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Racing Insights, 26th October 2020

I liked Indian Pursuit's chances at 3/1 on Saturday and got some value with him going off at 9/4. As expected, Rocketeer set off quickly and our boy overhauled him as planned and all was going well until a 16/1 shot finished best of all, beating us by a neck. As for the second runner, Mr Wagyu, the cards and associated data said he was a no-hoper and so it proved as he finished 9th of 10 at 20/1.

Monday heralds the start of a new week for Racing Insights and the free feature of the day is access to the Pace tab for ALL races, whilst the free racecards cover...

  • 12.40 Redcar
  • 1.15 Redcar
  • 2.30 Galway
  • 3.10 Leicester
  • 3.55 Newcastle
  • 4.15 Galway

And the one I'm going to look at is the 1.15 Redcar, a 9-runner, Class 3, Flat Handicap for 3yo+ over a mile with the winner receiving £7763 and we start with the racecard sorted into Geegeez Speed rating order...

As you can see, Young Fire, Al Erayg and Stone Soldier head the rankings, whilst we should note the good recent form (14, 30) of James Fanshawe's runners (Turn on the Charm) and also jockey Ella McCain (Al Erayg) with her useful 7lb claim. Track-wise, trainer Mark Johnston (Striding Edge) looks to do well here (C5), whilst trainer James Given (Stone Soldier) and jockey Tony Hamilton (Memory Dream) haven't fared too well here of late (C5 and C1 respectively).

The draw data is fairly inconclusive with no real apparent bias on show for this type of contest, so no positives nor negatives here, as shown below...

...so with the draw alone not providing any clues and the pace tab being the free daily feature, we really should consider how the two marry together...

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...obviously we have no data for the UK debutant Memory Dream, but the heat map suggests Poet's Dawn will lead, but that's not usually a good tactic here. Not many seem to have the ideal pace/draw matchup, but Crownthorpe and Turn on the Charm seem to be best suited, whilst I wouldn't be too put off by the way Al Erayg, Striding Edge or Stone Soldier look either.

So, we've got some names being mentioned several times already, but not there's not enough in the above for me to make a decision, so let's have a look at each runner in turn to see if there's anything of note in their past performances, so in alphabetical order...

Al Erayg : Only 1 win in 25 on the Flat and that's not inspiring, but that win was here at Redcar over course and distance on soft ground, wearing cheekpieces and a tongue tie in a 16-runner handicap just two starts and 23 days ago.

Only beaten by 4 lengths in a soft ground Class 2 contest last time out and conditions will be very similar here today, as he takes a drop in class and the booking of an in-from (has won her last three) 7lb claimer is another positive.

Crownthorpe : At the end of last season, his figures said he had two wins and two places from five runs on soft ground, he had three wins at this trip and two wins at this grade.

Based on the above he'd be a real contender, but he has looked really out of sorts this campaign, making the frame just once in four attempts and although a drop in class should help him, it's hard to justify putting any money down.

Global Spirit : Has had a really good season with two wins and two places from seven starts, the latest being a career best effort to land a 16-runner affair on soft ground at York seventeen days ago.

He's up in both class and trip today and with a 5lb hike in weights on top of that, I'd say this should be beyond him from a win perspective at least, although he does go best under today's jockey, Ben Curtis, as they have 4 wins and 3 places from 10 races together.

Memory Dream : No UK form to discuss and a first start for trainer Ivan Furtado and hasn't had an outing for four months since finishing last of nine in a listed contest.

He was two from six in France, winning on soft and very soft over 7.5f, so conditions shouldn't be too far beyond him, but a mark of 97 looks excessive.

Poet's Dawn : Will probably attempt to win this from the front, a tactic that doesn't usually work in this type of race and although he did win a Class 3 handicap over 1m2f on soft ground at Ripon in August adopting the same tactics, he has been disappointing on two runs since off marks of 83 and 84.

Still rated 83, I think the handicapper has him held here and when you consider that he's 0/5 here at Redcar, 0/11 over a mile and 0/11 under today's jockey, you'd have to fancy others before him.

Stone Soldier : An A/W winner two starts ago, but is only 1/10 on the Flat and was well beaten last time out finishing 11 lengths behind the re-opposing Al Erayg over course and distance here.

He has won on soft ground previously and has also won under today's jockey. As Al Erayg is now ridden by a 7lb claimer, Stone Soldier is now even worse off at the weights, which means he's even less likely to overturn the 11 length deficit.

Striding Edge : Useful but inconsistent/unreliable type. Has won three times and placed twice from ten starts this season, but has finished 11th of 11, 13th of 13, 1st of 7 and 8th of 9 in his last four starts, which backs up the useful but unreliable tag.

In his defence, he is 1 from 1 at Class 3 on turf and has two wins and a place from four starts at this trip, but has never run on anything softer than good ground, is 0/3 under Franny Norton. He could win this at a big price, but is equally or more likely to come home stone last!

Turn On The Charm : Likely to be very popular, comes here in good form, has a top jockey on board and the Geegeez racecards suggest a good run.

Back to back wins (C4, 1m & C3, 8.5f) off marks of 77 and 82 send him here seeking a hat-trick, but he's raised another 6lbs here and has never encountered soft ground before. Major player if he handles the extra weight and the soft ground.

Young Fire : Speedy sort (top of our ratings) who was only beaten by less than four lengths over 6f in the Class 2 Ayr Gold Cup. Prior to that he had landed a Class 3 soft ground handicap at Haydock, whilst last time out, he was within three lengths of the winner in a Class 2 1m contest at York on soft.

This is a drop in both class and competitiveness and a similar effort to that York run would put him right in the mix here. He has two wins and place from five on soft ground and a similar record under today's jockey, but a 0/7 record at 7.5f-1m is an obvious black mark, as is the burden of top weight.

Summary

Turn on the Charm looks amongst the likely contenders here but at a price of 6/4 (Sunday 6.20pm), I can't back him : I can't see how the market rates him that much more likely to win than the others especially off such a high mark and on a soft ground debut.

So, the two I do like here are Al Arayg and Young Fire. Al Arayg looks long at 12/1 to me, based on what I've written above. I expected around 8/1 to 10/1, so he's a positive here, even from an E/W perspective.

Young Fire was 2.5 lengths ahead of him last time out and provided he doesn't leave his charge for the line too late, he should be a solid 5/1 pick here.

Elect For Presidential At Big Price In Doncaster Handicap

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

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

Draw

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

Doncaster Draw Data

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

Pace

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

Doncaster 7f Pace Bias Data

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

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

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

Doncaster 7f Handicap Pace Map

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

Doncaster Trainers

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

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Trainer Data For Doncaster Handicaps

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

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

The Runners

Bear Force One

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

Tomfre

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

Firmanent

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

Musicality

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

Grove Ferry

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

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

Queens Sargent

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

Fortamour

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

Arbalet

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

Ejtilaab

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

Get Knotted

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

Breanski

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

Presidential

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

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

Alemaratalyoum

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

Zap

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

True Blue Moon

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

National League

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

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

Verdict

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

Bear Force One
Grove Ferry
Fortamour
Breanski
Presidential
National League

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anthony Honeyball Stable Tour 2020/21

On the eve of Anthony Honeyball's first intended runners of the 2020/21 National Hunt season, I caught up with the progressive Dorset handler to discuss his team - sponsored by geegeez.co.uk - for the campaign ahead.

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It's an exciting blend of unraced stores, novices and experienced handicappers which should pay to follow.

Here, Anthony discusses current plans.

Click here to view Anthony's current entries and recent results

 

HorseThoughts/ plan for this season?
ACEY MILAN (IRE)Goes novice chasing this season, wants ground on the easy side of good; 2m2f-3m nov hcap chase maybe Aintree early Nov. Feel his mark is workable in spite of performing well last season. Hoping he can progress into pattern chases.
AVOIR DE SOINS (IRE)He's had his problems but hopeful he can win a little handicap hurdle if his jumping holds up; if he can win one he might end up winning three! First things first, though.
BELLE DE MANECH (FR)Nice filly. Seems to handle any ground, will start in a mares' maiden hurdle; nearly ready to run. Home work is good, ignore final run last season where she was probably feeling the effects of a gruelling race at Ascot. Nice mare to follow.
BLEUE AWAY (IRE)Had an issue with cramping at the back end of her race; really pleased with her now and hopefully she'll go well in a mares' maiden hurdle early November. Really good jumper, probably start over two miles, ridden positively. Very hopeful.
BOB BACKUS (IRE)Taking his time to come to hand, and might need a bit of experience in novice hurdles; perhaps won't fully come to himself until novice handicap chases.
CAPTAIN CLAUDEHalf brother (Flinck) placed in Silver Trophy so promising sign. Just getting going now so hope to run in a bumper in Spring.
COQUELICOT (FR)Very strong galloper. Was a star for the yard and her owners (a geegeez syndicate) last season, winning three (including Listed bumper). The further she goes the better she goes. She'll start off in a maiden hurdle and then go down the mares' novice route, hopefully ending up at Cheltenham in March.
DEJA VUE (IRE)Schooled really well over fences; appreciates heavy ground and front running. Small field mares' novice chase and proper winter ground will be ideal for her.
DON LAMITrained really well so far, wants good to soft ground and should be competitive in three mile handicap chases, hopefully still progressive
DREAMING BLUE (GB)Has the stamina to make a juvenile; schooling has been fine, improving each time. Excited to see how he fares, probably starting next month. Also has the option to have a run or two on the flat.
FANFARON DINO (FR)Huge horse; showed well in bumper but no good twice in novice hurdles; bred to be very good (half brother to Champion Hurdler, Epatante). Might be seen to better effect in handicaps. Soft/heavy, 2m4f
FIRESTREAM (GB)Spring horse, strong pedigree. Could be very nice.
GABRIEL’S GETAWAY (GB)Staying pedigree, so likely to need more time. Might be ready for a spring bumper but more likely one for next season
GLORIOUS ISOLATION (IRE)Schooled eye-catchingly well, and has a fair engine. Might go straight to mares' maiden hurdles to make use of her athleticism.
GUSTAVIAN (IRE)Goes into handicaps off 120 which looks a decent starting perch. Dropped in usually because he's keen at home; but ended up having a bit too much to do more than once. There weren't many hurdles to jump the day he won, but he did it well. He's talented and will be well in if not pulling his chance away. Might progress to be a Pertemps type.
HIDEAWAY VIC (IRE)Going chasing. Schooled very well. Has had breathing issues, had a wind op. Handles deep ground, but 120 may not be a gimme in novices' handicap chases. That said, hoping he can win off that mark. Soft ground, 2m4f-3m
HOWLINGMAD MURDOCK (IRE)Apart from the name, he has a fair bit going for him! Brother to Easy As That, who is a very talented horse. Very straightforward so far. Looking towards spring bumpers with him.
JEPECK (IRE)Qualified already for the veterans' final, and that will be his primary target.
KAYF SERA SERA (GB)Another who if she wins one she might run up a sequence. Ran well on her debut at Ffos Las but not gone on over hurdles. Should improve with another summer on her back and may just need her first run back.
KHALINA STAR (GB)Geegeez syndicate mare. Still growing, good size; will come back in when the weather gets colder and be aimed at a spring bumper
KID COMMANDO (GB)Lovely horse, ran a cracker in the G2 Dovecote Hurdle. Always wants to please. Will ideally like 2m4f, softish ground, and could feasibly handicapped even off 136. Ready to go towards end of October, maybe at Aintree and then on to Haydock on Betfair Chase day.
KILCONNY BRIDGE (IRE)Mares' handicap hurdle at Wincanton next month is the initial target for her, then go from there. Tough ask off 126 but she's earned that after four wins last season. She'll jump a fence, maybe later in the season. Has schooled nicely, though may want to go right-handed
LE COEUR NET (FR)Quietly progressive from season to season, now rated 115, and will probably follow a similar path to last season (conditionals' race at Newbury, handicap chase at Wincanton)
LILITH (IRE)Think she wants soft ground - she has a very high knee action; looking forward to getting her over fences but will go novice hurdling this season. 2m4f mares maiden hurdle mid-Nov onwards in the mud
LILY THE PINK (GB)Has a bit of scope and may be interesting over a fence, but we may try to win one more handicap hurdle first.
MARCO ISLAND (IRE)Lovely big horse, aiming for a bumper in the spring but may not be quite ready until next autumn. Very much a chaser in the making
MARILYN MONROE (IRE)Runs off a lowly mark, and if she has any ability should be able to win races on decent ground. She is quirky but has schooled well and will be ready to go soon.
MIDNIGHT CALLISTO (GB)Lovely mare, schooling well; ready to go now in a mares' maiden hurdle. Has minor black type already, and looking forward to seeing how far she can go in that sphere.
MIDNIGHT TUNE (GB)Had a palate fire; pulled up in two of her last three, and this will probably be her final season before going to the paddocks. She'll be aimed at decent mares' chases and/or good class staying handicap chases. We love her to bits, and she owes the yard nothing.
MONT SEGUR (FR)Few little setbacks but has run very well in between. Quirky but really talented; schooled well over hurdles but won't go novice hurdling until after a bumper (or two) at Ascot end of the month.
MOONDANCER (GB)Well related to flat horses, smart flat pedigree but doesn't behave like a flat horse. Slowly getting the hang of things, and will be aimed at bumpers late this year.
NOCTURNAL MYTH (GB)Good work horse at home. Got a fair mark, had a wind op, should go very well in a handicap hurdle. Will then kick on over fences. Could be a lot of fun if he clicks this season.
PRECIOUS (IRE)Very (like, very!) big mare, and carries a lot of condition; but she always responds in her work. Hoping she'll be ready to go in November (both her sisters have won bumpers)
PURE VISION (IRE)Pretty good on his day but hasn't taken much racing in recent times; had a palate fire. Goes on any ground, probably better on softer side, 3m+. Everything seems right just now so hoping he'll be competitive again.
REGAL ENCORE (IRE)Superstar for the yard, likely to go back to Ascot before heading towards Aintree. Plan is well understood after a number of years the same: try to win a valuable handicap at Ascot before a tilt at the National. That said, might have a spin in the Becher this season.
REPRESENTED (IRE)Back cantering; wants quicker ground. Has had over a year out, but is looking really well now and hoping he's nicely handicapped off 107
ROCKET ROBBO (GB)Juvenile bumper horse. Quite pleased with him; he was bred by his owner who also bred Malinas Jack. Robbo was a little tentative at first but has been getting the hang of things. Hopefully be ready for a junior bumper in early December.
SAM BROWN (GB)Doing well. Planning to go to Haydock on Betfair Chase day where there's a valuable graduation chase, 2m5f. After that, not sure: maybe Welsh National, maybe the Grade 2 chase at Cheltenham on New Year's Day. But first things first!
SOJOURN (IRE)Could have a nice weight for something like Welsh National; would have to win another smaller race first and then aim for a nice pot. Maybe the Tommy Whittle or something of that ilk.
SOLDIER OF FORTUNE x QUIET THOUGHTNice filly, will aim for spring bumper; if not, autumn.
SULLY D’OC AA(FR)Talented horse; had a palate fire just to give him every chance, feel like there's a very good handicap in him. Might want to run on good to soft ground, and definitely has a playable mark. Could drop back to two miles.
SWINCOMBE FLEAT (GB)Related to Firestream, be running in a bumper in November we hope. Good size, learning all the time, feels like a nice mare. Hopeful she'll go close on debut.
UCANAVER (GB)Really caught the eye when second to Coquelicot, with a winner in third and distance to the rest. Will run in a mares' bumper this week and looking forward to seeing how she goes.
WAGNER (IRE)Very nice horse; hard to know where to start: could go handicap hurdling but he has schooled well over fences, too, so a bit of a conundrum. Could be progressive, and seems nicely handicapped.
WINDANCE (IRE)May have another run in a bumper before going novice hurdling; schooling well though so could go straight down that route.
WINDSWEPT GIRL (IRE)Another geegeez mare, she keeps surprising us. We don't really know what her level is as she only ever does enough at home. She's very laid back, but won a minute at Taunton, albeit in a weak-looking race. Will either school more and go mares' maiden hurdling, or she'll run in another bumper; probably the latter.
WORLD OF DREAMS (IRE)Super pedigree, close up to Samcro on the page. Ready to run in a bumper in a fortnight or so.
YOU CAUGHT MY EYE (IRE)Stayed on really well in a weakish bumper; will stay in bumpers for now before going mares' maiden hurdling.

