Varian seeks winning performance from Father Of Jazz

Father Of Jazz bids to continue his steep upward curve in the Betway Winter Derby at Lingfield.

Runner-up on his only start on turf for Michael Bell last summer, the Kingman colt has since rattled off a hat-trick of all-weather wins after joining Roger Varian.

The four-year-old made a mockery of an opening handicap mark of 90 when slamming his rivals by upwards of four and a half lengths over the course and distance three weeks ago – and Varian is looking forward to testing his powers at Group Three level on Saturday.

He said: “Father Of Jazz is a nice, progressive horse who is rated 101 now – and in my opinion it does not look like he would be out of place in a race like this.

“He obviously lacks a bit of experience compared to the opposition, but I don’t think he lacks the quality.”

Chief among Father Of Jazz’s rivals is the Marco Botti-trained Felix, who will be ridden by Hollie Doyle.

The son of Lope De Vega made a successful return from 10 months off the track when narrowly denying the high-class Bangkok at Wolverhampton in January, before the latter reversed the form with a half-length verdict in Lingfield’s Winter Derby Trial three weeks ago.

Marco Botti has high hopes for Felix
Marco Botti has high hopes for Felix (Simon Cooper/PA)

Botti said: “There are only five runners, but there are some good horses in the race.

“We have been pleased with our horse, and he seems in good form since he ran in the Winter Derby Trial.

“He’s a stronger horse this year than in the past. We’ve got Hollie Doyle back on. Richard (Kingscote) didn’t do anything wrong in the Winter Derby Trial, but Hollie has won on the horse twice and knows him well, so it’s probably a sensible decision to let her ride again.

“You never know with five runners whether it’s going to be a tactical race or not, but we’ll see how it pans out.

“We have to respect the field and we’re just hoping for a bit of luck.”

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With trainer Andrew Balding electing to run the aforementioned Bangkok in last weekend’s Saudi Cup, in which he picked up huge prize-money for finishing eighth, the Kingsclere handler relies on Johnny Drama in the Lingfield feature.

The latter won four successive races in the space of a month late last year, before finishing fifth in the Quebec Stakes at Lingfield over a mile and a quarter in December.

“He’s in great shape, and the question mark is whether Lingfield is his preferred track,” said Balding.

“He probably wasn’t at his best there the last time, but he had had a busy time and has had a little freshen up since.

“The horse is ready to go, so we’ll find out once and for all.”

Forest Of Dean represents John Gosden
Forest Of Dean represents John Gosden (Mark Kerton/PA)

John Gosden’s Forest Of Dean was just behind Felix at both Wolverhampton and Lingfield and is again in opposition, while Hugo Palmer’s outsider Power Of States completes the quintet.

Moss Gill aims to earn himself a trip to sunnier climes with a comeback victory in the Betway Hever Sprint Stakes.

The five-year-old ran an excellent race to finish third in the Group One Nunthorpe at York last summer, and already has a return to the Knavesmire pencilled in as a long-term objective.

However, trainer Ed Bethell – who took over the licence from his father James at the turn of the year – is first eyeing a tilt at the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan, providing his stable star can prove his well-being this weekend.

Bethell said: “Moss Gill had a nice winter break and is just ready to start back, with a view to some bigger targets later in the year.

“He has an invitation for the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup Night. If he wins on Saturday, he probably warrants his place in Dubai – whereas, if he doesn’t, at least we haven’t wasted a trip.

“He’s the highest-rated horse in the race, which I thought was going to be the case before the entries came out.

“There are a couple of horses in there that look a little frightening, (but) we’ve got our horse going there in great form – and I’m really excited about running him.

Moss Gill (centre) runs in the Hever Sprint Stakes
Moss Gill (centre) runs in the Hever Sprint Stakes (Dan Abraham/PA)

“It’s very much a starting point. Like all the horses I’ve run since the start of January, they have all needed their first run – and I would imagine he’ll be the same.”

He added: “The step up in trip would not overly concern me, because he does have form over six furlongs – he was just beaten in a big three-year-old handicap at the July Festival a few years ago, and he seemed to stay well that day.

“I am very fortunate to have a horse like him in my first season. (Owner) Mr Van Cutsem has been kind to keep the horse with us.”

Lord Riddiford steps up from handicap company to a Pattern race, but John Quinn’s sprinter usually breaks well and has the advantage of being drawn on the inside in stall one.

Lord Riddiford looks to be drawn well in stall one (
Lord Riddiford looks to be drawn well in stall one (Tim Goode/PA)

“He’s been in very good form this winter and we’re very happy with him. Obviously it’s another step up, but he’s a contender,” said the Malton handler.

