Thursday, December 24, 2015

Each-way value in 2015 King George?

In my opinion the best each-way value in this year's King George VI Chase at Kempton is previous winner Silviniaco Conti - 9/1 with Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill.

Happy Christmas to all readers!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle 2015

After a few Christmas beverages, I confess I haven't studied the form as closely as I should have...

Reve De Sivola bids to win Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle for the fourth consecutive time. Beaten a neck by Saphir Du Rheu in the Cleeve Hurdle last January, he meets that opponent four pounds better off here. Saphir Du Rheu is reverting to hurdles after finishing fifth in the Hennessy last month.

Connections thought Thistlecrack would need the run at Newbury three weeks ago but he still won well beating Deputy Dan six lengths. The second tries again four pounds worse at the weights having never won beyond two miles five.

Thistlecrack is open to improvement and probably the percentage call but Reve De Sivola has scored twice for the blog in this particular race; Reve De Sivola (9/2) gets the nod - further rain would help the cause.

In the Silver Cup at 3.00 I shall keep an eye on Katenko after 14 months on the sidelines. Venetia Williams' charge was second in this race in 2012 and won off this mark at Cheltenham in January 2013. Stable jockey Aidan Coleman takes the ride prefering Katenko to the apparently out-of-form Houblon Des Obeaux who came home ninth in the Hennessy last time.

Friday, December 11, 2015

A chance at Cheltenham's International meeting 2015

I'm suffering from a certain sense of deja vu with six in tomorrow's Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (Cheltenham 1.50) having competed in the Paddy Power Gold Cup four weeks ago.

Blog selection Buywise was a fast-finishing second to Annacotty that day but I'm not tempted to revisit the form. Tomorrow's race is run over the new (rather than old) course - five of the first six were separated by less than seven lengths last time.

Instead the Albert Bartlett at 2.25 has caught my attention.

Hot favourite Unowhatimeanharry is potentially vulnerable having been pulled up on his only previous effort beyond two miles five; I note no horse older than six has won this in the past ten years.

The trip could yet cause a problem for one or two others in the field. Ennistown, rated 99 and a winner over ten furlongs on the Flat, will see his stamina tested while Justanothermuddle races beyond two miles three for the first time.

Two with form at this distance and beyond are Net Work Rouge and Ballycross; the former beat the latter some seven lengths over three miles two furlongs at Warwick the last day. Kim Bailey's charge is weighted to confirm placings here but Ballycross is less exposed - the difference layers offer in their current pricing doesn't reflect that form with Net Work Rouge available at 9/2 while Ballycross appears unconsidered at 25/1 with Paddy Power.

Connections have taken their time with Final Nudge who lost his confidence after a fall in a point-to- point back in 2012. That patience seems to be paying dividends now - Final Nudge boasts two wins in November including one over two miles five at Wincanton on heavy ground.

Colin Tizzard's West Approach completes the line-up; a half brother to Thistlecrack, he's not dismissed lightly and has been nibbled at in the market.

On ratings Net Work Rouge has two pounds to find with the Harry Fry horse; at 9/2 Net Work Rouge gets the nod - 25/1 Ballycross looks too big.           

Friday, December 04, 2015

Long distance information

Briefly, some each-way selections for some of tomorrow's long distance races...

Saint Are rates the each-way wager in the Becher Chase (1.40 Aintree). Tom George's charge was third in this last year before going on to finish second in the Grand National behind Many Clouds. Sixth in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham three weeks ago, he should strip fitter here and is a 9/1 chance with most layers at the time of writing.

Carole's Destrier looks to have an obvious chance in the London National (Sandown 3.35). His fifth behind Drop Out Joe in the Badger Ales Trophy last time caught my eye and, unfortunately, everyone else's too! He's currently priced up 7/1 favourite; further rain wouldn't help the cause.

Over at Chepstow I'm tempted to take the chance on Victors Serenade in the Welsh National Trial (2.30). His form figures make for grim reading but in a recent Weekender stable tour interview handler Anthony Honeyball said:

"He ran four shockers last season after winning a decent handicap chase at Chepstow and that showed us that he needs to be fresh these days following his bad injury."

Given those awful form figures, the layers don't appear to be taking too many chances quoting prices between 11/2 and 8/1; I was looking for 10/1 or bigger.

On the same card in the following race (Chepstow 3.05) Venetia Williams' Elenika is certainly worth a second look. After a break of more than 18 months off the track, the grey ran a fine race from the front before tiring and coming to grief at the last at Wetherby three weeks ago. This five runner event will be run on a course that suits the gelding's style of racing - 4/1 is on offer.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Hennessy day 2015

Seventeen declared for this year's Hennessy Gold Cup (Newbury 3.00) which looks a strong renewal on paper; the going on the chase course is described as soft.

Eight of the last ten winners have been aged either six or seven and eight have carried more than 11-0 to victory; two winners have shouldered top weight and a further three 11-6. Current favourite Saphir Du Rheu is the only runner to fit the profile; at around 4/1 he offers little value.

Off a mark of 157 Houblon Des Obeaux was second to Many Clouds last year; this year he goes off 156. On his seasonal reappearance he was well beaten behind Pendra but this test of stamina looks right up his street with underfoot conditions sure to suit.

Neil Mulholland holds a strong hand with The Young Master and The Druids Nephew. Writing in the Weekender, the handler appears to favour the chance of the former whose price has contracted accordingly.  

At 14/1 Houblon Des Obeaux is the each-way selection. 50/1 about Fox Appeal looks big given that one finished well ahead of the selection at Ascot the last day but Emma Lavelle's charge isn't certain to see out this extended three and a quarter mile trip.

Only five in the Long Distance Hurdle (2.25) but it's intriguing.

I like Cole Harden who wears his heart on his sleeve and loves to race from the front; he saved my bacon at Cheltenham in March.

A wind operation contributed to the improvement that day when he had Whisper over ten lengths adrift in fifth. That's only half the story - an error by Nicky Henderson's charge four from home put paid to his chance.

Four weeks later Whisper reversed the form at Aintree; on current ratings Whisper has three pounds in hand.

Several feel that, in receipt of four pounds, Thistlecrack will give the two principals plenty to think about; the layers have priced him accordingly.

The ratings indicate Aqalim has a better chance than Thistlecrack at the weights yet he's priced 11/1 with Coral at the moment. Aqalim had the benefit of a pipe-opener at Wetherby four weeks ago and I note that connections have chosen to fit blinkers for the first time.

It's a longshot but the price is too tempting; I'll chance Aqalim at 11/1.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Haydock's Betfair Home of Price Rush Handicap Chase 2015

At Haydock tomorrow Silviniaco Conti is the form selection for the Betfair Chase at 3.00 while after his win in Wincanton's Elite Hurdle, Irving looks the one to beat in the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle; both horses head their respective markets and with the accompanying small fields make little appeal as betting propositions.

Nine go in the three and a half mile handicap chase at 12.40 which, by contrast, has a far more open look to it; at the time of writing layers bet 9/2 the field.

Rated 132 Emperors Choice was second on his seasonal reappearance in this race last year before going on to win The Welsh National. The Chepstow showpiece is his target once again, as it is for both Buachaill Alainn and Goodtoknow; HarryThe Viking holds an entry in the Becher Chase.

Current market leader No Deal doesn't have a lot of miles on the clock for a nine-year-old and hails from a yard in fine form. He receives over a stone from the top two in the handicap; his chance is respected on going officially described as soft, heavy in places.

Sybarite on the other hand is something of an enigma; he tends to find himself detached in races before staying on and making up ground at the finish. Looking at his chase form, the comment 'slow jump' appears too many times for my liking.

Goodtoknow has had trouble completing in the past but Lackamon boasts a Durham National win as well as a couple of placed efforts in that race - he will relish this stamina test. Copper Birch, third in a Devon National in March, gets in with a featherweight and is tried with a visor for the first time.

I tipped Buachaill Alainn each-way last time when he finished second to Drop Out Joe at Chepstow six weeks ago. The winner has since franked the form by adding Wincanton's Badger Ales Trophy to his haul.

Top weight on soft/heavy ground is a worry but I'm going to stay loyal to Buachaill Alainn (6/1); in April he finished second behind William Money in the Tim Molony at this track. Lackamon is rated a big danger.

Over at Ascot all eyes will be on Vautour, the current favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, when he returns to action in the Stella Artois 1965 Chase at 2.05. Thirty five minutes later Brother Tedd, in receipt of eight pounds, looks a big threat to favourite Rock On Ruby in the Coral Hurdle.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Paddy Power Gold Cup 2015

Generally the Paddy Power Gold Cup is regarded as a race with strong statistical trends.

Since 2000 only five winners have carried 11-0 or more to victory (2001: Shooting Light 11-3; 2002: Cyfor Malta 11-9; 2005: Our Vic 11-7; 2006: Exotic Dancer 11-2; 2012: Al Ferof 11-8).

What stands out about this year's renewal is that 70% of the field (fourteen of the final twenty declared) are set to shoulder 11-0 or more.

