Friday, December 27, 2013

A chance for the Challow

Rather spoilt for choice tomorrow with the Welsh National at Chepstow, the Lexus at Leopardstown and the Challow at Newbury.

The world and his wife have put up Well Refreshed for the Welsh National after his eye-catching trial in Sandown's London National three weeks ago. Allocated to carry just 10-2, and with Josh Moore able to claim a further three pounds, Gary Moore's gelding will certainly relish underfoot conditions but his jumping can be haphazard - I still recall the manner in which he practically ran through the final fence of Haydock's Grand National Trial on similar ground in February. I'm not tempted.

Gold cup winner Bobs Worth is on a retrieval mission in the Lexus after a below-par effort in the Betfair Chase last month. Connections don't sound overly confident and Henderson's horses are struggling at the moment - box office draw Sprinter Sacre was pulled up and diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat at Kempton earlier today while Grandouet was turned over at odds of 1/2 in the Wayward Lad Novices' Chase. Willie Mullins' Sir Des Champs blotted his copy book when falling last time but he's still my idea of the winner - Walsh rides Rubi Ball who could be anything.

Only six in the Challow but it's decidedly tricky. Likely favourite Oscar Rock has won a listed bumper at the track while Timesremembered failed to give seven pounds to Creepy the last day at Cheltenham. On a literal interpretation of that form Creepy has it to do to confirm the placings and the market prices on offer suggest bookmakers concur. To my mind Creepy has improvement to come but to date he has shown his best form on better ground so I'm going to stick with Emma Lavelle's Timesremembered  (7/2 generally) who is the best horse in the race on official ratings. Those same ratings also indicate that Kaki De La Pree is in there with a shout...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Kempton's King George VI Chase 2013

Nine are declared for this year's King George. Cue Card, fifth last year, is priced up favourite with most layers while last year's winner Long Run is generally a 10/1 chance.

Last month I tipped Silviniaco Conti for the Betfair Chase at Haydock. Despite travelling well through the race, Nicholls' charge couldn't go with either Cue Card or Dynaste from two out and on face value he'll struggle to reverse those placings yet official ratings indicate he is within one pound of top-rated Cue Card. Nicholls' string wasn't firing on all cylinders at that time; on the same day as the Haydock showpiece Nicholls' first jock Daryl Jacob was at Ascot riding Al Ferof in a match against French Opera. Al Ferof's fencing looked a little ring-rusty there but Jacob stays loyal to Al Ferof.

Cue Card posted a career best to win the Betfair Chase proving he stays the trip. He's likely to race prominently but isn't always the most fluent at the obstacles; on balance I think he could struggle to repeat his front-running feat at this track - last year he blew away his chance with a howler at the first.

Dynaste was an easy winner of the Feltham over course and distance last year. In a very open renewal, I take Dynaste to grab the spoils - he's priced up generally at 100/30.

Long Run, wearing a first-time visor, rates a value each-way selection  at 10/1. Invariably he throws in one dodgy jump on the way round but should the visor do the trick...

On paper the Christmas Hurdle is a match between The New One and My Tent Or Yours. Throughout his career Twiston-Davies has favoured a bold risk-taking approach; he immediately nominated this race after his charge won the International at Cheltenham just 12 days ago, implying his charge had had an easy enough race. I'm not so convinced; I won't have a bet but this track is likely to suit Henderson's charge better.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ascot's Lomg Walk Hurdle 2013

I've had more beers than I should have but, hey, it's Christmas...

Paddy Power go 7/2 Reve De Sivola for the Long Walk with Celestial Halo looking a non-runner.

Take it or leave it, but, in my humble opinion, Reve De Sivola's chance improves with every drop of rain that falls before the off. At Fishers Cross wasn't particularly fluent at the flights last time and on official ratings Reve has just one pound to find with the odds-on favourite...

Last year's winner Reve De Sivola is the value selection.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Small fields at Cheltenham's December meet

Several small fields at Cheltenham tomorrow restricting betting opportunities - I'm not inclined to oppose The New One in the International or Kings Palace in the Albert Bartlett while the novice chase at 12.40 offers Shutthefrontdoor the chance to reverse recent running with Le Bec on three pounds better terms but the race makes little appeal from a punting perspective.

The Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup looks an open affair. Paddy Power Gold Cup form from four weeks ago is well represented with Colour Squadron (second), Attaglance (fourth), Tap Night (eighth) and Easter Meteor (fell when in lead two out) all reopposing eventual winner Johns Spirit. Although tapped for toe three out, Attaglance ran a nice enough race that day - at 8/1 he's worth an each-way interest.

In the finale a case can be made for all four runners. On ratings Gemix is the one but Salubrious took the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' handicap hurdle at the Festival in March and Willie Mullins has sent just one over from Ireland - bay mare Glens Melody - with Ruby Walsh taking the ride. I'm tempted to chance Glens Melody, the outsider of the quartet.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Sandown selections for Saturday

I'm on a particularly poor run of form at the moment that started some 25 years ago...

The racing phenomenon that is Sprinter Sacre has to miss tomorrow's Tingle Creek at Sandown following a dirty tracheal wash. In his absence top-rated Sire De Grugy has eight pounds in hand over his nearest rival (Somersby) yet there was a definite lack of fizz about his last run in the Schloer Chase at Cheltenham when beaten three and a quarter lengths by Kid Cassidy. I've seen it suggested Gary Moore's charge may be better going right-handed - he hung right after the last at Cheltenham - so there may be something in that. Following an effortless win at Chepstow, connections were keen to talk about taking on Sprinter Sacre - Sire De Grugy needs to win this if those lofty ambitions are to be realised. Should he come up short, Somersby and Captain Conan, both course and distance winners, will be waiting in the wings. Sire De Grugy is the form choice and my selection.

The Henry VIII Novices' Chase (1.50) is right out of the top drawer and should provide a useful pointer going forward. Grandouet boasts the best hurdles form but on his chase debut over course and distance the fencing looked decidedly awkward at times; he appeared held by Hinterland when coming to grief at the final flight while, similarly, Hinterland was far from fluent at the obstacles. Sandown with its Railway fences sets a stern test for any novice. Taquin Du Seuil has shown form over further but is afforded every respect while Balder Succes would have been three from three had he not come to grief two out at Cheltenham on his penultimate run. Connections of Claret Cloak will fancy their chances of reversing recent Exeter form five pounds better off with Manyriverstocross. In my book this rests between Balder Succes and Taquin Du Seuil; with layers struggling to agree a favourite this evening, Taquin Du Seuil gets the nod.

Fans of long distance chases are well catered for with the Becher at Aintree while the London National brings proceedings to a close at Sandown (Ikorodu Road having an entry in both races). I've lost count of the number of times I've half-fancied Alfie Spinner only for the beast to disappoint. Still, his second in the Badger Ales behind Standing Ovation last time reads well and he contests this off a mark 12 pounds lower than that from which he started last year's Hennessy. He finished three and a quarter lengths ahead of Emma Lavelle's Court By Surprise at Wincanton but is two pounds worse off with that rival this time - they look closely matched. With Lavelle's inmate not certain to stay the extended trip I'm going to take chance with Alan King's Scottish National winner Godsmejudge. The top weight ran well on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham three weeks ago - although coming home fifth he was beaten under five lengths and is priced up at 7/1 with Stan James this evening.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Three quick picks for Hennessy Saturday...

Presseed for time this evening so, very quickly...

Newcastle's Fighting Fifth (2.05) looks to have a little more strength in depth than in recent years. Odds-on shot My Tent Or Yours is top-rated but several of Henderson's have needed their first run. I'll oppose with Melodic Rendezvous who took the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton three weeks ago even though handler Jeremy Scott thought his charge would come on for the run. Should eight make it to post, 14/1 about John Quinn's four-year-old filly Cockney Sparrow looks reasonable each-way value.

This year's Hennessy Gold Cup (Newbury 3.00) is wide open. Several fancied runners have been backed through the week, yet I suspect many of them would ideally prefer a little more cut underfoot. An each-way longshot that looks overpriced to me is Same Difference (33/1) who won at the Festival in March and went on to finish second to Quentin Collonges in Sandown's bet365 Gold Cup. On his seasonal debut at Ascot he raced prominently for a while before fading to come home some 35 lengths behind Houblon Des Obeaux (Merry King second, Triolo D'Alene third, Opening Batsman pulled up). The winner has been raised a hefty 10 pounds for that effort (stable jock Aidan Coleman prefers Katenko here) and, obviously, I'm hoping (against hope?) that run has blown away some of the cobwebs...

Opening Batsman (40/1) was amongst the market leaders for that Ascot race but was never a a factor. Still, he took the Racing Plus Chase on good grouind at Kempton in February and a return to that sort of form could see him being competitive. Same Difference is the each-way suggestion.

Finally I'm guessing Donald McCain Jnr will be trying his very hardest to win the race run in memory of his father, the Ginger McCain Memorial Novices' Chase (Bangor 12.30); Swatow Typhoon is his entry in the Class 3 event.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Haydock's Betfair Chase 2013

Tomorrow's card at Ascot has a total of just 49 declarations for the seven races; I'm guessing the racecourse will be less than happy and distinctly embarrassed by three entries for the Amlin Chase and four for the Coral Hurdle.

By contrast Haydock boasts probably the best ever renewal of the Betfair Chase with current Gold Cup holder Bobs Worth renewing rivalry with Silviniaco Conti (winner of this race last year), stablemate Long Run and The Giant Bolster.

