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I happened to tip the beast for Warwick's Classic Chase three weeks ago but he was withdrawn on the morning of that race.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.