UK Racing looks at the races of interest this weekend

Well, I hope you all enjoyed the “conversation” aspect last week, because I could not buy a profit for love nor money, with a non-runner and an odds-on jolly my best results – back to the old drawing board this week.

We need to start this week with that man Willie Mullins who won every single Grade One event last weekend at the Dublin Racing Festival, an incredible feat and not one I intend to put down in any way. He is an outstanding trainer, master of all he surveys, winner after winner, Cheltenham favourites aplenty – so he must surely be the punters pal.

Amazingly, that does not appear to be the case. I did a bit of “maffs” to level stakes and as he was mob-handed in many races, we ended up with 48 runners, 9 winners in total – and a HUGE level stakes profit of (drum roll here) 0.002 points which equates to zero. When you consider those figures includes winners at 16/1 and 9/1 which will have been missed by most (well they were by me!), it seems fair to suggest the majority of punters came away quids DOWN, whatever the headlines say. 

Using figures I “borrowed” from twitter, all his winners added up to an amazing 6,504/1 accumulator so you may think happy days – but to combine all his runners came to 17,280 bets, so a trip to the workhouse for anyone who tried that get rich quick scheme. Facts out of the way, and what I am trying to suggest is that Yes, he is possibly the best there is, and yes he is likely to have loads of winners at Cheltenham – but not necessarily with the first string, and if his followers struggle to turn a profit after a weekend like the last one, blind faith in the main man may not be the only way forward.    

It has been a sad week in the racing world with the loss of Keagen Kirkby who passed after an incident in a point-to-point in Kent at the tender age of 25. Racing has and continues to be as supportive as they can in such horrendous circumstances with over £20,000 raised for a funeral and a memorial and if you have a few pence or pounds spare, please feel free to add to the pot here

Not the same by any stretch of the imagination, but we had to say farewell to Hardy Eustace this week as well, with the 27 year old capable of reminding me just how old I am. Its bad enough when I see things on the Antiques Roadshow from the 1980s (if they were clothes, I’d still be wearing them!), but to realise that Dessie Hughes’ battler won the Champion Hurdle in 2004 and 2005 is just as bad. 

A proper battler who was hard to beat when the race fell his way, he won 14 of his 48 career starts and over a million pounds in prize money, seeing off the likes of Rooster Booster in 2004 and Harchibald in 2005. Many will be saying “those were the days” with 14 runners on each occasion, a number I am pretty confident will not be reached this year I am sorry to say, and without an odds-on favourite in those days either. 

I do understand the gripes about prize money here in the UK, and statistics will tell you that prize money in some races is down from 10 years ago, which is frankly ridiculous, but they do like to shoot themselves in the foot now and then! 

Looking at the racing this afternoon (Tuesday) and the richest prize on offer over hurdles is £7,243 and £8,793 over fences, and although I rather doubt we ever see Caldwell Potter at Taunton, his purchase price of €740,000 means he would need to win about a hundred such races to break even – and that’s without including trainer and jockey fees. 

Admittedly, those figures were for shock value (I can’t help it), as he will not be competing at that level with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or the baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival next on the agenda, assuming new trainer Paul Nicholls sees that as the best route. Even if they “only” pay out £75,965 to the winner he is going to have to go some to pay back his purchase price with my overall point being, owners will never get the sympathy of the public if they cry wolf while paying out exorbitant sums. 

To finish my whining for this week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited Middleham this week and was given a verbal bombardment from all sides regarding affordability checks and the pain they are causing and will continue to cause to the racing industry. 

You can read all the gory details elsewhere but it sounded to me like he made all the right noises – but will he back them up, after all it is his government who are updating the Gambling Act which is the root cause of the problem? I doubt it if I am honest, but what concerns me just as much (or more) is the unsupported view that life will be so much better for racing if Labour get in – can anyone tell me why?  

Retired trainer James Bethell was quoted as saying “On the whole, racing has always done better under a Labour government” and that may be correct – historically – but I prefer cold hard facts and the silence from the Labour ranks is deafening. They have refused the common courtesy of even replying to e-mails from the HBF and myself politely asking for a meeting, and asking around, it appears we are not the only ones to be ignored with bigger fish getting exactly the same treatment. 

