Friday, March 30, 2012

Low-key jumping fare

The Flat takes centre stage this weekend with the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan and, a bit nearer to home, the William Hill Lincoln at Doncaster.

The jumping fare on offer looks decidedly run-of-the-mill - I don't intend to play.

A few notes which may be of interest... The maiden hurdle at Uttoxeter has been split into two divisions - Raktiman looks to have decent claims in the first leg (1.55) but will be priced accordingly while Mabel Tasman might offer some each-way value against rivals from bigger yards in the second division (3.05). The mare appeared to run out of petrol (know the feeling?) at Wincanton the other day over two miles six; the slighlty shorter trip and better ground here should help.

At the same track...

Saint Luke (4.10) boasted some smart form last year, finishing twelfth behind Cheltenian in the Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival bumper before finishing fifth behind Steps To Freedom in the Aintree version. Unfortunately Peter Bowen's gelding has failed to reproduce that this season and with the stable out of form can't be considered.

The booking of McCoy for H'ella Petite in the mares' bumper (5.15) catches the eye.

Ruby Walsh rides two for Paul Nicholls (Balding Banker 3.05 and Tonic Mellysse 3.40) before dashing off to Stratford to partner Whisky Yankee in their finale. Previous winner Kings Lad has a penalty to carry - the hint may be worth taking.

At Ascot on Sunday I'll monitor Orthodox Lad's running in the 3.30 - I'm not sure whether this one is under-rated or not. There's no denying he was run off his feet in the Adonis at Kempton but he will appreciate the quicker ground.

In the concluding hunters' chase Master Medic would be worth a second look if the tissue price of 5/1 becomes available.

Finally, for those who wish to place wagers on runners with tenuous connections to rock & heavy metal music, Rockin' Horse Racing Tips may just be the site you've been waiting for... ;)           

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tight at the top of the Premiership

It's getting tight at the top of the Premiership - the Blue Square Premiership.

Fleetwood Town have amassed 92 points from 39 games whilst closest rivals Wrexham have 86 points from 37 games. Should the Welsh club win their two games in hand, the goal difference is likely to be pretty tight too - Fleetwood's current goal difference is 52, Wrexham's 49. To add to the spice, Fleetwood are set to entertain Wrexham on Tuesday April 10th and it has just been announced that the  Mansfield v. Wrexham fixture will be televised live by Premier Sports Television (Channel 433) on Friday 20th April.

Having said all that, there are likely to be a few twists and turns along the way - tomorrow's fixtures for both leading clubs look no cakewalk. Third-placed Mansfield visit the league leaders on the back of seven wins from their last eight games, having bagged 26 goals along the way - the one draw in that sequence was against Fleetwood eleven days ago.

Meanwhile Wrexham will feel they have a score to settle with Forest Green Rovers who beat them 1-0 in January, knocking the Welsh side off the top of the league in the process; to add insult to injury, Wrexham's Dean Keates had his injury-time penalty saved by former Wrexham keeper Sam Russell. Forest Green Rovers beat fourth-placed Luton Town 3-0 on Tuesday evening.

Those prepared to take a view can bet 9/2 Mansfield with bet365 and 31/10 the draw with Bet Victor. Bet Victor are also best-priced about a drawn Wrexham match (17/5) while Stan James offers 13/2 Forest Green Rovers.

Just down the road from Wrexham, Donald McCain will be hoping to take some of the spoils on offer at Bangor-On-Dee, his local track. Railway Dillon will popular in the 3.50 but this looks a trappy affair - front-runner Calisto Moon returns from a break and couldn't be completely written off if fit enough while Wake Board won as he liked over this course and distance last May.

The bumper is interesting. Imperial Leader's second to The Romford Pele reads well after that one came home seventh in the Festival bumper last week, beaten just over ten lengths. Donald McCain's Ifyousayso has to carry a penalty but it would be no surprise to see Nicky Henderson's mare Miss Ballantyne improve on her third to stablemate Brave Alliance at Warwick in November. I'll monitor the market and bet Imperial Leader if the signs are positive.

