Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase

The Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase run over 2 miles, 4 furlongs and 10 yards at Sandown Park in late January or early February. As the name suggests, the race is restricted to horses, aged five years and upwards, who begin the season without a win over fences. Interestingly, the race takes its name not from the Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall, but rather the nickname of a double roundabout on the A307 link road between the towns of Esher (where Sandown Park is located) and Kingston upon Thames.

Inaugurated in 1964, the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase has been a Grade 1 contest since the Jumps Pattern underwent a major overhaul in 1989, although the 1990 renewal was abandoned due to waterlogging.The race has been run under various titles, with and without the ‘Scilly Isles’ tag, for sponsorship purposes down the years.

Of course, the conditions of the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase dictate that no horse can win the race more than once. However, the best horse to win was Best Mate, who cruised to an impressive 13-length win in 2001, before completing a notable hat-trick in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Nicky Henderson is the leading trainer in the history of the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase. First Bout (1987) was the last winner of the race over its original distance of 2 miles and 18 yards, but the Master of Seven Barrows has since added Punchestowns (2010), Captain Conan (2013), Oscar Whisky (2014), Top Notch (2017) and Terrefort (2018) to his winning tally, for six wins altogether.

Looking forward to the 2023 renewal, which is scheduled for ‘Contenders’ Day’ on February 4, Paul Nicholls, who won the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase four years running in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, reportedly has a particularly strong team of novice chasers for 2022/23. Look out for Complete Unknown, Gelino Bello, McFabulous, Monmiral and Stage Star, to name but a handful.


Born With It


Fabulous Trot

A bit of a comedic interlude!

Wild Horse Race

What a crazy horse race this was. You wouldn’t have known whether you were coming or going if you’d bet on this one. There must have been some interetsing prices in offer in-running!

Funny Baby Horse


Racing Resources

A free resource that provides a guide to each of the racecourses on mainland Britain and, in particular, an analysis of draw bias, if any, over a variety of distances on the racecourses that stage Flat racing, including the all-weather courses. The draw bias information is presented in easy-to-read, diagrammatic form for each possible stalls position and accompanied by any conclusion(s) that can be made. For anyone interested, the site also includes sections on pace analysis and sectional timings.

Easy Odds

Predominantly an odds comparison site, but with plenty of extras for the horse racing enthusiast. The ‘Horse Racing’ section provides access to racecards, results and form, plus tips and previews, which include the key statistics for forthcoming major races. The site also provides one daily statistics-based win selection, akin to our own ‘Trainer Trend of the Day’, which is available to members of the SystemLays Betting Club.

Proform Racing Insiders’ Club

Proform has been producing a computer form book since 1995 and is currently the sole provider of horse racing statistics to Racing UK. The Insiders’ Club is available to Silver and Platinum subscribers, who pay £120 or £195 for an 8-week subscription to the Proform Form Book and System Builder. Essentially, the Insiders’ Club includes daily positive and negative trainer and trainer/jockey statistics, so that subscribers don’t need to produce them themselves.

Racing Trends

Racing Trends is the website of David Renham, who has apparently provided information to the likes of Racing and Football Outlook, At the Races and the Racing Post. The site is currently closed to new members, with no indication of when it’ll be open again, but offers a free trial of daily statistics, by email, which focus on profitable betting angles for the day. When available, normal subscription costs £29.99 a month.


Ukracestats is a subscription service, offering daily horse, jockey and trainer ratings and statistics in the form of a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. The ratings require some interpretation, but a comprehensive key is provided on the website and you can download example spreadsheets to look at before you subscribe. Subscriptions start at £10.00 for 10 downloads, which seems entirely reasonable.

Pantomime Horse Race

That looked painful!

Incredible Horse Race

50 / 50

I’m not sure that I’d be gutsy or nutty enough to ever go for a bet like this, which is essentially (well almost) 50/50. You’d need an ambulance on standby!

Desert Orchid

I was born exactly one week after Arkle strode 20 lengths clear of Mill House to record the second of his three victories in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, 1965, so it’s fair to say that the legendary steeplechaser was just a little before my time. However, I vividly remember peering through the gathering gloom, as a lithe 18-year-old, at Ascot in November, 1983 to see a maiden hurdler by the name of Desert Orchid win his first race. Impressive though he was in slamming my selection, Lucky Rascal, by 20 lengths on that occasion, little did I realise that I was witnessing the birth of a legend.


