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Racing Insights, 28th December 2020

Matt for the final time, for now at least, in the RI chair.

Boxing Day's race was interesting, though not profitable for me. One of the flagged each way possibles, Twotwothree, which was backed from double digit prices to 9/2, won well. Meanwhile, Time To Get Up drifted from around 3/1 to almost double those odds and was never a factor; he did run on belatedly to snatch fourth and remains a dark horse, potentially for the tracker.

We've lost Leicester and Fontwell tomorrow but still, at time of writing, have Catterick, Newcastle, Leopardstown and Limerick to go at. Limerick was waterlogged today so we'll see if they're raceable on Monday.

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I've done my usual 8-10 runners, handicaps only whittling for the purposes of this piece, and have landed on the 4.35 Newcastle as a head scratcher worthy working through.

It's a race which revolves around the William Haggas-trained Sword Spirit, and she does look comfortably the most likely scorer. Easy winner of a 0-65 mile handicap at Lingfield last Monday, she turns out under the obligatory six pound penalty before being re-assessed on Tuesday: she's likely to get more than six for the handicapper's prior leniency. With just three runs to her name she has loads of upside and might be a lot better than these. But... she was beaten far enough on debut the only time she raced over a straight track and she's backing up quickly enough after that last race.

The opposition is largely exposed with the exception of Arabic Welcome, a Godolphin castoff having his first run for Marco Botti and only his third career outing. He clearly needs to step forward on 26 length and 12 length defeats; but both those races were over a mile and a half whereas this is a mile. Botti has strong figures both off a layoff and on trainer switch, as well as decent enough handicap debut numbers:

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But the yard is a little out of form and the jockey is very inexperienced: he gets to ride this horse which is owned by the trainer's wife.

There is a horse in here - a Newcastle stalwart - with a massive ten Report Angles showing up on my settings:. Yes, of course, it's the standing dish, Great Colaci.

Last time out, I was against him in this column has he was drawn low and held up in a race with little pace. Here, he's... drawn low and held up in a race with little pace! In fact, let's bring the pace into the equation at this point:

The projection is 'May Be Falsely Run', and we can see that none of the nine horses appear in the 'Led' column. That may again count against Great Colaci.

Instant Expert is below, on the two year AW handicap place view.

We can see that, as well as Great C, both Jewel Maker and Corked have strong course records. Jewel Maker's only handicap win was in Class 6, but he's run well in both this grade and Class 4: he's just short enough in terms of betting for a place if we presume Sword Spirit will be hard to beat.

Corked has also failed to win in Class 5, though has placed in half of her ten races in this tier. But she's also more of a ten furlong mare, as can be seen below, than a mile.

Moreover, her trainer is in dreadful form:

Rogue Tide has a course and distance win on his CV, and ran well at this level over track and trip, too. Elisha Whittington's five pound claim is decent but, drawn two and generally waited with, there are enough negatives to look elsewhere.

One I'm drawn to a little is Keith Dalgleish's Paddyplex. Both trainer and jockey Billy Garrity are in decent form, and this fellow has been running well in defeat in higher grade and over further. His last run over this course and distance was in March, where he was a close second in Class 4. He's seven pounds better off here, including the jockey claim, though it's fair to say that Silvestre de Sousa is an upgrade on Billy Garrity (and indeed most riders).

The appeal, quite aside from the solid place record in this grade, is that in a race where it is not at all clear who will go forward, Paddyplex has led and raced prominently. As such, he has a chance to try to steal from the front. Naturally, I'd expect at least some of his rivals to be wise to this tactic; but, given first run and good course/distance/class form, he looks over-priced.

Catch My Breath has a similar profile in that he raced prominently over course and distance last time and also has a kind draw; on that last day run he finished fourth, but only a length behind the winner in Class 4. He's been third or fourth in six out of seven straight track mile handicaps:

The outsider, Reclaim Victory, ran well over course and distance last time and can't be completely discounted with an ostensibly solid draw/run style combination.

Verdict

It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if the favourite went off more like 1/2 than her current top quote of 4/5, and she might be a touch of value if you can/want to get on at that price.

