Friday, January 30, 2009

Brief notes for Sandown, Doncaster and Wetherby

I'm a little pressed for time this evening, so here goes...

At Sandown Optimus Maximus looks the one in the opener but he'll be no price; Amore Mio is the likeliest danger. In the 2.05 Paul Nicholls has issued an upbeat bulletin about Celestial Halo while the Pipe team has said their horse, Osana, will come on for the run. Only six in The Scilly Isles Novices' Chase but it's still extremely competitive. The bottom one, Araldur, is suited by the conditions of the race as he steps up to two and a half miles for the first time - connections think the extra distance will help their horse. Twiston-Davies thinks a lot of Buck The Legend but the stable is just emerging from a poor spell and their charge is probably best watched here. In the 3.10 Blue Shark was badly hampered last time when travelling smoothly and is likely to be well-supported. I see the Racing Post has priced up Hills Of Aran at 33/1. The horse was third in this last year and reverts back to hurdles after an unsuccessful try at fencing; he'd have an each-way squeak if at his best but isn't the easiest of rides. All eyes will be on the highly-regarded Killaghy Castle in the finale; McCoy will be hoping his mount Good Company helps him towards his 3000th winner.

Degas Art will be worth a second look in the opener at Doncaster while in the Towton Novices' Chase at Wetherby Will Be Done may not stay the trip and Companero just gallops so I'm considering taking a chance with Philip Hobbs' Kornati Kid.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weekend round-up

Testing conditions at Leopardstown placed a premium on stamina in the Irish Champion Hurdle earlier today and the remarkable Brave Inca (11/4) collected the spoils at the grand old age of eleven. 2/1 favourite Sublimity proved a major disappointment, trailing in fourth. In an interview on Radio Five Live beforehand trainer Robert Hennessy was particularly bullish about his charge's chances but after the race connections reported the horse had scoped dirty.

Nicky Henderson decided not to run Barbers Shop in the Letheby & Christopher Chase at Cheltenham yesterday on account of the heavy ground. The Aon Chase at Newbury is being considered as an alternative; if the horse goes there, he's likely to bump into Denman. Teletext report that Henderson wasn't too downhearted following Punchestowns' defeat in the Cleeve Hurdle. Punchestowns failed by four lengths to concede eight pounds to Paul Nicholls' Big Buck's. The report implied the trainer had 'left something to work on'.

Here's a question - will the Tizzards enter Joe Lively for the Gold Cup?

Diamond Harry maintained his unbeaten run by taking the opener but he only just got there and looks a jolly tricky ride. The Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle is his Festival target; Ladbrokes offer a miserly-looking 3/1 about the horse for that race.

Over at Doncaster Malcolm Jefferson's Cape Tribulation ran out an impressive winner of the three mile Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle. His cause was helped somewhat by the fall of 11/10 favourite On Raglan Road as they entered the home straight for the final time. Cape Tribulation may have won anyway but the fall came too early to say anything with any certainty. In the winner's enclosure afterwards Derek Thompson asked the trainer for a comment and was promptly pointed in the direction of the jockey! Connections are now considering Cheltenham, Aintree and some high profile Flat races too.

Channel Four televised a bumper live for the first time on Saturday, the concluding race at Doncaster. As the runners waited for the off, Tommo informed viewers that 50/1 shot Switched Off looked very well in the paddock; the horse ran a blinder, going down one and a quarter lengths to 66/1 chance Par Avion. You're unlikely to see those fancy prices the next time they run!

Both of my regular readers will recall the anguish suffered in the Tips' household over a year ago when the BBC announced its decision to axe major parts of the Ceefax racing service. Even the Prime Minister offered me his support. Eventually I migrated to Teletext on Channel Four but, occasionally, when feeling nostalgic, I check out the racing pages on Ceefax, for old times' sake. Obviously the service doesn't compare, but imagine my horror last Thursday when the second of the two(!) reported stories discussed what action Mark Hughes was going to take after Robinho had gone AWOL from Manchester City's training camp in Tenerife. Just where has it all gone wrong? For those who might happen to be wondering, the lead story on the Ceefax racing pages last Thursday night was 'Red Rum wins third National'.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cheltenham trials and Doncaster

Only eight go to post in the Letheby & Christopher Chase at 2.35 but it looks an intriguing contest. Halcon Genelardais is a model of consistency, the clear form pick and deserves to collect a decent prize. Of the two Nicholls runners, Ruby Walsh prefers Nozic, who is a bigger price in the tissue, to stablemate Star De Mohaison. I'm sure Howard Johnson has been working on Tidal Bay's jumping but the question marks in that department are a concern. In this I've decided to go for an each-way wager on one of the longer priced runners. Joe Lively has course and distance winning form and will relish a slog in the mud but he has it all to do to turn round previous form with Halcon Genelardais on roughly two stone worse terms. That being the case, Snoopy Loopy each way is the selection provided the eight face the starter. There's a niggling doubt that he may be suffering from the effects of several tough races. In the King George on Boxing Day he fell away badly a mile or so from home which was disappointing. The ground was plenty fast enough for him at Kempton and, as he struggled to go the pace, his jumping deteriorated. The heavy ground here will help as he's not always the most fluent of jumpers but he stays all day and the stable will be keen to pick up points for the Order of Merit; he's priced up at around 20/1.

