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Knocked Out at Big Bucks (and other updates)

Knock House: almost a geegeez.co.uk horse

Knock House: almost a geegeez.co.uk horse

It's been an interesting week, dear reader. A very interesting week.

Having chosen last weekend - a Bank Holiday - as a suitable slot to slope off for some family time, and a catch up with my great mate, Gavin 'TTS/Festival Trends/NagNagNag' Priestley, things were bound to go wrong...

A long-running saga

It actually all started a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it started more than a year ago, when I initially decided Geegeez needed to upgrade its payment infrastructure to accommodate subscribers who didn't have - and didn't want - a PayPal account.

What should have been a simple operation was rendered complex to a labyrinthine degree by a number of what are known in the project management industry as OSINTOT's ("Oh shoot, I never thought of that!" Occasionally, in extreme cases, there can be OFINTOT's - I'll leave you to work that one out!).

First, it transpired that I, as a PayPal vendor for a decade, was using an 'old' PayPal account. Of course, the functionality I wanted to use is only available in 'new' PayPal accounts. And there, at the creation of a 'new' account, the fun started...

Long story short, a thousand tweaks and tinkers later, and we had a system communicating correctly 'end to end', i.e. from geegeez to paypal and back again. Sadly, it was mainly communicating the 'Victory V' signal, declining users' transactions.

This negative behaviour was naturally transpiring while I was sunning myself on a beach along the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast in Tenby. Many frustrated would-be Gold subscribers and one very frustrated general (Chris) later, we finally got to the bottom of the problem yesterday morning.

Turns out it wasn't a technical issue at all. Go figure! Instead, PayPal's wonderful vetting department had set the business sector to 'gambling', i.e. taking bets as an operator/bookmaker. That, clearly, is not what geegeez is about, and a simple switcheroo to something more appropriate significantly reduced the risk factor associated with Gold transactions in the all-seeing eyes of PayPal.

The good news is that it looks like the pain is almost over, with all buttons now behaving themselves impeccably for a whole day!

The better news is that you can signup from within secure pages right here on geegeez.co.uk now, meaning you no longer need a PayPal account to get involved. This painful upgrade also has a number of other positive implications in terms of our flexibility to accommodate the way you want to sign up, but I'm confident I've bored you for long enough with this deeply frustrating saga.

One thing I would like to do is apologize sincerely to those who have had problems in recent days, especially Sarah C, who jumped through umpteen hoops and tested a number of scenarios to help us troubleshoot the problems.

When there are problems signing up, this is NEVER a customer's fault. If you want to join Gold and we're not making it easy for you to do, it is very much OUR fault/issue. I think, finally, we're in a position to make things a good deal easier to get involved. I blooming well hope so, anyway!

**

Knocked Out at Big Bucks

On the way back from Wales - fantastic time with Gavin, his good lady, Sam, and their son, Dylan - I had a scheduled stop off at Ascot Sales. For the past few weeks, Anthony Honeyball and I had been hatching a plan to bag a high profile horse with plenty of upside.

The benefits to all are obvious:

Anthony gets to train another very good horse

Syndicate members get to own a very good horse and to attend many of the big days, with a live chance at major Festivals

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And I get to put the geegeez.co.uk name against another horse with TV potential

Anthony did all the legwork here, and he left no stone unturned. We'd identified the dispersal draft from West Lockinge Farm, and particularly Lot 102, a horse called Knock House.

Lot 102, and a number of other horses in the draft, were thoroughly vetted, with the primary focus horse coming up pretty clean. I emailed existing geegeez.co.uk syndicate members about the concept, and received an overwhelmingly positive response. So we decided to try to land this whopper.

In case you didn't know (why would you?), Knock House is a seven-year-old gelding with just 17 starts to his name. In that relatively short career, he's won five races (a bumper, a hurdle and three chases) and placed on another five occasions.

The striking element to his form profile - aside from a rating of 143 - is that he has finished fifth and fourth at the last two Cheltenham Festivals. Indeed, his run in this season's Kim Muir was almost as eye-catching as that of the winner, Cause Of Causes.

Ridden ultra-patiently by Nina Carberry, Knock House was almost knocked out by a faller - suffering interference that detached him from the strung out pack. But, turning in, nothing was closing faster save the runaway winner. Knock House finished fourth, beaten five and a half lengths for second, a position he would surely have filled with a clear passage.

Here's the thing though. He gives the impression he'll stay further, an impression his breeding largely supports, and he might well make up into a National type.

