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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

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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!

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...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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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...

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...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.

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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:

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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

Racing Insights, 15th December 2020

Well, we nearly had ourselves an 11/2 winner today, but the gutsy Up Helly Aa King was headed after the last fence and went down by a length. The original favourite King Capard was indeed over-rated, Crank 'Em Up was the worst of the finishers, but the big surprise was the winner, Strong Economy who defied all stats/logic to win, but fair play to him for doing so.

And now somewhat belatedly (I've just got home from a 5pm appointment in Liverpool), Tuesday looms large on my horizon. Our feature of the day is the Shortlist report, whilst our free racecards will cover...

  • 12.35 Wincanton
  • 2.05 Wincanton
  • 2.45 Newcastle
  • 3.05 Wincanton

If I'm honest, I don't really fancy any of those four contests from a betting perspective, but there are a couple of high scorers at the top of tomorrow's Shortlist report, so let's take a look at them and assess their chances, shall we?

Maaward has never ran at Newcastle, but has an otherwise perfect score, whilst Athmad's only "weakness" is that he has fared best in 12-runner fields. Our job is to work out whether tomorrow's conditions will suit, starting with the 4.20 Newcastle...

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Maaward has two wins and a place from six all-weather runs, including two wins and a place from three on Standard to Slow going, a win and a place from two over a mile and one win from two at Class 4. Conversely, he has no run at all on a straight track, or under today's jockey or on tapeta! He's 0 from 5 overall when sent off longer than 6/4 and is 0 from 2 for this yard.

He has finished last of 11, last of 19 and last of 10 in his last three outings, beaten by 14L, 26L and 29L respectively with increasingly poor results despite his mark going from 95 to 87 to 80. He now sports a tongue tie (that's going to be some tongue tie if he gets him to win!) for the first time and runs off a mark of 72 here, which you hope would be light enough to beat something home?

His yard and jockey have both fared poorly at this venue, which doesn't inspire confidence, but he's drawn well (stalls 7-9 have won over half of similar races recently : 17 of 33) and his prominent running style suggests he might make a better fist of proceedings here.

*

And now onto our second tapeta contest, the 5.10 Wolverhampton featuring Athmad...

 

Athmad is in great form, finishing 1141 in his last four runs, all here at Wolverhampton in the last six weeks with two wins at 1m0.5f and a win over this 1m1.5f course and distance last out. having ran on the A/W just six times, his three wins from six is a healthy return including that 3 from 4 here at Wolverhampton, 1 from 2 at Class 4 and 1 from 1 at this this (CD LTO), whilst he's also 2 from 2 after just 8-15 days rest.

Instant Expert backs up those stats and unusually, the draw and pace tabs neither help nor hinder us based on the numbers above, but if you look a the draw stats more closely you'll see that the line does rise the higher the draw, but there's not enough in it for me to worry, when a high draw is 13.02% against a low draw of 11.83%. The lack of a significant draw bias means that the better horses have more chance of winning no matter which box they're in, but it also makes the pace analysis even more important.

The pace tabs tell a slightly different story with both prominent and held-up horses faring best, but leaders/mid-division runners faring less well. Athmad's 2.25 rating over his last four outing is skewed by a 1 rating in the race where he finished fourth having been held back too long and failing to catch the leaders, That aside the other three of his last four runs (all wins) came from prominent runs and I'd expect to see that continue today (the prominence, I mean!), Prominent runners are 68 from 166 (41% SR)  from those races above, which bodes well for our boy here.

Summary

A little shorter than usual, but I think I've covered the necessaries here. If Maaward isn't the worst in his race, he won't be far ahead of the one who is and at 40/1, the market agrees. I'd leave this one alone if I were you.

Different kettle of fish re : Athmad, though. In fantastic nick, he looks the best of the pack here and although this will be his toughest assignment yet, I feel he's got enough about him to get home again. Personally, I'd have liked a bit more than the 7/2 on offer from Bet365, but I've had a couple of shillings on anyway.

