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Friday 19th April 2024

Friday Freebie: Last Year’s Winner Could Double Up In Newbury Sprint Handicap

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Hi! My name is Sam Darby and I run a professional tipping service called ‘Winning Post Profits’, which is available on the SureWin platform. I’m very proud of my service, not only because of the results I’ve achieved over the years (almost 29% return on investment at advised prices) but also because of the level of communication with my members, reviewing all races we’ve had a bet on and owning all results, good or bad!

I’ll be providing a free weekly preview for you over almost the entirety of the flat season. The aim of these previews is firstly to provide what should be a good bet in each race, but also to highlight other runners worthy of consideration and some interesting angles into each race.

The majority of contests I cover will be Friday handicaps but occasionally, if nothing appeals on a Friday, I’ll preview a race on Saturday instead.

Not many of these races will be universally priced up when I analyse them, although William Hill will often have a market. In either case I generally try to highlight what sort of price I think the horses of interest are backable at, as by the time these articles are published there can already have been a fair few market moves.

This Week’s Race

There are a couple of nice handicaps at Newbury on Friday and by far the most appealing of those from a betting perspective is the class 3, 6f race which will be run at 2.12pm.

Given the drying progress with the ground this week, I’d expect the going to be pretty much spot on good to soft by the time the race starts, assuming the going reports throughout the week have been accurate (Newbury are one of the worst courses for this but at least they haven’t been able to water).

Newbury is definitely one of the fairer courses out there in terms of track biases. Hold up performers usually have a decent chance as long as the gallops aren’t very slow, although occasionally on very soft ground, it can be really difficult to make up ground.

In terms of the draw on the straight course, they tend to race middle to stands’ side with slight preference for a draw towards the middle.

The Runners

As this is the first preview of the season, I’ll give a view on every single one of the 17 runners in the race. I’ll go into more detail for the more interesting runners and I’ll go through them in market order (at the time of writing), according to the early William Hill prices.

Grand Traverse

Likely to contribute to the early pace. Always going to be well fancied here given he’s a lightly raced 4yo who has had one start in handicaps/in the UK/for this trainer and he won that one cosily at Newcastle. He was well placed in that race and it hasn’t been working out particularly well yet but he won like a horse that is well ahead of his mark and it’s not really his fault the race he won easily was only an average contest.

He’s up 8lbs for that and is up in grade but he’s at least proven on softish ground from his time in France. He’s the right favourite and might well win but he’s too difficult to weigh up against some battle hardened handicappers here. It will be interesting to see how he goes in the market, especially just before the off.


Understandable that he’s amongst the market leaders here given he’s dropped 10lbs in the handicap in the space of 12 months despite running well on several occasions in that time frame, including last time out. He may have been beaten 7+ lengths on his reappearance at Kempton (same race he’s used as a spring board for the season for the past 4 years) but he was hampered early on and poorly placed as the race developed and he was still only beaten by four of his rivals.

He used to be extremely reliable on softer ground but would lose his form for his final one or two runs in the season. Last year though, despite the odd good run, he was very difficult to catch right. He’s handicapped to win this but probably finds 6f on the sharp side these days (last won over the trip 3 years ago, beaten 12 times at the distance since) and it’s difficult to predict if this will be a going day. He’ll likely find a race or two this season off this sort of mark though, maybe one of the big Ascot handicaps (last three wins have come there).


Similar to Grand Traverse in that he’s a lightly raced 4yo who won last time out. He’ll be making his debut for William Haggas here and has been gelded since he last ran in September.

He’s apparently been bought to ‘win the Wokingham’ and he’ll certainly need to improve plenty to win that, his latest win was only by a short head and the form of that Chelmsford win hasn’t worked out particularly well. It’s also worth noting he’s 2 from 2 on the all weather and 0 from 4 on turf (well beaten on three of those runs). No surprise if Haggas does improve him but he could be vulnerable here and could yet prove an all weather only horse.

Divine Libra

Can lead but tactics seem to change on him from race to race. Relatively lightly raced 4yo who was consistent last season for Charles Hills but was defeated in 5 out of 6 handicap runs. He’s been gelded since and looks the type to improve with ground conditions seemingly in his favour here but the Charles Hills horses seem to be slightly below par at the minute (no winners from 28 runners this season at the time of writing).

He’s handicapped to run well with his latest Chester 3rd (unlucky in running) working out okay but the suspicion is he might be best to catch next time out.


My pick for this race last year when he ran inexplicably badly, only to win a couple of starts later. He goes well in soft ground and ran well first time up last season and he’s run well in several hot races in the past 18 months or so to suggest he can definitely defy this mark.

He’s just about ideally drawn in stall 10 and should get a fair pace to aim at but there is one really nagging doubt about this horse. He did win a Newbury nursery as a 2yo but in three runs here since he’s been beaten 7.5, 11.5 and 28 lengths. That’s beginning to look more than a coincidence now and it appears he’s developed a strong dislike for this course for some reason. On that basis he's opposed but he’ll likely be of interest soon.


