Monday 15 December 2014

Carlisle washout

Once again racegoers were treated to absolutely foul conditions in the north with the rain carried sideways by a ferocious wind heading down the track. The ground was heavy but they were seemingly getting through it okay - at least some of them were.

Now, this blog is about betting based upon how the horses look before the race. I don't get too mathematical about things, although I do as much form study as I possibly can before heading to the track.

The two facets have to strike the right balance and sometimes this becomes out of kilter. For example, I'm not sure just backing the best looking horse blind is going to bring a fabulous strike rate.

I like to bring an open mind to each race although as the season wears on it's almost impossible not to form an opinion before going racing.

Now, taking a view on a horse purely based on visuals is a subjective point. There are many professionals at the course who see the same things as I do, but will go away from the paddock with a different opinion.

Most of the time, if I want to back a particular horse I'm looking for a sense of well-being at the very least. It may be a shine to the coat, good conformation, looking active, nicely on its toes, or most importantly, fit.

Sometimes I find myself wanting more, and if I don't see what I expect it can be off-putting. Today there were excellent examples of where seeing a superior looking horse can encourage a bet, and where mere well-being should have been enough to confirm a wager.

Don't give up on the lovely Lewis

The first example was a 2m 4f novice hurdle that I didn't have any prior interest in, yet was compelled to play. The early betting suggested a match between Lewis and Mixboy, the latter whom I had seen chase home the decent Jacks Last Hope at Sedgefield last time.

It was quickly obvious to anyone who the nicer/better horse was - it was Lewis. A lovely tall, well-made five-year-old he was bought for a decent amount after running well in a northern bumper last season. He'll make a grand chaser in time.

Mixboy by contrast looked flattered to me by his proximity to Jacks Last Hope on dreadful ground at Sedge, and physically is on the small side and lacking scope. Carlisle is a million miles away from Sedge and with 3 still available to lay it looked a great bet.

The reason I didn't have a straight bet on Lewis was 1, he was too short a price and 2, there was a potential wild card in the McCain-trained Subtle Grey. What a gorgeous stamp of a horse this is, big but not backward, strong and a fluent mover in his slower paces.

It was anyone's guess what kind of engine he had on debut but he was one to have on your side. And by the way he won his owning syndicate could have a lot of fun with this one over the coming years. As for Lewis, he will come good once he learns to settle better.

In the second example I was very interested in the 2m4f handicap chase later on the card, specifically the favourite Verko and the maiden Romany Ryme.

I have mentioned the former on numerous occasions before and he ran by far his best race under optimum conditions at Newcastle last time, and I felt the handicapper had under-rated the race - the third home had already won at Musselburgh.

He's a buzzy sort who always looks great and it was the case again here. He was hard to get away from and yet the odds were not generous and the race was run in a monsoon - on reflection not ideal for a fairly inexperienced five-year-old yet to taste success.

I believed Oscar Lateen and Apache Pilot were great market-makers, having been well-bet on their last two runs they were sure to come in for support again, yet I didn't think either was ready to deliver.

It really only left Romany Ryme, who might just have been one of the unluckiest horses in training having been backed on several occasions but running into one or two often under circumstances that weren't ideal.

I wasn't that impressed when I saw him for the first time, but what can you expect of a 104-rated chaser? Medium-sized and not a great mover behind, he otherwise looked fine and the first-time visor looked to be a good move. I'm surprised he went off at such a big price although the front three were all well-supported. It was a great opportunity that went begging. Note to self - not all horses you want to back are going to be great lookers.

We didn't get much else right on a thoroughly miserable afternoon. Big Water was a horse a wanted to take on at Doncaster last time and although back at his favourite track I felt he was very short in a race that had a few runners.

Water Garden looked better than I had seen him before and surely would have benefited from a more positive ride - he's one I'm interested in next time. Beauboreen was well-backed and he really should make up into a better chaser as he's a lovely tall sort, another to keep an eye on next time especially with the Candlish stable back to form today.

Hard to believe that won a Grand National

Midnight Belle could also be counted on to run a big race but the favourite came through and battled on well to land the spoils. I'm still not entirely convinced though and away from here he may still be one to take on.

The other big opinion I held was that Wicked Spice would take all the beating in the Pertemps qualifier. The Richards youngster took a massive step forward at Donny and the way he won there suggested the handicapper may not have quite caught up with him. With N Fehily having his only ride of the day it looked a good bet despite a decent field.

In fairness he was probably another five-old-year who got lost in the mud, and is worth another chance. Phoenix Returns has been round here before and showed surprising stamina reserves to over-power Barafundle, another Candlish runner who looked very fit after a lengthy absence.

An Poc Ar Buile is a decent looking horse who can rate higher, although surely he'll need headgear to allow him to lie up with the pace a bit better. This was hard work. You wouldn't have picked out the Grand National winner here but there he was - Pineau De Re looked fine but was another who didn't act in the bog.

Briefly, Hester Flemen won the bumper as she liked and is a lovely, big mare. She dwarfed her rivals in the paddock and is really well made - along with Subtle Grey two of the nicest McCain horses I've seen in quite some time.

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