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Racing Insights, 7th January 2021

Wednesday's race has yet to run, but Monday's late action saw our three-runner shortlist provide the first and third (two necks behind) horses home. That's history now, of course and it's the future that's of interest here with Thursday looming large.

The free feature of the day is the access to the fantastic Instant Expert data for ALL races, including our highlighted free races of the day, which are...

  • 1.37 Musselburgh
  • 2.15 Southwell
  • 2.28 Ffos Las
  • 3.37 Musselburgh

And with Instant Expert being the feature of the day, I've spotted three runners of interest based on their past aptitude for tomorrow's expected conditions (if that makes any sense), starting with the 3.28 Ffos Las, a 15-runner, Class 5, Handicap Chase for 5yo+ over a 3m slog on heavy ground. The winner will receive a paltry £2989 for their troubles and the one that caught my eye was the 8 yr old gelding, Ballybreen and here's why...

The above figures are obviously excellent and are supplemented by the following...

  • 3 from 9 under jockey Conor Ring
  • 3 from 9 over fences
  • 3 from 7 during January & February
  • 3 from 4 in blinkers
  • 2 from 2 in January
  • and 1 from after 1 to 2 months rest.

He ended last year's chase campaign in early March with a 1.25 length defeat over 3m on soft ground off a mark of 93 and didn't tackle a fence again for almost seven months when last home of eight at Newton Abbot (3m2f, heavy) off a mark of 98. He led until the 16th fence but then faded out of contention and was eventually beaten by the thick end of 40 lengths. He then stepped up in class for 3m, heavy ground Class 4 hurdle contest off a mark of 101 and was pulled up 3 flights from home, so it's fair to say that this campaign hasn't got going yet.

It's quite possible that he needed that first run over fences and that something wasn't quite right in the hurdle race and he has gone well third time out in previous seasons. We should also remember that he finished 111212 in the first 11 weeks of 2020, so he's clearly at this best at this time of year. The blinkers are back on today (1112 in those) and he's back down to a workable mark of 94. That's not a definite winning mark, but it must give him more chance that his recent efforts.

Will he win? Probably not, if I'm totally honest, but if he's in a "going" sort of mind and runs like we know he can, he'd have every chance of making the frame, assuming we can get four or even five places at a decent (14/1?) price. We'll know more when I check the prices in my summary.

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The next race I want to look at is the 4.20 Wolverhampton, an 11-runner, Class 6, A/W handicap for 3 yo over 1m0.5f on Tapeta. The top prize is £2,782 and the horse I'm looking at is the 4-timer seeking gelding Spirit of Rowdown, whose nine race career looks like this on Instant Expert...

The above numbers speak for themselves, of course, but I'd like to add a few more of my own, such as...

  • 3 from 7 after 12-30 days rest
  • 3 from 7 in cheekpieces
  • 3 from 4 under jockey Charlie Bennett
  • 3 from 4 going left handed
  • 2 from 2 over course and distance
  • 2 from 2 off a mark of 51-60
  • 2 from 2 at odds of 4/1 and shorter
  • 2 from 2 as favourite

He comes here in fine form, of course after winning his last three outings in a 37-day period just before Christmas. He started with a win over a mile at Chelmsford and followed that up with back to back course and distance successes here at Wolverhampton 12 and 37 days later. He's had almost three weeks (seemingly his standard) rest to get over those exertions and is only up 4lbs for his last win. I say only, because he looked to have plenty in hand in all three wins, just doing enough to get home without being hammered by the assessor.

When he won here two starts ago, he was 3.25 lengths clear of the filly, Fast Emma who finished fourth and she has hopefully franked the form by winning in a tight finish at Lingfield yesterday.

Can he make it four in a row? Yes, I think he could, but this would be the toughest test yet and a 4lb rise does make life more difficult. I think he has more to give yet, but nobody knows how much. I don't think he can afford to blow the start like he did two races ago and if I can get 7/2 or 4/1 about him, I'd have to consider a bet.

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But before I get my money out, there's one more to look at in the 7.00 Wolverhampton, which is the 10-runner, seven furlong, Class 4, A/W handicap (tapeta) for 4yo+ runners that Unforgiving Minute will attempt to land the £5,208 purse...

As expected, Instant Expert shows him in a favourable light and in addition to those numbers above, he is also...

  • 6 from 10 going left handed
  • 5 from 10 at sub-10/1 odds
  • 5 from 9 for trainer Sean Curran
  • 4 from 7 in the months of November to January
  • and 1 from 2 over course and distance.

He might well be 10 yrs old now, but there's no sense of a slowing down from this boy yet. He moved to Sean Curran's yard in the summer of 2019 and has five wins and two third-place finishes from nine starts since, taking his overall A/W record to 15 wins from 43 runs, a fantastic 34.9% strike rate. He was a 33/1 winner at this grade and trip at Lingfield last time out and is up 3lbs for the win, but importantly at his age, he's had 44 days to get over that effort.

He goes off a mark of 81 here today, but is assisted by jockey Grace McEntee's 5lb claim and it's worth noting that he did win here at Wolverhampton off 83 as recently as March. He was very impressive last time out and although life will be made harder for him here this time, has every chance of another good run.

Good enough to win? I think so, but he'd have to run to his recent best, as I think the likely favourite Beauty Choice also has a very good chance. This is by no means a gimme, but I'd expect him to make the frame again here. If I'm going to spend money, though, I'm going to want 6/1 or bigger to make it worth the risk, as it's not always easy to win from the back here at Wolves.

Summary

Three runners who all warrant a second glance based on their Instant Expert data and I'm quite happy to back all three at the right price. Ballybreen is currently available at 18/1, and whilst he's not likely to land the race, he's better than 10th favourite in my opinion, so I'll have a small 4 places E/W bet there.

Spirit of Rowdown won't have it all his own way and will have to beat the considerable challenge of Space Kid to land the spoils but 4/1 is too good a price for me to pass up, so I'm on this one too! This could turn out to be a good contest, as I was semi-interested in Arthur's Angel (16/1) and Cliffcake (10/1) as possible E/W punts.

And finally, I see that Unforgiving Minute is priced at 8/1 with Beauty Choice the favourite as I expected.  The fav is as low as 6/4 in places and I don't think he's nearly four times more likely to win than the old boy. I'm going to hedge my bets and take the 8/1 as an E/W bet, but I won't deter from going win only, if that's your preference.

Racing Insights, 18th November 2020

Tuesday's race worked out well for us, as our three-horse shortlist filled the first three home. My preferred runner was the winner and the one I'd thought would be a good E/W option at 9/1 eventually finished second at 4/1, so plenty of value there.

Wednesday's free feature is the excellent Trainer Stats report, one that most of you know I use all the time and our free racecards are for...

  • 12.20 Warwick
  • 2.30 Hexham
  • 2.50 Ffos Las
  • 3.15 Warwick
  • 3.50 Warwick

...and with tricky conditions expected, we're off to South Wales for the 2.50 Ffos Las : a 9-runner, Class 3, Handicap Hurdle for 4yo+ over 2m6f on heavy ground with the winner receiving £5,693 for their troubles. As ever, we start with the card itself, which looks a little (well, a lot!) like this...

As you can see, I've ordered the runners by the furthest right column, the Geegeez ratings, where Exploiteur, Montanna and Eaton Hill stand out, whilst Sirop de Menthe is a little detached.

If we then flit back to the left hand side and look at recent form, we can see that Exploiteur, Out The Glen and Samson's Reach all come here on the back of a runner-up finish last time out, whilst both Caswell Bay and Motanna were both well down the field with Sermando the only one without a recent run, having been off the track for 288 days.

Caswell Bay and Broughtons Admiral are dropping down in class, Out The Glen and Sirop de Menthe both ran in this grade last time, whilst the other five are all stepping up from Class 4, including Exploiteur who is having a second handicap run today.

Trainer-wise, Peter Bowen (Montanna) looks out of sorts and hasn't fared well here of late, but does have a good record in the mud, Kerry Lee's horses (Eaton Hill) are running well, Debra Hamer (Out The Glen) has a good long-term record on this track and her horses tend to like some cut in the ground, Evan Williams' (Caswell Bay) hurdlers go well here at Ffos Las, whilst David Pipe (Broughtons Admiral) has not only been amongst the winners of late, he has also fared well here over in recent times.

