Tag Archives: Ireland

Sunday Selections: April, 7th 2019

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2.35 Cork: Handicap (45-65) , 8.5f

I’m quite interested in the Ger Lyons trained filly Palabres. She ran incredibly well on debut last year in a red hot maiden that has thrown up a few good subsequent winners – Palabres herself running to a 61 TS rating under hands and heels that day.

She didn’t live up to the promise in three more starts, finishing down the field on each occasion. Ger Lyons suggesting the filly was mentally not ready, though:

“Maybe it was immaturity that was preventing her from showing on track what we thought we were seeing at home.”

He also expects her to be ready to go today. Off a lowly handicap mark, Palabres could easily be well handicapped now, also stepping up in trip – if she’s got a mind for racing. Her debut run certainly implies the existence of talent.

Slight worries about the trip and ground and also the wide draw. But if she’s well-in here, as I imagine she is, with also a bit of stamina on the sire side available, Palabres looks an overpriced individual in this open contest.

Selection:
10pts win – Palabres @ 12/1 MB

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Sunday Selections: Dublin Racing Festival

Dedigout and Paul Carberry

Big day at Leopardstown today – day two of the Dublin Racing Festival! The Irish Gold Cup is on the menu, serving a fin main dish.

That despite the weather turning for the worse. Saturday was such a lovely, sunny, crisp and clear winter day – 24 hours later it’s rather windy, grey and dirty. Still, there isn’t a lot of water coming down from the sky, which means the ground continued to dry out and remains on the good side.

That has seen plenty of on-runners already, and that in turn makes some of those races on the card today quite interesting betting contests.

So, unusually for me, I’ve found three pretty strong bets!

…….

2.25 Leopardstown: Grade B Handicap, 3 miles

Despite a 7lb raise in his handicap mark, unexposed Cuneo looks ready to follow-up on an impressive Christmas success that came over course and distance. He has the making of a better than 133 rated individual, even though future will clearly be over fences.

The last time at Leopardstown, in massive 28-runner strong field, he travelled always close enough to the pace but showed signs of greenness throughout, making it a tricky ride for Rachael Blackmore.

Nonetheless Cuneo’s eye-catching progress over three out had the making of a talented individual. And even though he nearly messed things up approaching the final fence, he ran on well, while appearing to be doing as much as needed to win the race.

There should be plenty more improvement to come with this fella and if he gets a clear run of things today should be hard to stop. Even more so as he seems to enjoy good ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Cuneo @ 7/2 MB

……..

3.35 Leopardstown: Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup, 3 miles

The flagship contest of the Dublin Racing Festival has been thrown wide open with the drying ground and the withdraws of quite a few interesting runners.

That should make it a clear thing between Al Boum Photo and Road To Respect? Noel Meade’s charges enjoys good ground maybe the little bit better and is proven class – he’ll be tough to beat. On the other hand, despite his overall positive record, he’s one who can also find trouble and get beaten when he shouldn’t – in my mind.

I’m yet to be fully convinced by Al Boum Photo, particularly on this ground. Punchestown Gold Cup hero Bellshill is the more attractive Willie Mullins runner.

As the field is much smaller now than initially thought, this could turn into a tactical contest also. And that’s why I feel this is much more open than the market suggests. Probably more open than it was if anyone would have lined up?

Edwulf will appreciate any drop of rain that’s currently falling. Will it be enough? Remains to be seen.

I am keen at a massive price – though falling all the time already – on the aging Outlander. He’s not getting any younger, his best days may be beyond him. But he ran okayish, without setting the world alight, in three starts this season.

I’m pretty sure this was his target all along. Outlander loves Leopardstown – he’s a different animal here – and he loves a bit of decent ground. He was runner-up in this very race last year. So he must rate a live chance. A better one than 4% in my book.

Selection:
10pts win – Outlander @ 24/1 MB

…….

4.10 Leopardstown: Grade A Handicap Chase, 2m 5f

Competitive contest in its nature, but I feel only few are weighted to win, particularly on the rather fast ground. I can make good cases for favourite Speaker Connolly – though it’s a skinny price, really, De Name Escapes Me or Cadmium, but it’s the ever improving Cubomania who catches my eye.

