Friday, December 20, 2019

Christmas comes but once a year...

This time last year I was the rather fortunate recipient of three bottles of wine in a rather fetching presentation box that one of my sisters-in-law mistakenly sent to me instead of my mother and father-in-law.

A gift horse at Christmas told the propitious tale in its entirety and proved one of the most popular posts of the season yet, tellingly, contained next no racing content whatsoever.

Unfortunately my sister-in-law hasn't repeated the trick this year so, like everyone else, I'm obliged to offer a sentence or two on the approach of the end of the decade.

Ten years ago Richard Johnson had just ridden 2,000 winners and Ruby Walsh was about to ride Kauto Star to a fourth consecutive King George; the comments-in running described Kauto's victory as 'magnificent'.

That said, the plot lines for the Christmas Day episode of East Enders appear to have hardly changed at all over the past decade.

This year's King George looks more competitive than the 2009 renewal but my cunning plan to bet Bristol De Mai each-way at around 25/1 has been foiled as there are now only seven runners left in the field - and Bristol De Mai isn't one of them.

Jockey bookings have caught my eye for tomorrow's Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot (3.35); the going is currently heavy, soft in places and an inspection is scheduled for eight o'clock.

Tom Scudamore, successful at the track earlier to-day on his sole mount Israel Champ, has one ride booked tomorrow - Umbrigado; Tom prefers to ride here rather than Daklondike in the Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock.

Meanwhile Harry Skelton has one ride booked at Haydock - Crosspark in the Tommy Whittle - while Bridget Andrews picks up the ride on Mohaayed.

Mohaayed won this race last year but trainer Dan Skelton has since said:

"...but his last place in the Welsh Champion Hurdle [19 October 2019]...confirmed what I've believed for a while, that the handicapper needs to give him a break."

Fair play to the handicapper too - for once he appears to have listened by dropping the horse back to a mark of 145, the very mark from which the gelding won the race last year. It's just that Harry Skelton prefers to ride Crosspark at Haydock.

Richard Johnson prefers Crooks Peak to Zanza which brings in Greatwood Hurdle form. Five weeks ago the Alan King trained Harambe pipped Gumball at Cheltenham with Monsieur Le Coq third, Quoi De Neuf fourth, Zanza sixth, Countister seventh and Mohaayed ninth. The fifth horse, Dame De Compagnie, looked impressive winning the Park Mares' Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham last week.

The Greatwood wouldn't necessarily be the best form yardstick to use; winner Harambe was priced up favourite earlier in the week but has since been the subject of an injury scare. I couldn't be certain but I think there was a doubt about Harambe before the Greatwood.

Paul Nicholls saddles two four-year-olds with Harry Cobden aboard Tamaroc Du Mathan. After a long layoff this one ran well behind Master Deboniar at this track last month; Master Debonair gave hotpot Ribble Valley three pounds and an eight length beating earlier today. All that said, Nicholls' stable form is just 2-26 (8%) over the past fortnight.

The ground would be a worry for the Nicky Henderson trained French Crusader but Not So Sleepy, 94 on the Flat, fourth in the Cesarewitch and on Racing Post ratings joint top with Mohaayed here, is respected. Hughie Morrison's charge was gifted an early lead last time but I like this handler's jumps runners who are always worth a second look; in the past five years he boasts a 19% win strike-rate with his jumpers showing a profit of 29.79 points while this season he has recorded three wins from eight runs and returned a profit of 19 points.

A hugely competitive event and Tom Scudamore's decision to ride Umbrigado (David Pipe: 'he'll cope with the ground as well as anything I think') does not go unnoticed but I'm going to take an each-way chance with Whoshothesheriff.

Phil Kirkby's runner has a consistent profile - to date he has been placed in the hurdle races he has completed and last April won at a right-handed track  - Carlisle. He looked a tad unlucky the last day when run down on the long run-in after the last at Haydock; the step back in trip here should suit.

Generally a 12/1 chance, Sky Bet are paying one fifth the the odds six places; Whoshotthesheriff is the each-way suggestion.

Finally, for those worried by impending Christmas doom, here's a little something to ease the pain - the Boxing Day declarations.


Anonymous said...

Ascot needs to survive a 2nd inspection at 11:30 but assuming racing does go ahead…

Whoshotthesherriff has a progressive profile and will hopefully run well but my system struggled to see past Umbigado who only looks to need to run as well as LTO to take this. The step back to 2-miles and the ground both temper enthusiasm a bit but I’ll be disappointed if Umbigado does not make the frame and I took 15/2 EW 5 places 1/5 odds.

Earlier on the Ascot card Espoir De Guye tops the system output and could provide inform trainer Venetia Williams with another winner but 4/1 looks short enough.

At bigger odds I’ll take a chance on another 5yo On The Slopes. I’m hoping it was just some sloppy jumping that let him down LTO and that he can put that behind him and post a similar in effort as his run over CD on 2nd November. The form of that race looks decent enough and at odds of 18/1 4 places 1/5 odds the system saw some value.

