Brendan Duke: Studying form to the sound of silence

New headphones. New man. Dukey goes all hipster in his unending quest for some weekend winners ...



I finally did it. After much deliberation, the incessant racket about Black Friday tipped me over the edge. It was noise-cancelling headphones time. My first week with these marvels has been both eye opening and ear closing.

They do take a bit of getting used to. At times it can feel a bit like being a detective in one of those Hammett or Chandler novels. A game of whispers and echoes. In the distance a child cries out for her mother. A low, lonely howl is delivered by a forlorn dog. Turns out I was babysitting and the dog needed to be let out for a pee.

Always an adjustment phase with new technology. The main thing is the headphones help with punting focus. Children are more self reliant than they let on anyway. I still do these previews in the library. As mentioned before, the views are lovely.

The only problem is that libraries are quite noisy these days. Shushing seems to have had its day. Hard to know how this happened. Perhaps a librarian shushed a patron once too often. He lay in ambush outside. This incident may have led to a ‘job’s not worth it mate’ mentality among staff. Hard to blame them. Anyway, I’ve silenced the library. This will surely help in finding winners.


Pony up over at now for all the latest racing odds

Even with my new found focus, this weekend looks tough. We’ve had some heavy rain in Dublin. Down the road in Fairyhouse, they seem to have dodged most of it. There is some rain due on Saturday and Sunday morning. If my forecast is correct the ground will still have good in the description. Newcastle and Newbury are set to be dry for the next couple of days, with some rain about Saturday morning. Again it looks like neither track will race on ground any worse than the current descriptions of soft.

The Ladbrokes Trophy 3pm is the punting highlight this weekend. It looks a fiendishly difficult puzzle. I can’t find a bet. Thomas Patrick and Dingo Dollar taking each other on up front promises to be exciting. Both are bold and accurate leppers. If pushed, I would probably chance Thomas Patrick. As an improving, second season chaser, he looks made for this test. His jumping and stamina are a formidable combination around Newbury. The 5 lb swing in the weights with Elegant Escape should see him turn around the Sandown form.

The best bet on Saturday looks to be Speedo Boy in the 1.50 pm at Newbury. This horse still appeals as very well handicapped over hurdles. He was value for more that the length he won by at the Cheltenham November meeting. A curious thing happened before that race. The low sun meant that the horses would jump three hurdles less. Speedo had been backed into fav that morning. The main concern was that he had jumped sketchily as a novice.

How did the market react to the fact that this classy flat operator would have to leave the ground less often? Why, he drifted of course. Just goes to show how difficult predicting market movements can be. Speedo went off 4/1 and hosed up. Encouragingly his jumping was much improved. I expect him to win again on Saturday. This race should attract a decent-sized field. Wait until final declarations on Friday to back him.

The Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Kempton 2.05pm promises us the clash of the weekend. Three of the top five in the Champion Hurdle betting are on show. I like Summerville Boy at the prices. This horse must have some engine. He won the Supreme despite a rare Noel Fehily error leaving him unsighted at the second last. The horse then bungled the last too.

To be able to overcome such momentum killers was a remarkable effort. It looked a decent renewal, with the Betfair Hurdle winner Kalashnikov  in second. Summerville will obviously have to step up against the reigning champ Buveur D’air and Samcro. His odds look to underestimate that possibilty though.

I’m not sure what price she will be but Kupatana will be very hard to beat in the 12.45 pm Newbury on Friday.


She was far too keen for her own good over hurdles. Her chase debut at Kempton was a revelation. She settled much better, and put in a flawless round of jumping. She did this despite a loose horse pestering her for most of the race. The handicapper raised her 9lbs for that effort. It won’t be enough.

As you would expect from a Newbury novice handicap, there is depth to the race. I’m hoping Kupatana will be around 2/1. If she is, I’ll be loading the pony.

Fairyhouse looks too hard at this stage. Mullins has block entries in the big races. If Aramon is declared in the Royal Bond, he’d look to hold a leading chance.

Pony up over at now for all the latest racing odds

What do you think?