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.

Course Form Could Prove Crucial In Tough Ascot Handicap

With Haydock’s card still in doubt we head to Ascot for Saturday’s preview, specifically the bet365 Handicap Chase which will be run at 3pm. The race will be shown on ITV4 and looks a fiendishly difficult puzzle to solve but as usual the aim of this preview will be to shed some light on possible angles using the brilliant form tools on offer with Geegeez Gold.

Pace

As usual we begin with pace to find what run style might be best suited to this contest here.

The Pace Analyser shows us that this sort of distance at Ascot on the chase course often most suits those who race prominently. We don’t have a huge amount of data here admittedly but the win percentage and place percentage figures speak massively in favour of prominent racers and from just 10 races prominent runners have produced a huge Win PL of 62.5 and an IV of 2.44.

Front runners are next best according to the data we have ahead of mid division and then hold up performers.

If we narrow things down further to races run only on soft or heavy ground we lose some of our data so I’ve included slightly smaller fields too to add some more data in. In total we are looking at seven races and five of those have been won by prominent racers. Prominent racers have also provided twice as many placed finishers as any other running style. Front runners and prominent racers combined have produced 60% of the placed horses from less than 50% of the runners.

Let’s have a look at the pace map for this race:

There could be a contested pace here with Colorado Doc, Bennys King and Dashel Drasher all likely to be keen to get on with things. Of that trio Bennys King is the only one who has proven he can dominate and win in big fields at this kind of level.

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Prominent racers were most favoured by the course pace analysis and Young Wolf, Espoir De Guye and Good Boy Bobby seem most likely to fill those prominent positions just off the pace.

Instant Expert

Instant Expert is always extremely useful in races of this nature. Let’s first take a look at the place data across all codes:

Now the win data, only for chases:

Both are sorted by course record as I always like proven right handed form at right handed courses over jumps, especially course form.

Good Boy Bobby and Jerrysback seem most reliable in this sort of going, the former has extensive experience in soft or heavy ground and seems guaranteed to go through it with few problems. The runners with the biggest going questions marks are relatively unconsidered in the betting it seems.

Plenty of runners have a decent record of at least placing in class 2 races. Espoir De Guye has won both his chases in class 2 company whilst Dashel Drasher and Acting Lass are both 2 from 3 in class 2 races. Good Boy Bobby may have failed to win in both his class 2 chases but he was runner up in both contests so shouldn’t be judged harshly.

Bennys King and Dashel Drasher both have a 100% record of placing at Ascot whilst Espoir De Guye and Acting Lass are 2 from 3 and 2 from 4 respectively in terms of placing. There are six course chase winners in the field. Espoir De Guye has 2 wins from 3 runs here with Dashel Drasher the only horse showing off a 100% win record over these fences.

Good Boy Bobby has not yet raced here which can’t be held against him but what does stand out as a worry is his failure to win in four runs at this kind of trip.

It was previously mentioned that Benny’s King has proven he can dominate big fields, he has won two of his three races in this sort of field size whilst Espoir De Guye is one from two.

So according to Instant Expert Espoir De Guye, Dashel Drasher are potentially amongst the most solid contenders, for all Dashel Drasher is unproven in big fields, with Gold Old Bobby having a fair few question marks hanging over him for one that is so well fancied in the betting.

Trainers

With Ascot such a prestigious track it could be interesting to see how each of the trainers involved here perform at the course. For this we can use the Query Tool.

Sean Curran comes out on top in terms of course IV from the past five years but with just two runners in that time we can’t draw too many conclusions. That’s certainly not a negative for the chances of Domaine De L’Isle though.

Jeremy Scott has also had limited qualifying runners from two from seven is a very good strike rate and that would be a another plus for Dashel Drasher.

Of the trainers with much more experience here over the past five years Harry Fry, Paul Nicholls, Venetia Williams, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Philip Hobbs all have more than their fair share of winners whilst the records of Jonjo O’Neill, Brian Ellison and Philip Kirby are less than impressive, although the latter two trainers have only had limited runners here.

Jockeys

Going can have an effect on jockey performance so let’s take a look at how these jockeys have performed here at Ascot on soft or heavy ground over the past five years:

Matt Griffiths, jockey for Dashel Drasher, has only had one ride here on soft or heavy but it was a victorious one and it would be quite remarkable if he could make it two from two here. Brian Hughes and Harry Skelton, who ride Windsor Avenue and Bennys King respectively, both have more experience and strong records here on testing ground.

The data suggests Harry Cobden, Sean Bowen and Daryl Jacob underperform at Ascot in soft or heavy ground so that is possibly a negative against the chances of Capeland, Acting Lass and Good Boy Bobby.

Verdict

Good Boy Bobby does have some questions to answer but he certainly brings strong form into this. His Cheltenham run a month ago, when 4th, has been working out nicely with three subsequent winners in behind and the winner going on to finish a decent 3rd next time. He’s short enough in the betting though so happy enough to leave him alone.

Bennys King is well proven around here and for him it’s mainly a question over whether he’s still well enough handicapped to win a race like this. He should run well but could be slightly vulnerable for win purposes.

Dashel Drasher has lots going for him and is two from two at Ascot over fences and hurdles. Ability to run well in bigger fields can be overlooked in races like this and he wasn’t at his best in bigger fields earlier in his career and much of his best form has come in smaller fields so he could be worth opposing here.

Espoir De Guye’s name kept popping up in Instant Expert as a solid contender and he represents a trainer that does pretty well here for a jockey that does pretty well here in testing conditions. He’s still lightly raced, proven at Ascot and should be well enough placed. He clearly didn’t stay 3m on his last run and a return to this trip will suit (he wouldn’t mind dropping even further in trip in all likelihood). He’s a fair enough price for an each way punt in what looks a really tricky race.

Lingfield May Bring Out The Best In Intuitive In Mile Handicap

With so many national hunt meetings being lost to the weather at the moment it seems best to play it safe this weekend with an all weather preview. Fortunately there is a good card at Lingfield including a class 2 handicap over a mile and that is going to be the subject of this preview.

Pace

It’s typically an advantage to be nearer the pace at most courses and that’s certainly the case over this course and distance in this kind of field size.

Leaders at Lingfield over a mile have been profitable to follow blind, producing a WIN PL of 38.22. Win percentage, place percentage and IV all steadily drop off the further back in the field you go which is a clear sign that the nearer you are to the pace here the better.

Although hold up horses have a poor record here with a win percentage of 10.1% and a place percentage of 30.01%, in terms of bare figures they provide almost as many winners as any other run style and more places than any other run style (from more runners admittedly). So although seemingly disadvantaged by the course, the frame will often contain at least one or two hold up performers. There are certain hold up horses that are particularly suited to Lingfield, those speedy ones with a great turn of foot, as opposed to the grinders that prefer big fields and long straights. If you can distinguish between the two you can find the better bets amongst those likely to be ridden patiently.

Just as important as the course pace characteristics is the pace of the individual race.

This certainly shouldn’t be run at a crawl with the likes of Papa Stour and Corazon Espinado in the field. The pair were both ridden with a little more restraint last time out but had led on their previous three racecourse appearances.

Fox Power has led in the past but not for over a year. He is consistently ridden handily these days and a repeat of those tactics looks likely.

Crownthorpe and Intuitive look likely to be at the rear of the field early with both tending to held up in the majority of their races.

Draw

I studied some Lingfield one mile handicaps earlier in the all weather season and came to the conclusion there was no strict draw bias over this distance. In 8 runner fields, according to PRB (Percentage of Rivals Beaten), there is a very slight disadvantage to the middle draws and seemingly an even smaller advantage with those that break from the higher stalls, despite those runners having to track across to the rail before the bend.

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The win percentages suggest low is slightly better than high (middle still at a slight disadvantage) whilst the place percentages, which give us more data than the win percentages, increase slightly the higher you are drawn.

Overall there is very little in it and if there is a draw bias, it is negligible.

Pace and Draw Combination

Just because there is no strict draw bias it doesn’t mean that certain run styles aren’t advantaged or disadvantaged by the draw. What is a good draw for some run styles can often be a disadvantage for others.

The above tells us that the draw doesn’t make much difference for front runners, prominent racers or even hold up performers but it does make a lot of difference for those that race in mid division. It could just be a fluke of data (although we have a decent sample size here using PRB) and low drawn mid division horses seem to have a good record with a PRB of 0.57 whereas high drawn mid division has a PRB of just 0.38. It is probably the case that high drawn runners are able to get closer to the rail with other run styles but are forced to take a wider course and cover more ground if they are both wide drawn and settle in mid division.

The Runners

With just 8 runners set to go to post we can have a good look at the chances of each runner. Here they are in order of their early odds, from most fancied to least fancied.

Intuitive

This is probably the horse the race revolves around. He’s looked a bit of an all weather specialist to date with defeats on all four of his turf starts but a record of 11321133 on UK all weather surfaces (was also unplaced on dirt in Dubai).

Those form figures look even more impressive when you look at the defeats. The first two came just behind Alkaraama who has since rated 17lbs and 14lbs higher than those two runs. The most recent defeats came behind the progressive Ghlayoon when Intuitive was poorly placed and also behind the hat trick completing Misty Grey. What makes that last performance look all the better is that Intuitive was once again poorly placed but ran on well into 3rd after having to be switched and the 2nd, 4th and 8th from that race have all come out and won since.

There is no doubt that Intuitive remains a well handicapped horse but this will be his first run at a mile and simply staying on late over 7f isn’t enough to prove that this trip will suit. The horse’s sire, Haatef, has a win strike rate of 9.69% with all his flat runners and that drops only slightly to 8.51% over this mile trip. The dam was a 7.5f winner and the only other offspring from her has run well as a 2yo over 7f so there are plenty of pointers that suggests this mile trip should be within his reach, especially with Lingfield being a speed favouring track.

Fox Power

A very brief look at Fox Power’s form figures over the past year or two might not suggest he has a favourite’s chance in this but digging deeper shows he’s probably a well handicapped horse.

He hasn’t won since taking a listed contest at Newcastle in April 2019 but he’s clearly had a couple of issues since and seems to be working his way back to form again. After that listed win he was off the track for 237 days before finishing a 1.5 lengths 4th at Chelmsford off a mark of 100. He had the run of the race that day but it was a respectable effort.

Between that run and March he would race three more times, running okay in defeat each time but not looking like a winner waiting to happen off a mark of 99 or 100.

He would then spend another 102 days off the track before reappearing in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot, a race in which he was well beaten. He was then well beaten again twice over 10f on turf before finishing 4th off a mark of 94 over the extended 9f at Wolverhampton. The 2nd and 3rd have both won off higher marks since then and Fox Power was closer to the pace than ideal that day so he’s not badly handicapped now off 93.

The main problem for Fox Power may be the surface. On turf he has failed to win in seven attempts, on polytrack he has failed to place in two runs whilst on tapeta his form figures are 131244. His only run at Lingfield was at 7f and although he was only beaten just 2.25 lengths he was last of six runners having gone through the race well but finding disappointingly little. He’s unlikely to run terribly but he looks a better horse on tapeta and could be much more interesting in the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton in a couple of months’ time (a race in which he was 4th off 6lbs higher last year) rather than this.

Corazon Espinado

A change to slightly more patient tactics and a drop in class seemed to pay dividends last time out when winning a class 5 handicap by 5 lengths. He won a class 3 handicap a year ago off 85 so isn’t necessarily out of it here off 87 but this is likely to be much tougher off a career high mark (he’s been beaten on all six runs off 86 or 87). He is previously proven over this distance but with this being a furlong further than last time, three classes higher and his mark being 9lbs higher he’s no guarantee to run to the same level again.

A major positive for the horse is his record when running within 10 days of his previous run. He’s won three from four in those circumstances and on that basis should be considered at least very competitive here, for all he might not be handicapped to win.

Crownthorpe

A last time out winner at Southwell and at his best on soft ground or on the all weather. His latest win was off 90 and he’s won off 91 in the past but he’s been beaten in all seven runs off 92 or higher.

The surface is clearly very important to this horse and it was no great surprise that he took to Southwell’s fibresand last time out given his liking for deep ground. Ignoring a run at Newcastle where his jockey fell off exiting the stalls, his all weather form figures now read 332131. However his two biggest losses, distance wise, have come in his two starts at Lingfield where he has finished 3rd twice in fields of seven and five (beaten 3.25 lengths or further in both races).

As previously mentioned Lingfield can suit those turn of foot horses rather than grinders and Crownthorpe may be a bit more of a grinder, less suited to Lingfield than other venues. He’s not terribly handicapped but this course and handicap mark may well catch him out with third or fourth place seeming most likely here.

Lord Rapscallion

One of two here for Stuart Williams and perhaps surprising that he is slightly more favoured early than his stablemate Papa Stour.

Lord Rapscallion will be having just his second start for Williams having moved from Johnny Murtagh in November. On his stable debut he ran a respectable 4th in a Kempton listed contest at 50/1, although given the distances he was beaten by horses rated 105, 109 and 104 he didn’t look to run beyond his mark of 102. He was 2nd in Ireland in a competitive 7f handicap in September off 101 but it's worth noting that the majority of his best runs during the flat season (where he rose 14lbs in the ratings) were under a strong partnership with rider Nikita Kane who had a huge claim. He’s probably never run to a three figure rating for any other jockey and without a claim here he could be vulnerable, for all he has the talents of Cieren Fallon on board.