The 6-year-old has been progressive over fences, ever since having a wind operation during the summer. He won five times since then, and has been a highly creditable runner-up in his last two starts.

His latest effort at Fairyhouse in particular proved he still finds more. The favourite had a bit too much speed in the end but Cubomania stayed on very strongly after a good round of jumping.

The grey will enjoy the step up in trip and has quite an excellent record on better ground. So, while he has to defy a career highest mark, there is a good chance he can find the improvement needed – as long as he gets a clear run, which is the worry if he drops in in this big field.

Selection:
10pts win – Cubomania @ 13/1 MB

Preview: G2 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase, Thurles

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A wide open contest in my view; the trip and ground in combination is something most of these have to prove their class. Tramore’s Savills Chase appears to be a key piece of form, which the market seems to evolve around.

Total Recall was a clear runner-up that day. Invitation Only a distant third. Progressive handicapper Tout Est Permis is the sexy new kid on the block. He’s quite clearly the most interesting of the lot, as he is unknown quality, not having met any of the others in this field yet and also handles good ground.

However, most, if not all in this field, prefer to go further than the 2m 4f 118y; particularly on fast ground this race becomes a bit of a lottery.

Hence the one I find most interesting is Sub Lieutenant. He’s got to bounce back from poor showings in his last two starts. On the excuse side one could argue: Tramore was on ground way too heavy for him and Down Royal a much tougher race, even though it looks more likely he simply didn’t fire that day.

Sub Lieutenant also prefers a longer trip. Nonetheless, he has quite decent form over this sort of distance. That form looks even better if only taken races on better ground into account. Sub Lieutenant is a horse that thrives on fast ground. And with that he is one of only a few in this line-up.

That the 10-year-old isn’t gone that proved his Punchestown victory in the Irish Daily Star Chase back in October and to lesser extend the Galway Handicap success in August.

No doubt Sub Lieutenant has to step up today. And whether he is still near his old best remains to be seen. In these conditions today, in such an open race, I back him to bounce back.

Selection:
10pts win – Sub Lieutenant @ 9/1 MB

The Good, Bad & Ugly – Week #1:2019

It’s a new year – the time for a New Year’s Resolution: be more active on the blog again! Plain and simple.

The last year in particular I’ve focused on the betting side neglecting the other rather important side of why I initially started this blog a good eight years ago: to write about all the things I love about horse racing – the sport, the horses, the global aspect of the game!

So, with the new year still fresh, I gonna try to be a bit more (pro-) active: a few more insightful (hopefully!) columns, opinion pieces, educational stuff and so on – starting with the introduction of a new weekly column right here:

The Good, Bad & Ugly – a short review of all the good and not so good things in racing that caught my eye and lit up my emotions during the past week. Let’s get started with Week #1:2019!

good.pngThe Good:

Do It Again – he did it again, indeed! This imperious looking son of the great Twice Over and reigning Durban July champion, has followed up on his biggest triumph with another massive success.

On Saturday he was one of nine starters in South Africa’s premier 1 mile race, the Queen’s Plate, that took place at Kenilworth racecourse.

The powerful gelding overcame a slow pace and produced another stunning performance to get his head in front when it mattered most:


The Candy Man
– What a lovely name for a horse, isn’t it? The performance of this lad in a Handicap on Sunday at Australia’s Sunshine Coast was certainly as sweet as candy!

The grey missed the start completely, still standing in the gates while the others flew out to race. He was trailing the field by half a dozen lengths for half the race, until making a swift move to the rear of the field as the pace slowed. He then unleashed a devastating turn of foot in the home straight – WOW!

Watch a replay of this unreal performance here.

First winner of 2019 – It was the perfect start: first bet, first winner! Paparazzi strolled home on Wednesday in a Newcastle handicap to win as easy as he liked, despite a 12/1 price tag.

