Friday, February 05, 2016

Heavy going for the Ffos Las feature

I'm considering a wager in the West Wales National at Ffos Las tomorrow (3.15) but at the back of my mind I can hear Sir Anthony McCoy OBE saying something along the lines of  'there's heavy and there's Ffos Las heavy'.

And the weather forecast looks decidedly grim too.

Rebecca Curtis fields four of the seven declared; last year her Bob Ford finished in splendid isolation to collect the spoils at odds of 16/1 with eight of the nine opponents failing to complete.

There are some notable differences to take into account for this year's renewal: Bob Ford is set to carry top weight and is currently priced up favourite; the gelding looked to have a hard enough race and had probably come to the end of his tether when falling four out in the Welsh National at Chepstow last month; the distance of the race has been shortened by three furlongs.

Stablemate Red Devil Lads doesn't jump well enough for my liking while Audacious Plan would prefer better ground (and has the Kim Muir as his target) which suggests connections may consider Minella On Line their best chance of a repeat victory.
    
Cogry failed to fire when sent off favourite for the Welsh National; if you can forgive that particular effort, he has form in the book - his two and a quarter lengths fourth to Sausalito Sunrise at the Cheltenham Open meeting catches the eye. He has won on heavy ground before - but this is Ffos Las heavy. And he did appear to get stuck in the mud last time... 

5/1 Minella On Line is tempting but Jamie Bargary can claim five on Cogry; Cogry (3/1) is given another chance.

It's unusual to see two top-notch novice chases within twenty minutes of one another. On paper Sandown's Scilly Isles Novices' Chase (2.25) looks between Tea For Two and Bristol de Mai but the Towton Novices' Chase at Wetherby (2.45) is a far more open affair.

Definitly Red did well to finish so close to Black Hercules at Warwick the last day as he was persistently out-jumped by the winner. Blaklion is a horse I like who will be suited by the step back up to three miles here but Native River was slightly disappointing behind Tea For Two in the Feltham - connections felt Kempton's right-handed track didn't suit their charge. Harry Fry's mare Bitofapuzzle fell last time over in Ireland but poses a serious threat to all.

Back going left-handed, Native River (7/2) is the selection.   

Friday, January 29, 2016

Cheltenham's Festival Trials Day 2016

There will be clues aplenty at Cheltenham's Festival Trials Day tomorrow but the accompanying worry is that, with the showpiece just over six weeks away, many of the runners won't turn up at the very top of their game - unsurprisingly, bigger prizes in March will be the main focus of attention for many.

Thistlecrack's trainer Colin Tizzard isn't one to adopt that sort of approach - as he makes clear in the Weekender:

"The season isn't all about one race, though, and before that [Thistlecrack] runs at Cheltenham on Saturday in the Cleeve Hurdle. There won't be any excuses afterwards saying he needed the run or it will put him right for the big one, this is a proper prize and he will be fit and ready to do his very best."    

In the BetBright Chase (1.50) Djakadam looks terribly short at 1/2 - under the conditions of the race he is just two pounds clear of Many Clouds (aimed at the Grand National) and has four pounds to find with Alan King's Smad Place.

The opening Triumph Hurdle Trial looks trappy but should prove highly informative. I saw Wolf Of Windlesham win on his hurdles debut at Ludlow in the autumn - rated no higher than 65 on the Flat, I never for a moment envisaged him in a contest like this but after his win at the Open meeting he deserves to take his place in the line-up.

With Barters Hill expected to run at Doncaster, Shantou Village will be my play against favourite Yanworth in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at 3.00. At the time of writing 5/2 is the price; I was looking for 11/4. The booking of Ruby Walsh catches the eye.

Finally, a tale to make you weep...
.
A group of us had arranged to go Newbury a week last Wednesday but the meeting was called off after overnight temperatures reached minus seven. I'd done the homework beforehand and noted Martin Keighley's Johnny Og in the third. He appealed as the outsider (14/1 the night before) in a field of six who might give us a run for our money on the back of the handler's comments in the Weekender 30.12.15 - 03.01.16:

"He has plenty of of ability but needs to be left out in front with no company. He won at Stratford... but then things have gone against him at Newbury and Ascot as he couldn't get his own way... This soft ground is ideal for him and he'll be out again next month when I think he should win sooner rather than later." 

Three days after that Newbury abandonment, Johnny Og turns up in an amateur riders' handicap chase at Ascot where the book records he 'tracked leader, led 4 out, 12 lengths clear after next, stayed on well' and won at odds of 14/1. Needless to say, I didn't have a penny on.

Since then I have worked my way through five boxes of Kleenex Mansize Tissues; I think I can now say unequivocally that I've fully recovered my composure.

Johnny Og goes again tomorrow in the 1.15. Don't even think about asking.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A horse for Haydock

Some small fields at Ascot and Haydock tomorrow with a couple of odds-on favourites to have reservations about.

All eyes will be on Un De Sceaux in the Sodexo Clarence House Chase (Ascot 3.00) but 8/13 looks a short price about a horse that has fallen twice in six chase starts.

Similarly I wouldn't be in a rush to back The New One at odds of 1/2 in Haydock's Champion Hurdle Trial after his struggle to get past Bertimont in this race on similar ground last year.

Just six go in the Champion Hurdle Trial and six are declared for the Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle at 2.05. The layers have marked up top-rated Le Presien a hot favourite but this looks decidedly closer than the prices might imply. Vieux Lille, rated two pounds inferior, is priced up 4/1 at the moment - that price appears to be disappearing - while both It'safreebee and Bigmartre enter calculations.

The former has just his second start for Dan Skelton who has saddled a couple that have run below par in big Saturday novice events since the turn of the year - Welsh Shadow in the Tolworth at Sandown and Born Survivor in Warwick's Leamington Hurdle last weekend.

I was disappointed to see a particular favourite of mine, Bigmartre, beaten at Fontwell on his penultimate run - that was over two miles three. He made amends next time out by winning over this course and distance on heavy ground; trainer Harry Whittington, who currently boasts a strike rate in excess of 30% for the season, indicates connections intend to go chasing in the autumn.

Either the first or second favourite has won six of the past seven renewals but 7/1 Bigmartre looks big to me - Bigmartre is the play against Le Presien.

I was going to take a small each-way interest in Katenko in the Peter Marsh Chase (Haydock 3.15) but at the time of writing a number of layers aren't quoting a price which suggests he may not take his chance.

It's a bit of a surprise to see Reve De Sivola priced up favourite for this slog in the mud but he races off a mark 21 pounds lower than his hurdles rating. That said, in the past he has been slow over the larger obstacles and has on occasions jumped out to the right; I'm not tempted.   

Friday, January 15, 2016

From Warwick to Wetherby

The best card of the year at Warwick, my local track, is subject to an 8.00 am inspection tomorrow; frost covers have been deployed and course officials are confident the meeting will go ahead.

As I won't be racing tomorrow I confess haven't done much prep work.

The Classic Chase (3.35) looks as open as ever with the field containing a number of runners who like to race prominently.

The Leamington Hurdle (3.00) is intriguing. Willie Mullins sends over two to challenge course and distance winner Born Survivor. The Weekender reports Dan Skelton's charge 'the best novice hurdler in the yard' so it's no surprise to see this locally-trained gelding head the market.

Skelton, who can boast a strike-rate of over 20% this season, plundered the spoils last year with Three Musketeers and is clearly expected to repeat the trick this year.

Of the Mullins pair, slight preference would be for Open Eagle but seven-year olds don't have a good record in this race and both Irish runners have to concede three pounds to the favourite on heavy ground.

While browsing the entries I was struck by the fact that Aidan Coleman has decided to ride at Wetherby tomorrow.

Venetia Williams has five runners at Warwick - Polo (12.40), Vivaccio (1.15), Rigadin De Beauchene (3.35 - regularly ridden by Robbie Dunne), Houblon Des Obeaux (3.35) and Opera Rock (4.05) - but sends just two up north to Wetherby - Gardefort (2.05) and Azert De Coeur (3,15).

Both are of interest.

Gardefort was third in the same race last year but remains unexposed racing off a mark three pounds lower while Azert De Coeur's fourth behind Cloonacool at Ludlow last time reads well enough in this lower grade event.

Two selections:
Gardefort (9/2) 2.05 Wetherby;
Azert De Coeur (5/1) 3.15 Wetherby. 

Friday, January 08, 2016

Welsh Grand National 2016

It could be touch-and-go whether tomorrow's card at Chepstow gets the all-clear.

The time of the Welsh National has been rescheduled to 1.45 so the race can be run on the best possible ground.

There are two former winners in the field - last year Emperor's Choice claimed the spoils off a mark of 131 but goes off 141 here.

Mountainous appears to have been given every chance starting off the same mark he won off in 2013. Kerry Lee's gelding ran an eye-catching trial last time when finishing fourth beaten seven lengths in the London National at Sandown.

I've scanned the declarations for a horse carrying less than 11-0 that will will handle heavy ground and stay the trip - Bob Ford fits the bill and his style of racing is suited to this course.

Granted, he has been pulled up a number of times but I'm hoping he can repeat his performance in the West Wales National last January...

Generally available at 16/1 Bob Ford is the each-way selection; most layers offer a quarter the odds four places.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Three selections for Sandown's Tolworth meeting 2016

Quick picks from tomorrow's Sandown card...

Just five declared for the Tolworth Hurdle at 2.25. Willie Mullins sends over Yorkhill who at this stage wouldn't be the yard's leading light but he's likely to start a short-priced favourite.

Nicky Henderson boasts a good record in this event winning five of the last six renewals. Four weeks ago O O Seven beat stablemate Premier Bond (winner since) over course and distance; rated 145 and available at 4/1 generally, O O Seven represents a value wager against the favourite.

Welsh Shadow from Dan Skelton's yard isn't readily dismissed. Beaten by Yarnworth on his penultimate run, he improved next time to win a listed event at Haydock. Connections rate this one highly and have indicated there is 'more to come'.

2013 Tolworth winner Melodic Rendezvous reverts to handicap company in the finale; at 13/2 he has to be worth an interest.

Finally my favourite mare in training, Polly Peachum, goes in the mares' listed hurdle at 12.40.

Polly hasn't shown her very best form on heavy ground which is a concern but the shorter trip here may help. At the weights she's the best horse in the field; priced up at 4/1 with Paddy Power Polly Peachum represents a play against the Mullins-trained favourite Gitane Du Berlais.

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.

Postscript
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.  

Footnote
 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 williamhill.com 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?