Friday, January 25, 2019

Cheltenham Trials Day 2019 - The Cleeve Hurdle

Earlier this afternoon I thought Federici looked an interesting each-way play in the Sky Bet Chase (3.15 Doncaster) at odds of 14/1.

Last year Donald McCain's charge finished fifth in this race behind Wakanda (Warriors Tale second), beaten under three lengths, and tomorrow he tries off a mark one pound lower.

The horse appears to have been trained with this in mind; admittedly, stable form has been dubious of late, but Constancio (5/2) won easily enough at the track today while Ballasalla (13/2) was only beaten a neck and would surely have come home in front had he not made mistakes at three of the final four flights.

The problem is others with a similar idea have gone and backed the beast so now he's generally a 10/1 shot...

I tend to think the Sky Bet often goes the way of a horse with fewer miles on the clock so instead I've decided to take a chance in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.

With twelve declared, this year's competitive renewal contains an intriguing mix of younger horses hoping to enhance their reputations and more experienced animals who, for a variety of reasons, are now back over the smaller obstacles having had a try at the larger ones.

A couple have caught my eye at a price.

You couldn't back Sam Spinner with any sort of confidence after two consecutive unseatings but he is joint top-rated on Racing Post ratings and is quoted at 14/1 in places this evening.

Ladbrokes offer 22/1 (one fifth the odds four places) about last year's winner Agrapart. Joint top-rated, this one has a clear chance on the book but that victory came on heavy ground.

West Approach was third behind Unowhatimeanharry in the 2017 renewal and is rated a 14/1 shot this time. He has been struggling over fences but ran well when reverting to hurdles to claim second behind Paisley Park in the Long Walk last time; he receives weight from eight of his 11 rivals.

Of the market principals Black Op races beyond two miles five for the first time on a British racecourse (although he won a point over three miles at Loughanmore in 2016), Midnight Shadow goes beyond two miles four and a half for the first time - some commentators felt Clyne and Wholestone took each other on a long way from home the last day allowing Midnight Shadow to pick up the pieces - while Paisley Park looked very impressive in the Long Walk.

On a strict interpretation of that Long Walk form, in receipt of six pounds West Approach is weighted to reverse placings with Paisley Park.

West Approach is the each-way selection (one fifth the odds four places with Ladbrokes).

Friday, January 18, 2019

In-play betting, Robbie Box and an each-way longshot at Ascot

Earlier this week both the Daily Mail and The Guardian ran stories about punters using real-time pictures from drones to gain an edge in in-play racing markets; the time delay on conventional 'live' TV feeds can be anything up to ten seconds - it's generally accepted a horse can cover five lengths a second (except when they're tipped by this blog).

All of which took me back to 'Big Deal', a TV series broadcast by the BBC in the mid-eighties, which focussed on the plights and predicaments of small-time gambler Robbie Box (Ray Brooks).

The one particular episode I can (barely) remember - it was transmitted well over thirty years ago now - involved Robbie gaining access to a room above a bookmaker's shop and then, with the help of an accomplice, introducing a delay into the bookmaker's feed, thereby giving Robbie and his acquaintances the time to pop downstairs into the shop to write out winning bets...

Betting shops, they were different beasts in those days - as this YouTube clip from the series clearly illustrates.

Valtor is one of three runners Nicky Henderson has withdrawn from Haydock's card tomorrow on account of health concerns. That leaves eleven in the Peter Marsh (3.15); clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright has called an inspection at 7.30am just in case the forecast rain falls as snow.

Four weeks ago Daklondike won the Tommy Whittle and so it's hardly surprising he's prominent in the betting; Tom Scudamore rides again although one assumes he wouldn't have endeared himself to everyone at Haydock for his contribution in 'The Scudamores: Three of a Kind' when he described the course as 'a dog track'.

With as many as eight of the eleven runners priced between 11/2 and 8/1, I've gone to Ascot in search of some value.

Thirteen are set to face the starter for the bet365 Handicap Chase at 3.00; course and distance winner Benatar, second behind Valtor last time out, is the current favourite. Writing in the Racing Post Weekender handler Gary Moore acknowledges his charge hasn't reproduced last season's form (finished third in the JLT at Cheltenham) but states:

"...I expect him to run well. He's in great form and should be competitive." 

