Saturday didn't quite pan out for me, as my preference Koeman was only fourth at 9/1, the best part of three lengths behind the 5/4 favourite who I could (and possibly should) have backed at double those odds.
Would have, could have or should have is pretty irrelevant after the fact, so let's focus on the new week/month starting now with Monday's feature of the day providing the PACE tab for all races for all users, including our 'races of the day', which are...
- 12.15 Lingfield
- 3.10 Dundalk
- 7.40 Wolverhampton
...and with the first two being an A/W jumpers bumpers and a low grade big-field Irish A/W handicap, I'm going to look at the last of that trio, the 7.40 Wolverhampton which looks a fairly open contest that probably won't have a short-priced fav, so there cold be potential for a bet (or two). We start with the card...
...which is an 11-runner field of generally inexperienced runners. Spirit of Rowdown (11) and Arthur's Angel (9) have 20 runs between them, but the other nine runners have only a further 37 appearances between them. From a form perspective, only Go Oscar Go and Bodroy have failed to make the frame recently.
Destacado has placed in two of her three starts to date (both places over 7f on Tapeta at Newcastle), but hasn't been helped by being allocated top weight here for her handicap debut here. She has, however, looked progressive, is rated 2nd on the Geegeez ratings and clearly handles Tapeta. Jockey Billy Garritty takes a useful 5lbs off and he's riding well (3 wins & 3 places from 12 over the last fortnight). The downside is that the filly is up in trip by a furlong and a half and her yard is 0 from 20 here over the last year, 2 from 35 here overall and is 0 from 18 with all handicap debutants.
Aviary was second at Lingfield in mid-December earning herself a tricky opening handicap mark of 70 from which she was 7th of 10 here at Wolverhampton over 7f three weeks ago. She ran OK to be fair and looked like a longer trip might suit. She's up in trip by 1.5f and down in ratings (OR) by 2lbs, whether that's enough is debatable, but she should be closer than last time although others will appeal more. Her yard do have a decent record (17 from 75 since the start of 2018) with 2nd time handicappers, though.
Go Oscar Go is probably the worst in the field here and his 15 length defeat over course and distance in mid-December doesn't bode well for this race, I'm afraid, as it was a poor race to be well beaten in (field is 0 from 13 since). He fared better down in trip at Kempton last time out, but back up in trip on this surface for a handicap debut off a mark of 68? No thanks, even if the yard are 111812173 here at Wolverhampton in the last six weeks.
Bodroy will assume the role of worst in race if the above runner doesn't. He showed very little in four runs for Nick Littmoden and his new yard have had just 1 winner from 28 over the last four weeks. The horse was last of five on handicap debut at Kempton and also eased 4lbs here and dropped in class, he's still going to be well up against it. In addition to his new yard's current poor form, they are only 3 from 75 here at Wolverhampton in the last year.
Musaytir had three modest efforts over 5/6 furlongs prior to a career-best effort on handicap debut over 1m at Newcastle 11 days ago. His jockey took a useful 3lbs off a mark of 62 today as they only went down by half a length, but I don't think it was a great race to be honest. The small field have failed to make the frame in four efforts since and off a mark of 65 today with no jockey claim, Musaytir is effectively up 6lbs for losing. He has ability, but I don't see him involved here based on what I've seen/read.
Arthur's Angel was a winner over 7f at Chelmsford in late November and his best two recent efforts have come in the past month since being stepped up in trip. he was beaten by less than three quarters of a length here over course and distance almost four weeks ago and then made the frame over a mile at Lingfield just two days ago. If taking his place here, I'd expect another bold effort if not given too much to do late on. With his jockey's claim, he's now effectively 2lbs better off than that C&D effort two starts ago and his jockey has won four of his last twelve starts. The yard hasn't gone well here at Wolverhampton of late, but does have a good long-term record at the track.
Spirit of Rowdown is the most experienced of the field with 11 races under his belt, but he accounts for 3 of the field's 56 total wins and his 3 from 8 record on the A/W includes 3 wins, 2 places from 6 on standard going, the same record under today's jockey, the same in cheekpieces and the same going left handed. He has 2 wins and 2 places from 4 over course and distance. He's the form horse in the race, rated third on the Geegeez ratings and really should be the one to beat, not withstanding he's up 3lbs despite not winning last time out.
