Friday, 5 April 2013

Aintree - Grand National Day

Tomorrow is my favourite day of the year. I LOVE the Grand National. I usually go to post (not literally) having backed nearly half the field as I care very little about making profit on the race, I just want a good chance of having a "live one" as they turn for home to increase that excitement (if that's at all possible?!)!
As followers of this blog will know, I backed Chicago Grey (pictured below) at 50/1 (and put a post up about why) months ago, he is now much shorter and hopefully has good claims as the ground is ideal for him. Join Together is another I backed a while back, taking 70.0 the win and 27.0 the place. I think it may be a year too early for this young horse but I expected (and later enjoyed!) a fantastic display of jumping in the Becher Chase and his price collapsed. I will no doubt add a good few more to the "team" before the big race goes off, but have included a couple in here. In fairness, I think you are better off picking your own whether you study form, pick by name/colour, or get the dog to make a muddy paw print somewhere on the racecard!
We all love a big price winner (if we've backed it) and one I think is massively overpriced is Any Currency. He should appreciate this better ground as he hosed up off 127 (5lb lower than tomorrow) last time he encountered good ground; he looks an out and out stayer (that win was 3m4f and he is always staying on at the finish); he goes off a lovely racing weight; and he is 100/1 so looks worth a small nibble in a race we all know can chuck up a surprise.

0.25pt e/w @ 100/1
The National aside I fancy a few at nice prices tomorrow and although not putting him in the blog piece, Triolo D'Alene (pictured below) was mentioned very favourably in a tweet shortly after (when 25/1) and duly obliged in the Topham having been granted his preferred good ground, so hopefully another will follow suit!
Johns Spirit was travelling nicely into his race at Cheltenham before blundering badly 4 out which cost him any chance he may have had. The race before that was also at Cheltenham and he blundered when making headway 3 out. Race before that he finished 2nd to a certain Katenko, who we all know is progressive and could be very handy. JS is still off the same mark of 133. He'd won fairly comfortably before that Katenko race and in only 2 other chase starts previously he made plenty of errors and was well beaten. As you may have guessed, he needs to jump well, but if he does I think he has a good chance of being competitive off this mark as he's lightly raced over fences and is only a 6yo. This is his only his 2nd attempt over 3m (the first being behind Katenko) so I think there's scope for improvement, and the trip will give him more time at his fences which may help. He was beaten a head in a Good to Firm bumper and has won twice on Good to Soft so should be okay on the ground.

1pt e/w @ 16/1 (various)

First In The Queue (pictured above) is a speculative selection but he takes a drop down in class having been recently tried in Listed and Gr3 company. I'm convinced he wants this better ground and he ran a cracker when beaten a head in soft ground at Ascot by Petit Robin off just 2lb lower in a class 2 (as tomorrow is) as that horse confirmed it to be no fluke when winning again next time off roughly the same mark (given a very good claimer was jocked up and negated most of, if not all of, the rise) and then finished 2nd to Cause of Causes in the Ladbroke off a good few lbs higher.

0.25pt e/w @ 40/1

In a competitive race it can't hurt to go in double handed and Special Catch goes off a nice low weight in the same race and I think he will be okay on the ground as he performed well behind Oscar Nominee last season on similar.

0.25pt e/w @ 16/1

I saw Tistory win at Ludlow on his British debut, beating Court Minstrel (pictured above) in the process. He was understandably green that day but looked a smart horse and will no doubt improve with experience. It is interesting they haven't run him all season and then chuck him into what looks a strong bumper. MTOY ran in it last year so if he's half as good he could have been overpriced at the 6s he opened up at.
1pt e/w @ 6/1 (He is now 3/1 but was put up on @kingofthejumps twitter at 6/1 in case the price went while this was being written so as to avoid “aftertiming” on the price).
Vago Collonges' form with Oscar Rock is a piece I like a lot, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Pure Science run a nice race for Nigel Twiston-Davies (pictured above, who won this race last year with The New One), but I know a group of lads who will more than likely back Sgt Reckless into 11/10 favourite by the time this race goes off, so it would be sacrilege not to join the party with a small interest. He is very highly regarded and although things didn't go to plan at Cheltenham, I think this track could suit and at his price he looks worth siding with.
0.5pt e/w @ 12/1 (BetVictor / PaddyPower)


In the 4.45pm at Chepstow I personally won’t be having a bet as our racing club part own Is It Me, but I think Quiet Whisper may improve tomorrow for Kim Bailey (pictured below, it will be interesting to read his views in his morning blog). QW has dropped to 97 very quickly from 115 and the return to 2m on better ground looks like it could suit as he has won in those conditions in the past.

0.25pt e/w @ 20/1
African Gold takes a step out of novice company tomorrow in the Liverpool Hurdle but I think this could be a very serious horse who will take high rank as a novice chaser next season so I'm willing to take a risk on him being up to this standard. He is very highly regarded and ran a stormer at Cheltenham to chase home the impressive At Fishers Cross in ground that would have suited the winner far better.
1pt e/w @ 8/1
Though not as fancy a price as the rest, Dodging Bullets definitely wants this better ground and although it's no easy task, I think he could be one of the best novices from this season in the right conditions so feel I must have a few quid on him to win the opener for Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls (pictured below).

