Friday 29 January 2021

Saturday 30th January 2020: Marie to Rock at Doncaster

After the sad loss of another Cheltenham card, it could well have been the case that betting options were limited for us this week.

Luckily though, despite the heavy rain we have two value punts at Doncaster over the jumps and another pair of intriguing contenders to get stuck into on the all-weather down at Lingfield.

It’s hoped that some of the key races from Cheltenham’s Trials Day meeting can be salvaged yet as we look forward to the Festival, but our concern for now is making some profit and we begin our assault on the bookmakers at Doncaster.

2.05 Doncaster (Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – MARIE’S ROCK

Unfortunately, I’ve left myself rather hoping for Nico de Boinville to have a mixed day in Yorkshire. He is primarily on site to ride the brilliant Shiskin of course, but he also has two other potential favourites on the card for Nicky Henderson, including in this race.

Floressa is the mount of de Boinville, however I think her stablemate Marie’s Rock is better positioned to be able to take this Grade 2 event under James Bowen.

Both mares have good form and presumably the top jockey had the choice of them, however in simplifying matters regarding the pair it became apparent that a) Marie’s Rock’s best time figures and form have come in these conditions, Floressa’s have not, and b) our mare was 2/1 favourite to beat her pal last time.

True, she wasn’t great when the two last met, but Marie’s Rock was considered to be ahead of Floressa in the queue and one bad run shouldn’t change that so she is taken to exact some revenge in conditions she will definitely relish.

2.40 Doncaster (River Don Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – EMIR SACREE

We’re banking on Nicky Henderson having a great day at Doncaster, and this time on Nico de Boinville to get the job done up top.

Emir Sacree is an intriguing seven-year-old gelding. Reaching a decent level in France during 2018 and 2019, the bay had an injury which led to him having some time on the side lines.

Having moved to Henderson’s yard this winter, he now has the chance to fulfil his potential and a winning debut in an Ascot handicap certainly did plenty to show us all that he is heading the right way.

He made all that day over 2m5f but that was mostly due to the fact, I believe, that they knew he was a little too good for the field and so tactics aren’t a problem here if he finds himself back in the pack. The step up in trip is ideal, he has had enough recovery time and looks good to go again.

There are plenty of challengers in behind in what looks like a competitive race; Pats Fancy and Ashdown Lad probably leading the way in terms of those holding place chances.

2.55 Lingfield (Handicap) – RENARDEAU

This is a small but interesting mile-and-a-half handicap. The money in the build-up to the weekend has all come for Pirate King of Charlie Fellowes’ yard and while he has an obvious chance, he is very much too short to win this at around even-money.

His own form can’t be questioned. Pirate King’s record over this course and distance is 11123, that latest third coming after an awkward start so his credentials in the conditions are top-notch.

His handicap marks for those five races however were 80, 83, 87, 95 and 96 so it could also simply be that the assessor has now more or less caught up with him.

Either way, he is vulnerable here to one of the outsiders in the shape of Renardeau. Trained by Ali Stronge, the five-year-old is in good form after some placed finishes at Kempton but he did even better in the past on this surface.

PJ McDonald has been booked for this and one other ride on the card, and now there is every chance that a horse who is now back to his last winning mark (also over the same course and distance), has been priced incorrectly at around the 5/1 mark. Hydroplane is next on the list.

3.30 Lingfield (Handicap) – MASKED IDENTITY

We’re over the mile trip for this 0-95 handicap race, and at Lingfield that will put pace at quite a premium.

On the splits that would bring the overpriced Atheeb right into things here, but with pace and overall current ability taken into consideration the real value in the contest appears to be the ride of Josephine Gordon, Masked Identity.

Trained by Shaun Keightley, the six-year-old has been creeping right back up to his very best form of late in runs at Chelmsford and Wolverhampton.

At Wolverhampton on the Tapeta the extended one-mile trip was maybe a tad too testing, while the seven furlongs around Chelmsford was arguably too nippy which makes this the ideal race for him.

Beaten only a length last time in third place, Masked Identity was a little slowly away over the seven and better is expected this time which makes him look pretty good value in the market. Even if he doesn’t get the best break from stall 6, over this trip and in a small field he should have plenty of time to sort himself out and attack round the final bend.

Golden Force was the other horse that made the shortlist, while most of the money has been for Catch My Breath who is on a hat-trick over the track and trip, though he has been doing his winning against a lesser class of opposition and so this will be much tougher.

Friday 22 January 2021

Saturday 23rd January 2021: Waiting Patiently to Punish the Bookmakers

It’s another Grade 1 weekend as the Clarence House Chase provides us with top-class action in its own right, as well as some very important Cheltenham clues.

