Bet Cracksman for the King George at 4/1

I seldom bet on flat racing but sometimes a horse catches my eye as a potential champ; Cracksman is one of those. Last season I was convinced that such was his rate of progress after July, he’d turn up in the Arc. But his trainer John Gosden also had Enable and, although Cracksman was with a different owner, Gosden persuaded the owner, Anthony Oppenheimer, that Cracksman was too immature mentally to take on Enable in the Arc.  When I watched Enable win the big one in style, I didn’t feel quite so bad tearing up my Cracksman antepost tickets, but when the colt turned up at Ascot for the Champion Stakes, it made me wonder again what might have been.

He pulverised a decent field that day, drawing away in such a manner that it seemed the real race was going on behind him. Racing Post Ratings judged him to have run 2lbs better than Enable did in winning her Arc, and jockey Dettori reported that there was a lot more to come from the colt.

So why can he be backed right now at 4/1 for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth stakes at Ascot in July? It’s a race that rarely pulls in double figure fields. Nine opposed Enable last year, but that was the first time in five years the field had reached double figures. Given the likely presence this year of Enable and, hopefully Cracksman, I suspect we’ll see the smallest field for many years. I believe too that Cracksman will go off favourite if he lines up. The ‘if’ is the reason for his current price. Last season Cracksman’s connections said that it was unlikely he would meet Enable until October this year in the Arc. But it seems that the owner (perhaps not the trainer) is having second thoughts.  Cracksman had a racecourse gallop at Newmarket last week. It went well. Oppenheimer was there and was quoted thus: ‘I’d like to see him run in the King George’.  Gosden also made a point of mentioning the King George as the first potential public meeting of his two stable stars. So, I’m assuming there has been a rethink.

But the bookies know this too and 4/1 is still available. The other potential barrier to Cracksman’s Ascot participation will be the ground. Although he has run three times on good ground (and won on it), his best form by some way is on easy ground. It was soft at Ascot for his Champion Stakes. The King George is in July and the race has been run on good to firm ground three times in the past ten years. I’m far from sure Cracksman would take his chance on fast ground and I believe this ground doubt is playing a part in the current 4/1. Also, as antepost betting has other risks attached – a horse getting an injury or not working well at a critical time – why bet Cracksman now? Why not wait until he is due to run next? Well, by that time, the yard will probably know for sure what his programme is and if the King George is in it, he’ll be 5/2, rather than 4/1 in my opinion.

I’m laying out the argument in this detail to give you as much information as possible so that you can make your own decision. I have backed him this morning and I am making him a ‘recommended’ bet now for readers. If I were sure he was running, he’d be a ‘strongly recommended’ bet as I’m confident he can beat Enable, even with her mare’s allowance. But, as ever, bear in mind the antepost pitfalls.

Cracksman at 4/1 to win the King George VI with Paddy Power is a ‘recommended’ bet (see here).

Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

 

Back Cepage at 10/1

Among last week’s TV Tips was Bentelimar, who won. When researching that selection I came across Cepage (Bentelimar was well behind him that day at Kempton), and I was struck by the powerful manner in which he challenged late and came clear. The shape of the race – run at a fast pace – sometimes sets things up for a horse to come and do what Cepage did, but I suspect there was more to it than that and perhaps Cepage is on the up.

I’m a wee bit worried that most of his running in the UK has been right handed, but trainer Venetia Williams had him entered at the Cheltenham festival (she took him out because of the ground) so she must be reasonably confident he’ll be fine going this way round (he did jump noticeably right at the last two fences at Kempton).

At the price, I’m more than happy taking the chance that Cepage will be fine and I make him a recommended bet at 10/1 with Betfair or Paddy Power .

“Recommended” (see here) Cepage 2.40 Cheltenham at 10/1

Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

 

 

Back Identity Thief at 20/1

Identity Thief is surely a daft price at 20/1 in the Ryanair Hurdle (4.20)

Sam Spinner is so short, I think, because everyone assumes that the slow pace was a major excuse for his performance last time at Cheltenham. But it might well be that he simply didn’t hold his form or wasn’t up to the big day atmosphere.

There are question marks over pretty much everything else in the field, while Identity Thief didn’t run a terrible race to finish 4th in the Champion Hurdle. He’s had a quiet season, but should act in the ground. I don’t think the stamina doubts merit the big price by any means and I think he’s solid value and I make him a ‘recommended’ bet (see here) at 20/1.

Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

Final Nudge at 50/1 the final shout in the Grand National

I’ve already sent out Milansbar at 50/1, Virgilio at 100/1 as recommended bets for the Grand National. Rather than betting EW (although the choice is yours) I prefer backing two or three to win. I still like the original selections and am surprised Milansbar is still available in places at 33/1 – I doubt that will still be on offer come 5.15 Saturday.

My third and final selection is Final Nudge. With the ground given as heavy, horses who’ve proven they act on that surface should be at a considerable advantage. Horses carrying light weights should also be helped as those with heavier burdens labour even harder in the mud. There’s nothing notable or newsworthy about Final Nudge (so often there is a story to go with a Grand National hope). He’s just a decent stayer who might find everything aligning for him in this.  His form figures in heavy ground are  2115113. That 3rd was in the Welsh Grand National in January. He’ll have cheekpieces on for the first time this season (he’s won with them before).

I recommend (see here) that you bet Final Nudge for the Grand National with Bet365 at 50/1.

Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

Back Virgilio at 100/1 for the Grand National

This is my third tip (so far) for the Randox Health Grand National on April 14th. As De Mee, my first, has been withdrawn, injured; hopefully most readers took the 50/1 NRNB that one.

Milansbar, tip number two, now looks as though he will definitely get in the race with Bryony Frost riding and should go off much shorter than the advised 50/1. Looking through the field again today for more value, I see one who looks potentially overpriced by some way – Virgilio, Dan Skelton’s horse – who’s available at 100/1 NRNB (non runner, no bet).

Most potential National bets are prominent in the minds of punters; horses like Saint Are and The Last Samuri who have run well there in the past. Or classier types like Minella Rocco or Blaklion. Most punters will not have heard of Virgilio; indeed, it was only when he caught my eye with his weight of 10.7 and his good trainer that I dived a bit more deeply into his form.

Skelton appears to have held the horse in pretty high regard when Virgilio was younger (he’s 9).  He won his first two races in Britain (Skelton has had him since the horse came from France), the first a Class 3 handicap by 12 lengths, and the second, a Class 2 Handicap (at Aintree) by 6 lengths (fav both times).  He started the next season with his hat-trick win, again at Aintree in another Class 2 Handicap before moving up to Grade 2 in the Relkeel at Cheltenham where he started 5/1 third fav but was pulled up, the trainer citing a breathing problem (Skelton was later to say the horse would not go back to Cheltenham as it was not his track).

Virgilio then dropped back into handicap company at Aintree, carrying joint top weight of 11.12 off a handicap mark of 148 to finish 5th of 22, keeping on toward the finish. Since then, he has not run again over hurdles. Virgilio finished that 2015/16 season by making his debut over fences, easily winning a Class 4 at Warwick by 13 lengths and he began the following season with a Class 2 victory at Newton Abbott.

Returning to Grade 2 company for the first time since the Relkeel, he was 7/4 and was pulled up in the three-horse Rising Stars Novices Chase won by Frodon. The Racing Post analyst simply says that the horse ran as if amiss (it was his first run right handed in Britain). The Skeltons kept the faith with another Grade 2 run at Newbury next time where Virgilio made a couple of crucial errors, although he would not have beaten the impressive winner Clan Des Obeaux.

Next time saw him back right handed at Kempton where he finished a fortunate second in the Kauto Star the day Might Bite fell when well clear at the last.  He challenged Might Bite again next time in his first Grade 1 outing, the Mildmay Novices Chase at Aintree where he was well beaten in 3rd, although he had a very stiff task at levels with Might Bite and Whisper who was second. Might Bite beat him 20 lengths and Whisper beat him 18.

Virgilio finished last season with yet another run at Aintree, and another win over 3m 1f, by 7 lengths, his jumping that day suggesting he was really getting the hang of the chasing game.  North to Aintree again in November last year for his seasonal debut and back down in trip to 2m 4f, he ran quite poorly and then pulled up 5 weeks’ later at Doncaster back over 3 miles. He was strong in the market that day in December; in the lengthy lay off since then, Virgilio has had wind surgery

On the face of his limited fencing experience, especially in big fields, and his form this season, I can see why 100/1 is available. But in view of his age and what still looks untapped potential, allied to the faith the Skeltons appear to have in him, and the fact that he’s been operated on for his wind, I think he’s well worth an each way bet on the NRNB basis. There’s also the fact that the flat track seems to suit him well; he’s won 3 from 6 at Aintree (NB: for those who are occasional punters, Aintree’s Grand National course is a separate one from its ‘standard’ course which is known as The Mildmay Course, the one on which Virgilio has appeared so far).

His jumping style, to my eye, looks well suited to the Grand National fences. Stamina is another question. He’s by Denham Red, the sire of Un De Sceaux, a 16f to 20f top-notcher, but also the sire of Ouzbeck, who won the Summer National over 3m 4f at Uttoxeter in 2010.  As noted, Virgilio has won over 3m 1f; the only other winning progeny of his dam Liesse De Marbeuf, did not race over as far as 3 miles in Britain or Ireland.

“Recommended bet” (see here) each way Virgilio for the Randox Health Grand National at 100/1 with Bet Bet365 who offer 1/4 odds first five and money back if the horse does not run.

Update, Monday, 9th April: Virgilio is now  80/1 with Bet365, but 100/1 is still on offer with Unibet and 888Bet along with the NRNB concession.

Enjoy the Grand National and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

 

 

 

Back Killaro Boy at 33/1 to win Irish National

Update: Killaro Boy was brought down at the 5th fence

Watching Killaro Boy in the past, he has travelled like a good horse in the making in a couple of his races over fences and I think he could run well today in the Irish National (5pm Fairyhouse).  The trip’s an unknown and is the riskiest factor; he won a 3 mile point, but that’s as far as he’s gone on track and there simply isn’t enough evidence in his pedigree to make a judgement. The heavy ground won’t help from a stamina viewpoint, although he has won on heavy.

Killaro Boy has won two of his three races at this track, two of his five steeplechases and two of his two runs at this time of year (April). He ran well for a long way last time out over a much shorter trip, and I think he’s worth an EW with Skybet who are paying 1/5th the odds 6 places.

“Recommended” (see here). EW Killaro Boy, Skybet, 1/5th odds 6 places, Irish Grand National.

Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe