Saturday 31 August 2019

Newton Abbot

I was struggling to get to grips with the handicap chase at 2.30 which appeals as a betting medium despite an obvious lack of pace. I thought it might be easier if I wrote down some thoughts and here they are...

Field Exhibition; Kept extremely busy over the past year or so but continuing on the up for current handler including when returning from a short break with an apparent PB over course and distance 11 days ago. Pulled her chance away at Worcester in midweek and now that the new mark has kicked in she looks up against it in this tougher contest.

Al Shahir; A frighteningly over-rated horse, surprisingly made favourite for the EBF Final at Sandown 18 months ago and a beaten jolly on three subsequent occasions, and a no-show on two further starts. Prone to mistakes and usually finds little off the bridle, punters need to place a lot of faith in the addition of a hood. Handicapper slow to relent.

As You Like; Consistently progressive over C&D in the past year either side of a lengthy break, not always looking an easy ride. McLernon takes over despite never having won on the horse, but as likely as any to run his race.

Bramble Brook; Consistent but has reverted to being hard to win with again, often capitulating without much resistance. Turnaround in weights with Field Exhibition and As You Like should at least mean he's competitive on paper.

Court Duty: Improved to win twice this summer but also a three-time beaten favourite, including on last outing when trading very low before hitting a wall and coming to grief. Can often over-race and that may have been his downfall last time, and an exaggerated hold-up ride off a fast pace may suit best.

Spring Steel; Returned from a very long absence to win at Uttoxeter over 2m but that looks very weak form and he's 4lb higher as a result.

Cropley; Low mileage over obstacles despite his age, returned from an absence of a year to show he retains plenty of ability despite yard's horses being renowned for needing a run. That form has been let down since, although it was only his fourth run over fences but another PB may be needed.


The only pair that haven't disappointed of late in one way or another are As You Like and Cropley, while Bramble Brook looks sure to run his race. As You Like will need to keep the mistakes to a minimum in this slightly more competitive race but he has his own way of doing things. The main problem in assessing this race is the lack of obvious pace, and with the likes of Field Exhibition, Al Shahir and Court Duty prone to pulling hard, it could get messy. Bramble Brook may get an easy lead if desired but it's hard to see him staying in front regardless. Sean Bowen is an eye-catching booking for Cropley and I like it when he gets the leg up on a horse for the first time. At around 5/1 he makes some appeal to build on his latest effort, likewise course specialist As You Like on whom I intend to have a smaller bet at 4/1 or bigger. Field Exhibition is such a fierce puller that she may be sent on thus setting the race up nicely, however that looks an unlikely scenario given that she benefited so kindly to hold-up tactics to win here earlier this month.

Sunday 25 August 2019

Stable tour - Sam England

According to Wikipedia, Guiseley, West Yorkshire is responsible for producing the likes of Harry Ramsden, who once opened the 'world's biggest fish and chip shop' (it's now part of the Wetherby Whaler chain) and Tasmin Archer, who once sung about Swinging Satellites.

I'd like to add the name Samantha England, nee Drake, to that illustrious list, a young trainer quietly making a name for herself alongside husband and jockey Jonathan, with 43 winners (and counting) over jumps in less than five years.

Sam rode plenty of winners as an amateur and conditional but was soon training a few between the flags, and was essentially in charge of a handful of horses running under her dad's name in the early years (father Richard was a dairy farmer.)

Success was instant and the yard has recorded double-digit winners for the past three seasons, last term being their best both in terms of numbers and prize-money won.

There is no secret formula (according to Jonny, who wouldn't tell me even if there was!) but the quiet old farm on the edge of town is the ideal spot for horses who have struggled under tougher regimes at bigger stables.

The Englands have done a fine job resurrecting the careers of jaded types like Raktiman, Distime and Western Jo, buying cheap cast-offs and turning them into serial winners.

Crocks, mentalists, bleeders, they are all here. They each get the sort of care and attention not possible in the big factories down south, resulting in nine individual winners in the 2018/19 campaign.

Not wanting to stand still, the couple are investing in an equine pool which will be operational soon, exciting times for a trainer whose horses aren't always up to the stresses of traditional training methods.