Haydock too hosts a fantastic card, though races there will take some getting in the heavy conditions, while we also have a fancy at Newcastle on the all-weather track as one of last season’s best jockeys makes the journey to ride.

We’re kicking off at Ascot though with an underrated mare who could be good value to get the day off to a good start for the Paul Nicholls team.

1.15 Ascot (Warfield Mares’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – EGLANTINE DU SEUIL

We have just the five runners for the Mares’ Hurdle this year. Roksana should go off odds-on favourite and all eyes will be on Magic Of Light as the former winner of this race prepares for Cheltenham and/or Aintree, however the other one of the big three has been a little overlooked.

Eglantine Du Seuil, the former Willie Mullins mare and Cheltenham Festival winner now with Paul Nicholls, is overpriced in the overnight market.

Arguably she has not kicked on as many would have thought and the jury’s out as to why that is, but it seems there is more to come from her and in truth her form this season has been fine in the main.

She’s been raised 3lbs for a handicap second at Cheltenham, but I think that’s fair as it represents an upturn and I reckon she reaches a new career peak in this race given the conditions.

She’ll most likely need to beat Roksana to win so I’ll be keeping a sharp eye on Dan Skelton’s runner, while Magic Of Light may not be at her very best right now but will hopefully be seen once again in the Grand National in April.

1.30 Haydock (Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – MINELLA DRAMA

Llandinabo Lad is a good one and it appears he is on target for the Cheltenham Festival, though he doesn’t look a firm favourite to me.

He won over the course and distance a couple of runs ago and that reads well, however he was turned over at Ascot in this grade when favourite back in December and is not infallible.

Based purely on his own form, Minella Drama has a top chance here. However, his opportunity becomes starker when you consider that he was beaten 5 lengths by Llandinabo Lad on his hurdling debut when giving away 5lbs.

Level weights would put them close now, so considering he actually gets another 5lbs from his main rival and has himself improved massively since they last met and is just too good a proposition to ignore.

The only other one in contention was Faivoir, but he should be falling a little way behind the big two and its Donald McCain and Sam Twiston-Davies who are backed to score.

3.35 Ascot (Clarence House Chase – Grade 1) – WAITING PATIENTLY

It would appear by my reckoning that the bookies have done a fair job getting the weekend’s biggest race right, at least in terms of separating the big three from the others.

Politologue, Waiting Patiently and Defi Du Seuil are the class acts in the contest and while I have all the respect in the world for Champion Chase and Tingle Creek winner Politologue, one of his rivals looks overpriced for this.

The horse in question is Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently. There have been some unkind things said about both the horse and the trainer recently, but the truth is the ten-year-old has always been a little fragile, needs this soft ground and in fact has been consistent at the top level overall.

Once thought of as a staying type, he won the 2018 Ascot Chase in great style and was second in this season’s King George at Kempton.

Second however in the Tingle Creek last season, this should be perfect for him and the fact that he was supplemented for the race shows the confidence connections have in his ability against the best two-milers.

Conditions are ideal for him here and now that he is fully ready to go, we can see a new career high, one that would have him challenging Politologue on a level playing field at least while Paul Nicholls’ charge is half the price.

Defi Du Seuil has been on the drift, and while at his very best he’d take close order as well, he didn’t finish last season brilliantly at Cheltenham and was pulled-up on his seasonal return at the same venue back in November so he may at least need this run.

5.40 Newcastle (Handicap) – TINTORETTO

Flat racing’s dream couple flies north from Chelmsford and Lingfield to ride at Newcastle on Saturday before heading back down south to ride again on Sunday. While Hollie Doyle has a chance on a skinny one, it’s Tom Marquand who can be backed at reasonable odds with this Tintoretto.

Lambourn’s Tom Ward sends this six-year-old gelding as his only runner on the card for the seven-furlong handicap. It’s a race which should prove to be perfect for a horse who has been the epitome of consistency and has already gone close on a similar surface at Wolverhampton.

Despite hardly putting a foot wrong on turf, Polytrack and Tapeta, he has gradually gone down the handicap (although back up 2lbs from last time) and after his latest effort at Wolverhampton he looks primed.

At a bigger price Seas Of Elzaam has a lot going for him in the context of this race, in fact if we could only guarantee he’d be back to his best he would have come right into the reckoning but that’s far from certain. Danielsflyer also made the shortlist for Michael Dods and Tom Eaves.

Friday 15 January 2021

Saturday 15th January 2021: Total Commitment to Huge Betting Saturday

We have a busy Saturday of horse racing and it’s a potentially very important one too. Former Welsh National champ Potters Corner makes a return while there are plenty who are effectively going on trial for Cheltenham at Warwick and Market Rasen.

We have selections at both National Hunt venues as well as on the level at Lingfield and Kempton as seven carry our hopes (and cash) with them.

