NH Season Fast Starters

As I’ve alluded to in previous articles I would consider myself more of a flat game specialist, writes Jon Shenton.  However, with the onset of winter and the monumental battle of wills around when to put the heating on, perhaps you could argue that my timing is less than impeccable in terms of becoming a contributor to Geegeez.

Data are data, though – and in some ways the fact that I’m not invested so much in the history, the characters and the equine stars of the show arguably means I can be more objective about what I’m looking at.  In other words, the data can speak for themselves.  Every day is a school day and I’m hopeful that I can build some profitable and interesting angles to keep things ticking over during the cold, dark months when I’m wrapped in a blanket because I’m too tight to fire up the boiler!

In this article, I will try to unearth a bit of early season value with regard to the winter game.  That said, and as a starter concession, I still can’t work out officially when the National Hunt season starts.

As ever a reminder that analysing past performance is no guarantee of future spoils; but, as a minimum, it should help in generating ideas and approaches for evolve our knowledge and therefore our betting skill.

Let’s start with a broad-brush approach evaluating National Hunt runners by trainer during the months of October and November.  This time all the data have been crunched using the Query Tool on this very site, any runners on or after 7th October 2018 are not included.

All National Hunt runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter by trainer in October and November from 2012 onwards

The table above displays trainers ordered by the best return on investment (ROI) at starting price (SP).  Encouragingly, there are nine of them returning over 10% without diving any deeper.

Top of the tree and first cab off the rank is Henry Oliver, the Worcestershire-based trainer who is returning a very substantial 61% over the period in question: it’s stating the completely obvious but that’s worth more than a quick glance.   First stop is to check the context of this apparent seasonal bounty, it may be that Mr Oliver is an all year-round cash cow.

All Henry Oliver National Hunt runners with an SP of 20/1 or less from 2012 onwards

If you backed every Oliver NH runner from January 2012 you would have a neat 5% return to SP with 90 winners from 534 bets.  Not quite ‘cash cow’ status but there are certainly worse ways to put your money on the line.  The below graph shows how the 26.7 points of profit is split by month.

Monthly P&L to a £1 level stake for all National Hunt runners at 20/1 or shorter from the Henry Oliver stable from 2012 onwards


First thing to note is that, like a number of NH trainers, the summer months are fallow for Oliver’s charges.  December aside, Oliver is operating at a profitable level over the winter months and I wouldn’t put you off tracking all stable runners over the core NH season so certainly a trainer to follow.

However, we started searching for early season value and clearly November sticks out like Brian Blessed playing hide and seek, returning 94% profit to ROI.  The 20% October ROI is worth noting, too.

Trying to dive deeper into those autumnal runners, evaluating variables such as obstacle type, race class, horse age or date of recent run doesn’t generate anything of real material value.   If you’re nit-picking, Oliver’s horses are 0/11 for runs greater in distance than 2m 6f in those months and 5/58 overall, something to keep an eye on.

The last metaphoric hurdle is to understand the consistency aspect of the performance.

The table below shows Oliver’s October/November runs by year.  Maybe a little streaky but scintillating performance in 2013, 2015, and in particular 2017, with a bit of a washout in 2016.  Only one losing year though (excluding 2018 thus far for hopefully obvious reasons) means that this is solid enough to go on the list!

All Henry Oliver National Hunt Oct/Nov runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards

Suggestion: Back all Henry Oliver runners in October/November at 20/1 or less


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The second luminary of the list is Fergal O’Brien, who quite simply has the best (in my opinion) and most entertaining twitter profile of all of the trainers, well worth a follow (@FOBracing) if you’re active on that medium. The stable contains relative household names such as Chase The Spud, Cap Soleil, and their first Grade 1 winner Poetic Rhythm to name but three of them.

There is no doubt the yard has impressive credentials and performance has been very strong over recent years.  If you backed every single stable runner at SP from January 2012 you’d walk away with 3.7% more cash than you invested.

I think there are angles aplenty when it comes to O’Brien, most of which are for another day but with specific reference to the early season view there are a couple of options to home in on for profit. The first is National Hunt race code

All Fergal O’Brien Oct/Nov National Hunt runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards by race type

All profitable, which is nice. The pertinent angle for me though is his performance in bumpers, where O’Brien has nearly double the volume of winners than expected with a 186% return to boot.  Yes, the sample size is small, but within the data there are ten winners from horses making their debut (from 22), indicating that the yard gears up to get quality horses (or horses ready to win) out on the track in the months of October and November. Generally speaking, the later in October, the better as the record is 1/11 from the 1st-16th.

Profit in relation to hurdles and fences is quite small over those two months; however, if we zoom in a little closer there is a quite telling split in monthly performance, again it looks like the stable is peaking in November.

All Fergal O’Brien Oct/Nov Hurdle & Chase runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards by race type

It’s not an absolute rule, and certainly doesn’t mean that a horse on the track on the 1st November is in different shape to one on 31st October, but it does indicate generally that as we start heading towards the big November Cheltenham meeting, the O’Brien yard picks up pace and is a definite one to follow closely.

Suggestion 1: Back all O’Brien NHF runners in late October/November at less than 20/1 SP

Suggestion 2: Back all O’Brien Chase and Hurdle runners in November at less than 20/1 SP


Moving to the trainer in the bronze medal position in the opening table, Harry Whittington: the Lambourn-based outfit is growing rapidly, currently housing nearly 50 horses with an increasing number of runners per year. I like these yards that are growing, it often means they’re on an upwards trajectory and are worth closer review.

First port of call is checking the race type in the table below, a small number of runners but the bumper aspect doesn’t look entirely compelling so I’m happy enough to exclude and keep a watching brief.

All Harry Whittington Oct/Nov National Hunt runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards by race type

Again, evaluating the profile of Whittington’s hurdle and chase runners across the whole year gives an interesting picture in terms of P&L.  The graph below shows that very same P&L by month to a £1 level stake, it’s fair to say that Q4 looks quite compelling – another yard that’s fast out of the blocks for the new season.

Monthly P&L to a £1 level stake for all National Hunt runners at 20/1 or less from the Harry Whittington stable from 2012 onwards


If we analyse the October to December runs in terms of race class as a differentiator there is a further shard of light to assist profitable punting.

All Harry Whittington Oct-Dec Hurdle and Chase runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards by race class


The basement C5 races are easy enough to ignore in punting terms, most of them crossing over with the NHF group we already discounted; the Class 1 & 2 are less straightforward, particularly if the yard’s expansion means they may be knocking on the door of the higher echelons of the racing ladder. Here and now I’d be inclined to back the C3 & C4 horses and track the C1/2 runners for signs of improvement or add to a shortlist to back on their relative merits.

Suggestion: Back all Harry Whittington’s October, November and December Chase/Hurdle runners at less than 20/1 in Class 3 or 4 races.


The final trainer I’m going to run through from the initial table is Venetia Williams, largely due to her volume of runners: to deliver a 17% ROI across 440 runners in the months of October/November from 2012 onwards is impressive and merits closer scrutiny.  That’s not to say all of the other trainers are not worthy of further investigation and I’d definitely be inclined to sharpen the focus on Messrs Pauling and Keighley in particular.  Have a play on QT yourself and maybe post anything of interest (or otherwise) in the comments below.

Returning to Venetia Williams, the Grand National-winning trainer has a profitable record during the months in question, but the below table tells a stark tale.  Clearly, Williams has a knack for getting her cavalry of chasers ready early in the season

All Venetia Williams Oct/Nov National Hunt runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards by race type


Again, if we look specifically at the month, the record in November is much stronger than that of October.

Perusing the “Venetia” page at her website the following sentence caught my eye:

“Since then Venetia's career has flourished. Never one to expose her horses to the high risk of summer ground, each year Venetia can be seen with the big Saturday winners during the core NH season”

There is a common belief that Williams’ runners love soft turf, and the statement above also seems to indicate a preference to avoiding the risks associated with summer ground.  On Geegeez we like facts to back up a theory, so the table below shows Venetia’s chase runners in November by official going.

