15 Jun 2019

Pavers Foundation Sprint Handicap (Class 2)

I’ve barely noticed the weather this week as I’ve been sifting through research ahead of Royal Ascot, but bobbed up to take a good look at this handicap, which is one I always enjoy as it has a history of landing excellent prices – 6 at double figures in the last 10 years, and 3 of those at 20/1+

The reason is simple, it’s a 3yo only race, wide open to improvers – whereas the market tends to run short of inspiration and overbet form in the book. While soft ground helps to keep Arab-owned hotpots away and maintain a nice open affair.

The fact that neither Moore or Doyle are riding for Haggas today suggests Victory Day is not necessarily a good thing. Doyle can do the weight and is riding for Haggas earlier on the card but appears to not have wanted it.

Moreover, Danny Tudhope surely had the choice of Victory Day and SECRET VENTURE and rides the latter (having ridden both last time out). I don’t lay horses by inclination, but if I did I’d be laying Victory Day.

Secret Venture was unsuited by the ground on reappearance and lost a shoe. He’s a lightly raced improver for a top northern sprint yard and should appreciate the conditions. He looks well drawn too, but more of that later.

Perhaps less obvious is another runner from the Kevin Ryan yard, YOUSINI. It’s worth watching his last run at Newmarket where he travelled into the race like a proper horse until flashing his tail and backing out. It’s a fine line with him – he really wants some juice but can cope with goodish ground if it’s loose on top (but didn’t that day.)

He’s by Siyouni and has always wanted some ease, but last summer that was impossible to find and by autumn he needed wind surgery, so was put away. We have a share in him via the ENIGMA Racing Syndicates, so we’re aware of all this. Finally, he has it all in place today. 

Yousini is in very good form at home and if he disappoints it will only be that his suspect wind has come to haunt him (which I don't think it will.) The yard think he’ll run a big race and I’m pretty hopeful too.

As regards draw, I looked back over the last 17 class 2 sprint handicaps run at York (ie since 2016), run on gd-sft or wetter, and every winner was drawn 1-11. Both the above are drawn low and looking at the stats that certainly doesn’t feel like a negative.

Royal Ascot

I will try and post the odd thing here during the Royal meeting – however if you’d like to follow me bet for bet (which historically is a productive thing to do), it's good moment to join the ENIGMA Forum, where you can subscribe to my Key Racing Gold thread to receive an email with each bet.

Good luck!

3.35 York, Secret Venture 1pt EW 14/1, 5x1/5
3.35 York, Yousini 1pt EW 33/1 5x1/5

** Secret Venture disappointing, Yousini 5th to collect excellent place money - Victory Day beaten for lay bettors (but only just!) **

Herbie authors the Key Racing Gold thread on the ENIGMA Forum - check the performance at: WWW.ENIGMARACING.NET/RACING-FORUM

The Knavesmire, Ascot of the North


1 Jun 2019

Derby Day 2019

I chipped in the Oaks winner yesterday for my Key Racing Gold thread which is having another excellent month on the ENIGMA FORUM and I think there’s every chance I can complete the double as we eye up the boys’ event.

With Sir Dragonet in 13 and Telecaster drawn 2, the Frankie factor looks to be at play in the Derby market with the well-drawn Circus Maximus an EW compromise bet, Dettori riding for Ballydoyle.

Circus Maximus is a decent trends match. You are looking for unexposed, improving runners (2 to 5 career starts), top-3 last time out with a prep at Chester, Leopardstown, Newmarket or York.
The kicker is they need to be drawn in stalls 4 and 15. Lower than 4 and you need a lot of luck to overcome traffic problems. Above stall 11 it becomes tricky, but if you have the class to inhale your peers, you usually get the bonus of a clear run.

The qualifiers this year are: SIR DRAGONET and Circus Maximus. After Frankie’s performance yesterday Circus Maximus has attracted support (he looks a frame chance), but it’s questionable whether he has the brilliance to win.

But then again few horses in this field have firmly hinted at the combo of brilliance and stamina that marks out a really good one. Only two appeal as having such potential, Sir Dragonet and Telecaster, and I'd rather be drawn in 13 than 2. It's not the biggest Derby field, stall 13 isn't a disaster for a horse with class, but Telecaster will certainly need luck in running.

