Friday, 30 November 2012

Newbury preview - Sportingbet Handicap Chase

Closing out the day's racing at Newbury, and the Scoop6 which has rolled to a total prize pool around £1.25 million, is a tricky handicap chase. Best call in an expert with so much money on the line - Matt Bisogno, @mattbisogno, from GeeGeez has kindly shared his wisdom on this one. Read more on his website...

------------------------

3.40 SPORTINGBET HANDICAP CHASE (FOR THE JIM JOEL MEMORIAL TROPHY) (CLASS 2)

And the lucky last is upon us. As trappy as you’d expect, there are fifteen scheduled to start, adding further salt to what may be punters’ weeping wounds as there will be but three places on which to recoup invested funds. We’re racing over the extended two miles this time and it’s going to be soft underfoot.

Recent history has a score card of Nicholls 3, Hendo 2, Venetia 2. Although ‘The Chemist’ swerves the race this time, the Denizen of Ditcheat and Lady Venetia are represented by Ulck du Lin and Renard respectively. Both are of immediate interest.

The former is dropping back in trip after palpably not staying last time. He tried this trip before, albeit fading up Sandown’s stiff uphill finish, and this track looks likely to give him a better chance of lasting to the lollipop. He’s very much the young man of the party at just four, and has a commensurately light weight to carry.

Ulck du Lin is bound to get stronger over time, and has had a good rest since that last effort. I’d think he’ll be thereabouts.

Renard made hay this time last year, starting from a very low base, and then paid for it as the handicapper showed no mercy with a rise from 109 to 144. His last win was off 135, and he’s only four pounds higher here under optimal conditions – potential class question aside – and might be expected to give it a ‘right good go’.

But… I have a niggling reservation about his ability to compete in a big field handicap. In previous British races of a dozen or more runners, he’s got form of R45PP. Not for me on that basis.

Gus Macrae is the likely favourite, and that’s fair enough. After all, he has won three of his last four, including a Listed handicap chase last time out. Trip, track and turf look fine too, and Patrick Corbett – aboard for the last two wins – claims his big ten pound allowance, bringing the horse down from a nicely weighted 11-03 to a very nicely weighted 10-07.

The fact that Gus seems to doss a little when he gets to the front means he doesn’t win by far (five wins by an average of 3.4 lengths), which in turn means it’s tough for the handicapper to fully assess the merit of his ability.

In short, he ticks a lot of boxes and the 4/1 available as I write is at least fair, and perhaps even mildly generous, in my opinion.

David Pipe won this in 2009 with Consigliere and my old mate turns up again here. He’s starting to get expensive to follow, and it’s a mug’s methodology in any case, but I can’t desert him just yet. The case for the defence is robust enough: flat track bully, seventeen furlongs on soft ground optimal, Class 2 his level. But he’s probably still too high in the weights – four pounds more than his last win – and I’m sure the Pipes will let us know, via a quick plummet in the odds, when his day is due.

I backed Consigliere the last day at Cheltenham and I backed Takeroc in the same race. This lad left the Paul Nicholls yard in May for 24,000 guineas, and has done nothing in two starts for Chris Gordon. But it may be too early to give up on him, and a soft ground extended two miles with some pace up front might be the key.

He’s back to his last winning mark and has form to win this as recently as three starts ago. 33/1 reflects that recency bias again.

Of the rest, most want further or faster, and are working their handicap marks down for the big Christmas/Festival prizes (but I didn’t just say that). But one other with close to ideal circumstances is Oh Crick. A winner of the Grand Annual and the equivalent handicap chase at the Aintree Festival back in 2009, he’s mostly paid for that big spring since, with just the one win – over seventeen soft furlongs in February this year – from nineteen races since.

With so few having obvious chances, Oh Crick could nick some place money at least.
Selection: Gus Macrae
Best each way: Oh Crick
Outsider with a squeak: Takeroc

Newbury preview - Fulke Walwyn Trophy Novices' Handicap Chase

The Newbury support card isn't too bad either. Blog regular, Jack Milner, @jjmsports, takes a look at the Novices' Handicap Chase at 1325.

----------------

Some decent novices turn out the sixteen runner handicap chase, and plenty of unexposed types. Rolling Aces, Godsmejudge and Seven Woods all will be popular in the betting due to their generally attractive profile and running for ‘sexy’ connections, but they will be likely to go off too short for my liking as such. That takes out the Henderson, Nicholls and King runners. Patsy Finnegan looks Alan King’s second string, and I wouldn’t be able to have it, and with the Tizzard, Twiston-Davies and O’ Neill stables not in their best form, I wouldn’t be looking at Merry King, Handy Andy or Listen Boy.

Gores Island and Amirico are likely to be outsiders who will be lacking a bit of fitness, whereas as last time out winners Benheir and Master Neo will be pretty sharp, but accordingly will be poorly handicapped due to their recent wins and revised marks. Ballypatrick would be interesting with most Henrietta Knight runners improving since switching to Mick Channon, although the run last time was uninspiring at Ascot. Benny’s Mist goes for the in-form Venetia Williams stable, but the drying out ground would be against him, although he is respected. Sir Kezbah still looks saddled with an unworkable mark, and although now only 5lb higher than his last winning mark, isn’t for me.

The race revolves around two horses for in form stables, the first being GLOBAL POWER for Oliver Sherwood and Leighton Aspell, and SHERWANI WOLF for Charlie Longsdon and Noel Fehily. Global Power was mightily impressive last time out, winning a nice beginners chase at Fontwell over two and a half miles, and although a bit of a monkey at times, he could well back it up. On his day he was a very good hurdler, and the step up in trip combined with the switch to chasing, should continue the horse’s upward curve. Sherwani Wolf has another likeable profile, never really involved and desperately needing the run last time out. The stable is now in better form, and the step up in trip should suit, with cheek-pieces being applied first time.

Selection: Global Power, Alternative: Sherwani Wolf

Hennessy Gold Cup Preview

One of the finest races of the National Hunt season takes place tomorrow, and it's not at Cheltenham or Aintree. I love the Hennessy because it's a handicap, and a top class one at that. Where chasing stars give weight to lesser rivals and prove their merit. None of this namby-pamby always running at level weights when classes above all their rivals, champions like (two-time winner) Denman saying 'You know what? I'll give you weight and I will still beat you!'. That to me proves a champion, taking on all challengers on different terms, none of this soft 'only on my patch, only at level weights, only if I feel like it' stuff that, for me, is the reason why Frankel can never be rated the best Flat horse of all-time. Outstanding horse but flat-track bully. Connections with less imagination than a council administrator of the 50s. The Flat season has plenty of decent handicaps but not the really top-class one capable of drawing serious Group horses. Too much of this stud value protection bullshit. Rant over, back to the race.

19 runners, 26lb spread in the weights and 4/1 the field. Bring it on! To preview the great race, welcome back Adam Ward, @AdamHWard.

------------------

2012 Hennessy Gold Cup Preview

This Grade 3 handicap chase is one of the greatest races of the National Hunt season and this year’s renewal looks no different.

TIDAL BAY - Although carrying top-weight won’t be easy, it has been done three times in the last ten years. The mighty Denman did it twice as well as Trabolgan in 2005. He seems to have found a new lease of life since switching to Paul Nicholls with an easy win in the mud in the bet365 Gold Cup at the end of last season(top weight of 11-12) as well as winning first time out over hurdles at Wetherby in early November. He obviously still has a lot of talent and stays all day, with the added bonus of Ruby Walsh doing the steering. With this looking to be a true test with the soft conditions, he is hard to rule out.

ROBERTO GOLDBACK - Won very easily on his last start at Ascot, when having his first start for the Henderson yard. Although he looked impressive that day, he didn’t beat a lot and is clearly the stable’s second-string.

BOB’S WORTH - The RSA Chase winner, has been lined up for this and looks on paper to be the clear form choice. The only worry is the ground as he has done all is winning on no worse than good to soft. He will battle all the way to the line, and I would have no doubt in him winning this if the ground was good and the race was at Cheltenham, but I feel he could just fall short to one or two others in the conditions. Though he is definitely a Gold Cup horse.

FIRST LIEUTENANT - Chased home Bob’s Worth in the RSA, though has not looked spot-on in his two starts this season. He will prefer the conditions much more than Bob’s Worth today, but he finished very tired last time at Down Royal in a race you feel he should of been winning, so the question remains if he is up to winning a big-race like this.

HOLD ON JULIO - A lightly-raced individual as he has had his problems, but there is no doubt he has talent, as he showed when beating the Grand National winner by 9-lengths at Sandown last season. He made a decent reappearance at Cheltenham last time and should be in peak form for today. You’d expect him to be there with two to jump, but he will have had to have stepped up to be winning this.

LION NA BEARNAI - Won the Irish National off a low weight, but he looks to have plenty on his plate today (having his reappearance) and this looks a stepping-stone to something further down the line.

CARRUTHERS - A gallant winner of this race last year, but has been out of sorts since. Only three horses have won the race twice (Denman, Arkle and Mandarin) and only Arkle has won back-to-back runnings. As loved as he is, Carruthers is no Arkle.

THE PACKAGE - Has had more injuries than Kieron Dyer, but has plenty of ability as he showed when winning, what looked, a competitive Badger Ales at Wincanton last time. The main concern is that he has never followed up after a win and it would be some feat for him to do it today. There are races later in the season to be won with him.

TEAFORTHREE - Although he looks to have the ideal conditions, connections have made no secret that his main target is the Welsh National. So today looks like another step towards that. He could run into a place, as others struggle to cope with the conditions.

FRUITY O’ROONEY - A tough character who will handle the conditions, but he looks to be a shade out of his depth today.

SAINT ARE - His sole two wins have been at Aintree and this is a stiff enough reappearance for a horse who’s two wins have been at the end of the season.

DUKE OF LUCCA - A consistent individual, but the races he has picked up were in small uncompetitive fields. The opposite of today.

DIAMOND HARRY - Has not been the same horse since winning this race in 2010. He has had a number of problems, which had apparently all been ironed-out, before he missed his intended target of the Charlie Hall Chase. He ran no sort of race last time in the Badger Ales, which is a huge concern. He has a lovely weight and if the old Diamond Harry turned up, who knows? But he is too risky a proposition, the only hope is that returning to the scene of his greatest win will spark him back to life.

