31 Dec 2016

Betfred Wishing You A Happy New Year Handicap Hurdle (Class 2)

Thin pickings this Saturday with New Years' Day falling as it does on Sunday, but a decent card nonetheless at Newbury for Challow Hurdle day.

However the race that interests me is the handicap hurdle later on the card which in its short history as a class 2 has been completely dominated by upwardly mobile, progressive 5yo's - really no more than you would expect at this time of year, and there is a taking 5yo candidate in this field.

After his recent romp at Chepstow under a double penalty, the Challow Hurdle itself was mooted for Geordie Des Champs who instead stands aside for Baltazar D'Allier and takes his first step into handicap company with Barry Geraghty doing 10-06. That's 2lbs above his minimum to take the ride for Rebecca Curtis and J P McManus, a weight he's only done one other time this current winter season in GB or IRE.

Being first time out of novice company is certainly no barrier, a manoeuvre successfully completed by 2014 winner Polamco for Harry Fry. And the bonus here is that GEORDIE DES CHAMPS, who already looks well treated on OR 129, certainly appeals as one who will be better in a better race with a suitable pace to aim at.

The ground looks fine, as does the grade, the trip, track and opposition. He's bang on the right profile for the race, there's been good money for him overnight and yet the price is currently OK - certainly liveable compared to several recent winners.

3pm Newbury, Geordie Des Champs. 1.5pt win 7/2 generally

Herbie is one of the resident pro-gamblers in ENIGMA:


** Feedback: The subject of a huge on course gamble by connections, ran a fine race to finish 2nd, pipped by another very progressive 5yo, the leaders miles clear **

Geordie Des Champs trained by Rebecca Curtis
Geordie Des Champs, progressive for Rebecca Curtis and J P McManus

23 Dec 2016

The Victoria Cup (Heritage Handicap)

First published on a previous Key Racing News blog, 7th May 2016.

This century in renewals which took place at Ascot, there have been 21 runners in the first 5 who went off at prices ranging from 25/1 to 50/1, including winners at 25/1 (3 times) and 33/1. The most recent was Excellent Guest at 25/1 in 2013. Last year Lincoln was 2nd at 33/1 and Hawkeyethenoo was 3rd at 25/1. The year before Belgian Bill was 3rd at 25/1 and so it goes on. This is a race where it pays to look beyond the obvious.

All bar 20 of 21 were aged between 4 and 7yo and ridden by a jockey claiming no more than 5lbs. The clincher though are entries who last ran between 150 and 250 days ago. Most people would instinctively veer away from such types in a race like this, but when fishing for a price in this particular race, that's actually where your best chance lies. Under the above criteria; 10 win or placed (to 5 places) at SP's of 25/1 to 50/1 this century, from just 24 qualifiers - that's a 41.67% strike rate in the frame - including the winner in 2000, 2009 & 2013. Horses carrying 8-12 or less have done particularly well, but nothing can be excluded that qualifies.

If you're prepared to sit and fish year on year, over time you stand to do very well indeed. This year we have 2 possibles; Miracle Of Medinah and Red Avenger. The latter has no winning form at Ascot or on synthetics but will like fast ground and is back down to a competitive mark (former winner of the valuable Betfred Mile at Goodwood), and claims 5lbs. In truth this shapes like a pipe-opener to go back to Goodwood at some stage, but nevertheless he fits the profile.

Miracle Of Medinah will also enjoy fast ground and has form on synthetics. He's also a former winner of the Group 3 Tattersall Stakes at under today's rider (who has ridden 3 of his 4 victories). These all came as a 2yo, but since his mark became more workable he's twice gone close in valuable races at Chester in this grade or higher. He'll need a little support to come in to a 50/1 SP (currently trading 40/1 to 80/1).

Regardless of whether these yield anything in 2016, this approach turns the tables on the bookies and changes this to a race to savour where the enhanced terms play into the hands of patient players.

Herbie is one of the resident pro-gamblers in ENIGMA:


** Feedback: No qualifiers this year; Red Avenger was non-runner, Miracle Of Medinah stayed unsupported at 66/1 SP. Looking forward to next year... **

Excellent Guest wins the 2013 Victoria Cup, returned at 25/1
Excellent Guest wins the 2013 Victoria Cup, returned at 25/1

22 Dec 2016

The Lincoln Handicap - Race Profile

First published on a previous Key Racing News blog, 2nd April 2016.

