Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Day at Cheltenham

The first Cheltenham meeting of 2008 looks as tricky as ever. The Nicholls camp is particularly bullish about Predateur in the 1.35; I'm still not certain the horse gets the trip. French raider Okaido should have no fears on that score having won over three miles in France; he could be anything. I'll sit this one out.

In the 2.45 Star De Mohaison will be popular running off a hurdle rating that is considerably lower than his chase equivalent. Hills Of Aran was nibbled at at fancy prices before the start of Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle just over a week ago, but he got no further than the first. The tissue has the horse priced at around 10/1 here; he would be an interesting each-way wager.

Several commentators have put up Afsoun for the 3.20 but I will not be joining in. Most of the runners in this have questions to answer, including Black Jack Ketchum and Wichita Lineman. If Blazing Bailey is in top form he'll have a shout, but I'm going to sit this one out too.

Leading Authority should take the 1.50 at Exeter but is likely to be priced accordingly.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Newbury's last meeting of the year

In the opener at Newbury tomorrow Moon Over Miami sets a decent standard but Paul Nicholls' Big Buck's has been well touted beforehand and looks the one. In the 1.35 I'm prepared to give Air Force One a second chance. The novice's jumping went to pieces after an early mistake last time out but, according to The Weekender, he has since undergone intensive schooling at home. Charlie Mann considers the horse amongst the best he has trained and the stable are flying high at the moment. The Challow Novices' Hurdle looks competitive. Paul Nicholls' Elusive Dream is the top rated horse but went out like a light last time, being comprehensively beaten by Razor Royale on soft going at Cheltenham; ED wears a tongue tie for the first time tomorrow. As a general rule I'm not keen on horses that wear tongue ties when the going is soft. On official handciap ratings Zilcash should be in the mix but he has done most of his racing over two miles. Souffleur looked to have been given a lot to do when finishing third recently and has been kept busy this season. Venetia Williams' Lightning Strike has won twice this season, handles the ground and gets the vote. My guess is the stable think a bit about Swordsman by giving him an entry in this. I'll consider an each way wager if he's priced around the 12/1 mark.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lexus Chase

Having watched a recording of Kauto Star's superb victory in the King George, I've just been forced into watching six consecutive episodes of The Munsters - from the sublime to the ridiculous - it's been that sort of Christmas. I haven't had the time to turn round, never mind look at Chepstow's Welsh National card.

Tomorrow's Lexus Chase at Leopardstown looks intriguing. On Racing Post ratings Denman is the clear top rated animal, yet at 4/9 his price is much shorter than Kauto's at Kempton on Boxing Day. Described as a 'brute of a horse' by several commentators, Denman looks to have the one way of running and bludgeons his rivals into submission, as he did in the Hennessy. The second in that race, Dream Alliance, knocked the form a little when pulling up in the Welsh National earlier today. Course and distance winner The Listener has it to do here but offers tempting value at 4/1, while it's not beyond the realms of possibility for State of Play to find improvement. In my book Denman is less of a certainty than Kauto in the King George, yet his price is shorter; I'll take a chance on The Listener at odds of 4/1 or bigger.

The TurfTV issue has rumbled on in the background over the past few months. The stakes will be raised considerably from Janaury 1st when live pictures from thirty one racecourses will only be available in betting shops which have subscribed to the service. Coral's have recently announced they intend to take the product; this will give them a significant commercial advantage over High Street rivals Hill's and Ladbrokes. In this day and age, are punters prepared to put up with audio commentaries after placing a bet in a shop?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Two Boxing Day picks

Two weeks ago I was informed that I would be taking assorted Tipster relatives to the pantomime on Boxing Day. 'Oh no, I'm not!' I cried. 'Oh yes, you are!' came the retort. Apparently it's Aladdin this year; I'm going to miss the King George and a top Kempton card into the bargain. Having said that, the King George doesn't really offer any decent betting opportunities - I expect Kauto Star to win but he'll be odds on and with only seven runners in the field, the each way market doesn't make much appeal. My Way De Solzen should get closer this time around. Similarly, Harchibald is the form horse in the Christmas Hurdle but he'll be long odds on. In the opener Song of Songs, having been withdrawn at Ascot on Friday on account of the ground, looks the one but once gain his price will be short. Some value could be gained in the Feltham which is due off at 1.20. The front two in the market are Silverburn and Joe Lively. Silverburn hasn't raced over this distance previously while Joe Lively would have been beaten by Here's Johnny at Newbury but for that horse being brought to a standstill by the fall of Nevada Royale. Provided he has recovered from that episode, HJ should offer some sporting value.

Richard Johnson has chosen to ride at Wincanton; overall, Liberate has much better form than his rivals in the 2.45 but hasn't been at his best of late - he rates a play against likely favourite Russian Trigger.

By the way, Mrs Tips asked me to point out to readers that her tip for Strictly Come Dancing, Alesha Dixon, won. I always said she was better at this game than me.

Finally let me take this opportunity to wish readers of this blog a Happy Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ascot's Long Walk hurdle

After Saturday British racing takes a well earned festive break before resuming on Boxing Day. In Ascot's Long Walk hurdle the two top rated animals have questions to answer. Hardy Eustace looked as tough as ever when winning last time and is difficult to pass, but he isn't guaranteed to stay this trip and is just over a week away from his eleventh birthday. Black Jack Ketchum looks a suspect stayer too; in addition the Jonjo O'Neill operation is noticeably out of form. Two weeks ago Nick Mordin wrote a convincing piece in The Weekender highlighting Kasbah Bliss' chance for the World hurdle at Cheltenham in March. Nick argued that the key to KB was good fast ground; he'll certainly get that here and rates a value bet at around 7/1. I'd also expect Chief Dan George to improve on his most recent run where he finished last behind Inglis Drever at Newbury; a first time visor is tried here - if that does the trick I could see him running into a place at odds of 14/1.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Last Friday before Christmas at Ascot

This card looks under threat from the weather. Ascot can be a cold bleak place this time of year, but not so cold as to make you consider Christmas shopping as an alternative. What A Buzz goes in the first and ran a blinder last time out at odds of 80/1. The odds will be a lot shorter here and the ground isn't certain to suit so a watching brief is advised.

In the 1.40 I'll support Deep Purple. Connections have let a number of possible opportunities pass by for this horse; this will be a chance to see how good he is. James Fanshawe's Song of Songs was second to Osana last February which looks good form given what that rival achieved last weekend in the International.

I'd expect Hobbs Hill to take the 2.15 but he'll be no price.

Looking quickly through the early prices for Saturday's Long Walk hurdle, 7/1 Kasbah Bliss looks value as does Chief Dan George each way at 14/1.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Winning connections

The Tom Dascombe trained Parisian Gift won the EBF Go Pontin's Maiden Stakes at Lingfield today by a neck, having been backed on course from 6/1 in to 7/2 joint favourite - nothing particularly remarkable in that. However I noticed that the winning owner was registered as The PG Tipsters. Now I know what you're thinking - Mrs Tips had arranged a surprise Christmas present and had just forgotten to tell me all about it. If only. Still, it's good to see such a well named syndicate start off with a winner and I wish them all the best for the future. The Racing Post reports that Parisian Gift is to be 'put away for the turf season next spring'.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Horsing about...

I've been on the lookout for a Christmas game and I think I've come across it in The Big Issue's Christmas Special. Horsey Hoppers sounds like space hoppers in the shape of horses and that's exactly what it is. Two players race each other around the living room in jockey silks. According to the website the game will be available from December 19th, which doesn't leave an awful lot of time to get things sorted, but it looks good fun particularly after a couple of your favourite Christmas beverages...

Bell's advertisements this Yuletide show a number of horses running on the side of a bottle of whisky, with a members enclosure badge proclaiming 'No horse goes as fast as the money you put on him'. In a similar vein, at this time of year the whisky in my whisky bottle goes down faster than the horses I put my money on.

Mrs Tips had alerted me to a piece in last Wednesday's Times which gave details of the Northern Cross, a Roman Catholic diocesan newspaper in the Hexham and Newcastle area, advertising for a racing tipster. Channel Four's Morning Line programme picked this up on Saturday and asked viewers to suggest a name for the new tipster. My own entry, had I made one, would have been Sinners' Winners, a re-working of the Punters' Prayer I religiously utter, kneeling at my bedside, the night before any big meeting:

Dear Lord, I know I'm a sinner,
But please, please, please,
Give me just one winner.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cheltenham selections tomorrow

Franchoek has been described as 'the next Katchit' and is the current ante-post favourite for the Triumph hurdle in March; he's the one they all have to beat in the opener at 12.20.

The eight contestants in the Relkeel hurdle look pretty closely matched; a number of the runners are not guaranteed to stay the extended two mile five furlong trip. Pouvoir seems to have developed a habit of getting himself beaten while, at the weights, Liberate is in with a shout if he lasts home. The original selection was Charlie Mann's course and distance winner My Turn Now but my enthusiasm is tempered by the fact the stable haven't had a winner in the past fortnight. I'll take a chance with Paul Nicholls' Gwanako.

