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Hendo Blow – But it’s on with the Show

As attention turned to Cheltenham, Jump racing fans were rocked yesterday with the news that Altior will miss most of the season due to a breathing issue.

Nicky Henderson dropped the bomb, saying: “I'm really disappointed to report that Altior will miss the Grade One Tingle Creek at Sandown next month due to a wind problem that has surfaced, which means he will not be ready in time. He started faster work last week in the build-up to Sandown and did an excellent piece with Lough Derg Spirit last Tuesday. However, he made a whistling noise on Saturday, so we did an overland scope yesterday, which is basically galloping while being scoped.

“Between our own vet Dave Matterson and Geoff Lane they both concluded that he has a small issue with his wind whereby his larynx isn't opening sufficiently. After discussing the matter with his owners, Christopher and Pat Pugh, we decided that he will need a small procedure to rectify the problem.”

The trainer is hoping that his equine goliath will return in the Spring, in time for a tilt at the Champion Chase. Sprinter Sacre and Might Bite have had the same procedure in the past, to correct slight breathing problems. Altior’s return to the track looks assured, though the timing remains uncertain. Let’s hope he makes the end of season festivals, and again shows us what a fabulous racehorse he is.

With Defi du Seuil’s withdrawal from Sunday’s Greatwood Hurdle, it is a Henderson inmate that’s taken over at the head of the market. It’s hard to believe that a trainer so dominant in the Champion Hurdle has yet to capture this prestigious event. Jenkins is fancied by many to put that record straight. The form of his win at Newbury last November is strong, though Henderson maintains the youngster is badly handicapped.

He spoke earlier in the week, insisting: “He is handicapped on his reputation as a bumper horse, not on what he’s achieved. He was awful that day when he beat Bags Groove. He couldn’t jump a hurdle. Then he fell into one at Ffos Las in the most appalling race you’ve ever seen and somehow ended up on 137.”

Despite his handicap mark, Henderson does believe the horse is in good shape, adding: “He wants to jump this year and wants to work. If he is back to what he was as a bumper horse, he will be very good.”

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The Dan Skelton-trained North Hill Harvey took the Greatwood 12 months ago, and the stable had the runner-up, Superb Story, in 2015. Mohaayed is their representative this time, and he has been well supported in the markets. He has a winning profile and the trainer insists that he’s suited to better ground. Speaking last month, Skelton was clearly targeting this race with the five-year-old, saying: “We will run him fresh in the Greatwood Hurdle. He’s off a nice mark. We will plan his season from there. He’s got his experience and jumps nicely.”

The feature race on Saturday is the BetVictor Gold Cup, a race that Paul Nicholls has won twice in the past five years. The Ditcheat handler has a pair of strong contenders, and said of them: “This is the ideal race to run him (Romain De Senam) in, as he needs a real fast-run race, which he will get at Cheltenham, and he is in good shape.” The five-year-old has improved for a step-up in trip this term, though his handicap mark has suffered as a consequence.

Of his other entry, Nicholls said: “Le Prezien is in good order. He is rated 150 which is quite high. He is an improving game young horse that gets the trip, so he must have a chance.” He was a close second at Cheltenham in October, when beaten by Foxtail Hill over two miles. It would come as no surprise to see both go close again, with this two-and-a-half mile trip likely to suit the pair.

Colin Tizzard will be looking forward to the meeting, with Fox Norton and Finian’s Oscar expected to go well. Both run under the familiar colours of Alan Potts, who very sadly died earlier in the week. Alan’s death comes just three months after the passing of his wife Ann, and yesterday the family confirmed that horses under the ownership will run as planned. Speaking at Exeter yesterday, Joe Tizzard said: “We’ll certainly be running them because they’ve been planned out for this weekend. Alan was due to come to our place Thursday night and see the yard, then go to Cheltenham. It’s a real shock that he’s no longer with us.”

Potts’s daughter Julie is known to have shared her parent’s love of racing, though whether she’ll be at Cheltenham is unknown. Bryan Cooper will continue as main jockey for the English-based horses. “That’s how Alan wanted it, so it’ll stay like that,” Tizzard Jr said.

Tony Keenan: Ten NOT To Follow

Horses to follow lists are a staple of this time of year, much more so than at the equivalent period on the flat in March and April. Whatever it is about national hunt racing, people get enthused about the months ahead and no one can be derided for that. They can’t all deliver on their potential however and I wonder if a more useful approach might be to collate a list of horses to oppose.

The power of the negative is underrated in horse racing analysis and I’ve long found one of the best ways into a race is to find a favourite you dislike and work back from there, the theory being that if it is underpriced there will be value somewhere amongst the rest of the field. Having a few horses in mind that are overrated or at least likely not to match market expectations could be useful as we start into the winter.

One final point on this: my opinion on any of these horses could change after they have had a run or two. One can have views at this point of the season but becoming hidebound to them is a mistake and I am a firm adherent to the John Maynard Keynes approach: ‘when the facts change, I change my mind.’

 

American Tom

There is a school of thought that horses who jump to their right or left are best-suited to racing at tracks with that configuration but I am more inclined to view it as a physical problem of some sort. That seems to be the case with American Tom judging by comments from connections and his fencing was certainly erratic in his novice season. He returned at Naas on Saturday but having travelled best, hitting a low of 1.62 in-running, he found little and finished third to Ball D’Arc. Some will argue this was a creditable return for a horse off for 10 months but he was getting 9lbs from the winner who really wants further and he could be one to oppose in two-mile chases this winter. I can certainly see him being put in short for such events in Ireland which, outside of Douvan, look paper-thin as we saw in Sunday’s Fortria.

 

Bristol De Mai

Though he won well enough in the Charlie Hall earlier this month, there has to be doubts about the value of that form; Coneygree was out of the race early while Cue Card fell when going pretty well, leaving Bristol De Mai with only Blaklion to beat. Cheltenham does not seem to be his thing and furthermore there is a concern that Bristol De Mai’s best efforts seem to come at Haydock, a track that can produce freak performances. He does at least get to go back there soon for the Betfair Chase but a win in that event could be the high-point of his season rather than a signal of better to come.

 

Let’s Dance

Failure is rarely seen as a positive but when Let’s Dance went without a win in four runs in juvenile hurdles it was a blessing in disguise as it left her with a significant experience edge against the novices last season. That was a campaign where she was well-placed to win five races on the bounce and, while it could be argued that she won against the geldings in January before landing the Dawn Run, holes can be picked in those runs: the Leopardstown win came when half the field jumped poorly while she only beat Barra at Cheltenham. Augusta Kate – herself no star – beat her afterwards and she has a long way to go to compete with the best mares like Apple’s Jade and Limini.

 

Paloma Blue

For whatever reason, our culture has a tendency to get carried away with the achievements of those that die young with the assumption being that their potential was certain to be reached. That seems to be the case with Fayonagh who has already been crowned a second Dawn Run since her demise, and fans of the mare may be inclined to overrate the horses that finished behind her last season. Paloma Blue is an obvious one for this treatment having finished second to her at Punchestown, but that looked a weak race with only seven runners and the winner was a clear victor; the third also makes this list while Someday simply didn’t run to form. The value of Paloma Blue’s previous bumper win is questionable, allowing that Henry De Bromhead doesn’t really train his horses for such races, and his jumping on hurdles debut was ordinary. He will likely be able to win a maiden hurdle somewhere but graded class may prove beyond him.

 

Petit Mouchoir

Evidence suggests that horses that spend an extra season over hurdles are less likely to become top-class chasers even when they have been very good over small obstacles and in the main I’m looking to oppose these horses with ones that have improved for fences all winter. Petit Mouchoir certainly didn’t look like he had any issue with fences on his chase debut but that slight niggle persists and more than that he has had a small setback which is likely to keep him out until early 2018. That puts him on the back-foot with a view to races like the Arkle, for which he remains second-favourite, as he will give up match practice to horses that will have been running over the next couple of months.

 

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Poli Roi

A £300,000 price-tag meant Poli Roi was always going to be one with a reputation and the starting prices in his four runs under rules thus far suggest he is well-regarded by someone at least. The evidence of those runs has been less compelling though; he looked quirky in winning first time before being put in his place in the Punchestown Champion Bumper, while his two hurdle runs have been marked by temperament, flashing his tail on the way to victory last time. In general, I don’t think opposing ungenuine horses is the betting angle it once was – the markets have wised up to it and trainers seem better at working around it – but there are still cases when it can create value.

