Friday, February 20, 2015

Kempton considerations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

Haydock's Grand National Trial 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 05, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Ffos Las foibles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cheltenham Trials Day 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ambivalence at Ascot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The race looks more competitive than the market might suggest.

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

Friday, January 09, 2015

Warwick Classic Chase 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Kempton's King George VI Chase 2014

Burdened with family commitments, this year I haven't spent as much time with the form book as I should have...

On official ratings Silviniaco Conti is the one to beat in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day (3.10). Paul Nicholls' charge did the blog a favour in Haydock's Betfair Chase last month; the softer the ground the better.

The next two in the market, Champagne Fever and Al Ferof, have never won over three miles so I've looked more closely at Menorah and Cue Card.

Both will appreciate drying ground and, according to the weather forecast, that's what they're likely to get.

Menorah has been something of a revelation this year winning Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase on good ground and then finishing two lengths adrift of Silviniaco in the Betfair where underfoot conditions were far more testing. In his younger days Philip Hobbs' gelding was known to have jumping issues but he has improved with age although I'm still reluctant to trust him implicitly over these obstacles.

Following a pelvic injury Cue Card has been a little slow to come to hand this term but connections have been making the right noises recently. Colin Tizzard's inmate was outstayed when beaten by Silviniaco in this event last year but he was aggressively ridden on that occasion and a more conservative approach may pay dividends; on official ratings he has three pounds to find with the favourite.

I can still see Cue Card emptying up the home straight in last year's renewal with the race apparently at his mercy and earlier fancier prices have disappeared as well so I'll take an each-way chance on Menorah (8/1) in the hope that his sticky jumping holds out.

Wishing all readers a very merry Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2014

All I want for Christmas... a winning wager.

The thing is, with time at a premium at this time of year, it's unlikely I've found one on Ascot's Christmas card.

Still, for those interested, here are some suggested plays against likely Ascot favourites that it would be wise not to take too seriously.

1.15 David Johnson Shawbrook Bank Graduation Chase

Irish Saint didn't convince when finishing third behind stablemate Vibrato Valtat in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown a fortnight ago.

Puffin Billy was allowed an easy lead when beating Killala Quay at this course the last day; the runner up did nothing for the form when well beaten at Doncaster last week.

Thomas Crapper was probably flattered to finish within a length of Vibrato Valtat on his penultimate start but in the main has jumped well.

Suggestion: Puffin Billy (2/1 generally).

2.25 JLT Long Walk Hurdle 

Zarkandar is the selection on ratings; this trip on soft ground isn't ideal.

Things fell right for Medinas the last day; they may well do again but I don't want to bet on it.

Reve De Sivola won last year's renewal but has been out of form recently; this will be the first time he encounters underfoot conditions to suit this term.

Pilot Lizzie Kelly can't use her claim on Aubusson while the Pipe yard has openly stated the ground will not help Dell'Arca's cause.

Suggestion: Reve De Sivola (9/2 generally).

3.00 Mappin & Webb Silver Cup Handicap Chase

In January The Young Master won handicap hurdles at Fakenham and Sedgefield off a mark of 103. Impressive when winning the Badger Ales at Wincanton last month, he was subsequently disqualified on a technicality but still has to start tomorrow's race on 144.

Houblon Des Obeaux won this last year, has conditions to suit and another seven pounds to carry; ran a huge race at odds of 50/1 to finish second in the Hennessy three weeks ago.

Some money for the bottom three; both Ardkilly Witness and Polisky race from out of the handicap.

Suggestion: Houblon Des Obeaux (4/1 generally)
Each-way alternative: Hey Big Spender (14/1).

3.30 The Ladbroke  

Two each-way longshots against the field in this ultra-competitive handicap...

Garde La Victoire won the Greatwood in some style last month but has been raised nine pounds for his trouble. Has to concede at least seven pounds to all his rivals so realistically he entertains place prospects at best (16/1 SkyBet paying 5 places).

