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Racing Insights, 22nd February 2021

No real surprises from Saturday, as both "Potters" finished outside of the places. Potters Legend was last home as just six of nine completed the Grand National trial, where the horses that interested me, Achille, was an 11/1 runner-up beaten by just half a length, so a bit of E/W profit there.

I thought Potters Hedger was more capable and more likely to place in a race where he'd have to be better than Everglow and also hope that Bushypark didn't run away with it. In the end, Bushypark did run away with it at an SP of 8/1 and Everglow was indeed third and therefore the one to beat to make the frame. Sadly Potters Hedger was two places and 6.5 lengths further back, but certainly ran his race.

Monday heralds a new week and whilst it's generally a poor day of racing, there are still winners to be found! To help us, the Pace tab is freely available for all races, including the free races of the day, which are...

  • 1.35 Carlisle
  • 1.55 Fairyhouse
  • 2.20 Southwell
  • 2.40 Carlisle
  • 3.40 Carlisle

Heavy ground beckons at Carlisle and of the three free races we offer, the first looks the most open, so today's focus falls on the 1.35 Carlisle, an 8-runner, Class 4, handicap chase over 2m4f on this heavy ground. The winner will receive almost £4,289 and will come from the following...

Final Reminder is the only mare in the contest and makes only her second start over fences, but did win three times from ten attempts over hurdles. She probably needed the run when beaten by 36 lengths on her chasing bow at Kelso 11 weeks ago, having not been seen for 18 months and with it being over 32 months since she last won, other appeal more on form.

She's rated the lowest on our figures and her best work has come on much quicker ground over longer trips, but she has won at a higher grade and drops down in class here, whilst her yard has had 5 placers from 10 runners in the past fortnight. I don't see her making the frame, though : mid-division should be her best here.

Ryalex is the only course and distance winner here, but that was some 27 months ago and not only has he been beaten ten times since, that remains his only success in 21 attempts. He's down in class and down a furlong in trip from his last run, but he was beaten by 27 lengths here that time and has failed to even make the frame in five efforts on heavy ground.

Hard to find many positives about this one, if I'm honest, the yard is 1 from 36 over the last month and 0 from 34 here at Carlisle over the last 16 months.

Trongate is the proverbial "close, but no cigar" horse who always seems to be there or thereabouts, but doesn't win often enough, as typified by making the frame 6 times from 14 over fences (15 from 39 overall), but only winning two chases (and 3 in total). He's on a long losing run, stretching back twenty races to Autumn 2018 when he won twice in three outings.

In his defence, he has finished in the first four home nine times in his last dozen outings and was third in his last effort over fences and he has the best heavy ground form on offer here with two wins and two places from nine runs, finishing 14312 in his last five. Definite place potential here.

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Scottish Accent comes here on a run of form reading 223, which in a race devoid of recent winners, makes him the form horse and therefore the one to beat. Seven of his nine starts (all at Class 4) have been on soft ground and he made the frame in one of his two heavy ground outings. He has yet to win a race, but his recent form suggests he's due one.

Trainer Rebecca Menzies is 7 from 17 (41.2% SR, A/E 3.26) with Class 3 to 5 handicap chasers over trips of 2m4f and shorter on heavy ground since the start of 2016, including 5 from 6 when sent off shorter than 6/1.

Shaughnessy finished 221 in three bumpers and although then going on to finish 343 over hurdles and 34 over fences, hasn't seemed the same horse since the turn of the year to start 2020. He was pulled up at Chepstow just over a year ago and then had 314 days off track ahead of a 26 length defeat at Newcastle.

He fell heavily at Wetherby on Boxing Day and reverted to hurdling last time out, but was almost 50 lengths off the pace. He's up in class over a sharper trip and although down 5lbs, I see him nearer the back than the front.

Central Flame is, at 13 yrs of age, the veteran of this race, but comes here off the back of his best run for five years, having been a runner-up at Newcastle just over ten weeks ago. He was beaten by less than four lengths over 2m4.5f on soft ground at this grade, for just his fourth place from 15 efforts over fences.

He's one from two here at Carlisle, has finished 2333 on heavy ground and his three career wins have all been at 2m3.5f to 2m4.5f. He's down a pound in the weights too, so he's not out of contention here in what looks a poor contest.