“He’s in stall one, we’re hoping for a good run and hope he wins.”

There could be plenty of pace on early as another speedy horse, Ornate, is next door in stall two.

David Griffiths’ stable stalwart makes a quick reappearance after finishing fourth of five in a handicap at Southwell on Wednesday.

David Griffiths, trainer of Ornate (Mike Egerton/PA)
David Griffiths, trainer of Ornate (Mike Egerton/PA)

“The track was very deep the other day and it didn’t suit him, but he’s come out of the race good,” said the Bawtry trainer.

“He’s got a good draw at Lingfield. He got beat a nose there a couple of runs back.

“On his day, Ornate is a very good horse. He’s in good order with himself and hopefully we can have a good go at it.”

The other hopefuls are Robert Cowell’s pair of Blue De Vega and Rocket Action and Royal Birth and Belle Anglaise, who both hail from Stuart Williams’ yard.

Father Of Jazz hits the right notes at Lingfield

Father Of Jazz looked a very smart prospect when taking his career record to three wins from four starts in the Betway Handicap at Lingfield.

Making his handicap debut, the Roger Varian-trained son of Kingman made a mockery of a rating of 90, easily beating some solid yardsticks in the process.

Initially with Michael Bell, the Bill and Tim Gredley-owned colt has yet to taste defeat in three starts for Varian.

The 1-2 favourite was far more tractable than he had been at Chelmsford previously for Callum Shepherd, and cruised to a four-and-a-half-length win.

Varian said: “He looks a nice horse, but he’s still a bit of a baby with some growing up to do – there’s the makings of a nice horse there, though.

“I’m not quite sure what we’re going to do with him. He’s got the Winter Derby entry, but that’s only speculative – we’d possibly like to keep him in handicaps for another run, but we we’re pleased with him today.

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“In time he could make up into a nice horse. He was slowly away from the gate again today, which is disappointing, but there’s still plenty to work on.”

Roger Varian was lukewarm on a Winter Derby bid for Father Of Jazz
Roger Varian was lukewarm on a Winter Derby bid for Father Of Jazz (Mike Egerton/PA)

He added: “If we can go quietly we will. While there are not a huge number in the provisional Winter Derby entries, there’s still some very nice horses and he’s only won off 90 today so it would be a big jump to go there.”

The day ended on a low note for Shepherd, who was brought down on Cafe Milano by the ill-fated Goodwood Showman.

Along with the latter’s rider, Kieran O’Neill, Shepherd was taken to hospital for a thorough check over.

Clerk of the course George Hill said: “They are just on their way to East Surrey, Redhill Hospital for further examination. Hopefully they’ll be OK, they’ve both just gone to be doubly checked over.”

Royaume Uni had little trouble following up a recent jumpers bumper win
Royaume Uni had little trouble following up a recent jumpers bumper win (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Gary Moore was keeping his feet on the ground despite Royaume Uni (8-13 favourite) following up an impressive win in a recent jumpers’ bumper in the Read Katie Walsh On Betway Insider Handicap.

Moore must think something of the ex-Andre Fabre inmate to have persuaded son and former champion jockey Ryan out for the ride, his first in the UK of 2021, and it was not a wasted trip.

The half-brother to King George winner Novellist had far too much class from an opening British mark of 79 for some in-form rivals, only needing to be pushed out to win by four and a quarter lengths.

The Galileo gelding had his first two runs for Moore over hurdles and is likely to return to that sphere once the ground eventually dries up.

“I don’t know if he’s beaten much so I’m not getting carried away,” said Moore.

“The top horse (Social City) might have won a few (four of his last five), but he’s probably reached his mark. There were two doubtful stayers in the race as well so I’m certainly not getting carried away.

“I suppose it was nice to see him win it in a different style to the other day. What I will say is I won’t be in a rush to take him back to Lingfield for £2,000.

“He was bought for hurdling, he’s only doing this now because the ground is so bad everywhere.

“I’ll try to get him a mark I think, then we can see where we are. At least he’s got another avenue to go down if he doesn’t make the grade jumping.”

Hollie Doyle backing latest Racehorse Lotto prize

Hollie Doyle is throwing her energy behind Racehorse Lotto’s latest prize, a beautifully-bred daughter of Postponed trained by top Newmarket handler Roger Varian.

One lucky entrant to the Racehorse Lotto’s Champions Raffle will win ownership of the filly for the whole of 2021, including naming rights and registering their own racing colours.

Racehorse Lotto’s 2020 prize draws raised a total of £25,000 for Racing Welfare, including the Christmas Raffle where 32-year-old avid racing fan Tony Wood from Bromley won ownership of a two-year-old filly trained by James Ferguson.

