Friday, October 17, 2014

October Cheltenham chances

Heavy ground may appear a distinct possibility for tomorrow's Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot but at Cheltenham the going is described as good, good to soft in places.

According to the market, the opener at the Cotswolds' track is between In The Rough and Vivaldi Collonges. On New Year's Day the latter-named trailed in last of six over two and half miles and was well beaten at Warwick the next time but when upped in trip he won a Class 3 handicap hurdle at Ayr with some ease; on official ratings Paul Nicholls' charge has five pounds to find with his market rival.

Last year Johns Spirit won the 2.35 off a mark of 129; tomorrow he tries to repeat the trick off a rating of 147. A tall order but we should remember Jonjo O'Neill's charge went on to take the Paddy Power Gold Cup four weeks later (Champion Court seventh, Astracad eleventh) and had Champion Court, Bennys Mist (would prefer more cut) and Sew On Target behind when finishing fourth to Ballynagour in the Byrne Group Plate at the Festival.

Several will be using the race as a stepping stone to the Paddy Power - Johns Spirit (13/2 Stan James) is the suggestion although it's worth noting that Astracad is over 20 pounds better off for a five length defeat in last year's running.

Triumph Hurdle form is on display in the 3.10 with Festival winner Tiger Roll set to give Calipto (fourth in March) four pounds; the latter-named was beaten over eight lengths but that only tells half the story as Daryl Jacob lost his irons two from home that day.

Many will fancy Nicholls' charge to reverse the form - it's not a race I'll get involved in.

Ainsi Fideles (5.00) is something of rarity - a four-year-old who has taken well to chasing.

He has the beating of Splash of Ginge on recent Perth form but David Pipe's charge looked a tad fortunate to collect that day with Howwoulduno (beaten five lengths by Court Minstrel earlier today) idling in the shadow of the post. Splash Of Ginge is expected to strip fitter for that Perth run.

Finally some interesting sorts in the concluding bumper. In April Moon Racer won a Fairyhouse bumper on his racecourse debut at odds of 50/1 for handler Michael Ronayne; the gelding is now with David Pipe and unlikely to start at anywhere near those odds tomorrow. Chezzy is a mare who impressed at Carlisle on her debut while How About It won an Irish point-to-point in the spring.

Warren Greatrex and Gavin Sheehan are a combination worthy of note. The stable has done well in this type of event in the past and I don't think Going For Gold would be entered if connections felt he was going to be outclassed.

I'll take a small each-way interest provided the price is 12/1 or bigger.

Friday, October 10, 2014

One chance at Chepstow

It's taken me 5 attempts to log on,,,

Popped up? Of course I am.

Over the years the form of the Nicholls runners has been key to this Chepstow meeting.

At Newton Abbot earlier today Wonderful Charm obliged but Arenice Et Pictons (even money favourite ) was pulled up while Solar Impulse (8/11f) was beaten by Llittle Jon.

Southfield Theatre looks the answer to the 3.40 but will be no price and isn't guaranteed to take to fences.

The market tells us the 4.20 is between the three horses allocated 11-2; Nicky Henderson's Dawalan wasn't the best at his hurdles last term while  Brian Ellison's Manhattan Swing has no more than a Market Rasen novice hurdle to his name in this country.

In the circumstances a chance is taken with Nicholls' Dormello Mo (7/2 or better).


Friday, October 03, 2014

Small fields at Fontwell

Small fields at Fontwell today and the same applies tomorrow - the recent dry weather has meant trainers have decided to keep their charges under wraps until the rains arrive.

Of course small fields don't necessarily make picking winners any easier; 10/1 chance The Wallace Line beat odds-on favourite Mercouer in the opener today while 1/5 favourite Salubrious held Drum Valley (9/2) a neck in the novice chase.

Finding a value play on tomorrow's card at the Sussex track looks a challenge - I intend to keep my powder dry.

In the opener (2.15) Anthony Honeyball's mare Lily Waugh has decent form to her name. She finished third in a mares' listed handicap at Newbury in March and was far from disgraced when eighth behind Polly Peachum next time out at Cheltenham; the Honeyball stable boasts three wins from three runners over the jumps in the past month.

