De Kerry Man can make a mockery of the statistics
Mark Twain once said that "facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable". That quote is definitely applicable when it comes to horse racing, and all sorts of figures can be used to present a case for opposing, or indeed backing, almost any runner in a given race.
The Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick (3.35) is a case in point. With strike-rates above 20pc, the top jumps trainers at Warwick include Paul Nicholls and Alan King so on the face of it, it makes sense that the top three in the Classic Chase betting come from those stables.
On the other end of the scale, David Bridgwater has had just one National Hunt winner from 39 runners at Warwick since 2009 so based on the trainer course stats, the hefty each-way bet I placed on De Kerry Man at 11/1 when the declarations came out on Thursday may seem rather foolish.
But there are many ways at looking at a race and some other figures are much more promising. Indeed it's worth pointing out that in 2015, Bridgwater won 21 handicap chases from 81 runners at all courses, and that would have produced a profit of €125 had you placed a tenner on each.
A couple of weeks ago, I said that Harry Fry was one of those trainers who has a great knack for finding the right races for his horses and despite his lack of success at Warwick thus far, I'd definitely put Bridgwater in the same shrewd category, especially when it comes to the handicaps.
Slipping in at the bottom of the weights at 125 to give a racing weight of 10st 5lbs, De Kerry Man looked like he was going to make it four wins in a row over fences before unseating his rider when last seen in a handicap chase on New Year's Day at Cheltenham, racing off the same mark as today.
At 8/1, he wasn't too strong in the betting that day but he traded odds-on in-running before 5lb claimer Jake Hodson hit the deck. He was still full of running at the time and had jumped very well throughout, so I'm confident that the gelding can break his trainer's duck at Warwick and make the placings at least, with Hodson set to renew the partnership.
While he's yet to race over today's distance, he looks a good stayer in the making and has no problem handling today's conditions, which are expected to be heavy.
Another one which likes a good stamina test is Alan King's Sego Success and the topweight will most likely go off as favourite.
The application of cheekpieces seemed to work well at Doncaster last time as he won a staying chase by five lengths, but he's up half a stone since then and I suspect that extra burden will be enough to hold him back.
King's other runner Midnight Prayer also deserves a mention. The original plan was to go for the Welsh Grand National but he was found to be coughing on the Wednesday beforehand so his trainer played it safe and withdrew the entry.
He ran just once in 2015 due to some minor injuries but he shaped well on his return to racing when fourth in a handicap chase at Newbury in November, and with a mark of 135, he appears to be well handicapped.
Paul Nicholls' Vivaldi Collonges is another with strong claims and is expected to go off in the region of 7/1. Pulled up in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, he won a handicap chase at Kelso with any amount in hand in December, although it will be interesting to see how he handles an 8lb rise in the weights.
Earlier on the same card, Born Survivor looks the pick of the bunch in the Leamington Novices' Hurdle (3.0). Priced in the region of 4/1, Dan Skelton's charge won a point-to-point at Broughshane (Antrim) at 5/1 back in April and was very impressive at this course when beating a reasonably good maiden hurdle field in his first and only race under rules for Skelton at 5/6.
While it's fair to say he looked a little green and tended to edge left on that occasion, the win was never in danger and the highest he traded in-running at any stage was 11/10. Considering the five-year-old is a newcomer, his jumping looked particularly polished and it's well worth taking a chance at this level against some experienced rivals. It will certainly give connections a good idea as to what he's capable of.
Another interesting entry is the Ben Case-trained Ballagh, which should go off as the outsider. Second in this race last year, the seven-year-old looked like he needed the run in a novice hurdle at Sandown last month but he'll be in his element if the ground comes up heavy and I suspect he'll run better than his odds suggest.
At Naas, I strongly fancy Sempre Medici in the Limestone Lad Hurdle (1.20), although a price of 4/9 is too restrictive for a bet.
With just seven runners and two places up for grabs, the William Hill Download The App Handicap (3.20 Chelmsford) is not the usual sort of race I'd have an each-way bet in - but I've a very strong feeling that Afonso De Sousa can finish in the top two and I can't help having a crack at what seems a very generous price of 6/1 at the time of writing.
A son of Henrythenavigator, David O'Meara's gelding was fourth of seven in a handicap at Wolverhampton over the Christmas, and although that looks poor on paper, he was in need of the run so I'm not too concerned.
Back in March, he was second in a Listed race at Kempton and a mark of 100 seems more than fair all considered.
1.50 Warwick: Emily Gray
2.45 Chelmsford: Lamar
3.0 Warwick: Born Survivor
3.20 Chelmsford: Afonso De Sousa (e/w)
3.35 Warwick: De Kerry Man (e/w)
Do the double
Liverpool versus Manchester United is always a massive sporting event and that's especially true this time round for the under-pressure Louis van Gaal. In the last ten meetings of the pair, there's been three goals or more on eight occasions, and that makes the 5/4 for the 'over 2.5 goals' bet quite attractive at Anfield tomorrow afternoon.
James Tate's Lamar is a great price at 13/8 early doors for the Toteexacta Fillies' Conditions Stakes at Chelmsford (2.45). A Listed winner at Lingfield in October, the Cape Cross mare is one of the most reliable all-weather horses around, and has now won three of her last four races at surprisingly good odds.