Mill Race King makes just his sixth start today ( also won one of two PTP races) and has yet to complete a chase contest after falling at Leicester in early December ahead of being pulled up at Wetherby on Boxing Day in the race where Shaughnessy fell.

He did run second here in a 2m3.5f hurdle at Class 3 on heavy ground, but that was almost teo years ago and only four ran and I think he's best watched here. He could place, but could also finish last or not finish at all.

Westend Theatre makes up our octet and has finished 31423 in his last five starts and was only beaten by eight lengths last time out, despite having spent over nine months off the track. Sadly, the form from that race isn't string with just one placer from nine attempts.

He's down in trip here, but up 2lbs (although his jockey now claims 3lbs) and up in class. His best form comes in the mud and he's a confirmed stayer, so this might be a little sharp for him at 2m4f, especially after more than 15 weeks since his last run. I don't see him near winning, but if things fell his way, could nick a place.

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These eight have ran 144 times between them so far, making the frame on 50 (34.4%) occasions, but only winning 12 (8.3%) of them, suggesting that the place element of Instant Expert...

...might tell us more than the win only side of things...

What the above graphics do tell us is that in handicap chases, we've only two previous heavy ground winners, two Class 4 winners, one course winner and two distance winners. Trongate has an excellent place record, whilst both Scottish Accent & Central Flame both look well placed to make the frame on past performance.

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The pace tab is Monday's free feature, so it would be rude not to take a look...

...and the first thing we see are two big green boxes suggesting we want runners to lead or at least be prominent, as they win more than 23.5% of the time. Closer inspection of the breakdown of 15 races tells us that 38.8% of runners race prominently and win 60% of the races. Another 38.8% of runners are held up, but they've only won 6.7% of the races, as have the 5.1% of mid-division runners, leaving us with the 17.3% of horses who led taking the remaining 26.7% of races.

The figures for mid-division runners is inconclusive, so I wouldn't write them off, but I wouldn't want to be backing horses that will be held up, especially if there's any pace in the race.

And is there any pace here? Well, yes!

I'd expect Ryalex and Westend Theatre to get on with it, as they have tended to do in the past, but with career records of 1 from 21 and 1 from 22 respectively, history suggests they'll get caught. This makes them vulnerable to the likes of Scottish Accent, Shaughnessy, Trongate and Central Flame and those four bar Shaughnessy do tend to stay on and finish quite strongly.

Summary

From the racecard analysis and my write-ups, I was keenest on the likes of Scottish Accent, Trongate, Central Flame and possibly Westend Theatre. The same four caught the eye on Instant Expert with Westend looking the weaker of the four and there's a suggestion that he'll do his usual too much early on and fade away, so I'm leaving him out at this point.

So my three against the field are Scottish Accent, Trongate & Central Flame. I'd love Trongate to win this and at 6/1, he's decent value (I thought he'd be shorter) but I think that Scottish Accent might just have too much for him late on. Sadly the market agrees and have installed him as the 10/3 favourite, but there might even be a bit of juice in that price, I'd not be surprised to see him shorter than 3/1.

Central Flame would be my tentative addition for tricast/trifecta purposes here.

Before I go, a quick note about prices. I say there might be juice at 10/3 for a horse that might be 11/4 and it doesn't seem much at first glance, but it's almost as lucrative as getting 10/1 about an 8/1 shot.

Racing Insights, 16th February 2021

Tuesday's "feature of the day" is the Shortlist Report, which highlights runners proven under similar race conditions and our free "races of the day" are as follows...

  • 1.00 Carlisle
  • 1.45 Catterick
  • 3.35 Carlisle
  • 5.40 Newcastle

Carlisle are optimistic about racing going ahead, so let's tackle a heavy ground chase aka the 3.35 Carlisle...

Beat Box won a soft ground hurdle over 2m0.5f just over a year ago, but hasn't really kicked on since. Record over fences reads 353, but was beaten by 21 lengths LTO over a similar trip to today on good to soft ground at this grade. Only previous run on heavy saw him finish 3rd of 4 in a Class 4 contest over 2m0.5f where he was beaten by 39L. Not for me here.