A reasonable showing from Lily Waugh might point to the chance of another mare, One Lucky Lady, who goes in the Class 2 handicap hurdle at 3.20; Nicky Henderson's inmate finished some 13 lengths behind Lily in that Cheltenham race won in some style by her stablemate Polly Peachum. Workbench won a Class 2 handicap chase at the track this afternoon but is also declared in this - it would be a surprise to see connections allow their charge to take his chance over the smaller obstacles.

Kim Bailey's yard is in excellent form at present - seven winners from fifteen attempts in the past four weeks. Up For An Oscar (3.55) has been running in novice chases of late with a fourth behind Drum Valley (beaten a neck by Salubrious earlier today) sandwiched between two wins at Worcester.

Just six face the starter but this is a trappy event - as I indicated, I'm going to keep my powder dry and wait for the rain to arrive.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Rum and Rasen

The 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Perthshire may be the focus of attention for many this weekend but for this observer Perth's two day midweek meeting held as much interest.

In the past I have found the meet has proved a reasonable guide to the well-being of Nigel Twiston-Davies' horses.

This year Blacklion took the opening race of the meeting at odds of 4/9 but there were some notable disappointments in between before five-year-old mare Kilronan High built on her impressive win at Towcester last May with victory in the meeting's concluding bumper.

2/5 chance Ballyboley was beaten some 33 lengths by 80/1 shot Last Supper while Splash Of Ginge, winner of last season's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, didn't appear to appreciate the larger obstacles in the latter stages of the novice chase, finishing some 47 lengths behind David Pipe's game four-year-old Ansi Fideles.

Tomorrow's opener at Market Rasen (1.45) was won by Barizan in 2009 (went on to finish second in the Triumph Hurdle) and Nicky Henderson's Royal Irish Hussar obliged last year (went on to finish sixth in the Triumph).

Twiston-Davies saddles course and distance winner Goodbye Dancer (rated 139) and I've no doubt he'll hope for similar things for his charge but stable form isn't convincing and the price looks tight enough. In the past the gelding has made all but may not have things all his own way with the filly Full Day in the field while David Pipe's French import Unanimite looks interesting on his debut in this country.

Those looking for a wager may want to consider trainers in form including:

Charlie Longsdon - six winners from last seven runners;
Kim Bailey - seven winners from eleven runners in past month;
John Ferguson - four winners from seven entries in September;
Dr R P Newland - three winners from six in past month;
Neil Mulholland - three-timer at Worcester earlier today.

The listed hurdle at 2.15 looks very difficult.

John Ferguson's Mijhaar is priced up favourite but in the past he hasn't been the most consistent.

A couple of 'old friends' (I use that term advisedly) try their luck again.

Peter Bowen has declared Dineur in this hurdle (rating 126) rather than the following handicap chase where he was set to run off 134. He's a talented individual but this is his first run for over a year and his first run in a hurdle for over two...

I tipped Solaras Exhibition as an each-way outsider for this race last year but he ran an absolute stinker; in the past he was described as a 'lively outsider' for the Fred Winter at Cheltenham but he's not one to trust implicitly.

Purple 'N 'Gold narrowly failed to bring home the bacon when carrying my money three weeks ago but he has failed again since and looks up against it.

The listed handicap chase at 2.50 isn't any easier but Rum And Butter is a young horse with time on his side. He failed to show in the Galway Plate in July and lacks chase experience compared to some in this field but he has won around here before.

McCoy prefers Dursey Sound so Rum And Butter can be no more than a speculative each-way suggestion, priced up at 14/1 this evening.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Back in training...

Having been sent out to grass over the summer, I've only recently 'come back in' and as result will need  a few more weeks before coming to hand...

At a Warwick midweek meeting last March Nicky Henderson's mare Polly Peachum caught my eye while King's Tempest claimed the concluding bumper for the Twiston-Davies operation; both will be of interest when they re-appear.

Since then Warwick has held its final Flat meeting (Bank Holiday Monday, August 25th) as the course pursues its aim of becoming 'a top quality small jumps course.'

A few miles down the road Towcester has sold off seven of its NH fixtures deeming the decision  to diversify into greyhound racing a commercial necessity.

And Peddlers Cross, the 2011 Champion Hurdle runner-up, has been retired.

