It’s a sure thing that for the vast majority of Horse Racing fans and those interested in the upcoming Cheltenham Festival, that begins on Tuesday, that they’ll be having a bet. It’s a “natural” thing to do, you study throughout the year, find horses that you think will be suited to the Cheltenham test, back them ante-post as the trials occur. As well as that, you study the night before when the declarations are released and do your form study then, finding value bets and placing them accordingly the night before or in the morning. The prices don’t fluctuate and you can get a decent bet on. But, you don’t hear the next line uttered too often…
“You don’t have to bet at Cheltenham this week”
Why? When so much of the previews, blog articles, video blogs, newspaper articles and advertisements focus on the betting aspects with money-back offers and enhanced prices, would you want to do that?
“Cheltenham is so good and competitive, you don’t need to have a bet to enjoy it”
It’s not something I do personally, but how often will you see someone say “Just a small bet for a bit of interest” or words to that effect. Generally, these are people who don’t have a big fancy and just want to watch the race. The beauty of Cheltenham is that the racing is so good anyway, with top-class graded horses and handicappers coming together, that for most of it, you wouldn’t be a National Hunt Racing fan if you couldn’t watch the racing. I won’t be betting in the Champion Hurdle, but will I still be watching them coming over the last? Absolutely! Cheltenham should be of high enough quality that you wouldn’t need to do these bets over the course of the Festival, especially if you didn’t have a strong view.
“The Cheltenham Festival is extremely difficult to win at”
Some will argue that the above statement is complete nonsense, and from a blog point of view, we’ve had very good Cheltenham’s and very bad one’s. For example.
What do the numbers 28, 16, 33, 25, 25, 50, 16, 14, 10, 16, 3 mean to y'all?—
Graham Cunningham (@gcunning12) February 28, 2014
Graham Cunningham was of course, talking about the SP’s of the winners of the Handicaps’ at last years Festival. Just on the straw poll of those numbers, finding the winners of these races is a tough enough task indeed. Obviously, one winner at those fancy prices can absolutely make your Festival, but that’s probably the wrong way of thinking about things. You obviously too have races other than handicaps, but then these are sometimes just as competitive.
“The best Bookmaker offers don’t apply to me”
It’s hardly defamatory towards the bookmakers that the best offers are aimed at new customers. It makes obvious business sense to aim these at people who have yet to register to your site, rope them in and hope they stick around to give back what they’ve likely won from their special offer. Just a quick look around the internet saw Sire De Grugy at 3/1, Quevega was 4/1 earlier in the week for new customers too and although there are appealing offers available for existing customers, I’ve the belief that the assumption that it’s a punters benefit in terms of special offers for bookmakers customers is slightly overstated, unless you haven’t exhausted your friends availability to open new accounts for you.
“Information overload in the run-up to the Festival”.
This statement can be argued that there’s so much racing, so many angles and so many horses’, that it’s not unlikely that you can find an angle that has been missed by the majority. However, a quick look on social media in the run up to Cheltenham, with multiple previews every night for seemingly weeks, means that many, many people have been exposed to multiple viewpoints, write-ups and inside information on the vast majority of the big names in all the races. The interest in Cheltenham is so huge that there’s a big enough chance that the more obvious, better value bets will have gone long before the day of the race. Not every bet can win, of course, but there’s so much information out there, so many good judges that with everyone’s eyes turned onto four days in March, there’s a huge amount of missed opportunities if you’re leaving your betting to the day of the race. I’m not saying that there isn’t such opportunities out there (more in the handicaps, where there’s lots of late doubts with which targets a horse will go for) but it is certainly much more difficult to land on a really good bet where you significantly beat the SP when betting on the day.
“There’s opportunities elsewhere when everyone else is looking at one track”
I haven’t seen it this year yet but there was often a common phrase touted about social media/forums about “What would be the big gamble at Sedgefield this year?” – The Northern track having been home to some fairly big gambles over the past few years whilst Cheltenham has been taking place. It provides an interesting conundrum, we are forever been told by “professional gamblers” to “look away from the majority view” and to find angles that others are not seeing. So, this is a much simpler task when hundreds of thousands are watching developments at Prestbury Park, while possibly a few hundred are taking a keener interest in what happens at Lingfield Park. It makes perfect sense then, not to follow the majority and instead, look to the sand and the smaller National Hunt venues, for potential betting opportunities, ones that likely will have been swallowed up by shrewder punters not distracted by Cheltenham.
