Friday, 29 January 2016

Victoria Cup preview

The Victorian summer of harness racing is in full swing this weekend with a fantastic meeting at Tabcorp Park Melton. The Group 1 Victoria Cup headlines the card but strangely hasn't found a sponsor ('Good Form' is a department within Harness Racing Victoria). The Victoria Derby is the traditional pinnacle of the classic generation and the Australasian Trotters Championship tops it off for the square-gaiters.

For the preview, it's over to harness racing tragic and racecalling prodigy Luke Humphreys, @WorldRacingLuke.

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Victoria Cup

Saturday January 30
Melton Race 7 - 9:30pm AEST (1030 GMT)
2240m – Mobile Start
Grand Circuit, Group 1
AUD$400,000


1: FLAMING FLUTTER: You’d struggle to find a more consistent horse anywhere. Placed in the last two Inter Dominions and last start controlled the race and did it well to get a much deserved G1 win in the South Australian Cup. Now even though that race is nothing like this particular race, from a quality perspective, it was a tough commanding win from the breeze. Drawing barrier one is a massive plus to his chances and whilst overall he’s probably not good enough to win, there’s no doubt on planet earth he’s the most consistent horse in the race that is likely to get a lovely trip on the pegs and with the luck he’s clearly the safest each-way bet in the race.

2: MESSINI: Returned from a New Zealand Cup campaign, which included a Methven Cup win, in the G2 Shepparton Gold Cup when not having the greatest of luck when checked mid-race and never on the pegs, and in that race if you weren’t on the pegs you weren’t going to be in the drum. Was the first horse over the line that wasn’t on the inside so his run was huge. Now he was only beaten a nose into third in the G1 New Zealand Free For All behind Tiger Tara and Mossdale Conner and was second to Arden Rooney beaten a head in the G2 Kaikoura Cup and was fifth in the G1 NZ Cup. I’m still not 100% sure whether he’s quite good enough for this yet but there’s no doubting he tries very hard, with his popular head action, and is very consistent. He’s only second up going into the Victoria Cup which is some concern for mine but certainly with some luck he can get into things.

3: FRANCO NELSON: G1 NZ Cup runner up in 2014 that finished a remarkable fourth in the 2015 edition when being first-up over the Addington 3200m. He made a big run to take the lead four wide at the 400m but dropped out in the end in the G1 Auckland Cup but was a tough third in the G2 Waikato Flying Mile the next start. Worked out of the gate and got shuffled out of it but then ran on only well enough in the G1 Ballarat Cup last week. His gate speed could make things interesting. Whether he’s quite good enough any more I doubt it but with luck can run into a place at best.

4: SMOLDA: New Zealander who was produced a huge runner-up performance in the G1 NZ Cup behind Arden Rooney after galloping out and then again was unlucky in the G1 NZ FFA when never in the race and absolutely stomping home. He never quite got into the G2 Franklin Cup and had every chance when third behind Have Faith In Me and Hughie Green in the G1 Auckland Cup. Was able to find the lead mid-race in the G1 Ballarat Cup last week and held off Lennytheshark in track record time and did it well, with maybe still a little bit left in his sleeve as well. Barrier draw a huge help to his chances drawing the best of the big guns. Should find the lead like he did last week and will get every chance, will be tough to run down.

5: MISTER MUNDAKA: Has improved a lot and continues to this season. Needs to be in front, on the pace at least, to be at his best. Victor of the G3 Popular Alm FFA three runs back over Keayang Cullen and was then second to that rival in the G3 Lightning Mile when breezing and was 3rd in the G2 Horsham Cup last time. Now on that occasion he lead and had a very easy time of it and couldn’t sprint on. So I don’t think he can win this when you look at that particular run but I think he’s a horse that is continuing to improve and will be a major player in these races next season. This will harden him up. Plus I can’t see him leading or being in the first three in the run which won’t suit his style.

