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Racing Insights, 20th January 2021

The going turned heavy at Exeter this afternoon hindering Ballybreen's bid to lug top weight around 3 miles in the mud, but he was far from disgraced finishing as a runner-up less than 2 lengths behind fellow joint favourite Don Herbager who was receiving 12lbs from our pick. 3/1 proved to be good value about a 2/1 jt fav, but he just couldn't quite land the spoils for us.

Wednesday's feature of the day is the Trainer Stats report, whilst our free races of the day are...

  • 1.05 Chepstow
  • 2.20 Newcastle
  • 4.05 Newbury
  • 5.45 Dundalk
  • 7.15 Dundalk

To be honest, neither our featured races nor the Trainer Stats report hold anything for me to get my teeth into for you, so I'm going to try something a little different that might also seem vaguely familiar in a way.

As you might know, most of my own betting comes from stats and I have a huge number of micro-systems that generate lots of potential qualifiers each day. Some horses appear on more than one micro-system and therefore become of increased interest to me. That doesn't mean they're going to win, of course, but it does mean they're worth a second glance.

To this end, I'm going to look at a horse called Le Tueur, a lightly-raced (just 5 previous starts) 6 yr old gelding who'll race in the 3.15 Chepstow, a Class 4, 2m7.5f, handicap hurdle for 4yo+ on heavy ground. The prize is almost £3,769 and James Bowen rides for father Peter. Here's the card...

Le Tueur heads the Geegeez Ratings which is a positive and on form, it looks like Little Red Lion and Memphis Bell would be the two he'd need to beat to win here. But what brought him to my attention?

Well, he featured on several on my trainer-based angles, so here is just a quartet of them to give you some idea of the kind of other things I have running in the background aside from the obvious racecard tools I use.

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1. Since the start of 2016, Peter Bowen's NH handicappers sent off shorter than 8/1 (I expect this to happen here) on ground officially deemed Soft or "worse" have a strike rate of 23.2% by virtue of winning 36 of 155 contests.

2. Le Tueur was sent off a 100/30 favourite when beaten last time out and since the start of 2017, Peter Bowen's UK NH runners who were a beaten favourite last time out have turned the form round to win 25 of 103 (24.3% SR) races next time out. From these 103 runners...

  • those who were beaten favs LTO in the previous 45 days are 21 from 74 (28.4% SR)
  • those who didn't even make the frame LTO are 16 from 65 (24.6% SR)
  • whilst those failing to make the frame LTO in the past 45 days are 13 from 44 (29.6% SR)

3. But prior to finishing fourth last time out, Le Tueur was a winner and Peter Bowen's NH handicappers who won two starts ago and were then fourth are 5 from 10 (50% SR) when turned back out less than three weeks after that defeat, finishing 221U112131 in the process.

4. And finally for now regarding the trainer, Peter's record with 8/1 Class 4 handicap hurdlers stands at 18 winners from 86 (20.9% SR) since the start of 2017, from which...

  • jockey James Bowen is 8 from 28 (28.6%)
  • soft or worse ground runners are 8 from 25 (32%)
  • and on heavy : 2 from 5 (40%)

You might also have noticed the C1 next to jockey James' name on the card and that's because he was 4 from 14 (28.6%) on this track in 2020.

It's useful to have those stats to hand when looking at a horse that has only raced on five previous occasions, but he was second on debut over 2m5f on heavy ground in a Class 4 hurdle and won two starts ago at Ffos Las over 3m0.5f on soft ground despite hitting the last hurdle. He wasn't as good last time out, but led until after 2 out in a soft ground 3m2f contest before fading out of contention.

The way he ran until 2 out suggests that the 2.5f drop back in trip might be beneficial here and he gets to have another crack off the same mark as last time, despite going so well for much of the race.

Instant Expert probably won't tell us too much, other than backing up what I've already said about him...

In recent outings, he has raced fairly prominently and has led at times, but he'll probably be better off if he sits in here as this track/trip has proved difficult to win at of late if trying to set the fractions on heavy ground, as our pace stats/map show...

If that's how the race pans out, it looks good for both our featured runner and form horse Little Red Lion, whilst the other in-form runner, Memphis Bell will have her work cut out of sitting at the back here.

Overall, the records of trainer and jockey suggest Le Tueur should be involved in the shake-up here. Five career starts aren't really enough to base a firm decision upon, but there are some positive signs re: going and trip, but can/will he win?

Summary

Yes, Le Tueur can win this, but I'm not entirely convinced he will. He's a solid placer in my opinion, which is a good start, but I have Little Red Lion & Memphis Bell (not far) ahead of him in that order. So, we'd need things to land our way if our featured runner in to win, so let's see where it might go wrong for the two main rivals.

Little Red Lion hasn't seen a hurdle competitively for the best part of eleven months when he narrowly (short head) landed a Class 5 contest. This is a step up in class from that race and he goes off a mark 10lbs higher than today. He has had four runs over fences since and although he has narrowly won two of them, he has ended up on the ground in the other two. This could affect his confidence and that allied to the rise in class/weight from his last hurdle run must cast some doubts on him?

Memphis Bell seeks a fifth win on the bounce inside less than 20 weeks where her mark has gone up by some 29lbs and you have to wonder how much she has left in the tank before needing a rest. Up another 8lbs for her last win, she'll now need to try and concede weight all round and lug 11st 11lbs around on heavy ground and that has to be a worry. I notice that she's also entered into a better race at Ludlow for Thursday where she'll carry less weight than here, in fact she'll be bottom weight there, so I wouldn't be surprised if she swerves this one and heads to Ludlow.

Thus, if Little Red Lion & Memphis Bell aren't quite at it or don't even run, then yes, our chances will improve. I suppose it all depends on price now. I'd have hoped for 6/1 or better and at 5.40pm Le Tueur is a solid 11/2 from the handful of bookies to show their hands. I've a feeling he might drift initially, so if I can get 6's, I'll have a small punt on Le Tueur with the caveat that he's far from certain to win. Some of you might want to play the place market on an exchange.

 

Racing Insights, 18th January 2021

Count Otto abandoned his usual/expected tactics and ran his best race for some time, meaning my favoured runner Total Commitment was an 11/4 (from 4/1) runner-up at Lingfield on Saturday, I'm afraid.

Ah, well, Monday heralds a new week and a new challenge/opportunity. To assist us, we offer the pace tab for ALL races to ALL users, as well as full free racecards for the following...

  • 12.15 Lingfield
  • 12.55 Ayr
  • 4.05 Ayr
  • 6.40 Wolverhampton

Lingfield is an A/W bumpers meeting (say no more), the two Ayr races are a novice hurdle and a bumper, so by process of elimination I'm going to focus my efforts on the 6.40 Wolverhampton, an 8-runner (hopefully it says that way for E/W bettors), Class 3, A/W (Tapeta) handicap for 4yo+ runners, who all just happen to be geldings today. The trip is officially 1m1.5f, the top prize is £7,246 and the card looks like this...

Teston's UK record stands at 1 win and 1 place from 3 runs so far and now steps up in trip after finishing as runner up at Southwell over 7 furlongs last time out. That was his first run on the A/W in this country, but had a win and four places from 8 A/W runs over 9/9.5 furlongs in France. He also won three races over a mile on turf across the Channel before scoring on his UK debut at Doncaster over a mile in this grade last June. Bears top weight off a mark of 97, a mark unaltered from his last outing and if adapting to the Tapeta has every chance of being in the final mix.

Power of States is bang in form, albeit all at Chelmsford where all six of his career A/W runs have taken place. He has finished 121113 in those six, a stark contrast to his 0 from 11 on turf. He's three from five over 1m2f at Chelmsford, so the trip itself is well within him and his usual visor and tongue tie will be worn here. He was only third last time out off a mark of 89, so going off 90 here doesn't do him any favours and he's stepping up in class. That said, his yard are 36 from 153 (23.5% SR) here on the Tapeta with horses tackling it for the first time winning 27 of 113 (23.9% SR). Those are positive numbers, which leave me wondering why only 40 have run here more than once, but that's for another day, I suppose!

Home Before Dusk was fifth off a mark of 91 at Class 2 last time out and is eased a pound as he drops down to Class 3, so that should help him as he attempts to improve upon his own record of 5 wins and 3 places from 13 in Tapeta handicaps, including 5 wins, 2 places from 10 over 8-10f, 2 wins and a place from 5 under today's jockey and a win from two goes over this course and distance. I wouldn't rule him out totally based on those numbers, but the reality is that he hasn't run well in any of his seven defeats over the last eleven months since winning at Kempton off a mark of 92. This is within his capabilities on history, but form suggests others will make more appeal.

Mythical Madness finished 121 in his last three races, but all were on turf at Class 4 over a mile in a twelve day period seven months ago. The 10 yr old hasn't been seen since then and is likely to need a run before being seen at whatever his best is nowadays. History suggests he's better on the Flat (6/31 = 19.4%) where he wins more than twice as often as he does on the A/W (4/43 = 9.3%), but he is 3 from 16 (18.75%) here at Wolverhampton over 8.5-9.5f. Sadly his last decent run here came a month shy of four years ago, when beaten by a neck off a mark of 101. In his favour, though, is a mark of 87 today and the fact he was in good nick before his rest. If ready to go first up, he's well weighted and capable here, but I can't see it happening on the basis of history, especially stepping up in class.

Ledham is a really interesting 6 yr old and one to probably watch here with a view to possibly backing next time out. Fourth of eight on debut in August 2017, then put back in his box for 282 days before finishing 2nd of 16 in mid-May 2018. He ran four more times that season, winning a class 5, finishing as runner-up then as a winner in two Class 3 contests, before a third of ten at Class 2 in October 2018. Another long (193 days) layoff followed and then he re-appeared to finish as a runner-up in a ten-runner C2 handicap at Haydock over a mile on soft ground in late April 2019. He hasn't been seen since and now returns some 632 days later. He has won on this track before, he's down in class, down 3lbs in the ratings, was gelded back in November and moved yards last week. If he can get 1m on soft at Haydock, he should get this trip and he clearly has gone well fresh in the past, but you'd need some bravery to back him here, wouldn't you?

Kaser comes here armed to the teeth with a volume of stats to suggest he'll go well, as follows (easier to copy and paste than type!)...

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...chuck in his trainer's record of 11 wins from 54 (20.4% SR, A/E 1.59) in course and distance handicaps since the start of 2018 and you've certainly got something worth a second glance. Kaser, himself, is 4 from 11 over course and distance which skews the stats slightly and hasn't ran particularly well here in his two C&D efforts this winter. He was 11th of 13 and in rear throughout at this grade in mid-November and then a similar run as 9th of 10 last time out. He was ridden by two claimers in those races and recent rider Laura Pearson has been replaced by Rossa Ryan. Laura now rides Avarice here and Kaser is now effectively 5lbs worse off for that defeat, due to the jockey claim. Rossa Ryan is in good form, of course and rides this track well, but a minor place has to be the best he can hope for here.

The afore-mentioned Avarice is probably left well alone here to be brutally honest. No previous run in the UK, no previous run on an artificial surface and probably needs a stiffer test. He's not a poor horse as a run of results reading 2212 after his debut will testify. Admittedly beaten by eight lengths last time out, but that was over 1m4f on soft ground on a contest worth over £20k. He gets 1m2f on soft well enough, so even if adapting to Tapeta first up, I think this'll be too sharp for him.

Athmad makes up our octet and he's well proven at this track having finished 1141331 here over 8.5-9.5f, including 1331 over course and distance, the last of those runs being his last run overall when prevailing by a length here a fortnight ago. But he's up 4lbs and up in class for that win and has never won any race better than a low-prize (ie sub-£6k) Class 4 contest, failing to even make the frame in eight such contests. That said, all runs have to come to an end and having seen the opposition, he has every chance of being in the shake-up here. His yard is in good form too and he's definitely worth considering at this stage.

*

We know already that a couple of these should be suited by conditions, but the easiest way of checking all runners at once is via our unique traffic-light colour (green = good, amber = moderate, red= not so good) coded Instant Expert (click the tab on the racecard)...

...where only Mythical Madness looks to be struggling. Power of States is up 6lb from his last win, but is in prime form and the stats behind the returning Ledham and course specialist Athmad are clearly laid out.

In similar previous contests to this one, we get the impression that the higher the sector of the draw the better, as seen below...

...and stalls 5 to 8 have certainly outperformed those in stalls 1-4 winning 55% of the races...

History also tells us that the three best pace/draw combinations are highly drawn leaders, highly drawn prominent runners and then prominent/mid-division runs from a low draw, which I suppose makes sense as the low draw would just tuck in as the higher drawn pace setters come across...

