Racing Insights, 26th January 2021

Well, I got the first two the wrong way around (again) this afternoon, but managed to correctly identify the first three to finish, so well done to those of you landing the near 59/1 Trifecta. They say there's no room for sentiment in sport, but I didn't mind Mr Jack overturning Sawpit Sienna to give Andy Irvine a first winner since the sad passing of his wife, Zoe Davison.

Tuesday's free feature is The Shortlist, whilst the free races are...

  • 1.20 Down Royal
  • 2.50 Down Royal
  • 7.10 Wolverhampton

...and I'm going to look at the last of that trio, the 7.10 Wolverhampton : an 11-runner, Class 6, a/W (Tapeta) Handicap for 3yo runners. The trip is 7f, the prize is £2782 and here are the runners and riders etc...

Major J sits third on the Geegeez ratings, but has yet to win or place in five runs to date. He wears cheekpieces for the first time today as he bids to improve upon a reasonable fourth of ten at Kempton 19 days ago. Has raced here over track and trip on three occasions and was only beaten by two lengths on his last visit/handicap debut almost four weeks ago. Now rated 2lbs lower than his last two runs, could step forward here, especially with the booking of the in-form course specialist Richard Kingscote in the saddle.

Lady of Desire is 0 from 4 so far and also hasn't made the frame yet. She was 7th of 11 here over course and distance last time out (2.5 lengths behind Major J and didn't seem to enjoy the step up from 6f. She's 3lbs lighter today, but will probably need more help than that.

The filly Mops Gem has also failed to even make the frame yet from six starts and has only beaten two of the 21 rivals she has faced in her last three outings, the latest of which was a 6 length defeat over 6f at Kempton. She weakened late on that day, which doesn't bode well for a step up in trip, although she does drop in class here.

And to follow the sequence, Orphiuchus is another filly yet to make the frame, although her 5th of 10, 6 lengths off the pace last time out was her best effort to date. She also drops in class to run here and whilst an opening handicap mark of 55 doesn't look too onerous, she's going to have to improve plenty to be involved here, you'd have thought.

As with the above runner, Doctor Churchill drops in class for his handicap debut and sadly like the first four we've looked at, he hasn't made the frame in five starts yet either, having beaten just 11 of his 51 rivals so far. His yard are only 3 from 46 so far this year, albeit 3 from 22 here at Wolverhampton. 54 isn't a high opening mark, but I just don't think he's that good either.

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Hallelujah! We're at runner 6 of 11 and we find that The Good Ting has actually made the frame in two of her twelve starts! In fact she has 2 wins from 8 on the A/W so far, including a win by a head last time out where she stayed on well and needed every inch of the 6 furlongs, suggesting the step up in trip might suit. She'd only been beaten by half a length in her previous outing, so it looks like she's running into some form and she's second on the Geegeez ratings. The only negative about her is her yard's lack of winners at this venue : just 2 from 134 since the start of 2016!

Spartakos was third on handicap debut back in August and was only beaten by a length and three quarters last time out in another Class 6, 7f, Tapeta (Newcastle) handicap. He's been rested for the past 20 weeks, though and now re-appears 2lbs lower. If he's ready to go first up, then he has every chance of making the frame based on that last run and the lack of quality in the horses higher up this card!

Desert Mist has been pretty consistent if unspectacular on the Tapeta, finishing 39435 so far, all here at Wolverhampton except that fifth place last out. His last visit here (two starts ago - 8th December) was his best effort to date, going down by a length and a quarter over 6f. He goes off the same mark today, but will need to find more to see the extra distance out. He'll be aided by jockey Connor Murtagh who not only claims 3lbs but is in good form right now, winning 4 of 16 over the last month.

Nodasgoodasawink is interesting here on her second handicap start. Her handlers "acquired" a handicap mark as low as 52 for her after three completely differing races : C5, 6f Std-Slow Polytrack then C5, 5f on Good and finally C4, 1m on Firm. She was then put back in her box for almost 4 months before being asked to run a Class 6 over 7f at Lingfield last Thursday. She clearly needed the run, as she was slow away but caught the eye with a decent second half to the race, making up ground to finish a little more than three lengths behind a horse rated 12lbs better. She goes off 52 again today and I suspect that we'll see a better performance here if she takes to the Tapeta. Her breeding also suggests he's better than 52.

Peppermint Truffle takes us back to the "non-placers with little hope" category, I'm afraid. Three runs to date, all at Class 5 over 7f and finished 13th of 13, 8th of 11 and 8th of 9 (beaten by over 22 lengths) last time out. he hasn't been to Wolverhampton yet, but his first two runs were on Newcastle's Tapeta track and even though he drops in class for a handicap debut carrying no weight (OR = 46), I find it hard to make any form of case for him, unless some miraculous transformation has happened in the 11 days since we last saw him.

Last and quite possibly least of the eleven is Love Baileys, who is guess what? Yes, a filly that has never made the frame yet. Five starts so far and she has beaten just 10 of 43 opponents, but her latest effort was easily her best. She was only sixth of ten, admittedly, but she was within five lengths of the winner here over course and distance three weeks ago and now drops back to Class 6 as she returns to handicaps. That was her first run for new handler Amy Murphy after leaving Richard Fahey and Amy had her in first time cheekpieces and a tongue tie. The tie remains in place, but the cheekpieces are now replaced with first-time blinkers. I can't see it having much effect, but fair play to Ms Murphy, she's trying everything to eke something out of her filly.

As you'll probably have already worked out, there aren't many I like here and I could probably skip directly to the summary. To be honest, Instant Expert isn't going to tell us much about a field that has just 2 wins and 3 places from 58 starts, but here's the place view of IE anyway (just bear in mind that The Good Ting's places were both wins)...

With so many "much of a muchness" types competing here, draw , pace and the pace/draw combo are likely to be more helpful than Instant Expert was. And in previous similar contests, there seems to be a "golden corridor" for winners with the best draws appearing to be stalls 4 to 7, whilst horses who raced prominently or led fared best. It therefore doesn't take a great leap of faith to work that if you've a prominent racer or leader, drawn in 4-7, you could be on to a good thing or a back to lay proposition at worst.

That, of course, isn't to say that hold-up horses can't win from there. The hold up is the worst of the four descriptions to be most accurate about. Plenty of horses aren't hold up horses at all, but are just not quick enough away to be anything but rear runners. Hold up horses have won nearly 31% of the above races, but because their number includes slow horses as well as genuinely held-up runners, they account for nearly 44% of the total runners.

Distinguishing between tactics and a lack of speed is difficult, but we do need to be aware that a hold-up horse might not be one by choice! I certainly wouldn't rule Major J or Nodasgoodasawink out just based on that heat map.

So, where are we? A mediocre looking contest, if truth be told, but there will be a winner and two placers. I'll start by retaining those with previous form ie past placers (The Good Ting, Desert Mist, Spartakos) and to them I'll add Major J, Lady of Desire and Nodasgoodasawink.

That narrows my pack down to six, which is still too many and the first of those to cut will be Spartakos, who I think might just need the run.

All of the above was written pre-3pm, whilst I was expecting The Good Ting to swerve the 3.10 Chelmsford, but she took her place there and finished third despite having to race too wide from a poor draw. She's now unlikely to feature here, but my post-5pm summary will still reference her below.

Summary

I left five in a the summary stage for two reasons. Firstly I had very little to separate those I ranked third to fifth and secondly because I've doubts whether The Good Ting will line up here after all (I hadn't realised when I started the piece that she was still down to run at Chelmsford which she duly did).

Before the 3.10 race at Chelmsford today, The Good Ting was my clear pick for this race ahead of Major J. I had very little between Nodasgoodasawink, Lady of Desire and Desert Mist in that order.

As things stand, I can get 5/1 about The Good Ting, but I can't back her now. She's unlikely to run and she does, she's little time to recover. Major J is now my likeliest winner, but he's 11/4 already and with a Rule 4 due to be applied if we back him now or a shorter price later, there's little value there either.

Nod is currently 5/1 with the other two priced at 10's. At present, I don't see a win bet, but I might well have small E/W punts at double digit odds on Lady of Desire (I think Amy Murphy might get more out of this one) and Desert Mist (looks value at the price).

Racing Insights, 25th January 2021

Although I ended up with no bet on Saturday after Sam Brown became a non-runner, I was pretty pleased with the way the two races panned out from my preview. I'd identified Royale Pagaille as the best horse in Sam Brown's race and he duly prevailed by 16 lengths at 11/5.

The second race included Le Coeur Net, who wasn't in my top three for the race and it was my top three that filled the places with the trifecta paying an excellent 293/1, well done to those who took the punt : sadly I didn't.

And now to Monday, where we offer the PACE tab to ALL users for ALL races, including our "races of the day", which are...

  • 4.20 Plumpton
  • 6.45 Kempton
  • 8.15 Kempton

...and it's the first of that trio, the 4.20 Plumpton, that I'll look at today. It's a 12-runner, Class 5, Handicap Hurdle for 4yo+ over 2m½f on Soft ground with a top prize of £2,989. We start, as ever with the racecard itself...

...where the three clear "form horses" are Mr Jack (who won LTO), Darkest Day (runner-up LTO) and Sawpit Sienna, who not only tops the Geegeez Ratings, but also has a win and a runner-up finish in her last two outings.

We've got five class droppers here, in the shape of Nelson's Touch, Mr Jack, Air Hair Lair, Hymn and a Prayer and the Imposter, whilst the afore-mentioned Mr Jack, along with Magen's Moon are both previous winners over course and distance.

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From a trainer form perspective, both Darkest Day and Air Hair Lair hail from yards with good records at this track (C5), whilst Nigel Hawke (The Imposter) is without a winner in 23 races since Boxing Day with very few going on to make the frame either. The most positive jockey booking seems to be Joshua Moore aboard Air Hair Lair as he's in good recent form (14 30) and has regularly ridden well here in the past (C1 C5), Bryony Frost (Hymn and a Prayer) also rides this track well, as does Sawpit Sienna's Robert Dunne, although he's currently on a 30-race losing run over the past three weeks.

This field of twelve have just 10 wins from 195 previous outings (5.13% SR), but have made the frame on 44 occasions (22.56%), so I'm going to guess that the place element of Instant Expert will tell us far more than the win element could...

Yes, the place element certainly gives us more than the win element, but on the win graphic Magen's Moon is the most interesting, but the the second image suggests we focus on the top half of the card with the exception of Sawpit Sienna taking the place of Military Dress. Air Hair Lair and Hymn and a Prayer are both moderately interesting, but I see my top three coming from runners 1-5 plus number 7 right now. Perhaps pace/race tactics will alter/shape my thoughts?

The stats would suggest that the further back you are off the pace, the less likely you are to win a contest like this and although the pace graphic doesn't really highlight any natural leaders over their last three races (I set it at three, because The Imposter only has three qualifying runs), it does look like Sawpit Sienna and/or Queen Among Kings might be the ones most likely to take it on and if we look at just the last two outings for these horses , which would also be Sawpit Sienna's best two runs, we get...

Harry The Norseman doesn't actually run here, so the suggestion is that Sawpit & Queens are the most likely pace-setters.

Queen Among Kings comes from the bottom half of the card and having failed to make the frame on any of her eight starts to date, I don't think today's going to be her day either and the three remaining from that final pace image are the three that I think will make the frame here, based on the racecard information, Instant Expert and Pace all combined.

Mr Jack was a winner here over course and distance last time out 22 days ago when overcoming a 14-month absence to win on his yard debut for Zoe Davison, who very sadly passed away that same day after a long battle with cancer. Husband Andy Irvine is now in charge of operations and although the card will show a change of trainer, it's still very much the same as it was.