All Venetia Williams Chase runners in November with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards by official going


While there is confirmation that Williams’ runners prefer a softer surface, it is worth noting that the stereotyped ‘hock deep’ runner from this yard fares less well than those encountering merely ‘winter ground’, i.e. good to soft or soft.

There is one mild concern with the overall angle though, namely 2017 performance, showing a loss of 28%, this is also on the back of a moderate 2016.  It could be this angle has run its natural course, albeit I will be adding it to my own armoury this November.  Williams had a very quiet spell last winter, alluding to a potential problem in the yard so I’m just about happy enough to strike a line through 2017.  This is one for keen observation though.

All Venetia Williams Chase runners with an SP of 20/1 or shorter from 2012 onwards on good to soft, soft or heavy ground by year

Oh, and incidentally the Saturday assertion in the quoted sentence does have a degree of credence too.

Suggestion: Back all Venetia Williams November Chasers on Good to soft or softer ground with a 20/1 or less SP (with caution)

- Jon Shenton

Powerful Performances From Saddler Maker Progeny

Though sadly no longer with us, there’s a French National Hunt Stallion that continues to make a huge impact on the sport.

There’s no doubting that Saddler Maker’s offspring are becoming hot property. The son of Sadler’s Wells out of an Alleged mare died in May 2016 at the age of 18. He’d been a resident at Haras de Cercy in central France. His untimely death came when his services were in great demand. Thankfully, Jumps racing currently has an exciting crop of youngsters that continue to showcase the talents of the late stallion.

Bristol De Mai has become the highest rated of his progeny, following the devastating performance at Haydock on Saturday. Though not essential, it does appear that his offspring prefer soft ground, and indeed many thrive in it. That’s certainly the case with BDM, though Kempton at Christmas may prove just how ground dependant he is.

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Another to make a mighty impact in recent weeks is the Nicky Henderson-trained Apple’s Shakira. The sister of Cheltenham Festival winner Apple’s Jade, romped to success at Cheltenham’s November Meeting, coping best with the testing conditions. She leapt to the head of the betting for the Triumph Hurdle in March, and the way she moved at Prestbury Park suggests she’ll prove just as effective on a sounder surface.

Venetia Williams has also got in on the act, and has a young chaser who looks sure to win sooner rather than later. By Saddler Maker out of a Dom Alco mare, Cepage finished faster than anything when runner-up to Sir Valentino in a valuable two-mile handicap chase at Ascot on Saturday. The five-year-old is still a work in progress, and his jumping remains sloppy at times. Nevertheless, he’s on a cracking handicap mark and is sure to be visiting the winners’ enclosure before too long.

Over in Ireland, Alpha Des Obeaux was back to winning ways recently, when capturing the competitive Grade Two Clonmel Oil Chase, beating A Toi Phil by five lengths. He’s still only a seven-year-old and though he may never reach the pinnacle over fences, he’s undoubtedly a classy sort on his day. Unlike others by the stallion, he has looked more at home on a sound surface. It’s maybe a little surprising that he didn’t come over for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, as he looks the ideal type.

One that will be at Newbury for the ‘big one’ on Saturday is Label Des Obeaux. Alan King’s young chaser needs to improve if he is to win and may be high enough in the handicap. He looks an out-and-out stayer, and at six is open to further improvement. He can be a little erratic over the obstacles, but if managing a clear round, he could be staying-on strongly at Newbury.

Another that has proved something of a sensation this season is the Gordon Elliott-trained Dinaria Des Obeaux. She’s only four, but is making a huge impact over fences and could be running in the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase this weekend. This filly loves testing ground and has proved a natural over the larger obstacles. Her age and sex allowance has proved a huge advantage thus far, and Elliott is looking to capitalise during the winter. Another of the Gigginstown brigade, she’s an exciting prospect.

Connections are also responsible for the aforementioned Apple’s Jade, who runs this weekend in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle or the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse. She’s high-class and was impressive on return at Navan. She’s proved to be adaptable regarding ground conditions. Her optimum trip is probably two-and-a-half miles, though she’s class at two and would probably stay three. A return to Cheltenham in March to defend her Mares’ Hurdle crown is likely to be the main target, but she’s sure to gather other major prizes on the way.

It's an exciting time for followers of Saddler Maker, with owners and trainers fully aware of the impact his progeny can make on the National Hunt scene. Punters too can join the ride and hopefully make a few quid on the journey.

Paddy Can Power To Classic Chase Repeat

Hopefully tomorrow, Warwick will hold its most prestigious raceday of the winter, with the Classic Chase the highlight.

The three-mile and five-furlong slog was established in 2004, and is understandably used by many as a trial for the nationals in the spring. The race is usually run in testing conditions, and tomorrow should be no different. Frost covers were deployed earlier in the week, with forecasters predicting snow, sleet, torrential rain and the occasional deluge of locusts, but it seems that the course has missed the worse and prospects for racing look good.

A maximum field of 20 will go to post, with the Paul Nicholls trained Vivaldi Collonges at the head. Team Ditcheat have enjoyed the race in recent times, with three wins in the past nine years, though this fella needs to go some to maintain that record, having finished well down the field in last year’s renewal. it’s rather surprising to see that four horses have carried more than 11 stone to victory in that time. Two of those Nicholls winners were aged 10 and the other an eight-year-old, with experience therefore proving invaluable.

If Nicholls can’t provide the winner, then maybe a pair of Herefordshire trainers will have more luck. Both Venetia Williams and Kerry Lee have captured this event in recent times, and both are known for their knack of producing mud-lovers. Houblon Des Obeaux ticks the ‘wealth of experience’ box, and was a gallant fourth in this 12 months ago. He arrives off the back of a terrific Welsh National performance, and is clearly back to something like his best. Nevertheless, he is 6lb higher in the handicap than last year, and this therefore remains a tough assignment.

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Lee has several in the mix, including last year’s winner Russe Blanc. He appears to have suffered from the hike in his handicap mark since that win, though his last run in the Tommy Whittle at Haydock gave hope that he is returning to a more competitive mark. This marathon trip is ideal, as will be ground conditions. A 7lb claimer takes a nice chunk of weight off his back, and he has to have a chance, though he’d be the first to win back-to-back.

The age of winners during this past dozen years varies from seven to 11, with nine-year-olds leading the way on four victories. Youngsters clearly lack the necessary experience, whilst the older brigade find the stamina test a little too much. Therefore, though Rigadin De Beauchene, Midnight Prayer and Mountainous for that matter, are all back on favourable handicap marks, their age remains a great concern. Of those, Midnight Prayer appears to love Warwick, and may still run a huge race.

The market shows just how open a renewal this is, with no fewer than six runners currently sharing favouritism at 10s. Tom Symonds Kaki De La Pree, has only run six times over fences, but has never been out of the first three. He won’t mind conditions, though the marathon trip is an unknown. I was at Bangor for his return last month, where he lost out to a real promising type from the Nicky Richards yard. He’s a horse I fancy, though the trip worries me.

Fergal O’Brien is having a cracking winter, and his Viva Steve is a leading contender. He stayed on powerfully at Ayr last time, though suffers a 7lb hike in the weights for that win. Clearly, that’s far from ideal, but he looks progressive, and looked a relentless galloper last time. He ought to be suited by the trip, and should have a decent chance.

Another with the potential to go close is Shotgun Paddy. He failed to make the cut for the Welsh National, and trainer Emma Lavelle looks for compensation in this. The trip will be ideal, as will the ground. He won this in 2014 at the age of seven, was then third in 2015, and is now 6lb lower in the handicap. He was third in the Welsh National a year ago, and clearly enjoys running at this time of year. He looks to have a huge chance.

Doctor Harper ran a cracker at Cheltenham a couple of weeks back, when only just failing to win over a trip of 3m2f. His new handicap mark will prove a real test, as will his return after such a short rest. He clearly has plenty more to give, but I have my doubts about tomorrow.