2pt win @ 5/2
As with any big priced selections, they are far from certainties (there is no such thing anyway) but they require less outlay stake-wise and hopefully one or two will run nice races and make the frame.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Aintree - Day 2

Bookies 1-0 Punters. A warning not to get involved? Or a prompt to search for more value? The latter I hope, as I intend to just have a couple of bigger priced each way selections for an added interest. Tomorrow could be equally as brutal a day, but as always a few catch the eye. Firstly the obvious, My Tent Or Yours (pictured below), who looks a “good thing” (though I thought Conti was today!) but is obviously not a working man's price. The Mildmay looks competitive and I’m certain Rocky Creek will turn out the best horse in the race over the next few years. He wasn’t too impressive last time but looked like he’d improve at least a stone for a left handed track. The only worry is that he’s supposedly Hennessy-bound next season so on a mark of 152 he would appear to already be on a nice mark for it. The return to a flat track could suit Dynaste well so I wouldn’t be getting involved in this one, but it certainly looks a race to keep a close eye on.

The Melling is probably my favourite race of the meeting as Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card are 2 of my favourite horses in training. Flemenstar drops to what I believe to be his optimum trip, and this could be an absolute corker. Finians Rainbow will appreciate this better ground but I think the trio are a cut above him now. I’m certain Sacre (pictured below) will stay fine and will be disappointed if he doesn’t win (he’s a monster!), but I wouldn’t even consider backing him at his price and just look forward to seeing this race unfold.

After today I may just give up (on life), but quite fancy Lambro tomorrow in the Topham. He has some very smart looking form in Ireland having won his debut before finishing a very respectable 3.5L 2nd behind Flemenstar over 16f (arguably too short) and on soft/heavy ground (he's by Milan and I think he wants better ground given his form).

He followed this up with a 3L or so 3rd behind Last Instalment (now rated 152 and would probably be higher had he not picked up an injury), with the 150 rated Call The Police splitting the pair.

In Bobs Worth's RSA on good ground he was beaten 30L in 6th at the finish but if you watch the race he ran very well imo before tiring (3m trip too far) and fading away. He followed up with a facile victory in soft ground over 18f at Punchestown before being pu...t away for the season.

Returning in February this year he ran in heavy ground back at Punchestown where he ended up around 6L 4th in the Alderwood/Pires race mentioned yesterday (arguably a decent result in unfavourable conditions). His only other run came again in soft ground and he ran poorly, but I'd be happy to put a line through that.

In 7 chase starts, aside from the RSA, he has never gone off bigger than 7/2 and has gone off odds on or fav a good few times, suggesting he's highly regarded. He's off 143 and I think on better ground at this intermediate trip, this Gr2 winning hurdler has a decent chance of running better than his price may suggest.

1pt e/w @ 18/1 (Paddypower/Skybet)


Cheltenham Festival winner At Fishers Cross (pictured above) will no doubt be a hot favourite in the Grand Sefton with an OR of 152, but I’d like to take him on as I think he’s at his best when there is considerable cut in the ground. 2 horses that I like are Road To Riches and Imperial Leader. The former has looked impressive so far and falls into the “could be anything” category, but has not yet been tried on ground better than soft so I probably won’t risk siding with him, though 8/1 could look very big if he does cope with it.

Imperial Leader is the one I’m going to be on as I think there’s more to come and his price is 5 times the size of Noel Meade’s raider. He wouldn’t be a confident selection, but although by Flemensfirth, I think he may actually improve for this spring ground. He ran well to finish 2nd in both his bumper starts when very immature, before winning when upped in trip on his hurdles debut on reappearance. The horse he beat hasn’t run since but had previously won a Point and 2 bumpers, so he could be half decent. Imperial Leader’s next run was impressive as he ran over 2m (an inadequate trip) in a competitive affair at Cheltenham won by Melodic Rendezvous. Nigel Twiston Davies’ horse was only a 4yo yet gave weight to many of the field and although seemingly outpaced, he showed good attitude to be beaten just 5.5L having stayed on well to the line. The winner has gone on to win Gr1 and Listed races and the 3rd, 5th and 7th have all won since, so the form looks very smart.

Imperial Leader was slightly disappointing when 9L 3rd next time (though the 2nd won next time) and when beaten a long way on handicap debut (though in a Gr3 affair), though these races were again in soft and heavy ground. If he makes the expected improvement for a sounder surface I think he could run a big race tomorrow and certainly prove his current price to be too big.

0.25pt e/w @ 40/1 (Paddypower)

Though never likely to get too involved in a Mares Bumper, 2 at prices could improve for better ground tomorrow. Centasia hosed up on debut on good ground and subsequently joined David Pipe (pictured above) for £100k (I think), winning a 14f race just a fortnight later, beating a subsequent winner in 2nd, and Oscar Hoof in 3rd (who had previously hacked up in only start). In her only other start to date she wasn't too impressive in heavy ground when finishing around 10L 5th in a Listed event at Sandown, but was fairly green and stayed on well at the end. She's by Presenting so tomorrow's surface should bring about some improvement. She dons a first time tongue tie (make of that what you will).

0.5pt e/w @ 14/1 (various)

The other is Kim Bailey's Supreme Present who is also by Presenting. She won easily on debut and although the form is nothing, she couldn't have done it much more impressively. She has looked one paced in both starts since (understandable as likely to want a trip in time) but both were on soft ground, and she wasn't beaten miles. Good ground could see her improve, Jason Maguire (pictured below) is back on, and whilst looking to have a lot to do, she's a big enough price to risk a small investment.

