You back Ubak EW at 14/1

spyglassThere’s a nice race at Newbury tomorrow, won last year by the mighty Thistlecrack.  There are no superstars in it this year, but there seems to be a nice each way bet in the shape of Ubak.

The last time he ran at a a trip this long in the UK  he won a decent race at Aintree (he had a poor run over this trip in France, but quite a few horses are upset by international travel). He has mixed chasing and hurdling but began this campaign with a nice run over hurdles (back at Aintree) where he conceded 10lbs and upwards to all rivals. The forecast soft ground should suit him and he looks excellent EW value at 14/1 – about half a dozen online bookies currently offer that price.

Good luck.

Joe

God’s Own with Skybet

spyglassDodging Bullets is well treated here and is being touted. He might start favourite which will add extra value for the likely winner – God’s Own

God’s Own looked an improver at the back end of last season and confirmed that – to me at least – in the Old Roan where a touch of bad luck at the 3rd last (he ran into the back of the blundering Royal Regatta) just as he was building momentum. Arguably that cost him the race.

He should make amends today unless the Tizzards have pulled off another miracle with Third Intention and can get him to win back-to-back races for the first time in his career.

Dodging Bullets has never been this far. His 2 runs over 20f saw him thoroughly trounced each time, although he might well enjoy going right-handed here.

I don’t like Vibrato Valtat much. He’s another with a flattish jumping style, which could catch him out.

Skybet offer money back as a free bet if your horse is 2nd in this race – 2.05 Ascot.  I strongly recommend taking up that offer with God’s Own.

Good luck

Joe

Seeyouatcheltenham

binocularsSeeyouatmidnight has been declared to run on Saturday in the Betfair Chase. He’s 7/1 at the time of writing and well worth an each way bet.

But the best value lies in his Cheltenham Gold Cup odds of 50/1 (Betfred and Stan James – who have an awful site for finding ante-post bets: it’s under OUTRIGHTS).

SYAM is classy and versatile. He hammered Bristol de Mai last time over 20 furlongs at Carlisle and also finished last season with a 3rd in the Scottish Grand National over 32 furlongs. He’s had just 7 chases and could be improving fast if his Carlisle win is taken fully on merit (I just have a slight doubt that Bristol De Mai ran his race; he never looked comfortable that day, but that could be simply because SYAM never allowed him to. The winner should have the benefit of the doubt until there is more evidence.)

His big festival price will have a fair bit to do with him being trained by a man unknown much beyond the Scottish Borders where he trains fewer than 20 jumpers – Sandy Thomson. Sandy seems determined to campaign the horse seriously as a stayer, although his Carlisle win suggests he could run a big race in the Ryanair.

Anyway, 50/1 should look great value after Saturday, even though Thistlecrack is a beast from another planet and should win the Gold Cup. It would nice to have a backup at a long price in the shape of Seeyouatmidnight. Let’s hope he does not live up to his name.

Good luck

Joe

40/1 plot in the Greatwood?

It’s always a joy when you think you’ve spotted a plot horse. Often, the joy lasts only until shortly after the off, but anyway, here we go.

A horse called Song Light runs in Sunday’s Greatwood Hurdle, the 2.30 at Cheltenham.

On the face of it he has little to recommend him. He’s near the foot of the handicap with 10.3 and, at a glance, has not run for 330 days. His form figures read: 5/375. His trainer, Seamus Mullins is not well known, nor is his young jockey, the 5lb claimer Kevin Jones.

Last time he ran at Cheltenham was two years ago in a Novices Handicap hurdle, where he finished third. Here’s his form comment:

Took time to settle, but really caught the eye out wide nearing the home turn and probably would have given the winner a little more to think about had he launched his challenge earlier. Still improving, there must be an opening for him soon.

He won next time out and has not won again since. But he’s competed in some decent races. In May 2015 he ran 3rd in The Swinton – should have been 2nd had his rider not put up 2lbs overweight (he was beaten a neck for 2nd).

