Sunday, 29 May 2016


Novices Median Auction Stakes over 5f on good to firm going. Eight two-year-olds, four with race experience in quite a restricted race type. Just a quick review. Roger Varian is a talented trainer and Pretty Vacant will go off a hot favourite after a decent debut  when runner-up at Haydock. This grey son of Elzaam cost just 10,000G as a foal. He has a slightly awkward running action, flicking out his near fore leg but it certainly doesn't stop him running fast. He wasn't fancied on his racecourse bow, drifting quite alarmingly in the betting from 9-2 - 8/1. All were debutantes which make assessing the form difficult but at this grade, you would have to feel this juvenile will take all the beating. 

Cosmic Beau looks poor after his last race at Bath. That was run at a ridiculous pace and he literally had no chance to finishing the race. The complexion of that race changed markedly in the final furlong with leaders hitting the wall and those outpaced seemingly running on with spirit. Dascombe's son of Dandy Man was relatively fancied that day and a huge price here. It wouldn't be a surprise to see this colt backed. 

Richard Fahey two-year-olds have been running well and his connection with Cheveley Park Stud often a winning recipe. Rosebride is a daughter of Mayson out of a twice-winning mare who was placed at Listed class. This outfit should be respected and this bay filly hails from a stable who can go very well on debut and especially so with these connections. 

Richard Hannon has a huge string of juveniles and while their early-season successes have been dented by Mark Johnston they have plenty of talented colts and fillies. I often find this stable difficult to call with their debutantes. Mum's The Word runs in the familiar silks of Andrew Tinkler and this son of Mayson was purchased at the yearling sales for 52,000G. The mare was unraced.  

Richard Hughes has taken his time to find his feet with his two-year-olds but a few have shown promise. Goodwood Crusader is unsurprisingly owned by the Goodwood Owners Group. This bay colt is an Irish-bred son of Sir Prancealot who cost 44.000G at the yearling sales. Difficult to assess Hughe's debutantes although relatively fancied in the betting.

The Daley Express hails from Ed McMahon's stable. He is a talented trainer who suffers from a lack of patronage but knows a good horse, very much like his father. This bay colt is a son of Elzaam who was purchased by the trainer at the yearling sales for £30,000. He is bred from a mare trained by McMahon, Seraphina, who actually won the Brocklesby Stakes on debut in 1999. She was a capable sprinter who may never have tasted victory again although narrow loser of the Lowther Stakes Group 2 when a 66/1 shot & fourth in the Chevelely Park Stakes Group 1. She concluded her career at three when placed at Listed class. Ed McMahon can win with his debutantes although most of this two-year-olds are better on their second start [similar to most trainers]. An interesting juvenile. 

Brian Meehan has been quiet with the two-year-olds he has sent out this term. Jet Setter started his career in a hot debut at Windsor behind Legendary Lunch and Copper Knight, who are no slouches and the winner holding some impressive engagements if not heading to Royal Ascot. This son of Fast Company cost £57,000 at the yearling sales out of a poor mare. He was a big price that day and showed pace before dropping away in the closing stages. With over one month off course, it could be the case this chestnut needed the run that day and a different horse will be seen today. He is pretty friendless in the market but if backed it would bring more confidence. If priced 13/2 & less SP I would expect a bold show. If weak in the betting, best watched.   

Mister Moo is best watched. 

Conclusion: An intriguing race. Pretty Vacant has an awkward running action but physically a decent-looking juvenile. He ran well on debut and although the form is difficult to assess it looked a respectable performance. This colt looks professional and the newcomers will need to be pretty straight and experienced to press this youngster. Rosebride is worthy of note on debut from a stable who can send out a winner, especially for these connections. Mum's The Word hails from a strong stable although difficult to predict. Another one who is difficult to assess is Goodwood Crusader simply with a lack of data for Hughes in his formative year as a trainer. The Daley Express is well bred and if taking after his mother a horse who could spring a surprise when unfancied in the betting. On balance, I'd take a watching brief but at big odds, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a fair effort. The betting will detail the hope of Jet Setter. If fancied in the market he may have a fighting chance. Cosmic Beau ran much too fast last start and looks a lot worse for that crazy test. It wouldn't be a surprise to see this colt backed from big odds. Pretty Vacant sets the standard although a skinny price. I'd be tempted to back Cosmic Beau on the exchanges at huge odds and hope to lay at shorter odds for a no lose bet. However, this is just an aside. Generally speaking, a watching brief.   

Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Shadow: a gambler's tale

I found this old posting from 22nd May, 2008. It gives a fascinating insight about some of the UK's most influential gamblers: their character, speciality, wagers and trials and tribulations. 

Great racing days stick in the memory usually because great bets were struck and won or lost and that in turn starts me off recalling all the great gamblers I have known over the years. Some of the big pro gamblers I have only known casually but others have been close personal friends. 

The heaviest gambler I have met is probably J P McManus but I have only known him just enough to be on nodding terms and because so many of his huge punts have been very secret the buzz of seeing him in action scaring the pants off the bookies was not as high profile as most of the others of his kind.

Much more high profile was Alec Bird whose speciality was place only betting. His standard bet was two hundred grand place only on a red hot favourite. He would be quite happy with a ten percent return on his money. 

The shrewdest professional gambler I have known is the legendary Phil Bull the founder of Timeform. So knowledgeable and so thorough was Phil’s grasp of every aspect of racing and gambling that unlike any other pro gambler I have ever met or heard about, he would be quite happy to chew on his cigar, sip his glass of champagne and have a bet on every race on the card. To Phil, it was simply the challenge of solving a very complex puzzle, the amounts he won were of no consequence whatsoever to him.

Probably the nicest big punter on the racecourses today is good old Barney Curley. Barney is a lovely man, frail and showing his age these days but he is approachable and friendly as always. He has a trainer’s licence these days of course and he still put the fear of the Almighty through the betting ring when one of his runners looks to be a Barney Curley special. 

The maddest, wildest and the most reckless gambler I have ever known is my friend and once East End gangster knew far and wide as “H”. Those who have been around the East End as long as I have will know just who I mean. H is two years younger than I am and these days he is flat broke living in a housing association studio flat in Loughton, passing the time while he waits for a liver transplant looking after the gardens of the flats he lives in. I know personally and for certain that he lost millions on the horses and dogs. I myself got down fifty grand in cash for him rushing round the betting shops of the East End getting a grand here and two grand there on a hoss called Admiral’s Cup. I got the last two grand down in a shop in Canning Town just in time to see it get beat a short head. He never turned a hair. The story about H I have told before is when he and his wife and me and my wife were invited to Ladies Day at Ascot many years ago. I looked respectable in a morning suit and a topper and our wives looked gorgeous but H turned up in a morning suit and topper but wearing his lucky black bootlace tie with its solid gold steer head fastener. The Jobsworths on the entrance to the Royal Enclosure copped the nark to H’s tie and would not let him in. H went berserk and stormed off to Tattersalls where he proceeded to try to wipe out every bookie with massive stupid bets. He must have been nearly half a million quid down by the last race when he persuaded one of the big chain bookies to let him lay a bet of two hundred and fifty grand on a hoss called Kris at even money. This time, his hoss won by the shortest of short heads and a wait of about five minutes while they magnified the photo finish. Once again he never turned a hair. Not the slightest sign of emotion. Now he cuts grass and prunes rose bushes for old ladies for a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Friday, 13 May 2016

2:55 York Racing Tips (13th May) LANGLEYS SOLICITORS EBF MARYGATE FILLIES´ STAKES (Listed Race) (CLASS 1) (2yo)

The first two-year-old Listed Stakes of the season. Eleven fillies take part over this 5f on good to firm going. Ten with race experience and solitary debutante who needs to have ample ability to win this race on her racecourse bow. With win prize money over £25,000, it is a hot race and a number of these juveniles will be looking towards Royal Ascot in June. 

Boater is an interesting debut winner fro Mark Johnston. This daughter of Helmet won well although the opposition was either poor or needed the run. She was half a second slower than another Johnston filly Chapulla. Fair enough, that youngster is built like and colt probably has more ability than most colts. However, it does make me wonder if Boater is under priced at 2/1. Win or lose I couldn't take those odds because it seems a long way short of value and potentially a drifter in the market.

Michael Easterby fields debutante Carlton Frankie. This filly was well backed on another occasion but withdrawn. Priced at 11/1 this daughter of Equiano would have to be a lay bet. If she wins, she is bloody good. 

Richard Hannon has  a couple of has Stormy Clouds and Amlak. The former has the ability and taken advantage of a couple of so-so races. She has the ability and professional but I don't think she is top flight. 

Amlak cost 150,000G and held in some regard. She needed the race on debut at Ascot and will progress with racing. I can she this daughter of Invincible Spirit running well. 