Clear top rated animal in the 2.05 is Howard Johnson's Tidal Bay; the word is that Nicky Henderson's Duc de Regniere is the horse Mick Fitzgerald has postponed his retirement to ride. The Henderson stable has been going through a quiet spell; this race will prove useful for future reference.

The Gold Cup looks extremely competitive. The best value I've seen in this is Venetia Williams' Idole First priced up at 20/1 with totesport; that's worth an each way interest as IF beat Palarshan (currently around 8/1) on similar terms over course and distance last March. Dangers abound, with likely favourite New Little Bric feared most.

In the International at 3.10 John Carr has said current champion Sublimity is not fully wound up. I'm concentrating on Afsoun, Katchit and Mac's Joy. In my mind's eye I can see Katchit getting swamped just after the last in the Fighting Fifth a couple of weeks ago. In contrast Afsoun looked the winner at Ascot last time but was outfought by Hardy Eustace over a distance the yard feel doesn't suit. Mac's Joy should have a shout at the weights but I'm siding with Afsoun.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Racing notes

In the days following the embarrassing collapse of the race-fixing trial, the City of London Police and the British Horseracing Authority have been scrambling, in a somewhat unseemly fashion, to distance themselves from any ensuing blame. In addition, screeds have been written following the breaking of the news that Fallon failed a drug test in the summer; an interesting perspective was given by Stephen Pollard in The Times' Thunderer column on Monday.

Cheltenham's card this Saturday is starting to look rather attractive, with a fair number of equine stars intending to take up their engagements.

Looking a little further ahead, The Lexus Chase, which is set to be run at Leopardstown on Friday December 28th, could see Denman and The Listener taking each other on. In this week's edition of The Weekender, Nick Mordin puts forward a persuasive case for The Listener who appears well ahead of his rival on Nick's timings.

Evan Williams' yard is under a cloud at the moment but his Enlightenment is worth a second look in the Turftv Novices' Chase at Ludlow tomorrow.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Fallon's ups and downs

Barely twenty four hours after being cleared of any wrongdoing in the race-fixing trial, Kieren Fallon has tested positive for a banned substance. The substance is believed to be cocaine and, ironically, it was detected after his ride on Myboycharlie at Deauville last August. Results from a second sample are awaited before the French racing authorities decide what action to take. Whatever your views on Fallon, you can't ever say he led a dull life.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sandown selections

Eight go to post for the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown tomorrow. Voy Por Ustedes is the clear form choice and has won on soft ground previously, something which can't be said for a number of his rivals. Voy is likely to start around 5/4, so I'm prepared to take an each way chance with Hoo La Baloo at around 20/1 provided the eight get to the start. The horse has a bit to find with the best of these on official ratings but he has won at Sandown and he'll handle the conditions.

I'd expect Moon Over Miami to continue his progress in the 2.05 but the price is likely to be prohibitive.

The finale is a competitive handicap chase over a distance just short of three and three quarter miles. Course and distance winner Tana River is no spring chicken, just a couple of weeks shy of his twelfth birthday, but he will make a bold bid to win this for a second consecutive year. Kilbeggan Blade looks the interesting one in this and gets the vote. I wouldn't totally discount McEvoy either, who was due to run in the four mile chase at Exeter today but was withdrawn, presumably on account of the ground.

Fallon race-fixing trial collapses

The dramatic collapse of the race-fixing trial at the Old Bailey will look like a Christmas present come early for Kieren Fallon and his co-defendants. The judge has said that the prosecution was never near getting together a credible case, with the evidence of Australian expert Ray Murrihy totally discredited. This outcome ranks as a major embarrassment for the British horseracing establishment who, on July 7th 2006, banned Fallon and two other jockeys from riding in Britain until criminal proceedings were concluded. As you might expect, while Fallon is delighted to be exonerated, he is angry at the way in which he has been treated by the British Horseracing Authority (in contrast to the stance taken by the Irish Turf Club); I wonder if he'll consider making a claim for lost earnings...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Exeter on Friday

Sandown's top meeting will attract much of the attention tomorrow but that shouldn't detract from a decent card at Exeter where the going is described as soft, heavy in places. The runners in the four mile Devon Marathon Chase will need to be ridden to get the trip over this stiff course. Two plays against likely favourites, both of whom will act in the conditions, are Gary Moore's Verasi who takes on the enigmatic Lead On in the novice chase at 1.35, and Alan King's Sovereign King in the 2.45.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ceefax D-day

Today the BBC has announced that its revised Ceefax racing service will start on January 28th 2008. The reduced service will not include course news or declarations. We've known this was coming for some time now, and I know that at some stage I'm going to be dragged kicking and screaming into the digital televsion age, but even Mrs Tips feels the pain on this one. Every evening in our house there's a fifteen minute ritual where Ceefax pages displaying the runners and riders at tomorrow's meetings are allowed to scroll on screen, with use of the remote control 'hold' facility strictly forbidden. Family members pass comments on interesting runners and favourite horses; I suppose, for the time being, we're going to have to bite the bullet and migrate to Channel 4's Teletext service...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Racing shorts

Denman's victory in yesterday's Hennessy will live long in the memory. It looked exceptional and the handicapper appears to agree, giving the horse a rating of 176, just three pounds behind Kauto Star and one behind Exotic Dancer.

All the fuss about Denman shouldn't detract from two other performances; Inglis Drever won the Long Distance Hurdle with consummate ease while Helens Vision ran her rivals ragged in the opening novice hurdle, beating her nearest challenger by twenty seven lengths.

On numerous occasions last season Katchit did this blog a favour, but regular readers will be aware I haven't selected him on either of his runs this term, mainly because there was no value in his price. A four year old hasn't won the 'Fighting Fifth' at Newcastle for over twenty years; his third place on Saturday, racing against older horses, was a commendable effort.

Wandering onto the BHB's Go Racing site earlier today, Sunday December 2nd, I came across an advertisement for 'The Summer Card', described as a special microsite guide to this summer's main events, and a plug for the 2007 Pocket Fixture List. Time to update the website, guys...

The same BHB site lists a fixture at Great Leighs on Thursday. An update on building work in progress at the new track is available on the course website, with the end of January 2008 the current target for racing to commence.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hennessy Gold Cup

Eighteen go to post tomorrow at Newbury in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup which is due off at 2.40. Of the four market leaders priced in single figures I like Snowy Morning best. Paul Nicholls has been very candid in the build-up and practically told us not to back Denman; the horse will be carrying top weight and will come on for the run, the Lexus Chase in Ireland being the target. At the weights Snowy Morning should have the beating of Denman on their running in the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase at Cheltenham last March. Abragante looks well handicapped but in my book is one to be wary about, Richard Hoiles from Channel Four having labelled him 'chicken hearted' before the recent running of the Badger Ales Chase at Wincanton, while I'm not convinced New Alco will stay the trip. A bigger priced pick is John Quinn's Character Building; the horse will definitely stay and handles soft ground - he looks a value each way bet at around 12/1.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hennessy Friday at Newbury

The interesting race is the 2.35 with a small but select field going to post; Denman won this last year. Paul Nicholls has been pretty bullish about Silverburn's schooling at home; the horse will probably start favourite and won't offer any value. Charlie Mann rates the five year old Air Force One amongst the best he has trained, but I'd be prepared to take a chance with Charlie Egerton's Hobbs Hill. This big front runner has already won twice over fences this season and offers better value as well as possibly having a fitness edge over his two market rivals.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Heltornic retired

Around this time of year I tend to find Christmas shopping interferes with the racing, much to my annoyance. In the past I've tried to delegate the shopping to Mrs Tips but she's cute enough to see through the ruse. Earlier today, having had enough of the shopping, I started some initial spadework on the Hennessy which takes place at Newbury on Saturday. I liked the look of Michael Scudamore's front-running mare Heltornic but I see she has been retired following the recurrence of an injury. Back to the drawing board...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Haydock, Huntingdon and Ascot

Three top class meetings give us an embarrassment of riches this Saturday. All eyes will be on Kauto Star's performance as, for a second time, he goes for the first leg of the Betfair Million in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. The manner in which he won this race last year stands out in my memory; I'm not inclined to oppose him on this occasion in spite of what has been written about his 'lazy' style of racing following his recent defeat over a trip shorter than ideal. Dick Hunter comments in The Weekender that My Way De Solzen, making his reappearance, is a difficult horse to get fit at home, while, in my opinion, Exotic Dancer takes some knowing. Turpin Green has two ways of running and could be thereabouts using his Gold Cup effort as a benchmark, provided he's in the mood; he has won on his reapperance previously. Kauto Star will make little appeal as betting material but he's the selection.

Over at Huntingdon only four go to post for the Peterborough Chase at 3.35. Racing Demon is the top rated horse and has the assistance of McCoy from the saddle. Ferdy Murphy's Aces Four ran in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby three weeks ago. An interview with one of the owners just before the off revealed that they were just interested in getting him jumping again following his heavy fall at Punchestown last April. Aces Four was pulled up at Wetherby and, although he'll strip fitter for the experience, I'm siding with Racing Demon to repeat his win of last year for a stable that has a remarkable record in this race.