I would love nothing more than to be proved totally wrong on this occasion and see the new Labour government, assuming we have one, reversing the ridiculous Affordability Checks and (I can dream) even holding the bookmaking industry to account and forcing them to actually take a tenner now and again (from ALL punters). But I see no evidence that will be the case, and would prefer to find out what the Labour viewpoint is before singing their praises from the rooftops in hope. 

Tired of reading? Want a second opinion? Listen to me and Ron Robinson of Postracing fame on our podcast here 

Saturday Racing 

1.30pm Newbury

A three-mile handicap hurdle kicks off our afternoon of televised racing, and as the last nine runnings have seen nine different trainers and nine different jockeys, with winners at odds up to 14/1 with just the two winning favourites, we are talking minefield alert! I am thinking more rain will fall before racing, making this even more of a war of attrition, and that starts to point me in the direction of Alan King’s Emitom who at 8/1 (as I write) is my each way call. 

Second on two of his three starts this year with a length and a half defeat at Ludlow on Monday, he has won five times over hurdles including the Grade Two Rendlesham Hurdle in 2020 on heavy ground, and although it would be ridiculous to think he can repeat that level four years later, he is rated 15lb lower these days and is capable of a huge effort in these conditions.

2.05pm Newbury

There is precious little fun in covering a small field with a heavily odds-on favourite but if Newbury survive they are the remaining jumps card, and as most like to watch the televised races, what can I do. 

Shishkin has 8lb or more in hand of all of these but do you really want to be takings odds around the 8/13 mark for a horse who refused to start in November and unseated his jockey when looking the likeliest winner in the King George on Boxing Day – me neither! He may sluice up now (and to be honest, he ought to), but I remember them questioning for a long time whether he would or would not get the easy three miles at Kempton, and with heavy ground to deal with here, he may have stamina issues. 

In all honesty, it is a no bet race, but if I had a charity bet to place I would consider a few pennies on 22/1 shot Sam Brown. Yes he is hopelessly outclassed here on the ratings, but he arrives in winning form, handles the heavy ground, and ran on well to get up at Warwick last month, giving him the attributes needed should this turn into a war.

2.40pm Newbury

All the money has come for Edwardstone here as Alan King looks to get a win out of the classy chaser for the first time since December 2022. The Arkle winner over this trip at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022, they tried him over further last time out which didn’t really work with a 25 length fourth at the line, but he has won on heavy ground, albeit in his hurdling days.  

It would be fair to suggest that Gary Moore has his fair share of enigmatic horses, with Editeur Du Gite close to the top of the list in my opinion.  Seven wins from 22 starts over fences isn’t a bad return at all but he can put in a disappointing effort now and then, with a last of five at Cheltenham last month, but he did win the Desert Orchid chase at Kempton and was a head in front of Edwardstone at level weights last year. Cheekpieces are tried for the first time by a trainer I think an awful lot of, and if they get him back to his best he is clearly overpriced here at 11/2, and as he has won on heavy ground we could yet see a shock result this afternoon.

3.15pm Newbury

This is supposed to be a highly competitive handicap but if you believe the hype, it could be all over bar the shouting if Ocastle Des Mottes is as good as they say. Trained by man of the moment Willie Mullins in Ireland, the son of Castel Du Berlais is having his first run for new connections after winning at Auteuil for Gabriel Leenders when last seen in June. 

As we all know, his handler has any number of top horses to work him with giving them a better than average idea of just how good he is (or isn’t), and all the noises coming out of Ireland suggest they think he is a lot better than his handicap mark of 139. Any further rain won’t be a problem for a horse with wins on heavy as well as very soft, though I do have to admit that the current price of 5/1 is laughable in a full field of 24 runners. 

If the rains stay away, which seems unlikely, then Tellherthename would be a tempting alternative at a double figure price, but she doesn’t like soft ground and may swerve this and go straight to Cheltenham.

Sean’s Suggestions:

My Drogo Each Way 3.35pm Exeter Sunday - trying a new trip he needs to get into the first four here to gain a place in the Pertemps Hurdle, and arrives unbeaten over hurdles