1.25 Lingfield (Handicap) – INTUITIVE

This is a good-quality one-mile handicap, one in which plenty are in with chances at first glance. Fox Power, Corazon Espinado, Crownthorpe and Lord Rapscallion will all be supported to a degree, but all things considered the value looks to be in Simon and Ed Crisford’s Intuitive.

Given the how he performs on the surface, which some in the field aren’t at their best on, the quality of the yard and the fact they’ve booked PJ McDonald to ride Intuitive looks a safe and value proposition for our first bet of the day.

2.15 Fairyhouse (Handicap Chase) – CHATHAM STREET LAD

Runaway Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner Chatham Street Lad returns in this handicap chase, one in which he races for the first time since being raised 10lbs by the handicapper back in Ireland.

In truth, that 10lbs probably doesn’t even account for how impressive he was at Cheltenham, let alone how much he may improve, so he looks to be well in for this race.

As well as this, and despite the competitive look that the race has at first glance, he has fully 10 of his opposition running out of the handicap and in truth he should simply outclass them all.

2.25 Warwick (Leamington Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – MAKE ME A BELIEVER

David Pipe has two or three options at the Festival for his Make Me A Believer and so clearly his likes and dislikes are not all ironed out yet. That said, his form is unquestionably good and whatever happens I can only see him improving for stepping up in trip to this 2m5f event.

Most of the field are last-time-out winners, but that only strengthens belief in the form and Make Me A Believer’s is the best on offer right here.

3.10 Lingfield (Handicap) – TOTAL COMMITMENT

Hampshire’s Simon Hodgson doesn’t have a massive string, but he has a terrific opportunity to land the Class 3, six-furlong handicap on the card with his Total Commitment. PJ McDonald has been booked and flies down from Newcastle for this and three other mounts, a move that should prove to be most rewarding.

This 5yo Exceed And Excel gelding was a winner over this trip at Kempton before running close over seven at Lingfield, the combination of this track and going back in trip now looking ideal. Sun Power and Mark Johnston’s Huraiz are preferred for places.

3.15 Market Rasen (Mares’ Bumper – Listed Race) – GRANGEE 

Multiple champion Willie Mullins is not exactly a regular visitor to Market Rasen, but he did send one for this very race last year en route to Cheltenham and he’s looking to repeat the trick.

This year’s entrant is Grangee and, while his overnight best price of 2/1 isn’t going to make us rich, it is certainly bigger than I’d expected owing to the presence of dual winner Eileendover.

The 4yo filly gets plenty of weight but there is a ton of improvement to come from the selection and as we all know, Mullins isn’t short of similar types to compare Grangee too so if he is confident then so too should we be.

6.20 Kempton Park (Handicap) – BABAJAN

Uncle Dick is likely to be all the rage for this small, three-year-olds only one-mile handicap but it’s more than possible that Eve Johnson Houghton’s gelding won’t have things all his own way.

True, he’s a last-time-out winner and he’s bound to improve having had only four career runs and one on the all-weather, but a closer look reveals a few negative aspects of his profile.

His win came at Wolverhampton, and the form from there doesn’t always translate well at Kempton, while he also jumps up to a Class 4 from a Class 6. He just got there against his lowly opposition last time out and is now up 3lbs so all in all he looks vulnerable at the top of the market.

Babajan on the other hand is excellent value in the circumstances. 3/1+ in a five-runner race, he looks a real improver having been 5th on his all-weather bow at Wolverhampton and then third around here last time.

Richard Hannon’s runner is getting better and has performed well over the course and distance and could well be on for a first career win. Andrew Balding’s Discomatic is next on the list.

7.20 Kempton Park (Fillies’ Handicap) – DANCING FEET

This is a decent seven-furlong handicap for the fillies and given the general form of all bar two of them, the entrants look in good shape giving us a reliable form outlook.

With that in mind the one with the most ticks in the most boxes is Archie Watson’s top weight Dancing Feet and she is backed to score.

The four-year-old daughter of Footstepsinthesand has the assistance of Hollie Doyle up top and while others may face questions regarding either the trip or Kempton’s surface, she very much has them already answered.

Dancing Feet remains in decent form after a couple of thirds at Lingfield and Wolverhampton over the winter, but in defeat the only thing she’s lost is a few pounds in the handicap which is ideal for us.

Back in October she put in her best career performance over this very course and distance and it seems these conditions are her ideal.

If that is true, then given natural improvement from then until now could mean she’s pretty well in and can land this at the expense of Broughton Sunpearl and Gold Brocade, the latter looking very good value in the market to grab a place.

Friday 8 January 2021

Saturday 9th January 2021: Esprit to Give it Large at Chepstow

We have a snow, rainy, foggy racing weekend on the cards for sure but it is brightened right up by all the good value betting opportunities.