0.25pt e/w @ 33/1 (various)
3.40pm - LAMBRO - 1pt e/w @ 18/1 (Paddypower/Skybet)
4.15pm - IMPERIAL LEADER - 0.25pt e/w @ 40/1 (Paddypower)
5.25pm - CENTASIA  - 0.5pt e/w @ 14/1 (various)
             - SUPREME PRESENT - 0.25pt e/w @ 33/1 (various)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Cheltenham Festival - Day Three

Another day enjoyed at Cheltenham and a slightly more successful one with the first 2 home in the first. Went downhill thereafter but some e/w money in the Coral Cup meant it wasn’t too bad. Dynaste is perceived by some to be a “good thing” in the Jewson and he may well be, but he’s no value and one I think could run a big race is the Willie Mullins trained Aupcharlie. Mullins’ yard is obviously red hot so far this week and this horse has course/Festival form having finished 3rd in the Champion Bumper 2 years ago. I think he’ll improve for the drop in trip and better ground as he’s a strong traveller, and at 6/1 he looks a solid e/w selection to try and take on the favourite with in the 1.30pm.


At 2.05pm, the Pertemps is as much a minefield as usual. Sam Winner has been the hype horse but Paul Nicholls hasn’t had a winner so far and following hype horses was my downfall in the Neptune with Pont Alexandre flopping, so I’m going to take him on with Ballybough Pat at 14/1. He finished 2nd to a seriously good horse in Wonderful Charm at Chepstow in the Persian War (I’ll mention that again soon....) before being touched off by that old boy Fair Along at Newbury. His other run was in a Gr1 and he wasn’t totally disgraced so I think he’ll run a nice race here. He is a chaser in the making and I think will be a stone or so better over the bigger obstacles next year, but he could be up to defying this mark of 137 over timber. Others worthy of note are According To Trev whose connections believe he’s on a nice mark, and Close House who appears to have been targeting this race (it was his only handicap entry this week and he’s been put away since winning at Christmas) and has course form after finishing 2nd here before Christmas. However, the other horse I'll be backing is Top Of The Range who is by Presenting and ran a massive race behind African Gold in heavy ground at Newbury considering he needs this better ground. He won last time but I think he still has a fair amount to come so will have an e/w bet at 10/1 to go with Ballybough Pat.


I’m a big fan of Michael O’Leary and he has a big chance of winning the race his company sponsor tomorrow in the Ryanair at 2.45pm! First Lieutenant looks to have rock solid claims having won a Neptune (beating the following season’s Champion Hurdle winner) and finishing 2nd to Bobs Worth (now Gold Cup favourite) in last year’s RSA. He has gears and stays, a great combination to possess over this intermediate trip, and he could take all the beating. I’m also a big fan of Cue Card which presents a big dilemma for this race as I think he is also a seriously talented beast. He has form tied to all the top horses and although not staying in the King George, 2m5f on better ground is much more feasible for him. I’ll be going “no bet” I think as there’s little value in either of them, but it will be an interesting clash as I’d guess the Gigginstown representative will be ridden very prominently (possibly even making the running) in an attempt to stretch the stamina of Colin Tizzard’s animal. Champion Court is another I’ve always liked, though I’m not sure he’s of the very highest standard, and I’m sure he will be ridden as he was in the Jewson last year which will almost certainly guarantee it is a stamina sapping race. The likes of Albertas Run (multiple festival winner), Riverside Theatre (winner of this race last year) and For Non Stop are no mugs and this looks to be a very competitive race.


The feature race of the day is the World Hurdle at 3.20pm and I’m hoping this is where Champion Trainer, Paul Nicholls, can open his account for the week. As mentioned above, Wonderful Charm won the Persian War at Chepstow (the same race won by Silviniaco Conti a couple of years ago) and was apparently not even close to being 100% fit that day. He has since had a wind op and connections seem confident he is a serious horse, which he’ll need to be to make this jump in class. He must have had a solid chance in the Coral Cup off 149 if they fancy him in this race, so it’s worth noting they have skipped that for this Gr1 affair as he must be showing enough at home to warrant this engagement. I’ve always loved Oscar Whisky and the more the ground dries out for him the better, but he’s plenty short enough given he’s not exactly a certainty to fully stay the trip. However, I do think he will stay as he appeared to see out this trip on much worse ground in the Cleeve Hurdle and I think he can be ridden more positively now. Peddlers Cross is a horse I’ve never been too keen on, and Reve De Sivola is far from consistent (though he looks much better this season), so I think I’ll chance an e/w punt on Wonderful Charm at 10/1.


The Byrne Group is next up at 4pm and it’s hard to see past the Pipe gamble on Ballynagour. He improved a lot to win on his stable debut and I’m guessing Mr Pipe was delighted before that race when he saw the mark his recruit had been allotted. He travelled superbly in that race and although he’s had a huge hike in the weights, I think he could still have a bit in hand and will side with him at 4/1 for a small bet as nothing else jumps off the page. Hunt Ball is interesting now the ground is drying up as we know he can carry that mammoth weight, and Vino Griego is progressive so could improve again. The other horse I'll be backing is Sweet My Lord of that man Willie Mullins again. He was a talking horse for the handicap hurdles at last year's Festival but the yard weren't right last year and he's now 8lb lower than that over fences so surely has a squeak at


The 4.40pm is the race I will be having 2 decent bets in – the Kim Muir. Super Duty looks a very worthy 5/1 shot with excellent amateur Derek O’Connor booked as he has course form and I think he’ll stay fine. However, at 14/1 I feel Galaxy Rock is the value in the race as he also ticks a number of boxes. He has run some nice races at Prestbury Park (and we all know how important that course form can be!) and should be fine on the ground so with leading amateur JT McNamara booked I think a big run could be on the cards as Jonjo is due a winner! He is only 2lb higher than when beaten a length here in October but is also only 4lb higher than when winning nicely here the year before, so it wouldn’t be a big surprise should he find the necessary extra to make a case for himself at a nice price.


