Here we are, December. How time is flying. The last month in 2022. It’s been a wild year on the betting front. Significant ups and downs, variance tested my mental fortitude.
It’s gonna be a profitable year, after all, though. Most likely at least, baring a total disaster in December – usually a rather quiet month for me.
I wasn’t too confident whether a green 2022 is possible at various times this year. Least so after baking 31 consecutive losers between August and October.
After three brutal months, November – thankfully – was much kinder. Backing the Melbourne Cup winner at long odds helped, of course. 12 selections, 4 winners. The best November in ages, and one of the most profitable month in a long time in general.
I took a little deep dive into the data yesterday in this little thread on Twitter, talking short-term vs. long term view, variance and and the mental aspect of the game.
7.30 Chelmsford: Class 4 Handicap, 5f
This doesn’t look like the most competitive race for this class and trip at this time of the year. Not too many make any real appeal.
La Roca Del Fuego is one I do quite like. He caught my eye recently and must rate a prime chance with a 7lb claimer on board, but I hope to catch him on another day.
The other one who is seriously interesting is Expert Opinion. IF he can find another pound or two for the application of blinkers he’s got a significant chance today.
He put up two big performances over course and distance the last two starts. Last time out represented a career best on speed ratings, in fact.
He’s clearly down to a highly competitive mark, having performed well off higher this year already. That says, Expert Opinion is a tricky sort. His poor strike record tells a tale.
However, over this CD he’s placed 5/7. That gives the fresh application of first-time blinkers a significance.
Luke Morris in these type of conditions on low weights has a quite a nice record too. I hope he can get the gelding sharply out of the excellent #2 gate. He should be able to track the pace closely from there and get the perfect run through.
A lovely winner thanks to Thrave at Kempton yesterday afternoon. It was his day to shine, finally.
In fairness, despite the rather generous price, I was quietly confident he could go seriously close, if the handbrake is off. 7 furlongs with a solid pace, from a good draw and a career lowest mark – I couldn’t have dreamt of a better opportunity for him, as mentioned beforehand.
It doesn’t always work like that, of course. More often than not you can dream up all you want and you go home empty handed. This is an especially sweet one, though. Having tracked the gelding for the entire season it’s pleasing when it all comes together as you envisioned it in your mind.
Things look a lot brighter now. In fact, much brighter, after I realised my P/L sheet had a filter activated that hid a number of selections from a specific cohort… and with that some winners, too. This was the cherry on the cake today.
3.50 Wolverhampton: Class 6 Handicap, 5f
My good friend Pockley bids for back-to-back wins here. Of course, I backed him the two times prior to winning at Newcastle last time out. He should run well here again, but has to carry 5lb more, which may be enough to stop him from winning.
The one I seriously fancy in this field only managed to finish in 6th place, beaten more than three lengths, by Pockley, in the same race a fortnight ago. Nonetheless, there is a lot to like about Never Dark, who’s finally back racing around a bend.
He caught the eye at Pontefract and also in his last two All-Weather runs at Newcaste and showed a good level of consistency this year, too. He was never beaten more than 3.5 lengths in his last seven starts since early September, managed speed ratings of 69+ twice and often travelled quite well to suggest he’s a horse that performs in and around his current handicap marks.
Perhaps he was somewhat in the grip of the handicapper, largely down to this consistency. He finally drops below 70 now, a career lowest mark, as the handicapper gives him an opportunity, I believe.
The #5 draw is fine for his style of racing. He shouldn’t be too far off the pace. The bend will help him, if he’s up with the pace, as well.
All in all: trip, track, surface, draw, handicap mark, class, opposition – nothing to worry, but much to like.
One of those times again: not quite happening for me. Three of the last five selections placed. And then there was the the ‘killer’ on Saturday: Milbanke. Backed him a week ago with confidence, when he ran huge for third place, but then let him go unbacked on Saturday, when of course, he won. Autsch.
It’s a frustrating year, in that sense. Too many of those stories. It looks likely to be a losing year now – the first in over five years.
It was also frustrating to see my Summer Cup selection Safe Passage beaten in 2nd place at Turffontein on Saturday; he ran a cracker, but was probably doing too much too soon, going forward from the #10 draw, while the winner, gutsy Puerto Manzano, got a much more quiet ride, always sitting off the pace.
