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Monday Musings: Of Hughie’s Fighting Fifty-Fourth…

They could have done a better job of it. After all, the two ITV racing presenters, Ed Chamberlin and Francesca Cumani, on Saturday sitting in their studio at Newbury and principally watching the Ladbrokes (morally the Hennessy) Trophy Chase did have some high-grade professional help, writes Tony Stafford.

You would have thought Ruby Walsh, normally the best race reader among television pundits who knows exactly where every rider and horse are throughout every race, jumps or flat, and Sir Anthony McCoy would have known better.

Their preamble to the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at snowy, windy Newcastle was restricted by its proximity to Newbury’s feature, but A P found plenty of time to laud former Champion Hurdler Epatante and, after the thrilling finish, praise Nicky Henderson for getting her back in top shape.

It was a fan club all round rather than an objective appraisal and they got half their wish, Epatante clinging on for a share of the £88k combined first and second prizes. I’ll come to her co-star in a moment, after saying there was plenty of mention in the short time available beforehand for Paul Nicholls’ second favourite Monmiral, evergreen Sceau Royal, and the striking grey, Silver Streak.

One name missing from their deliberations was that of Not So Sleepy, making his return to jumping following an unplaced effort at Aintree after a much better fifth in last year’s Champion Hurdle, two places and just over three lengths behind Epatante but ahead of Silver Streak.

As such, these were the first three home-trained finishers in Honeysuckle’s first Champion Hurdle and, Buzz apart if he takes the shorter route, there isn’t too much around that will obviously subvert their position come March. Neither, on the evidence of yesterday’s outstanding Hatton’s Grace hat-trick by the Champion, will the now 13-race unbeaten record for the mare be challenged seriously any day soon.

Saturday’s partisan attitude would be understandable if Epatante was still being considered as having a chance to avenge her defeat, but it is routine enough for serious Champion Hurdle contenders to begin their season at Newcastle. Nicky Henderson has achieved more mind-boggling feats of a revivalist nature than this. She really must be the apple of A P’s eye. It certainly sounded it.

Now seven years of age, J P McManus’ mare is the veteran of 14 races and nine victories, the first two coming from three runs as a three-year-old in AQPS Flat races in her native France.

Not So Sleepy has also won nine races, four on the Flat and five over hurdles for owner-breeder Lady Blyth and trainer Hughie Morrison. He is rising double digits in age, a factor that never phases Morrison who can always point to the victory of his ten-year-old gelding Alcazar in the 2005 Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak at Longchamp, a race in which the second and third home were respectively six years and seven his junior.

Not So Sleepy has had an unusual as well as a lengthy career for a high-class dual performer. He won first time out in October of 2014 as a juvenile over a mile and half a furlong at Nottingham. First time out at three, he was the narrow winner of Chester’s Dee Stakes, a Listed race but perhaps one long overdue a re-grading.

Successful before Not So Sleepy were Derby winners Oath (1999) and Kris Kin (2003), while since then, future Irish 2,000 Guineas and Breeders’ Cup winner Magical and the multiple Group 1-winning Circus Maximus (2019) have also won the race.

I was with the Oath team at the time and, forgive the after time, managed to get a nice price about Oath’s following up at Epsom from Simon Clare, Corals’ course rep at the time. If you think Not So Sleepy is long-lasting, then the same Mr Clare was presenting the prizes on behalf of Saturday’s sponsors to connections of Cloudy Glen who won the Ladbroke Trophy in the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings. Simon hardly looks a day older and deserves congratulations for the way he has sailed serenely through all the mergers and takeovers that have been so prevalent in the world’s biggest betting organisations.

The Chester 2015 win for Not So Sleepy understandably brought a reaction from the handicapper and he started life in that sphere on 107. Equally unsurprisingly, wins proved elusive and it was not until his 17th career run, on Oaks Day 2017, more than two years later, that he won a ten-furlong handicap off 98 under Adam Kirby.

Another 18 months were destined to pass with continued struggle meaning that not until January 19th 2019, after he had run 32 times, did Morrison experiment with hurdles. Sleepy ran three times, fourth running free at Kempton, then winning unchallenged at Wincanton before proving much too exuberant on a return to the West Country track where he finished a well beaten fifth of eight.

Back on the Flat and still with a mark in the 90’s, that summer he had a programme of six runs culminating with an excellent fourth of 30 to Stratum in the Cesarewitch. Here is where the Morrison imagination stepped in. Clearly believing a hurdles mark of 122 would be manageable given the jumping and the tearaway tendencies could be overcome, Morrison lined up an Ascot handicap that November. He bolted in and, a month later and raised just 5lb, he ran away with the £85k to the winner Ladbroke Hurdle back at Ascot on only his fifth jumping appearance.

Not So Sleepy was as a result one of the favourites for that season’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury but after a couple of false starts he found himself on the wide outside of the massive field and was hampered at the start, losing all chance. His 15th of 24 was disappointing but not enough to dissuade connections of a Champion Hurdle challenge. This soon fizzled out as Epatante strode home up the hill to a popular success.

Back on the Flat he polished off a little race over a mile and a half in late summer at Pontefract under Graham Lee, the prelude to another fourth place in the Cesarewitch, as Willie Mullins completed a hat-trick in the great Autumn staying race.

That was the ideal preparation for another jumps campaign. Unfortunately in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle he set off in front but unseated Johnny Burke at the first hurdle. Chastened, Hughie and Lady Blyth sent him to more familiar surroundings of Ascot where he delivered win number two in the Ladbroke.

This time, it was doubly satisfying as Buzz, a horse Hughie had nurtured (I used that word about their relationship last week and I still like the sound of it!) through his early career but had been whisked off by connections to Nicky Henderson for jumping, could get no nearer than second.

Buzz, two years his junior, was well ahead of Not So Sleepy later on when second at Aintree and he has since won the Cesarewitch, denying Mullins a fourth consecutive win in the race by beating Burning Victory and then the Coral Hurdle this month.

Although only fifth in the Champion Hurdle of 2021, Not So Sleepy far exceeded his handicap mark. At the time he was 7lb clear lowest in the entire field on 149, raised briefly to 155 before Aintree but again down to 152 for Saturday.

Again in a big race, he improved on anything he had done before. Epatante had been dropped to 154 after last season’s Champion Hurdle, but she received 7lb from the geldings on Saturday. Sceau Royal, another length and a half back in third and fourth-placed Silver Streak were both on 158 while the disappointing Monmiral is rated 153.

After Sceau Royal the gaps were six and a half and then eight and a half lengths. It seems inevitable that Not So Sleepy should be raised to at least 158, so his highest-ever figure will have been achieved as a rising ten-year-old. Not many trainers could manage that!

As to the way the race evolved, the complete outsider Voix Du Reve, Not So Sleepy and the grey Silver Streak formed the leading trio all the way round with the others grouping behind them.

One acknowledgement of Not So Sleepy’s performance was forthcoming afterwards, one of the experts saying he had been in the lead group but still rallied at the end.

My contention is that had he bothered to jump either of the last two flights properly, he would probably have won outright, and the verve with which he battled back, running in between the other pair up the run-in after the second mistake, spoke volumes.

Tough doesn’t cover it and when you consider how most of the way round with his unusual head motion out to the right between the jumps, you got the feeling he was playing rather than racing in a championship race, that is doubly valid.

I don’t suppose as a ten-year-old he will end the trainer’s Champion Hurdle blank – and something would need to cause Honeysuckle to miss the race on yesterday’s showing. Yet as long ago as 2002, Marble Arch, another of his Ladbroke Hurdle winners the previous December, finished second to Hors La Loi in the Champion Hurdle with a very youthful Ruby Walsh in the saddle.

Hughie is on target for his usual tally of around 50 Flat wins but at a markedly highest-ever strike rate of 18%. It is widely accepted he can train anything - juveniles, champion sprinters, middle-distance stars or top stayers. Indeed if he hadn’t come up against a future Irish St Leger winner, Sonnyboyliston, running off a gift mark in the Ebor, he would have easily beaten his best prizemoney tally too.

And what of Not So Sleepy, a veteran of 54 races, yet sound as a pound and honest – if quirky – as the day is long? He no doubt will continue to thrill and entertain us hopefully for a year or two to come. Maybe after Newcastle A P and Ruby will give him a little more pre-race respect next time he turns up when they are on the telly!

- TS

Racing Insights, 12th November 2021

The Horses For Courses (H4C) report does pretty much what the name suggests and shows the full course history since 2009 of any horse running that has previously had a run at the track. It is sorted by number of wins, but this can be changed to any column at the user’s discretion. As well as today’s race time, course, horse name, jockey and trainer name, there is a breakdown of runs, wins and places, and profit and loss calculations for both win and each way betting.

As with all Geegeez reports, there is a ‘Today’ and a ‘Tomorrow’ (for the next day’s racing) view.

HINT: Layers might like to look towards the lower end of the report, for those with negative performance at the track.

Based on my own preferred settings, here's how my H4C report looks for Friday...

As well as having that to consider, there are also the following free races of the day...

  • 1.45 Cheltenham
  • 4.00 Cheltenham
  • 4.45 Dundalk
  • 5.30 Kempton

Both the NH races at HQ look decent enough, but I want to consider the chances of the two qualifiers from my H4C report, starting with...

...King of the South, a 4yr old gelding who goes in the 12.50 Newcastle, an 8-runner, Class 2, 3yo+, A/W (tapeta) Handicap over 1m4½f (2738 yards and is worth £10800. Here's his racecard entry...

As you can see, the yard is in good nick and has a decent record at this track, helped of course by this horse's results of 11213 here, all in handicaps. He has never raced here at Class 2, but has won at one level lower. He's 2 from 2 here in November/December and 3 from 4 in fields of 8 or more runners. He's 2 from 2 over 1m2f here, but only 1 from 3 over this trip, but has won both starts at 21-25 days after his last run. Tom Marquand takes the ride for the first time, but he's no mug, he's in good for and has good numbers here in the North East.

King of the South could be excused for needing the run when last home of seven at Doncaster, beaten by some 37 lengths over 1m4f on soft/heavy ground for his Class 2 bow three weeks ago. He hadn't been seen for seven months and had never raced on turf before. Now with the benefit of a run, we should see him in a better light back under more familiar circumstances, as his A/W form looks like this...

and under today's conditions...

He'll come out of stall 3 today, which is probably one or two boxes lower than  ideal...

...but certainly not impossible, as that 1 win from 46 for stall 1 above was when KotS won here over C&D in February, so never say never! As for running style, he has tried several approaches of late...

...but is rarely, if ever, the actual pacemaker in a race, which is just as well, as leaders have struggled here in the past...

Prominence seems to be the best place to sit and with two 3's in his last four races (when 2nd then 1st over C&D), I'd expect him to run that way today and as stall 3 is pretty much on the cusp of a middle draw, a prominent run from that position is the most successful pace/draw combo here...

All of which should set King of the South up for a big run an hour and three quarters before we see the 5 yr old gelding, Kind Review tackles the 2.35 Newcastle, a big-field (14 run!), Class 3, 5f, 3yo+ handicap worth £6,281. He's not in the best of form, I'm afraid as shown on the racecard...

