Friday, 29 November 2013

Fighting Fifth Hurdle preview

A rare venture north for top level NH horses tomorrow with the crown jewel of the North East's winter season - the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. With the ground in decent condition, a strong field has accepted. Recent addition to the list of blog contributors, local racing enthusiast and aspiring journo Daniel Knight, @danielknightt, casts a sagacious eye over the field. You can read more of his work at BritishJumpRacing.

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StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle Grade 1
2 miles Newcastle, Good to Soft Ground but could be just Good, Soft in Places come Saturday.


It’s not often big names in National Hunt racing come to Newcastle Racecourse. But the first Grade 1 Hurdle of the season, the Fighting Fifth, always see’s the big stables top hurdlers travel north. Year in year out, the Champion Hurdle contenders grace the turf at Newcastle as one of their 1st stops en-route to the opening day of Cheltenham’s showpiece event. The Fighting Fifth Hurdle is just about the best racing Newcastle Racecourse gets. This year’s field is not the best that the Fighting Fifth has ever seen, but we’re certainly not short on talent. One talent being a huge one.

Cotton Mill: 16/1
Cotton Mill is a bit of an enigma, consistently offering promise only to be let down soon after.

After winning 3 in a row as a novice, everything looked rosy going into the 2012 Neptune (won by Simonsig) but he unseated the rider. He then finished 3rd in the Sefton, followed by a 2nd in last years Betfair Hurdle, behind My Tent Or Yours, which is top class form. Again, when everything looked good, he went on to offer nothing in the Vincent O’Brien or the Punters Club Hurdle at Aintree. He returned this season with a distinctly average 4th behind Melodic Rendezvous in the Grade 2 Ten To follow Elite Hurdle at Wincanton, so his chances look slim. Although rated only 8lbs behind Melodic, that probably flatters Cotton Mill and he is a very risky proposition to back here, especially as he hasn’t won since January 2012.

Duke of Navan: 16/1
It is not often a horse has only had 1 attempt at a graded race and wins the Fighting Fifth, which is why I can’t help but feel that Duke Of Navan is a bit out of his depth here. Winning three out of four juvenile hurdle races is not a bad record by any going, but for me, his mark of 148 is generous. Especially considering in his one graded event he was fourth behind Dodging Bullets and River Maigue. In comparison, Cotton Mill is rated 147 and he’s won a Grade 2 and placed in a Grade 1. Some positives though are that his trainer, Nicky Richards knows what it takes to win this race and five-year-olds have won five out of the last ten runnings. Overall, Duke Of Navan’s potential is not disregarded and he will have improved over the summer, but as a returning race this is tough and it will be a major shock if he wins. Best watched but could maybe nick a place.

Grumeti: 8/1
A talented novice hurdler whose career has been disrupted because injury, Grumeti is a hard one to assess but, he does have a chance of a place on Saturday. After running 6 times over hurdles in the 11/12 season, including a third in the JCB Triumph Hurdle and winning the Grade 1 Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle at Aintree, he looked to have some promise. But injury ruled him out of basically all of last season, he ran only once in the Scottish Champion Hurdle, coming fourth behind Court Minstrel. If, and it’s a big if, he returns to his novice hurdle form, he has a chance at minor honours. Each way chance.

Melodic Rendezvous: 5/2
Although not the favourite, Melodic Rendezvous is a classy horse with some top form. Beaten only twice in his career, once by Champagne Fever in a Punchestown Bumper and once by Mr Mole (who was once an exciting prospect), he has now won four in a row, including a novices Grade One. He is rated 155 and is ever improving, beating Far West on his seasonal return in a Grade One. He has the fitness over his main rival (My Tent Or Yours) and given that some of Henderson’s top lot are needing the run this year, he has a cracking shout. 5/2 is not the best value but he has been shortening all week, so he’s worth a serious look.

My Tent Or Yours: 8/11
One of the few horses everyone wanted to see this season, MTOY is an equine beast. In his nine runs, including National Hunt flat races and hurdles, MTOY has never been out of the top two (including four graded races). He has been favourite on eight of his nine races and in the one he wasn’t, he was second favourite. Last season’s run in Supreme Novices, followed by 16 length romp in the Grade Two Alder Hey Novices Hurdle, installed him as one of the front runners for this year’s Champion Hurdle, ahead of the mighty Hurricane Fly. Overall, MTOY oozes class and is a worthy favourite for this. But given many of Henderson’s have needed the run, he needs to be on his game. Worth a serious look.

Rock Relief: 150/1
Considering he officially rated 123 and has only won twice over jumps, I have absolutely no idea why Rock Relief is still declared for this race. He has only ever contested one graded race, in which he came third out of six and has only ever won twice over jumps. Admittedly, those wins were both over course and distance, but that is the only positive I can give this horse. Unfortunately, the price pretty much sums up Rock Relief’s chances. More chance of the mighty Sprinter Sacre running in the 2014 Grand National than this winning, don’t even contemplate backing.

Stormy Weather: 100/1
Another horse who is punching quite a bit above their weight in a race like this. Rated just 129, 31lbs behind My Tent Or Yours, says a lot about his chances, although he is rated 6lbs ahead of Rock Relief which is a positive. He’s coming into the Fighting Fifth off the back of a win in a Two mile handicap at Wetherby and it just isn’t a good enough standard. Again, the same as Rock Relief, the only positive I can give him is that he has had a couple of course and distance wins, but not even they can stop him from coming at best 7th on Saturday. Wouldn’t back it with stolen money.

Cockney Sparrow: 12/1
This is an intriguing runner for last year’s winning trainer. 2nd on debut in a Listed Fillies hurdle, Cockney Sparrow has been favourite on every start since, including on the flat. Over jumps she has never finished outside the top two. She seems to have considerable potential and while she hasn’t beaten any males of note yet, she claimed the scalp of L’Unique and Une Artiste last time out. Overall, she probably won’t win or place on Saturday but she deserves her chance in the top races and her graded win will come. Chance of a place, but only small. Keep an eye out for her performance though.

Conclusion:
Just as the Coral Hurdle was last week, it is just a two horse race. I know that may be harsh on the rest of the field, but Grumeti has only raced once since May 2012 and Duke of Navan and Cockney Sparrow are completely unproven at this level. Cotton Mill is as unpredictable as the North East’s weather and last two in the betting speak for themselves. The trends show that winners tend to have won a Graded race at Cheltenham or Aintree and are rated over 150. They also show that 8 out of the last 10 winners have came from the 1st two in the betting, which should be a given this time round as well.

It all points down to Melodic Rendezvous or My Tent Or Yours, which I know, is obvious. When I first looked at this race, Melodic Rendezvous seemed the smart bet, especially as he has the fitness over MTOY and with Nicky Henderson’s record with Binocular (same connections) in the race. But then he shortened up in the betting and I watched My Tent Or Yours races from last season and have seen sense, I think. Look at what My Tent Or Yours did at Cheltenham without a Grade 1 start, what he did at Aintree and at Newbury. On paper, he should win this easily. Since the Betfair Hurdle he has been on everyone’s 13/14 waiting list. At the end of the day, if Henderson’s string had come out this season without needing the run, MTOY would be a lot shorter. It is only a few that have needed the run, and made to look at lot more than what it is because of West Wizard on Monday. Considering the potential that he showed last year, MTOY might be the best horse in the race no matter what his fitness is like, or how good Melodic Rendezvous is. Wait until on the day to get best price for My Tent Or Yours as I think he’ll touch evens. Back MTOY at that and back the forecast for MTOY/Melodic Rendezvous.

Miracle Mile preview

The Miracle Mile is the big night in Australian harness racing, north of the Murray anyway. Australasia's fastest pacers on the super fast Menangle Park circuit. Harness expert Ben Krahe, @benkrahe, assesses the form with a bit of history to boot.

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The Miracle Mile

For mine this is the race of the year. Pure speed over a mile where the quickest standardbred in Australia is crowned. All the greats have won it and although this field is probably as good as we’ve seen in the past 10 years I’m not sure the winner will go down in folklore. The race has a rich history with the inaugural winner in 1967 being Robin Dundee. That was when this fabulous race was an invitation only event for six runners around the tight Glebe circuit (the halcyon days - back when they had 40-50k fans to the track). Who can forget possibly the best MM win of all time in 1971 of Mount Eden when it lost 50m or so at the start, or 1976 when the people's horse Paleface Adios won in an equal race record at the time? 1978 saw one of the toughest horses of all time Pure Steel salute whilst in 1983 Popular Alm (or Poppy as he was affectionately known) defeated Gammalite. In 1996 Kiwi invader Iraklis carried a flat tyre around Harold Park to win in an unheard of time of 1.54.2. The move to Menangle in 2009 saw time in the 1.50s being run by Monkey King. Westburn Grant, Chokin, Holmes DG, Be Good Johnny and the people's horse of the moment Smoken Up are amongst dual champions.

Say what you like about Harness Racing, this is one of the true spectacles of sport and most of the sport's supporters will be hoping 11yo Smoken Up (Trigger) can regain his best form and be the first three-peat winner of the event. I wish I was attending Saturday night for what will be a fantastic night including nine other great races but unfortunately the best I will be able to do is sip a Singha and watch jealously on the internet.

The Big One – R8 – Miracle Mile

Prepost and crowd favourite Smoken Up has drawn the pole and some may think this is perfect but I think it could be a hindrance. I expect Mach Beauty to outpace Trigger to the first turn and then hand up to the Tassie Terror Beautide. Beautide has been a marvel in recent months coming from the Apple Isle into M0 class and is now vying for favourtism for our greatest mile. I'm going to put Beautide on top as I think the lead is the place to be.

The X-Factor horse is Christen Me who can do anything on his day but I think may be a touch overrated. Terror To Love has been NZ’s best horse for the past few years but yet to produce in Australia. I'm Victorious is the token WA horse (taken the place of the injured champ Im Themightyquinn) but I don’t think has the class to win from out wide. Restrepo possibly has the best sprint in the race but has drawn the carpark and even an 11/10 drive from the master Gavin Lang (like he produced last week) cannot see him win tonight.

The other people's favourite is Frank The Tank – For A Reason who will get the perfect run from barrier two and has broken the magical 1.50 mark in recent weeks. Mach Beauty has come from winning the Golden Guitar at Tamworth in January (beating a horse I owned!) to being a Miracle Mile contender – an amazing effort by Team Tritton. In summary I think Beautide can stave off a very fast finishing For A Reason with Christen Me running a game third.

Selections – 5-2-6-10

My tips can also be found daily on twitter @benkrahe

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Hennessy Gold Cup preview

Close to my favourite jumps race of the season, the Hennessy at Newbury. Why? Because it's a top class handicap, something I was brought up on in Australia but are rarer than an honest politician in Britain. Where the top horses can prove their greatness by conceding weight to emerging talents and still beat them. Set weights and WFA races bore me when you have the likes of Nicky Henderson moaning about lack of opportunities so he'd rather leave his horses at home rather than run them against each other before Cheltenham or simply consult the BHA's interactive race programming facility to find suitable races. Great publicity for the industry..... The championship features are great in that format, but not all the lead up races as well - we get stuck with the farcical situation of two and four runner pattern races like at Ascot last weekend. [/rantover]

Covering this great race for the blog is a long-time contributor, Jack Milner, @jjmsports. He now appears courtesy of BetVictor.

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Hennessy Gold Cup

Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup headlines three fantastic days of jump racing at Newbury as the National Hunt Season gets well and truly in full swing (Ed - just beware the over the top/outdated dress code).

The race has a history of favouring second-season chasers, the likes of Denman (2007), Diamond Harry (2009) and last year’s winner Bobs Worth all succeeding and despite not being seen for 18 months Invictus has been warm since betting opened, last seen beating last year’s winner Bobs Worth in The Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot. Nicky Henderson’s subsequent Gold Cup winner won from a mark of 160 yet Invictus runs from a mark of 145; does he have over a stone in hand as the figures would suggest?

Jim Culloty’s Lord Windermere and Willie Mullins' Prince De Beauchene (14/1 from 20/1 with BetVictor after Ruby Walsh was confirmed to ride) have both been backed, seeking to give Ireland their first winner of the race in 33 years; their second since Arkle’s famous win in 1965. Lord Windermere is seeking to be the third consecutive horse attempting to do the RSA/Hennessy double after Denman and Bobs Worth; both incidentally going onto win The Gold Cup to complete a memorable treble.

Hennessy Gold Cup Prices from BetVictor
Rocky Creek 7/1
Lord Windermere 7/1
Our Father 8/1
Highland Lodge 10/1
Invictus 10/1
Hadrians Approach 10/1
Merry King 12/1
Prince De Beauchene 14/1
Katenko 14/1
16/1 Bar
EW ¼ 1-2-3-4

The most interesting runner in the race without question is David Pipe’s runner Our Father, the trainer in red-hot form; Dynaste running a terrific race in defeat when chasing home Cue Card in the Betfair Chase to earn quotes of 7/1 for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham and 4/1 for the King George on Boxing Day. The master of Pond House completed a four-timer following Dell Arca’s win in the Greatwood at Cheltenham, completing at four-timer on the day when rounded off by Red Sherlock win in the bumper, in the colours of his late owner David Johnson.

The late David Johnson and his family own a share of Our Father and Timmy Murphy looks set to partner him on Saturday with the key to the 7-y-o being his record fresh. He won a competitive Ascot handicap in December 2011, before doting up at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting to beat Paul Nicholls’ Sire Collognes by 20 lengths; again first time out. A mark of 147 looks to flatter him and providing he handles quicker ground than he’s used to, he look sure to go very close indeed.

The race looks to be a stone lower in class compared to recent times, Cape Tribulation heading the weights from an official mark of 158, Tidal Bay likewise from 170, the latter proving himself a solid Grade 1 animal where Malcolm Jefferson’s 9yo looks very poorly handicapped. Loch Ba would be interesting at 33/1 however if an animal rated 133 can win a Hennessy it is a very poor affair indeed.

Venetia’s horses are in good nick and she has Katenko,(who would want it bottomless) with Aidan Coleman opting to ride ahead of Houblon Des Obeaux, who fits the profile of a second-season chaser with strong form in novice company. A 10lb hike for beating Merry King at Ascot looks a bit harsh however, and he will now have to toil out three-mile handicap chases to come back to a workable mark, or take his chance in higher grade.

Nicky Henderson is another with two intended runners; surprisingly Barry Geraghty has ditched Hadrian's Approach to ride Triolo D’Alene, third behind the two mentioned horses at Ascot at the start of the month. Hadrian's Approach has been well backed in the week with us at BetVictor and will have the services of Nico De Bonville taking off a useful 5lb.

Highland Lodge chased home Standing Ovation, who went onto win since, which looks a strong form line despite David Pipe’s horse missing out on the four-timer – given a poor ride throughout and didn’t look to suit jumping left-handed. Leighton Aspell rides for the first time and Emma Lavelle’s charge is undoubtedly well handicapped.

The more I look through the race the more I feel it’s there for the taking for Pipe’s OUR FATHER. There will be lots of pace in the race with the likes of Highland Lodge, Theatre Guide and Rocky Creek all likely to be prominent and I would be disappointed if Timmy Murphy isn’t able to sit in the rear and bide his time before creeping into it two out. His record fresh and the stable’s current form make him a cracking each way prospect at the 8/1 mark, Donald McCain’s Super Duty looking the value a the bigger prices, 20/1 with BetVictor and Jason Maguire legged up to ride.

Our Father 3pts EW at 8/1 with BetVictor
Super Duty 1pt EW at 20/1 with BetVictor

Clark Handicap preview

Nice timing for US racing with some Grade 1 action on the pseudo-long weekend where nobody works after Thanksgiving. Regular US racing contributor, the astute Jon da Silva, @creamontop, returns to the blog....

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Clark Handicap

9 Furlong Grade 1 Handicap Churchill Downs

You have to love the Septics no sooner do they have a season ending jamboree and then they are throwing two Grade 1s at you four weeks later. One reason this race may have two top classers is that US horses chase Horse of the Year honors (honours my UK chums). Wise Dan by mopping up over a mile on turf and only beaten once off a poor trip against lone speed on a drenched synth track will win anyway mind. Although had Wise Dan been 3rd running a better rating in the Classic (than the Mile he won) he would not - people love the win.

Nonetheless there are categories like top three year old and Will Take Charge's handler D. Wayne Lukas has barely seen a horse he did not want to race again by some accounts. Just to spice it some more it's a handicap.

Game on Dude [aka GOD]
Folds when persistently challenged it seems but has set massive figures draws an inside post here. This sets up for him with less speed and the inside post. It's tempting to knock him but all but won a Breeders' Cup here only for the three-card trick Drosselmeyer who was too slow to tire himself catching him late over a furlong further. Ran a top figure 28 days after prior Breeders Cup defeat, this is 27. If nothing takes him on then can he be beat here? Gives weight albeit WeightForAge essentially to Will Take Charge.

Finnegans Wake
Dire turfer at Grade 1 level highly tried and even with so many races not looked like winning. This is dirt and his chance is similar to a Galileo from Aiden O'Brien on dirt - slim and none with an emphasis on none.

Bourbon Courage
Quality performer not quite top class. 3rd in this last year this looks tougher on paper. One who could mop up if the principles suck. Second run off a break and has been working well at the track so no shipping in from Santa Anita like BC campaigners. The 'if the favs run badly' horse? Also some hope he might still have more in him.

Golden Ticket
Came second supposedly against a pace bias in the Breeders Cup Mile. However a cameraman walking alongside the leaders at the furlong was third. It became a plodfest and Golden Ticket closed past the dead. Kentucky Derby where he was second became a closers convention. Not without a chance and not yet established as short of top class. Can make an argument: track suits and a furlong longer to get to the front than the BC Mile. Challenger.

Prayer for Relief
Good numbers but whether he's quite good enough is the issue. Beaten eight lengths over course and distance when Fort Larned was supposedly unimpressive. no obvious angle for arguing he'll step up.

Easter Gift
Well it is Thanksgiving but we'll forgive him that. Closer fresh off his fifth in a Kelso not run to suit. Improving four year old who needs to step forward but not that much. TimeformUS like him. Could be a value play at 16s.

Will Take Charge
I dismissed him as a winner of slow run races only to watch him get second and be one stride from winning the Breeders' Cup Classic. Now has a peak number to come off. Will he be in the same form? Lukas has given him breaks after every two or three runs. Did run good back to back to back slow run races with ~4 week break in the summer at Saratoga - winning twice. A slight danger of a bounce but one can over play that. Lukas record at Churchill is considered wretched by Timeform. Fairly priced?

Our Double Play [ODP]
A sprinter miler who will flatten out long before the finish? Arguably more important for Game On Dude's hopes than his own. Will he take GOD at the front? Beat Bourbon Courage last time over 7.5F on a sloppy track -> only a 47K allowance. That was incidentally the best Brisnet speed figure on offer here (last 10 runs TimeformUS beg to differ). For those who like to have a reasons for backing Black Swan events? A three year old, changed trainer two runs back. Gets 13 pounds to boot. Might make a wet track play at huge odds. One who if he wins you can cite a lot of reasons why which is weird for an outsider.

Jaguar Paw
In this context should be Jaguar Poor. In deep here. Two attempts at graded company have come up shy. Drawn outside and likely to be hung out there early.

Conclusion
Not a race for large stakes but definitely a nice hangover cure for US fans and the Cigar Mile Saturday equally promises to be good.

Off level weights I'd be all Game On Dude here as he's likely to only have one horse to worry about and is fresher than last year when he won a race after the Breeders' Cup - ducked the Awesome Again this year. He's also handed out beating and weight to many horses in the past. There is a strong case at 2/1. Will Take Charge gets three pounds not at WFA in the BC Cup but trainer motivation questionable. Golden Ticket is hard to weigh up. Bourbon Courage gets 9lbs off GOD and is a solid Grade 3 horse. Easter Gift could step forward with a better pace scenario. Our Double Play offers angles even if distance, most form and lead competition too hot. The other three seem to be spoilers and toilers at best.

This seems like Bourbon Courage's target is and 8s offers some EW play if that's your bag given how after thoughty this race must be for everyone else.

1pt EW Bourbon Courage 8/1
oh and 0.25pt Our Double Play 25s or PMU

Friday, 22 November 2013

Coral Hurdle preview

Another disappointingly small field for a feature race at Ascot, but at least there are two high-class hurdlers heading the market. Taking up the challenge is another blog debutant, aspiring young writer Daniel Knight. You can follow him via @DanielKnightt and read more of his work on his site, BritishJumpRacing.