Later that evening Making Music ran a shocker; the drift to 20/1+ gave it away beforehand. I could really do with a nice winner today….
3.15 Kempton: Class 6 Handicap, 7f
I can’t avoid backing Thrave today. Somewhat a ghost I am chasing all season long. Is today the day?
If the handbrake is off Thrave will go close. No question about that. He’s racing over 7 furlongs, down t a mark off 61 – I couldn’t have dreamed up a better opportunity for the seven-year-old gelding.
Last time out the handbrake was clearly on. Even a blind man would have seen that. That run aside, perhaps the Newcastle performance prior was surprisingly poor. Especially because Thrave showed consistency this season, ran well and caught the eye a number of times all year long.
He ran four times to speed ratings of 62+ on turf, although it can be argued he’s a better horse on the All-Weather. In any case, he’s down to a career lowest mark, races over the right trip, with a good draw in a race where he shouldn’t have an issue to be right up with the pace.
Even though age may start to catch up with him, Thrave is better than those last two poor showings. This isn’t a strong field and if allowed to run on merit, is clearly overpriced.
Many will want to get position close to the pace. I’m tracking Eye Of the Water for a few weeks now, but still feel this isn’t quite the right race given the draw, and likely hot pace over this trip.
The filly Making Music looks much better handicapped an here with a huge chance from her #1 draw. It’s easy to forgive her latest poor showing over a trip too far.
She pulled hard over shorter, so it was no surprise to see her fading badly when stepping up to 9.5 furlongs. She lead soon crossing over from the widest draw but ran her race as the field approached the home turn.
I feel the 3-year-old is better judged on the Kempton run before, which caught my eye.
Even there over a mile, she was quite keen, not helped in that regard by the application for blinkers for the first time. Nonetheless, she travelled well into home straight, tracking the pace in third. She made her move from 2f out, which petered out inside final furlong. Most likely she paid for early exertions, still finished well in third.
Making Music is most likely a bit better than her current mark. Her reference performance is the August 2nd place at this venue over a mile, when she ran to topspeed 63 off a 64 mark, and the form has been significantly franked in the meantime.
Today she is down to a mark off 59 today. As she drops to 7 furlongs, the blinkers remain on, from an ideal #1 draw, she should be quite well handicapped in these circumstances.
She should be able to get an ideal handy position. The likely hot pace should help her to settle. It’s always a risk to back a 10-race maiden, but she is on the right mark, in the right race today.
10pts win – Making Music @ 12/1
1.35 Turffontein: Group 1 Summer Cup, 10f
Exciting race this afternoon over at Turffontein, South Africa. 2022 Durban July heroine Sparkling Water bids for Grade 1 glory, after a highly satisfying comeback run three weeks ago.
She was such an impressive – albeit slightly surprisingly easy – winner of South Africa’s premier race. Everything worked to perfection that day. Judged on that effort, if in the same form, she’s obviously the one beat.
But, over the shorter 2.000m trip I have to oppose her, especially in this hot contest, where she also has to carry a lot more weight now, than the light weight she enjoyed at Durban.
No question, the one I am keen to her oppose her with is stable Mate Safe Passage. Especially as the odds are much bigger than I’d have ever thought you’d get for him. He’s overpriced, in my book.
Let’s not forget Safe Passage went off 2nd favourite for the July, after an ultra impressive success in the Grade 1 Daily News a couple of weeks prior, that catapulted him to the top of the market in the days leading up to the big race.
He enjoyed an incredibly season up to that point: winner of the Dingaans and Gauteng Guineas, runner-up in the Cape Derby and then that victory in the Daily News, off a nearly three months long break, which was only meant to be a prep.
This is a highly talented colt, who continuously progressed with experience, and reportedly has physically improved since July, too. He had a good comeback run in the meantime, when clearly minded in the closing stages.
I have no doubt, despite having been beaten by over three lengths in the Durban July, Safe Passage is more talented than Sparkling Water, in fact he’s the best horse over ten furlongs in South Africa. The turnaround in the weights is, beside the trip, another advantage, he’s got over Sparkling Water, today.