 

Sub Lieutenant

It seems reasonable to ask what Sub Lieutenant is at the moment, be it two-and-a-half or three-miler. Regardless of trip, he has started 2017/18 out-of-form which isn’t encouraging given he was particularly good in the early part of the previous season; furthermore, he seems to have gone back from first to second run which is a negative for any horse. He put up some good efforts last year, notably when runner-up in the Ryanair, but a deeper dive into his form suggests he may not be up to winning another Grade 1 or 2. He is two from fourteen in such races, the first win coming in a race Milsean threw away, the second in an event confined to second-season chasers. Unfortunately for him, these are just the sorts of races he has to compete in with a mark of 157 and he could have a season of frustration ahead of him that may culminate with reverting to staying handicap chases.

 

Thistlecrack

A late starter to chasing raises alarm-bells straightaway, even for one as lightly-raced and talented as Thistlecrack, and then there is his tendon injury from last season. Thistlecrack also lost a little lustre in his Cotswold Chase defeat in January as prior to that he seemed one with unlimited potential, not a horse that could be beaten by Many Clouds, granted that one had ideal conditions. That put a lid on how far he can go and facing a host of impressive novices from last season along with the likes of Sizing John and Native River, Thistlecrack looks a weak favourite for the Gold Cup. Perhaps he will again prove the exception to the rule but I wouldn’t like to be betting on it.

 

Tombstone

Following a pair of impressive bumper wins in 2015, Tombstone hasn’t really built on his early promise and the temperament that first surfaced in the 2016 Deloitte (didn’t go through with his effort when coming to challenge Bleu Et Rouge) now seems to be a feature of his make-up. He did win a Red Mills Hurdle last season but that was against a ‘bouncy’ Jezki and he failed to back it up with short-priced defeats at Cheltenham and Fairyhouse. Chasing has gone ok for him thus far but there was again a less than strong finishing effort on debut last month before being gifted a race at Down Royal last time. Put simply, he’s a horse whose reputation outstrips his achievements and he appears less than willing to boot.

 

Total Recall

Already favourite for the old Hennessy (now Ladbrokes) at Newbury, Total Recall might be worth taking on there and not only because of Willie Mullins’s record in UK handicap chases; he is 2 from 113 in such races since 2003. Total Recall was very good in winning the Munster National but that race fell apart quite early with a number of the field failing to complete and the seemingly-back-on-track second, Alpha Des Obeaux, ran just ok next time. I am also sceptical about how much further Mullins can improve this horse; he went up 18lbs for Limerick, and Sandra Hughes, allowing that her yard was out-of-form last season, is a competent trainer, better than some who previously handled the other improvers for the move to Closutton. Perhaps Total Recall has already reached his level for his new yard.

 

As always, these are only my opinions. Feel free to agree or disagree – with your wallet or in the comments below; and if you have any ‘to not follow’ suggestions of your own, do share them below with a comment.

- TK

Winter Gold: Day 1

In the first of five special features looking in detail at Geegeez Gold this week, I introduce an overview of the site. It includes tips, reports, tools, and a couple of very smart under-the-radar trainers to follow!

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Monday Musings: Under The Radar

Nine years ago, while writing a similar column to this in a since defunct organ, I remember eulogising about a horse that must lay claim not just to having gone under the radar, but simply evading all attention, writes Tony Stafford.

By the time of his sixth successive victory, having won twice as a late-season juvenile, and at three, adding a Conditions race and a Listed event before collecting the 20-runner Prix du Jockey Club and the Prix Niel (Group 2), he went to the Arc unbeaten despite never having started favourite.

That’s right, even after gallantly holding Famous Name (eventual winner of 21 of 38 starts, all bar one at Group 2, 3 or Listed level) at Chantilly, he did not even head the market for his Arc trial. He won it only narrowly – his sole win at a mile and a half - so maybe fifth around three lengths behind Zarkava and one adrift of Youmzain and Soldier of Fortune was decent enough in a first defeat.

In four seasons’ racing he won ten of his 17 starts, collecting £2.5 million, bolstered by further Group 1’s, the Prix Ganay, a Prince of Wales and a Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin. A son of dual Group 1 winner but equally unheralded Chichicastenango – what a great name – he would have been even more formidable had he truly stayed the Classic distance.

Vision d’Etat always showed a turn of foot, so when he retired to the Haras de Grandcamp at a fee of €6,000, there were plenty of takers. Among a numerous second crop, divided between Pur Sang (fully thoroughbred) and AQPS (effectively non-thoroughbred) mares was a filly out of the Saint des Saints mare Santa Bamba called De Bon Coeur.

Yesterday at Auteuil on the traditional closing day of their Autumn season and ridden by James Reveley, she made it eight wins in nine starts over hurdles (she fell when cantering clear in the other) in the Prix Renaud du Vivier, the 4yo Champion Hurdle.

Her maternal grand sire, the aforementioned Saint des Saints, never raced on the Flat and in a 14-race career competed exclusively at Auteuil. He won six of 12 hurdles and the first of two chases, being switched back to the smaller obstacles after falling in his next race over fences.

As a sire he has excelled, notably with Willie Mullins’ top-class chaser Djakadam, but it is arguable whether he has produced anything with more potential than De Bon Coeur. In his racing days he three times had to give best to the great Marly River, including in this same 4yo championship race.

As in all her runs where I have found race comments, she has been allowed to sit in behind the leaders until mid-race when, as was the case yesterday, Reveley has taken her to the front. It took some believing to witness the way she carried herself clear of her field before the home turn without any obvious encouragement from the jockey and drew away to win untroubled by ten lengths from the best of her generation. Seven of her eight wins have been achieved by between seven and 12 lengths.

Two years ago Blue Dragon won the same race with equal authority and he remains at the top of France’s hurdling tree, even allowing for the fact that he has had some alarming late capitulations on occasion.

So far there is no sign that De Bon Coeur has similar frailties and yesterday’s times take as much believing as the raw visual impression of the race. There were two other races run over the same 3900 metres (just short of two and a half miles) trip.  She was nine seconds (maybe 150 yards) faster than the earlier Listed handicap won by a smart gelding and more than 13 seconds faster than a classy Martalane filly in another, worth 22K to the winner.

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Vision d’Etat switched studs for this season to Haras du Treban where he stood at €2,800. I expect they will be busy next year and beyond!

There were a couple of striking performances at Navan yesterday, the Mullins five-year-old Footpad making a spectacular debut over fences suggesting he will be hard to leave out of Arkle Chase consideration next spring. Footpad, a French-bred, actually returned to his homeland for last year’s Prix Renaud du Vivier and was only narrowly beaten into second by the outsider Capivari. That race was run only four seconds faster than one of the handicaps.

The second smart performance came from another French import, Apple’s Jade, in the Lismullen Hurdle. Once with Mullins, she was moved, along with many of the Gigginstown House horses, to Gordon Elliott and the daughter of Saddler Maker will be competitive in all the big hurdles this winter.

If connections of Pallasator had expected (as I confess I did!) him to follow his charity race romp with a debut win over hurdles at Naas on Saturday, they were to be disappointed. The winner here was Next Destination, by an emphatic 13 lengths, in the happily once more visible Malcolm Denmark silks. He has run a few horses recently, still concentrating on long-term protege Mark Pitman, but this one is with Willie Mullins and was not far behind ill-fated Fayonagh in last season’s Cheltenham bumper.

That was the race where Denmark and Pitman enjoyed a 50-1 triumph together, one of eight wins from only ten starts by the brilliant Monsignor. That was his second win from four bumper runs when oddly three of his four riders - Brendan Powell senior, Timmy Murphy and Graham Lee - all won the Grand National, although the latter pair now ride only on the Flat.

Monsignor won all six races over hurdles the following winter beating triple Gold Cup hero Best Mate at Sandown and National winner Bindaree a couple of times including in the Royal and Sun Alliance hurdle at the Festival.

Norman Williamson rode the gelding in all six and will have been as frustrated as everyone in racing in the spring of 2000 when injury prevented his running ever again. Just how far he might have changed racing history must often exercise the minds of Messrs Denmark, Pitman and Williamson. It was nice to see him on show at Newbury races one day a couple of years back as an equine participant in the Retraining of Racehorses scheme and it would be appropriate if Next Destination reaches anywhere near his level.

Saturday in the UK belonged to that highly-efficient dual-purpose trainer Ian Williams. Having won the big handicap hurdle at Wincanton with his Cesarewitch runner-up London Prize, he was on hand at Doncaster to send out Saunter, a recent addition to the stable, to stroll home in the November Handicap.

In the way of such coincidences, Williams has another young horse, good enough to run second behind sadly-deceased Permian in the Listed Newmarket Stakes back in May and to canter away from his field in a Huntingdon juvenile hurdle just over a week ago. His name? Speedo Boy. His sire? Vision d’Etat. Do you feel a Triumph or more likely a Fred Winter coming on? I do.

