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Friday 28 November 2014

Hennessy Gold Cup Preview

The Hennessy Gold Cup hasn’t had a habit of throwing up long-priced winners in recent years, but Madison Du Berlais (25/1) in 2008 and Triolo D’Alene (20/1) last year provide cause for optimism, as far as this column is concerned. Of course, the Hennessy Gold Cup is always competitive and particularly so this year, so we’ve had a look at a few further down the betting that could belie their generous odds.

Ballynagour (25/1) didn’t help his handicap mark when hacking up in the Byrne Group Plate, over 2 miles 4 furlongs, at the Cheltenham Festival, but has run creditably in defeat on both subsequent starts in Grade 1 company. A line through his Punchestown conqueror, Sizing Europe, gives him the beating of Rocky Creek – a top-priced 10/1 at the time of writing – so, if he arrives fit and well for his first start since April, he’s clearly no forlorn hope. He’s done most of his winning with plenty of cut in the ground and, having won a point-to-point over 3 miles earlier in his career, shouldn’t fail through lack of stamina.

A similar comment applies to Houblon Des Obeaux (33/1) who, twelve months or so ago, was beating subsequent Hennessy Gold Cup winner Triolo D’Alene (gave 3lb) by 9 lengths in the United House Gold Cup, over 3 miles, at Ascot. He could finish only sixth, beaten 21 lengths, behind the same horse in the Hennessy itself but, having won on soft and heavy going, should be much better suited by underfoot conditions this time around. He contested the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Betfred Bowl at Aintree, albeit without distinction, last season and should find this much easier. His jumping can leave something to be desired, on occasion, but that’s factored into his price and, as a tough, out-and-out stayer, he looks decent value.

At the other end of the weights, Via Sundown (33/1) has won three of his four starts over fences and won convincing on his reappearance, over 2 miles 5½ furlongs on heavy going, over hurdles at Exeter earlier this month. His previous defeat of Benvolio at Fontwell in February looks better in light of that one’s fifth to the subsequently disqualified The Young Master in the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton three weeks ago and he, too, has winning form over 3 miles on soft and heavy going. Three six-year-olds have won the Hennessy Gold Cup in the last ten years, so the statistics aren’t entirely against him and he’s a progressive type lurking on a relatively low weight.

As usual, the Hennessy Gold Cup promises to be a fascinating and informative contest. For what they’re worth, our three against the field this week are, in order of preference, Ballynagour (25/1 with Sky Bet and Sporting Bet), Houblon Des Obeaux (33/1 generally) and Via Sundown (33/1 generally). Win or lose, enjoy what is often considered the sternest test of jumping ability outside the Grand National, and good luck!

Friday 14 November 2014

Paddy Power Gold Cup Preview

Traditionally, the market has proved a tremendous guide to the outcome of the Paddy Power Gold Cup, with the winner typically a well-fancied, progressive young chaser from a southern stable. However, history is in the past, as they say, so we’ve decided to look beyond the first four in the market for two or three we think could go well at decent odds.

If only for pure devilment, we always like to have a look at the complete outsider of the field and, this week, it’s actually possible to make a case for Orpheus Valley (66/1). Horse racing statisticians will tell you, quite rightly, that horses aged 10 years or older and horses trained in Ireland have a very poor record in the Paddy Power Gold Cup. Consequently, Orpheus Valley, an 11-year-old trained by Thomas Gibney in Co. Meath, is apparently on a hiding to nothing, but his win over 2 miles 5 furlongs at Punchestown in April was an excellent effort and, even off a 9lb higher mark, may be capable of making his presence felt, especially if allowed a soft lead. He jumps well and acts on heavy going so, if the forecast heavy rain gets into the ground, he can lead the field a merry dance.

Cedre Bleu (40/1), now in the care of Charlie Mann, went off the boil after finishing second, beaten 4½ lengths, behind Double Ross over 2 miles 5 furlongs on the New Course at Cheltenham last January, but isn’t impossibly handicapped on his best form. In fact, he can race off the same handicap mark as when second, beaten 1¼ lengths, behind Anquetta at Market Rasen last May on his final start for Paul Nicholls and should strip fitter for his reappearance in a decent race at Wetherby two weeks ago. He hardly leaps off the page as a readymade winner-in-waiting, but he wouldn’t be the first horse to improve for a change of scenery and he has a squeak, especially if the going deteriorates.

Another horse discarded by Paul Nicholls between last season and this, Edgardo Sol (25/1), was restricted to hurdles after jumping poorly on his seasonal debut over fences at Aintree last October. However, the son of useful jumps sire Kapgarde made a fair, if unspectacular, debut over fences for Emma Lavelle on the same course three weeks ago and may be capable of building on that effort. A French import, he first ran over fences as a four-year-old, but he’s still only seven, so it’s too soon to be writing him off just yet.

The Paddy Power Gold Cup is, as ever, hugely competitive, with plenty of activity at the head of the market. However, that’s not what we’re about, so our three against the field this week are, in order of preference, Edgardo Sol (25/1 generally), Cedre Bleu (40/1 with Sky Bet, Betvictor and Stan James) and Orpheus Valley (66/1 with Bet365, Sky Bet and Betvictor). Win or lose, enjoy the race and good luck!

Friday 24 October 2014

Old Roan Chase Preview

The final Group 1 race of the season, the Racing Post Trophy, takes place at Doncaster on Saturday but, given the high percentage of winning favourites in recent years, we’ve decided to look a little further afield for this week’s selections. Over at Aintree, the Betfred Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase features a dozen runners, only two of whom have run recently, so it’s the sort of race that could throw up a surprise winner.

Viva Colonia (33/1) is 4lb out of the handicap proper but, even so, is still only 4lb higher in the weights than when third, beaten 2½ lengths, in this race last year. That form entitles him, once again, to beat the fourth, Mr Moonshine, the sixth, Wishfull Thinking, and the seventh, Edgardo Sol and he should be fairly straight, having had a spin on the Flat at Newcastle earlier this month. He hasn’t won for a while and a drop of rain probably wouldn’t hurt his chance, but that’s all factored into his price and his chance is, perhaps, not quite as forlorn as the bookmakers would have you believe.

Fellow ‘rag’ Lucky William (25/1) was a Grade 1 winner over fences at Punchestown at the end of the 2011/12 season, but wasn’t seen again until finishing last of eight, beaten 65 lengths, behind Simenon, over hurdles at Tipperary in July. Thomas Cooper’s 10-year-old got no further than the third fence when sent back over the larger obstacles in the Grade 2 PWC Champion Chase at Punchestown three weeks ago, but it’s interesting that connections are persevering with him and he’s a rare runner on this side of the Irish Sea for the Co. Kerry trainer.