The Dash

As you know, we are also active with a very successful racehorse share scheme. Amazingly, we have a stake in 2 runners today at the Derby meeting (a thrill in itself), and at least one of them deserves a mention.

HAROME is a fast horse who likes to lead and the Epsom Dash has long been the race they’ve had in mind. He also loves fast ground and arrives here cherry-ripe on a nice mark from a decent draw.

Roger Fell is an excellent trainer. He was David O’Meara’s landlord and assistant in his ‘magic period’ and Fell now trains in his own right from the same premises with much the same result. In short, Harome is in very good hands.

His recent run at York put the finishing touches to his fitness, whilst running an eye-catching race from the wrong side of the draw. ENIGMA FORUM members took 25/1 EW midweek, but he’s still very backable and we’d like to think can be bang there.

3.45 Epsom, Harome 1pt EW 16/1, 5x1/5 various
4.30 Epsom, Sir Dragonet 2pt win 3/1 various

** Harome blew the start and finished like a train from dead last into 6th - so frustrating, would surely have gone very close. Sir Dragonet, ultimately, not good enough **

Herbie authors the Key Racing Gold thread on the ENIGMA Forum - check the performance at: WWW.ENIGMARACING.NET/RACING-FORUM

The Investec Derby Stakes 2019 Group 1


11 May 2019

Pertemps Long Distance Handicap Hurdle (Class 2)

If you followed me in last week, I hope you enjoyed Magna Grecia's win in the Guineas. It all fell nicely and I think he'll be underestimated over his next two starts (unless he bolts up). He's a very strong stayer at the trip and yet lacks nothing for pace.

Magna Grecia was my only bet of the day, but today is trickier. I've backed several in my Key Racing Gold thread on the ENIGMA FORUM and choosing between them isn't easy as I like them all.


At this Haydock meeting, one of the prime angles is to know which meetings / races supply the majority of winners. For instance, did you know that just 5 courses have supplied the last 21 straight winners of the Swinton Hurdle? Moreover, did you know that all 21 ran last time out in a class 1 or 2 hurdle?

It's just that kind of meeting.

So, with this in mind what can we know about the Long Distance Hurdle? For me, the prime takeaway is the return generated by top-five finishers in class 2 handicaps at the Cheltenham April meeting:

Since 2004, 24 qualifiers staked 1pt EW have produced 14 win or placed for a level stakes profit of +£87.25 pts (standard EW terms.)

NO HASSLE HOFF is the sole qualifier this year and has a very strong frame chance, but at the price I'm just going to try for the win. The course, going and step up in trip all look perfect too.

2.00 Haydock, No Hassle Hoff 2pt win 9/2, maybe more on the exchanges

** Unplaced, nice trends match but it wasn't wet enough for him **

Herbie authors the Key Racing Gold thread on the ENIGMA Forum - check the performance at: WWW.ENIGMARACING.NET/RACING-FORUM

It's Swinton Hurdle day at Haddock


4 May 2019

Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes (Group 1)

Sir Charles Bunbury was the man responsible for setting up our first classic of the flat season - a trifle unlucky to found a race remembered for it's prize fund than named in his honour. Doubly so, because he also co-founded the Derby and stood aside for the Earl of Derby to label that one.

The straight (but bumpy) Rowley mile course was intended for the aristocracy of England to test their sporting blood and eye for a thoroughbred, but times have changed. The richest source of winners in the modern era are colts grazed and nurtured in Ireland.

The hallmark of a live Irish contender is to go straight there without a public prep. Since 1998, if you had combined these factors with horses who were Group winners as 2-y-o's, the outcome would have been: 11 wins from 32 qualifiers (+30.26 pts to SP).

Moreover, since 1998, every winner bar one either ran over 7 or 8fl last time out. The last one to step up successfully from 6fl was Island Sands in 1999. Unsurprising, as they usually go too fast so the Guineas is a race that really tests stamina. A big negative for Ten Sovereigns.

MAGNA GRECIA is the sole qualifier this year and a Group 1 winner last term. The form of his close 2nd to rising Frenchstar Persian King over C&D lends credibility to his form in the Futurity Stakes, even if the race itself looked suspect.

