Previews, tips and trends for major horse racing fixtures across the UK. Detailed day-by-day reports and info on horses, races, courses, events and more.

Royal Ascot 2018: Day 4 Preview, Tips

Day 4, Friday, at Royal Ascot offers another six chances for redemption, wagering glory, or simply to watch the finest thoroughbreds in the land do what they do best. As is the new custom, we begin with a two-year-old race, the...

2.30 Albany Stakes (Group 3, 6f, 2yo fillies)

Six furlongs this time, and fillies only, in the Albany Stakes, a Group 3. A big field of 18 has assembled where many will fail to see out the three-quarter mile trip, and many more will simply be not nearly good enough. One who will stay and who looks good enough is Fairyland, a rare Aidan O'Brien runner not running in the Coolmore silks (though she is, of course, a Coolmore-owned filly).

By Kodiac, a strong influence for speed, Fairyland was much the best in a Curragh Listed race over distance and going. She was good enough to win first time up this season, too, something only three of 26 have been able to do for the yard in 2018. The other two to achieve that are So Perfect (close up fourth in the Queen Mary on Wednesday) and Just Wonderful, who lines up here and is the choice of Ryan Moore.

Moore rode both fillies on debut but it was Seamie Heffernan who rode Fairyland to that Marble Hill success last time, and it may be that he keeps the ride rather than Ryan had the pick. That is, obviously I hope, so much guesswork on my part. At any rate, Ballydoyle have the top of the market between them, and I slightly favour the greater experience and level of form of Fairyland over the deeper potential of Just Wonderful.

In opposition are a number of unbeaten fillies, including the Mark Johnston-trained Main Edition. She has been impressive in winning a brace of novice events by more than three lengths each time, and on ground ranging from soft through to good to firm.

Wesley Ward runs Stillwater Cove, winner of her only start in America. She was all out to hang on over four and a half furlongs there, and though she is bred for this extra 33% range, Ward's record in the race stands at 0 from 7 (1 place). Indeed Ward's record at Royal Ascot in six furlong juvenile races reads 0 from 10, one place. Now that's not a sample upon which to hang a man, but set next to his five furlong record (7 from 25, including Shang Shang Shang yesterday) it is pause for thought.

Of more interest in the overseas raider department may be the French brigade of Reponse Exacte, Byron Bay, and No More Regrets.

It was Matthieu Palussiere's Different League who prevailed in the Albany last term, at 20/1, and he saddles No More Regrets this time. Bought on Monday by the Leicester City owner for £130,000 after running second in an Italian Listed contest, this lass doesn't look to have that one's class, though it is a bit of a guess that that's the case.

Reponse Exacte hacked up in a little race in France last week and is turned out quickly here. That rapid return didn't stop Calyx winning the Coventry on Tuesday, and at 33/1 she is the sort of blind pennies guess I like in a race like this. She was bought at the breeze up sale in May so had clearly done a fair bit of work already.

The other Frenchie is Byron Bay, winner of a six furlong Chantilly maiden in May. She was more patiently ridden than Reponse Exacte but pulled right away by the finish and it might be that that is a more appropriate run style for this big field straight six. It's somewhat irrelevant inasmuch as we're very much in stab in the dark territory, but again 33/1 is worth a quid, maybe two. That boy Barzalona rides.

Not a race about which to be confident.

3.05 King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2, 1m4f, 3yo colts & geldings)

The Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival has acquired the monicker, "the potato race", but perhaps this one - the King Edward VII Stakes - is more befitting of such root vegetable likenesses. Fripperies aside, I have no idea which of these lightly raced improvers might claim primacy in the 'Ascot Derby'. [No, I definitely prefer 'the potato race'!]

What I do know is that outsiders don't win it: 12/1 Eagle Top was the biggest priced victor in more than twenty years; and the first three in the betting have won 16 of the last 21, with nine jollies obliging (43%, +10.25).

The jolly is Delano Roosevelt, sixth in Masar's Derby. He has some good form, but it is shy of top class so, in spite of history, I'm looking further afield, though not much further.

It is the Johnny G-Frankie D axis, teaming up here with the China Horse Club's Raa Atoll, which draws the eye. Second to Nordic Lights on debut, he has won both starts since, most recently when sauntering clear of an equally well-fancied stablemate in a Leicester novice. There were four and more lengths to the rest that day with only the fifth and sixth having run since: the fifth won, and the sixth ran third in a similar race.

Gosden has had three winners of this race, in 2005, 2011, and 2014, and another seven placed, from 18 starters since 2000. His record since 2010 reads 21312(83)(52), the brackets denoting two runners in each of the last two years. With no runner in 2013, that means JHG has hit the board in every King Eddy in which he's been represented since 2010. That's good enough for me.

3.40 Commonwealth Cup (Group 1, 6f, 3yo)

This new race is turning out to be an inspired decision. Not only has it produced some scintillating winners - my favourite was undoubtedly Muhaarar in the inaugural running - it has also invigorated the entire three-year-old sprinting division, and added value and fashion to such pedigrees in the breeding sheds. Nice job.

Muhaarar was also the toughest winner of the three thus far to find. His 10/1 starting price looks wild next to Quiet Reflection's 7/4 and Caravaggio's 5/6; and it has been a feature of the race to date that the market has a solid handle on the best horses. Last year, the first three in the betting were the first three home.

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It's a bigger field this time, and seemingly a more open contest, and yet still the pair of Equilateral and Sioux Nation at the head of the market stand out. Equilateral had the stopwatch hounds barking after winning a Doncaster novice by eight lengths last month; he lacks the experience and proven class of some of these but that was obviously a massive effort and puts him right in the frame.

SIOUX NATION by contrast has the top level form: he won the G2 Norfolk Stakes at the Royal meeting last season, following that up with success in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes (six furlongs, good to firm). Beaten twice on the soft side of good after that, he bounced back on his second and most recent run of the current campaign with a Group 3 win (six furlongs, good to firm).

The feeling is that he needs fast ground - his form is 2111 when hooves have rattled, the wins coming in G1, G2 and G3 company. Sioux Nation is drawn wide apart from Equilateral, and looks to have the speed horses in his part of the track. That ought to provide some tension to the race pace elastic band, if you see what I mean, and allow Ryan Moore's mount to find his stride and surge through, as is his wont.

There should again be little between Sands Of Mali and Invincible Army, but if you want one at a price with which to take a chance, then perhaps Clive Cox's Heartache, winner of the Queen Mary at this meeting last year, is too big at 25/1. Sure, she flopped on debut this season, and yes, she may be better at five than six; but that was her 2018 bow, for which she's entitled to improve, and it was her first attempt at six. It is far too early to say she hasn't trained on, and Clive Cox can boast four Royal Ascot Pattern race sprint winners and four more places.

A terrific race in prospect.

4.20 Coronation Stakes (Group 1, 1m, 3yo fillies)

Another cracking race for the top of the market, it has often been the next stopping off point for the 1000 (and/or Irish 1000) Guineas winner, as it was for Winter who last season snaffled all three of those Group 1 pots.

So it is that the winners of those two Guineas, Billesdon Brook and Alpha Centauri, lock horns with the Newmarket victor offered at twice the price of her Irish counterpart. Throw in the French 1000 Guineas winner, Teppal, for good measure, and we have a worthy gathering of the clans.

Alpha Centauri came closest to arresting Different League's run for glory in the Albany last year before showing that she's a miler through and through by barreling her way home late in the Curragh Classic. Decent ground looks the key to her, on which surface she's 1121, compared with 50 on softer. Conditions are favourable then, but with her Classic formline open to question (though the 2nd there was 3rd in the Jersey Stakes) and at odds of around 3/1 the value must lie elsewhere.

Billesdon Brook was under-rated for the 1000 Guineas - she was sent off at 66/1! - but that doesn't look a fluke, with the second filly, Laurens, now a dual Group 1 winner in France; the third home, Happily, a dual G1 winner last year and thrice Classic placed this term; and four placed Wild Illusion subsequently second in the Oaks and claiming the same position in the Ribblesdale here yesterday. In short, her form is rock solid IF she can run to that level again. Sean Levey may need some luck in running if riding her patiently but she seems over-priced on what she, and the fillies around her, has done. She has a similar profile to 2013 1000 Guineas/Coronation Stakes winner, Sky Lantern, from the same stable.

The first two from the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches - French 1000 Guineas - reacquaint themselves here, David Simcock's Qatari-owned Teppal having shaded the verdict from the Japanese-owned Coeur de Beaute. Simcock's runner is less exposed, and is unbeaten, so looks likely to prevail once more, though it is hard to assimilate that form against the domestics. That said, it is worth noting that the 2015 and 2016 winners emerged from the Pouliches.

The cat amongst the pigeons is Clemmie. She was disappointing in the Irish 1000 Guineas, trailing home ninth. That was her first attempt at beyond six furlongs and, while she's a daughter of Galileo and sister to Churchill, she is out of a five furlong winner and may just be a sprinter plain and simple. She wasn't given a hard time at the Curragh and will improve for the outing, and the evidence is far from damning that she's a non-stayer... but at 7/2 she's a pass.

There are others in the field to have declined the Classic route thus far, but we have to go back six years to find a shunner of the bright lights who tripped it fantastic in the Coronation.

5.00 Sandringham Handicap (Class 2, 1m, 3yo fillies)

24 fillies, three-year-olds all, hurtling up the straight mile. I only hope that my life won't ever depend on finding the winner in such a race. Despite the perennially bumper turnout, horses priced at single figures have won nine of the last 13, and no winner for at least 20 years has been returned bigger than the 20/1 about Con Te Partiro last term. That Wes winner, tipped in these pages, was as welcome as it was surprising.

Handicap debutants have won ten times since 1997, but those 48% of the winners have come from 57% of the runners, and the percentage play value wise is look for those with a couple of handicap runs under their belts. Such experienced fillies may 'only' have won five of the last 20 Sandringham's, but they have achieved that from just 12% of the runners (5/43), and they have a better place strike rate: 28% compared with 20% for 'cap debs (and 'cap second timers).

One to fit this, granted potentially shoehorned, bill is Charlie Appleby's Dathanna. A winner of four of her last five starts - second on heavy in between - she's clearly progressive and experienced, and has run in - and won -  a couple of conditions races since her brace of handicap runs as a juvenile. The daughter of Dubawi made all over course and distance last time, though that was on soft ground: indeed, apart from the obvious 'is she good enough?' question, the only other unanswered niggle is 'will the ground be too firm?' - in the circumstances, she's playable at 10/1.

The other checker of the two handicaps box is Wisdom Mind, Joseph O'Brien's filly currently a 25/1 play. She would be a longer priced winner than any for two decades as things stand, but there's a fair chance she shortens between now and post time - and in any case her price won't stop her winning if she's good enough!

Wisdom Mind sneaks in towards the foot of the weights, a perch of 85 having been unmoved for a third consecutive race. She's six pounds better off for a two length beating by Hence two back, and had terrible luck in running last time. She's certainly interesting at a price.

Ryan Moore rides Hence. I don't especially like backing Aidan O'Brien runners in handicaps, though they have won twice at the Royal meeting - Sir Isaac Newton and War Envoy in case you were wondering - and I'll let him/them beat me again this time.

In summary, there is a good chance a handicap debutante wins the Sandringham for an 11th time in the last 22 years. But trying to establish which of the 15 fillies (63% of the field) that might be is much too tricky. So I'll take a couple of more experienced guesses against the dark horses.

5.35 Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (Class 2 handicap, 1m4f, 3yo+)

22 runners and nigh on impossible stuff. Ostensibly at least. Plenty of shorties have got it done in recent seasons, mind, and the high draw looks seriously advantageous: since the track was re-layed in 2006, eleven of the twelve winners emerged from a double digit stall, the last three winners coming from 21, 19, 19.

High draw, fancied runner then? Thundering Blue is the answer to that two-part request. David Menuisier's big improver was a highly impressive winner at York last time, but he'll need plenty of luck with his late running style.

Appeared, similarly highly drawn and almost as well fancied, has a more prominent run style. Roger Varian trains and Andrea Atzeni rides this six-year-old son of Dubawi. Second in the race last year from stall 18 and a mark of 101, he now exits stall 19 off a mark of 103. This will have been the target, he's gone well fresh before, including when winning a course and distance (good to firm) handicap first up last season. He'll do.

You want to be out in the clear in this race, jockeys in behind frequently made to look a lot worse than they are by the configuration of the course. Three wide three back is way better than on the rail two back generally speaking.

Good luck!

Matt

p.s. it is traditional for there to be no Saturday Ascot preview, a tradition that will continue to be upheld this year. You may very well be glad of that by 5.45 or so on Friday afternoon! Hopefully these posts have provided some insights and entertainment, if nothing else. Of course, hopefully they've nailed a good winner or two as well, but you don't need me to tell you that this is a meeting where it is generally way better to be lucky than good. At least, that's how I view it...

Royal Ascot 2018: Day 3 Preview, Tips

Two down, three to go, and humpback day at Royal Ascot, also known as Ladies' Day, features the centrepiece of the entire week, the Gold Cup. That stayers' Group 1 looks an excellent renewal, though wagering there - and indeed throughout the Thursday card - provides pitfalls aplenty. No matter, for on the day when lassies don their finery, rarely was it truer that faint heart never won fair maiden. So let's have a crack! We kick off in the...

2.30 Norfolk Stakes (Group 2, 5f, 2yo)

A shortish field of ten, though not hugely out of keeping with recent tradition. A few interesting patterns - let's call them trends - have emerged, as follows:

- All bar one of the last 15 winners had a pre-race RPR of at least 106. Only Vintage Brut, Konchek and Land Force fit that bill

- Six of the last ten winners were by US sires. Just Pocket Dynamo, Shang Shang Shang and Land Force tick this box

Land Force is of clear interest on this basis, then. But... he was beaten last time out, over six furlongs, and has never won at the minimum. Those are both negatives in the context of the trends. And yet I still want to be with this son of No Nay Never, the 2013 Norfolk winner. He showed good speed in the Listed Marble Stakes last time, only fading in the last furlong or so.

The other to catch my eye in a race where they'll pretty much all move forward on what they've demonstrated to date is Pocket Dynamo. The Robert Cowell-trained son of US stallion Dialed In is that sire's first British runner as far as I can tell. He was second in a Brighton maiden on debut - hardly Royal Ascot form, though the winner and third have won since - before showing more in winning a Chelmsford novice and then a quite valuable conditions race at Longchamp. He was tenacious in victory there, is more experienced than many and, with an RPR of 105, falls just one note short of ticking both my trendy boxes above. He's 20/1.

Wesley Ward's Shang Shang Shang is the favourite, and could win. In truth I don't know much about the horse, but I do know his trainer is 'only' one from six in the Norfolk, the solitary victor being the aforementioned No Nay Never. Four of his other runners were sent off bigger than NNN's 4/1 SP, with a number of them drifting notably on the day. Keep an eye on the market if you want to back this lady.

Vintage Brut and Konchek represent the Listed National Stakes form, running 1-3 there, and Racing Post consider it the best form in the race allotting them the top two RPR's. Vintage Brut had the favoured rail draw that night at Sandown, whereas Konchek was drawn wide and carried wider before rattling home. Clive Cox's colt must have a great chance to turn the tables on this fairer strip.

But I'll take Land Force and Pocket Dynamo at double digit odds against the field.

3.05 Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3, 1m 2f, 3yo)

The first of four races restricted to three-year-olds on day three is the Hampton Court Stakes. Such races are not really my thing, as I struggle to assimilate what horses have achieved with what they might be capable of doing. Today's preview will be lighter than usual on that basis, and should be taken more lightly also (unless I get all six winners, in which case I meant it, and I hope you backed them all!!)

Although only a Group 3, three of the last four winners - Cannock Chase, Hawkbill and Benbatl - went on to Group 1 glory. The other in that recent quartet, Time Test, was G1 placed on multiple occasions.

Godolphin have won the last two, and they own the early favourite for the 2018 renewal, Key Victory. A winner of his first two starts, he was beaten only three lengths in the French Derby last time. This will be his third run since the beginning of May and, if William Buick can hold a position, he should run well: the worry is that he might encounter traffic problems in this big field around the tight Ascot bends.

Charlie Appleby saddles Key Victory, and also Nordic Lights. This son of German stallion, Intello, was unraced as a juvenile and encountered defeat for the first time in the Dante Stakes at York. Disregarding the facile winner there, he was only a length and a half off second and should progress again. James Doyle rides.

Rounding out the Godolphin triumvirate is Saeed bin Suroor's National Army, who leaps up in grade after winning a novice stakes on debut at the start of the month. He beat fourteen rivals in a fair time and the second home has since bolted up in a similar race. Christophe Soumillon is an interesting jockey booking for a completely unexposed colt with a potentially good draw (if not held up).

Lots more unexposed types where your guess is as good as mine, but one other worth a quick mention is Mini P. Second in a Newbury maiden over this trip on his only start, his trainer Brian Meehan normally knows what he has and is capable of producing big priced surprises.

But, honestly, I haven't a clue.

3.40 Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2, 1m4f, 3yo fillies)

The Ascot Oaks. Ten more unexposed three-year-olds, some of whom ran in the Oaks at Epsom and some who did not. WILD ILLUSION is the clear form pick. She was fourth in the 1000 Guineas and second in the Oaks, clear of the third there. With no Forever Together to fret about here, a repeat of that Classic run gives her daylight over her rivals that day, though it could be argued that the well beaten and re-opposing Magic Wand didn't handle the track.

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Of the rest, Sir Michael Stoute's novice stakes winner, Sun Maiden, looks the main danger. She won that little race by fully twelve lengths and in a fair time. It would be no shock if this typically beautifully-bred Juddmonte filly (Frankel half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner, Midday) prevailed but 3/1 doesn't set the pulse racing.

