Horses to Watch in 2011 to help you get the best betting returns
With jumps racing back in full flow, I have been studying hard and hope to give you some more horses who have achieved more than the form book suggests.
In the last edition I suggested backing Half Cocked, having thought he appeared to be well-handicapped. That horse managed to win a Novices’ Hurdle and give us our first winner, at the juicy odds of 11/1. Another horse that went close was De Bartishell who finished second at 12/1 and should improve when stepping up in distance.
This week Racing Expert James Cosgrove has come up with the following horses to keep an eye on:
Master Milan (IRE), Taunton/Towcester, Jonjo O’Neil
This five-year-old gelding has now had the obligatory three runs over hurdles since making his debut in a good Bumper at Sandown in November. The winner of that race was Knight Pass who his well-regarded by Warren Greatrex and both he and the second horse have won since. Master Milan was only beaten by five lengths that day and since then has caught my eye on his last two starts. Both times he travelled well up with the pace before fading. It may be that the horse is now given a break to strengthen up by his trainer and given that he is stoutly bred it would be no surprise for Master Milan to turn up in a handicap off a very lowly mark sometime in the near future.
Advice: Follow when entering handicaps for the first time but expect a break.
And The Man, Ayr, 2nd January
I was not only one to be shocked by the amount of running this horse had to give at the end of the 2m4f contest. The Ayr stewards decided to take a look at the running and accepted the explanation that the horse was a ‘big baby’ according to the trainer. We can only assume that this was purely an educational race for the gelding and on that basis, when his education is complete, he looks like he has plenty to offer having run on strongly at the end of this race.
Advice: Another which is a long-term follow, with the best yet to come.
Leading Contender, 2nd, Sandown, 8th January
This lightly raced ten-year-old was making only his sixth start over fences. His best effort came when a good second to Don’t Push It at Aintree in 2009 and he once again showed he retains plenty of ability at Sandown. Racing on ground that was probably worse than the official description he travelled into the race smoothly before the ground probably found him out. He is on the same mark as he was when second at Aintree and is capable of winning when returning to better ground.
Advice: Worth following in staying handicaps this season
Chablais, Won, Kempton, 15th January.
This Nicky Henderson-trained gelding was not a cheap purchase, costing 260,000 guineas at the Cheltenham April sales last year. This, his first appearance under rules proved to be a winning one after beating what looked an above-average field. After travelling smoothly throughout he won his race once Barry Geraghty pushed him clear in the straight. He jumped well, with the highlight being two out which he winged and after going around four or five lengths clear he was worth more than the final winning margin after being pushed out under just hands-and-heels. This form should turn out to be rock solid with the likes of The Reformer, Sybarite and Made in Time appearing to run their races in behind.
Jimbatai, Fell, Kempton, 15th January.
After not quite getting home in what has turned out to be a very strong race last time, this gelding was sure to be suited by a drop back in trip here. Held-up in the rear for the first part of the race, jumping quickly and accurately before blundering at fence ten and then unseating at fence eleven. The form of his previous run at Bangor suggested that he was in good form with those in front being the following: Minella Boys (since won the Sussex National), Major Malarkey (won next time at Newbury), Buffalo Bob (another to win at Newbury) and the winner that day was Summer Justice who was withdrawn from the Welsh National having been as low as 10/1 in the ante-post market. Not only was it the horses which finished in front of Jimbatai that strengthened the form of that Bangor race. Sagalyrique was pulled-up at Bangor and went on to win his next start at Ayr whilst Rate of Knots has been placed twice. Jimbatai has now raced seven times over fences, being out of the first three on only three occasions and could be adding another win to his tally in the next few weeks when racing over around 21 furlongs.
Advice: Back on next three starts.
Ice Image, Unseated, Newcastle, 11th January.
It is not often I will give you advice to back a horse which is still a maiden after twenty-eight attempts however, Ice Image gave every impression at Newcastle that he is a horse ready to strike. The nine-year-old came cruising into the race approaching three out, still looking as though he had plenty to give before coming down at the next fence. There are obvious concerns about backing a horse who has not won from twenty-eight attempts but he should go off at double figure odds and is worth a small interest.
Advice: Back next time out.
Zhakiera Spirit, Won, Newcastle, 11th January.
Howard Johnson may have bigger issues than future plans for this mare at the moment but this daughter of Kayf Tara has a very bright future. Being a sister to both Megasue and Megastar gives the indication that she would be able to win Bumpers. She appeared at Newcastle under a penalty for a win at Wetherby and routed the weak opposition without really coming off the bridle. It is hard to imagine she will attempt to win under a double penalty but given the ease in which she won this gave the impression she could be capable of that feat. The natural target for her could well be Aintree at the Grand National meeting and given that Megastar (her brother)was a winner at that meeting last year, hopes would be high of her handling the better ground.
Advice: Back for remainder of season, this is a classy mare.
Gallant Oscar, 4th, Hereford 13th January.
In a race that was won by an expensive purchase from the Paul Nicholls yard, Gallant Oscar performed better than the finishing position suggests. Making his debut over hurdles after running in a Bumper at Uttoxeter, he travelled up with the pace, going as well as the winner for most part of the race. Whilst the winner went on to win quite easily, Gallant Oscar weakened to finish fourth when turning in he looked to be laying down a decent challenge to Minella Stars. Rebecca Curtis appears to have got a horse with definite ability on her hands here, being a half-brother to the Willie Mullins-trained Enterprise Park, who himself was an above average hurdler. It may be that we don’t see the best of him until he strengthens up but he was the second best horse at Hereford.
A Media Luz, Fell, Kempton 15th January.
This high-class flat recruit ran in the 2010 Prix De Diane, a Group 1 race for three-year-old fillies. She is now trained by Nicky Henderson and was making her third appearance over hurdles at Kempton. After ruining her chance at Cheltenham on debut by pulling she showed signs of improvement on her second start. Sent off as 5/2 second favourite she was going best of all when coming down two out. The eventual winner was from the in-form David Pipe stable and the third Brampour was the favourite for the Triumph Hurdle prior to this. I am of the opinion that A Media Luz will be the best of those three as a hurdler and is one I will be keeping on my side approaching the business end of the season.
As well as noting horses of interest, I like to keep an eye on trainer form and include it within any decision I make towards placing a bet. This last week has seen one of my favourite trainers, Emma Lavelle, have her first winner. A couple of her other runners have been placed and there are definite signs of more winners in the near future. I have noted that many of her runners since the ‘big freeze’ appear to travel well before fading late on in their races. Horses that fit that description include: Red Mile, Fontano, Tim The Chair and Easter Meteor. I expect all of these horses to show improved form in their next few appearances. One thing I do like to see when backing a horse from the Lavelle stable is market support, this like with many other stables around the country often coincides with improved performance.
David Pipe has his stable in rude health at present with nine winners from thirty four runners in January. He has plenty of entries for the upcoming weekend and Shoegazer is the one which is of most interest to me. He was highlighted in a previous article and should be more suited by the race he is entered in at Wincanton on Saturday. Another trainer in red-hot-form is Micky Hammond. His last five runners has produced three winners and the other two were also placed. Three of those five horses were sent off at double-figure odds and it is worth following any runners he may have at Catterick and Market Rasen later this week.
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