Thursday's summary read..."Aberama Gold clearly sets the standard here, but I'm not keen on backing runners at 13/8 or so with no prior experience of conditions. I dare say he'll go on to win, but I can't put money on him at that kind of price. Of the remainder, I'm interested in Nigel Nott, Poets Dance and possibly Spirit of May"... and although I didn't have a bet on the race, I was pleased to have called the first two home.
To be honest with you, I probably would have backed the winner at 2/1 or the 9/4 that became available had I been more on the ball, but that's life. I know some of you got on, which was great and some even landed the £13.90 exacta which is brilliant, but I neither lost nor gained a penny!
So, in a bid to find myself a race I'm happy to bet on, we'll move straight to Friday, where the day's free feature is the Horse for Courses report and we've also got half a dozen free-to-view racecards as follows...
- 11.45 Gowran Park
- 1.22 Gowran Park
- 1.30 Ascot
- 3.25 Chepstow
- 6.00 Dundalk
- 8.15 Newcastle
...and I think it's good for us all to step outside our comfort zones from time to time, so I'm going to do just that today. I'm not big into Irish racing if truth be told, nor do I often get involved in Novice Handicaps, but today that changes as I take a look at the afore-mentioned 1.22 Gowran Park, a 10-runner Novice Handicap Hurdle for 4yo+ over 2m on Heavy ground for a top prize of €8,555, starting with the card itself...
Now although, the type of race and location are relatively alien to me, I'd still approach the race in the same way I normally would and that really is one of the good things about how Geegeez sets you up with the data and features.
We start with form and the caveat that Novice handicappers won't have many recent wins to their name, but Isotope, Make Good, Bear Claws, Buck Rogers and particularly Jiving Jerry all stand out for having won or ran consistently well of late. All ten have had a run in the last two months, so we shouldn't have any "rustiness" issues and aside from Make Good, who ran a week ago, they've all had more than two weeks rest.
The trainer and jockey form indicators are littered with red numbers with Cousin Harry setting off most alarm bells for me and I'd need to find something positive in his recent runs for him to remain in my thinking. Standout of the jockeys for me is Rachael Blackmore (on Jiving Jerry) for her 23.9% strike rate on Novice jumpers in Ireland over the last three years (44 from 184)
With a lack of recent wins, I don't expect to glean tto much from Instant Expert, but you never know until you try (I've expanded some criteria slightly to increase the sample sizes)...
..and whilst there isn't a massive amount for us there, it's very interesting to seven have won on ground deemed soft or worse, whilst the place element on soft to heavy ground looks like this...
...where Make Good really catches the eye.
On poor ground here at Gowran Park, it has paid to be up with the pace or to even set the pace. One theory is that you've more chance of avoiding trouble if the majority of the field is behind you and you're having to worry about how the horse is front of you is jumping. So, we now switch to the anticpated pace make-up of the race...
...where there's a warning that it might be falsely run, but I suspect we'll have a group of three (Isotope, Guiri and Serpolette) who will assert themselves and set the pace with a view to having a private battle late on for the money, whereas the reality will probably be that they take each other on too early and at least one, if not two (or even all three) fall victim to one or more of the next group of three on that chart.
It's worth knowing that two miles on heavy ground at Gowran Park can feel like much further.
The four furlongs to the winning post are on a fair incline, so half of the race is going to be up the hill in the mud, so stamina will get tested here and if the front three do take each other on, they might not get home.
So, I've already got a fair idea of who I don't want to be backing, but before making a decision to put money down on any of them, a quick overview of each...
Isotope was decent enough on the Flat, winning at 8.5f and 10f before going hurdling where he has since won over a similar trip to today on heavy ground. He wasn't disgraced last time out in a far better race than this one. The winner and runner-up from that day haven't resurfaced, but the third placed horse who beat Isotope by five lengths has won at Naas since.
Make Good won a soft ground Flat handicap over 1m6f four weeks ago and has since finished as runner-up in two hurdles contests over 2m/2m0.5f on soft and soft/heavy ground, beaten by two lengths or less on each occasion. He was a useful stayer on the Flat and shouldn't be found wanting here.
The Broghie Man has made the frame in four of his nine efforts over hurdles nut was a poor 5th of 18 last time out in a maiden hurdle race at Galway over 2m 3f (soft). He's not particularly well treated off 116, but his jockey does take 7lbs off and he has won on heavy ground, albeit over 5f three years ago.
Bear Claws was 1 from 10 on the Flat and is now 1 from 6 over hurdles, having won at Tramore three starts ago. He was pulled up 3 out in a 2m grade 3 contest two starts ago and was 10.5 lengths behind Made Good last time out. No real form on soft or worse over hurdles and I can't see him overcoming that deficit behind Made Good today.
Guiri had a win and three places from eight starts on the flat in Germany but has failed to shine since a switch of country and code, finishing 564 over hurdles for a combined loss of 114 lengths. He's better than that, surely, but I see little reason why today would be his day, despite not being overburdened at the weights.
Buck Rogers is a lightly raced 5 yr old making just his sixth start today. He showed very little in two bumpers over today's trip, beating just one of twelve rivals across the two races, beaten by 35 and 25 lengths. He was also beaten by 22 lengths over this trip at Tramore two starts ago, but did win last time out over 2m4f.
He does look slowly progressive over hurdles, but his record at this short trip is appalling and I'm not sure that the drop back is going to help here.
Serpolette is the only mare in the race and was a soft ground winner at Bellewstown three starts ago, staying on well to win over 2m4f. In fact her best efforts have comer at 2m2f and beyond and like the runner above, 2m is possibly a little too sharp for her.
She did race over this trip on heavy ground once before, but she was 14th of 17 at Navan, trailing home some 78 lengths off the pace. Not for me today, despite being well treated at the weights. She has a tendency to travel poorly despite wearing a hood in all eight previous runs and it's interesting to see the hood removed here.
Good Luck Hope is going to need Good Luck to have any Hope of getting near the frame here. Sent off at 25/1 or bigger in six of his seven runs to date, he's easy to back and easy to lose money on. Last of 10 behind Jiving Jerry at Galway last time out, beaten by 41 lengths, you can only envisage a similar result today. I'd not be surprised to see him finish last again.
Jiving Jerry won last time out, of course (see above) and is having a real good run of form finishing 1321 in his last four outings. Has won over 2m4f as well as today's trip, so should be able to cope with a 6lb rise in weight, as he's still getting weight from most of his rivals, whilst in Rachael Blackmore as jockey, he'll be in good hands.
A major player here today if things go to plan and he's likely to be popular.
Cousin Harry still hasn't won a race, despite having 16 cracks at it. No better than 7th in two bumpers and then failed to make the frame in any of his first eight over hurdles, but he has been placed in 5 of 6 since the start of August yet always finds at least one too good.
He runs off a flat horse's weight here today, which might have been hard work for jockey Adam Short, but despite receiving weight all round, his inconsistency rules him out for me. He could make the frame at a nice price but he's just as likely to bomb out. Best avoided.
So, where are we? Well to cut a long story short, it's a three-horse race in my eyes, where I expect alphabetically Isotope, Jiving Jerry and Make Good to be the main protagonists and I'd not be surprised/disappointed if they finished in that order and to be honest, there's not much between them by my own reckoning.
Jiving Jerry probably shades it in fairness, but at 2/1 opposed to Isotope's 7/1, I'd be backing the latter as I don't think JJ is nearly three times more likely to win than Isotope is. If, like me, you think the winner comes from that trio, you could back all three to varying stakes to guarantee some profit. That's not for me, but I know some of you do follow that approach.