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Monday Mish Mash: Get Ready For The Fez 2014!

It's almost time for the Cheltenham Festival 2014. Almost. And in the midst of the marketing melee it pays to keep a clear(ish) head.

In today's post, I'll outline what geegeez will be doing to support your Cheltenham success; and also what you can do to get the best from it. Below, I'll be covering more new stuff on the racecards; more previews; and, bookie silly season.

First, if you're not already a Gold subscriber, then we've added one more reason to give it a whirl. Actually, there's (sort of) three more reasons. Let me explain...

As mentioned last week, Stat of the Day and the Race Analysis Reports are now inside the premium area. It's my opinion that each of these is comfortably worth the £12 a month subscription fee alone. When added together, along with the growing number of other components of that Gold sub, I feel it's exceptional value.

To remind you, we already had overview horse, trainer, profile and head to head reports. We also already had unique pace analysis not available on any other popular racecards; and, a horse/trainer/jockey search and tracker tool.

And last week we added inline trainer and jockey form on the main cards; head to head information; expert comments; and, breeding summaries. We also added a simple icon bar to the top of the card which enables users to open/close all instances of that icon on the page.

For instance, if you want to read the comments, click the speech bubble at the top and all comments will open. Click it again to close. Nice!

And today I'm pleased to introduce the five day view, showing the declarations as they come in for the next five days. Do note that this is 'work in progress'. I really wanted to get this future view online ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, but there was a problem because my web developer is away skiing this week!

So, he built the web 'front end' code before the database 'back end' code was in place, and we 'hoped' they would line up. Luckily, in the main, they have. I guess it's a bit like when they drilled the Channel Tunnel from both ends, and hoped they'd meet in the middle. Sort of...!

The fully featured Geegeez Racecards

The fully featured Geegeez Racecards

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Your first 30 days for just £1

As well as the racecards, you'll get Stat of the Day, free systems and trainer stable tours on the Gold page, and plenty more besides. We're always looking for ways to add more value to the package, so if you've any suggestions, do leave a comment below.

If you're not yet a Gold subscriber, you can trial it for 17 days for free, and if you'd like to continue your subscription, it's 40p per day.

If you currently have a free subscription, you can upgrade here.

If you're not currently subscribed at all, you can register here.

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More on the Cheltenham Festival now, and I'm trying to preview as many big races as I can before the tapes rise on the first day. So far, I've covered the Ryanair, the Champion Chase, the Arkle, the Cross Country Chase, the RSA Chase, and yesterday I added the World Hurdle.

You can view them all, plus other related Cheltenham content, on geegez' special Cheltenham Festival page.

I'll be adding more previews every day this week, and won't necessarily be able to email you each time to notify you. So, either check back to http://www.geegeez.co.uk/cheltenham-festival/ regularly, or follow @geegeez_uk on twitter.

If you're not on twitter because you don't like that sort of thing, you can simply use it as a sort of online diary, to be notified of things of interest as they happen. All geegeez posts, including Stat of the Day, Double Dutch and The Shortlist, are immediately flagged on twitter thanks to a clever auto-publish-thingummyjig gromit.

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As well as the previews, I've started to pull together a 'Best Bookie Offers' page for the Festival. We all know that bookmakers are half-killing themselves to get us to bet with them during Cheltenham. And some of the offers and concessions they dream up present excellent opportunities for punters.

I'll try to flag the best of them as I become aware of them, so again, this is a page you might want to bookmark and check back on regularly. Here's the skeleton 'Best Cheltenham Festival Bookie Offers' page.

The top two at the moment are both from Paddy: new customers can get 12/1 on Quevega (currently 8/11) to win the Mares' Hurdle in a double with Sire de Grugy (currently 2/1) to win the Champion Chase. The actual double odds are a little over 4/1, so 12/1 is clearly a very strong offer. That one is for new customers only, and you can view it here.

If, like me and many others, you already have a Paddy account, you can still profit from the 'money back if your horse finishing 2nd, 3rd, or 4th in the Supreme Hurdle' offer. This is a cracking concession, and it gives you the standard one chance to win, but couples it with three opportunities to get your cash back.

For sure, the Supreme is a competitive race - as ever - but getting three 'draw no bet' places behind the win slot is a lot of power to the punter's elbow. I haven't been through the Supreme form yet, but when I have, I WILL be using the Paddy offer. It's plain daft not to!

Here's that Best Cheltenham Bookie Offers link again - remember, I'll be updating it as often as I get new information which we can hopefully all benefit from.

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The previews come thick and fast this week, with Champion Hurdle and Mares' Hurdle today; Supreme Novices' Hurdle and Foxhunters' Chase tomorrow; and the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Wednesday.

I'm hoping to get the Neptune and Albert Bartlett completed on Thursday, and the JLT Novices' Chase on Friday. The Triumph Hurdle will be sorted on Saturday most likely, which will 'just' leave the handicaps.

It's my intention this year not to focus too much on the handicaps. I've found through great cost and bitter experience that I lose plenty on these races - Cross Country Chase aside - and I intend to 'penny play' them this year. I do have a couple of angles for them, which I'll be sharing, but if you want to bet on these you'd be better off  making your own picks, or signing up to something like the Cleeve Racing Festival package.

All my previews can be seen on the Cheltenham Festival page.

Monday Mish Mash: Horses and Betting

Slipper Satin

Slipper Satin

It's been a funny old weekend, what with one thing and another. As regular readers will know, I'm lucky enough to own bits of a few horses, and one of them had turned out to be a potential (and unlikely) star. We learned a lot more about her this weekend. Another of the 'team' runs today, and my thoughts on his chance are below.

Also, it was a fair weekend on the punting front, thanks to a familiar friend. Plus I've got updates on a couple of other hardy perennials too.

But let's start with the horses.

Slipper Satin was a very cheap buy, at around £3,500, and her job at time of purchase was to provide us with a bit of fun and maybe win a race on the all weather. On her debut for Noel Quinlan, she'd run a good third in a juvenile hurdle on heavy ground. Then, on the sandy level, she'd disappointed twice from two tries, which left us thinking she was not going to be any good.

But, somewhat out of the blue, she fair bolted up in a Fakenham maiden hurdle, again on heavy ground. The merit of the race was almost impossible to quantify, with the three main ratings agencies significantly differing in their scores. The official handicapper had her as 129, a very high figure; Racing Post rated her at 119, a high figure; and Timeform had her at just 97p (potential to improve), a low figure.

The fact that she had a 129 official rating meant that we were dreaming of a run in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham, for which 125 would normally be enough. The problem was, after two hurdle runs, Slipper Satin needed one more completed start to qualify for that race.

So we took her to Wetherby for what looked a two horse race between us and Aurore d'Estruval, an expensive French acquisition trained by John Quinn. Slipper slipped and unshipped poor Jack Quinlan at the first there, so we learned nothing new and we were still not qualified.

Then the weather intervened. A raft of entries was made for Slipper, but first Plumpton and then Fontwell - our two preferred engagements - fell to the weather. So it was that we were left with Haydock's prestigious (and competitive) Victor Ludorum Hurdle, or Market Rasen's not prestigious but still competitive Class 3 novice hurdle.

We plumped for the latter but, incredibly, the ground dried out to good to soft, soft in places. Alas, Slipper Satin's lack of speed was brutally exposed by some very promising types on that quicker sod. In a bog, she'd have galloped on relentlessly and gone close to winning. That's the key to her: she's a very genuine plodder, with limited gears.

We were beaten plenty far enough in the end - 26 lengths - and it will be very interesting to see what the handicapper makes of the run. If he drops her more than four pounds, the Cheltenham dream is over most likely. If he doesn't, the bubble will be a good bit smaller as opposed to being burst. We'll know on Wednesday, I believe.

