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Saturday, 1 August 2015

Inglourious punting

Barring a manoeuvre that would make the turning circle of a supertanker look like a handbrake turn in a Fiat 500, this wretched Goodwood value project has failed. Six points frittered away yesterday and again the best result was a non runner.

Only a couple of the selections ever looked competitive.

Humping a 16 point deficit, the project now resembling a guessing game rather than a carefully honed punting strategy, rumbles in to the final day of Glorious Goodwood.

2.00 6f Stewards' Sprint Stakes: The Hooded Claw, 20/1 ew

2.35 1m4 handicap: Novancia, 9/1 

3.10 1m2f Nassua Stakes: Diamondsandrubies, 4/1

3.45 6f Steward Cup: Toofi, 20/1 ew

4.20 7f Maiden stakes: Mediciman, 6/1

4.55 7f Qatar Stakes handicap: Enlace, 7/1 

6.00 Apprentice Stakes Handicap: Balmoral Castle, 10/1 

Thank God this is over...

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Value under pressure

A couple of crossbar hits at Goodwood today. But in a win-free zone, the best result was the non-runner. Depressing.

Frankie couldn't urge the waited-with Keble past the tough Gibeon in the opener, despite my screaming at the laptop. That was as near as the project came to a positive result. Tasleet was a runner-up too, but he was well beaten by the impressive Shalaa in the Richmond.

As Scotland was a non-runner in the Goodwood Cup, I backed my stated next best, Big Orange. 6-1 was a fair return, but it doesn't count for this project. No after timing here. So 6 points lost on the day, giving a net deficit of -10 for the Festival. Up against it now.

2.00 - 1m4f Glorious Stakes
Connecticut, not much value at 10/3, but in a seven runner field I can't make much of a case for the outsiders. Nancy From Nairobi's good showing here the other day franks this one's earlier form at Pontefract.

2.35 - 1m Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes
Aktabantay is much better than the form shown this season and is taken at 10/1 to recapture some of that quality now down in grade.

3.10 - 1m Golden Mile
You're Fired, 14/1. Two good runs either side of a poor showing in the Royal Hunt Cup, where he carried the burden of my money. Sticking with him again here. There's a big win in him somewhere.

3.45 - 5f King George Stakes
Move In Time, 13/2, admirably consistent and just favoured of the O'Meara pair.

4.20 - 6f Nursery handicap
Fashionable Spirit, 10/1. Surely this is the moment I snag my first Mark Johnston Glorious Goodwood winner this year.

4.55 - 7f Queen's Plate Stakes
Kiyoshi, 9/2. Good race this. Looks competitive. Track form of this Charles Hills inmate is the clincher.

5.30 - 1m3f handicap
Shell Bay, 14-1. Improving quickly, and jockey takes off 5lb. Tough closer though.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Glorious value anyone?

The second day of my Glorious Goodwood value project was a pretty poor effort. 8 points staked and no winners, wiping out yesterday’s 4 points profit to leave a net 4 point deficit.

On a difficult day to oppose favourites in the big races, I got two out of three big calls wrong. Highland Reel eventually managed to put his best foot forward in the Gordon and Solow did not have an off day at all in the Sussex.  Though my selection Arod put in a mighty performance in failing to hold the class French horse. Backing against King Of Rooks in the Molecomb was a good shout and maybe my selection Lathom was unlucky, getting smashed up when making his move.

And that was it. Nothing else came close.

Day 3 on the Downs will be a pivotal one for the project. Let’s see what we can find to put us back on the right road.

2.05 – 1m2f handicap
These fields aren’t getting any easier... Another impossible handicap, this time for 3yos.  Even from a cursory glance, many have claims in contradictory and interwoven form lines. Johnston is four from the last nine in this. However, a chance is taken with Keble from John Gosden’s yard who has a c&d result and a decent handicap debut. 7/1.

2.35 – 6f Richmond Stakes
Shalaa looks the form pick, but I’m persuaded to look elsewhere because of the weight he has to concede and the tendency to flinch from the whip. Tasleet’s Rose Bowl win at Newbury was visually impressive and he gets the vote. 7/1.

