Racing Insights

Racing Insights, 16th December 2021

The Instant Expert tab on the race cards has the unique ability to condense the entire form profile of every runner in the race into a single, easily digestible, view covering the form in terms of wins (or places), runs, and win (or place) percentage for each of going, class, course, distance, and field size. It also compares today’s official rating with the horse’s last winning official rating. The display is colour coded: green for a higher percentage rate, amber for a middling percentage, and red for a low percentage. Horses with no form under a certain condition have grey figures.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Where a horse has no UK/Irish form – i.e. it is having its first run in Britain or Ireland under Rules – it will not show up on Instant Expert at all.

We make this feature freely available to ALL readers EVERY Thursday for ALL races, including, naturally, our selection of 'free' races as follows...

  • 1.05 Exeter
  • 1.40 Exeter
  • 2.25 Ffos Las
  • 3.40 Southwell

Three of our four 'free' races are decent-looking Class 3 affairs, but with one only having 5 runners and the other having 18, I'm going to look at the first of that list, the 1.05 Exeter, an 11-runner, soft ground, 3yo+, Class 3, handicap hurdle worth £6,263 featuring 9 obstacles over 2m2½f on a left-handed track...

Surprisingly, we have no LTO winners here aside from Birds of Prey, but he hasn't been seen since winning on the A/W at Kempton 21 months ago. Champagne Court, Deeper Blue, Guernesey and Investment Manager are the others bringing good results to the table. Eamon an Cnoic ran in a Listed event LTO, whilst Martinhal and Pol Crocan both drop down a level from Class 2 with Deeper Blue (on hcp debut), Investment Manager and Trans Express all moving up from Class 4.

We've a good spread of ages here (3 x 5yo, 2 x 6yo, 1 x 7yo, 2 x 8yo, 1 x 9yo, 1 x 10yo and 1 x 11yo) rated 26lbs apart from top to bottom, although the bottom weight is some 13lbs lighter than the horse above. Yards with positive stats are those with Birds of Prey, West to the Bridge, Deeper Blue and Investment Manager, whist the riders of Birds of Prey, West to the Bridge, Pol Crocan and Investment Manager are the ones highlighted in a good way on the card.

Birds of Prey and Dan Maguire have both previously won at similar trips to today, whilst Martinhal, Guernesey and Trans Express have all won over course and distance. We already know that Birds of Prey hasn't been seen for 21 months, but Dan McGrue also returns from a layoff here (last seen 7 months ago), but the other nine have all raced in the last seven weeks with three (Guernesey, Martinhal & Trans Express) having been out in the last 7-14 days.

At this point, I wouldn't want to stick my neck out and say who'll win, but alphabetically the likes of Birds of Prey, Champagne Court, Deeper Blue, Guernesey, Investment Manager and Martinhal have ticked some boxes whilst Dan McGrue (form/layoff/trainer record at track), Pol Crocan (form) and Trans Express (form/up in class) are three I'd probably cast aside right now, giving me eight to consider as I look at overall form via 'feature of the day' Instant Expert...

I've ordered the above purely on number of soft ground wins, because previous successful experiences on extreme going often bring about more success. The first four on that list have decent soft ground records and the bottom three, although winless, wouldn't be ruled out, because they've only 8 runs between them from which they've placed four times. Eamon An Cnoic is a worry on the ground as a 1 from 14 record says he has been tried (and failed) extensively on soft and with his 13 defeats only containing three places, I'm letting him go here.

West to the Bridge and Champagne Court are proven in this grade, whilst Martinhal & Guernesey are the C&D winners, of course.

The running styles of our seven remaining possibles have been as follows over their most recent outings (notwithstanding that Birds of Prey's fourth start back was in October 2019!)...

...and of the discarded runners, only Trans Express (15) has a higher pace score than the three at the top of that list and based on historical results over similar trips here...