I still fancy Arabella Boy in the Cross Country (if it’s on) with a saver on Any Currency, for the reasons posted on Tuesday’s blog.


Good luck! (and apologies for lack of pictures but I'm tired!!)

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Cheltenham Festival - Day Two

Another day of top class racing on Wednesday opens at 1.30pm with the 4 mile NH chase in which I think in form Willie Mullins has another live chance with classy staying novice chaser Back In Focus. He has Graded form and could be a cut above these, plus he looks a dour stayer so should relish the test. He isn’t a big price but I think he is priced correctly and he’ll take the beating. Of the rest, Nina Carberry (pictured below) rides 8/1 shot Tofino Bay and although a 10yo, he could have a squeak as he has beaten Aupcharlie and very nearly beat Arkle runner up Baily Green.


The Neptune at 2.05pm is potentially my favourite race this week as I think there are some seriously talented horses in there. Pont Alexandre doesn’t look much of a price at 6/4 in a race that has plenty of class horses, but if he is as good as Mullins/Walsh think, he could win this impressively. He is without doubt a chaser for the future (he has been compared to the mighty Denman) but it has been suggested he is the most exciting novice hurdler in Clonsutton since a certain Hurricane Fly, so it would seem worthwhile taking note! The New One and Taquin Du Seuil are also horses I like a lot and will both make cracking chasers. The New One got outstayed in testing conditions last time but he showed a hugely impressive turn of foot and certainly has pace to burn which could be of great help in the drying ground (I also don’t think he was given the best of rides that day as he went for home a bit too early in my opinion). Taquin has form behind My Tent Or Yours and made the Henderson horse work hard that day, so he is certainly not out of place in this competitive heat. Chatterbox however, beat stable mate My Tent Or Yours (though I’d question that form) so is another who deserves a crack in this, but I think the other horse who could serve it up to the Mullins favourite with The New One and Taquin is the Gigginstown owned Rule The World. Davy Russell has compared his profile with that of First Lieutenant (who most will know won this race....) and he’s another who falls into the “could be anything” category. Though plenty of very promising horses in this, I’d be siding with Pont Alexandre (pictured below) and The New One (though a bug in the yard does worry me slightly), but don’t think I could split them. I love both and will go “no bet” to just enjoy the race, but think either will give a cracking run for your money.

At 2.40pm, the RSA looks fairly competitive and it’s hardly surprising to see a Mullins horse at the top of the market again. Boston Bob always looked like making a chaser but had a great season novice hurdling which culminated in a 2nd to the ill-fated Brindisi Breeze at last season’s Festival. I think the step back up to 3m will bring about a great deal of improvement from this young chaser and he could leave this season’s form behind. That said, I would be happy to take him on with something at an each way price. Unioniste and Hadrian’s Approach both hold strong claims after they finished in that order at Newbury last time. Both camps have stated their horse has come on plenty for that run so it’s hard to work out whether the form will hold up or be reversed, but Hadrian’s Approach would certainly need to have brushed up his jumping to have any chance in this. Goulanes is another with claims (I think his form with Super Duty will be franked when that hoses up in the Kim Muir on Thursday) and although Real Milan pulled up last time, I think that may be worth putting a line through as he had previously looked smart. However, I’m going to have an e/w punt in this on Houblon Des Obeaux at 10/1 (though he has been much bigger) as I think form tied to the likes of Harry Topper, Captain Conan and Rocky Creek is of a high standard. He looks like he’ll stay all day and that is important in this race as it is often fiercely run affair. He has won over course and distance over hurdles which is always a plus for Cheltenham Festival credentials, and his trainer Venetia Williams (pictured below) has been flying this year so I think he could run a nice race at a double figure price.


At 3.20pm, Sprinter Sacre wins the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Onto the 4.00pm and a 28 runner handicap to get stuck into with a good few I think have live chances. Pendra I feel is rightly marked up at 7/1 as he is crying out for this trip (he’s by Old Vic). He is off 139 and I am certain he won’t be for much longer as his form with Melodic Rendezvous is very smart considering it wasn’t his optimum trip. Master Of The Sea and Fiveforthree are both 12/1 shots I think have chances, but for very different reasons. The former has recently changed hands but has been very progressive this season and even won after being bought. He could have more to come and although I won’t back him (particularly with the yard bug worry), I wouldn’t be rushing to lay him. Fiveforthree is a different sort as he has proven form in the book having won Gr1 races before a long spell on the sidelines. He also has that all important course and distance form which is vital, and although taking it for granted he retains a degree of his old ability after injury troubles, Partrick Mullins has said he is very well and expected to run a big race. He is thrown in on some of his old form and with the yard opening the week with a treble on the first day, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one run a big race. 2 others at slightly bigger prices are Barbatos at 20/1 (who has also been off injured but has a form behind the classy Fingal Bay and Invictus, and a course win to his name so could be well handicapped after an acceptable reappearance which he’d no doubt have needed) and Hollow Tree at 25/1 (who actually beat the very smart Countrywide Flame at Christmas last season and hails from a yard who happened to have a well handicapped horse in this last year called Son Of Flicka). Of the lot I may get on a couple, but Pendra  (pictured below before switching to the ownership of JP McManus whose colours he'll be donning tomorrow) and Fiveforthree would be the 2 I am most keen on.