That win was Mr Jack's first after 13 previous unsuccessful attempts, although he did have 7 top four finishes, suggesting he was due a win. A drop in trip and a wind op would most likely have helped his cause that day. He's up 4lbs for the win, but drops in class here and the booking of 5lb claimer Niall Houlihan more than accounts for the extra weight. The race last time out sort of fell apart and suited him and having been 0/13 prior to that run, there has to be question marks about his ability to back it up, especially at the top end of the weights rather carrying next to nothing as he was last time.

Darkest Day was only beaten by three lengths over course and distance last time out, 12 days ago and although still a maiden after ten attempts, he has made the frame four times, including 3 from 7 on soft/heavy, 3/7 under today's jockey, 2/4 here at Plumpton and 2/2 over this trip. He's on a low/workable mark and although not an obvious pick to win, he should be there or thereabouts in a poor-looking field.

His trainer Gary Moore has a 16.9% strike rate with his jumpers this season and has won 15.9% of races here at Plumpton over the last 5 seasons.

Sawpit Sienna makes only her third start in a handicap and also her third run for current handlers, but having finished first and second in the previous two she's certainly in form. She returned from a 309-day absence to win by three lengths at Fakenham in a Class 5 over 2m4.5f on good ground and then was a runner-up at Wincanton a fortnight later. That was also at Class 5, but over 2m4f on soft ground having been raised 5lbs.

She ran perfectly well that day, but was headed at the last eventually going down by 3.5 lengths, so it is anticipated/hoped that a drop back in trip here will benefit her. She's also carrying 11lbs less than the other two on my shortlist, which could prove decisive, especially if the ground gets any worse.

Summary

I expected Mr Jack to be the favourite here, but Sawpit Sienna currently holds that title, She's best priced at 3/1 and I think that's a fair price and she's the one I prefer ahead of Mr Jack. The rest of the field doesn't hold much appeal to me, but I wouldn't be too surprised to see Darkest Day complete the 1-2-3.

If I was to look further down the market for a value pic as an E/W bet , then Nelson's Touch seems best suited from an ability to price ratio. He's more than capable based on past exploits although he's inconsistent and hasn't been seen in the best light recently. But then again, that'll explain why he's 18/1, I suppose. It'd be a tentative suggestion, though.

Racing Insights, 23rd January 2021

Little went to plan at Lingfield for me today, as course specialist Fizzy Feet abandoned his expected tactics and did what needed to be done ie make all to win. The fact that leading is the best plan at Lingfield was about the only thing I called right, other than it was a tight contest that would be tough to call.

Battered, but not quite defeated, I'll pick myself up for one last tilt at it for this week with a look towards Saturday's racing. Feature of the day is the Trainer/Jockey combo report, whilst our free races are...

  • 1.22 Navan
  • 1.30 Haydock
  • 3.00 Ascot
  • 4.05 Newcastle

Our four free races are a 20-runner maiden hurdle, a 5-runner novice hurdle, a race that Sam Darby has already previewed elsewhere on the site and an 8-runner A/W handicap that looks a 2 horse race with both at short odds, so its off to the Trainer/Jockey combo report (1 year) and a bit of a Geegeez feel to it all, as we sponsor both yard and jockey...

Matt mentioned in his mail-out that no jockey riding at Haydock on Saturday has a better IV in heavy ground in the past 5 years than Geegeez-sponsored Ben Godfrey (2.59) and that's got to be a positive before we even start.

Sam Brown is a 9 yr old gelding, who runs in a Grade 2 handicap chase over 3m2f, whilst Le Coeur Net is another 9 yr old gelding, but he goes in a Class 3 handicap chase over 2m0.5f.

We know from above that the Honeyball/Godfrey alliance has 8 wins and 2 places from 19 over the past year, but those 19 runs include...

  • 7 from 18 in handicaps & 8/13 at odds shorter than 9/1
  • 6/11 on heavy ground & 3/9 on male runners
  • 2/8 over fences and 3/5 in January
  • 3/4 at Class 3, but no run at Class 1
  • 2/4 with Le Coeur Net, but Ben rides Sam Brown for the first time here.

So, to the races, starting with the 2.40 Haydock...

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Sam Brown makes his handicap debut here, our racecard snippets show that Anthony Honeyball has a good record with handicap debutants and they also show that Ben Godfrey is in good nick right now. We already know about the trainer/jockey combo and that Ben rides well on heavy ground.

Instant Expert shows the horse in a very good light and he comes here on the back of finishing third in a Listed event twelve weeks ago. In his defence, he ran for a good while before fading as you'd expect after a 260-day absence. Aside from that run, he was two from three over fences including a Grade 2 win here at Haydock on heavy ground a year ago. He was rated at 148 at the time of that race and won comfortably by 15 lengths, earning him his current mark of 152, which doesn't look too much of an imposition here, especially if you consider that Ben Godfrey can take 5lbs off.

On top of the stats shown in Instant Expert, he is 4 from 4 going left handed, 3 from 4 when not favourite, 2 from 4 over fences, 2 from 2 in January and 1 from 2 at Grade 2, with that Gr 2 heavy ground chase win here a year ago very relevant today.

He likes to get on with things, as shown by the pace tab and that's a tactic that has paid dividends in the past here at Haydock and I'd expect a similar bold show this time, especially if the first-time tongue tie does the job.

Did you know? Anthony Honeyball's runners tongue tied for the first time are 6 from 17 (35.3% SR) since the start of 2020.

*

And now to the 3.50 Haydock...

Once again, the racecard reminds us of Ben Godfrey's form and the TJ Combo stats and Instant Expert also shows that Le Coeur net has some form under the conditions he's likely to face here. In 20 handicap starts over fences, he has made the frame 10 times, winning 5 of them, which is a decent return, although he was a tad disappointing seven weeks ago at Chepstow and will need to improve/bounce back from that, but he had won all three of his previous completed (5 starts in total) runs before that race.

In relation to this race, his 20 handicap chase efforts include...

  • 5 wins, 5 places from 19 in a tongue tie & 4 wins, 4 places from 13 going left handed
  • 3 wins, 4 places from 13 as a non-fav & 3 wins, 2 places from 10 on heavy ground
  • 3 wins, 2 places from 9 under Ben Godfrey & 4 wins, 1 place from 7 over 2m to 2m1f
  • 3 wins, 1 place from 6 in cheekpieces & 2 wins from 5 in fields of 8-11 runners
  • 1 from 2 at Class 3, 1/2 in January, 1/1 after 1-2 months rest, but 0/1 here at Haydock.

All of which points to him having a decent chance of at lest making the frame, if previous form is anything to go by. He is, however, effectively 6lbs worse off than when he last won (2 starts ago) and only a pound better off than that poor run last time out.

Regarding the pace of the race, we've not got enough past data from similar contests to assess what would be the best way of approaching this contest tactically, but it does look like four or five of them will want to get on with it early doors and this could lead them to taking each other on, doing too much and leaving the door open for what is essentially the bottom half of the pace graphic.

Summary

We'll start with Sam Brown, who I have as second best here in my mind behind likely favourite Royale Pagaille with Sam's Adventure my third pick. I suspect that the market might well agree, I'll find out soon. My issue with Royale Pagaille is the weight, he won a soft ground, Class 2 contest over 3 miles by just over three lengths last time out and as he steps up in class and trip here, the ground will be bottomless and he has been raised some 16lbs, which seems punitive.

As for Le Coeur Net, he's definitely good enough to win this, although I rate him fourth here, marginally ahead of long-term absentee Reivers Lad but behind Destined To Shine, Protek des Flos and Black Pirate. As I suggested earlier, Protek might get involved in a burn-out up front, enabling Le Coeur Net to make the frame late on. The question is which horse turns up for Mr Honeyball : the impressive chaser from Plumpton & Ffos Las last November or the Chepstow version from seven weeks ago.

I've now seen the markets, Sam Brown is a best-priced 7/2 second favourite, I had hoped for 4's or better, whilst Le Coeur Net is 11/2, whereas I expected something in the region of 15/2.

I can't back the latter each way at 11/2 and I have reservations over his chances of winning here, so I'll leave him out, but I will chance a couple of quid on Sam Brown at 7/2.

 

Racing Insights, 22nd January 2021

I seem to be backing more placers than winners right now with today's pick Rafiot also getting close but not close enough. That is probably the story of the race, if truth be told. I think he got going too late, had too much to do and could only finish third in the end.

No point crying over spilt milk, though, Friday is almost upon us and its feature of the day is the excellent Horses for Courses report, whilst day's free races are for...

  • 2.35 Lingfield
  • 4.00 Dundalk
  • 6.30 Dundalk

And although it only has five runners, one of those is on the Horses for Courses report in what looks a competitive Class 2 A/W (Polytrack) handicap over 6f, the 2.35 Lingfield...

...a race made even more interesting by the fact that the first four on the card raced against each other last time out. That was 16 days ago (Class 2, 6f) at Kempton where they were separated by just half a length...

...where Aberama Gold was best in at the weights and Brian The Snail technically worst off. If we stick with Brian The Snail for a moment, he carried 9st 2lbs as they all did and was rated 98, he goes off 98 again here and carries 9st 2lbs again and we can assess from there, based on what someone far wiser than me one told me : that a length over 6 furlongs is worth 2.5 to 2.8lbs

Above beat Brian by half a length, but is now carrying 2lbs more, so is technically at least 0.6lbs worse off (1.4lbs better for the half length, but carrying 2lbs more). Aberama was half a length behind Brian and now carries 5lbs more, whilst Streamline was a length behind and now carries a pound less.

So, based on rudimentary maths, Brian The Snail should technically beat Streamline by approximately a neck, Above by around a quarter length and Aberama Gold by a length and a half. But that's just theory based on last time out and weight and assumes they'll run the same way. It also doesn't take in to account  runner 5 Fizzy Feet, who just happens to be the horses for courses horse!

And so to the race itself. Aberama Gold was in great form prior to the Kempton defeat where we should remember that although he was 5th of 6 that day, he was only beaten by just over a length and a half and is a former course and distance winner here when visiting this track for the first time two starts ago when he actually beat Brian The Snail by half a length. This is a horse who won a Listed (Rockingham) race over 6f as a 2 yr old, so there's some ability there as seen in a career record of 6 wins from 20 including...

  • 5/18 under today's jockey & 5/17 over 6f
  • 4/6 at Class 2 & 2/3 on Standard A/W going
  • 2/2 going left handed & 1/1 here at Lingfield (over C&D 2LR)
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He's on a career high mark of 103 now but did win off 101 in that track/trip success here recently.

Above was the first of this quartet home last time out and was only caught and headed very late on, going down by half a length and it's now over 17 months since he last won a race, finishing 60223 since. That said, he was 6th of 6 and beaten by less than 4 lengths in a Listed race at Dundalk, 10th of 13 in a Group 3 at Ascot despite being off the track for 258 days, a runner-up beaten by three quarters of a length in a Listed race at Windsor and then two Class 2 places going down by a neck and then half a length LTO. So, he's better than his bare form line suggests and he now goes back to handicapping (2nd time ever) for the first time since that win six starts ago.

His rider and trainer are both in good form and his yard have done well here at Lingfield in the past. He hasn't raced here before but is 1162 on Std going and 1162 going left handed, so that's a positive. He hasn't won beyond Class 4 though and he does seem better over 7f rather than 6.