3.10 – 2m Goodwood Cup
I’m passing over Trip To Paris who is giving weight away and was possibly flattered by the easy run he got up the rail in the Ascot Gold Cup. Scotland from the strong Andrew Balding yard is the fancy here, on the assumption he will be ridden closer to the pace over this shorter trip. 10/1. Big Orange stepping up in distance is feared the most.

3.45 – 1m6f Lillie Langtry Stakes
Lustrous has some strong Ribblesdale and Yorkshire Oaks from to bring to the table in a race with some inconsistent form lines. Lustrous too has questions to answer on the track, but the step up in trip should help. 8/1.

4.20 – 7f Maiden fillies stakes
These nurseries are so hard. Sunset Dream is the call on the basis of the trainer’s form in this race and in the field. Of his three runners, he looks like the preferred choice. 9/1.

4.55 – 7f Nursery handicap
My Amigo won up at Newcastle in handy style and holds a few fancy entries for such a conservative stable, so the 14/1 looks attractive in a relatively open looking heat.

5.30 – 5f Tatler Stakes handicap
A chance is taken with Roudee at 14/1 who is returned to 5f where the majority of his best form has been seen.

I can’t round off this blog without paying tribute to Sir Peter O’Sullevan who died today. One of the great commentators. More than that, a brilliant advocate for and supporter of this beautiful sport. A man who’s humility, generosity and wisdom will be missed.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

More Glorious value

The Festival got off to a good start yesterday, remarkably unhindered by its new monicker of the ‘Qatar Goodwood Festival’ as part of a whopping £4.5m 10-year sponsorship deal.

The blog got two things right and many more things wrong. In my favour, the weather held up nicely and the winning times suggested the ground was near enough good going; and secondly, with copper-bottomed reliability, Mark Johnston’s stable landed the big handicap. On the other hand, I backed his other one in that race who remains unsighted still; and then the one race in which I had very little faith turned up my only winner.

So a small profit of +4 points from 7 points staked. Inland Sea at a backed price of 10/1 accounts entirely for the profit. Had the SP of 4/1 been taken I would be looking at a small loss.

Ibn Malik ran with great credit for 2nd in the Vintage Stakes, without ever getting to the winner. Volunteer Point was a bit unlucky in running. The rest disappeared with out a trace.

Star of the day was Toormore, who made up for his odds-on defeat last year with a commanding performance. He won the Vintage Stakes here two years ago when ridden by Richard Hughes. Now owned by Godolphin and ridden by James Doyle, it leaves Hughes searching for another Goodwood winner before he departs the saddle forever at the end of this meeting.

Wednesday’s card is one of the best of the week. Surely I can grasp a few straws and turn this into a more substantial profit. Surely.

2.00 – 2m5f Goodwood Stakes handicap
A puzzle of a staying handicap to kick off day 2. The market is headed by the upwardly mobile profiles of Air Squadron, Wordiness, William Of Orange and Gavlar who are all unproven at this marathon trip. Sticking with a simple approach, and eschewing my usual instincts to go with the progressives, I’m going to war with Teak, who is a course and distance winner, has run well this season (despite an odd mid-season return to hurdles) and will like the drying ground. 12/1.

2.35 – 1m4f Gordon Stakes
The stand out piece of form is Highland Reel’s 2nd behind New Bay in Chantilly. But that was over a shorter trip and it is the best this beast has produced by some way. So I’m happy to resist the 2/1 on offer for the Ballydoyle hope. Disegno is looking for a step up in trip and was better than his 4th in the Tercentenary at Ascot last month when baulked at least three times. Ground needs to dry up a fraction more for him to be at his best, but I’m happy with 6/1.   

3.10 – 1m Sussex Stakes
Becomes the 6th million pound race in the British flat calendar, following the cash injection by Qatar. I hope the deal was more transparent that the awarding of the 2022 World Cup. The market looks transparent here with only short odds available about Solow after his handsome win in the Queen Anne at Ascot. The latest in a string of top notch results. I won’t be taking that skinny offering though, on principal. Arod also looked quality at Ascot. That was in a Group 2, but he’s still improving and at 7/1 I’ll take him in case Solow has an off-day. 

3.45 – 5f Molcomb Stakes
In terms of a betting heat, this is a little like the Sussex Stakes. King Of Rooks deserves to be a short priced favourite after his Sandown debut win. However, though he was undoubtedly made too much use of at Ascot, the suspicion remains that he folded a fraction too quickly. Ridden with more restraint he could be hard to beat, but I’m taking a chance with Lathom from the Richard Fahey yard. The horse is on the upgrade (if the Windsor Castle form is discarded where he was swamped) and 15/2 is good enough for me.