Over the years I haven't fared particularly well at tomorrow's Newbury meeting - the race that intrigues is the 3.40. Ikorodu Road is of obvious interest after his victory in the Grimthorpe. He may have been a little fortunate that day as a tired-looking Pentiffic fell at the final fence when holding a three length lead but he battled all the way to the line to pip Junior a short-head. I'm going to take an each-way chance on Henry Daly's Pearlysteps (10/1 bet365, Bet Victor) who didn't jump well at Ascot the last day but has been to Yogi Breisner's since and sports cheekpieces for the first time. His previous second to According To Pete in the Peter Marsh reads well and Jake Greenall takes off a handy-looking five pounds.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Post Cheltenham blues

The time of reckoning has arrived...

This year a £1.00 level stake wager at SP on each of the blog's 18 highlighted selections returned a loss of £6.37. Not particularly impressive you may say and, of course, you'd be correct, but I'll plead mitigating circumstances.

In the opening race on the first two days I picked the wrong one from two, with Cinders And Ashes (10/1) and Teaforthree (5/1) obliging while Tetlami and Universal Solider failed to make a place. There were other near misses on that opening day too with Overturn (20/1) and Fruity O'Rooney (16/1) both running well in defeat while sole winner Balthazar King was backed into 11/2 from 14/1 in the morning; if you'd taken the price quoted about each selection, you would have returned a profit.

And, of course, although ante-post wager The Giant Bolster wasn't one of the highlighted selections, David Bridgwater's gelding ran a huge race to finish second at odds of 50/1; just for a moment, between the last two flights, I dared to think he might do the business...

Wednesday's clement weather made my annual visit to the track a memorable affair this year - that, and the fact that Cheltenham Racecourse had no qualms whatsoever in charging me £4.30 for a pint of Guinness. Still, colleagues redressed the balance somewhat by pointing out that annual membership at Hereford costs just £100 and gives entrance to 18 racedays as well as 70 reciprocal meetings. Is that one of the best deals in racing?

Following on from the excitement generated by The Giant Bolster's run in the Gold Cup, I was fortunate enough to be offered a ticket for Saturday's Grand Slam decider at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff; Wales beat France in an atmosphere I haven't experienced for many a long day.

Now it's back to earth, to the humdrum, with something of a big bump...

Anyway, here's the latest plans for some of last week's Festival runners:

Synchronsied - a decision will be made later about the Grand National
Champagne Fever - Mullins considers novice chase campaign
Noble Prince - trainer Paul Nolan aims for the Punchestown Festival
China Rock - Guinness Handicap Chase, Punchestown
Four Commanders - Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse
Sir Des Champs / First Lieutenant - kept apart at Punchestown
Rubi Light - Guinness Gold Cup, Punchestown
Smad Place - 'seriously considering taking on Big Buck' Aintree' [Alan King / Weekender]
Grumeti - 'would like to give him one more Aintree next month' [Alan King / Weekender]

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cheltenham Festival 2012 - Friday

I just can't believe it - one false keystroke and Blogger has erased all my input!

Revised much briefer notes...

The highlight of the week is the Gold Cup. Paul Nicholls said earlier today on Radio 5 that his stable is out of form (despite Rock On Ruby and Big Buck's) but Nicky Henderson is having something of a ball with six winners in the bag already. I'm sure Kauto Star has been given the kid-glove treatment but Long Run is the percentage call. The top-rated pair have 15 pounds and upwards in hand over the rest of their rivals. Best each-way chance may be Weird Al (12/1 Ladbrokes) who disappointed in this race last year but is now with Donald McCain. I confess to having taken a small each-way interest in The Giant Bolster at 66/1.

Invariably the Triumph is tricky and often a very rough race and this year's renewal looks no diferent. It should prove informative looking to the future.

