but rain is forecast; I've used the Dante form to try and identify some each-way value. At York The Grey Gatsby beat Arod and True Story and was then turned out 17 days later to take the Prix Du Jockey Club at Chantilly.

True Story looked held when hampered a furlong from home in the Dante; several commentators felt he didn't give his true running that day and can reverse placings with second Arod who was staying on at the end. Fallon is bullish enough about True Story's chance in the Weekender while Aron's pilot Jamie Spencer would probably prefer the rain to stay away.

This evening BetVictor bet 18/1 Arod and 12/1 True Story; I'll support True Story each-way should any rain get into the ground, otherwise I'll chance Arod (each-way) - on Timeform ratings True Story is second and Aron fourth best of the sixteen runners in the field.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Some jumping links for Saturday's cards

Pressed for time, so rather brief notes this evening...

Dual purpose handler Ian Williams has some interesting runners around the country tomorrow.

At Chester Swinging Hawk tries to repeat last year's victory in the Kozel Handicap at 4.15; he faces a stiff enough task off a rating six pounds higher. Swnymor, ninth behind runaway winner Our Conor in the 2013 Triumph Hurdle, has his first run for J. J. Quinn in the same race.    

Gifted Leader is getting on a bit these days but took a Class 3 Market Rasen hurdle with the minimum of fuss off a mark of 120 last month. Rated 82 on the Flat he makes some appeal as an each-way wager in Newmarket's 5.15 and George Downing can claim five but 10/1 isn't particularly generous. The gelding finished second behind Veiled in the 2011 running of this race; Veiled went on to win the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot that year.

Williams saddles two at Stratford's evening meeting. Sonofagun arrives in good form to contest the Severn Cider Handicap Chase at 7.25 while the consistent Fredo, entered in the three and a half mile handicap chase at 6.25, should be thereabouts.

Five Star Wilsham did the blog a favour at Ffos Las last week and goes again in that 6.25 race; trainer Twiston-Davies certainly isn't letting the grass grow... With the benefit of hindsight, the gelding was well in that day and has been raised seven pounds for his trouble; this looks much more competitive but likely favourite Oscarslad is taking on seasoned handicappers here and makes a market which contains several credible winners.

I'm going to stay loyal to Five Star Wilsham who holds a better chance of conceding weight all round on drying ground and should certainly see out the trip.    

Friday, May 23, 2014

From a £15 million jackpot to Ffos Las

The total for this week's Scoop6 pool is predcited to pass the £15 million mark...

With the benefit of hindsight, last week's pot (4,696,960 different winning combinations) was eminently more winnable than this week's puzzle (9,424,800 combinations).

Rain is predicted for Haydock - the odd non-runner here and there may reduce that rather large number by the odd million or so but we're still talking big numbers.

All this week's races will be run over a distance of eight furlongs or less; for those interested, the races are:

2.05 Haydock 
2.50 Catterick
2.55 Goodwood
3.10 Haydock
3.25 Catterick
3.45 Haydock

There's no £15 million jackpot up for grabs at Ffos Las but the rain has certainly arrived at the Welsh track where the going is described as soft; the handicap chase at 7.40 looks more open than some of the other fare on offer.

Top weight Smadynium, trying this trip for the first time, isn't guaranteed to stay while at the other end of the handicap Tough Talkin Man has been allocated the bare minimum and amateur Mr S P Bowen claims a further seven pounds - the Bowen yard has sent out four winners in the past week. Whispering Jack won this last year (Sir Mattie beaten 16 lengths) but hasn't been in good form of late. By contrast Sir Mattie ran well for a long way here the last day on his first appearance for the best part of a year. Five Star Wilsham has his second run for the Twiston-Davies yard and boasts some interesting pieces of form; that said he has failed to complete in his last three chase starts.

Both Sir Mattie and Five Star Wilsham are priced up at around 5/1 in the tissue; of that pairing, the latter looks to offer slightly better value and so makes more appeal - it's the jumping that's the worry.