Thursday, January 23, 2014


Yesterday's four horse coup divided racing folk neatly down the middle. On one side are the romantics, myself included, who grew up heady on the fumes of past "them and us" battles with the bookmakers passed on down the generations. On the other are the cognoscenti, disciples of the formbook, appalled at the egregious conniving and scheming required to bring off such a touch.
In my time on Twitter I have rarely seen the depth of feeling that this event brought out on both sides and I thought it would be worth explaining why I sit firmly on the conspirators side of the fence.

I grew up in a town called Ashbourne, a mile from where Arkle was trained. As a boy I had no interest in horses or racing and indeed used to wonder why my father was wasting his time on winter afternoons watching brown blobs tackle various differing obstacles while a priest-like figure commentated in hushed tones.

It was the numbers on the screen that piqued my interest and the muttered phone calls: when the "odds" were explained I was hooked, line and sinker, for life. From this grew a love of all things racing as I learned a new language and began a steady diet of Friday night racing chats with Dad and Uncle Jim. Out of those humble beginnings came a lifetime of punting, owning and eventually breeding.

Jim was a heroic figure in my father's eyes: He was Paddy Sleator's form book man in the days when Paddy struck across the Channel in a series of lightning raids, mopping up races all over England. Jim's job was to tell him where his horses were best in, in the days when every course had a different handicapper. Their team were greatly feared and took fortunes from the layers in a golden period before I was born. Jim had a peripheral role in the "Gay Future" affair as well and he and my father could recall the party afterwards, when lads were dropping money on the floor, so much had they stuffed in every pocket.
Jim had without doubt beaten the bookies over his lifetime but sadly I was to overestimate his prowess without Paddy Sleator's horses and waste a considerable part of my early punting life believing that riches lay in backing odds-on"certainties" and combining them in doubles and trebles. He did however introduce me to the magic of the weekly "Irish Racing Calendar" and the Form book, which received far more of my undergraduate attention than my veterinary textbooks.

The point is that it was Dad and Jim's tales of daring coups and gambles that sparked my interest in the sport, and hence I will always have a place in my affections for those who can put one over on the "Old Enemy"  The reality is that times have moved on and taking the bookies for large sums becomes more difficult by the day with improved communications, liability controls and firms becoming more bean counter and less bookmaker all the time. I myself have hardly had a bet with a track bookmaker in 5 years and can't remember the last time I was laid to lose a sum I would consider exciting on the phone or online. The truth is it's all Betfair nowadays, even more so since Barney's coups further closed the gate.

I think people should view Barney as the end of an era. He still regards the bookies as the enemy and wants nothing more than to have them scurrying for cover as their liabilty limiters catch fire. When he goes he closes the book on that time in history, which was magical to a small boy looking for heroes who fought with their heads, not with their fists.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saturday 1st Sep 2012

Ballyadam Brook saved the day yesterday- an excellent ride from Davy Condon. On a habitual front-runner he realised the early pace was too strong and sat off them pouncing late. Orpheus Valley ran a blinder but ran into a monster in Kalleshan. Denis Hogan is going places and could have a shout in the Plate next year with this fella.
Thin pickings at Killarney today for me.
Tandem looks a good thing here and the evens with Bet365 looks a gift- 3 pts win.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A New Beginning

I decided a month or so ago to concentrate solely on Irish racing due to increasing time constraints. From now on I'll try and cover all Irish meetings and just the odd big race or Festival in the U.K.
I'm going to post my bets here for the forseeable.

Orpheus Valley made a fine return from a long absence at the Galway Festival leading until the dip then tiring- his jumping was superb. He can be competitive having been dropped nicely for his time off- this trip and ground are ideal.
2 pts win 1 pt place 12/1 Ladbrokes
2nd 12/1 +1 pt.

I'll be looking to back Free To Dream at anything around the current 8/1- he'll love the trip and going here more than most of these. Fav hard to beat but I had FTD in about 5/1. 2 pts win. 8/1+
Unpl -2 pts

two outsiders to keep in mind on Betfair especially
Chino Valdes- chance on a few runs in similar conditions 14/1+ needed
Peccatorum- off a while but has gone well fresh 20/1+ needed.

