Tag Archives: Melbourne Cup

Betting Review 2022

376.30 points profit, 35 winners and 19% ROI. It was an eventful year with plenty of lessons learned.

2022 was a challenge on many fronts, “on and off the pitch”, so to speak. On the pitch it clearly was an ever dramatic up and down. From the absolute highs of backing the longshot winner in the Melbourne Cup to the absolute lows of backing 31 consecutive losers.

At times I struggled, stumbled and lost confidence in the process that has been tried and trusted for nearly a decade now. Ultimately, though, 2022 proved to be another profitable year.

The process is alive and kicking, still working well enough to produce winners and a green P&L sheet – at the end of the day for a sixth consecutive profitable betting year.

Raw numbers

  • 376.30pts annual profit
  • 19.29% Return of Investment
  • 201 Selections
  • 35 winners
  • 17.41% Strike Rate
  • 8/1 average odds

Selections on turf produced the majority of the annual profit with 310pts; about 141pts from UK selections alone. Irish selections were also profitable this year with about 49pts profit.

The All-Weather shows a 59pts loss. I didn’t back a winner on the sand until late October, in fact. A clear upswing since then, with 156pts profit in the last two months of the year.

As always, outside of UKI things look positive: 13 international bets produced 160pts profit.

On the flat the majority of this years profit came in class 5 and class 6 Handicaps. All but two winners came in races below a mile. No surprise, as that is my main focus, both in terms of class and distances.

Selections in races over the 7 furlongs trip yielded the highest return: 285pts profit from 38 selections. Closely followed by the minimum trip that yielded 237pts profit for seven winners from 25 bets.

In contrast 6 furlongs produced a whopping 147pts loss from 36 selections. 37 selections over the mile trip resulted in 95pts loss. Middle to longer distances were a loss-making endeavour, too.

I’m not a jumps man betting wise: 11 selections, 95pts profit, largely due to a fine Cheltenham festival with 5/8 successful bets.

Ascot has been a kind track to me this year, both in terms of producing winners as well as eye catchers that went on to win subsequently.

Newcastle (0/10) and Doncaster (0/7) have been a disaster, on the other hand. Kempton (1/12) is a track I struggled, as well; I am not sure whether I ever backed a winner at Carlisle. Certainly not in 2022.

As for the selection process (flat only): eye catchers contributed 181 pts (222pts in Class 5/6, but minus 86pts all other Handicaps), traditional form analysis added 70pts to the annual profit, the rest made up by a bunch of system bets.

A complete overview of all selections and annual data going back to 2017 can be found here if anyone is keen to dig deeper.

Key Learnings

While 2022 was a solid year, it didn’t feel like a good year at all. It could have been – perhaps should have been – a much better year than it has been, for various reasons. There are 3 key learnings I hope to transfer into 2023.

Trust The Process

Be consistent and trust what’s working well – yes, reflect and don’t shy away from change if required, but the core of the process has remained the same for nearly decade and continues to work well.

Bet the process, not the outcome….

It’s the one thing you hear every profitable punter say. because it’s true. I need to remind myself of this mantra, once in a while, especially in times when variance shows its mean face.

My process works. It’s profitable. It takes a lot of effort. But it rewards the work and effort plenty fold. It does… if I do trust it, though; even during lean times. Be consistent about the approach to finding bets (i.e. the process) and good things will happen…. eventually.

Be Patient

An extension of consistency and trusting the process. It requires patience. There are no shortcuts.

Patience also means picking and choosing your fights. In the summer, when up to 20 eyecatchers could run in a single day, the fear of missing out can led to a rushed decision-making process. This will almost certainly lead to poor bets.

There’s simply too much racing, it can be overwhelming. Instead of attempting the impossible, be selective and focus on the races that play to the strengths of the process. Be patient, it’s the long term that matters. If “one gets away”, so be it. Tomorrow is another day.

Variance is your Friend

I endured some brutal losing runs this year: 31 consecutive losers- and only one winner of 48 bets between July and September. Only one short-priced winner of 27 bets between April and May.

Tough times. And inevitable. Especially given the average odds of my bets – around 8/1.

Sequences of losing bets are nothing out of ordinary; in fact they are to be expected and statistically inevitable. It’s variance. As simple and brutal as it is.

Knowing this doesn’t make it easier to endure. I was wondering during those times whether I “lost it”.

On the other hand, a simple look back to previous years would have shown that losing runs happened every year and the up- and downswings can be quite violent, as the 2017-2022 P&L graph presented earlier demonstrates pretty well.

Where things go down they have to go up again. What followed the most horrible months of my “betting career” was a November for the ages: the most profitable single month in over four years.

Remember, it’s a never ending ultra-marathon – as long as the P&L sheet is green in the long run it doesn’t matter what happens in the short-term, as long as value is still present in each and every price taken.

2022 Favourite Winners

I backed 35 winners in 2022. Every single one is important, no matter the class of the race. But some mean more than others, if only on an emotional level. Here’s my 3 favourite winners in 2022.

