Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Day 2012

Plum Pudding (18/1) may have been a topical winner of today's 2.20 at Warwick but he must rank as the luckiest winner of the year as first fence faller Tafika was still loose some six minutes after his tumble and hampered leading horse and 5/1 favourite Glens Boy in the shadow of the post to gift the race to the outsider. It certainly didn't make for the best of viewing, being described as 'carnage' by one commentator.

With that occurence in mind, here are some tentative suggestions for New Year's Day 2012 in this 800th blog post...

Cheltenham 1.05: Invictus (11/4 Ladbrokes) appeals as a play against likely favourtie Sonofvic. Sonofvic didn't look the most fluent of jumpers when going down to Grand Crus at Newbury on his first try over the larger obstacles.

Musselburgh 1.15: Bourne has to give 15 pounds to Eagle Rock but could offer value.

Musselburgh 2.25: I'm a fan of Marsh Warbler (fifth in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot last time) but I'm not convinced the going or this track will see him to best advantage. Desert Cry, part-owned by Everton manager David Moyes, looked a very tricky ride in that same Ascot race.

Exeter 12.40: Theatrical Star has been quite highly tried and is an each-way wager if the tissue price of 12/1 becomes available on the day.

Exeter 2.55: I'd chance Penny Max against Golden Chieftain.

Exeter 4.00: Two to monitor in the bumper - Philip Hobbs' Billesley Road and Xaarcet, described in the autumn by Colin Tizzard as 'probably our best unraced horse for the season'.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all readers a happy and prosperous new year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The final day of 2011

The last cards of 2011 have an end of year feel to them. Betfair will certainly be hoping for better things in 2012 following the recent fiasco surrounding their in-running market for the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. One year ago Betfair shares traded at 964p; this evening they closed at 752.50p, having recorded a twelve month high of 1054p in January.

At Newbury Philip Hobbs' Fingal Bay will be expected to take the Challow at 3.05 while the novice chase run an hour earlier should prove informative with an eye on the future. Alan King's Walkon has been touted by several but this will be no walk in the park with Colin Tizzard's Cue Card in the line-up as well as For Non Stop from the in-form Nick Williams yard. For Non Stop went down a neck to Al Ferof (quoted a 7/1 chance for the Arkle) in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown four weeks ago; layers currently offer 20/1 about Walkon for the Cheltenham race. In the light of that, Ladbrokes' price of 11/4 about For Non Stop for tomorrow's event is of some interest.

Olofi goes in the finale and deserves a change of luck, having run some sound races in defeat. Naively I'd hoped for an each-way price but this evening he's generally on offer at 5/1 with William Hill going 6/1; I think I'll wait until next year for my next bet.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Welsh National 2011

As always, particularly competitive but Richard Lee's Le Beau Bai catches the eye at the right end of the handicap. He's not the biggest of individuals but the heavy going should prove right up his street. Third in the 2009 running off a mark of 148, he goes here off 127 having won over the course at the beginning of the month; the yard had a welcome winner with 13 year old Victory Gunner earlier today. Suggestion: Le Beau Bai each-way (10/1 Betfred).

Friday, December 23, 2011

A quick Boxing Day selection box

Kempton's King George VI Chase is the Boxing Day highlight with eight declared. Long Run is the top-rated animal; he's never been the one to trust implicitly at the fences but his class has seen him through more often than not. In the Betfair at Haydock he was beaten eight lengths by Kauto Star but put in a couple of howlers down the back straight second time around and should strip fitter here. Today's Times reports that a set of golden plates have been created for Kauto and will be presented to his trainer Paul Nicholls before the race. Master Minded, Captain Chris and Somersby have stamina questions to answer but Diamond Harry will stay on this his first try going right-handed. He was 18 lengths behind in the Betfair but Barry Geraghty takes the ride and looks value at 16/1 provided the eight go to post. Favourites have an excellent record in this race but I'll take an each-way interest in Diamond Harry who won't be inconvenienced by further rain.

Binocular won the Christmas Hurdle last year but the race was mid-January - the horse's record before new year's day of a season isn't particularly encouraging. The yard is bullish but connections were before the Fighting Fifth - I'm not tempted.

Grand Crus has looked impressive over the larger obstacles this season and is fanceid to get the better of Bobs Worth whose jumping wasn't foot-perfect last time at Newbury when just catching Cue Card on the line. The Pipe yard hasn't totally discounted a stab at the Gold Cup with their novice.

Two worth a second look...

Wetherby 1.45 - Neptune Equester
Wincanton 2.15 - Tante Sissi.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all readers a very merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Ghost of Christmas Past

There is something awful about Christmas; I'm sure I'm not alone when I say the one thing that keeps me going at this time of year is the thought of the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. With a sense of deja vu, I quickly trawled back through previous Christmas posts, just to ensure I hadn't started to mellow in old age...

Last year racing was in the midst of the big freeze; I was reduced to penning an article on train-spotting of all things.

2009's entry attempted to sum up a racing man's Christmas while in earlier years I tried to stimulate some artificial jollity by recommending racing related games to readers. In 2007 Horsey Hoppers looked something of a dodgy also-ran but The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game (2006) proved an outright winner.

In today's Sunday Telegraph Rose Prince's 10 ways to kickstart Christmas has palpably failed to lift my spirits and wandering thoughts of warmer weather in the summer only bring back to mind the time John Parrott swindled me out of a small fortune on a Cardiff pub quiz machine.

Have yourselves a merry little Christmas...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ladbroke hurdle @ Ascot

Popped up and busted for time: one selection - Marsh Warbler (14/1) each way in the Ladbroke Hurdle (3.35 Ascot) provided going is soft.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The International Hurdle at Cheltenham

A decent card at Cheltenham tomorrow where the feature Spinal Research The Atlantic 4 Gold Cup with 17 runners will generate plenty of bettng activity but I find the International Hurdle at 3.05 much more intriguing. After sending out 5 winners from 10 runners today, Nicky Henderson saddles one of the two four-year-olds in the field, Grandouet. The opposition includes last year's winner Menorah, the four-year-old Greatwood winner Brampour as well as the front-running Overturn who has done this blog a favour in the past couple of weeks with wins at Ascot and Newcastle. I'm loathe to desert Overturn but he's had two tough races in the past three weeks; immediately after the Fighting Fifth connections indicated they would give their charge a break so it's a surprise to see him out again so quickly. There's also a hint he carries out his front running role better on a flat track. I always think this race is a big ask for a four-year-old; in the past decade two have managed to pull off the trick, Detroit City in 2006 and Binocular in 2008. This year on official ratings Grandouet has five pounds in hand over Brampour and Harry Dereham, conditional jockey of the latter-named, can't claim seven pounds in this event. Menorah reverts to hurdles after unseating two from home at Exeter last time with a novice chase at his mercy; his chance is very much respected but 14/1 Clerk's Choice looks too big a price about a horse that finished two lengths behind Menorah in the Champion Hurdle reopposing here on four pounds better terms. There are mitigating circumstances - Menorah has already had that spin at Exeter and Clerk's Choice went to Oliver Sherwood's yard in unfortunate circumstances when the lass who looked after the horse broke her pelvis in an accident. Still, this race has been the target, the quick ground will suit and I still recall the horse bolting up over course and distance fourteen months ago, beating Barizan and Royal Mix in the process. Provided the rain stays away and the eight get to post, Clerk's Choice each-way at around 14/1  is the wager.

In the Relkeel (3.35) Oscar Whisky is the likeliest winner and is likely to start odds-on; in my opinion he's a horse who benefits from cut underfoot. On official ratings Any Given Day has two pounds to find and at 9/2 represents a play against the favourite for those brave enough.

This evening layers are taking differing views on the trappy-looking three mile novice hurdle at 1.55 which Mossley (runs in 12.45) won last year. Paddy Power go 7/4 about Halley while Coral and Ladbrokes offer 7/2. I was interested in Tim Vaughan's Rev It Up but according to his handler the gelding is better on soft ground so I'm going to watch from the sidelines.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Tingle Creek and the Becher feature

A cursory glance at tomorrow's Tingle Creek and Champion Chase winner Sizing Europe looks the one. With Tataniano now written off for the season, the current champion has 13 pounds in hand over nearest rival Wishfull Thinking. The market has priced the race accordingly; it's worth noting that the favourite has obliged on five occasions in the past decade and in that time the biggest-priced winner was 6/1 shot Cenkos in 2002. Having said all that, Sizing Europe had a right hard race over a mile further in the Champion Chase at Down Royal four weeks ago where he ran out of petrol on the run-in and was passed by Quito De La Roque. It's difficult to know how much that race will have taken out of him. Wishfull Thinking raced from the front in the Paddy Power over an extra half-mile but faded into sixth at the business end and was reported 'very thick in his wind' afterwards; Philip Hobbs, never one to talk up his horses for the sake of it, does not think his charge will be done for pace. While Kauto Stone could be one for the future, it's worth remembering this particular track provides a stern examination of any youngster's jumping but course and distance winner Gauvain isn't totally written off, although I've never found the gelding easy to win with. Sizing Europe is the clear form choice and 6/4 will look easy money to many but in search of a bit of value I'm going to chance Wishfull Thinking at around 3/1. Once again he's likely to race to the fore so at least I'll know my fate soon enough.