MAGNANIMITY - Was well beaten by the mighty Sizing Europe last time. The worry being he has never won over two and a half miles under rules and looks the owners second-string.

HARRY THE VIKING - An out-and-out stayer, who ran a disappointing race at Cheltenham last time with the excuse looking to be the ground, it won’t be much better here, so is one to rule out despite connections.

IKORODU ROAD - Has a very good record at Newbury in lesser-races, but all on good ground.

FRISCO DEPOT - Seemed to be going well in a weak race before falling last time out. Top amateur jockey Sam Whaley-Cohen must not have eaten for a week to do the weight so you can’t rule out, but coming into a race like this on the back of a fall is not the most encouraging.

SOLL - Was quite fancied for the National Hunt Chase at the Festival, before being brought down. Very lightly raced and loves soft under-foot conditions, the main worry is this is his reappearance. If you were going to have a bet on an outsider it would be him as he is so unexposed.

ALFIE SPINNER - A mud lover with no weight, but looks a little out of his depth here.

Verdict: There are many horses to consider in this race but also a lot of questions marks are to be answered, with vital stats against some. Bob’s Worth looks to have a great chance, but on his reappearance on ground that is against him, the chance is taken on top-weight TIDAL BAY to get the better of him, in conditions he excels in. The lightly raced Hold On Julio looks the best chance of chasing them home. Diamond Harry would be there IF returning to form.

1st - TIDAL BAY
2nd - Bob’s Worth
3rd - Hold On Julio


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Time for another industry update!

It's a couple of weeks old now but Bwin chief Manfred Teufelberger was detained for questioning in Belgium recently, whilst speaking at a conference. The validity of Belgian gaming legislation is disputed by most leading firms as being in conflict with EU legislation. Questioning is said to have related to Teufelberger's comments that some business from Belgium was still likely to be occurring on bwin as blocking is rarely 100% effective.

Breon Corcoran has had plenty on his plate at Betfair since he joined, with having to pull the company out of Germany (exchange only, £6m annual profit) due to the imposition of a flat 5% tax on stakes a few weeks ago, soon followed by withdrawal from Greece, removing a further £7m of profit from this year's financial report. Add to that, a new American CFO has been brought in, replacing Stephen Morana, one of the few Betfair members of staff to have reached 10 years of service (very few from the good old days left!). Corcoran also took an axe to the international side of the business, trimming the number of languages offered and up to 50 translation staff with it - only logical given they are being forced out of various foreign markets. No doubt there will be more to come...

News across the desk this morning of some blood-letting at Corals this week. A 'trading consultant' was engaged by the company to revive its fortunes and as a result at least seven traders have been given their marching orders. Some of them quite highly regarded too I'm told. Reasons behind the carnage are yet to be confirmed but could be any of shift in the business to Gibraltar, cost-cutting or moving towards an automated trading system as many bookmakers do these days.

The Racing Post reported this week that Ladbrokes are nearing a decision to acquire Betdaq. This baffles me, it really does. Betdaq are a complete and utter lemon. Their only rival in the market has kicked so many own goals over the years with the premium charge, followed by an increase in the premium charge, cost of API and data use, customer service standards which have fallen faster than Facebook share value, site crashes and various other faults. So many pissed off Betfair customers, yet Betdaq are still tailed off with a lap to go. Around the world, Betfair is losing favour. Across Europe, they are being kicked out of countries on a regular basis. Growth for the exchange just isn't there, hence they've had to push hard into other products - casino, arcade, sportsbook etc. Ladbrokes online division continues to spend vast sums of money for poor return on investment. So now they want to purchase Betdaq to fix that, when the exchange honeymoon period is well and truly over? You couldn't give the purple mob away. As I said to a mate on Twitter the other day - if you offered them a carton of Foster's for the business, you'd expect change. So many poor decisions made there over the years, they've blown their chance to be a real player in the market.

ADDENDUM - 30/11/12 - Betdaq have started contacting Australian clients to notify them their accounts will be closed. This either means Betdaq are intending to gain an Australian licence and wish to obey local laws, or, more likely, Ladbrokes, as a PLC, do not wish to break any local Australian laws - they have already closed all their Australian-registered accounts. Sources tell me Danish clients of Betdaq have received a similar email recently.

Australian racing has had its share of scandals over recent weeks, none smaller than the Damien Oliver/Miss Octopussy case. Everything which has come out stinks of a nice, cosy arrangement between stewards and the jockey to structure the case. To be fair, the evidence upon which Oliver was convicted was not under the jurisdiction of racing, it was inadvertently gathered by police in a murder investigation. But, once stewards are aware of such evidence, they must be empowered to stand the accused down immediately. The innocent before proven guilty mantra has to stand aside when matters of integrity which have the capability of severely tarnishing the industry are involved. This was not just a jockey placing a bet, it was a jockey placing a bet on another horse in a race he was riding in, creating the natural inference that the jockey might not ride his mount to the best of his ability. Whether he did or not is completely irrelevant. The image of the industry MUST come first. For allegations of the bet to come out in early October, then stewards claiming that they didn't ask Oliver if the accusation was true until weeks later is a farce. The jockey made no effort to deny the allegation publicly, he simply kept quiet and was allowed to carry on riding. It is rumoured that he admitted the bet behind the scenes but not publicly. And then conveniently, the stewards hold the inquiry after the Cup carnival is over, allowing Olly to earn as much money as he could before taking the 10-month penalty handed out... conveniently timed so he can return for next spring carnival! It beggars belief. The stewards MIGHT have acted accordingly within the limits of their powers - but their poor communication process throughout the saga points sharply in the other direction. The Australian Racing Board has responded by recommending minimum penalties for offences such as jockeys placing a bet, not allowing a horse to run on its merits, trainers administering medication to a horse on raceday etc. Sounds like a step in the right direction but having the proposals adopted is always the hardest part. I like the quote from the Australian Racing Board chairman, words to the effect of "Racing has a customer and if that customer does not have full confidence in the integrity of the sport, he will not bet". Would be nice to see that recognised elsewhere - sure people still bet in the UK amid corruption allegations against jockeys occasionally. Just imagine how much could be bet if the perception of the industry was clean (i.e. crooks like Barney Curley booted out of the sport!) and if the industry's ultimate funders (bookmakers, via punter losses) weren't so defensive against providing punters with information widely available in the rest of the world - like sectional timing!

Match-fixing in football is never far away from the news. Firstly, something good to report - a key player behind organising corrupt matches, Almir Gegic, has turned himself in after a year on the run. Some good coverage there of how the money flows and what they are looking for.

And the bad - the Italian justice system continues to let people off on appeal, defeating the purpose of trying to stamp the malpractice out and providing no deterrent whatsoever to corrupt parties.

A few tennis players having a moan this week about being drug tested out-of-competition. First they moan about lack of prizemoney (or poor distribution of it), next they complain about efforts to improve the perception of the sport and ensure that the sport is clean. In the aftermath of cycling's debacle over Lance Armstrong and corruption within the UCI, tennis should be making every effort to ensure the same does not happen to them - by being as transparent and open as possible. Some of the same doctors involved in widespread doping in cycling have been linked to tennis players, and the game has developed in recent years into a power and endurance game more than anything else - allowing the influence of performance-enhancing drugs like EPO and steroids to have a marked effect. There have long been rumours of a few players being on the juice, and testing at tournaments is a waste of time - it's the arduous training schemes which need to interrupted for testing. If you want the big bucks tennis, then prove to us you are clean. Don't just declare it's not a problem because only a pitiful number of tests are taken each year and they all come back clean, except for some sacrificial lamb ranked #483 in the world.....

Rant over :)

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Japan Cup preview

Unfortunately I haven't had the time to draft a thorough preview for the race, so hear are some quick thoughts:

Internationals have a terrible record in this race in recent years - just four placings (including two wins) in the past decade, from 53 starters. That doesn't look like changing today, the visitors coming from the Melbourne Cup could not be classed as genuine weight-for-age horses and Solemia got lucky on a wet track in the Arc. I'd be surprised if any of them run a place. Mount Athos might be the exception, he's still on the way up in his career, but does switch from handicaps to level weights.

Now onto the locals, in betting order - read this guide from the JRA for more details.

Orfevre is a superstar, but one with flaws, as seen this year in the Hanshin Dai Shoten when he pulled up, then chased the field again and just fall short, then hit the front, be home for all money (traded 1.01 on Betfair) in the Arc de Triomphe, only to wobble and hit the rail in the closing stages and be claimed by Solemia. Huge fan of the horse, can't back him at this sort of price.

Gentildonna is the star 3yo filly of Japan, winning the female Triple Crown, only the fourth filly to achieve the feat. Took 1.7 seconds off the race record in the Oaks, but no filly has tried to win the Japan Cup after taking the Triple Crown in the same year. Owned in same interests as Orfevre (and Rulership & Rose Kingdom), jockey Y.Iwata won last year on Buena Vista.

Rulership won the QEII Cup in Hong Kong earlier in the year, then finished second to Orfevre in the Takarazuka Kinen and third to Eishin Flash in the Tenno Sho (Autumn). To be ridden by Aussie champ Craig Williams, which will make him unders on the Australian totes.

Fenomeno is the star 3yo colt, having been beaten a nose in the Japanese Derby then stepped up to open company in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), beaten a half-length by Eishin Flash and finishing aherad of numerous G1 winners, including Rulership. Exceptional closing speed, loves Tokyo racecourse with three wins and two seconds from five starts here.

Eishin Flash finished eighth in the Japan Cup for the last two years but comes into the race in better form this time, having recently won the Tenno Sho (Autumn), his first win since the Japanese Derby of 2010.

Jaguar Mail - 8yo who has finished fourth and third in the last two years respectively, despite moderate lead-in form. William Buick takes the ride, make sure you put him in if playing exotics!

Rose Kingdom won this race in 2010 but has only greeted the judge first on one occasion in 12 races since. No.

