Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Carlisle - November 12

Back across the 66 for what at first glance looked a decent enough card, but it essentially cut up to a couple of decent events and with the rain crashing down it was only just worth the trip. It was officially soft but times suggest it wasn't that bad.

There wasn't much to glean from a modest lot in the opening novice, Clondaw Anchor looking a class apart both beforehand and during the race.

Relkadam has loads of size and scope about him and almost certainly got tired on this first outing for the Easterby yard. I don't know where they've conjured a mark of 122 from, but handicaps are probably out for now, however a northern novice should be within his grasp.

A cracking novice chase was up next with the unbeaten hurdler Vinndication transferring his form to fences first time up with a thoroughly pleasing effort against a nailing good marker in Uncle Alastair.

The runner-up was simply out-paced after the last but he looks a proper stayer who looks poised for a big winter, so long as this compact little horse can iron out the odd jumping blemish that dotted his opening effort.

Euxton Lane is another worth following back on a left-handed track. His only poor effort thus far came at Market Rasen and he went left under pressure when tiring after the last, having typically  gone with plenty of zest.

Red Rising showed up well and although he was very fit, he'll want a real stamina test and this was a decent start, while Claud And Goldie went well for a long way and may be worth noting.

The mare's race saw H Skelton riding Hidden Dilemma for Stuart Crawford, surely a tip in itself, and this strong looking sort was clearly primed to run a big race, a fact confirmed when a couple of fellas started going ballistic in the stands when she skipped merrily over the last before dancing clear on the run-in.

Trooblue may not have been a party pooper had she stood up but she's a nice big chasing type and providing she's ok after being brought down is very much one to keep an eye on.

The graduation chase was the highlight and quite notable for the market drift on Nuts Well, who was pulled up after an uncharacteristic mid-race blunder. He was up against it on the figures but this was surprisingly bad.

Dolos was all the rage but he has never looked the most straight forward and although little could have been done the way it panned out, it looks like he got to the front far too soon and he was reeled in by Highway One O One.

The winner is quite leggy but loves the mud and this stiffer test clearly suited, while the third home Chesterfield isn't bred for fences at all and yet ran his usual solid race and looks every bit as good in this sphere.

Treshnish ran another solid race in behind better quality horses and this big strong individual will be found more suitable openings in the coming weeks.

Ryalex had come in for very strong support here last month and was again the one for money in a very ordinary 0-120 handicap chase, which he won by 24 lengths. Quite where they go from here I don't know.

The bumper featured an athletic former winner in Mr Scrumpy and three big future chasing types in Weakfield, I K Brunel and Tarada.

There was plenty of each-way cash for the latter and he nearly pulled it off with a fine effort despite being the most backward of them all.

I K Brunel is a nice strong sort who was well produced to win first time out, although caution may be warranted as his half-brother Somewhere To Be is not straight forward.

Weakfield was disappointing and may need plenty of time, but Mr Scrumpy ran well under his penalty and looks good enough to win a couple of northern novice hurdles.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Aintree - November 10

Back over to Liverpool, not a meeting I'd attended before but pleasant enough and some decent action for all that the ground was still good in the main.

Only two rocked up for the 3m novice chase and Robin Waters would make a catwalk model, however he looks like he's got the brains to match as he made a whole host of errors despite having the clearest possible sight of the fences.

By contrast, the rather workmanlike Minella Awards skipped round like an old pro and put his greater racecourse experience to use, he shouldn't be underestimated back in a decent handicap.

Half a dozen babies lined-up for a novices hurdle and it saw Quoi De Neuf overcome immaturity to win with some conviction.

Reported to have landed a Point in a good time, he didn't look overly big and is every inch a four-year-old, but clearly has a ton of ability and he could be smart.

Redzor is an athletic sort and probably the most forward both physically and mentally, so it made sense that he led them out, and he didn't lose much in defeat.

One For The Team had the most scope but was also backward looking, he's probably quite slow but ought to be okay in time, while Captain Drake has loads of size and is another that should pick up a novice prior to doing much better over fences.

It came as no surprise to see the heavily backed Abolitionist rock up fit as a fiddle on his first start for the good Dr Newland and with stamina in the bank a lot of use was made of him, and he didn't see another rival in the staying handicap.

Those in behind were having their own private race and The Organist simply ran into one; she's a hurdler through and through and looked like the race would do her good.

The conditions hurdle saw Vision Des Flos return to hurdles after losing the rider on chase debut. Physically he doesn't scream chaser at you but he's a very nice, athletic animal and one of these fine days he could produce something spectacular.

With Wholestone and in particular Unowhatimeanharry looking better over 3m, I thought the superior speed of the Tizzard flyer might just do them but the race didn't really pan out, the youngster jumping and travelling all over them and leading half a mile out.

He played the role of mouse rather than cat and Wholestone picked him off with some ease, the winner looking set for another solid campaign. Of all of these he looked the biggest but he's never been a great jumper and it looks like they'll be staying over timber now.

Agrapart looked in terrific order and he's a grand specimen; when the mud starts to fly he seems sure to land another decent pot this year and rising eight he may yet improve again this winter.

The class 2 handicap chase was competitive and a real puzzle, it looked beforehand as though Hell's Kitchen might have a solo up front if desired but such tactics were not employed and this big unit may well pop up another day.

They were all in pretty good order, although Mercian Prince was probably the least fit of all those that turned up on the day. I worry about Romain De Senam, he doesn't have an awful lot of size and scope and often gets very low over his fences. He didn't get any cover here either, and in different circumstances he should prove well handicapped. He nearly won the Fred Winter at the festival two years ago and I could see him excelling back over timber.

The victory of War Sound confounded those of us that had labelled him a dog and a thief, staying on stoutly in the manner of another P Hobbs horse that just wasn't firing last term.

The handicap chase over the minimum trip featured Carlisle winner Luckofthedraw, who was overlooked the last day on account of him not looking straight forward, and he soon spat the dummy in this more competitive event.

Tommy Silver is a nice looker and you can see why he is high in the pecking order at Ditcheat, but he is another lacking the necessary cojones and I'm not sure where they go from here, probably down the headgear route.

Baby King has a good record fresh but may just have needed it, but Yorkist looked fit and ready to roll and with the benefit of hindsight was overpriced back to a winning mark. Burrenbridge Hotel looked big and well but the trainer is 1/52 this season and remains cold as ice.

The bumper looked a two horse race on paddock inspection with Raven Court looking a pretty slow, albeit fit and a decent chasing prospect in time.

Misty Whisky was all the rage and a nice looking sort but clearly a filly on size and Sojourn had plenty about him plus the added bonus of having racecourse experience a year ago, in a race that has thrown up winners.

It turned out to be a mickey mouse contest but Sojourn kept digging in from the front and saw it out in the manner of a fair sort. The others were too green on the day but will do better. 

Friday, 9 November 2018

Market Rasen - Nov 8

Not a great deal to reflect upon after a pretty dismal card, run on good ground with around a furlong added to most race distances.

The opening juvenile hurdle was a match and they flip-flopped twice in the betting before Our Power made a winning debut, making the most of the weight concession.

Strong and compact, Alan King's youngster should continue to be competitive while Idilico is a little more leggy and awkward, and doesn't find jumping hurdles quite so easy.

The mares' novice hurdle saw a rematch from Chepstow between Festival Dawn and Annie Mc, but neither was able to uphold that seemingly strong form here.

Annie Mc looked immature beforehand, on her toes and getting warm, and will do better in time, while Festival Dawn was strongly fancied to finish ahead once more but ran no sort of race and must have been amiss.

Winner Outofthisworld is hard to asses, she was weak in the betting again and yet returned to her best bumper form with a thoroughly likeable effort - she's not much to look at but should be competitive kept to same-sex races.

The big Listed chase for mares was another that looked a match with the ultra consistent Rons Dream wanting is much softer, but with the luckless Drinks Interval toppling over three out and Casablanca Mix not getting home, the Bowen mare was able to get on top close home - the extra yardage proving ideal.

Rating the race, I'd be surprised if the winner has run up to her best form, and I'd give her a 140 mark at the most, leaving Casablanca Mix almost 10lb beneath her official mark.

The Henderson mare has plenty to prove for me, I wasn't especially taken by her physically and there's a concern that she doesn't see her races out. Stamina was a slight concern beforehand but she was treading water from the second last.

Actinpieces again struggled on the ground and this wonderful mare will be off to the paddocks in the New Year according to her trainer. Hopefully they can find the right race to send her off on a winning note.

There followed a trappy 0-120 staying handicap with five last time out winners, The Two Amigos having gone up 12lb for winning at Newton Abbot and Some Chaos 8lb well-in under a penalty.

The former looked full of himself and the money for him wasn't unexpected, while the latter didn't look great without being able to pinpoint why. Maybe he had gone in his coat, and there was a strong possibility that he could bounce having won off a lengthy absence.

Not a bit of it; he fully backed up the taking Bangor win by relishing the extra distance and jumping with real alacrity. You could easily see him picking up a decent pot over the festive season and his trainer has returned in good form this autumn.

Marten looked well but seems to be dogged by problems, Indirocco isn't bred for this and simply looks slow, while Mon Palois is a nimble, athletic sort that his jockey reported to have hung left throughout, so expect him to be going the other way next time.

The last two races weren't worthy of note, although I'm not the first to admit that I'll be proud to recall the day that 'I was there' to witness the (likely) sole victory of the 64-rated L'Es Fremantle!

Monday, 5 November 2018

Carlisle - November 4

Thankfully some decent enough ground to welcome a competitive card although an early brush with the honourable Mr H Smith (I know Harvey's probably not reading, but you never know) was enlightening, in many trainers' view there wasn't much 'soft' in the good to soft places.

