Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Wangoom Handicap preview

The Warrnambool Carnival is underway and one thing's for certain, there's no drought in south-west Victoria. It has bucketed down in recent days but the track is still raceable, albeit on the wettest rating there is in Australia, the Heavy 10. The feature race on day two of the carnival is the Wangoom Handicap, a Listed race over 1200m. Make sure you do the wet form - look for the runners whose Mother was a Mudder, with thanks to Cosmo Kramer.

Taking the reins for this race is Mitch Fenton, @weekndkngracing.

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Wangoom Handicap

1.BLACKIE

Class galloper resuming here now under the tutelage of the all-conquering Darren Weir.
Has only once won fresh up from a spell in six goes, which was all the way back in 2011 at Kyneton, but don’t be put off by raw statistics when assessing his first up form....

All of his efforts have been highly respectable in much tougher grade than this, including a slashing 6th to start last campaign behind Speediness in the Gr3 Bobbie Lewis (1200M - Flemington) - where he ran the second fastest last 600m of the race (33.59) and CLEARLY the fastest final furlong (11.6).

He’s always shown great potential and last preparation he finally fulfilled it; thrashing the Gr1 placed Sertorius by 3.5L (MV - 1600M) - running third in the Gr1 Toorak Hcap (Caul - 1600M) - and finishing close up in two of the Spring’s best mile races the Crystal Mile & the Emirates Stakes.

The wet ground won’t be much of a hindrance, in fact his biggest career win came as a 3yo in the Gr2 Phar Lap Stakes at Rosehill on wet ground.

He does have to lug the 60kg impost - but for good reason, he’s far and away the classiest runner.

Weir has been setting him for this race ever since he joined the stable and he has the riding services of B.Rawiller who landed Saturday’s Gr1 Australasian Oaks in SA for Weir.

Expect him to be charging home late & represents a definite each way chance.

2.LORD OF BRAZIL

The second of DK Weir’s runners, he too is resuming from a spell.

Boasts a terrific fresh record with a win and two minors from four attempts. The one miss, which came last prep, was probably however his best first up performance. He was 3.5L off Moonee Valley wiz Le Bonsir over 1200m in the Listed Drummond Golf Stakes - clocking the third fastest final 600m (34.81) in a high quality field.

He ran very well in Group company during his Spring prep without ever threatening but drops a lot in grade here.

Absolutely loves the wet - only missing the placings once in seven attempts (when badly hampered) and recording three wins.

Drawn perfectly for the in-form Michelle Payne to tuck in for cover, while being wide enough to avoid the inside ground which after yesterday’s racing looms as a “no-go-zone”.

Some hope

3.LE BONSIR

Gr1 placed in the spring behind Buffering in the Manikato Stakes at his favourite stomping yard Moonee Valley, the Mick Price trained runner comes here having his third run back from a spell.

Was terrific first up, beaten a nose in a 1200m Listed event by flying machine It Is Written, nailed right on the peg, after doing ALL chasing down of tear away Elite Elle with the top weight of 59kg.

Backed it up with another cracking effort second up over 1200m at Caulfield. On paper fifth beaten 2.2L doesn’t impress but he endured a horrid run in transit. Was made to work hard from an outside to cross, which he finally did 400m after the start, but as soon as he did work to the top he was pestered and the pair went break neck in front -- running the first 600m of the race 4L faster than the class benchmark. He was entitled to drop out but really fought on doggedly in the finish and the swappers came.

That Caulfield run was the horse's first exposure to wet ground, and purely based on that effort I’d say he got through it - but whether he can get through a Warrnambool bog is a big question mark.

Has never won on any surface worse than Good rated - and while it’s not definitive by any stretch he doesn’t handle the wet, I’m very happy to risk him. Especially so, given he’s drawn in AND will most likely lead meaning he’ll be exposed to the very worst ground.

4.CALLANISH

Former star galloper with the Mick Price stable, returning from a 52 week injury enforced lay-off, after sadly at his last start badly tearing a tendon and also severely injuring his hind pastern.

Full credit to his new trainer Kane Harris who has nursed the horse back to the track in spite of many doubters.

Began his career with an impressive eight start winning streak, before he stepped up to Gr1 & Gr2 company, where while beaten, still ran enormously well.

Absolutely loves soft tracks -- the wetter the better so he’ll definitely have that in his favour. But after such a serious injury layoff I’m happy to leave him out of my equations and just hope he makes a safe comeback.

Interesting to note though he’s been very well supported in pre-post markets, $26 was bet and now you can only get $11. But my suspicion would be that market move has more to do with the fact it’s a bog track than the horse being a genuine chance. But would love to be proven wrong he’s a real ripper.

5.ANLON

Third of the DK Weir runners and the race favourite.

Resumes first up here after a 95 day break -- and he really does fly fresh. Having won three of five first up. However I’m not getting carried away with the raw data because those 3 first up victories have come in an Echuca maiden, a Seymour restricted BM62 & a Kyneton BM84. This is FAR and away the toughest assignment he’s been posed with when resuming.

His form over the Summer though was absolutely terrific. He was 4th in a BM90 at Flemington, which is no great deal, until you look at the sectionals he rattled off in that race -- last 600m 32.98, 400m 22.14, 200m 11.38. Only good horses can run those sectionals! He then proceeded to win his next two including the listed Chester Manifold Stakes.

Handles the wet no worries - a win and a second from his only two tries.

Does have the talent & yes, he can certainly win, but I just can’t warm to him at the current odds they are quoting. I’ll lay him on Betfair.

6.ANOTHER PRELATE

He’s a golden oldie at nine years old, but is only lightly raced - having just his 47th race start here.

Comes into the race first up off an 137 day break.