It’s those magic moments when the picture you painted in your mind beforehand comes to fruition in reality, as I concluded in the preview:

“This is the poorest opposition Paparazzi will encounter for quite some time. If a slow start doesn’t see him falling back too far too early he should run a huge race today.”

bad2The Bad:

Racing’s Staff Crisis – Becomes one of the biggest threats to the industry. It was reported over the weekend that there’s an estimated shortfall of around 1,000 staff in the UK. Brexit fears enhance the feeling of uncertainty in relation to employing foreign staff to offset the shortfall in yards.

Often long hours, not enough off-days and low pay – those are the main concerns brought forward. Understandably so: the stable staff is preparing the horses day in day out, hence they play a pivotal role in the industry.

If they can’t be retained in numbers enough to keep the show going, plus if the jobs aren’t attractive enough for new people to join, then the game is in incredible danger. Falling prize-money surely isn’t helping, particularly for smaller yards it adds even more pressure.

A viscous cycle: working long hours, physical work, often starting very early in the morning, ordinary pay at best – that isn’t attractive to a lot of young people these days.

Stable staff does it for the love of horses. Without this love and duty of care for the welfare of our equine athletes these wonderful people show any given day, horse racing would be long gone.

Add to this the rather low pay at times where everything else becomes more expensive and the possibility of Brexit which could make it harder for yards to employ foreign staff – there you have an existential crisis.

It was surprising to see it so blatantly called out by the biggest names in the sport over the weekend. Nicky Henderson commented that the threat is no longer only a threat but  it “has already become a reality”.

Now, not everything is black and white. Not all staff are impacted by issues the same way. Plenty love their job, enjoy their day to day doing, are paid well enough and feel treated fairly.

Not all, though, and there is, no doubt, a balanced and fair discussion needed right now – a solution oriented one that addresses issues. Because the issue of staff shortage is at the heart of the game.

badThe Ugly:

 A Bad Loss – “I’m excited as heck because I feel Blue Harmony could be supremely well handicapped in this race!”

I got that spectacularly wrong. Blue Harmony finished nearly last, never went a yard. There was zero confidence in the market either. The filly was obviously not as well in as I felt she is.

Well, that’s racing. Can happen. It was a 16/1 shot. But it hurts. Particularly if you go and shout it so loud as I did in my preview.

Irish racing video archive – Gone. Since Racing TV has taken over the rights to show Irish racing, the complete video archive of all races prior to 1st January 2019 are no longer accessible – neither on ATR, the Racing Post- and Sportinglife website and certainly not on the RTV site.

You couldn’t make it up, could you? They had months and months time to prepare for this transition. But they didn’t seem to think about this rather important piece – or shall we say didn’t care – which shows a complete disregard for the racing public.

Please also read my latest opinion piece on the matter: Racing’s Problems bigger than ATR vs RTV

Got your own ideas of what was good or not so good in the the last week? Want to share feedback? Let me know in the comments! 

Opinion: Racing’s Problems bigger than ATR vs RTV

The TV landscape has changed and we’re now well within the first week of these new times.

Racing UK has taken over the rights to show Irish racing (as well as Chelmsford), while At The Races, the long-standing television partner of Irish racing, is gone from the scene there – they’ve bagged themselves the prestigious courses of Ascot and Chester in turn.

There is a rich history of why the rights have moved in first place – you can dig into all the wonderful details here.

I’m more interested in how this first week went and what it means or doesn’t mean for the future of racing.

From all what I could gather up until this Saturday it was a pretty unspectacular change. The horses still ran at Fairyhouse, Tramore and Dundalk – in fact the evening coverage of the County Louth track on Friday was fairly good with the likes of Gary O’Brien and Kevin O’Ryan providing insightful thoughts and analysis.

Today, the first Saturday of the new year, I had the chance to watch the now re-branded Racing TV throughout a complete day – a busy enough day, where they showed live racing from Kempton, Sandown, Wincanton and Cork.

Apparently there was a bit of moaning going on after Racing TV’s New Year’s Day coverage, which was equally a busy day, where it all was put to the test for the first time. And I can see why, as today was probably not a different experience to the one RTV viewers were treated to last Tuesday.

It was race after race after race. Bang, bang, bang. A little bit of analysis squeezed in before and after some of the races, mainly around Sandown, to a lesser extend Wincanton, where commendable Lydia Hislop did her magic with the little time she had – as she usually does!