Kind Review has raced 31 times already with 16 of those coming on turf where his record is far inferior to his 5 wins and 5 further places on the All-Weather, which have all been here at Newcastle in handicaps ranging from today's 5f up to a mile and at Classes 2 to 6. With today's race in mind, his Newcastle record includes 4 wins ands 4 places from 12 under today's jockey, 3 wins and 2 places from 7 as a 5 yr old, 3 wins and a place from 5 over this 5f C&D and one win from three cracks at Class 3 handicaps.

Much of his recent poor form has come on turf, but it has to be said that since finishing 1211 in four starts here in the spring culminating in a Class 4 win off a mark of 81 that he shas struggled in his two visits.

He was 9th of 14 over 5f at Class 2, beaten by just over two lengths in June off a mark of 90, before dropping down a class and 4lbs to race over 6f here in a Class 3 last month. Sadly he just wasn't at it that day, coming home second to last of fourteen, seven and a half lengths adrift.

He's now down another couple of pounds, back in trip and it is hoped that this will help him today. It should also be noted that he runs from stall 2 here and those two recent losses came from stalls 12 and 13 of 14, but more on that shortly after we've considered his overall A/W record...

and under today's conditions...

...which only really suggests that he'd probably want the track to ride a little slower. He's only 3lbs worse off than his last win and it is hope d that he'll fare better from his low draw than he has from out wide of late.

...although based on the above stats, I'm not entirely sure that's the case here over 5f. Mind you, I'm not a big believer in the draw being a massive influence in a straight 5f race and that race tactics/positioning aka pace plays a bigger role in determining the outcome. Kind review tends to race prominently as shown here...

and based on the pace data from past races, I think he'd be better off pushing on...

So, the raw stats say he's not well drawn and doesn't have the right pace profile, so the 6.67% strike rate for low drawn prominent runners below won't come as too much of a surprise and does tend to suggest that he's going to struggle...

Summary

Both horses have excellent records at Newcastle and both should run better than last time out.

King of the South needed (and got) a run after seven months off in a tough race at Doncaster, which was ground breaking for him re: class and surface and now back on preferred ground, should go well again. Bet365 are best priced at 7/2 (as of 6.55pm) and I think that's more than fair, I had him at 3's, so I'm happy to play there. I also liked Nicholas T in this race and whilst not an obvious winner, could well outrun his 14/1 odds as a decent E/W bet.

As for Kind Review, I think this race is too tough for him and even if conditions are better than LTO, he looks like struggling and at 20/1 the bookies might have overpriced him, but he still wouldn't be in my top 4 for an E/W bet. If I was playing here, I like Night On Earth, but 6/1 is a bit tight for me in a competitive 14-runner handicap. The 10/1 offered by bet365, however, about Indian Sounds is enough to draw me in for another E/W wager.

Racing Insights, 19th October 2021

Tuesday's free feature is the Shortlist, a simple and usually brief report highlighting those horses with a largely ‘green’ profile in the Instant Expert Report each day. It covers win or place stats, and can be viewed for both today’s and tomorrow’s racing.

GREEN is good (33% or better win rate) – worth 3 points
AMBER is quite good (16-32% win rate) – worth 1 point
RED is not so good (0-15% win rate) – worth -1 points
GREY means there is no available data for that factor - worth 0 points

The final column, ‘Score’, is the sum of the previous five ‘colour’ columns, with 15 being an all green profile, and 9 being the lowest score appearing on this report.

HINT: The best bets are not necessarily the highest scores. Rather, they are often the biggest difference between a Shortlist horse and the ‘best of the rest’ in that race.

N.B. Shortlist selections are unlikely to make a profit, at SP at least, to blind backing. Our recommendation is – and has always been – that The Shortlist should be a starting point rather than an end in itself. That said, it continues to highlight horses whose chance is better than recent form - and its odds - imply.

In addition to a daily free feature, we also have a selection of free races every day and for Tuesday, they are...

  • 2.40 Exeter
  • 3.05 Yarmouth
  • 3.30 Gowran Park
  • 4.35 Newcastle
  • 4.40 Gowran Park

The Shortlist is actually a bit sparse for Tuesday...

...and with too many unknowns there, they wouldn't be my ideal way in to a race today, so we'll revert to the free race list for a look at the 4.35 Newcastle, a-13 runner, Class 6, 3yo+, A/W Handicap over a straight mile on standard going tapeta...

It's a lowly Class 6 affair, so recent form tends not to be too sparkling at this level, but Temper Trap has three wins and a place from his last six and he's the only LTO winner here. Swiss Knight is down two classes after making the frame last time around, Lexington Warfare won two starts ago, whilst the rest haven't much to crow about other than a win each for Pallas Lord and Shackabooah.

We've four class droppers here, as both Traveller and Pallas Lord ran at Class 5 recently, whilst both Velma and Swiss Knight were Class 4 runners LTO. All have raced in the last two months and if you thought the horses were in poor form, then so are the yards/jockeys, as the card is littered with red negative form icons. Lexington Warfare is well clear on the Geegeez SR figures, but the top seven on OR figures are only separated by 4 lbs, not withstanding the presence of five three year olds in the race receiving a 3lb allowance.

Traveller and Velma have both won here over a mile, Lexington Warfare won here over 7f two starts ago, whilst there have wins over today's trip for Swiss Knight (Haydock/Thirsk), Temper Trap (Ayr LTO) and Tarnhelm (Thirsk)

At this stage, the ones I'm most interested in are the ones with a win in their six-race form line, but I'm obviously open to persuasion! What I will do, however is rule out the following who are yet to win a race, so it's good bye to Cammy (unplaced in 9 starts), Kevin The Minion (placed just 3 times from 14), Lady Artela (unplaced in ten) and Wootton Creek (placed twice from eight).

Place form often tells you more at this level and the discarded quartet made the frame in just five of forty one attempts, which is lamentable really.

Instant Expert can tell who has won/placed before in all races, of course, but more specifically I like to look at form in similar conditions to those they'll face next...

...where only Lexington Warfare has any real winning form in AW handicaps, although Temper Trap, Velma & Engles rock are largely untried. Traveller has been around the block several times but without a great deal of success, but is now 3lbs lower than his last win, whilst Velma is 13lbs lower than when winning here over course and distance a little over a year ago, which is interesting.

When the win form doesn't tell us too much, we then take a peek at place results...

and whilst I don't think they tell you who might win, they can tell you who probably won't and this is where I'd say goodbye to Traveller. If his place returns are so poor off more than a dozen races, he'd be an unlikely winner.

This leaves me with 8 of the original 13 runners and they're drawn in stalls 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12 and 13 on a track/trip where those drawn centrally have fared worst...

...so that's probably not good for the likes of Pallas Lord and Engles Rock based on the data, but my own thoughts/logic say that on a straight run on a virtually level surface are that the draw really shouldn't have too much effect on the race, but that race positioning (aka pace) would be the thing to consider and the data from the races on that curve above says...

...that some 42.1% of all the runners have been held up and this has produced 54.1% of the winners and 48.9% of the placers, so whilst prominent runners have just about beaten expectations (31.1% of the winners & 32.1% of the placers from 30.5% of the runners), it's clear that hold-up horses are prevalent here and this is also reflected in the pace draw heat map...

...which would suggest that of my eight runners sill under consideration, I'd want Lexington Warfare, Velma, Shackabooah, Temper Trap, Swiss Knight and Traveller to be hold up horses, although the last four of those could still win from a prominent position, so let's see how they have raced in their last four outings...

...and I'd say that Lexington Warfare (4 x 1), Shackabooah (3 x 1) and Traveller (3 x 1) definitely fit the hold-up profile. Temper Trap might well race further forward and assume a more prominent position and Swiss Knight is likely to be closer to the back than the front, but I'm not sure how Velma might run.

The caveat here is that these are largely out of form horses whose previous tactics haven't worked, so changes might be made. The pace issue is further complicated, as you'll when I show you the full race pace profile of all 13 runners over their last four races...

...there's no pace in the race! Wootton Creek will probably set the early fractions from stall 1 and if allowed to race away early on, could cause problem for those more fancied. We've also got at least five, if not seven hold-up horses and they can't all be held up, so we're likely to get a falsely run race and whenever I see the prospect of that happening, I refer back to form, instant expert and that unquantifiable "gut feeling".

Summary

Through the piece, one name has stood out each time on form, SR figures, Instant Expert, pace, draw and pace/draw, so it'll be no surprise that my pick here is Lexington Warfare, who I feel might just have too much for Temper Trap, the other one that has featured most in my comments.

Lexington won here over 7f two starts ago and was a little unlucky over course and distance off this mark last time out. The latter needed a career-best to win by just half a length last time out and he's up 4 more pounds. Pus only 1 of his 21 career starts have been on the A (an 8 length defeat here in Sept '20), so I think he'll just miss out today.

As for completing the frame, I think Swiss Knight is the one. Yes, he's top weight before jockey claims (2nd behind Temper Trap after claims) and yes, he's winless in twenty, but was beaten by little more than two lengths when third at Ayr last time out off a mark of 68(-3) in a Class 4 handicap last time out and is now down two classes and three pounds, so you'd have to think that a similar level of performance puts him in the mix once again.

So, for me, it's Lexington Warfare for me and as of just before 4pm, there were no prices to quote, but I'll be wanting at least 9/2 or 5/1 before parting with any cash. Temper trap is likely to end up around the 3/1 mark and that doesn't do much for me, but I'd be hoping for 8's or better about Swiss Knight so I could have an E/W play, whilst Shackabooah might also be of interest if 12's or bigger is offered : he's not one I'd expect to win, but he could outrun those odds.

Racing Insights, 24th September 2021

Friday's free feature is the Horses for Courses (H4C) report, which shows the full course history since 2009 of any horse running that has previously had a run at the track. It is sorted by number of wins, but this can be changed to any column at the user’s discretion.

As well as today’s race time, course, horse name, jockey and trainer name, there is a breakdown of runs, wins and places, and profit and loss calculations for both win and each way betting. As with all Geegeez reports, there is a ‘Today’ and a ‘Tomorrow’ (for the next day’s racing) view.

HINT: Layers might like to look towards the lower end of the report, for those with negative performance at the track.

In addition to this report, we also offer the following full free racecards to all readers...

  • 2.05 York
  • 3.00 Newmarket
  • 4.02 Worcester
  • 4.20 Haydock
  • 5.07 Worcester
  • 5.15 Dundalk

And here is my H4C report for Friday...

I don't often get many qualifiers, but as I've got a couple at Newcastle on the standard to slow tapeta, let's quickly assess their chances here.

The 6.00 race is a 3yo+, Class 5 handicap over a mile, where Harry George will put his four from six track record on the line. This record includes...

  • 4/4 at Class 6, but 0/1 at Class 5
  • 3/5 over this 1m course and distance
  • 2/3 when unplaced LTO
  • 2/2 in September/October
  • 1/2 for his current trainer

His racecard entry is...

In addition to the above stats, trainer Brian Ellison is 22 from 89 (24.7% SR, A/E 1.46) with Class 5, AW handicappers sent off shorter than 12/1, from which those racing on Tapeta are 16 from 62 (25.8%) and 13/43 (30.2%) here at Newcastle.