At Aintree the feature is The Becher Chase (2.10) run over the National fences. Fifteen go to post and there are plenty with chances including last year's winner Hello Bud who tries to repeat the trick just a couple of weeks short of his 14th birthday. I like a horse at a price with form over the fences in a race such as this and, to be honest, I'm struggling to find something to fit the bill. Niche Market appeals having finished fifth in the National but 8/1 is short enough  and the layers are similarly shy about Topham winner Always Waining. Alan King holds National aspirations for West End Rocker and the bay looked unlucky to be brought down at Becher's in the spring so at around 14/1 I'll take a small each-way interest; he didn't shine on his seasonal debut around Cheltenham so connections will be hoping for a better showing here from their Warwick Classic Chase winner.

The opener at the same course sees a clash between Keys and Cinders And Ashes; the last time the pair met the former prevailed by a short-head in a Cheltenham bumper. Cinders And Ashes should come on for his seasonal debut two weeks ago while Keys was last seen finishing down the field in the Cesarewitch. In my book Cinders And Ashes will represent a play against likely favourite Keys if priced 11/4 or bigger.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Hennessy and the Fighting Fifth

After Kauto's heroics in last week's Betfair Chase, this week's Hennessy just hasn't captured the imagination. Old-timers such as myself often witter on about the Hennessy going to a young up-and-coming sort but as Tom Segal points out in the Weekender, last season's top novices looked distinctly average in the Betfair. I bet Aiteen Thirtythree in the RSA last March but he's not the most proficient of jumpers; Wymott's stable jock Jason Maguire prefers Peddlers Cross at Bangor and a quick trip to Newcastle to partner Overturn; Great Endeavour looked good in the Paddy Power but hasn't won over further than two miles six while The Giant Bolster has failed to complete on four of his six chase starts. So, of the younger brigade, Wayward Prince, third in the RSA and fourth behind the well-regarded Quito De La Roque at Aintree three weeks later (Sarando beaten just a neck into second) makes some appeal; trainer Ian Williams sounds hopeful enough and in the past fortnight has sent out seven winners from 36 runners. Of the more established entrants, top weight Neptune Collonges has Harry Dereham take seven pounds off but didn't really hit the heights last season following a long break after injury - since 1957 only three horses older than nine have won: Mandarin (1961), Rondetto (1967) and Diamond Edge (1981). Blazing Bailey is an outside chance while there's a hint Beshabar has the National as his target. Running one pound out of the handicap, Carruthers finished sixth in this last year off a mark of 155 - he returns this time off 146 and ran well on his seasonal debut behind Galaxy Rock at Cheltenham a fortnight ago. Connections try a tongue-tie for the first-time - 20/1 with totesport looks reasonable each-way value. This evening two layers offer a quarter the odds five places on this race - bet365 and Paddy Power.

The sole tip to oblige last week was Overturn and many will tell me that was only because Oscar Whisky fell when challenging at the last. That said, I'm not inclined to desert him against former champion hurdler Binocular in the Fighting Fifth. Nicky Henderson's charge has been sent off an odds-on chance in this race on each of the past two runnings and has been beaten on both occasions. The word from the Henderson yard is their charge is fit and ready this year. Celestial Halo is worthy of every respect but at this evening's prices the 7/2 Ladbrokes offer about Overturn looks particularly tempting.

Big Buck's returns in Newbury's Long Distance Hurdle (2.35); pilot Ruby Walsh was stood down after a fall from Sollim earlier today but he is expected to be fit to ride tomorrow.

All eyes will be on Peddlers Cross who continues his education over the larger obstacles in the opener at Bangor (12.10). At the same track Scholastica goes in the concluding mares' bumper (3.35) and is worth noting for future reference whatever happens here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Haydock and Ascot

At 3.05 tomorrow all eyes will be on Haydock's Betfair Chase as Long Run makes his first appearance on a racecourse after winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March. He faces five opponents and on official ratings has upwards of twelve pounds in hand over his rivals; owner Robert Waley-Cohen believes the only thing that can stop his pride and joy here is a lack of race fitness. I'm cautious and with Long Run priced odds-on I prefer to look elsewhere for some value. During the week Paul Nicholls indicated he has done plenty of work with previous Gold Cup winner Kauto Star who is some six weeks away from his 12th birthday. In the past Nicholls has used this race as a stepping stone to the King George and the Gold Cup but the implication is Kauto will not lack for fitness - this time it's the younger horse who has those races as targets. The predicted ground may help Kauto's cause a bit but these days I tend to see Haydock as more of a speed track - the likelihood is a younger animal will go by the former champion up the long home straight. Having said that, should Kauto win, there won't be a dry eye in the house.

That's the Gold Cup winners dealt with! Weird Al raised a few eyebrows on his first run for the McCain stable when beating Time For Rupert three and a half lengths in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby; that was Rupert's first run since disappointing in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival where he broke a blood vessel. Paul Webber's charge wasn't foot perfect at his fences last time and would be entitled to come on for that run - I'm not convinced placings will be confirmed. Earlier today a tweet from well-repsected observer NarrowTheField highlighted Weird Al's form in chases with less than ten runners 111-1-1 so he looks to have every chance and Timmy Murphy is riding exceptionally well at the moment. Hennessy winner Diamond Harry is very talented but notoriously fragile; he was favourite for the Charlie Hall three weeks ago but was found lame on the morning of the race. He goes well fresh and has been allocated the best speed rating in the Weekender; if he makes it to the course in one piece, he represents a value play at 5/1 or bigger - Diamond Harry gets the vote.

Plenty of old friends (and foes) in the three mile fixed brush handicap hurdle at 2.30. We've seen several of these over fences and one or two will be looking to exploit a more lenient hurdle rating, including Robinson Collonges (chase rating 148, hurdle rating 136); Synchronised (chase rating 155, hurdle rating 147) and Sa Suffit (chase rating 144, hurdle rating 135). No bet for me in this ultra competitive event but I hope old favourite Knockara Beau, who never really took to chasing, is fit enough to do himself justice on this seasonal debut.

Nicky Henderson is in fine form with five winners bagged earlier today; his Grandouet goes in the opener, having taken a crashing fall at Wincanton a fortnight ago. Although an odds-on chance here, he'll need to be at the top of his game to give Domtaline eight pounds. I like Marsh Warbler who has had a pipe-opener on the all-weather at Southwell but the penalty he carries makes things difficult. Tim Vaughan's First Fandago won over two and a half miles at Leicester on Monday and on official ratings isn't completely out of it while stablemate Rigidity was formerly with Sir Henry Cecil before showing promise at Edward O'Grady's over in Ireland.. For those brave enough, Paul Nicholls' Domtaline rates a play against the favourite (7/2 with William Hill this evening).

In the Coral Hurdle at Ascot the winner has come from the top two in the betting on nine occasions in the past decade; Silviniaco Conti was third best in the market when taking last year's renewal. Paul Nicholls fields another relatively unexposed sort in King Of The Night but I prefer Overturn to likely favourite Oscar Whisky - Henderson has indicated he is concerned about his charge giving eight pounds to the selection. Ladbrokes offer 3/1 about Overturn this evening.

Despite a field of just six the Amlin 1965 Chase looks very trappy. Master Minded wasn't convincing first time up in Aintree's Old Roan Chase; as he's grown older he appears to need a bit of cut underfoot and he won't be certain to get it here. Connections have said Boxing Day is their target but if you want to oppose, what to choose?  Alan King predicts a big run from Haldon Gold Cup winner Medermit but is under no illusion to the size of the task while improvement is expected from Kalahari King who sports a first-time tongue-tie. 8/1 Kalahari King looks value but that is nothing more than the most tentative of tentative suggestions...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cheltenham Open meeting 2011 - Sunday

Very quick thoughts for Sunday...

The opener should prove informative. Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Al Ferof makes his chasing debut with Ruby Walsh in the plate. Trainer Paul Nicholls should have a decent idea about this one's chance as the stable's Toubab was beaten threequarters of a length by Lancetto who looks to face a tough task giving weight to this field.

The Greatwood Hurdle (2.20) is the feature and has been won by some decent sorts in the past including Menorah, Khyber Kim, Sizing Europe, Detroit City and Rooster Booster. The winner has come from the top two in the market seven times in the past decade but in the same timeframe only one four-year-old has collected the spoils (Detroit City, 2006). I like Colin Tizzard's Third Intention but this stat is a negative for that well as his Ascot conqueror of two weeks ago Brampour. A number reoppose from the Ascot race including Via Galilei (second), the much-touted filly A Media Luz (third) who needs to give herself a chance by settling better, Nearby (seventh), Kumbeshwar (eighth) and Topolski (last). Pateese is the market leader on the back of an impressive victory at Sandown the last time, although you could argue jock Matt Griffiths nicked it from the front with a bold break for home two out. Back in March Pateese was beaten just over two lengths by Via Galilei at Newbury; Josh Moore's five pounds claim means the pair look closely matched again. Via Galilei was my idea of a wager but the ground appears to have gone against Gary Moore's charge so I'll maintain a watching brief.

