Friday, April 24, 2015

What are we going to do without Tony McCoy?

On 7th April 1993 the great Peter Scudamore retired with 1678 winners on the board. That day, I turned to my wife and inquired, in a semi-rhetorical sort of a fashion, 'Tell me, dear, what are we going to do without The Scu?'

Into the breach stepped one Anthony Peter McCoy.

Tomorrow A.P. McCoy brings the curtain down on a stellar career with well over 4,000 winners in the bag.

On 26th March 1992 he chalked up the first of those winners at Thurles aboard a horse called Legal Steps for trainer Jim Bolger.

On 7th September 1994, claiming seven pounds, he rode his first winner in England at Exeter - Chickabiddy,  a 7/1 chance for handler Gordon Edwards.

Tomorrow at Sandown A.P. will be crowned champion jockey for the 20th successive year; the meeting is a sell-out.

He has two booked rides - Mr Mole in the bet365 A P McCoy Celebration Chase (3.15) and Box Office in the bet365 Handicap Hurdle at 4.25.

And rightfully, for a man who has broken all records, tributes abound.

Printed on the reverse cover of McCoy's autobiography are the words of John McCririck:

'The man is a colossus, we have never seen his like before.'

Nor are we likely to again.

Tell me, what are we going to do without Tony McCoy? 

Postscript: My final bet of the season will be Polly Peachum in Sandown's finale at 5.35. Nicky Henderson's mare was beaten a short-head by Southfield Theatre in the race last year and is likely to face stiff competition from the winner's half brother Southfield Vic in this renewal. That said, Southfield Vic's jumping was particularly sloppy at Haydock last time; the mare has something in hand on the book and will appreciate good ground. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

One thousand posts, two more longshots

For blog post no. 1000, a couple of Ayr longshots...

Thirty declared for tomorrow's Scottish National (3.45) - just two carry more than 11-0 while the bottom seven race from out of the handicap.

I've seen Sego Success tipped up but Alan King's charge has some 17 lengths to find with David Pipe's Broadway Buffalo on recent Cheltenham running.

Gallant Oscar and Indian Castle are closely matched on their respective third and fourth behind The Druids Nephew last time, form that reads very well. The former is owned by J P McManus and so has already proved popular in the market while the latter isn't certain to see out the trip.

Last year's winner Al Co fell at the first in last week's Aintree National but the Weekender reports the gelding continued riderless for a full circuit, jumping ten fences in the process.  

In February Milborough won the Eider Chase off a mark of 134 with pilot G B Watters able to claim five pounds; here he races off 144 and his rider can only claim three; he's still of interest at 20/1.

At the bottom of the handicap Carli King will race from the front and is another of interest at 33/1, having made all to win at Warwick over three miles five last month. That said, he's thirteen pounds higher tomorrow and is an additional pound wrong at the weights.

Paddy Power pay five places and are currently offering 20/1 about Milborough who gets the nod as the each-way selection.

Dan Skelton fired in four winners at Cheltenham's midweek meeting and I just think 16/1 looks too big about Bertimont (seventh in the Champion Hurdle) in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at 2.35.

Quoting the trainer:

"I think Bertimont is in the best form he's been in all year, the track and ground should suit him really well.

"He's got a lot of speed, he won at Chepstow on decent ground and it will be drying all the time."

Bertimont (16/1 with Hills and Stan James at the time of writing) is the each-way pick.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Aintree Grand National 2015

A. P. McCoy's final Grand National ride is Shutthefrontdoor.

The horse is certain to be overbet, start favourite and provide no value whatsoever but should the champion jockey achieve the improbable and go on to win, he is likely to retire on the spot while the bookmaking industry collectively will huddle in a corner calculating losses on an unprecedented scale.

The race has thrown up some big-priced winners in recent times including Silver Birch at 33/1 in 2007; Mon Mome at 100/1 in 2009; Neptune Collonges at 33/1 in 2012; Auroras Encore at 66/1 in 2013; and Pineau De Re at 25/1 last year.

Stats suggest the winner will be aged between nine and twelve and carry no more than 11-5. I tend to prefer horses that have shown form over these fences previously - six of the first seven home last year try again tomorrow and feature in the selections below.

1. Rocky Creek
Fifth last year. Pulled up in the Hennessy in November and then underwent a breathing operation. Returned to win the BetBright Chase at Kempton in some style - with the National weights already declared, he's now considered nine pounds 'well in'.

2. Balthazar King
Second in 2014. Ran in the Glenfarcas Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival before coming to Aintree last year so this time connections have wisely missed Cheltenham to arrive here fresh. Likes to race with the pace and will appreciate drying ground.