Complete forget run his only effort across the summer, where he raced in bar plates (always a big worry for me) and proceeded to lose one of those bar plates in the run.

Simply doesn’t know how to run a bad race and always gives 100% on race day.

Has a win and three placings from five heavy track starts, so he’ll plough through the mud here. And is a winner at the track.

Typically takes a run or two to find his best form but he can pull out a big run fresh on his day. But I’m willing to take the old boy on tomorrow first up on the bog track & wait for something later in the Winter to back him in.

7.STRATCOMBE

Has a very similar story to Callanish. Was once a very talented galloper in the Mick Price stable before being struck down by major injury. Now with Brett Scott.

This boy however has already had two runs back from his enforced layoff - both have been lacklustre efforts - but in fairness to the horse he did spend 12 months out of racing so he will only continue to get fitter with more racing.

That said I don’t think he’ll ever get remotely close again to the form he once showed pre-injury and if he is to win another race it will have to be in far, far easier class than this.

8.ALPHA PROXIMA

Made a lovely comeback from a spell, at Caulfield over 1100m, where he was fifth beaten 2.9L behind Pago Rock. Never really saw total daylight in the straight until very late in the piece but when he did he found the line nicely.

Steps up to 1200m here which based on evidence from his first up run suits perfectly now. He has a distinct fitness edge over almost all the other runners in the race after having two solid trials leading into the first up performance.

The eight year old grey doesn’t quiet have the consistency he once did - back in the days when he was mixing it with the likes of Kulgrinda, Broken, Catapulted, Johannapine etc. - but can still on his day produce something like he very best as was evidenced last campaign when he thrashed Luckyimbarefoot and Spacecraft in a $100,000 race at Moonee Valley.

Champion hoop D.Oliver climbs back aboard, and it’s interesting to note that Oliver steered him in both trials....Possibly to get a feel of him in preparation for this race???

Loves the wet ground - having placed in seven of his nine rain affected runs, including three wins.

Barrier won’t matter, I think by the time this race comes around (so long as Oli can get cover until the corner) out deep on the track will be the prime spot, judging by the way the track played Day 1.

Terrific hope at great value.

9.UNDENIABLY

I can assure you one thing - if the Undeniably of old who;
• was beaten a nostril in the Gr2 Australia Stakes
• was 2L off Eagle Falls in an Oakleigh Plate
• was less than 2L off Mrs Onasis in another Oakleigh Plate
• was 4L off Shamsexpress in a Newmarket
Turned up here -- he would simply bash their brains in!!! But that form now is only a distant memory.

Can’t see him turning his form around in this type of grade.

10.DON’T GET EXCITED

Was absolutely enormous at his last outing when 2nd to Knoydart in the Hareeba at Mornington.

He blew the start from a bad alley, was trapped 3/4/5 wide the entirety, took off early and still ran a clear second...3L in front of the third horse. And it just so happens the horse who whistled past him, after enjoying a cosy run back in the field, Knoydart - subsequently ran 3rd in the Oakleigh Plate beaten a length and a half behind world champion Lankan Rupee & backed that up with another 3rd in the Newmarket, again behind Australia’s champion sprinter. There is no better sprinting form in the world, let alone Australian than that!

He is unbeaten in two starts on very heavy ground - winning both those with ease!

Drawn absolutely perfectly in 8. He can roll forward and park outside the speed, or just off it if he chooses.

Gets in on the minimum weight of 54kg.

Put plainly and simply - looks the winner!

12.KNEELING

Peter Moody trained mare who is ultra consistent but very rarely wins a race (three from 25). But in fairness to her she has raced consistently at a very high level her whole career.

Was terrific last time out at Caulfield over 1100m. After blowing the kick she was well back and jockey Guymner had to urge the mare to get going early to improve her position and put herself in the race. She did just that and the most pleasing aspect of the run was that despite the work she did, the last 200m of her race was still the best. Which looks a very good sign stepping up to 1200m here.

She loves the wet - unbeaten in only heavy track starts (albeit in a Sunshine Coast H’Cap) will undoubtedly run well again. She always does! Will she find one or two just that bit good? I think so. But a definite for trifectas.

13.MAGNUS REIGN

Looks totally outclassed.
Hasn’t won over 1200m in 11 previous attempts. Has no wet form.
Was well beaten last start in restricted grade at Bendigo.....
Hard to find any positives at all!

No.

SCR;
11.JOLIE BLONDE;
14.GRAND EMPEROR;
15.THE BOWLER;

OVERVIEW
There’s just no way I can go past 10.DON’T GET EXCITED.
If he runs within 2 or 3L of his Mornington performance - he just wins. And there seems no obvious reason why he won’t do that!
I think Blackie, Alpha Proxima & Kneeling are the trifecta horses.
BACK: 10.DON’T GET EXCITED (win)
LAY: 5.ANLON


TRIFECTA: 10 // 1,6,12 // 1,5,6,8,12

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

IPL 2014 preview

In case you hadn't had enough T20 cricket with the World T20 tournament in Bangladesh, it's IPL time again. The first couple of weeks will be played in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, then back to India for the remaining month. It's a tiring event of cricket fans and traders alike, so it's handy to have some base knowledge to begin with. Thrashing out a preview is the sharpest cricket punter in Ireland, Stephen Maher, @GamblerFalls. (I'm not sure that's a particularly big compliment, but he'd rank pretty highly amongst cricket punters elsewhere too!).

The original article can be found here on his blog.

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Indian Premier League 2014

The circus has arrived for 2014 and just think 47 days from Wednesday cricket traders will be able to leave their house again, although there might be an English domestic game on that day so I wouldn’t bet on it. Anyway, its sure to be as mental as ever and I’m sure lots of shit will happen throughout the tournament but hopefully we all come out winning at the end of it. We have a team less this year, with only eight teams taking part and looking at the fixtures we have less double headers too, we also had the auction this year too so plenty of player movement and it will be interesting to see how the teams play in the early weeks. I’ll go in betting order and give a few thoughts on the squads.