Tosen Jordan was injured in the Tenno Sho (Spring), took six months off then was beaten a long way when resuming in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) a month ago. Second in this race last year, but came into the race in top form, which can't be said this time around...

BETS:
Mostly interested in the trifecta here. Several combination tickets, based around

Fenomeno & Rulership to win
add Orfevre, Gentildonna, Jaguar Mail and Eishin Flash for second
add Tosen Jordan and Dark Shadow for third

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Betfair Chase + Handicap Hurdle preview

The winter tipsters are out in full force this weekend, I nearly forgot I'd locked in TheYoungRacegoer Calum Madell, @calummadell, for some previews. Does he agree the other guest tipsters?

----------------

The Betfair Chase

Cannington Brook
A Mudlark who has made steady progress over the years in this discipline, with both victories coming over this course and distance on similar ground. Both though came in much lesser contests than this. Last three runs have all been in good races where he was beaten convincingly both times. Started the season with a good pipe opener at Ascot when getting into contention until getting hampered badly three out. Conditions are ideal but his rating of 145 is nearly three stone below the top rated in the field.

Long Run
2011 Gold Cup winner who slightly went off the boil last season despite some good efforts. Outdone by the great Kauto Star last year after coming off the bridle early but got closer to that rival in the King George. However was unconvincing at Newbury in the Denman after that. Only one pace when third in the Gold Cup last time, finishing just behind The Giant Bolster. Jumping wasn’t up to scratch that day and is very prone to hitting a few quite hard in every race, even though he rarely falls. Went well on this sort of ground in France and sets the standard even though he has a little to prove after that Gold Cup effort.

Silviniaco Conti
One of the up and coming chasers on the block for the all conquering Nicholls yard. Progressing well of late with bar a poor run at Ascot, a second to Grand Crus in the Feltham but then wins in the Mildmay at Aintree and on his seasonal reappearance in the Charlie Hall. The latter was by far the most taking of those as he comfortably beat Wayward Prince and a number of other seasonal chasers. Jumps very well for one so inexperienced though he is unproven on ground like this and it would have to be a worry. This will also be his toughest task to date though he clearly has significant potential (rated 168 now). Could be anything but the race may not suit.

The Giant Bolster
Had a lot of jumping problems early on but a considerable schooling and natural improvement over time clicked into place in a big way at the start of this year as he hacked up off 145 in a Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham. Put behind a poor effort behind Long Run at Newbury when running a career best in the Gold Cup, looking the likely winner before being outstayed by Synchronised, Long run just in behind. That was his 11th chasing start and he's certainly starting to get the hang of things now. Rated 164 but has the potential to improve further this season, along with his underrated trainer who is reportedly training his string harder than ever and the results are there for all to see. Hard to know whether he will go in this ground but a big danger if he does seeing as he can also front run in what may be a tactical affair.

Wayward Prince
Progressive Novice in 2011 but totally lost his form last season when with Ian Williams, so much that he was rated just 142 going into the Charlie Hall. Had regularly had problems of coming off the bridle very early but joined Hilary Parrott (also the owner) this season and started the season with a huge run in the Charlie Hall. was no match for the winner Silviniaco Conti but he travelled by far the better than the rest and was good value for where he finished. Ground is okay and has seemed to have turned the corner but this is still a huge ask.

Weird Al
Fragile type who won the Charlie Hall in 2011 and was only two lengths behind Long Run in this last year. Seems very hard to train though and a number of setbacks didn't help as he pulled up in the Gold Cup and then falling four out in the Grand National. Seems best fresh so should be primed for this again and has just as much ability as all of these on his day. Still extremely lightly raced for his age but that just highlights his problems and he is a risky proposition but a big run cannot be discounted though he hasn't faced ground this soft since his earlier days.

Verdict
A fascinating renewal of the Betfair Chase on pretty heavy ground where despite Long Run having a little to prove after being unimpressive at the back end of last year, Nicky Henderson's charge certainly sets the standard. He was no match for the brilliant Kauto Star in this last year when hitting a number of fences and coming off the bridle early but he always stays on so well for pressure and has never fallen. That means you would either need him to run well below form or not jump well as all his rivals need to improve a good bit to beat him on merit if he bounces back to form. The most progressive types are Silviniaco Conti and THE GIANT BOLSTER. The former was most impressive when beating Wayward Prince last time in the Charlie Hall though the worry is whether he goes in this sort of ground for one so young. He may not be one who can slog it out and that's a worry for backers. The latter meanwhile ran a career best last time when finishing second in the Gold Cup but he hasn't been given anywhere near enough credit for that and he's open to a lot of improvement. He gets the value verdict for the main reason that if he was trained by a bigger name he'd be half the price. The fragile Weird Al ran Long Run to within two lengths last year but the ground is much softer and that may not suit either, while Cannington Brook has his ideal conditions but should be outclassed in this sort of grade.

Advice - The Giant Bolster 2pts win @6/1 generally

2:30 Betfair. Don´t Settle For Less "Fixed Brush" Handicap Hurdle

I’ve had SIVOLA DE SIVOLA down for this race ever since his eyecatching run at Cheltenham last time. He wasn’t unbacked that day but was one of the first off the bridle only to run on well for fourth. I’ve always been convinced he doesn’t enjoy Cheltenham and his record there now is 75404 while away from Cheltenham it reads 82111. Off 132 he could be extremely well handicapped as he is well regarded by connections, who took a big handicap last week with Olofi and are in great form. Cheekpieces are on which should suit and may prevent him from coming off the bridle so early. A real slog of 3 miles on bottomless ground looks absolutely ideal for him and I expect him to run a huge race.

The competitive nature of this means the price isn’t too bad. David Pipe has won this in the last two years with Grand Crus and Dynaste and he runs Katkeau off bottom weight while Knight Pass has come in for support. The former makes his British debut so could be anything. His French form looks smart and he will be at home on this sort of ground but you have to ask why Tom Scudamore opts for the latter who went off the boil later in the year after showing promise. Whether this test will suit him is a real question mark though there must be improvement in him and he’s not ruled out.

Saphir River comes back over hurdles after winning over fences at Uttoxeter last time and he should run a good race, just like he has in other hurdle races of a similar type. The ground and break is a worry for Barrafundle who is having his first run since the 2011 Festival and I think he may struggle. Holywell has potential but must improve for this extra trip as his form so far is not ground breaking while American Spin won a good handicap here in May and is only 4lb so if he goes on the ground he may be the e/w value. He looked a little held latest so may not be as well handicapped as most. A number of these will have other aims, mainly over fences, such as the Sue Smith two Lackamon and Mr Moonshine. Both have run well over hurdles before though and should be okay on the ground but a place is probably the best you can ask for.

Meanwhile Grand National runner up Sunnyhillboy will surely have that race in mind again and all his hurdle runs have ever really seen him in his best light. Katenko is another French import having his debut over here so a market check is needed for an the in-form yard of Venetia Williams while Trustan Times also has an e/w squeak though more may be needed in a competitive race off top weight. Son Of Flicka took the Coral Cup at the Festival but has disappointed since after being well beaten last timer and falling in between. This will more or likely not be his seasonal aim and he prefers a sound surface. Arctic Court and Los Nadis would both be surprise winners for Jim Goldie and Mad Moose is still 2lb higher over hurdles though he did run well latest and should stay on okay.

Advice - Sivola De Sivola 5pts win @11/2 generally

Friday, 23 November 2012

Saturday National Hunt action

Plenty more jumps racing this weekend in the UK, and stepping up to the podium is Jack Milner, @jjmsports, to cover other highlights of Saturday's programming.

-------------

Proper racing tomorrow, competitive action, some big fields, and more importantly; National Hunt racing that is tougher than a steak cooked by Milner senior. Seriously good; tuck in.

I’ll keep Ascot brief, as it looks like “The Nicky Henderson Memorial afternoon”, with two of his heavy artillery already deployed so relatively early in the season, and are both multiple Grade 1 winners dropping down in class. Oscar Whiskey runs over the trip he loves, two and a half miles. Unfortunately, there are few of these races at the top level, bar Aintree, so he has to make do running against lesser rivals. That being said, he is still massive at around the even money mark, and should have beaten eventual Champion Hurdle second Overturn here last year bar a mishap at the last. Banker.

Finian's Rainbow is a horse I have stayed loyal to ever since seeing him win a novice chase in the winter of 2010. I did my money on him in The Arkle in 2011 when won by Captain Chris (I still have no idea how he lost the race, go back and watch the replay), however I have remained loyal, and backed him ante post for The Champion Chase at 9/1, 8/1, 7/1 and 11/2. Suffices to say, the lad paid me back in spades. Here is your turn to chip in too, when he runs in The Amlin Chase, historically won by previous Champion Chase winners, hello Master Minded! He showed he relished a long trip when winning over two and a half miles at Aintree, and given his eventual aim for the first half of the season being The King George, I can see him winning this en route to further glory over there. Super banker.

Crossing over to the infamous Lancashire surroundings of Haydock Park, where the feature is the Betfair Chase, won an incredible four times by the steeplechaser of a lifetime; Kauto Star. He will be parading, and with him not running, and only five runners taking on the short priced favourite Long Run, it isn’t really something to get excited about, and not one I fancy having a punt in. The value look to lay in the handicaps and the first one of those is where CROWNING JEWEL goes for Keith and James Reveley. He looks the least exposed and ironically the best handicapped challenger as opposed to those from ‘sexier’ stables. However he finished a good third last time out go Cheltenham winner Ifandbutwhynot, what looks like a good race on paper, and a form line through that looks rather strong.

QUARTZ DE THAIX travelled so strongly last time out for the in-form Venetia Williams stable, and I can’t see any reason why the eight year old can’t follow up next time out in the 2.00. Although up 9lb, watching the race live, I was seriously impressed with the ease of the victory, an eventual seven lengths win, and although the hike in the weights, he should be fresher and fitter for the outing.

I was tempted to get stuck into SIVOLA DE SIVOLA in the week, when double his current price, but the continued support, as well as stable form, has even further enhanced his chances in the big handicap over the infamous fixed brush hurdles. He finished a good fourth last time out in a competitive handicap hurdle when well backed on the day, and considering the third has since come out and run well, with Viking Blond performing with aplomb in the big handicap chase last Saturday.

