Thursday, 19 April 2018

Friday 20th & Saturday 21st April: Casting An Expert Eye On Newbury

Although the Scottish Grand National is upon us – the fourth biggest betting race of the year in the UK based on turnover – we must look after our pockets and so with plenty of better punting opportunities on the Flat we concentrate on Newbury with a handful of wagers across the weekend.

Saturday sees the track host three Group Three races; the John Porter and two Guineas trials, while Friday afternoon is more about the competitive handicaps and we have a couple of good value bets in both the seven furlong and the stayers’ event.

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Friday 20th April 2018

2.25 Newbury – QAYSAR

There are plenty in here with chances on the book, rather typical of a seven furlong three-year-old handicap one could say, however for me the speed figures shown in Qaysar’s debut turf run last year allied with the excellent performance he put in on the all-weather three weeks ago mark him out as the true Kaiser in this race.

He quickened clear readily at Kempton in a novice race under Tom Marquand and now has the assistance of regular Al Shqab rider Frankie Dettory.  He may prove to be 5lbs or so ahead of the handicapper now that he can be towed along in a decent handicap and show his pace (he actually had an entry in the Greenham on Saturday).

The main danger may be Lord Oberon if seeing out the trip on turf while Moqarrar may need more time to realise his full potential but is clearly useful.

4.05 Newbury – GOLDEN BIRTHDAY

There plenty in this race by derby winner Pour Moi and/or trained by National Hunt handlers so we have a good handle on where they’re all at despite the Flat season being in its infancy, the standout performer at the weights for me however is Harry Fry’s Golden Birthday.

The 7yo has only run four times on the level, twice on turf, and has a good deal more to give over trips like this yet.  I think he ran a cracker over an unsuitable trip despite being sent off favourite when a close up fifth of six in a strong 1m4f conditions race behind Watersmeet on the all weather and can show himself to much better effect now.  Coeur De Lion and Champagne Champ may give him most to think about.

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Saturday 21st April 2018

2.00 Newbury (John Porter Stakes) – DEFOE

It’s hard to say at the time of writing what sort of price we can expect for Defoe, though I know it won’t be a big one.

Despite the tight potential profit margins involved though, we cannot lose sight of the fact that this horse improved leaps and bounds last season over middle distances and went into the St Leger with a genuine chance.  Roger Varian still sees him as a Group 1 horse and with this trip ideal, he should be too good for the improving Call To Mind and the game What About Carlo.

As a 4yo we haven’t seen the best of Defoe yet and he has always gone well when fresh, so the first time out element doesn’t bother me in this.  He has an entry in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in May and will take up engagements like that this summer so long as he avoids the likes of Enable and Cracksman.

2.35 Newbury (Fred Darling Stakes) – GAVOTA

This is a proper 1,000 Guineas trial and in it I find a horse I refuse to give up on as a potential top level performer in the shape of Roger Charlton’s filly.

As a daughter of Bated Breath it’s easy to see why she had speed last season but maybe didn’t always get home when running so well in the likes of the Rockfel Stakes and the Oh So Sharp, though her level of form was excellent.

Being out of a Galileo mare I’d say she’ll appreciate this now she’s had a winter behind her and it’s interesting to note that Charlton, who doesn’t hurry them, booked top jock Ryan Moore nice and early for this outing.

She can take this ahead of a tilt at the big one on May 6th with Hikmaa and Tajaanus taken to fill the places.

3.10 Newbury (Greenham Stakes) – EXPERT EYE

Given the penchant for some racing “fans” to start bringing tribalism into the sport much like football, a few people I noted wanted Expert Eye to fail last year as he didn’t quite come from the stable they support most.

He did indeed flop in the Dewhurst Stakes but that can happen to the best of them and that performance takes zero away from what he did to strong opposition in the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last year on only his second career start.

The handicapper was as taken by that as Sir Michael Stoute clearly was and saw fit to throw a mark of 118 at him, extraordinary for a 2yo, and even though that may have been exaggerated it wouldn’t be by more than a pound or two which shows you how good he is.