In the past, seven-year-olds have fared best, followed by six-year-olds; previous course form is a marked advantage and the market has proved a reasonable guide,

The Pipe operation regularly targets this meeting; if not sent off favourite, Kings Palace will be near the head of the market. A smart performer on his day, this one has disappointed twice at Cheltenham on the big occasion - he fell when a short price in the 2014 running of the Albert Bartlett and then faded into sixth in the RSA Chase last March. Both those runs were over three miles so tomorrow's step down to two and half may well help the cause.

Of those near the top of the handicap, I respect the chance of Irish Cavalier and have a soft spot for course and distance specialist Johns Spirit - he won the 2013 renewal and was just pipped on the line by Caid Du Berlais last year. Present View was sent off 5/1 favourite that day, finishing third, but stable form is now a concern; Buywise came home fifth and looked to have a good prep run in the Old Roan three weeks ago while Shanpallas was sixth but unseated in the Munster National last time and needs the rain to stay away.

Boondooma jumps well but may find it difficult to dominate and I can't help but feel Oscar Rock is quite high in the weights now.

Annacotty, a Feltham winner, has his first run for Alan King while I noted Double Ross showing his best form for some considerable time when making up ground to finish second behind Pembra at Ascot a fortnight ago.

You pays your money and takes your choice.

Those who like to use stats to guide their selection have just three seven-year-olds carrying less than 11-0 from which to choose - Shanpallas, Present View and Generous Ransom; stable form of the last two named is a worry.

At the time of writing 12/1 Johns Spirit looks reasonable each-way value but the last horse to carry 11-10 or more to victory was Bradbury Star in 1994.

I'll take an each-way interest in Buywise on the back of a decent seasonal debut in the Old Roan; he hasn't always been the best of jumpers but his overall track record reads 5-1-5-4. At the time of writing he's priced 14/1 at William Hill and Skybet with both layers paying a quarter the odds five places.  

 Blaklion runs in the novice chase at 1.15. He finished fourth on his chasing debut behind Cocktails At Dawn (runs in tomorrow's Gold Cup), As De Mee (second today beaten by More Of That in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase ) and Native River (won since at Exeter). Here he receives weight from four of his five rivals; on hurdle form he has some 11 pounds to find with David Pipe's likely market leader Un Temps Pour Tout. With the Pipe horse making his chase bow, at around the 9/2 mark previous course and distance winner Blaklion rates a play against the favourite.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Wincanton fireworks?

Thirteen have been declared for Saturday's Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton due off at 2.05.

Paul Nicholls has won the showpiece at his local track on seven occasions, three times in the last ten years. Tomorrow he saddles The Ould Lad and Benvolio with the former likely to start favourite, tipped up by Paul Kealy in the Weekender as a potential 'handicap blot'. I don't share that view; his chance is respected but there isn't much value in the price.

The handicapper doesn't appear to have done Drop Out Joe too many favours by raising him ten pounds for a win at Chepstow last month. The Rebecca Curtis trained Doing Fine was beaten under five lengths in that race and now re-opposes on eight pounds better terms.

Two declared for Tom George - Forgotten Gold and A Good Skin. The market suggests the former is the principal fancy on the back of an easy course win thirteen days ago but the jockey booking suggests the latter is the one to be on. I'm confused.

Wilton Milan wouldn't be certain to see out this trip so I'll take an each-way interest in Colin Tizzard's Theatrical Star. Fifth in a Cheltenham handicap chase a fortnight ago, he was only beaten four and a quarter lengths - further rain won't compromise his chance. At the time of writing he's 9/1 with several layers.

Last year Polly Peachum did me a good turn in the mares' hurdle at 2.40; this year I'm hoping Henry Daly's Tara Mist can repeat the trick but I'm more hopeful than confident.

Eleven are declared with the bottom two racing from out of the handicap.

Tara Mist held a five day entry for last week's listed mares' hurdle at Wetherby. Daly ran Bantham there; this race looks better suited.

A key piece of form is the listed mares' novices' finale at Newbury last March; in receipt of two pounds Kalane beat the selection some seven and three quarter lengths on that occasion but this time Daly's charge receives nine pounds.

Most of the market leaders are making their seasonal debuts - any hint of ring-rustiness is likely to be exposed by race-fit Kayf Willow who beat Lady Of Longstone with something in hand at Newton Abbot last month.

I received a tip for Tara Mist in a Ludlow hostelry some two weeks ago. Henry Daly's mare is the selection; she is currently priced at 5/1 with both Paddy Power and Stan James.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Charlie Hall Chase 2015

Personally I've never felt the Charlie Hall a particularly lucky race; out of interest I looked up the blog's selections for this Wetherby showpiece from 2006 onwards.

The list makes for slightly better reading than I'd anticipated - seven selections, two winners and a profit of 3.5 points:

2006 No selection;
2007 State Of Play 15/8f, Second;
2008 State Of Play 5/2f, Wins;
2009 Ollie Magern 85/40, Third;
2010 Nacarat 6/1, Wins;
2011 Time For Rupert 11/8f, Second;
2012 Planet Of Sound 5/1, Fifth;
2013 Benefficient 8/1, Fourth;
2014 No selection.

Seven go to post for this year's renewal which has a particularly open feel to it. In the past ten years the favourite has obliged on three occasions but only two have carried 11-10 to victory - Our Vic (2006) and Menorah (2014). In the same time period no horse older than nine has won.  

On official ratings Dynaste looks something of a shoo-in in receipt of ten pounds from the likes of Many Clouds, Menorah and Sam Winner.

Of course, that's only half the story. I've had my fingers burned more than once with David Pipe's charge in the past; the grey is the only one in the field to come to this with a recent run under the belt but, that said, it was a poor effort over hurdles in France. His optimum trip is probably around two and a half miles, a comment that also applies to market rival Cue Card.

Colin Tizzard's charge had his stamina limitations ruthlessly exposed in the 2013 running of the King George at Kempton when he was outstayed by Silviniaco Conti (Dynaste well beaten in fourth). He missed Cheltenham in March and underwent 'corrective surgery on a small wind problem' before finishing behind Don Cossack at Aintree and Punchestown, sporting first-time cheekpieces and a tongue-tie in Ireland. The cheekpieces are omitted tomorrow.

The arrival of the rain will inconvenience Holywell more than most. I bet this one each-way in the Gold Cup where he ran a fine race to finish fourth on ground officially described as soft.

Grand National winner Many Clouds and Sam Winner are likely to relish underfoot conditions - the former has the Hennessy as his target.

Ballynagour's head second to Silviniaco Conti in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree in April gives him every chance but I've never been convinced by Menorah's jumping.

Had the rain stayed away, Holywell was to be the selection but the runners obliged to concede weight now have to do so on soft ground.

I'll side with Cue Card, hoping the breathing operation in the spring has helped the cause; the stable won the opener on today's card with Royal Vacation.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Brief notes from Ludlow's second October meeting 2015

I've only just returned home after a day's racing at Ludlow on Thursday so unfortunately I haven't had time to study form for Cheltenham's Saturday card.

Nonetheless I'll be interested to see how Michael Scudamore's Grand Annual winner Next Sensation fares in the opener while Parlour Games, second in the Neptune at the Festival, tries his hand over the larger obstacles at 4.30.

In recent years Johns Spirit has become something of a standing dish at the Costwolds track but connections have re-routed their charge to Aintree for Sunday's Old Roan Chase - it's difficult to see that particular venue playing to his strengths.

I include some brief notes from Thursday's meeting in Shropshire; three winners meant we walked away with a reasonable profit but we benefitted from a huge slice of luck in the finale - details below.

The official going was recorded as good; the day before saw some considerable rainfall.

In the opener Red Hammer, a 105,000 euros purchase from France, was sent off the 8/13 favourite. When push cam to shove, Nicky Henderson's charge found disappointingly little and was beaten some 22 lengths behind 16/1 chance Wolf Of Windlesham. I watched this race from the stand roof; the gent standing next to me had obtained 22/1 about the winner. The filly Fast Scat (33/1) did not handle the preliminaries well, looked as though she would plant herself at the start and then took a strong hold in rear. By the fourth flight she had started to work her way through the field and led after the sixth. The winner passed her coming to the penultimate flight.

An impressive performance from Leaderofthedance (5/2) in the mares' novices' hurdle. She made all and had her rivals in trouble coming off the home bend. There was a quick flash of the tail after the last but she ran on well to the line. Fizzy Dancer looked slow going to post and was slower still at the obstacles - she was practically beaten after the first flight and showed flashes of temperament during the race. 

Arzal (4/9f) brought the best form to the table for the novice chase at 3.10; he got the job done but it looked pretty hairy at times. He went to post like a bullet and set off in the same vein; going forward he will need to settle better. Sam Twiston-Davies carried our money on Lyric Street; this one attempted to keep tabs on the runaway leader but went quickly backwards four out and came home in his own time. Murrayana won a handicap hurdle here back in April so you could see why connections opted to start his chasing career at this venue; he jumped very badly left at several flights.