The opening novices hurdle was decent and saw a rather weak favourite in bumper winner One For Rosie, however Twiston-Davies' gelding looked a well made sort that wasn't far off full fitness.

I thought he galloped to the line with purpose and is one to defy a penalty, having seen off market springer Glen Forsa, a tall strong six-year-old that will improve again.

Hill Sixteen was a costly purchase and he looks a serious prospect for fences in due course, and his third place was a very pleasing start considering his size and inexperience.

Disappointment of race was Storm Control, a lengthy well-bred sort that looked fit, but ran a stinker. The Jefferson pair Shepherd's Bight and Northern Soul were weak in the market and like her father, Ruth doesn't appear to be rushing her string this autumn.

Carrying loads of condition, Shepherd's Bight shaped with promise and will come into his own when the emphasis is on stamina. The Hollow Chap faded right out of things late on, and this rangy unfurnished youngster looks like he'll need plenty of time.

Early season novice handicaps at Carlisle are worth watching over a few times and the next was another of those, taken by one of the more nimble types in Count Meribel, a dual course winner at this time last year.

Tactical speed is vital round this turning track and the top weight was always in the right place, having it sewn up a long way out. Stablemate Scotchtown is all stamina and should do better in different circumstances.

Jammin Masters stayed on nicely for second under the queerest of rides from Johnson, who, like McCoy before him, has earned the right to be beyond critical analysis. However, he could not have sat quieter for most of the race if he tried and only got the squeeze on after belting two out, and aggrieved punters had a case.

The smallest in the field, Jammin Masters is a 3m, soft ground horse with more experience than most, and shouldn't be missed next time as his jumping was sound in the main.

Coningsby is a sturdy animal with plenty of ability, but it was noted beforehand that he didn't appear straight forward and sure enough he took a hard left when everything else went right at the top of the hill mid-race.

If his head can be kept right, he could prove useful, but I have some doubts on that score regarding Donna's Delight, a great big tall individual who was on his toes beforehand requiring plenty of attention.

By Portrait Gallery, he deserves a chance but is one to have reservations over for the time being, a similar sentiment that applies to warm order Al Shahir, who once again proved himself utterly one-paced.

He must show plenty at home as he went off favourite for the EBF final, but he hasn't done it on the track and looks one to oppose considering he was primed for this, for all that 3m will surely see him in better light.

The handicap hurdle looked a minefield, with the staying-on Bahama Moon one of few to be of interest going forward as he was weak in the market and looked to be carrying condition.

The result of the handicap chase made plenty of sense with Looksnowtlikebrian once again putting errors behind him to back up his win here a fortnight ago. He's not very big, but clearly improving however this is the easiest jumping course in the land and it may be no coincidence they brought him here the last twice.

He'll find things harder from now on and I wouldn't be expecting him to get round somewhere like Ffos Las in the mud without making notable mistakes.

Bako De La Saulaie was primed to run a big race returning to a stamina test, and ran his usual race in second without threatening to win.

He looks to have just the one pace so it continues to frustrate that they keep riding him for a turn of foot. He's a very sound jumper, and looks the type to leave his mark behind when given a more positive ride.

Cooking Fat continues to look a quirky individual and probably doesn't want a stamina test while Blakemount is steadily working his way to fitness. I didn't realise Yanmare was so big, and he'll come on for it.

Aspen Colorado was strong in the market ahead of the Class 2 handicap hurdle and he was another to back up a recent win here, relishing the stiff test at the trip.

The form looks solid enough, with Captain Redbeard yet again proving himself a fine yardstick with an honest run that sets him up nicely for the Becher Chase.

Petticoat Tails probably isn't the most straight forward, but she's likely to be straighter next time where 3m ought to stand her in much better stead.

Crixus's Escape is a really nice looking youngster but remains very immature mentally, and was in too deep on this third start over timber. His mark gives connections a few options, and when the penny does finally drop he could be one to stay the right side of.

Dubai Angel was badly in need of the outing, while Blunder Buss is a stocky individual that could prove hard to place this term; he's more of one to put by for next season.

Cyrname was all the rage for the Colin Parker Memorial and this big strapping animal looked straight enough although he could be the type to come on for a pipe-opener.

He was readily brushed aside but back-of-the-fag-packet numbers suggest he's run to his handicap mark of 150 with the ultra consistent Happy Diva finishing just ahead receiving plenty of weight, meaning impressive winner Mister Whitaker has improved another half a stone in landing the prize.

While a different sort entirely to last year's winner Waiting Patiently, there's no reason to think Mick Channon's youngster can't follow a similar path as his future appears to have unlimited potential.

There is simply nothing not to like about the two-time Cheltenham winner, who should relish 3m this season, and the three in behind will continue to pay their way.

The well-backed favourite Alright Sunshine had a touch of quality about him ahead of the junior bumper and he duly routed the field, upholding K Dalgleish's record in such races. As the saying goes, the young Scot seems to 'know the time of day'.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Wetherby - November 3

A slew of non-runners made Charlie Hall Chase day lacking any sort of depth, robbing racegoers of quality horses, however the action was thrilling with some decent finishes. However, it's purely early season form and not much of it should be taken forward.

Fingerontheswitch looked on really good terms with himself and the contraction in price came as no surprise considering his shrunken handicap mark, and the opening race worked out perfectly as he needs something to aim at.

He got just that with the improved The Paddy Pie moving on from the second last, only to curl up on the run-in. I'm sure it was only greenness from the runner-up and he looks sure to remain competitive from a higher mark on a softer surface.

The Happy Chappy is a good ground horse but he wants a really stiff test and was never travelling. He looked short of match practice but plugged on, and he has a race in him with the emphasis on stamina.

Thistle Do Nicely had a fair impression on hurdles debut last time out and he looked the part before a weak looking novice hurdle, a good athletic type sure to take higher rank.

Beach Break looked disinterested in the prelims and has earned a lengthy holiday, he's a summer horse but isn't much more than a 120 type. Lough Legend is a baby and saw plenty of daylight here; I can see him picking up a novice handicap on soft ground in the coming months.

Stablemate Absolutely Dylan will leave his 110 rating behind in the next few weeks but this anxious sort needs softer ground than this. I thought his jumping was once again slick bar one error, and money lost here was only lent.

Copper West is a disappointing type and he seemed to have every chance once more, he lacks scope and loses ground at the obstacles. Nightly had the form in the book if he got home and he was well ridden by J Burke and just lasted.

Tayzar took the eye, strong and fitter for Carlisle, and settled nicely before being brought to a standstill. We learned nothing here but he's worth keeping an eye on.

Lady Buttons is a fantastic big mare and she was a big price to land the Listed hurdle on account of the ground, despite her trainer insisting she bounces off good.

Irish Roe looked on great terms with herself but her small-time handler probably didn't have her cherry ripe, even though she looked pretty straight.

The big move for Oscar Rose was a little baffling - yes she was going to set them a merry dance but the form just wasn't in the book and she's more a three miler in waiting.

The big race saw Black Corton go off a short price, he looked fantastic in his coat but that wasn't enough reason to be taking 6/4 and Definitly Red was the value, having a great record fresh and at this venue.

D Cook was seen to great effect from the front once again and had a very willing partner.

The Yorkshire Hurdle was Grade 2 in name only and it saw the surprisingly improved Nautical Nitwit reverse placings with recent conqueror Monbeg Theatre, holding off Old Guard who stayed better than most thought he would.

Keeper Hill has a robust look of a chaser and didn't have the toe to go with them in the straight, and he looks a proper soft ground horse to me.

Three went to post in the finale, two saddled by man of the moment P Kirby, and Wemyss Point made it two wins at the track on ground probably quicker than ideal.

Supakalanistic looked a big staying chase type that would probably come on for the run, while Zig Zag hasn't really gone on and may be better over the minimum.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Wetherby - November 2

There were non-runners throughout the day and the going was changed to good, good to firm in places, making it difficult to discern which of the winter types would go on it.

Ballyhome stood out a mile in the opening novices handicap and this nice scopey individual instigated a double for quality claimer Connor Brace.

Askari didn't look up to much physically but that should never put you off if it's trained by G Elliott, and he looks like he needs an extra half mile.

There wasn't much depth to it but Northern Girl ran her race in second despite looking a shade burly and she should be up to gaining an overdue success.

The novices chase was effectively a match with Crucial Role coming out, and it was all about ability to jump and gallop on the ground which Rocky's Treasure did... and odds-on favourite Poetic Rhythm didn't.

A heavy ground winner of the Challow Hurdle, it's hard for this non owner/trainer to figure out why you would want to run such a horse in these conditions.

He's a strong sturdy type lacking a bit in height, and has the look of a mid-winter slugger. His market rival looked active and alert, and put up a pleasing performance giving 12lb, but the form is hard to rate in a literal sense.

Slanemore Hill nearly grabbed second and is a nice, strong looking horse that lacked in the fitness department. Lord knows how the assessor will judge this effort but I suspect he'll now need to build on this to prove he's a useful type in the making. I suspect he might be.

The Wensleydale Hurdle drew three fairly decent sorts and Cracker Factory made a big impression at Market Rasen last time out, and if jumping more fluently looked the one to beat.

The market agreed, and he delivered in good style to see off Chief Justice who to be fair was giving 3lb. I'd back the winner to finish in front if they met again, however. King D'Argent stepped up on his win here last time but came back blowing hard and may have an issue.

In fairness they weren't a bad bunch of juveniles, and those in behind should find races in time.

The big handicap chase cut up to seven with Copain De Classe heading the market, being 4lb well-in after winning at Kempton. He travelled too well here though on a steady pace and found nothing when let down.

Born Survivor was all the rage but he's a big unit that I'd always felt wanted softer, but is a sound jumper and that helped him get the job done. Guitar Pete wants a stiffer test but may not have finished winning, while Cracking Find looked out of his depth physically but ran his race as always, and as I've mentioned before I'm certain a step up to 3m would suit.