Swing Bowler's fifth, beaten four lengths behind Splash Of Ginge in Newbury's Betfair Hurdle, reads well. I have a soft spot for David Pipe's mare who probably won't appreciate Ascot's stiff finish but on the plus side has run well after a break previously and Kieron Edgar's five pounds claim means she'll carry 10-11 (28/1 SkyBet paying 5 places).

With the in-laws due to arrive next week, I may well be 'hoping beyond hope' with these selections but indulge me - this and the King George on Boxing Day is all I have to look forward to.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cheltenham Christmas card 2014

The official going for tomorrow's Cheltenham card is good to soft yet only one race has more than eight declared, the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup due off at two o'clock.

Four weeks ago Caid Du Berlais won the Paddy Power Gold Cup (run over the old course) from Johns Spirit by a head with Edgardo Sol eighth, Ericht tenth and Easter Meteor pulled up.

Paul Nicholls' five-year-old heads the market for tomorrow's Gold Cup on the back of that run with the general consensus being the two mile five trip over the new course likely to suit.

Barrakilla can be effective with a racing weight and No Buts looked impressive at Newbury the last day while a case can be made for Attaglance who clearly likes Cheltenham (won the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at the 2012 Festival, finished fourth in the 2013 Paddy Power Gold Cup and second in a listed novices handicap chase at the 2014 Festival) yet he still has to secure that first chase win.

This doesn't look the strongest renewal so I'm going to chance Ericht. Nicky Henderson's charge appeared a little unfortunate to stumble two out when a close third in last month's Paddy Power - with Barry Geraghty back in the plate, Ericht rates an each-way wager at 10/1 (Stan James).

Eight in the International (3.10) but with The New One starting odds-on the race doesn't make much appeal as a betting medium. A couple of points of interest:

Is Bertimont (second in Wincanton's Elite Hurdle) good enough to make a place? Will Mad Moose consent to race?

The Relkeel (3.45) looks trappy.

Rock On Ruby took the 2012 Champion Hurdle when trained by Paul Nicholls but was disappointing in the Elite five weeks ago; he has never won over this distance so presumably connections feel this trip is what is now required.

On official ratings Volnay De Thaix has every chance but he appeared to have a hard enough race behind Aubusson over three miles at Haydock three weeks ago - presumably connections feel the step back in trip is what is now required.

Lac Fontana has to concede four pounds to his four rivals but first-time cheekpieces may bring about improvement. 4/1 is tempting but on balance the weight concession means I'm not going to play.

In the Albert Bartlett at 2.35 I considered Emma Lavelle's Parish Business as a play against Blaklion but in the Weekender the trainer tells us she thinks her charge is 'high enough' in the handicap after finishing second to Fletchers Flyer at Ascot. Nonetheless,  'He's a real galloper and jumps superbly.'  
Only four in the field for the novice chase at 12.50 with this engagement Virak's second preference; the intention is to go to Doncaster for the bet365 Novices' Chase at 2.50. With Virak priced up favourite there, I'll be interested to see how Killala Quay performs.

Back in January I thought Killala was something to bet on at 5/1 in Warwick's Leamington Novices' Hurdle but he ran no sort of race on heavy ground and was pulled up.

He was well beaten behind Puffin Billy at Ascot on his chase debut three weeks ago but it was very soft that day; he'll certainly appreciate this step-up in trip.

A comment I heard after that Warwick run was the gelding prefers better ground - it doesn't look as though he'll get that tomorrow but I may take the chance if bookies are offering 7/2...

Friday, December 05, 2014

Two Sandown selections, one Becher Chase longshot

A capacity crowd of 42,000 is expected at Aintree tomorrow following the course's initiative to hand out free tickets for Betfred Becher Chase day.

I've spent my time looking at Sandown's Tingle Creek card but my throw-away suggestion for the Aintree feature at 1.30 is Mr Moonshine who clearly handles the National fences having finished third behind Chance du Roy in this race last year (and subsequently completed the Grand National in fifteenth).

The going on the course is officially described as good to soft, soft in places which should help the cause and Sue Smith's charge also has a couple of runs under his belt. Granted, the gelding appears to have his fair share of weight but pilot Daragh Bourke claims five.

At the time of writing Mr Moonshine, 22/1 with William Hill who pay a quarter the odds five places, rates a sporting each-way wager.    

The Tingle Creek (3.00) tops the bill at Sandown.

Layers appear to have taken the view that Alan King's Balder Succes, beaten five lengths in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter (Pepite Rose fifth, Somersby sixth, Hinterland pulled up), should reverse placings with Tom George's God's Own on seven pounds better terms.

The star turns, Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy, may be missing but several in the field are closely matched on official ratings:

163 Balder Succes (3/1)
162 God's Own (4/1)
162 Somersby (17/2 Skybet)
158 Dodging Bullets (10/1 Boylesports)
157 Oscar Whisky (13/2 bet365)

In addition Harry Fry's Vukovar (152) has come in for market support during the week and is currently rated an 8/1 chance.

4/1 looks a fair price about God's Own - handler Tom George is pretty bullish in a piece published in today's edition of The Times.

10/1 Dodging Bullets is value but in the past he has shown a tendency to jump left on occasions when racing right-handed.

Oscar Whisky is very talented but this is his first try at two miles over fences and his jumping may suffer, particularly at this most exacting of tracks.

God's Own gets the nod.

There's No Panic beat Court By Surprise in last year's London National but Emma Lavelle's charge hasn't made the final declarations for this year's renewal at 3.35.

Emperor's Choice, second to Gas Line Boy at Haydock a fortnight ago, should appreciate underfoot conditions.

At 9/2 with William Hill and Coral, Emperor's Choice is the selection for Sandown's finale.        

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday, Hennessy Saturday

After Black Friday comes Hennessy Saturday...

In the past decade nine winners of the Hennessy Gold Cup have been aged either six or seven years old; a five-year-old has never won the race yet Willie Mullins' Djakadam is the clear market leader, priced as low as 4/1 with Boylesports.

This year in particular I'm struck by the bigger prices available about horses who can boast decent form on soft/heavy ground.

Last year's winner Triolo D'Alene may prefer better underfoot conditions but is rated a 33/1 chance while Merry King (fifth in 2013) is 16/1 with William Hill and Houblon Des Obeaux (sixth) is another priced at 33/1.

Previous Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude is 25/1 and Peter Marsh Chase winner Wychwoods Brook is 28/1 (betVictor), as is Dan Skelton's unexposed sort What A Warrior (William Hill).

You pays your money and takes your choice.

With prices like these I've ignored the market leaders and had an each-way wager on Wychwoods Brook (25/1 with SkyBet paying a quarter the odds five places) who had a nice pipe opener over hurdles at Worcester last month.

I also looked closely at Houblon Des Obeaux who will relish underfoot conditions despite top weight and would be in the mix if showing a return to his very best form - the downside is this is his first outing since April.

Back in March More Of That retained his unbeaten record to collect the Ladbrokes World Hurdle in some style.

The gelding makes his reappearance in the Long Distance Hurdle at 2.25 but Warren Greatrex's Cole Harden is likely to have a fitness edge and at 4/1 represents a play against the odds-on favourite whose stable is currently in the midst of a lean spell.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Haydock Betfair Chase meeting 2014

Faugheen is the stand-out horse at Ascot tomorrow but Haydock has the better card with the Betfair Chase (3.00) the highlight.

Last year's first, second and third [Cue Card, Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti] head the market but they come into the race with questions to answer; Taquin Du Seuil can be considered a contender on the back of his second to Menorah in the Charlie Hall three weeks ago with underfoot conditions here likely to suit.