It’s another cracking renewal, and those taking the opportunity to visit Warwick will be rewarded with a terrific card. I tipped Shotgun Paddy for the Welsh National, and I certainly won’t be deserting him here. He looks to have a great chance, in a race that he clearly enjoys. He loves the track, the trip and the ground. He’s handicapped to go close and looks sure to do so. Kaki De La Pree could well be best of the rest. Good luck to those taking a punt.

Nicholls and Mullins – Power and the Glory

The usual suspects from Ditcheat and Closutton were at it again over the weekend, firing warning shots at those that have the audacity to challenge their supremacy.

Nicholls and Mullins struck major blows, claiming prestigious prizes in the UK and Ireland, as they battle to retain their positions as champion trainers.

At Cheltenham, Nicholls repeated his feat of 2012, by winning the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup with a four-year-old. Frodon had blundered away his chance a month ago, when finishing down the field in the Betvictor. This time around, he was always travelling ominously well for Sam Twiston-Davies, and was delivered with his challenge between the last two fences. He was foot-perfect at the last, and ran on strongly to hold off the fast finishing Aso.

Top weights Village Vic and Kylemore Lough had duelled from the front, with the latter seemingly making a race-winning move turning for home. But Kerry Lee’s talented chaser got in close at the last, and lost crucial momentum. He faded to fifth at the finish, with Aso, Village Vic and Quite By Chance chasing home the winner.

The runner-up is a ‘big-race’ winner in waiting. Venetia Williams will have been thrilled with the run. His jumping wasn’t without fault, but he continues to learn, and is mightily progressive. Village Vic was once again heroic in defeat. He looked beaten when Kylemore Lough flew past him heading for two out. But he fought like a lion, and was only just pipped for second.

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“He's a 100 per cent trier,” said a contented trainer, Philip Hobbs. “He ran on very well in the end. He's run fantastic again. The great thing about him is he gets into a rhythm and jumps well. Although his jumping was good, I don't think it was quite as good as last time. He was very brave and is good at organising himself.”

The Colin Tizzard trained, Quite By Chance, caught the eye in fourth. He finished powerfully, and is another on a workable handicap mark. Very much like Aso, he is a fast improving chaser, and wonderfully consistent. He’ll have his head in front before too long.

Of the winner, Nicholls was clearly thrilled, and speaking to Channel 4 said: “I enjoyed that, I thought he was awfully unlucky the last day. The rain suited him and I thought he'd go close today. Frodon's a good horse, he jumps well. They can all make the odd mistake, he's only a novice, but we put that right in the last month and he was a lot fresher today. It was great for Sam to have a winner on the big stage. It will have done his confidence the world of good.”

It proved a terrific Saturday for Team Ditcheat, with a treble at Doncaster raking in a further £50,000 in prize money.

A day later in Ireland, Willie Mullins proved the dominant force, winning a pile of euros in the process. The ‘big guns’ were out, and in Djakadam and Douvan they don’t come much bigger. The former took the valuable John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown for the second time. He was made to fight hard by a pair of Gigginstown owned runners. Gordon Elliott’s Outlander came closest to overhauling the favourite, but the Gold Cup runner-up was not to be denied.

Mullins said of the winner: “I'm happy that he's learned to find a leg at last, when he made a mistake at the one going down the hill. We'll probably try to do what we did last year. I'm delighted that he could win that first time out, and he's making progress. I just wanted to get today out of the way first, and we'll see where we go from here.”

Djakadam formed part of a four-timer for Mullins at Punchestown, and he added to this a double at Cork, with Douvan the star turn. His returning Arkle Trophy hero strolled to victory in the Grade 2 Kerry Group Hilly Way Chase. It was by no means a perfect performance, with the third last a particularly sticky moment. Nevertheless, he devours the ground, and appears at all times to be cruising along in second gear.

For owner Rich Ricci, it proved to be a terrific day. Of Douvan he said: “I think the Dial-A-Bet Chase at Christmas, I think we'll stick to two miles. He seems to handle that distance, I wouldn't be afraid of stepping up in trip, but there's no need to at the moment. In my own mind I'd probably stick to two miles this year and then see where we are next year.”

Willie Mullins remains the man to beat in Ireland, and though Gordon Elliott will put up a fierce challenge for the trainers’ crown, the team at Closutton have mighty firepower at their disposal. The Christmas period is sure to prove key, with valuable events at Leopardstown the next test for both camps.

Back in the UK, Nicholls, as always, sets the pace. But he’ll be looking over his shoulder, as Colin Tizzard looks set to unleash his own ‘big guns’ at Kempton. Jump racing fans look set to enjoy a thrilling Christmas, with equine stars galore, lighting up the holiday period.

‘More’ to come from Jonjo’s Stable Star

Cheltenham’s three-day Open Meeting kicks off today, with the prospect of numerous top-class encounters at Jump racing’s premier venue.

On Saturday, a pair of World Hurdle winners will be looking to enhance their prospects of taking a shot at the Gold Cup back at Prestbury Park in March.

Thistlecrack is already favourite for the ‘blue riband’, despite having only had one run over fences. There’s no denying that Tizzard’s eight-year-old is an incredible racehorse, and his hurdling campaign last winter was nothing short of sensational. His chasing debut at Chepstow went perfectly, and he is expected to follow up in the three-mile novices’ chase tomorrow.

Little more than an hour later, the World Hurdle winner of 2014 will be looking for an incident free return, in the ultra-competitive BetVictor Gold Cup. More Of That appeared a natural over fences last season, and was sent off a short-priced favourite for the RSA Chase. However, he faded tamely up the famous hill, having reportedly burst a blood vessel.

Jonjo remains confident in the horse’s ability, and when interviewed recently he said: “I definitely think he is a Gold Cup horse. He is the best horse I have trained but unfortunately he has a few problems. This fella is special, really special. We are pretty hopeful and he is working as well as he has ever worked before.” O’Neill went on: “I think I have improved him a stone and half at least! He is in great shape and we have been delighted with him at home. It was annoying to miss the race at Carlisle, but that is just the way it is with the weather. He has done most of his winning over two and a half but he seemed to stay well when he won the World Hurdle over three miles.”

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With the rain finally arriving, there now appears no doubt that he will take his place at the start, and his road to the Gold Cup in March will begin. He achieved a rating of 169 over hurdles, so his current rating of 154 over fences may well prove lenient, especially if fully fit and raring to go.

His main danger, at least as far as the markets are concerned, is the Paul Nicholls trained four-year-old Frodon. He won the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase at Wincanton last Saturday, producing a stylish jumping display in the process. His victories have come in small fields; indeed, he was the only horse to reach the finish last time. This race tends to go to improving sorts with few miles on the clock. Caid Du Berlais was only a five-year-old when winning this for Nicholls in 2014, though he had a little more ‘big field’ experience.

Seven-year-olds have the strongest record in recent times, and the winners are often second season chasers. Paul Nicholls has several others that fit the bill, in Art Mauresque, Bouvreuil and As De Mee. The former is at the top end of the handicap, and came sixth in this race last year. He has slightly less appeal than the other two.

Bouvreuil looked something of a work in progress last season, especially in the jumping department. He is still only five, and there is plenty of scope for improvement. His bare form probably leaves him a little shy of winning this, but he will have strengthened over the summer, and has only five chase outings to his name. Gavin Sheehan is an interesting booking for the ride.

As De Mee finally got off the mark over fences at Fontwell last month. He ran consistently last season without looking particularly special. Though he did come a close second to More Of That in the Steel Plate And Sections at this meeting. He’s undergone a breathing operation during the summer, and is on an appealing handicap mark. Of all the Nicholls contenders, he’s the one that interests me the most.

Another that fits the second season chaser profile, though still only six, is Venetia Williams’ Aso. He’s another that will need to jump better to be in with a chance. He made several mistakes at both Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring, which accounted for poor performances. However, his final run of last season came at Newton Abbot, where he sauntered to an impressive victory on soft ground. With more rain forecast tonight, he may have conditions to suit, and is certainly not without a chance.

Should we get torrential rain overnight, and conditions change dramatically, it would come as no surprise to see Venetia’s other contender, Tenor Nivernais, run a huge race. He’s a completely different beast on soft ground, likes Cheltenham, and goes well fresh. Williams won this race with a nine-year-old back in 1999, and at 33/1 this fella would be an interesting each-way punt with conditions to suit.

It’s a hugely competitive renewal, as befits such a prestigious event. The best horse in the race is More Of That, and I think he’ll win. O’Neill appears bullish, and should the horse put his best hoof forward, he’ll be in a different class to these. I can’t have Frodon at the prices. He’s yet to truly prove his ability, especially in such a competitive race. He could be something special, but this is a huge test at such a young age.

As De Mee and Aso are most appealing of the remainder, and have the right profile to make an impact. Of the pair, I’d take As De Mee with the aid of a breathing operation to run a huge race. If soft or heavy appear in the ground description, I’ll be unable to resist a couple of quid on Tenor Nivernais.

Best of luck to all having a punt. It ought to be a cracker.

A Lovely Time The Day We Went To Bangor

Scotland is undoubtedly my first love, but I always enjoy a trip to Wales, a country with a rich history and stunning natural landscape.

North Wales in particular is a favourite destination, easily accessible from my home in the Midlands, I’ve spent numerous holidays in Snowdonia and as a youngster our family headed to Llandudno on more than one occasion for a taste of the seaside.

On such excursions one particular racetrack has to come under consideration. Bangor on Dee is a real cracker and hold meetings both under National Hunt rules and for fans of Point to Point. The racing is always competitive and they have a habit of attracting leading trainers along with quality horses. With racing throughout the year, their latest meet takes place this afternoon.

Horses have raced in the area since the mid-1800’s, with the first recorded clash taking place in 1858. On that occasion, two members of the local hunt attracted a large crowd of locals with a £50 prize up for grabs. The event proved such a success that further meetings were organised for members of the hunt and local farmers. Racing at Bangor was born.

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In February 1859 the first Steeplechase event took place over much the same course that is used to this day. A pony race was held annually in the early years, run over a trip of two miles. In 1868 the race was won by a young 10 year-old named Fred Archer. He became one of the greats, many claim him better than the likes of Sir Gordon Richards and Lester Piggott. He went on to record 2,748 wins from just over 8,000 rides. His life ended tragically, though I will save that story for another day.

The course was also the first to host the talent of Dick Francis, National Hunt jockey turned thriller author. He rode the first of his 345 winners at the track in 1947. When asked of his thoughts of Bangor he said ‘it is my favourite because of the flatness and the absence of sharp bends’. Another of Jump Racing’s royalty to strut his stuff at Bangor was the mighty Denman. He won a novice hurdle at the track before tasting defeat at the Cheltenham Festival of 2006 behind Nicanor.

Jeannie Chantler is the General Manager, and on the hugely informative website says: “Bangor on Dee Racecourse is a major part of the local community, both as a social event and as a part of the economic structure within the area. The current head groundsman for the last 10 years Andrew Malam, took over the reins from his father John who had a career of some 27 years as head groundsman. Andrew's brother Brian also works on the team along with two other local boys.”

Bangor certainly has that kind of ‘local’ friendly feel. Facilities are more than ample, and the setting is just lovely. I’m a sucker for picturesque racecourses and this certainly ticks that particular box. The fact that Bangor is so close to great holiday destinations is a great bonus, but it is also within an hour of two terrific cities in Manchester and Liverpool.

As far as racing goes Nicky Henderson, Warren Greatrex and Rebecca Curtis hold impressive track records. Donald McCain is another Bangor regular, and all bar Henderson have runners at the course today.

Greatrex has had another terrific campaign and has had 5 winners from his last dozen runners. He’s particularly potent in bumpers and has the favourite in the last today, though McCain’s filly has an eye-catching pedigree.

Kerry Lee doesn’t have that far to travel, and will be hoping her current good run continues. She has a couple of fancied runners and with ground conditions classed as soft, heavy in places, she’s hard to overlook. Venetia Williams is another who will travel up from her Herefordshire base hoping to improve on a rather quiet spell. Just one win from her last 18 suggests the yard have gone off the boil.

Nigel Twiston-Davies is another heading to the Welsh track, though he travels with his yard in tip-top form. I Am Colin looks to be his best chance of a winner. The young chaser won at Leicester last time and looks to have plenty more improvement in him. He’s a lovely big horse though looked a little lazy Leicester when needing to be kept up to his work by the trainer’s son Sam.

There’ll certainly be far worse places to spend a Thursday afternoon, and with meetings in both April and May it won’t be too long before I’m back at Bangor, no doubt with Mrs K in tow, sampling some of that Welsh hospitality.

Stat of the Day, 8th March 2016

Monday's Result :

2.40 Lingfield : Bawden Rocks @ 11/4 BOG 2nd at 3/1 (Tracked leaders, went 2nd 3rd, led 6th, headed 3 out, stayed on same pace)

Tuesday's runner goes in the...

4.10 Exeter:

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

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.


Renard @ 11/4 BOG


This 11 yr old gelding was a runner-up when last seen 11 days ago and should be competitive having had the recent effort and especially now eased 2lbs and dropped two classes to a grade where he is currently 2 from 2 and he comes to Exeter where his trainer Venetia Williams' handicap chasers (all male!) are 4/14 (28.6% SR) for 26.5pts (+189.6% ROI) profit since the start of 2015.

Of those 14 'capper chasing males...

  • those running on soft/heavy are 3/12 for 19.1pts
  • class 4 runners are 2/5 for 20.4pts
  • Aidan Coleman has ridden 2 winners from 5 for 16.5pts
  • and at 2m3f/2m3.5f, they are 2 from 2 for 19.1pts

In addition to the above, Venetia's handicap chasers dropping down in class are 39/231 (16.9% SR) for 12.3pts (+5.3% ROI) profit since the start of 2012, with the following angles prevalent here...

  • soft ground runners are 18/86 for 11.6pts
  • class 4 runners are 14/67 for 8.13pts
  • those priced at 5/4 to 7/2 are 20/53 for 13.5pts
  • those racing over 2m1f to 2m3.5f are 8/33 for 25.8pts
  • and here at Exeter, they are 2 from 10 for 15.4pts

Plus, Ms Williams' handicap jumpers running after a string of 5 or more successive defeats and are now rated lower than their last jumps win have won 21 of 74 (28.4% SR) races for profits of 34.3pts (+46.3% ROI) when sent off in the 13/8 to 13/2 price range since the start of 2012. Of particular interest to me today, are the following facts...

  • males are 19/68 for 31.7pts
  • chasers are 17/62 for 19.4pts
  • soft ground runners are 12/39 for 27.8pts
  • class 4 runners are 10/36 for 13.5pts
  • those ridden by Aidan Coleman are 8/27 for 12.5pts
  • in races of 2m0.5f to 2,4.5f, they are 10/23 for 26pts
  • and here at Exeter, they are 1 from 2 for 4.33pts

So today's play is...a 1pt win bet on Renard at 11/4 BOG, a price available with Betbright, BetVictor, Coral & Hills at 5.40pm, so to take your pick of the pack, simply... here for the betting on the 4.10 Exeter

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Here is today's racecard...

Stat of the Day, 22nd January 2016

Thursday's Result :

4.05 Southwell : Ziggys Star @ 7/2 BOG 6th at 15/8 (In touch, pushed along halfway, ridden 2f out, no impression)

Friday's runner goes in the...

3.15 Chepstow :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

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.