Chennai Super Kings – best priced 9/2.

As always Chennai come in as favourites, or joint favourites, and who can really argue given their record, they have reached the final every year since 2009, won twice and lost twice – I said this last year but as an outright punt they really do seem “good for a trade” as its hard to see them not being involved at the death, especially compared with Bangalore who they are currently joint favourites with as they haven’t managed to get out of the group stage the last two years. All the usuals come back, Dhoni, Raina, Ashwin, Bravo, Du Plessis and Jadeja - with good additions of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum - they have a couple of options, but personally I’d go with those four already mentioned as my foreigners in the team, interesting to see who they go with to open the batting, they have a couple of options – we’ll have to see where they go with that. As always, a very strong team on paper, consistent, and sure to be involved at the death. I wouldn’t be laying them.

Royal Challengers Bangalore – best priced 9/2.

Before you even look at the team, you have to remember that they are highly likely to play their home games on a road, and at something like 3000ft above sea level where the ball will fly to all parts, not to mention the relatively small boundaries, that naturally brings in an element of lottery to their home games, and they haven’t travelled too well in the past either. Having not got out of the group stages the last twice I personally wouldn’t touch them at 9/2 based on their bowling. I don’t see anyone in their lineup that could stop runs on a typical Bangalore road, indeed they scream going around the park – Starc, Rampaul, Aaron, Morkel and Dinda – no thanks. Can they chase 200? Well, yeah. Gayle, Kohli and AB de Villiers head up the batting, they’ve added Yuvraj too but looking at the T20 World Cup final you’d wonder is that a negative rather than a positive, other than them though the batting isn’t much to write home about bar maybe Morkel and they’ll pretty much have to do all the work, granted they are scary but at the same time I can see their bowling giving up so many that the pressure is always on type thing. Not for me at 9/2.

Hyderabad Sunrisers – best priced 11/2.

A pretty strong team on paper this year, the top three in the batting stick out – Warner, Finch, Dhawan and if things are going tits up you always have Sammy down the order to smack a few sixes – I’m probably picking holes but you might have a really poor four and five coming in to bat some games and that might be an angle to look at once we get going in the games. The bowling is strong, headed up by Dale Steyn and Amit Mishra, and they’re backed up by some hit and miss types in Sharma and Irfan/Sammy, who can have OK games or go around the park, its such a bonus though having Steyn to bowl the last few overs, as you know hes highly unlikely to go around the park, and can also win a game defending six runs needed in the over etc. A lot will depend on how their batting goes, they were let down a lot of times last year by it, and if the top three find form they surely have as good a chance if not more than Bangalore. Solid enough team.

Mumbai Indians – best priced 6/1.

Looking at the market purely you’d think they come in underrated given they are defending IPL Champions and also Champions League T20 Champions, but they just lack one star batsman to me, and seemingly will be heavily reliant on Hussey and Sharma to get the main bulk of the runs, granted though I suppose they are two you could rely on, but Hussey is retired now so its hard to know if he’ll be as prolific as last year and bar Rayudu, Pollard and maybe Corey Anderson I think they could easily collapse a few times if Hussey and Sharma go cheap – it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out. The bowling is, as always, headed up by Lasith Malinga but you’d have to question them getting Zaheer Khan, seemingly always injured and getting older, I’d have rather spent the money on another batsman and relied on the likes of Ojha etc. I think their price is fair, but no more, and I wouldn’t be rushing out to back them. Very much a see how they go early on in the tournament team, compared to the top three, they could be great or shit.

Kings XI Punjab – best priced 7/1.

Just when you think, fantastic no more mugs clogging up balls at the top of the order, they bring in Sehwag, and while he can be dangerous, he seems past his best these days. Pujara is a poor buy too, he just isn’t a T20 player and was a failure at Bangalore. Marsh is slow to get going too, I can see them wasting loads and loads of balls early and then getting bailed out by Maxwell and Miller towards the death – only problem is they aren’t gonna bail you out every time you know. Interesting to see Thisara Perera in the squad too, he probably won’t get a game but he can hit a long ball towards the death too. The bowling is headed up by Mitchell Johnson and you can see him getting all sorts of wickets early and that will surely help their cause – not mad keen on the rest of them though but if Johnson gives them a good start then they can build on that. My problem with them is I see them starting slow when it comes to their batting a good percentage of the time, and unless they play Maxwell at number three I wouldn’t have much interest in backing them to be honest.

Delhi Daredevils – best priced 8/1.

I hope they go well and KP gets on well because the English media really have it in for him, and I don’t want to read them gloating. Looking through their squad, they possibly have the biggest trouble with picking the four foreigners to get into the team. KP is captain so thats an obvious, and then if you want to bulk up the batting you pick De Kock, JP Duminy and Ross Taylor, but then that basically leaves an all Indian attack, and I’m not sure thats what I’d want. That said, the best option outside an Indian is probably Nathan Coulter-Nile, which doesn’t set the bar high really does it. I can certainly see their bowling struggling on paper, god help them at Bangalore would be a thought that comes to mind. To me they will be relying on their batting to carry them, and while it might, they wouldn’t interest me much at 8/1.

Kolkata Knight Riders – best priced 12/1.