His price will be prohibitive today, but I couldn’t put anybody off backing him en route to the Guineas for which he could reclaim favouritism should he do the business in good style here.  James Garfield may be the main danger.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Saturday 14th April: Expect Some Pleasant Company In The Grand National Winners Enclosure

It’s all about Aintree on Saturday and furthermore it’s all about the Grand National so we have an excellent value each-way pick in the main race, plus a banker bet in the Liverpool Hurdle.

To support these selections we have a couple of nifty picks on the all-weather at Lingfield during what promises to be the biggest betting day of the year by far.  Here’s what’s on offer this week:

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2.30 Lingfield (7f Novice Stakes) – BETTY F

We won’t get much of a price about this Betty F but for once I don’t mind given that she really shouldn’t struggle against these rivals.

Even taking into account that Jeremy Noseda’s filly was dragged along by top quality horses to produce a rating of around 90 when contesting the Group One Cheveley Park Stakes last autumn she ran so well on debut that you’d imagine she is indeed a pattern filly and so should have too much for the likes of Jurz.

She was wisely put away after Newmarket and with a winter on her back and some fast work at home she can show up best of this bunch and get us off to a good start.

3.05 Lingfield (1m2f Handicap) – MOUILLE POINT

This is a tight little handicap where a number of contenders may run right up to their mark, however I think the two four-year-olds will improve past them all and with a tiny bit of potential and a better draw meaning I fancy Mouille Point of Richard Hannon’s to follow-up a recent win at the expense of Arctic Sea.

The extra half furlong and the experience should mean the Hannon filly taking another stride forward under Tom Marquand and I reckon she’ll relish this surface despite having won at Wolverhampton last time.

Overnight prices of around 4/1 look like great value for a horse which looks like rising through the handicap ranks even further.

4.20 Aintree (Liverpool Hurdle) – SAM SPINNER

Jedd O’Keefe could be on for a very big win here with his lovely six-year-old stayer Sam Spinner who for me was improving to a level significantly above these before tackling Cheltenham four weeks ago.

He was a little way behind main rival Wholestone in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the festival but that track and that meeting can catch out the best of them.  Before that it is significant that he was masterful in winning around Haydock not too far from here on a flatter track and again when taking the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

Yes, his Prestbury Park outing will have taken something out of him but his rivals were there too and I’d say that we will be looking back in a year’s time and wondering why there was even a debate about who was the best of this particular bunch, particularly in the mud.

5.15 Aintree (Grand National) – PLEASANT COMPANY

Even when asking the professionals for their picks you will end up with a longlist rather than a shortlist for your Grand National betting slip, but one I like in particular is Willie Mullins’ runner Pleasant Company.

Off the track for 79 days having pulled-up at Gowran, he arrives here fresh having missed the Cheltenham festival and that will have done him the world of good.

He’s a winner on heavy ground over more than three miles and ran OK in this race last year when conditions didn’t really suit him, so now as a 10-year-old with a few more runs under his belt we should see a much better horse.

At a general 33/1 overnight and with most firms paying at least 5 places (sometimes 6) he rates an excellent each-way bet to take the National and with it the first prize of an astonishing £500,000.

Watch out for good runs from the likes of Seeyouatmidnight, Ucello Conti and Milansbar too.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Saturday 7th April: No Moment Of Madness In Backing La Figlia At Kempton

Sprinters and improving fillies are the order of the day on Saturday as, despite some decent jumping action elsewhere, we attempt to go through the middle part of Kempton Park’s all-weather card on the Flat.

There are potentially four very good value bets in Sunbury-on-Thames with the Listed fillies’ race the highlight, a contest which can potentially be won by a daughter of superstar Frankel.  Here are the weekend’s best bets:

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2.05 Kempton (5f Handicap) – A MOMENTOFMADNESS

Charlie Hills’ five-year-old got off to a very slow start on his seasonal debut at Lingfield two weeks ago but ran on well to snatch third place in a decent handicap.  He has the profile of an improving horse overall and with the benefit of that recent experience he should be fully fit now and can show his best under star jock William Buick to take this one.

