Sod's Law was very much in force at Wolverhampton this afternoon, as my four-runner shortlist filled three of the four places offered by SkyBet amongst others. Sadly, the one I omitted from my final advice went on to win at 11/2. I was, however, pleased with Leodis Dream finishing fourth at 9/1, only a length and a half off the winner and backed at an advised 16/1.
As for the winner, I did say..."I thought HSB might have been a bit longer than that and although I might regret it, I'll give him a miss at 14's" and thus the law of Sod kicked in.
So, neither happy nor sad about that outcome, we move on to Friday, where the daily free feature is the Horses for Courses report and the free racecards cover...
- 2.25 Cheltenham
- 3.00 Cheltenham
- 3.43 Sligo
- 5.03 Doncaster
- 8.00 Newcastle
- 8.15 Dundalk
So, let's take a look at the first of our free races, the 2.25 Cheltenham (you know it's the jumps season when Chelts appears on the cards) : a 6-runner, Class 2 Novices Chase for 5yo+ over 3m on good ground, with the winner receiving a more than useful £12.5k. My initial feeling was that I liked Soldier of Love for this race with Clondaw Caitlin being a possible E/W punt at double digit odds (hopefully)
But when you already like two runners in a field of six, it pays to look closer at the race, because you might have missed something, so here goes...
Plenty of good recent form for jockeys and trainers (14, 30) and whilst we've only got six runners, their formlines are littered with wins. In fact, between them they have won 28 times in 71 efforts, a strike rate of almost 40%, so some good runners on show here.
Instant Expert for this race tells us that...
...from a place perspective, all those who have raced on good ground have fared well enough, the top three especially so. Not much class/course achievement to discuss, whilst the four who have tackled this trip have managed to see it out successfully at least once with Doctor Duffy and Soldier of Love looking like proven stayers. I don't always set much too much stall out for field size, but a small number of runners hasn't proved a problem for these six in the past.
Sometimes, a Geegeez report will be inconclusive and I think the above doesn't really do much for us today, so let's consider the win element of the same report...
...where Soldier of Love's record at this trip is a standout piece of data here.
Now, many people think pace is mainly relevant to shorter trip Flat and A/W contests and surely wouldn't have much bearing on a 3m+ chase, but they'd actually be very wrong. The pace make-up of any race is important and in such contests here at HQ, you don't want to go off too quickly nor too slowly. You want to be "handy", shall we say? Anyway, as ever, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I''ll stop rambling...
Once again, Soldier of Love looks to have a positive pace make-up for this race, as does Clondaw Caitlin, but now let's take a closer look at the six runners individually...
Ask Dillon : Reasonable record over hurdles, including wins at 2m5.5f and 2m6f, whilst also making the frame in both starts at 2m7.5f. This is a bit further for him, but as all his hurdles form was on Good to Soft or softer, stamina shouldn't be an issue.
Fergal O'Brien's chasers sent at 14/1 and shorter are 7 from 29 (24.1% SR) here at Cheltenham since 2016, but this one has no win higher than Class 3 and has been off the track for over seven months, since being well beaten by 36 lengths here in March and carries joint top weight now.
Clondaw Caitlin : The only mare in the race, therefore receiving weight all round. A former bumper winner who was three from three over hurdles last season, including landing a Gr2 over 2m2f at Kelso back in February when taking the boys on for the first time.
Her breeding suggests she'll take to fences, but she has also been off the track for over seven months and steps up markedly in trip today, but trainer Ruth Jefferson has an 18% strike rate (18 from 100) with her runners stepping up in trip, of which LTO winners are 7 from 21.
Doctor Duffy : has already competed over fences seven times, winning twice and making the frame on three other occasions. Has finished 113F since adopting a visor and I'm happy to overlook that fall last time out, when he was bumped by a rival at the first fence. Prior to that (non)run, he had won a Gr2 at Ballinrobe followed by a third in a Gr1 at Listowel.
Galvin : Trainer Gordon Elliott has won this race twice (2010 & 2011) and will have high hopes about this one who was a runner-up at the festival here in March behind Imperial Aura.
A winner of three novice events in Ireland so far this season, including a Gr3 last time out early this month and will be expected to make bold bid of improving his yard's record of 7 wins from 34 (20.6%) in Class 2 chases here at Cheltenham since 2016.
Mossy Fen : First time over fences, but this son of super-sire Milan was 3 from 5 over hurdles, including landing a Gr2 at Warwick in January before finishing a creditable if fairly well beaten (23 lengths) firth behind Envoi Allen in the Ballymore at the festival here back in March.
He's inexperienced/unexposed depending on your viewpoint, he'll get the trip and had bundles of ability, but the lack of a chase run might undo him. Mind you, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has 17 from 71 (23.9%) record in October with first time chasers, including 13 from 51 (25.5%) in Novice contests.
Soldier of Love : trainer Paul Nicholls has won this contest four times in the past fourteen runnings and will have every chance of going five from fifteen with this seven year old gelding who has been a revelation since a wind op.
One win in seven pre-operation and a formline of F1111 since, with a fall at the last when leading at Kempton the only post-surgery blemish. The going/trip/field size will all suit him and he gets on great with jockey Harry Cobden and the only negative I have with him is that he has never raced at a higher level than Class 3.
I set about this race, because I had a gut feeling that I'd need to pick between an E/W bet on Clondaw Caitlin, a win bet on Soldier of Love or both, but now I'm really not so sure. You can actually make a good case for all six runners, whilst there are reasons for not backing any of the six.
This now looks like a really good contest and I'd expect it to be very competitive and as such, I'll not be placing a bet at all. This is perfectly fine with me and also with the ethos of Geegeez overall. If the analysis of a race doesn't make the decision any easier or any clearer, then I'm of the opinion, you leave it alone.
However, I might have highlighted something above that ticks an extra box for you and I certainly won't put you off having a bet, but I'll be sitting this one out with my feet up and a cold beer.