Category Archives: Saturday Selections

Selections from Sandown’s Jump Finale and Across the Cards

There are eight meetings across the UK and Ireland today so plenty of racing to get stuck into. My focus is mainly on Sandown where we see the final day of the UK National Hunt season after a good day of flat racing there yesterday. I’m going to take a look back at yesterday’s racing with some points to note, before moving on to selections from Sandown (4 bets in total) and elsewhere (another 3 bets), along with a few horses to note and keep an eye on.

Looking Back on Friday’s Action

In the Gordon Richards Stakes, Crystal Ocean looked to run up to a much better level than he did in the same race last year, so if he comes on for the run as he did last season and improves for a step up in trip, he should be a real group one horse this year, having come agonisingly close to winning one last season. Knight To Behold ran up to his best form in 2nd, so it’s possible that the key to his unpredictable profile is that he runs well when fresh, and when able to dominate in a small field. Oisin Murphy gave him what appeared to be the ideal ride as he can be exuberant and there doesn’t seem to be much point in trying to restrain him. He lost nothing in defeat and I’ll be interested in him the next time that he runs after a break if likely to get the run of the race up front.

Bangkok was a very good winner of the Classic Trial. He was a bit warm before the race and he did run keen – it took a bit of effort from De Sousa to keep him back but he ultimately was just as effective under more patient tactics as he was when ridden more prominently at Doncaster. Technician might be seen as an unlucky loser and he did encounter plenty of trouble in running but I doubt that he would have had the turn of foot to match the winner over this trip. That said, he was coming close at the line and came into this race off the back of a win over a mile and a half – a step back up to that trip should see him to best effect next time, although I doubt very much that he’ll go unnoticed in the betting.

The form from Bangkok’s maiden win at Doncaster last month is working out really well, with his win yesterday adding to wins next time out for Telecaster (2nd that day) and Dubai Instinct (4th). Telecaster in particular won with considerable ease on his next outing, staying on really well over 1m 2f at Windsor and he could be one to keep an eye on. Noble Music (3rd in the Doncaster race) will also be interesting to watch – he was 9 lengths behind Telecaster in 2nd, but over 2 lengths ahead of Dubai Instinct in 4th who was also an impressive next time out winner. Two horses run today which finished down the field in that race – Soft Summer Rain (13th, runs in the 1:30 at Haydock) and Just You Wait (6th, runs in the 5:00 at Leicester).

Beat The Bank was the biggest bet I’ve put up in a while and it came through – the winner’s form in fields of 11 or less now reads 11111511, with the 5th placed finish just 2 lengths behind the winner in the Sussex Stakes. His form in bigger fields is 100060, so that looks like it’s the key to his form and it could be something that makes us a bit more money throughout the season.

Already Advised for Today

The two bets already advised for today are 1pt win on Step Back at 8/1 in the 3:35 at Sandown and 0.5pt e/w (1/4 odds 2 places) on Vosne Romanee at 66/1 in the 3:00 at Sandown. Previews of those races are in a separate post.

Sandown

1:50 – Novices Handicap Hurdle – Class 2 – 2m
It’s easy to see the case for Getaway Trump and he could be the one to side with today. However, I’d rather look for something at a nicer price in a field this big. Dream Grand Du Val was very promising at Fontwell and Kelso early this year and it’s easy to forgive his disappointing run at Sandown last time out based on the ground. He’s back on proper good ground today and that could see him back to good effect. Humble Hero might turn out to be running off a very nice mark considering the fact that he was a smart type on the flat and that he was 3 lengths behind Bright Forecast on his first start over hurdles in December – Bright Forecast is now rated 149. He showed a really good attitude at Newbury last time and 126 might still be lenient. Scarlet Dragon is another one of interest, having run too keenly last time out. It’s very possible that this large field and strong pace is just what he needs. This looks like a really competitive heat and all three of the aforementioned contenders should be content on fast ground, so it’s one that I’m going to leave alone.