Gold Trip: Melbourne Cup

Backing the 21/1 winner in my favourite international race, is the standout moment in 2022.

Gold Trip’s victory came at the right time as he kicked off a golden November. Prior to this fateful first November day, I backed a meagerly two winners from the last 53 selections. All forgotten, when you land the big one.

State Of Rest: Prince of Wales’s Stakes

A gutsy, honest colt, trained by Joseph O’Brien, State Of Rest got a peach of a ride by Shane Crosse at Royal Ascot in the Prince of Wales’s, beating odds-on favourite Bay Bridge.

This win came at the right time, after backing only a single winner in the last 26 selections. I got 8.4 on the exchanges, which looks stellar value in hindsight.

Sammarco: German Derby

Far from the biggest winner of the year, but certainly one of my favourites. I was incredibly sweet on the son of Camelot, as he caught the eye in serious fashion on his previous two career starts and I felt he could even develop into an Arc contender.

While his season ended somewhat in an anti-climax, his German Derby triumph was as dramatic as brilliant, given the way the race developed. This winner was one of 9 in a glorious July.

………..

Finally, thank you to all readers, be it here or on Twitter, and especially those that have engaged so eagerly. 

It makes it twice as enjoyable if you can share the passion for the sport with other people, and even more so if others can derive value from this site as well. 

On to a wonderful and hopefully profitable 2023.

Tuesday Selections: 1st November 2022

It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn…. I am very, very happy this morning. Gold Trip landed the Melbourne Cup, giving me a much needed 21/1 winner!

This was the best possible start to November, after the most horrible number of weeks in the last while on the punting front.

It couldn’t have gone much smoother for the top-weight: a relaxed start, he settled well, and then brilliantly maneuvered through the field by jockey Mark Zahra, to be in the perfect position entering the home straight.

Gold Trip quickened nicely, and stayed on strongly all the way to the line. I mentioned beforehand that he’s the class horse in my view – and so it proved. Thankfully, once in a while things do work out the way envisioned.

At least it did for Gold Trip. Stockman ran a huge race to finish 8th, after encountering plenty of trouble around the home turn. He was never given a real chance to challenge.

No complaints, though. It doesn’t happen often that I back a winner these days, let alone a 20/1+ winner. A much needed booster for the P/L sheet.

…………

5.00 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

Captain Vallo drops down to class 6 with another 2lb off his back. He is seriously well handicapped if anywhere near the form he showed on turf this season when he got his conditions.

I look back especially to his Redcar run three back, where he nearly got his head in front off 68. He ran to speed ratings in the 60’s a number of times this year, including to 68 and 69.

I don’t think he’s a lesser horse on the All-Weather. In fact, his record is 6-1-2 and his career best speed rating was achieved at Newcastle.

The jockey booking and form of the yard isn’t a confidence booster, but I hope he’s on a going day and can take advantage of running in poor contest that’s there for the taking off 7lb lower than his last winning mark.

A lot of money has been coming for him this morning too. I missed the big prices. But he’s still good value if there’s no handbrake on.

10pts win – Captain Vallo @ 7/1

Melbourne Cup 2022 Preview

The race that stops A nation suffers from a lack of international runners this year. Consequently this is a comparatively weak edition of the Melbourne Cup.

And yet, it’s still the one race that I’m so excited about that I get up 3am in the morning during the week – voluntarily – to watch it live: every year the first Tuesday in November; and so it’s going to be in about six hours from now.

The Melbourne Cup is a race that has been kind to me on the betting front, too. Right now I could do with a bit of kindness from the betting gods, anyway. It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn….

In any case, the 2022 edition of the Melbourne looks wide open – if you are prepared to take on the red hot favourite Deauville Legend.

Best price 3.7 at the time of writing, he’s a seriously short price and widely expected to become the first favourite to win the race since Fiorente in 2013.

The James Ferguson trained gelding certainly looks to posses all the right attributes for the Cup: he can travel through his races, can kick and shouldn’t find the distance an issue. There’s enough stamina in his pedigree and the race won’t be ran at a frantic pace, one would think, either.

He’s a full-brother to Sea La Rosa, a Group 1 winning mare in deep ground over 14 furlongs. With the ground likely turning soft, given there’s plenty of rain expected throughout the day at Melbourne, the indications are positive toward the likelihood that he does act on the ground.

There’s very little not to like about Deauville Legend, actually. Except the price. He’s just such a short price, in a race with twenty plus other horses, where you need a bit of luck to get the breaks at the right time.

Also: yes, he is more likely than not to act on the soft ground. But all his turf form came on decent to fast ground. He’s unproven on anything slower. That has to be a small question mark at the very least. Enough for me at this short price to look somewhere else.

The other international runner Without A Friend is of interest, too. Especially since he’s three times the price of Deauville Legend in the betting.

The five-year-old gelding won the Silver Cup at York in brilliant style in July, skipped the Ebor in favour of a prep run at Newmarket – a solid runner-up performance there – before heading Down Under.

