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Saturday Selections: April, 13th 2019

Newbury racecourse

3.05 Thirsk: Class 5 Handicap, 6 furlongs

Obviously a wide open contest but I can make a reasonably strong case for Prestbury Park, who has left the Johnston yard and wouldn’t be first one to improve for a change of scenery.

Now with Paul Midgley, Prestbury Park also has undergone a wind surgery lately, which may well be of further help to the not talentless 4-year-old gelding.

He lost his form in the latter half of last season, after finishing a strong runner-up in July at Epsom, he’s now a full ten pounds lower in his handicap, but it’s noteworthy he was able to finish second off 90 back in October 2017.

Prestbury Park is yet to win in Handicap company, though, he ran five times to TS ratings above 72 throughout his career, a lifetime high of 82, suggesting if he’s somehow got back into the mood for the game, he’ll be potentially well in here.

The wide draw isn’t ideal, particularly with loads of pace drawn in lower numbers. It’s a risk worth taking given the big price tag. It’s noteworthy also that Midgley and jockey Kevin Scott have an excellent record when teaming up.

Selection:
10pts win – Prestbury Park @ 16/1 PP

………

5.00 Newbury: Maiden Stakes, 1m 3f

John Gosden’s Planissimo looks a strong contender, as the odds suggest – he ran to a TS rating of 71 on debut at Chelmsford, which is quite decent. However, newcomer Space Walk is the one I’m keen on here.

Always a risk with horses you’ve never seen. However, Space Walk is supremely well bred – all his relatives has won, in fact he is a full-brother to stakes winners Recorder and Call To Mind.

Space Walk has a Derby entry as well, and the fact he’s started over 1m 3f suggests he’s here not only for the education, but also to get things rolling on a more serious note.

Galileo offspring have a tremendous record here at Newbury generally, even more so over this sort of trip.

Selection:
10pts win – Space Walk @ 3/1

……..

5.35 Newbury: Class 3 Handicap, 1m 2f

New Show ran an almighty race in a hot handicap when last seen in 2018. Inexperience cost him dearly that day but to be in it for as long as he was, not finishing too badly, was impressive.

That Goodwood race has worked out tremendously well and judged by that a mark of 87 could well underestimate New Show, if he can improve as a 4-year-old with age and experience. As a late April foal, with low mileage, you do hope there is more to come.

He’s been gelded in the meantime, has Jamie Spencer on board and connections seem to have found a nice opportunity to kick things off in 2019. Of course it’s a competitive race with 19 starters, but I feel the 11 draw will give Spencer every chance to keep things simple and to find a clear passage – which is that’s needed.

Selection:
10pts win – New Show @  8/1 MB

……..

6.30 Wolverhampton: Class 5 Handicap, 5f

Ideally there’d be an additional furlong to go today, still Cappananty Con is exquisitely weighted and can be able to get a win over the minimum trip under his belt.

He’s been placed over CD twice before this winter – he ran to a TS rating of 68 and RPR of 80 at Wolverhampton in January – and has kept his form quite well ever since. Nonetheless he’s been dropped 5lb in the handicap mark, down to a 70 rating now.

The additional 3lb claim of Joshua Bryan should prove handy as well. The draw may be wider than ideal, on the other hand.

Selection:
10pts win – Cappananty Con @ 8/1 MB

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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! 

Saturday Selections – 1st July 2017

2.20 Chester: Class 3 Handicap, 5 furlongs

Blithe Spirit hasn’t shown anything of note this season yet, however she has to be respected on return to her beloved Chester with softish conditions sure to suit. She has been given a big chance by the handicapper and has the advantage of a good draw.

Selection:
10pts win – Blithe Spirit @ 16/1 Ladbrokes

……

4.15 York: Maiden Stakes, 1 Mile

White Rosa is the one to beat. She boosts a lovely pedigree, went close on debut and should improve a good deal with that experience under her belt.

The form of that race doesn’t look too shabby given the 4th went on to win a maiden subsequently.

Selection:
10pts win – White Rosa @ 5/2 Bet365

……

8.10 Lingfield: Class 5 Handicap, 7 Furlongs

Express Lady looks leniently treated on handicap debut. She won a fair maiden over course and distance on debut tanking along for most parts of the race not dropping to bit to get in practically on the bridle whereas the runner-up a 82 rated individual who franked the form subsequently, was labouring without having a chance.

That was against boys. Today same CD against fillies, top weight Bassmah looks a decent threat but Express Lady should be too good of an opening mark off 73.

Selection:
10pts win – Express Lady @ 13/8 Bet365

……

5.20 Curragh: Irish Derby, 1m 4f

A wide open renewal with no clear cut favourite as it’s been the case in the years before. The Epsom Derby winner Wings Of Eagles is here, though, and commands plenty of respect.

He is a legit winner of the big race in my mind. However his racing style is risky. He needs to have everything fall right for him. That was the case at Epsom thanks to a red hot pace and him finding gaps when he really needed them.

The Curragh is usually a fair track, however can – even more so when there is a bit cut in the ground – favour those up with the pace. In my opinion at least. Wings Of Eagles could still be too good but he will need all the luck in the world, I feel.

You got to respect when Andre Fabre sends one over. Waldgeist was a close runner-up in the French Derby and the longer trip today isn’t an issue. He is clearly the one all have to beat as tactically I feel he holds all the aces.

Cracksman was good in the Derby and should have still a bit more to offer given his general inexperience. The pace scenario suits him, so does the track.

I’m not a fan of Capri. A big, grey horse. Can still do better no doubt and may have not been seen to best effect at Epsom. However his overall record suggests he is not quite up to it.

One big price laughs at me: Douglas McArthur in the famous colours of South African owner Markus Jooste. This horse keeps defying expectations. He was fourth and less than two lengths beaten in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud as a 2yo behind Waldgeist, was runner-up on his seasonal reappearance in the Ballysax and won the Leopardstown Derby Trial as an unfancied chance.

He was then used as a pace maker in the Epsom Derby, where he outran his price tag once again, lasting for a very long time and finishing a gallant 7th.

He will be up there again today, but may race a bit more on his own merit. Taj Mahal may well be the Nr. pace setter. Sitting behind in second should suit Douglas McArthur. There are still some doubts about his stamina, nonetheless being with the speed will be an advantage in my mind and if he stays then he could be very hard to pass as he has already shown.

Selection:
10pts win – Douglas McArthur @ 15/1 Matchbook

Weekend!

Weekend!
It’s Weekend! Some great racing ahead. Several Graded races in the UK and Ireland. Ascot Chase on Saturday as the highlight of course, but there is also some great action at Gowran Park and Navan, plus some excellent All-Weather racing from Lingfield. Enjoy all the fantastic racing and good luck whatever you bet!