2:25 – Oaksey Chase – Grade 2 – 2m 6½f
With the absence of Cyrname and Janika, this is a competitive renewal and Definitly Red and Black Corton are currently battling it out for favouritism at 7/2, followed by Charbel at between 4/1 and 11/2. Personally I’m against Black Corton at the prices.

Charbel looked very impressive when winning the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon in December, although it should be noted that the form from that race hasn’t worked out particularly well, with the horses that finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th failing to make the frame from 8 total subsequent starts. Charbel’s own subsequent performances haven’t been too reassuring either, although he probably did too much early on in his next two starts which caused him to fade at the business end of the race. More patient tactics were employed at Cheltenham and didn’t seem to work any better, although he did come back from that race cut and it will be interesting to see whether they try holding him up again here. He’s not really a horse who tends to find much when it comes to this end of the season, with form of 1455F3FP in March and April – just one win (in a bumper) and 7 unplaced efforts.

Preference is for Definitly Red, who never got the chance to run his race in the Gold Cup, brought down by Invitation Only at the tenth fence. During the winter he picked up a brace of graded wins in the Charlie Hall Chase and the Many Clouds Chase – although, as is the case with Charbel, the form hasn’t worked out too well from either race, with no subsequent winners from either of these four-runner contests. The main discussion ahead of the race with regard to Definitly Red’s claims is likely to be the ground – he has won 10 times and placed another 6 from 19 starts on soft or worse, whereas he has won 4 times from 10 starts on good to soft or better.

There are a few other interesting points, however; his form in fields of 11 or less is 11121112211311311U112 (14 wins and 5 places from 21 starts), remarkably consistent compared to 7P2FUP6B in fields of 12 or more. Another key note is his form in the first half of the season (12 wins and 6 places from 20 starts from October to February, 2 wins from 9 in March and April). He’s likely to get his preferred small field today and I’m not sure that the time of year will be a major concern, as his form in March/April in fields of 11 or less is 11U.

Honourable mentions go to Gold Present, who was running well at Ayr when he fell and has good form when back out within 30 days (1152F19) – it will be interesting to see whether he runs another good race after a short break today – and San Benedeto whose form from February to June reads 11111132317 (7th was in the Topham this year). He’s a real good ground horse (7 wins from 18 on proper good ground or better, 3 wins from 20 on good to soft or worse). The Topham run can be excused on the basis of the testing conditions and the only question mark is whether he’ll stay the trip today (although it wouldn’t be a huge surprise based on his win at Newbury over 2m4f in March).
Definitly Red 1pt win 4/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair)
San Benedeto 0.5pt win 9/1 (general)

3:00 – Celebration Chase – Grade 1 – 2m
This one has already been previewed, with Vosne Romanee the each-way selection at 66/1 (1/4 odds, 2 places, 0.5pt e/w).

3:35 – Bet365 Gold Cup – Grade 3 – 3m 5f
Again, the race has been previewed already and Step Back was the 1pt win bet at 8/1. I will be watching out to see whether Flying Angel can run a big race, as he tends to run well each spring and hasn’t disgraced himself on either start this spring – he’s not one that I’d consider backing, though.

Bets Elsewhere

2:20 Ripon – Crownthorpe was 5th in the Irish Lincoln at Naas from stall 12, in a race where the top 4 came from stalls 3, 4, 6 and 5. There’s a definite low bias over a mile at Naas so that run was creditable to say the least. The soft ground that day won’t have been a hindrance but it’s not a necessity for Crownthorpe, who has won on good ground in the past. He ran on well in the Lincoln and caught the eye, covering a considerable amount of ground in the closing stages of the race. The English handicapper has him on a mark of 85 (1 pound lower than the mark he ran off in Naas) which is his last winning mark, in a handicap one year ago over this course and distance. It’s possible that he would prefer a cut in the ground but he looks like a very nice prospect to me.
Crownthorpe 1pt win 5/1 (general)

