Category Archives: Big races

One For Arthur a likely gamble in Randox Health Grand National

gnnFor about a week after he won the Betfred Classic Chase over 3m 5f at Warwick, bookmakers continued offering 33/1 for the National about One For Arthur (he was 40/1 for 48 hours). This seemed a daft price and although he’s come in now to 20/1 there’s a fair chance he’ll go off half those odds.

He has a light burden (10.6), he’s improving, and has experience over the fences without having to face the white-hot furnace of the National itself (those who’ve run in it before are at a disadvantage these days, imo) and he jumps and stays.

Crucially, from a price viewpoint, he is trained in Scotland and will have lots of support from us natives and from the Scottish media. Perhaps more importantly, he has a name which will be latched onto by anyone with a relative or good friend, dead or alive (the former more likely, I’m afraid) called Arthur. These apparently small factors can drive significant gambles from the general public.

But the Braveheart factor and the housewife’s blessing of an old man’s name is far from all he has going for him. His jockey, Derek Fox, who has ridden him in all three runs this season reportedly told Lucinda Russell, the trainer, after the Becher that the horse ought to be tried with a tongue tie. Luke Harvey (ex-jockey) speculated that this suggested Fox had heard the horse make a noise during the race and Fox looked after him that day (he was a 3 lengths 5th of 22).

The tongue tie went on for the Warwick race and despite being quite badly hampered early, One For Arthur was unfazed, as was Fox who hacked him round at the back before taking closer order in effortless fashion with about 6 to jump before steadily drawing clear. His leap at the last suggested there was quite a bit in the tank although Fox took no chances, driving him out to the line.

You’d have to assume that had the tongue tie been on in The Becher, you’d be looking at a horse unbeaten in three races this year. He’s 8 and improving. Just how much difference the tongue tie has made, we will find out at Aintree although there has to be a worry that one needed fitting and his breathing is not A1.

But, all in all, I very much doubt that 20/1 will last once the publicity around the race begins in earnest.

Don Poli is another who should run well with evidence continuing to build that he needs to go left handed (I suspect you can add flat tracks and good ground to that but there’s not yet enough data to say for sure).

As mentioned earlier, I’ll be avoiding horses who have run in previous Nationals. In the old days, a proven appetite for the fences was a bonus. But since those jumps were seriously softened, the race has become a high octane test of stamina and big-day temperament. Visually the fences will still leave their mark on an animal, but I suspect that all the razzmatazz coupled with adrenaline-fuelled jocks asking their mounts for everything over such a long trip leaves an indelible mark on 90% of those who contest the race.

Here’s hoping the horses all go home after it and that no jockey need the services of the sponsors.

Last call for the Vautour rocket ship

Douvan, Faugheen and Vautour

Douvan, Faugheen and Vautour

Regular readers and twitter followers will know I believe that Vautour is a superstar. Saturday sees his first flash in the constellation inhabited by the brightest of our steeplechasers, and I expect him to emerge with a glow which will light the NH scene for the next two or three years, granted soundness.

Many thought the same as I do in the immediate aftermath of his JLT win where the atmosphere was closer to post-coital than post-race, such was the admiration for what had just been achieved. But a less than stellar performance at Ascot on his seasonal debut seems to have lost him many fans. What the fickle seem to forget is that Vautour’s master craftsman of a trainer, Willie Mullins, does not turn out perfectly primed horses every time. Their training regime is formed from the view through a riflescope fixed dead centre on the Cheltenham Festival.  In readying them for other targets, the ammo magazine is only as full as it needs to be.

His Ascot run was far from disastrous: it was no JLT, but he was hardly thrashed home by Ruby. His only other 2 runs in England have been at the Festival where he dotted up in the Supreme (all the more meritorious coming from a horse born to be a steeplechaser, not a hurdler). Then there was that sublime JLT victory where the true joy was in the wonder of what he had not unleashed in that wonderfully athletic display of pure power.

