Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

2012 is likely to go down as the wettest year on record and 2013 starts in much the same vein as Cheltenham's New Year's Day card has already been abandoned on account of a waterlogged track.

Channel 4's new-look racing team, headed up by Clare Balding, will now start their coverage with live action from Musselburgh where the going is currently described as soft, good to soft in places.

In a piece in The Times trainer Nicky Henderson has told Alan Lee '...he will be reluctant to run several of his key Festival hopes again on heavy ground before the meeting in March.'

With the weather having had a key impact on the NH season so far, as an end-of-year exercise I've drawn up a brief list of horses I'd expect to see improvement from on better ground...

Rock On Ruby

Cinders And Ashes

Hunt Ball

Captain Chris

and finally the appropriately-named

New Year's Eve

The horse of 2012 has to be the extraordinary Frankel (spelt Frankle in a caption in today's Times!) who won 14 races and £2,998,302 in prize money.

I wish readers all the very best for 2013.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A chance in the Challow

Quick post on Newbury's card tomorrow where the feature Challow Hurdle is due off at 2.45, provided the rains stay away, of course.

Six declared with the two four-year-olds in the field, Donald McCain's Clondaw Kaempfer and Paul Nicholls' Easter Day, joint top-rated on 140. Jonjo O'Neill's three entries in this race over the past decade have all obliged - Coolnagorna (4/6f in 2002), Wichita Lineman (11/4 in 2006) and Backspin (5/1 in 2010); this year he saddles Taquin Du Seuil who has won two of his three outings this term, the defeat coming behind My Tent Or Yours (goes in the finale at 3.50) at the beginning of November.

Since 2002 four-year-olds have taken just two renewals (Souffleur in 2007 and Reve De Sivola in 2009); favourites have won five runnings. Taquin Du Seuil is the selection.

Cue Card won last year's running of the 1.35 - Tenor Nivernais represents a play against likely favourite Colour Squadron who has his first run over fences on this his seasonal bow.

In the finale Fix It Right ran well for a long way behind The Italian Yob at Exeter earlier in the month and looks to hold place prospects on this more forgiving track.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Boxing Day at Kempton 2012

Looking back at previous posts penned at this time of year, I couldn't help but think 2009's offering, entitled ' Rescue required', still hits the nail on the head...

The persistent rain is likely to affect several cards (Huntingdon already lost) but, all being well, Kempton's traditional Boxing Day card will go ahead as planned where the King George VI Chase is the feature. Ten declared for what looks sure to be an intriguing renewal.

Last year Kauto Star beat Long Run one and a quarter lengths (Captain Chris a further 17 lengths behind third). Kauto was scheduled to parade before this year's renewal and, as far as I'm aware, the rather public tiff between owner Clive Smith and Paul Nicholls shouldn't affect that arrangement; whatever, the great horse won't be running in the race itself and Long Run is priced up favourite. Nicky Henderson's stable star was beaten by Silviniaco Conti on his seasonal debut in the Betfair Chase at Haydock four and a half weeks ago; after that run connections hinted they may change tactics - I'm expecting to see Long Run ridden more prominently.

I'm sure we've heard racing people say that if any horse is ever going to get a three mile trip, he'll get it at Kempton (or Ludlow even) - Cue Card and Riverside Theatre, second and third in the market, have never won over the distance which is a concern, although the trainer of the former, writing in the Weekender, thinks his charge will ('... and in his current form is a major player') while the latter, owned by the Jimmy Nesbitt Partnership, has been aimed specifically at this race.

Nicholls relies on Kauto's half-brother Kauto Stone this year; the lack of big-race experience may worry some but it's worth noting four six-year-olds have taken this in the past twenty years, three in the past decade - Kicking King (2004), Kauto Star (2006) and Long Run (2010).

Grands Crus took last year's Feltham over course and distance but it's difficult to be confident here after his disappointing run in the Paddy Power Gold Cup; Tom Scudamore appears to prefer this one to The Giant Bolster. McCoy rides David Bridgwater's Gold Cup second who, in my opinion, is still a little underrated.

I think Philip Hobbs could have Captain Chris in better form than last year - I would have considered an each-way wager had the ground been better -  but, with the rain around, The Giant Bolster is the each-way selection at 10/1 or bigger. The worry is all his chase runs have been on left-handed tracks.

Countrywide Flame is as tough as old boots and did this blog a favour winning the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle; visually that was most impressive. Connections offered the ground as the reason behind Cinders And Ashes' disappoinitng defeat that day - the stable are in better form now (four wins from nine runners in past week). I'm loathe to desert Countrywide Flame but a four-year-old hasn't won this since Kerawi (1997) so course and distance winner Darlan offers slightly better value and is the tentative selection in a trappy-looking affair.

Dynaste looks the one to beat in the Feltham but he'll be no price.

Have yourselves a happy little Christmas!

Postscript (added 24.12.12 21:00): Of course, as Tom Scudamore is retained by David Pipe, he has never been in a position where he has had to choose between Grands Crus and The Giant Bolster. Writing in today's Times, Scudamore says 'I am hoping that a recent breathing operation has restored his [Grands Crus'] powers.'

Friday, December 21, 2012

Ascot Long Walk Hurdle

Busted for time this evening after Christmas beverages (hic)...

With Big Buck's out for the remainder of the season, the Long Walk  has the look of an open contest. I'm not convinced favourite Smad Place will stay the trip (particularly on heavy ground) so Trustan Times is the selection whilst Cucumber Run (14/1) appeals as the each-way wager provided eight make it to the start.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cheltenham before Christmas

Christmas just around the corner but we've witnessed a distinct lack of Christmas spirit between trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith in what The Times dubbed the 'Kauto Star wars' earlier this week. Smith's decision to pursue a career in dressage with Kauto has clearly upset those at Ditcheat. Thursday's Daily Mail painted a graphic picture of the extent to which this relationship had broken down when Smith took Nicholls to task over his pronunciation of the horse's name; after all those glory days, it really is sad to see the partnership end this way but, as in most sports, money talks and we should never forget it's an owner's prerogative to do as he (or she) wishes as the owner is the one who pays the bills.

Tomorrow's feature at Prestbury Park, the Paul Stewart Ironspine Charity Challenge Gold Cup, will be run on testing ground. At the time of writing several layers have Walkon and Unioniste 9/2 joint favourites with Cristal Bonus a 6/1 chance; in the past decade just one favourite has obliged while all winners have been aged between six and eight years old in the same timeframe, sats which don't bode well for Unioniste. Walkon has an obvious chance on his three lengths second to Al Ferof in the Paddy Power Gold Cup run at this track over a similar distance and on similar ground four weeks ago (Nadiya De La Vega third, Quantitativeasing and Micheal Flips both pulled up). Alan King's charge looks the percentage call but in the past I've never found the grey easy to catch right and have had my fingers burnt on a couple of occasions. I'll give Walkon another chance.

The conditions of the International Hurdle (3.05) favour Zarkander and Paul Nicholls' five-year-old has the benefit of a run under his belt; he's priced up favourite. The last reigning champion to take this was Comedy Of Errors in 1973 but I'm tempted to chance Rock On Ruby who has won after the summer break in the past two seasons. Harry Fry was not a name known to many when the gelding took the crown last March - at that time Mr Fry was in charge of Nicholls' satellite yard and my guess is both the trainer and jockey Noel Fehily will be pretty keen to show that was no fluke. This evening Labrokes, Paddy Power and Stan James all offer 9/4 - sponsor Stan James also offers a free £10 bet if you bet £10 on this race. Rock On Ruby is the selection.

Our Father went into many notebooks last time and is declared for the novice chase at 12.45. Court In Motion, his main opponent, has the 1.45 at Lingfield as the preferred engagement; the ground for that Lingfield race is described as heavy. Court In Motion has never won over three miles whereas the trip and ground should suit Houblon Des Obeaux and Venetia Williams had a double today with Tenor Nivernais (7/1 Bangor 12.00) and Plein Pouvoir (12/1 Cheltenham 12.45).

If I remember correctly the Relkeel (3.40) has struggled for entries in the past and just three for tomorrow's renewal does not look good.              

Friday, December 07, 2012

From Sandown to Aintree and back

Tomorrow's Tingle Creek has been billed a match between Sprinter Sacre and Sandown specialist Sanctuaire; that's about the long and short of it and at the prices on offer I'm not tempted to play. Trying to pick holes in the form looks something of a futile exercise. I note that both race keenly and like to get on with it (as, indeed, does Kumbeshwar and Doeslessthanme) which on this testing ground could, in theory, lead to the race being set up for something to come from behind - you can have 40/1 His Excellency if you like - but the stats suggest there's no real value to be had as six favourites have obliged in the past decade with 2002 winner Cenkos (6/1) returned at the biggest price during that timeframe.

Underfoot conditions appear to have frightened off a number of the interesting five day entries on the rest of Sandown's card (Overturn, My Tent Or Yours, New Year's Eve, Cotton Mill) so I've decided to take a look at Aintree's Becher Chase run over the National fences where the going is currently described as heavy.

I tipped West End Rocker at 14/1 to win the race last year and, unusually for one of my selections, he came home in something of a common canter. On the back of that performance, I tipped the same horse for the National in April but he got no further than the second. A fortnight later connections brought him out for what was supposedly some compensation in the Betfred Gold Cup (at Sandown) but the gelding ran an absolute stinker out the back, eventually being pulled up. At the time trainer Alan King made comments about the horse having had a bad experience at Aintree and not liking the fences there which I thought odd given the same beast had won the Becher. Much later the handler put it down to the brouhaha of the occasion but I'm wary; on top of that tomorrow's pilot, Choc Thornton, has never won on the horse.