In the County I'll take a small each-way interest in Magnifique Etoile (25/1 Boylesports). I met Calum Madell who owns a small share in this one at the recent Haydock preview evening; Calum writes while his colleague James Yeddell writes Calum thinks Magnifique Etoile has seven to nine pounds of improvement in him. Another reasonably handicapped from the same yard is Grandads Horse who goes in the conditional jockeys' race at 4.40 but 16/1 about Henderson's Molotov looks tempting given this one had entries in some of the better novice hurdles run earlier in the week.

I was surprised to see Boston Bob declared for the Albert Bartlett rather than the Neptune - he looks a worthy favourite; I would have bet Rocky Creek if I could have been certan of the stable form. C4 presenter Tanya Stevenson has tipped up Fox Appeal for this.

And finally, in the finale, Ferdy Murphy's De Boitron would be worth an each-way interest at 11/1 with SkyBet.

Good luck everyone for this the final day of the 2012 Festival!

Cheltenham Festival 2012 - Thursday

Well a half-decent Tuesday was followed by woeful Wednesday.

Very quickly on Thursday morning, today's card looks rather difficult...!

One speculative each-way wager - Dynaste each-way at 20/1 with Blue Square in the World Hurdle, although I suspect he'd benefit from softer conditions underfoot.

I also like For Non Stop in the opener but the decision to run Peddlers Cross in this makes me cautious; on official ratings Peddlers has upwards of eight pounds in hand over all his rivals.

I'll post thoughts on tomorrow's card later this evening.        

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cheltenham Festival 2012 - Wednesday

Over the years I've managed to make it to the Wednesday of this meeting and I'm lucky enough to be going this time around. Here's my view on tomorrow's card...

The opener is a four mile novice chase for amateur riders - amateur riders and novice chasers wouldn't necessarily be the first combination you'd come up with if asked to frame a race but there you go. The Paul Nicholls trained Harry The Viking, in which Sir Alex Ferguson owns a share, looks short enough in the market given a couple of weeks ago this one was one was named as suffering badly from the bout of coughing in the yard. On official ratings Teaforthree is the best horse in the race so is of obvious interest although a lot of his best form has been on soft / heavy ground - there's a worry he could get detatched early on. Teaforthree beat Universal Soldier at Chepstow in December but since then the horse has moved to Charlie Longsdon's, undergone some 'intense schooling' and come out to take a Towcester novice chase with any amount in hand. I've heard the odd word for Alfie Spinner (third behind Invictus in the Reynoldstown at Ascot with Silviniaco Conti and Our Island beaten) but I'll chance Universal Soldier each-way (14/1William Hill).

Fingal Bay has the best form in the book for the Neptune but is unfortunately out injured. I must admit I was a tad surprised to see Willie Mullins opt for the Albert Bartlett (Friday) with Boston Bob rather than take on Simonsig here. That leads to Mullins' Sous Les Cieux who was beaten by 50/1 chance Benefficient the last day at Leopardstown but boasts an identical RPR rating to Simonsig (160). Connections of Simonsig were undecided whether to go for this or the Supreme - jockey Barry Geraghty looks to have won that particular argument. Others noted include Monksland (tipped up by Simon Clare of Coral at Haydock's preview evening) and Cotton Mill. I saw Cotton Mill beat Ambion Wood at Warwick in January - Jack Quinlan rode a canny race that day. Next time Ambion Wood came out he was well beaten behind Brindisi Breeze at Haydock so I wasn't thinking of putting too much faith in the Warwick form until Ambion Wood won a competitive novice handicap hurdle under top weight at Sandown on Saturday. Still, Cotton Mill has some more to find with a few of these and as favourites have a poor record (one win in past decade - Mikael D'Haguenet, 5/2F, 2009), a tentative vote goes to Sous Les Cieux (13/2 with Blue Square).

