The Gambler’s Fallacy

I’m super chuffed that  I posted the early season trainer angles on Monday!

I couldn’t have chosen a better day to point out the merits of the ‘Spring Training Masters‘ as their performance since has shown:

Roger Charlton: From 2 runners –  a winner at 20/1 and a 3rd at 15/2

Ralph Beckett: No runners as yet.

Alan King:  1 runner –  3rd at 16/1

I love it when a plan comes together!

On to today:

The Gamblers Fallacy

coin-toss-199x300Here’s a scenario:

You’ve just watched me flip a coin 10 times. On every one of those 10 flips, the coin has come up heads. I know it seems unlikely but it can and does happen (If you were to toss a coin 1000 times you would have a 62% chance of at some point hitting a run of 10 consecutive heads)

After determining that the coin is a genuine, non -trick coin, (it is),  I’ve now got a question for you:

When I toss the coin for an 11th time, which is more likely to come up? Heads or Tail?

Well, the correct answer is neither is more likely.

Each coin toss is an independent event, entirely uninfluenced by the result of those that preceded it and those that come after. Neither heads nor tails is more likely – they both have a 50% probability regardless of what has gone before.

If you answered that either heads or tails was more likely, then you are falling prey to The Gamblers Fallacy- and it could well be costing you money.

The Gambler’s Fallacy is defined as:

‘the mistaken belief that if something happens more frequently than normal during some period, then it will happen less frequently in the future; likewise, if something happens less frequently than normal during some period, then it will happen more frequently in the future (presumably as a means of balancing nature). In situations where what is being observed is truly random this belief, though appealing to the human mind, is false. This fallacy can arise in many practical situations although it is most strongly associated with gambling where such mistakes are common among players.’

The most common problem that arises when you fall into this way of thinking is chasing losses and increasing stakes because you’re “due a winner”.

It’s so  easily done – I know, I’ve been there!

When you’ve had a series of losers (and they are always unlucky losers!) you start to think, the next one must come in, I’m due a winner after all this bad luck, the law of averages says this has to turn around shortly blah blah blah.

You need to avoid this kind of thinking at all costs!

Always keep in mind that your selections don’t know that you have been losing more often than you would expect from your long term strike rate.

Don’t fall victim to the Gamblers Fallacy – it’s been the ruin of many, many brave punters!

 

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Spring Training Masters…

It’s been a long, wet winter of jumping wonders but finally the weather is starting to turn a bit warmer and the flat season has finally arrived. Before we know it we’ll be amongst the classics so we need to start looking for the early season low hanging fruit – in the form of trainers who excel in these first couple of months of the flat season. I’ve picked out three that really caught my eye when I was trawling through some early season stats over the weekend.

Roger Charlton

Roger Charlton Roger always puts me in mind of a kindly old school master and seems a very pleasant character in interviews. He might be an ogre for all I know but I like him and I certainly like his training performances in April and May each season.

Below you can see the performance figures for all his runners in April and May since 2010.

 

Bets: 183

Wins:  36

Strike Rate: 19.87%

P/L at Industry SP:  +64.73 points

Places: 71

Win/Place Strike Rate: 38.80%

Pretty impressive numbers and I certainly wouldn’t have any hesitation in following his runners blindly for the next month even though they showed a small loss (-5.79 points) last season. He’s back with a bang already this April with 1 run, 1 winner and 5 points profit.

For a slightly more cautious approach, his runners can be backed very profitably each way and you’ll get paid on nearly 40% of your bets that way. In addition pay particular attention to his runners at Newmarket and Newbury where he has an excellent record of profitability (+51 points across the two tracks)

Ralph Beckett

Ralph beckett

Ralph – pronounced Rafe like the actor Fiennes -has been around for a while now despite still resembling a fresh faced boy.

He won his first classic last year when Talent landed the Oaks and I’m hoping he will have a few more wins over the next 7 weeks!

Performance figures in April and May since 2010 are below:

Bets: 243

Wins: 40

Strike Rate: 16.46%

P/L at Industry  SP: 74.97

Places: 92

Win and Place Strike Rate: 37.86%

Again, very impressive numbers but we do need to be slightly careful here. Those overall figures are hiding a savage loss of 37 points in 2011. It does however appear that was just an unpleasant blip in an otherwise tranquil sea of profitability.

For a slightly more selective ( and more profitable!) strategy, we should exclude his runners at Haydock, Salisbury and Sandown where he’s had just 1 winner in 37 runners. Excluding those tracks increases overall profits to +108.72 points.

Ralph has also got off to a flying start this April with 1 winner from 2 runners and a profit of +13 points.

Alan  King

Alan King

 

This is a bit of an unusual one as we don’t normally associate Alan King with flat racing but, there is no doubt, that early in the flat season his runners perform creditably and, more importantly, profitably for their backers!

Performance figures for all his runners on the flat in April and May Since 2010 is below:

 

Bets: 47

Wins: 9

Strike Rate: 19.15%

P/L at Industry  SP: +31.50 points

Places: 18

Win and Place Strike Rate: 38.30%

 

Now, clearly, Mr King doesn’t have a lot of runners on the flat during the period, but it does appear those that do are primed and ready to win. Particular attention should be paid to any runners he has at Salisbury where he’s 2 winners from 3 runners at big prices.

That’s all from me today. I hope you find the angles I’ve identified helpful and profitable. Don’t forget to leave a comment and share what trainers you’ll be watching carefully over the early weeks of the flat season.

Be lucky

Kieran

 

 

 

 

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Ayr and Newbury Thoughts

Fresh from a triumphant Aintree Festival, Nick Hardman is back with a comprehensive look at Saturday’s big cards at Ayr (including the Scottish National) and Newbury on the flat. Take it away, Nick:

First up a big thank you to all who commented on the Aintree blog and it was truly fantastic to know a few of you cashed in, especially on the Saturday.  Back to reality and last weekend may well turn out to be an impossible act to follow!  As I have said all along I do not see myself as a tipster, but I love writing about all things racing and I am happy to continue to share with you my selections and fancies for the big races and festivals.  This Saturday sees the Scottish Grand National, the Scottish Champion Hurdle and also a cracking flat meeting at Newbury.  I am not one for getting heavily involved at the beginning of the flat season so I apologise now for a cautious approach to the Newbury meeting.  As you know though, I will more than make up for that with multiple selections in the Scottish Grand National!  Plenty to get stuck into so here goes….