Candy Burg is four from nine over fences and won a Class 5 2m contest on heavy ground by 14 lengths at Ffos Las earlier this month. He has been slapped with an 11lb rise for that win and whilst clearly not the horse he was in 2018/19, it is just 17 months ago that he was winning a Class 3 off a mark 15lbs higher than today. He's not guaranteed to run well in back to back contests, but must be in with a chance of making the frame at least.

Darling Alko is fairly lightly raced after 4 bumpers, 3 hurdles and 3 chases and has finished 123 over fences. His win was over 2m0.5f on soft ground at Ludlow off a mark just 5lbs lower than today and he's had the benefit of a pipe-opener in an A/W jumpers bumper recently, finishing fourth at Lingfield and beaten by just 7.5 lengths after an absence of over 10 months. Should come on for the run and could well make the frame at a decent price.

Demopolis is 1 from 1 over fences after landing a Class 4 soft ground contest by four lengths over two miles at Ludlow almost a year ago. He has since finished 1421 over hurdles and comes here in great nick following a heavy ground success last time out. He's rated just 5lbs higher over fences than that last hurdles win (although his hurdles mark will also rise next time) and has the benefit of in-form Richard Johnson in the saddle.

Kalaharry had a decent 2020 even if he didn't win often enough finishing 12326 with the penultimate of those races being his chase debut. He was second of three that day just two lengths behind an odds on favourite with the other runner some 26 lengths further back. You don't learn much from three-runner contests, but he got some Class 4 and heavy ground experience and staying 2m7.5f vouched for his stamina. He looked like he needed the run when well beaten last time out, but that was his comeback after 9 months off, so more is expected here, although I'm not expecting much better than mid-field.

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Miss Amelia is the only mare in the race and this daughter of Midnight Legend has already won three times over fences, including one on heavy ground. Her last four results over fences read 1312 and the first of those runs was the heavy ground win, when she scored at this grade over 2m1.5f at Bangor, finishing 17 lengths clear of the field some 14 months ago. She's up in class today but should still give a decent account of herself, but I doubt that will be enough here.

Pistol Park was a useful chaser from April 2016 to April 2018, but three long lay-offs and six indifferent efforts since have somewhat taken the shine off his past exploits. He was last of three beaten by 33 lengths six starts ago and was then pulled up in each of his next two. He returned from a 256 day break to get within 8 lengths of the winner at Ayr back in October, but has been beaten by 58 and 36 lengths in two runs since. His best days are definitely behind him and a drop in class won't enough to get him involved here.

Pookie Pekan is 3 from 16 over fences, but it has been a while since we've seen a decent run from him. He won nicely at this grade in November 2019 and he was expected to move on from there, but struggled in four runs upped in trip. He was dropped right back down to 2m0.5f LTO, but was still beaten by some 25 lengths at Haydock on heavy ground 24 days ago and although he's down in class here, others look better placed.

Skipping On might well be 12 yrs old now, but was consistently decent in 2020 finishing 4232321 (2322 on heavy). He struggled last time out when pulled up at Ayr in a Class 4 contest over 2m5.5f on heavy ground and it is hoped that the return to a shorter trip gets him going again. He has won over fences here at Carlisle in the past on heavy ground and if running like he did in 2020 would have a great chance. The worry, I suppose, is that the LTO run is start of a demise.

Well Above Par has been significantly below par of late, if truth be told, since winning at Kelso six starts ago. Subsequently beaten by 18 then 31 lengths, he was pulled up before racing twice more, going down by 36 and 28 lengths. He has two chase victories to his name including one at a higher grade on heavy ground, but I'd be massively surprised if he was anywhere near in this one. I'd be less surprised if he finished last.

Zuckerberg might or might not make up the field here. I don't actually expect him to run as he fulfilled an engagement at Warwick this afternoon where he finished 14th of 18 over hurdles, more than 50 lengths off the pace. That didn't surprise me at all to be honest, as he's shown very little since coming to the UK and I expected him to struggle here under top weight. Whether he runs here or not is largely irrelevant for our purposes, he's not winning this race!

