Wednesday 24th July


7:05 Sand – 1pt win Waseem Faris @ 10/1 (Bet365, BetVictor)

Total staked 1pt


Grange Walk (18:00 Sandown) has been threatening to shed his maiden status of late, and having been denied on the line at Windsor last time under regular rider Paddy Bradley, the son of Thewayyouare, trained by Pat Phelan at Ermyn Lodge in Epsom, looks sure to go close with the expected fast ground and stiff finish expected to prove ideal. Ermyn Lodge has seen some famous winners over the years, most notably the Grand National winner Specify when the stable was home to John Sutcliffe senior, and his story is an intriguing one.

Rae Guest has a knack with fillies, as evidenced by the achievements Serious Attitude, winner of the Cheveley Park Stakes and Grade 1 Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine, Yorkshire Oaks and Prix Vermeille heroine My Emma and her daughter Moments of Joy, the prolific sprinter Millyant and Aldbourne, who was placed in the 1000 Guineas. He has another good prospect in the shape of Poets Dance (18:30 Sandown) who shaped with great promise despite not enjoying much luck in running when third to Flaming Success and Al Raya on debut at Nottingham. She had subsequent winner Know No Limits behind in fourth, and the pair who beat her both ran well in the Queen Mary, finishing fifth and seventh of 25 behind the exciting Raffle Prize. Poets Dance was unfancied for that debut, being sent off at 50/1, but as a daughter of the 7f winner Whirly Bird, she is a half-sister to 2017 Railway Stakes winner Beckford, and is bred to be decent, so improvement can be expected, especially with Guest’s juveniles rarely asked too many questions early in their careers. She already sets a standard which the others may struggle to match, and she appeals as the sort of racy filly to gain black type before the season is out. She is drawn in stall 7 here, and traditionally that is higher than ideal, but it’s notable that the low drawn runners over this track and trip have been the ones struggling this season, and she should be considered to have fared well with a mid-field berth. 

Waseem Faris (19:05 Sandown – Nap) is another drawn in stall 7 over the minimum trip, and may offer value having run a rare poor race last time. He’s a pretty tough sort who takes his racing well, so should be able to bounce straight back, and he was a winner on firm ground at Bath in May. The going here is given as good, with mentions of good to soft, but with temperatures north of 30 degrees and the sun baking the turf, that will surely be amended by post time, and it could be very quick come the middle of the evening. The selection has raced twice on firm ground at Sandown, finishing best when beaten 1½ lengths fourth of 12 on his first try, and winning this race off a 1lb lower mark a year ago. 



Friday 19th July


8:25 Nmkt – 1pt e/w Goodbye Girl @ 10/1 (Hills, Betfair, Paddy Power)
8:55 Nmkt – 2pts win Fighting Temeraire @ 5/2 (general)

Total staked 4pts


I’m not usually a fan of betting in fillies’ handicaps, but am making an exception in the case of Goodnight Girl (20:25 Newmarket – Nap) in the British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies’ Handicap where the topweight holds solid claims, but will be underbet due to an ostensibly poor run last time, as well as the low profile of her jockey and trainer. In this instance, her run last time can be ignored as it came over a trip beyond her best, in a class too high for her and where she was drawn badly and forced to race wide. She has been unplaced on her last four attempts at seven furlongs, whereas her record since going handicapping and confined to tonight’s trip of six furlongs reads 531211223232, the only unplaced run coming when she raced too keenly in blinkers.

She is, in short, a mare to set your watch by given the right conditions, and as a straightforward ride she is an excellent mount for a claimer. Her rider here is Tyler Saunders, who has lots of experience for his 7lb claim, and is an improved rider this season, with 60% of his rides making the frame. She’s well drawn to get a position behind likely front-runner Bungee Jump, and she has been beaten less than a length off her current mark twice this season, and Jonny Portman is utilising a claiming jockey for the first time since 2017. It’s often dangerous to suggest that claimers are worth the full value of their allowance, but this looks an uncomplicated affair, and the 7lb ease in her burden really ought to see her home in front unless the unexposed pair Furious or Shorter Skirt show marked improvement.

