Horse racing and betting have a nasty habit of surprising you, and often in unforeseen, and not entirely pleasurable or profitable, circumstances.
Going into Saturday’s racing I was pretty bullish that Theatre Territory would give The Worlds End a race, that West Approach and Kalondra gave me a strong hand in the BetVictor Gold Cup, and that my early each-way play on Buckle Street at 20-1 set me up for a place return at worst in the staying handicap hurdle.
Cue Theatre Territory trading at odds-on before succumbing to the late challenge of Ibis Du Rheu, West Approach being beaten before the first fence and dope-tested as a result, Kalondra yet to be asked any question when unseating, and then Buckle Street refusing to race.
Not the best of days. But at least there was a variety to the manner in which I did my money.
Still, it is only racing and betting, so we shouldn’t get worked up by misplaced confidence, and we always, hopefully anyway, live to punt another day.
And Sunday didn’t turn out to be too bad.
Another unfortunate aspect to the big handicap on Saturday was that the winning jockey, Jamie Moore, got a two-day ban for over-use of the whip – it wasn’t the only such transgression on the card - and that we will now have to suffer another week of chat and columns on the subject.
It has to be addressed, and the BHA probably needs to get hold of the issue sooner rather than later. Another costly, and lengthy, study and review beckons, methinks.
Anyway, I have found five small-stakes bets today.
Nothing interested me a great deal at Hereford – though the handicapper has certainly given William H Bonney every chance in the 2m handicap hurdle by dropping him a generous 5lb for his reappearance run, enabling him to get into this 0-125 (though he has predictably not been missed in market) - but there is a fair card at Plumpton and I could well go if I can clear my desk by 9am (looking doubtful at 7.30am).
When you work for yourself, and largely from home, it is imperative you get out once in a while for the sake of sanity and Plumpton is a nice, easy trip on the train for me.
There is a good novices’ hurdle to open the card, the promise of Larry’s Ascot run was there for all to see last time and he will be a popular order in the second, Dr Dunraven is a big player in the handicap chase at 2.30pm but his price reflects that, and I was probably most interested by the outsiders Sizing Sahara and Mauna Kae in the last.
I know Mauna Kae has shown little this season but he has dropped 6lb in the weights and he would go close in this winnable handicap hurdle if returning to the form of his Newton Abbot fourth in the summer. And the price goes a long way to compensate for the doubts.
But Sizing Sahara is my punt in the race. The grey shaped far better than the beaten distance suggests at Towcester last time out in May, and a 3lb ease in the weights is a bonus.
He is 7lb lower than when a good fourth at Newton Abbot over an extended 3m2f in June, and he ran an even better race when third at that track on his reappearance last season.
His trainer, Paul Henderson, has a great record at this track, and he looks a big price at the general 12-1 (the 16s went on Sunday night, unfortunately).
Ambient ran well below-par at Newmarket last time, and I’d be inclined to blame the soft ground (first time he had encountered it) rather than any keenness. He was a bit free early on but nothing major, but clearly connections think he needs a helping hand as they put first-time cheekpieces on him.
He had earlier put up some decent efforts on better ground and he is now 4lb lower than when a three-length fourth in this grade of handicap (0-85) at HQ on his penultimate start.
He also put up one of his best efforts on his sole start here, when beaten just seven lengths in a good conditions race won by Gronkowski in March, and he clearly goes well on all-weather surfaces, as he was have seen at Lingfield and Chelmsford.
The stable have been very quiet of late, which is a concern, but he has enough going for him at the price. Paddy Power and Betfair made him the 33-1 outsider when they went up just after 4pm on Sunday afternoon, but the current reduced offering of 20-1 is still worth a tickle.
Manton Grange has definite chances after an improved effort at Ascot last time, his first start after a wind op, and this course winner races off a 1lb lower mark on his return to the all-weather.
The continued modest form of the stable is a cause for concern, though one or two have been running OK in defeat.
But he is far shorter than I was expecting, so I much prefer the claims of Michele Strogoff. This is his first start around here but this front-runner is well berthed in stall one to get the run of the race and hopefully the surface won’t be an issue.
He has been in decent form of late, and has been dropped 1lb after a fair fourth at Nottingham last time. He is 2lb lower than when third at that track last month and his guaranteed stamina over 1m2f will stand him in good stead if he tries to stretch these from the front over a mile.
Medrano is not an easy horse to catch right, but he has a decent handicap in him off this mark.
He certainly shaped with conspicuous promise under a relatively quiet ride from the rear, coming around the outside, over 1m4f here last time, and I bet connections couldn’t believe their luck when he got dropped 1lb for it.
He can flatter to deceive – he ran a similar race when second at Wolverhampton off this mark in July – but he certainly has the potential to be a major player here if ridden a shade closer to the pace.
That run around three weeks ago was his first start since running poorly at the end of July, and that will have hopefully put him spot on for this. I think he is the stable’s first runner from a new yard.
He rates an each-way bet at 18-1 with Boylesports, who go five places.
Real Estate and Air Of York are my two against the field at the prices in this 7f handicap, but I am going to side with the former.
He is having his first start for Michael Attwater here, having been bought for 8.000 guineas at the sales on October 29th, so he hasn’t been in his new stable long.
But he makes his debut for connections on a fair mark, 1lb lower than when a close second at Wolverhampton and Chelmsford in the summer, and hopefully he can similarly take to the Kempton all-weather surface, this being his first start here.
He is worth a few quid at 16-1.