2:40 Haydock – Spirit Of Lund had one of the unluckiest runs imaginable at Musselburgh last time. He was slow away to begin with, came from a mile back, had to switch and was checked more than once before not finding any space as they approached the line in what could only be described as a rough finish. He was staying on strongly and shaped as if the extra furlong today should see him to better effect, and he has only been put up a pound. He could make a mockery of his mark today and I was surprised to see him put up at 15/2 and 7/1 considering the amount of notebooks he must have entered following the Musselburgh run.
Spirit Of Lund 0.5pt e/w 15/2 (Unibet, 7/1 general, ¼ odds 4 places)

5:30 Wolverhampton – Dotted Swiss ran well over 6f at Wolverhampton two starts ago but couldn’t find anything towards the finish. This prompted connections to drop her back to 5f next time out but I wouldn’t necessarily crab the Wolverhampton run in terms of the trip as she came up along the rail which wasn’t the ideal place to be. She ran creditably over the minimum trip at Lingfield last time from the widest draw, running on well into 4th, just a length behind the winner. She didn’t have the speed from the stalls to cut inside quickly and so was caught 3-wide turning the first bend. She was held up at the back of the field and ran on like a horse looking for a step back up to 6f.
Dotted Swiss 1pt win 11/2 (Bet365)

Ones to Watch

2:45 Leicester – this isn’t a race that I want to have a bet in but it is an interesting contest from a number of perspectives – Laugh A Minute steps up in trip to 7f which could bring about improvement from a horse who has been a bit underwhelming at times, as does Eqtidaar who won the Commonwealth Cup last year but was down the field in both subsequent starts. Hey Gaman didn’t manage to win last year but he came very close on a number of occasions including being beaten by just a neck in the French 2000 Guineas and he should run well fresh. A nice race to watch.

3:30 Ripon – Yabass won over 1m4f at this track this time last year and shaped like a horse that would want a step up in trip. However, he hasn’t looked like much of a stayer on his subsequent starts. He was given a tough mark after being tried in a group 2 (went up from 88 to 98) but he’s back on 92 now and could be of more interest having been gelded.

4:20 Haydock – just another side note on a horse to keep an eye on. Sands Chorus ran very well to finish 3rd of 18 at Newbury last time considering his poor record in large fields (0 wins from 18 in fields of 12 or more, 8 wins from 32 in fields of 11 or less). He doesn’t like getting caught up in the middle of a big field so on the occasions that he has shown good form in big fields he tends to be making the running – he led on his side when 2nd in the Cambridgeshire in 2017 and led at Newbury too, before switching to the centre of the track on the straight and eventually being passed by two horses. His rating has stayed the same after the Newbury run (78) and he was rated 92 when 2nd in that Cambridgeshire, so looks like one to keep an eye on. However, plenty of these tend to race prominently and it’s unlikely that he’ll have his own way up front from stall 9 of 16, so he’s just one that I want to watch today.

5:25 Haydock – I put up Gabrials Kaka each-way at 20/1 two starts ago and he ended up finishing just a neck outside the places. This was off the back of an eye catching run and it wasn’t the first time that he looked unlucky on the all-weather (his mark has fallen by 14lb in his six all-weather starts since his last turf start). His last win came in Chester last summer, at which point his mark had fallen by 13lb in seven starts. It’s just possible that he still has a big day in him off a freefalling mark, and I have to admit to being tempted by the 16/1 on offer this evening, but not quite tempted enough. Still, if he runs a good race in defeat or is unlucky again he’ll be interesting to watch, and if he wins without carrying my money I’ll be delighted for him – he’s a real veteran and a constant presence in the big one mile handicaps for years.

Bet365 Gold Cup and Celebration Chase Previews

The curtain-closer of the National Hunt season takes place at Sandown tomorrow. I’ll be posting a full preview of the card this evening, but just want to give some early thoughts on the two feature races – the Bet365 Gold Cup and the Celebration Chase.

