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Monday Musings: Broadcasting a potential Classic winner

Three weeks ago, following the first weekend of turf Flat racing in the UK in 2019, I could hardly contain myself, writes Tony Stafford. I’d witnessed what I’d believed to be a new star and suggested that Telecaster could go all the way to the top after his debut performance behind the clearly useful thrice-raced Bangkok.

It wasn’t that he got within a length of Bangkok in the 17-runner 10-furlong maiden race but rather the way he accompanied the winner in formation as the pair drew from one length to nine lengths clear of Noble Music in the last furlong without Charlie Bennett even brandishing the stick in the final stages. Silvestre De Sousa was rather more animated on the winner.

Behind Noble Music, an outsider from the Ralph Beckett stable, it was a couple of lengths to Dubai Instinct of whom Brian Meehan was very positive in the paddock before the race. Those observations were proved correct when Dubai Instinct made all in a Nottingham maiden on Saturday evening.

After him came two previously-unraced Frankel colts, both heavily-supported and from the stables respectively of Hugo Palmer (Ironclad, 9-2) and Charlie Appleby (5-2  shot Just You Wait, a half-brother to Teofilo).

Imagine my surprise on the Tuesday after Doncaster when I noticed the BHA handicapper had allowed Bangkok to remain unchanged on his initial rating of 88, achieved in three juvenile defeats at shorter distances.

If that were accurate, then Dubai Instinct would have run to a rating of perhaps 62 and the two Frankels would have been hard pushed to be competitive in a 0-60 classified stakes.

Not that Andrew Balding will be testing that rating – and tomorrow morning I’m sure Mr Handicapper will be having second thoughts – we’ll know at 7 a.m. I’ll be astonished if it’s less than 100 and even that would be conservative.

Last week, having gone along to Hughie Morrison’s Owners’ Day, I couldn’t resist a drive the following afternoon to Windsor. Telecaster looked resplendent as he paraded on Sunday and again by the Thames with both senior travelling lads, Hughie and Mary Morrison and assistant Olli Rix (son of the great Henry) all in attendance.

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His physique is impressive, not just his size but also quality and all in proportion, while his coat gleamed. He looked a class apart from his 15 rivals – another big field, this time around a tricky track – yet was only narrowly preferred to another Frankel colt, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Deal A Dollar ridden by Ryan Moore.

The in-the-know vibes had been strong about Deal A Dollar, runner-up at less than a length on his only start to the highly-regarded Roger Varian colt Kuzaam at Kempton in December, where there were another seven lengths back to the third.

As Ryan took his horse onto the track, he was heard saying: “I can’t believe we’re not favourite”. In the race, once Oisin Murphy had navigated Telecaster outside initial leader and previous winner Ginistrelli - yet another Frankel! – Telecaster made the rest of the running without ever being challenged.

Deal A Dollar belatedly put his head into second place after the two previous winners Ginistrelli and Ragnar had endeavoured to keep pace. At the line it was nine lengths to the running-on Stoute hope, half a length to another Ralph Beckett outsider Future Investment, while the rest trailed along some way behind.

An indication of how hard it is to win a maiden over this sort of trip in the spring can be shown by the identity of the sires. The winner is by New Approach, Derby winner and sire of the 2018 Epsom hero, Masar. After Deal A Dollar, the third to tenth home were respectively by Mount Nelson, Sea The Stars, Frankel, Motivator, See You Then, Toronado, Camelot and Australia, multiple Group 1 winners all and mostly Classic and even Derby heroes to boot.

You can bet there will be some decent animals in there but the Meon Valley Stud homebred simply annihilated them. No wonder the Dante Stakes was being mooted afterwards by Morrison and Mark Weinfeld who, with his sister Helena Ellingham, look after the family’s racing interests.

Luck often plays its part in racing and the fact that nobody wanted to bid above 180,000gns when Telecaster was presented at the 2017 yearling sales, meant he reverted to the family, which races their unsold colts as Castle Down Racing. The fillies of course run in the much more famous black with white spots of Helena Springfield Ltd.

The Weinfelds’ father, Egon, established the Hampshire-based Meon Valley Stud and made its name with the foundation mares Reprocolor, Home and Away, One in a Million and Odeon, all smart racehorses before embarking on their stellar breeding careers.

The level of their achievements is best explained by the home-bred Colorspin, dam of both King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Opera House and top stallion and perennial champion NH sire Kayf Tara, both by Sadler’s Wells. The stud also bred, having sold her, the Oaks winner Lady Carla.

Telecaster is a son of Oaks and Irish Oaks runner-up Shirocco Star, a direct descendent of Reprocolor, this colt’s sixth dam, if my accounting at 5 a.m. was correct. Part of the plan to win a maiden as soon as possible after the Doncaster eye-opener was to eliminate the obvious fear that Telecaster might inherit his dam’s propensity to finish second as well as her 112-rated ability. Those fears look unrealistic now.

When I spoke to a delighted Mark Weinfeld after the race I suggested he’ll think of nothing else but Telecaster for the rest of the year. Nor will everyone at Summerdown Stables, and indeed nor me. I’m totally smitten. No wonder then that the natural extension of winning (should he do so, of course) a Dante would be a spin around Epsom on June 1.

As Mark rather wistfully pointed out, Telecaster, as befits his pedigree, was entered in the Derby but was withdrawn at the March 5 stage, three weeks before his Doncaster debut. Now he will need a hefty £85,000 supplementary fee to be re-instated. The Dante prizemoney of £93,000 – the winning owner gets just short of 60% of that – almost makes up for it, but I’d question whether two weeks and a couple of days is an appealing or even manageable gap between two top races. Hughie Morrison will know better than anyone.

The style, size and sheer majesty of Telecaster suggest to my eye the Irish Derby, where if he was not entered already for the initial Euro2,500 entry fee, connections would have until May 22 to pay a realistic Euro20,000 and there would still be a last-gasp opportunity at Euro100,000 after the Derby itself.

Of all the considerations – which a spectacular win at York in the manner of Windsor would undoubtedly negate – the 16-day gap is what would nag at my brain. As they always say, there’s only one Derby but, as the late Robert Sangster proved after Pat Eddery’s Epsom lapse on El Gran Senor, beaten by Secreto, was corrected at The Curragh, the breeders rate the Irish Derby almost as highly.

- TS

Monday Musings: Doncaster Debrief

I rarely watch race videos but I’ve made an exception of the 4.45 race at Doncaster on Saturday, writes Tony Stafford. To my everlasting regret I left the track not long after Sod’s Law’s personally disappointing, but to trainer Hughie Morrison’s point of view entirely-predictable, unplaced run in the Spring Mile.

As he told readers in that morning’s Racing Post: “He prefers soft ground and hasn’t come in his coat” and as we watched the main rivals and their gleaming summer coats, he repeated: “I’ve no idea why he’s favourite!”

You spend the winter expecting at least softish ground at Doncaster.  At the beginning of last week, it looked possible, but a dry few days brought good, good to firm in places. Sod’s Law was brought to the outside for a clear run by P J McDonald, but the rider reported afterwards: “He was rolling around on it”. And so it appeared on the screens.

Hughie stayed around. A couple of hours after what had been a frustrating couple of minutes: “I walked the course beforehand and it’s rough. Where there was damage from the jumping, they’ve just filled in with soil. And, of course, they’re blood-testing him!”

Those frustrations were, if not forgotten, put on the Morrison back-burner by the performance of the previously-unraced Telecaster in the mile and a quarter maiden for three-year-olds.  That’s the race that’s been exercising my player this morning. It was won by the heavily-backed 88-rated Bangkok, ridden by Silvestre De Sousa for the Andrew Balding stable.

With three placed runs behind him as a juvenile, Bangkok, a son of Australia, represented a decent level of form in the 17-runner line-up, but had predictable market opposition from two Dubawi colts, 5-2 shot Just You Wait, a Godolphin / Charlie Appleby half-brother to Teofilo; and Ironclad, third-best at 9-2 and representing Khalid Abdullah and Hugo Palmer.

Bangkok, using his experience, raced close to the front from the outset, but on the turn for home, the major contenders were getting into formation for the near five-furlong gallop to the line. At this stage both James Doyle on Just You Wait and Adam Kirby on Ironclad were poised as was Charlie Bennett, a few places further back but clearly going extremely well on Telecaster.

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This son of Derby winner New Approach is out of Shirocco Star, runner-up in the Oaks, Irish Oaks and pretty much everything else in her three-year-old year for Morrison and owner-breeders Meon Valley Stud.

As Bennett easily cut through the pack to sit immediately behind Bangkok, who was already striking for home past pacemaker Allocator, Kirby made a more urgent move outside him to which Bennett responded and the Abdullah horse never actually got past Telecaster. Doyle was also in full drive on Just You Wait, but he proved a little one-paced on debut.

With Silvestre now taking dead aim on the winning line, Bennett allowed a single light tap with his right hand, a couple equally gentle with his left after pulling the whip through before settling to a sensible hands and heels motion for the last furlong and a bit.

But this was where the visual credibility was stretched. Bangkok, kept solidly up to his work by de Sousa, would normally have been stretching right away from his rivals. It was true in the case of his relative position with the other fifteen - the nearest was another newcomer, Ralph Beckett’s Noble Music, a son of Sea the Moon, the German Derby winner, who had an excellent first stud season in 2018.

But the first two kept formation, drawing away in unison, with Bennett keeping his cool and resisting even a single tap once the furlong pole was passed. When I spoke to Hughie on Sunday morning, inevitably he referred to the dam’s predilection for narrow defeats: “I hope Telecaster isn’t a bridesmaid like his mother, but he is a gorgeous-looking horse and that was a great start.”

Having had a close connection with one owner’s (Ray Tooth) horses in the yard and consequently a more than cursory appraisal of his other inmates, I couldn’t have a much higher regard for the trainer’s skill. One only needs to refer back to the Melbourne Cup last November and the five-year-old Marmelo’s one-length defeat by Cross Counter, to whom be conceded 9lb.

Marmelo is waiting for his usual diet of European stayers’ tests but Cross Counter, by Teofilo, starred on his first run since Melbourne by winning the Dubai Gold Cup over two miles on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan. Charlie Appleby trained that winner, also Blue Point in the big sprint and then watched from Dubai as Auxerre made all under James Doyle to win the Lincoln with ease.

