Who to put your money on at Aintree and Sandown…

December sees the start of a month chock-full of top-quality Jumps racing. I do like to focus on the top-quality races, as racing journalists and publications simply do all of the work for you as regards to form lines and opinions.

Head on over to www.racingpost.com, click on ‘Cards’ and then select ‘Big Race Entries’. You will see what a busy December we have lined up. Cheltenham, Ascot and Leopardstown will attract the equine stars.

And earlier than all of these meetings, we have excellent race cards at Aintree and Sandown. Let’s take a look at them…

All we have to go on really is the past winners, this early before the races are due to be run.

12.00 p.m. Aintree

This is a juvenile hurdle and a listed race. It is only three years old, this race, yet the favourite has won on those three occasions. ?
Go with the market? Alan King as trainer has won two of the last three runnings, and he runs Forgiving Glance, Mystery Code and Pemba. It would seem that if any of these three horses are favourite, then we will have a trend horse. (Albeit a very limited trend!)

2.15 p.m. Aintree

This race is only four years old, yet the market seems to be very accurate. The winner is likely to be a top-two horse in the betting. Paul Nicholls won the last two runnings of this race and he saddles Rocky Creek and Southfield Theatre. I would favour his runners if around 5/2 to 4/1 in the betting.

3.20 p.m. Aintree

As befits a race of up to 25 runners, the favourite does not tend to run well at all. I would look immediately horses over 12/1, aged 8 or 9 years old and with a Racing Post Rating (RPR) of 150 or higher. This reduces the field to 12 runners by age, so select two or three selections at odds of 12/1, 14/1 and 16/1 each way.

I cannot help as there is no Betting Market or Betting Forecast at time of writing. So, 8 to 9 years old, three selections – one at 12/1, one at 14/1 and one at 16/1, each way. Let’s hope the market leaders continue to underperform in this most competitive of races.

1.55 p.m. Sandown

This is a Grade 1 novices chase and has seven runners instead of eight, so likely only two places for each way purposes.

There are rarely surprises in this race. The highest-priced winners recently have been in the last two runnings at 13/2 and 5/1. Paul Nicholls has won three of the last four runnings and saddles As De Mee and Bouvreuil.

I would select the selection nearer to 5/1 and back it each way, hoping Nicholls continues to find decent-odds winners.

3.00 p.m. Sandown

The Tingle Creek Chase sees a perfect eight runners and is ideal for each way players, as it is the smallest field paying out on three places.

Seven favourites in the last ten runnings have won. Paul Nicholls has won this race in seven of the last ten runnings and broke the mould with a 9/1 winner last year.

The favourite seems to be Vibrato Voltat at the moment, a Paul Nicholls runner too. Dare we look any further?

With my each way hat (tiara?) on, I would look at Special Tiara and Sire de Grugy as the two each way selections to take on the market leaders. Currently 5/1 and 7/1, they are priced in the middle of the betting market, if you’ll recall a market which normally gets it right.

If the favourite and second-favourite under-performs then I hope the above two can nab them!

Good luck if you are playing.
Beware the curse

The Europa League and Champions League kicks off mid-week next week, which means only one thing: we are likely to see a lot of teams participating in those competitions perform under-par this weekend!

If there are any teams currently priced at odds-on (under evens or 2.00 decimal odds), and playing away from home, I would consider laying them this weekend.

So check out Manchester City away to Stoke; Tottenham away to West Brom; Roma away to Torino; PSV away to Vitesse; Atletico Madrid away to Granada; and Barcelona away to Valencia.

The ‘curse of the Champions League’ is a real phenomenon. Zenit St Petersburg last night, for instance, had to come from 0-1 down to draw. They were 1.36 shots. There will, I would suggest, be the usual stuttering Chelsea performance tomorrow.

If you are betting in the Champions League this week, make sure you know those teams who need to win, and those teams who have already qualified.

My rule of thumb: teams which don’t need to win, rarely do win.

Here’s an example: Paris St Germain are assured of qualification and assured of second place in their group. Shakhtar Donetsk, their opponents, need a win to try and secure third spot and a Europa League place. Does not need to win v must win.

Wolfsburg need only a draw at home to Manchester United to secure qualification. Manchester United ideally require a win to guarantee qualification. United will qualify if PSV lost at home to CSKA.

All of the permutations are available here.
Do make sure you know your teams with need and teams playing matches where a result is not required.

Good luck with Aintree and Sandown this weekend, and make sure you think twice before backing any ‘good thing’ in the football this weekend who play in European competition mid-week. I’ll share the results for all qualifiers next week and see if my theory holds true.

Have a great weekend.