Doyle, who enjoyed another record-breaking campaign last year, said: “It feels more important than ever to have some light at the end of the tunnel and the Racehorse Lotto’s latest raffle certainly gives everyone in racing something to get excited about.

“The pandemic has also hit areas of the racing workforce quite hard and Racing Welfare, who will receive 20 per cent of all raffle sales, are currently providing grants for those in the industry that have been affected.

“She’s a lovely, big filly by Postponed, who Mr Varian obviously knows very well, and she looked like a horse with plenty of scope and potential when I went to visit her in the snow last week.”

The filly in question was bred at Mark Weinfeld’s famous Meon Valley Stud, the birthplace of greats such as 2019 Oaks winner Anapurna, dual Group One winner Speedy Boarding, three-time Group One winner Opera House and 1998 Gold Cup winner Kayf Tara, to name a few.

Varian, who saddled Postponed to three Group One victories, said: “We’re extremely excited to be training this daughter of Postponed for the Racehorse Lotto. If she’s anything like her dad, then the winner is in for a real treat!”

All racing, training and vets fees are included in the raffle prize, which is now live, and 100 per cent of any prize-money up to £100,000 goes straight to the raffle winner, with 50 per cent thereafter.

The winner will be picked on March 31.

Diamond sparkles to land Listed contest at Newmarket

Ventura Diamond capped off her season in style with a tenacious success in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF “Bosra Sham” Fillies’ Stakes at Newmarket.

The Richard Fahey-trained Dandy Man filly, who was making her seventh appearance of the campaign, saved her best until last by striking gold in the six-furlong Listed prize to form the opening leg of a double for Silvestre de Sousa.

Hitting the front approaching the final quarter-of-a-mile, the 7-2 joint favourite showed plenty of heart to get the better of a sustained late battle with Meu Amor before scoring by a neck.

Tom Palin, spokesman for winning owners Middleham Park Racing, said: “She has got a wonderful attitude and there are plenty of times she could have thrown the towel in there and wanted to quit.

“Going down, Silvestre didn’t feel the same at Leicester, so you can mark that run up massively as she still managed to do that and show that willing attitude.

“We’ve been quite hard on her in the last two months going to Doncaster, Redcar, Leicester and here and they were all in soft ground, but she has got that attitude and she keeps going, but I think we’ve now seen enough of her.”

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A return to the Rowley Mile could be on the cards for Ventura Diamond next season, with Palin earmarking the Group Three Nell Gwyn Stakes as a possible target.

He added: “We will pop her away and dream of something sexy in the spring.

“We’ve not tried her over seven yet and whether we keep her to sprinting, we will see, but it is a lovely problem to have in six months time, working out what Group Three we go for.

“She could be the type for a Nell Gwyn or Fred Darling, and she deserves being pitched into something like that.”

Hughie Morrison who was on the mark with Whitehaven in the Proud To Support British Racing Handicap
Hughie Morrison who was on the mark with Whitehaven in the Proud To Support British Racing Handicap (Mike Egerton/PA)

Whitehaven (11-10) followed up back-to-back wins at Yarmouth to complete De Sousa’s brace when prevailing by five and a half lengths in the Proud To Support British Racing Handicap.

De Sousa said of the Hughie Morrison-trained winner: “He did really well with the low weight. From a mile out I let him stretch and he loves this ground.

“I was going the speed I wanted to go and the horse responded well.”

Roger Varian celebrated a winner with his first runner for owners Opulence Thoroughbreds thanks to the debut success of Beau Jardine (4-1), who landed the Follow MansionBet On Instagram British EBF Novice Stakes by three-quarters of a length.

The Newmarket handler said: “He has done a couple of bits of work on the soft turf and he has gone well through the ground, so I didn’t think that would be a problem for him.

“Eoin Walsh said he was a bit green early on from the gates, but apart from that he tracked into the race well and did it nicely, so I’m pleased with him.

“I’m very pleased for the owners, Opulence Thoroughbreds, who are run by George Gill and he is the first horse they’ve had with me, so I’m delighted they have got off to a winning start.”

Ainsdale made light work of testing conditions on his return to six furlongs to open his account for the campaign in the MansionBet Watch And Bet Conditions Stakes.

Clifford Lee, winning rider, said of the Karl Burke trained 11-8 shot: “He loves these conditions.

