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A day at the races

There are 59 racecourses in Great Britain from Perth up in Scotland to
Newton Abbot, Devon, with Cheltenham being the nearest to North your bets with our tipster Mike Bisacre

Grand National 2017

It is estimated that a quarter of the UK adult population will watch the Randox Health sponsored Grand National this year on television.
And more than 70,000 of these will be up close and personal at the Aintree racecourse in Liverpool.
But North Somerset viewers will have a special reason to tune in on Saturday, April 8, at 5.15pm because the favourite for this year’s spectacular is Vieux Lion Rouge, who is partly owned by John and Sue Gent, of Clevedon.
Vieux Lion Rouge is in training with David Pipe whose stables lie on the Somerset/Devon border in the tiny hamlet of Nicholashayne near Wellington.
To date the eight-year-old chestnut gelding has won 11 races including the Becher Chase over the Grand National fences in November and the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock in mid-February.

Mr Gent said: "We are incredibly excited.

"Just getting a horse into the Grand National is a dream come true but to have the favourite with a very realistic chance of winning is beyond our wildest dreams.”
So what are the chances of the Gent household holding the Grand National trophy aloft on April 8?
Pretty good by my reckoning but nothing is easy in this race and there always has to be a huge dose of good fortune and luck in running.
Never mind the other three dozen  or so other runners in the four mile race there are also the 30 fences to be jumped including The Chair at 5ft 2in high and Bechers Brook at 5ft.

And then there are all the horses which fall bringing down others around them.
But Vieux Lion Rouge has plenty of stamina, has already run in the Grand National - last year he finished a creditable seventh to the Irish trained horse Rule the World - he jumps very well, will like the going and has a top jockey in Tom Scudamore.    
And carrying 10 stone 7 pounds is the ideal weight (few horses ever win carrying more than 11 stone and the average winning weight is, auspiciously, 10 stone 7 pounds) and although the majority of races have been won by nine, 10 and 11 year olds in the past 30 years, eight- year-olds have done pretty well too.

Everyone’s favourite, Red Rum, won the first of his three Nationals when he was an eight year old.

So too was the 2015 winner Many Clouds.
But what about the odds? 
Who wants to back a favourite in a race like this?
Of course, we all want a winner at an attractive price.

But putting your money on a 100-1 shot really should be avoided.

You know the saying, a short priced winner is better than a long-priced loser. In the past 30 years the two biggest priced winners have been Mon Mome (2009) at 100-1 and Auroras Encore (2013) at 66-1.

But these prices are rare and only four 100-1 shots have won the race in the past 177 years.

The majority of winners, 19 out of 30, have won at odds of 20-1 or under. 
So there you have it.
You don’t have to take any notice of me, of course, but I do suggest that you raid your piggy bank – trot down to the bookies and bet local. 
Naturally enough I disclaim all responsibility for the result – unless, of course, Vieux Lion Rouge romps home a convincing winner and then the drinks are on you!
Good luck and happy punting.

Mike Bisacre

The Derby - place your bets please


With the Grand National now a dim and distant memory it’s time for the nation to recoup losses or reinvest winnings.

And without doubt the next most popular race in the UK is the annual Epsom Derby run at the Surrey racecourse on the first Saturday in June.

And for bookmakers throughout the UK it is one of the busiest days of the year with a prediction this year that more than £300 million will be bet on the race which starts at 4pm on Saturday, June 4.

Run over a distance of one mile four furlongs (one and a half miles), the race tests the athleticism and pedigree of the best three year old thoroughbred colts and fillies from across Great Britain and Ireland all vying for a share of the £1.325 million prize money.

Unusually there are no horses from France entered this year nor unlike the Grand none from North Somerset!.

As ever when all the best horses in training race together trying to find the winner is a tricky assignment.

At this point there are 22 acceptors for Britain’s richest race although the maximum number of runners can only be 20.

The final declaration is at 10am on June 2 so we cannot be certain which horses will take their chance on the day.

