Tuesday, January 30, 2024

An old man walks into a betting shop...

It's quite some time since I struck an 'over the counter' bet but, having run an errand for pork and leek sausages along with other sundry items last Saturday morning, I saw this promotion in the window of a local William Hill shop: 

Bet £10+ on racing, get free £5 bet on racing.

Unusually, I happened to have this spare tenner burning a hole in my pocket so, for old times' sake, I went in, wrote out the slip in my neatest hand-writing with one of those small biros: £10 win 1.50 Cheltenham The Real Whacker - how the memories came flooding back! - and promptly presented it to the dishevelled youth stood behind the counter. 

The receipt records the bet was struck at 08:39:45; when I politely enquired about my qualifying free bet, callow youth promptly informed me he wasn't authorised to give me one and if I wanted to claim it I'd have to return after 11.00 when a manager would be 'on site'.

Of course, I never managed to keep this rather hastily arranged appointment with a betting shop manager but I took the trouble to pop in the shop on Monday morning, just to clarify some T&Cs. 

Callow youth had been replaced by a more helpful young lady who, after some research, informed me my wager didn't qualify for the offer as I had placed it over the counter and not on SSBT.

'SSBT?' I asked.

She waved at a brightly lit terminal strategically situated over in a rather gloomy corner.

I thanked her for her help but, as I left the shop, noticed the original promotion still displayed in the window. 

The first of seven significant conditions listed in the small print read: 

"Stake £10 on selected UK Horse Racing meeting on SSBT or over the counter [my italics] and receive a free £5 bet."  

The last listed significant condition read: 

"Further terms apply."

Emboldened, I went back into the shop and, after further discussion, was advised to mail William Hill's customer helpline. My case is currently pending; I have been allocated a case reference number.

As we're repeatedly reminded during ITV's Saturday afternoon racing coverage: 

"It's who you play with."

Friday, January 26, 2024

The 2024 Great Yorkshire Handicap Chase


Another email from The Times' business editor hits the inbox. 

This one informs me that two bookmakers are among the top five taxpayers in the UK - Denise, John and Peter Coates of bet365 (£375.9m) and Fred and Peter Done of Betfred (£204.6m).

This season my tips have played their part in boosting the layers' profits - and their tax bills too - and there's no substantive reason to suggest anything is likely to change for the better tomorrow with a trip to Doncaster for the Great Yorkshire Handicap Chase which is due off at 3.15.

It seems churlish to complain, especially after the recent winds and rain, but the last time I had a bet in a three mile chase at Doncaster - the bet365 Handicap Chase on December 16th 2023 - only ten of the 18 fences were jumped on account of the low sun. 

With sunny intervals and a moderate breeze forecast for Donny tomorrow there must be a fair chance we'll see something similar once again.

Forward Plan beat Mister Coffey (second), Twoshotsoftequila (third), Whistleinthedark (fourth) and Sail Away (sixth) six weeks ago; after the race winning jockey Ben Godfrey said:

"He's only a little horse [Forward Plan] but he's been holding his own in nice races and shaped well in the Badger Beer. The fences were out and I knew he has a nice turn of foot."   

Naturally, with eight fences omitted, that form needs to be treated with a certain amount of caution.

18 are set to face the starter tomorrow with the going described as good, good to soft in places. 

Famous Bridge heads the market, having won the Tommy Whittle at Haydock last time out on heavy ground. Nicky Richards' charge won on good ground over a trip of just under two miles six furlongs at Wetherby last March so clearly is no slouch.

Christian Williams hasn't had a winner for 66 days but his Cap Du Nord bounced back to form in this race last year - when it was known as the Sky Bet Handicap Chase - beaten a length by Cooper's Cross off a mark of 125 and then going on to win the Swinley Handicap Chase at Ascot. 

He races from one pound out of the handicap tomorrow on 122; his prominence in the betting suggests connections expect a big run although this looks more competitive than last year.

Cooper's Cross went on to finish second to Kitty's Light, a stablemate of Cap Du Nord, in the Scottish Grand National last April but he has been out of sorts this term; connections try to rekindle the flame by fitting first-time blinkers.

