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Thursday 17 December 2015

3:35 Ascot, Saturday 19th December

Two miles, 21 runners and soft, possibly heavy, sway the Ladbroke firmly in favour of the bookmakers, but that’s not really a problem for us, because we’re always looking to slip one ‘under the radar’ in any case.

Gordon Elliot has won two of the last three renewals of the Ladbroke, so it’s a little surprising that his representative this year, Vercingetorix, is running ‘loose’ at 33/1. Closer inspection reveals that the 4-year-old has been well beaten on both attempts in handicaps, including at Fairyhouse three weeks ago, off lower handicap marks, so his chance is less than obvious. Conditional jockey Jack Kennedy takes off 5lb but, even so, it’s hard to make a case for the Dylan Thomas gelding on the form book. Nevertheless, he’s worth including by virtue of his connections alone.

Bidourey (33/1) won his first five starts, including two over hurdles, but was pulled-up when favourite for the William Hill Imperial Cup at Sandown in March and made no show behind Old Guard on his reappearance at Cheltenham last month. The son of Voix Du Nord is in danger of becoming a forgotten horse but, with plenty of winning form under testing conditions, he remains one to keep on the right side.

Devilment (20/1) has run creditably in defeat on both starts since winning at Cheltenham in October, but probably needs to be Champion Hurdle class to win the Ladbroke off a handicap mark of 150. Aidan Coleman switches allegiance to his promising, but inexperienced, stable companion Galizi (25/1) and the hint may be worth taking, albeit that the Dansili gelding has yet to race on properly soft going.

Selections: Ascot 3.35 Vercingetorix (33/1), Bidourey (33/1), Galizi (25/1)

Thursday 10 December 2015

Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, 1:50 Cheltenham, 12th December

The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (1.50) is run over nearly the same distance (2 miles 4 furlongs and 166 yards) as the Paddy Power Gold Cup four weeks ago, so it’s no surprise that five of the first six home in the Paddy Power Gold Cup reoppose at Cheltenham on Saturday. It’s no surprise, either, that the quintet dominate the betting but, with ten other runners in opposition and the bookmakers betting 8/1 the field, a turn-up isn’t entirely out of the question.

The last time Turn Over De Sivola (25/1) ran in handicap on properly soft going, he finished fifth of 20, beaten 7¼ lengths, behind Next Sensation in the Grand Annual Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March, off a 2lb higher mark. The Assessor gelding has yet to win beyond an extended 2 miles, but his limited attempts over further haven’t proved altogether conclusive, so he may not fail entirely through lack of stamina. He made a satisfactory reappearance when fifth of 12, beaten 13 lengths, behind Boondooma over 2 miles on the Old Course at Cheltenham in October and, if can build on that, could go well at a generous price.

It’s fair to say that he’s not progressed as far as once seemed likely to be the case, but the step up in distance could be what he needs at this stage of his career and, if so, he looks well treated on his best form. Jockey Brendan Powell needs to make 10st 1lb, or just 1lb more than his minimum riding weight over the last twelve months, so it’ll be interesting to see how the partnership fares.

Selection: Cheltenham 1.50 Turn Over Sivola (25/1 with Coral) to win

Friday 4 December 2015

1:40 Aintree, Saturday, 5th December

The Becher Chase is run over 3 miles 2 furlongs on the Grand National Course at Aintree including, of course, Becher’s Brook, from which the race takes it name. The race hasn’t thrown up as many long-priced winners as you might expect, but winners at 33/1, 25/1 (twice) and 14/1 (twice) in the last ten years provide plenty of cause for optimism as far as this column in concerned.

Dare To Endeavour (50/1) hasn’t shown much in three starts for Eric McNamara since being transferred from Tom George in August, but it’s interesting that the Co. Limerick trainer is sending the Alflora gelding back across the Irish Sea for this valuable contest. The 8-year-old hasn’t won since early last year, but is only 1lb higher than his last winning mark and has winning form at up to 3 miles on soft and heavy going, so wouldn’t be without a chance if able to recapture his best form over these unique fences. The booking of Grand National winning jockey Liam Treadwell, who’s riding close to his minimum weight over the last twelve months, at 10st 2lb, adds to his appeal.

No Planning (16/1) ran creditably in defeat when third of ten, beaten 13 lengths, behind Vieux Lion Rouge over 3 miles at Haydock two weeks ago and makes no little appeal from a handicapping perspective. Sue Smith’s 8-year-old has been dropped 2lb in the weights and now races off the same handicap mark as when last successful over fences, at Haydock early last season, so could go well if taking to the National fences. Again, the Kayf Tara gelding has plenty of winning form on soft and heavy going up to 3 miles 1 furlong, so could be a shade overpriced.

Portrait King (20/1) was still with the leaders, albeit being pushed along, when falling at the third last in the Grand National last April, and his experience of the fences should stand him in good stead this time around. Now a 10-year-old, he was pulled up over 3 miles at Bangor-on-Dee last month on his debut for new trainer Patrick Griffiths, but is consequently 8lb lower in the weights than on his last visit to Aintree. He’s equally effective at this shorter distance, so his chance may not be as forlorn as his odds suggest.

Selections: Aintree 1.40 Dare To Endeavour (50/1), No Planning (16/1), Portrait King (20/1)

Thursday 26 November 2015

3:00 Newbury, Saturday, 28th November

The Hennessy Gold Cup, run over 3 miles 2 furlongs at Newbury, is the first major staying chase of the season and, often, a bona fide trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Fittingly, the race doesn’t have a habit of throwing up long-priced winners and doesn’t feature too many horses that can be written off completely. In fact, a handicap rating of 139 required to make it into the 17-strong field this year, so not even the complete ‘rag’, Al Co (100/1) can be totally discounted.

Splash Of Ginge (50/1) completely lost his way last season after winning a competitive chase, over 2 miles 5 furlongs, at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, but offered signs of encouragement when seventh of 20, beaten 11½ lengths, behind Annacotty in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham two weeks ago. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ 7-year-old has yet to race, never mind win, beyond 2 miles 5 furlongs over fences, but has winning form on good to soft, soft and heavy going. He remains 4lb higher in the weights than at Cheltenham, but talented conditional jockey Jamie Bargary takes off 5lb so, if he stays, he could run well above expectations.

Fox Appeal (50/1) won twice over 3 miles over hurdles and appears to have improved a little for steeping up to 3 miles, and beyond, over fences. While his placed form at Cheltenham and Ascot doesn’t suggest that he’s readymade winner-in-waiting, the step up to 3 miles 2 furlongs on soft going could be the making of him and the bookmakers may have seriously underestimated his chance. Emma Lavelle traditionally does well at this time of year, so the son of St. Leger winner Brian Boru could be cause for further celebration by the Hampshire trainer.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ other entry, Benbens (40/1), is obviously no spring chicken at the age of ten, but has winning form over 3 miles 1 furlong on soft going and is only 5lb higher in the weights than when winning at Aintree in October, so appeals as another who’s overpriced. He’ll need a career-best effort to win, but that’s by no means out of the question, having won with something in hand at Aintree.

Selections: Newbury 3.00 Splash Of Ginge (50/1), Fox Appeal (50/1), Benbens (40/1)

Friday 20 November 2015

2.25 Haydock, Saturday, November 21

The Betfair “Tap Tap Boom” “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle, run over 2 miles 6 furlongs and 77 yards at Haydock, is a fairly recent addition to the National Hunt calendar, but is invariably highly competitive. At the time of writing, all bar five of the 16-strong field declared for this year’s renewal are trading at 12/1 or longer, so a long-priced winner is a distinct possibility.

The first one that catches our eye is One For Harry (20/1), who was still well in contention when falling at the fourth last in this race last year and is just 2lb higher in the weights this time around. Indeed, the Generous gelding recorded a career-best effort when beating Shotavodka by half a length over 2 miles 4 furlongs on his seasonal reappearance at Ayr earlier this month, so comes into the race at the top of his game. Nicky Richards’ 7-year-old has yet to win over this far, but has won over 2 miles 4 furlongs on testing courses such as Carlisle and Hexham, including on soft going, so shouldn’t be inconvenienced by an extra three furlongs or so.

David Pipe makes life difficult by saddling two, but it’s interesting that stable jockey Tom Scudamore has chosen Batavir (20/1) over stable companion Low Key (20/1). The Muhatthir gelding could only finish ninth of 16, beaten 16 lengths, behind Ron’s Dream over regulation hurdles at Cheltenham last week, but he makes a quick reappearance and his experience over hurdles based on the French design should stand him in good stead. He remains 7lb higher in the weights than when winning over 2 miles 5½ furlongs at Wincanton on Boxing Day, but only beat a retreat after the second last at Cheltenham at may be a different proposition this time. Certainly, he’ll relish testing conditions.

Selections: One For Harry (20/1 with Paddy Power), Batavir (20/1 with Paddy Power)

Friday 13 November 2015

2:25 Cheltenham, Saturday, November 14

The Paddy Power Gold Cup is the first major handicap chase of the season but, despite its competitive nature, hasn’t thrown up many long-priced winners in recent years. However, history is, as they say, in the past, so we’ve continued undaunted in our quest for a few that we think could go well at rewarding odds.

