Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Australian Open previews

This year I'm writing match and outright previews for Matchbook and The Shark, so if you'd like to read quality tennis analysis, click on either of those links!

Friday, 16 January 2015

WA Pacing Cup preview

More hot harness action from the west, Trent Orwin with the shrewd analysis....

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$400,000 TabTouch WA Pacing Cup
Gloucester Park
Group 1, 2936m, mobile start
2045 WA time, 2345 Melb/Syd, 1245 GMT


Author: Trent Orwin
Twitter: @themightytrent3
Website
Formguide

History:
Western Australia’s premier harness race takes place at Gloucester Park on Friday night with the running of the 102nd edition of the Group 1 WA Pacing Cup (2936m).

It is a race that is steeped in history. An honour roll that reveals some of harness racing’s greatest ever champions.

Standing at the top of the mountain are two of Western Australia’s greatest of all-time in Pure Steel (1977-80) and Village Kid (1985-86, 1988-89). The pair captured the coveted Cup on four occasions each.

Following them with three victories apiece are fellow champions The Falcon Strike (2002, 2004-05) and Im Themightyquinn (2011-13). Beau Don (1952-53), Radiant Oro (1968, 1971), Westburn Grant (1991-92) and Our Sir Vancelot (1997-98) are the only other horses to have captured the WA Pacing Cup on more than one occasion.

Race Overview:
The Aldo Cortopassi-trained Hokonui Ben will try to become the ninth pacer to win the iconic event more than once and his task has been made difficult as he has drawn the outside of the second row.

David Hercules captured the Group 1 Fremantle Cup (2536m) and will be taking aim at capturing the Cups double on Friday night. His task will also be a difficult one as he draws inside Hokonui Ben in barrier 11.

Leading trainer Gary Hall Snr has five runners in the event and is chasing his ninth win in the event after preparing The Falcon Strike, Tealsby Karita (2007), Im Themightyquinn and Hokonui Ben (2014) before the latter switched to the Cortopassi stable.

Speed Map:
When the green light goes on expect Northview Punter to get away well before handing up to stablemate Toretto over the 2936m marathon journey. There is the possibility that Northview Punter could attempt to lead but it makes sense to take a sit for the stable’s sake and he showed that he can finish off well after obtaining cover.

Our Jimmy Johnstone will enjoy a nice run three-back on the pegs with Pacific Warrior and Finbar Abbey likely to head there also.

Soho Jackman, Soho Highroller and My Hard Copy will restrain from their draws whilst Bettors Fire should fire out in search for the breeze early on. He does possess the most natural gate speed and if he flies the start, he could attempt to catch them napping in a bid to land the pegs first (highly unlikely but not beyond the realm of possibility).

David Hercules could make a mid-race move in search for the breeze and it may be on offer this year after Bettors Fire refused to relinquish it last year before battling away to finish fifth. The other alternative is that the Fremantle Cup winner comes with one run which is what Hokonui Ben most likely will do with My Hard Copy, Soho Jackman and/or Soho Highroller on his back.

Race assessment:
Northview Punter rates as my top pick in the race given he will either lead throughout or trail Toretto. From either position he should be running on strongly. He also boasts a comfortable victory over David Hercules when he led throughout in the Group 3 August Cup (2536m) with David Hercules 18.9m away. He also put in a strong performance in the Fremantle Cup (2536m) and looked the winner rounding the turn before peaking on his run with David Hercules scoring by 4.7m.

Toretto looks the second best chance in the race and he should be leading with Gary Hall Jnr in the sulky. Finished runner-up in this event last year after trailing Hokonui Ben and just failed to run him down late. Two starts back he led in a slick 1:56.9 mile rate and a repeat performance of that would see him go close to winning on Friday night.

David Hercules is the best horse in the race but has drawn poorly. He may still be able to overcome this and win. His run in last year’s Cup was exceptional when peeling five deep in the home straight and flashing late to grab fourth. An early move to the breeze looks his best chance of winning the race and he should finish in the top four, even with bad luck.

Bettors Fire looks to be the wildcard in the race and should make his way to the breeze early on. He had a purple patch where he won five of six starts before tasting defeat at his past two starts. His run in the Fremantle Cup had plenty of merit and the biggest concern is trainer-driver Kyle Harper informed stewards that his horse may be underdone following a small setback.

Our Jimmy Johnstone will relish every metre of the 2936m journey and draws to get a soft run on the pegs. He looks a knockout chance and has been impressive winning three of his four starts in WA. Boasts three wins from five attempts between 2700m to 3099m in New Zealand.

Hokonui Ben can never be completely written off given his class and toughness. He is better suited to leading or facing the breeze but if there is speed in the race he can finish over the top but looks more a place chance than winning chance. Has been beaten at his past six starts and his run in the Fremantle Cup was okay without being great.

Pacific Warrior and My Hard Copy are the blowout chances in the race if everything falls their way. The latter has a devastating turn of foot but may be too far back in the run to be effective because if they drop a 56-57 middle half whilst he is working three-wide with cover, he could be likely to peak on his run in the home straight.

Copagrin, Soho Jackman, Soho Highroller and Finbar Abbey are the four runners that would surprise me if they won. Conditions do not suit and they have not proven they can win in this company in their careers to date.