I was surprised to see Cue Card backed into favouritism for the Haldon Gold Cup on his first appearance after suffering a pelvic injury at the beginning of the year. Well beaten at Exeter, the longer trip here will help but that run was just 18 days ago - last year's winner doesn't come to this in the same form as last year and I remain unconvinced.

I tipped Dynaste for the race last year but on his seasonal reappearance he came up just short and I suspect we may see a repeat performance tomorrow.

Paul Nicholls ran Silviniaco Conti in the Charlie Hall as a preparation for this; the handler felt his charge was a little short in this race last year.

Silviniaco, sent off even money favourite at Wetherby, was somewhat disappointing in fifth and sports cheek pieces for the first time.

I was tempted by Taquin Du Seuil who can look awkward on occasions but did nothing wrong the last day; the value has disappeared though - he's just a 5/1 chance now.

Silviniaco Conti is priced 4/1 with Ladbrokes this evening yet on official figures has 15lbs in hand over Jonjo's horse - Silviniaco Conti gets the nod.

At least Melodic Rendezvous (regular jockey Nick Scholfield is riding at Ascot) provides some level of opposition for The New One in the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle (1.50) but it will be a major shock if Twiston-Davies' charge doesn't come home in front.

The three mile 'fixed brush' handicap hurdle at 2,25 is very difficult.

Aubusson and Vieux Lion Rouge are horses I like but, pressed for an each-way selection, I have sided with Sybarite who at eight years of age is older than ideal but should stay this trip on the ground - Ladbrokes offer 14/1 at the time of writing while Skybet quote 12/1 and pay five places.

Regular readers will know I've followed Polly Peachum quite closely since her win at Warwick back in March. Following victory at Wincanton two weeks ago, the handicapper has had his say and raised Nicky Henderson's mare a further eight pounds to a mark of 155.

She held a five-day entry for tomorrow's fixed brush hurdle at Haydock but also holds an entry for the listed hurdle at Kempton on Monday (2.10). Both Woodland Walk and Hi Note hold entries for that same Kempton event but connections have opted to run in tomorrow's 1.30 at Ascot instead.

Should Polly make the line-up on Monday, she'll be attempting a trip of three miles for the first time and easy conditions underfoot will be far from ideal.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cheltenham Open meeting 2014 - Saturday

Eighteen face the starter for tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup at 2.30 - earlier today a low sun resulted in fences being omitted in the novice chase but a request to bring forward the off-time of Saturday's feature has been rejected by the BHA.

Last year Johns Spirit won carrying 10-2 racing off a mark of 139; tomorrow, together with Oscar Whisky, he carries 11-12 and races off 156. Jonjo O'Neill's charge looked impressive when winning over course and distance last month but the stable has only recently emerged from a spell in the doldrums.

In the past decade no horse has carried more than 11-8 to victory; seven of those winners carried under 11-0.

Jamie Snowden's Present View heads the market, despite suffering a slight setback when returning with a cut after finishing a head second to Vicente in a hurdle race here last month.

The gelding won the Rewards4Racing Novices Handicap Chase at the Festival in March (Buywise fifth and Persian Snow sixth); Buywise, in receipt of three pounds, was beaten seven lengths that day but appeared to be making ground up the hill after a couple of indifferent jumps on the way round - this one has been well tipped up.

In an ultra-competitive renewal I'm going to stay loyal to Johns Spirit who has shown his liking for Cheltenham in the past. This evening Paddy Power offer 11/1 and pay a quarter the odds five places so Johns Spirit is the each-way selection.

Philip Hobbs is having a terrific season and saddled a treble earlier today with Bold Henry (14/1), Champagne West (7/2) and Balthazar King (4/7f).

In the novice chase at 1.15 I'll oppose the David Pipe trained Kings Palace with Sausalito Sunrise (11/4 Ladbrokes, Skybet, bet365).