Martin Keighley's Any Currency was my fancy for the finale at Sandown until I realised the Becher was the target! This one failed to make the cut for the National in April but stayed on into third behind Tidal Bay in the Betfred Gold Cup after losing his position mid-race. He comes here with two runs under his belt but in an interview connections appeared ambivalent as to whether their charge would take to the obstacles; if he does, next year's National definitely will be on his agenda.

Nine of the past ten winners have been aged eight or older which puts me off Join Together, Problema Tic and bottom one Ballyvesey.

For this I do tend to prefer one with form over these fences; of the market leaders Big Fella Thanks makes most appeal to this observer - his record in the National reads sixth in 2009; fourth in 2010; seventh in 2011. Now with Tom George, the horse blundered and unseated Paddy Brennan last time out but is forgiven that particular lapse. At an each-way price I was very tempted by Any Currency (12/1) but marginally prefer another lightweight in the shape of Kim Bailey's Midnight Haze who finished a very distant 15th behind Neptune Collonges in the National; he's priced up at 25/1 with Coral this evening.

Two selections against the field - Big Fella Thanks (7/1 generally) and Midnight Haze each-way (25/1 Coral).

Finally, I have to return to the finale at Sandown, the London (rather than Aintree) National. If they do race at Aintree, just five will face the starter at Sandown where the Paul Nicholls trained favourite Tempo De Cotte is worth opposing on the back of his disappointing fourth at Plumpton last time - his first run in this country. Golan Way is a law to himself (refused to race on his seasonal debut last year) but if in the mood could easily win - trainer Sheena West saddled 7/1 chance Captain Cardington to take the opener at the course today - but the Trevor Hemmings owned Lively Baron carries just ten stone five and with Dickie Johnson in the plate is the selection.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Race reading this Christmas

If the thought of Christmas with the family fills you with horror, perhaps some of the following tomes might help to ease the pain...

Frankel: The Wonder Horse Racing Post and Andrew Pennington

Kauto Star: A Steeplechasing Legend Andrew Pennington

Black Caviar: The Horse Of A Lifetime Gerard Whateley

Racing Crazy: The Best Of David Ashforth David Ashforth

The Secrets Of Pricewise James Milton
 Once we have all read and inwardly digested this work, I presume Pricewise will have no secrets remaining and as a result will be left looking for work...

When Racing Was Racing: A Century On The Turf Adam Powley
 Something of a trip down memory lane for miserable old buffers such as myself...

Lord Derby And His Horses: A Tory Grandee And The Turf Quintin Barry

Britain And Ireland's Top 100 Racehorses Of All Time Robin Oakley
 Panned in no uncertain terms by one 'Stoker Devonshire' in the Spectator (Oct 27 2012) - his review concludes with the quote: 'This is a lazy little book...' Private Eye (No. 1326, 2-15 November 2012, p28) points out this is worrying as Oakley is the Spectator's racing correspondent, going on to suggest 'Stoker' is in fact his Grace the Duke who may just have half an eye on Oakley's job...

My Animals And Other Family Clare Balding       
  Ms Balding's surprisingly self-deprecating look at her early years; somehow, Clare's 'old school' grandma manages to steal the show...   

And finally...

Fifty Sheds Of Grey: A Parody: Erotica For The Not-Too-Modern Male C.T.Grey    

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Hennessy Gold Cup and The Fighting Fifth 2012

Like many, I tend to prefer a young up-and-coming chaser for the Hennessy; the race was switched from Cheltenham to Newbury in 1960 - the number of times the variously aged horses have won is shown below:

6 year old:    7
7 year old:  21
8 year old:  11
9 year old:  10
10 year old:  2
11 year old:  1

Horses aged seven to nine have won 42 of the 52 runnings, while seven-year-olds boast a 40.38% strike rate in that period.

This year's renewal looks as competitive as ever with Nicky Henderson's RSA winner Bobs Worth priced up favourite at around the 7/2 mark. Alan King, who had a notable winner with Bless The Wings earlier today, tells us in the Weekender Hold On Julio ' unquestionably the best chance I have had of landing the famous race', while The Package comes here in fine heart having taken Wincanton's Badger Ales Trophy three weeks ago but regular pilot Timmy Murphy may miss the ride after falling from Leeroar in Newbury's finale this afternoon.

I tipped Carruthers to win the Hennessy last year;  this year the trainer has been pretty bullish about his charge (despite a couple of below par efforts) although the horse would not want the ground to dry out too much and become sticky. Carruthers is certainly a big price and will stay the trip but I'm going to desert him for the 2011 Neptune Novices' Hurdle winner First Lieutenant. Irish trained runners have an abysmal record in the race but this one was beaten just two and a half lengths by Bobs Worth in the RSA last March; he's in receipt of one pound from that rival now and already has two runs under his belt, last time finishing a length behind Kauto Stone in the Champion Chase at Down Royal. At 10/1 he represents reasonable each-way value, although I'm not convinced the final two and a half furlongs are exactly what he needs.

Those looking for a lightweight at a price could do worse than consider the form of Alfie Spinner (18/1 Sky Bet) when finishing two and three quarter lengths behind Bobs Worth, both beaten by Invictus at Ascot in February; Invictus was to be my selection for the RSA in March but he picked up an injury and never made the race...

In a nutshell, two each-way chances against the field - First Lieutenant (10/1) and Alfie Spinner (18/1).

There's an eight o'clock inspection up at Newcastle tomorrow morning; if the meeting gets the go-ahead there will be just four runners in the Fighting Fifth. Donald McCain's Cinders And Ashes races off 151 and is priced up odds on this evening while Triumph Hurdle winner Countrywide Flame, rated 152, is on offer at 4/1 with several layers. No four-year-old has won this in the past decade but John Quinn's charge comes here fit from the Flat (he was second in Cesarewitch) and may handle the ground better than the favourite. The McCain operation has had a couple of winners of late but certainly hasn't been firing on all cylinders and the handler hints his charge will come on for the run. Obviously a tactical affair is the danger with such a small field - I just wonder whether Denis O'Regan may try to race from the front on Countrywide Flame. At 4/1 Countrywide Flame represents a value play against Cinders And Ashes.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Two for Haydock and two for Ascot this Sautrday

Tomorrow's weather forecast does not look promising; the likelihood is more rain will fall at both Ascot and Haydock. Two handlers dominated the entries at those two courses today - Nicky Henderson recorded a treble at Ascot (Minella Class 7/4f, Close Touch 4/7f and Petit Robin 15/8f) while Donald McCain had to be content with just the one winner at Haydock (Clondaw Kaempfer 6/5f).

Haydock's highlight tomorrow is the Betfair Chase at 3.05; six are set to face the starter. The 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run makes his seasonal reappearance and has at least ten pounds in hand over his rivals. Long Run never quite hit the same heights last season, there has always been a question surrounding his jumping and connections have indicated the going is a worry so I'm going to oppose the favourite. In the most recent renewal of the Gold Cup The Giant Bolster finished ahead of Long Run while Weird Al, who would have a chance on his very best form, was pulled up having broken a blood vessel. David Bridgwater says he'll be pleased if The Giant Bolster can finish within ten lengths of Long Run tomorrow which would suggest the gelding is likely to improve for the outing although a quote from the handler in today's Times is interesting: 'It's a 200 grand race on Saturday and he's not going there half-fit.' At 9/4, I'll take a chance with Charlie Hall winner Silviniaco Conti. Connections have also expressed reservations about the ground for this one but he blew away the cobwebs and the opposition with victory at Wetherby and may have a fitness advantage over those making their seasonal debuts; in addition Ruby Walsh is a major plus compared to Mr Sam Waley-Cohen who has ridden in just four races so far this season. In the last seven renewals, the market leader has obliged on four occasions.

Saphir River interests me in the fixed brush hurdle at 2.30; this one came over from France into Michael Scudamore's yard earlier in the year at a cost of 280,000 euros. He was sent off a 50/1 chance for the Coral Cup at Cheltenham but unshipped Sam Thomas at the second. He then ran fourth at odds of 33/1 in a listed handicap hurdle at Aintree four weeks later. Over the summer break he moved north to join Lucinda Russell (whose partner happens to be Peter Scudamore, Michael's father) and started this season in fine style taking a beginners' chase at Uttoxeter at the beginning of the month. He should be competitive reverting to (brush) hurdles - I'll have an each-way wager if I can obtain around the 8/1 mark.

Over at Ascot sponsors Coral will be desperately disappointed with a turnout of just four for the feature Coral Hurdle; Oscar Whisky fell at the last last year and bids to make amends this time around but he'll be no price. If Haydock is on, there will only be four left in the Amlin Chase (2.10) in which Queen Mother Champion chase winner Finian's Rainbow makes his seasonal reapperance. He looked a little lucky to collect the spoils last March but went on from there to take the Melling Chase at Aintree. Under race conditions Captain Chris is the next best in the field and had Finian's two and threequarter lengths behind in the 2011 Arkle (Ghizao fifth). Philip Hobbs' charge had a miserable time of it last year; if he's back to his best, he can make a race of this receiving weight from his rivals (six pounds from the favourite). He's better right-handed but doesn't appreciate the ground too soft which is a negative. Captain Chris (4/1 Ladbrokes this evening) is a speculative sugggestion against Finian's Rainbow.

