Irish Grand National Runner-by-Runner Guide

Tout Est Permis is a 6yo second season chaser who has hit form this season since moving to Noel Meade’s yard, winning all three starts. He began by winning a handicap chase off 128, was raised 10 pounds and won a grade 2 handicap chase off 138, was raised another 12 pounds and won a grade 2 by a short head from Sub Lieutenant, from whom he was in receipt of 3 pounds. That was over just 2m4.5f and he was staying on very well – the more impressive start in terms of stamina was his penultimate win over 3 miles, when he won by 5 lengths under hands and heels. He went up another 7 pounds for his last run to a mark of 157, a tough task for this race, but his improvement so far this season has been at a much greater rate than the handicapper could account for and he has clearly been kept fresh for this race, skipping the spring festivals to come straight here after his last run in January. Under the care of Mouse Morris he never tended to hit form in the spring (587 at the end of last season) but coming here fresh may be a plus – he won his first start over fences after a break of 248 days and won his first start for Meade after a break of 174 days.

3 from 3 and rapidly improving since switching yards; may still be ahead of the handicapper. Has been kept for this and has run well fresh in the past, although top weight a tough ask in this race.

Dounikos ran in the Grand National at Aintree just a few weeks ago and this has to be the first issue addressed – will that race have taken too much out of him? He was treading water and pulled up before two out looking like a tired horse. The fact that he won at Punchestown in February after running the majority of the Thyestes just 17 days earlier probably does give hope in this regard. A return to a right-handed track should be a plus, with his form going left-handed now reading 94P07P, and his win in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown would be some encouragement in terms of how he’ll deal with the big field (it was his first win in a field of 16 runners or more, P07F1P in such contests). This included a fairly disappointing run in this race last year when carrying 8 pounds less. He has also failed to fire at the end of the season in the past, winless from 6 starts from March to May (this bears stark contrast to 3 wins from 5 in October and November, albeit in easier races).

Pulled up in Grand National and hard to know if that will have taken too much out of him. Win in Grand National Trial at Punchestown enhances credentials but carries 8 pounds more than when pulled up in this last year.

Jury Duty also ran at Aintree, but this is probably less of a concern than it would be for Dounikos, as he unseated at the 20th fence and was running well at the time despite a mistake at the first. His form from earlier in the season is mixed, but an easy win over 3m2f at Down Royal as a prep race for Aintree and a good 3rd in the Galway Plate off 7 pounds less than his current mark are encouraging. He has been a fairly consistent horse throughout his career, placing on 17 of his 23 starts, with the 6 exceptions coming in the Grand National, two grade ones, a bumper, his first start over hurdles and the National Hunt Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, when he unseated when struggling 3 out. The main concern here is his mark, which is now higher than it has ever been, but the fact that he was travelling so well at Aintree does give cause for optimism.

A consistent type, making the frame 17 times from 23 starts. Stamina not a concern and was travelling well when unseating at the 20th at Aintree.

The Leinster National may not have been the strongest grade one ever but a comfortable win in that race gives Pairofbrowneyes very solid credentials coming here. He didn’t run his race in the Paddy Power Chase or the Thyestes before that, although he was badly hampered in the former and never recovered. Replicating the Naas form would put him right into the mix here but his rating his 9 pounds higher today.

Leinster National win was impressive, form before that this season was poor. Raised 9 pounds for that run but a similar performance today would put him in the mix.

Total Recall’s win at the Dublin Racing Festival in 2018 made a mockery of his hurdle mark of 125 and supposedly put him into the picture for the Gold Cup and Aintree National in the months that follows (he went off 7/1 favourite for the latter). However, in both of these races he ran too keenly, pulling hard and failing to settle, and this looked to be his undoing. He failed to get involved in the Punchestown Gold Cup a few weeks later. His 6 length defeat at the hands of Al Boum Photo in Tramore on New Year’s Day doesn’t look like bad form now, and I suspect that the winner that day might turn out to have been an above average Gold Cup winner (Punchestown might tell us more in that regard, with the form not working out brilliantly so far at Aintree). However, he was then beaten 10 lengths by today’s top weight while giving him 6 pounds, and I think that it’s unfortunate for him that his official rating has only dropped by one pound since he was given a rating of 156 after winning the Ladbrokes Trophy in December 2017. He’ll have to settle well and jump well in order to have any say in today’s race.

Has had issues in terms of jumping and settling, well beaten twice this season but at the hands of subsequent Gold Cup winner and today’s top weight. Rating only dropped one pound since raised to 156 after Ladbrokes Trophy win in 2017.

It’s fair to say that we haven’t seen the best of Shattered Love this season, and she has had excuses on her last few starts. She was jarred up on unsuitably good ground in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown, and was found to have post-race ataxia (essentially a lack of coordination) after the Gold Cup. I had hoped that she might run a big race there, but the only doubts were over her stamina and if that was a concern then, it would have to be one again here over 2 and a half furlongs further. She also showed all of her best form on last season’s unusually soft ground and seems to have been inconvenienced by the dry weather throughout this season. Watering is currently taking place at Fairyhouse in an attempt to produce good to yielding ground for the race, but it seems unlikely that it will be anything like last year’s slog.

Not seen to best effect on good ground this season, would appreciate more of a cut than today. Undoubtedly talented but also question marks over stamina.

A Toi Phil actually ran quite well in the Pertemps at the festival and then finished out the National in 12th, but this has him back up to a rating of 151. He has won twice on good ground, but that was during his novice chasing season and, like Shattered Love, he seems to have a real preference for a softer surface (6 wins from 16 on soft or worse, 2 wins from 17 on anything better). He also hasn’t really shown his best form in big fields (1 win from 13 in fields of 8 or more, 7 wins from 20 in fields of 7 or less), so I’m happy enough to pass up on him considering his position towards the top of the weights.

Seemed to be finding old form when 4th at Cheltenham. 12th in the Aintree National and that might have taken a bit out of him. Would probably prefer a softer surface and best form is in smaller fields.

Acapella Bourgeois was running a fine race from the front in the Martin Pipe after a break of over 400 days but stumbled on landing at the second last. He may have been shuffled around a small bit when trying to get back into the race, but certainly lost his rhythm and preceded to be passed by the majority of the field. He went on to win easily at Clonmel next time from Yorkhill (it’s obviously difficult to know what to make of that form). He has been campaigned over around 2m4f this season but a grade 2 win on testing ground over 3 miles at Navan just over a year ago gives definite hope in terms of stamina (Road To Respect and Anibale Fly were among those behind him that day). He might prefer more of a cut in the ground (4 wins and 3 places from 9 starts on soft or worse) but his Clonmel win was on good ground and it had dried out a lot at Cheltenham by the time he put in his good performance in the Martin Pipe. His Fairyhouse form reads 313P and his form when back out within 5 weeks reads 21143411621 – 5 wins from 11 and a further 3 places, with unplaced efforts coming in a grade one novice hurdle, a beginners’ chase and the RSA Chase.

Hard to know what to make of Clonmel win but was running well in Martin Pipe on previous start when a mistake ended his race. Stamina not a concern and runs well after a short break – might be another who would prefer it softer.

Any Second Now was a fine winner of the Kim Muir under Derek O’Connor at Cheltenham, and the sheer amount of money for him before the race, along with his performance, suggested that a mark of 143 must have been lenient. That race must have been the plan for a while and as such it’s hard to know what to make of his form before that, and therefore hard to know whether raising him 7 pounds to 150 was enough – although one would think that it probably is. His staying ability it proven, although one question would be his jumping – it wasn’t an issue at Cheltenham, but prior to that he had made plenty of mistakes over fences this season. I suspect that he’ll sit towards the top of the market, and I’ll be inclined to look elsewhere.