My Ratings:
Northview Punter - $3.50
Toretto - $4
David Hercules - $4.60
Bettors Fire - $10
Our Jimmy Johnstone - $15
Hokonui Ben - $21
My Hard Copy - $61
Pacific Warrior - $61
Copagrin - $601
Soho Jackman - $601
Soho Highroller - $601
Finbar Abbey - $601

Recommendations:
It’s all about value - back any that are overs, particularly at the sharper end of the market.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Magic Millions preview

Early January means Magic Millions time on the Gold Coast - a party around the first yearling sale of the year, and the associated big money sales races. Saddling up is Gibbo, @brissyraces, the Queensland racing specialist, with the preview. Read his analysis of the entire programme here.

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Jeep $2m Magic Millions 2yo Classic
Gold Coast, 1200m
Track: Soft 6 at time of posting
Preview by @brissyraces
Website
Form guide link

**This is one of the most open Magic Millions races I have seen in a long time, you will get value any selection you like. Luck will play a major part as it does every year.

MAP- There is a heap of speed in this race and I feel gates are as crucial ever. They will get off the fence on straightening but you don’t want to be working wide the entire before you get there! The key this year is so much pace has drawn well. WICKED INTENT, FREQUENDLY, ZOUTENANT, LE CHEF and CLAUDIA JEAN have all drawn inside of gate 7, that is going to make it near impossible in my mind for horses outside that who decide to push forward, it looks like suicide, but throw $2,000,000 in the pot and people will try anything.

PREVIEW-Although there is a little question as to where she will land SAGA OF THE STORM seems good value at $17. She should be able to camp midfield with cover which would be ideal. Her run on debut was good when worked wide on the corner and nearly rolled the ‘Mishani’ horses. She improved off that and won well next time out over 1110m. Back to the 1200m is ideal and blinkers 1st time may be the real key to her. Definitely going into this underrated and will be one of the strongest late.

Four contenders come out of the Wyong race. ZOUTENANT won it, blinkers come off and looks a nice horse. SURF SEEKER was on debut there and ran extremely well, should take natural improvement but has to overcome the bad gate so will need some luck. SINGLE GAZE won on debut, was wide at Wyong but was right in the finish, gets a great run from the gate. The good news for all of them is PERIGNON who ran 4th on that occasion beaten 2.5L then come out and won well at Canterbury where she was strong late and should be strong here too. All chances in this.

Locals FREQUENDLY and WICKED INTENT won’t die wondering, they have a query each at the fast run 1200m but they will be in front and making every post a winner. The other local LE CHEF may choose to take the drop on them and have last crack, that would be my option here, I don’t think he can lead them and win.

The big question is CLAUDIA JEAN, just how good is she? Gets a cheap run and every chance.

*As you can see a lot of bad gates that I have left out and simply for that reason, they will need a lot of luck.

On Top: 13- SAGA OF THE STORM $17

Hardest To Beat: 11- PERIGNON, 8- SINGLE GAZE, 3- LE CHEF


Thursday, 8 January 2015

Fremantle Cup preview

More superb summer harness racing action from WA, this time the Fremantle Cup, the first of the open-class Group 1s this month. If you're doubting the quality of this race, the recent honour roll includes a three-peat from superstar Imthemightyquinn - click here to see his wins on YouTube.

WA harness expert, Trent Orwin @themightytrent3, steps up again to preview this enticing race.

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Fremantle Cup
Group 1, 2536m, $250,000
Gloucester Park, mobile start
R7, 2105 local time, 0005 Melbourne/Sydney

A total of nine runners will contest the Group 1 Fremantle Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night. You did read correctly when I said nine runners would contest the event and not the 12 which are engaged because I am happy to put a pen through three of them from the outset. Soho Jackman, Sensational Gabby and Dundee Three cannot win and will not win the $250,000 feature race. Circumstances have ensured that.

David Hercules is the dominant race favourite after drawing barrier three. He will either press forward until he finds the lead from Copagrin or Tuxedo Tour, or he will be sitting in the breeze outside of the latter.

Trainer Kevin Keys has indicated that Tuxedo Tour will be holding the lead if he finds it from barrier two and with Copagrin assured of taking a sit in this company that is a strong possibility of eventuating.

Another strong indicator is that leading driver Gary Hall Jnr has elected to drive the up-and-coming talent over one of three horses prepared by his father Gary Hall Snr.

Based upon the above, there appears to be two possible speed maps.

Speed Map 1: Tuxedo Tour leads with Copagrin on his back. Hokonui Ben will be three back on the pegs with either Billies A Star or Sensational Gabby landing four back on the pegs. Dundee Three should be five or six back on the rail. David Hercules will land the breeze and that spot will not be up for grabs. In the moving line expect to see Billies A Star (if he decides not to go to the pegs), Heez On Fire, Northview Punter, Toretto, Bettors Fire and possibly Soho Jackman (he could head for the pegs after restraining.

Speed Map 2: David Hercules leads with either Copagrin or Tuxedo Tour on his back. Most of the field will occupy the same positions with the breeze now up for grabs and Bettors Fire, Northview Punter or Toretto looking most likely to press forward to find it. Heez On Fire should be driven cold and making his run with around 1200m left to travel as the three-wide train starts.

David Hercules is currently $2 with Tattsbet and represents no value until he reaches at least $2.50 given he could be forced to breeze over the entire 2536m journey. If he was guaranteed to lead then the $2 would look like Christmas had come early but there are no guarantees in Group 1 racing.

No one could deny that he deserves a maiden Group 1 victory in Western Australia more than any other pacer in the state (he has won three Group 1 races in Victoria) and victory on Friday night would see him surpass the magical $1 million mark in prizemoney, a mark that only very good/superstar horses achieve.