Papa Stour

Papa Stour is the main pace angle here and he’s seemingly a bit better on polytrack than he is on tapeta (last four runs on polytrack have produced form figures of 1112, last four runs on tapeta have produced form figures of 6628) so Lingfield may well suit him on his debut here. He is probably at his very best around Chelmsford though which suits his front running style extremely well.

His recent form has been strong. He won three starts ago at Kempton off a 3lb lower mark, beating a next time out winner in Diocles Of Rome, so he’s not handicapped out of this off 91. He’s probably vulnerable to something a bit more progressive but there is absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t run very well, especially if Corazon Espinado allows him an uncontested lead.

Mohareb

Possibly equally good at 6f and 7f which does raise some question marks over the suitability of 1m on just his 2nd attempt at the distance (previous go was his 2nd start on a racecourse when finishing 4th in a novice race). He was a couple of lengths ahead of Intuitive behind Ghalyoon at Chelmsford in November and is now 1lb better off but Mohareb was seen to much better effect that day than Intuitive and isn’t as likely to back that up over the extra distance, for all there are stamina doubts over Intuitive too.

He was below par last time out here at Lingfield and although he is probably in with a small chance here, and may well out run his odds, it would be a surprise if he’s well enough handicapped or strong enough in the finish over this trip to get his head in front.

Mission Bay

Difficult to weigh up on his debut for Marco Botti having previously raced in Italy. A mark of 100 does seem fairly stiff for what he has recently achieved and he’s probably going to need to drop a bit in the handicap before being competitive.

Verdict

Given the doubts about Fox Power and Crownthorpe on this surface I’m inclined to think the win shortlist should be Intuitive, Corazon Espinado and Papa Stour. I don’t think the latter is well enough handicapped to win this but his record with a very recent run is worrying if looking to oppose him.

Intuitive and Papa Stour definitely look better handicapped and if going off the pace data you’d be much more inclined to back Papa Stour, who is likely to lead, rather than Intuitive who is likely to be settled in last. However Intuitive looks to have the turn of foot that will make him ideally suited to this course and he’s likely to be a fast finisher in the straight. He’s unproven both at Lingfield and at a mile so is risky at the price but there is more upside to this one than anything else and two and those question marks may well still turn out to be positives rather than negatives. Intuitive therefore gets the nod for a small bet ahead of Papa Stour who still has another handicap in him and Corazon Espinado who is probably best of those who have raced at Lingfield before.

It’s Christmas Time In Open Looking Welsh Grand National

The rescheduled Welsh Grand National is without a doubt the feature race for Saturday and whilst many will be filing it under ‘impossible’ I’ll hopefully be able to shed some light on some angles using the brilliant Geegeez Gold as usual.

Pace

There has been no shortage of heavy ground Welsh Grand Nationals in the past so let’s see where the advantage tends to be with regards to pace.

It’s often the case that prominent racers can be favoured over hold up performers over shorter trips but even over this marathon trip it is still an advantage to be nearer the pace.

Win data is fairly limited here but there has been a strong advantage towards those that race prominently with an 11.36% win ratio, clear of front runners who have a 6.67%. Mid division and hold up have win ratios of just 4.29% and 2.67% respectively.

There is much more data in the place strike rates and this time around front runners lead the way in more way than one, they have a place strike rate of 33.33% which is marginally more impressive than prominent racers who have a place strike rate of 31.82%. These ratios drop off dramatically the further back in the field you go with mid division providing just 21.43% and hold ups are just 8%.

As far as market consideration goes, backing prominent racers blind for win purposes has been profitable whilst backing both prominent racers and those that race in mid division has been very profitable from an each way perspective whilst front runners are also slightly in profit. Hold up performers are in a big loss for both win and each way purposes.

With this data in mind the heat map for this race should make interesting reading with those that race just off the pace likely to be seen to best effect.

A possible contested pace here but the jockeys will surely be sensible in this ground and avoid setting a suicidal gallop. Early favourite Secret Reprieve seems likely to be a bit further back than ideal but racing in mid division isn’t a huge disadvantage. Dominatuer is relatively well fancied from the hold up performers and granted the usual riding tactics are employed he could struggle to even place, however he does enjoy Chepstow having won his last two races here.

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The well fancied Springfield Fox is likely to take the field along and the top eight or so runners on the above pace map seem likely to be best placed as far as the course bias goes.

Instant Expert

With such a big field to weigh up and some extreme going and distances on offer here, Instant Expert is a great way to quickly scan through the field and to judge each runner’s suitability to conditions.

The place data is often the best indicator as to what should run well and what shouldn’t. Hurdle form that proves ability to handle this distance or going would also be relevant here so that’s included in the filter.

The going doesn’t look an obvious negative for most of this field although The Hollow Ginge and Vieux Lion Rouge do have questions to answer.

It makes sense to open up the distance range a little as races at similar trips are also relevant here. There is plenty of placed form at this sort of trip but The Two Amigos and Vieux Lion Rouge remain slight questions marks despite some placed form according to Instant Expert whilst Big River, Bobo Mac and Captain Drake certainly have questions to answer having tried this sort of trip before and failed.

We’re going to narrow things significantly here to look at the win data.

Now we are looking at just handicap chases to get the most relevant data. There is still plenty of strong heavy ground form on offer here and the course records of Dominateur and Ramses De Teillee are also noteworthy.

The Two Amigos and Christmas In April are the only runners to have won more than once in this distance range whilst big field handicap form is fairly thin on the ground with only three runners here recording wins. Even if you look at wins across all races and codes only four runners have a 16+ runner race win (Secret Reprieve is the additional runner to have won in a 16+ runner field having beaten 15 runners in a novice hurdle here at Chepstow previously).

Odds

You’d think such big field races that have a habit of being run in atrocious conditions would have plenty of shocks but picking the winner of this in recent years hasn’t been the challenge it could have been.

Eight of the last ten winners of this have started the race at 10/1 or shorter. Obviously we don’t know exactly which horses are going to go off at what prices at this stage but this is clearly a race where the form book stands up and the chances are one of those in the first six or seven in the betting are going to be triumphant once again.

The Formbook

So with this race being less of a lottery than it could be let’s delve more into the form.

It’s quite easy to see why Secret Reprieve is the warm favourite in this race. He carries a 4lb penalty for winning a course handicap by 12 lengths last time out (The Two Amigos was 2nd). He’s lightly raced, open to more improvement and has won both his starts on heavy ground. He does have to prove himself over this trip though and his sire is just 2 from 42 at this distance so he’s short enough with those doubts in mind.

Springfield Fox was noted as being the likely front runner in this contest but he too has to prove himself over this sort of test. Rider Sean Bowen has a 21.88% strike rate here at Chepstow over the past five years and he’s produced a WIN PL of 45.25 so he should be relied upon to get the fractions right from the front but his stamina will be going into unchartered waters here.

Truckers Lodge hasn’t run since unseating his rider back in October and that is potentially a longer break than you’d want heading into this but surely Paul Nicholls knows what is right for the horse. He was 2nd to Potters Corner in this a year ago off a similar break so there shouldn’t be any concern over the absence and there are certainly no question marks about the conditions. That race worked out well too but in helping frank that form with an 18 length victory in the Midlands Grand National in March he goes into this year’s race 17lbs higher so he’s going to need to be a much better horse this time around to defy that mark.

Christmas In April brings plenty of staying form into this and looks an interesting contender. He’s failed to win in two runs here but was a solid 2nd just over a year ago when staying on well over half a mile shorter behind a subsequent winner (3rd and 4th also franked the form since). He won easily over this trip at Exeter in February on similar ground and is now only 7lbs higher so he looks to have a leading chance having finished a creditable 2nd last time out (the 3rd won next time out). There are probably better handicapped horses in this field but it’s all about finding the best handicapped horse IN THESE CONDITIONS and he is right up there.

Dominateur loves it here and shouldn’t be judged harshly on his defeat last time out when he had plenty to find with his two rivals at the weights. He’s been well beaten on his last three runs though so his current well being is a worry, as is his ability to make up plenty of ground over his rivals in this contest with prominent racers often favoured. He remains with potential but has many questions to answer, including stamina concerns.

Lord Du Mesnil ran okay at best over the Grand National fences at Aintree last time out but that run came over a mile shorter so isn’t the biggest concern. He has run at this trip before, in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, and he was a creditable 2nd there. His previous run had come when 2nd again in the Haydock Grand National trial on heavy ground so he has ticks for both the going and the distance here. It looks as though he’s been targeted at this all season so far with a run over hurdles blowing the cobwebs away followed by a run over a distance too short. His trainer has an IV of 2.01 in this distance range and he looks likely to outrun his odds.

The Two Amigos has plenty of ground to make up on Secret Reprieve based on their last meeting but he does have a 4lb swing and crucially an extra 7f to race over. We know he stays well enough as he was 5th in this last year and that race worked out well so there was no disgrace in being beaten 10 lengths. However this year’s race could be just as strong and he runs off the same mark (8lbs higher than his last winning mark) so doesn’t look well enough handicapped to land this for all he could easily run into the places.

One place, and 6 lengths ahead of The Two Amigos in the last running of this race was Prime Venture and he’s only 4lbs higher so should be able to confirm that form everything else being equal. He was ridden a bit more patiently than the other placed runners and has seemingly been ridden a bit more prominently in a few races since so could be seen to even better effect this time around. A last time out win was his first over fences so could act as a confidence booster and he’s capable of going well.

Yala Enki was also placed last year which means the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th from the previous renewal are all reopposing. He was ideally placed last time around but he too is only 4lbs higher again this year so must be in with some sort of chance. He’s the top weight here which won’t be ideal in stamina sapping conditions and is unlikely to get his own way out in front so a place might be the best thing to aim for again.

Ramses De Teillee bumped into Yala Enki at Cheltenham in November over 3f shorter and there was just a short head between the pair on that occasion and they are handicapped to finish together once again. The pair also met in this race in 2018 when they were 2nd and 3rd. Ramses De Teillee was 4 lengths ahead that day and is now only 4lbs worse off. It’s easy to see why he and Yala Enki are the same sort of price this time around but slight preference from the pair would be for Ramses De Teillee.

Verdict

It's not only a ten horse race but previous renewals have told us the winner is very likely to come from that group judging by the current market. There are many here that seem likely to run well and would probably appeal as place only bets but many of the solid contenders look far less convincing for win only purposes.

Lord Du Mesnil is very interesting and is presumably being campaigned around this and the Aintree Grand National this year. He’s worth covering as a saver each way but the main selection here is going to be Christmas In April who seems to tick pretty much all the necessary boxes and comes here in very good form with more to come.

Favourites Risky In Sandown Handicap So Dare To Go Each Way

There are some nice, competitive betting heats on Saturday and the 1.50 at Sandown, live on ITV4 looks a very interesting contest.

With just eight runners this is hopefully a very solvable puzzle and assuming no non runners (fingers crossed) it has a nice each way shape to it.

Pace

A chase ‘sprint’ here which could end up favouring those nearer the pace than those held up. Let’s take a look at the pace data over this course and distance in similar ground in field sizes between 7 and 10 runners.

There isn’t necessarily a front running advantage here which is what we often see but prominent racers do seem to be quite strongly favoured with a very profitable WIN PL (the only run style that is profitable to back blind) and an IV of 1.64. Leaders and those who race in mid division seem pretty evenly matched which backs up the theory that the sweet spot here is to race prominently. Meanwhile the hold up performers here do not perform well. They have a very poor win and place strike rate compared with other run styles and have produced a WIN PL of -42.

The pace map for this race looks interesting given the above information. For a start, the two market leaders are likely to be given contrasting rides with Moonlighter likely to be very close to the pace and Ibleo likely to be ridden much more patiently.

Paddy’s Poem seems to be the main pace angle in the race with several other runners likely to be well positioned just off the pace in this. San Benedeto and Born Survivor are likely to be the worst positioned runners in this race based on the historical pace data.

Instant Expert

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Looking at the win data in these conditions, the eyes are instantly drawn to Hollywoodien who seems to score pretty well across the board. The only blot on his Instant Expert CV being a defeat on his sole visit here. He was 3rd of 7 on that occasion and not ideally placed so he certainly acts well enough round here.

Ibleo was 2nd in this class last time out and has won a 7 runner race before so there shouldn’t be many concerns regarding his ability in this class or in this field size.

Fellow market fancy Moonlighter seems to have a few questions to answer here according to Instant Expert. The ground shouldn’t be an issue though, he’s won on both heavy and good ground over either code so is clearly versatile. He was also 2nd in the Haldon Gold Cup so class shouldn’t be an issue either. Like Ibleo, Moonlighter has also won a 7 runner race so this 8 runner field isn’t going to be a disadvantage.

Born Survivor seems to be a negative, not only from a pace perspective, but also going off Instant Expert data (albeit a limited amount of data).

Course form is always a plus, especially at a right handed course like Sandown, and Darebin is the only runner who can boast a course chase win. In total he’s run ten times here over fences and he has a 30% strike rate. Seven of his runs here have resulted in a top 3 finish so it's clearly a course he enjoys.

Trainers Stats

Using the Query Tool in Geegeez Gold we can examine both the record of each of these trainers in January plus their records here at Sandown.

The above shows all of the trainers involved in this race and their records in January for the past 5 years. Nick Williams is a stand out record in terms of A/E, in fact he’s the only trainer with a figure over 1. This is another plus for Moonlighter, who looks as though he’ll be cherry ripe for this given the trainer’s record and he should be well placed according to our place data. Nick Gifford, trainer of Paddy’s Poem, has by far the worst A/E for his runners in January.