Probably the least impressive batting on paper. Gambhir and Kallis shouldn’t be your go to men in T20, and I’m not sure how they get the big scores needed with them clogging up balls. Chris Lynn would be my favourite in their batting lineup, and at 11/1 he might be worth a few quid top batsman, although I’m not sure where he’ll bat. The bowling is headed up by Narine who will again go well on the slow pitches you’d imagine they’ll get at KKR, I reckon though away from there, or even at home, if batsmen can play him out, the rest of the bowling is very hittable and I suppose a lot will depends on how teams play Narine, if it was me I’d be happy with 4 or 5 an over off him, no big shots or high risks, and attack the rest. A lot of their batsmen will be easy to tie down too. Can’t have them on paper personally.

Rajasthan Royals – best priced 12/1.

I wouldn’t be so harsh on their batting, but if Watson goes early, I think you’ll need Steve Smith to be in fantastic form during the tournament for them to win a few games, however he did very well in the Big Bash. Rahane and Hodge are the only other two of any real note to my eyes, but Faulkner and Cutting especially and Southee (at times) can smack a few sixes down the order. I’m not sure if Cutting or Southee will get a game though. Their bowling is light to my eyes bar Faulkner, I think they’ll play a few good games along the way but really and truly shouldn’t be good enough, I’d have them a lower price than KKR all the same, but I wouldn’t be keen backing them either.



BETS

Chennai Super Kings to win outright at 9/2 general – this seems the best play looking at the outright prices to me, if unoriginal I suppose, they have the best squad on paper, they are the most consistent, they’ve added well to the squad and they know how to win. I think they’re sure to trade lower and I think its mental they are the same price as Bangalore and not outright favourites themselves, for me they are the best team by quite a bit.

Bangalore Royal Challengers most sixes at 5/2 with Stan James – there have been two teams competing in this market for the last two years, Mumbai and Bangalore, and I think Mumbai are much weaker this year. The only danger I see to Bangalore is Chennai, but Bangalore have the advantage of the best six hitting conditions and because I’m happy to be against Mumbai this year, I would have Bangalore clearer favourites than 5/2.

Glenn Maxwell Top Punjab Batsman at 4/1 with Bet Victor – I suppose I can’t really be mega confident about this because I don’t really know where he will bat in the order, but in my opinion if he bats at three, he wins this by some margin. He is by far the most naturally talented batsmen in the team and he scores his runs so quickly, he might not have to bat long in each game, to be competing. If you think about how many balls Marsh will take to “get in” he always nearly needs 20 balls to score 30, therefore more chance of getting out, Maxwell can score 30 in 10 balls as we’ve seen many times in the past. Happy enough to take on Sehwag too. Miller might not bat long enough to get a chance to win coming in down the order, but I’d rather him at 8/1 than the other two mentioned.

Mitchell Johnson Top Punjab Bowler at 7/4 with Stan James – I’m surprised he's this big. He is many, many leagues above the other bowlers in the team.

James Faulkner Top Rajasthan Bowler at 9/4 with Stan James – For much the same reasoning as above. He went really well in the IPL last year too.

Sunil Narine Top KKR Bowler at 2/1 with Stan James – I know this is obvious and boring but he really should be no bigger than 13/8.

Chris Gayle Top Batsman at 8/1 E/W with Paddy Power – Last year he was top price 3/1, and a lot of the firms were shorter, he traded heavy odds on until late on in the tournament. I know hes been hit and miss this year, but he always comes alive for the IPL, he hit 180 sixes last year, the most by a huge distance, and while Kohli is in great form and batting like god, Gayle gets first go before him in the batting order and that swings me. Its also highly likely will have good batting conditions at home every game.

Glenn Maxwell Top Batsman at 33/1 E/W with Ladbrokes – 33/1 is too big for a man with his talent, and for the same reasoning as I highlighted for backing him top Punjab batsman, he doesn’t need long to score his runs, and that is a huge plus. If he bats long he scores very high too. Again, not sure where he bats in order, but at 33/1 its worth the risk.

Glenn Maxwell to hit the most sixes at 6/1 with Stan James – Chris Gayle is 4/7 here, for an obvious reason, and pity theres no E/W allowed in the market, because I really think Maxwell is the only danger. Maxwell deals in 6s, not 4s, and I think this will be closer than the odds suggest, although granted I’m probably pissing in the wind going against Gayle here.

KKR to finish bottom at 7/2 with Coral – To me they have the worst batting on paper, and bar Narine literally carrying them through I can’t see how they can be competitive enough to not be in contention to be bottom, I’d have them clear favourites here.

Best of luck for the tournament and hopefully we all come out ahead!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Scottish Grand National preview

As the National Hunt season rolls to a close for another year, it goes out with several big finales Cheltenham, Aintree, Ayr and finally Punchestown. It's Scotland's turn to get into the action this weekend with the running of the Scottish Grand National at Ayr. Sharing his wisdom on the marathon of the north is regular contributor Chris Day, @chrisday100.

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The Scottish National

When I look at the field for Saturday’s big race, the Scottish National, I am reminded that the majority of the big staying races of the season have been won by fresh horses who, in the most part have been under rated and over priced against some who’ve been plodding round five or six times in heavy ground trying to find some form.

No surprises then that this will be my angle for the weekend.

Tidal Bay tops the weights and could conceivably travel on the bridle into the straight against these, such is his class edge and I admit to chucking 20 quid at the 20-1 available just after Paul Nicholls said he’d be declared for this as the race should be his last before an honourable retirement. He’s off the same mark as when dividing Bobs Worth and First Lieutenant in last season’s red hot Hennessy and must be thereabouts if avoiding the fate which befell him at the Canal Turn at Aintree last week. On reflection, though, I think he’ll just come up short when the chips are down conceding so much weight.

Next in the weights is stablemate, Sam Winner, who must have some sort of chance from 147, having been mixing it with the best novices all season. He and another novice, Mendip Express, have similar chances although they’re both passed over as the market has hardly missed them, a comment which applies to Green Flag, who had a hard race in fourth in a very strong Cheltenham handicap, winner and second won at Aintree last week and third ran well in the National.