They have a four furlong round gallop on the property which is sand-based with added carpet, and it looks like hard work. For faster work they are able to use the gallops of Sue and Harvey Smith in nearby Bingley, where Jonny spent time as a conditional recording a season's best 22 six years ago.

They have three easy-fix jumps to use on the sand gallop in addition to further schooling grounds and an outdoor arena for loose schooling and breaking. With plenty of space in which to turn them out, you can see why the place is full of happy horses.

Jonny says they've easily got room for 10-15 more and I suggest they'll continue to fill boxes if they keep sending out winners as regularly as they have been doing.

And with 'Saturday horse' Chef D'Oeuvre leading them into battle, it promises to be another successful season at Manor Farm.

The horses (in the words of Sam and Jonny)

An absolute legend, who won twice and was second three times last season. Has bled in the past which can affect their confidence and we try to let him do his own thing. We thought he was a soft ground horse but his wins came on better.

Wishfull Dreaming
Does really well just to get up in the morning as he’s very fragile with lots of wear and tear. We’ve never galloped him and is the sort of horse we had in mind when deciding to invest in the swimming pool. Owned by my Dad and has been really consistent, jumps well. (JE)

She’s had her problems and is another who should be easier to train in the pool, she’s nightmare about the place but as sweet as anything once she’s on the track. Has plenty of size and scope so will hopefully win over fences if we can keep the wheels on.

He’s been on the go this summer but he’s a horse I like, we always thought he’d be okay. Travelled well with me at Market Rasen but he emptied out in the straight and we may go back in trip for now. That was a decent race though. (JE)

Chef D’Oeuvre
We got him for a knock-down price because he was found to have a small problem after going through the sales ring. He’d been ridden positively his whole life so we tried something different and it paid off at Haydock. Not short of toe but stays well and he doesn’t ride like he needs soft ground despite having a high knee action. May start off in the Becher Chase and go from there – he’s a pleasure to have around.

Ask Paddy
Won three times for us over hurdles before picking up an injury, but he came back last winter and he jumps fences really well. Three times we’ve taken him to Wetherby and he’s run badly, so we’ll be keeping to sharp tracks.

The Linksman
Cost £1,200 and is barely rideable, we took ages trying to get him to settle but he wasn’t having any of it so I let him run away with me and he won twice. We were up against Knocknanuss on his chase debut and I shouldn’t have restrained him because he made a mistake and suffered an injury. Could be anything. (JE)

Gatacre Street
Only modest but I’d like to think we can win a race or two with him, probably on heavy ground and more than three miles. He was sick after he ran last time and we haven’t brought him back in yet.

Tara Mill
One we bought privately in Ireland and we were pleased to get hold of him. He was given a high handicap mark over here so we could be going straight over fences this season.

We bought him earlier this year for £1,500 but he looks a big, late-developing chaser so we probably won’t be rushing him this season.

Kings Coinage
A big horse who has been frustrating as he keeps getting niggly little injuries and currently has a problem with his coat that we’re trying to get to the bottom of. He wants good ground and we might try him on the all-weather.

Well Smitten
We’ve just bought him for £5,200 after he lost his form following a busy time, so we’ve turned him out and will be in later. He’s a nice looking horse who won first time out over fences and he looks well-handicapped on that run.

My Renaissance
Has won plenty for us but is getting his own ideas about the game. Basically loves Cartmel and places like that and we’ll keep going with him for now.

Monday 5 August 2019

Market Rasen - August 4

Where DOES the time go? More than three months have passed since the last update and as usual I've failed to live up to a promise I make to myself every year - add more content during the summer.

Regular readers will know my punting year essentially concerns the October to April period previously known as the 'jumps season proper'. That leaves quite a lengthy period of R&R and much twiddling of thumbs, while casually following the summer jumping circus.

Things may be about to change a little at Notebook Nerve Centre...not least the introduction FIBRE BROADBAND - quite a myth in these here parts - the promised arrival of which may inspire a little more in the way of output. Although I love to recall bygone years on these pages, download speeds from the 90s is not among them.

All of this leads me to the Mecca of summer jumps - Market Rasen. What better way to end the fiscal year with a trip to where it all began in January 1980 - and if you were paying attention, on Racing TV earlier in 2019 (or ended? - Ed).