As Donnacha was on board for that he may well have had the pick here - but whatever the politics, it would be no surprise if he's on board the Ballydoyle No. 1.

3.35 Newmarket, Magna Grecia 1.5pt EW 5/1, 4x1/5 various

** Feedback - WON going away, never really in doubt with an assist from the draw **

Herbie authors the Key Racing Gold thread on the ENIGMA Forum - check the performance at: WWW.ENIGMARACING.NET/RACING-FORUM

A worm's-eye view of the 2019 Qipco 2000 Guineas


6 Apr 2019

Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3)

The jumps world seems to evolve very quickly and the Grand National already feels an altogether different race to the one we knew even 10 years ago. So, from a trends perspective it pays to focus on very current things.

As the handicap is now less artificially compressed, what we'd expect to see (and what we do see) is a shift toward better quality types on a fair weight, rather than out and out handicappers smuggled in on a low weight. Handicappers do still win, but the balance has shifted and with probability you always want to be working with the gradient, than fighting it.

On this theme, one interesting filter is the strength of results from 2013 to 2018 achieved by runners who ran last time out in a non-handicap chase of any kind, and who have career winning form in Listed company or better - i.e. better than handicaps. Especially of course, those lining up here on a fair mark.

After chewing the fat on this approach JURY DUTY comes out a very strong each way candidate for Gordon Elliott. I put him up at 25/1 EW on the ENIGMA Forum a few days ago, and he's been widely touted since but 16's is still not a disaster.

Meanwhile, if he gets round in one piece, the impressive RATHVINDEN is a nailed-on stayer with a massive chance on the form book for Willie Mullins. Again, we backed him some time ago at much better prices - as did loads of people - so I'll put him up. His claims are there for all to see and hopefully you are already on.

But this is the Grand National, so why stop at 2. We need an outsider too!

I've backed MINELLA ROCCO, principally because JP McManus horses who record a 'Pulled Up' last time out have an uncanny habit of winning nice races the next day. Like many seasoned JP watchers, I've been selectively following and writing about this angle for years.

Don't Push It for example - ran a shocker at Cheltenham and was then backed off the boards on course at Aintree before winning this very race.

Minella Rocco had an almost carbon copy prep a few weeks ago (if prep is the word). Perhaps, too bad to be true. I'm not sure you would even actually send a horse here who is that out of form. Would you?

If the same thing happens today with Minella Rocco, I couldn't bear not to have a penny on a past winner of the 4-miler and 2nd in a Gold Cup in this ownership. The ground is coming right for him too.

The way his campaign has shaped since wind surgery, the whole season may have been planned around getting into this race on a workable mark. And being a JP horse, whatever he did last time out is best turned on it's head - it's just as likely to be have been about sending his price out.

The yard form is a concern. Tedham ran a shocker for Jonjo yesterday, for one of his biggest owners, when expected to run really well. They did have a Grade 2 mares' race winner in the past 2 weeks, and she ran very well. So, like Lostintranslation who hacked up yesterday for Mr Tizzard, whatever their tribulations, neither yard is entirely on the canvas.

You can also pick holes in Minella Rocco's jumping, but for 50/1 you can't have everything and he jumped great in the Gold Cup on good ground. He's fallen twice in his career, which would be one more than you'd like to see for a potential National horse, although coincidentally Don't Push It had the same number of prior falls. At the end of the day it's a punt, but crazier things happen every day.

For JP, Minella Rocco is a dart at the board and with his colossal stamina, for a lightly raced 9yo in that ownership, it's entirely logical that this has been the plan for some time.

5.15 Aintree, Rathvinden 1.5pt win 9/1 Coral, BFSB, Sportingbet
5.15 Aintree, Jury Duty 1pt EW 16/1 6x1/5 various (some 18's Redzone)
5.15 Aintree, Minella Rocco 0.75pt EW 6x1/5, 50/1 Lads, Coral

** Rathvinden ran well but Tiger Roll was all over the winner from miles out...outstanding **

Herbie authors the Key Racing Gold thread on the ENIGMA Forum - check the performance at:

It's time for THAT race again, Aintree Grand National 2019