With Cheltenham so close, Saturday’s live racing is understandably a little short on quality but there are still some interesting betting heats. One of those interesting races is the Veterans’ Handicap Chase (1.15pm) at Newbury. It’s only open to 10yo+ so we don’t have to worry about any unexposed lurkers, we can simply sift through the proven form and find the best bet in conditions.
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The Pace Analyser tool will show us any likely pace bias in conditions over this sort of distance.
We often see a front running bias at many courses, across many trips, and marathon distances at Newbury are no different. Front runners over 3m+ at Newbury on good or good to soft ground have the best win percentage, place percentage, win PL, EW PL and IV of any run style. Front runners have been profitable to back blind, producing a win PL of 8.25, and it’s difficult to argue that they aren’t favoured here.
The place percentage data carries most weight in this data sample and although the success rates increase the closer to the pace a horse is ridden, it should be noted that the place percentage for front runners is 35.71% and the place percentage for horses that are held up in the rear is 28.74%. That’s not a huge difference and the pace bias at Newbury should be considered relatively minor, but still worthy of consideration.
With only a slight pace bias here the pace setup of the individual race is probably going to have a bigger impact on a pace bias in this race.
It's looking pretty likely that we’ll see a contested pace here with three potential front runners (Strong Pursuit, Valadom and also Present Man). Even The Kings Writ has led early in a race this season.
This pace setup here is likely to swing things in favour of those that are patiently ridden. There are plenty of well fancied runners that should be nearer the rear of the field early, including Sir Ivan, Shantou Village, West Approach and Singlefarmpayment.
In a race full of exposed handicappers Instant Expert is likely to be more insightful than ever. First let’s look at the place data to establish the more solid contenders.
A surprisingly average set of contenders above, despite being fairly flexible with the filters. On the face of things, Present Man, West Approach, Valadom and The Kings Writ all look pretty solid and interestingly three of those might be inconvenienced by the pace set up, whilst West Approach was noted as perhaps being advantaged by the pace setup.
Form on better ground is going to be important and Valadom, Present Man and Singlefarmpayment all do relatively well on this kind of ground. West Approach and Shantou Village have also done okay on this kind of ground but the remaining five runners have a worrying record on the ground, especially the well fancied Sir Ivan who has failed to place in five of his six chase runs on good or good to soft ground.
Amazingly these runners have had a combined eleven runs at Newbury over fences and not one of those has resulted in a place.
There are some serious distance question marks amongst the shorter prices with Shantou Village, Sir Ivan and Strong Pursuit all having failed to place at either this distance or slightly further. The Kings Writ, West Approach and Valadom have all performed far better.
Sir Ivan and Strong Pursuit are negatives in this field size too but that’s only in chase handicaps, they are proven in this field size in other races.
Now let’s look at the win data, tightening up a couple of the filters.
The very few positives are Present Man’s win record in this class, Valadom’s win record at this trip and Shantou Village’s win record in this field size.
The list of major negatives might be a bit longer! Six of this field have not won a handicap chase on either good or good to soft ground. The majority of these have never won a class 2 chase and what is more worrying is only three of these runners have ever won over this trip. Despite these runners largely being past their prime, only three of these runners are below their most recent winning handicap mark. Sizing Codelco is 13lbs lower, Shantou Village is 11lbs lower and Strong Pursuit is 9lbs lower than his last winning mark. Present Man, Sir Ivan and Singlefarmpayment are all just 1lb above their last winning marks so aren’t necessarily particularly well handicapped whilst the worst handicapped runner could be The Kings Writ who is 15lbs above his last winning mark.
Let’s take a look at each individual runner, in current odds order.
Clearly capable off this sort of mark having scraped home by a nose in October off a 1lb lower mark, on this ground. He hasn’t been in the same form on his last two starts though, including in Veterans’ company last time out. He’s won first time out in four of the last five seasons so clearly goes well fresh and it may be significant here that he’s been given a 108 day break.
