It started with frustration, then became frustrating in the middle, and ended with further frustration. That was my weekend's punting. And in today's post, I'll share some of the lows and lows of the last few days, as well as a few horses which I think are worth keeping on side, some of them very much so.
Cast your mind back to last Friday, and York's typically trappy card. (Trappy, not crappy!) The ground was heavy, and idiot boy here decided to go public with his placepot effort. Of course, the purpose of the piece was to highlight the approach I take and the tools I use, rather than to guide you through the winners and placers to the crock of gold at the end of the six leg placepot rainbow. At least, that's my excuse...
It was one of the mentioned potential 'placepot makers' which bit my financial fundament. I had scribbled,
We can also see that there will be the following number of places to play for in each respective race: 3,2,3,3,4,3
But… the ground is heavy and there could be more non-runners. So I especially note races where there are five or eight runners, as a single withdrawal would move these from two and three places to win only and two places respectively.
That makes the second, fourth and last legs potentially trappy/lucrative.
And so it proved, with the five runner race becoming four - and therefore win only - and both eight runner maidens becoming seven runner affairs, and therefore two places.
The non-participant of the quintet in leg two was known sufficiently early to be accommodated, and I sailed through with the winner, as was necessary. The last race was my place lay saver race, should it be required. But the fourth race was a mess.
I'd sided with #10, Rangooned, and the unnamed favourite, a real rarity for me. As it transpired, ten minutes before the first race, and five minutes after I'd struck my bet, Rangooned was withdrawn. I therefore had two (i.e. both) lines running onto the unnamed favourite, with just two places to play for. I was marooned without Rangooned, if you will.
Having bet 3/1 each of three all morning, the market eventually settled on Bluegrass Blues as the starting price jolly, and my 'all in' hope. He, of course finished third. No good. Considerable insult was added to my public injury by the other two morning line market leaders running 1-2.
I should have drawn stumps on the weekend then and there. But, alas, I did not.
Saturday was exemplified by Countrywide Flame, a decent each way wager for me, who beat all bar the returning hero - and 66/1 rag - Aaim To Prosper, which succeeded with relish in his aaim to prosper.
I'd also decided that an each way treble might be the way to go this day, and Countrywide Flame was the first leg of that gallant/foolish wager. So far so reasonably good.
Next up was Victors Serenade, one of the three horses I'd nominated to follow from my Anthony Honeyball stable tour earlier in the year. Victors travelled well in the race - very well in fact - and, with market leaders Rangitoto and Golden Chieftain looking beaten, I was already projecting forward to leg three and landing the place part of my tickle.
And then came the fourth last. Victors decided to take the direct route through it, as though he had some sort of spectral quality allowing him to pass through objects rather than around them. It must have come as almost as much of a shock to him as it did to me when he utterly bungled the obstacle and, though Aidan Coleman scored highly in the rodeo stakes by staying on top, he did the sensible thing and pulled his steed up.
Victors Serenade would probably have won. He would almost certainly have been in the frame. He will almost certainly win a very nice race this season, but will need to jump better (quod erat demonstrandum).
Leg three, for academic purposes only, was Kay Gee Bee in the York handicap (3rd, 13/2). Dear old Victors.
And that was as close to a score as I managed all weekend, with Mr Cracker (fancied, fell away very tamely) and Missunited (ran a great race to be second, no good for my win only wager) illustrating the nature of Sunday's limp attempts at nicking a couple of quid.
Enough of the folly of my punting, and onto more heart warming matters. Specifically, I'd like to share a few horses I feel will be worth following, many of them paid up members of the 'glaringly obvious club', but no less meritorious for that.
Let's begin with Saturday, and Newmarket's exceptional flat card.
The brightest of the bright lights was Jim Bolger's and Godolphin's Dawn Approach. Now unbeaten in six after bagging the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes, this son of the trainer's ex-Derby winner, New Approach, is a serious hoss. He looked like he might not win here, as stablemate Leitir Mor set strong enough fractions out in front.
When George Vancouver came barreling down the outside, it seemed likely that Dawn would be second or perhaps only third. But he hadn't created a five run win streak by being lily-livered, and under strong encouragement from jockey Kevin Manning, he was ultimately able to boast a near three length winning margin over his pace-making stable buddy.
Dawn Approach is a 5/1 shot for next season's 2000 Guineas, and he will be hard to beat on juvenile form. Of course, he'll need to be hard to beat on three year old form to win that race, and I'm not in the business of backing shorties to make the bridge from two to three and Classic success.
Saying that, I'd not want to bet against him either, and the likes of Cristoforo Colombo, Mars and Mohaajim are short enough on what they've achieved to date. As for Reckless Abandon, well...
The apple of Clive Cox's eye (a curious adage, whose etymology traces to numerous biblical passages) took his own win streak to five when battling on gamely to hold Mohaajim et al in the six furlong Middle Park Stakes.
This was a really good effort and can be marked up in my opinion, as he had to overcome both a wide draw and an early challenge for the lead before getting his own way against the rail.
Reckless Abandon rallied when Mohaajim came to him and might have had a touch more in the locker if required. I really like this colt, and I think he'll take high rank amongst next season's sprinters at both five and six furlongs. But a miler he will not be. No. Not ever. At least, not in my view. So 20/1 (14's with those generous Boylesports chaps) is a shocking bet to my eye, apples or no apples.