Whatever the handicapper makes of it, she's given us a tremendous run for our money and, as well as winning a race, she picked up a bit more prize money yesterday, and will be good to run well wherever the mud is flying.

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Today at Wolverhampton, another small interest of mine and Councillor Jim's (and Charlie too) runs in a maiden at 3.45. It's a weak-looking race, though there are a couple of 'springers' in the market, so it's hard to know what to make of it. I'd be pretty hopeful that Vastly will make the frame, and that's how I've bet. He promised to be a good horse in the early part of his career, but it's just not gone quite as we thought since, and we'll have to see how things progress. Hope trumps expectation always in this game, and today is a classic example. Fingers crossed.

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On the betting front, it was an excellent weekend. Saturday was frustrating, as my main focus was on the Haydock Grand National Trial. In my preview, I'd narrowed the field to Wychwoods Brook and Emperor's Choice. On The Shortlist, the horse which stood out was Rigadin de Beauchene. I backed the first two, but not The Shortlist horse. Of course, that one won - at 16/1 - with Emperor's Choice coming in a very well backed second.

Wychwoods, my main bet, fell late on and looked as though he didn't see the trip out, which was the main question mark over his head. His jockey, Conor Ring, was banned for ten days for persisting with a horse clearly exhausted and, without wishing to chastise the inexperienced rider too much, it was a good call from the stewards. The horse, knackered after giving its all, didn't deserve such a crumpling tumble for its travails.

Sunday was better. I had taken the view that my investment in Slipper Satin was sufficient not to back her and, anyway, I thought she represented zero value. Of the rest, I didn't like the resolution of Certification, the morning line favourite; and I felt Lord Of Scotland had lumps of weight against promising types. So it was a pretty straightforward call to side with Kilcooley, and I managed to swipe £30 at 10/3. You may know that he hosed up in the manner of a very promising horse.

Incidentally, he was - I'm told - bandaged up for the run (I didn't spot it when watching the race), so he's clearly fairly fragile. He's also not entered at Cheltenham. But if he makes it to Aintree, a similarly flat track albeit left-handed, for a novice event he'd be of some interest. Keep Kilcooley onside.

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My only other bet was a limpy Pick 6 over in Ireland. Again, regular readers will know that I'm a big fan of this bet. The key differences compared with the UK jackpot bet are 1) there are almost always a couple of straightforward bankers which generally come in, and 2) the shallowness of the pool and the frequency of rollover money in it mean that it's a bet which presents standout value.

I spent €56 (about £45) across five tickets. The results were as follows:

Leg 1: 2/1 FAV
Leg 2: 11/4 2nd FAV
Leg 3: 4/5 FAV
Leg 4: 5/4 FAV
Leg 5: 4/6 FAV
Leg 6: 10/3 FAV

As you can see, it was a really hard bet to land (ahem) and, if this was the UK jackpot, it would have paid around £200 for a similar sized pool, I'd guess. The SP accumulator came to €328.81. The Pick 6 dividend was €619.20, roughly three times my estimate of the UK version and almost double the SP return. I had it twice.

Another Pick 6 win!

Another Pick 6 win!

 

You might consider that a somewhat gloaty piece about which to write, but if you do, you're missing the point. So let me labour it (again!) for you:

THE QUEST FOR VALUE IS AS MUCH ABOUT KNOWING WHERE TO LOOK AS IT IS ABOUT BEING 'CLEVER' WITH YOUR PICKS.

There, I've said it. I mean, sure, I use my nifty ticket builder tool to stake the bet optimally. But come on, five favourites, three of them 5/4 or shorter, and a second fav. It's hardly the Scoop 6 is it?!

Where else does value lie? Well, I'm going to be offering a lot more on this in the next couple of months. But, suffice it to say that there are two main hidey holes for value:

1. Market

2. Form

Market value is exemplified in the above Pick 6: when there is free money in the pool - yesterday's pool had €21,000 carried forward from previous days when the bet was not won - the value pendulum often swings in our favour.

Another example is tomorrow, when bet365 are doing their 'in play special' offer on the football. That's basically them giving punters £30 to £35 free money. I'll show you how/why tomorrow. But it's another example of when the betting market is in the punters' favour.

If you're familiar with a product called All By The Book, that's another example of systematically exploiting market value.

If you're not, then you are surely familiar with Best Odds Guaranteed bookmakers. If you're a form bettor, and you don't bet best price with a BOG bookie, you are passing up the best possible opportunity of consistently making money from betting on horses. (And please, don't complain when bookies shut you down or restrict you: the BOG concession is the greatest innovation for punters... ever! Better even than Betfair).

OK, so that's that.

Another means of systematically exploiting the markets is to trade them. This is what my man Steve does superbly, and he is (and I am) looking forward to meeting his new group of Going Pro traders next Sunday in Manchester. There is still one space left, so if you want to start taking your betting seriously, and get smarter about how you bet, then click here. If the page is closed, the space has been taken.

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February's Tipping League competition is in full swing and, as ever, there have been some excellent performances. But with twelve days in the month still to go, there's plenty of time for new and existing players to get into the coveted top three money positions. To remind you, the winner receives £120 in free bets, the second collects £80 and the third £40.

You do need to have a bet365 account, and placed £20 in bets with bet365 in the month to qualify for the prizes. And, as they're Best Odds Guaranteed on all races, offer a whole raft of concessions, and are going to give us some free money tomorrow, you really ought to have an account with them anyway!

Click here to make your selections in the February Tipping League competition.

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If you're reading this and you still haven't registered as a member of geegeez, you're missing a LOT. Not only the tipping league, but also the awesome racecards, and the superb free tips. Chris (chief tipster) and I are really proud of our free tipping services, Stat of the Day and Double Dutch.

Stat of the Dutch started in November 2011 and, in the last two and a bit years, has recorded 158 points profit, from one bet per day.

Double Dutch is a much newer innovation, and has landed 52 winning doubles in 143 days, for a profit of 32 points.

There's no clever staking or anything like that. It's just one point win at BOG prices for Stat of the Day, and 4 x 0.5 point BOG doubles on Double Dutch.

We like to keep it simple here. 🙂

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That's all for today. But what else is coming this week? Well, as I say, I'll have that free money post for you tomorrow. Then, later in the week, we'll be looking at another Cheltenham race, maybe two.

So far, I advised Al Ferof at 6/1 non-runner no bet in the Ryanair. He's now a 5/1 chance with the NRNB concession. I also suggested Menorah as an interesting outsider in the race at 20/1 with BetVictor (non-runner free bet). He's now a top price of 16/1 and 14/1 with Victor.

Then, in the Arkle, my top fancy is Trifolium. He's still available at 6/1 non-runner free bet with BetVictor, and I still think it's a great play.

This week I'm going to be looking at one of my favourite races, the Cross Country Handicap Chase, and another of the Championship events. So stay tuned for that!

Matt

p.s. how was your punting weekend? Leave a comment and tell us about any triumphs or disasters on that front...

Monday Mish Mash 20th August 2012

Reckless Abandon wins again

Reckless Abandon wins again

It was a terrific weekend for British racing, albeit not in Britain; and it promises to be a terrific week for British racing here on home shores too.

Also today, I've the opening position from this year's Geegeez Fantasy Football League, and a word on what I was up to at the weekend...

Let's start with the racing action just passed, and wonderful performances from old friends and new, women and children first.

The child in this context is Clive Cox's unbeaten juvenile, Reckless Abandon, who did us a turn at Ascot when winning the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes and has since added two fat Gallic pots to his treasure chest, in the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin and, last weekend, the Group 1 Prix Morny. He's a funny bugger is Reckless Abandon.

You may recall him winning at Ascot (and indeed on debut at Doncaster) despite jinking late and in pronounced manner. Well, he did that again at Maison-Lafitte when winning the Papin but, in his stiffest test thus far, he ran straight down the rail to his left and led from trap to line. In behind were a couple of O'Brien beasts, and the Hannon hoss he'd seen off in the Papin (Sir Prancealot), who was beaten about the same again.

