Friday, March 30, 2007

Ascot and Uttoxeter

Recent news in a nutshell - Tom Scudamore has been appointed stable jockey to David Pipe, the Lincoln lottery takes place tomorrow at Newcastle while Ascot informs racegoers that certain areas of the course will be inaccessible due to 'remedial work' being carried out. No doubt this work will be completed in time for the royal meeting in June.

In the competitive looking opener at Ascot (2.30) tomorrow I'm interested in Katies Tuitor. I saw this horse win in impressive fashion at Kempton over six months ago. Since then the horse has won once again at Sandown but hasn't been out for five months, probably on account of the wet winter we're just emerging from. With better ground and the Brendan Duke stable in good form, I feel this horse can make his presence felt, although this looks a tough race and he'll need to be on form. Earlier in the season the trainer had indicated a race at the Punchestown Festival was the aim.

Alan King's Katess runs in the mares' bumper, the last race at Uttoxeter (5.30) and needs to be forgiven a below par effort last time at Fakenham. Prior to that she had finished fourth in a listed event at Cheltenham on heavy ground - one of those in front was Sophocles who was second in the Cheltenham bumper. The better ground here should suit.

I don't follow the flat particularly closely. Nick Mordin, writing in The Weekender, puts forward Forty Licks and Kandidate as a couple of horses at fancy prices against the big two in the Dubai World Cup, namely Invasor and Discreet Cat. With only seven in the field, a falsely run race could develop giving a surprise result.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

John Smith's People's Race

The Grand National apart, the Aintree race that has really caught the public's imagination this year is The John Smith's People's Race, a flat race which will be contested by ten amateur riders chosen from the general public just a couple of short months ago.

The race itself will be run on the day of the Grand National, with the winner donating prize money to the charity of their choice.

Follow the ups and downs of these rookie riders at

Daily Mirror reporter Ann Gripper has been following events closely on her blog at

Those cunning bookie chappies at Ladbrokes are offering prices on the riders but as we don't know which horses they'll be riding or the weight the horses will be carrying, at this stage a watching brief is advised.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Looking for a National bet...

My British Horseracing Board fixture list informs me that the Grand National, the world's most famous race, is watched by over 600 million people worldwide. The trouble is, following the sad demise of Nil Desperandum at Uttoxeter, I have been struggling to find something which makes much appeal from a betting perspective and there's now less than three weeks to go.

That changed on Saturday when Peter Bowen's Mckelvey ran a good trial, winning a three mile handicap hurdle at Bangor. This horse had previously finished a creditable sixth in the Becher Chase over the National fences in November. Stamina would appear his strong suit as he has also won the English Summer National at Uttoxeter over an extended four mile trip.

The 40/1 currently available on Stan James' ante post list looks tempting, although he'll need a few higher in the handicap to drop out to be guaranteed a run.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Newbury on Saturday

Cheltenham seems an age ago (see picture) and the Aintree Grand National meeting seems an age away. Traditionally this time of year sees press coverage swing towards the flat. The Winter Derby takes place at Lingfield tomorrow and The Lincoln Handicap, the first big turf flat race of the season, takes place at Newcastle next weekend.

Two mares from the north have caught my eye in the 2.55 at Newbury tomorrow. Front running More Likely has a little to find on official handicap ratings but is the Racing Post's top rated horse in this race and makes plenty of appeal each way priced at around 12/1 in Friday's tissue show. Peter Beaumont's Cloudless Dawn is quoted at 7/1; that looks decent value, particularly as Paul Nicholls' Bold Fire is likely to be vying for favouritsm but has some questions about her jumping to answer.

I'm interested to see Paul Webber's Appleaday declared in the novice hurdle due off at 4.05. Appleaday was an intended runner in the Champion Bumper but he makes his hurdling debut here instead. He would offer some each way value at 20/1 or bigger; Peter Bowen's Special Envoy is the top rated horse.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Teachers in trouble at the races

The Times has reported that teachers from Sandford Special School in Gloucestershire were in trouble yesterday when it emerged that as part of an 'in service training day', they had all attended Cheltenham races on Gold Cup day, with the trip being paid for from school funds.

The total cost of the trip came in at £1,600. The acting head defended the decision to go racing, saying staff had met for breakfast and then a group meeting (probably to go through the card and compare selections) before making their way to the course.

Gloucestershire County Council has ordered a full investigation; rumours that the investigation will focus primarily on why the majority of the staff failed to back Kauto Star in the Gold Cup are wide of the mark.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Festival feedback

This has been one of my better Cheltenham Festivals, if not my best.

