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Thursday 26 May 2016

Jury Stakes - 3:10 Haydock, Saturday 28th

Unfortunately, this weekend doesn’t feature any of the major big-field handicaps that are the mainstay of this column, but the Timeform Jury Stakes, run over 7 furlongs at Newbury, looks competitive enough to give us a chance of a winner at rewarding odds.

Dinkum Diamond (16/1) has been a fine servant to connections over the years and, although he appears fully exposed as just short of the class required to win a Group race, he ran as well as he has for a while when fourth of 26, beaten 2½ lengths, in the Victoria Cup at Ascot three weeks ago. Officially, he’s the lowest rated horse in the race, but it would be no surprise is he ran better than his rating, and his odds, suggest and he remains one to consider for forecast and tricast purposes.

Tupi (14/1) has two Listed wins to his name, including one over 7 furlongs so, having run creditably in defeat in Group company over 6 furlongs on both starts so far this season, is worth a second look stepping back up in distance. From a ratings point of view, he has a few pounds to find with a few of these, but his fourth of 16, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Dutch Connection in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot demonstrated what he’s capable of over 7 furlongs on a sound surface.

Johnny Barnes (14/1) was outclassed in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury two weeks ago and has 3¾ lengths to find with Home Of The Brave on their running at Leicester in April, but should be fighting fit and was Group 3 winner over a mile at Deauville last August. A drop of rain probably wouldn’t hurt, but he’s run well enough on a sound surface to suggest he’s not ground dependent.

Selections: Haydock 3.10, Dinkum Diamond (16/1), Tupi (14/1), Johnny Barnes (14/1)

Thursday 19 May 2016

4:10 Haydock, Saturday 21st May

The Temple Stakes, run over 5 furlongs at Haydock, is a prestigious and valuable race in its own right, but often serves as a preparatory race for the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. Four favourites have won in the last ten years, but winners at 14/1 and 10/1 in the last three renewals provide a glimmer of hope as far as this column is concerned.

Strictly speaking, Aeolus (28/1) has 12lb to find with ante post favourite Mecca’s Angel on official ratings, but Ed Walker’s 5-year-old should be fit as a flea after running well on both starts this season. He finished sixth of 21, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Profitable in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket on his first attempt over the minimum trip and, with rain forecast in the North West on Friday evening, he could have underfoot conditions to suit.

Steps (25/1) finished out with the washing in the Palace House Stakes on his seasonal reappearance and is another who could do with a drop of rain, but is a smart sprinter on his day, as he demonstrated when getting up close home to win the Dubai International Airport World Trophy at Newbury last September. Trainer Roger Varian has a healthy 6-24 (25%) strike with his older horses at Haydock over the last five seasons, so Steps could go better than his odds suggest.

Take Cover (18/1) has recorded his best form on a sound surface and is another who should be fighting fit after finishing fifth in the Palace House Stakes on just his second start since October. He has something to find with Goldream on their running in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp last season, but went close in Group 2 company a couple of times and shouldn’t be underestimated.

Selections: Haydock 4.10 Aeolus (28/1), Steps (25/1), Take Cover (18/1)

Tuesday 10 May 2016

2.40 York, Wednesday May 11th

The Infinity Tyres Stakes, run over 6 furlongs at York, is a highly competitive contest, in which the leading bookmakers bet 6/1 the field, and 10/1 bar one, so it’s just the race for a midweek ‘dabble’.

Down among the ‘dead men’, Love Island (50/1) hasn’t won for nearly two years, but is consequently reasonably handicapped on her best form. Richard Whitaker’s mare has been placed on all three starts on the Knavesmire, including twice over course and distance, and is just 2lb higher in the weights than when just touched off on her last visit, last June. She’s versatile ground-wise and ran well on hear seasonal debut last term, so her chance may not be as forlorn as her generous odds suggest.

Red Pike (25/1) is another who started last season in good form, finishing fourth, beaten 2½ lengths, behind Mukhmal in a similar race at Ascot on his second start. His form tailed off afterwards and, while he’s not obviously well handicapped, he should strip fitter for his reappearance at Ponterfract last month and the return to faster underfoot conditions should help. Hambleton trainer Bryan Smart has a distinctly ordinary record on the Knavesmire, but Red Pike still looks overpriced.