“We didn’t go quick early doors which suited him as he does run over five, but he has done it well in the end. “

Racing Insights, 9th October 2020

I wrote a couple of articles during lockdown focusing mainly on 2yr old debutants, but I had some other areas I was going to pursue and my opening glance at tomorrow's cards and reports jogged my memory about one of them. As many of you will already know, I firmly believe that trainers are creatures of habit operating under the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage.

I'm always interested in trainers who excel at a certain distance and not a quirky one like 6.5 furlongs etc and today I want to look at Roger Varian, because my notebook tells me to look out for his 1m4f handicappers and this is highlighted in tomorrow's Trainer Snippets...

Now this is a 2-year snapshot of all his handicappers racing at trips beyond 1m3.5f, so for the exact 1m4f numbers, we head over to the query tool, which shows that all Roger's runners over the last two years are...

whilst his 1m4f handicappers fare considerably better from a profit point of view at...

Of the above three quoted three flat-stayers, Zeeband will be disregarded for today's piece as he runs over 1m6f, leaving us with two 3 yr olds to look at : Shandoz and Progressive.

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The former will be ridden by David Egan in a tricky-looking Class 2, 17-runner contest on soft ground, whilst Daniel Muscutt rides the latter in a 12-runner Class 4 affair on Polytrack. To assess their respective chances, I first want to take you back to Roger's 10/49 record over the last two years in 1m4f handicaps, because they show...

  • 10 wins from 31 at SP odds of 10/3 to 11/1
  • 9 from 34 on the Flat (so better for Shandoz)
  • 8 from 35 from 3 yr olds (both)
  • 4 from 15 for David Egan (Shandoz)
  • 4 from 7 in 12-runner contests (Progressive)
  • 4 from 14 at Class 2, but only 1 from 9 at Class 4 (Shandoz again)

So, based on the stats, Shandoz would appear to be the most likely of the pair, but let's look closer at the cards/reports etc.

And Instant Expert... the pace/draw heat map...

All seem to put Shandoz in a very favoured light. He's by Golden Horn, whose 1m4f handicappers are 11 from 24 (45.83% SR) with six of the last nine all winning. The step up to these 1m4f handicaps has done Shandoz a world of good as he's 2 from 2 in this sphere, thanks to back to back successes at Ascot.

He signed off his 2yr old campaign with a win over 8.5f at Wolverhampton in late September 2019, before reappearing at Ascot 2 months ago having been rested for some 322 days, getting up late to land that Class 3 contest by a shorthead.

He then had four weeks rest before winning a Class 2 contest more comfortably on Good to Soft ground, beating the re-opposing Cepheus in the process. I'm not convinced the handicapper has him just yet despite a 7lb rise and I think there's more to come from him after another month's rest. Avoiding traffic/trouble will be the key to his fortunes here.

And onto Progressive at Kempton...

...which also shows that Roger Varian has a good record here at Kempton (21% SR since 2016) signified by the C5 icon and also the fact that he's one of my trainers to follow here on my angles. Instant Expert is somewhat less conclusive/helpful, unfortunately...

Pace/draw is also pretty inconclusive, as there's no real pattern here at Kempton in 1-12 runner contests over 1m4f for either running style or draw, other than you don't want a pace score of 1, as hold up horses do poorly here.

This 3yr old filly has only ran three times so far, but has shown some promise and improvement already. She won second time out on her A/W debut when bagging a 1m2f Class 5 contest up at Newcastle, where she battled well to get back up by a neck after being headed a furlong out.

Her latest effort was 24 days ago at Yarmouth, stepped up in both class and trip and she gave another account of herself when beaten by just a length into fourth place. The winner and runner-up (Colony Queen & Dusk) re-oppose today and our girl is now a pound better off with the winner and Dusk has had a jockey change.


Roger Varian's 1m4f handicappers have a great record and are always worth a second glance. Three year olds fare really well as do those priced around the 3/1 to 11/1 mark. Jockey David Egan has a better record than most, whilst those on the Flat considerably outperform A/W runners.

Two possibles for Friday and both have a real live chance of landing the spoils. Shandoz will need to stay handy but out of traffic/trouble or the 7lb excess will catch up with him if he has too much to do late on, whilst Progressive needs to continue to be progressive (sorry, couldn't resist!) and continue to improve. If she handles the new surface, I'd expect her to be there or thereabouts once again.

Daahyeh makes eagerly-awaited return at Ascot

Roger Varian’s Daahyeh returns to action for the first time since finishing a meritorious second at the Breeders’ Cup when she runs in the John Guest Racing British EBF Stakes at Ascot.

A fruitful first campaign, in which she was also second to Love in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, culminated in a trip to America, where she was beaten by Sharing.