Channel 4’s coverage kicks off with the Group 3 John Porter Stakes at 1.50pm run over 1m 4f.  Noble Mission ran third in this last year and has every chance again, whilst Mutashaded looks a Group horse in waiting.  However, he is coming back from an injury which is enough to put me off.  Khione is interesting and is another whose season was cut short last year.  He goes well fresh though and 8/1 is a good price.  The one I have backed to small stakes is Sir Michael Stoute’s Astonishing @9/2, receiving a handy 3lb sex allowance.  Cases can be made for most of these but I do like the look of Stoute’s filly and 9/2 is a decent price.

Over to Ayr and the next race is the Novice Chase over 2 ½ miles.  This looks like a match between Valdez and Eduard and given the form of Alan King’s runners I am happy to back Valdez @11/10.  The form of his 5th in the Arkle Chase is much the best on offer.  I’ve backed him with William Hill for the second place insurance.  I can’t see him outside the first two, unless of course he falls or unseats (you heard it here first if he does!).

The fillies take centre stage next in the Group 3 Fred Darling at 2.20pmo back at Newbury.  Experience usually counts in these races with form at Listed or Group level.  Eight of the last ten winners had an adjusted RPR of at least 114.  Using that angle leaves two here, and not surprisingly they top the betting.  At the prices I have backed Joyeuse @6/1 and Al Thakira @7/2 win only.  I have kept stakes quite conservative as dangers abound, with Coral Mist and J Wonder to name but two.  The latter could be the each-way bet of the race @12/1 with Bet365 paying ¼ odds, 3 places.

The Scottish Champion Hurdle should go the way of My Tent Or Yours and I have taken 5/4 with William Hill knowing I get a refund if he finishes second.  I don’t have a strong opinion on an each-way alternative as I think My Tent Or Yours only has to reproduce his current form to take this, despite giving lumps of weight all round.  If he fails to do so then Cockney Sparrow or Court Minstrel could be the ones to capitalize.  The former gets a 17lb pull at the weights for a 3 length beating at Newcastle in the Fighting Fifth back in December, but ran below expectations in the Mare’s Hurdle at Cheltenham when fifth.  The latter did us all a favour winning at Aintree last week at a fantastic 16/1.  He shoulders a 5lb penalty for that win but he did win the Scottish Champion Hurdle last year off a rating of 141.  He’s rated 152 here but gets 14lb from My Tent Or Yours.  As long as he avoids the “bounce” factor he should go well again.  However, it will be a win only bet for me on My Tent Or Yours @5/4.

The Greenham Stakes is definitely a race to watch with a host of horses high in the pecking order for this year’s Classics with Kingman, Berkshire, Astaire and Night Of Thunder the main contenders.  I really do not know who will win this race and the prices of the main protagonists means it’s one for me to sit out (we will have a bet at Thirsk instead, so keep reading!).  I will not be betting but at the prices I would say Astaire and Berkshire offer a touch of value.  However, Astaire has only raced at 6f and Berkshire may turn out to be better over further and that’s enough to make me give this one the serve.

In the Listed Handicap Chase over 2 miles at Ayr, I have to stick with Alan King and Manyriverstocross @3/1.  He was back on track last time out and his defeat of Claret Cloak in his first run this season is decent form, with that opponent running 3rd in the Grand Annual (should have won) and 3rd at Aintree last week.  I think he needs a bit of improvement to take this but that is a distinct possibility and he should go close.

The Spring Cup looks typically competitive, but I love these big field handicaps so let’s see if we can crack this one.  This race sees a lot of horses that ran in the Lincoln or the Spring Mile at Doncaster.  Four year olds have won 7 of the last 10.  From that age group I am going to give another chance to One Word More who I backed for the Lincoln only to see him fail to enter the stalls (well at least I got my money back) and I’ve taken the 16/1 each-way (5 places).  Another 4 year old I’ve backed is Brownsea Brink @10/1 each-way (5 places) for the formidable Hannon/ Moore combination.  He ran a cracker on debut this season and the form was franked when winner Purcell went in again.  Charles Camoin could be a dark horse @22/1.  He goes well fresh, winning first time out in 2012 and 2013.  The last time he ran at a mile was in 2011 when he split Tullius (now rated 109 and runner up in this year’s Lincoln) and Levitate (now rated 106 and winner of the Lincoln in 2013).  It may just be that those two have gone on and improved way beyond Charles Camoin, but out of curiosity I have taken the 22/1 each-way 5 places to very small stakes (enough to have a beer and a Chinese if he rips up the formbook and wins).

And so to the main event, the Scottish Grand National.  It has an extremely lop-sided look to it with most of the horses racing from out of the handicap thanks to the inclusion of Tidal Bay who has to lug top weight of 11st 12lb.  This grand servant would be a hugely popular winner but at 14/1 he’s not for me, especially as only 1 of the last 9 winners has carried more than 11st to victory.  In fact 7 of the last 9 winners carried no more than 10st 4lbs.  One I backed earlier in the week is Mister Marker @40/1 each-way (5 places).  He was third in this last year and the further the better for him.  I am hoping he will plod into some place money.  I doubt he is good enough to win but the marathon trip suits and with a clean round of jumping he can make the frame.  Lucinda Russell has a strong hand with Green Flag the current race favourite.  He ran fourth in the Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham festival behind Holywell and Ma Filleule who both franked the form in no uncertain terms at Aintree last week.  Lie Forrit is another of her runners but he is much better over hurdles and it would be some feat to take this on his return to the bigger obstacles.  Her final runner is Nuts N Bolts who won over 3m 5f on his seasonal debut but has done little since in a light campaign.  However he has track figures of 1311P.  That one blip was when pulled up in this race last year when 10/1 co-favourite.  It’s risky but I have had a little each-way @33/1 (5 places).  Jonjo O’Neill runs Merry King who has every chance on previous form but was totally lack lustre in the Haydock Grand National trial when last seen.  Alpha Victor ran a cracker in the Midlands National but that looked a hard race and this may come too quickly.  Roberto Goldback is an interesting runner for Nicky Henderson.  He ran a good race to finish 3rd in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham and fell at the last in the 2013 Grand National when well beaten.  I am surprised though to see that Barry Geraghty chooses Hadrian’s Approach.  If his stamina holds out he could run well and @20/1 I’ve been tempted in for a nibble.  Those three each-way plays look like giving us a run for our money but in terms of a genuine outright winner we probably need to look closer to the head of the betting.  Trustan Times could be thrown in on his hurdling form but he has raced just once over the larger obstacles in the last 2 years.  That alone is enough to put me off.  Sam Winner is improving and clearly wants longer but the extra mile is a big step into the unknown.  The same can be said for Green Flag but I prefer this one of the two and without much difference in the prices I think the 10/1 is a decent bet on the favourite.  That Cheltenham Handicap Chase in which he was a staying-on fourth could be one of the hottest end of season races.  With the form franked as mentioned earlier, I make Green Flag my final fancy in this year’s Scottish National.