He’s rated to go close, with a good weight and has ran to solid enough speed ratings over the last two years to see him go close. How will he cope with the hustle and bustle that he’ll encounter at Flemington? Connections opt for ear-plugs pre-race.

The fact he often raced in small fields, and tends to be keen over the longer trips, is a serious concern. If he gets worked up too early he will struggle to get home in the soft ground. I feel there are better alternatives to back in the field.

Hoo Ya Mal, now based in Australia with Gai Waterhouse, was regressive ever since his huge Derby run. He makes little appeal to me.

The best chances for the home team seem to evolve especially around those horses that ran well in the Caufield Cup and Cox Plate in the last fortnight.

Montefilia got a troubled run but finished much the best from the back of the field. She loves it soft and could come with a big run late, if she gets the extra distance. It’s a big if in my book, as she will need luck for a clear run.

That goes for a number of horses. Another mare often favourably mentioned by the locals is Duais. She came from off the pace at Caufield as well and seems to be tracking in the right direction lately, getting better with each run this year. The trip in combination with ground is a question mark, but she could be peaking at the right time. I like her at a big price, more so than Montefilia, that’s for sure.

Knights Order is a strong front-runner and impressed in the Caulfield Cup. Already a Group 1 winner over two miles, he also acts on the ground. He’s got the widest draw and will have to work a bit to get to the lead. That’s far from ideal.

I loved the run of Realm Of Flowers in the Metropolitan where she hit the line incredibly strong, indication she wants to go further. She’s an intriguing mare and definitely will love the soft ground. Stamina for the 2 miles look a given and she’s got a good draw for a relaxed start.

She will need a bit of luck for a gap to open on the inside turning for home, though. If it does happen, she is a great chance to run away with it off a really low weight.

She is a backable price but I have a major concern that puts me off: she missed her most recent engagement, which is a bit of a worry. is she 100%?

2019 Melbourne Cup hero Vow And Declare ran well in the Caufield Cup. Probably this is beyond him these days, but he can feature in the money. The same can’t be said about surprise 2020 Epsom Derby winner Serpentine. He’s improved for blinkers lately, but has a lot to find and should struggle from a #23 gate.

Talking of formerly trained classy European horses: 2020 Arc 4th Gold Trip has to carry top weight. The winner of only a single race in 15 career starts hasn’t set the world alight in Australia since moving there last year. The locals think 57.5kg is a lot to carry, and it probably is.

But: he looks like to really get going lately. He was an agonisingly close runner-up in the Caufield Cup (see video above), having raced less efficient than the eventual winner. And he got a highly trouble passage in the Cox Plate when last seen- Some of that was his own making as he jumped badly with first-time blinkers – yet finished nicely on the eye and can be upgraded for the run.

He’s clearly the class act in the field. Not only because of his Arc performance – which is probably too long ago now to really count as recent form anyway – but he followed up next season with 2nd and 3rd place finishes in the Group 1’s prix Ganay and Grand Prix de St. Cloud.

He only had five start in Australia since his permanent move, improving with each run and he clearly enjoys rain softened ground. The more rain the better, in fact.

The trip is a question mark. But his class, tactical speed and change of gear should see him being really competitive in my view, especially as the #14 draw gives jockey Mark Zahra plenty of options to find a good position.

At an even bigger price one of the home team caught my eye: Stockman. Connections were quite bullish, and I can clearly see why. Ignore his most recent 8th place finish; it was an obvious prep run and the gelding ran on nicely under an easy hands and heels ride.

The two preceding performances were of serious note, though. Two back he won the St. Leger Stakes over 2600m at Randwick is fine style, making an impressive move from over 600m out. He was always in charge in the home straight.

Two weeks earlier he was only 1¬ľ lengths beaten in 4th in the Group 1 Metropolitan Handicap, finishing strongly yet again, even though not getting the clearest of runs from 400m out.

He’s 1.5kg better off on the weights with Realm Of Flowers today in comparison, who was a strong third that day. That’s noteworthy, given I rate her chance highly, as mentioned before.

Crucially, he loves soft ground. In fact, it’s key to his chances. Therefore, the more rain the better. He also got a good draw to move forward from, so has a lot going his way.

I believe his price is driven by his disappointing run in the Sydney Cup – his only try over 2 miles. He was quite fancied that day, but had too much to do from a wide draw and the back of the field. He’s clearly better than that, as he’s shown more often than not in recent weeks.

Summary:

If all goes to plan, Deauville Legend could be too good in this field. He has the form, the speed ratings, the stamina and possibly the ground versatility. But he’s an awfully short price. Unbackable for me.

The mare Realm Of Flowers is next likeliest winner in my book. 12/1 looks even a good price. But the worry whether she is 100% puts me off, because there are two strong alternatives at bigger prices.

Stockman is seriously underappreciated in the betting market, especially with every additional drop of rain to benefit his chances. He’s got form and a solid chance to stay the trip.

Top weight Gold Trip is undervalued because of his poor strike rate. But he’s the class act in this field, has improved with each run and will love the ground.

