Thursday, July 31, 2008

Racing's Panorama

Last night's hour-long Panorama special, 'Racing's Dirty Secrets', looked decidedly thin on new content. After forty minutes I checked my TV schedules, just to make sure I wasn't unwittingly watching another of the Corporation's summer repeats. The BBC claim new evidence has been brought to light concerning Miles Rodgers. Whatever happens, the programme had the air of an extended exercise in mischief-making. In my opinion, a typical ITV production...

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Fifteen Group 1 victories for Ballydoyle this season and we haven't seen the end of July yet!

In the paddock before Duke Of Marmalade's victory in the King George, the BBC commentators pounced on Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone whose wife (Mrs Ecclestone, apparently) owns Petara Bay. Mr Ecclestone looked like a fish out of water as first Claire Balding and then Willie Carson fired numerous questions at him. Willie's approach to shake hands with the great man was so disconcerting, Mr Ecclestone dropped from his sweaty palm the two pound coin he had been clutching throughout the preliminaries and was determined to invest on his wife's horse; in that very instance bookmakers shortened the odds on Petara Bay from 100/1 to 66/1...

Five days of top-class racing start at the Glorious Goodwood meeting on Tuesday. Highlights include the Sussex Stakes, the Goodwood Cup, the Nassau Stakes and the Stewards' Cup. On Wednesday the course is to honour Sir Peter O'Sullevan who celebrates his 90th birthday this year. On the same day, at 9.00pm, BBC1 transmits an hour-long Panorama special entitled 'Racing's Dirty Secrets'.

Yesterday I came across a copy of Andrew Longmore's Kieren Fallon: The Biography. It's the first racing book I've felt compelled to read in a long while. Amazon currently gives two possible dates for publication of the paperback edition- 17th July 2008 and 5th February 2009.

The hottest weekend of the year and in the post I receive literature from Aintree racecourse encouraging purchase of tickets for the 2009 Grand National. Talking of the winter game, I noticed Woolworths offering Waddingtons 'Escalado' racing game at the knockdown price of £8.00. I am going to buy one - it will help dispel some of the disappointment friends tend to experience when their much-anticipated trip to the races has to be cancelled due to inclement weather.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ascot, York and Salisbury

Just eight runners are declared for tomorrow's King George at Ascot. Three of the eight come from Ballydoyle; Macarthur is entitled to take his chance but stablemate Duke Of Marmalade will go off favourite, with Red Rock Canyon being employed as the pacemaker. Duke Of Marmalade won the Prince of Wales's Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting five weeks ago but this is his first try at a mile and a half - we don't know for certain whether he'll stay but his style of running suggests he should. Favourites have a good record in this, having won six times in the last decade but at the prices available, I'm going to look elsewhere. The two most likely to upset the applecart are Youmzain and Lucarno. In the Weekender Nick Mordin favours Lucarno but I'm going to side with Mick Channon's Youmzain who was second to Dylan Thomas last year in both this race and the Arc. The use of a pacemaker will suit this horse and if I have a concern, it's that his top-drawer form has tended to come with some cut in the ground; 3/1 is generally available and seems fair.

The big race at York is the Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes. Dettori rides Ascot better than most but, with the Godolphin operation going through a lean spell, it speaks volumes that his employers send him here to ride Campanologist. That doesn't ring a bell for me though (apologies) as Pipedreamer would appear to have four pounds in hand over his rival on Eclipse form. Tajaaweed was a tad disappointing in finishing eighth in the Derby but he suffered a slight setback a couple of days before the race and poses a live threat here. It's a close call but I note that John Gosden's stable is flying at the moment while Sir Michael Stoute's is particularly quiet - Pipedreamer is top-rated by the Racing Post and gets the vote.

Finally, for those with more money than they know what to do with, Roger Charlton's Oarsman, sporting first-time blinkers, looks the one to beat in the 7.40 maiden at Salisbury.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Salisbury soiree

People have started asking about my new shoes. It looks like a long job; I'd hope to have them broken in for Newbury's Hennessy meeting at the end of November.

You know, it really is such a long time since I've managed to get to the races - the best part of nine months. A couple of weeks back, I came up with a cunning plan. When I say 'cunning', it was only moderately cunning in a blokeish sort of a way, something any practised female would describe as 'naive' and would see through in an instant, which is exactly what Mrs Tips did. The fact I thought it cunning at least afforded me some small pleasure.

My daughter's school choir is on a trip to Salisbury Cathedral. I thought I could show a newly-discovered interest in choral singing by combining a visit to church with a trip out to the track - on either Tuesday afternoon or following evensong on Saturday. Of course, the whole idea was hopeless, transparent, a 66/1 shot in three horse race...

So, this Saturday afternoon, I'll be watching one of the Flat season highlights, the King George, on the television in my front room; after that I have Channel Four's Glorious Goodwood coverage to look forward to.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Market Rasen's Summer Plate

At the moment I'm breaking in a new pair of shoes; it feels like I'm walking about with a canoe attached to the end of each foot. Presently there are two things I have to look forward to - taking the 'canoes' off at the end of the working day and the Summer Plate at Market Rasen tomorrow. Still, I suppose I shouldn't grumble too much - I haven't had to spend a day at Royal Birkdale watching The Open.

Sixteen are set to go to post for the Summer Plate at 3.40. Peter Bowen has made a haibt of targeting this race - the stable field four runners this year. Andrew Barr, writing in the Weekender, highlights Yes Sir as the pick of the four but I prefer to look elsewhere. Evan Williams' William Butler bids to make this five on the bounce, having won four in the last three weeks, but this looks a big ask. Paul Nicholls' Oumeyade will have his supporters in a race that has gone to younger chasers more often than not in the last decade. Having said all that, I'm going to have an each-way wager on Brooklyn Brownie at around 12/1. He goes well here and was the subject of a decent report from his trainer earlier in the week. (I know - if his trainer can't say a good word about him, who can?)

On Racing Post ratings Advancement is the clear choice for the 2.05 but, don't be deceived, this is competitive. Two I'd consider at a price are Katies Tuitor who wouldn't want any more rain and Lord Baskerville.

Favourites have won six of the last nine runnings of the 4.15, with second favourites winning on the other three occasions - I favour Sendani above Southern Regent, while in the 2.40 I'd be tempted to take a chance on Akarshan from the in-form Evan Williams stable.

Friday, July 11, 2008

York, Ascot and Chester

I still haven't quite got over the fact that on Wednesday Nahoodh won the Falmouth at 10/1 yet I didn't have a penny on...

The highlight of tomorrow's York card is the 49th running of the John Smith's Cup over one mile two and a half furlongs. Given the weather forecast, the going is likely to suit horses that prefer soft ground. Three year olds have a decent enough record in this but none have managed to make the cut this year! On eight occasions in the last ten years the winner come from a low numbered draw; two horses that have been well-touted horses during the week, Mutajarred and Proponent, are set to come from stalls eleven and nineteen respectively. In this most competitive event, I favour a small each-way bet on Ezdiyaad who is set to come out of berth three and should have no trouble handling the prevailing conditions.

Only seven go to post for the Ascot Summer Mile at 2.55, in which Ramonti, Cesare and Archipenko look the main players. This will be Ramonti's first run of the season following an injury; he was set to run at Royal Ascot but missed that engagement so is passed over here for course specialist Cesare who looked most unlucky in running when beaten just over a length in the Queen Anne three and a half weeks ago. Archipenko could be the fly in the ointment, looking a revitalised horse since moving to Mike De Kock's yard.

The two top-rated horses in Chester's five furlong City Wall Stakes, Borderlescott and Oldjoesaid, are drawn widest in stalls nine and ten respectively; that being the case, I'm tempted to take them on. Mick Quinn's yard has been in good form over the past fortnight and his Angus Newz in stall one will certainly handle the going. Angus Newz has a bit to find with the principals but looks worth an each-way interest at around the 10/1 mark.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Forthcoming treats

There's some decent racing on offer over the next few days. The Newmarket July Festival starts tomorrow while big races on Saturday include the John Smith's Cup at York, the Summer Mile at Ascot (will Cesare have better luck in running this time?) and the five furlong City Wall Stakes at Chester. The Newmarket July meeting has never been one I've followed particularly closely; I won't be getting involved. Queen Mary form from Royal Ascot is represented in tomorrow's Cherry Hinton by Lucky Leigh and Heart Shaped; favourites have a decent record in the Cherry Hinton. Darjina is likely to be a warm order for the Falmouth but she had a hard race behind Hardasun at Ascot while I haven't totally given up on Nahoodh who runs her second race for new connections. I'll be looking for any encouraging signs - regular readers will recall Mark Johnston highlighted the fact the filly had put weight on following her arrival at the yard but she was allowed to run in Ascot's Coronation Stakes where Dettori adopted front-running tactics. She was cooked two out; I wonder whether different tactics will be tried this time.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Sandown's Eclipse

After suffering a severe case of Centre Court sunburn last week while watching Safin demolish Djokovic, this week I am presented with another case of Tim Henman struggling to reach the semi-finals, much as he used to in his playing career; this time, in his commentator's role, he's losing his voice rather than a match. A cheap shot, I know, but I just couldn't resist... Even the racing seems to have picked up the tennis theme - New Balls Please finished fourth in a seller at Chepstow last night while the winner of the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot, Fifteen Love, looks to have good chance in the Toteswinger at Sandown on Saturday.

The Eclipse takes centre stage at Sandown with nine set to go to post. Although it doesn't look the strongest renewal, a number of the runners appear closely matched. The weather forecast isn't particularly good for the weekend; as always, it will be important to take account of underfoot conditions. The all-conquering Ballydoyle operation field Mount Nelson who is sure to be popular. Of the two Henry Cecil runners, stable jockey Ted Durcan has chosen Phoenix Tower; his second behind Duke Of Marmalade at Royal Ascot reads well. The problem with the form is that Pipedreamer was just a short-head away in third and Stotsfold wasn't that far behind in sixth having started slowly. Of the market leaders I prefer Phoenix Tower, but, writing in the Weekender, Walter Swinburn is bullish about Stotsfold's chance and he looks the value. Stotsfold, 28/1 with William Hill, rates an each-way wager provided the rain stays away. In the ante-post market for this race some bookmakers bet a quarter the odds a place while others bet a fifth; check before placing your bets.

On official ratings Hoh Mike is the one in the opener and is likely to be priced accordingly; last year he collared Wi Dud in the final fifty yards to win this going away. Both horses are well drawn this year but I like Wi Dud and will consider an interest if the ground is on the easy side.

The Wetherbys Vat Services Stakes at 4.30 is run over two miles. Finalmente held Balkan Knight a head in soft ground over course and distance at the end of May. Balkan Knight's handler David Elsworth has a good record in this race - the horse looks weighted to reverse placings here, although he has tended to show his best form when easy conditions prevail.