Outside of his three races in England, Vautour has been odds against just once, mopping up events mostly at long odds on with, I suspect, just a half-full magazine. Yes, he had a failure last Boxing day when beaten by Clarcam, but he was plainly not right. It took his trainer quite some time to get him to where he wanted him, and although he won in January, Mullins had to put a monstrous amount of work into him to get him spot on for the Festival

The 2015 prep taught Mullins just how hard he sometimes needs to be on this horse to get him firing all his rocket boosters, and I think he’ll come to Kempton in festival form, before being let down by his trainer then built up again for the Gold Cup.

Many doubters seem to question his stamina. Everything about the way he finished off the JLT (20 furlongs) says to me he gets 3 miles anywhere. I’m no student of breeding, but am told there is nothing in his bloodline which suggests he will not stay. His grandsire on his dam’s side is Dom Pasquini who sired Dom Alco who got stock like Neptune Collonges and Silviniaco Conti.

Had Vautour been confined so far to two miles – an Azertyuiop type – I could understand the doubts over the KG, but 2m 4f in a hot festival race where he cruises past the line and is still absolutely full of himself coming down the walkway…where is the reason for stamina doubts with this horse?

As to his jumping to the left, which he did more than once at Ascot, jockey and trainer say it is not an issue; that’s good enough for me.

Some time ago, I advised backing Vautour at 14/1 to land the King George/Gold Cup double; I can find nobody betting on that now, but astoundingly, Vautour can be backed at 7/1 for the Gold Cup, and I suggest you take some of that as well as betting him to win on Saturday. There’s plenty of 3/1 about and you should take that, as I think there will be money for him on the day and he might even start favourite.

As ever, the usual warning, ante-post betting means your cash is lost if your selection does not turn up. Also, keen as I am on this horse, I’ll only stake on him what I can afford to lose, and, if you decide to bet him, you should do the same.

Good luck and happy Christmas

Joe

16/1 Bobs Worth a handicap blot in the Hennessy

Bobs Worth & B Geraghty in 2013 Gold Cup

Bobs Worth & B Geraghty in 2013 Gold Cup

It was heartening to see such a superb display at Aintree today by one of my old favourites, Bobs Worth. For the first time in the past two seasons this fine horse – formerly one of the most consistent in training – showed real appetite and enthusiasm.

I wish Mr Henderson had been more forthcoming about BW’s training issues, of which, it seems, there have been many. Breathing op(s) have been mentioned, but I get the feeling it goes quite a bit deeper than that.

Anyway, I’m astounded to see him still available at 16s for the Hennessy (888 and 32RED). If Coneygree runs, as it seems almost certain he will judging by his trainer’s comments, Bobs Worth will carry 10.5 and get twenty one pounds from the Gold Cup winner. Bobs Worth is unbeaten at Newbury (two Class 1s, the second one being the 2012 Hennessy). If NJH has indeed solved all his problems, he must be the biggest handicap blot of this short century.

I’m willing to take the chance that the horse has turned the corner. He should be just half the price he is for Newbury

 

Kilcooley great value at 25s for World Hurdle

spyglassKilcooley won the Bet365 Yorkshire Hurdle today by 13 lengths from ex-Champion Hurdler Rock on Ruby (who was too keen for too long and ran out of juice). I was very impressed by the winner, even more so than I was with Cole Harden when he won it last year. The 33s they went about Cole Harden for the World Hurdle hasn’t appeared, but you can get not far off that with the 25s offered by Skybet (Kilcooley is as low as 14s elsewhere). He went into this race on a 9lbs higher rating than Cole Harden did, and when reassessed, there is every chance he’ll be rated higher than the current World Hurdle Champion, who is on 164 (Kilcooley started today on 159).

Well suited by the soft ground, which he’s unlikely to get in March, I wouldn’t be misled into thinking that this is why Kilcooley looked so good today. He’s only 6 and seems to be a solidly improving young horse whose connections have just discovered relishes a stamina test. He has form on good ground. What he might need, judging by last season, is a fair amount of time between races. He certainly gave everything today.  Kilcooley, whose trainer, C Longsdon says the World Hurdle will now be on the menu, holds strong appeal as the first top value bet for Cheltenham 2016.