6: HECTORJAYJAY (EM 1): Emergency that rarely runs a bad race and is very consistent. Was second in the G3 Yarra Valley Cup first-up and then bombed the start in the G3 Cobram Cup when eventually pulled up. He then led in the G3 Geelong Cup but was done on the sprint lane by It Is Billy. He never got into the G2 Shepparton Gold Cup last time in a fast run affair when out wide. If he starts, he’s a place chance from this draw and will be better in 12 months.

7: LENNYTHESHARK: Inter Dominion champion that produced brilliant performances in the heats and Grand Final of the Championship. Resumed in the G1 Ballarat Cup last week, his preparation for this, when making a three wide move mid-race to the breeze and running a very game second to Smolda in track record time. The draw isn’t perfect here but you’d expect him to find the breeze and control the race from there on. He will improve off last week too so is going to be hard to beat is last year’s runner-up.

8: HOTASEL: One of the most improved horses anywhere over the last 12 months by a long way. Second to the horse he follows out here Flaming Flutter in the G1 SA Cup two runs back and even though he had a soft run on the pegs in the G1 Ballarat Cup last week he had to check around the home turn and hit the line better than anything to get fifth. Like many will be better again in 12 months but is certainly a place hope with the form he’s in and from the lovely trailing draw.

9: MAJOR CROCKER: Another one that will be better in 12 months but is very consistent and a great horse for connections. Ran with great credit during the Inter Dominion getting an easy victory in the consolation. Although to be honest I don’t think he’s been very good in his first two runs back from Western Australia. Yes he had to work three wide without cover at the fastest part of the race in the G1 SA Cup but I really don’t believe he should’ve dropped out like he did to finish second last. He sat on the pegs in the G1 Ballarat Cup and while it was a 27s last quarter, I thought he could’ve finished it off better. Very consistent horse but would want to get to his Inter Dominion form to have a chance of placing at the least here. If he does, Each-Way.

10: BLING IT ON: New South Wales representative who was producing brilliant wins before his campaign down here. His victories at Menangle and Bathurst we’re simply awesome and he had to work mid-race in the G1 Ballarat Cup last week before getting cover for the last 1400m however was shunted back to midfield and then stormed home into third making up the most ground on Smolda and Lennytheshark in a 27s last quarter. Now the second row isn’t perfect for your usual horse but if he gets a three-wide cart up into it with a good tempo early, which I expect to happen, he is going to be super dangerous late with his awesome turn of speed. Very dangerous.

11: MOSSDALE CONNER: Last year’s G1 Taylor Mile winner from New Zealand that is very consistent. Finished third and second in the G1 Cup and FFA during Cup week at Addington and also finished second and fourth in the G2 Franklin Cup and G1 Auckland Cup during Christmas at Alexandra Park. Made his Australian debut in the G1 Ballarat Cup last week when a game fourth but not quite good enough. Considering his run so well in some of NZ’s biggest races, I’m probably harsh on him when I say this but I’m still not quite sure whether he’s quite good enough to win a race of this nature. Will be suited next week in the G1 Hunter Cup, Each-Way tonight.

12: IT IS BILLY: Popular horse and many congratulations must go to Michael Barby and Anne-Maree Conroy for getting this horse to this level for the popular Glenlyon Syndicate. Got the sprint lane to win the G3 Geelong Cup in track record time and has since finished down the track in the G2 Shepparton Gold Cup and G1 Ballarat Cup. Another one who will be better in a year but has improved so much and with luck can place. Consistent.

13: MY HARD COPY: Has come a long way since his last Victorian campaign with Mark Peace. Has the best turn of foot out of the FFAs in Western Australia no doubt. Although did it three wide without cover for the last 900m in the G1 Western Australian Cup last time to win it for the second successive year, showing he’s not completely one-dimensional. One of his toughest tests tonight from the draw but if the pace is hot and he gets a nice cart up into it, not getting too far back, he will be coming with every single stride in the closing stages.

