Friday, July 30, 2010

Glorious Goodwood - the final day

Tomorrow is the final day of Glorious Goodwood but I'm in no position to comment on how glorious Goodwood has been so far, primarily because, as I'm not a member of the landed gentry, I haven't seen any of the past four days' racing. Once upon a time I did have this plan to win a shedload of money betting the horses which would have enabled me to live the life of a member of the landed gentry but that particular dream, along with my other naive hopes and desires, was quashed by the harsh banal reality of everyday life some thirty odd years ago.

Seven go in the Nassau at 3.05 in which last year's winner Midday looks the one they have to beat, with the strongest challenge likely to come from French fillies Stacelita and Rosanara; Stacelita has yet to race on going this quick. Henry Cecil's stable jock Tom Queally appears confident enough this evening. Game one-eyed mare Barshiba can be counted on to run her race but is likely to find one or two too good in this Group One - she finished fourth behind Midday in this last year when the going was soft and the sea fret proved rather troublesome to some members of the landed gentry in the stands. Midday is the selection.

A tentative suggestion in the wide-open cavalry charge that is the Stewards' Cup with twenty eight set to face the starter... The stats appear to show that middle to high drawn horses are favoured; the result of today's Rolf Group Stewards' Handciap (for those beasts that missed the cut for tomorrow's event) confirms the suspicions with the winner coming from stall fourteen and only one of the first seven home boasting a single-figure berth - that horse was Tiddliwinks who looked unlucky in running and might be worth noting for another day. Of the market leaders Genki and Palace Moon have enough weight while Enact comes from Sir Michael Stoute's yard which is just a little in and out at the moment. Tom Dascombe's pair will attract plenty of support with stable jock Richard Kingscote on Noverre To Go while the other one Jonny Mudball is part-owned by footballer Jonathan Woodgate. Talking of football ex-footballer now trainer Mick Channon saddles Rileyskeepingfaith who was just beaten a neck at Haydock the last time and has been well tipped up in this week's Weekender. Four and five year olds have a good record in this so I'll take a small each-way interest in Hitchens who is drawn right up against the far rail and comes to this fresher than most. He was doing his best work towards the end in last week's Sky Bet Dash at York where he finished seventh of twenty; that should have put him spot on. He rates a sporting each-way chance and is priced up at 25/1 with Sky Bet, who also happen to be paying a quarter the odds five places.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The crying is done; what next - Goodwood or Galway?

Generally speaking I hate to see a man cry. This week I discovered there have been several reports in the press of men crying after watching Toy Story 3. One man who had no qualms about weeping openly on national television was Highclere manager Harry Herbert after Harbinger won the King George by an astonishing eleven lengths. I wonder if Workforce's jockey Ryan Moore had a tear in his eye after the Derby winner trailled in a disappointing fifth of the six runners? Connections have blamed the ground and the fact that the colt, usually a relaxed custoner, was too keen in the early stages.

The five days of Glorious Goodwood start on Tuesday, a meeting at which Mark Johnson has been the leading trainer on seven occasions. The menu looks something like this:

Tuesday 27 July features the Betfair Cup at 3.25; first race 2.10
Wednesday 28 July features the Sussex Stakes in which last year's winner Rip Van Winkle will merit close inspection; first race 2.10
Thursday 29 July features the two mile Goodwood Cup - Dettori put up Kite Wood as his best chance at the meeting on Saturday's Morning Line; first race 2.10
Friday 30 July features The Golden Mile and the Richmond Stakes; first race 2.10
Saturday 31 July features the cavalry charge that is the Stewards' Cup and the Nassau Stakes.

If Glorious Goodwood makes demands on the stamina, it is as nothing compared to the seven days that comprise the Galway Festival which starts 5.10 sharp tomorrow evening with the and the Novice Hurdle. Races of particular interest during the week include the Galway Plate (5.25 Wednesday) in which Nigel Twiston-Davies is set to saddle his first runner, Grand Slam Hero, and the Guinness Galway Hurdle (4.50 Thursday, which also happens to be Ladies' Day) in which Donald McCain is set to saddle his first runner, Northumberland Plate winner Overturn. The going this evening is described as good to yielding, yielding in places. How I wish I could be there!

