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.