Over at Thirsk at 4.00pm I have had a small bet on Breton Rock who is 4 from 6 when racing over 6 or 7 furlongs.  He should go close and may well be one to follow this year.

 

Newbury 1.50pm Astonishing @9/2

Ayr 2.05pm Valdez @11/10 (William Hill)

Newbury 2.20pm Al Thakira @7/2 and Joyeuse @6/1

Ayr 2.40pm My Tent Or Yours @5/4 (William Hill)

Newbury 2.55pm No Bet

Ayr 3.15pm Manyriverstocross @3/1 (William Hill)

Newbury 3.30pm Brownsea Brink @10/1, One Word More @16/1 & Charles Camoin @22/1 (all each-way, 5 places)

Ayr 3.50pm Green Flag @10/1 & Nuts N Bolts @33/1, Roberto Goldback @20/1 and Mister Marker @40/1 (each-way, 5 places)

Thirsk 4.00pm Breton Rock @4/1

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Converting Odds into Probabilities… and Vice Versa

Maths test

If you can’t convert odds into the probabilities they imply, you are going to struggle in the long term to make money from your betting. How can you assess value if you don’t first know the probabilities the betting market is indicating?

It’s not a difficult thing to do and with a little practice you will be able to do it automatically every time you look at a betting market.

First we’ll look at conversion of fractional odds to probabilities as those are still the predominant type used in the UK.

 

Converting Fractional Odds

Fractional odds simply reflect  the return you will get if your selection wins – bet £20 on a 4/1 shot and you’ll get £80 – 4 x £20 – back (plus your original stake of £20). However, they also reflect the bookmaker’s assessment of the chances of that selection winning . In addition, there’s an adjustment in there to cover the bookmaker’s profit margin (the overround) but for the purposes of this exercise we’ll ignore that.

So what percentage chance does the bookmaker think a selection has if he is offering 4/1?  Here’s the calculation:

Divide the number on the right of the fraction by the total of both numbers in the fraction:

1 divided by (4+1) = 0.20

Then multiply that by 100 to give a percentage probability:

0.20 x 100 = 20%

So a 4/1 chance has an implied 20% chance of winning! Simples

 

Converting Decimal Odds

Again, like fractional, decimal odds are a reflection of the return you will receive if you win, including your stake. So if you have £20 on a winner with decimal odds of 7.0, you will receive £20 x 7 for a return, including stake, of £140 (£120 profit). To convert those odds into a probability, here’s the calculation:

Divide 1 by the decimal odds then multiply by 100 to give a percentage

1 divided by 7 = 0.143

0.143 x 100 = 14.3%

So a selection priced at 7.0 in decimal format has an implied 14.3% chance of winning!

 

These are very simple calculations and with experience you will be able to look at a betting market and instantly calculate the implied winning chance of all the runners based on the odds on offer.

Vice Versa

If you have reached the point where you are compiling your own tissue prices as part of a value finding exercise (and that should be your aim!), you will need to be able to convert percentage probabilities back to odds format for the purpose of comparison.

 

Converting Probabilities to Fractional Odds

 

Based on your own assessment methods, you have determined that a horse has a 10% chance of winning a race. To convert that into fractional odds format the calculation is

(100 divided by percentage probability) -1

(100/10) -1

10-1 = 9

So a selection with a 10% chance of winning should be priced at 9/1

 

Converting Probabilities to Decimal Odds

 

In this example you’ve found a horse that you think has a 60% chance of winning it’s race. To calculate it’s odds in a decimal format:

Divide 100 by the percentage probability

100/60 = 1.66

So a 60% chance is expressed as 1.66 in decimal odds format.

So there you have it. However, an even easier way to do it is to memorise the major odds and their respective implied probabilities using the table I have put together below!

Odds Conversion

 

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Aintree Reflections

Nick Hardman looks back on what was a momentous festival – culminating in some of the best tipping I have ever seen!:

 

Well folks that’s almost it for the jumps season with only the Punchestown Festival to come and the final meeting at Sandown to look forward to.  After that the flat season takes over and personally I only really look forward to Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood.  In my opinion the “Classics” come far too soon in the season and I can never get that excited about them.  Anyway, back to Aintree and the Grand National festival which was a brilliant 3 days.  It was good to see the horses that ran well at Cheltenham upholding their form and, in some cases, improving on it.  Here’s a quick recap on how my Day 3 selections fared…..

Oscar Hoof was a faller and Kayf Moss was out of his depth in the opening Novice Hurdle won by Lac Fontana.  I was kicking myself a bit as I had Lac Fontana top of my shortlist until I got a bit carried away by the Henderson/ Geraghty treble on Friday.  But that’s the way it goes.  If anything, the one part of my betting that still needs to be worked on is my conviction to go with my gut instinct and not to over analyse.  Any feelings of self-annoyance were quickly dispelled when Balder Success won the Novice Chase with a fine round of jumping to land my fifth winner of the meeting.  To be honest that was more than I could have hoped for and it settled the nerves nicely ahead of the rest of the day.

Whisper was another Cheltenham winner who improved for the step up to 3 miles and won the Stayer’s Hurdle from my fancy At Fishers Cross who jumped really poorly all the way round.  I just hope that the back problem he had earlier in the season has not returned, but he was awkward at all his fences.  Beaten only a length I am sure he would have won with a fluent round of jumping but take nothing away from the winner who followed up his Coral Cup success here.