SotD Update, 6th to 11th November 2017

Last week was certainly not the way I wanted to return from my holiday! We've been operating this particular service for six years now and it has produced decent profits at a steady rate with the inevitable peaks and troughs associated with gambling. The method of selection hasn't changed, neither has my approach, we're just on a downswing.

As for recent losses, I feel and share your pain, because unlike most commercial tipsters out there, I back every single one of my own selections with real money, so when you win I win and you lose I lose, but I'm still extremely confident the current cold spell will be broken soon and we'll start moving the numbers in the right direction again.

Selections & Results : 06/11/17 to 11/11/17 :

06/11 : Mab Dab @ 13/2 BOG 3rd at 7/1
07/11 : Jack of Diamonds @ 11/4 BOG 2nd at 9/4
08/11 : Swift Crusador 11/4 BOG 2nd at 7/2
09/11 : Petite Jack @ 4/1 BOG 6th at 9/4
10/11 : Lady of Longstone @ 9/4 BOG 2nd at 9/4
11/11 : Virgilio @ 7/2 BOG 8th at 11/4

06/11/17 to 11/11/17 :
0 winning bets from 6 = 0.00% SR
P/L: -6.00pts

November 2017:
1 winner from 9 = 11.11% SR
P/L: -5.60pts
ROI = -62.22%

2017 so far:
73 winners from 257 = 28.40% SR
P/L: +92.90pts
ROI = +36.15%

Overall:
513 winners from 1848 = 27.76% S.R
P/L: +467.62pts
ROI: +25.30%

P.S. The full month by month SotD story can be found right here.
P.P.S The review of SotD's 2012 performance is here.

Whilst the details for 2013 are now online here.
And the figures for 2014 are now available here.

Our review of 2015 can be found right here
Whilst 2016's details are right here

Stat of the Day is just one component of the excellent package available to all Geegeez Gold Members, so why not take your £1, 30-day trial right now?

Click here for more details.

Stat of the Day, 13th November 2017

Saturday's Result :

2.15 Aintree: Virgilio @ 7/2 BOG 8th at 11/4 Held up towards rear, closed on inside from 5th, no impression 2 out, weakened before last.

Next up is Monday's...

4.00 Kempton

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Salto Chisco @ 3/1 BOG

A Class 4, 3yo+, Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle over 2m on Good to Soft ground worth £3,899 to the winner.

Trainer Harry Whittingham has 3 winners from his last 8 runners, from which his hurdlers are 2 from 4, but that's not too surprising considering that since 1st October 2014, his hurdlers are 19/75 (25.3% SR) for 149.2pts (+199% ROI) in the final three months of the year. Of those 75 early season hurdlers...

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  • males are 16/67 (23.9%) for 70.7pts (+105.5%)
  • at Class 4 : 15/54 (27.8%) for 146.1pts (+270.5%)
  • ran in last 30 days : 6/32 (18.75%) for 30.25pts (+94.5%)
  • at odds of 9/2 and shorter : 13/31 (41.9%) for 17.35pts (+56%)
  • at 1m7.5f/2m : 11/30 (36.7%) for 135pts (+450%)
  • in handicaps : 5/25 (20%) for 15.36pts (+61.4%)
  • and here at Kempton : 2/7 (28.6%) for 12.17pts (+173.8%)

...and his only hurdler today is Salto Chisco, a 9yr old gelding who has three wins from his last six outings and has also achieved the following...

  • 3 wins & 2 places from 7 within 30 days of his last run
  • 2 wins & 2 places from 6 going right handed
  • 2 wins & 2 places from 5 at 2 miles
  • 1 from 1 here at Kempton (over course and distance)

That course and distance win also makes him of further interest, as since 2009 in Class 3 to 5 handicap hurdles, former C&D winners who were priced at 7/4 to 12/1 after a win LTO = 195/952 (20.5% SR) for 169.2pts (+17.8% ROI), including...

  • those who last ran 6 to 60 days earlier : 173/843 (20.5%) for 150.1pts (+17.8%)
  • 9 yr olds are 21/91 (23.1%) for 29.5pts (+32.4%)
  • and here at Kempton: 2/10 (20%) for 6.91pts (+69.1%)

...giving us... a 1pt win bet on Salto Chisco @ 3/1 BOG which was widely available at 7.40pm on Monday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 4.00 Kempton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Nicholls has the right Mix for Wincanton showpiece

The Flat season concludes at Doncaster on Saturday, but with the Jumps now in full swing, I’ll be focusing on the Badger Ales Trophy which takes place at Wincanton.

First run in 1962 at a trip of 2m5f, the race was extended to 3m1f in 1990 and achieved Listed status in 2003. The right-handed galloping track with hefty fences proves a thorough test for a chaser. Though not as ‘trappy’ as Kempton, they do nevertheless tend to go at a fair old clip.

Paul Nicholls trains at Ditcheat, just a short distance from the racecourse, and it’s no surprise that the ex-champion trainer enjoys plenty of success at the track. His record in the Badger Ales is mightily impressive. He’s been responsible for seven of the last 20 winners, achieving a stunning strike-rate of 35%. He looked likely to land last year’s renewal, when Southfield Theatre came down at the last.

The same horse is back for another try, and is among a trio of entries for the master of Ditcheat. All three have posted victories at the track and are well fancied to go close on Saturday.

Southfield Theatre runs off a 3lb higher mark than 12 months ago. He’s clearly not the easiest to keep right, having only had two outings last winter. He’s gone well fresh in the past, winning his seasonal debut in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Though a nine-year-old, he’s got relatively few miles on the clock, and his age group have a strong record in the race. Carrying big weights has not proved an issue in this over the years, and if Nicholls has him right, he ought to run well.

Mr Mix has far less experience, though did win a handicap at the track last time. He’s up 5lbs for that success, though the six-year-old should have plenty of improvement in him. He has a fair strike-rate with four wins from 13 starts under rules. Two horses aged six have won this in the last 10 years.

Present Man is the other Nicholls contender, and was last seen winning over hurdles at Kempton. That should have put him just right for this, and he’s currently the race favourite. He’s won four of his nine chase starts, though I’m far from convinced he’s good enough to win here. I’m also doubtful as to whether the trip will suit. His best performances have come at 2m5f, and this may stretch him.

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One that I do like is the Tom George-trained Double Shuffle. His handicap mark is plenty high enough, but he seems to enjoy going right-handed, and ran a race full of promise last time over an inadequate trip. Arguably his best two runs have come at Kempton over three-miles, and he gave weight and a thumping to Go Conquer last December (that form given a boost last week at Ascot). I fancy he’ll go close.

Colin Tizzard looks sure to fire plenty darts at the target. Theatre Guide, Tempestatefloresco and Bally Longford look likely contenders. The latter is the one I fancy to go well. Owned by Ann and Alan Potts, he had just the three runs for his new trainer last winter due to a stress fracture. Now back to full health and thoroughly used to his new surroundings, he could take a marked step forward this term. His seasonal debut was certainly promising, when fourth behind Mr Mix at Wincanton. He should improve plenty for that, and is 5lbs better off at the weights. He could go close.

Neil Mulholland is another with plenty of potential runners. Pilgrims Bay is best going right-handed, and beat Double Shuffle at Kempton in February. He’s worse off at the weights, though the seven-year-old may well have further improvement to come. He does very little when hitting the front, and as such, may still be ahead of the handicapper.

Mulholland also saddles The Young Master. Talented, though out of sorts last year, he’s still only eight, despite appearing to have been around forever. His handicap has dropped from a high of 150 to a rather attractive mark. He’s another that likes going right-handed and is capable of running a huge race.

This looks an intriguing renewal, and a case can be made for many. As long as the rain stays away, I can see Double Shuffle going very close. I’ll certainly be on his side. I also like Mr Mix, though his lack of experience is a slight concern. Nevertheless, I think there’s plenty more to come from this young chaser, and will be throwing a few quid his way.

Best of luck to all those having a punt. It looks a tricky one.

Breeders’ Cup 2017 Debrief

The final grand flat meeting hooplah - or yeehaa - of the northern hemisphere came and went last weekend as Del Mar racecourse, in San Diego, hosted the 34th Breeders' Cup. With a European cast in the thirties and every major American horse still standing at the end of a punishing season also gracing the stage, it was a fantastic production if not quite the self-proclaimed Thoroughbred World Championships.

Betting Bloodbath

Finding winners was tough. Super tough. A combination of course constituents made for a series of head-scratching results: an extremely tight turning track - the turf course was not long since widened to allow for the requisite field sizes and, naturally, that was engineered on the inside so as not to interfere with the existing dirt oval; a 'dead' rail on the inside of the dirt track played strongly against inside runners; and a depth of surface which was more akin to the dusty El Segundo beach from which it came than a compacted fast dirt stratum made for some lottery outcomes.