Waldorf Salad @ 11/4 BOG


Horse : This 8 yr old gelding comes here on a hat-trick after wins at Towcester (2m 5.5f, soft) five weeks ago and then by 5 lengths at Taunton (2m 7f, heavy) just over three weeks ago, taking his record on heavy ground to 3 from 5 and he's also 3 from 5 when running within 25 days of his last outing.

All his four career victories have come from the 13 races he has contested in fields of 7 to 11 runners, with 2 wins from 5 over fences and January has been a good month for him in the past, yielding 2 wins and a place from 4 efforts.

Trainer : Venetia Williams has an excellent record over the last four years with her heavy ground handicap chasers, who since the start of 2012, have won 48 of 223 (21.5% SR) races for level stakes profits of 37.2pts at an ROI of 16.7%. Based on today's race conditions, those 223 heavy ground chasers are...

  • 47/209 (22.5% SR) for 47.5pts (+22.7% ROI) for male runners
  • 38/180 (21.1% SR) for 43.8pts (+24.3% ROI) at trips of 2m3.5f to 3m5.5f
  • 40/172 (23.3% SR) for 62.pts (+36.4% ROI) at the ages of 7 to 11
  • 30/115 (26.1% SR) for 35.3pts (+30.7% ROI) 6 to 25 days after their last run
  • 16/75 (21.3% SR) for 12.7pts (+16.9% ROI) at Class 3
  • 13/40 (32.5% SR) for 15.1pts (+37.6% ROI) from LTO winners
  • 5/18 (27.8% SR) for 19pts (+105.3% ROI) here at Chepstow

And a micro? Male / 7 to 11 yr olds / 2m3.5f to 3.5.5f / 6 to 25 days since last run = 21/68 (30.9% SR) for 53.8pts (+79.1% ROI), from which LTO winners are 6/15 (40% SR) for 13.1pts (+87.2% ROI) and Chepstow runners are 4/9 (44.4% SR) for 25.8pts (+286.4% ROI).

The fact that this 8 yr old now competes in a Class 3 hcp chase off the back of an LTO win sets us up for the following...

General Stat : Class 3/4 male chasers aged 6 to 9 yrs old who won a handciap chase by 2 to 10 lengths LTO, 11 to 150 days ago are 280/1246 (22.5% SR) for 255pts (+20.5% ROI) profit since the start of 2008.

So that's around 150 bets per year, manageable for some, too many for others. With such a large sample size, there are many ways to approach it, but I'm just going to give you four, very logical, profitable filters...

  • those who last ran 11 to 45 days ago are 256/1084 (23.6% SR) for 267.8pts (+24.7% ROI)
  • those who won by 5 to 10 lengths LTO are 160/670 (23.9% SR) for 175.5pts (+26.2% ROI)
  • Class 3 chasers are 132/637 (20.7% SR) for 162.4pts (+25.5% ROI)
  • 8 yr olds are 77/347 (22.2% SR) for 78.9pts (+22.7% ROI)

And your second free micro of the day? Class 3 chasers running 11 to 45 days after a win by 5 to 10 lengths LTO are 56/233 (24% SR) for 118.6pts (50.9% ROI), of which 8yr olds are 14/64 (21.9% SR) for 37.1pts (+58% ROI).

And my recommended bet, based on my data and prices available at 5.15pm is...

A 1pt win bet on Waldorf Salad and that's at 11/4 BOG with Bet365, who are currently the standout price for this one. To see the rest of the market, simply... here for the betting on the 3.15 Chepstow

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Here is today's racecard...

Trainers Report: January 2016

Trainers Report January

January is a funny month in terms of the jumps calendar, with some of the big yards taking things particularly easy at a time when racing is either under threat from the weather, or the ground is particularly testing, writes Rory Delargy.

Running class horses now with the big spring festivals looming on the horizon is a dangerous business, with a punishing race taking time to get over. On the other hand, there are plenty who also need to gain much-needed experience if they are to deliver the goods on the big stage, so a total hiatus is not ideal either. The figures discussed below are for the 4-week period up to and including Wednesday 20th January, so do include the tail end of December.

Venetia Williams:

Runs 57 Wins 11 IV 1.67 A/E 1.20

It’s well established that Venetia Williams tends to thrive when the mud is flying, and while that is due in part to weight of numbers rather than an exceptionally high strike rate, she does certainly have something in her regime which bears fruit at times when endurance is at a premium. Unlike November, when she had plenty of winners after a lengthy absence but few with race fitness on their side, things have settled down now, and Venetia’s team are pretty much all running to form.

What is notable is that in the last four weeks she has had eleven wins from 57 runners over obstacles for a modest profit; and, moreover, of a dozen to have started at 3/1 or shorter, only one has finished out of the first three. There aren’t any fat profits to be had this year (so far), but the picture painted is one of a healthy yard producing consistent results, and now that the pattern has been established, it should continue until such times as the spring arrives and brings with it warm sunshine to dry the turf. That may be some time!

The worry with the stable is that with the horses providing the returns in the past few weeks now in the lap of the handicapper, the immediate future may be bleak for followers, and it seems best to stick with those making their seasonal returns, particularly those handicappers who may have gone off the boil last season.


Paul Nicholls:

Runs 39 Wins 5 IV 1.0 A/E 0.62

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We looked at the modest performance of the Nicholls yard last month and asked whether his mantle might be in danger of slipping, although the conclusion was that the stable’s current strength was insufficient to compete at the usual high level. That is partly due to injuries to key horses as well as underperformance from some of the top chasers, with Nicholls rerouting big guns Silviniaco Conti, Saphir du Rheu and Ptit Zig to hurdles after the trio disappointed to varying degrees in their big tests over fences.

The fact that some talented chasers have either been sidelined (Dodging Bullets) or have failed to go on as expected is a worry, but we covered that in detail last month, and Nicholls has always shown his ability to produce something special from his youngsters, so there are bound to be bright spots in the months ahead.

Worth noting is that Nicholls has a strong team of young horses being prepared for a spring campaign, and I’d recommend looking at Harry Derham’s blog if you haven’t already done so – as well as unraced hurdlers such as Whispering Storm (fifth in a bumper for Adrian Maguire), there is also an update on Coral Cup winner Aux Ptits Soins, who could be yet another for Nicholls in the World Hurdle having had his chasing career delayed by sinus issues.

It’s been a stop-start season for the Ditcheat team, and the figures still don’t read well if taken over the last month. On the other hand, five winners from just eighteen runners over obstacles in January puts a fair bit of gloss on the overall figures, and February promises to be a rewarding month for the novices in particular, as a patient approach combines with a period when maiden hurdles are less competitive on the whole.


Philip Hobbs:

Runs 35 Wins 11 IV 2.44 A/E 1.38

Minehead-based Hobbs has benefited particularly from the patronage of Grahame and Diana Whateley, whose two-tone blue colours have been sported by the likes of Menorah, Captain Chris and Wishfull Thinking in recent seasons, and they have had a dozen horses in action this season for their main trainer, in addition to a few others with Anabel Murphy and Oliver Sherwood.  For his part, Hobbs has garnered eleven wins from those he trains for the Whateleys, and it looks a relationship sure to endure.

Numerically speaking, Hobbs is the season’s leading trainer, ahead of John Ferguson, and he sits second in the prizemoney table behind Paul Nicholls. He’s not been sitting on his laurels of late, either, with eleven winners from 35 runners in the last four weeks at a healthy strike rate of more than 31%. The yard’s rate of conversion is regularly around this mark, and Hobbs is rightly lauded as a shrewd placer of his horses.

Despite that, he can still produce winners at a considerably better rate than the market expects. Many of his best horses will be forced into top competition in the months ahead, which will see his tally suffer, but he should be followed over the next month or so while competition is thinner on the ground.


Nicky Henderson:

Runs 29 Wins 11 IV 2.95 A/E 1.33

It’s no surprise to see Nicky Henderson providing the highest strike rate of those sending out more than a dozen runners since the festive period, and the Seven Barrows handler is all about domination, boasting some of the wealthiest owners in the land, and able to cherry pick when and if his stars run. As a result, he’s no more than twelfth if the table was viewed in terms of number of runners, but the selective approach puts him joint top in terms of winners.