Brian The Snail is the one I based the weights around initially and as above, he was narrowly beaten over course and distance by Aberama Gold two starts ago as he came agonisingly close to landing a 60-day, 6f, A/W, handicap hat-trick. As well as beating Aberama off level weights LTO, he's 2 lbs better off for the rematch from two starts ago. His yard don't have the best record here at Lingfield if truth be told (just 11/167 = 6.6% SR in A/W hcps here since the start of 2016) and stat-wise, this horse is a bit of a mixed bag. He's 6 from 30 over 6 furlongs and has finished 11124 in his last five A/W handicaps, he's 4 from 1`2 under today's jockey and was a runner-up on his only previous run here. However, he's 1 from 26 at Class 2 and is a far better runner at Class 3.

Fizzy Feet is the one we've barely mentioned so far, but unsurprisingly (I suppose based on the other four runners) does have some collateral form to look at. He was last seen on Boxing Day in the same race that Above was a neck away from winning at Wolverhampton. Fizzy Feet was the last of six that day, some 8.5 lengths behind Above, but that was on Tapeta and this is Lingfield, where he's today's horses for courses horse! He's also well featured on the in-card stats as follows...

...which give us plenty of reasons to be interested here. Career-wise, he is...

  • 6 /24 going left handed & 6/20 on Std going
  • 6/18 within a month of his last run & 4/15 over 6f
  • 3/6 over course and distance but 0 from 4 at Class 2.

Like Brian above, he's a better horse at Class 3 and although his jockey is in good form right now, it'll be their first time together and I think I'd have preferred either of Hollie Doyle or Richard Kingscote to be on board as they're both 2 from 5 on this horse to date.

And that brings us to Streamline, last of the six home last time out in that 6f C2 event at Kempton, but only 2 lengths off the pace, which was some going to be fair as it had been 16 months since his last race, when he actually landed a Group 3 (Sirenia Stakes) contest over that Kempton track and trip and although the form of that race hasn't proved to be particularly strong (his rivals have 0 wins and just 5 places from 27 subsequent runs) you can only beat what's put in front of you.

He'd only raced three time prior to that win, landing two novice races at Classes 4 & 5 before going down by just a length in a 5f Listed sprint at York, so although lightly raced he probably took the best credentials into that race earlier this month, notwithstanding he needed the run.

I'd imagine that much of  what appears on Instant Expert will have been documented above, but just in case I missed anything, IE does give a far quicker overview of suitability...

...and the "stands out like a sore thumb" column is class 2, of course. Aberama Gold is the class specialist, but we should remember from above that Streamline has a win and a place from two Class 1 efforts.

The draw/pace/tactics of this race are likely to be the key to unravelling this tricky contest or at least I certainly hope they'll be helpful, starting wioth the draw, where stall 3 seems to be far more successful than the other four, so good news for Above...

...whilst if you're drawn high, you want to be leading and mid drawn horse need to be prominent or better...

and when we overlay our horses' running styles...

...none of them are massively inconvenienced if truth be told.

Summary

At the outset, this looked a compellingly competitive small field contest and I still see it just as that. I think you can make a case for all five to win here and the prudent option would be for me to say I've not really cracked this one and to leave it alone.

I could, however, see if I can find a reason not to back them? And from my analysis further up the page...

Aberama Gold : He's on a career high mark of 103
Above  : He hasn't won beyond Class 4 though and he does seem better over 7f rather than 6.
Brian The Snail : 1 from 26 at Class 2 and is a far better runner at Class 3.
Fizzy Feet : 0 from 4 at Class 2, no win in five, new jockey on board
Streamline : lightly raced, possible after-effects from a long lay-off and the form of his best run hasn't panned out.

For me, it's likely to be a no bet situation, but if I had to stick my neck out (I can almost hear you shouting at me to do so) after seeing the market, I'd have a marginal preference for Streamline at 10/3. If he runs to his ability, he's the best here. Whether he does or not is the bet.

 

Racing Insights, 21st January 2021

Wednesday's race went agonisingly the same way as Tuesday's. A runner suffering a narrow defeat after a three mile slog on heavy ground having been sent off much shorter than when I picked him out. Like Tuesday's pick, Le Tueur was far from disgraced by finishing a three-quarter length second to the horse I'd thought was the best in the race, especially as the third horse home was some 46 lengths further back.

I lost a couple of quid there, but certainly got my money's worth at 11/2 and now to Thursday, where Instant Expert is offered to all users for all races, including the "races of the day" which are...

  • 1.00 Lingfield
  • 3.40 Ludlow
  • 3.50 Wincanton
  • 7.00 Newcastle

And I'm going to use Instant Expert as a way in of looking at a horse that interests me in the opening race of the day. Rafiot is a 5 yr old gelding in decent form and will run in Thursday's 12.30 Lingfield, an 11-runner, Class 5, A/W (Polytrack) handicap over 1m4f. The horse caught my eye on The Shortlist report, if truth be told, so I headed over to the racecard and looked at the Instant Expert tab...

...and thought that he was worth a second glance if nothing else. So that's what I'm going to do, starting with his entry on the racecard (and its associated angles) as follows...

So, two wins and a place from his last four efforts, he's the only course and distance winner in the field here, his yard is in good form and 7lb claimer Rhys Clutterbuck has a more than decent record when riding here for Gary Moore with an almost 1 in 3 record and making the frame more than half the time.

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To put that trainer/jockey combo into perspective, Rhys has a 10.9% career strike rate to date, but he is 13.5% here at Lingfield, 14.1% for Gary Moore and 17.2% for track/trainer.

Rafiot won here over course and distance last time out, five weeks ago, landing an apprentice handicap by half a length ahead of the re-opposing Bashful Boy. That margin of victory could be misleading and he was pulling clear at the finish and could well have won by further had he wanted/needed to, it was a smart piece of riding to be fair.

He's up just 3lbs for that win, but Rhys claims 7lbs here instead of the 3lbs allowed last time for the apprentice race, so we're effectively a pound lower coming here. Bashful Boy has since been beaten by eight lengths at this class/trip and now runs off a mark 3lbs higher than the contest here five weeks ago, so he has at least half a length and four pounds to find, which will be tough.

Further confidence comes from the third place horse that day, My Girl Maggie. She was 2.5 lengths behind Rafiot here, but is 2 from 2 since : winning a C5 1m4f handicap off the same mark as here and then she landed a C4 1m6f off 6lbs higher, so I'm hoping there's some validity to her form.

Rafiot's suitability for the task ahead is shown by Instant Expert above, the resultant form of the placers from LTO gives confidence and we've the trainer/jockey stats above, but what of the race itself?

Well, he's drawn in stall 1 and in 11-runner handicaps here in the past, that's an excellent place to be...

...and with a likely mid-division position, he should be well poised for a late push for the line...

The pace/draw overlay also suggests he's well drawn for his running style...

 

...with very few (if any) looking better suited. So as I've not found anything yet to suggest he isn't worth taking a chance on, let's have a closer look at his recent form. He has finished 1031 in his last four, the elephant in the room being a 12th of 12 finish at Goodwood.

I'm actually quite happy to ignore that run because that was the first run off his new mark of 69 (he'd gone up 4lbs that day), it was his first non-hurdles effort at Class 4 (the other three recent runs were all at Class 5, like this one) and it was his only career run on heavy ground to date, so there are some mitigating circumstances there.

He won a C5, 1m handicap at Goodwood and was then third here over track and trip prior to that course and distance success last time out.

Summary

Rafiot looks competitive on form, he was impressive last time out when given a good ride by Rhys Clutterbuck who retains the ride here and the yard are on top form. The jockey rides well for the trainer here and I'd be happy to back Rafiot if I can get 3/1 or (hopefully) bigger. he's currently 11/4 with Hills, the first to break cover, so there's a chance I might get on.

 

Racing Insights, 20th January 2021

The going turned heavy at Exeter this afternoon hindering Ballybreen's bid to lug top weight around 3 miles in the mud, but he was far from disgraced finishing as a runner-up less than 2 lengths behind fellow joint favourite Don Herbager who was receiving 12lbs from our pick. 3/1 proved to be good value about a 2/1 jt fav, but he just couldn't quite land the spoils for us.

Wednesday's feature of the day is the Trainer Stats report, whilst our free races of the day are...

  • 1.05 Chepstow
  • 2.20 Newcastle
  • 4.05 Newbury
  • 5.45 Dundalk
  • 7.15 Dundalk

To be honest, neither our featured races nor the Trainer Stats report hold anything for me to get my teeth into for you, so I'm going to try something a little different that might also seem vaguely familiar in a way.

As you might know, most of my own betting comes from stats and I have a huge number of micro-systems that generate lots of potential qualifiers each day. Some horses appear on more than one micro-system and therefore become of increased interest to me. That doesn't mean they're going to win, of course, but it does mean they're worth a second glance.

To this end, I'm going to look at a horse called Le Tueur, a lightly-raced (just 5 previous starts) 6 yr old gelding who'll race in the 3.15 Chepstow, a Class 4, 2m7.5f, handicap hurdle for 4yo+ on heavy ground. The prize is almost £3,769 and James Bowen rides for father Peter. Here's the card...

Le Tueur heads the Geegeez Ratings which is a positive and on form, it looks like Little Red Lion and Memphis Bell would be the two he'd need to beat to win here. But what brought him to my attention?

Well, he featured on several on my trainer-based angles, so here is just a quartet of them to give you some idea of the kind of other things I have running in the background aside from the obvious racecard tools I use.

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1. Since the start of 2016, Peter Bowen's NH handicappers sent off shorter than 8/1 (I expect this to happen here) on ground officially deemed Soft or "worse" have a strike rate of 23.2% by virtue of winning 36 of 155 contests.

2. Le Tueur was sent off a 100/30 favourite when beaten last time out and since the start of 2017, Peter Bowen's UK NH runners who were a beaten favourite last time out have turned the form round to win 25 of 103 (24.3% SR) races next time out. From these 103 runners...

  • those who were beaten favs LTO in the previous 45 days are 21 from 74 (28.4% SR)
  • those who didn't even make the frame LTO are 16 from 65 (24.6% SR)
  • whilst those failing to make the frame LTO in the past 45 days are 13 from 44 (29.6% SR)

3. But prior to finishing fourth last time out, Le Tueur was a winner and Peter Bowen's NH handicappers who won two starts ago and were then fourth are 5 from 10 (50% SR) when turned back out less than three weeks after that defeat, finishing 221U112131 in the process.

4. And finally for now regarding the trainer, Peter's record with 8/1 Class 4 handicap hurdlers stands at 18 winners from 86 (20.9% SR) since the start of 2017, from which...

  • jockey James Bowen is 8 from 28 (28.6%)
  • soft or worse ground runners are 8 from 25 (32%)
  • and on heavy : 2 from 5 (40%)

You might also have noticed the C1 next to jockey James' name on the card and that's because he was 4 from 14 (28.6%) on this track in 2020.

It's useful to have those stats to hand when looking at a horse that has only raced on five previous occasions, but he was second on debut over 2m5f on heavy ground in a Class 4 hurdle and won two starts ago at Ffos Las over 3m0.5f on soft ground despite hitting the last hurdle. He wasn't as good last time out, but led until after 2 out in a soft ground 3m2f contest before fading out of contention.

The way he ran until 2 out suggests that the 2.5f drop back in trip might be beneficial here and he gets to have another crack off the same mark as last time, despite going so well for much of the race.

Instant Expert probably won't tell us too much, other than backing up what I've already said about him...

In recent outings, he has raced fairly prominently and has led at times, but he'll probably be better off if he sits in here as this track/trip has proved difficult to win at of late if trying to set the fractions on heavy ground, as our pace stats/map show...

If that's how the race pans out, it looks good for both our featured runner and form horse Little Red Lion, whilst the other in-form runner, Memphis Bell will have her work cut out of sitting at the back here.

Overall, the records of trainer and jockey suggest Le Tueur should be involved in the shake-up here. Five career starts aren't really enough to base a firm decision upon, but there are some positive signs re: going and trip, but can/will he win?

