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Friday, 23 November 2007

Friday Fun: Should I Buy A Mac or a PC?

Hello dear reader, and a little light entertainment to end the week:

the joys of computers brought to you by our friends at South Park (or their lookalike cousins at any rate).

Enjoy!



Matt

 

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Monday, 19 November 2007

Lay The Life Out Of These!

Happy Monday, dear reader, and welcome to another sometime installment from yours truly on matters equine and general.

Today, its a jolly up to gay Paris, and a little lay system for the winter all weather...

First up, I'd like to take you on a little journey... For it was with much glee, that I and my lady friend took to St Pancras on Saturday evening to experience the new Eurostar Express (London to Paris in a formidable - pronounced for-mee-dah-blur - 2 hours and 20 minutes).

Now then, lest you get gobbled up by the hype, let me tell you, the world's longest champagne bar may also have the world's longest waiting line. And it didn't look worth it to me... By long champagne bar, what they actually mean is they have a pretty small square bar in the middle and - alongside platform 1 of the Eurostar lines - they have assembled tables and chairs for a fair distance.

The bar has zero ambience, and it costs no less than £7.50 for a glass of the cheapest house champagne. The words 'rip' and 'off' spring all too readily to this hack's mind.

However, the Eurostar experience itself was much more wholesome. I'd booked through the website, and - because I needed to go at a certain time, and return at a certain time - the price was higher than it would otherwise have been (though still pretty reasonable at under 300 notes for two).

Imagine my surprise when the website asked, "Would you like a three course dinner, with champagne and wine, for another £10?". "Why yes", I replied. Then I ticked the box on the screen, on the basis that my laptop can't do voice recognition yet... So that was it, five quid each for a perfectly palatable platter and some splendidly sippable wines (Crozes Hermitages 2004 for me, Gris des Gris rose for she), and of course a quick quaff of the bubbles...

We stayed next to Gare du Nord, for reasons of expediency, rather than salubriousness. Indeed, whilst on the subject of expediency, or - more correctly - expedia... those bloody numpties really do me in.

After booking a hotel with them for the 2006 Breeders Cup, only to arrive in the city and discover - believe it or not - that said hotel had closed down two months before(!), I really should know better... And that hotel was a Ramada, one of the biggest chains in the world! I digress...

Yes, I had printed off my itinerary from the email. Or so I thought. It was only when we got to Paris that I opened the bit of paper to reveal my itinerary number, and a link to a web page with the hotel details. Not even the name of the hotel was on the page.

Being super prepared with my papers, I hadn't bothered to check the hotel name. So there we were, 11pm in Paris with a hotel reservation but no clue what it was called or where it was.... Sacre Bleu, indeed!

What would any sane Englishman do in this predicament? Of course, head for the nearest bar and curse. As Lady Luck would have it however, the nearest bar had wifi, and my little phone was able to tap into that and get to my email, from whence I established the name of the hotel.

The kindly barman helped me with directions, which I patently failed to understand. (I have this problem whereby I convince myself that if I spend a minute or two preparing what I need to ask in French, that makes me conversant. It's only when the reply comes back that I realise he's speaking too fast and I don't understand it anyway... hmmm, is that just me?!)

So to the hotel, and an 8th (which was to say, top, in this place) floor room, with as good as view as you get at Gare du Nord: the Eiffel Tower chatting merrily to the moon directly to its left on one side, and the illuminated grandeur of the church of Sacre Coeur to the other.

Mrs Woman was most pleased...

Conscious that this may be the most boring post in all of the 208 I've put here to date (yes, 208!), I'll scoot through Sunday: lazy breakfast in bed (usual pastries and fierce caffeine infusions), stroll to aforementioned superchurch, further stroll through the Baltic conditions southwards, and we found ourselves back at Gare du Nord. Coffee and a squint at the map, and it was time to take le metro (one line working only, as the Frenchie blighters were striking again: I suspect M. Sarkozy has bitten off more than he can chew on this occasion... Its a foolish man with delusions of deity that takes on the French proletariat regarding matters welfare or social...!)