5pts win – Stockman @ 30/1
5pts win – Gold Trip @ 21/1

Video Game: Frankie Dettori Racing

The Grand National takes place this Saturday. On the eve of the National ITV will run the “Virtual Grand National”.

An obscure event it may be, yet in 2020 – when the VGN replaced the real race due to Covid – it was watched by about 5 million people.

Now in its seventh iteration, the VGN has grown in popularity over time. One of the reasons for the increased popularity are the increasingly realistic animations.

Earlier this week the Virtual Grand National Twitter account previewed some of the CGI powered animations and received praise for the realistic nature of their animations.

Alongside it where many comments of people asking to leverage these graphics for a horse racing video game.

Over the years there have been a number of racing games available. The Japanese G1 series comes to mind in particular. This tweet also reminded me of my favourite horse racing game – which, believe it or not, the kid inside me still plays from time to time – which seems to be relatively unknown, or certainly forgotten whenever there’s a discussion on video games in a horse racing context.

The game I’m talking about is the legendary Frankie Dettori Racing, or also widely known as Melbourne Cup Challenge on the other side of the globe. Back in the day – we’re talking 2006 – this game was available for PC and the PS2 and it portrayed the world of horse racing rather well. Mainly because it had official licenses for many of the worlds most popular racecourses.

Personally I don’t know anyone who played it. Although I for one wasted plenty of hours, days and also many nights on the addictive career mode which is the core piece of the game.

In the career mode you can play up to ten consecutive years. You would start with a small budget to buy your first horse. You then build from there to create an empire of luxuries stables with your own breeding operation and racing the offspring of your past stable stars in the major races of the internal flat racing calendar: the Epsom Derby, Arc De Triomphe or Dubai World Cup.

There is a pretty accurate racing calendar where you have to register your horse – pending their eligibility – and then it’s up to you steering them around the “realistically modelled” racetracks.

Realistic to the point of what was graphically possibly at that time. Although, even for 2006 the graphics weren’t exactly a strong point of the game. Yet, the racetracks looked like they do in rea-life, actually. The Curragh looks like the Curragh. Epsom like Epsom. And Nad Al Sheba like the actual Nad Al Sheba. Including the dirt surface. That was impressive for the time and I haven’t seen in any of the other racing games to date.

A neat little feature is that at the start of the game you could decide whether you want your career aligned to the European or Australian season. Based on this choice the game would include more racecourses and races of one or the other region.

As for the gameplay itself: it’s a steep learning curve at the beginning. Once you figure it out the racing becomes much easier. Still, on the highest difficulty level you have to get your tactics and moves spot on. The game feels rather realistic in that sense. Particularly around the tight, ever turning Australian tracks winning from the back of the field with a hold-up horse is challenging but makes for a thrilling and rewarding experience if successful.

I feel that is exactly what makes the game special. Yes, the graphics are rather poor, outdated and the gameplay is not overly sophisticated. But at the same time you can really get a feeling for how it feels like to be Jamie Spencer – sharing in the frustration or elation to ride like him: sit in last position, trailing a fast pace and either finding a gap to go through, producing a late turn of foot and get up on the line… or getting stuck in traffic, losing the race there and then.

When you get it right it feels like dancing on water!

With that in mind it’s fair to say Frankie Dettori Racing isn’t a pure arcade game. You have to get your tactics right and you have to know your horse, ride it how it wants to be ridden – some from the front, other middle of the pack, others from behind. Some have a turn of foot. Others purely grind it out. There are those that respond to the whip. Yet some won’t find anything off the bit.

External factors like the going, course layout, size of the field and draw all play a vital role too. And you need to adapt how to ride the race. Much like in the real world.

In the career mode you can influence some of the preferences horses have later in the game once you got your breeding operation up and running. It’s certainly the most rewarding part. Unfortunately, and that is a real bummer, you don’t have enough time to really reap the benefits of breeding long-term. Simply because the game stops after ten seasons. There is no way to prolong it. A real shame.

Of course this game isn’t a simulation either. But it strikes a great balance between realism and arcade. Something I personally always missed in the G1 series.

For anyone interested in giving the gem of a horse racing video game a try: I believe you’ll find it somewhere for free on the internet to download. Otherwise I’m sure on Ebay or similar you’ll find a cheap copy for PS2.

But be warned: it can be highly addictive. Day and night fly by as you attempt to win this elusive Hong Kong Cup. Or as you try to get the get the first offspring you bred yourself, but turned out not as good as hoped, nonetheless some blacktype.

Preview: Royal Ascot Gold Cup 2020

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Three-in-a-row for Stradivarius? The defending champion bids for hat-trick glory in the Gold Cup this afternoon. But he’s facing a stiff test in an intriguing contest that will need him to be at his very best.

In short: Stradivarius looks vulnerable. It’s no rocket science to see why that is. Even though he looked as good as ever at Newmarket a fortnight ago when chasing home ¬†Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup, the reality is that this was a much tougher race than John Gosden would have liked.