Thanks for the nice emails we received for the Irish National race profile last week which yielded 33/1 and 40/1 SP placed selections. Races that roll over and offer so much betting scope are rare indeed, but analysis of the Lincoln, a notoriously tricky race, does yield some interesting angles. Especially as there is now a fair block of relevant data since 2008, when the re-laid course was first used, and since when the standard has markedly risen.

Although much is made of winners who have occasionally come from the all-weather or Dubai, by far the most successful group are still those who arrive here after a break of at least 120 days, and there is probably a good reason for that. Horses who like softer conditions tend to have a break mid-summer rather than winter, and can largely stay in training from autumn to be fresh and ready to roll first time up in spring - that is often forgotten. So whereas it's tempting to side with race fitness, results speak differently.

Looking at all renewals at Doncaster this century, there have been 13 winners from 306 runners, a tough-looking winners to runners ratio of 23.54:1. However, restrict this to runners off 120 days+, aged 4 to 6yo with a maximum rider allowance of 5lbs and this instantly cheers up 14.1:1. Stick to runners drawn 16 or lower (particularly relevant when it's soft) and this becomes 11:1.

However, as mentioned above this becomes much more interesting since 2008, where the data is more relevant to the current era and track conditions. Then we have 6 winners from 50 qualifiers, a ratio of 8.33:1. If we discount the outsiders above 25/1 - who in that time have failed to get a single runner in the frame, even to 5 places - this improves to 6 wins from 39, or 6.5:1. In fact with this criteria to 5 places, we achieve 17 from 39 (43.6% win or placed), including the winners in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 & 2015, at starting prices up to 25/1.

In fact, looking over the results, anything that qualifies between 16/1 and 25/1 is something of an EW no-brainer. 7 from 15 have won or placed (incl. wins at 20/1 and 25/1) - this is where the peak betting value lies. Running the criteria over the field reveals 4 qualifiers this year; Lord Of The Land, Mutarakez, Express Himself & Storm Rock, the first 3 have all been fairly well found by the market but STORM ROCK is at least available at 12/1 to 5 places; he goes on the ground, is a 4yo, progressive.

Outside the trends BIRDMAN looks interesting for the place market. Runners drawn higher than 16 have a poor win record but do get placed - he looks reasonably treated with his riders' allowance and he loves it at Donny, especially in properly soft conditions.

Herbie is one of the resident pro-gamblers in ENIGMA:


** Feedback: Birdman made the frame in 4th, closing fast 14/1 **

Gabriel wins the 2015 William Hill Lincoln Handicap
Gabriel wins the 2015 William Hill Lincoln Handicap

21 Dec 2016

The Irish Grand National - Race Profile

First published on a previous Key Racing News blog, 26th March 2016.

In big field handicaps that tend to throw up lots of surprises many bookmakers extend each way terms to 5 places, comfortable in the knowledge that broadly speaking punters will still tend to happily over bet a small pool of runners at the head of the market.

However for the smarter backer, races as unpredictable as the Irish Grand National can represent a gold mine for each way betting - this is a race that since 2000 has produced SP winners between 33/1 and 50/1 no less than 5 times - not to mention a further 12 in the frame, which rises to 16 when betting to 5 places.

That's 21 win or placed from 95 horses who set off between 33/1 and 50/1, a strike rate of 22.1%. Even betting blind to 1pt level win stakes that's a profit of 92.00 (+96.8% ROI), however you can effectively filter these down a little without taking too many chances. 

If you apply; max weight 10-12, a run in the last 16 to 92 days and bred in IRE or FR, the picture improves to 5 wins from 69 qualifiers - and still a further 16 in the frame for 30.4% win or placed. Again even to level stakes this is +118pts (+171% ROI).

But with the high percentage win or placed, this is situation when profits can be enhanced by simple each way betting, with the advantage of smoothing out the journey between drinks.