At Stratford tomorrow I'm tempted to chance David Pipe's Purple 'n Gold in the 3.55 provided the tissue price of 5/1 is available on the day. This one was beaten by Roman Flight over course and distance in May but held every chance before making a mess of the last. Although racing from out of the handicap here, at the weights he holds a chance of reversing the form and jockey Kieron Edgar claims five.

That said, having just returned from the summer vacation, I'm racing some way off the pace.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Market Rasen Summer Plate 2014

This race, one of the highlights of the summer jumping programme, is a regular target of Peter Bowen; the Welsh handler boasts a decent record in the race but hasn't won any of the past five renewals.

This year Jonjo O'Neill saddles four - Lost legend, It's A Gimme, Dursey Sound and course and distance winner The Nephew.

McCoy has chosen It's A Gimme but has previously won on each of the three stablemates so the champion jockey should certainly know what's required.

Of the Bowen pair Lamboro Lad was well beaten behind The Romford Pele last time (Pantxoa pulled up) while previously he found Guess Again too good at Perth; Book'Em Danno, racing in a first-time tongue-tie, beat Grandads Horse over course and distance last month and probably holds the better chance.

I note that six of the fifteen strong field have the form comment 'made [virtually] all' recorded for a recent race (Kie, Pantxoa, Guess Again, Creevytennant, The Nephew and Woodbank) and Book'Em Danno also likes to race with the pace, all of which suggests it could be cut-throat up front; good fencing will be at a premium.

The weather is likely to prove problematic as well with sporadic torrential downpours forecast - it's difficult to know exactly how the ground will ride.

Guess Again hasn't always been the most fluent of jumpers but he's a tough customer who has won over further and won't be inconvenienced by any rain that falls. At the prices this evening (10/1 BetVictor) he looks a reasonable value each-way play.

Friday, July 04, 2014

World Cup wagers - update

Following on from my last post, with all the group stage matches now completed, I have been asked to provide updated figures for the predictions made by Nicolas Scelles and his research team at the University of Stirling.

So, here goes...

The correct score prices quoted were the best available as shown on the Oddschecker site on Wednesday-Thursday 11-12 June, before a ball had been kicked in the competition.

Interestingly, in the correct score markets Ladbrokes were best or joint-best priced on 31 of the 48 matches (64.58%) while BetVictor were best or joint-best priced on 12 of the 48 matches (25%).

Six correct scorelines were predicted from the 48 group games as shown below:

Chile 3 Australia 1 - 15/1 BetVictor

Ivory Coast 2 Japan 1 - 11/1 Ladbrokes

Argentina 2 Bosnia-Herzegovina 1 - 17/2 Ladbrokes

Ghana 1 USA 2 - 12/1 Ladbrokes

Australia 0 Spain 3 - 13/2 Paddy Power

Portugal 2 Ghana 1 - 8/1 Ladbrokes / BetVictor

Figures to nominal £1 bet per match:

Win strike-rate:  6/48 - 12.5%

Outlay: £48.00

Return: £67.00

Profit: £19.00

Profit as % of turnover: 39.58%

Monday, June 16, 2014

World Cup wagers?

For the first time in many years I've had to forgo Royal Ascot form study.

The World Cup has proved a distraction, particualry the article entitled 'Prediction' compiled by researchers at the University of Strirling and published on The Scorecard website.

Bravely, the team at Stirling has predicted correct score outcomes for all matches at the 2014 World Cup.

As an exercise, using Oddschecker as the comparison tool, I noted the best prices in correct scores markets for the 48 scheduled group games before a ball had been kicked in the competition.

At the time of writing the team has predicted three correct scores from eleven completed games:

Chile 3 Australia 1  (15/1 BetVictor)
Ivory Coast 2 Japan 1 (11/1 Ladbrokes)
Argentina 2 Bosnia 1 (17/2 Ladbrokes)

A nominal £1.00 correct score wager on each of the completed games to date shows a healthy-looking profit of £25.50 on £11 staked.

Of course, as always, past results are not necessarily a guide to future performance...    

Friday, June 06, 2014

Epsom Derby 2014

I usually indulge myself by taking a small interest in the Epsom Derby although my record in the race is thoroughly abysmal.

Tomorrow's renewal is a one horse affair according to layers who bet 7/1 the field bar favourite and form choice Australia, priced up at 6/4. Ruler Of The World was the biggest priced winner in the past decade when returned at odds of 7/1 last year.

