Saturday, 31 August 2013

Woodward Stakes preview

The lead-in to the Breeders Cup provides some great American racing as the older horses take their share of the spotlight, rather than the classic generation who hog the attention around the Triple Crown. Tonight, at 2245 BST, we see the running of the time-honoured Woodward Stakes from Saratoga. Penning the preview is US racing aficionado and regular blog contributor Jon da Silva, @creamontop.

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Woodward Grade 1 9 Furlongs

The Travers was where the three year olds were meant to lay down a marker but the hissing sound was Verrazano's bubble letting down - only excuse is he may be a best fresh. Will Take Charge is sneaky good in that not high time figures but has decisions over Oxbow and now the Travers field. Palace Malice probably the best of his generation despite his 3rd.

Now the older horses get to set out markers for the Breeders Cup and Horse of the Year honours in Saratoga's Woodward. Sadly Cross Traffic and Fort Larned are out. Otherwise this would have been a mid summer classic. The Whitney's 2nd 3rd 4th reacquaint with 6 scheduled to do combat if that is not the wrong metaphor at present. Best current UK prices (Coral (win only) and Lads). The pace looks to be Paynter but let's not take anything for granted.

1. Ron The Greek 10/1
Ran like Jimmy the Greek Snyder the other week. Possibly sucked into too early a move by the pace but has two to beat who beat him then. I can swerve him this time even at bigger odds in a lesser race. He's not quite been on in four starts this year but is only six it could be he's just not had it right. Tempting price.

2. Successful Dan 2/1
Wise's half brother and managed 2nd in the Whitney after throwing his jockey off and falling over prior. Mad'un! Out closed Ron the Greek last time but neither will likely have that pace to close into here. Looked an out and out stayer and if the Breeders Cup were at Churchill I'd be sneaky looking for him to do a Drosselmeyer sadly it's at speedbowl Santa Anita. UK Bookies have reacted like this was a turf race for me in making Successful Dan the favourite on collateral form I assume. Indeed he started 6s as did fellow closer Ron the Greek last time now 2s and 10s.

3. Fort Larned
scratched

4. Flat Out 5/1
Belmont's favourite son give or take Secretariat. Sadly this is Saratoga. Flat Out will be forward placed likely but not in the lead. He's run to 126 twice at Belmont on Timeform US speed ratings 118 at Saratoga or for you Brisnet boys out there his 2nd best rating in his last 10 starts was 108 at Saratoga (118 at Belmont) when Ron the Greek beat him when both behind Fort Larned in the 2012 Whitney. He is a very solid horse.

5. Paynter 10/3
Nearly died. Nearly won a classic. Will likely get the lead. Biggest TF figure is on synths this year when he had the run of a lesser race. His win over Nonios in the Haskell last year even with a likely favourable trip here does not make me think he necessarily holds off the others. Could be overbet on the PMU to boot ***STORY HORSE****. Take UK prices if you like him and want to be one of those with misty eyes as he returns to the winner's enclosure - 2/1 Morning Line with Fort Larned in the race.

6. Mucho Macho Man 9/2
I give the impression if he were to transported back 30 years he'd be 3 lengths off Secretariat in the Belmont and to be fair he could not pass To Honor and Serve last year in this or Fort Larned at the Breeders Cup or Cross Traffic last time. Has arguably the best form and likely to be suited by a tow in 2nd or 3rd. Hates a wet track by some evidence. DNF and a rating 40 clicks below best on sloppy tracks, There is actually no evidence he is anything but genuine.

7. Alpha 25/1
A Beta Male. Racing is a funny sport but it would not be funny if this Goat won, mostly because I said that prior. Dual 3yo Group 1 winner in form that has worked out terribly. Arguably of those who did not retire in the classics Paynter was near the top of last year's 3yo class this one less so. ***GOAT***

Conclusion

The Greek has been slightly off this year but would appeal more at UK odds although race does not appear to be a pace special setting up for a closer. Successful Dan is too short. I think Paynter gets passed and Alpha is not good enough under any reasonable scenario to win. The Greek under Paynter/MMM/FO might be rewarding but as a UK punter I only think win only.

Flat Out figures to get a great stalking trip and handles the wet Lads 5s stands out but 7/2 fair enough although suspect Mucho may be pulled. On fast it would have been Mucho Macho Man for me but the going is sloppy.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Football Form Labs - weekend preview

Sports betting has evolved in recent years, gut instinct and opinion have mostly been replaced by databases and algorithmic trading models. One of the very best of those is Football Form Labs who have shared their wisdom with a preview of some of this week's action. You can also follow Football Form Labs on Twitter, @footballformlab

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Football Form Labs provide the most effective football betting software on the market with the ability to analyse games both pre-match and in-play across 50 different leagues. You can also generate your own models and see the statistical impact players have when they are missing.

Form Lab Black is down from £150pm to £40pm – Try Form Lab Black here with Promo-code: FLBPROMOMONTHLY

Form Lab MAX is down from £75pm to £20pm – Try Form Lab Max here with Promo-code: FLMPROMONTHLY


MATCH PREVIEWS

Liverpool v Man Utd


It will probably be said in the build up to this match that David Moyes has never won at Anfield in the Premier League, but then again he’s never gone there as favourites with Robin van Persie leading the attack. Strangely, though, the bookies don’t think he’s favourite this time either.

Liverpool are still without the suspended Luis Suarez and while their record of W6-D1-L0 without the Uruguayan since the start of last season looks impressive the best team they’ve faced in those games was Everton, a game they drew 0-0, and they’ve scored just twice in the three home matches he’s missed. Moreover, Liverpool have lost five and won only one of their last seven meetings with the Red Devils and in the past two seasons their record of hosting top four finishers is just W0-D5-L3.

Man Utd have lost just one of their last 19 away games, winning 13 times, and in the past two seasons they’ve gone W8-D7-L3 away to top-half finishers. Moyes has an almost fully fit team and 2.9 is a huge price for the champions. However, the draw arguably looks slightly better value and we’d split stakes between the draw at 3.4 and the away win at 2.9.

Liverpool’s ability to unlock a good defence without Suarez is doubtful and with their own excellent defensive record at home of 12 clean sheets in their last 17 home matches under-goals looks likely. After a shaky start to last season for their defence when they conceded twice in each of their opening three home games – admittedly against Man Utd, Man City and Arsenal – nine of Liverpool’s last 17 home games have had -2.5 goals with seven having -1.5.

Eight of the 10 meetings between these teams since 2008/09 have actually had more than two goals but this tends to be the quieter fixture with three of the last four at Anfield being goalless at the break and both -2.5 goals at 2.0 and the second half to be the highest scoring period at 2.2 are both attractive looking bets.

Borussia Moenchengladbach v Werder Bremen

M’gladbach won their opening home game comfortably but have lost their other two matches, which have been tough trips to Leverkusen and Bayern. They’ve lost only two of their last 12 home matches, where they tend to be strong, and those were against Bayern and Schalke at the end of last season. In fact when removing last season’s top five their home record is an impressive W9-D2-L2 with seven wins to nil and seven having been ahead by half-time.

Werder Bremen won their opening two games before losing at Dortmund last weekend. Those wins were against likely relegation candidates and although they lost by just one at Dortmund it really should have been by more. Werder lost at eight of the top 10 finishers last season, and the year before they lost at all the top nine so they tend to struggle on the road. They are unlikely to be as gung-ho under Robin Dutt as they were under the legendary Thomas Schaaf but while they may keep it tight early on, and so we’d avoid the half-time/full-time result the home team look decent value favourites and Moenchengladbach can be backed at 1.85.

All three of Werder’s games under Dutt have had exactly one goal and without Schaaf in charge and De Bruyne as playmaker they look much weaker offensively. Given 10 of Moenchengladbach’s last 15 home games have featured fewer than three goals, with only Bayern and Leverkusen scoring more than once here, under 2.5 goals looks a big price at 2.16. Furthermore, Werder Bremen’s last five away matches where they’ve failed to score before half-time have all ended with fewer than three goals and M’gladbach have conceded before the break in just two of their last 12 home games.

FC Ural v Rubin Kazan

FC Ural are a promoted team in Russia and they’ve not got off to the best start with just one win in their opening six games but they got a draw at home against the defending champions CSKA and with such large distances between the teams home advantage could be key for them this season.

They’ve conceded just one first half goal in four home matches and while Spartak and CSKA both went on to score twice hey kept a clean sheet in their most recent home game. Rubin are very tough to beat but they’ve not won in nine away days and they’ve scored just once in their last four matches as they’ve had three goalless draws. While FC Ural are a bit of an unknown Kazan look a bit too short and promoted teams have lost only 42% of home games against top-half sides since 2008 so we’d back Ural on the Asian Handicap +0.5 at 1.97.

We’ve mentioned Ural’s decent home stats in the first half and the fact that there have been very few goals in Kazan games so ‘unders’ looks a possibility here. Six of Kazan’s last nine trips to promoted teams have had -2.5 goals as have eight of their last 11 on the road when failing to score before half-time (5/11 -1.5 goals). Under 2.5 goals looks a good price at 1.78.

Please note that we advise keeping stakes low with the winter leagues until they are more developed as the early weeks tend to be inconsistent.

Using Football Form Labs you can identify thousands of betting opportunities every week across over 40 different leagues.

PLAYER ANALYSIS
Using Form Lab Black’s player analysis tool we look at a couple of Championship players who will be missing this weekend and see what that might mean. N.B. Appearances mentioned below relate to starting and completing an hour unless otherwise specified.

Premier League

Man City vs. Hull


Vincent Kompany, Defender and Captain, Man City

Kompany has missed 14 matches since the start of last season and Man City’s performances have suffered in these fixtures. Without him, their loss percentage increases from 8% to 36%, and their average goals conceded per game increases by 0.44. Furthermore, in their last 50 home games they are unbeaten with Kompany present but have lost 18% of matches without him.

La Liga

Real Sociedad v Atletico Madrid


Arda Turan, Midfielder, Atletico Madrid

Turan was sent off in midweek having already been substituted and since the start of last season Atletico have won only 6/11 matches without him. Moreover, six of the 11 games have had fewer than three goals compared to 64% of the matches he’s played in having +2.5 strikes.