We can then overlay the past running styles of our eight runners to see how the race might unfold as follows...

...where Teston looks particularly well suited, whilst Athmad is also in a good place. The in-form Power of States is likely to race a bit further forward, I'd have thought, as he won't want the race to be "nicked" at the front by the front-running Teston. Should he step up, that would be a shrewd move in my opinion, but even if they just actually break in that order above, he's mid-division anyway!

The two most inconvenienced by the draw/running-style combo are the the two drawn widest and that doesn't bode well for Kaser's efforts to maintain his form at this venue.

Summary

Lots with chances or reasons to at least be positive about their chances. Power of States will be popular and I expect him to go off as favourite, probably in the 5/2 type of odds and whilst he has every chance here and should definitely make the frame, the one I like more is Teston. His French form, allied to his Instant Expert showing and the pace/draw positioning make him the one to beat for me. I don't think I'll get the 4/1 or better that I was hoping for, but he's the one I fancy most here.

Elsewhere, Athmad should go well and could threaten the two I've mentioned in this summary. Kaser would be of interest from an E/W perspective, but 8/1 is too short. Home Before Dusk, Mythical Madness and Avarice hold little appeal to me and if I wanted a small E/W punt at a decent price, Ledham would be the one at 20's or bigger not withstanding he'll probably need the run and come up short this time.

 

 

 

Racing Insights, 16th January 2021

As was pretty much expected, the even money favourite Star of St James prevailed at Southwell this afternoon/evening with my "biggest danger" the 13/2 overnight Native Silver finishing just a half length back as runner-up. Well done to those jumping on the forecast/exacta (the latter paid 5.2/1), but sadly my "E/W pick at a price" runner was withdrawn.

Saturday's free feature is the marvellous Trainer/Jockey Combo Report, which highlights successful partnerships whilst our free racecards for the following races are open to all readers...

  • 12.40 Warwick
  • 2.35 Lingfield
  • 2.40 Market Rasen
  • 3.00 Warwick
  • 3.10 Lingfield

And the last of those five looks the most open/competitive, plus it's unlikely to be abandoned, so today's focus is on the 3.10 Lingfield...

The sharp eyed amongst you will notice I've already eliminated three runners who are greyed out at the bottom of the card. These look like no-hopers in dreadful form and shouldn't be ones to worry us. I've greyed them out for you, so you can see what happens when you click the X just before the course and distance win indicators. To put them back in the card, simply click the X again.

And so to the race itself after removing that trio, the remainder of the field all have at least decent run in the recent form, with Total Commitment, Recon Mission and Sun Power the ones to have won lately. Huraiz & Will To Win are both dropping down from Class 2, whilst Recon Mission and Count Otto both step up in class here.

All seven have won at this 6f trip with four also winning here at Lingfield in the past, of which two (Will To Win & Count Otto) have won over course and distance at the same time! None of them are being turned back out quickly, nor are any coming off long breaks, as all have had at least two weeks rest and 51  days being the longest absence.

Count Otto is the oldest here at 6, but the other half dozen are all 4 or 5, From a trainer perspective, Huraiz & Will To Win both hail from yards with good track records, whilst the former's trainer is in great form of late, as is his jockey and the partnership has worked well here at Lingfield in the past. Ratings-wise, they're a fairly well bunched group, but Will To Win is a little detached on 65, I suppose.

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Instant Expert is our next port of call, as that's the indicator of past performance under today's conditions. Obviously that's no guarantee of future success, but if a horse has gone well in the past over course and distance for example, there's a chance he/she will do so again at some point. Anyway, I'm waffling, so let's crack on...

...where we see that Will to Win & Sun Power have the best of the winning records on A/W and Count Otto looks to have struggled. No real standouts at Class 3, to be honest, but Top Breeze's 0/6 isn't good, nor I suppose is Count Otto's 3 from 18. Will To Win has 2 wins and a place from 4 on this track which is the best on offer, but don't be fooled by Total Commitment's 0 from 4 record. It looks poor but he has finished in the frame on all four occasions.

Plenty of wins at this trip across the board and Will To Win & Total Commitment have some place finishes to push their place records to 50% and beyond.

From a win perspective, Instant Expert shows Will To Win in a very good light and he has some positives from the racecard, but can he win from stall 9? It might be tough, as history suggests that in 99 previous similar races, stalls 8 to 10 are the worst place to be...

 

...but wherever you're drawn, you want to be up with the pace. So do we have any confirmed front runners? The pace tab knows the answer to that question...

...suggesting Sun Power and Recon Mission will attempt to set the pace with Top Breeze not very far behind and when we overlay the running styles with the general pace-draw heatmap from recent similar contests, we get the following...

...where I'd say Top Breeze has the best position. I expect he'll break smartly but won't be too upset if the other come past him early from wider draws.

At this stage, I'm going to discard Huraiz and Count Otto, neither have featured too positively so far and aren't in great form right now, but that still leaves me half of the field to pick from and to be honest, it's a tough call!

Will to Win is a former course and distance winner, his yard have a great record here and he's dropping in class to run off a very workable mark of 93. Conversely, he's not well drawn and isn't in any sort of form of late. Much will depend on which version of him turns up, very capable of making the frame at double digit odds, but others hold more appeal.

Top Breeze is 0 from 11 since winning here over 5f in a Class 2 contest at the end of February last year, but has shown some promising signs lately with five top-three finishes in his last seven races. He was 3.5 lengths behind Sun Power last time out, but with a 6lb pull in the weights here should be there or thereabouts. Aided by the rail, I expect him to go well just 1lb higher than that last win.

Total Commitment was one I initially liked and I still do, but stall 10 isn't going to do him any favours at all. He might have to go off a little quicker than usual to get involved, but if he can overcome the draw, he has plenty going for him, especially based on the Instant Expert numbers. He has raced more prominently recently when winning and then finishing as runner-up, so those tactics could help here.

Recon Mission broke a 13-race losing streak when winning here on New Year's Eve making all and holding on to win by three quarters of a length off a reduced mark of 84. He has obvious chances based on that form, but isn't a certainty to back it up. He's up in trip, class and weight here and the combination of the three might just prove too much. Definite chance, but I think others make more sense.

Sun Power was a winner at this class/trip at Wolverhampton at the end of last year, beating Top Breeze by 3.5 lengths in the process and therefore a repeat of that run puts him in the mix, but I have reservations. He's 2 from 3 at Wolverhampton, but 0 from 10 elsewhere and hasn't turned out to be the horse he was hoped to have been. Well beaten in seven Class 1&2 contests, he ended up at Class 4 to try and give him a spark. He's 6lbs worse off with Top Breeze here and that's possibly too much.

Summary

Five left in at this stage, Will To Win is unreliable and despite the possibility of a big run at a decent price, he's not for me today. Of the four remaining, any could win in fairness, but the way I've processed the race and analysed the runners, Top Breeze and Total Commitment appeal to me more than the other two.

Top Breeze is currently priced at 8/1 with Total Commitment half those odds at 4/1 and whilst I think Total Commitment will just shade it, he's not that much more likely to succeed in my eyes. I expected Top Breeze to be around 9/2, so 8/1 is excellent value and I was hoping for around 6/1 about Total Commitment, so 4's is a little skinny.

If I've got it right, there won't be much between them. TC is marginally better on my working, but TB is far better value. There's a case for backing either, none or both : the choice is yours! 😉

Racing Insights, 15th January 2021

Soft ground became heavy at Fontwell today and with the added weight, it was all too much for the 7/4 favourite, so I'm glad I swerved that one. Main danger Lily The Pink went on to win at 9/4, so well done to those of you who got on at 7/2 last night, whilst I did have a late small bet myself, but not on the winner!

I said I'd wanted more than 13/2 for an E/W bet on Jaunty Soria, so at 14/1 (she did hit 16's for a while) I couldn't resist and she was third home, albeit some 34 lengths behind the winner. I wasn't too bothered about the margin as I collected a couple of quid, mind you.

And so to Friday, where our free feature is the Horses for Courses report and our free racecards will cover...

  • 3.10 Newcastle
  • 3.45 Dundalk
  • 3.50 Sedgefield
  • 5.00 Southwell

And it's the last of those four races that interests me today, because there's a bit of a Racing Insights "perfect storm" going on here. It's a free to all race and today's free feature, Horses for Courses, shows this...

Five of the eight runners in this Class 5, 1m, A/W handicap for 4yo+ on Fibresand feature on the H4C report suggesting we could have a decent race on our hands.

First/best place to start is the racecard itself...

...where we have two LTO winners in Star of St James and Headland and I'd expect the former to be a fairly warm favourite here, so like yesterday we're assessing value in his price/chances and also maybe finding a bigger priced alternative.

The likely favourite drops in class here despite a 6.5 length success over course and distance last time out, whilst half of the field are stepping up in class (Vive La Difference, Makambe, Custard The Dragon & Headland).

We have five course and distance winners on display here and of the other three runners, one is a course winner and the other two have won over this trip, so all of the field are racing under some form of familiar conditions.

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Half of the field are trained by trainers with good previous records at this track (C5), although closer inspection might be needed to see whether those records are skewed by today's runners' past successes here, whilst there's not much to go off from a jockey perspective, other than those on board Custard The Dragon and Headland have been amongst the winners of late (14 30).

At this point, Star of St James, Custard The Dragon and Headland are the most interesting whilst the negatives would be Love Your Work, Makambe and Michele Strogoff.

Next up is Instant Expert, where I'm expecting plenty of green in the "course" column, but how do these runners stack up on standard going, class 5 racing and a one mile trip? Let's see...

GOING :
Pro - Native Silver, Vive La Difference
Con -  Star of St James, Headland

CLASS :
Pro - Headland, Love Your Work
Con - Star of St James, Custard The Dragon

COURSE :
Pro - Love Your Work, Star of St James, Custard The Dragon
Con - N/A

DISTANCE :
Pro - Headland, Star of St James
Con - Custard The Dragon, Michele Strogoff

From Instant Expert, Love Your Work & Vive La Difference look most consistent with no red blocks, whilst Michele Strogoff is a negative again here.

In the past 82 runnings of similar 8-runner handicaps here at Southwell, it has paid to be drawn in stalls 4 and higher with a seemingly "golden corridor" covering the centre of the draw in boxes 4 to 6 as highlighted via the draw tab...

...which is a positive for Headland, Makambe and Native Silver, but not so good for Michele Strogoff (again!), Vive La Difference and Star of St James.

According to our unique pace/draw heat map, the three most favourable outcomes are highly drawn prominent (but NOT leading) runners, mid-draw prominence or mid-draw leaders, so I suppose a 4-6 draw with an average pace score of 3 or more would be very good here, so let's see how our runners overlay the pace map...

...where Native Silver looks excellently positioned with Headland also in a favourable place if running to his usual style. I think the hold-up horses might find it tough from stalls 2 and 8. I'd expect Star of St James to try and make all here and given the manner of his last win, he has every chance of repeating the feat. Now a quick look at each...

Native Silver has finished 325 in his last three efforts over C&D. Only beaten by a short head two starts ago, but lost by the best part of four lengths LTO after being raised 3lbs to today's mark of 72. He was fifth that day and both the winner and the third placed horse has since made the frame at a higher level than this. All his best form comes here and he's two from five under jockey Luke Morris.

Star of St James has taken a while to get his head around racing, but after initially only making the frame once in his first eight starts, has won two and placed in three of his next eight. A very comfortable (6.5 lengths easing down) winner here over C&D LTO eight days ago, he now even gets to drop in class. He does have a 5lb penalty to bear for that run, but that is more than offset by the booking of a 7lb claimer to ride him. George Bass isn't the best choice of jockey here, but I'd expect this should just be a point and steer job.

Love Your Work is a triple winner over this course and distance at which he was 6th of 10 last time out. Sent off at 18/1, he was only 1.5 lengths behind Native Silver and he's 3lbs better off here for the rematch. Currently on a run of nine losses since winning here on Valentines Day last year off a mark of 72, he's now down to 69 and based on last year's winter form, that's a very workable mark.

Vive La Difference was impressive in victory two starts ago at Newcastle off a mark of just 62, but dreadful three days later, fifteen days ago at the same track/trip despite dropping down to Class 6 off a mark of 67. It wasn't all his fault, though, he got a shocking ride (IMO) and a 21 length defeat as 12th of 13 doesn't do him justice. That said, he's up another pound in the weights and for his fibresand debut, he's best left alone.