There isn’t enough meaningful data to look at their records here at Sandown during January but their overall records at Sandown should be insightful.

We’re seeing almost a reversal of the January trainer data here. Nick Gifford and Tom Symonds have very good records here at Sandown whereas Nick Williams, who traditionally does well in January, does not do well here at Sandown and has the worst A/E here of any of these trainers.

Form View

A lot of the races that these horses have been running in haven’t been working out very well so it’s relatively difficult to compare the strength of each runner’s recent form. Two runners have run in races that have worked out pretty well but they are the two runners who are making their seasonal debuts, Hollywoodien and Paddy’s Poem. Hollywoodien’s last run came in March at Haydock when he beat two subsequent winners. Paddy’s Poem’s last race was just over a year ago over this course and distance. He was 2nd on that occasion in a race where the 1st, 4th and 5th all won on one of their next two starts.

We can check the trainer record for both horses after breaks of 60+ days. That won’t necessarily tell us what can be expected after a year off but it could give an indication. Tom Symonds, trainer of Hollywoodien, has a 11.3% strike rate with all runners and an 11.54% win ratio with runners returning after a 60+ day absence. That’s good news for backers of Hollywoodien who are worried about the time off the track.

Nick Gifford, trainer of Paddy’s Poem, has a win record of 9.13% across all runners which becomes 8.47% when looking at those returning from a break. Slightly less but not a big worry.

Ibleo has been a beaten favourite on his last three runs so whilst he is still clearly in form and running pretty well, he doesn’t look one to take a short price about here. That’s especially the case with the possibility he might not be ideally placed too. Moonlighter should be much better placed but he fell last time out and he too has been finding one too good when completing so I’d be reluctant to back this one at restrictive odds too.

Gary Moore has two runners here, Early Du Lemo and Darebin. The pair met here less than a month ago with the latter, who is less well fancied of the pair in the market here, coming out on top by a neck. Early Du Lemo is 3lbs better off now so has a chance of reversing that form but he did suffer a heavy fall a couple of weeks ago at Ascot.

Hollywoodien remains with potential but is 6lb higher than his last run returning from an absence. If fit and well he should run well but there is some guesswork involved in that. Similar guesswork applies to Paddy’s Poem who has strong course and distance form. The chance he could be pestered on the front end is enough to put me off slightly on his return to racing but he’s a more than fair price.

San Benedeto drops back in trip, presumably in an effort from his trainer to get the horse to finish off his races better. His older form over this trip is strong but he often shaped like further would suit and he might find this a sharp enough test. That leaves Born Survivor who is likely to be poorly placed at the back of the field and he’s run poorly in all three races this season anyway.

Verdict

The market leaders may well win this but they don’t appear to offer much value in this contest and are worth taking on with an each way play. Early Du Lemo and Darebin are very closely matched on previous form but Darebin is a very consistent runner here at Sandown and certainly should not be twice the price of his stable mate. He has an excellent chance of hitting the frame once again at the very least and seems to offer the best value in this race.

Hollywoodien and Paddy’s Poem especially are very much respected but they do have to prove their well being so both are overlooked. Paddy’s Poem also has his trainer's poor record in January to overcome but if this isn't the day for him he would be interesting back here at Sandown at some point this season.

Windsor Avenue Could Be The Right Move In Caspian Caviar Gold Cup

Saturday’s big handicap is the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase and as you’d expect, we have an absolute cracker in store. As usual this preview will look at a number of angles and data that are easily found with a Geegeez Gold subscription.

Pace

The ground at Cheltenham is somewhere between soft and good to soft so we’ll have a look at the previous data on this going for 16+ runner handicaps since 2009 at 2m4f:

A pretty strong edge for those that race nearer the pace here. The Win PL, EW PL and Place % all gradually fall the further back in the field a runner is placed.

Hold up horses have a remarkably poor record. This run style has produced a WIN PL of -131.00 and a WIN % of just 0.7%. Even the place strike rate of 13.38% is very low – around three times lower than that of the front runners.

There is plenty of hope for those that race in mid division though. With only a handful more runners they are producing twelve times the winners of a hold up style and a respectable WIN % of 8.11%. The majority of winners and placed horses race in mid division despite these runners certainly not being seen to best effect like the front runners are.

The pace map for this race will give us a further idea of which runners could be advantaged, or disadvantaged, by the run of the race here.

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This race should be run at a good gallop with possible contested speed here. Leading contender Master Tommytucker seems most likely to lead based on recent runs but you couldn’t rule out Windsor Avenue, Good Boy Bobby or Southfield Stone being the early leader.

There are a decent number of hold up horses here and although possibly only ruling out relatively unfancied runners, those below Ibis Du Rheu in the above pace map may end up struggling to get into this.

Previous Winners

The Paddy Power Gold Cup is often a good trial for this contest, the last four winners all took that race in a month prior to winning this although none were victorious in their trial.

The last two winners of this race, Warthog and Frodon, finished 3rd and 2nd going into this race. This year Coole Cody will be looking to complete the double whilst Al Dancer (3rd in the race this year) possibly has the ideal profile in terms of having placed in that race as a prep for this. Saint Sonnet is the only other runner to come from that race and he was a final fence faller when fading from contention.

Coole Cody does look best of those reopposing here but completing this double is difficult so perhaps this race won’t hold the key this year.

Interestingly, according to Andy Newton’s trends for this race, the last 18 winners have all been aged 8 or younger. That would appear to rule out Coole Cody and another fancied runner, Master Tommytucker.

Other Angles

The two market leaders here, Master Tommytucker and Al Dancer, have already met this season at Newton Abbot in similar conditions. Al Dancer gave Master Tommytucker 6lbs and a 2.75 length beating on that occasion and now gets 3lbs from that rival so Al Dancer would appear to have the edge at the weights.

Cepage is one of just a few here to have not had a prep run this season but Cepage’s trainer, Venetia Williams, has an IV of 2.60 and a WIN PL of 21.54 with handicap runners who have not run for 60+ days. His absence should not be seen as a negative.

We all know how important previous course form can be here, 13 of the last 18 winners of this had previously raced here and 5 had won here before. Al Dancer and Coole Cody have a good record here, Al Dancer has finished 1st, 2nd, 5th and 3rd in four runs over fences here and also has a course hurdle win to his name whilst Coole Cody has finished 2nd and 1st from his two runs here on the chase course and he too has a course hurdle win.

Brian Ellison, trainer of Windsor Avenue, has a strong record in handicaps at this sort of distance range. He has a 23.26% strike rate from 43 runners which have provided a WIN PL of 15.47 and an IV of 2.34. Another trainer who does well in handicaps at this distance range is Andrew J Martin (Militarian). His three winners have produced a whopping 103.15 WIN PL and an IV of 1.59.

A jockey stat worth noting is the record of Bryony Frost at Cheltenham. She has a better than 20% strike rate at this venue which improves to 30.77 when only including rides for Paul Nicholls and 47.06% when examining just her rides here on his chasers. She rides Southfield Stone for Nicholls here.

Verdict

This is a really wide open contest and a case can be made for many. Personally I want to be on something that is going to be well placed here and I’m mainly looking at Windsor Avenue and Southfield Stone.

Windsor Avenue’s last time out 2nd to Imperial Aura received a nice form boost when that winner came out and won nicely at Grade 2 level next time out. He’s only been out of the first two once when completing and on that occasion he was 4th, beaten less than a length. His handicap mark could be a lenient one and he’s got the stamina to get up the hill in this ground.

Southfield Stone is another consistent performer who has finished 1st and 2nd here on his last two starts. He was a length and a half in front of Coole Cody here off level weights in October and is only 2lbs worse off here but the big problem seems to be the ground as he clearly enjoys good ground. Clear preference between the pair is therefore with Windsor Avenue.

It’s also worth mentioning that Cepage was 4th in this last year and 2nd to Frodon in this two years ago. He runs off the same mark as last year and is 12lbs higher than in 2018. He probably didn’t quite stay in the Ultima in March and he’d rate a decent enough place only bet but he could be vulnerable yet again for win purposes.

Walk In The Mill Has Right Credentials For Hat Trick Bid

The Becher Chase is one of my favourite jumps races of the season and we look set for a cracker at Aintree on Saturday.

This article will run through some trends for this race, relevant form for each runner and of course many of the angles that are highlighted with a Geegeez Gold subscription.

Pace

Pace is an important factor in any race so let’s take a look at any potential pace bias in this race which could help narrow down the field:

Despite the long distance there is a clear indication that being near the pace is an advantage here at Aintree. It’s worth noting that not all of these races took place on the National course but many of them did and we see some very strong data.

The Win %, Win PL, Place % and IV all drop the further back in the field you are. The Place PL also follows a similar trend except 'Prominent' is slightly more profitable than 'Led' for that metric.

Now it’s worth noting that almost half the winners above have been either held up or have raced in mid division so we can’t simply put a line through those that are likely to be more patiently ridden but they’ve provided far more runners in the above data set and are clearly disadvantaged. Therefore we need to mark up those likely to be closer to the pace and mark down those who are likely to be held up.

The fact that almost half of front runners reach the frame suggests it’s not a bad strategy to simply back whichever front runner appears to have the best chance in this race.

Further credence is given to that strategy when you look at the data for this distance exclusively on soft ground.

The metrics for front runners fly up and the IV is huge 6.54. Front runners have a 37.5% win ratio and 62.5% place ratio. The sample is even smaller here so perhaps this data shouldn’t be taken completely at face value but soft ground certainly seems to benefit front runners even more than good ground does.

So which horses are likely to benefit from the pace bias, and which aren’t?

It looks likely that the pace will come from Yala Enki with Coo Star Sivola most likely to lead if Yala Enki doesn’t.

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The immediate take away from this pace map, other than the fact that it’s likely to be front runner favouring lone speed, is that two of the leading contenders according to the market, Walk In The Mill and Le Breuil could be near the rear of the field.

Previous Experience Of The Fences

When it comes to the Grand National, some prefer the solid choice of previous experience over these fences and others prefer something that is unexposed over the famous obstacles.

When it comes to the Becher Chase it has certainly paid to follow Grand National fence form. A massive nine of the last ten winners had previously run on the Grand National course and twenty-three of the last thirty horses to finish in the first three had the same experience.

Now it’s worth remembering that in an ordinary year some of these that haven’t yet run here would have done so in April had we not lost the 2020 Grand National meeting to Covid so if there is a year this trend will be bucked it will probably be this year but this remains a noteworthy stat.

The runners in this year’s Becher Chase who have Grand National course experience are:

Kimberlite Candy
Le Breuil
Walk In The Mill
Ramses De Teilee
Minellacelebration
Vieux Lion Rouge
Joe Farrell

The runners without a run over these fences are:

Yala Enki
Calett Mad
Coo Star Sivola
Give Me A Copper
Smooth Stepper
Aso
Jett
Calipso Collonges

Race Fitness

Only four of these come here without a previous run this season. Is that a big deal?

Well three of the last ten winners have come here fresh and defied an absence which is a strong record given the majority of the field have usually had a prep. A lack of previous run this season certainly shouldn’t be seen as a big negative.

Once again Covid could have a slight effect here. Those who won here fresh had previously run in April but the fresh runners this year have not run since January at least which could have an impact.

Instant Expert

Instant Expert is an excellent tool for getting a quick insight into horse, trainer, jockey or sire performance across a number of relevant metrics. This is how the runners shape up from a place perspective here:

Calipso Collonges is particularly consistent on this ground but surprisingly Le Breuil, and a few other fancied runners, have a patchy record on soft ground.

The importance of course form has already been discussed and Walk In The Mill, Kimberlite Candy and Minellacelebration all do well here but it’s worth noting that Minellacelebration’s good runs at Aintree were on the Mildmay course and he ran poorly over this course in this race last season.

Le Breuil’s poor performance here across the board really stands out. He was beaten 20 lengths in this last season and is only 4lbs lower this time around. It’s difficult to make a case for him and he looks remarkably short with so many question marks.

Vieux Lion Rouge ticked a box having previously run at this course but also seems to have plenty of negatives against him, including a poor run in this last year.

From the place perspective Kimberlite Candy (from limited data), Walk In The Mill, Minellacelebration are all solid.

Narrowing it down with the win data:

It’s a lot harder to find positives when looking solely at win data but Walk In The Mill and Minellacelebration are once again relatively strong and it’s also worth noting that Give Me Copper is amongst the better scorers, albeit with limited data.

Further Analysis

We have to start with last year’s 1st and 2nd, Walk In The Mill and Kimberlite Candy.

Walk In The Mill, despite often being ridden patiently, has won this from mid division and from a prominent position in the past two years. He’s now 12lbs higher than when taking this two years ago and 8lbs higher than twelve months ago. He was also 4th in the 2019 Grand National so is clearly well at home here.

He was beaten 22 lengths and pulled up on his two prep runs for this race in the past so his recent run has once again followed suit and he’ll undoubtedly be primed for this. He wears cheekpieces for just the second time in his career, the first was in this last year when racing more prominently than he often does. The cheekpieces once again should give him a bit more extra early spark.

He beat Kimberlite Candy by 2.5 lengths last year giving Kimberlite Candy 4lbs. Kimberlite Candy has since won at Warwick by 10 lengths meaning he’ll now be 8lbs worse off with Walk In The Mill this time around.