Kim Bailey's Ascotdeux Nellerie (8/11f) was the wager in the 3.45. In receipt of seven pounds from nearest market rival Angus Glens, he came away after the last to collect the spoils but it wasn't all plain-sailing and there were a couple of occasions during the race where he had to be ridden to hold his position. We had a saver on Golden Heritage (5/1) - his Sedgefield run looked too bad to be true, having previously come to grief behind Roadie Joe (wins Persian War) when running well. Bang there three out, Golden Heritage faded into third but this looked a better effort.

The handicap chase at 4.15 didn't look the best of races beforehand. Racing from the front Butlergrove King (15/8f) got into a decent rhythm early on and came home a deserved winner. I'd identified Kasbaldi and Victor Leudorum as potential wagers - the former was declared a non-runner so the latter carried the money and started to go backwards after the tenth. There were bits and pieces for Charlie Mann's charge - I briefly saw 8/1, obtained 7s and he was generally a 5/1 chance just before the off.

The two market leaders both unseated in the amateur riders' chase which left the door open for twelve-year-old Cool Bob (7/1) to win for the first time in 57 attempts... My wife had selected this one; needless to say I had no money on.

The opening shows for the finale looked distorted - 5/4 Makethedifference, 5/1 the field. We played Breaking Bits and eventual winner Watt Broderick but that's only half the story. It's not every day of the week you see a three-year-old running in a handicap hurdle - Impulsive American had taken a crashing fall at Huntingdon the last time and came into this sporting first-time cheekpieces. The aids certainly seemed to have done the trick as David Pipe's charge cruised to the front off the home turn and was seven lengths to the good coming to the final flight. A terrible mistake at the last allowed Watt Broderick his chance and he duly took it. Talking with a layer afterwards, he told me that 'I was a lucky boy' and that he'd backed the Pipe horse himself.

Marvellous stuff - a fine afternoon's sport in glorious autumnal sunshine.

Going forward, I'll monitor a tip I received in the evening for Henry Daly's Tara Mist.

To finish, a story that has slipped under my radar - owners Paul and Clare Rooney have moved their entire string from Donald McCain's yard.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lazing on a Sunday afternoon...

Ever so slowly the National Hunt season is clicking into gear.

Tony McCoy retired in April but Richard Johnson didn't - earlier this afternoon 'Dickie' recorded his 100th winner this term aboard He's A Bully at Wincanton.

There are jumps cards at Stratford, Market Rasen and Ffos Las tomorrow but Kempton's card on Sunday is the highlight.

The New One returns to action in the Listed Hurdle at 4.25 and he'll be long odds on to repeat his victory of a year ago.

I backed him against Faugheen for the Champion Hurdle in March but he was something of a disappointment in fifth, beaten over eight lengths. He's certainly not the biggest of individuals but I'm wondering whether connections will opt to go down the novice chase route at some point.

A quick word for Stephanie Frances in this race - she finished ahead of Bantam (second), Midnight Jazz (third) and Quiet Candid (fifth) in a mares' novices' listed hurdle at Cheltenham on her penultimate start - the named trio renew rivalry in Stratford's opener tomorrow with Bantam weighted to confirm placings.

Despite carrying a penalty Oceane is likely to prove popular in the opening juvenile hurdle at 2.15. Rated 88 on the Flat, she caught the eye on her hurdling debut at Fontwell, jumping neatly and drawing away from her rivals after the last.

Looking for some value, the Listed novices' hurdle at 3.20 has caught my attention.

John Ferguson's Maputo is rated 138 and sets a high standard having won three on the bounce. There's no obvious reason why he shouldn't confirm Huntingdon form with Regulation although this one obliged at odds of 9/4 at Wincanton today and may not take up Sunday's engagement.

Both San Benedeto and Midnight Shot have made all to win in the past and may well be keen to 'get on with things' on their seasonal debuts which could play into the hands of Swansea Mile.

Dan Skelton's charge faces no easy task conceding weight all round but on his first run in this country three weeks ago the gelding finished two and a quarter lengths third behind Cloonacool in a listed handicap hurdle at Market Rasen. That effort looks all the more noteworthy as the form book records Swansea Mile 'clipped heels and stumbled badly after 3 out' yet was 'pressing for 2nd flat'.

To me it looks the best form on offer. That said, we can assume John Ferguson will know what's required as Maputo's stablemate Broughton finished a neck behind Swansea Mile in fourth (and then went out to win a Class 2 handicap hurdle at Chepstow last Sunday). 

Plenty of ifs and buts; I'll take an interest in Swansea Mile provided he's priced up 4/1 or bigger.

Friday, October 09, 2015

A chance at Chepstow

Tomorrow Wales face Australia at Twickenham in the Rugby World Cup while the Welsh football team travel to Zenica requiring just one point against Bosnia-Herzegovina to ensure a place in the finals of a major tournament for the first time since 1958.

Small wonder then that Chepstow's weekend cards have passed under the radar.

For many in years gone by, this meet signified the start of the National Hunt season 'proper'.

Philip Hobbs' Sausalito Sunrise goes in Saturday's feature chase at 5.05. On his seasonal debut last year the gelding won the novice chase on this card (Sego Success fourth) but was subsequently beaten twice by David Pipe's Kings Palace. A strapping course and distance winner, he would probably benefit from further rain but hails from a yard with a 38.46% win strike rate this month and is priced up 4/1 favourite this evening.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls saddles Cowards Close, an unexposed type who has done most of his winning on right-handed tracks . Quoting from The Guardian's horse by horse guide to the stable:

'Chasing has been the making of this horse, who won the Royal Artillery Gold Cup at Sandown in February. He’s got loads of ability but he’s quite fragile and he hated the soft ground at Sandown that day. He had a few minor problems after that, so he didn’t run again but he’ll be ready in October to run at Chepstow or Cheltenham. If we can keep him sound, he’s definitely handicapped to win.'

Of the thirteen declared just four have seen a racecourse in the past two months - Standing Ovation (winner of a Listed chase at Uttoxeter on his penultimate start), Buachaill Alainn (winner of a Class 3 chase at Worcester in August), Garrahalish (third behind Dursey Sound at Warwick eighteen days ago) and Terminal (pulled up in Dursey Sound's Warwick race); those runners may have a fitness edge.

I was tempted by the Nicholls horse but the 6/1 available is eclipsed by the 14/1 Coral offer about Peter Bowen's course and distance winner Buachaill Alainn; I'll take an each-way interest and hope the step up in class doesn't prove his undoing.

Sunday's card at the Welsh track should see Emerging Talent take the Persian War Novices' Hurdle at 4.30 while Sire De Grugy didn't made the final declarations for the feature chase at 3.55 but Colin Tizzard's Third Intention stands his ground.

A quick footnote to finish - I shall watch Arco (Mr Ross Turner up, claiming seven) with some interest in tomorrow's concluding bumper at Hexham. Writing in the Weekender, handler Philip Kirby explains:

'She was as wild as a bear to break, but hats off to Ross Turner who has put hours in on her and has helped her to mature so much. She is a nice sort...I would love Ross to be able to ride her after he made her what she is.'

Good luck to the both of them!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Market Rasen Summer Plate 2015

Tomorrow's card at Market Rasen represents the highlight of the summer jumping progamme.

Two trainers come to the meeting in excellent form - John Ferguson (24 winners from 61 runners, strike rate 39.34%) and Dan Skelton (23 winners from 65 runners, strike rate 35.38%).

The feature, the listed Betfred Summer Plate, looks as competitive as ever with 16 set to face the starter at 3.30.

Last year Jonjo O'Neill saddled the winner and runner-up, It's A Gimme and Lost Legend, and those two try their luck again this year; It's A Gimme is rated 11 pounds higher, his stablemate seven. Geraghty replaces McCoy aboard It's A Gimme and intends to speak to the former champion before the off .         

Carrigmorna King will need to brush up the jumping - I note Richard Johnson prefers to ride at Cartmel - while Charlie Longsdon has left bottom weight Greenlaw in the 3.50 at the Cumbrian track.

Dell' Arca won the Greatwood on his debut in this country but perhaps proved a little disappointing thereafter - he may be exposed here with just one chase run to his name.

Dan Skelton's Pumped Up For Kicks is a mare in good form but her wins have come in smallish fields.

In a very open race I'll take a small each-way interest in Lost Legend (16/1 generally) on the back of last year's effort. Most layers are paying a quarter the odds four places, provided, of course, the sixteen start.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Derby day deliberations 2015

My record in the Derby speaks for itself - one win in forty odd attempts; this year's renewal looks decidedly mediocre.

Coolmore has dominated this showpiece in recent times (Camelot 2012, Ruler Of The World 2013 and Australia last year) but the market and the media suspect change is afoot; 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles misses the race while filly Found now has the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot as her target. Ryan Moore rides Giovanni Canalleto, rated a 16/1 chance at the beginning of the week.