Oisin Murphy has been booked to ride Tarboosh for Paul Midgley and its easy to see him continuing his improvement, though as of yet he has not quite shown his best form on the all-weather.  He’s decent value for a place though and will be very interesting when taken back to the turf for a summer campaign.

I can’t imagine Mick Easterby bringing one of his down to Kempton just for the day out so his Bowson Fred may be expected to do better than when seventh at Wolverhampton recently, though that was a valuable race and the form of it may not be too bad anyway.  Whether he can get to A Momentofmadness though is in question.

2.50 Kempon (6f Handicap) – MAZZINI

Having been improving nicely before taking a break following a slightly under-par run in November, James Fanshawe’s hope has an outstanding chance in this race at a fair price.  Having won a decent handicap easily at Chelmsford in July before running a stormer at the same track in a valuable conditions race in the autumn it’s clear he likes this surface.

The break should have done him good and with his regular rider George Wood having continued to gain experience since the horse has been off the track, the 3lbs taken off his back by the claimer now can only aid his cause further.  Expert sprint trainer Robert Cowell now has Raucous at his disposal and though he may want the former William Haggas inmate to come down in the weights a little more, he could go well now refreshed.

Plenty of others are in with place chances in a competitive race including Hammer Gun, Raven’s Lady, Pipers Note and likely favourite Tropics.

3.15 Kempton (Snowdrop Fillies’ Stakes) – LA FIGLIA

I’m a big admirer of the Frankel’s and believe they will all carry on improving so it’ll be no surprise to see the twice-raced filly La Figlia leave last year’s form well behind and prove to be a little too good for these rivals.

James Doyle rides and can get her in a nice early position before probably showing a better turn of speed than the others at the business end of the race to see off likely favourite and Group One hopeful Smart Call of Sir Michael Stoute.

The former South African Smart Call did OK last season but in all honesty probably didn’t live up to expectations and will have it all to do from a wide draw, though she of course remains capable at this level.

Last weekend’s All-Weather Championships showed us that the French horses can come over and show a couple of pounds of improvement in these races and that puts Hunaina right in the picture, though should the race be as strongly run as anticipated she may well be taken off her feet slightly meaning she’ll use more energy than she’s used to in the early part of the contest.

La Figlia is entered in the Lockinge next month and is clearly expected to go onto to better things as the season progresses so anything better than 3/1would represent great value here.

3.50 Kempton (Fillies’ Conditions Stakes) – DATHANNA

The Godolphin filly is rated below her two main rivals despite having more experience and carries a penalty too, however  I feel that the French form of Crown Vallary and Model is perhaps not as good as it looks on the books and they may actually be at a level below Charlie Appleby’s 3yo.

The daughter of Dubawi will have come on a ton over the winter and I think she’ll be a stronger galloper than the other two as well as arguably appreciating this surface more.  With not much to beat in a small race she rates a fair bet under Will Buick, though she won’t make us rich.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Easter Weekend 2018: Thunder Snow Forecast To Run A Big One In Dubai World Cup

The Easter weekend gets underway on Friday with a bang, the All-Weather Championships at Lingfield providing most of the prize money but the potentially classier horses being at Newcastle where we have two value bets.

Saturday sees the valuable Dubai World Cup Carnival reach a crescendo and we again have a pair of horses who may spring slight shocks in their respective races.

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Friday 30th March 2018

3.20 Newcastle (Betway Handicap) – ISLAND BRAVE

Newcastle have received decent support for this Class 2 race and it’s unsurprising with a cheque worth near £55,000 going to the winning connections.  Marco Botti, Ed Dunlop, Roger Varian and Alan King all send contenders but it may not be one of the big yards that goes on to win this.

Heather Main’s Island Brave could be the one to side with at a very fair price from stall 5, the improving four-year-old just about certain to be suited by the return to a Tapeta surface.  As well as a couple of placed efforts at Lingfield in between, Island Brave won three in a row at Wolverhampton on the same sort of surface he’ll get here and it seems there’ll be further improvement from him now he’s back on it.