Kimberlite Candy is the more lightly raced of the pair and should still have further improvement but with both at similar prices it’s difficult not to side with Walk In The Mill. Kimberlite Candy’s record first time out in the past four years is 1512 so his absence shouldn’t be much of a concern and he’s only raced twice in cheekpieces, finishing first and second in big races.

Ramses De Teillee has won three of his past five races and has finished runner up in a couple of big field chases. He should be well placed in this race and is proven in conditions and over staying trips. He was pulled up on his only try over these fences but he went okay for a long time and was eventually pulled up because the jockey’s reins had snapped. He certainly can't be ruled out.

He’s closely matched with Yala Enke, who he beat a short head last time out. Yala Enke is a pound better off and is another who should be well placed in this. He has no form over the National fences which is a slight put off and he appears to be a very dour stayer who could be one more for the Grand National itself if proving himself over the fences here.

Coo Star Sivola is yet another who should be suited by the run of the race but he also has never run over these fences before. He hasn’t run particularly well on his last three runs either so looks short enough.

Calett Mad stays very well and goes on any ground but has to defy an almost two year absence here. This may well be a sighter for the big one in April.

Give Me Copper was noted as performing well in Instant Expert and he comes here off the back of a wind op. He’s not the most consistent but he’s another who won’t be too far off the pace and he’s not completely handicapped out of this. If you fancy this one he may be more of a win only bet than each way despite the price.

Minellacelebration was the other very interesting runner from the view of Instant Expert. He won a handicap on the Mildmay course by 14 lengths back in October and has been raised 12lbs off the back of that. He seems to have improved from a wind op twelve months ago, possibly needing his next run but following that up with a second place and two wins. He did run poorly in this last year but that was just before his wind op and he’s otherwise won three from four at this venue and finished runner up in his other race. He did at least complete last year over these fences so if you can put that performance down to his wind he'd have a very good chance, for all he has to prove himself off this kind of mark.

The other runner worth a mention is Vieux Lion Rouge. He did score poorly in Instant Expert and ran poorly in this last year but he was second to Walk In The Mill two years ago and is now 18lbs better off. He hasn’t been at his best on his recent runs and was well beaten by Minellacelebration last time out so it’s entirely possible age is catching up with him now.

Verdict

Very unoriginal but the two most interesting runners here are two of the favourites, Walk In The Mill and Kimberlite Candy. The swing in the weights leaves two time winner Walk In The Mill the better handicapped of the pair.

Le Breuil seems much easier to take on and the best of the each way brigade seems to be the interesting Minellacelebration who does still have to prove himself over these fences and off this mark but he seems most likely to gatecrash the party if anything does.

Secret Investor and Potterman Most Interesting In Ladbrokes Trophy Chase

The most interesting race of the day (and most difficult) is potentially the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury on Saturday, which will be run at 3pm.

With the weather forecast set fair this looks likely to be run on good ground which could potentially catch a few of these out.

The Shape Of The Race

Looking at the pace analyser over staying trips at Newbury on good or good to soft ground we can see that those that aren’t too far from the pace are likely to be advantaged.

We have a fairly small data set here so this information should be taken with a slight pinch of salt. However most of the data points to a pace advantage. It’s not necessarily easy to make all here but front runners do have an IV slightly above 1 and a decent enough place strike rate of 21.05%.

Prominent racers have performed clear best in this sample. They have an outstanding IV of 2.19 and have been profitable to follow blindly producing a WIN PL of 7.25 and an EW PL of 19.56.

Those that race in mid division have performed well and also produced a profitable EW PL of 17.50 when followed blindly. However they have been very unprofitable to follow for win purposes.

What really stands out here is no held up winners from 66 runners. This run style has the largest number of runners and the least amount of success. Even the place strike rate is less than half as strong as that of prominent racers and only slightly better than half as good compared to mid division. It’s very likely that an extreme hold up ride will be a massive negative in this contest.

Looking at the pace map for this race, there looks to be no shortage of pace which will likely compromise the chances of anything that wants to lead exclusively.

It looks highly likely that Two For Gold is going to be the one that leads this field. He’s going to have to go off pretty fast to do so and he’ll be racing over two furlongs further than he’s ever gone before. He’s also jumped and hung right in the past so there are enough question marks here against him. There are a number of runners that look set to try to race prominently here and they include several of the market fancies.

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Those nearer the head of the betting who could be more inconvenienced by their race position include the likes of Kildisart, The Conditional and Cloth Cap.

The Angles

Instant Expert

Instant Expert is a great way to gain a huge amount of insight into the field in a short space of time.

We can see from the above place data that several of the market leaders are yet to run here at Newbury. There are also some distance and field size question marks over a few of these, particularly for Two For Gold and Secret Investor who are yet to race over this distance and have never encountered this big a field before.

Black Op is yet place in two outings in 16+ runner fields whilst Copper Head has only manged to place in one run from four in class 1 races which is a worry. Mister Malarkey’s poor record in big fields is another stat that stands out here.

With most of the market leaders generally scoring well enough with their place data we might gain a bit more insight by looking just at the win data.

We’re seeing a few more question marks here now for win purposes. Vinndication remains a solid choice whilst Kildisart and Aye Right look vulnerable in this class. Black Op looked relatively reliable from the place data but now looks a poor choice considering the win data.

Copperhead doesn’t have the best place record in class 1 races but he has previously won a class 1 race and he has a pretty solid record in most of the criteria here.

One at a bigger price who is beginning to look interesting is La Bague Au Roi. She has the joint second best win ratio on this kind of ground, the clear second best win record in this class (only behind the early favourite) and she has won all three starts here at Newbury.

Related Form

One race that could hold the key here is the Ultima Handicap Chase from this year’s Cheltenham Festival. The winner (The Conditional), the third (Vinndication) and the fourth (Kildisart) all reoppose here and are all near the head of the market.

The Conditional stayed on really well up the hill, especially considering he made a mistake two from home. He’s generally been seen to best effect on softer ground although he was runner up in this last year, albeit off a 9lb lower mark. He has previously been withdrawn because of good ground and is conceding race fitness to many of these so could be vulnerable in this.

Vinndication was just over 2.5 lengths behind Kildisart at Cheltenham and is now 3lbs better off. Kildisart had a lovely pipe opener last month over hurdles and will enjoy this ground. He also had the cheekpieces back on that he wore at Cheltenham.

He is arguably a more solid choice than Vinndication who sports first time cheekpieces here. Vinndication’s sire, Vinnie Roe, has a 11.93% strike rate in national hunt races with his offspring and that only drops to 11.76% when running in this combination of cheekpieces and a tongue tie so there is a very good chance he is no worse for it at least.

Vinndication should be better placed in this race though which makes deciding between the pair difficult.

Hot Form

Secret Investor’s winning seasonal debut is working out well.

The third has won since and the runner up (Potterman, who reopposes here) was only a short head away from victory on his next start. Secret Investor won that race comfortably and is only up 6lbs here (due to go up another 3lbs) which underestimates the strength of that form. Potterman runs off the same mark again and is due to go up 5lbs following this race.

Black Op was a 4.75 lengths 4th to Imperial Aura last time out and that runner has since won a Grade 2. He was also less than 2 lengths behind Champ here last season. Aye Right was runner up on his first start of the season in a Kelso handicap and the winner of that race, Nuts Well, has won again since.

Other Angles

Amongst the most in form trainers here are Kim Bailey (Vinndication and Two For Gold) who has a 25.42% win strike rate and 50.85% place strike rate in the past 30 days from 52 runners, Paul Nicholls (Secret Investor and Danny Whizzbang) who has a 28% win strike rate and 52% place strike rate in the same period from 125 runners and Anthony Honeyball (Regal Encore) who has a 27.78% win strike rate and 41.67% place strike rate in the past 30 days from 36 runners.

Regal Encore also has some other trainer stats in his favour. Anthony Honeyball has a 2.07 IV here at Newbury over the past 5 years and an IV of 1.98 in handicaps.

There is concerning trainer form from Warren Greatrex (La Bague Au Roi) who has had no wins and just three places from 32 runners in the past 30 days.

Aye Right is interesting from a sire snippet perspective. His sire has a strong record in marathon races (21.35% win strike rate, 15.18 WIN PL). The same goes for Copperhead and Potterman whose sire has a 27.59% win strike rate and 15.0 WIN PL over this distance range.

The Conditional’s trainer, David Bridgewater, does well in both handicaps in general and handicaps in this distance range with an IV of 1.68 for both. Danny Whizzbang goes here for Paul Nicholls and Sean Bowen who have a 27.27% win strike rate here as a combination over the past 5 years.

The Verdict

The hot form and related form of Secret Investor (10/1) and Potterman (18/1) make the pair extremely interesting. Secret Investor does have to prove himself in very big fields but he has finished 1st and 2nd in 13 and 14 runner fields in the past so it really shouldn’t be an issue. His trainer is in excellent form and he’s likely to be very well placed, just off the lead. He did jump right last time though which is a slight concern but he’ll love the ground.

Potterman might not be so well placed, although if not prominent he shouldn’t be too far off the pace. He’s extremely consistent and seems well suited by marathon races on good ground, in line with his sire stats. He’s a bigger price than Secret Investor and is a bit more proven from a stamina perspective so is preferred and fancied to reverse form with Secret Investor this time around.

Vinndication and Kildisart should run well and La Bague Au Roi may have been interesting but her trainer’s form is a concern.

Lingfield Handicap Preview: Pace Likely To Dominate Mile Races Yet Again

Last week I examined two one mile handicaps at Lingfield with some success (7/2 winner and 9/1 placed). Having highlighted a strong pace bias at the course in that article, it was no surprise that the winners of both races were ridden prominently. And we might just see something similar again in the 11.35 at Lingfield on Saturday, another one mile handicap.

Pace

I looked at two contrasting field sizes last week to compare the differences in pace bias. This week we have a ten runner handicap so let’s see what the data tell us:

Once again we are seeing a strong pace bias towards those that lead in this sort of field size. Backing front runners blind has been hugely profitable and leaders have an IV of 1.32.

As you go back in the field the Win%, Place% and IV figures all gradually decrease. The closer you are to the pace here, the more advantage you have.

Draw

We can use the great tools on Geegeez to get insights here, too. This time it’s the turn of the Draw Analyser:

Looking at any metric that relates to winners here would suggest middle draws are advantaged and low draws are disadvantaged. The Place% figures slightly back that up although they are much closer together than the Win% figures; and PRB suggests that there is very little in the draw over this distance between all stall positions.

Looking at every single stall in the data range used see a variance of just 0.03 between the single ‘best’ stall and the single ‘worst’ stall so realistically there is no obvious draw bias at all.

A look at the pace and draw combination might shed some light on some micro situations where there could be a draw bias.

Pace and Draw Combination

I mention this a lot but I’m a really big fan of the pace and draw heat map that’s available on both the Draw Analyser page and also the Draw tab on the racecards. Just because there isn’t an overall draw bias it doesn’t mean that certain run styles aren’t advantaged or disadvantaged based on their stall position.

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By displaying the PRB data in the heat map we are making use of as much data as possible from every qualifying race.

The standout takeaway from this is that the biggest advantage is with high drawn front runners. Two furlongs are run over this course and distance before the runners head into the bend so there is no obvious reason why higher drawn front runners do better than lower drawn front runners but it appears they do enjoy an advantage.

There aren’t many massively disadvantaged positions based on the draw but it does seem those that are drawn high and further back in the field have a slight disadvantage from their positions on average.

The Runners

We’ve established the pace advantage so the pace map for this race will tell us if any of the runners are likely to get the run of the race or if the pace advantage could be nullified by a contested speed.

This race certainly should not be run at a crawl with Lalania, Ruby Gates and At Ease all comfortable going forward.

Starting with At Ease, who is the early favourite, Charles Hills has good course form with six wins from seventeen runners in the past five years. His handicap debutants are also profitable here in that period, producing a 23.81% win record and an IV of 2.1.

Looking at the horse itself, form is limited after just two starts. She was entitled to need the run first time out and ran respectably in the circumstances and she followed that up with a novice win over a mile at Chelmsford. Gaining a handicap mark based on a front running victory around Chelmsford can be a dangerous game given runners of that nature will generally be seen to best effect there but there should be a similar advantage here at least.

The bare form of her win was decent enough. She beat 84 rated Mars Landing (probably not flattered by that rating but is hard to win with) by 0.75 lengths in receipt of 5lbs. The pair were 7 lengths clear of the third. She could easily have been handed a rating around 80 which would have been quite interesting given she has clear room for improvement and it seems the handicapper has let her in lightly off a mark of 74 here. She’s a high drawn front runner and appears to have every chance.

I’m Available is challenging her at the head of the market at the time of writing and she comes here off the back of a staying on third at Wolverhampton on her latest start. She has previously won at a mile but all her best form over the past year has been at 7f. She’s likely to be held up and the form of her Kempton win two starts ago was certainly nothing special (the second, fourth and fifth were all well enough beaten next time out) and she’s much easier to oppose here than At Ease.

Others who look opposable also include Kwela who despite a decent return from wind surgery last time is now back on a career high mark and has been beaten in three runs off lower marks here. One Small Step was behind Kwela last time with little optimism for reversing that form here.

The importance of strong Lingfield course form was discussed in last week’s preview as it can be a slightly quirky track that brings out the very best in some runners. Course form is certainly no worry for the likes of Stay Classy and Lalania, both of whom have been tried at listed level this season.