Tuxedo Tour is around the $4.50-$5 mark with most bookmakers and that looks about half of what his price should be. He is rising sharply in grade on the back of dominant form which includes the $35,000 Christmas Gift Final (2130m) when defeating Heez On Fire by 6.6m. They ran a 1:57.0 mile rate in the event and don’t be surprised to see that time or better in the Fremantle Cup over the longer trip. Questions have to be raised over his ability to sustain high-pressure throughout an event with the like of David Hercules eyeballing him at some stage. That’s if he leads. It only gets harder if he doesn’t.

Heez On Fire is around the $9 mark and looks a little short given he is going to have to reel off a 55 or 56 second half three-wide. His last start victory was sensational when ripping home in 57.5 over the trip but he will need to raise the bar again as he too rises sharply in grade. More like a $15 chance for mine.

Hokonui Ben is the reigning WA Pacing Cup winner and would love to add the Fremantle Cup to his list of triumphs. He is the second highest assessed pacer in the field and third highest prizemoney earner (behind David Hercules and Sensational Gabby).

The draw is not ideal but could be a blessing given a predicted early burn and sustained pressure throughout. He can save everything for one final crack at them and if he finds open pacing room he can storm over them. Looks the value in the race on an each-way basis at around $18 with Tattsbet.

Bettors Fire ran second in this race last year after leading and being run down by Im Victorious. The draw means he will either land the breeze or come three-wide with a run in a similar manner to Heez On Fire and he looks to be over the odds at $16 with Ladbrokes. Like Hokonui Ben, he can be backed each-way with a leaning towards backing the place for more than the win.

Billies A Star looks to be huge unders in my estimation given he ran third in the Golden Nugget (2536m) before taking out a standing start event against inferior opposition. Unproven in open-class and not prepared to take $12 about the four-year-old without a track record.

Copagrin looks an absolute blowout chance (more so for the place at $7.50 with Bet365) from the soft draw and he did get within a short half-head of Im Themightyquinn in the Pinjarra Cup from the same draw. If a couple of them go berserk then expect him to keep finding to the line. Include in exotics.

Hard to make a case for Northview Punter and Toretto given they do their best work in front, like Sensational Gabby, but they are a little tougher than her and could be knockout hopes also if everything fell their way.

Soho Jackman hasn’t won in free-for-all company and certainly won’t be saluting in the Fremantle Cup from a poor draw.

Sensational Gabby is a Group 1-winning mare and I mean no disrespect but she cannot beat the boys from back in the field. She needed to be leading or leader’s back. Third or fourth place are about all she could manage given these conditions.

Dundee Three is a questionable inclusion in the race given he hasn’t won since April and is not as good as potential/future Western Australia stars in Machtu, Soho Lennon and Our Jimmy Johnstone.

He will be looking for the shortest way home and I’d fancy that the children running along the grass next to the home straight would be a likely chance of beating him home on Friday night.

Selections:
1. David Hercules
2. Hokonui Ben
3. Bettors Fire
4. Tuxedo Tour
Best Roughie: Copagrin

Suggested Bets: Hokonui Ben & Bettors Fire each-way (more staked towards the place)

Saturday, 3 January 2015

2015 Tennis Season - Week One Tournament Previews

The start of the year means most of the sporting highlights are in the southern hemisphere, particularly if you're into cricket or tennis. The Australian Open is just a few weeks away and the circuit will wind its way down to Melbourne over the next few weeks.

The best number cruncher in tennis is Dan Weston and he has shared his previews of the opening week tournaments with the blog. For length reasons, I'll just post the Brisbane events, click through to his site for the full set.

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2015 Tennis Season - Week One Tournament Previews

It's almost here!

The 2015 season is just around the corner, with qualifiers for WTA Brisbane already taking place. Main draw matches commence on Sunday 4th January.

As part of my commitment to provide quality Tennis betting and trading content, I'm planning on producing weekly tournament previews to help bettors and traders get valuable insight prior to each week's action.

Whilst the draws have yet to be announced, we are in a position to make a detailed assessment of some of the main contenders for each tournament and look at court speed and its influence, and historical in-play data.

As always, detailed daily data will be available via the daily trading spreadsheets, which can be purchased via the links on the right.

Week One Trading Overview (only matches where point by point data is available):-



The table above illustrates the percentage of situations that 'trained' in these events in 2014.

I've had some questions about trains on Twitter so I'll clarify this a little better - a train would be a situation where there is no upward price swing from a given position. Therefore in these instances, a set one winner train in set two would indicate that they took a set and break lead in set two and retained this lead without being broken back. A non-train would include the player that lost the first set breaking first in set two, or recovering a set and break deficit, or even recovering one break when a set and double break down.

Likewise, a set three train in this instance would be a player that has broken first and retains this lead throughout the deciding set.

As can be seen from the data, both in the ATP and WTA, Brisbane had the highest percentage of set two trains in 2014 from the week one events. This also held true in set three in the ATP. Court speed - as seen below - is very fast in Brisbane and this is a likely reason for the high proportion of trains. With liquidity likely to be worse in Brisbane than some of the other ATP events due to the unsociable hours that the tournament is played in for European traders, traders that like laying at low prices may wish to focus on events in Chennai and Doha.