If you put the hours in to your punting, then doing it for four days/nights straight is going to take it out of you. Unless you’re perfectly level-headed, results swings either way could effect you either way. Winning too much and you could get more reckless and careless as confidence grows, whilst a losing run could lead you to dramatically drop stakes as your confidence wanes or, the polar opposite and lose even more. The topic of staking plans is well-documented and keeping a disciplined approach is obviously key, but four consecutive days of hard form study, is possibly going to cause burnout by the time Friday’s study comes around.
Obviously, I have a bet and enjoy the hard-work you put in to find a winning bet etc… otherwise I wouldn’t have started up a betting blog. But, I do feel that Cheltenham Festival isn’t the “be all” and “end all” of the season and you shouldn’t be disheartened that if, for whatever reason, you can’t or don’t want to bet on every race at Cheltenham. I’ll summarise a few key ideas that I hope I’ve got across.
- The Racing is so good that you don’t *have* to bet, you can just watch the races as they’re so packed with quality anyway.
- By all means, cash in on bookmakers special offers, especially if you don’t have accounts open with some of the main firms. New customer offers are a great way to get a head-start on a bookmaker and give you some cash to “kick on” with betting post-Cheltenham. But, don’t be too drawn in, many of the offers aren’t too appealing on the maths of things from a industry side and with some bookmaker percentages on races, it’s almost worth just betting as you would normally.
- Too many eyes and too many good judges have had their paws on the Cheltenham cards over the past few months, so some cast-iron opportunities will have gone. There’s racing elsewhere, so don’t be afraid to look away from the main meetings and find something of interest at a smaller venue, where less research has taken place.
- Don’t be afraid to take one day at Cheltenham relatively easy, doing four days of study on the trot will take it out of most people and mistakes can be made and opportunities overlooked.
- Make sure you enjoy yourself when you’re having a bet, if you’re putting in “too much like hard-work” that you’re not really enjoying, and unless you’re doing it for a job/contractually obliged to, don’t be afraid to take a back-seat.
Enjoy the week whatever you do, see you at Lingfield Park on Friday?
Firstly, I’m back from a holiday and raring to go for the Festival, which is only a few days away. I’m still trying to catch up with what I’ve missed but in the meantime, I’ve been able to look at the main Championship races and I think I’ve found five animals, spread over the four days of the Festival that are well worth opposing. These will all be big-names that are prominent in the market, a couple of them being currently favourite. I do feel that, all of these are vulnerable and are well-worth taking on. Hopefully it will provide a different opinion to that of the majority and all comments/feedback are obviously, very welcome. As per usual, I’ll be doing the handicaps on a day by day basis before the race.
Cheltenham Festival – Five to avoid
Supreme Novices Hurdle
Irving (Paul Nicholls) Form: 1111
Unbeaten over rules and a winner two of Grade 2 races at Ascot in December and then Kempton in February, he obviously comes here with a big reputation. I’m however, not completely convinced that he should be so short in the market on what he has done this season. He’s unbeaten, but I’m not the biggest fan of what he’s beaten. Take his latest start at Kempton, where he beat Amore Alato quite comfortably. That one however, isn’t top-class and although Irving won easily enough, he’ll certainly come up against much tougher sorts than that one. He was fortunate to win by so far when winning at Ascot in December (I’m sure he’d have won, but Prince Sigfried would have got pretty close to him) and I just think he’s flattered a little bit by his current odds. Paul Nicholls believes he’ll improve for a strongly run race but there’s always the chance that he might not, and the big-field, strongly run races of the Festival are much different to that he’s previously been running in. Going this way round is a new experience too, and a lack of course experience could count against him as well. He hasn’t done a lot wrong, but at 5/2 in a race where there’s always one or two that improve out of all recognition for that sort of contest, he’s worth taking on. He wouldn’t be a big lay, but it’s wise advice to not be scared to hunt something else out at a bigger price each-way.