Finally Kilronan High went into my notebook when beating a Nicky Henderson hotpot seven lengths at Towcester last May.

The mare sweated up badly before making all to win at Perth a couple of months back; at 14/1 (Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, bet365) she is worth a small each-way interest in a competitive-looking bumper.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Wincanton Badger Ales / Elite 2014

Back at the beginning of September in a post entitled 'Back in training' I wrote:

"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."

King's Tempest, now with Warren Greatrex, finished two lengths second to Jollyallan in a novices' hurdle at Exeter on Tuesday while Polly Peachum makes her seasonal debut in a Class 2 mares' handicap hurdle at Wincanton tomorrow.

On her last run in a listed Sandown hurdle Polly, in receipt of three pounds, finished a short head second to the well-regarded Southfield Theatre (odds-on favourite for the novice chase at 1.30).

Polly Peachum is a smart mare with a decent turn of foot but my primary concern for this race is she ideally needs good ground to show that turn of foot to best effect. She also has to concede upwards of 12 pounds to her ten opponents but Woodland Walk, Lily Waugh and Mini Muck are obliged to race from out of the handicap.

This evening layers offer 9/2; I'll consider a wager if the going remains no worse than good-to-soft.

A maximum field of 18 will face the starter for the feature Badger Ales Trophy at 2.40; securing a decent racing pitch early on will be important.

Standing Ovation won last year's renewal off 120 and tries to repeat the trick this time off a rating of 131; he should be thereabouts having had a seasonal pipe-opener, a comment that also applies to Emma Lavelle's Court By Surprise, third in last year's race and four pounds better off for eight and a quarter lengths.

At a price I considered Tom George's Date To Endeavour in a race that often goes to a younger horse but most of his chase form is in small fields.

In the past decade the favourite has obliged on four occasions with the winner coming from the top four in the market on eight occasions; Court By Surprise (12/1 William Hill) is no more than a tentative each-way suggestion.

Much of the pre-race talk surrounding the Elite Hurdle (3.15) centres on Irving (unbeaten in this country before disappointing in the Supreme at Cheltenham last March - later found to be coughing) and 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby.

Several in the field make their seasonal debut so, in search of some value, I've concentrated on those with a recent run under their belts.

Bertimont won a farcical race at Chepstow the last day but could be anything while Hint Of Mint, Forgotten Voice and Starluck finished in that order behind The New One at Kempton three weeks ago.

That trio raced at level weights at Kempton so Nico De Boinville's three pound claim is probably the reason why Forgotten Voice is as low as 5/1 with William Hill.

Starluck is not the force of old but he won a Cheltenham handicap hurdle off this mark in April last year; 40/1 (Stan James) is a big price about a horse whose style of racing is suited to the course.

Since tackling hurdles, Hint Of Mint has raced exclusively on right-handed tracks - priced at 10/1 this evening, Hint of Mint is the each-way suggestion for the Elite; in the past ten years all the winners have been aged between five and seven years old.

Friday, October 31, 2014

An Ascot sensation?

Silviniaco Conti, the form choice for Wetherby's Charlie Hall at 3.15 , is priced accordingly and I'm fast running out of reasons to oppose.

So far this season Paul Nicholls' runners have tended to need their first outing but Silviniaco had a racecourse spin last week - connections see this race as a prep for Haydock's Betfair Chase in three weeks' time.

On official ratings Taquin Du Seuil, in receipt of five pounds, still has ten to find with the favourite while Menorah comes form a stable bang in form but has had his share of jumping problems in the past.

In the previous two renewals of this race Wayward Prince finished second (beaten 11 lengths by Silviniaco in 2012 and a  neck by Harry Topper last year) and would have made some appeal as an each-way wager had eight been declared...

In search of better value I've been drawn to Ascot's Byrne Group chase at 2.20.

Only nine go to post but the layers bet 4/1  the field.