Impressive Kim Muir winner off 143, handicapper may have him in his grasp now off 150. Stamina not a concern. Although jumping wasn’t a problem at Cheltenham, it has been in the past.

Monbeg Notorious never really got involved in the Aintree National, nor was he able to get involved in graded company on his previous starts this season. He did win the Thyestes and a grade 2 novices chase last year, but he’s more or less handicapped to that old form and hasn’t really been given any allowance for him poor performances so far this year. The good weather this season has probably worked to his disadvantage, but he won’t find it much softer today (4 wins from 9 starts with “heavy” in the going description, 2 wins from 8 starts on better, one of which was on yielding to soft). Off a mark of 150 and on fairly quick ground, I’ll be happy to leave him alone.

Hasn’t been suited by the good ground this season and is still handicapped based last season’s graded successes on softer ground.

Minella Rocco is a horse who is obviously well handicapped off 148 if he returns to his best form which saw him win a National Hunt Chase and finish 2nd in a Gold Cup behind Sizing John (and just ahead of subsequent Gold Cup winner Native River). He was running relatively well in the Aintree National before a bad mistake at the 20th fence brought his race to an end. He will like the quicker ground but you get the impression that the Aintree National had been the plan for some time and although the Irish handicapper has been kind to him, he’ll still have to find more than his recent performances – this season he was beaten by a total of 53 lengths in his first two starts and failed to complete in his next two.

Well handicapped on old form and wasn’t running badly in the Aintree National before a bad mistake, but that was the long-term aim and he would have to improve on recent form.

Snugsborough Benny hit some decent form last summer, winning a novices chase in Down Royal before finishing 3rd in a Galway Plate trial in Limerick and then winning the Blazers handicap chase at the Galway Festival. All of this form was on good ground, so we can safely conclude that, unlike some others, he won’t have any trouble with the relatively quick surface today. He put in a fairly poor display over hurdles on his seasonal return before unseating in the Paddy Power Chase over Christmas, and then won a 5-runner race in Fairyhouse with some good horses behind him. He was raised to 145 after that victory which puts him 17 pounds higher than his last handicap win, but it’s easy to see the case for him – he has a preference for good ground (5 from 10 on yielding or better, 1 from 10 on yielding to soft or worse), is a course winner and has some solid form in the book.

Should like the quick surface and beat some good horse over 2m 7½f here in February. Rated 17 pounds higher than when winning at the Galway Festival last summer, though, having gone up 9 for his last win.

Burrows Saint is only a novice but that hasn’t been an issue in this race in the past, and he won a grade 3 at Limerick with considerable ease last time out. That win would suggest that stamina shouldn’t be an issue, and he’s the type who seems to be quickly improving over fences. He was raised 7 pounds for his last win but he might be progressing quickly enough to defy that. He actually managed to place in grade one company at this time last year after disappointing in the Martin Pipe, so if he sees similar improvement over fences, he could be in the mix here.

Improving from start to start over fences and might still be ahead of the handicapper, who has raised him 7 pounds for his last win in a 3 mile grade 3 at Limerick.

General Principle won this last year, although he did carry 8 pounds less that day. There are a few strong trends in his form. The first is right-handed tracks – his form going right-handed reads 1622F21154153, including finishing 5th in this race in 2017 and in the Thyestes last January. The second is soft ground. He certainly benefitted from the difficult conditions underfoot in this race last year – his form on soft or worse going right-handed reads 12F211415. You could argue that he ran a fine race in this race the year before last on ground that will closer resemble today’s, and did so carrying just 3 pounds less than he will today. However, in both of the last two years he came into this race having skipped both Cheltenham and Aintree, whereas this year he ran in the Ultima (on ground that should have suited but his jumping was very poor) and the Grand National (where he fell at the 19th fence). At a price he would be interesting, but due to the fact that he won the race last year he’s short enough in the betting and I’m happy to leave him alone.

5th in this two years ago carrying 3 pounds less, won it last year carrying 8 pounds less. Right-handed form is solid but he would prefer a cut in the ground, and may not be overly fresh having run at both Cheltenham and Aintree.

Auvergnat was pulled up in the cross-country at Cheltenham but that was off a tough mark of 158 and he’s back off a more workable 143 here. That’s still a good bit higher than when he won the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas (131) but he did win that race by 7 lengths, and behind him were the likes of Any Second Now, Dounikos, General Principle, Snugsborough Benny and Pairofbrowneyes, all higher in the weights today. He finished off last season well, winning the La Touche Cup, and his form in April and May reads 4113. However, that win last season was after a very creditable effort to finish 4th in the cross-country at the festival off 152, and his performance this year, albeit off 6 pounds higher, was far from encouraging. One theory to explain this could be the ground; he has 4 wins and 4 places from 15 starts on yielding to soft or worse, and just 1 win and 2 places from 12 starts on yielding or better. This could work to his disadvantage today, but the Paddy Power win at Christmas was on good. He’s a difficult puzzle to crack and a hard horse to discount.

Pulled up in the cross-country at the festival last time out, Paddy Power win (beating plenty of these who are now rated higher) is encouraging and confirms that he can be seen to his best on this ground, but it was off a mark 12 pounds below this.

Isleofhopendreams was an excruciatingly close second in this race last year, carrying just 3 pounds less than he will today. He came into that race in similar form (he was 2nd in the Punchestown Grand National Trial last year to Folsom Blue and was 2nd in the Leinster National this year to Pairofbrowneyes, carrying 6 pounds less than him and will carry 12 pounds less than him today). All of his wins have come in big fields and at right-handed tracks, but, like plenty of these, he would rather if there was more of a cut in the ground than there will be today – he has finished outside of the places on all five starts with “good” in the going description (85P0P), and all of his wins have come on soft ground or worse. If the rain came, it would be easy to see his claims here, but he looks like he’s ground dependent in that sense. His one good performance this season came in the Leinster National (pulled up in both of his other two starts) and it was on yielding to soft ground.

Carries just 3 pounds more than when going close in this last year, good prep finishing 2nd to Pairofbrowneyes in the Leinster National and is 6 pounds better off with him today, but form on ground with “good” in the description is 85P0P and all wins have come on soft or worse.

Blow By Blow’s chasing career got off to the perfect start with a win in Galway and he then came within a neck of winning a (possibly below-standard) grade 2 at Punchestown. However, it has been downhill from there, finishing 7th in the Drinmore, 18 lengths back in 3rd at Christmas, pulled up in January, 6th of 6 in February, pulled up in the Leinster National and pulled up at Aintree after a wind op. He was struggling early on at Aintree and was pulled up around the 19th fence, never really looking like doing much. A return to a right-handed track can be seen as a plus (21132147127 compared to 11613P6PP) but in the past his season has teetered off in April (last year he won in Thurles in February and then won the Martin Pipe before failing to make the frame at either Fairyhouse or Punchestown) and it’s possible that he needs a rest and could come back a better, fresher horse next season (111311 after over 30 days off).

A promising novice chaser at the start of the season but he hasn’t shown much promise in his last few starts and will need to find plenty of improvement here.

Valseur Lido ran creditably in the Grand National off a mark 5 pounds higher than today’s. He has a decent record at Fairyhouse from earlier in his career (1163) and in April (1261280). 6 of his 7 career wins have come at right-handed tracks, but all 7 were in relatively small fields, with form of 080000 in big fields. In truth, he would need to improve a lot on his current form to be in the mix here.

