HOW 9-2 DAQMAN NOSED IN FRONT: Daqman (Ulzana’s Raid) and Pricewise (Big Easy) fought out a tremendous duel up the Cheltenham hill yesterday, with Daqman picking the best value as well as the winner, when Ulzana’s Raid (WON 9-2) got up by a nose to beat the 15-8 favourite and take Daqman into a 5-4 lead over his arch rival.

NOW HE’S 50 AHEAD OF PRICEWISE: Today’s clashes are in the 2.00 and 3.45 at Cheltenham, and at Sha Tin tomorrow morning (6.40 and 7.50), with the overall score Daqman 113, Pricewise 63.

BULL’S-EYE BETS IN THE CUP: Daqman presented his ABC Guide on the December Gold Cup on Thursday, and gives his verdict today. He’s looking to boost his earnings from the Bull’s-Eye Bet, which currently stand at 221 points, and he combines them in Money-Box multiples with his banker. He’s had eight lays in a row.


12.15 Cheltenham (Triumph Hurdle Trial) Penalised horses, carrying more than 11st, have captured six of the nine renewals of this race.

But Nicky Henderson won it with a maiden (2005) and tries to repeat that feat today with Hargam, who was narrowly beaten in another Triumph trial on this course last month because he idled in front. So we can expect a late drive from the champion jockey today.

Hargam was smashed into evens this morning. The one he has to beat is Stars Over The Sea. Takes a keen hold and unlikely to outstay his rival on the homeward hill.

12.50 Cheltenham Tidal Bay (2007) was the last horse to win this on the way to a major prize (the Arkle) at the festival here in March but horses of a very high quality – like Exotic Dancer and Don’t Push It – have been on the winners’ rostrum.

Champagne West made a solid, if not conclusive start (six fences omitted) here, and seems to have frightened away the opposition, with Doncaster Virak’s first choice.

2.35 Cheltenham This Albert Bartlett trial should go to Port Melon, who is a potential three-mile top-ranker. He was staying on, third, in the Neptune trial here at the last meeting, and is likely to turn around the placings with the runner-up, Blaklion, over the extra distance.

3.10 Cheltenham (International Hurdle) Strictly, Zamdy Man could turn around the Haydock one-two with The New One, 4lb better for less than three lengths.

But The New One surged past Venetia Williams’ front-runner on the run-in that day and the hill should see another power drive.

Three five-year-olds have won in the last four years and the rising star is likely to be Supreme Novice Hurdle third, Vaniteux, the ‘moral’ in the Greatwood, giving 3lb to the winner but beaten little more than a length. Good race to watch, not to play in.

3.45 Cheltenham (Relkeel Hurdle) Another poor field for punting but van runner Rock On Ruby looks a vulnerable favourite. He hasn’t won anything more than a small-field Listed over the ‘sticks’, since his Champion Hurdle of 2012, and is 10 years old in 18 days’ time.

He’ll surely do battle again, but no horse over the age of seven has ever won this, and one of the younger horses should come on enough to outspeed him. But which one?

The rest of the field are handicappers alongside Lac Fontana (first-time cheekpieces), who is 01411 at Cheltenham and has shot up the ratings by 24lb this year. This is his big chance to make his World Hurdle target viable.


2.00 Cheltenham (December Gold Cup, see Thursday in the Daqman Archive for my ABC Guide) With such small fields everywhere, as the years of recession and austerity hit racing, a handicap like this gives the punter one of few chances to try to ‘beat the book’.

In fact, the punter can never beat the bookies, only beat other punters who are betting ‘wrong’, creating false prices, leaving the value.

BETDAQ gives him a direct line to them, an instant trade with rival opinions. So what we are really talking about in a fair-sized race is this: where has the mass opinion gone wrong?

One way to assess the form and relate it to the opinion of others is to divide the field up and run mini-races, in this case between the bottom two groups of five, leaving this question about the top three? Is any one of them capable of giving weight to the field?

The answer has to be Caid Du Berlais, winner of the PP Gold Cup here (long-time loser Edgardo Sol eighth, Easter Meteor pulled up), and an improving five-year-old.

At the same meeting, Splash Of Ginger couldn’t give the weight to his fellow novices but is claimed off here as an equaliser. Darna has been a glass horse but has twice won back to back before now and Kim Bailey calls on A P McCoy to hold him together.