The first one that jumps off the page is Malcolm Jefferson’s progressive 7-year-old Oscar Rock, who can be backed at 16/1 in a couple of places. The son of high-class jumps stallion Oscar has only had five starts over fences, but travelled beautifully and won as he pleased on his seasonal debut at Market Rasen 7 weeks ago. He’s only finished outside the first three once in 13 completed starts, acts on any ground and looks excellent value to defy an 8lb rise in the weights.

Darna (25/1) has been off the course since April, but had been absent for over two years prior to winning on his seasonal debut at Sedgefield last November, so probably doesn’t take much preparation. Kim Bailey’s 9-year-old is closely handicapped with Monetaire and Buywise on their running at the Cheltenham Festival last March, but is twice the price of either of his rivals, so looks good value-for-money. He has an excellent wins-to-runs ratio and appears best fresh, so his price is something of a mystery.

For a horse that’s never won beyond 2 miles 5 furlongs, Double Ross (20/1) ran an eye-catching race over 3 miles at Ascot two weeks ago, running on under pressure from the second last to take second place once the race was effectively over. The son of Double Eclipse hasn’t won for a while, but back at a more suitable distance on a track where he’s won three times in the past he could surprise a few better-fancied rivals.

Selections: Cheltenham 2.25 Oscar Rock, Darna, Double Ross

Thursday 12 November 2015

3.25 Cheltenham, Friday, November 13

The Opus Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (3.25) at Cheltenham on Friday is numerically the most competitive race on the first day of the Open Meeting and, with plenty of winning form on offer, may take some winning.

Trendsetter made a promising start to his hurdling career when third of nine, beaten 1¾ lengths, in a maiden hurdle at Wetherby on Boxing Day and, although failin to build on that effort in two subsequent starts, he’s shown improved form on the Flat in recent months. The prevailing good going should suit him and he starts life in handicaps off a fairly lowly mark if able to translate his recent improvement back to hurdles.

At the other end of the handicap, French import Baraka De Thaix also made a promising hurdling debut when third of nine, beaten 2 lengths, behind Golden Doyen in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham last November. The Dom Alco gelding subsequently finished well beaten in the JCB Triumph Hurdle proper, in which he jumped poorly, but remains one to keep an eye on, despite the ‘steadier’ of 11st 12lb on his handicap debut.

Lightly-raced 7-year-old A Hare Breath has been off the course for nearly two years and was only recently transferred to Ben Pauling from Nick Gifford. However, the winning point-to-pointer showed decent form behind Irving (now rated 162) and Josses Hill (now rated 158) on his two starts under rules and could be extraordinarily well handicapped if retaining his ability. Of course, he’s obviously had his problems, so he’s not with risks, but that’s what this column is all about and he’s too tempting to resist.

Selections: Cheltenham 3.25 Trendsetter, Baraka De Thaix, A Hare Breath

Thursday 5 November 2015

3:30 Doncaster, Saturday, November 7th

The Betfred November Handicap, run over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Doncaster, has produced winners at 20/1 (twice), 14/1 (twice) and 10/1 in the last ten years and, with a maximum field of 23 runners going to post on Saturday, is the perfect way for us to bid farewell to the Flat racing season.

Litigant (16/1) has already done this column a favour this season, when returning from a 16-month absence to win the Betfred Ebor, over 1 mile 6 furlongs, at York in August at odds of 33/1. Joseph Tuite’s 7-year-old has run just once since, when ninth of thirteen, beaten 9¼ lengths, behind Flying Officer in the Group 2 Qipco British Champions Cup at Ascot three weeks ago, but hardly had the run of the race on that occasion. He should be suited by Town Moor, especially on soft going, and it’ll be fascinating to see how he goes back at 1 mile 4 furlongs off his revised mark. Oisin Murphy, who won on him at York, has been claimed by Qatar Racing for Argus, but George Baker, who won on him twice for previous trainer Seamus Durack, is an able deputy.

Storm Force Ten (16/1) ran inexplicably badly when last of eleven, beaten 7¾ lengths, behind Argus over course and distance two weeks ago, but was entitled to have needed that run, his first since May, and may be capable of much better. Certainly, his early-season form with subsequent Chester Cup and Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris entitles him to respect and he was, frankly, just too bad to be true last time.

Seamour (12/1) doesn’t really fall into the ‘outsider’ category in race where the major bookmakers bet 6/1 the field and 12/1 bar two, but Brian Ellison’s decision to run him here, rather than in the Cesarewitch, over 2 miles 2 furlongs, at Newmarket in September could be a shrewd move. The Azamour gelding weakened in the closing stages of the Doncaster Cup when last seen in September and, although his recent wins have come over 2 miles, he may not be unduly inconvenienced by dropping back in distance, especially on soft going.

So, there you go Flat racing fans, in our final ‘tilt’ of the 2014/15 season, our three against the field are, in no particular order, Litigant (16/1), Storm Force Ten (16/1) and Seamour (12/1). Good luck!

Thursday 29 October 2015

4.20 Newmarket, Saturday, October 31

The TurfTV Handicap (4.20) at Newmarket on Saturday is less prestigious than the races we typically examine in this column, but larger fields on the Flat and going changes increase the likelihood of ‘surprise’ winners at this time of year, so it looks an ideal contest for us.

Popeswood appears to be a difficult horse to catch right, to which his career record of two wins from 23 starts bears testament, but both those wins came over 7 furlongs with cut in the ground and he’s well handicapped on the pick of his juvenile form. In fact, he’s 3lb lower in the weights than when winning, in this grade, at Goodwood last October, so would appear to have every chance if anywhere near his best. Of course, that’s a big “if”, because he’s not looked a readymade winner-in-waiting on recent starts, but he popped at Goodwood after a couple of indifferent efforts and could do so again.

Piceno is on a losing run of seventeen stretching back to a year ago last April, but is consequently just 1lb higher in the weights than when winning a 0-75 contest, over 7 furlongs on soft going, at Catterick and is another who’d have a squeak on the pick of his form. He’s been off the course since April, which is an obvious cause for concern, but he’d earlier run creditably in defeat over 7 furlongs at Catterick, including in a 0-90 contest, so it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if he went well off a 1lb lower mark.

Robert Winston doesn’t have too many rides for David O’Meara, but has a very healthy 4-16 (25%) strike rate for the Nawton trainer over the last five seasons, rising to 3-7 (43%) on older horses for the yard in the same period. His booking for Zacynthus, who only joined O’Meara in July, is one reason that the 7-year-old is a must for our shortlist. The Iffraaj gelding was only beaten 1½ lengths in a 0-90 contest at Ayr on his penultimate start and, although beaten out of sight at York last time, has an obvious chance off a 1lb higher mark.

Selections: 4.20 Newmarket Popeswood, Piceno, Zacynthus

Friday 23 October 2015

2.35 Doncaster, Saturday, October 24

The 2% Commission Handicap (2.35) at Doncaster looks to have every chance of throwing up a ‘surprise’ winner, so we’ve cast an eye over a few less-obvious candidates for the £28,012.50 first prize money.

Course and distance winner Robot Boy looked set for another decent season when winning a  0-110 contest, off a handicap mark of 103, at Newbury back in April, but has failed to add to his winning tally in eight subsequent starts and finish stone cold last over 6 furlongs at York two weeks ago. Nevertheless, he’s undeniably well handicapped, well drawn and should appreciate dropping back to the minimum trip if anywhere near his best.

Desert Ace won three times during his 3-year-old season, but he’s another who’s paid for his success and is winless in nine subsequent starts. However, the handicap has dropped him 7lb since the start of the season, such that he’s 2lb lower in the weights than when winning at Goodwood at around this time last year. He seems versatile with regard to underfoot conditions and could provide a notable Saturday winner for Hayley Turner, who hangs up her riding boots at the end of the season.

Pearl Acclaim is another who’s dropped back close to his last winning mark, insofar as he’s just 1lb higher in the weights than when winning at Musselburgh in the summer. He probably doesn’t want any rain, but ran a little better than his finishing position suggests at Catterick a week ago and could pop up at a ‘silly’ price. Good luck!

Selections: Doncaster 2.35 Robot Boy, Desert Ace, Pearl Acclaim

Wednesday 21 October 2015

3.10 Doncaster, Friday, October 23

The Racing Post/SIS Betting Manager Handicap (3.10) at Doncaster on Friday, a 6-furlong contest featuring 22 runners, gives us something to work with and, as usual, we’ve highlighted a couple that we think could go well at rewarding odds.

Jamaica Bolt has failed to trouble the judge in five outings this term, but is consequently 1lb lower in the weights than when winning this race last year, on the prevailing good to soft going, so must be of interest once again. The Pivotal gelding is 3-31 on turf, which probably tells you all you need to know about, but is clearly capable enough on his day. Stall 1 is less than ideal, but he has everything lese in his favour and it would be unwise to right him off on the basis of an unfavourable track position alone.

