Friday 27 April 2018

Saturday 28th April: King's Proctor To Preside Over Leicester Win

Although the jumpers take centre stage at Sandown on their impressive looking season-ending card, the Flat action provides us with some better betting opportunities and so we’re sticking with races on the level this week.

Doncaster, Haydock and Leicester are the venues for our punting forays on Saturday with some good value to be had, especially in the handicaps.

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2.05 Haydock – LUALIWA

Although I find the sharp drop in price for Karl Burke’s Mijack interesting since betting opened during the week, I feel that the Newmarket winner has a few pounds to find with fellow four-year-old Lualiwa and its Kevin Ryan’s horse who is taken to outpoint him and score.

The seven furlong trip on this sort of ground seems ideal for Lualiwa and even the 7lb rise from the handicapper is not too much of a negative following what was a very easy win at Musselburgh first time up this season.

It was a much improved performance in East Lothian but having scored in decent races at Chester and York last season I don’t believe it’s a flash in the pan and that he could be simply moving up the ranks as plenty of 4yo’s do.

3.20 Leicester – KING’S PROCTOR

We may see a battle between two of the top five trainers in the country here as Andrew Balding’s Aiya goes for the hat-trick but may be denied by Mark Johnston’s runner, King’s Proctor.

Ayia has been doing his winning on the all-weather and I can’t help noticing the dramatic improvement he showed having left the turf behind, something which must be a worry for connections here.

King’s Proctor however won a Nottingham maiden race nicely last back end he was sent off at just 4/1 for a novice event at Windsor where he was beaten fully 14 lenghts – however that was on heavy ground and the only horse ahead of him that day was John Gosden’s Sevenna Star.

They called the gap a fluke but as I write this I am watching Sevenna Star score in the Group 3 Classic Trial making him now a potential Derby contender.

I believed the figures delved out at Windsor severely underestimated the race as it was felt Sevenna Star beat nothing that day – hopefully King’s Proctor will prove here that wasn’t the case.

A son of Cape Cross, trained by Mark Johnston, owned by Sheikh Hamdan (the younger) and ridden this time by Ryan Moore, King’s Proctor really does have an enviable equine profile and would be a popular winner.

4.15 Haydock – HIGH ACCLAIM

Roger Teal’s four-year-old used his match fitness to his considerable advantage when scoring in Doncaster’s Spring Mile last time out and a look at his profile overall shows a horse still improving steadily.

This is slightly less competitive, he can do a little better and his rise of 5lbs is not the millstone some would think so he may well go off a value second favourite behind Gulf Of Poets, though a back to form Masham Star would present just as big a danger in my humble opinion.

6.45 Doncaster – FRONTISPIECE

Some believed Sir Michael Stoute’s yard to be out of form after a few disappointing results on paper, however Crystal Ocean’s win in the Gordon Richards Stakes would appear to have banished those fears and as such it would seem we can trust another of his four-year-olds to do the business here.

Traditionally, horses of that age trained by Sir Michael come on even more than usual from their 3yo season and it would seem he has found a good opportunity to train another winner for the Queen in what has already been a celebratory week for the Royal family.

Frontispiece’s best performance last season came over 1m2f on soft ground so there are no worries regarding the conditions, a rating of 88 seeming to underestimate the Shamardal colt somewhat in the handicap too so he must go well.

He can score under Pat Dobbs at the main expense of Andok and the race-fit Sputnik Planum.

Thursday 19 April 2018

Friday 20th & Saturday 21st April: Casting An Expert Eye On Newbury

Although the Scottish Grand National is upon us – the fourth biggest betting race of the year in the UK based on turnover – we must look after our pockets and so with plenty of better punting opportunities on the Flat we concentrate on Newbury with a handful of wagers across the weekend.

Saturday sees the track host three Group Three races; the John Porter and two Guineas trials, while Friday afternoon is more about the competitive handicaps and we have a couple of good value bets in both the seven furlong and the stayers’ event.

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Friday 20th April 2018

2.25 Newbury – QAYSAR

There are plenty in here with chances on the book, rather typical of a seven furlong three-year-old handicap one could say, however for me the speed figures shown in Qaysar’s debut turf run last year allied with the excellent performance he put in on the all-weather three weeks ago mark him out as the true Kaiser in this race.

He quickened clear readily at Kempton in a novice race under Tom Marquand and now has the assistance of regular Al Shqab rider Frankie Dettory.  He may prove to be 5lbs or so ahead of the handicapper now that he can be towed along in a decent handicap and show his pace (he actually had an entry in the Greenham on Saturday).

The main danger may be Lord Oberon if seeing out the trip on turf while Moqarrar may need more time to realise his full potential but is clearly useful.