John Gosden saddles the top two in the betting. Favourite Golden Horn beat stablemate Jack Hobbs (Elm Park third) in the Dante; Frankie Dettori rides and the media have practically written the story already.

There is a query in some quarters about whether Golden Horn will stay - the colt certainly wasn't stopping at York. He will appreciate a quick surface while Jack Hobbs would prefer some cut. Dante also-rans coming to Epsom have a poor record.

The unfortunate withdrawal of Zawraq has taken some of the interest out of the race.

A piece in The Times on Monday highlighted the chance of William Haggas' Storm The Stars (by 2009 winner Sea The Stars) and Malcolm Heyhoe makes the same each-way selection in The Weekender. Initially priced at 25/1, the colt is 20/1 at the time of writing - The Times article indicated Haggas' stable had been slow at the start of the season and was now playing 'catch-up'.

For me, two intriguing runners have shown all their form on soft - Success Days made all to win the Derrinstown Trial at Leopardstown while I don't think Criquette Head-Maarek has sent Epicuris over as an after-thought.

That said, the fact remains the winner has come from the top three in the market on every occasion in the past decade, with four favourites obliging. I'm not going to get involved.

Changing tack slightly, I note that recently-retired champion A P McCoy 'has been enticed out of retirement for one day only' to ride in the Ledger Legends Classified Stakes at Doncaster in September.

For one day only? Or could this be the start of a trend?  

Friday, May 01, 2015

A brief review of the 2014/15 jumps season

Champion jockey: A P McCoy
Champion trainer: Paul Nicholls
Leading conditional rider: Sean Bowen

On the final day of the season, amidst emotional scenes at Sandown, Tony McCoy claimed his 20th successive jockeys' title and retired from the saddle having amassed 4357 winners in an exceptional riding career. On course for 300 winners in the early part of the season, McCoy suffered injuries which made that particular target unattainable.

Paul Nicholls won the trainers' title and in the process earned himself the nickname 'Mr Saturday' as inmates from the yard plundered the top jumps prizes throughout the winter months; Dodging Bullets emerged as the season's best two mile chaser.

Silviniaco Conti was tapped for toe behind Menorah on his reappearance in the Charlie Hall but the Ditcheat gelding claimed Haydock's Betfair Chase and the King George at Kempton before disappointing once again in the Gold Cup. The horse made amends four weeks later in Aintree's Betfred Bowl with connections now reluctantly accepting the horse is unlikely to win a Gold Cup.

This year's Cheltenham showpiece went to a novice for the first time in over 40 years. Coneygree jumped for fun from the front under Nico De Boinville and the conditional rider had kept enough up his sleeve to repel the late challenge of Djakadam and Ruby Walsh on the climb to the line.

Willie Mullins took the Festival by storm - Douvan (Supreme), Un De Sceaux (Arkle) and Faugheen (Champion Hurdle) all obliged on the opening day and the trainer's Annie Power appeared to have the mares' hurdle in the bag coming to the last but she took a crashing fall that saved the layers around £40 million in payouts.

Vautour's display of jumping to win the JLT Novices' Chase on the Thursday is something I will remember for a long time.

Trained by Oliver Sherwood, Many Clouds made a low-key seasonal debut in Carlisle's Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase but a month later the horse had the Hennessy in the bag. After victory in Cheltenham's BetBright Cup (previously known as the Argento), connections expected a strong show in the Gold Cup but the horse was a little disappointing in sixth. Four weeks on owner Trevor Hemmings watched the horse run 38 rivals ragged around Aintree to collect the 2015 Crabbie's Gand National at odds of 25/1.

At the start of the season Nicky Henderson was considered the most likely winner of the trainers' title but he suffered an indifferent season. The return of stable star Sprinter Sacre at Ascot in January was eagerly-awaited; perhaps the horse isn't quite as good as he once was but a six length second to Special Tiara at Sandown will give connections plenty of hope for the future.

Of course, we thought nothing would detract attention from McCoy's retirement day but 17 year old Sean Bowen did his best with a double on Lil Rockerfeller in the opener and Paul Nicholls' Just A Par in the feature bet365 Gold Cup. This precocious talent was quoted 33/1 for next year's jockeys' title; Richard Johnson, who rode a double on the same card, has been installed 13/8 favourite.

Friday, April 24, 2015

What are we going to do without Tony McCoy?

On 7th April 1993 the great Peter Scudamore retired with 1678 winners on the board. That day, I turned to my wife and inquired, in a semi-rhetorical sort of a fashion, 'Tell me, dear, what are we going to do without The Scu?'

Into the breach stepped one Anthony Peter McCoy.

Tomorrow A.P. McCoy brings the curtain down on a stellar career with well over 4,000 winners in the bag.

On 26th March 1992 he chalked up the first of those winners at Thurles aboard a horse called Legal Steps for trainer Jim Bolger.

On 7th September 1994, claiming seven pounds, he rode his first winner in England at Exeter - Chickabiddy,  a 7/1 chance for handler Gordon Edwards.

Tomorrow at Sandown A.P. will be crowned champion jockey for the 20th successive year; the meeting is a sell-out.

He has two booked rides - Mr Mole in the bet365 A P McCoy Celebration Chase (3.15) and Box Office in the bet365 Handicap Hurdle at 4.25.

And rightfully, for a man who has broken all records, tributes abound.

Printed on the reverse cover of McCoy's autobiography are the words of John McCririck:

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

Nor are we likely to again.

Tell me, what are we going to do without Tony McCoy? 

Postscript: My final bet of the season will be Polly Peachum in Sandown's finale at 5.35. Nicky Henderson's mare was beaten a short-head by Southfield Theatre in the race last year and is likely to face stiff competition from the winner's half brother Southfield Vic in this renewal. That said, Southfield Vic's jumping was particularly sloppy at Haydock last time; the mare has something in hand on the book and will appreciate good ground. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

One thousand posts, two more longshots

For blog post no. 1000, a couple of Ayr longshots...

Thirty declared for tomorrow's Scottish National (3.45) - just two carry more than 11-0 while the bottom seven race from out of the handicap.

I've seen Sego Success tipped up but Alan King's charge has some 17 lengths to find with David Pipe's Broadway Buffalo on recent Cheltenham running.

Gallant Oscar and Indian Castle are closely matched on their respective third and fourth behind The Druids Nephew last time, form that reads very well. The former is owned by J P McManus and so has already proved popular in the market while the latter isn't certain to see out the trip.

Last year's winner Al Co fell at the first in last week's Aintree National but the Weekender reports the gelding continued riderless for a full circuit, jumping ten fences in the process.  

In February Milborough won the Eider Chase off a mark of 134 with pilot G B Watters able to claim five pounds; here he races off 144 and his rider can only claim three; he's still of interest at 20/1.

At the bottom of the handicap Carli King will race from the front and is another of interest at 33/1, having made all to win at Warwick over three miles five last month. That said, he's thirteen pounds higher tomorrow and is an additional pound wrong at the weights.

Paddy Power pay five places and are currently offering 20/1 about Milborough who gets the nod as the each-way selection.

Dan Skelton fired in four winners at Cheltenham's midweek meeting and I just think 16/1 looks too big about Bertimont (seventh in the Champion Hurdle) in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at 2.35.

Quoting the trainer:

"I think Bertimont is in the best form he's been in all year, the track and ground should suit him really well.

"He's got a lot of speed, he won at Chepstow on decent ground and it will be drying all the time."

Bertimont (16/1 with Hills and Stan James at the time of writing) is the each-way pick.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Aintree Grand National 2015

A. P. McCoy's final Grand National ride is Shutthefrontdoor.

The horse is certain to be overbet, start favourite and provide no value whatsoever but should the champion jockey achieve the improbable and go on to win, he is likely to retire on the spot while the bookmaking industry collectively will huddle in a corner calculating losses on an unprecedented scale.

The race has thrown up some big-priced winners in recent times including Silver Birch at 33/1 in 2007; Mon Mome at 100/1 in 2009; Neptune Collonges at 33/1 in 2012; Auroras Encore at 66/1 in 2013; and Pineau De Re at 25/1 last year.

Stats suggest the winner will be aged between nine and twelve and carry no more than 11-5. I tend to prefer horses that have shown form over these fences previously - six of the first seven home last year try again tomorrow and feature in the selections below.

1. Rocky Creek
Fifth last year. Pulled up in the Hennessy in November and then underwent a breathing operation. Returned to win the BetBright Chase at Kempton in some style - with the National weights already declared, he's now considered nine pounds 'well in'.

2. Balthazar King
Second in 2014. Ran in the Glenfarcas Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival before coming to Aintree last year so this time connections have wisely missed Cheltenham to arrive here fresh. Likes to race with the pace and will appreciate drying ground.

3. Alvarado
Made up plenty of ground in the closing stages to finish fourth last year and looks to have been trained specifically for this - has a nice racing weight. Jockey Paul Maloney boasts an excellent completion record in the race and will be keen to ensure he's close enough to land a blow this time around.