Hurricane Fly (W P Mullins) Form: 111-111
The winner of this race in 2011 and 2013, Willie Mullins seems to have sacrificed the chance of the well-touted Annie Power and Un De Sceaux (both are still in the race but unlikely to run) to give Hurricane Fly the best chance of picking up the prize. He’ll obviously go down as one of the best hurdlers ever, with 19 Grade One wins to his name. That being said, he’s now a 10yo and although unbeaten this season, he’s hardly faced a test like the one he’ll face next Tuesday. Firstly, the race is one of the most competitive in years, with The New One, My Tent Or Yours, Our Conor and Jezki all looking like tough opposition. The last two mentioned he’s beaten this season, but I’m convinced that Our Conor will be reinvigorated with the switch back to Cheltenham and has been trained all season with this race in mind. I’m sure we’ll see a few lbs of improvement from that one and that could be enough to overhaul Hurricane Fly. We’ve barely even mentioned the chance of The New One, who loves it round Cheltenham and looks to be top-class. I really thought he’d be a bigger price than the 11/4 he is at the moment and the fact is, that everyone in the field is conspiring to beat him. It’s happened before in 2012 when the race was almost deliberately run so to inconvenience him and the fact that Jp McManus has supplemented Captain Cee Bee means that they’re attempting to do so again, in order to support the chance of My Tent Or Yours. This will almost certainly be Hurricane Fly’s greatest victory if he can win this, and backing a horse of his age when he’s mostly facing upwardly mobile, young rivals in arguably the toughest and most competitive Champion Hurdle he’s took part in, looks too much to be supporting at 11/4.
Sire De Grugy (Gary Moore) Form: 1-12111
The arguable top success story of the season has been Sire De Grugy’s climb up the ranks to be regarded as one of the top two mile chasers. Connections were brave and bold in their campaigning this season, giving him plenty of chances for success and picking up some really good prize-money on the way. Their ambition was rewarded in no uncertain terms when not being afraid to run against Sprinter Sacre at Kempton and he’s the “in-form” horse in the division and looks to have every chance on paper. His Tingle Creek victory is probably the best recent form in the field, but I still do think that there’s every chance of him getting turned over.
Firstly, I’m not completely convinced that Cheltenham is an ideal track for him. You have to remember that he got beaten by Kid Cassidy earlier on in the season at the venue. I accept that the weights in that race meant he did extremely well to finish where he did, but I do think that other tracks suit his strengths better. The stiff finish could well catch him out again (it did when facing Kid Cassidy) and the jumping test that Cheltenham brings may also find him out, as he was hardly pitch perfect on his two starts at Prestbury Park. There’s also the possibility that the fairly “long” season in terms of top quality races may take it’s toll. Last, but by no means least, he’ll likely face the best of the Irish contingent. Arvika Ligeonniere could also have comments attributed that Cheltenham isn’t his track but he’s been mightily impressive this season with how he’s travelled and his jumping. Baily Green is another that should go particularly well, having gone close behind Simonsig in the Arkle, he hasn’t been seen to best effect this season but is one that will surely be reinvigorated by the trip to Cheltenham. I do feel that one of the Irish contingent will be able to get the better of Sire De Grugy, now he’s away from an ideal track.
Big Bucks (Paul Nicholls) Form: 1111/1-3
Big Bucks is my least favourite horse in training. Why? Because I do think he’s so vastly overrated and comparisons in terms of the great’s of Horse Racing are just so ridiculous. Granted, he’s won the World Hurdle four times (he was injured for 2013′s renewal) and a “Championship” race like that, it is a incredible achievement. However, the World Hurdle has in recent years, been won on multiple occasions by the same horses. Inglis Drever, Baracouda both won the event on multiple occasions and to me, this shows a particular pattern. The division is weak. Staying Hurdling in the past seems to the path for failed chasers and often, the best hurdlers who might stay further go chasing a lot sooner down the line. It’s hardly the quality of the Cheltenham Gold Cup (over Hurdles) and although you can only beat what is in front of you, this year is a different story entirely.