His sire, Big Bad Bob's offspring are 9 from 35 (25.7% SR, A/E 1.89) in Class 5/6 handicaps on tapeta over trips of a mile and shorter.

Harry George was 7th of 11 here over course and distance at Class 4 two starts ago and then last home of nine at Wolverhampton most recently. He's now down in class and down 2lbs to below his last winning mark, which should at least make him a little more competitive, although he's still above his last A/W win.

His form under today's conditions are as follows...

...which is as good as any of his rivals here. He's drawn out in stall nine of eleven, which is a little wider than the preferred area of stalls 3 to 8...

He tends to either race prominently (3) or be held up (1) and both of those tactics work fine here, although out and out leaders fare best of all...

...but if he races prominently from his high draw here, he's likely to struggle, as such runners are 0 from 28...

...so he'd be better off held-up, where the strike rate of 10.81% isn't brilliant but it's far better than zero. All those pace/draw combo stats are here...

Low drawn leaders fare best, but there aren't many of them. From those combos with a decent sample size, you want to be a prominent runner from a middle draw.

*

The 7.30 race is a Class 6, 7f handicap where featured horse Brazen Bolt is the top weight. This 4yr old gelding has 3 wins and a place from seven runs here overall and he has finished 42111 in five handicap runs here, all over course and distance. Three of his last four career outings have been here over course and distance, with him winning all three, the other was on turf at Thirsk two starts ago, when a half-length runner-up, so he comes here in great form as shown on the racecard...

He's up 5lbs for his most recent win (this Tuesday(, but is boosted by the booking of course specialist Danny Tudhope to take the ride. Danny is 43 from 195 on the Tapeta here since the start of 2019 with a 22& strike rate that rises to 28.9% at Class 6 (15 from 52), 24.2% on standard to slow going (23 from 95) and 23.6% over trips of 7f and beyond (30 from 127). His yard are in steady if not unspectacular form and they'll be expecting another bold show here.

His relevant form looks like this...

Impressive numbers indeed with the only blot being his record in this basement grade, but he has won 2 of 6 at Class 5, so he's clearly no mug. And the end column shows that he's got that extra 5lbs on taking his mark to 72 that he'll have to lug from the widest of the ten stalls here, which is a negative for me...

...as I think he's really want to be in the 2 to 7 sector of the draw, but it is what it is, he just needs to make the most of what he has been given and tackle the race in the right manner.

Prominent racers do best in these 7f handicaps here at Newcastle...

...and with three prominent shows in his last four runs, I'd expect him to run that way again here. After all, if it isn't broke...

When we combine pace and draw together, a 12% strike rate for high drawn prominent runners like our boy is as good as it gets from stall 10...

...but if he'd have got that central draw I mentioned his chances would more than double. That said, he knows the track/trip and has won better races than this, so I still expect a good effort.

Summary

In the first of the two Newcastle races we've considered, I don't fancy the chances of Harry George to be honest. He's badly out of form, still higher than his last winning AW mark and he's poorly drawn. I suppose he's second bottom of the market at 22/1 for a reason.

Most likely to succeed in this one for me is the 10/3 fav Bringitonboris with Twisted Dreams and Soaringstar the dangers. The latter is already as long as 15/2 and might interest some of you from an E/W or place perspective.

In our second race, I do like Brazen Bolt and I think that despite not being well drawn and bearing a 5lb penalty, he still has plenty to offer. 7/2 is about right for me and I'll have a little bit of that. He won't have it all his own way, though and the three ahead of him in the market (Moonbootz, Asmund & Daany) all have good chances.

 

Racing Insights, 2nd September 2021

On Thursdays we open up the Instant Expert tab to all readers for all races, including the daily selection of free races which this Thursday are...

  • 1.15 Sedgefield
  • 4.30 Dundalk
  • 4.55 Haydock
  • 5.25 Haydock
  • 5.30 Dundalk
  • 6.05 Newcastle

The first of the two from Haydock is a Class 2 contest, which is probably the best of the above on paper, but only 5 run and the top two in the market are likely to 2/1 and shorter, so that's not entirely appealing. There is, however, a Racing League fixture on the Tapeta that evening, so we'll tackle the opener from the fixture, the 6.05 Newcastle. It's a 10-runner, Class 3, A/W (Tapeta) handicap for 3yo+ horses over 1m4½f on standard to slow ground. As ever, it's a decent pot at just under £26k and here are the contenders...

Of the ten, only Amir Kabir is winless in his last six outings (Eastern Sheriff & The First King both won six starts ago) and the form horse looks like Winterwatch on placings alone. He is, however, up two classes here, whilst Eastern Sheriff and Carrigillihy both also step up in class. Second Slip is the only course and distance winner, none of the others have won here before, but four of them have won at similar trips elsewhere.

Vindolanda is the oldest at 5, whilst we've five 4yr olds and four 3 yr olds who get a useful 8lb weight allowance. Second Slip has been off track the longest, but only 40 days whilst the bottom two on the card have raced and placed in the last week. We've positive markers (14 30 C1 C5) against six of our ten trainers with Jack Mitchell (Second Slip) and Josephine Gordon (The Whipmaster) showing as having ridden well here in the past.

This actually looks a really competitive contest, so let's start with a quick look at each runner individually...

Second Slip carries top weight here and looks in decent nick having won here over course and distance two starts ago at Class 4 and then finishing as runner-up over C&D LTO after being raised 1llbs and upped to this Class 3 level. He was only beaten by three quarters of a length that day and although raised another pound for that run, should be involved again here.

Eastern Sheriff is winless in five since scoring at Ayr in late 2020, but showed signs of a return to form when third at Thirsk, beaten by just a length and a quarter last time out. He's now just a pound higher than his last win and wouldn't have to improve much to make the frame or better today.

Vindolanda is a respectable 5/15 on turf but hasn't won or placed in any of four A/W runs (4th of 12, 3rd of 7, 8th of 10 and last of 5). The trip isn't an issue, but all her best form has been on form the soft side of good. had this been on the Flat, she'd be a real contender, but I have my doubts about her on tapeta.

Amir Kabir was a decent 3rd in the Racing League fixture at Doncaster four weeks ago behind the re-opposing Moon Daisy and Vindolanda and he's 6lbs and 2lbs better off with that pair here respectively, suggesting he should be able to beat them both this time. They didn't go quickly enough for him that day, so if the gallop is stronger here, he could do very well.

Khatm is six from twelve on the AW, including six wins and a runner-up finish from the last eight. He has won on Tapeta previously and the main concern here will be whether or not he gets the trip, having never raced beyond the 1m2½f he tackled LTO, but he's by Dubawi, whose offspring are 22 from 92 (23.9% SR) over 1m3½f to 1m4½f on Flat/AW this year.

The First King has only raced eight times, but did win on tapeta on his debut in March 2020. he also won on his handicap debut in July 2020 over 1m2f off a mark of 84, but hasn't kicked on since. He's now down to a mark of 78 and steps up to this trip for the first time. On paper he could have a chance, but his recent form is so poor.

Winterwatch has only raced four times to date and didn't run as a 2yo. Third of six and second of six in two novice races before winning a Class 5 maiden over today's tripo, he ten scored again next/last time out on handicap debut at Lingfield over 1m5f. Trip certainly won't be an issue, but he's up 3lbs after only holding on by a neck, he's also up two classes and hasn't raced on tapeta before. Too many doubts for me, I'd say.

Moon Daisy was the winner of that afore-mentioned Doncaster Racing League race four weeks ago, getting up late to beat Vinolanda by a head, but she's up 4lbs and is now worse off at the weights with the runner-up. The trip shouldn't be an issue but she'll need to find a bit more to prevail on her AW debut.

The Whipmaster has been running well lately and has made the frame in back to back handicaps at this level in the last five weeks and has won two of six runs this season. He runs off an unaltered mark from LTO, meaning some improvement would be needed to actually win and he does tackle this longer trip for the first time here, but if he stays, he could well place again.

Carrigillihy won back to back handicaps (C6, 14f & C5, 1m3f) in June/July this year taking his mark from a workable 65 to a difficult 74 and he has been 5th of 7, 3rd of 5 and last of 2 since. He still races off 74 here, but steps up in class for just his second AW outing, having been beaten by more than 30 lengths when last home of 13 on his previous effort back in April.

I still think it's a very competitive race, where you could make a case for most of these and at present, there's only two I'm not keen on : The First King and Carrigillihy.

Feature of the day is, of course, Instant Expert, so it'd be rude not to take a look at relevant form...

On overall form, there are bits and pieces of green dotted about with quite a few distance wins. We've not had many come to Newcastle before and the standout line of colour sadly, is Amir Kabir's line of red.

We then narrow the above down to AW handicap form, which obviously reduces the sample size...

...and purely based on the green is good approach, the numbers speak for them selves. There's not much to work on from either graphic really, so I'm going to quickly look at place form both generally...

...where Second Slip catches the eye and then just AW handicap form...

...which definitely points towards Second Slip making the frame here. He's drawn in stall 3 with just Amir Kabir and Moon Daisy inside him, but they're not the best places to be...

...as stalls 8 & 9 fare best from a win perspective and stalls 7 & 8  are best for placers, but you can make the frame from anywhere based on the above. Our pace draw heat map suggests that...

...the three low-drawn horses I mentioned are advised to get out quickly and lead, whilst those drawn in the favoured 8 & 9 stalls would be better off waited with. We log the running styles of all runners at geegeez, so we know how they have tended to run and when we combine their usual running style with where they've been drawn here, we can slot them onto that heatmap above quite easily, as follows...

None of the low drawn horses have shown tendencies to lead and none of the higher drawn favoured stalls are occupied by hold up horses, suggesting that the winner might come down the middle, where Eastern Sheriff and The First King look best positioned, but the latter's current pace score of 2.75 is actually 3.50 in his last two runs, so he might actually sit further to the right on that graphic and have less chance.

Summary

You can make a case for several of these, but I think the place to be is from that centre of the draw and the two I like there are...
Eastern Sheriff based on pace/draw, recent form and a dropping handicap mark
Khatm who raced more prominently when on better form and I suspect he might get closer to the pace here, his AW record is excellent and his breeding suggests he'll get the trip even if he hasn't tackled it yet.

To complete by 3 v the field, I can't ignore the Instant Expert feature of the day and take Second Slip from there. So, those are the three I like best here, but they could very easily all fail to make the frame, it promises to be a really good race. Of my three, there's very little between them, but I think I'd want Eastern Sheriff to beat Second Slip with Khatm settling for bronze.

The market disagrees, but they're not always right, are they? They have my trio at 11/1, 3/1 fav and 14/1, so it's E/W bets on Eastern Sheriff & Khatm for me here.

Northumberland Plate Trends

Run at Newcastle racecourse over 2 miles the Northumberland Plate is one of the richest staying handicap races in the world.

Formerly known as the ‘Pitmen’s Derby’ the contest was first run in 1833 and being over 2 miles can often attract plenty of horses trained by National Hunt stables, while sponsors Betfair have supported the race now since 2019.

We’ve seen four winning favourites in the last 9 years.