At the track on Wednesday it was significantly less crowded in the Tattersalls enclosure than in previous years. A stall charging £7.00 a burger was noted doing a roaring trade. I was disappointed to see Well Chief fall at the second in the Champion Chase. There is something inherently unsatisfying when one of the main players falls early in proceedings; I'm sure connections of Black Jack Ketchum would agree. Denman was impressive while Kauto Star's victory in the Gold Cup was the right result.

Two horses caught the eye in the Champion Bumper. Sophocles came from a different parish to finish second and may well have won had he been ridden nearer the pace while Victor Dartnall's Lodge Lane looked like the winner until completely failing to negotiate the home turn.

From the punting perspective, five winners from fifteen recommendations gives a strike rate of 33.3%. A £10 level stake wager on all my Festival selections is showing a profit of £64.50; the rate of return on turnover is 43%. To all those people constantly berating my tips, let me just say these look half decent figures to me. To everyone else, I would urge you not to be deceived; I'm not usually as good as this - normal service will be resumed in due course.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cheltenham selections - Friday

Tomorrow is the final day of the 2007 Cheltenham Festival. Many in racing believe Kauto Star to be the best horse in the Gold Cup and hopefully they'll be proven right. I take Kauto Star to win chasing's Blue Riband.

The Triumph Hurdle, due off at 2.00, is traditionally a rough race and not one that I would ordinarily get involved in. However Katchit has served this blog well over the winter months so I'm sticking with him now.

Flight Leader's third in the Cleeve Hurdle behind Blazing Bailey and Inglis Drever looks the best form on offer in the Brit Insurance Novices' Hurdle; this horse is top rated of the runners in the field with an official handicap rating. Trainer Colin Tizzard's stable has been going through a lean patch of late but he's had a winner in the last couple of days so I'd be hopeful of a good run.

For those of you with money to spare, I know that Evan Williams' Demi Beau has been laid out for the Grand Annual at 4.40. The horse has won over the course and at the distance and will appreciate the better ground. I always thought this horse slightly disappointing when he was with Charlie Mann; perhaps the change of scenery has done the trick.

Then it'll all be over for another year and we'll be looking forward to the Grand National meeting at Aintree...

Cheltenham selections - Thursday

Since the Festival has been extended to four days, Thursday's card has always struck me as the weakest, a bit of a fill-in. The main race today is the World Hurdle. I recommended Inglis Drever a couple of weeks ago and I'm sticking with that selection, although I'd have to say I'm less confident now.
Black Jack Ketchum comes in to play with the drying ground but I will happily oppose him. I'm more concerned about Henry Daly's Mighty Man while Alan King's Blazing Bailey commands respect. The King stable have had two high profile winners already this week and the trainer put up Blazing Bailey as the horse he was most looking forward to running before the Festival started.
I see Nicky Henderson has elected to run Crozan in the Ryanair Chase which is due off 2.35. The trainer thinks a lot of this horse despite the dubious looking form figures; Crozan appeals as an each way longshot provided eight or more runners go to post.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Secret of a successful Cheltenham punter

I'll be at Prestbury Park tomorrow with a number of people who have been attending this meeting on this particular day for many years. Lots of these people study the form rather closely but the most successful punter happens to be a guy who turns up at the races with a cutting from the previous evening's edition of The South Wales Echo and he just follows their tips blind.

Now, I know the vast majority of you can't pop out and buy yourselves a copy of The South Wales Echo, so I thought I'd let you know what they're tipping this year, just in case this approach appeals or, more to the point, just in case you fancy making some money.

2.00 Aran Concerto
2.35 Dom D'Orgeval
3.15 Newmill
4.00 Oscatello
4.40 Character Building
5.20 Den Of Iniquity

I always suspected that studying form was little more than displacement activity...

Mrs Tips' tip

Last year my wife, the delectable Mrs Tips, tipped Hairy Molly to win the Champion Bumper at the rather rewarding odds of 33/1. If truth be told, Mrs Tips tips more winners at bigger prices than me; it's just that I try and keep quiet about it.

Regular readers of this blog have been demanding to know what Mrs Tips is tipping this year. Taking a minute off from bringing in buckets of coal for the fire, Mrs Tips said she would be backing Mad Fish in tomorrow's Champion Bumper due off at 5.20.

Cheltenham selections - Wednesday

I'll be opposing favourite Aran Concerto in the opening Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle at 2.00pm. Paul Nicholls' Silverburn is good value at around 6/1 and My Turn Now, closely matched with Silverburn, appeals as a decent each way bet at around 12/1.

Denman is the form choice in the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase at 2.35 and is priced accordingly. I think he'll win; however favourites have a poor record in this race, and Ungaro is one to be respected, although he'd maybe prefer better ground.