Bold Sir Brian (20/1) was mooted as a possible Cheltenham Gold Cup contender after winning the Sportingbet Future Stars Chase at Sandown during the 2012/13 season, but his form tailed off afterwards and he returns from an absence of 554 days. He’s clearly had his problems, but he’s dropped 6lb in the weights and it’s worth remembering that subsequent Hennessy Gold Cup winner Triolo D’Alene (rec. 2lb) could finish only third, beaten 19 lengths, at Sandown. Obviously, the case for him is by no means watertight, but he’s won after a break several times in the past and it’s probably too soon to be writing him off just yet.

The Old Roan Chase promises, as usual, to be a fascinating and informative contest, but our three against the field this week are, in no particular order, Viva Colonia (33/1 generally available), Lucky William (25/1 generally available) and Bold Sir Brian (a standout 20/1 with Paddy Power. If those three happen to fill the first places, it might be a little while until you hear from us again! Good luck!!

Thursday 16 October 2014

Balmoral Handicap Preview

QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot is typically more about quality than quantity. However, the last race on Saturday’s card, the Balmoral Handicap, has a maximum field size of 30 and provides us with another opportunity to unearth, or at least try to unearth, a long-priced winner.

Hawkeyethenoo (33/1) won over 1 mile 100 yards at Beverley as a three-year-old, when in the care of Michael Easterby, but has not been tried over further than 7 furlongs in the five years since his transfer to Jim Goldie. However, the eight-year-old has suggested on recent starts – particularly his penultimate start, over 7 furlongs, at Ascot – that a step up in distance could be what he needs at this stage of his career. He’s only won once with ‘soft’ in the going description, but has run well enough on soft going to suggest that testing underfoot conditions at the Berkshire track won’t hinder his chance. From a handicapping perspective, he’s 4lb lower in the weights than when edging out Imperial Guest in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood two seasons ago, so a belated return to the winners’ enclosure at Ascot may not be entirely out of the question.

Farlow (50/1) is by the top-class Australian sprinter Exceed And Excel, but nevertheless has some decent form over a mile, including on soft going, and may have been underestimated by the bookmakers. Richard Fahey’s six-year-old is just 1lb higher in the weights than when finishing fourth, beaten 3½ lengths, behind Brae Hill in the William Hill Spring Mile at Doncaster in March and ran his best race for a while when third, over 7 furlongs, at Ayr nine days ago. He’s the least fancied of three entries from Richard Fahey’s Musley Bank yard but, thankfully, he doesn’t know that and he could go well at extravagant odds.

German import Empire Storm (33/1) ran his best race since joining Michael Attwater when second in the Totepool Challenge Cup, over 7 furlongs, at Ascot two weeks ago and is another who looks overpriced in the ante post market. His third, beaten 2¼ lengths, behind Custom Cut in a Listed race, over 1 mile 67, at Windsor in July makes good reading in light of the subsequent exploits of David O’Meara’s gelding and, although 2lb higher in the weights this time, looks far from impossibly handicapped. A testing mile on heavy or soft going should play to his strengths and, although he hasn’t won for over two years, it’s surprising that he’s such a big price.

Anyway, for richer for poorer, our three against the field this week are, in no particular order, Hawkeyethenoo (33/1 generally available), Farlow (50/1 with Coral) and Empire Storm (33/1 generally available). Of course, if you’re in search of even bigger prices, it may be worth having a dabble on Betfair, or the Tote, on Saturday. Good luck!

Thursday 9 October 2014

Cesarewitch Preview

Two favourites, Detroit City in 2006 and Darley Sun in 2009, have won the Cesarewitch in the last ten years, but winners at 66/1 (twice), 50/1, 25/1 and 16/1 (twice) in the same period suggest that an extravagant starting price is not, necessarily, an obstacle to victory.
As usual, the prestigious staying handicap has attracted a bevy of interesting contenders, but we’ve highlighted just a few that took our eye.

The one that immediately leaps off the page is Waterclock (50/1), who finished second, beaten 3 lengths, behind Scatter Dice in this race last year and, in so doing, fared by far the best of those ridden prominently. The Notnowcato gelding showed next to nothing on his first four starts for Jedd O’Keefe, having been transferred from Roger Charlton in April, but hinted at a revival when fourth, beaten 9¼ lengths, behind the progressive Moscato at Newcastle last month. Obviously, backing him requires a leap of faith, but he is clearly a talented stayer on his day and merits serious consideration, off a 6lb lower mark than last year, if the Middleham Moor trainer has him back to anything like his best.

Speaking of leaps of faith, Very Good Day (50/1) also has the form to figure prominently if you’re prepared to look back far enough. The Sinndar gelding ran just once for Mick Channon last season, finishing down the field in the Chester Cup, and it was a similar story on his first run for Richard Fahey, in the Group 2 Doncaster Cup, last month. He was clearly way out of his depth on the latter occasion, but happily bowled along at the head of affairs until weakening quickly in the closing stages. Back in a handicap, with a recent run under his belt and 1lb lower in the weights than when second, beaten 1½ lengths, at York two seasons ago, he’s another who could belie generous odds.

Jonny Delta (50/1) is officially 1lb out of the handicap, but is due to be ridden by talented apprentice Joey Haynes, who can ride at 7st 9lb and should be able to claim all of his 3lb allowance. Jim Goldie’s 7-year-old finished a never nearer seventh, beaten 6 lengths, in this race last year, despite racing from 3lb out of the handicap and being denied a clear run in the final quarter of a mile. The Sulamani gelding ran his best race of the season when stepped up to beyond 2 miles for the first time since when beaten just half a length, over 2 mile 1½ furlongs, at Ayr last time and appears to have been trained with this race in mind. A line through the winner at Ayr, Nashville, gives him a little to find with Rhombus but, at more than three times the price, Jonny Delta looks far from a forlorn hope.

In summary, our three against the field for this week are, in order of preference, Jonny Delta (50/1 with Bet365, Sky Bet, Boylesports, Betvictor, Paddy Power and Stan James, Waterclock (50/1 with William Hill) and Very Good Day (50/1 with Betvictor, Stan James and William Hill. Good luck!

Thursday 2 October 2014

Totepool Challenge Cup Preview

The Totepool Challenge Cup, run over the straight 7 furlongs at Ascot, is invariably about as competitive as they come, so it’s slightly surprising that the race has only thrown up two winners at ‘silly’ prices – Candidato Boy at 50/1 in 2007 and Advanced at 33/1 in 2009 – in the last ten years. However, the prospect of unseasonably fast ground creates further complication for connections alike so, as usual, we’ve put up two or three runners who could go well at generous odds.

Eastern Impact (20/1) is a horse we’ve followed with some interest this season, but Richard Fahey’s three-year-old finished stone cold last, and a long last at that, on his first attempt against his elders in the Ayr Gold Cup two weeks ago. That run was, frankly, too bad to be true and, provided he’s recovered from whatever was ailing him at Ayr, he looks well worth another chance. He finished strongly to win a similar grade handicap, over 6 furlongs, on the July Course at Newmarket on his previous start, despite being hampered and denied a clear run in the closing stages, so he looks far from impossibly handicapped off a 5lb higher mark. The step up to 7 furlongs represents a step into the unknown, especially on a testing track such as Ascot, but his pedigree and his style of racing suggest an extra furlong may well be within his compass.

We’re also fans of Heavy Metal (20/1), although it would be fair to say that Mark Johnston’s four-year-old hasn’t cut much ice since just being touched off, over a mile, a Goodwood four starts ago. However, his previous winning form over 7 furlongs, including over course and distance in July, suggests that he’s feasibly weighted off a handicap mark of 98 and he could go close if back to anything approaching his best. He’s won on good to firm, good and good to soft going, so he should be suited by underfoot conditions whatever the weather in the South East and looks one for our shortlist.

Last, but hopefully not least, Sirius Prospect (25/1) also has winning form over 7 furlongs on a variety of ground and is only 1lb higher in the weights than when winning over a mile at Kempton last November. The Gone West gelding has run creditably in defeat on his last three starts, including at Newbury last month, when returning from a break, and may be ready to strike at the sixth time of asking this season. He won five times over shorter as a three-year-old, but 7 furlongs or a mile suits him better these days, so the uphill climb from the top of the home straight to the furlong marker at Ascot should be ideal.

In summary, our three against the field this week are, in no particular order, Eastern Impact (20/1 with William Hill), Heavy Metal (20/1 generally) and Sirius Prospect (25/1 generally).

Thursday 25 September 2014

Betfred Cambridgeshire Preview

Agonisingly, ante post favourite Air Pilot, who was officially 14lb in well in under a 4lb penalty, failed to make the cut for the Betfred Cambridgeshire by one place when the final declarations were published on Thursday. Nevertheless, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good and, with a maximum field of 35 runners and winners at 100/1, 40/1, 25/1, 16/1 and 14/1 in the last 10 years, the Cambridgeshire is a race made for us.

This year’s renewal, due off at 3.50 p.m. on Saturday, September 27, has attracted any number of horses capable of running well at generous odds but, as usual, we’ve highlighted two or three that took our eye.

Balty Boys (33/1) beat several higher-rated rivals when second to comfortable winner Captain Cat in the Group 3 Superior Mile at Haydock three weeks ago, but can race here off an unchanged handicap mark. He finished well on that occasion so, while all his previous efforts beyond a mile, except one, have been nothing to shout about, an extra furlong should be well within his compass. If it is, he’s only 3lb higher in the weights than when winning a valuable handicap on the July Course at Newmarket and should run his race whatever the weather in the East of England between now and Saturday.

Tenor (33/1) has been one of the success stories of the season, winning six times and rising 39lb in the handicap as a result. A 7lb penalty for winning the Listed Nigel & Elwes Fortune Stakes at Sandown ten days ago (a career-best effort) means that he’s now 29lb higher in the weights than when last winning a handicap, but only 8lb higher than when second, beaten a neck, in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Mile at Ascot last month. The son of Eclipse Stakes winner Oratorio probably needs to improve again if he’s to become the first horse since Cap Juluca, in 1995, to carry 9st 10lb to victory, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he’s capable of doing so.

Dance And Dance (40/1) finished a neck behind Tenor (rec. 11lb) in a handicap on the Rowley Mile in May, but reopposes here on 27lb better terms, so simply cannot be ignored from a handicapping point-of-view. The Royal Applause gelding ran on well in the closing stages to finish sixth, beaten 5¼ lengths, behind Educate in this race last year, despite being denied a clear run with two furlongs to run, so appears to have bright prospects off a 1lb lower mark this time around. He meets the winner on 7lb better terms and the third, Tres Coronas, on 8lb better terms, so the bookmakers may have underestimated his chance.

His best run this season came over the testing straight mile at Newcastle, where he finished second, beaten a short head, but was awarded the race in the stewards’ room after being bumped in the closing stages. He is just 3lb higher in the weights here, appears to act on just about any ground and has the services of Silvestre De Sousa, who has a 1-4 (25%) strike rate for Ed Vaughan, so he has plenty going for him.

In summary, our three against the field, in no particular order are:

Balty Boys (33/1 with Coral)
Tenor (33/1 with Coral)
Dance And Dance (40/1 generally).

Good luck!

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Betfred Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment Cup Handicap Preview

It’s not often that we have the chance of a midweek ‘tilt’, but the Betfred Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment Cup Handicap (4.40) at Haydock on Thursday has been well supported, with 15 runners due to face the starter, so we’ve decided to risk a small proportion of our betting bank on a couple at fancy odds.

The first one that takes our eye is Headline News, trained in Newmarket by Rae Guest. The lightly-raced daughter of Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Peintre Celebre won over 1 mile 2 furlongs on soft going at Sandown last September, off a handicap mark of 75, but finished well when fourth, beaten 1¾ lengths, again over 1 mile 2 furlongs, on her reappearance at Windsor in July, off a handicap mark of 83, and is 2lb lower in the weights here. She won over the testing mile-and-a-half at Leicester as a 3-year-old, so her stamina for an extra quarter of a mile or so shouldn’t be an issue and, although she comes into the race on the back of two quieter runs, he trainer believes she is up to Listed class on her day.

If she is, stepping back up in distance on rain-softened ground could be just what she needs at this stage of her career and she could, potentially, make a mockery of a handicap mark of 81. It’s worth noting that Rae Guest has won with one of the two older horses he’s saddled at Haydock during the last five seasons and Headline News is the only ride of the afternoon for regular partner Chris Catlin. Indeed, Chris Catlin is also riding in the 6.10 at Wolverhampton, 73 miles to the south down the M6, so he’ll have to get his skates on to make it from one course to the other.

Another who could go well at a shade of odds is Highland Castle, also trained in Newmarket, but this time by David Elsworth. The Halling gelding returned to the yard after just two starts for Brian Meehan and it’s easy to forgive him finishing last of eleven, beaten 43 lengths, on his most recent start at Newmarket twelve days ago after being off the course since May. He won over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Newmarket last June off a 1lb higher mark and has run creditably in defeat off handicap marks in the nineties, including on soft going, on more than one occasion since, so looks well-handicapped if anywhere near his best.

Of course, that’s a big ‘if’ granted his recent form, but it’s likely to be reflected in his price and he can actually race off his lowest handicap mark since winning over course and distance as a 3-year-old. It’s too soon to be writing him off altogether and the fact that jockey Graham Lee is 1-3 for the yard is also quite encouraging.

