Smart Call can prove to be just that at Kempton
The Aintree Grand National Festival begins on Thursday, and while we have some great racing to look forward to, punters should take a cautious approach and be aware that it's usually one that favours the bookmakers.
I've had a look through the 72 main race meetings and festivals that take place in Britain and Ireland each year, and if we use the success of the favourite as a guide to how well or otherwise punters perform, Aintree is alarmingly poor at 68th place in the table.
To put it into some sort of context, the Punchestown two-day mid-November meeting tops the table - the favourite has a strike-rate of 43pc over the last 10 years. While it's still unprofitable to blindly back the jolly there, it's a lot easier to find a winner compared to the Aintree National meeting, where the favourite has a strike-rate of just 24pc.
Again, to give more context, Cheltenham Festival favourites have a strike-rate of 27pc, which is still quite low, while on the flat, Royal Ascot favourites have a strike-rate of 32pc.
While I'd rarely advise blindly backing or laying any horse without doing some research, you could do a lot worse than laying the favourite at the Aintree National Festival. Or if you are not into laying, at least be aware of what you are up against at Aintree when taking on the bookmakers.
Since 2008, there have been 44 winning favourites there from 185 festival runners, and had you laid each with a flat stake of €10, you'd be €587 richer today with just one losing year in 2012 (prices are based on Betfair SP, and assume the layer is paying the maximum 5pc commission).
As you would expect, the Aintree favourite performs better in the higher-quality Grade One races, and chasers have a much better win rate compared to hurdlers at 38pc and 18pc respectively. Interestingly, no bumper favourites have won in 18 races.
Handicap races are also very difficult for punters, with just three winning favourites from 55 races. The good news is that odds-on favourites have produced a small profit of 4pts, with 18 wins from 22 bets.
I'm not trying to put anyone off having a few wagers at Aintree but the key to making a profit, it seems, is to be very selective, and perhaps focus on the better-quality non-handicaps - especially chases.
Some food for thought ahead of Thursday - but we have to try get some readies into the wallet before then of course. On that note, I reckon there's a good chance to earn some cash today in the Listed Betfred 'Home Of Goals Galore' Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes at Kempton (3.15) by backing Smart Call, which was 5/2 yesterday.
Formerly trained in South Africa, Michael Stoute's six-year-old has been racing in Group Company for the past couple of years, and won a couple of Group One races at Kenilworth back in 2016. One of her best efforts for Stoute came in August when she was fourth in the Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville, despite running into traffic problems at the home turn.
She finished mid-division to Highland Reel when last seen in the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin back in December, but that race is overlooked as she seemed a little stretched at the 1m3f distance.
Back down at a mile in a lower class of race, she'll be hard to beat today, although the one concern is that she has not yet raced on the all-weather.
Jeremy Noseda's La Figlia is also worth a mention. A daughter of Frankel and Finsceal Beo, we only have two races to go on here but she gave a good account of herself when second in her debut maiden, and wasn't disgraced when fourth in a Listed contest last time out.
She has got room to improve and is the one most likely to give the selection something to worry about.
A little later on the same card, consider backing Dathanna around 13/8 for the Betfred 'Treble Odds On Lucky 15s' Fillies' Conditions Stakes (3.50).
The Godolphin-owned filly caught my eye when taking a nursery handicap back in August and ran well in second to Shazzab in a nursery at Pontefract last time out in September.
The word on the street is that she's working well at home, and although you have to take these things with a pinch of salt, she's the type that looks like she'll improve a good deal as a three-year-old.
Just four runners go to post for this, with Crown Vallary the biggest danger to the bet. She was below form in France last time but showed promise in the autumn, and she's related to some useful sorts.
Finally, Jellmood is a nice price at 4/1 or thereabouts in the five-runner Betfred 'Like Us On Facebook' Conditions Stakes (4.25), with the favourite Kings Shield likely to be odds-on.
Priced around 8/1, Chick Name looks a cracking each-way bet in the Liz Adam Memorial Handicap Chase at Kelso (3.0).
The Richard Hobson-trained gelding found the long slog in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham a little tough, but for a horse priced 100/1, fifth place was not a bad result.
It has been over a year since he has raced in a handicap, but he won that off a mark of 122. Although that's 8lb lighter than today's mark, he has raced off higher ratings in the past.
He acts on heavy ground and with James Bowen claiming 3lb, he has got a great chance of landing a place at the very least.
3.0 Kelso: Chic Name (e/w)
3.15 Kempton: Smart Call
3.50 Kempton: Dathanna
4.25 Kempton: Jellmood
6.45 Wolverhampton: Masaarr
Do the double
Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool side were left in dreamland on Wednesday night when beating City 3-0 in the first leg of their Champions League clash, and will be confident as they go across to Everton today.
But while the local derby is always important, they'll have one eye on the second leg with City which could have an effect here. I'm backing the draw at 13/5.
A good case could be made for half of the eight runners in the fclgf.com Novice Stakes this evening at Wolverhampton (6.45) but odds of 5/4 or thereabouts seem a couple of ticks too high for Masaarr, which I was expecting to see at an odds-on price. Trained by Roger Varian (left), the colt stormed clear to win a maiden on the all-weather at Lingfield when last seen in November, and that piece of form alone suggests he'll be hard to beat.