A setback delayed her return, but David Egan, who won twice on her last season – including the Albany Stakes – is looking forward to getting back on board.

“We’ve not seen her on track this year as she had a little setback, but I’m sure she will be spot on for Saturday and I’m hoping she can get back to her best,” said Egan.

“She has obviously got the form in the book having been second in the Breeders’ Cup and being a Royal Ascot winner, so she is the one to beat. They’ve done plenty of work with her and Roger feels she is fit and ready to go and make her mark for the year.

“She is back at seven furlongs having run over a mile at the Breeders’ Cup, but she won the Rockfel over seven and the Albany over six, so she is not short of speed. I think an Ascot seven is well within her capabilities.

“I wouldn’t want it bottomless for her, but anything would be fine as long as it is not exaggerated.”

Another Royal Ascot winner, Charlie Fellowes’ Onassis, once again has the assistance of Hayley Turner, having finished fourth in a Doncaster Group Three last time out.

Onassis won at Royal Ascot  for Hayley Turner
Onassis won at Royal Ascot for Hayley Turner (Megan Ridgwell/PA)

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The Newmarket trainer said: “The form of the Doncaster race worked out very nicely when Cloak Of Spirits (fifth) and Bounce The Blues (third) went and ran first and second in that race (Rosemary Stakes) the other day.

“She loves Ascot – her run style really suits it, and seven furlongs with cut in the ground, which it’s going to be, is perfect.

“We’re ready to go – she’s in good form, and it will be absolutely ideal for her.”

Fellowes, meanwhile, is similarly enthused by the prospects of King Ottokar, also over seven furlongs, in the Challenge Cup – having at last, he believes, worked out what makes the talented son of Motivator tick.

“King Ottokar has been a real head-scratcher,” he said.

“I’ve never made any secret of how highly I regard this horse.

“(But) he was going nowhere in the spring – he showed me nothing, and I was really disappointed with his work.

“He ran poorly twice, and then we gelded him, and I put a visor on him at home – and it was like a different horse. The horse I had last year returned.

“He showed me much more speed than he’d shown me all year, much more speed.

“He’s much better on soft ground, and confirmed that the other day. It looks like we’re probably going to get his conditions this weekend.”

Trainer Clive Cox during is looking to continue his good form this weekend
Trainer Clive Cox during is looking to continue his good form this weekend (John Walton/PA)

King Ottokar faces 17 rivals in a hugely-competitive heat, including Clive Cox’s duo of River Nymph and Wise Counsel.

Cox is also represented in the John Guest Bengough Stakes by Snazzy Jazzy, who wears first-time cheekpieces.

“He is in the form of his life at home. I’ve put some cheekpieces on him as I just think he would help his concentration,” said Cox.

“We’ve moved between six and seven furlongs with him, but I don’t know what happened last time at Goodwood. The one thing we can do is sleep easy with all this rain about as the more rain the better for him.”

In the same race, The Tin Man returns to a track where he has won two Group Ones for James Fanshawe.

“We know he acts with cut in the ground, but there is a lot forecast and when it gets to extremes you just don’t know,” said Fanshawe.

“As far as the horse is concerned he’s really well and we are running in a Group Three rather than a Group One, so hopefully he’ll find it a bit easier.

“He’s in good form, he’s been working well so we’ll see how he gets on.”

In the Rous Stakes over five furlongs Tiz Marvellous carries the hopes of Cox, along with the three-year-old Star In The Making.

“Tiz Marvellous often turns up in races like this,” said Cox.

“He surprised me when he won the conditions race at Leicester on soft ground because I’ve always believed he wanted better ground. Even if it is really wet we are going to take a chance with him as it is his last run of the season.

“It is a bit of a big step for Star In The Making to take but she enjoys the ground, she is in excellent form and when you have got a filly in form at this time of year it pays to be brave.

“We going to have a crack at getting some black type on her page.”

Stat of the Day, 29th July 2020

Tuesday's pick was...

2.00 Ayr : Mr Wagyu @ 3/1 BOG WON at 5/1 (Made virtually all, ridden inside final furlong, ran on well to win by 2.25 lengths) 

Wednesday's pick runs in the...

2.45 Goodwood :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Normally, I'll identify and share the selection between 8.00am and 8.30am and I then add a more detailed write-up later within an hour or so of going "live".

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.


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Sardinia Sunset @ 9/2 BOG the 10-runner, Group 3, Molecomb Stakes for 2yo over 5f on Good ground worth £22,684 to the winner...


