Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Kempton's King George VI Chase 2014

Burdened with family commitments, this year I haven't spent as much time with the form book as I should have...

On official ratings Silviniaco Conti is the one to beat in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day (3.10). Paul Nicholls' charge did the blog a favour in Haydock's Betfair Chase last month; the softer the ground the better.

The next two in the market, Champagne Fever and Al Ferof, have never won over three miles so I've looked more closely at Menorah and Cue Card.

Both will appreciate drying ground and, according to the weather forecast, that's what they're likely to get.

Menorah has been something of a revelation this year winning Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase on good ground and then finishing two lengths adrift of Silviniaco in the Betfair where underfoot conditions were far more testing. In his younger days Philip Hobbs' gelding was known to have jumping issues but he has improved with age although I'm still reluctant to trust him implicitly over these obstacles.

Following a pelvic injury Cue Card has been a little slow to come to hand this term but connections have been making the right noises recently. Colin Tizzard's inmate was outstayed when beaten by Silviniaco in this event last year but he was aggressively ridden on that occasion and a more conservative approach may pay dividends; on official ratings he has three pounds to find with the favourite.

I can still see Cue Card emptying up the home straight in last year's renewal with the race apparently at his mercy and earlier fancier prices have disappeared as well so I'll take an each-way chance on Menorah (8/1) in the hope that his sticky jumping holds out.

Wishing all readers a very merry Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2014

All I want for Christmas...

...is a winning wager.

The thing is, with time at a premium at this time of year, it's unlikely I've found one on Ascot's Christmas card.

Still, for those interested, here are some suggested plays against likely Ascot favourites that it would be wise not to take too seriously.

1.15 David Johnson Shawbrook Bank Graduation Chase

Irish Saint didn't convince when finishing third behind stablemate Vibrato Valtat in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown a fortnight ago.

Puffin Billy was allowed an easy lead when beating Killala Quay at this course the last day; the runner up did nothing for the form when well beaten at Doncaster last week.

Thomas Crapper was probably flattered to finish within a length of Vibrato Valtat on his penultimate start but in the main has jumped well.

Suggestion: Puffin Billy (2/1 generally).

2.25 JLT Long Walk Hurdle 

Zarkandar is the selection on ratings; this trip on soft ground isn't ideal.

Things fell right for Medinas the last day; they may well do again but I don't want to bet on it.

Reve De Sivola won last year's renewal but has been out of form recently; this will be the first time he encounters underfoot conditions to suit this term.

Pilot Lizzie Kelly can't use her claim on Aubusson while the Pipe yard has openly stated the ground will not help Dell'Arca's cause.

Suggestion: Reve De Sivola (9/2 generally).

3.00 Mappin & Webb Silver Cup Handicap Chase

In January The Young Master won handicap hurdles at Fakenham and Sedgefield off a mark of 103. Impressive when winning the Badger Ales at Wincanton last month, he was subsequently disqualified on a technicality but still has to start tomorrow's race on 144.

Houblon Des Obeaux won this last year, has conditions to suit and another seven pounds to carry; ran a huge race at odds of 50/1 to finish second in the Hennessy three weeks ago.

Some money for the bottom three; both Ardkilly Witness and Polisky race from out of the handicap.

Suggestion: Houblon Des Obeaux (4/1 generally)
Each-way alternative: Hey Big Spender (14/1).

3.30 The Ladbroke  

Two each-way longshots against the field in this ultra-competitive handicap...

Garde La Victoire won the Greatwood in some style last month but has been raised nine pounds for his trouble. Has to concede at least seven pounds to all his rivals so realistically he entertains place prospects at best (16/1 SkyBet paying 5 places).

Swing Bowler's fifth, beaten four lengths behind Splash Of Ginge in Newbury's Betfair Hurdle, reads well. I have a soft spot for David Pipe's mare who probably won't appreciate Ascot's stiff finish but on the plus side has run well after a break previously and Kieron Edgar's five pounds claim means she'll carry 10-11 (28/1 SkyBet paying 5 places).

With the in-laws due to arrive next week, I may well be 'hoping beyond hope' with these selections but indulge me - this and the King George on Boxing Day is all I have to look forward to.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cheltenham Christmas card 2014

The official going for tomorrow's Cheltenham card is good to soft yet only one race has more than eight declared, the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup due off at two o'clock.

Four weeks ago Caid Du Berlais won the Paddy Power Gold Cup (run over the old course) from Johns Spirit by a head with Edgardo Sol eighth, Ericht tenth and Easter Meteor pulled up.

Paul Nicholls' five-year-old heads the market for tomorrow's Gold Cup on the back of that run with the general consensus being the two mile five trip over the new course likely to suit.

Barrakilla can be effective with a racing weight and No Buts looked impressive at Newbury the last day while a case can be made for Attaglance who clearly likes Cheltenham (won the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at the 2012 Festival, finished fourth in the 2013 Paddy Power Gold Cup and second in a listed novices handicap chase at the 2014 Festival) yet he still has to secure that first chase win.

This doesn't look the strongest renewal so I'm going to chance Ericht. Nicky Henderson's charge appeared a little unfortunate to stumble two out when a close third in last month's Paddy Power - with Barry Geraghty back in the plate, Ericht rates an each-way wager at 10/1 (Stan James).

Eight in the International (3.10) but with The New One starting odds-on the race doesn't make much appeal as a betting medium. A couple of points of interest:

Is Bertimont (second in Wincanton's Elite Hurdle) good enough to make a place? Will Mad Moose consent to race?

The Relkeel (3.45) looks trappy.

Rock On Ruby took the 2012 Champion Hurdle when trained by Paul Nicholls but was disappointing in the Elite five weeks ago; he has never won over this distance so presumably connections feel this trip is what is now required.

On official ratings Volnay De Thaix has every chance but he appeared to have a hard enough race behind Aubusson over three miles at Haydock three weeks ago - presumably connections feel the step back in trip is what is now required.

Lac Fontana has to concede four pounds to his four rivals but first-time cheekpieces may bring about improvement. 4/1 is tempting but on balance the weight concession means I'm not going to play.

In the Albert Bartlett at 2.35 I considered Emma Lavelle's Parish Business as a play against Blaklion but in the Weekender the trainer tells us she thinks her charge is 'high enough' in the handicap after finishing second to Fletchers Flyer at Ascot. Nonetheless,  'He's a real galloper and jumps superbly.'  
Only four in the field for the novice chase at 12.50 with this engagement Virak's second preference; the intention is to go to Doncaster for the bet365 Novices' Chase at 2.50. With Virak priced up favourite there, I'll be interested to see how Killala Quay performs.

Back in January I thought Killala was something to bet on at 5/1 in Warwick's Leamington Novices' Hurdle but he ran no sort of race on heavy ground and was pulled up.

He was well beaten behind Puffin Billy at Ascot on his chase debut three weeks ago but it was very soft that day; he'll certainly appreciate this step-up in trip.

A comment I heard after that Warwick run was the gelding prefers better ground - it doesn't look as though he'll get that tomorrow but I may take the chance if bookies are offering 7/2...

Friday, December 05, 2014

Two Sandown selections, one Becher Chase longshot

A capacity crowd of 42,000 is expected at Aintree tomorrow following the course's initiative to hand out free tickets for Betfred Becher Chase day.

I've spent my time looking at Sandown's Tingle Creek card but my throw-away suggestion for the Aintree feature at 1.30 is Mr Moonshine who clearly handles the National fences having finished third behind Chance du Roy in this race last year (and subsequently completed the Grand National in fifteenth).

The going on the course is officially described as good to soft, soft in places which should help the cause and Sue Smith's charge also has a couple of runs under his belt. Granted, the gelding appears to have his fair share of weight but pilot Daragh Bourke claims five.

At the time of writing Mr Moonshine, 22/1 with William Hill who pay a quarter the odds five places, rates a sporting each-way wager.    

The Tingle Creek (3.00) tops the bill at Sandown.

Layers appear to have taken the view that Alan King's Balder Succes, beaten five lengths in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter (Pepite Rose fifth, Somersby sixth, Hinterland pulled up), should reverse placings with Tom George's God's Own on seven pounds better terms.

The star turns, Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy, may be missing but several in the field are closely matched on official ratings:

163 Balder Succes (3/1)
162 God's Own (4/1)
162 Somersby (17/2 Skybet)
158 Dodging Bullets (10/1 Boylesports)
157 Oscar Whisky (13/2 bet365)

In addition Harry Fry's Vukovar (152) has come in for market support during the week and is currently rated an 8/1 chance.

4/1 looks a fair price about God's Own - handler Tom George is pretty bullish in a piece published in today's edition of The Times.

10/1 Dodging Bullets is value but in the past he has shown a tendency to jump left on occasions when racing right-handed.

Oscar Whisky is very talented but this is his first try at two miles over fences and his jumping may suffer, particularly at this most exacting of tracks.

God's Own gets the nod.

There's No Panic beat Court By Surprise in last year's London National but Emma Lavelle's charge hasn't made the final declarations for this year's renewal at 3.35.

Emperor's Choice, second to Gas Line Boy at Haydock a fortnight ago, should appreciate underfoot conditions.

At 9/2 with William Hill and Coral, Emperor's Choice is the selection for Sandown's finale.        

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday, Hennessy Saturday

After Black Friday comes Hennessy Saturday...

In the past decade nine winners of the Hennessy Gold Cup have been aged either six or seven years old; a five-year-old has never won the race yet Willie Mullins' Djakadam is the clear market leader, priced as low as 4/1 with Boylesports.

This year in particular I'm struck by the bigger prices available about horses who can boast decent form on soft/heavy ground.