For instance top Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien, who is seeking a sixth Derby win, still has eight contenders still engaged although he obviously won’t be running all of those.

Another trainer who has won the race on five previous occasions is Newmarket based Sir Michael Stoute who has three entries in the race.

There are 13 Irish-trained horses also remaining. In addition to those from Aidan O’Brien and Jim Bolger, Ireland could also be represented by trainers Dermot Weld, Michael O’Callaghan and Kevin Prendergast.

So how does one find the winner?

Well – there are some trends.

During the past 15 years seven favourites or joint favourites have won and the biggest priced winners in that time were Sinndar and Ruler of the World in 2000 and 2013 respectively at 7-1. In fact from 2001-2015 all 14 winners were in the top five in the betting.

In the 1990s there was a glut of big priced winners but it doesn’t seem to happen anymore.

So don’t forget the old adage – better a winning favourite than a 100-1 loser.

The best advice, therefore, for having a flutter on the Derby is to look at the top five or six horses in the betting, pick one, raise your eyes to Heaven and hope for the best.

Not very sophisticated I know but even professional students of form have trouble finding the winner so just keep it simple.

The most popular bet is the win market, which is where punters simply place a bet on which horse they think will win the race. Depending on the punter this is usually anything from £1 to large four figure and upwards bets from the big hitters.

Each way betting is also popular which is where you place a win and place bet by backing the horse to finish in the top three. If your selection wins you get paid out on the win bet and the place bet but if your horse finishes second or third, you still get paid out at 1/4 (or 1/5 depending on the bookmaker) of the odds.

So Good Luck and happy punting.

Mike Bisacre

Ladies Night and Day Chepstow Racecourse


Fillies in frocks

Chepstow Racecourse will be holding its annual Ladies Day race meeting on Friday, July 8.

This spectacle of fashion and style is a popular event for ladies on either side of the Seven Bridge.

What better way to spend a summer evening than dressing up to the nines, having a flutter on the horses and partying with your friends and loved ones!

And not only do you get the opportunity to show yourself off to all and sundry but you will also have the opportunity to gallop away with the £1,000 cash prize for the best- dressed female.

Now that would be a night to remember!

But that’s not all!

After the last race at around 9.15pm singer-songwriter and TV personality Peter Andre, famous for songs such as Mysterious Girl, Insania and Flava, will be performing for about an hour on the specially constructed stage.


This will be followed by dancing with a local DJ until the sun goes down.

Peter will also be judging the best dressed female competition.

Admission is just £27 in advance – or you can buy into the Fabulous Fillies Package for £34 which includes a ticket, strawberries and cream, a drink (pint of beer, glass of wine or soft drink) and a race day programme (advance only).

Children under 17 years of age are free.

All advance bookings using a credit or debit card are subject to a £2 fee – please note this is per booking not per ticket.

If you have purchased a ticket well in advance, your ticket will be posted at least one week before the race day.

However, if you purchase a ticket five days or less before the date of the meeting, your ticket(s) will be left at the main entrance under the name in which it was booked.

Parking is free and if you’re travelling by bus or train a bus shuttle service provided by Newport Transport operates from Chepstow train station to the racecourse via the town’s bus station.

Gates open at 4pm with seven races between 6.05- 9.05pm.

And just in case the men are getting confused with the ‘Ladies Day’ tag – yes they are equally welcome – but not in frocks!

Tickets can be bought online at or by ringing 01291 622260.


Mike Bisacre

Place your bets please 


The North Somerset owners of a race horse called Vieux Lion Rouge are hoping it is first time lucky when their seven-year-old chestnut gelding competes in the Grand National on Saturday.

The horse owned by Clevedon couple Sue and John Gent has already won nine races - but this will be his toughest test yet.

Vieux Lion Rouge is currently in training with David Pipe whose stables lie on the Somerset/Devon border in the tiny hamlet of Nicholashayne, near Wellington.

David Pipe is the son of the most successful racehorse trainer in British racing history, Martin Pipe.

Mr and Mrs Gent, who have a 22-acre racing stables at Norton’s Wood Lane, have a number of other racehorses with various trainers throughout the south of England.

It will be something of a shock if the horse wins - according to Betfred bookmakers at Station Road, Nailsea, he is a 66-1 outsider at the moment - but stranger things have happened in this unique and famous race.

Vieux Lion Rouge (Old Red Lion) is set to carry 10st 5llbs and will be ridden by French-based jockey James Reveley.

Mrs Gent said: We are thrilled to have a runner in the Grand National.

"It must be every owners dream.

"Of course we hope that the horse will do well but above all that he gets through the race safely.

"At seven years old he is still very young in National Hunt racing terms and the Grand National with 30 jumps is an arduous task.

"But we are very excited and will be cheering him on every step of the way.”

The three day Aintree festival starts today, Thursday, April 7.

And the tapes go up for the Grand National’s new tea-time start of 5.15pm on Saturday afternoon.

This year 40 horses will be contesting the four-and-a-quarter mile race with £1 million in prize money up for grabs.

The annual spectacle will attract 600 million TV viewers in 140 countries across the globe.

And among the 70,000 plus crowd who will be at the racecourse on Saturday will be John and Sue, fingers crossed, and hoping above hope to put North Somerset on the racing map.


PHOTOS: Top Vieux Lion Rouge in action and right owner John Gent pictured with jockey Tom Scudamore after winning at Newbury, Berkshire

Grand National


Without doubt it’s the most watched horse race in the world.

Run on Saturday, April 9 at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool the four mile four furlong Grand National steeplechase attracts a worldwide audience.

And amongst owners, trainers and jockeys the race remains the most coveted prize in the racing calendar.

Everyone wants to win including the punters who flock to the betting shops for what, for many at least, is their one and only flutter of the year.

Which might sound a little bit odd because of all the horse races to choose from the Grand National is probably the hardest in which to find the winner.

Or so you would think.

But, interestingly enough, over the years some remarkably consistent statistical trends have emerged. And those in the know reckon that normally well over two thirds of the field can be readily discounted when searching for the winner.

So if you are going to have a bet then here are some of the key race indicators to consider when trying to find the winner.



The most significant statistic is weight. In handicap races such as the National the theory is that the better horses carry the most weight so giving less able runners a better chance. Top weight carriers rarely win. In the past 50 years only one horse, Red Rum, has carried more than 11stone 5pounds and in the last 30 years only four horses have carried more than 11stone. The average winning weight is 10stone 7 pounds.



In the past 30 years the race has been won 19 times by a horse aged 10, 11 or 12 years old. Nine year olds have won a further eight times. No horse aged six, seven, 13 or 14 has won or even been placed. The last time a seven year-old won was 68 years ago.



The Grand National is an endurance test and the potential winner needs to have proved his ability to race over long distances. Every winner over the past 30 years had previously won over three miles or more.



Now we all want a winner at attractive odds. But putting your money on a 100-1 shot really is to be avoided. You know the saying, a short priced winner is better than a long-priced loser. In the past 30 years the two biggest priced winners have been Mon Mome (2009) at 100-1 and Auroras Encore (2013) at 66-1. But these prices are rare only four 100-1 shots winning the race in the last 177 years. The majority of winners, 19 out of 30, have won at odds of 20-1 or under although only four favourites have won, coincidentally all at 7-1.



The first woman trainer to win the race was Jenny Pitman who did in twice, in 1983 with Corbiere and again in 1995 with Royal Athlete. Since then both Venetia Williams (2009) and Sue Smith (2013) have been successful. Only three greys have ever won - The Lamb in 1868 and 1871, Nicolaus Silver in 1961 and Neptune Collonges in 2012. The state of the going on the day will be a factor as will previous course form and breeding.

Statistics seem to indicate that the winner will be carrying somewhere between 10stone 3pounds and 11stone, be aged between 9 and 12 years inclusive and be priced at no more than 25-1.

So put away that pin, get studying and good luck.

Mike Bisacre

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