Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cheltenham Festival going update

Richard Johnson, writing in The Times a month or so ago, commented that this season had been one of the wettest he could remember and you would hardly say it's dried out in the interim. With the Cheltenham Festival just two weeks away, the state of the ground is set to come under close scrutiny.
The clerk of the course described the going yesterday as soft, heavy in places. The weather forecast predicts heavy rain through the middle of this week with the possibility of high pressure building next week. Cheltenham drains pretty quickly but at this stage the general feeling is that the going will be on the testing side when the Festival starts.
Jonjo O'Neill warned he would not risk his Black Jack Ketchum, currently favourite for The World Hurdle, on bad ground. That looks like an invitation to back one (or more) of the other runners ante post, for if Black Jack Ketchum doesn't run, prices on all the other runners will be considerably shorter than they are at present.
We'll just have to keep an eye on the weather...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Armed raid on Gloucester bookmaker

Punters placing their Saturday afternoon bets at David James' betting shop in Oxford Street, Gloucester, got a little more excitement than they bargained for when two masked men raided the premises.

The men made their escape with an undisclosed amount of money. Further details at:

Friday, February 23, 2007

Kempton & Newcastle selections

Buster Hyvonen is the selection in tomorrow's opener at Kempton; Paul Nicholls' Oslot is declared to wear a tongue strap on the likely soft going, so Nicky Henderson's Shatabdi is feared most. In the 3.45 course and distance winner Poquelin is fancied to take the spoils.

Over at Newcastle the Eider Chase is due off at 3.30 over the marathon distance of four miles and one furlong. Although carrying joint top weight on soft ground Nil Desperandum is of interest in a race that can be seen as prepartion for the Grand National in April.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bellamy swings for punters

Craig Bellamy, every Liverpool fan's favourite Welshman, scored the equalising goal against Barcelona last night and celebrated the event by imitating a golf swing.

Given Bellamy's widely reported antics leading up to the game, you might have seen that type of celebration coming. William Hill certainly didn't. The bookmaker initially offered 100/1 about Bellamy scoring and celebrating with a golfing type shot. Punters latched on to this novelty bet as by kick off time Hill's had been forced to cut the price to 33/1. Apparently this morning the layers are checking out the damage.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Cheltenham Festival 2007 preview

In three weeks' time the Cheltenham Festival will be in full swing; between now and then there will be ample opportunity to discuss the fancies, the certs and the no hopers. Check out the official Festival website to get a flavour of what I mean. In addition, over the years, a veritable cottage industry has sprung up offering Festival preview evenings where well known racing personalities put their heads above the parapet and mark your card.

In a similar vein I thought I'd be brave and outline my current thinking. I've used the Oddschecker site to quote the best price available at the time of going to press.

Champion Hurdle - I'll be looking closely at Detroit City (11/4) and Brave Inca (9/2). Five year olds have a poor record in the race which makes Brave Inca, who has done it all before, the value.

Royal & Sun Alliance Chase - Denman (6/4) looked the part at Newbury recently. I'll be keeping a close eye on Ungaro (12/1) if he runs this weekend while Boychuk (25/1) appeals as the type to run well at a price provided he gets decent ground.

Queen Mother Chase - Well Chief (7/4) was impressive at Newbury. Newmill (4/1) has been underrated by many. Nickname (7/1) will be of interest if it's soft while River City (50/1) would be fancied to run well at a price if it came up fast.

World Hurdle - Black Jack Ketchum is worth opposing; I think Inglis Drever (5/1) could be the horse to beat him.

Triumph Hurdle - I can't oppose Katchit (7/1) in this race.

Gold Cup - I take Kauto Star (7/4) to land chasing's Blue Riband.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Robert Winston suspended

Late yesterday evening it was announced that top flat jockey Robert Winston will be suspended from race riding for a period of one year following an investigation by the Horseracing Regulatory Authority into corruption within racing.

Three other jockeys, Robbie Fitzpatrick, Luke Fletcher and Fran Ferris have been warned off for periods up to three years.

Further details available at:

Whilst I'm sure Winston will be unhappy with this outcome, it's certainly better than was predicted on Friday morning by both the Racing Post and BBC websites which announced that Winston was set to be warned off.