 

2020 Fighting Fifth Hurdle Trends

Sponsored by leading bookmaker BetVictor, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle is a Grade 1 race is staged at Newcastle racecourse.

Having first been run in 1969 the contest is often seen as an early-season trial for the Champion Hurdle, with the Nicky Henderson-trained Punjabi (2008) and Buveur D'Air (2018) the last horses to win both races in the same season.

The 2017 and 2018 Champion Hurdle winner – Buveur d’Air – landed this race in 2017 before going onto Cheltenham glory again in March 2018, while he also took the prize in 2018 and was second in 2019.

Here at GeeGeez we are on-hand to look back at past winners, and give you the key trends to look out for ahead of the 2020 renewal – this year run on Saturday 28th November 2020

Recent Fighting Fifth Hurdle Winners

 

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2019 – CORNERSTONE LAD (16/1)
2018 - BUVEUR D'AIR (11/8)
2017 - BUVEUR D'AIR (1/6 fav)
2016 – IRVING (6/1)
2015 – IDENTITY THIEF (6/1)
2014 – IRVING (6/4 fav)
2013 – MY TENT OR YOURS (8/11 fav)
2012 – COUNTRYWIDE FLAME (11/4)
2011 – OVERTURN (7/4)
2010 – PEDDLERS CROSS (9/4)
2009 – GO NATIVE (25/1)
2008 – PUNJABI (8/11 fav)
2007 – HARCHIBALD (4/1)
2006 – STRAW BEAR (Evs fav)
2005 – ARCALIS (9/4 fav)
2004 – HARCHIBALD (9/4 jfav)
2003 – THE FRENCH FURZE (25/1)
2002 – INTERSKY FALCON (11/10 fav)

Fighting Fifth Hurdle Betting Trends & Stats

18/18 – Won a hurdles race over at least 2m before
16/18 – Won at least a Grade 2 hurdle before
16/18 – Finished in the first two in their latest race
15/18 – Raced in the Champion Hurdle later that same season
15/18 – Won at least 4 times over hurdles before
14/18 – Placed favourites
13/18 – Officially rated 151 or higher
12/18 – Won their last race
11/18 – Ran within the last 6 weeks
10/18 – Placed in the top 6 in the Champion Hurdle later that season
8/18 – Favourites that won (1 joint)
6/18 – Won by an Irish bred horse
5/18 – Raced over hurdles at Newcastle before
4/18 – Won by an Irish based yard
4/18 - Trained by Nicky Henderson (4 of last 12)
3/18 – Won by a previous winner of the race
2/18 - Trained by Paul Nicholls (2 of last 6)
2/18 – Won the Champion Hurdle later that same season (2008 Punjabi, 2018 Buveur d’Air)
The average winning SP in the last 17 runnings is 6/1

Note: The 2008 renewal was staged at Wetherby, and the 2010 race at Newbury

 

 

 

 

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Racing Insights, 3rd November 2020

Tuesday's free feature is the simple but effective Shortlist report, whilst the daily free races are...

  • 1.25 Exeter
  • 2.33 Southwell
  • 2.55 Exeter
  • 3.45 Fairyhouse
  • 7.45 Newcastle

And I'm going to take a look at the Shortlist report to see if we can spot a winner for tomorrow from the following...

I'm going to assess three from the above and it makes sense to look at the 6.45 Newcastle race with two qualifiers and then I'll focus on the 3.10 Redcar for a bit of variety...

Twisted Dreams and Island Storm are numbers 8 and 9 on the racecard, as they are the bottom two in the weights. Island Storm comes here in the best form having finished 211 in his last three contests, all here on this track including wins over 7f at Class 6 and then a Class 5 course and distance success here last time out.  Island Storm, on the other hand, was also a class, course and distance winner here this time last year, but has failed to beat a rival since, finishing 6th, 6th and 10th, albeit in a higher grade over longer trips.

On the green trainer/jockey icons, Island Storm clearly holds the upper hand thanks to the yard's recent form and overall course success, but jockey Paul Mulrennan aboard twisted Dreams is in good nick right now.