On official ratings Bobs Worth has upwards of seven pounds in hand over his rivals. Still, Haydock's sharp track isn't certain to suit - in the Gold Cup last March Bobs Worth was outpaced four from home and then stayed on stoutly to reel in his opponents while Silviniaco Conti fell three from home when still in with a shout.

I like Cue Card and Timeform rates his chance but he's never won over further than two miles five and the Tizzard operation is just 1 win from 24 in the past fortnight while Dynaste still has it to prove at this level. The Giant Bolster finished third behind Silviniaco in last year's renewal.

You couldn't back Long Run after his run in the Charlie Hall the last day but 12/1 is a big price about a previous Gold Cup winner - that Wetherby effort was the first time Nicky Henderson's charge had finished outside the places.

Tidal Bay is an enigma but apparently as good as ever at the age of twelve while Irish challenger Roi Du Mee was a surprise winner of the Champion Chase at Down Royal three weeks ago - he can race from the front, a tactic suited to this track, and on ratings has an outside squeak so 20/1 may appeal to those looking for each-way value.

Paul Nicholls has sent out three winners today - Fago [9/4] and Black Thunder [11/4] at Haydock and Irving [8/11] at Ascot; Silviniaco Conti gets the vote in a fascinating renewal.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Open and Shut case

Champion Court is my idea of the winner of tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham but the trouble is a lot of other people have exactly the same idea - any value in the price disappeared a long time ago. Martin Keighley's gelding is a course and distance winner and has had this race as a target for some time.

Still, he has his share of weight (only one horse has carried more than 11-6 to victory in the past decade - last year's winner Al Ferof) while seven of the past ten winners were burdened with less than 11-0. The suspicion is something near the bottom of the handicap could prevail, although what the name of the beast might be is well beyond me - at the prices on offer, I won't play.

The novice chase at 1.15 is interesting. African Gold, second in the Albert Bartlett in March, is priced up favourite on his first try over fences but he faces opposition who will have no trouble taking advantage should the obstacles get in the way. White Star Line won the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel in September while both Shutthefrontdoor and Le Bec won impressively last time out. Sam Winner isn't totally discounted either although he fell on his two chase starts last season.

Shutthefrontdoor (3/1 with Ladbrokes this evening) jumped well at Aintree the last day and is the suggestion.

On Sunday Sire De Grugy goes in the Schloer. The manner in which he won a Class 2 chase at Chepstow three weeks ago would suggest connections will be disappointed if he can't follow up, although he's likely to be no price at all.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Tony McCoy - we salute you!

On 26th March 1992 Anthony Peter McCoy, aged 17, rode his first winner, a horse called Legal Steps, at Thurles.

Yesterday aboard a horse named Mountain Tunes at Towcester, A P McCoy, aged 39, rode his 4,000th winner - to universal acclaim.

Quoting from the epilogue of his autobiography written in 2002:

'I...know there is more do. 300 winners in a season? 3,000 before I retire? Who knows, but be sure of one thing: I will try.'

3,000 winners came at a wet and windy Plumpton in 2009 on Restless D'Artaix; at the moment he doesn't appear to be harbouring any thoughts of retirement.

Who is to say he won't ride 5,000 winners? Well, his wife, Chanelle:

'I would quite confidently say that 5,000 is unattainable and he knows that himself.'

Perhaps that's why Paddy Power offers 10/1 about the current champion reaching that particular landmark.

Last word on the matter to John McCririck - his words, printed on the reverse cover of McCoy's autobiography, sound as true today as the day they were written:

'The man is a colossus, we have never seen his like before.'

McCoy has always been amongst the winners, in stark contrast to my good self...

In tomorrow's Elite Hurdle at Wincanton Melodic Rendezvous is the one to beat but I was impressed with the manner in which Karinga Dancer dominated his field at Aintree a fortnight ago; despite suffering interference two out and making a hash of the last, the gelding still had eight lengths on his nearest rival. Granted, this represents a step-up in class but he could have a fitness edge on a couple of the market rivals and boasts course and distance winning form. Paul Nicholls, who has a good record in this race in recent years, saddles Far West but only one four-year-old has obliged in the past decade and I'm still unsure whether all the stable's runners are seeing out their races, despite high-profile victories for Tidal Bay and Rolling Aces last weekend. On offer generally at 7/2 this evening, Karinga Dancer is the selection while the money for Cotton Mill has been noted.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Two staying chases for Saturday

This evening Tony McCoy is just eight winners short of 4,000 while just seven are declared for Wetherby's Charlie Hall which still has a typically trappy look to it.

On ratings Long Run has something in hand over the field with connections reporting their charge has come to hand earlier this year. That said, he hasn't won on his seasonal debut in the past three years (third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in 2010 followed by two consecutive seconds in Haydock's Betfair Chase) and there's always the possibility he'll throw in the odd howler on the way round. At the price he's worth taking on.

Plenty will fancy Unioniste to take advantage but the form of Paul Nicholls' stable is a concern. At Chepstow last Saturday a number of the stable's leading fancies fell by the wayside - Just A Par (4/7f) had no answer to Shotgun Paddy; Ceasar Milan (11/8f) trailed in last of the seven (was reported to have bled after the race); Virak (11/1) came home last (reported to have choked turning into the home straight); and Rebel Rebellion (7/4f) came home fifth of six (vet reported gelding had lost a near fore shoe). Since then the stable has recorded one win from 12 (Southfield Theatre [4/5f] at Wincanton on Sunday) while 1/3 favourite Vicente failed to see out his race on that same Wincanton card.

There wasn't much between Harry Topper and Benefficient in a Newbury novice last year but on official ratings the Irish horse looks to have the edge here and he has the added advantage of having had a run six weeks ago.

Cape Tribulation never troubled the principals in the Gold Cup last March finishing fifth (Long Run third) but previously had won the Rowland Meyrick over course and distance on Boxing Day and a month later had added the Argento Chase to the haul just for good measure.

At the time of writing Cape Tribulation is best-priced 7/1 and Benefficient 8/1 so Benefficient is put up as a value wager against the market leaders.

And moving swiftly on to Ascot's United House Gold Cup at 3.20...

Five weeks ago Emma Lavelle's Bouggler won a competitive-looking handicap chase at Market Rasen with head in chest. Out of that race Al Co has since won a Chepstow Class 2 handicap (12/1), Grandads Horse a Wetherby Class 3 handicap (2/1), Wiesentraum a Fakenham Class 3 handicap (7/1), Twirling Magnet a Class 2 Cheltenham novice (7/1) while Rob Conti, second at Market Rasen, has finished second behind Johns Spirit in another Class 2 handicap at Cheltenham (16/1).

Granted, this represents a step up in class for Bouggler (as well as Al Co and Twirling Magnet who re-oppose), but the trainer states 'Bouggler is working as well now as he ever has so I hope there's another big chase prize in him.' Weekender 16-20.10.13, p.14.

In the Weekender Stable Tour the following week (23 - 27.10.13) Lavelle says of her charge:

'When you win at £50k handicap by four and a half lengths then you expect to be punished, so the 10lb rise was fair. However he had been dropped 4lb before then, so theoretically he is only 6lb worse of now and he has come out of it very well.'

Added to that, tomorrow's pilot G. Sheehan can claim another three pounds.

Of course, this an ultra-competitive event; the field contains several interesting youngsters including Opening Batsman, Buddy Bolero,Triolo D'Alene, Same Difference and Houblon Des Obeaux.

Over the past decade horses aged eight or older have tended to take the spoils so Bouggler is the selection and at 9/1 with Stan James can be backed each-way (a quarter the odds four places provided 16 start).

However I suspect this could just be a step too far for Al Co who has to come from right off the pace - after that Chepstow win, trainer Peter Bowen said 'The key to him is to wait, wait and then wait again. He also doesn't like to be crowded.' The question is - will he be close enough coming off the home turn to make up the ground?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chepstow, Daryl Jacob, Sir Alex Ferguson and Rock Of Gibraltar

Just like Daryl Jacob, Paul Nicholls' stable jockey, I prefer Chepstow to Aintree for tomorrow's action.

Jacob rides Virak in the Silver Trophy at 4.10. The gelding could be anything and we don't have an awful lot to go on but he looks short enough in the market (one four-year-old winner in the past 10 years) against some battle-hardened handicappers. Last year's winner Lamb Or Cod races off a mark of 130, six pounds higher than last year, yet is still a 10/1 shot while Rebecca Curtis' Pechamenko,12/1 with Hills, appears to have had his problems over fences but was second in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las in February. A price of 10/1 about last year's winner is rather tempting - I'll take an each-way interest in Lamb Or Cod.

Sire De Grugy could struggle to give the weight away on the soft/heavy ground in the handicap chase at 4.45. Plenty will fancy Nicholls' Rebel Rebellion to take advantage but I'm going to risk Tom George's Kingmaker winner Majala priced at 7/2 this evening - the stable has had three winners during the week and boasts a 24.59% win strike-rate this season.

In the Persian War Novices' Hurdle (3.35) I note Ceasar Milan is owned by the Stewart and Wylie Families. Berkeley Baron has to give weight to all but has a run under his belt while Lienosus' second behind Clondaw Kaempfer reads well enough. Johnny Og has been on the radar for a while now; although priced at 25/1 he's held in high regard by connections - it's interesting to see they've opted for this race rather than the opening maiden hurdle. Johnny Og would have been an each-way suggestion had eight (or more) faced the starter.

Finally, just in case it passed you by, earlier this week Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography was published. Reviews suggest that racing fans hoping to gain an insight into events surrounding Ferguson's involvement with Rock Of Gibraltar will find the subject 'glossed over'. For those interested Martin Hannan's Rock Of Gibraltar (2004) is the recommended read.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cheltenham choices

QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot will receive its fair share of attention tomorrow where the ground looks like riding on the soft side. Earlier this week Alan Lee penned an article in The Times predicting a signiifcant fall in the attendance figure for this showpiece event.

Naturally I'll be concentrating on the second day of Cheltenham's first meeting of the autumn.

The opening three mile novice hurdle looks intriguing with battle-hardened chasers Monbeg Dude (2012 Welsh National winner, rated 138 over fences), Hold On Julio (fifth behind Bobs Worth in the 2012 Hennessy Gold Cup off a rating of 148) and Aeriel (sixth behind Al Ferof in the 2012 Paddy Power Gold Cup off 155) all receiving weight from their opponents.

Of the younger brigade Kilbree Kid, Creepy, Kings Palace and Oscar Magic are amongst those who look to have a fitness edge. Kings Palace has potential but he appeared under pressure staying 22 furlongs at Fontwell last time while Martin Keighley likes Chepstow winner Creepy but foresees place prospects only. Kilbree Kid stays while Oscar Magic, ninth in the Champion bumper in March, tries the trip for the first time. The Twiston-Davies trained Oscar Magic gets no more than a tentative vote in a difficult contest.

Alan King saddles two winners from Chepstow last Saturday - Handazan (3.10) and Balder Succes (5.00).

Handazan won with something in hand (In The Crowd a distant fifth, Leo Luna declared a non-runner); last March Leo Luna beat Gassin Golf a head with the King horse a further nine lengths in arrears at Newbury. Samtegal is likely to prove a worthy opponent tomorrow having finshed third in the Triumph Hurdle behind runaway winner Our Conor.

Balder Succes jumped well on his chasing debut but I've lost count of the number of times I've supported a novice chaser on the back of one decent run only to have my fingers burned. Still, he won in a new course record last weekend so, despite the step back in trip, Balder Succes is marginally preferred to market rival Dark Lover who looks late in making this switch to fences.

Al Co, fifth behind Bouggler at Market Rasen last month, did the blog a favour at that Chepstow meeting so in the 3.45 I was half-tempted by his stablemate Kian's Delight, third in the same Market Rasen race. However he looks to have plenty on his plate here (no five or six year-old winner in the past ten years) and doesn't look guaranteed to stay. Balthazar King should go well if the rains stay away but in saying that I'm not really telling you anything you don't know already - I won't play.

In the concluding bumper I've a lot of time for another trained by Peter Bowen - Regal Diamond. He has to give weight to all his opponents but I might take a small each-way interest if he's priced in double figures.  

Finally, don't miss the 4.25 at Kempton on Sunday when the 2012 Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby takes on the 2013 Neptune  Novices' Hurdle winner The New One.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Two chances at Chepstow

In the Class 2 three mile handicap chase at 5.45 I have to stick with Al Co. A fortnight ago I put this one up as an outsider in a race at Market Rasen; Peter Bowen's charge made eye-catching late headway to finish fifth, although posing no threat to easy winner Bouggler. That  was his first run since May - his short head second to Lawney Hill's I Have Dreamed in the 2012 running of the Market Rasen Summer Plate reads well. This race looks extremely competitive and I'm not sure further rain would help the cause but at 16/1 with totesport this evening he rates an each-way chance.

In the four-year-old limited handicap hurdle at 4.45 Stan James bet 16/1 about Philip Hobbs' charge Pistol while Paddy Power only offer 8s. This one likes to race from the front, a tactic suited to this particular track, prefers cut underfoot and the yard can boast four wins from 18 runs this month. Pistol is an each-way wager at 16/1 provided the eight make it to post. It's interesting to see Paul Nicholls enters For Two in this rather than Lac Fontana who came home seventh in the Triumph Hurdle last March.

The Class 2 novice chase at 4.15 should prove useful for future reference. Balder Success was last seen out in the Champion Hurdle while Easter Day came home second behind Taquin Du Seuill in the Challow at Newbury. Course and distance winner The Romford Pele is no back number and finished seventh in the 2012 Festival bumper, 11 lengths behind Champagne Fever and Double Ross, officially rated 137, brings winning chase form to the table. Let's see how they handle these larger obstacles...

Friday, October 04, 2013

Odds 'n' ends

Frankie Dettori suffered a broken ankle when falling from Eland Ally at Nottingham on Thursday - that puts the cap on a miserable season for the former champion. Thierry Jarnet replaces Dettori on Treve in a vintage renewal of the Arc this Sunday - Novellist, impressive on his penultimate start in the King George at Ascot, is nothing more than a tentative suggestion for a difficult-looking race.

McCririck has had his share of headlines over the past few days but the news Channel 4 considered Gok Wan for a role in its revamped racing coverage is certain to have raised a few eyebrows at tracks up and down the country.

Just one low-key hint this week - in the concluding bumper at Fontwell tomorrow I'll look for a decent showing from Colin Tizzard's Third Act.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Market Rasen on a Saturday in September

Derek 'Tommo' Thompson wouldn't necessarily be everybody's cup of tea but, in case you hadn't heard, he has an autobiography out at the moment entitled Too Busy To Die.

As David Ord's review highlights, somewhat bizarrely the great man's stock appears to have risen now we don't see him on the small screen... I met the guy briefly just the once five years ago when he opened a new Betfred shop in Coventry; love him or loathe him, he's not easy to ignore.

The highlight on tomorrow's card at Market Rasen is the listed handicap chase at 2.50.

Top weight The Disengager took last year's renewal off a mark of 134; twelve months on he tries to repeat the trick off 152. Philip Hobbs' charge did the blog a favour when obliging at odds of 10/1 at Newton Abbot four weeks ago, beating stablemate Rob Conti who reopposes from two pounds out of the handicap; after that victory Hobbs immediately nominated this race as the next target. There are dangers aplenty (including Harry Fry's Bold Chief ) in a very competitive field but I'm not going to desert The Disengager.

Those looking for something a little less obvious may want to consider Peter Bowen's Al Co in the same race. This one was beaten just a short head in the 2012 running of the Summer Plate over course and distance. The yard hasn't had a winner since September 1st but he'd have an each-way squeak if fit enough to do himself justice after an absence of 134 days.

In the preceding listed hurdle at 2.15 Solaras Exhibition appears to have his fair share of weight. Having said that, Alan Johns claims ten and Tim Vaughan's charge won nicely enough at Stratford in July and he's since had a refresher on the Flat at Ffos Las a fortnight ago. Connections considered their charge a 'lively outsider' for the Fred Winter at Cheltenham in March - on the back of that I may take a small each-way interest if the tissue price of 16/1 is available on the day.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Newmarket's Cesarewitch Trial

Tomorrow's Ayr Gold Cup looks far too difficult for this observer and there are easier races than Newmarket's Cesarewitch Trial at 3.40 but for some unfathomable reason the race just makes more appeal.

Course and distance winner Cosimo De Medici will be one of the more fancied runners after a victory on the all-weather at Southwell last time; he has been raised a harsh-looking 10 pounds for that effort.

The 18 furlong trip is likely to find out a few of these including Burnham and possibly Nanton (ninth last year), Saborido (thirteenth) and Body Language (last). Eagle Rock was fourth in that race twelve months ago and comes to this on the back of a victory at York; he has to race off a five pounds higher mark.

Mark Johnson saddles the first two in the handicap - his Courtesy Call came home second last year - but the biggest weight carried to victory in the four previous renewals is just 8-13; in the same timeframe the winner has come from the top four in the market.

Eagle Rock has the right profile but I've been on the lookout for a lightweight at an each-way price that should stay the trip - Ian Williams' Teak fits the bill.

This one has been kept busy over the summer and has a few miles on the clock but third behind Kangaroo Court in a Newton Abbott hurdle on his penultimate start reads well enough. Cheekpieces were tried on his last run but connections obviously felt they didn't help as they're omitted tomorrow.

Rated 111 over hurdles, Teak goes off a mark of 75 and appeals as a sporting each-way chance to run into a place - this evening most layers are offering 16/1, a quarter the odds four places.

Friday, September 13, 2013

St Leger 2013

Eleven declared for the 236th running of the St Leger, racing's oldest Classic, although Galileo Rock looks likely to be withdrawn with rain expected overnight.

John Gosden has won three of the past six renewals (Lucarno 2007, Arctic Cosmos 2010 and Masked Marvel 2011) and saddles current favourite Excess Knowledge. He looked unlucky when beaten a head by Cap O'Rushes in Goodwood's Gordon Stakes (Secret Number fifth, Havana Beat seventh). I've seen a couple of hints for Secret Number (16/1 generally) on the back of that performance but I'm not convinced.

Leading Light, winner of the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot, looks Ballydoyle's first choice and should have no problem with the trip while stablemate Foundry may be less exposed but isn't readily dismissed - he didn't look full wound-up when beaten by Telescope in the Great Voltigeur.

On official ratings Libertarian, second in the Epsom Derby, is bang there with every chance. William Buick was reunited with the colt after his original mount, Feel Like Dancing, clearly didn't feel like running and failed to appear amongst Thursday's final declarations. The horse ran something of a stinker in the Irish Derby - connections were convinced the very quick ground was against their charge that day - but he hasn't been seen since which tempers enthusiasm.

Target, the only filly in the field, faces a stiff task - the last filly to oblige was User Friendly in 1992.

We've seen some big priced winners in recent years including Mastery, 2009, 14/1; Arctic Cosmos, 2010, 12/1 and Encke, 2012, 25/1.

This looks an open affair with the forecast rain certain to play a part. The Ballydoyle pair catch my eye; Foundry won his maiden on soft ground while Leading Light clearly has the necessary stamina.

