Monday, 19 April 2021

End of season report


A number of changes were made to the TVB service for the 2020-21 season.
Perhaps the most significant, was the formal splitting of the service into ‘official’ bets and ‘unofficial’ bets:
The official bets were all sent out by email, after 9:00 on race day - and it should have been possible for all subscribers to back them at close to advised prices (they were all in big races and issued only when the markets had matured).
They were then followed by a second email, stating the logic behind the bets.
The unofficial bets were all posted in the forum, at various times and in different forms.
It wouldn’t have been possible for all subscribers to follow all of the bets - but most subscribers will have been able to follow some of them (if so inclined).
In terms of results, then it’s only possible to assess the performance of the official bets (which were all proofed by the SBC).
The official bets were offered in 2 forms: Best bets & Matrix bets.
Best bets
The tips from previous seasons, became Best bets this season…
Over the course of the season (Oct 31st – Apr 10th) a total of 111 Best bets were issued across 103 races, with 61pts staked.

If you had managed to secure the advised price on all of the Best bets, you would have achieved a profit of 22.08pts (36% ROI).

If you had backed the Best bets at BSP, you would have secured a profit of *13.82pts (22% ROI).

Whilst it was a little disappointing that the profits at BSP, were less than those at advised prices, I think the reason is quite simple:
TVB has become a bit too popular ! - particularly with people who can only bet on the exchanges...
This became apparent very quickly, with the exchanges prices of the Best bets issued over the first 2 weekend of the season, quickly crashing - and never fully recovering.
My estimate is that over £10K gets placed on each Best bet I issue - and that is likely to skew all but the biggest horse race markets.
To compound things further, far too much money was requesting BSP. As a result, the BSP of the Best bets, was generally 10% lower than the last traded price on Betfair (so the price available in the live market, literally 1 second earlier !).
In fact, it’s very interesting to note that if you had backed all of the Best bets in the live Betfair market, 2 mins before the off (prices taken from Betmover), you would have secured a profit of *18.55pts (30% ROI).
That’s almost an additional 5pts of profit across the season - just for placing your bets 2 mins before the off.
That number is more in line with my expectation, as I do believe that most of the advised prices, are ‘fair prices’ (as they are relatively stable and in mature markets).
To try and counter the issue with over-betting on the exchanges, I refunded 20 people after the first fortnight - and also asked everyone who remained on the service to rein back their stakes.
I can only imagine what the BSP figures would have looked like, if I’d not taken these actions !
Suffice to say, the service is clearly at capacity, in terms of the amount of money that is being placed on the Best bets (any increase is likely to eradicate the service edge at BSP).
*BSP figures are before commission (which can be set to 2%)
Matrix bets
Following the success of the Matrix bets in big handicaps at the end of last season, I was keen to incorporate them into the official offering this season - the problem was how best to do it…
I eventually decided on a solution which saw the Matrix bets covering multiple selections in a race - but also horses which last season, would have been strong mentions or savers.
Whilst I don’t think I managed to crack the Matrix bets completely, I do think they showed significant promise - and I will be looking to evolve them further, next season.
In terms of results: then over the course of the season, a total of 312 Matrix bets were suggested, with 1037 units staked.
They weren’t really designed to be followed at advised prices (more on that later !) - but if you had taken the advised price on each of them, you would have achieved a profit of 161 units (15% ROI).
As 10 Matrix units equals 1 Best bet point, it can be seen that the Matrix bets didn't perform quite as well as the Best bets (16 v 22).
However, the 2 sets of bets were running at almost exactly the same level of profit, entering the final month of the season.
A poor April just had a bigger negative impact on the Matrix bets…
Somewhat ironically, my belief at the start of the season, was that following the Matrix would reduce volatility - however, the reverse turned out to be true !
I think a lot of that was simply down to luck - as the Matrix suffered some shockingly bad luck during the season (3 odds on IR losers at Aintree, was just the tip of a very large iceburg !).

Analysis of the Best bets
I didn’t record sufficient details to fully analyse the Matrix bets (there were just too many of them !) - however I did record extensive details for the Best bets and that, amongst other things, enables me to to establish whether they were particularly ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’…

During the season, the Best bets achieved the following placings:

1st – 16
2nd – 14
3rd – 14
4th – 14

A very even spread of finishes suggests no obvious luck bias.
The better measurement of ‘luck’, is how many of the tips that traded at 2.1 or less, subsequently went on to win…

This season, there were 30 horses that traded at 2.1 or less.
16 of these won – which suggests that there was ‘average’ luck, through the course of the season.
Instinctively, I feel that probably was the case - though as the in-running markets get weaker (which they are doing), that metric becomes a less accurate predictor (if a horse hits 2.1 in running, it is now more likely that it will win).

Again, as with last year, there was a fascinating spread of low trades, across the season:
Broadly speaking: the first month (or more accurately, 3 weeks) was unlucky; the next 3 months were lucky; and the final month was unlucky.
Provided luck continues to even itself out over the full season, I’ll have no complaints - I just hope that 5 months remains long enough for this to be the case (because it wasn’t for the Matrix bets !).
The number of Best bets issue this season, was similar to the number of tips issued last season.
I always feel there should be more, but I think I have to accept that the UK weather is invariably going to make things difficult for chunks of the season: whilst market strength/defensive pricing by bookmakers, continues to get worse.
In terms of the races in which I issued Best bets: then 19 of the Best bets were in races run in Ireland - they yielded at small profit (3pts).
However, that was down solely to Heaven Help Us - which is a slight concern…

Of the remaining 92 Best bets: 48 were in class 1 races (over half) – with 28 in class 2; and 16 in class 3. There were none in class 4 races or below.
The Best bets in class 1 races, broke even: whilst in class 2 races, they yielded a profit of 15pts; and in class 3 races a profit of 4pts.
I don’t think much can be read into any of that…
As has become the norm since I switched to ‘big races’, very few of the Best bets, crashed in price.
Slightly more had a better advised price than BSP (64 v 44).
However, I suspect a comparison of advised price with the ‘2 min’ price, would have seen a near 50:50 split.
Across the entire season, only 15 tips shortened in price by more than 40% - and, as was the case last season, none of those won (maybe there’s a system in there !)