The Fred Winter at 4.40pm is another big runner handicap but there aren’t many who jump out at me in this one (aside from the Nicholls pair ridden by Walsh/Jacob). I am drawn towards the John Ferguson pair of Bordoni and Ruacana and will be having a few quid on both. The reason for this revolves around how bullish the Henderson camp has been about the chances of Megalypos, claiming he is well handicapped. Though his stable debut, Megalypos was beaten 6 lengths by Ruacana at Chepstow off level weights, and although getting 2lb tomorrow (not that 2lb would really suggest a 6lb turnaround), Jack Quinlan claims 3lb off Ruacana. Ruacana then ran with credit over in Ireland to finish around 9 lengths behind the impressive Our Connor who is obviously Triumph bound, so a mark of 139 (136 with the claim) could well be lenient if the Henderson horse is well handicapped as is to be believed. Megalypos is currently 10/1 and Ruacana is 20/1 so I think he’s worth an e/w bet on value grounds. Given the above, I’ll have to have a small bet on the Bordoni as it would appear that Denis O’Regan has opted for him ahead of Ruacana (pictured below) and so he may too be expected to go well tomorrow.


The day ends with a typically competitive renewal of the Champion Bumper in which I think you could pick 10 and still go home skint! Sgt Reckless will be carrying my money as I’m told he is a seriously good horse. Reports have been very good (apparently he has been doing some great homework with a very highly rated flat horse) and the yard seem extremely bullish about his chances (though when don’t yards hype up their horses?!). The other big bonus in my view is that Richard Hughes (pictured below) takes the ride – a very very very good flat jockey who is experience enough to cope with NH racing. Others worth mentioning are: Regal Encore who is owned by JP and “could be anything” as he was very impressive in beating not a lot; Fascino Rustico who cost £310,000 and has had a wind op since a disappointing debut; Le Vent D’Antan who is trained by the same connections who sold Cheltenian on before his win in this race and are very clued up with these sorts; and Milo Milan who I think could turn out to be a very very good horse for Evan Williams. I will also mention Sir Alex Ferguson’s runner Im Fraam Govan as although I don’t think he’ll be winning, if he did it would ruin my week as he took my breath away in winning a hot race with consummate ease on debut before flopping on the all weather. The more it dries out the better for him and I’ll probably end up having a stupidly loyal e/w saver on him at 50/1 but Sgt Reckless is hopefully the money train!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Cheltenham Festival - Day One

It’s here!! The next four days are better than Christmas, New Year, Birthday and Easter combined! 4 days of the very best racing around, at the best course in the country! As always it’s very competitive and there’s unlikely to be anything I’d plough into as “good things” don’t exist, but hopefully there’s a bit of value to be found!

The Supreme at 1.30pm means we don’t have to wait long for a competitive affair as this looks one of the hottest renewals in years! AP McCoy rides the very short priced (too short if you ask me!) My Tent Or Yours and thinks it is by far his best chance of the week. He won impressively at Newbury last time in the Betfair Hurdle but that was a slowly run affair and tomorrow’s race will be nothing of the sort with the strong chance of a good pace on (probably set by Champagne Fever who could make all). Though MTOY is a speedy sort and could well improve in a quicker race, there are some seriously good horses in this and at 6/4 I’d be willing to take him on with some value. Where to start?! Cheltenian has course form having won the Champion Bumper 2 years ago, but hadn’t run since until just being touched off on reappearance 3 weeks ago. He could escape the “bounce” but is unproven on soft ground so I wouldn’t want to back him. Jezki ran in the bumper last year without impressing but looks a serious horse this time around having won his last 4 races on ground he supposedly isn’t best suited by. That, however, would be the worry, as he encounters soft ground again and although proven on it having won well, Barry Geraghty has said that it wouldn’t be his optimum conditions so at 9/2 in a competitive race I’d take him on. Dodging Bullets would have probably been my pick on better ground as he has solid course form and is fairly experienced for a novice (he is also the highest rated bar the short fav), but with soft ground unlikely to suit I feel there are 3 horses worth focusing on. Champagne Fever is another Champion Bumper winner having taken last year’s race for Willie Mullins but has been a mixed bag this season. He won on hurdles debut before being touched off by a length and a half behind Jezki at Christmas giving that horse 3lb (so he may have won off level weights). His next race was extremely disappointing but it later emerged he had a lung infection, and confirmed that flop could be written off when beating subsequent winner Bright New Dawn (the pair were a long way clear of 3rd) next time out. He’s another that goes on soft but may be suited by better ground, and although I think he has a live chance (particularly with Ruby opting for him over Dodging Bullets) I think the other 2 I have in mind could have better chances. The first is Gigginstown representative Un Atout, another Mullins inmate, who I think epitomises the saying “he could be anything”. To date, he has won a bumper and 2 hurdle races, with the RP race comments for all 3 ending in “very easily”. With only 3 career starts he is open to any amount of improvement (which is exciting given he is already allotted a mark of 151!) and having proven he goes in wet conditions, the very talented Davy Russell looks to have a cracking chance to open his account for the week in the first race. He is currently around 7/1 and looks a solid e/w bet to me. The other horse I’ll have an interest on in the opener is the Oliver Sherwood trained Puffin Billy (pictured below) at 12/1 (though I’ve been with him since he was over double that!). This horse is a monster. If you put a line through his defeat last time when he had puss in his foot, he is 4/4, winning by a combined 36 lengths, and has barely come off the bridle. He is suited by the soft conditions and will stay every yard of the 2m as he could have gone for the Neptune if the ground was a bit quicker. Connections love him and although a very hot race, he looks worth an e/w saver at his double figure price.