Leading Light (9/2 generally this evening) is the suggestion.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Two September selections for Stratford

Two quick selections for Stratford tomorrow.

Rhum goes in the 4.30 following a pipe-opener over an inadequate trip at Ffos Las 16 days ago. Previously Twiston-Davies' charge ran well to finish fourth behind Monsieur Cadou in the Tim Molony at Haydock. He comes to this fresher than all his rivals, with any further rain likely to help the cause.

Just five face the starter in the 5.05 with Bennys Quest the likely favourite as he looks to chalk up his third win on the trot. Giant O Murchu was disappointing on occasions last term so I'll side with Synthe Davis and Tony McCoy.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Lord Mildmay Memorial Chase

The highlight on Saturday's Newton Abbot card is the listed Lord Mildmay Memorial Handicap Chase at 3.55. Eleven have been declared with last year's winner Shoegazer trying to repeat the trick off a mark ten pounds higher.

Toubab tries this trip for the first time while Kian's Delight possesses plenty of potential but looks short on chasing experience against some of these - no five-year-old has obliged in the past ten years.

Twirling Magnet is a more likely sort as is Bobowen, winner of the Market Rasen Summer Pate - Sam Twiston-Davies clearly prefers Dr Newland's charge to Billie Magern trained by his father. Both Bobowen and top weight The Disengager finished well-beaten in the Galway Plate 31 days ago - the former was pulled up while perhaps the latter ran better than his finishing position of twentieth (beaten over 171 lengths) might suggest after leading five out before being headed following a mistake three from home.

This race has thrown up some big priced winners in recent years including Snoopy Loopy 10/1 2008; Star Of Germany 14/1 2009 and Passato 14/1 in 2010.

I'll chance previous course and distance winner The Disengager, back on better ground after Galway; his running style is well-suited to this track.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Carson and Cartmel

Earlier today my attention was drawn to a snippet in The Times...

The box Willie Carson used to gain height when co-hosting BBC racing coverage with Clare Balding is be auctioned for charity.

The box, ambivalently inscribed 'This is the extra seven inches you asked for', has a price guide of £150-£200.

I don't intend to bid.

Tomorrow's Cartmel Cup Handicap Hurdle (5.20) looks the best race of the day at the Cumbrian track. A competitive-looking affair, the winner has come from the first three in the betting in the past five years  - Oliver's Gold arrives in good form and has a racing weight to boot while the booking of McCoy for Tinseltown won't go unnoticed.

I'm tempted by Donald McCain's Sud Pacifique. This one isn't the most consistent but was done for toe at the business end of affairs at Stratford last time. He boasts course and distance winning form  and shouldn't be inconvenienced by forecast rain - a short-head second to Starluck at Cheltenham in April reads well and the handicapper appears to have given him a chance here off a rating of 117.

Sud Pacifique, 10/1 in the tissue, is the each-way suggestion.

Postscript: Nice to see Mini Muck (by Kayf Tara out of Madam Muck) make her return to the track after an absence of 733 days for team Twiston-Davies in the opener at 2.30.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Shergar Cup Stayers

Ascot's Shergar Cup meeting has never been one of my favourites...

Ten go in the Stayers' Handicap at 1.30. Mark Johnson's filly Broxbourne bids to repeat her course and distance victory over Homeric in the Brown Jack Handicap fifteen days ago. Since then this tough filly has won the Goodwood Stakes but now Homeric is eight pounds better off for a three and a half length defeat. There was also a hint that that Ryan Moore may have left his charge with too much ground to make up on that occasion.

Kieren Fallon is in the plate tomorrow. Homeric, 6/1 in several places at the time of writing, is the suggestion.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Saturday's summer jumping at Newton Abbot

Glorious Goodwood for many, but it's Newton Abbot for me where there's a decent card on offer for the time of year.

The highlight is the two mile handicap chase at 3.55. Three weeks ago at Stratford Dineur beat Tindaro half a length while West With The Wind trailed in fourth and Anquetta fifth. Tindaro is two pounds better off this time around while Dineur appeared to have a hard enough race when fourth in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen six days later. McCoy rides Paul Webber's charge tomorrow - I'm going to side with Tindaro (4/1 with Paddy Power this evening).

The two Ferguson horses (Plain Sailing and Beachfire) are likely to dominate betting in the opener and Akdam looks the answer to the 3.20 but will be no price.

On the other hand the three mile three furlong handicap hurdle at 4.30 appears far more competitive. A case can be made for several but this evening William Hill's 8/1 about Jeremy Scott's On The Bridge looks reasonable value - On The Bridge is the each-way suggestion.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Prince and The King

Prince George Monday, King George Saturday.

As a betting medium Ascot's mid-summer showpiece makes less appeal than a Prince George souvenir mug, with Cirrus Des Aigles rated some twelve pounds clear of his field. The best racehorse currently in training anywhere in the world is likely to start at a price that reflects that fact; the favourite has obliged on six occasions in the past decade.

In search of a bit of value, I chanced upon the two mile Handicap, the 4.40 at York. Moidore and Crackentorp head the weights - the pair clashed in the Northumberland Plate four weeks ago, the former finishing sixth, the latter tenth. Crackentrop is three pounds better off here - they look very closely matched.

All The Aces finished sixth behind Eagle Rock over course and distance last time, Art History eighth. Nicky Henderson's dual-purpose gelding was rated as high as 134 over hurdles and will appreciate the rain that has been forecast.

I like to follow jumpers running on the Flat - All The Aces is a speculative selection.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Market Rasen Summer Plate 2013

Peter Bowen won three consecutive renewals from 2006 to 2008 with Yes Sir, Iron Man, Snoopy Loopy and regularly targets this race; he saddles just the one tomorrow, Dineur, but that one could start favourite on the day. The gelding jumps well and went in at Stratford last Sunday despite my concern he may not prefer the prevailing fast ground. He carries a five pound penalty for that victory.

Dr Richard Newland has declared three - Paddy The Hare, Pineau De Re and Bobowen. The first-named won over course and distance 13 days ago and according to the market is the stable's best chance but it would be unwise to disregard Pineau De Re who finished sixth behind Storm Survivor over a longer trip at Uttoxeter on his first run for the yard. That day he displayed a tendency to jump out right so this right-handed track and step back in trip should help the cause.

Both Brian Ellison and Jonjo O'Neill saddle two - Ellison Bocciani and Viva Colonia, O'Neill Galaxy Rock and Finger On the Pulse. McCoy rides Galaxy Rock who finished ahead of Pineau De Re and Problema Tic in Storm Survivor's race at Uttoxeter.

The market tells us that, as usual, this a very open race; I looked at Galaxy Rock (11/1 Stan James) but his last win was November 2011 and he may just need a bit further these days.

From Dr Newland's runners I prefer Pineau De Re to Paddy The Hare - Pineau De Re is the each-way suggestion (9/1 Paddy Power).

In the Summer Hurdle (2.55) I have to have a bet on Barizan, an old favourite; his heart-breaking second to Soldatino in the 2010 Triumph Hurdle still sticks in the mind. He seems to have been around for ever but is still only seven and won the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock last time out - he's 8/1 with Betfred and totesport.

Every now and again the opener throws up an interesting one - Countrywide Flame took the 2011 renewal before going on to win the Triumph Hurdle the following March.

Friday, July 12, 2013

NHotes and a beer

A very quick glance through the weekend cards...

Peter Bowen's dual-purpose mare Big Time Billy goes for an astonishing seventh consecutive win in the Stayers' Handicap at York (4.50) tomorrow. On Sunday the same handler sends Kian's Delight to Perth (2.30) while Dineur goes to Stratford for The Stratford Summer Cup (3.50), a very tight-looking handicap indeed. My concern about Dineur's chance would be that firm ground may not suit.

Writing in the Weekender Marcus Buckland makes a solid case for Solaras Exhibition in The Stratford Summer Salver (3.20) at the same meeting. This one was considered a 'lively outsider' by connections for the Fred Winter at Cheltenham; Solaras Exhibition would represent a value play should previous course and distance winner Castlemorris King be sent off favourite, as seems likely.

Finally I see The Times, in conjunction with Marston's brewery, is running a competition around The Ashes Series to win a year's supply of beer - and the brewer's Pedigree product would seem an appropriate tipple for any racing fan.

'Howzat for a great prize?' asks the blurb.

Well, not too impressive I'm afraid - the small print indicates the prize consists of 96 bottles of the aforementioned beer.

According to my miserable calculations, that equates to just 1.85 bottles per week. Now, I'm making no claims to be the world's biggest beer drinker but that allowance would barely cover one calendar month, never mind one calendar year.

'Enjoy responsibly' is what they like to tell us...

Friday, July 05, 2013

Coral Eclipse 2013

I think this year's Eclipse looks closer than the layers' prices would have us believe.

Al Kazeem's neck defeat of Mukhadram in The Prince of Wales's Stakes, with filly The Fugue three and three quarter lengths back in third, is a key piece of form. That day The Fugue was ridden well off the pace and can be expected to finish closer; in recent days Willie Haggas has sounded bullish about his charge's chance of reversing placings with the favourite.

Coolmore saddles two - Mars finished sixth in the Derby and then three lengths third behind Dawn Approach in the St James's Palace Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot while Declaration Of War won the Queen Anne at the same meeting. The latter-named could be underestimated as Animal Kingdom, the 5/4 favourite that day, failed to run his race but on official ratings the colt has a bit to find.

It would be dangerous to totally write off Prix Ganay winner Pastorius on the back of a disappointing effort at Kranji last time.