The likes of Musidora second, Dancing Brave Bear, and Johnny G's Highgarden are interesting projects for the season, but this looks a really good chance for the twice Classic-placed Wild Illusion.

4.20 Gold Cup (Group 1, 2m4f, 4yo+)

A super race in prospect even in the absence of last year's winner, Big Orange. The field is headed by the 2016 champ, Order Of St George, pipped by Big Orange in his repeat bid last term; and last year's Queen's Vase winner, Stradivarius, who went on to beat Big Orange at Goodwood. Further spice is added to the pot by the presence of French staying superstar, Vazirabad, himself a triple Group 1 winner.

In such a race as this we need to consider more than merely the respective form credentials of the field: pace is a key component. Last year, Big Orange was gifted a lead early in the race that he never relinquished, fending off the desperate late rally of Order Of St George and Ryan Moore in the dying strides.

Order Of St George is one of those hide behind the sofa horses. He has obvious class and stamina, but he gets beaten when he probably shouldn't a little too often for comfort. Although winning eleven of the twenty stakes races in which he's competed, he's been beaten at odds on in four of them, including at 1/7. Ouch. He was a little workmanlike last time in a Listed race but that was a prep for this. He may well win and good luck if you want 7/4 about that. I do not.

Stradivarius is the other vying for market leadership. As well as the Queen's Vase and Goodwood Cup, he was a very close third in the St Leger and Long Distance Cup in a terrific three-year-old season. He looked better than ever when bolting up in the Yorkshire Cup on his seasonal bow for this campaign, and could be the champion stayer in 2018. He does have to prove his stamina for this longer trip, something which is not a given for all that he looked robust enough at the two mile range. Again, 2/1 is insufficient in what is a hot race.

Of the front three in the market, I suspect VAZIRABAD offers a little value. Alain de Royer-Dupre's six-year-old has many T-shirts for being there and doing that: he's won two G1 Prix Royal-Oak's, a G1 Prix du Cadran, and has never been out of the first two at races beyond a mile and a half. Indeed, his full form string is 6211111/117121/211112-211, which is rather spectacular when you consider that the last 18 of those 22 runs have been in Group company.

He'll be ridden patiently, but as a veteran of so many races in France he clearly has the gear change required to quicken off a pedestrian gallop. 5/1 looks a very solid each way play.

With little obvious pace in the field, it may be that Torcedor, who adopted pressing tactics in a Group 3 here last time, may again play catch me if you can. He was a nine length fifth (when waited with) behind Big Orange last year, before running up in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day and, most recently, that five length score last time. Ascot, then, holds no fears. Nor either does fast ground, so 10/1 could be another reasonable each way play - perhaps without the favourite - about a horse whose form ties in pretty closely on a number of lines with Order Of St George.

I'm struggling to make much of a case for the rest, the pick of which might be Desert Skyline.

Really looking forward to this one!

5.00 Britannia Stakes (Class 2 handicap, 1m, 3yo)

No idea. Genuinely no idea. Winners since 2007 at 33/1, 28/1, 25/1 and 20/1 twice mean the market has no idea either. Seriously, why the hell would anyone bet in a race like this?

Crack On Crack On was a good winner last time in a big field at Haydock, and he's ridden by geegeez-sponsored jockey, David Probert. He's improving fast, like most of these. Similar comments apply to Corrosive, who is now on a four-timer after a big field course, distance and going win last time; and Richard Hughes' George Of Hearts, who steps up to a mile having not quite reached the winner over seven here last time.

Twenty-seven others worthy of mention. Where's Mr Felt Tippy's magic pen sticker when you need him?!

5.35 King George V Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 1m4f, 3yo)

More of the same for all that there are 'only' 21 runners this time. Draw has been material: double digit stalls have bagged ten of the last dozen. Why? Not sure, but I presume because it is very difficult to lead all the way in such a big field over such a trip; and if you don't lead from a low draw, you're probably in the pocket screaming for room entering the straight.

So on that basis I've deselected half the field. Honestly, if you've got a better idea, I'm all ears...!

This has been a decent race for the top of the market, too, with two-thirds of the winners since 1997 coming from the top four in the betting.

That leaves me with Cross Counter and Baghdad.

Godolphin colts have won three of the last four renewals, so Cross Counter is your winner. Maybe.

**

Royal Ascot really is a super tough meeting at which to back winners, and I make no apology for being almost flippant in some of my analyses above, particular in the last two races. This is probably a sensible time to remind readers that nothing on these pages constitutes financial advice - duh!

Good luck with your Thursday wagers. I've a feeling we'll need it!

Matt

Royal Ascot 2018: Day 2 Preview, Tips

In theory, Day 1 is the easiest. That may not bode well if you're already licking your wounds, but with 24 contests still to come there are many opportunities for salvation yet. And, if you went well in the opening skirmishes, don't be getting complacent now...

Day 2's revised line up starts with the juvenile fillies, and the

2.30 Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2, 5f, 2yo Fillies)

Two shy of two dozen fully unexposed fleet-footed fillies dashing harem scarem up the straight five strip: what could possibly go wrong? Where do I start? Perhaps with some numbers...

Peter May's figures have the following as top five:

So Perfect 82
Little Kim 79
Kodyanna 78
Gossamer Wings 78
The rest 72 or lower

Timeform see Shades Of Blue (99p) as top of this pile, with Servalan (94p) and Come On Leicester (93p) next in.

Zero crossover.

Whilst keeping in mind that all of these young ladies are capable of stepping forward significantly, it is the case that some need to do so more than others regardless of which set of numbers one peruses.

The pace map, which again is subject to change as the field will respond unpredictably to the big occasion, might look a little like this:

Queen Mary Stakes pace map 2018

Queen Mary Stakes pace map 2018

The above is sorted by draw, and we can see that there is plenty of pace on both flanks, perhaps marginally more so high than low. The fly in the ointment, and the missing line in the grid, is Chelsea Cloisters. Wesley Ward's juvenile entries always demand close scrutiny at this meeting, and they almost always burn away from the traps. Frankie has the steering job: he may elect to veer towards high numbers or to time trial it down the middle. Either way, his filly could be the speed of the speed.

It's a guesser's race, in truth, and one I'm not inclined to get seriously involved in. I'll be taking Clive Cox's Shades Of Blue, Richard Fahey's Kodyanna, along with the Wez wunner, on the placepot. And I might just have a tiny play on Karl Burke's Little Kim: she only won a Carlisle event on debut but did it in a decent time, with the yard's horses generally improving a fair bit from first to second run. She's 33/1, which is a guesser's price in a guesser's race.

3.05 Queen's Vase (Group 2, 1m 6f, 3yo)

Run prior to last year over a two mile trip, this step back to a mile and three quarters makes the Queen's Vase a trial for the St Leger. A field of twelve has assembled, among them Derby also rans and lightly raced staying types. Actually, the only Derby runner is ninth placed Kew Gardens who will be close to favourite for this. He had looked a stayer in the Lingfield Derby Trial before being used as a pacemaker in the Derby itself; here he's expected to be allowed his own head and has already demonstrated a touch of both stamina and class.

But there may be one (or two) to improve past him from this upwardly mobile collective. Lurching into the unknown as we are here, with most of these never having faced this sort of trip, pedigree can offer pointers. That said, I'm going to start on a tenuous footing by discounting the Galileo's in spite of their winning two of the last three, and four since 2007; and in spite of the race being cut back two furlongs. Feel free to skip what follows!

Geegeez Gold has pedigree data which helps understand the performance of sires based on their two-year track record. For instance, we can see that Kew Gardens is a son of Galileo out of a Desert King mare. Galileo's have won at a solid one-in-eight clip (12.43%) in flat staying races, and tend to do very well as three-year-old's. But 11/4 doesn't particularly excite about the pedigree/form combination, hence casting the net more widely.

We can see that Nelson, a son of Frankel, has more to recommend on pedigree. Out of the Oaks second and Irish Oaks winner, Moonstone, he is clearly bred to stay. Frankel's flat stayers have struck at a rate of 18.67% thus far.

Stream Of Stars, by Sea The Stars, also has an 18%+ hit rate with stayers; and look down the list at Henry Candy's Sovereign Duke. He's by Jukebox Jury, who has had 33% winners in flat staying races, and 53% placed. Out of a Lando mare, he's bred for stamina all day long, and yet this is his first try beyond ten furlongs.

Now, of course, it's possible he got found out in that Group 3 last time, but it is also possible that he didn't appreciate the lack of pace in the small field. Here, with Johnston and O'Brien saddling multiple runners, there is likely to be a strong gallop. Which makes 33/1 of mild interest: I'd rather be beaten six lengths with a 33/1 poke than a head at 5/2! Each to their own, I guess...

 

3.40 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2, 1m, 4yo+ fillies & mares)

At last, a race with a bit of form and, therefore, a bit of hope of finding a winner. Only a bit of hope, mind.

The French have a great record in this race, including winning the last two renewals but, surprisingly, as unrepresented this year. Of the domestics, Sir Michael Stoute is the main man, with four victories since the race's inception in 2004. But he doesn't have a runner either. Crikey.

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Yet still there are a couple of minor trainer angles, the first of which may be considered a negative. Saeed bin Suroor has saddled ten mares in this, none of them winners. Three of the ten made the frame and that could be the best that either Promising Run or Arabian Hope will achieve.

More interesting is the record of the brilliant James Fanshawe. He has had two winners in this race, and three further places, from just seven runners. The winners were 10/1 and 11/8 with placed horses as big as 25/1, all of which makes Tribute Act worthy of a second glance. She's finished second on her last two starts, either side of the seasonal break, both in handicaps and both here at Ascot.

Handicap form is not generally expected to be good enough to win a Group 2, particularly not with more exposed animals, and in truth it is only the Fanshawe angle that puts her in the mix. But she was close up behind Urban Fox on that '18 debut, with the William Haggas runner re-opposing and priced at half Tribute Act's odds. This will have been Fanshawe's target in which case his filly can be expected to step forward from her last run in a race where the 2016 winner was a similarly unconsidered price.

All that said, by far the most likely winner is HYDRANGEA, a Group 1 winner from a mile to a mile and a half last term. She carried a five pound penalty for that but is rated the best of these by six pounds and more and could progress again this season, as a number of O'Brien fillies have, most notably the superstar, Found. She'll undoubtedly come on for her opening run of the campaign (2nd in a Group 2 last time) so, in what looks a fairly shallow heat for a Group 2, the 7/4 Hydrangea may not last.

4.20 Prince Of Wales's Stakes (Group 1, 1m2f, 4yo+)

Seven go to post for this ten furlong Group 1 - each way backer sigh heavily, particularly in light of the presence of an odds on jolly. That imposing shadow is cast across his field by the mighty CRACKSMAN. He may have had a bit of a fright at Epsom last time, but it would be fair to say that he's no fan of that Möbius strip configuration: indeed, it could be argued that he should be marked up for being able to get the job done in the circumstances.

He is eight pounds and more clear of the next best on official ratings - Hawkbill - and the most likely in the field to run his race. I'd imagine he'll be sent off at closer to 1/2 than his current quote of 4/6, which actually looks value if you have a few spare sixes knocking about.

Poet's Word is comfortably second choice in the betting, which is good news for those of us who like to bet 'without the favourite' in such lop-sided contests. Good news because I think he's rather short all things considered. Yes, he hails from the Sir Michael Stoute Academy of Bring-'em-along-slowly's, and yes, he was a comfortable winner of the Brigadier Gerard Stakes (Group 3) last time; but he was trounced by Hawkbill in Dubai two runs back, and has never won at this rarefied level.

Hawkbill on the other hand has, twice. He won the 2016 Coral-Eclipse, and the Dubai Sheema Classic three months ago. There is often a doubt about Dubai form transferring to mid-summer races in England, something with which a heavy defeat behind Cracksman in the Coronation Cup at Epsom last time seemed to tally. But I expect Hawkbill to come on plenty for that and, hopefully over the jetlag, he can be backed each way without the favourite.

Cliffs Of Moher and Eminent are similar prices. The former must be considered a disappointing sort after promising so much with that close second in last year's Derby. He has since been beaten seven times from eight starts, the sole notch coming in a soft Group 2 at Naas.

Eminent, likewise, has largely let supporters down since a close fourth in the same Epsom showpiece. He too has a solitary hollow-looking Group 2 score in the interim. Although none of Cracksman's rivals are bombproof reliable, Hawkbill is the one with the two Group 1 victories, and the one with the best form this season. Hawkbill may also make the running, a fair tactic on this turning triangular circuit.

Of the rags, Royal Julius is only a pound behind Cliffs Of Moher on official figures. He followed up a heavy ground Group 2 second with a good ground Group 2 victory last time, albeit that was in Italy. That at least shows he can travel and win, so 66/1 might appeal to the Hail Mary players.

5.00 Royal Hunt Cup (Class 2, 1m, 3yo+)

No three-year-olds, as usual, that age heading for other pots at the meeting, so it's basically an older horse cavalry charge up the straight mile. Four-year-olds have won eight of the last eleven renewals, and represent the sort of unexposed improving type that plunders most of the Royal Ascot handicaps.

But... the average odds of those eleven winners were over 17/1, and the eight 4yo winners averaged out at just greater than 15/1. Further, 18 of the last 21 winners were aged four or five. What else?

Half of the last 20 Hunt Cup winners were first or second last time out.

That leaves nine: Zhui Feng, Afaak, Saltonstall, Repercussion, Escobar, What's The Story, Mukalal, Kynren, and Seniority, the last named - owned by HM The Queen - sneaking in as a result of a stablemate being declared a non-runner. Who'da thunk it?

Zhui Feng is the reigning champion, a been there seen that sort of guy who loves this place, big fields and fast ground. But he's eight pounds higher this time, and looks increasingly susceptible to younger improving types. Still, he's quite likely to run his race.

Drawn next door is Saltonstall, last day winner of a decent Curragh handicap and flying the flag for the 2016 winning stable of Mick Halford. He's lightly raced, has very good mile handicap form, including when second in a 20 runner field, and gets the tongue tie for the third time having worn it previously in the aforementioned win and second placed runs. 14/1 with as many extra places as you can get looks fair enough.

Repercussion is another with decent big field mile handicap form, but his best form is with cut in the ground; not so Escobar, whose last day victory on this sort of turf and over this trip marks him as an improver for the step up to a mile. But the other one I want on my team is David Barron's Kynren.

Hyper-consistent, the four-year-old son of Clodovil has career form of 311132, including in a mile Class 2 big field handicap, and he gave the impression last time that a fiercely run race would fit his bill. There's a bit of 25/1 knocking about as I write, and I'll try a slice.

The Queen's Seniority comes here in search of a hat-trick after back to back Chelmsford handicaps. That level turning all weather mile could not be more different from this straight uphill turf one so, while connections are greatly respected, my chips are chucked elsewhere.

5.35 Jersey Stakes (Group 3, 7f, 3yo)

A tough finish - not as tough as the Royal Hunt Cup, of course, but very tricky all the same.

Placed in any Guineas, or ran close ish in the 2000 Guineas, looks a route in, albeit one not lost on the market. The last four winners fitted that bill and, with the pure sprinters now squirreled away to the Commonwealth Cup, we have a theoretically easier task. That doesn't help too much when presented with 23 runners on the race card!

Those on my list are James Garfield, Expert Eye, Headway, and Could It Be Love.

James Garfield crossed the Atlantic last autumn to contest the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf: although no-showing that day, he bounced back with a win over seven the Craven Stakes on his seasonal debut. He's been kept busy since, with a four length seventh in the 2000 Guineas followed by a drop to six furlongs in the Sandy Lane Stakes where he again finished quite close but again failed to make the frame.

Staying on over six, not getting home over a mile, and a winner over seven this season... this looks ideal in terms of trip and ground, represents a drop in class, and he's close to top rated in the field. 14/1 is playable each way, again especially if you can burgle an extra place.

Expert Eye is a bit hot and cold: he was electric when winning the Group 2 Vintage Stakes, a performance that saw him installed as ante post favourite for the 2000 Guineas. Three subsequent defeats, two of them heavy, two of them behind James G give him plenty to find. A price of 9/1 does not appeal for all that a reversion to the Vintage form would make him very tough to beat.

Headway, a proverbial cigarette paper second in the Coventry Stakes last term, has a mixed score card since then. Third in the Gimcrack, he won a Listed seven furlong all weather prize first time up this season before running a limp race in the 2000 Guineas. He didn't have the best trip there but even so was disappointing and has a little to prove now. Again, his price is short enough all things considered.

Could It Be Love is the other I like. She just failed to get home when second in the Irish 1000 Guineas, so this drop in trip looks tailor-made. Ryan Moore steers the daughter of War Front, which is always a plus, and she'll further benefit from a three pound fillies' allowance.

Interesting horses abound, including the six-timer-seeking Society Power, Irish 2000 also ran Symbolization, Wesley Ward's US raider Hemp Hemp Hurray, and the trainer switching full brother to American Pharoah, St Patricks Day.

But I'll take Could It Be Love to lead them a merry one, before perhaps James Garfield sweeps by in the last half furlong.

Trippy trappy stuff on day two - good luck!

Matt

Royal Ascot 2018: Day 1 Preview, Tips

It's Royal Ascot 2018, the finest week in the flat racing calendar. The finest but, from a wagering perspective, very far from the easiest. It's a meeting which, as a consequence of one too many bloody reversals, I personally take fairly lightly, and the following ruminations should be consumed in that context.

As well as this post, you may also be interested in Andy's Royal Ascot Day 1 Trends.