 

 

A big-priced weather-based double for Cheltenham

10570720-1600x2400Cheltenham’s superb drainage will be sorely tested if this weather doesn’t relent very soon. The potential silver lining on the storm clouds is that two particular horses are only likely to turn up for the big week if the going is soft or worse – Harry Topper in the Gold Cup and Melodic Rendezvous in the Champion Hurdle.

Betvictor offer them at 2o/1 and 25/1, non runner – no bet. If the trainers stick to their plans (the Festival is always so tempting if a horse is well, no matter the going), then both will start quite a bit shorter than their current prices.

Harry Topper has the slight disadvantage in that he seems to close his eyes approaching a fence, but he clocked an excellent time at Newbury when winning the Denman Chase, running the trip 18 seconds faster than Smad Place did later that day.blind horse

I’m not sure how good Melodic Rendezvous is – he tends to run in snatches at times, but he’d be staying on just about the best of them on deep ground. He’s due to run at Wincanton on Saturday and should win there.

Anyway, they’re well worth a speculative EW double, in my opinion.

Good luck

Joe

Tidal Bay, aged 43 and a half, the choice for Crabbie’s Grand National

Tidal Bay

Tidal Bay

Forty-three-and-a-half?

That’s the age in human years that Tidal Bay is, according to research by equine vets (see table below).

Tidal Bay’s horse age is 13. All racehorses have their official birthday on January 1st.  He was born on May 12th 2001 so is ‘actually still 12 – confusing, eh?).

Tidal Bay first ran in March 2006. Thirty-six horses in the original list of  115 entered to compete against him in the National weren’t even born then.

Tidal Bay has always been in the headlines.  Here’s his form for the first three seasons : 22/111221/111211

And yet it wasn’t long before he was branded with the Timeform squiggle – a symbol denoting unreliability. He’d developed the habit of dropping himself out of contention, no matter how hard his jockey worked to keep him interested. Frequently, he’d decide very late in a race, ‘Oops, time I was cracking on!’ And he’d tear through the field to either win or finish very close. His formline during that period was: 122345/24174/3226U/32541

In many outings, his jumping was suspect, losing ground at fences but always managing to find a way over (he has never fallen).

After unseating his rider in the 2011 Grand National, Tidal Bay  left Howard Johnson to join Paul Nicholls. Mr Nicholls took a few races to find the key to TB’s character: here’s his formline since joining the yard: 32541/121-1532

Tidal Bay, unusually for a  top class horse has always mixed ‘chasing and hurdling. He’s won 8 over fences and 7 over hurdles, among those races, three Grade 1s and three Grade 2s.

So why should he be my choice for the Crabbie’s Grand National? Because if with everything you knew about Tidal Bay, you were to sit down and design the perfect race for him, I believe this is it. The 2014 race will be much different from the 2011 one, where he unseated. Since then, the wooden cores of the fences have been replaced with pliable plastic and the fences are much less punishing.

It’s unlikely that TB will have an error free round, but the loose green spruce which makes these fences look so big, is easily brushed through, these days (rightly so, to preserve the future of the race). Far fewer horses will fall and that means the chances of TB or any other horse being brought down is much reduced.

But the key to him is that he has the class to either lie up with the leaders, or, if the pace is too hot (which I think it will be ), to sit in his favourite position near the back and switch on his cruise control. He’ll drift through the race taking little out of himself and as the last fence looms, cruise control will be switched off. Approaching the Elbow, overdrive will be engaged and I expect to hear the biggest cheer at Aintree since Red Rum’s third National victory in 1977.

If you need further persuading, Tidal Bay will carry half a stone less in the National than he would in any other handicap ‘chase. This is because the Grand National is treated as an extraordinary race by the handicapper. Not reason enough to merit favourable treatment for the best horses, but that’s an argument for another day and in this case, I’m happy to take advantage of it.

Tidal Bay, with top weight of 11.10, is officially the best horse in the race. He will carry 7lbs less than he should in a ‘normal’ handicap. The track and distance are tailor-made. He will need some luck in running but not nearly so much as he’d have needed previously.

