CHELTENHAM ANTE-POST RED FLAGS: Daqman checks out some trainerform facts and figures today and tomorrow, as the Press starts to set up hares for Cheltenham, he finds some red flags on the big-race ante-post scene.

QUALITY BETS OVER JUMPS TODAY: Daqman goes to Ludlow and Taunton, hoping to find some quality bets today, including one he marked down in the Fortune Cookies lists.


Is the trainer in form? It’s certainly good for your confidence (and his!) if he has a good current strike-rate but, as a guarantee of a winner, it ain’t necessarily so.

On Saturday I watched Philip Hobbs train the winners of the two maiden hurdles at the start of the Wincanton card, giving him three winners in a row, still standing (11P1).

It was encouragement for my Hobbs tips, Crossing The Bar (9-4 favourite) in a later race at Wincanton and Rolling Dylan in the veterans’ final at Sandown.

In fact, for the rest of the day, the stable’s seven subsequent runners would finish 00P0PPP. I’d been sold a pup, or rather a P0PPP!

There’s an old omen to back the first trainer you meet when you go to the track. It can pay well, unless you are one of those who look a gift horse in the mouth.

One day, in the good old bad old days, I’d parked my car at the races but, as I approached the Owners, Trainers and Press gate, I realised I didn’t have my annual Press badge with me.

The track was known for the officious nature of its gatemen and I prepared to pay, then go to the office and plead my case so that I could go to unsaddling and join in the interviews.

Standing near me at the entrance with minutes to go to the first race was trainer Rod Simpson who saw my situation: ‘Here, use this,’ he said, handing me an owner’s pass. ‘The owner hasn’t turned up for his runner in the first, so do yourself a favour.’

His words were still ringing in my ears as I met more officialdom in the secretary’s office. I finally got the required badge and rushed to the Rails bookies but I had missed the race and a 10-1 hit. ‘Winner trained R. Simpson,’ came a voice on the PA system.

Later on, I was shuffled past the trainer in the scrum to the car-park. ‘Were you on?’ I asked. Rod grinned: ‘Were you?’

I think that goes down as the shortest Press interview in the history of racing, with me looking mortified all the way back to the car, where my Press badge was lying on the passenger seat.


⭕ 1.15 Ludlow Philip Hobbs raids Ludlow with four contenders today and is here up against five local horses out of seven runners, the other exception being Charlie Longsdon’s Castle Robin.

It’s a track where Hobbs has had 116 winners (20% strike rate), well in front of the locals.

Jatiluwith, his contender in this 3m 1f chase, has won here, hurdling over 2m 5f, at the start of a winning sequence of five nearly three years ago.

He’s 10lb short of his hurdles peak over fences, having won only a Point then a hunter-chase under his owner, David Maxwell, but he’s now got the soft ground he needs, so not easily dismissed as a ‘fun horse’ for a gentleman owner-rider.

But Kerry Lee’s Demachine looks a worthy topweight, never out of a place over fences (1132), including second in a Graded chase at Ascot, before a decent effort in the Ladbrokes Trophy

Kerry could have gone for the Welsh National, won by Iwilldoit off the same mark that Demachine has today, but she is probably wise to give this one a confidence booster after only five chases.

Quick Wave’s extra burden for winning a mares’ chase at Catterick has dipped and she’s won before after a break (had wind ops).

Another mare, Legend’s Gold, is a course winner over hurdles and a heavy-ground chase winner over shorter in a lower grade..

Castle Robin won a class-3 hurdle at Cheltenham and is unexposed as a chaser, getting 9lb from Demachine.

Bobo Mac’s last strike was 11 races back over a similar trip on the soft here at Ludlow, and Volcano is a Warwick specialist, though won here as a novice.


⭕ 1.45 Ludlow Fergal O’Brien needs only five more winners to reach 100 for the season. Not many people know that, as Michael Caine might say.

The trainer is hardly talked about, except perhaps in tack rooms at Ditcheat (Paul Nicholls 97 winners, so just two in front) and Cholmondeley (Donald McCain, level with Fergal on 95).

Of the O’Brien pair in this, Polish has won in better grade; Ratfacemcdougall has scored on the soft but has had two long breaks, including for wind surgery. Both look high in the handicap, as does Geordie Des Champs after three wins out of six.

Hobbs’s One For You won back to back at this level in the Spring but has failed in better class at Newbury twice since then. Nicely positioned now, dropped down in grade.

Khan can’t win on today’s ground, if recent form can be believed. Corrany can’t on his hurdles form for Nicky Henderson (joins Richard Philips) and Equus Millar must improve two stone for wind surgery (joined Sarah-Jayne Davies from Nigel Twiston-Davies).

But, hoping to land one for you (!), I fear Treasure Dillon, trained by Evan Williams, who won the veterans’ final on Saturday with Prime Venture.

Williams worried that he was doing too much with Treasure Dillon, as a young horse, when I spoke to him a couple of seasons ago, and he was nervous about soft ground.

Treasure Dillon (BETDAQ BETTING EXCHANGE 6.5) proved that all wrong when scoring on heavy the last day, but is still down the bottom of the handicap, getting two stone from the heavyweights, thanks to the claim of Evan’s daughter, Isabel, who won the Grade-3 Haydock Stayers Hurdle for dad on Dans Le Vent in November.


⭕ 2.30 Taunton Supporting the Fortune Cookies column are a handful of horses picked for ‘next time out.’

Quoi De Neuf – from the Treasure Dillon stable of Evan Williams – caught my eye at Taunton at the beginning of December, winning eased down, impressive.

Sarasota Star was only just caught at Hereford but Golden Boy Grey needs to improve his jumping. Neither one appeals as an improver.

All Dancer fits that bill, an interesting chase debutant for Paul Nicholls but he has been off more than a year, and his breeding is all hurdles so his chasing prowess is not guaranteed.


1.15 Ludlow (nap)

1.45 Ludlow (each one to win 12)
BET 5pts win ONE FOR YOU

2.30 Taunton (win 10)

What are points? Points facilitate a staking plan, which is the secret to creating profit. One point is whatever you choose: a pound, a euro, or whatever ….

Start with a bank and decide how much you can afford to lose over a period of time, and determine the size of your bets accordingly. Daqman makes this variation every day.