I like this race for a bet because I'm beginning to worry about Shinrock Paddy's resolution- too many seconds for my liking lately and he takes out a big chunk of this market. I may well be tempted to put in an in-running lay at odds-on on him.
Ballyadam Brook has had one poor chase but has a chance on his hurdles form and I like his front-running style around here. 8/1 Paddy Power 1.5 pts win 0.5 pts place.
Double Seven flopped last time but nice form chases and hurdles prior to that- 6/1 Paddy Power 2 pts win.
Chino Valdes the other one in the mix, can't fancy much else.
Ballyadam Brook won 10/3 + 12.8 pts Double Sevenunpl -2 pts

Down Royal
Dumbarton big at 8/1 Paddy Power 2 pts win.
Decent of the Flat and travelled well for a long way on his hurdles debut- will come on a lot for that.
Fell -2 pts
Willies Girl big at 12/1 2 pts win 1 pt place. Chucked in on chase form and even last hurdles effort behind Lady Olwyn (winner again since) gives her a big chance here.
Unpl 9/1 -3 pts.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cheltenham Day 4

Triumph Hurdle
To follow

County Hurdle
Fascinating money this morning (Tuesday 6th) for David Pipe's Master Of Arts for both the Imperial Cup and this race. The stable have plenty of previous in pulling off Imperial Cup/Cheltenham coups but to win a County off 3 lifetime hurdles starts would earn my vote as one of the training performances of the season- this is a rough race.
The one which caught my eye at this stage was Tony Martin's Redera. Given a sighter around here in a novice hurdle behind Steps To Freedom at the November meeting he wasn't seen again until running in a warm 2 mile handicap at Leopardstown when friendless in the market. His rider seemed keen to give the outside to noone but still came to the last with a chance and finished a decent third. I'm certain that wasn't the day and that there's any amount of improvement in him. Good ground is vital and if he runs here under those conditions I struggle to see him starting anywhere near the bookies' current offer of 33/1 NRNB. He's streetwise from the Flat and AJM is sure to book a decent pilot like Carberry or Walsh on the day.

Albert Bartlett

I put up Sea Of Thunder for this a while ago at 10/1. You can still get 8/1 at the time of writing which still looks a bit on the big side. A winner of two points he was brought along very patiently by Charles Byrnes running a few times at inadequate trips before being sent over for a race over this course and trip in December. He'd have lagged up showing much improved form for the trip if he hadn't fallen at the last. Put away after that he reappeared at Leopardstown at the end of January over 2 1/2 miles on unsuitably heavy ground where he wasn't abused when finishing fifth to Boston Bob. There is no better target trainer than Mr Byrnes and though I missed the fancy prices (I thought he might have had a handicap in mind) I'd still like to be with him even if Boston Bob reopposes.

Gold Cup

Having put up Captain Chris before the King George at 20/1 NRNB I'm hoping they miss the gig as his old right-jumping frailties resurfaced in the Argento and he would be best kept right-handed from now on in my opinion. Ironic, as it was this tendency which prompted me to suggest that he couldn't win last year's Arkle- the fact that he did probably doesn't say much for the quality of that renewal. Miss Cheltenham altogether and go fresh to the Punchestown Gold Cup Mr Hobbs and do me and your horse a favour.
Long Run is just too short for a horse with his jumping issues and an inexperienced rider on board. He got away with a few mistakes last year but I wonder if they took their toll on him mentally or physically as he hasn't moved with the same ease this season- it all looks a bit of an effort. OK he gave 10lbs to a decent horse in Burton Port at Newbury but from looking as if he'd go away and win 3 or 4 he struggled home and you couldn't even be 100% sure he'd confirm that form. The runner up has a chance here if he improves rather than regresses from that outing but he's plenty short enough now given that doubt. I was on him for my life for last year's race after his Hennessy run and still think he's up to this class but one run close to the Festival is not an ideal Gold Cup preparation.
Kauto Star is the fairytale horse but I didn't really fancy him before the recent scare and can't have him at all now. Even if he's 100% recovered the whole malarkey has to be detrimental mentally- when he should be resting in his box the last few weeks he's got numerous bloody humans poking and prodding him in sore places.
I can't have a novice in the Gold Cup so even if Grands Crus turns up here a single-figure price wouldn't interest me- he'll be trying to achieve something exceptional and we're not getting paid enough for that. It's also not a given that he'll stay the trip well enough at Gold Cup pace- I'd even be taking him on in the RSA for that reason so can't have him on my mind here.
Given the above there has to be some value in the race and I backed Weird Al a little while ago at 20/1. His lack of a recent run is a plus if anything as he must be like a porcelain doll and doesn't take racing very well at all. Given that, the Betfair Chase might have been plenty quick after his reappearance win in the Charlie Hall and he may well improve on his third place in that coming here fresh and well. He loves the track and is still a bit too big at 14/1.
I don't think Quel Esprit will be quite good enough or stay well enough.
So often we think we have horses categorised but they prove us dead wrong- Synchronised needs the mud? Hoses up in a Lexus on good going to prove us all wrong. Might not have beaten a lot though as for me the second Rubi Light was a non-stayer and the Quito de la Roque bubble has been well and truly burst. I couldn't write him off here though as a strong stayer who might just have more class than we thought. If the rain comes his price will halve.
Midnight Chase loves Cheltenham, good ground an an easy lead. If he gets all three he's not out of it- a lot will depend on how many line up and if there are any others desperate to make the pace or harry him. If they leave him alone and he gets into a good jumping rhythm he's got at least place chances.
The likes of What A Friend (short-headed by Kauto last year to deny me the place part of a lump each way at 40/1) and Tidal Bay are capable of dodging their way into a place but it's hard to see them having the resolution to win.