Unofficial bets
The TVB forum now provides a single point for all unofficial bets/advice.
The use of sub-forums (for structure) and of email notifications - help greatly with the forum usability.
The switch from ‘write-ups’ to ‘previews’, was one of the big changes made this season.
In previous seasons, the write-ups were issued after the tips had been sent - however, timings became very tight, and that caused problems.
As a result, I switched to previews - which I produced the day before the racing and posted in the forum.
To support this, the emphasis had to change from being a justification for a selection, to being an overview of all the key runners in a race.
I’m hopeful that the previews were a useful resource: providing an insight on how I dissect races and also helping people make their own judgement on races/bets.
That said, I’ll be using the Satisfaction Survey to help me more fully gauge their value…
In addition to the previews, then the forum was also used to to cover the pre-season; mid-week bets, ante-post bets - and Live threads.
The main purpose of the pre-season, is to get me back into the groove - and also test out any changes to the way the service will work.
It was therefore of particular value this season - though the bets suggested during the pre-season didn’t cover themselves in glory.
That’s always going to be a danger, because to an extent, I have to force things in order to get the benefits (test out any new methods/procedures).
Whilst I always make a disclaimer at the time of issue, anyone following the bets in the pre-season should do so knowing that they may not make a profit.
I was hopeful that the mid-week bets would make a profit - and they did - probably !
To an extent, it will have depended on the prices you took (if you followed them).
At advised prices, they finished about level - but almost every advised price was beatable on the exchanges.
I would intend to continue to handle the mid- week bets in the the same way next season - accepting that the quality of the mid-week racing (I insist on class 3 or better) means that there aren’t many days on which I can suggest bets (there were just 13, this season).
I posted ante-post bets in 2 different varieties: Weekend and Long range.
Neither set was profitable, which clearly isn’t ideal - though that wasn’t my main issue with them…
There is always a danger of long losing runs, when you are suggesting bets at big prices (which all of the ante-post suggestions were).
A single season is never going to be long enough to fully assess whether you have an edge…
As a consequence, I’m not too concerned about the results (accepting I would have liked them to be better !).
My bigger issue was that once I’d studied an ante-post race and committed to a selection, I found it very hard to alter my view.
Part of that was because I didn’t want to change my mind on the race day (even though it may have been perfectly reasonable to do so); and part was because I didn’t want to tempt Sods Law !
The bottom line was that I personally, wasn’t convinced over the value of the ante-post bets - but again, I’ll be interested to hear peoples views, via the Satisfaction survey.
The final significant unofficial offering this season, was the Live thread.
This was something that I introduced at the Cheltenham festival, last season.
It was my plan to only run 2 or 3 Live threads during this season (at the major festivals) - however, due to lockdown, I ended up running them almost every weekend of the season.
In truth, it is hard for me to assess their value to people.
I know that some wanted it to be live tipping - but it wasn’t that.
I viewed it more as an extension of the TVB community: though it did also mean that I could update my views on some of the races - if certain things had changed from the morning (due to non runners, ground conditions etc.).
I'll need to mull over, whether the Live threads have a future - and if so, how that future will look.
Suffice to say, it’s another area on which I’ll be seeking feedback...
Plans for next season
Unlike last year, I don’t plan to make any major changes for next season.
I feel that overall, the changes I implemented this season, improved the service.
I didn’t implement them all flawlessly - but they were generally the right things to do, so my focus going forward will be on tuning them.
Splitting official and unofficial bets, worked well - with email used for all official bets and the forum used for anything unofficial.
That broad structure will remain.
I adopted some flexibility with the time of issue for the official bets (9:00 or 10:00 - depending on the market strength) and that also worked well.
What didn’t work as well as I would have liked, was the Matrix bets.
The main issue was with the big field handicaps, where the enhanced place terms offered by the bookmakers, meant that the odds on offer were significantly lower (25-30%) than they would have been in a win only book.
Next season, I would intend to quote Current Exchange Price (CP), when suggesting Matrix bets.
Those prices won’t be achievable by everyone - so I will use BSP to assess the profitability of the bets.
My hope is that in these kind of races, the drifters and steamers will offset each other, so people will meed to use their judgement on the best time to place bets.
For the unofficial bets, the major question mark in my mind concerns ante-post - and whether I should continue to suggest such bets.
My inclination is to drop them from the service - but I’ll wait and see if this backed up by the survey.
The only other significant issue in my mind, concerns how I should deal with the really busy periods.
I would define those as the times in the season, when I have to study the racing on 3 or more consecutive days (specifically, Christmas, Cheltenham and Aintree).
Simply, I struggle to make things fit during these periods, as the amount of time to study, write, tip & watch tends not to quite fit into the 14 hour daily window that I have available !
My tendency is to hold back on the tipping - but even doing this hasn’t delivered the results I would have hoped for.
I suspect there isn’t actually an answer to this particular issue - but I wanted to flag it regardless…

I think that covers just about everything - apart from the customary words of thanks…

Reassuringly, the guys who have supported the service for many years, continue to do so.
Key amongst them, remains Chris.
During the first lockdown, he created ‘Profile tables’ (featuring CSR !) - and they have proved to be a real success. They were followed, at the beginning of this year, by ‘The win Vector’, which peaked when suggesting the winner of the Irish national – at odds of over 300/1 !
Chris continues to diligently post both the Profile tables and The win Vector, on a daily basis - and also helped me with numerous random queries, throughout the season.
He already knows how much I appreciate his efforts - but just to confirm !

Also worthy of special mention, are Hayden and Craig.
They both stepped up to handle the admin for competitions during the season: Hayden, took care of the December Naps comp; whilst Craig defined and ran a brand new Cheltenham tips comp.
Both were a big success - and handled with real aplomb.
Many thanks to both….
So that’s it for another season.
I’ll be issuing the satisfaction survey in the next few days, and I’d be grateful if you could all complete it (it really helps me - both in assessing satisfaction levels and with the charting future direction)
All being well, I’ll then be back in touch in the autumn with details of what will be on offer for the 2021-22 season.
That will be my tenth season - it barely seems possible !
Wishing you all a really good summer :)


Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Review of the Weekend (Apr 8th-10th)

 The Aintree Grand National meeting signified the end of yet another TVB season…

It’s always a tough meeting to bet at - and that was certainly the case this year !

It’s also harder for me to find bets, when I have to look at meetings on multiple consecutive days.
There just isn’t the time for me to mull over potential bets, in the same way I can do, on standard weekends (1 or 2 days).

As a consequence, there were relatively few official bets across the 3 days…


In addition to the anticipated issues (horses backing up after tough races at Cheltenham etc.), there was also uncertainty regarding the state of the ground on the opening day.

There had been well documented watering in the week leading up to the meeting, and the impact of that, remained to be seen…

That caused me to back off the bets a little - and I just issued 2 Best bets on the day.

I was also unable to issue as many Matrix bets as I would have liked - the early bookmaker prices being much lower than they should have been, due to enhanced place terms.

Mister Fisher was the first Best bet of the day - and I was quite keen on him in a race which I didn’t think would take too much winning.

Rather surprisingly, he set out to make all and was still in the lead and going nicely, when he took off too early at the final fence on the first circuit and made a bad blunder.

As was the case at Cheltenham (where I also suggested him) that seemed to badly affect his confidence and he unseated at the very next fence.

The confidence of the horse is clearly fragile - even if he does have plenty of ability…

It was interesting, that Nico de Boinville subsequently said that he felt Mister Fisher was distracted by a bank of cameramen at the fence - and he felt they caught his eye and caused him to take off too soon.

In truth, even without the mishap, I’m not sure he would have beaten Clan des Obeaux, as that one bounced right back to his best.

That said, as at Cheltenham, I suspect Mister Fisher was the second best horse in the race
As a consequence, don’t be too surprise if I put him up again at some point next season !

Song of Someone was the only other Best bet on the day.

I felt his race would take a bit of winning - but as a young, progressive horse who had been layed out for the race, I thought he might be able to progress past his rivals.

Alas, that’s not how it worked out…
In fact the writing was on the wall, literally from flag fall, as he needed rousting along just to maintain a position on the run to the first hurdle.

I’ve no idea what’s happened to him, as he used to be an enthusiastic traveller.
Maybe something is hurting and stopping him from wanting to exert himself - or maybe it’s an issue in his head.

I suspect the next time we see him, he’ll be sporting some kind of head gear.

Even with him effectively out of the race, there was still some interest for the Matrix, as I had covered on both Buveur D’air and Silver Streak.

Buveur Dair was well backed in the final few minutes before the off, and travelled through the race will all his old panache.

However, he was tracking Jason the Militant and when that one fell at the fifth last, Buveur Dair was left in the lead.
That wasn’t ideal - nor was the broadside the riderless Jason the militant gave him jumping the third last !

That combination pretty much did for Buveur Dair - whilst Jason the Militant then rubbed salt in the wound by giving the potentially recalcitrant Abracadabras a galloping companion on the run in !

Some things are just not meant to be…

The only other official bets on the day, were in the Foxhunters, where I had dutched 3: Some Man, Latenightpass and Cat Tiger.

Turning in, it looked as if one of them had to win, as they were in a group of 5 that had broken away - and the other 2 were under pressure !

Approaching the last, Some Man began to tire - but the race still looked likely to lie between Latenightpass and Cat Tiger.
Both traded odds on IR - but ultimately couldn’t withstand the renewed effort of outsider Cousin Pascal and he got back up on the run in.

It had to be seen to be believed - but summed up the luck the Matrix selections have endured for the most of the season…

It was therefore kind of inevitable that in the race I decided not to cover with the Matrix (due to poor early odds), my short list of 6, all finished in the first 8 places - and managed a 1,2,3.

I really do need to find a better way of getting the Matrix to work, in big field handicaps…


Whilst I had more confidence on the state of the ground, going into day 2 of the meeting - I struggled to find many bets and once again, ended up with just 2 Best bets and a few for the Matrix.

Do you Job was the first of the Best bets to run - and I felt he represented some value in an opening looking novice hurdle.

I’d been with him on his previous run at Kelso - and the parallels between the 2 races, turned out to be quite spooky !

As at Kelso, Do your Job was relatively well backed, pre-race.
The travelled strongly through the race; made his effort at the second last - and was run out of things, after the last.