Last year's winner Triolo D'Alene may prefer better underfoot conditions but is rated a 33/1 chance while Merry King (fifth in 2013) is 16/1 with William Hill and Houblon Des Obeaux (sixth) is another priced at 33/1.

Previous Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude is 25/1 and Peter Marsh Chase winner Wychwoods Brook is 28/1 (betVictor), as is Dan Skelton's unexposed sort What A Warrior (William Hill).

You pays your money and takes your choice.

With prices like these I've ignored the market leaders and had an each-way wager on Wychwoods Brook (25/1 with SkyBet paying a quarter the odds five places) who had a nice pipe opener over hurdles at Worcester last month.

I also looked closely at Houblon Des Obeaux who will relish underfoot conditions despite top weight and would be in the mix if showing a return to his very best form - the downside is this is his first outing since April.

Back in March More Of That retained his unbeaten record to collect the Ladbrokes World Hurdle in some style.

The gelding makes his reappearance in the Long Distance Hurdle at 2.25 but Warren Greatrex's Cole Harden is likely to have a fitness edge and at 4/1 represents a play against the odds-on favourite whose stable is currently in the midst of a lean spell.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Haydock Betfair Chase meeting 2014

Faugheen is the stand-out horse at Ascot tomorrow but Haydock has the better card with the Betfair Chase (3.00) the highlight.

Last year's first, second and third [Cue Card, Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti] head the market but they come into the race with questions to answer; Taquin Du Seuil can be considered a contender on the back of his second to Menorah in the Charlie Hall three weeks ago with underfoot conditions here likely to suit.

I was surprised to see Cue Card backed into favouritism for the Haldon Gold Cup on his first appearance after suffering a pelvic injury at the beginning of the year. Well beaten at Exeter, the longer trip here will help but that run was just 18 days ago - last year's winner doesn't come to this in the same form as last year and I remain unconvinced.

I tipped Dynaste for the race last year but on his seasonal reappearance he came up just short and I suspect we may see a repeat performance tomorrow.

Paul Nicholls ran Silviniaco Conti in the Charlie Hall as a preparation for this; the handler felt his charge was a little short in this race last year.

Silviniaco, sent off even money favourite at Wetherby, was somewhat disappointing in fifth and sports cheek pieces for the first time.

I was tempted by Taquin Du Seuil who can look awkward on occasions but did nothing wrong the last day; the value has disappeared though - he's just a 5/1 chance now.

Silviniaco Conti is priced 4/1 with Ladbrokes this evening yet on official figures has 15lbs in hand over Jonjo's horse - Silviniaco Conti gets the nod.

At least Melodic Rendezvous (regular jockey Nick Scholfield is riding at Ascot) provides some level of opposition for The New One in the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle (1.50) but it will be a major shock if Twiston-Davies' charge doesn't come home in front.

The three mile 'fixed brush' handicap hurdle at 2,25 is very difficult.

Aubusson and Vieux Lion Rouge are horses I like but, pressed for an each-way selection, I have sided with Sybarite who at eight years of age is older than ideal but should stay this trip on the ground - Ladbrokes offer 14/1 at the time of writing while Skybet quote 12/1 and pay five places.

Regular readers will know I've followed Polly Peachum quite closely since her win at Warwick back in March. Following victory at Wincanton two weeks ago, the handicapper has had his say and raised Nicky Henderson's mare a further eight pounds to a mark of 155.

She held a five-day entry for tomorrow's fixed brush hurdle at Haydock but also holds an entry for the listed hurdle at Kempton on Monday (2.10). Both Woodland Walk and Hi Note hold entries for that same Kempton event but connections have opted to run in tomorrow's 1.30 at Ascot instead.

Should Polly make the line-up on Monday, she'll be attempting a trip of three miles for the first time and easy conditions underfoot will be far from ideal.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cheltenham Open meeting 2014 - Saturday

Eighteen face the starter for tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup at 2.30 - earlier today a low sun resulted in fences being omitted in the novice chase but a request to bring forward the off-time of Saturday's feature has been rejected by the BHA.

Last year Johns Spirit won carrying 10-2 racing off a mark of 139; tomorrow, together with Oscar Whisky, he carries 11-12 and races off 156. Jonjo O'Neill's charge looked impressive when winning over course and distance last month but the stable has only recently emerged from a spell in the doldrums.

In the past decade no horse has carried more than 11-8 to victory; seven of those winners carried under 11-0.

Jamie Snowden's Present View heads the market, despite suffering a slight setback when returning with a cut after finishing a head second to Vicente in a hurdle race here last month.

The gelding won the Rewards4Racing Novices Handicap Chase at the Festival in March (Buywise fifth and Persian Snow sixth); Buywise, in receipt of three pounds, was beaten seven lengths that day but appeared to be making ground up the hill after a couple of indifferent jumps on the way round - this one has been well tipped up.

In an ultra-competitive renewal I'm going to stay loyal to Johns Spirit who has shown his liking for Cheltenham in the past. This evening Paddy Power offer 11/1 and pay a quarter the odds five places so Johns Spirit is the each-way selection.

Philip Hobbs is having a terrific season and saddled a treble earlier today with Bold Henry (14/1), Champagne West (7/2) and Balthazar King (4/7f).

In the novice chase at 1.15 I'll oppose the David Pipe trained Kings Palace with Sausalito Sunrise (11/4 Ladbrokes, Skybet, bet365).

Finally Kilronan High went into my notebook when beating a Nicky Henderson hotpot seven lengths at Towcester last May.

The mare sweated up badly before making all to win at Perth a couple of months back; at 14/1 (Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, bet365) she is worth a small each-way interest in a competitive-looking bumper.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Wincanton Badger Ales / Elite 2014

Back at the beginning of September in a post entitled 'Back in training' I wrote:

"At a Warwick midweek meeting last March Nicky Henderson's mare Polly Peachum caught my eye while King's Tempest claimed the concluding bumper for the Twiston-Davies operation; both will be of interest when they re-appear."

King's Tempest, now with Warren Greatrex, finished two lengths second to Jollyallan in a novices' hurdle at Exeter on Tuesday while Polly Peachum makes her seasonal debut in a Class 2 mares' handicap hurdle at Wincanton tomorrow.

On her last run in a listed Sandown hurdle Polly, in receipt of three pounds, finished a short head second to the well-regarded Southfield Theatre (odds-on favourite for the novice chase at 1.30).

Polly Peachum is a smart mare with a decent turn of foot but my primary concern for this race is she ideally needs good ground to show that turn of foot to best effect. She also has to concede upwards of 12 pounds to her ten opponents but Woodland Walk, Lily Waugh and Mini Muck are obliged to race from out of the handicap.

This evening layers offer 9/2; I'll consider a wager if the going remains no worse than good-to-soft.

A maximum field of 18 will face the starter for the feature Badger Ales Trophy at 2.40; securing a decent racing pitch early on will be important.

Standing Ovation won last year's renewal off 120 and tries to repeat the trick this time off a rating of 131; he should be thereabouts having had a seasonal pipe-opener, a comment that also applies to Emma Lavelle's Court By Surprise, third in last year's race and four pounds better off for eight and a quarter lengths.

At a price I considered Tom George's Date To Endeavour in a race that often goes to a younger horse but most of his chase form is in small fields.

In the past decade the favourite has obliged on four occasions with the winner coming from the top four in the market on eight occasions; Court By Surprise (12/1 William Hill) is no more than a tentative each-way suggestion.

Much of the pre-race talk surrounding the Elite Hurdle (3.15) centres on Irving (unbeaten in this country before disappointing in the Supreme at Cheltenham last March - later found to be coughing) and 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby.

Several in the field make their seasonal debut so, in search of some value, I've concentrated on those with a recent run under their belts.

Bertimont won a farcical race at Chepstow the last day but could be anything while Hint Of Mint, Forgotten Voice and Starluck finished in that order behind The New One at Kempton three weeks ago.

That trio raced at level weights at Kempton so Nico De Boinville's three pound claim is probably the reason why Forgotten Voice is as low as 5/1 with William Hill.

Starluck is not the force of old but he won a Cheltenham handicap hurdle off this mark in April last year; 40/1 (Stan James) is a big price about a horse whose style of racing is suited to the course.

Since tackling hurdles, Hint Of Mint has raced exclusively on right-handed tracks - priced at 10/1 this evening, Hint of Mint is the each-way suggestion for the Elite; in the past ten years all the winners have been aged between five and seven years old.

Friday, October 31, 2014

An Ascot sensation?

Silviniaco Conti, the form choice for Wetherby's Charlie Hall at 3.15 , is priced accordingly and I'm fast running out of reasons to oppose.

So far this season Paul Nicholls' runners have tended to need their first outing but Silviniaco had a racecourse spin last week - connections see this race as a prep for Haydock's Betfair Chase in three weeks' time.

On official ratings Taquin Du Seuil, in receipt of five pounds, still has ten to find with the favourite while Menorah comes form a stable bang in form but has had his share of jumping problems in the past.

In the previous two renewals of this race Wayward Prince finished second (beaten 11 lengths by Silviniaco in 2012 and a  neck by Harry Topper last year) and would have made some appeal as an each-way wager had eight been declared...

In search of better value I've been drawn to Ascot's Byrne Group chase at 2.20.

Only nine go to post but the layers bet 4/1  the field.

Michael Scudamore's Next Sensation was well tipped up for the Grand Annual at Cheltenham in March and the gelding looked to have the spoils in the bag when three lengths clear at the last but he was headed in the final 100 yards and finished fourth, beaten a neck to third by Claret Cloak; the latter named finished down the field at Cheltenham a fortnight ago but is sure to have gained some benefit from the run.

Back in March Manyriverstocross beat Bellenos a short-head over course and distance - Alan King's charge is two pounds better off but Dan Skelton's six-year-old looks less exposed while course and distance winner Ulck Du Lin is not readily dismissed with Sean Bowen able to claim seven.

