Things on the racing front traditionally start to quieten down at this time of year, dear reader, as the calm before the Boxing Day storm sees the sport listlessly crawl through the doldrums of Class 6 all weather racing and selling hurdles galore.
But that's not what we're about, is it? Every race has a winner, and there are winners to be found every day there's racing! Indeed, this coming Saturday does present us with some compelling fare prior to the hiatus that will follow.
Cheltenham will once again host some preliminary action which not only continues to serve as an hors d'oeuvres to the Festival entree, but also provides some valuable pointers to the latter. But first let's pop back to the weekend just passed.
Saturday's Tingle Creek served only to underline the banker status of Master Minded for the Champion Chase, with Big Zeb once again demonstrating his frailties in top class; Well Chief is a venerable 'what might have been' horse who surely can't win the Champion; Pady will be a better horse come March, but then so will Master Minded.
And that leaves Twist Magic. Quite simply, he's a different animal at Sandown, where his record reads five runs, three wins, a third and a fell (in this race last season, when cruising coming to the second last). His Cheltenham record by contrast is three runs, two falls, and a beaten out of sight sixth of eight. Given his Aintree record of a win and a second from three runs, I'd be waiting for the National meeting if I was lucky enough to own him.
I'll factor this into an ante-post piece on the Champion Chase later in the week.
In the John Durkan Memorial Chase over at Punchestown yesterday, Joncol ticked a previously unchecked box in his portfolio by winning his first Grade 1 chase. What he beat is open to (significant) question, and he's still only about the sixth choice winner for this scribe, and the general 25/1 is far from tempting to me.
To this weekend's racing, and the aforementioned feature Cheltenham card.
The first race on Friday, a 2m5f novice chase, has been won in recent years by some top notch animals: Tidal Bay in 2007, Don't Push It in 2006, Exotic Dancer in 2005. All of these returned at the Festival to be competitive, so watch this race with a view to March.
And the last on Friday, a novice hurdle, has been won by some other tidy beasts - Tiday Bay again in 2006; Calgary Bay in 2007; Noland in 2005; and Rhinestone Cowboy and Ask The Natives in the last decade as well.
Moving onto Saturday, and some of the big guns fire their early salvos.
Saturday's opener, a juvenile novices hurdle, could have a bearing on the Triumph Hurdle. It was won in 2006 by Katchit, who went on to win not just the Triumph, but also the Champion itself in the two subsequent Marches. Afsoun (5th in Triumph; 3rd in Champion) also prevailed here in 2005.
Alan King has won this twice in the last six years, and has a couple of 'dark' entries that might be worth a look, should they be declared at the 24 hour stage.
The novice chase at 12.45 has a star-studded alumni as well, with Hennessy 2nd What A Friend winning last year, inheriting the crown from Joe Lively, Darkness, and Sir Rembrandt amongst others.
It's a race that excellent, though little known, trainer Colin Tizzard has won twice in the last decade, and he's got a couple of entries: Flight Leader and Hey Big Spender. I'll be keeping on the right side of those two.
But, despite that veritable smorgasbord of appetizers, for me the best has been saved for last: the Boylesports.com International Hurdle, which is due to feature a rematch between Champion Hurdle gold and silver medallists, Punjabi and Celestial Halo.
The five day entries also include Ashkazar, Khyber Kim and Medermit, and if they all stand their ground it should be quite a race.
Regular readers will know that I've already pinned my Champion Hurdle colours to the masts of Celestial Halo and Punjabi, as well as Go Native. With Go Native shortening from 40's to 14's after his win in the Fighting Fifth, I'm looking for a strong portfolio of ante-post vouchers after Saturday. We shall see...
Returning to matters closer to home, and - as promised - I'm continuing to track Betfair Renegade. After its very promising start, the Renegade system has trodden water somewhat through a busy weekend. Up to and including Monday, I'd logged 57 selections, of which ten had won.
That's given me a profit to Betfair SP (and deducting commissions at 5% on winning trades), of Â£103.30 to Â£10 stakes. Before Saturday, I was showing a profit of Â£107.40 to the same stakes, which means there's been a negligible fallback of Â£4.10 since Friday.
|Total win odds||34.32|
|Av Win Odds||3.432|
There are eight possible selections tomorrow, as per below, and I'll continue to appraise you of progress.
Finally today, I'd like to mention someone who may be unfamiliar to most, and may even be uninteresting to many. Please feel free to ignore this part if you'd prefer.
Jim Rohn passed away on Friday, aged 79. Jim was a simple man from a simple background, but his impact on millions of people's lives (including mine) has been profound.
The reason? He challenged the status quo; questioned the doctrine of 'get a job, work for the man, make a living, always be living just beyond your means'.
It was from the words of Rohn (and a few select others) that I decided I'd try a different mindset, a different approach, and set out on the path that led us all here to Geegeez. And, as many of us start to think about 2010 and what we might do differently in our lives - and what goals we might set for ourselves - these words may be pertinent.
[Incidentally, I cannot encourage you enough to have a plan if you harbour any unfulfilled aspirations for 2010, or just generally. Write your ideas down, work them through on paper, and then set to them, line item by line item.]
I'll close with a few well-chosen words from Mr Rohn (unlike me, he always chose his words well).