Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fallon banned for six months

Kieren Fallon's annus horribilis is to culminate in the former champion jockey being banned for six months after testing positive for a prohibited substance.

Further details from the BBC at

I would imagine this news will be followed in due course by the announcement of his retirement from race riding.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Towcester talkback

There was plenty of mud flying at Towcester yesterday; BBC Ceefax reported before racing that the course had taken 16 mm of rain overnight. The car park was on the soft side of heavy.

The tannoy wasn't fully operational during the first but they went pretty steady. I overheard one of the jockeys say the horses were going through it but you wouldn't want to try going any faster!

The Outlier gave the day's most impressive performance by leading from the front and carrying top weight to an easy victory. This horse jumped superbly and will surely get three miles. I backed What'sonyourmind but he was struggling to go the pace down the back straight, even though he was benefitting from his rider's 7lbs claim.

In the novice chase Flintoff took a walk in the market from 7/2 to 6/1. This may have been on account of the performace of England's cricketers or perhaps, more likely, on account of the comment in the Racing Post that the horse had weakened alarmingly when last seen on heavy ground. Whatever the reason, nobody had told the horse as he looked the winner coming to the last but was caught by Henry Daly's Principe Azzurro on the climb to the line. I backed Tom George's Good Citizen in this race. The horse didn't look the most natural of jumpers, losing ground at some flights and jumping left at others. Twiston-Davies' Billyandi showed a bit of temperment going to post, raced off the main group for a way and was then pulled up before the last.

The horse to take from the concluding bumper was 9/1 shot What A Buzz. Having his first run in public, this 'giant' of a horse, to use the course commentator's description, made a bold bid for victory on the turn for home. He was caught by Henrietta Knight's Bally Conn but there is surely a race in him. Favourite Mole's Chamber was easy to back and the market vibes proved correct.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A trip to Towcester is on the cards

There are some big races this weekend, including the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle. Having had my request for special leave approved by my wife, I'm travelling to Towcester. Towcester is still the best free view in sport.

The opener appears to be a penalty kick for Red Scally.

Flintoff, owned by Paul Beck and Andrew Flintoff, is an interesting runner in the 12.45. I dare say 'Freddie' will be hoping his horse shows better form than England's cricketers have in Australia. Lydia Hislop gave some background on Paul Beck's racing year in her column in The Times on Wednesday.,,15009-2465078.html

This race looks a close call - in my book likely favourite Erica's Charm will be vulnerable on the soft going.

Alfa Sunrise could pop up at a price in the 2.15 while the stats point to Apple Joe in the 2.50. The Racing Post top rated horse has landed the spoils in each of the last six runnings; Apple Joe is top rated and, for good measure, won over course and distance last week, having been backed from 25/1 in to 12/1. Tomorrow's starting price will be around 7/2.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Living with administrative delay

Trying to get to the races this time of year is fraught with difficulties. I submitted the application for special leave form (ref: A12/BE) in triplicate to my wife some weeks ago but it's still waiting to be processed.

Every time I chase the matter, she throws terms such as 'Christmas shopping', 'presents' and 'the children', in no particular order, in my direction. Should my leave be approved, I intend to go to Towcester this Saturday; I'll let you know how I get on.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Times' new typeface

As if finding winners wasn't difficult enough in itself, The Times today added significantly to that challenge with the introduction of the new Times Modern fount and the redesign of its racing cards.

Yes, I'm over fifty, breaking in my first pair of varifocals, but this is a step backwards. I'm looking for enlightenment not obfuscation.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kauto Star - Superstar

What an exhilirating performance by Kauto Star in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

Ruby Walsh's face returning to the paddock said it all; he thinks he can win a Gold Cup with this horse. After yesterday's performance I would be inclined to agree with him.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Haydock's Betfair Chase

Only six runners declared for tomorrow's Betfair Chase at Haydock but an intriguing race looks in store. The consensus opinion seems to be that if Kauto Star stays, he wins. With the going on the soft side of good, several of Kauto's opponents will be keen to ensure a true test of stamina. The value is L'ami priced up at around 9/2 on Friday evening. Trainer Francois Doumen has a decent record at Haydock, his horse has had a pipe opener over in France and L'ami's fourth in the Gold Cup looks good form.

Kanpai is a clear top rated in the concluding race at 3.55 and should not be opposed.

Over at Huntingdon Tritonix looks the winner of the 2.30 but will be long odds on. I take Monkerhostin to win the Peterborough Chase.