When you write for a blog and volunteer your selections to a wider audience the one think you hope for is not to make a fool of yourself.  I was more than happy with 2 winners on Day 1 and 2 winners on Day 2.  When Balder Success trotted up I was satisfied that I had achieved my objective of not embarrassing myself in front of the readers of MakeYourBettingPay.  What happened next was something else.

Duke Of Lucca had not won for 2 years and he is quirky, but he stays and stays forever.  I was hopeful of a good run and I will ashamedly admit to yelling “Get In!!!” when he held on from Vino Griego to win the Listed Handicap Chase by a head.  A 16/1 winner and next up was the big one.  Big Shu went early, soon to be followed by Mountainous and Teaforthree.  That left Pineau De Re, Hawkes Point and Chance Du Roy as my only chances.  To make matters worse, Mrs H had picked Mister Moonshine who led with three to jump.  The rest, as they say, is history as Pineau De Re stayed on gamely to land the most famous race in the world @25/1.  Chance Du Roy finished where all good “each-way, 5 places” horses finish – in sixth.  Hawkes Point was last of those to complete.  It was a tremendous race and it was nice to have the winner amongst the half dozen picks I backed.

As if that was not enough, Court Minstrel landed the subsequent Handicap Hurdle at a cracking 16/1.  I will admit that Court Minstrel was just a token selection and says more about my pin-sticking ability than my ability to decipher a 22 runner handicap for amateurs and conditionals.  Four winners from six races on the final day was beyond anything I could have dreamt.  I must stress I have never backed winners @16/1, 25/1 and 16/1 in consecutive races.  In fact I have never had three winners at those prices in a single day, perhaps not even in a single week.  A truly memorable day and one I will not forget in a hurry.  I am a strong believer in karma though and that probably means I will go the whole flat season without a winner!

As always, I hope you have enjoyed following my Aintree blog and do feel free to leave a comment or two.  I hope you had a good one.

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Aintree – Day 3

Day 2 got off to a flying start with Josses Hill justifying favouritism with a solid performance in the opener and I was more than happy with the 2/1 I took yesterday afternoon as he was sent off at 6/4.  It was 2 from 2 on Day 2 after Hollywell put in a brilliant round of jumping and galloped the legs of his rivals to win @7/2.  Module was a late withdrawal in the Melling Chase and Wishfull Thinking ran a stinker.  Boston Bob won a thrilling finish, produced very late by Paul Townend in what could well turn out to be ride of the week.

The Topham Chase was won impressively by Ma Filleule, further dispelling the myth that horses that run well at Cheltenham do not follow up at Aintree.  Tatenen ran another huge race in 4th @25/1 and fair play if you backed him given his Aintree record.  Big Fella Thanks was tapped for toe about three out and faded into midfield, ahead of my other fancy Rebel Rebellion who never featured.  Seeyouatmidnight was beaten out of sight by Nicky Henderson’s Beat That in the Novice Hurdle that followed and it was looking like the two early winners would be the sole return on Day 2.  Indeed it was as Attaglance and Like Minded finished out of the places in the final race.

And so to the third and final day of the meeting and we kick off with another Novice Hurdle at 1.30pm over 2 ½ miles.  Sea Lord is an obvious starting point with form figures 1111112, but he has a 139 day absence to overcome and has done all his winning around the 2 mile mark and I’ll take him on.  Of those that have proven form over 2 ½ miles, Kayf Moss is interesting for his latest win in a Grade 2 and if he still has improvement in him then he should go close.  Lac Fontana and Volnay De Thaix represent two powerful yards and both could improve for the step up in trip.  Lac Fontana won the County Hurdle while Volnay De Thaix’s sole defeat was at the hands of Irving.  Oscar Hoof is interesting for Nicky Henderson on only his 4th start over hurdles and Geraghty takes the ride after his treble on Day 2.  Given the form of the stable this week and the jockey arrangements I have backed Oscar Hoof @6/1 and Kayf Moss @14/1.

Seven go to post in the Maghull Novice Chase.  Again a case can be made for all seven runners so I am going to play on the cautious side.  Hinterland was thought good enough to run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase but unseated his rider that day, whilst Ted Veale (fell) and Trifolium (3rd) contested the Arkle.  Balder Success @7/2 is the one I have backed as his prominent racing style and decent speed seems ideal for this race and fits the profile of previous winners.  It’s only a tentative selection in an ultra-competitive race where all seven runners hold solid chances.

With World Hurdle winner More Of That absent from the Stayer’s Hurdle this looks like a good opportunity for At Fishers Cross or Zarkander to finally break their duck this season.  I do not rate the chances of the others that highly except for Coral Cup winner Whisper, but it’s a guess as to whether he gets the extra 3 furlongs.  I have backed At Fishers Cross @7/4 to uphold the form and beat Zarkander again.

Next up is the 18 runner Listed Handicap Chase at 3.25pm and again I will be pretty cautious.  This is hardly a race to boost the coffers prior to the “Big One” at 4.15pm but it does look like a cracking each-way race.  With all firms paying 4 places I have had a few quid on a slightly risky proposition.  Johns Spirit ran a cracker at Cheltenham but the handicapper may have his measure and he might need to come down a few pounds before winning again.  He looks sure to run his race though.  Unioniste is another sure to go well and he lugs top weight of 11st 12lbs.  He might well defy that but I will give him a miss.  The one I have backed requires a bit of a leap of faith.  Duke Of Lucca @16/1 is really well handicapped off 134 when you consider he was winning races off 10lbs higher 18 months ago and his 4th in the Cheltenham Cross Country race this year was not a bad effort.  I’m hoping for place money rather than anything else as I will be surprised if he wins.

On to the Grand National itself and this is truly one of the highlights of the sporting year, irrespective of whether you are a racing fan or not.  I could spend the next 20 minutes going through the pluses and minuses of each and every runner, together with the trends and profiles of previous winners, but instead I will cut to the chase and go straight into my (many) selections for the main event.  I have opted to place all my bets with Bet365 using their amazing offer of giving you half your stake back for every each-way bet you place.  From the top of the market I have backed Teaforthree @8/1.  Hardly original but he is primed to run a big race and even if he gives way on the run in like last year, with a clean round of jumping he should be in the first 5 home.  At bigger prices I have backed Pineau De Re @20/1 and Chance Du Roy @33/1.  Both have a nice weight of 10st 6lb and a great chance of finishing the race, which in itself is no mean feat.  Hawkes Point must put a disappointing run in the Haydock trial behind him.  If fit and well and back to his best then the 40/1 looks great value.  Big Shu @25/1 is interesting as he stays all day and may plod into the place money.  Finally I have backed another dour stayer and sound jumper in Mountainous @40/1 although his chances would be even better were it to rain buckets overnight.  Those are my six (!) and hopefully the winner is lurking in there somewhere!

