Friday, July 31, 2009

The Nassau Stakes at Goodwood

Ten fillies are set face the starter tomorrow for the Blue Square Nassau Stakes which is run over a trip just shy of ten furlongs. On official ratings Midday looks the one to beat and most bookmakers have made Henry Cecil's charge the 3/1 favourite, although it's worth noting the sponsors go 100/30. The market has proved a good guide over the past decade with the favourite obliging on six occasions, while the second and third favourites have won twice apiece. Midday is likely to be popular but I'm inclined to oppose. She appeared to get somewhat stuck in the mud in the Irish Oaks three weeks ago when finishing a well-beaten third behind Sariska. There were some chunky showers at Goodwood yesterday - the going was good to soft today and is predicted to be good tomorrow - but any further rain before the off won't help her cause and the forecast talks of outbreaks of rain, possibly heavy at times. Looking at the form of the Falmouth Stakes, there isn't much to choose between Rainbow View, Spacious and Heaven Sent. Rainbow View has been a little disappointing this term, Spacious may struggle with the trip so of the trio I prefer Heaven Sent, although at six her age is something of a negative. Having said that, this filly finished fourth in last year's renewal, beaten two heads and a neck into fourth behind Halfway To Heaven. Writing in the Weekender, Michael Bell expects 'a big run' from Moneycantbuymelove, while a downpour would mean John Oxx's Katiyra couldn't be entirely discounted. I'm surprised to see Barry Hills' High Heeled priced up at 14/1 in a couple of places as she has the same official rating as Rainbow View. She finished third in the Oaks and would probably appreciate further rain. In a fascintating contest, I'll go with Heaven Sent to collect the spoils and if the rain comes, I'll have an each-way wager on High Heeled (and perhaps a small reverse forecast the pair!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weighed in

The Glorious Goodwood meeting starts on Tuesday, with the Betfair Cup and the Gordon Stakes highlights on the opening day. Other races to look forward to include the Sussex Stakes on Wednesday, the two mile Goodwood Cup on Thursday, the Richmond Stakes on Friday while Saturday's features are the Nassau Stakes and the Stewards' Cup. A word to the wise - this isn't a meeting I've done particularly well at over the years.

Earlier in the week there was something of a shock when the Daily Mail reported that Michael Owen, currently on tour with Manchester United in the Far East, had sacked his trainer Nicky Vaughan. Now you can't help but feel some sympathy for Vaughan - the horses have the virus and you wake up one morning to be told by Owen's mother, Jeanette, that you've just joined the growing ranks of the unemployed. Reading between the lines, I don't think Mr Vaughan was particularly impressed with his treatment either... 'I haven't spoken to Michael, everything has been done by his mother. Working with high-profile people, these things are always likely to happen.' Mr Owen didn't appear to waste any time in arranging a replacement - the very next day both the Daily Mail and the Guardian reported that Tom Dascombe was set to take over the reins at the Cheshire stables, with financial backing coming from Betfair co-founder Andrew 'Bert' Black.

On the same day the Guardian also ran a story confirming that the BHA is investigating the running of Paul Nicholls' Predateur in a novice chase at Huntingdon on May 6th. Ridden by Christian Williams on this occasion, the horse, sent off second favourite in a field of four, went from 'every chance on bit 2 out' to 'ridden and found little' rather quickly. A trawl through his recent form would suggest this wasn't necessarily the first time this has happened.

Those of you who use the Racing Post website will know all about the recent introduction of charges for their Members' Club. I haven't subscribed and the other day, very helpfully, the Racing Post sent me an email pointing out the error of my ways. The mail lists the areas of the site I won't be able to access (thank you for that) unless I subscribe at a cost of £7.50 per month or 25p a day - 'that costs less than a third of a loaf of bread a day'. Now, I know what you're wondering - what's the price of a loaf of bread? Well, the loaf of bread the Racing Post has used for its comparison is the Hovis Wholemeal Thick (800g) from Sainsbury's which was on sale at £1.24 in June (but is actually reduced at the moment to £1). The mail finishes 'Use your loaf and make more dough. Keep in the know.' Lines like that - they're enough to make a grown man cry.