The David Pipe team are coming off the back of a tremendous time of things, with three winners and two seconds at The Paddy Power meeting, and he can continue the trend with MASTER OVERSEER. He was a winner of the Midlands Grand National under a great ride from Tom Scudamore, in the manner of a very progressive animal. He has form on soft and also heavy going, and will take a lot of beating in the gruelling contest given he stays longer than the proverbial mother in law.

Ascot – Finian's Rainbow (2.10) & Oscar Whisky (2.45) – Nap Double

Haydock 12.55 – Crowning Jewel
Haydock 14.00 – Quartz De Thaix
Haydock 14.30 – Sivola De Sivola
Haydock 15.40 – Master Overseer
Bet advised - Each Way Lucky 15

The Yorkshireman - Jack Milner


Betfair Chase preview

I remember the fun times of working at Betfair and taking the promo trailer to Haydock for the first Grade 1 chase of the season. Always bloody freezing and forever plagued with connectivity problems. Glad those days are over! Anyway, there are far better judges of National Hunt racing than myself, so regular contributor Jon da Silva, @creamontop, returns with a profound look at the Betfair Chase.

--------------

The Long Run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the Long Run we are all dead.
John Maynard Keynes


The Betfair is the UK National Hunt season's first Grade 1 chase and the first unveiling of the Gold Cup contenders, We're set the usual conundrum of will the returning [near] champ be as good? Will the best-freshes still be or will their ailments over take them like Diamond Harry the other week. Will the Novices step up and challenge what looks a weak bunch?

Cannington Brook Some cognoscenti have been putting this one up. Albeit when three places were available they're not anymore. Now with six runners he needs 4 to under perform, three of them seriously, two of them massively, to place.

Wayward Prince Beaten 11 by Silvaniaco Conti and frankly makes me suspicious of that form! Even very slow ground would not seem especially beneficial.

Weird Al Smartish fresh and was only a couple behind Long Run as Kauto Star laid the smackdown in this last year. Breaks blood vessels and clearly must have annoyed connections to be run in demanding races like the Gold Cup and National putting a PF in his form even fresh. He's won 6 of 12 up to grade 2. Main worry is that a bleeder finds the ground too soft.

The Giant Bolster hacked up in a Cheltenham handicap over 21 furlongs which had me wondering if was a bit quicker than credited. Then well beaten by Long Run/Burton Port at Newbury - which he overturned in the Gold Cup. Best guess at this level is he's a slow'un. Indeed bar a couple of unseateds his form is much better at Cheltenham than anywhere else. Last year he raced 3 times at Newbury including left behind in a poor Hennessy off 10 stone 4lb. The ground may help bring him into this. If this was at Cheltenham I'd borrow money to back him. It's not.

Silviniaco Conti Nick Mordin opined this horse does not like cold weather more likely he just needs a stamina test. Well beaten at Ascot in a race where the Sun Alliance winner was also beaten (Bob's Worth in the Hennessy I suspect will get well behind) after promising behind Grand Crus and ahead of Bob's. Hacked up from some unlikely sorts last time. He could take a further step up the ladder here.

Long Run Form of his Gold Cup win raises questions about the highfalutin ratings given to him for beating or being beaten by fading stars. Yet take Kauto out and he has the verdict on good horses. His 'disappointing' Newbury prep he gave 10 lbs and beatings to the Gold Cup 2nd (reopposes) and 3rd. People say he's a stamina horse but is one from 4 at Cheltenham - winning when the ground was lightning fast. On flat tracks in England only Kauto Star has beaten him. Can be argued a bit below form last two pipe openers but the one to beat. Can jump sketchily and connections worried about the ground which he has not raced on in England.

At 23/11/12 12:32 odds were Long Run (2.62), Silviniaco Conti (3.25), The Giant Bolster (7), Weird Al (7), Cannington Brook (26), Wayward Prince (34)

On soft ground seems more open and with further rain confidence in Long Run's jumping and Al's bleeding diminishes in downward curvilinear fashion. Nonetheless a win only bet on Weird Al at 7s is where I'll be looking. It would have been a confident bet EW with faster ground given I view Silvaniaco and Bolster as slower types at present.

With forecast for no more rain (not that much was forecast on Tuesday)

Weird Al 7s win only

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Railway Stakes preview

The richest race of Super Saturday is the $1m Railway Stakes which always draws a classy field. Stepping out for the first time on the blog is Nick O'Bryen, @NOBryen, with his outlook on the race.

-------------------

The jewel of the Ascot carnival will be run on Saturday with a stellar field (bar a couple) assembled for the Railway Stakes over the metric mile.

We have the local hopes Luckygray, Playing God, Maschino and Ranger up against the eastern state horses Fat Al and Yosei then we throw in the classy Kiwi galloper, Wall Street. Defending champion Luckygray will run favourite but after being shouldered with 58kgs and then drawing barrier 12 he will need a lot of things to go his way. Playing God had a good run second up before his failure in the Emirates at Flemington but comes back home and with 57kg he shouldn’t be overlooked.

The ever frustrating Fat Al’s chances will depend on how much money bookies Robbie and Tom Waterhouse are liable to pay out should it win. If they take a packet on the horse then it will lose, but if their liability isn’t too much then I would expect a solid performance. (editor's note - cynical opinion belongs to the writer, not the site owner :)

As I look more into the form of Yosei I can't help but feel she may have been aimed at this race from the start of her prep. She hasn’t crossed the line first for well over 12 months but apart from her first up performance her runs this prep have very encouraging and if the speed is on early in the race I expect her to be in the finish.

The less classy Western Australian horses in Zester, Rosies Rocket, Mr Moet, and Battle Emblem are going to find this a bit too tough but with good prize money down to 8th place I’m not at all surprised to see them here. Lords Ransom will find this too short whilst the form line around Maschino, Niblick and Westriver Kevydonn doesn’t look overly classy for mine. God Has Spoken is known to throw in a good run every now and then at the Ascot track but there are too many inconsistencies within his form so only take on trust.

There has been a stack of money for last year's beaten favourite Ranger, and rightly so. After one of the most unlucky runs I’ve seen in last year's Railway (click for replay), he gets a 3kg reprieve from that race and has very good first up form. Stack that up with his two recent trial wins and he looks the horse to beat.

And who can forget Wall Street, he's won nine of 21 over the mile including the 2010 Emirates Stakes. However that was his last win. As always he’ll keep his backers excited during the race and may look the winner at some stage however there are a few in this field who are just too classy for him.

I’m tipping redemption for Ranger this year and for you multiple punters, be sure to include Yosei, Fat Al & Maschino.

Winterbottom Stakes preview

It's Super Saturday in Perth this weekend, a moniker every sport seems to grab hold of at some stage, but in this case it is well deserved. Two Group 1s, a G2 and two Listed Races on the Ascot programme, a difficult feat to achieve when the money and pattern committee focus seems to always be on Melbourne and Sydney.

After his brilliant debut success on the Emirates Stakes during the Flemington carnival, Tom Stewart, @tstewcav26, returns to cover the feature sprint of the day. Don't be surprised if the winner of this race heads to Royal Ascot next year, it's happened before.... And if you'd like to watch some of the lead-in races, track gallops and the local racing network's video preview, check out Perth Racing on Youtube.

----------------

2012 Winterbottom Stakes

The Winterbottom Stakes is a Group 1 race held under weight-for-age conditions, for horses aged three years old and upwards. Held at Ascot Racecourse in Perth, this 1200m event has been the platform and launching pad for many great Australian sprinters since its first edition in 1952. Some of the horses that have won the event and have gone on to become champions include; Miss Andretti, Takeover Target and in recent times, Ortensia who has gone on to win Group 1 races in England and Dubai respectively.

2012 will be no different, with a classy field and some potential stars in the field this looks to be another cracking edition of the Winterbottom Stakes.

1 Pinwheel (8) 58.5 Kg - After a six-week freshen up and under the guidance of Peter Snowden, this horse is going to be fit and raring to go. He undoubtedly fires when fresh and boasts an outstanding first up record, having won four of his six starts first up. Along with this he has won over 1200m nine times and has a good record under weight-for-age conditions. Look for McEvoy to be positive from the wide barrier and have Pinwheel up around the front four horses. As the most experienced and consistent horse in the race he is in with a big chance!

2 Spirit Of Boom (2) 58.5 Kg - A seriously talented horse that is yet to fire at Group 1 level but has been genuinely competitive against some classy horses. This is probably the weakest Group 1 field he has faced and could be his big chance to finally win that elusive Group 1. I have a few concerns with this horse though, that start with the weight for age conditions. I think perhaps this horse is better suited to handicap conditions and from barrier two I’m worried about where he might be in running, he is the sort of horse that you want to see draw wide and be storming home. Wouldn’t be surprised if he won but not my top rater.

3 Waratah’s Secret (4) 58.5 Kg - Perhaps a horse that is out of its depth here. Despite being competitive against some good Perth horses including the race favourite, Barakey, he hasn’t won in a while and that concerns me going into a Group 1 race against some classy sprinters. Despite all these things he gets a weight relief from last start and has drawn well and will most likely settle up on or around the speed. Can’t see this horse figuring in the photo finish.

4 Werd (8) 58.5 Kg - Ran a good second behind Barakey last start and has a decent second up record. Along with this he has a good track and distance record that should keep him in good stead. Like the horse above I think he is out of his depth and hasn’t won a race in a while. Will have to run out of his skin to be competitive in this race.

5 Barakey (10) 58.5 Kg - Boasting an unbeaten record and winning all his races with ease this horse is favourite for a reason. This classy gelding has shown that he is a serious racehorse by winning all of his 10 starts with ease and often under a hold. With comparisons drawn to champion sprinter Hay List this race could be a spring board for a big future for this horse. Only concerns are the questionable opposition he has been beating and whether he will be able to match it with classier Sydney and Brisbane sprinters like Spirit of Boom and Hallowell Belle at weight-for-age from barrier 10. Despite this, the horse is favourite for a reason and looks to be all class.