2.30 Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1, 1m, 4yo+)

The Royal meeting begins with a bang. Actually, given its G1-G2-G1-G1 opening quartet of races, it begins with a two hour firework display of equine superstars. The grand overture is the Queen Anne Stakes, a test of speed, class and stamina up the straight mile course.

As was shown in this article on Ascot pace and draw biases, it is very difficult to lead all the way on the straight mile here. While those waited with have fared the best of the four general run styles over course and distance, it should be noted that a number of recent winners of this race were more prominently placed in the opening quarter.

Deauville looks set for a relatively uncontested lead and if the race is run at less than championship pace, it may again suit those near the fore. Deauville's stable mate, Rhododendron, will not be far away; after needing every yard of Newbury's round mile to collar Lightning Spear (re-opposes) in the Lockinge, she appears well suited to this stiffer task. The only reservation is that this will be the first time she's raced on a straight track, and her first visit to Ascot. Regardless, she will give those mythical favourite backers a run for their money.

More appealing, though undoubtedly more of a punt also, is BENBATL. Godolphin's four-year-old son of Dubawi, unraced as a juvenile, was asked to do a number of things he couldn't last year - run over a mile and a half, and race on heavy most notably. In between twelve furlong spins, he was dropped to ten furlongs at Royal Ascot and duly won the Hampton Court Stakes.

This season he had four runs in Dubai, all over nine furlongs, winning three of them including, most recently, the Group 1 Dubai Turf. The stopwatch boys have raved about his times in the Emirates so, if he's been well enough rested since returning to Blighty, Saeed bin Suroor may 'have it right back at ya, Charlie' in this prestigious heat. He's worth a go at 5/1.

It's a deep race, though, and the likes of overseas raiders Recoletos and Yoshida may be slightly longer prices than they ought to be. At huge odds, Century Dream has a strikingly progressive profile. This is a big ask of course, and there's a slight reservation about the ground, but he may well run better than his odds imply, albeit that that may not be good enough to nick a place or more.

3.05 Coventry Stakes (Group 2, 6f, 2yo)

Total guesswork here... Here's what I know:

- No Nay Never has started very well as a sire and represents the Scat Daddy lineage - numerous strong performers at this meeting in recent years.

- Peter May's figures have Cosmic Law and Sergei Prokofiev at the top, closely followed by the once-raced Indigo Balance.

- 13 of the last 16 winners had either one or two previous career starts.

- Once-raced debut winners have fared well, scoring in the Coventry in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2017.

- Those off the track for more than a month have done very well, in terms of wins and places to runners.

That leaves me with a shortlist of two - though neither with especially high speed ratings: Advertise and Getchagetchagetcha.

The former is trained by Martyn Meade, winning comfortably in maiden company at Newbury, a race which has worked out quite well so far. The latter comes from the Clive Cox speed camp, and won his debut at this track. That was over five furlongs on softish ground in a four-runner field, however, meaning he has a bit more to prove against conditions than the Meade runner.

I'll take a chance on another once-raced debut winner in the form of Jessica Harrington's Indigo Balance. He won a six furong Curragh maiden beating Decrypt, himself a subsequent winner.

In an open race where those at the head of the market - Sergei Prokofiev (Scat Daddy), Calyx (debut winner), Cosmic Law (No Nay Never), and The Irish Rover (No Nay Never) - all tick one box or another above. But in a race where guesswork is the order of the day, why not side with a couple of 'could be anything' blank canvasses at a price?

Advertise and Indigo Balance for small stakes.

3.40 King's Stand Stakes (Group 1, 5f, 3yo+)

Back to Group 1 action, and a five furlong dash. There are some very fast starters in this field, perhaps none more so than the electric Kachy, whose performance when smashing his rivals by nine lengths at Chester had to be seen to be believed.

That was Chester, around the bend, and this is Ascot up the straight; that was a Class 3 and this is a Group 1: rapid he is, but I doubt he has the class of a number of these.

Lady Aurelia is also lightning from the stalls, and she comes here bidding to defend an unbeaten course record: she beat a field of 17 by seven lengths in the Queen Mary of 2016, and she beat the same size field in this race last year, prevailing again by daylight, three lengths on that occasion. The daughter of Scat Daddy will be very tough to beat if turning up in that sort of form. But she was beaten on her seasonal bow, albeit when very likely half-cooked and with this in mind. She's going to be a short enough price as the second most popular Lady on Day 1 of the Royal meeting, but I couldn't put you off her.

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Battaash is perceived to be Lady A's main rival, this fellow having been a new man since suffering the misfortune of decoupling after fluffing his lines in the 2016 Windsor Castle at the Royal meeting. He's not returned to this piste in the interim so there is something of a leap of faith required to back him at around 9/4, for all that when he's good he's very good. He was generally very good last season, in fairness, and his narrow last day triumph can probably be marked up a jot. Still, of the pair, I'd rather be in Wesley's corner and that of his marauding mare.

The quest for a value loser is not always in vain in this race - as Choisir, Equiano and Goldream have all reminded us since 2003. In that spirit, and although I don't especially fancy him, Washington DC advertised his outside chance when chasing Battaash home at Haydock last time. The five-year-old son of Zoffany has only won once over the minimum since his juvenile season; but then, way way back in 2015, he did win the Windsor Castle from 26 rivals. He's quirky and a late runner, and it is hardly in his favour that Ryan Moore has plumped for a thrice-beaten-this-season stable mate upon which he doesn't wear the Coolmore silks; but 16/1 might just make the frame for the ever more accomplished-looking Donnacha O'Brien.

But, actually, the more I look at it, the more I think LADY AURELIA will win.

4.20 St James's Palace Stakes (Group 1, 1m, 3yo)

My heart is screaming for the underdog, Roger Teal's Tip Two Win. Not only trained by one of the sport's lesser-known names, he is ridden by one of the more under-rated jockeys in the weighing room, David Probert (who just happens to sport the liveries of this 'ere website on his breeches). It would be spectacular for Roger and David, not to mention owner Anne Crowley, if he could prevail.

Having finished closest to Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas, he has a legitimate chance, too. That followed up solid two-year-old form and helped sandwich a brace of lucrative victories in Doha around the turn of the year. Sure, he hasn't the progression of some of these but he has the most in the book of all of them. Come on David!!!

OK, partisanship aside, the most exciting horse for neutrals is probably Without Parole. Trainer John Gosden has brought this fellow along slowly, shunning the bright lights for wins at first Newcastle (actually, that was under the bright lights, last December!) and then Yarmouth, before raising his sights a touch in the Listed Heron Stakes.

That trio of wins are only mildly interesting in or of themselves, but the manner of victory, particularly on Without Parole's second start, has flagged him as a colt of rare potential. The problem for would be backers of a horse stepping up to Group company, not to mention Group 1 company, for the first time is that his price suggests he's already an established top tier performer. As such, fully cognisant that it may end in tears, I want to try to take him on.

Romanised, another from an unfashionable stable - this time that of Ken Condon, bounded forward from his 2018 bow to put the Irish 2000 Guineas field to the sword in convincing manner last time. As a two-year-old, he ran second to Masar, form which obviously looks oodles better in light of the latter's resounding Derby success. He, like Tip Two Win, is more exposed but has achieved more.

French raider Wootton is also a very interesting contender. Unbeaten in three going into the French 2000 Guineas, he was two lengths fourth there. He didn't get the run of the race off what looked steady fractions, and he ought to be suited by a quicker tempo this time. However, whether he wants fast ground remains to be seen. Trainer Henri-Alex Pantall is 0-14 in Britain and Ireland since 2013, including unplaced runners at 5/2, 5/1, 7/1 twice and 8/1.

And what of Gustav Klimt? Like his namesake's paintings, this fellow has always been more impressionist than lifelike when it comes to top class winning form, though it should be remembered he was Saxon Warrior's better-fancied stablemate in the lead up to the 2000 Guineas, and he did run third in the Irish equivalent. Progressive as a juvenile it is starting to look as though he hasn't improved from two to three as much as others in the line up, though he retains the scope to bounce back yet.

This is a truly fascinating clash of established form versus unexposed early-season three-year-olds, and it is hard to choose between them. What is for certain is that my heart says Tip Two Win; but one rarely needs to invest capital where one is already emotionally in the game. Thus it becomes a choice between the unexposed sorts Without Parole and Wootton. The former may be the pick for all that I don't want to back him at the price. Indeed, I'm not betting in the race: it's too difficult with not enough meat on any wagering bone to justify a punt.

5.00 Ascot Stakes (Class 2 handicap, 2m 4f, 4yo+)

Twenty older horses, many of them used to facing obstacles rather than morning suits, and the first of the week's near impossible handicap puzzles. A trend may be our friend in the circumstances, so here are three:

13 of the last 16 were won by a predominantly National Hunt stable, including the last eight

10 winners since 1997 (92 runners) won last time out, for a LSP of 19.50 points

The best win and place strike rates were achieved by horses returning from an absence of 14-60 days

That leaves five, though there is a strong possibility that bubba was lobbed with bathwater in the above. Did I already mention I find this meeting tough?

No matter, for our shortlist looks promising, as follows: Whiskey Sour, Look My Way, [White Desert, Sam Missile], Garo De Juilley

Outsider Garo De Juilley has not been seen on the level since notching a four-timer in France in the autumn of 2015. The last of that quartet was in a big field mile and a half Saint-Cloud handicap, where as far as I can tell he carried top weight off an official rating of 43.5, which I think equates to 95. I might be wrong here, but that gives him a bit of a chance off the same mark. He's changed stables twice since then, first to Paul Nicholls and now to Sophie Leech, for whom this will be the six-year-old's first run. He's fit from hurdling and might run better than 66/1, especially if you can nab a bonus place or two.

More likely perhaps is Whiskey Sour from the Willie Mullins yard. Mullins has won this twice in the last three years and three times in the last six. He has other bullets to fire but none with the matching profile to my guessing game trends above. This five-year-old had a successful hurdling season, including winning a Grade 1 at Christmas and running second in the Punchestown Champion Novice Hurdle (also Grade 1) when last seen. He won his final two flat starts last term, both fifty grand big field Galway Festival handicaps - in the space of five days, so comes here progressive in that sphere and battle proven. Christophe Soumillon is an eye-catching jockey booking for the 10/1 chance, though Whiskey Sour will need plenty of luck in the run if adopting his usual hold up tactics.

Look My Way repelled the fast-finishing Coeur De Lion in the consolation Chester Cup last time and ought again to get first run on that rival. But the stiffer test of Ascot could play to the presumed stronger stamina of the latter who may finally bag the big one he's promised for so long - albeit that it will be too late for connections who flogged him at the sale last month (looks like some of the outgoing syndicate bought him back in for £110,000, half of which they could claw back here).

Charlie Appleby is looking to supplement his Derby win with a Royal Ascot score to truly mark his 2018 season. He'll have a number of fine chances in better class races than this, but White Desert should not be under-estimated. It may not have been much of a race he won last time, in the context of this gig at least, but he won it by six lengths. The application of first time cheekpieces may have been a factor, and those are retained. He has solid turf form as well as the services of William Buick, who rides the course well.

A winner at the track last month, Sam Missile bids to double up in this notably better race off a seven pounds higher mark. That will make life trickier but Jamie Osborne's five-year-old remains unexposed at staying trips.

The last two above are, of course, not from NH yards, so as per the arbitrary pruning of the field at the start of this race preview, I'll choose from the other trio. Whiskey Sour's run style concerns me in a race of this nature: he might have a lot to do in the last quarter mile and there will be plenty of horses going backwards and getting in his way in the short home stretch.

Garo De Juilley is worth a very small each way fun punt, as his flat form of old was both progressive - he's on a five-timer - and high class. The ground is a bit of a question mark, how much flat ability he retains is a bigger one, but 66/1 justifies the tickle.

Look My Way is usually thereabouts, stays quite well and is likely to be in the right place turning for home; with his trainer in fine form just now, 16/1 is fair enough even if there is a chance that Coeur De Lion - among many others! - will go by him in the final furlong.

5.35 Wolferton Stakes (Listed, 1m2f, 4yo+)

A change to both the race order and conditions, with the Windsor Castle moved to later in the week and its replacement as the Tuesday nightcap, the Wolferton Stakes no longer a handicap. It might have been marginally easier if it was a handicap in truth as 5/1 the field attests.

I genuinely have no clue how this will play out, so the following is little more than to fill the gap between race five and the end of the piece. With that said, if you're still reading, John Gosden won three of the last seven handicap renewals and has also had two placed runners, from ten sent to post.

Johnny G saddles two here, the better fancied of which appears to be Monarchs Glen. This Frankel gelding seemed to be getting it together at the end of last season with a brace of wins in Listed and Group 3 company. That was prior to a thumping in a Dubai Group 1 first time up this season. If one can overlook that setback - class and the travel are acceptable excuses - and if he can pick up that previously ascendant thread, then 10/1 is fair in a race which is no great shakes. Frankie Dettori rides, his mount wearing a hood for the first time.

Gosden's other runner, Muntahaa, has been disappointing since winning a mile and a half Group 3 last midsummer. But the fact he won a G3 puts him a step ahead of many of these, with race conditions (fast ground, decent pace, big field) reasons to be hopeful.

Elsewhere, Henry Candy has an excellent record when teaming up with Harry Bentley (11/31, +18.49) in the last two years, and they try with the filly, Chain Of Daisies. She looks like she might get a softish lead, and may find this more straightforward than the Group 2 Musidora she contested last time. The shorter straight here than at York is in her favour making 16/1 attractive about a filly with a verdict over Ulysses in her back catalogue (same ground and distance, Group 3).

Good luck!

Matt

Sat TV Trends: 9th June 2018

Another busy Saturday of horse racing ahead with this weekend's LIVE ITV4 coming from Newmarket, Musselburgh and Haydock. As always, we’ve got all the LIVE races covered from a trends and stats angle – use these to help narrow down the field and find the best profiles of past winners.

 

Saturday 9th June 2018

Newmarket Horse Racing Trends (ITV/RUK)

3.05 – Animal Health Trust Handicap Cl2 (3yo 0-105) 7f ITV4

One previous running
Trainer Mark Johnston has a 20% record with his 3 year-olds at the track
Trainer William Haggas has a 21% record with his 3 year-olds at the track
Trainer David Baron has a 20% record with his 3 year-olds at the track
Trainer Richard Hannon is just 12 from 132 with his 3 year-olds at the track

 

3.40 – John Sunley Memorial Handicap Cl2 (4yo+ 0-105) 1m6f ITV4

One previous running
Trainer Mark Johnston won this race 12 months ago
Horse from stall 12 won this race 12 months ago
Trainer Mark Johnston has a 21% record with his 4+ year-olds at the track
Jockey Josie Gordon is 0 from 15 riding older horses at the track

 

Haydock Horse Racing Trends (ITV/RUK)

2.15 Betway Middle Distance Handicap Cl3 (3yo) 1m4f ITV4

Trainer Hugo Palmer has a 20% record with his 3 year-olds at the track
Trainer Ralph Beckett has a 16% record with his 3 year-olds at the track
Jockey William Buick has a 24% record riding 3 year-olds at the track
Jockey Richard Kingscote has a 22% record riding 3 year-olds at the track
Jockey Silvestre De Sousa has a 22% record riding 3 year-olds at the track
Jockey Oisin Murphy is just 3 from 36 riding 3 year-olds at the track

 

2.50 Betway Pinnacle Stakes (Group 3) Cl1 (4yo+) 1m3f ITV4

15/15 – Had won over at least 1m2f before
13/15 – Returned 9/1 or shorter in the betting
13/15 – Finished in the top 3 last time out
12/15 – Rated 92 or higher
11/15 – Placed favourites
11/15 – Had won over 1m4f before
11/15 – Aged 4 years-old
10/15 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
9/15 – Drawn in stall 5 or lower
5/15 – Had run at Haydock before
4/15 – Won last time out
4/15 – Winning favourites
2/15 – Trained by Roger Varian
2/15 – Trained by John Gosden
2/15 – Ridden by Frankie Dettori
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 5/1

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3.25 Betway Achilles Stakes (Listed Race) Cl1 (3yo) 5f ITV4

9/9 – Returned 14/1 or shorter
8/9 – Aged 5 or older
8/9 – Had raced in the last 10 weeks
8/9 – Won between 6-8 times before
8/9 – Didn’t win last time out
8/9 – Had won over 5f before
7/9 – Drawn between stalls 2-7 (inc)
6/9 – Had run at the course before
6/9 – Winning distance 1 length or less
6/9 – Had finished in the top 5 last time out
5/9 – Unplaced favourites
4/9 – Winning favourites
Final Venture (9/4) won the race 12 months ago
The average winning SP in the last 9 runnings is 13/2

 

4.00 Betway John Of Gaunt Stakes (Group 3) Cl1 7f ITV4

14/15 – Rated 107 or higher
14/15 – Had raced within the last 4 weeks
13/15 – Drawn in stall 6 or lower
12/15 – Came from the top three in the betting
12/15 – Returned 9/1 or shorter in the betting
12/15 – Had won over 7f before
10/15 – Aged 4 or 5 years-old
10/15 – Placed in the top 3 last time out
10/15 – Drawn in stall 3 or lower
9/15 – Favourites placed
9/15 – Had won at least 4 times before
5/15 – Had run at the track before
4/15 – Winning favourites (1 joint)
3/15 – Ridden by Ryan Moore
2/15 – Trained by Sir Michael Stoute
2/15 - Aged 9 years-old
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 7/1

 

Musselburgh Horse Racing Trends (ITV/RUK)

1.55 – Edinburgh Gin’s Seaside Gin Handicap Cl3 (4yo+) 1m4 1/2f ITV4

No previous runnings
Trainer Rebecca Bastiman has a 20% (+23) record with her older horses at the track
Trainer Ralph Beckett is 1-from-1 with his older horses at the track
Trainer Tim Easterby is 5 from 65 with his older horses at the track

 

2.30 – Edinburgh Gin Scottish Sprint Cup Handicap Cl2 (4yo+) 5f ITV4

13/14 – Won over 5f before
11/14 – Favourites that finished in the top 5
11/14 – Had raced within the last 4 weeks
11/14 -  Winning distance – 1 length or less
11/14 – Carried 9-1 or less
9/14 – Had won between 2-5 times before
9/14 – Came from a double-figure stall
9/14 – Came from outside the top 3 in the betting
9/14 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
8/14 – Aged either 4 or 5 years-old
6/14 – Won last time out
4/14 – Winning favourites
2/14 – Trained by Bryan Smart
Line Of Reason (11/1) won the race in 2017
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 16/1

 

 

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Epsom Derby Meeting 2018: Handicaps Preview

It's the beginning of June, a full nine weeks into the turf flat season, so obviously it's a great time for the third and fourth of Britain's five Classics. Sigh. Putting aside my anachronistic frustrations, this two-day meeting offers top class sport even if it is somewhat premature to be crowning three-year-old champions.