Pace Analysis in Action: A See-Saw Day

In this article I am going to go through a betting process / approach that I used over a day of racing primarily deploying the pace data found on Geegeez, writes Dave Renham. When there is a strong pace bias at a particular course and distance I would argue that this is the most important factor to take into consideration. The aim when studying each race is to hopefully pinpoint value selections using pace as the key consideration.

Different punters have different approaches to how they bet. Some vary staking, some stick to a price band, some dutch more than one runner; for me I tend to steer away from short prices and I am not averse to backing two or three runners in the same race. I am not saying this is necessarily the best strategy, but it is a strategy I am most comfortable with. I also often bet each way – again not the method for some but it is frequently my preference.

Some days can pass by with limited or no pace betting opportunities; however when looking at the racing for Monday 12th October 2020 there were several races that caught my eye. I always lookout for certain courses and Musselburgh is one such course. On this Monday there were races that potentially offered us a real pace edge. Below I will look at each one individually and go through how I ‘tackled’ each one; as you'll see, it didn't all go my way - far from it - but the value game is about profit, not winners, and one good score was enough to finish in front.

1.30 Musselburgh – this was a 7f handicap and my starting point was this screenshot from Geegeez:

 

As a numbers man I prefer looking at the ‘data’ view rather than the graphic or heat map option and I order the four-race pace totals highest to lowest. I also change the going to cover all possible goings as my starting point and then narrow down to more specific goings when required. From the article I wrote about Musselburgh I know the bias seems to strengthen on softer ground as this graphic when looking at good to soft to heavy going shows:

 

I also adjusted the numbers of runners depending on the data set; here, with it being an 11-runner race, I have used 10 to 12 runners. If the data set was small I would increase this to perhaps 9 to 13 or 8 to 14.

Looking at the horses now, the race was not stacked with pace. Kupa River has the highest pace score of 14 having led early in two of his last four starts. Looking further back he has only led three times in the last ten runs. This tempers my enthusiasm in terms of him leading. I’m not saying he won’t, maybe the last four runs have persuaded the trainer that racing ‘on the front end’ is his best tactic. Alix James is next highest on 13 having led once and raced prominently three times in his last four runs. Going back further he has led in four of his last seven starts winning twice. There is a potential excuse, too, for perhaps not leading on his last two runs as he was drawn wide at both Ayr and Haydock making it difficult to cross to the inside and lead. There were three other horses that had led once in their last four starts but none of them had a long term front-running pace profile.

So Alix James looked the most likely front runner to me in a race of little pace. His draw, though, for the third race running was high (away from the inside). However, before putting a line through him I wanted to look at the draw/pace combinations data which you can find in the ‘draw’ tab of the race in question. Here I found some good news:

 

As can be seen, being drawn high is not such an insurmountable challenge for horses to a) get to the lead, and b) be successful. Inside draws (low) do lead more often but in reality there is little in it. High draws actually have the best strike rate which is a clear positive.

Alix James looked the pace angle to me so I just wanted to check other factors about this horse. I noted he was two from two at the course having won over course and distance in July on good to soft. He was only 2lbs higher here and the class of the race was the same. The main ‘fly in the ointment’ was his last run when he was beaten out of sight when favourite. Last year I noted he ran very poorly at Ayr in September but, eight days later, returned to form finishing a decent 3rd at Chester: he had proved he can bounce back from a poor run.

My conclusion was that Alix James was the value option. If he led early then there was an excellent chance he would at least hit the frame. He was forecast at 14/1 but the best I managed to get was 15/2 BOG. I backed him each way as I felt, with a shortish priced favourite and a race lacking depth, that was the right call.

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What happened in the actual race?

The start of the race panned out as planned with Alix James getting to the lead; however, he was never in complete control up front and despite still being in front three furlongs from home, he started to fade in the final quarter mile. He finished a pretty distant 8th of 10 in the end (there was a non runner).

Conclusion: I feel it is really important to have a personal debrief after each race whether your bet was successful or not. It is part of the learning process and, believe me, you never stop learning regardless of how experienced you think you might be. I suppose the key question, irrespective of result, is always ‘would I make the same decision next time given a similar set of circumstances and data?’

My answer to myself was, if given the same type of scenario in the future, yes I would probably make the same decision. I correctly picked the front runner: the long term 7f stats at Musselburgh show that if you consistently pick the front runner you will generate long term profits.

 

2.30 Musselburgh – this was another 7f handicap – Class 2 this time.

 

At first glance this was more competitive than the first race from a pace / front running perspective, at least when looking at the last four run pace totals. On closer inspection though the top two in the list, Three Saints Bay and Muntadab, were the only horses to have led in their past four races: Three Saints Bay three times and Muntadab once. Both horses had decent long term pace profiles - Three Saints Bay had led in seven of his last 13 races and Muntadab in nine of his last 13. The stats were strongly suggesting that one of these two would lead early. Both had decent form on good to soft and both had won on soft.

The concerns for both was recent form. Three Saints Bay had failed to reach the frame this summer in seven starts although on the positive side he had finished close over course and distance on July 1st (beaten ¼ length when 3rd of 6) and three starts back had led at Beverley into the final furlong before fading late on. Musselburgh is an easier 7f than Beverley and also around 90 yards shorter in distance. Muntadab won at Epsom back in July but since then had been well beaten in his last six runs. On the flip side of course their poor recent form had seen them both look potentially well handicapped.

Best prices early doors for the pair were 9/1 on Three Saints Bay and 33/1 on Muntadab. I thought Muntadab offered some value at such odds – you don’t have to be right very many times at this sort of price to make money in the long term. Hence I went each way for Muntadab but decided to go with Sky Bet at 28/1 as they were offering four places. I felt Three Saints Bay was priced about right but I knew he was extremely well handicapped and that he had been very well backed last time out (16/1 into 17/2). Therefore my guess was that he would start shorter than 9/1 and if he did then the 9/1 would offer good value.

What happened in the actual race?

Well I was right about Three Saints Bay as he was backed off the boards late into 4/1 joint favourite. He also got to the front early and dictated the race but perhaps went slightly quicker than ideal. He was still leading into the final furlong before being nabbed around 150 yards out. He was beaten 1½ lengths back in 2nd, while Muntadab was possibly a little unlucky at the start and was forced to 'stay in his lane' as the horse drawn inside him kept him from cutting across. To make matters worse the jockey then went much wider after about 50-100 yards ending up nine horses from the rail and, from there, he was never going to challenge. His finished 8th.

Conclusion - Ultimately racing is about getting value and getting 9/1 early (albeit with a small rule 4) about Three Saints Bay was a value bet. Muntadab was not competitive this time, but as I said earlier you don’t need many big priced runners to win to make money in the long term. If given the same race profile in the future I think I would make the same two bets.

 

3.00 Musselburgh – 5f handicap was next on my list of races to check out:

 

The front-running bias at 5f is not quite as strong as the 7f bias but it is still pretty strong and this was a very simple and quick race for me to decide upon one selection. Autumn Flight is a habitual front runner having led in his last six races and also 12 of his last 14. Add into the mix that on good to soft or softer he had won four times and been placed a further four times from 15 starts, and he looked the logical call. He was also 12/1 early morning and with a short priced favourite this looked a solid each-way bet.

What happened in the actual race?

Autumn Flight did get to the front but perhaps had to expend more energy than ideal in the first furlong. With two furlongs to go he was still leading and seemingly going well but by the final furlong he was being joined at the front and gradually slipped back finishing a close up 4th.

Conclusion

By the time this race was run the going was soft and getting more testing by the minute. When I had dug down into the pace data the previous evening the good to soft to heavy stats for front runners still showed a front running bias for this field size. However, if I had checked only the soft or heavy stats I would have noted that it becomes a much more level playing field. Whether that would have put me off the selection I’m not sure but it would have made the decision more difficult.

Looking at the pace profile of the race I had expected that Autumn Flight would have had a relatively easy lead, but he needed to be rousted quite vigorously to get in command by the end of the first furlong. Ultimately, this, coupled with the more testing ground, cost him in the final furlong – even so he was only beaten by 1½ lengths. I think overall the bet was a decent one being one place away from getting a return for my money.

 

3.30 Musselburgh – the second division of the 5f handicap.

 

As with the previous sprint this race has a clear pace angle with Somewhere Secret. The concern was the draw as he drawn furthest from the rail. Generally at Musselburgh the early leader grabs the rail and therefore I wanted to check the draw/pace combinations data once again to see whether a low draw was a big disadvantage for a potential front runner.

 

As can be seen, from a win perspective a lower draw would have been ideal; however, there is little in it in terms of the place data and, actually, front runners have made a small each-way profit even when drawn low. Somewhere Secret had form on easy ground (four of his five wins had come on good to soft or softer) and at an early 8/1 BOG he was my first pick.

Another horse that interested me was Glory Fighter. At first glance he was not the archetypical 5f horse that I would normally be interested in. In his last three runs he had dwelt and lost lengths early; in fact, he totally blew his chance in his most recent race rearing at the start. However, two starts back, he had finished 7th beaten only 2 lengths, despite a dreadful start. Earlier in the season, Glory Fighter had won two races in August, importantly not missing the break, and racing close to the pace. My eye was also caught by the jockey booking of Jamie Gormley, who had ridden him in his first two starts of the season back in June. That horse and jockey combo combined to be placed both times and Gormley had raced prominently in one race and led in the other. If he got away on terms I thought at double figure odds he would have a good chance. One of those successes this season had been on good to soft so he had shown he could act with cut in the ground. I got 10/1 BOG on Glory Fighter.

What happened in the actual race?

Somewhere Secret tried to force the issue but never got to the lead and ultimately it was the outside draw that was his downfall. He raced competitively but never got close to the rail and, by the time he entered the final two furlongs, the writing was on the wall: he finished 7th. Glory Fighter on the other hand read the script; thankfully he did not miss the break and raced close up in 5th early. He was produced at exactly the right time, hitting the front around the furlong pole and winning relatively well in the end. His 12/1 SP was an added bonus.

Conclusion

This race perhaps shows that you do sometimes have to look more deeply into the pace figures and the ‘in running’ comments. Glory Fighter could easily have missed the break for a fourth race running and that probably would have scuppered his chance, but these are the decisions as punters we have to ponder. Also, as stated earlier, the going had deteriorated from when making my decisions/selections, so I would tentatively suggest I got lucky here. Having said that, there is plenty of truth in the saying you are better to be lucky than good!

*

So there you have it – a bit of mixed bag of results but that’s racing. It is important to point out that making profits is not really about finding winners. If you want to back lots of winners then back favourites! If you want to make long term profits then you need to find an edge and value selections – I believe pace can undoubtedly give us that edge.

- DR

Monday Musings: Tom and Hollie’s Top Class Show

Many famous men through history have had to accept second place in their relationships with their even more well-known better halves, writes Tony Stafford. Their own celebrity was undoubtedly the reason they first came to the attention of their future partners, none more so than Joe Di Maggio, America’s supreme baseball star of the 1950’s, who had to grow accustomed, once hitched, to being referred to as Mr Marilyn Monroe.

Joe clearly accepted that slight (as it was in those unenlightened days) on his manhood, for why else would he have continued to support the troubled platinum blonde film star through the various subsequent alliances and scandals that stretched all the way to a President of the United States? For Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels, read John F Kennedy and Marilyn, illicit alliances half a century apart.

While entertainment and sport stars have occasionally got together, rarely has it been on such an equal basis as Mr and Mrs Hollie Doyle. Sorry, not quite yet, as although the wonderful Hollie and the equally admirable Tom Marquand are no married couple, they do live together in Hungerford. After Saturday’s exploits where the 20-some pair – Tom is the younger by two years – monopolised Champions Day at Ascot to the tune of four wins, so 67% of the six races, Tom hinted that marriage might be on the horizon.