Valladolid v Getafe

Patrick Ebert, Midfielder, Valladolid

Ebert has missed 19 of 40 games since the start of last season and Valladolid’s win rate has fallen from 38% with him to just 16% without. Furthermore, they’ve won just two of eight home matches that he’s missed.

Form Lab Black can analyse the impact players on team trends to provide the most complete betting solution.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

US Open day 3 preview

The US Open is underway and once again I'm moaning at the scheduling. Bloody Yanks and scheduling everything for local TV rather than the international audiences or the welfare of the players .

Anyway, I've not had time to write my comprehensive previews this year, but I have managed to secure the services of someone with an incredibly sharp eye, using analytics and data to back up observations and opinions.

Please welcome to the blog Dan Weston, @tennisratings. Follow his work on his website - Tennisratings and make sure you take a look at his magnificent new piece of work, the 'Ultimate In-Play Spreadsheet'. I wish I had the time and dedication to produce something like that!

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There are another 34 matches today in the US Open as the tournament continues and the workload for bettors and traders reduces to a more manageable level!

So far in the ATP tournament there's been 77.1% holds which is 1.6% below the current hard court average, but in the WTA there's been 64.2% holds (1.3% above average) so it's still difficult to guage whether court speed is anything other than around medium. Judging the matches on their merits without unduly worrying about court speed is what I’m doing currently although I will assess how things vary in the next few days.

It’s still round one of the men’s competition today and as with the two previous days this week I recommend caution with stake sizing. Player motivation and fitness has been questionable in some quarters this week and until a player has played at least one match and ideally two, I’m not going to go overboard on the stakes.

On the whole I feel that the market has priced the players pretty well today although with 34 matches there are a few that catch my eye.

Daniel Brands hasn’t played for a month which concerns me slightly but the stats I have on the big serving German give him a better chance than the odds suggest against another big server, Kevin Anderson. Both players have a similar win percentage on hard courts – Brands is 57% (8-6) whilst Anderson is 62% (23-14). Anderson does have marginally better hold (87.4% to 86.6%) and break (16.7% to 16.1%) statistics but these don’t justify odds of around 1.32 on the South African. As you might expect, projected holds are high and this match should be pretty tight.

I feel Mikhail Youzhny is fairly short at 1.20 against Nicolas Mahut. The Frenchman hasn’t played a lot on hard court in the past year (only 4 main draw matches) but should be full of confidence after a fantastic grass court season where he picked up two titles. I rate Youzhny much more on indoor hard and my model has the Russian at a bigger 1.39 price so a lay to back seems in order here. Some stats from the Ultimate In-Play Spreadsheet show Mahut has only given a break back 10.53% of the time in 2013 when a break in front (top 100 average is 32.54%) so it definitely wouldn’t be reasonable to lay him if he was a break up in this match. Projected holds are close and around ATP average.

Marcos Baghdatis is not in great touch but a defeat to Go Soeda, who also has declined in the past year would be a very poor result for the Cypriot. He’s priced at about 1.42 today and I make him a little shorter at 1.32. Soeda has a low projected hold so I will look to oppose his serve in-play when possible. I feel Baghdatis needs to take this in 3 sets though – otherwise he may struggle according to my stats. In 2013 in 3 set matches he’s won 52.4% of first sets, 42.9% in second sets and 30.00% in third sets. Those stats indicate his level hugely drops in later sets and should he take a 2-0 lead in sets he could well even become a viable lay at a likely 1.0x price.

Igor Sijsling has a terrible ATP record on hard courts in the past 12 months winning a mere 3 from 14 matches. He’s held a below average 75.9% in that time, and breaking just 13.0%. He’s also taken a mere 2 sets from 5 defeats in a row (against Michael Russell and Thiemo De Bakker) and he’s definitely very vulnerable as a 1.53 favourite against the German qualifier, Peter Gojowcyzk. Gojowcyzk has solid Challenger Tour stats on hard courts, winning 65% (11-6) in the past 12 months and got to the final of the Oberstaufen Challenger (on clay) in July. Sijsling has a low projected hold and I’m looking at opposing the Dutchman on serve to start with and when I reasonably can in this match. The stats also back up that strategy with Sijsling holding 79.6% across all surfaces in ATP matches in 2013, but a lower 76.25% in his first two games of a set. Opposing him in early service games has definite positive expected value. He’s also another one with a poor deciding record in deciding 3rd sets of ATP matches (30% this year) and may struggle in the latter stages of this.

Both Victor Hanescu and Leonardo Mayer are much more comfortable on clay but it’s the Argentine who is significantly better on hard courts according to the stats. There’s been a bit of a gamble on him from an opening 2.13 to current 1.78 with Pinnacle Sports and that’s more than justified – in fact I make him a lot shorter than this. In the last 12 months Hanescu has won 2 from 8 ATP main draw matches on hard court (both via retirement against Andrey Kuznetsov in the 3rd set, and Bernard Tomic in the 1st set), holding a mere 69.6% of the time, breaking just 14.3%. Mayer’s record is slightly better with 4 wins from 10 but crucially in those matches he’s held and broken significantly more (79.7% and 24.2%). Those stats make him huge value even with his price steaming. I’m looking at opposing Hanescu in-play with him having a very low projected service hold. Another thing worth considering here is Mayer’s excellent percentage for breaking late in sets (any point where either him or his opponent has 4 games or more in the set). Overall across all surfaces in 2013 he’s broken his opponents 20.3% of the time. However late in sets this rises to an excellent 28.74%. Stats like this are something that the vast majority of the market will be completely unaware of and gives us an excellent edge over the competition.

I can’t help feeling Fabio Fognini is short at 1.23 against Rajeev Ram. Ram does not impress me at all with his stats being at a very low level (with the possible exception of on grass) but Fognini has had so many poor results on hard courts I cannot see how he justifies this price. In his last match, against Radek Stepanek in Cincinnati, he gave up 11 break points in 9 games and was broken 7 times. That can inspire no confidence in his short odds backers. Projected holds are both low so I feel there will almost certainly be breaks in this. Opposing the charismatic Italian’s serve should be viable and a lay from the start is also possible.

James Blake has announced his imminent retirement and I like his chances of a final hurrah against fellow veteran, the Croatian big server Ivo Karlovic. Blake starts as marginal 1.91 favourite and I make that good value. Karlovic has only broken his opponents 5.3% on hard courts in the past 12 months and with Blake’s surface hold above average at 82.9% it’s unlikely Karlovic can trouble Blake’s serve regularly. Blake’s return stats indicating a 23.7% break are marginally above the ATP hard court average and he should be able to focus on breaking Karlovic without worrying unduly about holding himself. It’s also worth mentioning that Karlovic’s breaks of opponents tend to come at the start of sets. Overall across all surfaces in 2013 he’s broken opponents 6.0% of the time. In his opponent’s first two service games this is higher at 10.71% but in late games it drops to just 2.0%. This is by far the worst in the ATP top 100.

Two other matches where there could be some viable trading avenues opposing the servers is Lukas Lacko vs Somdev Devvarman and Benoit Paire vs Alex Bogomolov Jr. All four players have below average projected holds. I’m also interested in taking on the serve of David Goffin against Alexandr Dolgopolov. Goffin’s projected hold is 70.5% (a fair bit below the ATP hard court average of 78.7%) and the Belgian has given up a break lead an above average 44.44% in 2013. With the inconsistent Dolgopolov getting a break deficit back 38.30% in 2013 (again, above average), laying Goffin when a break up has definite positive expected value.

The women’s second round matches today sadly don’t give me as many trading angles. There are quite a few short priced favourites, and the majority are justified.

However, I do feel that Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki is short at 1.15 against the Argentine youngster Paula Ormaechea, who is considered more of a clay courter but actually has reasonable hard court stats. Lisicki often loses concentration during matches and I feel she has a good chance of trading higher. This is backed up by the fact that she’s lost at least one set in 7 of the 11 matches where she’s been priced below 1.20 since January 2012.

Yaroslava Shvedova is another inconsistent player and she showed her best side in a one-sided routing of Olga Puchkova in the first round but it’s worth noting that the Kazakh retired in her previous match in New Haven so may not be 100% fit. She starts at around 1.25 here but I make her more like 1.45 for this match. I’m considering a lay to back position here. There could well be breaks and swings in this with projected holds below average and both players being better at taking break points than saving them.

I’ve opposed Carla Suarez Navarro almost blindly on hard courts and I’ve had mixed success so far. Again I make her opponent, Coco Vandeweghe, value at around 4.00 today. However I’m going to be a little more circumspect today and look to lay Suarez Navarro’s serve only if my triggers are met.

In a match where there should be much fewer breaks, I make Bethanie Mattek-Sands slight value against Ekaterina Makarova. Projected holds are close and high and at about 3.00 the American represents the value in this clash.

I find Sloane Stephens generally over-rated and the 44.00 price on her to win the tournament outright was ridiculously short. She’s 1.57 against Urszula Radwanska but I make her more like 1.80 for this. Radwanska may also benefit from the experience of her sister who has given Stephens a lot of problems in recent matches. Projected holds again are close and around the WTA average. If Stephens looks like she’s struggling to hold serve I will try and oppose her serve in-play.

Finally, I’m also looking at opposing the serves of Alisa Kleybanova (vs Jelena Jankovic) and Jie Zheng (vs Venus Williams) should their price become shorter in-play. Both have a low projected hold and I’d be surprised if either of these players held serve more often than they were broken.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and good luck in the markets.

Follow Dan's work on his website - Tennisratings and make sure you take a look at his magnificent new piece of work, the 'Ultimate In-Play Spreadsheet'.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Melrose Stakes preview

It's never easy to get it right when overnight rain makes a mess of your form study but Sam Darby of sports betting community site OLBG.com where members discuss and share their best bets, competing for a share of £5,000 in monthly cash prizes, has had a crack. Follow @OLBG for free tips.

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Melrose Stakes

One of the most difficult puzzles to solve not only of the day but of the entire season. Five of last seven winners of this race have gone on to win a Group race (including Australian Group 1 handicaps) so we are looking for a real handicap snip here. At least half this field is well handicapped so whether you back the winner or a loser in the race take note of those that run well as they will win lesser events in the remaining months of the season.

