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.