*

The bidding started at £70,000, higher than any prior (or subsequent, as it turned out) lot had sold for. The to's and fro's were rapid fire and in an instant, the bluster and blarney from the auctioneer was compelling those present to bid up from £90,000.

A look from Anthony, and a nod from me, and the Honeyball arm signalled £95,000. It was a quieter ring now, subdued most likely by the very high opening gambit, but there to our right was a man in a flat cap on his phone.

A nod of the flat cap and a raise of a finger moved the bidding to six figures: £100,000.

I don't mind admitting I was uncomfortable with what we were doing. Not because of a lack of belief in any of Anthony, the candidate syndicateers or indeed myself; but simply because this was uncharted territory. In my life, I have bought TWO houses for less!

That was a thought that mercifully came to me later. In the moment, where credulity - and credit! - gets stretched, Anthony turned again to me and whispered, "Go one more?". Head said no, heart said yes. These kind of horses - good horses without debilitating battle scars and with upside potential - don't appear weekly.

"Yes, go one more", I muttered back. A second lift of the Honeyball hand confirmed the bid was with us, at - gulp - £105,000.

But the flat cap perched atop Donald McCain's pate (for it was the Grand National-winning trainer) - or, more specifically, his telephone sponsor - was not to be denied. £110,000 became the new high with an almost casual waft of an arm to our right. And we were cooked.

Knock House was knocked down for £110,000 - a hundred and ten grand - and we were knocked out.

McCain was doing his bidding for Tim Leslie, a hedge fund manager with deeper reserves than ours, and I wish them well with their new acquisition.

When horses that have won a point-to-point in a field, or have scrambled home in a moderate bumper, are selling for similar prices - and more - going long for a proven lad like Knock House was, as McCain himself put it, "a no-brainer".

I would have been absolutely delighted to have been offering a horse of that proven quality to geegeez readers for syndication. But it wasn't to be this time. We'll keep looking for the right horse. Alas, there are very few who fit that bill - it's senseless going half-cocked at a 'nearly right' profile.

**

Epsom Beckons

Friday and Saturday of this week are given over to the third and fourth Classics of the season, the Derby and the Oaks. There is a high class supporting cast of races, and I'll be previewing most of them.

Expect the Oaks day preview online this evening - the wonders of 48 hour declarations! - and Derby day will follow at roughly the same time tomorrow.

In the meantime, if you missed my Oaks preview from last week, you can catch up on that here.

That's all for now. Thanks as always for reading. 🙂

Matt

2015 Oaks Preview, Trends, Tips, Pace

Can O'Brien add to his four Oaks wins?

Can O'Brien add to his four Oaks wins?

2015 Oaks Preview, Trends, Tips, Pace

Friday will see the third of the five British Classics come and go, as Epsom stages the 238th running of the Oaks. Contested over ten yards further than a mile and a half, and on one of the most helter-skelter pistes in the world, the Oaks is a test of a filly's class, stamina and balance without peer.

This year's race looks set to feature 1000 Guineas winner Legatissimo, trained in Ireland by David Wachman, against a slew of improvers, headed by Sir Michael Stoute's Crystal Zvezda.

 

Investec Oaks Trends

15 of the last 18 Oaks winners (83%) finished first or second last time out. That was from 62.8% of the runners. Of the three who didn't, two were trained by Aidan O'Brien (Shahtoush, Was), and two had finished in the top six in the 1000 Guineas (Shahtoush, Casual Look).

Seven of the 19 favourites (including joint-favourites) since 1997 have won this, for a level stakes profit of 4.66 points. I include this to highlight that the market's view of the best filly is often accurate; and, at Group 1 level, I'd consider this to be more material than your average Class 5 handicap.

Testament to the progressive nature of many winners, it may be interesting to note that of the ten Oaks winners since 1997 to come to the race with an official rating, only three were rated above 107. Fillies have won the Oaks off perches of 94, 96 and 99 in the last eight years, and all of them at 20/1 or bigger.

Each of that trio (Look Here, Dancing Rain and Talent) was very lightly raced (two or three runs) and had yet to be out of the first three.

 

Investec Oaks Pace Profile

It is often dangerous to be too bullish about the pace shape of any race, but especially so when so many of the horses are stepping up in trip and/or yet to establish a run style preference.

Nevertheless, the below image does offer some insights:

2015 Investec Oaks Pace Profile

2015 Investec Oaks Pace Profile

 

Geegeez Gold scores each run from a pace perspective on a scale of 1 to 4:

1 - held up, in rear, etc
2 - mid-division, etc
3 - prominent, etc
4 - Led, pressed leader, etc

The figures are based on in-running comments and, as such, are indicative rather than precise. Despite this lack of hard science, they serve very well from a visualization perspective.