The problem with such raw talents is that they have yet to develop to their full potential, which makes wagering a game of projection: marrying what is known with what must be assumed. Nope. Give me an older horse handicap - marrying what is known with what can be deduced - any day of the week!

There are four (and two halves - 3yo+ handicaps with few or no members of the Classic generation) such heats to consider across Friday and Saturday, with the prospect of soft turf on Oaks day and drying tacky ground on Derby day muddying - literally - deliberations.

To support this attempt at identifying value solutions to tricky puzzles, illustrations from Geegeez Gold have been incorporated. Let's get cracking...

Friday

2.35 Investec Click & Invest Mile Handicap (Class 2, 1m 113 yards)

This mile handicap will feel like further for three reasons: firstly, it is further, at an advertised mile and 113 yards; secondly, rail movement means we can add a further 12 yards to that (negligible unless/until your pick gets chinned on the line!); and thirdly, because of the sodden surface.

The mile start is just over a furlong and a half from a left hand turn which itself runs for about a quarter mile before runners enter the straight. The famous camber runs high to low from stands' side to infield, and runners make for the quicker lanes on the high road when the going is soft.

That's a long-winded way of saying that, ideally, we want a prominent racer drawn low: that type should get first run on the optimal racing line and, all other things being equal, prove hard to catch.

Investec Mile: Medburn and Masham have the speed to lead

Medburn and Masham have the speed to lead

 

As can be seen from the pace map above, the middling-drawn pair of Medburn Dream and Masham Star should be able to get onto the lead with the rest of the field generally held up.

Medburn Dream is particularly interesting given his form profile:

Medburn Dream has a very solid form profile

Medburn Dream has a very solid form profile

 

Medburn Dream has two soft ground wins, a course win, and multiple victories at the trip and in this sort of field size. The reservation is whether he might just not have the class of some of these.

Whilst that niggle holds, a quick check of Full Form reveals that Medburn Dream is a course and distance winner, on soft ground, where he made all albeit in Class 4.

Medburn Dream made all over course and distance on soft ground

Medburn Dream made all over course and distance on soft ground

 

Franny Norton rode him that day, and gets on top again here. Trainer Peter Hedger has a decent record in the last couple of years with last time out winners, as can be seen from this trainer snippet:

Peter Hedger winners can repeat...

Peter Hedger winners can repeat...

 

Medburn Dream looks likely to make a bold bid from the front, and may take some pegging back by a field comprised largely of hold up horses, thus 5/1 is perfectly reasonable.

 

3.45 Investec Wealth & Investment Handicap (Class 2, 1m 2f 17yds)

Another race run over marginally further than advertised, the field will have an additional furlong in the back straight to organise itself. There is much less data with which to work this time, though Maratha ought to take them along from a low draw. He's not expected to be good enough, however, with the likes of Ajman King in opposition.

Ajman King is unexposed and well enough suited to conditions, if handling the ground

Ajman King is unexposed and well enough suited to conditions, if handling the ground

 

That one is unexposed and progressive and, while he's yet to win on soft ground, he has prevailed over course and distance twice, on good and heavy. [N.B. This image shows only one course victory, because it reflects handicap form only: AK's other win was in maiden company].

He's won in the style of a horse with a fair bit more to give, trainer and jockey have excellent track records, and he ought to take some stopping for all that 7/4 is normally unexciting in a handicap.

 

Both trainer and jockey have fine Epsom credentials

Both trainer and jockey have fine Epsom credentials

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I take Ajman King to reign over these.

 

5.50 Investec Zebra Handicap (Class 2, 7f 3yds)

As one wag on twitter noted, the Zebra Handicap is anything but black and white; and the presence of four three-year-olds at the bottom of this 14 runner card adds a solid note of caution for me. They can be considered entitled to step forward half a beat more than their elders and receive no less than ten pounds in weight concession to boot.

At this distance, the field starts in a chute on the turn at the highest point of the track, and travels on the inside leg all the way into the straight where, again, they are likely to make a beeline for the stands rail. (The phrase derives from the behaviour of bees, unsurprisingly. When a forager bee finds a source of nectar it returns to the hive and communicates its location to the other bees, using a display called the Waggle Dance. The other bees are then able to fly directly to the source of the nectar, that is, 'make a beeline' for it. Source: phrases.org)

There is a much more even distribution of pace this time, with the well drawn Black Bess expected to take them into the straight and attempt to make all. Not only is she well drawn, but this daughter of Dick Turpin is also (fairly) well-named, notwithstanding that she's actually brown and not black. Both trainer Jim Boyle and jockey Paddy Bradley are enjoying a good time of things at the moment, and the mare is three from three on soft ground. She also has a course and distance verdict but, as can be seen from the Full Form tab, all her wins have come in smaller fields she's been able to boss from the outset. She also has a question mark about such a lofty race class.

 

Black Bess will attempt to stand and deliver from the front, but it will be tough for her in this bigger field

Black Bess will attempt to stand and deliver from the front, but it will be tough for her in this bigger field

 

Clubbable is a three-year-old daughter of Mayson, an under-rated stallion punching above his stud fee, and she looks both progressive and well suited to this challenge:

Clubbable has shown a liking for these race conditions, though will have to prove that soft ground suits

Clubbable has shown a liking for these race conditions, though will have to prove that soft ground suits

 

Clubbable comes here on a hat-trick and seems to have improved from two to three. Her trainer, Richard Fahey, is in good form at the moment which adds hope to what is no more than a speculative suggestion in what can be seen from the above is an extremely competitive race.

 

Saturday

On to Saturday, where the going may be holding if the rain stops early on Friday as per the forecast. All race distances are as advertised. The first race of interest in the context of this post is the...

3.45 Investec Corporate Banking "Dash" Handicap (Class 2, 5f)

The fastest five furlongs in racing, though perhaps not this time in the anticipated sticky ground. Nevertheless, they run downhill from the stalls to the line, and it might be that a high draw, on the best drained ground, is plum. Interesting then, as you can see, that two of the most obvious pace angles - Just That Lord and three-time Dash winner Caspian Prince - are drawn one and two.

Epsom Dash 2018: Pace spread across the track, but especially low, which *may* be unfavoured on softish ground

Pace spread across the track, but especially low, which *may* be unfavoured on softish ground

 

Caspian Prince has won this three times, a momentous achievement considering the depth of fields and fine margins of victory which characterize the Dash. His bid for a four-timer may (or may not, caveat emptor!) be impacted by a very low draw. Otherwise, he's a pound lower than last year and should get clear sailing if jockey Adam Kirby wants to tack across, as Tom Eaves did from stall one twelve months ago.

Stall 1 or 2 has won three of the last five renewals of the Dash, but those were run on quicker turf. There is speed across the track, and it might be that something held up - though not too far back - will run down that phalanx of early pace.

 

Instant Expert for the Dash: filtered by 5 year flat turf handicap form, and by place record; and ordered by big field form

Instant Expert for the Dash: filtered by 5 year flat turf handicap form, and by place record; and ordered by big field form

 

The late runners against the Prince include standing dishes - or perhaps standing Dashes - Dark Shot and Duke Of Firenze. Both will need luck - heck, whatever you fancy will need luck - and the 6/1 about Dark Shot doesn't feel awfully lucky, for all that he has an obvious chance. The Duke has a bit more meat about his price, a general 12/1 chance, although it is now five years since he claimed his own victory in the race. He's been third in the last two renewals - behind the Prince both times - and races off the same mark as last year, when he was beaten less than a neck!

Those dual gold/bronze medallists are both nine now, however, and it might be that experience yields to youth this time. In that context, Bahamian Sunrise is a forward goer, drawn high enough to get a position close to the rail, and a course and distance winner as recently as late April. The soft side of good looks spot on for John Gallagher's six-year-old, who remains off a feasible mark. The 25/1 which Paddy just allowed me to have for £8 (whoop!) won't last but 16/1 is fair enough, especially if/when some of the firms offer an extra place (or two?).

It's a wide open race in which I'm taking a punt for small change on Bahamian Sunrise. The regulars - Caspian Prince, Duke Of Firenze, and especially Dark Shot - are all likely to be thereabouts again.

 

5.15 Investec Out Of The Ordinary Handicap (Class 2, 1m 4f 6yds)

If you've done your coconuts on the Derby, what better way to get back on track than this nineteen-runner handicap over the same range as the Blue Riband?!

As you'll know by the time they leave the traps for the 5.15, having already watched the Derby, the field snakes first right and up, then hard left and down before lurching into the straight. Depending on how much rain falls between now (Thursday afternoon) and late Saturday, they will stay against the far rail (dry) or tack across to the stands (wet). Either way, the propensity for trouble in running is obvious in such a big field.

Grandee is a lightly-raced son of Lope De Vega, trained by Jessica Harrington in Ireland prior to a £23,100 switch to David O'Meara last October. An obvious non-stayer in the Chester Cup last time, connections are having a lot of fun as they rock up now on Derby day. Their lad, second in a similar distance/going/class handicap at Ripon previously, has a prominent run style and is drawn highest of all. That should give pilot Danny Tudhope first dibs at the first dog leg and enable him to hold a position into the sweeping left-hander. From there we'll see if he's good enough and, with just thirteen spins of his wheels, including in last year's Irish Derby, he's an interesting proposition. No prices are available at the time of writing.

Ryan Moore rides Richard Hannon's Across The Stars, and this one is sure to be popular. Tenth in Harzand's (2016) Derby, he went on to win the Henry VII Stakes at Royal Ascot later that summer, but has lost his way a little since. He has dropped a commensurate amount in the weights, meaning he's now rated a stone below his 3yo peak. He too is drawn high.

It's a trappy race, not one to go mad in, and my tenner each way will ride on Grandee.

 

5.50 Investec Asset Management Handicap (Class 2, 6f 3yds)

This is more like it. A big field sprint handicap around the turn. Actually it's around half of the turn, as they begin from a chute midway across the top of the horseshoe. Stall position may be less important than run style as riders attempt make a tangent across the arc and into the straight.

Alas, the pace picture is not clear. Not at all...

A lack of obvious early pace makes for a muddling conundrum in the concluding sprint handicap

A lack of obvious early pace makes for a muddling conundrum in the concluding sprint handicap

 

Terentum Star looks to have plenty in his favour. A good berth from which to catapult into the home straight, aided by slower starters left and right, enhances a chance already rosy when considering the race conditions. All of ground, class and distance are spot on so, while he has to prove his ability on this quirky strip - all six career wins have come on straight tracks - he has a fair chance of conceding weight all round. With regards to the course constitution, jockey Kevin Stott will look to make his mount's route no more than a lazy leftward lean.

Ashpan Sam is another familiar face around these parts. He won this race in 2014 and again in 2015 before a couple of midfield efforts in the more recent brace of renewals. An overall course and distance string of 1182713 is impressive, and he is now three pounds lower than last year and eleven pounds below his 2015 winning mark. Of course, whether the fire still burns as brightly aged nine is open to question, but there is considerably less early speed in the field this term which will aid his attempt to navigate Tattenham Corner in front rank and vaguely unhurried fashion. He ran a cracker to be third on his first start for nine months a fortnight ago and could go well at a nice price (assuming he's a nice price, no odds at time of writing).

Last year's winner, Reputation, as well as Ian Williams' ex-French recruit, Aces, are others to consider. But I'll split my stake twice and twice again by going each way on the pair of Terentum Star and Ashpan Sam.

Good luck!

Matt

Why I’m NOT writing a Grand National preview this year [v2.018]…

[I originally wrote this post for last year's race and, while missing out on the Grand National winner, it did flag placed horses at 80/1 and 40/1. So the below is a slightly amended version adding into the mix what we learned twelve months ago. A version 2.018 if you will...]

It's the greatest race in the world, or so they'd have us believe. But, since the modifications, the Grand National has become a deeply unpredictable lottery, and far from a sensible punting conveyance.

Fine for a bit of a laugh, and an interest, but nothing more. Which is a shame because, in the good old days - you know, like eight or ten years ago - it was actually a pretty solid trends race.

It used to be the case that winners had won over three miles-plus, had proven jumping ability, had won in big fields, and had a touch of class. Oh, and they'd lug less than eleven stone.

While last year's race was won by a horse - One For Arthur - that was strangely 'gettable', 2016's winner had NEVER finished in front in a steeplechase... And in 2015, a horse a pound off top weight won. The year before, a horse that won a veterans' chase on it previous chase start prevailed. The year before that, the 66/1 winner had chase form of U0P45F5 coming into the race.

The average winning SP of the last six winners has been 32.5/1 - and that's after the bookies have squeezed the fleshies of the price of just about every horse in the hours running up to the start!

Since 2007, the last eleven years, the average winning SP has been 32.73/1 - a sequence that includes winners at 7/1 (fav) and 100/1.

Let's face facts: this is machismo betting; it's vanity punting. The only reason to bet in the Grand National these days is to say, "I had the winner of the Grand National". Better to be lucky than good, right?

Seven of the last eleven winners paid 25/1 or bigger at starting price, and 17 of the 44 placed horses (including winners) did likewise. So if you really want to get macho about betting the Nash, exclude all the fancied runners and take four against the field.

Horses aged nine, ten or eleven have won 17 of the last 20 renewals. That's 85% of the winners from two-thirds of the runners, and they've had 75% of the places too.

[2.018 Update: Two of the exceptions, including last year's winner, were eight. The fourth horse last year was also eight, suggesting that the reduced stamina and jumping test is paving the way for younger horses to further press their claims. So we'll revise this to be horses aged eight to eleven.

Lob out any runner rated north of 148 - yes, it's arbitrary (albeit based on the fact that only one 9-11yo managed to win from higher) but I don't care; this is the daftest betting race of the year after all!

[2.018 Update: Although the winner last year was rated 148, the placed horses were 150, 147, and 152. Again, it feels like the arbitrary bar should be elevated to 152. That still excludes the top nine in the weights. So we'll lob out any runner rated north of 152.]

And if you throw in a horse that finished in the top five last time out, you get a system that has found three of the last four winners, and the second-placed horse in the other year. [2.018 Update: no change here, this is still a surprisingly good way to whittle the field with the top seven in 2017 fitting the bill, where 13 runners did not.]

Will this work this year? Probably not. But is it as reasonable an approach as any of the voodoo ratings agencies, or super trends, or form boffins, or dosage boys'? Erm, probably not. But it's also probably not that far away.

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Here's how this played out over the last decade:

2007: 33/1 winner  (from 3 to qualify)
2008: five fallers, nothing placed (from 8 to qualify)
2009: 8th and 12th (from 2 to qualify)
2010: three fallers (from 3 to qualify)
2011: 28/1 4th (from 4 to qualify)
2012: two fallers (from 4 to qualify)

NEW FENCES INTRODUCED

2013: 66/1 winner (from 7 to qualify)
2014: 25/1 winner, 33/1 6th, five fallers (from 8 to qualify)
2015: 25/1 2nd, 25/1 6th, three fallers (from 8 to qualify)
2016: 33/1 winner (from 4 to qualify)
2017: 25/1 3rd, 50/1 5th
2018: ?????

There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that the entire complexion of the race has changed since the modifications to the fences. And look at the results since then. It's a tiny sample size and perhaps just coincidence than anything more scientific... but it's not definitely coincidence.

During this time, two other things have happened as well: the race is a little bit shorter, and the handicapper has been given discretionary power when it comes to weighting the runners. It is plausible that the latter of those two factors has led to more lenient handicapping of older, seemingly thoroughly exposed, horses. And it is likely that the former has enhanced the prospects of younger, less physically mature types.

At this stage of proceedings, there are a few horses that could qualify, as follows (along with their current top price):

Tiger Roll (12/1, too short), Seeyouatmidnight (16/1, too short), Regal Encore 33/1, Vieux Lion Rouge 33/1, Warriors Tale 50/1, I Just Know 25/1, Captain Redbeard 25/1, Houblon Des Obeaux 50/1, Milanbar 33/1, Delusionofgrandeur (reserve) 66/1, Vintage Clouds (reserve) 33/1.

Removing those too short in the betting and the reserves leaves just seven possibles.

Trying to work out which will start at 25/1 or bigger is something best left to the minutes before the race, but it makes sense to try to steal a march on those which are more likely to go off big prices but are currently very big prices... if you see what I mean. (Let's face it, nothing about betting in this race makes sense, from a financial advice perspective at least, so we might as well have a bit of fun with it).