He was clearly ridden with a bigger day in mind in the closing stages, but that doesn’t distract from the fact that he ran some incredibly strong sectionals in the middle part of the race. Those must have hurt and could easily have left a mark as well.

While it was positive to see Stradivarius ran so well on his seasonal return over a trip possibly a little bit too sharp against top-class rivals, it also increases the opportunity, particularly with the rather short turnaround time, of having done too much that day with too little recovery time since then.

The pace in this renewal of the Gold Cup is another question mark. One can assume there’s a good deal of early speed here with quite a few potential horses keen to keep the pace honest. The excellent Kevin Blake makes some useful points in his assessment of the race on that part.

Stradivarius usually quickens at the end of a staying contest when tracking a moderate pace comfortably throughout. Will he be able to do the same in a strongly run contest over the Gold Cup distance?

With that in mind it’s obvious to me that Stradivarius is poor value at his odds-on price. This brings me to the questions who’s the rival that’s going to deny him the hat-trick victory?

The obvious option is Technician. Martyn Meade’s progressive colt enjoyed a particularly fruitful 2019: a listed-, Group 3- and Group 2 success, ultimately rounded up by the cherry on the cake, the Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak.

He thrives in the mud, hence connections will be delighted with all the rain that has arrived at Ascot. Will it be quite soft enough, though? Possibly. He’s certainly a fair price with the going change in mind.

A former Melbourne Cup winner has to be respected. And to this day Cross Counter‘s Flemington victory rates as one of the most pleasing ones I have ever experiences from a punting experience.

He wasn’t too far beaten in last years Gold Cup and subsequently in the Goodwood Cup, nonetheless was beaten fair and square both times by Stradivarius. A disappointing effort in the Irish St. Leger, followed by a another strong performance in the Melbourne Cup, shows he can be a little bit inconsistent.

Cross Counter was a hot favourite in Riyadh earlier this year, before another bid for the Dubai Gold Cup was on the agenda. It’s hard to know which Cross Counter we get today. He will need to be back to his best to land a blow, though.

Even though able to perform well with cut in the ground, his very best comes on a fast surface. Therefore I feel Nayef Road will struggle today, although his comeback at Newcastle was quite excellent.

Cross Counter stable mate Moonlight Spirit is the one that intrigues me most. Gelded over the winter and surprisingly bullish comments by Charlie Appleby (who’s usually rather reserved in the assessment of his horses) are clearly noteworthy.

But also the form of this generally low mileage 4-year-old points upwards. At the end of last season he won a Group 3 at Longchamp over 1m 7f in taking style before going down to Technician in the Prix Royal-Oak, albeit only in the final 100 yards of the race, after leading for a long time.

Soft ground won’t be a worry today, given those last runs, although the fact it won’t be quite as deep as those times at Longchamp is probably of benefit. The stamina question is out there in the open. We’ll have to find out today. His pedigree offers hope and the fact he clearly stayed long distances with plenty of juice on the ground already, offers even more hope.

At given prices, with potentially more to comer over the longer trips, I feel Moonlight Spirit is a little bit overpriced in an open enough contest.

Selection:
10pts win – Moonlight Spirit @ 11.5/1 SM

Race Preview: 2019 Melbourne Cup

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The race that stops a nation…. or the race that stops me sleep. Every year the same procedure: Melbourne Cup Tuesday is nearing and I am excited as a little child on the eve before Christmas. I LOVE the Melbourne Cup, it’s my favourite race.

It helps having backed the winner of the last two editions at rather generous odds, of course. While I love the spectacle of watching the race on TV at half past three in the morning with a blanket and a warm cuppa in my hands, it’s certainly has been financially rewarding as much as it’s emotionally warming – backing a winner or not.

But backing a winner is even more fun. So Let’s do three in a row?

………

This year appears to be a highly compelling renewal – certainly on paper. The field includes Cross Counter, the defending champion; the exciting Japanese rider and Caulfield Cup winner Mer De Glace; the Ebor Handicap winner Mustajeer; last years Irish Derby hero Latrobe; plus a highly competitive home team.

On the other hand, I feel this race is much easier to dissect than in years past. Sure, luck can play its part in the race. A massive field will always produce a hard-luck story…. or two, or three of those stories. Regardless, I can see only a handful of realistic contenders, to be perfectly honest.

You can cross a line through half the field easily on the grounds of the softish going, distance, weight or racing style. The ones I can’t dismiss so easily and who made it on to my shortlist are as follows:

Il Paradiso: fits the trend of recent winners. Still relatively low mileage, some classy form in the book, looks to have the right sort of relaxed attitude, appears to stay and will be fine on any softness left in the ground. His tendency to break slowly is a major negative from draw 17, though. Blinkers may help but the “may” is already reflected in the price, I’m afraid.

Constantinople: you couldn’t watch the Caulfield Cup and not be impressed how he finished despite the fact he came from well off the pace and was significantly hampered at a crucial stage. Ran twice to a 108 topspeed ratings year. Most talented horse in the race?