Coolfitch and Twizzell both won a shade cosy on debut in what looked to be ordinary contests. Certainly, the former trainer by David O'Meara didn't beat a great deal although travelled very well for most. This faster ground may suit. Twizzell has pace and went clear at Beverley and difficult to assess. Has the potential to be decent but this race will test her mettle. 

Perfect Madge hails from a trainer who does well at this course. Another who looked as though she could improve for that first race. The form of that Newmarket race has given mixed signals. 

Vona is better than see. Richard Fahey's charge done little on debut and then unlucky at Chester's Lily Agnes Stakes when short of room. This is a step up in class and big odds but the type to run to the line.

Mightaswellsmile is a strange-looking filly, reminding me of those pictures of Stubbs, an old-fashioned kind of physique which is mainly due to being unfurnished, so she back looks long and rather angular from head to toe. James Given's horse looked to have no hope on debut after starting poorly and outpaced. However, she flew home and would have won in another fifty yards. That would have been a remarkable victory. The form of that race looks poor. Any semblance of a slow start over this 5f would make life difficult. 

At huge odds of 50/1 Khelly's Edge may have each-ways claims. This filly is clearly held in some regard by connections and not badly bred at all. Scott Dixon is a canny trainer and she had no luck on debut. If it could go wrong, it did, and I would expect a better race this time with experience and her share of luck.         

Love Oasis ran well enough on debut at big odds but disappointed next start and has something to prove.  

Conclusion: Trying to assess a winning horse is very difficult, especially when they win well on debut. Boater may be class and put these in their place but I couldn't bet at 2/1. The time of that race and the opposition just didn't inspire me. Carlton Frankie would be a place lay bet. She will either win or be unplaced - I can't imagine the former but if she does it would be an outstanding performance. If Khelly's Edge drifts to huge odds on the exchanges I'd be tempted to have a small each-way bet but mainly in hope, she is backed to afford a no-lose gamble if laying at shorter odds. In truth, a race for the purists and a lovely race to watch than bet.     

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

2:10 Chester Racing Tips (4th May) STELLAR GROUP LILY AGNES CONDITIONS STAKES (PLUS 10 RACE) (CLASS 2) (2yo)

The Lily Agnes Conditions Stakes is named after the seventeenth-century thoroughbred racehorse and winner of 21 races including the Northumberland Plate, Doncaster Cup and Ebor Handicap. She is best known for being the mare of Triple Crown winner Ormonde. In addition, she was the mother of 1000 Guineas winner Farewell in 1882.  Lily Agnes was herself exceptionally well bred being the daughter of 2000 Guineas and Derby winner Macaroni. 

The Lily Agnes has been won by a number of talented early-season two-year-olds. Rah Rah won last year for Mark Johnston. This daughter of Lonhro disappointed in the Queen Mary Stakes Group 2 at Royal Ascot but finished a respectable fourth in the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket. 

Other noted winners include Mukhmal, The Lord & Star Rover. Click here to see a list of winners for the last 18 years.              

A Class 2 Conditions Stakes race over 5f  16y on good to soft going. With over £12,000 prize money to the winner, this should be a competitive heat.  From a first entry stage of twenty-three juveniles, we see a field of eight. Three colts, two geldings, and three fillies take part, all raced by the solitary debutante, Our Greta, trained by Michael Appleby. Five winners are hoping for further glory. This race is a stepping stone to Royal Ascot, which takes place in June.

A low draw can be a big advantage at the Roodee. Fiery Character, trained by Tom Dascombe, has one of the plum draws stalled two. This bay filly, a daughter of Dragon Pulse, is one of umpteen two-year-olds racing in the silks of The Roaring Twenties. This brown filly looks an inspired yearling purchase for Sackville Donald at just 18,000eur. She may have surprised connections by winning on debut at odds of 33/1. This April foal showed a determined attitude, leading from the stalls, rallying well in the closing stages to win by over one length.  The form of that race has taken a few knocks but she looks the type to enjoy this course.  

Manor House Stables field *Imdancinwithurwife who is something of an enigma. This Irish-bred daughter of Sir Prancealot started her racing career at Saint-Cloud, France. She was fancied to go well at odds of 6/1 but finished tenth. I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing when she raced on her second start at Wolverhampton. In the morning, this bay filly was priced about 6/1. She won - returning odds of 16/1. In many respects, connections may have doubted she could win and, perhaps, that explains such weakness in the market. The form of that race doesn't look anything special. She looks second string and needs to improve.

