Irish Roe looks 'well-in' off her old rating
One of my favourite betting strategies in National Hunt handicaps involves backing horses which are making a quick return after a win or place.
The reason such horses can prove lucrative to follow is because many will be racing off a lower weight than they should be, known as being 'well-in'.
As readers will know, the horse's official rating determines how much weight he will carry in a handicap race - but the official ratings are only updated once a week. Therefore, if a horse makes a quick return to the racecourse before his rating is reviewed, he can run off his old rating.
Horses that win a race and run before their rating is revised will carry a mandatory penalty. But even so, the penalty can be less than the horse is due to go up.
So, for example, if a horse was running with a 7lb penalty but is due to go up 10lbs in the ratings, he is, in theory, 3lbs well-in.
Of course, there are other factors to consider such as whether he'll be physically able to put in a similar performance in the second race. But as a general rule, quick-returning horses are worth noting.
Indeed, since 2008 had you blindly backed horses in National Hunt handicaps which were placed last time out, and were returning within five days, you'd have had 568 winners from 1915 bets (30pc). The profit to traditional SP was €139 to a €1 stake, or €252 if you were betting using Betfair SP, with just two losing years from the 10.
You might only get one or two bets per week but they are well worth looking out for.
Another place you'll spot well-in horses is in the bigger handicap races, particularly on Saturdays.
A lot of big handicaps are 'early closing' races, which means the weights are determined quite early, often a couple of weeks in advance. So in such races, a horse has a longer opportunity to run off its old rating, even if it's done well in another race since.
That's exactly what happens with Irish Roe today, which is trading around 9/1 at the time of writing for the Grade Three Betfair Hurdle Handicap at Newbury (3.35).
Trained by Peter Atkinson, who has just a handful of horses, the seven-year-old mare traded at 1/4 in-running in a Grade Two hurdle two weeks ago, before losing out late on to the talented Maria's Benefit.
Although it wasn't a handicap, Irish Roe was rated 134 going into it and according to the British Horseracing Authority website, she's due to go up 11lbs, to 145, for that performance.
But as mentioned, this is an early-closing handicap, so she gets to race again off the old mark of 134. With four hurdle wins from six, she's definitely one to keep on side.
A little earlier on the same card, I'm not at all interested in taking an odds-on price about Native River in the three-runner Betfair Denman Chase (2.25).
Fair enough, he won this race last year, but he's been sidelined since finishing third in the Gold Cup, and this seems more like a pipe-opener ahead of the big race once again in March.
Saphir Du Rheu is in with a chance around 4/1, but Paul Nicholls has said he's also aiming for the Gold Cup and that he's desperately in need of a run, which puts me off backing him.
Priced around 11/4, Cloudy Dream makes appeal for Ruth Jefferson, who has taken over the training licence after the recent death of her father Malcolm.
I'm going to take a watching brief in the Game Spirit Chase (3.0) with Altior odds-on at 4/7 in the betting yesterday evening.
He's had a breathing problem which required surgery, so fingers crossed all goes well, having been pulled from the Tingle Creek in December, won by Paul Nicholls' Politologue following a beautiful round of jumping.
That horse is back today and this could end up being the race of the weekend if both run to form, albeit in another very small field.
The Gary Moore-trained Casse Tete finished mid-division in a Grade Three handicap at Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago, which wasn't too surprising considering he was friendless in the market around 25/1.
His rating has dropped from 141 in December to today's 133 and he has an entry in today's All Cheltenham Live On Racing UK Warwick Castle Handicap Chase (3.15) which is an open-looking race, and odds of 8/1 or thereabouts early-doors make appeal each-way.
2.25 Newbury: Cloudy Dream
2.40 Warwick: Saint Calvados
3.15 Warwick: Casse Tete (e/w)
3.35 Newbury: Irish Roe
7.15 Wolverhampton: Heather Lark
Do the double
Arsene Wenger said his Gunners side lacked discipline in their recent 3-1 loss away to Swansea, although they got back to winning ways last week with a 5-1 thrashing of Everton. But the Swansea match highlighted Arsenal's poor record on the road, and they could struggle today against a Tottenham side which impressed against Man United and Liverpool. I'm backing Spurs at 21/20.
Pilgrim Soul was beaten into third in a very tight finish last time, and is an interesting entry for the 32Red.com Maiden Stakes at Wolverhampton this evening. But preference is for the Richard Spencer-trained Heather Lark, which is set to go off around 7/4 under jockey Fran Berry. This is her first race for Spencer having been sold last week - but she was placed a number of times for John Gosden, and it's only a matter of time before she gets off the mark. On all known form, she's the one to beat.