The Handicap Hurdle for amateurs and conditionals is the next race and only one favourite has won in the seven runnings to date.  With a field of 22 set to go to post this looks like another each-way race.  Having backed half the field in the Grand National I have just backed one here and that is top weight Court Minstrel @16/1  .He has some decent form in the book and has a had a 3 month break since finishing 4th to The New One in the Stan James Hurdle at Cheltenham in December.  The final race is a bumper and I never really bet in these races so, having backed six in the Grand National it makes sense to sit this one out.

Aintree Day 3 selections:

1.30pm Oscar Hoof @6/1 and Kayf Moss @14/1

2.05pm Balder Success @7/2

2.50pm At Fishers Cross @7/4

3.25pm Duke Of Lucca @16/1 (each-way, 4 places)

4.15pm Teaforthree @8/1, Pineau De Re @20/1, Big Shu @25/1, Chance Du Roy @33/1, Hawkes Point @40/1 and Mountainous @40/1 (all each-way, 5 places)

5.10pm Court Minstrel 16/1 (each-way, 4 places)

5.45pm No Bet

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Aintree – Day 2

Day 1 got off to a spectacular start with Guitar Pete being delivered from nowhere to first by Paul Carberry in a sensational ride.  My picks Activial and Hawk High finished down the field.  Clarcam was given an honourable mention in this column and ran a blinder to finish second.  With hindsight he was probably the each-way bet of the race.  In the Betfred Bowl, First Lieutenant had every chance heading to the last flight but was beaten by better horses on the day, so no complaints from me and hats off to Paul Nicholls and the connections of Silviniaco Conti.

The Aintree Hurdle was a no-bet race but what a race it was!  The prices said this would be a procession and it certainly looked that way as The New One cruised into the lead on the bridle.  Rock On Ruby and Diakali had other ideas and it turned into a three-way head bobber at the finish with The New One just prevailing.  For the record, Irish Saint did not outrun his price.  Warne provided me with a first winner of the festival @9/2 in the Foxhunters.  Sam Whaley-Cohen and his mount were pestered constantly by loose horses all the way round and on more than one occasion I thought it would cost them the race.  Sam did a great steering job to be fair and it was nice to be off the mark.  Island Life finished 12th at 100/1, but at least he made it over the line.

Claret Cloak ran a good race in third in the Red Rum Handicap Chase, whilst Oiseau De Nuit finished a never nearer 6th and I think I’ve backed the old boy for the last time.  Uxizandre did exactly what I hoped he would do and held on well from the front to land the spoils.  Sometimes taking an early price is a good thing and the 5/1 on Thursday night was a cracking price as he was sent off 11/4.  Two winners on the board on Day 1 are more than I could have hoped for and things were rounded off nicely with Jetson yet again performing admirably in a big field handicap to grab some place money.  Day 2 looks nigh on impossible so I’m glad we are off to a decent start.  Here goes anyway………..

On to Day 2 and we kick off with Novice Hurdle at 2.00pm, a race won last year by My Tent Or Yours.  Those horses that placed in the Supreme Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham have a good record in this and that leads us straight to Josses Hill and Sgt Reckless who ran 2nd and 4th respectively in that race.  With Henderson winning 3 of the last 4 renewals I am more than happy to back Josses Hill @2/1 with William Hill’s money back second place concession.  The interesting runner is Baltimore Rock who won the Imperial Cup at Sandown, beating a useful one in Gassin Golf.  He races here off 6lb higher and could make the step up into Graded races with ease.  There again he might not and I will stick with Josses Hill as my only bet in the race.

The Novice Chase at 2.30pm has a small, but fascinating, field of six going to post.  All six ran at Cheltenham.  O’Faolains Boy won the RSA Chase, the same race in which Many Clouds was brought down by Don Cossack (and you may remember I had backed both of those!) with Just A Par back in 7th.  Wonderful Charm ran 5th in the JLT at the festival and Hollywell won the 3m 1f Handicap Chase on the opening day.  All of that makes this race difficult to assess.  Only 2lbs separate Hollywell, O’Faolains Boy and Wonderful Charm in the official ratings which further adds spice to proceedings.  At a bigger price, Many Clouds only has 2 ½ lengths to make up on O’Faolains Boy on their Ascot running.  However, gut feeling is that O’Faolains Boy has improved considerably.  One interesting statistic is that 20 of the last 23 winners had already won at the 3 mile trip or higher.  That leaves three in Hollywell, O’Faolains Boy and Just A Par.  I think this is more of a race to watch than get heavily involved in and Holywell @10/3 is a tentative selection.

Next we have the Grade 1 Melling Chase.  This has been a punters race for sure in the last few years with the first or second favourite winning 14 of the last 19 renewals.  I thought Module ran a good race in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham and that race has been a good pointer in the past.  I’ve taken the 9/2.  Wishfull Thinking has Aintree form figures of 0F1226 and also ran well in the Champion Chase and he should be there or thereabouts.  Module @9/2 and Wishfull Thinking @7/1 are my 2 against the field.

Thirty go to post for the Topham Chase.  In a race like this it is probably more about getting a run for my money than genuine expectations of finding the winner.  One who fits the bill on that score is Big Fella Thanks @20/1 (PaddyPower, 5 places) who has completed the course in 5 of 6 attempts over these fences.  Another who should run well at a price is Rebel Rebellion @20/1 (BetVictor, 5 places), winner of the Grand Sefton Chase in December.  He has run 2 solid races since that win and I’m hopeful of a big run.  Tatenen ran a cracker at the festival but has a poor completion rate around Aintree whilst Champion Court, You Must Know Me and Your Busy could all go well at a big price (all three around 25/1 to 20/1).