Staking all qualifiers 1/2 point each way has only failed to produce a profit in one year this century - quite a staggering statistic - while generating a total profit of 134.87pts (+195.46 ROI). Better not tell Tom Segal. Obviously bets cannot be placed until close to post time, but we'll be looking with interest on Monday.

Herbie is one of the resident pro-gamblers in


** Feedback: from 5 qualifiers this year the system got 2 in the frame (to 5 places) at SP's of 33/1 Ballyadam Approach and 40/1 Bearly Legal, for yet another very profitable year **

Irish National 2014 - 5 of the first 6 home returned SP's between 16/1 and 40/1


19 Dec 2016

Cheltenham system that flagged a 66/1 winner

First published on a previous Key Racing News blog, 5th March 2016.

A few years ago we had the almighty experience of backing Son Of Flicka at 66/1 for the Coral Cup (returned at 16/1 after a huge gamble unfolded). Our rationale was simple; how could a horse who was 2nd by 1/2 length the year before in the Martin Pipe, to a pukka horse like Sire Des Champs, and who was now 5lbs lower in the handicap, possibly be a 66/1 chance? This actually happened.

As you can imagine his intervening form had been dire, but as we know in the handicap biz that's often just the way things are. In a stable tour Donald McCain had even laid the foundation of his excuse, confiding that the gelding had recently started to work better.

Ricks of that scale are pretty rare - but whatever the upshot, then as now I always make a point of knowing who's turning up at the Festival having lost by 2 lengths or less the last time. My philosophy is that barring tiny margins, these are Festival winners in all but name. When you think about it like that, and consider that many will arrive prepared with just one meeting in mind, it's worth pausing to make a list.

Here are the qualifiers this year, potentially heading to handicaps on a workable mark:

Broadway Buffalo: 2nd last year in the 4-miler, still only 8yo, he holds a couple of entries but is also in the Midlands National (a Pipe favourite) around the same time, not to mention the Aintree version. Up 5lbs from 2015, but ran a better prep this year:

"He ran very well in the Grand National Trial at Haydock recently when runner-up to Bishops Road and we will have to see how he is. He had a very hard race in atrocious conditions and it’s not certain he will go to Cheltenham but we will see and he’s entered in the Kim Muir and the Ultima Handicap Chase."

Modus: 2nd in the Cheltenham bumper he's down for the County Hurdle and Supreme Novices'. He's clearly a lot better than he showed in the Betfair Hurdle, loves spring ground and looks ripe to progress after just 4 hurdles starts:

"He got behind early in the Betfair Hurdle, hated the ground and was almost brought down. He’s in the Supreme Novices’ but with a mark of 139 I would be leaning more to the County Hurdle with him."

Bouvreuil: 2nd in the Grade 3 Fred Winter off 133, and highly tried but lightly raced since, the drop to a Novices Listed handicap looks a solid move - he's on 139 and open to improvement after only 3 chase starts:

"His most likely target is the Novices’ Handicap Chase on the Tuesday. He ran well to beat Vyta Du Roc at Doncaster and then didn’t run up to his best in a Grade 2 over two miles at that track. He was second in the Fred Winter last year and the longer trip at Cheltenham will suit him better."

Noble Endeavour: 2nd by a head bob last year in the Martin Pipe, racing off 140, touched off by the high class Killultagh Vic - unbeaten since in 4 starts including a Grade 1 at Punchestown when he beat Thistlecrack. To complete the picture, Noble Endeavour has since gone chasing and after 4 starts sits on exactly the same perch of 140:

"I think Cheltenham and four miles will be right up his alley and Jamie Codd will ride him if he runs in it. He's obviously in a few of the handicap chases as well and I'll have to speak to the owners and see what he's handicapped, but if I get my way he'll be running in the four-miler. If you've got Jamie Codd or Nina Carberry or Derek O'Connor in these sort of races it's worth a stone straight away."

Herbie is one of the resident pro-gamblers in ENIGMA:

Son Of Flicka wins the Coral Cup for Donald McCain
£900,000 gamble landed by Son Of Flicka in the 2012 Coral Cup

18 Dec 2016

Horse Racing naps to beat the bookies

Hello, and welcome to Pro Tips.

My name is Herbie and I've been betting professionally for over a decade, specialising in better quality races and at major meetings.

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