Monday Musings: The Kempton Horse Watchers

I’d been looking forward to the start of turf Flat racing 2017, but in the end I didn’t make it to Doncaster for either Saturday or Sunday, settling instead for the easier trip to Kempton Park, writes Tony Stafford.

With its future to an extent uncertain, you might think the track management might have taken their eye off the ball, but this first-day card had a special merit. The historic Rosebery Handicap, a long-time Easter feature over ten furlongs in the pre-Polytrack days, has taken an upward step, offering £28k to the winner (45 grand in overall money).

Over the past few years there have been a number of personnel changes on Racing UK and if you only took notice when something jarred, you’d have to say there was almost a monopoly of voices emanating from Hull. Often it only took until one of the younger-generation Timeformers who dominate Channel 432 punctuated a long, considered and usually pretty serious thought with “so”, but sounding more like “seew”, for me to spot them.

But now when brothers Chris and Martin Dixon are appearing, far from noticing their highly-distinctive accent, I listen closely hoping to hear about the latest horse they’ve brought into their “Horse Watchers” stable, handled so efficiently by Mick Appleby.

At Kempton on Saturday, they were both there to see a couple of runners, first the poorly-drawn Hakam, who might not have carried too much owner confidence because of that issue, but Silvestre De Sousa finessed a late run up the outside for a last stride nose win at 6-1.

This was the sixth appearance for them from the former Hamdan Al Maktoum horse, originally bought from Claiborne farm for $450,000 and re-cycled for £28,000 out of Charlie Hills’ care last summer. He won first time for them off 81 and having collected for the second time at Chelmsford three months ago, duly defied 86 this time round.

There is a close similarity with Big Country, the Rosebery winner, and one who could be called “home and hosed”, or rather “herm and hersed” a long way out. Again brought wide, but this time from an early close up position, he led at the top of the straight and the Brazilian and the onwatching Watchers never had a worrying moment. Sometimes to say a trainer has a talent for improving cast-offs from big stables, can become received wisdom without too much evidence, but Mick Appleby lives up to that reputation time after time.

Big Country cost £28,000 from Charles O’Brien and having won first time for the Watchers off 75, defied 84 now with ease.

One of the Raceform reunion boys from the week earlier alerted me to the team’s expectations and if only I ever had the urge to shout one home, I’m sure I would have done. The Ebor and then jumping are on the short- and mid-term agenda, and they have great things to come. Let’s hope they enjoy them, because racing and racehorse ownership isn’t always so rewarding.

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I did actually shape for a shout a while later. I met a man representing an absent owner, as it turned out for a second time after an accidental, brief encounter last May, which he remembered but I didn’t. Resplendent in red-framed specs and Fred Astaire patent leather shoes, to go with mutton chops and a ready ear-to-ear smile, he sailed through the day.

He stayed close to my small party – located in the owners and trainers – for much of the day and plucked up the courage to show us his off-course morning bet, to small stakes. I’ve no licence to reveal any details, but I can say the first four had won and he needed a fifth later on, at Kempton, to land the big one.

He joined in the Ryan Moore bonanza at Doncaster – the Racing Post said bookmakers reckoned the Lincoln narrow defeat of another Moore – Hannon horse saved them a £40 million payout. Considering his bet, I’m sure there would have been lots of happy participants. He asked me to calculate how he stood, and from where I stood, he stood pretty well indeed. Of course the real big one - he’d avoided the Lincoln - would happen if the last one collected.

Considering the potential optimum outcome, he watched the race as it unfolded with great calm, and once his horse, who led from the start, was caught in the last furlong, finishing third, there was no recrimination.

Unlike the time at the track a decade ago maybe when one late friend, a long-standing racegoer and useless race reader, pursued what he thought to be J P Magnier, after the then amateur rider got left and took no part on one of his father John’s bumper horses, a hot favourite trained by Nicky Henderson. A totally innocent fellow rider in the race got the full force of my pal’s torrid invective and high-tailed it into the weighing room and temporary safety.

This very interesting chap simply took his medicine and ordered a bottle of champagne, nice stuff, too. On hearing my location, he told us he’d lived in Hackney at one stage in his varied, colourful life, first working for a burger bar owner and then becoming owner of the business with six of the fast-food vehicles, having bought out his boss.

Soon after, though, the realities of ad hoc trading in the East End of the 70’s came home to roost. A gentleman approached him saying he needed insurance for his business. He disagreed, but when one of the vans was destroyed by fire, he wised up - and sold up - eventually becoming a successful antique dealer, a profession from which he is now retired.