Here at GeeGeez we take a look back at past winners and highlight the key trends and statistics to look out for when going through the race– this year run on Saturday 26th June 2021

 

Past Northumberland Plate Winners

2020 – Caravan Of Hope (9/2 fav)
2019 – Who Dares Wins (12/1)
2018 - Withhold (5/1 fav)
2017 -  Higher Power (11/2)
2016 – Antiquarium (16/1)
2015 – Quest For More (15/2)
2014 – Angel Gabrial (4/1 fav)
2013 – Tominator (8/1)
2012 – Ile de Re (5/2 fav)
2011 – Tominator (25/1)
2010 – Overturn (14/1)
2009 – Som Tala (16/1)
2008 – Arc Bleu (14/1)
2007 – Juniper Girl (5/1 fav)
2006 – Toldo (33/1)
2005 – Sergeant Cecil (14/1)
2004 – Mirjan (33/1)
2003 – Unleash (10/1)
2002 – Bangalore (8/1)

Key Northumberland Plate Trends

18/19  - Had won over at least 1m4f before on the flat
18/19 – Finished fifth or better last time out
16/19 – Came from stall 14 or lower
16/19 – Aged 6 or younger
15/19 – Had won over at least 1m6f before on the flat
15/19 – Finished in the top three in their previous race
11/19 – Carried 8-12 or less
10/19 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
8/19 – Had at least 2 turf flat runs already that season
7/19 – Won by a National Hunt yard
5/19 – Won their previous race
5/19 – Winning favourites
3/19 – Ran at Haydock last time out (inc 3 of the last 13 winners)
3/19 – Had won on the flat at Newcastle before
2/19 – Trained by Donald McCain
2/19 – Trained by Roger Charlton (2 of last 6)
1/19 – Won by a previous winner of the race
The average winning SP in the last 19 years is 12.5/1
Note: From 2016 the Northumberland Plate was staged on the All Weather track at Newcastle

Other Northumberland Plate Facts

No horse older than 8 has won the race since 1985
Five of the last 15 winners ran at either Ascot or Haydock last time out
Ten winning favourites (1 joint) since 1985, including 4 of the last 9
Paul Cole trained the winner in 1997, 1998 & 2001

 

 

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Racing Insights, 2nd April 2021

Friday's fabulous free feature is the Horses For Courses report, whilst our 'races of the day' are as follows...

  • 2.00 Lingfield
  • 2.15 Newcastle
  • 4.07 Chelmsford
  • 5.07 Chelmsford

I think I'll take a break from full race profiling today and have a look at my qualifiers from the Horses For Courses report...

...which gives me three horses across two races.

We'll start with the 5.15 Lingfield, a Class 2 handicap over 7f...

...where Count Otto heads the Geegeez ratings and comes here on a hat-trick after back to back wins on this track over 6f at Class 3 and then at this class/trip last time out sixteen days ago. In fact, his last eight outings over the past four months have all been here at Lingfield and he has three wins and a place from those. His win last time out was a career best effort off a mark of 88, but another 3lbs might not be enough to anchor him in his current mood. That said, he'll have plenty of opposition here today!

Instant Expert gives us an overview of his past record in similar conditions to today...

...and as you can see, he's pretty well suited to the task ahead. Overall he's actually 6 from 22 (27.3% SR) on the A/W and they include 5/19 when not the fav, 5/16 after 8-30 days rest, 4/12 when sent off at 6/1 and shorter and 3/5 in blinkers. He hasn't run on the A/W during April or May before, but he is 5 from 12 during January to March.

He's drawn in stall 9 and whilst there's no massive draw bias here at Lingfield for this contest, stall 9 does look a handy place to be, based on the win and place stats below...

Being well drawn is one thing, of course, but it's also very important to tackle the race in the right way, especially in a decent standard, big-field contest. We see so many runners trying and ultimately failing to win from too back here at Lingfield and that's not anecdotal evidence either. As you've come to expect, we have the data to back it up!

...basically lead! And if you can't lead, try to keep handy.

That said, because there's no distinct draw bias, you can win from anywhere here at Lingfield and the most advantageous pace/draw setup is actually a mid-drawn (stalls 6 to 9) racing in mid-division or maybe slightly further advanced...

We already know that Count Otto has bagged one of those central stalls, but how will he run? Well, based on his last four outings, out pace/draw heatmap has him like this...

...which looks a pretty favourable place to be. So he's in good nick, has good stats in similar contests and is well drawn. His running style works well with his draw and he should have every chance. He would, however, be setting a new best to win off a mark of 91 and he's in a big field of useful sorts. Something for me to ponder.

*

But before I make a decision on Count Otto, I want/need to head to the 5.30 Newcastle, a Class 4 5f sprint across the Tapeta...

...where we have two H4C possibles to consider.

Kind Review comes here in better form than Another Angel and also tops the Geegeez ratings, so you'd expect him to be the more likely to succeed here, but let's look more closely.

Since the 7th October of last year, Kind Review has only raced here at Newcastle, making the frame seven times from nine starts and going on to win three of them, the most recent a career-best effort to land a Class 3, 5f sprint off a mark of 78. He's up 3lbs for that win, but does drop in class here and in fairness, he made all last time out and controlled the race from the front. He could well have won by much further.

Another Angel, on the other hand, has now gone 13 races without a win since scoring in a Class 5, 5f sprint here seven months ago off a mark of 69. A subsequent 6lb rise was too much for him and his mark has gradually crept back down to the point where he was back off 69 in Class 5, 5f sprint here last time out, but he could only finish 7th of 10, two lengths off the pace. He's up in class here off the same mark, so that would suggest he's going to struggle.

And now over to Instant Expert for race-relevant stats...

Once again, Kind Review has the edge here and the only slight negative is his A/W record at Class 4, I suppose. But of the 5 defeats at this grade, he has made the frame four times and has won one of two Class 3 runs. He has three wins and four places from nine under today's jockey Tom Eaves here at Newcastle and has won three times and placed once from the five occasions he was sent off at 4/1 or shorter here in the past.

In Another Angel's defence, he's now back to his last winning mark and has an impressive 7 wins and 6 places from 23 efforts over course and distance, although it is some time since he last won and the market is usually a very good indicator of how well he's going to fare.

The pair are drawn alongside each other in stalls 5 and 6 and he draw stats for this type of contest are a little strange with the 17 wins being very evenly distributed across six stalls, yet those in boxes 4 and 6 have failed to win...

...I'm happy to overlook the zeroes and suggest the draw doesn't play a massive factor here for winners, but if you're looking for an E/w bet, then stalls 5 to 7 do seem to do well from a place perspective.

As for running styles, my initial thought is that you can win from most places in the pack, but don't loiter/dawdle at the back, as it's tough to win here (and most places!) over 5f from the back of the field...

And when align the running style stats with the draw stats, a clearer picture begins to form. Those not drawn high should try to lead, those drawn high should let the others lead and drop in behind and if you must be held-up, pray for a low draw!

All that we need to do now is look at how our pair have run recently and drop them onto that heatmap as follows...

...that would suggest that both look well positioned but Kind Review could do even better further forward. A closer look at his last three running style show scores of 4, 2 and 4, where 4 = led. Line that up with his form of 121 and you see he does best when leading. It's also useful to note that the two wins were over this 5f course and distance, whilst the defeat albeit by just a head came over 6f when he was held back off the pace. I suspect he'll be closer to the front that the heatmap might suggest.

Summary

Two A/W sprints to consider, 7f on the polytrack at Lingfield and then a 5f dash across Newcastle's tapeta strip.

Count Otto goes in a decent looking contest, as you'd expect on Good Friday at Lingfield and I'm very confident that he makes the frame. In fact I've got it down to him and Lord of the Lodge. I have a marginal preference for Count Otto here and 5/1 looks fair, whilst the Lord is available at 7/1.

Fifteen minutes later at Newcastle, we have two runners and Kind Review looks far more likely than Another Angel. In fact, they could well finish first and last! That's a little harsh on Another Angel, of course, who clearly has ability, but really needs to step up to get involved. he could make the frame, but I don't fancy him here, not even at 12/1. Kind Review, on the other hand, looks very much like a winner and whilst the 15/8 on offer in places is a touch skinny, you can get 9/4 about him.

So, two races and hopefully two winners. That would be a Good Friday!

 

Racing Insights, 16th March 2021

A poor start to the week for this column, I'm afraid with only my second pick making the frame at Stratford, so I'll move quickly on to Tuesday, where 'feature of the day' is the informative Shortlist report, which highlights Tuesday's runners proven under the conditions they're due to face and our 'races of the day' are as follows...

  • 1.00 Southwell
  • 1.55 Cheltenham
  • 2.45 Southwell
  • 8.15 Newcastle

And the last of our races might only be a Class 6, 5f sprint on the Tapeta, but it's the most open of the four and these races are bread and butter to many of you. A nice light supper after the feast of Cheltenham, perhaps?

So, here's how they line up for 8.15 Newcastle...

And from the card, the first things that strike me are...

FORM :
Pro : Outcast, For Peat's Sake, Marta Boy
Con : Mokaman, Elland Road Boy, Hope Probe, The Queens Ladies

CLASS :
The top four in the weights, plus Suntory Star are all dropping down in class here

COURSE/DISTANCE RECORD :
Pro : Marta Boy is a course and distance winner and 5 others have won over this trip
Con : Tantastic, For Peat's Sake, Hope Probe and Suntory Star are yet to score over five furlongs.

LAST RAN :
Pro : Outcast, Elland Road Boy, For Peat's Sake, Marta Boy, Hope Probe and The Queens Ladies have all raced in the last 6 to 22 days with the last four seen in the past 6-11 days.
Con : Tantastic, Mokaman, West Way Never & Suntory Star return from breaks of 160, 91, 133 and a whopping 228 days respectively

TRAINER FORM :
Pro : West Way Never, Outcast & Marta Boy
Con : Suntory Star

JOCKEY FORM :
Pro : Tantastic, Outcast, Elland Road Boy, For Peat's Sake & Marta Boy

GEEGEEZ RATINGS :
Pro : Marta Boy, For Peat's Sake, Mokaman
Con : The Queens Ladies, Tantastic, West Way Never

RACE SUITABILITY :

We're dealing with low-grade, low-mileage three year olds here who have only made the frame 11 times from 62 combined starts ( 17.74%), going on to win just 6 times (9.68% SR), so I thought it best to just assess them on their handicap place records.

No real standouts, but Marta Boy has no red and couple of others do at least have some green ie Elland Road Boy and For Peat's Sake. Outcast makes a handicap debut after winning last time out.

DRAW STATS :

I prefer to look at stall groupings of two or preferably three adjacent stalls to even out the potential of an anomalous stall showing more runners than expected and based on this (where stall 2 has 6 wins round it 1+3+2 etc), there's a definite tendency for the central stalls to fare best.

RUNNING STYLE (i) :

And from the same 27 races analysed in the above draw stats, we see that leaders and hold-up horses have gone far better than par. By definition, you get fewer leaders than prominent runners, but those that lead have tended to hold on for a place more often than other styles. They win almost 1.5 times as often as expected and I suppose the simple take away here is that if you can't lead, bide your time.