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Coral Hurdle (Registered As The Ascot Hurdle Race) Grade 2
2 mile 3 1/2 furlongs Ascot, Good to Soft Ground but could be just Good come Saturday.

Usually one of the first stepping stones for either the World Hurdle or the Champion Hurdle, the Coral (Ascot) Hurdle is normally full of contenders for both races. This year’s is different. The 2014 Champion Hurdle has some serious depth and the World Hurdle isn’t short on quality either, so will many of the horses lining up on Saturday, be at the start for either race? Probably not. But one might, and she comes from Ireland.

Zarkandar:
This horse has a real shot at this year’s Coral Hurdle. After coming unstuck in the Champion Hurdle for the past two years, Zarkandar was upped in trip for the Aintree Hurdle, which he relished, beating The New One- and we all know how good he is, regardless of whether that was his trip or not. Just below that trip on Saturday, the 2m3f will suit and as he is officially rated 13 higher than Annie Power he is in with a real chance. The owners want to try him over three miles as well so this could well be the natural starting point to the World Hurdle, which is an interesting proposition.

Bygones Of Brid:
Officially rated 129, 38lb behind Zarkandar’s 167 and 26lb behind Annie Power, Bygones is punching quite a bit above his weight here. Although he ran a blinder at 22/1 last time out at Aintree (back over hurdles after an interesting four races chasing), he hasn’t won a graded race since March 2010 and the 10-year-old’s last win was a Class 4 hurdle at Hexham. Do not back.

Magnifique Etoile:
Before the field was decimated at declaration time, I quite fancied Magnifique Etoile for a place at odds. After bolting up last week, his first race back from a year and a half break, he could have a lot more to come. He was an impressive juvenile hurdler, only let down being beaten by Captain Conan at Sandown and by a poor performance in the Vincent O’Brien Handicap at Cheltenham. He probably won’t win this race, but his performance will be one to keep an eye on for future races.

Annie Power:
Five years old. Trained by Mullins, ridden by Ruby Walsh. Seven wins from seven races, including a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse last season. Annie Power, is a potential star of National Hunt racing. Last season she went from winning her maiden hurdle to winning a Grade 1 in four races, on top of winning three bumpers. As well as this, she has only ever been odds-against twice, such as the style of her wins (24 ¾ in four races, 12 of them being in the Grade 1!) Although rated 154, 13 behind Zarkandar and confusingly enough one behind Zaidpour, the likelihood is that Annie is better than that and will show it on Saturday. Especially due to her only getting a half penalty for her Grade 1 win as it was a novices’ event and she will receive a mare's allowance, which means she runs off only 10st 11lb whereas Zarkandar runs of 11st 8lb. Her only negative is that she has never raced from more than 71 days rest, this time it will be over 200. She is the worthy favourite, even if her price is based slightly on her potential.

Conclusion:
This is an obvious two horse race between Zarkandar and Annie Power. At the moment, Annie Power is best price 4/5 in the markets and shortening all the time. Zarkandar is best priced 7/4 and to be honest that doesn’t represent any value, obviously the same with Annie Power. The outsiders in the race, in my opinion, are not able to challenge the top two in the market and their price reflects it. The lack of depth in the race rules out any each-way thievery.

For my main recommendation, I’d have to side with the Annie Power/Zarkandar forecast. You won’t get rich from it but Willie Mullins never sends his horses our way without knowing they have a huge chance of victory. Annie Power is already seeing strong support for the Champion Hurdle and she has only run four times over obstacles. Her potential is massive and she will have improved over the summer, she is proven at the distance and should have enough to beat Zarkandar on the day, as good a horse as he is.

Betfair Chase preview

In the years since Betfair took over the naming rights of the Lancashire Chase, there hasn't been an edition as strong as this. Running his eye over the form and sharing his expertise is a blog debutant, Sam Tribe. You can follow Sam via @samtribe87, and hopefully read more of his work here again soon...

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‘The Mini Gold Cup’ 3 miles 1 furlong, likely going soft

The Grade 1 Showcase at Haydock this Saturday most commonly known as the Lancashire Stakes (just don’t tell the sponsors that) has been dubbed ‘The Mini Gold Cup’ due to the presence of some of the best 3 mile chasers around. The race is populated by chasing stars of the future, the past and the present as Trainers strive to get their ‘celebrities’ down the red carpet before the cold snap the tabloids have been promising properly kicks in. Celebs & the red carpet analogy is actually incredibly unfair, as these horses will have to show all of their talent, brute force, hard work and determination to land this race for their connections, traits the majority of celebs seem to lack. Perhaps unrivalled beasts fits the bill better. So here’s my attempt at deciphering the field, and bear in mind I fancy 6 out of the 8 runners for this one so good luck to everyone, and, whatever you do, take my opinion with a pinch of salt, or maybe a free bet! Prices quoted are the market at time of posting.

1. Bobs Worth, 9/4
Gold Cup winner, Hennessey Gold Cup winner, RSA Chase winner, all over this distance or further and rightly the joint favourite (at SP will more than likely be favourite.) Proven talent, proven ability and proven stamina and would be a Bob Worthy (sorry) winner tomorrow. His performance in the Hennessey last year was very impressive and to follow that up with the GC win was just as good. Lightly raced and if last season’s performances are anything to go by, he’s definitely the one to beat.

2. Cue Card, 7/1
Another great horse showing loads of potential, but being stepped up in trip due to the utter dominance of Sprinter Sacre in the 2m-2.5m distance. His only other performance at this trip was fifth in last year’s King George, excused because of the absolute bog of a track. However, not fancied here as others suit.

3. Dynaste, 6/1
From a cracking stable that are in form and this horse is going places. In my opinion, he needs a year racing at this level before he becomes a regular Grade 1 winner that, I believe, is more of when than if. This race will show us a lot but definitely in the ‘one to watch’ category.

4. Long Run, 12/1
This, to me, seems a crazy price for a horse that hasn’t been outside the top three bar his last run, but then it just highlights the quality he’s up against. A horse with unbelievable staying power and undeniable quality, a question mark still hangs over his mane for me. I have always wondered what he would’ve achieved thus far under the guidance of a top class professional jockey, plying his trade day in day out and knows how to make those last two furlongs count. Don’t get me wrong, Sam Waley-Cohen is a top class jockey, but I believe Geraghty would’ve turned those 3’s and 2’s into 1’s. Top 3 contender and worth an each way bet.

5. Roi Du Mee, 14/1
The Irish raider’s first run in Britain and that seems the only reason why he’s such a big price. A truly fantastic performance last time out at Down Royal, making virtually all and beating the likes of Sizing Europe, Prince De Beauchene and First Lieutenant. Gigginstown clearly like this horse and maybe recent performances have put him in line to run at the GC rather than First Lieutenant. If he’s had a decent trip over and can follow on from his previous performances then has to be taken seriously.

6. Silviniaco Conti, 9/4
A lot of love being shown for Silviniaco, and the belief flying around is that Nicholls will have him tiptop for this race, after all he won this last year with a great performance. Another common belief is that when he fell three out at Cheltenham in March, he was looking very good and could’ve beaten Bobs Worth up the hill. If those two go all the way tomorrow and it comes down to the final stretch, Silviniaco has the pace to beat him.

7. The Giant Bolster 20/1
Tough race for this hardened professional but I fear the pace will rule him out from the off. You’re better off taking each way prices on Long Run, Tidal Bay and Roi De Mee.

8. Tidal Bay 15/2
The oldest by four years but that doesn’t seem to matter to this beaut of a horse. I have a serious soft spot for Tidal Bay, he’s as consistent as you like and will give you his all until the day he is retired. What’s more he has a Champion Jockey in the making on board and I truly hope Sam TD can follow up his win on Tidal Bay last time out at Wetherby with a win tomorrow. A foolish man will discount.

Conclusion
Good luck! Honestly this race is going to be a cracker and I cannot wait to watch. The value bets are Tidal Bay, Roi Du Mee and Long Run. If one of them finishes second to Silviniaco or Bobs Worth then you should be happy at the prices knocking around at the moment. However, don’t be surprised if one of them pips it, and in that category, my favourite to nick the win would be Tidal Bay. This Rubik’s Cube of a race is verging on the impossible to call so sit back, relax and enjoy!

Neck firmly stuck out: Silviniaco to win, Tidal Bay EW

Railway Stakes preview

It's Super Saturday at Ascot, the Western Australian version, and the feature race of the day is the $1m Railway Stakes. Taking the reins for the preview is @BrisburghPhil who writes for the ReadingThePlay website.

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Railway Stakes 2013

Winners since 2000;

2012 MR MOET 5G (4) 53.5KG
2011 LUCKYGRAY 4G (12) 53KG
2010 GATHERING 4G (6) 52KG
2009 SNIPER’S BULLET 6G (12) 53KG
2008 GILDED VENOM 4G (9) 52KG
2007 EL PRESIDENTE 4G (4) 55.5KG
2006 BELLE BIZARRE 5M (6) 54KG
2005 COVERTLY 4M (2) 51KG
2004 MODEM 6G (7) 55KG
2003 HARDRADA 4G (13) 54KG (Race staged at Belmont).
2002 OLD FASHION 5G (1) 54.5KG
2001 OLD COMRADE 4G (8) 53.5KG
2000 NORTHERLY 4G (12) 51KG

From a punting perspective it is very helpful to look at the past winners of this event, not for what they went on to do thereafter, moreso for what they had done just prior. A good historical anlayis of these winners has been of enormous benefit in finding the victor in recent years. The following can almost be listed as prerequisites to winning the event;

1. 23 winners since 1985 finished first, second or third at their prior start. Stick with an in-form galloper!

2. Only one winner has carried more than 55.5 kg to win the race since 1985 (Sniper’s Bullet) and only three have carried 55kg or more. One of them was an odds on favourite (El Presidente) who carried only 0.5kg over the limit, and another was the out and out champion in Better Loosen Up. 2004 winner Modem carried 55kg and was only 3kg over the limit.
Average winning weight since 1995 is 52.5kg and lower than that since 1985.

3. The Barrier draw in recent years seems to have added significance. Only four of the last 16 winners have come from Barrier 10 or worse. One of those was Northerly who sat four wide most of the race from memory, pretty much unheard of in a G1 event, and definitely a prelude to his Champion status earned in the next 12 months. From 1988-1992 all five winners came from barrier 11 or wider so the trend has definitely reversed since then for some reason.