Warriors Tale, Regal Encore, Vieux Lion Rouge, Houblon Des Obeaux and Milansbar look to be the five with a good chance of going off 25/1+. So maybe split your stake between them and see how you go.

If betting each way, note that a number of firms are paying SIX places but they are all a fifth the odds the place). bet365 are my preferred option: see why at the bottom of this post. While they are only paying five places, they are a quarter the odds a place, and both non-runner no bet and Best Odds Guaranteed; but they've also got a huge money back offer for EXISTING customers.

The going is a bit of a guessing game at this stage, but probably between soft and good to soft, so I've sorted the field by that prospect - also changed distance range to 3m to 4m4f - on this place view of Instant Expert:

2018 Grand National form profile, courtesy of Instant Expert

2018 Grand National form profile, courtesy of Instant Expert

And the pace map for the early stages suggests a running order somewhat akin to the following:

Grand National 2018 pace map

Grand National 2018 pace map

Looking at the shortlist from a soft or good to soft ground/prominent racer perspective may slightly elevate the prospects of 25/1 I Just Know, 33/1 Vintage Clouds in case he sneaks in (money back if he doesn't), 50/1 Warriors Tale, and 33/1 Milansbar. So, if you were mad enough to want my tuppence worth on the world's most unfathomable horse race, there it is. I will be having token interests on that quartet, all at nice big prices, I'm already on Regal Encore (sentiment) and may have a crack at 33/1 Vieux Lion Rouge as the only other possible qualifier. I'm happier backing losers at nice big prices than at shorter...

Good luck!

Matt

p.s. This is a standout money back offer for EXISTING bet365 customers. You can bet up to £250 (i.e. 5 x £25 e/w) and receive half your money back as cash (if you bet in cash, as opposed to free bet tokens).

 

2018 Aintree Festival Trends: DAY THREE (Sat 14th April)

As we head into the last day of the 2018 Aintree Grand National Meeting on Saturday 14th April 2018 we’ve five more LIVE ITV races to enjoy.

The Stayers’ Hurdle and Maghall Novices’ Chase are always decent contests, but really – it’s all about one race on the Saturday – the Randox Health Grand National.

Here at GeeGeez we've got all the key stats for the main LIVE ITV races – use these to help build-up the best profile of horses that have done well in each race over the years.

 

 

SATURDAY, 14th April 2018 (ITV/RUK)

 

2.20 – Mersey Novices´ Hurdle (Grade 1) Cl1 2m4f ITV

2017 Winner: Finian’s Oscar (3/1 fav)
Trainer: Colin Tizzard
Jockey: Robbie Power

14/15 – Won by a horse aged 5 or older
13/15 – Raced 39 days or less ago
13/15 – Won by a horse aged either 5 or 6 years-old
11/15 – Priced 9/2 or shorter in the market
11/15 – Placed in the top three last time out
10/15 – Raced in the Supreme (3), Neptune (6) or County Hurdle (1) last time out
7/15 – Favourites to win (2 joint) (6 of the last 8 favs have won)
6/15 – Won their last race
4/15 – Won by the Paul Nicholls yard
4/15 – Ridden by Ruby Walsh
2/15 – Trained by Willie Mullins
2/15 – Ridden by Barry Geraghty
2/15 – Won by the Nicky Henderson yard (inc two of last 7 runnings)
16 of the last 20 (80%) winners were either fav or 2nd fav
14 of the last 21 (67%) winners finished 6th or better at the Cheltenham Festival
Paul Nicholls or Nicky Henderson have won 6 of the last 14 (43%) runnings between them
6 of the last 8 runnings went to a 5 year-old

 

3.00 – Doom Bar Maghull Novices´ Chase (Grade 1) Cl1 2m ITV

2017 Winner: San Benedeto (4/1)
Trainer: Paul Nicholls
Jockey: Nick Schofield

15/15 – Won by a horse aged 8 or younger
15/15 – Winners from the first 3 in the market
15/15 – Priced 9/2 or shorter in the market
13/15 – Won by a horse aged 7 or younger
12/15 – Ran within the last 35 days
12/15 – Placed in the top three in their last race
10/15 – Ran in the Arkle Chase last time out
9/15 – Won by a horse aged 5 or 6 years-old
7/15 – Won their last race
6/15 – Favourites that won
5/15 – Won by either Ruby Walsh (3) or Barry Geraghty (2)
3/15 – Irish-trained winners
4/15 – Won by the Paul Nicholls yard
2/15 – Won by the Nicky Henderson yard (inc two of last 7 runnings)
2/15 – Won by the Henry de Bromhead yard (inc two of the last 5 runnings)
Since 1989 there have been just 3 Irish-trained winners – 2013, 2015 & 2016
Since 1999 trainer Paul Nicholls has had 6 winners and 7 runners-up
18 of the last 23 (78%) winners ran in the Arkle Chase that season

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3.40 – Betway Handicap Chase (Listed Race) Cl1 3m1f ITV

2017 Winner: Sizing Codelco (10/1)
Trainer: Colin Tizzard
Jockey: Robbie Power

13/15 – Carried 11-1 or less in weight
13/15 – Had run within the last 35 days
12/15 – Won by a horse aged 8 or older
10/15 – Priced 9/1 or bigger in the market
9/15 – Raced at the Cheltenham Festival last time out
9/15 – Unplaced in their last race
3/15 – Won their last race
3/15 – Won by the Philip Hobbs yard
2/15 – Won by the Nicky Henderson stable
2/15 – Won by the Jonjo O’Neill stable
2/15 – Favourites that won
1/15 – Number of Irish-trained winners
12 of the last 21 (57%) winners raced at that season’s Cheltenham Festival
Only 3 of the last 19 (16%) winners were aged 10+
Only 2 winners carried more than 11st in the last 14 years
Just 1 Irish-trained winner in the last 41 runnings
6 of the last 8 (75%) winners were rated between 134 and 139

 

4.20 – Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle (Reg as the Liverpool Hurdle) (Grade 1) Cl1 3m110y ITV

2017 Winner: Yanworth (9/4 fav)
Trainer: Alan King
Jockey: Barry Geraghty

14/14 – Priced 11/2 or less in the market
12/14 – Won or finished 2nd at this meeting previously
13/14 – Ran within the last 30 days
10/14 – Placed 4th or better in that season’s Stayers' Hurdle (Cheltenham)
10/14 – Placed 1st or 2nd in their last race
10/14 – Won by a horse aged 6 or 7 years-old
8/14 – Won their last race
8/14 – Favourites to win (6 odds-on)
6/14 – Raced in that season’s Cleeve Hurdle
4/14 – Won by the Paul Nicholls yard
4/14 – Ridden by jockey Ruby Walsh
2/14 – Trained by Alan King
2/14 – Trained by Nicky Henderson
1/14 – Number of Irish-trained winners
Whisper won the race in 2014 & 2015
7 of the last 9 winners won a race at that season’s Cheltenham Festival
6 of the last 9 winners won the Stayers’ Hurdle (Cheltenham) before winning this

 

5.15 – Randox Health Grand National Chase (Handicap) (Grade 3) Cl1 4m3f110y ITV

2017 Winner: One For Arthur (14/1)
Trainer: Lucinda Russell
Jockey: Derek Fox

 

Aintree Grand National Trends (Last 27 Runnings)

- 26/27 - Ran no more than 55 days ago
· 26/27 - Officially rated 137 or higher
· 25/27 - Had won over at least 3m (chase) before
· 24/27 - Had won no more than 6 times over fences before
· 23/27 - Aged 9 or older
· 22/27 - Returned a double-figure price
· 21/27 - Ran no more than 34 days ago
· 21/27 - Came from outside the top 3 in the betting
· 21/27 - Carried 10-12 OR LESS
· 18/27 - Had won between 4-6 times over fences before
· 16/27 - Carried 10-8 OR LESS
· 16/27 - Finished in the top 4 last time out
· 16/27 - Aged 10 years-old or younger
· 15/27 - Placed favourites
· 14/27 - Aged 9 or 10 years-old
· 14/27 - Won by an Irish-bred horse
· 9/27 - Ran at Cheltenham last time out
· 8/27 - Trained in Ireland (inc 5 of the last 12 years)
· 6/27 - Ran in a previous Grand National
· 5/27 - Won by the favourite or joint favourite
· 5/27 - Won last time out
· 2/27 - Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies
· 2/27 - Ridden by Ruby Walsh
2/27 – Ridden by Leighton Aspell
· 0/27 - Won by a horse aged 7 years-old OR LESS

Aintree Grand National Facts

Since 1978, 120 horses have tried to win with more than 11-5 – with just two winners – Many Clouds (11-9) in 2015 & Neptune Collonges (11-6) in 2012
14 of the last 19 winners were bred in Ireland
Only 1 horse that won at the Cheltenham Festival that same season has won since 1961
The last 7 year-old or younger to win was back in 1940
12 of the last 21 winners had won or been placed in a National-type race before
No horse aged 13 or older has won since 1923 or placed since 1969
3 of the last 9 winners ran in the Scottish National the previous season
9 of the last 15 winners had run over hurdles at some stage earlier in the season
5 of the last 16 winners had been unplaced in the National last year
Only three 8 year-olds have won the last 24 renewals
Just one past winner or placed horse from the previous year’s race has won for 33 years (76 have attempted)
19 of the last 21 winners had fallen or unseated no more than twice in their careers
The last horse to win back-to-back Nationals was Red Rum in 1974

Aintree Grand National Trends (15 Year)

14/15 – Had won over at least 3m previously
13/15 – Won by a horse aged 9 or older
13/15 – Ran less than 50 days ago
13/15 – Officially rated 137 or higher
9/15 – Won by horses aged in double-figures
8/15 – Winners from the top 8 in the betting
8/15 – Finished in the top 3 last time out
7/15 – Experienced the National fences
6/15 – Carried 11-0 or more in weight
5/15 – Won by a horse aged 10 years-old
5/15 – Won by an Irish-trained horse
3/15 – Winning favourites (2 joint)
3/15 – Won their last race
2/15 – Won by the McCain yard
The average winning SP in the last 15 renewals is 28/1

 

 

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2018 Aintree Festival Trends: DAY TWO (Fri 13th April)

Into the second day of the Aintree Grand National Meeting on Friday 13th April 2018 the ITV cameras are on-hand to take in five more LIVE races.

The Mildmay Novices’ Chase, JLT Melling Chase and the Randox Health Topham Chase are the three feature contests as the 'must-see' action from Liverpool’s premier track continues.

As always, here at GeeGeez we've got all the main trends for the LIVE ITV races – use these to build-up a better profile of horses that have done well in each race over the years.

 

FRIDAY, 13th April 2018 (ITV/RUK)

 

2.20 –  Betway Top Novices´ Hurdle Grade 2 Cl1 2m110y ITV

2017 Winner: PINGSHOU (16/1)
Trainer: Colin Tizzard
Jockey: Robbie Power

15/15 – Raced no more than 31 days ago
10/15 – Finished first or second last time out
10/15 – Returned 7/1 or shorter in the betting
9/15 – Aged 5 years-old
8/15 – Ran in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Cheltenham) last time out
7/15 – Had raced on the flat before
5/15 – Won last time out
5/15 – Trained by Nicky Henderson
4/15 – Winning favourites
15 of the last 21 (71%) winners finished 1st or 2nd last time out
21 of the last 27 (78%) winners came from the top 4 in the market
Just one Irish winner since 1977
9 of the last 18 (50%) winners were placed in the top 6 in that season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

2.50 – Betway Mildmay Novices´ Chase Grade 2 Cl1 3m1f ITV

2017 Winner: MIGHT BITE (8/13 fav)
Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Jockey: Nico de Boinville

15/15 – Returned 7/1 or shorter in the betting
15/15 – Raced no more than 55 days ago
12/15 – Aged 7 or younger
12/15 – Finished in the top 4 last time out
12/15 – Raced no more than 33 days ago
11/15 – Ran at the Cheltenham Festival last time out
6/15 – Ran in the RSA Chase last time out
6/15 – Winning favourites
5/15 – Won last time out
4/15 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
3/15 – Trained by Nicky Henderson
2/15 – Ridden by Ruby Walsh
2/15 – Ridden by Barry Geraghty
2/15 – Irish trained winners
28 of the last 29 (97%) winners were priced 10/1 or less
24 of the last 27 winners had won over at least 3m before
33 of the last 37 (89%) winners had won twice or more over fences
13 of the last 16 (81%) winners raced at the Cheltenham Festival that season
Just one winner returned 11/1 or bigger since 1989

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3.25 – JLT Melling Chase Grade 1 Cl1 2m4f ITV

2017 Winner: FOX NORTON (4/1)
Trainer: Colin Tizzard
Jockey: Robbie Power

15/15 – Raced within the last 30 days
14/15 – Raced at the Cheltenham Festival last time out
13/15 – Priced 8/1 or shorter in the betting
12/15 – Aged 9 or younger
10/15 – Finished in the top three last time out
9/15 - Ran in the Queen Mother Champion Chase last time out
7/15 – Winning favourites
6/15 – Irish-trained winners
6/15 – Ran in the Ryanair Chase that season
4/15 – Won last time out
2/15 – Won by a previous winner of the race
2/15 – Trained by Alan King
2/15 - Trained by Nicky Henderson
No winners have been beaten in a previous running of the race
20 of the last 27 (74%) runners had won over at least 2m4f
29 of the last 32 (91%) winners were aged 7 or older
13 of the last 23 (57%) winners had finished third or better in the Queen Mother Champion Chase that season
15 of the last 23 (65%) winners were fav or 2nd fav
19 of the last 27 (70%) winners had been placed at the Grand National Meeting before
11 of the last 14 (79%) winners had won a Grade 1 Chase earlier that season
25 of the last 27 (93%) winners ran at the Cheltenham Festival that season

4.05 –  Randox Health Topham Chase Handicap (Grade 3) Cl1 2m5f110y ITV

2017 Winner: Ultragold (50/1)
Trainer: Colin Tizzard
Jockey: Harry Cobden

14/15 – Raced within the last 34 days
14/15 – Aged 10 or younger
12/15 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
10/15 – Carried 10-7 or less in weight
10/15 – Raced within the last 23 days
9/15 – Unplaced last time out
4/15 – Trained by Peter Bowen
3/15 – Trained by Nicky Henderson
3/15 – Ridden by Barry Geraghty
2/15 – Ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen
2/15 – Won last time out
2/15 – Ridden by Tom O’Brien
1/15 – Irish-trained winners
7 of the last 12 (58%) winners raced in last year’s race
9 of the last 12 (75%) winners hadn’t won over fences that season
9 of the last 14 (64%) winners had raced over the GN-style fences before
14 of the last 25 (56%) winners had raced at least 7 times that season
Only 2 Irish-trained winners since 1979
No British or Irish-bred winner aged 7 or younger since 1985
Just one winner aged 11+ (109 have tried) since 1994

4.40 – Doom Bar Sefton Novices´ Hurdle Grade 1 Cl1 3m110y ITV

2017 Winner: The Worlds End (3/1)
Trainer: Tom George
Jockey: Adrian Heskin

13/15 – Had run within the last 35 days
11/15 – Won by a horse aged 6 or younger
10/15 – Returned 7/1 or bigger in the market
7/15 – Won their last race
5/15 – Raced in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle last time out
3/15 – Favourites that won
2/15 – Won by the Jonjo O’Neill stable
2/15 – Won by the Nigel Twiston-Davies stable
1/15 – Irish-trained winners
10 of the last 11 winners were aged 6 or 7 years-old (91%)
21 of the last 23 (91%) won at least twice over hurdles before
20 of the last 25 (80%) winners had won 4 times or more over hurdles
13 of the last 24 (54%) winners won over at least 2m7f previously
7 of the last 12 (58%) winners didn’t run at that season’s Cheltenham Festival

 

 

 

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2018 Aintree Festival Trends: DAY ONE (Thurs 12th April)

Another top week for jump racing fans as the three-day Aintree Grand National Meeting kicks-off on Thursday 12th April 2018 with the ITV cameras showing five races LIVE each day.

We get going on DAY ONE with the Betway Bowl, Aintree Hurdle and the Randox Health Foxhunters’ Chase are some of the key highlights so there is bundles to look forward to.

As always with the big meetings, here at GeeGeez we've all the main trends for the LIVE ITV races – use these to help build-up a better profile of horses that have done well in each race over the years.