The Oaks field (note, Found will not run) has been sorted by total score. This seems to indicate that Star Of Seville, who has led in two of her last three races may be front rank, along with Bellajeu who has generally been raced prominently.

Thereafter, the picture is less clear, with most of the field habitually racing near to, but just off, the pace. That could lead to a packing field and, as often happens in the Oaks, a few hard luck stories.

 

2015 Oaks Preview

So much for trends and pace, what about actual form? The market is led by 1000 Guineas heroine, Legatissimo and rapidly progressive Crystal Zvezda at around 3/1 each.

David Wachman's Legatissimo needed all of Newmarket's Rowley Mile to get on top of Lucida in the first fillies' Classic, but was going away at the end in the manner of a lass needing further. That marries well with her previous run where she prevailed over nine furlongs in Listed company.

However, nine furlongs and twelve furlongs (the Oaks trip) are some way distant from each other.  Hope that she'll see the trip out comes from her extended family, with her mum - or dam, as we should say - winning over ten furlongs, and her uncle being none other than Ascot Gold Cup (2m4f) winner, Fame And Glory.

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Despite possessing the class to win a 1000 Guineas, and probably having the stamina to win an Oaks, she's tight enough at 3/1 in a field of unexposed sorts.

Similar comments apply, for differing reasons, about Crystal Zvezda. Sir Michael Stoute's easy Newbury winner is progressing apace, but the form of the fillies she beat there has not worked out at all well. It may be that she was flattered there but, regardless, she has an awful lot of assumed improvement already factored into best odds of 7/2.

The buzz horse in the past week, and probably still a sliver of value at 7/1, is Jessie Harrington's terribly named Jack Naylor. Calling a filly - and a potentially high class filly at that - Jack is almost as bad as calling a horse The Geegeez Geegee, but we won't get into that here.

She has two pieces of form that her growing legion of fans can point to as giving her a big chance. First, she beat Legatissimo last season in a mile Listed contest when giving that one five pounds. With no hard luck stories about their respective passages through the race, it is easy to argue for Jack over Legat.

And secondly, she was the big eye catcher in the Irish 1000 Guineas: given a mountain to climb under exaggerated waiting tactics, she fair flew for fourth, just a pair of lengths behind the winner. She has a rock solid ten furlong pedigree and a robust chance of staying the extra quarter mile required to see out the Oaks range.

Three horses into the market and we're yet to mention a Ballydoyle filly. Let's put that right with a brace of O'Brien runners: Diamondsandrubies and Together Forever.

The former was a ready six length winner of the Cheshire Oaks over an eighth of a mile shy of the Epsom Oaks, having previously finished two lengths behind Irish 1000 Guineas fifth, Bocca Baciata, over a mile and a quarter.

With three runs to her name this season already, it's hard to see Diamondsandrubies progressing as much as many of these, and on what she's achieved so far it's hard to see her being good enough. I may be wrong - it happens quite a lot, you know - but as short at 6/1 about her chance is not remotely attractive to me.

Much more tasty is the general 10/1 about stable mate, Together Forever. True, she's more exposed than most, but she also has a higher level of form than most. And, as my teenage mates used to say back in the 80's, a bird in the hand is... well, let's leave it at that, shall we?

To her form: winner of the Group 1 Fillies' Mile on soft last October, that established level of high class ability has been somewhat overlooked in my opinion. The two and a half length fifth, Lucida, was second to Legatissimo in the Newmarket Guineas; and on a barmy collateral line that gives Together Forever the beating of David Wachman's filly.

I say "a barmy collateral line" because of the ground - soft - as well as the fact that collateral lines are pretty unreliable. But she'd recorded a pair of wins before that Newmarket run, both by wide margins - five lengths and three lengths.

Since then, on seasonal debut, she was a head second to Star Of Seville in the Musidora Stakes, a fine trial for the Oaks. She looked set to be beaten a long way there but rallied takingly to go down by just a head at the line.

The comment in the Racing Post - "no extra towards finish" - is plain wrong in my opinion, and Together Forever is bred to be a smart middle distance three-year-old: by Galileo out of a Theatrical mare. She's susceptible to a big improver but, at beyond a mile, I think she has the best level of form (and she's also won a Group 1 at a mile).

Her last day vanquisher, Star Of Seville, may have dossed in front there; or she may have run out of petrol. Breeding hints at the latter without being definitive. Certainly there's plenty of speed in her family (the likes of English Ballet and Spectacular Show).