On each occasion he traded close to even money IR - but could only manage to finish runner up.

It’s not right to say he was unlucky - because he wasn’t.
That said, he ran really well on each occasion - but was unfortunate, to bump into a better rival.

This time is was Belfast Banter - and the real irony with him was that he had denied Petite Mouchoir for us at Cheltenham.

If there was an award for the least popular horse during the TVB season, then I suspect he would be a short price to scoop it !

Caribean Boy was the only other Best bet on the day - in the Topham.
However, he was messed about a bit pre-race by a couple of false starts - and once the race got under way, it was quickly clear that he didn’t fancy the big fences.

Some horses take to them: others don’t - and he didn’t !

I’d also covered Glen Forsa in the Matrix - but he didn’t do any better, and was pulled up not long after half way.

The only other bets on the day, were for the Matrix.
I suggested Houx Gris in Do your Job’s race but sadly, he suffered a fatal fall at the fourth hurdle.
In the opener, I suggested Master Debonair on his debut for Harry Fry - but a pre-race BF drift from 25 to 60, told the tale with him...
This was another race which I would have liked to cover via the Matrix (and in which I would have sided with the winner !) - but again there was no edge at the early prices.
The final 2 Matrix bets were in Mildmay novice chase - and whilst The Big Breakaway was never travelling, Espoir de Romay looked the most likely winner until capsizing at the second last.
He was yet another Matrix bet to trade odds on IR - and lose.
They really have encountered dreadful luck this season…

Just to balance things out, I didn’t deploy the Matrix on the final race of the day - and if I had, it would have lost…
That said, it would have been on the second and third - plus a horse that looked likely to win until it fell at the second last !

I think that was bad luck off setting Sods law !! (or vice versa !)


The final day of the meeting - and indeed of the 2020-21 TVB season !

Once again there were just 2 Best bets on the day - but I put that mainly down to fatigue !

With a little time I could probably have found a couple more - but the endless cycle of study, writing and watching, doesn’t allow much time for space to think things through (and you need that, if you are to find the best Best bets ! )

That said, I still issued 2 Best bets which I felt very happy with - and I was cautiously optimistic that I’d end the season with at least one winner…

Diol Ker was the first of them to run - and even though he was in a seemingly tough race, I really thought he could win.
There was a slight doubt in my mind concerning the ground - but that was about it !

And turning in, I was still feeling pretty confident.

He was travelling nicely in behind the leader - whilst some of the others were starting to struggle.

However, on the run to the second last, those around him began to quicken - and he didn’t.
Instead he was overtaken by around half a dozen horses - and in a few strides, his race was over.

It was very disappointing - particularly as there was no obvious reason for it (other than him not being good enough !).

As a consequence, it all came down to Burrows Saint in the Grand National.

Again, I was pretty confident pre-race - and to be honest, all the way through the race, until the home turn.

My eyes were never off Burrows Saint - and he barely missed a beat throughout.

I couldn’t be sure how the other major players were going - but I knew it unlikely that any where going as well as him.

With his stamina assured, I really did think it a case of how far !

But then, as with Diol Ker, in a matter of strides - it all went wrong.

Again, I’ve no idea why. But having looked sure to win - or at least go very close - on the run to the second last (he touched 2.2 IR), he was beaten on the run to the final fence.

I found it quite bizarre - almost disorienting (that’s how much I get into it !).

He did manage to cling on to fourth - with one of the saving Matrix bets - Any second now - a place ahead of him in third.

None of the other Matrix bets made it round (with The Long Mile paying the ultimate price).

It was all a bit disappointing - even if I’ve been in the game long enough to know that it happens !

Llandinabo Lad was the only other Bet on the day - for the Matrix.
He represented great value at the prices, on his form with My Drogo - but stopped as if shot, having led to the home turn.
There may be an issue with the Tom Symonds yard (the run of Song of Someone was also particularly bad).

In the other races on the afternoon, the Hometown Boy was another one missed by the Matrix; whilst Happygolucky could arguably have been a Best bet, in a race where I was struggling to find anything to beat him.

It all suggested that maybe I would benefit from a break.

I think 6 months should enable me to get the batteries fully recharged


Saturday, 10 April 2021

Apr 10th - Bets/Staking rationale

Todays Suggested bets

All of the Grand National bets (5:15) should be placed on the exchanges.
The odds are much better and there is plenty of liquidity.

Matrix bets


Llandinabo Lad 2 units win 20/1

Diol Ker 5 units win 12/1

Burrows Saint 5 units win 9/1  (11.5)
Any Second Now 2 units win 11/1  (14)
Cloth Cap 2 units win 11/2  (7)
Kimberlite Candy 1 unit win 20/1  (23)
Magic of Light 1 unit win 20/1  (25)
The Long Mile 1 unit win 80/1  (100)

Best bets


Diol Ker 0.5pt win 12/1

Burrows Saint 0.5pt win 9/1  

It’s been hard to find bets this week - and that’s the case again today…

The main issue is the extra level of uncertainty that comes at the end of a season.

Some of the horses have been on the go for months - and so could be over the top; whilst others are being brought back after a break - and may not be cherry ripe.
There’s the specific impact of Cheltenham (has it left a mark ?); plus the different ground to consider (ignoring the watering !).

And that’s before you try and find the best horse in the race - and get a fair price about it !

As a result, I’ve been light on bets - but generally, I’ve been keen on the ones I’ve put up.

That’s certainly the case for the 2 Best bets that I’ve suggested today - even if one of them is in the most competitive race of the season !

The winner of the Grand National, a Best bet - now wouldn’t that be a nice way to end things :)

For the last time for a few months, here’s the rational behind today bets…


The opening race (1:45) is one I should be taking on with the Matrix - but I’ve given up trying to make that work with early bookmaker prices.
Once again, the horses have been priced up to defend enhanced EW terms - and the price on offer from the bookmakers bear little resemblance to the chance of the horse winning the race (it’s a reflection of the chance of it finishing in the first 5).
My short list for the race would have been as follows (bookmaker price first - exchange price in brackets):
Hometown Boy 9/1 (12)
Barnaviddaun 10/1 (13)
Janika 20/1 (22)
Come on Teddy 6/1 (8.4)
Ballybegg 12/1 (13.5)
I’ve backed them all at roughly those prices, which equates to around 5/2 on one of them winning.
With the bookmakers, it’s less than 2/1…

My Drogo is going to be hard to beat in the 2:25.
Do your Job, franked his form yesterday, when going very close. However, he also franked the form of Llandinabo Lad.
He beat Do your Job by 4 lengths at Haydock in November. He also ran My Drogo to 3 lengths at Ascot in December, when conceding 5lbs.
Both of those form lines suggest there is little between My Drogo and Llandinabo Lad - whilst the latter should improve for a step up in trip.
The ground is a slight concern - as is the form of the Tom Symonds stable - but at 20/1 Llandinabo Lad is worth a small play on the Matrix.

Shishkin can’t be opposed in the 3:00 - it’s just a question of whether there might be a bet in the ‘w/o the fav’ market.
I think Gumball is the second best horse in the race - but I’m also conscious that the race may not play out in his favour.
He’s likely to lead - but may well fade out of contention, once Shishkin sails past !
Longhouse Poet can be backed at 9/2 in the ‘w/o the fav’ market - and may be worth a small play at that price.
That said, it’s not a bet I would feel particularly strongly about…

I’m pretty keen on Diol Ker in the 3:35.
It’s a shame that he beat Monkfish as a novice - as that’s a form line people will pick up on - and I’m not sure it’s particularly relevant !
More relevant is his latest run behind Sams Profile at Gowran in January - and the fact the Noel Meade has chosen to run him in this race, rather than running his stablemate, Beacon Edge.
Beacon Edge would have had a very obvious chance (he was fourth in the stayers hurdle at Cheltenham - just behind Paisley Park) and would probably have been third fav for this race.
The ground is an unknown for Diol Ker - but presumably Noel Meade believes he will handle it.
I think Thyme Hill is the main danger - but Diol Ker is a good bet to beat him.