Eighteen line-up for The Sefton Novices Hurdle and things do not get any easier from a betting perspective.  It’s a 3 miler (won last year by At Fishers Cross) so I’m looking for a proven stayer here rather than an improver who may or may not stay.  That may be foolish but I will find out at around 4.25pm on Friday.  Seeyouatmidnight is a worthy favourite, has the best form on offer and stays well.  What’s not to like?  9/2 is a short price but it’s one I’ve taken as it is my only bet of the race.  Honourable mentions go to Walk On Al @33/1 who could run well at a huge price if the headgear sparks the necessary required improvement and Tagrita @12/1 could also be involved, receiving a 7lb mare’s allowance.  I have thought about backing them both but I will just stick with Seeyouatmidnight @9/2.

Just to make things even harder, the next race is the 22 runner Alder Hey Charity Handicap Hurdle run over 2 ½ miles.  Attaglance must have a good chance despite top weight.  He won the Martin Pipe in 2012 as well as taking this race in that same year.  Campaigned over the larger obstacles since then he was very unlucky not to have won at the Cheltenham festival this year.  I think he’s a cracking each-way bet.  At a bigger price, Like Minded could go well if he bounces back from his last poor effort.  I am always prepared to forgive a horse one bad run and this horse ran third in the Lanzaraote, beating Spirit Of Shankly who was a heavily backed into near favouritism for the 3 mile handicap hurdle that brought proceedings to close on Day 1 of this meeting.  Attaglance @12/1 and Like Minded @25/1 are my selections.

To finish we have the 20 runner Mares Only NH Flat race.  If ever there was a no-bet race it is this one.  I really would be wasting my time and yours trying to get to the bottom of this race and I would much rather skip this and have an extra bet on the Grand National.

Aintree Day 2 selections:

2.00pm Josses Hill @2/1

2.30pm Hollywell @10/3

3.05pm Module @9/2 and Wishfull Thinking @7/1

3.40pm Big Fella Thanks @20/1 & Rebel Rebellion @20/1 (both each-way, 5 places)

4.15pm Seeyouatmidnight @9/2

4.50pm Attaglance @12/1 and Like Minded @25/1 (both each-way, 5 places)

5.25pm No Bet

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Aintree – Day 1

Nick Hardman is back and has cast his eye over the first day of the Liverpool meeting:

Hot on the heels of Cheltenham and the opening day of the flat season comes one of my favourite meetings of the year – the Aintree Grand National meeting.  This is always a cracking three days of racing and features a host of Graded races and top quality horses, many of whom raced at the Cheltenham festival and I will be sharing with you my picks for each and every race.  Many will lose, some might win and who knows, maybe I can land the big one on Saturday afternoon!  As always please feel free to leave any comments.  Before I get started there is a common belief that horses that ran at the Cheltenham festival have a poor record at the Aintree meeting.  This is actually not true and it is worth bearing that in mind when having a bet over the next three days.  Matt Bisogno over at GeeGeez has written an article looking at this and it is well worth a read.

The meeting kicks off with Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle race at 2.00pm which has been won in the past by some smart types; Zarkander, Binocular and Walkon to name but three!  Cheltenham festival horses do well in this with 8 of the last 9 winners having at least placed at the festival.  7 of the last 10 favourites have also won, the notable exception being Orsippus @40/1 in 2010.

I am reluctant to back Broughton after a disappointing effort at the festival, but what is interesting here is that Denis O’Regan has hopped off John Ferguson’s horse in favour of stable mate Commissioned and none other than AP McCoy has been booked to ride Broughton.  Not sure what to read into that but I prefer Commissioned of the two.  Clarcam is interesting as he was leading the Fred Winter before falling two flights from home but he mainly finds one or two too good.  If the fall hasn’t knocked his confidence he could run well at a price.  The winner of that race, Hawk High lines up here as well and 14/1 is tempting, although this is a much stiffer assignment.  The Triumph Hurdle competitors are represented by Guitar Pete (3rd), Calipto (4th) and the aforementioned Broughton.  Calipto heads the market despite finishing behind Guitar Pete, but the jockey lost his irons two out that day and would have finished a lot closer without that mishap.  Of those that missed the festival, Activial and Commissioned have both been targeted at this race and Fox Norton looks an exciting prospect.  It’s a tough one and I certainly won’t be wading in but I have backed Activial @11/2 and Hawk High @14/1.

The second race is the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl Chase over 3m 1f.  Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti need no introduction but I am going to go with First Lieutenant @3/1 to regain his crown.  This is tough as all three of the main protagonists have course and distance form, but at the prices I think there is just a squeak of value in First Lieutenant.  10/3 was available with Coral but I’ve taken the 3/1 with William Hill and their second place refund insurance.

The Aintree Hurdle betting is dominated by The New One who is a best priced 4/9.  With only 7 runners there is not much point in an each-way play with only the first 2 places paying out.  Even the William Hill money back offer for second place makes no appeal, so I will sit this one out.  If a gun was put to my head I would say that Irish Saint could outrun his price @33/1 but this looks like a no-bet race for me.

Next up is the Foxhunters Chase run over the National course.  We had Tartan Snow winning this last year @100/1 and Silver Adonis winning @50/1 in 2010, but apart from these two the last 9 winners have all been in single figures (8/1 or less to be precise).  With that in mind there is no harm in taking one from the top of the market and one at a bigger price down the pecking order.  At the head of the market I have backed Warne @9/2 who ran well in this last year and won a decent race last time out.  Last year’s runner up Cool Friend @20/1 is also worth backing as he took well to these fences last time and is due a big run after a couple of mediocre efforts and I’ve had a couple each-way on him.  If Island Life could reproduce his form of 2012 he would go close in this.  So what are his chances of doing so based on current form?  About 100/1 – which is exactly what his price is.  Just as a fun bet I have to have £1 each-way.  He probably won’t even get around but you never know.

The first handicap of the meeting is the Red Rum Handicap Chase run over 2 miles and this is one of those no-brainers for me.  Yes it’s a bet with the heart again and an each-way punt on Oiseau De Nuit @16/1 – one of my all-time favourites.  Yes I know he is now a 12 year old and I know he is lugging top weight but I would be unable to forgive myself if he defied those odds without the burden of at least carrying a little bit of my cash.  However, he does have form figures of 321 in this race in the last 3 years and defied a weight of 11st 8lb to win last year.  Having said that, it makes sense to back a couple of runners in a race like this.  Novices have a great record in this race and the one that appeals most is market leader Claret Cloak @4/1.  He probably should have won the Grand Annual and has a chance to make amends here.  Anay Turge @20/1 is interesting back over fences and he has two second place finishes from two visits to Aintree.  I’m happy to back him each-way @20/1.  A return to form and he could be a live danger.

