Wednesday 28 June 2017

Worcester preview

The handicap chase over short of 3m at Worcester today goes off at 2.50, by which time we can expect the rain that has engulfed the UK to have got into the ground.

Playing a guessing game with the going at this track is essentially a lose-lose situation, but guess we must and if it's true that they are calling it 'drizzle' then I'm assuming ground on the soft side, but not soft.

The effect of watering all spring/summer at these venues makes it even trickier to work out how it will ride, some essentially good ground types will go on it, while those that want soft may find the wheels spinning.

That's enough of the assumptions relating to going; the opening race will hopefully give us some clues. It's a race in which each of the runners has questions to answer so let's take a look.

Super Scorpion; Well, the jury is no longer out regarding the Scorpion offspring (at least in these quarters) - they are definitely 'thinkers' shall we say. This one's career wasn't really going anywhere having been lightly raced but has proved a revelation with the hood on after a break. Up 20lb for two wins on the snaff, softer ground and stiffer opposition means he'll need to keep finding when the chips are down. A worthy in-form market leader, but opposable for win purposes.

Al Alfa; Goes on any, but simply looks in the grip of the handicapper and isn't improving. Likely to help force the pace.

Rebel Rebellion; Now 12 but has gone with loads of zest in hunters this spring without looking as good as he was. His mark reflects that though, and having won off 21lb higher two years ago he can play a part with the jockey riding well.

Fort Worth; One-paced and not easy to win with to say the least. Will need everything to fall right but his consistency means the handicapper has his number, although 10lb better off with SS for their run last time.

Wadswick Court; From the dangerous Bowen yard but he looks too high in the weights currently and more often than not blots his copybook with a major error or two. Likely to race prominently and could go well if everything falls right.

A Good Skin; On a downward spiral and I didn't think his effort over timber last time was up to much, off the bridle some way from home. Formerly a progressive sort, he hasn't won for a couple of years and his attitude is under suspicion. If they thought he was back to his old form they could have gone for the Summer Cup on Sunday off a low weight.

Tinker Time; 3/20 over fences but has struggled from higher marks this year, but is more than capable from this, his last winning perch. His last two runs have been disappointing, but he is 16lb better off with SS for a 20L beating last time. The introduction of cheekpieces are interesting and three of his four career wins have come with cut in the ground.

Tissue; 3 Super Scorpion, 5 Rebel Rebellion, 5 A Good Skin, 8 Al Alfa, 8 Tinker Time, 8 Wadswick Court, 9 Fort Worth. 101%.

Conclusion; This is tricky, and the market is more or less where I would expect it to be now at 12.30pm. Well done if you got double figures about Rebel Rebellion, who at 6/1 remains a fair proposition. Back-to-lay players will probably be on Super Scorpion and that is likely to mean he'll be solid at the top of the market. Backers of A Good Skin are taking a chance at current odds that the handicapper has been too lenient; he should be capable of going well from this mark but I'd prefer to look elsewhere. On a point of handicapping Tinker Time must go well, in the hope that the headgear revitalises him, and, unlike A Good Skin, we don't have to pay much to find out. On balance, I'll probably take he and Rebel Rebellion against the field. For layers, I'd be looking to take on Super Scorpion and A Good Skin once the flag falls.

Thursday 22 June 2017

Back up the truck for Heist

The good ship Norman has been sailing in calmer waters these past weeks following the conclusion of the jumps season as we used to know it.

That hasn't stopped us looking for some winners to keep things moving along and sitting on our hands has proved easier said than done, with plenty of summer jumps action to keep the fingers twitching.

Most horses retain their usual characteristics despite the onset of summer but the change in ground and tempo of racing can revitalise some moodier types, making things somewhat unpredictable.

I'll confess I don't really 'get' summer jumps from a punting perspective but there are some gems to be had and one of them is an Irish trained horse named Heist.

I've followed the seven-year-old since he fell over the line in front at Sedgefield back in September 2015 - a race I documented here - and always felt he would flourish when his stamina was tested.

He's made terrific, and yet quiet, progress since then, only gradually stepped up in trip by shrewd handler P Griffin. He has only tackled today's trip of 3m on four occasions, winning three of them, two over fences.

While he's 4/10 over fences, he would have won more if he'd been campaigned over further earlier in his career; moreover, he has already won from a mark of 125 in that sphere despite him not being a particularly good jumper of larger obstacles.

He's 3/10 over timber, but I don't think he's an inferior hurdler and from today's perch of 124 I suspect he's around 6lb well-in.

This good ground horse had been rested over the winter but came back at Hexham in April to run a blinder despite being noticeably weak in the market, his staying-on third there proving he now requires 3m.

He was then brought to Ffos Las a month ago, when I thought he ran out a cosy winner of a slowly run affair which wouldn't have suited him. It looked as though he was going to be swallowed up going to the last, but his stamina kicked in and away he went.

A 3lb rise is no problem and we are almost guaranteed to get a solid run from Heist, who has only really run badly on three of his 20 career starts. He's ultra consistent, improving and has a very willing attitude.

The money this morning has been for Gingili, another with a fantastic 6/13 strike rate. He's not easy to weigh up as he tends to run his race despite looking one to be very wary of under pressure. He might take a bit of knowing but has STD on for the time. However he's up another 5lb for winning last time which means he must prove himself from a career-high mark. I think they should be the other way round in the market so at around 3/1 Heist is a confident choice.

Of the others, Mighty Leader looks to have been quite harshly treated and is another racing from a career-high mark of 120, while Benenden is a horse I've followed closely for a long time and he's basically won a couple of races that fell apart, yet is 5lb above that last winning mark. I think he's a bit soft as well.

Two potential spoilers are Awaywiththegreys, who is well handicapped but unreliable and arguably best with plenty of give underfoot, and King Massini, formerly a fair chaser who has unshipped his inexperienced jockey three times between the flags and now reverts to hurdles.

But whichever way I tackle this race I don't want to be against Heist, and thankfully he's a backable price so at this stage we have to step in.