 

 

THURSDAY, 12th April 2018 (ITV/RUK)

 

2.20 – DOOMBAR ANNIVERSARY 4YO JUVENILE HURDLE 4YO GRADE 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo) 2m1f ITV

2017 Winner: DEFI DU SEUIL (4/11 fav)
Trainer: Philip Hobbs
Jockey: Barry Geraghty

14/15 – Ran at the Cheltenham Festival last time out
12/15 – Placed in the top three last time out
11/15 – Raced in the Triumph Hurdle (Cheltenham) last time out
9/15 – Returned 3/1 or shorter in the betting
7/15 – Winning favourites
5/15 – Won by trainer Alan King (4 of the last 11)
4/15 – Won last time out
3/15 – Won by trainer Paul Nicholls
2/15 – Ridden by Ruby Walsh
2/15 – Irish-trained winners
11 of the last 13 winners were placed at worst at the Cheltenham Festival
French-bred horses have won 10 of the last 19 (53%) runnings
13 of the last 18 winners raced in the Triumph Hurdle earlier that season
Just 5 of the last 28 winners didn’t win at least twice over hurdles before

2.50 – BETWAY BOWL CHASE GRADE 1 (CLASS 1) (5yo+) 3m1f ITV

2017 Winner: TEA FOR TWO (10/1)
Trainer: Nick Williams
Jockey: Lizzie Kelly

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12/15 – Ran at the Cheltenham Festival last time out
8/15 – Placed in the top 4 last time out
9/15 – Ran in the Gold Cup (Cheltenham) last time out
6/15 – Aged in double-figures
4/15 - Won by the Pipe stable
3/15 - Won by the Paul Nicholls stable
3/15 – Winning favourites
2/15 – Won last time out
15 of the last 34 (44%) winners were aged 10 or older
23 of the last 34 (68%) winners ran in that season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup
12 of the last 21 (57%) winners were placed fourth or better in that season’s King George VI Chase
2nd or 3rd favourites have won 13 of the last 25 (52%) renewals and 6 of the last 8 (75%)
4 of the last 7 winners ran in this race 12 months ago
3 of the last 9 winners finished in the top 3 in that season’s Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury

3.25 – BETWAY AINTREE HURDLE GRADE 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo+) 2m4f ITV

2017 Winner: BUVEUR D’AIR (4/9 fav)
Trainer: Nicky Henderson
Jockey: Barry Geraghty

15/15 – Aged 8 or younger
12/15 – Returned 6/1 or shorter in the betting
11/15 – Placed in the top 4 last time out
11/15 - Ran at the Cheltenham Festival last time out
8/15 – Irish-trained winners, plus 18 of the last 42
9/15 – Ran in the Champion Hurdle last time out
5/15 – Winning favourites (2 joint)
4/15 – Ridden by Ruby Walsh
4/15 – Won last time out
3/15 – Ridden by Barry Geraghty
3/15 – Won by trainer Nicky Henderson
9 of the last 17 (53%) winners had won at this meeting before
6 of the last 11 Champion Hurdle winners to race have lost
Every British-trained winner had raced at the Cheltenham Festival that season
Just 1 of the last 17 Champion Hurdle runner-ups to race have won

4.05 – THE RANDOX HEALTH FOX HUNTERS´ CHASE (CLASS 2) (6yo+) 2m5f ITV1

2017 Winner: DINEUR (16/1)
Trainer: James King
Jockey: Mickey Bowen

15/15 – Aged 9 or older (Just 2 of the last 32 were younger than 9)
12/15 – Returned 13/2 or shorter in the betting
12/15 – Aged in double-figures
11/15 – Placed in the top 3 last time out
7/15 – Won last time out
5/15 – Ran in the Cheltenham Foxhunters’ last time out
5/15 – Winning favourites (1 joint)
2/15 – Irish-trained winner (Just 4 since 1983)
2/15 – Ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen
22 of the last 25 winners had won a race earlier that season
Only 2 of the last 34 winners were aged younger than 9
21 of the last 25 (84%) winners came from the top 4 in the market
9 of the last 13 winners had run over these National-style fences before
Ex-handicap horses have won 10 of the last 16 (63%) renewals

 

4.40 – BETWAY RED RUM HANDICAP CHASE GRADE 3 (CLASS 1) (5yo+) 2m ITV

2017 Winner: Double W’s (8/1)
Trainer: Malcolm Jefferson
Jockey: Brian Hughes

14/15 – Aged 9 or younger
13/15 – Carried 11-1 or less
10/15 – Carried 10-13 or less
10/15 – Aged 10/1 or shorter in the betting
9/15 - Ran at the Cheltenham Festival last time out
9/15 – Aged 7 or younger
9/15 – Unplaced last time out
4/15 – Winning favourites (1 co)
3/15 – Won last time out
1/15 – Irish-trained winner
Only 2 winners older than 9 years-old since 1988
4 of the last 10 winners were ridden by conditional jockeys
The top 5 in the betting have won 13 of the last 20 (65%) runnings
16 of the last 18 (89%) winners carried 11-2 or less
A Novice has won 8 of the last 16 (50%) renewals
3 of the last 11 winners raced in the previous year’s race
7 of the last 19 (37%) winners ran in that season’s Johnny Henderson Grand Annual (Cheltenham)

 

 

 

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2018 Irish Grand National Trends

Staged at Fairyhouse racecourse the 2018 Irish Grand National is run over a trip of 3m5f with 24 fences to be jumped.

The gruelling contest is always staged on Easter Monday (2nd April 2018), while several Irish Grand National winners have also won the Aintree Grand National, but none in the same season – Bobbyjo and Numbersixvalverde are recent examples of this.

For example, did you know?  The 14 of the last 15 winners carried 10-13 or less in weight, while 13 of the last 15 successful horses were Irish-bred. We’ve also seen just twos winning favourites in the last 15 renewals, including 12 months ago when the classy Our Duke landed the spoils as the market leader.


Recent Irish Grand National Winners

2017 – OUR DUKE (9/2 fav)
2016 – ROGUE ANGEL (16/1)
2015 – THUNDER AND ROSES (20/1)
2014 – SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR (8/1 fav)
2013 – LIBERTY COUNSEL (50/1)
2012 – LION NA BEARNAI (33/1)
2011 – ORGANISEDCONFUSION (12/1)
2010 – BLUESEA CRACKER (25/1)
2009 – NICHE MARKET (33/1)
2008 – HEAR THE ECHO (33/1)
2007 – BUTLER’S CABIN (14/1)
2006 – POINT BARROW (20/1)
2005 – NUMBERSIXVALVERDE (9/1)
2004 – GRANIT D’ESTRUVAL (33/1)
2003 – TIMBERA (11/1)

Key Irish Grand National Betting Trends

14/15 – Carried 10-13 or LESS
14/15 – Had raced within the last 8 weeks
14/15 – Won over at least 3m previously
13/15 – Winning distance – 5 lengths or less
13/15 – Irish bred
12/15 – Carried 10-8 or LESS
12/15 – Came from outside the top 3 in the betting
12/15 – Returned a double-figure price
12/15 – Aged 9 or younger
11/15 – Carried 10-6 or LESS
11/15 – Won by an Irish-based trainer
11/15 – Had raced at Fairyhouse previously
10/15 – Unplaced favourites
9/15 – Finished fourth or better last time out
8/15 – Rated between 130-136
8/15 – Had raced within the last 4 weeks
4/15 – Won by an English-based trainer
3/15 – Ran at Navan last time out
2/15 – Won last time out
2/15 – Winning favourites
The average winning SP in the last 15 years is 23/1
Trainers Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott are yet to win the race
Only two horses since 2000 to win with more than 11-0, Our Duke (2017) & Commanche Court (2000)

Lingfield TV Trends: Good Friday (30th March 2018)

ITV4 are at Lingfield Park this Good Friday (30th March 2018) to show SIX races from the lucrative All Weather Championships Meeting – Finals Day – and here at GeeGeez.co.uk we’ve got it all covered for you!

There are plenty of the power-house flat stables bringing horses to the Surrey track and it’s no surprise with mouth-watering prize money on offer, including £124k for the winner of the feature race – the Easter Classic All-Weather Middle Distance Championship Conditions Stakes.

Like all big race days we take a look at all the LIVE races from a trends angle, including the best positive and negative trainer/jockey stats – we hope they help point you in the direction of a few winners!

 

LINGFIELD HORSE RACING TRENDS

 

1.30 – Sunbets All Weather Championships Apprentice Handicap Cl2 (4 yo+) 7f ATR

One previous running
Trainer Simon Dow won the race 12 months ago
Last year’s winner came from stall 1
Trainer William Haggas has a 36% record with his older horses at the track
Trainer Brian Meehan has a 21% record with this older horses at the track
Jockey Cameron Noble has a 33% record riding older horses at the track
Jockey Jason Watson has a 28% record riding older horses at the track
Jockey Joshua Bryan is just 1 from 34 riding older horses at the track
Jockey Nicola Currie is just 4 from 55 riding older horses at the track
2017 Winner: FORCEFUL APPEAL (33/1)

 

2.00 - Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships Conditions Stakes Cl2 (4 yo+) 1m7f169y ITV

Four previous runnings
All four winners aged between 4-6 years-old
2 of the last 4 favourites have won
2 of the last 4 winners came from stall 8
3 of the last 4 winners had won at the track before
2 of the last 4 winners ran at Lingfield last time out
All four past winners finished in the top 3 last time out
The favourite has finished 1st (twice) or 2nd in the last 4 runnings
Watersmeet was second in the race 12 months ago
Trainer Ralph Beckett has a 32% record with this older horses at the track
Trainer Ed Dunlop has a 21% record with this older horses at the track
Trainer James Fanshawe has a 31% record with his older horses at the track
Jockey James Doyle has a 33% (16 from 49) record riding older horses at the track
2017 Winner: WINNING STORY (7/1)

 

2.30 – 32Red All weather Fillies’ and Mares’ Championships Conditions Stakes Cl2 (4 yo+) 7f1y ITV

Four previous runnings
No winning favourite in the last 4 runnings
3 of the 4 winners were aged 4 years-old
All four previous winners were Irish-bred horses
Horses from stall 3 have been placed in 3 of the last 4 runnings (2 winners)
Favourites placed in 3 of the last 4 runnings
3 of the last 4 winners had run at Lingfield before (2 had won)
3 of the last 4 winners finished in the top 4 last time out
Trainer William Haggas has a 36% record with his older horses at the track
Trainer James Fanshawe has a 31% record with his older horses at the track
Trainer Charlie Fellowes has a 19% record with his older horses at the track
Trainer Chris Dwyer is only 3 from 57 (3%) with his older horses at the track
2017 Winner: REALTRA (6/1)

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3.05 – Betway All-Weather Sprint Championships Conditions Stakes Cl2 (4 yo+) 6f1y ITV

Trainer Richard Fahey won this race in 2014, 2016 & 2017
Two winning favourites in the last 4 runnings
3 of the last 4 winners were Irish-bred horses
All four previous winners had raced at the track before
All four winners drawn in stall 7 or lower
Paul Hanagan has ridden 2 of the last 4 winners
The last 2 winners came from draw 5
Trainer Tom Dascombe has a 24% (17 from 71) record with his older horses at the track
Trainer David Evans is just 15 from 179 (8%) with his older horses at the track
Jockey James Doyle has a 33% (16 from 49) record riding older horses at the track
2017 Winner: KIMBERELLA (4/1 jfav)

 

3.40 – 32Red 3 Year Old All-Weather Championships Conditions Stakes Cl2 (3yo) 6f

One previous running
Last year’s winner came from stall 5
Trainer Roger Charlton has a 24% record with this 3 year-olds at the track
Trainer Simon Dow has a 20% record (+£43) with his 3 year-olds at the track
Trainer Amanda Perrett has a 22% record (+£42) with her 3 year-olds at the track
Trainer Mick Channon is just 5 from 66 (8%) with his 3 year-olds at the track
2017 Winner: SECOND THOUGHT (11/8 fav)

 

4.10 – Sunbets All-Weather Mile Championships Conditions Stakes Cl2 (4 yo+) 1m1y ITV

No winning favourite in the last 4 runnings
3 of the last 4 winners didn’t win their last race
All four past winners drawn 8 or lower
All four winners came between stalls 5-8 (inc)
All four past winners had run at the track before (2 won)
2 of the last 4 winners came from stall 8
Trainer William Haggas has 36% (8 from 22) record with his older horses at the track
Trainer Tom Dascombe has a 24% (17 from 71) record with his older horses at the track
Trainer Tracey Collins has a 67% (2 from 3) record with his older horses at the track
Trainer Archie Watson has a 22% (10 from 45, +£19) record with his older horses at the track
Jockey James Doyle has a 33% (16 from 49) record riding older horses at the track
2017 Winner: SOVEREIGN DEBT (8/1)

 

4.40 - Betway Easter Classic All-Weather Middle Distance Championships Conditions Stakes Cl2 (4 yo+) 1m2f ITV

All four previous runnings went to the favourite
All four previous winners returned 6/4 or shorter in the betting
All previous winners aged between 4-6 years-old
3 of the 4 winners were Irish-bred horses
All four winners ran at Lingfield last time out
All four previous winners drawn in stall 4 or lower
All four past winners had won over CD before
Horses from stall 2 placed in 3 of the last 4 runnings
Ryan Moore has ridden 2 of the last 4 winners of this race
Trainer William Haggas has 36% (8 from 22) record with his older horses at the track
Trainer Archie Watson has a 23% (11 from 48) record with this older horses at the track
Jockey James Doyle has a 33% (16 from 49) record riding older horses at the track
Jockey Josie Gordon is just 5 from 109 (5%) riding older horses at the track
2017 Winner: CONVEY (11/10 fav)

 

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32red Lincoln 2018: Preview, Trends, Tips

The flat is back! With the mud barely washed from the Cheltenham Festival silks it is already time to welcome back flat turf action from its hibernation; and we welcome it back with a bang courtesy of the Lincoln Handicap, to be run at Doncaster this Saturday.

In spite of the perennial large field which assembles across the Town Moor, this has been one of the more gettable cavalry charges in recent years. Specifically, the winner tends to adhere to a fairly strong profile.

Lincoln Handicap Trends

Since 2008 - the last ten renewals - eight of the ten winners satisfied all of these criteria:

- 20/1 or shorter (all bar one of the Doncaster winners since 1996 came from this 'top end' price bracket)

- Six-years-old or younger (all bar one winner since 1987 came from this age group)

- Officially rated 95-105 (all bar one winner since 2005 came from this ratings bracket)

- 140+ days since a run (all bar two winners since 2002 had been rested that long)

There were 50 qualifiers in the study period, an average of five a year, and they collectively recorded a Starting Price profit of 54.33 points.

Another element I scouted was stable form. At the very start of the season, some yards are ready to hit the ground running, but plenty are happy to ease themselves in gently. Rather than guess or use recent history to choose specific stables, I decided to look at the 14 day place strike rate of trainers of Lincoln runners. In theory, those in better form might have a better chance, right?

Right!

Unsurprisingly, those with the lowest two-week place strike rates performed most poorly; and, as is logical, those with a better recent place record - 30% or above - fared well.

While two winners hailed from yards with a 0% place rate in the previous fortnight, both of those trainers - Willie Haggas and Mark Tompkins - had run just one horse during those 14 days. Indeed, of the five Lincoln entries since 2008 whose stables had just one runner in the previous fortnight, three won!

What's the point here? Look for a decent place strike rate where trainers have been running horses recently, and be more forgiving where there is close to zero evidence with which to work.

A word on the draw... It's a big field straight track handicap, so the best place to be is likely where the pace is. But... within three stalls of a rail has been a big advantage in this race. Ignoring recent trainer form and looking only at the four qualification criteria listed above - odds, age, rating, layoff - four of the 50 qualifiers were drawn in stalls one to three. They won two, and all four made the frame. On the other side of the track, those drawn in the top three stalls also had two winners, though from ten qualifiers, as well as five placed.

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So, looking only at the top and bottom three stalls, that's four winners and five places from 14 runners.

We obviously don't know the draw until tomorrow, but my suggestion would be to top up on anything you like drawn 1-3 or 20-22.

Lincoln Handicap Preview

As I write, the draw has not yet been made. So I'll ignore that factor for now. There are also a few days for trainers to get into, or out of, the 30%+ place strike rate in the last fortnight. As it stands, then, there are 14 horses with a chance to get a run still on the qualification list, as follows:

Mitchum Swagger, Ballard Down, Kings Gift, Lahore, Addeybb, Repercussion, Stamp Hill, Fire Brigade, Withernsea, Escobar, Afaak, Brigliadoro, Bravery (133 days since run but included), Taqdeer.

Withernsea, Stamp Hill, and Brigliadoro are unlikely to make the odds cut off, while Bravery and Taqdeer look like getting balloted out. They are struck through in the above list, which leaves nine upon which to focus.

Fire Brigade is the favourite, very well backed in the last few days into 11/2. He was a progressive sort last term, rising from an opening mark of 71 to 98 by season end. That elevation came largely as a result of four wins, two of which were on soft, the projected underfoot for Saturday. Ryan Moore has been booked to ride and there is very little to dislike about this fellow, except his price. That won't stop him winning, of course, but it does mean we should try to find a solid alternative at sexier odds.

Willie Haggas has been quite selective with his Lincoln runners - just six in the last twenty years - but he's managed two winners and a placed horse from that sextet. That immediately makes the very lightly raced Addeybb of interest. He's a winner of three of his five career starts, including in a field of 16 in the Silver Cambridgeshire on his final run last term (Afaak second, Fire Brigade third). Clearly progressive, Haggas's son of Pivotal ought to cope with the ground, though his two defeats came on his only two races on soft. Dropping back a furlong ought not to be an issue for either of the two mentioned so far, with both Sweet Lightning and Levitate emerging from the Cambridgeshire to win the Lincoln since 2011.

Ballard Down, a general 16/1 chance, is next in market rank on the shortlist. The William Knight-trained five-year-old has not been seen since bolting up in a valuable soft ground handicap on the July Course at Newmarket last summer. He's up nine pounds for that, which makes life trickier, but will handle the setup better than many.

Kings Gift could manage no better than a couple of placed efforts in valuable big field handicaps at York last term, but that ability to act in a large herd is a definite asset. He was however whacked on both soft ground starts, albeit that there may have been other contributory factors to those defeats (the first was in the G1 French 2000 Guineas (!), the latter when possibly not handling Goodwood). He's high enough in the weights with those reservations, though trainer Michael Dods won this in 2011 with Sweet Lightning.

One I quite like at a price is Mitchum Swagger. More exposed than those discussed so far, he's proven his ability to relish wet turf and to operate in a big field. Formerly rated as high as 112, he's seven pounds below that mark for the Lincoln and makes his debut for trainer Ralph 'Raif' Beckett who, as far as I can tell, is having his first runner in the Lincoln.