In the 3.10 I'm not inclined to oppose Walkon, even though Reve De Sivola is entitled to beat the likely favourite on official ratings. Simarian was slightly disappointing behind both those horses at Chepstow last time but he has course and distance winning form - it would be no surprise to see him in the mix; had there been eight or more runners, he would have made some appeal each-way.

Punchestowns is another favourite I won't be taking on while in the 1.30 I'm sticking with Hennessy who didn't get a run last weekend at Wincanton and this race looks slightly less competitive.

In Doncaster's 1.30 King Jack should be thereabouts in a tough-looking handicap hurdle; he rates an each-way wager if priced in double figures but wouldn't want the conditions too testing while those desperate for an interest in the Sky Bet Chase could do worse than Alexanderthegreat who has a racing weight and has been in decent form recently.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nibs [news in brief stories]

Such was the authority of Master Minded's victory at Ascot on Saturday bookmaker Paddy Power are paying out on ante-post bets about the horse for the Champion Chase. I can't recall a bookmaker paying out early on a horse race before.

A few fancied horses didn't appear to handle the ground at Haydock on Saturday including Snap Tie, Dee Ee Williams and Mahonia. Two that patently did are Songe and Alfie Flits. Songe has the Totesport Trophy at Newbury as his next target while Alfie Flits could run at Kelso before going for a novice event at Aintree in April.

It was interesting to hear Paul Nicholls explain that he has had to 'build Denman up' after his operation; the horse has clearly been quite ill. The acid test will come in the Aon Chase at Newbury, although this evening I note he also has an entry in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on February 8th.

The credit crunch is biting - Great Leighs racecourse is now in the hands of administators and the signs don't look encouraging.

Cheltenham's Trials meeting this weekend should prove informative with the Festival just around the corner - let's hope the weather plays its part.

Mrs Tips has been unusually quiet at home the last couple of days - I even managed to get away with something yesterday. I suspect it has something to do with the fact the BBC are to show all Andy Murray's Australian Open matches on terrestrial TV...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ascot, Haydock & Wincanton

Master Minded is the star attraction in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot tomorrow; it's a race to savour. The current Triumph hurdle favourite Zaynar starts in the opener - his performance will be scrutinised closely with the Cheltenham Festival just over seven weeks away. On paper the Montpelier Group Lightning Novices' Chase at 1.40 looks to be between Free World and Calgary Bay; both horses feature prominently in the Arkle betting. Calgary Bay came on the scene last time out by beating Kicks For Free with some authority over two miles five at Cheltenham, while Free World was pipped at the post by Araldur in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown. On official handicap ratings Free World is the one to beat and in addition he receives six pounds from Calgary Bay; connections of Calgary Bay had hoped to get McCoy for their mount - who doesn't look the easiest of rides - but the champion goes to Haydock instead. Free World has to be the selection. I won't be getting involved in the 1.05 but I'd be wary of Serabad who, to my mind, runs his best races with plenty of give underfoot while the booking of Ruby Walsh for Kawagino catches the eye. In the mares' race at 2.50 United will be popular as she is some way clear of her rivals on official ratings but she has never won over this distance and connections have stated publicly that her target is a race at the Festival; there's also the possibility she may 'bounce' after her latest run which followed a long layoff. The finale is a hot novice hurdle and should provide some useful pointers for the future.

Two weeks ago the Tolworth was abandoned at Sandown on account of the weather but three of the protagonists turn out at Haydock tomorrow for the Rossington Main. Dee Ee Williams was my Tolworth fancy and I'm sticking with him here - he's the top-rated horse. Mahonia was a little disappointing at Cheltenham last time while Nicky Henderson's Clay Hollister could easily improve to test the selection. Connections won't want too much rain overnight for Snap Tie in the Champion Hurdle trial where I think Songe has place prospects. The Peter Marsh looks tricky. Cloudy Lane is coming into form but isn't the biggest of horses and may struggle to carry top weight on soft ground. If I get involved I'll take a chance with Alan King's Kandjar D'Allier who is getting a little long in the tooth these days but likes Haydock and often runs well following a break. In the novice chase at 3.00 Massini's Maguire wouldn't want any more rain while on official ratings Wind Instrument is bang there with a chance - provided his jumping holds out.

At Wincanton Pepite De Soleil should take the opener but will be no price at all. The Connaught Cup at 3.45 has £40,000 added prize money and looks suitably competitive. The one at the top of the handicap, Hennessy, will do for me. On the down side he has to carry top weight on soft ground and he has limited chase experience but he's a big horse who appeals as an unexposed type and comes from a stable in form.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

PG's predictions

The trouble with this game is that it's all about what's going to happen in the future. I thought I'd share with you some of the things I think we could see come to pass in 2009...

Having taken the decision to leave Timeform after thirty five years, Jim McGrath tells anyone who'll listen that he's only just discovered the existence of different types of books other than form books; he's looking to develop a penchant for thrillers and romances.

The cold snap threatens to last through to March. With the Festival under threat from frost, the Cheltenham executive refuse to employ covers on the track, claiming any decision to go ahead with such measures would make no commercial sense whatsoever.

Putting up four pounds overweight, Hayley Turner rides Barbers Shop to a surprise Gold Cup victory for the Queen, pipping Ruby Walsh on Kauto Star by a long-looking short head.

Harry Findlay walks into a Ladbrokes shop in the East End looking to back Denman to win this year's National; he wants £10 on @ 8/1. After a phonecall to head office, the shop assistant tells him he can have £2 @ 8s and the rest at 6/1. All hell breaks loose.

Kieren Fallon makes the final of the John Smith's People's Race but in a driving finish is pipped at the post by a thirteen and a half stone spot welder who originates from Scunthorpe.

Worried about Channel 4's long-term commitment to racing, Mike Cattermole decides to branch out and lands himself a lucrative contract promoting 'Just For Men' hair products.

And finally, Tony McCoy wins The Derby.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Ayr on a Saturday

Warwick's biggest meeting of the year has been called off, Wetherby has a '50-50' chance while the donkey racing on Kempton sands makes little appeal. On the south west coast of Scotland there are no reported weather problems; if the meeting at Ayr goes ahead it will be the first turf meeting in Britain since January 2nd - the going is reported to be soft, heavy in places.

The feature race at 3.00 is the Blue Square Handicap Chase run over three miles one furlong. Malko De Beaumont has progressed well this season and is now rated some thirty pounds higher; off a reasonable weight he looks sure to go close. There was money for Gypsy George before the Welsh National but he ran no sort of race - if you forgive him that effort, he has to have a chance here. Jass looks a little unconvincing but at the bottom of the handicap I wouldn't totally dismiss Chopneyev. He's getting on a bit now but he's made the journey up from Adlestrop in the Cotswolds and represents an each-way wager at around 14/1. Several commentators put up Malko De Beaumont but I'll go out on a limb, hoping that Gypsy George consents to put his best foot forward.

In the novice chase at 2.00 Companero isn't one to take a short price about; if you're brave enough to oppose, Great Approach will be of interest.

The 1.25 is no foregone conclusion but Lie Forrit showed he stayed this distance on slightly better ground last time out and so gets the vote.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The big chill...

No jump racing in Great Britian over the weekend and today's all-weather card at Wolverhampton has, paradoxically, been lost to the weather! Tomorrow's card at Sedgefield is subject to an inspection at 8.30 am. Some meteorological forecasters predict more of the same right though until the beginning of next week - and I was half-thinking of going to Warwick this Saturday where the highlight is set to be the Classic Chase. With little action on course, the main talking point is Paul Nicholls' confirmation earlier today that Denman will go for the Grand National after running in this year's Gold Cup.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Sandown's Tolworth card

Should Sandown's card manage to beat the overnight frost, the highlight will be the Tolworth at 2.40. There are only six in the line-up which could result in a tactical affair and for this reason the race doesn't make that much appeal as a betting medium. Dee Ee Williams has a solid look and is the selection; for those choosing to oppose, I prefer Nicky Henderson's course and distance winner Clay Hollister to Mahonia who was a little disappointing when turned over at Cheltenham last time. Two quick notes - the favourite has won four of the last ten renewals and the Nicholls stable has a decent record in this having won with Breedsbreeze, Silverburn and Noland in recent years.

On official handicap ratings United is the top-rated animal by some margin in the opener. Returning from an eighteen month layoff the mare won well over this distance a fortnight ago at Haydock. There must be a fair chance she'll 'bounce' here as that looked a hard enough race; I'm tempted to chance Nicky Henderson's Shatabdi who has been novice chasing; she is owned by Robert Waley-Cohen and son Sam takes the ride.

A couple of interesting runners in the two mile chase. J.P. McManus' Foreman is now with Jonjo O'Neill, Marodima used to be something of a talented tearaway when with Paul Nicholls and Nick Gifford's useful gelding Killaghy Castle makes a comeback having been off the track for 631 days. The market has proved a reliable guide in the past with the winner coming from the first three in the betting on six of the last seven renewals. If I get involved I'll have a small each-way interest in Hoo La Baloo at 12/1; Paul Nicholls' charge likes it around here, Nick Schofield takes off a handy-looking five pounds and the horse deserves to win a decent race. Having said all that, it's no surprise to see his stablemate Medicinal installed as favourite in the early tissue shows.

Helium carries a penalty but looks the one to beat in the 1.35.