‘YOU KNOW’ IT MAKES SENSE: Daqman follows the stables in form in the quest for winners as the winter game takes centre stage at Carlisle, Hereford and Southwell. He tries to match the stable form with value offers.

You need a different hat on today. Like it or not, it’s jumps not Flat on turf from now until March. What’s the difference?

There are obstacles in the way, says the wag in the betting shop. Yes, but the obstacles are not only hurdles and fences. In the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at factors that help you fathom value-for-money betting in the winter arena.

For starters, it takes six top jumps trainers to earn as much as the four leading Flat yards. Half a dozen Flat trainers land around 20% winners; only the top two manage such a percentage in National Hunt racing at the end of the campaign.

Conclusion: following Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson throughout the season is pretty much obligatory. Following any other stables is a matter of whether they are in form, whether they are temporarily hitting the 20-25% mark, and what material they have.

In two-year-olds racing this last Flat campaign, we soon learned that Kevin Ryan had juveniles in depth, quantity and quite a bit of quality; his choice of runner was therefore, an important key to a race.

You should be adding up the novice-hurdle and novice-chase wins now and surmising which trainer seems to have the best younger horses, and can calculate at home their direction and their ability at the different levels.

At this time – and maybe throughout the season – you can add a new name to the ‘20% brigade’: Donald McCain is a whole different trainer to his late father, whose methods could make one iron horse (Red Rum, Amberleigh House) but were never likely to farm the North, as say a Gordon Richards used to.

Donald junior is in the Richards mould. Currently on 22%, he’s six in front of Nicholls, numerically, though already lagging £180,000 behind in money won.

We’re looking for a mixture: a trainer capable of bagging the big cash but able to farm winners on a broader scale. On this total spectrum, Nicholls, Henderson, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Philip Hobbs are still the elite.

Hobbs is the Michael Jarvis (don’t I miss him!) of the jumps: you always feel that he’s patient with his horses; you can be pretty confident he’s placed them well; you can rely on a constant high level of form.

There are no big Press columns. No ballyhoo. And, in Richard Johnson, you have a jockey so like his master; persistent and professional without being flambuoyant. For those reasons alone, Hobbs’ horses will be better value.

Today, Hobbs and Nicholls are prepared to travel with just one runner each. It is also a day that confirms that McCain is in the Richards’ mould: that he’s spraying entries around the country, particularly North of the Trent.

The trickiest game at this time is deciding: is this novice hurdler carrying penalties (Mush Mir 3.20 Southwell) capable of giving weight away?

When they claim off them with an unknown boy, as in this case, Henderson or no, I’m loathe to support them. When, however, a trainer routinely gives a good apprentice a chance (Egypt Mill Spirit 3.40 Hereford), I’m not so edgy. Nicholls does.

There are some trainers you only bother with when they are hot (often after long losing spells). Ferdy Murphy is the best example; he prepares his horses for the Spring. Venetia Williams can take an age to get going.

For those who don’t have time to study form deeply, is there a quick check on trainer ability that should give you a bet to leave on Betdaq, during your lunch break for instance.

I would suggest: trainer in form who also has a high percentage return on today’s course, particularly in a given race or a certain type of race.

One course specialist at Hereford with 50% success in novice hurdles is Tim Vaughan, and he currently has a 50% strike rate (win and place).

Ruby Bay (1.00) at 8.0 on Betdaq this morning looked a cracking each-way bet. At least it did until Fox Appeal dropped out, and left only seven runners. Just now my luck.

I’m inclined towards Godsmejudge for win only; he has reportedly done well prior to this hurdles debut. Oscar Sunset does not appeal, suddenly raised threequarters of a mile in trip and from a yard struggling with one winner from 22 starters.

Gary Moore, who is 50% in handicap hurdles at Hereford, and has had six winners and six placed recently, sends just the one runner, the consistent Lombok (4.15), who has raced recently as if this return to a right-handed track was essential to his way of jumping.

Martin Todhunter has had a run of six horses in the first six, culminating in a win at Kelso. The suggestion is that his horses are just about to peak, and he has twice won the 2m 4f handicap chase at Carlisle (1.55), last year with Sibenek.

Sibenek is back for more at 10.0 this morning and this time I’ve got the eight runners for three chances of a return from an each-way bet. James Reveley is booked.

But yet again there’s a snag: Sibenek – and last year’s second, Et Maintenant – must have heavy ground, on all known form.

Blue Shark was tailed off last time; Palace Jester has a lot of weight for what he’s done; The Magic Bishop is up 7lb; and the others, bar You Know Yourself, are making their seasonal debut.

The going is perfect for You Know Yourself and his yard, Sue Smith’s, is hot with five winners and six placed in the last fortnight. This was an improver last term and has had a run back.

The 5.2 looks generous in seemingly a straight fight with The Magic Bishop (it’s 10.0 bar the two at the time of writing).

BET 12pts win GODSMEJUDGE and 1.6pts win (stakes saver) RUBY BAY (1.00 Hereford)
BET 4.7pts win YOU KNOW YOURSELF and 2.6pts win (stakes saver) THE MAGIC BISHOP (1.55 Carlisle)
BET 10pts win (nap) LOMBOK (4.15 Hereford)
DAQ MULTIPLES: 3 x 1pt win doubles and 1pt win treble Godsmejudge (1.00 Hereford), Speed Master (3.55 Southwell), Lombok (4.15 Hereford)

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