Instant Expert essentially puts the shortlist information into numbers...

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and the obvious areas for discussion are Island Storm's 0 from 3 in fields of 8-11 runners and Twisted Dream's 1 from 4 at Class 5. In isolation, they're not good numbers, but the latter is 1 from 3 in the lower value (sub £3500) Class 5 contests and the former is 2 from 2 in 6/7 runner contests, whilst the Official ratings show Island Storm running off a mark 4lbs lower than his last win (and also his last run), whilst Twisted Dreams is up 6lbs for that LTO win, but at a Geegeez Speed rating of 62, he is top of the shop here today.

The pace/draw heat map for this type of contest isn't massively conclusive...

...but a high draw is definitely a positive here, but our pair are drawn centrally in stalls 4 and 5, but I suppose as long as they're not mid-division type horses, they'll not be out of it, so let's see...

...which suggests they'll both be keen to get on with it. Of the two, I have to prefer Twisted Dreams, as he looks to be progressing nicely, whilst Island Storm's lack of a win the last year is a serious worry. TD is of course up 6lbs, but looked like he had something in reserve. Incidentally, the third placed horse has already reappeared to over course and distance at a higher grade, whilst the runner-up reopposes here.

I'll decide how to play this shortly when I look at the market, but first I was to consider Finoah's chance in the 3.10 Redcar, which looks like...

The SR (Geegeez Speed Rating) of 69 is top rank in this field and the horse comes here on the back of a win last time out when he landed a class, course and distance soft-ground seller eight days ago, so conditions look ideal here. He was the best part of six lengths clear that day and has at least 4lbs in hand on all his rivals based on his OR of 82. Trainer Tom Dascombe and jockey Richard Kingscote have good individual records here at Redcar and I think everyone already knows that they're a formidable team together.

Instant Expert speaks for itself...

...and the field criteria is possibly the least important there. He has won three times in 8/9 runner fields and 7 is an arbitrary cut off point in my opinion. Form, going, class, course and distance all carry more weight for me, as often does the pace/draw angles...

He doesn't necessarily have the perfect draw for his running style here, but with the obvious exception of Twpsyn in stall 1, there aren't many in the ideal place on the heatmap.

That aside, he looks a real contender here, especially as from his reasonable 4 from 24 on the Flat, he is 4/19 in a visor, 4/8 on soft/heavy, 2/3 here at Redcar, 1/1 over this trip and 1/1 over course and distance. He is also 4 from 7 on soft/heavy in a visor, as he was when winning here last time out at odds of 4/9 and I wouldn't be surprised to see him go off that short again.

Summary

From the two in Newcastle race, my preference is for Twisted Dreams and although I expect traveller to run him close again (as might Rum Runner), I think bet 365's 4/1 pricetag is more than fair, so I'd be happy with a nibble at that. Island Storm isn't fancied at all, yet has the ability to get involved at a huge (currently 25/1) price, but he won't be carrying any of my money this time around, as I'm unconvinced he's as good as he was last year.

As for Finoah, here's a shock for you, I rarely back odds on shots and even more rarely do I advise others to back them, but at 4/5 there might actually be some value about him, I was expecting much shorter and I expect him to win.

Racing Insights, 30th October 2020

Chris highlighted the chance of Fanzio, a 7/1 winner available at a good bit bigger early, from three interesting runners on Wednesday; and with that he's taken himself off for a couple of days leaving me (Matt) to share a few thoughts in his absence.

Friday's racing is interesting, if tricky, and Horses For Courses report is the free feature. The six free races are...

  • 12.40 Down Royal
  • 12.50 Uttoxeter
  • 1.15 Down Royal
  • 3.30 Newmarket
  • 4.20 Uttoxeter
  • 5.30 Dundalk

There are a few 'hardy perennial' types on the H4C report...

 

...but, in spite of that, I'm heading to the last race of the day, the 8.15 Newcastle.

