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Racing Insights, 24th February 2021

Yesterday's piece proved to be a veritable curate's egg : good/bad in places. I suggested that Totterdown would attempt and fail to make all and then not even make the frame, which is exactly what happened as he ended up fifth of seven finishers. My initial four against the field took three of the first four places, which is promising, but I didn't see the 17/2 Rockadenn winning, but he battled well to get up in the final strides to deny Pic D'Orhy.

Wednesday's 'feature of the day' is the excellent Trainer Statistics Report, whilst our full free racecards are for the following contests...

  • 1.45 Doncaster
  • 3.30 Doncaster
  • 4.45 Ludlow
  • 7.15 Kempton

And with heavy ground still prevalent in some places, let's head to South Shropshire for the 4.45 Ludlow, a 9-runner, Class 3, heavy ground, handicap hurdle over two miles. The winner will receive £5,913 for their troubles and will be one of these...

Based on the form shown above, I'd expect Robinshill to be very popular here (odds on possibly), but there could/should be scope for a decent priced E/W pick, which is what I'm looking for today, so let's look at each runner.

Nordic Combined carries top weight here, he's also top of the Geegeez ratings and has won over a similar trip to this on heavy ground less than a year ago. That however, was in a lower grade than today and is still his only win in 19 attempts over hurdles. He has made the frame seven times in total, but hasn't looked up to the task in recent runs and doesn't find much under pressure.

Ey Up Rocky was a winner last time out when scoring over 2m4.5f on good to soft ground at Newbury, Unfortunately, that was almost two years ago now and he's up in class and weight (+8lbs) and could be forgiven if needing a run. He won his only bumper start and has two runner-up finishes over this kind of trip since, but flopped on his only soft ground run. The lay-off, a rise in class/weight and the first time run on heavy should all be too much here.

Robinshill is more than useful in this sphere, a career record of 10 wins from 36 includes 6 wins from 25 over hurdles and he comes here seeking a hurdling hat-trick and a 4-timer overall. He won here over course and distance in a chase last time out and runs here 7lbs lower over hurdles. He's 4 from 8 here at Ludlow, has won on heavy, he's 9 from 21 at 2m/2m0.5f, 5 from 12 at Class 3 and 6 from 14 going right handed. He's the one to beat here.

Gerolamo Cardano is one from five over hurdles so far, winning a heavy ground Class 5 contest at Hereford over 2m1f on debut last January, which he followed up with a decent run in third in the Grade 2 Finesse at Cheltenham three weeks later. Sadly he hasn't kicked on from there, since finishing last of 6 (beaten by 36L) at Haydock at Class 2, then he was pulled up in the Grade 3 Fred Winter at last year's Cheltenham Festival. Ten months rest was then taken, but he struggled on his reappearance in the Lanzarote (Listed) at Kempton last month, finishing 15th of 20, some 46 lengths off the pace. Down to a mark of 124, he's probably still too high to get involved here, despite the drop in class.

Deniliquin also drops down in class here after finishing last of 7 (bt by 47L) at Hereford in December on his first outing for 2 years and 5 days. prior to that he was beaten by 24 lengths on his UK debut and despite him being 1 from 1 in France, he's not one I'd have much confidence in.

Eddiemaurice is an interesting one at 10 yrs old, as he now drops down to the same mark as his last win, which was on heavy ground at Newbury 13 months ago. He hasn't been overworked since then, running just four times and he has been rested for the past eight weeks or so. He's 5 from 32 over hurdles, has made the frame here at Ludlow, doesn't mind the mud and 2m is his preferred trip. Although most of his best form is at Class 4, he has won better races than this one in the past.

Star of Rory hasn't quite hit the heights of last season, which ended with him winning here at Ludlow on soft ground. He returned to action at Cheltenham in October after eight months off and ran creditably in a 10 length defeat, but fell at Warwick and was only third of six last time out. He's second on the Geegeez ratings, though and of his 3 from 14 hurdling record, he's 1 from 1 here, 3 from 7 on soft/heavy, 2 from 3 going right handed and 3 from 9 with his tongue tie.

Lisheen Castle is another who hasn't been seen often or for a while. It's actually 750 days since he last ran and this will be only his third start over hurdles. He did win on his hurdling debut just over two years ago and followed that up with a 5 length defeat a month later when up in class. He's up in class again here and has changed hands and although Emma Lavelle is great at getting her horses to perform in the mud, you have to worry about the boy's fitness after such a lay off.

Olympic Honour carries bottom weight here and is third on our ratings, but has been largely disappointing since wining at Fakenham back in December 2019, losing five times since. The middle run of that five race block was decent until he blundered the last hurdle when in contention, causing him to finish as runner-up, beaten by nearly 9 lengths. The run up to the mistake showed he does have ability but the other four recent runs have seen him beaten by 24, 18, 19 and 26 lengths and he now steps back up in class off a mark that sees him 2lbs worse off than LTO.

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There's not a great deal of quality in the above and it really shouldn't take much for the assumed fav to land it, but we do need to find the placers. Instant Expert might help us do that...

The only real blemish against Robinshill is his record on heavy ground. Nordic Combined catches the eye for 5 places over this trip and he's also made the frame in both heavy ground runs on the flat. Eddiemaurice has a red-free line of figures from a place perspective and Star of Rory is also interesting on heavy ground. Ey Up Rocky is up 8 lbs from his last win, which isn't helpful, whilst Eddiemaurice has now dropped to his last winning mark.

I've looked at the pace stats for similar contests and they suggest leading or racing prominently is the way forward here, which should also play into the hands of our favourite, a confirmed front runner...

...but it doesn't give us much assistance in sorting out the places. I suppose Deniliquin's best chance of making the frame might be to chase Robinshill for as long as he can and then hope to hold on as the pack eventually close in, much will therefore depend on how quickly the Twiston-Davies team want to go off. Of the remainder, Nordic Combined raced prominently in three races on the bounce prior to a hold up run last time out, which just happened to be his worst run for some time, so he might well be asked to step forward.

Summary

I think Robinshill wins this fairly comfortably, I'd expect him and his very able jockey to be able to pretty much choose the margin of victory. Deniliquin may well set off in pursuit, but I don't see him making the frame.

For an E/W or place only bet, I think I'm most interested in the likes of Nordic Combined if he steps forward like he has before last time out, Star of Rory based on his heavy ground form and Eddiemaurice now down in weight and his general showing on the place element of Instant Expert. I think all three have a good chance of making the frame and I'd probably have them in that order although they are much of a muchness.

Now, I take my first look at the market and Robinshill is predictably a short favourite at 6/5 with Hills (already odds on at Bet365!), whilst my three potential placers are 14/1, 14/1 and 10/1 respectively.

Racing Insights, 16th December 2020

As expected, Maaward was the worst in his race and having drifted from an already unbackable 40/1 out to an SP of 100/1, you din't need my help in giving that one a swerve. Which left us with the in-form Athmad, who ended up finishing third at 10/3. He was unusually slowly away and a little unlucky in the run, but whether that cost him a length and a half, we can only speculate.

Bet365 took my money, so I need to try and get it back on Wednesday, where our feature of the day is the Trainer Stats report, whilst our free races are as follows...

  • 1.45 Newbury
  • 2.20 Newbury
  • 2.40 Dundalk
  • 5.15 Dundalk
  • 7.05 Kempton

And it's the Trainer Stats report for us today and a well known name with a good five year course handicap record...

Yes, Paul Nicholls is the man in focus today. He admittedly does well at most tracks but tends not to be profitable to back blindly, yet at Industry SP (which nobody backs at), he still shows a 10.75% ROI from 32 runners in handicaps here at Ludlow over the last five years.

Now, call me a coward, a sexist or a sexist coward for not tackling the 3.05 race, but I'm really not into female amateur jockey handicaps featuring a dozen or more poor horses, so we'll focus on the two to be ridden by a friend of Geegeez, Mr Harry Cobden.

Harry also has a good record here at Ludlow as signified by his own C5 indicator and since the start of 2017, he is 12 from 45 (26.7% SR) in jumps contests here, including...

  • 10/28 (35.7%) for Paul Nicholls
  • 7/22 (31.8%) in chases
  • 5/23 (21.7%) over hurdles
  • 7/14 (50%) on Nicholls' chasers
  • and 3/14 (21.4%) on Nicholls' hurdlers.

All looking very promising, but as it's the Trainer Stats report we're looking at, we should also consider Paul Nicholls' record at this venue too!