4. Saint Are
Came home ninth in the 2013 renewal and finished third behind Oscar Time in the Becher Chase in December - best long-priced outsider.

Others worthy of a mention include:

Al Co who looks to have every chance on his Scottish National win last year but ran poorly over these fences behind Oscar Time and Saint Are in December - it may have been the very soft ground that day but he's not the biggest of individuals and the suspicion remains he may struggle in the jumping department.

Spring Heeled who has been trained specifically for the race but stable form is the main concern.

And finally last year's winner Pineau De Re who looks reasonable value at 25/1; at the age of twelve it's difficult to see him winning again off a mark eight pounds higher.

Good luck!  

Postscript: At time of writing, Bet Victor each-way terms a quarter the odds six places; Paddy Power, bet365 and Sky Bet amongst those paying five places.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Aintree 2015 - Friday

Friday is Aintree Ladies' Day and not for those faint of heart; I tentatively suggest one each-way longshot - for those brave of heart...

Wishfull Thinking is no spring chicken at the age of twelve but he won the Melling Chase (3.25) last year and was well talked-up by pilot Richard Johnson for the Ryanair on this year's Festival preview circuit.

In the event he ran a bit of stinker behind Uxizandre at Cheltenham, jumping poorly and failing to find his rhythm; Johnson pulled up four from home.

Philip Hobbs' charge is certainly better than that. Rated 164, he's the third best horse in the race behind Sire De Grugy (169) who tries the trip for the first time and would probably prefer more cut and Al Ferof (168).

It all looks mighty competitive but at 33/1 (40/1 BetWay) Wishfull Thinking is a sporting each-way suggestion.

Regular readers will know I've been following Warren Greatrex inmate King's Tempest for a while - this one runs in the Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle at 4.40. Connections step up from two miles to three which looks a bit of a jump to my untrained eye.

I'm certainly not going to risk any money on the beast; that said, I don't think connections would run if they didn't think the horse was up to this standard.

The gelding is less exposed than many in the field - we should know more by 4.50 tomorrow afternoon. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Aintree 2015 - Thursday

Two quick suggestions...

In the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle (3.25) Rock On Ruby has something to find with both Arctic Fire, second in last month's Champion Hurdle, and Jezki, a rather disappointing fourth in the same race, beaten over eight lengths by Faugheen. Harry Fry's charge missed Cheltenham but is reportedly back in good health and will be well-suited by the extra half-mile of this trip which could pose a question or two for both Arctic Fire and Blue Heron.

Rock On Ruby (100/30 with Paddy Power) is the suggestion.

Ulzana's Raid is a horse I like; he goes in the rather difficult-looking finale at 5.15. Alan King's charge has had a decent break and comes to the race fresher than most - in today's Weekender the handler tells us '... this has been the target for some time.'

Sporting first-time cheekpieces, Ulzana's Raid is worth an each-way interest (14/1 with bet365).

Friday, April 03, 2015

The UK General Election 2015 - politics and betting

Back in 2008 Nathaniel 'Nate' Silver shot to prominence with his analysis of the US presidential elections, correctly predicting the winner in 49 of the 50 states.

And he has done much work since - his highly-acclaimed book 'The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction' was published in 2012.

Silver's blog references a number of UK academics who are covering the forthcoming UK General Election at

In the past, compared to US polls, UK polls have not been very accurate but the team are taking steps to address the shortcomings.

Those considering a wager may want to monitor the team's predictions which are revised on a daily basis while Mike Smithson's is de rigueur - earlier this week Smithson penned this article in The Independent where he highlights five 'value' bets.

And Oddschecker does a decent job in listing the bewildering array of political wagers on offer.

By way of a slight digression, politics and betting have had their share of links to the world of racing in the past. Robin Oakley has covered politics and racing for various media outlets, Carl Llewellyn won the 1992 Grand National aboard Party Politics and recent talk of Dream Alliance is no reference to some quixotic political utopia but rather a reference to the film to be released about the 2009 Welsh National winner.

Still, the last word has to go to a politician; it was ever thus.

In today's edition of The Times Ann Treneman reports that communities secretary Eric Pickles is 'one man who is putting his money where his mouth is'.

Pickles tells readers:

"We're going to win with a majority. I have not got any elections wrong for the past six elections that I have put money on."

Eric, looks like the game's up.

Friday, March 27, 2015

National considerations

We're two weeks away from A.P. McCoy's final Grand National.

Whatever happens, one thing is for certain - his mount in the race will be significantly overbet. If he were to pass the post in front, he's likely to retire on the spot.

Earlier in the week a colleague mailed me an article entitled 'Small data: how much would you have won backing McCoy?'

You won't be surprised to learn that a £1.00 level stakes investment on all his rides since January 2nd 2000 returns a deficit of £1744.75. Respectfully I pointed out to my colleague that over a similar period I developed any number of far more sophisticated approaches to giving away money to bookmakers.

A report in The Times today focuses on another jockey likely to generate publicity in the forthcoming fortnight; Sean Bowen bids to become the first 17 year old to win the race since Bruce Hobbs rode Battleship to victory in 1938.

Bowen is set to partner Mon Parrain for Paul Nicholls in the showpiece but still has to ride one more chase winner (10 required) before satisfying the stringent eligibility criteria established for the race.

Tomorrow he's aboard  Edmund Kean for father Peter in Stratford's snappily-entitled Bordeaux Undiscovered La Fleur Morange Handicap Chase. Having failed to complete on both runs this season, Edmund doesn't look to hold the most obvious chance in Bowen's search to qualify.

I need to do some more work on the National entries in the coming week; as regular readers know to their cost, I tend to favour horses that have previously shown form over the unique fences.

That said, I'll pass on the one tip I've received to date.

A respected form student is keen on the chance of Jim Culloty's Spring Heeled. Last year this one won the Kim Muir at the Festival, finished fifth in the Whitbread and was just pipped for third in the Galway Plate behind Road To Riches (third in this year's Gold Cup).

The National has been the target all along - stable form is the concern.

Friday, March 20, 2015

After the Lord Mayor's show

Inevitably there's something of an air of 'after the Lord's Mayor's show' about tomorrow's cards.

I've been waiting a while for King's Tempest and he goes in the opening novices' hurdle at Newbury.

I saw this one win a Warwick bumper about this time last year; there was talk afterwards of Cheltenham entries but in the summer the gelding moved to Warren Greatrex. On his first run for new connections the gelding was beaten two lengths by Jollyallan who went on to finish eighth behind Douvan in the Supreme at the Festival.

Decent enough form but Nicky Henderson saddles Flat-bred Hassle (by Montjeu) who was beaten just over ten lengths on his hurdling debut by stablemate Cardinal Walter who in turn was beaten six lengths by Qewy, fifth behind Douvan at the Festival.

One who looked to be coming back last time was Graeme McPherson's Harry Hunt; he's declared in Stratford's 3.50. At odds of 50/1 this one was fifth at Doncaster 31 days ago, jumping the last in second place before weakening over a longer trip.

He's of interest in this Stratford race and there's a pointer 15 minutes beforehand when the Doncaster second and fourth, Western Jo and Our Mick, contest the 3.35 at Bangor. The winner at Doncaster, Milan Bound, was amongst the five-day entries for Kelso's 2.50 but connections have decided not to take up the option.

I'll take an each-way interest in Harry Hunt (has won previously at this track) provided:
- Western Jo and Our Mick show up well at 3.35;
- Layers offer10/1.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cheltenham Festival 2015 debrief

For the first time in a number of years, the blog's highlighted selections showed a small profit to recorded starting prices, as shown below.

The two selections which provided a return, Cole Harden and Polly Peachum, were available at 20/1 and 10/1 on the morning of their respective races - the profit as a percentage of turnover figure soars to 38.63%  when calculated using the prices taken.

The New One       5th   100/30 1pt  WIN   0.00
Polly Peachum     2nd  9/1       0.5  EW    1.63
Little Jon               6th   10/1      0.5 EW     0.00

Sire De Grugy     4th  5/2     1pt WIN     0.00
Zarib                    6th  8/1      0.5 EW      0.00
Vigil                     5th  8/1      0.5 EW       0.00

Johns Spirit           5th  8/1      0.5 EW     0.00
Wishfull Thinking PU 28/1     0.5 EW     0.00
Cole Harden         1st 14/1      0.5 EW    9.75
Whisper                 5th 8/1       0.5 EW     0.00

Holywell               4th 8/1       0.5 EW    0.00

Total outlay: 11 points
Total return:  11.38 points
Profit / loss: + 0.38 points
Win strike rate: 9.09%
Profit as % of turnover: 3.45%

Highlight of the entire meeting for me was Vautour's exceptional jumping in the JLT Novices' Chase. I wonder whether we will see him running in next year's Gold Cup...  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cheltenham Festival 2015 - Friday

A very open renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup with eighteen set to face the starter at 3.20.

On official ratings favourite Silviniaco Conti (174) has seven pounds in hand over nearest rival Road To Riches (167) but his track record isn't impressive - he fell three out in the 2013 running of this race and finished a slightly disappointing fourth last year, two lengths behind shock winner Lord Windermere.