...I'd really want a pace score of 11 or higher or an average of 2.75, which isn't great news for the bottom three on the list. However, Guernesey wasn't far off that prior to his last run and Birds of Prey's data might not be reliable after such a lengthy absence, but West to the Bridge is generally held up for a run and that will probably be his undoing here, so I'm crossing him off my list now, giving me a half-dozen to ponder upon...

Martinhal probably needed the run after 260 days off track when 9th of 13 at Aintree earlier this month, but he's down in trip by 1f, down in class and also down 4lbs. He's 2 from 2 here at Exeter after wins in Jan/Feb of this year, he's also 3 from 3 going right handed, 3 from 5 on soft ground and 3 from 6 under today's jockey and is definite shortlist material.

Birds of Prey was a useful versatile sort prior to his lengthy lay-off, winning his only bumper race, 2 wins & 5 places from 9 on the Flat, 1 from 3 on the A/W and 2 wins, 4 places from 8 over hurdles. Only raced twice in 2020, winning a 2m½f A/W bumper at Wolverhampton and then a 2m handicap at Kempton (also A/W), but has made thr frame in all four soft ground runs (2 wins), prefers going right handed and if ready first up, could actually be the best of this bunch.

Champagne Court has made the frame in each of his last four starts (2 x chase and then 2 x hurdle), but not seeming to see races out. He goes off the same mark as when beaten by five lengths last time out, which suggests he'll need to improve here and all three career wins came without cheekpieces (0/6 with them0 and without tongue tie (0/5 TT), yet both are in situ here.

Deeper Blue is the least experienced of the field after just four starts, but he has made the frame three times, including both efforts over hurdles. He was a 15 lengths third of 8 on hurdling debut last May and then returned in October to finish a 6 lengths runner-up of 14 at Chepstow. An opening handicap mark of 122 is neither lenient nor harsh, but he is up in class and might just need the handicap run.

Guernesey is probably the form horse here and was winner over this track and trip four starts and ten weeks ago. Has finished 232 since, only going down by a short head at Warwick and then by two necks at Taunton before going back to Taunton last week where he was beaten by just a length and a quarter despite hitting the last hurdle. He goes off the same mark here, stays well and if jumping cleanly will be involved.

Investment Manager was an 11 lengths runner-up over course and distance here back in February, earning himself an opening handicap mark of 106, which he used to good effect when reappearing at Newton Abbot eight months later (21st Oct) to land a heavy ground Class 4 hurdle over 2m6f. That sent him up to 112 for another Class 4 contest, where he was 2nd of 10, beaten by three quarters of a length over 2m4f. He takes another drop in trip here and is up 1 class and 3lbs which probably puts this one just out of reach.


Of my six above, Champagne Court is off the same mark as a five length defeat LTO and has a poor record in Cheekpieces/tongue tie, and Investment Manager is up 3lbs and one class for a defeat LTO. Deeper Blue lacks handicap experience and his yard are just 5 from 37 (13.5% SR) with hurdlers on handicap debut since the start of 2018 which is an A/E of just 0.78. Of those 37, they are just 1 from 13 (7.7%, A/E 0.53) on soft ground and 0 from 8 ridden by a claimer, so the probabilities are against him.

All of which leave me with Birds of Prey, Guernesey and Martinhal.

If all things were equal, Birds of Prey is possibly the best horse in the race, but might need a run. Guernesey is the form horse, but will need to keep up to his work and jump cleanly, whilst Martinhal is the pick on stats and has the best pace profile of my possibles but bears top weight here.

Any of the three could win this, but they're the three I'd want. If pushed to put them in order I'd have the form horse Guernesey marginally ahead of the stat horse Martinhal with the probably-tiring Birds of Prey hanging on for a place.

Odds wise as of 4.20pm Wednesday, Guernesey is available at 11/2, which is pretty much where I had him, Martinhal is a 9/1 shot where I was rather expecting around 12's, but he's still be of E/W interest and Birds of Prey is a 5/1 chance, which is where I thought he'd be.

Good luck, however you play this one.


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