Fillies have a terrible record; just two have obliged (Pebbles 1985 and Kooyonga 1992) since the inaugural running in 1886 while the Classic generation benefits from its weight allowance but has only come out on top five times in the past twenty years (Compton Admiral 1999, Giant's Causeway 2000, Hawk Wing 2002, Oratorio 2005 and Sea The Stars 2009).

Paul Hanagan is likely to try and make all again on Mukhadram; the colt doesn't possess the same turn of foot as the favourite but I like a tough front-runner so, at the prices, previous course and distance winner Mukhadram (8/1 with Paddy Power at the time of writing) is the selection.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Northumberland Plate 2013

Some old favourites line up for this year's renewal of the John Smith's Northumberland Plate including Tominator, successful in 2011, Blue Bajan and Ile De Re who carried 9-03 to victory last year, holding Crackentorp half a length.

That was a notable performance, particularly on heavy ground; Ile De Re became only the fourth horse in the past 20 years to carry more than 9-0 to victory (the others being Bold Gait 9-10 1995, Celeric 9-04 1996, Bangalore 9-05 2002) and just the second favourite to oblige in the past decade.

The draw is key - it's important to secure a decent pitch early on; lower numbered stalls are more highly prized although Overturn won from berth 21 in 2010 and Tominator from stall 14 the following year.

Richard Fahey's pair Address Unknown and Ingleby Spirit finished first and second from good draws in the Chester Cup last month but are drawn 15 and 18 respectively for tomorrow's event.

I usually select an animal with jumps form for this marathon.

Alan King's Ardlui catches the eye and has been well-touted. The gelding missed a Royal Ascot engagement for this (a bonus) while The Betchworth Kid ran seventh for the stable last year; having said that, he has his share of weight to carry.

John Quinn's yard is in reasonable form at the moment. Moidore was well beaten behind Ardlui on his penultimate start at Ripon but next time ran six lengths second to Well Sharp at York conceding two pounds; that one franked the form in no uncertain terms by going on to win the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Moidore looks likely to appreciate any rain that might arrive and is the each-way suggestion at around the 12/1 mark.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Royal Ascot 2013 - Saturday

Two selections for the final day of  Royal Ascot...

In the Hardwicke Stakes (3.05) Mount Athos could well be sent off favourite but there's a question as to whether this is his optimum trip these days. A four-year-old has won the last five renewals while a six-year-old has won twice in the past decade; course and distance winner Ektihaam gets the vote. The favourite has obliged on five occasions in the last ten years.

The concluding Queen Alexandra Stakes is the longest race in the Flat calendar.

Last year Shahwardi finished seven lengths adrift of Simenon, a gallant second in this year's Gold Cup. On that form Shahwardi has an obvious chance but I like to pick one with NH form. Nicky Henderson won this in 2009 with Caracciola (as well as the Ascot Stakes with Veiled in 2011) and saddles Courtesy Call here. This one was second in a Newmarket Cesarewitch trial last September when trained by Mark Johnson and finished fourth behind Irish Saint in the Adonis at Kempton on his first run for the yard. He took an ordinary novices' hurdle at Taunton last month off a mark of 123 and has the look of one prepared for this race.

Mad Moose is appropriately named and not certain to consent to face the starter while at the age of ten Junior's best days are probably behind him.

First Avenue won the Imperial Cup at Sandown in March but wouldn't be certain to appreciate the additional six furlongs here. That comment also applies to Rebecca Curtis' Meganisi - booked jockey Brendan Powell booted home Glen Countess to win the Grimsby and Immingham Stevedores Novices' Handicap Chase at Market Rasen for his father earlier today.

Cloudy Spirit is a grey mare who will stay the trip but she's unlikely to be quick enough.

I'm tempted by Meganisi but in a Weekender Stable Tour last October the handler described a trip of two and a half miles as 'possibly a little too far for him as he has bags of speed'. The fitting of a first time tongue-tie could help the cause but I'm going to take an each-way interest in Courtesy Call (9/1 with several layers this evening). For the brave, double those odds are available about Meganisi with Coral.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Royal Ascot 2013 - Friday

Victory for The Queen's filly Estimate (7/2f) in the Gold Cup earlier today went down well with plenty of punters; it was only slightly less well-received chez moi as the favourite battled on dourly to hold blog selection Simenon a neck on the line...

I'm still looking for a first winner at this year's meet and tomorrow's card looks decidedly difficult.

Battle Of Marengo, beaten two lengths into fourth in the Epsom Derby 20 days ago, is the clear form choice in the King Edward VII Stakes but the colt offers no value and there is a danger he may not have fully recovered from those exertions.

Lady Cecil recorded a poignant victory with Riposte in the Ribblesdale earlier today and saddles Disclaimer in the Queen's Vase In Memory Of Sir Henry Cecil. Coolmore's Leading Light, sired by Montjeu, has to give weight to all his rivals but has the more favourable draw and is well clear on ratings. This is a tough race over two miles for these three-year-olds and will prove even more so if the forecast rain gets into the ground. Disclaimer (9/2) offers some value against favourite Leading Light and is the suggestion in a difficult-looking contest.

Those considering a wager on either of the top two in the feature Coronation Stakes, Just The Judge and Sky Lantern, should note that they have both been drawn wide, in stalls 17 and 16 respectively.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Royal Ascot 2013 - Thursday: jumpers for Ladies' Day?

The Ascot Gold Cup is one of my favourite races on the Flat - this year's renewal looks very open with 18 set to face the starter. The Queen's filly Estimate gets her allowance and is bound to be popular but this looks a tough ask. Colour Vision had Saddler's Rock half a length and a neck behind in third when winning last year's renewal but the latter-named appeared unfortunate that day while Dermot Weld's 2010 winner Rite Of Passage is talented but fragile. Earlier in the week I fancied Simenon for this but the threat of rain is a worry; nonetheless Willie Mullins' charge won the Ascot Stakes and the Queen Alexandra Stakes four days later at last year's meeting so it's no surprise to see connections going for gold. Much of the value has disappeared from Simenon's price (7/1) and on official ratings he has enough to find with a few in the field. I'll stay loyal to Simenon but Saddler's Rock had both Colour Vision and the selection behind in last year's Goodwood Cup (run over two miles) so I'm considering a saver on Saddler's Rock...

Away from the posh coats and fancy frocks of Royal Ascot, I intend to chance Awaywiththegreys on his first try over fences at Ffos Las (7.05). Propsect Wells will make the market but in a Weekender Stable Tour (published 03.04.13-07.04.13) handler Peter Bowen said:

'He won a couple of novice hurdles in June and October last year, ending up with a rating of 133, but he will be much better over fences and has schooled brilliantly. He has had a break for the past few months but will be back for the summer and is definitely one to follow first time out which will be in early May.'

Propsect Wells was rated 149 when winning the Game Spirit at Fontwell in February but was turned over at odds of 1/4 on his chasing debut at that track and may not be the most natural chaser in the making.   

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Royal Ascot 2013 - Wednesday

The highlight is the Prince of Wales's Stakes at 3.45. Al Kazeem appeared to beat Camelot fair and square in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh. The Fugue has the fillies' allowance, conditions to suit and would appeal as an each-way wager at a slightly bigger price. Maxios looks a value play (11/2 or bigger) in a race French-trained runners have won three times in the past six years - the favourite has obliged on five occasions in the past decade.

The Duke of Cambridge Stakes is usually run as the Windsor Forest Stakes. There have been some big priced winners in the past ten years including Peeress (14/1 in 2005), Spacious (10/1 in 2009), Lolly For Dolly (11/1 in 2011) and Joviality (11/1 last year); the favourite has won on just two occasions. On official ratings Lady Cecil's Chigun has one pound in hand over Duntle while both fillies have won over the course and distance; Chigun gets the vote. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Royal Ascot 2013 - Tuesday

Things will be different at Royal Ascot this year...

Firstly, Sir Henry Cecil, with 75 winners the most successful trainer of all time at this meeting, will not be present. His passing has been mourned by racing people around the world.

Above all else I will always associate the trainer with the Ascot Gold Cup at a time when the race and the great stayers were adored by the public. Le Moss beat stablemate Buckskin in 1979 and repeated the trick the following year beating Ardross three quarters of a length in a thrilling duel inside the final two furlongs.

Ardross was subsequently sold out of Kevin Prendergast's yard in Ireland and in 1981 turned up to collect the spoils, this time trained by H.R.A. Cecil. The following year the horse came back to win the same race on his fourth run of the season, breaking the track record in the process. Marvellous memories indeed...

This year sees Channel 4 cover the meeting for the first time, with every race scheduled to be shown live; presenter Clare Balding received an OBE for services to Broadcasting and Journalism in the Queen's Birthday Honours on Saturday.

Traditionalists have bemoaned the arrival of Royal Ascot coverage interrupted by advertisements but times have changed... The racecourse has struck its first sponsorship deal for this meeting in 302 years - Swiss watchmaker Longines is Royal Ascot's 'official partner' in a five year deal worth £7 million.

Reassuringly, other things are likely to remain much the same as ever, such as the below-par performance of the blog's tips. Here are brief comments for Tuesday's card...

In the opening Queen Anne Stakes 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom looks the one to beat but he'll be no price. Those looking to oppose will point out the trip is shorter than ideal and connections wouldn't relish soft ground if rain came. The each-way value about Elusive Kate disappeared in the week.

Shea Shea will be a warm order for the King's Stand but only two favourites have obliged in the past decade (Miss Andretti 3/1 2007 and Scenic Blast 11/4 2009). Currently priced at around the 2/1 mark, I'm not tempted.