4.20 – 6f maiden fillies stakes
Very little to go on. Tentative support for Love On The Rocks, saddled by Charles Hills who remains in good form. This one ran well on debut and is now tried in a hood to elicit a bit more concentration. 10/1.

4.55 – 1m1f Veuve Cliquot Fillies Stakes handicap  
Edge Of Heaven is 3 from 3 this season at around this trip. All ground seems to come alike and at 10/1 has a good chance of being in the mix in an open heat.

5.30 – 7f Nat West Stakes handicap

Amanda Perrett is trying everything with Saucy Minx: blinkers, hood and jockey claiming 5lb. But it may be the return to Goodwood that has most effect. 3 from 7 here, but much less effective elsewhere. Likes this trip and ground should be no problem. 16/1 e-w. 

Glorious value

With Ascot’s lamentable calling of the ground ‘soft’ for last Saturday’s King George fresh in my mind, I am highly sceptical that tomorrow’s races will be run on anything like the currently described ‘good to soft’ going. A cambering track twisting out of the Downs, Goodwood is free draining at the best of times. With no rain in the forecast and a drying stiff south-westerly funnelling over Trundle Hill, I am confident good ground horses will be to the fore.

Thus armed with a Met Office forecast, a well-spring of high Summer optimism and nothing else (bar, of course, the innate understanding that Mark Johnston must be backed in handicaps at all costs), I’m anticipating one of the finest spectacles in the horse racing calendar.

Let’s see how much optimism remains after this lot get smashed up in the switchbacks.

2.00 - 1m2f handicap
The job is apparently made simple by kicking off the Festival with a Mark Johnston home banker. He’s won this four times in the last ten years. Trouble is I don’t fancy any of the three he fields here. Senockian Star would make the most appeal, but I think he needs genuinely quick ground, which he won’t get here. I’m eschewing my own advice at the very first opportunity. Instead Master The World is the selection, piloted by Richard Hughes who is a master of his own around this track. 12/1 win. 

2.35 – 7f Vintage Stakes
Again I’m passing over the Johnston entries and siding with unexposed Ibn Malik from the red hot yard of Charles Hills. Birchwood is the danger.  6/1 win.

3.10 – 7f Lennox Stakes
I’ve always like this specialist 7f race, but only found the winner once with last year’s Es Que Love. At first glance, this seems like a poor betting heat with Toormore and Dutch Connection heading the market. They have strong claims, but I’m hoping that Ascription at 6-y-o is still improving. He’s missed a lot of racing, so fits the old ‘not many miles on the clock’ adage. Ran well at Haydock over this trip in a Gp 3 in May. 8/1 is a more than fair price on that evidence.

3.45 – 1m6f Summer Stakes
Very tough heat to call. Plenty come with decent form and progressive profiles. So this now, surely, the time to turn to the Master of Middleham. I love the front running attitude of Notarised. Although he has a tough draw and a 7lb hike to overcome, I’ll take a chance with the Johnston inmate at around 8/1.

4.20 – 5f handicap
Top Boy has been running consistently this season and has some reasonable, all important track form on his dance card (as Graham Cunningham insists on saying. What actually is a dance card?) The draw is fine and turf conditions seems to come all the same to him, though the worry is that his best form is on the sand. Taking a chance at 10/1.

4.55 – 6f maiden stakes
Into the realms of mystery. If the day’s selections have not run well, I really don’t want to be relying on this affair to bale me out. Hannon has 5 of the 14 runners. I’m siding with one of them (surely his 2-y-o stats don’t lie). Inland Sea was the archetypal ‘unlucky 4th  on debut and I feel suckered in to a minimum stakes wager on the basis of that promise. A dangerous 10/1.

5.30 – 1m Turf Club Stakes handicap
A 19 runner handicap to bring the curtain down on Day 1. I like the look of Volunteer Point’s upwardly mobile form and she has claims based on a previous good-ish track and distance effort. This is the right sort of level for her and the ground should be fine. 11/1 is fair.

Nothing to do now but watch the skies and count the winners.