Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Fairytale Derby Blog

I'll be looking for a decent each way bet on these pages - or in other words, any horse other than Australia and who therefore offers a bit of value.  Most bookies are also offering a 'without the favourite' market as well.

I have been studying the weather forecasts as much as I have the form book for these picks and depending on which meteorological pundit you listen to, Epsom could have thunder, lightening, heavy rain, light rain, showers, sunshine or merely a gentle wafting breeze.  One thing is for sure there will be neither snow nor Red Galileo in the winner's enclosure at 4.05pm..... perhaps I shouldn't have said that!  Anyway, I've taken an educated guess that the going is unlikely to be any worse than good to soft but at this level, any horse that their trainer allows to run is going to perform on the going.

The Ballydoyle Contingent

I have also taken an educated guess that the words coming forth from trainers that hail from Tipperary should sometimes be taken with a large pinch of sodium chloride.  It wouldn't be the first time that 'the best horse we have ever had' is beaten by a stablemate.  

Aidan O'Brien has four runners this year - Kingfisher is turning up to ensure a true gallop and Australia, Geoffrey Chaucer and Orchestra are here running on merit.  

Aside from their maidens, it's very rare for a Derby winner to have any digit other than a 1 or an occasional 2 next to it's name - one exception in the past 10 years being Pour Moi. This isn't a good omen for Australia, Kingfisher or Geoffrey Chaucer but is good news for Orchestra, who won at the Chester Vase in May despite looking green but  which at least suggests he'll cope with this track.  He has won on both soft and good which gives him an additional brownie point.  Geoffrey Chaucer wasn't beaten by the going last time out but managed to find more traffic than the M25 on a Friday afternoon (no mean feat in a six horse race!) so maybe that 3 next to his hame can be upgraded - he is certainly a lot better than that result suggests.  

On an altogether different note, how weird must it be for Kieren Fallon to be riding against Joseph O'Brien who was a mere 12 year old when he joined Ballydoyle as stable jockey back in 2005?

The Godolphin Contingent

The boys in blue have three runners today (and a poor record in this race!).  There are two from the Appleby yard and one from Suroor.

This week the press have been full of stories of Charlie Appleby and his apparent mission to humiliate Mickael Barzalona and to a lesser extent, Silvestre De Sousa by employing the services of Kevin Manning (Sudden Move) and James Doyle (Pinzolo) to ride for him here. Doyler rode a double on Friday at Epsom so his confidence should at least be on a high. Of the two Appleby runners, Sudden Move is the one that he stated was his main Derby hope but it's Pinzolo who has the black type.  Neither can be given serious consideration though.

True Story is drawn in stall 1 and the last time that a horse won from this draw was Oath back in 1999.... coincidentally ridden by Kieren Fallon who is riding True Story today.  He won't be suited by any soft in the going description but he's worthy of close consideration and you can be certain that Fallon will be whistling like a banshee while riding like a demon in his attempt to win this - it would certainly make for a perfect ending to a Hollywood film of his life and career!

Northern Dancer - He's the Daddy!  

......of the prolific sire Sadler's Wells who in turn sired Montjeu and Galileo.  Six of the past ten Derby winners have been sired by either Montjeu or Galileo and Northern Dancer has played a part in the production of 13 of the past 20 including all of the last seven. They can all thank Northern Dancer for their go faster genes.  

this stands for Racing Post Rating and not Rather Poor Return which is what you'd have got had you backed the 8/13 winner Camelot a couple of years ago.  Unsurprisingly no runner with an RPR of less than 118 has won the Derby.  Rather more surprisingly, no runner with an RPR above 130 has won - which would rule out Australia and Kingston Hill.


Any other race here at Epsom over a mile and half and the mid to high draw definitely has it.  However, in the Derby any draw bias goes out of the window as low, mid and high drawn runners have a fairly even spread.  

The last time we saw a double figured winner in the Derby was 1998 when Luca Cumani trained High-Rise prevailed at odds of 20/1 - he was the only unbeaten runner in a pretty poor running.  

Horses For Courses
Many of these runners have stretched their legs here at Epsom for a gallop.  All bar one of the Irish winners from the past 20 years have won at Leopardstown before coming here Orchestra and Kingfisher are the only two Irish runners this year that haven't had a Leopardstown win.