Trained by John Gosden, who has two of the top three in the Derby betting at time or writing, Star Of Seville has moved up from a Class 5 maiden to a Class 3 conditions race to that Group 3 victory. She may yet have more to come, and with her pace-pressing style she'll probably be less likely to encounter a troubled trip than some. But will she stay? She's around 14/1 if you'd like to find out.

Currently the same price but taking a lot more support as I write is the same trainer's Jazzi Top, half-sister to Izzi Top. She has enough stamina in her pedigree to suggest she'll see out the trip, and was a good winner of the Pretty Polly Stakes, a decent trial for the Oaks.

Indeed, the last two Pretty Polly winners, Taghrooda and Talent, both went on to Oaks glory, as did super-mare, Ouija Board back in 2004.

Jazzi Top is just the sort of 'now' filly that could run a big race, and I'd far sooner chance her at 14's than Crystal Zvezda at 7/2. The reason for being in vogue with the bookies is that Frankie Dettori, enjoying a renaissance with John Gosden this season, has elected to ride her rather than the Musidora winner.

There is another pair of lurkers in Lady Of Dubai and French entry Al Namaah, but neither has the level of form or promise that others already mentioned possess.

For those looking for a runner lurking in the long grass - after all, this race has thrown up winners at 33/1 and 20/1 twice since 2008 - Wedding Vow is perhaps the most appealing. By Galileo out of Oaks second, Remember When, she's certainly bred for this job.

And, like Wedding Vow, Remember When also entered the Oaks as a maiden. True, 'mum'  was a close fourth in the Irish 1000 Guineas, but it's easy enough to excuse Wedding Vow's last day flop (a rare-as-hen's-teeth Ryan Moore misjudgement).

Prior to that she was second to Legatissimo over nine furlongs, and she looks to be screaming for the Oaks trip. She'll stay - forever probably - though she may well be too slow to make the frame at Epsom. Still, 50/1 non runner no bet (trainer states she may not run) could be fun.

 

2015 Investec Oaks Tips

As always, the Oaks is a race around which to tread very carefully. A lot of fillies are brought to the Downs via a 'softly softly' campaign, compared with the boys and the Derby. It is no surprise then that the average winning odds in the last decade are just over 12/1.

Legatissimo and Crystal Zvezda will shock nobody by winning, but nor do they offer an attractive risk-reward proposition, for me at least.

Jack Naylor is a likely contender and, had I previewed the Oaks last week (when she was a 14/1 chance), she might have been the one. But we've missed the boat there.

I do like Together Forever as a reliable sort, and Jazzi Top as a progressive sort. Picking between them is difficult, but I felt that Together Forever was given a perfect pipe opener for the season in the Musidora, and I'm a bit surprised she's not the Ballydoyle first choice.

At windmill-tilting prices, Wedding Vow has just a hint of je ne sais quoi about her. She needs to step up seven pounds or so to even make the frame, but over a trip she's bred for, that could happen.

1 pt win Together Forever 10/1 (bet365, best odds guaranteed, non-runner no bet)

0.5 pt win Jazzi Top 14/1 (Boyle, BetVictor, PP, Hills, all non-runner no bet)

0.25 pt e/w Wedding Vow 50/1 (bet365, best odds guaranteed, non-runner no bet and 1/4 1-2-3; 66/1 available with NRNB, but she may not run)

Epsom Oaks Day 2013 Preview, Trends and Tips

Epsom Oaks 2013 preview & tips

Epsom Oaks preview & tips

Epsom Oaks 2013 Preview, Trends and Tips

It's the end of May, so of course, it's time for the third of the five Classics for three year olds, The Oaks. Yes, folks, due to what I reckon is a preposterous anachronism, four of the five Classics are run by the first Saturday in June which, this year, happens to be the first day of June!

No matter, for there are winners to be had, and there is top class fare to savour.

Epsom Oaks Course Constitution

Before we dive headlong into the form book - such as it in some cases - let's first consider the constitutional quirks of this most demanding of flat tracks.

While the five furlong course - which is downhill all the way - is considered to be the fastest five in the world (or, at least, in Britain), some of the longer distance races are akin to horses enjoying a day at the fun fair, such are their helter-skelter, roller-coaster, and occasionally dodgems, nature.

It's quirky! Epsom Oaks preview

It's quirky! Epsom Oaks preview

The five furlong races are run down the straight course, but all other distances feature at least one turn. Over six furlongs, runners and riders must navigate a the turn within the first quarter mile, and this offers an advantage to those closest to the rail, though perhaps not a huge one.