The Coral Ascot Hurdle, due off at 1.50, looks competitive. Detroit City returns following disappointing efforts last season and some running repairs over the summer. Hardy Eustace won this last year but is getting no younger while Jonjo has pointed out the conditions of the race don't favour Wichita Lineman. Nicky Henderson's Afsoun was third in the Champion Hurdle last March; provided the longer trip suits, he looks the safest option and gets the vote.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In a nutshell...

Following his fourth consecutive win in Cheltenham's Cross Country Chase, and his seventh overall, fourteen year old Spot Thedifference looks like making a determined bid to become the most popular chaser in training.

The Paul Nicholls' stable endured a Saturday from hell, losing Willyanwoody and Granit Jack. First choice jockey Ruby Walsh is sidelined until Christmas with a dislocated shoulder after the fall from Willyandwoody. Perhaps now's the time to consider Christmas cards from the Injured Jockeys Fund.

On Sunday the weather in the Cotswolds turned nasty, big time; the concluding bumper was cancelled. I was slightly annoyed to have missed What A Buzz who ran into a place at 80/1. I've seen this horse, built like the proverbial brick outhouse, run at Towcester on heavy ground. His trainer looked to be flying high at Cheltenham, but the conditions suited to a tee and at that price the horse would have been worth a small interest.

Kauto Star goes for the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday, that race being the first leg in the Betfair Million. The new 'Northwest Racing Masters' meetings take place at Haydock on Saturday and Aintree on Sunday. In addition this weekend there is the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon to look forward to, as well as a decent card at Ascot.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Open Sunday

The deaths of Willyanwoody and Granit Jack, falling in separate races yesterday, will cast a long shadow over today's action. The rain has arrived, but the question is to what extent the going will be affected, if at all. A difficult card and uncertainty about the going means I won't be getting involved today. Here are a few eclectic thoughts...

I would be looking to take on four year old Predateur in the opener as he hasn't jumped a fence in public yet. I saw Leslingtaylor win well at Aintree three weeks ago, although that race was set up for him; he carries a penalty here. Nicky Henderson's Papini holds a decent chance. I'll be watching Dev closely - he went off too quickly in Leslingtaylor's race - in an attempt to gauge whether the horse is up to this class.

The 1.45 has the look of a bookmakers' benefit. If sufficient rain has fallen, Sobers looks a horse who could improve on his last run.

Only seven runners in the two mile handicap chase at 2.20; it will all centre around the fitness of Voy Por Ustedes. River City should have no questions in that department having run on the Flat recently.

Twenty two go to post in the Greatwood; Chivalry's close second in Wincanton's Elite hurdle last weekend looks good form.

Henrietta Knight thinks a lot of Olmeto Collonges no matter what happens in the 3.30. The horse needs cut.

I saw Seven Is My Number flop badly at Newbury last February but he's obviously a horse who has shown plenty at home. If the rain continues, the bumper should give us an indication as to whether the horse can handle soft ground.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cheltenham - Paddy Power Gold Cup

Tomorrow twenty go to post for a very open renewal of the Paddy Power Gold Cup over a distance just short of two miles five furlongs. Paul Nicholls' five year old Granit Jack has just made the cut and currently heads the market at 4/1. This is a tough race for such a young horse and the trip may not entirely suit - today's Racing Post headlines the fact that the owner has backed him at 40/1 for next spring's Champion Chase which is run over two miles. Of the horses priced in single figures, I like Ferdy Murphy's course and distance winner L'Antartique, his profile being similar to several previous winners. The favourite has won this on five of the last ten occasions; L'Antartique will need luck in running as he tends to come from behind but he gets the vote. Those looking for an each way horse at a bigger price could do worse than Philip Hobbs' Private Be, currently trading at 12/1.

In the 2.00 race on the same card Falcon's Fire has winning form over Franchoek but on Racing Post ratings Franchoek is the clear top rated animal. Franchoek ran a little keen that day but went on to beat Qrackers well at Chepstow, although the latter named has done very little since to frank the form. The Pipe inmate Sainte Kadette is likely to start favourite, having won from the front over course and distance last time. I'm going to stick with Falcon's Fire as he's likely to offer better value.

I had considered Bob Bob Bobbin in the finale but a quick look at the form shows his best performances have come with cut in the ground; that being the case, I'll abstain here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cheltenham's Open meeting - Friday

Tomorrow's 3.05 at Cheltenham looks a hot race which should prove informative as the season progresses. Zilcash is the top rated horse and sets a decent standard, which Philip Hobbs' Snap Tie and David Pipe's Quaddick Lake will look to beat. In a recent running over course and distance Snap Tie and Quaddick Lake came to the last together but the Pipe inmate fell, leaving Snap Tie to collect the spoils. Many commentators felt Quaddick Lake would have come off second best had he stood up but David Pipe disagrees and has gone on record as saying that Quaddick Lake is his best chance of a winner at the whole meeting, a meeting which the stable has targeted several times in the past. I saw Spectait win very easily at Aintree three weeks ago; this is a higher class race but he could be anything. A close call but, given the Pipe stable recommendation, I will side with Quaddick Lake.

I'm intrigued by Glasker Mill in the 1.20. I guess Paul Nicholls' Ofarel d'Airy will start favourite but his inexperience may count against him. Going through some old Weekender stable tours, I came across Henrietta Knight's comment that Glasker Mill will be a better horse this season. I'm undecided at this stage and will make a decision sometime tomorrow. Boychuk could also be competitive having recently run in decent handicaps.

Imperial Commander's recent course and distance defeat of Over The Creek will ensure the horse starts at a short price for the 3.45. I'd be wary of taking a short price about Imperial Commander as some of his jumping looked a little unassured last time.

At the grand old age of fourteen Spot Thedifference will attempt to win the Cross Country Chase once again; should he succeed there won't be a dry eye in the house.

This racing business

This morning two racing related stories catch the eye on the business pages. William Hill's audacious approach to Ladbrokes' finance director is akin, in footballing terms, to Manchester United trying to poach Liverpool's manager from under their very noses. As The Times report indicates, the attempt failed but it's generated a whole new set of questions. Meanwhile, over in Berkshire, Newbury Racecourse has just turned down a hostile bid from its principal shareholder.

Upset isn't just confined to the world of business. The favourite in the Paddy Power Gold Cup ante-post market, Don't Push It, has been withdrawn after he was found lame yesterday evening.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Flat jockeys' title tied

An enthralling conclusion to the Flat jockeys' championship yesterday afternoon saw Jamie Spencer ride Inchnadamph to victory in the very last race at Doncaster, thereby ensuring that the title was shared for the first time since 1923. The final score - Jamie Spencer 189 winners, Seb Saunders 189 winners; if you backed either, dead heat rules apply. This was a fantastic effort by both jockeys. Bookmakers make Ryan Moore an odds-on chance for next season's race.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Wincanton tomorrow

The feature race at Wincanton tomorrow is the Badger Ales Trophy run over a distance just short of three miles two furlongs; nine go to post in a competitive event. It looks as though the six year old Abragante will start favourite. He is well in on hurdles form but, when chasing, the fences have occasionally got in his way. Ardaghey is climbing up the weights but is respected while Tom Sayers and Bowleaze look closely matched on recent course form. Irish Wolf's latest win at Fakenham could be suspect as Etoile Russe appeared to have that race in the bag before running out of petrol on his first try over two and three quarter miles. Here I'm going to take a chance with top weight Alderburn on his reappearance. I fancied this horse to win the Betfred Gold Cup at Sandown on the final day of last season but he was found lame the day before and didn't run. He is progressive and should give a decent account at around 5/1.

The Elite Hurdle is due off at 2.50. Paul Nicholls speaks highly of the four year old Poquelin who is a headstrong sort; I have a picture in my mind of his disappointing run behind Punjabi at Kempton last February. At Ayr in April the horse was allowed to front run in a small field and that appeared to suit. Five year old Kings Quay won the ultra competitive Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen in July; he looks a value alternative and gets the vote.

Colin Tizzard's Joe Lively beat Ice Tea (winner earlier today at Hexham) seventeen lengths last time out. The 2.20 is run over a shorter distance which may not play to the horse's strengths. Whatever happens here, Joe Lively looks one to keep a close eye on and is a play against Paul Nicholls' Ornais should the latter named be chalked up favourite.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bits and pieces

I haven't followed the ongoing Fallon trial that closely. Still, you can't help but wonder at some of the stuff that creeps out. Apparently England star Michael Owen texted Kieren on a daily basis. What really made me smile was Fallon's explanation (presumably to the police) as to why horses had to be held up: "If you go too fast too early, you'll end up like Paula Radcliffe did in the Olympics."

Latest score - Jamie Spencer 185 - Seb Saunders 183.

Around this time of year I keep an eye out for new racing books which might be of interest as potential Christmas presents. Perhaps I'm getting old and miserable but this year's offerings don't make that much appeal. The Racing Post has compiled a list of 1000 racing quotations and the 500 strangest racing stories, while Dave Nevison's recently published A Bloody Good Winner: Life As A Professional Gambler includes details of his nocturnal exploits according to The Times' Alan Lee. I think I'll give it a miss and find myself a ghost story instead.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Weather set fair?