His racing style is not and advantage. His tendency to sweat and exert energy in the preliminaries neither. Not easy to get things right on him. Needs everything to fall right, which it may well do, but I’m happy enough to let it go for single figure odds.

Vow And Declare: Strong chance for the home team if there wouldn’t be the draw. Classy stayer, form in the book, hits peak at the right time as excellent runner-up performance in Caulfield Cup suggested. Drawn in 21 will make life tough.

Dawndraft: Quite a bit of racing under the belt yet still improving. Good performances in Ireland this summer, including career best Listed success (101 TS) albeit below standard required here.

But two good runs since arriving Down Under. Visually compelling latest victory. But that performance came only 3 days ago which is a major concern.

Mustajeer: Excellent winner of the Ebor. Has improved again this season, ran well in Group races before having the perfect race at York. From the draw to the way the race developed to a clear run: everything worked to perfection.

He is a strong galloping sort who I feel will be suited perfectly by the Melbourne Cup. Had a fine prep in the Caulfield Cup and won’t fear the ground.

But that is the point: everything went to perfection at York. Will it today? He’s uncomplicated, that’s a big plus. I think he will go close. Still, it’s going to be the Ebor 4th Raymond Tusk that my money is riding with on Tuesday morning, 4am Irish time.

Raymond Tusk: On a different day he’d have been the brilliant winner of the 2019 Ebor and would be much shorter in the betting than he is now. Drawn in the car park he was trailing the field still turning for home, a wall of horses in front, yet travelling much the best. He had to weave his way through for a clear run and the bird was flown when he finally did.

Still finished a strong 4th, not far beaten, and running to a career best 107 topspeed rating. He’s 4lb better off with Mustajeer here and has a much better draw to play with.

I have one fear that is Jamie Spencer: we know he likes to come from off the pace with his mounts. I hope the good draw will help to settle on a positive racing strategy. Interviews I heard have given me hope indeed.

Still with low enough mileage, Raymond Tusk is an improving individual, who comes here fresh, which seems to bring the best of him usually. Cut in the ground is a question mark. His best results cam on fast ground. However he didn’t have a lot of chances to race on soft. And he did win a maiden over 1 mile on good to soft. Another pointer to give hope.

Selection: 
10pts win – Raymond Tusk @ 23/1 MB

Wednesday Selections: November, 7th 2018

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WOW! What more can you say??? Quite a bit, actually! So, a few more words on Tuesdays Melbourne Cup: a tremendous victory for Cross Counter. The three-year old came from last to first, producing a tremendous turn of foot at the end of a 3.200 meter long race!

I felt his chances were gone right after the start as¬†Kerrin McEvoy steered his mount to the back of the field – which in hindsight seems a smart move, given the wide draw and the way things worked out as the gates crashed open didn’t really allow him to do anything else that wouldn’t have been even more detrimental to his chances; i.e. rushing forward.

In my race preview I hoped things would pan out slightly different regarding the early parts of the race. Regardless, I couldn’t have been happier with the eventual outcome of the race!

As for the second year running I’ve made a winning selection for the Melbourne Cup – granted, neither last year with Rekindling, nor this year with Cross Counter were those selections particularly thought-provoking.

Let’s be honest: a classy 3yo, with good chances to stay the trip, having ideal ground conditions and a low weight to carry…. the type of race the Melbourne Cup in essence is these days, it wasn’t exactly rocked science to select Cross Counter.

……

2.50 Nottingham: Class 4 Handicap, 5f

Bread and butter today: Show Palace is the one I want to be with. He has dropped to a tasty mark, having produced big performances off much higher ratings in the past, achieving consistently high time speed ratings as well.

Clearly he needs the right conditions: with rain falling, the going may not turn quite soft enough. Nonetheless, good to soft should be okay, even more so off his 74 handicap mark. Hes also in fine order, judged on his latest effort over CD.

He was not ideally positioned on the inside rail, far away from the pace. He finished best of his group, nonetheless – a 5th place that looks good given the form already works out well.

Selection:
10pts win – Show Palace @ 6/1 MB

Preview: 2018 Melbourne Cup

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A cocky headline: “Here’s Your Winner!” – that was it for the Melbourne Cup preview exactly twelve months ago. Oh how good that felt, when half a night of sleep later Rekindling landed the big pot at 14/1!

Now, up until then it had been a solid decade of failed attempts to find the winner in the race that stops a nation. So I can hardly claim of having magic power if it comes to making a winning selection. But sometimes you have this feeling of certainty. You simply know it…. the 6th November of 2017 it was exactly that.

Do I know this time as well? No. Plain and simple.

This year is incredibly competitive. There are a good seven or eight horses on my shortlist. Three from the list I fancy significantly more than the others. And two of them I’m most confident will be in the money, granted they get a run for it.

It certainly isn’t my cup of tea punting the favourite. Less so in the Melbourne Cup. Guess what? Yucatan is my selection. As he’s on the drift throughout the day already, his price finally reached a point where I have to conclude: too big!