Following that defeat the gelding received treatment for ulcers. On his seasonal reappearance he was tapped for toe behind Menorah in the Charlie Hall but won Haydock's Betfair Chase and then the King George at Kempton where he made all.

I've always thought he shows his very best form on soft ground. Tomorrow he's the form choice and will make a bold show - come half past three, 9/2 could look a very big price indeed.   

This season Oliver Sherwood's Many Clouds has emerged as a credible challenger with victory in the Hennessy at Newbury and then the BetBright Cup Chase (formerly the Argento) in January; the suspicion is he's better with cut underfoot.

Ireland's challenge is spear-headed by Willie Mullins' Djakadam, well-backed in recent days but with enough to find on official ratings, and Lexus winner Road To Riches who had On His Own, Sam Winner, Boston Bob, Carlingford Lough, Lord Windermere, Bobs Worth and Home Farm in arrears that day.

Last month Carlingford Lough put his marker down with victory in the Irish Hennessy (Lord Windermere, Boston Bob, On His Own and Home Farm beaten).

For those interested there are some fancy prices available about horses with form in previous renewals - Lord Windermere (2014 winner) 14/1, Bobs Worth (2013 winner) 14/1, On His Own (short head second last year) 33/1 with The Giant Bolster (three quarters of a length third) 33/1.

Three days into this year's Festival, I'm struck by the number of winners that have either made all or led for most of the way:

Un De Sceaux (Arkle)
Faugheen (Champion Hurdle)
Windsor Park (Neptune)
Vautour (JLT Novices' Chase)
Uxizandre (Ryanair)
Cole Harden (World Hurdle)

I suspect many will now have another look at Coneygree who is talented if fragile and will take no prisoners racing from the front; it will be important for those behind to jump fluently and keep in touch.

Holywell won at this meeting last year before going on to Aintree where he added the Mildmay Novices' Chase to the haul. The gelding has been slow to come to hand this term with the stable going through a lean spell mid-winter but a facile win at Kelso the last day indicates he is in better health now.

Holywell is the each-way suggestion, currently priced at 11/1 with William Hill, Paddy Power and Bet Victor.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cheltenham Festival 2015 - Thursday

For Thursday's card, two each-way chances in two races...

With seventeen set to face the starter, this year's World Hurdle (3.20) looks more open than ever.

Whisper - has one pound to find with top-rated Saphir Du Rheu. Collected the Coral Cup at this meeting last year before going on to Aintree where he won the three mile Liverpool Hurdle with Zarkander and At Fishers Cross in arrears. At the time of writing Ladbrokes stand out with a quote of 11/1.

Cole Harden - tough front-runner who was well beaten in the Cleeve but has had a breathing operation since. Meets both Saphir Du Rheu and Un Temps Pour Tout on better terms but has a little to find with those rivals on the book. Trainer Warren Greatrex issued an upbeat bulletin a fortnight ago; I'm hoping the wind operation and better ground bring about the improvement required - at  the time of writing bet365 offer 20/1 and pay a quarter the odds four places.

Fourteen go to post in the Ryanair Chase at 2.40.

Johns Spirit - won the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase here in 2013, was beaten a head by Caid Du Berlais in the same race in November and finished fourth at the Festival last year in the Byrne Group Plate; connections have decided to aim higher this time. On ratings has something to find with a few in the field but the gelding clearly loves the place. At the time of writing Paddy Power stand out with a quote of 10/1.

Wishfull Thinking - the oldest horse in the race and the top-rated to boot! He has been tipped up by partner Richard Johnson on the Festival preview circuit. In decent nick this term winning Aintree's Old Roan Chase and the Peterborough at Huntingdon - something of a wildcard but Ladbrokes, Skybet and bet365 all offer 25/1.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Cheltenham Festival 2015 - Wednesday

Is Sprinter Sacre the horse he used to be?

Probably not is the answer coming out of Nicky Henderson's yard...

Of course, Sprinter wouldn't need to be at his absolute best to win this year's renewal of the Queen Mother Champion Chase but the air of circumspection from connections together with the fact he's priced up at 7/2 is enough to put me off.

We haven't seen an awful lot of the horse since he was pulled up in Kempton's Desert Orchid Chase in December 2013 but following a racecourse gallop at Newbury and his return at Ascot this January (a race after which he bled), the jumping hasn't appeared totally convincing.

Last year's winner Sire De Grugy has had his problems as well, falling in Mr Mole's race at Newbury on his return from injury before winning well at Chepstow 18 days ago.

Dodging Bullets is the season's form two-miler but trainer Paul Nicholls states:

"Dodging Bullets likes soft ground and I would not want it to dry up too much. He is a real staying two-miler."

Mr Mole is talented but quirky while Champagne Fever has enough to find on official ratings; Sire De Grugy is the selection. 

Like many, I was keen on Coneygree's chance in the RSA (2.05) but connections have opted for the Gold Cup instead; Coneygree is particularly fragile and the forecast rain before Friday's race is the reason behind the decision.

The RSA can be a brutal race; Don Poli is favourite and the most likely winner but I won't get involved.

I looked at David Pipe's King's Palace but this one, carrying my money, disappointed badly in last year's Albert Bartlett and his jumping in the two-runner Denman Chase at Newbury last month was far from perfect. He will appreciate better ground

McCoy rides If In Doubt who won the Skybet Chase at Doncaster the last day; those who saw that race and McCoy's post-race interview will be wary about backing the partnership here.

I was impressed with Ordo Ab Chao who won over course and distance the last day - he runs in the opening Neptune at 1.30 but the drying ground will have scuppered his chance. Two ex-Flat types are prominent in the betting - Nichols Canyon and Parlour Games - but a Flat horse hasn't won this race since No Refuge in 2005.  

Dan Skelton rates Zarib his best chance of the whole meeting so is the each-way selection for the difficult-looking Fred Winter at 4.40.

I  always like to select a couple in the bumper, just for the sheer hell of it. Years ago my wife picked Hairy Molly (won 33/1) but I forgot to put the bet on and in 2010 I tipped Cue Card (won 40/1) to a friend but never had a penny on myself.

This year, the Mullins' battalions aside, David Pipe saddles Moon Racer who cost £225,000 while Dermot Weld's Vigil returns for another stab having finished fifth last year, beaten four and a half lengths. Wait For Me from Philip Hobbs' yard is another intriguing runner.

Paddy Power offer 11/1 about Vigil; at those odds the gelding rates a sporting each-way wager.     

Monday, March 09, 2015

Cheltenham Festival 2015 - Tuesday

Willie Mullins' horses dominate betting on the opening day of this year's Festival with Timeform expecting a super show from the unbeaten Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle at 3.20.

Only eight go to post in the showpiece but the field contains last year's winner Jezki, third The New One and fourth Hurricane Fly who happened to win this race in 2011 and 2013.

That suggests this might just be more competitive than the markets would have us believe.

I'm going to support The New One who looked rather laboured on heavy ground at Haydock the last day. He isn't always the cleanest at his hurdles (a comment that also applies to Faugheen) but he has shown fighting qualities in the past; I'd expect to see him ridden a little more prominently this time after suffering interference last year when Our Conor fell fatally.

At 7/2 (with hints of 4/1 here and there) The New One is a value play against the favourite.

As I indicated in an earlier post, bookmakers appear more inclined to lay Faugheen and Douvan (Supreme Novices' Hurdle) than Un Des Sceaux (Arkle) and Annie Power (Mares' Hurdle).

I won't have a bet  in the Arkle (2.05) but I note Mullins' comment in the Weekender:

"However, [Un De Sceaux] won't find it easy coming up the hill. He has to go for it right from the off, as that is his way, and it's exciting but also frightening to watch."

Annie Power is the form selection in the Mares' Hurdle at 4.00 but she's priced accordingly and hasn't run for 311 days. After suffering a setback in November, she was back in work on New Year's Day.

Her handler indicates in the Weekender that she's likely to be a bit fresh after the lay-off so connections have decided to opt for this race (it's often less competitive) rather than the World Hurdle on Thursday.

I've followed Polly Peachum through the season and will chance her each-way provided I can secure a double digit price. She will certainly appreciate better ground.

For those with any money left in their pocket at the end of the day, Little Jon (14/1) is an each-way suggestion in the CHAPS Restaurants Barbados Novices' Handicap Chase; Ryan Hatch claims five.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Cheltenham Festival 2015 - initial thoughts

As Alan Lee pointed out in a snippet in The Times earlier this week, Willie Mullins trains the market leaders for four of the seven races on the opening day (Douvan 7/4, Un De Sceaux 8/13, Faugheen 5/4 and Annie Power 8/13), yet layers are still convinced Great Britain will collect the Prestbury Cup (most winners over the four days); Coral currently bet 7/2 Ireland.

In the build -up layers have appeared particularly reluctant to take on Un De Sceaux (Arkle) but seem to think they stand a better chance of seeing Douvan beaten (Supreme) as well as Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle.

