Racing Insights

Racing Insights, 19th February 2021

Not Another Muddle was fifth home of the six to finish (ten ran) at Sandown and in missing the places by some 21 lengths, we were right to avoid him, as once again he weakened in the closing stages.

We were also right in suggesting that Notation would attempt to win it from the front at Chelmsford, but get caught by Indigo Times, who then went on to win by a length and a quarter. We're not getting rich off a 2/1 winner and a £4.65 forecast, but it sure beats handing money to the bookies.

The weekend now suddenly looms large again and to help us with our punting, the Horses for Courses report is free to all readers, as are the full racecards for the following contests...

  • 1.50 Kelso
  • 3.42 Fakenham
  • 4.00 Dundalk
  • 4.45 Fakenham
  • 5.45 Southwell
  • 6.00 Dundalk

And I think I'll make a rare foray across the water for an interesting looking 9-runner, 5 furlong all-weather sprint handicap aka the 4.00 Dundalk, where they line up as follows...

Stanhope carries top weight here, 10st 2lbs off a mark of 70, meaning he'll be conceding some 19lbs to the bottom weight, Misterio, even before the 10lbs claimed by the latter's jockey. Stanhope, however, did run off 80 the last time he won (Navan, 5f, Jul '20) but it has to be said that he has disappointed in 8 defeats since and his yard is just 1 from 36 over the last month. He's rested for 11 weeks since his last run, when just 9th of 13 over C&D here. he was beaten by 6 lengths off just 2lbs higher, so much improvement needed.

Nigg Bay is 0 from 9 (placed 5 times) over course and distance, 0 from 8 generally without headgear and 0 from 6 in a tongue tie, which isn't persuasive at all. He was beaten by just half a length over course and distance almost a year ago and then didn't race for another 315 days. He returned to action here ten weeks ago and really looked like he needed a run when finishing 12th of 14 over 6f. He's off a workable mark here, but I'm not convinced yet.

Tassel Flower was last of 14 on handicap debut over 6f here three weeks ago, but fared much better when a runner-up in a maiden over C&D last week, going down by just a length at 25/1. That was her first crack at this trip on the A/W and there could very well be more to come from this unexposed type now back in handicap company and carrying little weight.

Maggie Thunder won here over course and distance back in October of last year and although she has been beaten in all seven runs (all here at Dundalk) since, she's generally there or thereabouts with the average margin of defeat being around 2 lengths or so. She won off a mark of 46 and was then hoisted to 59, where she was a narrow runner-up twice. The closest she's been since then is LTO off 61, the same as here, so she possibly still needs to come down a little to win. Place chances, though.

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Danz Gift was a winner over track and trip three starts ago, but struggled (11th of 12) here off 5lbs higher after a nine month break. He clearly needed the run, as he was then a very creditable 4th of 14 here when dropped a pound last time out five weeks ago and now down another pound this 7-time C&D winner has to be a contender.

Pillar has certainly been around the block a few times, having raced 102 times to date. This 8yr old's career strike rate of 6.86% isn't great, but he has made the frame 47 (46.08%) times, which is encouraging. He has already made the frame twice here this month, both over 6f, the most recent being Wednesday! That was his 8th placing in his last ten starts and should he pitch up again here, he's be in the mix again, I'd expect.

Ahyoka is a lightly-raced (6 starts) 4 yr old filly who has already won one (C&D) of her two starts here at Dundalk, although she's now rated some 9lbs higher than that win and she struggled LTO of this new mark. A confirmed front-runner, she virtually made all when winning and then led until 1f out last time, before being swallowed up on the way to finishing 7th of 14, just over 4 lengths off the pace. Yard is in good recent form, as is her jockey and the trainer/jockey stats show 7 wins from 18 in the past year. Not an obvious winner off this mark, but not ruled out, especially if the first time blinkers help.

Poet's Pride also wears blinkers for the first time and in his case, it's in the hope of arresting a poor run of form, having been pretty well beaten in his last eight runs without making the frame in any. The last seven of those runs were all over 7f (the last four here) and he now drops down 2f to tackle 5f for only the second time in what will be his 30th start. In fairness, he did win that previous effort (Wolverhampton, Feb'19, OR63) and his last win was also in February (2020), but we're clutching at straws if we're relying on the calendar.

Misterio is bottom weight here and carries virtually no weight at all (I was heavier at primary school than she'll carry here!), but she's still a maiden after 8 attempts, making the frame just twice in the process. Her debut (last Feb) was her only prior run on the all-weather and she was 9th of 14 that day, beaten by 7.5 lengths over this track and trip. She has a couple of runner-up efforts last summer but has regressed slightly since. She seemed sluggish last time out at Cork and it is hoped that a change of surface, a drop in trip and a 20-week rest will see her perform better. Sadly, I doubt it.

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I have a feeling that in a close contest the runners' place records will tell us more than just looking at their wins, so here are both sides of the Instant Expert analysis...

And to be honest, there's only Misterio who fails to shine in any department. Pillar really stands from a place perspective and could be one to consider from an E/W perspective if the prices are right for us, as do Nigg Bay and Danz Gift. The numbers are impressive for that trio after so many runs (90 between them here at Dundalk!) under their belts.

Maggie Thunder, Pillar and Ahkoya are all running off considerably higher marks than their last wins, though, whilst Stanhope and Poet's Pride would appear to be well in based on past wins.

There doesn't appear to be any big discernible draw bias in 9-runner fields over 5 furlongs here at Dundalk, so race positioning and tactics will prove pivotal, I'd guess and according to our pace/draw heatmap, the order of preference would be high drawn leaders, low drawn leaders and then mid-division runners coming from the centre of the stalls, whilst low draw runners don't want to race anywhere further back than prominent (they get cut up otherwise) and a mid-div pozzy isn't good for highly drawn runners, whilst leading from centre hasn't really worked out either.

In fact the heat map is pretty much black and white or green and red, as we have it!

And from those races, prominent runners have won 50% (8 wins) of the 16 similar contests from 42.4% (59/139) runners, leaders have 18.75% of the winners from 12.95% of the runners, mid-division have just 6.25% of the winners from 8.33% of the runners, whilst the 50 held up runners have won just 25% of the races from 36% of the 139 runners. And it is this strike rate % divided by runners % that gives us our IV impact values (50/42.4 = 1.18, 18.75/12.95 = 1.45 etc etc)...

Now we've overlaid the past running styles of our competitors, Ahkoya looks likeliest to force the pace and is drawn well to do so with Tassel Flower and Pillar both having good pace/draw make-ups for the front end. Nigg Bay isn't badly off either, but may have to deal with traffic if he's to win here.

Summary

You can make a case for half a dozen here, but that's not really my remit here, so having gone through past form, racecard tools, stats and that unquantifiable variant "gut feeling", the three I want here against the field are (alphabetically) Danz Gift (despite the pace/draw red zone), Maggie Thunder (possibly a pound or two too high and needs to race a little further forward) and Pillar, despite a poor strike rate.

Of the three, I think I'm going to overlook the fact that he's only 7 from 102 and go with Pillar. He's in the best form of his life and despite not winning often enough, he brings the best form to the table here. He has ran well off this mark twice this month already and assuming there's no ill-effect from running here on Wednesday, he's the one for me (just!).

In behind, I prefer Danz Gift to Maggie Thunder, despite the pace/draw issue. He's proven here over C&D and looked well last time out.

I completed this preview at 4.50pm Thursday and there were no prices available at the time. I doubt I'll get it, but I'd really like to be around the 5/1 mark for Pillar. Quick check at 5.25pm and Pillar was 9/2.

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