The going is reported to be drying out but rain is forecast; I've used the Dante form to try and identify some each-way value. At York The Grey Gatsby beat Arod and True Story and was then turned out 17 days later to take the Prix Du Jockey Club at Chantilly.

True Story looked held when hampered a furlong from home in the Dante; several commentators felt he didn't give his true running that day and can reverse placings with second Arod who was staying on at the end. Fallon is bullish enough about True Story's chance in the Weekender while Aron's pilot Jamie Spencer would probably prefer the rain to stay away.

This evening BetVictor bet 18/1 Arod and 12/1 True Story; I'll support True Story each-way should any rain get into the ground, otherwise I'll chance Arod (each-way) - on Timeform ratings True Story is second and Aron fourth best of the sixteen runners in the field.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Some jumping links for Saturday's cards

Pressed for time, so rather brief notes this evening...

Dual purpose handler Ian Williams has some interesting runners around the country tomorrow.

At Chester Swinging Hawk tries to repeat last year's victory in the Kozel Handicap at 4.15; he faces a stiff enough task off a rating six pounds higher. Swnymor, ninth behind runaway winner Our Conor in the 2013 Triumph Hurdle, has his first run for J. J. Quinn in the same race.    

Gifted Leader is getting on a bit these days but took a Class 3 Market Rasen hurdle with the minimum of fuss off a mark of 120 last month. Rated 82 on the Flat he makes some appeal as an each-way wager in Newmarket's 5.15 and George Downing can claim five but 10/1 isn't particularly generous. The gelding finished second behind Veiled in the 2011 running of this race; Veiled went on to win the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot that year.

Williams saddles two at Stratford's evening meeting. Sonofagun arrives in good form to contest the Severn Cider Handicap Chase at 7.25 while the consistent Fredo, entered in the three and a half mile handicap chase at 6.25, should be thereabouts.

Five Star Wilsham did the blog a favour at Ffos Las last week and goes again in that 6.25 race; trainer Twiston-Davies certainly isn't letting the grass grow... With the benefit of hindsight, the gelding was well in that day and has been raised seven pounds for his trouble; this looks much more competitive but likely favourite Oscarslad is taking on seasoned handicappers here and makes a market which contains several credible winners.

I'm going to stay loyal to Five Star Wilsham who holds a better chance of conceding weight all round on drying ground and should certainly see out the trip.    

Friday, May 23, 2014

From a £15 million jackpot to Ffos Las

The total for this week's Scoop6 pool is predcited to pass the £15 million mark...

With the benefit of hindsight, last week's pot (4,696,960 different winning combinations) was eminently more winnable than this week's puzzle (9,424,800 combinations).

Rain is predicted for Haydock - the odd non-runner here and there may reduce that rather large number by the odd million or so but we're still talking big numbers.

All this week's races will be run over a distance of eight furlongs or less; for those interested, the races are:

2.05 Haydock 
2.50 Catterick
2.55 Goodwood
3.10 Haydock
3.25 Catterick
3.45 Haydock

There's no £15 million jackpot up for grabs at Ffos Las but the rain has certainly arrived at the Welsh track where the going is described as soft; the handicap chase at 7.40 looks more open than some of the other fare on offer.

Top weight Smadynium, trying this trip for the first time, isn't guaranteed to stay while at the other end of the handicap Tough Talkin Man has been allocated the bare minimum and amateur Mr S P Bowen claims a further seven pounds - the Bowen yard has sent out four winners in the past week. Whispering Jack won this last year (Sir Mattie beaten 16 lengths) but hasn't been in good form of late. By contrast Sir Mattie ran well for a long way here the last day on his first appearance for the best part of a year. Five Star Wilsham has his second run for the Twiston-Davies yard and boasts some interesting pieces of form; that said he has failed to complete in his last three chase starts.

Both Sir Mattie and Five Star Wilsham are priced up at around 5/1 in the tissue; of that pairing, the latter looks to offer slightly better value and so makes more appeal - it's the jumping that's the worry.       

Friday, May 16, 2014

No Scoop6 for me - it's Bangor-on-Dee...

The Scoop6 hasn't been won since March and the result is there's an estimated £10 million in the pot.

With no more than 15 runners in any of tomorrow's six races, the chances are there will be at least one winning ticket.

I've no doubt the syndicates have already started work on their permutations...

