Saturday, 25 April 2015

Hong Kong Sprint Cup

The April international meeting at Sha Tin mightn't be quite as big as the December meeting, but it still attracts class racehorses from around the world, which can create a bit of uncertainty in the betting markets as locals struggle to line up foreign form.

Making his blog debut this weekend is international racing aficionado Jason Lincoln, @the_racing_wiz

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The Sprint Cup
Sha Tin, 1200m, Group 1.
1600 local time, 1800 AEST, 0900 BST

Form guide

The second of the features is the G2 Sprint Cup, a race won last year by Charles The Great. Most of these have met at some stage already this year and the form does appear to be fairly well exposed.

GOLD FUN – This horse has primarily done his racing at 1400m – 1600m in Hong Kong, but with the almost unbeatable Able Friend destroying everything in his path at that distance range, Richard Gibson was forced to find alternatives. It came up trumps when he took out the G1 back in February beating recent Japanese winner Aerovelocity for Christophe Soumillon. Christophe is unavailable this weekend, but he loses nothing in picking up the old master Olivier Peslier to pilot him around. He had every favor beating Aerovelocity that day due to gate one, and tactically he will find this tougher from gate seven. He was OK last time when third to Able Friend at 1400m and his class will carry him along way here.

LUCKY NINE – Has been a wonderful sprinter in HK for the past five seasons and was second in this race last year to Charles The Great. You can put a pen through his last start effort in Dubai where he didn’t go a yard on the dirt. His run prior was a solid third in Gold Funs G1 after having every possible. Not showing the same zip for me this term and that could be all the travelling (Singapore, Australia, Dubai, Japan) starting to catch up with him. I’ll be prepared to risk him in this returning after yet another overseas jaunt.

PENIAPHOBIA – Along with Aerovelocity, he would be rated the best sprinter in Hong Kong at the moment. He was a game the International race here in Decenmber having brilliantly won the trial. He ran 55:49 to beat Bundle Of Joy in the first leg of the speed series before an unlucky fourth to Gold Fun in the second leg. I say unlucky but Douglas Whyte was outridden pure and simple by Brett Prebble on Lucky Nine, who basically just pinched his spot and that ultimately cost him the race. He was excellent in Dubai just being picked up late by Sole Power and now he returns to what many believe to be his best distance. The alley is awkward but he does have gate speed and there isn’t mad pace in the race so Douglas has a chance of slotting into a very prominent spot. With even luck, he looks the winner.

CHARLES THE GREAT – Winner of this race last year but had been ‘in the wilderness’ until recent throat surgery saw him come back to life with a slashing first up fifth to the speed machine Rad. I'd suggest the form prior can be written off given how he has come back from the throat op, but even at face value those performance have merit having come home in quick sectionals albeit from soft runs. The draw is key; from gate two Berry can have him three pairs back, coiled up, and ready to produce that big finish he has. Big player and likely to start over the odds.

DUNDONNELL – Richard Gibson is trying the same trick here as with Gold Fun in trying to get a 1400m-1600m horse firing over 1200m. He wasn’t too bad first try at it either; after missing the kick he was being bustled along and never really got it into a rhythm before staying on OK behind Gold Fun. He lost no admirers with his last start fourth to Able Friend after sitting wide the trip and he might not be hopeless here.

GOLDEN HARVEST – Had absolutely no luck last start and was eventually eased out of it so go on his previous form when assessing his chances. That previous form indicates that he usually just finds one of two better at this level. Has a nice turn of foot but from that alley he will have to go back to last and circle the lot of the them.

FREDERICK ENGELS – Not good enough and not going well enough.

SMART VOLATILITY – The most likely runner to belie his recent form and win. Pre-International meeting he was not only holding his own with the best sprinters in HK but was very unlucky being beaten by them. He turned in one of the performances of the season when beaten by Aerovelocity in the Trial after sitting four and five wide the trip!!! He had to then go too far back in the International Sprint itself before making solid ground late. Should have finished closer when third to Peniaphobia in the first leg of the Sprint Series, and then had a torrid trip when a better-than-it-looked eighth to Gold Fun. His last run is a mystery; he raced keen outside the speed and punctured horribly a long way out. Too hard to tip him off that run as he is normally so consistent and that may be a sign he’s had enough this time in.

TOUR DE FORCE – Good bread and butter horse that isn’t up to this level.

TEOFILO CALVA – Lightly raced 5yo that exploded up the ratings earlier in the year in good fashion but has found it hard to win of late. He was hugely advantaged by drawing the stands rail last start in his graded debut, and his form prior isn’t good enough for this on pure facts and figures. However, he has a a good draw and John Size has a knack of being able to squeeze more out of those that you think are on their marks

TIPS
1- Charles The Great
2- Peniaphobia
3- Dundonnell
4- Gold Fun

Friday, 24 April 2015

Bet 365 Gold Cup Chase

The National Hunt season winds up tomorrow at Sandown but the greater attention will be paid to the final rides for the legend that is AP McCoy. A sellout crowd for a non-Festival race meeting is pretty rare in the UK, but the Sold Out sign went up this morning. The feature race of the meeting is the Bet 365 Gold Cup Chase, and surprise, surprise, it's a big handicap race and near on impossible to isolate the winner.

Sam Tribe, @samtribe87, makes a welcome return to the blog for the preview, he's not afraid of the tough ones!