A tight handicap but I'm swayed by confidence shown by Michael Scudamore in midweek.

With the trainer's brother Tom in the plate, Next Sensation gets the nod (4/1 William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power).       

Friday, October 24, 2014

Chepstow trio

The Old Roan Chase is the highlight on Aintree's card tomorrow where Barry Geraghty has been booked for the ride on favourite Uxizandre following the fall of Wayne Hutchinson from McCabe Creek at Southwell yesterday.

I've decided to concentrate on the Chepstow card; champion jockey Tony McCoy returns from a spell on the sidelines with two rides, Son Du Berlais in the Persian War at 3.35 and Regal Encore in the Silver Trophy at 4.10.

McCoy's last ride was well over a week ago aboard Goodwood Mirage at Wetherby but he can still boast 151 wins so far this season and a strike rate of 32.9%; he appears on course for 300 winners, injuries permitting.

Writing in the Weekender, Andrew King has a bullish word for course and distance winner Sausalito Sunrise in the novice chase at 2.25 and I'm not inclined to disagree. That said, both Mosspark and Leo Luna are closely matched with Philip Hobbs' charge on hurdle ratings. 

Sausalito Sunrise is the selection.

Those contemplating a wager on Jackies Solitaire in the totescoop6 The Millionaire Maker Handicap Chase at 2.55 should note Anthony Honeyball's comment in this week's Straight From The Stable article:

"She's definitely better over hurdles than fences but we will probably mix her over the two disciplines."

McCoy's mount Son Du Berlais has had the Persian War as his target for some time - four-year-olds have a good record in the race and the favourite has obliged on five occasions in the past ten years - but there are other interesting runners who offer better value including Blaklion, withdrawn from the race won by Vicente at Cheltenham a week ago, and course and distance winner Restless Dreamer while The Pirate's Queen receives a stone from the top two and hails from a yard bang in form although six of her seven rivals all have the benefit of a recent run.

Blaklion was market leader when withdrawn on veterinary advice at Cheltenham yet he's priced up at 11/2 with Paddy Power this evening - I'll chance Blaklion.

The Silver Trophy looks very competitive.

In complete contrast to the previous race just two of the twelve have a recent run under their belts and they can both boast course and distance winning form - Boondooma and Shelford.

A win for Garde La Victoire (2.00 Aintree) may point to the chance of Vieux Lion Rouge as David Pipe's charge was just six lengths adrift conceding four pounds when the pair met at Aintree in April.

L'unique is a game mare who perhaps shows her best in the spring but course and distance winner Aubusson is one I like. Nick Williams' gelding really was impressive when beating Regal Diamond at Cheltenham on New Year's Day with Ballyalton fourth - Ballyalton subsequently finished second  to Faugheen in the Neptune at the Festival.

Priced at 10/1 with both Ladbrokes and BetVictor this evening, Aubusson is worth an each-way wager.

Finally a couple of races that may have passed you by in the past week...

On Friday 17 October Cambridge beat Oxford in the inaugural running of the Varisty Horse Race over Newmarket's Rowley Mile.

At Plumpton the following Monday Gemma Pallett (aged 13) won the Shetland Pony Gold Cup on Galloping Goring. Little Bucks, possibly in the same ownership as Big Buck's, finished down the field...

Friday, October 17, 2014

October Cheltenham chances

Heavy ground may appear a distinct possibility for tomorrow's Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot but at Cheltenham the going is described as good, good to soft in places.

According to the market, the opener at the Cotswolds' track is between In The Rough and Vivaldi Collonges. On New Year's Day the latter-named trailed in last of six over two and half miles and was well beaten at Warwick the next time but when upped in trip he won a Class 3 handicap hurdle at Ayr with some ease; on official ratings Paul Nicholls' charge has five pounds to find with his market rival.

Last year Johns Spirit won the 2.35 off a mark of 129; tomorrow he tries to repeat the trick off a rating of 147. A tall order but we should remember Jonjo O'Neill's charge went on to take the Paddy Power Gold Cup four weeks later (Champion Court seventh, Astracad eleventh) and had Champion Court, Bennys Mist (would prefer more cut) and Sew On Target behind when finishing fourth to Ballynagour in the Byrne Group Plate at the Festival.

Several will be using the race as a stepping stone to the Paddy Power - Johns Spirit (13/2 Stan James) is the suggestion although it's worth noting that Astracad is over 20 pounds better off for a five length defeat in last year's running.

Triumph Hurdle form is on display in the 3.10 with Festival winner Tiger Roll set to give Calipto (fourth in March) four pounds; the latter-named was beaten over eight lengths but that only tells half the story as Daryl Jacob lost his irons two from home that day.

Many will fancy Nicholls' charge to reverse the form - it's not a race I'll get involved in.

Ainsi Fideles (5.00) is something of rarity - a four-year-old who has taken well to chasing.

He has the beating of Splash of Ginge on recent Perth form but David Pipe's charge looked a tad fortunate to collect that day with Howwoulduno (beaten five lengths by Court Minstrel earlier today) idling in the shadow of the post. Splash Of Ginge is expected to strip fitter for that Perth run.

Finally some interesting sorts in the concluding bumper. In April Moon Racer won a Fairyhouse bumper on his racecourse debut at odds of 50/1 for handler Michael Ronayne; the gelding is now with David Pipe and unlikely to start at anywhere near those odds tomorrow. Chezzy is a mare who impressed at Carlisle on her debut while How About It won an Irish point-to-point in the spring.

Warren Greatrex and Gavin Sheehan are a combination worthy of note. The stable has done well in this type of event in the past and I don't think Going For Gold would be entered if connections felt he was going to be outclassed.

I'll take a small each-way interest provided the price is 12/1 or bigger.

Friday, October 10, 2014

One chance at Chepstow

It's taken me 5 attempts to log on,,,

Popped up? Of course I am.

Over the years the form of the Nicholls runners has been key to this Chepstow meeting.

At Newton Abbot earlier today Wonderful Charm obliged but Arenice Et Pictons (even money favourite ) was pulled up while Solar Impulse (8/11f) was beaten by Llittle Jon.

Southfield Theatre looks the answer to the 3.40 but will be no price and isn't guaranteed to take to fences.

The market tells us the 4.20 is between the three horses allocated 11-2; Nicky Henderson's Dawalan wasn't the best at his hurdles last term while  Brian Ellison's Manhattan Swing has no more than a Market Rasen novice hurdle to his name in this country.

In the circumstances a chance is taken with Nicholls' Dormello Mo (7/2 or better).


Friday, October 03, 2014

Small fields at Fontwell

Small fields at Fontwell today and the same applies tomorrow - the recent dry weather has meant trainers have decided to keep their charges under wraps until the rains arrive.

Of course small fields don't necessarily make picking winners any easier; 10/1 chance The Wallace Line beat odds-on favourite Mercouer in the opener today while 1/5 favourite Salubrious held Drum Valley (9/2) a neck in the novice chase.

Finding a value play on tomorrow's card at the Sussex track looks a challenge - I intend to keep my powder dry.

In the opener (2.15) Anthony Honeyball's mare Lily Waugh has decent form to her name. She finished third in a mares' listed handicap at Newbury in March and was far from disgraced when eighth behind Polly Peachum next time out at Cheltenham; the Honeyball stable boasts three wins from three runners over the jumps in the past month.

A reasonable showing from Lily Waugh might point to the chance of another mare, One Lucky Lady, who goes in the Class 2 handicap hurdle at 3.20; Nicky Henderson's inmate finished some 13 lengths behind Lily in that Cheltenham race won in some style by her stablemate Polly Peachum. Workbench won a Class 2 handicap chase at the track this afternoon but is also declared in this - it would be a surprise to see connections allow their charge to take his chance over the smaller obstacles.

Kim Bailey's yard is in excellent form at present - seven winners from fifteen attempts in the past four weeks. Up For An Oscar (3.55) has been running in novice chases of late with a fourth behind Drum Valley (beaten a neck by Salubrious earlier today) sandwiched between two wins at Worcester.

Just six face the starter but this is a trappy event - as I indicated, I'm going to keep my powder dry and wait for the rain to arrive.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Rum and Rasen

The 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Perthshire may be the focus of attention for many this weekend but for this observer Perth's two day midweek meeting held as much interest.

In the past I have found the meet has proved a reasonable guide to the well-being of Nigel Twiston-Davies' horses.

This year Blacklion took the opening race of the meeting at odds of 4/9 but there were some notable disappointments in between before five-year-old mare Kilronan High built on her impressive win at Towcester last May with victory in the meeting's concluding bumper.

2/5 chance Ballyboley was beaten some 33 lengths by 80/1 shot Last Supper while Splash Of Ginge, winner of last season's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, didn't appear to appreciate the larger obstacles in the latter stages of the novice chase, finishing some 47 lengths behind David Pipe's game four-year-old Ansi Fideles.

Tomorrow's opener at Market Rasen (1.45) was won by Barizan in 2009 (went on to finish second in the Triumph Hurdle) and Nicky Henderson's Royal Irish Hussar obliged last year (went on to finish sixth in the Triumph).

Twiston-Davies saddles course and distance winner Goodbye Dancer (rated 139) and I've no doubt he'll hope for similar things for his charge but stable form isn't convincing and the price looks tight enough. In the past the gelding has made all but may not have things all his own way with the filly Full Day in the field while David Pipe's French import Unanimite looks interesting on his debut in this country.

Those looking for a wager may want to consider trainers in form including:

Charlie Longsdon - six winners from last seven runners;
Kim Bailey - seven winners from eleven runners in past month;
John Ferguson - four winners from seven entries in September;
Dr R P Newland - three winners from six in past month;
Neil Mulholland - three-timer at Worcester earlier today.