So, in summary, our two against the field are, in order of preference, Headline News and Highland Castle. Good luck!

Friday 22 August 2014

Betfred Ebor Preview

The Betfred Ebor, run over 1 mile 6 furlongs at York, is the most valuable Flat handicap in Europe, worth £164,962 to the winner. Understandably, the race is always well subscribed and a total of 22 horses (including two reserves) stood their ground at the final declaration stage for this year’s renewal, due off at 3.50 p.m. on Saturday, August 23. Just one favourite has won the Ebor in the last ten years and, with winners at 14/1, 25/1 (three times) and 100/1 in that period, we’ve decided to cast an eye over a few of those available at generous odds in the ante post lists.

It’s interesting to note that David O’Meara’s stable jockey Daniel Tudhope, who presumably had the option of riding Repeater for his boss, opts for Luca Cumani’s lightly-raced four-year-old Sir Walter Scott instead. The Galileo colt, who was trained by Aidan O’Brien until June, has been restricted to three starts so far and has clearly had his problems. However, he was far from disgraced when sixth of ten, beaten 5½ lengths, in the Listed Doom Bar Stakes, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at Newbury five weeks ago on his debut for Luca Cumani. Indeed, he looked in need of further on that occasion, as he had when second over 1 mile 4 furlongs at the Curragh last October. He doesn’t appear obviously well-handicapped off a mark of 100, but is the one truly ‘dark’ horse in the race and could be worth chancing at 25/1. Daniel Tudhope’s 3-7 (43%) strike rate for the yard is also quite encouraging.

Aussie Reigns has struggled at little off handicap marks of 100+ since winning a Listed race, over 1 mile 4 furlongs, on the all-weather at Kempton last November, but has run creditably on all five starts since returning from Dubai in March. Indeed, the way in which he’s been keeping on at the end of his races over 1 mile 2 furlongs and 1 mile 4 furlongs suggests that the step up to 1 mile 6 furlongs could be just what he needs at this stage of his career. If it is, he doesn’t look impossibly handicapped and could go very well at 40/1. West Sussex trainer William Knight is 0-11 at York over the last five seasons and jockey Richard Kingscote is 0-3 for the yard, so the statistics are hardly encouraging, but Aussie Reigns wouldn’t be the first less-than-obvious winner of the Ebor.

Last, but hopefully not least, Retirement Plan appeared to show significant improvement when stepped up to 2 miles from 1 mile 4 furlongs at Ascot two weeks ago and, if able to reproduce that level of form over two furlongs shorter, would be of major interest at 20/1. Lady Cecil’s four-year-old is another who carries just a 4lb penalty and, although he’s no better off for the 7½ lengths he finished behind Pallasator on his previous start at Ascot, staying could be the name of the game for the son of Monsun.

As ever, it’s a case of ‘you pay your money and you take your chance, but our three against the field, in order of preference, are:

Sir Walter Scott 25/1
Aussie Reigns 40/1
Retirement Plan 20/1

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Betfred Mile Preview

The Betfred Mile (3:05 Goodwood, Friday) is a few days away but, with 66 entries at the 5-day declaration stage and 11/1 the field ante post, we couldn’t resist having an early look.

The first one that takes our eye is, naturally enough, topweight Farraaj (16/1), who has the steadier of 10st 0lb, but carries just a 3lb penalty for winning the John Smith’s Cup at York earlier this month. That was his second impressive handicap win in a row and, while a mile is arguably on the short side for him these days, the likely fast pace could bring his proven stamina into play in the closing stages.

At the same price, Heavy Metal (16/1) has returned to something like his best on his last two starts and is another who carries just a 3lb penalty for winning the International Stakes, over 7 furlongs, at Ascot last Saturday. He had a few of these behind on that occasion and, having won over a sharp mile at Brighton, he promises to be equally effective on this vastly different course. He is just one of seven entries for Middleham Moor trainer Mark Johnston, but if he does line up he must have a decent chance of completing a quick-fire double.

Heaven’s Guest (20/1) finished just 1½ lengths behind Heavy Metal at Ascot and reopposes on 2lb better terms. That, in itself, shouldn’t be quite enough for him to reverse the form, but the way he stayed on in the closing stages suggested stepping up to a mile could be exactly what he wants at this stage of his career. He’s only 2lb higher in the weights than when winning the Bunbury Cup on the July Course at Newmarket two weeks previously and is pretty much in the form of his life.

At much longer odds, St. Moritz (40/1) could only finish seventh, beaten 6 lengths, behind ante post favourite Velox at Sandown last time, but is 11lb better off and, if ridden with slightly more restraint, must have every chance of reversing the form on this much sharper track. Admittedly, he didn’t do his handicap mark much good when winning back-to-back handicaps in May and June, but wasn’t beaten far at Sandown off a 2lb lower mark on his penultimate start and appears to have been underestimated by the layers.

Last, but hopefully not least, I must confess to having a soft spot – possibly between my ears – for Excellent Guest (66/1). The Exceed And Excel gelding is clearly smart when on song, as he demonstrated when winning the Victoria Cup, over 7 furlongs, at Ascot on his reappearance last season off a 1lb higher mark. Unplaced runs in the Victoria Cup and Buckingham Palace Stakes so far this season don’t inspire much confidence, but outsiders is what we’re all about and he’s definitely one of those.

So, for our three against the field this week, we’re going for Farraaj, St. Moritz and Excellent Guest, in no particular order. Good luck!

Thursday 12 June 2014

Scottish Sprint Cup Preview

One outright favourite and one joint favourite has won the Scottish Sprint Cup at Musselburgh since 2004, but other winners in that period went off at 50/1, 28/1, 25/1, 20/1 and 16/1, so it’s a race that’s right up our street. This year’s renewal, due off at 3.35 p.m. on Saturday, June 14, has attracted 17 runners and, with all bar one of them priced up at 10/1 or longer odds ante post, we should be able to find a few that represent value.

It’s interesting to note that, despite the apparent absence of any draw bias over 5 furlongs at Musselburgh, especially on soft ground, seven of the last 10 winners were drawn in stall 10 or higher. This fact hasn’t escaped the notice of the bookmakers and, predictably, the seven longest-priced horses in the ante post market are drawn in single-figure stalls.

Dinkum Diamond (20/1) has never won a handicap, although he was beaten just two necks in the Investec Specialist Bank “Dash” at Epsom, off a 10lb lower mark, last June. Despite a couple wins at Listed level, the Aussie Rules gelding has repeatedly failed to make the transition to Pattern company, but has his sights lowered again, so could go well at rewarding odds even under 9st 10lb. Musselburgh is arguably on the sharp side for him, but there’s unlikely to be any hanging about here and the faster they go the better for him.