Makambe is in poor form if truth be told. Finishes of 88898 in races averaging 12 runners over his last five outings tells its own tale, but the silver lining is that his mark has now fallen from 74 to 65 in the process. Sadly he couldn't win off 65 last time out, but will relish a return to Southwell, as he's 0 from 7 since last coming here ten months ago, when he won at this class and trip by a short head. The cheekpieces worn that day are being reapplied but I think he'll have his work cut out today especially trying to come from towards the back of the pack.

Custard The Dragon is a on 11-race losing streak since a win at this very meeting a year ago made him a 7-time course winner. Looked more like his old self when 2nd of 8 here over C&D a week before Christmas. He was only beaten by a short head that day, but he's up in both class (6 to 5) and weight (63 to 65), so a win isn't necessarily on the cards, but has great chances of making the frame. He gets on well with jockey Joe Fanning (5/18 on the A/W together), but is 0 from 9 beyond 7f furlongs on the A/W, finishing 54882 over course and distance.

Michele Strogoff is one where you've probably guessed where I am with him. It's two years plus a day and thirty-two (yes, 32!) races since he last won and rather than be rude about him/his chances, I'm just going to say that others impress me more.

Headland has run each of his last four races here at Southwell in the space of three weeks. Starting a week before Christmas, he was 5th of 7 (C5, 7f), 8th of 11 (C6, 7f) and then 7th of 10 (C5, 1m) and beaten by an average of just over nine lengths, he then went on to win a 5-runner Class 5 C&D handicap last time out after his mark had dropped from 67 to 60 in that period. I don't think there was a dramatic improvement to be honest, he won a poor race that pretty much fell apart. He's an unreliable type and the weight penalty adds to the unlikeliness of a repeat performance.

Summary

For a race with so many course winners, there's no standout runner here. Star of St James should be the winner based on his last run but the stats above have cast some doubts for me on how easily he might win. He's 5/4 with bet365, but already as short as 11/10 with Hills and I can't back him at that kind of price. I think that price says more about the opposition than it does about the strength of the favourite though.

So where do I go from there? Well, Native Silver is better than his last run and I think he's the biggest danger to the fav if he doesn't let him get away too soon. He's 13/2 here which is about right, I'd say, but sadly he's too short for me to go E/W. I might still have a quid on him to win, mind : we'll see.

And one "at a price"? Love Your Work is on a very workable mark, goes well at the track/trip and does his best work around this time of year. I doubt he can win, but at 20/1, I think he's worth a cheeky E/W punt for small change.

Racing Insights, 14th January 2021

We looked at two races yesterday, the first of which was the Leicester race featuring Thor de Cerisy and my final assessment said..."...10/1 seems more than fair for those of you fancying a small E/W flutter, as both When You're Ready and Oscar's Leader have more appeal from a win perspective..." As it was, Oscar's Leader was a non-runner, but When You're Ready won at 3/1 and Thor de Cerisy did indeed make the frame at 7/1.

Race two was at Plumpton where we had an odds-on favourite who we expected to win, but didn't offer much value and I though our highlighted runner, Eurkash would be the one posing the biggest challenge to the fav. The end result was that Eurkash could only manage fourth behind the duly-obliging 5/6 favourite.

And now to Thursday, whose feature of the day is the highly informative Instant Expert tab for all races, including our full free racecards for...

  • 1.10 Catterick
  • 1.50 Bangor
  • 2.30 Fontwell
  • 8.00 Chelmsford

And I think I'll look at the third on that lost the 2.30 Fontwell, where I'm already keen on the chances of Cristal Spirit, if I can get 2/1 or bigger about him. The purpose of my piece today is to see whether (a) I still think he's the likeliest winner, (b) 2/1 is a realistic aim and (c) where are the dangers or possible decent priced E/W picks.

We should start with the card itself, as follows...

I'm going to be quite brutal at the outset here and take Certainly Red, Rossderrin and Hot Smoked out of the equation before I go any further. Certainly red might be the one I regret most tomorrow, as he has been running consistently well of late, but he runs off 108 here, just as he has done on his last four outings where he has finished 8235, so I'm not expecting him to suddenly win here, especially as he hasn't won any of his ten career starts to date.

Rossderrin's form line shows a win last time out, but that was a narrow success in a poor PTP contest at Wadebridge, the fact of the matter here is that he hasn't even made the frame on any of his 11 starts under Rules and I don't envisage a change of yard/country having much effect off a career high mark. The final of the rejected trio, Hot Smoked, has a similar profile to the other two in that she is 0 from 9 so far, she's 3lbs higher than her best run over hurdles and she's been off the track for ten months.

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All of which leaves us with the following on Instant Expert...

...where I think you don't need to be a mind-reader to see where I'm going here. Kenny George had finished fourth of seven (beat by 73L) and third of seven (beat by 51L) before winning his third crack at this track over course and distance fourteen months ago. He won by five lengths that day, but has failed to even make the frame in six runs since and is still five pounds higher than that win, so he's out.

As is Touch Tight, he might well be dropping down a grade for his handicap debut but he hasn't been that well treated to be given a mark of 108 after performing quite poorly in his three starts to date where he has finished 7th of 9 (bt by 38.5L), 4th of 10 (bt by 18.5L) and most recently 5th of 7 and beaten by 38 lengths. Nothing about those runs scream "back me", so I can't (and won't!).

And then, there were three in a race where I'd expect Jaunty Soria to attempt to control the race from the front. The pace stats should tell us whether that's a good tactic at Fontwell or not...

...and it appears that it might well be, but Lily The Pink also likes to be up with the pace and that could put a spanner in jockey Tom Scudamore's race plan. The danger for both front runners, of course, is that they do too much early on and practically hand the race to Cristal Spirit.

Cristal Spirit comes here in the best form of the trio after back to back soft ground wins here at Fontwell (2m2f) and then when 3lbs worse off over 2m5f at Plumpton eleven days ago. His other hurdles success came on heavy ground so conditions shouldn't be an issue here, although the extra half stone might make life more difficult.

Jockey Sean Houlihan retains the ride from last time out and he'll be happy to be on board one that keeps finding more and if it comes down to who has the most speed late on, then this horse's prowess on the Flat at 1m4f might make all the difference.

Race card top weight is Lily The Pink, but Ben Godfrey's useful 7lb claim means she'll get 3lbs from the fav here. Ben rides well for trainer Anthony Honeyball and the pair are 5 from 16 together over the last year and the yard is 5 from 15 (33.3% SR) in handicap hurdle races here since the start of 2017 and 11/34 (32.4%) since the start of 2014.

This mare likes the mud and will be better suited over this trip than when tiring in the closing stages over 3 miles last time out. I think she's still carrying too much weight here off a mark of 110, as her sole hurdles win came when rated 98.

And finally, Jaunty Soria, who makes the shortlist almost by default, but she's in good nick having won over course and distance here last time out on her yard debut for Neil Mulholland. Neil has a good record here at Fontwell with 17 winners from 82 (20.7% SR) handicap hurdlers since the start of 2015 and 22 from 97 (22.7%) since 2013. Jockey Tom Scudamore rides this track well too and has been amongst the winners of late (6/27 = 22.2% since Boxing Day).

She has been a steady improver so far and if handling the extra pressure of a handicap debut, could very well have a big say in proceedings if things go her way.

Summary

I think the order I've discussed the trio is probably just about how I rank them (Cristal / Lily / Soria) and all have chances but none are bomb-proof. I'm concerned about the added weight for Cristal Spirit, especially as she only just seems to do enough to get home having waited until late to take control. Should the gas pedal not quite get pressed at the right time, that would be the undoing of his chances.

Lily The Pink carries a little too much weight for my liking and there's that suggestion she might end up doing too much too soon. This trip is far more suitable than the 3m LTO, but I suspect she'd be happier dropping back another quarter mile.

Jaunty Soria will probably try to get out and stay out and she probably isn't quite good enough to do that (yet) and I think she'll be overhauled by the other pair with Cristal Spirit just getting the verdict.

So, I still like Cristal Spirit for this one, but not as much as I thought I would initially. I also can't back her, because I don't see enough value at 6/4. Lily The Pink is a 7/2 shot here, which is probably fair if not a little generous (I expected 3's), whilst Jaunty Soria is shorter than I hoped at 13/2. I can't back horses at 13/2 on an E/W basis, so I'm sitting this one out sadly.

Racing Insights, 13th January 2021

We were right to swerve the shortlist runners today. The Fairyhouse race ended up a 3-runner affair and Sizing Pottsie was sent off as 4/9 fav! In fairness, he had the race won with an eight length lead approaching the last, but sadly fell and the race eventually went to the one I highlighted as the danger.

At Wetherby 10 minutes later, Domaine de L'Isle also failed to win but did complete, finishing fourth beaten by some 33 lengths with two of the three I liked more finishing in front of him. So, we'd no bets but breaking even was better than losing two points on this occasion.

Maybe, I'll have a bet on Wednesday after consulting the free-to-all Trainer Stats report or via the free racecards for...

  • 1.30 Plumpton
  • 2.10 Leicester
  • 3.10 Leicester
  • 3.40 Leicester

And it's to the Trainer Stats report that I'm turning today. As usual, I have fairly demanding criteria to narrow down a list of possible selections...

Which gives us two to look at, starting in the 2.40 Leicester...

This horse returned to action on 5th December after 266 days off the track to finish third of six at Wetherby in a Class 3, soft ground handicap hurdle over 2 miles. He was beaten by nine lengths after a mistake at the last slowed him down and the winner has since finished third in a similar contest despite being raised 10lbs for the win. Our runner has been eased a pound for that run/defeat and has had a wind operation for weeks ago.

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He's a fairly useful if not brilliant hurdler, having made the frame three times from seven efforts, but winning just once. Based on the conditions faced today, he has the following records...

  • 0 wins and 2 places from 6 under jockey Brendan Powell
  • 2 wins from 3 in 8-11 runner fields
  • 1 win, 1 place from 3 on heavy
  • 0/1 at this trip, but has won at 2 miles
  • 0/3 at Class 3

He'll be hoping, however, to continue trainer Michael Scudamore's excellent recent record at this venue, despite sending hardly any runners here. Since the start of 2018, he has had just six runners here, but three wins and a place represents an excellent return, including of relevance today...

  • 3/5 in handicaps
  • 3/5 at odds of 10/1 and shorter
  • 2/3 with 6-8 yr olds
  • 1/3 from LTO placers
  • 0/3 at Class 3
  • 2/2 with males
  • 1/1 for Brendan Powell
  • 1/1 on heavy
  • 1/1 at 31-45 days rest
  • 1/1 in January
  • 0/1 over course and distance
  • 0/1 over hurdles

So, a bit of a mixed bag based on form and the stats of the horse/trainer, so I wouldn't completely discount his chances just yet. In similar contests to this one, it has paid to sit in mid-division during the race...

...and whilst his averaging positioning is slightly ahead of that point, he does sit in the middle trio of the overall pace map with four runners ahead of his group and four runners behind, so if they run to plan, he should end up mid-div after all...

That said, when he did win five starts ago on heavy ground, he set off quickly, made all and ended up 8 lengths clear. A revert to those tactics might not be a bad call here either.

*

And now to the 3.30 Plumpton...

This 7 yr old gelding failed to make the frame in three bumpers and six hurdles contests but was third on his chasing debut two starts ago, when beaten by just three lengths on this over 2 miles on soft ground at Hereford in late November. He clearly relished the larger obstacles in the mud and backed that run up with a good 5.5 lengths success just over a month ago when landing a 2m1.5f Class 5 race at Bangor. He still looked full of running at the finish and although we've only two runs to go on, a 6lb rise in weights might not inconvenience him too much.

Like Michael Scudamore's record at Leicester above, Eurkash's trainer, Paul Webber, is a successful if infrequent visitor to Plumpton and like Michael at Leicester, Paul has 3 winners and a place from 6 runners at this track since the start of 2018, including...

  • 3/5 in hcps, 2/5 with males, 2/4 in chases, 3/3 in fields of 7-11 runners
  • 2/3 after less than 5 weeks rest, 2/3 at 7/1 or shorter, 2/2 at Class 5
  • 1/2 on soft, 1/2 from LTO placers, 1/2 in January, 1/1 over C&D
  • 1/1 using jockey Gavin Sheehan and 1/1 with 7 yr olds

Quick note re: jockey Gavin Sheehan, he's another who doesn't come here too often, but is 7 from 20 (35% SR, A/E 1.87) over fences here since 2014, including 2 wins from 4 over course and distance. Plenty of promise from the above and whilst we don't have a great deal of pace data to hand for this type of contest...

...I'd say that a mid-division "pozzy" might well be the right approach here.