Always an uplifting experience, the staff are a well organised and pleasant bunch, and if you're privileged to own a leg of a horse the Os & Ts is one of the best in the land. If you haven't made the trip yet, you're missing out.

The owners-experience may be one reason why there's usually a well-stacked card numerically at least - not many three or four runner races at the Rasen.

Personally I find summer jumping difficult to get a handle on, with a lot of low grade stuff punctuated with the occasional big race like the Summer Plate here. It can mean going several barren weeks without fancying anything strongly but then a card like this pops up and all of a sudden I'm wanting a good bet.

The two handicap chases caught the eye and I found it hard to look beyond the top pair in the 3.00 being Court Duty and Northern Beau.

The former has now been made favourite on his last five starts, faithful backers collecting on just two occasions and he's proving difficult to work out. A son of Court Cave, he'll stay much further than this but his keen-going tendencies are holding him back and he was quickly beaten when knuckling on landing three out.

(The fact I was able to lay Court Duty at 1.28 on the home bend using a clunky hand-held device with a several second delay may debunk a few theories but we'll not go into that now.)

The summer months have not been completely idle here at Norm Towers as I've brought DATA MINING (gasp) into use in a very small way - and a quick check on M Scudamore handicap chasers returning off a break of 80+ days revealed an alarming 50% strike rate in the last six years, which made me look at this race with new eyes.

Clearly Northern Beau was a player here and without going into the race in too much depth now, her form, consistency and proven tenacity placed her as the clear second-fav in my ledger providing she looked straight (she did). It's worth waiting weeks for these opportunities but I can't attest to that level of patience.

The second handicap chase threw up another opportunity in the shape of Jot'em Down, a stamina-laden son of Kalanisi that bumped into The Jam Man last time out. It's not often you can accuse D Bridgwater of hammering in the winners but Jot'em's win makes it 3/3 in August and five in the last couple of weeks.

The dwindling odds may have been off-putting but the silver lining to the story is that young Jot'em was more than likely to trade much bigger during the race, and so it proved as he came off the bridle at several points allowing the nimble-fingered to add to their positions.

As I've said more than once, stop worrying about 'getting on' at the morning price and use your head. There's more than one way to skin the goddamn cat.

Clever-clogginess aside, there are two horses of interest going forward here. Primal Focus was put in a very short price for such a young and inexperienced horse. Yet to fully strengthen into a fair frame, he is likely to be kept very busy if early experience of the upwardly-mobile C Williams yard is anything to go such he wasn't expected to be fully wound up on this occasion.

Teeton Power is a horse with untapped potential if only the mare would settle down. Proving tricky down at the start (not for the first time) she once again spent too long pulling for her head and I've marked her up plenty. Drop her in trip and let her bowl along, she'll win by 20L from a mark of 100.

It's a great pity I only found time to study the two races as another opportunity passed me by later on the card when Oksana won at double-figure odds for the canny England partnership.

A brief chat with 'Ladbrokes Brian' ended with me saying 'I want to lay this Ulysses' which drew howls of derision from the man-with-the-tan. However, nice-guy Bri is a paid operative for a reason and I'm a pro punter for a reason. One of us is a good judge of value and this Skelton-trained scrote looked as slow as a boat when winning at Stratford three days previously.

Odds of 1/3 looked very tight on this marked drop in trip but by now readers will be pleased to hear the internet connection went down at the wrong time hence no business was done (the reality of the on course player).

The rest is largely retrospective...Oksana was the likely winner of a chase here when capsizing at the last and was off the same mark despite having put in another good shift next time despite not jumping well again.

Back over timber she must have been worthy of each-way support at an SP of 11/1...a winner waiting to happen, you couldn't make this stuff up.

That's pretty much all for now. Please note down the name Twasn't The Plan, who wrong-footed each-way guessers earlier on the card but the 'education' won't be wasted later on, if you catch my drift.

This blog is a labour of love. Income from betting means I can publish this site as a gesture to all those seeking information that may not otherwise be available to them. No betting money - no blog. Wish me well as I wish you well as we head into another season with eager anticipation.