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BET365 GOLD CUP CHASE
Grade 3 Class 1 Handicap
3m 5 1/2f
1550 local time
Going: Good


Form link

No AP. No problem. I decided to focus on this race because AP wouldn’t be riding in it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the champ as much as the next racing fan but when writing a preview of a race, it’s hard to not get wrapped up in McCoy Mania and tell everyone to re-mortgage their house and lump on Mr Mole. I hope he does win his final two races but my focus is on this beaut of a chasing challenge; The Bet365 Gold Cup Chase. Won by some fairly impressive (sic) horses in the past; Desert Orchid, Arkle and more recently the evergreen Tidal Bay to name but a few. This is a physically demanding test usually on fast ground and has been a favourites’ graveyard, which makes it all the more intriguing.

I will quickly run through the line-up and then give my conclusion at the end (please note, all odds correct at time of publishing.)

1. Rocky Creek 11st 12lb 16/1
The drying ground will be a concern as will the fact he completed the Grand National a fortnight ago. Considering that was the aim for this horse you start to wonder if this is a bit of a consolation run.

2. Bobs Worth 11st 8lb 11/1
Pulled up in the Gold Cup, the lightly raced 10 year old will have to improve considerably to have a chance of winning this one. However this drop in grade and first handicap appearance since 2012 makes an intriguing prospect. Henderson will no doubt have him ready and the ground will suit.

3. Unioniste 11st 8lb 14/1
The second of four for champion trainer Nicholls who, like Rocky Creek, went in the National only two weeks ago but should be fresher than his stablemate after falling five fences in. Usually a sound jumper and staying on strong for sixth in the Hennessey last November when all around were struggling suggests he can go the distance.

4. Wonderful Charm 11st 8lb 16/1
Another of Nicholls’ string and further proof of how strong his yard has been this past season. Has struggled this season in Grade 1 company but showed signs of class when narrowly beaten in his handicap debut at Aintree two weeks ago off of top weight. A rallying finish there in a hotly run race could have taken its toll and this latest test could be too soon.

5. Grand Jesture 10st 10lb 8/1
The first of the Irish raiders and tipped to do well after his impressive second to The Druid’s Nephew at the Cheltenham Festival. Will be fresher than some of the leading contenders but the quick ground could be an issue.

6. The Package 10st 10lb 9/1
A mightily impressive performance in the Kim Muir saw this 12yo win by twelve lengths and pulling away, surprising many, including me. Tongue tie and blinkers did the trick that day and with the same gear in place, if the same horse turns up he could be very hard to beat.

7. Le Reve 10st 10lb 8/1 Has been the favourite all week and this race has been the plan for a long time. There are concerns over the quick ground though as his trainer, Lucy Wadham pointed out earlier in the week. Has strong course form but doubts over this extended distance suggests looking elsewhere in this race.

8. Bally Legend 10st 5lb 20/1
Tenth in this last year but efforts this spring suggest that he could improve on that performance. Third behind Rocky Creek and La Reve in February was followed up by a creditable four length sixth at the Cheltenham Festival gives this 10 year old a decent each way chance.

9. Vics Canvas 10st 5lb 14/1
Falling at the first but bouncing back up last time out hopefully hasn’t had too much effect on this twelve year old. Never really shown anything in Britain but the booking of a certain Ruby Walsh is interesting.

10. Lost Legend 10st 4lb 25/1
AP has seemingly not chosen to ride in this race (make of that what you will) and Richie McLernon will take the ride instead. Not a bad effort last time out at the Festival but made no impression on the horses in front of him.

11. Just A Par 10st 3lb 18/1
The last of Nicholls’ entries and for me the most intriguing. It has been a break-through season for Sean Bowen and will be looking to strengthen his grip on the conditional jockeys’ championship with a win here. Although he was a beaten favourite last time out, Just A Par responded well when Bowen asked him to and there was enough there to suggest an improved performance this time round over a longer trip.

12. Grandads Horse 10st 3lb 40/1
It’s been a long old season for this tough competitor, making his 13th appearance on Saturday. A couple of wins on soft in December were impressive but pulled up last time and this is asking a lot of him.

13. Royale Knight 10st 2lb 18/1
Very impressive sixth in the Grand National but as with Rocky Creek, you wonder how much that will have taken out of him. Is in good form though and connections will hope to cap an impressive campaign with a win.

14. Ely Brown 10st 2lb 40/1
100/1 shot in the National and fell at the first. Not much suggesting he will fare any better this time round. Ground a major concern as well.

15. Roalco De Farges 10st 1lb 20/1
seventh in this last year but held on to second place gamely last time out from eventual Scottish Grand National winner, Wayward Prince. With Dickie Johnson choosing Duke Of Lucca, Michael Nolan picks up the ride and has place hopes at best.

16. Return Spring 10st 1lb 33/1
Frustrating one for me because I was at Cheltenham when he had form figures of 1-2-1 over hurdles around there. He seemed such a willing horse, a real battler but hasn’t found anywhere near that sort of form since switching to fences. The ground is also a concern as he likes it soft.

17. Duke Of Lucca 10st 14/1
Cracking performance last time out and really showed guts to retain the Betfred Handicap Chase at Aintree. Not been the greatest of campaigns before that win but will go on the ground and hard to dismiss.

18. Paint The Clouds 10st 8/1
What a season Warren Greatrex is having, epitomised by the impressive Cole Harden in the World Hurdle. His hope, Paint The Clouds, has a cracking chance in this and teams up with Sam Waley-Cohen again (who can claim 3lbs). A little disappointing at the festival but the ground was a bit on the soft side for him that day and the conditions should suit him in this one.

