Capitaine looks one to follow to stay in profit
Once again, I'm going to kick off my first column of the year with a review of last year's selections. As mentioned this time last year, newspaper tipsters often get a bit of stick - especially these days with all the online stuff, and you have to have a thick skin!
That said, I find that if you are clear about how well or otherwise you are doing and provide a profit and loss, most people are respectful and it's generally good banter.
As mentioned numerous times in this column, if you want to improve your betting you should make a note of every wager you make. In that way, you can see where you are going wrong and eliminate those bets.
You will also find that the tenner on a match here, or 20 on a horse there, while down the pub on a Saturday can add up to a surprising amount.
These days, I'm quite disciplined - but it was a real eye-opener about ten years ago when I began to record every single bet in a notebook, and I realised I was losing quite a bit on the so-called 'fun' bets I was having on a whim.
Getting back to the Betting Ring column in 2016, there were 291 horses put up in total, with 78 of those winning (27pc). The final profit to SP was 64 points which is very healthy - although that was helped in no small part by Gawdawpalin, which won a handicap at Epsom on June 4 for Sylvester Kirk at 25/1.
That was the biggest-priced winner of the year but it just goes to show that this is a game of contrasting fortunes as my shortest-priced loser was also on that day, namely Sayana in an Epsom Group Three at 1/2.
Light Up Our World in the Coral Distaff and Lord Of The Rock in the Spring Mile (both at 20/1) were other highlights - although it's not all good news and I'm going to have to critically look at certain bets I'm making, particularly the odds-on horses.
With 15 winners from 34 bets (44pc), the odds-on selections produced a loss of 10pts. It is also worth noting that the column overall was showing a loss until April, and I must admit I still find it difficult to go through a losing streak of a few months.
I'm quite happy with the main bet each week, which is the horse mentioned in the headline. Those bets produced 19 wins from 47 selections (40pc) for a profit of 11pts. The each-way section also paid its way with a profit of 33pts, assuming the total cost of the wager was 1pt (half a point each way).
The Do The Double piece was in the red for quite a while but a good run during the summer and autumn boosted the bank and it eventually finished 20pts ahead.
It's quite interesting to look back on the top races too. I always consider myself a better punter on the best Flat races yet I made a loss in Group Ones for the year, while a healthy profit was shown in Grade Ones over jumps.
Overall, I'm very pleased with the year but there's plenty of food for thought in there and a few things that may need tweaking. While the results are recorded to SP, the profit was almost 40pts higher at exchange prices and once again it's worth stating that you need to shop around to get the best odds.
We all get lazy sometimes and use the one bookie or exchange but the margins are very tight in this business and if you give away a point or two profit every week, it might mean the difference between staying in the red and getting into the black over the space of 12 months.
It always feels good to kick off the year with a winner and I'm putting my faith in Capitaine, which should go off around 11/8 in the Grade One 32Red Tolworth Novices' Hurdle at Sandown (2.25).
This is the kind of race which might offer some Cheltenham clues and the selection's defeat at even-money in a novice hurdle at Haydock in November is overlooked as he was unsuited by how the race developed, and, according to Paul Nicholls, they got the tactics wrong.
The ground was heavy that day too which clearly didn't help. In retrospect, his odds of 9/1 in a Grade Two at Ascot last time were huge and he was far too speedy for his rivals on better ground. If the rain stays away today, he'll be hard to beat and he's one to keep onside in the near future.
Colin Tizzard's Finian's Oscar also has claims. He beat Harry Fry's Acting Lass by an impressive seven lengths on his debut although this is a significant step up in class and his inexperience may cost him.
I was surprised to see prices as high as 5/1 available yesterday evening for Midnight Jazz in the Listed 32Red.com Mares' Hurdle (12.45 Sandown) for trainer Ben Case.
She was better than ever when winning a handicap at Doncaster last month although currently rated 140, Case may now find the handicap scene a little tricky, and these sort of races may be her only option for now.
Fourth behind Lily Waugh at Cheltenham last year, she was second in a Listed hurdle in October.
The old-timers are on show for the 32Red Veterans' Handicap Chase (3.0 Sandown) and the one that catches my eye is Pete The Feat, which slips in nicely at the bottom of the weights on a mark of 124.
Charlie Longsdon's gelding is one of the oldest in the field aged 13, but he wasn't totally disgraced when third of six last time off 129 in a handicap Chase at Fontwell, and his current rating seems quite fair. At 20/1, he may just manage a place.
David Pipe's Dynaste will be popular with the betting public and is likely to go off as favourite. But the 2014 Ryanair Chase winner was never a threat in a veterans' handicap at Kelso last time and his forecast price of 6/1 looks a little short in a 19-runner field.
12.45 Sandown: Midnight Jazz
2.20 Lingfield: You're Fired
2.25 Sandown: Capitaine
2.30 Cork: Toon River
3.0 Sandown: Pete The Feat (e/w)
Do the Double
Trained by Karl Burke, You're Fired hit a poor run of form in some handicaps during the summer but looked a different prospect when finishing second in a Listed contest at Kempton last time after three months off. On that form, he's capable of winning the Sunbets.co.uk Conditions Stakes (2.20 Lingfield) and early odds of 11/4 look generous.
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino will be delighted with a fine performance from his side on Wednesday, which ended Chelsea's attempt at a historic 14 successive Premier League wins. There's momentum behind Spurs and that can be carried through to tomorrow's FA Cup tie at home to Aston Villa, who sit mid-table in the Championship. At 10/11, the Londoners can land the half-time/full-time result.