I’m a bit disappointed that I can’t find anything in the 4:15.
Happygolucky is the obvious one - but 3/1 on the back of a hard race at Cheltenham, holds limited appeal.
The trouble is, I can’t find anything solid to oppose him with.
Spiritofthegames should run well - but doesn’t like to win - whilst there are doubts/question marks over all of the others.
Calipso Collonge probably holds most appeal, from a falling handicap mark and in a change of headgear. However, he’s not the most consistent - and shouldn’t really have the class to win a race of this nature.

I’ve been keen on Burrow Saint for the National (5:15) for quite a few months - and I remain keen !
It strikes me that he has the perfect profile for a National winner - and Willie Mullins has clearly been bringing him to a peak for this day.
Time and time again, Mullins has shown that he can prepare one perfectly for the big day - and I suspect Burrows Saint will be tuned to run for his life.
He won the Irish National as a 6 year old - which is almost unheard of - off a mark just 11lb lower than he races off today.
All of the interim period has just been marking time for today - and he is now a more mature horse.
He’ll obviously need to take to the fences; and to have luck in running.
He’s also likely to need to have at least half a stone in hand, if he’s to beat Cloth Cap - however, I’m optimistic on all those scores…
In fact, it’s a long time since I’ve felt as confident about one in the National - I really think he will win !
If he doesn’t (!), then I think that only Cloth Cap or Any Second Now, are capable of beating him, in terms of ability.
They are both worth saving on the Matrix.
More speculatively, I’ll also add in Kimberlite Candy, Magic of Light and The Long Mile.
I’d expect the first 2 named to run really well - and both are strong candidates to place.
The Long Mile is a rank outsider - but he’s young and progressive - and ran really well last time behind Acapello Borgeois and Burrows Saint.
If there is to be a huge surprise in the race, I think he is the one most likely to cause it.

I was never going to get involved with finale (6:20) - though I am intrigued to watch the market…
The Gossiper has continued to be very strong - and whilst I still expect him to drift at some point, I wonder when exactly !
If I was going to back one in the race, then it would be him - but I’d be after at least double the current 3/1…

Apr 10th - Preview for Aintree - Day 3

Grand National day - the final day of the TVB season !

It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster (as always !) - so it would be nice to end on a high.

In truth, the racing doesn’t look ideal for a spectacular finish - but I guess you never know !

In terms of the ground - then yesterday suggested it was on the soft side of good - exactly as it was described !

For the final time this season, here are my early thoughts…



The card opens with a 3 mile handicap hurdle - so it’s not too surprising to see the early market headed by a couple of horse who ran well in the 3 mile handicap hurdle at Cheltenham (the Pertemps final).

One of them is Come on Teddy, who I suggested as a bet in that race.
He ran really well to finish third, having been given a lot to do.
He’s been raised 3lb for that run - but that’s not too onerous - and under a more judicious ride, he should again go close.
Champagne Platinum finished 2 lengths behind Come on Teddy at Cheltenham - and will be 2lb better off tomorrow.
On the book, that means there should be little between them - and it really is a case of you pay your money and make your choice…
Tea Clipper was also placed at the Cheltenham festival - in the Coral cup.
He exceeded expectations in finishing third that day - and it’s interesting that he is stepped up in trip tomorrow.
It’s impossible to know whether that will benefit him - but if it does, he could go very close.
Janika finished just behind Tea Clipper in fifth - and it should again be close between the pair of them.
That was Janikas second run over hurdles, having been previously campaigned over fences.
He is rated 13lb higher over the bigger obstacles - so if he is finding his groove over hurdles, he is potentially very well handicapped.
Hometown Boy is another who is stepped up in trip - following a win over 2m4f at Kempton in February.
That was his first run of the season - but he returned in top form and was a comfortable winner.
A 7lb rating rise doesn’t look overly harsh - and if he can build on that - and cope with the extra distance, he should also go very well.
I quite fancied Southfield Harvest for the Pertemps final - but Paul Nichols opted not to run him in it.
It’s interesting that he is running in this race, bearing in mind how many of his better horses, he has held back for this meeting.
Southfield Harvest ran third to Polish on his most recent start at Newbury - but I’d fancy him to reverse that form, on 4lb better terms and with first time cheek pieces applied.


My Drogo looks to have an outstanding chance in this, for the Skeltons.
He was impressive last time at Kelso, when completing his hatrick in a grade 2 event.
He will be stepping up in trip by a couple of furlongs tomorrow - but I can’t see that troubling him.
His is already the highest rated horse in the race - but retains more scope for improvement than most of his rivals.
An early quote of 7/4 looks quite short - but it’s not hard to justify…
Ballyadam appears to be his main rival.
He too is stepping up in trip after finishing second in the Supreme novice hurdle at the Cheltenham festival.
He was no match for Appreciate It that day - but there is no Appreciate It running tomorrow !
On official ratings, there is only 2lb between him and My Drogo - which suggests it could be quite close between the pair.
In truth, opposition to the market leaders looks quite limited…
Dreal Deal is next in the betting, having won his last 4 over hurdles (plus 2 more on the flat).
The first of those races was a handicap off a mark of 84: he is now rated 145 !
It’s no wonder he was backed as if defeat was out of the question that day (as it clearly was !).
His winning run looked like coming to an end last time at Punchestown - but he finished really strongly to overhaul tiring rivals.
That suggested a step up in trip would suit well - but whether he will have sufficient class to take a grade 1, remains to be seen.
It’s hard to make make of a case for many of the others.
It’s quite interesting that Nicky Henderson is prepared to throw Pipesmoker into a grade 1 contest, after 3 placed runs in novice events.
Presumably the thinking is that if he’s going to win a race this late in the season, it may as well be a big one (if he doesn’t, he will remain a novice next season).
Whilst Llandinabo Lad would be very interesting - if he bounced back to form.
He was sent off a short priced favourite to beat My Drogo at Ascot in December - and whilst he failed by a couple of lengths, at the revised terms he should have every chance of reversing the form.
However, he ran a shocker last time at Haydock, when finishing tailed off last in a grade 2 event.
That run would need to be ignored - but he has been given a 2 month break since then and if that has done the trick, then he could easily outrun his odds.


Barring accidents, Shishkin will win this.

He’s already shown himself to be an exceptional novice - and it’s little surprise that he’s frightened away most of tomorrows potential opposition.
He’s unbeaten in 4 chase starts this season - including the Arkle, which he took with ease on his most recent start.
It is true that he’s only beaten a total of 13 rivals over fences - but he can only beat what’s put up in front if him and it’s not his fault that nothing is prepared to take him on !
On the 4 that are having a go tomorrow, I could see Gumball doing best…
He’s a horse I like - despite him falling when I suggested him back in November - and he was looking likely to win !
He was destroyed by Shishkin on his next start at Kempton - and on the back of that, had a confidence booster over hurdles last time.
I very much doubt he’ll be able to put Shishkin under much pressure - but the sharp, flat Aintree track should suit him - as should the decent ground.
I would expect him to run his race and that may enable him to finish second.
One issue he could face, is that in Funambule Sivola, he will be up against another horse who likes to front run.
I suspect Gumball will win the duel - but if he has to go too fast in order to do so, that will count against him.
Elvis Mall is the other one worthy of consideration for the runner up spot.
He’s a fair horse, and if Gumball and Funambule Sivola do mess things up for each other, he could take advantage and follow Shishkin home…


All being well, the Aintree stayers hurdle is going to provide the re-match which was supposed to take place at Cheltenham - but didn’t !