DRAW & RUNNING STYLE :

So we've an idea of where we want to be drawn (middle-ish?) and we know how we want to run (lead or be held-up), so would it be as simple as combining the two?

It would appear so! Mid-drawn leaders are marginally preferred to mid-drawn hold up horses with the best chances elsewhere falling to Led/High, Low/Prom, Mid/Prom.

RUNNING STYLE (ii)

Now that we know where we want to be drawn and how we want to run, we turn back to the actual runners. We already have the draw (on the racecard, on Instant Expert and on the pace tab), we just need to know how the horses are going to run. And that's the potential fly in the ointment, as we don't know how they're going to run, but we believe past performances are often repeated, so let's consider recent running styles of our ten, where 4 = led and 1 = held up...

...and as Sod's law would have it, there's no obvious front runner there, although The Queens Ladies did lead two starts ago before running out of steam and For Peat's Sake also led two starts ago, when beaten by less than a length over 6 furlongs : perhaps he'll take it on here.

Suntory Star aside, the whole field has an average pace score of 2.33 to 3.00, so it could end up being a shootout or a cagey affair with a 1f dash to the line.

We can (and will!) superimpose the horses' running style onto the Pace/Draw heat map for one final clue as to how the race might pan out...

Sadly, that's also fairly inconclusive and I'm happy to ignore how good Suntory Star looks there, as he's got his work cut out ion all the other areas we've assessed.

Summary

The inconclusiveness (real word?) of the pace/draw heat map is actually a good thing, as it reminds us that a stat taken in isolation can be misleading and/or unreliable, but based on all the other evidence I've collated and documented above, I've whittled it down to four in my head.

And those four, in alphabetical order are...Elland Road Boy, For Peat's Sake, Marta Boy and Outkast.

Of the four, the one I like most is Marta Boy who has improved race by race since moving to David Evans' yard, finishing 531, having scored over C&D here 11 days ago and is now just 2lbs higher. I don't have much separating the other three, if truth be told, but if pushed to make a decision, I'd probably go Outcast, For Peat's Sake then Elland Road Boy.

The market at 5.40pm has my front four at 10/3, 11/4, 5/1 and 10/1. It's reassuring to know the market agrees with me, but I can't help being a touch disappointed not to have found a nugget, so to speak. That said, at 10/1, Elland Road Boy might well be an interesting E/W prospect here.

Racing Insights, 11th March 2021

On Thursdays we make the excellent Instant Expert feature available free of charge to all readers to help them read the races, including our full free races of the day which are...

  • 3.15 Carlisle
  • 5.45 Thurles
  • 6.30 Newcastle
  • 7.00 Newcastle

Nothing really caught my eye when I did quick run through the Best of RAR report that generates Instant Expert for us, so it's to the free races we go and the first of the two A/W contests probably lends itself best to what we're trying to do here, so we're off to the 6.30 Newcastle, a 7-runner, Class 5 Tapeta handicap for 4yo+. They'll race over the bare 5 furlongs aiming to collect the £3,429 top prize and they line up as follows...

Top weight Ballyare looks the pick on recent form and ranks second on our ratings, whilst Another Angel has also been running well. Three of the seven are course and distance winners, three others have also won at this trip, the exception being Thrilla In Manila, who ranks third on our ratings, carries bottom weight and makes a yard debut for Paul Midgley, who actually trains three of these seven runners.

Ballyare is 2 from 13 on the A/W with both wins coming from 11 starts over this trip and he has a win and a place from 5 efforts over course and distance. A runner-up LTO beaten by just under two lengths at this trip/class on the Tapeta at Wolverhampton, he'll be keen to go one better off an unaltered mark.

Dazzling Des was a decent second in a tight contest at Wolverhampton two starts ago, but that was his only decent effort in his last half a dozen outings and he has only been eased a pound here, despite finishing 7th of 8, some 9 lengths off the pace last time out, although he does drop in class today.

James Watt makes an A/W debut here after winning just 2 of his 25 Flat runs. A poor stat made worse by the fact that he started his career back in May 2018 by going two from two. 0 from 23 since, no previous A/W experience, only 2lbs lower than a weight he was last beaten at and a 143-day are more than enough to put me off here, although he is related to plenty of tapeta winners and the trainer/jockey combo are 11 from 64 over the last year.

Another Angel has made the frame in his last two starts, initially beaten by 2 lengths over 6f at Southwell and then most recently he was a runner-up over 5f at that same track. He's a pound lower today and looks better suited to this contest,as from his career record of 7 wins from 45, he is 7 from 21 over course and distance and has made the frame in 6 of the 14 defeats. He hasn't won since September 2020, but is now only a pound higher than that run.

Primo's Comet is another due a win, having been beaten is each of his last 12 start, but did make the frame in four of them. He's a five time trip winner, has two C&D victories under his belt and was only beaten by a length here over C&D last time out and he's a pound lighter today, putting him right in the mix.

Good Luck Fox is likely to need plenty of good luck here. He last won back in 2018, has lost eleven on the bounce and has ran just once since 26th October 2019. That last run was his yard debut for Paul Midgley a year and a day ago and came after a previous break of 136 days. I'd expect him to be rusty and/or outclassed here on just his second A/W outing. In his defence, though, I will add that he's 2 from 10 at the trip.

Thrilla In Manila completes the line-up, carries bottom weight, makes a yard debut for Paul (3 in the race) Midgley, returns from 162 days off the track and is ranked third on the Geegeez ratings. He's the only one of the field not to have won over this trip, where he's 0 from 6 and his sole career win came over 6.5f. He has made the frame just once in four starts on the A/W and there's nothing in his form that makes me want to back him here.

*

Tapeta and five furlongs are a specialised surface and trip and a quick overview of a horse's past performance on any given race condition can be easily seen by our unique fully customisable Instant Expert. This works on a traffic light scheme where green is better than red with amber somewhere in between. Proceed with caution might be a good traffic analogy here. So I set my drop down boxes and radio buttons to show what I want to see and this is the result...

...no green!

But that's not a massive surprise with Class 5 animals. They're at this level for a reason, either poor quality or a lack of consistency. That said, Another Angel has a line of amber, which is encouraging off decent sample sizes, whilst Primo's Angel also scores pretty well and Ballyare's two career wins are documented here.

So we've had an appraisal of individual recent form and we've looked at how suited they might be to this contest. Next we need to consider the draw and whether there's any bias here over the 5f sprint. It's a straight five, so apart from fancying the rail, would there be any bias? Let's find out, shall we...

Well, stall 6 looks the best and as we've only 7 runners, we should add 7 & 8 together, so maybe the higher drawn horses do fare best here and this is then reflected in our pace draw heat map, which tells us that if you're drawn high, you've a great chance providing you run anywhere other than just off the pace. Low drawn runners who blast out and lead also do very well here, as you can see below...

The raw data from the 19 races above show a pretty even split of winners across all running styles bar mid-division runners and low to middle draws fare particularly badly in mid-division.

Horses that lead here have proven hard to catch, making the frame 17 times from 22, going on to win 6 times. Prominent runners have won one race more, but from 34 more efforts, whilst hold-up horses have won one less than leaders from double the runners.

So, I suppose the question is, how do our runners here fit into that pace/draw heatmap above? Well, you'll not be surprised to read that we can do that too...

That, unfortunately, doesn't give us a real clear picture, as there's a distinct lack of apparent pace in the race. They obviously can't all race in mid-division or be held up, so there'll have to be a shift to the right, so to speak. Someone will have to take the race on and I suppose a rudimentary guess based on the above says that Another Angel might be the one to do so.

Thankfully, Geegeez readers don't have to guess, because we can quickly show you how all seven runners raced in their last four runs. There is, however, some obvious caveats in that styles do change, horses move yards and some haven't raced four times recently so we might be leaning on old data, but any info is better than none, so here's how they've raced previously...

The higher the number, the more prominent they have been and a complete lack of the number 4 says no natural leader here, but Another Angel has three 3's and I'd expect him to lead out, confirming my rudimentary guess above. Good Luck Fox might show early too and taking it on might be his best chance of making the frame.

Summary

Well I don't really like Dazzling Des, Good Luck Fox or Thrilla In Manila, based on form, lay-offs and A/W experience and this quickly reduces the field to four for me, which I'll aim to split into two pairs.

At the front end of affairs, I'm most interested in Ballyare and Primo's Comet, which I suppose by default leaves Another Angel and James Watt fighting for third.

Another Angel ticks far more boxes for me and he's probably not far off my favoured pairing, but I've got him as third.

And now back to my top two, Ballyare and Primo's Comet. Both are C&D winners, both running well, although Ballyare shades it on form. Primo's Comet carries almost a stone less than Ballyare after jockey claims and looked the better of the two on Instant Expert, whilst neither fared well on pace/draw.

This could be a muddling type of affair, but it's Primo's Comet for me, ahead of Ballyare

I never look at the market, until I'm done. I don't like knowing the prices before analysing a race, I find it can cloud judgment, so at first viewing (just after 5.10pm), I see Primo's Comet available at 5/1, whilst Ballyare is the 11/4 favourite. I don't see Ballyare as being almost twice as likely to win this, so I'm happy with my decision.

Racing Insights, 9th March 2021

Silken Moonlight ran an absolute blinder this afternoon compared with past form and was unlucky in the end, saving me from a touch of embarrassment.

However, I'm happy that the process of elimination led me to a 10/1 winner (£1 E/W, last of the big spenders!) and also that Instant Expert perfectly highlighted Champion Chase's place credentials, as he finished third at 15/2.

Tuesday's free feature is The Shortlist report, whilst our free races of the day will be...

  • 1.35 Exeter
  • 3.00 Clonmel
  • 3.20 Newcastle
  • 3.40 Exeter

Only one horse interested me off The Shortlist report, whilst our free races featured two maiden hurdles and a novice hurdle, races I try not to get involved in. Hobson's Choice, therefore, is another tight-looking 6-runner affair aka the 3.20 Newcastle.

It's a decent enough standard, though, as it's a Class 3 handicap chase over 2m7.5f on Good to Soft (Soft in places) ground. It's worth £7,018 to the winner and there are some names you might recognise on this racecard...

First glance suggests She'sASuperMack is likely to be popular based on form and a drop in class, but her yard and jockey have negative recent course stats according to the icons. The 8 yr old is only ranked fifth on our ratings though, so it might not be a shoo in. Let's check them all out, shall we?

Blaklion is one we've all heard of. He won the Gr1 RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival five years ago and won the Gr3 Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree on December 2017, but has been on the wane since with the latter end of his career punctuated by long absences. Since April 2018, he has raced just five times and had spells of 224 days, 623 days and 118 days off the track. That latest break was ended at Warwick just 11 days ago when he finished 7th of 9, beaten by 33 lengths. In his day, thid would be a walk in the park, but his best days are long gone. He could win here as he gets the ground and the trip, his yard and rider are in good form and this is the lowest grade race he's contested since his third start back in September 2014, but others look more likely here.

Dingo Dollar unseated when being well beaten over hurdles at last year's Cheltenham Festival, then was rested for 31 weeks before finishing 12th of 13 (bt by 61L) in a Uttoxeter Class 2 hurdle, before returning to chasing next/last time out. He was always towards the back that day at Aintree and was eventually pulled up, completing a fairly miserable year for him. That said, he's now on his lowest chase mark since winning at Newbury back in December 2017, he stays (and has won) further than this and the ground will be no issue here. Shortlist material, I think, on debut for new yard, dropping down in class.