Fighting Temeraire (20:55 Newmarket) looks to have outstanding claims in the finale at Newmarket, and while I’m normally against horses who are hiked up markedly in the weights, there are exceptions, and Dean Ivory’s 6-y-o gelding is a striking one. Going up 9lb for winning a Class 6 handicap by a neck sounds like an overreaction, but he was much better than the narrow margin of victory at Lingfield last time, the first two pulled a mile clear, and the runner-up has won twice since. In addition, this talented sort hadn’t been plying is trade in similar company for ages which might lead us to believe there is an element of fluke about his win. In fact, it was only half a dozen starts before Lingfield that he was rated 83, and not long before that, he was a winner over this C&D off 89.

He’s had some issues since, and missed over a year, but the assessor has been dropping his so quickly, that he’s still much lower than he was at the start of the year despite the fact that it’s taken him a few outings to reach his peak. The Lingfield win suggests he’s not far behind the old model, and he belongs in a better class than this if his trainer can keep him sound.

Coverham is the one for the forecast, James Eustace’s charge likely to be a biggish price having been beaten seven lengths by Angel’s Whisper over a mile here last time. He shaped a fair bit better than the result, will benefit from the drop in trip, and is fancied to reverse form on 11lb better terms.



Tuesday 5th March


3:45 Exet – 1.5pts win March Is On @ 7/2 (Betfair, Paddy Power – 10/3 ok)
4:15 Exet – 0.75pts e/w Queens Present @ 33/1 (BetVictor, Coral – 28/1 ok)

Total staked 3pts


Smarty Wild (14:15 Exeter) looks a solid start to Tuesday’s card on Haldon Hill having been handed a very fair looking mark of 120 for this handicap debut. The son of Fair Mix was merely learning in bumpers, and improved when third on hurdles debut at Huntingdon in January. That form has not worked out, and he was easy to back on his most recent start at Ludlow last month only to prove the market wrong in some style, getting up to beat a promising sort in the shape of Venetia Williams’s Chambard in a solid time. He was helped by being held up in midfield in a race run at a generous gallop, but still improved markedly to win, and has been found a fairly uncompetitive race for his debut in handicap company.

Field Exhibition is the danger on paper, but is dropping back from three miles to two, which is a concern, while Mere Anarchy travels well but finds nothing for pressure in his races, and looks unsuited by a track with such a searching finish. I could see Karakorum, a stablemate of Field Exhibition, improving on previous efforts, but he’s still a maiden, and badly handicapped on bare form.

March Is On (15:45 Exeter – Nap) looks the bet of the day in the staying handicap hurdle. The son of Gold Well is bred to be useful, and showed improved form when splitting subsequent winners Daydream Aulmes and Black Buble at Warwick in December. He can clearly go well fresh as that shows, so the absence since is not a concern, and he is palpably well treated off a revised mark of 108, 5lb higher than Warwick. Winner Daydream Aulmes won next time off 4lb higher, and then again after a further 6lb rise. Black Buble has also won twice since, including off 5lb higher at Ludlow last time, and March Is On looked open to as much improvement as that pair, if not more given how he shaped. He appears a horse with a bright future, and can take advantage of his lenient treatment before winning something more substantial later in the spring.

Queens Present (16:15 Exeter) is worth the risk despite a long absence in the novices’ handicap chase. The mare hails from the family of Gold cup winner Kicking King, and won a point-to-point for Paul Cashman before joining David Arbuthnot. She showed her ability to go well fresh when winning a bumper on her racecourse bow, and went on to show fairly useful form over hurdles in 2016/17, her last outing seeing her finish second to Dingo Dollar in receipt of her mares’ allowance. That rival has quickly developed into a smart handicap chaser, and last ran off a handicap mark of 148 at Doncaster on Saturday, so it’s fair to say the assessor’s decision to drop her to 112 because of her absence is potentially very generous indeed. There is every reason to expect her to be ready despite her lay-off, and her background between the flags gives every hope she could do even better as a chaser, so I expect that she is a very well handicapped mare.  

Monday 4th March


Kim Muir Chase (March 14th)
1pt e/w Woods Well @ 50/1 (Coral, SportingBet – NRNB)

Arkle Chase (March 12th)
1pt e/w Us And Them @ 20/1 (Skybet – NRNB, BOG, or Boyles NRNB)

Total staked 4pts

This is a week for taking ante-post positions on some runners for next week, with the aim of getting much better odds than we will on the day, or a refund in the worst case scenario.