Another trainer switcher is Lahore, formerly in the Roger Varian camp but now with Clive Cox. Like a number already mentioned, Lahore is lightly raced, the most recent of his quintet of starts being when third of nine in a Listed contest over seven furlongs. This will be a first attempt at a mile, a trip for which he's bred; and his second attempt at soft ground, going on which he ran his most impressive race, a four length win in a Class 2 handicap. That form hasn't worked out brilliantly but there remains the prospect of more to come from this 25/1 (in a place) shot.

The Charlie Fellowes-trained Repercussion is another of interest. Last seen when signing off his 2017 campaign with a five length win in a mile Newmarket handicap (Class 3, good to soft), he's up ten pounds for that. But, with just seven UK runs on the board (four decent prior efforts for Andre Fabre in France), he too could still be ahead of his mark.

Escobar was an exciting juvenile for Hugo Palmer, winning the Listed Washinton Singer Stakes, before losing his way somewhat last season. Now relocated to the rejuvenative David O'Meara (changing hands for 100,00 guineas), and nine pounds below his peak rating, he could be ready to step forward once more. Soft ground is an imponderable, however, and he would also need to settle better, something he may do in this large field.

The return to a mile looks optimal for Afaak, who improved on two early season wins last term when closing out with a silver medal in the Silver Cambridgeshire. He travelled well that day and just got outstayed by Addeybb. With proven soft ground form, there ought not be too much between them, and also Fire Brigade, again this time, a fact not fully recognised in a price disparity of 20/1 vs 8/1 vs 11/2.

One which didn't make the trendy shortlist but whose claim is obvious is Lord Glitters. Winner of the uber-valuable Balmoral Handicap (a mile, soft) on Champions Day, he is now rated 107. Such a lofty perch, and its commensurate weight, did not stop Babodana winning in 2004 and a few have made the frame since off similarly high marks. But he's only 8/1.

2018 Lincoln Handicap Tips

As wide open as befits the curtain-raising nature of this heritage handicap. The likely favourite, Fire Brigade, has an obvious chance, albeit one which is fully factored into his price. Should he get berthed near to either rail his case would be still further enhanced. But he's less than 6/1.

Against him, I'll take a chance with AFAAK, whose Silver Cambridgeshire form ties in closely with Addeybb and Fire Brigade but who is two-and-a-half to four times the price of that pair. Trained by Charles Hills - father Barry won the Lincoln in 2003 with Pablo - he should enjoy the ground, is versatile pace wise, and can progress in his second season racing. 20/1 is quite appealing.

And if Ballard Down returns in the same form as when he blitzed his rivals under similar conditions, he could defy his chunky weight allocation. He's worth a chance at 16/1.

Mitchum Swagger is a second 20/1 shot with conditions in his favour and a bit of a chance.

 

Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day Four Preview, Tips

And so to Gold Cup day, the final day of four at the Cheltenham Festival. Always a very difficult card, if you come up dry in the Triumph Hurdle and/or the big race itself, you'll be lucky to get out in front. We start with one of the more reliable (relatively) wagering conveyances of the day, the...

1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 179yds)

Triumph Hurdle Preview

A race fairly high on quality if a little short on numbers with just nine going to post. They're headed by the unbeaten-in-four Apple's Shakira. All three of her wins since importing from France have come at Cheltenham, and all three of them have come on soft ground, most recently in the Grade 2 Triumph Hurdle Trial in January. She's obviously well suited to conditions, gets the seven pounds mares' allowance, should be suited by the run of the race and will be tough to beat.

But Apple's is not the highest rated in the field. That honour was claimed by Redicean, who improved his own unbeaten hurdles record to three when demolishing a shallow-looking line up in the Grade 2 Adonis Hurdle at Kempton last time. His three wins have all come at Kempton and, while that won't stop him adding Triumph glory, he is unproven on this very different circuit. He's rated inferior to Apple's Shakira after accounting for the sex allowance, and is a horse I'm happy to take on.

I respect the Irish one-two from the Spring Hurdle, Mr Adjudicator and Farclas. The former received a more patient ride to wear down the latter there, that looking the best piece of form in Ireland. There should again be little between them, though there is a joker in the Irish pack in the shape of Stormy Ireland.

A mare, she too will receive seven pounds from the boys. That obviously won't harm her cause but it is quite difficult to assess the merit of her win at Fairyhouse. There she pulled 58 (fifty-eight!) lengths clear of a moderate field and, so the clock lads tell me, in a very good time. She's not expected to get an easy time of it on the front, however, and that may compromise her ability to replicate the Fairyhouse effort. I can't back her at the price but nor can I discount the possibility that she's top class.

Saldier is another once-raced-in-Ireland Willie Mullins runner and, as the saying goes, if you've got four for the race you probably haven't got one. I'm not sure that's true, but this fellow is impossible to quantify and will likely be sussed out by the class elevation. I don't hold out much hope for the rest either.

Triumph Hurdle Pace Map

Triumph Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Triumph Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Triumph Hurdle Tips

This looks a good race for Apple's Shakira. She's tough and genuine and handles conditions well. I don't personally think she got the credit she deserved for her last day win: she was caught out of her ground and had a fair bit to do to get on terms with Look My Way; that she managed to pull eight lengths clear by the line spoke well of her. I think she'll come on for that run as well, and she's a good chance at a shortish price.

I'm not with Redicean or Stormy Ireland but fear the first two home from the Spring Hurdle, Mr Adjudicator and Farclas.

Best win bet: Apple's Shakira (short enough at 2/1 but playable if any firms go 5/2 in the morning)

Best each way bet: your choice of Mr Adjudicator and Farclas

**

2.10 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3, 2m 179yds)

County Hurdle Preview

Impossible race. Simply impossible. Using the avoiding bad bets approach, I'm looking for a five- or six-year-old towards the top of the market (20/1 or shorter). That actually doesn't help an awful lot, unfortunately. The pace map tells us that a hold up horse might be the best approach, which brings in last year's Fred Winter winner, Flying Tiger. He's been very well backed and I'm really annoyed with myself for not getting on at the better prices having spotted his County chance back in December. He's just about favourite now, and the booking of Noel Fehily looks inspired for a horse that will need to thread a passage from far back to grab this pot.

The other I'll guess with is Whiskey Sour. Willie Mullins' five-year-old actually won a Grade 1 two starts back and, while not necessarily taking that win entirely at face value (Mengli Khan, strong favourite that day, ran out), it remains good form. He's since been a twelve length fourth to Samcro in another Grade 1 and a mark of 141 is not insurmountable.

Two dozen more for you to choose from, including the interesting chase switcher, Brelade.

County Hurdle Pace Map

County Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

County Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

County Hurdle Tips

Ten deep to get through the placepot for me. Flying Tiger is short enough in the context of the race but certainly playable each way if you can get six places.

Best each way bet: Flying Tiger 14/1 (try to get extra places)

**

2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 7f 213yds)

Albert Bartlett Preview

After the County, this Grade 1 may look like a safe haven to the uninitiated; but recently it's been a minefield for punters with the last four winners returning 16/1, 11/1, 14/1 and, gulp, 33/1. Tread carefully is the suggestion.

Nicky Henderson has a strong hand with the first two in the market. Santini is the main man, unbeaten in a point and a couple of novice hurdles. He was impressive last time in wearing down Black Op - that one running Samcro close on Wednesday - and is the horse most likely to make up into a Gold Cup type. But he's inexperienced for a race of this nature and is no more than 'saver' material in my mind. In spite of that, I'd quite like to see him win well to support that 'possible future superstar' hunch.

The other Hendo at the head of the market is Chef Des Obeaux, staying on but no match for Santini when they met in December but subsequently thrice victorious. He will handle the ground, will stay, and has more match practice than his stablemate. The extra distance here, and the likely strong gallop, could get him closer to Santini this time around.

One I'm looking forward to seeing over this longer trip is OK Corral. Another from the Seven Barrows barn - he has four in the race, Mr Whipped completing the set - this green-and-golder was impressive when upped to two and a half at Kempton last time. He has a bit to find on the book but, as an eight year old against younger, is expected to relish the stamina test; he's a backable price.

The Irish challenge is headed by 64 length last day winner, Chris's Dream. As always with wide margin heavy ground successes it is very hard to gauge the level of that run. He'd previously won by less than five lengths in a race working out only okay, and he looks plenty short enough.

And at bigger prices, Dortmund Park is the type to go well in a heat like this. He's won a few and lost a few, and generally been best when the test has been severe. Davy Russell is a top man for the piloting role and he'll surely outrun 25/1 odds.

Albert Bartlett Pace Map

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Albert Bartlett Tips

A hard race to weigh up. Santini is the right favourite and could be very good. But he's short enough for one so inexperienced. I think his stablemates Chef Des Obeaux and, especially at the prices, OK Corral might give him a race; and Dortmund Park looks over-priced.

Best value each way bet: OK Corral (12/1 Hills, Paddy)

Possible big priced each way poke: Dortmund Park (25/1 Betfair, Paddy, Betstars)

**

3.30 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1, 3m 2f 70yds)

Gold Cup Preview

The Blue Riband event of the week, the Gold Cup is an extreme test of class and stamina, the latter perhaps the key attribute required on the rain-softened turf this time around.

Whether that will suit long-term antepost favourite, Might Bite, remains to be seen. He had the speed to demolish his Grade 1 Feltham field last season before demolishing the final fence; and he had the ability to win the RSA Chase a few months later despite wandering across to sign autographs after the last. But this is more than a quarter mile further and it will be a lot softer than it was on either of those occasions.

He did win the King George on soft ground when last seen, but that was an unimpressive one length verdict over Double Shuffle. Further, he was beaten on heavy (career debut, 6/5 fav) in his only other race with dig in the ground. And still there are more concerns: Might Bite likes to lead, but so does Native River. Getting involved in a tussle on the front with suspect stamina and on turf softer than ideal will mean he is an absolute superstar if he wins. Oh yes, he'll also have to not do his 'nutcase' job in the latter part of the race. Not for me, though I do love him.

Native River is now vying for favouritism. There are no doubts about this one's stamina or soft turf aptitude - he won a Welsh National on soft under top weight - and the race looks tailor made for him. But he too has questions to answer: will he 'bounce' after quite a hard race at Newbury on his comeback from a year off? And will he do too much too soon by taking on Might Bite for the lead? He is a reasonable win bet, but the questions I've posed in this para make him no each way good thing.

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Jessica Harrington sends over the main Irish hope, Our Duke, and he has his conditions, too. A mudlark who bolted up in the Irish Grand National last term, he took a while to come to hand this season. A brace of poor runs in Grade 1 chases - unplaced favourite on both occasions - were laid to rest when he beat off Presenting Percy on heavy ground last time out. That one was a good winner of the RSA Chase on Wednesday giving the form a rock solid feel. He has his chance, a fact fully reflected in a quote of 6/1.

Killultagh Vic would have won or nearly won the Irish Gold Cup if not taking a heavy fall at the last in Leopardstown last month, and therein lies the major issue with him: he is a very sketchy leaper. That problem has meant each of his last four races have been in different calendar years, the recent spill coming after a win over hurdles in December, which was in turn his first run since January 2016. He has bags of ability, and he might be a bet with Coral's faller insurance, but I can't consider him as the selection with that major frailty sure to come under examination.

Definitly Red is a bit of a forgotten horse. Nominated as the each way bet of the meeting by the official handicapper, Phil Smith, at the recent London Racing Club Cheltenham preview, Brian Ellison's charge was a clear-cut winner of the Cotswold Chase over three miles and a furlong here in January. It was heavy that day, so nothing to fret about re ground or trip. Whether he's quite good enough I'm not sure, but he's a touch over-priced.

The one I really liked this year was Road To Respect. I say 'was' because I think it's got too muddy for his tastes: he's won on soft before, but his best form is on terra firmer (sic). If it does dry out a little, I still think he has a decent chance based on a couple of Grade 1 scores and a Festival win last year.

The winner of the Irish Gold Cup was Edwulf, and this story horse is another which has been somewhat forgotten in the run up to the race this year. Down and almost out after going wrong on the run-in in the National Hunt Chase at the Festival last year, he was more likely to lose his life than not, let alone return to racing at the top level. To then win a Grade 1, as he did that last day, is remarkable. The ground has come right for him again, and he is a touch of value at 16/1 albeit that he'd need to improve a few pounds; as a second season chaser he retains the scope to do just that.

American is three from three on soft ground but was no match for Definitly Red in receipt of four pounds last time. He was staying on at that shorter trip so it not impossible that he could make the first four or five. As a lightly raced runner, he too has a bit more scope than many in the field.

An outsider with a squeak is Anibale Fly, trained by Tony Martin. He wasn't really in the picture in that Irish Gold Cup before taking a heavy fall two out. I was hoping Mark Walsh would ride him but Barry Geraghty has chosen this fellow over Minella Rocco (he didn't have an option on Edwulf). The Fly loves a big field - he's won in herds of 16, 25 and 28 (twice) - and has shown abundant stamina up to the three mile range. He has to show he can see out the extra quarter mile and a bit and will be played fairly late, but he's an interesting 'rag'.

Interesting rag status is also conferred upon Djakadam, in his fourth Gold Cup attempt. 2nd-2nd-4th is his string thus far, so could he do a The Fellow? That French homme was second in both 1991 and 1992, and fourth in 1993 before finally claiming that elusive victory in 1994. While stranger things have happened, just one win from his last eleven starts does not offer too much hope.

The rest probably won't figure.

Gold Cup Pace Map

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2018: Pace Map

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2018: Pace Map

Gold Cup Tips

A wide open Gold Cup, and I'm sure it will be 5/1 the field in the morning. I respect Might Bite but fear the race setup for him; Native River is one I'm happy to let beat me; and I'm not sure about the Irish pair of Our Duke and Killultagh Vic. Of course, any of those could win, but they're not for me. At the prices, I'm happier taking a bit of a chance on Definitly Red, Anibale Fly and perhaps American.

Best value each way bet: Definitly Red 12/1 888sport (1/4 1-2-3)

Bigger priced smaller stakes each possibles: American 25/1 general, Anibale Fly 33/1 Hills

**

4.10 St James's Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters' Chase (Class 2, 3m 2f 70yds)

Foxhunter Chase Preview

It now gets very very difficult. This race, run over the same course and distance as the Gold Cup, is for amateurs only, both horses and jockeys. Seven of the last nine winners returned 13/2 or shorter, the other pair being 16/1 and 33/1, and it is in the short grass that I will start and end my search for the winner.

The favourite is Burning Ambition, trained, like six of the last seven winners, in Ireland. He's had just two starts under Rules, winning on debut before running second to Gilgamboa in his prep for this. Just a seven-year-old, he has plenty of scope; indeed, those aged six or seven are five from 40 (12.5% win rate). That's better than twice as good as any other age group. Jamie Codd, the best rider in this peloton, takes the mount and if he gets the luck in transit he'll probably win.

Wonderful Charm is a ten-year-old representing last year's winning trainer, Paul Nicholls. He won at this marathon distance at Musselburgh last time, and was a close second in the race last year. Sam Waley-Cohen takes over from Katie Walsh, who steered that day, the dentist having ridden Wonderful Charm on his last two starts: W-C for WC. He ought again to run his race, and he's far from a bad each way bet with trip, track and ground all fine.

The pretender at the top of the market looks to be Foxrock. He has been whacked on both Festival starts, and seems either not to like travelling or not to like Cheltenham. The effect is the same: no bet.

And just like that we're into the double digit quotes. A couple which may be worth a second glance are Caid Du Berlais and Cousin Pete. The former is a nine-year-old good enough to race in a handicap at last year's Festival off a mark in the 140's. He's won his three points and, though there's a slight reservation about stamina in the ground, he'd be classier than most of these and is 14/1.

At a guesser's price, 40/1, Cousin Pete could go well for a fair way. He's a well bred - Kayf Tara out of an Alderbrook mare - latecomer who was a winner over three miles and a furlong at the April Hunter Chase meeting here. Since then he's run second on soft (three miles) at Market Rasen in a hunter chase which has worked out well (winner and third both won since). The jockey is a bit of an unknown, but if you're prepared to take that chance, you might get a decent run for a pennies play.

Foxhunter Chase Pace Map

Foxhunters' Chase 2018: Pace Map

Foxhunters' Chase 2018: Pace Map

Foxhunter Chase Tips

This appears to be a KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) race, and I like the jolly even if I'm not enormously fond of his price. 7/2 is still all right, mind. It ought to be hard to keep Wonderful Charm out of the frame, so 13/2 there is decent too.

In the prayer mat camp is Cousin Pete, a big priced value loser perhaps.

Best win bet: Burning Ambition 7/2 general

Best each way bet: Wonderful Charm 13/2 general

Hail Mary penny play: Cousin Pete 40/1 Betfair, Paddy, betstars, Victor

**

4.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (Class 2, 2m 4f 56 yds)

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle Preview

Oh my. The route in here simply has to be Gordon Elliott, former jockey to Martin Pipe, and the hottest trainer at the meeting after three winners on Wednesday and three more on Thursday. Elliott saddles four, and there may not be much between at least three of them.

Flawless Escape is a joint favourite, and the mount of Jonathon Moore. He has been consistent this season, winning twice and being placed on his other two starts, most recently in a Grade B Handicap at Leopardstown over three miles. A five year old with few miles on the clock, he should again run his race.

Sire Du Berlais, for whom Donal McInerney will sport the green and gold silks, is also towards the head of the market. He caught the eye when flying late at Fairyhouse last time, and is the sort of improving young horse that wins this race. Meanwhile, Blow By Blow won a Grade 3 novice hurdle with ease last time and is also seriously on the upgrade. This will be his first start in a handicap, Donagh Meyler taking the ride.