19. Guess Again 10st 16/1
An intriguing one this. Now with his fifth trainer in Tony Martin, Guess Again was travelling well before falling at Cheltenham in his debut for the yard. Showed good form on quick ground for the Pipe stable last summer before disappearing for nine months, switching stables and reappearing at the Festival. Worth watching to see how he fares in this race. Paul Townend a notable booking too.

20. Algernon Pazham 10st 20/1
Interesting novice who will carry a full two and a half stone less than Rocky Creek with 7lb claimer, Jamie Bargary on board. Bit of a quirky character who refused the final fence in the race before last, but has good form, placing three out of four times over the larger obstacles. Bit of hurdling form sticks out for me as well, having beaten the impressive Silsol at Leicester last season. The fast ground is a concern though.

Verdict
It’s a lottery but that is why we all love these big field handicaps. I can easily make claims for 80% of the field but I will try and pick out three that I think have the best chance of winning. Special mentions should be made for Bobs Worth who definitely has a chance of recapturing form by winning this and for Duke Of Lucca who seemingly turns up in the spring. My first pick is The Package. David Pipe has had an exceptional season and could cap it off with a win here and Tom Scudamore will certainly hope so as he attempts to beat Richard Johnson into second place in the champion jockey table. My second pick is Paint The Clouds. Conditions will suit this horse and I’m sure he will run a big race. And finally, out of the strong Nicholls’ contingent, Just A Par gets my vote. What a story it would be with the reigning champ retiring, 17 year old Sean Bowen could steal the show and be touted as a future champion jockey by winning this. If he goes on to achieve half of what AP has done it would be a remarkable feat.

1st Just A Par, 2nd Paint The Clouds, 3rd The Package

Hong Kong - Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup

The April international meeting at Sha Tin mightn't be quite as big as the December meeting, but it still attracts class racehorses from around the world, which can create a bit of uncertainty in the betting markets as locals struggle to line up foreign form.

Making his blog debut is international racing aficionado Jason Lincoln, @the_racing_wiz.

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Audemars Piguet QEII Cup
Sha Tin, 2000m, Group 1.
1635 local time, 1835 AEST, 0935 BST

Form guide

Sunday at Sha Tin sees the 40th running of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes; a truly International Group 1 that boasts a rich history.

International visitors have been successful in 11 of the past 20 runnings of the Group 1 feature, with South Africa and Japan having been the most successful at three apiece. South Africa are not represented this year, but Japan has a runner as do the UK and France. Both of those Nations have been responsible for winners of the race previously, whilst the sole other International runner is from Australia. No Australian-trained horse has been successful in the race, nor have they been represented for quite some time - Grand Armee and Elvstroem two of the higher- profiled horses to have failed in Hong Kong's Autumn Championship.

Last year's winner Designs On Rome is bidding to become just the third multiple winner of the race, and the just the second to have won it back to back (Eishin Preston 2002/2003, Viva Pataca 2007/2010). Military Attack narrowly failed in his bid to win back to back QE2's last year when he was touched off by Designs On Rome in a classic renewal.

SPEED

Stablemate to Designs On Rome, Same World, will ensure they at least go along at an even speed. He has no business being in the race other to ensure it isn’t turned into a sit and kick affair so expect him to lead but not at a break-neck tempo. Helene Super Star is another pace angle, but he does have a propensity to be slow away on occasions. Military Attack and Criterion will be kicking up to use their good alleys and both should settle in the first half of the field. Blazing Speed is the horse most affected by his draw. He'd prefer to be handy but can get quite keen when racing without cover so Callan has a decision to make very early to ensure he gets best possible position. Designs On Rome is unaffected by a wide draw.

FORM and MARKET ANALYSIS

DESIGNS ON ROME - The reigning HOTY in Hong Kong got off to a slow start this campaign but he has dominated the local scene since returning to form with a slashing win in the Hong Kong Cup at the International meeting in December. Given 6 weeks off after that run, he returned in a G3 Handicap and scored a 'typical Design On Rome' victory; essentially just wanting it more than the horse next to him. He powered away to win the Gold Cup from a ‘Military Attack-less’ field before heading to Meydan for his second attempt at 2400m. Whether he gets it or not will remain up for debate for he had no hope sitting out the back in a 'pedestrianly' run race, and lost no admirers with a game fourth to Dolniya. He has put on body weight since returning to HK which is a great sign and his work has been first class.

Champion with a tremendous will to win. Huge value at the 9/4 that is currently on offer with some firms given he started 9-10f beating Military Attack and Criterion in December. Will start 'odds on' on the HK tote and is clearly the one to beat

MILITARY ATTACK - Has met Designs On Rome on 4 occasions (3-1 to DOR), gaining the nod over him in a star studded Sha Tin Trophy 1600m earlier in the season. The margins in two of the three defeats was a nose and short half head, and would quite easily have been wins against a horse with lesser courage than DOR. His most recent failure behind him was his most heavy, however, there were excuses. Jumping well from a good alley, Purton sat outside Same World through a slower than standard first and second section and appeared to have plenty in reserve on the turn, But having raced a little keen with the blinkers on early, and having not started for 10 weeks, he was found wanting and stayed on for a soundly beaten fourth. Has since trialed in good fashion and gets a plum draw.

Whereas Designs On Rome went to Dubai, this horse has been saved and set for this race. Casper has him bang on and he looks an each way pinch at the 11-2 available. Will start closer to half that in HK.