Looking back at the July, it’s clear things didn’t really worked out for him that day. From a wild start, to not getting the clearest of run in the home straight, to possibly having done too much too soon in the race, to truly stay the additional furlong.
The draw today is a bit wider than ideal, but it shouldn’t matter too much either. As long as there is a solid pace, Safe Passage should be able to produce his trademark turn of foot and off a fair weight could have too much to offer for the rest of the field.
Obviously with 17 other runners in the field, this could easily become messy, and someone could spring a surprise. Yet, it’s hard to ignore this rather generous price for the most likely most talented horse in South Africa, who’s fit, in good form over a trip and track he loves.
Even though this is a competitive race, I feel this could be the ideal opportunity for three-year-old Milbanke on his debut for the Ruth Carr yard.
The gelding caught the eye on his last two runs, then still in the care of Karl Burke; especially last time out, rated as a seriously strong performance in my book.
On his first attempt over 7 furlongs, he moved rapidly forward from his #8 draw, was a bit too excited and clearly did too much in the early part of the race. He attempted to kick on turning for home, and kept on running well to the line to hold on for second.
The form is strong. The winner went back-to-back, the 4th placed won subsequently too. Milbanke can run off the same mark today, which is a fair chance provided by the handicapper.
On pedigree the trip is a clear possibility, and the way he finished lto, not dramatically slowing in the closing stages, but rather gutsily racing all the way to the line, suggests he’ll get every yard of the 7 furlongs distance.
This is only his 7th career run, his 3rd on the All-Weather, and 2nd over 7 furlongs. He’s unexposed and offers upside in this field. Whether he truly has the class against this opposition is another matter. His speed ratings haven’t shown that yet.
But I give Milbanke the benefit of the doubt, given those two fine performances the last two runs. From his #1 draw he will be able to move forward. The likely fast pace should ensure he can settle. This looks the perfect opportunity.
Oh the weekend feeling…. it would have been all the more jolly if Rose Bandit would have got a clear run last night at Wolverhampton. She would have won, I’m pretty adamant, if not for the most horrible trip.
It’s been a few light days over the last week in any case, but those selections I made ran great races; despite not getting a winner, I’m pretty satisfied with the work.
Beside the aforementioned Rose Bandit, who couldn’t have done better in the given circumstances, Pockley was also quite unlucky last Friday when deemed 2nd in what appeared, at least to the naked eye, a dead-heat (and it looked like he was possibly ahead before and after the line).
Stone Age ran a massive race to finish second in the BC Turf, and outperformed his odds by a wide margin. Even Twistaline ran really well but had simply too much to do from the back – with that in mind, is perhaps the one I may want to have back, because I knew this scenario would play out exactly this way and yet I fell into the trap of ignoring the pace bias.
That’s racing. That’s betting on horses. It’s not easy and one can only try to make good decisions, find quality bets, and the rest will take care of itself.
There’s one that caught my eye today – on what is actually quite a busy day on the All-Weather with some fine fields at Lingfield in particular. I’ll try to stick to the bi-weekly schedule and will be posting a new edition of eye catchers tomorrow.
3.45 Lingfield: Class 6 Handicap, 2m
A compelling races for stayers that may evolve around the pace. There won’t be many who are overly keen to get to soon to the front, and I imagine this won’t be run at a mad gallop.
If this turns out to be the case, then the ne who’s sure to move forward is Mark Johnston’s Wadacre Tir, and he could find himself in a prime spot when turning for home.
This is his second run after being gelded and he was far from disgraced over a similar trip at Southwell a fortnight ago. Whether he truly stays 2 miles remains to be seen, but first time blinkers should certainly help with sharpness.
If this isn’t an overly fast race, he may not even have to be fully tested for his staying qualities. In any case, though, Wadacre Tir should be in the right position when it matters most.
He’s a pound lower than when last seen, is still potentially open to some improvement after only seven career runs, especially now gelded, and could be seriously well weighted here off 8-13.
Interesting to see Clifford Lee booked for the ride. He’s one I quite like over longer distances. That ties in well with mark Johnston’s generally strong record at Lingfield over these marathon trips.