Sunday, May 31, 2009

Weekend digest

Sky Sports reports that Aidan O'Brien will run six in the Derby - Fame And Glory, Rip Van Winkle, Age Of Aquarius, Black Bear Island, Masterofthehorse and Golden Sword. Johnny Murtagh has first choice but it won't be an easy decision; on The Morning Line John Francome seemed convinced the stable jockey would opt for Rip Van Winkle.

We can expect plenty of media coverage in the build-up to Saturday's big race. Last Friday a colleague who should have known better asked me for an each-way longhsot - I came up with Mick Channon's Montaff on the back of the comments the trainer made at the 'Breakfast with the Stars' event the previous day. To paraphrase a report in the Racing Post, Channon thinks Montaff is as good as Youmzain; that's some compliment as Youmzain has finished second in the last two runnings of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, beaten by Dylan Thomas in 2007 and wonder filly Zarkava last year. If Channon is anywhere near right, Montaff looks worth an each-way dabble at the 50/1 offered by Coral, William Hill and Ladbrokes.

In a bid to put last season's disappointments behind him, Sam Thomas has taken the stable jockey position at Tom George's yard.

Saturday's Times ran an article entitled 'The armchair fan's guide to getting cheaper sport on TV'. I bring this quotation to your attention: "The BBC screens live coverage of the Open Championship, Wimbledon and a good deal of horse racing..." A good deal of horse racing? I must be missing something... Having said that, best wishes go to BBC presenter Clare Balding who has recently received treatment for thyroid cancer.

The big shock today has been at the French Open where Swede Robin Soderling beat Nadal by three sets to one. On Friday Andy Murray was generally a 20/1 shot to win the title; this evening he's 5/1.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Haydock and York on Saturday

My guess is that several potential customers who might have gone to Haydock this Saturday will be travelling down to Wembley instead to watch Everton play Chelsea in the FA Cup final. The feature on the day's card is the Group Three Timeform Jury John Of Gaunt Stakes which is run over a distance of seven furlongs and thirty yards. A fortnight ago Sir Michael Stoute's Main Aim won the Berry Bros & Rudd handicap over Newbury's six furlongs by an astonishing seven lengths. He steps up in class and trip here but handles cut in the ground and is likely to go off favourite, with the Stoute yard generally in excellent form despite two seconds in the feature races at Sandown on Thursday evening. The official handicapper rates Arabian Gleam the best horse in the race; Jeremy Noseda's charge carries a five pound penalty on his first run of the season and the yard has been out of sorts of late. Godolphin's Asset won a listed event at Leicester last time out but hung badly right in the final stages; using the ratings as a guide he has plenty to find with several of these. Course and distance winner Beacon Lodge makes more appeal but I'm going to take another chance with Tariq after his sixth in the Lockinge, beaten under four lengths over a trip that is probably a shade beyond his best. This seven furlongs should suit, as should the drop in class and the underfoot conditions. The stable has been going through something of a purple patch recently; in the early tissue prices Chapple-Hyam's charge is a 10/1 shot which looks excellent each-way value.

At York the Stowe Family Law LLP Grand Cup run over one and three quarter miles has just the eight runners and something of a trappy feel to it. One of my old favourites, Yellowstone, runs in this but he was rather disappointing on his seasonal debut. He's entitled to be right there on his best form, but I'm going to look elsewhere. Friston Forest will have his supporters and it would be unwise to totally dismiss Nicky Henderson's Cesarewitch winner Carraciola who, at the grand age of twelve, has spent the winter months hurdling over distances of two miles four and beyond. However I'm going to take a chance with another who has hurdling form to his name - Furmigadelagiusta. He beat Sahrati three and three quarters lengths here fifteen days ago and comes to this in decent form.

Newbury's evening card is full of class four and class five events but there's a party in the paddock after racing with Madness performing - that should ensure a few more punters pass through the gates...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Noted in running

What a fine weekend's work for Johnny Murtagh! He wins the Irish 2000 Guineas aboard Mastercraftsman on Saturday and then twenty four hours later collects the Irish 1000 Guineas on the appropriately-named Again.

Last week I wrote a paragraph highlighting Rip Van Winkle's chance in the Derby, provided, of course, you took the view the horse will stay. The rumour-mill has kicked into overdrive over the past couple of days, to such an extent that Rip Van Winkle is now as low as 4/1 (previously 10/1 with several layers) for the Epsom classic. Murtagh is on record as saying he has a 'soft spot' for Rip but he won't let his heart rule his head when he has to choose. Several observers have taken this as an indication Murtagh will ride Rip Van Winkle - I'm not so sure. If you have 10/1 Rip, now may be the time to consider a hedge on Fame And Glory, priced up at 7/2 with Coral.