Over seven furlongs, the turn is far more material as it comprises the first three furlongs of the races! Low is usually the place to be, though a couple of the big field 7f handicaps have gone to higher. The key is to have a low drawn stalker, which doesn't get crowded and does have something left at the end. Not asking for much then...!

The other thing to note about that turn is that it has a reverse camber. That means that, as the horses turn, the ground runs away from them on the outside and big awkward types can roll around away from the rail. This is what people mean when they say 'some horses don't act on the track'. And it's a serious point to which you should give consideration if you're sufficiently attuned with your fancy to know its size/scope.

The Derby and Oaks trip of a mile and a half goes left, then right, then round that long reverse cambered turn, then down and then up in the home straight. Not for now't did I suggest it's a helter-skelter roller coaster dodgems type of a track.

Let's now cut to the chase, and the first of a septet of races on Oaks Friday. They start at 1.35 with the...

1.35 PRINCESS ELIZABETH STAKES (GROUP 3) (FILLIES & MARES) (CLASS 1) (3yo+)

A race in which the 3yo's have struggled of late, with no winner since 2002. In fairness, they've been under-represented in recent years and I can't see either of the crop of 2010 troubling the judge. In addition to the age issue, they also both seem to prefer fast ground.

The key trends to consider here are that four- and five-year-olds have won all of the last ten (albeit from the guts of the entries) with four-year-olds having claimed ten of the last sixteen, and half of the last sixteen winners won on their last start (13/16 finished 1-2-3 last time).

As well as the 3yo's, we can exclude Making Eyes, Starscope and Ultrasonic on the basis of last time out finishing position.

Top-rated officially is Thistle Bird, but this lass has shown all her best form on fast ground, which she's unlikely to experience here. That said, she's by Selkirk, who gets loads of soft ground winners, and she was a close second in a Group 2. Assuming she's as effective on soft, she'll go well.

Beatrice Aurore has needed her first run each season, and though she'll go fine on the ground, I just think she might be getting a prep in here ahead of Royal Ascot.

No such fitness worries about Ladies First, but there is a class question mark. She ran third last time in a Group 2, but that was against less fit nags, and she wouldn't be for me.

Willie Haggas' Sentaril has a decent chance here, with the yard in stellar form just now. She's won as high as Listed class, and looks ready for this step up. Sure to come on for her seasonal debut, she can give Thistle Bird most to do.

Selection: Thistle Bird 4/1
Next best: Sentaril 6/1

[Best odds at time of writing, 9pm Thursday evening]

2.10 INVESTEC WEALTH & INVESTMENT HANDICAP (CLASS 2) (4yo+)

I ducked Gatewood at the price last year, and he won well and turned out to be a lot better than Class 2, and this is a nice race to follow going forwards. Course form can be material here, with a couple of recent winners (Resurge and Lake Poet) having won over the strip.

Resurge bids to repeat his 2011 win (7th last year), but has a bucket draw in twelve. The other course and distance winner in the field is Area Fifty One and he's got a much more attractive chance, as a front runner berthed in four. He's run well on soft without winning and is just four pounds higher than his last winning mark. He could have a bit more progression still to come.

Blue Surf is interesting for the hottest stable on the planet right now, Amanda Perrett. Plenty of sodden turf form and a win at Goodwood's similar undulating course lend credence to his chance, and he's still got a workable handicap mark.

Boonga Roogeta could be overlooked for unfashionable (but shrewd) connections, but she might be the best value in the race, dropping back into handicap company after a couple of tilts at black type. She goes on soft, this is her trip, and she's won seven of twelve on turf: you've gotta love that attitude! 14/1 is fair enough.

Tres Coronas has his trip and ground, and comes from the in-form David Barron yard. He's more exposed than most but is only six pounds higher for his last time out win and should be involved again from a decent draw.

Halfsin has been lightly raced in recent seasons and has his ground. He's back to within a pound of his last winning mark and that gives hope of a return to form at around 25/1. Might be worth a very small each way tickle.

Niceofyoutotellme is the favourite, and is drawn stall one, but he's been beaten ten lengths on both attempts on turf slower than good. I'm a fan of the trainer, and I respect the money which has made him jolly, but he's not for me.

Tentative selection: Area Fifty One 8/1
Each way value: Boonga Roogeta 18/1

[Best odds at time of writing, 9pm Thursday evening]

2.45 INVESTEC DIOMED STAKES (Group 3) (3yo+)

The Diomed Stakes is a Group 3 over an extended mile, and it's not been won by many out of the top drawer over the years. I quite like Penitent, who will go on the ground, is a dual Group 2 winner, and is tough. His prominent racing style is well suited to the track too. Though I like him a bit, it's a fiendishly tricky puzzle.

Chances can be given to a host of them, notably Gregorian who will appreciate the step up to a mile and a little bit as well as the mud. Gabrial's best form is on faster and that would be a worry today, while Producer - a four time winner over seven furlongs here - is less well suited by the extra 330 yards, and also may not like soggy grass.

Sri Putra is the highest rated here, but he hasn't been doing much winning lately, and prefers further/firmer. He does have a decent first time out record - 14121 - but on balance I'll pass.

It's hard to know what to expect from Tales Of Grimm, who is the least exposed of these, and should be well enough matched to conditions. I wouldn't be surprised if he won, but I'll be wagering elsewhere. Specifically, I'll be wagering Penitent.

Selection: Penitent 8/1
Another to consider: Gregorian 7/2

3.20 INVESTEC MILE (Handicap) (CLASS 2) (4yo+ 0-105)

A nice handicap this, over - funnily enough - a mile. Four and five year olds have won eight of the last ten renewals and they may again be the best places to focus. Alas, that rules out just three of the fourteen declared, which hardly helps.

Ground might be the key here, as well as a decent draw from which to stalk the pace. On that basis, the rail drawn Maverik is of interest. He's a front runner, and has won over the course and distance. He wouldn't want it too soft, but if it stays good to soft he might take a lot of pegging back.

If there's a lot of pace in the race, one which might be of interest Richard Hannon's Mister Music. He's got track form, including a win over the distance, but as a hold up horse, he'd need them to come back to him. Hughesie takes the ride, and that's appealing.

The other with robust course form is Benzanno, who not only has a course and distance win, but is also a juicy ground lover and has a handicap rating lower than his last winning rating. Nice combo. I've backed him at 10's, each way.

As with most handicaps, the majority have some sort of chance and I'm always happy to throw my pennies at a profile sort. In this case, it's Benzanno, with Maverik and Mister Music possibles too.

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Each way pick: Benzanno 10/1
Alternatives: Mister Music 9/1, Maverik 15/2

4.00 INVESTEC OAKS (Group 1) (Fillies) (CLASS 1) (3yo)

The big race. The Oaks. A Group 1 for fillies over a mile and a half, and it looks a bobby dazzler this year. Secret Gesture leads the market after her demolition job in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, but this will be a different kettle of kedgeree altogether.

Before we dig into the form, let's consider the trends, and the first thing to note is that plenty of big-priced lassies have prevailed here in recent years. Indeed, in the last five years, there have been two 20/1 winners and a 33/1 champ.

Aidan O'Brien has won four of the last fifteen Oaks', but not always with his first string. Was was a 20/1 shot last year when prevailing in a rough race, and Shahtoush was 12/1 back in 1998 (though she was his only runner that year).

Thirteen of the last sixteen winners were first or second last time out, and that includes 20/1 Dancing Rain, and 33/1 Look Here. Don't make too many excuses for beaten horses last time out unless they were second, beaten less than a length.

Secret Gesture knocked the eye out visually last time, when putting ten lengths between herself and the re-opposing Miss You Too. Whilst visually stunning, that's a world away from this contest, and 5/2 offers very little wriggle room for value hunters. I'm against her at the price, though she can of course win.

Moth is perhaps the most likely to my eye from the leading contenders. If your eye wasn't 'knocked out' by Secret Gesture then it must surely have been 'caught' by the eye-catching run of Moth in the 1000 Guineas, where she was staying on strongly over that mile. If she handles the track - a comment that applies to all of these, right enough - then I think she'll go very close to winning.

Liber Nauticus is respected because of connections, but she was more like Labour Nauticus when bustled to win the Musidora from the handicapper, Romantic Settings. Not for me, at least not at 3/1 or thereabouts.

There are no worries about trip and few about ground with Cheshire Oaks winner, Banoffee, who won well on the Roodee. Obviously, Epsom will be a very different test but she quickened well there and deserves her chance here. Second in that race and any price you like here, is Gertrude Versed. She was beaten a length and a quarter at Chester,  and will appreciate slower turf being a daughter of Manduro. Her half-sister, Getrude Bell, won the Cheshire Oaks en route to running fourth in the Oaks itself and this girl's prominent racing style will be suited to Epsom. Interesting at 40/1.

The 'now' filly might be Say, Aidan O'Brien's second string. He won by nine lengths last time in a fillies' maiden, but the horse she beat - Silky Pyrus - has been well trounced before and since. At the price, she's no value.