Kauto Star goes in the Gold Cup so Grands Crus goes for the RSA. I've heard some carp his Feltham form  but that day he recorded a faster time than Kauto Star in the King George. Those who fancy Bobs Worth will be worried by Mick Fitzgerald saying the horse 'doesn't travel as well as he used to' at the preview evening I attended. The big tip was for Paul Nicholls' Join Together, on offical ratings just two pounds inferior to 11/8 favourite Grands Crus yet on offer at 6/1 and 13/2 with Skybet this evening. Now I could be well wide of the mark and it wouldn't be the first time but I thought I picked up a hint from a Dan Skelton TV interview that down Ditcheat way they think Join Together, given time, could be a replacement for Denman. I'm going to take a chance on course and distance winner Join Together - a negative is he hasn't run since before Christmas whereas several previous winners have.

The Champion Chase looks a weak renewal this year - Sizing Europe is the one but at the prices on offer I''ll watch from the sidelines as I can't muster much enthusiam for any of the others.

I saw Carlito Brigante win the Coral Cup in a common canter last year but the fact this race is sponsored by a bookmaker tells you all you need to know. Two longhsots against the field - Cape Dutch, put up recently by the trainer as his best chance of a winner at this his first meet (18/1 Stan James) and Saphir River, a French-bred grey with some decent enough form to his name who was purchased for 280,000 euros. Alan Lee quoted trainer Michael Scudamore in a recent snippet: "We took him to Newbury for a gallop...and he worked very, very well." Saphir River has been thrown in the deep end here but is 33s in places and 40/1 with Boylesports. I may just have a £2 reverse exacta the pair... ;)

I  had a couple of ideas for the Fred Winter but they haven't been declared so I'll pass - for those interested Richard Hoiles had a word for Moujik Borget (40/1) while Royal Bonsai (22/1 Stan James) was one of Sam Thomas' "dark horses" on a recent edition of the Morning Line.

Finally in the past week I've backed Sir Johnson at 20/1 for the bumper on the back of comments Peter Bowen made (see notes at end of this post) and I'm not inclined to add to that.

That's it! Good luck one and all - I'll get round to posting Thursday's losers on the Thursday morning.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cheltenham Festival 2012 - Tuesday

Connections have been playing cards close to their chests recently but today it was confirmed that Kauto Star is fit to run in Friday's Gold Cup while Grands Crus goes for the RSA Chase on Wednesday.

On several occasions in the run-up to this meeting Nicky Henderson put plenty of emphasis on the importance of getting off to a good start and how that builds confidence; punters know exactly what he's talking about.

In the opener, a race I'm not particualrly fond of, Henderson saddles two, Darlan and Tetlami. The former is favourite with most layers and is a course and distance winner but he took a crashing fall at Newbury the last day so I'm wary; Colour Squadron is another who fell last time out. Cinders And Ashes looks solid and is one I like but at the prices the value suggestion is Tetlami each way (14/1 William Hill).

Only six in the Arkle, one of smallest fields I can remember. In the Festival preview evening at Haydock the talk was all of Sprinter Sacre with Mick Fitzgerald saying 'I've never seen [Nicky Henderson] so excited by a horse.' Al Ferof beat Sprinter Sacre into third in last year's Supreme with Cue Card back in fourth. Team Tizzard has been quite bullish about their charge and it's often said you need a horse that stays two and a half miles in the Arkle. However it's a very long time since a horse has made all to win this (possibly 1988?) Paddy Power offers to refund losing stakes if Sprinter Sacre wins so the selection is Cue Card at 7/1 with Paddy Power.

Ten in the Champion Hurdle and Hurricane Fly looks the one but at the prices I shall take an each-way interest in the front-running Overturn (28/1Paddy Power / Bet Victor).

Quevega bids to win the mares' hurdle for a remarkable fourth time and is unsurprisingly a very short price to do so.