I’ve not seen the World Cup itself yet, but it was suggested to me that Thunder Snow’s second successive victory, in this case by a nose from Gronkowski might have been questionable. The now UAE-trained Gronkowski, still owned by Phoenix Thoroughbreds, was still a nice pay-day for Oisin Murphy with his share of the £1.889 million second prize. Stepping up a place would have meant a chunk of an extra £4 million or thereabouts.

We had a nice Mother’s Day at Ascot, taking Peter and Jacqueline’s mum Elizabeth to lunch and she backed David Pipe’s Legal History in the (UK not Dubai!) valuable handicap hurdle. She never had a moment’s anxiety either. How on earth did he get beaten the previous Saturday when we (not Elizabeth) took the 16’s early price at Newbury only for The Knot Is Tied to outstay him?

Alan Spence kindly provided the Ashmore tickets for Ascot and certainly deserved a better fate than the first-fence departure of his talented but latterly-frustrating Josses Hill. Maybe that was divine payback for his team Chelsea’s outrageous luck against jinxed Cardiff the same afternoon.

We’ll both be anxiously monitoring the potential field for Friday’s Randox Health Topham Trophy at Aintree, a race in which Alan’s Kilcrea Vale ran an extraordinary race 12 months ago, staying on like a lion on the run-in to finish fourth after getting a long way behind. Kilcrea Vale also ran well there in the Grand Sefton in the autumn, and if the requisite five horses defect, he gets a run and must have a chance, one in 30 anyway. It’s a day I always enjoy.

After his domination of a very good Cross-Country field at Cheltenham, the remarkable Tiger Roll may only need to be wound-up in the manner of Red Rum, into his ever-developing  “clockwork horse” mode to gain a repeat victory in Saturday’s Grand National. Once past first Becher’s the potential pitfalls are greatly reduced and while he’s hardly backable, I won’t be trying to find an alternative.  Let’s hope all 40, the 30 in the Topham and all the rest over three thrilling days, come back safe for their owners and trainers.

- Tony Stafford

Monday Musings: The Power of the Pen

They used to call it the power of the pen, writes Tony Stafford. If the response to my plea last week for anyone who might normally have expected to have heard from me over the previous couple of weeks, to call and /or send me their number, that power is much diminished as we approach the year AD 2020.

My thanks go out to Kevin Howard. He read the piece and responded, not immediately, but more so than anyone else, especially his brother Steve, but that busy chap has probably been too preoccupied with his preparations for Cheltenham.

It was through Steve’s good offices that last year we (me and Harry Taylor) got a great rate in a nice hotel in Worcester for Cheltenham week. He wasn’t there last March, but will be back in his old stamping ground from tonight. Having been confronted with a near doubling in room rates, we’re in a pub somewhere. Not sure which one, you’ll have to ask Alan Newman.

I hope the pub has wifi. I’ve some work to do for the first time in years and that involves the use of a laptop. I had one of those back in the Daily Telegraph days and it took plenty of lugging around. This one’s okay but I have visions of getting to the premises and finding I have to go to a café or somewhere to get coverage.

The second issue of last week’s offering ended with a jocular reference to my rapidly-increasing age, and the fact I’d need to be going to the café and buy the Racing Post to check I’m still around. I wasn’t and felt a strange chilly feeling of real unease at the thought of being summarily excluded as my friend Steve Gilbey – “former owner with Nicky Henderson” was the identification - had been a few years ago. He’s still a former owner with Nicky Henderson and might even have been a 50% owner (with Ray Tooth) of a Betfair (Schweppes) Hurdle winner had Know The Law been less fragile, but he’s still excluded.

If my birthday wasn’t in on Monday, Lucy Wadham’s certainly was, as she was to find out every few yards she stepped around Fakenham racecourse that afternoon. The congratulations required constant rebuttals: “It’s tomorrow” she declared many times. The following day, confirmation of that truism appeared in print, along with the absent list of Monday people.

In true Stafford style I’d protested to the nearest to authority, past and present, that I still know at the Racing Post, among them Howard Wright, their former Industry Editor. Howard will be in the chair as usual at tonight’s annual and always the last of the pre-Cheltenham Festival race nights at the Bedfordshire Racing Club. No, I will be coming Howard, after all.

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The excuse came back about a “new staff member inputting the wrong list” and that’s just about what happened. Those few of us who still buy the paper were to be a little surprised that the management was unable to wait until Royal Ascot for the customary annual price hike.

If you thought £2.90 a shot was prohibitive, like me – poor old codger on a limited income – the sudden 30p extra to £3.20, as happened on Saturday, would appear excessive. Ten per cent is a chunk, but it’s in line with the equally-harsh increase on the online service that kicked in a couple of weeks earlier.

Two rather more serious issues graced its pages over the past couple of days. The farcical initially wrong and then soon after corrected result, not for the first time because of the necessity for separate winning posts at Sandown for chase and hurdle finishes, caused great embarrassment all round on Saturday.

In congratulating Hughie Morrison yesterday morning – he’d been very gracious in saying he didn’t like winning in those circumstances – I discovered that Third Wind’s trainer had played quite a part in getting the result amended before the weighed in announcement.

Historically, “weighed in” was the sacrosanct moment before which bookmakers never paid out on winning bets.  Its status used to be like “under starters orders”, which has been lost in the mists of time and starting stalls.  Life is so helter-skelter these days that nobody can wait a moment longer. What was different about the £42,000 to the winner EBF NH Novice Handicap Final was that One for Rosie, 12-1 and originally declared the winner, and 9-1 shot Third Wind, eventually rightfully given the prize, were such big prices.

Many on course bookmakers, having paid out on One For Rosie, then had to stump up for Third Wind, but having already paid some punters for their place part of an otherwise losing bet, were assailed by claimants whose Third Wind tickets had been left with the layers.

Hughie’s part in the regularisation of the result – in his opinion, the change would not have happened before the “weighed in” announcement without it -  was that having seen the image and heard the initial announcement, he went into the weighing room to seek out Third Wind’s rider Tom O’Brien to instruct him to object.

He stated that as he was talking to O’Brien, the stipendiary steward was on his way out having also seen that the initial result was incorrect. In true big organisation style, the blame has been put on the Racetech technicians who lined up the camera for the photo-finish on the chase finish line, rather than the hurdles one a few yards further on, because of the different angles from which the horses approach the line at Sandown in chases and hurdle races. There is a single point on the stands side from which the two finishing posts both originate and it is always surprising to me how far apart the two finishes apparently need to be.

Third Wind’s victory was pretty ironic for the Tooth team. When Apres Le Deluge, his bumper winner of the previous season, was preparing for his hurdles campaign he was reportedly galloping all over Third Wind, and when he made a promising enough start in fourth at Exeter, the EBF Final was Hughie’s big plan.

Training problems ended that objective, but Apres is back in work, while Ray’s useful miler Sod’s Law is starting his preparation for the Lincoln, actually the consolation Spring Mile, with some encouragement coming from the trainer yesterday.

Also yesterday I was reminded of Michael Dickinson’s scathing criticism of US dirt racing in his recent appearance on Nick Luck’s Luck on Sunday show where he was suggesting dirt’s lifetime may be under a greater threat than anyone appreciates.

His comments came home in yesterday’s Post in a report which said that Santa Anita had cancelled race meetings and training indefinitely after 21 equine fatalities in ten weeks. Frank Stronach’s Stronach Group announced the measures last week and significantly the same group owns  Gulfstream Park where horses running in its multi-million dollar Pegasus Cup races were allowed 7lb if they did not run on medication. Magic Wand ran in the Pegasus Cup Turf race with the allowance and was rewarded with a lucrative second place. Previously Aidan O’Brien had normally taken the opportunity to use medication where allowed on his US runners.

O’Brien and his wife Anne-Marie, both champion NH trainers in the past, will I’m sure be at Cheltenham to run the rule over son Joseph’s attempt at a first Festival winner in his own right.  Three years ago when Ivanovich Gorbatov surprised Apple’s Jade in the Triumph Hurdle, he was credited with having done all the work while Aidan was the official trainer.

Among a couple of potential Joseph winners, the one I’d like to see victorious is Sir Erec in the same juvenile championship race. A former Aidan stayer, he was classy enough to run a close third to Stradivarius in the British Champions Long Distance Cup and has looked a potential Champion Hurdler in his two hurdles runs to date. He needs to recover from a stone bruise to appear, but if he does, he’ll be my banker, as Kalashnikov was when caught late on in last year’s opener. What price Amy Murphy’s star will come back to life in the Arkle tomorrow?

- Tony Stafford

Stat of the Day, 3rd December 2018

Saturday's Pick was...

1.50 Newbury : Speedo Boy @ 4/1 BOG 3rd at 9/2 (Shade keen tracking leaders, 3rd and one pace from 2 out, blundered last)

Monday's pick runs in the...

5.15 Wolverhampton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Boscastle @ 3/1 BOG  

Your first 30 days for just £1

...in a 13-runner, Class 6, A/W Handicap  for 3yo over 1m1½f on Tapeta worth £3105 to the winner...

Why?

This 3 yr old filly was a decent second off this mark at Chelmsford last time out, that was over slightly longer (1m2f) over at Chelmsford 18 days ago and a similar level of performance now switched to slightly shorter on Tapeta could well be the key to her breaking her maiden tag.

She's actually been running pretty well with two runner-up finishes sandwiching another couple of decent efforts in her last four outings and in what looks a fairly weak (albeit open) contest, she could well finally go one better.

I mention the switch of surface possibly being a help today and this is backed up by the fact that since the start of 2015, offspring of Sea The Stars are 8 from 42 (19.1% SR) for 8.9pts (+21.2% ROI) in A/W handicaps on Tapeta, having not run on the surface last time out. Of relevance today and from those 42 runners...

  • those who ran on the A/W LTO are 6/20 (30%) for 21.63pts (+108.2%)
  • 3 yr olds are 5/20 (25%) for 3.6pts (+18%)
  • females are 5/19 (26.3%) for 22.2pts (+116.8%)
  • over trips of 1m to 1m2f : 5/18 (27.8%) for 18.56pts (+103.1%)
  • after a short 11-20 day break : 4/14 (28.6%) for 22.5pts (+160.7%)
  • at Class 6 : 3/11 (27.3%) for 19.9pts (+180.9%)
  • and those who ran at Chelmsford LTO are 2/8 (25%) for 11.2pts (+139.5%)

*

7lb claimer Oliver Stammers is in the saddle today and in his short 10-month career so far has won 10 of 84 (11.9% SR) races, which is a decent enough start, but of those 84 races, he has done particularly well in A/W handicaps, winning 6 of 35 (17.1% SR) for 18.4pts (+52.5% ROI) profits, including...

  • at Class 6 : 5/25 (20%) for 21.6pts (+86.4%)
  • over trips of 1m1.5f and beyond : 5/16 (31.25%) for 33.07pts (+206.7%)
  • and at Class 6 over trips of 1m1.5f and beyond : 4/14 (28.6%) for 28.3pts (+202.2%)

*

Plus there's a distinct possibility that our pick will go off as favourite today and considering that blindly backing favs is a quick way to the poor house, you might be surprised to discover that backing favs trained by Hughie Morrison is actually a profitable venture.

Blindly backing such runners has turned a profit in 10 of the last 12 years and since the start of 2011 (having made a loss in 2010!), those favs are 142/411 (34.6% SR) for 33.8pts (+8.2% ROI), from which the last five years have seen 89 winners from 253 (35.2%) for 29.3pts (+11.6%) profit including...

  • in handicaps : 61/189 (32.3%) for 26pts (+13.7%)
  • female runners are 36/101 (35.6%) for 13.5pts (+13.4%)
  • female handicappers are 24/72 (33.3%) for 12.14pts (+16.9%)
  • and female handicappers on the A/W are 13 from 33 (39.4%) for 7.27pts (+22%)

...pointing to... a 1pt win bet on Boscastle @ 3/1 BOG, as offered by Betfair, Paddy Power & SkyBet at 5.35pm on Sunday evening. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 5.15 Wolverhampton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Stat of the Day, 3rd December 2018

Saturday's Pick was...

1.50 Newbury : Speedo Boy @ 4/1 BOG 3rd at 9/2 (Shade keen tracking leaders, 3rd and one pace from 2 out, blundered last)

Monday's pick runs in the...

5.15 Wolverhampton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Boscastle @ 3/1 BOG  

...in a 13-runner, Class 6, A/W Handicap  for 3yo over 1m1½f on Tapeta worth £3105 to the winner...

Why?

This 3 yr old filly was a decent second off this mark at Chelmsford last time out, that was over slightly longer (1m2f) over at Chelmsford 18 days ago and a similar level of performance now switched to slightly shorter on Tapeta could well be the key to her breaking her maiden tag.

She's actually been running pretty well with two runner-up finishes sandwiching another couple of decent efforts in her last four outings and in what looks a fairly weak (albeit open) contest, she could well finally go one better.

I mention the switch of surface possibly being a help today and this is backed up by the fact that since the start of 2015, offspring of Sea The Stars are 8 from 42 (19.1% SR) for 8.9pts (+21.2% ROI) in A/W handicaps on Tapeta, having not run on the surface last time out. Of relevance today and from those 42 runners...

  • those who ran on the A/W LTO are 6/20 (30%) for 21.63pts (+108.2%)
  • 3 yr olds are 5/20 (25%) for 3.6pts (+18%)
  • females are 5/19 (26.3%) for 22.2pts (+116.8%)
  • over trips of 1m to 1m2f : 5/18 (27.8%) for 18.56pts (+103.1%)
  • after a short 11-20 day break : 4/14 (28.6%) for 22.5pts (+160.7%)
  • at Class 6 : 3/11 (27.3%) for 19.9pts (+180.9%)
  • and those who ran at Chelmsford LTO are 2/8 (25%) for 11.2pts (+139.5%)

*

7lb claimer Oliver Stammers is in the saddle today and in his short 10-month career so far has won 10 of 84 (11.9% SR) races, which is a decent enough start, but of those 84 races, he has done particularly well in A/W handicaps, winning 6 of 35 (17.1% SR) for 18.4pts (+52.5% ROI) profits, including...

  • at Class 6 : 5/25 (20%) for 21.6pts (+86.4%)
  • over trips of 1m1.5f and beyond : 5/16 (31.25%) for 33.07pts (+206.7%)
  • and at Class 6 over trips of 1m1.5f and beyond : 4/14 (28.6%) for 28.3pts (+202.2%)

*

Plus there's a distinct possibility that our pick will go off as favourite today and considering that blindly backing favs is a quick way to the poor house, you might be surprised to discover that backing favs trained by Hughie Morrison is actually a profitable venture.

Blindly backing such runners has turned a profit in 10 of the last 12 years and since the start of 2011 (having made a loss in 2010!), those favs are 142/411 (34.6% SR) for 33.8pts (+8.2% ROI), from which the last five years have seen 89 winners from 253 (35.2%) for 29.3pts (+11.6%) profit including...

  • in handicaps : 61/189 (32.3%) for 26pts (+13.7%)
  • female runners are 36/101 (35.6%) for 13.5pts (+13.4%)
  • female handicappers are 24/72 (33.3%) for 12.14pts (+16.9%)
  • and female handicappers on the A/W are 13 from 33 (39.4%) for 7.27pts (+22%)

...pointing to... a 1pt win bet on Boscastle @ 3/1 BOG, as offered by Betfair, Paddy Power & SkyBet at 5.35pm on Sunday evening. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 5.15 Wolverhampton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Monday Musings: Doolan Seizes Her Opportunity

When you watch racing on television, it is not unusual to disagree with the comments of some presenters, writes Tony Stafford. On Saturday afternoon, a few minutes after 5.15 p.m., the always contentious James Willoughby came out with to my mind the most preposterous statement of his televisual career in company with Nick Luck on Racing UK.

Leading up to the lady riders’ Flat handicap which concluded matters at the end of Newbury’s Hungerford Stakes and Ladies Day card, he extolled the claims of the David Pipe-trained Dell’Arca, at the same time disbelieving that he started at 7-1, having drifted alarmingly in the betting from an opening 4-1.

The nine-year-old, successful in his previous hurdle race by half a dozen lengths off 142 at Uttoxeter and now rated 149, lined up in the mile and a half contest off 76, 73lb less than the hurdles figure when the normally-accepted difference is between 40lb and 50lb.

Like me, Willoughby believed that to be a winning mark and so it proved. The difference between us, though, was that while I judged that rider Siobhan Doolan had done well to bring the gelding through in the closing stages for a length and a bit win, Willoughby thought otherwise.

His judgment was that had Ms Doolan been a “little more experienced”, Dell’Arca “would have won by 20 lengths”. Certainly if she had been a little better-known, the market might have been less pessimistic. In between the acknowledged Willoughby analytical expertise of many racing matters over the years, there’s also been an occasional hint of controversy in his utterings, but this was one of the more ridiculous statements I’ve heard.

The ten-strong field had gone off at a fast pace, with half the line-up pushing towards the front and Siobhan taking her time two from the back. The field tightened up around the three furlong pole, and as the back pair moved up towards his outside, Dell’Arca could easily have found it difficult to get a clear run.

First his rider made a quick, diagonal move through an initial space to tag onto the front half of the field, and then, coming to the last furlong, switched him through another narrow gap in between the three leaders before clinching victory under a strong ride.

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Willoughby’s assertion that Ms Doolan is inexperienced implies her to be incompetent, but this obscures the fact that she has been around and ridden racehorses all her life. Admittedly, in terms of race riding on the flat and over jumps she has found it difficult to get mounts and indeed was surprised when her call to David Pipe last week resulted in this fortuitous engagement. Over the years she has ridden out for many trainers but does not have the luxury of full-time stable work and available race-action unlike some of Saturday’s opponents.

Apparently on her enquiry, the trainer called the Mick Channon stable, where she has been a frequent work rider over the past couple of years since completing her degree course at Oxford Brooks University, and they were happy to recommend her.

Now she works in the bloodstock insurance business, but in her late teens Siobhan was the leading novice female point-to-point rider in the north. In the interim, rides under both codes and also in points have been elusive, but Saturday’s success in the race was not her first. She won the corresponding race on the Sheena West-trained Hi Note with an all-the-way success five years ago. As she told me with a hint of embarrassment yesterday: “That was my last winner!”

Dell’Arca certainly has been a talented performer over the years and some of his best runs have been at Newbury. Following a three-race Flat career in France, and three more outings over hurdles there as a young horse, he joined the Pipe stable for the small matter of €280,000. Dell’Arca was successful in his first British run, winning the valuable Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham before finishing runner-up to Splash of Ginge in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Later in his career, he was a creditable runner-up to subsequent Gold Cup hero Coneygree in a novice chase there and last winter ran home a six-length hurdle winner over Newbury’s three miles.

The snag with the Willoughby (and indeed my) expectation of victory was that on his only previous Flat-race run in the UK, assessed on those embryonic French runs three years earlier, Dell’Arca ran in a 14-furlong Salisbury handicap off 78 under Ryan Moore. He started 6-4 favourite and finished a 15-length sixth of seven, so 76 might not in retrospect have been such an obvious bargain.

Three years earlier, Ray Tooth’s Fair Trade, formerly tenth in the 2,000 Guineas behind Makfi  (just behind St Nicholas Abbey!) and then winner of a jumpers’ bumper for Alan King and two novice hurdle races, also ran off 78 in the same Salisbury race and finished miles behind.

The coincidence is that Fair Trade ended up in the ownership of Ms Doolan when trained by her grandfather Wilf Storey. Her father, Kevin Doolan, was based with Storey for much of the 1990’s. She rode Fair Trade on the Flat and over jumps as well as in point-to-points, but with no success. Since 2013 when Hi Note won, Siobhan had only seven Flat rides before Saturday, none in either 2014/15 and 15/16 and five the following season, including two on Fair Trade. Last year, the gelding found a new life as a riding horse in the Midlands.

Whatever Willoughby’s opinion, I reckon Ms Doolan should be proud of her efforts on Saturday. It took opportunism both to secure the mount and then to squeeze through two gaps without inconveniencing any of her rivals. It will be interesting to see what happens when Dell’Arca turns out again on the Flat because there is no doubt that a mile and a half should be nowhere near the limit of his stamina.

-

After a year of utter frustration for the Ray Tooth team, long-overdue rain at Newmarket enabled the Hughie Morison-trained Sod’s Law to make only his second run on turf on Friday night. He competed in a 0-75 all-aged handicap off the top figure, so conceded 11lb (less weight for age) to the twice previously winning favourite Little Jo and 19lb (again less wfa) to runner-up Gala Celebration.

He ran a good third, tiring late on after looking a possible winner at the furlong pole, with the rest of the 15-strong line-up strung out behind him. Before Friday, three of his four runs – one as a juvenile – had been at Kempton and the other at Windsor, where the track and fast ground were unsuitable. Fran Berry reported him as “not the finished article”.

His older half-brother Dutch Law secured his first career win as a three-year-old on the July Course and followed up with two more and some other good runs there the following summer. He also won a £50k handicap over Ascot’s straight mile. Sod’s Law has been entered for this Friday in a three-year-old race over course and distance, but it will probably be a case of his name having the last say as the ground may well dry out again. That said, he’ll probably be better next year anyway if his brother’s example means anything

At Newbury, I bumped into Best Mate’s trainer Henrietta Knight and asked her for the first time about Ray’s home-bred Apres Le Deluge, an easy bumper winner last December at Hereford for Morrison. Henrietta had him for his initial schooling over jumps before the gelding went off for his summer break, and hopes to welcome him back before Hughie launches him on a jumping career in the autumn.

“I absolutely loved him. He was such a natural and we called him Apple!” she said. What with him and Telltale, switched to Dan Skelton from Channon where Siobhan Doolan rode him quite often in the mornings, we’ll be hoping for some winter success. That’s not to suggest there’s another Punjabi waiting to appear, but you never know! Watch out Dan, Siobhan might be on the phone offering her services!

- Tony Stafford

Monday Musings: If it wasn’t for bad Luck…

Nick Luck on Sunday should be required viewing every week on Racing UK, writes Tony Stafford. This Sunday the show conveniently wrapped around racing from Hong Kong featuring Graham Cunningham who seems to have settled seamlessly into the racing there after a long career on this side of the pond, in more recent years as a regular on the channel.

In my case, disciplined as ever, I usually miss most of it. Yesterday the first segment included Hugo Palmer, who according to his stable jockey Josephine Gordon, also on the show before her dash to Goodwood, had to attend a party so left precipitously. I didn’t begin watching until after Hugo’s departure unfortunately.

That left Luck, soon, believe it or believe it not, to attain the unimaginable age of 40 with Gordon, tipster Maddy Playle and Hughie Morrison, with emphasis on the last-named’s trials and tribulations with the BHA courtesy the Wolverhampton steroids case.

As both interviewer and interviewee readily attested, the affair could easily have ended with Morrison’s losing his licence under the “strict liability” rule even though almost nobody believed the trainer likely to have been in any way involved in wrong doing.

Morrison believes it was his previously unblemished disciplinary record and the access to (if not ownership of) the excessive funds needed to challenge the BHA’s in his mind dilatory approach to the making available of evidence that ended with a satisfactory if expensive outcome on his part.

He talked about “£5,000 to send a letter and £25,000 to arrange a meeting with a barrister and the BHA”, figures which would take the cost of possible justice “far beyond the reach of most trainers”. Far beyond reason if you ask me.

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Hughie, who trains three horses for my boss Raymond Tooth, also readily attested that few owners expect to make anything like a profit from their horses but that they should expect to be treated much better on the racecourse than was previously the case. He says, though, that the situation is improving at a number of courses.

Morrison cited the new facilities for owners at Cheltenham and Newbury – both top notch – but could easily have included Ascot and York at the upper end as similarly exemplary. I was at Haydock on Wednesday and that course provides another enjoyable experience for owners, but the five and a half hour trek back down the 50mph limit blighted M6 was less tolerable.

That was after a disappointing sixth place for Raymond’s and his partners Dilip Sharma and Shahpur Siddiqui’s Laxmi in a fillies’ maiden race over six furlongs. Harry Bentley reported afterwards that she found the going too firm and the trip too short and the fact she did rally late on after getting outpaced seemed to support that opinion.

Laxmi could have run in any number of different types of two-year-old races, being an auction buy (£42,000), and also a product of a stallion (War Command) whose progeny qualify for mid-range median auction races, as well as the now ubiquitous novice contests.

The same cannot be said of all juveniles. In the old days, most races for two-year-olds at this stage of the season were either maidens or winners’ races. This year, the BHA’s race planning division – you know that part of the executive which scheduled afternoon meetings on Saturday at Haydock, Beverley, Catterick and Musselburgh to make it simple for northern trainers and racegoers – have thrown the programme into almost total reverse with previous winners being allowed into most races, both for two and three-year-olds.

Hughie Morrison was more concerned with the older division, complaining that inexperienced, later-developing maidens in their early days are habitually confronted by pattern-class horses totally schooled in racing. He reckoned most novice races for three-year-olds now go to previous winners. He implied that all this is doing is offering additional easy pickings for the most powerful stables – step forward Mr Gosden, and he does!

As an attempt to try to put myself into a trainer’s place, I had a look at the 57 two-year-old races over six furlongs in Volume 2 of the Programme Book for 2018. In order of availability there were 21 novice races, 12 novice auction, nine novice fillies’, five maidens, three each novice median auction and novice filly auction, two for maiden fillies (including Haydock last week) and one each median auction maiden and median auction fillies’ maiden.

The five maiden races were interesting. The first is at York this weekend, a Class 3 that carries a £15,000 prize fund and will therefore be very hard to win. The others are at Brighton, Windsor, with two (in a course series) at Hamilton. In all only nine are confined for maidens out of the 57. For home-breds that didn’t go through a sale to secure a mark for auction races, their opportunities are also limited, in my opinion unnecessarily so.

**

A few weeks ago I rather unfortunately chose Jeremy Noseda as an example of a small-to-medium size trainer who habitually takes on the big stables with excellent hopes of success. I was pointing to his forthcoming proposed challenge with the high-class, Phoenix Thoroughbreds-owned Gronkowski for the Kentucky Derby, even though news had come out the previous week that his colt had suffered a setback and would miss the race. I missed the news! It needed the better-informed resources of the Editor to prevent total embarrassment in this quarter. For Noseda it could hardly have gone worse in the interim.

Subsequently Phoenix, presumably in a pique that the Derby challenge was off, removed all their horses, including Gronkowski (three for three this year) and Walk in the Sun (two for two), along with 12 others. The latter has joined Martyn Meade, while the useful Lansky has gone to Robert Cowell.

It must have been galling for Noseda to read in the build up to Saturday’s Belmont Stakes from new trainer Chad Brown that Gronkowski came to him in wonderful condition. But that would have been nothing compared to his feelings after Gronkowski came from a long way back on his delayed US debut to get nearest to Justify as that brilliant colt gave Bob Baffert a second Triple Crown in three years following American Pharoah in 2016.

After some quiet times it seemed that 2018 would herald a major revival in Noseda’s fortunes. Understandably, following the removal of pretty much all of his best and certainly most expensive horses, his yard seems almost to have ceased operations with no runner since the unplaced Laughing Stranger at Newmarket on May 17. One can only hope that a mid to late summer surge will be forthcoming.

Monday Musings: Onset of the Big Thaw

Who’d have believed it? In times of extreme weather, with snow blanketing much of the country, it seems the best chance of jump racing to resume after a blank week is Lingfield Park (along with Southwell), writes Tony Stafford. Before the drainage was (sort of) sorted out a few decades back, the joke among press regulars was that Major Peter Beckwick-Smith, then clerk of the course, would go out in a rowing boat and declare: “It’s flooded, but ‘good to firm’ underneath”.

The ground for the meeting later today will be the routine ‘heavy’ we customarily get when the elements actually allow proceedings to proceed. That part of Surrey/Kent/North-East Sussex got its share of the white stuff, but travelling down on Saturday for the decent Flat card, the instant thaw had transformed the picture, as it had magically in East London overnight on Friday.

Not so in many training centres, even in the southern half of the country. Olly Murphy, for instance, had to take his horse out to the road in Warwickshire to load him for the journey to Lingfield. For once the now expected market move for a first-time runner from the supremely-confident and successful young handler finished only third!

I hesitate to call my friend Mr Storey in frost/snow/wind/rain-ravaged Co Durham. Muggleswick sounds remote at the best of times, but with horses all-but-stranded in the fields and 14 inches of snow to contend with, there’s not too much activity with staff finding it impossible to get in.

Wilf’s grandson is making the best of it, offering his four-wheel drive tractor all around the local area, digging out driveways and school and supermarket car parks. The thaw will come up there, sooner or later. The one incontrovertible fact is that once the horses get going, they soon catch up, but you have to stay sane while you wait.

The thing for Wilf and family is that bad weather has been a constant accompaniment over the years and for a long time mid-December to mid-February was pretty much written off. The advent of Newcastle’s all-weather, half an hour down the road, changed the blueprint last year, but over the past week they couldn’t get out of the farm, never mind down to Gosforth Park.

With winter coming later than ever in recent memory and Cheltenham as well as Easter starting pretty much as early as it can, punters’ expectations for the Festival have to be problematic at best.

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Every year I expect soft going to be maintained until those four days in March, but magically the over-efficient drains work their oracle and the Henderson team gets the decent surface his horses appear to require. At least when I roll up at the Bedfordshire Racing Club preview night, “the last but the best” as Chairman and long-time ally Howard Wright always declares it, at Langford FC next Monday night, we’ll have a better idea, but this time the soft probably has it.

BHA Hurdles handicapper David Dickinson, on the panel with Ian Wassell of Corals as usual, last year declared Fayonagh “a certainty” in the bumper. So she proved, even after getting left and it’s a major shame she died in a stable accident before realising her full potential for Gordon Elliott. I’m afraid I won’t be able to pass on this year’s Dickinson wisdom, as my final offering will already be on the site before we convene.

Long- or even mid-range weather forecasts are rightly greeted with suspicion, but I couldn’t help having a squint this early morning at one or two locations where I’d like to see some settling down. With flood warnings accompanying the accelerating thaw, it was with some trepidation I noticed that the BBC weather forecast for the rest of this week and all of next promised rain pretty much on every day in various parts of the country.

It is certainly true for North Shropshire, where the boss had two foal arrivals over the past few days (a colt and a filly both by Garswood), but one of the mares suffered a colic and Kinsale farm is on high alert. It emphasises just how delicate is the balance when bringing equine life into the world. Our thoughts (Ray, me and Steve) are with Rachael and Richard Kempster and the vets as they wrestle with nature against the backdrop of snow and deluges of rain to come.

With Ireland seemingly brought to a standstill – Irish Thoroughbred Marketing went to the unheard-of lengths of closing their offices for at least two days – and no sign of any racing for a week, it is intriguing how much interference the weather may have had on the major stables. I expect not much. The 200-plus strong teams that will be sending legions of horses over next week will have it all under control.

Mullins’ and Elliott’s two biggest English-based rivals, Messrs Henderson and Nicholls, have taken advantage of the jumpers’ bumpers meeting today at Kempton, as did Brian Ellison and Donald McCain at Southwell and Newcastle at the end of last week. The anomaly there was that although a few from the south were left in, transport around the country proved next to impossible.

I thought jumpers’ bumpers were a thing of the past, but one of the beneficiaries of the previous set, Cousin Khee, no longer in the Tooth colours, but still highly active, was at it again yesterday. His trainer and the owner’s husband, Hughie Morrison, made a rare error when entering him for one of the JB’s, finding him to be ineligible. He did run in one chase at Kempton, but outside the three-year limit prescribed in the hastily-drawn conditions.

Instead, Hughie redirected him to Sunday’s two and a quarter-mile handicap, which amazingly carried an £8,000-plus winner’s prize despite a 76-rating ceiling, and the old boy (CK, not the trainer!) supplemented his recent course and distance win by six lengths, untroubled under stable apprentice Theodore Ladd. Who but Hughie could have an apprentice called Theodore?

He has another one, with a more prosaic moniker, the highly-intelligent and very talented Charlie Bennett, who won for the fifth time at the weekend on veteran sprinter Roy’s Legacy since first teaming up with him 14 months ago.

Afterwards, trainer Shaun Harris, who started out as a horse transporter, reported that the nine-year-old, who was winning for the 21st time, is targeting the record of 28 all-weather victories held by the retired Stand Guard. Such was the enthusiasm shown by Roy’s Legacy in holding on once guided into the lead turning into the finishing straight, Harris’s prediction that he can get the record looks realistic.

It was good to see pictures of Michael Bell and his grey hack leading the string, including a back-again Big Orange in the once traditional and now revived start-of-season walk through Newmarket High Street. Bell, with an enlarged 95-horse string and with his 21-year-old son Nick Bell – “He’s never been Nick, always Nick Bell” says the trainer – now the assistant, will be one trainer to watch out for in the early part of the Flat.

One Bell inmate attracting plenty of attention around the place has been Fire Brigade, a possible for the Betway Lincoln. Talking of early, that Flat curtain-raiser comes only eight days after the Cheltenham Gold Cup, on March 24 at Doncaster.

The snag for Ding-Dong is that, although rated 98, Fire Brigade needs 13 to come out from the 34 horses placed above him in the weights. Apparently, if he gets it, it could be between Messrs Moore and Spencer as to who gets the gig. Fire Brigade might even need to get a penalty somewhere to seal the deal, but then that’s always a gamble, especially with so little time to spare.

Monday Musings: Of Youths, Veterans and Eternal Optimism

Chepstow Racecourse. 06.01.2018 The Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Steeple Chase. James Bowen in the winners enclosure with the Welsh Grand National Trophy after riding Raz de Maree to victory. Photo Andy Watts / Racingfotos.com

Chepstow Racecourse. 06.01.2018
The Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Steeple Chase.
James Bowen in the winners enclosure with the Welsh Grand National Trophy after riding Raz de Maree to victory.
Photo Andy Watts / Racingfotos.com

After two weeks’ adjustment to Sundays in deference to the holidays, we’re back in the Monday swing, writes Tony Stafford. The past few days have been dominated by heavy ground, veteran horses and one extremely talented and youthful jockey. It seems James Bowen is as rapidly-maturing as was a certain Mr O’Brien, who at age 24 has long gone past winning Classic races in the UK and Ireland and setting record riding championship tallies in his home country in favour of training at a high level.

James Bowen is eight years younger and for the foreseeable future will have none of the weight constraints that curtailed Joseph’s riding career at 22. He’s done as little as 9st6lb when allowed to and since his 16th birthday in April has ridden 214 times, three times without reward during the last days of the previous season. All 35 of Bowen’s winners, culminating in the record-breaking ride on the veteran Raz De Maree in the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on Saturday, are therefore included in the present season’s stats.

As Joseph will testify, it helps when the old man has a few around the place on which to get you some initial practice. Peter Bowen, even though having his middle (of three) son Sean to consider – Mickey, the eldest, is a point-to-point trainer - has utilised James 71 times for 13 wins.

That was the starting point but, including Gavin Cromwell, the Irish farrier who attends to Gordon Elliott’s horses and doubles as a rapidly-emerging trainer in his own right, Bowen has been employed by 64 outside trainers. His connection with Nicky Henderson’s stable has been a bit of a slow-burner, if anything about this child prodigy can be so described, but you can imagine some big-race handicap opportunities at the Festivals coming his way from Seven Barrows.

Talk of the Festival – that’s all there ever is once the turn of the year arrives – reminds me that the opening day is only nine weeks tomorrow. Just 64 days of hopes being lit and then extinguished almost before the thought has appeared on web sites and social media. Newspapers were always prone to “chip-paper syndrome”; now their print versions, sad to relate, are in danger of imminent oblivion.

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We have the odd anomaly of reluctant early-morning daylight – it’s still as dark today as on the shortest day, December 21 – thanks to the non-uniformity of the earth’s curvature, or something like that, but it’s getting lighter at night. A ballpark figure is ten minutes extra daylight both morning and night every week. Cheltenham arrives a week and a half before the clocks go forward just in time for proper Flat racing.

I like the new programme book, which now actually is a book and not a bunch of loose leaves you have to slot into some reluctant metallic clips. All trainers and other interested parties apparently find the programme irritating in the extreme in that there never seems to be enough races of a certain category to suit their horses.

Since my boss Raymond Tooth’s now four-year-old Apres Le Deluge made a winning debut at Hereford just before Christmas, barely in daylight, my thoughts have turned to seeking out a potential follow up race once Hughie Morrison signifies an imminent resumption in hostilities.

I love the At The Races feature on my phone that allows me to have endless repeat showings of the race, and every time I watch it, I marvel at the acceleration the son of Stormy River shows. I badgered my mate Noel Quinlan to have a look to see if he agreed with me about the merit of the performance and when he eventually watched it he said: “……g …l, haven’t you had anyone asking about it? If it had been a four-horse slow-motion Irish point-to-point or some nothing race at Nowhere-sur-seine in France, the agents will have been driving you mad!”

Having won a race, Apres’ next appearance needs to be carefully selected. In the time up to Christmas there were 14 junior bumpers, the Hereford one being the only full-length affair, with the remainder beginning at a mile and a half. The one Acey Milan won at Wincanton was the next longest at a mile and seven furlongs.

Acey Milan came out again to win the Cheltenham 4yo bumper (1m6f) on New Year’s Day impressively for Anthony Honeyball’s stable and he stands top of the four-year-old group. His obvious possibilities as a dual winner are the Listed race on Betfair Hurdle day at Newbury (February 10), when he’ll carry a Class 1 4lb penalty before the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham on day two of the Festival where he would receive 8lb from the older horses.

While Acey Milan has that option, of the 90-odd remaining bumper races available before the end of March, none is restricted to four-year-olds, save one for fillies at Wetherby this Saturday, entries for which close at noon today. Two other races are designed for four- and five-year-olds, but one is a maiden and the other at Newbury is confined to graduates of Goff’s sales and run the week after Cheltenham.

So for Apres Le Deluge, the choice is stark. Either take on older horses while carrying a 7lb penalty in one of the standard-issue £2,274 to the winner products that so many of the six-figure buys are forced to contest, or go for broke and run next month at Newbury and/or in the race at the Festival.

Cousin Khee went that way as a four-year-old, finishing eighth in the hot race won by Cheltenian before joining the Tooth team. A nine-time winner for the boss, he’s now back owned by Mary Morrison and ran a good race in second at Southwell the other day. Hughie’s touch with older horses should ensure further gainful employment for this admirable veteran.

Four-year-olds won two of the Champion Bumper’s first four runnings after its inception in 1992 but since the top-class Dato Star won in 1995 for Malcolm Jefferson and Mark Dwyer only Cue Card in 2010 has been successful for the age group. When he won, striding well clear of 23 opponents, there was only one other juvenile in the line-up.

Returning, though, to the earlier theme, it is odd that nobody in race planning has seemingly ever thought about having at least a few races confined to four-year-old bumper horses. True, like Apres Le Deluge they are often Flat-race bred, but in his case his mother, Ms Cordelia, ran twice over jumps, finishing second on debut at Catterick for the David Pipe stable. Apres Le Deluge was too big and backward to do anything much before now.

With so little going on apart from those long-distance mud-fests – Sandown Saturday and Plumpton yesterday also featured lung-bursting marathons – I also seize the opportunity to offer some self-centred optimism about Ray’s other recent runner Sod’s Law. Just foiled at 50-1 in the last stride of his Kempton debut a month ago by Jamie Osborne’s Rusper, Sod’s Law got a boost at the first time of asking when Rusper won a 0-85 handicap at Lingfield off 84 on Saturday.

Rusper had already won around Lingfield before following up at Kempton where Sod’s Law must have given jockey Dougie Costello the fright of his life. The Osborne gelding will go up to close to 90 after this and four of those that finished behind us at Kempton are entered for a sure-to-be-divided similar affair back at Kempton on Wednesday. There might be even more encouragement to come?

Christmas Eve Musings: Two Tearing to the Top

The suggestion from above, for the first of two out-of-kilter holiday offerings, was to offer a retrospective this morning and then a New Year’s Eve forward projection, writes Tony Stafford. Watching the televised racing yesterday from four UK venues on the sofa rather than at the track, two major results crystallised my opinion about two fast-emerging trainers who have confounded the assumption that it is harder now than ever to break into the big league.

I’ve picked these two young men, both still in their twenties, as standard bearers, one each over jumps and on the Flat. In jumping, Olly Murphy was always the one most likely, with well-established parents – leading bloodstock agent father and trainer mother – and a solid history as assistant to Ireland’s fastest upwardly-mobile handler Gordon Elliott.

I’m less confident that I knew much about Archie Watson, my Flat-racing selection, before the cursory look at a few odd articles, one especially that appeared on the day before his triple assault on his new career with three runners all at Ripon on August 29, 2016. That revealed he’d already been with British-born trainer Graham Motion in the US; run a 30-horse satellite yard for leading South African trainer Alec Laird and then spent four character-building years assisting William Haggas in Newmarket.

Both won an important race yesterday, Murphy’s the more immediately eye-catching seeing as it came in Ascot’s £85,000-to-the-winner nightcap, the Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle, a race which Dan Skelton took two years earlier on his fast-track way up the jumps ladder. Hunters Call, formerly with a small stable in Ireland, made a characteristic winning start for Murphy more than four months after his previous outing.

Olly has not been slow to utilise contacts from his Elliott days since starting out in Warwickshire and, with no racing scheduled for Ireland yesterday, booked teenager Jack Kennedy who has become Elliott’s most trusted rider over the past year or so. Hunters Call needed to improve on some rather spotty Irish form – one win in nine, and runs up to three miles – to win this hotly-contested two-miler, which he did with authority.

The 9-1 starting price showed that more than merely a few insiders anticipated the victory and Hunters Call got a few favourable mentions in the media beforehand. Murphy has arrived at the mid-point of his first season with 27 wins from 130 jumps runners and a handsome £217,624 in prizemoney, achieved from 43 horses of which 17 have won races.

Impressive as Murphy’s start has been, I believe Watson’s first 15 months’ activity has been even more meritorious, not least because once racing observers notice somebody doing well, the astonishing quickly becomes commonplace.

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Based in Lambourn rather than Newmarket – a choice made on practical financial grounds – in the Saxon Gate stables most recently occupied by Paul Fitzsimons, Watson had four wins in his truncated first campaign.

The 2017 issue of Horses in Training listed him as having 24 inmates, but constant steady accumulation through the year has resulted in his running 48 individual horses. One of the best is Petite Jack who recorded a sixth course success at Lingfield yesterday when coming home strongly to win the Betway Quebec Stakes, a Listed race over 10 furlongs.

That was the trainer’s 56th win of an almost surreal season, achieved from 271 runners. His strike rate is 21%, coincidentally the same as Murphy’s. His horses have UK prizemoney of £458, 000 to which he can add more than £60,000 for five second-half of the year overseas runs alone by his older mare Absolute Blast, acquired from the Iain Jardine stable early in the year.

She appeared initially here in four stakes races, three at Lingfield, winning once at Listed level there before travelling on to Germany, Turkey, Ireland and Italy to augment the Watson coffers. The fast Corinthia Knight was another notable traveller, collecting fourth behind an Aidan O’Brien juvenile in one of the undercard races at the Breeders’ Cup meeting in Del Mar.

Watson’s stats for the year are impressive, but his instinctive understanding of where and when it is easiest to win races and therefore money reveals a maturity beyond his years. More than half his runners and 62.5% of the winners have come on the all-weather tracks. Eight of his 15 juvenile victories have been on artificial surfaces; 15 of 21 three-year-old and 12 of 20 older wins have been on all-weather.

Watson has won with all types, perhaps the most unlikely being the rapidity with which front-running stayer Brandon Castle progressed through the handicap ratings from 62 to 99 via five wins after joining from Simon West’s team in mid-season. When he identifies a horse with a particular preference, he stays with it, hence Mach One, arrived from Clive Cox, has won twice from seven starts since mid-August and has latterly and correctly been earmarked as a Southwell specialist.

He doesn’t mind running them either. Attain, one of Watson’s earlier inmates has a couple of wins on his 2017 card, and has gone to the track 20 more times, not that owners Boadicea Racing will mind. Since the start of the year, they have added five extra horses to their yard portfolio, and two of them, Snowy Winter and General Hazard have provided five and four wins respectively.

These path-finding handlers have confirmed the truism that horses do not win money for their owners by standing in their boxes. Each has set himself a high standard by which he will be judged and the envious, of which there are many around this business, will be waiting for one or both of them to fall.

The perennial problem is that unless the raw material (therefore owners and new horses) continues to arrive, the momentum will be difficult to maintain, but for the present there will be a queue to join both of them and deservedly so. There will be many hoping that Murphy’s Oxford Blu, carrying the dark blue, red and white livery of this illustrious website, will add to the promise of his Fakenham debut win by following up at Fontwell on Boxing Day.

*

Like anyone in any way connected with the Hughie Morrison stable, I was relieved when the disciplinary hearing into the Our Little Sister steroids case imposed a £1,000 fine and no ban on the trainer. It seemed on listening to the reporting on the case that the BHA would not have minded if the committee had imposed a ban, with the horrific prospect of even ten years at the upper level mentioned as a possibility.

After the verdict, Jamie Stier, soon-to-be outgoing Head of Regulation at the BHA seemed frustrated at the outcome, citing the BHA’s zero-tolerance stance on anabolic steroid abuse. When Mahmood Al Zarooni admitted administering steroids to 15 individual Godolphin horses in 2013, he was given an eight-year ban.

Therefore, strict zero tolerance could have resulted in Morrison’s getting an even longer ban in this case than Al Zarooni’s. Where the disgraced Mahmood was concerned, who’s to say that the 15 he owned up to in the hundred or more horse stable at Moulton Paddocks was the full extent of his transgressions? Theoretically, he can reapply for a licence in 2021!

Monday Musings: Battling Sod’s Law

Just when we thought 2017 was going to go down in Raymond Tooth racing history as a total disaster, four days in mid-December illustrated just how quickly fortunes and therefore spirits can change, writes Tony Stafford. Two first-time starters from the Hughie Morrison stable saw to that.

Highlights had been few and far between with only the recently-sold Stanhope’s win on the July Course at Newmarket brightening a season when a handful of late-developing home-bred two-year-olds never offered much encouragement for early success.

Sod’s Law, you might suggest? Well last Wednesday at Kempton Park, the gelded two-year-old of that name carried so little stable confidence that the trainer’s considered advice was: “Tell Raymond not to watch!” The market offered similar pessimism, Sod’s Law going off at 50-1.

After breaking adequately from his unfavourably-wide 12 of 14 draw, Sod’s Law moved up well in the first couple of furlongs of the mile test – “He’s never shown speed like that!”, said Hughie at that stage - and turned for home in seventh. P J McDonald switched him from the outside to nearer the far rail and in the last furlong, Dutch Law’s half-brother showed more than a hint of his sibling’s acceleration, getting within a short head of previous winner Rusper and Dougie Costello.

Three years and three months earlier, Dutch Law had been a promising eighth over seven furlongs of the same track but Sod’s Law was relatively less forward because Morrison had prescribed gelding him in the summer to ease the potential pressure on the limbs of a big colt.

Hence he’d been back to Kinsale stud for the operation and recuperation and even a few weeks ago it appeared that he would struggle to get on the track in 2017. Expectations were, as indicated above, modest in the extreme, but his performance was full of promise, and further indication of the merit of his dam, Lawyer’s Choice, whose 2017 colt foal by Garswood sold for 42,000gns at Tattersalls only a fortnight earlier.

If we thought Sod’s Law was a decent size, the next instalment at Hereford on Saturday involved another gelding, the year-older Apres Le Deluge, a neatly-named French-bred son of Stormy River which had the hallmark of Raymond’s former French trainer Nicolas Clement all over him.

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Stormy River has become a capable dual-purpose stallion in France where he won the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat, one of Clement’s favourite targets. Apres Le Deluge’s dam was Ms Cordelia, acquired on Ray’s behalf after I asked Nicolas whether he had “anything that might make a jumper?” He suggested this US-bred dual winner from five starts including on debut at Chantilly in early May of her three-year-old season six years ago.

Transferred to David Pipe, she looked likely to prove that opinion right when even money for her jumps debut at Catterick the following March, but finished runner-up. Then, after a serious blunder two from home at Fontwell on her only subsequent start, she faded into fifth and was sent back to France to be mated.

The acquisition of the daughter of Anabaa came at the end of the 2011 season in which Clement had guided Ray’s colt French Fifteen to five wins, culminating in last-to-first victory in the one-mile Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud. French Fifteen was sold soon after and the following spring finished a neck second to Camelot in the 2,000 Guineas. A couple of injuries later in his career preceded his entering stud in 2013.

After foaling Apres Le Deluge in France, Ms Cordelia was mated with French Fifteen in his first season before coming across to Shropshire. Her third and what was to prove final foal was a daughter by Pour Moi, the Derby-winning stallion chosen because as a son of Montjeu he would provide a similar cross to that which produced Treve, who is by fellow Montjeu son and Derby winner Motivator and also out of an Anabaa mare.

Struggles with her feet always plagued Ms Cordelia at stud, and only strenuous efforts by Rachael Kempster and her staff enabled her to survive long enough to produce her daughter, who had a tiny, but milk-rich Welsh cob foster mare to thank for staying alive. She is now a yearling and will shortly go into training with Mick Channon.

When Hughie first took charge of Apres Le Deluge he described him as “a gentle giant” but reckoned it would still be worthwhile to introduce him to stable routine as a juvenile. There was never any chance of running him, and it took another stint back in Shropshire before the plan was cooked to aim at the same Exeter October bumper in which the trainer had successfully launched the careers of Cousin Khee, who won so many races for Raymond, and before that Royal Ascot winner, Cill Rialaig.