The highlight was probably the victory of Sprinter Sacre at Kempton, but he’s paraded a number of other Cheltenham contenders, with Altior, Polly Peachum, Ma Filleule, L’ami Serge and Vaniteux all strutting their stuff. That’s helped to bolster the strike rate, and while he does have a reputation for being frugal with his chasers, those jumping fences are hitting the mark more often than not. Unlike one or two excelling in the winter mud, Henderson’s record doesn’t tail off when the ground dries up, so he needs to be taken seriously whatever the weather brings.


Dan Skelton

Runs 29 Wins 2 IV 0.54 A/E 0.41

If there’s one trainer who has not enjoyed the holiday season, it’s Dan Skelton. He had a tremendous time of things in November, saddling eighteen winners from 81 runners to prove he was a growing force; but it’s possible that getting his team ready earlier than some of the big guns enabled him to steal a march.

Since then, the strike-rate has plummeted. Indeed, he’s had eleven horses sent off at 7/2 or shorter, but only one has emerged triumphant, and that as much as anything is a reason to tread carefully, for all his future prospects continue to look bright in the longer term.


**The data used above is for the period 26/12/2015 to 20/01/2016, and is for races over hurdles and fences only**

Veterans’ Chase Series Good To Go

The Veterans’ Chase series has proven a wonderful initiative, and yesterday the BHA confirmed that it is to continue in 2016.

The event was trialled in 2015 and culminated with a thrilling series final at Sandown on Saturday January 2. The David Pipe trained Soll got up in the shadow of the post to deny Venetia Williams’ Aachen. A total of 15 runners contested the final with a combined age of 177 years.

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Trainers, owners and fans alike were pretty much unanimous in their praise of the series. Though the handicap system is still in place, these terrific old warriors undoubtedly have a greater chance of getting their heads in front. The opportunity of keeping them in training longer, along with sustaining the enthusiasm of their owners is clearly a positive for the industry.

Soll had already won a couple of qualifiers prior to the Sandown victory, whilst Aachen had taken the qualifier at Doncaster. The third home, Reaping The Reward, had finished runner-up to Aachen at Doncaster, whilst the oldest horse in the final at 14, Tullamore Dew, had won a qualifier at Carlisle in December.

The 2016 series will be run over 10 qualifying races, open to 10-year-old’s and over. The first race takes place at Exeter on Sunday 14 February with a handicap limit of 150. The event concludes at Sandown on Tolworth Hurdle day 2017. Eight of the races will again be scheduled for Sunday’s.

Each of the 10 qualifiers will have a minimum total prize fund of £30,000, with £100,000 in prize money for the final. Any horse taking part in a qualifying race will become eligible to run at Sandown in the ‘grand finale’.

“We’re thrilled with the success of the Veterans’ Chase Series in 2015 and delighted to have the opportunity to repeat it in 2016,” said Paul Johnson, Head of Racing for the BHA. He went on to add: “The data clearly illustrates the value of investing into the Series, but perhaps more important than this is the pleasure it has brought Racing fans to see some grand horses given their day in the sun once again. We’ve seen some memorable and heart-warming stories emerge as a result.”

We can anticipate a host of exciting races with the potential of a number of classy elder statesmen taking part. Imagine the excitement if horses such as The Giant Bolster or Bobs Worth should line up. On a personal note, I’ll be hoping that Knockara Beau gets the green light for one of the races. He’s two from three at Carlisle, and they host a qualifier in March. Here’s hoping.

The Herefordshire Two

Practically neighbours with yards in the beautiful Herefordshire countryside, it proved to be a memorable Saturday afternoon for Venetia Williams and Kerry Lee.

With the UK in the midst of one of the wettest winters on record, step forward tried and tested mud-lovers. Venetia Williams is always the ‘go to’ trainer when the word ‘heavy’ features in a race ground description, and in Mountainous Kerry Lee has an ally that revels in the most testing of conditions.

Kerry Lee only took over from the ‘old man’ during the summer, but has had a terrific winter to date. Things got a whole lot better at Chepstow when the stables staying star Mountainous took the Welsh Grand National for the second time. Having dropped to an attractive handicap mark, many anticipated a huge run from the 2013 winner, and so it proved.

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With all his previous career wins coming on soft or heavy ground, conditions proved ideal. And ridden with supreme confidence by Jamie Moore he swept to the lead three fences out. As others floundered, Mountainous galloped relentlessly to victory. Firebird Flyer finished with a flurry to take second spot, with Shotgun Paddy and Saroque filling the places.

“So much work has gone into him at home,” said Lee. “He hasn't had a lot of racing and has been nurtured at home. I've known he was so well for some weeks now, so we were really fed up when the race was abandoned over Christmas. We managed to keep him fresh and sweet and he really enjoyed this ground. When it chucked it down before the race I was delighted.”

The winner looks set to head for Aintree, though his last appearance in the Liverpool showpiece ended with a fall at Valentines in 2014. Ground will obviously prove key to his chances.

Whilst Lee was celebrating at Chepstow her illustrious neighbour, Venetia Williams, was claiming another valuable prize when Yala Enki captured the William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton. Her French recruit had romped home in his seasonal debut at Exeter before looking a non-stayer in the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock. However, on Saturday the track, trip and ground conditions all appeared to suit and thanks to an impressive ride from Charlie Deutsch the six year-old led from pillar to post.

The free running son of French sire Nickname was sent on from the drop of the flag, stealing a good half dozen lengths. He stretched the field in the early part of the race, but a few indifferent leaps down the back straight saw the field close in. Deutsch remained calm on top and allowed the horse to get back into a rhythm. Turning for home the young jockey had asked his mount to extend and he soon had those in behind under pressure. Westren Warrior and Ibis Du Rheu chased in vain with the winner holding on gamely by two lengths.

After the win that he described as his biggest to date, Deutsch said: “He really was quite tough and gutsy. I kept kicking and squeezing him off the bend, and he just kept finding more and more. He was very brave and he stays.”

So a day to remember for Herefordshire’s finest with the promise of many more to come.

Bailey’s Ace Looks Each-Way Shout

The main event at Kempton on Saturday is the William Hill Lanzarote Hurdle.

The listed handicap is run over 2m 5f and was won last year in sensational fashion by Nick Williams’ talented gelding Tea For Two. In what appeared to be a competitive renewal, the then six-year-old romped to a 10 length victory. A year earlier the race went to Paul Nicholls with one of his most talented inmates Saphir Du Rheu.

Nicholls has taken two of the last seven renewals, though Nick Williams is very much the most successful trainer in recent times with three wins from the last five. However, he won’t be adding to that tally on Saturday as he has no entries in this year's event. Nicholls on the other hand is likely to be represented by the well-fancied Ibis Du Rheu. The five-year-old ran a promising second at the Hennessy meeting in November, just failing to overhaul Royal Guardsman over a slightly shorter trip. Chances are that the step up in distance will suit, though he has to improve plenty to take this far more competitive affair.

Harry Fry and Philip Hobbs shared honours in the last major handicap when Jolly’s Cracked It and Sternrubin hit the line together in The Ladbroke at Ascot. Sadly Fry’s imposing gelding will miss the remainder of the season due to a tendon injury.

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Nevertheless, the Dorset trainer will be hopeful that he can add another prestigious handicap with Unowhatimeanharry currently favourite for Saturday’s showpiece. He won an Albert Bartlett trial at Cheltenham in December, though that was over three miles. He had been successful prior to that at two and half, and heavy ground holds no fears. The horse is undefeated since joining Fry in the summer.

Yala Enki is another that should enjoy ground conditions. Venetia Williams is often the ‘go to’ trainer when the mud is flying, and this French import has already impressed this winter when cruising to victory at Exeter in November. He was then a little too keen at Haydock in the Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle, though he battled on for fifth having looked likely to fade out of sight turning for home. He has a lovely race weight, and looks a serious player.