There’s Annie Power to contend with, who looks such an exciting prospect. Big Bucks has beaten horses with similar amounts of hype before, but he’s now 11 years old. On the basis of his comeback run in January, he’s probably not quite as good as he once was and I really will be completely amazed if he can win at the Festival this time around. It will be an amazing training achievement, but I do think that he’s time in the winners enclosure has been and gone. He’ll run well, but I’ve plenty of doubt about him actually winning another renewal. At Fisher’s Cross seems to be back in form now and that rival, alongside Annie Power, will be difficult to beat.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
Silviniaco Conti (Paul Nicholls) Form: 11F3-31
The winner of the King George at Kempton in December, it’s a well-trodden path that he hasn’t been seen since and it’s nothing to worry about. That being said, I’m quite concerned that although picking up a huge victory on Boxing Day, Silviniaco Conti hasn’t quite got the level of form to trouble a back to his best Bob’s Worth. My main concern is that he won’t be quite good enough. The King George was full of horses that ran well below form and it was only really Cue Card that turned up. That one didn’t stay in the end and is out injured, but it was a really poor renewal to me and I do think that if Bob’s Worth runs to a similar level that he did in the Lexus, especially as he won when the yard still weren’t firing on all cylinders, he’ll win. The ratings suggest otherwise, especially the RPR’s but Silviniaco Conti didn’t beat horses that were in-form (on the day). His record at Cheltenham isn’t ideal either, having fallen in this race last year and only running okay in a graded hurdle earlier in his career at the venue. Other concerns are the fact that he’s prone to throwing in a shocker on occasions, for example at Ascot back in 2012, and the fact that the extended Gold Cup trip, one he’s hardly proven over and evidence at Haydock earlier in the year suggests he won’t see it out as well as others. I think he deserves to be around 2nd favourite for the race, but he’s not one to be backing at 3/1 and will surely go off bigger on the day anyway if the majority of runners stand their ground.
Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts. There’s been a lot going on in my life, not all of it ideal, and I’ve had to spend a lot of time trying to get things right. That, alongside the atrocious weather and my lack of real interest in the AW has meant I’ve not had much to post about. I’ve been keeping an eye on things in terms of Cheltenham Festival.
I’m going to be on holiday from tomorrow until towards the end of February. So will be back posting in the run up to Cheltenham, hopefully with some winners!
At the beginning of January I published a list of 10 horses that I thought were worth following through the National Hunt season. This is a continuation of that list with a few more new additions. As for the January list, only 3/10 have actually ran! Broughton was the first winner at the weekend, winning easily at quite prohibitive odds. He was entitled to win and looks all set for Cheltenham. I don’t think he’ll win (his current odds suggest he isn’t too strongly fancied) but will go well and should make a decent hurdler next season, too. Downtown Manhattan has ran once but hasn’t got his ground yet, running yet again on a testing surface. We’ll need to wait for better ground for him. Mighty Mobb is other runner and was a tad disappointing when last seen, eventually being quite well-beaten. I don’t think the ground he faced on that occasion was to his liking and is worth another chance away from really testing ground.
The good news is that many of the other horses listed are being entered and it is a case of simply waiting for the testing conditions to end. They should do within the next couple of weeks and hopefully we’ll see a lot more action.
Horses to Follow – February 2014
Jigsaw Puzzle (David Pipe)
I’d initially spotted this one in December but it didn’t make the final 10 of the January post. However, I’ve been thinking a bit more and do think this one has a chance at picking up a race soon. He was quick to get off the mark in bumpers but hasn’t really made much impression on that initial promise. He was the last to finish on his last start at Towcester but jumped well and I was actually close to the final fence that day, and he seemed to finish with a bit more in the tank than you would have thought.
Advice: Maybe needs better ground but isn’t one to completely give up on. He may need a smaller stable to get the best out of him but should find his level over fences in the near future, and could be one that goes in at a big price.
Polo Springs (Graeme McPherson)
Not showed a lot on the track so far but was a decent type in the P2P field a couple of years ago, winning twice over 2m4f and 3m. She was injured on her only start under rules for Charlie Longsdon and wasn’t seen throughout 2013. However, she caught the eye with how she travelled on her reappearance and is on a lowly mark, and she might not be worth giving up on, given that she made a bad error which pretty much ended her race.