With plenty of rain over the last two nights, there are several to draw a line through (Ed. - preview tweaked accordingly)

Great Hall (N/R)

Beat Fledged (now rated 98) in a maiden two starts ago and then opened his handicap account with a one length success over this trip at Haydock. A 10lb rise for that win seems harsh but the three horses that followed him home all won next time out and he’s weighted to confirm form with all three of those who reoppose here. Wears first time blinkers having looked a bit awkward on recent starts. Undoubtedly very talented and still well handicapped based on his last two starts so should run well and fits the bill of future group winner. Might not want any more rain though.

Mister Impatience

Run with credit on several starts this season and bits and pieces of form would give him a chance here but limitations exposed in group and listed company so going to struggle here off a rating of 97.

Ray Ward (N/R)

Run well in Group 3 company on his last two runs but failed to win two handicaps over shorter before that off handicap marks in the low 80s so difficult to build a case for him winning one of the most competitive handicaps of the season off a mark of 97.

Dashing Star

Won a handicap before stepping up to Group 3 company and closely matched with Ray Ward on two most recent runs. 12lbs higher than last handicap win and doesn’t look remotely well handicapped enough to be competitive here.

Elidor

Produced a big shock to win at Royal Ascot off a mark of 88 but in hindsight was a decent bet that day at the price. Struggled to land a blow next time out off a 5lb higher mark at Goodwood and work to do to be competitive with the third home that day Havana Cooler. Could help make the pace from a low draw.

Another Cocktail (N/R)

Two and a quarter lengths behind Elidor at Ascot and performed less well over the same course and distance next time out when weakening as if something was amiss. That was probably not his true running and bits and pieces of form suggest he’s okay handicapped off 93 but would need to be more progressive to win a race like this. Tried in first time blinkers.

Havana Cooler

One of the likely market leaders having made eyecatching late progress at Goodwood despite not looking to handle the course. He’d beaten the winner of that Goodwood race (Pethers Moon) on his previous start at Newmarket and looks as though he’ll be suited by this step up in trip. Still well handicapped and represents Luca Cumani who won this in 2004 with Lost Soldier Three and 2007 with Speed Gifted (both started favourite). Cumani’s only runner since then was Lyric Street in 2011 who finished 6th.

Dark Crusader

Won his last two starts for handicap plot king Tony Martin and as with most runners from that yard is difficult to weigh up in the context of this race and almost impossible to rule out. Has proved suited by the step up to middle distances (raised 26lbs for two wins) but does have to prove it in a more competitive sphere off a much higher mark.

Argent Knight (N/R)

Beaten 3.75 lengths in first time visor by Great Hall three runs ago when slightly unlucky in running and the application of the visor looks to have done wonders with two wins since, the latest coming on first try at 2 miles. That distance looked to suit and whilst he’s competitive at this trip he is 5lbs worse off with Great Hall for that beating so makes more appeal for place purposes.

Van Percy

Hasn’t always looked the stoutest of stayers and was behind Havana Cooler last time out at Goodwood. Often runs his race but only won one handicap in five attempts and step up in trip far from guaranteed to suit.

Bomber Thorn (N/R)

This relative of stablemate Brown Panther has eyecatching form figures of 222. His debut run behind Continuum (now rated 94) suggests this opening mark of 85 underestimates him but slightly disappointing he hasn’t been able to get his head in front since. Didn’t travel at all well on his latest start and possible that was down to the firmer ground so any rain would improve his chances. The first time visor suggests connections weren’t happy with his concentration levels on that occasion and likely to improve with racing so a lively contender and one of the few runners that would welcome rain.

Debdebdeb

Another of those behind Great Hall at Haydock, she has won her only start since and only been out of the first three once in her career. Extremely consistent and the type to keep on progressing but only 1lb better off than Great Hall for a length defeat and Great Hall appears to have more improvement left in the tank.

Divergence

Looked well suited by soft ground at Ffos Las when winning her latest start having run well on that surface before. Previously competitive without success on better ground but now 4lbs higher in a much better race. Two wins have come when making all so possible those tactics will be repeated here but this is much tougher.

Snowy Dawn

Registered his first success last time out at this trip when trying cheekpieces for the second time and beat a fair field (second has run well in better company since) by 2.25 lengths. Should have conditions to suit and likely to run well enough but lacks the scope of several of these and 8lb rise for that win enough to anchor him.

Hawk High

Third behind Great Hall three starts ago, beaten 1.75 lengths but worth slightly upgrading for being unlucky in running. Beat Ambleside next time out over this trip then Ambleside got the better of Hawk High back at 12f on their next meeting. Ambleside has franked that form since with another win. Ran well on very soft ground early in his career.

Ambleside

Consistent but difficult to win with until recently with the penny seeming to have dropped with two consecutive wins. That improvement has coincided with a change to hold up tactics so he could still have something up his sleeve, despite not being weighted to beat Hawk High. Despite having many suitable candidates trainer Mark Johnston is yet to saddle the winner of this race.

Summary

Great Hall was be a confident selection in ideal conditions but the rain has taken care of that. Several others have now abandoned ship due to the conditions. Havana Cooler ran well on soft ground on his debut and being by Hurricane Run should handle conditions at the very least but he might not relish them as much as Bomber Thorn, who could make up into a very smart contender over the next 12 months. Hawk High has also handled soft conditions in the past and still looks feasibly handicapped so could easily make the frame at a very fair price.

Prediction:

1. Bomber Thorn (N/R)
2. Havana Cooler
3. Hawk High

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Lonsdale Cup preview

The Ebor might be the headline act this week but there's a higher class race for the top-line stayers - the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup. Stepping up for his blog debut is Adam Webb, @AdamWebb121. Read more of his penmanship by visiting his blog

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Lonsdale Cup

Day three of the Ebor meeting has both extremes of flat racing from the speedsters in the Nunthorpe compared to the stayers in the Lonsdale Cup in which seven go to post. Sadly earlier this week, the Queen’s Ascot Gold Cup winner Estimate was ruled out of this race by trainer Sir Michael Stoute as he was not satisfied with the filly’s well-being.

That has taken some of the intrigue from the race but we still have a top class performer in Simenon who was second behind Estimate at Ascot who has the Melbourne Cup as his main aim later in the year. He was very unlucky when running on to be fourth earlier in the season in the Chester Cup behind Address Unknown before his excellent run at the Royal meeting. He will enjoy the ground on the Knavesmire but I would be concerned by a couple of things. First of all, there is a possibility that he won’t be fully wound up for this with this being a warm up for Flemington but my main concern is the form from the Gold Cup not looking strong with only Altano and Number Theory running well afterwards so I believe the favourite is opposable tomorrow. Times Up was very disappointing in the same race but he won this year last year on softer ground before going on to end last season on a high with a victory in the Doncaster Cup. His run before Ascot was underwhelming behind Gloomy Sunday so tomorrow is a watching brief for me.

Last year’s Ascot Gold Cup winner Colour Vision tends to run indifferently especially after his win there although his attempt to defend his crown was an excellent run when he was fourth. Apart from that, this season has been somewhat disappointing but Goodwood wasn’t his worst performance especially under a more patient ride after missing the break. If they revert back to a more prominent role then he could feature especially as the visor looks to have rekindled his enthusiasm. The other Godolphin contender who carries the first colours tomorrow is Ahzeemah who is a likable, consistent horse who has either finished first or second on his last nine starts. His last two starts in this country where he was second to Universal at Newmarket and his most previous one when second in the Goodwood Cup behind Brown Panther where he had most of today’s field behind him. He has a strong chance of winning tomorrow but I believe he will take second prize behind the John Gosden-trained CAUCUS. If you ignore his run in the Goodwood Cup then he has an excellent chance based on his victory at Sandown in the Coral Marathon where he beat Biographer by three quarters of a length in tenacious style. The trainer is in good form as proven by The Fugue’s runaway success in the Yorkshire Oaks today and he will love the fast ground plus the small field suits perfectly.

Nunthorpe Stakes preview

The Ebor Festival holds championship races across a wide range of distances and age groups. The cream of the pure sprinters line up for the fastest Group 1 of the year, the Nunthorpe. Note that at time of going to press, it's supposed to be raining quite heavily. Considering the times they've been running this week, they'd need a fair deluge to make any serious change to the going.

Returning to the blog to preview this cracking encounter is regular contributor Lara Pocock, @lara_pocock. Read more of her musings on her blog.

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Nunthorpe Stakes

For many the highlight of the Ebor Meeting at York is the Nunthorpe Stakes, a Group One run over five furlongs. The race has produced some surprising results in the last five years, with the 2010 winner (replay here), Sole Power, who lines up in this year's renewal, going off at 100-1. Last year's winner, the Paul Messara-trained Ortensia (watch the replay here) was the first favourite to win the race since 2003, when Oasis Dream completed the feat. Therefore it could be difficult to narrow down the winner, with a full field of 20 set to line up, but this also leaves some great priced horses available for each way value.

The pre-race favourite is the Mike de Kock-trained Shea Shea, second in the Group One King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot and fourth in the Group One July Cup, Shea Shea certainly has the form to win this affair. This is backed up with his stablemates' form, in particular The Apache, who passed the post first in last week's Grade One Arlington Million but was demoted to second by the Stewards after an inquiry. The only downside is the ground, the South African import prefers his going as hard as a rock, something de Kock was worried about pre-Ascot, and with the unpredictable British Summer the ground could change and suit some of the other candidates.

Sole Power, winner of the King's Stand is next in line in the betting. He runs consistently, with 18 of his 34 starts yielding placings, and he often a surprise package. Although undoubtedly having a good season, others are more appealing. He was seventh in last year's renewal.

For each-way chances I like Spirit Quartz and Rosdhu Queen at 22-1 and 18-1 respectively. The William Haggas-trained Roshdu Queen has been beaten on her three starts this season but was unbeaten last year as a juvenile, winning the Group One Cheveley Park Stakes on her final start. She was fifth to Lethal Force in the Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and did not appreciate the step up in trip to a mile last time out. She will relish the five furlongs of this race and won at York last season.

Spirit Quartz ran with a penalty in the Group Two King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and finished sixth to the much talked about Moviesta. The five-year-old won the a Group Two in France and comes from the yard of sprint king Robert Cowell.

