Friday, 25 April 2014

Scoop £4 Million

Ever the optimist, I always check the maximum amount that a bookmaker is prepared to pay out in advance of placing my bets. The larger high-street firms usually have a limit of a million pounds, sometimes less – which strikes me as being a bit stingy. So it is rare to have a shot at a £4 million pay-out, which is the projected pot for this week’s totepool Scoop 6 bet.
The Tote offers a different style of betting from traditional bookmakers. It based on a pool system, similar to the sweepstake that you might have organised at work a few weeks ago for the Grand National. Everyone puts their pound (or pounds) into the pot and then the individuals who have been lucky enough to select the winner get to scoop the pool. In the case of the Tote, which is now owned by Betfred Bookmakers, a percentage of the pool is removed for administrative fees, promotions and bookmaker’s profits, prior to the winning dividend being calculated.
The Scoop 6 was devised by the Tote’s marketing whizz-kids with the aim of to rivalling the National Lottery on Saturdays. The objective is to find the winners of the six races designated for the bet each week, usually a mix of the six most difficult races to solve and the highest profile televised races scheduled from any of the tracks racing on Saturday. As well as winning a chare of the win-pool, any successful punters will also have the chance to win the bonus-pot the following Saturday – by identifying the winner of the most fiendish race of the day.
If no one is successful, both the win-pool and the bonus-pot will roll over from week to week – which is exactly what has been happening throughout the Spring. The win-pool this weekend is expected to reach £2.2 million, while the bonus-pot will reach £1.8 million. The minimum stake is £2, part of which is put into a place-pool – so there is also a consolation payment for anyone who identifies a placed horse in each of the six nominated races.
It is quite possible that the combined odds of the winning horses will be less than 4,000,000-1, so in addition to the novelty of targeting a massive pay-out, the Scoop 6 will offer serious value to professional punters this week too – and they are bound to swell the pool with yet more money.
Just in case you're interested, I think the winning six horses are: Saint Jerome (2.05 Sandown), Kenny Powers (2.20 Haydock), El Viento (2.50 Ripon), Sound Advice (3.25 Haydock), Chocala (3.30 Ripon), Rose of the Moon (3.50 Sandown).
I also think that Menorah will finally pick up a race in the Oaksey Chase at Sandown, Sire De Grugy will be a popular victor in the Celebration Chase and I might have a saver on Burton Port in the race that most racing fans still call the Whitbread Gold Cup.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A Good Day to Open Your Mind

In the scheme of things, racing at Lingfield and Musselburgh won’t be the most seismic event that’s ever occurred on Good Friday. However, given that horseracing under official rules has never taken place on this day before (and that crucifixion is out of vogue at the moment) it registers as being pretty significant within the horseracing world.
Traditionally a day of fasting, it is interesting that one of the conditions of allowing Lingfield to race on Good Friday was that they should blow £1 million on prize money on the day. The high prize fund was set, not because the BHA preserved a zealous religious streak, but because they were concerned for the future of the Lambourn and Middleham Open Days which have developed so successfully in the absence of race fixtures.
There was also concern that, by racing on Good Friday, the industry would lose one of the very few opportunities for stable staff to take a break. The million pound prize fund was, in part, compensation for the loss of a holiday for racing-folk.
Despite the new fixtures, Good Friday remains an excellent opportunity to stop what you usually do and get a bit of perspective on life. For thousands of racing enthusiasts, it will be an opportunity to visit a stable yard and see something that they have never seen before – horses at home, relaxed, not racing.
There will be thirty trainers’ yards open in Lambourn and at least fifteen in and around Middleham. In both cases there will be jockeys to speak to, demonstrations to watch and competitions to enter. Most of the yards are open in the morning, but the activities continue throughout the afternoon – in the town centre in Middleham and on the gallops in Lambourn. You’ll be able to have your photograph taken with celebrities – some of them human, but most of them equine (you’ll notice they have longer ears and teeth).
Having spent a bit of time contemplating a different side to life, there is all the fun and excitement of Easter Saturday and Bank Holiday Monday to look forward to. For me, that used to mean point-to-pointing at Charing and Aldington. Point-to-points are the grass roots of the sport and if you’ve been inspired by the open days to seek out some new equine experiences, why not find your local point-to-point track and get down and dirty with the amateurs!
Following the Aintree version two weeks ago and the Scottish version last weekend, it is the turn of the Irish Grand National on Monday. I’ll be hoping to make it third time lucky with this week’s selection: Home Farm in the Fairyhouse feature race.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Inspired by The Pie

