It's been a while since I've posted a placepot selection on geegeez - in fact, it's been a while since I've posted much here - so let's put that right with a crack at Haydock's heavy ground puzzlefest. And, as a bonus for sticking with me until the end of the post, I'll show you something that I think is VERY cool, and which should be arriving early next week to Geegeez Gold, all being well.
But first things first, a preview of the first six races at Haydock, framed around a placepot attempt. They go to post for the first at 12.20, for a handicap hurdle over three heavy miles, and that'll take some getting.
12.20 - Leg 1
Eight of them are scheduled to face the starter, which immediately means a non-runner takes us down to two places. Heavy ground form and a prominent racing style is a combination I like in such conditions, and Henry Daly's bottom weight, Brave Buck, makes some appeal in that context. He's two from two in heavy ground, albeit that both of those wins were in poor Class 5 events. Last time, on soft ground, he was well beaten in Class 4 and, though he has a feather weight, he's stepping up again in grade, to Class 3.
The other concern is that he's been thumped on both tries at this three mile distance, and that combination of class and trip negative strikes him from my reckoning. The other pace pressing mudlark is Seamus Mullins' Ugly Bug. This fellow has a much more robust feel, having run a fine neck second in a Class 2 three miler last time on heavy. A quick glance at Ugly Bug's placed form in the Full Horse Form tab adds ballast to his claims - see below - and he's a ready A choice.
Champagne Rian is unexposed after just three starts, only two over timber, and he gets the influence of Tony McCoy for the first time. He'll need to step up a fair whack on what he's done so far, but jockey booking implies there's every chance of that, and conditions should suit well.
Selection: Ugly Bug 4/1 Betfred
A - 4 (Ugly Bug), 5 (Champagne Rian)
12.55 - Leg 2
With Maggio having run on Friday, there's a good chance this five runner Class 2 Graduation Chase will become a four runner, win only, affair for placepot players. If that makes it potentially tricky, then the fact that Paul Nicholls has a standout contender makes life a bit easier.
Benvolio has won his last three completed starts, a first fence faux pas breaking that sequence, and looks a nicely progressive seven year old. Against him are runners with six, nine, seven and four chase starts top to bottom; and none of them have a higher mark. With more to come, and a distance win on heavy, this looks a very good opportunity for Benvolio to extend his winning-when-finishing run. His prominent racing style is a bonus.
Of the oppo, Rival d'Estruval could bounce back if ridden with less restraint, and rates the danger, albeit a C ticket one.
Selection: Benvolio 11/8 Betfred
A - 2 (Benvolio)
C - 1 (Rival d'Estruval)
1.30 - Leg 3
Another five runner Grade 2 chase, Gevrey Chambertin having already absented himself, and again it'll be win only if a second declaration fails to present himself to the starter. No matter for I think Taquin de Seuil is a gimme. He loves deep ground, this is his trip, he has class, and he jumps well.
He does have to give seven pounds to the talented O'Faolains Boy, but he has an experience advantage on that one as well as a class edge. Knock A Hand is a very stout stayer but a small field affair like this is unlikely to become attritional, and he might be outpaced at the sharp end.
I'm winning no prizes for originality, picking my third favourite of the afternoon, but at least two of them look very solid, and the third (Ugly Bug) is fair value in an open race.
Selection: Taquin de Seuil 5/6 Betfred
A - 1 (Taquin de Seuil)
C - 3 (Knock A Hand), 6 (O'Faolains Boy)
2.05 - Leg 4
A smallish field of six for this Grade 2 novices' hurdle, and the jolly, Un Temps Pour Tout, is an ex-French nag that cost £450,000 (yes, no tackle, and four. Hundred. And fifty. Thousand. Quid). As you'd expect, he had smart form back home, most notably when a seven length third to Ptit Zig (runs in the next race here) in a Grade 3 last time. That was over two and a half miles, and he seemed to get outpaced there, so this half mile shorter trip in what will likely be a tactical affair may not suit as well as further and quicker could.
He's hard to leave out as he has demonstrated a high level of ability, but he might not just be perfectly aligned to the test at hand this day.
Stand To Reason, on the other hand, couldn't have chosen a better fitting race. Two heavy ground miles and a talented lead horse in Zamdy Man hint at a big run from this former high class flat boyo (rated 94 on his last level start). True, this is a big step up on what he's achieved so far over hurdles, but a sixteen length win in the mud looks right for a prominent showing.
The horse I expect to take them along is Zamdy Man, himself a dual winner in his last two starts. A frustrating type last season who kept finding one too good, that has at least preserved his novice status and gives him a big experience advantage on these, Un Temps Pour Tout aside (seven hurdle runs for ZM, nine for UTPT).
Meadowcroft Boy is probably the best horse Alistair Whillans has ever trained, and he comes here unbeaten in three career starts. He retains 'could be anything' status, but is reluctantly overlooked. I'd be delighted for connections if they were able to throw mud in the eye of the millionaires in opposition, but the balance of probability says that won't happen.
Selection: Stand To Reason 9/2 bet365
A - 1 (Un Temps Pour Tout), 4 (Stand To Reason)
2.40 - Leg 5
Two very good horses and two more capable types comprise two-thirds of the field of six for this Champion Hurdle trial, a Grade 2. The market is headed by the aforementioned Ptit Zig, a horse that has thrived on cross-channel raids since last seen in Blighty back in April. He was winning a Class 2 handicap hurdle at Sandown then, and has bagged two silvers and a Gallic gold in the meantime. That gold was in a Grade 1 contest, and a literal reading of that makes him hard to beat.
However, against him is Melodic Rendez-Vous, a horse that can still be backed at 50/1 non-runner no bet (BetVictor) for the Champion Hurdle. The reason he's 30 points longer than I backed him for that race is because he flopped badly last time out on ground far quicker than ideal in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth. Lest you think that's as good as he is, note well that he won a Grade 2 when not fully fit prior to that, and was a heavy ground Grade 1 scorer last term.
He has every chance to bounce back on this quaggier track, but even though a win here would truncate his price for the Champion, it's unlikely he'll get his favoured deep turf at Chelters in mid-March. Still, traders may want to take a chance. After all, if he flunks again here, he surely won't go the Champion Hurdle and you'll get your money back. I think he can win today.
Although Ifandbutwhynot and Act Of Kalanisi are good horses, neither has shown a great deal of fondness for fetlock-deep bogs, and I don't expect them to beat the top two.
Selection: Melodic Rendezvous 9/4 Betfred, Hills, totesport
A - 3 (Melodic Rendezvous)
3.15 - Leg 6
Five races, and not a selection out of the first two in the betting. Clearly, if I'm right about those picks, then the placepot might be pretty tight in absolute terms. But that doesn't mean it can't be value. After all, on the face of it, we've not used much ammo to get this far, and the final leg does look a bit more open that its predecessors.
It's a Grade 2 handicap chase, with ten runners competing over 25 furlongs (or three miles and a furlong, if you prefer). It takes some getting, and for that reason more mature horses have fared best. Indeed, none of the fifteen six and seven year olds to enter in the last thirteen years has won, and only three have made the frame. That might be off-putting if you like the chance of either Merry King or Sydney Paget.
I like the look of Doctor Richard Newland's Night Alliance. A winner of his last three completed starts, he might only have been second when coming down at the last for the 'F' in that 11F1 series. He's twice a winner from three heavy ground starts, and the non-win was a fair seventh behind Quito De La Roque in a novices' handicap hurdle back in 2010. He dotted up in a good Class 2 handicap chase over a furlong shy of this course and distance last time, and 7/1 is fair enough.
Vino Griego offers punters a sniff of value too. He's got top weight because he's a good horse, and he won last time out despite the unfavourably quick ground. Mud is what he prefers and, though a bit of a sketchy jumper (blundered plenty the last day, fell the time before, and unseated the time before that), he's capable of carrying weight in this grade. If his jumping holds up, he'll be played late when most are fair pooped.
Vintage Star belongs at this level, and ran a great race to be sixth in the Welsh National; and Katenko has an obvious chance without offering much value to punters. Like I say, it's an open race in which I'm siding with the Alliance, and the Night rider, Tom Scudamore (with apologies to 'hoff fans for the laboured - and moderate - pun).
Selection: Night Alliance 7/1 Seanie Mac
A - 1 (Vino Griego), 6 (Vintage Star), 8 (Night Alliance)
A's only - 2 x 1 x 1 x 2 x 1 x 3 = 12 bets
A's and C's - 2 x 2 x 3 x 2 x 1 x 3 = 72 bets
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Good luck with your weekend wagers. 😀