Summary

Yes, Le Tueur can win this, but I'm not entirely convinced he will. He's a solid placer in my opinion, which is a good start, but I have Little Red Lion & Memphis Bell (not far) ahead of him in that order. So, we'd need things to land our way if our featured runner in to win, so let's see where it might go wrong for the two main rivals.

Little Red Lion hasn't seen a hurdle competitively for the best part of eleven months when he narrowly (short head) landed a Class 5 contest. This is a step up in class from that race and he goes off a mark 10lbs higher than today. He has had four runs over fences since and although he has narrowly won two of them, he has ended up on the ground in the other two. This could affect his confidence and that allied to the rise in class/weight from his last hurdle run must cast some doubts on him?

Memphis Bell seeks a fifth win on the bounce inside less than 20 weeks where her mark has gone up by some 29lbs and you have to wonder how much she has left in the tank before needing a rest. Up another 8lbs for her last win, she'll now need to try and concede weight all round and lug 11st 11lbs around on heavy ground and that has to be a worry. I notice that she's also entered into a better race at Ludlow for Thursday where she'll carry less weight than here, in fact she'll be bottom weight there, so I wouldn't be surprised if she swerves this one and heads to Ludlow.

Thus, if Little Red Lion & Memphis Bell aren't quite at it or don't even run, then yes, our chances will improve. I suppose it all depends on price now. I'd have hoped for 6/1 or better and at 5.40pm Le Tueur is a solid 11/2 from the handful of bookies to show their hands. I've a feeling he might drift initially, so if I can get 6's, I'll have a small punt on Le Tueur with the caveat that he's far from certain to win. Some of you might want to play the place market on an exchange.

 

Racing Insights, 19th January 2021

Tuesday's feature of the day is the Shortlist Report and our free races of the day are...

  • 1.05 Clonmel
  • 2.35 Clonmel
  • 3.45 Exeter
  • 3.55 Fakenham

The Shortlist Report looks like this today...

...so why don't we see if Ballybreen is likely to land the spoils in the 3.45 Exeter, as that's one of our free races?

The card...

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...says that he, Apple's Queen and Sandford Castle are the form horses here. His trainer is the only trainer with both a positive form (30) and course record (C5) icon and he heads the Geegeez Speed Ratings. He's one of only three course and distance winners and actually won this very contest a year ago.

As you'd expect, Instant Expert paints a good picture of him, although the red for his soft ground performances might be a little misleading, but I'll come to that shortly, of course!

You'll also notice that he's now 7lbs higher for winning five days ago, but that probably doesn't tell the whole story of a 32 length success, where he made all and was well clear from a long way out and would probably have still coasted home carrying a bag of wet sand. Those front running tactics will probably be used again today, but is that a good idea here at Exeter?

Well, with 9 wins from the 15 horses to have tried to win 13 similar races from the front, I'd say that leading is the best plan of attack and our pace tab suggests that's exactly what he'll do.

So from the card and its Instant Expert & Pace tabs, I've still no reason not to believe he can and will win this one. Time for a closer look at his numbers, I think.

His record over fences reads 111281 since the start of 2020 and he's never usually left in the shed too long. The exception to that was the one bad result in that list, when last of 8 over 3m2f on heavy ground having being laid off for 222 days. He still ran from the front that day but tired in the closing stages, as he'd be entitled to, so I don't read too much into that defeat. I'd also add that he wasn't wearing blinkers that day either, but does normally and will here.

In those six races and of relevance here, Conor Ring was in the saddle for all six, he finished 11121 in blinkers, 1112 going right handed, he won 3 from 3 in January, 2 from 2 over this trip (and 2 from 3 at 3m1.5f/3m2f), he had one win and one runner-up finish from two runs here at Exeter and the same record on soft ground (much better recently on soft than his previous form) and he did, of course, win this race a year ago on heavy ground.

Summary

It might all seem a bit short and sweet, but some days/races it takes virtually no time at all to come to a decision, especially when the compelling evidence is pretty much handed to you. I liked Ballybreen last time out and he won at a decent price. I like him here and I don't think 7lbs was the difference between him winning and not winning last time out.

So, yes, Ballybreen for me. 3/1 looks a tad generous as I was expecting 9/4 or 5/2 at best, I'm on!

Racing Insights, 18th January 2021

Count Otto abandoned his usual/expected tactics and ran his best race for some time, meaning my favoured runner Total Commitment was an 11/4 (from 4/1) runner-up at Lingfield on Saturday, I'm afraid.

Ah, well, Monday heralds a new week and a new challenge/opportunity. To assist us, we offer the pace tab for ALL races to ALL users, as well as full free racecards for the following...

  • 12.15 Lingfield
  • 12.55 Ayr
  • 4.05 Ayr
  • 6.40 Wolverhampton

Lingfield is an A/W bumpers meeting (say no more), the two Ayr races are a novice hurdle and a bumper, so by process of elimination I'm going to focus my efforts on the 6.40 Wolverhampton, an 8-runner (hopefully it says that way for E/W bettors), Class 3, A/W (Tapeta) handicap for 4yo+ runners, who all just happen to be geldings today. The trip is officially 1m1.5f, the top prize is £7,246 and the card looks like this...

Teston's UK record stands at 1 win and 1 place from 3 runs so far and now steps up in trip after finishing as runner up at Southwell over 7 furlongs last time out. That was his first run on the A/W in this country, but had a win and four places from 8 A/W runs over 9/9.5 furlongs in France. He also won three races over a mile on turf across the Channel before scoring on his UK debut at Doncaster over a mile in this grade last June. Bears top weight off a mark of 97, a mark unaltered from his last outing and if adapting to the Tapeta has every chance of being in the final mix.

Power of States is bang in form, albeit all at Chelmsford where all six of his career A/W runs have taken place. He has finished 121113 in those six, a stark contrast to his 0 from 11 on turf. He's three from five over 1m2f at Chelmsford, so the trip itself is well within him and his usual visor and tongue tie will be worn here. He was only third last time out off a mark of 89, so going off 90 here doesn't do him any favours and he's stepping up in class. That said, his yard are 36 from 153 (23.5% SR) here on the Tapeta with horses tackling it for the first time winning 27 of 113 (23.9% SR). Those are positive numbers, which leave me wondering why only 40 have run here more than once, but that's for another day, I suppose!

Home Before Dusk was fifth off a mark of 91 at Class 2 last time out and is eased a pound as he drops down to Class 3, so that should help him as he attempts to improve upon his own record of 5 wins and 3 places from 13 in Tapeta handicaps, including 5 wins, 2 places from 10 over 8-10f, 2 wins and a place from 5 under today's jockey and a win from two goes over this course and distance. I wouldn't rule him out totally based on those numbers, but the reality is that he hasn't run well in any of his seven defeats over the last eleven months since winning at Kempton off a mark of 92. This is within his capabilities on history, but form suggests others will make more appeal.

Mythical Madness finished 121 in his last three races, but all were on turf at Class 4 over a mile in a twelve day period seven months ago. The 10 yr old hasn't been seen since then and is likely to need a run before being seen at whatever his best is nowadays. History suggests he's better on the Flat (6/31 = 19.4%) where he wins more than twice as often as he does on the A/W (4/43 = 9.3%), but he is 3 from 16 (18.75%) here at Wolverhampton over 8.5-9.5f. Sadly his last decent run here came a month shy of four years ago, when beaten by a neck off a mark of 101. In his favour, though, is a mark of 87 today and the fact he was in good nick before his rest. If ready to go first up, he's well weighted and capable here, but I can't see it happening on the basis of history, especially stepping up in class.

Ledham is a really interesting 6 yr old and one to probably watch here with a view to possibly backing next time out. Fourth of eight on debut in August 2017, then put back in his box for 282 days before finishing 2nd of 16 in mid-May 2018. He ran four more times that season, winning a class 5, finishing as runner-up then as a winner in two Class 3 contests, before a third of ten at Class 2 in October 2018. Another long (193 days) layoff followed and then he re-appeared to finish as a runner-up in a ten-runner C2 handicap at Haydock over a mile on soft ground in late April 2019. He hasn't been seen since and now returns some 632 days later. He has won on this track before, he's down in class, down 3lbs in the ratings, was gelded back in November and moved yards last week. If he can get 1m on soft at Haydock, he should get this trip and he clearly has gone well fresh in the past, but you'd need some bravery to back him here, wouldn't you?

Kaser comes here armed to the teeth with a volume of stats to suggest he'll go well, as follows (easier to copy and paste than type!)...

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...chuck in his trainer's record of 11 wins from 54 (20.4% SR, A/E 1.59) in course and distance handicaps since the start of 2018 and you've certainly got something worth a second glance. Kaser, himself, is 4 from 11 over course and distance which skews the stats slightly and hasn't ran particularly well here in his two C&D efforts this winter. He was 11th of 13 and in rear throughout at this grade in mid-November and then a similar run as 9th of 10 last time out. He was ridden by two claimers in those races and recent rider Laura Pearson has been replaced by Rossa Ryan. Laura now rides Avarice here and Kaser is now effectively 5lbs worse off for that defeat, due to the jockey claim. Rossa Ryan is in good form, of course and rides this track well, but a minor place has to be the best he can hope for here.

The afore-mentioned Avarice is probably left well alone here to be brutally honest. No previous run in the UK, no previous run on an artificial surface and probably needs a stiffer test. He's not a poor horse as a run of results reading 2212 after his debut will testify. Admittedly beaten by eight lengths last time out, but that was over 1m4f on soft ground on a contest worth over £20k. He gets 1m2f on soft well enough, so even if adapting to Tapeta first up, I think this'll be too sharp for him.

Athmad makes up our octet and he's well proven at this track having finished 1141331 here over 8.5-9.5f, including 1331 over course and distance, the last of those runs being his last run overall when prevailing by a length here a fortnight ago. But he's up 4lbs and up in class for that win and has never won any race better than a low-prize (ie sub-£6k) Class 4 contest, failing to even make the frame in eight such contests. That said, all runs have to come to an end and having seen the opposition, he has every chance of being in the shake-up here. His yard is in good form too and he's definitely worth considering at this stage.

*

We know already that a couple of these should be suited by conditions, but the easiest way of checking all runners at once is via our unique traffic-light colour (green = good, amber = moderate, red= not so good) coded Instant Expert (click the tab on the racecard)...

...where only Mythical Madness looks to be struggling. Power of States is up 6lb from his last win, but is in prime form and the stats behind the returning Ledham and course specialist Athmad are clearly laid out.

In similar previous contests to this one, we get the impression that the higher the sector of the draw the better, as seen below...

...and stalls 5 to 8 have certainly outperformed those in stalls 1-4 winning 55% of the races...

History also tells us that the three best pace/draw combinations are highly drawn leaders, highly drawn prominent runners and then prominent/mid-division runs from a low draw, which I suppose makes sense as the low draw would just tuck in as the higher drawn pace setters come across...

We can then overlay the past running styles of our eight runners to see how the race might unfold as follows...

...where Teston looks particularly well suited, whilst Athmad is also in a good place. The in-form Power of States is likely to race a bit further forward, I'd have thought, as he won't want the race to be "nicked" at the front by the front-running Teston. Should he step up, that would be a shrewd move in my opinion, but even if they just actually break in that order above, he's mid-division anyway!

The two most inconvenienced by the draw/running-style combo are the the two drawn widest and that doesn't bode well for Kaser's efforts to maintain his form at this venue.

Summary

Lots with chances or reasons to at least be positive about their chances. Power of States will be popular and I expect him to go off as favourite, probably in the 5/2 type of odds and whilst he has every chance here and should definitely make the frame, the one I like more is Teston. His French form, allied to his Instant Expert showing and the pace/draw positioning make him the one to beat for me. I don't think I'll get the 4/1 or better that I was hoping for, but he's the one I fancy most here.