Heavy rain in Australia threatens the chance of British runners in the Melbourne Cup; the lack of rain in Britain sees top class horses missing the Haldon Gold Cup.

Phillip Hobbs' Fair Along is the class horse in the field at Exeter tomorrow and consequently has to give weight away to his four rivals. The five year old isn't the biggest of animals, but his recent third of thirty three runners in The Cesarewitch reads well. This race looks trappy and is certainly no foregone conclusion; I won't be rushing to take odds-on and would advise a watching brief, especially as the trainer has told us the horse may be slighter better going left-handed.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Wetherby and Ascot selections

Only eight go to post for tomorrow's Charlie Hall Chase run over three miles and a furlong at Wetherby. The race represents the seasonal debut for each of the runners, so we're relying on trainers' comments to point us in the right direction. Evan Williams has described this race as State Of Play's 'cup final'; with McCoy on board, the bookmakers have put the horse in as 9/4 favourite. Ferdy Murphy's Aces Four is high class but has been known to miss one out on the odd occasion and is passed over. Twiston-Davies has been making very bullish noises about Ollie Magern, describing him as in 'the form of his life'; Ollie goes well fresh, won this two years ago and is joint top on Racing Post ratings. You pays your money and takes your choice; State Of Play looks the percentage call and gets the vote.

All eyes will be on Black Jack Ketchum at 2.20 as he tries to put some of last season's disappointments behind him. On official ratings he's easily the best horse in the race; he comes here after a wind operation during the summer. Those with a contrarian nature and money to burn may want to consider Faasel, a tricky customer who showed he stays three miles in a grade two novice chase at Aintree last April, and David Pipe's Lough Derg, whose second behind Mighty Man in the Long Walk hurdle (on good to soft ground) would give him a squeak. The trainer reports Lough Derg 'very fit' but I'm going to sit this one out primarily because, although I could easily be described as contrarian, I don't have the money to burn.

Over at Ascot course and distance winner Demi Beau should run his race in the 1.10 while, in the bumper, Hold Em carries a penalty for previous wins but has the form in the book and constitutes a value proposition at around 3/1.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Watching at Wetherby on Friday

The interesting race at Wetherby tomorrow from a form perspective is the listed juvenile novice hurdle which is due off at 2.50. Ann Duffield's Falcon's Fire opposes Saturday's Aintree winner Smugglers Bay. I watched a recording of the Aintree race last night and Smugglers certainly quickened well after the home turn; before that point he had looked held. The other three entries have all won races this season. Falcon's Fire impressive performance at Market Rasen just over a month ago makes him one of the best juveniles we've seen to date; he'll be priced accordingly and will make no appeal as a betting medium. Let's hope the lack of obvious pace doesn't lead to a tactical race; the result should be worth noting as the core jumps season gets into full swing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Aintree aftermath

On Sunday, while Kauto Star was busy getting himself beaten by Monet's Garden and Gabby Logan was busy getting herself voted off Strictly Come Dancing, I was busy driving back home, via Wrexham. After the anguish of last season, the club managing to
stay in the Football League by beating Boston United in their final game, I thought there might be better things ahead; it hasn't worked out that way. Twelve games played and Wrexham sit next to bottom of League Two with a meagre nine points. We called in at the ground and took a couple of photos; one wag commented it was just as quiet on match days. Manager Brian Carey's position looks precarious. I think it's going to be another long hard winter...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

John Smith's People's Race 2007/8

Earlier this year I wrote a few pieces on this blog about the John Smith's People's Race. Ten rookie riders, members of the general public, were given the chance to ride in a flat race over nine furlongs on Grand National day. The organisers, amazed by the number of entries they received in a very short time frame, have done a lot more preparatory work this year; the event looks as though it will move to another level, with the accompanying media coverage likely to be increased considerably. If you fancy your chances this time around, you can visit the John Smith's website or pick up an application form from your local Ladbrokes betting office. The closing date for applications is December 7th 2007.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Aintree on Saturday

Fifteen go to post in the first, the juvenile novice hurdle, which is due off at 1.10. Paul Nicholls' Qrackers sets the standard and is likely to start favourite. Three others to catch the eye are News Of The Day, Smugglers Bay and Chip N Pin. News Of The Day won easily at Market Rasen but has since been unsuccessful in handicaps on the Flat. Tim Easterby runs Smugglers Bay and Chip N Pin; it looks as though the jockey has chosen to ride Smugglers above Chip N Pin, but in general the Easterby yard hasn't been in the best of form. Chip N Pin's fourth behind Falcon's Fire and Franchoek reads well, she has the top speed rating and on a rough line through Franchoek she should be competitive against Qrackers. I'm tempted but I'll play safe here and support Qrackers who could be value if sent off at 11/4 as today's tissue suggests.

The novice chase at 1.40 has just six entries. The four year old Marodima is the Racing Post's top rated horse by some way and turned in a decent performance last weekend at Cheltenham behind Tramantano. He looks a headstrong individual and I'd envisage Timmy Murphy allowing him to bowl along in front, a tactic that tends to work well here. According to this week's Weekender Leslingtaylor hasn't had that many schooling sessions so of the other runners I prefer Dev to Cantgeton. A trappy affair with a lot depending on how Marodima performs, as most of his runs have been on ground with cut. Dev is the top rated speed horse and in the tissue offers better value - he's the selection.

In the 2.10 Lord Baskerville is an each way wager at a big price, as he ran better than his finishing position indicated last time at Huntingdon and also has previous course and distance winning form.

In the finale, the novices' handicap hurdle, I'll support Nelson's Spice as this horse looks as though he'll stay the three miles, but established chaser I Hear Thunder is to be feared if fit, running off what looks a rather lenient mark.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rushing around...

It's all bit hectic at the moment and there's a lot of racing this weekend. I've just come back from a couple of days in York and I'm off to Aintree on Saturday, so this evening has been spent going through the five day entries; I'll post my thoughts on the card once the final declarations are known. What particularly stood out was that Bafana Boy was top rated for the 2.45 (at Liverpool) but his trainer opted to send him to Carlisle this afternoon instead, where the stiffer course obviously suited as he won at 4/1.

I really should be racing on Sunday as well, when Kauto Star makes his seasonal reappearance, but that won't be possible because it has proved nigh on impossible to book a hotel room in Liverpool. Apart from that, Mrs Tips wouldn't let me go anyway. Paul Nicholls has very helpfully told us Kauto Star will come on for his first run of the season so I'll take the hint and watch the race.

Earlier this week I celebrated my birthday, if one can celebrate getting older at my age. One card brought a smile - a cartoon picture of a horse with the jockey riding a finish and the accompanying words 'Instead of buying a boring birthday present I put £20 on a horse for you that came in at 20 to 1!' On opening the card, I'm greeted with 'Unfortunately the rest of the field came in at 12:35!'

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Smiles and scowls

The first edition of a new racing paper, Racing Ahead Weekend, appeared in newsagents on Saturday and, of course, I had to buy a copy to examine the contents and layout. What sets this offering apart from anything seen previously is the fact that the cards and colours are listed in race time order for all meetings held over the weekend. Form guide notes for each race are listed in the order of the printed betting tissue rather than in racecard order. Personally I found it all a little confusing, with the notes for the Sunday meetings containing a lot less detail. One misleading example - Classic Gold held an entry in the 3.35 at Kempton on Sunday but had run at Cheltenham on Friday; the paper contained no reference to the Friday run. On the plus side, the price of £1 is affordable and providing a form pull-out which can be taken separately to the races / betting shop is a nice idea.

I wonder what Kieren Fallon thinks about the current situation surrounding Ant & Dec and their television phone-ins...

Apparently, in between the horse racing at Hereford today, there was a 'Carry Your Wife' race. Mrs Tips and I had considered submitting an entry but yesterday Mrs T. announced she would have to put up two pounds overweight (only the two pounds?) I thought long and hard about it, but in the end we decided to scratch.

Friday, October 19, 2007

One big Scoop6 Saturday

This Saturday's Scoop6 will be advertised as worth £2.5 million to a single winner. The win fund is currently worth just over £958,000 and the bonus fund £715,000. According to my calculations, there are 21,162,960 possible winning combinations; often horse racing is as much about numbers as horses. Both my regular readers will testify that, recently, I've had trouble tipping the winner of an eight runner bumper at Ludlow, never mind attempting six consecutive winners across three cards. I suppose it must be a challenge thing...

Leg 1 2.05 Newmarket: Cesare / Toylsome
Leg 2 2.20 Cheltenham: From Dawn To Dusk
Leg 3 3.05 Catterick: Matsunosuke
Leg 4 3.15 Newmarket: Literato
Leg 5 3.30 Cheltenham: Knowhere
Leg 6 3.55 Newmarket: Dr Sharp / Macorville
4 lines.