Count Meribel is 2 from 9 over fences, although hasn't shaped well in this sphere since finishing as a runner-up in a Listed contest at Carlisle back in November 2019. he was then 6th (bt by 16L0 in a Gr3 at Cheltenham the same month, before failing to complete his next two runs. He was then beaten by 17 lengths (7th of 10) over2m4f at Newbury in November. Since then, he has ran just once, tackling a 3m0.5f Class 3 hurdle at Doncaster just after Christmas and failed to complete again. I don't think he stays the trip and is likely to be nearer the back than the front if he actually finishes.

She'sASupermack is clearly the form horse of this bunch, but the 8 yr old mare has yet to prove herself beyond 2m4.5f. At 2m4f/2m4.5f, she has four wins and three places from seven starts. However, she was 6th of 7 (bt by 20L) in a Class 2 hurdle over today's trip and 10th of 11 (bt by 32L) at Class 4 in back to back runs in June/July 2019 and has been running at her more favoured trip since.

Glittering Love had been running fairly well in 2020, without hitting the heights of 2018/19 when he won four chases on the bounce in the mud at trips ranging from 2m4f to 3m1f. He was a soft ground faller on a comeback from 287 days off track here just before Christmas 2019, but finished 323 in his next three outings, only beaten by 13L, 2,25L and 6.25L. He was, however, disappointing last time out when 4th of 6, 25 lengths off the pace at Ayr in mid-December and will need to bounce back after a 12-week break if he's to land this one. Track/trip/going/jockey all positive and if running to his best, has every chance off his lowest chase mark since his last win.

Bafana Blue is another who had a strong 2019, but probably ended up too high in the weights to continue the run of form. His mark went from 101 to 130 after finishes of 1412111. Weight aside, this trip is probably a little on the sharp side for him too. He stays all day and his six of his seven career chase victories have been at three miles and beyond. He has won on this going or worse, but does prefer quicker ground and he has a good record in this grade, but I'm not fancying his chances here.

Not much on offer in the shape of recent form, aside from the likely favourite, but what about historical performance? Instant Expert will hopefully have the key...

I'd say that IE shows the bottom half of the card in a better light than the top, although Blaklion is 4 from 20 at higher grades than this.

From a pace perspective over 24 similar races, almost half (11) have been won by those racing prominently, leaders have won 8 (33.3%), hold-up horses have 4 (16.6%) victories, but mid-division runners have won just 1 of 24, despite 17 of 145 (11.7%) of runners racing that way.

Leaders/prominence is where you want to be here under today's conditions, so let's see how these six are likely to break out...

From that graphic, you'd be happy with the race positioning of the first three, Bafana Blue is borderline, but I'm not keen on the way the bottom two look set to approach this.

Summary

From analysing the form, Instant Expert and the pace setup of the race, there's no obvious winner here.

Bafana Blue scored poorly on form, but well on IE and so-so on pace, but interestingly now runs off a mark lower than his last chase win.
Blaklion isn't the Blaklion we all grew to love, he's getting on now (I'm not fond of horses racing at this age whilst on an obvious decline) and other fare better in all aspects.
Count Meribel has the ideal running style, but isn't in good form and didn't score that well on IE
Dingo Dollar is also on a very workable mark now, but needs an uplift in form on yard debut, will race prominently which is good, but doesn't seem massively suited to conditions.
Glittering Love has it all in his locker to win here, he gets the trip and the ground, he'll be up with the pace, but just needs to roll the clock back a bit form-wise, I'd have loved him to be a couple or more pounds lower in the weights.
She'sASupermack has the best recent form, but is unproven at the trip. She might also end up with too much work to do late on and wasn't great off this mark last time out.

Finding a winner or even a bet here is likely to come down to who has the fewest negatives about them and can be backed a value-ish price and to that end, I'm drawn more towards the 4/1 Glittering Love than the 9/4 fav.

Dingo Dollar for third, possibly?

Racing Insights, 2nd March 2021

The Shortlist report is freely available to all readers on Tuesdays and our free races of the day will be the following...

  • 1.00 Catterick
  • 4.00 Newcastle
  • 5.20 Gowran Park
  • 6.30 Newcastle

The first of the two Newcastle contests is the most valuable of the four free races and it looks an interesting/tight contest with any number of possible winners at first glance. So, without too much further ado, let's take a look at the 4.00 Newcastle, an 8-runner (hopefully staying that way for E/W punters), Class 2 A/W handicap for 4yo+ over 2m0.5f on the Tapeta. The top prize of £12,938 will end with one of these...

Who Dares Wins carries top weight off a mark of 104, was a class, course and distance winner here way back in June 2019 off just three pounds lower. Had struggled in five contests after a 2m5.5f win at Ascot last June but showed signs of a return to form when only beaten by a neck in another Class 2, 2m0.5f Tapeta handicap at Wolverhampton a fortnight ago, staying on well.

Island Brave has two wins and a place from his last six runs, he has 7 wins and 3 places from 19 on the A/W and won over class, course and distance here last time out. He has been afforded the luxury of an 80-day break and is only up 3lbs for that last run, but is now on a career-high mark and he did only win by half a length, though, in another tight contest (first six separated by 3.5L). Yard is 11 from 49 (22.5% SR, A/E 1.46) on the A/W here and jockey Martin Dwyer is 5 from 18 (27.8% SR, A/E 2.54) for the yard in handicaps over the last year.

Rare Groove makes a rare appearance having not been seen in over 18 months since being beaten by a neck in a 17-runner Class 2 handicap over this trip at York. He's had no favours from the assessor, as his mark remains unaltered from that last run. He has a win and two runner-up finished from three previous visits to this track and under normal circumstances he'd be in the mix off a mark of 96, but the lay-off probably means he needs the run.

Stargazer produced his best run in six last time out, when beaten by just over half a length at Wolverhampton a fortnight ago, finishing behind Who Dares Wins. He's up a pound for that run and is now some 6lbs higher than his last win, but he does have a good record here (22212138) despite going down by 6.5 and 7.5 lengths on his last two visits.

Carnwennan is a pound higher than when a half-length runner-up in this race last year, but hasn't acquitted himself too well in just four starts since. His lack of form and the scarcity of runs suggests something might not quite be right with him, but he is a former course and distance winner. Last time out, he was beaten by 21 lengths off this mark at Wolverhampton, so a dramatic improvement is needed here, but his trainer is 6/23 here over the last year, his jockey is 3/15 over the same period and they are 3 from 12 as a partnership.

Notation is miles clear on the Geegeez ratings and comes here off the back of three wins and two runner-up finishes from six runs on the A/W and now steps up in class and trip for a first visit to Newcastle. Easily the most progressive in the pack here and if adapting to the new race conditions, might be difficult to peg back, especially if allowed to dominate like so many Mark Johnston horses do.

Cosmelli won here over C&D seven starts ago back in July and was a runner-up over C&D three starts ago, albeit both runs were at Class 3. He was then beaten by 16 lengths over this trip stepped up to Class 2 at Wolverhampton finishing last of 11, beaten by 50 lengths over 2m at Class 3 last time out. His C&D form is encouraging, but those two most recent runs are a little off-putting. He doesn't come across as the reliable type and basically didn't run last time out. Yard and jockey are both struggling for winners (0/16 and 0/11 respectively over the last fortnight), so this one is probably best left alone.

Jedhi returns to level ground after failing to make the frame on four efforts over hurdles and now tackles the A/W for the first time since June 2019. She's never gone further than 1m6f on the A/W and her sole win away from the turf came as far back as August 2018, when she landed a Class 5 handicap over a mile and a half. her career best effort came off this mark when winning by a nose back in July 2019 and after three months break, she's better off just watched.

*

Instant Expert suggests...

...Who Dares Wins, Island Brave and possibly Notation are best suited here, but only Cosmelli and Jedhi look out of it. Rare Groove's mark of 96 looks a concern at 15lbs higher than his last comparable win and the same can be said against Jedhi.

*

The draw stats here tell us that other than what looks an anomalous figure from stall 3, that it's best to be drawn out in 6, 7 or 8, although I'm admittedly a little sceptical about the draw over two miles from the finish...

And for those not lucky enough to get a high draw, it seems best to drop back from a low draw or to get on with it from the middle: grabbing the rail I assume?

We already know the draw and we already know how best to run the race from a given draw, so let's see how our runners fit into that heat map...

The win percentages for the four running styles are all pretty similar if truth be told and based on that closeness and my reluctance to add too much weight to a draw in a 2m+ contest, I'm not over-convinced the traffic light system is as relevant as usual (don't forget, a single stat in isolation isn't always one to be relied upon!). What is apparent is that Notation is going to try and dominate from the off, the next two prominent racers are both outside her, so she should get a soft unchallenged lead. The question is how far clear can she get before the pack start to close on her.

Summary

I've think that I've already made it clear that Cosmelli & Jedhi aren't for me and that Rare Groove is going to need a run after so long off the track. Stargazer has run poorly as though something was amiss in his last two starts and I have concerns about Carnwennan's lack of form and recent activity, so almost by default without even saying I like any of the runners, I'm down to my "three against the field".

And they are Island Brave, Notation and Who Dares Wins. Island Brave is in form, showed well on IE, has a good pace/draw make-up, yard goes well at this track and the TJ combo numbers are good. Notation is young and progressive and looks like grabbing a soft lead which might be difficult to peg back, she's way clear on our ratings and she's used to winning, whilst Who Dares Wins just seems to have a solid all-round profile in the areas I've discussed.

Had WDW been in better form prior to last time out, I'd probably have sided with him, but my tentative preference here is for Notation. If she gets out and stays out, that could well be enough. As for the minors, not much in it to be fair, but Who Dares Wins edges it over Island Brave, who might just have too weight to carry.

To be honest, any of these three could win, but I'd be surprised if none did.

Racing Insights, 11th February 2021

On Thursdays we make the Instant Expert racecard feature available to all users for all races, including our 'Races of the Day', which for Thursday are...

  • 2.40 Kempton
  • 3.50 Thurles
  • 7.30 Newcastle

Not much to go at, thanks to the weather, and our three feature races include a jumpers bumper, an 18-runner maiden and a small field A/W contest that will probably have a short-ish favourite. Sub-2/1 favourites don't always win, though, so why don't we have a look at the 7.30 Newcastle and see if we can find enough evidence to support an alternative to the expected fav or maybe even lay the fav?

We start with some background stats that tell us that favourites sent off at Evens to 15/8 in Newcastle A/W handicaps over 6-7 furlongs are 32 from 103, a 31/1% strike rate that creates a loss at SP of 23.54pts or £22.85 for every £100 invested. Of those 103 favs...

  • those racing over 7f are 16/57 (28.1%) for -18.2pts (+31.8% of stakes)
  • those racing at Class 6 are 6/28 (21.4%) for -13.4pts (+47.8%)
  • and those racing over 7f at Class 6 are 3 from 12 (25% SR, A/E 0.58) for a loss of 5.5pts or 46% of stakes

Having seen the card already, I expect Bobby Joe Leg to go off shorter than 2/1, so let's assess his chances here...