I don’t suppose there’s any betting on the Irish Flat-racing apprentices’ title, but if there is, Anastasia O’Brien, my favourite name, even if she only ever uses the diminutive, is a certainty. The result of being comfortably lighter than her fellow apprentice brother Donnacha means she gets on many more of the team’s fillies in maiden races than him and is improving in just the way Josephine Gordon did over the past 18 months.

After an initial flurry with a couple of first day maiden wins, Aidan seems to be relying on the Naas racecourse session of (was it 90 horses?) the other day and home gallops rather than actual races to frame the Classic horses’ immediate steps, so we’ll only see Churchill in the 2,000 Guineas; and Caravaggio, who knows?

I’m still at the stage where the latest Horses in Training book has largely supplanted my usual staple of novels as required reading. If you’ve not got it, go up to Tindall’s in Newmarket High Street during the Craven meeting and have a lengthy browse at John Gosden’s page. To see how very few of his 2016 yearlings – those bought at auction – cost less than six figures helps explain why domestically, he does so well in all categories. His judgment and methodical tactical astuteness don’t hurt either.

Premier League football and footballers might be in a different world to those clubs and players lower down the scale, but the difference is no less stark than for the haves and have nots in racing. More than such trifles, though, the book reveals who’s coming forward, and who might be declining. It’s a perfectly legal way of nosing into trainers’ business.

Jacob’s Christmas Cracker

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Sat TV Trends: 7th Sept 2013


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Sat TV Trends: 30th Mar 2013


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A busy day this Saturday with nine LIVE C4 races at Doncaster, Haydock, Kempton and Musselburgh – Andy Newton’s got it all covered from a trends angle. Read more

Trainer Stats: 5th March 2013


Nicholls has his string in great form

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Stat of the Day, 4th March 2013

Stat of the Day: 04/03/13

Stat of the Day: 04/03/13

Stat of the Day, 4th March 2013

SotD provided me with another of those "bang your head in frustration" days yesterday. It was a classic case of right stat, wrong race, as Milan Royale (highlighted as decent value at 13/2) was a good 5/1 winner for Malcolm Jefferson, thanks to some excellent riding at the death by Harry Haynes. Unfortunately, I'd plumped for his other chaser Schinken Otto, who was disappointingly 6th, some 12 lengths off the pace.

I know (from the emails received!) a good few of you backed both horses (as I did) and made 5.5pts on the day, so well done to all who did, but the official tally will show another -1pt, I'm afraid.

We're heading South today for the day's last race: a 1m 3f, Class 6 handicap on the Polytrack, where 14 runners are set to contest the...

6.30 Kempton

Paul Burgoyne isn't exactly one of the best known trainers around, but he's currently getting a fine tune out of his runners here at Kempton.

We're just nine weeks into 2013 and Paul's runners here already won three times from eleven races with a further five runners making the places. The win strike rate of 27.3% has produced profits of 38.5pts (+350% POI), whilst E/W backers have enjoyed a 72.7% strike rate on their way to 54pts (+222.6%).

As is often the case for SotD, Paul has just one entrant today: Irene Kennet.

Irene Kennet is a 6yr old bay mare who has shown bags of  improvement over 1m4f here at this track (3112 in her four starts) since switching to handicap company and ran really well here last time out in her hat-trick bid. She was by no means disgraced that day, though, finishing 2nd by just half a length on Valentine's Day.

Her recent excellent form has, admittedly, resulted by a 4lb rise in the weights, but it is hoped that the slight drop (1f) back in trip to 1m 3f should counteract that extra burden and she still looks a type to improve further.

To some, the new trip and the extra weight will be of minor concern, but there does seem to be enough in the market (as of 10.20 am) for us to hedge our bets with a safety-first approach. I'm confident of her putting in another big run today, but the prudent call is a 0.5pts E/W bet on Irene Kennet at 7/1 BOG with Paddy Power, but you can always...

...Click here for the latest betting on the 6.30 Kempton

Stat of the Day, 28th February 2013

Stat of the Day: 28/02/13

Stat of the Day: 28/02/13

Stat of the Day, 28th February 2013

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and hindsight now suggests that yesterday's selection Alnoomaas was an excellent E/W bet at the advised 8/1. Unfortunately, partially down to a desire to make up a shortfall for the month and also due to my confidence in the pick, we'd gone win only on this one. The horse did indeed revert back to front running and led for most of the race, but was finally caught and passed by the flying favourite at the death. The end result: 2nd by a length!

SotD is staying put today for another Class 5 handicap, but this one has ten runners tackling seven furlongs for the...

7.00 Kempton

Today is another piece all about the horse, rather than the trainer or jockey. It's a horse who is very experienced with no less than 77 races under his belt over the last 7 years.