4. 22 of the last 54 winners, and 12 of the last 25 have been 4yos. The remaining 11 of those 21 have been 5yo (4), 6yos (6) and 7yos (3).

5. It is not necessary to have won at 1600m or more to win the event. Seven of the last 18 winners were yet to do so including Northerly (although 2 had placed at or beyond it- Sniper’s Bullet, Gathering). That tends to suggest that it isn't an overly tough mile or maybe that the pace can often be moderate.

6. It is best to have an ability to race on the pace or in the first half of the field. Nine winners since 1985 have come from further back than that but drawing wide and going back in recent years does seem to be a further recipe for disaster. Only one winner since 1994 has been able to win the event given that scenario.

7. Stick with those horses that have a prolific strike rate. The vast majority who have this race have at least a 25% overall winning strike rate.

8. 10 of the last 18 winners had a starting price of between $6 and $9.

9. Only three winners since 1985 has won the race off more than a 16 day break. It was Better Loosen Up. There is no horse near the class BLU this year so it would be very wise to ignore anything in the race coming off a bigger break than that.

10. Only two Entires (not Geldings) have won the race in the past 25 years with the last being Island Morn in 1994.

Summing up from a Historical perspective the horse should preferably;
Have won or placed at its last start
Be weighted with 55kg and preferably less than 53kg.
Be drawn lower than 10, unless it has the ability to cross and lead or co-lead.
Have an ability to race on or somewhere near the pace
Be a fairly prolific winner (25% win rate or more)
Start at $9 or less
Have had it's last start within 17 days of this race.
Be a Gelding or Mare.

Analysis;

I am largely basing this on historical data so I will only be analysing those horses’ that look capable of winning the race from that perspective. Given we have a minimum weight of 53kg this year, whereas it is normally 52 or 53kg I think it is wise to set the maximum winning weight as 57kg. That leaves out the 2 class WA Gallopers Luckygray and Mr Moet, and both are drawn horribly wide anyway so either would be difficult to tip even with a kilo or so less. I very much doubt that a WA horse can win the race this year going on what LG & Mr M did in Victoria during the Spring, and they are clearly the class gallopers representing their state. Kerriffic was good last start winning with a big weight but both he and Ranger are now 7 years of age and likely to struggle in this lineup. Certainly both are capable of running into a place but just doubtful they can win. Platinum Rocker is an in form mare but probably not up to this level and she is 6 years of age. I’m chancing my arm a bit and just reviewing six Eastern States gallopers who look to have very solid winning prospects ;

CONSERVATORIUM- Looks one of the top hopes here. He is not quite the right age being a 6yo BUT two of those have saluted in the past nine years and he has had the one run here this time around winning at WFA in one of the main lead up races (Le Steere Stakes). He was almost certainly not at his top last start either with three weeks between runs ,and coming off a well below par second up run. His record with 14 days or less between runs is quite astonishing really, 5-4/10 and if he wins here he will replicate his fourth up victory last preparation at Ipswich in the Eye Liner during the Winter. Subsequent to that win he ran a very close second to Fire Up Fifi at this distance at Doomben. That was on a Slow track too, probably not his best surface and he conceded that mare 4.5kg along with carrying 60.5kg top weight. He meets her 2.5kg better in this and given she was less than 3L away at G1 Mares level Flemington last start, he has to be a very serious chance here. He has a middle barrier and the on pace racing pattern that is suited to this race and track. He is yet to win at this distance but as mentioned in the historical data that is not really a negative, and the placing in Brisbane all but proves he can run it out.

SMOKIN’ JOEY- Is surely in career best form right now. Since the winkers were applied two starts ago for his new stable he boasts a G3 win and a G1 second in the Emirates which is surely the best form coming into this race. He has always had the ability and that was pretty evident in the Autumn of 2012 in Victoria when he was winning and running some super times at 1400m. His problem has been consistency and a poor overall winning strike rate. He too is a 6yo Gelding and yet to win at this distance from seven attempts, but the fact his only placing at the trip was at his last start at G1 level we have to give him the benefit of the doubt here. A possible weakness is his 0/9 outside of Victoria but he is on top of his game, drawn well & loves hard tracks. He does tend to get back in his races which could present him with a problem, but if he stays in touch early,and gets no further back than midfield, he is going to take a hell of a lot of beating here.

FIRE UP FIFI- Very consistent mare who has an extremely good strike rate. Whilst she is probably not quite capable of winning at G1 level in the Eastern states this could be her opportunity to break through at the highest level. She is a 6yo mare though which is not a good precedent historically, and her wide draw and rearward racing pattern make it hard to see her as one of the better chances here. I’ve already mentioned the weight turnaround Conservatorium gets on her from the Winter so I’m looking around her for the winner here. Her best chance is a hot speed up front which would negate her barrier and allow her to finish over the top. That is a possibility but not a distinct one unfortunately.

MUTUAL TRUST- Has had some decent backing in pre post markets and his form this preparation looks solid enough to put him in the picture big time here. This former G1 winning French 3yo is now 5 years of age and has arguably improved at each of his Australian starts. At his last 3 starts he has been beaten 4L at G1 level, 3L at G1 level and then 1 length in the Sale Cup by Mouro who has since franked the form by winning the G3 Eclipse last weekend at Caulfield carrying a big impost of 59kg. His a 5yo Gelding which is not ideal historically (last winner Old Fashion 2002). but he has an on paceracing style that is and his record at this distance is a decent 4-1/9 (0-0/4 at other distances) and this break between runs is better for him than at his past 2 runs. He is 3-1/6 with more than 14 and less than 30 days between runs and he too has drawn ideally with WA’s favourite son Damian Oliver aboard. The horse he beat winning this distance at G1 level in France (Zoffany) had previously run Frankel to less than a length at Ascot. That horse was an absolute freak that went unbeaten in his career, arguably one of the best of all time, so if this horse runs to his European from here he probably can’t be beaten with this weight, given ordinary luck. Possibly pertinent to recognise that Damien Oliver goes okay on an imported horse too (Fiorente, Media Puzzle, Pop Rock, Purple Moon) to mention a few. A possible negative that he has been Gelded since his time in Europe and his trainer doesn’t rate him good enough to win at G1 level in Victoria at the present time. This is winnable though.

LONGPORT- Historically she is the king pin here. 4yo Mare, on pacer, and a last start winner in a decent class race. My only query is a slightly awkward barrier and other pace in the race which could mean she gets a wide run in transit. It really depends on how she jumps in the race in relation to the likes of Conservatorium, Mutual Trust inside of her and Platinum Rocker outside of her but I’m guessing she can beat those to the punch inside of her and if so the other mare (PR) won’t cross her. Given that she should find the rail or be one off which is fine. There is no doubting she is a class mare and the fact she has beaten Norzita and placed behind that mare twice (and run time) definitely proves it. If that mare was carrying 53.5kg here she would be a clear favourite no doubt whatsoever. She is now with a new trainer and looks back to her very best so her winning prospects here are second to none if she doesn’t get too much opposition for the lead. Very hard to beat with the right run in the race.

PLUCKY BELLE- Has her share of ability and is also most probably in career best form. I say most probably because I did Blackbook her in her last preparation at Caulfield when she won at 1400m running a terrrific sectional from the rear. She then went North to Sydney and wasn’t disgraced in G2 Mares Class beaten 1.5L at this distance. She has already won twice third up in her campaigns and has started off this one far better than in the past. She is a 5yo mare as was Belle Bizarre the winner of this race in 2005 but unlike that mare she isn’t an on pacer. She has also drawn a bit wider than ideal but at least 12 barrier (if emergencies are scratched) has been prolific of late being the winning one twice in the last four years. Whilst she hasn’t won at 1600m her dam Winning Belle managed to get within a length of Champion mare Makybe Diva in an Australian Cup at 2000 so now that his mare has fully matured it shouldn’t be a problem. Like Fire Up Fifi her chances probably depend on a faster than average tempo up front to bring her into the race. Given that she could be the surprise packet and she is being kept safe in betting here. I prefer her to FUF but still have third others slightly ahead.

Conclusion;

This is no easy task to separate the better chances mentioned above. Given I have mentioned six of the interstate brigade it is interesting that the past two interstate winners have come here off a decidedly ordinary run beforehand (Gathering & Sniper’s Bullet) and both had raced at 1600m prior. Whilst MUTUAL TRUST didn’t run poorly last time it might pay to realise that he hasn’t peaked yet, and much like Gathering he comes off a favoured break between runs. He is the longest price of the four too ($14 Sportsbet) so represents significant value.

I have to side with history in naming LONGPORT as the main danger and like Gathering and Sniper’s Bullet (as well as controversial protest defeated He’s Remarkable in 2011) she has had a run or two at Flemington in her current campaign (Gathering and He’s Remarkable both won at Flemington). The $6.50 about her is a good price on Tattsbet.

Hard to believe I have picked CONSERVATORIUM for 3rd here. He looks terribly hard to beat but just maybe he has 1kg too much in comparison to the two I have slightly ahead of him.

The tempo of the race could have a major bearing in the result but this should be a great rendition of an always intriguing race.

Amlin Chase preview

It looked like being a great weekend of National Hunt racing but cripes it's turned out to be rather lame for Ascot tomorrow. Surely they have two races with a couple of starts in each, but if I wanted to bet head-to-heads, I'd focus on golf. Regular contributor Jon da Silva @creamontop follows up with his moan...

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Amlin 2 miles 3.5 furlongs Chase Grade 2

Grade 2 races in the UK nearly as farcical as Ireland. It does seem the BHA keeps coming up with ways for easy money and schooling for top trainers. Many Grade 2s just detract from Grade 1s like last week's Morgiana or how about the big two in this travelling for the Durkan or the Down Royal race the other week? Captain Chris by his being a righty horse probably should be glad of this, the rest of us not so much. Yes those races are in Ireland but the idea UK and Irish National Hunt racing should not work together is ridiculous. This would be like an independent Scotland.

When I were a lad this was sponsored by Pawn Brokers and was an intermediate chase called the H&T Walker Gold Cup. Declan Murphy deserting Bradbury Star for Deep Sensation and then beating The Star still a low point that England's batsmen managed to get close to last night. (Bad segue award winner?)

Anyway a total pick em three horses?

Captain Chris
currently my least favourite horse in training as I have got it into my head that stablemate Menorah could win the King George and he is in the same ownership as last year's second. Indeed to complete a theme, although like General MacArthur I will return, last year tight track monster Menorah won a Grade 2 at Kempton's Christmas jamboree. The Captain here was narrowly denied by Long Run although what that form is worth is anyone's guess. One wonders same owner trainer is the reason Menorah is not running here which would seem a logical stepping stone to the two mile 5f Grade 2 or dare I suggest the King George. Oh sorry, Captain Chris won this last year has won over two miles and almost won a heavy ground King George and sets a standard here. This could be his ideal conditions. Won this first time up last year and expect him to finish with a white skid mark on his right side from rail hugging. Main negative in a small field is he likes to be held up. 6/4

Al Ferof
Like Captain Chris won a Cheltenham Festival novice race albeit over hurdles. Won the Mack' [Paddy Power] easily last year beating serial disappointment Walkon three wickets in form that has not been franked IMO. Did not have the speed to take on Sprinter Sacre or Cue Card the year before at the Festival and muellered by the great Menorah at Aintree (tight track leathering). He's been off a year and although I actual think that is not a huge issue nonetheless he is the one most likely to run no race. Like with English football absence makes you look a better player and hence Evens favourite. Tried to lead Sprinter Sacre once and it did not end well.

French Opera
A 10 year old who has been a solid 2nd tier wto miler. Well beaten in Grade 2s last year by the likes of Menorah. Can make a case that French Opera has a two miler's chance in a small field could get lucky or dominate. 9/1

Conclusion

So who wins? I can see the promise of al Ferof but Captain Chris beat a future 2 mile champion as a novice in Finian's Rainbow. He goes well over course and distance and is a very similar horse in ratings to Menorah (relevance?). Even without the year off I think Captain Chris was a better novice and has better form even if al Ferof is unexposed to a degree.

Lay Al Ferof or take Stan's 13/8 Captain Chris -> which bet comes down to your view of French Opera's chance in what might be a muddling race. Take the 13/8 can always back French Opera in running or to cover.

Contrary to what you may have read Menorah is not running in this race or sadly it seems the King George.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Football Form Labs weekend preview

Elite club football goes into a brief hiatus this week - the perfect opportunity to dig deep into the lower leagues backed by the expertise of Football Form Labs.

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. Sign up today for a free 14 day trial, and follow them on Twitter @FootballFormLab

LEAGUE ONE PREVIEW

Since 1992/93 just four teams have picked up as many as 36 points after 15 games. Incredibly, both Leyton Orient (38) and Wolves (36) have managed this feat in the current campaign. Surprisingly just one of those four teams went on to win the league, with two missing out on promotion entirely.

The title should go to one of the top five though. All of the last 21 winners had at last 25 points by now, and they were also all in the top five at this stage. Preston are the bookies outsiders of the group and their 14th finish last season does count against them. Of the winners in the past 21 seasons that had been in the league the previous term none had finished lower than 13th. Furthermore, their form has been on the slide in recent weeks.

Of the top five, Brentford have played just two of the current top eight and have tough games against Wolves and Peterborough in the next two weeks. However, they are in good form and have the experience from last season. Posh, meanwhile, are in poor form having lost their last two games and we’ve previewed their tricky trip to Walsall this weekend below. With tough games against Wolves and Brentford coming up their challenge could look much weaker in a few weeks time.

Wolves and Orient certainly look to be the strongest contenders and dutching the two works out as a 1.38 shot. Six of the 11 teams to be at least six points clear of fourth at this stage finished as champions, including in the only previous time there were two teams in that position in the same season. Only two relegated teams have had as many points as Wolves at this stage, with Swindon winning the league by nine points in 95/96 and Leeds capitulating in 06/07 to finish fifth. While the 1.38 shot looks a very good price it’s hard to ignore that Wolves have the stronger squad and have done a great job in backing up their pre-season tag as favourites. At 1.91 we certainly wouldn’t put anyone off from backing them.

MATCH PREVIEWS

League Two: Scunthorpe v Accrington Stanley (Sat 15:00)


Scunthorpe sold their most creative players in the summer and they’ve had to rely on a solid defence this season. Fortunately, it’s been working for them, with no side having kept more clean sheets this season. They’ve lost only one of their seven home games and Accrington are the first side they’ll have hosted from the current bottom six.

Accrington have lost half their away matches since the start of last season, including seven of their last nine trips to top-half teams. Looking closer, Accrington actually lost nine of their 10 trips to top-10 finishers last season, failing to score on six occasions. Stanley might be unbeaten in five but we’d expect Scunthorpe to end that streak and they can be backed at 1.83.

11 of Scunny’s 15 matches this season have had fewer than three goals, as they are yet to score more than twice. Given Accrington’s scoring troubles that makes Under 2.5 Goals an appealing bet. In fact six of Scunthorpe’s seven home games have had -2.5 goals, as have 11 of Accrington’s last 17 road matches, including 5/6 trips to top-half teams. Scunthorpe are a decent looking 3.0 to win to nil while under 2.5 goals is a good price at 1.8.

League One: Bradford v Coventry (Sun 15:30)

Bradford are going through a bad patch after an excellent start to the season. They’ve picked up just two points from their last five games and now face one of their toughest matches to date. Coventry have won five of their last six games, including ending Leyton Orient’s unbeaten streak and getting a point at Wolves.

Bradford’s good start was partly due to a kind fixture list and they could well slip back into mid-table now. Coventry are just three points behind despite starting with a 10 point penalty. Moreover, they’ve won six of their last 11 trips to top-half teams with just two defeats.

Bradford are missing two regular centre-backs with Andrew Davies and Rory McArdle both absent. That defensive weakness should cost Bradford here – they’ve won just once this season when they’ve conceded (W1-D4-L4). Since the start of last season Davies and McArdle have played together 26 times and Bradford have an excellent W15-D7-L4 record. Compare this to W9-D13-L13 otherwise and you see how important it is that they are both missing. Coventry look good value to continue their good form and are well worth backing at 1.83 on the Draw No Bet market.

Five of Bradford’s seven home matches this season have had at least three goals but they have failed to score in three of their last five matches. Similarly, Coventry’s games have been lower scoring in recent weeks as they’ve improved defensively. The over/under goals market looks like a coin flip and so we’d leave this alone here.

League One: Walsall v Peterborough (Mon 19:45)

Walsall have the worst scoring record in the top 13 but their defensive efforts have kept them in the top 10. Their best results this season have come on the road, where they’ve won four times. In contrast, they’ve won just one of their last six home games whilst scoring only four goals.

Peterborough have also been better on the road than at home, although this has partly been due to the fixtures they’ve faced. Five wins and just one defeat in seven away games is still impressive in this league, and they’ve kept four clean sheets. However, all of Posh’s away opponents so far are currently below Walsall in the table and further back The Saddlers have a decent home record. They’ve lost just three of 14 home games against top-half teams since the start of last season, winning six times. It’s also worth noting that Posh’s goals have dried up recently, with just three in their last five games and this could be a good time to oppose them. Walsall look a decent bet at 2.15 on the Draw No Bet market.

With both teams struggling for goals, however, we could be in for a low scoring affair on Monday night. Only three times in Walsall’s last 22 matches have they conceded more than once and 16 of those games have seen fewer than three goals. Under 2.5 goals have also been recorded in nine of their last 13 home matches against top-half teams.

Six of Peterborough’s last seven matches have had fewer than three goals, and five had fewer than two. There’s an obvious reason for Posh’s recent loss of cutting edge too. Lee Tomlin suffered an ankle injury and was then sent off on his return to the team and is still suspended. Since the start of last season Peterborough have scored 1.69 goals per game with him but have found the net just 15 times in the 16 games he’s failed to complete an hour in. This has resulted in 12/16 matches having -2.5 goals (there have been -2.5 goals in 14/45 with him). This news makes Under 2.5 Goals look particularly juicy at 2.0 and also strengthens our support for Walsall on the DNB.

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

Form Labs offers you the chance to analyse hundreds of matches every week both pre-match and in-play.

Player Analysis:

Form Lab Black’s player analysis tool we look at a few significant players who will be missing in the English lower leagues this weekend and see what that might mean.

N.B. Appearances mentioned below relate to starting and completing an hour unless otherwise specified.

Colchester v Swindon

David Wright, Defender, Colchester


Wright has missed 15 Colchester games since the start of last season and their loss rate has increased from 21% with him to 47% without as they’ve conceded 16% more goals per game.

Leyton Orient v Preston

Stuart Beavon, Forward, Preston


Preston have won just two of 20 matches that Beavon has missed since the start of last season, with an incredible 13 games finishing level. They’ve scored just 18 goals in these games, including failing to score nine times, as 70% have finished with -2.5 goals.

Stevenage v Rotherham

Kari Arnason, Defender, Rotherham


Arnason is away on international duty and that spells trouble for Rotherham. He’s missed 18 games since the start of last season and they’ve lost nine times whilst conceding over two goals per game. In contrast they’ve lost only 10 times in the 43 matches he’s played and conceded fewer than one goal per game.

Form Lab Black can analyse the impact of players to give you the complete betting solution.

To see which other players are key, and which are not, use the Player analysis in Form Lab Black. Tools within the Player analysis allow you to examine what a team’s most effective partnerships are in key positions and the impact of players on a variety of different markets.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Fiorente file

With thanks to Racetrack Ralphy and Vince Accardi, this is the Fiorente file from Vince's Melbourne Cup blog. Love the format, constantly updated after reach prep run and then after the Cup barrier draw. A premium product, but worth every bit of the $19.99 it sold for - not just for the fact his only two A+ ratings were Fiorente and Mount Athos, but the depth of the detail for each runner, particularly from a different angle to basic comments of video watchers. If you'd like to read the rest of Vince's Melbourne Cup blog, the paywall has now been dropped on Ralphy's site, just click on 'Vince's Futures'.

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FIORENTE
Horse Summary & Overview
Created an immediate impression on his Australian debut on the biggest stage in last year's Melbourne Cup when 2nd to GREEN MOON. In that race, while advantaged by the moderate speed, his powerhouse finish of +9.8 lengths over the benchmark for the last 400 was of serious quality. His autumn cameo of one hard-smashing run over 1400 when 1.8 lengths 3rd to ALL TOO HARD and RAIN AFFAIR was outstanding.

4th November
Final report card: A+


Perfect barrier. Gun run. Gun jockey. Has learnt tactical speed in his Cox Plate defeat. Proven at the distance. His only query: Ultimate staying class against MOUNT ATHOS if it's a gut buster late.