Last year’s sixth, Mass Rally, is 14lb lower in the weights than last year and, consequently, 10lb better off for the 3½ lengths he finished behind Jamaica Bolt, which should be enough to reverse the form, particularly as he’s better drawn than his old rival, in stall 12, on this occasion. He’s on a losing run of 20, stretching back two seasons, so clearly comes with risks attached, but has been there or thereabouts on recent starts and certainly wouldn’t be winning out of turn.

Selections: Doncaster 3.10 Jamaica Bolt, Mass Rally

Friday 16 October 2015

3:45, Ascot, Saturday, 17th October

The Balmoral Handicap, nowadays run over the straight mile used for the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot, has only been contested once in its current guise, but is the most valuable race of its kind in Europe and, as such, is fiercely competitive. As ever, we’ve run a rule over the 23-strong field and come up with a few that may have been overlooked by the bookmakers.

As usual, the bookmakers aren’t taking any chances, with just one horse, Rene Mathis, available at 33/1 and, even then, only in three places. But for the fact that Richard Fahey’s 5-year-old has run without distinction on all four starts at Ascot, I might have been tempted to include him for pure devilment, but anyway…

Down among the dead men, so to speak, Donncha (25/1) has run well on both starts at Ascot and is just 1lb higher in the weights than when third, beaten 1¼ lengths, in the Gigaset International Stakes over 7 furlongs in July, so must be of interest from a handicapping perspective. The Captain Marvellous colt won over an extended mile, on soft going, at Windsor at around this time last year and is entitled to improve for his run in the Cambridgeshire three weeks ago, so he has plenty going for him.

Balty Boys (20/1) is closely handicapped with Donncha on their running in the Gigaset International Stakes and, although 4lb higher in the weights, went on to win the Group 3 Superior Mile, on good to soft going, at Haydock next time. He was below par on his first attempt on Polytrack at Chelmsford three weeks ago but, while consistency is not necessarily his strong suit, he’s another who looks overpriced.

Professor (25/1) has yet to win beyond 7 furlongs, but has shaped on recent starts as if a mile is what he needs at this stage of his career and rain-softened ground shouldn’t hinder his chance. He’s 8lb better off for the 5 lengths he finished behind Buckstay in the Totescoop6 Challenge Cup, over 7 furlongs, last time and, while that shouldn’t strictly be enough for him to turn the tables, an extra furlong might be enough to make the difference.

Here we go again, in search of untold wealth for a relatively small outlay, with our three against the field, in no particular order, Donncha (25/1 with Boylesports and William Hill), Balty Boys (20/1 with Sky Bet, Boylesports and Stan James) and Professor (25/1 generally available). Good luck!

Friday 9 October 2015

3:50 Newmarket, Saturday, October 10

We could hardly say that a 34-runner handicap, over 2 miles 2 furlongs, is an answer to our prayers, but the Cesarewitch Handicap does, at least, provide us with another opportunity for some wild speculation at fancy prices. Two favourites may have won the race in the last ten years, but they were accompanied by winners at 66/1 (twice), 50/1, 25/1, 16/1, 14/1 and 10/1 (twice), so we have no qualms about dabbling in the ‘wrong’ end of the market.

A little surprisingly, Sir Mark Prescott has yet to win a Cesarewitch, but attempts to set the record straight by saddling four runners this year. However, stable jockey Luke Morris has plumped for Moscato (25/1) and we see no reason to argue with him. The Hernando gelding has 7¼ lengths to find with Low Key on their running in the Cesarewitch Trial over course and distance three weeks ago, but is 4lb better off with that rival this time and should improve for that run, his first since May.

Wordiness (40/1) is 3-3 under Silvestre De Sousa, who once again takes the ride, so it would be folly to leave David Evans’ 7-year-old out of calculations. All four of his career wins on turf have come with “firm” in the going description, so connections will be doing a sun dance between now and Saturday afternoon, but the weather at Headquarters is set fair for the rest of the week, so his chance may improve day by day.

Bernard Llewellyn could surely have found Norab (50/1) an easier assignment on his first run for the yard (and his first since May), so the fact that he’s throwing the Galileo gelding in at the deep end may be a hint worth taking. Regular readers will remember that Jospeh Tuite pulled off a similar feat with 33/1 chance Litigant in the Betfred Ebor at York in August so, despite disappointing on his last two starts for Marco Botti, he’s another that you write off at your peril, especially with drying ground in his favour.

It’s probably possible to make a convincing case for at least 25 of the 34 runners but, for richer for poorer, our three against the field are, in no particular order, Moscato (25/1), Wordiness (40/1) and Norab (50/1). Good luck!

Thursday 8 October 2015

3.45 Newmarket, Friday, October 9

The Vision Old Rowley Cup (3.45) at Newmarket on Friday may not throw up any “Future Champions” but does, at least, allow us to have a crack at a 16-runner, 3-year-old handicap featuring several unexposed types.

The one we really like is Al, a Halling colt trained by Luca Cumani. He was far from disgraced when seventh of 18, beaten 4½ lengths, behind Polarisation on his first attempt over 1 mile 6 furlongs at York in August, but may be better judged on his 7-length defeat of Deep Blue Diamond over 1 mile 4 furlongs on the July Course at Newmarket the previous month. He remains 12lb higher in the weights, but his York form suggests he’s far from impossibly handicapped and he can resume winning ways.

Silvestre De Sousa has ridden three winners from eight rides for Luca Cumani during the last five seasons, so his booking can only be viewed as a positive. In fact, in the time it’s taken to write this article, Al has shortened from 14/1 to 12/1, so we’re increasingly confident that we’re barking up the right tree.

Selection: Newmarket 3.45 Al (12/1 with Boylesports, Sporting Bet, Bet Victor and Paddy Power) to win

Thursday 1 October 2015

3.45 Ascot, Saturday, October 3

The Totescoop6 Challenge Cup (3.45), run over 7 furlongs at Ascot, is the betting highlight of the Autumn Meeting at the Berkshire track. With a maximum field of 18 runners, it’s disappointing that just two are on offer at odds longer than 25/1 in the ante post market but, as ever, if you’re backing our selections, it’s worth having a look at what’s available on the betting exchanges, such as Betfair.

Jallota (20/1) remains 6lb higher in the weights than when winning at York in June, but has held his form well and is better off at the weights with recent conquerors Rene Mathis and Mr Win, so shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s hardly a prolific winner – to which his career record of two wins from 26 starts bears testament – but appears versatile with regard to underfoot conditions and again ran highly creditably in defeat when fourth of nine, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Hathal in the Dubai Duty Free Cup at Newbury last time.

Oisin Murphy rode Intransigent (20/1) to win this race, off a 4lb lower mark, last year, but this time opts for Gabriel’s Lad (14/1), whom he rode for the first time when sixth of nine, beaten 3¼ lengths, Dubai Duty Free Cup at Newbury. Strictly speaking, Denis Coakley’s 6-year-old is only 1lb better off for the 1½ lengths he finished behind Jallota on that occasion, but was having just his second run back after more than a year off, so can be expected to strip fitter this time. He’s just 2lb higher in the weights than when convincingly winning the Victoria Cup, over course and distance, last season, so has an obvious chance if anywhere near his best.

Intransigent (20/1) is on a losing run of nine, but is consequently just 4lb higher in the weights than when beating old rival Empire Storm (33/1) by 1½ lengths in this race last year and, with Kieran Shoemark taking off 5lb, has fair prospects once again. The Trans Island gelding has won on good to soft, good and good to firm going, so shouldn’t be hindered by drying conditions in the South East and is well drawn, in stall 16, in his bid to repeat last year’s victory.

Selections: Ascot 3.45 Jallota (20/1 with Paddy Power), Gabriel’s Lad (14/1 with Boylesports, Sporting Bet and Bet Victor) and Intransigent (20/1 generally available)

Friday 25 September 2015

3:50, Newmarket, Saturday, 26

If ever a race was made for this column, the Cambridgeshire, which invariably features a maximum field of 35 runners thundering over 1 mile 1 furlong on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket, is the race. Three favourites have won in the last 10 years, but winners at 40/1, 25/1, 16/1 and 14/1 (twice) in the same period provide plenty of cause for optimism.

Brendan Brackan (50/1) hasn’t won for over a year, but has consequently dropped 7lb in the weights and can race off the same handicap mark as when winning his last handicap, by 8½ lengths, at Galway two seasons ago. Ger Lyons’ 6-year-old showed definite signs of a revival when keeping on to finish fifth of 22, beaten 4¾ lengths, behind Hint Of A Tint in the Tote Irish Cambridgeshire, over a mile, at the Curragh last month. On that showing, an extra furlong won’t do his chances any harm and, while jockey Colin Keane has yet to ride a winner on this side of the Irish Sea, he otherwise has a healthy (24%) strike rate overall for the Co. Meath trainer.

Mistiroc (50/1) picked a good time to record a career-best effort, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at Ayr nine days ago and makes the long journey south from East Renfrewshire with just a 4lb penalty to carry. Jim Goldie’s 4-year-old won his maiden at Hamilton last August over 1 mile 1 furlong on good to soft going so, while he probably needs to improve again to win a race as competitive as this, he’s feasibly weighted and has conditions in his favour.