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Excluding Zuckerberg, who I don't expect to line up, this field have clocked up some miles in a combined 189 races yielding 57 places (30%) including 36 wins (19%). That win strike rate is decent enough and they have also made the frame in 19 (38%) of 50 heavy ground contests, winning 9 (18%) of them. Heavy ground form is very important, as it's likely to be bottomless here. Thankfully, we have Instant Expert to show us who the mudlarks might be...

I've ordered the above purely on heavy ground wins, as I'm more interested in those with past form in the mud and on the basis of that graphic, I'd be expecting the winner to come from the first five listed. The rise in weight is a concern for Candy Berg and Demopolis although the latter is probably this high over hurdles anyway.

Our projected pace map for this race is as follows...

...and I think that in these conditions, I'd want to be sat in mid-division conserving some energy for the closing stages. Well Above Par is likely to do too much too soon, as is often the case and I didn't really like the chances of the three at the top of the graphic before I even saw the pace map, so that seals that for me.

Summary

Based on what I've read on the racecard, what I've written about each, the Instant Expert and also the pace map, the ones I'm still interested in are Candy Burg, Darling Alko, Demopolis and Skipping On.

I think that on their day, any of the four could win, but I prefer the latter pair to the former pair. I've concerns about the weight for Candy Burg and Darling Alko just doesn't win often enough. I've got them ranked as being pretty much equal to each other, but at 16/1 opposed to 3/1, Darling Alko makes for a much better E/W punt.

As for the winner, Demopolis looks the safer bet. There's no guarantees that 12 yr olds can bounce back from a poor run, because if I thought Skipping On could do that, then 15/2 would be a cracking price. What I feel/fear might happen is that he gives a cracking account of himself and the 5/2 fav Demopolis just beats him.

 

 

Carlisle National Hunt Pace Bias

When discussing the word pace our primary focus is the initial pace in a race and the position horses take up early on, writes Dave Renham.

The running style of the horses is another way some pundits describe it. geegeez.co.uk includes a pace section (the Pace Analyser) where you may research this angle to your heart’s content.

Pace data on the site is split into four run styles – Led (4), Prominent (3), Mid Division (2) and Held Up (1). The number in brackets is the pace score that is assigned to each section.

For this article I am again concentrating on data going back to 2009 with races of eight or more runners. My main focus when looking at pace will be handicap races, but for National Hunt racing I do also look at some non-handicap data. CARLISLE is the course under scrutiny today.

The course is a little over a mile and a half in circumference and is considered to be a stiff, galloping track. The hurdle course is shown below:

 

As you can see there are three flights in both the back straight and the home straight.

The chase course has nine fences of which two are open-ditches.

The fences are considered to be fairly easy at Carlisle.

 

Carlisle Handicap Hurdle Pace Bias

They run over three main distances in hurdles races at Carlisle namely 2m 1f, 2m 4f, and and 3m 1f.

N.B. it should be noted that on Geegeez the 3m 1f trip comes under the 3m 2f (26 furlongs) bracket for research.

 

2 miles 1 furlong – here is the handicap hurdle breakdown (8+ runners):

 

There is a definite edge toward runners that race up with or close to the pace. Below shows a graphical comparison of the A/E values, which helps illustrate the pace bias visually.

 

1 - Held Up / 2 - Midfield / 3 - Prominent / 4 - Led

 

Interestingly, of the 12 front-running winners, 11 had raced prominently or had led on their most recent start.

In non-handicaps, however, the picture is less clear cut as we can see:

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Front runners do well again while hold up horses look at a severe disadvantage. However, horses that have raced midfield fared surprisingly well. This gives us a slightly confusing picture so it seems best to concentrate only on handicap races therefore from a pace perspective over this 2m 1f trip.

 

2 miles 4 furlongs – in the past few years they have raced half a furlong either side of 2m 4f (so 2m 3 ½f and 2m 4½f) so I have lumped these similar trips together. Let’s examine the handicap hurdle breakdown (8+ runners):

 

A fairly level playing field here with no edge to any particular running style. Front runners though seem to have under-performed and it actually looks a disadvantage to lead early in such races.

Onto the non-handicap data:

 

In non-handicaps a pattern seems to emerge if we focus on the place percentages - they seem to suggest that in reality horses that race close to or up with the pace have had the advantage. The IV figures also suggest this, although the A/E values for hold up horses offers us conflicting evidence: they have won infrequently but occasionally popped up at a big price.

