All posts by Florian Christoph

Florian - not a cool kid and don't try to be one. I'm a 31 year old photographer and writer, make a living in the land of rain but am German by nationality yet free and cosmopolitan by heart. The camera is my companion at places near and far.

Tuesday Selections: December 12th 2017

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Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Actually I had mushrooms for dinner…. Anyway – despite breaking slowly (again), Mach One had – as hoped – way too much in hand at Southwell this afternoon. He drew clear eventually when asked for full effort and justified market support.

Second selection Very First Blade ran a blinder in the last race on the card. He was a massive 40/1 before the off but finished much better, despite never travelling. A fine third in the end.

No winner, but it proved once again the golden highway for the low drawn horses over 5f at Southwell does exist, as explored in my recent Myth or Fact article.

…..

3.15 Lingfield: Class 5 Handicap, 5f

Arriving from back-to-back-wins is Entertaining Ben here; thanks to a good draw he has every chance to go close once more.

I fancy one who finished a good deal behind the last two times, though: Roundabout Magic.

Not seen to bet effect in his recent starts having to deal with wide draws, the three year old was also incredibly keen and that in combination meant he was finished before it really mattered.

As a consequence he drops to a very tasty mark: tasty because in February and March he went back-to-back off a similar- and even 4lb higher mark in similar type races.

His keenness can be an issue, however the colt has been allotted a pretty decent draw this time. So a combination of draw and falling mark should see him being competitive.

Selection:
10pts win – Roundabout Magic @ 10/1 Bet365

….

6.20 Wolverhamtpon: Class 5 Handicap, 7f

Mansfield couldn’t have been unluckier the other day when conceding first run, having to turn widest and being in front just behind the line…. off the same mark here he has an obvious chance to get his head in front.

He is finally down to a realistic mark after racing in tougher competition of much higher ratings for most of 2017, which was based on one excellent performance in a class 3 Nursery back in 2015.

This lad has obviously talent and is likely a bit better than what his current OR of 65 says – so with a clear run he should be hard to beat in this.

Selection:
10pts win – Mansfield @ 11/8 William Hill

……

6.20 Wolverhampton: Class 4 Handicap, 7f

Despite stepping up in grade this is not a tougher race, in fact at this course and distance Mr. Christopher has an excellent chance to run a big race.

He’s 3lb higher for a recent superb runner-up effort at Southwell and it remains to be see if this career best he has yet to achieve is beyond him.

However with conditions bound to suit to perfection – the wide draw must not be a concern over this CD as the stats prove – he is sure to go close as this most recent form looks strong and therefore the additional 3lb might actually underestimate what he is capable of right now in his third race after a break.

Selection: 
10pts win – Mr. Christopher @ 10/3 William Hill

Monday Selections: December 11th 2017

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Before I go into detail what’s on the menu tomorrow – big shout out to the star that Sizing John is. On a day as bleak and freezing as it gets here in Ireland, the reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup champion lit up a fire at Punchestown this afternoon.

A re-match between Djakadam and Sizing John is was meant to be; the odds moved only one way: defeat for the Willie Mullins charge was out of question while sizing John was likely to need the run. Incredibly, he was available at 2/1 before the off!

In the end it looked the other way around. Sizing John, in hands of Robbie Power, appeared sharp and won as he pleased, whereas Djakadam, who won the John Durkan the last two years, seemingly needed the run this time round….

……..

3.00 Southwell: Class 5 Handicap, 1m

Mach One has notably improved since being gelded and switching stable during the summer. Going handicapping since then too, he won a Chelmsford handicap in November – form that looks rock solid, and subsequently ran an almighty race here at Southwell over a mile.

Widest draw, he was slowly away, but pushed forward to make up ground quickly and be up with the pace before the first turn. He travelled strongly into the straight and went to the front briefly, just be worn down by a closer from off the pace in the dying strides.