26th October
26/10 MV 0.5L 3rd 2040 Group 1 WFA $8:00 2:05.27 SHAMUS AWARD 1st


Apart from it being an outstanding Cox Plate 3rd in Australia's premier weight for age race, it was good to see the horse invert his data and show tactical speed in a race, as all his powerhouse Australian runs have been with a big finish. Here rather than be negative or planted wide jockey Shinn elected to roll forward, and got to the 800 metre mark in +8.4L above the benchmark which is really solid. His close was solid in maintaining that with a benchmark mid-section and a close of +0.4L last 400. I'm confident that it wasn't a flat run as some have speculated - he wouldn't have wanted to go any harder early though! - but he has a maximum of 0.5L improvement in him, meaning Gai only has to have him ticking over to race time to have him running to his best. So how does his best stack up? I rate him the best "local" chance, but below some of the UK "monster" stayers. For him to win he'll need Oliver to get the perfect luck in running AND have the better internationals being luckless and/or running poorly. A strong winning chance, but for mine we'll make a call that he is well under the $6-$6:50 current odds due to the Gai/Ollie/local factors.

5th October
05/10 FLEM 0.5L 4th 2000 Group 1 SWP $4:80 2:02.94 HAPPY TRAILS 1st


This was the perfect dynamite run projecting forward to the Melbourne Cup. A booming +5.6L last section, including +3.8L last 200 showed he was absolutely tracking the right way.

14th September
14/09 MV 0.2L 1st 1600 Group 2 WFA $3:20 1:37.28 SPACECRAFT 2nd


That's better! A monster looking closing win, but much more importantly with the data that suggests he's ready to run as well, or if not better than in last year's Cup. His closing sectionals of +4.6 lengths above the benchmark for the mid section, followed by a monster close of +6.0 lengths underlined his closing class.

31st August
31/08 CAUL 3.4L 6th 1400 Group 1 WFA $8:50 1:24.43 ATLANTIC JEWEL 1st


Resumed with data well down on capability behind ATLANTIC JEWEL, though excusable as both slowly away and missing a momentum run at the top of the straight. Was $12 into $8:50.

Monday, 4 November 2013

First Four analysis for the Cup

I've posted enough on the Cup so it's time for a contrary view from Davy Lane, @loscharruas.

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Melbourne Cup - First Four analysis

To find the first four in the Melbourne Cup it helps to approach the handicap like an algebraic puzzle. First, simply the equation. There are 24 runners. And contrary to the clinch, not every runner has a chance.

It is generally wise in handicapping to respect the top and bottom weights. Not this year. No. 1 Dunaden won by a nostril hair two years ago. Qatar’s Sheikh Fahad subsequently aimed his prize possession at prestigious Group 1 races in Europe. The Arc was the aim, but the gelding came up a buck short. Dunaden returns to Australia now because the owner can afford the freight and more importantly it provides the astute Al Thani with networking opportunities. Sheikh Fahad must have his eye on the Asian racing market. The smart money says there will soon be an Australian barn with his name on it. Dunaden has the worst of the single digit draws. The one pole and top weight of 58.5 Kg will contrive to choke him up. No. 24 Ruscello is also drawn (24) and earned his place by holding on for dear life in a poor renewal of the Hotham (Lexus Stakes). Greg Carpenter refrained from penalizing the English raider and connections seized the ballot exemption. Trainer Ed Walker had earlier voiced concern about running the horse off a three- day break. Ruscello is not of the calibre of the other European imports and has no chance of winning, especially after drawing the outside barrier. South African born, Cox Plate winning, featherweight phenomenon Chad Schofield gets the ride. The connections are there for the party and hope Schofield can cling on to a top ten finish with the front running Ruscello. 10th pays Aus$100,000.

I would next look to the Ethiopians to further break down the equation. I am referring to the platoon of six Lloyd Williams' horses from the Lodge. I call them the Ethiopians because they run in packs and train at altitude. No. 2 Green Moon is drawn (10) at the outside edge of a quartet of Williams' runners. He is the defending champion. (I had him to win last year.) Brett Prebble returns from Hong Kong for the ride. What’s not to like? Nostalgic dollars will be fluttered his way. But the horse ran backwards in the Cox Plate and is getting blinkered up for his troubles. Even if the horse were up for it, 2nd top weight of 57.5k would be too much for this Champ. If this were any other race, Green Moon would have been withdrawn and spelled for the Aussie summer. The other Williams runner without a shot is No. 11 Mourayan, drawn (19). Although the old campaigner won the Sydney Cup this past April, his form since has been woeful. He has already been booked for a new career in Dressage. B. Avdulla will cherish his first ride in the Cup, but his job here is not necessarily to win. His job will be to act as a spoiler for those good European things drawn to his outside. French import Tres Blue (trained by Gai Waterhouse for the past 14 days), Irish St Leger winner Voleuse de Couers (now trained by Mike Maroney), English 2nd Favourite for the race, Mount Athos, and perennial challenger, Red Cadeaux, will first to have to contend with each other and then have to plot a trajectory inside or outside of Wllliams' Mourayan. I am not suggesting there will be foul play ahoof, but Avdulla will enhance his credentials if he races a couple of those four out of contention. This could prove to be the key race within the race. And that’s racing. Whoever then gets by Mourayan will find Green Moon an even more obdurate track hog just ahead on the first bend. In short, Williams by paying up for Green Moon and Mourayan has reduced by two the number of other contenders in the race, while also ensuring traffic headaches for the remaining 18 runners.

It's now a 20 horse race. In years past one could safely cross out 7 or 8 other no hopers, just lucky to be there or there for their owner's pleasure. Unfortunately, I cannot do that. Any of the remaining 20 could squeeze into the first four. Whittling down the rest of the field is therefore a matter of playing the percentages and considering all the usual suspects and variables.

No. 3. Red Cadeaux is drawn (23) and carries 56.5K. That’s too wide and too much weight. No. 20. Ibicenco drawn (17) has two stakes wins to his name this year. He will grind out two miles and maybe among the top ten, but won’t have the zip to get among the first four. No. 13 Super Cool is drawn (13) and that’s just too unlucky in my book – plus when I saw the connections interviewed, I read a just happy to be there expression between the furrows on their brows. Super Cool has run serious races against the likes of It’s a Dundeel and Atlantic Jewel. He is a sure top ten finisher, but the bookies don’t pay you for that.

Now, it’s a 17 horse race. And here’s is where I have to get brutal with the analysis.

No. 5 Brown Panther is drawn (6). He’s far from top weight, but he carries more than his respective old English respective rivals, bar Sea Moon. He has a good draw and he seems a logical contender. The price will shorten on the day and the “beast” will seem like a good thing. But much of that will be down to the Michael Owen factor. I am ruling him out because the jockey Richard Kingscote is out of his depth. No disrespect, but even the connections have dropped him from the horse before.

I kept the wolves away from the door recently when I had Fawkner at 66/1 in the Caulfeld Cup. The temptation to include No 10 Fawkner here is immense. He has an optimal draw in (8) and a cocky, confident jockey in Nick Hall, but Fawkner has already run his race. He may look like the winner as they turn for home, but the 3,200 Meters is not his distance and he will run of gas in the final two furlongs. Hugh Bowman will get the best of out No. 12 Seville, drawn (9), but the horse is not as good as Fawkner. Ergo, extend the logic and don’t bother. In short both Fawkner and Seville could fluke their into the top four, but in reality, they are also serving in a similar capacity as Green Moon and Mourayan. They are not cannon fodder like Green Moon and Mourayan, but their respective inclusion in the race means Lloyd Williams’ live ones -- Sean Moon and Masked Marvel -- have four less competitors to face. Lloyd Williams has done the math!

It’s now a 14 horse race; the process of elimination an even more precarious practice.

I am generally keen on the Aga Khan’s entries and in particular any horse trained by Alain Royer Dupre, but No. 21. Verema does not appeal here. The draw (3) and weight 53.0k are optimal, yet there are a combination of circumstances that bother me. First, the horse is not as good as pundits suggest. She is still a relatively raw and rustic prospect. I look back with trepidation at her defeats to the likes of Domeside at Longchamp and Cavalryman at Meydan last year. Dupre is on the record as saying the horse needs better ground. The excuse applies for the Domeside debacle, but not for the 3L beating by Cavalryman over a good surface in Dubai. Cavalryman has run admirably in the Melbourne Cup, but never looked a winner. That’s the pertinent form line here. It is also a worry Verema has never raced in a large field. Finally, politics at the Aga Khan’s barn cannot be ignored. Lemaire has lost his job. This will be his last ride for His Highness. I don’t expect him to bust a gut here. Moreover, the Aga Khan himself will not be in attendance. This says something to me. It says the Aga Khan’s first runner in Australia is top dipping exercise.

No. 6 Fiorente has also drawn well in (5), but unlike Verema carries a more than optimal weight. Damian Oliver has served his time. His integrity and jockeyship are not in question, but if the horse was a real live chance, then I would have expected either James McDonald (arguably, one of the best up and coming jockey anywhere in the world, alongside Mikael Barzalona, Joel Rosairo, S’maga Khumalo and Chris Hayes) to have kept the ride or as more likely Waterhouse’s incumbent stable jockey, Tommy Berry, to have been given the mount (even though I know Berry could do 51.0 Kg for Tres Blue). Whatever remaining doubts I had with Fiorente were settled when he couldn’t break Shamus Award on the turn for home in the Cox Plate. He’s cooked or to borrow from the late, great Lou Reed, “stick a fork in his ass, he’s done”.

I have halved the field now, so finding 4 from 12 feels a more manageable proposition.

It’s a good time to recap and consider the 12 live chances. I have listed them in draw order, with weights, jockeys and prices.