The listed hurdle at 2.15 looks very difficult.

John Ferguson's Mijhaar is priced up favourite but in the past he hasn't been the most consistent.

A couple of 'old friends' (I use that term advisedly) try their luck again.

Peter Bowen has declared Dineur in this hurdle (rating 126) rather than the following handicap chase where he was set to run off 134. He's a talented individual but this is his first run for over a year and his first run in a hurdle for over two...

I tipped Solaras Exhibition as an each-way outsider for this race last year but he ran an absolute stinker; in the past he was described as a 'lively outsider' for the Fred Winter at Cheltenham but he's not one to trust implicitly.

Purple 'N 'Gold narrowly failed to bring home the bacon when carrying my money three weeks ago but he has failed again since and looks up against it.

The listed handicap chase at 2.50 isn't any easier but Rum And Butter is a young horse with time on his side. He failed to show in the Galway Plate in July and lacks chase experience compared to some in this field but he has won around here before.

McCoy prefers Dursey Sound so Rum And Butter can be no more than a speculative each-way suggestion, priced up at 14/1 this evening.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Back in training...

Having been sent out to grass over the summer, I've only recently 'come back in' and as result will need  a few more weeks before coming to hand...

At a Warwick midweek meeting last March Nicky Henderson's mare Polly Peachum caught my eye while King's Tempest claimed the concluding bumper for the Twiston-Davies operation; both will be of interest when they re-appear.

Since then Warwick has held its final Flat meeting (Bank Holiday Monday, August 25th) as the course pursues its aim of becoming 'a top quality small jumps course.'

A few miles down the road Towcester has sold off seven of its NH fixtures deeming the decision  to diversify into greyhound racing a commercial necessity.

And Peddlers Cross, the 2011 Champion Hurdle runner-up, has been retired.

At Stratford tomorrow I'm tempted to chance David Pipe's Purple 'n Gold in the 3.55 provided the tissue price of 5/1 is available on the day. This one was beaten by Roman Flight over course and distance in May but held every chance before making a mess of the last. Although racing from out of the handicap here, at the weights he holds a chance of reversing the form and jockey Kieron Edgar claims five.

That said, having just returned from the summer vacation, I'm racing some way off the pace.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Market Rasen Summer Plate 2014

This race, one of the highlights of the summer jumping programme, is a regular target of Peter Bowen; the Welsh handler boasts a decent record in the race but hasn't won any of the past five renewals.

This year Jonjo O'Neill saddles four - Lost legend, It's A Gimme, Dursey Sound and course and distance winner The Nephew.

McCoy has chosen It's A Gimme but has previously won on each of the three stablemates so the champion jockey should certainly know what's required.

Of the Bowen pair Lamboro Lad was well beaten behind The Romford Pele last time (Pantxoa pulled up) while previously he found Guess Again too good at Perth; Book'Em Danno, racing in a first-time tongue-tie, beat Grandads Horse over course and distance last month and probably holds the better chance.

I note that six of the fifteen strong field have the form comment 'made [virtually] all' recorded for a recent race (Kie, Pantxoa, Guess Again, Creevytennant, The Nephew and Woodbank) and Book'Em Danno also likes to race with the pace, all of which suggests it could be cut-throat up front; good fencing will be at a premium.

The weather is likely to prove problematic as well with sporadic torrential downpours forecast - it's difficult to know exactly how the ground will ride.

Guess Again hasn't always been the most fluent of jumpers but he's a tough customer who has won over further and won't be inconvenienced by any rain that falls. At the prices this evening (10/1 BetVictor) he looks a reasonable value each-way play.

Friday, July 04, 2014

World Cup wagers - update

Following on from my last post, with all the group stage matches now completed, I have been asked to provide updated figures for the predictions made by Nicolas Scelles and his research team at the University of Stirling.

So, here goes...

The correct score prices quoted were the best available as shown on the Oddschecker site on Wednesday-Thursday 11-12 June, before a ball had been kicked in the competition.

Interestingly, in the correct score markets Ladbrokes were best or joint-best priced on 31 of the 48 matches (64.58%) while BetVictor were best or joint-best priced on 12 of the 48 matches (25%).

Six correct scorelines were predicted from the 48 group games as shown below:

Chile 3 Australia 1 - 15/1 BetVictor

Ivory Coast 2 Japan 1 - 11/1 Ladbrokes

Argentina 2 Bosnia-Herzegovina 1 - 17/2 Ladbrokes

Ghana 1 USA 2 - 12/1 Ladbrokes

Australia 0 Spain 3 - 13/2 Paddy Power

Portugal 2 Ghana 1 - 8/1 Ladbrokes / BetVictor

Figures to nominal £1 bet per match:

Win strike-rate:  6/48 - 12.5%

Outlay: £48.00

Return: £67.00

Profit: £19.00

Profit as % of turnover: 39.58%

Monday, June 16, 2014

World Cup wagers?

For the first time in many years I've had to forgo Royal Ascot form study.

The World Cup has proved a distraction, particualry the article entitled 'Prediction' compiled by researchers at the University of Strirling and published on The Scorecard website.

Bravely, the team at Stirling has predicted correct score outcomes for all matches at the 2014 World Cup.

As an exercise, using Oddschecker as the comparison tool, I noted the best prices in correct scores markets for the 48 scheduled group games before a ball had been kicked in the competition.

At the time of writing the team has predicted three correct scores from eleven completed games:

Chile 3 Australia 1  (15/1 BetVictor)
Ivory Coast 2 Japan 1 (11/1 Ladbrokes)
Argentina 2 Bosnia 1 (17/2 Ladbrokes)

A nominal £1.00 correct score wager on each of the completed games to date shows a healthy-looking profit of £25.50 on £11 staked.

Of course, as always, past results are not necessarily a guide to future performance...    

Friday, June 06, 2014

Epsom Derby 2014

I usually indulge myself by taking a small interest in the Epsom Derby although my record in the race is thoroughly abysmal.

Tomorrow's renewal is a one horse affair according to layers who bet 7/1 the field bar favourite and form choice Australia, priced up at 6/4. Ruler Of The World was the biggest priced winner in the past decade when returned at odds of 7/1 last year.

The going is reported to be drying out but rain is forecast; I've used the Dante form to try and identify some each-way value. At York The Grey Gatsby beat Arod and True Story and was then turned out 17 days later to take the Prix Du Jockey Club at Chantilly.

True Story looked held when hampered a furlong from home in the Dante; several commentators felt he didn't give his true running that day and can reverse placings with second Arod who was staying on at the end. Fallon is bullish enough about True Story's chance in the Weekender while Aron's pilot Jamie Spencer would probably prefer the rain to stay away.

This evening BetVictor bet 18/1 Arod and 12/1 True Story; I'll support True Story each-way should any rain get into the ground, otherwise I'll chance Arod (each-way) - on Timeform ratings True Story is second and Aron fourth best of the sixteen runners in the field.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Some jumping links for Saturday's cards

Pressed for time, so rather brief notes this evening...

Dual purpose handler Ian Williams has some interesting runners around the country tomorrow.

At Chester Swinging Hawk tries to repeat last year's victory in the Kozel Handicap at 4.15; he faces a stiff enough task off a rating six pounds higher. Swnymor, ninth behind runaway winner Our Conor in the 2013 Triumph Hurdle, has his first run for J. J. Quinn in the same race.    

Gifted Leader is getting on a bit these days but took a Class 3 Market Rasen hurdle with the minimum of fuss off a mark of 120 last month. Rated 82 on the Flat he makes some appeal as an each-way wager in Newmarket's 5.15 and George Downing can claim five but 10/1 isn't particularly generous. The gelding finished second behind Veiled in the 2011 running of this race; Veiled went on to win the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot that year.

Williams saddles two at Stratford's evening meeting. Sonofagun arrives in good form to contest the Severn Cider Handicap Chase at 7.25 while the consistent Fredo, entered in the three and a half mile handicap chase at 6.25, should be thereabouts.

Five Star Wilsham did the blog a favour at Ffos Las last week and goes again in that 6.25 race; trainer Twiston-Davies certainly isn't letting the grass grow... With the benefit of hindsight, the gelding was well in that day and has been raised seven pounds for his trouble; this looks much more competitive but likely favourite Oscarslad is taking on seasoned handicappers here and makes a market which contains several credible winners.

I'm going to stay loyal to Five Star Wilsham who holds a better chance of conceding weight all round on drying ground and should certainly see out the trip.    

Friday, May 23, 2014

From a £15 million jackpot to Ffos Las

The total for this week's Scoop6 pool is predcited to pass the £15 million mark...

With the benefit of hindsight, last week's pot (4,696,960 different winning combinations) was eminently more winnable than this week's puzzle (9,424,800 combinations).

Rain is predicted for Haydock - the odd non-runner here and there may reduce that rather large number by the odd million or so but we're still talking big numbers.

All this week's races will be run over a distance of eight furlongs or less; for those interested, the races are:

2.05 Haydock 
2.50 Catterick
2.55 Goodwood
3.10 Haydock
3.25 Catterick
3.45 Haydock

There's no £15 million jackpot up for grabs at Ffos Las but the rain has certainly arrived at the Welsh track where the going is described as soft; the handicap chase at 7.40 looks more open than some of the other fare on offer.

Top weight Smadynium, trying this trip for the first time, isn't guaranteed to stay while at the other end of the handicap Tough Talkin Man has been allocated the bare minimum and amateur Mr S P Bowen claims a further seven pounds - the Bowen yard has sent out four winners in the past week. Whispering Jack won this last year (Sir Mattie beaten 16 lengths) but hasn't been in good form of late. By contrast Sir Mattie ran well for a long way here the last day on his first appearance for the best part of a year. Five Star Wilsham has his second run for the Twiston-Davies yard and boasts some interesting pieces of form; that said he has failed to complete in his last three chase starts.