It was a surprise to many to see Dawn Approach declared for the St James's Place Stakes after his performance in the Epsom  Derby two and a half weeks ago. Aidan O'Brien's Irish 2000 Guineas winner Magician looks a threat but a minor setback in the past few days is a concern - Coolmore has also declared Mars, sixth in the Derby, as insurance. Connections have long been sweet on Toronado but he has enough to find on the book. Dawn Approach, racing back over a mile, is the percentage call but you couldn't have foreseen that performance at Epsom on Derby day - I'll watch from the sidelines. The favourite has obliged on six occasions in the past ten years.

My each-way chance in the Coventry is Wahaab at around 12/1.

I always like one with NH form in the Ascot Stakes (5.00). Last year Simenon took the spoils for Willie Mullins and then four days later added the Queen Alexandra Stakes for good measure; I'll look closely at Simenon if he goes in Thursday's Gold Cup - he met trouble in running last time in the Chester Cup. This year Mullins saddles Midnight Oil, rated 135 over hurdles in Ireland, and the Motivator gelding is the each-way suggestion at 10/1. On a line through Bondage this one wouldn't have much in hand over Philip Hobbs' Big Easy (fifth in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham off a mark of 136) but Hobbs' charge was slightly outpaced that day and that is a concern here.

Friday, June 07, 2013

An evening session

In the Racing Post this week Steve Dennis has written a series of articles ('Evening Sessions') looking at selected evening meetings from around the country; today's piece about Kempton bemoans the lack of atmosphere at the Surrey track.

Yesterday evening, for the first time in quite a while, I watched a race in a bookmaker's shop. If Steve thinks there's no atmosphere at Kempton, he should have been in the Coral shop where I managed to catch the second half of the 6.25 from Worcester.

As I departed the deserted premises, a voice from somewhere beyond the counter pointedly exclaimed, 'That'll be one pound please!'

The comment must have been aimed at me - there was no else in the shop.

Have to smile, don't you?

There will be no lack of atmosphere at tomorrow's evening meeting at Stratford.

In the opening novices' handicap hurdle I'll back Peter Bowen's Vinnie My Boy. In the Weekender Stable Tour (3-7 April 2013) the handler said of his charge, 'He is a very smart horse...[who] has been handicapped on his soft-ground form but is better on faster.' Since that comment the horse has run twice, finishing third on both occasions on good to soft and soft ground. He should get quicker ground here and the application of first-time cheekpieces should help the concentration. The tissue shows 8/1 about Vinnie My Boy so I'll take an each-way interest at that price, though probably not at the Coral outlet mentioned above...

Well Mett ran well on his first try over the the larger obstacles in a beginners' chase at Wetherby 11 days ago; he'll stay the trip but faces a jolly stiff task giving weight to more experienced rivals in the 6.45.

The Class 2 chase and hurdle (at 7.45 and 8.15) look pretty competitive but course and distance winner Up To The Mark would be of interest in the 8.45 provided first-time blinkers can work their magic.

Clondaw Draft looks the one to beat in the bumper.            

Friday, May 31, 2013

Thoughts on the 2013 Derby day

Twelve go to post for the 2013 Epsom Derby tomorrow, with Aidan O'Brien responsible for five of the field. On ratings Dawn Approach is some way clear of his rivals and is priced accordingly; the query is whether this relaxed individual will stay the trip. Generally the market tends to give a good guide - in the past decade, the winner has come from the first three in the betting on nine occasions.

Maybe I'm getting old, but I'm afarid this year's renewal just hasn't inspired. I'll have a small each-way wager on Galileo Rock (sired by 2001 winner Galileo), priced at 40/1 at the time of writing with Stan James, Bet Victor and bet365.

A couple of jockeys have been in the news this week...

Media coverage of Dettori's return to the saddle earlier today brought to mind the parable of the prodigal son and is likely to appear incongruous to many both inside and outside the sport given the Italian has just served a six-month ban following a positive drugs test.

On Monday it was announced Paul Nicholls was to split with Ruby Walsh. The travelling has been an issue to Walsh for some time - I half expected the announcement this time last year.

On Derby day I like to have a bet on the jumpers, just for the sheer hell of it. The opening seller at Hexham looks trappy so I'll take the chance with Baccalaureate in the competitive-looking handicap hurdle at 3.20. This one ran well on his first run for Sue Smith's yard follwing a long lay-off; he might well 'bounce' this time but the tissue price of 13/2 is tempting...    

Friday, May 24, 2013

Randomly noted...

Hot on the hooves of the Godolphin doping scandal, this week jockey Eddie Ahern received a 10 year ban for breaching three BHA rules, a ban he will contest with the support of the Professional Jockeys' Association.

In other news...

Dettori's return to the track following a six month ban has been delayed but he remains hopeful of riding in the Epsom Derby on June 1st.
In Wednesday's Racing Post Lee Mottershead reported that in the period from January 1st to April 27th 2013 viewing figures for Channel 4 Racing were down on 22 of the 25 broadcast days, while the audience for The Morning Line fell 277,000 during the Cheltenham Festival.

And Royal Ascot has appointed its first 'official partner' - Swiss watchmakers Longines. Chris Cook of The Guardian wonders, quite wryly, whether this partnership will lead to the publishing of acccurate sectional times at the track...


Last weekend's post made mention of Oliver Sherwood's mare Luci Di Mezzanotte. She didn't run at Bangor but did turn up for a Wetherby Maiden Hurdle yesterday and obliged at odds of 4/1.

Tomorrow sees the traditional Bank Holiday card at Cartmel; these meets are something of an institution in their own right but I'm afraid the place has never been particularly kind to me.

Down the country a bit and across to the left, the 6.40 novice hurdle at Ffos Las has caught my eye. The David Pipe trained Third Of The Third, owned by course boss Dai Walters, is likely to be sent off favourite but both Groomed and top weight Lord Grantham are closely matched on ratings. RPR/ OR ratings show Third Of The Third 132 / 113, Groomed 131 / 112 and Lord Grantham 129 / 120.

Granted, Lord Grantham has to give weight to all his rivals but Jake Greenall's three pounds allowance offsets some of the burden and Henry Daly's charge looks likely to stay the trip better than Groomed; I'll consider opposing the favourite with Lord Grantham at around the 3/1 mark.

Finally it's interesting to see the well-named Mad Moose running in a listed event on the Flat (2.20 York). After refusing to race at both the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals this spring, Mad Moose appears to have taken a a bit of a liking to the Flat game and his recent second at Chester behind Mount Athos (probably bound for the Melbourne Cup in November) reads well enough, although that form should be treated with plenty of caution.

Trainer's son Sam Twiston-Davies rides 'The Moose' over the sticks; brother Willie takes over here. Songcraft is the class act and the percentage call in the race; it remains to be seen whether Mad Moose can confirm recent improvement.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A bumper weekend...

Looking at the five day declarations earlier in the week, I'd identified a couple running in bumpers that were of some interest while everyone else was concentrating on the Flat.

Oliver Sherwood has his team in good form at the moment and Luci Di Mezzanotte's head second to The Pirate Queen from the Alan King yard last time read well. King's inmate finished fifth in the Aintree listed mares' bumper on her previous run. Luci had an entry in the Bangor bumper at 4.50 on Saturday but it looks as though Fergal O'Brien's previous winner Down Ace has scared her off...

Peter Bowen's Rolling Maul held a couple of weekend options at Uttoxeter and Stratford on Sunday but the handler has decided to take up neither - instead Bowen sends The Road Ahead to the Warwickshire track where Prideofthecastle from David Pipe's stable is likely to provide a stern test.

It's also worth noting that Propsect Wells, well beaten behind Zarkander in the Aintree Hurdle last time, tries fences for the first time on Stratford's card.     

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The 2012/13 jumps season - a personal view

Champion jockey: A P McCoy
Champion trainer: Nicky Henderson
Winning owner: J P McManus
Leading conditional rider: Lucy Alexander

2012 was the second wettest year on record and all that rain left an indelible mark on the season.

From late summer onwards, the layers had Nicky Henderson long odds-on to take the trainers' title from Paul Nicholls but the Ditcheat handler clocked some notable victories in the autumn including the Paddy Power Gold Cup with Al Ferof and the Paul Stewart Ironspine Charity Challenge Gold Cup with Unioniste.

Al Ferof gave Walkon 16 lbs and a three length beating and was 5/1 for the King George at Kempton before sustaining an injury that wrote his season off. The legendary Big Buck's suffered a similar fate after winning in a common canter on his seasonal debut at Newbury.

Unioniste's Cheltenham victory, beating the hapless Walkon 11 lengths, was all the more remarkable as the horse was just four years old; some may have thought his subsequent defeat in the RSA Chase at the Festival a disappointment but the gelding is likely to strengthen up over the coming summer.

The season's headline horse was Henderson's Sprinter Sacre, described by Simon Holt as 'a steeplecahser from the gods' and that's exactly what he is. He beat Sizing Europe 19 lengths in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, a trip of two miles, and is quoted as short as 6/4 by William Hill for the next running of the King George, run over a trip of three miles.

If Sprinter Sacre was Henderson's headline horse, stablemate Bobs Worth wasn't far behind. The gelding won the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in December and then added the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the spring, making ground from an unpromising position four out to win going away and maintaining his unbeaten track record in the process.

Hurricane Fly reclaimed the Champion Hurdle and no doubt intends to return next year but two other Festival performances stick in the mind - Liam Treadwell's front-running ride on 50/1 winner Carrickboy in the Byrne Group Plate and Oscar Delta's unseating of amateur Jane Mangan with the CGA Foxhunter Chase apparently at his mercy.