The Arkle at 2.05pm is a lot more straight-forward to me: Simonsig (pictured below) wins, no bet. This horse looks different class and I’d be very disappointed if he can’t take this fairly weak renewal. Overturn is the obvious danger but Donald McCain appears to have ducked soft ground all season with his star. Arvika Ligeonniere could surprise a few as although not looking quick enough to go with the other 2, he does love soft ground so may run into 2nd as he looks to have a touch of class that the other outsiders don’t.


On to the first handicap at the JLT at 2.40pm looks a minefield with 24 runners going to post.  Surprisingly I actually think the favourite, Our Mick (pictured below), isn’t actually a bad price at 5/1. He ran a cracker here last year and was running a massive race when coming down at Cheltenham on reappearance last time as I’m sure he would have beaten the hugely progressive Katenko. E/w terms would return stakes back if he places and I’m fairly confident he will, with a strong chance of winning. Though I’ll probably stick with the McCain horse, there are plenty of decent e/w alternatives at bigger prices, one of which is White Star Line. He finished 2nd to Hunt Ball at last year’s Festival and is now 3lb lower so could run another big race and at 16/1 he’s a decent price. Nuts N Bolts is probably the horse I will back to go with Our Mick as I think there could be more to come from the Lucinda Russell trained 7yo. He races off a lovely 10st 8lb (lower weights always handy in testing conditions) and is well regarded by a trainer who had a winner here last season. He idled when winning narrowly last time so the result suggests he was less impressive than he really was, and at 25/1 I think he is one for a small stakes e/w saver. The other horse of note is Merry King who opts for this over the 4m race. He has been unlucky this season having been touched off a couple of times by decent horses, but should revel in this soft ground. Richie McClernon won this race on Alfie Sherrin last season and keeps the ride on Merry King as AP rides for JP, and McClernon could go very close again. I like to have a couple in Festival handicaps (you need to with 24 runners!) so may even back all 3 e/w as I feel they all have strong chances and expect more than 1 to make the frame.


The feature race comes at 3.20pm in the shape of the Champion Hurdle and it is no surprise to see former winner Hurricane Fly at the top of the market. He is loved by most of Ireland and trained/ridden by Mullins/Walsh so it’s fair to assume he has a strong chance. I haven’t always been a Hurricane Fly fan but I feel conditions really do suit him this year and he has a massive chance. He is very much suited by the soft conditions, but I feel even more so by the likelihood that there won’t be much pace on as there is no Overturn in there this time around. I actually think this coveted prize can only go to one of 2 horses, the other being Ditcheat inmate Zarkandar. He is a very slick jumper and is a much more accomplished horse this season having taken some nice pots along the way, particularly the Bula when beating Rock On Ruby and Grandouet. I would have preferred there to be more pace up front as it would have suited Daryl Jacob’s mount, but I don’t think the lack of such is certain to stop him and think that at 4/1 and bigger he has been the most solid e/w shot of the week as I can’t see him finishing out of the places. He is 7/2 now but I still think he’s worth a punt, and I’ve also taken advantage of the 5/1 offered by William Hill that Zarkandar and Silviniaco Conti (in the Gold Cup on Friday) both place. I think it could be the best bet of the week, and can see both winning their respective races. Grandouet has apparently not worked well this week which would put me off, though he’d have a chance on his run behind Zarkandar before Christmas. Rock On Ruby wears first time blinkers and although they don’t put me off him, the ground does. I’m hoping he tries to make all with Countrywide Flame so they go a decent clip which would help Zarkandar (pictured below). Of the rest, Cinders And Ashes won’t like the ground, Countrywide Flame I don’t think is of the same quality of the aforementioned, and the rest don’t count aside from Binocular who could surprise a few with a big run but he may find a couple too good. I wouldn’t go mad in this but may have a reverse forecast on the top 2.

The Cross Country race at 4pm is a race to watch and not punt for me. If I do have one for interest it will be either Bostons Angel as he looks much better this season; Any Currency as I think the trip will see him improve and he’s a nice price at 14/1; or Arabella Boy (pictured below) as I usually just side with specialist jockey Nina Carberry in these unconventional affairs.


The Mares Hurdle at 4.40pm is another race in which there doesn’t look to be a bet worth having. Quevega (pictured below) should win, she may not have been seen for nearly a year but never is and if she is herself then she should take this again. Une Artiste appears to love Cheltenham and is fine on the ground so could be next best (maybe worth a punt in the “w/o Quevega” market but looks a bit short in that at 2/1). The rest are decent horses but if Quevega is on a going day they shouldn’t trouble her, and although the slow pace last season meant they got closer to her than they should have, she still coasted clear and won smoothly.