Possible pace angle. An exposed 4yo but he’s been almost the model of consistency on his last nine starts with form figures of 119422214. The last three of those runs have already come this season and his 2nd on seasonal debut came in an extremely strong Wolverhampton handicap (four different winners have already come out of the race) and whilst he’s one of those subsequent winners, off a 3lb higher mark he’s surely still well enough treated.

He won at Doncaster following that race, doing comfortably best of those who raced near the pace, and he was probably a bit keen when 4th last time out in a good race at Kempton. He might be vulnerable to one or two here but no reason he shouldn’t run well with plenty in his favour and his trainer remains in absolutely amazing form (36% win strike rate in the past 14 days).

Bernardo O’Reilly

He was my second choice for this race last year so it was extremely annoying to watch him win well at 16/1 whilst my main selection was tailed off.

The ground should be absolutely spot on for this horse this year. He did win on soft ground last year but overall he’s been a far more consistent horse on good to soft throughout his long career (50% place strike rate in handicaps run on good to soft).

The absolute key to following this horse is to back him in class 3 handicaps and to avoid him when he runs in class 2 handicaps. He’s 0 from 15 in class 2 handicaps and 6 from 23 in class 3 handicaps. In 6f class 3 handicaps he beats 70% of rivals which is quite impressive and that’s on any going type.

Overall he’s performed best on good to soft ground, in class 3 handicaps, over 6f, in 16+ runner fields on straight, flat courses. Everything is pretty much perfect for him.

He’s definitely handicapped to win too. He’s getting on at 10 years old now but was pretty much as good as ever at 9 last year, running well in some really hot races. He won this off a 5lb higher mark last season and off an 8lb higher mark he was a close 4th (unlucky in running) in a really strong Racing League handicap at Yarmouth. The winner won his next three, the runner up finished 2nd, 3rd, 3rd on his next 3 starts and the 3rd won next time out.

Given he’s so well handicapped, it’s a slight surprise connections reach for a 5lb claimer here, massively increasing the risk of a poor ride. He’s by no means bad value for his claim, but he’d be a better bet with a more experienced jockey on board.

Before winning this race last year he was 5th of 19 at Doncaster, beaten 5.5 lengths. This year, in the same race, he was 6th of 14, beaten 6 lengths, so he’s had an almost identical prep this time around. He was quite weak just before the off that day so was almost certainly expected to come on for the run and it bodes well that he’s won on one of his first two starts for the past couple of years.

He’s been my idea of the winner of this race for quite some time but I’m quite surprised to see him available at just 10/1 in such a deep race, having run only averagely last time out. Last season he was consistently underestimated in the betting and I think/hope once a few more price this race up that he’ll be available at something more like 14/1 or 16/1.


He’s been kept very busy over the winter for Mick Appleby and he’s been a great success story for the trainer, winning three times on the all weather and running a career best when 4th last time out off a 14lb higher mark than he started life in handicaps with last summer.

He’s actually 2lb lower than when running very well in a big Newcastle handicap three weeks ago so much of this comes down to whether or not he translates his all weather improvement to turf. He’s bred to appreciate soft ground so it was maybe disappointing he followed a good 5th at Southwell last September with a not so encouraging 7th on soft ground at Nottingham next time and that underperformance on turf is a slight clue that he’s more of an all weather horse. Decent chance if he is as good as recent starts here but percentage call is to oppose.


Another possible pace angle. A money spinner for my service over the winter and he’s been extremely consistent on artificial surfaces but his turf form is a level below that, despite some fair efforts on grass. He has a bit of form on softer ground but generally his best runs have come on good or better. This is probably a bit competitive for him anyway given he's up another 3lbs after his narrow win at Lingfield last time out.


Tends to lead or race prominently at the very least. Was running well on the all weather in early winter, without suggesting he had much in hand off this sort of mark. His best turf form is on much faster ground so he has plenty to prove here but he might rustle a few feathers on the lead early on and help set this up for the closers.


Definitely one of the most interesting ones at the very early prices. He was formerly rated in the mid 90s for William Haggas and he’s dropped a long way in the handicap for Jane Chapple-Hyam given the horse has never run more than two bad races in a row, admittedly having not won in 3 years for his current handler.

Looking at last season’s form, he was 5th in this race off a 5lb higher mark (also his seasonal reappearance) which bodes well, even if he’s held by Bernardo O’Reilly on that run. He was an eyecatching 2nd to the subsequent Ayr Silver Cup runner up at Redcar after a mid season break and on his next run, at Goodwood, he was given one of the poorest rides of the season when a close 3rd.

Those were admittedly poorer races than this so it’s most likely he’ll run well in defeat here before landing a slightly lesser handicap, with cut in the ground, in the coming weeks or months. He does look overpriced here though.