I won't be playing in the handicaps or the Cross Country Chase but for those who must a couple of suggestions. In the JLT Speciality Handicap Chase Fruity O'Rooney (22/1 Coral) is worth considering. I fancied this one for the Grimthorpe at Doncaster a couple of weeks back but he was pulled out on account of quick going. His latest effort, third in the Great Yorkshire, reads very well as the saddle slipped after the twelfth fence. His prominent style of racing should keep him free from the trouble that could occur in this big field.

At the Festival preview evening Ricahrd Johnson had a word for Balthazar King in the Glenfarclas while Nicky Henderson put up Triolo D'Alene for the Pulteney - Ladbrokes offer 7/1; in the same race Going Wrong, from a stable that does well with its runners at this meeting, is certainly worth a second look.

Good luck everyone! As usual, I'm off to Cheltenham for the Wednesday card.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Two trainers to consider at this year's Festival

I'll post comments on the first day's card tomorrow but in the meantime there's this.

At 6.55% Ferdy Murphy's strike rate so far this season isn't anything to shout about but we know Murphy regularly targets the Festival; as the RP Cheltenham Festival Guide points out, he has returned a profit at this meeting on five occasions in the past six years and since 2003 33% of his runners over fences have finished in the top four. Six recent winners include You're Special (33/1) and Hot Weld (33/1) in 2006, Joe's Edge (50/1) and L'Antartique (20/1) in 2007 and Poker De Sivola (14/1) in 2010.

Among the entries - De Boitron in the Grand Annual, Divers in the Byrne Plate (McCoy booked), Going Wrong in the Pulteney (Davy Russell) and Kalahari King in the Ryanair.

John Ferguson has made quite an impression in this his first season handling hurdlers. A recent interview saw him put up Cape Dutch in one of the handicaps as his best chance of a winner. New Year's Eve is prominent in the betting for the bumper with the booking of Barry Geraghty catching the eye. However the RP's Cheltenham Festival Guide thinks Population a better prospect ('...Population will be the best of British going into the race'), but I've read somewhere that one is heading to Aintree - intriguingly at this stage Population holds an entry in a Huntingdon bumper on the Wednesday with Jack Quinlan already jocked up. Ambion Wood's win at Sandown yesterday paid a compliment to Cotton Mill (entries in the Neptune and Albert Bartlett) while Asaid (Geraghty again) has an entry in the Triumph.

There's not long to wait now... ;)

Friday, March 09, 2012

Dreaming of winners

The Festival is just around the corner and you just couldn't have dreamt it.

In the past week or so at least two commentators, ATR presenter Matt Chapman and former Raceform editor Bernie Ford, have composed a compelling case for the defence; that is the four defending champions, namely Hurricane Fly, Sizing Europe, Big Buck's and Long Run, successfully retaining their crowns.

And Cheltenham MD Edward Gillespie was forced to defend the first day's card with three favourites - Sprinter Sacre, Hurricane Fly and Quevega - looking likely to start at very cramped odds.

To put the top hat on it all, my wife has started to dream winners. Except she didn't have the good grace to tell me beforehand that she'd started. Mrs Tips woke this morning saying she had just dreamt that Sam Waley-Cohen had fallen off Long Run on the way to post - 'I knew it was him because of those ghastly colours.' Spooky.

Sensing the slightest hint of an opportunity, I enquired what had won the race. Clearly in that all-too-familiar Proustian penumbra between waking and sleeping, Mrs T. replied along the lines of 'something with the word "rum" in it.' Naturally I thought she was off on one again, as is her wont, as everyone knows none of the remaining Gold Cup entries contains any semblance of the word rum. So I thought no more of it until the result of this afternoon's 3.40 hunter chase at Leicester flashed up on screen. First past the post was Rumbury Grey, trained by one S Flook and ridden by amateur Mr R Jarrett claiming five, returned at odds of 14/1.

Makes you wonder why you bother, doesn't it?