According to my back-of-a-fag packet maths, there are only 4,656,960 potential winning combinations. The wager certainly delivers more excitement than a lottery ticket and, on this occasion, represents better value too.

For those interested in taking part, all you have to do is pick the winners of the following races:

1.45 Newmarket
2.40 Newbury (understatedly named the Betfred Astronomical 10 Million Scoop6 Today Handicap)
2.55 Newmarket
3.25 Thirsk
3.30 Newmarket
4.00 Thirsk

If you're tempted, good luck!

I've set my sights considerably lower by looking briefly at Bangor-on-Dee's jumps card.

Alan King's Grumeti, eighth behind Jezki in the Champion Hurdle two months ago, makes his chase debut in the opener. He'll be long odds-on but didn't hurdle that well at Cheltenham or at Aintree over a half mile further the last day. Back in September I fancied Solaras Exhibition at a price for a listed event at Market Rasen but he disappointed on that occasion. Tim Vaughan's charge will appreciate quicker ground - he may not have the class of Grumeti but I'll watch his jumping with a view to the summer months ahead.

Warren Greatrex is in fine form with 5 wins from 11 runs this month, all ridden by last season's leading conditional Gavin Sheehan.

Later tonight Aidan Coleman teams up with Warrantor for the handler in Aintree's concluding bumper while Sheehan is booked for Wojciech in Bangor's bumper tomorrow. That one faces stiff opposition from the likes of Quiet Candid (Nicky Henderson), Whatdoesthefoxsay (Donald McCain) and Belle De Londres (Alan King).

Whatdoesthefoxsay would appeal as a value play against Henderson's Quiet Candid if the tissue price of 3/1 is available on the day.

McCoy also rides Chalk It Down (for Greatrex) in the 3.40 but this looks an open event. I'm tempted to take an each-way chance with McCain's Ballybriggan provided the price is in double figures.

At the age of ten this one is no spring chicken and he doesn't appear to have had much fun over the larger obstacles recently. That said, he doesn't have too many miles on the clock and comes here freshened up - his record over hurdles reads 4 wins from 11 runs while conditional Nick Slatter takes a handy-looking seven pounds off his back.

Friday, May 02, 2014

A review of the 2013/14 jumps season

Champion jockey: A P McCoy
Champion trainer: Paul Nicholls
Winning owner: J P McManus
Leading conditional rider: Gavin Sheehan

This time last year Nicky Henderson was long odds-on to retain the trainers' title but last year's Arkle winner Simonsig missed the entire season while stable star Sprinter Sacre, pulled up on his seasonal debut in Kempton's Desert Orchid Chase, was found to have an irregular heartbeat. Later the problem was reported to have 'righted itself' but the gelding hasn't raced in public since.

As is so often the case in racing, it's an ill wind... Sire De Grugy stepped up to win six of his seven starts including Cheltenham's Queen Mother Champion Chase; Gary Moore's charge was named jumps Horse of the Year.

Riding at Towcester on Thursday November 7th McCoy recorded his 4,000th win aboard a horse called Mountain Tunes and two days later Richie McLernon rode Johns Spirit to victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

A week on and any lingering doubts about Cue Card's ability to stay three miles appeared to have been answered as Joe Tizzard made all to claim Haydock's Betfair Chase, with Dynaste, Silviniaco Conti and Gold Cup holder Bobs Worth all well beaten. At Kempton on Boxing Day Colin Tizzard's stable star looked set to confirm that form in the King George but in heart-breaking fashion Cue Card ran out of petrol in the home straight and was outstayed by Silviniaco Conti.

Cue Card missed the remainder of the season through injury while regular pilot Joe Tizzard later announced his retirement from race-riding.

At that same Kempton meeting My Tent Or Yours pipped The New One in the Christmas Hurdle - both horses set their sights on the Champion in March. A vintage renewal saw Jezki claim the crown holding McCoy's mount My Tent Or Yours a neck with The New One third.

The bare result only tells half the story. The New One was badly hampered after Our Conor fell fatally at the third but he still finished like a train while McCoy had had the choice between the first two but chose the wrong one.

That evening the champ will have been cursing his luck and his mood will have turned darker still two days later when he finished third in the World Hurdle on At Fishers Cross; emphatic winner More of That was another McCoy had rejected - on both occasions Barry Geraghty was the fortunate beneficiary.