BLAZING SPEED - Very much under-rated horse who has wins over both Designs On Rome and Military Attack. His form this preparation is much better than it reads on paper. He resumed in the aforementioned Sha Tin Trophy and was a super run to finish fourth less than a length from the winner (Military Attack). He then beat that horse a head (Designs On Rome unplaced) in the G2 Jockey Club Cup before being forced to sit three- and four-wide the trip when last in December's 'big dance' to Designs On Rome. Subsequently ran a nice fourth to champion miler Able Friend, before a very unlucky third to Designs On Rome in the Gold Cup. Would never have beaten the winner but surely would have run second and finished much closer to him had Rispoli navigated clear passage between the 200-400m.

Outrageous value at the 20/1 with some firms. I would have him just about my 'on top' selection had he drawn a better gate but I am concerned about him slotting in somewhere.


CRITERION - Much improved horse since joining the Hayes/Dabernig combination prior to his third in the HK International at the end of last year. Although he was a Derby winner at three, he looked to be a rung below the very best WFA horses in Australia during the spring but has quickly put lie to that form and was one of the benchmark horses of the recent Sydney carnival. He was a great first up third in a good quality sprint race at Randwick before a game, albeit every chance, second to Real Impact in the G1 George Ryder Stks. His win last start in one of the feature races of the Sydney Autumn Championships, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick, was visually very impressive. However a few points need to be made. He is a superior wet tracker and conditions were made to order for him on that occasion, whilst it was the exact opposite for his main dangers To The World, Tosen Stardom and Adelaide who all detested the ground and ran well below their best. He beat Red Cadeaux, who by his trainer’s admission was only in that race and not the Sydney Cup (3200m) because he felt that 2000m on testing ground would see him better suited than most of his higher rated rivals, and Royal Descent - a prolific placegetter in big races who rarely wins but loves the mud. His third to Designs On Rome and Military Attack in December on firm ground show him to be a good horse regardless of the ground, but that is a better measure of his form for this particular race than what we saw last start on a surface which suited him above all others.

Started 39/1 in December and you're being asked to take 7/4 - 2/1 now. Couldn't possibly have him at that price and whilst he has drawn well and will get a good run in the race, he is no better than a 6/1 chance. To put it another way, he was 4/1 last start on his home track with track conditions A1, and now he’s away from home on firm ground in arguably a better race. No thanks.

RED CADEAUX - One of the real marvels of international racing in the past 30 years. He is a previous winner in Hong Kong having won the Vase at the International meeting in December 2012, and most recently finished 2nd in the Queen Elizabeth behind Criterion over The Championships in Sydney. He was unlucky not to have finished a little closer on that occasion but for me that isn't the right form for this race. Has never won at 10f/2000m and I can't imagine he will start on quick ground against a couple of the best horses seen in Hong Kong in recent times.

Couldn't win and is anorexic at 9/1 - 12/1, but he will give his all and hopefully can earn again for his very sporting owners.

HELENE SUPER STAR - Former UAE Derby winner when trained by Aidan O'Brien (racing as Lines of Battle) who has arguably over-achieved this year. He was only beaten 2.75L behind Blazing Speed in the Jockey Club Cup and then only 2L to Designs On Rome in the 'big dance' in December. Had his chance to beat DOR in the Centenary Vase where he received 20lbs from him, again came up short, but then ran that horse to a 1.5L second(Blazing Speed unlucky third) at level weights in the Gold Cup.

Around 80/1 with most firms which seems fair. I could certainly entertain him in place betting at around $15 but it would be a shock if he won.

SMOKING SUN - French visitor who looks to be just making up the numbers whilst getting ready for another tilt at the Singapore International Cup; a race in which he ran second last year beating home Military Attack. His run first up in the Prix d'Harcourt was awful on a surface softer than he prefers, but his overall form is short of G1 standard.

12/1 - 16/1 is far too short for mine, there are much better options at similar or better odds.

CALIFORNIA MEMORY - Great old campaigner who has unfortunately lost form altogether.

100-1 is unfortunately correct.

STAPHANOS - This is the most interesting International runner in this year’s event. He is a lightly raced 4yo son of Champion racehorse and sire Deep Impact and he comes to Hong Kong having just had the one run since winning a G3 at Tokyo back in October. His first up effort was full of merit when a 1.8L third over 1800m behind last year’s Japanese Oaks winner Nuovo Record (Harp Star second) . He was held up briefly turning for home but did best of the closers on a surface that did appear to be quite chopped out and shifting. He is a typically strapping Deep Impact colt who should be much better for the run, and for a firmer surface. He has previously shown himself to be G1 standard in Japan by running a game 2.3L fifth in the Japanese 2000 Guineas to Isla Bonita, and a 1.5L fourth to Isla Bonita in a strong St Leger lead up in September. That horse finished behind him first up and the Japanese don’t travel for the fun of it.

10/1 - 20/1 . You'd be mad not to have something on at the 20s if you can get it. He has a typical improving Japanese horse's profile and he looks to be a main player here.

HELENE HAPPY STAR - A 4yo bought by John Moore for this year's Derby where he came up short finishing foutth to a horse that sat 3W the trip in one of the quickest Derbies in recent times. Raced as Barley Mow in the UK where he appeared talented but limited, and much the same impression has been left since he came to HK. Never too far away but never in the finish either, he is still a Hong Kong maiden and it is inconceivable that he will be good enough here.

25/1 - 50/1. Looks under the odds to me, couldn't win all things being equal.


SAME WORLD - Pacemaker only. Will run last unless something else goes amiss.

100/1 - 200-1 but Im sure you could write your own ticket.

PACKING LLAREGYB - Nice horse but not up to G1 standard let alone an International G1.