No win since 2021 but handicapped to win one of these and still a very good horse on a going day despite now being an 8yo.

Interestingly, he always needs his first run of the season and he’s improved dramatically second time out. For the past three years he’s made his seasonal reappearance in the same Doncaster race that Bernardo O’Reilly starts in and he’s been beaten 8.5 lengths, 8.5 lengths and 6.75 lengths respectively. For the past two seasons he’s followed those efforts up with an excellent 3rd in a very strong Newmarket handicap. The two horses that finished ahead of him in that Newmarket race last year both won next time out and Chairmanoftheboard is 2lbs lower here.

He likes cut in the ground and although he runs particularly well at Newmarket, he has run well on courses like this previously (last win came at Haydock).

It’s also worth noting that headgear was left off last time out but goes on today. He wore both a visor and cheekpieces with mixed results last season but in races where he’s worn headgear that he didn’t wear in the previous race he’s finished 2nd and 3rd so it might perk him up a little here. It’s easy to see him going well at a big price and it would be no surprise if he shortens plenty, potentially even going off single figures (he’s 18/1 at the time of writing). Might be more of a place only play though.

Holkham Bay

Went close on his turf debut (novice race) but has since proved extremely disappointing on grass but has run to a decent enough level on artificial surfaces. He was in form on his most recent all weather starts, whilst also running slightly below market expectations, and he needs to improve back on turf here which seems a stretch.


He was only a short head behind Wiltshere in November and is 7lbs better off so he’s of interest in relation to that rival given the difference in prices, whilst the booking of Oisin Murphy also catches the eye. He hasn’t been as good on turf though in the past (his all weather mark is 5lbs higher) and his best turf runs have come on faster ground so although he’s not a complete no hoper, it’s difficult to see him breaking his turf duck in such a tough race.

Spanish Star

He’s not getting any younger (now 9) but as an 8 year old last year he reached a career high mark so it’s impossible to rule out even further progression now.

He’s one of a few that made his seasonal reappearance in this race last year and does the same again this year, he was 6th off a 4lb lower mark, so seems somewhat up against it here. He’ll likely come on for the run and should be able to run well off this mark at a sharp track like Goodwood or Epsom as those are the venues where he shows his best. If he can run on late into 6th - 8th that would rate a very decent effort.

Indian Creak

Likely pace angle. Makes his seasonal reappearance here off a 2lb higher mark than he’s ever won off and tends to save his best for Windsor, Goodwood and Epsom so he looks opposable here. The plan will presumably to get his mark down a little before returning to one of those venues and he’s worth noting when he does turn up for one of those races, especially if getting cut in the ground.

Safari Dream

Doesn’t look especially well treated and best efforts have come over 5f on better ground. He does handle some cut in the ground but even on fast ground this is likely to be too much of a test for him with the softer ground placing even more emphasis on relative stamina over speed.


With Grand Traverse, Divine Libra, Knebworth, Bosh, Buccabay, Indian Creak and maybe even Safari Dream possibly keen to go forward there should be no shortage of pace in this race and that should set things up nicely for the closers.

The first named of those pace angles, Grand Traverse, is arguably the most likely winner of this but he might find himself close enough to an early burn up and still has to prove himself off this sort of mark, for all the signs are promising so far.

Fresh is very well handicapped but is too short based on being better over 7f and being too inconsistent in the past year or so. Knebworth, at a slightly bigger price (at the time of writing), looks far more likely to give his running and should be in the shake up. He too could be softened up by the likely strong early gallop but taking a lead this time should help him settle and he chased a very strong pace at Doncaster and still won so that could be what he needs to be at his very best.

Gisburn is handicapped to go well but there are course worries for him whilst Divine Libra is another with plenty of upside but he’s probably one to take a watching brief on with regards to probably backing him next time in the right company.

Everything looks in place for a big run from BERNARDO O’REILLY though, who will hopefully be available at a bigger price than the very early 10/1. He was weak in the betting before winning this last year so if he’s not initially bigger than 10/1, there should be opportunities to get a price closer to the off.

He’s as proven as anything in this race and showed enough on his reappearance to suggest he can win this again, provided Sean Bowen picks the right gaps at the right time. He will be coming from the back so a more experienced jockey definitely would have been preferred but that’s pretty much the only possible worry.

At bigger prices, Chairmanoftheboard should be more than capable of getting into the places at the very least and something like 4/1 to finish in the first 4 or 7/2 to finish in the first 5 would make some appeal. Aplomb is also fancied to outrun his odds and if he can reach the fringes of the places that will set him up to win soon.

This is a really tough race, and there are several unknowns with those near the head of the betting which make drawing strong conclusions difficult, but a smallish each way bet on Bernardo O’Reilly and a small place only bet on Chairmanoftheboard could well be amongst the better wagers on a decent Friday’s racing.

Kind regards,

Sam Darby - Winning Post Profits

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