Given that Reckless led from the start, and placed horses all came from off the pace, it's difficult to get a robust handle on the merit of the form. What isn't in question is that a) the winner is very good and progressive; b) the second may have more scope for improvement, especially - with an eye to the Guineas - at a mile; and, c) the French, whose first home was only sixth behind British and Irish runners, may not have too much depth in their juvenile rank this term.

When a horse shows as much natural speed as Reckless Abandon does, it's quite difficult to see him lasting out a mile, even next year. He's bred for seven furlongs most likely, but I'd be tempted to have a dig at one of  the late season all age sprints - perhaps the Abbaye itself, over a flying five - as he's clearly very fast and would get a ton of weight (ok, not a ton, but the best part of a stone).

Cox had a good'un a couple of years ago in Xtension (sold to race in Hong Kong and subsequently worth a million in prizes, to quote Iggy Pop) and, whilst that one had a bit more stamina, this one could achieve more on this isle than Xtension's domestic PB of third in the Dewhurst and fourth in the 2000 Guineas.

[Incidentally, Cox is a stable in cracking form just now, as evidenced not only by Reckless Abandon's win, but also by that of 25/1 team mate, Lethal Force in the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes at Newbury].

Onwards, to a superb race mare now in her fourth season of racing. Snow Fairy is the timeless chick, and she came back as hot as ever in the Group 1 Prix Jean Romanet, where she saw off Izzi Top et al by three-quarters of a length and more. It was a decent enough renewal with Galikova (won last year's Group 1 Prix Vermeille) and Giofra (winner of the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes last time) in behind.

Snow Fairy, who has now won six Group 1 races, three of them in Asia at the end of the year, will surely be heading to the Orient once more, and those juicy prizes. She's amassed pushing four million in prize money, and will topple that landmark four million figure if she stays fit.

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She's a real flag bearer for Ed Dunlop who, alongside Sir Henry, is developing a reputation as one of the best trainers of fillies and mares in the world. (Think Ouija Board, Lailani, and all the way back to Ta Rib in the 1996 French 1000 Guineas).

Concluding the 'women and children first' section, and jumping back to Saturday night UK time, Arlington's Beverley D Stakes, a Grade 1 for fillies and mares, was won by David Simcock's I'm A Dreamer, ridden by Hayley Turner. While there's little doubt she got the run of the race, she does have form in North America, after a silver medal last term in the EP Taylor, a Grade 1 in Woodbine, Canada.

The winner of this race gets an entry to the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and that's a logical place for I'm A Dreamer to target. On the same Arlington card was the American St Leger, won by Marco Botti's Italian 'hand-me-down', Jakkalberry. I backed this horse last time at Ascot in the Hardwicke, in which I thought he was nailed on for a place, but he only finished fifth behind Sea Moon there.

This day, he fair bolted up, beating the best of the US squad by more than two lengths, with more than another six back the third placed horse, Johnny G's Zuider Zee. Whilst a tilt at the BC Marathon would appear to offer a penalty kick scenario, connections are plotting a more precarious course to Antipodean waters, and the Melbourne Cup, run in the same week as the Breeders Cup.

Adding a third European victory on the night in Arlington, and a second Grade 1 (the American St Leger is an ungraded conditions race currently), was Alain de Royer-Dupre's Bayrir, who bagged the Secretariat Stakes. Bayrir was having only his fifth career start, all of them as a three year old, and the obviously progressive son of Medicean is now working towards a crack at the Breeders Cup Turf, probably via a break and a prep run on Arc weekend.

Although Bayrir may not be bred for a true run mile and a half, the BC Turf is very rarely truly run (due to tight turns making it difficult to attain and maintain peak speed, and also the lack of true twelve furlong horses in US), so he's every chance of stalking and pouncing there.

And, rounding out the British interest in the global racing at the weekend, 'Filthy' Luca Cumani just failed to make it a Grade 1 clean sweep for Europe at Arlington Park, when his Afsare went down narrowly in the Arlington Million.

Basically, the race was stolen from the front by the lone pace, Little Mike, who got out, was unhassled and stayed out. Afsare finished best, and perhaps if Fallon had made more use of him he might have won. But this was still a decent effort in difficult race conditions.

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This week is all about York and, after something of a summer holiday for top class turf action in UK, the Ebor meeting brings it back with a bang.

Four days of tip top racing kick off with Wednesday's Juddmonte International, and a certain wonder beast. Yes, Frankel will finally step up to ten furlongs here at the thirteenth time of asking.

Given the way he finishes his races; and his level of talent and improved temperament; and the fact that he's a son of crack middle distance horse, Galileo; in my view, he's an absolute shoo in to be at least almost as good at ten as eight furlongs. And, whilst you would have to have a lot of sevens to be piling in to buy some ones (Frankel is a best priced 1/7 currently), 14% tax free has its attraction when sat next to bank interest rates for savers...

I'll be offering thoughts on the racing throughout the week, starting with a piece tomorrow on what to look out for at the track, in terms of course constitution, draw, trainers and so on; and then it's previews, tips and trends for the rest of the week. So do stay tuned for that!

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Now then, there's a fair chance it didn't escape your attention that this weekend saw the start of the Premier League football season. Naturally enough, therefore, it also saw the commencement of our very own Fantasy Football League.

And I'm pleased to report we had a new record number of entries, as 248 of us will battle it out for kudos aplenty and prizes a few. 🙂

Nothing to report in terms of progress at this stage, as it truly is a marathon not a sprint, but keep your dial at geegeez fm for occasional updates on the movers and shakers.

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 And finally, how was your weekend? What did you get up to? Enjoying the sunshine? Taking in some sport?

Me? I was in a very hot classroom for two days of ante natal training. This baby thing was blissfully ethereal, distant even, despite the impending due date, until the weekend past.

Now, I know in graphic detail the extremes that poor Mrs Matt will endure to ensure the legacy of Geegeez is well taken care of! Actually, as well as being mildly terrifying, it was interesting and I certainly learned a heck of a lot. Being able to recall important factoids in the heat of the moment is, of course, another matter entirely.

For now, then, I'll bury my head back in the sand - or the form book at least - as I get to grips with York's fiendish punting puzzles. (Plenty) more as the week rolls on.

Matt

Monday Mish Mash

It's Monday again, so time for another round up of what's been and what's coming. We've just seen the Newmarket July meeting run on a rare swampy strip at Summer HQ; and all roads lead to Ascot, via Beverley, this week. Read on for the full lowdown...

We start at Newmarket's glorious July racecourse, and it's equally glorious July Cup. Indeed, all but the weather (and, depending on how you wagered, the results) was glorious.

For me personally, it was a great meeting. A nice few quid ahead on day one, courtesy of Alhebayeb and especially Stature, I was lucky enough to get to the track for Friday's card, which featured the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes for fillies over a mile.

I fancied Golden Lilac strongly, though she wasn't a punting proposition at a shade of odds on. That's how the wagering gods smiled upon me this week as, though my placepot went down on that leg, I was able to lay Lilac for a place to cover the outlay (plus a little bit).

I also backed Giofra for a place for £20. This bet was struck around about five minutes before the off, and the tote board was showing a pleasing 4.20 for the place. Marvellous, I thought, as Giofra battled gamely up the far rail to fend off all comers at industry odds of 10/1.

And then came the usual tote place kick in the fleshies, as the place dividend was declared at 1.70. Of course, I'd forgotten that the final dividend also includes the money wagered across La Manche by our Gallic cousins, who bet directly into the tote pools for big meetings.

If you fancy a French horse, it's well worth bearing this in mind in future. It was a stupid oversight on my part, and the lesson is there for all.