Both Sir Mattie and Five Star Wilsham are priced up at around 5/1 in the tissue; of that pairing, the latter looks to offer slightly better value and so makes more appeal - it's the jumping that's the worry.       

Friday, May 16, 2014

No Scoop6 for me - it's Bangor-on-Dee...

The Scoop6 hasn't been won since March and the result is there's an estimated £10 million in the pot.

With no more than 15 runners in any of tomorrow's six races, the chances are there will be at least one winning ticket.

I've no doubt the syndicates have already started work on their permutations...

According to my back-of-a-fag packet maths, there are only 4,656,960 potential winning combinations. The wager certainly delivers more excitement than a lottery ticket and, on this occasion, represents better value too.

For those interested in taking part, all you have to do is pick the winners of the following races:

1.45 Newmarket
2.40 Newbury (understatedly named the Betfred Astronomical 10 Million Scoop6 Today Handicap)
2.55 Newmarket
3.25 Thirsk
3.30 Newmarket
4.00 Thirsk

If you're tempted, good luck!

I've set my sights considerably lower by looking briefly at Bangor-on-Dee's jumps card.

Alan King's Grumeti, eighth behind Jezki in the Champion Hurdle two months ago, makes his chase debut in the opener. He'll be long odds-on but didn't hurdle that well at Cheltenham or at Aintree over a half mile further the last day. Back in September I fancied Solaras Exhibition at a price for a listed event at Market Rasen but he disappointed on that occasion. Tim Vaughan's charge will appreciate quicker ground - he may not have the class of Grumeti but I'll watch his jumping with a view to the summer months ahead.

Warren Greatrex is in fine form with 5 wins from 11 runs this month, all ridden by last season's leading conditional Gavin Sheehan.

Later tonight Aidan Coleman teams up with Warrantor for the handler in Aintree's concluding bumper while Sheehan is booked for Wojciech in Bangor's bumper tomorrow. That one faces stiff opposition from the likes of Quiet Candid (Nicky Henderson), Whatdoesthefoxsay (Donald McCain) and Belle De Londres (Alan King).

Whatdoesthefoxsay would appeal as a value play against Henderson's Quiet Candid if the tissue price of 3/1 is available on the day.

McCoy also rides Chalk It Down (for Greatrex) in the 3.40 but this looks an open event. I'm tempted to take an each-way chance with McCain's Ballybriggan provided the price is in double figures.

At the age of ten this one is no spring chicken and he doesn't appear to have had much fun over the larger obstacles recently. That said, he doesn't have too many miles on the clock and comes here freshened up - his record over hurdles reads 4 wins from 11 runs while conditional Nick Slatter takes a handy-looking seven pounds off his back.

Friday, May 02, 2014

A review of the 2013/14 jumps season

Champion jockey: A P McCoy
Champion trainer: Paul Nicholls
Winning owner: J P McManus
Leading conditional rider: Gavin Sheehan

This time last year Nicky Henderson was long odds-on to retain the trainers' title but last year's Arkle winner Simonsig missed the entire season while stable star Sprinter Sacre, pulled up on his seasonal debut in Kempton's Desert Orchid Chase, was found to have an irregular heartbeat. Later the problem was reported to have 'righted itself' but the gelding hasn't raced in public since.

As is so often the case in racing, it's an ill wind... Sire De Grugy stepped up to win six of his seven starts including Cheltenham's Queen Mother Champion Chase; Gary Moore's charge was named jumps Horse of the Year.

Riding at Towcester on Thursday November 7th McCoy recorded his 4,000th win aboard a horse called Mountain Tunes and two days later Richie McLernon rode Johns Spirit to victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

A week on and any lingering doubts about Cue Card's ability to stay three miles appeared to have been answered as Joe Tizzard made all to claim Haydock's Betfair Chase, with Dynaste, Silviniaco Conti and Gold Cup holder Bobs Worth all well beaten. At Kempton on Boxing Day Colin Tizzard's stable star looked set to confirm that form in the King George but in heart-breaking fashion Cue Card ran out of petrol in the home straight and was outstayed by Silviniaco Conti.

Cue Card missed the remainder of the season through injury while regular pilot Joe Tizzard later announced his retirement from race-riding.

At that same Kempton meeting My Tent Or Yours pipped The New One in the Christmas Hurdle - both horses set their sights on the Champion in March. A vintage renewal saw Jezki claim the crown holding McCoy's mount My Tent Or Yours a neck with The New One third.

The bare result only tells half the story. The New One was badly hampered after Our Conor fell fatally at the third but he still finished like a train while McCoy had had the choice between the first two but chose the wrong one.

That evening the champ will have been cursing his luck and his mood will have turned darker still two days later when he finished third in the World Hurdle on At Fishers Cross; emphatic winner More of That was another McCoy had rejected - on both occasions Barry Geraghty was the fortunate beneficiary.

Geraghty was aboard market leader and clear form choice Bobs Worth in Friday's Gold Cup but the race went the way of Lord Windermere (20/1) who held On His Own (16/1) a short head at the line with The Giant Bolster (14/1) threequarters of a length adrift in third.

Dr Richard Newland doesn't train for a living but that fact didn't stop his Pineau De Re coming home five lengths clear in the Aintree Grand National at odds of 25/1; Peter Bowen's Al Co (40/1) claimed the Scottish version while Richard Lee recorded a win for the home side with Mountainous in the Welsh version.

Daryl Jacob experienced mixed fortunes as Paul Nicholls' stable jockey; eyebrows were raised when he knocked back the ride on the legend Big Buck's...

Distraught at being beaten a nose by Richard Johnson in the Pertemps Network Final at the Festival, the next day Jacob rode Lac Fontana to victory in the County Hurdle but before the very next race suffered horrific injuries when Port Mellon spooked, broke through a rail and dumped him on a concrete hard-standing.

In stark contrast Sam Twiston-Davies recorded a total of 115 winners and saw his stock rise in meteoric fashion; he has just been appointed Paul Nicholls' stable jockey while Jacob has chosen to go freelance.

Finally a word for Jason Maguire who finished third in the jockeys' championship (130 winners) despite missing the final six weeks of the season after suffering life-threatening injuries in a fall from Scots Gaelic at Stratford on the eve of the Festival.

As trainer Donald McCain pointed out - it puts it all into perspective, doesn't it?

Friday, April 25, 2014

bet365 Gold Cup 2014

The curtain falls on the 2013/4 National Hunt season at Sandown tomorrow with the highlight the bet365 Gold Cup due off at 3.50. Twenty have been declared with the going likely to ride soft following today's persistent rain.

In the past decade three winners have carried more than 11 stones to victory - Puntal (2004), Lacdoudal (2006) and Tidal Bay (2012).

Five of the field took part in the Scottish Grand National a fortnight ago - Godsmejudge (second), Summery Justice (fifth), Midnight Appeal (fell) with both Roalco Des Farges and Rigadin De Beauchene pulled up. I tipped the last-named for the Ayr showpiece but his jumping was poor that day; the rain will help the cause tomorrow but fencing is always at a premium here. Godsmejudge showed improved form to finish second but that was just two short weeks ago and this race may have come a shade too quickly.

Rose Of The Moon, Twirling Magnet and Burton Port all fell in the Aintree Grand National, the last two at the first and second obstacles respectively, so they'll come to this fresher than some.

Same Difference, well behind Spring Heeled at the Festival, was second in this race last year while Hadrian's Approach was fifth. That was a fine effort from Nicky Henderson's gelding at the tender age of six and one year on I'll take a small each-way interest (14/1 in places) hoping Barry Geraghty can squeeze out some further improvement; recent seven-year-old winners include Beau (2000), Ad Hoc (2001) and Lacdoudal (2006).

Champion chaser Sire De Grugy will be long odds-on for the Celebration Chase at 3.15. There's a fair chance Australia Day won't make it to the start if the ground comes up particularly soft which will leave just seven in the field and as a result snag any potential each-way betting opportunity...

Had the rain not arrived, Polly Peachum, named after a character in The Beggar's Opera and owned by Lady Tennant, would have been of considerable interest in the listed hurdle at 4.25. I saw the mare win in emphatic style at Warwick some five weeks ago and she has come out since to display a turn of foot and land a competitive listed hurdle at Cheltenham. I fear the easy going is likely to blunt that turn of foot.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter presents?

Earlier today Viewpoint went into the history books as the first horse to win a race in this country on Good Friday; jockey Cam Hardie steered Richard Hannon's inmate to victory in the opener at Lingfield, in the process recording his first win for the handler.

There are fixtures aplenty on Easter Saturday but finding a wager that makes some appeal hasn't proved particularly easy.

This weekend I was hoping Nigel Twiston-Davies would let King's Tempest, withdrawn at Exeter earlier in the week, take his chance in Sunday's bumper at Towcester but the horse hasn't make the final declaration stage.

I saw this one, still an entire, win at Warwick last month after which the handler said:

'He's as big as any horse we've got and hopefully he's as good. We've been excited since day one with him and he's a lovely horse for the future. I'd love to say we'd go to Aintree with him but it's all about the future and we might look for a similar race as today before putting him away.'

The same yard saddles Blaklion in the concluding bumper at Haydock tomorrow. This point winner trounced his field at Ffos Las three weeks ago and rates a decent hurdles prospect. He won't have things all his own way with Donald McCain's Degooch an interesting opponent - I'm not tempted.