Ocean Legend is today's selection and whilst his form over the last few years leaves a little to be desired, there's every possibility that today's conditions will be just right for him. Since the turn of 2010, he has won six times from forty-two starts. This is a decent enough strike rate (14.3%) as a starting point, but level stakes losses of 3pts means that we need more reasons to back him today.

It then turns out that all six wins in that timeframe have come here at Kempton from 19 races (31.6% strike rate for +20pts) and all six were over today's course and distance. His record over C&D since the start of 2010 shows six wins and two places from sixteen races. This excellent 37.5% strike rate has generated profits of 23pts at SP (+143.75%) and E/W backers have collected on 50% of the races to the tune of 24.6pts.

Today's contest is a Class 5 event and Ocean Legend has won all four previous Class 5 C&D races since 2010, making 21pts in the process.

He seems to have been given a decent mark to work from today, as he drops back in Class. He had been running in Class 3 & 4 races, before taking a break over the winter. He reappeared here at Kempton for another Class 4 contest a fortnight ago and should be better for having that run under his belt. He is running off a mark of 73 today, he last won off 77 and he has actually won off a mark as high as 80, so if he's up for it today, he really does have every chance.

Just like yesterday, I believe that today's race is there to be won. And the early markets show our pick at 11/2 joint 2nd favourite alongside my friend's horse Avonmore Star. My call today is a 1pt win bet on Ocean Legend at 11/2 BOG with Bet 365 (same price is available with BetVictor and SkyBet, who are non-BOG though), but to take your own pick of the bookies...

...Click here for the latest betting on the 7.00 Kempton

The full racecard for today's race is right here, too.

Trainer Stats: 28th Feb 2012

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Stat of the Day, 27th February 2013

Stat of the Day: 27/02/13

Stat of the Day: 27/02/13

Stat of the Day, 27th February 2013

In what is becoming a boringly predictable tale of woe this month, we drew another blank yesterday. Carmela Maria finished the race as strongly as we'd have liked her to, but I can't help feeling that she came from way too far off the pace and despite closing in on the leading group with every stride, the line came too soon for her/us. The winner Everaard wasn't getting caught once the unfortunate Stop On broke down, but had our charge been made earlier, we really could have grabbed a place, yet it ended up as 5th place at 10/1 for us.

We're returning to the evening All-Weather scene today and a trip back South for a Class 5, 6 furlong handicap where eleven runners are set to go to post for the...

6.30 Kempton

If I'm brutally honest, Luke Dace's training record here at Kempton is fairly average. He has saddled just three winners here from thirty attempts in the last year, recording level stakes losses of 13pts at SP, whilst E/W backers have only seen a return on their money seven times on their way to a loss of over 25pts.

However, every cloud has a silver lining. All three winners were over today's course and distance by the same horse: Alnoomas. This horse has an overall record here at Kempton of 971116 for a profit of 11pts, with him remaining unbeaten at C&D.

Alnoomaas has adapted very well to the Polytrack surface away from a pretty nondescript 4 races on turf. He has since won on four of his last eight starts, the latest of this victories being a C&D win on 2nd January, beating Lastkingofscotland, who then went on to win his next race over C&D.

Our selection wasn't at this best last time out (5f race here a fortnight ago) when adopting a more patient approach to the race, but ended up having to run very wide. He finished some 7 lengths behind Picansort that day and the step back up to 6 furlongs seems the right move.

If the team return to their usual tactics of being towards the head of the pack, there's no reason why Alnoomas can't make it four from four over Course & Distance.

I'm expecting a good run in a race that's there to be won today and William Hill, BetVictor & Paddy Power are all offering 8/1 BOG about our selection, so it's a 1pt win bet on Alnoomas at 8/1 BOG. To take your pick of the bookies...

...Click here for the latest betting on the 6.30 Kempton

The full racecard for today's race is right here, too.

Stat of the Day, 23rd February 2013

Stat of the Day: 23/02/13

Stat of the Day: 23/02/13

Stat of the Day, 23rd February 2013

Another frustrating blank yesterday, as Frisco Depot seemed not to stay the trip and folded quite tamely late on. He still got home, albeit in 5th position. The money came for David Pipe's favourite and his horse justified the support winning quite comfortably.

It's another chase event today and we're off to the banks of the Thames (almost, anyway!) for one of the biggest races of the day. We're going to tackle the Class 1 Racing Plus Chase, a Grade 3 Handicap over 3 miles. The ground is expected to be Good (but softer in places) for the thirteen runners in today's...

3.50 Kempton

Tom George has a good record with his runners here at Kempton over the last couple of years: 15 runners, 4 winners (26.7%) for 10pts profit (+66.7% POI) with a further two runners making the frame. His chasers here have kept up their end of the bargain too with three winners from nine (+11pts) and a place strike rate of 56%.