He’s never quite convinced with his stamina over this far but that’s generally been in tougher races than this. However, being taken on for the lead over this trip could have consequences.
A poor scorer on Instant Expert but he’s well fancied in the betting because he’s coming here in much better form than many. He does have some decent form on a range of ground conditions but his trainer has previously stated he doesn’t want it firmer than good to soft. He’s also only gone further than 3m twice and he failed to complete on both attempts. That clearly doesn’t prove a lack of stamina but stamina does have to be taken on trust. For a horse that hasn’t won over fences for 3.5 years and has stamina to prove he’s a very short price.
He ran well behind Present Man in October but like that horse, hasn’t done as well in two runs since. He unseated his rider at the first on the following start which is forgivable and was below par on his most recent run but that was on soft ground. Eight of his nine wins have come on good ground and the other was on good to soft so it’s fair to say the ground was against him on that occasion but will be with him here.
The main question mark here is the distance according to Instant Expert. He’s never won over further than 2m7f under rules and he was tailed off when pulled up on his only try over course and distance. It’s possible this race just falls apart and he could win despite likely stamina limitations but he may struggle to get home once again.
In good form over a furlong shorter on good ground in October, he’s another who struggled in soft ground over the winter months. He has previously won on soft and heavy though so the ground isn’t a completely valid excuse this time around. He did run better on slightly better ground just 10 days ago but still needs to step forward from that form.
Stamina is no issue whatsoever, nor is the ground. He went close off a 2lb higher mark in October so he’s not badly handicapped. The question mark with this runner is his consistency. All his wins have come in field sizes of 7 or less but he has finished runner up in a 15 runner handicap so it can’t all be put down to field size.
No wins since December 2016 for this runner and despite being an 11yo he’s never won a handicap chase. It’s also worth nothing the bulk of his best form has come at Cheltenham.
Stamina is no issue with this runner but current form certainly is. He’d make some sort of appeal if this race was at Cheltenham but away from that venue he just doesn’t look good enough – and that’s saying something in this company.
Fairly interesting here on the basis of a 1st and a 2nd in three runs here, albeit the better two runs were outside of handicap company. He’s comfortable on good to soft ground but he was withdrawn because of good ground in October. His better runs have come over shorter too so there are plenty of negatives here, especially as he’s likely to be taken on for the lead.
A winner on his last run over fences and ran fairly well over hurdles in December last time out. He’s been running over shorter this season but did win over 25f a year ago on soft so he certainly has stamina. He’s a sound jumper who has won four times on good ground and he definitely has one of the more solid profiles coming into this. His best runs have generally come when getting a soft lead though and he looks very unlikely to get that here.
The Kings Writ
Both wins (and one 2nd) have come at Exeter and he has suffered defeat in nine straight handicap chases since winning off a mark of 124, a mark 15lbs lower than the one he carries here. The trip is no problem and he’s been in decent enough form this season but he looks far better going right handed and his better form is also on softer ground so he’s easy enough to take on.
Hasn’t completed a race in over a year and has been pulled up in two of his last three starts which is a big worry. His best form is on softer ground over slightly shorter trips so he doesn’t appeal here, even on his best form.
He's only beaten three runners home across six races since May 2018 and clearly has issues that delve deeper than his handicap mark. He has been okay on this sort of ground over this kind of distance in the past but he looks unlikely to run anywhere near his best having had few excuses in suitable races over the past year or so.
You rarely get a perfect runner in one of these veterans’ races and that’s certainly the case in this contest where all runners have at least a couple of question marks hanging over their heads.
Valadom would have been very interesting with an easier lead but he’ll almost certainly be taken on for a lead here and might struggle to get home in the circumstances.
I’m going to take a slight chance on West Approach here. He does need to pick up his form a little but unlike the majority of the field the distance AND the going is fine and he’s shown this season that the handicap mark isn’t beyond him. Because of his inconsistencies he doesn’t appeal as an each way bet but should be worth a small win only wager in this contest.