Earlier on the same Haydock card Twiston-Davies runs Red Rocco in the Tim Moloney Handicap Chase (3.50) over three and a half miles. On the face of it Red Rocco hasn't had the best of seasons but on his penultimate start he looked booked for second behind Rigadin De Beauchene in the Grand National Trial at this track before coming to grief at the final flight. Bennys Well is likely to make a bold bid from the front and Red Rocco is another who likes to race from the front; with just six in the field the front-runners could well set the race up for one from behind but Haydock suits those that sit handy. Tactics will be all-important but at the prices (9/2) I'll chance Red Rocco shows us some more of his improved form...

The going is good, good to firm in places at Newton Abbot where they're likely to go lickety-split in the two mile handicap chase at 3.55. Novice Sonofagun is the bookies' favourite on the back of two recent wins but he's taking on some smart rivals... Oiseau De Nuit, Changing The Guard and Shooters Wood were all unplaced in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham last month. The first-named finished four lengths second to the champion two-mile chaser Sire De Grugy in December while course and distance winner Changing The Guard is weighted to reverse placings with the favourite on their recent Ludlow meeting.

Identifying a vulnerable favourite is only half the battle and this looks a particularly trappy event but I'm swayed by winning course form at this tight track - Changing The Guard (7/2) gets the nod.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Scottish Grand National day 2014

If Scotland were to vote for independence in September, I wonder what effect, if any, that might have on this particular fixture...

Seven days after the English Grand National at Aintree, thirty runners set off over the slightly shorter trip of four miles and 110 yards in the Scottish version at Ayr.

Tidal Bay looked unfortunate when unseating Sam Twiston-Davies at the Canal Turn last week but then went on to wreak havoc by carrying out Across The Bay on the stable turn when that one was some six lengths to the good over his field.

Tidal Bay stands his ground for tomorrow's showpiece with the result that just ten of his opponents are set to carry their allotted handicap weight, including stablemate Sam Winner, fifth in the RSA Chase last month - make of that what you will.

Peter Bowen has four runners while Alan King is one of several trainers saddling two - last year's winner Godsmejudge is on a comeback mission but the handler appears quietly confident about the chance of Midnight Appeal in the Weekender saying '... this has been the plan for some time.'

There are tips aplenty for Trustan Times but I'll take an each-way interest in Rigadin De Beauchene provided the ground doesn't dry out too much. He was pulled up last year but this time turns up fresher than most having won the Haydock National Trial on his seasonal debut; he's generally available at 20/1.

In the Scottish Champion Hurdle (2.40) seven pound claimer Mikey Ennis negates much of the overweight Swing Bowler was set to carry as a result of the race conditions. The mare led two from home but didn't quite see out the climb up the Sandown hill in the Imperial Cup; against the likes of My Tent Or Yours and Montbazon she rates a sporting each-way play at 33/1.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Aintree Grand National 2014

This race has thrown up some big-priced winners in recent years including Silver Birch at 33/1 (2007), Mon Mome, much to my embarrassment backed by the mother-in-law at 100/1 (2009), Neptune Collonges at 33/1 (2012) and Auroras Encore at 66/1 last year.

The stats suggest the winner will be aged between nine and twelve years old. I tend to prefer horses that have shown form over these unique fences in the past and have less than 11 stones to carry over the marathon trip of four miles three furlongs and 110 yards.

1. Balthazar King
The consensus view was that jockey Richard Johnson was overly aggressive at the head of affairs in last year's renewal, the horse fading to come home 15th. The yard has been in fine form this season and the better ground is sure to suit.

2. Teaforthree
Third last year and every chance this time racing off a mark two pounds lower.

3. Chance Du Roy
Won the Becher over these fences in December and has a nice weight here; decent effort in a listed Ascot handicap last time - 33/1 generally.

4. Swing Bill
Unlikely to win at thirteen years of age but was sixth last year - has finished in the first six on four occasions over the course. Coral offer 80/1 (four places), Betfred 66/1 (six places) - looks reasonable each-way value for the horse set to carry bottom weight and trained with this in mind.

Others worth a second look include Burton Port who is well handicapped and hinted at a return to form last time as well as The Rainbow Hunter who isn't overly big but should have a sniff if the jumping holds out. I tipped Triolo D'Alene each-way for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but he was somewhat disappointing there; that was his first run following a lay-off and afterwards Nicky Henderson described the horse as 'very stuffy'. He should improve for that run and will appreciate the ground but has his fair share of weight.

Good luck!       

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Aintree 2014 - Friday is Ladies' Day

The Melling Chase (3.05) doesn't look up to its usual standard.

Module is priced up favourite in the tissue but has never won over the trip. At the age of 11 Wishfull Thinking is no spring chicken but on official ratings he is the best horse in the race; he has four pounds in hand over Rajdhani Express who finished third behind Dynaste in the Ryanair after a lengthy break.

Previous course and distance winner Wishfull Thinking (7/1 in places) is a tentative selection in an open contest.

I'm a fan of Killala Quay (4.15). He ran a stormer to finish fourth in the Neptune but there's little value in his price for this contest. Instead I'm going out on a limb and taking an each-way interest in The Last Samuri (20/1 at the time of writing); Donald McCain's charge will certainly stay the trip.

Form choice Josses Hill may not offer much value in the opener (2.00) but the Mildmay Novices' Chase (2.30) looks a tad closer than the betting might imply. Better ground will suit RSA winner O'faolains Boy but this speed track may not. Wonderful Charm didn't appear to stay three miles when behind Solwhit in last year's World Hurdle so a chance is taken with Holywell who won the handicap chase on the opening day at Cheltenham.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Aintree 2014 - Thursday

Three weeks after Cheltenham it's Aintree - the trickiest meeting of the season in my book.

Very brief notes...

In the Aintree Hurdle (3.05) The New One is the one to beat and he'll be long odds-on. Badly hampered by the fatal fall of Our Conor in the Champion Hurdle he finished like a train in third, beaten a neck and two and a half lengths; the step up in trip will suit.

Dynaste is priced up favourite for the Betfred Bowl at 2.30. He won the Mildmay Novices' Chase over course and distance last year and took the Ryanair at the Festival, even though he looked to have plenty to do three from home. Silviniaco Conti had his market rival well beaten in the King George at Kempton over Christmas but Dynaste was found to be wrong that day; Silviniaco appeared to have a hard enough race when finishing fourth in the Gold Cup. The Nicholls yard recorded just one winner at Cheltenham (Lac Fontana in the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle) and has only managed to add two more to the total since... Course and distance winner First Lieutenant missed Cheltenham and as a consequence could have the edge over his main rivals. A trappy event I'll watch from the sidelines.

Looking at the novice chase at 4.50.... Western Warhorse beat Dodging Bullets in the Arkle while Uxiandre ran a huge race at 33/1 to finish second to Taquin Du Seill in the JLT Novices' Chase, a race in which Oscar Whisky fell at the very first flight. As a consequence Oscar Whisky should be fresher than those rivals and has won over course and distance previously so Nicky Henderson's charge gets the vote.              

Friday, March 28, 2014

Two low-key jumpers

The Flat takes centre stage this weekend with big meetings at Doncaster and Dubai, while Stratford and Uttoxeter offer more humble fare over the sticks.

Two jumpers caught my passing interest, both declared to run at Warwick a week last Wednesday but both withdrawn, possibly on account of quicker ground.

Prouts Pub (Stratford 1.55) had previously won a bumper on the all-weather at Lingfield. He has his first run for Nick Gifford who has sent out three winners from just 10 runners this month. Likely favourite Massena sets a reasonable standard off a mark of 128 but was beaten at Taunton on Monday.

Miss Lucky Penny (Uttoxeter 3.55) was withdrawn from the mares' handicap hurdle won impressively by Polly Peachum. Previously she had been beaten threequarters of a length by Wily Fox on her handicap debut at Warwick and connections have decided to have another go - Will Kennedy replaces five pound claimer R J McCarth in the saddle. At the weights there's little between the pair but I'm guessing Miss Lucky Penny will be ridden closer to the pace this time...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Polly, Molly and the Midnight Lights...

A couple of months back I managed to bag myself a couple of free tickets to Warwick races; I asked my youngest offspring if she cared to accompany me to their final jumps meeting of the season on Wednesday and she answered in the affirmative.

A spot of lunch in the Zetland Arms, washed down with a selection of our favourite beverages, was followed by a short stroll to the course just in time for the opener.

Warwick (something of a favourites' course? Five out of seven obliged on this card...) hasn't been particularly kind over the years but the night before I thought I'd winkled out something to have a bet on in the shape of Polly Peachum in the mares' handicap hurdle. The Racing Post tissue said 7/1 but unfortunately Kevin Morley ran a piece in sister publication RP Weekender on the Wednesday morning which highlighted her chance.

In the paddock beforehand Polly took a particularly keen interest in the spectators who reciprocated that interest by backing her in to 3/1 favourite.

Out on the track she appreciated the better ground (good to firm in places) and scooted up the home straight to win unchallenged by some 14 lengths. With a mares' listed handicap already to her name, she was entitled to win this Class 4 event as she did; the time however was slower than the opening maiden hurdle.

All of which led me to take a closer look at the mares' listed race at Newbury tomorrow (2.55).

Top weight Toubeera stands her ground but has to give at least 13 pounds to her field; the bottom six race off a mark higher than their long handicap rating (although in some instances this is negated by a conditional jockey's claim).

In the past decade a five or six year old has taken the spoils on nine occasions while three trainers boast a decent recent record (or perhaps I should say a recent decent record) - Nicky Henderson, Oliver Sherwood and Alan King.

Henderson saddles Polly Peachum's stablemate Free Thinking. This one was beaten by Molly's A Diva in a Sandown bumper on heavy ground last year but Molly finished well behind Alan King's Midnight Cataria over three miles at Ludlow the last day.