He ran next on the Gerry Fielden at Newbury and was disappointing, always in rear last of 7 behind Sternrubin, who’s fancied for Saturday.

He ran much better next time in The Ladbroke when 5th of 21 to the dead.heaters Sternrubin and Jolly’s Cracked It. Since then – 330 days, he has not been seen…on a jumps track. Two weeks ago he was 3rd of 11 in a Nottingham handicap on the flat, beaten just under two lengths. Here’s his form comment:

Song Light was backed at big odds and stayed on late along the inside, albeit proving no match for the front pair.

His run before that was after that long layoff when he was down the field in an all-weather race.

Song Light has talent and he’s only 6. He seems not to have had the best of luck and it looks like he thrives in a big field off a hot pace: he should get both on Sunday. The going will not trouble him. His young claiming jockey knows him very well and, on paper, he is far ftom what he seems.

He looks great value to me at 40/1, though going by his form figures, you’d want to bet him each way. Half a dozen bookies offer that price – have a look at Oddschecker.

Good luck.

Joe

Don Poli at 84/1…in theory

riskDon Poli has his first run for Gordon Elliott tomorrow. He’s in the JN wine Chase at Down Royal (2.35) and I’ve backed him at 5/1.  On recent form he’ll struggle, but I’m hoping they change tactics. Branded a thorough stayer, he’s usually switched off in the hope he can come late and pick up the pieces.

But the horse has some speed in him too. He won the Martin Pipe at the 2014 Festival over 20 furlongs having been, according to his jockey, ‘flat out for the first mile and a half’. And perhaps that’s what Don Poli needs. He’s a lazy big sod and if he was a human and he worked for you, you wouldn’t be saying at the start of his shift, ‘Hey, Don, just take it easy. Have a nap in your chair, have some coffee and cake. When there’s two minutes left of your shift we’ll roust you out with a whip and you can get everything done then.’

No, you’d keep on top of big Don all day to get him doing what he needs to. If Barry Geraghty does that tomorrow, we might see a different horse (and we might not, but I think it’s worth a try). If my theory is correct, then 85 on Betfair for the King George will look a very big price indeed. If I’m wrong, well…it’s up to you if you think the price merits the risk. I’ve taken some.

Here’s hoping

Good luck

Joe

 

Thistlecrack for the Betfair?

spyglassPoor old Cue Card just got tired today in the Charlie Hall but battled on as usual with his lion heart. Write him off at your peril.

Trainer Tizzard says he’ll still go for the Betfair Chase, but I wonder if he’ll be tempted to run Thistlecrack too.  If Coneygree turns up it will likely be his first run for a year (though he goes well fresh). Djakadam might run, but I doubt Tizz would be afraid of him. It’s probably too early in the season for Vautour and Don Cossack is highly unlikely to be there given his injury. His trainer has said he will not be seen on track this year.

I think it’s worth a small bet at 20/1 that Thistlecrack will take his chance in what is likely to be a small field, which would offset his inexperience over fences.

Good luck

Joe

 

 

Oscar Rock worth backing at 28/1

binocularsI had a fruitless season following Oscar Rock last year. After his Chase win at Market Rasen I thought he’d go on to better things and bet accordingly, but he disappointed and failed to win another race.  Still, I think he has talent and won’t desert him yet, especially at 28/1 (Paddy Power) back over  hurdles.

He runs at Wetherby in the 2.45, The West Yorkshire Hurdle. It’s normally a reasonably classy affair with one or two World Hurdle aspirants. It doesn’t look that strong this season and he’s worth taking a chance with. Oscar Rock has won on 3 out of 4 seasonal debuts. This is the time of year to catch him. Shame there is not just one extra runner to help each way backers with a third place.