Player motivation and fitness is likely to be high this week. It's like a new term at school, everyone will be enthusiastic and want to start the new season and new year with a good performance. Having said this, the overall ATP train percentage is very high compared to the mean and whilst researching the data, it was clear that there were a number of dominant final sets in the ATP, in particular. The WTA data shows that most matches in 2014 were very competitive and assuming this holds true, the WTA should provide some excellent trading conditions in week one of the season.

ATP 250 Brisbane:-

2014 service hold 84.5%.

Conditions are likely to be very fast with fewer service breaks than average.

Some Contenders:-



It can be seen that Roger Federer, as the top-ranked player in the field, is by some distance the best player in the event, and will start as a deserved tournament favourite. The Swiss legend, however, was beaten by Lleyton Hewitt in last year's final and the Australian veteran is also playing again this year. However, 2014 saw a further decline for Hewitt, particularly on serve, and as mentioned in the declining players article, Hewitt should be opposed in an almost mandatory fashion when a set up and a set and break up. All ten players above have hard court service hold percentages above the mean, with a real mixture of return percentages. Looking at these players, it's likely that if these players make the latter stages, the event will be more serve-dominated than return.

Having said this, the likes of Jurgen Melzer, Mikhail Kukushkin, Carlos Berlocq and Andrey Golubev also make up the numbers and these players tend to be weak servers on the surface and make for poor front-runners in matches.

WTA Premier Brisbane:-

2014 service hold 68.5%.

Conditions are likely to be very fast with fewer service breaks than average.

Some Contenders:-



Just looking at the names on the list it's clear this is a high quality event. With Sabine Lisicki, Elina Svitolina, Madison Keys and Victoria Azarenka - who is making her way back from an injury ravaged 2014 - also competing, this promises to be a very open and competitive tournament.

Maria Sharapova is the top-ranked player but as can be seen from the hold/break percentages, she isn't dominant over the field on this surface. Of the table, Dominika Cibulkova, Andrea Petkovic and Sam Stosur arguably have the most to prove. Cibulkova will be looking for a strong start to 2015 with runner-up points to defend at the Australian Open, and she was woeful in the tail end of 2014. Petkovic, as mentioned many times in historical match previews, does not play her best on hard courts and the statistics above illustrate that well. Both may see their serve perform inconsistently, and I'd expect them to be broken with relative regularity. Stosur is a stronger server (but a weak returner) and had a poor 2014. She also tends to perform very poorly in her home country, perhaps unable to cope with pressure and expectation.

Of those not in the table, Lisicki and Keys tend to be stronger on serve than return, whilst Svitolina is a decent all-rounder. Former world number one Azarenka is a much better returner than server and depending on the draw, it might pay to oppose the Belarussian on serve initially here as it will be likely that she will be wanting for consistency after missing the tail end of 2014.

Read the full schedule of Week 1 previews on Dan's site

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Perth Cup preview

New Year's Day in Australia brings a swathe of race meetings all around the country, but the highest profile race of the day is the Perth Cup. Often conducted in temperatures nearing the 40C, it's a tough day with a New Year's Eve hangover! This year the forecast is for a far more moderate 29C. Taking the reins with the preview is @BrisburghPhil

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Perth Cup 2015
Group 2, 2400m
1650 local time, 0850 GMT Preview by @BrisburghPhil

Form guide

Another time-honoured race on the Australian racing calendar but it unfortunately lost it’s two mile status after 2008. That year the race failed to attract any Eastern States visitors which pretty much sealed it’s 3200m fate. Interestingly though it has failed to attract any this year either. Food for thought?

Below are the last six winners of the Perth Cup (with relevant stats) since the race became a 2400m event. The last figure in brackets is the weight drop from prior start;

2014 BLACK TYCOON 8G D.Oliver (5) 55.5kg 2.5L 4th Cox Stakes (-3.5kg) $5
2013 TALENT SHOW 6M Jarrad Noske (1) 53.5kg 3L 4th Cox Stakes (-3.5kg) $31
2012 WESTERN JEWEL 5M K.Yuill (1) 52kg 1st (2L) ATA Stakes (-5kg) $7
2011 GUEST WING 4G B.Parnham (8) 52kg 0.3L 2nd ATA Stakes (-2kg) $21
2010 LORDS RANSOM 6G A.Kennedy (2) 55.5kg 1st (1.8L) Cox Stakes (-3.5kg) $3
2009 GUYNO 5G J.Whiting (12) 54kg 6L 7th COx Stakes (-5kg) $9

Pertinent facts:

1. 6/6 dropped 2kg or more from prior start and 5/6 dropped more than 3.5kg

2. No horse has carried more than 55.5kg to win

3. 4/6 drew barriers 1-5 & 5/6 barriers 1-8

4. 3/6 sired by Jeune and 4/6 sired by a British born horse.

5. Only one horse beaten more than 3L at its prior start and two horses beaten 3L or more both ran in WFA Cox Stakes at prior start.

6. Four winners have come out of WFA Cox Stakes (2100m) and two from ATA Handicap (2200m)

7. Five of six have been 5 years old or older.

8. Average winning price $12.16

Taking all this into account I think the most likely winner on a historical basis would appear to be RED BLAST. He has drawn okay in barrier eight. REAL LOVE and RESPONDENT very prominent in historical discussions too, though the St.Leger is yet to produce a winner of this race. It was a far stronger version this year though, and we know both those horses are at least capable of matching it with those in the Cox on previous form. RL too short a price though, and maybe both she and Respondent are a bit shy of the best age? Bass Strait looks a nice history-based hope too but his very wide barrier is a big hurdle to overcome.