The majority of the field ran in the King George, which was won impressively by the Bryan Smart-trained Moviesta. The race may have taken more than expected from the three-year-old and it will be interesting to see how he looks in the paddock prior to the race.

If the ground comes up on the softer side of good then I would fancy the Lady Cecil-trained Tickled Pink over Shea Shea. Connections think a lot of the four-year-old filly and at 12-1 she is worth a each way punt. She should improve on her last run in the King George Stakes and comes from a yard in form.

An outside chance would have to go to Henry Candy's Dinkum Diamond. Currently at 50-1 the five-year-old has put in some good performance in handicap company and will appreciated the distance and going.

Verdict

1. Shea Shea - watch the weather
2. Roshdu Queen
3. Spirit Quartz

Gimcrack Stakes preview

The final day of the Ebor Festival isn't just about Britain's best staying handicap, there's also a great little juvenile race to savour. Covering the race with an eagle eye is another blog debutant, the astute judge Wayne Butcher. You can follow him via @WayneSButcher.

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Gimcrack Stakes

The Gimcrack Stakes is the feature two year old race of the York Ebor Festival and this year takes place on the final day of the prestigious meeting. Despite the race being named in memory of Gimcrack, who won twenty seven of his thirty six race career, this race has not been a great pointer to future classic success, with plenty of ultimately disappointing horses littering the recent roll of honour. The major exception being the superstar Rock of Gibraltar, who was successful in 2001 and went onto classic success the following year.

The Gimcrack Stakes forms the fourth two-year-old six furlong Group 2 race of the major summer festivals, following the Coventry at Ascot, the July Stakes at Newmarket and the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood, and it’s the Goodwood feature in which we start our preview for this year's renewal, with Saayerr narrowly defeating Cable Bay.

Saayerr and Cable Bay

Saayerr was successful that day, bouncing back from a disappointing run at Royal Ascot and inflicting a quarter of a length defeat on Cable Bay, who re-opposes on three pounds better terms. However it appeared the step up in trip really suited Saayerr and under a typically strong Ryan Moore ride, Saayerr appeared in control at the end of that contest. It's difficult to be confident that Cable Bay can turn the form around but the weight pull paired with the experience of a group race duel gives his supporters hope. There appears no reason why both should not be bang there once again, and the Richmond forecast could well become the Gimcrack forecast.

Parbold

The Coventry Stake at the Royal meeting was a one horse race as War Command scooted to victory, with Parbold back in second. Both have been beaten since but Parbold runs for local trainer Richard Fahey, hoping to bounce back from just a satisfactory third at Goodwood in the Vintage Stakes over seven furlongs. However that day he was niggled early to maintain a position and I'm not entirely certain the drop back to York's sharp six furlongs on lightning fast ground is what Parbold wants and would pass him over on this occasion.

Astaire

Newmarket's July Stakes is the last piece of the Group 2 form jigsaw, and only Astaire, from the Kevin Ryan stable, competed in that contest and finished sixth. Whilst on the face of it, sixth would seem a little disappointing, it should be remembered that Astaire led a furlong out, only to find the Newmarket hill combined with his early keenness to contribute to his laboured finish. Since then Astaire duly bolted up in a small conditions race at the same track and this easier track and smaller field may well be his cup of tea (Yorkshire obviously) and he is an interesting alternative to consider to the market leaders.

Wilshire Boulevard

Turning our heads across the Irish Sea, Ballydoyle, already buoyant from Declaration of War's shock Juddmonte win, run the experienced Wilshire Boulevard, who already boasts five runs under his belt. It appeared that Wilshire Boulevard was one of the yard's lesser lights evidenced by a midfield finish in the Windsor Castle but the step up to six furlongs on fast ground at the Curragh last time seemed to eke further improvement, when taking the Anglesey Stakes. Unpenalised for this he should run his race again, although it would be possibly a tad disappointing if he was able to win and a place may be his best hope.

My Catch

There are no French raiders in the line-up but My Catch has spent plenty of time in France this season with two victories to his name, the last coming in the Group Three Prix De Cabourg. The runner-up Al Muthana has since been stuffed in last weekend's Prix Morny and this combined with the likely faster surface tempers my enthusiasm for this otherwise progressive juvenile.

Justice Day

The last horse to make up the seven strong line-up is Justice Day, already twice successful from five starts and providing connections with plenty of fun. However he seems to have hit a plateau on form, as demonstrated by a midfield finish at Ascot last time and it would seem sensible to overlook him today, with it more likely for Lord Lucan to be witnessed on the winner's podium come 3.20 on Saturday.

Summary

On paper a much better renewal than of late, and plenty to ponder, though I'm not sure we have a Rock of Gibraltar lurking. The selection is Saayerr on the basis of an excellent win in the Richmond, with Cable Bay likely to be close to his quarters again. Of the rest, this track should suit Astaire and he should make a bold bid from the front to keep the prize in Yorkshire, whilst the likely faster conditions may count against recent dual French score My Catch. Based on the Vintage Stakes, Parbold appears to want further.

Prediction

1. Saayerr
2. Cable Bay
3. Astaire
4. Wilshire Boulevard

Sky Bet Stakes preview

Friday's card at York opens with a tasty handicap. Contributing to the blog for the first time is Sam Darby of sports betting community site OLBG.com where members discuss and share their best bets, competing for a share of £5,000 in monthly cash prizes. Follow @OLBG for free tips.

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Sky Bet Stakes

16 runners go to post at the time of writing but this is perhaps not as competitive as it looks with a fairly exposed field taking part, only five of these have raced fewer than twelve times on the flat. That quintet look most likely to provide the winner of this contest with six of the last 10 winners going into the race equally lightly raced.

Chancery

Chancery is the most exposed of those to have run fewer than 12 times and he now looks handicapped up to his best having gone up 13lbs for a 3.75 length win here at York over 10 furlongs two starts ago. He was uncompetitive next time out at Haydock in an equally strong handicap as this over 10f again and even if he improves back up in trip (was tried as far as 2 miles this season) whether this gelding trained by David O’Meara can find another 8-10lbs improvement this season could be unlikely.

Castilo Del Diablo

Three runs this season all in hot handicaps have shown this runner to be at his best over this trip of a mile of a half having finished second to subsequent listed winner Seal Of Approval last time out. That was in receipt of only 4lbs so is strong form, especially with Bishop Roko back in third going on to win a competitive Ascot handicap next time out (now a lively contender for Saturday’s Ebor). Castilo Del Diablo is sure to be popular on that form but it could be that he is marginally better on the all weather with two of his three wins coming at Kempton and more concerning is a 6lb rise in the weights for that run. That rise should leave him competitive but perhaps leaves him with a stiff task against other unexposed rivals.

White Nile

A very interesting contender for David Simcock having gone close in his only handicap start to date but that was on good to soft ground and he looked in need of a stiffer test that day which is worrying at the same trip here on firmer ground. All his form has been with cut in the ground and coupled with the absence of almost a year it is enough to put me off. It is worth noting that in his maiden win he beat Noble Silk (now rated 92) so it’s hard to argue he’s not well handicapped and is one to look out for later this season in softer conditions, perhaps over slightly further.

Winterlude

A very interesting contender and the only three year old in the field (that age group has produced two winners of this race in the last six years plus last year’s second and fourth). A handicap mark of 96 could well still underestimate this Godolphin runner trained by Charlie Appleby but he is probably the most difficult horse in the race to get a handle on. He won his maiden this year with any amount of ease but the second then did nothing for the form in handicap company on a mark off which he should have been competitive. Then he won a decent but not brilliant handicap from which only a couple of horses have come out and run from since, the fourth home Fennell Bay was well beaten over the same trip next time out before scrambling home up in trip in a small field at Pontefract. Up in trip, my gut instinct says he’s still well handicapped, my head says he’ll run well without winning.

Gospel Choir

This is the most interesting runner in the race for me. He ran in some of the best 3yo handicaps last season, winning two of them before coming unstuck at Ascot when meeting a bit of interference. Even that form wasn’t too bad being beaten 5.5 lengths by Ahzeemah who has won a Group 3 and been placed in a Group 2 this season. Second home in that Ascot race was Stencive, a horse Gospel Choir had beaten in his previous run so it’s also easy to suggest that Gospel Choir was well below his best in that Ascot race.

The top weight off an 11 month break won’t be for everybody but he should still be very well handicapped off a mark of 98. His first handicap win last season saw him beat Sun Central (rated 82 that day) by 1.25 lengths giving that horse 2lbs, Sun Central runs in Saturday’s Ebor off a mark of 108. Gospel Choir’s next handicap win came by 0.5 lengths giving Stencive 2lbs, Stencive was rated 88 on that occasion and is still well handicapped at 105. The fact that he’s given weight and a beating to horses now rated 108 and 105 suggests he could well rate higher than 110 in time making him a must bet off a mark of 98. His absence is a slight concern but unlike White Nile he has conditions to suit and Sir Michael Stoute won a similar handicap to this at the Dante meeting with Rye House who was making his seasonal debut. Stoute has had two winners and two runners up in this race in the past five years and it’s worth noting that Gospel Choir has been gelded since his last start. Labarinto, another handicapper in the yard won last season on his first start since being gelded. The fact that Ryan Moore is 2/2 on the horse is the icing on the cake.

Best of the Rest

There are 11 other runners and a line certainly can’t be drawn through all of them but most have few secrets from the handicapper. Come On Blue Chip is closely matched with Winterlude on their last run but has only won once in his last 18 starts, Kiama Bay is back in form but this is a better race and all his wins have come with cut in the ground whilst Party Line ran really well on Wednesday suggesting a drop down in trip would suit but this is a better race and she’s not guaranteed to line up after a tough race.

If there is one to crash the party at the price it could be York specialist Tepmokea. He isn’t the most consistent and isn’t easy to win with easy but has run very well this season to place behind the likes of Buckland, Universal and Star Lahib who have all run well at a higher level since. He’s rated only 89 here, 1lb higher than when pushing Star Lahib close in the Old Newton Cup this season and 1lb lower than his last winning mark which came over this course and distance.

Summary

Gospel Choir looks an extremely well handicapped horse and the fact that Sir Michael Stoute clearly targets this race is enough to persuade me that his absence won’t be an issue. Castilo Del Diablo and Winterlude should still be ahead of their marks are look likely to run very well with the former slightly more persuasive at the likely prices. Tepmokea looks a fair each way bet if 16 runners remain in the race but place only might be the best bet for that runner, especially as four places will be paid on Betfair regardless of non-runners.

