Thursday, 2 February 2023

Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle

The Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle is a Grade 2 hurdle race run over 2 miles at Kempton Park in late February. As the title implies, the race is restricted to horses aged four years – or, in other words, aged three years at the start of the current season – who, by definition, are racing in their first season under National Hunt rules. Inaugurated, as the Tote Placepot Hurdle, in 1965, the race was elevated to Grade 2 from Listed status in 1991 and renamed to its current title three years later.

Despite the obvious differences between the right-handed, flat hurdles course at Kempton and the New Course at Cheltenham, which is left-handed, undulating and features just two flights of hurdles in the final three-quarters of a mile, the Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle is considered a key trial for the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The most recent winner of both races was Zarkandar, trained by Paul Nicholls, in 2011. Indeed, more recent winners of the Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle have a less-than-stellar record in the Triumph Hurdle. Since 2011, eight have attempted the double, but none of them has troubled the judge at Cheltenham, despite being well fancied more often than not.

Nicky Henderson, who saddled Katarino (1999), Punjabi (2007), Binocular (2008), Soldatino (2010) and Fusil Raffles (2019), and Alan King, who saddled Trouble at Bay (2004), Penzance (2005), Master Blueyes (2017), Redicean (2018) and Tritonic (2021), are jointly the most successful handlers in the history of the Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle with five winners apiece. Looking ahead to the 2023 renewal of the Adonis Juvenile Novices' Hurdle, scheduled 1:50pm on Saturday, Februrary 25, punters may like to note that seven of the last ten starting price favourites have won.

Thursday, 5 January 2023

Champion Hurdle Trial

The Champion Hurdle Trial is a Grade 2 hurdle race run over 1 mile, 7 furlongs and 144 yards at Haydock Park in January. Open to horses aged four years and upwards, the race was inaugurated in 1981, but was elevated to Grade 2 status in 1992. Since 2018, the Champion Hurdle Trial has been sponsored by online gambling company Unibet and, since 2019, has been run as The New One Unibet Hurdle in honour of the horse that won four consecutuve renewals in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Nowadays, the Champion Hurdle Trial is the penultimate leg in a season-long series of six races sponsored by Unibet and hence known as the 'Unibet Road to Cheltenham'. The series starts with the Elite Hurdle, run at Wincanton in November, and culminates with the Champion Hurdle itself, run at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

The New One aside, Nigel Twiston-Davies also saddled Mistinguett (1997) and Ballyandy (2020) to victory in the Champion Hurdle Trial and is the leading trainer in the history of the race with six winners. Other notable winners of the race include Granville Again (1992), Flakey Dove (1994) and Rooster Booster (2004), all of whom won the Champion Hurdle – although only the second-named did so in the same year as her victory at Haydock Park – together with three-time Stayers' Hurdle winner Inglis Drever (2005) and three-time Aintree Hurdle winner Al Eile (2006).

If recent seasons are anything to go by, the likes of Constitution Hill, Honeysuckle and State Man, who currently head the ante-post betting market for the Champion Hurdle are unlikely to run at Haydock. Nevertheless, recent trends suggest that a likely winner of the Champion Hurdle Trial will be aged 7 years and upwards, rated 150, or higher, and possess recent, preferably winning, form.

Tuesday, 13 December 2022

World Cup 2022 Semi Final: France vs Morocco

For many Africans, this will be the game for the ages. Morocco become the first side not only from North Africa, but the entire continent, to make the last four. Their defensive solidity, though, will be tested against the best attack in the competition. A defensive miserliness has made Morocco a nightmare to play against, with clean sheets against elite teams like Croatia, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal.

France, the world champions, are a different prospect entirely It is hard to say where this one will go, but the defensive solidity of Morocco will be tested like never before.

France News

Although Aurelien Tchouameni, with his stunning goal against England to help knock out the Three Lions, missed training in the build-up to this game he should be fit for the semi-final. As such France come in with no real selection dilemmas, and no real problem.

With Olivier Giroud finding form at the perfect time and Kylian Mbappe still terrorising defences, France will be extremely confident coming into this one. They have nothing to worry about, nothing getting in the way of selections, and no reason to fear Morocco.

Morocco News

The Atlas Lions meanwhile are missing a gluttony of players. Romain Saiss and Nayef Aguerd, their left-handed defensive pairing, are out barring a miracle. Walid Cheddira misses out after being sent off in the Portugal game. Even more worrying, though, is the potential loss of Noussair Mazraoui. The full-back is expected to miss out, meaning that three of Morocco’s first choice back five are missing.

For a talented but shallow team so focused on defensive zeal, that will be too much. The fact that Abdelhamid Sabiri might miss out, too, means that Morocco are down a gluttony of their most important players. Hakim Ziyech should make it, though, giving them an impetus in attack once again.


France may well have too much for the team of the tournament. If Morocco were fully fit then they might make it, but it looks like they will come up short in the end-up. The injuries are simply too many, leaving a defensively focused team with one hole too many to fill-in.

Score: 3-2 France

Sunday, 27 November 2022

World Cup Preview - England v Wales

The Three Lions will, just as they did in UEFA Euro 2016, play Wales in a major tournament. Having had Scotland in the last Euros and now Wales in this FIFA World Cup, England are getting used to a little domestic punch-up at competition level. This game, though, could prove the most challenging of the group for two reasons. One, they will face Wales who might already be in a qualification position – and two, they will be facing Gareth Bale.

Is the LAFC star in his vintage? Absolutely not. But, as his goal in the MLS Cup Final showed, he can still do it when it matters. And if you don’t believe that a passionate Welshman would not love to cap his only World Cup with a goal against England? Well, what do you believe?

Wales will be 100% up for this, and given it is the last game of the group they need to win and for a draw in the Iran vs USA game to make it into the knockout match. It's doable, but approaching longshot territory for both to happen.

Who will win this tie?

Both teams will be up for this, as much as they were in 2016. Yet while Wales have regressed to an extent since then, England have improved, but have had recent rocky form. They crashed out of the 2016 tournament in joke circumstances, but have since reached at least the Semi Finals of both tournaments since.

Wales are a good team – well-structured and capable, and have an immense team spirit. Expect them to be up for this, but in my view to just fall short.


Saturday, 5 November 2022

Lucky Day at the Races Slot Game


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