Wow! The Cross-Country went spectacularly bad for us today, as none of my four in focus even finished in the first four home of a 10-runner field. Thankfully, writing a column like this gives me the opportunity to put things back on an even keel fairly quickly.
And that opportunity presents itself immediately on Saturday, where feature of the day is the Trainer/Jockey combo report and our free races are...
- 12.55 Doncaster
- 1.50 Cheltenham
- 2.05 Doncaster
- 2.55 Newcastle
- 3.30 Newcastle
- 5.00 Newcastle
And I'm going to leave the full race profiling for today and focus on the TJ Combo report, where as you'll see I set fairly demanding criteria...
1. HANDICAPS OVER THE LAST 12 MONTHS
AND 2. 5-YEAR COURSE HANDICAP FORM
Now I'm going to see if I think any of them are worth backing, starting with Arqalina in the 1.22 Hereford...
Trainer Venetia Williams is 7 from 21 (33.3% SR) in chases here at Hereford over the last three years including 5 from 16 on soft ground or "worse", 3 from 7 over course and distance and 1 from 1 with jockey Robert Dunne and here they team up with Arqalina, an 8 yr old mare who will carry bottom weight 13 days after being comprehensively beaten at Ffos Los last time out.
She may well have been third home of ten starters, but she was some thirty lengths off the pace, despite being sent off 3/1 favourite. She's up three classes today and she'll be wearing cheekpieces for the first time (yard is 2 from 7 with first time cheekpieces this year). She's up in trip to a furlong further than she's ever ran before, she's new to this jockey, 0 from 3 in December and 0 from 5 going left handed.
As per Instant Expert, she has won on soft ground, where she has a win and a place from three efforts over fences and she has won over 3 miles, albeit in a Class 5 hurdle contest. The pace tab suggests you either want to lead or be up with the pace to win such a contest, but she generally races in mid-division and such horses are 0 from 14 in similar races and have grabbed just 5 of the 41 places.
I have Arqalina as a 12/1 shot, the market says 10's, she'll probably finish in mid-field and she's not a betting proposition for me today.
Should that race be a disappointment for the Williams/Dunne partnership, as I expect it will, they get to have another 70 minutes later in the 2.32 Hereford...
The yard is 0 from 6 over hurdles here at Hereford this year, but 2020 has been a strange one in many respects, because the Williams' hurdlers were 5 from 20 (25% SR) here during 2016-19. Of those 20, there were 4 winners from 11 on soft ground.
Chambard was last seen failing to finish a 2m4f chase on his return from an 8 month absence and now reverts back to hurdling some 21 months and 5 races since last tackling the smaller obstacles, as he looks to return to the consistent run of form he had from December 2018 to December 2019, when finishing 212223 over hurdles prior to results of 222 over fences.
Sadly he was then fifth of five beaten by 28 lengths in late February of this year, ahead of being pulled up on that return to action six weeks ago. In his defence, he will have needed the run, he does look better over hurdles and his sole win was on good to soft ground. He's new to today's jockey, though and he has tended to fare better over shorter trips.
Prominent racers have won 7 of 11 similar contests with hold-up horses faring worst of all, which doesn't augur well for this boy's chances either.
Like stablemate Arqalina, I don't see Chambard troubling the better runners here and mid-division is probably as good as he'll get.
Which means our search for a meaningful bet now swings North to Town Moor, Doncaster and Charlie Longsdon's 9 yr old chaser, Western Miller, who goes in the 12.20 Doncaster...
Western Miller fell at the second fence last time out so we've no idea what form he was in, but he was second of thirteen at 66/1 behind Rouge Vif at Cheltenham in a Class 2 contest and only really beaten on the run-in by his opponent rated some 17lbs better than him. The third placed horse has finished third again in another Class 2 contest, which would seem to bolster our chances of at least another placed finish now that he drops down in class off the same mark.
Trainer Charlie Longsdon's handicap chasers are 6 from 22 (27.3% SR) here at Doncaster since the start of 2016 when sent off at odds of 7/2 and bigger in Class 2 to 4 contests, including 3 from 5 for jockey Paul O'Brien, 3 from 5 at Class 3 and 1 from 1 over course and distance : achieved when Western Miller won here in January at 16/1 when Paul rode him to success at Class 2.
The horse has won 8 of 37 starts (21.6% SR) over obstacles so far, making the frame on 15 occasions in total and of his 37 outings, he is..
- 6/32 when not the fav & 6/25 going left handed
- 5/25 over fences & 5/21 in fields of 8-11 runners
- 4/16 since the start of 2019 and 4/13 in cheekpieces
- 3/11 under Paul O'Brien & 3/11 on good to soft ground
- 1/1 here at Doncaster & 1/1 over course and distance
Much of that is backed up on Instant Expert, whilst the pace tab suggests that providing he doesn't go off too quickly, he should be in with a good chance again here.
I can definitely see Western Miller going well and making the frame at least.
At Hereford, I expect Venetia Williams to draw a blank withe the two runners I've looked at, but all is not lost. She has another runner in the 1.22 Hereford in the shape of the 7yr old mare Kapga de Lily, a 2/1 shot who I'd expect will be the one to beat there with 6/1 Ballybough Nora likely to be next best.
It could be a different story at Doncaster for Western Miller, who I think should make the frame at worst. Whether you back him E/W at 13/2 is your own call, I can't go E/W at that price, but I might well have a couple of quid on the nose. For what it's worth, I also think Duke of Navan might be worth a second look at 7/1 in that contest.
Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck and I hope you have a good weekend. Monday's piece will go "Live" a little later than usual, as I've got something on at teatime elsewhere.