A rare foray into Class 1 racing for me/SotD today and as usual, the Geegeez racecard offers some obvious pointers... in-form trainer, jockey with a decent (albeit from a small sample size) record at the venue and an LTO winner who heads the Geegeez Speed ratings. I'd hope all of the above is pretty self-explanatory by now and is all covered in the excellent user guide that (a) you can find in your "My Geegeez" area and (b) we recommend you all read.

I'm also not going to go down the route of a big-race preview as others here on the Geegeez team are better placed to do that and I'd wager they already have 😉 (I don't read any previews until I've done my own thing!)

So, what can I tell you that you might not know, but could be of use framing today's selection?

How about Roger Varian's female LTO winners sent off at 2/1 and bigger on the Flat? Yes Chris, tell me about them! Well, since 2014, they are 23 from 132 (17.4% SR) for 105.98pts (+80.3% ROI) profit, including of relevance today...

  • 19/94 (20.2%) for 107.5pts (+114.4%) at 11-60 days since last run
  • 18/90 (20%) for 75.54pts (+83.9%) in 7-12 runner contests
  • 14/76 (18.4%) for 83.64pts (+110.1%) in non-handicaps
  • 12/69 (17.4%) for 78.11pts (+113.2%) at Class 1
  • 11/42 (26.2%) for 100.56pts (+239.4%) in races worth 21-40k
  • 8/23 (34.8%) for 86.98pts (+378.2%) at Group 3
  • 6/27 (22.2%) for 42.04pts (+155.7%) with 2 yr olds
  • 3/10 (30%) for 9.27pts (+92.7%) in July
  • and 2/4 (50%) for 8.1pts (+202.5%) here at Goodwood...

...whilst those racing in 7-12 runner, Class 1 non-handicaps worth £21-40k after a break of 16-60 days are 5 from 10 (50% SR) for 55.53pts (+555.3% ROI)... us... a 1pt win bet on Sardinia Sunset @ 9/2 BOG as was widely available (inc at least a couple BOGs) at 5.45am Wednesday, but as always please check your own BOG status (*some firms are not BOG until later in the morning)To see a small sample of odds offered on this race... here for the betting on the 2.45 Goodwood

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!


Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

P.P.S. Please note I left for Greece on Monday 20/07 for two weeks to look at some hotels for my travel agency business and to get some R&R, so whilst I'll still be posting each day (except 04/08 when cover has been arranged), the timings may well be different to normal.

Stat of the Day, 15th July 2020

Tuesday's pick was...

1.05 Bath : Cappananty Con @ 4/1 BOG 9th at 10/3 (Close up, pushed along halfway, not much room and lost place 2f out)

Wednesday's pick runs in the...

6.45 Kempton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Currently, I'll identify and share the selection between 8.00am and 8.30am and I then add a more detailed write-up later within an hour or so of going "live".

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.


Emirates Knight @ 4/1 BOG

Your first 30 days for just £1 a 14-runner, Class 3, A/W handicap for 3yo+ over 1m4f on Polytrack worth £6,728 to the winner...


The racecard tells us that this 4 yr old was a runner-up LTO 24 days ago (beaten by just a neck over C&D by an in-form rival completing a hat-trick, despite our boy not having raced for 215 days) and that he was flagged up on my Query Tool report because his trainer (Roger Varian) is one of the ones I keep an eye out for on the A/W here at Kempton...

Based on his last two runs, which were both at this venue (4th over 1m3f at C2 and 2nd over C&D at C3 LTO), the Geegeez Pace/Draw heat map also offers encouragement... do the figures on the Geegeez Speed ratings...

Now, let's add a little bit of flesh to the bare bones above. Why follow Roger Varian at Kempton and do we back all of his runners here? Well, as you'd expect, the answer to the second part is no and being selective answers the first question!

The runners I'm interested are simply Roger Varian's Kempton handicappers sent off at 10/1 or shorter. He will get unfancied winners, but playing at long odds often means a long wait between drinks and I'm not a patient man. Imposing a simple odds cut-off has yielded the following result since the start of 2016...

from which...

  • 19/68 (27.9%) for 21.23pts (+31.2%) in races worth less than £8,000 to the winner
  • 18/54 (33.3%) for 35.96pts (+66.6%) after a break of 11-45 days
  • 17/54 (31.5%) for 25.47pts (+47.2%) with male runners
  • 12/32 (37.5%) for 29.41pts (+91.9%) during June to August
  • 7/9 (77.8%) for 23.12pts (+256.9%) from LTO runners-up
  • and 5/10 (50%) for 5.48pts (+54.8%) from top weighted runners

...whilst males competing for less than £8k during June to September after a break of 11-45 days are 11 from 21 (52.4% SR) for 36.99pts (+176.1% ROI) and also applies to Roger's runner Motamayiz in the 7.45 race and of that 11/21 stat, top weights are 2 from 2 as are those who finished as runners-up last time out... us...a 1pt win bet on Emirates Knight @ 4/1 BOG as was offered by Bet365, BetVictor* & Hills* at 8.10am Wednesday, but as always please check your BOG status (*some go BOG later)To see a small sample of odds offered on this race... here for the betting on the 6.45 Kempton

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P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Jon Shenton: Who to Layoff?