Creditable 10th in the Grand National but would need to improve significantly and has never been successful in big fields.

Woods Well had seemed out of his depth in grade 2 company all season before winning a grade 2 handicap chase over 2m 5½f at Leopardstown in March, and then defied a 6 pound rise to finish a creditable 5th in the Topham Chase. He might have been 17 lengths behind that day but he was hampered and ran on late, looking like a horse that would benefit from a step up in trip. That was a bit of a surprise as he hasn’t shown great form over further in the past, failing to win on all 13 starts over 3 miles or further and only placing once. He has been unplaced on all 10 starts in fields of 16 or more, although the creditable performance in the Topham may put those concerns to rest to an extent. He has also been unplaced on all 5 previous starts in April, and although the track should suit, he seems to have a specific set of ideal conditions which aren’t present today.

Finished a creditable 5th in the Topham and looked like he would appreciate the step up although unsuccessful in the past over further. Poor record in big fields and at this time of year.

C’est Jersey has yet to win over fences for Willie Mullins and has been given a mark of 140, something similar to what he has achieved over hurdles thus far. He was well beaten in last year’s Coral Cup at Cheltenham but did show himself to better effect in big handicap hurdles at Fairyhouse (5th) and Punchestown (2nd). This season has been a bit quieter – he was 3rd of 7 in a maiden chase on New Year’s Eve, finishing 3 lengths behind Ballyward (they were on level weights and Ballyward is now rated 150, although the winner that day only managed 7th in the Close Brothers). C’est Jersey then went to Gowran and finished 3rd of 17 in a maiden chase which is working out quite well – the winner was subsequent Arkle winner Duc De Genievres, the runner-up was Tower Bridge who came 2nd in the Close Brothers, and back in 4th was Burrows Saint who has won both starts since, including a grade 3 and comes into this race off a mark of 144. All thing considered, you could argue that he runs here off a nice weight. He has only won twice in his career since moving to Mullins’ yard, but he has hit form in April in both of the last two seasons, and his form at right-handed tracks (3125233) is better than left-handed (210P0).

Maiden over fences but arguably runs off a nice mark considering the form of his Gowran 3rd. Has hit form in April in both of the last two years and course form is 3rd of 15, 2nd of 8, 5th of 20.

Out Sam finished 4th in the Thyestes, 18 lengths behind the winner, and was left on the same mark next time out Downpatrick when pulled up.  His jumping would be my primary concern – he has made mistakes on the majority of his starts this year and he also has a tendency to go out to the left a bit. He’s another who would prefer a cut in the ground – 4 of his 5 wins came on soft or worse, with just 1 from 12 on good to soft or better. He has been left on 140 which is a fair mark but the ground and jumping would be concerns for me today.

4th in Thyestes last January off this same mark but disappointing last time out and jumping may be a concern. Would probably prefer a cut in the ground.

Gun Digger wasn’t running a bad race in the four miler at the Cheltenham festival, although it’s hard to know from that early stage whether he would have had any impact. He was a long way down the field in a seven-runner grade 3 before that, a disappointing performance after a very nice maiden chase win over Christmas, beating horses in 2nd and 3rd which are now rated higher than him. He hasn’t actually won over any further than 2m 5f, but the fact that Elliott entered him in the National Hunt Chase suggests that stamina isn’t a concern. As a novice he would be interesting but there are others in field who have shown better form.

Fell when going well in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham but it was too early to know how he would have fared. Maiden chase win over Christmas is good form but he would have to improve from that.

Whisperinthebreeze won at the Dublin Racing Festival and was given a mark of 146 by the British handicapper as a result. This was a bit harsh, as it excluded him from running in his preferred Cheltenham targets and the only option left for him was the National Hunt Chase. He fell there and while that was the first fall of his career, there have been plenty of other jumping errors which might be accentuated in this energy-sapping test in a big field. We also don’t know just how well he’ll stay, as he was arguably outstayed on his only start over more than 3 miles (albeit carrying over a stone more than the winner). His mark now looks fair and he shouldn’t be written off. He’s also one of the horses in the field which won’t mind the good ground, with form this season of 25221 on good before falling on testing ground at Cheltenham.

Fell in the National Hunt Chase and there have been a few jumping errors since he went chasing; not sure how well he’ll stay but good ground isn’t a concern.

Roaring Bull was 6th in the Close Brothers, 29 lengths behind the winner. This is probably not a fair method to assess any of the other finishers in the Close Brothers as it seems that the winner was a graded type hiding in handicap company, and Roaring Bull was 16 lengths behind Tower Bridge in 2nd. He didn’t show anything spectacular at Limerick last time, beaten by just over 4 lengths by Burrows Saint (Roaring Bull is 6 pounds better off in the weights today) but he did show some promise off a much lower mark earlier on this season. The main positives would be his course form (2nd and 1st in maiden chases over 2m and 2m5f in December and January) and the ground (11621413 with good in the going description, 133F6F6 on worse).

Looks to be around the right mark here, did show some promise off a lower mark earlier this season. Will like the faster ground and finished 2nd at 1st here over shorter trips over the winter.

Forever Gold is 12 years old but runs here off his highest mark to date, having shown himself in a positive light a number of times in graded company over the last few years. It’s possible that he could do the same this season, but his form coming into April in 2017 was 021, and last year it was F2UP before finishing 3rd in this race (both years he had won or placed in graded company). This year, his form reads 0007 and his 14th of 20 at Navan was the only time that he finished within 40 lengths of the winner (he was 17 lengths back that day). He is a Fairyhouse specialist, having run here 14 times and placing on 6 of those occasions, but he was in better form coming into the race last year and still carried 10 pounds less, so he’s not a betting prospect this time around.

Has been there or thereabouts in graded company on occasion, but form this year is 0007. 3rd in this race last year but had shown better form than this season and carried 10lb less.

Bellow Mome was 3rd in the Leinster National, 10 lengths behind Pairofbrowneyes and about 5 lengths behind Isleofhopendreams. He was in receipt of weight from both and although he’ll be in receipt of a bit more weight today, they did have him well held. That Leinster National form was his best yet – he didn’t make an impact in any of five graded contests since his maiden chase win, and unseated on the one occasion that he ran at a lower level. He was just about leading around the second last when he unseated Ruby Walsh, and that’s an interesting performance considering the fact that it came at a right-handed track – his form going right-handed reads 1181U0, with the 8th in a big handicap hurdle at Sandown and the 10th in the Thyestes. His form going left-handed reads 48463. If it could be argued that he’ll improve from the Leinster National due to a return to a right-handed track, then he could run a decent race here.

Leinster National 3rd was an improvement and he has only been raised 1 pound for it. The rest of his best form is on right-handed tracks so if that does bring about improvement he could run a good race.

Kimberlite Candy comes over from England and his form going right-handed reads 1133, compared to 1P553P41195 going left-handed. He was last seen finishing 5th in the Eider at Newcastle, and his win over 3 miles at Ayr last November suggested that he’ll relish the long trip here today. The ground might be a concern (he has 2 wins from 3 on heavy ground) but he has won once on good to soft, along with the Eider 5th. He seems to enjoy large fields, with his disappointing starts generally coming in smaller contests (just one win and no places from 6 starts in fields of 7 or less, 4 wins and a place from 8 in fields of 8 or more, with form of 11P1P1935). His form in fields of 8 or more at right-handed tracks is 113 at starting prices of 12/1, 13/2 and 20/1. It’s difficult to weigh up his form against the Irish contenders, but he doesn’t look completely without a chance.

Right-handed track and big field will suit, and stamina shouldn’t be an issue. Last seen finishing 5th in the Eider off 3 pounds higher.