Fire Fighting (40/1) hasn’t cut much ice in Listed and Pattern company of late, but races off the same mark as when third of 16, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Mount Logan at Goodwood in July on his last attempt in a handicap. He appears to be Mark Johnston’s second string on jockey bookings but, of course, he doesn’t know that and a stiff 1 mile 1 furlong on rain-softened ground should play to his strengths.

Of course, there are plenty with chances but, after a near miss with 50/1 chance Poyle Vinnie in the Ayr Gold Cup last Saturday, our three against the field this week are, in order of preference, Brendan Brackan (50/1), Mistiroc (50/1) and Fire Fighting (40/1). Good luck!

Thursday 24 September 2015

2.30 Newmarket, Friday, September 25

The Princes Royal EBF Nayef Stakes (2.30) at Newmarket on Friday is one of the most competitive races of the day and, although the last four winners were priced at 7/1, 11/4, 7/2 and 3/1, the previous incarnation of the race (at Ascot) produced winners at 20/1, 14/1, 12/1 and 10/1 since the turn of the century.

The one that immediately jumps off the page is Rae Guest’s twice-raced 3-year-old filly Goodyearforroses. The daughter of Azamour made a hugely promising start to her career at Leicester last October, when edging out subsequent Group winners Redstart and Star Of Seville over 7 furlongs. She wasn’t seen again until Newcastle in June, when finishing sixth of 11, beaten 8½ lengths, behind subsequent Darley Irish Oaks winner Covert Love in a Listed contest over 1 mile 2 furlongs.

She has a middle-distance pedigree so, taken a face value, that was a disappointing effort, but it’s conceivable that she simply needed more time to come to herself. In any case, she retains the potential to be very smart indeed and deserves another chance to confirm the favourable impression she created as a juvenile. She was entered in the Investec Oaks at Epsom in June so is, or at least was, held in high regard at home. Her 91-day absence is an obvious worry, but it may just be a question of paying to find out if she’s trained on as anticipated.

Selection: Newmarket 2.30 Goodyearforroses to win

Friday 18 September 2015

15:45, Ayr Gold Cup, Saturday 19

The Ayr Gold Cup, run over 6 furlongs, has produced just one winning favourite since 1980 and all bar four of the winners have started at double-figure odds, so it’s the perfect race for us.

Considering he was beaten a head in the Flying Childers Stakes, over 5 furlongs, at Doncaster last September on his penultimate start as a juvenile, Astrophysics (50/1) is in danger of becoming a forgotten horse, a fact that’s reflected by his ludicrously generous odds. Admittedly, he was turned over, at odds-on, in match on his final juvenile start and made no show in a 0-105 handicap at York on his seasonal reappearance in May, but it’s surely too soon to be writing him off completely. Rain-softened ground is something of an unknown, but it’s conceivable that he’s simply taken time to adapt to his new surroundings, having only joined Ann Duffield from David Elsworth in April and he’s worth a chance to confirm his juvenile promise.

Boom The Groom (33/1) is just 1lb higher in the weights than when winning a 0-105 contest, over 5 furlongs, at Lingfield in February and although three of his four career wins have come on synthetic surfaces, his turf form is not quite as dire as his odds suggest. He ran well off his current mark when third of eight, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Humidor over 5 furlongs at Epsom last time and, although he steps up to 6 furlongs on a more galloping track, he could go well, particularly if there’s any more rain in Ayrshire between now and Saturday afternoon.

Finally, Poyle Vinnie (33/1) did us a favour when winning the Scottish Stewards’ Cup at Hamilton, on soft going, in July and, although beaten three times off revised marks since, he ran a little better at York last time and may appreciate the return to handicap company on a galloping track. He remains 8lb higher in the weights than at Hamilton, but such was his level of superiority on that occasion that he doesn’t appear impossibly handicapped if able to recapture the same level of form. He’s not ideally drawn in stall 4 to execute the front-running tactics that worked so well at Hamilton, but Minalisa finished second from stall 2 last year after racing prominently on the stands’ side, so he’s not without a chance.

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Selections: 3.45 Ayr Astrophysics (50/1), Boom The Groom (33/1), Poyle Vinnie (33/1)

Thursday 17 September 2015

15:05, Ayr, Friday September 18

The Ayr Gold Cup on Saturday and its two consolation races, the Ayr Silver Cup and the Ayr Bronze Cup, means that we have three 25-runner sprint handicaps to analyse this weekend so, frankly, we’re in our element! The Ayr Bronze Cup has only been in existence since 2009, but has produced just one winning favourite, Jack Dexter in 2013, and winners at 18/1, 14/1, 12/1 (twice) and 11/1.

Musley Bank trainer Richard Fahey admits that Supplicant (25/1) is something of an enigma, insofar as the former Mill Reef Stakes winner is apparently catching pigeons at home, but showing next to nothing on the racecourse. The Kyllachy colt is on a losing run of 15, but has tumbled down the handicap as a result and is now 8lb lower in the weights than when beaten a head by Spinatrix in a 0-105 contest at Ripon at the same time last year. It’s interesting that his owners, Cheveley Park Stud, are persevering with him and he’s undeniably well handicapped if he can rediscover some semblance of form.

Rodrigo De Torres (25/1) is with the ninth trainer of his career, but has rediscovered some form since joining Garry Moss in July and is another who could go well at rewarding odds. Not for the first time in his career, he failed to get home over a mile at Musselburgh last time but, while his recent revival has come over 7 furlongs, it wasn’t that long ago that he was winning the Scottish Stewards’ Cup, over 6 furlongs, at Hamilton off a mark of 93. He races here off a mark of 84 so, with rain-softened ground no hindrance to his chance, he may well have been underestimated.

Selections: Ayr 3.05 Supplicant (25/1), Rodrigo De Torres (25/1)

Friday 11 September 2015

14:35, Doncaster, Saturday September 12

Another Saturday, another maximum field sprint handicap to mull over, this week the Ladbrokes Portland, run over 5 furlongs and 140 yards on the flat, wide expanses of Town Moor, Doncaster. Two favourites have won the Portland in the last ten years, but the other eight winners in that period were priced at 20/1 (three times), 16/1, 14/1 (twice) and 11/1 (twice), so it’s a race to which we look forward.

Right at the foot of the weights, Indescribable (33/1) has finished stone cold last on his two most recent starts, but has now run poorly on all six starts with cut in the ground and, back on a sound surface, doesn’t look impossibly handicapped. On his last start in a handicap on fast ground, he stayed on well to finish eighth of twenty-seven, beaten 4 lengths, in the Sprint Stakes, over 6 furlongs, at Goodwood and is 3lb lower in the weights here. He’s done all his winning over 5 furlongs and has the services of Silvestre De Sousa, who has a 24% strike rate for the yard this season.

Gran Canaria Queen (25/1) is another who’s done all her winning on good, or faster, going so, having run respectably on soft ground, off a 1lb higher mark, at Ripon four weeks ago, she’s another who could stage a revival back on a sound surface. All her recent wins have come over 6 furlongs, but she’s won and been placed over 5 furlongs in the past, so this intermediate distance should suit her well enough.

Pipers Note (20/1) has already won three times this season, improving 9lb in the process and, while his recent efforts in handicaps suggest he might just be in the grip of the handicapper, his form figures over 5 furlongs read 010115. In any case, he’s still only 4lb higher in the weights than when winning over 6 furlongs at Ripon in April, so with underfoot conditions to suit it’s not difficult to imagine him being in the shake-up.

Selections: Indescribable (33/1), Grand Canaria Queen (25/1), Pipers Note (20/1)

Thursday 10 September 2015

4.40 Sandown, Friday, September 11

The Inkerman London Handicap (4.40) at Sandown on Friday is one of the most competitive races of the day and it’s interesting that Newmarket trainer Denis Quin, who’s yet to saddle a runner at the Esher track, has chosen it for his three-year-old Unnoticed. The son of top-class miler Observatory has failed to cut much ice on two recent visits to the July Course at Newmarket, but ran well on both starts at Beverley, including in this grade, in between and may be ready to record his first win on turf.

His third of six, beaten a nose and a neck, in a 0-85 contest at the East Riding course on his penultimate start suggested that he’d be more than capable of winning in the near future and, off a 1lb lower mark – not to mention Noel Garbutt’s 5lb claim – today could be his day. Win or lose, he’s undeniably well handicapped and, at a standout 33/1 with Coral, he’s too big a price to resist.

Selection: Sandown 4.40 Unnoticed (33/1 with Coral) to win

Thursday 3 September 2015

15:45 Haydock Sprint Cup, Saturday 5th September

The Haydock Sprint Cup, run over 6 furlongs, is the biggest flat race of the season at the Lancashire track and invariably features a maximum field. Three favourites have won the Group 1 contest in the last 10 years, but winners at 14/1 (twice), 12/1, 11/1 and 10/1 in the same period provide cause for optimism as far as this column is concerned.