Six stops south and we alight at Les Halles, which stinks of urine and excrement. Out the door and its VERY cold. What else to do then but grab a Guinness in the nearest Irish bar, which happens to be no more than ten strides away. Or, if you're a giraffe, probably about two and a half (though you would have struggled to get through the door in the latter instance).

Lunch was booked for 2pm, and a pleasant if frosty amble along the Rue de Rivoli, past the Louvre, found us at Le First restaurant, an interesting 'boudoir' establishment.

We went for the tasting menu, which consisted of seven, yes seven courses, including veal sweetbreads, which - unless I'm mistaken - are the testicles of baby cows... Very nice all the same.

Washed down with a bottle of Brouilly, a wine I've never before come across, but which makes its way straight into my top ten. Very easy drinking, elegant, and goes with anything, as those seven courses testify!

Somewhat sated gastronomically, and mildly inebriated, we once again braced the biting Baltic breeze, across the Tuilerie Gardens, through Place de la Concorde and its Ferris Wheel, and along the south bank bypassing the Champs Elysees to the north.

We followed our noses - easy enough for me! - to the Eiffel Tower, and began to queue. Forty freezing minutes later and we were heading up, up and away. Now I know how Charlie felt in the great glass elevator. For someone like me, who is not a big fan of heights, I can tell you that the top level of the Eiffel Tower is - excuse me and my dyslexia - fckuing high!

Not too bad from underneath...





Not much sooner up there than it took to snap four sides on my phone cam, and we were heading down, down, deeper and down. And also very late. 5h1t! Late. We needed to catch a taxi to assure our train connection. Problem was, with the strike and all, it seemed the rest of Paris needed a car as well. The line was worse than the champagne bar back at St Pancras...!

So, ever the romantic improviser, I invited my girlfriend to join me in a little jog / sprint to the metro station about a mile away. Mercifully, oh sweet mercy, after about 200 metres, Carole spotted a taxi with what appeared to be its light on. And so it was. Warmth and transit for the price of.. well for considerably less than the price of two tickets from Paris to London!



We had just enough time to buy baguettes and champagne, and blag two paper cups, for our impromptu picnic in Coach 1.

All told, a wonderful day, and an experience I heartily recommend, should you, like me, be lucky enough to have the chance.

If you're still awake, well played, and - by way of reward - I've done a little digging on donkeys. And the best kind of donkeys: those plodders on the sand!

Yes, that's right folks, I've found a warming winter lay system specifically for use on the all weather tracks..

Here's how it goes:

- Races must be between November (i.e. now) and end of March
- Southwell, Lingfield, Kempton or Wolverhampton all weather tracks
- Forecast favourite in the Racing Post
- NOT top rated by Topspeed in the Racing Post
- Starting odds of 4/1 or higher
- Having first run today, or finished 5th or worse last time out
- Last ran 8+ days ago

It may seem like there are too many criteria here to yield many lays, but in fact there is on average one every other day...

The results are as follows:

YEAR WINS RUNS STRIKE% LSP LSP% VSP%

2000 3 29 10.34 -13.50 -46.55 -33.41
2001 3 37 8.11 -16.00 -43.24 -48.43
2002 5 48 10.42 -17.50 -36.46 -35.50
2003 6 67 8.96 -30.50 -45.52 -41.81
2004 13 75 17.33 1.50 2.00 9.40
2005 11 83 13.25 -12.00 -14.46 -13.27
2006 8 67 11.94 -19.50 -29.10 -22.96
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49 406 12.07 -107.50 -26.48 -22.57

7 out of 8 get beaten, and yield a 26.48% loss at SP to level stakes.

Even with betfair commission and over odds, you could expect to make 10% ROI with this.

I'll try to have a look at some jumps lays as well this week, but - as you'll have worked out - time is not the cheap commodity it was just a few short months ago...

Hope this post finds you well, and until next time...

Pip Pip!

Matt

 

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Monday, 12 November 2007

Competition Catch Up

Hello, dear reader, remember me?

I used to write to you regularly, before the ills of work and women (or, more specifically, woman) got in my way.

First up for this post is to report, somewhat belatedly, on the Nag3 Fantasy Football League. After September's runaway winner was none other than my good buddy Steve Frazer, October's runaway monthly prize winner is none other than..... my good buddy, Gary Maxen!!