4.05 Newbury – GOLDEN BIRTHDAY

There plenty in this race by derby winner Pour Moi and/or trained by National Hunt handlers so we have a good handle on where they’re all at despite the Flat season being in its infancy, the standout performer at the weights for me however is Harry Fry’s Golden Birthday.

The 7yo has only run four times on the level, twice on turf, and has a good deal more to give over trips like this yet.  I think he ran a cracker over an unsuitable trip despite being sent off favourite when a close up fifth of six in a strong 1m4f conditions race behind Watersmeet on the all weather and can show himself to much better effect now.  Coeur De Lion and Champagne Champ may give him most to think about.

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Saturday 21st April 2018

2.00 Newbury (John Porter Stakes) – DEFOE

It’s hard to say at the time of writing what sort of price we can expect for Defoe, though I know it won’t be a big one.

Despite the tight potential profit margins involved though, we cannot lose sight of the fact that this horse improved leaps and bounds last season over middle distances and went into the St Leger with a genuine chance.  Roger Varian still sees him as a Group 1 horse and with this trip ideal, he should be too good for the improving Call To Mind and the game What About Carlo.

As a 4yo we haven’t seen the best of Defoe yet and he has always gone well when fresh, so the first time out element doesn’t bother me in this.  He has an entry in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in May and will take up engagements like that this summer so long as he avoids the likes of Enable and Cracksman.

2.35 Newbury (Fred Darling Stakes) – GAVOTA

This is a proper 1,000 Guineas trial and in it I find a horse I refuse to give up on as a potential top level performer in the shape of Roger Charlton’s filly.

As a daughter of Bated Breath it’s easy to see why she had speed last season but maybe didn’t always get home when running so well in the likes of the Rockfel Stakes and the Oh So Sharp, though her level of form was excellent.

Being out of a Galileo mare I’d say she’ll appreciate this now she’s had a winter behind her and it’s interesting to note that Charlton, who doesn’t hurry them, booked top jock Ryan Moore nice and early for this outing.

She can take this ahead of a tilt at the big one on May 6th with Hikmaa and Tajaanus taken to fill the places.

3.10 Newbury (Greenham Stakes) – EXPERT EYE

Given the penchant for some racing “fans” to start bringing tribalism into the sport much like football, a few people I noted wanted Expert Eye to fail last year as he didn’t quite come from the stable they support most.

He did indeed flop in the Dewhurst Stakes but that can happen to the best of them and that performance takes zero away from what he did to strong opposition in the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last year on only his second career start.

The handicapper was as taken by that as Sir Michael Stoute clearly was and saw fit to throw a mark of 118 at him, extraordinary for a 2yo, and even though that may have been exaggerated it wouldn’t be by more than a pound or two which shows you how good he is.

His price will be prohibitive today, but I couldn’t put anybody off backing him en route to the Guineas for which he could reclaim favouritism should he do the business in good style here.  James Garfield may be the main danger.

Saturday 14 April 2018

Saturday 14th April: Expect Some Pleasant Company In The Grand National Winners Enclosure

It’s all about Aintree on Saturday and furthermore it’s all about the Grand National so we have an excellent value each-way pick in the main race, plus a banker bet in the Liverpool Hurdle.

To support these selections we have a couple of nifty picks on the all-weather at Lingfield during what promises to be the biggest betting day of the year by far.  Here’s what’s on offer this week:

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2.30 Lingfield (7f Novice Stakes) – BETTY F

We won’t get much of a price about this Betty F but for once I don’t mind given that she really shouldn’t struggle against these rivals.

Even taking into account that Jeremy Noseda’s filly was dragged along by top quality horses to produce a rating of around 90 when contesting the Group One Cheveley Park Stakes last autumn she ran so well on debut that you’d imagine she is indeed a pattern filly and so should have too much for the likes of Jurz.

She was wisely put away after Newmarket and with a winter on her back and some fast work at home she can show up best of this bunch and get us off to a good start.

3.05 Lingfield (1m2f Handicap) – MOUILLE POINT

This is a tight little handicap where a number of contenders may run right up to their mark, however I think the two four-year-olds will improve past them all and with a tiny bit of potential and a better draw meaning I fancy Mouille Point of Richard Hannon’s to follow-up a recent win at the expense of Arctic Sea.

The extra half furlong and the experience should mean the Hannon filly taking another stride forward under Tom Marquand and I reckon she’ll relish this surface despite having won at Wolverhampton last time.

Overnight prices of around 4/1 look like great value for a horse which looks like rising through the handicap ranks even further.

4.20 Aintree (Liverpool Hurdle) – SAM SPINNER

Jedd O’Keefe could be on for a very big win here with his lovely six-year-old stayer Sam Spinner who for me was improving to a level significantly above these before tackling Cheltenham four weeks ago.

