Punchestown – Day 5 – Saturday May 2

I am – due to other commitments – penning this on Friday morning and therefore prices for tomorrow are not yet available. That said, the final day of the Punchestown festival makes little appeal from a punting perspective and I have decided to stay out.

It’s also 2000 Guineas day at Newmarket but there are far too many ifs and buts surrounding that particular contest to warrant a confident selection. The trend of recent years to turn up without a prep run makes life extremely difficult. 

I do feel compelled to put up a bet on the blog as we have had a very quiet week but I’m not taking any chances as such. TELESCOPE seems sure to have another good season in the hands of his master trainer and should have little trouble in landing the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket.

Admittedly the Stoute yard has been tiptoeing into the season but this is a valuable Group 2 prize and Telescope could hardly be better suited by race conditions. A reproduction of anything close to last season’s level will suffice.

Recommended bet

4 points win Telescope (3.05 Newmarket).

Punchestown – Day 4

It was quite simply more of the same yesterday as Willie Mullins further extended his grip on the meeting with a five-timer.

Anyone who chose to take the advice offered in this column to back all Mullins runners in any contest in which the trainer fielded multiple entries was rewarded with winners at 6-1, 8-1 and 20-1 and utilising such an approach would have put any punter ridiculously far ahead of the layers after three days.

It’s rather too late in the day to put such a strategy forward officially and today’s recommendations are almost token choices. I had considered not blogging Punchestown at all but as it represents one of the leading festivals of the year, I felt obliged to do so.

Therefore, we’ll go along with Snake Eyes (6-40) and Warne (7-45) to small stakes against hotpot favourites. Hopefully they’ll be good enough to at least land some place money and both do have the advantage of coming into the meeting  fresh horses, unlike the majority of their rivals.

Recommended bets

0.5 pts each-way Snake Eyes (6-40 Punchestown)

0.5 pts each-way Warne (7-45 Punchestown)

Yesterday’s selection, Dedigout, was a non-runner.

Good luck with your own bets.

Punchestown – Day 3

The fears expressed about betting at this meeting were sadly confirmed yesterday and it’s unlikely the rest of the meeting will prove any more straightforward.

Some horses are clearly over the top whilst the proliferation of Willie Mullins contenders is making life incredibly tough for punters. Already, three Grade 1 winners for the yard on the first two days have come from second (at least) strings of the champion trainer. What can be stated with absolute confidence is that playing to level stakes in contests where the yard has fielded multiple entries would see you way ahead after two days.

Today’s showpiece, the Grade 1 Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle is made more complex than ever by the appearance of Hurricane Fly and Jezki. Nothing more needs to be said about the pair but it’s impossible to state with confidence how either or both will fare over three miles for the first time. Consequently, we’ll have to take both on with Dedigout. He’s plenty to find on official ratings with the crack duo but he’ll have no concerns with trip, ground (more rain the better) and track and rates an acceptable price at the widely available 6-1.

Recommendation

0.75 points each-way DEDIGOUT (general 6-1).

Staking range: 1-5 points.

Good luck with your bets.

Punchestown Festival – Day 2

Betting on National Hunt racing at present can be a perilous occupation as the first day of Punchestown showed. I feel we were right not to get involved.

There is an additional dimension to the existing difficulties surrounding betting over the jumps at present which is simply the fitness – or “over the top” issue. Moreover, with the Mullins team aiming so many superstars at this meeting, we are left with the dilemma of whether to go in very short or look for each-way value, albeit in the knowledge that finding an actual winner against the Mullins group of stars is relatively unlikely.

In the end I have settled for a single bet in the Grade 1 3m novice hurdle. SHANESHILL ran a splendid race at the Cheltenham Festival and has since proved his wellbeing with an effortless success at Fairyhouse where he seemed better than ever. No More Heroes looks an obvious threat but he’s far shorter today compared to the each-way odds we secured when he placed at the Festival. In the hope that Shaneshill has retained his form, he is taken to oblige and post yet another Grade 1 success for Ireland’s dominant handler.

Recommended bet: 2 points win Shaneshill (4.55)

Staking range: 1-5 points.

NB
It is tempting to get involved at Ascot where there is a splendid Flat card but fitness is even more of an issue on the level at this early stage and we’ll stay out and watch for the future. The Chester Cup meeting is our likely starting point for the 2015 Flat Racing season.

GRAND NATIONAL MEETING – AINTREE 2015 – DAY THREE

A quiet finish to the three days for us with two small bets.

Buywise is a horse I’ve liked all season and this might just be his day. He’s been far from overraced this season and must arrive relatively fresh. Were this contest half a mile shorter, he would be a confident selection but he’s never gone over three miles before and that must temper enthusiasm. If he stays he seems sure to go well in this Listed contest that has not attracted the strongest of line-ups.

I could write for hours on the Grand National and then see a selection fall at the first. So let’s keep it simple. Rocky Creek jumped superbly around here last year when fifth, he has an undoubted touch of class and was highly impressive when last seen. Paul Nicholls rates him an improved horse and if that’s the case, he should go close with a clear round. Do try and go with a bookmaker paying five places.

Recommendation 

0.5 points each-way Buywise (3.25 Aintree).