Stay Classy’s form is fairly hit and miss but she’s two from three at this venue, her only defeat coming in a class 2 handicap. Her wins came off marks of 82 and 83, both with the 7lb claim of Angus Villiers who was very good value for that claim, and in her defeat she was beaten 3.25 off 89 without a claimer so without a claimer again here she is probably still a little high in the weights. There is also a fair chance she is slightly better at 7f too.

Lalania has been a revelation this season, winning four races in 2020 rising a total of 19lbs in the handicap. The big question is whether or not the handicapper has got her yet. She was runner up off a 9lb lower mark on her last handicap run at this distance but the 1st, 4th and 5th have all won since so that was clearly a smart effort. She also won on her next start to frank that form further. That win came at 7f and the 4th and 5th won next time out with the 3rd and 6th placing since so she has a strong catalogue of form and she’s only 4lbs higher than that effort.

She’s a speedy sort for a mile which is great around here and she’ll be on the pace from her low draw. She has proven this course suits well with a 4 length victory on her last run at this venue. That win came at 6f and she had previously run well here over just 5f, finishing a fast finishing 2nd.

The downside of Lalania is she is likely to be taken on for the lead (she doesn’t have to lead though and should be happy enough to track the leader) and she no longer has the services of Hollie Doyle who has struck up a nice partnership with the horse, riding her on her last four victories.

Ruby Gates is the other pace angle who has not yet been mentioned. She made all last time out in a five runner, class 5 handicap. She’s up 3lbs for that and has never won above that recent winning mark, nor has she won in seven runs in class 4 company.

The only runners yet to be mentioned are Lady Eleanor, Sunset Kiss and Delicate Kiss.

The former is lightly raced and is yet to get within 4.75 lengths of the winner in four handicap starts. Those runs all came at 7f and she’s shaped a few times as though worth a go at a mile but she doesn’t look well enough handicapped to win this and is high enough drawn for a hold up performer.

Sunset Kiss is also lightly raced and went from winning a Wolverhampton maiden by 2 lengths to being beaten 41 lengths on handicap debut. She had previously shown a decent level of form on turf so a first encounter with heavy ground looks to blame for that effort. She shouldn’t be badly handicapped and is overpriced but has plenty of questions to answer obviously.

Delicate Kiss was behind Kwela and One Small Step at Kempton last time out but is only 1lb higher than when 2nd at Chelmsford on her previous start. The winner hasn’t done much for that form in two runs since and the handicapper probably has her now.

Final Verdict

So the two I’m most interested in here are the well fancied At Ease and the progressive Lalania. They should both be well placed, assuming they don’t compromise each other’s chances by getting into a competition for the early lead.

At Ease has the front runner/high draw angle, the trainer/course record is profitable and she looks to have been let into handicaps lightly but she’s yet to run here.

Lalania should be well placed and has very few questions to answer. She was admittedly beaten 15 lengths last time but that was in Listed company in a big field. It’s possible she is a couple of pounds higher in the ratings now than ideal but she still has enough in her favour to run well at what could be pretty generous odds (a very early 10/1).

I’ll be backing Lalania each way and covering the pair in a reverse forecast. The options for third are plentiful but Sunset Kiss certainly shouldn't be written off.

Lingfield Preview: The Best Bets For Two Mile Handicaps

With the flat season officially over, I’ll now be largely concentrating on the all weather over the winter with the odd staying chase thrown in for good measure.

Lingfield has a good quality card with two listed races at the end of proceedings but it’s two handicaps earlier on that catch my eye as decent betting heats and I’ll be examining both here. Both races are run over a mile but with differing field sizes so we’ll be able to see how much difference the field size makes to any pace and draw biases and hopefully we’ll be able to come out of both races with a decent bet or two.

The races in question are the 12.10pm, a class 6 handicap featuring twelve runners and the 12.45pm, a class 2 handicap with just the eight runners.

Draw

Twelve Runners

The good thing about looking at all weather races is we have a huge amount of data on consistent going types so we can look at the exact field sizes rather than a range.

In slightly bigger fields of twelve runners there seems very little draw advantage with win and place percentages fairly similar and PRB almost exactly the same. Middle draws have performed worst of all for many metrics but they come out slightly on top in terms of PRB so it’s probably fair to say there is no draw advantage over this distance in this field size despite other distances here having some fairly strong draw advantages.

Eight Runners

Draw advantages are usually less prevalent in smaller fields so let’s see if the data backs that up here:

A quick glance at these figures might suggest a middle draw is a big disadvantage but they’ve made up a much smaller sample of runners as the middle draws in eight runner fields contain just two of the eight runners, those from stalls 4 and 5. They have the second best place percentage and although middle draws provide the worst PRB, it’s only 0.01 worse off than low draws and 0.02 less than that provided by the high draws.

So overall the mile distance here looks very fair as far as the draw is concerned.

Pace

Twelve Runners

The size of the field can impact pace bias either way. Bigger fields on average will contain more pace than smaller fields but with more runners those that are held up are likely to be further from the lead than in a smaller field, therefore giving those runners even more ground to make up. In big field races where there is little pace on offer those held up are likely to be seen to worst effect.

There is a clear advantage here to being up with the pace with number of wins, places, EW PL and IV all decreasing the further back in the field you are. There have been forty-eight winners that have been held up or ridden in mid division in the above sample and forty-six have been front runners or prominent so plenty of winners do come from behind but that’s from a lot more runners.

Eight Runners

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Are smaller fields going to make it easier or harder for hold up performers to get their heads in front?

Once again the number of wins, places, EW PL and IV all decrease the further back in the field a runner is positioned. The majority of the metrics are even more in favour of those up with the pace here compared to bigger fields which suggests that these smaller fields are often only moderately run at best.

Draw and Pace Combination

It's not always the case that low is good and high is bad (or vice versa) or front running is good and being held up is bad (or vice versa). Certain run styles are suited to different types of draw and this is where the draw pace heat maps on Geegeez Gold are absolutely essential for research.

Twelve Runners

We already know that racing nearer the pace is an advantage here but what this heat map is telling us is that those that race in mid division from either low or middle draws are actually outperforming those that lead from a low draw or are prominent from a high draw.

The best draw and pace combination from a PRB perspective is to lead from a middle or high draw or to be prominent or mid division from a low or middle draw.

Eight Runners

In the smaller field there seems much less difference between the run styles depending on the draw. Leading or being prominent from any draw is certainly no bad thing. Going further back though, if looking to back a horse from mid division a low draw seems essential.

12.10pm Lingfield Analysis

Pace is likely to play it’s part here so the pace map for this race is important.

We should be guaranteed some early dash here from habitual front runner Rivas Rob Roy. He seems likely to get an easy lead here so is of immediate interest, especially having run some good races here in the past. What is clear from looking at his form is he generally improves for a run and he hasn’t run for almost four months plus he seems better at 7f than 1m so hopefully his role here is just to ensure a half decent gallop.

Four Mile Bridge, who ran very poorly after a year off last time out, and handicap debutant Mirakhul are likely to follow Rivas Rob Roy early on. Mirakhul has barely done enough to even earn that handicap mark of 55 so he’s going to have to find some sudden improvement from somewhere to figure even if he is likely to be favoured by how the race is run.

The majority of the other runners are likely to be held up in mid division or rear so to find the best bet we will need to find a runner that has proven they can come from off the pace at Lingfield. It takes a runner with a good turn of foot to make up ground here so let’s find one.

Violet’s Lads was better than the bare result last time out after a wide trip but she didn’t seem to stay a mile on her last attempt here and doesn’t have the best overall profile, even in this lowly grade.

Casavola is fairly interesting on the basis her handicap mark has been decided on efforts at Chelmsford, where she hasn’t been seen to best effect trying to come from off the pace. She was well beaten there in two starts but those were strong races compared to this contest. She’s respected here but it’s almost impossible to figure out what kind of mark she’s been running to so she can’t be backed with any real confidence, especially as she's never run here either.

The two really solid options here are Good Luck Charm and Emerald Fox, who are amongst the best for course records as denoted by the Instant Expert below (Violet's Lads also comes out well on that score but those runs are at 7f).

Good Luck Charm could still be well handicapped on his run at Bath in July when 6th. He was beaten just over six lengths that day but the winner won his next start, the second and fourth have won twice since and even the fifth and ninth have won since. He’s now 4lbs lower than that run and returns to Lingfield for the first time since following up that Bath effort with a close 2nd here off a 1lb higher mark in August. He ran as if in form last time out at Kempton at a course that doesn’t suit quite so well and it’s worth noting that 2.25 lengths in front of Good Luck Charm that day, and only 1lb worse off here, was Emerald Fox.

Emerald Fox is lightly raced for a 5yo and has been in consistent form since the resumption of racing in June. She’s been better than the bare result on her last couple of runs but is most interesting on her run here in a classified stakes over course and distance in mid August. She was 2nd that day, 1.75 lengths behind Laurentia giving that runner 5lbs. Laurentia is now rated 18lbs higher whereas Emerald Fox is just 1lb higher. That form isn’t completely reliant on the subsequent exploits of the winner either, the 3rd also won next time out.

Both Emerald Fox and Good Luck Charm are likely to be positioned in mid division from their low draws, which isn’t a disadvantage according to the draw pace heat map, but Emerald Fox should be slightly more forward than Good Luck Charm which is another tick in her box. She’s therefore favoured for the win here, although I’ll be tempted to include this pair in a forecast in the hope that Casavola isn’t well handicapped here.

If you’re a fan of trainer/jockey combinations then Good Luck Charm should offer a decent each way betting opportunity at around 6/1. Gary Moore and Rhys Clutterbuck have a 40% strike rate from ten runs here in the past year. Seven of those runners have placed producing a 33.88 EW PL.

12.45pm Analysis

First let’s check out the pace map for this race:

Once again we should be at least guaranteed some early pace in this race from Dashing Roger. He should get an uncontested lead so will be of immediate interest here, especially as he’s been extremely progressive in recent months rising from a handicap mark of 74 in July up to 96 here, winning three races along the way. His form over this distance this year reads 12121 and he won here in March, albeit off a much lower mark. He was arguably flattered to win as he did last time out on heavy ground so he does have to prove he can still mix it in better company off an 8lb higher mark.

Silent Attack and Astro King are likely to track the pace that Dashing Roger sets. Silent Attack seems equally effective over the 7f he ran well at last time out (in a class 2 handicap here) or over a mile, which is the distance he won his last race at, which just so happened to be here off this mark. He’s at his best seemingly in small fields, which he gets here and although he doesn’t have as interesting a profile as many of these he is at the very least sure to give his running.

Astro King is the early favourite thanks to a lightly raced profile for a powerful trainer with this type. Sir Michael Stoute’s runners are nearly always well found in the market here but that hasn’t stopped his handicap runners producing a level stakes profit on Lingfield's polytrack over the past five years, he also has a strike rate of 25%. Soft ground probably didn’t suit last time out and he seems at least reasonably handicapped on his previous form on artificial surfaces. This is a sharp enough track to be dropping back in trip by two furlongs though and whilst he’s potentially the most likely winner, his price is short enough.

Oh This Is Us is very interesting, more so than his price suggests. He finished near last on his latest start, behind Silent Attack, but was only beaten 2.5 lengths and he was slightly short of room and eased up with half a furlong to run. Crucially that run came over 7f and although he had just won over that trip at Chelmsford, round here he seems much better suited by a mile. He only got up late when winning the 2019 All-Weather Mile Championships and that left him rated 113, he’s currently rated just 104. Other than his 2nd racecourse appearance as a 2yo, he’s unbeaten in two course and distance starts, the other victory coming in February 2019 winning a handicap comfortably off 110.

Plantadream is also interesting on his all weather exploits. He was last seen finishing 5th in a decent York handicap on desperate ground suggesting he is still fairly treated. His all weather record reads 121 and on his latest start here he won a class 4 handicap off 81 by 7 lengths.

Irreverent was 2nd last time out in a class 4 handicap and although he has a chance, he appears ridiculously short at an early 7/2. It would be no surprise to see that price drift considerably, especially when you consider he's never even placed in five attempts at class 2 level as shown in the Instant Expert below. Young Fire has had a good season but is likely to be given a lot to do and he is probably badly handicapped now. He's another with a poor record in class 2 handicaps. Meanwhile Pistoletto might just be making up the numbers.

Dashing Roger has almost everything in his favour and is a fair price early on (5/1) considering that but this mark might be just a bit too stiff for him to win this. On the other hand Oh This Is Us is well handicapped and despite being a hold up horse, he seems ideally suited by this course and distance so the disadvantage that many have being held up here might actually be an advantage for him. Hopefully the dead eight stand their ground in which case Oh This Is Us should make a nice each way bet here at an early 7/1.

November Handicap 2020 Preview: Kingbrook Could Take Advantage Of Early Burn Up

After a break from the race previews last week to write about hot form it’s time to delve back into the competitive race previews – this time with the November Handicap.

This is a race I’ve always had a bit of a fondness for, partly due to some decent success around a decade ago but I’ve admittedly found it tougher in recent years, perhaps because the ground has been pretty desperate more often than not.

It's been a rare drying week in the lead up to this year’s renewal so hopefully the ground won’t be too testing and the 2020 flat turf season can finish without the need to race on farcical ground.

Draw

This is perhaps the most surprising element of the race. Despite going round the bend low draws have seemed strongly disadvantaged in testing conditions over this course and distance.

In the past eleven years there have been thirteen 12f handicaps run on ground ranging from good to soft down to heavy and the lowest third of the draw has not only failed to provide a winner, those stalls also offer less than half of the placed finishers compared to middle and high draws. The PRB is also significantly lower.