Top all-weather jock Luke Morris is booked for the ride on Island Brave which is another positive.  He’d be an unusual winner in many ways coming from a sprinting lineage, unlike Ed Dunlop’s Amazing Red who holds an excellent chance, though he’s compromised out in stall 11.

A couple of placed efforts on the all-weather read quite well here given that he’s liable to improve, while one of Alan King’s representatives Cosmeapolitan also holds a fair place chance along with Shabeeb should he take to the surface well enough.

3.55 Newcastle (Burradon Stakes) – PURSER

Having been a conditions race last year, the Burradon now makes its debut as a Listed event worth £56,000 to the winner and has the distinction of being the last leg of the European Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Jeremy Noseda’s Grownkowski sits alongside Aidan O’Brien’s Mendelssohn on 20 points as the top European horse still nominated for the big one in Louisville, though to put it into perspective the top US horse is currently on 110 points before the major trials that side of the pond.

His price looks extremely short to me here despite his improvement and apparent liking for Tapeta and he could be outclassed by a couple including Mark Johnston’s high class filly Nyaleti.  Assistant Charlie Johnston described her last summer as the best 2yo filly in Britain and it would be no surprise to see her throw in a big run before a tilt at the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, though she too could yet be outclassed.

For me, John Gosden’s Purser is the one to concentrate on and he may well be steered into the race with two to go before showing what I believe will be a better turn of foot than the others.  Fourth in the Solario on only his second start and expected to win the Autumn Stakes (won in the end by Derby contender Ghaiyyath) he is high class and can go on to significant Group success this term.

Saturday 31st March 2018

4.35 Meydan (Dubai Turf) – MONARCHS GLEN

There’s over £2.5million on offer to the winner of this one and while I’m a fan of likely favourite Benbatl and would love to see him win, I feel John Gosden’s is a better horse and could be extremely good value for this one at more than 10/1.

He took a while to come to himself but that’s typical of a Gosden horse and in fact it’s a positive – whatever he achieved last season can be bettered now and that’s what I expect to see here.  The form of Monarchs Glen’s Group 3 win at HQ last backend puts him right in the mix here but the fact he is improving and is entered into the Coronation Cup at Epsom shows what this top yard truly thinks of him.

As well as Benbatl I’d expect the Japanese trained Neorealism to be on the premises at the business end of the race but he may not quite get to Frankie Dettori’s mount who can improve for both time and the heat on his back.

5.50 Meydan (Dubai World Cup) – THUNDER SNOW (each-way)

There’s just the £4.4million on offer for this year’s Dubai World Cup victor so it’s not too big a deal, but we’ll have a crack at it anyway and attempt to decipher whether or not the Americans can be beaten this time.

Bob Baffert’s West Coast is favourite and rightly so having finished second in the Pegasus World Cup but it remains to be seen whether or not that form lives up to expectations at this level.  Filly Forever Unbridled also has a great chance at a price while Godolphin’s main hope according to colours is Talismanic.

It’s their apparent second choice I’m interested in though with Thunder Snow having been well travelled and not always successfully, but coming in here at odds of 12 and 14/1 and the potential for ¼ odds to finish in the first three he rates a great each-way bet.

His performances in the 2016 Criterium International as well as last year’s Irish 2000 Guineas and Prix Jean Prat put him right in the reckoning and as a 4yo we have not seen the best of him just yet.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Saturday 24th March: Start Of The Flat Season To Be Our Perfect Pasture

Although Newbury continues to provide great jumping action we turn our attentions to the start of the season on the level and it could get off to the best possible start for us betting-wise.

Doncaster is the focus of our attention with selections in the Listed Cammidge Trophy and Doncaster Mile backing up a handicap bet in the Spring Mile on what could be a cracking day for punters.

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1.50 Doncaster (Cammidge Trophy) – PERFECT PASTURE

Mick Easterby’s eight-year-old finished his season last year in the same grade of race, on the same track over the same trip and on similar ground so there’ll be no surprises here.  He ran his best ever race that day and was on an upward curve generally so we may expect an even better run this time.