Geraghty was aboard market leader and clear form choice Bobs Worth in Friday's Gold Cup but the race went the way of Lord Windermere (20/1) who held On His Own (16/1) a short head at the line with The Giant Bolster (14/1) threequarters of a length adrift in third.

Dr Richard Newland doesn't train for a living but that fact didn't stop his Pineau De Re coming home five lengths clear in the Aintree Grand National at odds of 25/1; Peter Bowen's Al Co (40/1) claimed the Scottish version while Richard Lee recorded a win for the home side with Mountainous in the Welsh version.

Daryl Jacob experienced mixed fortunes as Paul Nicholls' stable jockey; eyebrows were raised when he knocked back the ride on the legend Big Buck's...

Distraught at being beaten a nose by Richard Johnson in the Pertemps Network Final at the Festival, the next day Jacob rode Lac Fontana to victory in the County Hurdle but before the very next race suffered horrific injuries when Port Mellon spooked, broke through a rail and dumped him on a concrete hard-standing.

In stark contrast Sam Twiston-Davies recorded a total of 115 winners and saw his stock rise in meteoric fashion; he has just been appointed Paul Nicholls' stable jockey while Jacob has chosen to go freelance.

Finally a word for Jason Maguire who finished third in the jockeys' championship (130 winners) despite missing the final six weeks of the season after suffering life-threatening injuries in a fall from Scots Gaelic at Stratford on the eve of the Festival.

As trainer Donald McCain pointed out - it puts it all into perspective, doesn't it?

Friday, April 25, 2014

bet365 Gold Cup 2014

The curtain falls on the 2013/4 National Hunt season at Sandown tomorrow with the highlight the bet365 Gold Cup due off at 3.50. Twenty have been declared with the going likely to ride soft following today's persistent rain.

In the past decade three winners have carried more than 11 stones to victory - Puntal (2004), Lacdoudal (2006) and Tidal Bay (2012).

Five of the field took part in the Scottish Grand National a fortnight ago - Godsmejudge (second), Summery Justice (fifth), Midnight Appeal (fell) with both Roalco Des Farges and Rigadin De Beauchene pulled up. I tipped the last-named for the Ayr showpiece but his jumping was poor that day; the rain will help the cause tomorrow but fencing is always at a premium here. Godsmejudge showed improved form to finish second but that was just two short weeks ago and this race may have come a shade too quickly.

Rose Of The Moon, Twirling Magnet and Burton Port all fell in the Aintree Grand National, the last two at the first and second obstacles respectively, so they'll come to this fresher than some.

Same Difference, well behind Spring Heeled at the Festival, was second in this race last year while Hadrian's Approach was fifth. That was a fine effort from Nicky Henderson's gelding at the tender age of six and one year on I'll take a small each-way interest (14/1 in places) hoping Barry Geraghty can squeeze out some further improvement; recent seven-year-old winners include Beau (2000), Ad Hoc (2001) and Lacdoudal (2006).

Champion chaser Sire De Grugy will be long odds-on for the Celebration Chase at 3.15. There's a fair chance Australia Day won't make it to the start if the ground comes up particularly soft which will leave just seven in the field and as a result snag any potential each-way betting opportunity...

Had the rain not arrived, Polly Peachum, named after a character in The Beggar's Opera and owned by Lady Tennant, would have been of considerable interest in the listed hurdle at 4.25. I saw the mare win in emphatic style at Warwick some five weeks ago and she has come out since to display a turn of foot and land a competitive listed hurdle at Cheltenham. I fear the easy going is likely to blunt that turn of foot.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter presents?

Earlier today Viewpoint went into the history books as the first horse to win a race in this country on Good Friday; jockey Cam Hardie steered Richard Hannon's inmate to victory in the opener at Lingfield, in the process recording his first win for the handler.

There are fixtures aplenty on Easter Saturday but finding a wager that makes some appeal hasn't proved particularly easy.

This weekend I was hoping Nigel Twiston-Davies would let King's Tempest, withdrawn at Exeter earlier in the week, take his chance in Sunday's bumper at Towcester but the horse hasn't make the final declaration stage.