66/1 - 100/1

TIPS
1 - DESIGNS ON ROME
2 - MILITARY ATTACK
3 – BLAZING SPEED
4 – STEPHANOS

VRC St Leger preview

ANZAC Day for racing in Australia have never traditionally been a strong day, perched in between the autumn and winter carnivals, but one race which always takes place on this day is the VRC St Leger. Investment into staying races by Racing Victoria might eventually have the desired effect of raising the level of this race.

With the preview, it's the guys from Premium Racing Services, @PremiumRacingS. You can check out their services on their website.

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VRC St Leger
Flemington, 2800m, Listed race
R6 1600 AEST, 0700 BST

Form guide

PRS Speed Map



Pace rating we have on this is well above par for a staying trip like this. Both Authoritarian & Zatopaz led at very slow tempos last start (both producing slow time ratings) so it will be only a matter of who show their intention desperately early to lead outright. They will not fight each other hard at all as both jockeys know it would be extremely detrimental to their chances of running out the trip.

As our map highlights the three outside gates look the most disadvantaged runners as they will find it difficult to not be caught wide if they intend on attempting to settle in their desired positions. Colour Of Money gets an excellent run just off the speed two wide with cover without exerting any early energy.

Our Market:



This market is of our system's ‘raw’ prices which is set to 100% with every runner rated >$21 eliminated. PRS clients get a market <100% on a wagering sheet which also blends in the public price of each runner to find a wagering edge.

As you can see, our raw market is extremely open but does have some overlays present on the early corporate markets.

Colour Of Money - Ride queried last time at Gosford when just off a crawling tempo, was expected by analysts to go towards the rear but was clear jockey McEvoy just identified that there would be a lack of speed in the race (which was correct); just should’ve advised stewards. Good map here just parking off the pace again. Has plenty of fitness on his side which will be beneficial over this trip and like Dunn now riding. Can produce some improvement and threaten.

General James - Disappointing here last start when a significant drifter in betting and lost by 9L. Efforts prior rated superior. Has two major queries into this being that the map looks a problem early and whether he will stay the trip. If drifts late in the betting we will ignore him.

Cuban Fighter - Too strong for them on Sunday, raced clear in maiden on heavy surface. On back up off that large PB coming onto drier surface interesting, certainly looked outclassed in three earlier runs in campaign but this gelding is an out and out stayer. Positive rider change with Craig Williams on does help. Likely to be our most significant overlay present.

Zatopaz - Led at crawling speed and was able to kick clear and win in style at Gosford, was well backed late that day. Will have to work much harder if wants to lead but am confident if Hall digs up early and shows his intentions he will be able to cross and then switch off. Hard to see him holding that rating here but in this race he isn’t required to. Tough to run down.

Recommended Bets: We will be advising clients to use our wagering software to back the overlays present. If No.2 drifts significantly late in betting then would be happy to ignore that overlay.

AFL Round 4 previews

Time for a bit of variety on the blog, some match previews for the greatest sport on the planet - Aussie Rules footy! Cheers to the guys at @aflratings for the preview.

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AFL Round 4 Preview
By aflratings.com.au via @aflratings

Last week was a very comfortable week for punters as 9 favourites were victorious; this week is a completely different story with as many as 8 games providing varied opinions. Weather is likely to play a factor in Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra games this week, here are our Round 4 thoughts.

Melbourne v Richmond
Melbourne were highly competitive against a very good Adelaide team a week ago in heavy conditions in Adelaide, they are unlikely to get blown out of the water but have again struggled to score averaging 55.5pts FOR in their last 2 games. Richmond were clinical against a poor Brisbane team at the Gabba in Round 3, it is hard to put a form line on the Tigers as they have not played anyone decent as yet. Defensively Richmond has conceded only 73.7pts AGA from their first three games, this one shapes as a low scoring contest even more so if wet weather hits the MCG on Friday night.

St Kilda v Carlton
The Saints have been very competitive in Wellington games in the last two years with narrow losses, both games were played at night and provided low scoring contests. Carlton are a mess on and off field right now with mixed messages, one could assume the players are also confused but don’t be caught off guard especially considering the Blues are coached by one of the all-time greats. The Line does seem a bit high for the Blues considering the quality of players that will be missing from their team, but the Saints are also missing some stars.

Essendon v Collingwood
The Bombers appeared to be a little flat in the second half v Carlton last week, the legal proceedings against them are likely long gone but at some stage they will put in a stinker. Collingwood have started the year ok apart from a 1st half capitulation v Adelaide in Round 2, the Magpies have conceded only 76.7pts AGA from their opening three games. The Bombers are also in good defensive form, expect the ANZAC Day classic to be a low scoring affair especially if rain hits on Saturday afternoon.

GWS Giants V Gold Coast
The Giants pushed the Swans for the most part last week at the SCG, they have improved again this year scoring an average of 92.7pts FOR per game. The Suns narrowly missed out on a win at Geelong last week, the most important piece of information heading in to the game against the Giants this week is that this will be a back to back travel game for the Suns and also a 6 day break. Gold Coast won only three of 10 (30%) travel games and one of two (50%) six-day break games in 2014. The Giants are 2-0 in all travel games in 2015.

Port Adelaide v Hawthorn
If the Power can manage a victory against the Hawks on Saturday night in Adelaide, their Home & Away draw will open up playing only four games v Final 8 teams from a year ago between Rounds 5-20. Port Adelaide have had a brutal early season draw, a 2-2 split will likely set up a high Ladder finish at the end of the year. Hawthorn demolished the Bulldogs last week with class; Jordan Lewis has stepped up his game again and is likely to figure in Brownlow Medal contention if he continues on this pace. As for this game, sit back and enjoy a great contest. Even in light weather conditions this may be a high scoring game.