Having seen “Dessie” – as he affectionately became known to his thousands of followers inside and outside racing – win ‘in the flesh’, he quickly became a favourite of mine, not least because he won five more times during the 1983/84 National Hunt season. He was thought good enough to contest the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 1984, finishing unplaced behind Dawn Run, but won just once more over hurdles before being switched to fences at the start of the 1985/86 season.


By the time he lined up for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, 1986, he had already established himself as a talented second-season steeplechaser but, with doubts about his stamina over three miles and passed over by regular partner Colin Brown in favour of stable companion, and favourite, Combs Ditch, he was sent off a largely unconsidered 16/1 chance. However, jumping boldly out of the hands of replacement jockey, Simon Sherwood, Desert Orchid led the field a merry dance, eventually passing the line 15 lengths ahead of his nearest pursuer, Door Latch.


The performance that catapulted the iconic grey into the public eye but, with his grey coat becoming increasingly white with age, he was to win plenty more races before his retirement in 1991 to guarantee his place in racing history.


Notwithstanding his Grade 1 wins over 2 miles, in the Tingle Creek Chase at Ascot in 1988 and the Victor Chandler Chase at Sandown in 1989, he was to win the King George VI Chase three more times, in 1988, 1989 and 1990, plus the Whitbread Gold Cup, over 3 miles 5½ furlongs, at Sandown in 1988 and the Irish Grand National, over 3 miles 5 furlongs, at Fairyhouse in 1990.


However, perhaps his finest hour came on March 16, 1989, when on a cold, wintry day he summoned every last ounce of his resolve to overcome his dislike of racing left-handed and heavy going to win the Blue Riband of National Hunt racing, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Desert Orchid jumped well in the lead until the fifth fence from home and, although left in the lead again by the fall of Ten Plus at the third last, was soon headed by confirmed mudlark Yahoo. The race seemed lost, but the 10-year-old found extra on the run-in, quickening to beat his younger rival by 1½ lengths, much to the delight of the 60,000 crowd.


All in all, Desert Orchid won 34 of his 70 races, amassing over £650,000 and, having survived an operation for a severe attack of colic in 1992, went on to enjoy a happy retirement, during which he became something of a national celebrity. He died quietly in his stable on November 13, 2006 at the age of 27 and was laid to rest close to the statue erected in his honour at Kempton.


Having followed his career pretty much from start to finish, I’ll always remember Desert Orchid much as Simon Sherwood did, ‘brave, tough, intelligent and totally honest’. He was certainly a legend in my lifetime but, more importantly, a legend in his own.

The Three Laws of Profitable Betting

From time to time during my career, I have been fortunate enough to be privy to ‘inside’ information or, in other words, information that is unknown to the betting public and the bookmakers, regarding a horse that is ‘expected’ to win by connections. Even the most fastidious racehorse trainer cannot expect to be 100% accurate in his or her predictions, but those from whom I have received information (who shall, of course, remain nameless) know, or knew, the time of day and have provided me with many winning bets.


That’s all very well, I hear you say, but what if I don’t know any jockeys, owners or trainers and I don’t want to pay for expensive information from those who do? What are my options, if any, for profitable betting on horse racing?


Well, you essentially have two options. You can become a form student, in the conventional sense, and develop your knowledge of odds, probability and staking to the extent that you feel confident of beating the bookmakers at their own game. Even then, if you make your selections based on conventional factors, such as class, distance, going, recent form and so on, you’re using the same data as everyone else, including the bookmakers, and are likely to draw similar conclusions from it. As a result, unless you’re ‘on the ball’ with regard to obtaining the best odds available, you’re likely to find value, and hence profit, hard to come by.


Thankfully, off-course betting tax is a thing of the past, so you don’t necessarily need to go racing in person to find value but, if you’re not going to use the same information to make your selections as that which the bookmakers use to make a book, how, and where, are you going to find it?


Unfortunately, that isn’t an easy question to answer, but the crux of the matter is to take a broader view of the various factors that affect the outcome of any horse race focus on those factors that are, perhaps, less obvious as selection criteria develop one or more alternative, but nonetheless profitable, selection methods.


Once again, this is all very well in theory but, getting down to brass tacks, which factors should you consider and how can you determine if any selection method based on those factors is profitable in the long-term?


