Weekly Eye-Catchers – Horse Racing

horse racing

Hi all,

York Provides Punters with Plenty For The Notebook

Top class flat horse racing just keeps coming at this time of year and last week we had the York Dante Festival. The three days turned into a bit of a punters graveyard with rain altering the going to soft on the first of the three days. Now York, whilst my favourite racecourse in the UK, is a tough place for punting at any time but when the going changes quickly as it did from good to firm to soft in a couple of days, it makes it even tougher.

Whilst the betting is quickly forgotten such a meeting can provide us with plenty of opportunities for future winners with runners not being suited by the underfoot conditions or being drawn on the wrong side of the track, etc.

The Eyecatchers have been going through a tough time of late but a treble on Saturday courtesy of Naggers, Natavia and Paddy Power all advised at 4/1, more than made up for the ups and downs of last week at York.

It’s hard to believe that it’s less than two weeks before the Derby, now I will be taking a more detailed look at the race and the Oaks in next week’s column but I thought I would have a brief look back at last week’s Dante Stakes at York with the big race in mind before looking at this week’s horses for your trackers.

Permian Boosts Cracksman’s Derby Credentials

A field of 10 went to post for this year’s renewal of the Dante but the race lost some of its gloss with the defection of the favourite Cracksman trained by John Gosden. Despite the horse’s absence, his Derby chance was given a major boost by the Dante winner the Mark Johnston trained Permian. The pair had run in the Epsom Derby Trial last month with the Gosden horse beating the Johnston horse by a short head.

Permian had subsequently gone on to win a listed race at Newcastle and he was supplemented for the Dante. He stayed on too strongly for his rivals at the end of the race showing a willing attitude in the process. He should get the extra couple of furlongs of the Derby trip but he has now had ten career starts and it’s hard to believe that he can win a Derby given how exposed he is. Still, his win here will give major hope to the connections of Cracksman who goes into the race a major contender.

Of the rest, there are a couple to note with the coming months in mind. The 3rd home, Crystal Ocean needed every yard of this 1m 2f trip but was staying on as well as nothing at the end of the race. From a family that improve with age and distance, the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot looks the ideal race for this colt rather than a visit to Epsom, a race that was won by his half-brother Hillstar in 2013 also trained by Sir Michael Stoute.

Much further down the field, I will give a quick mention to the David Elsworth trained Swiss Storm. The Frankel colt who had created such a good impression when winning a Newbury maiden last September was much too free on his seasonal reappearance and after showing good speed in the early part of the race soon faded out of contention. I saw him in the paddock before racing and he is very powerful, a scopey colt who will have benefited for the run. He has the ability I am sure but just like his sire he really has to settle in races if he is to fulfil his potential which looks likely at a mile rather than further.

York Eyecatchers

This week I have four horses from York and another two from the weekend action for your trackers.

Wednesday 17th May


Lincoln – Mick Channon – This fellow was an eye catcher for me last year and never won on his next three starts but did win later in the season. The six-year-old returns again after I noted him staying on well from off the pace to finish 3rd beaten 1 ½ lengths at the finish from what wasn’t the best of draws in 18. He could need a return back to 7f, a winner three times at that distance and was a ½ length 2nd in the 2015 Victoria Cup off a 4lb higher mark that he raced off here. Four of his five career wins have come on good to soft or soft ground whilst all 5 wins have come when racing within 30 days of his last run. If past seasons are anything to go by we might have to wait until September for him to win, as he is 5 wins from 9 runs 6 placed in that month, although he has good placed efforts to his name in other months.