Concerns about his size meant that even that target proved out of reach, so much so that when Hereford last Saturday was tentatively-mooted as his launch-pad, it was something of a surprise. Then, a few days before, came news of a hold-up causing him to miss a fair amount of work and prompted Hughie to say on Saturday morning: “I’ll be delighted if he finishes fourth, he’ll definitely need it”.

Andrew Tinkler was selected as a suitable partner and so it proved as he took the strapping three-year-old around the inside all the way round, saying afterwards how athletic he was for such a big horse. Allowing the market principals to lead him until the short straight, Tinkler moved him up to challenge on the bend, and even though the run-in at Hereford is barely a furlong and a half, drove him clear. Despite Apres’ showing obvious signs of greenness, Andrew already had him back on the bridle before the line where he was almost four lengths ahead of the Twiston-Davies-owned and -trained favourite, Topofthecotswolds.

Considering this was the only junior bumper of the year to be run over a full two miles, he got the trip without any fuss and despite the soft ground and eleven stone impost, his obvious superiority suggested Apres Le Deluge could have gone round again. It certainly took the jockey a while to stop him on reaching the far side. Such events proved a very happy return to the recently-reopened track for me. I calculated it was at least 35 years since I’d been there and it is nowadays a very well presented small country course.

So Ray has two excellent prospects from his home-breeding operation, and has four, we think, nice yearlings to go into training in the coming days. We’ve had a pretty drastic re-structuring over the past months, but the slimmed-down team looks to be in better shape than for some time.

Among the departures has been the French Fifteen gelding, named French Kiss, who ran three times in hot maiden company for Morrison in the autumn and starts 2018 with a tempting handicap mark of 60. He was recently gelded and is one of six horses earmarked for the forthcoming Wilf Storey Racing Club, which will aim to have 30 shareholders after its launch in the New Year. Wilf’s grand-daughter Siobhan Doolan, an experienced winning amateur rider on the Flat and over jumps, and now working in the horseracing insurance branch of MS Amlin, has agreed to be syndicate manager.

All six horses started out with Ray either as home-breds or sales purchases and will be trained in Co. Durham, where Wilf has completed his best-ever Flat season with 11 wins.

As to Apres Le Deluge, his trainer will be scouring the new 2018 Programme Book, out last week, for possible targets. One I’d like him to look at is the Listed bumper at Newbury on Feb 10, Betfair (formerly Schweppes) Hurdle day. The four-year-olds get 11lb from their elders and penalties only apply for Class 1 wins. I can just picture that dark grey beast with his enormous stride coming up the long Newbury straight. That’s a bit of a pipe-dream, I know, but at least, Raymond does now have something to dream about. And maybe 2017 was not quite a case of Sod’s Law after all!

Monday Musings: The Road From East Ilsley to Melbourne

At a time when Hughie Morrison has been left with a career-threatening alleged offence hanging over him, and one which nobody I’ve spoken to believes he had anything to do with, it was easy to understand his reaction to Marmelo’s run in Australia over the weekend, writes Tony Stafford.

Competing over a markedly inadequate mile and a half in the Caulfield Cup, Marmelo ran around much of the 17-strong field to finish only two and three-quarter lengths behind surprise winner Boom Time in a share of sixth place.

The trainer, viewing the race 10,500 miles away from Melbourne, across which city at the Flemington racecourse on November 7th the Melbourne Cup will be run over two miles, expressed concerned that his constantly-improving four-year-old had been faced with firm ground. The local bookmakers were less fazed, promoting the proven stayer to 5-1 favouritism in general betting.

Marmelo is a typical Morrison project. A son of the high-class Duke of Marmalade, he was unraced at two and made his debut in the Newbury maiden won by Ulysses in May of last year. A second at Kempton followed in June, then a ten-length romp in the soft at Doncaster over a mile and a  half when a couple of John Gosden inmates followed him home.

Since then, Morrison’s caution concerning the ground for his big, imposing colt has meant that only one of his subsequent eight races has been in England – he was a creditable close fifth to Dartmouth in the Yorkshire Cup in May.

Otherwise it’s been a season ticket to France, starting at Deauville, then Chantilly and Deauville again last year, first winning a Listed contest over 15 furlongs, before running third in a Group 2 and second in another Listed race at the back end.

The tempo increased this time around with a Chantilly second preceding York, before another excellent runner-up spot, this time at Saint-Cloud in July, and a Group 2 victory over subsequent Doncaster Cup winner Desert Skyline back at Deauville in August.

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The three-year-old Desert Skyline provides a form link from Doncaster with another feasible European contender. Thomas Hobson, once trained by Gosden, but latterly a multiple jumps winner for Willie Mullins, was second to the David Elsworth stayer at Doncaster.

Another Mullins Melbourne Cup hopeful is the well-travelled and equally versatile Wicklow Brave who was among the back division in the Caulfield Cup. Although officially run on good ground, the fast time (2min 27 and change) adds credence to Morrison’s horrified “it was firm” reaction and makes understandable, in view of the horse’s avoidance of such surfaces to date, his worries as to whether Marmelo will have come through the race in one piece.

One interesting side-line is that Hugh Bowman, who has been on the super-mare Winx in each of the last 19 winning races in her 25-win and a few losses career, rode Marmelo. It would be salutary to learn his opinion and whether he will remain in the saddle on the big day. Winx of course has another Cox Plate – she’s won the last two - on her immediate agenda. Australia’s premier level-weights all-aged race is scheduled for Moonee Valley, yet another Melbourne track, on Saturday.

Hopefully Marmelo will emerge through his Caulfield exertions in top shape and the trainer will be travelling over to oversee the final preparations. With, apparently, a fair way to go before the disciplinary hearing into one of his horses’ “positive” post-race test at Wolverhampton takes place, he could still be celebrating the first British-trained winner of Australia’s greatest race by the time it comes around.

Aidan O’Brien had the beaten favourite in the Caulfield Cup, Johannes Vermeer, who also came late to finish third, a length or so ahead of Marmelo. I would be surprised if he were to maintain his advantage a fortnight tomorrow over what is a much more suitable trip for the East Ilsley stayer.

Had Johannes Vermeer won, O’Brien would by now already have exceeded Bobby Frankel’s world record of 25 Group (or Grade) 1 wins in a calendar year, but he merely matched it when Hydrangea, to many people’s surprise, outstayed the French-trained favourite Bateel in the Qipco British Champions Fillies and Mares race on Ascot’s Champions Day card.

This was Hydrangea’s first run at a mile and a half – she was runner-up to stable-companion Rhododendron in the Prix de l’Opera over 10 furlongs on Arc Day – and got the trip extremely well.

For much of 2017 she has been – like the other leading O’Brien three-year-old fillies – generally shadowing Winter, but she did get two head verdicts over the dual Guineas heroine at either ends of the season at Leopardstown, more significantly in the Matron Stakes early last month.

Roly Poly, winner of three Group 1 races in the latter half of the season, was sixth that day with Rhododendron, coming back after an injury suffered during the French Oaks, just behind. Alarmingly, for everyone other than John Gosden, Roly Poly on the balance of form, probably rates fourth, narrowly behind Winter, Rhododendron and Hydrangea in the stable pecking order.

That said, Roly Poly’s form got a serious boost when Persuasive, only second to her in the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket, emphasised her liking for soft ground with an emphatic triumph in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, beating Ribchester and Churchill. In last year’s Matron, Persuasive had been a well-beaten runner-up behind Coolmore’s Alice Springs. That filly has only a single appearance, back in early April on her 2017 card, but it could be interesting if she turns up at the Breeders’ Cup, in which she gets a quote in bookmakers’ lists.

Persuasive’s success was the first part of a brilliant John Gosden double, completed with a seven-length romp by Cracksman in the Champion Stakes. He trounced runner-up Poet’s Word with the gallant Highand Reel running a fine trial for Del Mar next month in third on ground which does not suit him. The likely firm turf and sharp turns of the “Turf by the Surf” will be much more to his liking and he could be Ballydoyle’s banker of the meeting.

I will be surprised if O’Brien is still one short of bettering Bobby Frankel, whose equine namesake got his first British Group 1 success with Cracksman, by the time the Breeders’ Cup comes around. He expects to have “maybe four or five” to represent him in the Racing Post Trophy on Saturday, and most Ballydoyle insiders seem to think it will be the unbeaten Deep Impact colt Saxon Warrior that will provide the spearhead.

Then there are the two French juvenile Group 1 races over a mile and ten furlongs respectively, at Saint-Cloud, in which to achieve his target.

I doubt he’ll worry unduly, but Hydrangea and Order of St George – winner of the Long Distance Cup (why isn’t that a Group 1?) – and three tasty third places brought him to £8,189,630 of British prize money, almost £60,000 more than his own record set last year. John Gosden, with Enable and Cracksman to boost his tally, was an honourable second with his best seasonal haul of a few quid short of £6million. Roll on next year!

Snow time like the present – As Meade launches Cesarewitch assault

I’d pondered over looking at the Dewhurst for this week’s Friday Preview piece, however I’m finding it impossible to flag-up a challenger to the odds-on shot Expert Eye. If the colt that romped to victory at Goodwood arrives here at Newmarket in that form, the result is a formality.

So instead I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and have a crack at the Cesarewitch. Just the 34 runners go to post, so finding the winner shouldn’t be that difficult. Having said that, it’s proved a tough summer for the handicap followers. The Cambridgeshire a couple of weeks back was the perfect example. A 50/1 shot landed the pot, followed home by a 100/1 outsider and another at 50s. The tricast paid a staggering £90,344.98.
Nevertheless, the winner is amongst the 34, so let’s try and find him or her.

As an avid follower of trends, my first port-of-call is the likely age of the prospective winner. Four and six-year-olds have the best recent record with five victories apiece from the past 20 renewals. A pair of three-year-olds have been successful, whilst a single five-year-old has won in that time. A trio aged seven, a pair at eight, one aged nine and one winner aged 11 have also landed the prestigious prize in the period. The conclusion to draw from this snapshot, is that a horse of any age can win the Cesarewitch. Great Start!