Dear old Gazza stormed the award by a comfortable 25 points, and has propelled himself into fourth place overall.

Meanwhile, Steve Frazer (or Frazek to his mates - don't ask!) has assumed a commanding advantage over the field at the top of the overall table. That said, he's started November quietly, and challengers from the reader ranks of Nag3 are now beginning to get a touch closer.

Heading the peloton is Mark Boorman's Baddow Cougars, with Paddy Meagher's consistent Kicking Kings in the bronze medal position right now.

Yours truly is making a slightly better fist of things, having been left ten lengths at the start, and I've moved up to an almost respectable ninth place.

Top ten are as follows, as I write:

# Team Manager Gameweek Total
1 Frazek HotSpurs Steven Frazer 42 717
2 Baddow Cougars Mark Boorman 39 659
3 Kicking Kings Paddy Meagher 35 634
4 Tottering Legends Gary Maxen 33 626
5 Dind Dang Doo malik aldeiri 58 619
6 Rafalution Pete Yogi 56 610
7 PURPLE AKI'S BOYZ Craig Baugh 49 588
8 celticheroes Adrian Brookes 39 587
9 Nag Nag Goooooal Matt Bisogno 64 586
10 Cupid's Skirts Stephen Miller 32 579

****

Moving on, and this week sees your last chance to enter many people's favourite fantasy competition, the Tote Ten To Follow.

So, in the spirit of the season (entries must be in by Thursday if you're planning to get involved), here's my ten picks:

Denman - Could this be the only horse to seriously challenge Kauto Star this season? Will be aimed at big staying chases, but will avoid Kauto until Cheltenham in March

Inglis Drever - probably the best staying hurdler in the country, certainly the most consistent

Katchit - my favourite jumper in training. Can't win the Champion Hurdle according to the stats, but may run up a sequence beforehand

Kauto Star - best jumper in training by a margin. Barring injury, will be tough to beat again

Chief Dan George - this horse has some heart, finishing an exemplary season last year by beating Wichita Lineman at Aintree. No fluke about that, and he will prove competitive whatever route connections take with him

Monet's Garden - Undisputed 2 1/2 mile champion chaser. Must be aimed at Champion Chase this year, rather than the donkey derby race he fluffed at Cheltenham this year

My Way De Solzen - Champion two mile novices have a brilliant record of success in the Champion Chase so this Alan King inmate must be thereabouts

Straw Bear - Lines of form suggest he was very unlucky to burst in the Champion Hurdle last season, and - granted good health - he'll take some stopping again this season

Wichita Lineman - Brilliantly consistent and from a top stable. Being aimed at the stayers' hurdle, he'll be found some easy-ish opportunities beforehand

Voy Por Ustedes - Champion Chaser and, in a section where there are rarely many challengers, he may double up come March

So there you have it. Not many surprises in there, but lots of winners to come. My shortlist also contained:

Blazing Bailey
Crocodiles Rock
Gemini Lucy
Longshanks
Newmill
Sky's The Limit
Spectait

Watch those come away with all the big prizes!!

Finally, I thought I'd check back to my alternative ten to follow on the flat, and see how they performed... quite well is the management summary!

Pieter Brueghel: 7 runs, 2 seconds, including at odds on...
Crossing The Line: 2nd on seasonal debut, pulled up as favourite next time, hasn't raced since...
Tonnante: 2 wins from 6 starts, at 2/1 and 4/1
Spirit Of The Mist: 4 runs, 2 thirds at 11/2 and 17/2. Now moved from T J Pitt's stable
Rapid City: my nag, injured after running encouragingly in a big handicap in April, his sole start of the season. Due back after New Year, and we might get some joy on the sand in January
Monte Alto: 9 runs, 3 wins, 4 further places. Wins at 1/3, 2/1 and 9/2
Furmigadelagiusta: 5 runs, 2 wins at 5/2 and 3/1
Novellara: unraced, presumed retired for broodmare duties
Bertoliver: 9 runs, 2 wins at 8/1 and 16/1, the star of the show! I said "Pay special attention if he runs at Windsor". The only time he did, he won, at 8/1!
Worldly: Sold to race in America, where he's won 2 Grade 3 races from 4 starts, and racked up win and place prize money of £105,000

Overall, from the UK runners, there were 43 starts, with nine winners, and 8.5 points profit.