On official ratings Woolcombe Folly has plenty in hand over his rivals in the Shloer Chase  (1.45) but will be priced accordingly and I'll keep a close eye on African Broadway in the 3.30 for future reference.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Paddy Power Gold Cup 2011

The highlight on the second day of the Open meeting is the Paddy Power Gold Cup - 20 face the starter at 2.35. With the Paul Nicholls trained top weight Poquelin standing his ground, eight of the field will be running from out of the handicap - I've concentrated my limited efforts on the animals set to carry their correct weight.

Although a 20/1 shot won this last year, in general terms the market has proved a reasonable guide - four favourites have obliged in the past decade. Poquelin's stablemate Mon Parrain heads the betting; formerly with Guillaume Macaire this five-year-old was impressive on his British debut winning a Sandown handicap chase but there were a few questions when he was run out of it over the National fences in the Topham next time. This evening Mon Parrain is 7/2 with most layers but both Ladbrokes and William Hill take a stand offering 5/1. Cyfor Malta (1998) is the only five-year-old to win this since 1960 and as Nicholls has never trained the winner of this race I'm going to oppose...

Cyfor Malta was trained by Martin Pipe and memories of the good old days came flooding back earlier this afternoon when son David recorded a 186.5/1 treble with Swing Bill (9/1), Decoy (13/2) and Grand Crus (6/4f). The yard regularly targets this meeting and Great Endeavour warrants respect in tomorrow's renewal.I fancied the grey for this last year but he came home a slightly disappointing sixth, failing to land a serious blow.

Course and distance winner The Giant Bolster, named after a Cornish legend, is a horse who has done this blog a favour or two in recent years. His jumping went off the boil last term (unseated in RSA Chase and fell at Aintree) but David Bridgwater has had jumping guru Yogi Breisner out to his charge during the summer. The trainer is on record as saying he thinks this could be a Gold Cup horse.

Another course and distance winner Wishfull Thinking will not want for lack of support but in the run-up the Hobbs yard haven't been sure in which race to run their charge and have recorded just 3 wins from 35 runs in the past fortnight.

Of the other runners, I'm guessing Grand Annual winner Oiseau De Nuit (with Brendan Powell claiming ten pounds) is priced at 40/1 because the layers don't think he'll stay while 33/1 about Calgary Bay looks big given that he was beaten three and a half lengths by Wishfull Thinking here in January and is now 13 pounds better off.

In an ultra competitive event, I'll chance Wishfull Thinking (7/1 Betfred) with an each-way saver on The Giant Bolster (14/1 Coral). Best priced outsider - Calgary Bay (33/1).

I won't get involved in the finale but I hope to see Restless Harry win on his chase debut following a stunning performance in the John Smith's Hurdle at Wetherby last time; Viking Blond could be the one to benefit if the wheels were to come off.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cheltenham Open meeting 2011 - Friday

The finale apart, tomorrow's opening card of the Open meeting is strangely uninspiring. Cue Card for me in the gloriously-named Steel Plate and Sections Novices' Chase which was won by Time For Rupert last year; David Pipe has said he would have ideally preferred the ground softer for Grand Crus who has come to hand quicker than expected but is reported likely to come on for the run.

Garde Champetre, with Nina Carberry in the plate, will be a warm order for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, having won over the course and distance on five previous occasions. J P McManus' gelding was beaten a neck in this last year and won the 2009 renewal from Heads Onthe Ground; the going on the cross country track is firm, good to firm in places.

There's a strong word for Jessica Harrington's Steps To Freedom in the novices' hurdle (2.55) but at the prices on offer I'm going to keep my powder dry.

Madcap each-way suggestion in the 3.30: Architrave (25/1 Paddy Power). I've read somewhere in the past couple of days this one has started to show some form at home of late - he sports a first time visor here. He went off the boil as last season progressed but later stomach ulcers were diagnosed. His sixth of 18 in Chepstow's Silver Trophy (beaten just over ten lengths) three weeks ago reads well enough and the ground should suit.

Somewhat later in the day than might have been expected, the BHA announced the much-touted amendments to the new whip rules. They come into operation with immediate effect and have been welcomed by the Professional Jockeys Association as well as by Open meeting sponsors Paddy Power.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Football shorts

Cheer up Harry Redknapp... The Daily Mail reports that doctors have told the Spurs manager he has to stay away from work for another four or five weeks following minor heart surgery. Not too much of a problem for the likes of you and me, but Harry declares: 'This isn't going to stop me doing the job I love.' Under the circumstances then, you wouldn't have begrudged the Tottenham man a bit of good news in the first at Ffos Las today where his Bygones In Brid was sent off the 6/5 favourite. Unfortunately for Harry the wretched beast just hadn't read the script - the bay gelding was tailed off, finishing eighth of the ten runners. Later in the day Tottenham's 3-1 victory at Fulham was more what the doctor ordered but the radio commentary certainly wouldn't have made for easy listening...

Continuing on the subject of work, the fact Alan Hansen is paid £40,000 for every appearance on Match Of The Day has generated plenty of comment this week. Nice work if you can get it, as they say...

Finally, a word for Darren Deadman who refereed the recent Doncaster Rovers v Middlesborough match. Referee Deadman refused to book Doncaster's Billy Sharp after the striker scored a 'goal from heaven' and then revealed a message dedicating it to his son, Louis, who died aged two days old. Well done, Darren.

Friday, November 04, 2011

From Wincanton to Down Royal

You tend to think of Wincanton as something of a speed track but the three miles one and a half furlongs of tomorrow's Badger Ales Trophy will take some getting on ground that is currently described as good to soft, soft in places. There has been plenty of rain around this evening too - a young lady walking home in front of me was carrying a very fetching Paddy Power umbrella which sported the wording '5/1 it blows over' - I wasn't remotely inclined to take the odds.

This year's Badger Ales wouldn't be the best renewal in recent years but it still looks pretty open with 14 set to face the starter. In the past ten years four favourites have obliged (Montifault 11/4 2001; Swansea Bay 2/1 2003; Royal Auclair 7/2jf 2004; Abrigante 15/8 2007) while five winners have been priced in double figures (Swansea Bay 14/1 2002; Iris Bleu 10/1 2005; Parsons Legacy 16/1 2006; Cornish Sett 12/1 2008; Ellerslie George 14/1 2009). In the same time frame no horse has been older than nine when winning so on grounds of age I'm going to discount Madison Du Berlais (the pick of Pipe's two on jockey bookings), Hello Bud and Gone To Lunch. Paul Nicholls won this last year with Meanus Dandy but this year stablemate The Minack is more likely to start favourite according to the layers. I've never been 100% convinced about The Minack after he nearly threw away a Kempton novice hurdle (January 2010) when hitting the front two from home. In a post three weeks ago I said I'd seen Benbane Head touted more times than I'd want to recall over the past year; he made a mistake early doors at Cheltenham in that race and was never really competitive thereafter. I'm tempted to go for a bigger-priced animal in this. At Ascot last weekend Dover's Hill got no further than the second when unseating Aidan Coleman and breaking the jock's collar bone in the process; he could go well provided the fences don't get in the way and a similar comment could apply to Vic Dartnall's course and distance winner Richard's Sundance. This horse went off the boil in the second part of last season so I'm taking plenty on trust here but the yard is flying at the moment (four wins from nine runs since October 21st) - Richard's Sundance each-way at 16/1 is the suggestion.

On paper the Elite looks between Grandouet and Celestial Halo but makes little appeal as a betting medium while I'm undecided about Silviniaco Conti in the novice chase. This is a horse I like but I burnt my fingers a couple of times last year and I'm just wary after he finished third behind Cue Card on his chasing debut. He's bound to come on for that and will be more suited by this trip but he's priced up at short odds in a race that is no foregone conclusion. Mad Moose has more chasing experience than the rest while Jetnova is an Irish pointer and Kilcrea Kim an exciting prospect. This evening Paddy Power offers 5/1 Kilcrea Kim which in my book represents a play against the favourite - Kilcrea Kim is the selection.

At Down Royal in Ireland Noel Fehily rides The Nightingale and Kauto Stone for Paul Nicholls as yesterday Ruby Walsh's lodged appeal against a five-day whip ban was unsuccessful. In today's Times Alan Lee reports that jockeys' leaders have admitted privately that 'their impasse with the BHA is at crisis point after this judgement.'

Seven go in a trappy-looking Champion Chase at 2.20. The two top-rated horses, Sizing Europe and The Nightingale, have yet to win at this distance while Quito De La Roque and Bostons Angel look out and out stayers - judging fitness for this first run won't be easy. Midnight Chase could surprise a few - he ran an excellent fifth in the Gold Cup last March - but he wouldn't want too much rain. Connections decided to bypass last week's Charlie Hall to come here (although I'm not totally convinced this is an easier option.) Midnight Chase is 6/1 with William Hill this evening - I'll take an interest provided the rain stays away.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weekend snippets

Jumps racing is a tough old game and I'm guessing the hope of discovering that one special horse is what keeps trainers such as Robin Dickin getting up every morning. I expect there are a few false dawns along the way but when the real deal turns up, you'll be able to spot it quickly enough. Robin Dickin's emotional interview after Restless Harry had beaten Fair Along 20 lengths in Wetherby's John Smith's Hurdle yesterday told us his search is over. Of prime importance now is to do right by the  horse; I'm sure Mr Dickin will not be found wanting in that sphere. A novice chase campaign looks on the cards but you can't help wondering whether connections might be tempted by a stab at the World Hurdle next March; this evening Ladbrokes quote Harry 33/1 for the RSA Chase, bet365 the same price for the World Hurdle.

In the past the aptly-named Restless Harry hasn't travelled long distances very well but he was as good as gold on Saturday; connections took a Shetland pony along to accompany the stable star and that appears to have done the trick...

It was good to see Time For Rupert back on form in the Charlie Hall. Although Paul Webber's charge was beaten three and a half lengths by Weird Al, connections were delighted with the performance and have indicated they will consider Haydock's Betfair Chase as his next target.

On the other hand connections of Charlie Hall winner Weird Al are reluctant to commit to the Hennessy. Weird Al has had his problems, a comment that also applies to Diamond Harry who was market leader for the race on Saturday morning before being withdrawn after he was found lame.

Ordinarily you might struggle to find common ground between the British Horseracing Authority and the Church of England but in recent weeks both organisations have managed to preside over something of a public relations disaster - the whip debate and the anti-capitalist demonstration outside St Paul's Cathedral.

On Saturday's Morning Line conditional jockey Stephen Clements (attached to Colin Tizzard's stable) named a couple to look out for - thing was he spoke so quickly, I had trouble understanding what he said! Oiseau De Nuit and Drybrook Bedouin were mentioned but Nick Luck appeared to indicate the latter had been reluctant to go to post in the past.

Finally, a result noted in the mares' maiden hurdle at Uttoxeter on Friday. 66/1 chance Justazippy beat 66/1 chance Prickles a head, 14 ran. The Straight Forecast paid 2068.29 while the Exacta paid 2413.50.
If only...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wetherby and Ascot

There are eight declarations for what looks a competitive renewal of Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase. Nacarat did this blog a favour when collecting the spoils last year and connections will be hopeful of a repeat performance - in my opinion good ground is the key to this horse and he's likely to get that tomorrow. Diamond Harry heads the market but he hasn't been seen since winning last year's Hennessy at Newbury - he has a good record fresh and stable jock James Reveley was bullish enough about the gelding's chance last week. Writing in the Weekender Paul Kealy points out that Poquelin has won 9 from 15 between October and December but has never won from January through to April; having said that Paul Nicholls' black gelding has never raced beyond two miles five. Time For Rupert disappointed last time in Cheltenham's RSA Chase but he had a valid excuse that day (broke blood vessel) and will be a threat to all if back to his best. Chicago Grey appeared unlucky when useating his pilot two out with the race apparently at his mercy a fortnight ago at Cheltenham; he could have a fitness edge over his main rivals here. At the weights Poquelin is the one to beat but there are questions about the trip while Diamond Harry is short enough in the market; I'll side with Time For Rupert.

Fair Along bids for a third successive win in the John Smith's Hurdle (2.45). The gelding can be a tricky customer but he has gone well fresh in the past and is likely to try and make all. What A Friend, part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, finished fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and was then pulled up in the Grand National; he is rated 159 over fences and has been priced up favourite this evening but is another who can't be considered the easiest of rides - I'm not convinced this return to smaller obstacles will suit. I do like Restless Harry but it's well known he's a poor traveller so the journey north may have taken its toll. Ashkazar is somewhat inconsistent but when he's good, he's very good; Timmy Murphy should be able to ride his preferred waiting race with Fair Along in the field. Carlito Brigante is respected, having won the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival as he liked. He hasn't won over three miles and there may just be a stamina question over this trip of three miles one furlong; having said that the gelding had the benefit of a pipe-opener on the Flat three weeks ago. At the time of writing both 6/1 Fair Along (William Hill) and 5/1 Carlito Brigante (bet365) strike me as reasonable value; I'll stick with Fair Along.

On official ratings Alasi is the one in the mares' hurdle (2.15) but she's priced accordingly and I've burned my fingers on this event in the past so I'll adopt a watching brief. Similarly no bet in the novices' hurdle (4.00) but the 2008 William Hill Lincoln winner Smokey Oakey, part-owned by Dame Judi Dench, is an interesting runner, having won a maiden hurdle at Aintree in June.

The Ascot card looks difficult so brief comments only on a couple of the runners. Katies Tuitor (listed handicap hurdle at 3.00) likes a quick surface and a right-handed track and should have a fitness edge over some of these having been kept busy during the summer on the all-weather (trained by J S Moore). Over the years this gelding has obliged at a big price on more than one occasion but I just can't see that happening tomorrow - in addition I think he's better on a flat track so Ascot's stiff finish is unlikely to help the cause. Two worth monitoring are Nicky Henderson's filly A Media Luz (Weekender reports her trainer saying she is potentailly top-class provided she learns to settle) and Colin Tizzard's Third Intention (seventh behind Zarkander in the Triumph Hurdle last March).

The Cushman & Wakefield Novices' Hurdle (4.15) should prove useful for future reference while I'm surprised to see Tiger O'Toole declared for the novice chase after falling on his first try over fences at Ludlow; the obstacles here are much less forgiving.

Finally in a recent Stable Tour article Colin Tizzard described Xaarcet as 'probably our best unraced horse for the season.' The gelding goes in the concluding bumper.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A day at the Ludlow races

It's probably the best part of ten years since I've been to Ludlow but I was there again last Thursday for their second meeting of the autumn with the feature race celebrating clerk of the course Bob Davies' Racing Welfare - Lifetime in Racing award. Bob Davies, champion jockey in 1965, 1966 and 1972, won the Grand National on Lucius in 1978 and has been clerk of the course at Ludlow for an astonishing 27 years. River Rhapsody (9/4f) collected the big race spoils, catching my selection Jim Tango (5/2) after the final flight to win three and a half lengths. After the race Bob talked with both Stan Mellor and Bob Champion over the public address system.

Personally I find Ludlow on a fine autumnal day one of the best experiences in racing. Granted, the fare on offer is low key but the setting and relaxed atmosphere combine to give a certain timeless charm. There was plenty of tweed on show, one punter spotted in a deerstalker; I overheard a comment along the lines of '..but this is so genteel!'

Mrs Tips got the day off to a flying start with 17/2 winner A Little Bit Dusty in the opening juvenile seller - the chestnut gelding came from off the pace to seal the contest with a very quick leap at the last.

Much of the talk before the novice chase centred around Evan Williams' 13/8 joint favourite Tiger O'Toole - in a dramatic race the grey got no further than the first, stumbling on landing. With that, Felix De Giles let the filly Tatispout have her head and she jumped well in the main to win as she liked; in the paddock beforehand she had shown plenty of attitude and had at one point suggested she may not go onto the course. The real drama happened on the bottom bend as the chasing pack tried to reduce the filly's lead; both Dica and That'll Do Nicely slipped up, bringing down Definite All Star and causing Matt Griffiths to be unseated from Freddy's Star. That left the only other runner, 100/1 chance Grasscutter, to come home second  (beaten 99 lengths); the exacta paid £78.30. After an enquiry, the stewards declared the chase track safe for racing.

Anonther turn-up in the next with Jane Mathias' sole horse in training Sohappyharry beating Evan Williams' 4/11 favourite Lava Lamp four and a half lengths; the writing was on the wall a fair way out.

I took 9/1 about Gunship in the three mile amateur riders' race for The Court of Hill Challenge Cup. Robbie Henderson gave the gelding a fine ride from the front; the combination jumped the last three lengths up but were done on the run-in by 33/1 chance Foreign King. Nicky Richards' 5/2 favourite Itzacliche was a big disappointment in this, dropping to last at the thirteenth and being pulled up at the fifteeenth. The one to take out of the race would be Nick Williams' unexposed Sarika who looked a big threat to leader Gunship when coming to grief four out.

Man In Black took the two mile handicap hurdle while there was a dead-heat in the finale between Esporao (even money favourite) and Sublime Talent (11/4). I'd backed the latter who appeared to have edged ahead as they raced past us but it looked desperately close on the line - it was no surprise to hear a dead-heat called. One grumble here - no names mentioned as I've seen this happen previously but in the ring beforehand one layer was continually flicking Sublime Talent's price on his digital board between 11/4 and 3/1. As he went 3/1 I struck my wager, only to find 11/4 the price quoted on my slip. Now, I must be getting old as I decided I wasn't going to argue the toss on a small stakes wager but this practice really does leave a bad taste.

Otherwise a most enjoyable day with excellent viewing from the roof of the Tatts stand. After racing a few pints followed in The Church Inn where ales from the local Ludlow Brewing Company were sampled and enjoyed.

Blessed with glorious weather, we had a marvellous day in the Shropshire countryside - I'd recommend it to anyone.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Brief thoughts on Saturday's jump cards

Having only just returned from a(nother) losing day at Ludlow races (report to follow), I'm fortunate enough to have insufficient time to work on the form for tomorrow's meetings - as a result I have saved myself from identifying additional ways in which to lose even more child benefit allowance.

Whatever, much of the this evening's talk is around the BHA's 'tinkering' with the new whip rules. It would be fair to say that the changes have hardly been met with open arms, either by the jockeys or their professional association, the PJA. One rider who will be pleased with the BHA's decision is Christophe Soumillon as this evening he's likely to be around £52,000 better off.

Master Minded returns to action tomorrrow in the Monet's Garden Old Roan Chase at Aintree where the going is reported as good to soft, good in places. A fiield of just three is most disappointing; on paper the race looks a match between Paul Nicholls' charge and Albertas Run who receives ten pounds - on these terms there's little between the pair.

In the concluding maiden hurdle I'll keep an eye on Cinders And Ashes who ran well for a long way behind Cheltenian in the Festival bumper.

At Chepstow the Persian War Novices' Hurdle should prove useful for future reference. The one I'll monitor is Evan Williams' Charm School (rated 98 on the Flat). This gelding was bought out of John Gosden's yard after winning the November Handicap at Doncaster in 2009. In a recent Stable Tour article in the Weeknder, the handler indicated the key was teaching the horse to switch off in his races; he concludes, 'If we get it right, he could be a very smart recruit to hurdling.'

A few interesting runners in the Silver Trophy (4.15)  including two chasers, The Giant Bolster and Robinson Collonges, who will be looking for a confidence-boosting run over hurdles. The former, who has done work with Yogi Breisner over the summer, sports first-time cheekpieces and  has the Paddy Power Gold Cup as his target. Tim Vaughan's Architrave is a young horse with potential; he appeared to lose his way last season but later stomach ulcers were diagnosed and he comes here having had a pipe-opener at this course a fortnight ago over a trip short of his best.

The Nicholls pair Tataniano and Woolcombe Folly will be popular in the 4.50 but Gilbarry is the interesting one, having won the Future Champions Novices' Chase at Ayr in April. This is his first run for Jonjo O'Neill, having moved down from Malcolm Jefferson's yard over the summer.

At Stratford I wouldn't take a short price about Karasenir in the opener. Philip Hobbs' course and distance winner has won on his last two outings but they haven't been the most competitive of affairs and this looks a tougher test.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Broken rules and the Cheltenham Showcase

There will be those who will say it could only happen here. On the eve of the richest day's racing ever staged in Britain, the headlines are of Richard Hughes' decision to hand in his licence after a second ban under the new whip rules and the possibility of a jockeys' strike which is set to take place on Monday.

Frankel is expected to do his bit to redress the balance in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (3.35 Ascot), a race in which course and distance winner Dick Turpin makes some each-way appeal at around 25/1 provided the eight start; Christophe Soumillon takes over from Richard Hughes who was originally booked to ride.

I'll concentrate on the second day of the Cheltenham Showcase meeting, looking for pointers for the future. Only nine declared for the feature Trophy at 3.50 but it looks a trappy affair. Connections appear to be hoping for a good show from Benny Be Good who carries top weight but may well have a fitness advantage over market rivals Galaxy Rock, Chicago Grey and Balthazar King. Tim Vaughan's stable is in fine form (8 wins from 29 runs in past fortnight); of the two entries here Definite Dawn appears to have the best chance with a light weight but two wins at Cartmel and Fontwell indicate this is a big step up in class. Balthazar King is the one I like but his fitness is unknown so I won't get involved.

The winner of the opener is likely to come from amongst the Irish runners while I've seen Benbane Head touted more times than I care to recall in the past 12 months; he may take the 2.40 (trainer Martin Keighley won the Lemington Maiden Hurdle with Court In Session earlier today) but the price doesn't appeal. Evan Williams comments in the Weekender that this is likely to be Buck Mulligan's last race before being put away for the winter. This evening layers appear divided about the chances of front runner Billie Magern - Ladbrokes offer 12/1 while Coral go 11/2. This is the time of year for the Twiston-Davies yard but perhaps they've been quieter than in previous seasons. Billie Magern is likely to try and make all but doesn't jump as well as Ollie (Magern) used to; nevertheless I'll take an each-way interest at 12/1.

The 4.55 often throws up an interesting novice chaser and the presence of Zaynar (third behind Binocular in the 2010 Champion Hurdle) means this year's renewal will be no exception. Now with Nick Williams after some indifferent performances last year, the grey is unlikely to have things all his own way with another grey, Paul Nicholls' Toubab, in the field while Evan Williams' Lancetto was described in his schooling over fences as 'a bit hit and miss - in fact some were downright x-rated...' [Weekender] after arriving from Ireland. That said, the gelding jumped well for much of the trip when winning last time out at Newton Abbot, although the tendency to occasionally veer right at the obstacles won't serve his cause well here.

In the bumper filly Amber Cloud would represent a play against likely favourite Alexandr Nevsky.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Some Saturday suggestions

Those who have followed the blog over the summer months will know I've concentrated on horses with jumps form racing over distances beyond one and a half miles on the Flat; several familiar names are entered up for tomorrow's Cesarewich which is run over two and a quarter miles at Newmarket and is due off at 3.50. Of the 34 declarations, 16 have some type of NH form to their name; they are listed below with brief comments:

Sentry Duty Not the easiest to catch right and IMO better with some cut. Sixth last year;
Veiled Tipped on the blog, took the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. Every chance;
Keys In my mind not certain to see out this extended trip;
Dayia 80/1 (Coral) is a big price about Lady Green's brown mare but her best form has been with cut;
My Arch Eighth last year;
La Estrella Done most of his winning in races with no more than 12 runners;
Phoenix Flight Out of sorts after excellent third behind Veiled at Royal Ascot - Coral's 80/1 looks big;
Rainforest Magic Dermot Weld's runner is a potential blot on the handicap - respected;
Braveheart Move Yet to win beyond 13f;
Gifted Leader Laid out for this? 50/1 available;
Palomar Not without talent but for me is one that needs things to fall just right;
Right Stuff Finished last behind Gifted Leader last time out;
Beyond Trainer David Pipe's best chance in the race;
Abergavenny Billy Wallace (The Prophet) makes a case for this one in the Weekender;
Bow To No One Mare finished fourth in the Goodwood Stakes behind Hollins;
Tasheba Beaten over 25 lengths in a Fontwell handicap seven days ago.

General opinion is higher drawn horses are at something of a disadvantage as they will have to race wide around the bend. That being the case Beyond (stall 3) makes most appeal of the market leaders (14/1 with Ladbrokes at the time of writing). For those who must, two outsiders at an each-way price - Gifted Leader (50/1) and Phoenix Flight (80/1).

These days Chepstow's card doesn't get the coverage it once did but the clash between Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti should prove informative. I don't make a habit of betting novices on their first try over the larger obstacles but I prefer Silviniaco Conti, given he's won at the track previously. In the Weekender West Country correspondent Andrew King reports Nicholls' charge '...has been pleasing in his work at Manor Farm...' Others I fancied on this card have been marked up at rather short prices so I'll keep my powder dry. The going is reported as good to soft, good in places at the Welsh track.

Up at Hexham Chris Bealby's L'Eldorado looks a play against likely favourite Quite The Man in a competitive opener; Chris has a good word for the gelding in a post on his blog this evening.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Eclectic quick links

Starting on a sad note with two racing obituaries... Ginger McCain, trainer of Red Rum and Michael Jarvis, 'one of the most popular figures in his sport'.

With new Natinal Hunt season just around the corner...

Betfred will sponsor the Cheltenham Gold Cup but Imperial Commander is out for the season.

Sizing Europe is set to make his seasonal debut at Gowran Park on Saturday.

Ferdy Murphy reports Kalahari King in the form of his life.

Noel Meade is waiting for the soft ground for Pandorama.

Trainer Patrick Prendergast is aiming for the Weatherby's Champion Bumper with Wandering Aengus.

Some might consider Nicky Richards' Noble Alan a winner without a penalty after the gelding unshipped Brian Harding two from home when holding every chance in the listed chase at Market Rasen yesterday.

Chris Bealby had a good word for point winner Chac du Cadran recently, describing his charge as 'capable of winning NH novice hurdles on soft ground'.

Saturday's Times Magazine (dated 24.09.11)  features an article on Leon Max, the Russian clothing tycoon and owner of the Easton Neston estate in Northamptonshire which incorporates Towcester racecourse.

Finally, those who enjoyed the collection of photographs taken by Racing Post photographer Ed Whitaker in his book  In The Frame may be interested to know a second volume, Beyond The Frame, has just been published -definitely has the look of potential Christmas present material!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Brief musings on tomorrow's Market Rasen meeting...

A decent card at Market Rasen tomorrow with 16 set to face the starter for the totepool 'Prelude' Handicap Chase at 2.50. Peter Bowen has won three of the past five renewals and saddles North Island. Two that take my eye are top weight Qulinton and Charlie Longsdon's Ostland. The former hacked up over course and distance in the Summer Plate on his penultimate run but didn't really get competitive next time out in the Galway Plate. Ostland comes from a stable bang in form (5 wins from 9 runs since 6th September). Neptune Equester has been running well on the Flat and could be a blot on the handicap but his jumping has proved a cause for concern in the past. I'll take an each-way interest in Qulinton (11/1 with Coral this evening).

I tipped Tatispout last time at Stratford but the filly was shown a clean pair of heels by World Heritage. The four-year-old faces a tough task having to give weight to most of the field at 2.20 but World Heritage looks the one to beat in the 4.35, with a decent run expected from Bedouin Bay.  The Juvenile Hurdle (4.00) is intriguing - Tim Vaughan won last year's renewal with Architrave while the year before Barizan took the spoils for Evan Williams. Both handlers have entries tomorrow; using the tissue as a guide, Captain Brown makes more appeal as a betting proposition and rates a play against likely favourite, the filly Hi Note.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Brief notes on selected Saturday races

On Wednesday evening I spent well over an hour on the phone to a fellow racegoer discussing the chances of Tom Dascombe's Misty Conquest in the 2.45 at Ayr. Regular readers will know that six furlong two-year-old sprints aren't my cup of tea at all but the point is this racegoer knows two members of the syndicate that owns the filly. Costing £5,000 as a foal, Misty has already won £20,000 in prize money and boasts decent looking form behind Lily's Conquest in the listed Empress Stakes at Newmarket and Sajwah in the listed Dick Poole Fillies' Stakes at Salisbury.

Connections were reportedly disappointed with her penultimate run at Longchamp over seven furlongs on good to soft ground. Earlier in the season she wasn't eating well but now the feed has been changed she is fine. This looks a close call with Misty Conquest two pounds behind top-rated Kohala and one pound behind Miss Work Of Art on official ratings but the former has never raced over the trip while the latter has never won at this distance although she put in an eyecatching effort at York last time; jock Paul Hanagan clearly rates Miss Work Of Art's chance. The general feeling is Misty would show better form on good ground but her third at Newmarket was on good to soft; the going at Ayr is currently reported as soft, good to soft in places. All of which makes me rather ambivalent; the tissue prices Misty Conquest at 5/1 and that price doesn't really make that much appeal...

The feature long distance race tomorrow is Newmarket's Cesarewitch Trial at 3.30 - 10 of the 18 declared have some NH form to their name; the Cesarewitch is scheduled for Saturday 8th October.

At the moment Dayia looks high enough in the weights and would prefer cut underfoot. My Arch won the Pontefract Cup in June and has been kept busy since. Palomar raced off a mark of 136 in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham in March but doesn't strike me as the easiest to catch right. Hollins finished well behind My Arch in the Pontefract Cup but on that occasion ran as though something was amiss when losing his place five furlongs out; he has since won the Goodwood Stakes at odds of 20/1 and merits respect here. I'm finding it hard to drum up enthusiasm for Gordonsville but Mohanad was rated 129 when finishing mid-division in the Coral Cup at this year's Cheltenham Festival. French Hollow takes a step up in class but is on a four-timer after winning with something in hand at Chester the last time. Secret Tune made a belated comeback at Newbury last month while Sea Change, once with Jeremy Noseda, has his second run for current connections, having had just two tries over hurdles for David Pipe. Dark Ranger was rated 108 over hurdles  in April.

Suggestion: Hollins is interesting but I'm going to take an each-way chance with French Hollow at around the 10/1 mark.

Back at Ayr course and distance winner Chookie Hamilton makes slightly more appeal than Gogeo in the finale over 13 furlongs. No suggestion.

In the 4.55 at Catterick (14 furlongs) Danceintothelight likes to race prominently and beat Simple Jim some seven lengths here last year but the latter was conceding 20 pounds on that occasion and on revised ratings looks to have every chance of reversing the form, particularly if the ground stays good. Top weight Tropical Bachelor appeals as an each-way alternative with the jockey able to claim a handy-looking five pounds.

Suggestion: Simple Jim win (if ground good or quicker); each-way alternative: Tropical Bachelor.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Quick suggestions on St Leger Saturday

Very quick suggestions for St Leger Day...

4/1 Blue Bunting for the Doncaster Classic (3.10) has disappeared but 7/2 still represents a value play against favourite Sea Moon.

Only six go in the Irish Field St Leger; 12/1 about Red Cadeaux would have made some each-way appeal if eight had made the line-up.

Tomorrow there are two long distances races with several NH types taking part. In the 8.20 at Kempton I'm going to take a small each-way interest in Katies Tuitor. This one obliged for my 50th birthday celebrations at Kempton when in the care of Brendan Duke and won the 2008 Totescoop6 Summer Handicap Hurdle at Market Rasen when trained by Charlie Mann..He's clearly had his problems but hinted at a return to form for current connections last time out; the gelding prefers racing right-handed and the stable are going well.

In the Bath 5.00 race Waldsee has fewer miles on the clock than some of these and rates a tentative each-way suggestion.         

Sunday, September 04, 2011

West Country memories

Simon Nott's tribute to on-course bookmaker Brian Edwards in this month's Racing Ahead brought back a couple of memories. Brian, who traded as George Edwards Plymouth, died on 17th July after a long struggle with cancer. I struck a few bets with Brian at Newton Abbot and Devon & Exeter back in the early nineties, a time when I was green enough to think I might come out on top...

In particular I recall going to Newton Abbot one fine spring evening to back a horse called Biloxi Blues in the handicap chase. The grey had decent form in the book and, at a time when Mark Coton's Value Betting was all the rage, I thought I'd stumbled on a value bet and a bit more as the daily papers reported the price as 6/1. Finishing work early, I drove to the course but was more than a little dismayed to see the bookies open with Biloxi at 6/4. The price soon began to contract so, making the best of a bad job, I walked up to Brian and asked for a fiver at 11/8. Quick as a flash, he reported 7/5 to his clerk and I walked away, not quite sure whether I'd been done or not.

The race itself proved rather eventful... Dean Gallagher decided to try and make all on outsider Wimbleball and he quickly built up a lead of twenty lengths or so. Despite hitting a couple of fences fairly hard, Wimbleball was clearly enjoying himself and his lead was still intact halfway down the back straight second time around before Richard Dunwoody decided it was time to play catch-up on Biloxi. Wimbleball wasn't for stopping and had the race in the bag coming to the last but he took one last liberty with that last fence and came crashing to the ground; Dunwoody carried out a nifty piece of steering, jumped the obstacle safely and 5/4  favourite Biloxi Blues collected the spoils. Brian's face told its own story immediately after the race; a couple of punters looking to collect before the winning jockey had dismounted were given short shrift.

Some 15 years later I was at Exeter with two brothers-in-law for the 2004 New Year's Day meeting. We hadn't been that successful but my companions had compensated by indulging in several of their favourite beverages. Waiting for the free bus home, my colleagues asked for an opinion on the concluding bumper. Philip Hobbs' Supreme Serenade was odds-on but I ventured they might want to consider opposing with Paul Nicholls' Alexanderthegreat; this conversation took place outside a couple of ptiches, one of which belonged to Brian. Brian appeared to be in conversation with his fellow layer but as soon as he heard me mention Alexanderthegreat, he immediately marked the horse out from 5/1 to 11/2. I started to smile but these subtle nuances escaped my inebriated colleagues who then demanded an explanation. I tried but it was proving hard work and at the end of it all one brother-in-law walks straight up to the layer offering 5/1 and strikes his bet...

In the event, Nicky Henderson's Copsale Lad (3/1) won impressively from Alexanderthegreat. Copsale Lad did me a couple of favours after that and some three years later popped up at Newbury at odds of 14/1. Unfortunately on that occasion I'd bid more than I should have for a day at the races with The Times' Alan Lee and he'd tipped me the second, Minella Tipperary...

R.I.P. Brian Edwards.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Two tentative suggestions for Musselburgh, one for Stratford

Tomorrow two Musselburgh races will be run over one mile five furlongs with several horses boasting some sort of NH form; the Scottish Racing Stayers' Consolation Handicap at 4.45 precedes the Scottish Racing Stayers' Final at 5.15. The going is reported as good, good to soft in places.

In the Consolation Handicap, the following runners have some previous NH form:
Ananda Kanda, Pokfulham, Stags Leap, Amir Pasha, Grand Daimond, Grandad Bill, Dane Cottage, Red Skipper.

Ananda Kanda, rated 67, appears to like cut underfoot and was a staying-on third in a Market Rasen novices' hurdle on her penultimate run. Earlier this year Pokfulham won a Perth intermediate hurdle over two and a half miles before finishing out with the washing in the Swinton at Haydock; the bay gelding disappointed last time but the visor, left off on that occasion, is refitted here so Jim Goldie's charge is of interest. Stags Leap has shown better form on his last two runs for this yard although the fact he was walked to post last time suggests he's not entirely straightforward. Amir Pasha has won a Carlisle intermediate hurdle and has form behind speed merchant Santa's Son but was worn down at Redcar just two days ago. On his penultimate run Grand Diamond, another from the Jim Goldie yard, finished second to Peter Bowen's well regarded mare With Grace who has won six of her thirteen starts. Jim Goldie also trains likely favourite Grandad Bill who won on the Flat at Ayr last month before finishing behind Los Nadis in a class 3 handicap hurdle at Perth. Dane Cottage was beaten on the all-weather last time but Red Skipper bounced back to take a Market Rasen seller at odds of 15/2. Grandad Bill is respected in a competitive affair but the suggestion is Pokfulham each-way at around 8/1.

In the Final the following horses have NH form:
Meetings Man, Jewelled Dagger, The Galloping Shoe, Los Nadis, Mason Hindmarsh, Jonny Delta.

Meetings Man was rated 122 when unseating Graham Lee in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle here in February; he races off a mark of 78 and the jockey can claim another five pounds. Course and distance winner Jewelled Dagger likes to race from the front but disappointed at Doncaster the last time. The Galloping Shoe has better form over shorter trips but Los Nadis is a horse I like - I was annoyed to have missed his last run in a Perth handicap hurdle where he won with Grandad Bill well behind in third. After winning a juvenile hurdle at Aintree Mason Hindmarsh didn't cut the mustard in a Triumph Hurdle trial at Cheltenham won by Sam Winner; he would be of some interest at a price, a comment that also applies to Jonny Delta whose seventh in the Aintree bumper in April reads well - some well-regarded types were behind on that occasion.
Suggestion: Jonny Delta each-way 14/1 or bigger.

A very quick note on Stratford's opening novice hurdle. Course and distance winner Tatispout carries penalties but this filly sets a reasonable standard with a rating of 130. Last year Russian George took this off 117, beating Saltagioo (128) a short-head. Later tonight I'll check ratings for other recent winners but at this stage Tatispout is of interest coming to this fresh; on her last run she finished down the field in the Swinton at Haydock.            

Friday, August 26, 2011

Cartmel considerations

After a very quick glance at tomorrow's Flat cards, the only entry I can see with NH form running over more than 12 furlongs is Drunken Sailor in the opener at Goodwood. Back in 2008 the bay took a Gowran Park maiden hurdle and has gone on to considerably better things since. Luca Cumani's course and distance winner has an obvious chance in the small field but at around even money doesn't make much appeal as a betting proposition.

So, here are some brief notes on the jumpers at Cartmel, where the going is currently reported good to soft, good in places.

Only four in the first which on paper looks a match between Stonethrower and Sara's Smile. The two trainers concerned have exceptional strike rates in the past fortnight - Tim Vaughan (Stonethrower) - 16 wins from 41 runs (39.02%); Donald McCain (Sara's Smile) - 6 wins from 15 runners (40%). Stonethrower's jock claims a handy-looking seven pounds but the gelding has done most of his racing over further...

The highlights are the class 3 Cavendish Cup, a handicap chase, at 3.20 and the Cartmel Cup, a handicap hurdle, at 4.15 . Only four declared for the chase in which course and distance winner Foxesbow will be an odds-on chance. Seize sports first time blinkers but was beaten a distance here by Foxesbow in July. The handicap hurdle looks an altogether more competitive affair. Front Rank bids to take this for the third consecutive year but at the age of 11 faces a stiff task. Jockey F. Keniry has won twice on The Tiddly Tadpole in recent weeks; five pound claimer Henry Brooke gets the leg-up tomorrow while Keniry rides Gary Moore's Guy D'Arnac. I'll take a small each-way interest in The Tiddly Tadpole if priced up 10/1 or bigger.

Finally, trainer A E Jones' two runners, Temple Place and Murfreesboro, catch the eye in the finale, having made the journey up from Timberscombe, Somerset.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Notes on some of Saturday's runners...

Horses with previous NH form running in Flat races over a distance of more than one and a half miles this Saturday...

York 3.05 Lonsdale Cup (2m):
Blue Bajan, Bergo, Elyaadi.

Blue Bajan, beaten a head and a neck into third in the Goodwood Cup (Bergo a couple more lengths away in fifth), is three pounds better off with winner Opinion Poll who took this event last year. The mare Elyaddi, second in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot, will appreciate cut underfoot, a comment that also applies to Harris Tweed, but has plenty to find on official ratings. That was a fine effort by Bergo on his seasonal reappearance but the 'bounce' factor is a worry and he's shown his best form on top of the ground.
Suggestion: Blue Bajan win.

York 3.40 Ebor Handicap (1m 6f):
Salute Him, Cill Rialaig, Investissement, Hillview Boy.

As you'd expect, an ultra-competitive handicap. This race has seen some big-priced winners in recent times - Mediterranean 16/1 2001; Hugs Dance 25/1 2002; Saint Alebe 20/1 2003; Mudawin 100/1 2006 and Sesenta 25/1 2009. In the past decade no horse over the age of six has won the event. Irish runner Salute Him, an eight-year-old, was fifth in this last year and makes some each-way appeal at 25/1 but Hillview Boy hasn't been seen since finishing ninth last year - are connections plotting a cunning coup? Investissement may have been a little flattered when finishing third behind Petara Bay at Goodwood the last time and doesn't look the easiest of rides. Cill Rialaig has an Exeter bumper over 13 furlongs on soft ground to her name so Hughie Morrison's mare should stay the trip here. Both Betfred and totesport pay five places on this race.
Suggestion: Salute Him each way.

Chester 4.10 Chester Stakes (1m 5f):
No qualifiers.

Chester 5.15 (1m 7f):
Amazing King, Lastroseofsummer, French Hollow, Calisto Moon, Hallstaff

Amazing King ran well at this course last time and should appreciate both the going and the step-up in trip having previously won a Southwell beginners' chase over two miles. Lastroseofsummer is a front-running mare who is in very good form at the moment while French Hollow won at 66/1 on his penultimate run and has gone in again since but is one who likes to come from off the pace. Callisto Moon has tried his luck with several trainers and has plenty of miles on the clock but Halstatt is eight pounds better off with French Hollow and was hampered in running in that race. An open event which has seen four of the last five winners carry more than 9-5 to victory - I'll chance Amazing King.
Suggestion: Amazing King each-way (8/1 or bigger).

Bath 8.10 (1m 5f)
A poor grade 6 handicap in which several runners have previous NH form. Michael Scudamore's Red Current would be worth a second look but only at a price.
No suggestion.

Those waiting for the return of the jumpers may want to note Perth's 3.45, the Scottish Hydro Summer Champion Hurdle, for future reference. Overturn takes his chance but he's likely to have a fight for the lead with Paul Webber's Australia Day in the line-up. Irish course and distance winners Brave Beauty and Now This Is It catch the eye - the latter finished second in a race at the Galway Festival but isn't certain to be suited by the step back in trip.   

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Holiday happenings

A short post after a wet week's holiday in west Wales...

Howard Johnson has been banned from racing for four years following a BHA disciplinary inquiry; quoting Alan Lee in Saturday's Times, Johnson was judged ' have shown "reckless disregard of equine welfare" in running a horse, Striking Article, eight times after an operation to desensitise a leg.' The decision spells the end of the trainer's career. Johnson's main owner Graham Wylie had previously moved six horses to Paul Nicholls' yard and has indicated he will consider his involvement in the sport over the weekend.

Comedian Jarred Christmas may have played The Queens Hall, Narbeth, but a couple of racing connections popped up while I was perambulating in Pembrokeshire... I discovered that famous author and jockey Dick Francis was born at Coedcanlas, Lawrenny, while a number of racing-related  items are to be found on the walls of The Cresselly Arms at Cresswell Quay. This hostelry wouldn't necessarily be everyone's cup of tea but its lack of pretence and accompanying memorabilia were right up my street. In recent years several horses have carried the name Cresswell (including Cresswell Quay), many of them owned by Mr Bruce McKay and trained nearby by Keith Goldsworthy. I was particularly pleased to come across a picture of Hills Of Aran (McCoy up) as I tipped this one at Cheltenham's New Year's Day meeting in 2008 and managed to avail myself of 14/1 offered by Fred Done. In the ensuing three and a half years I have tried on several occassions to repeat the stunt - but with no further success.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Brief notes on Saturday's stayers

Four Flat races over more than twelve furlongs on Saturday; brief notes on runners with some NH form to their name...

Ascot 1.25 (Shergar Cup Stayers Handicap, 2m.)
Both Dayia and Phoenix Flight ran well at Royal Ascot but both finished last on their next run so caution is advised. Woolfall Treasure is taking time to come to hand this term; in contrast La Vecchia Scuola hinted at a return to some kind of form in the John Smith's Silver Cup at York. Dayia won't want conditions too quick but the mare has been dropped four pounds for her latest effort and would make some each-way appeal if the rain arrives. Suggestion: La Vecchia Scuola each-way.

Newmarket 4.50 (Red Lion Foods Handicap, 2m.)
Having won a Fontwell handicap hurdle in May, Lastroseofsummer has been in sparkling form, taking two Flat handicaps in July and she bids for the hat-trick here. Rae Guest's mare is likely to head the betting while Philip Hobbs' grey Zakatal, owned by Mr Terry Warner, will be challenging for favourtism. I'm tempted to take an each-way chance on the only other runner with NH form, Ambrose Princess. Michael Scudamore's mare was well in contention when coming to grief in a Worcester novices' chase last time but prior to that won over three miles at Southwell. Suggestion: Ambrose Princess each-way.

Redcar 5.10 (1m 6f.)
Half the field have some jumps form to their name (Zefooha, Heart Of Dubai, Spahi, Strikemaster, Seven Stars, Lisbon Lion, Haka Dancer and Carmelia Maria) but this looks a poor race. No suggestion.

Ayr 8.10 (1m 7f.)
Course and distance winner Tillietudlem has been busy of late; although the grey gelding finished sixth of the seven runners three days ago, he was beaten under two and a half lengths and merits respect in first time cheekpieces. Stablemate Circus Clown really catches the eye, having run well in the past in Class 3 handicap hurdles both here and at Perth. Rated 113 over the sticks, he must surely have a chance in this off a mark of 47 with jockey Shane Kelly able to claim an extra five pounds. The worry appears to be underfoot conditions as all his best form is on soft / heavy ground. Terenzium has plenty of miles on the clock but has been running well of late while Morning Time hasn't won in 11 attempts since coming over from Ireland a year or so ago. Clueless last won in 2005 and Ancient Times remains a maiden. Suggestion: Circus Clown win.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Saturday selections

Just two Flat races beyond 12 furlongs on Saturday - Goodwood's Toyo Tires Summer Stakes at 2.35 and the Glenridding Handicap at Thirsk (4.45).

Three have previous NH form in the Goodwood race - Sentry Duty, Investissement and Woolfall Treasure. I tipped up Investissement for this year's Northumberland Plate but the gelding ran out of steam up Newcastle's long home straight; having previously won here over this shorter trip, John Gosden's charge, formerly with Evan Williams, remains of interest. Fallon is booked for the ride on Sentry Duty - in the Weekender the jock says Nicky Hendserson's charge 'would have a decent each-way chance' but I always think Sentry Duty shows his best form with cut underfoot. Woolfall Treasure made a belated seasonal reappearance in the John Smith's Silver Cup at York three weeks ago. That day he went off at odds of 66/1; this course and distance winner looks sure to come on for that run but is probably best watched here. In the tissue Investissement is priced  at 14/1 and would merit each-way support at that price. Of the other runners Petara Bay, owned by Bernie Ecclestone, caught the eye when a staying-on fourth in the Northumberland Plate at 40/1 - the gelding is unlikely to start that price on Saturday.

At Thirsk 10 of the12 runners have previous NH form. Top weight Los Nadis, rated 126 over hurdles, looks to be returning to form and is of interest; having said that, no favourite has taken this in the past seven renewals.  Bulwark has been off the track for 20 months and Into The Light reamins a maiden but Andorn merits respect with a win strike rate of 25%. Gary Moore's team is in decent form - two run here - but if Los Nadis turns up with his A game, he should be thereabouts. Suggestion - Los Nadis.                  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Looking back...and looking forward

A dramatic renewal of the King George this year with Nathaniel's victory overshadowed by Rewilding breaking a leg as he started his challenge up the home straight and having to be put down as a result of the injury. In difficult circumstances both winning jockey William Buick and trainer John Gosden spoke eloquently to camera immediately after the race, paying tribute to the Godolphin runner. At the time of writing Nathaniel is 8/1 for the Arc. Last year's Arc winner Workforce looked the likely winner of this year's King George until he veered badly off a straight line in the final furlong, hanging left and going down by two and threequarter lengths. Since the laying of the new course and the building of the new stand at Ascot, I have previously seen some horses hang towards the stands rails in a similar fashion, particularly when the sun casts a shadow over the track. I guess connections will be at a loss to explain this running; Workforce is a 7/1 chance with Coral to win this year's Arc.

Here's my interpretation of the King George tactics... The word beforehand was Debussy would set a honest, even gallop but in the event he did nothing of the sort. Ahmed Ajtebi took his mount to the front and then promptly but the brakes on. With Rewilding settled at the back, I'm assuming the plan was to make opposing jockeys, particularly Ryan Moore on Workforce and William Buick on Nathaniel, restrain their mounts and thereby waste valuable energy. Full marks to Buick who quickly adapted to circumstances and let his mount stride on. For the spectator, though, it led to a messy race.

One final note from Ascot... During TV coverage Clare Balding told viewers that Willie Carson had received a strong tip for 40/1 chance Palace Moon in the International Stakes. In the event the gelding was declared a non-runner but might be worth a second look if seen out in the next couple of weeks.

Two meetings to monitor in the coming week - Glorious Goodwood (Tuesday - Saturday) with the much anticpated clash between Frankel and Canford Cliffs set to take place in the Sussex Stakes on Wednesday and the Galway Summer Festival (Monday - Sunday) with the Galway Plate scheduled for Wednesday and the Guinness Galway Hurdle for Thursday.

Finally, it's been a fair week's work for golf agent Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler. This time last week Chubby was interviewed on BBC TV as Darren Clarke collected the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich. Six days later and Chubby was amongst the winners once again as his Hoof It, owned in partnership with golfer Lee Westwood, landed York's six furlong Sky Bet Dash with something in hand. Connections now have Saturday's Stewards' Cup firmly in their sights...; this evening Hoof It is the 7/1 favourite with most layers.             

Friday, July 22, 2011

King George day at Ascot

Only five go in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot tomorrow but it looks particularly intriguing. On ratings, there's little to choose between Workforce and Rewilding while Coolmore has surprised many by putting up trainer's son Joseph O'Brien on St Nicholas Abbey. Nathaniel has course and distance winning form and has been supplemented at a cost of £75,000; Debussy is set to act as pacemaker for Rewilding. Over the week the market has changed significantly with Workforce now a clear favourite following a favourable gallop at Newmarket on Sunday. Rewilding, with Ascot specialist Dettori in the plate, has to be the value; William Hill offered 7/2 until early afternoon but now go 3/1; 100/30 is generally available. Connections think they have found the answer to the colt's apparent inconsistency last season - he needs a break between races. Workforce flopped badly in this last year, leading some to question whether he disliked the track; trainer Sir Michael Stoute is on record saying his charge is in much better shape this year. A fascinating renewal - Rewilding gets the nod.

Continuing with a theme (Keys went in again (4/5f) earlier this afternoon), horses with NH form running over more than 12 furlongs tomorrow include:

4.05 Newcastle - Tillietudlem, Jeu De Roseau, Summerlea, Falcun, Hi Dancer, Strikemaster and Follow The Sun. Tillietudum has won novice hurdles at Perth, Bangor and Ayr by racing from the front. Jeu De Roseau has Towcester and Sedgefield handicap hurdles to his name and was beaten less than five lengths by Tillietudlem at Catterick last time; they look closely matched on the revised terms. Summerlea has his second run for new connections, having finished mid-division in a Punchestown maiden hurdle in October 2009. Falcun didn't look suited to the jumping game with two undistinguished runs in maiden hurdles; his latest run hints he may benefit from this trip after staying on well over 14 furlongs at Redcar the last time. Hi Dancer won a Sedgefield handicap hurdle off 108 in March at odds of 25/1. Strikemaster boasts little NH form of note but Follow The Sun has won a Southwell two mile handicap chase. Tillietudlem, Jeu De Roseau and Falcun are of interest - Falcun is a tentative suggestion.

4.45 York - Bow To No One, Simonside and Profit's Reality. Bow To No One has run of the mill novice hurdle form over two miles that dates back to March/April this year. The mare finished second to 66/1 winner French Hollow at this course two weeks ago and on the back of that effort looks likely to go off the market leader; Spiekeroog made up plenty of ground to finish fourth that day and may well have improved for the run. Simonside was a Market Rasen bumper winner in 2007, won over course and distance last September and won his penultimate start at Ayr. Profit's Reality has raced 64 times with just the one start over hurdles at Bangor in August 2008. Bow To No One is of most interest; Simonside may find one or two too good in this Class 3 event.

6.15 Lingfield - eight of the ten runnners have NH form; Dream Catcher has won over hurdles but has been generally disappointing. No suggestion.

8.10 Salibury - Tropical Batchelor is the only one with jumps form but is of interest on the back of his close fourth at Haydock last week. The winner of the Haydock race, Spirit Of A Nation, goes in York's 4.45 (see above) and may provide a pointer to Tropical Batchelor's chance. Reg Hollinshead's Drawn Gold finished fifth at Haydock but reopposes on two pounds worse terms as the jockey isn't a claimer. Tropical Batchelor looks to represent a reasonable each-way shout (10/1 or bigger) on his third start of the season after a long layoff.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend musings

Earlier today Blue Bunting made amends for her Epsom disappointment by taking the Irish Oaks while Workforce delighted connections in a Newmarket gallop and looks on course for a clash with St Nicholas Abbey and Rewilding in Saturday's King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. This evening Betfred bets 11/10 St Nicholas Abbey, 2/1 Rewilding, 11/4 Workforce; William Hill offers 11/10 St Nicholas Abbey, 5/2 Workforce, 11/4 Rewilding.

They went hard up front in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen, with the result several were struggling on the second circuit. Much as it pains me, I am obliged to report the mother-in-law took one look at the TV two minutes before the off and selected Qulinton; the wretched beast landed the spoils in what can only be described as a very convincing manner. Gutted. With gloating still ringing in my ears, I can report this evening that Stan James offers a miserly-looking 8/1 about David Pipe's charge for the Galway Plate on 27th July while Boylesports quotes 16/1. I wonder if connections are intending to make the trip over the Irish Sea...

Bookshelf notes - The Story of Your Life: A History of "The Sporting Life" Newspaper (1859-1988) looks a must for serious sports fans (currently £17.04 with free P&P from Amazon). Having enjoyed Nicholas Foulkes' Gentlemen and Blackguards: Gambling Mania and the Plot to Steal the Derby of 1844, I was tempted by D J Taylor's Derby Day, marketed as 'a Victorian mystery'; two contrasting reader reviews have made me think again. One tome I will purchase in the near future is The Form Book Jumps Annual 2010-2011 (£21.99).

Finally, if you follow football, Monday night's Dispatches on Channel 4 may be of interest; it's entitled  'How To Buy a Football Club'.