The theme of corruption is one we are going to hear a lot more of this coming year.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Haydock & Wincanton

There are only six runners in The Rendlesham Hurdle, the first at Haydock tomorrow. Suzy Smith's mare Material World looks the best on the ratings and, surprisingly, is priced up at 8/1 in a couple of tissue shows. If that price materialises tomorrow, the horse is a must bet.

Over at Wincanton I expect Paul Nicholls' Opera Mundi to take The Kingmaker at 1.20, a race transferred here from last week's abandonned card at Warwick. The Kingwell Hurdle at 3.30 looks a match between Afsoun and Straw Bear; I favour Straw Bear who apppears to have the better speed figures. In the 4.00 I'm taking a chance with David Pipe's Little Brick; this horse has been given time to settle in at the yard and looks unexposed compared to his rivals.

A female tip

My wife, Mrs Tips, likes to select her horses by their names and, if I'm being brutally honest, she can pick more winners at bigger prices than I can. Here's one example.

I have been going to the Wednesday's racing at the Cheltenham Festival for a number of years. Last year, as always, I spent a big chunk of the preceding week going through the form with a fine toothcomb. It's late on the Tuesday night and I've got my shortlist. Mrs Tips, sitting quietly on the sofa opposite darning one of my old socks, asks to see a list of the runners and within a few moments exclaims "I'll have Hairy Molly in the last!" All my selections fall by the wayside but Hairy Molly wins the bumper at 33/1.

Yesterday, which just happpened to be the day after Valentine's Day, Mrs Tips spoke again - "I like the sound of that Putitawayforayear in the 2.10 at Chepstow!" The horse finished unplaced.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Two further notes from Newbury

Copsale Lad, a 14/1 shot and better known as a chaser these days, is pictured after winning the three mile handicap hurdle with considerable ease. The horse had a good blow afterwards, practically knocking over an anonymous pundit wearing a black hat. The result seemed to surprise trainer Nicky Henderson as much as everyone else. When asked where next, Nicky nominated at least three different races at the Festival. Entries will be monitored.
On a much sadder note Venn Ottery had to be put down after fracturing his pelvis in the Game Spirit. Quite rightly the events surrounding his death are to be investigated. Further details at

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Newbury debrief

I enjoyed a great day's racing at Newbury yesterday in the company of The Times' racing correspondent Alan Lee. The panoramic view from the press office balcony, from where I watched a couple of the races including Kauto Star's Aon Chase victory, was superb (see picture).
Two performances that stood out were Denman's winning of the opener and Well Chief's scintillating victory in the Game Spirit after an absence of 658 days.
Denman could not have been more impressive, his performance leading to a revised quote of 7/4 for the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase at Cheltenham next month. Favourites don't have the best of records in this race but, having watched the manner of his victory here, he is sure to take a deal of beating.
Well Chief brought the house down with an exceptional display and now heads for the Queen Mother Champion Chase as 7/4 favourite. Talking to Martin Pipe in the bar before racing, I felt he wasn't particularly bullish about the horse's chance so went and wasted my money on the disappointing Foreman instead.
All the talk after the Aon Chase was of Kauto Star's final fence fling, a replica of his mistake at the last in the King George at Kempton. As the horse was led in, a young lady with the connections asked the horse imploringly 'Why do you keep doing that to us?' Ruby Walsh didn't look too happy going back to the weighing room; Paul Nicholls talked for a good ten minutes after to assembled press representatives. There was a protracted discussion about how he may be ridden differently at Cheltenham by not coming to the last in the lead. It appeared to me that McCoy rode a canny race on L'ami by ensuring Kauto Star had to jump the last under some pressure.
The concluding bumper with a total prize fund of £20,000 contained some interesting sorts and was run in a murky penumbra. There was a strong word for Carl Llewellyn's Treat Em Mean who raced prominently for a while before fading. David Pipe's Seven Is My Number was well supported. The one four year old in the field, Just A Thought, was backed from 33/1 to 20/1 - I managed to get some shrapnel on at 22/1 - and Noel Fehily took the running up about two furlongs from home. Unfortunately the petrol just began to run out in the final furlong and McCoy produced Crocodiles Rock to win by a length. Just A Thought looks nailed on to win a bumper - the trouble is the cat's out of the bag now.
A day pepppered with highlights, not the least of which was my wife's obliging with a substantial cooked breakfast before my departure.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Newbury selections

Judging by the way the snow is falling here in Coventry, I'm guessing the going will be soft at Newbury if tomorrow's meet goes ahead. Here are my selections; of course, once I've had a conversation with The Times' Alan Lee and he has marked my card, I'll be betting his selections instead...