Those results were unlike any Breeders' Cup before and, hopefully, it will be a long time until we see such as them again. The Breeders' Cup series consists of thirteen races spread over two days - four on Friday, nine on Saturday. [As an aside, I have no idea why the distribution is so lop-sided. Surely five and eight offers no material dilution of the Saturday card whilst adding 25% in terms of interest to Friday's warm up. Personally, I'd like to see six and seven Cup race cards, but that's unlikely to happen in the land of 'Super Size me'.]

Thirteen races, then, and just two winning favourites. Ouch. But that is merely the tip of the punting woe iceberg. This was brutal stuff. Although a jolly (Mendehlssohn), a second favourite (Rushing Fall) and a 3rd fav (Forever Unbridled) on Friday implied winners might be gettable, Saturday was pin-stickers' territory for most of the day.

The first three Breeders' Cup winners on the main card were seventh, tenth and twelfth in their markets respectively, with average odds of 38/1. Wuheida, winner of the Filly & Mare Turf, Saturday's fourth BC race, was sent off 11.2/1 third choice, and Roy H was logical enough at 4.9/1 (also 3rd fav) in the Sprint. Then, in the sixth of nine Cup races, we got a winning favourite. World Approval was well fancied and was much the best, regardless of luckless runs in behind: you make your own luck to some degree, and this guy was in the right spot throughout.

If that hinted at a positive correction, Bolt d'Oro's odds-on failure in the Juvenile quickly put the lid on such optimistic notions. The winner was another double-digit scorer on track, and only sixth choice of the local betting public. He was followed by the fifth market rank, at 14.1/1 locally, in the Turf.

If you had any money left by now, Gun Runner was easy to find - if totally not for me - in the Classic. He was sent off the 2.4/1 favourite. But let's be clear, this was some bloodbath for most.

**

How the Compendium Fared

I produced and shared a report called the Breeders' Cup Compendium to help punters understand the US form and piece together the relative merits of runners from both sides of the Atlantic. It was a very good report, though I say so myself, and you can find it here.

The amount of effort that went into producing it was significant. As I've said previously, there is nothing in my professional year that makes less sense than the time I lavish on that document compared with the commercial return on investment. No matter, for it is - clearly, I hope - a labour of love, and something I'd be doing in large part for my own benefit anyway.

My aim this year was even less 'commercial' than usual. I use that word in a loose sense as I normally only try to cover the air fare and hotel at best. Dinner and a drink is at my own expense. Anyway, this year, as you probably know, I offered the Compendium on a 'pay if you like' basis. That was because I wanted more people to engage on a slightly more cognisant level with what I believe to be a special event, even when it is as unpredictable as last weekend was.

I'm pleased to say that the download page had been visited 7,916 times as I write. That means a good few thousand people had at least something more than a passing interest in the weekend's action. Great stuff, really pleasing. And many thanks to the 107 who offered up the £12.50 - it's much appreciated and covered the flight and one night's accommodation, which is more than I expected from what was somewhere between vague altruism and a social experiment on my part.

Anyway, never mind all that, how did the report fare?

Learning a lesson from last year, I was deliberately unclear with staking advice. The selection sections, as you will see shortly, were intended to inform in a general sense. That said, each race - with one exception - had at least one suggested play. My own style is often to back multiple runners in a race and that, too, was reflected. Here's how things panned out...

Friday

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Trends Contenders:

Significant Form, Rushing Fall

Form Contenders:

Happily, September, Juliet Capulet

Juvenile Fillies’ Turf Selection:

Happily has a very good chance to win this race. But the combination of much quicker ground, the terrible record of Euro fillies in the race, and her price is enough for me to look elsewhere. She’ll obviously not be a shock result, but nor is she any sort of value.

It’s a really tricky race, with that historical hoodoo casting a long shadow over the merits achieved by a number of British and Irish fillies in the form book. If I was going to back one of ‘ours’, I think Juliet Capulet could be the one. She’s moving forwards nicely, and her trainer’s record at Breeders’ Cup is a respectable if unspectacular four from 32.

But Chad Brown knows how to win this. His record is peerless, and he has two strong cards to play this time. Rushing Fall lucked out at the draw and is short enough, though drifting towards a backable price at 4/1 in a place. 5/1 and I’d be having at least a saver.

Her stablemate, Significant Form, has taken the more established Brown route by winning the Miss Grillo last time out. Brown’s record with winners of that race in the JFT is 1211, the last three of those coming in the past four years.

In a race where I’ll not be getting heavily involved, I think she is the best value option, at 10/1. That said, it wouldn’t be the biggest shock ever if the second horse there, Best Performance, improved past her on what will also be only her third turf start.

Significant Form each way at 10/1 (Hills, betfair, PP) – advised 1st November

Small saver on Best Performance each way at 20/1 (general) – advised 1st November

Result

Rushing Fall was wide all the way around, but that didn't stop her winning. She was much the best and saw off 20/1 suggestion Best Performance in second. Significant Form rounded out the superfecta, one place behind Ballydoyle's second string, September. Aidan O'Brien's Happily finished last as the on track favourite.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

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Dirt Mile

Trends Contenders:

Mor Spirit, Sharp Azteca

Form Contenders:

Accelerate, Mor Spirit, Sharp Azteca

Dirt Mile Selection:

I think Mor Spirit is the most likely winner. Sadly, so does the market, and I don’t think he’s value at just better than 2/1 even though he may well win.

Sharp Azteca’s chance seems to hang on how much he has to do to get a forward position in a race where there could conceivably be four horses vying for the lead. I fear him in that context, but he could easily run off the board if doing too much too soon, so doesn’t make each way appeal.

The one for me, each way, will be Accelerate. Not exactly a win machine, he is nevertheless very consistent, and has solid course form in his last two starts. He may well have failed to stay over a quarter mile further last time so, dropping back in trip and with a versatile run style, he looks capable of running a big race.

Accelerate each way at 6/1 Skybet NRNB (advised 24th October)

Result

This was a shock. Battle Of Midway was simply not in my thoughts even though it's a race where shocks are commonplace. Indeed, this was the sixth time in eleven renewals that a horse outside of the top three market choices has won. The favourite is now just two from eleven. Sharp Azteca ran a mighty race in second and, while I was right to oppose Mor Spirit at the price (8th as the 2.4/1 favourite), I was wrong to do so with Accelerate. He never lifted a leg and ran as though over the top on the season. He was not the first, and certainly not the last, to fail to fire on a track as divisive as any for a Breeders' Cup since the slop shambles in Monmouth Park in 2007.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

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Juvenile Turf

Trends Contenders:

Masar, Mendelssohn

Form Contenders:

Masar, James Garfield, Mendelssohn

Juvenile Turf Selection:

I don’t like this race from a betting perspective, not one bit. On the face of it, the Euros have a huge class edge and should win. In fact, they could conceivably fill out the trifecta and perhaps even the superfecta.

But... it shapes to be a messy affair, and it may be the colt that gets the cleanest run who wins.

The most likely winner for me is Masar. He’s classy and progressive, should handle the turns and his trainer knows how to get this job done. The return to a sound surface is also expected to be in his favour.

If his stamina holds out and he gets a clear run, I also believe James Garfield can hit the frame.

Catholic Boy is a very promising colt, too, but I doubt whether he has the ability of the overseas squad.

This is as close to ‘no bet’ territory as there is. Gun to head, Masar. But given we live in a country where gun control laws are sensible – as opposed to the laws from where I write this – I will say no bet.

No bet – advised 1st November

(If pushed, Masar 9/2, very tentatively)

Result

Masar and James Garfield had terrible runs, and were unable to show their best. Masar in particular may have played a hand but for the traffic jams. Mendelssohn has no such issues and was clear pick on the day.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

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Distaff

Trends Contenders:

Paradise Woods, Elate

Form Contenders:

Stellar Wind, Paradise Woods

Distaff Selection:

A very trappy affair. All should be able to run their races, though Champagne Room may ‘spoil’ Paradise Woods by pressing her hard early. That’s important because I think Paradise Woods is the danger to my fancy if she gets loose on the lead.

She has a very good trends profile, is really fast on her going days, and as a three-year-old has more scope to step forward again than the veterans in the field.

That’s the key to a bet here. Both Stellar Wind and Forever Unbridled are five-year-olds, an age at which most mares are either in the covering sheds or have shown they’re not good enough. Beholder struck back for the oldies last year in a thriller with Songbird, but history says we should not bank on a repeat.

Furthermore, both of that pair have been extremely lightly raced this term, bucking a strong trend whereby winners have had five-plus seasonal starts. Two and three is not close to that level of match fitness.