Advice: Worth taking a look at in the market next time out, as she may well be under-bet. On her P2P form, she should be very much capable of taking advantage of a mark of 71.
Rupert Bear (James Walton)
An absolute bull of a horse that ought to have been a natural over fences. However, his career over the bigger obstacles hasn’t gone entirely to plan, putting in a weak showing last time out at Newcastle when jumping quite slowly and deliberately. However, I don’t think the small field that day was to plan and was a big market drifter, which give the impression that connections weren’t really expecting too much.
Advice: He’s fallen to a good mark now and ought to be winning soon over fences. He may well need a truly run race to be seen at his best and I’d be tempted to back him in a big field where there’s a danger they’ll go too fast. Will be often weak in the betting too so you ought to get a good price about him.
Saints And Sinners (Michael Easterby)
A very capable hurdler for Michael Easterby, he won off a mark of 115 over the smaller obstacles and has now reached that mark over fences. He jumped well on both occasions and I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ride he was given last time out at Warwick, when he gave the leaders far too much rope in front. He will have learnt a lot though from those two starts and ought to be winning soon.
Advice: Entered tomorrow (4th February) and although his price looks a little prohibitive on his fences form, he ought to be winning off a mark of 115 over fences so I would fairly recommend a bet. He’s had two positive experiences of fences now and if given a more prominent ride, which is likely given the smaller field, then he’s the one to beat. If he doesn’t run, then he’ll be worthy of a bet next time out.
Salut Flo (David Pipe)
Off a long time after his Cheltenham Festival win in 2012 but returned with a fair effort in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. Reports at the course that day suggested he wasn’t particularly fit and the way he shaped suggested he’d come on significantly for the outing, the tank emptying fairly quickly when the race got going. He jumped fairly well considering the problems he’s had and ought to get back to something like his best form in time for Spring.
Advice: Possibly will be aimed at the same race he won at the Cheltenham Festival this season but ought to be winning a better ground handicap at some stage round Cheltenham if his jumping holds up. Unlikely the same issues with his fitness will be apparent if showing up in March and could be worth an ante-post flutter if connections show their hand early in which race they’re targeting.
We have quite a few selections for Saturday, coming from all over the cards. I’ll be hopeful of a better day than we had on Friday, where we didn’t have a great deal to shout about. Spanish Fleet ran a good race to finish 3rd but wasn’t as fluent when it mattered as some of the others at his hurdles and he was well behind the eventual winner in the end anyway. It was still a positive run from him and he won’t be far away when encountering fences. Varom was bitterly disappointing, travelling like a dream but dropping away tamely when asked for his effort. He looks one to avoid. The winner wasn’t for stopping though and looks a serious tool going forward and was put in quite short for the Triumph Hurdle. Our last selection was Shine A Diamond, but that one wasn’t particularly put into the race and I wasn’t too impressed with the ride. He jumped and travelled well mind and will be of interest soon, market support for him will be very interesting. Saturday’s selections below.
12:25 Doncaster: Mcllhaton; 2pts @ 8/1 Coral (Best Odds Guaranteed)
The Paul Nicholls trained runner really caught the eye with how he travelled last time out on seasonal reappearance and even if they have plenty of rain on Town Moor, he’ll surely strip much fitter and go close in this sort of race, as he really does travel in his races like a proverbial “good thing”. He isn’t one of the stable stars but showed in novice events that he’s more than good enough to win this sort of handicap – efforts at Ascot and importantly at Doncaster over this sort of trip emphasised there’s plenty of potential, especially if you consider his handicap mark is only 125. His win under rules at Huntingdon came on good ground and his success in the Point field also came on good ground, which makes you concerned with the softer conditions today. That being said, those previously mentioned efforts at Ascot and Doncaster came on softer surfaces and the way he travelled at Kempton last time on a bad surface showed he’s more than capable of handling plenty of cut. He was going better than most turning for home but weakened out of things quite quickly. It could be that he has some kind of other issue, but I simply think that he needed the outing, especially as how weak he was in the market and this task looks much more realistic. He’s got plenty of scope for improvement, will appreciate the better ground if it occurs but also handle softer conditions, should be match-fit now and looks a good bet at this sort of price, which is inflated because of Centasia appearing to be on a good mark. At that price though, you can’t be wrong too often and I’d much prefer to be on this one at the prices.