In truth, this sort of experience isn’t anything new, compared to the busy days on the flat throughout the summer. What is different now: Irish racing. It has to be squeezed in as well.

And that is a bit of a problem. Simply because there was little to no time to squeeze any sort of meaningful analysis of the Cork races in. Certainly not before their respective off. At least afterwards we got to enjoy a few words from the guys in the studio.

But what can you really analyse if you’ve got the maximum lengths of four of five sentences to say before it’s off to somewhere else, because the next race is waiting in line?

It’s a tough spot for RTV on days like this, so I wouldn’t knock them for the coverage. They tried their absolute best. Ultimately we were able to watch all the races. At least that!

In saying that: you do not need a proper TV channel (an expensive pay-TV one that is) for a glorified live stream of all the races. The expectations on a TV channel, particularly a specialist channel like Racing TV, is one that does provide expert commentary, meaningful insights and proper analysis to all the races it shows.

I wouldn’t say that’s always what you got on At The Races in the past. But of course Irish racing was a premium product for ATR, so they gave it ample airtime – even during the busier days.

This is where Irish racing and Irish racing fans do miss out, if the setup remains as it is right now: i.e. all on one channel. I don’t think as negatively about the fact that RTV is behind a paywall, though – I did so in the past; not anymore.

Yes, ATR is much easier accessible as it comes with your standard TV bundle in most cases. But that doesn’t mean its audience figures are anything to shout about.

Anywhere between an average of 40-70.000 people turn in for ATR’s most viewed weekly shows with a paltry average viewing time of 1 minute (weekly, per person) according to BARB figures. Racing UK in contrast has about 50.000 subscribers.

So the notion that there’ll be much less eye-balls on the Irish product may not be totally wrong, but is probably exaggerated at the same time.

Least we forget that, at least in Ireland, the biggest race days and Festivals are shown on RTE. That’s not to say the “accessibility” issue is a non-issue. It’s real and in truth makes it more difficult for someone to discover racing zapping through the channels.

I would argue the problems of the sport of horse racing in general and Irish racing in particular are bigger than that, though. Because in earnest, those who already have an interested in the sport will find a way to watch the races regardless. Either subscribing to RTV, or by watching the ‘free streams” bookies offer if you have a bet in a race.

In fact, I have a few friends who live outside of the UK and Ireland and therefore have zero access to either channel on TV. Guess what? They still find ways to watch the races they care about as well as ATR and RUK. It’s not that difficult if you want it.

In my view the currently (still) ongoing discussion doesn’t tackle the real problems at all. The situation with the TV channels appears to be simply a ‘nice’ distraction. Something to talk about that anyone can have an opinion on even though in reality it isn’t really changing all that much that radically and certainly won’t impact the sport in such a negative way as some commentators want to make us belief.

There are issues, though, that do have a very real impact on the sport in the long run:
race day experience for race goers and owners or the changing public perception against racing horses – accompanied by a lack of public knowledge/education on things like the whip – which is directly in line with the most fundamental questions:

How to attract a younger audience?
How to create a steady flow of (new) racing fans moving forward?
How to create a better betting product?
Which in turn is also about this point: the availability of more data for punters and racing fans. Sectional times, as one example.

These are real issues. Or at least question marks. The problem of the future isn’t whether Barry in Newbridge can watch the 6.45 from Dundalk on his TV for ‘free’. Because he’s watching it on his mobile in the DART on his commute home anyway.

Now, coming back to Irish racing on Racing TV – I actually do trust RTV to figure out how to give Irish racing proper airtime, even on busier days. Maybe a second channel? Potentially a digital one?

Who knows. Times are changing. TV isn’t everything these days. Sport goes digital as well. In a few years, Terrestrial TV won’t have anywhere near the importance it still has at this moment in time.

One thing that Racing TV and all the relevant stakeholders involved have been rightly criticized for this week: the replay shambles!

Come on, you guys had months and months time to sort this out! It shows a general disregard for racing fans. The fact historic (prior to 1st January 2019) replays of Irish racing + Chelmsford are gone right now is not acceptable in this day and age. In any other industry heads would roll for this type of stuff.