Just eight remain in the Champion with Ruby Walsh yet to decide between Faugheen and Hurricane Fly. I'll probably side with The New One.

A year ago I saw Polly Peachum win a Warwick handicap hurdle by fourteen lengths off a mark of 117 and I've followed her since. Now rated 155, she will appreciate decent ground and deserves to take her chance in the Mares' Hurdle but faces stiff opposition in Annie Power and Glens Melody and the layers aren't offering a value each-way price.

Mullins has confirmed Don Poli for Wednesday's RSA Chase - I hope to see Coneygree declared for this rather than Friday's Gold Cup.

The top two in the Champion Chase market (Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy) have had their problems this season. Dodging Bullets is the form horse but would probably prefer more cut while Champagne Fever has been racing over further and was only beaten a head over this distance in last year's Arkle. I remain undecided.

On Thursday I will bet Cole Harden each-way (currently 25/1) in an open-looking World Hurdle; Warren Greatrex's charge has had a breathing operation which could bring about some improvement.

Module, third in last year's Champion Chase, was priced 40/1 for the Ryanair but unfortunately didn't make the six day entries. John's Spirit has, has done me a favour or two in the past and is priced up in double figures in some places.

Holywell, winner of the Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree last April, is an each-way play in the Gold Cup on Friday.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Grimthorpe outsider

At this time of year Cheltenham, less than a fortnight away, proves something of a distraction and this year the distraction is compounded by the fact this is A P McCoy's valedictory Festival.

To my mind the champ has never quite left his mark on the meeting in the way, say, as Ruby Walsh has in the past. I can still recall his anguish when Gloria Victis fell fatally two from home in the 2000 running of the Gold  Cup won by Looks Like Trouble.

Along with the rest of us, McCoy will want a winner at the meeting but in recent days equine partners have proved particularly unhelpful with More Of That (World Hurdle) and Aurore D'Estruval (Mares' Hurdle) both declared out of the reckoning.

McCoy goes to Doncaster tomorrow but doesn't have a ride in the feature Grimthorpe Chase at 3.45.

Last year's winner Night In Milan tries to repeat the trick this year off a mark ten pounds higher.

With Cheltenham taking up a lot of time, I haven't done much work on the race.

Two who come to this relatively fresh are Super Duty and Samingarry. The former caught the eye in a Wetherby hurdle last month - his first racecourse appearance for over a year - while the latter ran well for a long way at Carlisle the last day; both are likely to appreciate better ground.

At the prices Samingarry (12/1) makes more appeal as an each-way wager; handler Nigel Hawke has the Scottish National as the target for his charge.     

Friday, February 20, 2015

Kempton considerations

Sixteen were originally declared for tomorrow's  feature at Kempton, the BetBright Chase (3.45), but with What A Warrior now a non-runner, most layers have reacted by offering each-way terms a quarter the odds three places; at the time of writing Betfred / totesport and BetVictor were paying four places.

In a race that often goes the way of a younger chaser, I'll take no more than a small each-way interest in Le Reve (9/1) - he won well the last day at Sandown.

On the balance of probabilities one of the top three in the market will take the Pendil at 2.35.

That said, both Gods Own and Irish Saint have questions to answer. The former looked something special when winning the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter and I tipped him for the Tingle Creek the next time but his jumping was awful; the latter proved disappointing in the Scilly Isles at Sandown three weeks ago, having no answer to Willie Mullins' Gitane Du Berlais.

All of which leaves Melodic Rendezvous. This one is a very smart hurdler but he doesn't have a lot of experience over the larger obstacles (rated roughly 10lbs lower over fences) and the yard hasn't recorded a winner since December. Connections thought long and hard about going to Chepstow to take on Sire de Grugy in receipt of plenty of weight but they've opted for this instead.

On ratings Gods Own wins but in receipt of seven pounds Melodic Rendezvous has just two to find. The layers aren't taking any chances (best-priced 5/2 this evening) but Melodic Rendezvous gets the vote.

Nicky Henderson saddles Days Of Heaven in the Dovecote (3.10) and Bivouac in the Adonis (2.00).

The former hasn't been entirely straightforward in the past yet I prefer him to Vago Collonges; he's no betting proposition.

At the five day stage Henderson had both Top Notch and Bivouac amongst the entries for the Adonis. It looks as though Top Notch now goes to Cheltenham without a prep while Bivouac is priced up favourite here.

He's the form selection but the pricing suggests the layers think they can get him beat with one of the more unexposed types. Beltor didn't appear anything special on the Flat but is clearly fancied to build on his Ludlow defeat of Arabian Revolution (winner since) while All Yours looks tempting at around 4/1...

All Yours is the suggestion. Primogeniture and Jeanpascal are interesting debutants in this country; Jeanpascal and Russian Bolero go here following the abandonment of Warwick earlier today due to waterlogging.

Finally I've been waiting a while for Warren Greatrex's April Dusk who ran a fine race against the more experienced Foryourinformation in a Ffos Las maiden at the turn of the year.

The gelding held a five-day entry for Newcastle's 3.30 but the handler obviously changed his mind during the week and decided that particular event wasn't part of the plan...   

Friday, February 13, 2015

Haydock's Grand National Trial 2015

Perhaps I'm getting old but it seems to me this game isn't quite what it used to be.

Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton race tomorrow but the scourge of small fields remains evident.

And to cap it all, Tony McCoy has decided to retire.

The champ rides market leader Monbeg Dude in Haydock's Grand National Trial at 2.55. In previous races Michael Scudamore's gelding has been ridden from off the pace; that tactic wouldn't suit this particular track and I'm wondering whether McCoy will decide to position his mount more prominently.

Thirteen have been declared but Ballyoliver's first preference is the listed Weatherby's Hamilton Chase at Ascot, a race in which Venetia Williams' stable jockey prefers Shangani.

Assuming Ballyoliver goes to Ascot, this year's renewal looks a little lop-sided in that just two of the twelve will carry less than 11 stones - Loch Ba (10-9) and Harry The Viking (10-2 taking the claiming rider's allowance into consideration).

Top weight Benvolio appeared a trifle unfortunate when collared on the line in the Welsh National last time (Monbeg Dude fourth, Benbens fifth, Gas Line Boy and Mountainous pulled up) while Samstown was all out to hold Benbens a neck in the Peter Marsh four weeks ago and now races off a mark nine pounds higher.

Ms. Williams saddles last year's winner Rigadin De Beauchene but the gelding has been markedly out of form this term and is probably best watched.

Broadway Buffalo took the Tommy Whittle at this track on his penultimate start before ruining his chance with a howler at the tenth in Wetherby's Rowland Meyrick Chase; I'd certainly forgive that effort.

At the prices I'm interested in Richard Lee's 2013 Welsh National winner Mountainous. This one ran no sort of race in this year's Welsh National but connections are more upbeat coming into this and the stable in better form.

Generally available at 14/1, Mountainous is the each-way suggestion; the concern is they go half a stride too quick early on and he becomes detached.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Very brief notes for Newbury's 'Super Saturday' card 2015

I have other commitments this weekend so these brief notes on Newbury's 'Super Saturday' card have been written before the final declarations are known...

As always, the Betfair Hurdle looks extremely difficult. I tipped Swing Bowler, third in this race in 2013 and fifth last year, for the Ladbroke at Ascot six weeks ago but David Pipe's mare ran no race whatsoever - she was beaten after a furlong. She showed a little at Kempton and I see connections have chosen to fit blinkers for the first time but Tom Scudamore has opted to partner Balgarry. Balgarry led two out in the Ladbroke before fading - he represents no more than a whimsical each-way selection (14/1 with bet365 and Skybet who both pay a quarter the odds five places).

Sire De Grugy returns from injury in the Game Spirit; if he's at his best, he wins. Mr Mole is the play against the favourite; he hasn't always appeared straight forward but has shown good form this term. I'm guessing connections will be particularly keen to win this and book their place at Cheltenham. Uxizandre isn't certain to line up but he beat Dodging Bullets (Tingle Creek and Clarence House winner since) over Cheltenham's two miles on soft ground in November. Vibrato Valtat looks more likely to run in the Kingmaker at Warwick.

The Denman Chase is trappy. Last year's winner Harry Topper has been out of sorts, a comment that also applies to Holywell although his third behind Many Clouds over an inadequate trip at Carlisle looks much better since Oliver Sherwood's charge has gone on to win the Hennessy and the Argento. Rated 163 Holywell has been talked of as a Gold Cup horse; he'll need to jump better than the last day at Aintree but Holywell is the suggestion. Of the market leaders, Unioniste won well at Sandown five weeks ago off a rating of 148 but has more to find giving weight to most of his opponents; Houblon Des Obeaux appears to represent more of a threat.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Ffos Las foibles

Only five declared for tomorrow's Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown; course and distance winner Irish Saint is probably the percentage call but he's likely to be priced accordingly in what looks a rather trappy renewal. For that reason, I'm off to Ffos Las for a wager.