Should that not happen he still has a fantastic chance as even running to around 5lbs lower than expected may still be enough, so we do have leeway.  Lancelot Du Lac won last time out at Wolverhampton and is race fit, though on the balance of his form I’d say he wouldn’t quite be running up to Perfect Pasture’s level with all things being equal.

The main danger may well be Mr Lupton who likes a fast pace and so in Listed company may be well suited by this affair.  Ground is not a concern to him and he may go well.

2.25 Doncaster (Spring Mile) – TAQDEER

John Gosden’s entrant hasn’t run for 692 days but the fact that a) his top class connections have kept him in training and b) they start him off topweight in a tight handicap suggest he’s better than this and could make a winning start to the season before going on to better things.

It would not surprise me if John Gosden saw Taqdeer as a potential Group horse for the summer and I wouldn’t want to miss the chance to say we’d backed him at a nice price before the secret is out.

On the handicap this is tight with Original Choice and Kynren among those who look to have a similar chance at a glance, however Taqdeer’s speed figures as a 3yo given the races he was running in are impressive and so going over the mile with a faster pace could bring out the best in him.

3.00 Doncaster (Doncaster Mile) – ZABEEL PRINCE

This race may well come down to the top two in the betting who look well clear of the rest.  Tabarrak was just ridden out to score in Listed company on his final start last season but could be close to the end of his improvement and may prove better over seven furlongs.

His 3lb penalty doesn’t help either and so the door is open for Zabeel Prince who is on an upward curve and could be aimed at Group races later in the season.  Both horses go well when fresh but only Roger Varian’s can definitely handle softer going and still show his best form so he gets the vote.

3.10 Lingfield (Handicap) – WAHASH

Frankie Dettori misses Doncaster to come here and ride two horses for his retainer at Al Shaqab Racing and this one could prove to be great value.  Having been a little disappointing towards the end of the summer, Wahash was given time off by Richard Hannon but now returns to the scene of his easy maiden win in September 2016.

Up to and including last June at Epsom he was very much an improving miler and reached a handicap mark of 98.  If anything you’d expect him to be better than that now so coming in here off a mark of 94 could prove to be easier than it should be.  My Target and Chevallier look like being the main dangers.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Saturday 17th March: A Sting In The Tail For Bookies In The Silver Plate

The Cheltenham hangover starts here and for the fearless among us we go right back in against the bookmakers on Saturday with five good value bets.

Kempton and Uttoxeter host the highlights (though the Midlands track are inspecting) while there may be a couple of opportunities for us in the evening flat meeting at Wolverhampton.  Here are my best Saturday picks:

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2.05 Kempton – COPAIN DE CLASSE

Paul Nicholls’ six-year-old chaser is inexperienced but has plenty in the locker and could well just outclass them here.  His chase debut made him look better than the mark of 132 he has been given and there will have been plenty of improvement since then.

The two-mile trip and the soft ground are fine so I wouldn’t mind taking a reasonably short price about Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount in ready preference to Kayf Blanco and Vocaliser.

2.40 Kempton – JUST A STING

Harry Fry and Noel Fehily are a quality combo and they team up here with handicap debutant Just A Sting looking to take advantage of what looks a pretty lenient opening mark.  True, he’s been a beaten favourite on all three hurdle races so far, but he has never really put it all in I don’t think and he can improve now encouraged by better company and looks good enough to take this Silver Plate.

Graasten has been kept off the track over a month since scoring easily at Plumpton and could be primed for a big run, though I’m not certain his form will hold up really that well while Kildisart needs to bounce back from a slightly disappointing run at Ascot last time out.

3.15 Kempton – BUN DORAN

With the market leaders looking relatively weak in these conditions there may be an opening for the one solid in these conditions when allowed to run in them, Tom George’s Bun Doran.  He’s been running well enough over shorter of late but a look at his wider profile seems to suggest this 2m4f trip on soft ground is ideal for him and he’s great value.

Irish recruit Bentelimar and Nicky Henderson’s Kilcrea Vale are two who can run into a place and hold fair chances but its Paddy Brennan’s mount who holds sway in the Silver Bowl.