14. (2) Masked Marvel 54.0 Kg – (M. Rodd) 30/1
8. (4) Dandino 54.5 Kg – (R. Moore) 10/1
4. (7) Sea Moon 56.5 Kg – (S. Arnold) 14/1
16. (11) Royal Empire 54.0 Kg (K. McEvoy) 20/1
19. (12) Simenon 53.5 Kg (R. Hughes) 16/1
9. (14) Ethiopia 54.5 Kg (R. McLeod) 66/1
7. (15) Foreteller 55.0 Kg (C. Newitt) 25/1
22. (16) Dear Demi 51.0 Kg (C. Munce) 25/1
18. (18) Hawkspur 53.5 Kg (J. Cassidy) 14/1
23. (20) Tres Blue 51.0 Kg (T. Berry) 20/1
17. (21) Voleuse de Coeurs 54.0 Kg (J. McDonald) 14/1
15. (22) Mount Athos 54.0 Kg (C. Williams) 8/1

Looking at the 12 above clarifies the calculus. 7 of the 12 above are drawn outside, i.e. between 13 and 24. Make no mistake: this is tres, tres dificile. It’s more difficult with more weight, and although I am loath to discard a horse from Chris Waller’s barn and despite being impressed with how No. 7 Foreteller plodded on for a game second behind Atlantic Jewel in the Caulfield Stakes. Carrying 55.0 kg and being drawn (15) is just beyond this game Dansili gelding. His 30% strike rate will not improve for this race.
It pains me to remove No. 22 Dear Demi from consideration (though I already had a little Each Way Ante Post piece of her at 100/1). She alongside Voleuse de Couers are my favourite horses in the race. There’s just something about fillies! I also have got a soft spot for Clarry Conners, who typifies what an old school trainer should be and gives the game that timeless air. Conners was frank when interviewed post draw. Dear Demi will have to drop back and hope for a gap along the rail late. In her previous two starts she has found that gap and charged late, each time coming close. But she’s won’t find that gap in the Melbourne Cup and although she may surge at some point, it will be too late.
I also caught No. 23 Tres Blue Each Way at 50/1 the moment it was announced the Waterhouse operation had initialled the purchase in France. The prescribed weight of 51.0 Kg was too good to be true. But several things have since gone against this son of Anabaa Blue. Tommy Berry is a super up and coming jockey, but he is a Sydney pilot and less used to going around the Melbourne direction. It’s a relatively minor consideration, but we are now shaving the variables and this counts against Tres Blue. Being drawn (20) is also highly problematic. And finally, the recent warming air in Melbourne also counts against this grandson of Monsun. The more the ground firms up, the less likely Tres Blue will be involved when it matters. See ya later, alligator!
Now, I have to find 4 from 9. There is a sense one may have simplified the equation as far as it will go. The first four will come from the following nine contenders. Eight of the following nine can win the race, I believe. It follows the smart approach here is to find the four that have an edge over the other five. The reward of finding the first four is far greater than identifying the winner.
14. (2) Masked Marvel 54.0 Kg – (M. Rodd) 30/1
8. (4) Dandino 54.5 Kg – (R. Moore) 10/1
4. (7) Sea Moon 56.5 Kg – (S. Arnold) 14/1
16. (11) Royal Empire 54.0 Kg (K. McEvoy) 20/1
19. (12) Simenon 53.5 Kg (R. Hughes) 16/1
9. (14) Ethiopia 54.5 Kg (R. McLeod) 66/1
18. (18) Hawkspur 53.5 Kg (J. Cassidy) 14/1
17. (21) Voleuse de Coeurs 54.0 Kg (J. McDonald) 14/1
15. (22) Mount Athos 54.0 Kg (C. Williams) 8/1

It’s at this stage of handicapping, one can’t seem to ignore the random cute variables and written in the stars clues. The sentimentality pull factor, if you will. Last year was Green Moon, this year it’s Sea Moon! Masked Marvel, the horse with the pastel pink cap wins! (And all the ladies who saw how cute Micheal Rodd looked in pink in the paddock, piled on! It was the least Micheal Rodd deserved after the injury to Atlantic Jewel; the horse was an English St Leger winner, after all, the male experts will grudgingly announce later, as they watch their wives and girlfriends cashing in their 30/1 tickets.) Simenon wins for Ireland, 20 years on from Dermot Weld’s historic raid. It’s Africa’s time, they will say when Ethiopia wins. No. 18 Hawkspur is the first horse to win from Barrier 18. And so on.
But before adopting cute tie breaking variables approach, it’s important to attempt to throw the remaining nine into the centrifuge. What separates them? It’s here I refer to advice of my father. Bet on the best jockeys. (Who can forget Gary Stevens at Santa Anita this past weekend.)
The six best jockeys – and by best, I mean best up and coming, best historically and just plain best just now -- in this race are as follows.
Ryan Moore - Dandino
Kerrin McEvoy – Royal Empire
Richard Hughes - Simenon
James Cassidy - Hawkspur
James McDonald – Voleuse de Coeurs
Craig Williams – Mount Athos

In my opinion (and the currents stats bear this out), Moore and Hughes are the two top jockeys in the UK and Ireland. McEvoy and Williams are the two best two jockeys in Australia. McDonald is one of the top four up and coming pilots anywhere in the world. And Cassidy’s record is the stuff of legend.

It’s no accident the mounts of these six jockeys remain in my final short list of 9.

At first glance, this makes it harder for me to plum for Masked Marvel, Sea Moon and Ethiopia, but other dynamics must be considered before I prescribe the winning tickets.

· The three best horses in the race by most agreeable metrics are: Sea Moon, Hawkspur and Mount Athos (two of which are ridden by my said best jockeys).
· The two best-weighted horses in the race are Hawkspur and Simenon (both of which have two of the said best jockeys aboard)
· The two best staying horses in the race are Masked Marvel (English St Leger winner) and Voleuse de Couers (Irish St Leger winner), one of which has the said best jockey in J. McDonald, though the other has a jockey in M. Rodd who has won the Melbourne Cup before. NB Simonen has mega staying form at a lower grade with decisive wins over 2m 4 furlongs or 4,000 Metres.
· The best-drawn horses in the race are Masked Marvel (2), Dandino (4), Sea Moon (7), Royal Empire (11) and Simenon (12), three of which cross reference favourably with my pantheon of pilots.
· The horse that will most prefer firm ground is Royal Empire.
· The horse with the best recent form is Voleuse de Couers.
· The best trainer in the race is Chris Waller. He trains Hawkspur.

With such variables mapped out, a couple of the first four slot into place.

They are:

Hawkspur. Best horse. Best trainer. Best Weighted. Legendary jockey.
Simenon. Best Weighted. Best Drawn. Best Jockey. Best Stayer. Iconic Irish Trainer.


The above two have to be in every First Four ticket. I have seen both horses run hard and fast when it matters down the stretch. Hawkspur has been unlucky lately, but always a very close loser. With luck in running, he wins both races and comes into this as the hotter than Tabasco favorite.

Next it comes down to random visuals and form line reference points.

Masked Marvel is the horse my gut tells me wins the Melboure Cup. I will take the 30/1 on offer just now and enjoy that for it is: the best priced horse of all the serious contenders. Lloyd Williams says he wins, if he bring his English St Leger form. I suspect that form has now been reprogrammed into the horse’s SatNav. Masked Marvel has a sweet, albeit tight draw in (2), he is weighted perfectly at 54.0 Kgs and he has trounced Brown Panther, Sea Moon and Seville from level weights when it really mattered. His 2nd in the Craven plate showed me he near enough primed for this. His latest race was merely a sharpener. The horse ticks all the boxes, though what really seals it for me is the pink cap! He must be included in most First Four tickets.

Dandino was closing like a train from an outside draw in the Caulfield Cup. I have long followed the horse. He was particularly unlucky to lose to Joshua Tree in the Canadian Internetional two years ago. Dettori was the difference then. He ploughed through horrendous Chicago traffic to win American St Leger at Arlington this summer. The horse gets racing and the way he closed in the Caulfield suggested there was more to come. Moreover, if I had to pick one jockey and my life depended on it, it would be Ryan Moore. The man is a machine. Dandino was primarily trained for the Caulfield Cup. It may prove he does not have stamina to win a Melbourne Cup, but with Ryan Moore aboard, Dandino will be come awfully close.

Sea Moon is the so called best horse in the race, or so they say. He could win comfortably despite having the most weight of any of the contenders. However, it must be remembered the Melbourne Cup is about the best-handicapped horse, not the best horse. I am torn over Sea Moon, but side with his owner who said he was in this up to his eyeballs. He must be on at least a couple of tickets.

Royal Empire gets the big check marks on the draw, jockey and weight. It is also significant the horse will get the firmer ground he thrives on. His two significant wins have been in the Melbourne direction. Goldophin are due. Likewise, the horse belongs in a few First Four tickets.

In theory, Ethiopia does not belong in this short list. The jockey is your bog standard Aussie navigator, no disrespect intended. The horse is not drawn badly, though 14 is less than optimal. His weight of 54.5 Kgs, while not burdensome, also puts him at a disadvantage to others in the reckoning here. His dead last run in last year’s Melbourne Cup was an embarrassment. However, a closer inspector shows he picked up an in running injury in the race and can be forgiven. His prep races this Spring have been unimpressive, but his most recent run in the Lexus three days ago when he ran 4th with top weight suggests he should not discounted so easily. Last year’s Australian Derby winner may be the horse that’s coming right at the right time. He’s the dark horse of the race. His connections have also indicated they now intend to race prominently, whereas before he before he had been a hold up horse. He’s the type who could grab easily a cheeky fourth place. It behoves you to include him in at least just one of your First Four tickets.

Voleuse de Couers would immediately join Hawkspur and Simenon based on her demolition of all comers in the Irish St Leger, but a few things have given me pause lately. Dermot Weld was not keen to bring the horse to Australia this year. Weld is a Vet and knew his own horse inside out and upside down. He said she was too fragile for the long haul flight this year. And initial reports suggested she indeed did not travel well. Egotistical connections have since back-tracked on this and have said all the things punters want to hear. The atrocious draw concerns me even more, however. It’s a shame. I pencilled in the mare as a sure thing many moons ago, grabbing an outrageous price long before Lady O’Reilly cashed in and broke Dermot Weld’s heart. Even so, James McDonald could do it or come very close, despite the draw. Voleuse de Couers carried 61 Kgs in winning the Irish St Leger. She’s getting a big weight break here and belongs in a couple of First Four tickets.

Mount Athos let me down for a massive pay out when a fast finishing 5th last year. A 4th place then would have seen me purchasing property in Bronte Beach. I had Green Moon, but it was Mount Athos on which most of my meagre portfolio rested. Ryan Moore would have gotten it right this year, no doubt. But Craig Williams is the Southern Hemisphere version of Moore and will ride Mount Athos as close to victory as is possible. He has a favourable weight of 54.0 Kgs, but the draw is dastardly. Despite this, he will be thereabouts again and must be included in most every one of your First Four tickets. Remember, Williams has never won a Caulfield Cup and it was he was chased down Dr. Marwan Kouhkash for the ride.