In the West Wales National (2.40) I'll chance Oliver Sherwood's Global Power who missed the cut for the Welsh National at Chepstow if memory serves...

I happened to tip the beast for Warwick's Classic Chase three weeks ago but he was withdrawn on the morning of that race. Theatrical Star beat the selection a neck at Fontwell in December before coming home a good second to Hawkes Point in the Warwick showpiece.

The ground and trip should suit but there are dangers aplenty including last year's runner-up Firebird Flyer, Ziga Boy who was travelling very well when coming to grief in the Mandarin Chase at Newbury and David Pipe's Smiles For Miles who has shown good form this season.

Generally available at 6/1, Global Power is the selection.

The Welsh Champion Hurdle (2.05) has a competitive look to it but I'm drawn to another Sherwood inmate, Puffin Billy. This one failed to get into any sort of rhythm in the Ascot novice chase won by Irish Saint just before Christmas; he fell heavily at the last when well beaten.

Connections have chosen to revert to the smaller obstacles here; there's no denying that fall is a concern.

That said, he was good enough to finish nine lengths second to Melodic Rendezvous off a rating of 150 two years ago and then fifth behind Champagne Fever, My Tent Or Yours, Jezki and company in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the 2013 Festival.

Supporters of the fancied Foryourinformation will point to a noteworthy fourth behind Out Sam, Thomas Brown and Tea For Two in November and a second behind Value At Risk, although he was 22 lengths adrift at Newbury.

In his latest run in a Class 5 maiden hurdle over course and distance he only just landed the spoils by a neck from Warren Greatrex newcomer April Dusk.

I'm not wholly convinced but there are several better judges who feel the handicapper has let him in lightly. 

Racing off a mark of 143 tomorrow, Puffin Billy (12/1 bet365) rates an each-way play in a race where six of the field are obliged to carry more than their long handicap weight.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cheltenham Trials Day 2015

On ratings Dynaste is the best horse in tomorrow's BetBright Cup Chase (previously known as the Argento) and bookmakers concur making David Pipe's charge the market leader. The grey stays three miles on a flat track but in my opinion appears slightly less effective over this trip on an undulating track; it's interesting to see connections have chosen to fit cheek pieces here. At the price he's passed over.

Eight weeks ago Many Clouds won the Hennessy off a mark of 151 (Smad Place 20 lengths adrift in fifth). The handicapper now rates the gelding 10 pounds higher and Oliver Sherwood hopes his charge will prove good enough to contest the Gold Cup come March. The gelding's profile reminds me a little of Rocky Creek who finished second in last season's Hennessy and then came to this race to be beaten by The Giant Bolster.

I've seen plenty of tips for bottom weight Smad Place who was slightly disappointing on his seasonal debut in the Hennessy. Afterwards trainer Alan King said that perhaps he should have given his charge a preliminary run; the handler reported the grey 'quiet' for a couple of weeks after Newbury but appears more bullish now. The horse receives weight from all his rivals (12 pounds better off with Many Clouds) but on official ratings he's still the lowest rated animal in the field after Theatre Guide and has just five chase runs to his name.

All of which leaves Black Thunder and The Giant Bolster. The former fell in last year's RSA Chase and looks relatively unexposed while the latter is one talented but quirky individual who happens to like Cheltenham and happened to win last year's renewal. In recent times he has shown his very best form with Tom Scudamore in the plate but Tom is aboard Dynaste tomorrow, leaving the ride to another Tom, Tom Cannon, who got on well with the horse in Haydock's Betfair Chase. Connections have previously tried all manner of aids (hood, visor, hood and visor) and have opted for just the visor on this occasion.

This renewal looks stronger than last year so I'm going to leave The Giant Bolster and chance Oliver Sherwood's Many Clouds. At the time of writing Coral stand out from the competition offering 100/30.

Just six runners in the Cleeve Hurdle (3.35) with Saphir Du Rheu reverting to the smaller obstacles after a couple of blips over the bigger ones. He's top on official ratings with owner Andy Stewart saying:

"He's no Big Buck's but he's only six so we're giving it a go."

That doesn't exactly exude confidence but you could argue some of the uncertainty is factored into the 2/1 available.

Question marks hang over the others; with the Festival on the horizon, I'll leave the race alone.

Peace And Co is currently quoted 5/2 for the Triumph Hurdle in March so it's no surprise to see him odds-on for the opener.

The novice hurdle at 3.00 appears more competitive but layers still go 5/1 the field bar favourite Value At Risk who is quoted as low as 12/1 for the Neptune in March.

On a line through Thomas Brown there isn't much to choose between Robinsfirth and Vago Collenges while Philip Hobbs' Stilletto could be anything.

Looking for an each-way play, marginal preference is for Robinsfirth (8/1 bet365); in the past week the Tizzard yard has clocked up four wins from just nine runs.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ambivalence at Ascot

Weather permitting, Sam Twiston-Davies will travel to Haydock tomorrow to partner The New One in the Stan James Champion Hurdle Trial at 2.05.

55 minutes later all eyes will turn to Ascot where Sprinter Sacre makes his reappearance in the Clarence House Chase following an absence of 386 days.

The great horse's problems have been well documented but on official ratings he has at least 23 pounds in hand over his four rivals; his starting price is likely to be the biggest since December 2011 when he beat Peddlers Cross in Kempton's Wayward Lad Novices' Chase at odds of 11/10.

Should events not go to plan, Dodging Bullets is the one most likely to benefit while Willie Mullins' Twinlight is clearly talented but not always the best of jumpers.

I'll watch from the sidelines hoping all goes to plan.

With the Haydock card not certain to beat the weather I've turned to the mares' hurdle at Ascot (1.50) in search of a wager.

Carole's Spirit sprung something of a surprise on her seasonal debut at Kempton seven and a half weeks ago. She's a tough, relentless galloper who handles underfoot conditions and on ratings the best horse in this field.

That said, Robert Walford's mare was afforded an easy time of it up front at Kempton and some fancied rivals failed to land a blow; she has to concede five pounds to all her opponents here.

Second in the race last year, she's likely to go off favourite but doesn't have much in hand over Land Of Vic who sports cheekpieces for the first time or Mischievous Milly who steps up to three miles and is entitled to improve for her seasonal debut when third behind Aurore D'Estruval (rated 147).

Oliver Sherwood's mare has good form in the book with Glens Melody (a threequarter length second to Quevega at Cheltenham in March). If she stays, she's right in the mix but the trainer has stated that the target is this year's mares' hurdle at the Festival (run over two and a half miles). 

Dark Spirit is certainly no slouch and one who has won over the trip; she was three and a quarter lengths ahead of  Mischievous Milly in Aurore D'Estruval's race at Sandown a fortnight ago. 

Bitofapuzzle is another who has to enter calculations, hailing from a yard bang in form; this evening she looks strong in the market but for me has enough to find on the official ratings.

The race looks more competitive than the market might suggest.

Hoping cheekpieces will help, I'm going to chance Peter Bowen's Land Of Vic (11/2 with Skybet this evening).

Friday, January 09, 2015

Warwick Classic Chase 2014

Sixteen have been declared for tomorrow's Classic Chase at Warwick (this is Mart Lane's second preference) including last year's one-two, Shotgun Paddy and Carruthers, 2013 victor Rigadin de Beauchene and West End Rocker who claimed the spoils in 2011.

Shotgun Paddy is normally a reliable jumper but he made a bad mistake at the second in the Welsh National and was pulled up having covered little more than a mile. He should give a better account here racing off a mark just two pounds higher than last year but he's burdened with top weight.

Carruthers is a stone better off for last year's six length defeat but he isn't getting any younger, a comment that also applies to West End Rocker.

After winning off a mark of 122 in 2013, Rigadin de Beauchene has been pulled up in four of his subsequent six starts. He can go well fresh and three pound claimer Robbie Dunne knows Venetia Williams' charge but the gelding is another with his fair share of weight.

A big weight hasn't necessarily been a drawback in the past (three winners have carried 11-7 or more since 2007 - D'Argent, Hey Big Spender and Shotgun Paddy) but I'm tempted to look at those towards the bottom end of the handicap.

Benbane Head won well the last day but his jumping of the larger obstacles has never totally convinced and perhaps Hawkes Point makes more appeal as an out and out stayer - the application of first time blinkers could bring about improvement.

Oliver Sherwood looks to further build Deputy Dan's confidence in the novice chase at 1.55 following a blip at Exeter last month; the same handler saddles Global Power, who missed the cut for the Welsh National, in the feature.

The gelding would be closely matched with Colin Tizzard's Theatrical Star on previous Fontwell form and Venetia Williams' Ballyoliver on prevoius Carlisle form - the former subsequently unseated at Cheltenham (Cadeau George ninth) while the latter disappointed in an amateur riders' race at the same track.

At 10/1 with both Ladbrokes and totesport, Global Power is the each-way suggestion - he carries a racing weight and has previously seen out similar trips but we should note that, according to the RP Weekender, he needs heavy / practically unraceable ground to be seen at his best.