At least, so it seems, light is at the end of the tunnel and a temporarily solution has been found.

With that, I am moving downstairs again to enjoy the rest of the Kempton card. A rather sedated experience with only one race every half an hour to prepare for, compared to the frantic pace of the early Saturday afternoon.

 

Preview: Irish Champion Stakes 2018

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This years renewals of the Irish Champion Stakes wins in excitement purely on the basis of the renewed clash between Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior. Both met several times in big races over the last two seasons and it has been interesting to see how each individual progresses differently.

One could argue that since the 2017 Racingpost Trophy Roaring Lion has been the more progressive one; certainly since Saxon Warrior landed his own early season target with the 2000 Guineas, Aiden O’Brien’s charge has been playing second fiddle on three occasions behind “The Lion”.

The last time, in the Juddmonte International, the gap was at its biggest ever since these two dated each other for the first time. 5 lengths Roaring Lion had to spare that day. Will it be different today?

It’s been a long year for both horses now and it probably comes down who’s able to hold his form.

On paper Roaring Lion is poised to win another battle today. Ground and track should suit him, and the fact AOB seems to throw the kitchen sink at him reminds me a little bit of 2009 when the same happened taking Sea The Stars on.

Regardless, taking prices into account, I find it impossible to back the favourite, even if he is the most exciting horse of 2018 and he’s likely to win today. Odds-on is a no go for me. And this particular race has proven over the last number of years it can be a bit of a minefield for short priced favs.

So I settle happily with Ballyoyle’s second string: Rhododendron. Her Lockinge Stakes win earlier this year rates as a superb piece of form and as she has proven in the past to stay 10 furlongs she would be a much shorter price if not for an abysmal run of form.

I bank on her to find back to her best today, for the simple fact the AOB yard wasn’t right for some time this summer and her runs were simply too bad to be true.

The setup of the race today could suit her well. In saying that, she has to find with the two market principles, of course. But then, she is a massive price, and on her best form she should be half of the odds available today.

Selection:
10pts win – Rhododendron @ 22/1 PP

Sunday Selections: March, 25th 2018

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4.45 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 2f

Despite being an eight year old, judged on last seasons form, Indian Chief looks one who could still run a bit better than his current mark suggests. a handicap rating of 84, based on RPR’s and TS, as well as visuals from the back end of last year, seem a good indicator that he’s a really interesting runner in this race.

I wouldn’t read too much into his poor comeback run. It was a pipe opener. However, his last good handful of runs in 2017 are predominantly fine form. I felt he was minded when last seen as he had too much too from the back in a tough class 3 Handicap at Nottingham at the end of October.

A week earlier same place Indian Chief was tanking a long but incredibly unlucky, not getting a run whatsoever. He’s on the same mark today, and a return to that sort of form will see him go very close.

Trip and ground hold absolutely no fear to him – in fact it enhances his chances.

Selection:
10pts win – Indian Chief @ 12/1 Matchbook

……

4.50 Naas: Irish Lincoln Handicap, 1 mile

A massive field of twenty runners go to post in the traditional pipe opener of the Irish flat season. Heavy ground is awaiting them – it should be a slog.

Plenty of right boxes ticks Richard Fahey’s runner Third Time Lucky. He’s proved in the past that cut in the ground isn’t an issue, though, he hasn’t encountered this deep a ground since his maiden win.

However, Third Time Lucky is an experienced big-field handicapper and tends to run well in these type of races – as evidence his 2015 Cambridgeshire success which came off the same he’s racing of today.

He hasn’t won since February last year, which came on the All-Weather, off a 2lb higher mark, but subsequently raced in tough handicaps off big weights. He’s in good nick, however, as he shown most recently at Wolverhampton when finishing strongly in a hot class 2 contest.

I feel this trip with the slow ground and likely good pace could play right into his hands. He will need to get a bit of in-running luck given his hold-up style and a less than ideal draw. But with no obvious choices in this race, he looks one who has a better chance than his price tag suggests, in my mind.

Selection:
10pts win – Third Time Lucky @ 9/1 VC