Fremantle v Sydney
You must have been sitting under a rock if you have not noticed Fremantle in the opening rounds of the AFL season, they literally have been awesome. Sydney are also in good form with a 3-0 start and have won the most Qtrs (9) for the year of any AFL team, both teams are defensive minded so expecting a tight low scoring contest. A win for Fremantle can set up a Top 2 position at the end of the Home & Away season, this is a must win for the Dockers as they have never finished Top 2 under coach Ross Lyon.

Brisbane v West Coast
Brisbane has conceded 135.0pts average in their last two games, Josh Kennedy and Marc LeCras must be licking their lips for a goal fest at the Gabba on Sunday. Both the Lions and Eagles have been hit hard by injuries in the early part of the season. West Coast won 11 of 13 games (85%) v Non-Final 8 teams in 2014, both teams will be keen for a victory but the Lions could be up against it if Kennedy and LeCras receive a fair few scoring shots up forward for the Eagles.

Geelong v Nth Melbourne
No longer are teams afraid of travelling to Geelong despite a remarkable win rate at Simonds Stadium by the Cats in recent years, Nth Melbourne are a strong offensive team and could open up the Cats on their home turf in Geelong. The Cats have conceded 107.7pts AGA average per game and Nth Melbourne have scored 100.3pts FOR so far in 2015, if not for Joel Selwood last week the Cats would be 0-3. Geelong has won only three of 12 Qtrs in three games and are struggling to contain teams, this is a great opportunity for the Kangaroos this week.

Western Bulldogs v Adelaide
The Crows love a fast track and Etihad Stadium will provide that late on Sunday afternoon, Taylor Walker will be a key target for the Crows up forward and could enjoy a day out if Adelaide can dominate through the middle of the ground. The Western Bulldogs won only one game v Final 8 teams in 2014, they are not yet ready to provide this type of upset. Expect the Crows to score over 100pts in this game, they are also only conceding 60.3pts per game in 2015.

Friday, 10 April 2015

The Crabbies' Grand National preview

No volunteers to plough through the field in detail this year so I'll point you towards a previous contributor who now works for Timeform, Calum Madell, @calummadell. Might be a bit ambitious to expect him to tip the winner two years in a row, but there's plenty to work with inhis preview.

Aintree Grand National 2015 Horse-by-Horse Guide

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Sires Produce Stakes preview

Sydney racing's day in the international spotlight on Saturday was ruined by persistent rain which forced the postponement of the meeting by 48 hours. It was a controversial call in some camps, but do they honestly think a premier race club would call off its most lucrative day of the season unless absolutely necessary? It was pissing down, was set to continue all day and nothing ruins a track more than heavy rain during a race meeting, where the track gets chopped up and those divots then get filled in with water. It wasn't safe and the right call was made. The participants, both equine and human, must come first, the days of racing and potentially putting lives at risk (in an environment where every race ride carries at least some element of risk) are thankfully long behind us.

The programme goes ahead on Monday, weather permitting. It will be wet, probably in the Heavy 9 region, but it won't be raining throughout the day and deteriorating further by the minute. Race times have all changed AND eastern Australia has ended daylight savings (summer) time, so if you need revised race times against the earlier previews, look here and take away nine (9) hours for UK/Ireland.

Analysing the two year old race, the second leg of the Triple Crown, is racecalling prodigy Luke Humphreys, @worldracingluke

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Inglis Sires Stakes Preview
G1 1400m 2yo
Randwick R6 1425 local 0525 BST
(Europeans please note - the clocks have gone back in Australia since Saturday)


1: PRIDE OF DUBAI: Awesome winner of the G1 Blue Diamond Stakes last start after having absolutely no luck at all and still winning. He’s a monster of a horse. His only run on a wet track was in his last trial, good secoond on March 27 on Soft ground, and he handled it fine. It will be a Heavy10 track at Randwick but he was awesome in the Diamond and probably is looking for further too. The one to beat.

2: MISHANI HONCHO: Consistent Queenslander but probably a tad below the real good ones. Good third two starts ago in the G2 Silver Slipper Stakes before a plugging fourth in the G2 Todman Stakes. Should enjoy the wet track although it can miss the start sometimes. If it begins well it could go towards the lead. Place at absolute best.

3: READY FOR VICTORY: Fantastic debut when winning a LR contest up the straight 1000m at Flemington before an excellent fourth in the G1 Golden Slipper, after drifting to the outside of the track. After drifting out in the Slipper, it’s no surprise to see him wearing a Lugging Bit for the first time. The concern is how will he go on a Heavy10 track? And is he still a bit green? Wouldn’t want to take short odds.

4: ODYSSEY MOON: This horse is a bit tricky to work out but in my opinion he needs to be saved for one run and needs a wet track. The one time he had that he was a very good second to Exosphere in the G2 Skyline Stakes. He was a great run in the G1 Golden Slipper, given every chance by Ryan Moore, and showed he needed further. Damien Oliver should be perfect for him and so should the track. In it.

5: TARQUIN: Nice horse. Probably wants it wet than fast when it comes to ground and that’s what he gets today. Very good winner of the G2 Pago Pago Stakes and has showed in his two starts that he wants further. Over 1400m today and with a wet track, it should suit him. Not out of it.