So it is possible to look at the horses from a few decent stables or those stables who do well with certain types, pick out a squad, and make a profit... Sometimes at least!

(For the original article, click here...)

Right I'm off to see the woman responsible for my increasingly infrequent posting here... ;o)

Matt

 

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Thursday, 1 November 2007

TTS Followers Have No Reason To Crab Tom... Or Charlie

Tom Tate, dear reader, is a trainer with an enviable record at Newcastle. His record of nine winners from eleven runners (at under 14/1 between September and April) marked him down as a man to follow for TTS fans.

So it was a surprise to see the Racing Post tissue show his Charlie Crab at 16/1 overnight. Of course, the statistics now show that Tom Tate's record at Newcastle has improved to 8 from 12, and that was courtesy of CC at a much more plausible (but still profitable) 10/3.

If you happen to be a placepot punter who follows TTS, so much the better. In today's six races, the favourite was placed in two races, the second favourite in three (including CC's race), and the third and fourth-in placed in the other race.

Over £400 for getting that? Why? Because in CC's race, where he was forecast to be much bigger, the placed horses were 33/1 and 25/1.

Based on Racing Post tissues, that's 16/1, 25/1 and 33/1.

But TTS punters knew.

Season so far:

September: 10 winners from 34 runners, +£194 (29.41% strike rate)
21 in first three from 34 runners, +£206 (61.76% strike rate)

October: 17 winners from 81 runners, +£203 (20.98% strike rate)
46 in first three from 81 runners, +£457 (56.79% strike rate)

November: 2 winners from 5 runners, +£52 (40% strike rate)
3 in first three from 5 runners, +£55 (60% strike rate)

Ok, so November is only a day old, but it's a great start!

Overall, we're up £450 on the win bets, and a whacking £718 on place bets. This is all for £20 stakes, on betfair, with the usual 5% commissions deducted. That totals up to £1,168 for just £20 stakes.

For those readers lucky enough to bet in £100 units, that equates to £2,250 win and £3,590 place. A total of £5,840. Nuff said.

Of course, now I've done all this number crunching, the wheels will likely fall off (though there's no logical reason why they should, given that the research was put together over five seasons' worth of data).

Last plug... for a while... www.trainertrackstats.com

A quick word, while I'm here, on what I perceive to be some excellent ante post value for the Champion Hurdle.

Sublimity is too short for a horse who needs a lot of things to go his way, as they did last year, when he saw off the old guard.

The young guns take him on this year though, led by my dear friend Katchit. As much as I love this horse (regular readers know how much! Type his name in on the Search page, accessible from the top, if you want to see some old eulogies to the Katch...), five year olds' as he will be next March, have an atrocious record in the race.

Which brings me to the 3rd favourite in the race, Detroit City. He was a 5yo when he started this season's Champion Hurdle as favourite at odds as tight as 6/4. He still is a 5yo, but will be six when the race is run next, and a year stronger.

Its true that you have to forgive DC a bad run at Aintree afterwards, where he was doubtless feeling the effects of a tough enough season, but before that he was 'the daddy junior'.

His debut this season will reveal a lot, but he's with the right trainer and - after a nice summer rest - he must come right back into things if putting best hoof forward first time up.

16/1 is a fat juicy price if you think he can return near his best.

The other I'd put up in the race, Straw Bear, tonked the winner Sublimity in the previous year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle, and also spanked Champion Hurdle bronze medallist, Afsoun, in his previous run.

The Bear burst a blood vessel in the big race this year, which is a worrying sign in any horse. But again, if you can forgive the horse one bursting, he looks appetising to say the least at 25/1 (36 on betfair).

By the way, to repeat my usual advice, when betting ante post (especially so far from an event), bet win only. It's just not worth losing twice your stake or only placing half your stake to win, with so many slips 'twixt cup and lip to come between now and next March.

But let's get that ante-post portfolio bubbling up!!

Matt

 

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