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Devon National Preview

Hi all,

Inside today’s main piece I'm previewing Friday’s big race the Devon National.

Saturday Going Update: Kempton and Newcastle

If you’re looking to have a bet on ITV’s races from Kempton and Newcastle, you’ll want to keep an eye on the weather/going conditions at both courses. The going is crucial in horse racing, as it affects how the horses run and which ones have an edge over the others.

Kempton was soft (good to soft in places) on Wednesday evening, but it could get even softer after Thursday’s rain, which was expected to be between 10mm and 15mm. However, the weather should improve on Friday and Saturday, with mostly sunny spells and a few showers. This could dry out the ground and make it closer to good to soft depending on how much rain the track got on Thursday.

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Newcastle had gone heavy (soft in places) with another 6mm of rain forecast for Thursday. This means the ground was very wet and deep, which will make the Eider Chase a serious test of stamina. The weather, as at Kempton, is set to be mostly dry on Friday and Saturday, which might dry out the ground a bit.

The good news is that neither track should have problems racing on Saturday.

Forristal's Critique: Jump Racing's Declining Appeal

Richard Forristal is one of the best writers at the Racing Post. He’s not afraid to rattle cages and he’s done so again with his latest piece on “jump racing’s slow motion car crash”.

The piece highlights worries about the Cheltenham Festival's declining appeal, and It raises concerns about the quality of Grade 1 races, highlighting the lack of competitiveness and the diminishing value of victories in such races. Saturday’s Ascot Chase for example, lacked competitiveness and failed to provide a satisfactory viewing experience for punters and television audiences.

On Course Profits free Horse Racing magazine

This I believe is the most important section.

“British racing has been tying itself up in knots to generate betting revenue and fuel the levy with initiatives like Saturday morning and Sunday evening racing. It's hard to believe that the solution to an oversaturated market would be to shunt more racing into pockets of the calendar that didn't have it before, yet that's what's happening. More always seems to be the answer. It is what has bloated the programme book, driven Cheltenham to four days and led to it being padded out with a raft of unworthy shoulder races, and it is also what put a fifth day on the agenda. More, more, more. Infinite growth, one of the human race's most arrogant, narcissistic and destructive fallacies”.

The piece ends with a warning of growing indifference among fans toward jump racing, stressing the importance of addressing these concerns to ensure the sport's long-term viability.

Racing Post Delves into Black Market Bookies

Thursday’s Racing Post also contained another important piece this time by Lee Mottershead. It’s a long piece by Mottershead on black market bookies.

The article sheds light on the significant challenges posed by the black market in gambling, particularly within the context of horse racing.

It also highlights several concerning aspects of the betting black market, including its significant size, its impact on the regulated gambling industry, and the challenges it poses to regulatory authorities and horse racing.

While it's challenging to determine its exact magnitude due to its clandestine nature, various reports and analyses suggest that it constitutes a substantial portion of global gambling activity.

The findings presented in the article underscore the complexity and severity of the challenges posed by the betting black market. They highlight the need for collaborative efforts among stakeholders, including regulators, industry players, and law enforcement agencies, to address illegal gambling effectively and safeguard the integrity of the gambling industry.

What the article doesn’t address with the same vigor is account restrictions and their impact on the black market.

Affordability checks (AC’s) are a problem, but account restrictions are even worse. The big bookmakers have been doing their own affordability checks since the start of online gambling. If you’re quite good, shrewd or price sensitive we can't afford to have you betting with us. They have targeted the ‘mugs’ and the vulnerable, so they know exactly who needs AC’s and who doesn't.

How many punters have gone to the black market due to account closures and restrictions?

It’s good that account restrictions are starting to find their way into the debate. It’s a far older problem than affordability checks and one which the Racing Post for years pretended wasn’t happening.

Friday Preview

The highlight of Friday’s racing is Exeter’s My Pension Expert Devon National Handicap Chase (3:40) at Exeter, which has a purse of £13,203 for the winner. Eight horses have been declared for this gruelling test of stamina, which is run over 3m 6 ½ f.

The My Pension Expert Devon National Handicap Chase (3:40). Eight have been declared for what is Friday’s valuable race with £25,000 in guaranteed prize money.

The Devon National, had a prize fund of £32,500 in 2020, but it has not increased since then, despite the inflation rate in the UK being around 3.8% in 2023. This means that the real value of the prize money has decreased by about 15% in four years. It shows the lamentable level of prize money on offer in the sport. This is disappointing for the owners, trainers, and jockeys as well as for the fans and punters who follow the sport.

Exeter: Devon National

The Devon National is a handicap chase for horses aged five years or older, and is run over a distance of 3m 6 ½ f.

The race was first run in 1991 as the West of England Handicap Chase, and it was renamed the Devon National in 2004. The race has been sponsored by various companies over the years, such as My Pension Expert, BetVictor, and Bathwick Tyres. The present sponsor is My Pension Expert, who took over in 2020.

Trends:

Looking at the race trends, which contain 16 winners from 197 runners, 47 placed, here are few interesting ones.

Wins at the Track: 1 – 7 winners from 34 runners +39, 15 placed 44% (+53.42)

All seven of those winners had raced 1 to 3 in the previous 90 days. Just one of the eight runners Foxboro meet both those trends.

Foxboro seemed to improve when winning over C&D two starts. Not on a going day last time when 9th of 11 in the Sussex National at Plumpton. However, Friday’s single figure field is a positive as he’s 4 wins from 12 runs 33% +12, 8 placed 67% in field sizes 9 or less. Needs to bounce back but might well do.

The top performing trainer numerically is Jonjo O’Neill who is 3 winners from 9 runners +28.5, 4 placed. He saddles Track And Trace who proved his stamina for the trip when winning the North Yorkshire Grand National Handicap Chase Catterick last month. William Hill made him their early bird favourite (11/4).

Favourites both clear and joint don’t have a great record in the race 2 winners from 19 runners -8.5, 6 placed and have performed 45% below market expectations. Last time out winners are 1 winner from 27 runners -20.5, 5 placed since 2008. Not great stats for the O’Neill horse but the sole LTO winner was trained by him.

Track And Trace is 5lb higher than last time but looks to have a favourites chance.

More contenders:

Take Tour Time won his first two starts over fences at Newton Abbott and Wincanton (both heavy). However, he ran poorly back at the latter venue 22 days ago but may not have been suited to better ground that day. He’s another who needs to bounce back but could do so granted more of a stamina test.

Robyndzone took advantage of a light weight to win at Haydock (3m 4 ½ f) 55 days ago. He relished the heavy ground last time and is clearly well suited severe stamina test. He’s up 5lb but this represents a slight drop in class for the 10-year-old.

Mr Vango, a winner over hurdles (3m 1 ½ f) two seasons back, returned from a nine month absence to finish a 7 ¾ length 3rd of 7 on chase debut at Wincanton (3m 1f) last time. He’s the least exposed of the eight runners and a mark of 120 looks workable. Yard’s sole runner in the race finished runner-up in 2011.

Friday Selection:

Sadly, we've lost an interesting Warwick card due to waterlogging. That means today's selection is from Exeter. The trends are strong for Foxboro but I prefer the claims of market leaders Track And Trace and Mr Vango. Given the size of the field I can’t really justify backing two. So, I've just gone with the bigger priced of the pair.

Exeter

3:40 – Mr Vango.

Good luck with your Friday bets.

Cheers

John

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