Since the start of 2015, Paul has sent 3566 runners out to compete, with 820 (23% SR) of them winning, but for some reason only 2% of his runners have been sent on the relatively short 110 mile journey North to Ludlow and it's not because they don't win here, as that 2% of runners generate 2.56% of his winners and his strike rate is one third better here than generally at 31% via 21 winners from 72 runners.

Of those 72, chasers are 11 from 34 (32.4%) and hurdlers are 10 from 33 (30.3%) and as both runners in focus today are chasers, it miht be handy to know that the 11/34 chasers stat includes...

  • 8/26 (30.8%) at Class 3 and 1/1 (100%) at Class 2
  • 5/17 (29.4%) over 3m and 2/3 (66.6%) over 2m
  • and 3 from 8 (37.5%) on soft ground.

So far, I've not seen anything to deter me,so let's look at the two runners in time order...

Form figures look good, closed out last season with finishes of 126 in Class 4 Novice hurdles and then took 237 days off track ahead of a run here at Ludlow in October when winning a Novice handicap Chase over 2m0.5f by 8.5 lengths under Harry Cobden. Five weeks later (19 days ago) he then tried to repeat the run at the same class and trip and Newbury but was only second of eight, beaten by four lengths, having been raised 3lbs.

He's now up in class again and up another couple of pounds which should make this a stiffer task, but his suitability is shown below...

In addition to the above, I'd add that he has 3 wins and 2 places from 7 runs going right handed and has 2 wins and 3 places from 8 under Harry Cobden. He runs off a career high mark today and the soft ground might be an issue, but can he compensate for tough conditions by adopting a useful position in the pack? The pace tab might have some pointers...

Hmmm, ideally he'd want Molineaux to take it on and tow him round for a mile and three quarters and then hopefully swallow the leader up late on. However, there's a distinct possibility of them taking each other on, making them both vulnerable to something coming out of the pack.

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Now let's look at his stablemate, who goes in the next race...

He won a 2m0.5f, Class 3 Novice Chase at Fakenham 22 months, but has been disappointing since if you only looked at his form figures of 35U28P8 since that win. I know, however, that Geegeez readers are a good deal more savvy than the average punter and you'll want to know the context of those runs, as they're not a true indicator of his actual ability.

In fact they contain a runner-up finish (beaten by a neck) in the Grade 3 BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase at HQ just 13 months ago and also a third place run when beaten by just four lengths in the Grade 3 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year. Sadly, he hasn't yet been at his best this season and was Pulled Up in a Grade 3 at HQ a month ago and was just 8th of 16 in a Class 2 over 2m6.5f at Newbury 18 days ago.

He's now down in class and weight, but up in trip by 1.5 furlongs as he seeks a return to form, although he's still 3lbs higher than his last winning mark, as seen below...

He has 3 wins and a place from 6 in the less valuable Class 3 contests and he's 1 from 2 under Harry Cobden, but that soft ground form is alarming and the fact that he was 3rd of 3 and beaten by 56 lengths on his only previous run beyond 2m6.5f isn't great either and as for the pace in the contest...

... a mid-division "pozzy" is neither here nor there to be honest. You want to be up amongst it in races like these and a look back through his better performances show that he's much better suited by being further forward than he has been of late and I wouldn't be surprised to see a reversion of tactics here. Something needs changing, after all!

Summary

Both of the Nicholls' chasers here have undoubted ability, but both carry warnings about them. Eritage couldn't win a Class 3 off 136 last time out, but now tackles a Class 2 off 138 and Brelan D'As has been ridden in a way that doesn't suit him of late and he's being asked to run further than any distance he's ever gone well at. Plus both are winless in 10 soft ground appearances between them.

But can they win here? Yes, I think both can, if running to their best.

Will they win, though? Well, I don't see Brelan D'As winning if I'm honest. I think the market has it right and that the race will go to one of Buster Thomas (4/1) or Earlofthecotswolds (5/2), preferably in that order. However, if on form and ridden differently, our boy could grab a place. Failing that, there's ll be a chance for a decent-priced E/W punt here and I quite like the O'Neill horse, As You Like at 20/1.

As for Eritage, despite my reservations, I think he's still just about the best in this race, but I'm not sure he's a 2/1 shot especially in a race where many have chances. Cain du Lain looks like one of those who might profit on the pace angle and he's 2lbs lower than when winning this race last year, whilst I like the chances of both Hatcher at 6/1 and Admiral's Secret at 7/1 to give the fav a good run for his money.

This is a really competitive race and whoever wins it will have earned it!