Yeeoow (25/1) need to drop into lowly claiming company to record his last win, at Lingfield in January, but has continued to run creditably in handicaps since. His two career wins on turf came over 6 furlongs on good to firm going off handicap marks of 90 and 84, so he’s not badly treated off his current mark of 85, even if he is already having his third race in the month of May. He’s also drawn on the opposite side of the track from Love Island and Red Pike, so we’ve covered any draw bias. Good luck!

Selections: York 2.40 Love Island (50/1), Red Pike (25/1), Yeeoow (25/1)

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Chester Cup Outsiders - May 4th - 15:10

The Chester Cup, run over 2 miles 2 furlongs on the left-handed, circular course at the Roodeye, has thrown up winners at 33/1, 28/1, 14/1, 12/1 and 10/1 (three times) in the last ten years and that’s more than good enough to warrant a rare midweek ‘tilt’.

Historically, a low draw is a necessity, so let’s start with the horse drawn lowest of all, Venue (40/1). After winning a small 0-100 handicap over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Haydock for Lady Cecil as a three-year-old, the Beat Hollow gelding made a promising start to his hurdling career for Donald McCain last spring and, although his subsequent efforts in handicaps this season has been less inspiring, he remains completely unexposed as a stayer on the Flat. The Cholmondley trainer makes life awkward by also saddling William Of Orange (20/1), but Venue can race off the same mark as when winning a Haydock, has no stamina issues and acts on good to soft going, so has plenty going for him if anywhere near his best.

Le Maitre Chat (16/1), drawn in stall 7, has just a soft ground maiden win to his name, but ran an eye-catching race on his one and only attempt beyond 2 miles 1 furlong when a fast-finishing sixth of 34, beaten 2 lengths, behind Grumeti in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket last October. He’s 1lb higher in the weights and hasn’t been seen in public since last November, but should appreciate any cut in the ground and is attractively weighted if fit and ready to do himself justice.

John Reel (20/1), drawn in stall five, ran well from stall 15 last year, when sixth of 17, beaten 5 lengths, behind Trip To Paris and is 1lb lower in the weights this time around. David Evans’ seven-year-old has yet to win a race of any description on the Flat, but both his wins under National Hunt rules came on soft going, so any rain would be in his favour. He’s still, arguably, a little high in the handicap, but Adam Kirby has a decent strike rate on older horses for the yard this season and he should be there or thereabouts.

Selections: Chester 3.10, Venue (40/1), Le Maitre Chat (16/1), John Reel (20/1)

Monday 2 May 2016

Leicester City win the Premier League at 5000-1

We typically cover horse racing outsiders on the blog nowadays, but how can I avoid giving a quick shout out to Leicester City who did the 'almost' undoable by winning the 2005-16 Premier League at mind boggling odds of 5000-1 at the start of the season (to put it in frightening perspective Dean Gaffney is only 1000-1 to win a best actor Oscar!).

It's no wonder they were big (or rather huge) odds this year since they spent whole months at the bottom of the table last year. Tonight they finally sealed the deal courtesy of a draw by the only other team still in the race, Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs were up 2-0 against Chelsea at half time, but goals by Cahill at 58 minutes and Hazard at the 83 minute mark meant that Tottenham's dream of pipping Leicester City to the title were well and truly over. Spurs themselves had been looking to win their first title since 1961.

Considering the huge odds it's surprising that more punters didn't have a few quid on Leicester to win the title. It's almost as if even supporters didn't even see this outcome happening in their wildest dreams and who can blame them really. Still, some punters did come out of it pretty well:

One Sky Bet customer cashed out his £20 each-way bet on Leicester City, made in August, in mid April for a cool £108,703.41 return. Others also cashed out at the high £xx,xxx range too, after not being able to hold their nerve. Sam North from Loughborough cashed out his £10 bet early too, bringing him a tidy £28,907.51. Even Tom Hanks made an unusual and unlikely claim to be lumped on Leicester!

At the other end of the scale an Edinburgh mum is set to win £250 after placing a tiny 5p bet on the Foxes with William Hill, just 2 pence above their minimum bet. In fact, Will Hill revealed that only 25 people across the entirely country (3 from Leicester!) took the offered odds of 5000-1.

Not everyone had quite so much luck mind you. One Ladbrokes punter cashed out his 45p 5000-1 Leicester City bet right after their very first game of the season, costing him £2,500. Whoops!