horse racing

Handicapping the Field…..

What do I look for in a Handicap Chase?

On the handicap ratings front its 1 of 2 things –

A horse that is on the up/progressing


A horse that is below or right on the ceiling of its abilities

As I have written before about this on the Blog and I am a firm believer that certain horses have ceilings to their abilities(that is a handicap mark where they struggle to perform at their optimum) and this is an angle I like to utilise when looking to narrow the field in certain handicap races.

These are the notes I drafted up for the Class 3 Bobby Renton Chase at Wetherby (3.55) today. In all honesty this race has plenty of question marks over a few with a clutch of contenders only having a handful of chase starts to their name but what I’m trying to highlight here is the thought process rather than simply making a selection –

*CM = Current Handicap Mark

OTAGE DE BRION – CM 134 – 1st start in a handicap, was rated as high as 142 when with N Twiston-Davies

SAFARI ADVENTURES – CM 128 – Highest Win Mark 120 – Rec when racing above 120 – F-6-2-3-2-P-P

MARLEY ROCA – CM – 125 Highest Win Mark 117 – Only had 7 starts and could easily still be on the up

KNOCKAVILLA – CM 125 – Beaten off 125 & 120 on previous 2 Hcp starts but only had 7 chase starts and change of yard could bring about improvement

LE ROI ROUGE – CM 120 – Highest Win Mark 117 – Rec when racing from above 117 – 4-2-4-8-8-3-9-7-7-F-9-2-9-3-7-6

HORSE SHOE REEF – CM 119 – Highest Win Mark 110 – Could still be improving although finished a well beaten 2nd from same mark on last start

MEET THE CRITICS – CM 118 – Highest Win Mark 110 – Only had 1 Chase start so could easily have more to come

MR CRYSTAL – 1st start in a handicap but currently rated 5lbs lower than Hurdle mark so potential for improvement

PERSIAN GATES – On a career high of 115 after being raised 10lbs for a 17l win LTO, has been raised 17 lbs in his last 3 runs

ZAZAMIX – CM 114 – Finished well beaten off marks of 122 & 120 on his previous 2 handicap chase starts, now sits 3 lbs below his hurdle mark

DOURYNA – CM 113 – Highest Win Mark 91 – beaten off 115 & 113 on last 2 runs. Only had 6 chase starts to date

MORNING MOMENT – CM 113 – Highest Win Mark 104 – This only his 5th chase start so chance of improvement still to come

BORDER REIVER – CM 110 – Highest Win Mark 105 – Record when racing above 105 – 2-8-P-0-7-2

Obviously this is only a starting point and there are many other angles that we need to consider (ground, track, fitness……) it’s anything but an exact science and you can be left guessing at whether a horse has the ability to defy its current mark but when you do spot one that is on a ‘winnable’ mark or showing a progressive profile they can offer up a value backing proposition.

At this stage of the season fitness is obviously a question mark over a number of runners. In this race alone 9 of the 14 runners are making what could be described as their seasonal reappearance (a break of 90 days or more). It’s important to factor in to your analysis whether, based on past performances, a horse is fit to go after a break or generally need a run to blow the cob-webs away. Here are the 9 seasonal debutants and their records after 90 days or more off the track –

OTAGE DE BRION – 2 wins from 7 starts (1-3-6-P-1-F-P)

SAFARI ADVENTURES – 1 win from 6 starts (1-7-8-F-5-F-P)

MARLEY ROCA – 1 win from 5 starts (6-5-F-5-1)

KNOCKAVILLA – 1 win from 4 starts (1-F-2-3)

LE ROI ROUGE – 0 wins from 4 starts (8-7-9-5)

YOU KNOW YOURSELF – 0 win from 1 start (2)

MEET THE CRITICS – 1 win from 4 starts (2-4-1-9)

DOURYNA –0 win from 3 starts (6-F-4)

MORNING MOMENT – 1 win from 3 starts (3-1-P)

There are a couple in there that you don’t really want to be backing until they have had a run or 2 to smooth the rough edges, but until you looked a bit closer at their profiles this is something you may not have been aware of.

Personally I feel this is a tricky looking race to solve and I’m wary of getting too involved at this stage of the National Hunt season, especially in the mid-week affairs. However, it’s good to use these races to get your eye back into the jumping game (if you had of course been seduced by the flat over the summer!). What I wanted to show you here was just a taster of the amount of work that can go into analysing a given race and some of the angles I look to apply to a handicap chase.

Although I personally won’t be backing anything in this race I am very interested in KNOCKAVILLA who has his first start for John Wade since moving from the Howard Johnson Yard. Wade made a number of shrewd purchases from the dissolving of the Johnson/Wiley partnership (forced dissolving obviously!) and this could be a good taster of what we can expect from the ex Howard Johnson horses.


NTF James Ewart yard visit

Tomorrow I will be making the trip to the James Ewart yard in the Scottish Borders. The Ewarts have kindly agreed for me to take my camera and video camera to capture some of the action at this up and coming National Hunt yard. There will be an exclusive NTF report here on the site either tomorrow evening or Friday morning. I will be taking a particular interest in AIKMAN and VOSGES who are 2 horses I feel could make big waves for the yard this term. I will also be on the look out for some dark horses and will try and get Mr Ewart to point out a couple of lesser known animals that we can follow over the winter months.

Top Northern jockey Brian Hughes will also be there schooling a few of the horses so I will hopefully get some shots of the young jockey in action.

Make sure you don’t miss out on this exclusive NTF report.


NTF National Hunt Subscription Service 2011/12

Doors of the NTF National Hunt subscription service will be open to non-subscribers very soon, however, if you want to get on the early bird list at a discounted rate then simply sign up to the FREE web-site updates list using the form on the right of the site. Places on the service are LIMITED and are on a first come first served basis.

Ben (NTF)

3 responses to “Handicapping the Field…..”

  1. As this is my 1st subscription this is a very interesting insight into your thoughts thanks Ben

    Hoe you have a great day tommorow

    • Hi Taffman

      Many thanks. Members area will be relatively quiet until next weekend although depending on how much footage I get from my visit tomorrow I may keep some back for you guys 😉

      If you log into the members area there is a mini guide for this weekends Cheltenham meeting.

      Cheer – Ben (NTF)

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