Kylemore Lough looked really fit and well. He's a confirmed mudlark and I've no idea why he lined up. Hopefully he'll come back sound after unshipping at the first, and he's handicapped to win.

Storm Rising did what he was supposed to do in following up his Cheltenham win off the same mark, in a nothing contest.

The Skelton team went for a double with Denmead in the closing novice hurdle but he was a very short price for one that didn't look entirely straightforward, the trainer popping in some earplugs late doors.

The gelding was keen during a slow run affair but wasn't in the minority there, and the even keener Skidoosh found most from two out to give Brace the double and put behind him a desperate return effort. He's a big lengthy sort that will jump a fence.

He's A Goer is probably a good benchmark for the form, the rest looked pretty backward on the day.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Sedgefield - Nov 1

Not sure such a poor card is worth a blog update, but we'll give it a quick run through before cracking on with tomorrow's decs. As if you didn't know already, we could do with some darn rain.

I wasn't interested in the 0-100 that opened the card. Millie The Minx had a bit about her and I had half an eye on her with the future in mind, but she went and ran a screamer which has blown her cover.

The Sayer yard was desperately quiet for over a year but has come back in the last few weeks and on the whole the sister of the honourable gentleman Mr K Slack does well with what she gets.

The only pair to take forward from the novice chase would be Black Art and Charmant, who will both be better on soft ground. The former looked straight enough but the Smith yard isn't firing yet, while the well-backed Charmant didn't look anywhere near straight.

While he was left with nothing to beat, the Ewart horse was a stylish winner and may well be above average as he'll come on tons for this. Cillian's Well fell into a poor race at Southwell and has no future in this sphere.

A couple of lengths covered the first five home in the following novice hurdle and that tells you all you need to know about the form.

Speedy Cargo looked paceless in his bumper but was expected to come on a bundle for that, however those who backed him into favouritism couldn't have been on great terms with themselves from early on.

Ask Paddington and Colby looked as though they need more time, pretty weak and unfurnished, while Sheriff Garrett is poorly made and will find it very hard to win in this code.

On a side note it's interesting that M Hammond is having winners now that A Cawley is taking a larger percentage of the rides.

The four-runner staying handicap chase was interesting because for some obscure reason the market had Some Kinda Lama as its leader despite having shown no aptitude for fencing whatsoever in three previous starts.

He lacks size and scope and this simply isn't his bag. He's a good ground, staying hurdler and pretty recalcitrant at that. Good luck to the new trainer.

Cash was again in evidence for the Smiths' Lough Derg Farmer, but once again he didn't look very interested and they've got a job on turning him around.

Paul's Hill and Like The Sound were decent specimens, both looking fit and well and really shouldn't have surprised anybody that they came home ahead of the other pair. Neither did much wrong, but the fact the third and fourth were closing markedly from two out may prove telling.

The staying hurdle looked trappy with Nemean Lion backed from the 6/1 down to 2s FAV. That was pretty revealing as this scopey sort bounded into the early lead (shock).

It's ironic Same Circus came to grief as she looks more a hurdler than a chaser, and one suspects she may have gone very close. She is well handicapped and can have a successful season in both spheres. More Than Luck isn't a great looker and wouldn't be one for me going forward.

The closing mares handicap wasn't up to much either, and it was disappointing the unexposed Secret Escape couldn't get the job done. She looked really paceless and already appears to want further, and softer ground too.

And that, mercifully, was that. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Getting on, and all that jazz

Thankfully - mercifully - I haven't written anything worth being 'trolled' on Twitter since my days on the boxing desk at my previous job, and that was due, in large part, to my having a Sky Sports moniker.

However, having foolishly got involved recently in some discussion on the gambling firms' restrictions, some punk came on to tell me that I was wrong in saying that there is value to be found if you bet on the 'show'.

In the olden times (snooze) the 'show' was when the on-course books would price up the next race, odds which would then be relayed back to SIS (yes, I worked there too) and thence to the shops.

Since the introduction of the betting exchange there is no opening show as such, of course, nonetheless once the previous race on the card is over liquidity tends to increase and the market starts to represent what we might call the smart money.

In the States, and if anyone has ever been greyhound racing in the UK, it is the very late money that is the shrewdest of all and often - not always - it is only in the last 30 seconds before flagfall when the market truly reflects each horse's correct chance.

This is the point at which ALL the information is at punter's disposal, and I'll give some recent examples of this shortly. You might ask at this point how can a big drifter in the market ever win? Well, of course the betting market is never 100% efficient, and we are dealing with equines after all.

Returning to the point of value on the show, there seems to have been a far greater number of 'drifters' winning of late, or maybe I'm just more alert to them these days.

If you place a bet in the morning, considering your horse's odds to be of value, human nature dictates that you then want to see those odds shrink throughout the day, validating the bet and making you feel like you've already backed a winner.

By contrast, if that horse's odds then drifts out you immediately think you've 'done your money', the animal isn't fancied or, even worse, darker forces must be at work.

We all see those blue lines on Oddschecker as a positive signal, the pink ones negative. Back. Lay. HOWEVER, increasingly these morning 'gambles' seem to be red herrings, either the majority are getting things wrong or false information is going out. Or, more likely, 'big' moves are being made on tiny volumes.

Either way, the scramble to get on at morning (or the even more dastardly evening) prices is making folks irate. 'WE CAN'T GET ON', they cry. Nobody is willing to lay a bet; the prices are there so that the firms, the majority of whose market makers don't have a clue, get their cards marked by those who do have a clue.

Until you understand this concept, you will continue to stress about 'getting on'.

A few seasons ago when I had more than 20 accounts open, I'd do my form study, figure out what bets I wanted, and then spend an hour trying to get £100-£200 bets on spread over all the accounts.

It didn't take me long to realise I was essentially wasting time that could have been spent going through more races, watching more video, and generally working smarter.

What I often found that was by the time I'd driven to, say, Newcastle, the odds had fluctuated to such an extent that the time trying to get meagre bets on was pointless anyway.

It seems to me that punters are more affronted by not being able to get on than they are at backing a loser. Using my own experience as a guide, I've become a far more relaxed punter backing 3/1 winners despite the fact 9/2 might have been previously available, because those bigger odds were largely mythical anyway.

As long as I have priced the race correctly, at the point that I place the bet 'on the show', with all possible information available to me, then that 3/1 bet represents great value to me. What's more, I can get on as much as I could possibly want, either on the exchange, in a shop, at the track, and, yes, on some if not all accounts.

I'll labour the point by using one recent example of how betting late on the show provided great 'value'.

The race was the opener at Southwell last Thursday. I was all over a horse called Chozen, who I considered to be one of the best handicapped horses in training IF it was able to show its true running.

A very headstrong animal, it had been ridden with exaggerated waiting tactics in all previous starts, tactics that may not have suited on his first race over fences on a tight track over a trip that may prove sharp enough.

On this occasion I had availed myself of early prices because, even if I had got the wrong day, I felt the horse would at some stage make a mockery of its current mark, and losses would only be lent.

There was no move in the betting during the day, that is until the show when it began to shorten. The horse was as nice as I had remembered. Tick. He looked very fit. Tick. He was relaxed to post. Tick. Then, the bombshell. The jockey was lining him up AT THE FRONT of the field.

At this point it was obvious that he was 'trying' and that connections wanted him to have a clear sight of the fences, and if he jumped round he would probably win. Despite having around 8.6 on Betfair all day, the board price of 11/2 was outstanding value.

Within a fence of the start the horse's odds went from 7 on the machine to 4. Until the flag went up, I simply couldn't have full confidence about my selection. VALUE.

Let's now touch upon drifters. There are horses from some stables that, when they take a walk in the market, they don't win. Ever. Hardly ever. You know the ones. I used to be wary of ALL drifters. Now, not so much.

A drift in the market can simply mean that the majority of punters disagree with you and want to back something else in the race. Fine. I might be wrong. In fact, I'll be wrong more than I'm right. However, if I price a horse at 6/1 and it drifts from 5s out to 8s, from not wanting to bet I now have to make that bet, despite being in the tiny minority. I have to make that bet.

Example. Bags Groove, Ffos Las, a couple of Saturdays ago. I like Bags Groove, I get the impression they quietly think a lot of him, yet he's gone under the radar somewhat.

All the money was for Vision Des Flos. Very much NOT under the radar. Bang in the middle of the radar. I like the horse, but he's not straight forward. Anyway, all the money is for the jolly, Bags Groove goes from 5/1 - all day - out to 8s, 10 on Betfair. There doesn't appear to be any reason for this other than the Bots have kicked in and there are no takers.

What happens; the FAV un-ships the jock, Bags Groove does what he does, and we get paid at almost twice the odds we should have been. Don't tell me there's no value on the show.

Another example; yesterday, Chepstow, Potter's Approach opens at 11/2 the night before, is 7/1 early morning, drifts out to an SP of 16 and was available to decent money at 20s and more on Betfair.

Now I can't logically explain why that happened; the horse went into the notebook at Uttoxeter last time, had cheekpieces on for the first time, had won over the longer trip and was in an open race with a vulnerable looking favourite. Did I back it? Of course not! But it just shows you that the computer Bots running these prices out are providing great value to those willing to stand their ground.

There are some fine people currently fighting for punters' rights, forcing firms to back down and lay bets to lose decent amounts in most, if not all races. This I applaud; the firms have been having things their own way for, let's face it, most of the Millenium.

However, if you want to take the anger and stress out of your betting, stop fretting about chasing the early price. Most probably it's like a beautiful woman orbiting your social circle...a mirage.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Aintree - October 28

A sunny day and genuine good ground greeted runners and riders on Old Roan Chase day which should prove very informative with the future in mind.