Bet365 Gold Cup

There has been sustained market support throughout the week for Alan King’s Talkischeap, and the case is easy to see. For any race at this stage of the season, there will be a concern that the contenders will have been trained for an earlier target and are showing up here as an afterthought, or have shown the handicapper their hand during the spring festivals. Talkischeap skipped the Ultima at Cheltenham and other potential spring targets in order to come straight here after a disappointing effort at Kempton towards the end of February. His form earlier in the season suggests that he’s well handicapped. He was 2nd in the Berkshire Novices Chase at Newbury last November, 7 lengths behind La Bague Au Roi (now rated 151) and 6 lengths ahead of Lostintranslation (now rated 161). He looked that day as if a step up in trip would suit and he won next time out over 3 miles, then finished 2nd to On The Blind Side over the same trip, 21 lengths clear of Bob Mahler (then rated 130 and now rated 140 after two subsequent wins). Talkischeap is now rated 145 and so there’s a clear case to be made that he’s well treated and that the step up in trip could see further improvement.

However, my preference would be for a horse not as obviously well treated but still a clear leading contender. Step Back won this race last year in what appeared to be his optimum conditions, leading from the 6th fence and making all from then on. He doesn’t always show his best form in larger fields (he was unplaced on all other starts with 12 runners or more) but if he can get out in front early on and keep the lead, he could be difficult to catch with a display of jumping like last year’s. His jumping hasn’t been as aesthetically pleasing this term but he has only been seen at left-handed tracks and has displayed a strong tendency to jump out to the right, with his form reading 76P. His form at right-handed tracks reads 131. He won this race off 135 last year and was raised to 149, but his subsequent disappointing performances at tracks which didn’t suit have seen him dropped 4 pounds to 145, and while this may not appear to be overly lenient from the handicapper, the image of him pulling 13 lengths clear and powering up the run-in are still strong in the memory. You might argue that he won’t have been suited by the good ground that he encountered this season (his only start on good ground before that came in the Albert Bartlett in 2017 when he finished a distant 9th), but I think that the evidence regarding him needing a cut is a bit inconclusive.

Looking at the other protagonists in the betting, The Young Master was a decent 3rd in the Kim Muir and will stay the trip, but has finished 9th and 8th in the last two renewals of this race since winning it in 2016, the 8th placed finish last year off a mark 7lb lower than this time around. Give Me A Copper is highly thought of but the Ultima seems to have been his main target and he may be priced more on reputation than evidence. Beware The Bear was an impressive Ultima winner and would be of interest if the rain does come, with his form on good to soft reading 21171 and to win this off a mark of 160 would be a serious feat. Joe Farrell was pulled up before two out in the National and looked a tired horse. His previous start was just two weeks before that, and one would wonder whether he’ll be up for this teat today.

It’s possible that I’ll be posting another bet in the race tonight, but I’m happy to go with Step Back at 8/1.
Step Back 1pt win 8/1 (general)

Celebration Chase

Cyrname doesn’t show up in the Celebration Chase to take on Altior in what arguably would have been the clash of the season. This is obviously massively disappointing to jumps fans, but there’s little doubt that Paul Nicholls will be acting in the horse’s best interests and it’s likely that we’ll see the pair up against each other next season in the King George, assuming that both stay sound in the meantime.

The general consensus is that this will be a procession for Altior and he is undoubtedly better than anything else in the field. It’s possible to question him on the basis that he jumped to the left at Ascot in the Clarence House Chase, and that he had to work hard to beat Politologue at Cheltenham, but on all known form he shouldn’t have any trouble here. That said, I won’t be backing him at 1/4 and I doubt that many will, so we’ll search for an alternative.

Sceau Royal is generally a fairly consistent type and can be expected to run his race, but his form from February until the end of the season reads 0636923, compared to 221111141211114 earlier in the season, and so he’s not of much interest at 7/2, nor will he be of much interest at short prices in the without market. In his defence, he has placed on his two starts so far this spring, but was beaten by Grand Sancy over hurdles and then was 4 lengths behind a below-par Altior at Cheltenham.

Gods Own is now 11 and regularly appears to be past his best before putting in a good performance such as his win last November in the Haldon Gold Cup and his brace of grade one wins at the end of 2016 having finished outside the places on all three previous starts that season. He was very poor on his last two starts and it would take a significant leap of faith to side with him here.