 

3 miles 1 furlong – at Carlisle there have been races of 3 miles ½ furlong up to 3 miles 1½ furlongs. On the Geegeez site you need to combine the 3 miles and 3 miles 2 furlong data to get all the relevant qualifying races. A look at the handicap data:

We see that hold up horses have the best record here – they have the best strike rate, too, which is rare, and by far the best A/E figure.

Below is a graphical representation comparing the A/E values for all pace scores across all distances:

 

1 - Held Up / 2 - Midfield / 3 - Prominent / 4 - Led

 

In general, we can see that in handicap hurdle races at Carlisle, as the distance increases the front running bias at the shortest distance (2m 1f) becomes a hold up bias at the longest distance (3m 1f).

The figures for hold up horses (1 / blue bar), prominent racers (3 / grey bar) and leaders/front runners (4 / yellow bar) all correlate in terms of the switching of the pace bias as the distance increases; horses that race mid division (2 / orange bar) don’t quite fit the same pattern but that is largely due to a slightly skewed performance (in my opinion) at 2m4f.

Non-handicap races over this extended 3 mile trip are rare – just nine in total going back to 2009 and only three of those had eight or more runners. Hence the data set is far too small to analyse!

 

Carlisle Handicap Chase Pace Bias

Over the bigger obstacles at Carlisle they race at 2m, 2m 4f, 2m 5f, 3m and 3m 2f. I will lump the 2m 4f and 2m 5f data together to give a bigger data set. I am also going to look exclusively at handicap data as there are very few non-handicap races at any distance where eight or more runners have taken part.

 

2 miles – 27 qualifying two mile handicap chases, so a relatively small sample:

 

Despite the smallish sample we can be fairly confident that front runners have a strong edge here. The closer you race to the pace the better and prominent racers have a decent record too. Hold up horses have struggled, shown by the poor strike rate and very low A/E and IV figures.

 

2 miles 4 furlongs to 2 miles 5 furlongs – there have been a decent number of handicap chases with eight or more runners combining these distances (55 races). Here are the stats:

 

Front runners enjoy a clear advantage over this distance, too, with figures that are very similar to the two mile data set. Horses that race midfield or at the back early again struggle, although hold up horses perform marginally better than they did at the minimum distance.

It seems that the pace bias may accentuate as the ground softens. On soft or heavy going, front runners have won over 25% of the races with an A/E value of 1.94 (IV 2.48). On good to soft or faster, this drops to under 17%.

 

3 miles – they generally race at 3 miles ½ furlong. Here are the handicap chase data (8 + runners):

 

For the third distance in a row we can see a strong front running bias. Hold up horses actually perform around par which is a clear improvement when compared with the two shorter trips.

 

3 miles 2 furlongs – the final distance to examine for handicap chases with 8 or more runners:

Again front runners have a good record, as do prominent racers. Hold up horses perform extremely poorly which surprised me considering the data from three-mile races.

Let us now look at all the handicap chase pace data graphically in terms of A/E values.

 

1 - Held Up / 2 - Midfield / 3 - Prominent / 4 - Led

 

This graph once again compares each distance pictorially, and the yellow bar (leaders) is clearly best overall, and at each individual race distance. At three of the four distances the grey bar (prominent racers) is clear second best.

Carlisle, in terms of handicap chases, seems to have a reasonably strong pace bias across the board – there is significant value in handicap chases at Carlisle in front runners and to a lesser extent prominent racers.

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Before closing, I want to share one more graph with you. This looks at the performance of prominent runners and leaders combined in terms of field size in handicap chases across all distances. I have noticed before that quite often a pace bias gets stronger as the number of runners increase. That again seems the case here. I have plotted both A/E and IV figures to illustrate this:

 

 

As can be seen there is a steady rise in performance from smaller fields (8 to 9 runners) through to bigger fields (12+ runners).

 

Carlisle National Hunt Handicap Pace Bias Summary

To conclude, handicap chases offer the pace punter the biggest edge at Carlisle. In hurdle races the picture is less cut and dried, although there is definitely a front running bias in handicap hurdles at the shortest range, while over 3m 1f hold up horses fare best in the handicap sphere.