Race Tempo: KIROV BOY is almost certain to ensure this race is a true 2400m staying test as he did in the ATA Stakes last start, setting up a massive lead and sustaining the margin to the finish line. Chester Road, Global Flirt & Lucciola should be on pace in the race, whilst most of the rest of the field will be biding their time midfield or rearward in the race. Kirov Boy is probably one dimensional in that he will have to go quickly to give himself a chance to win. He is not the type of horse who can lead and win off a slow pace, and the plan will be to take the last sprint away from those who have greater late acceleration.

The worry for some of the favoured horses here (out of the Cox & St. Leger), is that both races weren’t true staying tests. The time in both was quite pedestrian compared to previous years (last year's winner Black Tycoon would have run three seconds quicker when fourth in Cox 2013), so the trick might be to find which horses were most disadvantaged in both those races, with a view to this race.

Runner Analysis:

1. MR MOET- Doesn’t seem to have recaptured his best form of 2012 and early 2013, and though he was ridden upside down last start near the lead, he probably should have done a bit better given the tempo was fairly pedestrian. Out of that race he meets the likes of Red Blast, Bass Strait, Operational & God Has Spoken 5kg worse off at the weights, so it’s hard to see him beating any of them home in this. Ideal barrier his biggest positive.

2. IHTSAHYMN – Had every chance in the Cox Stakes, and finds himself horribly in at the weights here out of that race. Not only that he was completely outstayed in the Derby by Respondent last April, now has to concede that horse 4.5kg which is just ridiculous. How can you concede him much of a chance given that factor?

3. CHESTER ROAD- Is another poorly weighted out of the Cox Stakes, and given he hasn’t done anything remarkable for two years (largely due to injury), it is just a travesty that he isn’t on the minimum weight in this. He ran an improved race in the Cox, but was the leader in a slowly run race. Can’t have him in this though he was a very promisiing horse in 2012.

4. BALMONT GIRL- Would be a distinct chance in the race, but she (unfathomably) has to give Respondent & Real Love 3kg in weight from the St.Leger. Real Love beat her home, and Respondent was a nostril behind her in that race. Respondent has a 5kg weight turnaround off that meeting, and also beat her home comfortably in the Derby. She has drawn poorly too which doesn’t help.

5. ASK ME NICELY- is the first of the horses we look at down on the minimum weight here (there are 14 of them!). She rates a chance on her excellent (and surprise) third in this race last year, but hasn’t won in 18 starts since. She was also a well beaten 8L second in the ATA Stakes last start so it’s hard to see her winning. She has drawn well so perhaps a chance of a placing, given she can run the distance strongly

6. BASS STRAIT- Looks good historically and he drops nicely in weight from the WFA Cox Stakes. His run there though didn’t have as much merit as that of Red Blast, and they meet at level weights again here. And he has drawn a far worse barrier than that horse. He is also a bit of a query at 2400m, especially in a fast run race, as this should be. I can’t completely leave him out, but he will need to improve considerably to win. Placing is a definite possibility though if he gets a decent run in transit.

7. CLASSIQUE IVORY- Really is struggling for form and can’t see him figuring in this.

8. GLOBAL FLIRT- Was a surprise winner of the Tatts Cup at massive odds three starts ago which was his first glimpse of form for some time. But that form has deserted him at his past couple and his hopes look forlorn from a wide barrier.

9. GOD HAS SPOKEN- May well be the best rough chance in the race given his run in the Cox wasn’t too bad given his rearward position before the turn. He was doing his best work late. He ran a surprise second in this race last year (with 1.5kg more), off a far worse run in a faster run Cox, so he can make his presence felt at massive odds. This will be his fifth attempt at winning this race, with his best two efforts a second and a fourth. Both were off wide barriers, and the failures when drawn in. He has drawn 10 this year so that might be a positive. Not getting any younger but he is very battle hardened which might negate that factor. Definitely an each-way hope.

10. KIROV BOY- Put himself in the picture for this with a resounding win in the ATA Stakes last start (see comments in race tempo above). Veteran jockey Danny Miller jumped off him after the win and stated he wished the Perth Cup was 3200m, which I didn’t take as a vote of confidence. He looked no hope of gaining a start in this race before that effort, as his class didn’t appear to warrant one. All of a sudden he is a $7 second favourite. The time he ran in the ATA (2200m) didn’t rank all that highly against previous renditions of that race, but it looks quite good up against the Cox and St. Leger times run recently (2100m). I doubt he is good enough to beat some of these at level weights, but I could be wrong. He looks to be in the top half dozen chances though if he can repeat that last effort.

11. LUCCIOLA- Is a restricted class mare who strung a remarkable seven consecutive wins together during the Winter. Six of those were at Belmont though and she has struggled to win in the higher class races at at Ascot (0/6) this Spring/Summer. She had every chance up on the pace in a slowly run race in the Cox, so it does appear she is a bit short of this class. The 3kg weight drop won’t hurt though, and she has drawn to advantage and always tries her best. Some hope of a placing for her.

12. OPERATIONAL- Ran a slightly better trial for this than God Has Spoken in the Cox Stakes, and he did have form around Red Blast during the Winter. He ran poorly in this race last year when fourth up from a spell, but interesting to note his third up form has always been an improvement on his first and second up starts in a campaign. He is third up here so can improve markedly especially with a 5kg weight drop. He does seem to be a much better horse at Belmont though, and he has drawn a poor barrier. A fast run 2400m could be a query, but he still ranks as one of the better rough odds chances.