Finally, Mrs Tips spotted a potential bet in a snippet from Saturday's Times. Roger Federer and his wife Mirka have recently celebrated the birth of their twin daughters, Charlene Riva and Myla Rose. 'Bookmakers are offering 100-1 on either twin winning Wimbledon.' That has to be worth a tenner of anyone's money, doesn't it?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Saturday's King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes

Nine go to post for Saturday's big race at Ascot where the going is currently described as good to firm, good in places - the forecast predicts showers on Friday and sunny spells on Saturday. The race is often billed as the classic generation, the three-year-olds, against the older horses; this year just three from the classic generation take up the challenge - Sea The Stars is the main absentee, preferring to go to the International at York next month.

Sir Michael Stoute has three entries, with Ryan Moore choosing Conduit rather than Tartan Bearer or Ask, the only course and distance winner in the field. The bookmakers have set their wares out accordingly - Conduit has been installed 7/4 favourite; in the last ten years the favourite has won on seven occasions. On official ratings stablemate Tartan Bearer has three pounds to find with the market leader. Aidan O'Brien also runs three, Johnny Murtagh opting to ride Golden Sword. I envisage 200/1 chance Rockhampton going off in front, with Murtagh keeping his charge prominent, much as happened in the Irish Derby where Golden Sword finished second behind another Ballydoyle inmate, Fame And Glory. Those behind wouldn't want to give Golden Sword too much rope - stamina is his forte - as was the case in the Chester Vase which he won from the front at the rather rewarding odds of 25/1. O'Brien's other runner, Frozen Fire, isn't one to trust and for that reason is passed over. Ralph Beckett's Look Here is a filly I like, will have trip and conditions to suit and is of interest at around the 7/1 mark - I'm prepared to forgive her last effort at the Curragh over ten furlongs. Having said that, a filly hasn't won this since Time Charter way back in 1983! The race looks trappy enough with Stoute and O'Brien runners making up two-thirds of the field; the percentage call has to be Conduit but at the prices available I'll look to have an each-way dabble on Look Here who wouldn't want too much rain to fall before the off.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Grumpy Old Punter writes...

I first started PG's Tips roughly three and a half years ago; at that time one of my favourite blogs was the Grumpy Old Bookman. Much to my dismay, that blog was discontinued towards the end of 2007. Since then several acquaintances have suggested I should re-brand my efforts to carry the name Grumpy Old Punter - I can't think why.

Here's this week's round-up from the Grumpy Old Punter...

We saw two big rides from two top jockeys in two feature races on Saturday. With three furlongs to run you wouldn't have given Richard Hughes much of a chance on 2/1 favourite Monsieur Chevalier in the Wetherbys Super Sprint at Newbury; once the jockey got to work, his charge came with a rattling run to beat all nineteen rivals a shade cosily. At Market Rasen Tony McCoy performed an astonshing feat in getting 7/2 favourite Nostringsattached to win the Summer Plate; three out the horse looked a spent force in sixth, some ten lengths off the pace. McCoy galvanised his mount to pip stable companion Keepitsecret and No Panic a short head and a neck on the line.

Over the years we've all heard tales of members of the public being refused entry to various racecourse enclosures, often on account of the state of their attire (Ascot and Goodwood are two courses that come to mind immediately). Salisbury went a step further late last month when threatening to eject two racegoers from the members' enclosure for eating ice-creams! After a number of complaints, the course has now revised its policy...

It was a case of music while you work for Ryan Moore and his companions at a recent Kempton evening meeting. The London Philharmonic Orchestra played the William Tell overture during the running of the Handicap; this was the first race run to musical accompaniment in this country. Whether the idea is going to catch on is another matter altogether. One punter, when asked what tune had been played during the race, replied 'the Lone Ranger theme tune'. I also heard an unconfirmed rumour that several members of the orchestra failed to put in their best performance as the horse they'd backed in the event finished up out the back with the washing.

This snippet was spotted in the Times' City Diary last Wednesday. A gent, queuing up for his winnings at Ascot (yeah, OK), struck up a conversation with a woman who happened to be a banker with Lloyds Banking Group. They were at the races as part of a team-building exercise and had been given £5 'to put on horses'. That's taxpayers' money, isn't it? Aren't we entitled to our share of the spoils?

Finally, in case you hadn't realised, the football season is nearly upon us. I'd be the first to admit that my knowledge of the non-league scene is pretty patchy, although it has improved somewhat following Wrexham's relegation to the Blue Square Conference in 2007/8. I like to use Dr John Beech's excellent Football Management blog to keep abreast of events. The leagues below the Blue Square Conference, North and South in the hierarchy were previously sponsored by British Gas; this season however there is a new sponsor - the league will be known as the Zamaretto League. I know what you're thinking - just what is Zamaretto? Zamaretto is, apparently, a brand of flavoured liqueurs. Flavours available include blue raspberry, banana, apple, cherry, pear, peach and chocolate. Quoting from the website: 'Liqueurs are enjoying a renaissance with a new generation of young adults who are seeking something new, sophisticated and glamorous to enjoy with friends.' I'm just wondering whether non-league football is the right arena in which to promote this sort of stuff...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer Plate at Market Rasen

Sixteen are set to face the starter in tomorrow's highlight at Market Rasen, the Summer Plate. With £65,000 added in prize money, it's no surprise to see multiple runners from two yards that regularly target this event - Peter Bowen fields four, Jonjo O'Neill three. Bowen has won this four times since 2003, although it's fair to say that last year's winner, Snoopy Loopy, didn't appear to have the best of chances beforehand, being sent off at 16/1. For the record, in that race Always Waining finished fourth and Iron Man a distant tenth. Histoire De Moeurs is the shortest-priced of the Bowen runners in the early tissue for tomorrow's renewal but this one has done most of her racing over two miles and doesn't look certain to stay the trip. Of the other entries, I think Always Waining will struggle to carry top weight on easy ground and Iron Man has been well out of form which leaves No Panic as the most interesting, but he's done most of his chasing with other novices - this step up into handicap company will prove a stern test. O'Neill fields three, two of them, Nostringsattached and Nelson's Spice, owned by J P McManus. McCoy has chosen Nostringsattached; that one is likely to be near the head of the market and rightly so with the stable in cracking form - 5 wins from 16 runs in the last fortnight. In a competitive event I'll side with Nostringsattached - the market hasn't been a bad guide over the past decade with the winner coming from the first two in the betting on seven occasions.

Charlie Mann's Katies Tuitor has done me a couple of favours at decent prices in the past and for that reason is a horse I like. He won the Summer Hurdle last year on soft going off a mark of 136; tomorrow he races with top weight off a mark of 150 which I think will be beyond him. This is always a difficult race but I'm tempted to have an each-way interest in Twiston-Davies' Cootehill who carries the minimum ten stones and is one to bear in mind for the future irrespective of what happens here.

Many will think Rupestrain a source of easy money in the 2.40 but I won't be getting involved at short odds. His victories have all come on fast ground and he had to work hard enough to win a Sedgefield juvenile hurdle last time out.

The stats give strong pointers in the 4.15. The winner has come from the first three in the betting on every occasion over the past ten years, the favourite winning on six occasions and finishing second on the other four. Of those with a rating, Any Given Day looks the one to beat although it's interesting to note that Pam Sly's Viable has one pound in hand if the amateur rider's seven pound allowance is taken into consideration. I also noted that Charlie Mann has opted to run Moment Present here; his well-regarded Vacario had an entry in this but earlier in the week was withdrawn from a novices' event at Uttoxeter - I don't know why - he misses this opportunity as well. Any Given Day is the selection.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ascot, York and Chester

The highlight at Ascot tomorrow is the Group 2 Summer Mile due off at 2.50. Ceasare won this race in 2007 and finished third last year; he's the top-rated horse but at the age of eight you can't help but wonder whether his best days are behind him and the stable's form has been something of a worry this season. Aqlaam finished half a length behind Cesare in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot just over three weeks ago, the pair well beaten by Paco Boy (who finished fourth in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket this afternoon); Willie Haggas' charge hasn't won over this trip but I'm sure the trainer will fancy his chances of reversing form with Cesare. Mike De Kock trained Archipenko to take this last year and has been bullish about Imbongi's chance - that one won a seven furlong Group 3 at Newmarket last time with the minimum of fuss. In my book Dream Eater has been slightly disappointing this season; he often pulls in the early stages which doesn't help at the business end - he has place prospects at best. This is an intriguing affair; I'm going to risk Imbongi staying this stiff mile - he should certainly handle underfoot conditions, with further rain a distinct possibility.

The feature at York is the 50th running of the John Smith's Cup which looks as competitive as ever. Luca Cumani thinks his well-touted Riggins will stay the trip. I won't be taking part in this - if I had to have a bet, I'd look for something that is set to carry less than nine stones, has a single-figure draw and is four or five years old. If the rain arrives, I'll consider an each-way interest in Willie Musson's Magicalmysterytour at 12/1 or bigger in the Silver Cup at 3.45.

At Chester the five furlong City Wall Stakes is due off at 3.30. Several of these finished behind Scenic Blast in the King's Stand at Royal Ascot - Captain Gerrard (fourth), Borderlescott (fifth), Hoh Hoh Hoh (thirteenth) and Rievaulx World (fifteenth). In addition Tax Free looked like getting involved when impeded over a furlong out; that effort will give Dandy Nicholls a benchmark for his three runners here. The draw over sprint distances is always so important at Chester - six of the last nine winners have come from stalls 1-4. As a play against the well-drawn favourite Borderlescott I've considered Masta Plasta, Captain Gerrard and Hoh Hoh Hoh. Captain Gerrard has disappointed twice since Ascot, finishing tenth of eleven at Sandwon last week, but I'm going to give him another chance as he has course and distance winning form. If his price is big enough on the day, I'll take an each-way interest. Other runners at Chester worth a second look: Just Mandy (4.05) and Zuwaar (4.40) - the stable boasts a 37.5% win strike rate over the past fortnight.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Points of view

Yesterday Sea The Stars confirmed his superstar status at Sandown, winning the Eclipse a shade comfortably. In post-race interviews trainer John Oxx indicated the Irish Champion Stakes was the long-term aim, where a re-match with Fame And Glory could be on the cards. In the meantime, the King George at Ascot or the International at York are possible targets. The Sporting Life reports that Hills are offering 5/1 the colt remains unbeaten in 2009. If I struck that bet and the horse subsequently suffered an injury which meant he didn't run again during the season, I wonder if I could collect...

It's been a week the jumping community won't want to remember in a hurry...

In a beginners' chase at Stratford on Tuesday evening, an old friend Mistanoora made a mistake at the water, broke a leg and had to be put down. The following day there was something of a debacle at Worcester when Highland Laddie collapsed from heat exhaustion after finishing third in the opener. The horse was eventually revived but only after 800 gallons of water had been used, leaving no reserves for other runners on a scorching day. The rest of the card had to be abandoned. Summer jumping has been staple fare at Worcester for some time; these latest events led to a RSPCA advisor expressing his concern over the summer jumps programme and in particular horses landing on ground that is quicker than good.

On Friday Nicky Henderson was handed a record £40,000 fine and banned from making entries for three months (11th July - 10th October) after being found guilty of allowing the anti-bleeding drug tranexamic acid (TA) to be administered to the Queen's mare Moonlit Path before she raced in the TurfTV Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Huntingdon on February 19th 2009. The reasons for the decision are given in full on the BHA website. I haven't gone through this document with a fine toothcomb but here are some basic points:

- on the day of a race a horse is allowed only food and water;
- TA is a prohibited substance and was given to Moonlit Path on the day of the race;
- Nicky Henderson broke the Rules of Racing;
- vet James Main, who adminstered the drug, refused to give evidence to the Enquiry;
- the omission of any mention of the injection in the Medication Book was 'part of a systematic attempt to conceal ... the use of TA';
- several racing commentators see the punishment as fair.

Having said all that, every cloud has its silver lining... Writing in Saturday's Times, Alan Lee hinted that it was unlikely the Queen would move her horses from Henderson's stable. Added to that, the three month ban has fallen at the most opportune time for Henderson, a time when the stable traditionally has few runners. Taking figures published in the Racing Post Weekender on 5th March 2008, the stable had 96 runners in the months of July, August and September over the preceding ten year period. From the month of November through to the following April, the core National Hunt season, the stable had 3451 runners over the preceding ten years.

Finally, Mrs Tips sends her apologies. She is exhausted having sat in front of the TV all afternoon watching the Men's Final - she has no energy left to write up her Wimbledon report from last week.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Some thoughts on Sandown and the Lancashire Oaks

Sea The Stars, having missed the Irish Derby last Sunday on account of easy ground, bids to become the first horse since Nashwan twenty years ago to add a victory in the Eclipse to victories in the Guineas and the Derby. The ten furlong trip looks ideal and he looks likely to start odds-on favourite. Favourites don't have a good record in this; over the last ten years only Hawk Wing (8/15f) has obliged and we've seen two big-priced winners in Oratorio at 12/1 in 2005 and Compton Admiral at 20/1 in 1999. For the record, the classic generation has won four of the past ten renewals. Earlier in the week I'd lined up an each-way wager on Mike de Kock's Archipenko as my tip but the beast was found to have a swollen fetlock on Thursday morning. I think this is Rip Van Winkle's trip but he has been the subject of a slight scare story earlier today; Jimmy Fortune deputises for the suspended Johnny Murtagh. Really this is a race to watch and savour; I expect the favourtite to win but he'll be no betting proposition. If I indulge, I'll take a small each-way interest in Henry Cecil's Twice Over who on official ratings has some six pounds to find with the top-rated Conduit. Victor Chandler go 20/1 this evening.

On official ratings Gravitation is the one to beat in the Coral Marathon run over a distance of two miles at 4.20. Having said that, Gravitation ran something of a stinker last time and Willie Jarvis' yard is currently out of sorts. Judgethemoment was withdrawn from last weekend's Northumberland Plate (in which Wells Lyrical finished second) just an hour before the off on account of soft ground. There seems little likelihood those conditions will prevail tomorrow and his chance is respected. However I'm going to side with Amerigo who was well-touted for the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot. He didn't help his cause by pulling hard that day and this tough two miles should suit better; Coral offer 5/1 this evening.

No bet for me in the opening five furlong Coral Charge which looks a hot event. The three-year-old Triple Aspect is top-rated and has a good draw in stall eleven. Two Royal Ascot sprinters will make this interesting; Anglezarke, third in the King's Stand Stakes, goes from stall ten and Ialysos, unplaced in the Golden Jubilee Stakes but unbeaten prior to that, goes from stall nine. Others who performed at Royal Ascot include Duff (eighth in the Golden Jubilee), Captain Gerard (fourth in the King's Stand) and Total Gallery (fourteenth in the Jersey).

In the Lancashire Oaks at Haydock I'm inclined to oppose Barry Hills' High Heeled as I've read in a couple of places that she likes 'to get her toe in'. According to the market, her only serious challenger is Flame Of Gibraltar. For me Take The Hint is of interest. On a bare reading of the form she has it all to do to reverse recent Ribblesdale running with Flame Of Gibraltar and the extra two furlongs here isn't certain to suit. Having said that, John Gosden's yard was going through a lean spell at that time; things look much better now. I don't think there's an awful lot between the two and at the prices I'll chance Take The Hint seeing out the trip - I'll have an each-way interest at around the 8/1 mark.