Measureofmydreams was well fancied when 8th in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham under Jamie Codd. Now 11 years old, he’s just the type of horse that Gordon Elliott can often squeeze some improvement out of when there doesn’t seem to be any left – however, the major concern with him is his jumping, and this was an issue at Cheltenham, where he threw himself at a few fences. It would have to improve significantly today in order for him to be in contention.

Well-backed 8th in the Kim Muir but jumping probably let him down. Wouldn’t be unlike Elliott to get some improvement out of him but jumping is a concern.

Shady Operator was 7th in the Close Brothers last time out and although hampered at the fourth last, he didn’t look like he was going to make much of an impact at the time (there was one mistake that caused him to lose his place slightly). Stamina shouldn’t be a concern here as he stayed on well to win over 3m 1f at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve. Going right-handed does seem to be a plus (121221 compared to 347 going left-handed) but none of those right-handed runs were at this sort of level.

Looks like a proper stayer and right-handed form is 121221, but this is a big step up.

Arkwrisht fell in the Kim Muir and unseated in the Punchestown Grand National Trial, so jumping looks to be a concern from the offset. Before that, he finished a long way back in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown and was pulled up in the Troytown. In other words, he has a lot to find on recent form. The one piece of encouragement that you can find in his form would be a close second in the Kerry National in September 2017, although that was on heavy ground which seems to be a preference, and it was the only time that he managed to make the frame from 13 starts in fields of 12 or more runners. He has also only made the frame once from 13 starts after a break of over 30 days and has been unplaced on all 5 starts in March and April.

Has a lot to find on recent form. Jumping is a concern. Kerry National win in 2017 would give hope but he’s rated higher now. Would probably prefer more testing ground, a smaller field and a more recent run.


Yesterday the main bet was advised, which was 1pt e/w on Auvergnat at 33/1. 22/1 is the best price available at the time of writing so we can be happy enough with the price that we got.

There has been a massive drift on top weight Tout Est Permis this morning, and he’s now widely available at 20/1, with William Hill going 22/1, and bigger prices on the exchanges. I realise that top weight is a tough ask but I just suspect that his progressive profile suggests that he’s a step ahead of the handicapper, and I think he’s worth a small interest at that price.

Acapella Bourgeois is going relatively unnoticed in the market and I’ve seen a few people writing him off on the basis that he won’t like the ground. However, his win over Yorkhill last time out was on good ground and I think that 33/1 looks like a nice price.

Finally, C’Est Jersey’s weight could be lenient and he has hit form at the time of the year in the past, so it would be no surprise to see him back in the picture today. 20/1 looks more than fair.

Tout Est Permis 1pt win 22/1 (William Hill)
Acapella Bourgeois 0.5pt e/w 33/1 (888Sport, Sportingbet)
C’Est Jersey 0.5pt e/w 20/1 (general)
Already advised: Auvergnat 1pt e/w 33/1 (4 places, 1/4 odds)

Other points to note today:

3:15 – Champayne Lady has form of 1213 at right-handed tracks but generally prefers smaller fields. It’ll be interesting to watch today to see if she runs well again going right-handed.

4:20 – Crosshue Boy was our bet in the Scottish National and we never got a run for our money as he fell relatively early on. He’s running today over a trip which is far from his optimum, but it is his time of year and he has had a recent run. It’s a competitive race and I suspect that the plan is just to pick up some prize money on the way to another target. If he turns up at Punchestown, he will have had a recent run under his belt and would be an interesting betting opportunity. I’ll be watching closely today.

Fairyhouse Easter Sunday Preview & Selections

It was a profitable day yesterday with an 8/1 place and a 7/2 win. Today we have high quality racing at Fairyhouse for the beginning of their Irish Grand National meeting:

2:50 Fairyhouse – It’s no surprise to see that Honeysuckle is very popular in the betting here, as she had leading claims in the Mares Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival before being forced to miss it through injury, and one would imagine that this has been the plan ever since it became clear that she wouldn’t make Cheltenham. She does have to face horses that she would have faced at Cheltenham – most notably Eglantine Du Seuil, who won the race under Noel Fehily, and Tintangle in 3rd. I thought that Tintangle was probably the one to take from that race. She travelled very well throughout but got checked around the last and had to switch right. She possibly lacked the tactical speed when it became time to quicken but she stayed on very well to take 3rd and looked like the extra few furlongs would suit. Another beaten Cheltenham horse that I wanted to keep an eye on was Salsaretta in the Albert Bartlett, who was held up at the back of the field but didn’t settle well off a very slow pace. She came through the field well but she wasn’t able to mount a challenge having run keenly early on. She looked like she’d just need a more strongly run race, so the drop back in trip would suit.

Now, the only reason that I’ll want to take on Honeysuckle and Eglantine Du Seuil is price (although you could argue that the latter is overpriced, as is often the case with a horse that pulled off a major shock last time out. She hadn’t run in 6 months before Cheltenham so it would be no surprise to see her improve here). At 13/2 and 12/1 respectively, I think that both Salsaretta and Tintangle are reasonably priced, and I’ll split my stakes between the two.
Salsaretta 0.5pt win 13/2 (Bet365, Skybet, BetVictor, Unibet, Coral)
Tintangle 0.5pt win 12/1 (general)

4:25 Fairyhouse – Mengli Khan, generally considered an unpredictable, up-and-down type, headed the ante post betting at 15/8 but has been joined at the top of the market by Real Steel and Voix Du Reve. Early in his hurdling career it was often said that he would be a better horse on better ground, but whether this was the case is debatable, with one of his best runs coming in last year’s Supreme Novices on a very testing surface. He has now been seen to good effect twice at Cheltenham and has also won both of his two starts at Navan, which might suggest that he is more suited to a stiffer test than Aintree would have offered him last time out. Fairyhouse’s finish is uphill, but it’s not comparable to the type of challenge that a horse encounters at Cheltenham or Navan, and one would wonder whether Mengli Khan would have been better suited to the undulations of Punchestown. He’s a horse that I’m looking forward to seeing in future on a more testing track, maybe in more testing conditions and possibly even stepping up in trip to 3 miles, but I’m not quite convinced that today’s conditions are ideal.

Winter Escape looked like an exciting prospect when taking to fences until disappointing at the Dublin Racing Festival, finishing 6 lengths behind La Bague Au Roi. The form from that race hasn’t worked out brilliantly, with La Bague Au Roi and Hardline both failing to fire next time out, and so we would have to forgive Winter Escape that run in order to side with him today. The fact that he’s back going right-handed (form of 132111 compared to 110505 going left-handed) would seem like the main reason to do so.

The most likely scenario is that Voix Du Reve will jump off in front and try to make it a case of “catch me if you can”. While this did work for him a few times earlier in the season, including in grade 2 company, his jumping has been an issue at least to some extent on every appearance to date and siding with him here might be a bit of a leap of faith. That said, the small field should play to his tactics and this has been the case in the past – his form in fields of 7 or less reads 21113F, compared to just 1 win from 11 starts in fields of 8 or more.

Cubomania also has a good record in small fields (2113141 in fields of 7 or less) but these have generally been in much less competitive contests than this one (3rd of 5 in a grade 3 and 4th of 6 in a grade 2, but the highest level at which he has won was listed). On bare form, he should find some of his competitors today to be too good (although he did beat two graded winners last time out in a listed contest at Thurles).

