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.