Soft ground became heavy at Fontwell today and with the added weight, it was all too much for the 7/4 favourite, so I'm glad I swerved that one. Main danger Lily The Pink went on to win at 9/4, so well done to those of you who got on at 7/2 last night, whilst I did have a late small bet myself, but not on the winner!
I said I'd wanted more than 13/2 for an E/W bet on Jaunty Soria, so at 14/1 (she did hit 16's for a while) I couldn't resist and she was third home, albeit some 34 lengths behind the winner. I wasn't too bothered about the margin as I collected a couple of quid, mind you.
And so to Friday, where our free feature is the Horses for Courses report and our free racecards will cover...
- 3.10 Newcastle
- 3.45 Dundalk
- 3.50 Sedgefield
- 5.00 Southwell
And it's the last of those four races that interests me today, because there's a bit of a Racing Insights "perfect storm" going on here. It's a free to all race and today's free feature, Horses for Courses, shows this...
Five of the eight runners in this Class 5, 1m, A/W handicap for 4yo+ on Fibresand feature on the H4C report suggesting we could have a decent race on our hands.
First/best place to start is the racecard itself...
...where we have two LTO winners in Star of St James and Headland and I'd expect the former to be a fairly warm favourite here, so like yesterday we're assessing value in his price/chances and also maybe finding a bigger priced alternative.
The likely favourite drops in class here despite a 6.5 length success over course and distance last time out, whilst half of the field are stepping up in class (Vive La Difference, Makambe, Custard The Dragon & Headland).
We have five course and distance winners on display here and of the other three runners, one is a course winner and the other two have won over this trip, so all of the field are racing under some form of familiar conditions.
Half of the field are trained by trainers with good previous records at this track (C5), although closer inspection might be needed to see whether those records are skewed by today's runners' past successes here, whilst there's not much to go off from a jockey perspective, other than those on board Custard The Dragon and Headland have been amongst the winners of late (14 30).
At this point, Star of St James, Custard The Dragon and Headland are the most interesting whilst the negatives would be Love Your Work, Makambe and Michele Strogoff.
Next up is Instant Expert, where I'm expecting plenty of green in the "course" column, but how do these runners stack up on standard going, class 5 racing and a one mile trip? Let's see...
Pro - Native Silver, Vive La Difference
Con - Star of St James, Headland
Pro - Headland, Love Your Work
Con - Star of St James, Custard The Dragon
Pro - Love Your Work, Star of St James, Custard The Dragon
Con - N/A
Pro - Headland, Star of St James
Con - Custard The Dragon, Michele Strogoff
From Instant Expert, Love Your Work & Vive La Difference look most consistent with no red blocks, whilst Michele Strogoff is a negative again here.
In the past 82 runnings of similar 8-runner handicaps here at Southwell, it has paid to be drawn in stalls 4 and higher with a seemingly "golden corridor" covering the centre of the draw in boxes 4 to 6 as highlighted via the draw tab...
...which is a positive for Headland, Makambe and Native Silver, but not so good for Michele Strogoff (again!), Vive La Difference and Star of St James.
According to our unique pace/draw heat map, the three most favourable outcomes are highly drawn prominent (but NOT leading) runners, mid-draw prominence or mid-draw leaders, so I suppose a 4-6 draw with an average pace score of 3 or more would be very good here, so let's see how our runners overlay the pace map...
...where Native Silver looks excellently positioned with Headland also in a favourable place if running to his usual style. I think the hold-up horses might find it tough from stalls 2 and 8. I'd expect Star of St James to try and make all here and given the manner of his last win, he has every chance of repeating the feat. Now a quick look at each...
Native Silver has finished 325 in his last three efforts over C&D. Only beaten by a short head two starts ago, but lost by the best part of four lengths LTO after being raised 3lbs to today's mark of 72. He was fifth that day and both the winner and the third placed horse has since made the frame at a higher level than this. All his best form comes here and he's two from five under jockey Luke Morris.
Star of St James has taken a while to get his head around racing, but after initially only making the frame once in his first eight starts, has won two and placed in three of his next eight. A very comfortable (6.5 lengths easing down) winner here over C&D LTO eight days ago, he now even gets to drop in class. He does have a 5lb penalty to bear for that run, but that is more than offset by the booking of a 7lb claimer to ride him. George Bass isn't the best choice of jockey here, but I'd expect this should just be a point and steer job.
Love Your Work is a triple winner over this course and distance at which he was 6th of 10 last time out. Sent off at 18/1, he was only 1.5 lengths behind Native Silver and he's 3lbs better off here for the rematch. Currently on a run of nine losses since winning here on Valentines Day last year off a mark of 72, he's now down to 69 and based on last year's winter form, that's a very workable mark.
Vive La Difference was impressive in victory two starts ago at Newcastle off a mark of just 62, but dreadful three days later, fifteen days ago at the same track/trip despite dropping down to Class 6 off a mark of 67. It wasn't all his fault, though, he got a shocking ride (IMO) and a 21 length defeat as 12th of 13 doesn't do him justice. That said, he's up another pound in the weights and for his fibresand debut, he's best left alone.
Makambe is in poor form if truth be told. Finishes of 88898 in races averaging 12 runners over his last five outings tells its own tale, but the silver lining is that his mark has now fallen from 74 to 65 in the process. Sadly he couldn't win off 65 last time out, but will relish a return to Southwell, as he's 0 from 7 since last coming here ten months ago, when he won at this class and trip by a short head. The cheekpieces worn that day are being reapplied but I think he'll have his work cut out today especially trying to come from towards the back of the pack.
Custard The Dragon is a on 11-race losing streak since a win at this very meeting a year ago made him a 7-time course winner. Looked more like his old self when 2nd of 8 here over C&D a week before Christmas. He was only beaten by a short head that day, but he's up in both class (6 to 5) and weight (63 to 65), so a win isn't necessarily on the cards, but has great chances of making the frame. He gets on well with jockey Joe Fanning (5/18 on the A/W together), but is 0 from 9 beyond 7f furlongs on the A/W, finishing 54882 over course and distance.
Michele Strogoff is one where you've probably guessed where I am with him. It's two years plus a day and thirty-two (yes, 32!) races since he last won and rather than be rude about him/his chances, I'm just going to say that others impress me more.
Headland has run each of his last four races here at Southwell in the space of three weeks. Starting a week before Christmas, he was 5th of 7 (C5, 7f), 8th of 11 (C6, 7f) and then 7th of 10 (C5, 1m) and beaten by an average of just over nine lengths, he then went on to win a 5-runner Class 5 C&D handicap last time out after his mark had dropped from 67 to 60 in that period. I don't think there was a dramatic improvement to be honest, he won a poor race that pretty much fell apart. He's an unreliable type and the weight penalty adds to the unlikeliness of a repeat performance.
For a race with so many course winners, there's no standout runner here. Star of St James should be the winner based on his last run but the stats above have cast some doubts for me on how easily he might win. He's 5/4 with bet365, but already as short as 11/10 with Hills and I can't back him at that kind of price. I think that price says more about the opposition than it does about the strength of the favourite though.
So where do I go from there? Well, Native Silver is better than his last run and I think he's the biggest danger to the fav if he doesn't let him get away too soon. He's 13/2 here which is about right, I'd say, but sadly he's too short for me to go E/W. I might still have a quid on him to win, mind : we'll see.
And one "at a price"? Love Your Work is on a very workable mark, goes well at the track/trip and does his best work around this time of year. I doubt he can win, but at 20/1, I think he's worth a cheeky E/W punt for small change.