Back in December, Paisley Park edged out Thyme Hill in a thrilling finish to the Long Walk hurdle at Ascot.
The re-match was much anticipated - and supposed to take place at Cheltenham - but Thyme Hill was ruled out of the race, the weekend before.
Paisley Park still made the gig - but he proved no match for Flooring Porter - and could only finish third.
In a way, that takes a bit of the gloss off this race - as the whoever wins, won’t be able to claim to be the staying champion.
However, it still should be a race to savour…
It’s added to, by the fact that Rokasana will be joining in.
She finished a close third at Ascot - but ran in the mares race at Cheltenham.
That was never likely to play to her strengths, as the race Is over 2m4 and she has she has shown improved form this season over staying trips.
Back up to 3 miles, she only has a couple of lengths to make up on the principals and certainly can’t be discounted…
The top 3 do stand a little ahead of their rivals, though Lisnagar Oscar is of some interest.
He was a surprise winner of last years stayers hurdle - and was still travelling nicely when falling in this years race.
That’s never ideal - but provided he is none the worse for his tumble, he could run a big race.
Prior to Cheltenham Lisnagar Oscar was narrowly beaten by Third Wind at Haydock.
On 6lb better terms he should be capable of reversing that form…
If the Cap Fits won this race 2 years ago (from Roksana) - but he’s not shown much since and I’ll be very surprised if he can repeat the trick tomorrow.
Of far more interest, is Diol Ker.
He comfortably beat Monkfish over hurdles, at the start of last season - and whilst his chasing career hasn’t gone well this season, he has shown more, reverted back to hurdles on his 2 most recent starts.
The ground is a concern, as all of his best form is on heavy, but if Noel Meade allows him to take his chance, then he would have to be considered…


The precursor to the Grand National, really doesn’t look a particularly strong race…

As a consequence, it’s little surprise to see Happygolucky installed a short priced favourite.
He was a similar price for a stronger handicap at Cheltenham last time - and whilst he didn’t quite manage to win that race, he did go very close.
Ultimately, he finished second to the very well handicapped Vintage Clouds - and off a mark just 2lb higher, Happygolucky will be hard to beat tomorrow - provided he is able to run to the same level.
Cloudy Glen also finished second at Cheltenham - behind Mount Ida in the Kim Muir.
That race wasn’t as strong as the one in which Happygolucky ran - and as he’s also been raised 2lb for his efforts, I wouldn’t be quite as keen on his chance.
Top Notch was yet another, who placed at Cheltenham - this time behind the Shunter, in the Plate.
That was a real return to form for Top Notch - who has been a very good horse, but  appeared to be in decline.
It’s interesting that he is stepped up in trip to 3 miles tomorrow - which is the first time over fences. I’m honestly not sure how that will work out - though it does smack a little of clutching at straws…
The booking of 7lb claimer Luca Morgan is also interesting - that has a more positive feel to it !
Fagan bounced right back to form last time, when a facile winner at Newbury.
However a 10lb rise for an 11 year old seems harsh - whilst he will also face much stiffer opposition.
Sam Brown would have a chance, if he’s allowed to run. But as he’s been taken out of a number of races on account of the ground being too quick and I suspect he will end up not taking part.
Spiritofthegames had paid the price for his consistency - but a few recent below par efforts have seen his mark drop a little.
He’s now handicapped to go close - whilst the step up to 3 miles may yet work in his favour.
He certainly can’t be dismissed…
Ramses de Teillee has dropped to a mark that he can be competitive off - and the fitting of first time cheek pieces is an interesting move.
3 miles on relatively quick ground doesn’t strike me as the ideal test for him - but if the cheekpieces do light him up, it might be just fine !
That said, the fact Tom Scudamore appears to have opted to ride Hold the Note, is hardly a vote of confidence in his chances…
Ofalltheginjoints is the final one of interest.
He looked a really good horse when wining at Exeter in November but has performed poorly in his 2 subsequent starts.
He’s another one from the Colin Tizzard stable - and we may have to wait until next season, before we see him back at his best.


The 2021 Grand National - and I can’t decide whether it’s a very simple race to solve - or the minefield you normally expect !

The reason I think it could be simple to solve, is because there are some outstanding contenders - and I’ll be surprised if any of the lesser ones are able to beat them.
Ofcourse, that’s ignoring ‘luck’ - and even nowadays when the fences are relatively easy to jump, luck in running, still plays a big part.

The obvious place to start, is with Cloth Cap.
He hacked up in the Hennesy, back in November - before winning a conditions race at Kelso last month, with similar ease.
He had no right to do that based on official ratings - but there was no fluke about it, and as a result his mark was raised to 162.
He will run tomorrow off a mark of 148 - which means he is a stone ‘well in’.
If that’s right, then he will be very hard to beat…
The main issue, is whether his last run can be taken at face value.
He only beat 4 rivals - and at least a couple of them ran below form.
In fairness, even on his Hennesy form, he is probably the one to beat - though I’m not sure I’d be prepared to take 4/1 about him winning…
The next 3 in the betting are all Irish trained - and each of them looks to have a good chance.
Burrows Saint won the Irish National 2 years ago, as a 6 year old - and whilst he is lightly raced since then, I suspect this has always been the aim.
He was well beaten by Acapello Bourgeois in his prep for this race at Fairyhouse in February - and will be 6lb worse off at the weights tomorrow. Despite that, I expect the form to be reversed….
Minella Times and Any Second Now are both owned by JP McManus - and similar cases can be made for each.
Any Second Now has clearly been targeted at the race - and I expect him to go very close.
He was an easy winner at the Cheltenham festival 2 years ago - and off a mark only 9lb lower.
Minella Times has been campaigned more openly - but is a year younger and so should have a little more scope for improvement.
He’s finished runner up on his 2 most recent starts in a couple of big handicaps.
It’s asking a lot of him to go one better in this race - but he couldn’t have better connections.
Kimberlite Candy is the third fancied runner for JP McManus - and he too has been targeted at the race.
He’s twice finished runner up in the Becher Chase - jumping like a buck on both occasions.
He might prefer slightly softer ground - but other than that, he has an excellent profile.
Away from the head of the market, there are plenty who can be given half chances.
Top Weight, Bristol de Mai is the class horse in the race.
He beat a peak form Clan des Obeaux at Haydock in November - and that one hacked up in a grade 1 yesterday !
Even with top weight, if he takes to the course, he could be tough to beat.
Farclas could become the second horse to win the Triumph hurdle on route to taking the Grand National !
That was the case with Tiger Roll - and there would be some bizarre irony if Farclas was the one to fill his shoes.
Acapello Bourgeois clearly has a chance, based on his form with Burrows Saint; whilst Mister Malarky would be quite interesting - if it weren’t for the form of the Tizzard yard.
Whilst at a very big price (insultingly big !), I could see Double Shuffle running well.
He may struggle to last out the trip, but as a former King George runner up, he has to be of interest off a mark of just 145…


I’ve got to be honest, I don’t have a strong view on the finale…

I was going to suggest The Gossiper, as the only Irish trained horse in the field - particularly as that trainer is Emmet Mullins (of The Shunter fame).
However, the horse has already been hammered in the betting…
I would guess that’s because people are looking at things the same way as me.
I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him drift out to double figures (on the exchanges) - before late the money comes.
Though all that is speculation !
What’s not speculation, is that he was impressive on his sole run in a bumper at Wexford, last month.
Based on that run alone, he has a chance - but so to do plenty of others…
Balco Coastal was hugely impressive on his debut at Kempton in February - and it’s understandable that he’s been installed the early favourite.
The fact he’s trained by Nicky Henderson, will certainly be part of the reason the bookmakers are running scared.
The Paul Nichols trained Knappers Hill is third fav, on the back of a couple of wins.
The first was a formality - but he did well when taking a traditionally strong listed bumper at Ascot, just before Christmas…
Super Six finished a creditable fifth in the champion bumper at the Cheltenham festival.
That makes him the form pick - whilst the fact he will receive the 4 year old allowance, should also help his case.
Plenty of others can be given half chances, with the unbeaten pair, Charlies Glance and World of Dreams, amongst the more interesting.

All this said however, it’s a race I’m like to just watch…

Apr 9th - Bets/Staking rationale

 Todays Suggested bets

Matrix bets


Master Deboaniar 1 unit win 20/1

Do your Job 5 units win 22/1
Houx Gris 2 units win 10/1

The Big Breakaway 2 units win 13/2
Espoire de Romay 2 units win 7/1

Caribean Boy 5 units win 8/1
Glen Forsa 1 unit win 50/1

Best bets


Do your Job 0.5pt win 22/1
Caribean Boy 0.5pt win 8/1

 suspect I may have issued todays bet a little too early…

My timings are being dictated by the amount of different things I need to do (I’ll be straight on to the preview for tomorrow, once I’ve issue this !).
I didn’t think it would be an issue with the Aintree markets - and maybe it’s not for most of them - but the price of Do Your Job, was far more fragile than I would have liked, when I issued this morning.

In fairness, I don’t know what’s happening in the rest of the world (someone else may have been trying to back him), and he was a big price - but regardless, I would have hoped the price would have stood up better than it did (as was the case with Caribean Bay).