Former Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp winner Tangerine Trees (16/1) is on a losing run of 10 and only 6lb better off for the 4 lengths he finished behind the ante post favourite Caspian Prince in this year’s Investec Specialist “Dash” at Epsom, so doesn’t exactly leap off the page as a readymade winner-in-waiting. However, he’s run well on both visits to Musselburgh, including a win in the Totepool Borderlescott Sprint Trophy over course and distance last March, so an improved performance would be no great surprise. He’s nicely drawn in stall 16, has winning form over 5 furlongs on good to soft and soft going and looks fairly weighted, off a handicap mark of 99, if anywhere near his best.

Former Stewards’ Cup winner Hawkeyethenoo (16/1) is another who hasn’t won for ages, but the last time he raced over 5 furlongs on soft going, at Doncaster last October, he was beaten just half a length off his current mark of 105. We’re reliably informed, by our friends at the BBC, that heavy rain is forecast for East Lothian on Thursday and Friday, so he could have ideal conditions by Saturday afternoon. Believe it or not, his course and distance win came as a three-year-old off a handicap mark of 54, so isn’t really significant, but he’s another who’s well-drawn in stall 15 and can prove a popular winner for East Renfrewshire trainer Jim Goldie.

With one eye on the sky, all our selections have winning form on soft going and they are, in order of preference:

Dinkum Diamond (20/1 with Betvictor)
Hawkeyethenoo (16/1 with Totesport, Betfred and Betvictor)
Tangerine Trees (16/1 generally)

Good luck!

Monday 2 June 2014

Derby Preview

Australia has been ante post favourite for the Investec Derby (4.00 p.m. Epsom, Saturday, June 7) ever since he impressively won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Trial Turf Stakes, over a mile, at Leopardstown last September and was hailed by his trainer, Aidan O’Brien, as ‘the best horse we’ve ever had’. The Galileo colt confirmed his position at the head of the ante post market when finishing third, beaten half a length and a head, behind Night Of Thunder and Kingman in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket five weeks ago and co-owner Michael Tabor told At The Races last week that ‘people in Ballydoyle will be surprised if Australia doesn't win’.

However, Aidan O’Brien has expressed his concerns about the possibility of soft ground at Epsom on Derby Day and, with the going currently good to soft, good in places and an unsettled forecast for the week ahead, underfoot conditions may not be ideal for Australia. Furthermore, O’Brien also failed to categorically deny that another of his Derby entries, Geoffrey Chaucer, had comprehensively beaten Australia in a gallop at Ballydoyle so, for all his Classic credentials, Australia looks poor value at even money.

The good news, as far as we’re concerned is that the bookmakers bet 12/1 bar the O’Brien pair already mentioned, so there must be a decent chance of an upset. The longest priced winner of the Derby in the last ten years was Ruler Of The World at 7/1 last year, but looking further back, High Rise (20/1), Snow Knight (50/1) and Morston (25/1) all belied long odds, so a shock result is not entirely out of the question.

Although not strictly an outsider, insofar as he’s 12/1 third favourite in the ante post lists, Kingston Hill looks overpriced if the going at Epsom remains on the soft side. The son of champion first-season sire Mastercraftsman, out of a Rainbow Quest mare, has 4¼ lengths to find with Australia on their running in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas Stakes, but the way he kept on steadily at Newmarket, albeit with threatening the leaders, suggested that stepping up to a mile and a half would be in his favour. Indeed, he stayed on strongly when winning the Racing Post Trophy, over a mile, on soft going at Doncaster last October and, while a line through the runner-up Johann Strauss also gives him something to find with Australia, he looks to have bright prospects of reversing the Guineas form if conditions remain in his favour.

Sir Michael Stoute has won the Derby five times, most recently with Workforce in 2010, so Snow Hill (25/1) must be worth a second look. The Nayef colt has 2¼ lengths to find with impressive winner Western Hymn on their running over 1 mile 2 furlongs at Newbury in April, but improved to win the Derby Trial Stakes, over 1 mile 3½ furlongs, at Lingfield four weeks ago. Exactly what that form amount to is hard to tell, but it seems the further he goes the better he is so, with underfoot conditions sure to suit, whatever the weather, he looks a live outsider.

Whatever the result, The Investec Derby promises to be an umissable contest, but our two against the field, in no particular order, are:

Kingston Hill (12/1 with Bet365, Betvictor and Paddy Power)
Snow Hill (25/1 with Paddy Power and William Hill)

Good luck!

Thursday 22 May 2014

Silver Bowl Preview

Over half of the runners in the Silver Bowl Stakes (3.45) at Haydock on Saturday, May 24 are available at 14/1 or longer odds in the ante post lists, so it looks just the type of race in which we can find two or three that could go well at huge prices.

The first one that leaps off the page is Almargo, trained by Mark Johnston, who can be backed at ludicrously generous 40/1 with Betvictor and Coral. The son of Invincible Spirit completed a hat-trick on the Polytrack at Kempton, Lingfield and Wolverhampton earlier in the year and again ran well when fourth of twelve, beaten 5¾ lengths, behind Bilimbi at Musselburgh in April. He’s 12lb better off with the winner this time around and the return to faster underfoot conditions should suit him much better than the soft ground he’s encountered the last twice. He has a sprinting pedigree and weakened inside the final furlong at Musselburgh, so it’s possible that stamina is an issue, but at such long odds it’s a chance worth taking.

Another who appears generously priced in the ante post lists is Pupil, trained by Richard Hannon, who is available at 25/1 with Bet365 and Coral. The son of champion first-season sire Mastercraftsman has been quite highly tried since winning his maiden, over a mile, at Doncaster last September, but his subsequent third, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Pinzolo in a small conditions race at Newbury makes good reading in the context of this race. The winner is now officially rated 104, which suggests that Pupil is far from overburdened off a mark of 92 on his handicap debut. Stable jockey Richard Hughes has bigger fish to fry on the other side of the Irish Sea but, in his absence, Jim Crowley is a more than able deputy.

Mawfoor, trained by Brian Meehan, has also tried and failed at Group level, but there wasn’t much wrong with his reappearance at Ascot last month and, with plenty of stamina in the bottom half of his pedigree, promises to be even better over a mile. He could only keep on at one pace over 7 furlongs at Ascot, but is entitled to improve for the run, his first since last September and looks feasibly weighted. Hamdan Al Maktoum’s retained jockey, Paul Hanagan, understandably prefers Zarwaan, but that may not prevent Mawfoor from going well at the 25/1 generally available.
The Silver Bowl promises to be an exciting and informative contest and, because outsiders is what we’re all about, our three against the field are, in order of preference

Almargo 40/1 with Betvictor and Coral
Pupil 25/1 with Bet365 and Coral
Mawfoor 25/1 generally.