It's a six furlong Class 5 apprentice handicap down the straight track at Gosforth Park, where the going should be standard: the course was decompacted last week, making it ride slower, but there's been racing and rain since then, both of which help to tighten it up. According to the BHA site, the forecast is for a stiff westerly so, with the straight course running southeast to northwest - see image to the right - it'll be quite testing.

A full field of 14 are scheduled to leave the gate, and they are these:

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Let's start with the Report Angles, where both Lucky Lodge and Cloudea are worth a second glance. Lucky Lodge's angles come from the trainer / jockey partnership of Alan Brittain and Harry Russell, all of whose success has come in the past year. We can see that both handler and pilot have good records separately as well.

Messrs Fahey and Murtagh are also of interest when combining here. Jockey Connor Murtagh actually has a 4/26 record at the track (see below), and it is his handicap record that is highlighted in the angle above (16 runs, 3 wins) - the label should say that!

I Know How also has a couple of pointers towards its chance:

 

Next stop is Instant Expert, where the cases for Burrows Seeside and especially Lezardrieux are well advertised. Both are short enough in the betting; both for good reason. Neither Cloudea nor Look Out Louis has any form against the Instant Expert criteria in the last two years.

I Know How, who hasn't won in a full field (but has run well twice), has an otherwise decent profile; and Lucky Lodge also falls in here fairly consistently.

The pace setup might be instructive, especially considering that forecast head/crosswind. Historically, those who led have performed best though a win rate of around one-in-nine - albeit in 13-14 runner fields - is going to be a long time between drinks.

Lezardrieux figures to race on the stands' side and might get cover if anything goes forward far side; but, realistically, he'll be racing into the breeze. It might not stop him but it's something to be aware of, especially if the earlier races are favouring horses covered up. Burrows Seeside is likely to get plenty of cover with a middle draw and a later run style.

Reviewing Draw Analyser for the last two years suggests middle berths are slightly favoured but there's very little in it:

 

Summary

Pulling all of these strands together, nothing stands out as having an especially strong chance above all others. That said, I'm still attracted to Lezardrieux in spite of concerns about being out front in the teeth of the hooley: I'll be watching earlier races to see if horses are getting home off the lead before deciding to bet.

Lucky Lodge may get the worst of it on that far side with a prominent racing style, though of course there's always the chance that I'm massively over-stating the effect of the wind!

Cloudea is vaguely interesting in a throwaway sort of way. She won a moderate maiden last summer and hasn't been beaten far in three subsequent starts. Down in grade, this is her third start off a layoff and a penny play at 20/1+ might reward ambition.

But BURROWS SEESIDE may be the one. He looks likely to get the run of the race, was course and distance winner on his handicap debut last time - by more than three lengths, and has more progression than most of these after just four lifetime starts. He was still 5/1 with 888sport at time of publication, though shortening everywhere else.

A good few others with chances in an interesting race where the wind may be a key factor, or no factor at all!

Racing Insights, 20th October 2020

Very happy with the way Monday's race panned out. I initially eliminated four of the seven runners and my final three were the first three home. Had I been a bit braver, I'd be celebrating a 3/1 winner, but I'd wanted a bit more juice in the price.

So, with a moral victory of sorts behind us, let's move on to Tuesday, where the free feature is The Shortlist and the free racecards cover the following contests...

  • 12.25 Yarmouth
  • 12.55 Yarmouth
  • 2.15 Exeter
  • 2.40 Tipperary
  • 3.40 Fairyhouse
  • 4.20 Yarmouth

Of the six races above, only the Exeter one was of initial interest, but there's likely to be an odds-on favourite in there and the going is likely to see a few pull out, so I've decided to leave it alone and look at The Shortlist report to see if any of the runners featured might be worth sticking a quid (or more) on.

So, without further unnecessary ado...

A trio to consider with plenty of green to look at, so let's go in time order and start with Intrinsic Bond...

He has been in good form for some time now with 3 wins and 2 places from 7 runs over the last year (more on that shortly) and hails from a yard with three winners from seven (42.9%) so far this month and a decent record here at Newcastle including 7 winners from 33 (21.2%) this year, of which those racing over this course and distance are 3 from 7 (42.9%)

Next up, Instant Expert...