Aside from that, Friday was about a nasty touch of seconditis, as Place In My Heart (10/1), Improvisation (7/1) and Ruwaiyan (9/1) all filled the silver medal berth for my commercial systems. Alas, that means a number of readers will share my pain on that score. We've had more than our share of seconds just recently, and of course that's the way it goes sometimes.

To Saturday, and a late lunge into the placepot pool for yours truly, who had been caught up on business mentoring duty in the morning. My perm, which ran to £90 or so, majored on soft ground horses, and those who had won at the distance/in the grade.

No particular rocket science there. But Fire Ship (beaten a nose at 10/1) started the ball rolling for my biggest placepot return to date. He was followed home by Olympic Glory (1st, 6/4 fav); Bonnie Brae (1st, 13/2) and Captain Ramius (3rd, 20/1); Society Rock (banker, 3rd, 7/2 fav); Hasopop (1st, 7/2); and (Senafe 1st, 8/1) and Oasis Cannes (2nd 7/2).

My ABCX approach, which I've discussed on this post called 'How To Win The Tote Placepot', gave me 1.2 units of the dividend. For one unit, the dividend returned £2,609, meaning my 120% of that equated to £3,130.80 !

Now, I should add that after Society Rock made the frame in race four, I took steps to insure the remaining legs  of the bet and guarantee at least a thousand pound return. That insurance cost me around £190, meaning my profit was 'only' about £2850. 🙂

I know that for many a £90 perm is out of reach, but my minimum stake per line was 20p. Making this bet in the bookies, you could stake a minimum of 5p, meaning a total outlay of £22.50. Still a fair few quid, but certainly more affordable... More so when that £22.50 outlay could have returned £782.70.

There are all sorts of nuances to playing placepots, and indeed other tote bets, and I'm planning on writing something around all of it in due course. In fact, I've had the domain name, totepooldomination.com, for ages!

I do have a fair amount on my plate just now, with a couple of projects in the pipeline and, more importantly, the impending birth of my first child in September (gulp), so it may not happen until towards the end of the year. But I hope some people will find it of significant interest.

Actually, while we're on the subject, would you take two seconds to answer my latest poll question please?

[poll id="44"]

Thanks!

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Onwards, and Sunday saw jumping action return, and a hat-trick bid for Stat of the Day after winners at 12/1 and 3/1. Passato was the beast carrying the SotD burden, and he lugged it with aplomb to prevail gamely from the stubborn rally of Dean's Grange. Passato was advised at 7/2 and won at 9/4.

Even more fun was the 3.20 Stratford. I have a friend called James Hadden, who is married to a lovely Slovak lady called Zora. Her name, since they wed, is of course Zora Hadden. How bizarre then to see a horse called Tzora in the 3.20, ridden by Hadden Frost!!

Even more incredible was that it won! At 33/1!!!

And even more incredible still was that my man, Ray, who provides the selections for Placed To Win, nominated the horse for those lucky enough to have been in the first 150 to get their names down for that service.

For those who missed the break there, I can tell you that a few guys have cancelled their membership so far (no service is right for everyone, even when it picks out winners at 46 on Betfair!), so there may be an opportunity for a handful of people to get in on this in a fortnight or so's time.

If your name is on the Placed to Win waiting list, you'll get first refusal (and thank you for your patience). If your name isn't on that list, you can add it here: www.PlacedtoWin.co.uk

In the interests of fairness, if/when I do re-open to the waiting list, I will give you at least 24 hours notice that this is happening.

Finally from the weekend, the Geegeez Fantasy Racing league is still in there pitching for the coveted League of Super Leagues title. At the moment, we're lying second, with quite a big gap back to third. Alas, there is also quite a big gap opening up between us and the leaders, those pesky folks at olbg!

Here's a picture of the top of the table.

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Onwards, and to this week. The weekend sees top class action at Ascot, as they host their three day July meeting, headlined by the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

It promises to be a cracker, despite the continued doubt surrounding the participation of gallant Eclipse winner, Nathaniel. With or without him, the line up will include St Nicholas Abbey, globe-trotting flag-bearer for Ballydoyle; Deep Brillante, winner of the Japanese Derby;  and, Sea Moon, improving last time out winner of the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Possibles include the Arc-winning mare, Danedream; Melbourne Cup winner, Dunaden (who was unlucky behind Sea Moon last time); super-game Red Cadeaux; Arc second, Shareta; St Leger winner, Masked Marvel; and, Dubai World Cup winner, Monterosso.

Phew!

If even half of those lads and lasses show up, the King George promises to be well up to standard.

Actually, the King George of 1997 is one of my favourite races of all time. This is principally because it was won by one of my favourite horses of all time, Swain, at odds of 16/1 (much bigger available that morning!)

If you've been following racing for any length of time, the below video will be a familiar roll call of tip top middle distance bosses. But they were all bossed this soggy day by my boy (I wish!), Swain...

But, before Ascot, we have the small matter of Beverley tomorrow (Tuesday).

Now, it's fair to say that Beverley wouldn't normally feature on my list of meetings to cover here on geegeez, but tomorrow's card is no ordinary card. Oh no. My mate and former student, Tony Mac, of Irish Big Race Trends fame, is sponsoring a race.

Indeed, the 3.30 contest, the irishbigracetrends.com Handicap, looks a competitive affair. I shall be there with Tony to help him celebrate his sponsorship, and I imagine we might have a glass or two of something faintly alcoholic.

As such, I'll not be around Tuesday or most of Wednesday, so please be patient if you email me during that time. (Thanks).

I've not been to Beverley before, but I'm told it's a beautiful racecourse, and I'm really looking forward to my first attendance there. If you're heading there tomorrow, and you see me, do say hello. 🙂

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And that's pretty much it for today. Don't forget we've got oodles of great features and articles here at Geegeez, and we're adding more all the time.

I was thrilled to host former Telegraph racing editor, Tony Stafford's first 'Sunday Supplement' piece yesterday. And Tony's humorous contribution is the latest in a series of new additions this year.

So the Geegeez week now looks something like this:

Monday - some cobblers from yours truly
Tuesday - Well I Declare, by Malcolm Boyle (also each day Tuesday to Saturday)
Wednesday - The Punting Confessional, by Tony Keenan
Thursday - Trainer Stats, by Andy Newton (also each day Thursday to Sunday)
Friday - some cobblers from yours truly
Saturday - TV Trends, by Andy Newton
Sunday - The Sunday Supplement from Tony Stafford
Daily, Monday to Friday - a 'proper' look at the racing news stories, with Ian Sutherland
Daily - Stat of the Day, by me or Chris

Plus I'll continue to take a deeper look at the bigger race meetings, and try to snag a decent winner or two from the puzzles therein.

And it's all free! Tell your friends, if you think they might like some of the above. 😀

Happy Monday!
Matt

p.s. if you're on twitter and you haven't already, give me a follow. You can do that by clicking here, I think...

p.p.s. how was your punting weekend? Winner? Loser? Close but no cigar? Share your tales of success or gallant failure below!

Monday Mish Mash: 11th June 2012

Frankel and Henry expected at Royal Ascot next week

Frankel and Henry expected at Royal Ascot next week

A bit of a round up post today, to tell you about a few things coming up, in the absence of anything remotely resembling decent racing at the weekend (the days between Epsom and Royal Ascot are always poor).

First up, I and a number of others were in Newmarket on Friday for the Geegeez Racing Club Day. Desperate weather did its damnedest to make it an unpleasant affair, but we're a hardy old bunch and had a great time anyway.

Highlights were the stable visit to Julia Feilden's yard, and seeing our boy, Khajaaly, looking happy and well on his way to a full recovery after an operation to remove a lump from his leg.