Some suggestions for less-than-obvious factors that you might like to consider, and selection methods based on those factors, will be described in a series of detailed articles to follow. As far as profitability is concerned, it may be possible to determine if a particular selection method has any merit by applying it, retrospectively, to a database of historical horse racing results for, say, the last 10 years. Of course, this may not be possible for all selection methods and, in any case, extensive record keeping going forward will be necessary for any selection method.

Premier League – Leicester vs Southampon – 19th April

The Claude Puel Derby should be a good one. With Southampton entertaining for all the wrong reasons and Leicester trying to recover for a late European push, this should be an enticing game. Following the 2-1 loss to Burnley last weekend, can Leicester recover and get a positive result here?


Home News


When it comes to Leicester, the loss of Vicente Iborra and Kasper Schmeichel has been felt. With Schmeichel likely to miss out here, too, the return of midfield enforcer Wilfred Ndidi is very important. The Foxes are out of form a touch, with back-to-back losses in his absence. With his return, we should see them pick up some of the forceful nature that led them into the top half earlier in the season.


We’ll also likely see Marc Albrighton come back into the side, with Christian Fuchs pushing to get back into the team.


Away News


For Southampton, the loss of Jack Stephens on a suspension is a kick in the teeth. So, too, is the loss of Steven Davis and Mario Lemina; they are very short in the middle of the pitch. Mark Hughes will likely stick with three at the back in a bid to make up for the lack of midfield numbers (and quality) – Sofiane Boufal misses out, too, robbing them of a regular creative threat.


The sheer lack of depth in the Saints squad is being exposed in a big way at this moment in time. With so many injuries now adding up, it’s easy to see why they are a sure-fire choice for relegation.




With the Saints conceding a whopping 3+ a game for four matches, we cannot see them getting anything up at Leicester. The Foxes might be struggling a touch, but they should have what it takes to get a positive result here. Southampton simply lack the quality to stay in the league at this moment in time; a loss here would more or less consign them to relegation. We suspect that will be the case.



Cheltenham Roar

The one and only Cheltenham Festival is now just around the corner. Starting on Tuesday 13th March and ending on Friday 16th, this year’s festival is sure to once again provide us with an unrivalled feast of horse racing action. Year on year punters flock to the course, bellowing out the traditional Cheltenham Roar prior to the first race. The pace doesn’t let up over the entirety of Cheltenham, so there are regular highlights and betting opportunities for both casual fans and professional gamblers alike.


The Cheltenham racecourse at Prestbury Park has to be the perfect location for such a prestigious racing event. With an impressive capacity of 67,500 no-one need miss out, especially with the recent addition of the £45m 6,500-capacity Princess Royal Stand in 2015.

Some of the highlights of Cheltenham Festival include classic races such as the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Festival Trophy and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It goes without saying that the Cheltenham Gold Cup, first run in 1924 and with prize money of almost £600,000, is a highlight for most. It’s held on the final day and pits the cream of the crop of racing talent against one another.

I also have a soft spot for the aforementioned Queen Mother Champion Chase though, on account that the 2 mile Grade 1 race is a sweet reminder of how much the Queen Mother loved her racing! The race title was changed from National Hunt Two-Mile Champion Chase in 1980, on the year of the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday! Little did we know at the time that this royal racing fan from live to reach her 101th birthday!


Professional Gamblers Perspective

It’s good to get a take on pro gambling from a real life ‘ big mouth’. Jimmy The Hat is cerainly an old hand, with proven success at Del Mar race course, where he’s won millions over the years. He clearly sill has a love for the sport after all of tthese years and is very honest about the ups and downs he’s faced as a professional gambler. Some vakuable insights in here too. Well worth a watch!

4.50 Cheltenham, Wednesday, March 16

In the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (4.50) at Cheltenham on Wednesday, Voix Du Reve appears to have been allotted quite a stiff opening handicap mark, based on his ½-length defeat by the 123-rated Newberry New at Fairyhouse last month on his debut for Willie Mullins, so it’s interesting that the Irish maestro lets him take his chance. The Voix Du Nord gelding won a couple of races over hurdles, on very soft going, in the French provinces as a 3-year-old last autumn, but raced very freely in the early stages at Fairyhouse and is fitted with a first-time hood. Underfoot conditions are a little faster than any he’s encountered so far, but he’s entitled to improve for his first run since November and, granted his powerful connections, looks worth chancing at 16/1 (from 20/1) in the very early price lists.

