Sunday, February 26, 2012

A handful of Festival pointers before a Festival preview evening...

Thanks to the generosity of Coral, I'm attending the 2012 Cheltenham Preview evening at Haydock on Thursday. I'll blog about the debates and discussions after the event but in the meantime, with plenty of work to be done, I thought I'd give some quick pointers to my current thinking...

Jockey Joe Tizzard appeared notably bullish about Cue Card's chance on Saturday's Morning Line (9/1 William Hill).

Champion Hurdle
Oscars Well each-way (14/1 Coral) is of interest. Looked the winner of the Neptune last year before a blunder at the last cost him.

RSA Chase
Invictus (12/1 Ladbrokes). A couple of months ago The Yorkshire Post reported that part-owner of Grand Crus Roger Stanley reckoned they were 70/30 more likely to go to the Gold Cup with their pride and joy. If that comes about, the RSA market will change markedly.

Champion Chase
Highly unlikely I know, but Peddler's Cross (20/1) would be worth a second look should connections have a rush of blood and run here rather than in the Arkle.

Champion bumper
Plenty of work to do but I'm considering Royal Guardsman and New Years Eve.

Albert Bartlett
Paul Nicholls' Rocky Creek looked decent at Doncaster the last day.

Gold Cup
I take a positive view of Long Run's latest Newbury effort where he broke the track record.

I know a fellow racegoer who sees De Boitron as something of a dark horse but, with Graham Lee out, is keen to see who gets the ride. Ferdy Murphy's gelding finished fourth in last year's Grand Annual and holds entries in this year's race (16/1) as well as in Thursday's Festival Plate (25/1) run over two miles five.

I have no doubt I'll have changed my mind completely after Thursday evening's deliberations... ;)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kempton, Adonis and other assorted offerings to the gods of racing...

Kempton's opener tomorrow is the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle. According to Greek mythology Aphrodite fell in love with Adonis, the god of beauty and desire, and entrusted the beautiful youth to Persephone, queen of the underworld. Persephone was also somewhat taken with Adonis and, when asked, refused to give him back to Aphrodite which resulted in something of a barney between the two goddesses. The compromise reached saw Adonis spend a third of the year with each goddess while he chose with which goddess to spend the final third - he chose Aphrodite but in the end, beautiful or not, he still managed to himself get slain by a wild boar. What has all this got to do with Kempton? Well, the Adonis is looking all Greek to me. Course and distance winner Sadler's Risk has been well-touted but is a jolly short price and the Hobbs yard isn't firing at present. The world and his wife knows about coughing in Paul Nicholls' yard but three winners from four runners at Sandown earlier today (Bold Chief 7/2, Toubab 8/11f and Sky Watch 7/2) would suggest Dildar offers value. Nicky Henderson's filly Une Artiste took the Victor Ludorum on heavy ground at Haydock last week while Baby Mix could easily bounce back from a disappointing effort behind Grumeti; Tom George has his team in fine form at the moment but the concession of weight to all rivals may prove the undoing of Baby Mix. Favourites have obliged on five occasions in the past ten years but I'll chance Dildar (7/2 with BetVictor) and I have to take a small each-way interest in Orthodox Lad at 40/1 (William Hill)  who may have improvement to come on better ground.

Adonis, Aphrodite, beauty and love are all very well but there's no love lost between the Racing Post and rival publication Racing Plus. In the feature Racing Plus Chase, a race previously associated with the Racing Post but this year sponsored by Racing Plus, I'll stick with Nacarat, mainly for old times sake. In my opinion this horse shows his very best form on good ground - he won the 2009 renewal - but at 11 it's probable one or two will prove a bit too quick at the business end.

All eyes will be on Grumeti in the Dovecote (3.40) - Choc Thornton takes his first ride in public on Alan King's charge who is quoted as low as 7/1 for the Triumph Hurdle. On paper this doesn't look a complete walk in the park with Keys (blinkers fitted for the first time over hurdles), Terre Du Vent (placed behind Kasbah Bliss in France) and well-touted newcomer Dodging Bullets in the field.

On ratings Cristal Bonus is the one to beat in the Pendil (4.10) but he makes little appeal as a bettng proposition.

The tissue for the concluding bumper has the only previous winner in the field third in the market. I saw Starvin Marvin win at Warwick seven weeks ago and he did it well enough at odds of 14/1, overturning well-backed favourite Le Bec from the Emma Lavelle yard by two lengths. Earlier today Le Bec was sent off joint-favourite in the Sandown bumper but again failed to oblige, beaten four and a quarter lengths into third. Colin Tizzard's Virginia Ash will be the likely favourite tomorrow on the back of his third in a listed Cheltenham event where he was seen staying on to good effect but to these eyes Starvin Marvin put his race to bed quickly enough at Warwick and this flat track could suit - I'll consider a wager if the tissue price of 9/2 becomes available on the day.