Only 5 go to post in the Grade 1 Novice Chase but that does not mean finding the winner will be any easier.  The obvious starting point is Western Warhorse the winner of the Arkle at the Cheltenham festival, but 15/8 looks a bit skinny.  Dodging Bullets and Oscar Whiskey represent two high profile stables but Oscar Whiskey has not jumped that well since being sent over the larger obstacles and Dodging Bullets makes more appeal of the two.  Uxizandre’s 2nd in the JLT Novice’s Chase was over ½ a mile further but if he gets an uncontested lead here he could take some pegging back.  He jumped really well that day and if he can force a good early pace it might just give rise to some sketchy jumping in behind.  Uxizandre @5/1 will do for me, although any one the five could win on the day.

The closing race of Day 1 is the 3 mile Handicap Hurdle.  One at a price that could run well is Josies Orders @16/1, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by AP McCoy.  He finished 22nd out of the 23 finishers in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham at a not unfancied 14/1.  That day he was hampered at the 1st flight, losing ground before getting in touch 3 out and then fading.  Prior to that run he had form figures of 71311 for the season including a course and distance victory in December and I have had a small each-way bet.  Only two favourites have won in the last 12 years and only three winners have returned at single figure odds.  It’s the kind of race where I usually take a couple against the field so I have also backed Jetson @10/1.  He ran a cracker in the Pertemps to finish 5th and ran 2nd in this race last year.  Interestingly, that day he was ridden by AP McCoy but on Thursday McCoy rides Josies Orders and PD Kennedy takes the ride on Jetson (he also rode him in the Pertemps).  The latter’s 5lb claim takes Jetson to an official mark of 140, the same mark as when second in this last year.  They are my 2 against the field.

It’s a tough opening day (and I have been fairly cautious with my stakes) but hopefully I can get a run for my money and some sort of return from what should be a great day’s entertainment.  As always, best of luck if you are having a bet.

Aintree Day 1 selections:

2.00pm Activial @9/2 & Hawk High @14/1 (each-way, 3 places)

2.30pm First Lieutenant @3/1

3.05pm No Bet (token suggestion – Irish Saint to outrun his price of @33/1)

3.40pm Warne @9/2, Cool Friend @20/1 & Island Life @100/1 (both each-way, 4 places)

4.15pm Claret Cloak @4/1, Oiseau De Nuit @16/1 and Anay Turge @20/1 (both each-way, 4 places)

4.50pm Uxizandre @5/1

5.25pm Josies Orders @16/1 & Jetson @10/1 (both each-way, 5 places)

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Lincoln Weekend Reflections

Saturday came and went in a flash and it was a thoroughly enjoyable days’ racing.  So let’s reflect on how my wagers fared.  In the Dubai Gold Cup, Cavalryman had his run blocked not once, not twice but three times and by the time he got out and flew home he failed to catch the leader by a head.  Now I know a lot of people who backed Cavalryman may be cursing their luck or criticising the jockey, but this is racing and sometimes the cards just do not fall right.  Was he the best horse in the race?  Yes, undoubtedly.  Would he have won with a clear passage?  Yes, he would.  Was I paid out at 5/2?  No.  These things happen in racing and you have to take the rough with the smooth.  I backed the right horse, but it wasn’t to be.

Graphic showed a steely determination and dug deep to win the Doncaster Mile but this was one race I had decided to sit out from a betting perspective.  A long wait then until my big fancy Jack Dexter ran in the Cammidge Trophy at 2.40pm.  Having watched the Morning Line I was not as confident as I was when I placed the bet on Friday, given that the panel of studio guests were keen to take him on with Richard Hannon’s Maureen and were making a big deal out of his 5lb penalty.  Well, it turns out they were right and wrong!  Jack Dexter ran very, very flat but so did market rivals Tropics and Morning Line fancy Maureen.  It was left to the two outsiders of the field to fight it out and Dinkum Diamond led from pillar to post to land the prize ahead of Captain Ramius.  It will be interesting to see how the form of this race works out in the forthcoming season.

If Jack Dexter was a letdown then Shea Shea was a soul-destroyer.  True he didn’t exactly fall out of the stalls but he wasn’t exactly off to a flyer either.  Not even a horse of his stature can go from last to first when the pace being set up front is truly phenomenal.  In the end he did well to finish as close as he did but no one was catching the winner.  I was very impressed with the winner Amber Sky though.  Three races down and no return.  Would things get any better?

In a simple word yes!  I love Brae Hill as much as he loves Doncaster.  What a horse, what a ride and the 8 year old dug deep when it really mattered.  As a bonus, Farlow grabbed some place money in 3rd @ 14/1 and he is one to follow this season seeing as this was his first crack at 1 mile.  With a 10/1 winner in the bag I can afford to relax a little and really enjoy the rest of the racing.  Just as well really as the Lincoln was a big disappointment with One More Word failing to make it into the stalls, Tres Corons never featuring and Gabrials Kaka folding tamely.  I think Tullius was one to take out of the race and I’ve got him down as one to follow this season.  That was it for the domestic action and a bit of a wait until the Sheema Classic in Meydan, just long enough to see my football accumulator go down the pan.

Even though he only finished second, I think Cirrus Des Aigles was one of my better bets on the day.  Dismissed out of hand on the Morning Line, I thought he ran an absolute blinder sent off at 9/1.  He obviously failed to live up to expectations last season but he still ran some good races and showed in the Sheema Classic he retains all his ability.  The winner, Japanese superstar Gentildonna was a class apart and won a shade cosily.  Magician never threatened and the best horse clearly won the race.

I had already backed Red Cadeaux for the Dubai World Cup at 25/1 and decided to have a couple of quid each way on Ron The Greek at 30s on Betfair (and 7s to place in the top three), only to watch him drift out into the 40s.  I never quite know what to make of it when that happens, sometimes I chuck a couple extra on at the bigger price but I decided instead that it was a sign he was friendless on the exchanges.  Neither horse was ever going to win once African Story and Mukhadram kicked clear and the day’s betting ended rather tamely.  All in all I ended up a few quid in front thanks entirely to Brae Hill and Farlow!  I’ll be back later next week with my selections and thoughts for all 3 days of the Aintree meeting, including the big one itself the Grand National.