Good luck

Joe

Back Silvergrove at 80/1 for the Grand National

national_jumpersSilvergrove was moved to Ben Pauling’s yard last season and should have been 3 from 3 going into the Cheltenham Festival. On his debut for Pauling he unshipped his rider when leading on the run in after the saddle separated from its tree.  He went on to win at Newbury and Kempton then headed to Cheltenham  for the Kim Muir. In that race he disputed the lead throughout, jumping superbly (his trainer says he’s the best jumper he has handled), but paid for being in the van by fading late to finish 3rd of 22 carrying 11.5

Pauling (better know for training Barters Hill) must get him a higher handicap mark to guarantee a run in the National and the trainer says he will attempt to do that in the Becher Chase over the National fences in December. If successful there, Pauling says he will not be seen again until the weights are published.

Silvergrove will be 9 come National day. He has the pace to be up there early and avoid trouble, though will probably need to be ridden more conservatively than in the Kim Muir. His jumping is sound, he is improving (he’s improved, officially, by 23 lbs since joining Pauling) and he’d be too big a price at 40/1 never mind 80/1 – Bet 365.

Good luck, and remember that ante-post betting can be a hazardous pursuit!

Joe

 

Fox Norton top value at 50/1 for Champion Chase

binocularsA thirty-grand two-mile handicap chase at Cheltenham today and Fox Norton could be called the winner well before they turned down the hill: he was absolutely tanking along. He threw some athletic, energetic leaps, even late in the race and his handicap mark should go up at least 10lbs to 156. That would still leave him a fair bit short of the mark of a normal Champion Chase winner, but he’s only 6 and looks to have come on a ton since last year.

Douvan is 1/1 fav for the Champion Chase just now, but given what can happen between now and then plus Willie’s penchant for changing a horse’s target, I think 50/1 Fox Norton is a good value bet to keep you warm between now and March.

His form suggests he might benefit substantially from a long rest between races and Nick Williams, who used to train him said early last year that he doesn’t want too much racing. Yet, he had a busy season, and finished 3rd in The Arkle.

Also, it might be that proper good ground is important to him and Cheltenham will open on good to soft at best, as it always does (the Champion Chase is on day 2).

Still, a wee bet at 50s represents value, even with those caveats. And, going by my experience, a wee bet is all you will get at 50/1. The only established bookmaker displaying that price is Bet365 who offered me a maximum of £2.50 ( yes, £2.50, not £25.00).

Good luck

Joe

This Cheltenham Fence Move Just doesn’t Add Up

cheltenham logoCheltenham’s new season started today. Over the summer, the second-last fence has been moved ‘seven or eight yards’ (Sophia Dale, Cheltenham’s communications manager) closer to the last fence. The fence had only been in-site for 6 years having been moved 239 yards in 2010 from its former position near the foot of the hill before the turn into the straight.

The key reason for the move appears to be that 6 horses fell at the fence at this year’s festival. Cheltenham offered a comparative figure of an average of 3.4 fallers ‘there, between 2007 and 2016’: I assume this is up to and including the 2015 festival, but that is not clear. Nor is it clear why 2007, 08, 09, 10 have been included in the 3.4 figure as the fence was not in position for those festivals.  What might complicate matters further is that from the season the re-sited second-last first came into use (2010/11), runners in races over two miles and two and a half miles had an extra fence to jump.

The less cynical side of me assumes the figures are a communications malfunction and are linked to some of the figures associated with the 4th last fence on the New Course which has also had its position ‘adjusted’. No doubt the executive will clarify at some point. But could there be another reason?

Sophia Dale said, “The faller figures at both fences have been slightly creeping up, so we spoke to the PJA [Professional Jockeys Association], who had given us some feedback anyway, and moved the fence to give the horses a bit more time to get themselves together when they come off the bend.”  Despite possible conflation of casualty figures, it is clear from reference to the bend that, in this quote, SD is talking about the second-last. I wonder what was in that feedback from the PJA, and was it sought or offered?