Summary

I had the Leicester runner, Thor de Cerisy as fourth, possibly fifth best in my own rankings and I didn't have him that far behind a top three berth, so he's certainly be of interest from an E/W perspective if we could get a decent enough price on him. He ran well last season and his last effort after a long lay-off was as good as could be expected of him. If the wind op has an immediate effect, then 10/1 seems more than fair for those of you fancying a small E/W flutter, as both When You're Ready and Oscar's Leader have more appeal from a win perspective.

Eurkash is the type I'd be all over at Plumpton, based on his two runs over fences, the stats that I've quoted and a 3/1 price tag, but for the presence of a near odds-on favourite in the shape of hat-trick seeking High Up In The Air. The fav drops in class and trip here and his 7lb hike in weight is offset by the booking of a 7lb claimer.

That's not to say that the fav is a given, he has won back to back races when making all and has done most of his running over longer distances. He'll have competition up top this time, the trip is sharper and his jockey has only won 2 of his last 45 over fences. I have the favourite down as best in the race, but I rate Eurkash a clear second. If you think that there's enough doubt around to swerve an even money (odds-on in places) fav, then the 3/1 Eurkash should be the one to profit.

Racing Insights, 12th January 2021

I don't back many shorties, but I did say that 15/8 might have been a generous price about today's winner, Flagrant Delitiep who duly obliged at 5/4. This shows that there is still some value about at the sharper end of the market, as those of you who got on last night will have got 150% of SP, which is as good as backing a 6/1 winner at 9's from a value perspective.

Elsewhere, Volcano ran out of steam and was fourth, but I was right about Dusky Lark trying (and failing) to win from the front, we highlighted the place claims of Orrisdale, who was much bigger than 4/1 yesterday, Subcontinent placed once again and we called the last one home correctly. Mind you, as the 125/1 outsider, that's no real achievement. We did, however also guess Subcontinent's jockey change.

So, with plenty going as expected today and another couple of extra pounds in my pocket, I'll move on to Tuesday, where the feature of the day is The Shortlist Report and our free-to-all racecards are for...

  • 12.50 Fairyhouse
  • 1.10 Lingfield
  • 3.10 Wetherby
  • 5.30 Newcastle

I think I'll take a break from full race profiling today and look at the afore-mentioned Shortlist Report...

I'm not really interested in a horse scoring just 9 with doubts over class and trip, but the other three are all green in the areas they've competed. Sadly Bear Ghylls is a non-runner, but we still have two to take a look at.

My aim with the shortlist is not to automatically back Sizing Pottsie & Domaine de L'Isle, but to see if their lines of green are relevant to the task ahead, assess the chances of winning and see whether they're priced fairly. Unfortunately a horse's success at Going/class/course and distance is pretty public knowledge and such horses then tend to be overbet.

We start in Ireland with the 1.20 Fairyhouse, a 5-runner, heavy ground hurdle for 5yo+ over a 2 mile trip...

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A winner last time out (31 days ago) in a grade 2 chase over soft-to heavy ground here at Fairyhouse over this two-mile trip, this 7 yr old gelding now reverts back to hurdling for the first time in seven starts and thirteen months, having won three of those seven over fences. Sadly, his record in three efforts over hurdles isn't as good at 533, but he should at least be coming here with some confidence after a good year chasing.

To convert his shortlist rating into numbers and taking the opportunity to add a few more relevant stats from his career, we can see that he has...

  • 3 wins, 4 places from 10 with a tongue tie & 2 wins, 3 places from 9 going right handed
  • 3 wins, 3 places from 8 over 2 miles & 2 wins, 2 places from 6 in Irish races worth 5-10k
  • 2 wins, 1 place from 4 at this track & 2 wins, 1 place from 4 in fields of 1-7 runners
  • 1 win, 1 place from 3 under today's jockey & 0 wins, 2 places from 3 over hurdles
  • 2 wins from 2 on heavy ground & 1 from 1 at 31-60 days since his last run

His best effort over hurdles came at Navan on his last run before going chasing. That was over 2m on soft ground when 3rd of 23 and beaten by nine lengths in mid-December 2019. If he brings his chasing form to this contest, then he should very well be there or thereabouts, but there's no evidence to suggest that will happen. There's also some concern about the form of the yard, who have saddled just 8 winners from 103 hurdlers (7.8% SR) since the resumption of racing after the lockdown last June.

That, of course, doesn't mean he can't and won't win. Something for me to consider once I've looked at the markets later.

*

Before then, of course, I've got to look at Domaine de L'Isle in the 1.30 Wetherby, a 9-runner, Class 4 Novices Hurdle for 4yo+ horses over 2m5f on Heavy (soft in places) ground...

Runners 7 to 9 are making their debut under Rules and the other six horses have previously won 4 of 21 combined starts before today, so our boy's 3 wins from 9 make him the most experienced and most successful by far. He was in fine form around this time last year when rattling off a 42-day hat-trick of soft/heavy ground chase wins but has been out of the frame of late. That said, having won those three races at Classes 4, 3 and then 2, he has run at the following levels : Listed, Class 2, Gr 3 and C2 again, so a drop into Class 4 company should help.

Like the runner at Fairyhouse, all his best work has been over fences and he is 0 from 2 over the smaller obstacles. He was 3rd of 5 on debut in mid-may 2019 when beaten by 9 lengths over 3m 0.5f at this grade and was 4th of 6 in a Class 2 contest (Ballymore Novice Hurdle) at Cheltenham in October 2020 over 2m5.5f. In his defence that day, he was coming off an absence of 251 days and was quite badly hampered by a faller.

A lack of race sharpness told in the end (not ideal in the closing stages at HQ : the finish here is somewhat more benign) and he ended up 22 lengths behind the eventual winner, Does He Know, who then went on to win a Gr 2 over the same course and distance a month later.

Stat-wise, he has won 3 of 9 races, including under today's conditions...

  • 3/6 on soft/heavy, 3/6 in fields of 8-11 runners & 2/6 going left handed
  • 2/4 on soft, 2/2 in January & 1/2 at Class 4
  • 1/2 on heavy, 0/2 over hurdles and 1/1 over this 2m5f trip

Similarly to the Irish runner, his best chasing form puts him right in the mix here, but with no obvious sign that he might transfer that form. On a positive note, trainer Sean Curran is 9 from 29 (31% SR at an A/E of 2.67) over the past two months. Admittedly much of that action (4 wins from 14) has been on the A/W at Wolverhampton.

Summary

I'd have been far happier had these two Shortlist entries been running in chases, where the decision would probably have been more straightforward, but I can only tackle what's in from out of me, so here goes. Neither of them give much confidence that they'll suddenly start winning over hurdles based on past hurdle form. That said, the Fairyhouse runner is in good form right now and the Wetherby runner is dropping markedly in class.

So, to Sizing Pottsie : I'd have preferred Dreal Deal to beat him with the latter being longer priced and coming off a string of fives wins (3 x hurdles and 2 x flat) over trips ranging from 1m2f to 2m6f on ground ranging from good right through to heavy.

Sadly, whilst I've been writing this piece Dreal Deal seems to have been withdrawn from the race, leaving Sizing Pottsie looking like an odds on favourite. I've no interest in him at such odds and he should win the race (on paper, at least), but Percy Warner is no mug and warrants enough of a risk to deter me, if the 10/11 price tag didn't.

As for Domaine De L'Isle, he's a 4/1 shot which is probably fair. I'd have thought 5/1 possibly, but it's there or thereabouts. In opposition, A Large One Please won well enough last out, newcomer Rockstar Ronnie won a PTP last time and his team, the Skeltons, are in great form, whilst Onward Route ran a good race in defeat on hurdles debut last time out. All three of those are as appealing as Domaine, so I'll swerve what actually looks like a quite competitive contest after all.

The bottom line here is nothing ventured, nothing lost and another reminder that an isolated stat needs backing up. The Shortlist is an excellent report, but should be your way in to analysing a runner rather than being your main reason for backing it.

 

Racing Insights, 11th January 2021

No bet for me on Saturday. which was (just about!) the right decision. Horn of Plenty almost embarrassed me by making the frame at 12/1, but failed by a length to spare my blushes.

Monday's free feature is the pace tab for all races, including our free "races of the day", which are...

  • 2.20 Hereford
  • 2.50 Hereford
  • 3.30 Dundalk
  • 7.15 Wolverhampton

And with heavy ground on the offing at Hereford (which should pass inspection as the ground thaws), we're going to tackle the higher grade of our two featured races from there : the 2.20 Hereford. It's a 9-runner, Class 3, Handicap Chase for 5yos and older over 2m5f on heavy ground and the winner will receive £7,018.

I'd expect Flagrant Delitiep to be a fairly short (7/4-ish) favoruite, but heavy ground is, of course, a great leveller so my aim is to see if we can find a better value alternative to the obvious pick, starting with the racecard itself...

The favourite comes here in good form (421), but the form horse (2311) is the 7yr old Volcano, whilst Dusky Lark was a runner-up 38 days ago. Conversely Last Encounter hasn't fared too well off late, failing to complete three of his last four runs.

Kapgarry and Brianstorm are both dropping down from a Class 2 run last time out, whilst Orrisdale, Flagrant Deltiep, Volcano and Last Encounter are all stepping up from Class 4.

Seven of the nine have had a run in the past 23 to 38 days and Rosmuc Relay has at least been seen in the last two months, but the odd one out, Brianstorm hasn't "graced" a track for almost 22 months (662 days) and it's actually closer to 26 months (780 days) since he last beat an opponent. He has had a wind op during his layoff, but I'd be wary of him doing anything here based on that layoff alone.

Plenty of the trainers have good records here at Hereford, bar Sarah-Jayne Davies (Last Encounter), whilst the jockeys of Kapgarry, Dusky Lark, Flagrant Deltiep and Brianstorm have all had some success at this venue, meaning it's not all bad news for Brianstorm! He, of course, has no Geegeez rating having not seen a fence in the past two years, whilst Last Encounter and Kapgarry are the lowest rated here.

Top rating, unsurprisingly, goes to the probable favourite Flagrant Delitiep, with Volcano back in second place some way clear of the pack.

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In such conditions, horses who proven themselves on heavy ground and/or at this trip are the ones who tend to fare best. This field has four wins and four places from 27 collective efforts on heavy ground and have also won 11 times and made the frame 24 further times from 72 runs over trips of 2m4f to 2m6f. How do I know this? Well I consulted both place and win elements of Instant Expert!

Kapgarry seems to eiher in or fail to make the frame, Dusky Lark is the only heavy ground chase winner in the pack and is a proven placer at both class and trip. Orrisdale has good numbers off a small sample size of races, whilst the fav is also a proven placer, but doesn't excite me from a win perspective at sub-2/1 odds here.

Rosmuc Relay is proven on heavy ground and gets the trip well enough, Brianstorm is a Class 3 placer in the past and Subcontinent's downfall is the ability to convert places into wins. The same could be said for Volcano, whilst I think Last Encounter has seen his best days before now. He might be bottom weight, but he's 11yrs old now and it's the best part of three years since he last looked like winning.

So, Last Encounter is cast aside at this point, as is Brianstorm, not because of the layoff, but because he fulfilled another booking this afternoon and therefore is a likely non-runner here. The layoff would have put me off, but he actually ran really well at Exeter today, finishing as a runner-up beaten by just a length and a half.

That leaves us with seven runners to consider and 2m5f on heavy ground isn't that easy to get and race tactics might play a big part here. Our pace tab isn't going to help us much here today, sadly as this track had only had 3 soft ground 2m5f chases and 2 on heavy over the last two years, but I'd expect prominent or mid-division runners to go well here.

This is purely gut instinct, mind, there's no data or science to support my view, but leaders set themselves up for doing too much and getting caught late on, whilst hold-up horses might have too much to do in the closing stages on testing ground. As I said, it's just my theory, but it won't harm to take a look at how these seven runners have run in the past, would it?

If my musing is correct, then it doesn't bode too well for Dusky Lark's efforts from trying to win from the front, but it certainly doesn't rule any of the others out, so maybe we need to take a closer look at them to see whether we dare risk any of our hard-earned cash on them.

Kapgarry made all to win a Class 3, 2m5m5f chase at Stratford 10 monhs ago, but didn't go well in a Class 2 at Ascot last time out. In his defence, he'll probably have needed the run after 285 days out of action and he does drop in class here. He's a useful enough chaser who could well make the frame if things go his way. His jockey was 6 from 20 (30%) here at Hereford in 2020 including 2 from 5 over fences, but his trainer is 0 from 7 in Hereford chases since winning 3 of 4 in 2016.