This race often goes to unexposed types rather than seasoned handicappers, and Nicky Henderson’s Bivouac certainly fits that description. The five-year-old has only run seven times over hurdles and has a far superior record running right-handed. He won at the track last December and was successful at Huntingdon last time out when having the fast improving Lil Rockerfeller in behind. The ground should be ideal, and it’s no surprise to see him towards the head of the betting.

Dr Richard Newland is always to be respected in these competitive handicaps and he has an interesting contender in the lightly raced Westren Warrior. He’s another who will enjoy the testing conditions; having won an ordinary novice hurdle by miles last time at Lingfield in heavy ground. He’d chased home recent Cheltenham winner Singlefarmpayment prior to that, and clearly that form now looks pretty strong.

Gary Moore can do no wrong this winter, and he has recent course and distance winner Baron Alco entered here. He looks to be improving at a rate of knots and has a tasty pedigree being a son of Dom Alco out of a Network mare. He’ll need to step up again, but looks to have the potential to do exactly that.

Finally a mention for Kim Bailey’s eight-year-old Un Ace. He’s a hugely talented horse who is back over hurdles having had a productive time over fences. Though French bred, he is probably slightly better suited by a sounder surface. However, he has a fair looking race weight and the trip is perfect. He’s run right-handed only twice before and won both times. He looks a decent each-way proposition.

It’s another hugely competitive handicap to get excited about and finding the winner as ever will prove one hell of a task.

Stat of the Day, 20th November 2015

Stat of the Day, 20th November 2015

Thursday's Result :

3.30 Wincanton : Whataknight @ 4/1 BOG : 3rd at 7/2 (Mid-division, headway approaching 2 out, went modest 3rd run-in, beaten by 14 lengths)

Friday's selection runs in the...

2.40 Ascot :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

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.


Tenor Nivernais @ 7/2 BOG


Fairly short and sweet this time...

Venetia Williams' string has been in cracking form of late, particularly her handicap chasers (and even more so, those returning from a break). And since the start of 2009, her handicap chasers are 182 from 1279 (14.2% SR) for modest level stakes profits of 69.4pts at an ROI of 5.42% and although this isn't going to make us rich, any trainer who is profitable to follow blindly is worth closer examination.

A deeper inspection of her results show that certain areas are very stronger, especially in respect of today's chosen race, for those 1279 handicap chasers are...

  • 66 from 483 (13.7% SR) for 216.4pts (+44.8% ROI) aged 8 and 9
  • 34 from 165 *20.6% SR) when priced at 7/4 to 10/1 whilst dropping down a grade/class
  • 25 from 105 (23.8% SR) for 140.7pts (+134% ROI) when returning from a break of 150 to 240 days
  • 12 from 80 (15% SR) for 114.3pts (+142.9% ROI) over this 2m5f trip
  • 7 from 56 (12.5% SR) for 24.8pts (+44.3% ROI) here at Ascot

Venetia's 6 to 8 yr old handicap chasers priced at 7/4 to 10/1 dropping down a class 180 to 300 days after their last run are 7 from 19 (36.8% SR) for 35.7pts (+187.9% ROI) with a 2 from 3 record here at Ascot producing 10.65pts profit.

And my recommended bet?

A 1pt win bet on Tenor Nivernais at 7/2 BOG with Coral, who will offer us a refund, should he fall. Boylesports and Seanie Mac are at the same price, as are Betfred / Ladbrokes / Totesport, but neither of those last three go BOG until morning. To see what your preferred bookie is offering... here for the betting on the 2.40 Ascot

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Trainers’ Report: November, Part 1

In the first in a new series, Rory Delargy - looks beyond the headline figures in search of trainers in - and out of - form.

Trainers Report November – Part 1

The first half of November is most notable for Cheltenham’s Open Meeting, which bestrides the month like a colossus. But it is dangerous to assume that relative success at that major fixture will be indicative of future trends at more everyday meetings.

On the other hand, it also represents a mini-Festival in itself, with a few of the bigger yards attempting to get their better animals there in top shape; so underperformance at Cheltenham can sound early alarms for the season as a whole.

We obviously want to look at the meeting closely, but not exclusively, as betting opportunities are equally prevalent on the bread-and-butter days, and identifying the yards which do well at a less public level is likely to be more rewarding financially.


Paul Nicholls:

It is not surprising that Paul Nicholls, who has the strongest team in the country, should emerge as the leading provider of winners in the first part of the month, but it’s perhaps more unusual to see that backing his runners blind produced a healthy profit in that time period, with Open Meeting wins for Vicente (16/1) and Old Guard (12/1) boosting the bottom line considerably.

Vicente was a notable market drifter, as was novice chase winner Silsol at Carlisle, and when it comes to proven performers, especially over fences, punters need not be perturbed by market weakness. The Ditcheat chasers are famously well schooled, and even the slow learners (as Silsol and Salubrious had been reported) tend to know their job better than most novices. As a result, backing runners from the yard on their first or second starts over the bigger obstacles tends to be a profitable strategy, even though the market tries to adjust for this phenomenon.

In fact, since 2008, backing all Nicholls’ runners on their first or second chase starts would have netted 175 winners from 447 runners (39.15%) and a profit at starting price of 40.39 units.

We would expect the traditional yards to have a better strike-rate over fences than hurdles based purely on implied chance, and that’s been true here with nine of Nicholls’ thirteen jumps winners coming over fences, but his win and place record with hurdlers indicates that a bare record of four wins from 21 runs over timber doesn’t reflect how well they have been performing. In short, we can see that the Champion Trainer has a healthy stable, with performance beating expectation at present. While that should continue, punters need to be a little wary in betting more exposed horses who will be better judged on their own merits, but who may be allowed to start shorter than they deserve due to the perceived “hot form” of the yard.


Venetia Williams:

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Unlike the ultra-reliable Paul Nicholls, the Herefordshire stable of Venetia Williams is like quicksilver, with fortunes tending to wax and wane spectacularly, and while Venetia has had a profitable month on the figures, there is plenty in there to leave us scratching our heads. Nine winners from 35 runners was an excellent haul, but the most notable aspect of those figures was that the majority of them were handicap chasers returning from absence (150 days and more), showing that La Williams is one of the finest in the land at getting proven performers fit at home.

The longer term data support this, with VW having had 28 handicap chase winners returning from a break of 150 days or more from 118 runners since 2008 (23.73%), for a level stake profit of 116.13 units.

What is worrying, though, is that every runner she has turned out quickly has failed to make the frame, and there must be a concern that many of her first-time-out scorers are going to struggle subsequently off higher marks. There is also a reliance on soft ground performers within the yard, which is hardly an issue in the immediate future, but sounds a warning for the spring.

Backing handicap chasers from the stable at the Cheltenham Festival has proved profitable, but that is largely due to whopping SPs about Carrickboy and Something Wells, and she once again made no impact with her runners there last week, with all four running poorly. The worry with the stable is that with the horses providing the returns in the past few weeks now in the lap of the handicapper, the immediate future may be bleak for followers, and it seems best to stick with those making their seasonal returns, particularly those handicappers who may have gone off the boil last season.

[From the sample above, those who finished 4th or worse when last seen were 23 from 80 (28.75%) for 119.25 units at SP since 2008 – 149% ROI]


Neil Mulholland:

There is no doubt that Neil Mulholland is a growing force in the industry, and given what a busy month November is, it rather jumps off the page that he has sent out more National Hunt runners in November than all bar Messrs Nicholls and Hobbs. Of the 41 runners sent out from Conkwell Grange, only three were successful, which doesn’t sound promising at first; but that he should once again bolster his Cheltenham record with the stylish win of Shantou Village underlines the fact that he’s a trainer who is extremely capable of establishing the merit of his horses, and he has a strike-rate at Prestbury Park which makes hugely impressive reading.