Summary
It’s certainly not the greatest Victoria Cup of all time especially compared to last year, 2012, 2000 etc. But it’s still a very good field. Lots of horses are going to be better in 12 months. I’ve tipped (10) BLING IT ON, now we all expect (4) SMOLDA to find the lead and (7) LENNYTHESHARK to breeze. I expect them to go a better than average speed and I feel the three wide line will start with a lap to go. I think (10) BLING IT ON and (13) MY HARD COPY could get perfect runs into the race, maybe on the back of (11) MOSSDALE CONNER and they both have brilliant turns of foot and I think (10) BLING IT ON can come over the top in the straight. He was absolutely brilliant at Ballarat and with the right run he has a huge show. (7) LENNYTHESHARK was clearly the run of the race at Ballarat and will improve off that immensely. There the main two chances. (13) MY HARD COPY will need to get a similar run as to what I predict with (10) BLING IT ON to have a chance but if he gets that luck he will flash and whilst (4) SMOLDA was very good in the Ballarat Cup when winning, I think (10) BLING IT ON and (7) LENNYTHESHARK can reverse form as they both had harder runs and (7) LENNYTHESHARK was first-up for just over a month and had to go three wide from the 1200m from well back to the breeze whethers he should be breezing here after 400m and I think can control (4) SMOLDA. Whilst there are many other consistent, good horses in the race, those four are clearly the best four in the contest that are in form and look to have between them.

Selections
(10) BLING IT ON – (7) LENNYTHESHARK – (13) MY HARD COPY – (4) SMOLDA

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Cheltenham Gold Cup antepost preview

Inside two months now before the Festival and to keep the blog ticking over, why not have an antepost preview of the Gold Cup? Jon da Silva, @creamontop, pipes up with an early assessment in his own inimitable style.

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The 'Who's Sponsoring It This Year?' Gold Cup

Let's deal with the elephant in the room, Vautour.

I have to say if there is one thing I dislike about National Hunt racing it's the constant veneration of Novice racing. Much of it is completely uncompetitive and runaway winners of novices merely prospects - "novice championship" being an oxymoron and far too many of them to even be a test. Yet before a fence and in some cases even a hurdle is jumped they are stars. On breeding Vautour's best at three miles like Kempton not the 3 miles 2f Gold Cup see park [course] 3 milers Quinz, Sir Des Champs, un Temps Pour Tout and arguably Quevega who ducked the big bucks taking on Big Buck's.

In many ways like anointed yet non superstar Champagne Fever Vautour has already shown his vulnerability and indeed won a execrable renewal of the Supreme. Fever at least pinged a couple of real stars in his Supreme. He then beat Clarcam as a novice chaser handed an easy lead and pixie jumping [posing in air] to a debut success before being mullered by Clarcam who did go on to win a toilet race at Aintree and has been buried every since. Vautour was then visually impressive in beating trees in the JLT, form that has not worked out - the 150 rated Gilgamboa seeing off his 15 length victims Apache Stronghold and Valseur Lido - toilet excuse they'd had a hard race three weeks before something hardly borne out when 3 weeks after that Valseur won an admittedly piss Grade 1 novice. Ptit Zig did win an ummh err grade 2* beating the pinata Clarcam and then being better at the weights than Vautour (!) at Ascot before being utterly exposed twice, falling when broken by 33/1 shots for this. Irish Saint was bullied at Aintree by the adequate chaser Saphir de Rheu. So his novice form is visually impressive and rating friendly but for me form-wise questionable and he lost to a tree, I know never start a sentence with so.

* Grade 2 is Gaelic for Shit.