Dusky Lark might well have been beaten by 18 lengths last time out, but that run was good enough for second place despite coming off the back of a 621-day absence and a wind op. Provided there are no ill-effects from that run, he'd be entitled to come on for the run. He's also the only previous heavy ground chase winner in this field, but isn't getting any younger at 11 yrs old.

Yard is 3 from 10 in the past four weeks including a win today and also sends the likely fav out here, suggesting this one is second string, a suggestion backed by the jockey booking, although Tom O'Brien was in the first three home on 6 of 11 occasions here at Hereford last year, but sadly won none.

Orrisdale is an interesting and lightly raced sort. 1 from 2 in bumpers, a win and two places from three efforts over hurdles and most recently fourth over fences last time out. Down in trip, but up in class here, has won on heavy already and has also won over 2m4f. A pound lower than LTO and has place claims today.

Flagrant Delitiep has finished 322421 in his last six starts, showing consistency and improvement along the way. All career runs have been at Class 4 since being well beaten on debut in a Class 3 Novice Hurdle. He won a Class 4, soft ground, 2m4.5f chase by 8.5 lengths last time out, but now steps up in class, is slightly up in trip on worse ground and with a new jockey on board,

That's not dismissing the talents of Aidan Coleman, though, who is 8/27 (29.6% SR including 3 from 6 over fences) at this track in recent years, but I'm not sure this one should be a short price today, especially as he's up 9lbs for that last run.

Rosmuc Relay had a decent looking profile on Internet Expert, but closer analysis shows that he really hasn't seen often enough to inspire confidence. A 9 yr old with just six races under Rules suggests something might be amiss with his fitness and his two heavy ground successes came in January & February 2018, so I'd be wary of relying on those as a gauge of his current ability to handle the ground. In his defence, however, he was a runner here over course and distance albeit at Class 4 on soft ground two starts (and 10 months) ago and maybe the drop back to this trip might be enough to propel him into the frame.

Brianstorm ran today and I didn't fancy him anyway if truth be told.

Subcontinent is a perennial placer, making the frame in 44% of his 32 starts across A/W, Flat, Hurdles and Chases, but only has 5 wins from those 32 runs. He was fourth of six and beaten by 15 lengths here over course and distance last time out and has only been eased a pound in the weights for that run. He's due to be ridden by an inexperienced 7lb claimer which would help at the weights, but if Brianstorm is indeed a non-runner, I'd expect regular jockey Charlie Deutsch to jump back on board this one. Not one I'd expect to win here, but like others has a chance of a place.

Volcano is the form horse and comes here seeking a hat-trick after back to back handicap wins at Ludlow and Warwick. He stepped up in class and was raised 5lbs between those two wins and steps up another grade here and is hit with an eye-watering 11lbs for his 3 length win LTO. That's going to make this very tough indeed. The god news is that the jockey from last time retains the ride and the horse will relish a drop back in trip carrying the extra weight. I like this one, but the weight and the class of the race are definite negatives for me.

Last Encounter was discarded earlier and I'd not be surprised if he was last home despite receiving chunks of weight all round

Summary

The fact that Flagrant Delitiep is a 15/8 favourite here says more about the lack of quality in the contest that it does about his own ability, I'm afraid. This is his race to win, quite simply because I can't offer any viable alternatives at a better price.

Volcano (4/1) was the obvious suggestion at a reasonable price, but the rise in class and weight might be his undoing, allied to a trip he's only tried once before, so he's a no from a win perspective and too short for an E/W punt. I ruled Brianstorm and Last Encounter out, of course and if Volcano is second best here, you've then four horses racing for third place and to be honest, they're much of a muchness.

I'd not be getting involved in the E/W market on this occasion and if I decide to have a bet here, it'd be a small one on the fav for a bit of interest and maybe the forecast with Volcano. As you know, I'm not a fan of betting at 9/4 or shorter, but 15/8 here might end up looking generous, although I'd still want more!

 

Racing Insights, 9th January 2021

Saturday's free feature is the marvellous Trainer/Jockey Combo report, whilst (weather permitting) we have half a dozen full free racecards open to non-Gold subscribers and they are...

  • 11.35 Fairyhouse
  • 12.58 Wincanton
  • 1.10 Kempton
  • 1.25 Chepstow
  • 1.45 Kempton
  • 3.25 Lingfield

And I think we'll have a look at the TJ Combo, based on course form over the last 12 months. My criteria are fairly demanding, but they have generated a couple of horses to consider for Saturday at Lingfield.

David Probert has two rides for Andrew Balding here, but Discomatic runs in a Novice Median Auction Stakes and they hold little/no interest to me, so I'm focusing on Horn of Plenty for the Balding/Probert angle here.

Horn of Plenty is a 4 yr old and will line up against eight rivals in a 1m4f, Class 4, Handicap for 4yo+ on standard to slow polytrack with the aim of bringing home a £5207 prize.

The combo is 5 from 18 here over the last 12 months as shown above and this includes...

  • 4/15 on the A/W, 4/12 were unplaced LTO & 3/8 in handicaps
  • 2/7 in January, 2/6 in races worth £4-8k & 2/5 at odds of 15/2 to 10/1
  • 1/6 with females, 1/2 at Class 4 and 0/2 with 4yr olds

The breakdown isn't totally positive, but it does offer some encouragement and the racecard entry looks like this...

That Geegeez Speed rating of 32 is unfortunately the lowest in the race and the other info we can instantly glean from the card is that this filly was sixth a month (31 days) ago, she has ran three times (inc 1 win) since a wind op, she has won at this trip before and she'll be carrying 9st 7lbs off a mark of 79 for a yard short of recent winners.

She has 1 win and 1 place from 4 starts on the A/W with her sole win coming over this 1m4f trip at Wolverhampton two starts ago in a Class 5 novice contest. She stepped up to Class 4 last time out and although beaten by almost eight lengths over 1m3.5f at Kempton, she did run better than the bare result might suggest. She was in touch and making good headway when denied a clear run, she had to change course and never really recovered. The third placed horse that day has reappeared and won since.

Recently stalls five and higher have been the place to be if you wanted to win a 9-runner 1m4f event here at Lingfield, not withstanding the anomaly of stall 8's poor figures and with stalls 6 and 7 making the frame most often, our girl's draw from box 6 might be a good one.

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Much will also depend on race tactics. Of those 71 races above prominent and held-up horses have won most of the time, but there's not a massive win % difference across all four run styles ie

and we can then also find that leaders from a middle draw fared best, followed by highly-drawn prominent runners tucked in behind them with third best going to high draws dropped in at the back...

...so we could really do with Horn of Plenty being a front runner, but that wouldn't appear to be the case and she was, in fact, held up last time out...

giving her the following heat map...

...which isn't ideal, if I'm honest, but more on her chances shortly, after I've looked at the other possible.

*

Seven pound claimer Rhys Clutterbuck is in the early days of his career and apart from his rides for Gary Moore here at Lingfield, he's just 9 from 109 (8.26% SR), but in contrast is 5 from 15 (33.3%) here for Mr Moore over the last year and now rides the 6 yr old mare, Agent of Fortune in a 13-runner, Class 5, 4yo+ handicap over 7f.

The TJ combo record of 5 from 15 here over the last 12 months can be broken down in respect of today's contest as follows...

  • 5/15 in handicaps, 3/12 on the A/W, 3/5 at Class 5
  • 2/3 at 7-7.5f, 1/10 at odds bigger than 6/1, 1/9 on runners unplaced LTO
  • 1/4 on females, 1/1 on 6 yr olds and 0/1 in January

Class 5 handicaps are good from the above, but not much else to give us confidence other than possibly the trip, so let's look at Agent of Fortune's racecard entry...

So, with a non-runner, she'll be drawn in 9 of 13 and comes here in pretty poor form if truth be told, but it wasn't always that way. 13 months ago she embarked on a 10-race, 11-week, purple patch where she took her official mark from 50 to 81 (she goes off 72 here) by finishing 1114121113 and she's 3 from 8 at this track. She's been off the boil of late, though, finishing no better than seventh in any of her subsequent nine starts and her Geegeez Speed Rating of 48 is just 1pt higher than the two joint lowest scores in this race.

She actually scores quite favourably on Instant Expert...

...as she attempts to land a race where stalls 3 to 9 have seemed to fare best of late...

Our girl is drawn in 10 which will be 9, so that might work out. Once again pace and race positioning hold the key to this (and most) race and the pace/draw heat map...

...says the preferences are Low drawn leaders, mid drawn leaders and highly drawn prominence. This suggests that we'd need Agent of Fortune to race prominently to maximise her chances, but sadly she's a mid division type at best, as seen below...

...all of which is less ideal than the first horse we looked at.

Summary

I won't be backing either of these and I expect both to be much nearer the back than the front at the end of the race, so I won't bother with doing a deeper analysis of each horse, but this hasn't been a waste of my time and I hope you don't feel you've wasted yours by reading this piece.

The takeway from this is that it's very easy to read online or in a paper or to hear from a friend about how well jockey x rides for trainer y at track z and they've only got one runner there tomorrow, so they can't be going there for nothing, can they? Well, if I had a pound for every time I'd heard similar, I wouldn't need to back horses!

What we do here at Geegeez is give you that bottom line stat as a starting point, not a direction to bet. We give you the tools highlighted above plus the full race form and profiler etc and advise you to pick the stat apart. If the stat still stands up, great, you might still have the chance of a bet, but quite often it's like today and the stat is just another piece of data to file away in your mind for another day.

There's nothing wrong with analysing a race and then walking away from it. We want everyone to get that same mindset to just have a bet when there's one there to be had. Theres' none for me here, so I'll sign off by wishing you a great weekend and I'll be back on Sunday evening.

 

Racing Insights, 8th January 2021

Other than predicting a very close race where any of the 6 runners could win and any of them could finish last, I didn't get much right else right about Wednesday's race.

Tranchee looked held by the three I thought would dominate but was well backed in to 11/8 and won. Gulliver was my third choice and I was right that he wasn't a 9/4 horse, as  he went off at 9/1. That, however, was massive for a runner-up berth. beaten by just half a length. The two I thought would land me the forecast were only 5th and 4th in a tight contest where all six were within two lengths of each other.

Ffos Las foul of the weather today, leaving us with just two to consider from Wolverhampton's meeting and I'll bring you details of the 7.00 race tomorrow. The 4.20 race featured Spirit of Rowdown, about whom I was happy to take 4/1. The market didn't like him and he drifted out to 13/2 but ran very creditably to finish third. I said that Space Kid was a danger and he finished a short head in front of us with Uncle Dick winning by half a length.

But now to Friday, where the free feature is the Horses for Courses report and our free racecards will cover the following...

  • 12.40 Newcastle
  • 3.40 Newcastle
  • 4.15 Southwell
  • 4.30 Dundalk
  • 6.30 Dundalk

None of the above races float my boat and there's not very much on the horses for courses report under the parameters I require, so I'm going to turn to the cards for inspiration.

Two of the three UK meetings are just A/W bumpers that hold no interest at all, so Hobson's Choice is Southwell. Hopefully they'll have at least one competitive race on the card that doesn't feature a short priced fav! And that has now led me to have a look at the last UK race of the day, the 7.15 Southwell. Now it's only a Class 6 handicap worth £2,782 where the seven runners have a poor combined record of 1 win in 39, but it does look a pretty even contest that could be interesting to watch.

So let's start with the racecard...

With a field with 1 win in 39 before this race, there's not much winning form to go off, of course. Vitalline was the one to win three starts ago, whilst both Professor Galant and Gaelic Secret have been placed recently, whilst The Gloaming, True Contendor and Soberton have never made the frame in nine combined starts.

Gaelic Secret and Upside Down were both beaten in this grade last time out, but The Gloaming, Vitalline and True Contendor all raced at Class 5 LTO, whilst Soberton actually drops two classes for her handicap debut. True Contendor is also a handicap debutant here, as is The Gloaming, whilst Professor Galant made her debut last month.

Soberton hasn't been seen for over ten weeks, but the other six runners have raced within the last month or so.

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From a trainer perspective, none of these runners hail from a particularly in-form yard and although Iain Jardine's (The Gloaming) last 21 runners have all been beaten, he is 11 from 48 (22.9% SR) in Southwell, Class 5/6, A/W handicaps since the start of 2017.

Jockey-wise, PJ McDonald (Gaelic Secret) is highlighted for landing 2 wins and 3 places from his nine rides so far this season, whilst Richard Kingscote has won 7 of 24 already this year and made the frame on a further 8 occasions, so he's going very well right now. He also has a 28.3% strike rate in Class 4 to 6 handicaps at this track since the start of 2016 (13 from 46 at an A/E of 1.52).