For the less reckless, Dr Sharp appears to have a decent each way chance in The Cesarewitch (and a good draw as well.) Over at Cheltenham, the 5.15 looks a hot novice chase. Likely favourite Patman Du Charmil is worth taking on with either Blu Teen or Ice Tea. Blu Teen disappointed when odds on at Market Rasen recently but Paul Nicholls commented that he was a big gross horse who was hard to get fit. The Racing Post adds that the animal bled last time so I'll take a chance with Ice Tea who jumped much better when winning well at Hexham last time and will be a bigger price as well.

Of course the Rugby World Cup final will dominate tomorrow's action. I'd expect a close game; at current prices England are the value. Whatever happens, let's hope potential try scorers ground the ball a little better than this unfortunate player...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cheltenham's Friday card

A trappy looking card at Cheltenham tomorrow, especially as it's early in the season; I'll maintain a watching brief. In the first (2.20) Hills Of Aran, with McCoy in the plate, is the top rated animal but he has shown his best form on heavy ground. Twiston-Davies' Battle Cry looks the percentage call, having won easily at Perth three weeks ago.

The likely favourite in the 4.05, Mr Pointment, has moved to the Paul Nicholls stable but appears vulnerable here as most of his racing has been over shorter distances. Always Waining, Boychuk and Ardaghey are players. Ardaghey will get every yard of this trip, comes from a stable in form, will handle the good to soft ground and is top-rated by the Racing Post; he would make some each way appeal if priced around the 8/1 mark.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Longing to return to Ludlow...

There's some decent jump racing to look forward to this weekend. Cheltenham holds its first meeting of the new season over two days on Friday and Saturday while Kempton hosts its first meeting on Sunday with WBX.COM sponsoring most of the card. I went to Kempton this time last year but, prior to that, I'd always tried to get to Ludlow as it's a most pleasant spot, particularly on a sunny autumn afternoon. Pictured is a view across the paddock looking out to the Shropshire hills, taken from the grandstand roof.

In the Shropshire Handicap Hurdle due off at 3.50 I see connections have opted to run Herecomestanley as this looks easier than the two entries the horse held in races at Cheltenham. This race used to be a Class Three event run over three miles but recently it's been downgraded to a Class Four and is now run over the shorter trip of two miles five. First place prize money is over five thousand which is reasonable for the time of year.

Sadly, once again I won't make it to Ludlow. If I were there, I'd be looking for something to take on Herecomestanley as he's likely to start odds-on. The Racing Post have put up Dasher Reilly as a horse who might be up to the task and, at around 5/1, he'd appeal as a sporting bet. I'll be watching Bauhaus in the 4.50 while the concluding bumper looks between The Hairy Mutt, Hold Em and The Good Guy. The entry in the form book following The Hairy Mutt's latest victory is most complimentary; as Hold Em has been running over further in points I'd take The Hairy Mutt to gain the upper hand.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hey, John Motson! Sometimes I watch ITV

During yesterday's coverage of the England versus Estonia football match from Wembley, the irksome John Motson succeeded in irritating both Mrs Tips and myself even further by advertising, through the medium of television, the England versus France rugby semi-final coverage on Radio Five Live, describing the game as 'unmissable'.

Agreed, the match wasn't to be missed, but why would I choose to listen to it on Radio Five Live when I could watch it live on ITV1? I appreciate this must sound naive but we are all big boys and girls now; why can't commentators be a little bit more grown-up and accept the fact that viewers, in the comfort of their own living rooms, do actually change to competitor channels? England rugby fans will always want to see England playing live, not just when the BBC happens to transmit their matches.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Chepstow and Bangor selections

The Paul Nicholls' trained Natal heads the weights in the first at Chepstow and is likely to be popular but he hasn't won over this trip and doesn't convince he'll stay. The two Hobbs' horses would make some appeal if the stable were in better form. I will watch the novice Sultan Fontenaille as he looks less exposed than several of these but I'll pass over this race.

The 2.00 hurdle race for four year olds looks intriguing with the Triumph hurdle form represented by Liberate and Mobaasher. The favourite has won this on five occasions in the last ten years; I'm going out on a limb and will support Is It Me each way at a big price. This horse had early season form with eventual Triumph winnner Katchit last term. He went off the boil but is with a new yard now, has been running on the Flat and the booking of McCoy catches the eye.

I'm surprised to see Vivid Imagination entered in the three mile novice chase (2.35) as he didn't appear to stay when falling at Exeter three days ago. On paper Petit Lord looks the most likely winner but his price will be too short for betting purposes.

The favourite has won seven of the last eight runnings of the juvenile novice hurdle, which is due off at 3.40. Franchoek ran a little free at Market Rasen last time but did well to finish third behind Falcon's Fire and Soliya in a race that was probably the best of its kind run so far this season. Qrackers and Serabad look interesting newcomers but I'll support Franchoek with Alan King's yard starting to hit form.

The unbeaten Theatrical Moment makes his hurdle debut at 4.15 and is considered a future star. He will start long odds on and makes no appeal as a betting medium.

Over at Bangor-On-Dee The King Of Angels and Henry's Pride catch the eye in the Handicap Chase (3.25). Henry's Pride won easily last time out, has a similar profile to previous winners and is the Racing Post's top rated horse by some way. On bare form I think The King Of Angels has acheived more and, as a five year old, should have improvement to come, so he gets the vote.

I'll be tempted to take a chance with Sunday City at 3/1 or bigger in the novice chase (4.00). Finally, in the novice hurdle at 4.35, Evan Williams' King Cyrus looks a value bet at around 9/2.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Short briefs

The best National for sheer spectacle is the annual Mascot Grand National; this year's renewal was run at Huntingdon racecourse on Sunday. A field of over 100 runners faced the starter, with victory going to Wacky Mackey Bear of Saffron Walden Town. I wonder what the bookmakers' overround was...

The National Hunt season moves up a gear on Saturday; the card at Chepstow is traditionally the BBC's first jumps transmission of the season. In the past Philip Hobbs' operation has targeted this meeting but the stable looks a little off the pace at the moment. By way of contrast, the Twiston-Davies team are in superb form.

Kieren Fallon has been in the news a little over the past few days. It was interesting to see his defence counsel question the impartiality of the detective in charge of the case who has, apparently, been offered a job with the Jockey Club. A slight conflict of interest perhaps...?

I see Vivid Imagination fell three out at Exeter today when looking held. The trip, just short of three miles, together with the stiff track, will not have played to his strengths.

If you're thinking of going racing in the next couple of months, here's a reminder of the John Smith's BOGOF offer which is available at selected courses until the end of December. I'm hoping to get to Aintree in a couple of weeks' time.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Interpreting the texts

Texting is the bane of my life - I hate it. I only do it if I have to, and then I'm slower than everybody else by a factor of ten. It's not just creating the blessed messages I have trouble with, it's making sense of the replies.

It would appear our learned friends in the legal profession have no such problems. On the first day of Fallon's trial they inform us that Fallon's text '6.55 no4 n', sent back in August 2004, indicated that in the 6.55 at Goodwood horse number four was a non-trier.

Well, here's a thing - I've sent a similar text twice in the last eighteen months. On the first occasion I ordered chicken tikka masala with naan from my local takeway at precisely 6.55pm. On the second occasion I placed my mobile in my rear trouser pocket without locking the keypad; I then went and sat on the wretched device.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Arc drama

What drama in the Arc, and what an exceptional performance from Dylan Thomas and jockey Kieren Fallon! Connections survived a thirty minute stewards' inquiry before the placings were officially confirmed as remaining unaltered. Dylan Thomas interfered with three other runners as he drifted towards the rail in the final couple of furlongs but he was the best horse in the race and has won on ground that didn't really suit.

Consider the highs and the lows of jockey Kieren Fallon - Sunday he wins his second Arc at Longchamp in Paris, Monday his trial into alleged race fixing starts at the Old Bailey in London.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

Europe's richest race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barriere, takes place at Longchamp tomorrow at 3.40 BST. I'd like to start with a quick word for absent friends. Earlier in the season I fancied the filly Peeping Fawn for this but Ballydoyle's commercial breeding considerations appear to have taken priority and she hasn't been given an entry. Manduro then looked the real deal but suffered an injury after his victory in the Prix Foy which brought his racing career to a premature end.

Twelve go to post tomorrow; the race looks between English Derby winner Authorized, Soldier Of Fortune, Zambezi Sun and Dylan Thomas. Authorized brings the best from into the race but offers no value at around 11/8; in addition the stable has not been in particularly good form recently and the draw on the outside in berth twelve looks problematic.

Soldier Of Fortune beat Zambezi Sun under two and a half lengths in the Prix Niel but Zambezi Sun was not fully wound up that day. In the build-up this week there have been particularly bullish noises coming from the Pascal Bary stable concerning Zambezi Sun. The likely soft ground will inconvenience Dylan Thomas; if it were to dry out, his current price of 6/1 looks value. I side with Zambezi Sun, available generally at 5/1 with UK bookmakers.