Selection: Cheltenham 4.50 Voix Du Reve (16/1 with Bet365) to win

4.10 Lingfield, Tuesday, March 1

In the British Stallion Studs/32Red EBF Fillies’ Conditions Stakes (4.10) at Lingfield, Volunteer Point really does have the proverbial ‘stone in hand’ of her rivals, on official ratings, and cannot sensibly be opposed. The Footstepsinthesand filly has yet to win at Lingfield, but is 3-5 on the Polytrack surfaces at Chelmsford and Kempton and needed every yard of 7 furlongs at the Essex track to overhaul My Call in a fillies’ condition stakes race last time. Lamar, third on that occasion, did the form no harm when beaten half a length and a neck behind subsequent Winter Derby winner Grendisar, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at Lingfield earlier this month.

Volunteer Point has recorded four of her six career wins over a mile, so the extra furlong is almost certainly in her favour. West Isley trainer Mick Channon has a fairly dismal 2-25 (8%) strike rate with his older horses on the all-weather at Lingfield over the last five seasons but Graham Gibbons, who steered Volunteer Point to victory at Chelmsford, is 1-1 for the yard. Unfortunately, her credentials won’t have escaped the layers, but better a short-priced winner than a long-priced loser, as the old saying goes.

Selection: Lingfield 4.10 Volunteer Point to win

7.10 Kempton, Wednesday, February 24

In the £10 Free Bet at Handicap (7.10), the very lightly-raced 7-year-old Kalahari is an interesting contender, having already plied his tried in France, Germany and Britain in his seven-race career. The Halling gelding won maiden over 1 mile 2 furlongs at Nottingham for Lucy Wadham before a second spell with Hanover-based Irishman Paul Harley, uncle of jockey Martin, but returned to the Newmarket trainer in January.

Indeed, Kalahari wasted no time, getting off the mark on Polytrack at the first time of asking in a 0-65 contest, over course and distance, three weeks ago. He steps up to 0-75 company off a 6lb higher mark, but is entitled to improve for that run, his first since May, and may be capable of following up. Interestingly, Martin Harley, who won on him last time and has a 1-3 (33%) strike rate for the yard on the all-weather, once again takes the ride. Obviously, Kalahari has had his problems, but he still has time to prove significantly better than his current mark.

Selection: Kempton 7.10 Kalahari to win

3.05 Huntingdon, Thursday, February 11

In the 32Red Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle (3.05) at Huntingdon on Thursday, North Hill Harvey had his limitations exposed by Barters Hill on his hurdling debut over course and distance in November, but was eased down in the closing stages and his effort looks all the better for the subsequent exploits of the unbeaten winner in any case.

North Hill Harvey, himself, made no mistake on his only subsequent start, readily quickening clear to beat Baden by 4½ lengths in a Class 3 novices’ hurdle over 2 miles 1 furlong at Cheltenham in December. Admittedly, the runner-up was eventually soundly thrashed by Yanworth and company in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle over 2 miles 4½ furlongs at Cheltenham 11 days ago, but only faded on the run-in in what was, after all, a much, much better race.

North Hill Harvey steps back up in class and distance under a 4lb penalty but, now officially rated 140, he fully deserves his place in the field. He has plenty of stamina in his pedigree, being by Kayf Tara out of a Roberto mare, and remains open to any amount of improvement on just his third start under rules.

Selection: Huntingdon 3.05 North Hill Harvey to win

8.40 Ffos Las, Thursday, June 4

In the WRW Group Handicap Hurdle (8.40) at Ffos Las on Thursday, Paul Moloney is already 4-5 on Pennant Dancer and appears to have every chance of improving that record. A 7lb penalty for winning at Worcester last week puts Debra Hamer’s 8-year-old on a career-high mark, but he won with plenty in hand and looks capable of defying the handicapper once again.

So far this season, connections are plotting a similar course as last season for the Grape Tree Road gelding. His form tailed off a little after winning two of his three starts in April, May and June last season, but he looks an improved horse this season, so it would be no surprise if he held his form for longer this time around.

Pennant Dancer drops back three furlongs in distance, but won over 2 miles 5 furlongs at Towcester in April and, although 2 miles 4 furlongs is probably a minimum for him, he’s hard to oppose. He’s won on good to firm, good and good to soft going, so should run his race whatever the weather in West Wales and looks a decent bet to complete a hat-trick.

