Thursday, 28 January 2016

As Clear As Mud

The going is heavy on Cartmel Priory School's cross-country course, which passes through the woods adjacent to the racecourse. 

As the kids plod by, mud splattered up to their necks, I wonder if they're not being over-trained in the soft conditions. If they were horses, I wouldn't fancy their chances of making it to the Cheltenham Festival. And that's one of the conundrums at this time of year: should trainers give their horses one last preparatory run before the Festival, or will their best opportunity of winning a big race be left behind in the mud? 

Jonjo O'Neill was quoted in The Racing Post this week saying that many of his horses prefer the better spring ground. Of the small number of runners that he has sent out this year, most "came back knackered". He has the option of running Cheltenham Gold Cup hope, Holywell, at Doncaster this weekend in the Sky Bet Chase - but only if the ground dries up. O'Neill said "The plan was to run, as he is in good form".  

Which brings us to our other problem: on a weekend such as this, when Cheltenham is hosting a day of dedicated Festival trials, how do we separate the horses which are fit and raring to go now - from the ones which are being brought along steadily to reach a peak in March? 

Djakadam is a short price to win the Gold Cup trial, but surely no one is expecting him to be as sharp now as he will be in seven weeks time. O'Faolain's Boy and Many Clouds are longer-priced, both have attractive Gold Cup profiles and both are probably being trained to peak later in the spring - so maybe we should be prepared for an upset. Wakanda perhaps? 

There is a good argument that we shouldn't place any bets at all on Saturday; simply sit back, enjoy the spectacle and form a few opinions for the races that matter later in the Spring. But then... I just can't resist having a small punt on Knockara Beau.  

At the age of thirteen, the George Charlton trained gelding is old enough to go to school with the mud-splattered kids from Cartmel. And in fact Knockara Beau is a graduate of Cartmel - having won his first steeplechase here, back in May 2009. On Saturday he returns to one of his favourite hunting grounds - the scene of his famous victory, at 66/1, over the mighty Big Bucks in Cheltenham's Cleeve Hurdle two years ago. He's currently priced at 25/1 to spring a similar surprise on this year's World Hurdle favourite Thistlecrack

Having won or been placed nine times at Cheltenham, six times at prices of 22/1 or more, Knockara Beau is our selection for the weekend.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Cheltenham Festival Investing for the Over-55s

The stock market is crashing, but George Osborne is allowing anyone aged 55 or over to invest their pension on horse races instead. Or at least he has made it possible for them to draw down their pensions without purchasing an annuity, which amounts to the same thing.

Unfortunately this won’t affect me for a few years yet, but for those of an appropriate age, we are organising a special Investors Evening on Thursday 10th March – otherwise known as our annual Cheltenham Festival Preview Night. Actually anyone can come, and I dare say that even those of us aged between 18 and 54 will be able to scrape together a fighting fund of a few pennies for racing’s most prestigious jamboree in March.

The panel, which will be chaired by Cartmel’s esteemed race-day presenter John Sexton, will include only the most sage advisors. For those seeking maximum bang for their buck, we’ll have the form expert Marten Julian – whose specialism is finding long priced horses with an excellent chance of hitting the frame; ‘This horse couldn’t possibly win,’ is one of his favourite phrases, ‘But it might be difficult to keep him (or her) out of the first three…’

And then we will have local trainer Jimmy Moffatt, who is well placed to tell us which horse will win the Aintree Grand National this year – mainly because he looks at him in the yard every morning. Racing and horses are all that Jimmy thinks about, so he’ll have plenty of views on Cheltenham too – where he enjoyed a famous Festival win in 2010 with Chief Dan George. A representative from Star Sports will give us the bookmakers’ view, while we’re also recruiting a top northern jockey to give us some insight from the saddle.

The ticket price of £16 includes a simple supper, usually a delicious hotpot served with warm bread and red cabbage. I especially like the red cabbage. No I really do! I’ll have to ask Chef Rowley for the recipe. Anyway, tickets can be purchased by calling the racecourse office.

We might even have video footage of this Saturday’s fixture at Haydock, which features an interesting Champion Hurdle Trial where several entries have points to prove. I’m hoping that The New One, our tip for the weekend, will get us off the mark for the year. The race is one of two possible engagements for Jimmy’s Morning Royalty, who has the lowest official rating of all the entries, but is no slouch. Of course he couldn’t possibly win, but it might be difficult to keep him out of the first three.