Aye Aye Charlie appears set for a second season in novice hurdles after failing to trouble the judge in the highest company last season, including when a staying on third in the opener 12 months ago.

He was a very short price to go two better but if last season proved one thing it was that Fergal O'Brien's charge lacked any sort of tactical speed on decent ground, and we looked for something to serve it up to him at value odds.

Fortunately Stoney Mountain had been a thoroughly professional youngster in bumpers, defying a penalty after being outclassed at the Festival, and paddock inspection showed the strong, compact five-year-old to be just fit enough.

What we didn't know was how he would take to hurdles but he was most fluent throughout and again his attitude was not found to be lacking as he cut down the favourite on the run-in.

They've probably run to a figure around 130 which is decent enough, and while Aye Aye Charlie is crying out for 3m and soft ground, he may not be all that easy to win with. He was very fit but just has an awkward look about him, and if he was mine I'd prefer to go chasing as he's big enough.

I was keen to get a close look at Present Ranger, who went into the notebook after a fine effort at Doncaster, and once again showed bundles of promise before fitness told going to the final flight.

His mark shouldn't be damaged by this effort, and the brother of Ballabriggs should pick up a run-of-the-mill novice before entering handicaps. He's a lovely chaser in the making and it must be remembered his illustrious sibling was a late developer; this fella could turn out useful.

The rest were out for experience and although Landofsmiles took fourth, it is stablemate Fortunes Hiding who once again took the eye as one to win races on softer ground over 3m, and over fences in time.

There was quite a bit of deadwood in the staying handicap hurdle where the front four home were pretty well found, not least the winner Ready And Able, a chasing type that looked fit back from an absence.

The hat-trick was landed and this scopey sort should go well on softer ground, so has plenty to recommend him. Sliding Doors took a late drift before running on into third, he's quite tall and may not be all that straight forward.

The Hollow Ginge is worth another mention in fourth, backing up his Hexham run with a similar effort, simply unable to keep tabs on progressive rivals on lively enough ground. He'll relish a slog and the likes of Hereford appeal as the right sort of venue.

Spider's Bite, not for the first time, caught the eye in mid division. He looked straight enough but it was a little disappointing to see he hadn't filled out greatly as he still looks like an uncomfortable sofa.

However, as pipe-openers go this was satisfactory and softer ground and hopefully fences will see him in much better light.

Beat That looked too obvious to me in the veterans chase and he doesn't have a great deal of presence, and could be a bit soft. He looked well worth opposing but not many convinced, and it was Exitas who improved again to positively bolt up under stylish new pilot L Williams.

The late money came for the winner and Ballyboker Breeze, a big imposing yet quirky type, in the face a big drift on Pendra, who looked fit enough but clearly there were some who knew better. Bishops Road was very fit but must have it softer than this, and showed more than enough to suggest the fire still burns bright.

The 11-runner handicap hurdle didn't look that competitive and the unexposed pair Paisley Park and Lygon Rock were well found in the market.

Both stood out a mile in the paddock as real likeable chasing types, however this promised to develop into a speed test with the flights in the straight being missed out due to the low sun.

It is surely to their credit, then, that they pulled clear in the final furlong, in particular the winner who looked sure to improve for the outing. I'd mark him up 10lb for this and it will be interesting to see where they go this winter...he is a very serious prospect indeed.

Lygon Rock is a very good jumper and has to move up to 130 (these are what I feel the runs are worth, not suggesting they will go up this much) for this, however with an extra half mile likely to be up his street he can take a rise in class in his stride.

Conditions appeared to favour much improved Flat horse Byron Flyer, but he got little peace on the inside rail in a messy sort of race and having made mistakes could never land a blow. He may yet prove this run to be all wrong.

The big race came up next and they all looked to have been trained for it. I'm not sure I'll be giving Flying Angel another chance after a laboured effort, he looks a bit of a big boat and his form suggests he only goes in when everything falls his way.

Frodon had the class and with Bryony still huge value for the 3lb, he wasn't hard to find while Javert advertised the form of the Lavelle yard with another big PB.

What of Cloudy Dream, who gave another frustrating display which leaves us still wondering what he is capable of. Still keen, he simply lacks the physical scope of many to avoid the errors that marred his effort, while again he wandered about under the cosh.

His new yard is more than happy to reach for the headgear and it will be sooner rather than later I'm sure before they opt for some blinds.

Value At Risk was very fit but he backed out of it as though something was amiss, and he's not easy to predict, while the diminutive Theo ran a great race before the class factor kicked in.

The novices handicap chase was beyond the wit of most men and should be watched over for clues to the future, with winners likely to be forthcoming.

Molly The Dolly had done most of her running on much softer terrain and with the size of her you can see why, but she jumped very accurately and won with a deal of authority; laziness masking her superiority.

She's sure to be inventively campaigned by D Skelton and will be up to competing against the boys this winter, but kept to mares races I'd expect her to clean up.

Polydora was well found in the market and she looked straight enough, but the fact she wore headgear on her final start last term raised an eyebrow and she looked a handful at the head of affairs, her rather nervy opening mile catching up with her in the later stages.

Arthurs Gift shaped with promise considering he should come on for the outing and soft ground will certainly bring his stamina into play, while he's a typical type from a yard that loves a tilt at the big spring marathons with their novices.

The mares bumper is traditionally a good race and has thrown up La Bague a Roi and Posh Trish in recent years, and while Briery Express doesn't have the physical presence of that pair she must be useful to make light of her physical weakness and early keenness.

Legends Gold looks to have stamina in spades so get on top close home bodes well for the winner, who is nicely bred from a family the yard know well.

Several are worth mentioning in dispatches; previous winner Sweet Adare shaping well under her penalty, Aggy With it being one of the nicer lookers, while Teme Spirit looked quite backward but with plenty of size and the type to do well over hurdles this season with this spin out of the way.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Southwell - October 25

The long Autumn continues but those who can are producing decent racing surfaces and there was no jar in this good ground for a six-race card.

The opening novices handicap chase was one of the better 0-105 events paddock-wise and several of them are worth following, not least the pair that were clear throughout.

Chozen was a massive eye-catcher at Haydock when last seen over timber and having been entered up a few times of late it came as little surprise to see him looking fit and well.

He's a big strong chasing type and a half brother to none other than the 140-rated Mount Mews, only with a lot more size and scope, and with positive tactics in place for the first time he was going to take some stopping.

All credit must go to the runner-up Cybalko, quite a nice well-made sort without the size of the winner, and despite being even keener than Chozen he did not lie down and when the winner had appeared to put it to bed he still came back for more.

Considering their inexperience I thought they were exceptional at the obstacles (Cybalko hit the first ditch hard) and although they will be hiked 8-10lb in the ratings, both must be followed very closely in the coming months, with softer ground and further unlikely to be a problem.

In contrast to his stablemate, Cap St Vincent did not look fully wound up and yet ran a race full of promise, emerging from the pack to take third.

Related to a bundle of classy individuals, and costing a fortune in earlier days, he's likely to find this sort of trip far enough for now and he could make a mockery of his mark in the weeks to come. 

Chatelier was back on track to an extent and this leggy animal can improve further however All Is Good once again found little when asked for a serious effort and was one of three from the Dickin yard to run poorly on the day.

Another novice handicap, this time a 0-120, came up next and was interesting because the morning line favourite Agamemmon has never looked straight forward and was up against a couple with real potential in this field.

Early Retirement had caught the eye on at least two previous occasions as one to follow when sent over fences and he was fit enough while looking like he could tighten up a bit.

Kim Bailey's Rhaegar had regressed last term but had looked a raw future chaser and much lower in the handicap starting out over the larger obstacles as a result, and this active seven-year-old was definitely fit enough if his problems had been ironed out.

Probably not easy to train, he's not certain to build on this win and arguably the runner-up could be a shade unfortunate in having to do the donkey work, while he didn't quite see out 3m over hurdles and I wonder if an intermediate trip would suit for now.

Burst Ya Bubble may have needed the run but was in the process of running okay, while Billy Hicks is an okay sort and should be able to find a race - he got very tired after ploughing through the fourth last. The jolly was no good and looks one to be wary of.

It was a three-way go in the novice hurdle and not an easy call to make with each being strong in the betting. Vinnie Lewis certainly couldn't have been fitter and it's been quite noticeable this Autumn that the Whittington horses have been needing their first run quite badly.

Predictably, he was asked to wind things up over a bare minimum trip for him and it proved too much for the penalised Trixster, who nonetheless stuck on well and may prove well up to his current mark on a softer surface.

Captain Cargo is a typically strong sort from the Caroline Bailey yard and showed real progress on his Irish Point form, and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand next time.

The next handicap hurdle held little interest either now or for the future, save to say that Minella Fiveo looked a poor favourite with his best days firmly behind him.

Royal Ruby went off a very short favourite in the next but this unreliable gelding made no appeal up 7lb for dominating a weak field from the front, and Barbrook Star looked more than capable of ruffling some feathers being a lengthy chasing prospect.

The Hobbs youngster proved far too keen early on though, and is clearly not straight forward. He's one to bear in mind, but the form of this race does not look strong. Reckless Bahaviour was fit enough but probably only modest, however The Go Tou Man has something about him and he belied market weakness to go well and hopefully he can now build on this.

The bumper saw the F O'Brien-trained Liosduin Bhearna a well-backed favourite and he looked ready to do a job for all that he moved like a stayer.

Market rival Larkbarrow Lad is big and lengthy with very solid bumper form in the book, however he had looked wayward under pressure and again only got going when the race was over. He may require stronger handling but won't be one to trust as he goes over timber.

I saw Prophets Prayer run in just a fair bumper at Market Rasen and he looked a bit stronger here for all that he's just a big baby. However, he improved markedly on that opening effort to beat the favourite quite comfortably in the end, and could well be one to progress further.