I get why there is increased negativity around the once-Derby-fancy. Suddenly the commentary of “it’s been only a single good run” become much louder, as all the experts get their opinions out there with the race approaching ever so slowly. The wide draw has done the rest. Oh, and the ground. Rain is coming. How much? How will it impact the going conditions? Hard to say. This bit of uncertainty doesn’t help.

What is certain: Yucatan never lived up to the 12-1 quotes he received for the Epsom Derby more than a year ago. He never had the chance to do so, missing the big one, but also endured issue after issue ever since. Aiden O’Brien alluded as much in recent days:

“Yucatan was a horse we couldn’t really get 100¬†per cent right through the whole year.”

In honesty, judging him by this 2018 European form he’s not a Melbourne Cup favourite. A Group 3 success over 1m 2f and a Group 3 third place finish over 1m 4f behind smart Eziyra can be considered decent form, yet it’s far from exciting.

Nonetheless, Yucatan always remained a talented individual, who only would need to get a clear run of form and the right conditions – that what connections always felt. For some horses this day never comes. For Yucatan it did. And boy, it id!

First start in Lloyd Williams colours Down Under at Caulfield in the Herbert Power Stakes  last month: it seemed Yucatan is a different horse to what he was only a few weeks earlier in Europe. Was it the sun? The ground? The change of scenery? Maybe a bit of everything.

The dramatic mid-race-move from the back of the field, while always travelling three wide, to take it up from 3f out, leaving the rest of the field standing still, jockey¬†James McDonald pulling him up with half a furlong to go….¬† visually this was one of the most stunning performances you’ll ever see in Group company.

The question is, of course, what is it worth? I’d argue it’s worth more than some people want to make us believe.

True, those in second and third are no world beaters. But the third, Prince Of Arran, was a 111 rated individual in the UK, who ran a massive race when runner-up in the Northumberland Plate earlier this year, and who followed up on his third behind Yucatan with a fine victory in a Group 3 at Flemington earlier this week! Dismissing this rival so easily rates as pretty significant in my book.

Significant also the comments by Aiden O’Brien – usually not the type of character who’d give a lot away beyond the “he’s well” mantra. For him it’s rather bullish stating:

“The way it fell, it looked like he was going to really suit the Melbourne Cup but he was too low in the weights, so we he had to win to get in, and we saw what happened. … He looks on a very good mark.”

He looks indeed! A nice weight, not a nice draw, though. Statistics say it’s near impossible to win from gate 23. This year might be different. Pace is drawn close to him and might give him a nice lead to follow early in the race. Obviously you don’t wanna burn too much fuel early on either, given we aren’t sure whether he truly stays the new trip. On the other hand, drifting back into the pack will mean he’d need all the luck in the world – something you surely don’t want to rely on if you’re on the best horse in the field.

In saying that, whether he’ll appreciate the extra furlongs is the main question mark for me. I never looked like he’s crying out for, to be honest. But he’s by Galileo. So there is always a fair chance he does get the distance. So, if his chances aren’t ruined after the start hen I’m fairly confident we will see Yucatan go extremely close in the 2018 Melbourne Cup.
I mentioned at the beginning of this preview that there are two horses I feel extremely positive about. Yucatan is one. Cross Counter is the other one. A lightly raced three-year-old finding his way into the race with the benefit of a featherweight. Where have we heard this story before? Yep, right – Rekindling!

It’d argue this lad is at least as good as last years winner. For a start, he’s achieved the second highest time speed rating of all in this field. Only Cliffs Of Moher bettered this – last year in the Derby. I’m not sure if I trust that particular figure, nor whether COM is able to reproduce anything like it ever again; however, Cross Counter has run to 106 and 107 subsequently in his last two starts. Surely this guy is on the up and still improving, if not already top class.

His Gordon Stakes success at Goodwood over the summer was scintillating; overturned as a short-priced favourite the next time in the Great Voltigeur Stakes, he was staying on strongly to be only beaten by a head eventually. Not a bad race either, given the third, Kew Gardens, followed up with an impressive success in the Doncaster St. Leger!

No doubt, Cross Counter was still learning his craft. He often looked a little bit raw; but he’s approaching his eight lifetime start now – he should have learned plenty.

Trip and draw are the main question marks. He’s also wider drawn than ideal. Hopefully, like with Yucatan, he can get a nice lead by the pace around him to tow him toward the front of the field. Trip wise, of course, you never find out until you run them – in saying that, the way he ran on in the closing stages at York are a positive indicator that the trip might be within his range.

Given his official rating of 114, he isn’t far off the best European raiders already, however his featherweight off eight stone should be a tremendous advantage.

 

So, there we have it: two selections for the race that stops a nation. I’m not as confident as last year. Simply because of the draw situation and because there are few others in the field you have to take quite serious: last years co-favourite Marmelo and Chester Cup hero Magic Circle are dangerous. The main threat, though, should be impressive Ebor winner Muntahaa. He’s top class and will run big if his temperament holds up.