13:25 Lingfield: Presumido; 2pts @ 9/2 William Hill (Best Odds Guaranteed)
Presumido really caught my eye last time out when he got caught on the inside of the track. He wasn’t given a tough time and he’ll be a massive force in this sort of race if getting back to the form of her penultimate outing, he’ll go very close to winning here even accounting for the short priced favourite. He’s only had eight starts to date which is a lot less than many of these and having taken a bit of time to find his feet, he found them in no uncertain terms at Lingfield a couple of months ago. He won that race with a fair bit in hand and although he was booted up 5lbs, he still looked value for a bit more. He wasn’t seen for 52 days subsequently and he might have needed the outing a little bit last time out. He was only beaten less than two lengths and wasn’t given the strongest of rides, and it also came in a bit better race than this too. Now, dropped in grade to a 0-65 and with the booking of Jamie Spencer catching the eye (strike-rate for the yard only 1/8 though), he looks sure to run well. The favourite, Random Success is surely capable of better but I don’t think there’s much between these two, both haven’t had many chances, ran well last time and are capable of better. At the prices though, there’s only one I can really go for. The rest don’t particularly look too dangerous.
13:50 Cheltenham: Shangani; 2pts @ 7/1 Boylesports (Best Odds Guaranteed)
Although not having the flashy recent form that some of his opposition seem to have today, I do believe Shangani will be coming back to form after a spell in the wilderness subsequent to a very decent run over C&D at the Festival and I think he’s adequately weighted to give this a good go here today, with plenty in his favour. Shangani was a typical Venetia Williams horse in the way that she got so much improvement out of him, so quickly. He went up 20lbs in the weights within a month and was well-backed to win the Novice Handicap Chase at the Festival, but perhaps did a bit too much too soon that day, being beaten 11 lengths but not hardly been disgraced. That might have taken a bit out of him, as apart from a good run at Newton Abbott next time out he never really showed his true form, and this season he’s taken a good while to look in any sort of form. You can however, excuse any horse his seasonal reappearance alongside a first go at the National fences at Aintree, and there was a lot to like about his last start at Kempton. He jumped fairly well, had every chance until two out and just got tired towards the end. The bare form of the race isn’t great and he needs to improve a lot to win here, but it was the first signs of life and you would think he would improve significantly for that, and he’s got every chance on his old form being 3lbs lower than his creditable Cheltenham Festival 4th. He doesn’t look a flashy price on first glance but he’s got plenty to suit here for a yard that is still in decent form. A revival is bound to happen at some point and with lots in his favour here, he can definitely get close to the obvious favourite in Double Ross, who has gone up 8lbs for his last win. Shangani is a new piece of form to throw into the mix as most of these have faced off a couple of times this season, so I’ll chance my arm that today is the day.
15:15 Doncaster: Gullinbursti; 3pts @ 9/1 William Hill (Best Odds Guaranteed)
Having such a strong bet in a race like this could make me look very daft come 15:25 but Gullinbursti really does look like a top-class animal over fences and considering we’re yet to see the best of him, I’ll take my chances that today is the day in a race which despite the field, is absolutely devoid of something to really take it by the scruff of the neck. I think Emma Lavelle’s charge could be the one to do so and is worthy of serious support. He’s been in decent form this season, all things considered. After sustaining a fall at Cheltenham, which ended his 2012/13 season, he won a Novice Handicap at Market Rasen in absolutely facile fashion, beating the useful yardstick in Bar De Ligne by 27 lengths eased down, and gave connections the conundrum of what to do with him next. They decided to go over hurdles, running in him the very competitive grade 3 Fixed Brush hurdle at Haydock, where he ran a really good race, just getting tired late on. It came only 13 days after his Market Rasen run, which may have been a bit too soon and I’m not sure he’s as good over hurdles as he is over fences, so it’s worth marking up really. When last seen at the racecourse, he was beaten 3.5 lengths behind Hadrian’s Approach, an effort that the handicapper deemed to be below form, therefore dropping him 4lbs. I believe that to be an absolute gift from god, as he really ran as well as he could in the circumstances. A slowly run, small field contest didn’t play to this one’s strengths but at the business end of the race he really had every chance before getting run out of things late on. Gullinbursti jumped well, which is important given he’s only had the six starts over fences but he really didn’t have the race to suit.