The jolly lugged in up the straight and will know more next time, as will Mystic Court who tanked throughout but still stayed on well in the manner of a typical son of Court Cave.

One that really caught the eye beforehand was the M Scudamore trained Voila Eric, a lovely rangy chasing type who was actually pretty fit following a lengthy absence.

He looks ready to jump obstacles and his proximity to the front two was no fluke - he's one to keep a close eye on.

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Friday, 19 October 2018

Carlisle - October 18

A bright sunny day for a trip to Cumbria with the ground essentially good to soft - good jumping ground and they got some decent fields as a result.

There wasn't a great deal to see in a modest opening handicap hurdle for conditionals, so it was on to a very competitive novices handicap chase which should throw up a few winners.

Chief among them is Du Soleil, a robust chasing type who looked pretty straight for this and was very well backed to make a winning debut.

Ridden with restraint, he made successive errors at a crucial part of the race and you can't afford to be too far back at this venue, whatever the conditions.

Having easily made up the ground those ahead of him got away again and he only picked up third place on the line. With a more forward ride he looks one to be with next time, possibly going left handed.

Some Reign just missed out on a place and like many other Dobbin horses to run so far he went as though in need of it, making many minor mistakes in the process. He looks sure to do better, particularly as they step him up in trip.

Luckofthedraw was among the fittest although isn't the sort to take the eye, being rather narrow, but he showed he had an engine over hurdles last season and he warmed to the task and got on top of Mister Kit after the last.

This was a huge return from the second who is now rising 11, and he should make up for lost time on this evidence.

The money for Cave Top was surprising, he looked the least fit and these conditions did not look to be his optimum, but I like this horse and he can win races especially with some weight of his back.

Bulkov stayed on late and will improve for the run, as will the big Blottos, a slow learner over timber and seemingly will prove the same in this sphere.

Fin And Game stripped fit and looked well but the market spoke out against him and he too made mistakes, and does lack a little size...as such it's a bit surprising they haven't gone down the handicap hurdle route for now.

To prove what a deep race this was, outsiders Tayzar and The Phanton shaped with promise, both being good chasing sorts at the right end of the handicap.

Their proximity to the leaders two out can be read two ways but I prefer to look favourably on the race, Tayzar in particular was shaping as though leaving his previous form behind, the way he finished his races last season suggesting some sort of problem.

Two divisions of the novice hurdle came next and both were taken by N Twiston-Davies runners, both of whom have big futures in the game.

Good Boy Bobby once again ran very keen during the race despite looking laid back beforehand, but saw it out nicely to defeat one fit from the Flat in Weather Front, the pair coming nicely clear.

The time was a good deal quicker than the second division and it's hard not to think highly of the winner, particularly with improvement to come in the jumping department.

Return Ticket was disappointing but he looked burly beforehand and was ridden as though it was needed, while Hitman Fred has loads of size about him and he needs plenty of time and softer ground.

The Some Dance Kid ran okay to be third and he'll find at least one of these as the season progresses, and he should keep improving physically.

Al Dancer has real presence and is every inch a chaser, but he looked pretty fit for Div II and his finished really strongly after 'climbing' several of the obstacles, losing valuable ground in the process.

Having outbattled another fine prospect in Windsor Avenue this robust horse has all the attributes to go a long way and it wouldn't surprise me if he ranked very highly in the Naunton pecking order.

The runner-up didn't do a great deal wrong and will improve for the experience, while First Account ran okay considering he was pretty weak and unfurnished.

Lough Legend stepped up on his bumper form and pleased connections in behind, although being a bit on the weak side he has plenty about him for a four-year-old.

The staying handicap chase is always competitive and with the market giving off all sorts of signals it made for plenty of value.

Tintern Theatre is a stocky little thing and was warm in the market with liabilities on Twister's horses piling up. He looks sort to improve for racing but has a patchy profile.

Sky Pirate was popular but he is still a bit weak for a big horse, he's only young and perhaps needs more time, he finished a bit weakly again but I wouldn't hold it against him and he's proven very consistent.

The big drifter was Looksnowtlikebrian despite the fact that he wouldn't be lacking for fitness and had the champion up. There wasn't a shekel to be seen for him and he jumped sketchily at times; he does lack a bit of size but they came to the right place and despite getting the last all wrong powered home to cause a bit of a shock.

Cooking Fat isn't easy to win with as he doesn't find as much as you'd like, but he was primed for a big run and travelled all over them. He has a bit of class and should win again as he goes well on much softer ground.

Shanroe Santos is a nice big horse who looked fairly straight, and wasn't beaten far, but yet again the money for a Smith horse was baffling as Blakemount has never gone well off a break and as usual looked rotund. He wants a really stiff test as well and whoever is backing these Smith horses is getting duff info.

There was quite a large gamble on Leskinfere, one of my horses to follow, in the handicap hurdle but I didn't consider these condition to be optimum and he was off the bridle from the off.

Those who backed him from 12s into 3/1 soon knew their fate but this run won't be lost on the youngster, who like most from the Greenall yard have been running with plenty of condition. He needs a stiff test, it's that simple.

The 0-115 chase over 2m wasn't much of a contest and Ryalex found himself a warm order on sufferance; he hadn't shown me enough to suggest a wager at odds of 2/1 and less. He's not much to look at and has looked wayward his whole career.

Halcyon Days drew a blank last season but apparently wasn't right for much of it. He's not very big, but he looked pretty straight beforehand. He took an almighty wander in the betting but like the earlier T Vaughan-trained winner, he didn't know that and it didn't stop him. And they say drifters never win.

The mares bumper was one of the best of its type, certainly in these parts, with a handful of southern raiders chancing their arm, however honours went to the North and Point winner Mega Yeats, a big rangy mare that did it the hard way from the front.

She did a similar thing when winning between the flags and she looks very straight forward, and I'd expect they'd want to send her over obstacles sooner rather than later.

Redbridge Gold found market support and was another to be prominent throughout, she looked as though the race would do her good physically and she appears to have stamina on her side.

Cedar Valley was a warm order but was by no means the biggest, and along with the compact but fit Kalifornia proved once again how hard it is to defy a penalty in such contests.

The two previous winners stayed on nicely when the race was over, but arguably the most eye-catching run came from Regarding Ruth, backed at big prices and looking pretty fit beforehand.

She was hampered when Liz's Dream planted at the start, losing 10 lengths, and although easily made up it was far from ideal. She produced a really nice move from the bottom of the hill though to look dangerous two furlongs out, before the effort took its toll. She must not be missed next time.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Wetherby - October 17

The opening day of the jumps season in the north but ground on the quick side greeted small but select fields and we still need to see much more rain.

The juvenile hurdle was essentially a three-horse affair according to the market and so it proved, with the Skelton-trained King D'Argent defying favouritism.

He had much more scope than the other newcomer in Seaborough, and looks the type to go on from this, while the King horse ran a funny sort of race, coming off the bridle after being keen early, then running on. He's not very big.

Breakfast folded quite tamely and was beaten by more than just the penalty - no doubt McCain will be able to find another race but it will be a weak one.

Four went in the novice chase headed by the well made Lough Derg Spirit, and unsurprisingly he was heavily backed to beat the two main pair. However, he was disconcertingly novicey on occasions and he'll need to jump better in more competitive races.

El Terremoto was hard fit and he looks to be regressing, formerly a sound looking fencer he's now come down the last twice when under pressure. Cool Mix is a really big, rangy individual and he was given a kind introduction on ground livelier than ideal, and he'll come on a good deal.

One of the best Northern handicappers I Just Know had Kapgarry to beat in a novice hurdle and the market couldn't split them, and after a good battle the younger horse just showed more speed from two out to land the prize.

The Smith chaser looked pretty straight for this pipe-opener and Kapgarry, who ran to a decent bumper mark, has probably had to run to around 125 here, a marked step up on Perth where he looked in need of the experience.

A handful went to post for the Bobby Renton where Ballyandy astonishingly went to post an 11/10 favourite despite showing little aptitude for jumping in a trio of starts in his novice season.

He looked fit and well but again lost many lengths at the obstacles, yet still came home in a close third and almost certainly retains ability. They will likely persevere over fences but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he popped up in something like the Coral Cup over hurdles come the spring. He has the size for fences though and time is on his side.

Willie Boy was next in and he looked fit and well, a nice robust individual that I wouldn't be risking on such lively terrain. I thought he was tip-toeing around and after whacking five out his jumping went to pot.

Market weakness belied a fit looking Acdc but I like many felt he was a soft ground stayer, and while this prize fell into his lap it's hard to knock this consistent type.

To the credit of Willie Boy he rallied from the second last when asked for an effort but Acdc had the answers. They'll go their separate ways now but both should be up to winning on softer ground.

There were some fantastic market gyrations in the staying handicap hurdle, with last year's winner Lough Salt and Lough Derg Farmer (both 14 > 7/2) backed off the boards but neither was sighted as Monbeg Theatre made it a hat-trick under Page Fuller.

You can guarantee the Snowden horses to be straighter than most first time up and with Fuller setting exacting fractions nothing landed a blow except Nautical Nitwit, who despite being poorly handicapped was able to push the jolly all the way.

Notnow Seamus almost certainly doesn't stay and he has the look of a chaser, while the aforementioned Lough Derg Farmer didn't look straight and his new yard will need more time straightening him out after going the wrong way with Henderson.

It was always considered that Theflyingportrait needed his own way in front, but with at least three keen goers in the line-up for the 2m handicap chase it was a race that was hard to predict.

The handicapper had a big say here though, as the grey was surprisingly dropped another 2lb for his gallant effort at Kelso in better grade last time. With his opponents looking anchored by the assessor, the race fell apart somewhat although he wasn't winning out of turn.