Unlike Venetia Williams, Mulholland doesn’t look to do all his work on the home gallops, and he produces his runners to look big and well in the paddock. Many of those he has turned out of late have given the impression that they have needed a run or two for fitness, and while that militates against backing those whose fitness cannot be relied upon, it suggests that the yard’s runners will thrive over the next few weeks as they are brought to a peak.

There has also been a flurry of winners on the Flat for the stable, so there should be no worries in terms of well-being, but merely a caveat regarding the readiness of some of the less experienced inmates. All three of the November winners had raced within the previous five weeks and, of those, Ashcott Boy has been remarkably well placed to win three handicap chases this season. This is a yard which is expected to improve its strike-rate markedly in the coming weeks, and it would be folly to field against race-fit runners on the basis of a seemingly poor few weeks.


Harry Whittington:

Most of the yards featured thus far are powerful in terms of numbers and, while it is dangerous to extrapolate on limited data, I must give a big word for Harry Whittington, who has quickly made his mark with fairly limited ammunition. As a result, he is beginning to increase both the number and quality of the horses under his care. Three winners from just six runners in recent weeks is an impressive tally, and while such figures are easily skewed by sample size, it’s worth looking at the young handler’s impact in the short time he’s had a licence.

Whittington, based in Sparsholt, near Lambourn, first showed he had a certain knack when sending out 100/1 newcomer Dubai Kiss to land a bumper at Newbury in 2013, and has been operating a high percentage business in the last couple of seasons: 2014/15 ended with eight winners from just 42 runners.

He’s already surpassed that total and winning ratio this term, with a stunning score to date of ten winners from thirty runners. As I type this he has added to that tally through the win of Big Society in a handicap chase at Chepstow, a remarkable feat for any trainer given the horse has a tendency to jump as if at least three of his legs are tied together!

It won’t be long before the market adjusts to his talents, but the SP of 7/1 about his latest winner suggests that punters may have the edge for a while yet. Whittington is getting winners across all spheres of competition, and it’s particularly encouraging to note he’s maintaining an excellent record in handicap hurdles, one which even Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls struggle to match.


David Pipe & Nigel Twiston-Davies:

If there was one trainer mooted to do well at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting, it was David Pipe; but while admitting that expectations were unrealistic to some degree, and largely based on what Martin Pipe had achieved in bygone years, it was a week to forget for the Master of Nicholashayne, with a plethora of well backed runners performing below expectations.

The nightmare at Cheltenham wasn’t entirely without warning given the form the yard had been showing, and Pipe’s figures for November now read 3-42, with hurdlers in particular doing poorly (no winners from 25 runs). The question is how we approach the yard in the foreseeable future, and the conclusion must be that something, however minor, is amiss – a notion backed up by the fact that many of the recent representatives have travelled very well only to finish weakly.

Kings Palace was one such example, while La Vaticane, who was favourite for the opening race at the fixture, looked sure to win at the third last but ran out of steam completely. Fitness has always been first priority at Team Pipe, so it’s unlikely that the horses have been needing a run, and a low-grade infection/virus is a more likely reason for the pattern of performance.

On a similar note, we’re often told how Nigel Twiston-Davies loves to have his horses at their very best for Cheltenham’s big November highlight, but the figures don’t back that up, and the diffident Twiston-Davies has so far trained just two from 32 over jumps this month. This follows from a good October, and I don’t expect him to remain in the doldrums, but he does have a history of going very cold in mid-winter before a spring revival. One horse to be positive about is Listed bumper winner Ballyandy, who hails from a talented if quirky family, and impressed in terms of ability and attitude at the weekend.

With Bristol de Mai putting in a breathtaking display of jumping when winning at Warwick on Wednesday, it’s clearly not all doom and gloom in Naunton, but it may pay to tread carefully with the run-of-the-mill entries for the next few weeks, or until such times as the winners begin to flow with more regularity. 

**The data used above is for the period 01/11/2015 to 17/11/2015, and is for races over hurdles and fences only**

Rory is a regular guest on William Hill Radio, and has had stints at Betfair, Timeform and Ladbrokes in various guises. More recently, he writes a hugely popular weekly piece in the Irish Field and forms one half of the excellent Racing Consultants tipping service.

Rory can be followed on twitter at @helynsar

Nickname still making an Impact

Brassil with Nickname

Brassil with Nickname

For a period, he was the leading two mile chaser on Irish turf, especially when conditions were at their most testing. Nickname was dominant during the winter of 2006 and spring of 2007, winning six of his seven outings.

He arrived in Ireland in 2005 off the back of three successful years over hurdles in France. Under the guidance of Jean Paul Gallorini he had run up a string of graded victories at Auteuil including two at Grade 1 level.

Martin Brassil was tasked with handling the young chaser and Nickname made an instant impact with a stunning chase debut at Leopardstown at the end of December 2005, in the process thrashing Willie Mullins’ leading prospect Our Ben by 10 lengths. He followed up with another thumping victory just a few weeks later at the same track, giving notice of a special talent that would come to fruition in subsequent campaigns.

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It was the following winter as a seven-year-old turning eight, that he dominated affairs over the minimum trip. The likes of Newmill and Central House were no match for him when conditions turned testing. In five victories from December 2006 to March 2007 he won by an aggregate distance of 61 lengths. He shot to a handicap mark of 168, and looked set to dominate for several years to come.

However, at the age of nine the owner Claudia Jungo-Corpataux surprisingly decided to retire him to stud, taking him back to his native France. It was a sad moment for Brassil, who at the time commented: “He left the yard about four weeks ago and is going to be syndicated for stud in France. From day one there was always a chance he would return to France but we were sorry to see him leave as it will certainly be hard to fill his boots, that’s for sure.”

He had won nine races during his time in Ireland, the highlight being the success in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown in that stunning winter of 2006. “That was my first Grade 1 winner so it was a special day for the yard and gave us all a lot of pleasure,” said Brassil. “He was also a revelation the way he won his beginners chase at Leopardstown the previous year,” the trainer added.

Sadly his spell at stud was all too short, when having to be put down after suffering a fractured tibia in his stable at Haras de Victot. Thoughts of the classy gelding have been reignited with the chasing debut of one of his most talented offspring; the Paul Nicholls trained Le Mercurey. Co-owned by Chris Giles of Silviniaco Conti fame, this latest French import arrived in the UK last year with a huge reputation. His performance over fences at Plumpton yesterday suggests he may soon deliver on that promise.

Still a relative youngster at five, he was a top-class juvenile in France, but was always expected to make into a better chaser than hurdler. His pedigree certainly suggests the larger obstacles will bring out the best in him, though like his ‘old man’ he may need testing conditions to be at his very best. He certainly looked a natural over his fences yesterday, effortless at times. He appeared to out-stay Violet Dancer, who had taken up his usual front-running tactics. You’d expect the winner to improve a fair amount for the run, and he looks sure to have a successful campaign.

Another Nickname gelding was making an impact a week or so ago, this time in Ireland, when Gwencily Berbas took a Grade 3 hurdle at Naas. Trained by Alan Fleming, the four-year-old ran away from Willie Mullins’ young hurdler Petite Parisienne in fine style. The way he attacked his hurdles with aggression and enthusiasm was quite eye-catching. The trainer was full of praise after the race, saying: “He is a lovely horse and a real chaser in the making. He’s one for the future over the big ones but he’ll definitely stay over hurdles this year.”

Venetia Williams is another to get in on the act, as she produced the five-year-old Yala Enki to win a novice hurdle at Exeter a fortnight back. A Nickname gelding out of a Cadoudal mare, he’d been successful over fences in France and may well run at Haydock this coming weekend. He destroyed the opposition at Exeter under an aggressive ride from Aidan Coleman. It was hard work for many in the prevailing testing conditions, but not for the winner.

It’s great to have these youngsters flying the flag for their famous father. Sad as it is that Nickname’s career as a stallion was cut so short, nevertheless it appears he’s left us with a few exciting prospects to follow over the coming winters.