Amongst other things Epsom racecourse is set to host 'Breakfast With The Stars' this coming Thursday and the Clement Freud Memorial, a £50,000 handicap, on Derby Day; 'Freud On Course' is due to be published by Racing Post books on Friday 5th June.

Talking of Sir Clement Freud - if the great man were still with us, I'm sure he would have had plenty to say on this 'Duck Pond parliament' and in the process would have marked our card on the market for the new House of Commons Speaker. I can't find Robin Oakley on Twitter so instead I've asked Austin Mitchell, Labour MP for Great Grimsby, to point us in the right direction. I recognise it's something of a longshot and I'm not holding my breath; so far I haven't heard a peep from the man, but, rest assured, if he passes on anything of interest, I'll let you know...

I bought the Racing Post on Saturday primarily to read Alistair Down's interview with John Inverdale. Honest. And a jolly interesting read it is too. Mr. Inverdale isn't particularly high on my list of preferred presenters - Alistair Down's line 'I had formed the opinion down the years that Inverdale would always get a game with the "Little Bit Pleased With Himself XI"...' echoed my perception. I've often thought Inverdale more interested in playing for laughs rather than asking questions the viewer wants answered. It turns out the BBC presenter has been an avid racing fan since childhood, has owned parts of several mediocre horses and now owns a part of a rather good one in the shape of Amour Propre. Perhaps time for a re-think on my part, methinks...

This time of year I can never decide whether to concentrate solely on the jumps or focus on the Flat; the result is I end up falling between the two stools. Over the jumps it was good to see Sam Thomas ride a double at Cartmel last night (for trainer Tom George) on his comeback after a crunching fall at Plumpton a fortnight ago. On the Flat, a reminder to those who like to bet the two-year-olds, Jason Coote's H.C.E. Horse Racing Tips is well worth consulting.

Finally, on Friday sports writers had some fun when (David) Horsey set off in front in the PGA Championship at Wentworth. Since then, Horsey has failed to keep up with the pace and has been swamped by his field...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Irish 2000 Guineas and Newmarket

With the going at the Curragh likely to be heavy, it's no surprise this evening to see Mastercraftsman take over from Delegator at the head of the Irish 2000 Guineas market. Brian Meehan's charge finished second behind See The Stars in the Guineas at Newmarket three weeks ago but isn't certain to appreciate the underfoot conditions whereas Aidan O'Brien's inmate, fifth at Newmarket, won the seven furlong National Stakes here last September on heavy ground. On official ratings Mastercraftsman is the top-rated animal - he has three pounds in hand over his English rival - and so gets the vote.

Newmarket's opener has only the six runners but looks intriguing, with Big Bound likely to make the running. Your Old Pal beat Palavicini a head last time out over course and distance but the runner-up looks weighted to reverse placings here. Henry Cecil's Father Time was third behind Age Of Aquarius in the Lingfield Derby trial a fortnight ago; that day I thought Father Time's head carriage looked a little awkward in the closing stages and the form book states 'pressed leaders over 1f out, not run on'; the shorter trip here may help but I'll go with Palavicini.

In the 2.50 Alyarf should offer some value against likely hotpot Donativum while a quick look at the 2-y-o maiden would seem to point to Mark Johnston's Step In Time. These days however, before I get involved in any two year old race, I check out the details on Jason Coote's excellent H.C.E. Horse Racing Tips blog and I recommend you do the same. The notes for this race conclude 'This may not be a straightforward race.' With that in mind, I'll watch from the sidelines.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

To summarise...

Paco Boy failed to stay a mile on soft ground in Saturday's Juddmonte Lockinge at Newbury, John Gosden's Virtual beating Alexandros a nose. Dettori on the eventual runner-up dropped his whip well into the final furlong - did that make all the difference? Later in the afternoon Main Aim proved the proverbial Group horse in a handicap, winning the six furlong Berry Bros & Rudd Handicap by an astonishing seven lengths.

The Aidan O'Brien pair Black Bear Island and Freemantle took first and second in Thursday's Dante. Crowded House, the 2/1 favourite, ran flat in the trial, finished eighth and scoped badly afterwards; Brian Meehan will make a decision on his charge's particpation in the Derby within the next few days.