6: RAGEESE: Nice horse who had no luck on debut and then got home strongly for a second to Tarquin in the G2 Pago Pago Stakes. His last two trials have been very promising also. I think he’d prefer it on the faster side when it comes to the ground however. Not the worst. Each-Way.

7: ENGLISH: Very smart filly who was a good second to Vancouver in the G1 Golden Slipper after a good win in the G2 Reisling Stakes, which pointed out to me she’s looking for further than 1200m. Should be fine on the ground, if her soft ground trial win is anything to go by. Very nice chance.

8: PASADENA GIRL: Victorian filly that is so far two starts for two wins and has shown a good will to win in both runs up the straight course at Flemington. I’m not sure if barrier two, going around a bend, is the best draw for her, as she was a bit quirky when close to the running rail in her second trial at Cranbourne, but she could surprise. The question is the ground, will she handle it? The trip should be no problem.

9: ALWAYS ALLISON: Very smart filly in the care of Chris Waller that has been very impressive in every trial and race she’s contested and should be three starts, three wins, if it wasn’t for a horrible ride from Glyn Schofield in the G2 Magic Night Stakes when she was seventh. After that, she now gets “Magic Man" Moreira who will give her every possible chance. Nice Each-Way hope.

10: PERIGNON: Scratched.

11: QUEEN OF WANDS: Is probably a bit of an unlucky horse. Had no luck when fifth in the G2 VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes last start after a good first win at Sandown. This trip suits her perfectly. Whether the ground does or not is a big question mark. And whether she’s up to this level is another query. Place.

Summary
This is actually a hard race to assess when doing the form. There are some very nice horses and some nice horses. (1) PRIDE OF DUBAI had absolutely no right to win the G1 Blue Diamond but his heart, class and very high ability got him home. He’s got speed as well, evidenced by his run in the G3 Blue Diamond Prelude. 1400m should be perfect and I expect him to handle the ground. (4) ODYSSEY MOON needs luck in he’s races but this looks like a nice race for him and just continues to improve and Damien Oliver looks a perfect jockey for him. (7) ENGLISH was fantastic when second in the G1 Golden Slipper, but I just think (1) PRIDE OF DUBAI is a better horse and (4) ODYSSEY MOON has more improvement in him stepping up to 1400m at this point in time compared to her, she’s right in it however. There probably the main three chances in my eyes. (9) ALWAYS ALLISON looks a really nice filly and gets that nice jockey Joao Moreira. (5) TARQUIN continues to improve. So does (6) RAGEESE. I’m laying (3) READY FOR VICTORY, I’m just not sure how he’ll go on the ground and is he still a bit babyish? I’m not sure running him in the Sires’ after the Slipper, knowing his greenness, could be the best thing either. (8) PASADENA GIRL has been very good in her two runs up the straight at Flemington but barrier one and going around a bend concerns me a bit and is she up to this class? (11) QUEEN OF WANDS is very consistent but I don’t think she’s good enough. So too (2) MISHANI HONCHO.

Selections
(1) PRIDE OF DUBAI – (4) ODYSSEY MOON – (7) ENGLISH - (9) ALWAYS ALLISON

Ratings
1 / 4 / 7 / 9 / 5 / 6 / 3 / 8 / 11 / 2.

The Bet
Straight win bet on (1) PRIDE OF DUBAI and a saver on (4) ODYSSEY MOON Each-Way.

Irish Grand National preview

It's not just the English National this time of year, Easter Monday see the traditional running of the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.

Making his debut for the blog with the preview is Denis, @carvillshill.

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BoyleSports Irish Grand National Steeplechase
Fairyhouse, 3m5f
1700BST


Since the time it provided cover for an overthrow of those nasty Britishers almost 100 years ago the Irish Grand National has been an Easter Monday fixture in the fabric of Irish life. I’ve been attending it at a track five miles from where I grew up since I was having 20p on the Tote. My standard bet size has increased fivefold since.

If In Doubt Has a similar profile to last year’s winner in that you’d be inclined to put a line through him on jumping grounds over these notoriously stiff fences. Tough mark to overcome as well. If he were to put in a clear round he wouldn’t be the biggest shock.

Alderwood Looks on downgrade and massive stamina doubt

Grand Gesture Good jumper, has course form and ran a cracker at Cheltenham- can go well for a long way but surely a few better treated?

Rule the World too many physical issues won’t jump well enough.

My Murphy First time blinkers interesting, chance on pick of form but doesn’t look that well handicapped.

Perfect Gentleman Good run in the four-miler at Cheltenham when trip looked to stretch him but can’t help thinking price is more to do with high profile connections than actual chance.

The Job Is Right Represents the white hot Thyestes form and 3rd in the 4 miler ahead of Perfect Gentleman so a mystery why he’s a bigger price. Closely weighted with Vic’s Canvas on Paddy Power Chase form. In the mix.

Pass The Hat Second in the Kerry National, must be a stamina question and possibly want better ground.

Los Amigos One of my bets- highly progressive, ran a belter in last year’s Thyestes. Loved his reappearance when he won despite the slow pace and the trip. Coming from where he does this was surely a long term target. Must go well.

Lots Of Memories Has been my long term fancy for the race. Very well treated on pick of hurdles form including a good win at this meeting last year. That came crucially on good ground and needs every bit of drying between now and 5pm Monday. On good to soft was an all in job, softer ground a slight question.

Vics Canvas Good winner off a lenient mark in the Cork National then a fine 3rd in the Paddy Power. 20lbs higher than Cork now and these stiffer fences a concern. Underpriced.

Cantlow If Vics Canvas is underpriced this is fantasy land. Undoubtedly well treated but a serial disappointer- price solely on jockey booking, swerve.