I won't dwell on the jockeys, but a few are in good nick (hence the 14 30), but I should mention that both Sean Bowen (Montanna) and 3lb claimer Ben Jones (who will receive chunks of weight all round) have enjoyed coming here in the past few years, whilst Sean has proven to be one of the best jockeys around in the mud.

Instant Expert also gives a few clues on how this might pan out...

It's good to see that five of them have won on heavy ground before and Samson's Reach / Sirop de Menthe aside, those wins haven't come from many races. Sirop, however, is the only runner with a Class 3 win to their name and we've just three previous course winners, but four of them haven't raced here over hurdles or in a bumper.  Quite a few have won over 2m4f to 2m6f whilst Eaton Hill, Sirop de Menthe and Samson's reach are all racing off marks lower than their last win.

Before I move on, I do want to show you the place aspect of Instant Expert with an emphasis on heavy ground and Ffos Las itself...

...which puts the old boy Sirop de Menthe and Out The Glen in a better light. I've thrown that in, because heavy ground is a great leveller and whilst I expect Sirop to be a big price, he might well be better suited to the conditions than many of his rivals and it doesn't take many to pull up before a big priced runner makes the frame for E/W punters, something to keep at the back of the mind.

As with all codes of races, pace is often key even in slow conditions and history tells us that it's tough to win from the front here at Ffos Las, as leaders tend to get picked off by prominent running stalkers or something comes from off the pace to snatch it late on. This is better highlighted by our pace tab...

...which suggests Caswell Bay might take it on and try to win from the front, making him vulnerable to any of the four at the bottom of the graphic.

So, where does this leave me? Well, to be honest with you, I'm not massively bullish about the outcome here. There are a couple that I prefer (Exploiteur and Out The Glen), but it's more because I've more negatives against the other runners.

Broughtons Admiral has ability and has won in the mud in the past, but he has been around the block, changed hands fairly recently and didn't look up to it last time out. Top 5 finish perhaps? Caswell Bay also has a heavy ground win to his name and looked lacklustre last time out, whilst Eaton Hill poses a conundrum after running well last time out. He wasn't great last season and ran his best race for a long time last time out. Now up in class and 3lbs worse off, logic (I know!) says he shouldn't be winning here.

Exploiteur, I do like, despite the data suggesting otherwise. He ran really well on handicap debut last time out and but for a mistake 2 out, he's coming here as a winner. He was only beaten by less than three lengths and the winner has since won a Class 2 a week ago, whilst this looks slightly easier than last time. Montanna has never raced on heavy ground and his handicap form is poor. He's on a sliding mark and has mud maestro Sean Bowen on board, but he'll need more help than that and Out The Glen is the other I liked. Finishes of 11422 in handicaps is encouraging as is today's drop back in trip and he has won here on heavy ground over slightly shorter in the past year.

Samson's Reach is 0 from 17 over the last two years since winning at Hereford, but did produce his best run for some time when runner-up last time out. Now up in both weight and class and with a less experienced rider on board, I'd not be surprised if he went 0 from 18.

Sermando won a big-field handicap at Huntingdon on soft ground in January, but hasn't really produced anything else of note. Now resuming after a long lay-off, it's hard for me to be confident about him, but I'm sure he'll be popular elsewhere. And finally, the old boy Sirop de Menthe, who at 10 yrs old and without a win in 12 races over 4 years really shouldn't be of much interest here. But that win was here at Ffos Las, at this grade and on soft ground. he's also the only course and distance winner in this field, loves the mud and is now rated some 18lbs lower than his last win.

Will Sirop win here? Highly unlikely, but you know he'll give it a go.

Summary

I don't really like any of them enough to back them, which is slightly frustrating, but very OK, of course. I do think Exploiteur and Out The Glen will be involved in the shake-up, but so could another three or four. 2.50 on a Wednesday is probably a tad too early for a glass of wine, so I'll put my feet up with a cup of tea and watch the action unfold. I might have had a quid each way on Sirop at 18's or bigger, but I'm not as keen about 12/1, so I'll probably leave it.