6.15 Wolverhampton – THEGLASGOWWARRIOR

Jim Goldie’s improving four-year-old went for the hat-trick on a similar surface at Newcastle last time and did well enough in defeat when edged out of it going up the hill.  Importantly he has been well handled, kept off the track for 37 days and will no doubt have improved again at home since then.

The handicapper hasn’t really got to him yet I feel and he looks good value to scoot away from this field and score well ahead of Tidal Watch and Cape Banjo who can fill the places in behind him.

7.45 Wolverhampton – ROSE BERRY

Chris Dwyer’s four-year-old filly was just caught here over six furlongs last time but I think she’ll improve a little for the step up to seven in this fillies’ handicap and may in the end have just too much for the likes of Bint Arcano and Ifubelieveindreams.

Rose Berry’s overall profile is one of an improving horse on the all-weather and she could be heading for a rating somewhere in the 90’s in good time, this therefore may be simply another stepping stone for her.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Saturday 10th March: Call Me Lord The Betting Saviour In The Imperial Cup

With the Cheltenham Festival and the start of the Flat season just around the corner this weekend tends to be one of the quieter ones in the schedule, though with betting banks to boost before Tuesday we go in with some cracking value bets on Saturday.

There’s a Listed contest on the all-weather at Wolverhampton but the best action is over the jumps at Sandown where we have a good shout of a win in the Imperial Cup.

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1.50 Sandown – THE DUBAI WAY

Despite being unbeaten in his four rules races to date, The Dubai Way may as yet have been underestimated and he looks a fair price to take another step forward to win this valuable Grade 3.  His wins at Hexham and Sedgefield can be upgraded as they were better than the bare form suggests while he stayed on nicely to win over what is now seen as an inadequate 2m1f at Warwick last time.

Notre Ami and Sam’s Gunner are both cracking value and both hold solid each-way chances at around the 20/1 mark, the former having won easily in a small race here on heavy ground last time and the latter improving slowly but steadily and being sure to appreciate the return to a longer trip (2m4f).

2.25 Sandown (Imperial Cup) – CALL ME LORD

Nicky Henderson’s 5yo Call Me Lord can still improve and as a course and distance handicap winner knows his way around.  A fair third in Grade 2 company last time out further emphasised his quality and despite his tender years he’s one of the more hardened competitors in the field.

Likely favourite Whatswrongwithu holds chances for the same yard having won very easily in a novice race at Newbury last time out but it’s hard to know how well handicapped he is while Silver Streak is a fair price to carry on his improvement having unseated at Newbury last time out.

3.00 Sandown – QUEENS CAVE

David Pipe’s 5yo mare won just as expected on her rules debut and for me that put her up at the level of those in this contest who’ve run two or three times already, so with natural improvement to take into consideration she looks great value at around 5/1 overnight to win this.

Likely favourite Queenohearts could be the main danger after her easy December win at Towcester while Urca De Lima can’t be discounted despite a year off the track since a debut win at Uttoxeter.

3.15 Wolverhampton – SECOND THOUGHT

The likely favourite may well be a short price but he doesn’t have many chinks in terms of the surface, the distance or racing when fresh so really should be too good here.  Ryan Moore riding for William Haggas means we can’t expect much in the way of value but the 4yo should be a safe bet in the Listed Wulfruna Stakes.

The now gelded Masham Star may be the main danger at a nice price while Salateen should improve no end now that he’s back from Dubai and those three should be filling the places.

3.35 Sandown – TANIT RIVER

Tim Vaughan’s eight-year-old won very nicely over course and distance last time out and he’s not stopped yet.  Alan Johns’ mount arguably ran to a higher level than that a year ago and so progress from his last race to this isn’t guess work, he is just about sure to take a step forward and should outstay his rivals to score.

Lucy Wadham’s top weight Shanroe Santos looks like the main danger although the 9lb rise for a win at Carlisle could be enough anchor him while Horatio Hornblower may run into a place at a reasonable price.  Fancied Fourth Act has the profile of a regressive horse since wind surgery and may not live up to expectations.