Kingston Hill is s runner who, if there's any soft around tomorrow is very much a contender.  He has won his 1 mile races going away so the required stamina is evident but he was disappointing in the 2000 Guineas  on good to firm.  He had a run round Epsom and apparently handled the course.  His odds are currently around 17/2 but expect this to shorten if the rain comes.   

Down to business then!  As I mentioned at the top, I am looking for a value each way, place only or betting w/o the favourite pick since Australia (with his Derby winning sire and Oaks winning dam) is the class act this year and priced accordingly.  As long as the ground stays decent then he will go off a short favourite although I'd have liked to have seen him run (and win!) a 10f race before today.  If he wins then it'll be in the style of Camelot where he just holds on by the skin of his teeth so the value with Australia is likely to be found backing in running when I'm sure he'll hit much higher than his SP.  

Final Verdict :

Geoffrey Chaucer for the sensible logical alternative!
Kingston Hill if the chance-enhancing rain arrives
True Story for the fairytale ending

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Scoopy Haddock Blog

What a perfect day to abandon logical reason when picking the names of the Scoop 6 winners like ex professional ironist, Agnes Haddock from Cheshire did in 1997 when she included a runner called Clouding Over because “it looked like rain on the way to the betting shop” and Simon “because I used to work with a really nice lad called Simon” with bonus race winner Taranis chosen the next week was because he had cloth number 13 which was her birthdayand not because it was the favourite – although that helped!  This selection method worked quite nicely for her and she took the whole Scoop 6 pot plus the bonus race the week after totalling over £688k.

So in tribute of Mrs Agnes Haddock and in search of an immense prize today of upwards of £10 million I have supplemented my sensible form and stats based selections with randomly logical picks chosen a la Haddock for a bit of fun......and with quite possible as much chance of winning!

One thing’s for sure, there will be at least one huge priced winner amongst the Scoop 6 races today but I do think it WILL be won.

Race 1
Haydock 14:05 6f Class 3 4yo+ (16 runners) Good

There’s no draw advantage to speak of at 6f here (I keep my own records so can trust this fact!).  There were high hopes for Bear Behind 1st early in his racing career when he contested listed races but has only won twice – the last time being a class 6 claimer!  This may have done his confidence some good though so he’s not to be totally discounted. Go Far has a nice low weight and a trainer and jockey who have done well enough around here but I’m with Run With Pride, who could be anything, having made a successful belated debut over 6f at Doncaster 3 weeks ago where he did all his best work at the end.  He must have had problems as he cost 200K guineas as a yearly then went to Derek Shaw last August for a bargain £7.5K but I like him a lot so I’m hoping he’s all that!

Form Pick:              Run With Pride

Haddock Pick:         Polski Max because my daughter picked it and she picked the first Scoop 6 winner last week  which was 20/1 Front Page News.

Race 2
Catterick 14:50 7f Class 3 4yo+ (15 runners) Good to Soft, Soft

There’s no drastic draw bias but a middle draw is slightly less preferred.  Having a trainer with a good track record seems to hold more sway here than at any other courses and for that reason Conry, Dr Red Eye and Showboating have had more attention paid to them than would otherwise be the case.  Conry loves it here at Catterick with five wins and two seconds from eight runs here and also loves soft ground so with Stevie Donohoe on board (ridden 7x, won 3x) I am very keen on his chances.

Form Pick:              Conry 1st 

Haddock Pick:         Just Paul because that’s the name of one of my brothers.

Race 3
Goodwood 14:55 7f Class 2 3yo (12 runners) Soft

Here we have a definite draw advantage for those drawn low (stalls 1-5).  It’s also useful to have some course form so those two stats lead us to Penny Drops from the in-form Haggas stable. Her win last time out at Lingfield suggest she’ll cope here but she’s up in class and that win was against her own sex.   Beau Nash 3rd has barely any weight on his back today but has never tried been tried on a track such as this before.  Weight and stamina aren’t as important as good balance on a sharp track like Goodwood so Beau Nash may not have such an advantage as first appears.  Mick’s Yer Man is a listed winner and although untried over this distance,  winning a 6f at Leicester is enough to suppose that he has the stamina for 7f here.  He likes soft ground and Ryan While takes off 5lb but his poor show at Chester poses a questionmark over the suitability of this track.  Supplicant has a nice draw and Fallon aboard who rides very well here.  Dropping into a handicap from group racing will be a lot easier today. His two wins at Ripon bode will for coping around this unique course and his outing at Newbury will have tuned him up nicely for this.