The final race of the first day at 5.15pm is another competitive handicap chase with 20 runners, which means there should be some value about. Before the rain came, Carlito Brigante was my biggest fancy of the whole week (as previous followers will have read), but now the ground is soft I’d be looking elsewhere. Colour Squadron is an obvious “plot” for the race but his jumping doesn’t convince me and he could be found out around Prestbury Park, regardless of his seemingly favourable handicap mark, so I’d also oppose him at 11/2. The lowest priced horses I like in this are The Druids Nephew (pictured below) and Shangani at 7/1 and 8/1 respectably. The former ran a nose behind Hadrians Approach earlier in the season and that horse is running in the RSA this week so off 135 I think Andy Turnell’s horse could be nicely handicapped and he has gone in soft ground before so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Shangani loves it soft and Venetia Williams has been on fire all season so it wouldn’t be a massive surprise should he continue to improve and go close off a 10lb higher mark than last season. However, with no massive fancy in the race it could be worth taking a risk on something at a bigger price such as Hazy Tom (16/1) or Bobowen (14/1). Charlie Longsdon has always spoken favourably of Hazy Tom and it’s worthy of note that this is the first time he is tried over further than 2m since going chasing. You would assume he wants the 2m4f as the whole season revolves around the Festival, so he could turn out to be “well in” on his handicap mark given it was earned based on his form over the minimum trip. Bobowen is more a loyal pick as I follow local trainer Dr Richard Newland, but he is not without a chance as he also seems to go better on soft ground and although running poorly at Cheltenham in October, he was progressive before that and ran well behind a good horse in a novice hurdle on his only other start since which could have put him right for a crack at this big prize. His shrew trainer has won at the Festival before and Nick Schofield is an excellent pilot so I’m hoping he’ll run a big race.


To summarise, although very competitive and liking a number of horses in most races, I’ve decided to go with (or the pin has decided to go with!):

1.30pmUn Atout e/w @ 7/1 AND Puffin Billy e/w @ 12/1

2.05pm – Small forecast on Simonsig to beat Arvika Ligeonniere

2.40pmOur Mick e/w @ 5/1 AND Merry King e/w @ 8/1 AND Nuts N Bolts e/w @ 25/1

3.20pmZarkandar e/w IF he touches 4/1 AND reverse forecast with Hurricane Fly + Zarkandar

4.00pmArabella Boy e/w @ 4/1 OR Any Currency @ 14/1

4.40pm – Small forecast on Quevega to beat Une Artiste

5.15pmThe Druids Nephew e/w @ 7/1 AND Bobowen e/w @ 12/1 OR Hazy Tom e/w @ 16/1

Monday, 4 March 2013

Centenary Novices Chase - Carlito Brigante

Gordon Elliott is no stranger to taking a big handicap pot having won the Ladbroke Hurdle before Christmas with Cause Of Causes. Another big prize the County Meath based trainer has landed is the Coral Cup which he won at the Cheltenham Festival in 2011, and it is with the very same horse that he could well win another in a fortnight. It is fair to say Carlito Brigante hacked up that day, and whilst For Non Stop was the only horse near him when falling at the last, the race winner had the race in the bag by that stage. Carlito won off a handicap mark of 142 and that alone would suggest he’d have a big race in him off his current chase mark of 137 but there is more to it than that. At first glance one may just assume Elliott’s charge is simply not as good over the bigger obstacles as he was over hurdles, but if you look at his chase runs that wouldn’t appear to be the case. Having won at the first time of asking over fences he finished 3rd and 2nd in his next 2 starts (somewhat disappointing given what was expected of him) before returning to Prestbury Park in October to take a 2m4f novice chase. He then finished 4th of 6 at Aintree but that came just 8 days after his Cheltenham victory and he was hampered in running so I’d be willing to excuse him that run.
Given 3 weeks to freshen up he then returned to the scene of his Festival triumph in November and ran in what I believe is the most interesting of his races over fences as although finishing 4th of just 5, it looks to be arguably one of the hottest novices chases of the season. The winner, Dynaste (pictured above), is some people’s idea of a “good thing” whether he goes for the Jewson or the RSA; the 2nd, Fingal Bay, is a very good horse who would more than likely have been a major player in staying novice chases if not picking up a season-ending injury; and the 3rd, Unioniste, has since become the only 4yo ever to win the December Gold Cup before up with success in a potentially decent race at Newbury on Betfair Hurdle Day recently. Both of the horses still in training are the top 2 in the RSA market and Carlito Brigante ran a massive race in defeat, going with them front 3 until fading late on, yet was still dropped 3lb by the handicapper. Often with horses fading late on at Cheltenham the question is asked as to whether they “get up the hill”, but there is no such worry for the County Meath based 7yo and I’d be confident that the reason he stopped was the heavy, tacky ground stretched his stamina. The return to better ground should bring about improvement which suggests he could have plenty in hand in the Centenary Novices Handicap Chase on the first day. He’s no fancy price at 8/1 but I think he’ll go off somewhat shorter on the day so is definitely worth having an each way punt on with the NRNB concession now in play.

Attaglance and Colour Squadron have also attracted support in the race but although the former was a Festival winner over hurdles last season, the latter is seemingly priced on expectation and not previous form, with his jumping certainly leaving something to be desired. There will no doubt be plenty of horses on favourable marks in all the Festival handicaps but Carlito Brigante (pictured above) looks a solid each way shot.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Betfair Ascot Chase Day

Selection wise last weekend was a mixed bag, Newbury went appallingly but there were a few winners on the other cards so not too tragic. Racing wise it was an absolute corker! We enjoyed an excellent day at Newbury (as always!) and the racing was not only of a very high standard, but also very informative with regards to the Festival. Tomorrow’s card at Ascot (pictured below) looks equally mouth watering and a few extremely exciting horses look set to stake their festival claims!