Of the bigger priced horses, Mandesha's two seconds to Peeping Fawn and Manduro read well. This filly has looked far from straightforward this season, in contrast to last year. Cheekpieces are tried for the first time here; if they have the desired effect, she can be competitive and she looks worth an each way wager at the 14/1 offered by several UK firms.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Tea at Hexham?

Ice Tea meets Charlie Egerton's The Entomologist for the second time in three weeks at Hexham this afternoon. The latter won last time over two and a half miles. We know Ice Tea will get today's stiff three mile one furlong trip while this is the first time the Egerton horse has run over this distance. The Racing Post prefers the Egerton runner but in my book Ice Tea has a decent chance, especially in receipt of 4 lbs. The tissue shows had Ice Tea 3/1 which looked good value, but, at the time of writing, 2/1 is the general price and no longer makes that much appeal. Ice Tea needs to jump better than last time; on balance, I'll sit this one out.

Incidentally, I logged on to the Racing Post site last night at around 9.30pm to check this race and a couple of others, only to find no notes on any of the runners and no tissue shows. The site had been updated this morning - an indication of things to come under the new ownership?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Long shorts

Trinity Mirror has sold The Racing Post to a private equity operation based in Irealnd for £170 million, some way below the £200 million asking price. The Times reports that, as part of the deal, £10 million will be given to racing charities and several million spent on developing the online product.

Top two year old Winker Watson has suffered a setback on the gallops and will miss the rest of the season. An ambitious plan had outlined his taking in the Middle Park on Friday followed by the Dewhurst.

The Arc build-up has started in earnest, with Dettori telling all who will listen that Authorized is the best horse in the race and he simply needs luck in running. Peter Chapple-Hyam's bullish comments about the horse following a recent piece of work appear to add weight to the jockey's claims.

At the five day declaration stage fifteen horses are left in the Arc, the Aidan O'Brien stable accounting for seven of that number. Most commentators are envisaging soft ground at Longchamp which may account for Dylan Thomas, the mount of Kieren Fallon, drifting out to 8/1 in Blue Square's ante-post book.

Mrs Tips keeps telling me Christmas is just around the corner; with that in mind, a book which may be of interest to some racing fans is Aintree's Queen Bee, Mirabel Topham and the Grand National, written Joan Rimmer and published by SportsBooks Ltd. This review in The Liverpool Daily Post gives a good feel for the content.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Flat jockeys' championship

It's currently neck and neck in the Flat jockeys' championship, Seb Saunders (150 winners) edging two in front of Jamie Spencer by riding a four timer at Musselburgh today. The bookmakers seem to think the momentum is with Saunders, Spencer being quoted a 7/4 shot with Stan James this evening. Only a few short weeks ago Spencer was a long odds-on chance, the argument being he had more ammunition at this time of year. Rest assured, Saunders will fight all the way to the line.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Market Rasen tomorrow

At the time of writing the official going at Market Rasen is described as good; I'm assuming there will be no further deterioration in the ground. The juvenile hurdle due off at 2.05 looks intriguing. Soliya has the best form on offer but the word is for Alan King's Franchoek. The King stable won this last year with subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Katchit; if this one's anywhere near as good he'll take all the beating. In situations like this I prefer the form in the book so will side with Soliya as long as there's no further rain.

It's good to see Ruby Walsh back riding in this country following his summer break. He's on Blu Teen for the Paul Nicholls stable in the novice chase at 2.40. Both Blu Teen and and Crathorne have an official rating of 132 but Blu Teen is the one with the potential; it will be disappointing if he doesn't take this on the way to better things, although the starting price is likely to be short.

Sixteen go to post in the handicap chase at 3.15. This race looks very difficult but is one to watch for future reference. Kings Brook won this last year and is in form. I'd be intersted in Boychuk if the stable were in better form and a similar comment applies to Iron Man. If pressed, Kings Brook would be the selection but I'll be sitting this one out.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot

The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes run over a mile at Ascot this Saturday looks a thrilling prospect. Some of the value has been taken out of the market with the withdrawal of George Washington on Wednesday morning. There doesn't appear to be much between Darjina, Ramonti and Excellent Art. I'm inclined to oppose the filly Darjina on the following counts: only one filly has won this in the last thirty years; rain is forecast and this may inconvenience her; she is ante-post favourite and so the value lies elsewhere. Ramonti is tough and won over course and distance at Royal Ascot in June. He then went on to beat Excellent Art a fast diminishing head in The Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. After that race several commentators felt that Ramonti's getting first run had made the difference. Goodwood is tricky; with Ascot more likely to suit, I take Excellent Art to win the prize.

Those of us waiting eagerly for jump racing to swing into gear will see Saturday's card at Market Rasen as a sign of better things to come. Nigel Twiston Davies is regularly out of the blocks quickly around this time of year; he retuns this evening from Perth's two day fixture with a haul of five winners. If you fancy one of his over the next three to four weeks the yard's website may give a clue under the 'Todays Runners' section.

I'll try to look at the Market Rasen card tomorrow evening.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A few Flat notes

At the time of writing Peter Chapple-Hyam's Derby winner Authorized is a best priced 13/8 to win the Arc at Longchamp a week on Sunday. Authorized's preparation appears to be going to plan although recently his trainer admitted that several in his string were under the weather and there are no isolation facilities at the yard. If you fancy Authorized, it will pay to monitor the stable's runners over the coming week.

Henry Cecil has given a big hint that his Oaks filly Passage Of Time will be supplemented for the same race; she has been introduced into the betting at 33/1.

Kieren Fallon and five co-defendants are set to appear at The Old Bailey a week tomorrow to face charges relating to conspiracy to defraud punters. This high profile trial is expected to last three to four months and will generate huge media interest.

I guess Alec Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, is a guy you either love or love to hate. Whatever, his banter with the regulars of Channel Four's Morning Line on Saturday was most entertaining. My father-in-law, who hails from South West Scotland, often describes him as 'silver-tongued' and you can see why. A game my (sad) drinking companions occasionally play is to name a celebrity you would choose to have evening dinner with, giving reasons for your choice and some questions you'd put to the lucky celebrity concerned. After watching his performance on Saturday, Alec Salmond is right up there on my list.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Uttoxeter and Plumpton cards

On paper the 2.50 at Uttoxeter looks between the J.P. McManus owned Levitski and the Evan Williams trained Warrior Drive. In their tissue shows on Saturday evening, both trade papers have Levistski an odds on shot while Warrior Drive is priced up at 3/1 and 4/1. On official handicap ratings Warrior Drive has two pounds in hand over Levitski and at those prices Warrior Drive looks worth an interest.

The two mile novice chase due off at 3.50 has some interesting entries. Likely favourite Ellerslie Tom was the best horse over hurdles but fell last time out and is passed over. I saw both Vivid Imagination and Presentandcorrect run two weeks ago at Stratford over two and a half miles. Presentandcorrect was disappointing on that occasion; the shorter trip may suit here but the yard is out of form. In contrast Vivid Imagination ran a decent race to finish third on his first outing since April 13th 2005. Dev and Karelian look unexposed while Sunley Shines can be given a squeak. A trappy affair - I'm prepared to take a chance with the Pipe stable's Vivid Imagination if he's allowed to take his chance. Whatever the outcome, the race will be worth noting for future reference.

In the 4.30 at Plumpton I'm interested in September Moon. This mare is not without ability but has previously demonstrated, when trained by Jonjo O'Neill, she has her own ideas about the game. A front runner, the form shown since the switch to her current yard has been consistent; recently her effort at Stratford in a higher class race was noteworthy. The Racing Post tissue makes her a 7/1 chance, The Sporting Life 14/1. With nine runners set to go to post, she looks worth an each way interest at 10/1 or bigger. By my calculations she has weight in hand over Hurlers Cross on a recent Fontwell running and the ground will suit; the three mile two furlong trip may pose a question.

Friday, September 21, 2007

McCririck thrown off chat show

When the racing is a little low key, you can always rely on John McCririck to liven things up a bit. Alan Titchmarsh threw him off his chat show yesterday after McCririck had gratutiously insulted Chris Tarrant's ex wife Ingrid, calling her 'a ghastly woman'. Further details on the Daily Mail site.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ayr Gold Cup

Let me say from the outset that ultra competitive sprint handicaps with their accompanying large fields are no forte of mine; I'll maintain a watching brief for Saturday's big race when the Ayr Gold Cup will be contested over a trip of six furlongs.

Seven weeks ago I highlighted Knot In Wood's chance in the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood. Once again there are a number of positives about this horse but they are reflected in his current price of 8/1. At Goodwood the high draw, thought an advantage at the time, turned out to be anything but as runners on the far side tacked across to the centre after one and a half furlongs, thereby losing valuable ground. In the circumstances the horse did well, finishing third in a three way photo behind Zidane and Borderlescott. The easier ground this time will suit and jockey Jamie Moriarty takes off a handy looking three pounds. Knot In Wood each way is the selection in a very tough race which I'll be watching from the sidelines.

Earlier in the week Manduro's injury sustained in winning the Prix Foy casts a shadow over this year's Arc which is just over a fortnight away. I'm still waiting (along with plenty of others) to see if Coolmore declare Peeping Fawn.