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From Doncaster to Dubai…

Nick Hardman gives us his thoughts for the first meeting of the flat season:

Some fantastic racing action on Saturday as the UK flat season kicks off with the Lincoln meeting at Doncaster.  As if that wasn’t enough, we also have the world’s richest race meeting in the Dubai World Cup.  I’ll be giving you my thoughts on the top races from these meetings together with a list of my fancies who will be burdened no doubt by carrying my wagers.

First up is the Doncaster Mile at 2.05pm and just 9 entries are set to go to post as I write this.  I think the 4 at the top of the market all have a chance of winning but at 2/1, 11/4, 5/1 and 7/1 there is not much too choose between them.  Marco Botti has had 3 winners from his last 9 runners at this meeting and Guest Of Honour @5/1 could be worth a bet but I will give this one a swerve as in truth I’d be guessing rather than using my better judgement.

The Cammidge Trophy at 2.45pm could well go the way of Jack Dexter and the softer the better for him.  He shoulders a 5lb penalty in an attempt to gain back-to-back victories in this event but I think he is a class act and rarely runs a bad race.  There is not much juice in the price @9/4 but I am happy to take that with William Hill offering 2nd place refunds on all C4 races.

On to the Spring Mile considered the consolation race for those horses that did not make the cut for the Lincoln.  With 22 runners I will be backing 3 against the field.  Richard Fahey has a great record at this meeting with 40% of his handicap runners either winning or making the frame.  He saddles 2 here and I want them both on side.  First up is Brae Hill, a horse who won the Lincoln in 2012 and was 3rd in 2013.  The best time to catch him is early season and with course, distance and going all no problem then I have taken the 10/1.  Fahey’s other runner is Farlow who is stepping up to a mile for the first time.  He signed off 2013 with a good 5th on soft in the Ayr Bronze Cup.  He is an interesting runner and worth a couple of quid each-way @14/1.  Finally we have Global Village who was runner up to Levitate in the Lincoln last year.  He goes well fresh and is suited by the hustle and bustle of a big handicap field.  I have taken the early 12/1 and all three bets have been placed with best odds guaranteed bookmakers.

On to the main event and pre-race favourite Captain Cat is doubtful due to the soft going.  I have read up on some trends and in a race as competitive as this I have used those to pick some likely sorts.  First off I want a horse rated in the 90s but that only whittles the field down to 17.  Second, I’m going for the age angle and focussing on 4 and 5 year old horses who account for 75% of the winners since 1980.  From those making the cut I fancy 2 who I will be backing.  For the win only it will be Richard Fahey’s Gabrials Kaka.  There’s a lot to like about this horse. He is a 4 year old carrying less than 9 stone, is saddled by a trainer with a great record in this race and he actually has form over further than 1 mile which could be an asset if the ground gets even softer.  At a bigger price Charlie Hills’ One Word More has bags of potential and fits the age and weight trend nicely.  One that doesn’t is Tres Coronas who is a 7 year old.  However, he seemed to take a huge leap forward last year and finished 3rd in last year’s Cambridgeshire and 3rd in the John Smith’s Cup.  Interestingly, this horse is stepping down in trip having raced predominantly at 10 furlongs for the past few years.  At 20/1 he is worth a speculative punt as his stamina may see him pick off some weary finishers and grab a bit of place money.

I can’t let the Meydan World Cup night pass without having a few bets to small stakes.  This is always difficult as it is an international event so collateral form is thin on the ground and we have horses racing on the artificial tapeta surface, some for the first time.  Four of the races are on the turf course and the going will most likely be pretty fast!  These will be fun bets more than anything just to give the viewing some additional spice.  I’m going to give the Godolphin Mile a swerve and go straight to the Dubai Gold Cup and the highly unoriginal selection is Cavalryman @5/2.  Last year’s winner loves Meydan and looks sure to make a bold bid to retain his crown.  His form figures at Meydan in the last 2 years read 2311 and I’m sure he will be there or thereabouts.  The UAE Derby is another one I will by-pass as the top two take a chunk of the market at 2/1 and 3/1 and I don’t know enough about the other runners to really be optimistic with an each-way play.

Next up is the Al Quoz Sprint and I’m backing trail-blazing favourite Shea Shea to win.  Apparently he is as good as ever this season and with C&D form he gets the nod over market rival Amber Sky.  I will sit out the Dubai Golden Shaheen and the Dubai Duty Free and have a punt on the penultimate race, the Dubai Sheema Classic which features a cast of stars including Magician, Cirrus Des Aigles, Gentildonna, Dunaden and Mount Athos.  I do fancy Magician’s chances and at 3/1 I have been tempted to have a nibble.  Call me mad but I’m also going to have a few quid on Cirrus Des Aigles.  Clearly he only showed his talent in snatches last season, but he had previously given Frankel a real good race in his swansong at Ascot’s Champions Day meeting in 2012.  That form and his second to Farrh in the same race last year would give him every chance here.  At 15/2 it’s another nibble for me.

Finally on to the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup.  This is no-brainer for me.  Red Cadeaux @25/1.  I love this unsung hero who has amassed over £4 million of prize money.  Second in this last year, second in the Melbourne Cup, this globe-trotter has multiple placed finishes in Group races all around the world.  What is there not to like?

So there you go and below are a list of my fancies this weekend.  As ever, if you are having a bet yourself then all the best and be lucky!

 

Doncaster 2.40pm – Jack Dexter @9/4

Doncaster 3.15pm – Brae Hill @10/1, Global Village @12/1 and Farlow @14/1 (all each-way)

Doncaster 3.50pm – Gabrials Kaka 8/1 (win only), One Word More @14/1 and Tres Coronas @20/1 each-way

Meydan 1.45pm – Cavalryman @5/2

Meydan 3.03pm – Shea Shea @11/8

Meydan 5.17pm – Magician @3/1 and Cirrus Des Aigles @15/2

Meydan 6.05pm – Red Cadeaux @25/1 (each-way)

 

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