Beckett himself has a second string here, in the shape of Talent, winner of the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes on fast turf. She'll be having her first try at further than a mile and a quarter and slower than good to firm and, she might improve for either or both. Interestingly, if she did win, she'd be setting up a nice Oaks/Derby double for her sire, New Approach, who is also Dawn Approach's daddy, of course.

There are worse bets in the race than Talent at 16/1.

Madame Defarge was about three impeded lengths behind Talent in the Pretty Polly, and she's got plenty of scope to improve on what will only be her third career start. She might also like the dig in the ground, but I don't think she'd be quite good enough.

When you look beyond the top of the market, this race is a real puzzle. While a horse like Secret Gesture could be head and shoulders better than the rest, she's no price to demonstrate that. Moth is a nice filly too but at a short enough price, and Liber Nauticus is hugely under-priced, irrespective of whether she wins.

In the middle order, Banoffee and Talent hold most attention for me. And, as a rag on which to speculate, Gertrude Versed has a fair bit going for her.

Big Priced Each Way Selection: Gertrude Versed 40/1
Obvious Dangers: Secret Gesture 9/4, Moth 7/2, Banoffee 8/1

4.45 INVESTEC SURREY STAKES (Listed Race) (CLASS 1) (3yo)

A three-year-olds only seven furlong Listed race, it's not one for outsiders, as fourteen of the last fifteen winners were priced at 8/1 or shorter, and the rag (33/1) won back in 1999.

Eight of the last fifteen winners were already seven furlong winners, and eight were drawn one, two or three, though it is only a field of seven here.

Boomshackerlacker is the highest officially rated, has won over seven furlongs, will love it if it's soft, and he's drawn three. At around 10/1, I think that's a fair value bet, and he ought to appreciate this drop in class after a fair fifth in the German 2000 Guineas last time. Prior to that he wasn't beaten far in a French Group 2 and, if it comes up boggy tomorrow, he'll loov it (a la Kevin Keegan in his Newcastle manager days).

Hasopop is favourite, but he's not for me. He's run in four seven furlong races, and been beaten far enough every time. He also seems to have a class ceiling at Class 2. He's tried Listed or higher five times, and been beaten at least a length and three quarters each time. If there isn't one in here to beat him, I'd be surprised.

Here Comes When is a more likely candidate. He's lightly raced, has won over seven, should go on the ground and comes from the in-form yard of Andrew Balding. 7/2 is fair without being generous.

Emell and Well Acquainted are next in. The former will love the ground but he does seem to find one too good generally. That means he wouldn't be winning out of turn, but that's not a phrase which is a friend to punters, as it means the horse is normally deemed unlucky or runs well without paying us out. If that made any sense whatsoever!

The latter probably wants the ground quicker (his sire, Orientate, has yet to father a horse to win on softer than good!), but he does have a decent level of seven furlong form.  But that ground stat is against him, and so am I on that basis.

Birdman has arguably the best soft ground form in the race. Excluding a last of seven in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy on soft, his other juicy turf runs yielded a win, a second in the Group 2 Superlative Stakes, and a third (albeit of four) in the Group 2 Futurity Stakes. He's since run on good or faster and looks sure to appreciate this easier going.

I know I've made a big fuss about the state of the ground throughout this piece, and that's because it's my belief that when conditions are wet, going and class are the most important factors when analyzing form. Others will disagree, and that's fair enough, but they're the two parameters I look to above all others... as you'll have read here!

So the 11/1 about Birdman is pretty reasonable, taking a punt that he'll rediscover his juvie form on slower ground.

That leaves Graphic Guest, a horse which surely is better at five than six, and at six than seven. As such, this is a bridge (or two) too far.

Fair wager: Here Comes When 7/2
Two at prices against the field: Birdman 11/1, Boomshackerlacker 10/1

5.20 INVESTEC ASSET MANAGEMENT HANDICAP (CLASS 2) (3yo)

A big field seven furlong contest, and here you probably do want a low drawn pace-stalking sort. Discernable is drawn three, and will try to lead - other like pace makers drawn very wide - so he's a good chance of taking them into the straight. I am slightly apprehensive about his ability to handle the ground, but at 16/1 I think he could take some pegging back and will take a chance.

Discernable's stable mate, Flashlight, has no question marks about the going or the trip, and is also well boxed to press the pace. Should his slightly nippier buddy falter late on, it could be this fellow who takes advantage.