The Geegeez Speed ratings show pretty low figures, as you'd expect from such a moderate contest. A lack of fibresand experience is the reason behind True Contendor and Soberton having little/no score, whilst there's not a great deal to separate the other five.

We know that these runners aren't winners normally, but maybe the place aspect of Instant Expert can help us separate the chaff from the dross...

...or maybe not! At least we see that Professor Galant, Gaelic Secret, Vitalline and Upside Down do have some form on the A/W with the latter three of that quartet all having placed in this grade (Professor Galant actually has two Class 5 runner-up finishes!) We've two runners to have made the frame on this track, but no discernible form at 5 furlongs!

Rudimentary draw stats in 6-8 runner contests over 5f on Std to Slow here suggest that runners drawn in stall 4 or higher would have a better chance than those in boxes 1-3...

... whilst this type of contest suits those who lead from low to middle draws. Those drawn highest often fare best if raced prominently tucked in behind the leaders, as seen here...

If we then overlay the past running styles of our seven competitors, we end up with this potential race layout...

I've based this on their last three runs, because three of the field only have three runs and the pace prediction is for possible lone speed from Professor Galant, who might try to make all.

This would be an ideal tactic were she drawn a little lower, but none of these have the perfect pace/draw combo for this contest. If she does attempt to set the pace, there's a possibility that Gaelic Secret might go with her and that would be a good move based on the above. That also raises the possibility of widest drawn True Contendor following the leader into a more prominent position and entering "the green zone" too.

All of this is supposition, of course, as we're dealing with unreliable horses, who've failed using their previous tactics, so they might run the race very differently and that's an interesting warning that sometimes we have to look beyond the raw data.

So, have I got a winner from this? Not exactly, I'll need a closer look at them first.

Professor Galant is a pound lower than when fifth here over C&D LTO but she'll need to perform better this time if she's to win. That said, she has been a runner-up here as recently as two months ago. Trainer & jockey have 3 wins and 3 places from 15 together, whilst the yard is 19 from 68 (27.9% SR) on this track with sub-7/1 runners since the start of 2015.

Gaelic Secret has raced just five times previously, but has finished third three times already, including once at this trip, once in this grade (twice at C5) and once on the A/W. She makes a fibresand debut here today, but did adapt well to a new surface last time out. She might not win this one, but she'll win soon, I think.

The Gloaming comes from a yard with a good record at this venue but is hopelessly out of form right now (as I said earlier). Just the three starts to date, all on Tapeta at massive odds that were justified in her first two starts. She ran far better last time out dropped to 5f and she drops in class here ands is as they say "open to improvement".

Vitalline won a Class 6, 6f handicap at Kempton by three quarters of a length three starts ago, but the eleven runner field from that day has 0 wins and just 2 places from 23 subsequent runs and this colt has finished 11th of 12 and 6th of 6 since. The blinkers are now reached for, almost in desperation and I'm not sure that they allied to the booking of an in-form course specialist jockey will be enough today.

True Contendor is likely to be anything but, I'm afraid. She's another adorning headgear for the first time, as she'll sport blinkers in a bid to improve upon her three previous poor runs, which have seen her finish 7th of 8, 9th of 14 and most recently last of 11 and beaten by 11.5 to 12 lengths on each occasion. She drops in class and trip for her handicap debut, but she's likely to need more than that unless the acquisition of a mark as low as 47 was part of a bigger plan.

Upside Down and Soberton will complete the field and they're another pair of lowly-rated lightweight headgear debutants, as they'll both wear visors for the first time. Upside Down is the most exposed runner in this race, having raced 13 times already, making the frame three times. her best run came four races ago when second here over 6 furlongs off a mark of 46, but has struggled since.

Soberton, on the other hand, has just three efforts, all at triple digit odds and all at a higher grade than this. She drops two classes and a furlong here and carries practically no weight at all : spare a thought for jockey Erika Parkinson trying to take 7lbs off an allocated 8st 2lbs!

Summary

At the outset, I had a feeling that despite being a lowly Class 6 affair that it might actually be an interesting/competitive heat between 7 runners anxious to get off the mark. Having spent some time going through the race details, I'm not so sure. I now think it's a pretty poor contest that will probably be uneventful.

I think Professor Galant will get out and attempt to stay out and I think there's a very good chance she'll not get caught. 4/1 looks about right for her and I'd rather have a small punt at that price than back any of the others. Not that I'm massively keen on having a bet at all, if truth be told.

That's how (a) it is sometimes and (b) it should be sometimes. They say "when the fun stops, stops..." and I don't see much fun happening in this one. A field that is 1 from 39 will "improve" to 2 from 46, but they'll still be poor horses.

I think the best advice might well be to leave this alone, switch the telly off and go for a walk, as the pubs remain closed.

Racing Insights, 7th January 2021

Wednesday's race has yet to run, but Monday's late action saw our three-runner shortlist provide the first and third (two necks behind) horses home. That's history now, of course and it's the future that's of interest here with Thursday looming large.

The free feature of the day is the access to the fantastic Instant Expert data for ALL races, including our highlighted free races of the day, which are...

  • 1.37 Musselburgh
  • 2.15 Southwell
  • 2.28 Ffos Las
  • 3.37 Musselburgh

And with Instant Expert being the feature of the day, I've spotted three runners of interest based on their past aptitude for tomorrow's expected conditions (if that makes any sense), starting with the 3.28 Ffos Las, a 15-runner, Class 5, Handicap Chase for 5yo+ over a 3m slog on heavy ground. The winner will receive a paltry £2989 for their troubles and the one that caught my eye was the 8 yr old gelding, Ballybreen and here's why...

The above figures are obviously excellent and are supplemented by the following...

  • 3 from 9 under jockey Conor Ring
  • 3 from 9 over fences
  • 3 from 7 during January & February
  • 3 from 4 in blinkers
  • 2 from 2 in January
  • and 1 from after 1 to 2 months rest.

He ended last year's chase campaign in early March with a 1.25 length defeat over 3m on soft ground off a mark of 93 and didn't tackle a fence again for almost seven months when last home of eight at Newton Abbot (3m2f, heavy) off a mark of 98. He led until the 16th fence but then faded out of contention and was eventually beaten by the thick end of 40 lengths. He then stepped up in class for 3m, heavy ground Class 4 hurdle contest off a mark of 101 and was pulled up 3 flights from home, so it's fair to say that this campaign hasn't got going yet.

It's quite possible that he needed that first run over fences and that something wasn't quite right in the hurdle race and he has gone well third time out in previous seasons. We should also remember that he finished 111212 in the first 11 weeks of 2020, so he's clearly at this best at this time of year. The blinkers are back on today (1112 in those) and he's back down to a workable mark of 94. That's not a definite winning mark, but it must give him more chance that his recent efforts.

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Will he win? Probably not, if I'm totally honest, but if he's in a "going" sort of mind and runs like we know he can, he'd have every chance of making the frame, assuming we can get four or even five places at a decent (14/1?) price. We'll know more when I check the prices in my summary.

*

The next race I want to look at is the 4.20 Wolverhampton, an 11-runner, Class 6, A/W handicap for 3 yo over 1m0.5f on Tapeta. The top prize is £2,782 and the horse I'm looking at is the 4-timer seeking gelding Spirit of Rowdown, whose nine race career looks like this on Instant Expert...

The above numbers speak for themselves, of course, but I'd like to add a few more of my own, such as...

  • 3 from 7 after 12-30 days rest
  • 3 from 7 in cheekpieces
  • 3 from 4 under jockey Charlie Bennett
  • 3 from 4 going left handed
  • 2 from 2 over course and distance
  • 2 from 2 off a mark of 51-60
  • 2 from 2 at odds of 4/1 and shorter
  • 2 from 2 as favourite

He comes here in fine form, of course after winning his last three outings in a 37-day period just before Christmas. He started with a win over a mile at Chelmsford and followed that up with back to back course and distance successes here at Wolverhampton 12 and 37 days later. He's had almost three weeks (seemingly his standard) rest to get over those exertions and is only up 4lbs for his last win. I say only, because he looked to have plenty in hand in all three wins, just doing enough to get home without being hammered by the assessor.

When he won here two starts ago, he was 3.25 lengths clear of the filly, Fast Emma who finished fourth and she has hopefully franked the form by winning in a tight finish at Lingfield yesterday.

Can he make it four in a row? Yes, I think he could, but this would be the toughest test yet and a 4lb rise does make life more difficult. I think he has more to give yet, but nobody knows how much. I don't think he can afford to blow the start like he did two races ago and if I can get 7/2 or 4/1 about him, I'd have to consider a bet.

*

But before I get my money out, there's one more to look at in the 7.00 Wolverhampton, which is the 10-runner, seven furlong, Class 4, A/W handicap (tapeta) for 4yo+ runners that Unforgiving Minute will attempt to land the £5,208 purse...

As expected, Instant Expert shows him in a favourable light and in addition to those numbers above, he is also...

  • 6 from 10 going left handed
  • 5 from 10 at sub-10/1 odds
  • 5 from 9 for trainer Sean Curran
  • 4 from 7 in the months of November to January
  • and 1 from 2 over course and distance.

He might well be 10 yrs old now, but there's no sense of a slowing down from this boy yet. He moved to Sean Curran's yard in the summer of 2019 and has five wins and two third-place finishes from nine starts since, taking his overall A/W record to 15 wins from 43 runs, a fantastic 34.9% strike rate. He was a 33/1 winner at this grade and trip at Lingfield last time out and is up 3lbs for the win, but importantly at his age, he's had 44 days to get over that effort.

He goes off a mark of 81 here today, but is assisted by jockey Grace McEntee's 5lb claim and it's worth noting that he did win here at Wolverhampton off 83 as recently as March. He was very impressive last time out and although life will be made harder for him here this time, has every chance of another good run.

Good enough to win? I think so, but he'd have to run to his recent best, as I think the likely favourite Beauty Choice also has a very good chance. This is by no means a gimme, but I'd expect him to make the frame again here. If I'm going to spend money, though, I'm going to want 6/1 or bigger to make it worth the risk, as it's not always easy to win from the back here at Wolves.

Summary

Three runners who all warrant a second glance based on their Instant Expert data and I'm quite happy to back all three at the right price. Ballybreen is currently available at 18/1, and whilst he's not likely to land the race, he's better than 10th favourite in my opinion, so I'll have a small 4 places E/W bet there.

Spirit of Rowdown won't have it all his own way and will have to beat the considerable challenge of Space Kid to land the spoils but 4/1 is too good a price for me to pass up, so I'm on this one too! This could turn out to be a good contest, as I was semi-interested in Arthur's Angel (16/1) and Cliffcake (10/1) as possible E/W punts.

And finally, I see that Unforgiving Minute is priced at 8/1 with Beauty Choice the favourite as I expected.  The fav is as low as 6/4 in places and I don't think he's nearly four times more likely to win than the old boy. I'm going to hedge my bets and take the 8/1 as an E/W bet, but I won't deter from going win only, if that's your preference.

Racing Insights, 6th January 2021

Today's highlighted race has yet to run, so I'll move straight to Wednesday where we feature the excellent Trainer Stats report and the full racecards for...

  • 1.15 Wolverhampton
  • 4.40 Kempton
  • 6.45 Kempton

Once again the weather has defeated jumps racing and we've just two A/W meetings to consider. Sadly this lack of action has meant that my fairly strict parameters I impose for my own Trainer Stats report hasn't generated any qualifiers for me to assess for tomorrow, so I'm going to look at what should be the best (and last) of our three featured races, the 6.45 Kempton.

This is a 6-runner, Class 2 Conditions Stakes for 4yo+ and the trip is 6 furlongs on Standard to Slow Polytrack (as is usually the case here at Kempton) with a top prize of £11,827.50. We start, as ever, with the racecard...

Aberama Gold has three Class 2 wins and a Listed class runner-up finish in his last four starts. He comes here seeking an A/W and was only beaten by three quarters of a length in that Listed race at Doncaster, despite the winner (the excellent Dakota Gold) being 11lbs better off at the weights. Aberama is two from two on Polytrack so far, both over 6f at Class 2 and under today's jockey, whilst more generally he's 5/17 with Shane Gray in the saddle, 5/16 at this trip, 4/5 at this grade whilst five of trainer Keith Dalgleish's last 24 races (20.83% SR) here at Kempton have ended in victory.

