Tuesday's race worked out well for us, as our three-horse shortlist filled the first three home. My preferred runner was the winner and the one I'd thought would be a good E/W option at 9/1 eventually finished second at 4/1, so plenty of value there.
Wednesday's free feature is the excellent Trainer Stats report, one that most of you know I use all the time and our free racecards are for...
- 12.20 Warwick
- 2.30 Hexham
- 2.50 Ffos Las
- 3.15 Warwick
- 3.50 Warwick
...and with tricky conditions expected, we're off to South Wales for the 2.50 Ffos Las : a 9-runner, Class 3, Handicap Hurdle for 4yo+ over 2m6f on heavy ground with the winner receiving £5,693 for their troubles. As ever, we start with the card itself, which looks a little (well, a lot!) like this...
As you can see, I've ordered the runners by the furthest right column, the Geegeez ratings, where Exploiteur, Montanna and Eaton Hill stand out, whilst Sirop de Menthe is a little detached.
If we then flit back to the left hand side and look at recent form, we can see that Exploiteur, Out The Glen and Samson's Reach all come here on the back of a runner-up finish last time out, whilst both Caswell Bay and Motanna were both well down the field with Sermando the only one without a recent run, having been off the track for 288 days.
Caswell Bay and Broughtons Admiral are dropping down in class, Out The Glen and Sirop de Menthe both ran in this grade last time, whilst the other five are all stepping up from Class 4, including Exploiteur who is having a second handicap run today.
Trainer-wise, Peter Bowen (Montanna) looks out of sorts and hasn't fared well here of late, but does have a good record in the mud, Kerry Lee's horses (Eaton Hill) are running well, Debra Hamer (Out The Glen) has a good long-term record on this track and her horses tend to like some cut in the ground, Evan Williams' (Caswell Bay) hurdlers go well here at Ffos Las, whilst David Pipe (Broughtons Admiral) has not only been amongst the winners of late, he has also fared well here over in recent times.
I won't dwell on the jockeys, but a few are in good nick (hence the 14 30), but I should mention that both Sean Bowen (Montanna) and 3lb claimer Ben Jones (who will receive chunks of weight all round) have enjoyed coming here in the past few years, whilst Sean has proven to be one of the best jockeys around in the mud.
Instant Expert also gives a few clues on how this might pan out...
It's good to see that five of them have won on heavy ground before and Samson's Reach / Sirop de Menthe aside, those wins haven't come from many races. Sirop, however, is the only runner with a Class 3 win to their name and we've just three previous course winners, but four of them haven't raced here over hurdles or in a bumper. Quite a few have won over 2m4f to 2m6f whilst Eaton Hill, Sirop de Menthe and Samson's reach are all racing off marks lower than their last win.
Before I move on, I do want to show you the place aspect of Instant Expert with an emphasis on heavy ground and Ffos Las itself...
...which puts the old boy Sirop de Menthe and Out The Glen in a better light. I've thrown that in, because heavy ground is a great leveller and whilst I expect Sirop to be a big price, he might well be better suited to the conditions than many of his rivals and it doesn't take many to pull up before a big priced runner makes the frame for E/W punters, something to keep at the back of the mind.
As with all codes of races, pace is often key even in slow conditions and history tells us that it's tough to win from the front here at Ffos Las, as leaders tend to get picked off by prominent running stalkers or something comes from off the pace to snatch it late on. This is better highlighted by our pace tab...
...which suggests Caswell Bay might take it on and try to win from the front, making him vulnerable to any of the four at the bottom of the graphic.
So, where does this leave me? Well, to be honest with you, I'm not massively bullish about the outcome here. There are a couple that I prefer (Exploiteur and Out The Glen), but it's more because I've more negatives against the other runners.
Broughtons Admiral has ability and has won in the mud in the past, but he has been around the block, changed hands fairly recently and didn't look up to it last time out. Top 5 finish perhaps? Caswell Bay also has a heavy ground win to his name and looked lacklustre last time out, whilst Eaton Hill poses a conundrum after running well last time out. He wasn't great last season and ran his best race for a long time last time out. Now up in class and 3lbs worse off, logic (I know!) says he shouldn't be winning here.
Exploiteur, I do like, despite the data suggesting otherwise. He ran really well on handicap debut last time out and but for a mistake 2 out, he's coming here as a winner. He was only beaten by less than three lengths and the winner has since won a Class 2 a week ago, whilst this looks slightly easier than last time. Montanna has never raced on heavy ground and his handicap form is poor. He's on a sliding mark and has mud maestro Sean Bowen on board, but he'll need more help than that and Out The Glen is the other I liked. Finishes of 11422 in handicaps is encouraging as is today's drop back in trip and he has won here on heavy ground over slightly shorter in the past year.
Samson's Reach is 0 from 17 over the last two years since winning at Hereford, but did produce his best run for some time when runner-up last time out. Now up in both weight and class and with a less experienced rider on board, I'd not be surprised if he went 0 from 18.
Sermando won a big-field handicap at Huntingdon on soft ground in January, but hasn't really produced anything else of note. Now resuming after a long lay-off, it's hard for me to be confident about him, but I'm sure he'll be popular elsewhere. And finally, the old boy Sirop de Menthe, who at 10 yrs old and without a win in 12 races over 4 years really shouldn't be of much interest here. But that win was here at Ffos Las, at this grade and on soft ground. he's also the only course and distance winner in this field, loves the mud and is now rated some 18lbs lower than his last win.
Will Sirop win here? Highly unlikely, but you know he'll give it a go.
I don't really like any of them enough to back them, which is slightly frustrating, but very OK, of course. I do think Exploiteur and Out The Glen will be involved in the shake-up, but so could another three or four. 2.50 on a Wednesday is probably a tad too early for a glass of wine, so I'll put my feet up with a cup of tea and watch the action unfold. I might have had a quid each way on Sirop at 18's or bigger, but I'm not as keen about 12/1, so I'll probably leave it.