I’ve personally already backed Elate, directly after she won the G1 Beldame last time out, and she’s the one I like. It wasn’t a big speed figure there – she’s never run one – but she got caught in traffic and when the gap came, she burst through it to put the race to bed in a matter of strides. There is definitely more in her tank. I think she’ll be really tough to keep out of the three so, at 9/2, she rates the proverbial each way bet to (almost) nothing. I’ve backed her again at 4/1 (can’t get on with the 9/2 firms) and rate her the best bet on Friday. Paradise Woods is worthy of a saver in my opinion.

Advised 29th October

Elate each way at 9/2 888sport, Unibet (4/1 general)

Paradise Woods saver at 8/1 Lads, Boyle, Sunbets

Result

My going in position was that I wanted to field against the older brigade and I wanted to be with Elate. I wagered robustly in that direction. And I got it badly wrong. Forever Unbridled, third in a better Distaff last year, was first this year, and deservedly so. She was very good on the day. Paradise Woods faded to third having been involved on the sharp end with others, and late running Abel Tasman picked up the place without threatening the winner. Elate was another who either didn't act on the track or showed the effects of a hard season: this was clearly not her running. Sigh.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

**

Saturday

Juvenile Fillies

Trends Contenders:

Moonshine Memories, Heavenly Love

Form Contenders:

Moonshine Memories, Heavenly Love, Separationofpowers, Piedi Bianchi, Caledonia Road

Juvenile Fillies’ Selection:

I’m hanging my hat on this being run at a rapid pace. If that comes to pass there’s a chance that a closer will gun down the early speedsters.

While I think Moonshine Memories is a legitimate jolly, she could be susceptible to the late rally of a filly like Piedi Bianchi (white feet, if you were wondering) or Caledonia Road.

I’ve been quite taken by Piedi Bianchi and reckon she’s a fair each way play in what is a pretty open race. She’ll not be involved in the early skirmishes and will need to make her run entering the home turn: that’s what she did in the Del Mar Deb at this track and 14/1 understates her chance a touch.

Back Piedi Bianchi each way at 14/1 (Betfair Sports, 12/1 general) – advised 3rd November

Result

As projected, the market leaders were also the early race leaders and went unsustainably fast. Alluring Star hung toughest to hold on to second, but she couldn't repel the late rally of Caledonia Road, for whom this more extreme test of stamina was ideal. Piedi Bianchi ran a solid race in fifth (one bookie was apparently paying five places, good luck if you managed to get out on that!). I really should have 'bold typed' Caledonia Road as well as White Feet. But, of course, everything is easy with hindsight.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

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Turf Sprint

Trends Contenders:

Pure Sensation, Marsha

Form Contenders:

Lady Aurelia, Marsha

Turf Sprint Selection:

The Turf Sprint is Lady Aurelia’s to lose. She has a speed edge, a class edge, a great draw and, well, what else do you want?

For those looking to play exacta and/or each way, Pure Sensation could get near the front early, even from the widest draw, and may stay there some way into the home straight. He’s a fast horse who is optimally suited by five furlongs. And he’s 16/1.

Cotai Glory could also grab some of the ‘pieces’ without having any reason to beat Lady Aurelia; and Hogy might run top four or five at a big price.

Sadly, I’m against Marsha, though I hope she runs a belter for her connections: each of Luke Morris, Sir Mark Prescott and the dreamland posse of Elite Racing Club members are into uncharted waters. Good luck guys!

Lady Aurelia to win 6/5 (Betfair, Paddy, winner), 11/10 general – advised 2nd November

Small each way Pure Sensation 16/1 bet365 (NRNB, ¼ 1-2-3) – advised 2nd November

Result

Lady Aurelia, sent off 9/10 favourite, was all at sea around the turn and eased off when her chance was gone. With Marsha not faring brilliantly on the loop either, it was left to unconsidered outsider, Stormy Liberal, to pick up the pieces. He had never even run over five furlongs and was appearing here after five months off. His trainer, Peter Miller, also saddled the second home, Richard's Boy - and the main track Sprint winner, Roy H: a remarkable feat indeed.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

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Filly & Mare Sprint

Trends Contenders:

Ami’s Mesa, Finley’sluckycharm, Curlin’s Approval

Form Contenders:

Unique Bella, Curlin’s Approval, plenty of others

Summary snippet:

This seven furlong ‘sprint’ revolves around the fast and classy three-year-old, Unique Bella. She’s unbeaten in five starts since a debut second, and has won by some wide margins.

If that’s the good news, question marks remain. First, she’s never run a fast figure. Second, she was talked up as a Distaff filly and has ‘bottled’ that engagement. Third, she’s never won in G1 company. Fourth, she has a wide draw in stall eleven. Fifth, she may want to get involved in a tussle for the lead, along with four or five others. Sixth, she was off for five months before her last race. Seventh, she seemed to have an awkward head carriage in the straight in that last race. And eighth, she’s a three-year-old: that age group are collectively 0 from 28 in this race so far, and they’ve had fancied runners before.

She could blitz them, but as you can see there are plenty of reasons to look for something at a bigger price.

Filly & Mare Sprint Selection:

If you want to be with the favourite, Unique Bella, fair play and good luck. She’s a very smart filly but there are plenty of reasons to try to get her beaten.

With what is a more difficult conundrum: there are a number of ladies who could prevail including Skye Diamonds, Paulassilverlining, Finley’sluckycharm, Ami’s Mesa, and Curlin’s Approval.

I’m not getting stuck in here but will roll the dice for small money on three.

The first is 50/1 poke Ami’s Mesa: having backed her already at 33/1, I just have to try again at 50’s. The phrase good money after bad springs to mind, but who knows, it could be the score of the weekend!

More realistic, according to the betting at least, is Paulassilverlining. She’s a class mare who was improving all season prior to the Ballerina flop last time out. Chuck that out and she’s second favourite. Instead, she’s 14/1.

Finally, I’ll have a small piece of Curlin’s Approval. I like her quiet preparation and she might be ready to produce a career best. Trap three aids that prospect.

Small bet on Ami’s Mesa at 50/1 general – advised 3rd November

Small bet on Paulassilverlining at 14/1 Betfair Sports/Paddy – advised 3rd November

Your first 30 days for just £1

Small bet on Curlin’s Approval 20/1 Betfair Sports/Paddy – advised 3rd November

Result

Ugh. This was painful viewing. I was in for a proper score had Ami's Mesa (backed at 33/1 and 50/1) been propelled to the front just a touch later. As it was, her jockey - who gave her a fine ride but needed an imperious one - just left her marginally too exposed to the late-running unconsidered 66/1 poke, Bar Of Gold. 11/10 favourite, Unique Bella, was given eight reasons to be beaten - replicated above - and ticked just about every box in defeat.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

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Filly & Mare Turf

Trends Contenders:

Rhododendron, War Flag

Form Contenders:

Lady Eli, Rhododendron, many many others

Filly & Mare Turf Selection:

 

This is not a race for the wagering faint-hearted. There is little between maybe eight of the field and the filly or mare with the best luck on the day is the most likely winner.

On form, I’d want to be with Lady Eli. She is training very well here in Del Mar since shipping across from New York and she’s undoubtedly the most talented of the Americans. But will she get a clear run from stall nine? If she does, I think she’ll win.

If it gets messy, there are so many options. I have to have a small piece of Senga, who may be a bigger price on the tote board than her current UK quote of 14/1. Her trainer looks to have had this in mind for some while and, as long as she doesn’t get shuffled back from trap two, she has a withering turn of pace.

There are credible cases to be made for lots of horses in here. It is not one to get stuck into in my opinion, so the following are token suggestions: I will be backing Senga, saving on Lady Eli, but I won’t get rich or poor whatever happens.

Full disclosure: I backed Grand Jete for small each way money a couple of weeks ago at 20/1. William Hill still offers that price.

Small bet on Lady Eli to win at 11/4 general – advised 2nd November

Small bet on Senga each way at 14/1 bet365 – advised 2nd November (may top up on the local tote on the day if bigger than 18/1)

Result

Lady Eli suffered terrible trouble at the first turn and was badly struck into twice.

She also lost a shoe and, in the circumstances, ran a very brave race in defeat. She may now not be retired, having been withdrawn from this week's mares' sale. It is to be hoped she gets a shot at redemption - she is some filly.

The main beneficiary was Wuheida, given a fine ride by William Buick, and readily seeing off Rhododendron - herself receiving a great ride but unable to overcome the widest draw of all on a three-turn nine furlong race. That all-Euro exacta paid 85.7/1 - well done if you had it.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

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Sprint

Trends Contenders:

Whitmore, Roy H, Imperial Hint

Form Contenders:

Drefong, Imperial Hint, Roy H

Sprint Selection:

A superb race in prospect, and one where there is no margin for error. A missed beat at the gate, or a four wide trip, or a blocked run, and the game will be up.