Comparing the middle and high draws, middle draws have been better from a win perspective but thirteen races isn’t the best sample size to show an advantage for winners. The place data is almost identical and the PRB data is identical so there seems nothing in it.

It could be that the higher drawn middle numbers have been padding out the middle draw data so let’s take a closer look at the individual stall data.

This draw data shows that not all middle stalls and high stalls are created equal as the overview data might have suggested. Three of the four best PRB figures have been recorded by the three highest stalls.

These stalls do have the least amount of data due to the fact that we are looking at the actual stall they effectively came out of rather than the stall they were allocated in the racecard. For every lower drawn non runner each runner will break from a stall one closer to the rail. However it does seem significant that all three of the highest stalls have performed so well in terms of PRB.

It's not all bleak for the lower numbers. Stalls 2, 8 and 9 are joint third best for place percentage so we certainly shouldn’t just expect those drawn in double figures to fill all the places.

There does seem an advantage with the wider draws though. Looking at the nine stalls with the best PRB figures, eight of them are stall 12 or higher. Seven of the eight worst PRB figures come from stall 10 or lower.

Pace

We saw at Doncaster a couple of weeks ago, admittedly on extremely testing ground, that it was difficult to come from off the pace over most distances. There were no twenty-three runner races on those cards though so there is every chance this race could work out differently. To get a stronger idea of any pace bias we’ll need to look at similar big field races.

Using the same going filters as we used for the draw data, we see that prominent racers have won more often than any other type of run style, although hold up horses have fared almost as well.

As far as the place data is concerned, and this is going to be more enlightening with a sample size of this nature, mid division comes out as the best run style in front of prominent and then hold up. It’s clearly difficult to dominate from the front in a field of this size and nature with front runners having the poorest record by some distance although the Each Way PL is most profitable for front runners despite just two places and no wins -  a sign they are underestimated by the bookies.

Depending on which data you look at you could argue any kind of run style is most advantageous so it seems as though every runner should have a fair chance, although the safest option seems to be to back those likely to race in mid division.

How this race is run could have the biggest bearing on what early position is best so let’s take a look at the pace map.

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It looks almost certain we’ll see contested speed in this race with Raymond Tusk, Dash Of Spice, Bollin Joan, Glencadam Glory, Hiroshima, Torcello, Beechwood Jude and Euchen Glen all more than comfortable leading. Euchen Glen is tactically versatile and has been running in smaller field, group races recently so perhaps a bit more restraint will be used here but that still leaves no less than seven possible pace angles!

This race could be a real test at the trip with those coming from nearer the rear likely to be seen to best effect. A bit of extra stamina over further probably wouldn’t be a bad thing either, especially with the ground likely to be quite tacky.

Draw and Pace Combination

We’ve already established that a high draw seems to be an advantage here but is there also a pace bias related to that draw?

The answer is no. Those drawn high seem to have an equal chance of running well whatever their run style. The data above does suggest that coming from mid division with a high draw is a disadvantage but given there seems to be little to no change between hold up and prominent it seems unlikely there is a much bigger disadvantage being placed between those positions. A quirk of a fairly small sample size perhaps.

If you are drawn low you are almost certainly going to be seen to best effect if avoiding either front running duties or a hold up style whilst those drawn in the middle have a fair chance however they are ridden but again, being either prominent or mid division is probably advantageous to those runners.

Age

A big thing is always made of the age of a horse when looking at big handicap trends but does it really make much difference, especially with only 3yos carrying a different weight for age (5lb advantage)?

In the past five renewals of this race there have been winners aged 3, 4, 5 and 7 so a fairly even spread. Arguably 4yos have faired best as they are the only age group to have a better place percentage (55%) compared to their representation in those fields (40%). The 3yos have also performed okay with a 10% place strike rate having made up 11% of the runners during that period. The older brigade, 6yos and 7yos were slightly further below par and 5yos performed least well with a 15% place strike rate compared to 25% representation.

It’s a small sample but it stands to reason that the younger, less exposed runners are likely to include the best handicapped runners.

The Odds

It's the end of the season and many of these runners have had a tough season so it would be easy to suggest this is a race that’s likely to have an upset. Plenty of big prices tend to reach the frame in this race but it’s worth noting that the last six winners of this race started at 10/1 or less.

The Runners

Sam Cooke

He looks to have been saved for this since his close 2nd at Ascot in late July but given he had previously missed 14 months of action it’s entirely possible that connections simply haven’t been able to get him to the track since then. The 4yo has had just six runs to date so there should be more improvement to come and he won his sole start on soft ground at this distance comfortably, albeit off a 10lb lower mark.

He may have been difficult to train but he’s never run a bad race when getting to the racecourse and a 3lbs rise for being beaten a nose last time out seems fair, for all that form hasn’t worked out well. Given he would have preferred softer ground on that occasion it’s probably fair to mark him up as the best horse in that race.

You couldn’t confidently say he’s well enough handicapped to win a race like this given he’s never really beaten much but conditions seem ideal, he’s lightly raced, his trainer is in excellent form and he is very favourably drawn in stall 20.

Euchen Glen

The 7yo has taken his form to a new level this season after missing two years of racing before a return this season. He’s taken his racing well this season having had nine starts in less than five months and he’s won three of his last four including the Old Borough Cup over two furlongs further and two Group 3s over this distance. All those wins came in very testing conditions.

His Old Borough Cup win came off a 8lb lower mark (form hasn’t really worked out) and on his latest win he beat a horse now rated 101 by 1.75 lengths giving that runner 3lbs so whilst his mark is fair, it’s hardly generous.

He was well beaten in this as a 4yo but he’s a different horse now. He’s entitled to go well if he is ridden a bit more patiently than he has been on recent starts and he is well drawn in 18 but he’s surely not the best handicapped runner in this field.

Kingbrook

One of six 3yos in the field and completely unexposed at this distance having had just one start over further than 10f. That run came last time out when winning the Old Rowley Cup, usually one of the hottest handicaps of the season, by half a length on soft ground.

There are early signs that race is working out okay and there is certainly plenty of strength going through his previous form. On his penultimate start he was a staying on 3rd over two furlongs shorter behind Ilaraab who won again next time out.

Trainer Ian Williams saddled the 3rd in the latest renewal of this race and the winner the year before. Kingbrook will once again be ridden by Richard Kingscote, who gave him an excellent ride last time out. He's up 6lbs for his latest win but there should still be more to come and it’s interesting that he’s not only well proven on soft ground but he also has form on plenty of different types of going. This can be an asset when going through tacky, holding ground. Very well drawn in 22.

On To Victory

Consistent on the flat this season, in the first three on all three starts. Placing has never been his issue, he’s been 2nd or 3rd on his last five completed starts, but he is winless since 2017.

His form is solid, if unspectacular, and he’s only 1lb higher than when 2nd at Ascot on his last start at this distance. He is arguably better over further, which might not be a bad thing if this race is run at a very strong gallop but the winless run is a concern.

Stall 13 is okay and there are no issues with the ground so he should run well but he doesn’t appeal strongly for win purposes.

Surrey Pride

A generally progressive 3yo who was well fancied last time out over shorter, failing to get home in very testing ground. He has previously finished almost 8 lengths behind Kingbrook at Newmarket and on that form he has work to do now just 7lbs better off.

He's the lowest drawn of those near the head of the market and not only does stall 6 look a likely disadvantage, he’s also going to be dropped out in the rear from that draw which is proven to be a bad tactic from a low draw. This could be tough for him for all he still may have wiggle room off his mark.

Dash Of Spice

Hasn’t been in the same form as 2018 this term having missed two years of racing before a reappearance in July of this year. After dropping 11lbs, 5lbs below his last winning mark, he put in his best performance of the season last time out when seen to best effect from the front over course and distance finishing 2nd to Tulip Fields who reopposes here.

Low drawn front runners tend to be disadvantaged in this and he’s going to face plenty of competition for the lead. The 4lb pull with Tulip Fields seems unlikely to be enough to reverse the form and it’s a surprise he’s the shorter price of the pair with many bookies.

Eagle Court

David O’Meara’s 3yo has seemingly improved for the step up in trip to 10f on his last two starts, winning both. Those two wins have come in soft ground, they’ve worked out pretty well (beat subsequent winners in both) and he’s won both more cosily than the winning distance suggests.

The 8lbs he’s gone up for winning those two contests is probably less of a concern than the step up in trip, especially as he was racing over a mile just three runs ago.

The excellent Profiler tool on Geegeez Gold shows that Free Eagle’s sire’s offspring perform much better in handicaps over 10f compared to 12f. In fact Eagle Court would be a first handicap winner over this trip for Free Eagle should he emerge victorious here. He’s well drawn in 21 but is going to have his stamina severely tested here and he’s probably one for the tracker for his next run back at 10f.

Strawberry Rock

A difficult runner to figure out with just four career starts. He was impressive at Ripon on his penultimate start when beating Bollin Joan (reopposes here) by 4 lengths on good to soft ground. Bollin Joan did go on to win two starts later so it clearly wasn’t a bad contest.

He wasn’t as good off an 8lb higher mark next time out in a class 2 handicap over a couple of extra furlongs at York on softer ground when 5th, beaten over 8 lengths. He was beaten before stamina came into play that day and it’s difficult to tell if the new mark caught him out or if he was just below par.

His draw in 11 is probably just about okay but the percentage call has to be to oppose him. Market support may be significant though.

Torcello

A 6yo with a decent strike rate on the flat of six wins from sixteen runs. He handles very testing ground well but he’s on a career high mark and faces plenty of competition for front running duties. All his wins have been in much smaller fields and it would be a surprise if he was good enough to even place in this.

Tulip Fields

Won well here a couple of starts back and wasn’t badly hit by the handicapper, only going up 4lbs for winning by 2 lengths. There is a suspicion that race rather fell apart though with several runners not performing on the very testing ground.

She wasn’t disgraced next time out in listed company at Lingfield, perhaps not quite getting home over an extra furlong, but didn’t do a lot to suggest she’d up to winning a race this competitive. She won’t be far off the pace, for all she’s unlikely to lead, and a place would be a decent effort.

Rhythmic Intent

The only one at a bigger price to catch my eye. It wouldn’t be a crazy assumption to think he hasn’t quite got home on very testing ground on his last two runs at 14f. If you were able to ignore those runs he suddenly becomes very interesting. His last run at this distance was a 4th in a six runner race, which on the face of it doesn’t seem great but he was only beaten 2.75 lengths and the 2nd and 3rd both came out and won easily next time.

He’s only 4lbs higher than when winning by 3 lengths earlier this season and he’s generally been consistent when faced with middle distances and softer ground. In fact his form figures at 10f or 12f on soft ground read 21314.

His draw in stall 10 isn’t perfect but 25/1 with as many as 7 places on offer for each way purposes underestimates his chances here. He was after all sent off near favourite for the Old Borough Handicap a few runs ago.

Verdict

Rythmic Intent is pretty interesting but ideally he’d have been drawn higher and he does have to bounce back from a poor run last time, even if there were excuses. Eagle Court is a big threat from a great draw if he stays but there is evidence to suggest this trip will stretch him. Meanwhile Euchen Glen appears a solid choice and he’s perhaps still improving at the age of 7 but for win purposes he’s passed over. On To Victory is a horse that will interest plenty of each way punters but he appeals more as a place only bet than anything else.

The two most interesting runners should be Sam Cooke and Kingbrook who are unfortunately both well found in the betting. Sam Cooke has a lovely profile for this but he still seemingly hasn’t done it against well handicapped rivals. That’s not his fault, he just seemingly hasn’t bumped into them yet, but for a horse trading at around 6/1 you’d probably want to be a bit more sure about his handicap mark.

Kingbrook isn’t yet proven off a mark in the mid nineties but the manner of his victory last time in what is usually a very hot race suggests he could yet rate higher. He seemed to relish the step up in trip and the handicapper hasn’t had a proper chance to catch up with him over this distance. Everything else appears to be in his favour and with just three runs under his belt this season he comes here a very fresh horse. With one bookies going 7/1 and 7 places on each way bets that appears a very good bet for all the likely very tacky ground is a potential fly in the ointment.

As it's the final big handicap of the flat season I'll throw a speculative tricast out there:

1. Kingbrook
2. Sam Cooke
3. On To Victory

Breeders’ Cup 2020: Video Preview, Picks

It's the Breeders' Cup this weekend, and in this preview video I've nailed my colours to the mast across all 14 races.

Hit play and listen in - good luck!

Breeders’ Cup 2020: Trends, Stats, Pace, Replays, Odds

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This year's Compendium is free to everyone, and contains:

 - Race trends for all 14 races
- Pace projections for all 14 races
- 'How the runners fit' form profiles for all 14 races
- Trends contenders for all 14 races
- Odds comparison - UK to US morning line - for all 14 races
- Form summaries for 10 races (excluding the two turf sprints, the Dirt Mile, and the FM Turf)

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How To Back More Winners – The Complete Guide To Hot Form

In March I wrote an article ‘How To Bet On 3yo Handicaps’ where I shared my process of applying the principles of ‘Hot Form’ to find well handicapped runners from the classic generation.

At this year’s Doncaster St Leger meeting I wrote daily articles analysing races from a hot form perspective (with a decent level of success) and there were a few requests to expand upon the principle of hot form so here it is.