Cracking Find never runs a bad race and it didn't look like fitness stopped him winning this, for all that I would be very hesitant in backing one of Smith's horses first time out. I still think he's well handicapped but he wants at least 2m4f now and I'd love to see him go even further.

Oak Vintage looked in terrific order but he was crushed for what was essentially a solo trial on his reappearance and I suspect he's no better than that last winning mark.

It was great to see such a nice a horse as Midnight Shadow running so early in the season and again the Smith horse looked fit and well for the finale, and he came to win his race before being run out of it.

With the obstacles down the back being omitted that would have suited the ex-Flat horse Innocent Touch and that may have made all the difference, with the Daly horse landing a bit of a touch from early knockings. Aristo Du Plessis needs it softer and will be straighter next time, while Beach Break got quite warm and may have done enough for now.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Hexham - October 13

Conditions were truly abysmal as strong winds carried showers through with them during the day, with the going softening although it was never that desperate.

That the opening maiden hurdle was won by a 10 year old probably tells you all you need to know about the race, and although the booking G Sheehan didn't appear significant beforehand it did afterwards.

Glen Roe looked to be carrying condition pre-race but that didn't stop those connected with the horse backing him from 66s into 25s; some of these Irish handlers clearly know their onions.

The betting was dominated by southern raiders, and Hobbs's Arthur Mac had the best bumper form plus looked most forward, but he was simply too novicey on his first start over timber and lost momentum at most obstacles. He's not one to give up on just yet.

The Bowens' Fortunes Hiding had plenty of size about him and clearly looked as though the run would bring him on. The way he travelled through the race suggested he has his share of ability and it came as little surprise that he faded late on. He'll come on plenty and find a race.

Ain't My Fault is a gigantic chaser in the making and showed a bit of speed to lead them to the final climb, where his lack of condition told. He's probably too unfurnished to make an impact over hurdles and he may need a lot of time.

The novices handicap chase was a difficult race to assess and threw up a second nibbled-at outsider in the shape of previous course winner Sophie Olivia, who is on the small side but wasn't fazed by this first outing over fences.

After nearly 12 months off it was a fair training performance from a yard not easy to predict. There did appear to be value in the race as Creadan Grae was short enough after landing what I felt was a weak race last time, when decent ground and an easy lead probably saw him to good advantage.

Granard came in for support despite not really impressing as a chase type beforehand and he was never sighted, even for those with strong binoculars.

The Paddy Pie is a typical plain, chaser that the Smith yard does well with and he'll surely come on for the run, while Heart Of Kernow looked pretty straight for such a big horse and is an out and out chaser.

He met the final ditch wrong and came down before Hughes had asked him for an effort. He's keen going and this looks his trip, and he can make amends if all is well.

Bako De La Saulaie looked fairly straight but was disappointing last season and although he has time on his side he ran his usual race, which is basically just showing the one pace when the chips are down.

His future surely lies over 3m or even further but his mark leaves him exposed to more progressive types for now, while he just lacks for a little bit of size.

Le Frank was given a typical 'first time out' ride over fences, allowed to do his own thing essentially being passed by most of the field and then re-passing all bar the front three.

This is his trip for now but he'll want further before long, and he was keen in his earlier races. With no mileage on the clock, he's a tall, angular individual likely to improve as the season goes on.

Simply The Betts was the class horse on show and he travelled like a good thing in the novice hurdle, and after looking pretty straight beforehand I was surprised he didn't put the race to bed, eventually having to battle to beat the Smiths' Informateur.

The conditions were so poor though it was basically job done and connections view the second season novice as well-handicapped, knowing full well that a win here was unlikely to change that.

The runner-up looked quite backward physically but this chase type was the second Smith horse to run well on the day, and they came well clear.

Torrid, a miler on the flat, came through for third and although he's robust enough it remains to be seen what he can do in this sphere. Sweet Vinetta also made some useful late gains and this staying type could make her mark in handicaps later on.

The 3m chase was attritional in the conditions and not many fancied it, particularly Spinning Scooter who had his ears pinned back throughout proceedings, but it found the inconsistent Misfits on a going day and he was the only one that really travelled.

Born For War was tight at the head of the market and he looks a strong staying type, he'll probably improve a bit even though he was pretty straight but isn't one to go overboard about.

A staying hurdle was up next and it saw the initially frustrating Rivabodiva record another big PB, running right away from them in conditions she clearly relishes. She looked very fit and that was another advantage she had over her rivals.

I was a little disappointed in The Hollow Ginge, who shapes as though extreme distances will suit, but he didn't look entirely at ease on the track and may not be wholly straight forward, but this hurdling type should pay his way.

Sharp Response is more of a flat track horse and looked likely to improve for the outing, and this looked a sighter for a return to fences next time out. Tikkenwolf was well-backed at his favourite track but the ground had turned against him.

The 0-100 handicap chase was typically weak, and it gave Take A Break the opportunity to win first time up for M Walford, well ridden by J Hamilton who kept nudging away on this confirmed stayer. He's only small though and he wasn't gaining at his fences.

Seven Devils has long since looked unreliable and again didn't really find much off the bridle after having every chance clearing the last. John Williams is a big unit, but looked straight enough on this bid to win for a second successive year.

The bumper featured another Hobbs hotpot in Little Rory Mac, but he faced one with similar form in Mr Scrumpy and the latter looked a nicer type beforehand, pretty straight while the booking of R Day caught the eye.

He travelled well and paid a handsome compliment to the pair that beat him at Market Rasen, a bumper that looked decent at the time, coming right away on the bridle.

Little Rory Mac is a light framed, lengthy individual who didn't seem to act on the undulations and will need more time, runner-up Creadan Belle is only tiny while third home Largy Mountain has some substance and looked pretty wound up for this.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Southern handicappers to follow

Following on from the recent list of Northern-trained horses to follow, I've delved into the notes of southern-based animals that caught the eye at the track last season. The following list contains some of those, in fact only the first-named I haven't seen in the flesh.

The usual caveat here is that the following five horses may all be deceased. Let's hope not.

Ar Mest G Moore 0

Gary Moore has been plundering winners down south for years but several real chasing types in his care are seriously worth following, including this French bred.

The 5yro ran on all types of surfaces in his first season in bumpers and hurdles races but looked very much at ease on the soft, particularly when getting off the mark at Lingfield in February. However the key race may have been at Sandown next time where he came down three out – too far from home to make a conclusive judgement.

However, he settled better than ever behind the heavy odds-on favourite suggesting the penny was really starting to dropping. He looks a decent jumper in the main (albeit with a tendency to go right-handed) and has substance to jump a fence in time.

The breeding raises a slight question mark but the dam is by Cadoudal so once he learns to settle he is likely to have stamina to burn. Over the top by April, his current mark of 117 looks a good one.

Back To The Thatch H Daly

Henry Daly had one of his better seasons with a super strike rate, and he seems to have plenty of ammunition to enjoy further success this time around.

I do like an old-fashioned looking chaser and who better to bring on such a type than a protege of Capt T Forster, and I expect this Westerner gelding to be one of his leading lights.

A very slow learner, he put a couple of poor rounds of jumping behind him to rout a Chepstow field in January before taking a heavy fall when going well in the Eider.

He jumped well in Midlands National before that gruelling test eventually proved too much, but he's still only six and looks a thorough stayer that can only keep on strengthening. With a rating of 129, he's likely to prove very well handicapped on soft ground this winter and he can land a decent Saturday prize.

Cajun Fiddle A King

Alan King had a ghastly season, registering by far his lowest winning tally in many years, but as a result has several very well handicapped horses in his care.

This mare's first term over fences a complete washout (one of many to be sidelined from January to March) but she had plenty of experience in bumpers and hurdles, when she ran well in the Grade 2 Final race at Newbury in the spring, so there's no worries on that score.

Starting from a very low mark of 112, she has the size for fences and enjoys decent ground, and should be effective 2m4f to 3m. I'm hoping to see a different horse this time around.

Leskinfere O Greenall 5

A likeable 5yro with plenty of scope, this son of Darsi was noted staying on nicely in all three novice hurdles over 2m4f before being thrown into the deep end somewhat in a C3 handicap at Market Rasen in March.

Even over 2m7f it all seemed to be happening a bit quick but it looks strong form and although disappointing on the face of it, I thought he ran with credit. Big tracks will suit this horse, who looks a dour stayer, while all four runs came on soft ground and it appears to suit.

Given typical strengthening at this stage of his career, he ought be able to pick up a race or two at 3m+ beginning on 113, before embarking on a chasing career for a small stable very much on the up.

Perfect Harmony A King (Injured)

A £65k purchase as a 4yro, this is a strong, well made chaser in the making that has done little wrong in defeat in three outings over timber following his bumper win at Newbury the previous campaign.

Behind good horses in all three starts, he caught my eye at Doncaster and he looks a staying chaser for this season, although as a novice, it wouldn’t be surprising if his trainer looked to pick up a small race over hurdles first.

An exciting prospect, starting out on a workable mark of 124, he's yet to race on very bad ground. He was a little keen on occasions and a more relaxed attitude can bring about serious improvement.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Southwell - October 10

With the mercury rising to 23C at this time of year it was any wonder we had racing at all but as the saying goes 'they had done a great job' with the ground and it was safe enough.

Five jumpers went to post in the novice chase, the most interesting by far being quadruple winning hurdler The Dubai Way on his seasonal debut.

I was taken by the size of the beast but he's well put together and should make an even better chaser; the surprise being that having been campaigned so astutely last term he was set an implausible task on chase debut.

But with soft ground and probably an extra half mile, in time, he'll leave this sort of mark behind. The other newcomer Otter Moon looked even more in need of the run, but is a rangy chasing sort.

Essentially it was between the pair that have been in action already, and when the well-backed jolly McGroarty was handed a soft lead from flagfall, the writing was on the wall.