6 Conservatorium (3) 58.5 Kg - Adelaide sprinter who has shown signs of being a good horse but hasn’t quite delivered on the big stage yet. Cant see him pulling through here either. Stepping up from a last start second in a rating 68 race to Group 1 weight for age is a massive step up and against some classy sprinters this will not be easy. From barrier 3 he’s likely to settle close to the speed and most likely weaken late. Not for me.

7 Travinator (1) 58.5 Kg - Progressive sprinter who like Barakey boasts an impressive record having won seven of his nine starts and most of them with ease. From barrier one and with Bossy on board, look for him to scoot to the front and try and burn the candle from end to end. If he can get some cheap sectionals and get a break on them around the turn he could be tough to run down. Whether he will run out a strong 1200m is a concern for me. He has not yet won over the distance and is likely to set up a strong tempo in the race which could work against him halfway up the straight when the back markers are running on. Has a chance.

8 Solsay (8) 58.5 Kg - Has a great record over 1200m having won six times over the distance and goes well over this track and distance. Having said that, this is a massive step up in class and I can't see this horse figuring in this race. Another horse that is likely to be up around the pace and likely to weaken towards the latter stages of the races. Not up to this.

9 Hallowell Belle (7) 56.5 Kg - One of two mares in the race, she has been running out of her skin this preparation, having been competitive during the Melbourne spring carnival with a fourth in the Manikato Stakes and an eye-catching third in the Patinack Classic. Looks like she will appreciate the weight-for-age conditions and is perfectly placed in this race. From barrier seven Corey Brown will most likely settle midfield or go back with the mare and with the race likely to be run at a hot speed she will be storming home down the outside with a big finish. Gai Waterhouse wouldn’t take a horse to Perth to run a place, she wants to win and this mare is ready to win. Has been unlucky this preparation and looks to be a classy mare, rates on top for me.

10 Power Princess (9) 56.5 Kg - This mare has run some outstanding races throughout her career including a third behind the mighty mare Black Caviar. She has an impressive first up record and has won over the track and distance three times from four attempts. Looks to be competitive in this race although the wide barrier could go against her. From the barrier expect her to settle midfield or to the rear and be charging home late. Whether she possesses the turn of foot to run some of these horses down is a concern for me. A rough chance.

Betting Strategy:

I'm very keen on Hallowell Belle here and although Barakey is undefeated I'm willing to risk him at the odds considering Hallowell Belle has already proven to be competitive at Group 1 level.

Win - #9 Hallowell Belle

Boxed Trifecta/First Four:
#1 Pinwheel,
#2 Spirit Of Boom
#5 Barakey
#9 Hallowell Belle


Friday, 16 November 2012

Henrietta Knight Handicap Chase preview

The Paddy Power Open meeting is underway at Cheltenham and regular contributor Jon da Silva, @creamontop, runs the magnifying glass over one of Saturday's features...

----------------

HENRIETTA KNIGHT HANDICAP CHASE

Nearly 3.5 miles of Cheltenham. Ground easy side.

I recall what I think was the first running of this and Royal Athlete bolting up under 12 stone. Maybe they should have called this race after his trainer Jenny Pitman. A woman who according to Charlie Brooks practically invented the the concept of Bullshit which despite its widespread and growing nature she does not get much credit for.

Top weight is Carruthers who having made us pattern matchers wince by nearly winning this last year and then handling a big field in the Hennessy has run 2 poor uns since then and topped them off with a refusal to race. Only a pound higher than Newbury win last year but beaten 14 in this last year. Likely to need it/find one too good/gone at the game.

TeaforThree [T43] the top plodding novice last year. I opposed his form in the Irish National and Scottish National and see no reason to stop now. To be fair handles most going and stays longer than a nasty rash.

Chicago Grey the year before that's top plodding novice. Beaten 51 lengths in this last year. However he could have been being got ready for the National and whilst he is a jumper who the best one can say is he gets from one side of an obstacle to another does have ability. Probably being got ready for another day in April although this would be a more realistic target.

Problema Tic managed to get to 144 without this obviously casual fan noticing. Young progressive. Put off by mark and that his French breeding does not scream stayer at me.

Harry the Viking 2nd top plodding novice 2012 see T43,

Galaxy Rock the defending champion not that this is a championship. Loves a bit of Chel' and goodish ground. Connections will be doing the opposite of a ran dance. Up 6 from last year's win. Arguable 17 runner field against him.

Ashkazar 2 from 3 in chases and likes the place. 141c v 151h suggest room for improvement. Has gone well off breaks.

Deal Done front runner majority of form suggests is more likely to be better over shorter.

Poker di Sivola the champion novice plodder of 2010. His mark was and is well below the next 2 winners - Chicago Grey and T43. Now this is not Timeform rigorous historical comparison but to me a hint those races could be considered over rated. This one got rated 136 and did bag the Whitbread/Betfred/WhoCares off that. Been off a year and would look at this one race after this. Not forlorn.

Any Currency up 8 for a recent Wincanton win after a couple of years of sterling but not winning form. Should find 1 or 2 too good.

Mon Mome likes it here. I have no idea as with most of Ms Williams horses but have him as a stayer who likes better ground but with some juice given he's not super quick. Recalling the Gold Cup where he appeared to inhale horses to be 30 lengths 3rd. PP0P does not encourage and despite my usual two quid because I'd hate to see him win without and I think he has another race somewhere passed over.

Bradley arguably unexposed hunter chaser albeit Ashkazar has a verdict on him for which he [Bradley] is 4lb better off. Probably close to ideal conditions.

Mostly Bob who has been mostly 2nd of late. Beat Mon Mome over the course last season but not sure what that is worth.

Viking Blond some hope in his early chase career and started over hurdles this season. One to consider as Twister like springing surprises at this meeting (or any meeting obviously)

King Fontaine seems too slow to me.

Fredo's not my brother and I don't love him but might be interesting if it got soft. Only 2 runs this far including a 2nd to Hey Big Spender at Warwick and a Scots Nat' Pulled up.

Monbeg Dude no evidence he's good enough. 1 win off 107.

Conclusion
=========

Race shapes as a test of my anti 4 mile National Hunt Novice Chase Theory. I'll be considering Ashkazar, Viking Blond and Bradley and maybe if we get rain Fredo will get a stay of execution before Al Neri gives him a bullet in the head. Preference for Ashkazar especially at 6/1 or more.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Zipping Classic preview

Spring is nearly over in Melbourne, the Flemington carnival has been and gone so now we move onto Sandown (one of two remaining Australian metropolitan tracks named after racecourses in England in case you were wondering - Ascot in Perth is the other one). Tasked with the preview is Kieran Fitzgerald, @kjob85, who will be attending Saturday's meeting as a prize winner from Sunday's #auspubquiz, courtesy of Melbourne Racing Club, @MRCTrackNews. Thanks again to the club for putting up the prizes.

------------------

As the final metropolitan meeting of the Spring Racing Carnival, Sandown Guineas Day offers a chance for a more relaxed meeting, providing a change of pace after the Melbourne Cup Carnival. The meet takes place in a more casual setting, while providing fans with some great racing. This includes the Sandown Cup raced over two miles (3200m) including racing up a big hill, and two Group 2 races, both featuring horses having their last chance at glory before the carnival finishes. The first of these is the Zipping Classic, formerly known as the Sandown Classic and renamed after the great Zipping won the race four years on the trot. Last year's winner was the crowd favourite and 2010 Melbourne Cup champion Americain.

Zipping Classic

Mourayan
The early favourite and, on recent form, clearly the horse to beat. Mourayan is from the Lloyd Williams stable – currently the toast of racing circles – and clearly this stable knows how to win this race, as it is named in honour of one of their champion horses. Mourayan is a proven stayer and recently finished a strong seventh in the Melbourne Cup, beating home the likes of Dunaden and Americain. Leading up to that race, he performed strongly in Sydney and at Flemington in the Makybe Diva Stakes. He is proven over this distance, and is carrying the same weight as most of the field.

Precedence
A Bart Cummings horse that returned to the winners' circle earlier this spring after dropping back in class after almost two years without a victory. This is a distance that suits this horse well, although he has trouble breaking through and usually finishes mid-field. Remarkably made the Melbourne Cup field despite frequent lacklustre performances and should find Group 2 beyond his reach.

Tanby
An often-overlooked stayer from the Lloyd Williams stable, Tanby has had strong form of late, with his most recent run being a third place to the freakish Puissance de Lune and Ironstein in the Queen Elizabeth. Tanby can be a frustrating horse, pulling out a string of strong performances before fading away. While this is his eighth run this prep, he should not be counted out and could well be up there on the day.

He's Hot to Trot
South Australian visitor racing in Melbourne for the first time. The markets have him has a long shot and despite performing strongly on his home turf, he has not beaten much of note and this would seem to be above his station.

Garud
Irish-bred gelding who is up in class. A proven performer over this distance and raced strongly on Cup Day to finish second to the classy Verdant over 2800m. Garud is a bit of a wildcard here – his form has been strong over this distance but the question is whether racing at this level will be too much for him. He has either ran ahead of or placed to some decent horses in the past and is well drawn here. Kerrin McEvoy delivered one of the best rides of the spring on Mental in the Patinack and is on board here. At value odds he is worth having a flutter.

Umatic
While Umatic has performed reasonably well over the past 12 months, this should prove too much for him, with his best performances coming against average horses.

Exceptionally
A horse that so often seems to be right up there, but has trouble breaking through. Did well to run third in the Lexus to Kellini (4th in the Melbourne Cup), and while she had a very poor run in the Geelong Cup, that was an odd race that has not shown much in the way of form indicators and was her only poor run this spring. Should finish strongly.

Dame Claire
Has performed well this spring, including a win at Mornington over this distance against decent opposition. Subsequent performances were noteworthy, although whether she can match it at this level is uncertain. Notably ran third to Tanby in the Bart Cummings, and 5th in the Lexus. While she is a strong performer, a place bet would be preferred here.