Paddy Brennan is one of the top jockeys around this course during the same time-frame too, with stats of seven winners from twenty for good profits of 30pts at SP and a 45% place strike rate. His record when chasing here is four winners and a place from just 10 attempts: the 4 winners producing 20pts profit to boot.

Together, they have already made 34pts profit this season at various tracks, whilst in 2012 they teamed up six times here at Kempton with a record that reads 11F161 giving followers 18.5pts profit (21.4pts for the E/W backers), whilst their 2012 Kempton chase form was 1161 for 15.5pts (18.6pts E/W).

Paddy rides two chasers for Mr George today: Lexicon Lad looks to have a reasonable chance in the 1.30 race, but for a horse more likely to place than win, his current odds of around 9/2 are a little on the mean side for me with no E/W get out. Instead I'm more interested in the grey Nacarat running in the 3.50 race.

Nacarat is 1424351 over course & distance giving returns of 9.5pts for win backers and 12.75pts to E/W stakes, so this 12 yr old warrior has been profitable to follow here. He also loves this race, having finished in the first three home in each of the last four renewals.

He won the race in 2009, 2nd in 2010, 3rd in 2011 and he won it again last year, beating Hector's Choice (who subsequently went on to win at Cheltenham) by some eleven lengths. Nacarat arrives here just 1lb higher than that win last year and I expect another strong show from the front today.

Wyck Hill will be (quite rightly) strongly fancied today and his market support will help us get a decent price for our selection and the general consensus at 11am was that we're looking at an 8 to 9/1 shot, which seems quite fair to me ( I had 8/1 in my mind earlier) and so the call is a 0.5pts E/W bet on Nacarat at 9/1 BOG. I've gone with bet365 today, but for your preferred bookmaker...

...Click here for the latest betting on the 3.50 Kempton, whilst... can view today's racecard here.

***P.S. If you're not already on, Paddy Power are offering your money back if we finish second to Wyck Hill.***

Trainer Stats: 13th Feb 2013


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Stat of the Day, 6th February 2013

Stat of the Day: 06/02/13

Stat of the Day: 06/02/13

Stat of the Day, 6th February 2013

Another disappointment for us yesterday as Mazovian seemed to go off too hard in a bid to hit the front early on and eventually flattened out mid-race, trailing home ahead of only two others in a nine-runner race. The only bright spot was the fact that some of you got on at 16/1, some at 10/1 and the official line was 9/1, so we all managed to beat the market: SP was 7/1.

It's the late, late show today as we wait for the last race of the day. It's a Class 5, 6 furlong handicap on the Polytrack, as 12 runners are set to contest the...

8.05 Kempton

Garry Monk isn't often seen down at Kempton. In fact, he has only sent five runners in 2012/3, which is less than 10% of his 52 entrants in that time. He seems to have preferred the tracks at Lingfield and Wolverhampton, sending 24 of those 52 horses there.

His record here at Kempton in that time is pretty good and I'd expect him to continue that today. Despite only being represented five times, he has saddled up two winners at 11/2 and 7/2, as well as a 4/1 runner-up. It is admittedly a small sample size, but all those runs have occurred in the last 14 weeks, so Kempton seems to be a place he feels he can get a result from, if the race is carefully selected. The five races have made a small, but welcome 6pts profit for win bets and E/W backers have made 7.5pts. All very handy off a small number of bets.

As Garry's only run five horses here in 14 weeks, he's hardly likely to come here mob handed and today is no exception: just the runner for him this evening and that's the horse responsible for the 7/2 win I mentioned earlier, Lucky Mark.

Lucky Mark appreciated the drop back in trip to today's 6f when he dominated the field from start to finish over Course & Distance  last time out. He had Lady Prodee behind him when winning that day and despite a 5lb rise in the weights, he should confirm that form today.

I appreciate the extra weight will be a factor but any repeat of that last showing some thirteen days ago will give him a decent chance in his bid for a third win in six outings on Polytrack this winter. The fact that he has also won over 7f this winter should stand him in good stead too, when it comes to stamina in case he has to grind out a result.

That C&D win was his only race here at Kempton, so he defends an unbeaten record, I suppose and if things fall his way, he has every opportunity to extend that short sequence.

He might not have it all his own way and it will be interesting to see what happens if he can't control the race. That minor doubt allied to the rise in weights says that an E/W bet is a sensible option, so today's play is  a 0.5pts E/W bet on Lucky Mark at 13/2 BOG with William Hill (as of 10.10am), but you really should...

Click here for the latest betting on the 8.05 Kempton

Trainer Stats: 5th Feb 2013

Ron Harris

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