I wrote this about Us And Them in the Weatherby’s Betting Guide, and while events have overtaken these words with Le Richebourg out, it actually strengthens his position at current odds:

Lively Outsider: Us And Them – Arkle Chase

One of my favourite betting edges is the “second string” angle, in which a trainer runs two or more horses in a race in which both can be fancied, but one is deemed the neglected based on the evidence of the formbook or simply riding arrangements, and where that horse is ignored entirely by punters as a result.  Those who bet such horses based purely on form considerations tend to do very well for all the strike-rate is a little low, and probably explains why a small percentage of punters have a strange fondness for Ahmed Ajtebi. I wouldn’t suggest for a second that Us And Them is of equal merit to Le Richebourg, but in finishing second to his stable companion in Grade 1 events at Leopardstown either side of Christmas, he has shown himself to be a solid performer in the division, and one who would be a much shorter price if he represented a different yard.

I believe Le Richebourg has a tremendous chance of winning the Arkle, and he would certainly be my choice to win the race given what a big impression he’s made to date, and both his fluent jumping and ability to settle off a strong pace are big positives in a race where many contenders each year are flattered by dominating weaker opposition. Where I differ from many other punters is that I believe that Le Richebourg’s huge talent increases the chance of Us And Them making the frame at Cheltenham, because he can be upgraded for serving it up to the best in the division. Those framing the market will view his defeat at the hands of the market leader as a reason to diminish his chance, but I believe in trying to rank the contenders in order of ability, and I would rate Us And Them higher than a number who figure above him in the market. He is also a sound jumper who doesn’t fall apart under pressure, something underlined by the failure of the better fancied Knocknanuss and Voix du Reve to cope with such pressures in the Frank Ward at Leopardstown. Us And Them also showed that he does not need to lead to give his running, and the experience he has gained in defeat the last twice is worth more than any facile victory. The question which needs asking is “will he run?” but with the Arkle being his only Grade 1 entry at Cheltenham, and with a HRI rating of 152 meaning he’d have a big weight in the Grand Annual, so that is an unlikely option. It’s worth dwelling on that rating, though. It is justified by performance in my opinion, and is equal to or higher than the equivalent BHA marks given to the likes of Lalor and Kalashnikov. That puts his task in perspective, and I’d much rather part with my money on him than that overhyped pair, worthy though they are.  

The case for Woods Well is simple. He was an out-of-form 50/1 shot unlikely to make the cut in the Kim Muir a couple of days ago, but is suddenly a back-to-form winner almost certain of his place having won well at Leopardstown on Sunday, and in a race his trainer thinks will suit. Gordon Elliott has a tremendous record in handicaps at Cheltenham for a reason, and if he allows Woods well to travel, then he is at worst a 16/1 shot. The firms who haven’t slashed his price are clearly not paying attention.



Saturday 2nd March


1:30 Newb – 2pts win Betameche @ 9/4 (general)
2:05 Newb – 1pt win Perform @ 11/1 (general)
2:40 Newb – 0.5pts e/w Value At Risk @ 22/1 (general – Bet365 best place terms)

Total staked 4pts




This contest is similar in format to the veterans’ chase which follows it, open only to hurdlers aged eight and older, and the idea is that fully-exposed handicappers aren’t forced to compete against lightly raced improvers who are often ahead of their respective marks. I think we may have found a glitch in the concept, however, as Betameche comes here to make his handicap debut after just three runs over hurdles, the latest a comfortable win at Uttoxeter. Dan Skelton’s eight-year-old qualifies by dint of age rather than experience, and was a leading bumper performer in 2015/16 before injury intervened. His connections have persevered despite the son of Kapgarde needing over two years on the sidelines, and he can take advantage of the anomaly in the race conditions off what could prove a very lenient mark.