Tidal bay can be backed at around 20/1. But Betvictor offer 16/1 with the concession of a free bet to the value of your stake if he is a non runner (in all ante-post bets without special conditions, your money is lost if the horse doesn’t run).

Ladbrokes offer an outstanding 25/1 which is sure to disappear in the next 24 hours, and I think it’s worth taking the chance he’ll definitely run for the sake of grabbing this huge price.

The greatest test of a horse’s popularity is the number of people cheering him home when they haven’t backed him. Don’t be left out, add a bet to the cheer!  Good luck to Tidal Bay and all other horses and jockeys in this great race, the Crabbies Grand National on April 5th.

Horses v Humans age scale

Horses v Humans age scale

Cue Card the answer in a race full of questions

Cue Card

Cue Card

The Betfair Chase: I’ve been following horse racing since the late 1960s, and cannot recall looking forward so much to a race this early in the season.

So many questions hang over the 8 participants (5 of them in Timeform’s top 10 ‘chasers list).

Will Cue Card stay?

Has Long Run finally cracked after so many gut-busting races?

Will Bobs Worth be sharp enough this early to lie sufficiently close  to what will probably be a strong pace?

Is Silviniaco Conti top class or just below it?

Can Dynaste justify the belief his connections have?

Is Roi Du Mee more than a right-handed mudlover?

Five weeks short of his thirteenth birthday, can the wonderful Tidal bay have everyone gasping and smiling again?

Will The Giant Bolster finally repay the fiercely zealous faith his trainer has always had in him?

So many imponderables, not least how Silviniaco Conti and Cue Card and maybe even Roi Du Mee react to each other in making the early pace.

I’m still not sure what Silv Conti is made of. He could yet be a top-notcher. But my suspicion is he needs everything to go right. When the pressure is applied by top class opponents, my hunch is that he will crack.

Cue Card has the engine to head the field from the outset, I’ve no doubt about that, but jockey Joe Tizzard will have to conserve enough energy to see the trip out, so he will need to get his pacemaking spot on. Neither of the other pair are particularly headstrong, so there’s a fair chance they’ll sit just behind CC. If a battle does develop up front, I think all three will suffer for it.

If Joe decides to try and drop Cue Card in, then he’ll need to get him settled early which might prove a tough job at that trip, burning energy and taking concentration away from jumping. My feeling is that he has got to go on at a pace that lets the horse relax in front and keeps the others on their mettle. They cannot afford to let Cue Card get away, but if JT gets his pace right, it will put pressure on the jumping of Tidal Bay and Long Run. It might also see Bobs Worth being niggled along at times to stay with them. Geraghty won’t be too bothered of he turns in with four or five in front of him. He will want to be just picking them off one by one up that long straight. And here, the focus turns again to Joe Tizzard and his pace judgement. If he has got it spot on, he should have enough in hand to hold off Bobs Worth on the run-in.

I’d like to see the admirable Long Run bounce back and run really well, although he won’t be able to afford errors and it’s a rare outing when he doesn’t start dragging that back end through the birch. It’s too soon to write him off but if he runs way below form again on Saturday, I think it might be an indication he’s just had too many hard battles for such a young horse.

I love old Tidal Bay whose been blunder-free in his last three steeplechases. It will be a sight indeed if he and Bobs Worth are coming with late runs approaching the last. Looking back, I was surprised to see that only 1 of his 39 runs has been at Haydock, when was 2nd to Imperial Commander in the 2010 Betfair.

I’m not a Dynaste fan, and think him over-rated.

The Giant Bolster is thoroughly exposed now, and runs off exactly the same mark as he did in this a year ago when beaten 7 lengths in a poorer race. And he’s still susceptible to the odd blunder.

Roi Du Mee has spent most of his racing life travelling clockwise – only 3 of his 32 runs outside France have been left-handed (won 2). Still, he has been running in mostly Graded races and his most recent form figures make encouraging reading for an 8-y-o who could still be improving: 51111211-F21. His normally fine jumping will stand him in good stead here too and at 16/1 would hold plenty appeal if the ground does become properly soft – that seems vital to his chance.