Vautour at least does have alternatives. The Ryanair makes sense for Vautour in that he can run to 170 again over 2.5 miles and that would win it most likely. Ditto the standard of two-milers he could win as you may only need to run to 170 if Sprinter Sacre gags. However if you want to see how a two-miler jumps have a look at Desert Orchid's videos when pressed - he was prone to massive over jumps which get the publicity but he could take fences at the end of 3 miles like a hurdler, really fast whereas Vautour sails over em unlike a top two-miler. Not to mention on his one attempt in a Grade 1 two-miler he was beaten by Clarcam, out of sight.

Don (The) Cossack

Best horse in training. Error prone and course maybe not be in his favour being bigger than a big horse. Cheltenham is at some points twisty and turney and he did not enjoy Kempton hemmed in. He did win at Aintree in a field of 10 but I would view more runners for a horse who jumps much as I imagine a routemaster would if it could jump as problematic. They could use headgear and/or take him to the front but that merely shows not a straight forward hoss. Fairly priced as best horse with negatives.

Don (The Plod) Poli

Humourless [(c) Prof Hindsight] chaser who has some class but probably not enough here. I'd rather take 4s knowing it's a bog than 6 or 7 now. I think he needs a bog and that is not odds on. Like Bob's Worth yes he may travel better on better ground but so do the others but on a bog he can out last them.

Djakadam

Has fallen into favourite after last year's 2nd. Meaningless trends warning no horse has won a 1st Gold Cup at his 2nd or more attempt since See More Business (who was carried out on his 1st try). Djak' is 7 and appears to be as good as last year if not better. Given a beating by The Cossack at Punch and whilst unfit was never winning at ultra galloping Newbury last year. Thus I question whether Djak' has the pace for a fast ground race. Soft ground is not the prevailing March ground since the drainage was done. Oh and probably loses Ruby Walsh to boot.

Cue Cue Card

Cue Card is a bigger price than horses he beat. He is bred for it and with his wind straight should be up to the distance. With his history of physical issues and the lifespan of breathing ops I would wait for day if I really liked The Cue. I would be doubtful he would hold up on deep going but it would not be forlorn.

Road to Riches

Main negative is in same ownership as the 2 Dons otherwise looks cracking EW price but one has to factor he may not run and probably not good enough for a win bet. Goes on all ground and one that will probably give you a good run for your money. Would love it if he turned up in the Ryanair #wins.

Smad Place

Fourth or fifth best on some ratings no chance on the da Silva scale. Wide margin winner at gallopers heaven Newbury but well seen off in the King George. Might provoke interest if they decide to send him to the front but will have others on his tail not standing off respectfully in this.

No More Heroes

I don't even fancy him for the RSA. To take his entry here as a positive as some have done explain the entry in the 4 miler? Plodder.

O'Faolains Boy

Nice win in an intermediate chase. Needs to find 25 pounds improvement. Been injured not for me but of the outsiders one who could leap into it.

Holywell

Fourth last year and trained by anyone else you'd say no chance. That is not a compliment merely that poor runs by Jonjo horses are more excusable. Can make an argument improves on better ground and butchered Don Cossack as a novice, who did not, but seems shy even at his best.

Of the rest Triolo D'Alene, Sir Des Champs who was second to Plod's Worth in the race, Valseur Lido probably worth a mention. There, done.

Conclusion

Usual race between the Out Blasters and the Out Lasters and since the drainage was repaired the Blasters have held sway. In a tight NRNB market value is hard to find but people habitually underestimate the chances of horses stepping up in trip and over extrapolate limited evidence. I recommend a NRNB on Vautour! Yes reintroducing the murderer in the last paragraph.

a) 3rd best [TF] rated in the race already after only two proper chases - one if you take my view of the Ptit Zigger.
b) Showed his best form yet stepping up in trip to 3 miles for the first time. Hunt fans like to call all their geese swans and I am saying is he was not a superstar before the King George just a goose with a regal neck.
c) Most likely of the King George 3 [Cue DonC V] to run his race.
d) Cheltenham form is in front of season's form the 2 years prior why not this year? Ditto if we got top of ground.
e) Kempton run was on a track he clearly jumps slight the wrong way on, this is not.
f) Could be the lone front runner or at worst the controlling speed.
g) NRNB also most likely of the big boys to switch races if conditions not ideal - Cue has a Million reasons to run.
h) It is an assumption it will be a better race than last year with favourite last year's 2nd! Illogical Capt?
i) Ruby Walsh
In simple terms he has the highest potential ceiling of these and frankly given the way race was run I rate him best gelding in the King George.