King's other runner The Pirate Queen held Oliver Sherwood's Luci Di Mezzanotte (pig Latin / Italian translation: Midnight Lights) a head in a Taunton bumper last year; the last day Luci finished fourth, seven lengths adrift of Toubeera in third, over three miles at Doncaster and is weighted to turn that form around. Previously she was beaten 19 lengths by Woodland Walk, second to Polly Peachum in Wednesday's race.

Polly, Molly and the Midnight Lights, and I haven't even managed to mention Lily, Joanne or Mrs Peachey yet - it's all a trifle confusing...

The Sporting Life tips up Luci Di Mezzanotte and that tip reminded me the mare was on my radar last year.

At 20/1 Luci Di Mezzanotte is the each-way selection in Newbury's 2.55.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cheltenham Festival 2014 - betting debrief

A little self-depreciation, it's good for the soul - here's a record of the blog's highlighted selections to returned SPs over the four days of the Festival...

Tuesday                                                    RET
My Tent Or Yours   2nd    3/1    1pt WIN  0.00
Vaniteux                  3rd   11/1   0.5pt EW 1.88

Red Sherlock           9th     7/2   1pt WIN  0.00
Sam Winner             5th   12/1  0.5pt EW  0.00
Captain Conan        PU    7/2    1pt WIN  0.00

Dynaste                   1st    3/1    1pt WIN   4.00
Reve De Sivola        8th  33/1   0.5pt EW  0.00

Kings Palace           F     5/2      1pt WIN  0.00
Triolo D'Alene       10th  10/1   0.5pt EW 0.00

Total outlay: 9.00 pts
Total return:  5.88pts
Profit / loss: -3.12pts
Win strike rate: 11.11%
Loss as % of turnover: 34.67%

I harbour no plans of giving up the day job and, of course, I'll be doing it all again next year...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cheltenham Festival 2014 - Friday

Fourteen are set to face the starter in tomorrow's Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.20), the highlight of the week.

On ratings last year's winner Bobs Worth has three pounds in hand over Silviniaco Conti, ten pounds over Last Instalment and more over the remainder of the field. Nicky Henderson's charge was beaten the best part of 40 lengths behind Cue Card on his seasonal debut in Haydock's Betfair Chase but bounced back to form to take the Lexus at Leopardstown. He remains unbeaten at Cheltenham in five runs.

In a TV interview Ruby Walsh told viewers that if the ground stays good, Bobs Worth wins, a reference to the fact that Silviniaco's chance would be better served by more cut underfoot. Bobs Worth looks the most likely winner but at around 2/1 Bobs Worth isn't worth a bet in my book and, to be honest, I'm struggling to find an each-way alternative at a price that makes some appeal.

McCoy has already given away the winners of the Champion Hurdle and the World Hurdle so far this week. In this race perhaps we shouldn't read too much into the fact he was released from the ride on Teaforthree by trainer Rebecca Curtis and has been snapped up by Nicky Henderson to steer the Hennessy winner Triolo D'Alene. This one worked well recently and still holds a Grand National entry... 20/1 for the Aintree showpiece next month, he's as low as 8/1 with Ladbrokes for this yet is rated some 22 pounds inferior to his stablemate.

Over the years The Giant Bolster has done this blog a good turn or two; on his day he's a talented individual (finished second at odds of 50/1 in the 2012 renewal) and he obliged nicely the last day but he's quirky and you can never be certain he'll turn up in the right mood. Tom Scudamore gets the best results but the jumping, fragile on occasions, could be shown up on quicker ground.

Triolo D'Alene (12/1 Paddy Power / bet365) is the best each-way shot I can come up with. At seven years of age there may be improvement to come and he'll certainly appreciate good ground.

The Albert Bartlett (2.40) is intriguing.

Briar Hill from Willie Mullins' yard puts his unbeaten record on the line; unsurprisingly he's a short price to emulate stablemates Vautour and Faugheen by coming home first in a novices' hurdle. The challenge from this side of the Irish Sea is headed by David Pipe's course and distance winner Kings Palace, Challow Hurdle winner Captain Cutter and Deputy Dan. The last-named took the Leamington Novices' Hurdle at Warwick in January but that day Mullins' Rathvinden (third in the Neptune on Wednesday) fell when well in contention and Killala Quay pulled up (subsequently fourth in the Neptune) which detracts a little from the form.

Quoting Mullins from the Weekender (5th March): 'He has to be one of our better hopes for the week.'

That said, on official ratings Kings Palace has nine pounds and upwards in hand over his field.

I've had my fingers burned earlier in the week opposing a Mullins hotpot (Faugheen) with a Pipe horse (Red Sherlock) but at the prices Kings Palace (7/2) is my play against the favourite while Captain Cutter's chance is respected.

And on the final day it's all to play for in the race for top rider with Walsh, Geraghty and Scudamore on three winners apiece...   

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cheltenham Festival 2014 - Thursday

The tips may have fallen by the wayside but one thing I did predict last night has come to pass - the price of my RP Weekender has gone up...

The aforementioned publication bills tomorrow's World Hurdle (3.20) an 'epic battle' between Annie Power and Big Buck's yet Annie Power has never raced over this trip while at the age of eleven, Big Buck's may not be as good as he once was. There are some fancy prices around - Celestial Halo, two and a half lengths second behind last year's winner Solwhit, is 25/1 while Reve De Sivola, fourth in the same race, is quoted at 33/1. Essentially that's because last year's race was run on heavy while this year the official going is currently described as 'good to soft' but is likely to ride quicker than that. Before this year's Cleeve Hurdle jockey Richard Johnson hinted Reve De Sivola had lost his chance in this event last year by having a hard race in the Cleeve so connections have been cute enough to make the necessary adjustments this time around.

The ground has gone against the horse but Reve De Sivola has done this blog a favour or two in the past and 33/1 (bet365) is just too big and too tempting...

For the brave only, Reve De Sivola is an each-way suggestion.

More Of That has been touted in a few quarters as a more circumspect each-way wager; that's certainly the case but the gelding isn't certain to stay the trip and was passed over by McCoy (favours At Fishers Cross) on the back of those doubts.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a report that Daryl Jacob had put up Al Ferof as his banker at the meeting. The Ryanair (2.40) will be no walk in the park with Benefficient and Dynaste, first and second in last year's Jewson, amongst the opponents. Dynaste disappointed badly when sent off 100/30 joint favourite for the King George at Kempton but he was found to be wrong that day and has had treatment on some pulled back muscles. If Dynaste is back to his best he looks the most likely winner; quoting David Pipe in the Weekender: '... he worked very well last Thursday - and in that case he will take some beating in the Ryanair Chase.'

On the back of that comment Dynaste gets the nod.

I haven't looked at the opener, the JLT Novices' Chase at 1.30, in any great detail but on ratings Oscar Whisky, a previous course and distance winner, is certainly worth a second glance - he's marked up at 6/1 with most bookmakers.                

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cheltenham Festival 2014 - Wednesday

At 5/2 Sire De Grugy heads the market for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at 3.20.

That's a short enough price about a horse that has been beaten on his two previous runs at the track (by Captain Conan in November 2012 and Kid Cassidy a year later), would prefer more cut underfoot and is probably better racing right-handed. Had Sprinter Sacre been in the line-up, Sire De Grugy wouldn't be running but that comment applies to a few in the field.

Captain Conan probably needed the outing when third to Sire De Grugy in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December but he hasn't been seen since; it's a worry he comes to this without a recent run. Kid Cassidy was receiving ten pounds when beating Sire De Grugy three and a quarter lengths in the Schloer Chase; the favourite looks weighted to reverse that form.

Just three favourites have obliged in the past decade and only one horse older than nine has won in the same timeframe, the great Moscow Flyer in 2005.

Somersby seems to have been around forever but is just ten years old and has been in decent form this term, winning the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter before finishing four lengths behind Sire De Grugy in the Tingle Creek. He unseated Dominic Elsworth in this race last year, a trick he repeated the last day at Ascot. Hardly an ideal preparation but you might say that is factored into a quote of 16/1...

I'll chance that Nicky Henderson has Captain Conan back to his best; both Coral and William Hill offer 5/1 this evening.

The RSA (2.05) has a decidedly open look to it with many of the fancied runners bringing relatively little chasing experience to the table - two or three runs in smallish fields is a comment that applies to  Ballycasey, Corrin Wood, Morning Assembly, Smad Place, Sam Winner and Le Bec.

You certainly cannot say the same about Carlingford Lough who won the Galway Plate last July and came home second in the Kerry National at Listowel in the autumn; he looked unfortunate to unseat last time in a race won by Ballycasey. The bigger prices have disappeared now though and only one eight year old has come home first in the past decade - Rule Supreme in 2004.

With the ground drying out, I'll take an each-way interest in Sam Winner (14/1 Coral).

In the past couple of weeks TheTimes' Andy Stephens has attended a few Festival Preview Nights in the company of Patrick Mullins, son of trainer Willie. Patrick is quoted in today's paper as saying: 'Faugheen is much better than Rathvinden...'

Faugheen is the top-rated animal in the Neptune at 1.30 but has been the subject of a couple of negative vibes here and there in the build-up while Red Sherlock beat Rathvinden two and half lengths in receipt of three pounds the last day. I was impressed with Red Sherlock then and will stay loyal to David Pipe's charge. A much-improved performance from Charlie Longsdon's Killala Quay is expected while Nicky Henderson's Royal Boy has been paid a compliment by stablemate Josses Hill (previously beaten 22 lengths by Faugheen in a bumper) who came home second in the Supreme earlier today.

Course and distance winner Red Sherlock (9/2 Paddy Power) gets the nod.