Rawnaq
Redoute's Choice colt who finished a strong third in the Victoria Derby. Leading up to that race, his performances had been unimpressive in Melbourne so his run in the Derby makes it difficult to predict how he will finish here. He has received some early favouritism in the markets, and one factor going in his favour is that he is carrying just 50.5 kg, a 6.5kg advantage on the next horses in the race and a 5kg drop from the Derby. On that alone he is worth considering, although he may find it harder going against the older horses here.

Suggested Bet
This is a very even affair with most horses paying around the same amount and potentially providing a good return. He's Hot to Trot and Umatic are the only two I would rule out straight away, and I can't take Precedence given his unimpressive record. Mourayan is the favourite, but in this kind of field I would need at least $2.50 to take him. Tanby and Garud offer better value and have every chance of winning. Take Garud for the win and trifecta him with Mourayan and Tanby, boxing in Exceptionally for some insurance.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Queen Elizabeth Stakes preview

The staying feature on the final day of the carnival is a rather handy one, with several horses who were a bit stiff to miss out on a Cup run. Take a look below at some of the previous winners too. Holding the magnifying glass to assess the form is @CJAAAAY07 from ThisWeeksPunt. After getting the Wakeful spot on last week, let's hope his run continues....

---------------

The Queen Elizabeth Stakes is the last staying contest of the Flemington carnival run at Group 3 level under handicap conditions. Over the 2600 metre course this race has become a target race in recent years for those horses which are balloted out of the Melbourne Cup with an additional $100,000 put on for the winner if they are unable to get a run in cup the Tuesday prior. The honour roll of the race is a real mix bag with the star horses Might and Power (1998) and Makybe Diva (2002) previously winning this race at short odds however the occasional blowout result has been known to occur like Ironstein (2011) and Sterling Prince (2009). This very well may be because some horses are coming to the end of long campaigns.

This year’s edition of the race appears to be of good quality. Topping the weights are two overseas runners Lost In The Moment and Shahwardi. Last year’s winner Ironstein is back and looks ready to peak along with 2010’s winner Moudre. The exciting runner of the field however is no doubt Puissance De Lune to be ridden by Glen Boss is coming off an eight length victory in the Bendigo cup and the lightly raced sun of Shamardal looks to be improving with every start.

The Runners;
Lost in the Moment (8) K McEvoy – First appearance in Australia since last year’s Melbourne cup 6th. His form in Europe doesn’t appear to be as strong this year with three of his last five runs resulting in further then six lengths defeat. Stable mate was poor in the Melbourne cup this year and with 58 kg’s in this race is worth risking.

Shahwardi (5) Michael Rodd – Comes off a huge win first up in Australia when couldn’t have looked more impressive at Caulfield. The Prix Kergorlay form the start prior in France has held up and second run in Australia I expect improvement. The 28 day freshen up combined with similar opposition to the Herbert Power he is a runner to watch.

Moudre (3) Steven Arnold – The 2010 winner of this race started his campaign back in September with an encouraging third to Southern Speed in the Makybe Diva stakes. Since that time he has put in two very poor runs with no sign of the strong sectional times we know him for. His record at the track is three wins from seven starts however with the injuries may need the rain to be effective today.

Folding Gear (1) Ben Melham – Encouraging run in the Caulfield cup when only beaten three lengths by Dunaden after copping interference down the straight. Interesting to note this horse has never drawn barriers 1-3 throughout career & does have the inside today. I expect they may push forward slightly today and hold a good position in running.

Tanby (4) Hugh Bowman – From the Melbourne Cup winning stable of Lloyd Williams, Tanby has been anything but consistent this campaign with a disappointing performance in the JRA stakes at Moonee Valley before winning the Bart Cummings at this track then wide and raced without cover last week in the Lexus. Six out of eight career wins have come at tracks Bendigo, Morphettville, Sale and Sandown which indicates to me he has been well placed by owner however perhaps a lack of class for top level races. Nevertheless gets barrier four today and with an easier run and lack of tempo up front should give a kick here.

The Verminator (6) Craig Newitt – Solid Sydney performer with a record of six starts at 2400M for two wins and two placings. Form around Glencadam Gold and Kelinni this spring with an okay 2nd last start in the Tatts Club Cup at Randwick. However If you take a line through Fiumicino in that race who was only 0.4L behind in 4th it is hard to see that form measuring up here.

Ironstein (9) Brenton Avdulla – Last year’s winner of this race looks to be working into peak form for another tilt at this race. A poor ride last start from Avdulla in the Moonee Valley cup cost him any chance of victory when turning for home. I do believe this year’s race is a harder edition then the one he took out last year and with extra weight the task may be too much to replicate.

Lightinthenite (2) James McDonald – The stable has a high opinion of this son of Galileo with talk of Caulfield cup being the main aim for 2013. I liked the run at Caulfield after having to work hard to get clear to win then raced on Tuesday in what appeared to be an suitable race over 1800M with 60kgs. I wonder if that run was a plan all along with this race in mind as he has won four from five when only breaking between 0-14 days. McDonald gets a perfect gate to stalk the leaders with and if the stable think he is a cups horse next year we may just find out at the top of the straight.

Vatuvei (11) Vlad Duric - A St Ledger winner as a 3 year old Vatuvei appears to be improving each campaign. Took out the Moonee Valley cup last start while his opposition were getting blocked for runs everywhere. Expect Duric to take him back to last, if the track is favouring swoopers include him however I think he needs the sting out of the ground to be effective here.

Excluded (14) Nicholas Hall – Do we forgive a Lloyd Williams runner for one bad run? Well maybe if they had the talent of Green Moon! Excluded was building nicely after a strong 2nd to Shahwardi in the Herbert Power (not 1.5kgs better off). I am concerned about the slow recovery & sustained abrasions from only a week ago in the Lexus and with barrier 14 this time, it’s a no from me.

Puissance De Lune (7) Glen Boss – Is this one going to fall into the Might and Power or Makybe Diva category for this race after Saturday? I think it is possible! First up 5th to fellow cup week winner Lord of Brazil followed up with a five length win and then an eight length win last start in the Bendigo cup. Barrier 7 should allow Glen Boss to find the perfect spot in running and I think this one has one more peak performance to give.

Dare To Dream (12) Damien Oliver – Unlucky not to make the cup field in what was a rough race last week. Gets in this race with a low weight after not being able to be penalized for any of his Australian performances as yet. Barrier 12 and a jockey under severe pressure is not something I want to follow and I also am concerned with the imports ability to back up for now the 4th run in six weeks (twice in a week on hard tracks).

Streaky Fella (10) Dwayne Dunn – Hamilton Cup was a handy race however I don’t believe it rates up to a standard for this old boy to feature especially from 4 lengths off that winner who we have already seen this week not measure up in a lesser race.

Miss With Attitude (13) Jimmy Cassidy – Hard to see this one turning around a 9 length defeat to the 11 within the space of two weeks. Seems to have lost her turn of foot in recent years which is sign her racing days may be coming to an end.

For me this field is relatively even besides one runner who stands out on progressive ratings which is the 11. Puissance De Lune. Glen Boss aboard with a light weight coming off a career peak last start and out to the bigger track and longer straight which should suit from a perfect barrier. With the bookies having a good week so far I would expect them to take on this favourite and I think the punters should oblige. In terms of the place chances there is some value here, the pick is the 8. Lightinthenite coming off what looked to be a preparation run with 60 kgs mid week, gets the good barrier this time and can take a sit. Take it in the place market.

Best Bet – 11. Puissance De Lune
Best Place 8. Lightinthenite

Patinack Stakes preview

What a great sprint race we have here, and at weight-for-age too. It's pretty short odds this will be last running of the race under this sponsorship too given Nathna Tinkler's financial troubles at the moment. Often the most competitive sprints are in handicaps because there's a star in the mix, this time there are many top class sprinters, and no Black Caviar or Hay List, so the form needs to be analysed thoroughly. Once again, the very talented Michael Courts, @mtcourts, takes the reins.

----------------

The four-day Flemington carnival closes with Emirates Stakes Day, a day headlined by two Group 1 races: the eponymous race over a mile, and the Patinack Farm Classic (1200m) down the straight. The great mare Black Caviar has won the two previous renewals of the latter race, but with her absent this year it looms as a competitive betting proposition with some of Australia’s top sprinters engaged.

In saddlecloth order, here is a runner-by-runner preview of the Patinack. Let’s hope we can find the winner to take us out of the carnival on a good note.

#1 Buffering had a rare off night in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes last time out, fading into sixth. On face value, and given he started close to odds-on, he was disappointing, but he got pestered in front by Satin Shoes when he probably needed a softish lead before stacking them up on the bend. His straight track form is outstanding without winning – beaten only by a couple of handy types named Black Caviar and Hay List at his last three runs here – and I’m confident he’ll bounce back and win if right. Top pick.

#2 Temple of Boom is the first of the two ‘Boom’ brothers for Tony Gollan and is a horse who loves the straight and has been aimed at this race since the start of his prep. His prep runs have been OK without screaming ‘back me next time’, and while he could use a spot of rain on what’s been a firm Flemington track, he’s in with a chance.

#3 Spirit of Boom comes in with better form this prep than his more heralded half-brother, and was seriously unlucky in the Yellowglen (formerly the Salinger) over this track/trip on Derby Day. I suspect while he’s not without a hope, he’d prefer a handicap over wfa and the inside draw is a worry given how the track played on Thursday.

#4 Ready to Rip is a former Queenslander who has impressed in his first prep for Peter Moody, who has been successful in this race the past two years. However I don’t think he’s up to these class-wise, unless the rain comes.

#5 Mental got the suck run along the rails in the Manikato Stakes first-up and smashed the line to finish second to Sea Siren. It’s often said you need to be able to run a strong 1400 to be competitive down the straight and in a high-pressure Group 1 like this will prove no exception to that rule. Mental ticks that box and is a definite winning hope.

#6 Tiger Tees is another who comes out of the Yellowglen last weekend where he stuck on well for third. In the past he’s raced best when his starts have been spaced, but the decision to back him up from a smart stable should be respected. I think he’s a touch below these in terms of class, though.

#7 Bel Sprinter was once thought of as the heir apparent to Black Caviar and Hay List as Australia’s finest sprinter, but he’s been mixing his form lately. His best form has been around a bend, and his run in the Gilgai was ultra disappointing here yet he did have the inside gate on that occasion. I’m (not so bravely, given his price!) potting him in this.