The vet, and all the stable staff, are delighted with his progress, and he seemed on really good terms with himself, even sharing his box with about twenty of us! I wish I'd taken a picture but I was too busy enjoying the moment and clean forgot. Doh. [Stop press: Gavin has just come up trumps with a snap he took at the yard. You can see for yourself how well he's looking (Khajaaly, not Gavin!) ]

Khajaaly in his box last Friday

Khajaaly in his box last Friday

Then it was off to the National Stud to see some new recruits who will be strutting their stuff on a racecourse in 2014. We were able to see one foal up close with his mummy, and Dave B was so enamoured that he nearly lost a finger to the hungry little munchkin. More care next time, Dave!

Finally, we headed across the car park from the National Stud to the July course at Newmarket. Now, it's called the July course because racing normally takes place there in (and around) July, the highlight of which is the Group 1 July Cup.

Alas, on a miserable early June day, when a minor hurricane blew in to ensure the rain came sideways at spectators, it was hard going. Add in the inexplicable 35 minutes between races, and the complete absence of seating inside (great for pregnant women and the elderly...), and you have yet another abominable show from Jockey Club Racecourses.

Group 4 Security, who have the gig of providing security, followed up their pathetic effort at Epsom (allowing scrappers to carry on drinking, rather than ejecting them) by being preposterously 'jobsworth' about a 'yellow step'.

There were about six people on that part of the grandstand, and I was asked to move literally eight inches so as not to be on the yellow step. I mean, come on, get a grip!!

Then there was the full bin which blew over in the wind. Group 4 righted it. It blew over again. Group 4 righted it again. It blew over again. Group 4 still didn't think to move it out of the wind.

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They are a perfect match for Jockey Club Racecourses, and I'm afraid both need to raise their games for the oncoming Royal Ascot meeting next week.

Speaking of which, I am lucky enough to be heading there on Tuesday for the Queen Anne Stakes and so on. Three Group 1's to start the meeting, including a possible sighting of Frankel in the opener. Lovely.

If you're in or around London, and fancy getting your card marked, or just doing some celeb spotting, then this Thursday's London Racing Club Royal Ascot preview night promises to be a cracker.

The panel has confirmed Nick Luck, Lydia Hislop, Paul Bittar (chief executive of the BHA, and an Aussie preying for a Black Caviar win), and Simon Clare from Coral, who will no doubt be offering concessions not available anywhere else.

The evening starts at 7.30pm, on Thursday 14th June, and it's held at the Holiday Inn, Kensington Forum, which is behind Gloucester Road tube station. I'm really looking forward to it, so do come up and say hello if you see me there.

********

Next up, if you've watched my 'back story' video, thanks a lot for your comments on that. If not, you can catch it here.

I'll be releasing the second in that series in the next few days, and I hope that will whet some of your appetites for what is to follow. I'm certainly excited about sharing more details in the coming days. 🙂

Also upcoming, here on Geegeez, is something I've been toying with for a while. I've finally decided that now is the time, and I hope many of you will embrace the opportunity to interact with the site more. Yes, Geegeez is getting its own forum!

Initially, we'll just be focused on the main event - horse racing - and, if there's interest/demand, we'll expand from there. So if you fancy yourself as a writer, or think you're as opinionated as me (surely not!), then do join the debate.

Chris and I are still working out all of the configuration bits and bobs, but we very much hope to have things up and running ahead of Royal Ascot next week. Stay tuned!

********

And finally, just a quick reminder of the daily content on the site. Tortoise and the Hare has made an extremely impressive start to its trial, with over sixty points profit in the bag at the last update (5th June). That's here.

Now that was an over-performance to some degree, and this week has seen some fall back from the position, but nevertheless Tortoise and the Hare looks set to have a bright future.

Other notable tipping performances came from Andy Newton, whose bonus Curragh Trends, nailed 14/1 winner Kateeva (22.68 Betfair SP) amongst others.

One reader tweeted that he'd got the placepot up at the Curragh on the back of Andy's trends. Good stuff!

And of course, Stat of the Day keeps ticking away. It's been a bit of a chiselling week in truth, with placed selection after placed selection. But they're pretty much all running well enough, and most are contributing bits and pieces of profit to the pot.

Stat of the Day is here.

Finally, Ian continues to engage and entertain with his sideways look at the latest racing news, so do look out for those pieces.

Tomorrow, we'll have Mal's excellent Well I Declare feature, and Wednesday sees the return of The Punting Confessional, which grows more popular by the week. Thursday features the latest trainer stats and trends from Andy Newton, and each Saturday you can get the TV trends from the same author/researcher.

Hopefully, there's something for everyone. As you know, we don't email about everything on the site (we couldn't possibly), so do remember to check back each day, for your daily dose of Geegeez goodness. It's especially fortifying on a miserable Monday such as this one! 😀

Do look out for the new stuff in a day or two, and in the meantime, have a great start to the week.

Matt

Monday Mish Mash: The Changing of the Seasons

And so the final week of the National Hunt season is behind us. And what a rain-soaked seven days it was too. The highlights of the week, if not the weather, were the Punchestown Festival and Sandown's mixed card which so literally moves us from jumps to flat in the space of thirty-five minutes.

In today's mish mash, I'll have thoughts on both of those events, plus a look ahead to the first Classics of the season this weekend (!); news of a new competition; and a word on some freebie winners from the weekend just passed.

Punchestown in the rain

Punchestown in the rain

But let's start at a precipitated upon Punchestown (try saying that after a few pints of the good black stuff). I was invited to - and decided to attend - the Punchestown Festival for the first time. My timing, naturally, was impeccable. It seemed I'd chosen the week when a rowing regatta would have been a more appropriate use for the just-outside-Naas-but-in-truth-a-million-miles-from-anywhere venue than a race meeting.

Punchestown's April (and sometimes May) Festival is the jewel in the crown of Irish jump racing, and little wonder that they would move heaven (which, it appeared, had already moved in order to open all over this verdant part of Ireland) and earth to ensure the meeting could be run.

The course was submerged in places, especially on the chase course, which succumbed to more postponements and cancellations than a leafy morning in a London mainline train station.

Indeed, the second day of the meeting - and the one I'd travelled over for - was under further threat from ferocious winds which were gusting off the Atlantic, and pretty much everywhere else too. It was the temporary structures which were the problem, we were told. Not that anyone was planning on hanging out in a marquee, or having a choc ice (whatever happened to those?) under a pub bench parasol.

Anyways... late word (1.30pm, first race scheduled for 3.40pm) confirmed that racing would go ahead, and off I jolly well trudged.

I arrived at the track, via a train from Dublin's Heuston Station to Sallins (for Naas), and then a cab ride from there. Aside from the town of Naas, through which we passed, there didn't appear to be very much at all happening in this forgotten enclave some way between here and there.

No matter. For racing was on. A delayed, truncated card stripped of its feature, the Punchestown Gold Cup, and my best bet of the week - Raptor in the Guinness Handicap Chase (fourth in the re-run on Saturday, as it happened) - released its tapes at 4.55 to a great roar from the soaked and, by now, quite sozzled crowd of hardy aficionados... and foolhardy day-trippers!

It was a race of many runners, in impossible conditions, and yet still a horse was robustly supported into 3/1 favouritism in a melee of 25. Ten Bob was the thoroughly vanquished beast, who gave best to Shamiran, itself the subject of a mini-gamble, and about twenty other more amphibious equines.

I managed to back the third horse in a token each way tickle, at 33/1 no less (returned 25's, so shrewd...). Go for the horses with the webbed hooves was my mantra, or at least those with heavy ground form in the book.

The afternoon's hoof splashing and whip lashing continued. Loch Ard fair bolted up - as much as any horse could in such an environment -  under a waiting ride from Ruby. It was Willie Mullins' second winner of the week after Sir Des Champs had survived a bid to walk through the last fence the night before. Mullins, W. would get another eight pots in his possession before the week was out, continuing with...