Real Steel didn’t appear to be up to the required standard in the JLT (and therefore in theory has 9 lengths to find with Mengli Khan) but the form from that race is working out quite well, with Lostintranslation beating Topofthegame next time out and Kildisart also winning on his next appearance. All 3 of his career wins have come at right-handed tracks, with form of 1P411 compared to F50F6 going left-handed, and this could be the key to his form. Notably, one of these wins came at Fairyhouse, making him one of only two course winners in the field (along with Mengli Khan).

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time looking at this race and am essentially going around in circles – there are now 4 horses practically together at the top of the market and I think that the market has it more or less right. In the past, you could narrow this race down by trying to avoid those horses which had been to Cheltenham, but this isn’t really the case anymore, with a Cheltenham winner having won the race last year and considering the fact that the race falls so far away from Cheltenham this year. I’m going to leave this alone – it should be a great race to watch regardless.

Others to watch today – in the 3:25 at Plumpton, Legal History is back out for David Pipe and Tom Scudamore. He’s not a betting prospect for me but he’ll just be interesting to watch as he looked excellent when winning at Ascot and Exeter the last twice. He’s up to 126 now and it will be interesting to see whether he can continue to defy the handicapper and turn out to be a really good horse.

Irish Grand National – this evening, I’ll be posting a full runner-by-runner guide to the Irish Grand National along with my bets. The way that I approach this race is by looking at each runner, drawing up a tissue (not the easiest task with 30 runners!) and comparing. The theory is of course that we’re not necessarily looking for the most likely winner, but for what we perceive to be the most value. While it’s likely that there will be more bets in the race tomorrow, the biggest gap between my own prices and the available odds was Auvergnat, who can still be backed at 33/1 with Coral and Sportingbet (both of whom only pay 4 places but will still offer ¼ odds unlike the bookmakers paying extra places). I’m going to have 1 point each-way.
Auvergnat 1pt e/w 33/1 (Coral, Sportingbet, ¼ odds 4 places)

Saturday Selections Across the Cards

It’s not often that you’ll catch me backing a 4/6 shot but Kachy duly obliged yesterday, showing that terrific early pace to get straight over to the rail and tear off in front. George Bowen ran on well to grab 2nd and is probably one to keep an eye on (the majority of his career starts have been on turf but his all-weather record is striking, with form of 183812) and he also brings Richard Fahey’s form in that race to 121132. The other results came courtesy of Alben Star and Kimberella, and it’s just something to keep in mind for next year.

There’s a lot of racing taking place today with 8 meetings across the UK and Ireland, but, perhaps unsurprisingly after the quality of the racing that we saw midweek and will see at Fairyhouse, none of it could really be described as incredibly exciting. As usual, I’m just going to run through the cards and point out anything that’s worth noting or keeping an eye on, along with a couple of bets. I’m currently studying the Irish National in depth and will more than likely be having a few bets in that race on Monday. The grade one novice chase on Sunday looks a bit trickier at the moment with only five runners, but I’ll post my thoughts on that tomorrow.

2:05 Haydock – Casa Tall was one that I took from the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham, running a fine race but failing to stay the trip in the business end. He looked like a step back to around 2 miles would suit perfectly, and he gets it today. I tend to be cautious about putting up a horse each-way in a 16-runner race in case there’s a non-runner, in which case the race suddenly turns from the perfect each-way race to a tricky one. However, William Hill have made this a 6-place race, which makes it perfectly reasonable to have a nice bet on Casa Tall, albeit not at the best available price. If we were to back him at 9/1 with Betfair we would get ¼ the odds, but would only be getting paid out on 4 places, with the risk of getting paid out on just 3 with a non-runner. With Hills, we’ll get paid out on the first 6 places even if there are as few as thirteen runners.
Casa Tall 1pt e/w 8/1 (William Hill, 1/5 odds 6 places)

2:30 Cork – we’ll see the winner of the Irish Lincoln back out again tomorrow, but Karawaan has been raised 10 pounds for that effort. You might argue that he was flattered by a favourable draw in the Lincoln, but Colin Keane’s comments after the race that he would come on for the run mean that he has to be considered interesting – one would imagine that any horse being prepared for the Lincoln is fairly forward at this time of year anyway. The 10 pound hike in the weights means that he could be within the grasp of the handicapper, and he’s sure to be short in the betting. Katiymann might be a bit more interesting – he made his reappearance at Leopardstown on Trials Day and could be backed at 11/1 the morning of the race before being backed into a starting price of 7/1. He was drawn out wide and never really got the chance to make an impact. I had been hoping to see his mark drop by a few pounds afterwards, though, and he was left on 87. At 10/1, he seems to be more or less found in the market.

2:35 Kempton – Nausha is one to watch here – she’s currently between 33/1 and 50/1 for the 1000 Guineas and 25/1 for the Oaks after an nice debut at Newbury last October. That form isn’t working out too badly; the filly in 2nd, Spanish Aria, won a class 3 race next time out and is now rated 83. The 3rd was Madame Tantzy who also won next time out and went on to compete in the Fred Darling Stakes last weekend (albeit finishing last). The Newbury run was Spanish Aria’s fifth start so Nausha should be open to more improvement and if she shows potential here then she could be one to keep an eye on.

3:35 Musselburgh – Tor hasn’t been seen since January when he ran very keen at Wolverhampton but did well to finish just 3 lengths behind the winner, almost getting 3rd. He’s back on turf today, on which he has won 5 races from 21 starts (0 from 8 on the all-weather). He’s a course and distance winner off 85 (he runs off 90 today) and I just thought that 25/1 was a little bit big. It’s not a confident selection but obviously if we keep correctly identifying overpriced horses, we’ll win in the long run.
0.5pt win Tor 25/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral)

4:10 Cork – Globe Theatre didn’t do anything spectacular at Naas but he did shape like a colt in need of a run, as is often the case with an Aidan O’Brien horse at this time of year. I had been keeping an eye on him more on the basis that he could now run in a handicap, and 15/8 is too short, but he’s still one to watch.

4:15 Kempton – Treacherous is a good stayer for 6f and he did well to finish 2nd in a slowly run 6f race last time. He steps up today in terms of class and 10/1 looks big. However, he needs a truly run 6f to be seen at his best (he has won over 7f) and I’m not too sure where the speed will be coming from here. Exchequer looks likely to lead, but none of the others are established front runners, which is putting me off having anything other than a small bet. If they go fast enough, he shouldn’t be 10/1. The question, though, is whether they will go fast enough. If they do go slowly and he runs creditably, he’ll be one to keep an eye on – he has become very consistent since a wind op last autumn, with form of 2331112.
0.5pt win Treacherous 10/1 (William Hill, BetVictor)

5:15 Musselburgh – Super Julius, who we were on last week when 2nd, is back out off the same mark, 5 furlongs, good ground, cheek pieces – it’s the very same argument as last time. I wasn’t too keen to follow him again as I thought he’d be around the 2/1 mark, but 7/2 is tempting enough to give him another chance. I suspect that he’s still well handicapped and was just unlucky to run into a horse who was better handicapped last time out.
1pt win Super Julius 7/2 (Skybet, BetVictor, Boylesports)

5:20 Cork – I backed Grandmaster Flash when he was beaten by a length from a bad draw at Leopardstown last time out, on the basis that he would appreciate the step up in trip to 10f. He did appreciate the step up and I wouldn’t write him off from a better draw here today, donning cheek pieces for the first time. It is a big field, but 4/1 is just about big enough for me to have an interest. At slightly crazier prices (100/1, to be precise), Kefallonia did come in for a tiny bit of support before the off last time out, was held up and never really on terms but he did look to be staying on from the back. My first thought was that a step up in trip would suit and he gets one today, and 100/1 is just a little bit insulting to his chances.
0.5pt win Grandmaster Flash 4/1 (general)
0.5pt win Kefallonia 100/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair)

That’s a total of 5 points staked. Best of luck and enjoy the racing.

