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...