Halfway through Saturday’s card, the various television outlets were in full Hollie mode. She won the first two races on Trueshan (by miles in the Stayers) and thrillingly by a nose on Glen Shiel (Sprint) before finishing a creditable second on Dame Malliot behind the highly-talented Wonderful Tonight, trained by David Menuisier in the fillies’ and mares’ race. Had the finishing order been reversed you could have imagined Frankie Dettori, already tailed off on Stradivarius in the opener and destined to share in Palace Pier’s first career defeat later on, wondering what was going on. Ascot’s supposed to be his private venue, but sorry Frankie, even Peter Pan had to grow old one day.

As it turned out, Glen Shiel was her final win, but after a brief break in the changing room while Palace Pier was struggling into third behind The Revenant in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, she picked up lesser cheques, for sixth in the Champion Stakes on Extra Elusive for her new boss Imad Sagar, and another second on Sir Michael Stoute’s Solid Stone in the Balmoral Handicap which closed the show.

I’m not sure whether the Marquand/Doyle team pools its earnings. By all accounts they usually sit down to relax after their respective long days, maybe playing a game of cards, watching telly or maybe even examining closely the relative quality of their performances.

At times one or other might be in the ascendant, as Hollie clearly was in the first half of Saturday when the total earnings of her two wins and three minor places added up to a whopping £495,000. Modesty precludes me from checking just what the precise share of that will go to the jockey, but somewhere around seven per cent might not be far wide of the mark.

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So Hollie could rightfully say as they shuffled the cards: “Here’s my Group 2 and Group 1, can you match that?”. Well, fortunately, late-starting Tom could indeed counter. “Yes Hollie, here’s my 62 grand for the Balmoral Handicap on Njord, but my Group 1 and the 425k Addeybb won in the Champion Stakes easily matches your day’s work!”

In monetary terms it might just do so, but in the media perception – I still didn’t watch it on ITV, but Sky Sports Racing, who had to share their rightful coverage of Ascot with Racing TV and the national broadcaster - both revelled in Holliemania. It was indeed mostly a one-way street.

In the end, though, it proved to be almost a dead-heat on the earnings front, the final figure arriving at almost exactly £1 million (505 Tom and 495 Hollie); just like their riding styles: tidy, unobtrusive and in each case being in the right place at the right time in just about all their races.

I’ve mentioned Tony Nerses before and there’s no doubt that Imad Sagar’s Racing Manager played a big part in securing Hollie’s services earlier in the year. When the news came it was with a mixture of surprise at the appointment and dread that it might all go pear-shaped, but the tiny Hollie quickly grew into the role. The first Group races soon came, notably on Sagar’s Extra Elusive at Windsor in August, the highlight of her personal five-timer that day. Now she has that first Group 1 on her ever-expanding list of achievements and a record number of winners for a female rider: already pushing 120, that in a truncated year. Which of them will win the championship first? Possibly Hollie, but either will be a credit to the accolade.

There seems no limit to the list of potential employers – if you’re good enough for Sir Michael Stoute, you’re good enough for anyone. At the same time Marquand has seamlessly moved from the guy who happened to be available to partner Addeybb in those two winning Group 1 rides in Australia last winter to now being the go-to man for that well-travelled mudlark’s trainer, William Haggas.

I use the term mudlark advisedly, and there is little doubt that there is no point in turning up on Champions Day if you cannot cope with the soft ground that is almost inevitable in mid-October. That was always the main argument against staging such an important date so late in the year. In a normal mid-October once the European pattern gets through the various Classic schedules of the three major racing nations, there is little scope to go elsewhere. The Irish have their Champions weekend; France and the Arc meeting follows three weeks later, so this is where our big day has to be.

Not that the winners of Saturday’s races are anything but worthy, even if the names John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien, for whatever reason, didn’t manage to collect any first prizes. I was surprised to hear that Gosden was citing the going for Stradivarius’ capitulation in the opening Stayers race. It was the fourth time he’d contested it and he’d won it only once previously. This time he’d gone through the extra exertion of a full preparation for the Arc with a mile and a half run in one of the trials. Gosden’s suggestion that because the Arc had been run at a pedestrian pace it was less demanding than usual seemed surprising.

The biggest surprise, though, in view of his less than outstanding record at this fixture – nowhere near the level of his three Gold Cups there or four Goodwood Cups in high summer – was that he started as short as 11-10.  Trueshan came to the race having won six of ten career starts, including a defeat of smart stayer Withhold in Listed class last time at Salisbury. Runner-up Search For A Star had won the last two renewals of the Irish St Leger for Dermot Weld and third home Fujaira Star had won a Royal Ascot handicap before impressing in a top-class Ebor at York and following home Search For A Star at the Curragh. It was a hot race.

I fully expected Andrew Gemmill to have been at Ascot on Saturday for Trueshan’s win, but he stayed home. Andrew was one of the four original owners – the Singula Partnership- of Trueshan but in May last year they leased the horse to the Barbary Lions 5, a bigger syndicate of 20 in which the quartet also participates. That lease ends at the end of the year according to Andrew and it will be interesting to see whether Alan King will allow this four-year-old gelding to run over hurdles which must have been the original plan. More than likely he’ll be happy to stay on the level and try to win next year’s Gold Cup.

Some spectacular results have been achieved by two of Saturday’s winners, cheaply bought at auction some way into their careers. The Darley-bred Glen Shiel had already raced 11 times in all, once at two, then as a three- and four-year old for Godolphin with Andre Fabre, winning three times. Turning up at the Doncaster May sales as a five-year-old, unraced so far that year, he was bought on behalf of Archie Watson for £45,000 and didn’t see a British racecourse until October. Five runs before the turn of the year didn’t produce a win, but the first of three pre-lockdown appearances did.

On January 8 at Newcastle off a mark of 96 and ridden by Hollie, he won readily. It was not until another five runs later, also at Newcastle in late June that he collected again and that was the start. The son of Pivotal has shown his and his trainer’s ability with a second to Dream Of Dreams in the Haydock Sprint Cup and then by reversing that form while also seeing off perennial Group 1 sprint contender Brando, much to his rider’s evident disbelief.

Marquand was also the beneficiary of an inspired purchase. The four-year-old Njord had started out with Sheila Lavery’s Irish stable, gaining his first win off 63 in May last year. He collected again on October 13 before going to Goff’s sales six days later when BBA Ireland paid 54,000 Euro on behalf of Jessica Harrington. By now on 82, he ran back at Gowran Park only nine days after the sale, winning comfortably. Another win, soon after racing’s resumption in June came off 88 at The Curragh. On Saturday Njord ran away with the highly-competitive Balmoral Handicap and must now be on at least 110, more than three stone higher than where he started.

I highlighted the chance of The Revenant last week in this column and was not at all surprised that he coped with conditions better than Palace Pier when going one better than last year in the QE II. He now has the remarkable figures of 10 wins, two seconds and a third in 13 career starts. In that race, Sir Busker’s alarming tendency to hang left when put under pressure didn’t stop him from finishing fourth, showing that if he had been drawn on the stands side in that most unfair of all Cambridgeshires, he might well have won it. Fourth in this coveted Group 1 and almost £35k will have been satisfactory compensation.

One other horse that we in the UK probably have hardly noticed – I hadn’t! - even after his achievement of splitting Addeyyb and Magical, who was unluckily denied a run at a crucial stage, is Skalleti. This five-year-old, trained in Marseille by the talented Jerome Reynier has a record on a par with The Revenant’s. Even after Saturday’s defeat he has 12 victories from 16 and this autumn has a Deauville Group 3 victory over subsequent Arc winner Sottsass and an easy Prix Dollar victory on Arc weekend on his record.

Preconceptions proved misguided in several cases on Saturday, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that some of the winners weren’t up to standard. They were.

- TS

King Set To Be Crowned In Balmoral Handicap

The complexion of this race may have been slightly different had the Challenge Cup not been abandoned a couple of weeks back with several of the main contenders here having been set to contest that race. It certainly looks a cracking contest and hopefully a race where we can find a few strong pointers.

Draw

The straight course draw bias at Ascot tends to play its part in many races but the bias can change from meeting to meeting or even race to race so there are rarely any guarantees.

Ascot Mile Draw Bias

High draws have generally been favoured on the straight course this season but that may not be the case here. The ground is likely to be soft on Saturday and mile races on ground ranging from good to soft all the way to heavy have tended to favour those drawn middle to low.

The win data doesn’t tell us a lot in this sample but the place data suggests a middle draw can be strongly favoured with almost twice as many places from middle draws compared to low draws and 50% more placed horses from middle compared to high draws. The PRB figures seem to back up what the place data tells us too with low draw PRB the worst at 0.46, high drawn PRB is next best at 0.5 and middle draw PRB is 0.54.

There is a logical explanation for the above data. As previously mentioned the draw bias can vary at Ascot. When it favours the far side the higher drawn horses will generally struggle. When it favours the near side the lower drawn horses will struggle. Either way the middle draws nearly always have a pretty fair chance so of course they tend to do well.

At this particular meeting the ground nearest to the stands’ side is railed off and the stalls are positioned on the far side of the course. So compared to a standard meeting at Ascot the higher drawn horses actually race in what is normally the middle of the track and the lower drawn runners are positioned where they’d normally be.

The effect of this in recent years has been that the jockeys have tended to want to stick towards the far side rail. Last year’s first two home were drawn 21 and 20 but that doesn’t tell the whole story – they ended up on the far rail and looked to win in spite of their draws. The runners the previous year also headed towards the far rail and stall 8 was responsible for the winner but it’s also worth noting that five of the highest nine drawn runners were amongst the first seven finishers. In 2017 they largely came down the middle and although the winner came from stall 3, he actually finished nearer the stands’ side than any other runner. The next four finishers that year were drawn 18, 17, 15 and 23.

So what the above tells you, that draw data doesn’t necessarily do, is that if they elect to go far side as they have done for the past two years, the high draws are probably slightly disadvantaged but still well capable. If they go up the middle of the course then high draws may well have the advantage. Now we don’t know before the start of the race where they are likely to go so all in all, the safer bets will probably be in the middle.

Pace

Looking at a similar sample of data as we did for the draw, it looks very much as though we should lean towards those who are likely to be held up.

Ascot Mile Pace Bias

Only one winner has made all in these conditions since 2009 and that was Musaddas in 2015. He proved very well handicapped on the day (won another handicap two starts later) and the fact that only three front runners have placed, producing a place strike rate of 11.54% suggests only extremely well handicapped front runners should be considered.

The place strike rate gets progressively better the further back in the field you are and extreme hold up tactics seem to work well over a mile in these conditions with an almost 100% improvement in place strike rate compared to all other run styles. An IV of 1.44 is also much stronger than all other pace types and there have been more held up winners than all other run styles combined. So unlike the slightly inconclusive draw stats we had, we have some very conclusive pace data here.

Balmoral Handicap Pace Map

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There is unlikely to be a frantic pace to this race with only one likely front runner in the field so a degree of caution should be applied in regards to following the above data that suggests you want to be at the very back of the field. The data is still very strong though so you may well want to be no further forward than mid division on this occasion.

The Jockeys

I’ve seen some interesting jockey stats about which jockeys are worth following at Ascot on different types of ground and they seem worth exploring here with very testing ground likely.

Ascot Jockeys In Soft Ground

The above data shows the jockeys in this race that have previously rode at least once on ground that is between good to soft and heavy in an Ascot handicap before, sorted by IV. This data is more useful ahead of Champions Day as a whole rather than just this race but it does give a good guide as to which which jockeys might be worth a couple of extra pounds advantage.

Considering the lack of data for some riders, the major positives seem to be Nicola Currie (Graignes), William Buick (Blue Mist), Ben Curtis (Kynren), Jamie Spencer (Hortzadar), Jim Crowley (Raaeq), Hollie Doyle (Solid Stone), Frankie Dettori (Alternative Fact) and Oisin Murphy (Bell Rock). It’s worth noting that Nicola Currie’s wins have come courtesy of her association with Raising Sand, a soft ground Ascot specialist who is ridden here by Saffie Osbourne, so a slight pinch of salt must be taken with her figures.

The major negatives appear to be Stevie Donohue (Raakib Alhawa), Andrea Atzeni (Prince Eiji) and Tom Queally (Ropey Guest).

The Runners

Raaeq

He took his form to a new level last time out with an easy win here over 7f on similar ground to this. That was his first run on a soft surface and he seemed to improve for it. He runs with a 6lb penalty which leaves him 5lbs well in still. He’s only had five starts, has never finished out of the first 2 and looks the obvious ‘group horse in a handicap’.

He seems to be the sole pace angle in the race which could suit him but it’s going to be a lot harder dominating a 20+ runner field over a mile than an eight runner 7f race.

Ascot 7f Pace Bias

The above image shows how well front runners do in small fields here in softish ground. Compare that to the first image in the pace section of this article which shows the record of front runners and you see very different figures. He’ll probably need to be at least a Group 2 performer to win this from the front and although he looked to improve for the ground last time out, he also probably improved for the drop back to 7f, a distance at which he is unbeaten. No surprise if he wins but judgement call is to oppose at the price.

Tempus

Course and distance winner who will enjoy conditions. Seemingly had no excuses last time out when well drawn in the Cambridgeshire when running with plenty of credit in 6th (only 0.25 lengths away from 3rd). He maybe would have preferred softer ground that day but it would be difficult to argue he didn’t stay. He’s 2lb higher here and there is still a nagging doubt about him never really having beaten much (beat fourteen runners in two wins this season and none of them have subsequently hit the frame in any race). Even last time out he still finished worst of the well drawn form horses, albeit not beaten that far. Looks certain to run pretty well but not sure he’s well enough handicapped anymore to win a race as deep as this.

King Ottokar

One I quite fancied for the abandoned Challenge Cup but I had two slight doubts. The first was the drop back to 7f, which may have actually suited but it was a risk for a horse that had previously run so well at 10f. The other doubt was the trainer form with Charlie Fellowes’ horses not running that well at the time but he’s had five wins and three places from his last thirteen runners so that’s no longer a concern - in fact it's a positive.

