No bet for me on Saturday. which was (just about!) the right decision. Horn of Plenty almost embarrassed me by making the frame at 12/1, but failed by a length to spare my blushes.
Monday's free feature is the pace tab for all races, including our free "races of the day", which are...
- 2.20 Hereford
- 2.50 Hereford
- 3.30 Dundalk
- 7.15 Wolverhampton
And with heavy ground on the offing at Hereford (which should pass inspection as the ground thaws), we're going to tackle the higher grade of our two featured races from there : the 2.20 Hereford. It's a 9-runner, Class 3, Handicap Chase for 5yos and older over 2m5f on heavy ground and the winner will receive £7,018.
I'd expect Flagrant Delitiep to be a fairly short (7/4-ish) favoruite, but heavy ground is, of course, a great leveller so my aim is to see if we can find a better value alternative to the obvious pick, starting with the racecard itself...
The favourite comes here in good form (421), but the form horse (2311) is the 7yr old Volcano, whilst Dusky Lark was a runner-up 38 days ago. Conversely Last Encounter hasn't fared too well off late, failing to complete three of his last four runs.
Kapgarry and Brianstorm are both dropping down from a Class 2 run last time out, whilst Orrisdale, Flagrant Deltiep, Volcano and Last Encounter are all stepping up from Class 4.
Seven of the nine have had a run in the past 23 to 38 days and Rosmuc Relay has at least been seen in the last two months, but the odd one out, Brianstorm hasn't "graced" a track for almost 22 months (662 days) and it's actually closer to 26 months (780 days) since he last beat an opponent. He has had a wind op during his layoff, but I'd be wary of him doing anything here based on that layoff alone.
Plenty of the trainers have good records here at Hereford, bar Sarah-Jayne Davies (Last Encounter), whilst the jockeys of Kapgarry, Dusky Lark, Flagrant Deltiep and Brianstorm have all had some success at this venue, meaning it's not all bad news for Brianstorm! He, of course, has no Geegeez rating having not seen a fence in the past two years, whilst Last Encounter and Kapgarry are the lowest rated here.
Top rating, unsurprisingly, goes to the probable favourite Flagrant Delitiep, with Volcano back in second place some way clear of the pack.
In such conditions, horses who proven themselves on heavy ground and/or at this trip are the ones who tend to fare best. This field has four wins and four places from 27 collective efforts on heavy ground and have also won 11 times and made the frame 24 further times from 72 runs over trips of 2m4f to 2m6f. How do I know this? Well I consulted both place and win elements of Instant Expert!
Kapgarry seems to eiher in or fail to make the frame, Dusky Lark is the only heavy ground chase winner in the pack and is a proven placer at both class and trip. Orrisdale has good numbers off a small sample size of races, whilst the fav is also a proven placer, but doesn't excite me from a win perspective at sub-2/1 odds here.
Rosmuc Relay is proven on heavy ground and gets the trip well enough, Brianstorm is a Class 3 placer in the past and Subcontinent's downfall is the ability to convert places into wins. The same could be said for Volcano, whilst I think Last Encounter has seen his best days before now. He might be bottom weight, but he's 11yrs old now and it's the best part of three years since he last looked like winning.
So, Last Encounter is cast aside at this point, as is Brianstorm, not because of the layoff, but because he fulfilled another booking this afternoon and therefore is a likely non-runner here. The layoff would have put me off, but he actually ran really well at Exeter today, finishing as a runner-up beaten by just a length and a half.
That leaves us with seven runners to consider and 2m5f on heavy ground isn't that easy to get and race tactics might play a big part here. Our pace tab isn't going to help us much here today, sadly as this track had only had 3 soft ground 2m5f chases and 2 on heavy over the last two years, but I'd expect prominent or mid-division runners to go well here.
This is purely gut instinct, mind, there's no data or science to support my view, but leaders set themselves up for doing too much and getting caught late on, whilst hold-up horses might have too much to do in the closing stages on testing ground. As I said, it's just my theory, but it won't harm to take a look at how these seven runners have run in the past, would it?
If my musing is correct, then it doesn't bode too well for Dusky Lark's efforts from trying to win from the front, but it certainly doesn't rule any of the others out, so maybe we need to take a closer look at them to see whether we dare risk any of our hard-earned cash on them.
