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Racing Insights, 9th December 2020

The Hobbs/Johnson/Fontwell/Chase stat came good again this afternoon for the 7th time in 11 attempts as Earth Moor comfortably brought his hurdling form to the bigger obstacles and fully justified his maximum 15 score on the Shortlist report. I know a few of you gleaned enough from my write-up to back him and I hope I didn't talk too many of you out of it.

For the record, I'd a couple of quid on Kilbricken Storm, which was money spent/lost well before the finish, as he just didn't go at all. I'm hoping for better things on Wednesday, where the free feature is the excellent trainer statistics report and our free cards will cover...

  • 2.55 Hexham
  • 3.50 Kempton
  • 4.20 Kempton
  • 7.25 Kempton

And as much as I love the trainer statistics report and as much as I'm out of form with the final race analysis of late, I just can't resist a heavy ground chase, so I'm tackling the 2.55 Hexham, a Class 5 handicap chase for  4yo+ over 1m7½f on heavy ground. The winner, who I'll hopefully highlight, will earn £3,444 for his/her connections.

I'm going to try a more concise/clinical approach this evening, something I've done in the past that has served me well, so here goes.

As most of us are aware, heavy ground is a massive factor in the outcome of the race, so I want horses proven on heavy ground or with some soft ground form at the very least. This sends me straight to Instant Expert even before I look at the actual racecard itself. I start with the place form, as I'll be shortlisting more than one horse and they can't all (if any) be winners!

At this point, I'm already against Nettlebush and Muilean Na Madog based on their previous run(s) on heavy ground. Perhaps soft ground form will save them?

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Perhaps not! Roll of Thunder's lack of a heavy ground run and the fact that none of the three have even one soft ground victory to their name, never mind one on heavy means that all three are instantly cut. I did say this would be clinical!

We then move to the win side of Instant Expert...

...where we see that all have won on heavy ground in the past. In fact all bar Wor Verge have won on soft ground too, so we've some definite mudlarks here. Skipping On is now rated 5lbs lower than his last win whilst the other four all race off marks 5 to 7 seven pounds higher.

Race positioning is going to be very important here on a track where it has paid to be up with the pace on heavy ground in recent years...

Of the dozen similar contests considered, leaders have won exactly half with 5 of the other 6 going to prominent runners, suggesting that Southeast Rose and Dunly would be best suited. The graphic doesn't tell the full story, though, as Skipping On normally races prominently too but was held up last time out probably because he was racing over an extra half mile and it was his first run for almost nine months, so normally his jockey silks icon would be further to the right.

Wor Verge doesn't look likely to win from a hold up position and was 12 lengths behind Southeast Rose last time out when employing those tactics here over course and distance whilst Casimir du Clos looks caught in no-man's land neither pushing on nor dropping back suggesting they'll end up either kicking on or dropping back and I doubt either would suit a horse that has already been beaten by more than twenty lengths in each of his three starts this winter season.

To that end, Wor Verge and Casimir du Clos are discarded and I'd expect the former to beat the latter. Now we're already at three runners, where I like to be and it's now time to turn to the racecard whilst we look at our shortlisted trio. I've also opened up my angles boxes for you.

Skipping On might well be 11 years old now, but hasn't shown much signs of slowing down of late, finishing consistently towards the head of affairs. Addmittedly there's no win in eight since scoring on Boxing Day 2018, but other than last time out, he has been running at Classes 3 & 4. He dropped down to Class 5 last time out for the first time since a win at this grade in early Feb '18 when clear by 7 lengths over 2m0.5f on soft ground. He's slipping down the weights now and might just have one more win in him.

The stat angle is trainer Laura Morgan is 18 from 88 (20.5% SR, A/E 1.39) in Class 4/5 handicap chases since the start of 2018.

Dunly was third last time out here at Hexham, having a spin over 2m0.5f on his comeback from a 251 day absence. To his credit, he was only beaten by two lengths behind an overpriced 80/1 winner who has since only just lost by a nose at Sedgefield. Dunly is back over fences now and he's two from four this year in this sphere, having won twice over 2m0.5f, including a Class 5 by 4 lengths on heavy at Ayr and then more impressively landing a Class 4 on soft ground at Newcastle by nine lengths with both the runner-up and the third placed horse going on to win.

The stat here is that James Ewart's Hexham chasers are 9 from 21 (42.9% SR, A/E 2.11) when sent off at odds of 7/1 and shorter over trips of less than 2m5f since 2013.

Southeast Rose won over course and distance last time out, beating the re-opposing Nettlebush by 3.5 lengths to register her second win in thirteen attempts. She wasn't entirely convincing that day, if I'm honest and had Nettlebush not made a mistake 2 out, the result might well have been different. This is no Novice event like the last one and she's up against more experienced rivals and that pressure allied to a rise in weights will make this tougher for her. That said, she does seem to be on an upward curve, so will warrant respect here.

And the stat? Since the start of 2017, Martin Todhunter's Class 4/5 handicap chasers are 1- from (20.4% SR< A/E 1.26) on soft or worse ground, including 5 from 12 (41.7%) here at Hexham, 4/13 (30.8%) at C5 and 2 from 5 here at Class 5.

Summary

Skipping On, Dunly and Southeast Rose are my three against the field and unsurprisingly, they head the market showing that someone is doing some work too 😉

Southeast Rose probably has the slight edge and definitely has the most scope for improvement, whilst she's getting weight from the other two. Dunly won't want to be much higher than his current mark and Skipping On is in the twilight of his career now. Southeast Rose should just about win, but Bet365's standout 9/4 aside, she's a sub-2/1 shot here and I can't back her at that price.

Skipping On at 5/1 and Dunly at 9/2 are more attractive from a price point of view, although I felt Dunly might have been longer than the old boy. I can't back the fav, but I can back the other two and I'll probably have a couple of quid each on the pair for some interest. Fingers crossed for you forecast/tricast backers out there.