Elsewhere, Athmad should go well and could threaten the two I've mentioned in this summary. Kaser would be of interest from an E/W perspective, but 8/1 is too short. Home Before Dusk, Mythical Madness and Avarice hold little appeal to me and if I wanted a small E/W punt at a decent price, Ledham would be the one at 20's or bigger not withstanding he'll probably need the run and come up short this time.

 

 

 

Racing Insights, 16th January 2021

As was pretty much expected, the even money favourite Star of St James prevailed at Southwell this afternoon/evening with my "biggest danger" the 13/2 overnight Native Silver finishing just a half length back as runner-up. Well done to those jumping on the forecast/exacta (the latter paid 5.2/1), but sadly my "E/W pick at a price" runner was withdrawn.

Saturday's free feature is the marvellous Trainer/Jockey Combo Report, which highlights successful partnerships whilst our free racecards for the following races are open to all readers...

  • 12.40 Warwick
  • 2.35 Lingfield
  • 2.40 Market Rasen
  • 3.00 Warwick
  • 3.10 Lingfield

And the last of those five looks the most open/competitive, plus it's unlikely to be abandoned, so today's focus is on the 3.10 Lingfield...

The sharp eyed amongst you will notice I've already eliminated three runners who are greyed out at the bottom of the card. These look like no-hopers in dreadful form and shouldn't be ones to worry us. I've greyed them out for you, so you can see what happens when you click the X just before the course and distance win indicators. To put them back in the card, simply click the X again.

And so to the race itself after removing that trio, the remainder of the field all have at least decent run in the recent form, with Total Commitment, Recon Mission and Sun Power the ones to have won lately. Huraiz & Will To Win are both dropping down from Class 2, whilst Recon Mission and Count Otto both step up in class here.

All seven have won at this 6f trip with four also winning here at Lingfield in the past, of which two (Will To Win & Count Otto) have won over course and distance at the same time! None of them are being turned back out quickly, nor are any coming off long breaks, as all have had at least two weeks rest and 51  days being the longest absence.

Count Otto is the oldest here at 6, but the other half dozen are all 4 or 5, From a trainer perspective, Huraiz & Will To Win both hail from yards with good track records, whilst the former's trainer is in great form of late, as is his jockey and the partnership has worked well here at Lingfield in the past. Ratings-wise, they're a fairly well bunched group, but Will To Win is a little detached on 65, I suppose.

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Instant Expert is our next port of call, as that's the indicator of past performance under today's conditions. Obviously that's no guarantee of future success, but if a horse has gone well in the past over course and distance for example, there's a chance he/she will do so again at some point. Anyway, I'm waffling, so let's crack on...

...where we see that Will to Win & Sun Power have the best of the winning records on A/W and Count Otto looks to have struggled. No real standouts at Class 3, to be honest, but Top Breeze's 0/6 isn't good, nor I suppose is Count Otto's 3 from 18. Will To Win has 2 wins and a place from 4 on this track which is the best on offer, but don't be fooled by Total Commitment's 0 from 4 record. It looks poor but he has finished in the frame on all four occasions.

Plenty of wins at this trip across the board and Will To Win & Total Commitment have some place finishes to push their place records to 50% and beyond.

From a win perspective, Instant Expert shows Will To Win in a very good light and he has some positives from the racecard, but can he win from stall 9? It might be tough, as history suggests that in 99 previous similar races, stalls 8 to 10 are the worst place to be...

 

...but wherever you're drawn, you want to be up with the pace. So do we have any confirmed front runners? The pace tab knows the answer to that question...

...suggesting Sun Power and Recon Mission will attempt to set the pace with Top Breeze not very far behind and when we overlay the running styles with the general pace-draw heatmap from recent similar contests, we get the following...

...where I'd say Top Breeze has the best position. I expect he'll break smartly but won't be too upset if the other come past him early from wider draws.

At this stage, I'm going to discard Huraiz and Count Otto, neither have featured too positively so far and aren't in great form right now, but that still leaves me half of the field to pick from and to be honest, it's a tough call!

Will to Win is a former course and distance winner, his yard have a great record here and he's dropping in class to run off a very workable mark of 93. Conversely, he's not well drawn and isn't in any sort of form of late. Much will depend on which version of him turns up, very capable of making the frame at double digit odds, but others hold more appeal.

Top Breeze is 0 from 11 since winning here over 5f in a Class 2 contest at the end of February last year, but has shown some promising signs lately with five top-three finishes in his last seven races. He was 3.5 lengths behind Sun Power last time out, but with a 6lb pull in the weights here should be there or thereabouts. Aided by the rail, I expect him to go well just 1lb higher than that last win.

Total Commitment was one I initially liked and I still do, but stall 10 isn't going to do him any favours at all. He might have to go off a little quicker than usual to get involved, but if he can overcome the draw, he has plenty going for him, especially based on the Instant Expert numbers. He has raced more prominently recently when winning and then finishing as runner-up, so those tactics could help here.

Recon Mission broke a 13-race losing streak when winning here on New Year's Eve making all and holding on to win by three quarters of a length off a reduced mark of 84. He has obvious chances based on that form, but isn't a certainty to back it up. He's up in trip, class and weight here and the combination of the three might just prove too much. Definite chance, but I think others make more sense.

Sun Power was a winner at this class/trip at Wolverhampton at the end of last year, beating Top Breeze by 3.5 lengths in the process and therefore a repeat of that run puts him in the mix, but I have reservations. He's 2 from 3 at Wolverhampton, but 0 from 10 elsewhere and hasn't turned out to be the horse he was hoped to have been. Well beaten in seven Class 1&2 contests, he ended up at Class 4 to try and give him a spark. He's 6lbs worse off with Top Breeze here and that's possibly too much.

Summary

Five left in at this stage, Will To Win is unreliable and despite the possibility of a big run at a decent price, he's not for me today. Of the four remaining, any could win in fairness, but the way I've processed the race and analysed the runners, Top Breeze and Total Commitment appeal to me more than the other two.

Top Breeze is currently priced at 8/1 with Total Commitment half those odds at 4/1 and whilst I think Total Commitment will just shade it, he's not that much more likely to succeed in my eyes. I expected Top Breeze to be around 9/2, so 8/1 is excellent value and I was hoping for around 6/1 about Total Commitment, so 4's is a little skinny.

If I've got it right, there won't be much between them. TC is marginally better on my working, but TB is far better value. There's a case for backing either, none or both : the choice is yours! 😉

Racing Insights, 15th January 2021

Soft ground became heavy at Fontwell today and with the added weight, it was all too much for the 7/4 favourite, so I'm glad I swerved that one. Main danger Lily The Pink went on to win at 9/4, so well done to those of you who got on at 7/2 last night, whilst I did have a late small bet myself, but not on the winner!

I said I'd wanted more than 13/2 for an E/W bet on Jaunty Soria, so at 14/1 (she did hit 16's for a while) I couldn't resist and she was third home, albeit some 34 lengths behind the winner. I wasn't too bothered about the margin as I collected a couple of quid, mind you.

And so to Friday, where our free feature is the Horses for Courses report and our free racecards will cover...

  • 3.10 Newcastle
  • 3.45 Dundalk
  • 3.50 Sedgefield
  • 5.00 Southwell

And it's the last of those four races that interests me today, because there's a bit of a Racing Insights "perfect storm" going on here. It's a free to all race and today's free feature, Horses for Courses, shows this...

Five of the eight runners in this Class 5, 1m, A/W handicap for 4yo+ on Fibresand feature on the H4C report suggesting we could have a decent race on our hands.

First/best place to start is the racecard itself...

...where we have two LTO winners in Star of St James and Headland and I'd expect the former to be a fairly warm favourite here, so like yesterday we're assessing value in his price/chances and also maybe finding a bigger priced alternative.

The likely favourite drops in class here despite a 6.5 length success over course and distance last time out, whilst half of the field are stepping up in class (Vive La Difference, Makambe, Custard The Dragon & Headland).

We have five course and distance winners on display here and of the other three runners, one is a course winner and the other two have won over this trip, so all of the field are racing under some form of familiar conditions.

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Half of the field are trained by trainers with good previous records at this track (C5), although closer inspection might be needed to see whether those records are skewed by today's runners' past successes here, whilst there's not much to go off from a jockey perspective, other than those on board Custard The Dragon and Headland have been amongst the winners of late (14 30).

At this point, Star of St James, Custard The Dragon and Headland are the most interesting whilst the negatives would be Love Your Work, Makambe and Michele Strogoff.

Next up is Instant Expert, where I'm expecting plenty of green in the "course" column, but how do these runners stack up on standard going, class 5 racing and a one mile trip? Let's see...

GOING :
Pro - Native Silver, Vive La Difference
Con -  Star of St James, Headland

CLASS :
Pro - Headland, Love Your Work
Con - Star of St James, Custard The Dragon

COURSE :
Pro - Love Your Work, Star of St James, Custard The Dragon
Con - N/A

DISTANCE :
Pro - Headland, Star of St James
Con - Custard The Dragon, Michele Strogoff

From Instant Expert, Love Your Work & Vive La Difference look most consistent with no red blocks, whilst Michele Strogoff is a negative again here.

In the past 82 runnings of similar 8-runner handicaps here at Southwell, it has paid to be drawn in stalls 4 and higher with a seemingly "golden corridor" covering the centre of the draw in boxes 4 to 6 as highlighted via the draw tab...

...which is a positive for Headland, Makambe and Native Silver, but not so good for Michele Strogoff (again!), Vive La Difference and Star of St James.

According to our unique pace/draw heat map, the three most favourable outcomes are highly drawn prominent (but NOT leading) runners, mid-draw prominence or mid-draw leaders, so I suppose a 4-6 draw with an average pace score of 3 or more would be very good here, so let's see how our runners overlay the pace map...

...where Native Silver looks excellently positioned with Headland also in a favourable place if running to his usual style. I think the hold-up horses might find it tough from stalls 2 and 8. I'd expect Star of St James to try and make all here and given the manner of his last win, he has every chance of repeating the feat. Now a quick look at each...

Native Silver has finished 325 in his last three efforts over C&D. Only beaten by a short head two starts ago, but lost by the best part of four lengths LTO after being raised 3lbs to today's mark of 72. He was fifth that day and both the winner and the third placed horse has since made the frame at a higher level than this. All his best form comes here and he's two from five under jockey Luke Morris.

Star of St James has taken a while to get his head around racing, but after initially only making the frame once in his first eight starts, has won two and placed in three of his next eight. A very comfortable (6.5 lengths easing down) winner here over C&D LTO eight days ago, he now even gets to drop in class. He does have a 5lb penalty to bear for that run, but that is more than offset by the booking of a 7lb claimer to ride him. George Bass isn't the best choice of jockey here, but I'd expect this should just be a point and steer job.

Love Your Work is a triple winner over this course and distance at which he was 6th of 10 last time out. Sent off at 18/1, he was only 1.5 lengths behind Native Silver and he's 3lbs better off here for the rematch. Currently on a run of nine losses since winning here on Valentines Day last year off a mark of 72, he's now down to 69 and based on last year's winter form, that's a very workable mark.

Vive La Difference was impressive in victory two starts ago at Newcastle off a mark of just 62, but dreadful three days later, fifteen days ago at the same track/trip despite dropping down to Class 6 off a mark of 67. It wasn't all his fault, though, he got a shocking ride (IMO) and a 21 length defeat as 12th of 13 doesn't do him justice. That said, he's up another pound in the weights and for his fibresand debut, he's best left alone.