Above was a runner-up in a Listed contest at Windsor in June, beaten by three quarters of a length and was a runner again last time out, when defying the effects of a six month absence to come within a neck of victory, getting nabbed very late on by an odds-on favourite on Boxing Day. There's a possibility that this race might come a tad too soon for him, but the stats say he is 112 when returning from 1-2 weeks rest. His three career wins have only come as Class 4 (twice) and Class 5 and this is a tougher assignment than LTO, but trainer Archie Watson's horses do go well here, winning 44 of 207 (21.26% SR) here over the past four years.

Brian The Snail was a runner-up last time out, when the above mentioned Aberama Gold denied him a hat-trick of wins. He was only beaten by half a length that day in that Class 2 handicap and now re-opposes 3lbs worse off here which says he shouldn't really be overturning the result. That said, his A/W record is impressive with 3 wins and a runner-up finish over 6f, including a course and distance win here at this grade two starts ago. He's 112 on Std to Slow and has a chance but will need to find something extra to reverse the placings from Lingfield.

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Gulliver won a big-field, big-money soft ground handicap (21-runner Coral Sprint Trophy) two starts ago and ran better than fifth place LTO would suggest. He was only beaten by little more than two lengths on the Listed race mentioned earlier won by Dakota Gold, coming home less than a length and a half behind Aberama Gold off level weights. He's actually best off at the weights today and if running to his best would be the one to beat, but he was rated 14lbs higher than Aberama that day, so it's not a given that he'll perform as expected.

Streamline won a Group 3 contest here over course and distance when last seen, but that win is tempered by the fact that he hasn't run since and now returns from 16 months off the track. Jockey Adam Kirby is in really good nick right now (5/12 in the last fortnight), but it might take more than an in-form jockey to get this one home first. On ability, he'd be right up there after his third on a Listed event prior to winning that Group 3. He's 2/2 on the A/W, both here at Kempton, but that lay-off is a worry and will probably be reflected in the market when I check the odds shortly.

Tranchee makes up the six runner field alphabetically, but by no means just makes the numbers up. He has been really consistent since switching to David Loughnane's yard last summer and has since only failed to make the frame once in nine starts and that was when he stumbled/slipped at Catterick. Aside from that aberration he has finished 12212332 for his new yard. I'd say he doesn't quite do enough, as he hasn't won enough of those races for my liking but hasn't been beaten by far. In fact he was only two necks behind Aberama Gold when third three starts ago when not having the closing speed required to hang onto second, never mind win.

At this point, I wouldn't actually rule any of them out of it, but I've concerns over the form of Gulliver's yard (0 wins in 23 from 20th December) and the long lay-off endured by Streamline.

Much of what I've written above can be verified by looking at Instant Expert...

...where Aberama Gold, Brian The Snail and Streamline look the ones best suited, whilst it's two of the other three, Above and Tranchee, who top the Geegeez ratings, showing us exactly how competitive this race is.

In 55 recent similar contests, low draws (particularly stall 1) have fared best, whilst the bulk of the runners have either raced prominently (34.6% of the 344 runners) or have been held-up (33.1%), but the smaller number who have led (just 21.2% of the runners) have proved to be marginally the most successful with only mid-division runners proving to at a disadvantage. We can, of course overlay the draw with the pace stats as follows...

...which would suggest Above would seem to have been drawn best for his running style, whilst only Gulliver and Tranchee look unsuited by the pace/draw combination.

So how do I see this one? Well, from a betting perspective, it's fraught with danger and pitfalls and I actually think it has the makings of a really good contest. To try and eliminate some runners from my consideration, I'm now going to look back at their previous races via the head to head facility within the racecard.

Aberama Gold has beaten Brian The Snail (twice), Gulliver and Tranchee and arrives here in the best of the form. Brian The Snail has beaten Gulliver twice, but Gulliver has beaten Tranchee. So, assuming that Brian holds Gulliver, then Tranchee doesn't beat any of the other three here and is therefore discarded.

I also think that race might be too much for Above, who'll probably try to win it from the front and get overhauled late on and I can't be backing Streamline after such a lengthy lay-off. I've absolutely no doubts about his ability to land this calibre of race and had he been out for a run more recently, I'd be very interested. He's probably as big as 7/1 purely because of the lay-off and if that kind of rest doesn't worry you, then he could well be a big price.

Summary

I've finally got it down to three, Aberama Gold, Brian The Snail and Gulliver and I think that's the order I want them in. I do like Aberama Gold here and wasn't contemplating a bet if I'm honest, as I thought he might be shorter than the 5/2 currently available but I'm happy at those odds so I've had a couple of quid there.

Brian The Snail is interesting at 9/1 for place or E/W backers. I can't see him overturning the selection but another run like his last three puts him in the mix late on. To be honest, I've nothing between him and Gulliver other than value of odds. I'm not sure why Gulliver was the early favourite other than by virtue of being better off at the weights. He'll need to make more of an advantage of it this time around.

My final advice, cup of tea (or something stronger if you're now housebound under the new rules), feet up and watch what could eventually be a cracker. Any of the six could win, any of the six could come last, but I've called it how I see it.

Racing Insights, 5th January 2021

Yesterday's piece ended up being the proverbial Curate's egg: good in places. The winner came from the two I liked most, even if the one I had a marginal preference for didn't win. Hier Encore was indeed the worst horse in the race and Group Stage did indeed finish third.

The one that I though might be worth a tentative second glance as an E/W possible was last of the six to finish, not far behind the one I'd hoped would win. So, a mixed bag that did at least find the 4/1 winner from the two I struggled to split.

Next up is Tuesday, where the Shortlist Report is open to all readers, as are the racecards for the following races...

  • 1.10 Lingfield
  • 8.10 Wolverhampton

Only the two A/W meetings have survived the weather and sadly that has taken away any qualifiers for the shortlist, so I'm back on race preview duty and as I'm not a fan of Novice Stakes on the A/W, it's Hobson's Choice today as I'm going took at the 8.10 Wolverhampton : a pretty mediocre looking 12-runner, Class 6 handicap for 3yos on the tapeta.

The winner will receive £2781 for their connections and despite it not looking like a Classic, there has to be a winner, so let's see if the Geegeez tools (starting with the actual racecard) can steer us in the right direction...

Somebody far wiser than me (Matt) said in a video I watched that horses are 20/1 and bigger for a reason, so I'm now going to immediately remove four of the above from my thinking as I expect they'll be that kind of price, so out go The Bay Warrior, Eaux de Vie, Papas Champ and Inspiring Love to leave our card looking a bit more manageable as follows...

Form-wise, only Ladywood has shown any kind of recent form and that was a win LTO 19 days ago at Chelmsford in a 10 furlong Class 6 contest where she beat four of today's rivals by three to eleven lengths. Aside from her 1 in 6 record so far, the other 11 rivals are a combined 0 from 57 with just four placed efforts amongst them. I suppose at least that place stat will improve here.

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Baroness Rachael and Princess Elektra look to have the worst recent form, although the latter does now drop three classes for her handicap debut. The other seven under consideration all ran in this grade last time out and all have had the benefit of some rest (17 to 39 days).

Yards in form provide us with Ladywood, Baby Sham and Baroness Rachael, whilst Baby Sham's trainer has a good longer-term record on this track. The trainers of Pocketeer, Ghostly and Classy Dame have all struggled to make much impact at this venue, though and the majority of our jockeys have been amongst the winners of late.

I'm going to disregard the Geegeez ratings here as only four of the eight have run on Tapeta before and none have particularly high ratings. In a similar vein, looking at the win element of Instant Expert isn't likely to help us, but the place stats...

...show that Ladywood's win/place was on the A/W at Class 6 in a similar size of field and that she's up 6lbs for the win. The other three runners to have been placed in the past were all placed on the A/W, but none of the field have any relevant form at either trip or surface. Ghostly and Complexo were both placed at his Class 6 level, whilst Classy Dame made the frame in a Class 5 maiden six races ago.

In fairness/honesty, there's not a lot to be gleaned from Instant Expert, but perhaps the draw and the pace make-up of the race can help us out...

Low draw (1-4) have won 122 of the 341 races and have provided 347 of the 1019 places in similar contests at strike rates of 35.8% and 34.1% respectively, whilst middle drawn (5-8) horses ratios are 32% and 33.6% with those drawn highest (9-12) providing the remaining 32.2% of winners and 32.3% of placers, so I'd not say there was a considerable draw bias.

A quick look at the individual stalls' records...

...says stalls 2 to 6 would be a good place to run from, which is a positive for Pocketeer, Princess Elektra and Baby Sham. And now to the pace stats, that show...

...a clear superiority for prominent runners or hold-up runners. Most runners in these types of races try these tactics which is why they provide most winners, but the few that do try to win from the front win more often than any other tactic.  The problem here is that there's no confirmed pace setter which leads me to predict that this contest might be falsely run, although there is the possibility that Ghostly might take it on and try to win from the front as he has (unsuccessfully) in three of his last five starts including LTO over course and distance.

At this point, I've still got eight runners under consideration, but I'm now going to cast four aside that I don't see winning here, namely Baroness Rachael, Classy Dame, Complexo and Princess Elektra based on what we've seen so far. This leaves us with four : Baby Sham, Ghostly, Ladywood and Pocketeer.

Of our final four, Ghostly is going to be the odd one out. I think he'll revert to type and try to win from the front, he'll get swallowed up after 7-8 furlongs and miss out on the places, hopefully leaving my final three to battle it out and they are...

Baby Sham was 6½ lengths behind Ladywood in that 1m2f Nursery at Chelmsford 19 days ago and now wears cheekpieces for the first time on her tapeta debut. Still has a fair bit to find to catch that winner, but she's 9lbs better off at the weights here and could go very well for a yard who is 11 from 46 here at Class 5 or lower since the start of 2018 including a winner with their only runner here today.

Ladywood will be very popular and as the form horse of the race, that's perfectly understandable. She ran on well late on to win last time out, but she's up 6lbs for that run and that will make life tougher here. That was by far her best effort to date and if coming here in the same frame of mind will have every chance.

Pocketeer seems to be improving for every run and is certainly less exposed than Ladywood who beat her by 3¼ lengths last time out. Similar continued improvement gives her every chance of closing that gap now that she's half a stone better off at the weights and if taking to the Tapeta first time out could be one to side with. Jockey Ben Curtis rides her for the first time and he's in cracking form right now.

Summary

Had these three been running off the same marks as that Chelmsford race almost three weeks ago, there'd be little reason to think the finishing order would be any different. There were no hard luck stories that day, Ladywood was just better than the other two, but she's now 7-9lbs worse off and that could well even things up.

I don't actually have much separating the three, but the market disagrees. Ladywood is a best-priced 7/4 whilst the other pair are closely matched in the 15/2 and 8/1 area.

Pocketeer is definitely on the rise and with the new weight advantage, she'd be the one I'd back here if getting involved.

Racing Insights, 4th January 2021

As expected, Metier was an easy winner on Saturday despite a drift out from 6/5 to a far more backable 7/4, whilst the big-priced one I suggested (the 33/1 Tile Tapper) was third at 22/1. Sadly only 7 ran so no E/W payout generally, although some bookies/exchanges did 3 places.

And now to Monday, where our free feature is the PACE tab for all races, whilst our free racecards are offered for the following...

  • 1.25 Fakenham
  • 1.40 Lingfield
  • 2.55 Fakenham
  • 3.10 Lingfield

And I'm going to look at the first of those four, the 1.25 Fakenham, an 8-runner, Class 3, Handicap Hurdle for 4yo+ over 2m4f on soft ground with a first prize of £8447...

Paricolor is the form horse here, having won each of his last three starts, whilst Not A Role Model was also a winner last time out. Most of the rest have had a decent run or two fairly recently without actually visiting the winners' enclosure. All eight have been seen within the last 24 to 58 days so none are thrown back into action quickly, but nor have they got rusty.

The trainers of Group Stage and Shantung are the course specialists, whilst the Paricolor & Not A Role Model yards are the one in hottest form right now. From a jockey perspective, Foreign Secretary and No Quarter Asked have the in-form riders, whilst the jockey of the latter along with the rider of Shantung have good records here at the track. Only Ross Chapman aboard Show Promise has any red against his name after just 1 win from his last 53 rides.

Despite his lack of form, his mount ranks second on the Geegeez ratings sandwiched by Foreign Secretary and Paricolor and we should note that the latter steps up two classes today, as does No Quarter Asked and Hier Encore.

We've got soft ground forecast for this one and I would prefer to looking at horses who have fared well in the mud before now and the place element of Instant Expert...

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...highlights Paricolor's 2 places from 2 starts on soft ground and Not A Role Model's full line of green. Group Stage is of interest at this point and there are some other promising signs dotted about, but when it comes to actually winning races...