Maybe there’s more to glean from the price of previous winners? Perhaps fancied runners have a decent record? Perhaps not. Over the past 10 years, we’ve had a pair of winners priced at 50/1, two at 66/1, one at 25s and a winner at 16s. Only one favourite has obliged in that period. Goodness me!

Weight carrying is often a point of reference when attempting to find a winner in these ultra-competitive handicaps. Thankfully this is also the case in the Cesarewitch, with just four winners carrying 9-4 or more to victory in the past 20 renewals. Sadly, that stat only takes six contenders out of the reckoning on Saturday. Just the 28 runners left to choose from then.

National Hunt trainers have a decent record, having struck nine times from the past 20. In 2015 Alan King’s Grumeti took the prize at 50/1, following the success of Phillip Hobbs in 2014. Evan Williams, Willie Mullins and Alan King head the market for tomorrow’s renewal, with dual-purpose trainer Karen McLintock responsible for the horse currently fourth in the betting.

Mullins has three contenders, and has been joined on his trip across the Irish Sea by Noel Meade and Tony Martin. Dr Richard Newland, Nigel Twiston-Davies and David Pipe all have entrants loitering in the lower regions of the handicap. This truly is a clash of jump racings finest and the best from the flat.

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I’m not sure the above has got us any nearer finding the winner, though there’s a fair chance the first home may be carrying 9-4 or less and be trained by a National Hunt exponent. It’s now a case of finding the well-handicapped contender capable of maintaining a strong gallop for the full 2m2f. Most of this race is run in a straight line, with little chance of a jockey getting a breather into his mount. This is a thorough examination of both the horse’s stamina and attitude, hence the reason ‘tough-nuts’ from the Jumps do so well.

The Evan Williams trained John Constable heads the market and will be ably supported by the outstanding Jim Crowley. The six-year-old has not run on the flat since 2014, but has been in great form over the jumps, winning his last run at Market Rasen off a mark of 150. That came towards the end of July, so he ought to be as fit as a fiddle. He was rated 94 when last running on the flat at the Curragh, and gets in here off a mark of 88. He won the 17-runner Swinton Hurdle back in May by a country-mile, so has the ‘big field’ experience. It’s easy to see why he’s favourite, and he should go well.

The Willie Mullins trained Lagostovegas is next best in the betting, and is another with a progressive hurdles record. He has good recent form on the flat, but is somewhat inferior to John Constable in ratings over timber. Of course, the two codes are not necessarily compatible, nevertheless I’d certainly favour the favourite, despite Mullins having Ryan Moore booked for the ride.

Who Dares Wins is next best according to the bookies, and was last seen winning the trial at Newmarket. He’s trained by Alan King and should certainly appreciate both the trip and the decent ground. He’s gone up 4lbs for that last win, and that’s sure to prove a tough ask. He also needs to reverse form with Endless Acres from their run behind Thomas Hobson at Ascot in June. King’s fella is without doubt a contender, but he’s not for me.

Dubawi Fifty looks a progressive four-year-old who should be suited by the step-up in trip. He finished strongly to win at Nottingham last time over an inadequate 1m6f. He’s up 5lbs for that success, but at four the improvement may be there. He’s trained in the north by Karen McLintock and owned by the Rooney’s. You could argue that he lacks experience, especially in a field of this size, but with Graham Lee on top, I fancy he’ll run well.

Time To Study is an interesting three-year-old trained in Yorkshire by Mark Johnston. He won a decent handicap at Doncaster last time, but was then ‘pulled’ from the trial at Newmarket, with the ground (good) given as the reason. It’s a puzzler, because he ran well on good to firm in the Queen’s Vase at Ascot behind Stradivarius. He had Shrewd behind him at Doncaster and that form stacks up quite nicely. He’s unproven at this trip, which is clearly a concern. Add to that, the slight worry over the ground, and he’s possibly one to overlook. Though I’m slightly nervous to do so.

Withhold is a hugely consistent four-year-old trained by Roger Charlton. He’s won or been placed in six of his eight career starts, though has only run the once so far this season. That came at Newbury, when third at an inadequate 1m4f trip. He should improve for the outing, and his proximity to Weekender gives the form a solid look. I’m not wholly convinced that he’ll see out this trip, though he has won at two-miles. He does have an attractive race weight of 8-8, and is hard to dismiss.

Endless Acres is another four-year-old with a serious chance. Runner-up in the Ascot Stakes to Thomas Hobson, he was also second to Flymetothestars back in May, which again looks strong form. He’s had a light campaign and there’s no doubts over him seeing out the trip. He looks a leading contender, though creeps over the desired weight at 9-5.

One that I am interested in, is Jim Goldie’s Euchen Glen. Third at York in a valuable two-mile handicap when getting no sort of run, he’d previously beaten Byron Flyer at Ascot, again at two-miles. He looks to be on a fair mark judging by the York performance and should run well.

London Prize keeps performing well on the flat, but is on much worse terms with Withhold on their 2016 meeting. He also has a mountain to climb if his jumps form with John Constable translates to the flat.

Another that I very much like is Noel Meade’s Snow Falcon. He’s a high-class staying hurdler, good enough to come within two-lengths of Yanworth at Aintree on good ground in April. He’s run well on the flat over the summer, including a comfortable win at Killarney in August. He’s right on my 9-4 limit and I’m convinced he’ll run a huge race.

Byron Flyer is another that certainly has a clear chance on the form book. Handicapped to at least be on terms with Time To Study and Euchen Glen, he’s a consistent performer at around two miles, though has a habit of finishing second in tight finishes. Ryan Moore was aboard last time at Doncaster, and having travelled beautifully throughout, he would have been left scratching his head as to how he was beaten. He may well be in the vicinity late on, but you’d have to anticipate him finding one or two ‘wanting it’ a little more in the final furlong.

In a year when handicap winners have gone in at huge odds, I’d give a squeak to Star Rider. Trained by Hughie Morrison, the five-year-old ran a shocker at York last time and didn’t run particularly well the time before at Goodwood. However, she was a decent sixth in the Ascot Stakes when suffering interference, and was eighth in this race last year. In three visits to the Rowley Mile, she’s won twice. Morrison took last year’s race with the mare Sweet Selection, and on decent ground Star Rider is interesting.

For those having a punt it has to be worth spreading the cash across a few entrants. John Constable may well be ‘thrown-in’, and at 8s, even in a race this competitive, is probably fair value. However, I’ll avoid the temptation of tipping-up the favourite and look elsewhere.

Euchen Glen was an eye-catcher last time at York, and looks to have a great chance. He’s one to have at 16s. I can’t resist a few quid on Snow Falcon at 20/1. I’m convinced that Noel Meade’s classy stayer will love the trip and put in a huge performance. Finally, I’ll have a little each-way on Morrison’s mare Star Rider. Can lightning strike twice? Best of luck to all those having a punt in this hugely competitive race.

Stat of the Day, 22nd August 2017

Monday's Result :

2.00 Lingfield : Rock N Roll Global @ 4/1 BOG - 2nd at 5/2 : Towards rear, pushed along and headway over 2f out, ridden to chase winner over 1f out, kept on one pace, beaten by half a length...

Tuesday's pick goes in the...

3.30 Brighton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Prosecution @ 11/4 BOG

Why?

As this is a maiden handicap, there's obviously no winning form on offer here, making our pick's recent finishes of 232 the best of this bunch today. Placed in 3 of 4 starts on the Flat so far, either at this level or higher suggests he well just have a little bit too much for his rivals and also interests me because...

...2012-17 / UK Flat / 3-5 yr olds / 7f-1m4f / top 3 finish in each of last 3 races / 2nd or 3rd LTO 6-30 days ago = 308/1447 (21.3% SR) for 282.1pts (+19.5% ROI) including...

  • those last seen 16-30 days back : 190/880 (21.6%) for 252.5pts (+28.7%)
  • LTO runners-up are 191/811 (23.6%) for 136.2pts (+16.8%)
  • Class 5 runners are 125/435 (28.7%) for 62.9pts (+14.5%)

Added to this, we have trainer Hughie Morrison / 2-3 yr old males / Class 3 to 6 Flat handicaps / July to September / 2012-17 = 13/67 (19.4% SR) for 11.5pts (+17.2% ROI), from which...

  • over the last three seasons : 9/42 (21.4%) for 12.93pts (+30.8%)
  • priced at 7/4 to 9/2 : 11/31 (35.5%) for 17.4pts (+56.1%)
  • and in August : 4/22 (18.2%) for 5.07pts (+23%)

...giving us... a 1pt win bet on Prosecution @ 11/4 BOG which was widely available at 6.20pm on Monday, whilst those with an unrestricted Ladbrokes account can get 3/1. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 3.30 Brighton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Stat of the Day, 20th May 2017

Friday's Result :

2.10 Newmarket : Passcode @ 9/2 BOG 5th at 10/3 In touch, headway 2f out, ridden and no impression after.

Saturday's pick goes in the...

5.00 Newmarket...

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Star Rock11/4 BOG

Why?

4th and 5th in her two runs last season, both over a mile, but was a runner-up on her only outing this year when stepped up to 1m2f, despite coming off the back of a 170-day absence.

She has every right to strip fitter for the run and the drop in class should also help her attempt to improve the recent form of trainer Hughie Morrison, who already has 4 winners from 19 over the last fortnight.

What also drew me to this horse, was Hughie's record with horses priced at 6/4 to 10/1 running over today's trip since 2008, which stands at 44/218 (20.2% SR) for 42.1pts (+19.3% ROI), including of relevance today...

  • those racing at Classes 4 to 6 are 40/184 (21.7%) for 54.2pts (+29.5%)
  • those whose last run was in the past 30 days are 32/127 (25.2%) for 41.6pts (+32.8%)
  • females are 24/99 (24.2%) for 46.4pts (+46.8%)
  • in 3yo only races : 12/59 (20.3%) for 18.3pts (+31.1%)
  • and in races solely for female runners : 10/46 (21.7%) for 17pts (+37%)

...for...a 1pt win bet on Star Rock11/4 BOG which was widely available at 7.35pm on Friday, but to see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 5.00 Newmarket

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats are to Betfair SP, as (i) I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you and (ii) although inferior to the BOG odds we secure, BFSP is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns quoted.