Simon Rowlands

Simon has selections plus analysis online for Market Rasen and Warwick on Saturday.

Published 16:00 15/1

Betting is a game of opinions, as we keep being reminded, but it is also a game of facts. Without differences in opinions, and greater or lesser emphases on facts, betting on horses might be a futile exercise.

Perhaps that is the kindest context in which to view the piece in this week’s Racing Post by Dylan Hill claiming, among other things, that sectionals are of much less use over jumps than on the flat.

He also suggested that Tramore should be cut a bit of slack in the current circumstances for getting race distances badly wrong on New Year’s Day. Which begs the question why it and many other Irish courses have been getting them badly wrong since long before Covid was even heard of, despite having this pointed out to them.

Without those who don't appreciate sectionals, of which there are more than a few, you and I might not have an edge – or imagine we have an edge! – when we see a horse that ran a good time and splits.

An example would be a novice running over 20 lengths quicker than a seasoned and useful handicapper at the same distance on the same card while being about 10 lengths quicker in the last half-mile.

That is what OSCAR ELITE managed compared to Exploiteur at Chepstow in December, and the numbers suggest that the former is well worth his place, at the very least, in the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick at 2:25 on Saturday.

Oscar Elite faced just two rivals at Chepstow, neither of which could seriously trouble him, but he also faced trial by stopwatch and came through it with flying colours.

We know from the TPD sectionals that Oscar Elite ran one of the furlongs – from 3f out to 2f out – in just 14.14s on testing ground, which bodes well for his ability to transfer his form to Saturday’s shorter distance.

He does encounter sterner opposition at Warwick, for sure, not least from the course-and-distance winner Jay Bee Why, the Cheltenham novice winner Make Me A Believer, Midnight River (won in a good time at Leicester on his latest start) and the in-form handicapper Mint Condition.

But I would have Oscar Elite, who won his only other start by 20 lengths and comes from the family of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere, as just about favourite in this company and he is a bet at 3-1 or bigger in my book.

My idea of another worthwhile bet at Warwick is LE BREUIL in the Classic Handicap Chase at 3:00. Things have not worked out for the Ben Pauling-trained gelding since he won an X-rated National Hunt Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival two years ago. But he is still only nine, has not always had things go his way, and is becoming notably well-handicapped.

He is not the only one of which that last comment is true, with Captain Chaos potentially chucked in now he has blinkers back on. But Le Breuil is a much more reliable sort who just needs to find his form again, and he shaped better than the result when third over the Grand National fences at Aintree last time.

Le Breuil is worth a win bet in a race in which about half the field look up against it.

Market Rasen seems tricky, but I have been tempted into opposing Edwardstone at a short price in the Mansionbet Handicap Hurdle at an extended two miles at 2:05 given how freely he tends to go and the fact that he has just four rivals and will therefore get little cover. He also unseated over fences when last seen.

OSCARS LEADER looks to be the one to do it with, as he is a notably consistent individual who promises to be the sole front-runner in this contest. He ran The Cob to half a length at Haydock last time in a race run in a good time, and had run into a potentially smart one in Mister Coffey at Sandown the time before.

On The Blind Side should arguably be favourite over Lil Rockerfeller three-miler which follows in the three-miler which follows, but he has required some finessing at times. It is well worth watching the listed mares’ bumper at 3:15, when the promising Eileendover will be defending an unbeaten record against strong opposition.

The Pam Sly-trained filly is a worthy favourite getting an overly generous age allowance, but she has to prove she is as good at a distance just 35 yards short of 17f (after rail movements) as she has been at around 12f/14f.

Get £20 in free bets

Market Rasen 14:05, 16 January 2021

Warwick 14:25, 16 January 2021

Warwick 15:00, 16 January 2021

Sign up to bet365. Click to View Bonus Code Details
Up to £30 in free bets
Get £20 in free bets
£20 Risk Free First Bet
Up to £20 in free bets
Up to £40 in Bonus funds
100% Bonus up to £100
£20 Free Exchange Bet
Get a £10 risk-free first bet