Still, I am wondering whether to ask William Hill what odds they'll give me about Sam Waley-Cohen being thrown on the way to post for this year's Gold Cup. And I've started to question the hearing as well, which isn't what it once was - did she say 'rum' or did she say 'run'? The irony is I've been pretending I couldn't hear her properly for years... I've asked but she has no recollection whatsoever of our early morning conversation.

Anyway, here's an update on some of the Festival horses I'd previously indicated I was dreaming about. In the past horses I've dreamt about generally don't win.

Arkle - Cue Card is still on track but the defection of Peddlers Cross has taken something away. Cue Card is likely to race from the front and I'm put off by the stat that no horse has made all to win this in the past decade (and possibly to as far back as 1988?) Sprinter Sacre is a formidable-looking opponent.

Champion Hurdle - Oscars Well makes some each-way appeal, as does Overturn (25/1) who was well-touted at Haydock's Festival preview evening.

RSA Chase - Invictus has been declared a non-runner.

Champion bumper - The booking of Barry Geraghty to ride New Year's Eve catches the eye but both that one and Royal Guardsman are short enough in the market now. Yesterday Peter Bowen helpfully pointed out that Sir Johnson had Royal Guardsman seven and a half lengths behind at Aintree in October while conceding seven pounds. I've taken the hint and backed Sir Johnson at 20/1.

Gold Cup - Kauto Star delighted connections in a gallop after racing at Wincanton earlier today and is rated '95% certain' to line up; a final decision will be taken on Monday. The Giant Bolster comes with risks attached but 66/1 struck me as reasonable each-way value so I struck a small wager.

As always, more detailed postings on Festival races will be available nearer the time. In the meantime, I'm still living the dream...

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Coral 2012 Cheltenham Festival preview evening at Haydock

Over the years, in very general terms, I've tended to give Festival preview evenings something of a wide berth on the grounds that you end up coming away with more tips than you can shake a stick at.

This year has been different on two counts. Firstly, I received a kind invitation to attend the Haydock event from sponsors Coral and secondly, given the form in the book, a surfeit of tips for the Championship races looked rather unlikely beforehand.

The panel, chaired in turn by AtTheRaces presenter Matt Chapman [MC] and Mick Fitzgerald [MF], consisted of Richard Johnson [RJ], Niall Hannity [NH], Simon Clare [SC from Coral Bookmakers] and Jason Maguire [JM] who, apparently, displayed admirable restraint on learning  his name had been misspelt in the souvenir programme... And, more or less, unanimous the panel were in their selections for the 'big four': Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle; Sizing Europe for  the Champion Chase; Big Buck's the World Hurdle and Long Run the Gold Cup following news of Kauto Star's 'pretty awful fall' on the Ditcheat gallops last week.

Matt Chapman's stentorian style (YeeeHaaa!) wouldn't necessarily have appealed to all patrons present but his piece in the programme was particularly pertinent - we hardly need preview nights as 'it all looks so easy...'

Of course, such thinking is dangerous and, where horses are concerned, nothing can ever be described as 'easy' otherwise we'd all have large amounts of cash in the bank. Still, the point Matt made is that he feels layers are 'wrong' to think they'll get a result from the big four; if an upset were to occur, going on past results, it's most likely to come in the Gold Cup.

Having arrived before most of the organisers, I had plenty of time to check out the lie of the land, get to know fellow bloggers and then tuck in to the slap-up meal. The event, somewhat delayed at the start, kicked off with a live phone call on a somewhat intermittent line to Nicky Henderson.

The news from Seven Barrows was that plenty of schooling would take place this weekend with AP riding, amongst others, Darlan and Barry Geraghty on board Simonsig. It was reported Geraghty is particularly keen that Simonsig goes for the Neptune on Wednesday rather than the Supreme. Connections felt Binocular was back to something like his best the last day at Wincanton (although Paul Nicholls felt Celestial Halo had not run to his mark) and will not be schooled. The biggest word was for Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle, described by his handler as a horse 'with tremendous presence' who 'likes showing off'. The trainer rates this one his best chance at the meeting but realised even money about one in a novice chase at the Festival wouldn't appeal to everyone so he put up Triolo D'Alene 'down in the handicaps'. This one is currently priced 7/1 favourite for the final race on the opening day but is also quoted 14/1 for Thursday's Byrne Plate - now, the line wasn't the best, but my understanding was Nicky had said he was in the Byrne, but I could be mistaken.