Marasonnien won the War of Attrition Novices Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival

Marasonnien won the War of Attrition Novices Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival

...the 1-2-3 in the following, and perfectly named, War of Attrition Novices Hurdle, a Grade 1 for eternal stayers. And all for the same owner as well, probably the first time such a feat has been carried off in top company.

The flattering deceiver Sous Les Cieux was the shortest priced of them, the 7/2 jolly in fact, but he was only third best at the marmite-splattered jam stick (if you see what I did there). In front were Marasonnien, an equine to have on your side in a scrap, and Vesper Bell, who scooted and tooted his way into the silver medal podium slot (if you saw what I did there).

Marasonnien, a name not hugely removed from Monsoonian, which would have been a reasonable description of the inclemency of the situation, were it in fact a word, looks likely to take high order in deep ground novice chases next season, and is in the notebook accordingly.

Sous Les Cieux? Well, he'll cost you more money if you keep believing he'll find an engine to go with his cruising speed. All class, but a heart of glass, he's a swerve, as I've mentioned before.

Onwards and downwards we plunged - unless you were Willie Mullins, or Rich Ricci, or a follower of either - as the Champion Bumper went the way of the same owner and trainer as the Novices Hurdle. Champagne Fever, with his bothersome head carriage, has both class and guts, and won in taking style.

The second, Melodic Rendezvous, from Jeremy Scott's ascendant yard, ran a blinder, with Mullins second string, Mozoltov, a close enough third. The rest were nearer to Dublin than Punchestown as the front three passed the post.

Champagne Fever may go straight over fences next season, and wherever he heads, this attractive grey might prove tough to pass, as he's a veritable scrapper despite his quirky cocked jaw.

They finished at 7.15pm, with another bumper of lesser stature, and I'd already run for the car park and a cab back to the railway station. As (relative) fortune would have it, a late train arrived just in time to chuff and choo me back to Dub and into a hot tub.

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I'd love to go back to Punchy, because I'm certain I've seen the worst of it, and I'm equally sure there's plenty more that the place has to offer. Maybe next year, if the forecast favours...

[My thanks to Joe, who sorted everything for me, except the weather! I'll catch you again soon, and I hope you survived the booze bus home ok...]

********

At about 3.15 on Saturday afternoon, and within five minutes of each other (preposterously), the two feature races of the day set off. Over in Ireland, the rescheduled Punchestown Gold Cup was won by the 20/1 old knocker, China Rock.

At Sandown, for the bet365 Gold Cup, it was another old knocker who bagged the spoils. Whilst China Rock's win was hard fought, that of Tidal Bay was ultra-impressive.

Tidal Bay has been called plenty of things in his time, good and bad in equal measure. Here he was sensational. In an attritional affair, over three and three quarter muddy miles of Sandown's stamina-stealing sod, the bay Bay bolted up. Under top weight!

This chap - now eleven years young - was completing a notable handicap hat-trick for the double digit brigade, following on from the wins of fellow eleven-year-olds, Neptune Collonges and Merigo, on previous Saturdays in Grand Nationals north and south of Hadrian's Wall.

It appears instructive to note that, whilst he hadn't previously won since January 2010, this was the first time he'd encountered proper soft ground since. Indeed, this factoid is given further credence by the fact that he's never been out of the first three on ground described as predominantly soft or heavy.

Clearly, he's not getting any younger, but he'd surely be a threat in any distance chase, in any grade, on soft ground. I'd be buying him a season ticket for Irish Ferries next term...

Thereafter, the remainder of the card was flat fare, in more ways than one.

The flat season proper may have started a month ago, but for most, it's yet to leave the stalls. In truth, the miserable weather hardly hints of balmy summer evenings. And the hock-deep consequences of so many downpours is playing havoc with early season punters, including myself.

And yet... And yet, this weekend will see the first of the British Classics run at HQ. In the curiously anachronistic early season 'narrative' which dictates that 80% of our Classics will be run before the second week of June, the two one-mile events - 1000 and 2000 Guineas, of course - will have been run by this time next week.

I'll have a fuller preview (natch!) nearer the time, but for now I must confess to a touch of Francophilia with regards to the chaps' race. Franco-whowhat? I've backed both Abtaal and French Fifteen to win the 2000 Guineas, on the basis that they ran in a very good trial at Maisons-Laffitte recently.

Whether this was wise will be revealed in stages: first, by my fuller and more considered race preview later in the week, and secondly - and far more conclusively - by the race itself next weekend.

Let's hope the rain stops, and the winners start by then... or else it's going to be a long old summer of punting indeed.

********

Now then, on the subject of flat racing, and looking forward to something better than we've seen thus far, how about a competition? A spot of fantasy league racing, perhaps? Right you are then.

QIPCO are looking to bring more fun and laughter to the man in the street, and - quite rightly - more attention to their brand. As such, they're sponsoring a sort of fantasy football for racing.

I could explain it badly and using lots of words (don't I always?!), but you'll be pleased to hear that Ian has written a much more succinct piece with everything you need to know.

Basically, you sign up, choose your team, and then you join the Geegeez League. Consequently, you'll not only be eligible for the big prizes put up by the extensive QIPCO budget, but also the slightly less valuable - in monetary terms at least - Geegeez prizes. (Obviously, you can't put a price on the kudos such local success will bring... 😉  )

All the details are here, and I'd love for you to join me - and everyone else - in the Geegeez league.

Prizes will be racing books, as follows:

Two books each for the top two-monthly point scorers (May/June, July/August, September/October).

Six book for the winner overall of the Geegeez Super League.

It's free to enter, and ought to be good fun, with some big prizes and some little prizes as well. So join in! And tell your mates to join in too!!

Oh yes, here's the link: http://www.geegeez.co.uk/british-champions-series-fantasy-league-competition/

********

And finally, you may have seen my email at the weekend telling you about totesport's completely no strings free bet offer. In a nutshell, if you're not already a totesport customer, and you register with them, they'll give you five quid to bet with even if you don't deposit any readies!

Over 250 of you took advantage of totesport's generosity on Saturday, and I've heard from a few of you who managed to back a winner.

A few of the comments:

well in matt, i did memory cloth with my free bet took 5s drifted to 13/2 but you don't get BOG had 2.5 e/w better than nothing.
Thanks Brian

-

Thanks Matt, didn't go for thousands just a fiver win on Mumbles Head 11/4. I'm happy. Martyn

-

Thanks,

Registered backed tidal bay woo hoo!

Harvey

Did you back a winner? If so, leave a comment and let us know who...

If you don't have a totesport account, and you haven't yet opened one, WHY THE HELL NOT????!!!  OK, sorry, got carried away there. But, seriously, it's free money if you find a winner. And no loss if you don't. There aren't many good things in life, but that's pretty decent, I'd say. And on a Monday as well!

Oops - making a habit of this now - here's the link: FREE FIVE QUID BET, NO STRINGS, HERE.

OK, that's enough of my waffle for today. We've got loads more for you this week, starting with Mal's Well I Declare feature tomorrow, where he'll be looking at this week's notable declarations, including for Newmarket and the Guineas.

Then Tony will be proffering his Punting Confessional on Wednesday. What's that sinner been up to this week?!

Thursday sees Andy Newton's update on the trainers in form just now. And on Friday I'll have that promised Guineas meeting preview for you.

Plus, Ian's here all week with his - generally lateral - take on the racing news. And Chris and I will be trying to unearth a winner or six via Stat of the Day.