0.5 points each-way Rocky Creek (Grand National)

Good luck with you own bets

GRAND NATIONAL MEETING – AINTREE 2015 – DAY TWO

So pleasing to get off to a winning start with our sole bet of the day obliging in the form of Silviniaco Conti. Depending on the price you took, you should be somewhere between 4 and 4.5 points ahead. And so to the middle day.

At the start of the season, like many a punter, I found my horse to follow. Saphir Du Rheu was my choice embarking upon a novice chase campaign, since when his record over fences reads two impressive successes and two failures to complete, both in races won by the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, Coneygree. However, last time he reverted to timber and ran a splendid second to Cole Harden in the World Hurdle at the Festival.

However, he’s back to fences here and looks the one to beat but I have decided not to go along with him. His two from four completion record over fences allied to the fact he was last seen over hurdles is just enough to put me off at the likely prices – expect around 7-4. I expect much from him next season though.

Therefore our sole race of interest is the Melling Chase. I thought Don Cossack ran a perfectly acceptable race in the Ryanair when filling the minor placing and I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t at least make the frame here. He’s had a fine, progressive season (admittedly has been on the go since Down Royal last year) and his yard remains in high form, important at this stage of the campaign.

Stakes are conservative as there are plenty of competitive opponents, whilst a second bet is placed upon Champagne Fever. It’s hard to be confident as to just how effective he’ll be round Aintree on this quick ground but he’s a most striking performer at his best and I want him on side.

Recommendation 

0.75 points each-way Don Cossack at 4-1 (Hills, Ladbrokes, Betfred & others).

0.75 points win Champagne Fever (100-30 with Coral & plenty of 3-1 elsewhere).

Good luck with your own bets.

Grand National Meeting – Aintree 2015 – Day One

Having delivered a profit on each of the four days of the Cheltenham Festival, it’s tempting to go storming into the opening day of Aintree 2015. We will not be doing so however. The betting shape of the class races on the card is far from ideal and the trio of large-field contests which end the card make little appeal. 

Therefore the sole bet of the day will be SILVINIACO CONTI in the Betfred Bowl at 2-50. He was immensely disappointing in the Gold Cup but the level of his previous form this term is most appealing. A return to that level is to be hoped for. The bet is offered in the full knowledge that Holywell finished ahead of the Nicholls inmate at Cheltenham and has always been viewed as a spring horse. However, that understanding if factored into the recommendation at the available prices.

Selection
Silviniaco Conti
1.5 points to win at top-priced 3/1 (more generally 11/4).

Staking range
1-5 points

Cheltenham – Day 4

Another spectacular day highlighted by the performance of Vautour, our main bet, who jumped better than any novice in my memory around Prestbury Park under another beautiful Walsh masterclass. AP will be missed but no one matches the pure class and quality of RW.

Our other bet, Saphir Du Rheu, ran a fine race to give us three profitable days in a row and I have no intention of giving too much back on what I regard as the toughest punting day of the festival. We sit around the 7 point profit mark to SP but many of you will have bettered that considerably in view of some excellent concessions from the enemy.

It’s Gold Cup day but that doesn’t mean we have to bet on the race and it’s far too difficult this time around. Here are our two modest bets, both based on gut instinct backed up by acceptable formlines,

1.30
0.5 point each-way Hargam.

2.40
0.5 point each-way No More Heroes.

We are sure to make a really nice profit whatever with a good ROI figure. Enjoy what should be another stunning day.

Cheltenham – Day Three

We go into battle on day three with a comfortable advantage over the bookmakers – around 6 points at SP and more if you’re on the exchanges or BOG players or took early prices. The important thing is not to give it all back, especially on what looks a really tough punting day.

JLT Novices Chase
Plenty with chances but I cannot get the image of VAUTOUR storming up the hill last year out of my mind. He was more impressive than the mighty Faugheen that day. He has had a blip over fences but if he’s on his A game he has to be the one and his fencing debut was breathtaking.

Vautour – 1 point win.

World Hurdle
More competitive than usual but SAPHIR DU RHEU makes plenty of appeal. He fact that ST-D has chosen him over Zarkandar is significant and he’s open to any amount of improvement now returned to timber, over which he looked far happier the last day.

Saphir Du Rheu – 0.5 points each-way.

Cheltenham 2015 – Day Two

After a spellbinding first day on which Irish jockeys delivered a seven-race masterclass and Faugheen proved a worthy new Champion Hurdler, the second day of the Festival looks tough from a punting perspective.

At least we go into battle +3.75 points ahead after the successes of Faugheen and Glen’s Melody. I am settling at SP so many of you may well have obtained better prices on the exchanges or with BOG bookmakers. If so, your profits will be around the 5 point mark.

Queen Mother Champion Chase
The heart would love to see Sire De Grugy or Sprinter Sacre emerge victorious after well-documented problems but the head says otherwise.

Dodging Bullets
0.5 points each-way.

Champagne Fever
0.5 points each-way

Cross-Country Chase
I feel a hypocrite putting this bet up as I don’t believe this event has a place at the Festival but it is there and I feel Philip Hobbs has a decent shout of retaining his title as it were.

Duke Of Lucca
0.25 points each-way

Just a reminder that the sponsors are paying 6 places on the Coral Cup tomorrow.