All-weather racing at Lingfield and Chelmsford ably compliments some excellent action at Kempton, Chepstow and Wincanton over the jumps as we get to witness Grade 1 action and the rescheduled Welsh Grand National.

While racing is of very high quality on Saturday afternoon, some of the major contenders are set to go off at skinny prices and as such are unbackable, while these four on the other hand all represent good value and could make a gloomy weekend a whole let better by 4pm.

12.00 Lingfield (Novice Median Auction Stakes) – WHO CARES WINS

This is an interesting if low-grade three-year-old novice race, one in which two of the leading contenders and market leaders have arguably had enough chances to impress.

Both Andrew Balding’s Discomatic and Gary Moore’s Toronado Grey have had three spins, and while their form is OK is arguably doesn’t quite match up with that of the selection who also has a little more improvement to come on the all-weather on what is his own third start.

Who Cares Wins, trained by Alan King and ridden by Hollie Doyle, has run twice over at Chelmsford over a mile and improved nicely between starts.

He kept on well for a decent third last time out in a higher quality race and by all accounts he has come on very nicely in the three weeks since, making him a fairly obvious selection now despite him being only third in the market overnight which could work very much in our favour.

12.17 Chepstow (Handicap Chase) – ESPRIT DU LARGE

Our early start continues and it’s hoped we’ve all got some pretty decent profit in the bag before it even ticks 12.30!

The one we’re banking on in this near-2½-mile handicap chase is Evan Williams’ Esprit Du Large. The level he reached a year or so ago on only his third chase start would be enough to get him home here off this mark, and while he hasn’t got to that level again since it’s what makes him interesting.

Given his age and experience it seems he should reach that level and get beyond it soon enough, so the fact that he fell on his seasonal debut this term before improving markedly to run third at Carlisle on bottomless ground is very encouraging.

This is just his seventh start over fences, he’s had two months off and has been sent to a race giving him ideal conditions in which to show his best so it would be no surprise if Adam Wedge’s mount comfortably outruns his odds.

Dangers here include Venetia Williams’ Cepage, who is usually very well supported in the market, Paul Nicholls’ My Way who is ridden by Bryony Frost and Phlip Hobbs’ Gala Ball with those connections ensuring there should be enough money against our horse to keep Esprit Du Large’s price honest.

2.15 Lingfield (Handicap) – SCARLET DRAGON 

We’re back over to the all-weather for this one, a good-looking Class 2 handicap over a mile-and-a-half.

Ian Williams’ recent dual all-weather winner Autumn War will most likely go off favourite, though both of those wins were achieved on Wolverhampton’s Tapeta track over 1m6f making this race look very, very different indeed. He may just be taken off his feet.

His stablemate Cardano is next in but he suffers from a very similar form malady. His two recent runner-up efforts were both very solid indeed, but again were achieved on Tapeta at Newcastle over the extended 1½ miles there which again rides very differently to Lingfield.

The one I like here is another representing the Alan King/Holli Doyle combo, Scarlet Dragon. A veteran now under rules, Scarlet Dragon will be having his 50th outing on Saturday but while he’s well known over hurdles, he has had just the eight starts on the all-weather.

His latest one was over this course and distance in a very similar contest back in December, one in which he was slowly away but just quietly plugged on for a 1¾-length fourth. He is clearly capable of way better than that, so he can be expected now to put in a much stronger performance.

Good old Raymond Tusk is also in the line-up here and would always hold a chance, though it seems those solid types could just be setting it up for our boy who looks sure to reach a new level on the flat this weekend.

3.57 Kempton (Handicap Hurdle) – BREFFINBOY 

There’s been a three-way fight for favouritism in this two-mile Class 3 handicap hurdle as we head into the weekend; Pam Sly’s Fransham, Donald McCain’s Chti Balko and Johnny Farrelly’s Breffinboy all being well supported.

That is great for anyone with a reasonably strong selection in the race as it ensures we don’t see it go too low in the market, and so at around 3/1 this Breffinboy starts to look really good value to me.

A winner of five of his last 6 races Breffinboy is obviously on the up, there is no doubt about that at all. The key from a punting point of view is to decide just how much more there is still to come from a horse climbing the weights all the time, and I reckon there is plenty.

He wasn’t fully stretched when running his best race, his last-time-out win, so bearing in mind that was at Cheltenham against 15 rivals you’d have to mark that down as being pretty impressive.

He’s gone up another 6lbs here but he’s worth a rise of at least that much for my money, while this weekend’s opposition may actually be a step down for him.

The aforementioned Fransham and Chti Balko are the main dangers, while we cannot discount Nordican Bleue of Dr Richard Newland’s yard either.