Betameche first caught the attention when posting a very fast closing sectional to win a bumper at Wetherby in April 2016, defying a penalty in the process, a performance which passed most people by given the time of the season when it occurred, but I recall it left our own Simon Rowlands almost literally purring with excitement. At the time, we didn’t know a great deal about the opposition, but the placed horses were Sam Spinner and Keeper Hill, the latter winning a handicap hurdle off an official BHA mark of 139 last month and the former scoring off the same mark last season before capturing the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle, and those exploits certainly answer the eternal question: ‘but what did he beat?’. As the estimable Mr Rowlands would point out, it’s not always what you beat but how that matters, and Betameche powered right away from that talented duo to answer both what and how in definitive fashion, marking him down as one of the brightest hurdling prospects of the following season. His followers have had to wait a long time, and the gelding has been brought along with kid gloves, but a facile victory in a Uttoxeter maiden hurdle late last month suggests all his old ability remains intact, and he appeals as the sort to make hay in the spring assuming he can be kept sound, and a mark of 124 is very generous based on the way his bumper form has worked out.


If any complaint can be levelled at this contest, it’s that a good prize for veterans on the same day as the historic Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster is bound to have a negative effect on field sizes for the latter event, but the turnout here is excellent, and a case can be made for several. Two of these have put up massive performances over course and distance in the past, with Houblon des Obeaux conceding weight to Many Clouds when second to that rival in the 2014 Hennessy Gold Cup, and Carole’s Destrier giving Native River a fright in the same contest two years later. The latter also showed his liking for this track and trip when winning the Mandarin Chase in December, and he can be forgiven a poor run in Haydock’s Grand National Trial last time, because, well…Haydock. Neil Mulholland’s stayer has a patchy profile, but remains fairly treated and stays better than most, so deserves to be high up the pecking order.

Abolitionist is an obvious contender given his positive profile, and was placed in the Irish Grand National for Ellmarie Holden when last seen over fences, and he came out of that race with great credit as the only one to throw down a challenge to impressive winner Our Duke. He has been with Dr Richard Newland for some time, but missed last spring with an injury, and has been confined to hurdles on his only start since, primarily to protect his handicap mark for the Grand National, which has always been his aim since being sourced by the Worcestershire trainer. He can win this without incurring a penalty for Aintree, and the timing of the run is clearly noteworthy, but he is also being primed for one day, and while Newland and owners Mark Albon, John Provan and Chris Stedman would no doubt love to win this as a bonus prize, his National chances will not be sacrificed for victory at all costs here.

An enduring theme of veterans’ races is that even in races for elderly and exposed chasers, there remains an advantage for those who are relatively young and unexposed by comparison, and the winner of this race for the past seven years has come from the youngest age bracket. With that in mind, and considering most of these would struggle off their current marks in high-end handicaps, I thought it might pay to take a chance on the lightly-raced Perform, who has never stood much racing until this season, but has put together a few solid runs, and while his latest third in the Somerset National pales in comparison to the past deeds of some of his rivals, he is arguably open to improvement after just ten lifetime starts, and will be receiving lumps of weight from his main rivals with regular rider Ben Jones (a former Welsh junior point-to-point champion) taking 7lb off. He looked a smart prospect when beating Knockgraffon and American over hurdles at Aintree on just his second start, but his career has been stalled by injury since, and this is the first time in his career that he has managed more than two outings in a season. The fact that he’s due to contest his fourth race in just over twelve weeks gives hope that his troubles are behind him, and the form of his last two runs at Wincanton looks solid, as evidenced by the speed figure he’s achieved.


Value At Risk is a rather tentative suggestion in a race which gets harder to solve every time I look at it. Dan Skelton’s veteran hasn’t lived up to his immense early promise, but has still won eight of his 28 races, and was back in the winner’s enclosure at Market Rasen last month when he and Terry The Fish pulled 54 lengths clear of the field. It’s easy to argue that it was a weak race that he won at the Lincolnshire track, but that often seems the case when a strong pace causes the others to crack, and I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, with the time of the race comparing well to standard. He’s been raised just a nominal amount for that success, and is still lower in the weights than for his penultimate win, so is very fairly treated on balance, and he is again partnered by William Marshall, who got a good tune out of him last time, and is still able to claim the full 10lb allowance for riding for his own yard. That makes a significant difference, and if William can get Value At Risk into an early rhythm, he is capable of following up that success.