Let's start with what's in front of us on the card, from left to right, we have them in weight/OR order. Bobby Joe Leg (BJL from hereon) is number two on the card, so he's rated second highest by the handicapper and will carry the second most weight before any jockey claims (no claim = still second). Only Broctune red is rated/weighted higher.

BJL is drawn widest of all in stall 7, which as you'll see further down the page isn't a disaster, but he could be better off more centrally (3 to 6 seems better).

On form, he stands up well with a runner-up finish two starts ago and a win last time out, but Broctune Red betters that by winning both of his last two starts after a runner-up slot three races ago.

Like Moxy Mares and Cmon Cmon, BJL drops in class today and he's also one of just three runners to have won over course and distance, along with the afore-mentioned Cmon Cmon and also Mudawwan. Broctune Red and Dramatista are former winners here at Newcastle, but have never won over 7f, whilst Moxy Mares and Katsonis have won at neither track nor trip.

The whole field have raced in the last 6 to 14 days, so no long lay-offs to worry about here. BJL's trainer has the 30 by her name signifying good recent form, as do the trainers of Moxy Mare and Broctune Red (both have positive 14 & 30 day form), whilst the latter's yard also have a good past record on this track (C1 C5).

With regards to jockeys, only BJL's rider has any positive icons (30 C5) and the final column, SR, the Geegeez Speed rating has BJL out on top, but he's not far clear of Broctune Red (74 vs 72).

Based on the card information, BJL looks to have a good chance, but it's far from a given and several others have also caught the eye.

*

Next up, Race Suitability ascertained as always by Instant Expert, by far the easiest way to assess all runners' records together at oncce at Going, Class, Course, Distance, Field Size and weight comparison vs last win...

...working on the traffic light system of Green is good, Amber is caution and Red is not so good, Broctune Red stands out here, as does Cmon Cmon ahead of both BJL and Dramatista, so our likely fav isn't the best on this section at all.

*

Draw and running styles are our next areas for critique and I've looked at 5 to 9 runner contests, purely to get a few races in the sample (there aren't enough 7-runner contests to be able to rely upon the data). High draws have fared marginally better, but there's not a lot in it really, so stall 7 on its own shouldn't make or break BJL's chances, as you can see here...

And if we're not over bothered about where they break from, then it's quite possible that race positioning will be more important and the data tells me that Mid-Division is not a good place to be generally. Just 2 of 27 runners (7.4%) have won from there, landing just 7.1% of the 28 races analysed, whereas 80 prominent runners have won exactly half of the 28 races at a strike rate of 17.5% and they've grabbed most of the place money too!

When we combine draw and race positioning (aka pace), a more informative picture appears and it basically tells us that if you're drawn low, you need to race prominently or even lead. Mid-drawn horses are best raced prominently, whilst from a high draw, it's probably best to let someone else inside lead and you tuck in behind. This graphic explains it better, of course...

So, by this point we already know the draw and we know where we want to be drawn allied to our race pace and thanks to logging past performances, we can tell you how we expect these runners to break based on recent runs. We can overlay these recent running styles to the pace heatmap above and this is what we get...

...quite possibly a falsely run race. There's no obvious pace angle, yet someone will have to lead. Mudawwan ran his best race for some time last time out and that was on this track when finishing fourth, but crucially he led that day and wasn't headed until 2f from home in a one mile contest, so he might lead again over this shorter trip.

It probably won't help him win, but it will enable the rest of the field to run heir normal races. BJL raced prominently last time out, as did Cmon Cmon in each of his last two, finishing 5th over C&D both times. However, I think he'll return to being held up here, as he was in back to back C&D wins prior to those 5th place finishes.

This bit isn't an exact science, but I'd expect Mudawwan to lead out from stall 5 and possibly drag BJL along with him, allowing Broctune Red to sit in just behind.

So, who wins? Well, I don't think BJL will be far away, nor will Broctune Red based on what we've seen so far. Minor honours will probably be disputed by Dramatista and Moxy Mares.

Summary

I set out to see if the sub-2/1 favourite Bobby Joe Leg was worth taking on and here's where it gets interesting. I think he wins the race here (just), but having seen the market, he's not the favourite : Broctune Red is! So I'm siding with BJL at 11/4 (Hills) to beat the fav.

BJL was comfortable when landing his third C&D win last time out and is only raised 4lbs for that effort, whilst Broctune Red only just won here off a mark of 55, he's now off 65 and the jockey can't use the 5lb claim from last time out, making a big weight difference here.

Dramatista is probably marginally better than Moxy Mares for third place, but it's only 2 places for E/W bettors, so the bigger price for Moxy Mares might sway you.

Racing Insights, 28th January 2021

Yesterday I said that..."I don't see much between Perfect Rose & Vivency for the win...I think I'd rather back her (Vivency) at 10/3 than the fav (Perfect Rose) at sub-2/1..." Vivency got up right on the line to deny perfect Rose by the shortest of short heads to land me a 10/3 winner, whilst the Exacta paid almost 8/1 for those of you who jumped on that too.

Things don't always go to plan, so it was nice to take another few quid from the layers today.

Thursday is almost upon us and the feature of the day is access to Instant Expert for ALL races, including our races of the day, which are...

  • 12.53 Fakenham
  • 2.20 Gowran Park
  • 3.10 Wetherby
  • 6.30 Newcastle

And I'm going to use the place element of Instant Expert to assess whether a couple of expected non-favs from Thursday would be likely to make the frame in what would appear to be favoured conditions, starting with a runner in the 1.55 Fakenham...

Aintree My Dream is now what we'd call a veteran at 11 yrs old, but he's not the old boy in this race that also features a pair of 12 yr olds. He's also not showing any real signs of slowing down, despite having lost each of his last 15 races (12 over fences). I say he hasn't slowed down, because he has finished in the first three home in eight of his last ten starts and has been the runner-up in his last two outings.

Beaten by just half a length over 2m4f on heavy on the 1st December, he then went down by a length and a quarter over the same trip but on soft ground at Sandown. Trainer Milton Harris is three from five over the past week, so he seems to have his string well tuned and in the shape of the wily/experienced paddy Brennan, we have a jockey who has made the frame in 18 of 35 starts over the past month  :very handy when we're looking for a placer.

Aintree My Dream's career record includes the following, based on placed finishes...

...and these are tremendous figures for a horse that has raced 29 times in total, making the frame on 14 occasions (48.3%). In addition to the above, his place record also includes of relevance here...

  • 11/21 with no headgear , 9/22 when not the fav , 9/16 sent off at 6/1 and shorter
  • 9/12 off a mark of 121-130 , 9/16 in fields of 8-11 runners , 7/18 going left handed
  • 6/12 in hcp chases , 5/12 after 16-30 days rest , 4/7 on heavy ground
  • 4/6 under today's jockey and 3/4 in January.

So, I'd say he has conditions to suit. My main reservation at this point is the fact that he's a confirmed hold up horse making his first ever visit to Fakenham, where hold up horses can (and do) win their share of races, but from a larger number of runners than other racing styles, as seen here...

Clearly 2 from 12 from leaders is far better than 2 from 26 held up, but I did mention the skewing of sample sizes yesterday regarding what is a true hold up horse as opposed to a slow one, so whilst I have reservations, I wouldn't discount the horse just yet. Something to think about, whilst I...

...take a look at one in the 6.00 Newcastle...

Boma Green is far less experienced/exposed than our first highlighted runner of course, as this 4 yr old has only raced seven times to date. he has yet to win, but has made the frame five times (71.4%) so far. He was a modest third at this class/track three starts ago when finishing third over 7 furlongs, beaten by 7.25 lengths, although the runner-up has since won another C5, 7f contest, albeit on soft ground.

Boma Green then stepped up in both Class and trip (C4, 1m) for a decent runner-up finish at Kempton when only beaten by a length and a quarter, so much more was expected of him in his last run (New Year's Eve) at Lingfield when sent off the 7/2 second favourite. Sadly he could only finish 8th of 11, beaten by nearly five lengths having weakened badly in the last of the seven furlongs off a mark of 76. He's down a class and a pound here, but back up a furlong.

Both his yard and his jockey have good records here at Newcastle, although they rarely team up here :  this will be just the fourth occasion.

We know that this horse has placed in 5 of 7 starts and they include...

He has placed in 2 of 4 A/W starts with his 3/3 on the Flat suggesting he's better on grass. He's 4 from 6 for this yard, 4 from 4 on a straight run and 3 from 4 at 16-30 days rest. He has also made the frame in 5 of 6 starts with no headgear, but wears cheekpieces for the first time here.

He's not one to lead if he can help it but does like to race prominently, which is a tactic that usually works well here...

...and whilst that looks good for him, he isn't particularly well drawn in stall five and there's no real pace in the race, meaning he might have to take it on for himself or suffer in a slowly run tactical affair. Here are the draw stats....

Summary

Aintree My Dream is currently 3rd fav at 6/1, I've got him as second best and roughly as far away from the winner as he is clear of the my third ranked horse. I agree with the market that Golden Whisky is the most likely winner and whilst 6/1 about Aintree My Dream is too short for me personally from an E/W perspective, I certainly expect him to make the frame. It might be worth putting a place bet on the exchanges or doing the forecast. Shanacoole Prince is interesting as a double-digit odds E/W punt, as he's better than his last run suggests.

Boma Green is also a 6/1 third fav right now, but he's not for me. I don't think the race is going to pan out as he'd like, I expect it might become a tactical affair and he will possibly get run out of it. There are two that do interest me for making the frame at decent odds, Jewel Maker and Traveller, but I'll be leaving Boma Green alone.

Monday Musings: Newcastle helping the rich get richer?

For decades they said it. The north needs an all-weather track. Just over six years ago the announcement that Newcastle racecourse would indeed be tearing up its turf and replacing it with an all-weather circuit which would include a straight mile was greeted incredulously, writes Tony Stafford.

At the forefront of the criticism were some of the biggest trainers in the sport. Articles in late August 2014 by Greg Wood in the Independent and Chris Cook in the Guardian quoted, respectively, John Gosden and William Haggas, although others such as Mark Johnston, Sir Michael Stoute and Ralph Beckett were equally critical.

Gosden told Wood: “This is sacrilege. There is a requirement for an all-weather track in the north of England but Newcastle is emphatically not the solution. Racing on a one-mile straight as betting-shop fodder under lights will produce one-dimensional boat races.

“British racing requires upgrading and the destruction of one of the best turf courses in the UK is sacrilege,” Gosden re-emphasised.

Haggas spoke to Cook as the big-players’ campaign to prevent the change gathered momentum. Presumably the fact they were resisted by ARC (Arena Racing Company) was quite a surprise. Several of the same group were equally vocal in their criticisms of recently-departed Nick Rust at the start of the Covid pandemic back in the spring.

Regarding the Gosforth Park transition, Haggas told Cook: “The only way to stop it is not to support it <in other words a boycott>. The north does need a track nearer than Southwell but surely this <Newcastle> isn’t it.” He went on: “Field sizes will suffer as the horse population shrinks and opportunities there increase. Johnston and Fahey won’t want to come down <to the existing all-weather courses in the south>.”

