Monday, October 30, 2006

Exeter's top meeting

Exeter's best card of the year takes place tomorrow, all races being sponsored by William Hill.

The main event, the Haldon Gold Cup, is run over all of 2 miles 2 furlongs bar a few yards and puts the emphasis on stamina as well as speed. Nine runners declared with most of the decent performers having their first run of the season. This being the case, unless you know specifically that a particualr horse is well forward, it's a race to note rather than a race to bet on.

The corresponding novice chase has attracted six runners; on hurdling form Denman looks the clear choice and is likely to be priced accordingly, although he has done all his winning to date over slightly further.

Interesting to see the Pipe stable hit form over the weekend with Our Vic winning the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, the first big race winner for Martin's son David. Twelve Paces followed up at Carlisle on Sunday. That should keep David Johnson happy a little while longer.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Jumping returns to Ascot

Jump racing returns to Ascot tomorrow and, despite trainers' concerns over the ground, the course appears to have done a good job in attracting competitive fields, especially as this meeting clashes with Wetherby's well established Charlie Hall Chase meeting.

Having watched Crossbow Creek win as he liked two weeks ago at Kempton, he makes plenty of appeal in the opening seven runner race, particularly as he is priced up at between 4/1 and 6/1 on the Sporting Life web site this evening. The going, the right handed track and his recent facile win are all in the horse's favour.

The main danger is likely favourite Andreas from the Paul Nicholls' stable. Of the other runners, Bleu Superbe is getting no younger at the age of 11, both Palua and Demi Beau have proved difficult to win with in the past, Stance needs to improve and Briscoe Place has done all his winning in lower grade events. Crossbow Creek looks a value bet to overturn Andreas.

In the 3.45 Charlie Mann's Moon Over Miami is likely to be sent off odds on. I bet this horse at Kempton last time; he ruined his chance by pulling too hard early on. If the freshness is out of his system he will be difficult to beat but may be worth taking on with Orpen Wide who is officially top rated and has a seven pound claimer on board. He's of interest priced at around 7/2.

Over at Wetherby the soft / heavy ground will take its toll. The Charlie Hall Chase has ten runners but looks ultra competitive and full of imponderables; a race to watch and enjoy rather than bet on.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Martin Pipe day at Cheltenham

Tuesday was Martin Pipe day at Cheltenham. What the stable would have given for a winner on this day, but it wasn't to be.

This stable is a markedly different operation from the days when Pipe senior ran the show. At present there are more than 60 empty boxes in the yard; principal owner David Johnson owns more than half the inmates.

Son David has made Cheltenham's Open meeting next year his first major target.

On a separate note, if there's one thing worse than tipping a loser, it's tipping a winner and not having a bet yourself (to paraphrase the legendary Jeffrey Bernard). I missed Backstage at this meeting, one of three horses Sir Robert Ogden sent to Evan Williams. This may well have been because I had recorded his name as Backpage in an earlier post. The horse won at 6/1.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ascot changes

Douglas Erskine-Crum has been in charge at Ascot for over 13 years but yesterday he announced he would be leaving early in the new year to look for a new challenge.

To be fair, he has looked to modernise Ascot and reports suggest he has had some success. Forever he will be associated with Ascot's new grandstand which has received mixed reviews.

I've never been to Ascot and intended to get there this winter but major redevelopment work is now scheduled to take place following the furore surrounding the poor viewing facilities at ground level. At a recent flat meeting I noticed the stand cast a shadow right across the track; at least two horses drifted alarmingly towards the stands in their races.

One thing that comes with the top job at the Queen's racecourse is pressure.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Big guns getting ready for action

Over the past few days we've seen updates on the plans for a number of top drawer jumping horses.

Here's a swift compilation...

Kauto Star, favourite when falling in last year's two mile Champion Chase at Cheltenham, may return to action at Aintree this Sunday. He's entered in a two and a half mile chase; Paul Nicholls is convinced the horse will get three miles and is looking to enter him in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. What is this horse's best distance?

Racing Demon and Monet's Garden, two of last season's top novice chasers, could clash at Carlisle a week on Sunday and Alan King's My Way De Solzen could meet Black Jack Ketchum at Wetherby in a week's time.

On top of that a number of seasoned chasers are being aimed at the Charlie Hall chase at Wetherby a week on Saturday, as you would expect.

We've got it all to look forward to.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A day at Kempton races

A good day's racing was had by all on Saturday as Kempton Park racecourse held its first jump meeting of the season in glorious autumnal sunshine.

The course looked in tremendous condition. Horses raced over the all weather intersections with no problems at all.

Two winners really stood out - Katies Tuitor and Crossbow Creek. Katies Tuitor won very easily in a fast time. Making a play against Alan King's 4/6 favourite Urban Tiger, I bet a score this horse at 17/2; one sole bookmaker was offering 10/1 but wiped the price off his boards as I asked for the bet and then promptly refused me which was a little annoying.