Two Cheltenham ante post favorites, Denman and Kauto Star, appear to have frightened off the opposition; they are the selections in the 1.35 and 2.40 races respectively, although they're both likely to be long odds on shots.

In contrast the Game Spirit Chase at 3.50 looks an intriguing event. The race conditions appear to suit confirmed front runner Ashley Brook. Well Chief would be a danger to all if at his best but he's been off the track for 658 days. The Champion Chase ante post favourite Voy Por Ustedes is the youngest horse in the race and has to give weight all round. Sporazene has won every chase he's completed while Foreman tends to show his best form on soft ground. You pay your money and take your choice; Foreman looks a decent price at around 5/1 while 10/1 Sporazene offers some each way value if eight go to post.

Alistair Whitehouse Jones, writing in The Weekender, puts up a decent case for Tarlac's profile in the Totesport Trophy at 3.15 while I take David Pipe's Seven Is My Number to show the necessary improvement in the finale.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Super Saturday at Newbury

Saturday's card at Newbury looks something special with, at this stage, three Cheltenham ante post favourites likely to be running - Denman, Kauto Star and Voy Por Ustedes. For some time the press has been describing the day as 'Super Saturday'; I'm lucky enough to be going there in the company of The Times' racing correspondent Alan Lee.

So, when I woke up this morning, one thing I didn't want to find was three inches of snow on the ground.

Let's hope there's a quick thaw, otherwise 'Super Saturday' is in danger of becoming 'Super Snowed Off Saturday'.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Haddock batters bookies

Punters could have been forgiven for thinking that something fishy was going on at Sandown on Saturday when Agnes Haddock, having won over £410,000 the previous week, picked up a further £278,000 as Taranis strode out to win the competitive sixteen runner handicap hurdle. In total Agnes walked out with a take-away worth over £688,000.

The irrepressible Derek Thompson (or perhaps irreparable is a more suitable term) was on hand to cover her reactions live for Channel Four viewers.

Congratulations to Agnes, from Northwich, Cheshire, who told us she 'takes in ironing' for a living. Not for much longer I would imagine.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Sandown & Wetherby selections

In the first race at Sandown tomorrow Ned Ludd is the form horse while Mountain is the talking horse with flat experience. Usually in such circumstances I side with the form horse but Nicky Henderson has been quoted as saying Mountain is an opponent he wants his horses to avoid, so on this occasion I'm siding with the talking horse.

Following last week's results connections of Detroit City have been in particularly bullish form; he should not be opposed in the Agfa UK hurdle at 2.10.

The Scilly Isles novice chase at 2.40 has attracted a miserable turnout of just four runners. Paul Nicholls' New Little Bric looks the one to be on.

I don't like ultra competitive eighteen runner handicap hurdles as a betting medium but Oscar Park is interesting in the 3.15. He'll certainly stay and handle the ground. This is his first run for his new trainer; he rates a small each way bet for the brave amongst you.

Over at Wetherby Sue Smith's Allistathebarrista was the subject of a glowing write-up in The Weekender's 'Straight From The Stable' column; he's the selection. Coat of Honour is the one to beat in the next which is due off at 2.25.

Rough Diamond lines up on Sunday

The BBC's new racing drama 'Rough Diamond' starts this Sunday evening at 8.00pm.

Set in Ireland, it has the look of horse racing's very own Ballykissangel. Whether that makes it a surefire winner or first fence faller we'll see in due course. Further details at

Surely it has to be better than 'Trainer' which, if my memory serves me right, occupied a similar slot in the schedules the best part of twenty years ago.

A political gamble

The Times reported yesterday that Hills are offering 7/1 (from 12/1) Tony Blair will be arrested in the 'Cash for Honours' saga and 14/1 (from 25/1) he will be charged.

If anybody happens to see a Labour MP taking these odds, would they please let me know at their earliest convenience.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Rookie riders start getting ready

The BBC reports that John Smith's were overwhelmed by more than 3500 entries to ride in an amateurs' charity race to be run over six furlongs at the Grand National meeting in April.

Thirty individuals have been selected to progress to the next stage including a housewife, a brickie and a fireman. Eventually ten riders will turn out for "The People's race" which will be the first race on the card on Saturday 14 April.

Further details at

This looks like a story which will generate a huge amount of interest.