Selection:
10pts win – Yucatan @ 6.2/1 MB
10pts win – Cross Counter @ 8.4/1 MB

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

Melbourne Cup Preview – Here’s Your Winner!

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The race that stops a nation…. or the race that disrupts my sleep. Yep, it’s back – the one and only Melbourne Cup!

Thankfully only once a year. Getting up at 3.30am on a regular basis is probably not recommended. Nonetheless, Tuesday morning I will. All in the name of my favourite race on this beautiful planet!

Not because I’ve ever been particularly successful finding the winner. I have not. But because the build-up. The atmosphere. The enormity of the whole event. It’s special.

One day I gonna be there. To see it with my own eyes. Wide awake and alert. Unlike tomorrow morning. When I watch on with red eyes.

As close as I ever came to the mecca that Flemington is: I drove passed it with a rental car earlier this year on a trip to Australia.

Let’s talk about the actual race: off at 4am Irish time. Here’s hoping my neighbours are prepared for the screams of joy when Rekindling strolls over the line as the winner of the 2017 Melbourne Cup!

You see I get right into it. No dwelling. A full take on every single horse can be found in this excellent guide. I’ve already made up my mind and tell you why.

I’m all in on Rekindling. In past years I always backed multiple horses in the race. Didn’t do me any good. Only the bookies were smiling. This year I pin all my hopes on the Joseph O’Brien trained three year old colt.

But let’s move all the negative factors out of the way first: no doubt there are a handful of good reasons why this lad won’t get anywhere near the money tomorrow morning. Some smarter people than I am are probably right if they say Rekindling had a long season, the Cup is a mere afterthought on the back of an excellent Ledger performance and therefore he’ll find this really tough.

Rekindling is not a particularly imposing individual in terms of physical presence either. He didn’t have a prep run Down Under. And he’s a galloping sort who might not enjoy the start-stop nature of the race.

All fair points. However at 14/1 I am prepared to take a chance on Rekindling, fully aware I will likely go back to sleep at roughly 4.30am after yet another Cup disappointment.

But hold on, let’s hear for all the good reasons why Rekindling will win the 2017 Melbourne Cup:

Weight, Class and Ratings. He’s a classy 116 rated individual, a multiple pattern class winner and was only 2 lengths beaten – and in my view unlucky not to get closer – when 4th in the English St. Leger.

He gets into the Cup with a featherweight thanks to WFO, however on Aussie terms is actually a four year old. He’s got as little as 8st 2lb to carry. He’s third highest ranked in terms of time speed and Racing Post Ratings. Granted, the merit of these ratings is questionable for obvious reasons – it still is another little piece in the puzzle.

The draw. It could hardly be any better. Stall 4 gives every opportunity. Not allot of energy needs to be wasted early on, as long Rekindling breaks alright. Which he should.

Form. An  impressive winner of the Curragh Cup, and an equally as impressive 4th in the English St. Leger. A performance I rate particularly highly. That is because he came from a long way back that day, trailing for most parts, and when travelling strongly on the bridle over three furlongs out, he did not get a clear run and lost valuable momentum and ground as a consequence.

Yet he produced the joint fastest sectionals for the last four furlongs and finished in fourth, only 2 lengths behind Capri. That form in its own right is strong, but has already been franked multiple times.

I also don’t subscribe to the fact Rekindling would not be suited to the start-stop nature of the Melbourne Cup. In fact this lad is not a mere galloping sore who travels strongly and grinds things out. No, he has pace and a turn of foot. He showed it quite clearly when producing a superb effort over 10 furlongs in the lowly ran Ballysax Stakes earlier this year.

Now, I do really love the chance of this horse. I understand why people compare him to Bondi Beach in last years Cup. However I feel Rekindling is a different animal altogether.

I strongly believe he’s more for than against him – with one only concern: he’s usually held up. Here’s hoping Rekindling will be utilized to full effect from his positive draw and does not settle farther off the pace than midfield.

I readily admit that it is a huge ask, nonetheless. And the field is incredibly competitive. I do not quite buy into the hype of Marmelo and find it hard to see Almandin doing it all again – however Red Cardinal would be my absolute prime chance in this race – if not for the wide draw.

Now this must not be a problem necessarily given he’ll settle off the pace anyways, regardless of the draw. Still, he’ll be too far back I fear. Max Dynamite, if fully fit – and he looked good during his comeback run – is another one to like a lot. The runner-up of 2015 has even less weight to carry this time round.

Tiberian, despite a wide draw, might be able to cross over as there seems not too much early pace here. If so, he’s a dangerous horse. Hugo Palmer’s Wall Of Fire had the perfect preparation – he’s a major player.

Nonetheless, it’s Rekindling or nothing for me. And what a story it would be. Joseph O’Brien in his first season as a trainer winning the Melbourne Cup – a feast his record breaking father never achieved? Go son, go!

Selection:
20171107flm040022 10pts win РRekindling @ 14/1 William Hill