Kapgarry made all to win a Class 3, 2m5m5f chase at Stratford 10 monhs ago, but didn't go well in a Class 2 at Ascot last time out. In his defence, he'll probably have needed the run after 285 days out of action and he does drop in class here. He's a useful enough chaser who could well make the frame if things go his way. His jockey was 6 from 20 (30%) here at Hereford in 2020 including 2 from 5 over fences, but his trainer is 0 from 7 in Hereford chases since winning 3 of 4 in 2016.
Dusky Lark might well have been beaten by 18 lengths last time out, but that run was good enough for second place despite coming off the back of a 621-day absence and a wind op. Provided there are no ill-effects from that run, he'd be entitled to come on for the run. He's also the only previous heavy ground chase winner in this field, but isn't getting any younger at 11 yrs old.
Yard is 3 from 10 in the past four weeks including a win today and also sends the likely fav out here, suggesting this one is second string, a suggestion backed by the jockey booking, although Tom O'Brien was in the first three home on 6 of 11 occasions here at Hereford last year, but sadly won none.
Orrisdale is an interesting and lightly raced sort. 1 from 2 in bumpers, a win and two places from three efforts over hurdles and most recently fourth over fences last time out. Down in trip, but up in class here, has won on heavy already and has also won over 2m4f. A pound lower than LTO and has place claims today.
Flagrant Delitiep has finished 322421 in his last six starts, showing consistency and improvement along the way. All career runs have been at Class 4 since being well beaten on debut in a Class 3 Novice Hurdle. He won a Class 4, soft ground, 2m4.5f chase by 8.5 lengths last time out, but now steps up in class, is slightly up in trip on worse ground and with a new jockey on board,
That's not dismissing the talents of Aidan Coleman, though, who is 8/27 (29.6% SR including 3 from 6 over fences) at this track in recent years, but I'm not sure this one should be a short price today, especially as he's up 9lbs for that last run.
Rosmuc Relay had a decent looking profile on Internet Expert, but closer analysis shows that he really hasn't seen often enough to inspire confidence. A 9 yr old with just six races under Rules suggests something might be amiss with his fitness and his two heavy ground successes came in January & February 2018, so I'd be wary of relying on those as a gauge of his current ability to handle the ground. In his defence, however, he was a runner here over course and distance albeit at Class 4 on soft ground two starts (and 10 months) ago and maybe the drop back to this trip might be enough to propel him into the frame.
Brianstorm ran today and I didn't fancy him anyway if truth be told.
Subcontinent is a perennial placer, making the frame in 44% of his 32 starts across A/W, Flat, Hurdles and Chases, but only has 5 wins from those 32 runs. He was fourth of six and beaten by 15 lengths here over course and distance last time out and has only been eased a pound in the weights for that run. He's due to be ridden by an inexperienced 7lb claimer which would help at the weights, but if Brianstorm is indeed a non-runner, I'd expect regular jockey Charlie Deutsch to jump back on board this one. Not one I'd expect to win here, but like others has a chance of a place.
Volcano is the form horse and comes here seeking a hat-trick after back to back handicap wins at Ludlow and Warwick. He stepped up in class and was raised 5lbs between those two wins and steps up another grade here and is hit with an eye-watering 11lbs for his 3 length win LTO. That's going to make this very tough indeed. The god news is that the jockey from last time retains the ride and the horse will relish a drop back in trip carrying the extra weight. I like this one, but the weight and the class of the race are definite negatives for me.
Last Encounter was discarded earlier and I'd not be surprised if he was last home despite receiving chunks of weight all round
The fact that Flagrant Delitiep is a 15/8 favourite here says more about the lack of quality in the contest that it does about his own ability, I'm afraid. This is his race to win, quite simply because I can't offer any viable alternatives at a better price.
Volcano (4/1) was the obvious suggestion at a reasonable price, but the rise in class and weight might be his undoing, allied to a trip he's only tried once before, so he's a no from a win perspective and too short for an E/W punt. I ruled Brianstorm and Last Encounter out, of course and if Volcano is second best here, you've then four horses racing for third place and to be honest, they're much of a muchness.
I'd not be getting involved in the E/W market on this occasion and if I decide to have a bet here, it'd be a small one on the fav for a bit of interest and maybe the forecast with Volcano. As you know, I'm not a fan of betting at 9/4 or shorter, but 15/8 here might end up looking generous, although I'd still want more!