The BBC boasts a long distinguished history in the coverage of televised horse racing; the Corporation was due to bring that coverage to a conclusion with Chepstow's Welsh National meeting but the wet weather put paid to those plans.

Ironically Channel Four's re-vamped racing offering, handled by production company IMG Sports Media, covered the re-arranged card nine days later but those expecting to see the much-advertised Clare Balding on their screens were to be disappointed; apparently Ms Balding's contract covers just 88 days of the racing year...

Two weeks later, in an article in the Racing Post, Carl Hicks, the man at the helm of Channel Four's coverage, gave himself a rather generous-looking seven out of ten to date despite some initial technical mishaps. The station's televising of the Grand National didn't do much to boost the mark in my humble opinion but that proved of little consequence as racing was busy breathing a huge sigh of relief as all participants, both equine and human, came home safe and sound.

Ryan Mania's victory in the Aintree showpiece on the unconsidered Auroras Encore, a 66/1 chance, was manna from heaven for the media. On the very next day on his very next ride Mania was unfortunate to suffer neck and back injuries when falling from Stagecoach Jasper at Hexham; he was flown by air ambulance to hospital in Newcastle and the modest jockey's fame increased a further tenfold.

This year blog horse of the year goes to Countrywide Flame who took Newcastle's Fighting Fifth in a common canter and ran exceptionally well at odds of 16/1 to finish third in the Champion Hurdle.

I made it to the track just once this season - Warwick's Classic Chase day in mid January. The thing I remember most about the meeting was John Craven appearing particularly animated after Ely Brown's victory at odds of 12/1 in the three mile handicap hurdle. The inference in that last comment is that my own selections ran particularly poorly...

Finally, to conclude the review, a word for Lucy Alexander. Alexander rode 38 winners and in doing so became the first woman as well as the first Scot to win the Conditional Jockeys' Championship. Aged just 22 she is already the most successful female NH jockey of all time - well done Lucy!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bet365 Gold Cup 2013

This week in racing...

The Jockey Club launches a retail bond with an eye to raising £15 million for redevelopment at Cheltenham racecourse;

Mahmood Al Zarooni is banned for eight years in what has very quickly become the biggest doping scandal ever to hit the sport in this country.

Unfortunate timing some might say.

Tomorrow's mixed card at Sandown, where the bet365 Gold Cup is the highlight, brings the curtain down on one of the most persistently wet National Hunt seasons in recent memory.

In the past decade three trainers have won this feature twice (Paul Nicholls, Ferdy Murphy and Philip Hobbs) while just three horses have managed to carry 11 stones or more to victory - Puntal (11-4, 2004), Lacdoudal (11-5, 2006) and Tidal Bay (11-12, 2012); tomorrow just five of the twenty strong field carry less than the 11 stones. In the same timeframe none of the favourites has obliged.

This year's renewal can't really be considered vintage but it looks jolly competitive and by inference difficult to solve.

Doncaster's Grimthorpe Chase was run on ground good / good to firm in places. Quentin Collonges hasn't always been the most fluent of jumpers but that day he jumped for fun and ran his field ragged from the front; he has an additional four furlongs to complete here but found extra when challenged by Mr Moss who doesn't look the easiest ride and races right-handed for the first time.

On his penultimate run in the Kim Muir Becauseicouldntsee was beaten some 19 lengths by Same Difference while conceding ten pounds. Here the handicapper appears to have given the gelding a chance as he races in receipt of seven pounds from the Twiston-Davies inmate - at the time of writing Same Difference is near the head of the market yet Becauseicouldntsee is priced as big as 33/1 with William Hill.

At those odds Becauseicouldntsee is put up as a speculative each-way selection for this season's final showpiece.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Scottish Grand National 2013

At 3.50 tomorrow this year's shock Grand National winner Auroras Encore and jockey Ryan Mania bid to complete a double last achieved in 1974 by Red Rum and Brian Fletcher by winning the Scottish Grand National in the same season.

The handicapper has ensured the horse faces no simple task and has incurred the wrath of trainer's husband Harvey Smith in the process by raising the gelding a further 11 lbs following his exploits at Aintree.

In the past decade only two horses have carried more than 10-5 to victory in this race (Grey Abbey 11-12 in 2004 and Hello Bud 10-9 in 2009) so I've decided to sift through some of the lighter weights towards the bottom end of the handicap...

David Pipe's Big Occasion is appropriately named and has been well tipped-up following his victory in the Midlands National six weeks ago but, as a result, is priced short enough; at six years old he may just lack some vital experience.

Venetia Williams is having a good stab at the prize fund with three entries - Rigadin De Beauchene, Relax and Pentiffic.

The first-named didn't fire when jumping poorly at Sandown last time out but if that run is forgiven appears to offer some value at around the 20/1 mark. Stable jockey Aidan Coleman opts for Relax but I wouldn't totally discount Pentiffic (40/1) who failed to make the cut for the Aintree race and sports cheek pieces for the first time.

Lively Baron is an enigmatic character who could be competitive if in the mood but I'm going to chance Tom George's Monsieur Cadou each-way at around 14/1.

His victory in Haydock's Tim Molony Handicap Chase three weeks ago reads well and the manner in which he stayed on at the end that day suggests he should get this trip. The handicapper has raised the gelding 12 lbs for that effort but with just 10-4 to carry he looks worth an interest.

Friday, April 12, 2013

National coverage

It barely seems a week since I was writing a post with selections for the 2013 National...

Racing breathed a collective sigh of relief as the participants returned safe and sound; it didn't seem to matter that the winner was an unconsidered 66/1 longshot, Auroras Encore.

Perhaps I should qualify that statement - it mattered to the layers, as William Hill CEO Ralph Topping made clear in his post-race blog: 'But I'm a bookmaker first and foremost and it's our William Hill shareholders who top the podium today.'


Generally Channel 4 appeared well satisfied with viewing figures which peaked at 8.9 million but certain aspects of their coverage left me decidedly dissatisfied.

After two false starts in the Topham the previous day, the start to this year's National was always going to come under close scrutiny. The C4 team very nearly missed the boat completely with commentator Simon Holt still talking to camera while in the background eagle-eyed viewers could spot the 40 runners merrily setting off on their way.

The post-race re-run was slow to be compiled and, when it arrived, verged on the shambolic. The editorial decision to show the field jumping selected fences from different angles quickly led to confusion amongst the commentators, never mind the viewers.

Nick Luck's valiant efforts to keep commentating colleagues in check as well as the show on the road were admirable but in vain; he was fighting something of a losing battle when his instructions to 'stop' the re-run in order to discuss a particular point were then completely ignored by the station's technical team.

I'm still not sure whether I saw a replay of the three unseated riders at the Canal Turn on the first circuit...

Naively, I thought I could hop off to the Channel 4 On Demand site (4oD) to catch a replay of the great race. Not so. I was offered a replay of Alan Carr's Grand National Specstacular and Friday evening's excellent How To Win the Grand National but no replay of the race itself.


Tomorrow's jumping cards have a low-key feel; I haven't done much homework. That said, I couldn't help but notice Claret Cloak heading the weights for the 4.15 handicap hurdle at Stratford. Now, Emma Lavelle has had a season from hell but this one was third behind Raya Star in a listed race at Ascot before Christmas and has form behind My Tent Or Yours in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and held an entry in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham before connections opted for the County Hurdle where the gelding finished mid-division.

Lavelle may have had only one winner since December 15th (Killyglass in the Aintree bumper last Saturday at odds of 20/1) but better ground is likely to suit her charge here and the tissue price of 10/1 looks decent each-way value for a horse with this profile running in a Stratford Class 3 handicap.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Aintree Grand National 2013

In the long chequered history of the Grand National, first run in 1839 and won by a horse called Lottery, there can be little doubt we've reached something of a crossroads. High profile equine fatalities in the previous two runnings have resulted in a number of changes to the course; the BHA defends the overall safety record of the race.

John Smith's sponsors the event for one final time, Channel 4 covers it for the very first time. The broadcaster, no doubt driven by viewing figures and potential comparisons with the BBC, has engaged in a high-risk, hard-sell advertising campaign which many in the sport suspect could backfire.

All will echo Tom Scudamore's view, expressed in Thursday's Times: 'I hope for a great spectacle and a safe race.'

For those who like to get involved, my Twitter guide to the National field may prove of limited use in making your own selection(s) [non-runners at the time of writing: Bob Lingo, Tofino Bay, Lion Na Bearnai, Bostons Angel, Quinz, Pearlysteps, Poker De Sivola, Backstage, Romanseco, Cloudy Lane and Gullible Gordon, while the two reserves are Pentiffic and Mortimers Cross]. Otherwise there's this...

I tend to prefer horses that have shown they can handle these unique fences, so here we go...

1. Cappa Bleu Fourth last year, beaten 12 lengths. Meets the second Sunnyhillboy 12 lbs better off and the third Seabass on 7lbs better terms. The course has been shortened half a furlong as part of the safety improvements and that could help the cause.

2. Seabass Excellent third last year; Katie Walsh rides for father Ted, no doubt hoping to become the first female to ride the winner of the race.

3. On His Own At around 7/1 there's little value to be had about the current market leader but he was going well when coming to grief at Bechers (second time) last year. Ruby Walsh rides for Willie Mullins.

4. Join Together Ruby Walsh rejected this one but a sterling performance in the Becher last December suggests Paul Nicholls' charge could be overpriced at around 18/1. Perhaps a little short on experience (no eight-year-old has won in the past decade), last year's winning jockey Daryl Jacob is in the plate.

5. Big Fella Thanks A little older these days but comes with an excellent completion record over these fences; now trained by Tom George, 40/1 seems big.