Of those in behind, Gale Force Ten is the one which hasn't been mentioned much. He had more tactical speed than Cristoforo Colombo and more left at the finish than Mohaajim, and yet his Guineas price is unquoted. His form at six furlongs is pretty reasonable, and he runs on like he needs further. The ground at Newmarket was a bog, despite officially being soft, when he was beaten there on a previous attempt; and he sunk over five in a heavy ground Listed contest.
On a soundish surface, I'd be interested in Gale Force Ten at a price, though he might not quite stay the full mile. Even if he didn't, I could see him winning a good seven furlong contest such as the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot. Time will tell. It generally does.
So that's Reckless Abandon in sprints, and Gale Force Ten at seven furlongs and possibly a mile.
Aaim To Prosper has been rightly heralded elsewhere on this site, and I'll not add anything further to my previous comments of great training effort, and brilliant ride. Oh, and did I mention I backed the second?!
Over at Chepstow, the National Hunt season was being ushered in with some beasts of great promise shaking off their summer slumbers. Far West looked like a sighter from Paul Nicholls in the opening juvenile novices hurdle. He saw off the better fancied Alan King-trained, Handazan, comfortably. Both are obviously well liked by connections, but it would be a surprise if either King or Nicholls didn't have a better juvie hurdler than they saddled on Saturday.
The novice chase looked to be a match between the exciting Poungach and the very exciting Fingal Bay. Poungach slithered, stumbled and tumbled at the very first fence, leaving Fingal Bay with seemingly a penalty kick. In the end though, he was made to battle by a fitter and under-rated Tiger O'Toole, who eventually yielded by a length and a half.
In fairness to Poungach, he jumped the first big and bold, and just had a problem getting the undercarriage out after the fence. He shouldn't be marked down for this. Fingal Bay will presumably strip fitter after this seasonal debut, but it was a laboured display, and I'd not be piling in at short odds if he faces a smart one next time. He did jump very well though.
Tiger O'Toole was spotting the winner eight pounds and got pretty close at the finish. There couldn't be any fluke about it, despite the Racing Post writer's comments that the winner was idling. I'm not sure I believe that, and I think Tiger might be one to keep onside, perhaps for a decent handicap as the season progresses. He does seem better in smaller fields, and will probably be kept to two to two and a half miles for now.
Hinterland lagged up in the limited handicap hurdle and his hurdling options are surely as limited as this handicap, given that he's not good enough to be a Champion contender, and is perhaps too highly weighted to win handicaps, though a race like the Greatwood might be a possibility. Chasing is more likely for him.
But the two horses I was most looking forward to were still to come on the Chepstow card. Both were from the Honeyball stable down in Dorset, and the first was the aforementioned Victors Serenade. Although he eventually bungled one sufficiently to be pulled up, he'd had a few faulty fumbles at the fences already, and will need some time back in the schooling shed if he's to take in his seasonal target, the Welsh National at the same track.
One thing is for sure: he's got the engine and the heart for the job. If he can sort his fencing, he'll be one to reckon with. Talking of the Welsh National, last year's winner Le Beau Bai was given a lovely schooling ride round here, over a trip far shy of his optimum and will presumably drop a few pounds as a consequence. There's little doubt he'll not be ready to win until some time very close to his late December repeater bid.
If Victors was promising but ultimately disappointing, then Regal Encore over-performed against the promise he'd implied from his sole career start last season, an enormously facile win in a 'jumpers bumper' on the Southwell all weather.
Here, up against expensive and unexposed beasties from the Nicholls, Vaughan and Curtis yards, he was held up in rear by AP McCoy, before gambolling clear as though he was passing extremely moderate animals.
The problem at this stage is that we don't know whether he was passing extremely moderate animals, as most of the fancied horses were unexposed (second, third and fourth, and sixth, all having their first runs under rules; fifth a winner on his only previous start; seventh second on only previous start).
It could be a very nice race to follow, and the winner looks a horse of huge promise. One thing to note is that he does show plenty of knee action, suggesting that he might be best on soft ground. If you're looking for a Cheltenham ante post punt, I'd suggest being wary of that as it may be too quick for him there.
In any case, that was the highlight of the weekend for me: Regal Encore.
Sunday had just the one horse to note, and that was the one which laughed at Missunited and the rest in the Irish Cesarewitch. Voleuse de Coeurs (literally, Thief of Hearts) smashed them right up, winning as she did by ten lengths(!). She'd won her previous start, a competitive Galway hurdle, by eight lengths and this was preposterously facile.
As a three year old, she might be pointed at a hurdle or two now, in which case she'd be seriously exciting. Again with the Triumph Hurdle and the Festival in mind, though, consider these two pointers: 1. She might need it soft, and 2. Minsk won this almost as easily last year, was heavily touted for a hurdling campaign and never won a race over obstacles. Wait til you see her jump and back her at a shorter price after, because there is also a possibility that she won't go hurdling at all!
And those were my weekend highlights and lowlights, dear reader. What about you? I hope you had better luck than me!
Finally, as we start to stride into the National Hunt season proper, one manual I always keep onside is TrainerTrackStats. It's unquestionably the best guide of its kind and, where many of the name manuals (Timeform, Jumping Prospects, Racing Post fifty to follow) trumpet winners but don't tell you the bottom line, I can personally vouch for the fact that TrainerTrackStats has made excellent profits in every season it's been published.