Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cheltenham on New Year's Day

I always like to start the new year off with a winner but, more often than not, I fail miserably. Still, I'm not going to let that small point of order prevent me from trying my luck in 2009. If Cheltenham manages to beat the predicted frost, I'll take a chance with Tartak against Kicks For Free in the Dipper Novices' Chase at 1.40. Tartak was beaten by Gone To Lunch last time out; that one franked the form by winning again at Newbury on Monday - the step back in trip here shouldn't prove too much of a problem for the selection. Although it's a small field, it would be unwise to see this as a two horse affair. You can expect Calgary Bay to improve following his first run of the season while Howard Johnson's Kealshore Boy is highly-regarded and comes from a stable that's in excellent form. This contest should give us some pointers for the future.

Likely favourite Franchoek has struggled a little this term and is worth taking on in the 3.20; I'll be doing so with the top-rated No Refuge who put up a decent performance on his seasonal debut behind Pettifour at Wetherby. Maidstone Mixture and Lough Derg should ensure there's some early pace in the race.

Alexanderthegreat is getting on a little these days but has been in decent form recently for the Venetia Williams operation; he could repay each-way support in the Cheltenham Annual Pony Club Raceday Handicap Chase at 1.05.

On New Year's Eve, congratulations go to Hayley Turner who became the first woman jockey to ride a hundred winners in Britain in the course of a year. For future reference, the name of the beast on which she reached the landmark was Mullitovermaurice. With that, may I take this opportunity to wish all readers of this humble blog a happy and prosperous new year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas review

Kauto Star's victory in a fast-run King George was most impressive; many of his rivals were taken clean off their feet. Paul Nicholls was clearly pumped up afterwards and used the post-race interviews to make a couple of points. We won't see Kauto out again before next March while Denman has Newbury's Aon Chase as his target.

I'm not certain how much store to put by Breedsbreeze's victory in the Feltham. The six novices put in some very dodgy jumping between them, the winner and favourite being the best of a poor bunch on the day. Market rival The Market Man made an absolute howler down the back straight that put an end to his chance. I'm not tempted by 10/1 this winner for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham as I wasn't totally convinced about him getting the three mile trip and his limited chasing experience to date has come in small fields. Gone To Lunch, who won today at Newbury, is priced at 16/1 for Cheltenham; he may not turn out to be the best horse in the field but his jumping should stand him in good stead.

On Saturday I thought two starts were worthy of comment. At Chepstow the starter let the runners go off any old how in the Future Champions Hurdle while in the Castleford Chase at Wetherby there were at least two or three jockeys riding speedy sorts who looked determined to get a 'flyer' and practically had their mounts galloping as the tapes went up; 7/2 favourite Calatagan was over twenty lengths off the pace at the first turn!

Diamond Harry won today's Challow Hurdle at Newbury without being extended; connections may take in one more race at Cheltenham towards the end of next month before going for the Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle at the Festival.

The prize awaiting the winner of the Weekender's Christmas crossword puzzle is dinner with Mick Fitzgerald. One thing is certain - should you win, you won't have to put in too much effort beforehand thinking about what you're going to talk about... Rumour has it second prize is a long weekend 'chez Fitz'.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Chepstow, Kempton and Wetherby

Precautionary inspections have been called tomorrow morning at both Chepstow and Wetherby. The Welsh National is usually a slog in the mud over three and three quarter miles and this year looks no different. Of the twenty to go to post, four are set to carry eleven stone or more while the bottom seven entries have to carry more than their allocated long handicap weight; I'd be surprised if any of the top four win. There are some nice horses carrying a racing weight including Nenuphar Collonges and Mon Mome; it not a surprise to see these two at the head of the market. Of the two I prefer Mon Mome as he's a bigger price and the jockey can claim a valuable three pounds. His tussle with Star De Mohaison just a fortnight ago at Cheltenham is something of a concern. I'll keep an eye on how Darkness runs in this - he was a good horse, suffered an injury that kept him off the course for two and a half years but made a decent comeback at Haydock five weeks ago.

The 2.40 is pretty hot with the protagonists likely to be Simarian, Pepite De Soleil and Walkon. In a recent stable tour trainer Evan Williams indicated tough customer Simarian was being aimed as this, so he gets the nod ahead of the other two.

At Kempton Twist Magic sets a poser in the Desert Orchid Chase at 3.15. He's the top-rated animal and looked a big danger to eventual winner Master Minded when coming down two out in the Tingle Creek. If he runs to that level he can win, but he has disappointed too often in the past.. McCoy rides - every horse has his price and on value grounds alone I'll be tempted to play if he's priced at 5/2 or bigger. Connections of Starluck appear to have dodged the serious opposition by opting to run here rather than in Chepstow's 2.40; Starluck is the one to beat in the opener.

At Wetherby Pop steps up in class in the trappy-looking 2.30; if the ground were better I'd consider a wager but on this occasion I'll watch from the sidelines. In the Castleford Handicap Chase Moon Over Miami is talented but not guaranteed to perform. In the past he has allowed the preliminaries in the paddock to affect his performance on the track. The Racing post report he has recently had a wind operation and quote him at 6/1 in their tissue. In a race that is likely to be run to suit this hold-up performer, 6/1 would be of interest, especially if it turns out the operation has worked.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Boxing Day selection box

As always, the Boxing Day selections come with their customary health / wealth warning. It's Christmas Eve, I haven't had time to study much of the form, I've had one or two more sherberts than I should have, and Mrs Tips is bending my ear. If you're hoping to win the mortgage down your local track the day after tomorrow, that's not going to happen with these picks...

I've tried to come up with at least one selection at each of the jump meetings.

1.30 The Market Man
2.05 Either Pierrot Lunaire or Snap Tie as a play against Punjabi
2.40 Kauto Star win, Snoopy Loopy each way

1.45 Marginally prefer Standin Obligation to Cloudy Lane as a play against Tidal Bay

1.15 Pride Of Dulcote

12.20 Starburst Diamond
2.00 Victorias Groom

1.25 Rate Of Knots
3.40 Neil Harvey

Market Rasen
2.25 Victory Gunner goes for his fourth consecutive win in the Lincolnshire National. I fear he may have a little too much weight this year but I'll be hoping he manages to pull it off.

12.15 River Shanakill
12.45 Kings Maiden
2.55 Justwhateverulike

Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas dilemmas

A few thoughts after quickly looking at the Boxing Day ante-post markets...

For the King George, Voy Por Ustedes is short enough given we don't know for certain whether he'll stay. On better ground Air Force One would have won the Hennessy; he's likely to get his ground here but regular jockey Noel Fehily misses the ride after breaking his collar bone in a fall at Fontwell yesterday. Just one win from the last thirty runs will be something of a concern for those thinking about backing either David Pipe or Nigel Twiston-Davies trained horses. Exotic Dancer is quoted at fancy prices but has only been left in as a precaution - the Lexus Chase in Ireland is his target. On Betfair Chase form there's not much between Snoopy Loopy and Tamarinbleu. With better steering on the jockey's part, Snoopy Loopy would have beaten Monet's Garden last time out over two and a half miles. Prior to that Huntingdon effort, I was concerned that Snoopy would get done for toe if he ran here on this flat track; now I think he represents decent each-way value. He's as tough as old boots but has been busy over the past weeks - I just hope this isn't one race too many. The bookies quote 33/1 Albertas Run but the horse is trading shorter on Betfair.

I think the Christmas Hurdle is more competitive than the market would indicate. Punjabi is the short-priced favourite; Paul Nicholls has issued an unusually bullish update about Pierrot Lunaire. Richard Johnson holds Snap Tie in very high regard while Straw Bear is a previous winner who hasn't really taken to chasing this term.

The Market Man is entered in the Feltham and jumped exceptionally well at Newbury last time; he's not one to take on lightly.

Up at Wetherby connections have entered last season's Arkle winner Tidal Bay in the three mile one furlong Rowland Meyrick. Trading at around 6/4 he's worth opposing as he's not guaranteed to stay and his jumping hasn't been flawless in the past - I think the fences at Wetherby are amongst the stiffest in the country. State Of Play won the Charlie Hall here early in November but at the weights he was entitled to and he only just got home ahead of Ollie Magern. I've had burnt fingers with State Of Play before; at this stage I'm unsure. Two I'll look at in greater detail are Nozic and Cloudy Lane. Standin Obligation also enters calculations but he was inconsistent when with David Pipe - perhaps the change of stable has proved beneficial.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Festive fare

The only thing that makes Christmas half-bearable is the racing on Boxing Day. Last night somebody who clearly has little regard for their own money asked me for an each-way outsider in the King George; I came up with 20/1 chance Snoopy Loopy. I figured if connections have stumped up £10k to supplement the horse, they must think it has some sort of chance. Previous King George winner and current favourite Kauto Star will generate plenty of press interest. However his stablemate and Gold Cup winner Denman has a surprise entry in the 2.55 hurdle race at Wincanton on the same day; teletext reports a decision regarding his participation will be taken on Tuesday. In the meantime, if you're in desperate need of rescue from the whole horror of Christmas, I recommend ploughing through the Boxing Day declarations to see if you can spot a cunning plot; should you happen to stumble upon one, please let me know.

Many will think that within the space of half an hour at Ascot on Saturday they saw the next Champion and World Hurdle winners in Binocular and Punchestowns. After winning on Binocular McCoy had a dig at the BBC's proposed coverage cuts with a quip that the only chance viewers would have to see the horse again would be on Top Gear.

A couple of midweek results caught my eye. Bannister Lane bounced back to form to win the three and three quarter mile handicap chase at Bangor on Wednesday while Ron Hodges' Dream Falcon was backed in from 20/1 to 7/1 before taking the two and a half mile novices' handicap chase at Ludlow on Thursday. At Ascot on Friday Medermit and Dee Ee Williams fought out a thrilling finish but perhaps the horse to note was Wendel who had every chance coming to the last; that form represents a big improvement on his previous two wins at Plumpton. Quoting Charlie Mann in the Weekender - "I have some very nice novice hurdlers this season and I think he could be the best of them." Earlier in the season Black Jacari was touted as a possible Triumph Hurdle hope but the horse has patently failed to deliver; he runs with first-time blinkers applied in a Class 4 juvenile novice hurdle at Hereford tomorrow.