I'm against Jewel Maker at the price, and Corked more generally, and I think Arabic Welcome has plenty to prove. Rogue Tide and Great Colaci may have the worst of the draw/run style matrix, so I'm finding Paddyplex and, to a lesser degree, Catch My Breath compelling each way plays.

I've backed Paddyplex at 14/1 (12's generally), and I've also backed him in a forecast behind Sword Spirit at around 16/1. I'm going to play the Sword Spirit / Catch My Breath forecast as well, and will look at the pair in 'without the favourite' markets in the morning.

- Matt

Racing Insights, 26th December 2020

Matt here again, on Christmas Day duty, and wishing you all the very best of the day/season.

It's a bumper Boxing Day menu though, understandably, not quite as bulging as usual. No problem for us, of course, as there is more than enough to go at.

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So much to go at is not always a positive, so a little bit of considered whittling is required. Using the card filters and selecting handicaps only, 8-10 runners helps considerably: 41 races down to five!

There is no real standout race from those, but the one with the most exposed form and, therefore, the least guesswork - in theory at least - is probably the 1.28pm from Wetherby, a 2m3f handicap chase on soft ground. Due to rail movements it is actually a 2m4f race, an extra 168 yards added to the advertised distance.

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My first port of call is to see if there's any sort of pace bias and, in this case, the pace blobs tell us that this track/trip/going/field size combination seems pretty fair, with the exception of held up runners who have struggled.

That tempers enthusiasm in Demi Sang based on recent run style history but leaves the rest of the field as credibles.

Instant Expert is next, from which it is clear that the favourite Johnbb is well suited.

Indeed, clicking on the distance block for him shows he was a course and distance (and class and going) winner last time out. As a six-year-old against older, generally more exposed, horses he has more scope to step forward again; and as a prominent to midfield runner he should have no issues with being too far back.

Another last day winner, Mercian Prince, has won on soft but his overall profile (1 from 8, just one further place) is uncompelling, and his three wins in recent years have all been on good ground. He has back class and looks otherwise well suited to conditions but that going concern is not especially factored into odds of 4/1 to my eye.

Time To Get Up is hard to weigh up. He's run well in defeat a few times and this is his second start in a handicap. We can see from the bottom row that Jonjo O'Neill, his trainer, does very well with those running under such a circumstance. He is also in excellent recent form.

The horse himself was second to Monkfish, subsequent Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 winner, beaten 11 lengths. That one had a hurdles mark of 152 when winning the Albert Bartlett meaning 133 is potentially very well in for this fellow. He's easily the most interesting horse in the race.

Ravenhill Road has fallen the last twice, which must surely have dented his confidence. Moreover, a high winning rating of 127 against a today rating of 133 about this relatively exposed nine-year-old means he's not for me.

While Twotwothree has had less goes than many of these, and tries a different combination of trip and going, he doesn't excite me as a win proposition for all that it wouldn't shock if he won.

Demi Sang is capable on his day, but his day is generally on quicker turf and he'll  likely be ridden quietly at the back: as we've seen above, that's not normally the way to prevail here.

Of the trio of outsiders, Mr McGo makes most appeal: he has a good seven-pound conditional making him rating/weight competitive and, except for his most recent race - a clunk - had been in the mix in his previous seven contests.

Verdict

Probably not as competitive as it first appears. Johnbb looks a legit contender and, if it is either 'not today' or 'I don't like getting my head in front' for Time To Get Up, he has a very strong chance of winning again. But that Monkfish formline is outstanding in the context of this race; and the O'Neill runner is entitled to step forward for his second spin after almost a year off.

It's one of those where I'd kind of like to see what happens with the market: if Time To Get Up was strong around 11am he's probably the bet at 5/2 or better. If he drifted towards 4/1, maybe there's something missing.

At the prices, I'd want to be against Mercian Prince, who looks better suited to quicker turf in recent years, though he may get the run of things on the front. From an each way perspective, Twotwothree and Mr McGo are moderately compelling, but this race centres around the Jonjo runner for me.

- Matt