Under normal circumstances April and May is my favourite time of the year, both in personal “real-life” terms but also through the racing lens, writes Jon Shenton. Usually, as the flat season kicks into gear it is a period when I’d be at my most active in punting terms. This year there is a void, and I’ve as yet not wanted want to fill it with third tier US racing, or whatever other meagre scraps are on offer.

Before we begin, an uber-caveat: the date of the restart of the sport will go a long way to establishing whether data-driven angles have a strong role to play in this years’ flat campaign.

Sadly, it may be smart to keep certain angles in cold storage until the spring of 2021: a truncated campaign will quite likely manifest in all sorts of data anomalies for otherwise robust angles. Let me explain with a specific example.

Many of my favourite angles are early season specific. Several yards are typically fast out of the blocks and others have a more nonchalant approach to the first exchanges in the campaign, in result terms anyway. Avoiding some yards during the initial knockings of the turf season can be a prudent move. A case in point is Tim Easterby: the powerhouse yard has a colossal number of runners throughout the spring and summer months with performance notable by its variance over the course of the season as the below graph illustrates.

It’s not the most exciting data, illustrating only the yard’s win percentage. However, it clearly shows a seasonal variance: Easterby’s performance in April and May is moderate in comparison to the peak summer period. To give a feel for the scale, there are 642 total runners in April alone, so in horse racing terms the sample sizes are broader than most (the yard is also 0-from-29 in March).

Focusing on 2020, what happens now? It is pure speculation but for the sake of this article let’s assume the season starts in July. Ordinarily, this would be peak Tim territory assuming a standard racing calendar. The million dollar question is, would the yard be expected to drop straight into the usual July prolific form or will it build slowly like usual, allowing its animals to develop race fitness through visits to the track, peaking as a yard in September or later? Perhaps we will see neither and the yard will flatten their own curve.

It is very difficult to project with any confidence, especially when placed in the context of every other yard rethinking and rehashing their own usual blueprint, planning for and around a truncated season.

Arguably, all typical trainer patterns could be of limited relevance. I certainly wouldn’t back a usual Easterby July qualifier this year, at least until I had more evidence to show the yard had adapted to the revised topology.

However, we don’t give in that easily at geegeez. Yes, it is true that a data-driven gambler may have to tread carefully; but there is also such a thing as first mover advantage! By cutting through the noise more quickly than most, there may be opportunities to gain utility from the numbers as they happen. Within that, possessing a good understanding of the ‘norm’ is beneficial as it provides a head start in terms of knowing what to look for as racing awakens from its enforced hiatus.

One sensible starting point is to evaluate how trainers perform after a horse has had a long rest from racing. This year, most animals are going to be hitting the track after a sizeable hiatus when the sport re-commences. Knowing the trainers who perform well in these circumstances ought to be of use.

The table below (containing data from horseracebase) shows exactly this: it summarises trainer performance with horses returning after a break of 181 days or longer (UK flat turf races only, 2011-present, SP 20/1 or shorter). The SP cut-off is a personal choice and generally helps sort the wheat from the chaff in my opinion.

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The insight is sorted in A/E order (Actual vs. Expected, assessing performance vs. the expectation of the market, 1.00 being par, anything greater being outperformance against market expectation) and a minimum of 100 runs are required to qualify for the table. There are plenty of points to discuss but we will begin with my eye being drawn to the four yards marked in yellow.

These jump off the page, predominantly due to their impressive strike rates around one-in-four win to run ratio. They are also bona fide prime flat racing organisations where value can be hard to come by so merit closer scrutiny.

Given the profile of these yards, it is surprising that the market seems to ever-so-slightly underestimate their lay-off horses: time and again these guys fire in winners after an absence. The length of time off the track is far from detrimental to their chances; in fact, it may be a positive indicator of intent. However, we, as the general punting public still subconsciously prefer the reassurance of a recent run. In the case of the highlighted yards (and several of the others) it is a wise move trying to ignore the long elapsed time between runs.

Taking this concept further, the graph below illustrates the same trainers contained in the original data table above. The red line shows the A/E performance for the horses returning to the track after more than 180 days by trainer, whereas the blue bars shows the A/E for those who have a run during the last 180 days.