A decent enough sort himself, he probably didn't need to better last week's effort to win again, for all that he's a solid jumper things will surely be much tougher from now on. Flashing Glance was outpaced having ranged up two out, having gone keenly once again. 

I thought his jumping was slicker this time and he'd be interesting returned to positive tactics at this trip, because ultimately he'll want further once he learns to settle.

The other race over the 'black ones' was a dismal 0-100 affair, with few worth a second look. Corner Creek has always looked like he is capable of a great deal better, and this son of Presenting looked fit and well on this comeback.

He made mighty hard work of it though, and he's not the type to trust in the consistency stakes.

The mares novice had a decent shape to it with Market Rasen bumper winner Dissavril taking out a large percentage. She was deeply impressive on heavy back in January but may have been flattered by racing on the better strip of ground that day.

She's a plain mare but clearly talented, and looked fit enough, but ultimately couldn't deliver on this lively terrain, returning with a sore-looking cut on the near fore.

She will improve, but the one with the experience was Chequered View and I thought she jumped with aplomb last time, staying on after getting outpaced. I didn't mind her, she has a bit of scope and moved well at the walk.

It was a sensible move to make the most of her experience, Aspell setting steady fractions, and ultimately it was probably fitness that won the day.

Kimberley Point (a distance behind at Market Rasen) still looked green beforehand, and had shaped like more of a stayer, so her introduction is all the more meritorious especially as she took an age to drop the bridle. She's probably no star but should win one of these.

Her stablemate Fidux looked fit and well for his seasonal bow in the next and he looked a very worthy favourite on the back of a string of decent efforts in stronger company, and he delivered in style.

This was all about handicapping, with the small Haafapiece unable to defy such a steep rise, while flat-bred Forecast benefited from a drop in the ratings and a wind op to return to form, and he has the size to jump a fence should they choose that route.

The ones at the top of the novice handicap looked mostly of interest in the next, with the The Captain and Asking Questions standing out as good looking chase sorts.

The former stopped quickly again after jumping and travelling well, and may have a physical issue which will hopefully get sorted, while the latter picked up where he left off and can improve further returned to fences.

It was surprising to see The Groovy Hoovy looking pretty straight for his return as most of Mr Sherwood's tend to need a run, but he was strong in the market and probably landed a bit of a touch. The booking of STD for Black Anthem looked a red herring, and so it proved.

The bumper saw the day-long gamble on the J Bethell-trained Adjourned landed with something in hand, the reliable B Hughes always in the right place on the athletic looking grey.

Megan's Choice was by some way the biggest of them and although he curled up a bit late on he was bang up against it giving lumps of weight to the three-year-old.

Three Bullet Gate looks a typical robust chasing type from the Dickin yard and he looked pretty forward, coming home quite strong to fill minor honours ahead of the filly Especially So, who didn't look entirely straight forward but has the physical attributes to make a splash in this sphere. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Sedgefield - October 2

Not a great deal to write home about on what was a typical early season/end of summer card.

Everything looked well in the first although Getonsam is a big rangy animal carrying condition on his first start for Sue Smith; it was surprising he was so tight in the market.

The novice hurdle was interesting as the Irish raider Thosedaysaregone looked a good thing to these eyes, and nice well-made animal who showed a fair level of form on his latest start at Listowel.

The lively ground was the only question mark but he's a decent mover and it's entirely possible he was brought over in search of such terrain. His mid-race exit owing to tack malfunction will have left billy bunters spitting feathers, however one suspects the cash is only lent.

Sonic was handed the race and the little fella probably didn't need to improve a great deal, while life will prove more difficult now after this second success. Icefall proved himself tripless and disappointing and was passed on the run-in by Ballyfarsoon, who only looks moderate.

I preferred Caid Du Lin to Dear Sire in the novice chase, not only physically but on their previous exchange, but this was a masterstroke from Hughes, who reversed the roles from their Worcester run by allowing his rival to do the donkey work.

Caid Du Lin looked in need of company throughout and didn't have an answer as Dear Sire swept past. I must say I'd go against the winner if they met again as the jolly will almost certainly be better in a fast run race.

In the next Mixboy was of interest back over timber off a much lower mark than his chase rating. He's an amazing tool as he's not very big, but they went over larger obstacle early in his career and he keeps on delivering.

They went a good clip from the outset and he knuckled down really well to see off Beach Break and then Lucky Robin, who remains on an upward curve. This looks solid form for the grade and time of year.

Oak Vintage took a walk in the market ahead of a puzzling handicap chase but it wasn't on account of a lack of fitness; always an active sort he probably keeps himself fit at home and really the question was whether he could win off a new perch of 119 after starting out 12 months ago on 79! (Yes, I was on when it got beat a short head that day)

The answer was a resounding yes although the opposition melted away pretty early on, and the handicapper is not going to make life easy now - and well he mightn't as this was win No 6 inside a year.

Nicolas Chauvin went better than is often the case but patently failed to get home on this rare foray beyond 2m, while Brave Spartacus should have gone better off his lowest mark for some while and Father Time is catching up fast.

There was only a bumper left and as so often the case the market sorted them out with only the front three coming in for support. C'Est Le Bonheur is a late starter for Dr Newland but he was forward and knew enough on debut to get it done.

The runner-up Emma Lamb is from a sound family and she looks a decent animal with size and scope; a mare's race should be routine for her. Goldencard was disappointing again off the bridle, he's an okay sort but looks paceless and should now have his sight set towards a hurdles campaign.

Rafferty again looked very leggy and although I'm not a trainer it's a surprise he hasn't been given more time to fill his frame.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Market Rasen - Sept 29

Off to Lincolnshire for what has become the annual curtain raiser, boosted by the decision to take a hitherto unused back route to the track which by-passed the notorious town centre.

The opener was a really weak novice hurdle for mares, the market rightly dominated by Skelton's winning chaser King's Reste and the King newcomer Sula Island.

It's a well-established cliche that the master of Barbury Castle does well with such ex-Flat types and the four-year-old quickly looked to have taken a step up on her modest form on the level, scooting away from her market rival after the last.

Skelton's animal looks more of an unfurnished chase type who was a bit dry in her coat, and probably wants a bit further than this sharp test.

Foxtrot Juliet did not look ready for this test though, looking light framed and increasingly on edge, she made no appeal and ran a dismal race...perhaps she was in season. Rococo Style is big and rangy, but she was on her toes too.

One to note for handicaps is Drumochter, a decent stamp of a horse that won on the level for C Hills, and picked up for a song by the shrewd Englands. I liked what I saw in the run and she can reward patience further down the line, guaranteed a mark under 100.

The juvenile is the best of it's type for the early campaigners and it drew a good looking match in the penalised Cracker Factory and newcomer Jack Regan, a 85+ horse on the level.

Although nicely bred, the former showed little in the early days for King but he's a decent looker and was on terrific terms with himself as he defended a three-race streak over timber. It wasn't easy to make the call, although the market support for the Williams animal was significant, as was the 8lb he received in weight.

Both come out of it with credit, particularly as Cracker Factory was by far the more novicey despite having all the experience on his side. Breakfast was a clear third and this typically modest looking McCain runner is the type to defy his penalty at the likes of Bangor and Carlisle.

I was reaching for the proverbial bargepole ahead of a 0-110 handicap chase, the only one of any real interest was the hitherto disappointing and unexposed One Forty Seven, who was fit off a break and ready to roll.

He was backed into favouritism but thankfully found one too good in the well-handicapped West Wizard, but Twister's horse is the one to take forward as the track was probably tight enough and the trip on the short side. This as a step in the right direction and he needs to back it up now.

Race four was the biggie, the Class 3 handicap chase didn't look as competitive as the numbers and betting suggested. The market spoke against Candy Burg and Special Prep, the latter facing a big task in just his second chase and he'll have other days with his sights lowered.

Money came for Buster Thomas but he's a disappointing horse and looked on the burly side; he carries his head a little high and was a bit on edge. He has plenty to prove for me.

Not A Role Model is a decent looking chaser in the making but for the second race in succession he was encumbered with brainless front-running tactics. Continually chased along to force the gallop, he'll be more than capable of defying his current mark when energies are used more suitably.

Cusheen Bridge is more of a spoiler than anything else and he looked as well as I've seen him, but again tailed himself off before rallying to take third. There's a race in him probably with a jockey change, but he's not a backable proposition.

Jovial Joey looked incredibly hard fit and there may not be too much left in him in the short term. He's run another sound race for one that doesn't find a great deal under pressure, and the writing was on the wall for some time as Exitas loomed upsides three out.

The 10yro was down 8lb from a career high last autumn after he had picked up a C1 affair at Ascot. Overlooked in the market for much of the day, he saw some late support and backers were justly rewarded. He's a strong chase type and another credit to his under-estimated handler.

I was surprised to see strong market support for Theclockisticking in the big handicap hurdle, who started out in the bumper on this card 12 months ago. Now rated 137, he seems high in the weights but he still looks a bit of a shell and I hoped he would have strengthened up a bit.

What's more I have him down as a stayer so the drop to 2m was surprising, and it's to his credit that he was able to come from a mile back to take second place. This could be a bit of a muddling season but he has the ability pick up a race back over further.

Caius Marcius had been tried over fences but he's a robust hurdler lacking physical scope, and he took another big leap forwards as he pounced on a strong pace to put it to bed at the top of the straight.

Not many got into it and on lively ground it's a sharp old track.

There was nothing worth mentioning from the 100 handicap hurdle, and the bumper was knowhere near the standard of last year's race won by Simply The Betts.

Risk And Co was fit and forward and belied his long odds, which overlooked his run behind Earlofthecotswolds last term where neither animal enjoyed the Fakenham terrain.

Twister's horse is a decent looker, quite tall with substance, and along with most from the yard was forward enough. The Fakenham form looked quite solid and is even better now. Get An Oscar was penalised for landing a weak Hexham affair and the Point winner lacked gears round here.