I can't pretend I've been though this in any detail but I was mightily impressed with Salsify at Leopardstown in what is traditionally our strongest hunter chase. He travelled and jumped like a dream for Colman Sweeney and for me was different class to the opposition. When there were offers of 10/1 a few days later for this contest I had my biggest antepost bet of the season on him. He won at both Spring festivals last year and is a young horse going places. I would easily excuse his flop on bad ground at Thurles as he needs decent going and his jockey is as good as any of them riding in this. The current 8/1 is still worth an interest.

Cheltenham Day 3

Ryanair Chase
This is shaping up to be one of the races of the Festival if all the intended runners stand their ground. For me there are at least 7 credible contenders all nudging top class, good to see as the contest has been a bit weak in previous years.
Rubi Light is favourite for me unless it comes up fast, given his cracking run last year as a callow 6yo and his considerable progress since. He loves serving it up from the front and if there's any dig at all underfoot they may struggle to keep tabs on him- I put him up at 20/1 before he won at Punchestown and my only regret is that we couldn't get more on. I make him practically unbeatable on soft ground at this trip and it's only the prospect of faster that give his rivals hope.
Noble Prince was the subject of an earlier blog post as his campaigning this year leaves a lot to be desired. There were races where he'd have had his preferred conditions (2 1/2 miles or thereabouts on good ground) but his trainer chose to keep flogging him around against two-milers on bad ground with predictable results. I'm a big believer in horses going to the Festival on a high and it's advantage Rubi Light over him in that regard. For me his price should have drifted more on the back of his last few runs and I'd still expect him to be a little easier to back on the day. If he were to drift I'd certainly consider him after his impressive win in the novice equivalent last year but for now he's too short.
I'd be against Riverside Theatre as he has a best fresh profile and all his form is on flat tracks. On the figures he should be nearly favourite but if I can place lay him at 6/4 or less I will.
Somersby has arguably the best form in the race and did me a favour winning at Ascot the last day. I think they'll end up running here though the Queen Mother looks the easier option this year. I can't quite decide why he doesn't win more as no trip seems right- I wouldn't count him out and could even have an each-way interest but if this is as strong on the day as it looks now he may just be a place chance. That said if Rubi tows them along at a good clip it could just suit him...
Poquelin loves this track and always gives his best. 16/1 is a bit of an insult though he has a few lbs to find.
My second bet is on Great Endeavour a little while ago at 14/1: fresh at this track and trip his record is excellent and though he needs to find 10lbs from somewhere he might just do so.
Medermit is also right in this as Cheltenham will suit him better than his Ascot conqueror Riverside Theatre. He's probably about the right price now after Pricewise put him up.
Alberta's Run keeps coming back to the Spring festivals and producing the goods despite appearing to be in awful form beforehand- you couldn't rule him out though he'll probably have to produce his best ever run at the age of 11 to win this year.

Cheltenham Day 2

Fred Winter
My starting point in this race is the Flat ability of the runners as this can give an indication of which of them might be well handicapped. One who stood out to me on my first spin through was Gordon Elliott's Discoteca who won off 85 on the Flat yet is rated only 122 over obstacles. This for me is likely to be because after a decent start when second to Chill on decent ground at Leopardstown his next two starts to obtain a mark were on bad ground, which on his Flat form looks totally unsuitable. He's not certain to get in but if he does the current 20/1 NRNB will be a distant memory.
On Flat ability Creekside would come into this but I'd have doubts about his stamina over a stiff 2 miles- he wasn't making any ground late on at Towcester and he might not get up the hill in what's sure to be a well-run contest.