In basic terms, virtually all these trainers perform more profitably with lay-off animals than they do with more recent runners (using A/E as the measure). The only three that do not are Messrs Balding, Prescott and Ryan, but even then, the difference in results is virtually negligible.

The left-hand side of the graph indicates those where the variance between the lay-off horses and the race fit animals is most significant. Ballydoyle maestro Aidan O’Brien heads the list. There is some logic in this, at least theoretically. It is not beyond imagination to speculate that a horse travelling across the Irish Sea to the UK is ready for action and means business. Were it not it would be running closer to home, presumably.

However, to satisfy whether that is a fair assertion or not, a comparison with the yard’s Irish return-after-a-break horses should confirm if this is the case.

As can be seen, O’Brien’s travellers outperform their stay-at-home counterparts on every measure. Whilst it is probably not angle material it is certainly worth factoring into big race considerations, especially if the money is down (the record for horses 6/1 or bigger is just 2-from-45 within the UK dataset).

Another trainer highlighted in the table with a large differential between the performance of his lay-off and recent runners is Roger Varian. The Newmarket-based operation is one that, considering its scale and profile, I do not particularly follow or have many related opinions / angles.

However, in the context of his layoff runners there is an interesting edge to consider when runners are evaluated by age.

The table demonstrates that the winning performance level of Varian’s three-year-olds after a break is not as strong as his older horse returners. This could easily be a sample size issue, particularly as the place performance is very consistent. Regardless, the numbers of the four years and older brigade are highly noteworthy.

Taking those four-plus aged horses and evaluating their performance after an absence against the yard’s performance where a run has been more recent, the numbers grow in stature still further by comparison.

Effectively, the table above confirms that the absolute right time to back a Varian horse aged four or older is its first run after an absence.

I dare say that this is the tip of the iceberg and there are plenty of other interesting data-driven nuances in relation to all trainers in the table. A bit of homework for me – or you? – over the next week or two perhaps.

Again, 2020 may prove to be wholly different from recent history given these unique circumstances. Normally, much of the value in these yards horses after a break can be attributed to the likelihood that much of their competition would have had a recent outing: the beady eye of the market is often drawn to those who have provided recent evidence of their well-being rather than those who have been out of sight, out of mind.

This year, especially early in the season, most runners in each race will be racing on the back of a long break. It is conceivable that every yard and every owner will be desperate to get their charges out as early as possible to mitigate some of the economic damage received through the enforced absence.

Consequently, if the phasing of animals having their first run in a while is compressed into a short period of time as there isn’t the luxury of a long campaign, it could be easily argued that the market  will focus more towards the likes of O’Brien, Varian, Gosden and Haggas given their elevated status.

If the mooted Royal Ascot behind closed doors meeting does proceed, virtually every horse will be hitting the track after a long absence. Gosden, O’Brien et al runners could be like moths to a light for punters, even more so than usual, eroding potential value from the lay-off angle.

However, the bottom line is that these yards have proven performance after a lay-off in their locker. Plenty of others do not and those others will have to elevate their game and do something uncharacteristic to their norm to prevail.

Of course, it is conceivable that trainers who build a horse’s fitness through racing will adapt easily. Trainers are generally highly skilled practitioners and should be able to modify their approach to match the situation.

The yards listed in the table below are some of those for whom the first run is typically a sighter; whether things will be different in 2020, time will tell, but it seems prudent to be cautious until evidence to the contrary manifests itself.

It is certainly the case that the performance of runners from these yards after an absence is not meeting market expectation with unhealthy A/E numbers across the board. Again, the table is restricted to runners at 20/1 or shorter (SP), and 100 runners is required to qualify.

In broad terms, unless there is a compelling reason not to, it’s a straightforward decision to pass on entrants from these guys after a hiatus. Naturally, Easterby (Tim) is on here as intimated earlier. It is going to be fascinating to see whether these yards will still be content to play the long game once racing is back.

Personally, I’m not sure how to play things yet. The timing of the resumption will be key in shaping a strategy. With the deferral of four of the Classics it’s looking more and more likely that the resumption date will be mid-summer. Given that, my gut feel is that angle and data-driven wagering of this kind will be fraught with danger. However, where there is a market there will always be an opportunity to find an edge.

One thing is for sure: one of my starting points will be to man-mark the yards in this article when we get going again. By spotting the trainers who are ready to go, or otherwise, there should be plenty of chances to make up for lost time. Who knows, I may even be backing Tim Easterby horses after a prolonged absence. These are strange times, after all!

Stay safe.

- JS