Got to hold my hands up, the only thing I got right about Monday's race was that it was competitive and of them could win or come last. Thankfully I'm usually a little bit better than that and the benefit of a daily piece is that it's never long before I get a chance to make up for a bad day!
So, to Tuesday, where feature of the day is The Shortlist report and our free races of the day are set to be...
- 2.05 Gowran Park
- 2.10 Fakenham
- 4.05 Ayr
- 4.15 Lingfield
- 4.25 Fakenham
- 5.40 Ballinrobe
The one that interested me most from The Shortlist report is now a non-runner, sadly, so I'm switching my attentions to the 4.25 Fakenham, which is the best of the UK free races, being the Norfolk National, a 14-runner, Class 3 Handicap Chase for 5yo+ horses over 3m6½f (after adding 301yds for rail movements) on good ground. The top prize is £10,892 and it will go to one of the following...
LTO winners : Game Line, Friends Don't Ask, Robin of Sherwood, Magic River, High Counsel
Others with at least one win from the last five outings : Sumkindofking, Strictlyadancer, Sackett, Findusatgorcombe
Course winners : Strictlyadancer, Sackett
Course & Distance winner : Friends Don't Ask
Down 1 class : Sumkindofking, Strictlyadancer
Up 1 class : Boughtbeforelunch, Flying Verse, Sackett, Lord Getaway, Magic River, High Counsel
Up 2 classes : Game Line, Friends Don't Ask, Robin of Sherwood
In competitive big-field handicaps, I like to look at the place records in similar past contests. This is done via Instant Expert, of course...
...where the following catches my eye.
Louis Vac Pouch is 18lbs lower than his last win, but Boughtbeforelunch is up 22lbs from his last winning mark and only Mercian Knight has yet to win over fences. Three of the four to have raced here over fences in the past have won here, only Magic River has failed to do so. Half of the field have won a stayers chase already and most have won on good ground.
The pace tab offers us little in the way of guidance today, so I'm bypassing that stage here.
To be honest, on this occasion, I'd prefer to stick with the ones who have won at least once in their last five outings and have also made the frame over a stayers trip in the past. It's not a wholly scientific approach, but it's very useful in quickly whittling a big field down to a shortlist of runners (the brief for Racing Insights is to show a variety of methods for race profiling). In this case, I'm reducing fourteen runners straight down to just six, namely Findusatgorcombe, Friends Don't Ask, High Counsel, Robin of Sherwood, Strictlyadancer and Sumkindofking.
Findusatgorcombe won over 3m7f at Exeter in December and followed that up with a runner-up finish over 3m1.5f at Wincanton, where he was done for finishing speed over the shorter trip. He was beaten by 19 lengths last time out in the Devon National, but travelled well until a mistake three out knocked the wind out of his sails. Has made the frame in 12 of 24 starts over fences and could be an E/W punt here.
Friends Don't Ask got off the mark by landing a Class 4 contest over course and distance here at the end of November before being pulled up over three furlongs further in the Class 2 Eider Chase at Newcastle from well out of the handicap. A big drop back in both class and trip saw him win over 3m2f at Class 5 around Fontwell and although he's in good nick, this will be tougher up in class, weight and trip.
High Counsel carries bottom weight here and races from 2lbs out of the handicap and comes here in good form albeit in much lower grade racing. At 12 yrs old, he's clearly no longer the horse that put a string of good results together in late 2019/early 2020. That said, he was a runner-up, beaten by just 1.5 legths over 3m6f at Warwick two starts ago and then won at the same venue over a shorter 3m trip 11 days later. It has to be said that he prefers shorter trips on softer ground at a lower class, so this might be difficult for him.
Robin of Sherwood won a couple of back to back 3m chases in the autumn and has been in consistent form this spring over shorter trips than today. He stepped up to 3m6f for the first time three weeks ago and was rewarded with a third career win. He's now on his highest ever mark and steps up tow classes, but he is in good nick right now.
Strictlyadancer has come on leaps and bounds since having the cheekpieces put on, finishing 11234 in five starts, which began with a win here at Fakenham in January 2020 over 2m6f prior to winning over 3m at Exeter some 10 months later. He last raced here in November, when a creditable (5.5 lengths) runner-up over this trip and ran a decent race in defeat at Haydock in a higher grade last time out.
Sumkindofking also ran in that Haydock race a month ago finishing five places and 22 lengths further back than Strictlyadancer and as he's worse off at the weights here due to jockey claims, it's hard to see him overturning the places. For a start, his jumping will need to improve as that LTO run was littered with mistakes which was unfortunate as he'd arrived at Haydock off the back of an easy win over 3m2.5f at Taunton.
I'm well aware that my not exactly scientific approach to shortlisting this field might well mean I've overlooked the winner here, but in these competitive big-field handicaps, my initial aim is really to see if I can quickly find a horse that might make the frame, so I look for form horses who have placed over today's trip. It does, of course, make me susceptible to an improver, but this "quick-pick" method gave me six horses to look at.
The plan then is to see if I think any are worth backing. We've four places to aim at, so I need to initially reduce my six runners to four and I think that Sumkindofking and High Counsel look the least likely to make the frame, leaving me with Findusatgorcombe, Friends Don't Ask, Robin of Sherwood and Strictlyadancer.
Of that quartet, I think Strictlyadancer has the best chance of success, but I think all four have a decent crack at making the frame, so I now need to check the prices...
Strictlyadancer is currently (5.00pm) the 5/1 favourite with both Bet365 & Hills and whilst I think he has a decent chance of winning, I'd not be rushing to back him at that price if I'm entirely honest, I thought he'd be a longer price. I'll have to give that some thought, but he's be the one I'd side with off my shortlist.
As regards to the other three, Findusatgorcombe is 18/1, Friends Don't Ask is 8/1 and Robin of Sherwood is 13/2. The last two are too short for me as E/W bets and as I already fancy one runner more than them, I'll be leaving them alone.
Findusatgorcombe, however, still interests me. I don't see him winning either, but he has every chance at making the frame and a small E/W punt at 18/1 appeals to me.