April is an especially tough month to find winners, dear reader, and on no day is that better exemplified than today, when race meetings at Cheltenham and Newmarket vie for our punting pounds.
The reason things are tough in April is of course to do with the turning of the page: there may be an epilogue to the jumps season, with Ayr's Scottish National and Punchestown's Festival in Ireland, but the most significant National Hunt prizes have all be awarded now, and focus moves inexorably to shorter, flatter, races and the opening stanzas of the flat season.
While Cheltenham hosts its 'after party', Newmarket limbers up for a season that will include the 1000 and 2000 Guineas in a few weeks time, the July meeting (in July, funnily enough), but a season that will not now close with the Champions Day meeting, which has been controversially moved to Ascot.
So, if betting is not really an option, what should we be doing as the racing season turns the page? Making notes is the slightly boring answer. If you think that's daft, then consider this...
Of the eight races and 69 horses entered at Newmarket today, just fourteen have actually run this season to date! The only reason to bet would be in a handicap race where you know your horse is fit, fancied and goes on the turf (i.e. no all weather swappers).
By that line of logic, we're left with just the 5.55 race, and it's too tough for me. Watching brief only.
But that's not to say that the racing has no interest for punters. On the contrary, those of us who keep our powder dry will be rewarded by being able to view the races holistically, instead of parochially tracking our wagered runner to the exclusion of all others.
In other words, an eye to the telly today will garner plenty of clues for races down the track, if you'll pardon the pun.
For instance, the opening Alex Scott maiden saw four of the first five home win one of their next three starts last year. Six of the first seven went on to win in their next three races in 2009, as did the first four home in 2008.
It's a very good race for future winners is the point I'm labouring, so add the first quintet or so to your 'horses to follow' sheets.
Incidentally, Barry Hills has his stable firing straight away so if you must have a bet, the fact that he's won three of the last six renewals might mean his Commended is the percentage play.
Talking of trainer habits, in the five furlong conditions stakes that follows, Richard Hannon has won a remarkable five of the last seven runnings of this one! And he didn't have a runner in one of the other two years, when Julia Feilden's Spirit of Sharjah prevailed.
His Tell Dad debuts here today and will likely be forward enough if you're happy to take a short price about an unraced two year old...
There is then a race for horses sold at Tattersalls in their 'Book 1' at the 2009 auction, worth Â£150,000. It's a new race and as close to unsolvable (insoluble?) as possible. No bet for me, though having said it's unsolvable, it'll probably be won by the favourite!
The European Free Handicap comes next and winners of this have tended to disappoint subsequently. Saying that, the last two - Red Jazz and Ouqba - finished second and first respectively in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot over the same 'specialist' seven furlongs as today's race.
Again, Barry Hills is the man to follow from a percentage play perspective, with three of the last four winners coming from his stable. He has Rerouted, an 8/1 shot, here. As two year old form is a pretty unreliable barometer in three year old races, the fact that he's as big as that may not be too much of a concern (though I won't be playing myself).
In the Nell Gwyn Stakes, a trial for the 1000 Guineas, at 4.10, Sing Softly is favourite representing Aidan O'Brien. I saw this horse win at the Curragh last time on heavy ground, and her other win was on the soft at the same track. Despite constitutional similarities between the Curragh and Newmarket, the polarically different ground here (good to firm) means taking short odds is a brave play. Indeed it's O'Brien's first runner in the race for at least ten years.
Sing Softly is fit and improving but this is her sternest test yet and, on balance, I'd be against her. Johnny G and Mick Channon have the best records in recent years in the race, so their pair, Maqaasid and Show Rainbow, might be value. But again, watching will reward more than punting, I suspect.
The Feilden Stakes over nine furlongs is next and, contrary to popular belief, it is not named after Julia Feilden! Mark Johnston has won it three times in the last seven years, and has a live contender on that basis in Dordogne. All seven runners are seasonal debutants so it's another race to watch.
The three runnings of the maiden at 5.20 have all been taken by a newcomer, so those with form may be best overlooked for the gambling addicts. 'Sir' Henry's Midsummer Sun is odds on for his debut here but, as a Monsun colt by a Kingmambo mare, he's far from certain to enjoy the very fast ground. Given that the three debutants that won this race were priced at 6/1, 7/1 and 20/1, a tentative small unit play on Hab Reeh might give a moment's hope. Surely not a race in which to wager though, in truth.
And all of that swerving and dodging brings us to the 5.55, the aforementioned sprint handicap. Acclamazing is favourite here, representing the Wolverhampton all weather form (!) and, whilst his trainer is highly respected, he's avoidable at 2/1. Richard Hannon's Cape To Rio has been well backed and would have an each way shout if fit here.
Hannon has yet to have a winner that wasn't favourite this turf season though, and it won't surprise you that I'll be happy not to bet here.
So that's eight races previewed and no bets struck!
So where will the Bisogno Billions (ha, not even in Italian lire!) be going today? Well, I've been following the form of a few races that have turned out to be hotter than they first appeared. In recent days, I've been rewarded with winners at 14/1, and 5/1 twice, from six runners.
That almost certainly means that the luck will now turn, so you have been warned. With the 'caveat emptor' in place, Rebel Swing and Divy will have small each way bets struck on them in the 4.30 at Cheltenham, and Borderhopper will receive the same level of support in the 6.15 at Southwell.
Finally today, a quick reminder to those of you who are interested in either creating your own betting systems or setting up a website, and/or maybe combining the two to form an online business venture, I'm putting the finishing touches to some videos that I think will really help you, and they're gratis. I very much hope to have the first one with you tomorrow, and certainly in time for the weekend so you have time to try this at home alongside the release of the videos.
If that's of interest, keep your eyes peeled for my email, entitled, "Myth-ing The Point". As I say, it should hit your 'box tomorrow.