There could be a speed duel between Drefong and Takaful, an eventuality which would suit neither. Still, Drefong just has to be respected: he’s the defending champion and he’s unbeaten in six completed starts since a debut defeat, the last three of those in G1 fields.

6/4 is very short, however, which makes for potential value elsewhere. I think both Roy H and Imperial Hint are worthy of support at the prices.

Roy H has the fastest figures in the field and comes here on a technical win streak of five. He wants to be close to, but not on, the lead, something he should be able to manufacture from trap eight with slowish starters to his immediate inside.

Imperial Hint falls into the ‘could be anything’ category. This is the acid test for him, having embarrassed some decent opposition away from the bright lights. His cruising speed has been his biggest asset, including in races with sub-22 first quarters. I’m excited to see what he can do in the big league.

Back Imperial Hint each way at 10/1 Skybet – advised 3rd November

Save on Roy H at 5/1 bet365 (1/4 1-2-3) – advised 3rd November

Result

The wrong way around again. Imperial Hint ran a massive race, mixing it on the speed and only just coming up dry against another Peter Miller sprint sensation. Roy H was a credible rival to Drefong and he did it well. Drefong, sent off at 7/5, missed the break a little and was cooked thereafter.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

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Mile

Trends Contenders:

Midnight Storm, Heart To Heart, World Approval, Ribchester

Form Contenders:

World Approval, Ribchester, Suedois

Mile Selection:

A really tricky race with loads of credible winners. World Approval is versatile enough to sit off the expected fierce first fractions, and he’s got a bit of Wise Dan about him. He ought to go close though he’s an unsexy price.

Ribchester would be far from a surprise winner, and he’s the most likely of Euros. But this is a race Britain hasn’t won since Barathea in 1994. Ireland’s record is only slightly better, Ridgewood Pearl prevailing the following year. That’s 22 years since a British or Irish winner. France meanwhile has scored seven times in that intervening period, with the US claiming the rest.

I’m inclined to look for a horse at a price in a race which could go many ways, and the one I think I want to be with – small money only – is Zelzal. He’s been close up in his last two runs in G1 company, and shapes like an improver off that prep effort in the Foret. Faster ground and first time Lasix could make a man of him. 10/1 isn’t a fantastic price, mind you, and he could be a drifter on the local tote board.

I also think Lancaster Bomber could make the frame with a kinder passage. He had plenty go against him two back behind World Approval, and you can ignore the Ascot prep run on soft. Again 12/1 top price may be improved upon on the ‘nanny goat’ here.

Suggestion is to look at the US tote board and take a couple of fliers at prices. My two in that context are Zelzal (hopefully 15/1 or bigger) and Lancaster Bomber (the same).

World Approval will probably be shorter than his 3/1 quote with bet365, so back him now if you want to cheer the jolly. He should go very close.

Above advised 2nd November

Result

World Approval was indeed shorter than his 3/1 quote, though not by much, sent off the 2.7/1 jolly. He was a dominant winner having attained and maintained the perfect stalking position. Others, notably Zelzal under the occasionally hapless Gregory Benoist, fared less well in the run. Lancaster Bomber was second, and one of you may have found the exacta from the bold type comments. Most of you, like me, would not have taken that path... for the record, it paid 47.5/1. Nice. Sigh.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

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Juvenile

Trends Contenders:

Bolt d’Oro

Form Contenders:

Bolt d’Oro, Solomini, Firenze Fire

Juvenile Selection:

Bolt d’Oro should win this despite a wide draw. He’s streets ahead of his rivals on the clock and his trainer believes there’s plenty more to come. Having seen him in the flesh this morning (2nd November), I can relate that he is an absolute tank of a two-year-old. Unless he’s feeling the effects of that massive FrontRunner success, he’ll win.

For each way and/or exacta purposes, Solomini might be a little under-rated. Yes, he was whacked by Bolt last time; but that was just his second start and he had a less than perfect trip. He’s training well and has something of a ‘now’ progressive profile about him. He’s 6/1 on the morning line here, and 16/1 with William Hill. If anything were to go wrong with Bolt, who’s to say Solomini won’t frank the form from a nice inside post?

Bolt d’Oro to win at 11/8 (Skybet) – advised 2nd November

Small each way on Solomini at 16/1 (William Hill) - advised 2nd November

Result

Bolt d'Oro looked rock solid for this, and seemingly only had to run close to his last effort to win comfortably. In spite of being hung wide, he didn't show enough to suggest he ran anywhere near that huge effort one back, and presumably bounced. The one to take advantage was maiden (!), Good Magic. He was second in G1 company last time and was having his third lifetime start - the exact same blueprint deployed by Caledonia Road in the Juvenile Fillies earlier in the day. So easy afterwards...

Solomini rewarded each way suppoer with a very good second, one place in front of Bolt, giving further credence to the notion that the jolly missed his cue for one reason or another.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

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Turf

Trends Contenders:

Ulysses, Cliffs Of Moher, Beach Patrol

Form Contenders:

Highland Reel, Ulysses, Beach Patrol, Seventh Heaven, Talismanic

Turf Selection:

Trappy stuff. Obvious horses often get beaten in the Turf, as I’ve consistently discovered to my cost. I’ve got a portfolio of wagers in the race already, the worst of which will see me win slightly more than invested by the time I’ve topped up with Seventh Heaven and Talismanic, both of whom will get optimal conditions for the first time in some time.

I have also backed Highland Reel at 4/1, who strikes as the most likely winner but whose price is unappealing now it’s 2/1.

Ulysses is the one I have to let go – you can’t back ‘em all, can you? – even though he has robust credentials.

But the result I’m really hoping for is Beach Patrol. He’d be a chunky score, and I think he has a decent chance: value even at the remaining 8/1 as an each way bet. American-trained horses have won this in two of the last five years, so write this lad off at your peril.

I’m actually a little uncomfortable offering a selection here, as you can probably tell. My own approach has been scatter-gun, and perhaps scatter-brained, but I’m happy with the position on balance. For giggles, and for the record, I reckon the best remaining value may be…

Back Seventh Heaven each way at 12/1 general – advised 3rd November

Back Beach Patrol each way at 8/1 general – advised 3rd November

This may also be a race where exactas and trifectas comprised of numbers 1, 3, 5, 9, 12 pays off. But then, since when have I ever picked up a payday on the Turf? Caveat emptor, once more.

Result

Ulysses failed to show, unfortunately. In his absence, the above was correct on just about everything, except Seventh Heaven. She ought to have been closer but didn't get one of Seamie's better steers. Talismanic crushed my chances of a second whopper score, this time Beach Patrol being denied. I'd wagered him at 25/1 after his last race for a nice few quid. Win only, of course. The trifecta copped for those who played - I know some did - and paid a bang tidy 260/1.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

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Classic

Trends Contenders:

Arrogate, Collected

Form Contenders:

Arrogate, West Coast, Collected, Gun Runner

Classic Selection:

By now, if you’ve read my blurb above, you will know I am happy to let Gun Runner beat me if he can. He has too many questions to answer to be considered at shorter than 2/1. To be blunt, I wouldn’t back him at 3/1, and I’d only take him as a saver at 4/1. I may very well be wrong about him, but I think he’s a terrible price.

Arrogate is harder to dismiss. Much harder. And I only do so on the basis of price. Full disclosure: I backed him in late September at 4/1 NRNB so I’m all right Jack. Sorry. With regards to his price now (11/4 top) versus his chance, it’s about right I’d say. He has to show his work can be replicated in a race, he has a dodgy draw on the inside for a slow starter, and he may just not like the Del Mar track with its tight turns and short stretch. I’d love to see him win, but I won’t be going in again at the price.

I’ve a soft spot for Collected. He did it well in the Pacific Classic and he’s a winner – four from four in 2017 and seven from seven lifetime on fast dirt. I think if you back him you’re almost certain to get a run for your money. And I may have a little saver yet, because he’s 7/1 in a spot.

But I’m going to suggest West Coast as the each-way play. Bob Baffert has won the last three Classics, each time with a three-year-old, and this late-maturing improver can take Horse Of The Year honours by prevailing in a thick field.

If you want to cheer a Euro, or even if you don’t especially, I think War Decree is over-priced. Even allowing for the fact he may hate dirt and he may be some way below good enough, there is more than enough juice in his price to take a flier. I backed him at 33/1 in late September when he was an uncertain starter, so I’ve been delighted to see the 50’s non-runner no bet still available now! He’s worth a go at double-carpet or better.