Prediction:

1. Gospel Choir
2. Castilo Del Diablo
3. Winterlude
4. Tepmokea

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Fifth Ashes Test preview - Top Batsman

This Ashes series might be done and dusted as far as the urn is concerned but there are still plenty of betting opportunities available. David L from CheekyPunter.com suggests a lay bet strategy for the final test of the series.

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England v Australia 5th Test: Top Team Batsman

England start the game priced 2.16 on the exchanges with the Aussies 3.7 and the draw slightly more favoured at 3.65.

Definitely room for manoeuvre there but my article is going to focus on the Top Batsman market and employ a strategy I've been using with good success throughout the series so far.

Let’s get stuck in.

5th Ashes Test: Top Team Batsman

Here are the averages so far this series where the batsmen are concerned along with each player high score (HS):

England Ashes Batting Averages

Bell 71.42 HS 113
Root 37.14 HS 180
Pietersen 34.50 HS 113
Bairstow 29.00 HS 67
Cook 27.23 HS 62
Trott 24.25 HS 58

Australia Ashes Batting Averages

Clarke 49.42 HS 187
Rogers 43.00 HS 110
Warner 30.00 HS 71
Hughes 27.66 HS 81
Watson 27.00 HS 68
Haddin 25.14 HS 71
Smith 25.00 HS 89

During any test series it’s my aim to identify weakness in the lower or middle order of any team and take my position in the market there. This often allows me to green up before my victim even makes it to the crease.

A strong stand between the two openers or either opener and the man at number three will naturally lengthen the odds of the lower order batsman being top run scorer in any innings. Therefore a lay bet on an out of form player in the middle order can be a strong position to take.

Equally if the top order go cheap the collapse has been set in motion and your out of form victim folds along with his peers.

The firth Ashes test at The Oval doesn’t quite offer up that specific kind of opportunity where England are concerned as it’s their top order which has struggled to perform.

However Shane Watson, if in his new lower order position, is a prime target for a lay bet. He seems to struggle converting starts into bigger totals and his general form (average 27.0 HS 68) is poor. If selected he’s a lay bet all day long and there’s a good chance you’ll be out of the market before he even arrives at the crease.

Selecting a victim in the England team isn’t quite as clear cut. Taking Bairstow is the obvious choice but his SP looks set around the 13.00 mark and in terms of liquidity I can’t envisage many willing backers. His form has obviously been appalling and his place in the side is very much in doubt.

My second fancy, without looking to deeply into statistics, would have been Kevin Pietersen who’s had a relatively quiet series with the bat. However his record at The Oval is superior to any other English batsman with 785 runs in 7 matches at an average of 60.38 which includes four tons.

Realistically this leaves Cook, Trott and Joe Root. A case could be made for and against all of the above but with the pressure of the series lifted I wouldn’t like to back against Cook. It's possible Root is playing to keep his place in the side and if not he’s certainly playing to keep his place as an opener so that leaves Trott as the only man without certain motivation.

Priced at 5.4 Jonathan Trott would be my initial lay from the England side of things but in all honesty I’d be happy to take a couple of ticks and get out. You’ve got the added bonus of his slow strike rate as well to rescue your position.

Lay Bet Predictions

These lay bet predictions are for the 1st innings and the intention is to trade out of your position in-play. If you can’t trade out in-play then you’ll be much better off with a straight up back bet on your selection for top batsman.

Australia 1st innings - Shane Watson currently at 8.8
England 1st innings - Jonathan Trott currently at 5.4

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Juddmonte International preview

This week I'm delighted to see a few new contributors on the blog, the first of which is James Constantine, @racingfurlong. He debuts with his assessment of the best race of Ebor Festival - the Juddmonte International. Welcome aboard!

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Juddmonte International

The Juddmonte International Stakes is a melting pot of talent pitching the three year olds against their older counterparts in the four and five age brackets. Once the scene of an imperious victory for the resoundingly brilliant Frankel, this year’s renewal presents a far harder betting proposition.

One such factor that niggles away at the most confident of punters is the various weights and ratings that seem to blow the field wide apart. This is best seen in comparing bottom of the handicap Rewarded with the next up in the handicap, Hillstar. Rewarded is rated 12lbs inferior to Hillstar but has to carry an ugly 8lbs extra than her younger counterpart. This leaves rewarded requiring 20lbs of improvement just to get competitive. Whilst not disgraced against decent opposition, the weightings cripple the chances of the Queally mount and you can understand a price of 150/1.

Hillstar, a three year old colt representing Sir Michael Stoute, has been performing to the highest level having recently gotten ahead of Cirrus Des Aigles by three lengths in France. Whilst Hillstar undoubtedly possesses heaps of talent, he will do well to get involved in this contest. With tactics likely to play a big part in this small field, he may only be able to rely on stamina in his bid to land the International Stakes.

I see no reason why Hillstar should reverse the form with Jim Bolger’s Trading Leather in this field. Having been weighted the same in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Trading Leather prevailed, albeit by ½ a length. Both horses aged three should keep progressing and they are almost the unknown quantity along with Toronado in how much and more importantly, how quickly they can mature. A mark of 120 is one in which Trading Leather can be competitive off and I’d like to see him press on and stake a claim in this.

On the same mark but 8lbs higher, the last of our four year olds, Declaration of War makes the step up to 10 furlongs. A mightily impressive winner of the Queen Anne Stakes, Aidan O’Brien’s horse was subsequently well held by top of the market Al Kazeem and I have strong doubts that 10 furlongs is the formers best distance. Whilst running well in Deauville finishing just behind Intello, Declaration of War is not a horse I’d want to be backing in this.

So with six runners, the each way value has already been sucked out of the market and so I am reviewing for a win bet. None of the outsiders make great appeal to me and so I would have to back a duel between the two highest rated horses in the race.

I’ve always backed Toronado against Dawn Approach and felt that he was unlucky not to be 2-1 up in their own personal series. At a mile, there is no doubting Toronado as a superstar, but this step up to 10 furlongs is a bit of a cheeky wild card thrown in by the Hannon and Hughes partnership. One feels they are trying to avoid Olympic Glory and Toronado pitching up against each other and with Toronado the likelier to make the step up in trip, it is he who takes on Al Kazeem. Richard Hughes certainly believes Toronado will get the trip and I have no reason to doubt him as he has been right on Toronado even in all of his defeats.

However, they are taking on a horse effectively going for the six-timer. Al Kazeem has been nothing short of rampant in his races and should make a bold attempt for victory in this. It is perhaps one of the last times we shall see this horse as his owners believe he will have nothing left to prove. You cannot blame them for preferring a safer, less stressful stud career for their superstar. I am slightly concerned that the bookmakers have tried to take him on somewhat, easing him out from 4/5 to a general 11/10.

Prediction

I analyse races and then follow the money. So the betting tomorrow morning will tell all in this fascinating contest. I believe that Toronado and Al Kazeem will battle it out for first and second with the others unable to land a decisive blow. For win purposes though, I like the daring attitude of Hughes and Hannon, the reckless bravado that has pursued them into trying Toronado over this trip.

Toronado is versatile and he settles better every time. At the age of 3, he still has plenty of improvement inside himself and if nothing can snatch a victory from Al Kazeem, it will be this colt. At a price of 15/8 is far more attractive than the skinny 11/10 on Al Kazeem and so he shall carry my cash to victory, I hope.

1st: Toronado 15/8
2nd: Al Kazeem 11/10
3rd: Trading Leather 7/1

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Arlington Million preview

And finally, the headline race in Chicago tonight - the Arlington Million. American racing form student, Davy Lane, @loscharruas, completes the meeting with the preview.

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Arlington Million

The Arlington Million has attracted 13 runners, including an African, a Latin American and several Europeans. This race has a complex flavour. The key ingredient is the pampas grass.

The lightly raced Real Solution started his career in Italy. Frankie Dettori and Umberto Rispoli won minor contests on him. He returned to the USA as 4 year old and has since put in a couple of respectable Grade level performances, most recently finishing 3rd only 1 3/4 lengths behind Point of Entry in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap at Belmont. Chad Brown trains. Peru's Alan Garcia rides. I rate this horse as one the best of the American contenders. He's 10/1 on the US Morning Line, but as high as 20/1 with a few English bookies.

Finnegan's Wake finished second in the Secretariat here last year. He has done nothing since. He won't win, place or show. He's 30/1 with the US Morning Line for a reason. Save your money.

Unfortunately, you cannot apply Moore's Law to Hunter's Light. His Group 1 wins in Turkey and Dubai were respectable, but when thrown in against the likes of Military Attack, Cirrus des Aigles and Animal Kingdom the horse has finished way back. Moore takes the ride because De Sousa is serving a ban. If Hunter's Light was a sure thing, Mikael Barzalona would be deputizing. Barzalona has instead been sent on an equally futile mission to Normandy. Good luck catching Wesley Ward's No Nay Never in the Prix Morny at Deauville.

Nates Mineshaft is a front runner. He is trained by Anne Smith, more known for her work with show jumpers. It would be a wonderful story. I do not expect to be reading about Nates Millions in the morning. That said, Nates Mineshaft knows which way is up. He was only just beaten a neck into 3rd by Wise Dan in a G1, won Ron the Greek last year. Heads have been turned in recent mornings at Arlington.

Temeraine edged out Dullahan to finish 2nd in a G3 last time out. That's sort of interesting. But Dullahan was just reacclimatizing after the Dubai World Cup. A deeper examination of the form shows Temeraine has had virtually no other serious Group level competition in his career. He may have improved since being gelded, but he's not going to involved in the placing here.

Side Glance has mixed it up with some of the greatest horses of this era, including Animal Kingdom and Frankel. His most recent effort was a respectable 7 lengths adrift of Arc favourite, Al Kazeem. He could have been placed had he shown up at the Arlington Million last year.

The Argentine colt Indy Point is a stupendous specimen. He won two legs of the Argentine Triple Crown like a runaway train. His G1 Gran Premio Nacional victory at Palermo and G1 Gran Premio Jockey Club at San Isidro were two of the impressive displays of power I have seen in a racehorse. Some English bookies are still offering 6/1. Incredible! Get aboard that Indy Point train! Hold on tight! My advice: BET THE FARM!