It might be Christmas but the press still likes nothing better than a bad news story - they've been hinitng for a few weeks now that ten household High Street names are in danger of going to the wall in 2009. I wonder if William Hill is one of those ten names. And, finally, a phrase to strike fear into the heart of any sports administrator is 'suspicious betting patterns'. Last week snooker came under the spotlight...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ascot on Saturday

Following the midweek decision to re-schedule the Boylesports International to a card that already boasts the Long Walk Hurdle and the Ladbroke, a spokesman was quoted as saying, in typically understated fashion, that this was 'probably the greatest day's hurdling ever seen'.

Your view on the Long Walk will depend on your interpretation of the Long Distance Hurdle ran at Newbury three weeks ago. To my mind, the race was run at a muddling pace and things looked to fall just right for Duke De Regniere; on the walk back to the winners' enclosure that day, McCoy practically said as much in a TV interview. McCoy retains the ride tomorrow and perhaps surprisingly the horse is pushing for favouritism. Those behind who are likely to fancy their chances tomorrow include Mobaasher, Pettifour, Blazing Bailey and Hills Of Aran. After looking through the form earlier in the week, I'm convinced Mobaasher isn't the easiest ride while the top-rated Blazing Bailey often throws in a poor jump - his effort at the penultimate flight at Newbury probably put paid to his chance. In addition there's some discussion as to whether blinkers have helped in the past - they're been left off here. Hills Of Aran is 66/1 in places which is big - the horse has an each-way squeak in my book. Both Serabad and Punchestowns, who won with any amount in hand last time at Cheltenham, may have difficulty with this trip. I prefer something I know will stay and so side with Twiston-Davies' charge Pettifour. I like this horse and the trainer has been quite bullish in the build-up. Whatever happens, we should have a race to remember.

Only five in the re-arranged International and it could turn into a tactical affair; Celestial Halo likes to race prominently. Using official handicap ratings as a guide, Katchit is the one they have to beat while there doesn't look much between Chomba Womba and Crack Away Jack. I would have preferred the race to have been at Cheltenham for Katchit but at around 9/2 the current champion hurdler looks value against the current champion hurdle favourite Binocular.

A token each-way selection at a price for the Ladbroke - Irish Legend has a racing weight and comes to this in good form.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Friday at Ascot

The Mitie Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle looks the best race of its type so far this season; I don't think I'll get involved but the outcome should prove useful for future reference. I like Dee Ee Williams - the yard is in good form at the moment - but Bergo has a seven pound pull at the weights for the half length beating last time. Since moving to Sheena West's the four year old Golan Way reamins unbeaten. He had some decent sorts behind at Cheltenham recently when making all - that's the way he likes to race but that may leave him vulnerable here. Howard Johnson's Door Boy has finished second to the smart Diamond Harry while Paul Nicholls' Shamari could be anything; this looks an enthralling race.

Deep Purple poses something of a conundrum in the novice chase at 2.30. He didn't jump too well on his debut over fences at Wetherby but made amends last time out at Taunton. Will he handle Ascot's tougher obstacles? Naiad du Misselot has smart form behind Palomar to his name but the percentage call looks to be Buck The Legend. The doubt is the stable form - Twiston-Davies emerged from a spell without a winner when Tricky Trickster obliged at Newbury yesterday (Wednesday).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weekend washout

The Saturday cards at both Cheltenham and Lingfield were abandoned due to heavy overnight rain. Racing went ahead at Doncaster where the finale had been selected as the 'bonus' race for the two Scoop6 punters hoping to share over £1.6 million. Their chances looked to have increased significantly with the withdrawal of three runners on account of the going, leaving a field of just nine from which to make their two picks. Ray Stubbs and Lawrence Ireland chose Duke of Touraine (6/1) and Riguez Dancer (4/1). Up the home straight both horses were in a group of three that pulled away from the rest; Duke of Touraine looked to go half a length up on Charlie Crab (12/1) after the last but on the long run to the line the outsider fought back tenaciously next to the running rail to win by half a length. Both punters took it all very well really considering Channel Four insisted on repeatedly replaying the finish. The Tote estimate the bonus fund for Saturday December 27th will top £2 million; to be in with a chance of winning it, you just have to select six winners on Saturday...

Efforts were being made today to re-schedule the Boylesports International Hurdle to Ascot this weekend - at the moment it doesn't look as though those efforts have been successful. The unbeaten Diamond Harry, an entry in the cancelled Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, now has the Challow Hurdle at Newbury as his target.

Today's Racing Post leads with an article that compares the BBC's commitment to racing a decade ago with its plans for the coming decade. Ten years ago 79 days of racing were scheduled to be covered; from 2010 the BBC intend to broadcast just 14 days. Of course, the other terrestrial broadcaster, Channel Four, is known to have serious financial problems and may be taken over by Channel Five.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2008 is Olympic cyclist Chris Hoy. I certainly enjoyed last night's programme; nonetheless it still remains a source of wonder to me how the racing year can be summarised in thirty seconds flat.

Comment on a Christmas card, recently received: 'Went to Chepstow last month; seen better horses on Blackpool beach.'

Finally, is anybody else having difficulty finding what they want on the new Racing Post website...?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cheltenham - Saturday's Boylesports meeting

Unsurprisingly Imperial Commander is favourite for the day's feature race, the Boylesports Gold Cup, on the back of his impressive victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup over course and distance a month ago. The Twiston-Davies inmate is my idea of the winner but everybody else has the same idea with the result he's no real value in the market. Some commentators oppose with Silverburn but, as I've said before on this blog, I'm not particularly keen - he has disappointed on a number of occasions so, in search of some value, I'll chance Tom Taaffe's Finger Onthe Pulse who's priced up at around 7/1.

From a betting point of view the International at 3.05 is much more interesting. Current champion hurdle favourite Binocular heads this market but there are some classy opponents in the field including the current champion hurdler. In the past ten renewals the jolly has won five times but on the other occasions a relatively unfancied horse has taken the prize; I remember backing Geos at 14/1 to win this when it was known as the Bula. The game mare Chomba Womba beat Crack Away Jack last time out at Ascot and the pair reoppose on similar terms here; on balance I think Crack Away Jack will reverse the form and that view is taken by the bookies who make the chestnut gelding a 4/1 shot while the mare is 6/1. Those who have opposed Katchit this season have be on good terms with themselves but trainer Alan King issued an upbeat update during the week with the result that the champion's price for this has shortened to 9/2 in places. At the time of writing Hills still go 5/1 Katchit - at that price he has to be worth an interest.

Anyone who saw Punchestowns win here last month will know why the horse is set to be sent off a short-priced favourite for the Relkeel Hurdle at 1.20. Having said that, I'm going to take a chance with Peter Bowen's Serabad. This horse won at Aintree three weeks ago when thought to be in need of the run. The trainer reports his charge has made plenty of improvement since but, using official ratings as a guide, he will need every ounce of that improvement to be competitive against this favourite. The softer the ground, the better it will suit the selection.

On official ratings Starluck is the one to beat in the opener while the finale appears between Massasoit and Diamond Harry. Both horses have yet to race over three miles in public; Massasoit is top-rated and gets the vote.

Addendum - I've just noticed that Henry Daly runs Pop in the 12.30 at Doncaster. Last time out this horse was in the process of giving Shining Gale a run for his money in a beginners' chase at Ludlow when coming to grief four out. Since then Shining Gale has gone on to win a Class 2 novice chase at Cheltenham by over twenty lengths. If his price is in double figures tomorrow morning, I'll consider an each-way interest.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cheltenham - quick notes for Friday

In the opener I wouldn't want to take too short a price about Ballyfitz. Sir Alex Ferguson owns a share in What A Friend - I wonder if he'll be at the course.

Following Dix Villez's controversial three length defeat of Garde Champetre over course and distance last time out, the layout for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase (1.20) has been modified. Garde Champetre aims for compensation here and is likely to be in the shake-up.

Simon looked as though he'd come on for the run on his seasonal debut here four weeks ago and should go well in the 1.55. The Sporting Life's early tissue prices him at 12/1 which represents reasonable each-way value. Having been found lame in his box on the morning of the Hennessy, Character Building comes to this a fresh horse and is bound to be popular.

Gloucester runs in the 3.05 and is one I like who appeared a little unfortunate last time out. Priced up at 33/1, he was brought down two out while making stealthy headway from the rear in the race won by Sunnyhillboy at the track last month - of course, the odds are likely to be considerably shorter tomorrow...

In the finale I'd consider a speculative each-way wager at a price on What A Buzz. His chance will improve with soft / testing ground and the McCain stable are currently in decent form.

Finally you have to take your hat off to Ruby Walsh who returns to the saddle tomorrow after having his spleen removed following a fall from Pride Of Dulcote four weeks ago, and Cheltenham are taking every precaution to ensure the meeting can beat the frost.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Peterborough Chase

Over recent years it's been a bit of a devil to know on which day of the week this two and a half mile chase will be run. I assume race organisers are pleased with the eleven lining up for tomorrow's renewal, as opposed to the two that lined up the year before (when the race was run on a Saturday). Many of this year's field have something to prove. On official handicap ratings confirmed stayer Snoopy Loopy is the top horse; ten years old, he has shown excellent improvement over recent weeks but the trip is likely to be too sharp. Alan King's My Way De Solzen would have a big chance if back to his best but he disappointed on a number of occasions last term for no apparent reason; on balance I'm not prepared to take the risk. Natal is a horse I've found difficult to catch right in the past although he warrants plenty of respect, especially at this trip. I'm siding with Monet's Garden. His seasonal debut at Aintree appeared below par but the very soft ground that day didn't help - if I remember correctly connections were toying with the idea of withdrawing. The better ground here will suit and I'm hoping the grey still retains all his ability.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Sandown, Wetherby and Chepstow

I was on two minds whether to play today (Friday) with a couple of decent races at both Sandown and Exeter; in the event I'm glad I didn't. The victory of Barbers Shop over Sandown's stiff three miles stands out. This evening Paddy Power offer just 16/1 the horse for the Cheltenham Gold Cup; Hills go 33/1. Nicky Henderson can do little wrong at the moment - his 13/2 shot Doubly Guest looked set to spring a surprise in the 1.00 race at Exeter but a mistake at the last handed the initiative to Lupanar (7/1) who went on to score by half a length, with Franchoek a further one and a half lengths behind in third.