13. REAL LOVE- Comes in as a deserved favourite off a win in the St. Leger last start, and of all of the horses in that race she was the one least suited by a slow tempo. She seems to be the 4yo that has improved most from the Autumn, and a look at the Derby replay in April doesn’t put you off her chances. It was a quite strange ride by the jockey in that race, almost suicidal might be a better description. She made a mid-race move from the back, off a slow tempo, but the moment that happened, the pace quickened, and she was left three wide up on the pace. That put paid to her hopes but she really did fight hard the last 200m to more than hold her position against the winner and runner up. She is by the same sire as Makybe Diva (Desert King), and may well be the best Australian-based staying mare by that sire since. She should cope with a fast run race (the Derby had pressure), and has drawn ideally with a 2kg weight drop form last start. Very hard to beat but I think her price is a bit too short, given she meets Respondent 2kg worse for the Derby defeat, and St. Leger win.

14. RED BLAST- Put in a career-best run in the Cox Stakes last start, and especially so given the torrid run he had in the race. He was merely a handicapper coming into that race, but a good second there gives him WFA class status, and puts him in the well weighted category here, dropping 5kg. I’m just a little suspicious about the merits of that run given the overall time of the race. Where did the sudden improvement come from, and can he go on with it here? You are getting double figure odds from a decent barrier to find out, so he is worth a bet. Also note his prior run in the Queens Cup was an unlucky one behind Real Love, though he wouldn’t have beaten her even with more fortune. She meets him on the same weight terms here, and she did jump 800m in distance going into that race. Not sure he can beat her unless he improves again off that last effort.

15. RESPONDENT – Looks a leading chance here given he won the Derby in April, and has absolutely no weight penalty from it. His form hasn’t been as good this Summer admittedly, but his last run in the St. Leger was a glimpse of his best. His Derby win was super in decent time, with his last 200m quite explosive. Maybe he was advantaged by being held up at the rear in that race, but he really did accelerate quickly in the straight, to put the issue beyond doubt very quickly. Personally I have been waiting for him to get back to 2400m, and expected a better showing last start. I got it and the Blinkers go on for this. The reasoning is he got his head up when making a possible winning bid last start. That was supposedly the difference between winning and losing, though in reality I think Real Love was going away from him at the finish. Not sure the Blinkers are a positive (if they are he will win), but I think his double figure odds are. He is a little awkwardly drawn but I’m not sure that is any concern. He looks the main threat to Real Love, and (excepting his overall form) is one of the best weighted horses I’ve seen for quite a while.

16. SON OF SOMETHING- Started a warm favourite in the ATA Stakes but was blown away there by Kirov Boy. He lost a race plate though so perhaps that was a legitimate reason, and he does meet Kirov Boy 3kg better for that run. He is a bit hard to gauge here at 2400m, not having started beyond 2200m, but I just doubt he is quite good enough to trouble the likes of Real Love & Respondent at level weights. He meets Real Love 1.5kg better for meeting her in the Queens Cup but she was very dominant in that off an 800m distance rise, so doubtful he can turn the tables. Especially so from the wide barrier.

17. STARLIGHT LADY- Is first emergency here and her form just doesn’t suggest she can win a race of this calibre.

18. BEDAMIJO- 2nd emergency and deserves to be the extreme outsider in this field if he does gain a start.

Conclusion

REAL LOVE looks the one to beat, but at the odds on offer I’m keen to select RESPONDENT at roughly 5 times the price. He looks the one to have truly beaten the handicapper given his Derby win, and whilst his form hasn’t been quite up to par this preparation, he looks to be on the way back to his best, and the 2400m could be his biggest asset.

RED BLAST has to be considered a winning chance given his last run at WFA and a 5kg weight drop. KIROV BOY will give his backers a run for their money but might not have the class to see it through.

Best at a rough price appear to be GOD HAS SPOKEN & OPERATIONAL. Both are capable of getting into the placings at least.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Betway 'scandal' resolved

Recently Twitter lit up with allegations of the new Champion Chase sponsor Betway refusing to pay a punter his winnings. The punter in question won a couple of his early bets on a new account and then wanted to withdraw his winnings. Possibly suspicious that the punter was betting for someone else, Betway asked for KYC (Know Your Customer) details to verify the identity of the punter - as they are required to do as part of their licensing conditions.

This is where it went awry. The customer, a student who had changed address several times over the summer, as uni students in particular are prone to (been there, done that), sought to expedite the process by doing a little cut and pasting of one scanned document (not illegal, just silly), rather than just being open and explaining the situation. Also understandable if you've ever wanted to get a mobile phone account or similar where a credit check is required. Betway audit staff noticed the irregularity and then the problems began. Rather than starting a conversation with the punter, they demanded more documentation which he submitted. All genuine documents however one of them contained a typo in the post code (probably easily done if you keep changing addresses, but again, not the fault of the bookmaker). Betway staff then pulled down the shutters and refused to discuss the case any further with the customer. Winnings confiscated, deposit to be returned, go away, no further correspondence to be entered into. All the while never telling the customer why. A fairly shambolic set of rules essentially allowing the firm to do whatever they want didn't help either.

Twitter went nuts and it's not hard to see why. Both sides were at fault - the punter for his naivety in editing an identifying document and Betway for digging their own hole with terrible communications. A new Head of PR, the experienced Alan Alger, conveniently walked into this in his first week in the job and was able to resolve the situation through mediation. The customer admitted his fault, Betway admitted their communication on the issue was poor and would pay out once that single issue was resolved. Their rules are now under a 'very thorough review'. Case is now closed.

Moral of the story - customers shouldn't muck around with ID documents and bookmakers shouldn't close up shop when customers have genuine grievances.

Betway aren't thieves, they just don't like making it easy for punters who raise red flags. Most bookies will do that...

Friday, 12 December 2014

Villiers Stakes preview

The highlight of summer racing in Sydney is the Villiers Stakes. Tasked with the preview is Mitch Fenton.

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Villiers Stakes Randwick, G2, 1600m
1615 local time, 0515 GMT

Form link

Website
Twitter: @weekndkngracing
Facebook: /weekendking


The most reliable guide to the Gr2 Villiers has always been the Festival Stakes.

I’m going to stick with that form line; here’s the horses who ran in the Festival, running today.

1 I'm Imposing (55.5) 20-1
2 [0.1] Estonian Princess (54) 7-1
3 [0.3] Strawberry Boy (57.5) 6-1
5 [1.7] Sir Moments (56) 11-2
6 [2.5] Multilateral (54) 60-1
7 [3.8] Scream Machine (56) 20-1
8 [4.3] Aomen (58.5) 30-1
11 [6.8] Monton (60) 16-1
12 [8.0] Keep Cool (54) 80-1

Out of all those runs in the Festival, Strawberry Boy was a clear top pick for mine.

He worked very hard out in front with his 1500m to 600m times and was 3L quicker than the average. He was entitled to drop out of the race but instead he fought on doggedly. Jim Cassidy goes on today (Is there a better front running jockey around??)

There doesn’t look to be any speed on paper at all, so “Pumper” should be able to dictate terms. He loves the wet also, so that’s not an issue. VERY HARD TO BEAT!

I’M IMPOSING, ESTONIAN PRINCESS, SIR MOMENTS and MULTILATERAL also ran nice races in the Festival. There’s where the chances end for mine. Can’t entertain any of the others, except for Rose of Peace who is very progressive and might well improve sharply.

I’ll be backing 3 in the race;
STRAWBERRY BOY @ $6 win bet
MULTILATERAL @ $26 each way bet
I’M IMPOSING @ $13 each way.

I’m also going to box up STRAWBERRY BOY, ESTONIAN PRINCESS, SIR MOMENTS, MULTILATERAL & I’M IMPOSING in a first 4 as well.

BEST BETS: STRAWBERRY BOY the win and MULTILATERAL each way

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Hong Kong Vase

One of the great days of international racing takes place on Sunday, International Day at Sha Tin racecourse in Hong Kong. Hopefully this isn't the first time you've read about it on the blog - last year we landed a 150/1 winner (before NR reductions)! The author on that occasion was Calum Law, @calumswanlaw, and he returns to analyse this year's edition of the same race.

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Hong Kong Vase
G1, 2400m, Sha Tin, Sunday

Flintshire- Runner up in the Coronation Cup, The Arc De Triomphe and the Breeders Cup Turf in 2014 and all three pieces of form are more than enough to take this race. Will relish the ground, only flop this year came on good to soft at St Cloud, and he has plenty going for him on paper. On the flip side he is winless in seven and there is every chance this race is an afterthought. At south of 2/1 he looks poor enough value.

Dominant- Shock winner of this race last year but has largely struggled this term since his excellent fifth place effort in the Sheema Classic in March. Has only beaten five of 56 rivals in his five runs since Dubai and it will take a big turnaround in form for him to double up here.

Curren Mirotic- Not a superstar in his homeland but still capable of achieving high levels of form, as he proved with his three-length second to the mighty Gold Ship in the Takarazuka Kinen in the (northern) summer. Also finished within 1.25 lengths of Japan Cup sensation Epiphaneia, when a three-length fourth in a Grade Two behind Kizuna in April. He was discounted by the locals on both occasions going off at 55/1 and 31/1 respectively, which is an indication of his standing in the Japanese pecking order, however this is an easier assignment and he has to be taken very seriously.

Empoli- Consistent German galloper who finally broke his top level maiden in the Preis Von Europa after a string of top efforts in Group One company around the globe. That needless to say was a weak race for the grade and this is much tougher. Will be suited by the ground and showed, with his luckless fourth in this years Sheema Classic, that he is capable of competing at this level. Likely to run his usual solid race whilst finding a couple too strong.

Red Cadeaux- Globetrotting warrior who is often described as the bridesmaid of world racing, but has a win in this race in 2012 on his CV. Arrives here having finished runner-up to Protectionist in a lightweight edition of the Melbourne Cup, and has backed up in this race impressively from that event the past three seasons. Gerard Mosse knows Sha Tin like the back of his hand and he has to be a place contender. However he is rising nine and this is arguably the deepest Hong Kong Vase field he has faced. As current second favourite on the UK books he makes little appeal on value grounds.

Bubble Chic- Local raider who has plenty of back class, twice a runner up at the top level when trained in France, and has had a profitable season to date locally. He won a Group 3 Handicap over course and distance when giving weight to a useful field, before a fine effort when 4th in a hot renewal of the Champions and Chaters Cup. Has been running over inadequate trips this prep, and showed more when a solid 6th over 10 furlongs last time. This will have been the target for a while and he could go well at decent odds.