So stay tuned for all, or at least some (as you like), of that. As you know, we don't email every day, so if you want to see what's happening, you need to stop by. You'll be very welcome. 🙂

Matt

p.s. did you back a winner at the weekend? Leave a comment. Hard luck story? Tell us about it. Fed up with the rain? Have a moan. Garden looking great? Share your green-fingered secrets... 😉

 

Monday Mish Mash: From Ascot to Cheltenham

Al Ferof bids for Arkle Trophy 2012 glory

Al Ferof bids for Arkle Trophy 2012 glory

Another weekend passes in the run up to Cheltenham, and below are my thoughts on those who pressed their Prestbury Park claims, as well as news on a sartorial storm in a teacup at Ascot...

But let's start with the racing.

Ascot staged the Victor Chandler Chase, a two mile one furlong Grade One, as the feature on their card. Finian's Rainbow had been favoured all week, but had to share market leadership with classy novice, Al Ferof, come post time.

In the event, the two joint favourites both ran creditably but gave best to a horse who has been called a few names (by me!) over the years, Somersby. There was no fluke about the result, Somersby traveling best and mostly flawless with his jumping (aside from one error a couple of fences from home).

A horse who has hitherto not seemed to have an optimum trip, Somersby battled on well to pass Finian's Rainbow on the run in and score by a length and a quarter. Just five lengths back from the winner was Al Ferof, having only his third start over fences, and coming under pressure before the other two.

The rest came in at fits and starts, with the regressive Forpadydeplasterer six lengths further back, and then I'm So Lucky another eight lengths behind that one. Wishfull Thinking ran a stinker, beaten another fifteen lengths and Gauvain took a tumble after leading early.

So what of this gang and their respective Cheltenham Festival 2012 targets? Well, let's start with the winner. Somersby was beaten by Gauvain in the Peterborough Chase earlier in the season, a race that his trainer - Hen Knight - has ruthlessly exploited down the years.

Facts about Somersby. He is a hard horse to catch right. Fact. He is very good on his day (second in the 2010 Queen Mother Champion Chase). Fact. There is speculation about which race he will go for at Cheltenham. Fact.

On balance, then, for me he's a swerve. There are some horses which, if they beat you, you just have to say I knew that was a possibility but I couldn't have him. Somersby for me is one and, even if there was a definite race earmarked for him, I'd still struggle to believe he could see off all-comers.

As such, quotes of 14/1 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and 7/1 for the Ryanair make no appeal.

The second horse home, Finian's Rainbow, will definitely head for the Champion Chase. He's a high class beast, and fast too. But he was beaten at Cheltenham last year by Captain Chris in the Arkle, and he's failed to improve his form figures since then.

Certainly, it's difficult to see him outpointing both of Big Zeb and Sizing Europe, and the Irish look to hold the whip hand for the big two mile event on Festival Wednesday. 13/2 may be reasonable for each way ticklers, but I'll not be playing.

Al Ferof ran a blinder. I was surprised he was joint favourite, on the basis of two novice wins, and to my eye he should have been at best third or fourth choice on form. (Obviously, he had more improvement capacity than most of his rivals).

To finish five lengths behind the winner in a race that may not have been run to suit - he does tend to hit a flat spot and then barrel on, as he did when winning the Supreme last year - was a very, very good performance. If I was a connection (I wish!), I'd be absolutely delighted with that as a prep for the Arkle.

Unsurprisingly, Al Ferof has been cut for that two mile novice event, and I'd now make him favourite personally. That he is available at 13/2 with Coral is a pleasant surprise, and I've had some this morning. If you read my Arkle 2012 Preview, you'll know I'm not a fan of Sprinter Sacre, and I think being double handed with Al Ferof (13/2) and Peddlers Cross (5/1) is a very strong wagering position in the race.

At least, that's how I've played it... 😉

********

Elsewhere, there was plenty of interesting action across the Irish Sea. On Saturday, the highlight of Willie Mullins' treble was undoubtedly the continued resurgence of Mikael d'Haguenet. As mentioned here last year, he clearly hated chasing and is now unbeaten in his last three tries at the smaller obstacles.

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Granted, those three wins have been in relatively modest company, culminating in Saturday's besting of three rivals in a Grade 3, the pick of whom was rated 150. That's a very far cry from either Champion- or World Hurdle-winning form and, whilst an easy win is an easy win, it doesn't necessarily set the horse up for the lickety-split of a championship event across Cleeve Hill.

I have a huge soft spot for the horse, but I couldn't back him for a Cheltenham race.

Sunday saw more Graded action over at Fairyhouse, and more wins for Willie Mullins. As if three notches on Saturday wasn't enough, Mullins bagged four pots on Sunday: the first three and then the closing bumper.

Vesper Bell won the opener at odds on, and is mooted for the Albert Bartlett. He's plenty to achieve before being mentioned in the same breath as Fingal Bay or Boston Bob, which is the main reason I put so many words into this sentence...! 25/1 is about right, and for speculators, he will improve. Whether it's even nearly enough to hit the board in Cheltenham's three mile novice race is another question entirely. Not for this scribbler.

The Normans Grove Chase, a Grade 2 over two miles and a furlong, was a belting little contest. Noble Prince, last year's Jewson winner at the Festival, was favoured over Blazing Tempo and Tranquil Sea, with a couple of others making up a classy enough quintet.

In the event, Blazing Tempo outgunned the Noble Prince by less than a length. But that tells only part of the story. Blazing Tempo cruised into this but was all out to hold the runner-up at the line. He, Noble Prince that is, was under the pump from the turn, and Davy Russell gave him an 'Irish ride' (as opposed to a 'British ride' under the new legislation) to galvanise his mount for a prolonged challenge.

That effort - conceding seven pounds as well to the winner - marks the runner up down as the one to be on in the Ryanair, a race whose extra three furlongs in trip plays strongly in favour of the Prince. As with Al Ferof, connections must have been mightily chuffed with this effort, and he's worthy of  more than a second glance in the Ryanair wagering. Currently a best priced 15/2 with sportingbet, and that appeals considerably more than the 7/1 about Somersby in the same contest.

The bumper at the end of the day went to Willie and son Patrick Mullins, as Champagne Fever bolted up at interest rate odds of 1/4. He's now been made favourite for the Cheltenham Festival Bumper, and good luck to you if that's your idea of a robust Cheltenham wager..! In fairness, that is still 12/1 favourite, such is the impossible nature of that race, especially when the winner maybe hasn't even run yet.

********

Back at Haydock on Saturday, Donald McCain was lording it in a Mullins-esque fashion, with his very own four-timer, the greedy blighter.

Cinders And Ashes got the ball rolling with a win in line with his odds of 8/13, and McCain was very complimentary about the horse afterwards. He's bound for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Festival, and is a general 12/1 chance, though Coral and Boylesports go 14/1.

It's hard not to worry about his ability to see it out at Cheltenham though, given that all of his winning (bar his debut bumper success at Fontwell) has been on flat tracks, and that he did bomb out when traveling well in the bumper around Chelters last year.

True, as his trainer says, he has strengthened up this term, but so have his rivals. A nice horse, but probably more at home at Aintree than Cheltenham.

Celestial Halo continued his 'testimonial season' by rolling back the years with another Graded success in the Champion Hurdle Trial. In truth, it wasn't much of a trial for the Champion Hurdle, as the Halo's three rivals were all rated 16 pounds or more inferior to the winner. Odd then, that he was available at 6/5, which looks tasty with hindsight. (Things often look tasty, and more often look very stupid, with hindsight).

It's hard to make a case for Celestial Halo in the Champion Hurdle itself, that race shaping up to be an absolute corker, but Paul Nicholls will continue to place this excellent stable servant to good effect, allowing him to mop up more minor Graded contests. He's still only eight, though, so another tilt at the Champion is not out of the question.

He's 80/1 in a place for the Champion Hurdle and, if he goes for that race, there will be worse value offers. Still, I couldn't sensibly recommend him as a medallist there, alas. Very, very likeable beast all the same.