Doonbeg Farmer was a half-length runner-up in a 6-runner, Class 6 seller over a mile last time out after two indifferent efforts in handicap company. He's up (slightly) in trip and up in class for his yard debut for James Evans, as well as it being a first crack at Tapeta. Well beaten off marks of 70 and then 68, today's 654 is far more workable, but I still think he's up against it here.
Woodview has improved each time he has run and on his fourth and latest start, he was only beaten by half a length in a Class 6 handicap over a mile. He was running on strongly that day and the extra half furlong might be useful for him today. He is, however, up in class and raised a punitive-looking 5lbs for that run, suggesting the assessor realised that he should maybe have been given a higher mark prior to that last run? 65 isn't an unfair mark, mind, I just think 5lbs for not winning is excessive in general. If continuing to improve, he has to be in consideration here despite his yard's poor (just 2 from 135) record here since 2016.
Roman Mist was third last time out in a 7f Novice event at Kempton, earning herself an opening handicap mark of 63, but in two previous efforts over course and distance here at Wolverhampton, she has finished seventh twice and was beaten by more than 10 lengths each time, so the step back up in trip and the switch back to Tapeta isn't likely (in my opinion) to be one that suits her and I suspect she'll be "out back" somewhere.
We Still Believe completes our field and is one of just three here with a past win to his name, having won last time out on handicap debut over 1m at Newcastle. All four career starts have been on that track and he won off an opening mark of 57, awarded after three modest efforts over shorter distances before the step up to a mile. The nature of that win is likely to make him popular here but a slight rise in trip, a step up in class and a 5lb rise in weight will all combine to stop this being a gimme and his win last time out was one of jockey Andrew Mullen's only 2 wins from 103 rides over the last 60 days and he's 0 from 29 here in the last 90 days.
The entire 11-runner field has a not so grand total of 5 wins and 14 places from 57 combined outings, so with a win record of 8.78% and 24.56% placed, I suspect we'll get more from the place element of Instant Expert than we will from the win records, but here they both are...
Spirit of Rowdown shows particularly well with honourable mentions (in card order) to Destacado, Arthur's Angel, Doonbeg Farmer and Woodview. All five of those named are drawn close together in stalls 4 to 9, so I wonder how important the actual draw might be. To get some answers, I simply click the DRAW tab on the racecard and I find that in the last 312 11-runner contests here, stalls 7, 6 and 9 have fared best (see table below) and that the ideal situation here is to be drawn high and lead. Mid-drawn prominent runners fare next best followed by mid-drawn leaders, Trying to make all from a low draw has proved fairly distastrous and this is beautifully illustrated by our unique pace/draw heat map below...
Now, we already know about the horses and where they're drawn. We also where the best draw is and how best to approach the race from the draw given, but how do we predict the race will pan out? That's where the PACE tab (freely available for all Monday's races, of course) comes in. It will tell is how the horses have run is each of their last 2,3 or 4 starts and we can overlay that information onto the above heat map to see who might be be well (or poorly) suited here, as follows...
...and our feeling is that this race may be run differently to how these horses normally go about it. At least one will have to go forward and lead them out even if the pace is slow. Doonbeg Farmer has led in the past and might take it on, whilst Spirit of Rowdown has raced prominently on a couple of occasions recently too.
If they do dawdle and turn it into a sprint finish, that will suit Arthur's Angel down to the ground as he tends to do all his best work late on.
Not withstanding that this might become a tactical affair, I can't help but keep returning to Spirit of Rowdown. I know he's up in weight here, but the stats don't lie. He's the best here so far over track and trip and if they do dawdle, he might just go and nick the race from the front. I think 8/1 looks generous, as I was expecting nearer to 9/2 or 5/1, so I'll back this one.
Next best for me is Woodview, he's also up in weight and his yard have a poor record here, but he's upwardly mobile and will seek to continue his improvement. I also thought he's be in the 9/2 to 5/1 ball park, but odds of 2/1 to 11/4 currently available look mean and don't offer enough value to me (each to his/her/their own, of course).
To complete my 'three against the field', I've little between Arthur's Angel and Destacado. The former is more exposed and the latter may have more to give. There's probably nothing between them and the market has them similarly tied. If I had to pick one, I suppose it'd be Arthur's Angel on weight and experience, but only just!