Other tips for the Supreme: SC - Darlan; JM Cinders And Ashhes; NH Sous Les Cieux; RJ Colour Squadron.

The panel sold the Arkle as possibly the race of the whole meeting. Having three rated in the 160s, (Sprinter Sacre 161, Peddlers Cross 160, Al Ferof 160) BHA handicapper Phil Smith considers this one of the best renewals in recent years. With Cue Card likely to make a strong gallop, JM indicated Peddlers Cross & co. will be out to get Sprinter Sacre off the bridle, pointing out the horse never came up the hill when finishing third in the Supreme last year. Questioned about Peddlers' jumping the last day, JM said the gelding had given hinself a fright at the first and was careful for a couple afterwards. MC joked that RJ would be asking his wife to check the medical insurance before he took the ride on Menorah but RJ described Menorah as 'one of his best rides of the week'.

Arkle tip: MF Sprinter Sacre - quote:  'I've never seen [Nicky Henderson] so excited by a horse.'

The value in the Champion Hurdle looked to be Overturn each way at 33/1 - tipped by RJ and described by JM as 'the toughest horse in racing I know'. A sceanrio was painted - plenty of the fancied contenders are hold-up horses - Overturn just could get an easy lead and who knows what might happen... NH liked Rock on Ruby who is considered on a par with Zarkander at Ditcheat.

In the Neptune on Wednesday: MC Make Your Mark, NH Boston Bob, RJ Simonsig (on good ground), SC Monksland (will be suited by better ground).

For the RSA discussion centred around whether Grands Crus would now be allowed to take his chance in the Gold Cup given Kauto is no better than 50/50 to run. RJ pointed out that Grands Crus' time in the Feltham (6.01.8s) was faster than Kauto Star's in the King George (6.05s). Bobs Worth will stay and I know several people are keen but MF had a big tip for Paul Nicholls' Join Together in the programme. MF said Bobs Worth 'doesn't travel as well as he used to.' NH tipped First Lieutenant.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase was seen as 'weak' with JM describing Sizing Europe as 'a certainty'.

There followed the charity auction where an overnight stay and trip for four people to Alan King's gallops went for £1,000 while a similar offering for two at Nicky Henderson's made £950. In the raffle I was fortunate enough to pick up the RP Cheltenham Festival Guide but fellow blogger James Yellen could only rue his luck as he missed four tickets to the Haydock races by one...

Unfortunately I had to leave shortly afterwards but not before I was told that layers had priced the market wrong for the Ryanair with Rubi Light one to avoid; make of that, or indeed any of this post, what you will.

It's worth mentioning Coral has appointed Jason Maguire and Paddy Brennan to be their Cheltenham ambassadors this year . A £100 wager has been placed on each of their mounts over the past week or so - up to last night £5850 had been raised for Racing Welfare; bets will continue to be placed throughout  Festival week with a minimum £10,000 guaranteed for the charity.

Finally, I'll share a couple of tips that were heard around our table only...

Calum Madell ( - check out his comprehensive review of the evening - holds a small share in Magnifique Etoile who goes in the County Hurdle on Friday. This one has decent form to his name including a third in the Tolworth behind Captain Conan and Colour Squadron as well as finishing ahead of Batonnier in a Fontwell bumper and behind Mountbazon in the Doncaster Spring Sales bumper. Callum tells me he could be seven to nine pounds well in - the gelding is best-priced 25/1 with Willliam Hill.

Over on the Flat blogger James Yellen ( had a word for William Muir's Stepper Point who could turn out to be Kings Stand Stakes material.