Barry Geraghty has taken all before him at the two big spring Festivals but he’ll need to be at his best to keep the errors from his partner, Hadrian’s Approach, to a minimum. If this had been the case before, we could well be looking at a CV littered with big race successes but, as it is, I’ll swerve him again although the slightly slower pace and better ground could be to his advantage.

Godsmejudge won this last season but has never seemed right since and I prefer his stable companion, Midnight Sail, who ran a good race in fourth in the Betbright Chase when last seen and should appreciate the extra yardage here.

Yes Tom must be considered well in by shrewd connections but his efforts on the track don’t really stack up in this context and, of those out of the handicap, I’d give some sort of chance to Alpha Victor (if his Midlands National second has not left its mark), Edmund Kean, who I thought looked ideal for Chepstow in December when I saw him win at Leicester, Roalco De Farges, who has a Bet365 Chase runner up on his CV and looked an improver when trotting up at Newbury last time, Mister Marker, who was third in this last year but comes here in better form and Pertemps Final fourth, Trustan Times, who bids to become the second National winner in seven days to have prepped in that race.

However, as we speak, the other two I fancy the most are Rigadin De Beauchene and Roberto Goldback.

The former was pulled up on fastish ground last year but had been on the go for a while whereas this season he won his only race, the Haydock Park Grand National Trial by a long way eased down in his favourite heavy ground and has seen his mark rise as a result. What we do have here, though, is a guaranteed stayer, a relentless galloper in top form and a horse who was aimed at this race as soon as he passed the post at Haydock, which presumably means the trainer didn’t think the track was to blame for him not running well last season. At 20-1, he ticks a lot of boxes and has far fewer negatives than some much shorter in the betting.

Roberto Goldback is also in good form, having stayed on too late in third behind Spring Heeled in the Kim Muir. He’s 18lbs lower than when sent off favourite behind Wyck Hill and Katenko, conceding each nearly two stone at Ascot 15 months ago and is possibly the best handicapped horse in the field. If the ground quickens up he’d be my choice but, if it rains, I’ll stick with Rigadin De Beauchene.

As ever, I’ll combine Tidal Bay, Rigadin De Beauchene and Roberto Goldback in forecast and tricast combinations and wouldn’t put anybody off putting them in each way doubles with Montbazon, who I thought was ideal for the Scottish Champion Hurdle after seeing him fade on the hill into third in a red hot County Hurdle.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Doncaster Mile preview

The first week of The Championships takes place at Royal Randwick on Saturday, and congratulations to the Australian Turf Club/Racing NSW for generating such a high quality day over a very short run-up. 2015 and 2016 will be the years it really should start to see international influence. I hang it on Sydneysiders regularly, so credit where credit is due...

The Doncaster has always been a fantastic race, while an honour roll including greats such as More Joyous, Haradasun, Sunline, Super Impose, Emancipation, Gunsynd and Tobin Bronze, while at the same time, the beauty of a handicap allowing the likes of Racing To Win, Grand Armee, Sprint By, Skating and Lawman win on the way to far greater ratings. This year it is worth three million dollars and what a cracker of a race it is!

Taking the reins for this preview is frequent contributor Kieran Fitzgerald, @kjob85.

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Doncaster Mile – 1600m
$3M Group 1 Open Handicap
At time of publication, the track was rated Slow 7.

1. Boban (19)
Arguably the star of last spring with an unbeaten prep including two Group 1 wins, Boban resumed this Autumn with two disappointing starts, followed by a strong win showing his powerful turn of foot in the Chipping Norton Stakes, where he defeated champion galloper It's A Dundeel. That win showed Boban to be one of the country's great milers, which would seem to make him ideally suited here. However, he has struggled in the wet (his last start on a slow track producing a disappointing seventh), and is likely to be scratched if the track is heavy as expected. If he runs, he will need to find his best form, running on a wet track from a wide barrier. He has drifted significantly in the odds and while his past ability to get out of trouble might make him look an attractive proposition at such a price, it is simply asking too much of him to win here. Save him for the Queen Elizabeth next week.

2. My Kingdom of Fife (7)
Formerly a very strong horse for trainer Chris Waller, this 9 year old gelding was injured in 2011 and only resumed two starts back in the Canterbury Stakes after an 18 month break. His two starts this run have been inglorious and nothing like his past form, finishing at or near the back of the field. While he has won on a heavy track before, due to his past form he has been allocated a big weight and in light of his current form, this puts him out of contention.

3. Streama (21)
A bonny mare who loves this track, quite likes this distance, and is a proven performer in the wet. Those elements would seem to make her one of the top contenders here, but counting against her is a big weight (although one she carried to win the George Main here in spring over 1600m), a wide barrier and reasonably indifferent form this prep. Her runs have been solid enough but she hasn't looked like threatening at any time, and comes up here against some horses in red hot form. It would require a career best performance for her to win, but you could certainly do worse at big odds.

4. Sacred Falls (14)
Winner of last year's Doncaster Mile (on a heavy track) where he defeated the champion Pierro, Sacred Falls has run okay since without breaking through. He carries 4kg more than last year's 53kg and on his form, I would not expect him to go back to back. The wet will be to his advantage but he has not done enough since winning last year to indicate he is up to the task.

5. Hawkspur (8)
Has been average this prep, with his best start being a third place in the Chipping Norton won by Boban. He has shown his trademark ability to make solid ground from the back, and I would expect him to do the same here. However, in a crowded field on a wet, chopped up track (the Doncaster being the second last race of the day), it may be difficult for him to make enough ground late. Reports are that he has been soaring in trackwork, but I can't have him – for mine this just doesn't look like his race.