One of my favourite races to play a couple of longshots as the shorter priced ex top hurdlers often don't cut the mustard here- it's a brutal race and the biggest attribute needed is stamina.
Even if Grands Crus turns up here I'd be against him on stamina grounds. Bobs Worth's jumping technique doesn't convince me and the same comments apply to First Lieutenant.
I'll probably back a couple more on the day but felt I should get involved at this stage on Lambro at the current 25/1. It's not out of the question that Ruby could end up riding and I love his jumping and his attitude. His chasing runs this season have been at inadequate trips as I'm convinced he wants every yard of this 3 miles. This race is cutting up by the day (Invictus the latest injury doubt) and I doubt we'll beat "pony" on the day.

There are a few filters which are useful to narrow down the possibilities here- experience in a big field is one of the better ones. That counts aginst New Year's Eve and Jezki.
For me the Irish runners tend to be overbet now given the previous monopoly we had on this race but the Brits have won the last two and it may be worth chancing that they'll make it three in a row.
The Oliver Sherwood trained Many Clouds was visually impressive at Wetherby but he looks a future chasing type and might struggle for pace amongst the Flat breds unless the rains come.
One of the stories of the season has been how John Ferguson has been mopping up with well-bred Sheikh Mo cast offs in bumpers and novice hurdles. If the going rides decent on the second day which given the forecast looks likely then his flashy white-faced son of Noverre Population could be the one to be on here. Watching his two wins at Ascot I was taken with his tactical speed, courage to come between horses and electric turn of foot. For me he idles in front in his second win and is value for more than the winning margin. The current 16/1 available is fair, and I'll be keeping a beady eye on the market between now and next week.
It doesn't look as if Population will run- I'll be having another look on the day.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cheltenham 2012 Day 1.

With the Festival almost upon us again I'm giving my thoughts on here for the second year. As usual it'll be a synopsis of my thoughts on each race and the horses I'm with or against updated every day or two between now and the off each day so keep visiting!
The Betfair thread where all my bets for the NH season are posted "live" is in the Horse Antepost section and is called the NH 2011-12 big races thread- 80 odd points profit this NH season so far.

Supreme Novices

I have had one bet here on Galileo's Choice at 12/1 posted on my Betfair thread before he won at Fairyhouse. He jumped well that day bar 3 out and heads to Cheltenham with every chance as the best Flat horse in the lineup, being a Group 3 winner. Better ground is a big plus and I wouldn't want to see rain on watered ground before the meeting. If it gets softer the NH breds come more into things-look for those who started life in bumpers rather than on the Flat. I don't think those at the head of the market are all that strong and may well play another longshot or two on the day. I couldn't have Darlan (bad fall at Newbury, underperformed only visit here) or Steps To Freedom (no run since mid November) at current prices. I think Colour Squadron is always underrated given his quirks but see him running well here and perhaps contending at Liverpool as winning this off a fall is not easy.
I'm warming a bit to Nicky Henderson's Tetlami at around 16/1. He has bumper form at the track and has won his two hurdles starts without breaking sweat. An easy win in the "jumpers bumper" at Kempton will have set him up nicely for this and he'll go there with his confidence on a high. I have had an interest tonight at that price with Bet365.

Over the years it has paid to take on the hype horses at the Festival and by far the biggest of them this year is Sprinter Sacre. He was undeniably impressive at Newbury against open company but the memory of him travelling all over them in the Supreme last year before flattening out after the last gives hope to those taking him on at a short price.
That's what I've done as to date I've backed 3 each way against him, thinking that the race might cut up to 8 or even less runners. On the thread I put up Al Ferof at 7/1 and Menorah at 14s, and I've also punted Cue Card at 9s. I'd have these 3, the favourite and Peddler's Cross as the only possible winners here and the market vibes about the latter have not been encouraging recently. He looked laboured when Sprinter beat him at Kempton and may have had his problems. If his excellent trainer can get him back he's got a big chance but given the doubts I'll pass.
Cue Card is likely to get an easy lead here and I can see him kicking on down the hill and trading quite short at some stage, whether he can last home is the doubt but he looks rock-solid each way. Menorah has had a nightmare novice season falling twice but he wouldn't be the first good hurdler to overcome this on the day and put in a good round of jumping when really needed. Al Ferof will surely need further in time but where Sprinter was fading he was finishing up this hill and if he's within 6 lengths of them turning in he has a chance.
I've added an each-way bet on Kid Cassidy at 33/1- he's not an 8/1 chance to place if this cuts up to 7 or 8 runners.