If those three fill the first three places, you may not be hearing from us for a while. Good luck!

Thursday 8 May 2014

Victoria Cup Preview

The Victoria Cup, run over 7 furlongs at Ascot, has thrown up winners at 25/1 (twice), 16/1 and 14/1 in the last 10 years, so appears to be just the sort of race we’re looking for. Indeed, this year’s renewal, due off at 3.50 p.m. on Saturday, May 10, has attracted a maximum field of 29 runners, 19 of whom are available at 20/1, or longer, in the ante post lists, so the prospects of a turnup are quite high.

Your correspondent is still smarting, to some degree, at having rowed in with the ‘wrong’ outsider trained by Richard Hannon is last week’s 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket but, anyway, here goes.

The first one that takes the eye, towards the foot of the handicap, is Capo Rosso, who is actually chasing a hat-trick, but is available at 25/1 in several places in the ante post lists. In fact, the Red Clubs gelding recorded arguably a career-best effort when staying on well to beat Gworn by 5 lengths over 1 mile 141 yards at Wolverhampton last month so, although 2lb higher in the weights, warrants further inspection. He’s by a Haydock Sprint Cup winner and his sole win on turf came over the sharp 7 furlongs at Warwick, but he’s unlikely to fail through lack of stamina if his Wolverhampton effort is anything to go by. Indeed, a testing 7 furlongs could be right up his street at this stage of his career and he could fare much better than when well beaten in the Britannia Stakes, over a mile, on his last visit to Ascot.

Carrying the same weight as Capo Rosso and, coincidentally, available at the same price, is Boots And Spurs, who could only finish sixteenth of twenty-five, beaten 26 lengths, behind Brae Hill in the William Hill Spring Mile at Doncaster, but looks far from impossibly handicapped on his form over 7 furlongs last season. He races off the same mark as when third, beaten 1 length and a short head, behind Magic City and Intransigent in the valuable Betfair Cash Out Stakes at Goodwood last August and, subject to the vagaries of the draw, a reproduction of that form should see him in the shake-up. William Twiston-Davies takes off a useful 3lb, so he’s arguably well-handicapped.

So far, we’ve considered Capo Rosso (drawn 9) and Boots And Spurs (drawn 22), so it would make sense to find another likely contender drawn right in the middle, just to cover all the angles. Spiritual Star (drawn 14) contested the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes as a two-year-old and started his three-year-old campaign with a handicap mark of 109, only to prove disappointing as a three-year-old and four-year-old. His two recent runs over a mile on the Polytrack at Lingfield seemed to suggest that 7 furlongs is on the short side for him these days, but there’ll be no hanging about and a fast pace may bring his stamina into play late on. If it does, the Soviet Star gelding is much more realistically handicapped off a mark of 91 as a five-year-old and could belie the 33/1 currently on offer ante post.

So, my three against the field for this week are:

Capo Rosso (25/1 with Bet365)
Boots And Spurs (25/1 with Sky Bet)
Spiritual Star (33/1 generally).

Good luck!

Monday 5 May 2014

1:30 Bath - 5th May

1:30 Bath (5th May) 

A median auction maiden stakes over 5f 11y on good going. Eve Johnson Houghton doesn't have many debut winners but knows a fair horse when she sees one. Aevalon is a daughter of Avonbridge and an early starter for this stable who have a decent strike rate at this course for two-year-olds. It is interesting that this March foal has been entered for a Stakes races, which gives hope this bay filly has some potential. Have have claims at speculative odds and could be gambled. Ivor's Rebel is another horse which should improve from debut and at huge odds could hit the frame. 

Result: A fantastic result for outsider today with Ivor's Rebel leading all the way to win at odds of 9/1, after being available at 20/1 on Betfair. Aevalon was sent off at odds of 20/1 with the bookmakers and over 30/1 on Betfair and ran on well to claim second place. A good-looking filly, she will improve a good deal for this first start. The EX (Exacta paid £202).  

Thursday 1 May 2014

2000 Guineas Preview

The first Classic of the season, the 2,000 Guineas, is not renowned for throwing up long-priced winners, but Makfi (33/1) and Cockney Rebel (25/1) have been successful since 2004. All but five of the entries for this year’s renewal, due off at 3.50 p.m. on Saturday, May 3, are available at odds of 16/1 or longer in the ante post lists, so an upset is not totally out of the question.

The first of those at longer odds to take the eye is Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner, Outstrip, who is available at 28/1, in a place, in the ante post lists. The Exceed And Excel colt has 2¾ lengths to find with War Command on their running in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket last October and a neck to find with Toormore on their running in the Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes at Goodwood earlier last season, but both those races were over 7 furlongs.

Despite being sired by a sprinter, the Rowley Mile promises to bring out the best in him and, considering that both Toormore and War Command are available at single-figure prices, he looks massively overpriced. Indeed, The Grey Gatsby, whom he beat by 3 lengths in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster last September, finished second, beaten just 2 lengths, behind Toormore in the Craven Stakes over course and distance on his reappearance at Newmarket.

Lester Piggott’s son-in-law, William Haggas, has never won the 2,000 Guineas, but has trained 12 3-year-old winners from 32 runners already this season and probably knows that 3-year-old form as well as anyone. Bearing that in mind, it’s perhaps a little surprising that his Oasis Dream colt Ertijaal can be backed at 40/1 in places.

Admittedly, he would be an unusual 2,000 Guineas winner insofar that he has yet to win a Group race of any kind and he has only been workmanlike in winning both starts over 7 furlongs on the Polytrack at Lingfield so far this season. He is currently officially rated 17lb inferior to Toormore, despite having been beaten just a neck by Richard Hannon’s charge in a maiden, over 6 furlongs, at Leicester on his debut last May, so probably needs to improve. However, that’s by no means out of the question after just four career starts and he’s another for whom a realistic case can be made at generous odds.

It’s been 23 years since Mystiko completed the European Free Handicap – 2,000 Guineas double, so the statistics don’t favour Shifting Power, who won the former race in a bunch finish on the Rowley Mile. He also appears to be Richard Hannon’s third string, if the ante post market is to be believed, but the one bookmaker offering 50/1 about an unbeaten, well-bred colt may be taking a chance.

Of course, any one of the front five in the market could win and the chances are that one of them will, but that’s not what this column is all about. Our three against the field, in order of preference, are:

Outstrip (28/1 with William Hill)
Ertijaal (40/1 with 888 Sport)
Shifting Power (50/1 with Bet Bright)

Win or lose, enjoy the race and good luck!

Friday 18 April 2014

Irish Grand National Preview

The Irish Grand National, run over 3 miles 5 furlongs at Fairyhouse, has thrown up winners 50/1, 33/1 (four times), 25/1 and 20/1 in the last 10 years, so looks ideal for some long odds speculation on the part of your correspondent. This year’s renewal, due off at 5.00 p.m. on Monday, April 21, has attracted a maximum field of 30 runners, two-thirds of whom are available at odds of 20/1 or longer in the ante post betting, so we’ve highlighted two or three that could go well at generous odds.