The five day declarations for Sunday's two National Hunt cards at Plumpton and Uttoxeter contain some interesting entries; I'll try to look at these on Saturday evening.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Superform Jumps Annual

I'm informed that the 2007 Superform Jumps Annual will be available from late September. Ordering directly from the publisher (01273 452441) entitles customers to £2 discount with free postage thrown in. I've purchased this annual every year since 1993.

Last year, around four weeks after my purchase, I received a note from Furlong Press apologising for the omission of ten races on the last day of the official jumps season together with a special addendum containing details of the omitted races and a page reference indicating where the addendum should be inserted into the annual. Impressive customer service indeed, which I would not have received had I purchased the volume in the local High Street.

Monday, September 17, 2007

PG miffed...

News of my displeasure at the BBC's decision to withdraw its Ceefax racing service appears to have created a bit of a stir. So much so that it's been reported on the Ceefax cricket pages...

Thirty short minutes later and, quite rightly in my opinion, the PM appears to have got involved...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ceefax racing service to be axed

Sometimes it feels like I'm the only one who hasn't subscribed to Sky. I've been holding out but there comes a point when you have to throw in the towel and admit Mr Murdoch has won. I think, right now, I'm getting pretty close to that point.

Take today, for example. BBC Two are offering cycling, MotoGP, eventing from Italy and the highlights of a 5k road race. In addition the aforementioned broadcaster informs me that it has bought the rights to American Football.

The final straw has come with the news, reported in The Daily Mail, that the BBC is to axe its Ceefax racing service at the end of the year. I simply can't believe this. I spend most Sunday afternoons watching Ceefax live betting shows, a distraction from the surrounding mayhem of the Tips' family household. What am I to do now? This preposterous decision indicates the BBC can no longer claim to be a 'socially responsible' broadcaster.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ladbrokes St Leger

On Friday Donald McCain's Ice Tea is a progressive sort running over two and a half miles in the 3.00 at Bangor. This is his first run after a break, his wins having come over further, but he looks worth keeping an eye on. With England playing South Africa in the Rugby World Cup later in the evening, Alan Lee reports that racegoers turning up for Sandown's afternoon meeting in either team's colours will be entitled to reduced admission of £10.

On Saturday the Irish and English St Leger races are scheduled to take place within twenty minutes of each other. At The Curragh Yeats will be unbackable at long odds on and he is expected to oblige.

Over at Doncaster it doesn't appear quite as clear cut. On Racing Post ratings Honolulu and Lucarno are some way clear of their rivals. In my eyes Lucarno's fourth in the Epsom Derby and subsequent victory in the Great Voltigeur at York read better than Honolulu's recent second in the Ebor. To muddy the waters a little, the O'Brien stable reports Honolulu has thrived since York, whereas John Gosden doubts the additional two furlongs of this race will suit Lucarno, despite the formbook stating the horse 'stayed on strongly' in the Great Voltigeur. Indeed the trainer describes Raincoat, his other runner, as the 'forgotten horse' of the race. You pays your money and takes your choice. In a race where the favourite has won eight of the last ten runnings, I'm prepared to risk Lucarno, currently priced at 4/1, and Raincoat each way at 10/1 or bigger, as both some offer value.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Some snippets...

Mark Howard's annual publication 'One Jump Ahead' is now available in bookshops priced very reasonably at £6.99.

The St Leger is set to take place at Doncaster on Saturday but it looks increasingly unlikely that Peeping Fawn will run in the Arc. Saturday's Racing Post informed readers that Ladbrokes have not quoted the filly in their Arc lists but will give punters 10/1 if they ask for the price. The view at The Magic Sign is Peeping Fawn will be aimed at next year's race. Julian Muscat, writing in today's Times, comments 'She [PF] certainly merits her place, but for the Coolmore syndicate which owns both her and Dylan Thomas, the filly beating the colt would amount to economic folly.'

Staying with the Arc, Manduro tries twelve furlongs for the first time on Sunday in the Prix Foy; the outcome should prove conclusively whether or not the horse stays the trip.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Guest blogger - Mrs Tips

On certain well read blogs it has become fashionable to 'invite in ' a guest blogger. I thought of approaching Tony McCoy, Richard Johnson and the likes but in the end I went for the easy option and plumped for Mrs Tips. Here's her account of our day at Stratford races on Saturday...

Picnic packed, we headed off to Stratford on what was, to begin with, a rather coolish afternoon. This did not detract from what was a jolly good outing for The Tips family and friends. This is the first time I've been racing since Mr Tips took me to Chester races when we were 'courting' all those years ago! Mr Tips is a dab hand when it comes to taking a lady out for a romantic sporting occasion, is he not? I still think Wimbledon wins by a furlong!

The atmosphere was busy, quite a few folk about, although I expect it can get busier. Thankfully it didn't or we wouldn't have been able to get to the toilet! Woefully inadequate facilities for ladies I felt.

It was difficult to actually see the races in action, if truth be told. We did have a good view of the big screen but most of the time you couldn't see any real action until the horses just went zipping past.

You'll be pleased to hear that I didn't let myself down and won on the first race with Colourful Life and tipped the winner of the second, Left Hand Drive ( I let Baby Tips have that one). I had a couple of seconds in the third and fifth races too. Not bad for someone who doesn't study form.

The highlight of the day was spotting Tony McCoy giving his autograph to someone before going on to win the fourth race on The King of Angels.

It was a good day out although a lot of standing and then walking back and forth to collect our winnings really tired us out!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Stratford selections

Ten go to post at 3.45 for the Walls and Ceilings International Handicap Chase. The field contains a number of unexposed sorts including The King Of Angels, Ronald Jack (pictured in the lead at Towcester last time out), Baodai and Once A Brownie; my interpretation of the bare form is that, of these, Jonjo O'Neill's The King Of Angels has the most improvement to come. Richard Johnson is in the plate as Tony McCoy rides the J.P. McManus owned Once A Brownie which, in my book, stood a better chance in the 2.45 race. Miss K. Marks is double handed with the lightly weighted Rash Moment and Liverpool Echo; the latter named is not easy to catch right but likes Stratford. An open event in which I'll have an each way interest in Liverpoool Echo at odds of around 12/1.

The market has proved a reliable guide to the 4.15 in the past, with the winner coming from the top three in the betting on the past nine occasions. The top weighted Bureaucrat gets the nod.
In the 3.15 Soliya is the form choice. Feasible alternatives include Silmi, Strikeen and Callisto Moon. I'm going to this meet - I'll side with Soliya if priced 2/1 or bigger, otherwise I'll oppose with Silmi.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

This married life

Writing in today's Times, Oliver Kay headlines an article 'Beckham's life was "never the same" after he tied the knot'.

To which I have just one thing to add.
Mr. Beckham, welcome to my world.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Stratford picnic

Never mind your Rugby World Cup or the Euro 2008 qualifiers, this Saturday we're thinking of taking a family picnic to Stratford races.

Parents should view such occasions as an A1 opportunity to win back pocket money from their offspring. It's slightly more sophisticated than an old trick of mine - creeping into the kids' bedroom in the middle of the night with a blunt knife to try and extricate money from their piggy banks (without waking them up) - and, to boot, there's the added illusion (for the children) that the whole thing is such an enjoyable experience.

Less than two short months ago Stratford racecourse was under three feet of water, with the steeplechase fences practically hidden from view.

The BBC report that the repair bill is likely to reach more than £1 million. Still, electricity is likely to be restored and the toilets back in use for this meeting, so all we want now is some decent racing and reasonable weather...

Friday, August 31, 2007

Chester and Newton Abbot selections

Bauer has been discussed in a previous post and according to early tissue shows is put in as the 3/1 favourite for the 2.50 at Chester tomorrow. The race is no foregone conclusion; I'm concerned by the horse's tendency to race mid-division or off the pace as Chester is a sharp track that favours those racing prominently. Still, I'm sure jockey Eddie Ahern will be aware of the dangers - I see Bauer going close. Only six go to post in the Conditions Stakes at 4.00 with the York Gimcrack form represented by Imperial Mint and Nacho Libre. Imperial Mint is the top rated horse on official figures and gets the vote.

Over at Newton Abbot the Lord Mildmay Memorial Handicap Chase has added prize money of £35000. Many of the runners are fairly well exposed. Peter Bowen will have targetted this race for Iron Man and Tommy Spar; of these two I prefer the former who ran out when in the lead in the Galway Plate. Chilling Place would be dangerous if sorting out his jumping problems while bottom weight Kings Brook won this last year but has disappointed recently. I tend to prefer an up and coming chaser for this; I respect Iron Man but will take an each way chance with Paul Nicholls' Forest Green who is unexposed and 'could be anything' as the saying goes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ebor aftermath

It's that time of the year; the best of the Flat has passed and the anticipation of the forthcoming jumping season begins to kick in. Alan King's 140 strong yard has received a bit of press coverage recently; we can expect similar articles about the bigger National Hunt yards in the weeks ahead.