Form Pick:              Supplicant

Haddock Pick:         Penny Drops 2nd because everyone knows it’s lucky to pick a dropped penny

Race 4
Haydock 15:10 6f Class 1 Listed 3yo+ Fillies (15 runners) Good

Again, no draw bias to help guide us here.  3-5 year olds have fared best in this race with just one 6yo winning in the past ten years.  Only two favourites have won in that time yet nothing priced bigger than 20/1 and all the winners have had an RPR of between 100-112.
Gathering Power 2nd is a very interesting contender that ticks the stat list above and from the same connections as Sole Power and both stable form and jockey booking are encouraging at a decent price. However, Joyeuse is a classy filly dropping back to more realistic company now after her shot at the 1000 Guineas (11th) which she didn’t stay.  Back at 6f and away from group company, Ryan More should ensure that she wipes the floor with this lot.   

Form Pick:              Joyeuse 1st

Haddock Pick:          Gracia Directa because it’s Spanish (Direct Grace) and I was in Barcelona last week!

Race 5
Catterick 15:25 7f Class 4 4yo+ (14 runners) Good to Soft, Soft

PJ McDonald has won this race for two different trainers in the past 3 years and today rides Millkwood.  He’s a long standing maiden but has placed here in the past on soft ground but is (unbelievably!) on his highest ever mark.  The hood and cheekpieces combination might just eke out that little bit more improvement required but he is up against it.  Khelman 3rd is better at 6f and Johnny Cavagin 1st could do with a couple more pounds respite from the handicapper.   My choice is Piceno.  Scott Dixon has had a cool (rather than cold!) spell lately but has a splendid 29% strike rate in 4yo+ races here plus Piceno is happiest on soft ground and has never been out of the places at Catterick in six runs.

Form Pick:              Piceno

Haddock Pick:         Bogsnog not because I’ve ever snogged a bog but because he’s owned by a syndicate called Facts & Figures and I like facts and figures!

Race 6
Haydock 15:45 8f Class 2 3yo (17 runners) Good

No horse starting at odds bigger than 12/1 has won this race in the past ten years so that’s where I’ve concentrated my efforts – on the more likely winners!  There’s no particular draw bias at this distance here either – despite what you read! 

Studying Zarwaan’s last run, I’m not convinced that this extra furlong will suit and a 3lbs rise makes him even less appealing.  What About Carlo looks classy enough but may be best on a right handed track and appears to need good ground.  William Haggas has a decent 35% strike rate with his 3yo at Haydock so Bilimbi needs very close consideration. Red Stargazer is an out and out stayer and C&D winner on soft here.  He’s up 6lb in a better race but is so progressive that he cancope with that and if the going changes with the forecast lunchtime downpour transpiring then he’s my choice.

Form Pick:              Bilimbi (good going)
Red Stargazer (soft going)

Haddock Pick:        Hot Coffee 4th because I read this name just as I’d just made myself one



Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Nationally Grand Blog of 2014

It doesn't seem so long ago that Mon Mome, Don't Push It, Ballabriggs, Neptune Collanges and Aurora's Encore were each winning the Grand National.  Given that amongst those five there have been 100/1, 66/1 and 33/ winners (the other two were 14/1 and 10/1) you can understand why this is the one race of the year that captures the imagination of the general public who will never have a bet again until next year.

So in pursuit of a windfall and bragging rights for the next month, I've been studying trends, form and generally crunching stats in the hope that this will all arrive with the name of whichever lucky (and there's a LOT of luck required) horse and rider manage to stay the distance, keep clear of the inevitable fallers and jump like a stag to get to the red and white lollipop before all else.