Taking all that into account that went against him, it is fair to say Mach One was the best horse in the race that day, with a clean break would have won probably quite easily, so a 4lb rise on the mark is potentially lenient. Even more so as that was only his second start on fibresand – often horses improve for their second outing here.

The third has franked the form subsequently, so the run and ratings should be legit. Only slight concern, if you will, is the fact Mach One moves up in class and has to fight off a better bunch of horses than the other day. For reasons mentioned and general improvement not unlikely I do not think this is a problem.

Selection:
10pts win – Mach One @ 11/2 Bet365

…….

3.30 Southwell: Class 6 handicap, 5f

Very First Blade hasn’t won for a very long time and gets into this race only on a long handicap. Regardless, a return to 5f at Southwell from a perfect draw and a low weight might see him finding back some form.

He still finished in January of a higher mark an agonizingly close second over CD and subsequently ran some okayish races. His return in October after small break was really poor, and he had another break since then. Maybe he’s just gone, but deserves another chance.

Eye-shields back on, decent 3lb claimer in the saddle with conditions he loves so much. Any return to form shown not too long ago will see him go close.

Selection: 
10pts win – Very First Blade @ 33/1 William Hill

Saturday Selections: 2017 November Handicap

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2.40 Doncaster: Gillies Fillies’ Stakes (Listed), 1m 2f

The favourite, albeit most likely with the best form in the book, looks a reasonably short price compared to Time Chaser, currently trading as the second fav.

Both fillies remain lightly raced with potential upside, however I feel Time Chaser has more upside and is a better price at the same time.

She is a full-sister to the very smart Time Test, so taking that as an indicator, there is a good chance Time Chaser might still do a bit better than her current official rating of 91 suggests.

She won three on the bounce from debuting in April until stepping up into a class 2 Handicap in September at Haydock, after producing two fine performances to win at Sandown, over a mile and ten furlongs on fast to soft ground respectively.

Beaten in third a long way the last time in heavy conditions, I feel there are valid excused for this slightly disappointing showing. Time Chaser certainly did not receive an overly smart ride that day.

She probably did a bit too much right after the start and also in the middle part of the race, while racing wide without cover all the way. That is a deadly combination in heavy conditions. The impressive winner, in comparison, was tucked away at the end of the field until he made his winning move.

A decent draw and champion jockey Jim Crowley on board may help to see her ridden a bit more intelligently. It’s soft ground again. She probably likes it a bit better but has proven to act on it.

A step up to listed level seems fair judged on what she has done so far. She is not out of her depth here.

Selection:
10pts win – Time Chaser @ 7/2 Bet365

……

3.15 Doncaster: November Handicap, 1m 4f

A full 23 runner strong field. It couldn’t be any more competitive. Nonetheless I feel bottom weight Al Destoor is a bit overpriced. True, he’s never won over 12f and his pedigree does not necessarily says he should, but he’s still been placed twice in three tries over the trip and has shown excellent form in softish conditions over trips up to 1m 2.5f.

Al Destoor also is an incredibly consistent animal. He rarely runs a bad race. So given the trip is not totally out of his reach, he loves the ground conditions and has a feather weight on his back, I think it is not out of this world to see him going close.

The 7 year old didn’t have a too hard season either and looked still in fine shape when runner-up at Chester back in September. The aid of excellent Franny Norton in the saddle is a bonus.

Selection:
10pts win – Al Destoor @ 25/1 Skybet

Friday Selections – 10th November 2017

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6.45 Newcastle: Class 4 Fillies’ Handicap, 6f

A race very much for the taking and favourite Cashla Bay should be very hard to beat from a perfect draw. That is if she can regain form shown previously to a abysmal performance in her last start, when finishing down the field.

However all other three life time starts were quite excellent efforts in the context of the race and how the form has worked out in the long term.

Cashla Bay achieved a time speed rating of 81 on her debut back in October last year, which suggested she is potentially smart, and with natural improvement surely better than her current rating of 80.