He was a big eyecatcher last time out at Doncaster, making up ground effortlessly 3f out before running into the back of horses. He found less than seemed likely when getting clear which probably tempted connections to drop him back in trip but the ground was on the fast side then and it could have been just as likely that the ground compromised his finishing effort, not the trip. Both his wins have come in soft ground and so has all his best form.

The subsequent form of his last run isn’t great but remarkably none of those subsequent runs from the opposition came in similar conditions with most running on soft ground since. If you look back to Royal Ascot 2019, the last time King Ottokar ran to form on soft ground, he was just a neck behind Fox Chairman. That horse quickly developed into a 110+ rated horse so King Ottokar certainly should be well handicapped here off 100. The only doubt this time around is stall 22 as this could be major disadvantage if they all go far side. It wasn’t a barrier to success last year though and the going stick readings are quicker on the stands’ side which gives some hope they may come middle to stands' side.

Keats

This listed winner from two weeks ago runs under a 6lbs penalty making his mark 107. That would put a lot of people off but when a horse is trained by Aidan O’Brien and it runs in an Ascot handicap people take notice. His runners make a 7.0 LSP in Ascot handicaps since 2009 so that respect is warranted. All three of those winners came at Royal Ascot though over the years and none were rated higher than 104 so this would be some performance to win and Keats has only ever won on good ground. He looks one of the easier well fancied horses to oppose.

Njord

Another Irish challenger and a much more interesting one. He’s been a big improver going up 41lbs in the handicap over the past two seasons, often running well in big field handicaps. His record on ground with the word ‘soft’ in the going description during that time is 1231125 and that latest 5th was when meeting trouble in running off a 2lb higher mark when still beaten less than 2 lengths. The 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th from that race have all placed since so it wasn’t a bad race. He was last seen when 4th on good ground in a 9f listed race. He was 1.5 lengths behind Keats that day giving that rival 5lbs and he now receives 2lbs so it would be a slight shock if Keats could confirm that form. Keats is drawn 21 and Njord is drawn 4 so a stands’ side draw advantage seems to be the only thing that could swing things in Keats’ favour.

Given his consistent profile and liking for conditions he looks a fair each way shout and should run very well if a low draw isn’t an inconvenience.

Raising Sand

He was my fancy in the abandoned Challenge Cup but I’m slightly more lukewarm about his chances here. He loves soft ground and Ascot plus Saffie Osbourne is a useful 7lbs taken off his back but I’ve always thought he was a bit better over 7f than a mile. His two mile wins at Ascot have come off marks of 89 and 92 in smaller fields than this whereas his two 7f wins here have come off 97 and 103 in fields of 15 and 23.

He ran well over course and distance in the Hunt Cup this season from a poor draw but was ‘only’ 6th in this two years ago off 102 in similar ground and that sort of finish may be most likely again this time around.

River Nymph

He won comfortably here two starts ago and followed that up with another easy success when beating two next time out winners at Newbury. He was well fancied for the Challenge Cup that was abandoned and should still be well handicapped despite going up 11lbs for his latest win. He ran well over Lingfield’s 6f earlier this season and although well handicapped that day (18lbs lower) and looking like he wanted further it does still cast some doubt over his ability to get a mile.

The sire’s runners tend to get worse the further they go and this isn’t really the kind of ground you want to be testing your stamina in so he’s much easier to oppose here than he was over 7f, although he’s respected based on his achievements this season. Stall 14 gives the jockey some options at least.

Bell Rock

Finished 3rd in the Cambridgeshire, a quarter of a length ahead of Tempus. That run was a career best but he was well drawn that day, has seemingly improved for trips beyond a mile on his last two starts and is unproven on soft ground. There is also a doubt mark over the first time cheekpieces. Bell Rock is by Kingman who has a 17.67% strike rate with his progeny. That drops to just 12.82% when cheekpieces are applied which isn’t the worst record but is hardly a ringing endorsement either. Too many question marks.

Blue Mist

He's generally been expensive to follow and although he won a big pot here in July, that was over 7f in a race where only one of the first fourteen finishers has won since. He doesn’t convince over a mile and William Buick, who rides well here on soft, will need to get some improvement from this horse to reach the frame.

Orbaan

He has some decent form to his name with a 7th at York in August potentially a career best with the 5th and 6th winning handicaps since. He’s been behind Tempus twice this season though without real excuses and although a 6lb swing in the weights should get him closer it might not be enough to get 3 lengths closer. He should run creditably but in all probability he’ll finish just outside the places. He can win in slightly calmer waters.

Kynren

Was amongst the favourites for the Challenge Cup but a run at 6f at York last week looked a mistake with him finishing well beaten. No surprise to see him bounce back from that at a track where he has run plenty of good races but this trip seems to stretch him a bit – he’s finished 5th, 5th and 6th over course and distance on softish ground and those first two runs were off lower marks. He’ll need a career best to take this, although he’s nicely drawn in 13.

Alternative Fact

Frankie Dettori is an interesting booking, he’s finished 2nd and 3rd on this horse in two runs and is clearly booked when a big run is expected. The last time they paired up was here in the Silver Hunt Cup when just 1.75 lengths behind Sir Busker, who has since rated 15lbs higher. Alternative Fact has gone up 7lbs himself since then though having run three excellent races at Haydock, where he often gets his required ground. His last run at York when 6th of 20 deserves marking up as he was drawn very wide and ended up with too much to do.

He doesn’t scream brilliantly handicapped but the course and the ground are in his favour, as is the jockey booking. Stall 16 isn’t the end of the world, even if they go far side, and he’s one at a price that could easily run into the places and looks nailed on to give his running.

Best Of The Rest

It's slightly surprising to see Solid Stone priced up at 20/1 given he’s normally overbet (started favourite in eight of his thirteen runs including five of his last six). He hasn’t encountered this sort of ground since his 2yo days though and has presumably been kept away from it on purpose. He’d have a chance if handling conditions.

Greenside will handle the ground and does well here but looks better at 7f these days. Prince Eiji has run well on both starts here and handles the ground but he ran a shocker last time out and Atzeni doesn’t have a good record here in soft ground. Ropey Guest will like the ground and has Ascot form but he looks better at 7f and he’d have had a better chance had the Challenge Cup gone ahead.

Jamie Spencer could potentially get a tune out of Hortzadar but he looks handicapped to the hilt now and hasn’t run well in two starts at Ascot. Graignes has some smart French form in Group 1 races but if he was capable of winning this off  104 you’d have expected him to run better in similar conditions last time out in a Group 3.

Verdict

This perhaps isn’t quite as difficult a puzzle as it first seems with some of the main protagonists not likely to be seen to best effect over a mile on soft ground. Other simply don’t look well handicapped anymore.

The most interesting trio may well by King Ottokar, Njord and Alternative Fact. Tempus and to a slightly lesser extent Raising Sand should run well also but neither are fancied for win purposes.

Njord seems to enjoy the hustle and bustle of these kinds of races and is still reasonably handicapped. He seems most interesting at the prices of those drawn low. Meanwhile Alternative Fact is perhaps the ‘safe each way’ given he has everything in his favour and he’s not drawn far from the middle. At around 12/1 (well backed in the past 24 hours) with as many as 6 places on offer he’s worth a bet.

But as far as likely winners go King Ottokar seems to have an awful lot in his favour. He loves soft ground, he has run well here before, his trainer is in excellent form, he’s run well in a handicap on his last start and has been dropped 2lbs since then and he’s completely unexposed as a miler still. If there is one question mark it’s his very high draw but by the time the three reserves have come out he’ll effectively be racing from stall 19. If a high draw was to be an advantage he’d look an extremely good bet but we won’t know that until it’s too late. He’s shortening all the time and 8/1 in a big field like this might still seem short but he’s a very interesting runner and I’m willing to risk the draw. It might be worth backing him win only as around 8/5 to finish in the top 5 or 6 might not look great after a couple of furlongs if they all go far side.

Monday Musings: How much soup have you missed?

So we’re to brace ourselves for another retrenchment in the battle against Covid by all accounts? Having voluntarily hidden away for five months apart from the once weekly drive to Tesco, sitting in the car while the shopping was effected by the household’s responsible adult, and some less than regular walks around one of the two massive local parks, I don’t feel minded to go back into that oblivion any time soon, writes Tony Stafford.

By my calculations at the very least I’ve missed a conservative 100 trips to the races and, at Chelmsford alone, at least 30 bowls of soup. Where some things are concerned I just can’t help myself. And they do serve up the most wonderful soup (and chicken goujons and chips) in the owners’ room. Okay, the racing goes on everywhere but where you’re looking, but I love it – as far as I can remember!

I’m pleased to learn that the wonderful Linda is still looking after either the owners or is it the trainers at Newmarket? She never sees this, so how can I tell her how much I miss her. Not everyone it seems is happy that as much is being done to thank the owners for their continuing stoical support in face of reducing prize money and a feeling that the entire race programme in Europe is morphing into a homogenous mass.

Last weekend it was the Arc; then it was the Dewhurst and Cesarewitch and next week it’s British Champions Day at Ascot. The week after that the clocks go back and it’s ten minutes to Christmas. You might disagree but I can tell you I was at Cheltenham for the entire four days and nights and that only seems about six weeks ago so quickly has Covid time progressed.

The three O’Brien stables, father and two sons, had the hammer blow of the French testing of their Gain feed which led to the voluntary withdrawal of their Parislongchamp runners over Arc weekend but the levels were clearly back on track in time for Newmarket. There, the number cloths were transposed for Aidan’s two runners in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile on Friday to cause another stir. Snowfall (50-1) and Mother Earth (18-1) actually finished third and eighth rather than the reverse that everyone believed had happened.

Busy at the time of the race – amazing what you find to do when the alternative is coming over and having to quarantine afterwards! – as soon as Aidan O’Brien saw the race recording he spotted the error. Unfortunately the team based in Newmarket, managing the Ballydoyle UK runners in these oddest of times, was not quite as firmly on the ball.

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Part of the confusion, for the viewing public anyway, could have been that both were outsiders and ran in Derrick Smith’s purple colours. So too did the Coolmore partners’ third and most eagerly-anticipated contender, the 7-2 shot Shale who was renewing an on-going rivalry with the favourite, Pretty Gorgeous. The talented pair had met three times previously, with the verdict 2-1 in favour of Shale as they filled the first two places each time, including most recently in the Moyglare at the Curragh last month when Shale, trained by Donnacha, beat Pretty Gorgeous, from Joseph’s stable, by almost a length.

Shale could do no better than sixth here, adding to Donnacha’s frustration just days after the rookie trainer’s stable star Fancy Blue retired to stud following her inevitable withdrawal from her planned Arc weekend target.

Joseph, already with Friday’s fillies’ Group 1 in his locker, would have been excused for thinking the Dewhurst Stakes might be coming his way too.  In the National Stakes last month at The Curragh, the previously once-raced Thunder Moon overcame his inexperience when bursting through to beat the Ballydoyle pair of Wembley and St Mark’s Basilica by a length and a half and a short head.

On Saturday, Declan McDonagh soon had Thunder Moon in a more prominent position. Instead of that being the launch-pad for a replica winning spurt up the hill, less than expected materialised. Rather it was dad’s re-opposing duo, St Mark’s Basilica, ridden by Frankie Dettori, crossing the line more comfortably ahead of Wembley, who again finished well into second, this time under Ryan Moore, who had ridden Saturday’s winner in Ireland. The result in other words was a 1-2-3 exact reverse of Ireland’s main juvenile race and Aidan O’Brien’s seventh Dewhurst.

It was tempting for bookmakers to put St Mark’s Basilica, a $1.3million yearling by Siyouni from the Galileo mare Cabaret, at the head of the betting for next year’s 2,000 Guineas after this as he is half-brother to Magna Grecia, (by Invincible Spirit) who won the Classic two years ago. If you prefer to stay with the authentic Guineas-winning formula rather than make do with the broodmare sire, you can always hope that Wembley can turn the form around over another furlong. He’s certainly strong at seven. Battleground (by War Front), another stable-companion and a Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood winner, is also an early 8-1 shot.

When you work every day in close proximity to such giants of any business as Coolmore, Juddmonte or Godolphin, there must be deep down a latent wish or belief that some of the magic dust might percolate on to you. Over the years many of Coolmore’s senior staff have dabbled, or in truth much more than dabbled, in breeding and bloodstock. Always, it seems, they do so with John Magnier’s full support and encouragement.

On Saturday at HQ, when the big cats had done their day’s work finishing 1-2 in yet another Group 1 championship-defining race and metaphorically vacated the scene, some of the “Coolmore mice” were allowed to come out to play. Not that the Group 3 Darley Stakes which ended the two-day meeting was an insignificant affair.

On a day when the only winning favourite came in the 34-runner Cesarewitch with Willie Mullins’ hat-trick-completing Great White Shark, events concluded with a 28-1 success (some people got 40’s!) for a Fozzy Stack-trained four-year-old filly ridden by Jamie Spencer.

It will not be a shock to learn, if you didn’t see the race, that the Co Tipperary Spice Girls who own the filly – and who also raced the filly’s mother, similarly a Group 3 winner before her - had to wait until the last 100 yards for Spencer to put them out of their misery and go into the eventually comfortable winning lead.

I’m sure that the smaller than usual contingent over for the yearling sales at Tatts, but still witness to two massive multi-million buys in M V Magnier’s name last week, would have stayed behind to cheer as the racecard – if there was one – puts it, Mrs Tom Gaffney and Mrs Barbara <wife of Clem> Murphy.

Attempts, admittedly after sensible people will have been long tucked up in bed, even the afore-mentioned no doubt still-celebrating Mr Tom and Mr Clem, initially failed to elucidate Mrs G’s first name, but the wonderful Wendy Normile called just in time to remind me it was Marie. Their filly is called Lady Wannabe, a daughter of Camelot, the nearest we’ve had to a Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky in 1970, out of Wannabe Better, who was a half-sister to the even more talented Wannabe Grand.