There are some very useful trends that can be useful when looking for a winner.  The boxes that all the past 10 winners have all ticked (and remember these have included those 100/1 and 66/1 winners!) are:

  1. Aged between 9 and 12
  2. Had a run since the date the weights were announced (05 Feb)
  3. Won no more than 1 chase this season (thus protecting their handicap rating)
  4. Won a chase of at least 3 mile distance
  5. Run in at least ten chases
  6. Run 3-6 times since Sept 01 last year
  7. Irish or French bred
  8. Career best RPR rating was achieved in a chase of 3 miles or more
These are useful trends to look at and many of the runners tick some but not so many tick all...... there are 9 that do and these are:  Across The Bay, Burton Port, Lion Na Bearnai, Long Run, Monbeg Dude, Pineau De Re, Quito De La Roque, Raz Du Maree and Teaforthree 

The course is being selectively watered overnight to maintain the good to soft (good in places) going

There's a whole host of the top jockeys out of the race due to injury including amongst many, Ruby Walsh, Daryl Jacob, Jason Maguire - all previous Grand National winners and quite a few lesser known names.  Since experience, fitness and nerves of steel count for that bit more when negotiating these tough fences, it's worth giving more consideration to those runners who have a talented pilot.

Now back to the nitty picky gitty!

Across the Bay has done all of his winning on heavy or soft and he won't be getting that here.  

Burton Port has never won over more than 3 miles 1 furlong and that was his last win 4 years ago.  Recent attempts haven't convinced on the stamina front.

Lion Na Bearnai won the Irish Grand National back in April 2012 but has only won once since.  However, his stamina isn't in question and he has won on this going before as well as heavy.  The booking of recent Cheltenham Gold Cup winning rider Davy Russell would imply that a good run in expected here.  I'd say he's worth an each way.

Long Run should stay this distance but this faster track is likely to put too much pressure on his less than impressive jumping so I'll leave him for another day.

Monbeg Dude has been in the papers lately with his famous part owner, Mike Tinsdall. He's won in graded company in December (Cheltenham) when he was staying on strongly over 3m 2f and coupled with his win over 3m 6f at Chepstow his stamina looks to be in order.  However, his jumping hasn't and that together with his usual hold up style means he is going to need a lot more luck than most.  He is the top pick though on the trends.

Pineau De Re fell on his only previous visit here but trainer Richard Newland is confident that they now know how best to ride him.  Unfortunately, the rider who knew best is Sam Twiston-Davies is aboard Tidal Bay in this race and today's jockey Leighton Aspell has not ridden a winner here in 5 years.  On the plus side, he looks as though he will last the distance though and the going will suit.  Perhaps an each way chance.

Quito De La Roque has been out of sorts lately, his last win was over a year ago and despite his trainer saying he is a Spring horse, most of his winning has been done on ground that has heavy in the going description.  

Raz Du Maree is a super jumper and a stayer who seems to like a flat galloping track ... but he's a little thing!  Last time he did finish ahead of both Seabass and Bog Warrior, who boosted that form with a Grade 2 win at Navan last Saturday so if he takes to these he's not without hope.

Teaforthree will be going off favourite and it's easy to see why.  He was third in this last year and perhaps kicked for home too soon.  He's not the most consistent jumper and has been known to jump to the right in the past which won't be too helpful here.  With a more patient ride (same jockey) and the extra year's experience, he might do better this year. His last win was in 2012 at Cheltenham when he was partnered by JT McNamara in the NH Chase....and yes, I backed him on course.  He is partnered today by Nick Scholfield who is an excellent rider but just not so good in chases at Aintree!

JT McNamara
Teaforthree - Cheltenham March 14 at 13:43

Of those that don't tick the trend boxes, these also caught my eye.

Triolo D'Alene used the Cheltenham Gold Cup as a prep race!!  He won the Hennessy Gold Cup last November going away and beating Rocky Creek, Our Father and Prince De Beauchene in the process.  However, Rocky Creek has a 3lb pull this time (the other two have better weight advantages but not enough to turn things around in my opinion).  

Rocky Creek has form figures of 2-1-1-1-3-2-2 and is extremely lightly raced (down to ringworm more than design!).  Ruby Walsh told trainer Paul Nicholls that he though he was a national horse but he may just need another year?  Having said that, he oozes class.

Since one or two bookies are paying out on the first 6 places, I have listed my top 6 of the above in order of preference:

  1. Teaforthree
  2. Monbeg Dude
  3. Rocky Creek    5th
  4. Lion Na Bearnai
  5. Pineau De Re    1st
  6. Raz De Maree

Good luck & may all the runners and riders get home safely