Rich Revival is a horse that we’ve had an eye on for a while, but Elizabeth Doyle’s 10-year-old was pulled up on his next three starts after winning the Leinster National, over 3 miles, at Naas last March. The Welsh National was mooted as a possible target for the Turtle Island gelding at the start of the season, so connections clearly have no concerns about his stamina and, although he’d prefer softer ground, he still looks decent value at 33/1, in a place, in the ante post lists. He showed his first form for over a year when third, beaten 5¼ lengths, behind Allez Vic in a handicap hurdle at Navan last month and, although he his chase mark remains 17lb higher than his hurdles mark, he’s only 2lb higher in the weights than when last winning over fences.

Lion Na Bearnai won the Irish Grand National, off 5lb lower mark, two years ago and took advantage of some respite from the handicapper when winning a small rated chase, over 2 miles 5½ furlongs, at Fairyhouse in February. The New Frontier gelding was beaten 50 lengths when fourth of seven behind On His Own in the Grade 2 Bobby Jo Chase back at Fairyhouse three weeks later and a slipping saddle finally put paid to his chances in the Grand National earlier this month but, from a handicapping point-of-view, still looks feasibly weighted for a prominent showing. He’s unlikely to be improving as he enters the twilight of his career, but it would be dangerous to rule him out, especially at 33/1 in the ante post lists.

Once again this week, the bookmakers aren’t giving much away in terms of value, with the outsider of 30 only available at a paltry 50/1 and, even then, only in one place. Nevertheless, another one who looks fair value, notwithstanding the fact that he, too, would appreciate a drop of rain, is Folsom Blues. Conor O’Dwyer’s 7-year-old won on his one and only attempt beyond 3 miles, over 3 miles 4 furlongs at Punchestown in February, and has run creditably in defeat over shorter distances since. He remains 8lb higher in the weights than at Punchestown, but is unexposed over marathon distances and can hopefully relieve our friends the enemy of a bundle at the 25/1 generally available.

The Irish Grand National is the sort of race where you could make ten selections and still not have one in the first half a dozen but, for better for worse, our three against the field this week are:

Folsom Blues (25/1 generally)
Rich Revival (33/1 with Paddy Power)
Lion De Bearnai (33/1 with Paddy Power).

Good luck!

Wednesday 16 April 2014

1:55 Ripon - 17th April

1:55 Ripon (17th April) Micheal Dods has been in great form with his two-year-olds this season. Buccaneers Vault skipped to a narrow success at Beverley when starting at odds of 12/1. Collosium is a son of Showcasing out of a winning mare and cost 20,000euros at the yearling sales. This bay gelding has top apprentice rider Connor Beasley in the saddle, who takes off a valuable five pounds for this competitive maiden stakes. At speculative odds this horse could have fair win and place claims.

Result: Michael Dods continues in good form with his two-year-olds and Collosium ran a cracking race to finish third at odds of 16/1, beaten just over one length. This gelding may have drifted in the betting but held every chance in the final furlong denied by a talented winner in Roudee. If not suffering a slow start Collsium would have good close to winning.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

1:55 Beverley - 16th April

1:55 Beverley (16th April) A ten strong Maiden Auction Stakes over 5f on good ground. Michael Dods is a canny trainer and his two-year-old debutates can often spring a surprise when making their racecourse bow. Buccaneers Vault is a grey son of Aussie Rules out of a group raced mare and cost 16,500euros at the yearling sales. It could be case this horse will enjoy a stiffer test of stamina in time. However, a low draw is a good starting point and is priced at speculative odds could have fair win and place claims.   

Result: Buccaneers Vault won by a head at 12/1. It was easily available at odds of 20/1 on Betfair. A nice winner for Michael Dods, and a strong-looking juvenile.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Scottish Grand National Preview

The Scottish Grand National, run over 4 miles 110 yards, is the highlight of this Saturday’s card at Ayr and the presence of Tidal Bay, who concedes 19lb and upwards to his rivals, means that eighteen of the thirty runners race from out of the handicap. However, Joes Edge (2005) won at 20/1 from 5lb out of the handicap and Iris De Balme (2008) won at 66/1 from 26lb out of the handicap, so we shouldn’t necessarily be afraid of backing horses carrying more weight than that to which they’re entitled at long odds.

The first one that took our eye this week was actually the second reserve, Scotswell, who beat subsequent winner Fentara in a decent handicap chase, over 3 miles 2 furlongs, at Kelso three weeks ago and ran well when second, beaten 6 lengths, in the Scottish Borders National, over 4 miles, on the same course in December. However, even if he gets into the race, he’ll be 16lb ‘wrong’ at the weights, so even the 50/1 available generally doesn’t look overly generous. He’s actually 19lb worse off for 16 lengths with Green Flag on their running at Newcastle in November so, believe me, the bookmakers are giving nothing away.

More realistically, perhaps, last year’s winner Godsmejudge is available at 18/1, in a place, in the ante post lists and clearly has a chance of landing a notable double. Alan King’s 8-year-old was a promising fifth, beaten 4½ lengths, behind subsequent Grand National fourth, Alvarado, on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham in November, but was pulled up on his next two starts. He reportedly suffered a setback on his latest start at Doncaster six weeks ago but, if fully recovered, he can make his presence felt off a handicap mark just 6lb higher than last year. The ability to hold a prominent position is a definite advantage around the twists and turns of Ayr and, in that respect, Godsmejudge makes no little appeal.

At longer odds, last season’s Durham National winner, Lackamon, fell on his belated seasonal debut over 2 miles 4 furlongs at Ayr last month, but has had a couple of runs over hurdles in the last fortnight to put him right for this and appears to have a decent shout at 28/1. He remains 9lb higher in the weights than when winning at Sedgefield in April and Ryan Mania, who won on him that day, prefers Fill The Power, but he’s only 1lb out of the handicap and clearly stays all day.

Even at 50/1 with a run, Scotswell appears to have little or no chance at the weights but, bearing in mind that we could’ve said the same thing about Iris De Balme a few years ago, it would be folly to leave him out of calculations on that basis alone. So, in summary, our three against the field this week are, in order of preference:

Godsmejudge (18/1 with Sporting Bet)
Lackamon (28/1 with Sporting Bet)
Scotswell (50/1 generally)

Thursday 3 April 2014

Crabbie’s Grand National Preview

The quality of the entries for the Crabbie’s Grand National has risen in recent years, such that fifteen of the runners in this year’s renewal, due off at 4.15 p.m. on Saturday, are officially rated 147 or higher. However, the increase in quality hasn’t prevented horses at 33/1 (twice), 66/1 and 100/1 from winning the Aintree marathon since 2004, so we’ve thrown our hat into the ring with three or four we think could go well at fanciful odds.

Of course, Sue Smith won the National last year with the now retired Auroras Encore, but the West Yorkshire trainer has realistic chances of landing a notable double with Mister Moonshine (50/1) or Vintage Star (50/1).

Mister Moonshine is the choice of last year’s winning jockey, Ryan Mania and, although pulled up four out behind stable companion Auroras Encore in last year’s National, can reasonably be expected to do better this time around. He stayed on well from the elbow when third, beaten 2¾ lengths, in the Becher Chase, over 3 miles 2 furlongs, on the National Course in December and has won two of his three starts since. He’s gone up 16lbs in the weights as a result, but the way he rallied when second in the Premier Chase, over 2 miles 7½ furlongs, at Kelso last month suggests he remains competitive off his revised handicap mark. He has his stamina to prove, but likes to race on, or close to, the pace and should go well for a long way.

Stable companion Vintage Star weakened in the closing stages when only sixth, beaten 13½ lengths, behind Mountainous in the Welsh National, over 3 miles 5½ furlongs at Chepstow in December on his one and only attempt at a marathon trip. However, that performance came on heavy going and, unlike Mountainous, he’s also won on good and good to soft going, so he may be capable of better granted faster underfoot conditions. Like Mister Moonshine, his stamina for the extreme distance of 4 miles 3½ furlongs is a complete unknown and he comes into the race on the back of a fall, which isn’t ideal but, at 50/1, he may be worth chancing.

It’s disappointing that, of forty runners (forty-four, including reserves), not one is on offer at odds longer than 100/1 in the ante post lists. However, One In A Milan is available at 100/1, in a place, so by way of cocking a snook at the skinflint bookmakers, we’re putting up Evan Williams’ 9-year-old as our third and final National pick. In fact, the Milan gelding ran well when fourth in the Welsh National and should be spot on for this after two ‘sighters’ over hurdles at Chepstow, so is by no means a forlorn hope. Vale of Glamorgan trainer Evan Williams saddled Cappa Bleu to finish second in the National last year and fourth the year before so, even on ground probably faster than ideal, One In A Milan is worth including, if only for pure devilment.

In summary, our three against the field in the Grand National are, in no particular order, Mister Moonshine (50/1 with Boylesports and Ladbrokes), Vintage Star (50/1 with Boylesports and Sporting Bet) and One In A Milan (100/1 with Boylesports). Fill your boots boys.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

2:55 Lingfield - 3rd April

2:55 Lingfield (3rd April) BOOKMAKERS.CO.UK MEDIAN AUCTION MAIDEN STAKES (CLASS 5) (2yo) Winner £2,727 10 runners 5f Standard

Johnny Sorrento made a poor start to his racing career when finishing last on debut when competing at Doncaster in the Brocklesby Conditions Stakes. This son of Zamindar was backed from 25/1 - 16/1 just before the off but a slow start put pay to any chances. Tim Pitt (pictured) rather tempted fate saying the horses wouldn't finish last and connections were clearly expecting much better at Town Moor. This American home bred colt has been described by his trainer as ''an honest little colt who keeps stepping up to the plate in his work''. He was sent to Wolverhampton the Tuesday before the Brocklesby and had stalls work on the Wednesday as part of his pre-education. The stable were disappointed to returned from Doncaster with a duck egg after his name. A quick return to the course suggest there is better to come. Many two-year-olds run poorly on debut and it is sometimes a strange factor that the worse they look the better they go second start. Experience counts for a lot this time of year and Johnny Sorrento could well put that first race behind him. Better is expected today at huge odds. For more trainer websites, quotes and insider information visit Horse Trainer Directory.

Result:  Johnny Sorrento was backed from 25/1 - 10/1sp with bookmakers, after touching 40/1+ on Betfair. Ran a great race, finished second behind easy winner Cheerio Sweetie. 

Thursday 27 March 2014

Lincoln Handicap Preview

The Lincoln Handicap, run over a mile at Doncaster, is traditionally the highlight of the opening Saturday of the British Flat season. This year’s renewal, due off at 3.50 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, has attracted a maximum field of 22 runners and, as usual, presents a thorny problem for punters to solve. Indeed, the Lincoln Handicap has proved a positive race for outsiders in recent years, with winners at 16/1, 20/1 (twice), 22/1 and 25/1 since 2004, so we’ve short-listed two or three that could belie generous odds by running well.

The first one that takes the eye is David Barron’s 7-year-old Tres Corona (20/1), who made a promising return to action when ninth of thirteen, beaten 4¼ lengths, behind Whispering Warrior in the Lincoln Trial Handicap at Wolverhampton three weeks ago. He’s entitled to improve for that run, his first since September, and is 5lb better off with the winner this time around. Admittedly, he’s 13lb higher in the weights than when winning at Chester last May, but he was only beaten 2 lengths in the Cambridgeshire off a 3lb lower mark on his final start last season, so he could still be feasibly weighted. Any rain on Town Moor would be in his favour and, interestingly, he’s reunited with Philip Makin, who was the last jockey to win on him.

At even longer odds, Sweet Lightning (33/1), joined North Yorkshire trainer David O’Meara from Johnny Murtagh in December and has been campaigned, without distinction, at Meydan over the winter. However, the Fantastic Light gelding should be fit as a flea and returns to turf off a 2lb lower mark than when winning the Irish Lincolnshire at the Curragh at this time last year. Of course, the 9-year-old also won the Lincoln Handicap, off a 6lb higher mark, back in 2011 so, if he’s been rejuvenated by his astute trainer, he could be far from a forlorn hope in his attempt to win the race for a second time.

The one really ‘dark’ horse in the field is Jonjo O’Neill’s 4-year-old Unsinkable (33/1), who’s on a retrieval mission after finishing last of eleven, beaten 16½ lengths, on his reappearance at Lingfield four weeks ago. The Verglas gelding has clearly had his problems, but his form in Listed races at Lingfield and Newmarket last season suggests that his current handicap mark of 95 is fair enough, especially with leading apprentice Jason Hart taking off a further 3lb, and he’s another who could surprise some better fancied rivals. In fact , a return to the form that saw him beaten 4½ lengths by subsequent Winter Derby runner-up Windhoek in the Newmarket Stakes last May could make his current odds look very generous indeed by teatime on Saturday.

In summary, the Lincoln Handicap is, as ever, fiercely competitive, but our three against the field are Tres Coronas (20/1 generally), Sweet Lightning (33/1 with Totesport and William Hill) and Unsinkable (33/1 with Bet365 and Bet Victor). Good luck!