I saw this one, still an entire, win at Warwick last month after which the handler said:

'He's as big as any horse we've got and hopefully he's as good. We've been excited since day one with him and he's a lovely horse for the future. I'd love to say we'd go to Aintree with him but it's all about the future and we might look for a similar race as today before putting him away.'

The same yard saddles Blaklion in the concluding bumper at Haydock tomorrow. This point winner trounced his field at Ffos Las three weeks ago and rates a decent hurdles prospect. He won't have things all his own way with Donald McCain's Degooch an interesting opponent - I'm not tempted.

Earlier on the same Haydock card Twiston-Davies runs Red Rocco in the Tim Moloney Handicap Chase (3.50) over three and a half miles. On the face of it Red Rocco hasn't had the best of seasons but on his penultimate start he looked booked for second behind Rigadin De Beauchene in the Grand National Trial at this track before coming to grief at the final flight. Bennys Well is likely to make a bold bid from the front and Red Rocco is another who likes to race from the front; with just six in the field the front-runners could well set the race up for one from behind but Haydock suits those that sit handy. Tactics will be all-important but at the prices (9/2) I'll chance Red Rocco shows us some more of his improved form...

The going is good, good to firm in places at Newton Abbot where they're likely to go lickety-split in the two mile handicap chase at 3.55. Novice Sonofagun is the bookies' favourite on the back of two recent wins but he's taking on some smart rivals... Oiseau De Nuit, Changing The Guard and Shooters Wood were all unplaced in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham last month. The first-named finished four lengths second to the champion two-mile chaser Sire De Grugy in December while course and distance winner Changing The Guard is weighted to reverse placings with the favourite on their recent Ludlow meeting.

Identifying a vulnerable favourite is only half the battle and this looks a particularly trappy event but I'm swayed by winning course form at this tight track - Changing The Guard (7/2) gets the nod.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Scottish Grand National day 2014

If Scotland were to vote for independence in September, I wonder what effect, if any, that might have on this particular fixture...

Seven days after the English Grand National at Aintree, thirty runners set off over the slightly shorter trip of four miles and 110 yards in the Scottish version at Ayr.

Tidal Bay looked unfortunate when unseating Sam Twiston-Davies at the Canal Turn last week but then went on to wreak havoc by carrying out Across The Bay on the stable turn when that one was some six lengths to the good over his field.

Tidal Bay stands his ground for tomorrow's showpiece with the result that just ten of his opponents are set to carry their allotted handicap weight, including stablemate Sam Winner, fifth in the RSA Chase last month - make of that what you will.

Peter Bowen has four runners while Alan King is one of several trainers saddling two - last year's winner Godsmejudge is on a comeback mission but the handler appears quietly confident about the chance of Midnight Appeal in the Weekender saying '... this has been the plan for some time.'

There are tips aplenty for Trustan Times but I'll take an each-way interest in Rigadin De Beauchene provided the ground doesn't dry out too much. He was pulled up last year but this time turns up fresher than most having won the Haydock National Trial on his seasonal debut; he's generally available at 20/1.

In the Scottish Champion Hurdle (2.40) seven pound claimer Mikey Ennis negates much of the overweight Swing Bowler was set to carry as a result of the race conditions. The mare led two from home but didn't quite see out the climb up the Sandown hill in the Imperial Cup; against the likes of My Tent Or Yours and Montbazon she rates a sporting each-way play at 33/1.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Aintree Grand National 2014

This race has thrown up some big-priced winners in recent years including Silver Birch at 33/1 (2007), Mon Mome, much to my embarrassment backed by the mother-in-law at 100/1 (2009), Neptune Collonges at 33/1 (2012) and Auroras Encore at 66/1 last year.

The stats suggest the winner will be aged between nine and twelve years old. I tend to prefer horses that have shown form over these unique fences in the past and have less than 11 stones to carry over the marathon trip of four miles three furlongs and 110 yards.

1. Balthazar King
The consensus view was that jockey Richard Johnson was overly aggressive at the head of affairs in last year's renewal, the horse fading to come home 15th. The yard has been in fine form this season and the better ground is sure to suit.

2. Teaforthree
Third last year and every chance this time racing off a mark two pounds lower.

3. Chance Du Roy
Won the Becher over these fences in December and has a nice weight here; decent effort in a listed Ascot handicap last time - 33/1 generally.