Selection: Ffos Las 8.40 Pennant Dancer to win

6.30 Newton Abbot, Wednesday, May 27

The Sunflower Day Nursery Handicap Chase (6.30) at Newton Abbot on Wednesday is a competitive little heat, despite just six runners, but Bang On Time has won three of his last four starts, including over course and distance eight days ago and must have every chance under a 7lb penalty. The Chevalier gelding seems a different horse from the one that was pulled up three times in four starts earlier in the year and he beat a reliable yardstick, Sergeant Dick, in good style over course and distance last time.

In fact, Richard Woollacott has once again secured the services of conditional jockey Paul John, whose 7lb claim effectively offsets the 7lb penalty, so it’s hard to argue that Bang On Time isn’t at least reasonably handicapped. He appears to act on any going, except perhaps very firm, so he has plenty in his favour, despite the ‘steadier’ of 12st 5lb. I’m afraid I’m missing something here, but he looks extraordinary value for money at 7/2 with Sky Bet and Coral in the very early price lists.

Selection: Newton Abbot 4.30 Bang On Time to win

Fattsota Looks Outstanding Value

The Betfair Huxley Stakes (2.40) at Chester on Thursday is a fascinating contest, in which it’s possible to make a plausible case for each of the seven runners. However, Fattsota is fully effective on a sharp track, having won over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Ripon twelve days ago and over 1 miles 2 furlongs at Epsom two summers ago, and may be capable of recording his first success at this level.

Certainly, David O’Meara’s seven-year-old looked better than ever when making all to win a Class 2 handicap at Ripon by 8 lengths last time and, having record four of his six career wins with ‘soft’ in the going description, could lead this field a merry dance. He may face competition for the lead from Maverick Wave but, although John Gosden’s four-year-old won his maiden at Leicester on good to firm, the pick of his turf form has come on soft and heavy going, so he may find underfoot conditions on the fast side.

Fattsota is officially the highest rated horse in the race, albeit by just 1lb, and with no qualms about the course, distance or going, he looks outstanding value at around 11/1 in the very early price lists. He’s more exposed than most, but that also means he has fewer questions to answer and he fully deserves some ‘black type’.

Selection: Chester 2.40 Fattsota to win

Dan Looks Just Dapper

In the Kirkley Hall Ltd Zoological Gardens Handicap Hurdle (3.10) at Hexham on Monday, Michael Scudamore sends Dan Emmett on the 566-mile round trip to Northumberland from his Bromsash yard as his sole representative of the afternoon and the hint looks worth taking. The Flower Alley gelding has run creditably in defeat on all three starts over hurdles and looks reasonably treated, off a mark of 120, for his handicap debut.

His best form, so far, has come on good to soft and soft going but, while underfoot conditions are possibly faster than ideal, a few light showers are expected in North East England on Sunday and connections will, presumably, withdraw him if the going becomes too fast. So far, he’s been tried at 2 miles, 2½ miles and 3 miles over hurdles without success but, as a winner over 2 miles on the Flat, 2 miles 4½ furlongs should be ideal for him, especially with the steep climb from the end of the back straight at Hexham likely to play to his strengths.

Jockey Tom Scudamore presumably had the choice of riding for David Pipe at Newton Abbott or Kempton, so his decision to head north is also highly encouraging as far as Dan Emmett is concerned.

Selection: Hexham 3.10 Dan Emmett to win

Solid Case for Urban Castle

In the Totepool Handicap (4.00) at Chelmsford City on Wednesday, Tacticus recorded two bloodless victories over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Southwell last month, but has never won on any surface other than Fibresand and takes a significant rise in class off a 13lb higher mark, so clearly faces a much tougher assignment this time. The horse he beat at Southwell last time, Sellingallthetime, was beaten further in a 0-75 handicap at the Nottinghamshire track on Tuesday, so the form may not be quite as good as it looked at the time.

Urban Castle has, similarly, done all her racing on the Tapeta surface at Wolverhampton, but she is one of the few in the field with form at this level and dropping back to 1 mile 5 furlongs could be in her favour. Collateral form involving Gabrial’s Star suggests she has the beating of Norab and she’s far from fully exposed after just five career starts. Indeed, she was only beaten 1½ lengths by John’s Reel, who’s now officially rated 97, over 2 miles 119 yards at Wolverhampton, so she could be well handicapped off a mark of 85.

At the time of writing, trainer James Tate is 2-2 at the new Essex venue and jockey Luke Morris is 6-21 (29%) on older horses for the yard on the all-weather, so the statistics are quite positive, too.

Selection: Chelmsford City 4.00 Urban Castle to win