Whilst on the subject of the Champion Hurdle, the previous second favourite for the race, Spirit Son, has been declared a very doubtful runner. He's been removed from most lists, meaning that Hurrican Fly - another horse we've yet to see this term - has hardened to 6/4 with bet365. Paddy Power however are offering 2/1, which is the biggest price for some time on that one.

Hurricane Fly is due to run in the Irish Champion Hurdle next Sunday, and if he misses that engagement, he'd surely struggle to get to the Festival. Of course, a run and a win there would strengthen his position at the top of the market.

All of which means that I remain happy with my Champion Hurdle ante-post pick of Binocular at 16/1 (now best priced 10's), and I still hold out hope that Nicky Henderson might revert Oscar Whisky (33/1, now best 20's) to the shorter trip as Spirit Son, one of his main contenders, is unlikely to run.

Brampour still looks like a bit of a reckless wager for the race (25's, now out to 50's). Ahem.

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And that was the weekend racing! Management summary as follows:

 - Somersby deserved success but won't be on my Cheltenham betting slip.

 - Al Ferof definitely one to be on in the Arkle.

 - It's hard to see Finian's Rainbow scalping both Zeb and Sizing in the Queen Mum

 - Noble Prince ran a fine Ryanair Chase prep and looks a bet.

 - Cinders And Ashes more of interest at Aintree than Cheltenham for me.

Now then, following on from an interesting post, and some even more interesting comments on Ascot's new dress code, it seems the track is determined to unpick all the fine work it has done in recent years, and return to something close to the infamously despised 'bowler hat brigade' era of Stasi-like patrols.

For those who don't know, racegoers who 'fell foul' of the new dress restrictions on Saturday were given a little orange sticker to wear to identify them as such. Here's Ian's take on Ascot's 'Dress Dummies'.

The arrogance of the racecourse administration beggars belief, and this kind of 'outing' leads to alienation and accusations of classism/bullying. Whilst I may agree with the former (classism), I think the latter (bullying) is a tad far-fetched.

However, the underlying thoughtlessness - putting the track first and the paying punters nowhere (or surely they'd have realised how ostracising and offensive such a move would be) - is a serious concern from a racecourse administration that is heavy-handing its way to owning as many of the top flat races as it can; one which does little to control the more obvious issue of excessive drinking on race days; and one which is happy to pack the facilities to the rafters, rather than work on things like liaison with rail companies to ensure more trains on racing days..

We have a new Chief Exec of the BHA in Paul Bittar, and we're supposed to be ushering in a new dawn for racing along with the New Year. But yet again, it seems that those same old ugly legacy edifices insist on dragging the sport away from the necessary populism that will engage it with a new breed of racegoers and sustain it beyond the next ten years.

What a pity.

Matt

p.s. feel free to 'tweet', 'share', rate and/or comment on the above. Your thoughts are always welcome! 🙂

Monday Mish Mash, featuring ‘Oh Deer’

Binocular: Champion Hurdle 2012 prospect?

Binocular: Champion Hurdle 2012 prospect?

A shorter than normal Monday mish mash today, but some bits and pieces to 'edutain' nevertheless, I hope. In this round up, I'll offer my thoughts on the weekend racing; share a VERY funny video; and, add a date for your diary if you live in or near London.

So, let's crack on.

The weekend racing featured plenty of Graded action from both Newbury and Newcastle, and the highlights were the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and Hennessy Gold Cup chase, recognised stepping stones to the Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup respectively.

But what did we learn? Let's look first at the Fighting Fifth.

As predicted here, the 5/4 favourite, Binocular, was beaten. He's run in this race three years in succession, been sent off favourite three years in succession, and been beaten three years in succession.

But let's be clear: that didn't stop him winning the Champion Hurdle at the end of that first season; and he was close to favouritism for the race when dramatically withdrawn last season (due to drugs still being in his system).

So, as I mentioned, I backed him after his defeat at 16/1 with Boylesports, the best price available. That is now a standout best price, and most bookies - who know the rhythm of the horse - have him as 12/1 or 14/1.

Binocular ran well in truth, and if you watched the race, you'll not that he was given a hand ride. In other words, there are MUCH bigger fish to fry than this Grade 1 (which is probably a little unfair on the Newcastle racecourse executive, but I hope they know what I mean).

Of the winner, Overturn, he is teak tough. He'd won from the front in a hard enough race at Ascot last week when Oscar Whisky fell at the last, and he won from the front again here.

I can't remember a Champion Hurdle winner prevailing from the front, however, and the undulations of that track are in sharp contrast to the flat expanses of both Ascot and (relatively) Newcastle. He's a good stick, but I couldn't entertain him winning the Champion.

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In the Hennessy Gold Cup, we were looking for a horse to emerge as a threat to the top of the Gold Cup market. Alas, it didn't really happen. Carruthers, a very good horse without being top class, won under an expert piece of pace judgment from Mattie Batchelor. Mattie used to ride Night Orbit for us, and he was atop one of the rides of last season, when he got up on Baggsy (another in which I owned a share) in a selling hurdle at Towcester. He deserves some better chances, and with luck he might now get them.

Carruthers has finished 4th in an RSA Chase and a Gold Cup, but he was a well trounced 9th last season, having bungled his chance away early on.

He did blunder a couple of times early here too, and that's the cause for concern, as in the Gold Cup there's no let up from the start. If he could get straight into a rhythm and not concede ground/energy by jumping errors, he could conceivably make the Gold Cup frame with this looking for all the world like a transitional year at the top of the staying chaser tree (Long Run excepted).

Of those in behind, this looked more like a trial for the Ryanair than the Gold Cup, with Planet of Sound and Great Endeavour possibles for that contest. Neither fully stayed this trip here and, at the more testing Cheltenham track, I'd have doubts about them getting home.

The Giant Bolster wasn't beaten far in 7th, and this chap surely needs a return to hurdling. His jumping is horrific as form figures of 1F1UF-4U7 testify. IF'fy indeed. I'd be very interested if he were to line up in a Graded hurdle over three miles or so, but he continues to be opposable over fences.

The other interesting race was the Long Distance Hurdle, in which Big Buck's was 1-8, but didn't win as those odds suggested he ought to. He did win however, and it's likely that the team have much to work on between now and his likely next engagement, the Long Walk Hurdle over the same course and distance.

Whilst I'm in no way predicting the downfall of Europe's pre-eminent hurdler (it will happen, inevitably, but not yet), this was a slightly lacklustre effort, and would have given some hope to connections of the likes of Mourad and So Young (who I backed at 20's with Boylesports - still available, as short as 12's with Paddy Power).

We'll know more when we see him at the end of December, as I'd expect him to be close to concert pitch by then.

Not much to report elsewhere, with Paul Nicholls' other pair of Newbury winners, Prospect Wells and Rock On Ruby, looking good but not great. Both have engines and may be suited to Cheltenham but I'd be surprised if the former was good enough to be Champion Hurdle class, while the latter only served to advertise the Supreme Novices' prospects of Steps To Freedom, who looks interesting at around 10/1.

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Onwards, and just a quick line to tell you that if you live in or near to London, and fancy that you know a thing or two about racing, there's the London Racing Club Christmas Quiz on Wednesday 7th December.

The challenge is to knock ATR's Barry Faulkner's team off their perch, and it's a tough challenge indeed! It's free and full details are on the below link:

London Racing Club Christmas Quiz Night

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And finally, to cheer up what might be an otherwise unsavoury Monday for you, this was something I was sent last night, and sent by someone else again. It's gone viral pretty quickly, and just shows how much we enjoy other people's misfortune.

Oh deer....

Matt

p.s. You can check out today's stat of the day here. Also, there's an international racing round up, and news of Sir Peter O'Sullevan.

p.p.s. If you've got facebook, and you liked this post, don't forget to 'Like' it using the button below. It seems, simply liking stuff isn't enough any more, you've got to tell others about it too! 😉