This is what gets him on the shortlist and over the last year, he has 3 wins and 2 places from 7 starts, including 3 wins and a place from 6 on a straight run, 3 wins and a place from 5 where the market deemed he had a chance, 3 wins and a place under Jason Hart, two wins and a place from four over 6f, two wins from three at Class 4, but just one placed effort in this grade and he won on his only previous visit to this track (over course and distance).

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He's drawn right out in 14 of 14, but that's not always a negative, as (a) there are no bends to contend with 9b) our pace/draw heat map suggests he could actually be in a decent spot out wide...

Overall, I'd expect him to be well suited to the task, but he's up 3lbs for a nice win on soft ground at Redcar last time out and also steps up in class. He handles the surface well enough and gets on great with today's jockey and his yard is in decent general form and also more long-term at this venue. Definite chance here.

And now to Skyace...

Trainer John Joseph Hanlon's runner here makes a second attempt at landing a handicap but the stats aren't good on that front, as the yard's stats with 2nd timers stands at just one win from the last 23 efforts, although that win was just 2 qualifiers ago. The hanlon runners are 4 from 15 (26.7%) here at Tipperary since the start of 2019, which is promising, but at 1/5 over hurdles, 0/5 in handicaps and 0/2 in handicap hurdles, the optimism does diminish.

But how might this one fare under today's conditions...

Well, he has two wins and a place from five efforts over hurdles, but after winning his first two, has struggled under weights of 11 stone-plus, toiling to a combined deficit of some 114 lengths in the three defeats since, but he's not on the shortlist for no reason, as his three placed finishes came in less valuable races like this one, he has won in a hood and did win here over course and distance.

In such races here at Tipperary, it has paid to remain in touch, but not race too prominently as shown below...

...but I feel a change of tactics would be needed here, as he has tended to race a bit more keenly of late and that's not going to be beneficial here.

Overall, he's out of sorts and represents a yard with a poor record with 2nd time handicappers and a poor record at this venue in this kind of race. He clearly has ability, but carries too much weight again here for my liking and I'm calling him as one to avoid.

Last up for today is Molly Shaw, who goes in one of our free races of the day, a 16-runner, Class 6, 6f  soft-ground "sprint", so you can see why I wasn't keen on a full race analysis of this one, but let's see if Molly Shaw might be in with a shout...

As the snippets show, the yard has done well here at Yarmouth over the past year, whilst Jack Mitchell has enjoyed plenty of success riding the Wall runners. Incidentally, on the trainer/jockey/course angle, the last five runners have finished 11152 including a win for today's runner back in August.

For her part, Molly is 113 in handicaps, all over a straight 6f strip including 2 from 2 at Class 6, 2 from 2 under Jack Mitchell and despite no run on soft ground, she did win her only attempt on good to soft ground.

Pace/draw-wise, it looks like wide-drawn prominent runners hold the key to success in this type of contest...

...and whilst Young John looks set to get out and make the pace, he's probably 20/1 for a reason and if our girl follows him, she could be expertly placed to pick up the pieces as the leader weakens late on, as reports from 5 of his last 6 outings suggest he will.

Summary

I've little/no interest in the Tipperary runner, there's not much in what I've seen that would make me believe he'll suddenly start winning again, but our other two runners have serious chances, but you'd want a price on them.

Both run in very competitive big-field contests and Intrinsic Bond is up in weight and class and is unproven at that level, whilst Molly Shaw has no form on soft ground at all. That doesn't mean she won't handle it, of course, but it's a big unknown. I expect both to give good accounts of themselves.

Both should be there or thereabouts and if she handles the ground Molly Shaw could be a nice pick at odds of 7/1 or hopefully better. Ideally I'd want at least 8's if not double digits, so you could then take a 4-place E/W run at her.

As for Intrinsic Bond, I do like him, but I'm not sure he's quite good enough at this level and he's already as low as 10/3 which is too short for my liking.