The thoroughly exposed Flaxen Flare rounds out Elliott's quartet. Exposed but with an excellent course record: he won the 2013 Fred Winter, was 4th in the Greatwood Hurdle later that year, and ran fifth in the County Hurdle in 2014. He's not been seen much since and, after an abortive chasing career, reverts to hurdles for the first time since an eleven length third to Apple's Jade four starts back. He'll probably outrun 66/1 quotes.

One that cattches my eye is Harry Fry's Melrose Boy. Third in a soft ground Grade 3 handicap hurdle last time - form franked by Topofthegame on Tuesday - this drop back in trip will suit and he too has few miles on the clock. 25/1 with as many extra places as you can get is attractive.

And how much would David Pipe love to win the race named in his father's honour? He's 0 from 18, one place, so far, which tempers enthusiasm for the unbeaten Mr Big Shot, a 16/1 chance making his handicap debut after a year off the track. Unexposed as he is, I'd want to see a good bit of money for him before having the confidence to follow them in. And, even then, I'd choke on the notion of having to miss the pick of the prices.

Obviously, bundles more with chances.

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle Pace Map

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle Tips

I genuinely have no idea and will not be betting. It is however the last leg of the hardest placepot of the week. From that perspective, Melrose Boy and the top three Elliott horses will all make my ticket. Melrose Boy is almost worth a stab at the prices.

Best hopeless guess in a tricky race: Melrose Boy 25/1 Coral

**

5.30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 2m 62yds)

Grand Annual Preview

And so to the final race of 28 this week. The Home Time Handicap - also known as the Grand Annual - is a ferociously competitive two mile speed test when the job of leaping at full pelt in a big field finds most aspirants out.

The two for me are both green-and-gold'ers. First, representing last year's winning stable, is Don't Touch It. Trained by Jessica Harrington and ridden by the excellent Mark Walsh, whose record on the horse reads 2231214, this chap has clearly been laid out for the race. That doesn't set him apart from many others, except that a) his trainer knows how to win it (and is very close friends with Nicky Henderson, whose father Johnny the race commemorates), b) he has an almost perfect profile against the race conditions, and c) his hold up run style looks ideally suited to the expected fierce tempo.

My other swipe is Paul Nicholls' Le Prezien. Ol' Pumpkin also knows how to win a Grand Annual, having achieved the feat three times since 2004, most recently in 2016 with Solar Impulse. Le Prezien is a hold up horse - tick; will relish conditions - tick; has back class tying him in with Grade 1 chasers - tick; and gets assistance from Barry Geraghty... well, you can't have everything, can you?

On a more serious note, BJG has been a little out of luck/form this week, Buveur d'Air aside, and I'll be betting that he has a better Friday as you've seen above.

Loads of others with chances of course, though I'm against North Hill Harvey, whose trainer, Dan Skelton, is 1 from 27 in the last fortnight, and who may be compromised by being too close to a speed meltdown. If the speed was to hold up - unlikely - Gino Trail could be over-priced at 25/1.

Grand Annual Pace Map

Grand Annual Handicap Chase 2018: Pace Map

Grand Annual Handicap Chase 2018: Pace Map

Grand Annual Tips

Lord help you if you need to get out of jail on this race. Though, if there is a benevolent deity, he's probably backed Le Prezien and Don't Touch It - that's the white hat and the red hat for those watching in colour. Hope vastly trumps expectation.

Two each way against the rest: Don't Touch It 10/1 general, Le Prezien 16/1 bet365 (1/4 1-2-3-4-5)

**

And that's your lot. However things go on Gold Cup day, I hope you've had a brilliant week enjoying top class sport. The first three days have been utterly dominated by the Irish, and I'm hoping that changes on Friday. Maybe that's not a smart way to bet? Only time will tell.

Thanks a lot for your company this week, and good luck!

Matt

Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day Three Preview, Tips

And so to the second half. The bad news for those who find themselves behind at this stage is that it gets tougher hereafter. Yikes. We start with an intermediate distance novices' chase where they bet 3/1 the field...

1.30 JLT Novices' Chase (Grade 1, 2m 3f 198yds)

JLT Novices' Chase Preview

A tricky race likely to be run at a good clip.  The market has an Irish horse at its head whereas the official ratings show a couple of Brits leading the pack.

Commencing with the ratings, top rated currently is Modus. Paul Nicholls' 8yo has beaten a total of seven rivals in winning three races this year; if that's unimpressive, the manner with which he's despatched them has been more appealing. Still, none would cut much ice here and the lack of top class winning form is a worry. It's one of those where it would be a tad disappointing were he good enough to win, unless of course he steps forward on what he's shown: after 21 career starts he probably doesn't have the progression of some of his rivals.

Next in is Finian's Oscar. Undoubtedly talented, he's been somewhat unpredictable - like many from his yard - and fair choked it last time on heavy. That may be a more literal statement than it first appears as he's since had a wind op and comes here for his first post-surgery run. He has little to find on the book but, aside from his Jekyll and Hyde profile, the other reservation is the going. There is not a large body of evidence from which to work but that was a lamentable showing in the mud last time, his only race on heavy turf. Perhaps it was an aberration and I certainly wouldn't be adamant he can't act on such deep underfoot, but nor would I want to bet at 6/1 that he can.

Invitation Only is favoured. Willie Mullins' horse has, in my view (but not that of the official handicapper), the best form in the race. That is his close third in the Flogas Chase, the value of which we'll understand better after the first, second and fourth from there re-oppose in the RSA. If he didn't have too hard a race there, he'll go close, though a niggle remains that he's been beaten each of three times he's stepped into Grade 2 or better company.

Nicky Henderson runs the unbeaten in Britain Terrefort. Two wins, at Huntingdon and then in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles at Sandown, were recorded on soft ground but he won twice on heavy in his native France prior to importation. He looks a very smart recruit with doubtless more to come; if ridden a little patiently, behind the likes of Shattered Love and perhaps Bigmartre, he should see it out well.

Although I'm open to being wrong - certainly not dogmatic about it - I don't feel that Benatar's form is quite as strong. It ties in with Finian's Oscar's more recent endeavours, but those don't excite too much in this context either. Gary Moore's charge comes here on the four-timer so he's given his owners a lot of fun already but a doubt about the ground allied to slightly below top form make him a 'no' from me.

A horse of interest at a bigger price is Shattered Love. She is 11211 this season, including a Grade 1 score over three miles at Christmas. That was on soft ground and prior to that she won over two miles on heavy in a Grade 3. That's solid form, and she has a winning mentality generally which makes 17/2 appealing, at least from an each way perspective.

The rest don't look up to this.

JLT Novices' Chase Pace Map

JLT Novices' Chase 2018: Pace Map

JLT Novices' Chase 2018: Pace Map

JLT Novices' Chase Tips

A few horses a few pounds shy of top class and this doesn't look a vintage renewal. I reckon Shattered Love might give a bold display from the front, but Terrefort looks the sort to keep improving for a while yet and he's already just about the best in the race. 4/1 is worth a play.

Best value win bet: Terrefort 4/1 general

Best value each way bet: Shattered Love 17/2 bet365 1/4 1-2-3

**

2.10 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3, 2m 7f 213yds)

Pertemps Final Preview

You've got to be kidding me! This is harem scarem stuff. Using the 'avoid bad bets' methodology, I'll try Who Dares Wins and A Great View against the masses.

Who Dares Wins rarely runs a bad race, including when third in the Coral Cup behind Stayers' Hurdle favourite, Supersundae, last year. This is a first try at the three mile range and he's got heavy ground to contend with also, but he has been pretty reliable in big field handicaps over the years and will race within striking distance of the leaders if good enough. He has few secrets from the handicapper, however.

One with a less obvious profile is A Great View, a green and gold runner from the little heralded yard of Denis Cullen. Four pounds higher than his Irish mark, he needed those extras to sneak into the race, and his very close second of 29 in the Leopardstown qualifier (soft) over Christmas is strong form. That was followed by a quiet ride when fifth of 16 behind Total Recall in a Grade B handicap hurdle at the Dublin Festival, an outing that should have brought him to concert pitch for this. I'd imagine he'll shorten a fair bit given connections, and the 16/1 NRNB BOG is good value.

Trip and ground are ideal for Theo's Charm, and he's a third horse worth a look if you can get a few extra places to play each way. Oodles more with prospects.

Pertemps Final Pace Map

Pertemps Final 2018: Pace Map

Pertemps Final 2018: Pace Map

Pertemps Final Preview Tips

I'll keep this brief as it's not a race I think I have a handle on. But A Great View could be a well handicapped horse in spite of a couple of bonus points form the British 'capper. 16/1 is the each way bet for me.

Best value each way bet: A Great View 16/1 (BetVictor 1/4 1-2-3-4-5)

**

2.50 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1, 2m 4f 166yds)

Ryanair Chase Preview

Just seven in this and, if Douvan sticks to the Champion Chase as expected, it will be six. Nevertheless, it's an interesting little heat. Un De Sceaux is the defending champion and he has a fair bit going for him in the repeat bid. He is two from two this season, beating first Top Gamble and then Speredek into second. I'm not entirely convinced of the strength of that form and, as can be seen below, there may be fair bit of pace in the race to prevent a front-running performance.

UDS sets the standard in spite of those reservations, but at ten years old and at even money, I'm looking for an alternative. Sub Lieutenant is no back number himself, though his primary objective here is surely pace-making/spoiling for his more able connection-mate, Balko Des Flos.

Balko is the young pretender: at seven, only Frodon in this field is younger (six). He ran an excellent second to Road To Respect at Leopardstown over Christmas (three miles, yielding) and comes here a fresh horse. There may be a slight niggle about the ground for him, and he does seem to find one too good a little too often for my tastes; but he's talented and moving forwards and could be a big danger under the excellent Davy Russell. Still, 5/2 is unexciting.

Cue Card showed there's life in the old dog yet when a close second to the excellent Waiting Patiently last time at Ascot (this trip and similar ground), and he is by no means out of this. As an eleven-year-old, he has a heck of a lot of history against him - and, actually, given his Festival record, a heck of a lot of history for him too! 13/2 is playable, though there may be a Douvan rule 4 on that, meaning 9/2 is more like it. He'd bring the house down were he to win.

But I'll roll the dice with young Frodon. Tough and consistent, he may not be quite as classy as some of these but would only have to step forward a handful of pounds to be in the shake up. The ground will be fine for him, he should get the run of the race with plenty of dash in this short field. As ever, it's the price that makes the bet, 11/1 being too big.

Ryanair Chase Pace Map

Ryanair Chase 2018: Pace Map

Ryanair Chase 2018: Pace Map

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Ryanair Chase Tips

Un De Sceaux will make a bold bid to double up, even money perhaps overstating how bold. Balko Des Flos will be far from a shock but is too short also. Cue Card will probably get bet because he's the people's horse, so take 9/2 BOG if you want it. But I'm taking a flyer on Frodon. I like this young man, who has danced many dances here in his short life to date. 11/1 looks over the top.

Best value bet (win or each way): Frodon 11/1 general

**

3.30 Sunbets Stayers' Hurdle (Grade 1, 2m 7f 213yds)

Stayers' Hurdle Preview

A Stayers' Hurdle perhaps short on quality but consequently long on competitiveness  makes for a fascinating punting puzzle. Underlining that point, there are no fewer than six horses separated by just three pounds on official ratings between 161 and 164 - whereas recent renewals have been won by horses rated close to or above 170.

Sam Spinner, from the unfashionable Jedd O'Keefe yard, is the favourite, and that looks right given his ascendant profile and very good form on deep ground. He was impressive in the Long Walk Hurdle - a key trial - last time, beating the high class yardstick but hard-to-win-with L'Ami Serge snugly in the end. Prior to that he'd turned a competitive looking handicap hurdle into a procession at Haydock. His rating has gone 136-139-155-164 this term so who is to say he's done improving yet?

The one reservation is whether The New One will allow him the lead he probably craves. TNO's team may wish they'd gone for the Champion Hurdle this year such was the state of the Tuesday turf, but that is history now and their gig is this one. With stamina to prove and very little reason to expect him to step forward he's tough to recommend.

Of the two JP McManus runners, I'm surprised that Unowhatimeanharry is available at longer odds than Yanworth. 'harry was third in this last year when sent off at odds-0n, and he's run acceptably in defeat this term. A ten length third to Sam Spinner at Ascot, he'll relish the deeper conditions this time. He has apparently been working very well and I think he's a good each way play in spite of not necessarily expecting him to reverse form with Sam.

Yanworth was chasing but couldn't jump a fence. He struggles with a hurdle too. He is undoubtedly in possession of a touch of class, is two from two on heavy and has the beating of Supasundae on Aintree form last term. I just don't happen to rate the form line. If I'm wrong about that, I'll be on the wrong horses here. Them's the breaks.

The likes of Lil Rockefeller, Old Guard and Penhill - still less Bacardys - have too much to find on the book.

Stayers' Hurdle Pace Map

Stayers' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Stayers' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Stayers' Hurdle Tips

There are not many horses with the scope to progress markedly in this field, the main exception being Sam Spinner. If he can get the lead without too much duress, he'll be a very hard horse to pass, and I think his 'working man' connections make him a bigger price than he should be.

Best value win bet: Sam Spinner 4/1 general

**

4.10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3, 2m 4f 166yds)

Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase Preview

Unfathomable stuff as far as I can tell. Using the 'avoid bad bets' approach mentioned elsewhere, I'll remove horses trained by the 'volume trainers'. After that I'll take one from the top and one from the bottom.

At the top my dart is Tully East. Winner of the Novices' Handicap Chase at this meeting last year, he's ten pounds higher this time around. But, with a strong preference for two and a half miles and good form on heavy, it may not be enough to stop him running another gallant race. Denis O'Regan is a decent jockey for playing the cards late, and the expected strong pace here is in his favour too.

Much more speculatively, Ballyalton could go well. He was the winner of the same Festival race as Tully East a year earlier, off a mark of 140. Lightly raced since, he comes here off a two pounds lower mark. He did pull up last time but was a good fourth in a big field handicap on soft ground at the November meeting, that off a five pounds higher rating. I'm not certain he'll cope with the ground - he's never raced on heavy - but the price accommodates that concern, for small money.

The rest also have chances!

Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase Pace Map

Brown Advisory Plate 2018: Pace Map

Brown Advisory Plate 2018: Pace Map

Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase Tips

Two against the field are the last two winners of the Novices' Handicap Chase run on the opening day of the Festival.

Two against the field: Tully East 9/1 Coral, Ballyalton 20/1 Hills

**

4.50 Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m 179yds)

Mares' Novices' Hurdle Preview

Possibly the weakest race at the Festival - Fred Winter aside - the mares' novices' hurdle looks like it will be a good race for the favourite. Won in the inaugural two years by Willie Mullins' good things, Limini and Let's Dance, it will probably be won again this year by Willie Mullins' good thing, Laurina.

She is only the second highest rated in the field, according to BHA ratings, but her two Irish wins were both on heavy and she remains 'could be anything' material.

Top rated is Stuart Edmunds' tough mare, Marias Benefit. She comes here on a six-timer, having started in handicaps off a lowly 117. She was progressively elevated to 152 before her last run where, despite winning, she dropped back to a peg of 147. The problem for her looks to be her love of the lead and the presence of a potential spoiler. Cut The Mustard is in the same ownership as Laurina and races prominently. If taking Marias Benefit on to be the point of the peloton, she could compromise that one's chances and set things up for the favourite. I suspect that may happen.

The rest are not good enough on what they've done, and would have to leap forward by a stone and more to overcome those at the head of the market. Cap Soleil is one who could sneak into the frame for local trainer, Fergal O'Brien. She won a heavy ground Listed hurdle last time and her held up run style will keep her out of a firing line expected to claim a casualty or two. It would be no surprise to see her pick up the pieces for second or third.

Mares' Novices' Hurdle Pace Map

Mares' Novices' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Mares' Novices' Hurdle 2018: Pace Map

Mares' Novices' Hurdle Tips

This is about Willie again. But Cap Soleil might be worth a small each way 'without the favourite' interest.

Best route in if you don't like 4/6 Laurina: Cap Soleil each way without the favourite (no prices currently, but 7/2 or better acceptable)

**

5.30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase (Class 2, 3m 2f)

Kim Muir Preview

Amateur riders, three and a quarter miles, fences, handicap chase, heavy ground. Crikey.

I'll be taking an old established stayer with an old established rider for my two against the field in this. Step forward Pendra and Band Of Blood.

Pendra is green and gold, and has the excellent Derek O'Connor riding. He also has top weight, which doesn't make things easy, but he's got form on heavy (2nd-1st), loves Cheltenham (1st-3rd-5th-2nd at the last four Festivals), and handles big fields. What's not to like?

Dr Richard Newland's Band Of Blood is a fellow ten-year-old, like Pendra, and he comes here on a hat-trick. He actually has few recent miles on the clock having missed the previous two seasons before returning last month. This will be a fairly quick third outing in five weeks, which is a bit of a concern, but he has back class and good recent form in the book. Heavy is no problem for him and nor is the trip. James King, one of the better UK riders, takes to the plate.

In a race where it's often better to be lucky than good, I'll chance that pair against the rest.

Kim Muir Pace Map

Kim Muir Handicap Chase 2018: Pace Map

Kim Muir Handicap Chase 2018: Pace Map

Kim Muir Tips

Two each way against the field:  Pendra 11/1 general, Band Of Blood 14/1 Hills

**

It's my least favourite day of the four - tricky punting and lower quality - so the above deliberations should be consumed in that context. Still, if a bad day at the races is better than a good day at the office, then a bad day at Cheltenham is better than many good days at the races!

How are you going so far? And what do you like for Day 3?

Matt

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