Home bred Prophets Prayer is a backward type with plenty of size and he showed more than enough, as did the likeable Fubar, who nearly came down on the home turn and can go one better. The rest looked pretty backward.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Northern handicappers to follow

Horses to follow season is well underway - it seems to get earlier each year - and with FOMO very much in mind (that's the 'Fear Of Missing Out' for those of you not up to speed with those pesky acronyms) here's a handful of modestly talented animals to keep in mind this Autumn.

Absolutely Dylan S Smith 12

I first saw this 5yro at Sedgefield last November when he was almost unrideable, jocking Danny Cook off twice in the parade ring and then on the way to post, eventually causing his withdrawal.

He was still lairy on next two educational visits to the track, but on his third start showed distinct promise behind a good benchmark in Ballinslea Bridge, who won again next time.

He looked on the lean side that day, and while he didn't have to be anywhere near that form to land the weakest of contests three weeks later, one suspects he had done enough for the season when disappointing on his final two starts.

As a result he now looks positioned to have a successful season starting from a mark of 110, with 2m4f on soft appearing to be the ideal starting point. He undoubtedly has the outlook of a typical son of Scorpion, but hopefully his tough taskmasters will keep his mind in the right place.

Mac N Cheese K Dalgleish

It would have been remiss not to include one trained by Keith Dalgleish considering the Scottish handler's terrific strike rate over jumps, and this brother to Eider Chase winner Milborough fits the bill.

I've a soft spot for the eight-year-old after he landed a right old touch when trained by Rose Dobbin over timber, but he wasn't seen for almost two years afterwards.

However, he quickly supplemented that early promise when bolting up on his return at Perth last September, before embarking on a chasing career. That was soon shelved though after a second round of novicey jumping that resulted in a fall at Newcastle.

He bounced back again, however, returned to hurdles when outstaying his rivals in a Kelso bog in February, after which he was put away.

A lengthy injury absence is always a huge concern, but if the wheels stay on and his astute trainer can iron out the jumping flaws, he looks handicapped to prosper this winter starting out on 119.

Porto Du Sud R Menzies

This hard-pulling five-year-old belied long odds on three occasions this time last year to reveal a small amount of ability in novice hurdles, but was then absent from the track until May.

Failing to trouble the judge once again in another trio of spins in late spring means 5lb has been lopped off his original mark (now 103), leaving the youngster in a more attractive position to strike in the hope that he starts to settle better.

Optimum conditions are sketchy at this stage, but he could turn out to be best at 2m on softish ground, having been handicapped on largely sound terrain, although he could prove just as effective over further.

Shepherd's Bight R Jefferson 4

This son of Court Cave had shown precious little prior to landing a weak handicap hurdle at Kelso in May, but he starts the new campaign on just a 4lb higher mark of 109.

The 6yro jumped notably well in what was his first handicap so despite this inexperience it wouldn't be at all surprising if he went straight over fences this autumn.

He was strong at the line suggesting that distances of 3m+ will suit from now on, while on the admittedly light evidence so far he may be best away from deep winter ground.

He looks a type the trainer's father thrived on and he could improve in leaps and bounds after another summer off, be it over hurdles or fences.

Shine Baby Shine P Kirby

Twice a winner at a lowly level on Southwell's fibresand, this juvenile filly showed great aptitude for the winter game, scoring in a novice hurdle at Catterick in January.

She was then sent on mission impossible down south on her next two starts, but all was not lost as it served to see her tumble 7lb in the charts.

A perch of 112 still possibly leaves her something to find, but it's interesting that she's been given the summer off to further strengthen into her ample frame. Connections also have an ace up their sleeve in that she clearly stays well, and will surely thrive over 2m4f this term.

Don't be surprised to see her appear on the Fibresand at some stage as her mark of 61 ought to bring further gains. The best is yet to come.

* At some stage in the near future I'll post another five to follow from southern-based stables. These will not include Point-to-Pointers that cost the earth and be over-bet all season, bumper horses that caught everyone's eye, or Kalashnikov.

These pages will then be updated frequently in the coming months, and may even include some video content (FOMO!)

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Early days

Watching and going racing during the summer reminded me of how I first got into the game, at least from a working point of view.

It was 1992 or 1993. There had been a recession on for three or four years, not that I was old enough to understand such things. All that I knew was that I was one of ‘Major’s millions’.

Unemployment had gone over 3m and I was one of them for a short period of time after I left school at 18 with what would be described these days as poor grades. They were very poor grades back then.

I had been in and out of work doing various crappy factory and warehouse stuff, all equally mind-numbing. There were people working these jobs full-time which I couldn’t get my head around, so naive was I.

On a rare trip to the Job Centre one day there was a card on one of the boards saying that a bookmaker was looking to hire a clerk for the upcoming summer. It had my name all over it.

I contacted said bookmaker and he conducted an interview as we were sat in the front seats of his red Mondeo, while parked outside my local pub. The seats were garishly covered in leopard print. My parents are gonna kill me, I thought.

I didn’t understand what he was telling me as he placed a gigantic folder of lined paper in front of me, something about ‘field money’ and the ‘over round’. I nodded vigorously as if such terms were second nature.

It didn’t take long to secure my position on the bag. He traded under the name of Mike Leicester although his name I think was Peasgood and there was some relation to the Julie of the same name who featured in one of the soaps like Coronation Street.

It turned out that quite a few chaps had made good dough in the building industry over the last few years and had turned their hands to bookmaking. Mick was one. There were others, Colin Fountain and Pat Cash, who were actually brothers and didn’t get on. Gus O’Neill was another who is still going today (I think).

Bookie-ing was quite a big thing in Leicester back then. There was camaraderie. Sort of. In those days you only moved up the numbers if someone died or jacked it in. So you started out in the Silver Ring and slowly, very slowly worked your way up. Buying pitches would be some years in the future.

So you had to do your one-in-threes. This meant if you got your name onto a list to stand at a track, you had to rock up at least once in every three meetings to maintain your pitch there. So we traipsed around here and there throughout the year often just to maintain a pitch, taking £20-£50 a race.

And while it was just about okay making a three-hour plus trip to Salisbury in mid-summer, making the likes of Ludlow and Towcester on freezing January afternoons wasn’t when you would do well to field a score a race.

The reason you would maintain such pitches might be for one or two days a year when you wold have a chance to make decent money, usually one of the spring Saturdays at Uttoxeter or Easter meetings at Towcester or Warwick.

But I was loving it. I was using my brain again and going racing 3-4 times a week which got me out the warehouse. And there was some good crack.

The third member of the team was the radio man who at the start was a hulking figure called Arthur, who looked like a tramp and smelled like one too.

Because he was so big he used to sweat quite badly. So as well as the smell, the dampness would seep into Mike’s leopard print car seats. So Mike would get the spray out before we picked Arthur up, and a blanket was placed over the front passenger seat to absorb any moisture.

I had to sit in the back. They were long trips on sunny days. Mick liked Arthur, because Mick wasn’t that bright and Arthur was good at numbers. But I was better at numbers, and I don’t think Arthur liked that.

Arthur had one story. It was how he made loads of money backing St Paddy to win the Derby in 1960. He fancied it all through the winter and kept backing it. Piggott rode it to victory. Arthur bought a Jaguar. He promptly crashed it and almost killed himself. He sported a massive scar down the front of his head. He was potless. I don’t think he’d backed a winner since.

But it didn’t stop him from knowing everything. I used to try and take the piss and Mike sort of got it but was quick to defend big Arthur. Mick’s stories were better. He was covered in tattoos, back when that amount of ink wasn’t popular. He’d lived. I hadn’t. I listened.

I don’t know how much of it was true. He was a good raconteur, he’d make a story out of nothing. A ladies man, or at least had been.

He was a very tight bookmaker, which probably came from being a penny pincher. If we laid a £10ew bet on a long shot he’d have it all back. There was never a chance that we’d ever make more than a few quid.

The only times there was a bonus on the cards was Kempton on Boxing Day or at Royal Ascot. On both occasions business was so good it was impossible for the clerk to keep up. Mick’s brain used to fry on such big days so I’d go up on the stool and take the hundreds of small each-way bets off the ladies.

But they were fun times. I can’t remember what happened to Arthur but at some stage there was a change of personnel, with me switching to the radios and Mick the clerk taking over pen duties.

Mick the clerk could charm the birds down from the trees. He was a decent bloke and a good clerk, better than I was. But he had a problem with the booze. And for a guy still in his 30s was very old-fashioned, set in his ways.

We only had one stopover and that was at Chester for the May meeting and sometimes there were some good Friday/Saturday cards that warranted a cheap B&B for the night.

I lived for those trips. I loved Chester, not just the track but the social life as well. Compared to Leicester it seemed quite exotic, with that blend of Scouse and North Wales accents. We all enjoyed mixing with the girls and we made some good memories.

There was talk of me being a rep for the firm if Mike didn’t fancy it one day, or if there were two possible meetings to attend and we’d take one each. Nothing came of it though.

I’d started punting in disciplined three-figure sums, and by about the third summer I was getting itchy feet about clerking for £25 a day. I couldn’t reckon the two together.

I guess that’s what everyone who works in the racing game goes through. Am I a winning punter yes/no? Do I keep punting or stop yes/no?

By 1995 I was punting pretty much full time but primarily relying on phone lines and other avenues for ‘info’, and still doing a a couple of days a week on the bag.

I was also in the shape of my life as most days when I wasn’t working meant bolting to and from the local Mark Jarvis between races, not wanting to sit amid the smoke all day. 

I guess I was always a punter rather than a layer. While I loved those days on the joint I never held any dream to one day shout the odds under the ‘Normbet’ banner. I always wanted to find the winner.

Still do.