Makambe is in poor form if truth be told. Finishes of 88898 in races averaging 12 runners over his last five outings tells its own tale, but the silver lining is that his mark has now fallen from 74 to 65 in the process. Sadly he couldn't win off 65 last time out, but will relish a return to Southwell, as he's 0 from 7 since last coming here ten months ago, when he won at this class and trip by a short head. The cheekpieces worn that day are being reapplied but I think he'll have his work cut out today especially trying to come from towards the back of the pack.

Custard The Dragon is a on 11-race losing streak since a win at this very meeting a year ago made him a 7-time course winner. Looked more like his old self when 2nd of 8 here over C&D a week before Christmas. He was only beaten by a short head that day, but he's up in both class (6 to 5) and weight (63 to 65), so a win isn't necessarily on the cards, but has great chances of making the frame. He gets on well with jockey Joe Fanning (5/18 on the A/W together), but is 0 from 9 beyond 7f furlongs on the A/W, finishing 54882 over course and distance.

Michele Strogoff is one where you've probably guessed where I am with him. It's two years plus a day and thirty-two (yes, 32!) races since he last won and rather than be rude about him/his chances, I'm just going to say that others impress me more.

Headland has run each of his last four races here at Southwell in the space of three weeks. Starting a week before Christmas, he was 5th of 7 (C5, 7f), 8th of 11 (C6, 7f) and then 7th of 10 (C5, 1m) and beaten by an average of just over nine lengths, he then went on to win a 5-runner Class 5 C&D handicap last time out after his mark had dropped from 67 to 60 in that period. I don't think there was a dramatic improvement to be honest, he won a poor race that pretty much fell apart. He's an unreliable type and the weight penalty adds to the unlikeliness of a repeat performance.

Summary

For a race with so many course winners, there's no standout runner here. Star of St James should be the winner based on his last run but the stats above have cast some doubts for me on how easily he might win. He's 5/4 with bet365, but already as short as 11/10 with Hills and I can't back him at that kind of price. I think that price says more about the opposition than it does about the strength of the favourite though.

So where do I go from there? Well, Native Silver is better than his last run and I think he's the biggest danger to the fav if he doesn't let him get away too soon. He's 13/2 here which is about right, I'd say, but sadly he's too short for me to go E/W. I might still have a quid on him to win, mind : we'll see.

And one "at a price"? Love Your Work is on a very workable mark, goes well at the track/trip and does his best work around this time of year. I doubt he can win, but at 20/1, I think he's worth a cheeky E/W punt for small change.

Racing Insights, 14th January 2021

We looked at two races yesterday, the first of which was the Leicester race featuring Thor de Cerisy and my final assessment said..."...10/1 seems more than fair for those of you fancying a small E/W flutter, as both When You're Ready and Oscar's Leader have more appeal from a win perspective..." As it was, Oscar's Leader was a non-runner, but When You're Ready won at 3/1 and Thor de Cerisy did indeed make the frame at 7/1.

Race two was at Plumpton where we had an odds-on favourite who we expected to win, but didn't offer much value and I though our highlighted runner, Eurkash would be the one posing the biggest challenge to the fav. The end result was that Eurkash could only manage fourth behind the duly-obliging 5/6 favourite.

And now to Thursday, whose feature of the day is the highly informative Instant Expert tab for all races, including our full free racecards for...

  • 1.10 Catterick
  • 1.50 Bangor
  • 2.30 Fontwell
  • 8.00 Chelmsford

And I think I'll look at the third on that lost the 2.30 Fontwell, where I'm already keen on the chances of Cristal Spirit, if I can get 2/1 or bigger about him. The purpose of my piece today is to see whether (a) I still think he's the likeliest winner, (b) 2/1 is a realistic aim and (c) where are the dangers or possible decent priced E/W picks.

We should start with the card itself, as follows...

I'm going to be quite brutal at the outset here and take Certainly Red, Rossderrin and Hot Smoked out of the equation before I go any further. Certainly red might be the one I regret most tomorrow, as he has been running consistently well of late, but he runs off 108 here, just as he has done on his last four outings where he has finished 8235, so I'm not expecting him to suddenly win here, especially as he hasn't won any of his ten career starts to date.

Rossderrin's form line shows a win last time out, but that was a narrow success in a poor PTP contest at Wadebridge, the fact of the matter here is that he hasn't even made the frame on any of his 11 starts under Rules and I don't envisage a change of yard/country having much effect off a career high mark. The final of the rejected trio, Hot Smoked, has a similar profile to the other two in that she is 0 from 9 so far, she's 3lbs higher than her best run over hurdles and she's been off the track for ten months.

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All of which leaves us with the following on Instant Expert...

...where I think you don't need to be a mind-reader to see where I'm going here. Kenny George had finished fourth of seven (beat by 73L) and third of seven (beat by 51L) before winning his third crack at this track over course and distance fourteen months ago. He won by five lengths that day, but has failed to even make the frame in six runs since and is still five pounds higher than that win, so he's out.

As is Touch Tight, he might well be dropping down a grade for his handicap debut but he hasn't been that well treated to be given a mark of 108 after performing quite poorly in his three starts to date where he has finished 7th of 9 (bt by 38.5L), 4th of 10 (bt by 18.5L) and most recently 5th of 7 and beaten by 38 lengths. Nothing about those runs scream "back me", so I can't (and won't!).

And then, there were three in a race where I'd expect Jaunty Soria to attempt to control the race from the front. The pace stats should tell us whether that's a good tactic at Fontwell or not...

...and it appears that it might well be, but Lily The Pink also likes to be up with the pace and that could put a spanner in jockey Tom Scudamore's race plan. The danger for both front runners, of course, is that they do too much early on and practically hand the race to Cristal Spirit.

Cristal Spirit comes here in the best form of the trio after back to back soft ground wins here at Fontwell (2m2f) and then when 3lbs worse off over 2m5f at Plumpton eleven days ago. His other hurdles success came on heavy ground so conditions shouldn't be an issue here, although the extra half stone might make life more difficult.

Jockey Sean Houlihan retains the ride from last time out and he'll be happy to be on board one that keeps finding more and if it comes down to who has the most speed late on, then this horse's prowess on the Flat at 1m4f might make all the difference.

Race card top weight is Lily The Pink, but Ben Godfrey's useful 7lb claim means she'll get 3lbs from the fav here. Ben rides well for trainer Anthony Honeyball and the pair are 5 from 16 together over the last year and the yard is 5 from 15 (33.3% SR) in handicap hurdle races here since the start of 2017 and 11/34 (32.4%) since the start of 2014.

This mare likes the mud and will be better suited over this trip than when tiring in the closing stages over 3 miles last time out. I think she's still carrying too much weight here off a mark of 110, as her sole hurdles win came when rated 98.

And finally, Jaunty Soria, who makes the shortlist almost by default, but she's in good nick having won over course and distance here last time out on her yard debut for Neil Mulholland. Neil has a good record here at Fontwell with 17 winners from 82 (20.7% SR) handicap hurdlers since the start of 2015 and 22 from 97 (22.7%) since 2013. Jockey Tom Scudamore rides this track well too and has been amongst the winners of late (6/27 = 22.2% since Boxing Day).

She has been a steady improver so far and if handling the extra pressure of a handicap debut, could very well have a big say in proceedings if things go her way.

Summary

I think the order I've discussed the trio is probably just about how I rank them (Cristal / Lily / Soria) and all have chances but none are bomb-proof. I'm concerned about the added weight for Cristal Spirit, especially as she only just seems to do enough to get home having waited until late to take control. Should the gas pedal not quite get pressed at the right time, that would be the undoing of his chances.

Lily The Pink carries a little too much weight for my liking and there's that suggestion she might end up doing too much too soon. This trip is far more suitable than the 3m LTO, but I suspect she'd be happier dropping back another quarter mile.

Jaunty Soria will probably try to get out and stay out and she probably isn't quite good enough to do that (yet) and I think she'll be overhauled by the other pair with Cristal Spirit just getting the verdict.

So, I still like Cristal Spirit for this one, but not as much as I thought I would initially. I also can't back her, because I don't see enough value at 6/4. Lily The Pink is a 7/2 shot here, which is probably fair if not a little generous (I expected 3's), whilst Jaunty Soria is shorter than I hoped at 13/2. I can't back horses at 13/2 on an E/W basis, so I'm sitting this one out sadly.

Racing Insights, 13th January 2021

We were right to swerve the shortlist runners today. The Fairyhouse race ended up a 3-runner affair and Sizing Pottsie was sent off as 4/9 fav! In fairness, he had the race won with an eight length lead approaching the last, but sadly fell and the race eventually went to the one I highlighted as the danger.

At Wetherby 10 minutes later, Domaine de L'Isle also failed to win but did complete, finishing fourth beaten by some 33 lengths with two of the three I liked more finishing in front of him. So, we'd no bets but breaking even was better than losing two points on this occasion.

Maybe, I'll have a bet on Wednesday after consulting the free-to-all Trainer Stats report or via the free racecards for...

  • 1.30 Plumpton
  • 2.10 Leicester
  • 3.10 Leicester
  • 3.40 Leicester

And it's to the Trainer Stats report that I'm turning today. As usual, I have fairly demanding criteria to narrow down a list of possible selections...

Which gives us two to look at, starting in the 2.40 Leicester...

This horse returned to action on 5th December after 266 days off the track to finish third of six at Wetherby in a Class 3, soft ground handicap hurdle over 2 miles. He was beaten by nine lengths after a mistake at the last slowed him down and the winner has since finished third in a similar contest despite being raised 10lbs for the win. Our runner has been eased a pound for that run/defeat and has had a wind operation for weeks ago.

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He's a fairly useful if not brilliant hurdler, having made the frame three times from seven efforts, but winning just once. Based on the conditions faced today, he has the following records...

  • 0 wins and 2 places from 6 under jockey Brendan Powell
  • 2 wins from 3 in 8-11 runner fields
  • 1 win, 1 place from 3 on heavy
  • 0/1 at this trip, but has won at 2 miles
  • 0/3 at Class 3

He'll be hoping, however, to continue trainer Michael Scudamore's excellent recent record at this venue, despite sending hardly any runners here. Since the start of 2018, he has had just six runners here, but three wins and a place represents an excellent return, including of relevance today...

  • 3/5 in handicaps
  • 3/5 at odds of 10/1 and shorter
  • 2/3 with 6-8 yr olds
  • 1/3 from LTO placers
  • 0/3 at Class 3
  • 2/2 with males
  • 1/1 for Brendan Powell
  • 1/1 on heavy
  • 1/1 at 31-45 days rest
  • 1/1 in January
  • 0/1 over course and distance
  • 0/1 over hurdles

So, a bit of a mixed bag based on form and the stats of the horse/trainer, so I wouldn't completely discount his chances just yet. In similar contests to this one, it has paid to sit in mid-division during the race...

...and whilst his averaging positioning is slightly ahead of that point, he does sit in the middle trio of the overall pace map with four runners ahead of his group and four runners behind, so if they run to plan, he should end up mid-div after all...

That said, when he did win five starts ago on heavy ground, he set off quickly, made all and ended up 8 lengths clear. A revert to those tactics might not be a bad call here either.

*

And now to the 3.30 Plumpton...

This 7 yr old gelding failed to make the frame in three bumpers and six hurdles contests but was third on his chasing debut two starts ago, when beaten by just three lengths on this over 2 miles on soft ground at Hereford in late November. He clearly relished the larger obstacles in the mud and backed that run up with a good 5.5 lengths success just over a month ago when landing a 2m1.5f Class 5 race at Bangor. He still looked full of running at the finish and although we've only two runs to go on, a 6lb rise in weights might not inconvenience him too much.