I’ve also been tempted to take a speculative EW interest in Papagana in the Long Walk.

Paisley Park stands head and shoulders above these and whilst he put in a disappointing effort on heavy in the 2018 Albert Bartlett it is the place money I’m after.

L’Ami Serge is coming back from a 580-day absence, The Worlds End looks better on decent ground, Tobefair’s having a cracking season but as a 9yo can he improve again to win this? Agrapart has a good pilot but 3-miles might just stretch his stamina.

Which leaves Papagana, lightly raced, proven on the ground and with an improving profile it is possible the mare could sneak 2nd place at odds of 28/1 ¼ odds. [Update: The overnight 28/1 has shrank to 20/1 but still looks a value play.]

Festive greetings!


Anonymous said...

Ever joyful!

GeeDee said...

Good luck TW - interesting angle on the Long Walk with Papagana. Just hope the meeting goes ahead.

Anonymous said...

Not So Sleepy, bottom rated by my system, ran out an easy winner [further support for the Hughie Morrison mini profile in your post], Whoshotthesheriff ran well but Umbrigado disappointed.

Boxing Day beckons!


Sandracer said...

Snuck in a couple of concession placers the last couple Geedee.. Don't go e/w myself so no cigar for me. I'll keep chipping away to win. If you have your records nearby, have a check for me to see if you're winning on the placed horses overall. Would you have won more going double your stakes win only? From what I've seen the last 3 seasons, you've had some nice outright winners, but I ain't been counting..

GeeDee said...

Very quickly, Sandracer, without doing a lot of work...

On balance in the long-term I'd expect your approach to generate better returns - it's just I've never really had the stomach for those long losing runs.

As a yardstick, here's a link to the blog's selections last year:

It's an atypical example in the sense that last year was the blog's best ever performance - three each-way wins at 14/1, 20/1 and 16/1 (advised prices). I've never known the like and it's highly unlikely I will again.

All that said, on a quick inspection, I calculate the total win return over the season at advised prices to be 64.5 points (Brain Power and Frodon included as win selections) while the total return for each-way wagers (with Brain Power and Frodon still win selections) to be 84 points - which does surprise me. For the record Frodon was the last winner tipped on the blog (March 2019).

Added in to all that, of course, I enjoy the writing and the each-way option offers readers (and myself, of course) a reasonable level of insurance cover... ;)


GeeDee said...

At the end of this dramatic renewal of the Betfair Exchange Trophy everyone was talking about one horse alone - Not So Sleepy (9/2jf).

A few weeks ago, during ITV's racing coverage, I heard Ruby Walsh say that a rule of thumb to convert a horse's Flat rating to one over the Jumps was to add 45 to the Flat figure.

Running off 94 in the Cesarewitch, Not So Sleepy might have been accorded a rating of 139 using Ruby's rule, yet he started here off 127 - the proverbial handicap snip. Hughie Morrison's charge proceeded to make most, nearly running out at the fourth, before scooting away from his rivals to win by an astonishing nine lengths from Monsiuer Lecoq (6/1). Hindsight - it's a wonderful thing.

Sir Valentine (14/1) appeared short of room on the bend after the second flight and as a result was shuffled back through the field; Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge did well to recover and finish third with Irish raider Turnpike Trip (6/1) taking fourth.

Selection Whoshotthesheriff (12/1) raced wide for much of the trip to close three out but he couldn't keep tabs on the principals, finishing fifth, some 15 lengths behind the impressive winner.

Immediately after the race the talk was of a Champion Hurdle entry for Not So Sleepy. His hurdling needs more work but this evening Paddy Power quote a price of 66/1. Quick, pass me a snifter of Christmas port...

Sandracer said...

Geedee, that's 40 points last season alone more going win only... But would win only affect your selection process at times? I suspect so tbh.

I go win only on the golf too. When they spend 3 days getting into contention and throw the ball into the sea on the 16th hole, it's a grim sunday evening, I can't lie. Even to small stakes ;(

I predict you'll figure out the Welsh National..

Happy Christmas even if you don't.

GeeDee said...


The Welsh National is on a long list of races I euphemistically describe as 'one I've never been particularly lucky in'.

Ten years ago my boss at the time went to Chepstow and asked me for a selection in the big race. My dilemma - should I go for some "payback" and deliberately tip him a duff horse (Dream Alliance had plenty going it - form figures PUPP, off the track 18 months and then second in a Class 3 handicap hurdle) or should I do the homework and tip him one I thought had a chance?

Erring on the side of caution, I followed the latter course of action and tipped him Silver By Nature each-way. A 14/1 chance, the beast was beaten threequarters a length into second by 20/1 shot Dream Alliance. Trouble was the boss had backed Silver to win.

Afterwards the boss came into the office and told me in no uncertain terms what he thought about my tips - any envisaged career progression came to a shuddering halt that day while they went on to make a film about Dream Alliance.

Happy Christmas.