In conclusion – it will be no surprise to regular readers that I won’t be deserting Cue Card. I’m confident he has the best engine in the race, but whether it will still be spinning at full revs come the last couple of furlongs, I don’t know. But I have paid to find out, having backed him a couple of weeks ago at 12s. I won’t be laying off. Whatever the outcome, I will take the dose, be it champagne or bitter medicine. You can still back him at 7s. If he stays, I think he’ll win. If he doesn’t, he might not place, so, tempting as it is in an 8 runner field, you might want to think twice about betting each way and take the brave man’s route – all to win.

I’ll be leaving early on Saturday to head for the track. The last time I made the trip to Haydock with such delicious anticipation was for the Edward Hanmer Chase in 1979 to watch a three-horse race. After dawdling for most of the race, things took shape three quarters of a mile out with Silver Buck and Night Nurse locked in battle.  Border Incident fell at the second last when still in close touch and Silver Buck won by a length and a half (Night Nurse injured a tendon in the race).

The old drop fences from back then have long gone, and thirty-four years’ worth of fine thoroughbreds have galloped up that straight in the hoofprints of those two great steeplechasers, but Saturday promises even more. There have been quite a few Gold Cups with worse fields. If you’ve never been to a racetrack before, Saturday at Haydock would be a brilliant place to start. You will never forget it.

Good luck to all

Joe

Long Run should skip the Gold Cup and be trained for the National

Long_Run_CheltenhamI was pleased to hear that Long Run scoped dirty and that it was nothing physical from that bad blunder he made in yesterday’s Charlie Hall.  His consistency and attitude are rare and he’s still only 8. I don’t think he has gone downhill in the way his mark suggests – he was simply overrated on the two big races he won back to back.

In his King George in 2011, he met a sick Kauto Star, a two mile four horse in Riverside Theatre, then the usual suspects – Nacarat, Planet of Sound etc. He went up 17lbs for that, then three more were added when he ran down a pair in the Gold Cup who’d exhausted themselves battling from three out off a pace that had been hot throughout – SWC arguably outrode the pros that day. Remember too, that the second fav, Imperial Commander, pulled up (bled & lame).

He’s never been a 182 horse for my money. His mark now, 171, is about as good as he’s ever been, though I’d maybe allow a couple of pounds deterioration and put that down to very tough races. The Battle of the Somme he had in winning the 2012 KG would have finished quite a few horses. He’s hellish tough, though I’d find it hard to believe these constant challenges at the top level haven’t taken something out of him.

For me, he is what he’s always been; an out and out stayer. Against top class opposition he needs the desperate ground he got in the KG last year (worst going in the race since 1937), or hara-kiri performances by the other jocks in setting an unsustainable pace. In a fairly run Grade 1 on reasonable ground at 24 to 26 furlongs, he simply hasn’t got the pace at the business end.

As for Harry Topper – there’s a horse with an engine. He travelled farther than everything else in the race yesterday, walked through one fence, clattered a few more and pulled some double-jointed moves to stay upright. He looks as honest as you could wish for and if he can regain his confidence, he’d be a threat at the top level.

He was on the deck in his final two outings last season and went at many of the fences yesterday with obvious trepidation. I think an extreme close-up might have shown him shutting his eyes on take-off and hoping for the best!

K Bailey has a job on his hands in rebuilding  this horse’s belief in himself, but if he achieves it, HT would be a very lively Gold Cup outsider. And if his jumping doesn’t get better, oddly enough, he’d be tailor-made for the National. With the cores gone from those fences now (thankfully), HT would just barrel his way through the loose spruce. And if Long Run were mine, that’s where he’d be going next year. I’d miss the Gold Cup and send him to Aintree. Ninety nine percent of his errors are at his back end, and he’d just pull the spruce down and stay forever. And guess which jockey currently has the best strike rate over the National fences?