All this said, 20/1 was fine - and I would probably have gone down to 16/1, if necessary.
All he has to do now, is win :)

Here’s the thinking behind todays bets…


I went round in the circles looking at the opener (1:45) - and eventually, all but gave up !
I just can’t see an angle that I’m happy with - and even finding a short list, proved impossible.
My original plan was to suggest Whatsupwithyou - but I’ve cooled on him.
I can see arguments for all of the market leaders, but I don’t find any of them compelling.
All this said, I think Master Debonair is worth a small speculative play for the Matrix.
It’s an act of faith in Harry Fry getting him back to his best (or at least, close to), but if he’s managed to do that, the horse is handicapped to go very close.

Dusart may be the next coming in the 2:20 - but he’s still got a lot to prove.
He sustained a bad injury after his debut win - and whilst it can be argued that connections wouldn’t be rushing him back if he weren’t 100%, it can also be argued that he is unlikely to be given an overly hard race (he’s very much one for the future)…
Aside from him, it’s an open race (far more open than the betting implies).
I suggested Do your Job last time, when he was a big price at Kelso - and he nearly repaid my faith (he traded at just over 2 IR).
I thought he ran really well that day - just getting out stayed by My Drogo.
The winner is a very good horse (he’s favourite for the novice event tomorrow) - and Do You Job matched him until the second last.
Dropped back 2 furlongs today, I think Do Your Job can again run a really big race - and may even be able to win !
Hous Gris is hard to assess, as he’s an unexposed 4 year old, taking on older horses.
He travelled through the Boodles race at Cheltenham, like a class horse - and if he can build on that, he could easily put it up to his older rivals.
He’s worth a saver for the Matrix.

I want to take on Chantry House in the 2:50 - I’m just struggling to find one with which to do so !
I’ve no real issue with the horse, I just feel that 6/4 is far too short - with him stepping up in trip, and a doubt over the value of his Cheltenham win.
If the Colin Tizzard stable was in any kind of form, The Big Breakaway would be the one.
I thought he ran really well at Cheltenham, sacrificing his chance of finishing second by putting it up to Monkfish.
I think he’s the best horse in the race (I’ve actually backed him at 100/1 for next years Gold cup !) - it’s just whether he’ll be in peak form today…
I also like Espoir de Romay.
He did well to give Royal Pagaille a race, and if that one was running in this race (and in top form !), he’d be favourite.
The issue with Espoir is the ground - I think he’d like it softer.
All this said, I think it is worth dutching the pair of them at small stakes, in the hope that one of them manages to overcome its little ‘issue’ !

I spent a lot of time looking at the 3:25 - but I couldn’t reach a conclusion that I felt happy with…
I suspect that means Politologie will win - because races I can’t settle on, are usually won by the favourite !
He is certainly the solid option - I just feel he should be beatable !
I prefer him to Fakir Doudairies - mainly because the latter had a really hard race at Cheltenham. If he’s got over that, then he should go close.
I can see significant issues (or potential issues) with all of the other runners - so ultimately, I decided it was a race best left alone…

There may be 28 runners in the Topham (4:05) - but I’m pretty keen on Caribean Boy.
He ran a huge race at Cheltenham last time - considering that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong !
He looks a real class animal to me (I suspect, borderline graded) - and if that’s the case, he should be able to cope with a mark of 152.
Obviously you need some luck in running in this kind of race - but granted that, he should go very close.
Glen Forsa is the other one I want on side, at a big price.
He’ll need to bounce back to form - but he was a very classy horse.
If the wind op has worked (his last run was inconclusive), then he too should go very close.

I just can’t make my mind up about Bravemansgame in the 4:40.
I started thinking he was different class to his rivals - but now I’m not so sure !
I’m also not sold on second favourite, Cape Gentleman, over todays 3 mile trip.
I hoped that I would be able to find an outsider to latch on to - but I can’t…
Ultimately, I’m not going to be surprised, whatever wins this race.
I guess that means I could take a shot at one at a really big price - but it would be complete guesswork, so I’ll resist !

I was hoping to deploy the Matrix on the 5:15 - but for the second day in a row, it’s not been possible…
Once again, the issue is with the early bookmaker odds, which are around 50% lower than the win only prices on the exchanges.
My short list for the race is: Copperless, Camprond, The Grey Falco, Bold Enough and Dear Sire.
In fairness, it doesn’t help that the first 2 are heading the market, as that would always make it difficult to create a position.
That said, I would only look to save on them - and look to make a profit on the other 3.
As I type the prices of the other 3 are:
The Grey Falco 8/1 (10)
Bold Enough 9/1 (16)
Dear Sire 25/1 (40)
The price in brackets is the back price currently on BF.
If I suggested taking bookmaker prices, it would be very hard to make a profit on the Matrix bets.
As I said yesterday, I will need to redefine how I handle these bets, for next season…

Apr 9th - Preview for Aintree - Day 2

 The racing at Aintree tomorrow, doesn’t quite have the quality of today.

There are 4 grade 1 events - but also 3 big field handicaps.

The issue with the big field handicaps at the festivals, is that there isn’t sufficient time for me to go through the fields as thoroughly as I’d like.
There are 28 runners in the Topham and it would take me quite a few hours to do them all justice !

Still, it is what it is.
Needless to say, I’ve found various ways to short cut things over the years - and the conditions races are much easier for me to quickly assess…

Here are my thoughts on day 2.



As is invariably the case nowadays, its the unexposed novices who head the market in the first handicap of the day…

Wilde About Oscar also heads the weights - but it’s quite possible that he’s a graded horse in a handicap - and if that’s the case, he could well be capable of defying a mark of 150.
He’s only been beaten once in 5 runs over hurdles - and that was when making a mistake and being pulled up in the grade 1 Challow hurdle.
He did well to beat Mint Condition at Uttoxeter last time - and a 4lb rise for that win doesn’t look overly harsh.
He has the form to go close - and the potential for significant improvement.
Solwara One is virtually impossible to assess, after just 3 runs in novice events.
He has won 2 of the 3 races - and was narrowly beaten in the other.
An opening mark of 134 looks reasonable - and he clearly has plenty of potential.
Amarillo Sky is a little more experienced - as tomorrow will be his fifth run over hurdles.
More than that, the last 2 have been in handicaps - and he was hugely impressive on his most recent start, when winning at Exeter.
Unsurprisingly, the handicapper didn’t miss that - and he will be running off a 13lb higher mark tomorrow - and in much better company.
However, it’s not impossible that he will be up to the challenge…
Tronador is quite interesting, for Denise Foster.
He wasn’t beaten far in the Boodles at last years Cheltenham festival - and gets to run from a mark 1lb lower tomorrow.
He’s only run twice since then, with his outing at Downpatrick last month, very much looking like a prep run for tomorrow.
Miser Coffey ran well on his most recent start, when seventh in the Betfair hurdle.
That’s top class handicap form and he gets to get to run from a pound lower mark tomorrow.
I’m not entirely convinced about him over a half mile longer trip - for all it’s an interesting move !
Whatsupwithyou has definitely got a chance.
He ran well on his most recent start, when fourth in the Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham festival.
He’d also run well at he same course in November, when runner up to Stimulating Song.
Kevin Brogan takes over in the saddle tomorrow - and I’d view that as a positive.
Mister Debonair is the final one of interest.
Formerly trained by Colin Tizzard, he will be having his first run for Harry Fry.
He was a very useful novice last season and managed to achieve a rating of 151.
However, he’s shown nothing in his 3 most recent runs and is now down to a mark of 142.
That could prove to be very lenient, if Harry Fry can rekindle his flame…


The first grade 1 of the day - and whilst the quality looks a little questionable, it still appears very competitive.