In Summary, I advise the following strategy. Forget about picking the winner. Find the First Four instead. The rewards are greater.

First Four (Boxed, ie. Any order)

19. Simenon (Every Ticket)
18. Hawkspur (Every Ticket)
14. Masked Marvel
with
8. Dandino
4. Sea Moon
16. Royal Empire
9. Ethiopia (one ticket, with Masked Marvel)
17. Voleuse De Couers
15. Mount Athos

Wash, rinse and repeat. 10 p a line should it the permutations manageable.

Melbourne Cup preview - the summary

Firstly, if you want the detailed runner comments, please read the three separate posts below covering each horse's chances.

PACE MAP
(rail should be at top rather than bottom, Hawkspur for example will be wide though)



BETTING SUMMARY

So now, what do I do with the bets?
I have the eternal problem of wanting to attack the trifecta heavily, but it's damn to narrow it down. Let's start with my rankings.
21 Verema
6 Fiorente
12 Seville
23 Tres Blue
13 Super Cool
4 Sea Moon
5 Brown Panther
22 Dear Demi
15 Mount Athos
19 Simenon
10 Fawkner

1 Dunaden
16 Royal Empire
8 Dandino
17 Voleuse de Coeurs
11 Mourayan
2 Green Moon
14 Masked Marvel
7 Foreteller
18 Hawkspur
24 Ruscello
3 Red Cadeaux
9 Ethiopia
20 Ibicenco

It might be a long run to the first bend but barriers make a massive difference. The only winners from wide draws in recent years have either been on a heavy track (Doriemus 1995), or a lightweight who had won on the Saturday (Shocking 2009, Brew 2000, Rogan Josh 1999). We don't have a wet track and surely the 66/1 shot Ruscello couldn't win - it was a weak Lexus and this is a high class field. If you're stuck wide for 3200m, it's a long way round...

Based on the assumption that Ruscello will cross to lead Mourayan, with Tres Blue also sliding across, I doubt the speed will be a fast one. Ruscello won on Saturday by going as slow as he could get away with, then kicking impressively in the straight. If he dawdles too much though, expect something else to take over and make it more genuine. But who does that? Do they sacrifice their chances in doing so? Brown Panther and Masked Marvel are the obvious two who might do it, but they might be locked away on the fence. Probably a genuine European building pace we can expect.

Hopefully by race seven they start to fan wide in the belief that the rail is starting to wear and then it's all about getting the right run through. This is a fantastic race, oozing Group 1 winners and class runners from all over the world. It ain't easy - it's the hardest race of the year to win for a reason!

BETS
I'm already on Verema
Tres Blue is drifting out to a big price due to the gate. He might just be special. He's at least got the lightweight to almost fit the wide draw rule.
I also had a nibble on Super Cool, couldn't resist the 75 on Betfair on Saturday night.

THE EXOTIC
6,12,21
x
4,5,6,12,13,21,23
x
4,5,6,10,12,13,15,19,21,22,23

50% of this ticket will cost me $81.

In simple terms, if anything below Dunaden on the list above runs a place, I'm out. (Not to mention only three winning chances).

And I'll probably box the first six via Rewardbet for a small side investment as well.

May your bets be good bets, BEST OF LUCK!

And if you need anything to warm you up for the day, here's a bit of Mike Brady....



The Melbourne Cup preview - the foreigners

And last but not least, the horses who are still trained overseas or are yet to run in Australia despite a change in ownership.

THE FOREIGNERS

1. Dunaden - he's eight (by southern clocks), he failed last year (drew wide and after peaking in the Caulfield Cup, probably closer together of any of his career runs)and hasn't been going so well this year...or has he? Fourth in the Dubai Sheema Classic beaten 4.8L by two superstars in St Nicholas Abbey and Gentildonna, and beaten two lengths or less by gun German wfa horses in Pastorius and Novellist. Poor last time against Orfevre in a race with no pace although he didn't see any daylight down the straight. Hasn't started longer than 10/1 in any of those races. Needs to really accelerate at that level but at 3200m, it's more of a long grind. History is against old horses and topweights, but let's not write this old dog off just yet. Spencer was brilliant on Side Glance on Saturday, he'll have some work to do from the inside rail, but it's better than drawing the outside fence! Include in your exotics.

3. Red Cadeaux - has clocked up more frequent flyer points than any of his rivals since last year's Cup, what else is he going to do as an 8yo gelding? All runs at wfa - won Hong Kong Vase, second in the Dubai World Cup, third in the Tenno Sho but then it goes downhill... Well beaten in the Singapore International Cup and Prince of Wales at Royal Ascot, followed by defeats from rivals here in Royal Empire at Newbury and Voleuse de Coeurs at The Curragh (beaten 11L on better weight terms). Drawn 23, just don't think he's same horse who was beaten a lip in 2011. Eighth last year from gate 18, trainer has said the Europeans will all get left behind if they drop to the back so expect Mosse to sit wide around midfield and hope for a trail.

5. Brown Panther - great worldwide exposure for the Cup with this horse being a homebred owned by football/soccer icon Michael Owen, and now part-owned by Betfair founder Andrew Black. Remember a decade ago when the head of Racing Victoria declared he'd shut down the spring carnival if Betfair got an Australian licence? I think he's now gone into politics... He's a typical English stayer, grinds away, best seen trying to get them off the bit on the turn rather than swamping them on the line. Without a great deal of pace in the race and drawn six, I reckon he'll park right on the speed and if they're crawling along, make his move about the 800 to stretch them out. He won't be able to match those with the closing speed, he'll have to take the sting out of their legs. Did miss the Irish St Leger in September due to a temperature. I had initially dismissed him but now warming to his chances with the shape of the race. Not done any favours by the weight compared to other UK horses but draw makes up for that.

8. Dandino - another Dansili having his first crack at 3200m, but at least he has Generous blood on the damside. The pace experts report that he had all the favours in the Caulfield Cup - slow early pace, perfect ride and favs in trouble. Could it be that simple again? Ryan Moore climbs aboard, fresh from racking up winners at the Breeders Cup meeting in California. My query is what has he beaten in the past year? Getting rolled in mediocre G2 and beaten in G1s, there are plenty of G1 distance races in Europe he could win if he was up to these. This race is a big step up on the Caulfield Cup and can't see him being a threat. Bare in mind - I declared he had no hope in the Caulfield Cup either!

15. Mount Athos - flashing run last year + Luca Cumani + Craig Williams = big unders. Ryan Moore was slated last year for leaving his run too late. Jamie Spencer was sacked from the horse for getting too far back in two of his UK starts this year, and then he couldn't catch Harris Tweed at Goodwood last time (although the forma round that race is decent). I just don't think he is going well enough - compared to Brown Panther he is 12 lengths worse at level weights. Of course that's a very simplistic argument but last year he won three races to get into the Cup, this year all he has beaten is a steeplechaser rated 79 on the Flat (Mount Athos was 117 at the time) by nine lengths. I reckon this year's race is stronger so he needs to have improved even on the same weight. Traded as low as 8.8 on Betfair, now at 11 after drawing 22, can't see why. If he goes forward a la Goodwood, he doesn't have the finishing burst, if he goes back, he is too far back to catch them.

16. Royal Empire - unplaced only twice from 13 starts but what has he beaten? Won the Freer at Newbury beating Red Cadeaux is August but it you agree that horse is on the decline, then there is nothing that stands out. Beaten in his last two starts in average Group 3s. Drawn 11, McEvoy to ride, finishes midfield for me.

17. Voleuse de Coeurs - ex-Irish mare with a lot of hype. Dermot Weld said she wasn't mature enough to come to Australia this year, but new owners decided to ignore that and give her to Mike Moroney. Won the Irish Cesarewitch (two miles, 27 starters) by a big margin last year, then won the Irish St Leger seven weeks ago by six lengths. Can stay, can handle big fields. Not convinced on the strenth of the form. Ahzeemah was a leading Godolpin hope for the Cup, running second to Brown Panther at Goodwood, beat Simenon at York, finished six lengths behind Voleuse de Coeurs in the Irish St Leger as favourite but then was well beaten in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day. Consistent form or was the Leger where he trained off? From 21, she has to go back and hope for a wide trail. I can't see any early speed in her profile and that makes it very tough for her. Not interested at the price.

19. Simenon - stayer who burst into the spotlight last year by winning two races at Royal Ascot last year, over 4000 and 4400m - but those races were restricted (0-95) and a weak conditions race (only three runners rated >100). His only other flat wins were as a 2yo at 1400 and 1600m. In between, there have been several hurdle runs and many midfield runs. He has had 12 runs in stakes races, for a best result of three seconds. He surprised me with his run in the Herbert Power but there's still a big jump in class up to this level. I don't see him having the pace to be competitive at this distance but should finish in the top 10.

21. Verema - lightly-raced French mare with strong form on the board. No stamina doubts here, nine of her 12 starts have been over 2800-3200m. Hasn't seen a big field (largest race she's been in had 11 starters) but that's to be expected in France. Won the Prix Kergorlay last time at Deauville (won by Americain in 2010), shows a lovely long grinding run to win her races and loves firm ground (take out wet runs and her record since last September is 5:3-1-1). The trainer and jockey have been successful here before, drawn three so should get a perfect sit midfield. Very hard to beat.

23. Tres Blue - impressive French colt who turns four by nature of crossing the equator. Second in the German Derby in July (19 runner field) then two strong wins at Deauville. Last time he beat Penglai Pavilion who ran fifth in the Arc, and Very Nice Name who was strong wfa form through Dunaden. Has the same preparation as Fiorente last year, purchased from Europe and first-up into the Cup. Gets in very light here with 51kg but draws 20. Waterhouse loves her horses on pace and he showed in the GP de Deauville that he can take a forward position. But can he get near the fence? He's in my exotics at least.

24. Ruscello - the surprise late addition to the field, I'd not even looked at him before Saturday. Great win in the Lexus, taking control of the race because he was caught wide early and then held them off bravely in the straight, kicking impressively off a slow pace. The lightweight of the field off 50kg but the Brits would say he is a long way out of the handicap - purely by ratings, he should be carrying about 40kg! Based on that he has no hope but I was quite taken by his run on Saturday. Cox Plate winning rider Chad Schofield climbs aboard, don't be surprised if he crosses to the lead from gate 24. He certainly has no hope if he drops to the back.