Charlie Hall Chase winner could be decided before dawn

Long_Run_CheltenhamWhat happens over Wetherby racecourse in the dark hours between now and sunrise could decide the outcome of the feature race, the Charlie Hall Chase at 3.35. The BBC’s moving weather map shows rain will fall twice before dawn, though there’s no reliable indication of how heavy it will be. The more the better for supporters of Long Run and Harry Topper, and probably Unioniste. Not only will very soft ground improve their chances, it might seriously affect the likelihood of Benefficient seeing out the trip. I advised twitter followers this morning that Benefficient was good value at 10/1, and he has shortened throughout the day. If the rain stays away, he could go off around 6/1.

Apart from Long Run, Benefficient is the only Grade 1 winner in the field (he’s won two of them). He’s a big horse, a Cheltenham Festival winner, who seems to be improving as he matures. Whether that improvement will bring with it the ability to last this trip out against the likes of Long Run, we shall see. If it remains good to soft, soft in places, as it was today, I think he’ll have every chance. Even at 6/1 or so, if underfoot conditions are not too taxing, he’d be worth a bet through the Racing Post App (or William Hill mobile app), as you get your stake returned as a free bet for horses finishing second in Channel 4 races.  If it turns very soft, or heavy, Benefficient is probably best avoided, as a serious stamina test will greatly increase the probability of Long Run winning it.

Long Run is a fine animal. I’ve never backed him, mainly because I thought he was badly over rated after his first Gold Cup win. I have no problems with the jockey and I think Sam Waley Cohen takes an awful lot of unmerited flak. His ride on Rajdhani Express at the Festival was a superb one and he’s highly talented. He just doesn’t get the race-riding ‘practice’ of the pros, otherwise, I’ve no doubt he’d be in the top flight. Long Run also has an inclination to leave his hind legs in a fence, especially under pressure. If the ground stays decent and they go a good clip, you could see one or two mistakes from him. I’m convinced he needs a serious stamina test these days.

Kim Bailey says Harry Topper is the best he’s had since Master Oats, and it would please many in racing to see KB with another top class horse. Harry Topper beat Benefficient at Newbury, but the Irish horse has improved 18lbs on official ratings since – Harry Topper 12lbs. HT is hugely promising but still needs to prove he is up to this class, whereas Benefficient has his two Grade 1s in the trophy cabinet. However, if it turns very soft, I’ll have a saver on Harry Topper through the apps mentioned above.

Of the others, I think Unioniste is a bit of a plodder. At this level, you need to be able to pull something extra out, and I don’t think has it to pull. He’s poor value in my opinion, although he’s another who would benefit from plenty rain.

The remainder are thoroughly exposed and outclassed.

It’s great to see the top-notchers back at the start of a new season. Let’s hope they all come back safe and sound.

Good luck

Joe

Friday’s Aintree tips

The good news . . . I tweeted this today:

239

The bad news is it will probably never happen again. Tartan Snow won at 100/1 – his Betfair SP was 223/1. That tweet got 92 retweets and I got over 100 new followers. If you’re one of those, welcome.

I know that many think some people get ‘inside information’ on horse racing: they do, but it’s almost always useless. Yes, horses are laid out for certain races, not always in an honest fashion, and yes, sometimes they win. But these ‘plots’ are usually very carefully managed. Part of that management means keeping the inside info locked up. If it gets out, the horse’s price shortens and those managing these ‘coups’ suffer. So the plots are jealously guarded.

I used to work at Aintree. On my first big raceday there (the equivalent of today in 1994) I was introduced to 3 owners: each had a runner in the same race, each assured me his was a ‘cert’. None finished in the first three. Owners, trainers and jockeys are the worst tipsters you’ll find. They are extreme optimists by nature or they wouldn’t be in this business, and they almost always think their horse has a better chance than it does. Ignore them.  You’ll miss the occasional winner by doing so but you’ll save stacks by avoiding a barrowload of losers.

My tips

I bet almost exclusively on jump racing, much of it ante-post (well in advance of the race). I don’t study form, as such.  I listen to what pros in the business say – including owners, trainers and jockeys – and disregard about 95% of it. I pick up the odd precious nugget although it is often buried in a comment about a horse’s character rather than its chances in a particular race.