The feature at Sandown tomorrow is the Tingle Creek at 2.35. McCoy takes over from Sam Thomas to ride Master Minded, the highest rated horse in training; he'll be no price but is difficult to oppose. A number of commentators oppose with Tidal Bay; he's been backed during the week and represents a value play provided you're prepared to take on the favourite. At the back of my mind I have a picture of this horse jumping poorly at Doncaster before he went on to win the Arkle last season - having said that he had a nice pipe-opener at Carlisle five weeks ago. Twist Magic looked good winning this last year but things haven't really worked out since. The race doesn't make much appeal from a betting point of view. If eight had gone to post 50/1 shot Fiepes Shuffle would have had a sporting each-way chance of making the first three; I take Master Minded to win.

Only five runners in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase, but picking the winner isn't an easy matter. The two four year olds, Free World and Araldur, get a weight allowance from their opponents and the former is a course and distance winner. The railway fences in particular will provide a stiff test for a young novice but I'm going to take a chance on Araldur as a play against the Nicholls hotpot Free World. Cheating Chance would make more appeal if underfoot conditions were better; I'm sure I saw a comment earlier in the week from trainer Andy Turnell that implied the owners (rather than the trainer) were the ones who were keen to race here.

I consider Hernando Royal an each-way play in the 3.15 after his fourth behind Sunnyhillboy at Cheltenham; his featherweight will be an advantage in the prevailing conditions.

Provided there's no overnight frost the card at Wetherby should get the go-ahead. Nicky Henderson's Punjabi is expected to take the re-arranged 'Fighting Fifth' but he won't be a betting proposition.

In the One Man Novices' Chase Will Be Done is the top-rated animal; his beating of Nine De Sivola last time out reads well. Having said that, Silver By Nature was a close second to the highly-regarded Kealshore Boy at Newcastle. I'll chance Silver By Nature as he offers value, although I harbour some reservations about him quite seeing out this trip in testing conditions. Both these race prominently - I hope they don't get caught out taking each other on early doors.

Travelling back south, the going at Chepstow is soft. The markets think the man in the news, Sam Thomas, has a couple of steering jobs with Charity Lane and Inchidaly Rock; for those prepared to take a chance, Baren De Doc may repay each-way support in the opener.

If Ardaghey is priced up favourite for the 2.10 he'll be worth opposing as the trip looks on the short side for this dour stayer. Pauillac has disappointed too often for my liking while Presenting Copper isn't guaranteed to get the trip. In a trappy affair I'm tempted to side with Lysander; Michael Murphy takes off a valuable seven pounds.

Course and distance winner Wichita Lineman is the selection for the one o'clock race.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Weekend reflections

Connections will take their time before making a decision on Inglis Drever's career after the current three mile hurdle champion sustained a hock injury and was pulled up on his seasonal debut at Newbury. Bookmakers have removed him from their lists for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham next March; Ladbrokes currently bet 3/1 Kasbah Bliss, 6/1 Punchestowns, Duc De Regniere, 8/1 Blazing Bailey, 12/1 Elusive Dream, 16/1 Pettifour, Mobaasher.

There was over £1.5 million in the Scoop6 bonus pool on Saturday, with eight tickets covering over half the fifteen strong field that went to post for the Hennessy. Given that winning trainer David Pipe had told those who would listen not to back his Madison Du Berlais as the yard was going through a quiet spell, it wasn't a surprise to find the pot unclaimed. The sum will be carried over, probably to Cheltenham on Saturday 13th December.

It's likely to be a long, pressurised week for Sam Thomas, due to ride Master Minded in Saturday's Tingle Creek at Sandown. On each of the past two Saturdays he has parted company with his charge at the final flight of the day's feature race. The unseating from Big Buck's in the Hennessy didn't look great - I'm sure he's watched the replay a few times and will feel he could have stayed in the plate.

Browsing in the Leamington branch of Waterstone's over the weekend I came across Ross Newton's book The Tail End System; I had barely managed a quick glance before Mrs Tips started giving me earache about the Christmas shopping. In a nutshell, Newton gives details of a system that looks to make profits from backing outsiders in British National Hunt races from October to May. An outsider is considered anything that starts at 10/1 or bigger and Newton goes on to identify the tracks where this type of wager is most successful. The top tracks include Musselburgh, Ludlow, Towcester, Carlisle, Catterick and Perth; the striking thing for me was that of those six, five race right-handed.

Those who race at Ludlow on a regular basis are bound to be familiar with The Feathers Hotel, parts of which date back to 1619. In an accident on Friday evening, a bus mounted the pavement and crashed into the facade. The driver appears to have collapsed at the wheel and died at the scene.

Finally, make a note of the new Racing Post website -

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hennessy Day at Newbury and Newcastle

Seventeen go to post at 2.40 tomorrow for the Hennessy Gold Cup. Paul Nicholls' Big Buck's is pretty short in the market given that no five year old has previously won the race. Two horses perceived to be 'well in' are at opposite ends of the handicap; Island Flyer scrapes in with ten stones but is due a hike in the weights while last week's Betfair Chase winner Snoopy Loopy carries top weight here but will be further penalised in the future. This may come a little too quick for Snoopy Loopy and the stable's other entry, Always Waining, makes more appeal as a potential each-way wager. Albertas Run beat Air Force One convincingly in last season's Sun Alliance Chase but that fact isn't reflected in the betting for tomorrow's event, mainly because Air Force One ran a very good trial for this at Ascot four weeks ago while Albertas Run was rather disappointing on heavy ground at Carlisle; further rain wouldn't suit either runner. I'm drawn to those at the bottom of the handicap and in a competitive event I'm going to side with Character Building who was third in this last year; he has been off the track after sustaining an injury but appears to have come back in fine form winning a hurdle race at Towcester. The each-way off-the-wall longshot is Always Waining who won a listed chase at Market Rasen with something in hand two months ago and was eighth in this last year. Going through his form he appeared mightily inconsistent throughout last season but if he's on song he could go well and in any case shouldn't be 40/1.

The best race on the card is the Long Distance Hurdle at 2.05. World Hurdle winner Inglis Drever makes his seasonal reappearance, as does Blazing Bailey. Both these are some way ahead of their rivals on ratings but I really like the unbeaten Pettifour, who won at Wetherby a month ago and may have a fitness advantage over the front two; I'm going to take a chance on him at this highest level. Strictly on the book Mobaasher should have the beating of Pettifour but last time he was worried out of it on the run-in by the selection; I'm left with the suspicion that Mobaasher may be something of a bridle horse. In a fascinating race Labelthou couldn't be totally dismissed if returning to form while I'll watch Hills Of Aran to see if he handles the step-up in class. This horse runs well for McCoy; had he been in the plate, I would have considered an each-way dabble.

The portents point to Punjabi in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, where the favourite has won eight of the last ten runnings. Barry Geraghty passed over a hatful of fancied rides at Newbury to take this one; in addition connections have targetted this race as the first leg of a possible treble that will land them £1 million. The Irish send over a strong challenge with Harchibald, Sublimity and Harper Valley while Blue Bajan will be worth monitoring for future reference but, given the above, I can't oppose the favourite in this.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Newbury notes - Friday

We have the Hennessy and the Long Distance Hurdle to look forward to on Saturday but tomorrow's card is strangely uninspiring - I won't be getting involved.

In the past the market has proved a decent guide to the opener with the first two in the betting winning seven of the past ten renewals.

Eighteen go to post in the handicap hurdle at 2.05 with Ballydub likely to be a poor value favourite on the back of his recent second to the impressive Punchestowns at Cheltenham. Henrietta Knight has had a couple of winners in the past week after a six-moth barren spell; she holds Ringaroses in high regard. Miko De Beauchene takes this in en route to the Welsh National at Chepstow on December 27th.

A disappointing turnout of just four for the Blue Square Novices' Chase at 2.40. I'd expected a better effort from Ring The Boss last time but he was comprehensively beaten by Breedsbreeze at Wincanton. Breedsbreeze had a five-day entry for this but the stable has opted to run Kicks For Free instead, so I'm guessing they must fancy their chance. Nicky Henderson fields The Market Man who has had his training problems but is a high class performer on his day. It's a race to watch rather than bet on.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Newbury notes - Thursday

On Racing Post ratings Over Sixty looks well clear of his rivals in the opener but he's been racing solely over the minimum trip, a comment that applies to several of them. Connections are aiming quite high with Tara Two Hills who was withdrawn from a Class 4 race at Exeter a couple of weeks ago on account of heavy going. She wears a tongue-strap (which I'm wary of on soft ground) but this mare is well-regarded by her trainer.

The beginners' chase (12.55) looks between Straw Bear and Pasco. I'm not a Straw Bear fan; his jumping hasn't impressed so far.

Although only six go to post, the novice chase (2.05) is a hot affair. Tartak has been talked up but this is his stiffest task to date and his first try over three miles. For those looking to oppose, Paul Nicholls' The Tother One looks the percentage call but on ratings Gone To Lunch is bang there and at 4/1 with McCoy in the plate he represents a value play. I'd expect a bold show from Hold Em but I suspect better ground would suit.

Nedd Ludd can be a bit hit and miss but he has come back from the summer break in good form. Priced up at 5/1 he's certainly worth a second look in the 3.15.

Over at Taunton Deep Purple features in the 1.40. Now, I'm not one to tell trainers where to run their charges, but sending any novice to Wetherby for their first try over fences has its risks. Last time out Deep Purple met plenty of trouble in running over those stiff Wetherby obstacles. Taunton should prove less testing, but in the Weekender published today Evan Williams says 'I think by the time we get to the spring he should be worth following'. Hint taken. The Racing Post predict 13/2 Mr Watzisname which is tempting.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Talking points

Kauto Star's stumble at the final fence in Saturday's Betfair Chase has generated plenty of discussion; certain people seem to think the horse's best days are behind him. When questioned on this matter at Aintree on Sunday trainer Paul Nicholls' reaction was 'Absolute bullshit!' Good to see Mr. Nicholls isn't standing for any nonsense. I thought Kauto didn't pick up as well as you would have expected in the home straight but he was upsides at the last and, in my opinion, would have gone on to win had he not fallen. Peter Bowen's 33/1 winner Snoopy Loopy has almost been forgotten in the fallout; the horse is one of twenty one five-day entries for Saturday's Hennessy. Although jockey Seamus Durack was hard at work a fair way out on this ten year old, once the old-timer got to the front, it looked as though there was still something left in the tank. He's currently 18/1 with Skybet if you're tempted...

Eight tickets shared the monster Scoop6 pot, each winning just over £437,000. The winners also have the chance to go for the nominated £1.5 million bonus race which is likely to be Saturday's Hennessy at Newbury. The Tote's turnover was £4.1 million; compare that to the £3.8 million taken by the Nanny on all races on Gold Cup day in March. On Tuesday some real shrewdies took the 50/1 offered about business breaking the £4 million barrier; by Friday the book was suspended with the price at just 2/1.

The one that caught my eye from yesterday's Aintree card was Serabad in the Toteswinger Handicap Hurdle. Having only recently returned to Peter Bowen's yard, the horse was thought to need the run but, carrying 11st 9lbs on soft ground, he won going away. The trainer's comment afterwards that there was more improvement to come is worth noting.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Tote's biggest day ever...

A week ago a Tote representative described the forthcoming Scoop6 as the biggest day in their history. So excited were the Tote, they even made a reference to this blog on their own Scoop6 blog! Seven days later, and we look forward to a day's racing that will knock last week into a cocked hat; some reports estimate £5 million will be up for grabs. At the time of writing doubts surround the participation of two runners in the six selected races; according to my elementary maths, this reduces the possible number of winning combinations from 4,181,760 to 3,484,800. Two potential non-runners and my chances of winning increase by over 696,000! There seems little doubt that the pool will be won this weekend. It's ironic that the all-weather, so often perceived as racing's poor-relation, provides the main backdrop to this richest ever pot. For those interested in trying to collect those all-weather millions, I again offer two suggestions per race which should be used as nothing more than a starting point; good luck to you all...

2.10 Lingfield: Markab, My Gacho;

2.40 Lingfield: Spring Goddess, Secret Night;

2.45 Haydock: Bill's Echo, Naunton Brook;

3.20 Lingfield: Bronze Cannon, Re Barolo;

3.30 Huntingdon: Rebel Melody, Low Delta;

3.50 Lingfield: Ceremonial Jade, Prohibit.

Ascot tomorrow

Kauto Star and champion hurdle favourite Binocular are expected to win their races at Haydock tomorrow but for betting purpsoes they make no appeal and are likely to start long odds on. At Ascot the highlight is the Coral Hurdle (1.55) run over a trip just shy of two and a half miles. Probable favourite Crack Away Jack is of interest but four year olds have a poor record in this, a fact that puts me off Alan King's Franchoek as well. I'd expect the distance here to be no problem for Franchoek as earlier in the season the trainer talked of his charge as a possible for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham next March (which is run over three miles). Paul Nicholls' Elusive Dream is respected but I have to stay with Nicky Henderson 's mare Chomba Womba who did this blog a favour a fortnight ago. That day she claimed the scalp of current champion hurdler Katchit, but we should remember that, although it was visually most impressive, she was receiving lumps of weight and the champ wasn't fully wound up. Forecast to be sent off around the 3/1 mark, Chomba Womba represents a value play against Crack Away Jack.

From one Jack to another... Jack The Giant, an intended runner in last week's Paddy Power Gold Cup, was withdrawn on account of the soft ground. He turns out in tomorrow's 1.20 instead and looks the one they all have to beat.

Although there are only five runners in the novice chase at 2.30, it looks trappy. I've never been totally convinced by Poquelin while Psychomodo won here last time out but gave ground away at every obstacle by jumping left throughout. I'll watch this one from the sidelines.

Oslot appears the percentage call in the 3.05 but I'm prepared to give Mahogany Blaze another chance after his second behind Ashley Brook in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Open review

Controvesy reigned on the opening day of the Open meeting with Hoopy's amateur jockey Mr J. P. McKeown 'borrowing' another rider's whip to galvanise his mount to victory in the first, and then Davy Russell legitimately cutting a corner on the cross country course as his mount Dix Villez took the spoils by three lengths from heavily-backed favourite Garde Champetre.

On Saturday Imperial Commander won a most competitive Paddy Power Gold Cup in fine style; jockey Paddy Brennan subsequently described the horse as the best he had sat on. Immediately after the race connections talked of going to Newbury for the Hennessy in a fortnight's time but now the possibility has been raised of returning to Cheltenham for the Boylesports Gold Cup on December 13th.

Ruby Walsh took a crashing fall from Pride Of Dulcote who was travelling like the winner in the three mile handicap hurdle. Walsh was taken to Cheltenham General Hospital and later had an operation to remove his spleen. He's likely to be out of action for a while.

Sunnyhillboy's victory in Saturday's finale meant the bumper Scoop6 pot wasn't won. Spare a thought for the holder of the ticket who had selected 66/1 chance Maneki Neko; the horse took up the running at the second last only to be headed by the eventual winner at the final flight. £2,037,527 is carried forward to Saturday. With the credit crunch biting hard, I hear Alastair Darling is set to try a few lines this weekend - the goverment needs all the money it can get its hands on.

On Sunday the Greatwood saw Aigle D'Or (7/4f) narrowly fail to give sixteen pounds to Numide (5/1), going down a head on the line. This was a sterling weight-carrying effort.

Weight will stop a train, or so they say, but the most impressive performance of the whole meeting was Punchestowns winning 'on the bit' while carrying top weight in the Intermediate Hurdle. I wonder if the World Hurdle is now on his agenda.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cheltenham Open meeting - Sunday

The feature of the final day of the Open meeting is the Greatwood Hurdle which is due off at 2.20; the first two in the betting have won seven of the last ten renewals. This evening both horses set to carry 11st 12 lbs, Ashkazar and Blue Bajan, are declared 'doubtful'; given the testing conditions, it's hardly surprising. For those with any money left after the first two days, Pigeon Island is a tentative each-way suggestion.

I'll watch the opener without getting involved. Arkle favourite Tatenen looks the one to beat but Straw Bear's jumping is likely to come under close scutiny. Not being the biggest of animals, he may find jumping out of this sort of ground over these stiff fences difficult; this test is certainly likely to pose more questions than the obstacles at Exeter did on his chase debut. It's also worth remembering connections re-routed him here after withdrawing him from another Exeter engagement on account of the soft / heavy going. I wonder if they're considering withdrawing him again...

I was impressed by the victory of Hell's Bay in the Persian War at Chepstow three weeks ago. Several commentators have put up Diamond Harry for the 3.30, but I'm going to stick with the Paul Nicholls' inmate until he's beaten.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Tote's big day

A Tote representative has been quoted as saying that tomorrow will be the biggest day in their history. There's £2 million plus up for grabs in the Scoop6 pot; with that sort of money on offer, it seems churlish not to have a go. I've done some limited spadework. If you're the sort of character who sees the virtually impossible as just another challenge, I suggest you use the two selections per race listed below as nothing more than a starting point...

2.00 Cheltenham: Halcon Genelardais, Simon;

2.35 Cheltenham: Imperial Commander, Bible Lord;

2.55 Wetherby: Killard Point, Ice Tea;

3.10 Cheltenham: Sullumo, Copsale Lad;

3.25 Wetherby: Edas, Smoothly Does It;

3.45 Cheltenham: Hernando Royal, Gloucester.

I wish you the very best of luck.

Saturday's Paddy Power Gold Cup

Twenty go to post for tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup run over two and a half miles at Cheltenham. The market has proved a reasonable guide over the past ten years with the winner coming from the first three in the betting on seven occasions. Paul Nicholls' Silverburn is likely to start favourite but I have no qualms in opposing him on grounds of value. In addition I think there's a possibility he'll have trouble handling the cut and thrust of this big field. Nicky Henderson fields Barbers Shop and Fleet Street. I'm put off by the fact that this race was clearly plan B for Barbers Shop; if he wins, expect the press to send plenty of deferential comment the way of the owner, Her Majesty. Imperial Commander is respected; of the horses at the top of the market, for me the Twiston-Davies inmate makes most appeal. Alan King's Ouzbeck has made striking progress this autumn and beat a number of tomorrow's rivals last time out. He's been raised a hefty-looking eleven pounds for that victory and the soft ground might not suit. Since finishing second behind Ouzbeck, Yes Sir has gone on to win but he looks another who would prefer better ground. The one I like with a racing weight is Andy Turnell's Bible Lord. This horse was third behind Ouzbeck over course and distance on his first run of the season; he's entitled to improve for that and at the weights has fair prospects of reversing the placings. Going through his form of last season, if I have a reservation, it's that his jumping can let him down a little when things hot up at the business end of a race. Priced up at 11/1 he appeals as a decent each-way wager in this ultra-competitive handicap.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cheltenham Open meeting - Friday

The first day of Cheltenham's Open meeting features the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at 3.00 run over a distance one furlong short of four miles. Irish trainer Enda Bolger fields two in an attempt to win this for the fifth consecutive year, Spot Thedifference having won the four previous runnings. After passing the winning post in last year's renewal, the incomparable fourteen year old collapsed and many feared the worst but he just needed a little rest and was soon back on his feet! On official ratings, Garde Champetre has something to find with several of these but he has course and distance winning form and had a pleasing pipe-opener over hurdles three weeks ago at Thurles. He's prefered to L'Ami - both horses are owned by one J.P. McManus.

The Graduation Chase at 2.25 has attracted a disappointingly small field of just four runners. Nicky Henderson had intended to run Barbers Shop in this but the stable has decided to withdraw Jack The Giant from the Gold Cup on accont of the ground; Barbers Shop, owned by The Queen, has been re-routed to Saturday's feature. On paper this now looks a match between Battlecry and Ornais, with the consensus being the latter will struggle to give the former seven pounds on soft ground. I'm inclined to agree, although on official ratings there's little between the two. At the likely prices on offer, this is a race to watch rather than bet on.

In the novices' hurdle (1.50), Leo's Lucky Star has the form in the book and is a play against likely favourite American Trilogy while Razor Royale has a fighting chance in the finale. Last time out he was upsides Ring The Boss when clipping the top of the second last and coming down; I thought he would have gone on to win that and is worthy of support here against the Nicholls' trained favourite Herecomesthetruth.

Monday, November 10, 2008

In brief

Cheltenham's three-day Open meeting starts on Friday. The unique Cross Country Chase is the feature on the first day, the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle the feature on the final day and sandwiched in between, on Saturday, is the highlight of the whole meeting, the Paddy Power Gold Cup. It's early days yet but one horse I won't be backing (on grounds of value alone) is Paul Nicholls' Silverburn - at the time of writing the horse is 7/2 favourite with most bookmakers but only 100/30 with the Tote. In the past I've found the trainer has tended to be pretty bullish about this half-brother to Denman but in my mind the horse hasn't always delivered. I think two and a half miles will suit but it's interesting to note that Silverburn has only won once when racing over further than the minimum trip; last season he didn't appear to stay three miles. During the week I'll look closely at Nicky Henderson's runners as well as Alan King's Ouzbeck, (apparently preferred by stable jockey Robert Thornton to Il Duce), although the layers aren't taking any chances by pricing him up at just 8/1. Meanwhile Finger Onthe Pulse has the Rehearsal Chase as his target.

It's not that often BBC Radio Four throws up a racing story but sixteen stone Dominic Prince, journalist and jockey, has wasted to a mere twelve in a journey he describes in 'Jumbo to jockey'. The programme is to be aired on 23rd December with an accompanying book due out next spring.

Talking of books, another to hit the market just in time for Christmas is Brough Scott's 'Of Horses and Heroes: A Racing Tribute'. Thought I'd mention it, in case you were struggling to come up with ideas for a Christmas present...

It would appear it's not just the banks that have been affected by the credit crunch. Bookmaker William Hill has begun negotiations with several of the aforemetioned banks about refinancing a large chunk of debt. Hmmm... no sympathy from these quarters!

I was preparing to monitor Straw Bear and (the somewhat salaciously-named) Tara Two Hills at Exeter tomorrow. Straw Bear hasn't been declared on account of the ground and I guess the same comment applies to the other horse as well. Last week Steve Taylor's 'Behind The Stats' column in the Weekender highlighted Alan Honeyball's operation, with Tara Two Hills being aimed at the mares-only novice hurdle due off at 4.10. At the time of writing the going at Exeter is described as heavy, waterlogged in places. There's a 7.30 inspection scheduled for the morning - my guess is we'll be lucky to see any racing at Exeter tomorrow.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wincanton tomorrow

There's a decent card tomorrow at Wincanton tomorrow where the going is described as soft. The highlight is the Elite at 2.50 in which champion hurdler Katchit attempts to give a stone and upwards to all his rivals. It's a big ask - I'm not sure the champion has reached peak fitness yet. The two I'm interested in are Takeroc and Chomba Womba; I think I'll be bold and take a chance with Nicky Henderson's mare Chomba Womba as she offers better value and the stable are in great form.

In the Grade 2 Novices' Chase at 2.20 I prefer Ring The Boss to likely favourite Breedsbreeze.

Several of the five day entries for the Badger Ales Trophy at 3.25 have elected to run in the 3.35 at Sandown instead. In a competitive event, I'm drawn to horses at the lower end of the handicap, especially given the testing conditions. Island Flyer has been well tipped up and will be popular but I prefer a little each way on an outsider in this; I considered Aztec Warrior but the stable form is off-putting so I'll take a flyer on Ardaghey (16/1) who likes racing right-handed on soft ground. His first run of the season wasn't encouraging so I'm more hopeful than confident.

Nicky Henderson's Hora has been raised a stiff-looking eighteen pounds after her last win but is still likely to start favourite for the mares' handicap hurdle. I'm interested in Creswell Ruby even though she's racing off a mark five pounds out of the handicap. Five pound claimer Charlie Huxley helps the cause; I'll consider an each-way punt at around the 10/1 mark.

Over at Sandown Indian Groom (1.55) will be no price whatsoever but should be watched as his defeat of Black Jacari at Market Rasen six weeks ago came as something of a shock to the stable who thought their charge needed another four weeks' work. Connections have let more competitive opportunities pass by in the interim so he will be expected to take this on the way to better things.

There's a guaranteed £1 million up for grabs in this week's Scoop 6 - all you have to do is pick the winner of five races at Doncaster (including the November handicap) and the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton. I wish you the very best of luck!

Monday, November 03, 2008

The winter game

With the onset of winter, the jumping stars are making a welcome return to action. Kauto Star put in an exhibition round at Down Royal on Saturday and goes to Haydock in three weeks time. Arkle winner Tidal Bay won at Carlisle on Sunday, easily beating the other three runners which included the Royal and Sun Alliance winner Albertas Run over a distance of two and a half mile miles. Connections of Tidal Bay haven't yet decided over which distance(s) they're going to campaign their star this season; a hint has been dropped that he may take on Master Minded in the Tingle Creek at Sandown - Paul Nicholls has picked this up and is quoted as saying Tidal Bay will have to improve some more to get close to his charge. Albertas Run looks to have the Hennessy at Newbury as his target.

Nicky Henderson's Afsoun started long odds-on for his chasing debut at Warwick earlier today; Barry Geraghty just managed to get his mount home after the partnership made a mistake four out. I always think Warwick is a tricky course for the inexeprienced novice - the fences come thick and fast down the back straight and jumping is at a premium.

Exeter host the Haldon Gold Cup tomorrow. Twist Magic is likely to start favourite but I won't be rushing to back him running at this stiff course over a trip just shy of two miles two furlongs with the going described as good to soft. Having just looked through his form of last season, I still harbour suspicions the horse is something of a short finisher. Finding the winner isn't easy nonetheless - Natal should be competitive using last season's Kerrygold Champion Chase as a guideline but he would prefer better ground while Howle Hill can often ruin his chance with one erratic jump. In a trappy affair I'm considering taking a chance on Mahogany Blaze, a young horse with potential, from a yard bang in form. I'll see what the market looks like in the morning.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Saturday selections for Wetherby

2.20 My Petra
3.00 Pettifour
3.35 I'll give State Of Play another chance at these weights...

Monday, October 27, 2008


European horses took five of the nine races at Santa Anita on Saturday. As Raven's Pass crossed the line to take the Classic, my mind wandered back to an interview the trainer gave after his charge had beaten Henrythenavigator a length in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. He told onlookers that they'd spent a lot of time teaching the horse how to relax; it's certainly paid dividends as John Gosden becomes the first British trainer to take the Classic's $5 million first prize.

Robert 'Choc' Thornton rode a good race aboard Squadron at Aintree yesterday. The Nicholls' yard fielded Pierrot Lunaire, an animal that was talked of as a potential Champion Hurdle horse. He may still be, but Thornton cranked up the pressure on the French horse as they raced down the far side and had the odds-on shot beaten at the last. The favouite took a crashing fall there and was severely winded - he was given plenty of time to come round and eventually walked away sound.

John Smith's are now looking for entries for The People's Race 2009. If you fancy your chances as as a budding jockey, further details and an application form are available from the website.

I missed Bill's Echo for a second time - at Stratford on Saturday; this time the beast won at 7/2.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chepstow and Aintree

Chepstow's card tomorrow looks more interesting than Aintree's offering. Alan King's Junior makes his seasonal debut and is the top-rated animal in the opening Persian War Novices' Hurdle over two and a half miles. There are plenty of respected opponents in the field including Tarablaze, Gray Mountain and Khachaturian, all of whom have had a run in the last three weeks. Khachaturian may try to make all and will be dangerous if allowed a soft lead but at the weights Junior has to be the selection.

Only five go to post in the Beginners' Chase at 2.20; on paper it looks a match between Big Fella Thanks and Wichita Lineman. Wichita missed his intended comeback race at Southwell earlier in the week on account of the ground. Paul Nicholls' Big Fella Thanks looks the one to beat; the trainer commented last Sunday that the yard had been concentrating on schooling the novices over the past few weeks.

Hills Of Aran has some good form to his name and makes some appeal as an each-way wager in the 2.50. The horse didn't appear the easiest of rides last year, often coming on and off the bridle in his races, and there's still a slight suspicion he might be better going the other way round. He's had a pipe-opener on the Flat, Keith Goldsworthy's team are running to form and he'll handle any rain that falls between now and the off.

The going at Aintree is currently described as good to soft. Tatenen will be a warm order to take the 1.35 for Nicholls but I'm tempted to go against the crowd and take a chance with Striking Article who jumped well when winning at Hexham two weeks ago - he could anything.

Burntoakboy is a speculative choice for the Veterans' Chase (2.05) but he should improve for his recent pipe-opener while I'm prepared to give Black Jacari another chance in the juvenile hurdle (2.40) following his defeat at Market Rasen by Indian Dream. That day Black Jacari hung away from the running rail as they came up the home straight; racing left-handed here should suit better.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Breeders' Cup 2008

The Breeders' Cup meeting takes place at Santa Anita over the next two days, with five races on Friday and nine on Saturday. Times shown below are UK times.

Friday 24th October

20.35 Fillies and Mares Sprint
21.15 Juvenile Fillies Turf
21.55 Juvenile Fillies
22.35 Filly & Mare Turf
23.15 Ladies Classic

Saturday 25th October

18.10 Marathon
18.50 Turf Sprint
19.30 Dirt Mile
20.15 Mile
20.55 Juvenile
21.35 Juvenile Turf
22.15 Sprint
23.00 Turf
23.45 Classic

This week's Weekender incorporates an illuminating guide, describing the Santa Anita course as 'Chester with Polytrack'. The general consensus appears to be that it's a disadvantage to be drawn wide. By far and away the most intriguing race is the Classic, the final race of the whole meeting, where Henrythenavigator, Raven's Pass and Duke Of Marmalade throw down a strong European challenge to American champion Curlin. There are queries about the ten furlong trip for both Henrythenavigator and Raven's Pass; Nick Mordin takes the view Henrythenavigator will stay the better but, barring mishaps, I intend to take a chance on Raven's Pass lasting home, particularly as the early pace is likely to be slow.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The intray

This weekend I couldn't help but spare a thought for Eddie Ahern. After finishing second on the appropriately named Times Up in the 2.00 race at Newmarket on Friday, Eddie left the weighing room and went for a bit of a walkabout. When he returned, he found he'd missed the deadline to weigh out on his next intended mount, Charlie Farnsbarns in the 3.10. Able deputy Ryan Moore guided the 50/1 outsider to a one and half length victory over 5/2 favourite Bankable. Poor old Eddie! Instead of collecting his share of the £36,000 win prize money, he was served with a £140 fine. Still, things looked a little better on Saturday afternoon when he took the mount on another 50/1 shot, Caracciola. Caracciola won the Cesarewitch by three lengths.

Snap Tie turned over champion hurdler Katchit at Kempton on Sunday. After the race Katchit's trainer Alan King said he was disappointed (with the result) but satisfied (with the performance).

Sticking with Alan King, in a recent stable tour feature he indicated there are plans to race Franchoek over further (than two miles) in the coming season. The trainer feels the horse could make up into a World Hurdle contender.

Tomorrow Exeter hosts the inaugral running of the Best Mate Beginners' Chase at 3.10. The race has attracted some interesting entries including Straw Bear, Pasco, Or Bleu and Sir Harry Ormesher. I had planned to go to Ludlow on Thursday as I haven't been there for a few years but unfortunately something has turned up and I can't make it - the bookmakers will have to get their dinner money from somebody else. A course I've never visited is Hexham but a few friends made it up there a week last Saturday. They didn't leave the course 'with a carrier bag of bookies' loot', but they felt the course was small, friendly with good viewing, although there were no large screens in place. The course is situated on a hill - the weather was sunny but the wind chilling. Entrance into the parade ring and the stables was included in the £10 admission price. I think I'll try and make the effort to get up there sometime in the foreseeable future.

Finally, I have been reminded that it was Robbie Box (not Fox) that featured in the BBC series 'Big Deal'. Should you wish, you can buy the complete Series 1 from Amazon for just £17.98. Hmmm... think I'll give that one a miss.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Weekend highlights

New Approach tries for his third Group 1 win of the season in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket tomorrow but I won't be tempted into getting invovled. Last time out the Derby winner had to be kept up to his work to fend off Traffic Guard half a length; my guess is more will be required here and he could be vulnerable.

Invariably you can find a few jumpers in a Cesarewitch field and this year is no exception. On June's Ascot Stakes' form there's nothing between Missoula, Mamlook and Liberate. Although Missoula won the race, you could take the view that Mamlook would have collected the spoils with a clear run. While Missoula has been busy since, the other two come to this fresh. The Pipe yard hasn't really hit form this season so I'm going to have a small each-way interest in Philip Hobbs' Liberate who wears cheek pieces for the first time which, I hope, will help him concentrate that little bit more in the closing stages of the race. Jamie Spencer takes the ride.

Cheltenham's first Saturday card of the new season serves up some competitive-looking fare. In the feature handicap chase at 3.25 Ouzbeck is worth a mention but this looks a stiff task for a novice, particularly one who unseated his rider last time out. A number make their seasonal debuts but I'm siding with Lord Ryeford who has decent form this summer; the going and the trip are right up his street.

No selection for the Mick Fitzgerald Novices' Hurdle run thirty five minutes later but this race will be worth noting for future reference. Incidentally Mick's autobiography, entitled 'Better Than Sex', is now available from all good bookstores; quite a catchy title - I reckon it could be a bestseller!

Kempton hosts a fine card on Sunday, the highlight being the return of champion hurdler Katchit in the 4.35. A recorded interview with Katchit's trainer, Alan King, has been available on the Racing Post site over the last few days. By my calculations it was filmed roughly a fortnight ago; in it the trainer comments that his charge has 'thickened out' but is 20 kilos above his racing weight of last season. Teletext report today that the horse is expected to 'come on for the run'. That being the case, I won't be in a rush to take a short price about the champ; two to consider as plays against him are Snap Tie and Katies Tuitor.

In the same video, Mr. King is quite bullish about Greenbridge who runs in the 2.50. Greenbridge has schooled very well and the trainer admits that he's 'excited about him'. I'll take the hint, although he won't have it all his own way with Paul Nicholls' I'msingingtheblues also in the line-up.

Top-rated horse Woolcombe Folly looks the answer to the 3.25.

Provided the prices aren't too short, two other King inmates I'll consider on the card are Saticon in the opener and Nikos Extra in the 5.05.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Matters arising...

One approach I've tried in the past when searching for value is to oppose Paul Nicholls' runners early in the season, before the stable gets into full swing. Mr. Nicholls' four-timer at Chepstow on Saturday, complemented by Breedsbreeze's victory at Bangor, would appear to indicate I'll need to come up with something different this year.

Talk of Paul Nicholls and before long the subject of Denman crops up. The horse is a best-priced 13/8 shot to win the Gold Cup for a second time next March. The Aon Chase at Newbury in February is pencilled in as his target; no horse has returned to action so late and gone on to win chasing's Blue Riband in the last twenty years. Alan Lee's piece in Saturday's Times contained this interesting quote from the trainer about his charge: "It worried the hell out of me until we knew what it was ... He was losing condition and getting so tired he wouldn't even put his head over the door. The treatment knocked him back further but there's an 85 per cent chance he'll have no further problems..." Denman is presently confined to his box.

I didn't get time to look at the Bangor card before my post on Friday evening. More's the pity as I would probably have referred to an earlier blog note on Bill's Echo. "Bill's Echo ... will be worth a second look next time out." The blessed beast won Bangor's 2.25 at odds of 14/1.

You knew it had to happen - connections have decided to retire unbeaten filly Zarkava to stud. Her victory in the Arc will live long in the memory.

With the demise of Superform I have just purchased The Form Book Jumps Annual for the first time. This definitive reference work retails at £30 but is available from Amazon for just £19.50 with free delivery thrown in - the best book bargain I've bagged in ages!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chepstow and Hexham

Chepstow is the location for the BBC's first televised jumps card of the season, the action starting at 1.25 with the charmingly named 'Get Your Chips @ Handicap Chase'. In a previous life this race was sponsored by Mercedes Benz and was a significant milestone in the build-up of the National Hunt season. Last year's winner Bowleaze isn't easy to catch right but I always think winning course form is a big plus at this venue. Many are returning from their summer break so fitness and/or freshness can be a problem. It's hard to be confident about Boychuk; if on form he'll be on the premises. I'll also watch with interest front running Ice Tea's performance. On a course that favours front runners, he could be competitive if his jumping stands up.

Crack Away Jack, winner of the Fred Winter juvenile hurdle at Cheltenham in March, returns in the 2.00 race and has already been the subject of plenty of column inches. He'll be popular but Alan King's Squadron catches the eye and is the selection.

Taking a short price about a Paul Nicholls runner is often a dilemma at this stage of the season when you can't be certain the yard is fully wound up. The obvious one to put up against Herecomesthetruth in the 2.35 is Twiston-Davies' Crescent Island but that one ran out last time. I'll leave this race alone.

Wake Board went into many people's notebooks when winning impressively at Bangor last tine out; he gets the vote in the 3.40.

A couple of friends are going up to Hexham tomorrow; earlier in the week I was asked to look at the card and come up with suggestions. It's not the best of cards - here are the selections with particular caution advised in the latter races.

2.15 Striking Article
2.45 Laureldean Melody
3.20 Just For Men
3.50 Shankly Bond
4.25 Youngstown
5.00 No selection
5.35 Bracken Lad.

Monday, October 06, 2008

After the Arc

The BBC's Arc coverage certainly succeeded in conveying the excitement and sense of expectation from the track; it was unfortunate that post-race analysis had to be cut short following the delayed start. I didn't think Zarkava would win, but I certainly wouldn't have appeared on national television, as Rishi Persad did, saying 'If Zarkava wins, I'll walk home.' I wonder how far north of Paris he is...

One small correction - Zarkava's win from stall number one was the first time a horse has won from that berth since 1964.

From the sublime to the ridiculuous - the false start in the earlier Prix de l'Abbaye threatened to cast a cloud over the whole meeting. Stall 17, housing Jeremy Noseda's Fleeting Spirit, failed to open. The race was eventually re-run at the end of the day with Marchand D'Or collecting the spoils.

With everyone's attention on Longchamp, Wacky Macky Bear's victory in the 10th Mascot Grand National at Huntingdon has gone practically unnoticed. The Saffron Waldron Town mascot was winning the race for the second year in succession.

Christmas is coming. Two books on my present list are Ed Whitaker's 'In The Frame: Great Racing Photographs' and Andrew Longmore's 'Kieren Fallon: The Biography'. The latter text doesn't appear to be available in hardback at the moment; according to Waterstone's, the paperback is due to be published in February 2009.

Steve Coogan is to star as Bob 'Bing' Crosby in 'Sunshine', a bittersweet drama from the BBC about a workshy binman who develops an addiction to gambling; the first episode is tomorrow at 9.00pm. It brings to mind Robbie Fox from twenty odd years ago in a series I can't remember the name of. In all honesty this doesn't really make much appeal - I'll probably see how it starts off.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Arc

Sixteen go to post for what looks a very strong renewal of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, billed as the richest turf race in the world. Opinion is divided about the unbeaten filly Zarkava who showed an exceptional turn of foot to win the Vermeille after forfeiting six lengths at the start. A repeat of that trick tomorrow from stall one will make winning all but impossible. This is the first time she races against colts and geldings and older horses; at the prices available I'm prepared to take the favourite on. Of the O'Brien pair, I prefer Soldier Of Fortune to Duke Of Marmalade as he comes to this a fresh horse. 'The Duke' is tough but has had a long hard season; I note he's drawn in stall fourteen - in the last ten years only two horses have won from a double figure draw. Overnight rain will improve Soldier Of Fortune's chances but will hinder The Duke. In the Weekender both Nick Mordin and Alistair Whitehouse-Jones use the stats to select Vision D'Etat. It promises to be a fascinating race; I take Soldier Of Fortune to collect the spoils. The best each-way value could be Mick Channon's Youmzain who was a close second in this last year behind Dylan Thomas. Whatever happens, let's hope we have a race to remember.

Friday, October 03, 2008

From Newmarket to Fontwell

Tomorrow thirty five go to post at Newmarket for the Cambridgeshire run over a trip of nine furlongs; the market has proved a reasonable guide over the years. Firstly, let me admit that the Cambridgeshire is not one of my favourite races. At the time of writing Luca Cumani's Swop is 8/1 favourite with most bookmakers but Ladbrokes have taken a stand by offering 10s. Prince Kalamoun has been steadily backed through the week while I wasn't too convinced by Ask The Butler's performance when sixth behind Presvis at Newbury a fortnight ago. Sir Mark Prescott fields two, Master of Arts and Caravel. The ground looks to have gone against the former; as the trainer feels there isn't much between the two on the gallops I'll risk a small each-way investment on the lightly-weighted Caravel at around 16/1 - over the past ten years eight winners have carried less than nine stones.

The jumps season is gradually building momentum and Fontwell stages an interesting card with the first race due off at 2.15. The handicap hurdle at 5.10 is competitive; top weight Winsley Hill will be popular after his second behind King's Head at Plumpton recently. In the closing stages of that race Alrafid made up plenty of ground to finish fourth on his comeback after a break. If he can build on that effort course winner Alrafid should be on the premises and rates an each-way bet at around 8/1. The performance of Postmaster in the 3.25 will provide a pointer as he was beaten a neck into third by Winsley Hill at Plumpton with the selection four lengths behind.

Postmaster is the top-rated animal in the 3.25 but faces an improving sort in David Pipe's Phoenix Des Mottes. The Pipe runner is likely to start favourite but Evan Williams' charge would offer some value if 3/1 became available.

On official ratings Tayarat is the one to beat in the opener. His jumping was far from perfect last time on his first try over hurdles but he still managed to finish second, clear of the rest of the field.

Only eight go to post in the 4.35 but a couple could go off like scalded cats. Soleil Fix is one of them and is of interest but on balance this looks just a little too trappy.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Tommo tips a treble!

Earlier today I was alerted to the fact that Derek 'Tommo' Thompson and former Flat jockey Richard Fox were opening a new Betfred shop in Coventry city centre. I've been trying to keep out of betting shops recently, what with the credit crunch and Mrs Tips badgering me all the time to switch the heating on, but this just seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, so I popped in during the dinner hour to check out the fun. There were plenty of free bets up for grabs with Tommo asking punters (mostly) racing questions and Mr. Fox chipping in with a sly quip here and there. The double act liberally interspersed their well-rehearsed racing stories with advertisments for Tommo's tipping line. At one point punters were asked to guess which famous film Foxie had recently appeared in. The wags suggested Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, E.T. and Lord of the Rings but it turns out Mr. Fox has doubled for Ron Weasley in one of the Harry Potter movies. Tommo's tour-de-force was to walk the office, pointing out his four best bets of the day. Bless my old boots, three of them obliged - Ouqba at Salibury (15/8f), Enticement at Nottingham (11/4f) and Stevie Junior at Kempton (4/7f). His other selection, Damini (evens favourite), came in fifth. Apparently the Channel Four presenter expects something of a surprise in Sunday's Arc but for details of that you'll have to ring his (premium-rate) phone line number nearer the time. I'm currently considering that option...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bits and pieces

The outcome of the team tactics inquiry saw Aidan O'Brien fined £5,000 and jockeys Johnny Murtagh and Colm O'Donoghue both given seven-day riding bans. In my opinion none of this would have come to pass had Johnny Murtagh not spoken to the press immediately after the Juddmonte.

We're still not certain which horse will represent Ballydoyle in Sunday's Arc; at the time of writing Duke Of Marmalade is a best-priced 9/2 and Soldier Of Fortune 11/2.

Denman had his heart stopped and re-started as a treatment to correct its irregular beat. To use computing terminology, it sounded very similar to a 'cold reboot'. The press report last year's Gold Cup winner is back on track and will be out sometime after Christmas. Paul Nicholls has made no secret of the fact Denman is difficult to get fit - I wonder if there will be some value in opposing him next time out...

A snippet in the Weekender notes that on his comeback at Uttoxeter controversial jockey Paddy Merrigan was promptly served with a ban for riding an ill-judged race. His mount, 40/1 shot Bill's Echo, made up a lot of ground to take third in a competitive-looking handicap chase and will be worth a second look next time out.

The state of the ground at Ascot drew plenty of criticism over the weekend; an accurate going description might have read 'good, chewed up in places'. It was left to The Antiques Roadshow on Sunday evening to show the course in a more favourable light. The famous Alfred Munnings bronze of Brown Jack, described as 'Ascot's greatest horse', was discussed and valued in the region of £200,000. Quoting from 'Ascot: The History':
"Brown Jack won at the Royal Meeting seven years in a row, taking the Ascot Stakes in 1928 and then the Queen Alexandra Stakes ... for six consecutive years from 1929 to 1934."

Never mind the horses, what about the dancers? Last year Mrs Tips tipped the winner of Strictly Come Dancing. I know it's early days but Mrs T. tells me the four main players this time around are Austin Healey, Rachel Stevens, Tom Chambers and Cherie Lunghi.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Market Rasen tomorrow

While many eyes will be on Ascot tomorrow (I take Henrythenavigator to win the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes), there's a decent jumps card at Market Rasen.

The opener has something of a trappy look about it - one to note for future reference is Twiston-Davies' Unfurled who won the Predominate Stakes three years ago but hasn't been seen out for 1127 days. He's reported to have schooled 'very well'.

The Handicap Chase at 3.15 is the feature; in a race where dangers abound I shall support Brooklyn Brownie who ran well when second behind Snoopy Loopy over course and distance in the Summer Plate. The going was fairly soft that day; the better ground here should suit. The horse hasn't been seen out since, so I'm obviously taking his fitness on trust.

In the 2.40 Alan King introduces Black Jacari, having used this race in the past two seasons as a starting point for Katchit and Franchoek. Woolfall Treasure and Simarian will serve as useful benchmarks but Black Jacari is taken to collect the spoils.

Carl Llewellyn's Frascati Park looks the one to beat in the concluding bumper; I'm wary of Son of Flicka who is held in high regard by Donald McCain.

Ouzbeck finished strongly when winning over two and a half miles last time and is taken to stay the extra distance in the 3.55.

Some old friends and foes turn up for the competitive-looking 2.05. Two I'm fond of are Katies Tuitor who isn't always the easiest to catch right and Leslingtaylor who struggled a little over fences; my each-way selection however is Noel Chance's Divine Gift.

A couple of months ago a few of us burnt our fingers on Evan Williams' Five A Side. Regular readers may have noted that he runs today (Friday) in a lower grade handicap at Southwell. We've decided we won't be chasing losses...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Notes from the weekend

Daryl Holland's front-running ride on Midships at Newmarket was one of the few races I managed to catch yesterday. Allowed something of a soft lead, Holland judged the pace to perfection in the ten furlong handicap, the other six participants failing to get in a serious blow. The Sporting Life reports the horse touched 5/1 before being backed in to 11/4. Those who managed to get the best price certainly had value for money.

Five pound claimer William Carson, Willie Carson's grandson, rode Regal Parade to victory in the Ayr Gold Cup. Grandfather Willie watched the race on a TV screen at Newbury before giving his reactions to Channel Four's Emma Spencer afterwards. Willie Carson on Channel Four - and Jodie Kidd in Strictly Come Dancing - it's all rather confusing, isn't it?

The owners of Ayr racecourse have put £14 million into its redevelopment but now want to sell. In an interview a representative hinted that obtaining planning permission had proved problematic - 'nuff said.

Full marks to Knot In Wood, fourth in yesterday's feature at Ayr - he took today's 4.10 at Hamilton by five lengths!

A couple of equine stars have not been keeping the best of health. Denman has been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and will miss his intended comeback race, the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November. Meanwhile former Derby winner Galileo has undergone surgery following a bout of colic.

Looking ahead, Twiston-Davies regularly targets the mid-week Perth meeting, although the going is usually a little quicker than is likely on this occasion. Huntingdon racecourse will stage the zany and increasingly popular Mascot Grand National on Sunday 5th October.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ayr Gold Cup

The owners may be trying to sell the racecourse but tomorrow's ultra-competitive Ayr Gold Cup promises to be one of the Scottish track's highlights of the season. David Nicholls, who has a decent record in this race, fields six of the twenty seven runners. All week the going has been described as heavy, the consensus being that a high draw is likely to be something of an advangtage; that theory will be put to the test later today when the Silver Cup is run at 4.40. In the last ten years only one animal has won the Gold Cup carrying more than nine stones three pounds. I've concentrated on horses at the lower end of the handicap that are likely to handle the conditions and have a favourable draw; Tajneed at around 11/1 is the each-way selection.

On official ratings Perks, currently joint favourite for next month's Cambridgeshire, looks the one to beat in the Doonside Cup. Bushman could prove the danger - at the prices on offer I'll watch this from the sidelines.

Another Cambridgeshire entry, Luca Cumani's Ask The Butler, is likely to be popular in the John Smith's Heritage Handicap at Newbury. However, as he has nineteen opponents to beat home, I don't think I'll bother backing him...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Some snippets

Mastercraftsman's victory in yesterday's National Stakes at the Curragh takes Ballydoyle's total of Group One victories for the season to twenty. Aidan O'Brien is quoted at 1/5 to break the current record of twenty five wins.

Many who saw Zakarva take Sunday's Prix Vermeille at Longchamp believe they saw the winner of the Arc; the filly is now quoted as low as 6/4 for that race.

In the Listed six-furlong sprint at Chester on Saturday the two fancied horses, Angus Newz and Look Busy, were drawn favourably in stalls one and two respectively. The market really favoured Look Busy (6/4f) and that's what the formbook pointed to. It was fairly obvious Angus Newz would try to make all up against the running rail; jockey S. O'Hara's ride on the favourite didn't look too stylish, particularly as he apperared to have difficulty drawing his whip through as they raced in the final furlong. Look Busy shouldn't have been turned over here.

Jonjo O'Neill's runners are going well at the moment. I liked the look of his Fresh Air And Fun over an extended two and three quarter miles at Stratford yesterday, up against the Twiston-Davies hotpot Diablo who had been racing over the minimum trip. Various distractions got in the way so I never made it to the bookies; needless to say Fresh Air And Fun won at 4/1. He looks one to keep an eye on.

For those who find the Saturday Scoop 6 too easy (I don't include myself in that number - I'm presently struggling with the Scoop 1), our friends at totesport have introduced the totesuper7 wager which you can play on any day from Sunday through to Friday. All you have to do is pick the winners of seven selected races; should you manage just five or six winners, totesport will kindly pay out a consolation dividend...

Caption noted in Channel Four's coverage on Saturday:
3.45 Doncaster 6. Racer Forever - Non-runner.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Saturday's St Legers

Two St Legers for the price of one tomorrow, with Doncaster hosting the English version at 3.10 and the Curragh the Irish version at 3.35.

On official ratings Look Here looks the one for the English contest; her performance last time out in the Oaks was impressive. She has been backed during the week and is currently a 4/1 shot which is just about right. If I have a reservation, it's the fact that she has been off the track for ninety nine days. Over the years Sir Michael Stoute's failure to win this race has generated plenty of column inches. His Patkai was ante-post favourite for a long time but the horse was not declared, presumably on account of the soft going. Nonetheless the trainer still fields three of the fourteen runners - Doctor Fremantle, Conduit and Warringah. Ryan Moore had the choice, eventually selecting Doctor Fremantle, fourth in this year's Derby, over Conduit, but you suspect it was a close call. Moore has been quoted as saying he's gone with the Doctor on account of the ground; Frankie Dettori picks up the plum spare on Conduit. Ballydoyle field four, including 2/1 favourite Frozen Fire; Aidan O'Brien has expressed some doubts about his charge's ability to last the trip. I can't help but feel the value has gone about the horses I particularly like - Doctor Fremantle and Look Here. Doctor Fremantle is now generally a 7/1 shot; he was 10/1 earlier in the week when he made some appeal as an each-way wager. That being the case, on grounds of value, I'll support Look Here to collect the spoils.

At the Curragh Ballydoyle's Septimus will start long odds on; Yellowstone each way at around 12/1 is the selection. The horse's intended appointment at York was washed away; he took his chance in the rearranged Ebor, the Newburgh Heritage Handicap at Newbury, which was far from ideal. He ran well enough there to finish third carrying nine stones ten pounds and has reasonable prospects of making a place here.

Back at Doncaster seven furlongs and easy going are right up Major Cadeaux's street and he gets the vote in the 3.45.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Superform suspended

Around this time of year I visit the Superform website and prepare to spend a sum in the region of twenty five pounds - a small price to pay for the jumping annual I know will guarantee my sanity through the long winter months ahead. So, imagine my dismay earlier today, on discovering that Superform had suspended all their activities after racing on Sunday May 4th 2008 - over four months ago. In a message on the site publisher Kevin Gilroy points out that Superform has not 'gone bust' but is 'merely in suspended animation'. The spread of internet broadband and issues with postal deliveries are cited as reasons for the publication's demise. My own collection of annuals goes back to 1993; the first annual was published in 1974. It looks as though this year I'll have to invest in a copy of The Form Book Jumps Annual 2007/8 .

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Weekend shorts

Leopardstown's card was moved to the Sunday and run on soft ground. With 'The Duke' withdrawn as anticpiated, New Approach had to work hard enough to beat 50/1 shot Traffic Guard a half length in the Irish Champion Stakes; Lush Lashes won the Matron Stakes.

Over in France Henrythenavigator, hindered by a poor draw and unfavourably soft going, could only finish fifth behind Goldikova in the Prix Du Moulin. Paco Boy claimed third, having met some trouble in running. I was concerned about the mile trip for this horse following Ryan Moore's comments after the Hungerford but, on this evidence, those doubts are unfounded.

Targets for Duke Of Marmalade now include the Arc and the Breeders' Cup; Corals make 'The Duke' 4/1 joint favourite for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

All eyes will be on Doncaster next Saturday with Look Here an intended runner in an intriguing-looking St Leger and Ladbrokes now sponsoring the re-arranged Betfred Sprint Cup after yesterday's Haydock card was lost to the bad weather.

An insignifcant milestone but one I bring to your attention nonetheless - you are reading this blog's 400th post. By my reckoning, it's roughly 400 days since I last tipped a winner. If you throw enough darts, one day you'll hit the bull...

Friday, September 05, 2008

Down came the rain...

Walking around Coventry city centre earlier today, I felt like an extra on the set of Bladerunner. I kid you not, the RNLI were collecting. Enlightened self-interest prompted me to make a small donation; there's a fair chance I could need their services in the next few hours.

Saturday's card at Thirsk has already been called off. Both Haydock and Stratford are subject to 7.00am inspections tomorrow. I had planned to take the family for a picnic at Stratford; that idea looks a bit of a washout now.

Heavy rain at Leopardstown has put their card in jeopardy. Officials are also exploring the possibility of moving the meeting to Sunday. Whatever happens, the likelihood is that Duke Of Marmalade, set to clash again with New Approach, will be withdrawn.

Paco Boy is entered in the Prix Du Moulin at Longchamp on Sunday. I'll be interested to see how he fares at a mile after his impressive win over seven furlongs in the Hungerford; Henythenavigator is the obvious form choice.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Team tactics inquiry announced

As expected, the British Horseracing Authority yesterday announced an inquiry into a possible breach of the rules regarding 'team tactics' in the Juddmonte International Stakes recently run at Newmarket. Trainer Aidan O'Brien and jockey Colm O'Donoghue, who rode Red Rock Canyon as a pacemaker for Duke Of Marmalade in the race, will both be required to attend the disciplinary inquiry which is set to take place at the end of the month. The result of the race will not be affected.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Last weekend's running of the Juddmonte International spawned several articles in the press on team tactics during the week. Johnny Murtagh's reported words to Colm O'Donoghue, rider of Ballydoyle's pacemaker, are unequivocal: "When you get to the four marker just ease off and give me the passage through." On Saturday morning Channel Four's Morning Line programme discussed various angles; whatever your opinion, it is clear the rules of racing have been broken. Paul Struthers indicated the British Horseracing Authority would make a statement on the matter in the coming week.

The usually gruff Mel Smith (of Smith and Jones fame) was anything but as he was interviewed before the Solario at Sandown on Saturday. Mr Smith, joint owner of The Cheka, looked to have had a distinct attack of pre-race nerves. In the race itself The Cheka, who was a drifter in the betting, appeared to have the spoils in the bag going into the final furlong but he tied up ever so slightly in the closing stages and succumbed to Sri Putra's challenge. This looked a hot renewal.

A nasty incident in the Chester Handicap saw Sir Duke fall, bringing down both Cheshire Prince and Speed Gifted. Seb Saunders aboard Speed Gifted broke his leg in the incident and is out for the rest of season. Sir Duke had to be put down.

My brother has received an invite to go to Goodwood on Tuesday, lucky fellow; something of a contrast, I know, but I hope to get to Stratford on Saturday.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Newton Abbot, Market Rasen, duff football bet

Last time out Alan King's Ruff Diamond beat Karashar a half length in a novice hurdle at Bangor; the pair meet again in the opener at Newton Abbot tomorrow. At the weights Karashar should reverse the form but Ruff Diamond didn't jump particularly well on that occasion so it could be close. Ruff Diamond is well regarded but looks tricky; I prefer David Pipe's Bathwick Man. Of those making their hurdling debuts, Highland Lassie is the most interesting.

The feature race is the Lord Mildmay Memorial Handicap Chase at 3.35 with £40,000 up for grabs. Paul Nicholls' five year old Roby De Cimbre is likely to start favourite but he's inexeperienced compared to many of these and tries a trip further than two miles for the first time. Full House has done this blog a favour or two over the years but his last run on the Flat in the Chester Cup was abysmal and hinted that he may not be totally in love with the game. In a competitive heat I'll take a chance with William Butler who ran well to finsh third in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen. He's had a break since so should come to this refreshed. He's The Gaffer, rated 132 over fences, had a five day entry for this race but connections have opted to run him in the concluding handicap hurdle instead off a rating of just 93! Many will consider him a snip but at cramped odds I won't be getting involved.

At Market Rasen's evening fixture the two that interest me in the feature race at 6.30 are Nelson's Spice and Rookery Lad. Nelson's Spice has plenty of potential while Rookery Lad flagged a return to form last time out in a fast-run race. Connections have let a couple of opportunities pass by for the gelding on account of unsuitable ground; Rookery Lad is priced up at around 6/1 this evening which is tempting. I note that the opening race is named 'Wedding Fair Here 26th October Juvenile Maiden Hurdle' - scary indeed!

On the footballing front, regular readers will know that Wrexham's relegation to the Blue Square Premier at the end of last season caused considerable pain. Five games in and I'm learning, albeit very slowly. Before a ball was kicked Stevenage Borough were favourites to win the title but have started poorly, are currently one off the bottom and have a goal difference of minus eleven. By contrast Barrow, of whom moderate things were expected, have started well, and can point to a win against Mansfield among their early season exploits. The pair meet tomorrow. I'm not keen on football betting but totesport go 6/4 Barrow to win at home which looks decent enough value.