Currently the top five in the ante-post Derby market are all trained in Ireland. At this stage Rip Van Winkle, generally a 10/1 shot, offers decent value provided you take the view he'll stay -stable jockey Johnny Murtagh has expressed his concerns. The horse suffered a bruised foot in the run-up to the Guineas and John Francome was less than complimentary about the horse's appearance during the preliminaries for the classic. In the circumstances Rip Van Winkle ran well to finish fourth, especially as the stable was under something of a cloud at that time. There's improvement there but we don't know for certain he'll stay...

Back in March Venetia Williams won the Pertemps Final (three miles) at the Cheltenham Festival with Kayf Aramis. Two months on the same horse, with a different jockey up, wins Thursday's finale at York - Handicap (two and a quarter miles) - by an eased-down thirteen lengths. A trip to Royal Ascot looks on the cards for this hurdler...

Earlier today I watched the BBC's coverage of the tennis exhibition matches from the new all-weather Wimbledon (roof closed). As a plug for the forthcoming Match of the Day Two programme, commentator Andrew Castle was heard to say something along the lines of '...and the [football] season's really hotting up now...' Would somebody please tell the man that Manchester United were crowned Premier League champions yesterday? Thanks.

Finally, a photo finish...
Caption: Another cert takes the wrong course, the race at his mercy. Mrs T wears the look of someone who has seen it all before...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Newbury on Saturday

The Juddmonte Lockinge Stakes run over a mile is the highlight on tomorrow's Newbury card. Most tipsters have put up Paco Boy who proved he stayed the trip when winning with something in hand at Sandown last time out. That day Dream Eater and Virtual finished second and third and are on six pounds worse terms here. The underfoot conditions will suit Paco Boy but could stretch his suspect stamina while Dream Eater may be better on better ground. On handicap ratings Paco Boy is well ahead of his rivals but this evening his price is drifting on the back of the stamina worries. I've decided to look for something bigger each-way and the two that have caught my eye are the Peter Chapple-Hyam pair, Tariq and Winker Watson. Last July Winker Watson was beaten less than four lengths by Henrythenavigator in the Sussex at Goodwood, with Tariq a further six lengths behind that day. The fact that Winker is priced up at 40/1 for tomorrow's race tells you things haven't gone to plan since. Andrew 'Bert' Black owns a share and reported on his blog that Winker has worked well on the gallops; having said that, the horse disappointed badly at Warwick last time out for no apparent reason. Subsequently I heard Chapple-Hyam saying the horse had a mind of his own these days; he was considering blinkers (not applied tomorrow), and if they didn't work, scissors. This quote was taken from the trainer's web site earlier today: "I'm just hoping that Winker can reproduce his home work at the track. He has been working well." Stablemate Tariq is priced around the 16/1 mark and was third in this last year, three quarters of a length and a neck behind Creachadoir and Phoenix Tower; of this charge the trainer states: "Tariq has really started to come to himself in the last week or so and I am happy with him. He won’t mind the rain that Newbury has had." I haven't given up on Winker Watson - 40/1 would look silly if the horse put his best foot forward - but the percentage call has to be an each-way interest in Tariq. Twice Over has received treatment for a corn on his foot and connections will make a final decision on his participation on Saturday morning.

Geordieland has been re-routed to the Aon Stakes (2.05) after missing the Yorkshire Cup earlier today on account of the going. There must a fair chance he'll miss this as well if significant rain falls overnight. I'm tempted to take a chance on an old favourite of mine, Yellowstone, on his first appearance for the Paul Cole yard. He's the Racing Post top-rated, will handle the ground although obviously I'm taking fitness on trust.

For those who can't bear the thought of watching the Eurovision Song Contest, Uttoxeter offers alternative entertainment with its 'James Bond Evening' (whatever that might entail). Prowling through the runners for an appropriate bet I considered Doctor Foxtrot, Stayclosetome, Midnight Diamond, Classic Chic and Sapphire Night but in the end had to go for Great Hero in the finale.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Racing reflections

Good God, I never thought I'd see the day - booing on the Roodee - I had to go and have a lie-down. There was an element of the ridiculous surrounding Friday's renewal of the Ormonde after five withdrawals left a field of just three for the £75,000 added prize money. Three runners for a Group Three but none of them appeared interested in making the running; in the end William Buick took the bull, and the race, by the horns and was rewarded for his enterprise with emphatic victory. Johnny Murtagh aboard 8/11 favourite Frozen Fire trailed in last, eleven lengths behind, and received plenty of catcalls for his trouble. The day before the same jock on Masterofthehorse (13/8f) allowed his mount's stable companion Golden Sword (25/1) too much rope with the pace-making duties; the pacemaker duly went and won with Masterofthehorse finishing like the proverbial train but still two lengths adrift at the line. Still, fair play to Johnny Murtagh, come Saturday he appeared on The Morning Line, took the flak, together with Tom Lee's looks of thunder, and then went and won the Lingfield Derby Trial, although he had to get serious with Age Of Aquarius.

There's usually some sort of football connection when there's racing at Chester. Several Manchester United first teamers were in attendance on Thursday while on Wednesday the finale was entitled 'Hull City AFC Premier Dream Maiden Stakes'. Hull's manager Phil Brown is a keen racegoer - after his side's 2-1 defeat at home to Stoke yesterday, the dream looks increasingly less certain... In that very same race, the Michael Owen owned Paddy Partridge was sent off at 200/1 and trailed in eighth. My guess is Michael will be more worried about tomorrow's crunch relegation fixture at St James' Park with Newcastle set to entertain local rivals Middlesborough.

The Queen's horse Free Agent never ran at Chester on account of a bruised foot and I'll bet Nicky Henderson wishes Moonlit Path, in the same ownership, hadn't run in the Turftv Mares' Novices Hurdle at Huntingdon last February. Moonlit Path failed a drugs test and I would imagine Her Majesty is not amused. Just how does one extricate oneself from a rather unfortunate situation such as this? A date in June is to be set for the disciplinary panel.

Finally, Clare Balding was a guest on last night's 'Have I Got News For You'. As you might have expected, there were several references to teeth and dentists. Ms Balding, who earlier in the day hadn't formed part of the BBC's Ascot coverage as she was fronting the Wakefield v. Wigan rugby league match instead, pointed out that her insult on live TV had resulted in Liam Treadwell receiving offers of free dental treatement. She then offered to insult other people live on TV; I'm thinking of asking her to ridicule my ageing Vauxhall Astra 1.6 (8 valve), in the vain hope somebody out there will give me a brand new car free of charge...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Haydock's Swinton Hurdle & the Lingfield trials

Plenty to choose from tomorrow, including the evening meet at Warwick, just down the road from me, which markets its Ladies' night as 'perfect for a girls' night out' and boasts (?) a Rod Stewart tribute concert, jewellery, hat and bag stands, a florist, a 'best dressed lady' competition and a 'best hat' competition; the stalls look likely to do more business than the bookmakers. This used to be one the few jumps meetings I was allowed to go to without asking but now it's on the Flat it just doesn't make the same appeal...

The feature at Haydock is the ultra-competitive Swinton Handicap Hurdle at 1.55 in which twenty four are set to face the starter. This evening Cockney Trucker is favourite at a best-priced 9/1 with William Hill. His third in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham behind American Trilogy reads well, although he was beaten fair and square that day. I'd imagine Mrs Alison Thorpe will have a fair idea of the chances of her two, Ellerslie Tom and Dishdasha, as her Nortonthorpe Lad, priced at 50/1, was only a half length behind Cockney Trucker at Cheltenham. Ellerslie Tom has claims as he's top on RP ratings, was third in this last year off a six pounds higher mark and likes to race from the front, a tactic that is likely to serve him well in this. Having said all that, he didn't really take to novice chasing and has been a bit in and out, although his last effort could be read as signalling a return to form. The write-up in the Weekender takes that view but I'm going to take a chance on his stablemate Dishdasha provided the rain stays away. He has a racing weight and at 33/1 with Victor Chandler merits a small each-way investment. Others worthy of a second look include Harper Valley (in spite of top weight) who was third in the Scottish Champion last time and Jim Goldie's Toshi.

At Lingfield the trials have small fields but will be interesting nonetheless. In the Derby trial I prefer Henry Cecil's Father Of Time to Age Of Aquarius; the selection should be sharper for his third behind High Heeled three weeks ago. On ratings there doesn't appear much between Midday (from the Cecil yard) and Tottie in the Oaks trial, while Ralph Beckett used this race as a preparation for Look Here last year. I marginally prefer the Cecil horse, so Midday gets the vote. The same trainer winning both Lingfield trials - when was the last time that happened, I wonder?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Smallish snippets

Sea The Stars won the 2000 Guineas on Saturday but there was something of a shock in the fillies' equivalent on Sunday with Barry Hills' 20/1 shot Ghanaati collecting the spoils. John Gosden's Rainbow View was sent off the 8/11 favourite but the writing was on the wall two furlongs out - the filly made some late laboured headway to finish fifth. After the race connections put her disappointing performance down to the firm ground.

Two to take out of the two Guineas races are Rip Van Winkle and Super Sleuth. In commentary on Channel Four before the colts' classic, John Francome said Rip Van Winkle would be some horse if he won looking the way he did; in such circumstances the horse ran well to finish fourth, with the yard under something of a cloud. In the 1000 Guineas Super Sleuth was last early on and practically last two furlongs out before making eye-catching progress to finish third.

Chester's May bash next week is one of my favourites on the Flat. Having spent my childhood just down the road in Wrexham, I remember the meeting always generated plenty of local interest. I finally managed to get to this one for the first time roughly ten years ago, when the racing was staged from the Tuesday to the Thursday. The train was late (plus ca change...) and in the dash to try to make it for the first, I was nearly run over by a Merc; we ended up watching the Lily Agnes Stakes from the City Walls, my selection obliging but without my having managed to get a bet on. On the walk towards the Tatts entrance I had two Club badges shoved in my hand by a Liverpudlian tout and then followed a gent wearing plus-fours and a deerstalker onto the course. Of course, all my other selections, which I did manage to bet, failed miserably. Don't you just love racing?

A couple of new books have appeared on the shelves recently. Patrick Veitch's Enemy Number One: The Secrets of the UK's Most Feared Professional Punter looks required reading while those who play the exchanges may be interested in Colin Cameron's You bet: The Betfair Story and How Two Men Changed the World of Gambling.

What with the Punchestown and Guineas Festivals, one that slipped under my radar was Nick Gifford's Russian Around - the beast won the Class 2 three mile handicap chase at Uttoxeter on Saturday. I'd made a note of this one after he collected in a Lingfield novice chase at the end of March. He won at 10/1 and looks worth noting for future reference.

Finally I bring to your attention the BBC's story that Y-front sales have increased by 35% during the recession. A spokesman for Debenhams attributes this success to the 'greater sense of security they provide'. I've invested in a three-pack and intend to make use of a pair the next time I bet a 33/1 shot.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Tomorrow's 1000 Guineas...

Only a quick note for the fillies in the 1000 Guineas as I don't intend to have a bet. On form Rainbow View is the one and the bookies have priced the race accordingly. If you held a gun to my head and told me I had to come up with an alternative, I'd suggest Rae Guest's Serious Attitude (currently second favourite at 13/2) or perhaps Jim Bolger's Cuis Gilhare (10/1) - today's 2000 third came from the same stable. Having said all that, this looks a race to watch.

This evening today's 2000 Guineas winner Sea The Stars has deposed Crowded House at the head of the Derby market. Skybet offer 9/2 while Ladbrokes go just 5/2. Others who ran in the Guineas with a Derby quote include Gan Amhras (third) 8/1 and Rip Van Winkle (fourth) 10/1. Hill's are the only layer to quote Godolphin's disappointing Ashram (thirteenth) at 25/1.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Some suggestions for Saturday...

Running a bit late this evening, so here goes...

Earlier today Solwhit and Punjabi fought out a thrilling finish to the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown with Solwhit (2/1 jf) pipping Punjabi (7/2) a short-head on the line. Although I didn't collect on this occasion, the selection and the winner both ran fantastic races. Some you win a short-head and some you lose a short-head - I know it's small consolation, but it's better to win when the price is 22/1 rather than collect when the price is just 7/2. Thirty five minutes later Mikael D'haquenet (8/11f) gave the blog a winner with its 500th post, our fourth at this meeting. I have to say this is the first time I've blogged the Punchestown Festival - I've thoroughly enjoyed it! I'm more determined (than usual) to attend in person next year, but don't tell Mrs Tips...

One final selection at Punchestown - in the feature race, the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at 2.55, there's nothing original in selecting Willie Mullins' Mourad but he's the top-rated horse and the one to beat.

On the Flat, Newmarket becomes the focus of the racing world with the first Classic of the season, the 2000 Guineas, due off at 3.10. I'm sure it's painfully obvious, but I'll make the point nonetheless. If I know relatively little about jump racing, I know even less about the Flat. As those who have studied my Twitter Guide to the 2000 Guineas will know ( I use the term 'studied' advisedly), I'm concerned about the form of the Aidan O'Brien stable which has been sluggish out of the stalls this year. Of their two runners, my marginal preference is for Mastercraftsman but stable jock Johnny Murtagh has opted to ride Rip Van Winkle. At the head of the market, Brian Meehan's Delegator makes most appeal but the quick conditions could be against him. I've been on the lookout for an each-way selection at a price and the two I like are Gan Amhras (who is possibly drawn a little wide) and Lord Shanakill. I've missed the best prices about Jim Bolger's charge - now only a 12/1 shot with William Hill; Lord Shanakill on the other hand is 20/1 with the same layer but not guaranteed to stay the trip. The percentage call is Gan Amhras, so I'll take an each-way interest in that one.