This week, following a vintage running of the Grand National, I’ve been reading tributes to the most inspiring national-winning trainer of all time. Mickey Rooney trained just one horse, but he was also the first and greatest advocate of female jockeys – giving Elizabeth Taylor the leg-up on The Pie for that famous Grand National victory, immortalised in the film National Velvet.

The Pie never features in conventional lists of previous Grand National winners because Elizabeth fell off after the finish and failed to weigh in – at which point it was discovered that the winning jockey was in fact a twelve year old girl. In a book about the race, The Pie was supposed to be a piebald (black and white coloured) non-Thoroughbred.
The film spawned generations of romantic racing imitations including Champions (the story of Bob Champion and Aldaniti), Seabiscuit (the story of a depression-busting gelding in 1930’s America) and Murphy’s Stroke (the story of unusual betting patterns at Cartmel Racecourse) - but none of them quite hit the same mark on account of their wild and unrealistic plot lines.
For seven decades, since 1944, National Velvet has been spurring enthusiastic children towards a life in racing; believing that, one day, they too might win the Grand National. Even I, as a 10-year-old boy, used to canter around my front lawn jumping mounds of grass clippings, pretending to be The Pie.
Sometimes I pretended to be Zongalero, who finished second to Rubstic in 1979. I am not quite sure why I didn’t favour Rubstic, who was expertly campaigned by his trainer John Leadbetter, but I think it might have been something to do with the fact that I’d had 25 pence each-way on Zongalero at 20/1. I hope John will forgive this confession.
Following his brief training career, Mickey Rooney became quite successful in the movie business. My favourite performance came in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, where he played a neighbouring Chinese man shouting "Miss Golightleeee!" at Audrey Hepburn as she hosted spontaneous parties on the shared stairwell of their flats.
When it came to marriages, the cast of National Velvet were pretty prolific. Both Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney married eight times, although Elizabeth Taylor cheated as she married Richard Burton twice. When asked in later years whether he would have married all those ladies again, Mickey Rooney responded: "Absolutely. I loved every one of them."
Who can tell whether the connections of Pineau De Re, the winner of last weekend’s National, will lead such interesting lives in the decades to come? The trainer, Dr Richard Newland, has an entry in Saturday’s Scottish Grand National at Ayr. However, at 46th on the list of runners, the odds are surely against Royale Knight getting a run. Preference is for the Lucinda Russell trained pair Green Flag and Lie Forrit.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