The once raced Dusart heads the betting.
He comfortably beat Soaring Glory, on his racecourse debut at Newbury in November - and as much as anything, it’s the subsequent exploits of the runner up that make the case for Dusart.
Soaring Glory went on to win the Betfair hurdle - suggesting Dusart put in a high class effort that day.
That may have been the case - but equally, Soaring Glory could simply have improved subsequently.
We’ll only find out tomorrow - but suffice to say, I won’t be rushing to back him at 2/1 !
That said, this race doesn’t look as if it will take too much winning.
Third Time Lucki is second favourite in the early betting - and he was quite well beaten in the County hurdle on his most recent outing, off a mark of 143.
He was just over 3 lengths behind the winner, Belfast Banter, that day - and he gets a 5lb pull in the weights tomorrow, which should make it close between the pair.
Ajero is another one moving from a handicap to a grade 1.
He’s won his 2 most recent starts, at Market Rasen and Huntingdon - and whilst it should be a massive step up for him to grade 1 company, that may not be the case ! For Pleasure has a more conventional profile for a horse running in this race.
He was a creditable third last time, in the Supreme novice hurdle at the Cheltenham festival.
He was beaten a long way by Appreciate It - but that doesn’t mean he can’t go close tomorrow.
His attacking running style could certainly get a few of his opponents in trouble.
Both Any News and Do your Job, can be given a chance.
They clashed last time at Kelso, behind My Drogo.
Any News was quite well fancied that day, but fell at the fourth last.
Do your Job ran really well to finish second in the race - though he was no match for the winner.
That said, if My Drogo was running in this race, he would probably be second favourite…
Houx Gris is the final one of interest.
It’s unusual for Paul Nichols to run a 4 year old against older rivals - and whilst he may be doing so because he has Monmiral running today, it’s still worthy of note.
Houx Gris ran well at Cheltenham on only his second start for Nichols, when fourth in the Boodles.
The winner of that race has since come out and won a graded contest - thereby franking the form.
Houx Gris clearly has scope for plenty of improvement and certainly has a chance of upsetting his older rivals.


As with the previous race, this doesn’t look the strongest of grade 1 events - and once again, Nicky Henderson saddles the short priced favourite…

Chantry House was a good winner of the Marsh Chase at the Cheltenham festival - and steps up in trip by half a mile tomorrow.
I’ve no idea whether he will improve for the extra distance - but as he won a PTP over 3 miles in his younger days, he should cope fine.
He certainly kept on strongly in the closing stages at Cheltenham - and I think the question is more whether that form is as strong as it appears…
For a start hot favourite Envoi Allen, was an early faller: whilst Shan Blue was given an overly aggressive ride, which spoilt his chance of winning.
Ultimately, Chantry House only finished 5 lengths in front of Asterion Forlong and that one hardly advertised the form when beaten at Fairyhouse on Sunday…
I actually think Shan Blue has a chance of reversing the form - though clearly he’ll need to be ridden with most restraint.
There is also the chance that the run may have bottomed him, as it wasn’t the first tough race he’s had this season.
In terms of pure ability however, I doubt there is much between the pair…
Espoir de Romay is difficult to assess.
He’s won 2 of his 3 chase starts this season - with his only defeat coming when failing to concede 5lb to Royal Pagaille.
There was no shame in that - and on official ratings, he only has 4lb to find with Chantry House.
Fiddlerontheroof and The Big Breakaway filled the places behind Monkfish in the Brown Advisory novice chase at Cheltenham.
The Big Breakaway was a much shorter price that day - but ultimately paid the price for going toe to toe with Monkfish and finished well beaten.
It struck me that he was the second best horse in the race - and given a more conservative ride tomorrow, he may be able to prove that and reverse form with his stablemate.
Sporting John fell when beaten in that race, but had previously got the better of Shan Blue in a grade 1 at Sandown.
However, he was flattered by the way the race panned out that day and I’ll be a little surprised if he can get involved tomorrow.
Both Silver Hallmark or Empire Steel can boast pieces of form that suggest they can be given a chance - and neither can be totally dismissed…


The final grade 1 of the day - and again, whilst it’s attracted a fair line up, there aren’t any super stars on show !

Politologue heads the betting - and he’s a solid grade 1 performer.
He won last seasons Champion chase and followed that up by winning the Tingle Creek chase at Sandown, on his seasonal debut.
On his most recent start, he finished runner up to First Flow, in the Clarence house chase at Ascot.
All 3 of those were grade 1 races over 2 miles - but he’s equally effective over half a mile further and finished runner up to Min in this race, 2 years ago.
Fakir D’oudairies is disputing early favouritism with Politologue.
He was a highly creditable runner up in the Ryanair, on his most recent start.
He was never going to beat Allaho that day - but it was still a very good performance.
He’s actually finished runner up on 5 of his last 6 starts - which is a slightly concerning statistic !
That said, there doesn’t appear anything wrong with his attitude - he just keeps on bumping into one !
Notebook was one of those that he bumped into - as Naas in November.
Fakir was beaten 12 lengths that day, suggesting Notebook should have a very  good chance tomorrow.
However, he seems to have gone backwards since then - and tomorrows step up in trip, smacks a little of clutching at straws.
It may pay off - but then again…
Dashel Drasher and Master Tommytucker can both be given a chance.
They clashed at Ascot in February, with the former coming out on top by 2 lengths.
There is no obvious reason why the form should be reversed - the question is whether it is good enough to win this race…
It’s crazy to see Nuts Well contesting a grade 1, considering he is a 10 year old and  was winning a handicap off a mark of 130 just 6 starts ago !
He seems to have undergone a ridiculous level of improvement over the past 12 months - and despite there seeming to be no fluke about it, it’s still hard to see him taking it to the next level.
Neither Itchy Feet or Duc de Genievres should be good enough to win - suggesting that the overall quality of this race is a fair bit below the usual level…


28 runners will go to post for the Topham - suffice to say, even deciding on a short list, is no formality !

Livelovelaugh is the obvious place to start.
He’s run really well on his 2 most recent starts, both at Leopardstown.
On the first occasion, he finished third at the Dublin Racing festival, having looked sure to win approaching the last; whilst last time out, he went one place better, when narrowly denied in a decent handicap, early last month.
The downside of such creditable efforts, is a rating rise - and that’s before the UK assessor adds on his bit !
His mark has risen a total of 10lb - but the fact he is in top form, means he can’t be easily dismissed.
Visioman is another Irish raider, who looks to have a very good chance.
Unlike Livelovelaugh, he’s got no recent form - but was a much improved performer last summer and appears to have been targeted at this race.
He’s a sound jumper and will relish decent ground.
The only issue is, he’s been well picked up in the market and his price now looks plenty short enough…
Caribean Boy caught my eye last time, when finishing strongly in the Plate at the Cheltenham festival.
That was a return to form, following a couple of poor runs - yet the handicapper has kindly dropped him a pound.
He’s relatively unexposed, so it’s not easy to be adamant that he is well handicapped.
However, his last run showed that he can at least be competitive off his current mark.
Precious Cargo is a stablemate of Caribean Boy and he too showed promise last time out, at Warwick.
He made a big mid race move in that race, before weakening close home.
That was his first run following wind surgery, so he may well improve for it (it’s often on their second run after a wind op, that horses show significant improvement).
Needless to say, plenty of others can be given a chance - but a couple at big prices, catch my eye…
Kauto Riko has only run once this season - when staying on strongly to claim fourth in the Paddy Power gold cup in November.
That’s top class handicap form - and off the same mark tomorrow, he must have a chance of again placing.
Glen Forsa is the other one of interest.
He’s not shown much in 4 runs this season - but as a consequence, his handicap mark has dropped 11lb.
He ran better last time, than the final result suggests, when unplaced in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham.
That race is over 2 miles - and he will certainly be more suited to tomorrows longer trip.
If he can recapture the form of his third to Oldgrangewood at the beginning of last season, he would definitely have a chance.


Bravemansgame looks as if he could be different class in this …

Highly regarded by Paul Nichols, he finished third last time in the Ballymore at the Cheltenham festival.
He ran into a couple of real top notchers that day, in the shape of Bob Olinger and Gaillard du Mesnil and there doesn’t appear to be anything of their quality in tomorrows line-up.
The slight concern is that he had quite a hard race at Cheltenham, and that may have left its mark - but if it hasn’t he is very much the one to beat.
Cape Gentleman looks like his biggest potential danger.
I quite fancied him at the Dublin Racing festival - but he ran poorly behind Gaillard du Mesnil.
However, he bounced back to form last time, when winning the Dovecot hurdle at Kempton.
He wasn’t overly impressive that day - but the race was over 2 miles and I suspect he will be much better suited to tomorrows much longer trip.
Decent ground should also be a big positive for him…
Oscar Elite and Streets of Doyen filled the places in the Albert Bartlett behind impressive winner, Vanillier.
Neither of them ever looked like beating the winner that day - but both ran well.
I would slightly prefer the chances of Streets of Doyen tomorrow, as better ground should suit him (assuming that’s what he gets !).
Half chances can be given to most of the others, without anything in particular jumping out.