Thunder And Roses Jumping a massive concern

Dogora Well named

Lion Na Bearnai Previous winner but old enough to smoke.

Rivage D’Or Theoretical chance if Cross Country romp has rekindled fire in belly but not for me.

Tammy’s Hill Fascinating runner- was well fancied for the race last year off the same mark and beatings of On The Fringe make him theoretically very well in. Light season due to setbacks- if comes here fully ready is a player.

Usual Smurfer Fine win over hurdles at Christmas, course winner but overall form not up to it and stamina doubt.

Band Of Blood In theory well in on a beating of Lots Of Memories but poor form since.

Empire Of Dirt Perhaps the best each way bet in the race with the place concession- gorgeous horse who cost a fortune and is made for extended trips. Naas win is solid form and should improve for the extra distance. Only quibble is the price, take any 16/1 you see.

No Secrets Not well enough treated for me.

Silver Tassie No.

The Crafty Butcher A sneaky longshot- could be well enough treated on earlier novice form and blinkers might spark a revival- can’t let go at a huge price.

Champagne James a bit of a champagne Charlie- loves the good life loitering around travelling well, doesn’t enjoy grafting out the wins- can see him placing for sure.

Alpha Victor Only if we get an overnight deluge.

Rogue Angel If he’s had unreported surgery for his wind or something it’s just possible- noted travelling well many times including in this race last year but not finishing off- trainer form is poor however.

She’s Got Grit Course winner, stamina must be a doubt.

Sizing Coal Not good enough

Clar Na Mionn My pick of the longshots. Travelled well for a long way last year, good form in staying novice chases. Stamina is the doubt but a possible now better treated.

Daring Article Unlikely, 2/16 chasing and looks exposed.

Bets:
Lots Of Memories on the day if yielding to soft or better
Empire Of Dirt each way with five places
Los Amigos each way
Clar na Mionn and The Crafty Butcher on Betfair.


Saturday, 4 April 2015

Early Grand National preview

Just seven days to the Crabbie's Grand National, the team from OLBG have provided this early preview.

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Early Grand National Preview

The attention of jumps racing enthusiasts turns from Cheltenham to the Grand National this week. Sam Darby from Mares' Hurdle sponsors OLBG takes a look at the Grand National a week ahead of the race. For Grand National Tips check out the site, www.grand-national-guide.co.uk.

The Grand National is as wide open as ever and it looks as though we are going to get a good idea of the strength of last year's form with seven of the first eight home still entered in the race. The problem for those that run well in the race the previous year is the handicapper makes it almost impossible for them to win the next year. Only dramatic improvers and those who were not seen to best effect the previous year have a real chance and we do have a couple of runners that fit that bill this year.

Paul Nicholls' Rocky Creek has been well backed for this year's race and understandably so. He was effectively too young and too inexperienced last year to win the race yet he still ran extremely well in fifth. He won the Betbright Chase by six lengths on his latest start making him well handicapped but a question mark remains over his stamina. He will apparently be ridden with more restraint this time around which could be key to him seeing out the trip. More of a problem is his current price, at around 10/1 the value has gone for a horse that was beaten by 19 lengths last year. He should run well but we can live without backing him.

Just a short head behind Rocky Creek last year was Chance Du Roy and whilst he doesn't have the scope for improvement that the Paul Nicholls runner has, he does have a very solid profile. He finished second to course specialist Always Waining in the 2012 Topham, he won the 2013 Becher Chase and again ran well in that race this season, finishing a relatively close fifth. The ground at Aintree this year may well be slightly softer than last year and that could see Chance Du Roy improve on last year's performance. At four times the price of Rocky Creek he simply represents better value.

Shutthefrontdoor is perhaps one of the most exciting favourites in the race in recent years. He boasts a record of nine wins from 14 races and should still be ahead of the handicapper. His jumping is more than sound and he should have the assistance of Tony McCoy, having his final ride in the race. The stories are already being written but there are some negatives. He's as inexperienced as Rocky Creek was in the race last year and has had just one run this season, back in November. At the moment it's difficult to see the ground being too fast on Grand National but it's also worth noting that Shutthefrontdoor does want plenty of cut so a dry, warm week wouldn't help him at all if that's the way the weather goes.

Cheltenham winners coming here a few weeks later don't have the best of records so The Druid's Nephew and Cause of Causes are overlooked whilst Unioniste is surely too young at seven to win this. Spring Heeled would be interesting on summer ground but there is a good chance he won't get that.

Perhaps one of the most interesting runners this year is Soll. It seems he's had almost as many trainers as races but David Pipe seems to be getting a good tune out of him this season with the horse winning both races for the man who trained the 2008 Grand National winner Comply Or Die. Soll's return to action this season seems to have been timed to ensure he remains ahead of the handicapper and it's worth remembering he's previously completed over these fences twice (seventh in the 2013 Grand National) and is a better horse than ever this season. He's not yet guaranteed a run (needs nine to come out) but is a well handicapped horse if he does get in.

I could mention endless other horses in with a chance but as this stage it's all about finding likely runners who should run very well at a price. There is also a slight question mark over the going with rain forecast a week before and then a fairly cold week leading up to the race. Therefore the two selections at this stage have to be runners who are fine on decent ground but wouldn't mind a bit of rain and they are:

Chance Du Roy 40/1 each way 5 places
Soll 20/1 each way 5 places


Randwick racing postponed until Monday

Too wet today, won't be much drier in 48 hours but at least it will be safe. Hang onto the advice from the previews....