Both fillies were daughters of the 1990 foal, Wannabe, coincidentally who arrived on this earth seven years before the song of that name which launched the Spice Girls’ careers. So it’s a stretch, but that’s what I’m calling them. I know that with Camelot doing so well in his early years as a stallion and the blue chip female family, even if their two husbands cannot continue to keep the two Tipperary girls in the style in which they are in danger of becoming accustomed, Lady Wannabe will!

As for next Saturday, this morning the entries for Ascot, where soft ground is expected, will be eagerly awaited. Magical, in whichever race she targets, must be a prime candidate for another win having dethroned Ghaiyyath last time, but I’ll be looking for The Revenant, so smooth on his delayed comeback in Paris a week ago to perform a minor giant-killing against Palace Pier in the Mile race.  Fresh is best at this time of the year and no horse will be fresher than the French five-year-old.  In the Balmoral Handicap it is hard to look beyond the Brian Meehan-trained recent course winner Raaeq. He’s 5lb well in despite his penalty and he seemed to love soft ground on the track last time out.

- TS

Going For Gold In The Cesarewitch

The big handicap this weekend has to be the Cesarewitch. It’s going to be a real test this year on soft ground but who is going to come out on top in this cavalry charge?

Draw

The Cesarewitch draw is much talked about and the general consensus is a low draw is best but how strong a draw bias is there over this marathon trip?

Cesarewitch Draw Bias

It can be a common misconception that just because a high draw is a negative, that a low draw must be better than a middle draw. Looking at the above stats there have been almost twice as many wins from middle draws compared to low draws with the place figures neck and neck between the two. High draws though compare miserably with just a solitary win and on average high draws are producing less than one place per race which means all but the very well handicapped high drawn runners can possibly be ignored, even for a place.

The A/E and IV figures favour middle draws much more so than low draws but the PRB can barely be separated between low and middle draws. So in terms of chances of winning or placing there probably isn’t much between a low draw and a middle draw but it seems clear the bookies overreact to those drawn low and offer better value on those coming from the middle stalls.

Over the years this race has been run on a variety of going conditions, will softer ground amplify the draw bias or negate it?

Cesarewitch Soft Draw Bias

Looking at races on soft or good to soft, we have far less data so we should tread with caution slightly, but what we seem to be seeing here is a slightly stronger focus on low draws compared to middle. The PRB figures give us the most data and low draw PRB goes from 0.54 to 0.57 on softer ground, whilst middle drawn PRB drops from 0.53 to 0.52. High drawn PRB also decreases from 0.43 to 0.41. So the data is very similar and it’s possible the going doesn’t make any difference but if softer ground does affect the draw bias it makes a lower draw more important rather than less important.

In such a big field plenty of runners fall into the category of low, middle and high and it can be of benefit to find a cut off point for where a good draw becomes a bad draw.

Cesarewitch Stall Bias

Looking at the individual draw figures, sorted by PRB3, on all but fast ground, gives us some interesting figures. Stalls 1-10 fill ten of the best eleven results with only stall 19 crashing the party.

It’s worth noting that stall 27 has a 30% place strike rate but the only other stall that is 20 or higher to manage even a 15% place strike rate is stall 22 (20%). So given that twelve of the fourteen best place strike rates belong to horses drawn 19 or lower that seems a good cut off point for where a good draw starts to become a bad draw. Five of the best six place strike rates remarkably belong to horses drawn in bottom six stalls so away from fast ground a very low draw is clearly of benefit to each way punters.

Pace

Front runners have an advantage at most distances in horse racing but generally speaking the further you go, the less of an advantage it becomes.

Cesarewitch Pace Bias

It’s a common theme in horse racing that those ridden nearer the pace will offer better value and out and out front runners have a good strike rate here with two winners from just eighteen runs. As horses are given more to do here over this trip they produce more places but from more runners. So just because more placed horses are held up than any other run style, that doesn’t mean they are advantaged. They certainly aren’t disadvantaged either though with only prominent racers having a better each way strike rate.

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The going can affect pace bias so let’s have a quick look at the same data on ground that is good to soft or softer.

Cesarewitch Pace Bias On Softer Ground

We have less data here so win percentages seem less relevant but there is a decent amount of place data on offer and it looks as though front runners are only advantaged on faster ground - their record in softer conditions isn't good. The majority of placed horses are coming from nearer the back but there isn’t a massive difference between the place percentages whether you are prominent, mid division or held up. What is noteworthy though is the huge IV of those coming from mid division so that does look the ideal race position on this kind of ground.

In terms of this race, with so many runners the pace map is rather large.

Cesarewitch Pace Map

There is guaranteed pace in here from Mukha Magic and potentially another 5 or 6 who could easily try to force the pace or dispute it – this should be run at a good gallop and stamina is likely to be well tested. Those who are settled somewhere around mid division are likely to be seen to best effect.

Draw and Pace Combination

One of the best visuals on Geegeez Gold for me is the draw/pace heat maps. They give such a good snapshot of where you might want to be placed depending on your draw.

Cesarewitch Draw and Pace Combination

Showing data for PRB on course and distance races run on good or softer, this gives a strong indication that low drawn horses that don’t lead are well served. If you are drawn in the middle racing prominently can be advantageous and extremes of rides suit those that are drawn much wider.

Jumps Experience

You often hear that you need a jumps trainer/horse for this kind of test so let’s see if that’s actually the case.

The last two winners of this race were saddled by Willie Mullins so both had of course previously run over hurdles. In 2015 Grumeti won for Alan King and the previous year Big Easy was the winner for Phillip Hobbs. That’s four of the last six winners having previously jumped a hurdle.

In 2017 the 2nd and 3rd were hurdlers and in 2016 the 5th and 6th were jumpers so it does seem that the proven stamina of those that have national hunt experience comes in handy.

The Runners

Coltrane

Was impressive in the Melrose last time and has been saved for this since but there has only been one 3yo winner of this race this century and he’s as yet unproven over further than 14f. Add stall 34 to the mix and he is going to have to improve plenty for this step up in trip to figure. That’s possible but the draw makes it easy to put a line through him.

Great White Shark

She was a late plunge in this race last year (11/1 into 7/1) but seemed to run a bit flat, finishing 10th. She’s now 3lb lower this time and her latest flat effort, when a close 7th to Princess Zoe at Galway when better than the bare result, makes her a leading contender. Stall 20 is just about okay but she doesn’t always translate her Galway form elsewhere and needs to step up massively on last year’s effort. No surprise to see her go well but it’s not guaranteed and that’s not really reflected in the price.

Leoncavallo

Form figures of 211 since joining David Pipe – he’s clearly found the key to this one. He’s up 8lbs for an impressive win last time out on good to soft but that form has been let down a few times and not only does he have stall 29 to contend with, he’s only won once from seven attempts on soft ground and that was when winning by a nose at odds of 4/6. He’s proven over this far both as a flat horse and a jumps horse but is a little risky on this ground.

Not So Sleepy

Clearly laid out for this with just one run since March which was an easy victory over just 12f at Pontefract in a 4 runner handicap. He’s 2lbs well in under a penalty and goes very well in soft ground. He’s got experience over hurdles and was a good 4th in this last year under similar conditions. Stall 4 looks great and there is an awful lot to like about this horse. He’s likely to be somewhere between mid division and prominent which will be fine. The only nagging doubt is he’s 4lbs higher than when beaten over 6 lengths in this 12 months ago. That was arguably a deeper renewal though so no surprise if he at least places once again.

Just Hubert

He can be difficult to catch right (fairly well beaten on four of his six starts this term) but he’s well suited by a massive test of stamina, as was demonstrated when he won the Goodwood Stakes this summer over 2f further. Most of his best efforts have come on faster ground but many of his poorer runs on softer ground have been followed up with a poor run on a faster surface so it wasn’t necessarily the ground that held him back on those occasions. He won on good to soft as a juvenile and did run well at Chester on soft ground last year. A quick look at the Profiler tool for the sire’s offspring suggests soft ground shouldn’t be a problem and it will certainly help bring out his stamina. Stall 17 is fine.

Just Hubert Sire Ground Stats

Rock Eagle

Hasn’t taken much racing but the result of that is he’s still unexposed at the age of 5. He’s a winner here and shaped as though he might stay further when staying on well over 14f at Salisbury last time out but he’s never encountered ground softer than good and has stamina to prove so whilst he has potential he’s a very risky proposition.

Lightly Squeeze

**Didn’t get in**

First reserve at the time of writing and will only get a run if there is a non runner before 1pm on Friday. This comment will be left in even if he doesn’t make the cut  - it will make a nice ‘what if?’!

Lightly Squeeze seems to have an absolutely ideal profile here. He’s been progressive over hurdles since joining Harry Fry - his hurdle rating has risen from 108 to 137. His last run over hurdles was when falling at the last, in the lead, in the Betfair Hurdle. He’s had just the one flat run since then and that was a very interesting run indeed. He drifted from 3/1 to 5/1 before the off (suggesting this was a prep or the run would be needed) but he ran really well. He moved smoothly into contention and was disputing the lead a furlong out before tiring slightly into 3rd. The winner has won again since and the 4th has won both starts since so that was clearly decent form.

The 14f of that race was the furthest he has gone on the flat but his sire (Poet’s Voice) has a 100% place record with progeny over this trip on the flat and he’s also won over a furlong further over hurdles. All his best form is with plenty of cut in the ground and to top it all off he’s drawn in stall 1.

He would have to run from 3lbs out of the handicap but he was due to go up 2lbs for his recent run anyway so is effectively only 1lb wrong.

What a shame it will be if he misses the cut by one place!

Mondain

He's officially the best in here with his 4lb penalty still leaving him 3lbs well in. He’s pretty much proven at the trip having won at 17.5f last time out at Ayr. In fact his record at 2m or further reads 1121 whereas his 14f record reads 3255589442 so stamina definitely appears his forte. It looks as though he’s been ridden with a little more restraint in recent starts (as opposed to front running) which is probably a good thing given front runners seem to have struggled in his race on softer ground and stall 19 is fine but there is a slight question mark over the ground, he seems to have run his best races on good or good to soft ground (beaten 5+ lengths in three starts on soft). He’s also been running in much weaker contests than this recently so there has to be a doubt about how well handicapped he is for this. He has a definite chance if okay on the ground though.

Best of the Rest

Couer De Lion would have been very interesting on this ground but he’s been drawn in stall 35 and doesn’t have too many secrets from the handicapper so that’s him ruled out. Dalton Highway is quite interesting on some of his form with Great White Shark and he’ll enjoy the ground but stall 27 makes his task even harder. Diocletian will like the ground and shapes as though he may get further but he’s run relatively poorly in all four starts over 2m or further so he can’t be backed with any confidence for all he’d be capable of running very well if he did stay.

True Destiny loves having his stamina tested and runs well in good staying handicaps but he’s difficult to win with and the ground has probably gone against him. Cleonte is well drawn and fairly handicapped but has been in poor form on his last three runs.

Perhaps most interesting of the rest is Gold Arch who could offer some value at a very big price. He’s not the easiest ride and can be awkward under pressure but he’s had a more consistent profile this season for William Knight, finishing in the first four in all five starts. On his first run at 2m he had to be hard ridden half a mile from home and he stayed on well into 2nd. It was a similar story next time out over the same trip at Ripon, a course that wouldn’t have suited his running style. On that occasion he ran on into a never nearer 4th. He then ran over 16.5f at Wolverhampton on his latest start and once again stayed on late behind two rivals who were more forwardly ridden. He made up a lot of ground again late that day to finish 3rd (True Destiny who is a shorter price here was just a short head in front) and although it could be argued that he’s better on all weather than turf (very possibly true) he’s yet to have his stamina fully tested on turf and may well enjoy the softer ground.

Verdict

Obviously this is a wide open race and it’s more a case of finding a few runners who have been underestimated by the bookies than looking for the most likely winner. Those at the head of the market look too skinny for a variety of reasons and there is definitely value to be found elsewhere.

With Lightly Squeeze not getting a run the shortlist is going to be:

Not So Sleepy
Just Hubert
Mondain
Gold Arch

Not So Sleepy is perhaps the most solid of the of the quartet having run well in this last year. He’s well drawn, stays the trip and comes here in form and fresh. It’s a concern that he’s 4lbs higher this time around but perhaps being a fresher horse this year will make the difference. He’s a solid each way at 12/1, especially with as many as 8 places on offer, but the suspicion has to be he’ll find a couple too good.

Just Hubert still looks fairly handicapped and whilst the ground is a slight concern he’ll absolutely adore this stamina test. There is a bit more risk involved compared to backing Not So Sleepy but he’s as big as 18/1 so he could be slightly more rewarding too.

Similar sentiments apply to Mondain. He’s technically well handicapped here and seems well suited to a real stamina test but he hasn’t really finished amongst well handicapped horses this season so could find this too competitive. There is also a small worry about the ground conditions suiting, for all he is proven on good to soft.

Now Gold Arch is riskier than the other three but at 50/1 (including with SkyBet who are offering 8 places) he looks the value play here. He can be a difficult ride, he needs reminders, riding along early and often carries his head high. However the further he goes, the stronger he gets and this long straight and extra distance could well be the making of him. He’s been a consistent horse this season in a visor so should be a decent each way bet despite not having yet registered a win on turf. It’s just a shame they don’t run the Cesarewitch at Wolverhampton as he’d be a near certainty there!

Newmarket TV Trends: Fri 9th Oct 2020

More LIVE ITV action on Friday 9th October 2020 for day one of the two-day Dubai Future Champions Festival at Newmarket.

Plenty to get stuck into with the Group One Bet365 Fillies’ Mile the clear feature race, but with the Cornwallis Stakes, Oh So Sharp Stakes and Challenge Stakes supporting then there is a lot to look forward to.

As always, we’ll have all the LIVE races covered from a trends angle, plus our verdicts on each race.