4. Swing Bill
Unlikely to win at thirteen years of age but was sixth last year - has finished in the first six on four occasions over the course. Coral offer 80/1 (four places), Betfred 66/1 (six places) - looks reasonable each-way value for the horse set to carry bottom weight and trained with this in mind.

Others worth a second look include Burton Port who is well handicapped and hinted at a return to form last time as well as The Rainbow Hunter who isn't overly big but should have a sniff if the jumping holds out. I tipped Triolo D'Alene each-way for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but he was somewhat disappointing there; that was his first run following a lay-off and afterwards Nicky Henderson described the horse as 'very stuffy'. He should improve for that run and will appreciate the ground but has his fair share of weight.

Good luck!       

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Aintree 2014 - Friday is Ladies' Day

The Melling Chase (3.05) doesn't look up to its usual standard.

Module is priced up favourite in the tissue but has never won over the trip. At the age of 11 Wishfull Thinking is no spring chicken but on official ratings he is the best horse in the race; he has four pounds in hand over Rajdhani Express who finished third behind Dynaste in the Ryanair after a lengthy break.

Previous course and distance winner Wishfull Thinking (7/1 in places) is a tentative selection in an open contest.

I'm a fan of Killala Quay (4.15). He ran a stormer to finish fourth in the Neptune but there's little value in his price for this contest. Instead I'm going out on a limb and taking an each-way interest in The Last Samuri (20/1 at the time of writing); Donald McCain's charge will certainly stay the trip.

Form choice Josses Hill may not offer much value in the opener (2.00) but the Mildmay Novices' Chase (2.30) looks a tad closer than the betting might imply. Better ground will suit RSA winner O'faolains Boy but this speed track may not. Wonderful Charm didn't appear to stay three miles when behind Solwhit in last year's World Hurdle so a chance is taken with Holywell who won the handicap chase on the opening day at Cheltenham.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Aintree 2014 - Thursday

Three weeks after Cheltenham it's Aintree - the trickiest meeting of the season in my book.

Very brief notes...

In the Aintree Hurdle (3.05) The New One is the one to beat and he'll be long odds-on. Badly hampered by the fatal fall of Our Conor in the Champion Hurdle he finished like a train in third, beaten a neck and two and a half lengths; the step up in trip will suit.

Dynaste is priced up favourite for the Betfred Bowl at 2.30. He won the Mildmay Novices' Chase over course and distance last year and took the Ryanair at the Festival, even though he looked to have plenty to do three from home. Silviniaco Conti had his market rival well beaten in the King George at Kempton over Christmas but Dynaste was found to be wrong that day; Silviniaco appeared to have a hard enough race when finishing fourth in the Gold Cup. The Nicholls yard recorded just one winner at Cheltenham (Lac Fontana in the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle) and has only managed to add two more to the total since... Course and distance winner First Lieutenant missed Cheltenham and as a consequence could have the edge over his main rivals. A trappy event I'll watch from the sidelines.

Looking at the novice chase at 4.50.... Western Warhorse beat Dodging Bullets in the Arkle while Uxiandre ran a huge race at 33/1 to finish second to Taquin Du Seill in the JLT Novices' Chase, a race in which Oscar Whisky fell at the very first flight. As a consequence Oscar Whisky should be fresher than those rivals and has won over course and distance previously so Nicky Henderson's charge gets the vote.              

Friday, March 28, 2014

Two low-key jumpers

The Flat takes centre stage this weekend with big meetings at Doncaster and Dubai, while Stratford and Uttoxeter offer more humble fare over the sticks.

Two jumpers caught my passing interest, both declared to run at Warwick a week last Wednesday but both withdrawn, possibly on account of quicker ground.

Prouts Pub (Stratford 1.55) had previously won a bumper on the all-weather at Lingfield. He has his first run for Nick Gifford who has sent out three winners from just 10 runners this month. Likely favourite Massena sets a reasonable standard off a mark of 128 but was beaten at Taunton on Monday.

Miss Lucky Penny (Uttoxeter 3.55) was withdrawn from the mares' handicap hurdle won impressively by Polly Peachum. Previously she had been beaten threequarters of a length by Wily Fox on her handicap debut at Warwick and connections have decided to have another go - Will Kennedy replaces five pound claimer R J McCarth in the saddle. At the weights there's little between the pair but I'm guessing Miss Lucky Penny will be ridden closer to the pace this time...