Saturday, 24 November 2018

Stoking the fires

For a while over the Summer I thought I was falling out of love with the game. Back in August at Sandown, Mrs A and I met up with a few pals to see Nile Rodgers and Chic after racing. The evening was spectacular. Mainly because of a cataclysmic thunderstorm that broke the heatwave; and the unearthly light that followed it. For the first time I can remember, the racing was overshadowed by extraneous stuff.
In the last race on that card, I backed a winner that prevailed by a neck. Data Protection won at 7/2 and I had backed it at 6/1 earlier in the day. William Muir’s charge had been unearthed through a system I’d been working on with varying levels of application for a couple of years. I’ve written about it elsewhere.

The system seems to work. But for effective results, the beast needed feeding with attention most days. Big priced winners are found inconsistently and to maximise the return, there is a compelling need to shortlist the horses from each handicap each day. That shouldn’t be such a trial, especially when the stats show a decent return, but this Summer I couldn’t devote enough time. More pertinently I began to lose the inclination. The ‘system’ became a bit like punting by numbers. I’ve never been a fan of that.

The return of the jumps proper in October eventually stoked the fires. I realised that what I enjoy the most is watching the races, picking out progressive types and backing winners that I’ve picked out myself. What a thrill. I’d almost forgotten.

It’s good to be back. And it’s good to welcome back Philip Hobbs. I backed War Sound when he won a decent handicap at Aintree at their Old Roan meeting. A win that rehabilitated my enthusiasm and also confirmed that Hobbsy has a string of well handicapped hurdlers and chasers lined up. Rock The Kasbah’s gutsy (not a trait he has shown too often) win in the staying handicap chase last weekend confirmed that view. Although a return to form for the previously slick Defi Du Seuil was a trick too far. He looked about as poor as Lalor looked impressive. 

I also managed to snaffle Nietzche in the Greatwood Hurdle. This one was a proper long-term project. I’ve had Ellison’s hurdler in my watchlist for over a year, waiting for him to find the combination of the right ground and the right weight. I’ve lost a few quid in the process. I didn’t think the Greatwood was that ‘right’ race because he appeared to be too far out of the handicap. But a last-minute punt based on a drifting Betfair price (28/1) and an encouraging recent outing on the flat (when I also backed him) finally saw the project deliver. I would have been inconsolable had I not backed him.

Shifting fortunes: on Saturday my ante-post punt for this race had come out because of the ground. I'd backed Patriote at about 29 and had been happy with the selection. He's a nice one for another day.

I’ve already punted up a small slice of these early winnings on lunacy Cheltenham shouts. Why not?

  • Draconien (Mullins) for the Arkle, 20/1, now 55s so assume a setback or a different target.
  • Melon (Mullins) for the Champion Hurdle, 10/1
  • Great Field (Mullins) for the Champion Chase, 20/1
  • Pingshou (Tizzard) for the Arkle, 25/1 backed before the race in which Lalor excelled.

The Betfair Chase at Haydock takes top billing this weekend of course. Hard to see past Mite Bite, but I’d love to see Thistlecrack bounce back to his scintillating best.

Earlier on the card, River Wylde is on my shortlist for the graduation chase. Over at Ascot, the Coral Hurdle is disappointingly uncompetitive. I may look at Oscar Rose in the earlier mares hurdle now she goes in handicap company. I’ll probably get involved in the 2m handicap chase too. Otherwise, probably a quiet weekend. One to watch some of the novice action here and in Ireland.

Play the long game.


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