Diego Du Charmil finished a distant third of three in the Clarence House, some 41 lengths behind Altior, and before that finished 2nd in the Desert Orchid Chase, 19 lengths behind Altior. Connections must be applauded for their willingness to continue to oppose Altior when victory looks almost out of the question. The one possible upside for Paul Nicholls’ charge is that he tends to run well fresh (form after over 90 days off is 1125 – the 2nd was when well beaten by Saint Calvados in the Kingmaker Novices Chase last year but when still finishing 17 lengths ahead of the other two runners, and the 5th was a disappointing effort in the Haldon Gold Cup but he did suffer an overreach in that race which may be a good enough reason to excuse the run).

Vosne Romanee ran a career best when winning a handicap at Ascot last November and then wasn’t able to come close to Azzuri when finishing 2nd at Ayr last time out. He’s a proper good ground horse who has never won from 9 starts with “soft” in the going description, but who has won 10 times (and placed another 6 times) from 21 starts on good ground or better. He also loves small fields such as this one, with form over jumps of 13211121453112P1 in fields of 7 or less (8 wins from 16 starts compared to 2 wins from 15 in bigger fields). His form over jumps when back out within two weeks of his previous start reads 1171431 (4 wins and a place from 7 starts compared to 6 wins from 23 after a longer break) and he runs here after a 14-day break. It looks as if the ground will be quick enough and at 66/1 in the win market, it will be interesting to see what type of price we can get in the without market once bookmakers begin to offer it.

Darebin walked over at Plumpton earlier this week and one would imagine that anything he does now would be a bonus. He would probably prefer the ground to be a bit softer but realistically should be out of his depth here regardless.

Altior will take all the beating but at 1/4 he’s not a working man’s price. Sceau Royal represents little value as an alternative considering his poor form in end of season targets, and there’s no real evidence to suggest that Gods Own will be back to his best. It’s hard to envisage Darebin having a say in the race, so that leaves Diego Du Charmil, who does go well fresh but who hasn’t been able to come close to Altior in recent clashes, and Vosne Romanee who will love the ground, the small field and the short break. He has run twice with all three conditions in his favour and won on both occasions (11/10 favourite in a juvenile hurdle in 2014 and 13/2 in a listed handicap chase last November in what was arguably a career best performance). Although it will be interesting to see what price we get in a without market, I’m going to go with a small each-way bet at 66/1 with Paddy Power and Betfair for now.
Vosne Romanee 0.5pt e/w 66/1 (1/4 odds 2 places, Paddy Power, Betfair)

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.

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

Saturday Selection – 21/7/2018

2:25 Newbury – JLT Cup – Class 2 Handicap – 2m½f

This is a tricky puzzle to start the day off, with 17 horses in contention. However, there is plenty of form to get stuck into and 4 places on offer (or 5 if you choose to take 1/5 of the odds), so it’s worth taking a look. Stratum is the 9/4 favourite and he has a very attractive profile – he ran well to finish 3rd at Royal Ascot last time out in the Ascot Stakes over 2m 4f, shaping as if this step back to 2m could suit. Mullins is trying out first time headgear and he has been the subject of market support which is interesting considering he is owned by Tony Bloom. However, his price isn’t overly attractive in a race like this and I’ll be hoping that we can successfully oppose him as he takes up almost a third of the market, and therefore should create value elsewhere.

The next horse in the betting may be of more interest. Almoghared runs off bottom weight by virtue of being the only 3yo in the field, and comes into his handicap debut having also shaped nicely at Royal Ascot last time out, having finished 4th in the Queens Vase.

Buzz is one very interesting contender. He was taken out of the John Smiths Cup last week and the decision has been made to run over this trip instead. He’s unproven over the trip but breeding would suggest that it won’t be a major issue, and one would imagine that he’s being tried out over this distance with a view to running in the Ebor. This won’t mean that he’s not trying here today, however – he’ll need to put in a good run in order to go up in the weights to get into the Ebor. He’s a very consistent type, improving from run to run, and could be seen at his best here if he handles the trip. At 14/1, he looks the best bet.

SELECTION: BUZZ E/W (14/1)

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