Indeed, Haggas went so far as to say that, if ARC did get their way to have the new all-weather track replacing the turf Flat course, they would almost certainly respond by closing one of their other tracks.

Anyway, history tells us that with a Michael Dickinson-inspired Tapeta surface, the switch did indeed happen, and no other all-weather track has closed.

Then on November 28th 2016, “Mr Sacrilege” chose Newcastle ahead of Kempton, Lingfield, Southwell , Wolverhampton or the recently re-opened Chelmsford for the debut of Enable, the best horse to race in the UK, never mind ratings, since Frankel.

There were seven all-weather fixtures at Newcastle in the final month of 2020. Understandably Mark Johnston was, as ever, represented but in eight novice or condition races in the period Haggas, Gosden, Beckett and Stoute’s staff all loaded up the horseboxes for the 486-mile round trip. It would have been more like 600 miles for the Beckett runner, a December 12th novice winner from a Haggas odds-on shot with Gosden and Johnston runners following him home.

On the first day of December, a ten-furlong two-year-old novice was won by one of two Charlie Appleby Godolphin runners with Gosden, Johnston and Gosden again the next three home. Fifth and sixth were Charlie’s, Fellowes and Appleby. Three days later, David O’Meara struck a rare winning note for the locals in a six-furlong juvenile novice, with a Haggas favourite only fourth.  A three-year-old novice later on that card fell predictably to a Saeed Bin Suroor-trained 5-1 on shot for Godolphin.

There was no Newmarket-trained runner in the novice on December 15th but six days later Sir Michael Stoute stepped in with an odds-on winner, beating a Roger Varian runner with Haggas again well beaten in fifth.

On December 28th the sole Newmarket runner in the novice for three-year-olds and up so emphatically outclassed the ten northern hopefuls that it started at 3-1 on and won comfortably for Charlie Fellowes.

The north might have got its all-weather track but I’m sure the last thing the trainers handling the fortunes of 179 stables of the 595 listed in the 2020 Horses in Training annual as being based north of the Trent, are finding it all that satisfactory.

William Haggas warned that Mark Johnston and Richard Fahey would no longer send their horses south, but from the moment he and John Gosden realised that however good Gosforth Park had been as a Flat turf track, it was at least as good for all-weather, the die was cast.

So much so that when the 2019 Vertem Futurity at waterlogged Doncaster needed a home in November last year, Newcastle stepped in to stage its first Group 1 race. That its winner, Kameko, went on to win the 2,000 Guineas next time out could only encourage the big shots to keep coming.

I could easily have miscounted the number of trainers operating north of the Trent on my one-time slow-motion read through yesterday and the location of some of those towards the west of the country might be questionable. What is fact is that almost 30% of UK trainers are relying on Newcastle for their chance to get some winter prizemoney.

The two major training centres in the north are Middleham, home among many others to Johnston, and Malton, where Fahey trains.  From Middleham to Newcastle involves a one-way trip of 60 miles. It’s around 84 from Malton.

As Gosden said those few years ago, they needed somewhere nearer than Southwell, 106 miles from Middleham. When the Johnston lorries wheel out of Kingsley House or Kingsley Park in the mornings their travelling lads face trips of 231 miles (one-way) to Chelmsford, 254 to Kempton and 274 to Lingfield. It’s a relatively short hop of 160 miles to Wolverhampton.

The West Midlands track has already been busy this year with a fixture in a snow storm on Saturday evening. Today will be the first of four consecutive days and five more before the end of the month will bring its tally up to ten January fixtures.

That will be exceeded by Lingfield with 11, followed by Southwell, eight, and Kempton with six. There are only three planned for Chelmsford, two fewer than Newcastle’s five. The only snag is the programmes at Newcastle are not very northern-trainer-friendly.

Of 35 planned races (usually one or two per meeting can be divided) there is a bias towards high-rated handicaps which does not help many of the smaller trainers based in the region, where most small stables rely on second-hand moderate animals.  Of the 35, only seven cater for horses with an upper limit of 60 – two are 0-50 (including one classified), three of 46-55 and two 46-60. Most of these are at the end of the month.

Contrastingly, there are ten opportunities for horses rated from 61 to 95 and nine more for those from 51-75. Eight conditions or novice races will keep the wagons rolling north from Newmarket and beyond.

Wolverhampton’s next four days feature 31 races, and 14 of them are in the 0-60 brackets with five catering for 0-50 horses. As the BHA no doubt will say, northern stables can easily come down but while the richer owners with their horses in the top Newmarket stables can shrug off expensive travel costs and all-day absence of staff attending those horses, smaller operations are far less able to persuade owners to stump up high expenses for the chance of gaining modest prizemoney.

To put it in perspective, a horse trained near Newcastle, where there is no suitable target, will need to travel to the other tracks and undergo 150 miles to Southwell, 204 to Wolverhampton, 274 to Chelmsford, 298 to Kempton and a bumper 318 miles to Lingfield.

The respective distances from Newmarket are 50 to Chelmsford, 93 to Lingfield, 103 to Southwell, 105 to Kempton and a still-manageable 121 miles to Wolverhampton.

In 2020 John Gosden ran 168 different horses on all-weather tracks winning 62 races from a total 266 runners.  Nine of the wins came at Newcastle, including Palace Pier, winner of a conditions race on his reappearance in June, a race that provided the springboard for two Group 1 victories. He lost his unbeaten record when third in the Ascot quagmire behind The Revenant on Champions Day at Ascot, until which time he was regarded as the best miler in Europe.

So that is the sort of opposition the locals will have to contend with going forward unless something is done. I think it’s time that some of the vulnerable targets that can be so easily picked off are made a little more difficult.

Many years ago, there were a few races restricted to horses trained north of the Trent. Maybe it’s time to re-instate them so that maidens at least can become more competitive. True, that might mean that with fewer 5-1 on shots, the betting-shop cannon-fodder might be improved – imagine what long odds-on shots must do for turnover! – and northern trainers will be less frightened of getting too near horses that are almost sure to go on and be pattern-race performers.

There must be a case anyway that anything that helps restrict the further spread of Covid in these testing times is welcome. Scotland is in total lockdown but horse boxes can roll in with impunity from south of the border.

There is one person, apart from the former most vocal opponents of Newcastle’s remodelled track, who would be mortified if the traffic north stops coming up from Newmarket. Simon Mapletoft, often the course link at Newcastle, is beside himself with excitement when a Gosden, Haggas or indeed any of the other big HQ stables has a runner.

Still, as he commented the other day, Southwell will be switching to Tapeta soon, so he can look forward to getting just as reverent in Nottinghamshire before long as he has been in Northumberland these past few years.

Racing Insights, 28th December 2020

Matt for the final time, for now at least, in the RI chair.

Boxing Day's race was interesting, though not profitable for me. One of the flagged each way possibles, Twotwothree, which was backed from double digit prices to 9/2, won well. Meanwhile, Time To Get Up drifted from around 3/1 to almost double those odds and was never a factor; he did run on belatedly to snatch fourth and remains a dark horse, potentially for the tracker.

We've lost Leicester and Fontwell tomorrow but still, at time of writing, have Catterick, Newcastle, Leopardstown and Limerick to go at. Limerick was waterlogged today so we'll see if they're raceable on Monday.

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I've done my usual 8-10 runners, handicaps only whittling for the purposes of this piece, and have landed on the 4.35 Newcastle as a head scratcher worthy working through.

It's a race which revolves around the William Haggas-trained Sword Spirit, and she does look comfortably the most likely scorer. Easy winner of a 0-65 mile handicap at Lingfield last Monday, she turns out under the obligatory six pound penalty before being re-assessed on Tuesday: she's likely to get more than six for the handicapper's prior leniency. With just three runs to her name she has loads of upside and might be a lot better than these. But... she was beaten far enough on debut the only time she raced over a straight track and she's backing up quickly enough after that last race.

The opposition is largely exposed with the exception of Arabic Welcome, a Godolphin castoff having his first run for Marco Botti and only his third career outing. He clearly needs to step forward on 26 length and 12 length defeats; but both those races were over a mile and a half whereas this is a mile. Botti has strong figures both off a layoff and on trainer switch, as well as decent enough handicap debut numbers:

But the yard is a little out of form and the jockey is very inexperienced: he gets to ride this horse which is owned by the trainer's wife.

There is a horse in here - a Newcastle stalwart - with a massive ten Report Angles showing up on my settings:. Yes, of course, it's the standing dish, Great Colaci.

Last time out, I was against him in this column has he was drawn low and held up in a race with little pace. Here, he's... drawn low and held up in a race with little pace! In fact, let's bring the pace into the equation at this point:

The projection is 'May Be Falsely Run', and we can see that none of the nine horses appear in the 'Led' column. That may again count against Great Colaci.

Instant Expert is below, on the two year AW handicap place view.

We can see that, as well as Great C, both Jewel Maker and Corked have strong course records. Jewel Maker's only handicap win was in Class 6, but he's run well in both this grade and Class 4: he's just short enough in terms of betting for a place if we presume Sword Spirit will be hard to beat.

Corked has also failed to win in Class 5, though has placed in half of her ten races in this tier. But she's also more of a ten furlong mare, as can be seen below, than a mile.

Moreover, her trainer is in dreadful form:

Rogue Tide has a course and distance win on his CV, and ran well at this level over track and trip, too. Elisha Whittington's five pound claim is decent but, drawn two and generally waited with, there are enough negatives to look elsewhere.

One I'm drawn to a little is Keith Dalgleish's Paddyplex. Both trainer and jockey Billy Garrity are in decent form, and this fellow has been running well in defeat in higher grade and over further. His last run over this course and distance was in March, where he was a close second in Class 4. He's seven pounds better off here, including the jockey claim, though it's fair to say that Silvestre de Sousa is an upgrade on Billy Garrity (and indeed most riders).

The appeal, quite aside from the solid place record in this grade, is that in a race where it is not at all clear who will go forward, Paddyplex has led and raced prominently. As such, he has a chance to try to steal from the front. Naturally, I'd expect at least some of his rivals to be wise to this tactic; but, given first run and good course/distance/class form, he looks over-priced.

Catch My Breath has a similar profile in that he raced prominently over course and distance last time and also has a kind draw; on that last day run he finished fourth, but only a length behind the winner in Class 4. He's been third or fourth in six out of seven straight track mile handicaps:

The outsider, Reclaim Victory, ran well over course and distance last time and can't be completely discounted with an ostensibly solid draw/run style combination.

Verdict

It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if the favourite went off more like 1/2 than her current top quote of 4/5, and she might be a touch of value if you can/want to get on at that price.

I'm against Jewel Maker at the price, and Corked more generally, and I think Arabic Welcome has plenty to prove. Rogue Tide and Great Colaci may have the worst of the draw/run style matrix, so I'm finding Paddyplex and, to a lesser degree, Catch My Breath compelling each way plays.

I've backed Paddyplex at 14/1 (12's generally), and I've also backed him in a forecast behind Sword Spirit at around 16/1. I'm going to play the Sword Spirit / Catch My Breath forecast as well, and will look at the pair in 'without the favourite' markets in the morning.

- Matt