6. Toydini (3)
Toydini has not placed in three starts this prep, but last spring had a strong campaign including a third place in the Epsom and a win in the Crystal Mile on Cox Plate day. This is the right distance for him, but the wet track puts a question mark over him and, like Hawkspur, he likes to run on from the back and may find that a tough ask here.

7. Speediness (1)
The little horse that could, it would be a great story for small stable trainer Colin Scott if Speediness (one of just four horses in his stables) won this race. He is a strong miler, and has winning form on slow tracks. He ran superbly in his last start, just being pipped at the post by Irish raider Gordon Lord Byron. His form indicates that he can do this – he ran third in the Epsom last year to Boban and then second to Toydini in the Crystal Mile, and he has been running well this prep. The rails barrier can be a trap so he will need to jump well, but the horse has done enough for me to rate him as a live chance at big odds.

8. Mouro (5)
Mouro's two starts this prep have produced a first place and a seventh. His form in the spring was strong, however the quality of horses he has beaten is largely nowhere near what he faces here. He will be fit for this and likes the distance. While I don't rate him as a top chance he won't disgrace himself and should run on well, but this is too tough for him.

9. Royal Descent (20)
Winner of last year's ATC Oaks which was her last victory. This distance is probably better suited for her, and the wet won't hurt, as she is one of a handful of horses in the race to have won on a heavy track before. I wouldn't overlook her entirely, but her inability to break through since the Oaks victory is unlikely to change here. At decent odds, a place bet is worth a look.

10. Monton (4)
A real warhorse, this seven year old gelding just keeps going – his last complete spell was a year ago but he still managed a handful of wins in the summer. His last two starts in the Ajax and the Chipping Norton (against many of the horses running here) produced two fifth placings. Monton is far from the best horse running in this race and the markets have completely written him off but he always runs so honestly and just keeps going so I might throw a few bucks on at a ridiculously big place price.

11. Dear Demi (2)
Winner of the 2012 VRC Oaks and The Roses over 2000m in Doomben last May, Dear Demi had a solid campaign last spring without winning anything. Her last start in the Coolmore was weak but two runs back she was third to a brilliant Catkins in the Wiggle Stakes. She has won at this distance, at this track and in the wet before and while she undoubtedly has ability, this seems too tough for her.

12. Fat Al (15)
After winning the Epsom in 2012, Fat Al didn't break through again until a few weeks ago in the Golden Mile at Bendigo, having changed trainers in the interim from Gai Waterhouse to Peter Moody. That was a great win over this distance, with the gelding running on strongly to win by a length. However, stepping up from that run to the Doncaster Mile, against a very strong field, is a big ask. His last start disappointment can be forgiven after he was galloped on, but he has not performed strongly enough when faced with such strong competition in the past.

13. Slow Pace (22)
Having his second start in Australia after a career in France. Slow Pace finished second when he was first-up in the Newcastle Newmarket, and has good second-up form. Unfortunately for him, he has drawn the car park barrier, although how that plays out won't really be known until the day. The soft ground won't hurt him, and while his performance in Australia is at this stage largely a matter of speculation, I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish strongly, with a very good price available. Definitely one for the exotics.

14. Hana's Goal (16)
Japanese horse who has come over for the Championships, she disappointed in her last start after jumping poorly and never recovered. While we can expect improvement from that run and she likes this distance, her second-up form is weak and she has no form on wet tracks. I'm happy to put a line through her in this.

15. Lidari (6)
Ran third to Fiorente over a mile last spring in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes, and won the Blamey Stakes at Flemington over the same distance two starts back, but was poor at his other two starts in that time, his last start in the George Ryder being particularly disappointing. He should handle the soft ground and is well weighted, and while I think he is over the odds I would be surprised if he finished in the placings.

16. Dissident (11)
Has had a strong prep, with a second placing and two wins including the Randwick Guineas. He was a disappointing sixth last time in the Rosehill Guineas (2000m) but finished solidly. This is more his distance. He is near the bottom of the weight scale and while this is a big ask, on his recent form it is certainly achievable. The main question mark is his ability against the older horses, but he is definitely one to include in the exotics.

17. Messene (18)
The early favourite for the race following a brilliant win last start in the Ajax Stakes, where he just ran away to win by almost three lengths from Weary. Having won his last seven starts and coming from the Hawkes stable who are flying at the moment, the favourite status is justified. The query would be the quality of fields that this Lonhro gelding has beaten, with the Ajax being the first time he really stepped up against opposition of the kind he is meeting here. Based on the outcome of that race, you would expect Messene to be right up there in this race, although the expected heavy track is an unknown quantity, with the horse having no form in the wet.

18. El Roca (17)
El Roca has had a strong prep, with one win and three placings. In fact, the only race of the young colt's career where he did not place was last year's Caulfield Guineas. He is well weighted, always goes close and has been running well. Being up against the older horses in such a strong field will test him, but I would rate him as an each way chance.

19. Weary (13)
Absolutely starred in winning the last race on Golden Slipper day, the Doncaster Prelude, on a chopped up track. Carrying a light weight and with two wins from two starts on heavy tracks, it is not hard to see why this horse has moved so dramatically in the markets over the last few days. He was second to Messene (albeit by some distance) in the Ajax, and is a big chance here. While he has never run at Randwick, with top jockey Tommy Berry on board he is a big chance and should run a great race.

20. Ninth Legion (12)
His wins have mostly not been against much, certainly not the quality of the field assembled here. While he ran third at Warwick Farm two starts back against some decent opposition, he is too outclassed here to expect much.