...there's not a lot to shout about after Paricolor's 2 from 2 on soft. Show Promise is 1 from 3 on soft and also at this trip and Not A Role Model still has some green, but there lots of questions about the rest.

The final piece of the racecard jigsaw is the pace make-up of the race...

...where leaders and prominent runners have won 10 of 13 similar contests (77% SR) and taken 20 of the 34 places (58.8%) available, suggesting that Foreign Secretary and Paricolor might get the run of the race here, but with 3 wins (23%) and 7 places (20.6%) from hold up horses, Group Stage wouldn't be out of it either if not cast too far adrift.

And now the runners themselves, as data alone doesn't win races...

Foreign Secretary was a winner over hurdles (2m, Heavy) in Ireland and has made the frame twice in five runs since moving across the Irish Sea. He struggled last time out when beaten by 15 lengths as 7th of 16 over 2m3.5f at Taunton in first time blinkers and now he'll wear a visor for the first time. From a positive perspective, his jockey has 4 wins and 4 places from 18 over the last 30 days and his trainer is 4 from 8 with first time visors over the last five years, whilst he has a 32.7% strike rate with hurdlers at 2m3f-2m4f ion that same period.

Paricolor steps up in class here after winning three sellers (2 at C4 and one at C5) and whilst this is tougher, he's got that winning habit. He's 5 from 12 over hurdles (all in a tongue tie), including 5/8 with today's jockey, 3/3 on soft and 3/3 in blinkers. Conditions look ideal for him if he handles the step up in class. The Trainer/Jockey stats are good at 17 from 70 (24.3% SR) over the last year.

Not A Role Model is better known as a chaser (4 from 12 over fences), but reverts back to hurdling for the first time in almost three years, aiming to improve upon a 0 from 3 record in this sphere. Ended last season with a nice runner-up finish and then was a winner last time out over fences at this trip and grade, but now races of a mark 1lb lower than that win as he tackles the smaller obstacles. If adapting properly, he'll be one of the ones to watch/beat here. Trainer/Jockey are 5 from 19 (26.3% SR) over the last year and Simon Thomas does well with middle distance runners.

Group Stage won a juvenile hurdle Ludlow back on November 2019 and was a runner-up in a Listed event in February at Musselburgh before going off the boil. Returned to some kind of form with a decent third place at Doncaster LTO in this grade. He likes the soft ground (placed in 4 of 8 starts), but is hard to make a winning case for. That said, his yard have a decent record at this venue and his sire's hurdlers have a 1 in 5 record (25/125) including 5 from 13 at Class 3.

Show Promise is a lightly raced (just 9 starts) 7 yr old but was a runner-up in three of five bumpers and won on his hurdling debut almost a year ago. He has since been unplaced in a bumper, pulled up over fences and unplaced in two hurdle races since, so some improvement is needed here. And although Philip Kirby's runners tend to perform well on soft ground, I can't see where the horse's improvement is going to come from, especially with an out of sorts jockey on his back. I'd be surprised if he's anywhere near at the end.

Shantung was 0 from 4 in bumpers and is 1 from 14 over hurdles, which hardly inspires confidence, But after a wind op she has finished 434 in three outings and probably wasn't suited by the drop back to 2 miles last time out at Southwell, nor did she appear to like the brush hurdles. She's better than that run, but would have to step up to make the frame here in my opinion. From a stats-perspective, the Trainer/Jockey numbers are good at 7 from 29 (24.1%) over the last year, whilst the yard is 17/62 (27.4% SR) here over the last five years.

No Quarter Asked was a handicap hurdles runner-up at both Ffos Las and Chepstow back in October before making a chase debut at Hereford LTO (6th of 11, beaten by 11 lengths over 2m on soft at Class 5) His cheekpieces were removed LTO but are refitted here and although he reverts back to hurdles, he's going to need to show far more than he has done previously to even make the frame. No wins from twelve at Classes 4 and 5 doesn't bear well for a Class 3 contest, but both yard and jockey go well in the mud, so it's not an impossible task but it nearly is!

Hier Encore makes up the octet in race card order and I wouldn't be massively shocked if he was also last home. Nought from eleven on Flat /AW and subsequently 2 from 24 over hurdles say he's had a fair crack at being successful but just hasn't made it. Most of his best efforts come at Fontwell and he's 0 from 18 away from that track across all codes! Little positive to say about him other than both his wins did come on soft ground. I'd not be backing him with someone else's money, never mind my own!

Summary

Based on the racecard data and my mini-profiles aboive, you'll not be too surprised to learn that the two I like most (in racecard order) are Paricolor and Not A Role Model and before I look at the market, I'd probably just about have them in that order but there's not much between them on my figures.

The market tells me that they are generally available at 5/1 and 3/1 respectively and I think the former looks a little generous with the later probably about right.

Do we need a third horse for either an E/W punt or a tricast possibility? Well, based on what I've put above, Group Stage would be the "third wheel", but at 7/2 you're not getting rich off E/W betting. Only three horses are at what I'd deem E/W prices : Foreign Secretary, Show Promise & Hier Encore. I've already dismissed the latter and the other two don't really appeal either, but if pushed : Foreign Secretary would be the tentative suggestion.

Racing Insights, 2nd January 2021

Happy New Year everyone! As you're probably aware, I've been off duty for a couple of weeks enjoying the sunshine in the Canaries and it's something I'd definitely recommend. That said, as a travel agent away from Geegeez, I'm a little biased!

Many, many thanks to two of my Team Geegeez colleagues, Matt & Sam, for stepping into the breach and ensuring continuity of service and Sam's preview of today's 1.15 race at Southwell was very interesting.

Aside from the favourite not running well at all, he did highlight the eventual 2/1 winner, whilst his comments about the runner-up were spot on "...Teston is likely to try to burn them off with his customary running style but he’s going to have to go very fast to lead..."

Teston was sent off at 10/1 and was only overhauled by the winner with a furlong to run and had you put both horses together, an 18/1 forecast was there for the taking.

But I'm back in the hotseat now for the foreseeable future, starting with Saturday's racing where the free feature of the day is the superb Trainer/Jockey Combo report whilst we offer full free racecards for the following contests...

  • 1.38 Cork
  • 2.25 Sandown
  • 3.23 Cork

And I'm going to ease myself back in with a look at the 2.25 Sandown, the 7-runner, Grade 1, Unibet Tolworth Novices Hurdle for 4yo+ over 2m on heavy ground worth almost £20k to the winner (£19,932.50 to be more precise). I don't normally look at the market before previewing a race, but I have already seen that the bookies suggest a 2-horse race here with 5 of the 7 runners priced at 6/1 or bigger, but shorties don't always win, do they?

We start, as ever with the racecard itself...

...that tells us that six of the seven have won at least one of their last two races (Tile Tapper won three starts ago), we have two LTO winners and three have already won twice this season.

Metier, Shakem Up'Arry and Tile Tapper all step up one class from LTO, whilst Smurphy Enki won a Class 4 LTO and this represents a big hike in quality for him. He's also entered in a Class 4 at Plumpton on Sunday and I wouldn't be surprised if he bypasses this one for the less challenging option.

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All seven have won at least one contest at or around the 2m trip and all have raced in the last four to seven weeks or so, whilst Galice Macalo's 7lb mares' allowance makes her marginally best in at the weights, narrowly ahead of current favourite Metier.

Not much to discuss regarding trainer form, but Oliver Sherwood's (Grandeur D'Ame) jumpers are 7 from 42 (16.7% SR, A/E 1.22) here at Sandown over the last six years, whilst the trainer of Metier, Harry Fry, is 8 from 19 (42.1% SR, A/E 1.81) in Novice contests over the last seven weeks and is also 5 from 21 (23.8% SR, A/E 1.22) with hurdlers here at Sandown since 2015.

From a jockey perspective, the riders of Do Your Job, Smurphy Enki and Tile Tapper have struggled of late, which isn't the case for Aidan Coleman and Sean Bowen on the two horses highlighted by the trainer form above. Sean also rides this track well, As does Shakem Up'Arry's Daryl Jacob.

Despite both yard and jockey being out of form, Do Your Job isn't written off here, as he clearly tops the Geegeez Speed ratings ahead of a rather clustered pack behind him. Grandeur D'Ame is unrated, as his two career runs have both been in bumpers and although second in Listed company last time out, may find this a tough introduction to hurdling.

Still too early for me to make a decision, but it's not difficult to see why Metier is such a warm favourite. Perhaps Instant Expert will help me one one to beat him? That said, with just 38 races between the seven of them, I'm guessing I'll glean more from the place settings...

...than I will from the wins...

Essentially, all those who've tried heavy ground have made the frame once, but only Do Your Job, Grandeur D'Ame and Metier have won in the mud. The first two of that trio have also been placed in a Class 1 contest previously, as has Galice Macalo who is also the only one to have been to Sandown before when second a in 2m Listed handicap on heavy ground LTO.

The pace make-up of the race is interesting, as I think it might well be falsely run here, as the pace tab says...

...that hold up horses have won 6 of 14 (42.9% SR) of similar previous races and have taken 15 of the 35 (also 42.9%) places on offer, yet at least five of this seven runner field look like they'll want to take it on. Our pace prediction says possible contested speed and I've a feeling the jockeys will be wary of doing too much too soon. This'll mean no runaway leader(s) and the so-called hold-up horses won't be that far away either, so I'm sensing a more tactical affair that might not resemble our heat map too much in the end.

So, where am I on this one?

Well, Metier certainly looks a worthy favourite, but is he a 5/4 or 6/5 clear fav here? I'm not sure, I'll need a closer look at the others first.

Do Your Job has two wins and two runner-up finishes from five efforts over hurdles and despite going down by four lengths in a Listed contest LTO, I feel there's still more to come from this half-brother to three winners and the ground shouldn't pose too much of an issue to a horse who won on heavy at Ffos Las in October, whilst stamina shouldn't be a problem either for a former winner of a soft ground 3m PTP race.

Grandeur D'Ame looks up against it here and is likely to be the rank outsider. Ran well in a Listed Bumper LTO at HQ, but this is (a) a big step up in quality and (b) the first time he'll have been hurdling competitively. I'm sure he'll have a decent career, but his success story won't start here.

Metier was a modest Flat horse in Ireland, winning just one £8k maiden from eight starts, but then had a year off and a wind operation, was sent to the UK to Harry Fry and is now 2 from 2 for his new handler and beat the re-opposing Tile Tapper by 5.5 lengths despite conceding 5lbs in weight LTO. Hard to see TT overturning that on equal weights today and Metier looks a prime contender here.

Shakem Up'Arry is just one from six over hurdles, but was deemed worthy of a run in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices Hurdle at this year's Cheltenham Festival. Only ten of the twelve starters finished and he was sadly last of the ten home, some 56 lengths off the pace and I'm not sure that augurs well for this contest. On a more positive note, he was a heavy ground runner up at Newbury almost a year ago and has won a 2m contest on soft this season, but this is too big a step up in quality for my liking.

Smurphy Enki is lightly raced over hurdles but has made the frame both times. A runner-up beaten by just a neck on heavy ground at Chepstow in early November ahead of a win by seven lengths at Plumpton almost four weeks ago. This is much more difficult and I wouldn't be surprised if he pulls out to return to Plumpton on Sunday instead. If he does run here, he could well put in a decent performance at a big price, but would need some luck from somewhere.

Tile Tapper ran well to be a runner-up on his hurdling debut LTO, but now meets the winner, Metier, on 5lb worse terms and although he has every right/chance to improve for having had the run, I just don't see him overturning the favourite here. He could well threaten the place position(s). Breeding suggests he'll stay further than this in time, but if showing any improvement here, could run a big race at a silly price.

Galice Macalo is the only mare in the race and as such receives a 7lb allowance effectively making her best in at the weights. She was only caught and headed late on last time out when beaten by just a length and a half in a Listed contest here over course and distance four weeks ago on similarly heavy ground. This is, of course, a tougher ask but she looks more than capable of improving here.

Summary

I don't like Grandeur D'Ame nor Shakem Up'Arry for this one and I expect Smurphy Enki to swerve this race (if he does run here, that might suggest his yard rate him highly, so keep an eye on him).

Of the other four, you'd have to expect Metier to be the one to beat, based on everything above and I'd have the mare, Galice Macalo, as the one most likely to challenge him, but at prices as low as 6/5 and 9/4 respectively, I'm not too keen on backing either (even the forecast won't pay much).

So, although I'm fairly confident that I've found the first two home, there's always scope for a decent priced E/W surprise in these type of races and I'd not deter you from a small (very small) punt on Tile Tapper at 33/1. I was half interested in Do Your Job, but 6/1 is far too skinny for my liking.