2010 Move

After the move of the fence into the straight in 2010, jockeys who were asked to test it at what appears to have been a media day said this:

Brennan said: “The ground has never been better and the new fence could not be in a better place. You will still get fallers as it is the second last but they won’t be so severe.”

Sam Waley-Cohen said: “The fence is beautifully presented and I look forward to coming down to it on Long Run.”

Carl Llewellyn said: “I think the fence will be a great improvement – it rides nicely off the bend with plenty of room between the two fences. It will be safer all round.”

By the way, three horses had come down at the fence that morning in the ‘test’. Simon Claisse appeared to assign that to the jockeys having jumped it so well the first time, they were keen to have another go. Claisse:

“They jumped the plain fence and ditch on the back straight and came down the hill over the third last. They were going very fast and seven horses came around the corner – Paddy Brennan, Carl Llewellyn, David England, Sam Waley-Cohen and Sam Twiston-Davies were among those riding – and the bend rode beautifully and they jumped the fence.

“We were happy but Nigel’s gang wanted to do it again. So they went back up the hill to the third last and one of the senior jockeys who is now retired said they went off with their tails on fire.

“We could hear them coming and the first horse hit the fence pretty hard and fell and brought down two others. So we had three jockeys and horses on the deck – fortunately they all got up and were fine and they made some positive remarks about what we had done.”

 

After that Showcase meeting in 2010, Claisse seemed pleased:

From Cheltenhamfestival.co.uk website:

The fence was jumped 118 times over the two day meeting with only two fallers and a hampered and unseated rider . Claisse said that “the old second last was responsible for 75% of fallers last year so this is a big difference .”

Let’s go back to that ‘seven or eight yards’ difference mentioned by Sophia Dale. In 2010, journalist Jeremy Grayson wrote on the The Racing Forum that he’d read in Robert Thornton’s Racing Post column that Thornton was :

…delighted to discover horses get 15 strides between turn in and the second last fence, then another 16 to the last. Evidently a bit more space to play with than anyone, myself included, had necessarily reckoned with.

I can’t find that original Thornton quote on the RP site, but I have immense respect for Jeremy and am happy to take his word for it.

So, 15 strides from the turn-in now becomes 16 strides, leaving only 15 strides to the last; we must wait and see what effect that has. And does that single stride that’s been gained really make such a difference? Could it be that the faller figures “slightly creeping up” (SD), could be something to do with the way the fence is being ridden? If so, what will jockeys use their extra stride for?

Or might it be that the fence was sited wrongly in 2010? Was it perhaps an error that Cheltenham were reluctant to admit to relatively soon after the change was made? Cheltenham’s communications error (or obfuscation) today certainly hasn’t helped. One prominent journalist was fobbed off when requesting more information on the figures, apparently with the excuse it was a busy raceday today.

I suspect all is not as it seems here.

I’ll leave the Racing Post‘s Nic Doggett to sign off with a highly prescient piece from six years ago, written just after the Paddy Power meeting.

 

A lot has been written about the re-siting of the infamous second last but from the evidence of this meeting the historically troublesome obstacle is still just that.

Two fallers in the Novices’ Chase won by Wayward Prince brought the total number of fallers at the new fence to seven, a whopping 50% of all fallers at the track since it was moved.

Fences late in a race will always be responsible for tired fallers, however I cannot help but wonder whether the new position is at an awkward spot for horses because of its proximity to the stand.

The noise and sight of the grandstands really hit you when turning for home and this must be distracting for horses. Couple this with tiredness. Then add in what appears to be a landing area that looks slightly too low, and I think it will continue to cause problems.

The worry is that it’s hard to move the fence further up the run-in because then you’d have an inadequate gap between the final two fences, but put it back much and it’s too close to the bend.

This looks likely to run on and on, I suppose much like the argument over the old siting did, and I can’t think think of any easy solutions. Can you?