#8 Fontelina won the Yellowglen last weekend at the relatively unfancied quote of $13. While he rises 4.5kg to wfa this week, I feel he is silly odds ($26) for a horse clearly on the up and certain to take improvement from that run. Best roughie in the race to my eye.

#9 Howmuchdoyouloveme has been at the centre of a ‘tubing’ investigation all week that started on Saturday morning and probably caused his alarming betting drift in the Yellowglen, where he was the first horse beaten. His win first-up in the Caulfield Sprint was very smart but I’ve got a big question mark over the quality of that field. I think if he was right he’d be up to his eyeballs in this race but the remaining doubts over his fitness make him difficult to have with any confidence.

#10 Sea Siren comes in as favourite after what ended up being a soft win from a classic Jim Cassidy ride in the Manikato Stakes. She got everything in her favour that night and is nothing if not a winner, with three G1s and a G2 to her name from just nine starts. She shouldn’t have any problems handling the straight and is on a trial for a trip to Hong Kong for the international sprint next month. Has to rate very highly.

#11 Hallowell Belle has been super consistent since returning to the Gai Waterhouse stable, missing a place just once (when fourth last start to Sea Siren) in eight runs for the Lady Trainer. She won the Gilgai here impressively last month and gets Craig Williams to steer. It’s hard to see her turning the tables on Sea Siren based on the Valley run with no weight pull but I have her in for third here, and it wouldn’t shock if she wins. Include in quaddies.

#12 Satin Shoes is the despised outsider of the field at $81 and it’s definitely hard to make a case for her other than an in-form jockey and stable. If she can get a soft lead, maybe a rough place chance but she does tend to fall away at this point in her preparation.

#13 Lone Rock is a Group 3 winner down the straight and a Group 1 winner in Adelaide but it’s hard to see her causing an upset here, and at $19 even looks unders to me. Hasn’t run a place in over a year and beaten into last (though by not far) last time out. No.

#14 Fire Thunderbolt is the first of two three year olds, both of which are backing up after unplaced performances in the Coolmore Stud Stakes last weekend. He hit the line OK for seventh after being stuck behind some tired horses and the weight pull he gets here on older horses at wfa is significant, but I think he’s just too raw for something this tough.

#15 Snitzerland is the other three year old in the race after her fifth in last week’s Coolmore where she looked to have every possible chance. I wrote last week she looked a tired horse based on her Blue Sapphire run (and she raced accordingly last weekend), so I can’t fathom why she’s being backed up. Significant weight pull but looking for the spelling paddock, surely.

Selections: I am tipping an upset, and going for Buffering to finally get that Group 1 and turn the tables on Sea Siren – but not by much. I have Hallowell Belle in for third and Fontelina is well overs, while the ‘Boom’ brothers and Mental should be thereabouts. Best of luck all!

1-10-11-8-3

Final race of the carnival

Let's hope we're all still in the quaddie or Big 6 by the last race. Typically, it's not the easiest of races, so we need a decent analysis. Here to preview it is another newcomer, Simon Baird - @sbaird80

-----------------

Race 9 - Emirates Airline Handicap

1. Launay – Quality Snowden runner that hasn’t produced his best this campaign after a promising first up run. Finished two and half of lengths off the smart Callanish last start and is continuing to carry his share of weight courtesy of previous consistent performances. Lack of faith from jockey (see Chasse) a concern but wins if he produces his best.

2. Instinction – Talented entire on his day but probably concentrating on his manhood more than racing at times. Has been frustrating this time in but Mick Price has remained confident he is on the right track and that is a good sign. Goes well at Flemington recording a win and place here in four runs and has won twice at the distance. Include.

3. Utah Saints – Solid effort in the Sale Cup when spec’d at odds. On pacer who is suited better back at the 1400m and if Sertorius runs well in race 3 will come in sharply in the market. If you like him I advise to take the early price.

4. Chasse – The other Snowden runner who interestingly McEvoy has chosen to ride. Good record at the track but suspect will need a bit further. If he gets clear room he will be winding up out wide and steaming home.

5. Mr Make Believe – Scratched from Mornington Sunday for this due to the hard track and will most likely get another one here. On pacer who needs it soft to produce his best and not sure the Moody runners are firing this week.

6. Testascana – Ex Moody runner who is going well for new stable. Form around Fawkner speaks volumes although struggling to win. Jockey doesn’t win out of turn.

7. Shamardashing –Stayer first up over the 1400m here. Patinack horses going well and wouldn’t surprise to see him running on strongly at the end.

8. Tokugawa – Talented gelding and rated highly going by the class of races he’s been in of late. Nice little weight drop from WFA last start where he put in a good run. Form is stronger than most of these. Significant jockey engagement.

9. Down Under Boy – Winner this race last year at $81 when swooped hard. Didn’t look like losing that race but couldn’t crack another win that campaign. Lightening doesn’t strike in the same place twice.

10. Snow Cover – Mixes form but has shown ability in the past at this track. Only placed once in four goes at the distance and gate makes it tough for this galloper.

11. Under the Hat – Interesting runner. Has close second to December Draw here and always been highly rated by John Sadler. Another talented Helenus galloper. Big chance

12. Hot Spin – Once group sprinter gone off the boil. Been “spinning” his wheels of late and costly for punters. Showed some return to form last start but step up to 1400m a query.

13. Berenger – Anthony Freedman runner who is doing a good job after taking over from his big brother. Not sure this guy’s is up to this level yet though. Probably needs another 2kgs off to be competitive

14. Regalmania – Country class galloper tested here.

15. Ametsis – Scratched.

Summary: Really like Under the Hat to suit the pattern and swoop home here. Throwing in Togukawa, Instinction, Utah Saints and Chasse as place chances. Good luck!

Matriarch Stakes Preview

The final day of the Flemington carnival is a cracker and this mares' race has an exceptionally talented favourite... but is it that simple for this leg of the quaddie? Dissecting the race in detail is Rick Williams from Champion Picks. Follow him on Twitter via @Rick_WilliamsCP

Pacemap


***Please note map is 'pre settling' positions

Map notes
Kasane took a sit handy to the speed on Cup day and with the step out to 2000m we expect that they will look to cross early and get a sit handy which looks the place to be. Khandallah should work over to lead them up without hassle as there is little speed inside of her. The rest just look like they will all fall into place.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Runner notes (short)
Strong chance
Some chance
No chance

1 SILENT ACHIEVER (NZ) - Came off of a hot speed at MV to beat good field. At WFA. 2000 record great. Unders

2 INVEST - 2000m G1 winner. Excellent last week when +9.1 at 1600. Ready for strong 2000

3 MIDNIGHT MARTINI - Not suited last start in slowly ran race. Cranbourne Cup win excellent

4 CRAFTY IRNA - #2 +11.5 2000 RHIL three back. Nice draw, well weighted, D Oliver.

5 KASANE - Excellent win Cup day. +1kg here. great on the map, race cup day strong

6 FULL OF SPIRIT - Meets Invest 2.5kg better for 0.90L. Big finish, looking for 2000

7 LAKE SENTENTIA - Great win last start. Negative final split though so working around.

8 MANILA JEWEL - Can't win. Needs to make up 6.2L to beat Lake Sententia. Can't improve that much

9 KHANDALLAH - Was excellent last start as was a sitting duck and only Lake Sententia beat her. Too hard here

10 ROCK HIT - Got too far back at MV. Worked very hard though the middle stages of the races then died on the run

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Race overview
Silent Achiever won very well last start but has come up very short. She is going to get back, probably just an even tempo but she has a good sprint on her and that can get her out of trouble. She does look risky at the shorts from back there. Crafty Irna ran very big three back in the Stout Hearted race, she looks to be value around the $10 and does appeal more at 2000m. Invest and Full Of Spirit both come through the same race, Full Of Spirit gets the weight swing but Invest was stronger over the concluding stages. Both have performed well at 2000 in the past and Invest looks a big price at $41. Kasane ran very well on Cup day and beat some mares who had been racing very well, this is a step up but she looks to me like she will get herself into a good spot in the run and if she can repeat the Cup day effort then she is going to be in the finish. Midnight Martini just wasn't suited at Moonee Valley as they went so slow through the first part of the race. Her form looks solid through the Cranbourne Cup but I just feel that she has probably peaked this prep and some of the others haven't . Happy to stay away from the runners coming through the MV night meeting in Rock Hit, Lake Sententia and Khandallah.

What to do
Silent Achiever looks a star so we don't really want to charge into taking it on but some small e/w bets against her look a fair option. Kasane at $31 looks a big price and can be backed each way, so can Invest at $41. Don't go too silly (small risk high reward play)but if you shape your bets 1 x 3 and go small we only need one to run a place to make some dollars. If one wins it’s a fill up.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Emirates Stakes Preview

The VRC Spring Carnival at Flemington concludes on Saturday with the headline event being $1m Emirates Stakes over the metric mile. In theory it's a handicap, but without the emergencies (17-20), there is only 3.5kg between top and bottomweights. It's a top class race that I look forward to every year, and I wish Racing Victoria would make this an early nominations race, so we can excited about this one for weeks in advance too - the betting could be very interesting.

Anyhow, writing the preview for this feature race is a debutant, Tom Stewart. I reckon this is an admirable contribution on debut, it's a tough race to pick as you'll see by the odds comparison (scroll down to R6). You can follow on Twitter @tstewcav26

-----------------

2012 Emirates Stakes - Group 1 (1600m)

1 Fat Al - Coming off a month freshen up and a tough win in the Epsom,this gelding out of Al Maher looks perfectly placed. Despite the topweight he has drawn well and Tommy Berry has a good affinity with this horse. His recent trial suggests that he is going to be peaking for this race. Look for him to jump to the lead and if Berry can control the tempo similar to the way he did on Glencadam Gold in the Melbourne Cup, Fat Al will be hard to catch.