All-Weather Championships Finals Day – The Nature of the Track

The Lingfield map below is courtesy of and is useful when considering some of the theories that follow:


Lingfield is a tricky test of a horse on the all-weather. It’s a twisting, turning track, with some interesting undulations to boot. The tight bends mean that the focus tends to lie heavily on the draw, and with good reason – in 6f races, for example (of which there are two today), the horses turn almost immediately after leaving the stalls, leaving those with a wide draw with more work to do from the offset.

So, a good starting point would be to look at the draw at each distance with relation to the conditions in which we’ll see horses run today. Today’s races are as follows:

1:30 – 7f, 14 runners
2:00 – 2m, 10 runners
2:30 – 7f, 12 runners
3:05 – 6f, 11 runners
3:40 – 6f, 12 runners
4:15 – 1m2f, 8 runners
4:45 – 1m, 11 runners

6 Furlongs

The 6 furlong races today have 11 and 12 runners going to post. Even if not familiar with the nature of the track itself, the theory for the 6f course is fairly obvious; at a short distance, low draws should benefit more over this trip than over further, assuming that a low draw is preferential. The fact that the bend comes so soon after the start of the race should heighten this effect.

Looking at races with 10-12 runners over 6f at Lingfield since the beginning of 2014:

Runners Winners from bottom half of draw Winners from top half of draw
10 25 28
11 27 17
12 25 12
Total 77 57

I’ve left out stall 6 when looking at 11-runner races, so that we can establish the top and bottom half. The difference doesn’t seem particularly pronounced when looking at 10-runner races, but if we just compare the bottom 4 and top 4 stalls in these races we can see a clearer advantage to the bottom stalls:

Stalls 1-4 Wins Stalls 7-10 Wins
20 15

The “advantage” of the top stalls in the first table in 10-runner races actually comes from stall 6, which has 13 winners alone. Regardless, it’s clear that the lower stalls do have an advantage over 6f, as we might expect.

7 Furlongs

In theory, this advantage should decrease gradually as the distance is increased to 7f and a mile, as each extra furlong takes the start a furlong further back from the first bend, giving the horses more time to move in before turning. Today’s races over 7f have 12 and 14 runners going to post, so I’m going to look at races with between 11 and 14 runners:

Runners Winners from bottom half of draw Winners from top half of draw
11 14 19
12 22 22
13 24 16
14 10 8
Total 70 65

Again, the middle stall has been excluded in the cases of 11- and 13-runner races. The advantage looks small or non-existent in fields of 11 and 12, but in fields of 13 and 14 it can be seen more clearly. Again, it might make sense to look at the record of those drawn in the top and bottom few stalls so that those drawn towards the centre don’t skew the data:

Runners Winners from bottom 4 Winners from top 4
11 10 17
12 17 13
13 18 9
14 9 5
Total 54 44

The 11-runner races seem to be an exception here, but it’s clear that in larger fields those drawn out wide are at a significant disadvantage to those drawn on the inside.

1 Mile

Again, the draw should become less significant as the start moves a furlong further back. Today’s race over a mile has 11 runners, so I’ll look at races with 10-12 runners:

Runners Winners from bottom half of draw Winners from top half of draw
10 47 31
11 25 35
12 34 24
Total 106 90

A bias is evident again, but the fact that it’s reversed in 11-runner races does bring its validity into question.

1 Mile 2 Furlongs

Here, things get more interesting again. The 1m2f start, like the 6f start, is shortly before the first bend so, as is the case in 6f races, the runners have little time to get themselves into a good position before turning.

Runners Winners from bottom half of draw Winners from top half of draw
7 22 20
8 31 27
9 27 23

There’s actually no clear advantage here, and it’s probably because we’re looking at races with so few runners – today’s race only has 8, though, so it doesn’t look like something that we should worry about hugely.


With the track being such a tricky one, it’s no surprises that certain jockeys have developed reputations as Lingfield specialists. Those with the highest strike rates (having had at least 25 rides at the track since the beginning of 2014) are listed below:

Jockey Runners Wins W% W/P W/P% P/L(BF) A/E
Frankie Dettori 65 22 33.85 39 60 8.2 1.06
Ryan Moore 137 40 29.2 72 52.55 -20.28 0.92
James Doyle 188 54 28.72 121 64.36 85.64 1.09
Connor Beasley 26 6 23.08 8 30.77 7.72 1.47

Connor Beasley’s record stands out but he only just makes the list, having had 26 rides in that time, and his success has all been on one horse (My Target, who has Lingfield form of 111172 under Beasley). His win/place strike rates are well below those of the other jockeys.

It’s interesting to see that Kirby doesn’t make the list. If we look just at the current season, his strike rate is decent considering the number of rides he has had (22 wins from 115, 19% strike rate, 40% win/place rate), but there are others with impressive strike rates (albeit with fewer rides) – Joe Fanning is one (11 wins from 37, 30% strike rate, 35% win/place rate, A/E 1.79).

Thoughts on Today’s Cards

Not much jumps out at Lingfield as a betting opportunity but, unusually enough, I don’t think that odds of 4/6 are unwarranted in the case of Kachy. He hasn’t been handed the easiest draw ever in stall 8 of 11 in the 3:05, but his initial speed when he breaks means that I would expect him to be able to get over to the inside quickly before the bend. He seems to have come on significantly since a wind operation in the autumn, and there are a few trends in his form which work in his favour today. His form in fields of 11 or less reads 11616262021213511 (that’s 7 wins from 17 starts, compared to 1 win from 7 starts in larger fields, and that was in a field of 12). His form going left-handed reads 1111211, compared to a much less consistent 1662600450202395 (1 win from 16 starts). Also, he has 5 wins from 12 after a break of over 30 days (2 wins from 12 after a shorter break) and he comes here after 76 days off the track. In my view, this race is his to lose, and while you’ll rarely see me put a horse up at such a price, 4/6 isn’t all that bad.
3:05 Lingfield – Kachy 1pt win 4/6 (general)

I was looking forward to seeing Chaplin Bay at Newcastle, considering his fine record fresh – he was 2nd on his reappearance in 2016, and won on his reappearance the last two years. He was rated 80 less than a year ago but has dropped to 75 now, which makes him an interesting prospect as he was rated 74 when winning on reappearance in both 2017 and 2018. His form at Newcastle reads 41128, the 4th and 8th coming after 18 and 13 days off, and the wins coming after 181 and 185 days off. He runs today after a break of 182 days.
2:45 Newcastle – Chaplin Bay 0.5pt win 5/1 (general)

Craven Stakes Day Preview, Plus Ante Post Classics Bet

It was an interesting day of racing at Newmarket yesterday, but not a betting day for me. Shine So Bright was a good winner of the 7f listed handicap and the course form at Newmarket is a plus, but the more I watch it back the more I doubt that he will take to the Guineas in a big field as well as he took to yesterday’s test. That said, I wouldn’t write him off over shorter trips – he could potentially be a real 7f specialist and could be one to watch for the Jersey Stakes. Qabala has jumped to the top of the 1000 Guineas market after winning the Nell Gwyn and that seems justified – more on that race later.

This isn’t prime betting time on the flat for me but it is a very interesting time of year, so I’m just going to quickly run through the day’s ITV races, then take a quick look ahead to some bigger races later on in the season and point out one other horse worth watching today…

Today’s ITV Racing

13:50 Newmarket – Moyassar is one that will be interesting to watch having been a progressive type last season. He improved throughout the year and came close on his last two starts in nurseries. Both of those runs were fairly impressive on the clock. He looks as if further improvement is likely and he’ll be an interesting one to watch.