At the time of writing BetVictor offer a quarter the odds six places while the following layers pay five places: Bet365, Skybet, Boylesports, Paddy Power, Stan James and 888Sport.

The inside story on the 2013 Grand National runners

Days of Lost Glory, of Oscar Time, came flooding back to Imperial Commander Tarquinius following his defeat of Harry The Viking and Viking Blond.

Making his way back to Auroras Encore On His Own he ordered Seabass Tatenen with a Treacle side Forpadydeplasterer.

'How does he like it?' enquired Roberto Goldback.
'Rare, Bob,' came the laconic reply.

On a nearby table Major Malarkey from Colbert Station ordered Teaforthree and invited Joncol from Soll and the Balthazar King over.

'Let's Join Together!' he cried.

'Ballabriggs, Big Fella! Thanks! What A Friend! Quel Esprit!'

He wondered why he had bothered.

'It's Always Waining Across The Bay,' chipped in Sunnyhillboy, so named as he generally tended to put a dampener on things.

Becauseicouldntsee if Any Currency still remained, Mr Moonshine, wearing his Cappa Bleu, Mumbles, 'Head over to the Quiscover Fontaine, will you, where The Rainbow Hunter, Chicago Grey and Swing Bill are in the Ninetieth Minute of a discussion about Weird Al and his money.'


'Mortimers Cross,' he continues, 'but apparently the man is some kind of Saint. Are you?'

[With apologies to connections.]

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Aintree 2013 - Friday is Ladies' Day

Sprinter Sacre, famously described three weeks ago as 'a steeplechaser from the gods' by Simon Holt following victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, steps up to two and a half miles in the John Smith's Melling Chase at 3.05.

A newspaper story earlier in the week reported trainer Nicky Henderson phoning his jockey Barry Geraghty at a late hour, having suffered three sleepless nights wondering whether the great horse would stay the trip.

Geraghty instantly told his boss to man up, stop worrying and then went on to reprimand the handler for not having phoned earlier... I shall watch from the sidelines but both Cue Card and Flemenstar can make this competitive - those so inclined can back both those horses and still obtain much better odds than layers quote about the favourite.

Four of the six runners in the Mildmay Novices' Chase (2.30) had hard enough races at Cheltenham 22 days ago so I'll side with Rocky Creek and opt to sidestep the Topham (3.40) after 100/1 chance Tartan Snow won the Fox Hunters' Chase over the National fences earlier today. For those who can't resist temptation Gullible Gordon (20/1) carrying a racing weight is the each-way suggestion on the back of his sixth in the Becher here last December - the stable has won the past three runnings of the race with Always Waining (declared for Saturday's National).

At Fishers Cross looks the one to beat in the Sefton (4.15). I'd expect a much better showing from Gevrey Chambetrin after his running at the Festival but I'm not certain the step up in trip will suit.

The opener looks strangely uncompetitive but there are some nice sorts in the concluding mares' bumper. Kim Bailey's Molly's A Diva puts her unbeaten record on the line - she finished ahead of five of these opponents last time out in a listed event run at Sandown on heavy ground.

The change in underfoot conditions here could easily see a reverse of the form. Carole's Spirit ran a good race in second that day but had previously been beaten on good ground when with a different trainer while Free Thinking lost her position two from home before staying on again for third. Centasia made some late headway and may come on but I'll consider taking a small each-way interest in Alan King's Our Pollyanna (14/1).

In the Weekender the trainer reports this one definitely hated the ground at Sandown so we can expect some improvement to come while the booking of Barry Geraghty catches the eye.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Aintree 2013 - Thursday

A quick post and some quick picks for those of a carefree disposition...

I'm inclined to give Irish Saint another chance against Rolling Star in the opener; he missed Cheltenham and comes here fresher than most. Kim Bailey's Hefner could be anything but the handler will not have entered the gelding on a whim.

Silviniaco Conti is the form choice in the Betfred Bowl (2.30) but he'll be no price. Only one favourite has obliged in the past ten years so I'll chance course and distance winner Quito De La Roque each-way.

The Aintree Hurdle looks very trappy. Barry Geraghty deserts previous winner Oscar Whisky to ride Grandouet who fell in the Champion and isn't always the most fluent of hurdlers. On official ratings The New One has enough to find with several of these more experienced rivals but the impressive manner in which he quickened to take the Neptune stays in the mind - The New One gets the vote.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A Twitter Guide to the 2013 Grand National entries

Here's my Twitter guide to the remaining 49 Grand National entries.

As in previous years the guide has been compiled using Twitter's 140 character limit for each individual entry.

Likely to prove of little use when selecting your horse for this year's National...

Imperial Commander 2010 Gold Cup winner picked up an injury in the 2011 race. Excellent return to the track in the Argento - a player if taking to fences.

What A Friend Pulled up behind Ballabriggs in 2011; prefers good ground, part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Weird Al Talented but enigmatic. Fell four from home in last year's race - previously has broken blood vessels.

Quel Esprit Grey who won Irish Hennessy last year and was then pulled out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup; Willie Mullins trains.

Big Fella Thanks 11-year-old with excellent completion record over the fences - now trained by Tom George.

Roberto Goldback Bought as a National horse for owner Simon Munir; bids to give Nicky Henderson his first win in the race.

Seabass Excellent third last year - Katie Walsh bids to win this for her father and become the first female jockey to win the race.

Ballabriggs 2011 winner runs in the colours of Mr Trevor Hemmings; sixth last year and now aged 12.

Sunnyhillboy Desperately unlucky to be beaten a nose by Neptune Collonges last year; connections try again...

Teaforthree Second in the Welsh National at Chepstow, he disappointed last time in Haydock's National Trial. Prefer plenty of cut.

Across The Bay  Seventh in the Welsh National; mixes chasing with hurdling.

Join Together Paul Nicholls' best chance but Ruby Walsh prefers to ride On His Own for Willie Mullins.

Bob Lingo Plenty of miles on the clock, never won beyond 22 furlongs; owned by J P McManus.

Colbert Station Comes to this in fine form, Ted Walsh trains; will McCoy ride?

Tofino Bay Fine second in NH Chase at Cheltenham 24 days ago, a race likely to have left its mark.

Forpadydeplasterer 2009 Arkle winner may atruggle to stay this trip.

On His Own Market leader, fell at Becher's on second circuit last year when going well in third. Ruby Walsh rides, Willie Mullins trains.

Joncol 2010 Irish Hennessy winner; others make more appeal.

Lion Na Bearnai Won 2012 Irish National at odds of 33/1; one track appearance since, pulled up behind Bobs Worth in Hennessy at Newbury.

Balthazar King Winner 2012 cross country race at Cheltenham Festival; better ground will help his chance.

Bostons Angel Form in cross country races at Cheltenham.

Cappa Bleu Stayed on for fourth in last year's renewal; place claims.

Oscar Time Second behind Ballabriggs in 2011. No comparable form since; part-owned by Robert Waley-Cohen.

Always Waining Won last three runnings of the Topham (over National fences); unlikely to stay the trip.

Quinz Pulled up before the Chair in the 2011; recent fourth in Kempton's Racing Plus Chase encouraging after long layoff - prefers good ground.

Tatenen Unseated rider at the Canal Turn last year; never won beyond 21 furlongs.

Treacle Likes sticky conditions underfoot.

Lost Glory J P McManus runner who likes to race prominently. In good form but McCoy likely to look elsewhere.

Saint Are Well beaten in the Kim Muir at the Festival last time.

Swing Bill Another well beaten in the Kim Muir.

Chicago Grey Won the NH Chase at Cheltenham in 2011. Unlucky to be brought down at the fifth last year; has the look of one trained for the race.

Quiscover Fontaine Fell at 17th fence last year.

Becauseicouldntsee Unseated rider at Canal turn last year; fifth in Kim Muir last time looks a decent preparation.

Harry The Viking Ninth in the Hennessy, tenth in the Kim Muir; trained by Paul Nicholls and part owned by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Rare Bob Brought down at fifth last year; supported in the market and quietly fancied.

The Rainbow Hunter Unexposed, interesting outsider; part owned by Racing UK presenter Oli Bell.

Mr Moonshine Second behind Cape Tribulation in Rowland Meryck reads well.

Mumbles Head 12-year-old who fell at the first in the Becher.

Pearlysteps Likely to stay but jumping has proved problematic in the past.

Auroras Encore Second in the 2012 Scottish National beaten a head; out of sorts of late.

Ninetieth Minute Most of his form on soft / heavy ground; never won beyond 22 furlongs.

Tarquinius Failed to build on decent effort when beaten 68 lengths in Leinster National at Naas last time out.

Any Currency Unseated Aidan Coleman in the Becher; fourth in the N. Yorks National to his name.

Major Malarkey Talented but quirky customer not always guaranteed to put his best foot forward.

Poker De Sivola Won the bet365 Gold Cup Chase at Sandown and seventh in the Becher. Likely to appreciate better ground.

Backstage Going well when hampered in 2010 and came home tenth when fancied in 2011.

Soll Well beaten in Hennessy and Welsh National but win at Sandown last time out.

Romaesco Decent third in the Kim Muir but fell in Monday's Irish National.

Viking Blond Twiston-Davies front-runner who wears blinkers and fell at first last year.

Cloudy Lane Stalwart now at the veteran stage; finished eighth in 2010.

Pentiffic Stable won the race with 100/1 shot Mon Mome in 2009; this one priced 150/1.

Guilible Gordon Moved to Peter Bowen's in mid-November; sixth in the Becher for new connections.

Mortimers Cross 200/1 outsider beaten a length in the Southern National at Fontwell.