A tongue strap is fitted for the first time. That might be the key to unlock improvement. Certainly one thing is for sure: there is no excuse today.

Selection:
10pts win – Cashla Bay @ 9/4 Bet365

Myth or Fact: Southwell 5f Advantage?

Short days. No sunlight. Freezing temperatures. Yep, winter is coming. So here it starts also, with zero fanfare: the dull, ever the same boring racing on the sand. Racing fans in huge numbers hate the All-Weather with a passion. Well, I don’t. In fact love it.

That is a matter of opinion of course, and is nothing to debate here and now. However with the AW season kicking into top gear sooner rather than later, I want to highlight some interesting facts on everything sand racing over the next coming weeks.

The 5 Furlongs Anomaly 

Every man and his dog seems to know that the straight 5 furlongs at Southwell works heavily to the advantage of horses drawn low. By how much? And is it true? Well, that’s the question. Pure gut feeling and visual impression as an indicator certainly tells a story of “something’s there”.

What do the numbers say? If we focus on winter as the season we’re interested in, then the almighty Excel sheet back this up in impressive manner. I don’t want to throw numbers around, but let’s say over the last five winters significantly more races have been won by those drawn low over 5f at Southwell. Regardless of age, sex and race conditions.

Imagine this: if you would have backed blindly every runner in every race drawn between stall one and four during those years with a £1 stake, you would have made a profit of nearly £75. That’s a 32% return on your investment. Not too shabby!

Even more so if consider three of the past five seasons have produced a profit after all.

Now, flying blind is never a good idea, regardless. So why don’t you refine your criteria hence increase you chance of finding a winner while profiting even more from the low draw advantage?

Fly With Open Eyes

Say you won’t back any fillies and mares, because the numbers quite clearly tell females perform much worse on the All-Weather in winter against the opposite sex. Say you focus on races for older (4yo +) horses solely, because most races are held for them in winter, anyway:

You’ll increase your return of investment to a near 96%. Just like that! In fact you would have made a definite profit in any of the past five years (based on SP)!

Why is that? Why is there this huge advantage for horses drawn low over 5 furlongs at Southwell? At The Races seems to know: This (over 5f very high draws tend to be at a disadvantage) is because they are often forced to rail under the near side rail where the ground is slower.

Southwell In Comparison 

Fact is: compared to the only other All-Weather racetrack in Britain that offers a straight 5f track – Newcastle – Southwell is an anomaly. You would think that a straight track is fair and gives near equal chances to win from either a low, middle or high draw.

Granted, Newcastle has a Tapeta surface and Southwell is Fibresand, it is telling that we see there exactly that: an equal strike rate for low and high drawn horses. The middle fares slightly worse. Not significantly worse, though slightly worse. Probably because if you’re drawn high or low you will have more often than not the rail as an aid.

In Conclusion

We can say that there is certainly a bias over 5 furlongs at Southwell. This has not changed over the years and for punters this remains a great opportunity to exploit and profit from.

Refining the criteria of races you back horses in can yield in even better results. I gave you some very simple suggestions. If you want – of course – you can drill down even further and you find even more interesting facts to take into account (specific draw, head-gear…).

I do look forward to see how things pan out in the upcoming season. Keep an eye on these 5f contests. Southwell is back next Monday…. with three races over the straight course!

Jockey Cam Winner!

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I love jockey cams. We need more of them. They provide incredible insight into how a race is run and what it looks and feels like from jockey’s perspective.

As the armchair jockey I am, I do relish those rare insights immensely. So all the happier I was when this incredible footage of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race emerged – uploaded by the official Breeders’ Cup Youtube Channel!

Ride with Mike Smith and win the race on Caledonia Road – a 20/1 upset – how he gets rolling from the back of the field to make progress on the outside and eventually brings the bacon home.

For full context: the race replay can be watched here. Fair to say it was a hell of a ride!