Today, he faces a big field and there should be enough pace on, even without much confirmed pace. His jumping looks pretty solid for one so inexperienced and it’s useful to remember that Emma Lavelle had success with a similar type last week in Shotgun Paddy. He certainly strikes as the type to win a big handicap such as this, with the rain forecast overnight only aiding his chances (although I think he’d handle better ground just fine). Granted the luck in-running, he’ll be up to running a massive race and it can hardly be said to be a good race this really. Unioniste is favourite and although he won nicely at Aintree, that race wasn’t very competitive with plenty in behind not running to form. He was badly behaved allegedly at Leopardstown so can possibly be excused that but will do well to win off that rating. I wouldn’t want to be backing one of Andrew Turnell’s if I could avoid it (next best in the market) and Gullinbursti looks a solid bet here today.
16:20 Lingfield: Raamz; 2pts 22/1 BetVictor (Best Odds Guaranteed)
Raamz needs this trip really and ran a really respectable race over a mile at Kempton back in November, when held-up quite a way off the pace. She’s obviously a fragile type as she doesn’t run too often and often does her best work when coming off absences, so the 58 day break here is no bad thing. She’s got some fair form on the turf in 2013, her 3rd at Hamilton when coming off an absence over a mile emphasised her as a horse to follow and although she never really showed her best subsequently, one run showed that this trip is her optimum. Over 1m2f at Sandown, she ran pretty well in a fair 0-75 race when an absolute huge drifter in the market. That was off a mark of 65 and although she flopped on her next two turf starts, considering her fragile nature, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. The second of those starts at Yarmouth wasn’t even that bad anyway, just fading in the final furlong or so on quite testing ground. Although she’ll need to improve on her last run at Kempton, she certainly will appreciate the step up in trip quite significantly. She actually finished off her race last time out and that’s definitely a positive, considering she’s weakened out of things late on in her previous few starts. She’s too big a price here really, and although she might bomb out completely, if she puts it altogether then she’ll have a big shout.
Three selections from Doncaster today – which can be found below. Thursday was a very low key day really. Our sole selection, Saints And Sinners jumped really nicely but wasn’t given the best of rides. Held-up well off the pace, he allowed the leaders to get too far ahead when the race heated up before not being given a tough time once beaten. He’ll come on for that effort again and is one to note in the coming weeks. Friday’s selections are below.
13:10 Doncaster: Spanish Fleet – 2pts @ 7/1 William Hill (Best Odds Guaranteed)
Spanish Fleet has a lot less to prove than many of these and should be a few points shorter in the betting on the basis of his last time out effort at Newcastle, so even though some of these in the field are extremely unexposed, I do think there’s better to come with this one and he’s worthy of a bet. The aforementioned run at Newcastle was his handicap debut and he made absolutely tonnes of ground up from the back, after getting a little outpaced at one point. How he stayed on suggested that he’ll manage a step up in trip but I do think a properly run race at two miles will be fine and if he replicates his last time out start, he’s got every chance here. Although he acted really well on heavy ground on his last start, he’ll possibly be better on the better ground we see here today. His run at Wetherby in a really competitive novice hurdle on dead ground proved he acted on the surface, as even though he was well-beaten, he shaped well for long periods of the race. John Wade’s runner will be a force to be reckoned with over fences eventually but he does shape as if a winner in waiting over hurdles and he’s more solid than a lot of these, seen as though many come into this race for their handicap debut. At this low-grade, more often than not they need a run or two in handicaps to find their feet and Spanish Fleet can capitalise, and the 7/1 is too big.