NRNB 6/1

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Tennis match-fixing in the headlines again

You can't blame media outlets for saving the big stories until the spotlight is naturally on the particular sport. This story has obviously taken plenty of time to put together, seems strange that it's a collaboration between the BBC and Buzzfeed but there's plenty of depth to it.

The Tennis Racket - Excellent but VERY long. The best quote is saved until the final line - “Tennis hasn’t got a problem because they don’t want to have a problem.”

How BuzzFeed News Used Betting Data To Investigate Match-Fixing In Tennis

For the data miners, here's a link to the data and the Python code on Github

BBC - Tennis match fixing: Evidence of suspected match fixing revealed - short but they have a Radio 4 special due to air on Tuesday night.

My brief take on it - you'd be very naive to think that all the corruption in tennis has been restricted to the no-name players that the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) has banned. Too many players nobody has ever heard of, picked off because they couldn't afford the big lawyers to defend themselves.

And here's a bit of me on the Victoria Derbyshire programme this morning (Monday) on BBC2.



And another clip from the same segment:



Thursday, 7 January 2016

Fremantle Pacing Cup preview

The Inter Dominion might have finished a few weeks ago but now it's time for the traditional summer features. Once again Trent Orwin, @themightytrent3, chips in with the preview.

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Retravision Fremantle Pacing Cup
Group 1, $300,000. 2536m
Gloucester Park
2100 local, midnight AEDT

Form Analyst: Trent Orwin
Twitter: @themightytrent3
Website: BettingPro
Form guide

The Fremantle Cup (2536m) at Gloucester Park on Friday night is one of WA’s most prestigious races. I have provided a runner-by-runner guide of the Group 1 feature that outlines the best odds available at the time of writing on Thursday, January 7.

Speed Map:
Bettors Fire has the pace to lead and Beaudiene Boaz is likely to sit outside him. Alternatively, Bettors Fire could hand up to Beaudiene Boaz which would allow the breeze position to be occupied by Lovers Delight.

Assuming Bettors Fire holds up, Devendra will be behind him, Libertybelle Midfrew and Our Blackbird are likely to be three pegs and four pegs respectively. Beaudiene Boaz breezes, John Of Arc settles 1 out 1 back and Waylade 1 out 2 back. Coming three-wide late will be Lovers Delight if he hasn’t found the breeze along with Run Oneover and My Hard Copy.

Runner-by-runner guide:

1. Bettors Fire – $6.50 UBET
His excellent gate speed will ensure he is leading the race for as long as trainer-driver Kyle Harper desires. A recent setback means he could be vulnerable late and with pressure from Beaudiene Boaz, the lead could be on offer to that horse. Races well when driven cold or leading so rates as one of the leading hopes. Each-way chance in the race.

2. Waylade – $10 bet365
A few months ago he looked like the number one or two seed for the Gary Hall Snr stable but his efforts recently have been good without being great. Will be close to midfield after getting shuffled back early and is going to need some luck along with finding his peak form to win here. Suited by the staying distance and is a small each-way hope.

3. John Of Arc – $9 UBET
This horse has speed to burn and could be the quickest point-to-point horse in the race (even quicker than My Hard Copy). Maps perfectly to be 1 out 1 back trailing Beaudiene Boaz or Lovers Delight and he was hitting the line better than anything last start in a 26.7 final quarter. If anything is vulnerable late and he gets luck then expect him to be charging home. Strong each-way chance.