3. Alvarado
Made up plenty of ground in the closing stages to finish fourth last year and looks to have been trained specifically for this - has a nice racing weight. Jockey Paul Maloney boasts an excellent completion record in the race and will be keen to ensure he's close enough to land a blow this time around.

4. Saint Are
Came home ninth in the 2013 renewal and finished third behind Oscar Time in the Becher Chase in December - best long-priced outsider.

Others worthy of a mention include:

Al Co who looks to have every chance on his Scottish National win last year but ran poorly over these fences behind Oscar Time and Saint Are in December - it may have been the very soft ground that day but he's not the biggest of individuals and the suspicion remains he may struggle in the jumping department.

Spring Heeled who has been trained specifically for the race but stable form is the main concern.

And finally last year's winner Pineau De Re who looks reasonable value at 25/1; at the age of twelve it's difficult to see him winning again off a mark eight pounds higher.

Good luck!  

Postscript: At time of writing, Bet Victor each-way terms a quarter the odds six places; Paddy Power, bet365 and Sky Bet amongst those paying five places.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Aintree 2015 - Friday

Friday is Aintree Ladies' Day and not for those faint of heart; I tentatively suggest one each-way longshot - for those brave of heart...

Wishfull Thinking is no spring chicken at the age of twelve but he won the Melling Chase (3.25) last year and was well talked-up by pilot Richard Johnson for the Ryanair on this year's Festival preview circuit.

In the event he ran a bit of stinker behind Uxizandre at Cheltenham, jumping poorly and failing to find his rhythm; Johnson pulled up four from home.

Philip Hobbs' charge is certainly better than that. Rated 164, he's the third best horse in the race behind Sire De Grugy (169) who tries the trip for the first time and would probably prefer more cut and Al Ferof (168).

It all looks mighty competitive but at 33/1 (40/1 BetWay) Wishfull Thinking is a sporting each-way suggestion.

Regular readers will know I've been following Warren Greatrex inmate King's Tempest for a while - this one runs in the Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle at 4.40. Connections step up from two miles to three which looks a bit of a jump to my untrained eye.

I'm certainly not going to risk any money on the beast; that said, I don't think connections would run if they didn't think the horse was up to this standard.

The gelding is less exposed than many in the field - we should know more by 4.50 tomorrow afternoon. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Aintree 2015 - Thursday

Two quick suggestions...

In the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle (3.25) Rock On Ruby has something to find with both Arctic Fire, second in last month's Champion Hurdle, and Jezki, a rather disappointing fourth in the same race, beaten over eight lengths by Faugheen. Harry Fry's charge missed Cheltenham but is reportedly back in good health and will be well-suited by the extra half-mile of this trip which could pose a question or two for both Arctic Fire and Blue Heron.

Rock On Ruby (100/30 with Paddy Power) is the suggestion.

Ulzana's Raid is a horse I like; he goes in the rather difficult-looking finale at 5.15. Alan King's charge has had a decent break and comes to the race fresher than most - in today's Weekender the handler tells us '... this has been the target for some time.'

Sporting first-time cheekpieces, Ulzana's Raid is worth an each-way interest (14/1 with bet365).

Friday, April 03, 2015

The UK General Election 2015 - politics and betting

Back in 2008 Nathaniel 'Nate' Silver shot to prominence with his analysis of the US presidential elections, correctly predicting the winner in 49 of the 50 states.

And he has done much work since - his highly-acclaimed book 'The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction' was published in 2012.

Silver's blog references a number of UK academics who are covering the forthcoming UK General Election at

In the past, compared to US polls, UK polls have not been very accurate but the team are taking steps to address the shortcomings.

Those considering a wager may want to monitor the team's predictions which are revised on a daily basis while Mike Smithson's is de rigueur - earlier this week Smithson penned this article in The Independent where he highlights five 'value' bets.

And Oddschecker does a decent job in listing the bewildering array of political wagers on offer.

By way of a slight digression, politics and betting have had their share of links to the world of racing in the past. Robin Oakley has covered politics and racing for various media outlets, Carl Llewellyn won the 1992 Grand National aboard Party Politics and recent talk of Dream Alliance is no reference to some quixotic political utopia but rather a reference to the film to be released about the 2009 Welsh National winner.

Still, the last word has to go to a politician; it was ever thus.

In today's edition of The Times Ann Treneman reports that communities secretary Eric Pickles is 'one man who is putting his money where his mouth is'.

Pickles tells readers:

"We're going to win with a majority. I have not got any elections wrong for the past six elections that I have put money on."

Eric, looks like the game's up.