 

1.50 – Newmarket Academy Godolphin Beacon Project Cornwallis Stakes (Group 3) Cl1 5f ITV3

15/17 – Had won over 5f previously
13/17 – Returned 8/1 or shorter
13/17 – Rated 98 or more
13/17 – Winning distance – 1 ½ or less
13/17 – Won at least twice or more before
12/17 – Ran within the last 30 days
12/17 – Had raced 5 or more times
11/17 – Foaled in March or later
10/17 – Finished 1st or 2nd in their last race
10/17 – Had won a Listed or Group race before
8/17 – Filly winners
6/17 – Raced at Ayr last time out
6/17 – Won their last race
5/17 – Winning favourites
4/17 – Raced at Doncaster last time out
3/17 – Ridden by Richard Kingscote
2 of the last 6 winners trained by Jonathan Portman
2 of the last 11 winners trained by Kevin Ryan
2 of the last 11 winners ridden by Jamie Spencer
2 of the last 3 winners came from stall 3
3 of the last 5 winners came from stalls 11 or higher
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 15/2

 

2.25 – Godolphin Lifetime Care Oh So Sharp Stakes (Group 3) (Fillies) Cl1 7f ITV3

15/16 – Had raced in the last 5 weeks
15/16 – Placed in the top 3 last time out
14/16 – Had between 1-2 wins already
14/16 – Had between 1-3 career runs
13/16 – Returned 12/1 or shorter in the betting
12/16 – Drawn in stall 6 or higher
12/16 – Won last time out
12/16 – Foaled in March or later
12/16 – Winning distance – 1 length or less
10/16 – Unplaced favourites
9/16 – Had won over 7f or further before
8/16 – Returned 11/2 or shorter in the betting
8/16 – Irish bred
5/16 – Raced at Newmarket last time out
4/16 – Winning favourites
2/16 – Trained by Sir Michael Stoute
2/16 – Trained by Ralph Beckett
2/16 – Trained by Richard Hannon
2/16 – Trained by Roger Varian (2 of last 3 winners)
2/16 – Ridden by Ryan Moore
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 8/1

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3.00 – The Godolphin Stud & Stable Awards Challenge Stakes (Group 2) Cl1 7f ITV3

17/17 – Won a Listed or Group race previously
17/17 – Won over 7f previously
17/17 – Raced 3 or more times that season
15/17 – Won by a horse aged 5 or younger
14/17 – Won 3 or more times previously
14/17 – Winners from stall 10 or lower
13/17 –  Raced at Newmarket (Rowley) previously
13/17 – Winning distance – 1 length or more
13/17 – Officially rated 113 or higher
11/17 – Priced 7/1 or lower
9/17 – Placed in their last race
9/17 – Favourites placed
8/17 – Won at Newmarket (Rowley) previously
6/17 – Raced at either Ascot (3) or Goodwood (2) last time out
5/17 – Won their previous race
5/17 - Favourites that won
2/17 – Trained by Henry Candy
1/17 – Filly/Mare winners
Limato has won the race in 2017, 2018 and was runner-up in 2019
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 9/2

 

3.35 – Bet365 Fillies´ Mile (Group 1) Cl1 1m ITV3

16/16 - Finished in the first three last time out
16/16 – Had raced in the last 4 weeks
15/16- Yet to win a Group 1
14/16 – Finished in the first two last time out
14/16 – Foaled in Feb or later
14/16 – Had won over 7f or 1m before
12/16 – Had won between 2-3 times before
12/16 – Favourites that finished in the top three
11/16 – Returned 5/1 or shorter in the betting
11/16 – Won last time out
10/16 – Had won a Group race before
9/16 - Foaled in Feb or March
7/16 - Raced at Doncaster last time out
7/16 – Irish bred
7/16 - Winning favourites (or joint)
6/16 – Irish-trained winners
4/16 - Trained by Aidan O’Brien
3/16 – US bred
3/16 – Won by trainer John Gosden
3/16 – Won by a Godolphin-owned horse
2/16 – Ridden by Frankie Dettori
2/16 – Ridden by Ryan Moore
4 of the last 6 winners have been Irish-trained
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 13/2

 

4.10 – Bet365 Old Rowley Cup Handicap Cl2 (3yo) 1m4f ITV3

6 previous runnings
5/6 – Had won at least twice before
5/6 – Carried 9-0 or less in weight
5/6 – Drawn in a double-figure stall
4/6 – Had raced in the last 5 weeks
4/6 – Finished 1st or 2nd last time out
3/6 – Ran at Haydock last time out
2/6 – Priced 8/1 in the betting
2/6 – Ridden by William Buick
2/6 – Came from stall 17
1/6 – winning favourites
Trainer Ralph Becket won the race last season
The average winning SP in the last 6 runnings is 13/1

 

 

 

 

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Clock Watcher: Young Guns

Is that the time? Doesn't it fly when you're having fun? It's been a good while since the previous Clock Watcher episode so high time for another instalment. This time the focus is mainly on two-year-old races which might pan out well - or at least better than markets expect.

When pulling the relevant races from the database - those since 10th August 2020 - and ordering by the sum of Topspeed and our sectional upgrade figure, I was pleasantly surprised and at the same time irked that the top four to have run since recording their good number have all won their sole subsequent start.

Grist to the method mill maybe, but slim pickings unless of course you're one of that desperate band of netherworlders, the after-time police.

For the record, we'll cover the subsequent winners, and then have a squint at the quartet yet to go again; we might call those the 'destined to get beaten' group!

The First Four...

Top of the late summer pops was Dubai Honour, whose effort in narrow defeat at Chester behind an all-the-way winner was substantiated by both a good speed figure and a tidy sectional upgrade. [Click the image below to open a more pixel-perfect version]

We can see from the running lines (race position and distance behind the leader/in front) in the blue boxes to the left that State Of Bliss led all the way, and that at the middle (third) call point, which is the two furlong pole ('4-2' of that section, see data to the right of the blue boxes), Dubai Honour was just about four lengths back in fifth position.

He made up three-quarters of a length and two positions in the penultimate furlong (2-1) and all but a nose of the three lengths deficit from the trailblazing winner in the final (1-0) furlong.

The red filled boxes (in the lilac box to the right - confused?!) tell the tale of the finish: Dubai Honour's final furlong finishing speed percentage was 108.3 compared with the winner's 104.1.

Dubai Honour posted some impressive sectional timing figures when narrowly failing to catch Stat of Bliss at Chester

Next time out, and sent off 5/2 favourite for a similar race at Haydock on 26th September, Dubai Honour made no mistake. Alas, at time of writing there are still no sectional insights for that - or indeed any Racing TV - track. However, I'm given to understand this may begin to happen in the near future; Course Track, a company commissioned by Racecourse Media Group (and their TV channel, Racing TV), have been collecting the data for some time and the challenges they've faced in ensuring the integrity of that data may finally be in harness.

It is a difficult challenge, in fairness, and I sincerely hope that I - and many others - can stop whining and start consuming very soon!

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Stepping away from my dangerously worn out soapbox, while Dubai Honour's light is no longer under a bushel he does look the type to improve for a step up in trip; and, out of a Montjeu mare, his pedigree offers hope also.

Without going into fine detail, the other three subsequent winners were Indigo Girl, now unbeaten in two for John Gosden after landing the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster; La Barrosa, also unbeaten in two and also a winner in Pattern company since, the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby; and Rising Star, who led all the way to land a Kempton novice event. The last named may be the best chance of a price next time.

The Next Four...

To those yet to run since, and a likely kiss of death for them...

The '85' in the spreadsheet image above is Derab. Trained by John Gosden for Prince Khalid Abdullah, he recorded his number on debut when running up to the aforementioned La Barrosa. Waited with early, his final furlong time of 12.14 seconds on the Ascot incline was clear quickest.

We already know the early merit of that form - the third has also won since, and the fourth, and the 11th (at 125/1!) - and this lad has yet more expectation bestowed upon him as a result of his breeding: by Sea The Stars, he is out of the same mare, Concentric, as Enable!

[Again, click the image to view a clearer version - images containing numbers and text generally blur slightly when forced to a certain resolution]

 

Less obvious - let's face it, almost any two-year-old in training is less obvious than Derab - is Rival, a respectful third behind State Of Bliss and Dubai Honour at Chester. Drawn widest of all, Rival was five lengths off the speed at the half mile marker in that 7½ furlong contest, and closed up to finish best of the rest.

As well as Dubai Honour's impressive subsequent score, the fifth and eighth placed finishers have won their sole spins since giving the form a solid look.

Rival was due to run at Windsor this afternoon before that track got waterlogged. Expect to see him back on track soon.

The first of the brace of 81's belongs to King Zain, who was winning for the second time either side of a pair of Group 2 mild disappointments. The son of Kingman is out of a Dalakhani mare and may prove best at the far side of a mile; here he quickened well over seven and left his closest rivals eating sods in the last quarter mile.

This time the chart (below, click for pixel clarity) shows 'sectional time' by furlong so, of course, the lower the line the faster the time.

The black line is par, which relates that Lingfield seven furlong turf contests are often more quickly run early before slowing up late. This race, as can be seen, was not run like that: rather, it was steady until around the two furlong from home pole and then a sprint to the line.

I've included the second (Incorrigible, green line) and third (Gypsy Boy, mauve) so you can see how King Zain (maroon) matched the runner up before leaving that one behind in the last eighth of a mile. The third plodded on at the one pace and looks flattered as a result of his early position in a slowly run heat.

 

The last of the four yet to go again since their spreadsheet effort is Fools Rush In, by first-season sire sensation, Mehmas (see below, image copied from TheOwnerBreeder.com - click on the image to visit their site).

 

Trained by Tom Dascombe, he had a busy three and a half months where he racked up eight starts between the resumption and mid-September. During that time he was only outside the first four twice: in the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot and a valuable sales contest at York. Winning, however, has proved elusive with a solitary score to show for his exertions.

In the Chester race flagged in the image above (you know the drill by now, click it for clarity), he suffered mild interference at the start and, though he closed the gap, was unable to recover against a pair of runners that were first and second almost throughout.

The winner has gone in again since and it will be interesting to see where next for Fools Rush In. Ostensibly exposed on a mark of 82, he could be freshened up by a short break and might be interesting in a straight track six furlong handicap.

Takeaways

The bird may have flown in large part with regard to the horses highlighted herein, sadly.

That said, Dubai Honour looks a colt of some promise and is ready for the step up to Pattern company, though a rating of 90 is probably tempting in the handicap context. Derab will also be fascinating to follow for all that he's unlikely to be a punters' pal.

Of the remainder, Rival is less exposed than King Zain and Fools Rush In; having been rained off today, he's entered in a valuable mile nursery at York on Saturday and that more stamina-testing track, off a mark of just 77, may play to the strengths of a horse doing his best work late around Chester's bullring (the winner of that Chester race is now rated 90, and the fifth-placed horse 82).

He'll need a few to come out to make the cut there but, wherever he next appears, he could be worth following.

But the big takeaway is that we might soon have the significant gaps in what may be termed 'official' sectional coverage plugged by the long-awaited publication of Racing TV sectional data. Fingers crossed, that will form part of the next edition of Clock Watcher.

Matt

Monday Musings: Joy and Pain in the Rain

One of the clichés of modern sport is No Pain No Gain, writes Tony Stafford. At Longchamp on Sunday, because of a batch of contaminated Gain horse feeds with the non-permitted ingredient Zilpaterol, there was plenty of pain (and rain) for the Ballydoyle contingent and all ante-post supporters.

First it was Love, sensibly withdrawn when the ground went from good to soft to truly heavy, in the first couple of days after last week’s offering in this place was rendered non-sensible by the Parisian deluges. Around the same time, Serpentine was supplemented into the race and I recall telling my pal Scott Ellis that it was a master-stroke – he’d be the only pace in the race and would have a similar solo from the front as he had at Epsom.

After all, had he not had the one atypical – in other words running in midfield – dress rehearsal in his course and distance comeback in stablemate Mogul’s Prix Niel after a 71-day gap following his all-the-way Derby victory?

That possible tactic would have probably altered the eventual time of 2 minutes, 39.30 seconds, which apart from Ivanjica, 0.10 sec slower in 1977, was the third slowest since 1941. Puissant Chef with a funereal 2min 44.00 in 1960 holds that dubious honour.

In the event Sottsass followed last year’s third to Waldgeist and Enable by winning the race for Jean-Claude Rouget. In Swoop in second, and the miler Persian King, who was allowed to set a slow pace, filled the places.  Enable, on what will likely be her final valiant try, was sixth of the 11, just ahead of fellow six-year-old and stable-companion Stradivarius in seventh. Meanwhile Japan, Mogul, Sovereign and Serpentine were left kicking their hooves while alternative feed supplies were organised and important autumn and winter schedules were urgently addressed.

Sottsass, a son of the crack French-based stallion Siyouni, is out of a Galileo mare who has also bred the top-class US racemare Sistercharlie, a seven-time Grade 1 winner, including at the Breeders’ Cup, for owner Peter Brant and trainer Chad Brown. Sottsass also runs in the colours of Brant’s White Birch Farm, and given the closeness of the New Yorker to the Coolmore partners, it is hardly a shock to find they negotiated a half-share at the beginning of the year with a future stud career in mind.

Friend Scott was initially tempted by the 14-1, but whether he got round to striking a bet I’m unsure as the 14’s proved elusive. Plenty will have got on however and I’m wondering whether any bookmaker will be kind enough to grant an amnesty over non-runners, especially those caused by what the horses had eaten rather than their ground preferences.

Love lives to fight another day, although with the amount of rain that fell on Ascot before Saturday – more than enough to wash out the important fixture on Arc eve at Her Majesty’s racecourse – whether they’ll want to go to the Champions Day card is another matter. The Breeders’ Cup seems the obvious choice.

I know the Editor dislikes my gravitating into areas of sport, but the almost overlapping 2019-20 and 2020-21 Premier League seasons have already shown enormous effects of Covid-19. For No Pain No Gain – replace it with No Cheer, No Fear. How else would Manchester United (third in the late-finishing previous season) be allowed to keep shipping goals to Tottenham at Old Trafford to the extent of a 6-1 record home loss? Or Liverpool allow a series of defensive mistakes to translate into a 7-2 loss to Aston Villa, one of two 100% teams along with Everton.

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As recently as July 11, during the re-convened season interrupted after the weekend before Cheltenham, Aston Villa had 27 points and were 19th of the 20 teams. Bournemouth had 28 and Watford 31. Eight points from their final four matches to the end of July brought them to 35, ending a point above their two rivals who were relegated.