I’m much more interested in a horse’s character, quirks, running style and potential than in any other ‘weapon’ for assessing its chances.

The core of my ‘strategy’ if you can call it such, is to get value. That means betting a horse at a price that is substantially bigger than it should be, in my opinion. That’s why I like ante-post betting; you can often make a pretty accurate long-term analysis of a race that might be a year away and take advantage of the prices now. There are risks, of course; unlike your day to day betting, an ante-post bet, with most bookmakers, is lost if the horse does not run. At the foot of this post, for those still awake, you can read my analysis of the King George Chase which is due to be run on Boxing Day and promises one of the best value bets I’ve ever seen.

But back to the ‘normal’ day-to-day stuff. To give you some idea of how strongly I fancy a horse, I work like this:

I tweet what I fancy if I think it is worthwhile. I often have a bet but won’t tweet about it because it is nothing but a small ‘throw-away’ bet to give me an interest in a race.

At big meetings like Aintree and Cheltenham, if I see something that looks great value – like Tartan Snow – I will tweet along the lines of ‘this is worth a bet’ ‘worth a small bet’, ‘worth an each way’ etc. That will generally mean that I’d have not much more than £5 or £10 on.

Sometimes there is excellent value to be had, as much in the way a horse can be bet as in its price.

For example, the Racing Post have an offer just now that if you bet using their mobile app, you’ll get your stake back as a free bet if your horse is 2nd in any race covered on Channel 4 (I don’t think they are offering this on Saturday).  In today’s big Chase, a horse called First Lieutenant was running. I’ve never backed him before but I know his style and character very well (as important, if not more so than form in my opinion). He is high class and, vitally for today, most consistent, having finished out of the first three just twice in all completed races (even then he was 4th).

I had £25 on using the Racing Post app (the max allowed for the stake-back offer). Before the race I tweeted this:

FL

Now, I tell you this not only so I can show-off a bit, but so you can judge how strongly I fancy something by the way the tweet is worded.

If I really think something should not be missed, I always start the tweet ‘I strongly recommend a bet on…’. That doesn’t mean I think the horse is a cert. It does mean that I think he represents superb value and if you always get value, you will win in the long run.

So, be careful. Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose and never listen to ‘tips’ where the tipster claims inside info. The key reason I like to learn about a horse’s character and running style is that they are all individuals. They are no more dependable than human beings are. They sometimes have to go to the races feeling as pissed off as you do about going to work.

Finally, I often don’t tweet a tip until about 5 minutes or so before the off. I don’t charge for tips because I tip plenty of losers too.

So, on to tomorrow.

Third Intention in the 2.30 at Aintree is what is known to betting folk as a ‘cliff horse’ for me (I’d follow him off a cliff). He’s cost me plenty, but I’m convinced he has the ability to win a decent race. He’s around 16/1 tomorrow and I’ll be backing him through sheer dogged determination that I am going to get it right at some point.

Sprinter Sacre & B Geraghty

Sprinter Sacre & B Geraghty

In the 3.05, jump racing’s wonderful Sprinter Sacre runs. A fantastic horse who many think unbeatable, and his price will reflect that at around 1/3. I love the horse but he might lose tomorrow. He won by a long way at Cheltenham but I think that race could have taken more out of him than some think. Many call him a great jumper; I don’t think he is. Spectacular, yes, but his style is, I believe, inefficient, using up a fair bit of energy, sometimes unbalancing him too. His jumping performance at Cheltenham was sloppy in places and I wouldn’t back him in any race at 1/3 let alone this hot one, until I’d seen a good clear round from him.

Followers of my blog/tweets know what’s coming next…Cue Card. Since I saw this horse win his first chase, I’ve thought him very special. He’s the opposite of Sprinter Sacre in that many people don’t like him. They crab his performances and criticise his attitude. But I think he’s a hell of a horse with a superb engine.