Hugo Palmer is showing his class as a trainer winning his first Classic with Galileo Gold [2000 Guineas] and he knows his two-year-olds. Copper Knight ran well on debut at Newmarket when opposing form horses such as Sutter County and Tomily. That was a stiff task for any debutante but this son of Sir Prancealot was fancied to go well at odds of 10/1. He wasn't given a hard time and showed good pace to finish third, less than two lengths behind talented juveniles who are earmarked for Royal Ascot. He was fancied to win on his second start at Windsor but that turned out to be a stronger contest than connections may have wished. In truth, he did little wrong but wandering to his left in the closing stages, which cost him a win. Legendary Lunch, trained by Richard Hannon, prevailed and make no mistake this colt is a class act. Connections have Royal Ascot in their sights with this talented colt. 

Copper Knight had Awesome Allan over two lengths behind that day, although it should be noted that David Evans charge had the burden of a 6lb penalty which is a stiff task for a two-year-old. This son of Acclamation has the added problem of stall eight. If able to lead, he would have claims but that is a gamble in itself. However, he is worthy of respect.

Evans has Letmestopyouthere who slightly better drawn in stall six. It's still far from ideal. 

This bay colt, a son of Sir Prancealot, ran no race on debut when last behind Sutter County. He started a big price that day and looked limited but well backed the second start when enjoying the soft ground at Nottingham. That was a strange race. This April foal simply skipped over the ground and won well. I suspect he loves the soft ground and those in opposition that day either failed to handle conditions or needed the run. If the weather deteriorates and turning the going soft, he may well hold some hope. 

Stan Moore is a canny trainer and does well at the sales often buying yearlings for next to no money and usually proves his judgement is correct finding winners. Patrouille De Nuit is an Irish-bred son of Bushranger who cost a paltry 3,200eur. This gelding started his career in a hot maiden, behind Sutter County. He beat Letmestopyouthere. starting at odds of 33/1, he showed fair pace until tiring in the closing stages to finish seventh, beaten a long way by the winner, but so were the rest of the field. He was ridden as though fit. A small, compact juvenile, who looked good in his coat. Stall one is positive. This February foal may have the pace to lead but it seems unlikely he will have the class to trouble the major players. He may well touch shorter odds in running if that is your angle.    

I was delighted to see Steph Hollinshead's Stoneyford Lane win on debut. Both horse and jockey deserved praise for their never-say-die attitude, which saw this gelding win on the line. I thought Royston Ffrench gave this son of Bushranger an inspired ride. Hollinshead did wonders buying this yearling for 7,000gns. The soft ground made that debut run a test of stamina, which suited this two-year-old. The last two furlongs were run in a slow time and even from a low draw I would have concerns Stoneyford Lane may struggle for pace on this course which favours speedy types. That tardiness may have been due to inexperience but I would have reservations. If betting, you may get much greater odds in running and hope the leaders tire and he runs on near the line. I wouldn't bet on this horse unless the going was very testing.      

Our Greta hails from Michael Appleby's stable. He is a talented trainer and knows the score with his juveniles. This American-bred, grey daughter of Exchange Rate has a stiff task even from a favourable draw. This turning course is all about speed and few horses making their racecourse bow are wise enough to start on terms or handle sharp bends. Not a horse I would bet today.

Conclusion: To be fair this doesn't look a vintage Lily Agness. I would focus on the favourites: Fiery Character, Copper Knight, and Awesome Allan. The tissue prices suggest there isn't much value here. Fiery Character has plenty of pace and will most likely try to lead. The form of that race is still difficult to assess and you have to consider that he was something of a surprise winner on debut. Copper Knight has the best form and should travel well. He was a little wayward at Windsor when shying away from the whip, which may be  a concern. At short odds you can't afford to have any doubts and although I fancy this horse to win I would need an each-way price to be tempted. That doesn't look unlikely. Awesome Allan was put in his place by Copper Knight. It was a difficult task to haul a 6lb penalty and bookmakers illustrated that point by his odds. Now on level terms, there is hope he can challenge Hugo Palmer's juvenile. Awesome Allan could prove value. The major hindrance is a wide draw. It isn't beyond the realms he could make a bold bid to the rail being fast from the stalls on previous starts. Players may chance their luck that he can sit handy and without the burden of the penalty may have each-way claims.

* NR - Imdancinwithurwife