Eastern Impact (25/1) doesn’t have much to find with the principals from a ratings perspective and his sole attempt in Group 1 company yielded a third place, beaten just 1½ lengths, in the July Cup at Newmarket, so it’s a mystery why he’s such a big price. He has winning form over 6 furlongs on good to firm, good and good to soft going, so should run his race whatever the weather on Merseyside between now and Saturday afternoon and comes into the race on the back of a win at Chester.

Waady (16/1) is another who fully deserves his place in the field and, although yet to win over 6 furlongs, has shown an explosive turn of foot to win his last two starts over the testing 5 furlongs at Sandown and the faster they go the better for him. He has 4¾ lengths to find with Adaay on their running at Newbury in May, but appears to have decent prospects of reversing the form.

Watchable (25/1) is becoming expensive to follow, but only finished half a length behind Gordon Lord Byron (8/1) in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville last month, but is available at three times the price. Trainer David O’Meara complicates matters by also declaring last year’s winner G Force (12/1), so if he opts for one or the other the hint may be worth taking.

Selections: Eastern Impact (25/1 with BetVictor, 888Sport and Betfair Sportsbook), Waady (16/1with Sky Bet, Paddy Power, 888Sport and 32Red) and Watchable (25/1 generally available).

Thursday 27 August 2015

2:20 Beverley Bullet Sprint Stakes, Saturday 29th August

The pronounced bias towards horses drawn low, on the inside, over 5 furlongs at Beverley is well known to punters and bookmakers alike and invariably influences the betting on the Beverley Bullet Sprint Stakes.

In fact, the eleven winners of the race so far were drawn 1, 2, 1, 9, 2, 4, 1, 9, 8, 7 and 6 so, while it seems obvious that we should concentrate on horses drawn in single figures, we may struggle to find selections that are anything but realistically priced.

Confessional (50/1) finished third, beaten 1½ lengths, in this race three seasons ago from stall 12, but it’s testament to his deterioration in the interim that he was rated 106 on that occasion and is rated just 84 today. A career record of five wins from 82 starts, none of which have come at Listed level, probably tells you all you need to know about Tim Easterby’s eight-year-old and he surely has too much to find, even from the plum draw in
stall 1.

Similar comments apply to Tangerine Trees (25/1), who won this race and the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp as a six-year-old, but has officially deteriorated by 17lb since those halcyon days and is hard to fancy. He did manage to beat fellow veteran Borderlescott, on advantageous terms, in a small conditions race at Ayr in April, but his more recent form is less inspiring.

Of the others drawn in single figures, Line Of Reason (6/1), Maarek (5/1), Alben Star (6/1) and Dikta Del Mar (10/1) don’t fall into the ‘outsider’ category so, we’re left with Holley Shiftwell (14/1), Red Pike (12/1) and Cordial (25/1).

All three of them have work to do to beat the principals on official ratings but, while he’s raced just once (without success) over 5 furlongs, Red Pike has a decent strike rate for a sprinter and has plenty of winning form over 6 furlongs on the prevailing good going. He’ll probably need a career-best effort to win but, in a race where the market leaders look far from ‘bomb-proof’, he’s our tentative selection.

Selection: Beverley 2.20 Red Pike (12/1 generally available) to win

Wednesday 26 August 2015

8.45 Wolverhampton, Thursday, August 27

In the Compare Odds @ Handicap (8.45) at Wolverhampton on Thursday evening, Zed Candy Girl has won twice over course and distance and is just 2lb higher in the weights than on the second occasion, in June, so has an obvious chance from a handicapping point-of-view. The Sakhee’s Secret mare failed to make much of an impact on two subsequent starts in 0-70 and 0-75 company, at Chepstow and over course and distance, but ran a little better when fifth of eleven, beaten 4¾ lengths, in 0-65 company at Lingfield last time.

Back over 7 furlongs, on Tapeta rather than Polytrack, Daniel Mark Loughrane’s five-year-old looks worth chancing, particularly at the standout 20/1 available from Stan James in the early price lists. Winning jockey George Baker, who’s 1-2 on her, once again takes off a useful 3lb, so there appears no reason why she shouldn’t go well at a decent price.

Selection: Wolverhampton 8.45 Zed Candy Girl (20/1 with Stan James) to win

If you're looking for further selections why not check out this week's deadly double on our new blog.

Outsider Update

Here's hoping that you all got on the our Outsider suggestions for the Ebor with winner Litigant suggested at a massive 40-1 (33-1 SP) and Suegioo at 33-1 (40-1 SP) coming in 3rd. Two out of three ain't bad!!  Keep an eye out for our next update!

1st     20 Litigant                33/1
2nd    15 Wicklow Brave     9/1
3rd     10 Suegioo               40/1

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Thursday 20 August 2015

Ebor, 3:45 York, Saturday, August 22

The Betfred Ebor, run over 1 mile 6 furlongs at York, is the most valuable Flat handicap in Europe, with £275,000 in guaranteed prize money, and is invariably fiercely competitive. As usual, a maximum field of twenty runners is set to face the starter on Saturday and, with winners at 100/1, 25/1 (three times), 20/1, 14/1, and 12/1 in the last ten years, our search for a generously priced winner may not be entirely in vain.

Berkshire trainer Joseph Tuite could surely have found Litigant (40/1) an easier opportunity on his debut for the yard, after 491 days off, and the 7-year-old is an interesting contender on that score alone. The Sinndar gelding won a couple of races on turf for Andre Fabre in France as a 3-year-old and three more on the all-weather for Seamus Durack as a 5- and 6-year-old before joining his current yard in May.

He’s 9lb higher than when last winning a handicap, at Wolverhampton two seasons ago, but won by 3½ lengths, eased down, on that occasion, so may not be impossibly handicapped if fit and ready to do himself justice. Of course, the lengthy lay-off is a cause for concern and his ability to act on rain-softened ground is an unknown, but he’s run well after similar breaks in the past and could, conceivably, be open to improvement after just seven career starts.

Last year’s Chester Cup winner, Suegioo (33/1), probably needs further than 1 mile 6 furlongs and/or testing conditions and/or an end-to-end gallop to bring his abundant stamina into play, but was beaten far in the John Smith’s Northumberland Plate or the Coral Marathon on his two most recent starts and may not be a totally forlorn hope. The Manduro gelding has looked a difficult ride on more than occasion but, if first-time blinkers have the desired effect, he may be capable of springing a surprise.

Watersmeet (25/1) has yet to win beyond 1 mile 4 furlongs, but showed no signs of stopping when just touched off by stable companion Notarised in the Old Newton Cup at Haydock two starts ago. That performance proved his effectiveness on rain-softened ground and he was far from disgraced when stepped up to Group 3 level at Goodwood last time. His overall profile is highly progressive, yet the bookmakers appear, almost, to have written off his chances.

Watersmeet (25/1 generally available) has to be our first pick this week, followed by Litigant (40/1 generally available) and Suegioo (33/1 generally available). Good luck!

Wednesday 19 August 2015

4.20 York, Thursday, August 20

The EBF & Sir Henry Cecil Galtres Stakes (4.20) at York on Saturday is highly competitive, but Jordan Princess may be able to supplement her win in the Newsells Park Stud Stakes at Newmarket two starts ago. The Cape Cross filly carries a 4lb penalty for that success, but should be suited by dropping back to 1 mile 4 furlongs after a creditable effort in defeat when third of fourteen, beaten 4 lengths, behind Simple Verse in the Markel Insurance Fillies’ Stakes, over 1 mile 6 furlongs, at Goodwood three weeks ago.

Luca Cumani’s 4-year-old won her maiden on soft ground as a 2-year-old and ran well enough, when fourth of ten, beaten 2 lengths, behind Lady Tiana in the Bet365 Lancashire Oaks, on good to soft going, three starts ago, to suggest that slower going won’t unnecessarily hinder her chance. The Newmarket trainer has drawn a blank with six runners on the Knavesmire so far this season, but his record of 12-59 (20%) over the last five seasons, for a level stakes profit of 29.50 points is far more encouraging. Jordan Princess looks decent value at 8/1 with Paddy Power in the very early price lists.

Selection: York 4.20 Jordan Princess (8/1 with Paddy Power) to win

Thursday 13 August 2015

Great St. Wilfrid Stakes, 3:30, Ripon, Saturday 15th

The Great St. Wilfrid Stakes, a handicap run over 6 furlongs at Ripon, is the most valuable race of the year at the Yorkshire track. The race has thrown up six winners at double-figure prices in the last ten years, including Pepper Lane (20/1) in 2012 and Damika (18/1) in 2010, so another generously-priced winner isn’t out of the question.

Regular readers will have noticed that we’ve been following Poyle Vinnie (16/1) with great interest in recent weeks. Michael Appleby’s 5-year-old proved something of a revelation when making all to read win the Scottish Stewards’ Cup at Hamilton, on soft going, in mid-July, but fared less well under a 6lb penalty when only eighteenth of twenty-seven, beaten 7¼ lengths, behind Magical Memory in the Goodwood equivalent two weeks ago.

The handicapper has had his say and raised the Piccolo gelding another 3lb but, with outbreaks of heavy, thundery rain forecast for North Yorkshire on Thursday and Friday, he could have what appear to be his optimum conditions by Saturday afternoon. If that’s the case, he’s well drawn, in stall 1, on a course that traditionally favours runners that race on, or close to, the pace.

Another runner who’s made our shortlist more than once in recent weeks is Shore Step (12/1), who finished second in the Sky Bet Dash at York, despite a slipping saddle and fourth in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood, despite being hampered in the closing stages. Mick Channon’s 5-year-old has been raised another 2lb, but is still only 5lb higher in the weights than when winning at Doncaster on his final start last season and looks an improved performer this term.

Barnet Fair (16/1) finished second in the consolation race for the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood last season and second again in the race proper, off the same handicap mark, two weeks ago. He, too has been raised 3lb, but has been threatening to win one of these competitive sprint handicaps all season. All bar three of his 43 starts on turf have come on good or faster going and all four wins have come with “firm” in the going description, so testing conditions would be something of an unknown, but he remains feasibly weighted.

The last word this week must go to Clear Spring (33/1), who’s the complete ‘rag’ with some bookmakers. John Spearing’s 7-year-old unseated Cam Hardie shortly after the start in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood, but is only 1lb higher in the weights than when beating the winner, Golden Steps, at Newbury in May. His subsequent form hasn’t been as good, but he has winning form over course and distance and on soft ground, has recorded his best form when ridden prominently and is well drawn in stall 3.

So, in a break with tradition, our four against the field this week are, in order of preference, Poyle Vinnie (16/1 generally available), Clear Spring (33/1 generally available), Shore Step (12/1 generally available) and Barnet Fair (16/1 with Coral). Good luck!

Thursday 6 August 2015

2:20 Haydock, Saturday 8th

Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of ‘meaty’ handicaps for us to get our teeth into on Saturday and the bookmakers seem slow to price up what action there is, so this week’s preview will inevitably be a little shorter, and involve more guesswork, than usual.

The Betfred Goals Galore Handicap (2.20) at Haydock appears to be one of the more competitive races of the day, with 13 runners set to face the starter, so we’ve tried to highlight a couple that could belie generous starting prices.

The joint bottom-weight, Amood, takes a step up in class but, bar one inexplicably poor run at York in June, has run respectably in defeat since winning over 1 mile 2 furlongs at Newmarket in May. He’s 5lb higher in the weights than when beating Zugzwang by a head in that 0-90 contest but, while that form hasn’t really worked out, his recent form over a mile suggests a return to further is in his favour.

Silvery Moon hasn’t won in this grade for three years, but it’s testament to his consistency that, despite being beaten on all eight starts this season, he’s only 1lb lower in the weights than he was at the start of the season. He’s possibly still just a little too high in the handicap to be considered for win purposes, but wasn’t beat far over a mile at Ayr last time, stays this far and is pretty much guaranteed to run his race. He’s the sort that’s likely to pop up at a decent price at some point and certainly wouldn’t be winning out of turn.

Green Light is 6lb better off for 2¼ lengths with Sennockian Star on their running at Chester in June and, while a drop of rain would aid his chance, remains one to consider. He finally got off the mark, at the tenth time of asking, at Nottingham in May and should appreciate the return to a galloping track. He’s been off the course since, but could be another who’s open to some improvement if fit and ready to do himself justice.

So, our three against the field this week, in no particular order, are Amood, Silvery Moon and Green Light. Unfortunately, no prices were available at the time of writing, but all three should be a fair shade of odds. Good luck!

Wednesday 5 August 2015

8.25 Newmarket, Friday, August 7

In the Handicap (8.25) at Newmarket on Friday, Highland Acclaim is accumulating an unenviable string of duck eggs but, in his defence, has contested competitive handicaps such as the Victoria Cup, the Wokingham, the Bunbury Cup and the Sky Bet Dash this season. Consequently, David O’Meara’s 4-year-old is just 1lb higher in the weights than when winning the Shergar Sprint Cup at Ascot last August and drops back into 0-95 company for the first time since winning over course and distance the previous week.

The Acclamation gelding also finished second, beaten just three-quarters of a length, behind Spinatrix in the Coral Sprint Trophy at York last October off a 5lb higher mark, so he’s definitely well handicapped if able to recapture his best form. He took time to come to hand last season, so that’s by no means out of the question and 6 furlongs on the July Course at Newmarket should bring out the best in him. Taking an early, guaranteed price about him might be a shrewd move.

Selection: Newmarket 8.25 Highland Acclaim to win

Friday 31 July 2015

Qatar Stewards' Cup, 3:45, Saturday, 1st August

The Stewards’ Cup, run over 6 furlongs, is the betting highlight on the fifth and final day of what is now known as the Qatar Goodwood Festival. A maximum field of 28 runners is set to face the starter on Saturday and, as usual, we’ve selected a few that we think could go well at generous odds.

The first of them, Poyle Vinnie (16/1), did us a favour when making all in the Scottish Stewards’ Cup at Hamilton fifteen days ago and still looks reasonably treated under a 6lb penalty. The Piccolo gelding has officially improved by 34lb since the start of last season but, judged on his Hamilton effort, may not have finished improving just yet. He’s won on soft, good and good to firm going, so shouldn’t be inconvenienced by drying conditions at the West Sussex track between now and Saturday and he’s not badly drawn to execute his usual front-running tactics in stall 4.

Basil Berry (33/1) finished seventh, beaten 5½ lengths, in the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot and ran to a similar level of form, despite being denied a clear run in the closing stages, in a 0-100 contest over 7 furlongs at Haydock four weeks ago. He’s only 2lb higher in the weights than when winning in 0-95 company at Ascot in May, has the services of Silvestre De Sousa, who’s 2-4 on him, and is drawn in the range of stalls that has produced eight of the last ten winners of the Stewards’ Cup.

So far, we’ve selected one drawn low and one drawn in the middle, so it makes some sense to have one drawn high as well. Fortunately enough, our third and final selection, Related (18/1), is drawn right on the stands’ side in stall 24. In fact, David Simcock’s 5-year-old finished two places and 2½ lengths ahead of Basil Berry in the Wokingham Stakes and is just 1lb worse off. He may not be as well drawn as Basil Berry this time, but his fourth of seventeen, beaten just 1¼ lengths, behind Rene Mathis in the Bunbury Cup, over 7 furlongs at Newmarket three weeks ago was another solid effort and he should be thereabouts once again.

So, in order of preference, our three against the field this week are Poyle Vinnie (16/1 generally available), Related (18/1 with Bet365) and Basil Berry (33/1 generally available). Good luck!

Wednesday 29 July 2015

2.05 Goodwood, Thursday, July 30

The Land Rover Stakes (2.05) at Goodwood on Thursday is a tight little heat, and not so ‘little’ either, with eighteen runners set to face the starter over the undulating 1 mile 1 furlong and 92 yards at the West Sussex track. Nevertheless, it does provide us with an opportunity for a midweek ‘tilt’ which, as regular readers know, we always find difficult to resist.

The one that immediately takes our eye is Richard Fahey’s Spring Offensive (33/1), who may have had excuses on his two most recent starts and looks feasibly weighted on his best form. The Iffraaj gelding didn’t help his chance by hanging at Sandown two starts ago and took a keen hold when only fifth of six, beaten 1¾ lengths, behind Intiwin at Ayr last month, but is just 3lb higher in the weights than when just touched off in a 0-100 contest, over a mile, on his reappearance at Musselburgh in April.

He wasn’t beaten far at Ayr and the form has already been franked by the third, Get Knotted so, provided the extra two furlongs isn’t beyond him, he could go well at generous odds. He’s actually yet to win beyond 7 furlongs, but seems to get a mile well enough, so he appears to have every chance of staying the extra distance on a course that is fairly sharp in character.

Selection: Goodwood 2.30 Spring Offensive (33/1) to win

Thursday 23 July 2015

3:15 Ascot, Saturday July 25th - Gigaset International Stakes

The Gigaset International Stakes, run over 7 furlongs at Ascot, has produced no winning favourite in the last ten years and winners at 40/1, 33/1 (twice), 25/1, 18/1, 16/1 and 14/1 in the same period, so definitely looks a race in which we have a chance of extending our recent run of good fortune.

Notably, five of the first six finishers in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket a fortnight ago reoppose but, with the exception of Heaven’s Guest (14/1), none of them have much in the way of course form, so it may be judicious to look elsewhere for this week’s selections.

The first one that takes our eye this week is the complete ‘rag’ Sir Robert Cheval (40/1). Marco Botti’s 4-year-old has yet to win on turf, but has run creditably on all three starts this season and doesn’t look impossibly handicapped on his best form. Indeed, the Green Desert gelding is 7lb better off for 2¾ lengths with Zarwaan (14/1) on their running at Newcastle four weeks ago but is, mystifyingly, available at nearly three times the price. Apprentice Marc Monaghan takes off a useful 3lb and the partnership is well drawn in stall 26, if recent results in the race are anything to go by.

Another ‘rag’, Nakuti (40/1) appeared to put up something approaching a career-best effort when winning the Listed Pipalong Stakes, over a mile, at Pontefract earlier this month and looks fairly treated under a 3lb penalty. The fourth at Pontefract, Rekdhat, was only just touched off in a 0-100 fillies’ handicap last Saturday, off a mark of 91, so there is reason to believe that Nakuti, who had 6¼ lengths in hand, has been underestimated by the bookmakers. Her three career wins have come on good or softer going but, with persistent, heavy rain forecast for Friday afternoon, she could well be in her element.

Veteran Hawkeyethenoo (22/1) was, unsurprisingly, taken off his feet over 5 furlongs at Musselburgh when last seen six weeks ago, but his previous third of twenty-six, beaten 2¾ lengths, behind Speculative Bid over course and distance in May suggested that he may have a major handicap victory left in him. Jim Goldie’s 9-year-old is 8lb better off with the winner this time (and 8lb lower in the weights than when winning the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood three seasons ago), so you ignore the old boy at your peril!

So, in summary, this week’s selections are, in no particular order, Sir Robert Cheval (40/1 with Bet365 and William Hill), Nakuti (40/1 with William Hill) and Hawkeyethenoo (22/1 with Stan James). Good luck!

Wednesday 22 July 2015

20:00 York, Friday, July 24

In the Novus Stakes (8.00) at York on Friday, Chiswick Bey has been beaten, but not disgraced, on both starts since winning in 0-90 company over 7 furlongs at Musselburgh last month and remains feasibly weighted for a return to the winners’ enclosure. Indeed, the Elusive City gelding in just 1lb higher in the weights than at the East Lothian track and, while he has yet to win over a mile, has shaped as if a step up in distance might do him some good on recent starts.

His two most recent wins came under apprentice Samantha Bell, who rides stable companion Simply Shining, but he might just benefit from the stronger handling of stable jockey Tony Hamilton, who’s riding quite close to his minimum weight of 8st 7lbs. The Knavesmire isn’t always the easiest place to execute hold up tactics, but Chiswick Bey was placed on both previous visits (albeit a few years ago) and the fact that he’s (presumably) Tony Hamilton’s choice of Richard Fahey’s three runners speaks strongly in his favour.
Selection: York 8.00 Chiswick Bey to win

Saturday 18 July 2015

Three huge priced Outsiders in four posts!

We've had a great couple of weeks here at Outsider. On July 11th Rene Mathis was highlighted as an outsider in with a shot in the Bunbury Cup at 25-1. It ended up winning at an SP of 16-1. Then on Friday at the 17:40 Hamilton, Poyle Vinnie was presented as our only outsider pick and it romped home at an impressive SP or 22/1. Today Lathom was one of our picks for the 15:45 Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury finishing first at 28-1 SP.

Be sure to keep an eye on our selections next week too. Hopefully we'll continue our winning run!

Thursday 16 July 2015

Weatherbys Super Sprint (15:45, Newbury, July 18)

The Weatherbys Super Sprint, run over 5 furlongs and 34 yards at Newbury, has produced three winning favourites in the last ten years, but also winners at 100/1, 25/1 and 20/1, such that the average starting price of the winner in that period is approaching 18/1. This year, Tim Easterby saddles four runners, Richard Hannon saddles six and Richard Fahey saddles seven, so the race presents an intriguing puzzle for punter to solve.

Mark Johnston, who has plenty of strength in depth in the juvenile division this year, saddles just one, the twice-raced Royal Applause filly Hawatif (12/1). The winner of the Haydock maiden in which she finished fourth, beaten 2 lengths, on her debut in June, Blue Bayou, has since been beaten a nose and a short head in the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes and Hawatif herself has since won her maiden at Carlisle by 6 lengths. She obviously takes a significant step up in class, but Silvestre De Sousa has a 7-28 (28%) strike rate on Mark Johnston’s juveniles so far this season, so the partnership must be feared.

Tony Hamilton has ridden more juvenile winners for Richard Fahey than any other jockey this season, so his mount Lathom (28/1) seems the natural place to turn for the pick of the Musley Bank trainer’s septet. The son of Compton Place was well beaten, but not entirely disgraced, in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, but his earlier second, beaten 1¼ lengths, behind subsequent winner First Selection (now rated 95) in a conditions stakes race at Beverley in May suggests his chance may not be as forlorn as his odds imply.

Quick And Quirky (20/1) could make no impression on Gifted Master in the closing stages at Newcastle, over six furlongs, last month, but the winner had previously been beaten just three-quarters of a length, at level weights, by subsequent Coventry Stakes winner Buratino, so there was no disgrace in that. The drop back to the minimum trip is something of an unknown but, even so, this outsider and daughter of Lilbourne Lad may be worth a punt.

A 25-runner sales race for juveniles probably warrants minimum stakes, but for anyone who fancies a ‘tilt’, our three against the field this week are Hawatif (12/1 with Paddy Power), Lathom (28/1 with Bet365) and Quick And Quirky (20/1 with Sky Bet and Stan James). Good luck!

Wednesday 15 July 2015

7.40 Hamilton, Friday, July 17

Here's hoping that some of you lumped on our Bunbury Cup selection last week. It's always good to find a nice priced winner!

The John Smith’s Scottish Stewards’ Cup (7.40) at Hamilton on Friday, is always well contested, as might be expected of a sprint handicap worth in excess of £20,000 to the winner. Sixteen runners are set to face the starter, but we’ve had our eye on one that we think should go very close at a decent price.

Poyle Vinnie officially improved 18lb on turf last season – plus a further 12lb on Tapeta and Fibresand during the winter – and has run creditably on both starts since returning to action at Newmarket last month. His latest fifth of sixteen, beaten just 1 length, in a 0-95 contest over 5 furlongs at York last week suggested his turn wasn’t far away and he may be capable of winning in 0-105 company for the first time.

The Piccolo gelding has yet to win on going softer than good but, while the going at Hamilton is currently good to soft, dry, bright weather is forecast for Strathclyde for Wednesday and Thursday, so he may well have his favoured conditions. In fact, notwithstanding a poor run on heavy going on his seasonal reappearance at Beverley last season, there’s no evidence that some cut in the ground would, necessarily, harm his chance in any case. All three of his career wins on turf, including one over 6 furlongs, have come on testing tracks, so he should appreciate the severe hill to the finish at Hamilton.

Selection: Hamilton 7.40 Poyle Vinnie to win

Thursday 9 July 2015

3:10 - Newmmarket, Saturday 11th July - Bunbury Cup Outsiders

The Bunbury Cup, run over 7 furlongs on the July Course  at 15:15 Saturday 11th at Newmarket, is a specialists’ event that often attracts the same horses year-after-year. In fact, the last two winners, Heaven’s Guest (16/1) and Field Of Dream (25/1) are among those who return for another crack at the £120,000 in guaranteed prize money. Neither should be dismissed out of hand, but for our selections this week we’ve turned to a couple of runners who like to race on, or close to the pace, which is often a desirable characteristic on the July Course.

Rene Mathis (25/1) has recorded both his career wins on turf on the July Course, including over course and distance last May and although well beaten in the Wokingham Stakes, over 6 furlongs, at Ascot three weeks ago he ran equally dismally in the Buckingham Palace Stakes, over 7 furlongs, at the same meeting last year. He’d previously only given best in the last half a furlong or so when fifth, beaten 3½ lengths, in a similar race at York and, back at Newmarket, he appears to have an obvious chance off the same handicap mark.

Sirius Prospect (33/1) has been campaigned at or around a mile so far this season, but all his career victories on turf have come at 7 furlongs or shorter and he races off a handicap mark just 3lb higher than when last winning a handicap on turf, at York two years ago. He was ridden very aggressively in the Royal Hunt Cup, over a mile, at Ascot three weeks ago, but weakened with a furlong to run and eventually finished out with the washing. His regular jockey Robert Winston remains absent through injury but, if his new partner Hayley Turner adopts the same positive tactics, he could go well over this shorter distance.

With the possible exception of the aforementioned Heaven’s Guest, who looks a shade high in the weights and could probably do with a drop of rain in any case, it’s difficult to enthuse about anything else that falls into the “outsider” category. So, for this week, our three against the field are Rene Mathis (25/1 with Bet365, Sky Bet, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes), Sirius Prospect (33/1 with Bet365, Sky Bet, Ladbrokes and William Hill) and Heaven’s Guest (16/1 with Bet365, Sky Bet and William Hill), with preference very much for the first named. Good luck!

Wednesday 8 July 2015

3.45 Newmarket, Friday, July 10

It’s not too often we have a “Heritage Handicap” to get our teeth into during the week, but the Betfred Mobile (3.45) at Newmarket on Friday is just that. Henry Candy’s progressive, unbeaten 3-year-old Twilight Son is likely to prove popular once again, so we should have plenty of room for manoeuvre at the other end of the market.

Squats is 10lb better off for the 3¼ lengths he finished behind Twilight Son at York last time and, while he’s by far the more exposed of the pair, the way he kept on in the closing stages at York suggested that the final hill on the July Course would play to his strengths. The Dandy Man gelding hasn’t won since edging out Profitable in a nursery handicap, over 5 furlongs, at Ascot last September and remains 9lb higher in the weights, but shouldn’t be underestimated.

Primrose Valley has just a single win, in a 0-75 nursery handicap, over 5 furlongs, at Newcastle last August, to his name on turf, so his improvement over the winter could simply be due to the switch to synthetic surfaces. However, the fact remains that he’s officially improved by 11lb since last October and is almost certainly better than he was able to show over 5 furlongs at Lingfield in April, when trapped wide on the track for most of the way. He, too, remains 7lb higher in the weights than when last winning a handicap but, if he can translate his all-weather from back to turf after 98 days, he could go well at decent odds.

Selections: Newmarket 3.45 Squats, Primrose Valley

Thursday 2 July 2015

Coral Charge Outsiders - 14:05, Saturday, July 4th

The Coral Charge, registered as the Sprint Stakes and run over 5 furlongs at Sandown, has produced three winning favourites and just one winner at a double-figure price in the last ten years. However, with two strongly fancied contenders, Waady and Mecca’s Angel, at the head of the betting for this year’s renewal, we think there’s some room for manoeuvre further down the list.

Son Of Africa (20/1) is officially the lowest rated horse in the field, but recorded a career-best effort when beating Union Rose by 3 lengths in the Diamond Dash Handicap at Newmarket two weeks ago, despite being denied a clear run in the closing stages. The previous week, Union Rose had finished sixth of nine, beaten 6¾ lengths, behind Waady in the Listed Scurry Stakes over course and distance so, if the form is taken literally, Son Of Africa has over 6 lengths to find with John Gosden’s charge.

However, it’s reasonable to assume that Union Rose improved for his seasonal appearance in the Scurry Stakes, his first run since last September, and Son Of Africa was attempting the minimum trip for the first time in his career at Newmarket. His juvenile form over 6 furlongs was far from shabby – he beat last Saturday’s Criterion Stakes winner Markab by half a length, in receipt of just 2lb, in a nursery at Goodwood last August – but 5 furlongs could be the making of him.

Harry Bentley, who rode him at Newmarket, stated afterwards that the son of King’s Stand Stakes winner Equiano relished the drop back in distance and that a step up in class would be perfectly justified. Veteran trainer Henry Candy has achieved his best results in recent years with highly talented sprinters, including Airwave, Markab, Music Master and, of course, Limato, to name but a few, so it’s interesting that he’s decided to bypass Heritage Handicaps and Listed Races and go straight for a Group race with Son of Africa.

Dutch Masterpiece (66/1) is in danger of becoming the proverbial “forgotten” horse, having been restricted to just three runs in the last two seasons. However, it wasn’t that long ago that he was winning the Group 3 Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh and on his way to contest the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp. The Dutch Art gelding has clearly had his problems and his two starts this season have done little to inspire confidence in him, but connections deserve credit for their perseverance and, if anywhere near his best, he could give all of these a fright. Someone at Bet365 is frightened; the firm is offering just 25/1, half the price of anyone else!

Anyway, for richer for poorer – and we know which side our bread’s buttered, thank you – our two for a spot of wild speculation this week are Son Of Africa (20/1 with William Hill) and Dutch Masterpiece (66/1 with William Hill). You can even back ‘em each-way if you like! Good luck!!

Wednesday 1 July 2015

8.55 Epsom, Thursday, July 2

It’s fair to say that Outer Space, who began his career with Richard Hannon Sr., has become disappointing, but he’s still only a 4-year-old and there are reasons to believe that he retains significantly more ability than he showed when only seventh of thirteen, beaten 10 lengths, behind Musaddas on the Rowley Mile in May. The form of that race has worked out very well in any case, but the bare form may not tell the whole story.

The Acclamation gelding was 3lb better off for three-quarters of a length with the winner on their running over 7 furlongs at Kempton last November, but was never really put into the race by Timmy Murphy (who was riding him for the first time and retains the ride). He may still have needed the race, on just his second start since December, but the way he stayed steadily in the closing stages to pull 8 lengths clear of the horse that finished eighth suggested that he had plenty left in the tank. If that was really the case, the handicapper may have taken a chance in dropping him 2lb in the weights.

Outer Space didn’t appear to be crying out from a drop back to 7 furlongs at Newmarket, but drops back into 0-85 company for the first time since winning at Kempton last August, so has plenty going for him despite some uninspiring form figures. He’s available at 14/1 with William Hill and Betfair Sportsbook in the early price lists but, frankly, looks like a gamble waiting to happen.

Selection: Epsom 8.55 Outer Space to win

Thursday 25 June 2015

The Northumberland Plate Outsiders

The Northumberland Plate, run over 2 miles and 19 yards at Newcastle, has thrown up three winning favourites in the last ten years, but also winners at 33/1, 25/1, 16/1 and 14/1 (three times) in the same period. Goodness knows what effect switching the race, still affectionately known as the ‘Pitmen’s Derby’, to a synthetic, Tapeta surface will have next year, but we’re aiming for one ‘last hurrah’.

The Northumberland Plate features 22 runners this year yet, despite betting 10/1 bar one, only one of the leading bookmakers (Ladbrokes) is prepared to offer odds longer than 33/1 about any horse in the race and, even then, only about one horse. Regular readers will be aware that we like to play devil’s advocate under such circumstances but, try as we might, we found it difficult to make a case for the 40/1 ‘rag’ Min Alemarat, so we’ll have to make do with a couple of 25/1 shots.

Resiliency (25/1) has yet to win beyond 1 mile 2½ furlongs, but ran well over 1 mile 6 furlongs when fourth, beaten 2¾ lengths, behind Elidor at Newmarket six weeks ago. Michael Appleby’s 4-year-old is 1lb better off for the half a length he finished behind Aramist on that occasion and the way he stayed on in the closing stages suggested an extra half-a-mile is within his compass. He’s not badly drawn either, in stall 10, so a decent run wouldn’t be a total surprise.

Cardinal Walter (22/1) was a fairly useful sort on the Flat prior to joining Nicky Henderson last August and, while it’s anybody’s guess how much ability he retains in this sphere, he was in decent form over hurdles during the winter. He’s by Cape Cross, sire of Sea The Stars, but stamina clearly isn’t an issue, although he’ll probably need a career-best effort to win this from stall 22.

Buthelezi (25/1) has been a winner on the Flat, at up to 1 mile 6 furlongs, over hurdles and over fences despite being a bit of a ‘monkey’. He’s another who doesn’t appear impossibly handicapped if putting his best foot forward and, although he, too, is drawn ‘out in the sticks’ in stall 17, he might just benefit from being ridden less prominently than of late. That said, he’s only 1lb lower in the weights than when well beaten in this race last year and probably isn’t one to trust implicitly.

So, in potentially the last ever Northumberland Plate to be run on turf, we’re rowing in with Resiliency (25/1 with Bet365, Bet Victor and Stan James), Cardinal Walter (22/1 with Bet365) and Buthelezi (25/1 generally available). Good luck!

Thursday 18 June 2015

Wokingham Stakes - Royal Ascot Outsiders

The annual ‘cavalry charge’ that is the Wokingham Stakes, takes place over 6 furlongs at Ascot and is, without question, the major betting heat on the final day of the Royal meeting. Two winning favourites in the last ten years is probably just about par for the course in a race of this nature, but winners at 33/1, 22/1, 20/1 and 14/1 in the same period suggest ‘tilting at windmills’ may not be an entirely fruitless process.

Dinkum Diamond (33/1) has run 39 times in a career stretching back to May 2010 but, amazingly, has never won a handicap. However, there was nothing wrong with his most recent effort in that sphere, when fifth of twenty-two, beaten 2½ lengths, behind Eastern Impact over 6 furlongs on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket last month. He subsequently proved no match for Tropics in a Listed race at Windsor but, with Edward Greatrex taking off a useful 7lb, he’s not badly handicapped on his best form and is virtually certain to run his race.
Poyle Vinnie (40/1) has an absence of 170 days to overcome and is used to plying his trade at a much lower level, but has officially improved 32lb since this time last year and may not have finished yet. He remains 12lb higher in the weights than when winning on the Fibresand at Southwell last November, but has shown his liking for a testing 6 furlongs in the past and could surprise some better fancied rivals. Nottinghamshire trainer Michael Appleby is 0-20 at Ascot, but there is, as they say, a first time for everything.

Related (33/1) is another who’s been campaigned on synthetic surfaces so far this season but, while he’s shown his best form on Polytrack, he made all to win a lower grade handicap, over 7 furlongs, at Goodwood last summer. His latest win, over 6 furlongs at Kempton in March, suggested a stiffer test of stamina would do him no harm and although he’s been off the course for 84 days he’s won after a similar break in the past.

Tilting at windmills we may be, but our three against the field this week are Dinkum Diamond (33/1 with Ladbrokes and Coral), Poyle Vinnie (40/1 with Totesport, Betfred and Coral) and Related (33/1 generally available). If we had to pick one, it would be Poyle Vinnie, who’s arguably the most progressive of the trio and may prove handily drawn in stall 16. Good luck!