Friday, July 23, 2010

One Group One and One Group Two

A select field of just six will face the starter at 4.25 for tomorrow's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes - this evening it was announced that John Gosden's mare Dar Re Mi, owned by Lord Lloyd Weber, will miss the race on account of a bruised foot. The three-year-olds, the 'classic generation', have a good record in this which augurs well for impressive Derby winner Workforce as well as Cape Blanco; the favourite has collected the spoils on eight occasions in the last ten years. In today's Times Alan Lee reports trainer Sir Michael Stoute warning that the biggest threat to the market leader may come from within his own stable - Harbinger has progressed very well since his win in the Hardwicke Stakes five weeks ago. The stable's other runner, Confront, has been allocated pacemakng duties and for that reason is quoted at 250/1. It is not surprising stable jock Ryan Moore elected to stick with the horse that won Epsom's showpiece. The lead story in today's Racing Post informed us the layers were out to 'get' Workforce - he's best-priced 11/10 with William Hill and Coral this evening. Workforce is my idea of the winner in a race that doesn't really make that much appeal as a betting medium. In search of a bit of value, I'm going to take an each-way interest in Daryakana at 16/1. The last filly to win this was Time Charter in 1983 - having said that, Alain de Royer-Dupre's charge prefers racing right-handed, beat the colts in the Hong Kong Vase last December and has been trained specifically for this race since.

Up at York the bare eight go to post for the Sky Bet York Stakes at 3.05 - this evening several bookmakers go 4/1 the field. On official ratings Monitor Closely is the best horse in the race; Michael Bell's colt hasn't been seen out since last September when he finished third in the St Leger behind Mastery. He may just need the run while the step back in trip doesn't look in his favour. John Gosden's Debussy is likely to appreciate cut in the ground while the two Godolphin runners are of some interest. Balius is the higher rated of the two but is making his seasonal debut; Allybar finished third behind Gloria De Campeao on his penultimate run in the Dubai World Cup. That race took place on sand and looks good form - I fancied him at a price for the Prince Of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot the next time provided, of course, he could transfer that form to the turf. In the event, he ruined his chance by pulling too hard in the early stages so I'd be willing to forgive but I'm not convinced he'll handle easier conditions here. Debussy ran creditably at an even bigger price in that same Ascot race, fading inside the final furlong to finish seventh, beaten under four and a half lengths. 4/1 Debussy is the bet.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Some short snippets...

Harry Findlay's successful appeal on Wednesday has received plenty of press coverage this week - Greg Wood argued for a change in the BHA rule book in Friday's Guardian. Meanwhile the exchange operator Findlay used to lay his own horses, Betfair, appears to be considering a stock market flotation in the autumn which could value the group in the region of £1.5 billion. Saturday's Times reported that the two founders, Ed Wray and Andrew 'Bert' Black, will share a paper fortune of £375 million if the float goes ahead. Betfair is the world's biggest betting exchange with over three million customers in 140 different countries.

In future 'Bert' Black is likely to pump some of that money into Manor House Stables where Tom Dascombe trains a number of horses for Michael Owen. However it was trainer Tim Vaughan who provided Owen with his first double as an owner when Paddy Partridge and Holoko Heights took the opening two races on the card at Uttoxeter on Wednesday.

It looks as though trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies intends to try and keep the Plates spinning. Grand Slam Hero won the Summer Plate at Market Rasen yesterday and connections have indicated they now have the Galway Plate on July 28th in their sights. Bet365 still offer 16/1 this evening but William Hill go 10/1.

In the world of golf, congratulations go to the new Open Champion, Louis Oosthuizen. Mrs Tips reports Clare Balding saying on radio a racing acquaintance of hers had backed the winner at odds of 480/1. I wonder who that might be...

Finally, a quip from Johnny Vegas in a 60 seconds interview that appeared in a recent edition of Star magazine. Asked if he'd ever cheated on anyone, Vegas replied: "I have never cheated on anyone, certainly not in a relationship. I cheated on my dad when I said I put bet on for him, but I kept the money. That was 20 years ago." Of course, had the horse come in, he could simply have gone back to his father and handed over the stake, saying he forgot to put the bet on. Such an honest gesture from one so young may well have prevented the probable parental thrashing that loomed ahead. However, if the young Vegas had already spent his dad's stake money on several bags of sweets, then the only sensible course of action would have been to stuff an old exercise book down the back of his pants. Ah, the good old days - where did it all go wrong?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Market Rasen's Summer Plate 2010

Tomorrow's meeting at Market Rasen is the highlight of the summer jumping calendar. Sixteen go to post in the Summer Plate at 3.35 with prize money of £60,000 on offer; this evening all the major bookmaking firms are offering each-way a quarter the odds four places. Several of tomorrow's particpants have run in the race previously. Last year McCoy did this blog a favour by getting Nostringsattached up to win a short-head from stablemate Keepitsecret while King Troy ran well to finish fourth; Brooklyn Brownie finished second behind Peter Bowen's Snoopy Loopy in 2008 with Seymour Weld down the field in tenth. In the past the Bowen yard has been mob-handed in this but just Valley Pride takes his chance tomorrow - that chance is certainly respected as the trainer is in phenomenal form with six winners from his last seven runners. Of the three Jonjo O'Neill entries McCoy has opted for course and distance winner Tempsford and that one heads the market. Putney Bridge is one who runs his race from the front but he'll do well to win this with that style of racing. One that's slightly less exposed is Tim Vaughan's War Of The World. This gelding finished just under two lengths behind Valley Ride over course and distance last September; he looked to race in snatches that day but on his next appearance was in with a shout when coming down two out at Cheltenham's mid-October meeting in a race won by Poquelin. He hasn't been seen out since and although he has shown himself prone to the odd jumping error in the past the booking of Richard Johnson catches the eye. I'll take an each-way interest in War Of The World at around 12/1. It's worth noting that the favourite has obliged on five occasions in the last ten years.

The opening Summer Hurdle looks very difficult. One near the bottom of the handicap that might be worth a second look provided the price is right is Evan Williams' Nordwind. Ten pound claimer Adam Wedge takes the ride but will he be able to do the weight, I wonder? William Hill go 16/1 this evening.

Much of the form for the juvenile hurdle at 2.35 goes back to Torran's course and distance win three weeks ago. Lady Pasha, Sansili and Bring Sweets will all fancy their chance of reversing placings with the winner who now carries a penalty. I'm tempted to chance the filly Lady Pasha as she was headed in the shadow of the post in that race and has cheekpieces applied this time which should help the cause. Of the newcomers Dance For Julie who won on the soft over twelve furlongs looks of some interest.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Haunted by memories of Wigmore Hall

Before the beginning of last week I'd never heard of Wigmore Hall but the build-up to the John Smith's Cup changed all that; my selection in that race, 14/1 shot Kings Gambit, was pipped at the post by Michael Bell's lightly-weighted three-year-old. The York stewards duly entered into the spirit of things and played their part by delaying the agony that little bit longer before announcing that placings were to remain unaltered.

Still cursing my luck, I thought an evening of classical music at Royal Leamington Spa provided by the City of Coventry Youth Orchestra would prove a suitable distraction. I know absolutely nothing about classical music so I purchased a racecard, sorry a programme, and noted that violin soloist Eleanor Percy was to play Max Bruch's Violin Concerto in G Minor, Opus 26. Ms Percy really was exceptional. In the interval I took the trouble to read the accompanying programme notes - it was there I discovered that Ms Percy made her debut at Wigmore Hall in 2005.

Wikipedia describes Wigmore Hall as 'a leading international recital venue that specialises in hosting performances of chamber music and is best known for classical recitals of piano, song and instrumental music.'

Talk about kicking a man when he's down... I still haven't recovered.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Eclectic thoughts on Saturday's cards....

With so many cards on offer tomorrow, it's difficult to know where to concentrate the effort...

The 51st running of the John Smith's Cup takes place on the Knavesmire at 3.05; twenty are set to face the starter. I used to think a single figure draw was an advantage not to be sniffed at in this but over the past ten years the winners have been drawn wide on four occasions, Sirvino taking the spoils from stall sixteen last year. The last three-year-old to win was Sir Mark Prescott's Foreign Affairs in 2001 which doesn't bode all that well for the well-touted Wigmore Hall who appears to have been tipped up by the world and his wife and now has a price to reflect that fact. Four-year-olds have won six of the last seven runnings - Sir Michael Stoute's Imposing will be popular and another with a price to match. Demolition is one of five from Richard Fahey's stable - he ran well behind easy Haydock winner Dangerous Midge last weekend but this may come a bit quick. Tom Tate runs two - I'll take a small each-way interest in Kings Gambit (14/1) with Jamie Spencer up. This one was noted doing his best work at the business end to take second in the Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot three weeks ago.

Northumberland Plate form gives a pointer to several in the Silver Cup at 3.40. Drunken Sailor ran second, Deauville Flyer (backed as though defeat was out of the question) fifth, Chiberta King tenth (and likely to appreciate the drop back to 14 furlongs) while Sabotage finished seventeenth of the nineteen runners. At the prices on offer I'll take a chance with Chiberta King at 5/1 (or bigger). It should be noted that although Richard Hannon's horses are in fine form at the moment, this season the handler hasn't managed to get to grips with The Queen's horse, Free Agent; I imagine Her Majesty is far from amused...

At Ascot Paco Boy won't take his chance in the Summer Mile and as a result we're left with a field of ten in what looks a very trappy affair. Dream Eater stayed on at one pace to take third off Zacinto in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot but doesn't make much appeal while Premier Loco can be a tricky ride. Two-year-old nurseries over six furlongs are well out of my comfort zone but earlier today I saw a word for Major Conquest in the 2.20.

The feature at Chester is the listed City Wall Stakes at 3.20. Last year's winner Borderlescott looks the one to beat again this year and he has a plum draw in stall one. Blue Jack is of interest having finished behind Equiano and Kingsgate Native in Group races this season. Owned by Andrew 'Bert' Black and Michael Owen, the gelding is highly regarded and many will think worth a second look at 10/1. There are reservations though - a poor draw (stall nine), quiet stable form and in a review printed earlier in the season, the handler expressed concerns as to how his charge would take to Chester's tight turns. In the opener Ashram looks a play against short-priced favourite Lord Shanakill.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Racing in a recession

The lead story in Thursday's Racing Post outlined the British Horseracing Authority's plans to axe around 250 meetings from the 2011 fixture list in response to falling income from the Levy Board. Such a move will bring plenty of worries to a number of courses, with Saturday's Morning Line mentioning particular fears for the future of Kempton, Wolverhampton and Ffos Las. A report in Friday's South Wales Echo was more upbeat about the Welsh track's future while Bob Davies, clerk of the course at Ludlow, played down fears about Ludlow's fixtures in the an interview with the Shropshire Star. Having said that, attendances and betting turnover at the recent Royal Ascot meeting held up reasonably well; some commentators had talked about thinking the unthinkable and allowing race sponsorship at next year's meeting but that now seems less likely.

All of which brought to mind a review Mike Atherton wrote in The Times a couple of weeks ago of a recently published book, A Last English Summer by Duncan Hamilton. The author takes up the theme of the rapid pace of change in the sport that he loves - cricket. The changes are coming thick and fast, they're not always for the best and those changes tend to be driven by the harsh realities of participating in sport when the commercial world is on the brink of recession. Traditionalists like Hamilton look at their sport, see the passing of a way of life and express unashamed sadness at the passing of those old ways.

What struck me in particular was that racing faced similar issues - the work of the Racing For Change initiative came to mind. In a nutshell the message appears to be - enjoy the old ways now for they are likely to disappear. Change has to be embraced; failure to do so will lead to oblivion.

Of course, in the old days I could have provided a direct hypertext link to Mr Atherton's well-written review but The Times, operating in the commercial world, has taken the decision to introduce charges for its online content.

Like it or not, the money talks.

Friday, July 02, 2010

A day at the Haydock races

You'd think they'd have learnt by now...

Some colleagues go to the Haydock races tomorrow for a stag do and they've asked for some tips. First one I gave was don't get married; after that, I told them this.

The main event at 2.50 is the Lancashire Oaks which will be run over one and a half miles. Last year's winner Barshiba heads the market and looks sure to run her race but no mare / filly has won this more than once. Having said that Barshiba is as tough as old boots, has her own way of doing things and ran a fine race at Royal Ascot to finish third behind Harbinger and Duncan. Prior to that she had finished fourth behind three of tomorrow's opponents, Les Fazzani, Polly's Mark and Roshiba over this course and distance on good to soft ground. Should enough rain arrive before the off, Les Fazzani would make plenty of appeal to confirm form with the favourite while Polly's Mark reopposes Kevin Ryan's charge on three pounds worse terms for a head defeat. You'd expect improvement on the first run from Sir Michael Stoute's Rosika who will be better suited by decent ground but has enough to find on official ratings; Coral go 12/1 this evening which may make some each-way appeal. The same firm go 16/1 Barry Hills' Champagnelifestyle. This three-year-old was the subject of some bullish comments before the Epsom Oaks but she looked to fade in the final furlong; connections were puzzled by that run but report her in good form, although they think a drop of rain would help the cause. They clearly think plenty of this one, summarised by this quote after Epsom:

'We still believe we have a talented filly and there will be another day for her.'

Champagnelifestyle each-way is the suggestion at 16/1. A couple of stats - three favourites have won in the last ten years while the winner has come from the first three in the betting eight times over the same period.

As usual, the Old Newton Cup (3.25) looks devilishly difficult. I used the following to narrow the field a little... Nine of the last ten winners carried more than 8st 7lbs but only three have carried more than 9st; in the past decade all winners have been aged four or five. Last year Red Merlin took the spoils and he tries again tomorrow but I'll take a small each-way interest in another red, Red Cadeaux. He was priced up at 14/1 earlier today but this evening is just 11/1, so somebody must be backing him. Recent stable form would be a very real worry.

Berling will be a short-price to take the opener but I told the future groom to take a chance with Anhar (15/2 Stan James); if nothing else, he'll have something to remember his carefree days by...

Over at Sandown the Eclipse doesn't look quite up to scratch this year and, judging by the offers of reduced priced tickets I've received this past week, others are of the same opinion. Six are set to face the starter in what could well develop into a tactical affair. On ratings Twice Over is the one to beat while Dar Re Mi bids to become the first filly / mare to win in eighteen years. Connections will hope Zacinto can fulfil his potential with this step up to ten furlongs while Marcus Tregoning wants the rain to stay away in the hope Mawatheeq can come on for his seasonal debut following a spell on the sidelines through injury. Mawatheeq (6/1) is the interesting one but I'll watch from the sidelines.