Like Michael Scudamore's record at Leicester above, Eurkash's trainer, Paul Webber, is a successful if infrequent visitor to Plumpton and like Michael at Leicester, Paul has 3 winners and a place from 6 runners at this track since the start of 2018, including...

  • 3/5 in hcps, 2/5 with males, 2/4 in chases, 3/3 in fields of 7-11 runners
  • 2/3 after less than 5 weeks rest, 2/3 at 7/1 or shorter, 2/2 at Class 5
  • 1/2 on soft, 1/2 from LTO placers, 1/2 in January, 1/1 over C&D
  • 1/1 using jockey Gavin Sheehan and 1/1 with 7 yr olds

Quick note re: jockey Gavin Sheehan, he's another who doesn't come here too often, but is 7 from 20 (35% SR, A/E 1.87) over fences here since 2014, including 2 wins from 4 over course and distance. Plenty of promise from the above and whilst we don't have a great deal of pace data to hand for this type of contest...

...I'd say that a mid-division "pozzy" might well be the right approach here.

Summary

I had the Leicester runner, Thor de Cerisy as fourth, possibly fifth best in my own rankings and I didn't have him that far behind a top three berth, so he's certainly be of interest from an E/W perspective if we could get a decent enough price on him. He ran well last season and his last effort after a long lay-off was as good as could be expected of him. If the wind op has an immediate effect, then 10/1 seems more than fair for those of you fancying a small E/W flutter, as both When You're Ready and Oscar's Leader have more appeal from a win perspective.

Eurkash is the type I'd be all over at Plumpton, based on his two runs over fences, the stats that I've quoted and a 3/1 price tag, but for the presence of a near odds-on favourite in the shape of hat-trick seeking High Up In The Air. The fav drops in class and trip here and his 7lb hike in weight is offset by the booking of a 7lb claimer.

That's not to say that the fav is a given, he has won back to back races when making all and has done most of his running over longer distances. He'll have competition up top this time, the trip is sharper and his jockey has only won 2 of his last 45 over fences. I have the favourite down as best in the race, but I rate Eurkash a clear second. If you think that there's enough doubt around to swerve an even money (odds-on in places) fav, then the 3/1 Eurkash should be the one to profit.

Racing Insights, 12th January 2021

I don't back many shorties, but I did say that 15/8 might have been a generous price about today's winner, Flagrant Delitiep who duly obliged at 5/4. This shows that there is still some value about at the sharper end of the market, as those of you who got on last night will have got 150% of SP, which is as good as backing a 6/1 winner at 9's from a value perspective.

Elsewhere, Volcano ran out of steam and was fourth, but I was right about Dusky Lark trying (and failing) to win from the front, we highlighted the place claims of Orrisdale, who was much bigger than 4/1 yesterday, Subcontinent placed once again and we called the last one home correctly. Mind you, as the 125/1 outsider, that's no real achievement. We did, however also guess Subcontinent's jockey change.

So, with plenty going as expected today and another couple of extra pounds in my pocket, I'll move on to Tuesday, where the feature of the day is The Shortlist Report and our free-to-all racecards are for...

  • 12.50 Fairyhouse
  • 1.10 Lingfield
  • 3.10 Wetherby
  • 5.30 Newcastle

I think I'll take a break from full race profiling today and look at the afore-mentioned Shortlist Report...

I'm not really interested in a horse scoring just 9 with doubts over class and trip, but the other three are all green in the areas they've competed. Sadly Bear Ghylls is a non-runner, but we still have two to take a look at.

My aim with the shortlist is not to automatically back Sizing Pottsie & Domaine de L'Isle, but to see if their lines of green are relevant to the task ahead, assess the chances of winning and see whether they're priced fairly. Unfortunately a horse's success at Going/class/course and distance is pretty public knowledge and such horses then tend to be overbet.

We start in Ireland with the 1.20 Fairyhouse, a 5-runner, heavy ground hurdle for 5yo+ over a 2 mile trip...

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A winner last time out (31 days ago) in a grade 2 chase over soft-to heavy ground here at Fairyhouse over this two-mile trip, this 7 yr old gelding now reverts back to hurdling for the first time in seven starts and thirteen months, having won three of those seven over fences. Sadly, his record in three efforts over hurdles isn't as good at 533, but he should at least be coming here with some confidence after a good year chasing.

To convert his shortlist rating into numbers and taking the opportunity to add a few more relevant stats from his career, we can see that he has...

  • 3 wins, 4 places from 10 with a tongue tie & 2 wins, 3 places from 9 going right handed
  • 3 wins, 3 places from 8 over 2 miles & 2 wins, 2 places from 6 in Irish races worth 5-10k
  • 2 wins, 1 place from 4 at this track & 2 wins, 1 place from 4 in fields of 1-7 runners
  • 1 win, 1 place from 3 under today's jockey & 0 wins, 2 places from 3 over hurdles
  • 2 wins from 2 on heavy ground & 1 from 1 at 31-60 days since his last run

His best effort over hurdles came at Navan on his last run before going chasing. That was over 2m on soft ground when 3rd of 23 and beaten by nine lengths in mid-December 2019. If he brings his chasing form to this contest, then he should very well be there or thereabouts, but there's no evidence to suggest that will happen. There's also some concern about the form of the yard, who have saddled just 8 winners from 103 hurdlers (7.8% SR) since the resumption of racing after the lockdown last June.

That, of course, doesn't mean he can't and won't win. Something for me to consider once I've looked at the markets later.

*

Before then, of course, I've got to look at Domaine de L'Isle in the 1.30 Wetherby, a 9-runner, Class 4 Novices Hurdle for 4yo+ horses over 2m5f on Heavy (soft in places) ground...

Runners 7 to 9 are making their debut under Rules and the other six horses have previously won 4 of 21 combined starts before today, so our boy's 3 wins from 9 make him the most experienced and most successful by far. He was in fine form around this time last year when rattling off a 42-day hat-trick of soft/heavy ground chase wins but has been out of the frame of late. That said, having won those three races at Classes 4, 3 and then 2, he has run at the following levels : Listed, Class 2, Gr 3 and C2 again, so a drop into Class 4 company should help.

Like the runner at Fairyhouse, all his best work has been over fences and he is 0 from 2 over the smaller obstacles. He was 3rd of 5 on debut in mid-may 2019 when beaten by 9 lengths over 3m 0.5f at this grade and was 4th of 6 in a Class 2 contest (Ballymore Novice Hurdle) at Cheltenham in October 2020 over 2m5.5f. In his defence that day, he was coming off an absence of 251 days and was quite badly hampered by a faller.

A lack of race sharpness told in the end (not ideal in the closing stages at HQ : the finish here is somewhat more benign) and he ended up 22 lengths behind the eventual winner, Does He Know, who then went on to win a Gr 2 over the same course and distance a month later.

Stat-wise, he has won 3 of 9 races, including under today's conditions...

  • 3/6 on soft/heavy, 3/6 in fields of 8-11 runners & 2/6 going left handed
  • 2/4 on soft, 2/2 in January & 1/2 at Class 4
  • 1/2 on heavy, 0/2 over hurdles and 1/1 over this 2m5f trip

Similarly to the Irish runner, his best chasing form puts him right in the mix here, but with no obvious sign that he might transfer that form. On a positive note, trainer Sean Curran is 9 from 29 (31% SR at an A/E of 2.67) over the past two months. Admittedly much of that action (4 wins from 14) has been on the A/W at Wolverhampton.

Summary

I'd have been far happier had these two Shortlist entries been running in chases, where the decision would probably have been more straightforward, but I can only tackle what's in from out of me, so here goes. Neither of them give much confidence that they'll suddenly start winning over hurdles based on past hurdle form. That said, the Fairyhouse runner is in good form right now and the Wetherby runner is dropping markedly in class.

So, to Sizing Pottsie : I'd have preferred Dreal Deal to beat him with the latter being longer priced and coming off a string of fives wins (3 x hurdles and 2 x flat) over trips ranging from 1m2f to 2m6f on ground ranging from good right through to heavy.

Sadly, whilst I've been writing this piece Dreal Deal seems to have been withdrawn from the race, leaving Sizing Pottsie looking like an odds on favourite. I've no interest in him at such odds and he should win the race (on paper, at least), but Percy Warner is no mug and warrants enough of a risk to deter me, if the 10/11 price tag didn't.

As for Domaine De L'Isle, he's a 4/1 shot which is probably fair. I'd have thought 5/1 possibly, but it's there or thereabouts. In opposition, A Large One Please won well enough last out, newcomer Rockstar Ronnie won a PTP last time and his team, the Skeltons, are in great form, whilst Onward Route ran a good race in defeat on hurdles debut last time out. All three of those are as appealing as Domaine, so I'll swerve what actually looks like a quite competitive contest after all.

The bottom line here is nothing ventured, nothing lost and another reminder that an isolated stat needs backing up. The Shortlist is an excellent report, but should be your way in to analysing a runner rather than being your main reason for backing it.

 

Racing Insights, 11th January 2021

No bet for me on Saturday. which was (just about!) the right decision. Horn of Plenty almost embarrassed me by making the frame at 12/1, but failed by a length to spare my blushes.

Monday's free feature is the pace tab for all races, including our free "races of the day", which are...

  • 2.20 Hereford
  • 2.50 Hereford
  • 3.30 Dundalk
  • 7.15 Wolverhampton

And with heavy ground on the offing at Hereford (which should pass inspection as the ground thaws), we're going to tackle the higher grade of our two featured races from there : the 2.20 Hereford. It's a 9-runner, Class 3, Handicap Chase for 5yos and older over 2m5f on heavy ground and the winner will receive £7,018.

I'd expect Flagrant Delitiep to be a fairly short (7/4-ish) favoruite, but heavy ground is, of course, a great leveller so my aim is to see if we can find a better value alternative to the obvious pick, starting with the racecard itself...

The favourite comes here in good form (421), but the form horse (2311) is the 7yr old Volcano, whilst Dusky Lark was a runner-up 38 days ago. Conversely Last Encounter hasn't fared too well off late, failing to complete three of his last four runs.

Kapgarry and Brianstorm are both dropping down from a Class 2 run last time out, whilst Orrisdale, Flagrant Deltiep, Volcano and Last Encounter are all stepping up from Class 4.

Seven of the nine have had a run in the past 23 to 38 days and Rosmuc Relay has at least been seen in the last two months, but the odd one out, Brianstorm hasn't "graced" a track for almost 22 months (662 days) and it's actually closer to 26 months (780 days) since he last beat an opponent. He has had a wind op during his layoff, but I'd be wary of him doing anything here based on that layoff alone.

Plenty of the trainers have good records here at Hereford, bar Sarah-Jayne Davies (Last Encounter), whilst the jockeys of Kapgarry, Dusky Lark, Flagrant Deltiep and Brianstorm have all had some success at this venue, meaning it's not all bad news for Brianstorm! He, of course, has no Geegeez rating having not seen a fence in the past two years, whilst Last Encounter and Kapgarry are the lowest rated here.

Top rating, unsurprisingly, goes to the probable favourite Flagrant Delitiep, with Volcano back in second place some way clear of the pack.

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In such conditions, horses who proven themselves on heavy ground and/or at this trip are the ones who tend to fare best. This field has four wins and four places from 27 collective efforts on heavy ground and have also won 11 times and made the frame 24 further times from 72 runs over trips of 2m4f to 2m6f. How do I know this? Well I consulted both place and win elements of Instant Expert!

Kapgarry seems to eiher in or fail to make the frame, Dusky Lark is the only heavy ground chase winner in the pack and is a proven placer at both class and trip. Orrisdale has good numbers off a small sample size of races, whilst the fav is also a proven placer, but doesn't excite me from a win perspective at sub-2/1 odds here.