It's all in the Name

There’s a heightened interest in horseracing this week and the blog is sure to receive a lot more traffic than normal, including many readers who are only really interested in one race-meeting – the Cartmel Whit Holiday Monday on 26th May.
Oh yes, there may be a few that are looking for advice about the Aintree Grand National too…
I thought it might be a pertinent time to draw your attention to the disclaimer that accompanies this blog and the Cartmel Racecourse website. You see, some people may believe that they have lucked across a genuine source of racing information.
The truth is that, according to my calculations, if you had put one pound on every weekly selection published to date, you’d have lost nearly £2 over 15 months. I’m hoping that past performance is not an indicator of future success - although you should be aware that your investment is more likely to go down than up. Whether you choose to follow my lead is your decision.
Having got that bit out of the way, you’ll be pleased to know that picking the winner of the Grand National is quite simple – it’s all in the name. The first ever winner, in 1839, was Lottery – which is quite obvious when you think about it.
If you live anywhere around Cumbria you’ll probably be tempted by Mountainous (trained by Richard Lee), although coastal dwellers may prefer Tidal Bay or Rocky Creek (both trained by Paul Nicholls). It worked for me in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, won by Lord Windermere, so I shouldn’t really knock it as a betting system - but it lacks the rigorous scientific approach that I usually favour.
Instead, you may wish to try a well known and profitable system: to back horses with alliterative names – such as Red Rum and Party Politics. Quite apart from identifying the three-time winner Red Rum, the system also pointed towards the ultra-lucrative 100/1 winners Tipperary Tim (in 1928) and Mon Mome (in 2009). If you stretched the rules slightly, you’d have also scored with Rhyme ‘n’ Reason (1988) and Hedgehunter (2005).
This year’s qualifiers are Buckers Bridge, Mr Moonshine and the favourite Teaforthree (if you’re cheating). Mr Moonshine will carry the same colours as Aurora’s Encore who won the race last year. Part owner Jim Beaumont is a regular visitor to Cartmel Racecourse and even brought the Grand National trophy with him last May to allow racegoers to have their photographs taken with it.
Like Aurora’s Encore, Mr Moonshine is trained in Yorkshire by Sue Smith, whose husband Harvey is probably one of the most famous show-jumpers in history. You’ll see them together at most Cartmel racedays and last season they notched up two winners at the course in conjunction with last year’s Grand National winning jockey, Ryan Mania (who rides Mr Moonshine).
The top trainer at Cartmel also happens to be a household name at Aintree. Donald McCain has trained 21 Cartmel winners in the last five seasons and was responsible for Aintree winner Ballabriggs in 2011. His father Ginger trained the legendary Red Rum as well as the 2004 winner Amberleigh House. His runners this year include Kruzhlinin and Across The Bay - one for any individuals that live in Morecambe (unless you live in Morecambe, in which case you probably think it is one for those that live in Grange-over-Sands).
As might be expected with the world’s richest jump race, most of the top trainers have entries and most will be familiar names to racegoers at Cartmel having enjoyed runners in the last few seasons. Nicky Henderson (Long Run, Hunt Ball and Triolo D’Alene), David Pipe (Our Father) and Phillip Hobbs (Balthazar King) have all made the journey north to Cartmel, although they’ve usually been beaten off by the local trainers.
Jonjo O’Neil used to be based near Penrith, although he now plies his trade from Jackdaw’s Castle near Cheltenham. The move didn’t stop his flow of Cartmel winners and last season he won the Cumbria Crystal Cup with Church Field – who incidentally holds an entry at Market Rasen on Sunday; a race which will be a lot easier to win than the Grand National. Nevertheless, O’Neill is still giving it a good go with Burton Port, Twirling Magnet and Lost Glory.
I quietly fancy Burton Port, who has a low weight and some classy form to his name (I’m also quite partial to Pineau De Re – a nice blend of brandy and grape juice).

However, if your name is Bill, or your father or grandfather’s name is Bill, you’ll probably prefer Swing BillIf your name isn’t Bill, but Rose, Roy or Balthazar, you might have more luck with Rose of the Moon, Chance Du Roy or Balthazar King.

Rose of the Moon is trained by David O’Meara who won over the Grand National fences and scooped lots of races around Cartmel as a jockey, before becoming a trainer and lifting the Cartmel Cup with Viva Colonia in 2011. Based in Yorkshire (like last year’s winner), his charge is set to carry 10st 3lb (like last year’s winner) and is grey (like the winner two year’s ago).
The head says Teaforthree, the heart says Rose of the Moon. Heart rules head. Good luck!
First - Rose of the Moon
Second - Teaforthree
Third - Burton Port
Fourth - Long Run