Meanwhile Liverpool ended the season on 99 points, clear of Manchester City and Manchester United. The three elite teams conceded a very similar total of respectively 33, 35 and 36 goals in their 38 matches. Already this season, Liverpool in four games have given away 11 goals, a third of last year’s tally; Man C, seven (so one-fifth of last time) in three and Man U 11, so just under a third of a season’s total, in three games!

Something’s up, be it the short gap between the two seasons, or be it psychological – none of the usual hero-worship but a magnification of the social media attention by fans unable to attend matches, is grinding players down. Three internationals for the elite players over the next two weeks could only magnify the weirdness.

Footballers are being shown to be only human and I marvel at the fact that clubs can routinely consider paying by all accounts up to £100 million to secure the transfer of a single player as Manchester United have been trying all through this latest transfer window.

To pay those sums for players while allowing lower league clubs to go out of business for less than a single player’s weekly salary exposes the immorality of the sport and its television paymasters. Of course, I and probably many of you who read these words are complicit just by paying the monthly subscription.

Xxxx

I had intended leaving mention of the Arc to others this week, but several attempts to track down my intended featured subject came to naught. Nobody answered the phone at Tony Mullins’ stables near Gowran yesterday and I have to suspect that his two-week isolation might have started with him and the owners being slightly tired and emotional.

The reason for his probably delicate condition was easy to understand. In a training career dating back 33 years, Tony Mullins has operated rather in the shadows of his brother Willie, but his skills as a trainer and identifier of a good horse are widely appreciated.

He was a brilliant jockey in his day, and a frequent partner of Dawn Run. The great mare was trained by his father Paddy and, while Tony enjoyed many winning days, the two biggest of her career in the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup were shared by Jonjo O’Neill.

Tony Mullins has never had massive strings, but knew how to develop a young horse, win a race with him and then pass him on. As the years went by the totals dropped but he still has the knack as his handling of the four-year-old hurdler Scalino this year shows. Scalino had run in six maiden hurdles without getting into the first three before turning up at Punchestown early last month in an 18-runner handicap.

Starting 20-1 he was closing up to the leaders when hampered by a loose horse, but soon challenged. He went to the front before two out, soon went clear and was eased on the run-in but still won by 13 lengths at 20-1.

Earlier in the year Mullins took charge of a German mare, a five-year-old who had raced regularly in the two previous seasons earning two wins and eight places from 15 appearances. Mullins had her ready for her Irish debut late in June and obviously thought her capable of a big run off the 64 handicap mark allotted by the Irish handicapper in collaboration with his German counterparts.

Backed to 4-1, she got within a length of the winner in a 16-runner handicap over 1m5f at Navan. That reverse was put right the following month when she won the 15-runner Ladies’ Derby at the Curragh off 70 by five easy lengths.

Three wins followed at Galway. The first two came at the big summer meeting, initially over 2m1f in a Premier handicap off 83 then comfortably a few days later with a 7lb penalty under claiming rider Joey Sheridan. The 18-year-old was again in the saddle when the mare, a daughter of Alan Spence’s tough horse Jukebox Jury, now a successful stallion in Germany, won the Listed Oyster Stakes. That day, back at 1m4f, she beat the mare Barrington Court and Oaks runner-up, Ennistymon.

Mullins didn’t hesitate, aiming at the Group 1 Prix du Cadran on the first day of the Arc meeting. After her run of success, she started the second favourite behind Call The Wind, winner of the race in 2018 and runner-up last year. Joey Sheridan, naturally unable to claim, sat in mid-field in the nine-horse marathon, while prolific winning stayer Alkuin was allowed a long lead. Coming to the straight Sheridan went in pursuit of the leader who still held a big advantage.

In the last furlong, though, the relentless mare cut into the deficit and caught the leader a few yards from the line with Call The Wind toiling 15 lengths back in third and the rest needing a telescope to find them.

Afterwards a jubilant Mullins said he would not hesitate to run Princess Zoe at a mile and a half and cheekily suggested next year’s Arc as a possible target. I wouldn’t put it past this modern-day alchemist to go where Enable couldn’t (not this year anyway!).

Tony Mullins has crossed my path a few times over the decades, usually to my rather than his benefit. There was the time I suggested he might want to land a gamble in the UK, and he earmarked Carla Adams, a mare who had been initially with Ginger McCain, to fit the bill. She had a couple of runs in low-grade hurdles for Wilf Storey, finishing third in the second of them. The day was set for Hexham but she disappointed. Wilf said he couldn’t work out why she never seemed to get any fitter and a few months later when the foal came, we had our answer.

It was more than a decade after that, crossing towards the conveniences at Cheltenham, when Tony stopped me, interrupting his own call saying, ”Wait, I need to talk to you.” As I’ve recorded here more than once he said I shouldn’t miss his one in the last.

I was with Raymond Tooth that day, watching Punjabi finish fourth in the Triumph Hurdle a few weeks after I’d first met him when the horse won at Kempton. Before Raymond left the track, I passed on Tony’s advice on Pedrobob, and the horse duly won the County Hurdle from 27 others under Paul Carberry at 12-1. On the Monday morning Raymond called and offered me the job as his racing advisor.

Until Saturday, Pedrobob was probably Tony’s most valued winner, but the £87k prize for the owners, a Group 1 win, and what more might be to come with Princess Zoe must be the supreme moment for this lovely man. I couldn’t have been happier. For Tony, over the years there’s been plenty of pain, so at last some real joy in the rain.

2020 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Betting Trends

Run over 1m4f the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is one of Europe’s most valuable Group One contests that is open to horses of either sex that are aged 3 or older and staged at Longchamp racecourse.

In recent years the contest has been dominated by the younger horses with 11 of the last 18 winners being aged 3 years-old, while 13 of the last 18 - came here off the back of a last time out victory. Last year we saw the John Gosden-trained Enable, who had won the race in 2017 and 2018, finish runner-up to the Andre Fabre runner - Waldgeist - which was trainer Andre Fabre's eighth success in the race.

Enable will be back for more in 2020 though, as she will be looking to become the first horse to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe three times.

Here at Geegeez, we are on-hand with all the key stats for the 2020 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – this year run on Sunday 4th October.

 

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Recent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Winners

2019 – Waldgeist (131/10)
2018 - Enable (Evs)
2017 – Enable (10/11 fav)
2016 – Found (6/1)
2015 – Golden Horn (9/2)
2014 – Treve (11/1)
2013 – Treve (9/2)
2012 – Solemia (33/1)
2011 – Danedream (20/1)
2010 – Workforce (6/1)
2009 – Sea The Stars (4/6 fav)
2008 – Zarkava (13/8 fav)
2007 – Dylan Thomas (11/2)
2006 – Rail Link (4/7 fav)
2005 – Hurricane Run (11/4)
2004 – Bago (10/1)
2003 – Dalakhani (9/4)
2002 – Marienbard (158/10)

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Betting Trends

17/18 – Had won a Group 1 race before
16/18 – Had won over 1m4f before
14/18 – Had 4 or more runs that season
14/18 – Drawn in stall 8 or lower
13/18 – Priced 10/1 or shorter in the betting
13/18 – Drawn in stall 6 or lower
13/18 – Had won at least 5 times before
12/18 – Won last time out
12/18 – Had run at Longchamp before
11/18 – Had won at Longchamp previously
11/18 – Aged 3 years-old
10/18 – Placed favourites
9/18 – Won by a French-based yard
8/18 – Ran at Longchamp last time out
8/18 – Female winners
5/18 – Winning favourites
5/18 – Won by a UK-based yard
3/18 – Trained by Andre Fabre (won the race 8 times in all)
2/18 – Trained by Aidan O’Brien (2016, 2007)
3 of the last 11 Epsom Derby winners that season have won
The average winning SP in the last 18 years is 15/2
Trainer John Gosden has won 3 of the last 5 runnings
Since 1976 we’ve seen just 3 winners aged 5 or older
18 of the last 26 winners were aged 3 years-old
Jockey Olivier Peslier has won the race 4 times
Jockey Frankie Dettori has won the race 6 times

 

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Previous Winners Of Interest In Challenge Cup

The big handicap this weekend is the Challenge Cup at Ascot and with ‘just’ 18 runners set to go to post it may turn out to be an easier puzzle than the usual big field Ascot handicaps.

The ground is going to be a huge factor with somewhere in the region of 20-30mm of rain potentially falling on Friday and Saturday. It takes a lot of rainfall to make the straight course at Ascot heavy but it might not be far off that come race time on Saturday.

Before we look at each runner’s form and ability to handle underfoot conditions let’s first look at the draw and pace set up for the race.

Draw

Ascot 7f draw bias

All metrics point towards high being favoured over low, although it’s worth noting that there isn’t a huge difference in PRB (percentage of rivals beaten) across the board.

Looking just at handicaps run on soft or heavy, there is far less data but it seems to swing things back in favour of lower draws.

Soft ground draw bias at Ascot

What’s particularly interesting here is the PRB figures. There isn’t much between middle and high here but the low draw PRB is 0.57 which is a huge leap from the middle to high PRB.

It’s worth noting that the reason there are only 18 runners here is the field sizes are limited at this meeting because half of the course is railed off to save the ground for Champions Day. This possibly renders much of the above draw data irrelevant.

Three of the last four renewals of this race have been run on soft ground and the draws of the first five finishers in those races are as follows:

2019 – 17, 9, 6, 5, 13
2018 – 17, 18, 15, 11, 16
2016 – 16, 8, 11, 10, 12

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Now that’s a fairly small sample but it’s the most relevant draw data we have for this individual race. It seems significant that in those races eleven of the top fifteen finishers were drawn in double figure stalls and no runner from the lowest four stalls managed to finish in the top five at all.

It’s by no means certain that this trend will continue but it does seem as though a higher draw will be preferable to a lower draw at this meeting on soft.

Pace

Pace is not only important in telling us what race position the winner is most likely to come from, but where the pace is drawn can have an strong impact on a possible draw advantage.

Challenge Cup Pace Map

There is a possible contested speed here with front runners drawn in stalls 5, 7 and 13. Every runner in the field should have speed to track so there certainly shouldn’t be a micro advantage based on where the pace is.

Ascot is generally thought of as a course for hold up horses but they’re not necessarily majorly advantaged at this trip on softer ground.

Soft ground pace advantage

No run style has produced more wins or placed runners than being held up with cut in the ground but that’s from more runners. Prominent runners actually seem to offer the best value (IV 1.33) with front runners performing worst of all.

The Place % data is very similar across the board though so we should get a very fair track and the pace at which this race is run will likely determine where the winner comes from more than anything else. With three front runners in the field this could set up for something more patiently ridden.

The Runners

Kynren

Last year’s winner carries 4lbs more this time around. He ran poorly in his first two starts this season but benefitted from a wind op last time when a creditable 5th in the Ayr Gold Cup off this mark, over a trip short of his best. Three of his four wins have come on soft ground and he’s only been beaten by one runner in two course and distance runs (beat 40 rivals home in those two races) so everything looks in place for a big run and William Carver claims 5lbs. He’s drawn very low in stall 3 though.

River Nymph

Progressive 3yo who has won his last two starts comfortably, rising 17lbs in the process. The 2nd and 3rd from his last win have both come out and won since so he’s fully deserving of his latest 11lb rise and he is also proven in soft ground. This course and distance winner is entitled to run extremely well if tracking the pace from stall 12 although it’s worth noting his trainer Clive Cox was quoted as being glad the ground had dried a little last time out (on soft) so if it was to go heavy it might not be ideal.

Raising Sand

A regular fixture in this race, he was below par last year but won this two years ago and was 3rd to smart pair Accidental Agent and Lord Glitters three years ago. He’ll be ideally suited by conditions here but it’s just a question of how well handicapped he is. He won here last year off a 4lb lower mark and was 1st home on the far side in the Royal Hunt Cup off a 1lb higher mark on his only start this season. He was 8th overall in that race and the first 4 home all won at least once since so that’s strong form considering his draw was so bad on that occasion. He’s fared better this time around in stall 11.

Saffie Osbourne is a very interesting jockey booking. She’ll be claiming 7lbs and has a 28% strike rate in the past fortnight. Her claim could definitely be the difference between a good run in defeat and victory.

Blue Mist

Finally came good here in July after many near misses but that race worked out poorly with no horse from the first seven home winning since and he’s now 5lbs higher. He once again found next to nothing back here a month ago and he’s not one to completely rely upon.

King Ottakar

One that might be overlooked here. He’s largely struggled for the past 12 months but there were definite signs of life back in handicap company last time out at Doncaster over a mile He was cruising 2f out, making up ground with ease, until he ran into the back of the leading group and lost his momentum. He finished well enough but the way he travelled and his finishing effort perhaps suggested he’d be best suited by this drop in trip. That run came on ground that was faster than ideal so he deserves to be marked up again. He’s won twice on soft and is down 2lbs so has a leading chance if the trip isn’t too sharp. Stable form not great though.

Shelir

Has benefitted from being ridden more forward in his recent starts having often caught the eye from off the pace (including here). Should find conditions in his favour but doesn’t look that well handicapped anymore and may find dominating this field difficult.

Greenside

Runner up in this last year off a 7lbs lower mark and although he’s been running well again this season he’s 3lbs worse off with Kynren ignoring jockey claims. He’s likely to run fairly well and a place isn’t out of the question but a win seems very unlikely.

Admirality

Often the bridesmaid, he’s finished 2nd on his last four racecourse appearances. He’s up another 3lbs and although still competitively handicapped he has often seemed better on faster ground.

Best Of The Rest

Orbaan should enjoy the ground and isn’t badly handicapped but whether or not he wants 7f in this tough a race is open to debate.

Blown By Wind will pop up at a big price at some point and he’s probably at his best in testing ground but he’s often slowly away. If he breaks on terms he’s one to consider as an in-running back.

Young Fire is interesting back up in trip on this ground. He’s won two of his last three starts at 7f on soft ground but he possibly goes best at Haydock.

What If The Ground Turns Heavy?