That's not to say that the Flat is over and done with. Recently I was asked by a friend of a friend about a horse from the Cumani stable called Bauer which had an entry in the Ebor. I looked at the bare form and didn't think it was up to Ebor standard but the exercise was academic anyway as the horse failed to make the cut. However the Cumani operation was covered in a recent Weekender 'Straight From The Stable' feature. The write up for Bauer was pretty positive actually, using phrases such as 'stayed on well [behind the winner who] set a course record', 'progressive last year', 'more improvement to come'. He's entered in a handicap at Chester over one mile five furlongs this Saturday and will certainly be worth a second look on the back of those Weekender comments.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Peeping Fawn to take on colts in the Arc?

Should Peeping Fawn run in the Arc and the ground come up soft, then we would all do well to keep in mind Johnny Murtagh's post race comments after her effortless victory in yesterday's Darley Yorkshire Oaks.

The filly, regularly described as having the constitution of a colt, is currently a best-priced 8/1 in the ante post market for the Arc which takes place in a little over six weeks' time on Sunday 7th October.

Julian Muscat concludes his report in The Times by saying 'She may well be the best horse in training.'

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Totesport Ebor

Peeping Fawn will be the star attraction at York tomorrow when taking on six opponents in the Darley Yorkshire Oaks. She doesn't rate a bet as she's expected to start long odds on, but in my opinion she has been the outstanding horse this Flat season; I hope it proves a race to savour.

The Ebor, due off at 2.35, sees twenty runners racing over a distance of one mile six furlongs. Purple Moon has been hurdling with Nicky Richards and then returned to the Flat all the better for the experience; he's eight pounds well in on current handicap ratings and will be a popular choice. Paul Cole's Strategic Mount looks interesting but I'm not convinced he stays the distance at this level so a small wager on Scriptwriter, who has the benefit of a low draw, is advised in this competitive handicap.

Monday, August 20, 2007

York's Juddmonte International

Seven go to post for the Juddmonte at York tomorrow and there's not much to choose between the top three, Dylan Thomas, Authorized and Notnowcato. I'm sticking with last year's winner Notnowcato who did this blog a favour when winning the Eclipse a few weeks back at odds of 7/1. He certainly won't be sent off that price but Sir Michael Stoute's consistent and honest charge still offers value at around 3/1 and there's the added bonus of Ryan Moore in the saddle.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bangor On Dee selections

Last night I started to look at obtaining value by opposing Turbo Linn in the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury, only to discover she won't run as she's in season. So I decided to go to Bangor instead.

The betterbetcorbett Dee Hurdle (4.00) looks very competitive and strikingly similar to the totepsort Summer Hurdle run at Market Rasen a month ago, with Ellerslie Tom, Capitana, Norma Hill, Prince Ary and Dishdasha all taking their chance to reoppose. On the bare form of that race, which was run on soft / heavy ground, there's little to choose between Prince Ary, Ellerslie Tom and Dishdasha, with Ellerslie Tom looking unlucky to be collared close home. The going at Bangor is currently good to firm, good in places, but tomorrow's weather forecast doesn't look promising - will enough rain fall to affect the going? I take the view that Ellerslie Tom's last effort indicates he's back in form and, if the rains stay away, he will have a chance even though burdened with top weight.

Dishdasha has been pulled up at Newton Abbot since but Nicky Henderson's Capitana ran well for a long way on the unsuitable ground at Market Rasen. The tissue price for this mare is 10/1 which looks fair each way value provided the going doesn't deteriorate. Norma Hill is a risky proposition at the best of times and not easy to catch right; however she possesses plenty of speed on faster ground, has won over course and distance and could provide some each way value for the more adventurous amongst you.

I take Mud Monkey to open his account in the first (2.15) whilst over at Market Rasen's evening meeting Vaughan will be fancied to win the novice chase at 7.10.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Free tickets to the races

Thanks to a couple of my colleagues for pointing out that John Smith's are currently running a BOGOF offer to selected race meetings between now and December; an impressive total of thirty nine racecourses are taking part in the promotion. In order to claim tickets, you are required to fill in a questionnaire but this looks a decent offer to me. In fact, forget trying to pick winners, try this little money making idea instead...

1. Identify local race meeting participating in John Smith's promotion
2. Arrange a trip to that meeting for friends / colleagues
3. Purchase the tickets
4. Sell tickets to unsuspecting friends / colleagues at face value
5. Enjoy proceeds.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Twenty years on...

I'm well aware there has been a dearth of postings on this blog recently. The reason, you see, is that Mrs Tips and I have just celebrated twenty years of marriage. Perhaps I should rephrase that slightly; Mrs Tips celebrated and I cast my mind back to a time when I used to enjoy life. Only kidding.

Nowadays, you see, dear reader, I have to be very careful what I write in this forum as Mrs Tips has taken to reading these pages, furtively, on a regular basis.

As a present, I'd considered sending Mrs T. an offering from Arena Flowers, my especially selected 'emergency flowers' web site. Like a lot of blokes, I'm not particularly good at flowers (or picking winners for that matter, as I'm sure you'll have noticed) but I am cute enough to realise that, on occasions, an 'emergency flowers' site is worth its weight in gold, particularly when you've committed a minor indiscretion or forgotten dear old Aunt Nance's ninetieth birthday.

In the end we went for a slap-up meal instead.

Today's tip - bookmark the Arena Flowers site, just in case...

Monday, August 06, 2007

Zidane stars in Holt horror show

I've total respect for Channel 4 race reader Simon Holt but on Saturday afternoon, as the horses flashed past the post in the Stewards' Cup, he called Borderlescott the winner. The result of the official photo showed that in actual fact Zidane had collected the spoils by the shortest of short heads right on the line, with Borderlescott finishing second.

For a few moments the rest of the Channel 4 team seemed shocked, unable to comprehend what had happened. To be honest, I half expected the official result to be corrected, as had been the case with Jane Stickels over a year ago at Lingfield. Of course, Zidane had won fair and square.

Don't beat yourself up over it, Simon; you're still the best in the business.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Glorious Goodwood

OK, I confess. This week I've been bunking off. I haven't done my homework and I haven't followed 'Glorious Goodwood' very closely at all. It's naughty, I know, but there you go. At least I'm being honest with you.

I've just picked up The Weekender and had a quick look at the Nassau Stakes. It looks 'trappy'. Trappy is a term that's used by pundits who are far more established than me; it's a euphemism for 'don't touch this race with a bargepole'. So I'm passing on the Nassau. Peeping Fawn, the top rated horse, is tempting but her action when winning last time at The Curragh looked very rounded and I'm not certain she'll handle the better ground or the course, so I'm passing on the Nassau.

If the Nassau looked trappy, the Stewards' Cup looks positively impossible. As I haven't done the homework, let me share with you how I approached the race. Protector did this blog a favour when absolutely hacking up at Newcastle a few weeks ago. I quietly fancied Protector for this race but in between times Protector was himself easily beaten at Hamilton by Richard Fahey's Knot In Wood.

Knot In Wood goes into tomorrow's race with a number of plus points. He's 6lbs well in following the Hamilton victory as the weights had already been declared; his trainer says he's his best chance in the race and he should handle the ground; he carries less than nine stones and, thought crucial in many quarters, he's been given a high draw. That's an awful lot of plus points. On the downside, there are twenty seven others running in this annual cavalry charge over six furlongs and all the plus points appear to have been recognised by the bookmakers who have priced him at 8/1. So, the question is, does 8/1 Knot In Wood look value to you? It doesn't to me, so I'll maintain a watching brief.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

King George and York selections

Seven runners have been declared for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (4.20) at Ascot this Saturday. There's been a fair amount of media coverage during the week; the main players are Dylan Thomas, Scorpion, Maraahel and Youmzain. On form Dylan Thomas is the best horse in the race and the current favourite but Aidan O'Brien hinted earlier today (Thursday) that the horse may not take his chance as he prefers top of the ground. During the week Scorpion has been backed from 9/2 to 3/1 as the value against Dylan Thomas. Under the conditions of the race Scorpion is certainly entitled to reverse placings with Maraahel on their Royal Ascot meeting and I would expect him to do so. Last season Youmzain ran the subsequent Arc winner Rail Link to half a length in the Prix Neil at Longchamp; a repetition of that form would put him bang in there with a chance and connections have been bullish in the build-up. The horse has had a couple of excuses this season; the question is to what extent you buy into the excuses offered. A small field and a fascinating race with tactics possibly playing a part; Scorpion is the percentage call, offers value against Dylan Thomas should he take his chance, and so gets the vote.

Over at York I would expect Macorville (2.40) to gain compensation for his gallant second in the Northumberland Plate and Aidan O'Brien's Eagle Mountain to take the 3.15.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Godiva maiden runs green

Punters quickly twigged on and hedged their bets when it was reported that Special Branch were to investigate suspicious betting patterns surrounding a tree to one favourite (pictured, and ridden by L. Godiva) after the maiden had planted herself in the middle of Coventry city centre recently. Race sponsors Benson & Hedges have agreed to provide the authorities with appropriate cuttings. Sorry.