JLT Specialty Handicap Chase
I'd imagine Quantitativeasing will end up with topweight of 11:12 here meaning the weights will go up 5lbs. Not an easy race to carry big weights and I'll be putting a line through all those above the 11st mark in the current handicap. One that jumped out at me when first going through this race was Dessie Hughes' Magnanimity who looks quite well in on his run in the RSA last year. He's a horse who usually needs his first couple of runs every season and I thought he showed enough in the Bobbyjo Chase last time to suggest he is coming to his peak and there is no better target trainer for staying chasers than Dessie Hughes. His stable have been out of form since Christmas but there have been some encouraging signs recently that he might be turning the corner. I haven't backed the horse yet but will be keeping a close eye on the 20/1 now available if it starts to look like he's travelling over.
Update 8/3/12
There's a little bit of cash around for him today so I've taken 20/1 NRNB.
I've backed a couple more in the last few days namely Fruity O'Rooney at 25/1 and Summery Justice at 33/1. I will be looking closely at one more on the day Baile Anrai if he runs here- he wouldn't have been far away in the Reynoldstown last day when he fell 3 out. He edged a bit left that day and as such might prefer it around here.

Champion Hurdle
The Fly, or not to Fly...
He and Sprinter Sacre will make or break most people's first days and I won't be able to resist playing one or two against him though I expect him to win.
Top of my list is Rock On Ruby who did me a big favour when winning at the Hennessy meeting and who is all guts and class. My worry is that he hasn't run since going down narrowly to Binocular at Christmas and the vibes are only middling. I may well still be tempted by a price around the 14-16/1 mark on the day if the reports are good.
I'd be a little against Binocular at the price as it's hard to regain your crown here and though he looks better recently he's had major issues which could resurface in the white heat of battle.
I still can't back a 5yo in this despite Kaachit laying the ghost and can't have Zarkandar at a short price. He did very well to win the Betfair (old Tote Gold Trophy) at Newbury off a big weight but might just come up short this year. Oscar's Well is improving with every start this season but anyone who saw the Fly laugh at him at Leopardstown will find it hard to imagine him reversing the placings under conditions which should favour the strong travelling Fly even more.
The rest just don't look good enough and the race may well cut up to 8 or 9 runners. Kalann does run and will improve for the better ground- it wouldn't shock me if he ran well above his mark.
I'll probably be sitting this out- someone ate my lunch on Rock On Ruby taking all the 14/1 so I'm unlikely to play now.

Cross Country
Not for the purist but a good race for punting (when they go the right way) as most of them can be eliminated if they haven't got previous decent form over this or another similar course. It's hard to say what would have happened at the December meeting before they all got carried out but Uncle Junior and Scotsirish would definitely have been involved. I don't think Garde Champetre will be good enough this time- he'd be a place lay for me.
In my opinion two things matter less than in normal races here- weight and distance. They seem to tootle around for 3 1/2 miles then sprint from the turn in so the class horses come to the fore and extra weight has less impact. That means the 2 Mullins horses are big players despite their weights and in Scotsirish's case, slight stamina doubt. If those doubts allow backing either or both at an each-way price on the day I'll be playing them.
Sizing Australia won last year and has every chance again.
I've had two bets so far- Quezac De La Roque each way at 25/1 is the first- he ran a screamer last year for a 7yo only fading late on and has a massive place chance at least this time, especially if we get a bit of rain. This course is currently riding very fast as they can't water it and if it went good or softer his chance would increase.
A complete flyer is also taken with 100/1 De Danu, who was running a nice race at Punchestown last month before slipping off the last bank and losing all chance. He was under the cosh at the December meeting when the melee took place but having only had three cross country starts he is entitled to improve a bit. I certainly wouldn't want to be laying 25/1 to finish in the first 4.

Centenary Novice Handicap
I'm getting conflicting messages about whether he travels or not but if Nearest The Pin shows up here he could be very well handicapped on the likely better ground. Highly thought of at Tony Martin's his best run hurdling was on the better ground at Fairyhouse when bolting up despite AJM's horses not being in the best of form. This season's chasing efforts have been underwhelming but he has looked unhappy on deep winter going and hasn't been knocked about. I have a feeling they are just waiting for one of the Spring festivals to strike from what now looks a very fair mark. One thing is for sure- if he runs in this he won't be anywhere near the current 20/1 you can get NRNB with a few firms.