All credit to Mull of Killough for having a crack. Connections probably saw last year's race and thought this was easy G1 prize money. The horse is drawn 8. It will be lucky to finish higher than 8th. Joseph O'Brien is a good jockey on a great horse. This is not a great horse.

Guest of Honour stepped up into Group 2 company last time out running a credible 3rd behind Aljamaaheer and Mill of Killough. This is a step too far. I like the combination of Marco Botti and Martin Harley and can see the horse being the better of the 2nd Division English raiders.

The South African has been primed for this race. The Apache had a very successful spell at the Dubai Carnival and ran well at York last time, smartly avoiding the dual between Grandeur and Mukhadram. Mike De Kock's horses are well know to improve for their first run out. Christophe Soumillon will be determined to make his trip worthwhile. The Apache is not the best quality Mike de Kock horse in training, but he's sure to be the best prepared of any in the field. He won't be good enough to catch Indy Point, but he will lead most of the rest of the field home.

Last year's winner Little Mike will not be this year's winner. He's 5/1 on the US Morning Line and can be found at a similar price in UK markets. This is a reflection of his exploits last year. His win in the Breeders Cup Turf over Point of Entry and St Nicholas Abbey was immense. His form this year has been loosey goosey. He did not adapt to conditions in the Dubai World Cup meet and was not impressive on his return run state side, when 4th in the United Nations at Monmouth in July. Forget about it!

Rahystada won the Arlington Handicap over a 1m 1/4 last month. This defeat of Dullahan looks impressive on paper, but Rahystada was wandering far from the finish. This was not because Rahystada was lonely or distracted. The horse was tired. He won because the others had even less in the tank. Rosie Napravnik will have her work cut out. The horse likes to front run, but Rosie will also have to contend with "Mr. Buick" who will be on her outside. It promises to get very messy out there.

Grandeur is the 7/2 US Morning Line favourite. He was even shorter in UK Ante Post markets. Now Grandeur is drifting slightly as punters ponder his 13 draw. Grandeur does not need to be with the pace, so in theory the wide draw should not hinder him. I take a different view. I think the wide draw ruins whatever chance Grandeur had of catching Indy Point. Moreover, I think Grandeur's recent battle with Mukhadram will have not have helped. Mukhadram himself was reported to be in need of a few more weeks of R & R after that race. It is noteworthy William Buick knows his way around Arlington and it's also very interesting he stepped off some good John Gosden things in the UK today.

Prediction

Nates Mineshaft takes them along. Real Solution hugs the rail and runs at his own pace. Indy Point presses the button early. Soumillon has The Apache has well positioned on the back stretch and follows. Indy Point dismisses Nates Mineshaft at the Quarter Pole. Indy Point increases his lead on the turn for home. Indy Point is the winner from a long way out. The Apache and Real Solution scrap for 2nd. Grandeur comes late and takes 4th from the pack easily.

1st 7. Indy Point 9/2 US ML; 6/1 Paddy Power
2nd 10. The Apache 6/1 US ML; 9/1 Bet365
3rd 1. Real Solution 10/1 US ML; 20/1 Corals

The Beverley D Stakes preview

More great racing from Chicago previewed by Davy Lane, @loscharruas.

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Beverley D Stakes

The markets say the 24th running of the Beverly D stakes is a three horse race. Marketing Mix is the 2/1 US Morning Line Favourite. Duntle and Dank are generally 3/1 Co Favs in UK markets.

Armando de la Cerda has booked a big time jockey for La Tia in Kent Desormeaux. Desormeaux's experience should help the front running La Tia make best of the inside draw. If Desormeaux can lull the field to sleep then La Tia has an outside chance for a place. The more likely scenario is that La Tia will be smoked coming down the stretch. Save your money.

Duntle is a very capable horse. I was confident about her Beverly D chances before her latest outing at Deauville. Some commentators suggested it was a credible performance. I disagree. She gave Elusive Kate no race at all and only took 2nd place on the nod. She has guts, but that ain't going to be enough to win here.

Solid Appeal has guts also. She has been a winning machine in Canada, though admittedly in Group 2 company. I particularly like how comfortable she has looked in her races. She grinds out her wins when pushed. Racing comes easy to her. It was muted Joel Rosario would take the ride from Jesse Campbell. Not so. This tells me connections like Campbell's relationship with the horse. The general 12/1 offered by English bookies is good each way value.

Dank has been impressing the clockers at Arlington in recent days. There is not much to choose between Duntle and Dank, but Dank's recent win at the Curragh had both power and zip. I expect Dank to be right there. Moore's Law, again.

Gifted Girl was very impressive at Pontefract last time out. She is not flying to Chicago for nothing. She is a contemporary of Duntle and Dank and could rise to the occasion. I don't expect her to win this. Yes, she'll give the favourites a run for their money. But no, you shouldn't be thinking about investing any of your money. The prize money for 4th and 5th place will pay for her trip. The connections see this as no lose scenario. They won't lose and you won't win.

Marketing Mix is the best horse in the race. She would have won this last year but for having to take the circuitous route. Gary Stevens is booked. Paddy Power were offering an incredible 5/1 earlier this week. Clearly, europunters were being sucked into playing the horses they know. Marketing MIx remains as high 7/2. That still super value.

Starformer came good last time up winning the New York Stakes at Belmont in July. This daughter of Dynamformer has racked up lots of Group 3 prize money, but this contest will be more searching than she is used to. Stay away.

Artemus Kitten has no chance. She is drawn to the outside and won't have the pace to overtake. Corals have floated her at 50/1. She is 30/1 on the US Morning Line. Some of you may be sweet on Rosie Napravnik. That's no excuse.

Ausus is the value horse in the race. The outside draw may help inflate her price, but it will her style. Ausus finished 4th in the Group 1 Jenny Wiley stakes at Keeneland back in April. She was a 56/1 shot then. Subsequently she ran 4th in a Group 3 and just blew the field away last time up in the Group 3 Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park. Running in the familiar Shadwell blue, this lightly raced daughter of the Argentine stallion Invasor is the horse that could get among the favourites at the finish. She's 12/1 with most UK bookies.

Prediction

Dank will try to run them into the ground before the Quarter Pole. Solid Appeal will not be phased. Jess Campbell will sit motionless. Marketing Mix will cover both of them. Duntle will crack and end up racing Gifted Girl for minor money. Dank and Solid Appeal will dual down the home stretch. Marketing Mix will pass them in the final 100 yards. Ausus will swoop late, but not in time to catch Marketing Mix.

1st 6. Marketing Mix 2/1 US ML; 7/2 Paddy Power Best Price
2nd 4. Dank 7/2 US ML; 7/2 Coral
3rd 9. Ausus 10/1 US ML; 12/1 Bet 365, Paddy Power, William Hill

Secretariat Stakes preview

Next up on the Arlington card for assessment is the Secretariat Stakes. American racing form student, Davy Lane, @loscharruas, lines up with another preview on the top-class card.

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Secretariat Stakes

There are no stand out contenders in the 37th running of the Secretariat Stakes. Finding the winner from the 13 declared requires forensic research and lashings of luck.

Europunters may see the shipping of Ulster based First Cornerstone as a Team Valour vanity project; they will wonder why the Aga Khan is bothering if Visiyani is not good enough to win; and they will be stuck in two minds as to whether Yeager got on the plane to just keep Grandeur company or whether his late nomination is a sign this fast progressing 3 year old is ready win a Group 1 race.

Chris Hayes is destined to ride Group winners outside Ireland, but it is hard to see First Cornerstone being his first. There were high expectations about this horse after his 3 wins as a 2 year old, but now he's moving like molasses. His latest effort in the Prix du Jockey club was woeful. The Secretariat maybe an easier race, but it's hard to include First Cornerstone in your calculations despite a good draw in 4 and a tenacious jockey.

I am loathe to dismiss an Alain Royer-Dupre runner, but Visiyani has been a so so horse in small field conditions races in France this season. This small son of Rock of Gibraltar may put in a respectable performance, but it's unlikely he can best 12 rivals. Ignore the plumb draw and prestigious trainer.

This is also a step up for Yeager, but unlike Visiyani, Yeager has had plenty of big field experience. His recent win at Ascot was his graduation. Yeager is ready for prime time. It is noteworthy Ryan Moore had other potential Secretariat bookings. Those horses never made the flight. Moore's Law!

And what of the Americans?

Admiral Kitten made an impressive wide sweep from near last to clinch 2nd in the American Derby at Arlington last month. The booking of Rosie Napravnik is significant. The horse is familiar with the track and he is drawn nicely in Gate 5. He's 5/1 on the Arlington Park Morning Line.

Amen Kitten steps down in trip here. He was last seen running a mile and a half. It's hard to tip a Wesley Ward horse for a race over 6 furlongs. Every thing I have seen of this 3 year old gelding suggests a mid-pack finish at best. (NB: If Wesley Ward horses are your thing you need to be betting the farm on No Nay Never in the Prix Morny at Deauville on Sunday.)

Dale Romans' Balthazar has been known to get agitated in the stalls. It's enough of a reason to dismiss a horse with very ordinary form. Bethel's claim to fame is that he finished 13 1/2 lengths behind Verrazano in the Group 3 Pegasus at Monmouth Park in June. Forget about it! And Forget about it!

The delightful Michelle Nihei may have a live one in Draw Two. This grey/roan colt is lighted raced and improving. He was hampered last time out in the Virginia Derby, but the way he finished suggests he can contend with a clear run. The booking of Gary Stevens will give the horse every chance. He's 6/1 State side. The downside is the draw. Draw Two is drawn twelve. This may entice some English bookies to offer generous odds. If they do, bet early and often.

Golden Jason ran a game third at Delaware Park last week. It's noble of connections to try their luck, but there's no evidence to suggest this horse can be competitive at this level. Forget about it!

Jack Milton is trained by Todd Pletcher. You have been warned. He has been placed in all of his five starts, winning twice. Joel Rosario takes the ride. No one will beat this horse by much, but the 3/1 Morning Line is more a reflection of the exceptional trainer and jockey booking. Forget about it, Jack!

Rydilluc was prolific as 2 year old and has earned more than any other horse in the field. He beat Jack Milton by 3/4's of a length to take the Penn Mile in June. The form suggests he should be in the mix, but his last outing was very, very poor. Connections blamed it on wet grass. He was an intended runner in the Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga last week. Rain forced that race to be switched to the dirt and so Rydilluc made a last minute entry into the Secretariat. This tells me his owners had a picnic basket prepared for the Spa. I don't believe the horse is primed for Arlington Park, rain or shine.

Stormy Len almost edged out Admiral Kitten in the American Derby. Although he finished 3rd Stormy Len looked the horse that would give you more bang for your buck next time out. Alex Solis is a reliable rider. He's 15/1 on the Morning Line. You can expect him to be higher on your high street. The Lenster value bet in the race.

Juddmonte's lightly raced Tattenham is making a big step up from Allowance company. A quick glance at the form would suggest his entry is for experience purposes. But if you watch Tattenham finish 2nd last time up at Belmont, you'll see the moment the horse gets it. William Mott could have Group 1 winner on his hands here. If not now, then soon.

I see seven possible winners here: One or two of Draw Two, Stormy Len, Admiral Kitten, Jack Milton and Rydilluc will find their way into the placings and I expect one of either Yeager or Tattenham to break into the top 3 also.

Yeager has a cosy draw in 7. Only Admiral Kitten is a threat on his inside. Ryan Moore will settle Yeager just outside Admiral Kitten. The other contenders will cause each other all sorts of problems on the outside. Whoever emerges will run into an asteroid belt of lower drawn horses. When they emerge Yeager will be warping to the post. With a better draw, Draw Two would have been my idea of the winner. Still, Stevens will race hard for place money. Solis will also bring Stormy Len late for a piece of the action. Admiral Kitten may just be run out of it. The draw has not been kind to Tattenham. He's drawn widest of all in 13. He'll be the hard luck story who could have won, if there were only another 100 yards to race.

Prediction

1st 7. Yeager 12/1 US ML
2nd 10. Stormy Len 15/1 US ML
3rd 12. Draw Two 6/1 US ML

Friday, 16 August 2013

Great St Wilfrid Stakes preview

The British racing spotlight heads towards Yorkshire, next week for the Ebor Festival at York, but firstly for the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon, 'Yorkshire's Garden Racecourse'. High class handicap racing, I love it. Taking the reins is the shrewd Stephen Boardman, @ste_b85. You can read more of his work on his site, TheRacingGuru.

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Great St Wilfrid Stakes

HOOF IT
Brilliant in 2011 when taking the Sky Bet Dash, Stewards' Cup and placing a Grp1 company. Only a handful of runs since and doesn't appear to have the old sparkle back yet; others preferred.

CAPTAIN RAMIUS
Solid 4th in this last year off 7lbs lower before going on to land the Ayr Gold Cup. That race will be the aim again, so this likely to prove a stepping stone after a nice Summer break; classy but has bigger aspirations.

BORDERLESCOTT
Another of the older brigade and he was actually pulled out of retirement to race again this season. Drop back to handicap company will suit better than last two contests but hard to fancy an 11yo winning this; passed over.

LOUIS THE PIOUS
Talented on his day and showed that when 3rd here last year from 3lbs lower than today. Last two runs have been promising (beat subsequent winner then 7th in Stewards' Cup) and trainer won this last two years; could go well.

SPINATRIX
Never out of the first three in seven attempts shows how much she loves the place. Mark is now high, so needs to improve. Has struck up a good partnership with young Beasley though and no surprise to see a big run; respected.

PRODIGALITY
Another coming back to the scene of one of his better efforts when 2nd in the consolation race here last year. Handy 7lbs taken off to balance out his steep mark but could have burnt out from a lot of racing this season.

SECRET WITNESS
Showed his well-being with a battling display to finish 2nd at HQ just over a week ago. Form has been hit and miss generally so hard to enthuse too much about his chances in a better quality field.

BLAINE
Hasn't hit the heights again after winning his first two starts last year as a 2yo. Still finds himself rated 100 and will need some rest-bite from that mark one would imagine before he's seen to great effect once more.

REGAL PARADE
Heading into his time of year, as he showed in 2012 with a few really strong pieces of form. Dropping down the weights to an appealing looking mark but impossible to fancy in current vein of form; others appeal more.

CONFESSIONAL
Somewhat of a standing dish in these big sprints and some of his back form from this sort of mark gives him a chance today. He's another though that hasn't been that reliable this term and others arrive here in much better form.

POLSKI MAX
Seems to have gone off the boil since starting the season with a bang following two good wins. No 3yo winner of this in the last ten years shows the stats are against him too and he'd need a sudden improvement in form to land this.

DR RED EYE
Handicapper seems to have him in his grasp off this mark since he came up to this level following two wins at Chester. Was always likely to struggle in the Stewards' Cup on latest start and probably will do again today.

RODRIGO DE TORRES
Just hung on to win the Scottish Stewards' Cup two starts back and struggled next time out in the Sky Bet Dash. Certainly has claims though with the 5lbs taken off and likely to set a brisk pace for the low numbers to try and pass him.

BACCARAT
A lightly raced and unexposed sort who has run with promise in two big handicaps of late, being unlucky in both. Already has a win over CD to his name and easy to see why he's a leading fancy in this for crack Northern trainer.

EL VIENTO
Won the consolation race last year off 6lbs lower and his latest 7th place finish at Goodwood is better than it looks after not having much room. Plenty to like about him and has the potential to go well.

SUMMERINTHECITY
Is having a good season for Dandy Nicholls and his recent 2nd to Tropics reads very well. Will need to pull more out of the bag now though off revised mark and niggling doubt that he'll be able to do that.

ZACYNTHUS
Interesting runner having his first start for Kevin Ryan after leaving Cumani. First try at 6f after he's been running well this season over 7f; he's with a trainer who can improve horses. Could easily outrun his current odds.

PEARL ICE
Another to like it here having a win and a second to his name from two starts. Hasn't hit the heights that were expected when he joined the Barron team last year. But he's on a workable mark here and the yard are in cracking form; chances.

THUNDERBALL
Certainly has the ability to land a prize such as this off this kind of mark as he's demonstrated a few times in the past, including here. The signs are the rain he desperately needs won't come though and that will hinder his chances dramatically.

DICK BOSS
Another with a fine record here (one win; one second) and has been running with superb credit in some fine handicaps this season. Needs to show he can win from this sort of mark though and this is another tough race in which to try and do it.

SUMMARY

Ripon's finest race of the year and one which this time around has thrown together a number of horses with excellent course form. Baccarat heads the betting and he could indeed be better than anything on the day after looking unlucky in his last two runs. However, at the price he's worth taking on with a couple and they come in the shape of PEARL ICE (10/1; win) and ZACYNTHUS (25/1; ew). You could make a case for a number of these but I've come down on the side of the David Barron runner. Both times he's visited this course he's run well, with a win and a second to his name, and he's always been a horse that his trainer has rated highly. They tried to get him into the Wokingham last season in a plan that didn't work out, but he's effectively running off a mark of 88 today with his claimers allowance and while the yard are in red hot form (39% strike rate over the last 14 days) he's worth taking a chance on to land the big prize he has always threatened to. Hopefully he'll get a nice tow into the race. The second of my selections does not deserve to be such a huge price and must be the each way steal of the contest. He should prove fruitful for his new connections and it's interesting they throw him straight into a hot race like this for his first try over 6f. He should be staying on at the end.

quality letter to Bet365 re closed betting account

As the world of bookmaking goes corporate, more and more accounts get heavily restricted or closed altogether. This letter, originally published here on Progamble.me - is a funny summation of bookies reacting way too fast to ban punters who might strike it lucky occasionally. Braco sir!

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As I’m sure most of you guys are, myself and me mates are cut off from Bet365. Some of their accounts even had losses of their lifetime and were still cut off because they “believed they would win more than they lost in the long term.”

Here is an email from one of my mates attempting to get reinstated. It was so good we couldn’t not post it on here. We will let you know the outcome, if they respond.

Hello!

My name is xxxxxxxxx and my username for my account is xxxxxxx. I am writing to you as my account was cut-off on the 4th of July 2013 due to being found guilty in Kangaroo Court of the unspeakable crime of not losing money to an online bookmaker on a consistent basis. I could understand this happening at the time, because I’ll be honest, I was in the gambling form of my life and was giving you blokes an absolute hiding. I really don’t blame you for saying ‘no mas’ and rather than complain about being cut-off, I decided to take a few deep breaths, withdraw your money from my account and purchase a shiny new motor vehicle to take my mind off things. I can send you a photo if you’re interested.

I now feel that since our relationship has had this time-out (I refuse to believe we broke-up), we both have a better grasp on what we want from each other. I understand that you don’t want to be the first to say it, so I’ll go first. I miss you Bet365. I miss sinking my teeth in to your juicy early markets, I miss biting down on your ear during the climax of a big 5 leg multi, I even miss sneaking out with you for a cheeky late night roleplay over the jumps at Chepstow. I miss every little unspeakable act, and now that we’ve been apart for 6 weeks, I hope you miss it too. I’ve been trying to re-create the magic with other sites during this time, and while they always have their legs akimbo for me, many times they manage to work their way on top. And I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but most of the time the next morning I would wake up feeling cheap, used and with empty pockets. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror sometimes, and I can’t help but ask myself why am I wasting my life with these cheap, easy second rate agencies when I once had it all with the World’s Biggest Bookmaker? It’s like sneaking out for a random seeing to at a glory hole when you’ve got Scarlett Johansson waiting for you at home. It’s just not the same. What do you say, I feel like I’m ready to make a commitment, let’s give it another go? I feel like I’m a more mature punter, and you’re a more mature bookmaker, and we’ll be able to make it work this time. I’m even willing to stop seeing all the other floosy sites if you take me back. You’ll be my one and only, I promise! You just have to say the word.