Parish Hall- Dewhurst winner at two, but hasn't scored above Group 3 level since. Jim Bolger won at this meeting in 2004 with Alexander Goldrun but has a poor recent record when campaigning horses long haul and the now five-year old entire makes no appeal

Willie Cazals- Ex-Italian Derby runner-up who has shown useful form over 12 furlongs since his transfer to Hong Kong. His second place efforts behind Dominant and California Memory over course and distance read well in the context of this race. Finished on the heels of the leaders in his prep for this challenge over 10 furlongs and he is a strong contender for the home team.

Rainbow Chic- Group 3 winning miler as a three year old when trained in France, but has largely struggled in the top events in Hong Kong. His best form has come over shorter than this and he doesn't look good enough anyway. Would be a big surprise were he to come out on top.

Khaya- New Zealand bred galloper who was beaten by Bubble Chic in a course and distance handicap when in receipt of a stone. Carries an international rating of 102 into the race and unlikely he will have the class to contend at the finish.

Wayfoong Express- No great shakes when trained in England when trained by Willie Muir but has made up into a decent horse in Hong Kong. However he is the lowest rated in the field and looks to have a mountain to climb in this company.

Just The Judge- Two time Group One winning filly who recently went through the sales ring at £4.5 million. Showed she can compete on the international stage with a successful three-run stretch in North America. However they were weak events restricted to fillies and she will need a career best to take down the colts here. Even with her fillies allowance she makes zero appeal.

Snow Sky- The second string to Juddmonte's bow and as the only three year old in the race receives 5lbs from the older colts. Arrives here off of a career best performance over 16.5 furlongs in the St Leger and gets the assistance of the 'world's best' Jockey, but also looks as a one-pacer and will likely lack to turn of foot to get the better of today's rivals. As current third favourite he looks well unders and can be safely discounted.

Verdict

Flintshire is the class horse in the field but he has had a busy season and this appeals as a possible afterthought for connections. At skinny odds he needs taking on and can be done so with the Japanese raider Curren Mirotic. He has been in and amongst some genuine superstars of late in his homeland and this rates as a slight drop in class. Having won the race last year the local horses need respecting and both Willie Cazals and Bubble Chic look over priced and are capable of reaching the frame.

1 Curren Mirotic
2 Willie Cazals
3 Bubble Chic

Sunday, 7 December 2014

John Durkan Memorial Chase preview

The weather's brisk and the National Hunt season is in full swing. If your whole racing year is based around Cheltenham, then you'd better be keeping a close eye on what goes on in Ireland.

Taking on this weekend's feature race from Punchestown is prolific racing blogger, Sam Preen, @SamPreen.

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John Durkan Memorial Chase
1400 Punchestown
2m4f, €80,000.


Preview originally posted here.

Baily Green
Had a fine time of things a few seasons ago, racking up a long string of victories, which came undone by Twilight in a thrilling finish at Punchestown, but went on a long losing run, having run his best race when second to Texas Jack back in January, and posted a disappointing effort over hurdles after that. Fell in the Champion Chase, and was soundly beaten by the aptly named Bog Warrior in the mud at Navan, before being beaten by old foe Sizing Europe at Punchestown. Won a minor chase in May, but pilled up before three out on his seasonal debut, and finished badly distressed at Navan last month.

Boston Bob
Boasts an unbeaten record over this trip, and registered his last victory in the Punchestown Gold Cup, from First Lieutenant. Soundly beaten on his comeback at Down Royal, which was out of character for him, having won both starts after a break. Entitled to come on tons for that run, and capable of getting the better of a few of these, who he’s previously beaten.

Don Cossack
The Gigginstown Jolly will surprisingly be ridden by Brian O’Connell, instead of Barry Geraghty, as previously mentioned, but “The Don” has won both starts as a fully-fledged chaser, albeit facing only five rivals in both races. Warrants tons of respect at top level, but if runners stand their ground, he may find things tougher than usual.

Lord Windermere
Third to Boston Bob last Feburary, before winning the RSA, he failed to fire for most of last season, but sprung a surprise in a thrilling Gold Cup, holding on for dear life under a possessed Davy Russell, landing the spoils and sending punters to consult the formbook, or throw it in the bin. Being a Gold Cup winner, he warrants plenty of respect, but may need this run to get going, and interesting to see how he’ll fare on his comeback, with a second Gold Cup the main aim.

Rathlan
No win since forging clear from Hidden Cyclone at Galway last July, but has shown very little since, but showed a hint of promise when a distant fifth to Boston Bob in April. Finished fifty lengths last of seven at Clonmel on his comeback, so easily ignored.

Texas Jack
Faced off against a few of these previously, beating Baily Green back in January, and losing out to Boston Bob in last year’s Dr. P.J. Moriarty Chase last Feburary, after getting the better of Lord Windermere last January. Rarely seen these days, and his participation depends on a piece of work this week. Though he boasts a modest strike rate over this trip, if he’s on a going day, he’s all heart. Comes with obvious warning signs, due to his absence, though.

Conclusion:
A race largely revolving around Don Cossack, who bids for a hat trick on his first season as a proper chaser, but his last three wins have come in Graded races with only a few rivals, and it’s interesting seeing him back in a proper test, but TEXAS JACK gets the nod, having beaten both Lord Windermere and Baily Green previously. He’s been aimed at this for a while, and if he gets the green light, he can defy his lay off and run a huge race for connections, having hardly disgraced himself in the Irish Hennessy. Boston Bob, who beat Texas Jack, boasts a 6-6 record over this trip, and can be the main danger to the Gigginstown jolly.

Texas Jack @ 10/1 E/W (Betvictor)