Hot form is the first thing I look at in any race I’m analysing and it’s responsible for 100% of the runners in my tracker. There are many other important factors I’ll look at before deciding upon a bet in any race but I’m not interested in backing anything that doesn’t have a level of hot form and this is a strategy that has served me very well for the best part of two decades.

What Constitutes Hot Form?

Hot form can be summarised as any race where several runners have subsequently improved their previous finishing positions. So if the 2nd, 3rd and 4th come out of a race and win next time out, that is very hot form.

Wins are the strongest barometer of success but if the 6th, 7th and 8th have all come out and finished 2nd since that could also be described as pretty hot form.

I prefer to mainly concentrate on handicaps when it comes to hot form because the form seems more transferrable from one race to another but hot form can definitely be applied to Group and Listed contests as well as maidens and novices.

Hot form is found in both flat and jumps racing. I prefer to concentrate on flat racing as handicappers over the jumps tend to be more exposed than many of their flat counterparts but I will often use hot form principles when looking at some jumps races too (staying handicaps are my preference).

Why Is Following Hot Form Profitable?

It is not uncommon for several well handicapped runners to participate in the same race. When this happens the best handicapped horse in conditions should win, but that’s not to say the horses that finish slightly down the field, perhaps in 5th and 6th, aren't still well enough handicapped to win an ordinary race.

If two or three runners emerge from a race and all win next time out it stands to reason that other runners who finished in close proximity to those subsequent winners in the original race are also well enough handicapped to win similar contests next time out.

By following hot form throughout the season you should be capable of finding somewhere between 100-200 well handicapped runners. That’s not to say you’ll find 100-200 future winners though. It’s the nature of horse racing that some of these runners will pick up injuries, lose their form, be sold abroad, etc. Others will simply never run quite as well as they did in the hot race you found and some will be campaigned poorly over the wrong trips, on the wrong ground or at the wrong courses.

However many of those 100-200 runners should be capable of reproducing their form again when conditions are in their favour and they’ll win on either their next starts or shortly after.

What About ‘Cold Form’?

Where there is hot form there must be cold form. Some races are very good, some are quite average and many are quite poor. Those poorer races where those that come out of the race struggle to win or even place in their next few runs could certainly be described as cold form.

These colder races can be useful as they’ll often help make the market in many races. A runner that has finished 2nd in a cold race will often be a shorter price than a runner that finished 5th in a hot race. Now that’s a huge generalisation but the bookies definitely seem to put more emphasis on finishing position and proximity to the winner than they do the actual strength of each race. On many occasions a horse will achieve more by finishing 5th in a hot race than 2nd in a cold race.

There is one important note about cold races though. A horse shouldn’t necessarily be disregarded for winning a cold race. If those behind the winner have let the form down it’s certainly not a positive but it’s also not the winner’s fault that those in behind weren’t up to scratch. If the winner was all out to win by a nose then perhaps you can group it with those behind but if the winning distance was even a cosy length the winner may have been a fair bit better than the rest of the field.

How Do I Find Hot Form?

There are two ways to go about finding hot form.

The first is to go through every result and look for races that are beginning to work out. If races are beginning to work out then you can bookmark them. If there have already been a couple of winners from the race you can add other runners who finished close up into your tracker. If a race is working out poorly then it can be disregarded.

Going through every race can be quite painstaking and the much easier method is to use the Geegeez Hot Form Report. You can find any runner with an entry over the next two days (today and tomorrow) that has run in a race with hot form (you set the criteria/filters for hot form). You can search from races 30 days in the past, 45 days in the past, 60 days in the past or 90 days in the past.

My personal preference is to cast the net as wide as possible and then use personal judgement as to whether or not a race is working out rather relying completely on data. This is because the raw data can sometimes be misleading. For example you might see a race where there have seemingly been three winners from three runs. That would initially look very interesting but it might be the case that a horse that won the race by 5 lengths has since followed up with three more wins. Those subsequent exploits aren’t really of any relevance to the rest of the field.

My preferred filters for the Hot Form report would be along the lines of:

Runs – Any – You want to find hot form as early as possible before you’ve missed the boat.
Wins – Any – The next lowest setting is 5 if there have already been 5 winners you’ve missed the boat.
Places – Any – Similar reasoning to the above.
Win Percentage – Min. 20%, Max. 100%. Runners who were well beaten can run poorly again and skew this percentage so don’t set the minimum too high.
Place Percentage - Min. 25%, Max. 100%. Similar reasoning to the above but you can set this one a little higher.
Win PL – Min. Any, Max. Any. It’s worth referencing this in the report but play it safe and leave it as any. The other filters should do the heavy lifting here.
EW PL - Min. Any, Max. Any. Similar reasoning to the above.

You will be presented with plenty of races that are NOT hot form but using these filters should also mean you don’t miss out on some races that are hot form that may have been missed with more prejudicial filters.

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If you sort your results by Win Percentage you are likely to find the majority of the most interesting races at the top of the list (races with a minimum of two runs are preferable). However you should remember that each runner’s finishing position (denoted by the ‘Result’ field) in each race is arguably as important as anything else you’ll see in the report. If something has finished 12th in a hot race it’s almost certainly too far back to be of any relevance.  How far you should go back can vary from race to race (and is addressed below) but generally you won’t be looking any lower than 6th or 7th and you will most commonly be interested in top 3 or 4 finishes.

Check each well placed runner in a potential hot race by clicking on the Hot Race Date and then click on the Result tab. Ensure ‘Future Form’ in the top left corner of the result page is switched on so you can easily consume the subsequent exploits of each runner. You are looking for good subsequent runs from those that ran well in the race.

The Hot Form report on the day this article is being written can be seen below.

Hot Form Report example

The top horse looks very interesting on the basis of the a 100% subsequent win record from 3 runs. A closer look at the form also looks interesting with the first three places all going on to win next time out, for all only the first two runners won handicaps.

Hot form in action

As it turns out Rueben James was well beaten but the theory remains sound and you certainly don’t expect all of the runners to win.

The Most Important Hot Form Considerations

Hot form is not simply a case of judging races based on the finishing positions of subsequent runners from each race. The finishing positions are very important but you have to be able to judge the relative worth of those finishing positions.

Ground

It's unlikely every runner will come out and run on exactly the same ground. If encountering different ground conditions some will improve for this change and others will perform less well. If the ground is different on the subsequent run take a look at the horse’s previous form to judge if the change in going would have suited or not.

A mudlark that came 4th on fast ground and then wins next time in heavy ground won’t necessarily have franked the form. Likewise a mudlark that finishes 2nd in soft ground then 6th on faster ground next time hasn’t necessarily let the form down. In fact in this latter scenario, if the rest of the race is working out, these runners can be great value next time when returned to more favourable conditions.

Distance

You may look at a mile handicap where the winner and the 3rd have since won and you think it is hot form. However if the winner came out and won over ten furlongs and the 3rd subsequently won over twelve furlongs that doesn’t mean this is hot mile form – or cold mile form for that matter.

If the majority of the subsequent winners have won over the same distance then you can draw stronger conclusions about the form being hot.

Race Type

If runners have come out of a race and won or run well always check the type of race they have run in. It’s particularly the case with 3yo handicaps that a runner might drop into maiden company after a decent run in a handicap. An 80 rated horse winning a maiden at 10/11 probably won’t be much of a form boost.

Likewise an 80 rated filly chasing some black type in an Oaks Trial may not be letting the form down by only finishing 5th or 6th.

Class

Not quite as strong a consideration as the race type but class is also important. A runner that was 2nd in a class 4 handicap might only be able to finish 7th in a class 2 handicap but that doesn’t mean they should be disregarded when back down in grade where they’d be more capable of running to their original form.

Course Bias

This is an often overlooked factor but Geegeez readers should know the importance of course biases, namely pace and draw. If a horse comes out of a race and finishes down the field next time out when held up from stall 11 at Chester, or running against any other pace bias, that’s not a sign that the form has been let down.

Use the same marking up and marking down system you would ordinarily use when looking at form when you look back at results and future form.

Distance Beaten

When looking at the subsequent exploits of runners from any given race it’s always worth thinking about how far they have been beaten if they haven’t been victorious since. If something has finished 4th since, but only been beaten half a length, it hasn’t necessarily franked the form but that’s not a bad run at all and shouldn’t be judged too harshly, especially if others are giving the form a strong look.

Luck

Another thing that should be checked is the in running comments from subsequent runs. Some defeats can be pretty much marked up into victories if the horse was particularly unlucky next time out. Alternatively a 5th place finish might have been value for 2nd. It’s another factor that should be investigated.

So Conditions Are Key!

The closer conditions are in subsequent runs compared to the original race, the more reliable the form will be. Where there have been variations in the conditions you’ll have to use your judgement as to whether to mark the form up or down or to put a question mark over it. This is why it makes sense to keep the filters pretty broad in the Hot Form Report. Not all wins (or other finishing positions) are created equal.

How Many Runners Should I Track From A Hot Race?

There is no given formula for this and it depends on several factors.

The simplest explanation is you should follow as many runners from a hot race that have finished in relatively close proximity, or deserved to finish in close proximity, to a runner that has gone close to winning since.

The stronger the race, the more horses you’ll follow from it. If it’s a big field contest that is working out really well you might end up following six, seven or even eight runners from it. If the 2nd, 7th and 8th all win on their next starts you’ll know that at the very least the winner, the 3rd, the 4th, the 5th and the 6th should be of interest in the future. If the 9th was only a head behind the 8th that should be of interest too.

If the first three home have pulled clear in an eight runner field and the 2nd and 3rd have won since but the 4th has run badly then that’s a good sign that the winner is the only one worth following going forward.

What I like to do when I have found what seems to be a hot race is break it up into smaller races. If there was a gap of a couple of lengths between the 4th and the 5th then those are treated as different races and something that finished close to the 5th will need to have won, or gone very close since, for that to be of interest.

When judging these finishing positions in the hot race I am of course considering all the factors listed just above this section (course bias, luck, etc) and marking runners up and down. In many cases you may decide a horse that finished say 6th is worth following but the 5th might not be.

Should I Back Runners That Have Already Won Since?

What we are looking for with hot form is horses that are well handicapped AND are likely to be underestimated by the bookies next time out – therefore offering a value bet with a good chance of winning.

If you have found a race that has worked out well there is always a question mark over whether you follow those who have already won. If something has come out and won by five lengths then the chances are it will be hammered by the handicapper and the opportunity to back it off that sort of mark has gone. If something comes out and win by a neck, perhaps not getting the run of the race, then it may only be punished with a raise of about 2lbs and should still be of interest if a decent enough price next time.

The more a race has worked out, and the stronger it seems to be, the more you’ll probably still want to be with those that have won since, price permitting of course. If the 1st and 3rd have since rated around a stone higher and the 2nd is only 4lbs higher after a win then the likelihood is it’s still pretty well handicapped.

How Long Does It Take For Hot Form To Develop?

Around two weeks after any given race you should find that maybe two runners have run since and given some initial clues as to how strong the form is. Then over the next couple of weeks you should find a few more runners have runs since and by that point you should have a very strong indication of the strength of the form.

There is always a chance of missing the boat, noticing the hot form when it’s all too late and all the runners of interest have already come out and won. As previously mentioned, just because they have already won it doesn’t mean they are of zero interest going forward, but you have already missed one opportunity to successfully back them.

If there are more positive signs than negative signs that a race is working out, for example if the winner and 5th have won since but the 2nd has run poorly, then it’s time to start getting involved. Then the more winners that come out of a race whilst you are following the form, the more confident you can be on your bets going forward. If you’ve already won by backing the 3rd and the 4th, you are going to be pretty keen on the 2nd when it next runs assuming it hasn’t already come out and won itself.

Don’t Get Carried Away With Limited Data

If you have caught a potentially hot race very early, possibly the first horse to come out of a race has already won, you may be tempted to assume lots of others who finished close up are going to also come out and win, or at least run very well.

You do get plenty of ‘false positives’ though. Any horse can improve from race to race and go from running okay in one race to very well in another race. It is always best to wait for at least two runs from a race before you begin to draw conclusions or you may get your fingers burned more often than not.

If you find a race where one horse has come out and won the best strategy is generally to bookmark it and check it regularly. Check the entries of the horses that ran well in the race and when the next horse runs watch the race and be ready to add several other runners to your tracker should it win and confirm the race as hot form.

Continue To Monitor The Form

If you aren’t quite sure if a race is hot form or not, continue to keep an eye on the race. Perhaps there have been two good runs and two bad runs from it, there is no harm in watching how the next couple of runners fare.

It is not completely uncommon for a race to initially just look okay and then start to work out much better. Equally just because a race is beginning to look hot, it isn’t guaranteed to stay that way after a couple more runs.

Don’t be afraid to change your mind about a race. If you are becoming lukewarm towards a race you thought was hot you can reduce your stakes next time a runner comes out of it and then review it again.

Value In Hot Form

One of the main reasons following hot form tends to work so well is you are often aware of something the bookies may have overlooked, or simply don’t think as is important as it is.

Horses that have been previously beaten in handicaps don’t have as sexy a profile as last time out winners, especially those coming from maidens or novices that are completely unproven from their handicap marks. As a result we often get great value on these hot form runners and we can be more confident they will run their races than those making their handicap debuts, or those who have run well in races that are working out less well.

Keeping The Faith

Those horses that you earmark as well handicapped but who fluff their lines on their next starts can often be the runners who offer the best value going forward. There are many reasons why a well handicapped horse might not run to form next time, be it the ground, they could get worked up beforehand, they could pick up a knock or they could just have an off day.