Cue Card wins the Ryanair

Cue Card wins the Ryanair

I agree that he looks a bit quirky with his slightly high head carriage, and his jumping style is all his own, a strange, cat-backed hop at times, miles from the huge leaps Sprinter Scare can throw. But handsome is as handsome does. We know he will stay this trip while SS is trying it over fences for the first time. SS trounced CC over 2 miles last season but I expect CC to be much closer over this 20 furlong trip. If Sprinter Sacre is to be beaten, Cue Card is the horse who will do it.  Last week I recommended an EW bet on him at 7/1, even though only the first 2 qualify for payouts in EW bets because of the number of runners (a minimum of 8 needed for three places EW).

I believe the worst CC will be is 2nd, so the value bet tomorrow is once again through the Racing Post app. I strongly recommend a bet on Cue Card through the app. He could pull off a victory and, if not, I’m very hopeful you’ll get your stake back as a free bet if you use the RP app (an appropriate time to say I take no payment of any kind from anyone or any business for what I write here).

That’s it for tomorrow though if you are on twitter I might tweet a small bet. My Grand National tips are here.  My analysis of the King George is below. If you want to take my advice on the KG bet,  you should do so before the 3.05 on Friday. If he beats Sprinter Sacre, he could very well be favourite for the Boxing Day race.

King George VI Chase, Boxing Day, Kempton

Cue Card is available at 12/1 for this race with a number of bookmakers and, if you are happy to accept the risks that come with ante-post betting (money lost if the horse doesn’t run) I strongly recommend that you bet him.

I tipped CC him for this race last year and had my biggest bet for a long time on him. But he made a bad mistake at the first, where he was on his nose, and another blunder at the third. Some claim he did not stay the trip, but I believe those early errors were much more debilitating than the 3 miles he was trying for the first time. Also, the race was run on the heaviest ground for a KG since 1937. Cue Card’s blunders and the glue-like going cost him all chance, I think (he finished 5th, beaten 20 lengths).

Since then he has won easily at Ascot and over 2m 5f at the Cheltenham festival (The Ryanair Chase). His trainer was recently reported as being keen to have another crack at the King George and if he runs, and I’m pretty confident he will, he’ll be a lot shorter than 12/1, especially if he gives Sprinter Sacre a tough race at Aintree in The Melling Chase.

Leaving aside Cue Card’s considerable talent, the King George looks to me like it won’t resemble the current structure as the bookies see it.

Some have Simonsig as favourite: his trainer thinks him a two-miler so he must be a doubtful runner. If he does turn up, he doesn’t jump well enough to win it imo and will need to prove he stays the trip (I have a suspicion he will return to hurdling next season).

Others have Sprinter Sacre as favourite. It’s not beyond possibility that he could stay the trip and The Melling chase will add some info on his stamina. But at the moment I think he’d need to be considered a doubtful runner.

Bobs Worth: another fine horse who’s won me a fair bit but he needs a stern stamina test, the kind Cheltenham brings (he’s unbeaten there and loves the hill). He’s another who might not even run and if he does, will probably struggle to go the pace, finding himself with too much to do in the later stages.

Long Run: lovely horse but woefully one-paced. He needs an even stiffer test than Bobs Worth these days.

Dynaste: overrated by quite some way and a doubtful stayer to boot.

Al Ferof: I’d fear him a bit if he returned to his best after a long time off injured. But horses with any history of serious injuries are seldom worth depending on in ante-post betting. Even at his best, Cue Card should beat him.

Flemenstar: judgement best reserved till after The Melling Chase, but he finished his last race like a horse with a problem and was later reported to be suffering from a lung infection. Still, he’s been involved in a couple of tight finishes and lost both. His trainer is also on record as saying the horse might be upset by travelling from Ireland. The Melling should tell us a lot more about him.

Silviniaco Conti: exposed today as probably a bit below top class.

First Lieutenant: a very likable horse and a good bet for a place but Cue Card thrashed him at Cheltenham and I don’t think the extra 660 yards of the KG will help him in his quest for revenge.

So, not only is Cue Card a highly talented horse, there are valid doubts about many of his potential opponents. The bookies have made a big mistake here. Cue Card should be no more than 5/1 in my book and he is a steal at 12/1.

Good luck

Joe

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