21. Malavio (9) 1ST EMERGENCY
This Snitzel gelding ran fourth in the Doncaster Prelude last week, and prior to that a third place in the Ajax to Messene and Weary. The mile is not his distance however, with three starts and no placings. I wouldn't expect him to disgrace himself, but he will find it too tough here.

22. Gypsy Diamond (10) 2ND EMERGENCY
The second emergency, although likely to run as a heavy track will result in some scratchings. While well weighted, this is a big ask for this three year old filly. Her last run in the Coolmore was disappointing, and while she can perform well against horses her own age, I haven't seen enough to convince me she can perform strongly against this field.

Suggested Bet This is a tough race, with a big field of high quality horses including multiple Group 1 winners. For mine the markets have it pretty accurate at this stage, with Messene and Weary on top. However, my pick of the crop at big odds is Speediness. Sometimes you have to stick your neck out - he has done enough to tell me he can win (his last start was excellent) and I will be cheering him on at what is likely to be a very wet Randwick. After those three there is a host of chances – Streama, El Roca, Dissident and Slow Pace are all chances. Being so open, there is a lot of value to be had in this race so have a look at some place bets and go wide in your exotics.

Speediness
Messene
Weary
Streama

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Red Rum Handicap Chase preview

It wouldn't be the Aintree Grand National Festival without a race in honour of Red Rum. Kieran Kenneally, @kierankenneally runs through the card.

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Red Rum Handicap Chase

Whenever I look at races at Aintree the first thing I look for is a fresh horse or one that might have been laid out for a race. In the Silver Cross Red Rum Handicap Arnaud ticks all the boxes!

Arnaud hasn't raced for 68 days and this exuberant jumper brings excellent form into the race. Second to Valdez last time out, the winner that day has since gone on to run an excellent close up 5th in the Arkle at Cheltenham to give the form a mighty boost. Arnaud has also beaten Rebel Fitz over fences and that horse has won six races since that defeat including a Grade 3 Chase. Those two pieces of form give Arnaud an outstanding chance back in handicap company and this young chaser still has plenty of improvement left in him.

Claret Cloak was a good third in the Grand Annual and along with Sound Investment they have some Class 3 wins to their name. Linking their form through horses like Next Sensation, Grandouet and Valdez suggests to me they may have a bit to find on the selection.

Oiseau de Nuit may pose a bigger danger. The winner of this race last year has some excellent form this term behind Sire de Grugy. He would have a fair chance if running to his best form but his age and his falling at Cheltenham slightly put me off.

Off The Ground doesn't strike me as a horse who will appreciate a drop in trip.

Dare Me, Anquetta and Changing The Guard are all held by Claret Cloak on Cheltenham running.

Of the horses behind Claret Cloak that day, Astracad is a bit interesting. If you look back far enough this horse has some interesting form and he has a habit of beating Oiseau de Nuit most times they meet.

Kings Grey seems fully exposed and is held by Off The Ground.

Anay Turge is interesting back over fences but may struggle at the weights.

Turn Over Sivola has never won a chase but keeps going up in the weights. On a line through Next Sensation he's not good enough.

Parsnip Pete is well held by Astracad.

Gus Macrae has been out of form for a while.

Last Shot looks out of his class and is not the choice of the stable jockey.

There is one piece of form behind Far West that makes Bullet Street interesting to me and this young horse may be worth a bit of each way interest off a low weight.

Selections:

1. Arnaud 6/1
2. Astracad 16/1
3. Bullet Street 25/1

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle preview

The three-day Grand National Festival gets underway tomorrow with a mix of high quality small fields and lower quality large fields, with no middle ground. The richest race of the day is the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle, sponsored by the magnificent Doom Bar ale from Sharp's Brewery in Cornwall #mmmbeer! Unfortunately they were bought out by that multinational brewer known for pumping out tasteless crap, Molson Coors, three years ago. May they never be allowed to tinker with one of the finest drops you'll ever taste.

Anyhow, back to the racing. Can anyone beat The New One after all and sundry thought he was robbed in the Champion Hurdle? Let's read what blog regular Jon da Silva, @CreamOnTop, has to say about it...

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Aintree Hurdle

The New One 4/9
The New One (TNO) was unlucky to an extent at Cheltenham and is the best horse in this race. Indeed prior to Cheltenham I rated him clear of My Tent, The Fly, Jezki, Annie Get Your Gun, Un Der Trois and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. In the Champion he suffered a serious interference having just lost his position on the far side. The slow pace allowed him to be right there at the top of the hill and from there they kicked away from him. He then finished with a rattle albeit his hurdling looked rushed and was further behind My Tent Or Yours than at the top of the hill. How much effect that bad luck had, how much of the decision to let them kick away was directed by a rational decision for a breather for a horse who had had just made up ground, jockey brain atrophy or being outpaced was not asked of a visibly rattled Sam Twiston-Davies afterwards. Point is the race was not run to make his loss of ground by the fall of a rival necessarily fatal to his chances - it is a matter of guessing frankly not if he was unlucky but by how much. It's still form that has him well in over these.

In terms of the distance and this race well The New One has been beaten two out of three times at 2.5 miles - easily excused but still beaten nonetheless. His defeat in this race to Zarkandar looks less good in light of that one's form since and indeed the blowing away of previous year's form by TNO, My Tent and Jezki this year. He's also been beaten every time he has made a swift reappearance as a hurdler albeit running to form on the last occasion at Kempton that is good enough here.

Rock On Ruby 10/1
At peak was a 170 3 above TNO's current mark. Thrown into the Arkle after effectively beating 1 rival each in 2 races and looking as natural a chaser as a 300 pound man with a side strain. 2nd in Champion just over a year ago. Twice beaten over course and distance. Can see why people are making a case but seems the wrong trip, track, prep and on the decline to boot. I can see why many will EW him I just feel that this is not ideal and he is not as good as he was.