Let’s hope for a great race and, if it’s our night, for a decent payout to close proceedings.

Main Bet: West Coast each way 6/1 NRNB (bet365, Fred, Tote) – advised 1st November

Tiny interest: War Decree each way 50/1 NRNB (bet365) – advised 1st November

Result

I was against Gun Runner. I felt his form in beating War Story and, basically, nothing else was ordinary in the context of a race like this. I also doubted his ability to see out ten furlongs, something he'd failed to do in three prior attempts. I was wrong, wrong, and wrong again. Although Arrogate again showed his disdain for this too tight circuit, everything else seemed to show up and run a race (Irish pair excluded) and Gun Runner repelled them with some style. He did it the hard way, from the front, on a track that wasn't allowing any other to achieve such a feat.

Absolute kudos to the horse, and to his trainer, Steve Asmussen, who was understandably delighted. This clip of him during the closing stages is a thing of beauty.

A Baffert brace rounded out the places, course specialist Collected holding off three-year-old West Coast, with the lampooned (by me) War Story running a mighty one to bottom out the superfecta. Arrogate dead heated for fifth, and was in front a furlong after the line. He needs further, or at least a big galloping oval. Sadly, that conjecture will never be challenged as the big A has been retired.

Churchill and War Decree, the Irish pair and the latter of which I had a sneaking fancy for, failed to handle the surface and/or were not good enough. The 50/1 and 33/1 on War Decree was worth the risk, the shorted odds on Churchill were probably not.

The full result can be found here.

Race Video

*

Closing Thoughts

This first visit to Del Mar was wonderful in many ways. Unfortunately, almost all of them were non-racing ways. The tracks, both dirt and turf, were unsatisfactory for such a big occasion in my view. Whilst it is reasonable that one has to play the hand one is dealt - put another way, bring a horse that can handle conditions - too much trusted to luck on the lawn, something which cannot be planned for, and the dirt surface was supposed to have been riding faster and fairer.

That's not pocket talk. It can't be when I've mainly backed big prices and very short favourites have sunk left, right and sideways.

Del Mar is a glorious place - here's Dog Beach, just across the way:

And I'd love for Breeders' Cup to return. But... that has to be conditional on sorting the tracks. One could almost endure the known crapshoots on the grass if the seven dirt track races were run on a typically fast strip. There is chatter among those in the know that we might see a return in 2021. If that's the case, there are four years to ponder and address.

For now though, thoughts turn to Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby and host of eight previous renewals, for next year's Breeders' Cup, the 35th installment. It will be colder, but there is more chance of a winner to warm the cockles of one's wallet.

More immediately, and closer to home, it's National Hunt just about all the way for the next six months. Bring it on!

Matt

Two Good, too Bad…

...is the verdict on four trials that have just ended and now feature in the  Geegeez System Trials Roundup to 07/11/2017.

Two of them made a massive £3474.89 between them, whilst the other pair shed an fairly eye-watering £1224 between them! To break those numbers down further...

Here are the winners...

Top of the pile isn't a surprise to regular readers of this column as Max's Sports Spread Betting added yet another £907.60 profit to their bottom line during the last 11 days of their trial, which was by far the best result since my last roundup and also propelled their total profit under review to just shy of £2500 in 60 days from a strike rate of over 52%!

Spread betting isn't for everyone, granted, but at a modest £2 per point nominal stake, the final profit amounts to some 1247.55pts, which is quite phenomenal. David Sutton's review of this one is right here for you to check how the money was made. This review only ended on Monday, so a full overview hasn't been completed yet, but it's one I highly recommend!

Monthly subscriptions are charged at £25 a month, but if during any monthly period of your subscription, the selections do not make at least 25 points profit, there will be a FULL refund issued. This will, of course, continue until 25 points profit have been made in a monthly period.

Payments are handled via Clickbank, so there's added security there and if you'd like to sign up to the Sports Spread Betting email service Click here to proceed.

Under normal circumstances, the final review profit of £979.79 at an ROI in excess of 30% would have easily made Pinnacle Racing Tips our headline act, but it's rare that we have two outstanding services come to a conclusion around the same time! That doesn't mean, however, that this should be regarded as 2nd best, as that would be like comparing apples and onions.

Pinnacle Racing Tips is also slightly different to your average racing "tipping" service, as it specialises in multiple bets ie Doubles, Trebles, Trixies etc as opposed to the usual straight win singles offered by most of its rivals. When I first heard of this, I expected high returns from the winning bets, but thought those wins would be few and far between.

As it happens, James Cross' review shows a strike rate in excess of 39% and he concludes his final summary by adding "...I would recommend this as a good addition to any portfolio and would score it 4/5..." Having had my interest raised from day 1 by seeing something a little different, I've kept a close eye on this one and I agree with James : it's a service I'm also happy to recommend.

And as an added bonus, Geegeez readers can take the first month of Pinnacle Racing Tips for just £1.00 via this link. 

Your first 30 days for just £1

I'll have more information for you about these two over the coming days, but I should also alert you to...

...two that failed the test!

The aim of a laying service is to find horses that won't win. So to hit 37 race winners from just 89 selections isn't going to play out well and that was certainly the case for Sequence Lays, who contrived to lose over £516 during the course of their 60-day trial. David's review lists all the selections and results for you if you wanted to check them out, but it's probably left well alone.

And with an even bigger final deficit comes the much discussed/maligned Rod's Runners, whose final result showed a loss of £707.96 and there's very little I can add in the way of positivity about this one. It has the classic hallmark of loss-chasing and by the end of our trial (details here), it did look like he was just sticking 20 longshots up in the hope that if he threw enough sh*t at the wall, some would stick.

The crazy thing about Rod's Runners is that those losses aren't as huge as they look, when they only represent 7.1% of all stakes, so had he been more selective with the number of selections, he could well have made a profit.

And now, the full overview of the current state of play...

System Profit Service Days Trial days Fortnightly P/L Full Review ROI
Sports Spread Betting £2,495.10 (at day 60) 60 £907.60 Click Here N/A
Pinnacle Racing Tips £979.79 (at day 60) 60 -£349.58 Click Here 30.41%
Back & Win (Fire & Forget) £580.00 (at day 58) 58 £130.00 Click Here N/A
Target Tips £204.86 (at day 51) 51 £69.64 Click Here 7.82%
Top Rated Runners £36.75 (at day 7) 7 £36.75 Click Here 27.84%
Flat Flyers (WP) £14.30 (at day 21) 21 -£17.75 Click Here 3.67%
Tom's Racing Picks -£6.42 (at day 6) 6 -£6.42 Click here -3.01%
Back Lucrative (WP) -£24.17 (at day 51) 51 -£135.00 Click Here -1.46%
First Class Fancies (WP) -£163.31 (at day 16) 16 -£36.03 Click Here -21.77%
Platinum Winners -£426.01 (at day 49) 49 -£18.81 Click Here -42.60%
Sequence Lays -£516.04 (at day 60) 60 £104.10 Click Here N/A
Rod's Runners -£707.96 (at day 60) 60 £67.00 Click Here -7.10%

As usual, clicking the name of a service takes you straight to their home page, whilst there are links to every review above.

Now, I'm not going to repeat what I said earlier about our top two, nor our bottom two for that matter, as I'm sure you know my feelings about the four. I will, of course, expand upon my thoughts about the two big winners in due course, but that's for another day.

You know where I am if you've system/service related queries, so send me a quick email if you've a question. Failing that, i'm back in a fortnight with more!

Thanks for reading,
Chris

Monday (ish) Musings: Mixed Fortune for the Raiders

I was at Gosforth Park on Saturday – where the Turf meets the Tapeta, writes Tony Stafford. At 11.20 a.m. Del Mar time, Newcastle racecourse’s big screen showed what was to be the forerunner of a brilliant day for Ballydoyle as Declarationofpeace and Ryan Moore came with a nicely-timed run to win one of the 100 grand warm-ups to the nine Breeders’ Cup championship races.

He was a 14-1 shot and I hope some of the Aidan O’Brien/Coolmore acolytes had finished breakfast in time to throw away a few dollars on him. Big crowds and big pools make for big dividends – even bigger than some of the gargantuan breakfast buffets you get in the US.

I’d stopped wearing my “wish I was there” face long before undertaking the five-hour drive on Saturday morning, even making a late decision to stop en route at Wetherby. After all it’s only a five minute diversion which I usually take at the services there anyway.

The country’s most underrated and certainly under-publicised jockey had a winning chance and I wanted to watch him show his class. Jack Quinlan had just the one ride, for the highly professional Amy Murphy on her father Paul’s Kalashnikov, winner of his only previous start in a bumper on the same track last season.