The first race sees Donald McCain’s promising young novice hurdler Up And Go, who has won impressively all 3 times he has completed (he’s fallen in 2 other starts), attempt to give 5lb to a fairly strong field containing formerly smart flat horse Aaim To Prosper, eye catcher last time out Sausalito Sunrise, and Copper Birch who finished close behind At Fishers Cross 2 starts ago. This 7 runner Class 2 affair could turn out to be a pretty competitive one and I personally wouldn’t be getting involved.


Aside from the Betfair Ascot Chase later on the card, I’d say the Reynoldstown is the race I’m most looking forward to seeing tomorrow. Rocky Creek is a horse I followed throughout last season though knowing he was definitely one who’d improve for bigger obstacles this season, and so far he has proven to be an exciting recruit to the novice chase ranks. However, tomorrow is no walkover and Donald McCain’s Real Milan is a more than worthy rival having won both his chase starts with considerable ease (even giving 7lb away last time) and receives 3lb from the Nicholls horse. Though these 2 are both extremely smart, this is by no means a 2 horse race (excuse the pun!) as Tour Des Champs was still challenging Rocky Creek when falling at Warwick (he also won a minor affair by 31 lengths next time out) and enjoys a 6lb pull in the weights which could see him serve up a serious challenge to the likely favourite. The other horse to add to the mix is Houblon Des Obeaux, trained by the in-form Venetia Williams, who should relish the step up to 3m and slightly better ground. He also has to give a few lb to most of them but has contested 5 races over fences already this season so has experience on his side. I doubt I’ll be backing at the likely prices, but my colours will be firmly attached to Rocky Creek as I think he’s a horse you will be hearing a lot more about over the next couple of years. The form of his races so far this year looks very strong and I hope he’ll take this before side-stepping Cheltenham as he looks a serious prospect for the future.

I won’t be looking too hard at the next race as I think it could go to anyone, but find General Miller and The Bear Trap interesting in the following race. The former was a smart novice (he won at Aintree in the spring) but has only run twice since the end of that season due to injury. However, the most recent of those runs was a 5 length 2nd behind Overturn off 145 and whilst he received plenty of weight and was beaten comfortably, he has been dropped to 139 now so if retaining any of his old ability he could be competitive. It’s interesting Nicky Henderson has persevered with him and has won fresh a couple of times so maybe worth chancing if he is a half decent price. The Bear Trap catches the eye as although his form to date doesn’t look to special, he wouldn’t be the first JP McManus horse to appear that way and improve past a mark of 123. He has looked better since going handicapping and has a nice racing weight of 10st 4lb, which isn’t far off AP’s lowest (he did 10st 3lb aboard Mr Watson for the first time in 2 years a fortnight ago) so he would be worth a market check.


On to the feature race and it looks a cracker! I’m a huge fan of Cue Card (pictured above) and he’d be my idea of the Ryanair, particularly on slightly better ground, so if pushed I’d be taking his side. But this is no walk in the park as Arkle winner Captain Chris has looked back to his best recently and didn’t mind the conditions in the King George at Christmas. Somersby is another dangerous rival as he ran a decent race behind Sprinter Sacre having been off for 9 months and that could well have put him spot on for this. He always runs a big race at the Berkshire track and it would be no surprise if this was his season target. Finians Rainbow obviously can’t be ruled out but I think he needs better ground to be seen at his best and he ran very poorly here last time, and Ghizao and Pigeon Island don’t really look up to taking a race of this quality anymore (though the latter ran a massive race last time out).

The 4.25pm is a 4 runner race, but in reality it is likely to only really concern 2 of them. Far West has arguably been the most impressive juvenile so far this season, hosing up a couple of times at Cheltenham and cementing himself as a horse to be reckoned with. River Maigue has also looked a smart prospect having finished 2nd in a hot race at Cheltenham (when supposedly in serious need of the run) and then hacking up in a race at Kempton that hasn’t worked out too badly. Strictly on the figures you’d have to side with Far West as his official rating is 5lb higher than that of River Maigue (pictured below), yet he still receives 9lb in weight from the Seven Barrows inmate. I think the best way to pick between them could be to toss a coin and hope for the best as I think we could enjoy a great battle!


The final race of the day is no easier to decipher as 2 horses strongly fancied for the Champion Bumper both take their places and aim to strengthen their claims for that coveted prize in March. Captain Cutter beat a promising horse on debut here and they were 11 lengths clear of 3rd so it’s almost unsurprising that he has since been bought by the mighty JP McManus. He’ll certainly need to be smart to take this as Red Sherlock absolutely hacked up on debut and looked a horse with a bright future. As always with a bumper, there could be something else in there unraced or unexposed who could surprise and take it, but you’d have to think this pair will be fighting it out between themselves and should make the forecast between them (if only we knew which way round!).

On such a competitive day I think it would be foolish to get too involved but I will take a chance on General Miller retaining some of his old ability if the price is right. The Bear Trap is unlikely to be much of a price but if he were he could tempt a saver. I like Rocky Creek very much and may stick him in a double, possibly with Cue Card, or maybe a horse from one of the day’s other meetings (one of which is also housed at Ditcheat!), so have a read of the next article that will highlight a couple elsewhere! Good luck, and enjoy the racing!