Diakali 10/1
Up to 158 after a fourth in the County. Has won over the trip in a Grade 1 in France beating Ptit Zig. Having led all his races was held up in the County and arguably ran a career best. Further progress gives him a chance to beat the rest if TNO is not at or near his best. It will be interesting if they front run here. Mullins' English raids often seem half-hearted but similar sort Thousand Stars went close in this three times.

Ptit Zig 14/1
Improved from loss to Diakali to win a French Grade 1. You could make an argument he is marginally better than Diakali and is OR 159. His win was in much slower ground in France than loss to Diakali -> 17 secs slower over the same course and distance. Has progressed via handicaps and a Grade 2 this year but out of his depth in the Champion.

Grandouet 12/1
Another returning from not being quite as good over fences. Well beaten in this last year and brought down in contention the year before. My feeling his time is past and again not sure in retrospect what his form is truly worth. Was 166 at peak, just 1lb off TNO.

Irish Saint 25/1
Progressive handicapper but still only 151. Has been kept fresh but was well beaten at Aintree last year and one who would likely need a deluge to be competitive. He needs all the above to run below form and to improve for me whatever the conditions.

Grumeti 40/1
Best novice form at Aintree when he reversed placings with Triumph winner Countrywide Flame two years ago. I have him as a pure two miler. 153 at best. I don't think he is quite good enough nor progressive before we get to trip questions.

Conclusion

Most likely result is a win for The New One and maybe an easy win. Nonetheless his erratic hurdling, having been beaten here last year, any trauma he suffered being balked at Cheltenham, the quick turnaround (which trainers of Annie Power, Jezki and My Tent Or Yours are not attempting it) makes me think at 4/9 he can be taken on. I'll probably not lay TNO as I don't have an overwhelming negative just a series of quibbles and questions.

If he is beaten I quite like Diakali and prefer 10s to 5/2 w/o TNO. Still progressing and feel his County was against well handicapped rivals and was his first start for 3 months not to mention he may have been unlucky not to be closer taking a bump before the last.

1pt Win Diakali at 10s.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

London marathon preview

They say variety is the spice of life and I'm never afraid to post previews of other sports, so long as there is genuine expertise to read. The London Marathon is just around the corner and Ian from Sportsbettingindex. You can read more from his site via Twitter as well, @SBIdotcom. I'd been saving this until closer to the race (originally posted to SBI subscribers Mar 27) so there's been a bit of price movement.

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London Marathon preview

The last two years of the London Marathon has been kind to me getting decent bets down on both winners - Kipsang @ 7/1 and Kebede @ 8/1 and I remember with fondness hammering the price of Ndereba from 9/1 into 7/2 when winning the World Championships in 2007. My background is mainly in golf betting and in that field bookmakers know who is going to be backed most weeks as based on course and current form the punters pile in to what generally speaking are artificially low prices. The books know who they will lay no matter what price they go and this is often the basis of how they make their money week in week out. However in some events this can backfire and I think this years London Marathon is a case in question.

We are in an unusual position this year as with Mo Farah running books are all up a few weeks early as there is extra interest and the bookmakers know home interest will see a lot of bets placed. Farah varies in price from 5/2 to 9/2 and that to me says a lot but in all honesty I would make him no lower than 8/1. We have to remember this is his first marathon, many great athletes have failed before him when making the step up in distance. His prep run in New York in the half marathon will have done him no favours as he “fell” during the race and collapsed after the line.

Another runner who I think is artificially short but will have his supporters is Stephen Kiprotich - the World and Olympic Champion has a great pedigree with those wins but they were summer marathons run over very different courses. He would have to run several minutes faster than he has ever done before and last year he could only finish sixth.

Last year's renewal was run at a fast early pace and Kebede came through to win by conserving his energy and I can see this year's race being run in much the same way. We have the great Haile Gebrselassie setting the pace as they go for a world record and it will be interesting to see who can grind it out.

Personally I think the books have it right making Wilson Kipsang favourite and I make him around 2/1 as well - he is a prolific winner but showed he was vulnerable to last years fast pace when he could only manage fifth - strange as later last year he set a new World Record when winning in Berlin.

I think the huge each way value lies with last year's winner Tsegaye Kebede who goes for his third win in the event. It is not easy to defend but Martin Lel did it when he went on to win his third title in 2008. Looking at his recent running history one can see that he rarely runs in any other road races and I think that sets him up well for full marathons - his body knows what’s coming! In the last six years he has run in 14 of them, finished them all, won 6 of them and finished on the podium in an amazing 12 - that is incredible consistency in what is one of the toughest sports in the world. I would make him more of a 3/1 shot and anything over 4/1 with books paying ¼ the odds three places you have to say with his podium finish record that is a fine price especially when you build in his overall London record of 2nd, 1st, 5th, 3rd and 1st.

Of the others - Emmanuel Mutai often finds one or two too good for him and his 2011 victory here remains his only major title. Stanley Biwott is still a bit of a dark horse but he blew up last year and I find it strange that people are backing him quite heavily. The only other one I quite like is Geoffrey Mutai who went off a short price last year but picked up a leg injury during the race and retired. He has shown that that injury has been shaken off by winning the New York Marathon in the Fall (beating Kebede into second with Biwott fifth) and then went on to win the New York Half Marathon from Mo Farah a few weeks ago.

It is great to see an event with prices all over the place and I expect to see a lot of further movement before the gun goes - to summarise my bets are as follows:

Tsegaye Kebede 2pts ew 7/1 (price long gone, but as mentioned above, bet down to 4/1)

Geoffrey Mutai 0.25pts ew 8/1 or better (took 10/1 myself)