Good luck and happy investing!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Twice as Nice at Half the Price

Everyone loves a bargain, myself included. That’s why I bought a small net of orange flavoured chocolate balls from Marks & Sparks last night, each one wrapped in orange foil to make them look like a miniature net of tangerines. Perfect for Christmas; just as good in January. In fact I bought three bags because I’m greedy. They were lovely: twice as nice for being half the price.

It’s the same with ante-post betting, except that we want everything at double the price. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Holywell yet, so 33/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup could look attractive in two months time. If he wins a prep race before March, it isn’t inconceivable that he’ll be 16/1 on the day.  

And we haven’t seen the best of Annie Power either – mainly because we haven’t see her at all. She can be backed at 5/1 for the World Hurdle with the proviso that you’ll get your money back if she doesn’t run. If she runs at Cheltenham, it would be easy to imagine her starting at 5/2 or lower – which makes her the sort of bargain we’re looking for.

But if you want to remove all hint of chance, why not click on the 'ticket' button on our website instead? We’ve started selling tickets for the season ahead and, as always, the first price is the best price. Early-bird offers are available for eight race-days (that's all of them with the exception of the Simply Red Race-day), allowing you to purchase tickets for half the price that they will be sold for on the day.
A total of 2,000 half price tickets are available, two hundred and fifty for each of the eight days. Prices start from as little as £6 for a senior citizen ticket in the Course Enclosure. Paddock Enclosure tickets are just £11.50 per adult and, although the number of early-bird tickets is restricted to two per household, additional tickets can be purchased at a discount of £3 compared to the normal on-the-day price.
Tickets for the Simply Red Race-day, on Saturday 28th May, are also available online at the standard price of £32.50. A booking fee of £2.50 applies to each transaction.
Hurry! (As they say on the sales posters.) Get your tickets now, while stocks last. When they’re gone, they’re gone!
With the money you’ve saved, you can back Lord Wishes on Sunday, our selection for the 2.10 at Kelso. An easy winner on his last outing at the same course, we expect him to make it two for the price of one.  

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Jools Holland and the Three Pence Profit

I’ve made three New Year resolutions. The first is to become a bigger man: I’m going to eat a lot more sticky toffee pudding and drink a lot more ale from our excellent local breweries. If I find myself taking things on the chin, then I’ve probably aimed about an inch and a half too low – I’ll have missed my mouth and I’ll have a very messy shirt. 

Secondly, I’m determined to expand my cultural horizons, particularly when it comes to popular music. I realised that I was out of sync with mainstream opinion when my first suggestion for a post-racing concert artist was dismissed without hesitation. Apparently The Wombles were unlikely to be available anyway. We're very lucky that we managed to secure Simply Red instead, for Saturday 28th May, although I doubt Mick will stay behind to pick up the litter.
Now our friends at Cuffe and Taylor have organised a second concert - for the day after Simply Red on Sunday 29th May, when we don’t have any races - although there’ll be lots of people here on the Cartmel peninsula, preparing for the traditional Bank Holiday Monday race-meeting which goes ahead as normal.
They gave me some clues and asked me to guess who the artist might be… 'Think classy jazz musician,’ they said. 

‘Nat King Cole?’ I asked. Now I wish I hadn’t said that because apparently Nat hasn’t been available for fifty years. Nor was it Frank Sinatra: unavailable for at least fifteen years. I probably shouldn’t go on… Suffice to say that I needed a lot more clues.

‘He shares his name with a European nation,’ they said.  

‘Uncle Bulgaria?’ I suggested hopefully.

‘This is like Pulling Mussels from a Shell,’ they said. ‘You’re really Up the Junction!’
Well I got it then… Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra will be topping the bill on the day between race-days at Cartmel, with Ruby Turner and Louise Marshall providing guest vocals. The course will be open from 3.00pm and tickets are available now, at a price of £35 each, from     

Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all: my third resolution is to tip many more winners in 2016. Having analysed the statistics from 2015, I can confirm that if you had placed a £1 win bet on all of the weekly selections in this blog, you'd have lost a grand total of £14.22 over the year.
Having made a profit of £14.25 in 2014, that means that we're still 3 pence ahead over the last two years. Let's renew the battle with Howard’s Legacy at Kempton Park on Saturday.
'Why?' I hear you ask. It’s... Cool for Cats.