2017 Melbourne Cup – When You Get It Right!

And so it happened: “…screams of joy when Rekindling strolls over the line as the winner of the 2017 Melbourne Cup!”

This warm feeling deep inside when you get it right. For once. Finally. Pure joy. Well, in the grand scheme of things it’s just another race. Money in, money out of the bank. But then it isn’t. Cause it’s the Melbourne Cup!

The race that stops a nation.

It really does. Take a look at this incredible graph. Money simply stops flowing during the time the horses thunder down Flemington Racecourse.

The buildup to the race was massive. It always is. it soaks me right in. Goosebumps. They do it so well over there. It feels special. Feels like you witness a World Cup Final.

That’s the thing: the Melbourne Cup is not the best race in the world. Far from it. It’s a glorified Handicap after all. But know what? It FEELS like it’s the one and only race that really matters on the planet!

The perfect ride…

Corey Brown you star! Here you saw why it pays off to have a local jockey booked. True, Rekindling had the perfect draw and got all the breaks when needed. Others didn’t. But that’s also credit to the man on board. He’s got to make the crucial decisions.

He could have hurried Rekindling up right after the start. He didn’t. He let him settle, wasted as little energy as possible. Knowing he was in a good spot, right on the rail. Saving valuable meters while safely covered by the field. He let the colt go with the flow.

Rekindling didn’t seem to know he was in a race until approaching the home turn, when Brown steered him through an opening gap, following the incredibly well travelling Johannes Vermeer.

Once in the clear, asked for full effort, Rekindling was never going to stop. He stays the two miles, chasing down Johannes Vermeer who went into unknown territory. He stayed too, mind you. But was maybe a tick too early in front. And of course the weight. He carried 3kg more. At the end of a premier staying contest this can and did make all the difference.

For a three year old to win the Cup – particularly for a pony that Rekindling is, compared to some other much more imposing rivals in the field – it was a special achievement. Not a surprise to me. Cause I told ya!

Can he do it again?

Enough the self-praise. It’s fair to say Rekindling got the run of his life. Everything worked. Everything! Pinch perfect. Can he do it again? Honestly I doubt it.

If he attempts to defend his crown – and why wouldn’t he – he’ll have to do it with an awful lot more weight on his back.

As mentioned before, Rekindling is rather smallish in stature. There is not a massive frame to fill any further. No WFA for him next year. The handicapper will put him up. Probably not as perfect a draw as this year? Gaps may not open when he needs it? It’ll be a difficult task.

The unlucky ones…

Arguably two individuals I feel were incredibly unlucky not to finish closer were Max Dynamite and  Nakeeta. Willie Mullins’ raider had a lot going for himself in terms of draw and position throughout the race.

The runner-up of the 2015 Cup, however, was asked for a big effort turning for home, in an attempt to get first run on the chasing pack. That move seemed smart, yet came to an abrupt end approaching the home straight. For a couple of strides Max Dynamite had nowhere to go, lost valuable momentum and ground.

Would he have won with a clear passage? Maybe not. But he sure would have gone closer than he already did. Finishing in third.

Obviously the case of Nakeeta is an easy one. A rather poor draw, far back in the field, still way closer to trailing the entire field than winning with 500 meters to go – he really had to work his way through the field and maneuvering around tiring horses. An impossible task.

The fact he finished 5th speaks volumes of how far this years Ebor winner has come. Honorary mention also to the 6th finishing Thomas Hobson. He was another one who had an awful lot to do – too much.

Have a look here: This birds-eye-view tells the story of the race in the most compelling way. It shows impressively how and why the first the first four home were all drawn between stall two and five. It shows how difficult if not impossible it was to make up ground from the back of the field and how a wide draw compromised chances to a minimum.

It shows why Rekindling enjoyed the run of his life. A first Melbourne Cup success for Joseph O’Brien. Something his father never achieved and was denied once more – this time only by his own son.

Photo Credit: RTE.ie