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Saturday Selections: March, 17th 2018

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The week-long Cheltenham Bonanza is over. Native River crowned as the new king. A thrilling finish up the legendary hill of Prestbury Park saw the eight year old edge out favourite Might Bite. While I enjoy the replay of this epic battle one more time, it’s back to bread and butter later on….

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8.45 Wolverhampton: Class 6 Handicap, 1 mile

A really poor race, even for this class. Given that I’ll side with Emigrated once more. I did so on two different occasions already this year.

Still a maiden after 13 career runs, there is little in his bare form to suggest he can win. However, closer examination suggests that with a tiny bit of improvement, particularly in a poor contest as this, he can go very close.

Actually, his last two starts on the All-Weather were a lot better than the naked result might tell. Last time out at Chelmsford he finished well among much higher rated horses. Three 60 rated horses only three lengths or less in front of him, a 68 rated individual a nose behind him.

Back in January at the same venue he travelled very strongly and for a moment looked like to be in with a massive shout. He faltered late to finish 6th eventually. He clearly has an issue seeing out his races, so the slight step up to the 8.5f does not seem necessarily ideal. On the other hand, races at Wolverhampton over this trip in smallish fields can be run at a slow pace.

That, plus the appliance of the tongue-tie can help. Main question remains: if he can win with a tiny bit of improvement based on recent runs, where is the improvement coming from?

Surface. This is Emigrated’s first try on Tapeta. While Tapeta isn’t all that different from Polytrack, it still seems some horses tend to prefer one or the other. Emigrated is a son of Fastnet Rock. A key piece in this case I gonna make.

Fastnet Rock offspring has an excellent record on Tapeta, regardless whether it is Newcastle or Wolverhampton. A better one than at any other All-Weather surface. Compared to his overall AW record, Fastnet Rock actually produces profit and solid positive ROI on Tapeta.

So there is it: if Emigrated is ever going to win a race, today is his best chance. A poor field, he has solid enough form in the bock, track should suit and trip may not be an issue either.

Selection:
10pts win – Emigrated  16/1 VC

Thursday Selections: December 28th 2017

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12.10 Lingfield: Class 6 Handicap, 7f

Backing the girls during the winter against the boys is something I try to avoid. Numbers have proven they tend to underperform on the sand when it’s cold. However this field here is made up of more than half of fillies and it has a rather open outlook despite a 6/4 fav greeting from the head of the market.

Far from the most obvious choice, nonetheless I like the chance of three year old Sea Tea Dea. The daughter of Archipenko has one impressive course and distance success from earlier this year on her CV and now 3lb lower rated than that day, she is potentially dangerously weighted.

It’s true on form she hasn’t shown much ever since. However you can make excuses if you want: either for an unrealistic handicap mark, or unsuitable ground or trip – in all her subsequent starts.

Now dropping back to 7f second up after a break with the handicapper offering a lifeline, I would not be surprised to see Sea Tea Dea return to form. Her sire has an excellent record over this CD, particularly with fillies in the winter months, surprisingly.

Her CD win achieved the joint-highest time-speed rating in the field, suggesting a return to anything close to her winning form will see her go really close.

Selection:
10pts win – Sea Tea Dea @ 16/1 Bet365

Saturday Selections – December 23rd 2017

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1.10 Lingfield: Class 6 Selling Stakes, 5f

Huge drop in class for odds-on favourite Yogi’s Girl who under normal circumstances should win this given her turf form. However this race is on the All-Weather and therefore a concern is about her being able translate turf form to success on the sand.

She raced three times on the All-Weather so far – though this is the first start on polytrack – and failed to fire. Given her sire Harbour Watch’s record on AW is truly shocking this comes as little surprise.

I feel it makes more sense to give the only boy in the race, Crystal Deauville, another chance. He went wrong ever since showing glimpses of ability on debut in France earlier this year but given that form came on the All-Weather and his sire produces excellent results on the sand, he could have a race in him.

Crystal Deauville was a late foal (May), so had a bit of catching up to do and that could have played into his poor showings ever since the debut run. He’s tongue strapped for the first time, which could bring out bit of improvement. Also the Kelleway yard tends to do quite well in sellers.

Selection:
10pts win – Crystal Deavuille @ 4/1 Bet365

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.

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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

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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

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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….

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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

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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

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!

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