The Tin Man – James Fanshawe – The five-year-old who improved last season to end the year winning the 6f Group 1 Sprint on Champions Day was carrying his penalty here and it was never going to be an easy task to give 5lb to his rivals on his seasonal appearance and on rain-softened ground. Still, he ran well for a long way and still finished an honourable 5th at the finish. He should come on well for this race and now heads for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, a race he disappointed in last year when 100/30 favourite, when not suited by the good to soft going. He is 6 wins from 8 runs on good or good to firm going, 2 wins from 4 runs at Ascot, including 2 wins from 2 runs on quick going. The 12/1 that was on offer about his chance next month was soon snapped up and he is now a best priced 8/1 for the Diamond Jubilee. That looks a good price to me if he gets good or quicker ground on the day.

Thursday 18th May

Get Knotted – Michael Dods – The five-year-old did well last season and showed the benefit of a promising seasonal reappearance at Doncaster 12 days earlier. He only finished 5th in the valuable mile handicap, beaten 5 lengths at the line, but didn’t get the best of passages inside the final furlong or would have finished closer up to the winner. He is racing off a career-high mark but this mark could still be workable on the evidence of this run. He seems effective on most types of surface and the strong traveller proved effective between 6f and a mile last year. Interestingly 4 of his 5 career wins have come when racing 26 to 45 days since his last start – 4 wins from 6 runs 67% +26.5 6 places 100%.

Friday 19th May

Major Jumbo – Kevin Ryan – One trainer who will probably want to forget the Dante meeting is local trainer Kevin Ryan not in the best of form coming into the meeting he had a couple of horses that ran really well in the circumstances. One of which was this son of Zebedee. The three-year-old who has already shown he has improved from two to three when winning twice on the all-weather this year. He had looked unlucky loser when finishing 2nd on his previous start at Nottingham and ran just as well here when beaten just 2 lengths in the 5f handicap. Looks the sort to get even better with racing and will rate higher than 89 by the end of this year. Form figures in 2017 are 212123. Highly regarded by his trainer the gelding will surely win more races when his stable is back in form.

Other Eyecatchers

Saturday 20th May


Dark Red – Ed Dunlop – The five-year-old hasn’t got many miles on the clock, having just had 14 career starts winning 3 of them, and was dropped back to a mile for this race, 0 wins from 8 runs at less than 1m 2f. All of the main action was down the middle of the track and he raced on the far side easily beating the couple of horses that followed him over that side. In the circumstances, his 4th place finish can be upgraded and there looks like there will be races in gelding this season when stepping back up to 1m 2f again – 3 wins from 6 runs 4 places when racing around 1m 2f. A winner already at Epsom, the valuable 1m 2f handicap at the Derby meeting looks an ideal target for him although he doesn’t like the ground too quick.


Ice Lord – Chris Wall – My tracker wouldn’t be complete without a horse from this trainer. The gelding has moved from the Clive Cox yard and was having his 2nd start for his new trainer when finishing 2nd in this 7f handicap. Given a patient hold up ride he was staying on strongly and almost got up on the line. All his career wins have come at 6f but he clearly stays the extra furlong as he proved here and the hold-up tactics clearly worked well. He can remain competitive off his present mark even after re-assessment and I will be surprised if his shrewd can win races with the 5-year-old this year. Yet to show he handles very quick ground but seems to handle good or good to soft.

All that’s left is to wish you a profitable weeks punting


John Burke

I have a MA in International Politics and having spent a number of years working in political campaigning but I eventually I realised that politics was not the world where I wanted to work I had been interested in horse racing since the late 1980s but in the early years I was merely just betting and watching racing like most people as a bit of fun and a hobby, then the hobby becomes a passion and that’s what happened to me with horse racing. I soon realised that to make money from my hobby I had to learn as much as I could about the sport and betting in general. The whole process took time but after a number of successful years of betting, I decided in 2011 to take the plunge, gave up my full time day job and decided to bet on horse racing as a part time business and I haven’t looked back since. I like to specialise in the better class of races and I love to solve the puzzles posed by big field handicaps the latter races often provide punters with great value betting opportunities. Whilst most of my time is spent reviewing previous races I like to keep things as simple as possible as even the biggest field handicaps can usually be pruned down to half a dozen strong contenders with the right sort of approach.
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