But in all seriousness, if Samuel L. Jackson or one of your analysts takes the time to look at my account and my gambling patterns, you’ll see that I’m in no way a professional punter. I don’t just pick-out overs or be selective at all with my betting. I bet on anything, anytime, anywhere, with little rhyme nor reason to it. I simply managed to hit a purple patch of form over the first few months of this year. I’ve been a punter for 18 years and I hold accounts with 7 different agencies other than yourselves and I’ve never been close to being cut-off with any of them, and for good reason. If you hadn’t cut me off you would have won a fair portion of your money back from me over the past 6 weeks. If you reinstate my account this weekend I will be backing horses like Mantango and Mac It Is with you at Belmont on Saturday. I won’t be happy with the new car you funded for me, I’ll come back trying to get you to a fund a water-based vessel. Do I not sound exactly like the kind of person you want betting with you? The saying goes “the house always wins”, but it seems like you guys adhere to the saying “the house takes a couple of stomach punches, curls into the foetal position, sucks its thumb and waves the white flag.” Don’t take your bat and ball and go home. Let’s do this! You can do it, you’re the World’s Biggest Bookmaker! No-one gets the better of you! As the great Aaliyah once harmonised, “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again, dust yourself off and try again, try again, try again…”

So I hope you consider to take me back. I promise I won’t win as much money this time and will not take you for granted again. I believe in you, even if you don’t believe in yourself.

I really look forward to navigating your wonderful website and your state of the art mobile application again. I would appreciate it if you could respond to me with your decision unlike the multiple times you ignored my requests to change the method of withdrawal for my account.

Yours sincerely,

xxxxxxxx

American St Leger preview

One of the best cards of the American racing year takes place on Saturday at Arlington in Chicago. Making his debut on the blog is American racing form student, Davy Lane, @loscharruas, and he'll be covering each of the big races.

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American St Leger

Although eight have been declared, Dandino finds himself up against only one significant local challenger in Dark Cove. The near US$250,000 winning purse may not have attracted more than one other challenger from Europe, but the American St Leger is now a proven pit stop on the road to Melbourne. This may not be appreciated by many Americans who see their industry apart from other jurisdictions, but ultimately it could nudge some American owners and trainers into thinking about how they too can find a stayer that passes the Flemington winning post like a runaway train. Europunters should grab the general 2/1 offered about Dandino and include the horse in any and every weekend multiple.

What about the others?

Code of Conduct's dam is by Green Dancer, a classic French pedigree. Wayne Catalano is a champion trainer at the Chicago tracks. He will be ridden by Florent Geroux, a hungry French kid trying to make the donuts state side. If only you could persuade your bookie to pay on the first six places.

Dark Cove has an impressive strike rate, winning four of his last six races, including the Group 2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland. This is versatile horse. He can lead or he can surge from wide. His sectionals over a mile and a half are comparable to Dandino, but he has never been stretched in Group 1 company and his stamina has never been tested over a longer distance. If Dandino is using this as a training exercise, Dark Cove has a shot. Joel Rosario is hot and his presence will impress Chicago punters. If Dandino had a jockey other than Ryan Moore, I'd pause before attempting to spilt the two. The relative weakness of the rest of the field should spare Ryan Moore traffic on the turn for home. I recall Dandino's sprint for 2nd in the Canadian International at Woodbine last year and I have since watched Dark Cove's last three races. Dark Cove does not outrun Dandino down the stretch.

The Chris Block trained Ioya Bigtime finished second in this last year, and as been thereabouts all season, but always three or four places and 5 or 6 lengths behind Dark Cove. His best form is behind him.

James Graham was the leading jockey at Arlington in 2011. The Irish lad could give Each Way punters some value on Najjaar. Najjaar was only half a length behind Dark Cove over 1M 4F in May and only a length behind Dullahan in the 10F Arlington Handicap last month. Najjaar is improving and will not be overawed by Dandino or Dark Cove. Although 6/1 on the US Morning Line, he's as high 12/1 with Paddy Power and Bet 365. That's value. A 15 length defeat to Bodemeister in last year's Arkansas Derby suggests one should approach such a wager cautiously, however.

The dark horse of the race has to be Ojos del Hielo. Chicago trainer Larry Rivelli has an Easterby-like eye for a horse. Ojos del Hielo is a sprinter recently converted into a miler. If the race is run slow, this chesnut colt may think the first mile was just a warm up. He may then have the speed to blow the field away down the stretch. This horse was twice placed in Group 1s in Panama, finishing a close 3rd behind Private Zone (remember him from Meydan at the Dubai World Cup) over 6 Furlongs last year and second over 9 Furlongs in the Group 1 Panama Independence last November. The next horse finished 20 Lengths back. Ojos del Hielo is not my idea of the winner, but he was responsible for the most impressive track work last week at Arlington. English Each Way enthusiasts should ponder the double carpet odds.

Chris Block has two in the race. Suntracer is the more serious contender, both because of his form and because of the jockey booking. He was not disgraced losing by 1 3/4 lengths to the odds-on Dark Cove last time out in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes over 1M 4 F at Arlington. A closer look at the race shows Dark Cove fading as Suntracer closed. The extra one and a half furlongs could be all Eddie Castro needs to reverse those placings. Suntracer is drawn 5, just outside Dandino. This will be benefit him. I strongly advise Each Way Europunters snap the 14/1 offered by William Hill before Saturday.

Finally, Wigmore Hall. This is his fourth visit to Chicago in as many years. This character has long looked a spent force, though he was fairly competitive last time out at York. Invariably, Jamie Spencer will hold him up and push him around the outside. On paper, he should be placed, but Dark Cove, Najjaar and Suntracer will not concede their positions so easily.

Prediction:

Dandino will shadow Dark Cove. Both maybe forced to run faster than ideal if Ojos del Hielo is not held up. Dark Cove will come under pressure first. Suntracer will swoop late for place. Ojos del Hielo will fade in the final furlong.

1st 4. Dandino 9/5 US ML; 2/1 Paddy Power Best Price
2nd 5. Suntracer 8/1 US ML; 14/1 William Hill Best Price
3rd 1. Dave Cove 3/1 US ML; 5/1 William Hill Best Price

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Premier League Relegation Preview

Have you heard? Apparently Premier League football starts again this weekend, I hadn't noticed... perhaps they should work on generating more headlines and TV coverage. Sports betting has evolved in recent years, gut instinct and opinion have mostly been replaced by databases and algorithmic trading models. One of the very best of those is Football Form Labs who have shared their wisdom with a preview of the Premier League Relegation market. You can also follow Football Form Labs on Twitter, @footballformlab

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Premier League Relegation Preview

Promoted teams since 1995/96 (the first season with 20 teams):
• Since 1995/96 23 of 53 (43%) promoted teams have been relegated straight back to The Championship
• Just 1/18 seasons have seen all three promoted teams relegated while 2/18 have seen none of the promoted teams demoted (5/18 two relegated and 10/18 exactly one)
• 10/18 play-off champions have been relegated with 7/10 since 2003/04 finishing in the bottom four
• Just 6/15 (40%) teams since 2000/01 appearing in the Premier League for the first time have been relegated
• 17/36 (47%) teams to be promoted having won fewer than 90 points in the Championship have been relegated
• Just four of the last 14 (29%) Championship winners have been relegated
• This year’s promoted teams are Cardiff (Championship winners), Hull (2nd), and Crystal Palace (5th)

None of the promoted teams reached 90 points in the Championship last season so we wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple go straight back down. As champions and given they are making their Premier League debut we’d give Cardiff the greatest chance of the promoted teams to survive. Furthermore, they’ve shown some ambition in the transfer market – twice breaking their transfer record this summer – and could be strong enough to survive.

Hull and Crystal Palace, however, look to have their work cut out. Palace, in particular, look weaker than last year having sold Wilfried Zaha and with Glenn Murray injured. Plus they had the worst defensive record last season for a promoted team since Sunderland 23 years ago.

Hull, meanwhile, were only the 14th highest scorers in the Championship last season and just two of the last 62 promoted teams came up having scored fewer goals (and they had vastly superior defensive records). Is Danny Graham, without a goal since the start of January the man to improve this situation?

Second Season Teams:
• 4/22 teams that finished higher than 15th were relegated
• 4/7 teams that finished 15th or below were relegated (7/7 finished in the bottom five)

Southampton and West Ham are the two teams who must look to safely navigate their second seasons but both finished above the bottom six last season and that bodes well for their chances of survival.

Other teams: • There have been 18 relegated teams other than promoted or second-season sides since 1999/2000, with 17 finishing 12th or lower the previous season
• 10/18 relegated sides had finished in the bottom six in one of the previous two seasons.
• 2/18 teams were in their third season

Teams finishing 12th-17th last season were: Fulham, Stoke, Southampton, Aston Villa, Newcastle and Sunderland. Of these Villa, Newcastle, Sunderland are the only sides to have been in the bottom six in the past two seasons while we’ve mentioned Southampton as a second-season team.

Fulham had a poor season compared with the previous year but they’ve not finished in the bottom six since 2008/09 and should be ok, as should Newcastle who have the quality to finish in the top half. Sunderland were very poor last season. However, with Steven Fletcher fit, Italian international Emanuele Giaccerini on one wing and the probability that Adam Johnson’s form improves significantly on the other, they have the potential to finish higher.

Aston Villa could be in trouble though if Benteke fails to repeat his level of success with the markets overrating how much Paul Lambert’s youngsters will have improved from last term’s experience.

Stoke’s only signings of significance so far are a pair of defenders, which is a surprise given they conceded just two more goals than Man Utd last season. Therefore, we are likely to see a similar team under Mark Hughes as we did under Tony Pulis, that may well prove tough to beat and snatch enough narrow wins to survive – but probably not by much.

Of the teams that finished higher than this, Norwich had a very poor second half to last season and may well struggle this term, although they have spent money in an attempt to sharpen an attack that failed to score in nine of their last 20 games.

Conclusion:

Hull and Crystal Palace look to be two of the weakest promoted teams in Premier League history while the rest of the league has mostly improved and even at odds on prices they appear value. Picking the team to join them is trickier with Cardiff, Norwich, Stoke and Villa all looking quite weak. However, Villa look the best value at 9.0 and have a very tough start to the season with Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool their first three opponents. 12 teams that were either newly promoted or finished in the bottom seven the previous season have lost their first three games in the Premier League and eight went down.

Recommendations:
Crystal Palace to be relegated at 1.57, Coral
Hull to be relegated at 1.7, Youwin
0.25pt Aston Villa to be relegated at 9.0, Coral