Rosmuc Relay is proven on heavy ground and gets the trip well enough, Brianstorm is a Class 3 placer in the past and Subcontinent's downfall is the ability to convert places into wins. The same could be said for Volcano, whilst I think Last Encounter has seen his best days before now. He might be bottom weight, but he's 11yrs old now and it's the best part of three years since he last looked like winning.

So, Last Encounter is cast aside at this point, as is Brianstorm, not because of the layoff, but because he fulfilled another booking this afternoon and therefore is a likely non-runner here. The layoff would have put me off, but he actually ran really well at Exeter today, finishing as a runner-up beaten by just a length and a half.

That leaves us with seven runners to consider and 2m5f on heavy ground isn't that easy to get and race tactics might play a big part here. Our pace tab isn't going to help us much here today, sadly as this track had only had 3 soft ground 2m5f chases and 2 on heavy over the last two years, but I'd expect prominent or mid-division runners to go well here.

This is purely gut instinct, mind, there's no data or science to support my view, but leaders set themselves up for doing too much and getting caught late on, whilst hold-up horses might have too much to do in the closing stages on testing ground. As I said, it's just my theory, but it won't harm to take a look at how these seven runners have run in the past, would it?

If my musing is correct, then it doesn't bode too well for Dusky Lark's efforts from trying to win from the front, but it certainly doesn't rule any of the others out, so maybe we need to take a closer look at them to see whether we dare risk any of our hard-earned cash on them.

Kapgarry made all to win a Class 3, 2m5m5f chase at Stratford 10 monhs ago, but didn't go well in a Class 2 at Ascot last time out. In his defence, he'll probably have needed the run after 285 days out of action and he does drop in class here. He's a useful enough chaser who could well make the frame if things go his way. His jockey was 6 from 20 (30%) here at Hereford in 2020 including 2 from 5 over fences, but his trainer is 0 from 7 in Hereford chases since winning 3 of 4 in 2016.

Dusky Lark might well have been beaten by 18 lengths last time out, but that run was good enough for second place despite coming off the back of a 621-day absence and a wind op. Provided there are no ill-effects from that run, he'd be entitled to come on for the run. He's also the only previous heavy ground chase winner in this field, but isn't getting any younger at 11 yrs old.

Yard is 3 from 10 in the past four weeks including a win today and also sends the likely fav out here, suggesting this one is second string, a suggestion backed by the jockey booking, although Tom O'Brien was in the first three home on 6 of 11 occasions here at Hereford last year, but sadly won none.

Orrisdale is an interesting and lightly raced sort. 1 from 2 in bumpers, a win and two places from three efforts over hurdles and most recently fourth over fences last time out. Down in trip, but up in class here, has won on heavy already and has also won over 2m4f. A pound lower than LTO and has place claims today.

Flagrant Delitiep has finished 322421 in his last six starts, showing consistency and improvement along the way. All career runs have been at Class 4 since being well beaten on debut in a Class 3 Novice Hurdle. He won a Class 4, soft ground, 2m4.5f chase by 8.5 lengths last time out, but now steps up in class, is slightly up in trip on worse ground and with a new jockey on board,

That's not dismissing the talents of Aidan Coleman, though, who is 8/27 (29.6% SR including 3 from 6 over fences) at this track in recent years, but I'm not sure this one should be a short price today, especially as he's up 9lbs for that last run.

Rosmuc Relay had a decent looking profile on Internet Expert, but closer analysis shows that he really hasn't seen often enough to inspire confidence. A 9 yr old with just six races under Rules suggests something might be amiss with his fitness and his two heavy ground successes came in January & February 2018, so I'd be wary of relying on those as a gauge of his current ability to handle the ground. In his defence, however, he was a runner here over course and distance albeit at Class 4 on soft ground two starts (and 10 months) ago and maybe the drop back to this trip might be enough to propel him into the frame.

Brianstorm ran today and I didn't fancy him anyway if truth be told.

Subcontinent is a perennial placer, making the frame in 44% of his 32 starts across A/W, Flat, Hurdles and Chases, but only has 5 wins from those 32 runs. He was fourth of six and beaten by 15 lengths here over course and distance last time out and has only been eased a pound in the weights for that run. He's due to be ridden by an inexperienced 7lb claimer which would help at the weights, but if Brianstorm is indeed a non-runner, I'd expect regular jockey Charlie Deutsch to jump back on board this one. Not one I'd expect to win here, but like others has a chance of a place.

Volcano is the form horse and comes here seeking a hat-trick after back to back handicap wins at Ludlow and Warwick. He stepped up in class and was raised 5lbs between those two wins and steps up another grade here and is hit with an eye-watering 11lbs for his 3 length win LTO. That's going to make this very tough indeed. The god news is that the jockey from last time retains the ride and the horse will relish a drop back in trip carrying the extra weight. I like this one, but the weight and the class of the race are definite negatives for me.

Last Encounter was discarded earlier and I'd not be surprised if he was last home despite receiving chunks of weight all round

Summary

The fact that Flagrant Delitiep is a 15/8 favourite here says more about the lack of quality in the contest that it does about his own ability, I'm afraid. This is his race to win, quite simply because I can't offer any viable alternatives at a better price.

Volcano (4/1) was the obvious suggestion at a reasonable price, but the rise in class and weight might be his undoing, allied to a trip he's only tried once before, so he's a no from a win perspective and too short for an E/W punt. I ruled Brianstorm and Last Encounter out, of course and if Volcano is second best here, you've then four horses racing for third place and to be honest, they're much of a muchness.

I'd not be getting involved in the E/W market on this occasion and if I decide to have a bet here, it'd be a small one on the fav for a bit of interest and maybe the forecast with Volcano. As you know, I'm not a fan of betting at 9/4 or shorter, but 15/8 here might end up looking generous, although I'd still want more!

 

Racing Insights, 9th January 2021

Saturday's free feature is the marvellous Trainer/Jockey Combo report, whilst (weather permitting) we have half a dozen full free racecards open to non-Gold subscribers and they are...

  • 11.35 Fairyhouse
  • 12.58 Wincanton
  • 1.10 Kempton
  • 1.25 Chepstow
  • 1.45 Kempton
  • 3.25 Lingfield

And I think we'll have a look at the TJ Combo, based on course form over the last 12 months. My criteria are fairly demanding, but they have generated a couple of horses to consider for Saturday at Lingfield.

David Probert has two rides for Andrew Balding here, but Discomatic runs in a Novice Median Auction Stakes and they hold little/no interest to me, so I'm focusing on Horn of Plenty for the Balding/Probert angle here.

Horn of Plenty is a 4 yr old and will line up against eight rivals in a 1m4f, Class 4, Handicap for 4yo+ on standard to slow polytrack with the aim of bringing home a £5207 prize.

The combo is 5 from 18 here over the last 12 months as shown above and this includes...

  • 4/15 on the A/W, 4/12 were unplaced LTO & 3/8 in handicaps
  • 2/7 in January, 2/6 in races worth £4-8k & 2/5 at odds of 15/2 to 10/1
  • 1/6 with females, 1/2 at Class 4 and 0/2 with 4yr olds

The breakdown isn't totally positive, but it does offer some encouragement and the racecard entry looks like this...

That Geegeez Speed rating of 32 is unfortunately the lowest in the race and the other info we can instantly glean from the card is that this filly was sixth a month (31 days) ago, she has ran three times (inc 1 win) since a wind op, she has won at this trip before and she'll be carrying 9st 7lbs off a mark of 79 for a yard short of recent winners.

She has 1 win and 1 place from 4 starts on the A/W with her sole win coming over this 1m4f trip at Wolverhampton two starts ago in a Class 5 novice contest. She stepped up to Class 4 last time out and although beaten by almost eight lengths over 1m3.5f at Kempton, she did run better than the bare result might suggest. She was in touch and making good headway when denied a clear run, she had to change course and never really recovered. The third placed horse that day has reappeared and won since.

Recently stalls five and higher have been the place to be if you wanted to win a 9-runner 1m4f event here at Lingfield, not withstanding the anomaly of stall 8's poor figures and with stalls 6 and 7 making the frame most often, our girl's draw from box 6 might be a good one.

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Much will also depend on race tactics. Of those 71 races above prominent and held-up horses have won most of the time, but there's not a massive win % difference across all four run styles ie

and we can then also find that leaders from a middle draw fared best, followed by highly-drawn prominent runners tucked in behind them with third best going to high draws dropped in at the back...

...so we could really do with Horn of Plenty being a front runner, but that wouldn't appear to be the case and she was, in fact, held up last time out...

giving her the following heat map...

...which isn't ideal, if I'm honest, but more on her chances shortly, after I've looked at the other possible.

*

Seven pound claimer Rhys Clutterbuck is in the early days of his career and apart from his rides for Gary Moore here at Lingfield, he's just 9 from 109 (8.26% SR), but in contrast is 5 from 15 (33.3%) here for Mr Moore over the last year and now rides the 6 yr old mare, Agent of Fortune in a 13-runner, Class 5, 4yo+ handicap over 7f.

The TJ combo record of 5 from 15 here over the last 12 months can be broken down in respect of today's contest as follows...

  • 5/15 in handicaps, 3/12 on the A/W, 3/5 at Class 5
  • 2/3 at 7-7.5f, 1/10 at odds bigger than 6/1, 1/9 on runners unplaced LTO
  • 1/4 on females, 1/1 on 6 yr olds and 0/1 in January

Class 5 handicaps are good from the above, but not much else to give us confidence other than possibly the trip, so let's look at Agent of Fortune's racecard entry...

So, with a non-runner, she'll be drawn in 9 of 13 and comes here in pretty poor form if truth be told, but it wasn't always that way. 13 months ago she embarked on a 10-race, 11-week, purple patch where she took her official mark from 50 to 81 (she goes off 72 here) by finishing 1114121113 and she's 3 from 8 at this track. She's been off the boil of late, though, finishing no better than seventh in any of her subsequent nine starts and her Geegeez Speed Rating of 48 is just 1pt higher than the two joint lowest scores in this race.

She actually scores quite favourably on Instant Expert...

...as she attempts to land a race where stalls 3 to 9 have seemed to fare best of late...

Our girl is drawn in 10 which will be 9, so that might work out. Once again pace and race positioning hold the key to this (and most) race and the pace/draw heat map...

...says the preferences are Low drawn leaders, mid drawn leaders and highly drawn prominence. This suggests that we'd need Agent of Fortune to race prominently to maximise her chances, but sadly she's a mid division type at best, as seen below...

...all of which is less ideal than the first horse we looked at.

Summary

I won't be backing either of these and I expect both to be much nearer the back than the front at the end of the race, so I won't bother with doing a deeper analysis of each horse, but this hasn't been a waste of my time and I hope you don't feel you've wasted yours by reading this piece.

The takeway from this is that it's very easy to read online or in a paper or to hear from a friend about how well jockey x rides for trainer y at track z and they've only got one runner there tomorrow, so they can't be going there for nothing, can they? Well, if I had a pound for every time I'd heard similar, I wouldn't need to back horses!

What we do here at Geegeez is give you that bottom line stat as a starting point, not a direction to bet. We give you the tools highlighted above plus the full race form and profiler etc and advise you to pick the stat apart. If the stat still stands up, great, you might still have the chance of a bet, but quite often it's like today and the stat is just another piece of data to file away in your mind for another day.

There's nothing wrong with analysing a race and then walking away from it. We want everyone to get that same mindset to just have a bet when there's one there to be had. Theres' none for me here, so I'll sign off by wishing you a great weekend and I'll be back on Sunday evening.

 

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