Williams sets out Peter Marsh aim for Royal Pagaille

Impressive Kempton winner Royale Pagaille is likely to head for the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock next.

The Venetia Williams-trained novice is now rated 156 after the handicapper took retrospective action following his Christmas victory over Cap Du Nord.

Owned by Rich Ricci, he also holds an entry in Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase but he will head to Merseyside on January 23, all being well.

“The handicapper has gone and popped him up another 2lb after (third-placed) Double Shuffle’s victory (last Saturday), which I thought was a bit punchy as he would have probably been beaten had the other horse jumped the last better,” said Williams.

“The plan, all being well, is to go to the Peter Marsh at Haydock on Saturday week. We will take it one step at a time with him.

“I got him at the sales in France two years ago, but he didn’t run for a year. It took a while to get him sorted.

“He was a tad disappointing in the first couple of runs the previous season for us, but we are thrilled that he has stepped up now. I do find it slightly intriguing that he (the handicapper) has taken the view he has in putting him up above most of the novices that have been running in the graded novices, which seems a little bit bizarre.

“You have to remember at Kempton he was running against handicappers and not all of them were at the top of their game at that stage. I’ve no doubt the second was in good form, but there were quite a few that weren’t.

“We will see how he goes at Haydock and make further decisions after that.”

Ricci has the vast majority of his horses trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins, and Williams explained: “I met Rich through Andrew Brooks (owner) a number of years ago.

“We’ve met up on a few occasions since and he said a few years ago to get in touch if I found a nice horse, so I’m delighted to have found one.”

Jacob is centre stage again as Zambella completes Listed hat-trick

Daryl Jacob made his fleeting visit to Leicester a triumphant one aboard Zambella, who maintained her unbeaten record over fences with a tenacious success in the Pertemps Network Mares’ Chase.

After riding the first five-timer of his career at Wincanton on Saturday, Grand National-winning jockey Jacob took centre stage once again with victory in the Listed feature on the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained six-year-old.

The 8-13 favourite dug deep after the last to defeat Cut The Mustard by two and a half lengths and add to her previous Listed victories this season at Bangor and Warwick.

Jacob said: “She is very game. She is tough, and three from three over fences, and is getting better.

“Two and a half is a good trip for her, but two miles on heavy ground is just as good. You’ve just got to find your feet a bit and find nice opportunities.

“She has won three Listed chases now, and there was no hiding place out there today.

“The ear plugs just keep her relaxed, because when she came over she was very keen and an excitable filly, but they seem to be working at the moment.”

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Fontaine Collonges, left, on the way to completing trebles for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch in the Pertemps Network Novices’ Hurdle (Mike Egerton/PA Images)
Fontaine Collonges (left) on the way to completing trebles for Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch in the Pertemps Network Novices’ Hurdle (Mike Egerton/PA Images)

Trainer Venetia Williams and jockey Charlie Deutsch took the plaudits with a near 44-1 treble, completed by the victory of Fontaine Collonges in the Pertemps Network Novices’ Hurdle, which the 5-6 favourite landed by a neck.

Williams said: “I must admit a couple of days ago, after declarations, I thought she was our strongest chance of the day.

“I was going to step her up in trip – but with testing conditions here and that long uphill finish, I thought it might compensate a bit.

“Half way up the run-in, I was cursing myself for not stepping up in trip – but bless her, she got back up.”

Jack Valentine (5-2) got the ball rolling for Williams and Deutsch, making his debut over fences a winning one by four lengths in the Pertemps Network Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Williams said: “We thought we still had unfinished business over hurdles, so we kind of delayed chasing a little bit, but clearly this is the way forward.

“I know Charlie has ridden one or two winners lately where people have said it is perfectly judged – but in those cases it has been the horses’ inability to go quicker earlier. In this case, though, it was very well judged.

The Crooner (6-1) formed the middle leg of the haul, prevailing by three-quarters of a length in the Pertemps Network Handicap Chase to make it two wins from as many starts at the track.

Williams said: “He had been a little bit disappointing, and I was actually scratching my head a bit.

“He needed every yard to get there. This is the only place he has won at, because he won a hurdle here last season.”

Jonjo O’Neill junior carried the silks his father, and namesake, wore to glory in the 1980 Champion Hurdle aboard Sea Pigeon – steering When You’re Ready to glory by a head in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.

O’Neill junior said: “The silks were great for dad, and I used them for pony racing, and it is nice to be back in them. They’ve been in the family a good while.

On the 3-1 shot trained by his dad, he added: “He ran over two and a half the last day – and he didn’t run too badly – but two miles in this ground up the hill at Leicester, we thought wouldn’t be too bad for him.

“All mine did was stay, and I was hoping the line was far enough away so he could get back up – luckily we just got back up.”

Jamie Moore posts personal landmark with Grugy success

Jamie Moore celebrated his 800th winner in Britain following the front-running success of Hudson De Grugy in the Unibet Extra Place Races Every Day Juvenile Hurdle at Sandown.

The 35-year-old has enjoyed many highlights during his distinguished riding career to date, most notably steering the popular Sire De Grugy to several big-race victories, including the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham and two Tingle Creeks at Sandown.

Hudson De Grugy, a relative of trainer Gary Moore’s former stable star, has some way to go to scale those heights, but nevertheless looks a fine prospect judged on his determined display in the Esher mud.

Sent straight to lead by Jamie Moore, the 4-7 favourite was strongly pressed by Hystery Bere between the final two flights, but pulled out plenty up to hill to prevail by two and three-quarter lengths.

The winning rider said: “I had my 799th winner when I last rode a winner, which was about two years ago!

“The horse was very genuine – he jumped good. Josh (jockey’s brother) has done all the work with him, but he has just had a little bit of trouble with a shoulder. It is really down to Josh and Dad, I’ve just had to do the steering.

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“He is related to Sire De Grugy and he has got that little bit of heart in him.”

On future plans, he added: “We will see what Dad thinks and see what mark he gets. Dad is good with juvenile hurdlers, so we will let him decide where he goes.”

Doitforthevillage rolled back the years
Doitforthevillage rolled back the years (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Paul Henderson praised stable stalwart Doitforthevillage, who gained his first win in more than two years at the age of 12 when swooping late to land the Read Nicky Henderson’s Unibet Blog Handicap Chase under Tom O’Brien.

Henderson said of the 14-1 shot: “He has been a super horse and a real stable star since we’ve had him.

“He only ran a few days ago, but the ground was too fast – it was almost good to soft, good ground.

“He likes soft ground as he has always been a relentless galloper.

“This is huge for us today as it keeps us in the limelight. He is such a good horse.”

The Venetia Williams-trained Ibleo enjoyed a deserved change of fortune in the Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Handicap Chase.

Runner-up on his two previous starts this season, the eight-year-old was the 13-8 favourite to go one better and charged home from an unpromising position to score by a length and a half under an excellent ride from Charlie Deutsch.

“I did rather laugh when the commentator said Ibleo is held up at the back, as Ibleo does his own holding up! The idea was to jump out smartly and be as handy as possible,” said Williams.

“He is a bit of a cold horse early on. I must admit, the strong pace was in our favour.”

Williams earmarked the Grand Annual at Cheltenham as a potential long-term target, adding: “Like everybody that has a horse at this sort of level, you are working back from the Festival in March.”

The father-and-son combination of Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies took out the concluding Unibet Casino Deposit 10 Get 40 Handicap Hurdle with 3-1 shot Guard Your Dreams.

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!

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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


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