The concluding bumper at Ascot has some interesting sorts. Particulary noteworthy is Brendan Powell's West Ridge who finished third to the well regarded Kicks For Free last season. Priced up at around 8/1 this looked a horse to bet on but unfortunately the ground has turned up soft, thereby introducing an additional variable into the equation and effectively throwing the plan out the window.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Desert Orchid dies

Desert Orchid, one of the most popular horses in living memory, died today at the of age of 27. The distinctive grey's front running style and flamboyant jumping won him fans all around the world. I remember tipping him to win the Gold Cup; that day my washing machine broke down and flooded the kitchen but I didn't care. And then the following day, a member of library staff came up to me to complain his starting price had only been 5/2... Fond memories.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cheltenham on Paddy Power Gold Cup day

I think Katchit is the best juvenile hurdler seen out to date and he looks worth an interest in the opening race at 12.55.

All eyes will be on Denman in the next. Whilst I expect him to win, his cramped odds mean he will not be a betting proposition.

The Paddy Power Gold Cup at 2.40 is ultra competitive. Vodka Bleu, 7/1 earlier in the week, has been well touted and will be vying for favouritism. Chilling Place each way would be my selection in this race.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cheltenham Open meeting

Tomorrow sees the start of the three day Cheltenham Open meeting, the highlight being the Paddy Power Gold Cup run over two and a half miles on Saturday.

In recent years the Pipe stable has done particularly well at this meeting; all eyes will be on son David as he tries to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious father. The media have played their part by running stories on several of their fancied runners.

David rates Standin Obligation the stable's best chance at the meeting; he runs in tomorrow's 4.10 race and I think the hint's worth taking.

On offical ratings two Irish horses, Cuan Na Grai, the likely favourite, and Kalderon have the 1.55 race between them. Cuan Na Grai won the Galway hurdle in impressive style over the summer. His trainer has opted for this race rather than the competitive looking Greatwood hurdle on Sunday. The negative is the stable hasn't sent out a winner for over three weeks. It's not certain Kalderon will appreciate the ground but he looks the value pick to overturn the favourite.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Christmas is coming

Picture the scene. It's Christmas Day, you've had more than you can take of family and relatives and, to make matters worse, all the traditional Boxing Day fixtures have been frozen off. What are you going to do?

You're going to start reading a racing book you had the foresight to ask for as a Christmas present. Here's a couple of suggestions...

Gambling: a story of triumph and disaster by Mike Atherton

Riding the storm: my autobiography by Timmy Murphy

Mark Johnson: the authorised biography by Nick Townsend

The festive season is also the time of year the Injured Jockeys' Fund makes a lot of its money. If you fancy making a purchase to support the work of this deserving charity, check out details on their website

Monday, November 06, 2006

Weekend round-up

I found it difficult to winkle out a bet that made much appeal this weekend.

Katies Tuitor, highlighed earlier after his runaway success at Kempton three weeks ago, won at Sandown at odds of 6/5. This victory didn't look as impressive but I know the trainer thinks this horse is one of the best he has had. The plan is to run in the next month, avoiding Cheltenham, and then go for a big race over Christmas, possibly in Ireland. The horse appears better on good fast ground. I'll keep a close eye on this prospect.

The Channel 4 team made a big play on Paul Nicholls' chance of going through the card at Wincanton. With media interest like this, there's little value to be had backing his runners. His horses won the first three races at short odds. Perhaps the most surprising defeat was of Desert Quest who was talked of as a potential Champion Hurdle horse last week after hacking up in a competitive handicap at Ascot. Seven days later, the odds on shot was overturned by Crow Wood.

Well done to Nick Mordin who wrote a bullish piece in The Weekender touting Invasor as the best bet at the Breeders Cup; the horse won at 11/2.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Timmy Murphy otherwise engaged

Alan Lee, writing a plug for Timmy Murphy's autobiography in today's Times' Racing Diary, informs us that the jockey (pictured) has recently become engaged to Verity Green, son of owner Ray Green.
Hmmm... Verity, Verity, I say unto you, she will not be amused.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bad day at the office

A bad day at the Exeter office for Richard Johnson yesterday...

In the feature race, the two mile William Hill Chase, Johnson was on the only serious challenger to eventual winner Impek when a loose horse cannoned into his mount on the home run leaving the jockey sitting on the turf.

An hour later, Johnson held a slight advantage on the run-in only for his ride, Out The Black, to slip up and gift the race to Charlies Future. Apparently, according to Luke Harvey on Radio 4 this morning, the horse had seen the paddock and was on two minds whether to take a short cut under the running rail!

To cap it all, Johnson was beaten on a short priced favourite in the last.

It never rains but it pours.