Crossbow Creek, a decent hurdler, didn't appear to have the best of it in his first season chasing last year but he did absolutely nothing wrong here jumping well and winning as he liked. Favourite Tighe Caster made a bad mistake that cost him his chance but I still don't think he would have got close to Crossbow.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Saturday's Betfred meeting at Kempton

Kempton sees the return of jumps action tomorrow, the first race starting at 2.30.

The turnout looks to be on the disappointing side with three of the races having less than eight runners and the £20,000 added Betfred hurdle attracting just four runners. Originally Channel 4 had planned to televise the Betfred hurdle at 2.30 along with the handicap chase at 3.50. It looks as though race times have been adjusted, with the listed novice hurdle now moved from 4.50 to 2.30; even so there are only seven runners in this £18,000 added race.

On official ratings Charlie Mann's Moon Over Miami appears to have a bit in hand over his rivals in the opener. His fitness has to be taken on trust but he looks a worthy favourite.

Self Defense is not a horse to trust implicitly and looks worth opposing with Kawagino in the Betfred hurdle at 4.50. Both horses are returning after a break; under the conditions of the race Kawagino has two pounds to find but at six years old the improvement could well be there. A tactical race could develop; however habitual front runner Castleshane should ensure a decent pace.

The Paul Nicholls' trained Pirate Flagship is my selection in the 3.10; this horse's dam is an unraced half-sister to the dam of top drawer two mile chasers Viking Flagship and Flagship Uberalles. Senor Rumbilita is a mare who settles well and has a decent turn of foot but she has done a lot of her racing on ground with plenty of cut.

I think Tighe Caster may be one to follow this season irrespective of the result in a competitive looking two mile handicap chase, the final race on the card.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Jump racing returns to Kempton

Jump racing returns to Kempton this Saturday following a break while the all weather track was laid. It will be important for the course management that this meeting is a success and manages to attract decent sized fields and plenty of paying customers. From a marketing angle the 20% price reduction on advance bookings for groups of 6 or more is certainly an eyecatcher.

As ever, the ground will be a primary concern for trainers who will not wish to risk their animals on unsuitably firm going. In the past this has proved to be a particular problem at Kempton.

It will also be interesting to see how the horses adjust to the intersections where the turf and all weather courses meet.

I'm going to this meeting so will report back next week.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Sportsman fails to deliver

Seven months after first hitting the streets, The Sportsman newspaper has ceased publication.

I first heard the news on Saturday's 'The Morning Line'; the latest copy on the web site is dated Thursday 5th October.

The paper, which has been losing money hand over fist from the start, has bowed to the inevitable.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Chepstow's first meeting of the season

The first meeting of the season at Chepstow used to be seen as the proper start of the National Hunt season; this probably had something to do with the fact that it was traditionally the first jumps meeting of the season the BBC televised.

This week has generated plenty of interest with Tony McCoy riding the 2,500th winner of his career and Lydia Hislop asking some of the questions we'd all like the answers to regarding the Pipe stable...,,15009-2387601.html

David Pipe has set Cheltenham's Open meeting scheduled for November 2007 as his first target.

A decent card looks on offer at Chepstow tomorrow. Paul Nicholls trained horses are likely to figure prominently in the betting but in previous years this stable has taken a couple of weeks to get into gear and so the value is likely to be in opposing their runners.

Twiston Davies is flying at the moment and introduced an interesting newcomer in Battlecry at Worcester yesterday, the horse winning the concluding bumper by 22 lengths from the well touted odds on shot Adare Prince. Mahogany Blaze will be worth an each way interest at around 12/1 in tomorrow's opening race.

Only six runners in the novice chase at 3.00 with four of them liking to lead or race prominently. The official handicapper has Keepthedreamalive, Legal Glory and Lady of Scarvagh joint top rated but Lady of Scarvagh has a useful 7lbs mare's allowance and is of interest at around 6/1 in a trappy race.

Katchit is easily the best juvenile hurdler seen out to date and has the look of a good thing in the 3.35.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Superform Jumping Annual 2006

The Superform Jumping Annual was on my doorstep when I arrived home last night. I've purchased this tome for more years than I care to count; it's reasonably priced and a useful reference tool, enabling you to build up a decent pen picture of any particular horse. Perhaps it doesn't have the authority of Timeform's Chasers and Hurdlers but then it does cost rather less.

Last year saw a change in tradition with publication taking place in late September; previously publication was around June time.

I'd noticed it wasn't so easy to pick up a copy at W.H. Smith's so this time around I ordered direct from Superform who obliged with a £3 discount on RRP and free UK postage and packing.

Check out the supplier if you want to purchase a copy.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Not for the squeamish...

This evening's Celebrity Wife Swap on Channel 4 sees former Conservative MP Edwina Currie spending some quality time with racing pundit John McCririck.

Quite rightly, judging by the trailers we've seen so far, the programme is being aired after the 9.00pm watershed. I shall watch with interest.