Finally, you know you're getting old when you see the Coral Cup entries headed by Dunguib at the ripe old age of eleven. It seems only yesterday he won the bumper by an astonishing ten lengths but all that happened way back in 2009...

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cheltenham Festival 2014 - Tuesday

The highlight on the opening day is a vintage renewal of the Champion Hurdle (3.20).

On official ratings Hurricane Fly has six pounds in hand over his nearest rivals. He bids to become the first ten-year-old to win since Sea Pigeon in 1980; conversely, there are relatively few miles on the clock and many will be tempted by 3/1 available in several places. The New One was beaten by My Tent Or Yours at Kempton the last day; Cheltenham's stiff uphill finish will play to his strengths but he hasn't always been the most circumspect at his hurdles. Our Conor won last year's Triumph by a staggering 15 lengths but in the past this has proved difficult for five-year-olds with just two wins recorded since 1970 - Night Nurse (1976) and Katchit (2008). My Tent Or Yours is one of three J.P. McManus owned runners - Captain Cee Bee has been supplemented and looks likely to act as pacemaker. My Tent was beaten half a length by Champagne Fever in the Supreme last year and of the principals is the only one not to have won at the course previously. A close call, as indicated by Timeform's ratings...

For me, it's between Hurricane Fly and My Tent Or Yours; I'll side with My Tent Or Yours.

The Irish boast a good record in the opener (Supreme Novices' Hurdle at 1.30) and look to have a strong hand again; on ratings Willie Mullins' Vautour is the one to beat. Nicky Henderson has had a runner placed on six occasions in the past seven years. Stable jockey Barry Geraghty prefers Vaniteux to Josses Hill - the latter underwent a tracheal wash in the week; the results have come back clean and he takes his chance with Alan Tinkler in the plate.

Vaniteux rates an each-way play at around 12/1.

I don't like to overplay on the first day but layers, keen to bolster turnover (and therefore profit), come up with more special offers than you can shake a stick at - the latest from William Hill is even money Ruby Walsh to finish the meeting top jockey.

After Tom Scudamore had ridden Baltimore Rock to victory in Sandown's Imperial Cup on Saturday, one of the Channel Four racing team pointed out that Tom Scu looked to have a decent book of rides in the week ahead (includes Red Sherlock, Kings Palace, Dynaste and Vieux Lion Rouge).

Five times in the past decade three winners has been sufficent to take the top rider prize and Walsh can no longer rely on the support of Paul Nicholls.

33/1 Tom Scudamore is a big enough price for those prepared to take the chance in a market that isn't always easy to call; of course, by this time tomorrow evening, Walsh could already have a treble in the bag...

Friday, March 07, 2014

Cheltenham Festival 2014 - early thoughts

Ten of the fourteen declared for tomorrow's Imperial Cup at Sandown hold entries in the races at next week's Cheltenham Festival; William Hill offer a bonus of £100,000 to the horse that wins the Sandown showpiece and then goes on to win any race at Cheltenham.

Many think Regal Encore shouldn't be opposed; four favourites have obliged in the past decade but the past three winners have been returned at odds of 20/1, 20/1 and 10/1.

With four days to the Festival, I'm keeping my powder dry. Here's some early thinking on selected Festival races.


Over the years my record in the opener (Supreme Novices' Hurdle 1.30) serves as little more than an egregious example of horse race tipping; for some reason this year's renewal has caught my imagination. Favourite Irving looks strong; it's worth noting all his races in this country have been on right-handed tracks. Irish runners boast a good record; Vautour has been slick at his flights to date and handler Willie Mullins states in his Weekender stable tour 'He would be one of our most exciting chances of the week...' On the lookout for some value, I thought I'd come up with something in Josses Hill. This one is priced 16/1 yet has an official rating of 148 (Irving 143); however, vibes from the Henderson stable indicate Vaniteux has made significant strides recently. I'll wait to see what Barry Geraghty chooses - the yard has had a runner placed in six of the past seven renewals.The Liquidator is another worth a second look. Paddy Power offer to return stakes on this race if your selection finishes second, third or fourth, an offer they modestly describe as 'Cheltmental'.

The Champion Hurdle winner is likely to come from Hurricane Fly, The New One, Our Conor and My Tent Or Yours. Hurricane Fly bids to become the first ten-year-old to take the crown since Sea Pigeon in 1980; the only other ten-year-old to succeed since the war was Hatton's Grace in 1950. Five-year-olds don't have a great record either; Our Conor bids to become just the third five year old to win since Night Nurse in 1976 - Katchit obliged in 2008. I feel The New One is probably better suited by further while My Tent Or Yours had a very slight setback earlier in the week but is now reported fine. At the prices currently available 5/1 My Tent Or Yours is a value play.

At the age of ten Quevega bids to win the Mares' Hurdle (4.00) for a record sixth time. She's not getting any younger but on ratings has plenty in hand over her rivals - a race to savour, perhaps,  rather than one to bet on.


Eight weeks ago I tipped Charlie Longsdon's Killala Quay in a race at Warwick; the horse ran a stinker on desperate ground and was pulled up. The trainer has since reported Killala was wrong that day and is now in much better form. The gelding goes in the Neptune (1.30) and may not be quite good enough to make a place but is overpriced at 33/1 (Skybet).

The RSA Chase (2.05) looks a very open affair. Some of the value about Carlingford Lough has disappeared and I think Corrin Wood is more likely to run in the four mile chase. Two at double-digit prices I'll look at more closely are Sam Winner (12/1) and O'faolains Boy (14/1) .The latter was on the radar but I missed him at Ascot last time; plenty will think the race was set up for him that day but Rebecca Curtis implied there was maybe a bit more to come from a horse they've held in high regard for some time. The worry would be he's probably better served by cut underfoot...

Sire De Grugy is the best horse in the Champion Chase but immediately after he was beaten by Kid Cassidy over course and distance in November connections declared Cheltenham's undulations didn't suit their charge and they would miss this race. The defection of Sprinter Sacre has forced a re-think; the gelding has been given a spin around Plumpton (!) - an undulating, left-handed track - in preparation. I still feel the favourite is at his best going the other way around; I'll look to oppose. 20/1 Somersby (rated 5lbs inferior to Sire De Grugy) looks a big each-way price.


Daryl Jacob has put up Al Ferof (Ryanair, 2.40) as his banker. He won't have things all his own way if Dynaste runs here rather than in the Gold Cup.

The World Hurdle (3.20) is intriguing. Unbeaten mare Annie Power puts her record on the line on her first attempt at this trip. Big Buck's is a legend in his own right but at the age of eleven I'm not sure whether his powers are on the wane... McCoy has chosen At Fishers Cross, a horse that has had a troubled season but appeared on the way back the last day. Reve De Sivola wants soft but is no 25/1 shot; he disappointed in the Cleeve but in a pre-race interview jockey Richard Johnson inferred that by winning that same race the previous season connections had in effect scuppered their World Hurdle chance and they weren't of a mind to repeat the same mistake this year.


...is Gold Cup day. Bobs Worth is unbeaten at Cheltenham and has won ten of his fourteen starts. Silviniaco Conti looked certain to be involved in the finish of last year's race before coming to grief three out. Champion trainer Nicky Henderson v. former champion Paul Nicholls. And this year Ireland has a creditable challenger in Last Instalment. I'll make a decision later in the week...

As always for the Festival, I'll post a blog with selected selections each evening before the following day's racing.

To conclude I'd intended to pass on a word for the appropriately-named Timesishard in Sunday's 4.10 at Market Rasen but handler Graeme McPherson decided the beast didn't want to run in that particular race so he didn't bother to declare him. Drat.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Stick or twist?

It's that time of year. I'm distracted.

Earlier today I purchased my copy of RP Weekender's Cheltenham The Ultimate Guide (just £2.99 at most good newsagents, as they used to say); I've been reading that rather than looking closely at tomorrow's form.

In addition, around this time of year you tend to come across previous losing selections that are trying their luck once again and you're faced with something of a dilemma  - should I stick or should I twist?

Two such selections from tomorrow's entries are Godsmejudge (3.30 Doncaster, previously pulled up in Sandown's London National) and Jumps Road (3.15 Newbury, previously recorded as 'never better than mid division' in the Betfair Hurdle at the same track).

Godsmejudge is one of twelve declared for the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster. The official ground is good which makes me wary of treating recent form too literally.

At the time of writing Monbeg Dude and Court By Surprise are vying for favouritism. The former is trained by Michael Scudamore, Tom's brother and son of Peter. I mention this casually in passing only because every time I see a comment from a Scudamore in the press, the subject of family seems to come up. Michael cunningly works in a mention in today's Times while Tom regularly repeated the trick when he wrote a column for the same paper a couple of years back.

I had begun to wonder whether family members had on-going wagers with each other on the matter... Enough. Monbeg Dude, like Godsmejudge, is looking to this as a warm-up for the Grand National in April.

Since 2004 there has only been one winner younger than nine years old (Cloudy Lane 2008) and only two with an official rating higher than 131 - Grey Abbey in 2004 together with the aforementioned Cloudy Lane. In the same timeframe just one favourite has obliged - Always Right in 2011.

This evening layers don't appear to agree about Donald McCain's Real Milan; bet365 offer 13/2 while William Hill go 10/1. This one looks less exposed than some in the field while the yard has been in decent form of late; the trainer expects his charge to improve for the better ground.

The doubt in my mind is I'm not certain the gelding really stays this extended three and a quarter miles. At 10/1 Real Milan is the each-way suggestion.

I haven't totally given up on Jumps Road (Newbury) but for a horse that started 33/1, 28/1 and 100/1 on his last three runs, the 6/1 on offer with Ladbrokes and Stan James this evening just doesn't look quite big enough...