Eight of these runners have never encountered heavy ground before and seven have run on it only once so form on very testing ground isn’t easy to find. Blown By Wind and Ropey Guest both have a 100% record of at least placing on heavy but both have only run once on it.

Instant Expert on Geegeez Gold is an excellent tool to get huge amounts of data for each runner and it can be just as enlightening to look at sires in Instant Expert, especially in extremes of going.

Heavy Ground Sire Stats Instant Expert

Garswood, sire of complete outsider Gabrial The Wire, has an excellent record in heavy ground as a sire as does Dubawi, who gave us Greenside. The sires of Kimifive, Hey Jonesy and Jack’s Point also produce plenty of mudlarks but that trio of runners may struggle to see 7f out on very deep ground.

Verdict

Perhaps the most interesting runner here is River Nymph, who is the one who is potentially still a fair bit ahead of his mark despite going up plenty for his last two wins. If the ground is no worse than soft he looks sure to run very well.

King Ottakar is very tempting on this ground having caught the eye last time and he is certainly overpriced at 10/1 at the time of writing. It looks as though the drop to 7f should suit but it’s a risk, and the trainer form is worrying.

So slightly unoriginal but it may pay to stick with Kynren and Raising Sand. They’ve won this for the last two years between them and were both better than the bare form of their more recent runs. They may not be amazingly handicapped but both have talented claimers on board which could make all the difference. The draw is possibly a concern for Kynren so unless previous races tell us low is better than high then Raising Sand has to be the most solid each way selection at 7/1. Raising Sand has won here for the past four years and can hopefully make it five in a row.

Hexham Racecourse Pace Bias

In this third instalment looking at pace biases at National Hunt courses, we will look at the picturesque Northumberland track at Hexham, writes Dave Renham.

When discussing the word pace my main focus is the initial pace in a race and position the horses take up early on. Some pundits talk about the running style of a horse: this is essentially the same thing.

The Pace Analyser and Query Tool on geegeez.co.uk are places where you can research pace / running styles to your heart’s content.

Pace data on the site is split into four – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The numbers in brackets are the pace scores that are assigned to each section.

For this article I am again concentrating on data going back to 2009 with races of eight or more runners. My main focus when looking at pace will as always be handicap races, but for National Hunt racing if the non-handicap data indicates any biases I will share those data also. Hexham is the course in focus today.

The course is left-handed and a mile and a half in circumference and is considered to be severe and undulating. The hurdle course is shown below:

 

 

As can be seen there are six flights in total, three each in both the back straight and the home straight. The chase course has ten fences in its circuit and a separate home straight with a single fence to navigate.

 

 

Hexham Hurdle Pace Bias

They run over three main distances in hurdles races at Hexham, namely 2m, 2m 4f, and 2m 7½f.

Hexham 2m Hurdle Pace Bias

Here is the handicap hurdle breakdown (8+ runners):

 

There is a marginal advantage for front runners but in general this is a fairly even playing field in terms of early pace. The each way placed percentages are often an area I look at, and the graph below helps demonstrate how even the splits are here. The held up figure is lower but not significantly so.

That said, front runners have an Impact Value of 1.47 which implies they are almost one-and-a-half times as likely to win.

It is also worth sharing the non-handicap data at this trip as there does seem to be a pace bias:

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There has been a definite advantage to those horses that have led or raced close to the pace (prominent). Quite often the reason for this is the fact that some non-handicap races can be rather uncompetitive, especially novice events. Having said that, these stats are strong and with good correlation between strike rates (both win and each way).

 

Hexham 2m4f Hurdle Pace Bias

In the past few years they often move the rail so the distance here can change a little from the advertised two and a half miles. The handicap hurdle breakdown with eight or more runners over this trip looks thus:

 

If there is an advantage, it is towards prominent racers but, unlike the shorter trip, there seems little in it from a pace perspective.

However, when we dig deeper into ground conditions it looks as if there could be a pace bias against front runners as the going eases. On good to soft or softer, front runners have secured just one win from 35 runners: this equates to a very low win strike rate of under 3% and poor A/E and IV values of 0.35 and 0.31 respectively.

 

Hexham 3m Hurdle Pace Bias

The handicap hurdle data over this longer trip looks like this:

 

We see that front runners and prominent racers have a clearly superior record here with a good correlation across all stats. If you had managed to predict the front runner in each three-mile handicap hurdle here since 2009 you would have been rewarded with excellent profits both for win and each way wagers. Easier said than done, of course!

Below is a graphical representation comparing strike rates (win & ew) for each pace figure over this trip which emphasises the positive correlation:

 

Before moving onto chases, it should be noted that this front-running edge seems to strengthen on better ground, whereas prominent runners fare much the best when it is more testing.

On good ground or firmer, front runners have won nine races from 43 (SR 20.9%) with a strong A/E value of 1.89 (IV 2.43).

Whereas on good to soft or softer, those close up but off the lead won 16 races from 102 runners (SR 15.7%) with an IV of 1.56 and a level stakes profit of +25.64.

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Hexham Chase Pace Bias

Over the bigger obstacles at Hexham they primarily race at the following three trips - 2m , 2m 4f and 3m. There is one race each year over the marathon four-mile trip, too.

Hexham 2m Chase Pace Bias

Up until 2015, they officially raced over 2 miles ½ furlong so I have grouped the data together. There have been 40 qualifying races (8+ runner handicap chases):

 

Wow!

This is one of the strongest National Hunt pace biases in the country; not only do front runners enjoy a huge edge, but horses that race in the second half of the field early have a quite dreadful record. The pie chart below gives a powerful pictorial representation of the bias (it shows % of races won by each pace section):

 

Good luck if you're backing a patiently-ridden horse in a Hexham two-mile handicap chase!

When the going is on the soft side, the message is even more stark, as if that was even possible:

 

Hexham 2m4f Chase Pace Bias

There have been a decent number of handicap chases with eight or more runners over this trip (59 races in total). Here are the stats:

 

Another very solid bias to front runners who again show a clear edge. It is not as strong as the shorter distance but still extremely significant. Prominent runners also have a reasonable record while hold up horses have at least been more competitive than they were over the shorter trip.

 

Hexham 3m Chase Pace Bias

Up until 2015 they officially raced over 3m1f as well and I have incorporated those stats with the three-mile figures. The handicap pace splits are as follows (8 + runners):

 

This longer trip still readily favours pace horses but the strength of bias against those that are waited with is not as strong as over the two shorter distances.

 

Hexham 4m Chase Pace Bias

There have been only eight handicap races over four miles and the data is far too limited to dig into.

**

Hexham National Hunt Pace Bias Summary

In conclusion, the running style bias towards those leading and/or racing prominently at Hexham is far stronger in handicap chases than it is in handicap hurdles. Here is one final graph comparing win and each way strike rates between front-runners and hold up horses in handicap chases over the three different distances:

 

The graph beautifully illustrates that

a) the front-running bias is strong across the board,

b) the pace bias does diminish a little as the distance increases; and,

c) front-runners have a significant edge over hold up horses regardless of distance.

Hexham is definitely a course to keep an eye on from a pace perspective.

 

Monday Musings: Arc Love Abounds

The betting will tell you that next Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is a virtual match between 6-4 shot and dual fillies’ Classic winner Love and the Queen of world racing, Enable, who is available at 5-2 after just the 13 Group wins in an 18-race career over five seasons which has yielded 15 victories in all.

That two of them were in the Arc seems not to matter in the face of Love’s faultless campaign of 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks. The memory of an almost unthinkable defeat when going for the hat-trick at Longchamp last October when Waldgeist got up late to deny her, and another second place to Ghaiyyath in the Eclipse Stakes this summer have only slightly dented Enable’s air of invincibility.

The promise of rain in Paris this week will not shake the confidence of the Gosden-Dettori-Abdullah team, nor will the prospect of facing some of the best colts in Europe on Sunday. Those two elements have still to be addressed by Love, representing the Aidan O’Brien filly and her Coolmore owners. Their three-year-old will have a 6lb weight advantage against her revered rival, but obviously boasts a great deal less experience.

That said, Love did run seven times as a juvenile, winning three. Two of those victories last year were on good ground, the other on good to firm. When she was defeated, three of the four were on good to soft or yielding. All three of her Group 1 successes this year have also been officially on good. Add in that she has yet to meet a colt and, while the margins of her wins have been uniformly eye-opening, this represents a new and deeper test.

At this distance, the big two overseas squads (as far as the French are concerned) of Gosden and O’Brien are garnering high-class back-ups. Gosden can bring another six-year-old, the multiple champion stayer Stradivarius, who has shown on two occasions, admittedly in defeat behind Ghaiyyath and Anthony Van Dyck in the Coronation Cup and Anthony Van Dyck again in Longchamp’s Prix Foy, either side of a third Gold Cup at Ascot and fourth Goodwood Cup, that he is effective at a mile and a half. Soft ground or worse would only add to his competitiveness on Sunday.

He will have Olivier Peslier in the saddle this time as Frankie is understandably ever more welded to Enable. The third Gosden runner is anything but a lightweight too. Mishriff had not been considered one of the stable’s superstars when he travelled over to Chantilly for the French Derby (Prix Du Jockey Club) in July, but he won the 10.5 furlong Classic by a length and a quarter from The Summit. Next time out, in a four-horse field for a Deauville Group 2 over slightly further than 12 furlongs, he more than tripled his advantage over the same rival. No non-entity he!

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The ground will finally determine which of the host of potential Aidan O’Brien contenders will form his back-up squad. Mogul is an obvious prime contender after his bounce back to form in the Grand Prix de Paris and the trainer was ready to forgive Japan’s lapses this season by pointing out that he has a good record around Parislongchamp, winning last year’s Grand Prix and finishing fourth to Waldgeist and Enable in the Arc. Derby winners Santiago and Serpentine would be possibles along with Anthony Van Dyck – less likely in the event of soft or heavy – and even Magical. I’m sure the mare herself, still on the upgrade at five, would relish the chance of another nip at Enable.

I think it could be a step too far for Pyledriver, but I feel Willie Muir’s three-year-old was unfairly condemned in many quarters as a non-stayer when third in the St Leger. Had he kept straight he could easily have been right there with Galileo Chrome and was getting back to the leaders again at the finish.

Recent Grand Prix de Deauville winner Telecaster will be aiming to complete his rehabilitation as a Group 1 performer without the services of Christophe Soumillon who guided him to a very easy success on soft ground that day at the conclusion of the August festival. That emphatic six and a half-length verdict on heavy ground at Group 2 level has encouraged Hughie Morrison and the Weinfeld family to take the plunge, with far less downside than the colt’s unfortunate Derby experience caused them last year.

A work-out over the full trip on the testing home gallop convinced Morrison that his four-year-old has the tools needed for a strongly-run Group 1 test and hopes it will keep raining. If Love or for that matter Enable can come through to beat that host of dangers on Sunday, she will deserve the highest accolade. But then, they both have been greatly acclaimed already. I take them in that order, LOVE to beat Enable and I’d be thrilled to see Telecaster get third.

*

Apart from the fact that the two horses I fancied for Saturday’s Cambridgeshire got impossible draws – one of them, Walhaan, won the race on his side and finished 13th of 27, I enjoyed the result. It was nice for Paul Hanagan that at the age of 40 – surely not - he was back in the big time after suffering such a bad injury from a fall at Newcastle when fracturing three vertebrae and having another – the sixth – badly crushed.

How he could come back from that I can barely imagine, but all he could do afterwards was thank everyone, especially Jack Berry House where he did most of his rehabilitation work, and long-term ally Richard Fahey who kept faith with him in the early stages of that recovery and continues to support the former champion jockey.

Now fully fit, and gratifyingly self-effacingly humble as ever, he teamed up with Paul and Olly Cole on Majestic Dawn and their lightly-raced four-year-old surged up the favoured stands rail to win by almost five lengths. This was only his second start of the year, after a last of ten around Kempton three weeks earlier.

At 40-1 it might have looked a forlorn hope, but Olly Cole certainly fancied Majestic Dawn’s chance as he had been fifth in the race last year behind Lord North. Cole junior has grown quickly into his role as co-trainer with his father and it is certain that all those earlier big race triumphs for Paul Cole can be remembered in the context of this revival in the yard’s fortunes.

Paul and Olly Cole were the first of the co-trainers to record a win, quicker even than Simon and Ed Crisford, who were operating under that banner earlier than their Berkshire-based counterparts. The Crisfords have had a brilliant season from their Newmarket yard and so have two much newer operations in the same town.

I remember a few years ago I discovered that George Scott, still working as assistant to Lady Jane Cecil at Warren Place, had a house in Newmarket where Ed Crisford, assistant to his father; James Ferguson, with Charlie Appleby for Godolphin; and George Boughey, Hugo Palmer’s assistant, were his house-mates.

In view of where they all are now, it’s interesting to ponder what they managed to talk about in the evenings when settling down to Coronation Street on the telly. Judging on Scott’s steady progress from his larger premises and support of father-in-law Bill Gredley, and the flying starts made by Ferguson and Boughey, the quartet probably did a little knowledge-exchanging about the business they are now adorning with so much promise.

Talking of promise, I wonder what will assail the ears of young Leo Sangster, christened last week by proud parents Sam and Maddy, over the next week or two. Sam is readying himself for another sales season with his thriving agency, but before that gets too demanding, the Sangsters and their co-owners have a date in Paris, where his late father Robert enjoyed three Arc successes in four years with Alleged (twice) and Detroit.

Sangster senior was one of the first owners that supported Nicolas Clement when he was compelled to take over the Chantilly stable of his father Miguel on his sudden death. Clement struck almost immediately in the 1990 Arc with Saumarez, ridden by Gerald Mosse (still going strong 30 years later) for owners Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky, the ice hockey legend, great friends of Robert Sangster.

Sam Sangster has already enjoyed Stakes success with horses trained by Nicolas Clement and they have high hopes of their bargain two-year-old Camelot filly, King’s Harlequin, bought for only €30,000, in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac. King’s Harlequin won the Group 3 Prix d’Aumale, one of the customary trials for the Marcel Boussac, over the course and distance, in impressive all-the-way fashion last time and is sure to be a major contender on Sunday.

- TS