Kalashnikov shared second-favouritism behind a Dan/Harry Skelton favourite in a good novice hurdle, but brushed the jolly aside with a stylish 10-length win. Unable to curb my delight, I picked out the Racing Post’s David Carr in the winner’s enclosure and said: “Maybe somebody might now start to notice what a good jockey Jack Quinlan is?”

Maybe not. The following day’s report gave a complimentary comment on the winning horse and trainer, but unlike the usual glowing reference to a later Richard Johnson winner, Jack remained as ever conspicuous by his absence. Mr Incognito. I’m not sure who it was, but one observer likened his style to Declan Murphy’s, praise indeed. Don’t worry Jack, Amy has enough nice horses to get you some coverage if only during the race commentaries.

I had intended staying in the north overnight, but after watching a couple of Raymond Tooth horses finish unplaced, although not entirely without promise, I reckoned I might make it home in time for the Turf race, although news that Ulysses was unable to take on Highland Reel took away some of the potential glamour.

It did mean I’d miss seven of the races and in retrospect it was not such a bad thing as it must have made macabre watching for anyone other than pin stickers, or punters who like the number 5.

Generally the term “Industry Prices” has me instinctively going into “It’s a Rip Off” mode, but in actual fact most of the winners paid more here than on the US tote.

The carnage started in the first of the six dirt races, with a 20-1 winner, Caledonia Road, followed by 40-1 (Stormy Liberal) and 66-1 shot Bar of Gold. Those three dirt races were the opening three legs of the early Pick Four, which carries a 50 cent stake. The total Pool for the bet was $2,272,356 and after Wuheida and William Buick saw off a late-running Rhododendron in the Fillies and Mares race on the turf, the half dozen lucky winners collected $289,000 each.

Daily Racing Form’s post-race analysis pointed out mid-meeting that the inside on the dirt track had become so slow in relation to the rest of the track that the jockeys were re-directing their horses away from the rail. While somewhat less impossible from that point, Roy H won the next dirt race at 9-2 (11-8 fav unplaced), before World Approval became the sole Breeders’ Cup winning favourite on the day in the Mile in which Lancaster Bomber was second and Roly Poly unplaced.

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Two more double-digit winners followed, Good Magic at 12-1 in the Juvenile (dirt) with odds-on Bolt d’Oro a well-beaten third, and US Navy Flag miles back after trying to make all, while Talismanic and Mikael Barzalona battled home at 14-1 in the Turf with Highland Reel a close third.

Then, having collected my thoughts and unpacked my bag, I settled down to watch Gun Runner beat Arrogate – and he did. There was nothing majestic about it. They probably went fast enough, although they were outside the normal US mile-and-a-quarter “standard” of two minutes flat, but there was little evidence of any majestic thoroughbred motion as they slogged home in another apparently slow-motion finish.

I was amazed that Arrogate, whose slovenly starts had transformed him from the Horse of the Century – “best since Secretariat”, said Bob Baffert – to a grinder who never looks the part, should head the market. They had to give him one last hurrah, but he couldn’t even finish first of the Baffert quartet, with Collected second and West Coast proving best of the three-year-olds in third and Arrogate a never-nearer fifth.

Churchill, who never recaptured his double Classic-winning  spring brilliance once surprisingly beaten in the St James’s Palace Stakes, was seventh, presumably finding the dirt as awkward to contend with as many of the locals who deal with it every day. As I hinted just above, dirt racing can make for an unappealing spectacle, especially when the outsiders win!

On the day, the lemmings in the stand, those who love a favourite and that means many of us, will have collected just once with 11-4 shot World Approval. He was one of eight winners by US based sires in the nine races, the only exception being Charlie Appleby’s Wuheida, a daughter of Dubawi. The beaten favourites were, in time order 9-4, 8-11 (the highly disappointing Lady Aurelia), 6-4, 9-4, 11-8, 10-11, 11-10 (Highland Reel) and 2-1 (Arrogate).

If I was there I would have backed the last winner Gun Runner, whose form all year entitled him to be favourite, but the undeniable instinct to go to the well one last time with the old champ was hard to resist for many.

Now the attention switches over here to jumps, and Kalashnikov will be one to follow until beaten – or when Jack Quinlan gets a mention in the Racing Post – probably the former. At around the same time tomorrow that I began these thoughts today, I hope to be awake in time to see Marmelo and Hugh Bowman win the Emirates Melbourne Cup for the Hughie Morrison stable.

If they cannot win, let’s offer the best of luck to Aidan and Joseph O’Brien, Willie Mullins, Iain Jardine and Hugo Palmer. It would be especially nice if Hugo could win as he has an Australian wife and worked for some time with legendary Melbourne trainer Gai Waterhouse as well as once being assistant trainer to Morrison.  He has certainly gone along the local route with his light-weight Wall of Fire, the mount of lightweight Craig Williams. Hugo gave him a nice work out in a Caulfield Group 2 over a mile and a half and his strong-running second puts him in with a shot, just like 20 others!

[Stop Press: Since this was written, Ireland enjoyed a 1-2-3 with Joseph O’Brien’s Rekindling fending off father Aidan O’Brien’s Johannes Vermeer and Willie Mullins’ Max Dynamite. Europe claimed six of the first seven spots home, and nine of the first eleven. Australia must be spitting!]

Stat of the Day, 6th November 2017

Saturday's Result :

4.00 Newmarket: Yellowhammer @ 3/1 BOG (2.4/1 after 20p R4) WON at 2/1 Keen to post, held up in touch in centre, good headway chasing leaders 2f out, ridden over 1f out, strong run inside final furlong, led towards finish

Monday's selection goes in the...

4.10 Plumpton

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Mab Dab @ 13/2 BOG

A Class 5 conditional jockeys' handicap hurdle over 2m4.5f on good to soft ground...

...in which I'm hoping the odds on jolly finds a 1st start under Rules in almost 6 years a little too competitive. I can see why she's so short, based on P2P form and where's she's based, but there's more value (on paper at least) in our 6 yr old gelding who heads the weights and was a winner here three starts ago.

He's won one and placed once in two handicap hurdles races, is 1/1 at the track and also at Class 5, so he should know what lies ahead, as should his trainer, Linda Jewell.

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Linda's quite possibly only a household name in her own house, but has been very successful in the past few years (especially here at Plumpton) with horses with a little juice in the price. More specifically...Linda Jewell + NH handicappers at 7/2 to 14/1 + November to April + 2010 to now = 15/91 (16.5% SR) for 71.8pts (+78.9% ROI), from which...

  • on Good to Soft or worse : 11/72 (15.3%) for 53.8pts (+74.8%)
  • males are 10/63 (15.9%) for 54.5pts (+86.5%)
  • at class 5 : 9/53 (17%) for 40.3pts (+76%)
  • here at Plumpton : 11/49 (22.5%) for 80.1pts (+163.5%)
  • hurdlers are 6/35 (17.1%) for 40.2pts (+114.9%)
  • in 2017 : 3/13 (23.1%) for 35.6pts (+273.6%)
  • and 6 yr olds are 4/9 (44.4%) for 30.9pts (+343.4%)

Jack Sherwood gets the ride today around a track where he too has acquitted himself pretty well in the past winning 5 of 29 (17.2% SR) rides since 2013 rewarding followers with profits of 11.62pts at a return of just over 40p in the pound, including...

  • in handicap hurdles : 3/19 (15.8%) for 4.61pts (+24.2%)
  • at odds of 7/2 to 10/1 : 5/14 (35.7%) for 26.62pts (+190.1%)
  • and in handicap hurdles at odds of 7/2 to 10/1 : 3/11 (27.3%) for 12.61pts (+114.6%)

I also mentioned that in carrying 12 stone before and after any claims were counted, Mab Dab was top weight today and I accept that this is a negative for some punters, so some of you may be surprised to learn that...2009 to now / UK handicap hurdlers / aged 5 to 9 / carrying 12-0 to 12-5 / priced at 10-1 and shorter = 82/225 (36.4% ROI) for 95.4pts (+42.4% ROI) profit and those 225 runners include...

  • top weight before claims included : 79/208 (38%) for 92.4pts (+44.4%)
  • males at 71/199 (35.7%) for 89.6pts (+45%)
  • top weight after claims : 78/197 (39.6%) for 106.1pts (+53.8%)
  • carrying 12-0 or 12-1 : 47/135 (34.8%) for 72.2pts (+53.5%)
  • at Class 5 : 33/99 (33.3%) for 18.5pts (+18.7%)
  • and here at Plumpton : 4/6 (66.6%) for 9.13pts (+152.2%)

...all of which backs up... a 1pt win bet on Mab Dab @ 13/2 BOG, which was widely available at 5.40 pm on Sunday, but to see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 4.10 Plumpton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

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