He was a little way behind main rival Wholestone in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the festival but that track and that meeting can catch out the best of them.  Before that it is significant that he was masterful in winning around Haydock not too far from here on a flatter track and again when taking the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

Yes, his Prestbury Park outing will have taken something out of him but his rivals were there too and I’d say that we will be looking back in a year’s time and wondering why there was even a debate about who was the best of this particular bunch, particularly in the mud.

5.15 Aintree (Grand National) – PLEASANT COMPANY

Even when asking the professionals for their picks you will end up with a longlist rather than a shortlist for your Grand National betting slip, but one I like in particular is Willie Mullins’ runner Pleasant Company.

Off the track for 79 days having pulled-up at Gowran, he arrives here fresh having missed the Cheltenham festival and that will have done him the world of good.

He’s a winner on heavy ground over more than three miles and ran OK in this race last year when conditions didn’t really suit him, so now as a 10-year-old with a few more runs under his belt we should see a much better horse.

At a general 33/1 overnight and with most firms paying at least 5 places (sometimes 6) he rates an excellent each-way bet to take the National and with it the first prize of an astonishing £500,000.

Watch out for good runs from the likes of Seeyouatmidnight, Ucello Conti and Milansbar too.

Thursday 5 April 2018

Saturday 7th April: No Moment Of Madness In Backing La Figlia At Kempton

Sprinters and improving fillies are the order of the day on Saturday as, despite some decent jumping action elsewhere, we attempt to go through the middle part of Kempton Park’s all-weather card on the Flat.

There are potentially four very good value bets in Sunbury-on-Thames with the Listed fillies’ race the highlight, a contest which can potentially be won by a daughter of superstar Frankel.  Here are the weekend’s best bets:

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2.05 Kempton (5f Handicap) – A MOMENTOFMADNESS

Charlie Hills’ five-year-old got off to a very slow start on his seasonal debut at Lingfield two weeks ago but ran on well to snatch third place in a decent handicap.  He has the profile of an improving horse overall and with the benefit of that recent experience he should be fully fit now and can show his best under star jock William Buick to take this one.

Oisin Murphy has been booked to ride Tarboosh for Paul Midgley and its easy to see him continuing his improvement, though as of yet he has not quite shown his best form on the all-weather.  He’s decent value for a place though and will be very interesting when taken back to the turf for a summer campaign.

I can’t imagine Mick Easterby bringing one of his down to Kempton just for the day out so his Bowson Fred may be expected to do better than when seventh at Wolverhampton recently, though that was a valuable race and the form of it may not be too bad anyway.  Whether he can get to A Momentofmadness though is in question.

2.50 Kempon (6f Handicap) – MAZZINI

Having been improving nicely before taking a break following a slightly under-par run in November, James Fanshawe’s hope has an outstanding chance in this race at a fair price.  Having won a decent handicap easily at Chelmsford in July before running a stormer at the same track in a valuable conditions race in the autumn it’s clear he likes this surface.

The break should have done him good and with his regular rider George Wood having continued to gain experience since the horse has been off the track, the 3lbs taken off his back by the claimer now can only aid his cause further.  Expert sprint trainer Robert Cowell now has Raucous at his disposal and though he may want the former William Haggas inmate to come down in the weights a little more, he could go well now refreshed.

Plenty of others are in with place chances in a competitive race including Hammer Gun, Raven’s Lady, Pipers Note and likely favourite Tropics.

3.15 Kempton (Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes) – LA FIGLIA

I’m a big admirer of the Frankel’s and believe they will all carry on improving so it’ll be no surprise to see the twice-raced filly La Figlia leave last year’s form well behind and prove to be a little too good for these rivals.

James Doyle rides and can get her in a nice early position before probably showing a better turn of speed than the others at the business end of the race to see off likely favourite and Group One hopeful Smart Call of Sir Michael Stoute.

The former South African Smart Call did OK last season but in all honesty probably didn’t live up to expectations and will have it all to do from a wide draw, though she of course remains capable at this level.

Last weekend’s All-Weather Championships showed us that the French horses can come over and show a couple of pounds of improvement in these races and that puts Hunaina right in the picture, though should the race be as strongly run as anticipated she may well be taken off her feet slightly meaning she’ll use more energy than she’s used to in the early part of the contest.

La Figlia is entered in the Lockinge next month and is clearly expected to go onto to better things as the season progresses so anything better than 3/1would represent great value here.

3.50 Kempton (Fillies’ Conditions Stakes) – DATHANNA

The Godolphin filly is rated below her two main rivals despite having more experience and carries a penalty too, however  I feel that the French form of Crown Vallary and Model is perhaps not as good as it looks on the books and they may actually be at a level below Charlie Appleby’s 3yo.

The daughter of Dubawi will have come on a ton over the winter and I think she’ll be a stronger galloper than the other two as well as arguably appreciating this surface more.  With not much to beat in a small race she rates a fair bet under Will Buick, though she won’t make us rich.