14:40 Cheltenham – Renes Girl is an obvious starting point as, at this late stage in the season, it may pay to side with horses which have avoided the testing route of Cheltenham and Aintree. She comes here fresh, having not run since the Christmas period. However, the interesting point in this race is just how much pace there is – Imperial Presence, Wenyerreadyfreddie, Tree Of Liberty, Highway One O One and Renes Girl all tend to go forward, and Kings Monarch has done so a few times too. This is the majority of the field, and leaves just Mister Whitaker, Tiquer and Got Away. The fear for Renes Girl must be that she could get into a battle up front and set the race up perfectly for the likes of Mister Whitaker under a patient ride. With that in mind, I would suggest that the market has this one backwards, and Mister Whitaker looks the bet at 9/2.
Mister Whitaker 1pt win 9/2

15:00 Newmarket – Brando deserves to be favourite having won the race the last two years, but 11/8 doesn’t seem overly generous. It’s worth noting that Dreamfield clearly goes well fresh, having won on debut and after a 569-day break, and comes here after a break of 235 days.

Craven Stakes

Zakouski is currently (just about) favourite here at 2/1, with Royal Marine 9/4, but the money appears to be for the latter rather than the former and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see their market positions reversed soon. This seems reasonable – Royal Marine is the one with the form in the book, having won a group 1 at Longchamp, and although he was disappointing in Meydan last time it wouldn’t be unreasonable to forgive him that run and assume that he didn’t take well to the surface. Back on turf, he’s the one to beat.

That’s not to say that Zakouski isn’t an exciting horse – he was impressive at Kempton on debut and has become a major talking horse. It would be great to see the hype justified, but it would make more sense to side with the proven contender. Just a quick mention for one at a massive price – Jackstar has had his trouble with injury, but he returned at Wolverhampton last month and won with ease. It’s possible that he’s a better horse than his 33/1 price tag suggests.
Royal Marine 0.5pt win 9/4
Jackstar 0.5pt win 33/1

One Other…

4:00 Beverly
City Tour won on his handicap debut last time out off a mark of 73, defying a significant draw bias. He was drawn in stall 12 of 12, whereas the all of the other winners that day were drawn low (with the exception of the 5f races on the straight course). That was the first flat meeting of the season at Musselburgh so we don’t have much to compare it to, but on the evidence available to us, a 3 pound rise for that performance may still have him ahead of the handicapper. With that in mind, early prices of 8/1 seem more than fair, and I’ll be keeping an eye on his odds when the race is priced up by other firms.
City Tour 1pt win 8/1

The Classics

It seems strange to be discussing the Classics when in just a few days I’ll be pouring over the Fairyhouse form for the Irish Grand National meeting. However, I have had a couple of bets thus far and have had one as recently as yesterday.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m on Magna Grecia for the Guineas at 12/1. His price has contracted over the last few days, but this is predominantly due to the withdrawal of Too Darn Hot from the Greenham and his subsequent drift out to as far as 9/4. Although that puts the Magna Grecia bet in a good position, should Too Darn Hot turn up fit and well on the day, he’ll most definitely be my selection in the race and I will be backing him at anything longer than odds on, assuming the vibes from connections are that he’s fit and well.

As for the Derby, I don’t have any strong opinion on the race. Too Darn Hot doesn’t really deserve his position at the top of the market, and Japan probably does. Again, I have backed one whose price has shortened a bit since – Mount Everest’s prices of 40/1 in recent weeks were a bit silly, and the 25/1 for him now is more reasonable, if not still a bit on the big side. He was only beaten a short head by Japan, and if he was to come out and win any trial, his price would contract significantly.

The 1000 Guineas is generally a race of lesser interest for me, but I’m surprised to see that one firm (888) still has Iridessa at 20/1. In the 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown she was drawn wide and carried a penalty on ground that was much softer than would have been ideal, but still raced well to finish 3rd. Joseph O’Brien stressed before the race that she wasn’t completely fit and that she should come on for the run, so 20/1 looks more than fair for the Guineas.
1000 Guineas – Iridessa 1pt win 20/1 (888Sport)

Monday Selection

There were a few non-runners among Saturday’s selections, with Mister Fisher pulled out of the Scottish Champion Hurdle and Super Julius withdrawn at Wolverhampton. Those that did run ran reasonably well, with a 3/1 winner, a 6/1 3rd, a 12/1 faller, a 20/1 each-way 3rd, a 20/1 each-way 4th (finishing just a neck outside the places) and two finishing down the field in Newbury’s Spring Cup. It’s unusual to have a selection up on a fairly mundane Monday afternoon, but one of the more interesting selections of the day was withdrawn and runs today instead. The theory is the very same as it was on Saturday:

Super Julius really caught my eye finishing 5th at Navan last time out. He was dropped 2 pounds for that start to 62. On his handicap debut, this horse was rated 88, and his rating has been in the 80’s a few times since. His last two wins were off 77 and 82, and he looked like he was finding form again last time, so it’s reasonable to think that he could now be a few steps ahead of the handicapper. His 2 wins in England for his old yard were his first two starts with cheekpieces, which he then wore for 9 of his next 11 starts but hasn’t worn on his 4 starts so far for his new connections. He dons them again today for the first time, and is running over 5f, his optimum trip, on good ground which will suit. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put in a massive run.

He’s a bit shorter today than he would have been on Saturday but I still think that he’s worth a bet at the prices.

5:20 Pontefract – Super Julius 2pt win 7/2 (general)

Saturday Selections (Plus a Punchestown Ante Post Bet)

There’s plenty of good racing in both codes today as Ayr hosts the Scottish Grand National and Newbury has its Greenham meeting. I’ve had a look at some of the ITV races at both tracks, along with the flat card at Naas and a couple of interests in the evening at Wolverhampton.

1:25 Ayr – Handicap Chase – 2m½f
Azzuri was a non-runner in the Red Rum at Aintree last week and I did fancy him for it. The key to his form is spring and summer – over jumps, his record from March to September reads 312212113110 – 6 wins and another 3 places from 12 starts. He hasn’t been up to much on his first three starts for Dan Skelton, but they came between February 2nd and March 2nd so he could just be reaching his peak now. Those three starts have also seen his rating drop down to 132 from 144 when he arrived in the yard – he won a grade 2 handicap chase in Killarney by 10 lengths off 131 for Richard O’Brien last July, so he looks to be well treated now. He’s a real good ground horse (5 wins from 8 on good ground over jumps and 1 win from 12 on softer), so pulling him out at Aintree and waiting for today may have been a shrewd decision. 3/1 isn’t a wild price but it’s just about big enough for me to support him.
Azzuri – 1pt win 3/1 (general)

2:20 Naas – Maiden – 5f
Capel At Dawn looked like one to keep an eye on when running on well to finish 5th on her first run at Naas when running green from a bad draw. I would have thought that better ground and possibly a step up in trip would have suited and while she doesn’t step up in trip today, she will have a nicer surface, will have come on for the run, and has a nicer draw. I wasn’t particularly excited about her from a betting point of view as I thought that she’d be found in the market but 9/2 seems like a fair enough price for a small interest.
Capel At Dawn 0.5pt win 9/2 (Paddy Power, Betfair)