Irish raider Sweet Will won a three mile handicap hurdle on good ground here last March off 126 and races off 122 while Erne River clearly likes Doncaster but drying ground is unlikely to play to Surrey Quest's strengths.

Kandoo Kid tries this trip for the first time while Strictlyadancer, another stablemate of Cap Du Nord, hinted at a return to form when second behind Tweed Skirt at Kempton.

Somehow I'm drawn back to the dubious form of that race won by Forward Plan here six weeks ago. 

It's hard to recommend Mister Coffey (no wins in 11 chase starts) but of those behind I think Twoshotsoftequila and Sail Away were both at a disadvantage as a result of the omitted fences.

Twoshotsoftequila was well backed that day and made plenty of ground up the home straight while Sail Away did well to finish less than nine lengths behind the winner in sixth.

With the Skelton yard hitting top form last weekend and Sail Away dropped two pounds for that latest effort, the grey gets the nod. He beat Forward Plan 11 lengths on similar terms at Ayr last April.

Sail Away is the each-way suggestion, at the time of writing 14/1 with bet365 who pay six places.

Hoping they jump all the fences this time...

Friday, January 12, 2024

The 2024 Classic Chase at Warwick

Unusually five of the fourteen declared for tomorrow's Classic Chase (3.00 Warwick) are mares: Malina Girl; Galia Des Liteaux; Fontaine Collonges; Credo; and My Silver Lining.

Favourite Malina Girl won the three mile three and a half furlong Jewson Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in November (Guetepan Collonges third, City Chief fourth) and was promptly raised from a mark of 135 to 146 for her trouble. 

Next time out Gavin Cromwell's mare looked the most likely challenger to eventual winner Broadway Boy when coming to grief three from home in another Cheltenham handicap last month; Broadway Boy, now rated 150, runs in the Hampton Novices' Chase at 2.24.

She has been allocated 12-00 here but Conor Stone-Walsh's five pound claim means Galia Des Liteaux shoulders top weight with 11-10. 

2012 winner Hey Big Spender remains the only winner to have carried top weight to victory.

Galia Des Liteaux won last year's renewal of the Hampton before finishing fifth in the Brown Advisory at the Festival, just over 16 lengths behind The Real Whacker. 

She subsequently finished fourth, 15 lengths behind Gerri Colombe in the Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree in April, losing two places before the final flight. 

At odds of 2/5f it was a surprise to see her beaten by Pink Legend at Newbury last month - connections fit cheekpieces for her first run in handicap company. 

On seasonal debut Fontaine Collonges unshipped Ned Fox at the first and, running loose, caused plenty of problems for the other runners in the London National at Sandown. 

Next time out she won the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day. 

Into Overdrive set a brisk pace up front that day but off the home bend the race developed into a match between the eventual winner and Empire Steel. Empire Steel appeared to have the initiative coming to three out but a mistake put paid to his chance and Venetia Williams' charge stayed on strongly to win 14 lengths.

That looked quite a hard race; she has been raised seven pounds for the win and, just 18 days later, I'm worried this might come a little too quickly.

Back in April, in receipt of 15 pounds, My Silver Lining beat Credo 31 lengths in the Mares' Handicap Chase Final at Cheltenham. 

My Silver Lining won at Wincanton in October and finished second behind Animal at Sandown last time - Emma Lavelle's charge stayed on well that day. The grey's profile suggests she may prefer racing right-handed.

Credo, I believe, also won at Wincanton in October and has twice finished behind Famous Bridge at Haydock; she's racing off a mark ten pounds higher and I'm not convinced this step up in trip will suit.

Guetepan Collonges was sent off 5/1 favourite for this race last year, finishing fourth behind Iwilldoit (Volcano fifth). This year he tries again off a mark ten pounds higher. 

This one stays well but was outpaced at the business end in Malina Girl's race last time - that seems to have happened here last year as well and also when fourth behind Major Dundee in the Midlands Grand National.

Connections of Major Dundee have a tilt at the Grand National in their sights after that victory at Uttoxeter and the gelding's previous third behind Win My Wings in the 2022 Scottish Grand National. 

Alan King's charge prefers racing left-handed and this has been the target for quite some time. 