Aidan Coleman has already won on Quartz De Thaix this season (priced up favourite for the 2.00 at Haydock) but Aidan prefers to ride at Ascot instead where I guess he thinks the mare Pepite Rose is his best chance of a winner. Fences looked to be the making of this five-year-old last year and she started this seaon with a noteworthy third in the listed Byrne Group handicap chase three weeks ago. For those interested, it's Coral who offer the value this evening at 4/1.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cheltenham Open meeting 2012 - Sunday

The going at Cheltenham today, originally described as soft, good to soft in places, was changed to soft, heavy in places after the Paddy Power Gold Cup in which only six of the 18 starters completed. Two big name horses from the Henderson yard, Sprinter Sacre and Darlan, have already been taken out of their intended engagements on Sunday on account of the ground while Ruby Walsh goes to Punchestown to ride Hurricane Fly in the Morgiana Hurdle.

The feature is the Racing Post Hurdle (2.50), formerly known as the Greatwood. Underfoot conditions will make this something of a lottery - I don't intend to play but for those who do last year's second, Olofi, would be worth a second look (12/1 Sky Bet) and Bothy, second in 2010, would have been if the yard were in better form. In the past decade five-year-olds have won five runnings but it takes a very good four-year-old to pull off the trick - Detroit City (2005) and Brampour (2011) are the two to have managed it since 2002.

At the time of writing connections intend to let Captain Conan take his chance in the opener and the market suggests he's the one to beat; the favourite has obliged on six occasions in the past ten years. The horse has the look of a chaser in the making but I wouldn't be tempted on this his first try over the larger obstacles - all his opponents have previous chase experience. In fact the four-year-old His Excellency finished down the field in the Galway Plate in August; this one beat Third Intention over course and distance last time but has shown temperament on occasions - some may take the view that quirk is factored into the price of 11/1 on offer with BetVictor.

The novice hurdle (3.25) should prove useful for future reference, as should the concluding bumper. I leave the last word on the last race to Mick Channon; I quote from The Times (Friday 16 November):

'Sgt Reckless would have won the bumper at Cheltenham on Sunday but he pulled a muscle in the week. I do think he's very good.'

Friday, November 16, 2012

Paddy Power Gold Cup 2012

Tomorrow's highlight on the second day of the Open meeting is the Paddy Power Gold Cup (2.35) in which 19 are set to face the starter with Tanks For That declared a non-runner. Paul Nicholls saddles three; Walsh rides Al Ferof while Poquelin stands his ground which means four at the foot of the handicap have to carry more than their long handicap weight - the booking of the in-form Aidan Coleman for Questions Answered catches the eye.

The Pipe yard has a phenomenal record in this race. Martin has won eight runnings while son David chalked up his first success last year with Great Endeavour - it's no surprise to see Grands Crus, the yard's entry this year, at the head the market. In the past decade six of the winners have come from the top three in the market and three of those were sent off favourite.

Hunt Ball is a remarkable beast. Last November the gelding won a Class 5 handicap chase at Folkestone off a mark of 68; four months later he landed the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival off a rating of 142. Owner Mr Anthony Knott has been bullish in the build-up to this and has already backed his charge to win next March's Cheltenham Gold Cup to take £1 million out of the ring.

Nicky Henderson fields an interesting trio. McCoy rides the J P McManus owned mare Nadiya De La Vega in preference to Quantitativeasing while Geraghty is aboard the five-year-old Triolo D'Alene; since the race's inception in 1960 only one five-year-old has come home in front - Cyfor Malta in 1998. At Haydock's festival preview evening last March the handler put Triolo up as his best chance for the meeting - in the event the chestnut gelding finished well beaten by Hunt Ball but I'm guessing connections still hold this one in high regard and the layers don't appear to be taking too many chances by going as low as 10/1 in places.

I've always found Alan King's Walkon difficult to catch right but the grey has a racing weight, goes well fresh and writing in the Weekender the trainer rates his charge '...the best chance I have ever had of adding this great autumn contest to our cv.'

To this observer this renewal looks more competitive than the market might initially sugggest.

One hesitates to admit to having read Clare Balding's My Animals and Other Family but as a result I happen to know that Clare's English tutor at Newnham College, Cambridge would not be pleased to see me use the phrase 'the thing is' but, although Grands Crus may be the percentage call, the thing is the horse doesn't represent value and I still have a picture in my mind of the grey appearing to be bullied out of it three from home in the RSA last March. I'll chance Hunt Ball to collect the spoils (15/2 Stan James) and take out an each-way saver on Nadiya De La Vega (16/1 Coral, William Hill).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cheltenham Open meeting 2012 - Friday

Brief notes as I probably won't get involved tomorrow.

The two I'm looking forward to are Fingal Bay in the opener and Dodging Bullets in the novices' hurdle (2.25) -  it will be interesting to see how the 2011 Northumberland Plate winner Tominator fares in the latter race.

I'm not particularly keen on the Cross Country race but Balthazar King won over the course and distance at the Festival in March and acts well on good ground - in the past the going has tended to be quicker on the cross country track than on the racecourse proper. Of course, that's all obvious to the layers and they are likely to price up Philip Hobbs' charge accordingly...  

Friday, November 09, 2012

Wincanton whims

Paul Nicholls has won the Badger Ales Trophy (Wincanton 3.25) four times in the past ten years but likely favourite Michel Le Bon isn't one I'm particularly keen on. The nine-year-old doesn't have a lot of miles on the clock but has the look of a horse that has proved difficult to train. Last season he was a disappointment in the Hennessy and was then pulled up in Kempton's Racing Post Chase before obliging over the smaller obstacles at Cheltenham in April. If Michel Le Bon is fragile, Diamond Harry is notoriously so; on his best form it would be foolish to discount the top weight but he hasn't won since taking the Hennessy in 2010. I fancied West End Rocker for the National; he didn't take to the race and could be competitive here if fit enough but no horse older than nine has won in the past decade. Of the younger horses Colin Tizzard's course and distance winner Golden Chieftain had a nice prep taking a two and a half mile Worcester chase just over a fortnight ago while Zarrakaft has been well tipped-up. I'll take an each-way chance on David Pipe's The Package; fifth behind Meanus Dandy in the 2010 renewal off a mark of 147, he races off 139 this time and has the assistance of Timmy Murphy in the saddle.

In some ways the preceding Elite Hurdle (2.50) is more interesting and should give some pointers for the weeks ahead. Just seven in the field, three from the Nicholls' yard, with Zarkander's fifth in the Champion Hurdle catching the eye but that one has to give weight to all his rivals. Ruby Walsh chooses to ride Propsect Wells while in the Weekender Alan King describes Balder Success 'the most exciting horse of the weekend for me...' I'm beginning to have reservations about Baby Mix - he doesn't look the easiest of rides - so I'm going right out on a limb and chancing Local Hero who has looked good over hurdles this summer but may require better ground to be seen at his very best. Having said that, his rider claims seven. The winner has come from the first three in the market on nine occasions in the past ten years but only two favourites have obliged in that timeframe.

Houblon Des Obeaux, rated 142, sets a reasonable standard for the Rising Stars Novices' Chase (2.15) and is the selection while Tante Sissi should give a decent account in the mares' handicap hurdle at 1.40. Last year's winner Violin Davis, now trained by Harry Fry, is likely to prove popular. All Annalena had three warm-up races on the Flat last month and is likely to race from the front.

Over at Sandown Overturn makes his chasing debut. He was withdrawn from Wetherby last week on account of the ground - I expressed my reservations then as the fences at Wetherby are stiff enough for any novice. If Wetherby sets a stiff task, Sandown's railway fences set a much stiffer one. Overturn isn't the biggest of individuals - I'm guessing connections will watch the 1.20 with a certain amount of trepidation.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Wetherby selections

The highlight on tomorrow's Wetherby card is the Charlie Hall Chase (3.25) with the world and his wife apparently tipping Paul Nicholls' Silviniaco Conti. The handler indicates it's not easy to judge how far forward his charge is but the market has something of a lop-sided look with the Nicholls horse quoted at 5/4 in most places. This hasn't been the best race for favourites in the past decade with just two obliging (Ollie Magern in 2005 and State Of Play in 2008) and on top of that I've always thought this gelding better at around two and a half miles. His record in chases at three miles or more is one win from three attempts (at Aintree); he weakened markedly up Ascot's stiff finish behind Invictus in the Reynoldstown last February although the yard wasn't firing at the time. I'm going to oppose on grounds of value. Of the others Time For Rupert ran second in last year's renewal but doesn't have the beating of Midnight Chase on official ratings. Philip Hobbs' Planet Of Sound is best in at the weights but I've had my fingers burned with this one before. The yard has been in reasonable form of late - Hobbs trained the first three home in Chepstow's Silver Trophy last weekend so at 11/2 in places Planet Of Sound is put up as a value alternative to Silviniaco Conti. The more cautious could back both Time For Rupert (9/2) and Planet Of Sound (11/2) and avail themselves of a better price than is currently available about the favourite.

Restless Harry took last year's renewal of the John Smith's Hurdle (2.50) but looks to face a stiff task giving weight to all his rivals. In the past he hasn't always been the best of travellers so, if you're considering a wager, it would be worth checking how he has taken the preliminaries. Fair Along is another previous winner in the field while on ratings the 11 year-old Tidal Bay should come home in front. An intriguing race for sure with Smad Place being given every respect, but Cape Tribulation's second in a York handicap three weeks ago may mean he has a fitness edge over his opponents - Cape Tribulation (7/2 Betfred) is the selection.