4. Beaudiene Boaz – $2.80 bet365
Superstar four-year-old that is the horse to beat. Has already won five Group 1 contests and has beaten most of this field in recent times. He has been beaten when breezing on a number of occasions so could be vulnerable if he races there for the entirety here. If he finds the lead then it looks game over but even from the breeze, rates as the one to beat.

5. Lovers Delight – $10 CrownBet
Was an excellent second in the Inter Dominion Grand Final behind Lennytheshark but this is much tougher from the draw. Would love to find the lead but would need to get across the Hall Snr runners inside to be any chance of that. The breeze won’t be on offer if Beaudiene Boaz can hold him out at the start and will likely be the horse leading them up three-wide or on the back of Run Oneover. Each-way chance but place may be best.

6. Run Oneover – $18 UBET
Run Oneover is another four-year-old from the Hall Snr stable and he has been a surprise find with enormous runs at his past three starts. Has to go back from his draw and will need to cover extra ground in order to salute. Coming from off the speed to beat Mach Alert last start is a positive but this is much harder. Place chances appear best.

7. Classic American – $101 Ladbrokes
Sit-sprinter that generally finds open class racing too tough for him. The barrier draw hurts his chances and will need plenty of luck to be figuring. Doesn’t look any chance of winning and I’d be shocked to see him run a place.

8. Jason Rulz – $151 Sportsbet
Another sit-sprinter that has been hurt by the wide draw and will settle close to last. Yet to win in WA and couldn’t see it coming in a Group 1 feature from barrier eight. Happy to oppose and deserves to be one of the rank outsiders.

9. My Hard Copy – $13 Sportsbet
One of the quickest closers in WA but from barrier nine, he will be restraining and giving some of the best horses in the race a 15m-30m headstart which looks too big a task. Can win if they run the race upside down and declare war up front, otherwise place chances appear best and he could start well under the odds given his following.

10. Devendra – $7.50 TAB
Won two heats of the Inter Dominion and has an excellent turn of speed. Trailing Bettors Fire could be a benefit or a hindrance as he will rely on that horse keeping him close to the action. The Hall camp will be mindful of this horse and could lock him into a pocket so luck will determine where he finishes. Has to be respected and is an each-way chance.

11. Libertybelle Midfrew – $26 Ladbrokes
WA’s star mare and the only female in the event. Should land the back of Devendra and be three or four back on the fence. She has very little chance of winning from the draw but could be a cheeky place chance at massive odds if the pegline holds up. One to include in wider exotics.

12. Our Blackbird – $81 Sportsbet
He will be too far back in the run to have an impact and running fourth looks to be about his best chance. Will most likely beat a couple of runners home but won’t pose a winning threat at any stage in the run. Throw him in for fourth if playing a first four but it would be a remarkable effort for him to run top three.

13. Mach Alert (1st Emergency) – $51 CrownBet
He would need to draw the fence in order to be any hope of running top three. Hard to give an assessment considering he isn’t in the field at present, but he can’t do work in this company. If he draws wide, forget he is even in the race.

14. Smokey The Bandit (2nd Emergency) – $51 UBET
One of the most popular horses in WA but the grey looks unlikely of gaining a start. Has a very good turn of foot and would need to be close to the action, preferably on the rail, to be finishing close to them. Oppose if he gets a run from barrier three or wider on the front line.

Suggested Bets:
Beaudiene Boaz & John Of Arc to win – bigger stake on Beaudiene Boaz

Ratings:
1. Bettors Fire $6
2. Waylade $14
3. John Of Arc $6.50
4. Beaudiene Boaz $2.80
5. Lovers Delight $16
6. Run Oneover $18
7. Classic American $251
8. Jason Rulz $201
9. My Hard Copy $41
10. Devendra $8.50
11. Libertybelle Midfrew $101
12. Our Blackbird $151
Note: Emergencies not rated