Attaglance has high hopes if he can reproduce his fourth in last year’s PP Gold Cup but surely can’t beat this year’s winner of that race, in receipt of only 5lb.

Niceonefrankie has never won of this high a mark and, adding Carrigmore King to the bottom group, we find that the result of this sector hinges around the Easter Handicap at Sandown in November. Barrakilla comes out of it best.

But one final insight into the PP Gold Cup puts Ericht into the picture. He pitched on landing two out behind Caid Du Berlais. Not for the first time, the bare form doesn’t do him justice.

So my short list, in handicap order, is Caid Du Berlais, Darna, Ericht and Barrakilla. You can more or less reverse that order, if my ABC assessment gives an accurate picture.

But Barrakilla has made so many headlines this week, he is bound to be short. With Darna you risk the bounce factor and, after all is said and done, he had won only novices’ hurdles and chases up to his winning return, and that at lowly Sedgefield.

The bets must be from the big races: ‘done that, got the tea-shirt’ Caid Du Berlais; ‘got close, but put my foot in a fence’ Ericht. I shall take Ericht (11.0 on BETDAQ this morning) as a bold bull’s-eye bet with Caid Du Berlais a win-30 alternative at the shorter price.

I took 5.3 but Barrakilla may hold up that price, even marginally lengthen it, if they go with the flow and he moves into the ‘jolly’ hot-seat.


SHA TIN: My challenge to Pricewise forces me to punt a couple of races in the early hours of Sunday morning, because the brave man has tipped in the Hong Kong Sprint (6.40) and the Hong Kong Mile (7.50).

Since the Sprint is worth more than a million, the Japanese have moved in for the kill in the last two renewals and, since the local punters play a million times more than ours, they like to bet the winner. In consequence, the last six favourites have won.

Sole Power, only ninth in 2012, was five-lengths runner-up to the same horse last year but don’t be fooled: it was a weaker race and the winner cruised it.

He’s not around any more but his jockey is. Yasunari Iwata now rides Straight Girl, who was not well drawn when pipped by outsider Snow Dragon on the last day.

But Ladbrokes, who know their international racing, are much shorter than any of their 30-odd rivals in the market place this morning about previous winner Lucky Nine and the tenacious Aerovelocity.

Smart Volatility is the benchmark for collateral form and he gives Aerovelocity plenty of room over the rising star three-year-old Peniaphobia.

But Lucky Nine was close up to Peniaphobia, giving weight, when he was fifth on his reappearance in the Jockey Club Sprint here last month, and jockey Brett Prebble has won this three times, including on this horse in 2011.

In the Mile (7.50), the first four home in last month’s Jockey Club Mile on the course meet again, with Able Friend likely to complete the double, though the runner-up that day, Gold-Fun, has first-time visors here, and Ambitious Dragon and Secret Sham are not far behind. Able Friend is drawn wide tomorrow morning.

So I shall take a chance on the Japan attack with Fiero, and English raider, Trade Storm, with Jamie Spencer saying more farewells than Frank Sinatra.

He has the beating of Captain Cat (through Custom Cut), has won at Meydan and Woodbine and was an unlucky loser when slow away behind French Guineas winner Karakontie in the Breeders Cup Mile.

Fiero was just run out of it in the Mile Championship at Kyoto, but that was a star performance when you consider that tomorrow’s Mile has been his target all along.

BANKER: BET 20pts win HARGAM (12.15 Cheltenham)
BULL’S-EYE BETS (to win 50 points): 11.5pts win CAID DU BERLAIS and 5pts win ERICHT (both 2.00 Cheltenham), plus 12pts win LAC FONTANA (3.45 Cheltenham)
MONEY-BOX MULTIPLES: 2pt win trebles and 1pt accas Hargam (12.15 Cheltenham) and Champagne West (12.50 Cheltenham) with Caid Du Berlais and Ericht (2.00 Cheltenham) and Port Melon (2.35 Cheltenham)

DAQMAN’S BETS (Sunday, staked according to strength)
BET 5pts win LUCKY NINE (Sunday 6.40 a.m., Sha Tin)
BET 4pts win FIERO and 2pts win TRADE STORM (Sunday 7.50 a.m., Sha Tin)

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