Michael Scudamore's Next Sensation was well tipped up for the Grand Annual at Cheltenham in March and the gelding looked to have the spoils in the bag when three lengths clear at the last but he was headed in the final 100 yards and finished fourth, beaten a neck to third by Claret Cloak; the latter named finished down the field at Cheltenham a fortnight ago but is sure to have gained some benefit from the run.

Back in March Manyriverstocross beat Bellenos a short-head over course and distance - Alan King's charge is two pounds better off but Dan Skelton's six-year-old looks less exposed while course and distance winner Ulck Du Lin is not readily dismissed with Sean Bowen able to claim seven.

A tight handicap but I'm swayed by confidence shown by Michael Scudamore in midweek.

With the trainer's brother Tom in the plate, Next Sensation gets the nod (4/1 William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power).       

Friday, October 24, 2014

Chepstow trio

The Old Roan Chase is the highlight on Aintree's card tomorrow where Barry Geraghty has been booked for the ride on favourite Uxizandre following the fall of Wayne Hutchinson from McCabe Creek at Southwell yesterday.

I've decided to concentrate on the Chepstow card; champion jockey Tony McCoy returns from a spell on the sidelines with two rides, Son Du Berlais in the Persian War at 3.35 and Regal Encore in the Silver Trophy at 4.10.

McCoy's last ride was well over a week ago aboard Goodwood Mirage at Wetherby but he can still boast 151 wins so far this season and a strike rate of 32.9%; he appears on course for 300 winners, injuries permitting.

Writing in the Weekender, Andrew King has a bullish word for course and distance winner Sausalito Sunrise in the novice chase at 2.25 and I'm not inclined to disagree. That said, both Mosspark and Leo Luna are closely matched with Philip Hobbs' charge on hurdle ratings. 

Sausalito Sunrise is the selection.

Those contemplating a wager on Jackies Solitaire in the totescoop6 The Millionaire Maker Handicap Chase at 2.55 should note Anthony Honeyball's comment in this week's Straight From The Stable article:

"She's definitely better over hurdles than fences but we will probably mix her over the two disciplines."

McCoy's mount Son Du Berlais has had the Persian War as his target for some time - four-year-olds have a good record in the race and the favourite has obliged on five occasions in the past ten years - but there are other interesting runners who offer better value including Blaklion, withdrawn from the race won by Vicente at Cheltenham a week ago, and course and distance winner Restless Dreamer while The Pirate's Queen receives a stone from the top two and hails from a yard bang in form although six of her seven rivals all have the benefit of a recent run.

Blaklion was market leader when withdrawn on veterinary advice at Cheltenham yet he's priced up at 11/2 with Paddy Power this evening - I'll chance Blaklion.

The Silver Trophy looks very competitive.

In complete contrast to the previous race just two of the twelve have a recent run under their belts and they can both boast course and distance winning form - Boondooma and Shelford.

A win for Garde La Victoire (2.00 Aintree) may point to the chance of Vieux Lion Rouge as David Pipe's charge was just six lengths adrift conceding four pounds when the pair met at Aintree in April.

L'unique is a game mare who perhaps shows her best in the spring but course and distance winner Aubusson is one I like. Nick Williams' gelding really was impressive when beating Regal Diamond at Cheltenham on New Year's Day with Ballyalton fourth - Ballyalton subsequently finished second  to Faugheen in the Neptune at the Festival.

Priced at 10/1 with both Ladbrokes and BetVictor this evening, Aubusson is worth an each-way wager.

Finally a couple of races that may have passed you by in the past week...

On Friday 17 October Cambridge beat Oxford in the inaugural running of the Varisty Horse Race over Newmarket's Rowley Mile.

At Plumpton the following Monday Gemma Pallett (aged 13) won the Shetland Pony Gold Cup on Galloping Goring. Little Bucks, possibly in the same ownership as Big Buck's, finished down the field...

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.