2:25 Ayr – Scottish Champion Hurdle Race (Handicap) – 2m
Mister Fisher has some strong form to his name in the novice hurdling division this season – at Christmas he finished 5 lengths ahead of Thomas Darby at Kempton, who went on to run a brilliant race to finish 2nd in the Supreme, and at Haydock in January he beat Bright Forecast with quite a bit of ease despite giving him 3 pounds. The latter went on to finish 3rd in the Ballymore at Cheltenham and is now rated 149, whereas Mister Fisher comes here off a mark of 145. This is due to a more disappointing performance in the Supreme, but he seemed to just pull too hard that day on ground which may not have suited, and if they can manage to get him settled here he might just turn out to have a bit more class than his mark suggests.
Mister Fisher – 1pt win 11/2 (Bet365, Unibet)

3:15 Newbury – The MansionBet Spring Cup (Class 2 Handicap)
The Spring Mile at Doncaster won by Petrus looks to be good form, and Exec Chef ran very well from off the pace to finish 2nd that day. There was a bias towards more prominent runners, so I would think that that form can be upgraded slightly. He looks to be the pick of the bunch here. In the same race, Gulf Of Poets was another few lengths back in 5th. I fancied him that day, particularly considering his form at the beginning of the season, but I reckon the ground was just a bit quick for him and he should be more at home here with a little bit more ease underfoot. His form in April reads 311111, and he looks slightly forgotten in the market at around the 20/1 mark.
Exec Chef 1pt win 8/1
Gulf Of Poets 0.5pt e/w 20/1 (William Hill, 5 places, 1/5 odds)

3:25 Naas – Handicap – 6f
Verhoyen received a good bit of market support last time out at Leopardstown and ran a much better race than he had on his previous few starts. This was over 7f, but his best form is over shorter so I’m glad to see him drop back to 6f today. He ran an excellent race to finish 2nd in a 5f handicap at the Curragh last August off 74, so it’s interesting to see him run today off 67, with a 5 pound claimer on board. His last run suggested that he might just be beginning to find form and if he does return to something near last August’s level of form, he would be very interesting.
Verhoyen 0.5pt e/w 12/1 (general, ¼ odds 4 places)

3:35 Ayr – Scottish Grand National – 4m
It’s easy to see a case for a lot of these at the top of the market – Vintage Clouds, for example, had obvious claims in the Grand National and never got the chance to run his race, so if you fancied him there, you would have to like him here too. Big River absolutely stormed up the hill in the Ultima, making up a lot of ground to finish 4th – however, that was after a break of 86 days which I reckon might be key to this horse. His form after over 30 days off is 12121131F4 (5 wins and 3 places from 10 starts), whereas his form back out within 30 days is 15P26 (1 win and 1 place from 5 starts). He comes here after a break of 32 days, so you could argue that it’s enough of a break, but I’m happy to leave him alone and wait until he appears somewhere else as a slightly fresher horse. Beware The Bear also has obvious claims based on the Ultima form, but again I’ll leave him alone considering his hefty weight.

18 pounds lower in the weights, we’ll find my selection (admittedly not going unnoticed in the market) – Crosshue Boy for Sean Doyle. There are two key points which stand out in his form. Firstly, when back out within 2 weeks of his previous start, he has 5 wins and another 2 places from 12 starts, with form of 115B21046113. After a longer break, he has won just twice from 20 starts, one after a break of 73 days and the other coming just 20 days after his previous start. The second of those wins was at this meeting last year, when he won the 3 mile novices handicap chase in what was probably a career best performance. This brings us to the second key point in his form – he has won 6 times and places another 5 times from 15 starts in the months of March and April, with his form in those months reading 221901113153. The last two starts came this season, when he was 5th after a break of 99 days on St Patrick’s Day at Wexford, before running at the same track the day before the Grand National, catching the eye as he ran on well into 3rd in a handicap hurdle over 2m 4f. It would appear that he has been laid out for this race since his win at the meeting last year. It’s now his time of year and he has had his run to shake off the cobwebs, so it looks like the plan might just work out.
Crosshue Boy – 1pt e/w 12/1 (Bet365, ¼ odds 5 places – you might choose to go with one of the other firms paying out on 6 places, but I’m happy to give up the extra place in order to get ¼ odds).

6:30 Wolverhampton – Handicap – 5f
With such intriguing action over jumps and on the flat in both the UK and Ireland today, it’s strange for me to have an interest in the card at Wolverhampton. However, there is one that I’m very interested in, in the 6:30. Super Julius really caught my eye finishing 5th at Navan last time out. He was dropped 2 pounds for that start to 62, although he runs on the all-weather this evening off a mark of 59. On his handicap debut, this horse was rated 88, and his rating has been in the 80’s a few times since. His last two wins were off 77 and 82, and he looked like he was finding form again last time, so it’s reasonable to think that he could now be a few steps ahead of the handicapper. His 2 wins in England for his old yard were his first two starts with cheekpieces, which he then wore for 9 of his next 11 starts but hasn’t worn on his 4 starts so far for his new connections. He dons them again today for the first time, and is running over 5f, his optimum trip. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put in a massive run.
Super Julius 2pt win 13/2 (general)

7:30 Wolverhampton – Handicap – 1m½f
This is a bit of a mad one, and he’s not a horse that many people will have an interest in backing these days. However, I didn’t think that Gabrials Kaka shaped all that badly last time out at Newcastle for a 33/1 shot, and he’s a big price again today at 20/1. He wouldn’t be my most confident shot of the day, but he’s down another 2 pounds for that run and I think he’s worth a very small each-way bet.
Gabrials Kaka 0.5pt e/w 20/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair, ¼ odds, 3 places)

Ante-Post – Punchestown Gold Cup
When Paddy Power and Betfair put up an ante post market for the Punchestown Gold Cup, Bellshill’s price of 5/1 caught my eye. For that reason, I was delighted to see Ladbrokes put him up at 7/1. For one thing, this race doesn’t usually have a massive field – in 2016 and 2017 there were just 6 runners (from 20 entries in 2016 and 19 in 2017) and last year there were 12 (from 29 entries). This year there are 22 initial entries, 9 of which are also entered in the Irish Grand National just over a week before this race. In other words, it wouldn’t be a major shock if the field was fairly small on the day.

It sounds as if both Kemboy and Al Boum Photo are being aimed at the race, and although they deserve their places at the head of the market, I reckon that running fresh probably played to their strengths on their last starts. Bellshill jumped very poorly in the Gold Cup but this was hardly a major disappointment as it’s no secret that he doesn’t like Cheltenham, with his career form away from the track reading 122111132111F15141 – the 5th was in the Irish National when he could well have won but got into trouble at the last fence, and the 4th was in an unusual Savills Chase (won by Kemboy) when he put in a great run. His Punchestown form is 111, all in grade 1’s, including this race which he won last year. His Cheltenham form, on the other hand, is 003P. I’m more than happy to excuse his last run and 7/1 looks like value in a race that could cut up a lot.
Bellshill 2pt e/w 7/1 (Ladbrokes, 1/5 odds 3 places)

That ante post bet aside, today’s bets are:

1:25 Ayr – Azzuri – 1pt win 3/1
2:20 Naas – Capel At Dawn 0.5pt win 9/2
2:25 Ayr – Mister Fisher – 1pt win 11/2
3:15 Newbury – Exec Chef 1pt win 8/1
3:15 Newbury – Gulf Of Poets 0.5pt e/w 20/1
3:25 Naas – Verhoyen 0.5pt e/w 12/1
3:35 Ayr – Crosshue Boy – 1pt e/w 12/1
6:30 Wolverhampton – Super Julius 2pt win 13/2
7:30 Wolverhampton – Gabrials Kaka 0.5pt e/w 20/1
Total staked: 10.5 points