13:40 Doncaster: Varom – 2pts @ 4/1 William Hill (Best Odds Guaranteed)
Not often I bet in these events but Varom is a great price here having had a break after a poor run when upped in trip at Haydock and I really do believe that the front two in the market are seriously vulnerable, Varom being the one to capitalise. After winning a French bumper, he has ran well enough on all three of his starts in the UK, including a soft ground National Hunt Flat race, and a dead ground Wetherby novice hurdle outing, where he ran into a fair type in Gone Too Far. Although he failed at Haydock last time when upped in trip (it ought to have suited), he travelled well for most of the race and probably didn’t quite stay. It could also have been that the run had come too soon, having only run 20 days previously and Varom’s races usually coming with long gaps in between, which maybe is a pattern that he needs to be relatively fresh. If he replicates the form of his Wetherby outing, then he as a big chance. Dubai Prince I’m not completely convinced about over hurdles and his facile Leicester win, although the form has worked out to an extent, still isn’t particularly strong and I’ll always get the impression that he’ll get turned over at short odds, especially with his record on the flat. Area Fifty One is the main talking horse but I’ve always felt he needed a sound surface to show his best and today’s softer conditions won’t be ideal. He also never struck me as the sort to type over timber, so I’ll agree with myself here and look for something to take them both on. The third in the market, Varom, has plenty going for it if he’s able to show his form again now back to a trip he’s proven at, and should be half the price I think he currently is.
15:50 Doncaster: Shine A Diamond – 1pt @ 10/1 Coral (Best odds Guaranteed)
I am not a fan of backing chase debutantes in handicaps but Shine A Diamond will almost certainly show his best form at this kind of trip and over the bigger obstacles and after a very promising last start in a Musselburgh novice hurdle, he certainly strikes as the type to improve off his sub-100 handicap rating. A soft ground P2P winner, he showed glimpses of ability on his starts over hurdles and seems to have been run in quick succession with the intention of getting him a handicap mark very quickly. The key run is his last one, at Musselburgh where he showed plenty of ability and it was his best run under rules to date. The margin of defeat doesn’t tell the full story, having being given plenty to do and not been given a hard time once beaten. He still stayed on well enough and shaped as if he needed further and handicaps. They got over fences immediately with Shine A Diamond and although I’d prefer him to have had experience of the bigger obstacles under rules, I really wasn’t expecting 10/1 on this one. He looked open to serious improvement when tackling handicaps on his last start, is upped in trip which will suit him (having won at 3m in the Pointing field) and he looks open to become lots of progression off mark. Whether it will be today is questionable, given he might need the experience but he’ll be worth chancing given a double figure price and the others having similar comments made against them.
I must apologise for the late posting, but just the one selection today, coming from Warwick. Wednesday was another profitable day, with everything going right for Cooldine Run and he won comfortably. He jumped and travelled well after there was a decent gallop on and as they jumped the final two fences, he was still on the bridle. He found plenty for pressure and won by 15 lengths. Logical Approach, however, fell for the first time in his career and was fatally injured in the process. He was still going well but it likely was a pointless task him trying to win as Seven Summits, part of the alleged Barney Curley coup, won with plenty up its sleeve. Condolences go out to Logical Approach’s connections.
14:20 Warwick: Saints And Sinners; 1pt @ 5/1 Stan James (Best Odds Guaranteed)
Saints And Sinners ran better than the bare form suggests over fences on his chasing debut 24 days ago at Haydock and will surely improve bundles for the experience. He’ll have to if he’s to challenge the likes of Time To Think but the Mick Easterby trained runner has probably the best hurdles form (especially over this trip and on soft ground) of any of these and if he’s able to get close to that level of form, then he ought to win here today. His ideal conditions over hurdles seemed to be around 2m4f on softer ground. This was emphasised when winning at Market Rasen in December 2012 and going extremely close in a good race at Doncaster in January 2013. His form tailed off a little subsequently but he was often raced in decent Novice events and it was a little strange that connections didn’t persevere down the handicap route. His reappearance effort this season at Leicester can be excused on the fact he would have needed the run, but the aforementioned debut over fences was promising. He jumped well and although beaten over 20 lengths, it is difficult to say that he was given a tough time when beaten and ought to come on significantly for the experience. He’ll have to, but he showed possibly the best form last season out of any of these, drops into a weaker race this time around and will handle conditions. He’s not a strong bet by any means but there’s some value in backing at around the 5/1 mark, so is worth a small bet.