Well Chief was put up by the stable as their banker of the meeting following his recent Newbury victory. Timmy Murphy was quoted as saying the horse was 'as good as ever' after that race. This horse ran second to Moscow Flyer a couple of years ago and I don't think there's anything of that calibre on show here. I take Well Chief to win the two mile chasing crown.

The Coral Cup (4.00) looks extremely difficult; Gary Moore's Verasi at around 16/1 is the each way selection. Similarly the Kim Muir (4.40) with 24 runners, all ridden by amateurs, is hardly a walk in the park but Paul Nicholls' course winner and distance winner Lou du Moulin Mas makes some each way appeal, particularly with a decent jockey booked. Hill's are quoting 20/1 at the time of writing which looks big.

In the concluding bumper Aranleigh has been well backed over the past fortnight. Carl Llewellyn's Den Of Iniquity should give a good account of himself in a race that has traditionally gone the way of the Irish.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Cheltenham selections - Tuesday

I believe it's important to recognise that the next four days of top quality racing are seen as a marathon not a sprint. There's no worse feeling than having 'done all your money' at the end of the first day.

Here are two tips for Tuesday. The Champion Hurdle (3.15) looks between the top three in the betting and there's not much between them. Detroit City looks a worthy favourite but five year olds have a poor record in this race. With that statistic in mind, a better value wager is the ultra tough Brave Inca to defend his hurdling crown. The going isn't ideal but he has won at this level on soft ground previously and the trainer has been quoted as saying the horse may be better than he was last year.

The Arkle (2.35) is a race notorious for shock results; only one favourite has won in the last ten years. Alan King committed My Way De Solzen to this race yesterday after walking the course. I think this horse will handle the ground better than Philip Hobbs' Fair Along. My Way De Solzen is the selection with Don't Push It feared. Good luck!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Cheltenham build up

It's that Guinness time of year. The Cheltenham Festival starts Tuesday; I'll be joining the scrum at 'The Guinness Village' on Wednesday, Champion Chase day. After a couple of fine drying days the going on the Old Course (used on Tuesday and Wednesday) is now described as soft and on the New Course (used on Thursday and Friday) as soft, heavy in places.

I've been going to the Wednesday's racing for about seven years and at present am working through the relevant form; as a consequence I tend not to get too heavily involved on the Tuesday. At this stage the race that's caught my attention is the opening Ballymore Properties Novice Hurdle over two miles five furlongs. This looks hot and I'll be keen to get Aran Concerto beaten. Silverburn is interesting at around 13/2 and I'm tempted to take 14/1 each way about My Turn Now as there wouldn't appear to be that much between them on Tolworth Hurdle form.

David Pipe, interviewed on Channel Four this afternoon , put forward Well Chief as his banker with Dom D'Orgeval his next best in the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase. This horse has been touted in more than one preview evening but I'm not convinced - the horse reminds me of the yard's Commercial Flyer which disappointed in the same race last year. In the Arkle on Tuesday the stable run Buena Vista who would be a confident each way selection on better ground.

It's all to play for and, in an admittedly miserable attempt to show I'm still young at heart, I'm quoting Christina Aguilera's lyrics (who?) to sum up:

'Welcome to the greatest show
Greatest show on earth
You've never seen before
Let the fairy tale unfold'

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

BBC report heavy going at Cheltenham

This evening BBC Ceefax reports the going at Cheltenham on both hurdle and chase tracks on the old and new courses as heavy, soft in places.

With a couple of abandonments already announced this week and a number of other courses reporting waterlogging in places, perhaps we should consider taking the 14/1 Hills were offering, according to yesterday's Racing Post, about the first day of the Festival being washed out.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Raceform Update's Festival Guide

Two things to watch out for in the coming week...

Firstly, Raceform Update's Guide to the Cheltenham Festival goes on general sale tomorrow (Monday 5th March) and, priced at £2.95, invariably provides very good value for money.

Secondly, at some point in the coming week, bookmakers will start to offer 'no runner no bet' about their prices on the Festival races. After a quick trawl of various bookmaking firms this afternoon, the only one I could find offering 'no runner no bet' at this stage was Bet365 at

Friday, March 02, 2007

Newbury selections

With Cheltenham a matter of ten days away, the calm before the storm is one way to describe this weekend's action.

At Newbury I'm siding with Minella Tipperary in the opener. On official ratings he has twelve pounds to find with Nicky Henderson's La Dame Brune, but he is guaranteed to stay and the fact connections have chosen this race rather than apparently easier opportunities tells me they don't fear the likely favourite.

There are questions marks about several of the runners in the 2.40 where the market has proved a reasonable guide over recent years. I'm counting on Alan King's Nykel bouncing back from a poor display last time.

Nicky Henderson's Procas de Thaix looks the one to beat in the bumper.