The final race on the card is for conditionals and amateur riders - and it looks nearly impossible to solve.
I suspect it is a contest where it will pay to be guided by the market…

As always, the unexposed potential improvers, are at the head of the betting - and also provide the most likely source of the race winner…

Camprond is a good place to start !
He will be making his handicap debut after 3 runs in novice events.
He was placed in the first 2 - before winning the latest one, at Taunton.
It’s impossible to know what the form is worth - but probably irrelevant anyway, as
he’ll doubtless step up markedly tomorrow !
He’s owned by JP McManus - and he’s also responsible for another one of the market leaders, Tomorrow Mystery.
He’s a little more exposed that some of the runners, with 8 runs over hurdles.
He’s also run in a few handicaps - hacking up in the penultimate one, before running flat under a penalty, a few days later.
He’ll need to defy a 13lb higher mark tomorrow - but a win in an AW bumper in February, suggests he may still be improving.
Copperless heads the betting on the back of a win in a Taunton handicap last month.
That was his first run since October, so there must be a chance he will improve for it.
It was also only his third run over hurdles, so he still retains plenty of scope.
Bold Enough is very interesting for Henry de Bromhead.
Again, he is relatively inexperienced, with just 6 runs over hurdles - and he ran really well last month at Downpatrick, when finishing second to Pure Genius.
That was his first run since October - and strongly suggested he was being readied for a spring campaign.
He’s the only Irish trained runner in the field - but that won’t stop him from winning !
The Grey Falco is interesting on his handicap debut for Alistair Ralph.
He was a 4 length runner up to Calico at Ludlow on his most recent outing, when conceding 6lb.
However, the winner is rated 140, which means The Grey Falco is potentially very well treated off a mark of 124 (if that form line can be taken literally).
As you would expect, plenty of the outsiders can be given half chances on the best of their form.
The most interesting looks to be Dear Sire.
He will relish the decent ground, having got a bit stuck in the over winter.
He’s now back down to the mark he won from at Chepstow in October - whilst the booking of Derek O Connor, catches the eye… 

Apr 8th - Bets/Staking rationale

 Todays Suggested bets

Matrix bets


Mister Fisher 5 units win 7/1

Song for Someone 5 units win 10/1
Buveur D'air 2 units win 10/1
Silver Streak 1pt win 14/1

Cat Tiger 4 units win 7/1
Latenightpass 3 units win 8/1
Some Man 3 units win 8/1

Best bets

Mister Fisher 0.5pt win 7/1

Song for Someone 0.5pt win 10/1

Todays Aintree card really is top class - and I’m very much looking forward to watching the races.

From a betting perspective however, it’s quite hard - with plenty of variables needing to be taken into consideration.

That’s always the case post-Cheltenham, with the ground changing - and the possibility that certain horses will have had enough for the season.

The ground is a big unknown today - as apparently there has been extensive watering.
Unfortunately it'll be too late, by the time we know the impact that’s had...

I’ve only been able to find a couple of Best bets for the opening day: one would prefer quick ground; whilst the other would prefer it soft.
As a consequence, a double is unlikely - though I’ll be quite happy if just one of them comes home in front !

Here’s the rationale…


I can’t see an angle into the opener (1:45) - particularly with the uncertainty over the ground.
Fusil Raffles needs it quick: Hitman would prefer soft.
More than that, they may both be upstaged by The Shunter or Eldorado Allen.
It’s fascinating to read that JP McManus has bought The Shunter - though I can’t help  feel that he’s about 6 months late with the purchase !
I did briefly consider a small play on the Matrix for Phoenix Way, as I think he could be over-priced at 25/1.
However, he too is owned by JP - and the purchase of The Shunter is hardly a vote of confidence in Phoenix Way !
As a consequence, it’s just a watching race…

The 2:20 is also a watching race - but that was always going to be the case…
It does appear to lie between Adagio and Monmiral - and it’s not easy to choose between the pair.
A lot will depend on how Adagio has come out of Cheltenham.
If he’s maintained his form, he is the one to beat - but if it’s taken an edge off him, Monimral should be capable of taking advantage.
I couldn’t completely rule out Fiveandtwenty or John Locke - but equally, I could only create a speculative case for either…

I like Mister Fisher in the 2:50.
We were with him at Cheltenham in the Ryanair - and he ran well, until making a bad mistake.
Allaho was brilliant that day - so avoiding a duel with him was probably not a bad thing.
On his previous run at Cheltenham, I was really impressed with the way Mister Fisher battled to beat Kalashnikov.
That was over 2m4f - but Cheltenham has a much stiffer finish than Aintree and Mister Fisher wasn’t stopping.
He is certainly worth a try at 3 miles - and this is both the right course and the right conditions.
It’s easy to pull holes in all of his rivals.
Clan des Obeaux looks the most dangerous - but after 2 disappointing runs, he can be opposed at the prices.

The 3:25 is a very tight race, but I think it is worth taking a chance on Song for Someone.
As with Mister Fisher, he is the youngest horse in the race and so open to most improvement.
Not that he will need to improve much if he is to win.
His form is already a match for most of his rivals - whilst the 2m4f trip will be perfect for him.
He bypassed Cheltenham to run in this - and I think that was a good move.
Buveur Dair also bypassed Cheltenham to run in this - and whilst he is now a bit long in the tooth, he would have hacked up in this race at his prime.
He’s worth covering for the Matrix - in case sufficient of the old ability remains.
Silver Streak is also worth covering. He is officially the best horse in the race, and whilst there is a question mark concerning the trip, decent ground will help.
He just looks over-priced at 14/1 (I’d have him single figures).

I’m happy to oppose Billaway and Sametegal in the 4:05 - and instead dutch the next 3 in the betting.
I did think long and hard about the best way to play this race (and indeed whether I should play in it at all !) - and ultimately decided that 5/2 about one of the 3 winning, was a fair price.
I like Cat Tiger best - as I think he has the potential to outclass his rivals.
That said, he does lack a bit of experience - and isn’t blessed with the most talented jockey on top !
Latenightpass ran really well at Cheltenham and his running style should be well suited to Aintree. I’d be optimistic that he can reverse form with Billaway.
You have to read between the lines for Some Man - but I get the distinct impression he is highly thought of. The trip and ground should suit him perfectly - and I suspect he could put in a really big performance.
I respect the chance of Dashing Perk; whilst I’m sure a couple of the outsiders will run well.
However, I’ll still be disappointed if one of Cat Tiger, Latenightpass or Some Man, doesn’t win…

I was disappointed to be unable to suggest any bets in the 4:40.
I don’t fancy anything in the race sufficiently strongly to make it a Best bet - but I was optimistic that I’d be able to deploy the Matrix.
However - and as has been the case a few times this season - the early bookmakers prices just don’t offer sufficient margin to allow me to do so…
The problem is the enhanced EW terms, which result in the bookmakers offering prices way below where they would be in a win only book (such as the exchanges).
There is a near 25% over-round on the best bookmaker prices - and that is too much for me to be able to absorb.
I’ll be looking to do things slightly differently with the Matrix next season - quoting exchange prices later in the day (when there is more liquidity).
In terms of this race, then I have a short list of 6:
Destrier, Zanza, Dostal Phil, Sully D’oc, Editeur de Gite & Grey Diamond.
I think Destrier is the most likely winner - but he is also the favourite, so I would probably just cover stakes with him.
I’ve backed all of the others at between 12 & 17 on the exchanges.
Collectively, that gives me around a 2/1 shot - which I’m happy with.
However, it’s not a race where I feel confident about eliminating many - which is why I’ve resisted the temptation to make anything an official bet…

I was never going to get involved with the 5:15.
Eileendover is likely to win: If she doesn’t, Elle Est Belle probably will !
The odds aren’t there for an EW bet on one of the outsiders (plus it wouldn’t be that easy to pick one !).
Definitely a watching race…

End of season report

  Introduction   A number of changes were made to the TVB service for the 2020-21 season.   Perhaps the most significant, was the formal s...