Paul Kealy makes the case for Belami Des Pictons in the same paper but this one is passed over as he hasn't seen a track for 440 days and is plenty short enough in the market now.

Mister Whitaker beat Happy Diva and Cyrname at Carlisle before finishing a creditable fourth behind Baron Alco in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Happy Diva is a consistent sort but stable form is the worry with no winners in the past 51 days.

Jerrysback's preferred engagement is Haydock's 1.30 but course and distance winner Mr Medic is given every respect.

Paul Nicholls' two runners have caught my eye.

Cyrname was sent off 11/4 favourite for the Hurst Park Handicap Chase over two miles one here eight weeks ago; he likes to race from the front but couldn't live with Speredek that day and eventually finished seventh. In the same race stablemate San Benedeto came from off the pace to stay on into fourth behind Caid Du Lin who collared the long-time leader in the shadow of the post.

San Benedeto has since finished a well-beaten sixth behind Charbel in the Peterborough Chase but he races off 150 now, a mark he has won from previously, and it is worth noting he was rated as high as 158 last May; pilot Lorcan Williams also claims five.

Cyrname is the one to beat on Racing Post ratings while San Benedeto should be competitive; the former is a 10/1 shot while the latter is almost double that price.

I'm not entirely convinced this is his optimum trip but San Benedeto is the each-way suggestion at 18/1 - Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and Betfair pay one fifth the odds four places.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Warwick's Classic Chase 2019

There will be lots of betting opportunities to lose your hard-earned between now and the Cheltenham Festival in March but that simple fact isn't going to stop large sections of the media from writing about Cheltenham, talking about Cheltenham, discussing Cheltenham entries, Cheltenham bankers, reporting from Cheltenham preview nights and generally trying to look up to eight weeks or so into the future.

Those in need of a timely fix may want to refer to Lydia Hislop's recently updated Road to Cheltenham series - the hurdlers and its counterpart the chasers.

For my part I've set myself the admittedly difficult but rather more modest task of trying to come up with one who'll at least give me a run for my money in tomorrow's Classic Chase at Warwick (3.00), my local track.

This doesn't have the look of a typical renewal with thirteen declared and the going described as good, good to soft in places; showers are forecast.

At the time of writing Callet Mad, Step Back and Duel At Dawn are all vying for favouritism.

Callet Mad seems to have been around for ages but he's the youngest in this field; since 2000 only two seven-year-olds have come home in front - Baron Windrush (2005) and Shotgun Paddy (2014).

Step Back has only five chase starts to his name and Duel At Dawn, well backed during the week, six but to my mind this race often rides quite rough and generally I tend to prefer a more experienced sort.

Rocky's Treasure and Ibis Du Rheu held five day entries for this and the Hampton Novices' Chase (1.50). Connections of the former have taken the easier option while Ibis Du Rheu's jumping appeared to suffer over the final three fences when well beaten behind The Worlds End at Cheltenham last month.

Jumping is always at a premium at Warwick, particularly down the back straight where the five flights come pretty quickly one after another.

Impulsive Star was fourth in the four miler at Cheltenham last March but he looked ring-rusty on his seasonal debut at Plumpton behind Ok Corral (goes in the Hampton at 1.50); he'll certainly need to be more fluent over the obstacles here. Robert Waley-Cohen has indicated son Sam may not be able to make full use of his three pound claim.

Fourth looked the best Carole's Destrier could hope for jumping the last at Newbury when last seen but Neil Mulholland's charge came with a late rattle to pinch the spoils. A three pound penalty looks manageable and the ground will suit; jockey Robbie Dunne won the 2013 renewal aboard Rigadin De Beauchene.

I've concentrated efforts on the two who can boast previous course winning form - last year's winner Milansbar and Cogry who finished 11 lengths adrift in second that day. 12 months on winning jock Bryony Frost goes to Kempton to ride for Paul Nicholls; Jack Andrews can't do the weight so this year the ride on Milansbar goes to Jack's sister Gina who claims three.

Milansbar looks weighted to confirm last year's placings with Cogry; the latter has gone up three pounds after defeating Singlefarmpayment a head at Cheltenham. That said, Milansbar is now twelve years old and would probably prefer more cut underfoot.

Of the remainder Un Temps Pour Tout has his second run after wind surgery; since 1974 Hey Big Spender (2012) is the only horse to have carried top weight to victory. Of Colin Tizzard's pair Sizing Codelco faces a stiff task after 252 days off the track while Ultragold appeared to stay on his first try beyond three miles one the last day and just may be overpriced at 22/1 - Richard Johnson rides.

Crosspark was fourth in last year's race beaten some 28 lengths (Gina Andrews up) while Chase The Spud has been out of sorts of late.

On the book Milansbar is weighted to finish ahead of Cogry but I'm hoping quicker ground will help the Twiston-Davies inmate. Cogry (7/1 Ladbrokes one fifth the odds four places) is the each-way suggestion.

Friday, January 04, 2019

The Veterans' Chase Final at Sandown

Small fields for the most part at Sandown tomorrow.

Ed Chamberlin won't be the only one desperate to see the Irish-trained mare Laurina, currently as low as 7/2 with several layers for the Champion Hurdle, make her seasonal debut at 1.50. She faces just three opponents.

Thirty five minutes later six face the starter for the Tolworth. Seven days ago at Newbury the Challow turned into something of a tactical affair; here both Elixir De Nutz and Southfield Stone have made all previously so, hopefully, we'll see a truly run race.

By contrast seventeen runners have been declared for the Veterans' Handicap Chase at 3.00. 

Those looking for an unexposed type in this sort of race might usually expect to have their work cut out but market leader Rock Gone has relatively low mileage on the clock with just six chase starts to his name; he has never won over this trip.

Sam Twiston-Davies rides for Dr Richard Newland and I'm assuming Sam has chosen Rock Gone, having also ridden the favourite's stablemate Band Of Blood when fourth behind Cultram Abbey at Kelso last month. 

Cultram Abbey was raised five pounds for that effort but he looked good. He has done a lot of his racing around Perth and Carlisle.

Charlie Longsdon saddles Pete The Feat and Loose Chips who finished first and third respectively in the 2017 renewal; both clearly love it around here and hold each-way chances.

Aged 15, the former is the oldest runner in the race while the latter beat Rock Gone over this course and distance in November (Rathlin Rose fourth, Pete The Feat seventh, Tenor Nivernais ninth and Theatre Guide tenth) and now meets the second eight pounds worse off.

Rathlin Rose would be expected to come on for that fourth behind Loose Chips on his seasonal debut and has also been dropped two pounds to a mark of 130. Last March Rathlin Rose won at Ascot off 128 with Houblon Des Obeaux third, Loose Chips fourth and Band Of Blood fifth.

Buywise came home in front last year (Pete The Feat second, Loose Chips fifth and Houblon Des Obeaux sixth) but he has always been a horse that takes at least one liberty at the obstacles in his races.

With the covers down and the going on the chase track currently described as good to soft, soft in places, good in places on the back straight, underfoot conditions may not be quite as testing as in some previous years. 

Course and distance winner Le Reve is likely to appreciate better ground and that comment may also apply to top weight Exitas and Houblon Des Obeaux who appeared to get stuck in the mud behind Daklondike at Haydock last time. Although apparently unfancied in the market, Venetia Williams' charge is there with every chance on Racing Post ratings and the stable is in very good form.

Henlan Harri likes it here, will appreciate the better ground and has gone well after a layoff in the past but the stable hasn't had a winner for 24 days.

A wide open event and, of course, it's possible to make a case for several in the field. 

I'm tempted by Band Of Blood who should certainly finish closer to Cultram Abbey but Sam Twiston-Davies is clearly keen on Rock Gone so I'm going to take an each-way interest in Houblon Des Obeaux, sixth in this race last year off 143, beaten under 12 lengths. Paddy Power offer 20/1 and pay one fifth the odds six places.

A quick footnote on Plumpton's card on Sunday. The novice chase at 1.10 should prove highly informative while my New Year's Day each-way selection Big Meadow tries again in the Sussex National after unseating at the first at Exeter. Richard Johnson rides but the drying ground is still the negative.