Not all horses that should win because of hot form do actually win but a decent proportion of them won’t win on their next starts but will win shortly after. Keeping the faith in these runs and giving them at least a couple of chances when faced with optimum conditions is important. If a horse fails to run to the same standard without any obvious excuses more than once then it might be time to give up on them.

Hot Form And Race Class

One thing to look out for when deciding which horses to track from a hot race is those that have run pretty well but are capable of dropping a class or two. If you have a class 2 race that is hot form and one of those that ran well in that race drops into a class 4 next time out then this usually offers a great chance for them to get their head in front. They are less likely to bump into anything with similar scope down in grade.

Filling Your Tracker

With all the horses you come across in the search for hot form you should be adding them to your tracker. Add notes about what race was hot, where they finished, if they should be marked up from that run and how hot the form is. You’ll end up deleting some of them off your tracker as your views on each race develop but it’s best to be aware of them when they are entered.

My Favourite Hot Form Race From This Season

The great thing about hot form is the most unlikely races can work out really well. This was the case with a 7f class 5 handicap run at Yarmouth on June 3rd, shortly after racing resumed following lockdown.

Very hot form at Yarmouth

This race certainly caught the bookies napping. I’ve added green ticks to the future form screenshot of this race to make the wins easier to spot but that shows eight subsequent wins from twenty-seven subsequent starts from the top seven finishers (26.9% strike rate). The odds of those wins, which is quite remarkable, were:

16/1
7/1
7/1
7/1
3/1
11/2
2/1
16/5

A £10 stake on each of those subsequent runs would have cost £270 and returned £587. That’s an ROI of 117.4% and those prices are at SP. Some of those were available at much bigger prices ahead of their wins.

A Final Note

Hot form is a great way of finding runners that should be successful in the near future and you can add lots of future winners to your tracker. When they are entered they should simply be a starting point in your analysis of any race and this is by no means a short cut or a guarantee of winners. You'll still need to check the relative form of each of the other runners as well as working out the make up of the race and which runners are likely to be seen to best effect. If the runner you have pinpointed has conditions to suit and the price is reasonable it will hopefully be a good bet!

Check out the Geegeez Hot Form Report here

Elect For Presidential At Big Price In Doncaster Handicap

The 4.05 at Doncaster on Saturday afternoon isn’t being shown on terrestrial TV with Cheltenham hogging much of the limelight. But whilst jumps fans are guessing about race sharpness for many runners I’ll be getting stuck into a very interesting flat handicap!

In a change from much of the action in recent weeks this looks like it won’t be run in heavy ground. Phew! That’s not to say it will be an easy contest to figure out, there are still 16, largely in form runners, set to go to post.

Draw

This will be fairly short and sweet as Doncaster is a pretty fair track.

Doncaster Draw Data

Looking at 7f handicaps run on good to soft or soft ground all draws have a good chance and a fairly even record of both winning and placing. The PRB figures improve slightly as the draw gets higher but the best place strike rate of all the stalls is stall 1 (36.36%) so it’s impossible to narrow the field based on the draw here.

Pace

Is the comparative pace data just as fair as the draw data over Doncaster’s 7f on softish ground?

Doncaster 7f Pace Bias Data

There is more of a pace bias than draw bias. Front runners have performed best of all here, breaking even to level stakes across the selected races. Front runners contribute both the best win strike rate and place strike rate so the data is pretty strong. Win strike rates drop the further back in the field you are and the place strike rate data follows a similar trajectory, although being held up is slightly more favourable for running into a place than being mid division is.

The IV figures are pretty strong for front and prominent runners and pretty weak for those that race in mid division or the rear so there certainly seems to be an advantage the nearer the pace you are.

The pace of the individual race can be just as important, if not more important, so let’s check out the pace map for this race.

Doncaster 7f Handicap Pace Map

So possible contested pace here which could swing things in favour of those held up near the rear. The pace will be in the centre of the pack, which would suggest they’ll come up the middle of the course which should guarantee no strong draw bias.

Doncaster Trainers

Earlier this season at Newbury I highlighted some insightful trainer data ahead of Tempus winning a handicap there and looking at how trainers approach Doncaster handicaps will hopefully give us some clues here.

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Trainer Data For Doncaster Handicaps

There is some strong data based on handicap runs at Doncaster from the trainers with entries in this race. The major positives are for Roger Teal (Bear Force One), Roger Varian (Musicality), Roger Fell (Presidential), Andrew Balding (Grove Ferry) and Ian Williams (Ejtilaab).

The major negatives are Tim Easterby (True Blue Moon), Kevin Ryan (Queens Sargent), Michael Dods (Get Knotted), Richard Fahey (National League and Zap), David O’Meara (Arbalet and Firmanent) and also to a far lesser extent Ralph Beckett (Tomfre).

The Runners

Bear Force One

Still lightly raced and seemingly didn’t stay in the Cambridgeshire last time out. He’s otherwise responded well to the application of cheekpieces this season. The previous couple of races had worked out okay and could he get the run of the race here. Did win on good to soft three starts ago but probably wouldn’t want it any softer. Should run well if the ground isn’t bad and trainer Roger Teal is very profitable to follow here in handicaps.

Tomfre

Inconsistent this season but came good on heavy ground last time out at Leicester, winning by two lengths. The handicapper hasn’t got carried away with that victory only raising him 2lbs but he doesn’t appeal strongly as the type to follow up, for all it’s a possibility.

Firmanent

Ran fairly well in a good race last time out at his beloved York but he looks handicapped to the hilt on current form and is unlikely to better his York form here.

Musicality

Lightly raced and represents Roger Varian who does well in handicaps here. He was slightly below form here over half a furlong shorter at the St Leger meeting but had previously won on soft ground, for all it was just a six runner handicap over 6f and perhaps a 7lb rise for that has found him out. Has a chance but worth taking on with question marks over the handicap mark and the distance.

Grove Ferry

Returned from a short break in August in good form. He was 5th at Sandown behind two next time out winners (did best of those held up) and followed that up with two good efforts at Ascot. The ground looks fine and the drop back in trip looks a positive as his effort has seemingly flattened out towards the end of each race recently.

He's up 3lbs for his latest effort which makes life harder but Andrew Balding does well in handicaps here and if the drop in trip does indeed bring about further improvement he is entitled to go very close.

Queens Sargent

Has improved again this season but form seems to have tailed of in the last couple of races without obvious excuses so it looks more a case of having gone off the boil than being handicapped out of this, for all it’s difficult to argue he’s particularly well handicapped anyway.

Fortamour

Won a decent race last time out at Ascot over a furlong shorter but has won over this distance on the all weather. He’s only up 2lbs for that win and drops in grade so isn’t badly handicapped and he’s run well with cut in the ground this season. His last run at this distance at York has worked out well with the winner going on to land a big pot at Ascot and many of those who ran well have run well in defeat again since. Considering he has been within at least two lengths of the winner in his last eight runs at 6f or 7f this consistent runner appears likely to go well again.

Arbalet

On a losing streak of 22 races and is often overbet after running well in defeat. He was three quarters of a length behind Fortamour at York and is now 6lbs better off so he’s well treated on that form but he’s much better on faster surfaces and wouldn’t be one to back with any confidence for win purposes anyway.

Ejtilaab

He's taken advantage of some slowly run races this season and would most likely not be seen to best effect in a well run race having been well enough beaten off a 1lb lower mark at Ascot in a big field two starts ago. Unproven on softer than good so unlikely to trouble the judge in this contest.

Get Knotted

Tends to run his best races at York and he’s not the force of old. He’d have a chance on a going day with conditions in his favour but he’s not one to put a lot of faith in at the moment.

Breanski

Had no chance behind Raaeq last time at Ascot and difficult to say if that horse franked the form or let it down on Saturday in the Balmoral Handicap, finishing 5th off a 6lb higher mark. Breanksi did finish best of the rest though to record his seventh 2nd or 3rd place finish in his last nine runs. He tends to run well here with two wins from five starts (four starts at this distance) and he beat Presidential (re opposes here) by a quarter of a length in receipt of 1lb in his last course win just over a year ago. Breanski is just 1lb above that winning mark now and is another who looks likely to run very well, for all he isn’t the easiest to win with.

Presidential

Another who goes well at Doncaster, his career form figures here read 143521. He won here over course and distance in June on similar ground to this off a 1lb higher mark and the next two runs of each of the next five runners home produced form figures of 2122224335 so that was a pretty solid race even if only one of the protagonists came out and won shortly after.

He's not completely consistent generally but he is consistent here. His worst form figure came on his run on the fastest ground he has encountered at this course and even finishing 5th in that race off a 1lb higher mark was far from a disgrace as that race worked out particularly well. With everything seemingly in his favour he’s a strong candidate for the shortlist representing a trainer with a very good record in handicaps here.

Alemaratalyoum

Generally at his best when the mud is flying, he’s been difficult to catch right this season and is very difficult to make a case for based on his last couple of runs. First time blinkers are another question mark and although they could spark a revival in form, it seems more likely they’ll just make him underperform further as the sire’s strike rate with horses in this headgear combination is half what it is across all races.

Zap

Difficult to win with, this horse is now on a losing run that dates back over two years. He has been very consistent this season, and has finished 2nd on his last three starts, but this is a step up in class and a much tougher race than those contests. He was 4 lengths behind Presidential here earlier in the season and is only 3lbs better off so he has work to do.

True Blue Moon

He's had an okay season, picking up a win on his penultima start off a 3lb lower mark. He’s generally run better on faster ground this season but he was a close up 4th at Haydock three starts ago and the 1st, 3rd and 6th have all won since and the 2nd filled that runner up spot again on his next start so he wouldn’t be out of it on that form, for all he is 3lbs higher here. His latest run was less promising and he’s probably up against it in this company off this mark but not a hopeless cause.

National League

This is one I gave a good write up for at the St Leger meeting at a big price in what looked like it would be a hot 3yo handicap. He was 3rd that day and better than the bare result, not only because he found trouble in running but also because the ground would have been plenty fast enough that day. What is most disappointing is that race has failed to produce a top 2 finish from nine subsequent runs.

After a below par follow up on ground that should have suited, connections reached for the visor (retained here) and it seemed to help as he ran on into 3rd from a compromising position against two rivals that were up with the pace at Musselburgh. That run against a pace bias was arguably a career best and he’s now down to a mark he won a nursery off last season. He really seems to be crying out for another furlong now though. He’ll probably find a couple too good here but would be of huge interest if finding a mile handicap on soft ground before the season finishes.

Verdict

A race where no winner would be a shock result and many have a very good chance of placing at the very least. Musicality will be on plenty of shortlists but I’m going to go with a longlist of:

Bear Force One
Grove Ferry
Fortamour
Breanski
Presidential
National League

The first and last names on that list aren’t going to make my shortlist. Bear Force One is certainly decent value at around 16/1 but I’m hopeful Ejtilaab will compete for the lead. Plus winter ground, even winter ground that’s not terrible, might compromise his chance. National League should run on well late in the race but I’m not convinced he’s currently well enough handicapped to win at this trip.

So the most solid quartet should be Grove Ferry, Fortamour, Breanski and Presidential. The most compromised, should Bear Force One and Ejtilaab not go a  good gallop here, is likely to be Grove Ferry who is dropping back in trip. He’s also drawn very low, and therefore furthest from the pace, which isn’t ideal. He’s therefore passed over for win purposes, although he should run very well.

Breanski is really solid and will run his usual race but he’s been beaten fair and square all season and is a runner would strongly appeal as a place only bet or one to consider for forecasts and tricasts.

So that leaves Fortamour and Presidential. Fortamour has more room to progress and comes here off the back of a very good run so doesn’t really have too many questions to answer. His good runs in softer ground did come over 6f though and this sort of ground over 7f will be a slightly new test for him. Plus in stall 14 he’s drawn a little further from the likely pace than is ideal.

Presidential on the other hand has thrown in plenty of poor runs recently (well beaten in three of his last five starts) but he’s yet to fail to give his running at this course and was a fair bit better than the bare result when not beaten too far at Newmarket last time out. The recent form of both Fortamour and Presidential is very much built into their respective prices and Presidential looks the better value bet and a good each way bet at an early 18/1. The fact that Roger Fell not only has a very good handicap record here but has also saddled two winners, three places and close 4th from his last eight runners at the time of writing just sweetens the pot a little further.

I’ll also be interested in covering the shortlist of four horses in various forecasts and tricasts. Backing four runners that are likely to be nearer the rear than the front early on is perhaps not the best strategy given the pace data highlighted earlier so confidence and stakes will be kept pretty low but hopefully Bear Force One and Ejtilaab will produce a contested pace which would make things look a lot rosier for those that will be held up.

**EDIT** It looked very difficult to make up pace on the straight course at Doncaster on Friday but they didn't have any big fields like this so it should be a little easier to come from slightly further back than it was in some of the smaller fields on Friday. Presidential has often raced more in mid division than right at the back of the field so he should still be able to get involved assuming he breaks on terms.

10 Minute Preview: Cheltenham, Friday 23rd October

In this very quick (11 minute) video, I highlight a couple of horses I'm interested in at Cheltenham's Showcase meeting this afternoon. Both are proven in conditions and have a good chance to outrun their odds. Both are easy to find using Geegeez Gold's Instant Expert tool.

See what you think...

And don't forget our special Winter Season Ticket offer, which will give you access to all of these brilliant tools for the entire National Hunt season for just £149.

 

Check that out here

 

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