Finally one tentative Eider suggestion offered to the gods of the Tyne - Peter Niven's mare Posh Bird is weighted to turn around recent form with Mister Marker (two pounds for half a length over three miles one at Ayr) and she may appreciate drying ground more than a number of her rivals.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Saturday quick picks

At Ascot Bobs Worth will be a short price for the Reynoldstown (1.50); for the record the favourite has obliged on five occasions in the past decade. I've not been particularly impressed with Bobs jumping of the larger obstacles so I'm torn between Silviniaco Conti and Invictus. The former hasn't won over the distance but his two and a quarter length second to Grand Crus in the Feltham on Boxing Day reads well; this stiffer track may not help the cause if stamina becomes the issue but at the weights he's the one they have to beat. Invictus was somewhat disappointing at Cheltenham on New Year's Day but it came to light later that Alan King's charge had lost a shoe. I'm prepared to forgive that run; Invictus is likely to appreciate the step up in trip but the hint in the Weekender is he'll come on for the run with the Festival just around the corner. 8/1 Invictus is tempting but as only one winner has started bigger than 9/2 in the past decade (Montgermont 17/2 in 2006) Silviniaco Conti is the suggestion.

The last time Riverside Theatre saw a racecourse he took last year's running of the Ascot Chase (3.00) and plenty will think he can repeat the trick this time around. Kauto Stone is the only six year old in the field; in the past decade no six year old has taken this. - all winners (excepting Riverside Theatre last year) have been aged eight or older. Favourites have won six of the previous ten renewals so Riverside Theatre is the selection.

At Haydock I'll consider an each-way wager on Flying Flynn (18/1 with Coral this evening) in the Prestige Novices' Hurdle (2.10). Philip Hobbs reports this one has progressed following his second to Hadrian's Approach at Ascot in December.

The Rendlesham (2.45) looks trappy. On ratings Featherbed Lane is the one but he's no price so I'll watch from the sidelines. Donald McCain has a word for Reindeer Dippin  but if you fancy Restless Harry you'd be advised to ensure the gelding hasn't worked himself up beforehand - the horse doesn't always travel well to the races from his Stratford base.

The Grand National Trial at 3.20 should prove informative but the layers have it about right quoting the Welsh National first and second, Le Beau Bai and Giles Cross, as joint favourites. It's worth noting that until fairly recently Giles Cross had the Eider Chase at Newcastle as his target so perhaps connections are hopeful of turning the form around. At Chepstow Victor Dartnall's gelding went down seven lengths to Le Beau Bai conceding five pounds; on revised terms Le Beau Bai now concedes two pounds so, barring accidents, they should finish in close proximity - of course, whether that's at the head of affairs is another matter altogether!

Friday, February 10, 2012

It may be freezing but free tickets are up for grabs!

At the time of writing Musselburgh is the only turf card left standing; earlier today the track made 1,000 tickets available free of charge for its Scottish Cheltenham Trials meeting.. Should racing go ahead, I'll closely watch the progress of John Ferguson's three runners (Creekside in the Scottish Triumph Hurdle at 2.05, Cry Of Freedom in the Scottish County Hurdle at 3.45 and Cape Dutch in the finale at 4.50) - the trainer has an impressive 37.5% win strike rate this season - 18 wins from 48 runs.

Newbury's Super Saturday card was called off this morning but has has been re-arranged for next Friday with sponsors Betfair offering free entry for all racegoers.

Meanwhile Nicky Henderson is considering sending Binocular north for Kelso's Morebattle Hurdle on Wednesday. I'm sure the trainer doesn't hold particularly fond memories of the race - two years ago Zaynar was beaten at odds of 1/14f by the Howard Johnson trained Quwetwo on quite desperate ground.

Let's hope there's some slightly warmer weather in the offing over the next few days.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The weather, Wetherby and Weatherbys

No selections this weekend - the turf cards at Sandown and Wetherby have already been lost to the weather and prospects at Ffos Las can hardly be described as good after clerk of the course Tim Long conceded frost had got under the covers - there's an inspection at 9.00 tomorrow morning.

What do we have to look forward to? Well, the Cheltenham Festival is just over five weeks away and the team behind the Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide 2012 has started sending out tantalising statistical tweets on @CheltFestNews. The guide, now in its 13th year, is set to be published on February 24th and at £14.95 (including first class postage and packing), will, as always, prove a sound investment and extremely good value for money. This year you can also subscribe to the guide's Text Updates for £9.70 or Online Updates at a cost of £20.00

I'm staying disciplined and will not be tempted by tomorrow's rugby internationals, so no wagers for me this weekend; looking on the bright side, that'll be the first time I've managed to break even this year...