2 Happy Trails - This horse has form over Green Moon in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes and is coming back from the Cox Plate to the Mile here which I think suits better. From the wide barrier look for him to get back and if the pace is on he will be storming home late, only worry for me with him is the weight but coming back from weight-for-age I don't think it poses too much of an issue. I think he represents great each-way value and rates highly for me.

3 Playing God - This horse has been staring at the rump of some stars most his life such as Black Caviar and hasn't been able to show his true ability. Coming off a first up 3rd in the Group 3 Prince of Wales at Ascot I can't see him featuring here, this is a massive step up and he hasn't showed me enough to be competitive at this level.

4 Solzhenitsyn - He has been running out of his skin this preparation and this was evident with a win over a quality field in the Toorak beating the likes of More Joyous. As a horse that gets back and likes to fly late I'm a bit concerned about where he might be in running from barrier 2, but if Corey Brown can negate that he will be right in the finish.

5 Wall Street - Perhaps we saw a bit of the Wall Street of old with his third behind the race favourite Fawkner last week. It will be interesting to see how he backs up a week later and from the wide barrier I can't see this horse figuring in the finish. Maybe a place chance.

6 Ambidexter - What a consistent horse he is and he has continued to be competitive this preparation, most notably his close second behind Fat Al in the Epsom. He has drawn perfectly in barrier 7 and with the in-form McEvoy on board look for him to get a perfect run about midfield. Not my top rater but certainly is competitive.

7 He's Remarkable - He has showed a lot of promise throughout his career and lost in a farcical protest in last year's Group 1 Railway Stakes. Since returning from a successful spring last year he hasn't quite been able to recapture the form that would see him be competitive in this race. Not up to this.

8 Secret Admirer - This chestnut mare is as honest as the day is long and although her aim was the Caulfield Cup this preparation I think she is peaking for this race and is perfectly suited over the mile. She has drawn the widest barrier which I see as an advantage for this horse as she can get back and storm home late. She has been unlucky this preparation and run into alot of dead ends, from the wide gate she should settle at the rear and get a clear run into the straight where she can let loose down the outside. Big chance!

9 Streama - Total forgive run in the Myer last week, in a race where there wasn't much speed Bowman decided to take up the running and although it worked in the Tristarc, she is better ridden cold. From barrier 16 expect Bowman to settle midfield or towards the rear to let the mare relax and settle into her rhythm. With Fat Al likely to set up a decent tempo up front the race will be run to suit this mare and she has the turn of foot to put this field away. Big threat!

10 Fawkner - Has been beating questionable opposition but the way in which he is winning is the trademark of a classy horse. He has been able to sit off a hot speed and charge home for emphatic wins his last three starts, all at Listed level. It is a stark contrast to Group 1 level and where he settles from barrier 3 could be a worry but I have no doubt Nick Hall will give him a sweet ride. He will relish the 1600 and is highly fancied by many in this race. Up against a classy field on Saturday this will be his biggest test, if Green Moon is anything to go by then this horse is in with a serious chance.

11 Happy Zero - This horse has a good winning strike rate having won eight of his 24 starts and is in good hands under the care of the Hawkes team. Whether this is the right race for him I'm not sure. He has been unsuccessful at this track and distance previously and his runs this preparation don't suggest that he will be able to mix it with a classy Group 1 field. Not for me.

12 Rolling Pin - What a preparation this horse is having, as a five-year-old he is probably hitting his peak and it has shown with a group 3 and group 2 win under his belt along with a tough third behind Fat Al in the Epsom. Backing up from the Yellowglen a week later into the Emirates isn't ideal and I think this horse is crying out for a trip to the paddock. At his best a place perhaps.

13 Yosei - This mare has been gallant throughout the spring and hasn't had an ounce of luck go her way. She has been competitive in Group 1 Company all and despite being unlucky again in the Myer she never seemed to respond to riding in the straight which might suggest she's winding down this preparation. Also the addition of glue-on shoes is a negative for me, Can't see her figuring here.

14 Pear Tart - This mare looks to have a lot of ability, which was highlighted with a Group 1 Victory in the Tatts Tiara during the Brisbane Carnival. Having said that, this victory was over 1400m and I don't think this horse is a miler. In the Myer she loomed as a threat but hit a flat spot and it was a run that suggested to me she is better suited to a shorter trip. If this was a 1400m race she would be one of my top picks but at the mile she doesn't figure for me.

15 Smokin Joey - He showed some ability with smart wins in town last preparation and looked to be a progressive galloper. Unfortunately this preparation we haven't seen the best of Smokin Joey and perhaps the connections are setting their standards a bit high here. I can't see him being competitive in this race although he is better suited over the mile and showed slight improvement last start for those that want to back him.

16 Spirit Song - This is another horse that is having a very honest and consistent preparation with placings behind smart horses such as the undefeated Callanish and Solzhenitsyn in the Toorak. She likes the mile and has won previously over the distance at Flemington. With a low weight and Craig Williams steering her from barrier 12 she will be competitive. Blowout chance.

17 Free Wheeling - Looks to be a progressive horse and is racing well this preparation. He started with an impressive first up win over 1200m at Listed level and was second behind the highly rated Fawkner last start over 1400m in a Group 3. Looks to be progressing well and will be peaking for this race, I question whether he has the class and turn of foot to be competitive against these quality milers and I'm worried he might be left behind when the others are posing for the photo. Might be outclassed.

18 Star Of Giselle - This mare is flying. She has been winning in excellent style at listed and Group 3 Level. In her past three starts she has been afforded soft leads and she has been able to kick clear of the opposition at the top of the straight. She might not be able to get away with it here and from the wide alley and With Fat Al the other natural leader she will not be afforded an easy lead. This is a big step up and things will not go her way here. Likely to finish in the back half of the field.

19 Over Quota - This gelding loves the mile and has won over the distance at Flemington before, having said that it was in a lot weaker grade. Recent form suggests that he is not up to this and so do his odds. Not for me.

20 Strike The Stars - Another horse that has shown a lot of ability but hasn't delivered on the big stage yet. Since resuming this preparation he hasn't shown the ability that we expected from him and has seemed rather flat-footed. Despite this, the horse has good form at the track running an eye catching 2nd behind Mosheen in the Australian Guineas earlier this year. I would have Mosheen as my top rater if she was in this race and if Strike The Stars can reproduce that form than he is a blowout chance at big odds with a low weight.

Betting Strategy:
- #2 Happy Trails at odds of around $15-16 I'm happy to go each way on him and then have a boxed trifecta or first 4 with ( #2 Happy Trails, #4 Solzhenitsyn, #8 Secret Admirer, #9 Streama, #10 Fawkner). For those that want a bit more value chuck in #16 Spirit Song.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Oaks Day preview

Day three of the Flemington Carnival - note that in Australia, we prefer to give people a day to refresh, do the form, say hi to the missus etc before heading back to the track. Helps maintain the track surface too. Michael Courts, @mtcourts, is the man for the preview of some of the key races on the programme.

--------------------

It may used to have been traditionally known as Ladies’ Day, but these days Oaks Day is now widely known as “Blokes Day” as – especially this year – punters are left to pick up the pieces after a Melbourne Cup day that left the bookies cashed-up.

I’ll be trackside attempting to do just that, so here’s a look at three races that catch my eye.

Race 5 – The Greys race, 1400m
One of the more quaint traditions of Australian racing is the all-greys race, always programmed the race before the big one on Oaks Day every year. The greys race is always a competitive betting proposition, and this year is no different: my advice for the middle two days of the Melbourne Cup carnival is to tread carefully as so many horses go around purely for owners’ tickets (which is totally fair enough, but it makes that bit hard to line up form).

This year I think there is a real box-ticker in the race in #5 SPECTER for Anthony Freedman and the Pumper, Jimmy Cassidy. After two good runs in 1200m races, he gets out to 1400m, a trip he won at at this track last spring. He usually goes around in better races than this, and at $6.50 looms as an excellent play even on an each-way basis. By Oaks Day, the general rule is that the Flemington track starts to play to swoopers, and off a decent tempo the Pumper should be able to settle him midfield – even if a little wide – and come down the outside to salute.

R6 – Crown Oaks, 2500m
The day’s feature is almost a repeat match race of Saturday’s traditional Oaks lead-up, the Wakeful Stakes. Once again though, I just can’t go past the favourite, #2 ZYDECO, once again for Anthony Freedman with Kerrin McEvoy steering. She’s been given a perfect Oaks lead-up, including a smart third in the Thousand Guineas when she was taken almost on a trial run by Michael Rodd, tracking wide and running home. It was a run that should have seen her start the pronounced favourite on Saturday, however she fought it out in betting with #1 DEAR DEMI who had much the same run she did in the Thousand Guineas in having to weave her way past tired horses to get a run. I will pot Dear Demi again here as I just think she’s one of those horses who screams ‘back me next time’ every time, but the wide draw sure helps.

If you’re looking for one with a bit value, the Kiwi #9 KATE has James McDonald, who came agonisingly close to winning the Cup on Tuesday, aboard. She was a much improved fifth on Saturday and as the adage goes, they don’t travel horses for a holiday...

R8 – 50 Years Fashions On Field, 1000m
For a listed sprint this sure has attracted a crack field. I really like the look of #13 I GET AROUND for Paul Perry and Glen Boss, which will probably run favourite in the race after Cup day winner Unpretentious is taken out. He got on the wrong leg at Moonee Valley when sent out a short-priced favourite and still managed a close second, and evidence (Fastnet Rock, Choisir...) suggests Perry knows exactly how to prepare his gallopers for straight track Flemington sprints.

The market watch will be on #3 WINTER KING, which resumes with his first run for the Stephen Brown stable – Brown being a noted trainer of ‘cast-offs’ who has some serious success with the likes of Sea Lord and Bolton. He’s been placed at both of his Flemington runs behind smart horses like We’re Gonna Rock and Master Harry, so if there is money for him he is a definite threat. I’m not sure if he’ll back up, but #1 GOLDEN ARCHER is advantaged by the set weights and penalties scale if he does run, however he has been up for a while and been toughing it out in some higher quality races – I’m happy to pot him if he does end up running.

That’s all from me – I hope we all have some better luck than the first two days of the carnival, which can only be described as blow-outs. Good punting!