The mares' listed hurdle (2.15) looks a close call between Une Artiste, Alasi and Baby Shine; the last named receives eight pounds from the other two and get the nod.

Overturn, second in the Champion Hurdle in March and as tough as old boots, makes his chase debut in the opener. He'll be long odds on but he isn't the biggest and the fences here are jolly stiff - not the ideal introduction to novice chasing...

Finally over at Ascot some interesting sorts go in the novices' hurdle (2.00) including a couple with form on the Flat - Andrew Balding's Chilberta King and Petara Bay, once owned by Bernie Ecclestone. Preference is for My Tent Or Yours whose second behind The New One at Aintree in April reads well.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Brief thoughts on Saturday's NH cards

Three National Hunt cards tomorrow with the Old Roan Chase the highlight at Aintree, yet top jockeys Ruby Walsh, Aidan Coleman and 'Choc' Thornton choose to ride at Chepstow while champion AP McCoy settles for Stratford.

Eleven go in the Old Roan, where only one favourite has obliged in the previous eight runnings while a horse aged nine or older has won on six occasions in the same timeframe (Monet's Garden three times). Paul Nicholls' five-year-old Pacha Du Polder has a few novice chases under his belt (three wins, one unplaced and one unseated rider) and may struggle against more experienced opponents; the only runner not making his seasonal debut is Mahogany Blaze who could therefore be a little sharper than some of his rivals. I've a soft spot for Nacarat who has done this blog one or two favours over the years and tends to show his best on good ground but this renewal looks particularly tricky so I'm not going to play - much will depend on fitness. In spite of the stats, I'd expect the winner to come from the younger brigade.

Previously with Guillaume Macaire, the four-year-old Unioniste carries John Hales' colours (remember Azertyuiop?) and, having already won a chase at Auteuil, will be a popular choice for the 4.35, a race the Nicholls stable has won on three occasions since 2004. Having said that, he's unlikely to have things all his own way - Carlito Brigante won at Cheltenham last Saturday. This one wouldn't be guaranteed to reproduce that effort one week on but this sharp track should suit his style of running.

2011 Northumberland Plate winner Tominator held a five-day entry in the Aintree finale but connections have decided the grey will make his hurdling debut elsewhere.

The Persian War (3.40 Chepstow) sees Nicholls' Wonderful Charm make his debut in this country. The gelding has been well-touted for some time - in Mark Howard's One Jump Ahead bloodstock agent Anthony Bromley is quoted as saying '[Wonderful Charm is] one of the best young prospects I have managed to get out of France in recent years.' Aidan Coleman rode a fine race from the front to steal a listed novice hurdle at Kempton on Hawkhill six days ago but he prefers Anthony Honeyball's Ballybough Pat here. This one has surprised connections and won 15 days ago at Carlisle - I'll take the chance against the favourite provided he's priced 9/2 or bigger.

As always, the Silver Trophy (4.15) is most competitive. The one that catches my eye at a price is Robinson Collonges. Rated 134, he races off the same mark as when third behind Arthurian Legend in this last year. After that, he went off the rails over the larger obstacles but I'm banking on new handler Harry Fry working some magic. The stable has had a couple of winners in the past week and connections try a toungie-tie on their charge for the first time - at 10/1 (Ladbrokes) Robinson Collonges is worth an each-way interest. I also looked at Rebecca Curtis' Meganisi but in this week's Weekender the trainer tells readers she thinks two and a half miles may be 'a little too far for him as he has bags of speed'.

Following a break, Roc De Guye ran well for a long way at Huntingdon last time before fading to finish seventh. He was dropped another four pounds for that effort and goes in the 3.55 at Stratford where the shorter trip and Timmy Murphy in the saddle should help. He rates an each-way chance if priced in double figures.

Punters sat up and took note of new trainer John Ferguson last season. Printmaker goes in Stratford's 4.30 but was sent off 11/8 favourite last time and disappointed. The stable hasn't had a winner since October 10th, recording thirteen consecutive losses.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cheltenham Showcase meeting 2012 - Saturday

Both Frankel and Willie Carson bow out tomorrow. Everyone will be sad to see Frankel disappear but the same comment wouldn't necessarily apply to Carson; nonetheless Matthew Norman's piece in today's Daily Telegraph strikes a rather querulous tone which in my opinion does not reflect particularly well on the author. Of course, at the time of writing, I haven't seen Carson's farewell interview...

Cheltenham racecourse managing director Edward Gillespie is another to enter into retirement after tomorrow's action; he's been at the job for 32 years and the opener marks the occasion in appropriate fashion, being named the 'Edward Gillespie Hands Over The Reins Novices' Hurdle'.

The card looks anything but easy with two 20 runner chases on offer as well as a handicap hurdle in which 24 are set to face the starter; just 17 contest the concluding bumper. Nigel Twiston-Davies and Paul Nicholls both recorded doubles at the track earlier today, the former with The New One (even money favourite) and Hunters Lodge (7/2f) and the latter with Sire Collonges (4/1) and Dark Lover (9/2f).

Rated 137, Talkonthestreet sets a decent standard in the opener. Rendl Beach has two bumpers and a maiden hurdle to his name and could have a fitness edge having won at Fontwell 15 days ago but a couple of his leaps at the Sussex track were less than fluent. Talkonthestreet came home third behind Ambion Wood at Perth in April where the three mile trip seemed to bring out some improvement; the Philip Hobbs team is in decent form at the moment so at 3/1 Talkonthestreet rates a play against the favourite Rendl Beach and gets the vote.

Only five go to post in the 3.05 - it looks to concern Dodging Bullets, Baby Mix and High Note. Captain Sharpe was withdrawn from the Free Handicap at Chepstow last Saturday on account of the ground. The conditions of the race favour Dodging Bullets who finished fourth in the Triumph in April and he is currently priced up at even money. I like Tom George's course and distance winner Baby Mix (ninth in the Triumph) but he looks to face a stiff task giving weight to all his rivals. The filly High Note receives her weight allowance and may be sharper than the other two market principals having won as she liked at Stratford 22 days ago. Dodging Bullets is the form choice and the selection.

The novice chase at 4.55 is trappy; Third Intention is likely to be near the head of the market but this rates a stiff introduction to chasing. Normally I wouldn't entertain backing a four-year-old in a contest such as this but His Excellency has more experience over the larger obstacles than several in the field - he ran 15th in the Galway Plate when trained by Gordon Elliott. He has two runs for the Pipe yard under his belt now and, although he has shown some attitude in the past, a comment from Tom Scudamore in a post on Exeter Racecourse's blog makes me think connections may be making some progress. Rated 142, His Excellency is the tentative suggestion at 6/1 or bigger.

I'll give both handicap chases a miss. For those who can't resist, Tim Vaughan has been quite bullish about Tartak in the build-up to the 2.30; the handler says he thinks the horse goes there 'with a winning chance' in this week's Weekender. The horse was never the easiest to catch when with Tom George but I believe he shows his best form on good ground so tomorrow should not be a problem. Three of the past five winners have carried 11-10 or more to victory so at 16/1 (BetVictor) some may think he's an each-way play...

In the 3.40 Philip Hobbs' course and distance winner Balthazar King usually goes well fresh and likes top of the ground.

Finally, with all the Frankel stories likely to take top-billling, it would be all too easy to overlook Kempton's jumps card this Sunday. In particular the 3.20 should prove useful for future reference - I'll be interested to see how Spirit Of Shankly fares. In the finale I still haven't quite given up the ghost on Colin Tizzard's Xaarcet - around this time last year the handler described his charge as 'our best unraced horse for the season'.   

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chepstow choices

Tomorrow sees Ruby Walsh take his first rides this side of the Irish Sea since the spring, a sure indication the jumping season is moving into gear. I've driven past Chepstow racecourse on numerous occasions but I've never actually been to a meet - a colleague regularly attends but never quite manages to sell it to me...

The Nicholls / Walsh combination is always popular here. This post on the eve of the 2010 meeting details how the pairing fared between 2006 and 2009; there will be plenty who fancy Far West, third on his only start in the Grandak Junenille Hurdle at Auteuil last April, to do the business in the opener but Alan King appeared particularly sweet on Handazan in last week's Weekender stable tour - Handazan rates a play against Far West if the latter is chalked up favourite.

De La Bech brings interesting form to the table in the 2.25, having finished third behind Simonsig in the 2011 Champion Bumper at Fairyhouse. Now with Philip Hobbs, he missed last season due to a leg injury.

Betting novices on their first try over the larger obstacles is a risky business at the best of times (Attaglance won handicap hurdles at both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals in the spring yet was pulled up behind Rival D'Estruval on his chase debut at Carlisle earlier today) but it will be disappointing if Fingal Bay can't start off with a win in the 3.00 race; Tiger O'Toole is a useful benchmark but Poungach is the obvious danger.

Hinterland goes in what used to be known as the Free Handicap (3.40) and is likely to be a short-priced favourite. Tipped as a future Arkle horse, he has to concede at least thirteen pounds on soft ground to all his rivals; on official ratings both Ubaltique and Captain Sharpe are weighted to come out on top - the former is a small individual and could be a week's work short according to his handler in the Weekender while the latter has certainly been kept busy of late and has an additional five pounds taken off his back by claimer Robert Williams. In the past Captain Sharpe hasn't tended to show his best at this track but he represents an each-way play for the very brave at 10/1 or bigger.

The 4.45 is particularly competitive - the interesting ones for this observer are course and distance winner Ace High and Golden Chieftain; Rangitoto is reportedly being aimed at the Badger Ales at Wincanton next month while Victors Serenade is best on heavy ground. Denis O'Regan names eight-year-old Ace High as one of his ten to follow in Mark Howard's One Jump Ahead and an eight-year-old has taken the last five renewals of this event but top weight Ace High has a stiff task on his plate - none of the past five winners has carried more than 10-10 to victory. Colin Tizzard has seen a couple oblige recently so the unexposed Golden Chieftain is a tentative each-way suggestion at around 8/1.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Jumpers for the weekend?

A very quick post in a week that has seen some high-profile withdrawals from the Arc (Danedream and Nathaniel) and three footballers, including Ipswich Town's Michael Chopra, charged with 'serious breaches of the rules of racing'.

Most punters will concentrate on the Flat fare on offer at Ascot and Newmarket tomorrow. In contrarian fashion, I've looked at Fontwell's NH card where the forecast overnight rain could yet prove troublesome.

Rowan Tiger and Cabimas have been in action recently and may have a fitness edge over their rivals in the feature at 3.25. Top weight Paintball won the Sandown Imperial Cup off a mark of 128 in March - he's ten pounds higher now but Kielan Woods claims five; Paintball looks the class act in a race where a couple take on better opposition for the first time. Rowan Tiger was nine lengths behind in fourth in the Imperial Cup - after taking jockey claims into account the two meet on similar terms tomorrow. Much will depend on the ground and fitness - if the tissue price of 13/2 is available I'll consider Paintball provided the going isn't too soft.

Lawney Hill's Cap Elorn is an interesting entry in the three mile chase at Uttoxeter on Sunday (4.25). This one, formerly with Paul Nicholls, went well for a long way on his first try over the larger obstacles in a conditional & amateur riders' race at Worcester last time out. He looks to have more on his plate here but the handler commented recently the gelding 'jumps beautifully'. I'll consider an each-way interest if the 14/1 tissue price becomes available.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Brief notes on tomorrow's Market Rasen card

Two listed races are the highlight of a decent card at Market Rasen tomorrow.

A couple of horses that have done this blog a favour over the summer (Smalib Monterg and Ugo) face stiff opposition against the likes of Local Hero, Kian's Delight and Absinthe in the handicap hurdle at 2.10. Local Hero had Kian's Delight one and a half lengths behind (Absinthe fourth) in the listed Summer Hurdle over course and distance back in July; since then the winner has had an outing on the Flat at Chester while the runner-up went on to take the Summer Hurdle at Perth. I fancied Absinthe for that Perth race but he was beaten fair and square by Peter Bowen's charge - Absinthe reopposes five pounds better off tomorrow so should turn the form around but I think Kian's Delight is progressive. Local Hero's jock can claim ten pounds (as he did in July) and on a strict reading of the form, he also has the beating of Kian's but Kian's Delight is my idea of the winner. At the foot of the handicap Nicky Henderson's Dubai Crest could be interesting - this evening layers appear undecided about this one with bet365 going 8/1 while Ladbrokes offer 14/1 - but in this ultra-competitve event I'm going for some each-way value and the 20/1 Stan James is offering about Kayaan, third in July's Summer Hurdle here, offers just that; Kayaan is another weighted to reverse form with Kian's Delight and is perhaps less exposed than some of the others mentioned.

I don't have a strong view on the listed chase at 2.40 but I'll keep an eye on Venetia Williams' Clouded Thoughts on his first run in this country.

On ratings Hilali is the one to beat in the 3.55 but is likely to be priced accordingly, a comment that also applies to The Romford Pele in the 4.30 - that one ran a stormer in the Cheltenham bumper to finish seventh at odds of 33/1. I'll watch Charlie Longsdon's No No Charlie in this as the trainer indicates in Mark Howard's One Jump Ahead that the gelding hasn't had the best of luck to date and is 'a very nice horse in the making'.

Another of Charlie Longsdon's, Spirit Of Shankly, is well tipped up in the aforemetioned publication and is declared for the concluding bumper; John Ferguson's newcomer Zarafshan is likely to be fit enough to do himself justice.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bits and pieces

Just a quick post this week as I don't intend to play tomorrow.

Call me old-fashioned, but three six furlong handicap sprints with 27 runners apiece, all likely to be run on soft / heavy ground - the Ayr Bronze Cup at 1.45, the Ayr Silver Cup at 2.20 and the Ayr Gold Cup at 3.30 - has the whiff of a bookmakers' benefit to me.

Barring accidents, Dvinsky will go into the record books when running in the Handicap (Div 2) at Wolverhampton this evening; the eleven-year-old gelding starts his 218th race, a modern day record. To date he has 19 wins, 34 seconds and 33 third places to his name. It's not the winning, it's the taking part that counts...

Sunday's weather looks rather unpredicatable; I'll look at the Plumpton card more closely if the rain stays away.

John Ferguson turned a few heads in his first season as a trainer - he saddles two at the track, Once More Dubai (3.00) and Haymarket (2.30). The former boasts smart Flat form and the Weekender reports the gelding has been 'intensively schooled' while it would be no surprise to see improvement in the latter, rated a more modest 69 on the level.

I considered recent winner Baily Storm in the 3.30 but his jumping record has put me off.

Four-year-olds have won six of the last ten renewals of the 4.00 race. Ugo is a hold-up horse with his fair share of weight and on balance would probably prefer a bit further but he ran well over course and distance in the spring; perhaps he was a little too fresh after a summer break last time out so he is potentially of interest at an each-way price.

Friday, September 14, 2012

St Leger 2012

Tomorrow many will be hoping for a fairy-tale ending as Camelot bids to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Nijinksy performed the feat back in 1970. The layers clearly feel Aidan O'Brien's inmate can take the 235th running of this, the oldest Classic, as they have priced the colt up as 2/5 favourite.

John Gosden and William Buick are looking for a hat-trick of their own, having won the previous two runnings with Arctic Cosmos (12/1) in 2010 and Masked Marvel (15/2) last year. This year Gosden saddles three, Dartford, Michaelangelo and Thought Worthy; the first-named is quoted at 300/1 and will act as a pacemaker. Buick thought long and hard before eventually opting to ride Thought Worthy; Dettori picks up the plum ride on Michaelangelo. The stable jockey explains his choice in today's Times - Michaelangelo has bags of potential but Thought Worthy has the form in the book and in the past has shown a willing attitude when push comes to shove.

A quick look at what happened in the Great Voltiguer is 'de rigueur'. Thought Worthy won that day but many feel Buick nicked the race from the front and will fancy Main Sequence to turn the tables - Encke was third that day and Thomas Chippendale fifth.

Thomas Chippendale would prefer cut underfoot and there's a suspicion the same comment applies to the improving Ursa Major.

Four favourites have obliged in the past decade but none since Sixties Icon obliged at odds of 11/8 in 2006. With Camelot such a short price, I'm going with Buick - Thought Worthy is the each-way selection at 11/1 (William Hill). At the time of writing the following bookmakers are offering each-way terms a quarter the odds  - bet365, Sky Bet, Boylesports, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes.   

Friday, September 07, 2012

Suggestions for Stratford

The passing of Lord Oaksey earlier in the week has brought many affectionate tributes including this one from The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper he started to work for in 1957.

In my mind's eye he belongs to an era of TV racing coverage where the presenter sat in front of camera sporting a trilby which was invariably doffed to viewers in the most polite fashion before the first race; Oaksey was second only to the great John Rickman in that respect.

If I have one single thing in common with The Noble Lord it's my ability to tip losers; Oaksey was not renowned for his skill as a tipster but he carried on regardless and in that sense proved a personal inspiration - this brief post before the 2006 Derby acknowledged the fact.

On the streets of Stratford last Satruday I saw some trilbies together with some tweed (that's Stratford-upon-Avon, you understand, not Stratford, East London), a sure sign that autumn is just around the corner when the jumping game moves up a gear or two.

Tomorrow's feature at the Warwickshire track is a race carrying a misleadingly pedestrian name -the Walls And Ceilings International Handicap Hurdle. This Class Two event over two miles and half a furlong has attracted a very competitive entry of sixteen, is likely to be run on good quick ground and is worth over twelve and a half thousand to the winner.

Recent winners Monte Cavallo, Laudatory, Hes Our Lad and Gay Sloane are all likely to prove popular while the bottom five run from out of the handicap.

Donald McCain fields two - on RP ratings Star In Flight should be thereabouts; the handler will have an idea of the gelding's capabilities through stablemate Absinthe who was second in the Scottish Summer Hurdle at Perth three weeks ago. Two from that race contest this - His Excellency and Smalib Monterg. The former hasn't been with the Pipe outfit long, having run in the Galway Plate previously - it would be no surprise to see him come good here - while the latter was tipped each-way by the blog for Perth and ran into a place. In a very competitive event, I'm going to stick with Smalib Monterg - a previous course winner -  who will represent reasonable each-way value if the tissue price of 14/1 is available on the day.

In the past I've done better than I had any right to expect by opposing favourites at this course so, for the brave, course and distance winner Papadron represents a play against Ballybough Gorta in the trappy-looking 4.20; Allerford Jack has been busy clocking up a four-timer over the summer but he unseated last time and there has to be a query about Sagredo's ability to last home.

However I'm not really inclined to oppose the short-priced favourites in either the 2.40 or the 3.15.

At 2.40 Rebeccas Choice and Tough Talkin Man don't really make much appeal against Geneva Geyser although that one hasn't been foot perfect in his first two chase starts.

One Term has to concede at least a stone to his rivals at 3.15 including newcomers Planetoid (rated 85 on the Flat), Good Boy Jackson (82 on the Flat last autumn, although it looks as though McCoy prefers to ride the favourite) and Danehill Dante (68). Having said all that, it's difficult to get away from Rebecca Curtis' charge who has made all to win his last two and could well repeat the trick in this.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Chester tomorrow

I fancied a wager in the listed Lord Mildmay Memorial Handicap Chase this weekend but Newton Abbot has already been called off due to a waterlogged course...

Market Rasen stage a humdrum jumps card; Toshi, trained by Jim Goldie, hinted at a return to form last time out and may be worth a second look at a price in the Christmas Party Day 6th December Handicap Hurdle at 6.55. As it's a bit too early to be thinking about Christmas, I've quickly 'skimmed' the two long distance events at Chester; the going on the Roodee is currently described as good to soft.

My selection for last week's Ebor, Icon Dream, is another stabled in Jim Goldie's yard and he reappears in the listed handicap at 2.30; the gelding ran no sort of race at York last Saturday and has plenty to find with both Area Fifty One (fifth) and Tominator (eighth). I think he's better than that run - the handy inside draw should be to his advantage around Chester's tight turns. The top one catches the eye; Rebecca Curtis strikes me as a trainer who knows the time of day - her strike rate for the season is 28.89% (13 wins, 45 runs). Meganisi is suggested as an each-way wager at 10/1 or bigger.

In the 4.55 Los Nadis (Jim Goldie yet again!) is a dual purpose horse I like. Rated 135 over hurdles, he has a good draw in this but goes off mark of 78 which looks quite high. Priced at just 6/1 in the tissue, I'm going to watch from the sidelines...

Friday, August 24, 2012

From the sublime to the ridiculous

This week we've seen the sublime and we've seen the ridiculous.

Frankel barely had to engage second gear to take Wednesday's Juddmonte International at York; writing as Thunderer in today's Times, Stephen Pollard informs us the great horse '...has achieved perfection.'

In marked contrast bookmakers Betfred have incurred the wrath of most by refusing to pay out on a grandmother's 200/1 Olympic medal wager; Sam Oldham won team bronze in the gymnastics but Betfred have refused a payout as the medal was won in a team, rather than an individual, event. Hmmm.

For the final day of the Ebor meeting here are a couple of tips which, come five o'clock on Saturday afternoon, you're likely to consider ridiculous rather than sublime...

The feature race is the Ebor at 3.40. In the past I've leant towards horses with some NH form for this event; this approach has proved decidedly unsuccessful over the years but I'm past caring. Four qualify this year - Steps To Freedom, Crackentorp, Royal Diamond and Blue Bajan.

Top weight Steps To Freedom looks up against it - only Sea Pigeon (1979) has carried more than 9-4 to victory in the past 50 years. At the age of ten, Blue Bajan appears to face a similarly stiff task; Sea Pigeon was aged nine when recording his victory - since then no horse older than six has come home in front.

In the past nine renewals the winner has come from of a double-digit stall on eight occasions - Royal Diamond doesn't appear to have the best of draws (stall 2) and his tendency to race from the front could leave him vulnerable up the long home straight.

Crackentorp has a better draw (17) but, on stats, can't win at the age of seven and last time out put in a slightly disappointing performance behind Mount Athos. Mount Athos has gone in again since and now heads for the Melbourne Cup, so perhaps I'm being a little harsh there... Previously Crackentorp finished second to Ile De Re in Newcastle's Northumberland Plate run on heavy ground. That day Icon Dream was third and tomorrow's favourite Motivado thirteenth.

The two I'm interested in at a price are Crackentorp and Icon Dream; on Northumberland Plate running there's little between them. Crackentorp is 16/1 with most layers while Icon Dream is 25/1 so I'll take a small each-way interest in Icon Dream (drawn 19) - most layers are paying a quarter the odds four places.

In the preceding Lonsdale Cup (3.05) I haven't totally written off Willie Mullins' Simenon. This one finished sixth behind Saddler's Rock in the Goodwood Cup last time but was only beaten four and a half lengths. On ratings he has plenty to find with several of these and on a literal interpretation can't reverse form with Saddler's. Having said that, I'm re-reading Ruby Walsh's autobiography at the moment and Ruby's comments about Willie Mullins make me think the great man wouldn't send his charge over if he didn't think the gelding was in with a shout. Simenon was done for toe in the final furlong at Goodwood; priced up early at 16/1 with William Hill, I'll bet Simenon each-way - any rain at the track will aid his cause.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Summer Hurdle at Perth

Flat fans appear to be waiting for next week's Ebor meeting at York so I thought I'd take a look at tomorrow's feature at Perth, the Summer Champion Hurdle (4.15) run over two miles and 110 yards.

Gordon Elliott has an outstanding record at the track and sends over the likely favourite Cause of Causes from Ireland; the four-year-old is top-rated by the Racing Post but I'm always wary of young horses having to concede weight to more experienced rivals.

Nicky Henderson sent up his fancied First In The Queue to Scotland yesterday; connections are looking for a good run but point out the gelding wouldn't want a lot more rain.

The Peter Bowen trained Kian's Delight had Absinthe and Mao Chinn Tire behind when finishing one and a half lengths second to Local Hero in the listed Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen four weeks ago - as usual that race was a very competitive affair and this time round Absinthe has a three pounds pull for under two and a half lengths. Timmy Murphy rode Absinthe that day but he rides the favourite here and I just wonder whether Donald McCain's stable jock Jason Maguire may be tempted to make more use of Absinthe who was staying on in fourth at the finish.

David Pipe saddles two, His Excellency and Hunterview. The former, formerly trained by Gordon Elliott, was beaten over 80 lengths in the Galway Plate earlier this month and has been known to 'swish the tail' during races. The latter is one I've fancied at biggish prices in the past but he's never quite lived up to expectations.

I always think it pays to race near the pace at Perth so course form can be considered worthwhile. Dianne Sayer's mare Cool Baranca has course and distance winning form to her name but this looks a tough ask while I'm guessing connections of Smalib Monterg will have a better idea of what they have on their hands after this race.

A competitive race for decent prize money given the time of year. At the time of writing there are no prices chalked up so, working from the tissue, Absinthe looks a play against more fancied market rivals at around 13/2 while I'd consider an each-way wager on Smalib Monterg if priced in double figures - both suggestions should not be unduly inconvenienced by further rain at the track. 

Friday, August 03, 2012

From Olympic golds to Newton Abbot

Last week's post on The Times' virtual medal table generated some interest, so I thought I'd follow up seven days on.

The supplement published with The Times on Thursday 26th July printed a virtual table for each day of the Olympics. At the close of business on Thursday August 2nd Team GB were predicted to have three gold medals whereas in actual fact they had five in the bag. If that advantage is maintained to the end of competition, Great Britain will finish with 21 golds, two more than predicted.

For those who may be interested in taking a position, I thought it would be useful to list the GB golds as predicted by The Times, starting from today.

Kath Grainger / Anna Watkins, Women's double sculls

Saturday, predicted to be Team GB's best day:
Helen Jenkins, Triathlon
Men's Four, Rowing
Women's Team Pursuit, Cycling
Mo Farah, 10,000 metres

Ben Ainslie, Sailing

Jason Kenny, Men's sprint cycling

Tuesday, predicted to be the second best day:
One of the Brownlee brothers, Triathlon
Victoria Pendleton, Cycling individual sprint
Sir Chris Hoy, Cycling keirin

No golds

Savannah Marshall, Women's boxing
One other, not listed

Sarah Stevenson (not selected on form)

Sprint canoeing x 2
One other not listed

No golds

You pays your money and takes your choice...

Personally I still think this looks a big ask, so instead I'll consider placing my money on Present To You in tomorrow's 2.35 at Newton Abbot.

The selection was beaten seven lengths by likely favourite Giant O'Murchu six days ago at Stratford over a distance just shy of two miles two furlongs. The shorter trip here appears in his favour, he now races on seven pounds better terms and connections have opted to try a visor for the first time. If the tissue price of 8/1 becomes available, David Bridgwater's charge looks reasonable each-way value.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Layers and the Olympic games

With Galway and Glorious Goodwood (referred to as simply 'Glorious' in some quarters) next week, this weekend's racing action looks somewhat mundane, especially with anticipation building for the much-heralded start to the London 2012 Olympic Games...

Perhaps it's just me but over the past few days I sense bookmakers have started to smell some easy Olympic-sized pickings in the forthcoming fortnight and have been indulging in some Olympic games of their own - yesterday I swear I saw a tweet where a layer quoted 8/1 about James Bond to light the Olympic flame...

Olympic betting isn't something I have any experience of but by far the best article I've read in recent months was penned by The Times' Owen Slot back in early March. The Times, in conjunction with Infostrada Sports in Holland, created a virtual medal table using a database of form collated up to that point. In that virtual medal table, Great Britain finished fifth with 16 gold medals, four behind Germany in fourth and Russia in third. Now, the table hasn't factored in home advantage but, as Slot is keen to point out, the layers have.

Home advantage would need to be worth a notional 11% improvement in form for Great Britain to finish third with 21 golds - the tally at Beijing in 2008 was 19 when Team GB finished fourth.

Depending on your perception of the value of home advantage, you can make your plays... Skybet go 5/4 Great Britain to finish fourth, while the same firm offer 6/1 Team GB will finish fifth, a price that makes plenty of appeal to the more pessimistic amongst us; more persistent punters may also care to ask for a price about Germany finishing fourth.

A word of warning before you rush to part with your cash - that table was compiled on form as at 5th March 2012 and a lot has happened since. Slot's article 'Bookmakers banking on home advantage to boost medal tally' was published with the sub-header 'Leading layers ignore statistics to frame optimisitc market for Britain' (The Times, Monday March 5 2012, p59).

As I said earlier, generally I don't bet on the Olympics - if I succumb to temptation this time, I'll take 6/1 about GB to finish fifth in the medal table.


Postscript added 28.07.12 @ 13:40

Supplement published with Thursday's Times (26.07.12) printed an updated virtual medal table - top five places shown below:

1. USA             39 gold, 21 silver, 28 bronze
2. CHINA         34 gold, 33 silver, 24 bronze
3. RUSSIA       20 gold, 30 silver, 32 bronze
4. GB               19 gold, 24 silver, 21 bronze
5. GERMANY  17 gold, 22 silver, 20 bronze.

Note that the comment added to this post by reader mrvp highlights a potentially better opportunity.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Market Rasen's Summer Plate meeting

I'm short on time so some very quick notes...

The weekend feature, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Ascot 4.35), is intriguing. Last year's winner, Nathaniel, took the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown a fortnight ago with a gutsy display on his seasonal debut; there must be some concern he won't have fully recovered from those exertions. In a race where the market has proved a decent guide in the past, I prefer Sea Moon to St Nicholas Abbey following his victory in a competitive renewal of the Harwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot but Sir Michael Stoute is not overly bullish about his colt's chance in a piece in today's Times so I'm not going to play. The three-year-old Japanese runner Deep Brillante (20/1 Bet Victor) is the each-way suggestion for those interested; at the time of writing bet365, 888Sport and Blue Square are the layers offering a quarter the odds a place.

Never mind the Flat, there's a decent jumps card at Market Rasen, with the Summer Plate (3.25) the highlight. You'd have reservations about the jumping with a few of those entered including Benbane Head, Tiger O'Toole, Eastlake and likely favourite Spock. Last year's winner Qulinton is a quirky individual who has been out of form for a while but last time hinted he could be on the way back and tries a visor here; Lawney Hill's I Have Dreamed has been running in hunter chases for the best part of 18 months. Peter Bowen regularly targets this prize, having won four of the last nine renewals; often he saddles several but this year he's single-handed with Al Co. Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has declared two - I much prefer That'll Do (Harry Derham claiming seven) to Spock.  Al Co is my idea of the winner while That'll Do is suggested as an each-way alternative.

Finally, a couple to monitor - Mick Channon's Ctappers in the opener and Bellaboosh in the 4.40.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Two John Smith's for York...

Can you have too much of a good thing? Tomorrow's racing includes the Darley July Cup at Newmarket, the John Smith's Cup at York, the Weatherby's Super Sprint at Newbury and the chesterBET City Plate at Chester.

I've decided to focus on the two long distance races at York - the John Smith's Silver Cup at 2.25 over 14 furlongs and the John Smith's Stayers' Handicap at 4.45 over two miles. Both races pick up strands of form from the Northumberland Plate run at Newcastle two weeks ago; on that occasion I highlighted runners with previous NH form and I'm going to do something similar here.

The going is currently described as good to soft, soft in places.

Crackentorp runs in the Silver Cup and ran a cracker to finish second at odds of 16/1 in the Northumberland Plate; he carried nine stone off a handicap mark of 93 on that occasion but this time has been raised eight pounds and has 9-7 on his back. Motivado was beaten a distance in that same race while Blue Bajan, Lyric Street and Kiama Bay were all withdrawn on the day on account of the heavy ground; the last-named has since posted a decent effort to finish seventh, beaten four lengths, in the Old Newton Cup at Haydock. Michael Bell took the honours last year with Tactician - this time he saddles the only three-year-old in the field who is marked up favourite in the tissue.

I think Cesarewitch winner Never Can Tell would prefer better ground, a comment that also applies to Mount Athos who was fourth behind the aforementioned Ces winner and was withdrawn from the Coral Marathon at Sandown last Saturday where the ground was described as good to soft. The mare Western Pearl ran third in this last year at a big price and ran creditably to finish fifth behind Simenon in the Ascot Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting while High Jinx doesn't have too many miles on the clock and apparently has the Ebor as his target so he'll be expected to show up well here. The one that catches my eye is the appropriately-named Stormy Weather. Formerly with Howard Johnson, the grey was highly tried on his first two runs over hurdles for Brian Ellison, in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle and in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham last December. On his subsequent four visits to the track he has finished in the first two on each occasion and rates reasonable each-way value at around 14/1.   

In the Stayers' Handicap, those with previous NH form are Orsippus, Herostatus, Pokfulham, Bruslini, Jonny Delta, Mica Mika, Swinging Hawk and Red Jade. Brian Ellison's grey Bruslini has raced from the front in recent hurdle races before finishing third behind Cloudy Spirit over two miles two here in May. Orsippus was behind in fourth that day before going on to finish second at Ripon and then collect the Pontefract Cup three weeks ago (beating French Hollow who ran a stormer in the Northumberland Plate). Bruslini looks weighted to confirm the York form with Orsippus. Pokfulham looked to have a hard race when beating Rock Relief a nose on the heavy ground at Newcastle just over a fortnight ago while Herostatus had a long slog in the Catterick mud a mere three days ago.

Jonny Delta is an interesting one - as a four-year-old he finished seventh behind Steps To Freedom in the Aintree bumper - in front of subsequent Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Cinders And Ashes. That form reads well - last time out Jonny was fourth behind Getabuzz (Fallon up) beaten just two lengths (with Red Jade further behind in seventh); he's two pounds better off here so the pairing look closely matched but jockey bookings are noted... Fallon rides Orsippus while Neil Farley claims five aboard Jonny Delta. A difficult race but I'll follow Fallon on Orsippus (Bruslini feared) and will consider a small rach-way interest in Jonny Delta if priced up around the 20/1 mark.

To finish, a dreamer's double - what price Brian Ellison's two greys, Stormy Weather and Bruslini...?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Coral-Eclipse day 2012

Ten have been declared for tomorrow's feature, the Coral-Eclipse run over ten furlongs at Sandown.

There has been plenty of rain around today and the temptation is to think the ground will ride heavy but so far Sandown seems to have missed much of the moisture - at the time of writing the going is described as good to soft.

So You Think won this last year but was declared a non-runner yesterday after suffering a setback; he has now been retired to stand at stud in Australia. His withdrawal makes this a completely different race.

Three-year-olds receive an eleven pounds allowance from their elders in the Eclipse but in the past decade only three of the younger generation have obliged: Hawk Wing in 2002, Oratorio in 2005 and Sea The Stars in 2009. This year's representatives are Bonfire and Cogito; the former was sixth in the Derby and hails from a stable in form but to my mind possesses a suspect temperarment while the latter has enough to find despite finding plenty of trouble in running behind Most Improved in the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot two and a half weeks ago.

Farhh replaces Royal Ascot conqueror So You Think at the head of the market. The Godolphin colt looked unlucky in running that day; connections are on record as saying their charge would prefer cut underfoot and they look likely to get their wish. Another Godolphin runner, Monterosso, won the Dubai World Cup at Meydan in March but in the run-up to this connections have been decidedly downbeat. Nathaniel is a very talented individual and shown appropriate respect but the colt missed his intended comeback as the result of a dirty scope - this looks a tough ask on his seasonal debut. Cityscape has never won beyond nine furlongs but he has shown his best form on soft. I was considering two at each-way prices - Crackerjack King and previous winner Twice Over but neither wants the rain. Marco Botti's grey brings Italian form to the table while at the age of seven Twice Over looks unlikely to win - no horse older than five has won in over 50 years. Farhh looks the percentage call provided you buy into the Ascot hard luck story and he can reproduce a similar effort 17 days on; at the prices Crackerjack King is put up as a tentative each-way selection at around the 12/1 mark, although the ground appears to have gone against him.

All week I have been wondering whether to play in the following race, the Coral Marathon run over two miles plus at 4.20. Cavalryman is priced up favourite in the tissue but he's never been easy to catch right and is worth taking on. Chilberta King beat Aaim To Propser and Electrolyser a nose and two lengths in last year's renewal  - the first two look closely matched once again although on current handicap ratings Chilberta has five pounds in hand. Top-rated animal Glen's Diamond doesn't look guaranteed to stay while Mount Athos is of interest as is Thimaar having missed last week's Northumberland Plate on account of the heavy ground. Trappy indeed - earlier in the week I fancied Mount Athos but now the rain has arrived I'm far less confident - I think I'm going to watch from the sidelines... 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Northumberland Plate 2012

A halt was called to proceedings after the fourth at Newcastle yesterday and today's card abandoned following severe storms in the area. At the time of writing an inspection has been scheduled for 8.00 am  Saturday morning for this prestigious card   - here's my view on the race they call the 'Pitmen's Derby'.

Regular readers will be aware I like to back a horse with jumps form in this race - that angle didn't lead me to last year's winner, Tominator, but the corresponding blog post did point out that horses with NH form boast a decent record over the past decade. In that same timeframe only one animal has carried more than 8-11 to victory - Bangalore (9-5) in 2002 - which doesn't bode well for market leaders Ile De Re and Gulf Of Naples, especially as conditions underfoot are likely to prove extremely testing.

The market hasn't proved very much help with recent winners priced at 33/1 (Mirjan 2004, Toldo 2006); 25/1 (Tominator 2011); 16/1 (Som Tala 2009) and 14/1 (Arc Bleu 2008, Overturn 2010). Just the one favourite has obliged in the past ten renewals - Juniper Girl (5/1) in 2007.

In recent years horses drawn high have tended to fare better but, on balance, I still prefer a horse with a low draw near the rail - I always think a decent pitch early on is vital in this event.

Those with NH form to their name in tomorrow's field are: Ile De Re, Blue Bajan, Crackentorp, The Betchworth Kid, Merchant Of Dubai, High Office, Halla San, French Hollow and Trovare. Both Ile De Re and Blue Bajan have their share of weight; Ile De Re won the Chester Cup last time out - the Weekender informs us the last horse to complete the double in the same year was Attivo in 1974. Although set to carry 9-0 after winning a fortnight ago at York, Crackentorp isn't readily dismissed - the gelding missed the cut last year and appears to have each-way claims this time; he has a reasonable draw and hails from a stable in form. You could never be certain The Betchworth Kid would put his best foot forward but he ran third last time with The Merchant Of Dubai finishing well beaten in ninth; however The Merchant led two out before fading in that race and makes more appeal to this observer. Richard Fahey's comments on his pair High Office and Halla San are worth noting. High Office may struggle to see out the trip while Halla San was retired at Beverley on Tuesday but is given this last chance as it's such a big race; Fahey clearly rates Lexington Boy his best chance. On his seasonal debut French Hollow ran a decent trial under a big weight to finish second in the Pontefract Cup and has to be of interest but Trovare was well beaten three days ago when suffering traffic problems on the all-weathger at Kempton.

My shortlist consists of Crackentorp, Merchant Of Dubai and French Hollow. Crackentrop has been raised five pounds for his York win, so Merchant Of Dubai is the each-way selection (28/1 Skybet at the time of writing). Skybet also stand out offering 33/1 about French Hollow while rivals Ladbrokes only go 16/1; I'm tempted. Most layers are paying a quarter the odds four places.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Royal Ascot 2012 - Saturday

Without doubt the star of tomorrow's show will be Australian sprinter Black Caviar who bids to record her 22nd consecutive win in the six furlong Diamond Jubilee Stakes at 3.45. Thousands of  fans who have followed the mare half way across the globe promise to generate an atmosphere the like of which Royal Ascot has never seen before. At 1/4 'Nelly' as she is affectionately known is no betting proposition but this is a race to watch, savour and enjoy.

I've had a grim time of it at Royal Ascot this year and I'm far from certain to buck that trend in the concluding Queen Alexandra Stakes, the longest race in the Flat calendar. Horses with form over the jumps have done well in this event over the years, a fact our friends the bookmakers are well aware of.

Those who saw Willie Mullins' Simenon hack up in the Ascot Stakes on Tuesday will be keen to play up their winnings here as the gelding races off the same mark (95); Elyaadi (90) finished 14th in the same race. On official ratings Overturn has plenty in hand over all these rivals; Donald McCain's charge held an entry in Thursday's Gold Cup but obviously connections decided this was the easier task. Having said that, it's worth noting he hasn't won beyond 19 furlongs and was withdrawn from this event last year on account of the soft ground. 2011 winner Swingkeel appears to have been laid out for this again - he goes off a mark four pounds higher and may struggle to concede weight to 18 of his opponents in these conditions. Paul Nicholls saddles Amercian Trilogy, his first runner at Royal Ascot, who will go in the ground and certainly stay the trip. Other jumpers with half decent NH ratings include Kangaroo Court (probably prefer better ground, a comment that also applies to Scotsbrook Cloud) and the two mares Cloudy Spirit and Golden Sunbird. Overturn looked a decent each-way bet for the Gold Cup at around 20/1 but I'm not convinced he'll see out the extra distance in the ground. Simenon is feared but at 16/1 with BetVictor American Trilogy is the each-way selection.

This year's renewal of the Hardwicke Stakes (3.05) looks particularly intriguing with John Gosden, who recorded a 142/1 treble earlier today (Newfangled 7/4f, Fallen For You 12/1 and Gatewood 3/1f), saddling Aiken while likely favourite Sea Moon is trained by Sir Michael Stoute who also welcomed home a winner earlier today - Estimate is owned by Her Majesty The Queen, reported to be 'delighted' with her victory.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Royal Ascot 2012 - Friday

Short on time for Friday's selections so brief notes only - given the sort of form I've shown so far this week, it's probably a blessing in disguise...

Maybe might have been of interest in the Coronation Stakes (3.45) but she looks unlikely to run. John Gosden's Elusive Kate was another filly to catch my eye but she's making her seasonal debut and connections seem to indicate she won't necessarily find underfoot conditions to her liking. Bugie D'Amore, fourth behind Laugh Out Loud at Chantilly, is expected to come on for that run but is nothing more than a tentative each-way suggestion.

Astrology is the clear form selection for the King Edward VII Stakes (3.05).

The Queen is still looking for a winner at this meeting - her filly Estimate takes on the colts in the Queen's Vase (5.00) run over two miles. Given the rain that's fallen, the trip will take plenty of getting for these three-year-olds. Minimise Risk finished seventh in the Derby but I'm going to take an each-way chance with Macbeth (8/1) who has a win over a mile and a half on soft ground in Ireland to his name.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Royal Ascot 2012 - Thursday is Ladies' Day

The highlight on Ladies' Day is the Gold Cup (3.45), one of my favourite races at this meeting, run over two and a half miles.

The formidable Yeats, trained by Aidan O'Brien, won four consecutive renewals (2006-09) before Dermot Weld's Rite Of Passage sprang a surprise at odds of 20/1 in 2010. Normal service was resumed last year when Coolmore's Fame And Glory landed some sizeable bets beating Opinion Poll three lengths (with Askar Tau a further five and a half lengths away fifth). The form is in the book and the layers aren't taking any chances this time with Fame And Glory (rated 120) odds-on in most places at the time of writing - Blue Square stand out offering 11/10.

Several see Jamie Spencer's mount banker material but others are more cautious, arguing this year's race is more competitive. I'm in the latter camp and was disappointed to see Donald McCain's Overturn, second in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, omitted from the final declarations - he would have ensured a strong gallop from the off. On official ratings Opinion Poll (116), Colour Vision (117) and Saddler's Rock (114) are within striking range of the favourite - under the conditions of the race the last two named also receive two pounds from Fame And Glory. Colour Vision didn't look guaranteed to stay another two furlongs when third in the Cesarewitch last autumn so I'm going to chance Saddler's Rock against the favourite (9/2 in most places). For those possessing an adventurous disposition, I wouldn't put anyone off considering Askar Tau each-way (50/1 BetVictor); this one was in the mix last year and only beaten out of a place in the final furlong.

To a certain extent the Ribblesdale (3.05) looks like a re-run of the Epsom Oaks with six electing to do battle once again. Of course, there's no guarantee they'll finish in the same order, especially as this year's renewal looked a pretty rough affair throwing up any number of hard luck stories. The troubles of the The Fugue have been well documented  - the Weekender's Topspeed columnist Dave Edwards informs us that hand-held split timings show The Fugue came up the Epsom straight faster than Derby winner Camelot the following day. The question is can the fillies in question reproduce similar efforts three weeks on... Kailani was one of those badly hampered in the Oaks; this filly should appreciate the easier ground and at 12/1 she strikes me as reasonable each-way value.

Finally, I won't have a bet in the Norfolk (2.30) but Mick Channon's Cay Verde looks the one to beat.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Royal Ascot 2012 - Wednesday

Earlier today Frankel (1/10f) took the opening race at this year's Royal Ascot, the Queen Anne Stakes, by an astonishing 11 lengths; afterwards connections confirmed what many suspected - the colt appears to be improving!

In Diamond Jubilee year traditionalists will be hoping Carlton House, owned by the Queen, can oblige in the 150th Anniversary Of Prince Of Wales's Stakes at 3.45. Royal trainer Sir Michael Stoute suffered a torrid time of it last year and was slow enough out of the stalls this season but the winners are starting to flow. On official ratings, Carlton House has six pounds to find with Aidan O'Brien's So You Think; at the time of writing Coral are the only layer to offer even money about Coolmore's representative. Before getting stuck in, it's worth noting that So You Think has run twice over this course and distance and has been beaten on both occasions - a neck by Rewilding (rated 121) in this race last year and three quarters of a length by Cirrus Des Aigles in the Champion Stakes in October. Although Planteur (rated 121 here) finished fourth behind Rewilding and So You Think last year, Marco Botti's charge has since finished in front of So You Think in the Dubai World Cup in March. If the principals turn up and run their race, So You Think wins but at the prices on offer I'm going to take an each-way interest in Planteur at 9/1.

Should you be looking to win a life-changing amount of money [I know, you wouldn't be reading this blog anyway], the annual cavalry charge that is the Royal Hunt Cup wouldn't be the first race where you'd consider placing your wager; nonetheless it's still an amazing spectacle. This year I've been particularly devoid of inspiration - in fact it has been so bad I went and had a look at what the bookmakers' reps were tipping; you know it's bad when you start asking bookies for tips. Two things stood out - they all reported money for Edinburgh Knight and a couple had a quiet word for Mabait (25/1). At the time of writing four layers are paying five places in this race: Paddy Power; BetVictor; bet365 and Boylesports. If you decide to play, I wish you the very best of luck.