Lancelot Du Lac is the jolly, and this hold up type will need a lot of things to go right for him to win, despite being favoured by ground, class and trip. In what's likely to be a big field (fifteen engaged prior to any non-runners), jockey Ryan Moore will have his work cut out. Obviously, there's no better man for the job.

There are other possibilities in here, naturally, but I like the profile of the Johnston pair, and will chance them against the field.

Two against the rest: Discernable 20/1, Flashlight 14/1

Those seven races will showcase Britain's best early season middle distance Classic filly, and my hunch is that there could be a surprise. If we've any bankroll left by half past five, we'll do it all again on Saturday. Derby Day.

Good luck!

Matt

p.s. I nearly forgot. Yesterday at Lingfield, the placepot hat-trick was secured. Two of the sixteen 'just A' lines copped, meaning a £16 investment would have returned twice the £42.30 dividend, or £84.60 for cash. Nice. Ticket builder punters would have collected £1.20 of the divvy, or £50.76 for £19.20 down.

To today, and the quest for the four-timer. You've seen my workings out above, so this is just the juice.

Leg 1 -

A -  5 (Sentaril), 7 (Thistle Bird)

Leg 2 -

A - 2 (Area Fifty One), 3 (Blue Surf)
B - 5 (Boonga Roogeta), 8 (Tres Coronas)

Leg 3 - 

A - 1 (Penitent), 4 (Gregorian)
B - 5 (Producer), 6 (Sri Putra), 7 (Tales Of Grimm)

Leg 4 - 

A - 10 (Benzanno)
B - 3 (Mister Music), 6 (Maverik)

Leg 5 - 

A - 9 (Secret Gesture)
B - 6 (Moth), 10 (Talent)

Leg 6 -

A - 1 (Boomshackerlacker), 2 (Birdman), 5 (Here Comes When)

Just A's - 2 x 2 x 2 x 1 x 1 x 3 = 24 bets

All picks - 2 x 4 x 5 x 3 x 3 x 3 = 1080 bets (!!)

Ticket builder optimized perm - see below.

Epsom Oaks placepot

Epsom Oaks placepot

Readers can use the ticket builder at www.geegeez.co.uk/ppot/ to create their own part perms.

Place your toteplacepot bets with totepool directly, using the link below:

totesport.com

Oaks Day Preview (plus free stuff)

I'm in a rush today, as I'm off for a good old fashioned 'Leo Sayer' (all dayer) at the Epsom Oaks races. Naturally, I've already done my study and placed my bets, so I can drink and be merry without fretting on bad judgement. That will have already happened!

So, because I spent too much time studying and want to get away early, I've attached my notes... quite literally!

If you click the images below, they'll expand into almost readable size images, I hope. Click them again, and they'll be legible to even the most frustrating of eyeballs (again, I hope), though you'll need to scroll to and fro at that scale.

You can click your browser's 'back' button to return for page 2. Apologies if you can't read my writing.

Epsom Oaks Notes 2012 page 1

Epsom Oaks Notes 2012 page 1

Epsom Oaks Notes 2012 page 2

Epsom Oaks Notes 2012 page 2

********

As if those cryptic messages weren't enough, I've also got a great Friday freebie, courtest of my old mucker, David Peat.

Your first 30 days for just £1

You may (or may not) remember David as the luckiest man on the planet... he's the one who lives in France (in the grounds of a chateau these days!) mowing the occasional lawn and trimming the occasional hedge, and otherwise studying racing.

Well, he's produced a canny little horse profile tool - that being his thing - which features 26 strong profile horses (back them when conditions suit, be wary when they don't); and 56 Course Specialists.

They're all here: http://horseprofiles.wordpress.com/horse-profiles-book/

Just click the link on that page that says ''HORSE PROFILES FOR THE FLAT 2012", and the download will start. No email or anything. 🙂

Oh yes, and if you follow David's blog there, he usually has a daily update for when the profiled horses are running.

All good stuff, from a top man, and all of it free and without email address requirement. What better way to take you into the weekend?!

Good luck with all your weekend wagering. I shall be on Stat of the Day duty from tomorrow, but today is for drinking and general merriment. 😀

Matt

p.s. I only returned from Bled late last night, and all I can say is 'WOW'. I'm pretty certain it's the most beautiful place I've ever visited, and I've been lucky enough to go to a lot of beautiful places. Images online don't do justice to the concentric circles of nature: island, lake, forested hills and castle, Julian Alps. Truly. Breathtaking.

And I'll have a video montage for you when I've edited it! For now though, try this, complete with (unwitting) cameo from Mrs Matt: