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Friday 26 February 2016

Betbright Chase Preview

The Betbright Chase, run over 3 miles at Kempton, doesn’t have a habit of throwing long-priced winners but, with just one winning favourite in the last ten years and winners at 28/1, 12/1, 11/1, and 10/1 in that period, it’ll do for us.

Astracad (50/1) gained a last gasp victory over 2 miles 3½ furlongs at Chepstow on his reappearance in October and has run creditably in defeat on all three starts since. He’s an infrequent winner, who’s yet to win beyond 2 miles 4 furlongs, but he should appreciate the drying conditions forecast for the South East between now and Saturday. He’s yet to even attempt 3 miles, but if he’s ever likely to stay the extra distance it’ll surely be on sharpish, flat track like Kempton.

Nigel Twiston-Davies other entry, Ballykhan (28/1), is still a novice, but is another who should appreciate faster underfoot conditions than when pulled up at Newcastle in November and could go well at generous odds. The 6-year-old remains 7lb higher in the weights than when winning at Chepstow in September, but jumps soundly and goes well fresh, so an absence of 91 days is less of a worry than it otherwise might be.

Opening Batsman (20/1) won this race off a 2lb lower mark three years ago and looked all over the winner on his latest attempt over course and distance, over Christmas, before weakening rapidly in the closing stages to finish only fifth of 15, beaten 18½ lengths, behind Last Samurai. Harry Fry’s 10-year-old also ran poorly on his only subsequent attempt, over 2 miles 4½ furlongs here in January, so he clearly comes with risks attached. That said, he’s equally well handicapped if anywhere near his best.

Selections: Astracad (50/1 with Bet365), Ballykhan (28/1 with Bet365), Opening Batsman (20/1 generally available)

Thursday 18 February 2016

Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap Hurdle – 3.00 Ascot, Saturday, February 20

The Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap Hurdle, run over 2 miles 3½ furlongs at Ascot, is one of the most competitive races of the day on Saturday, numerically, and in terms of the average starting price of recent winners.

The bookmakers have, once again, excelled themselves, offering eight of the 21-strong field at single-figure prices, yet just one at 33/1. As ever, under the circumstances, a cursory glance at Betfair Exchange prices, and possibly a bet at Betfair Starting Price, might be a shrewd move for value seekers.

The complete outsider of the party, Dubawi Island (33/1), lost touch going down the back straight when only tenth of 17, beaten 25 lengths, behind Rock The Kasbah over course and distance last month. However, Venetia Williams’ 6-year-old is only 2lb higher in the weights than when second of ten, beaten 2¼ lengths, behind If In Doubt over 2 miles 5½ furlongs at Wincanton on Boxing Day and would have a decent chance on that form. The Dubawi gelding does seem to be an ‘all-or-nothing’ type, but could go well at generous odds if in the right mood.

Croco Bay (28/1) hasn’t raced over hurdles for the best part of three years and his best performance in that sphere came when making all to win a 0-125 novices’ handicap hurdle, over 2 miles 2 furlongs, at Kelso off a handicap mark of 117. Of course, plenty of water has flown under the bridge in the meantime, but his best performance over fences came when third of twenty, beaten 5 lengths, behind Next Sensation in the Grand Annual Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, off a handicap mark of 149. He’s been highly tried on three subsequent starts over fences and, while his ability over the smaller obstacles nowadays is a complete unknown, he’s arguably well handicapped, off a mark of 140, on the pick of his chasing form.

Selections: Ascot 3.00 Dubawi Island (33/1 with Bet365), Croco Bay (28/1 with Bet365)

Friday 12 February 2016

The outsiders for this year’s Cheltenham festival

With the Cheltenham Festival just weeks away, much of the talk around the Cheltenham bet market is who the favourites to win the race are. But anybody who wants to take a risk in the hope of getting a good return on their Cheltenham bet will want to know which of the outsiders have a real chance of winning the race. Here’s a rundown of the horses whose odds might not be the greatest but still have a good change of earning you a good return on your Cheltenham bet.

Whilst the vast majority of bets will be made on the headlining Cheltenham Gold Cup, there is a lot of money to be made on the other races over the four day festival. Whilst Barters Hill is the strong favourite to win with odds of 5/2, the rest of the horses in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle have some really rewarding odds to try your luck on. The next favourite with bookmakers Coral is Shantou Village with odds of just 6/1, followed by Yorkhill at 8/1. Behind them there are a handful of horses at 12/1 that still have a good chance of taking victory, including Gangster. The horse has recently only just took the step up into Grade 3, so very little is known about how he will perform against real competition, but you can keep up to date with what we do know and the ABC facts of the Cheltenham Festival on the Coral website.

But the race that will attract the most money over the festival is the Cheltenham Gold Cup, so the bookmakers could be hit hard if one of their outsiders finishes well. Over the years, horse racing has proven that anything to happen, so although it’s massively unlikely one of the horses at the back of the field will win, it can be massively rewarding if it pays off. Currently on the Coral website, Ballycasey and Roi Du Mee have long odds of 150/1, but there is a lot of time for the bookmakers to narrow those odds so get in early to take full advantage of them.

If you’re looking for an outsider with a better chance of winning, then Seeyouatmidnight has odds of just 33/1 with bookmakers Coral. Although the horse finished only seventh in the World Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, the horse has been building in confidence over the last 12 months. Seeyouatmidnight proved his potential on New Year’s Day by beating favourite Three Musketeers and proving once again he’s a consistently good jumper and a strong runner.

Another horse who surprisingly only has odds of 33/1 is the winner of last year’s Grand National Many Clouds. Although he hit the headlines after winning one of the biggest races in the world, the horse hasn’t won any of the three races he’s competed in since. Many Clouds has come a close second in his last two races, so even if he doesn’t win, he could earn you a big reward on your Cheltenham bet if he places in the same position.

Thursday 11 February 2016

Betfair Hurdle Preview, Newbury, Saturday 13th February

The Betfair Hurdle, run over 2 miles at Newbury, is as ‘deep’ a race as you’ll find anywhere outside the Cheltenham Festival. Indeed, winners at 50/1, 33/1, 20/1, 16/1, 14/1 and 12/1 – interestingly, accompanied by three favourites and a joint favourite – in the last ten renewals bear testament to just how competitive it is.

Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins sets punters a thorny puzzle by saddling five, including the ante post favourite, Blazer (4/1) but, as ever, we’ll be concentrating our efforts on the other end of the market.

The first one that takes our eye is Alan King’s 9-year-old Montbazon (50/1), who returns to action after an absence of 574 days. Regardless of any form considerations, the Barbury Castle trainer must surely have been able to find a less competitive race for a horse that has been off the course for over 18 months, so the fact that the Alberto Giacometti gelding lines up at all is interesting. The pick of his form is a third, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Lac Fontana in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival two seasons ago and, off an identical handicap mark, he clearly has a chance if able to reproduce that performance. His sole effort on heavy going was poor, so any more rain in the South East could scupper his chance.

Waxies Dargle (40/1) remains 4lb higher in the weights than when finishing third of 17, beaten 6 lengths, behind Old Guard in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, but would still be quite a strong fancy for this had he not run a couple of ‘stinkers’ at Ascot and Leopardstown in the meantime. He was, frankly, too bad to be true on both occasions and it’s hard to imagine Noel Meade sending him across the Irish Sea again unless what was ailing him is now in the past. If it is, he could go very well at a daft price.

Selections: Newbury 3.35 Montbazon (50/1), Waxies Dargle (40/1)

Thursday 4 February 2016

15:00, Sandown Park, Saturday 6th February

The Heroes Handicap Hurdle, run over 2 miles 7½ furlongs at Sandown, is a favourite race of ours, not least because Invicta Lake did us a favour last year, pulling clear on the run-in to win by 4½ lengths at odds of 20/1.

Invicta Lake (20/1) is in the 11-strong field once again and, although 2lb out of the handicap proper, is actually 1lb lower in the weights than when winning this race last year. It can be argued that his preparation hasn’t gone quite as well this time around, but he won in convincing style last year, so it would be folly to write him off in his attempt for a repeat. In the absence of Tom O’Brien, Gavin Sheehan, who has a 6-28 (21%) strike rate on hurdlers for Suzy Smith over the last five seasons, is an able deputy.

Suzy Smith complicates matters by also saddling Little Boy Boru (25/1), but the son of St. Leger winner Brian Boru is also 2lb out of the handicap and remains 9lb higher in the weights than when winning over 2 mile 4½ furlongs at Plumpton ten starts ago. His recent form suggests he needs to drop a few more pounds in the weights before he comes competitive once again, so it’ll be a real surprise if he’s good enough to get involved here.

Foxcub (20/1) began the current campaign well enough, winning by the proverbial country mile at Bangor on his second start before just being touched off by Simply A Legend over 2 miles 5½ furlongs, off his revised mark, on this course in December. He’s finished out with the washing on both subsequent starts on heavy going, but is consequently just 1lb higher in the weights than on his last visit to Sandown and could benefit from the return to less testing conditions. Of course, he steps back up in class and has his stamina to prove, but he’s surely better than he’s shown the last twice.

Selections: Sandown 3.00 Invicta Lake (20/1 with Coral), Foxcub (20/1 with Betfair Sportsbook)