He got stuck in the heavy ground behind Nassalam at Chepstow last time and will need to keep close tabs on the pacemakers at this track; connections fit a visor for the first time which apparently worked well in a recent schooling session.

Beauport's jumping is often plagued by niggling errors but his two efforts this term merit respect - fifth behind Victtorino at Ascot and then beaten one and a quarter lengths by Truckers Lodge in the London National (Broken Halo a faller).

In a handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter back in March 2022 Beauport beat Boothill conceding seven pounds; he might be well handicapped here as his chase rating (141) is seven pounds lower than his hurdle rating.

Broken Halo was close enough and hadn't been asked a question when coming to grief at the penultimate flight in the London National. His best form is on right-handed tracks and handler Paul Nicholls has indicated it took his charge a while to recover from that fall.

Percussion has run well over the Aintree National fences previously but stable form is a concern.

Of those at bigger prices, course and distance winner Volcano's running style is suited to this track;  the grey has been nibbled at in the market. He finished fifth last year and this year is only two pounds out of the handicap.

Rapper's fourth behind Broadway Boy at Cheltenham is worth a second look - he was beaten under nine lengths, one and a half lengths ahead of City Chief. 

He has yet to race over this marathon distance but didn't look like stopping when winning over an extended three and a quarter miles at Cheltenham on New Year's Day 2023.

Duc De Beauchene won the Norfolk National at Fakenham in May but has been out of form since.

As always, a very competitive renewal.

I'm going to side with Major Dundee; off 135 he'll need to go close here for any realistic hope of going on to Aintree for the big one in April.

Major Dundee is the each-way suggestion, 9/1 with Coral, Ladbrokes and bet365 paying four places.

Friday, January 05, 2024

A Wincanton whim

The first Premier fixture at Sandown scheduled for tomorrow was abandoned earlier today on account of recent heavy rain.

I didn't hold out too much hope for tomorrow's card at Wincanton either, given that Paul Nicholls had to evacuate horses from his yard at Ditcheat on Thursday due to flooding. 

However clerk of the course at Wincanton, Daniel Cooper, is optimistic; an inspection is planned for 8.00 am. 

All that preparation for the Veterans' Series Final has been gently shoved into the pending tray.

Seven are set to go to post in a trappy-looking Virgin Bet Best Odds Daily Handicap Chase at 2.40; the going is heavy.

Favourite Georges Saint looked held in third at Fakenham last time but stayed on well to win going away. 

The handicapper has raised Venetia Williams' charge seven pounds and, with Charlie Deutsch replacing Lucy Turner in the plate, the grey effectively starts off a mark 12 pounds higher.

Huelgoat won over course and distance on his penultimate start (Go Steady seventh, Dibble Decker ninth) but has tended to show better form on better ground.

Jacamar finished second in a Class 4 handicap chase at the track 11 days ago; the yard is going through a quiet spell.

Iconic Muddle and Go Steady are the two veterans in this field. 

The former makes his seasonal debut for a yard in flying form - 7 wins from 25 runs in the past fortnight.

At twelve years of age the latter, seventh here behind Huelgoat on seasonal debut, is entitled to finish a lot closer to that opponent tomorrow; his fourth behind Cepage in a veterans' chase at Cheltenham last time reads well.

I think Dibble Decker is another who prefers better ground which leaves Honneur D'Ajonc. 

This one has been on the radar for some time and will certainly handle the ground; he won at Hereford off a mark of 127 in January. 

He hasn't really shown any noteworthy form since to be honest, failing to complete on three occasions and finishing a remote third behind Stormy Flight at Exeter last time. Jane Williams' charge wore cheekpieces for the first-time on that occasion yet weakened out of contention up the home straight.

He's not the biggest of individuals but in a Straight from the Stable article [RP Weekender 15-19.03.23] his handler described him as a 'fabulous jumper' who 'always tries his best'. 

He's feasibly handicapped and, with the yard going well (2 wins from 5 runs in the past fortnight), I'm going to take a chance that Honneur D'Ajonc can return to some sort of form.

Honneur D'Ajonc is the each-way suggestion, currently priced at 11/1, with bet365 and Coral both paying three places.