Friday, March 22, 2019

Aye, right

I can't help but feel whatever luck the racing gods decided to throw my way at the beginning of this season, a rather large portion of it was used up at Cheltenham last week...

Noel Fehily retires at Newbury tomorrow after more than 20 years in the saddle. His final three mounts: Prabeni (2.40); Outofthisworld (3.15); and Get In The Queue (5.00).

I shall always remember his ride aboard Special Tiara in the 2017 Champion Chase; thanks for the memories, Noel, and we wish you a long and happy retirement.

The ITV cameras visit Kelso and I was hoping to strike an each-way wager in the Liz Adam Memorial Handicap Chase at 3.00 but a final field of eight has restricted opportunities; four of the eight - Rons Dream, Some Chaos, Le Reve and Calipso Collonges - held entries for races at Newbury but prefer to go north instead.

The last-named, owned by The Black Horse Hotel Bridgnorth, has something to find with a few on Racing Post ratings but rates an interesting prospect while Some Chaos is another unexposed type who has been raised 11 pounds for his win at Wincanton last time.

In complete contrast eleven-year-old Le Reve comes into the race in fine form and in February 2016 won off a mark of 144.

Favourite Blue Flight beat Black Corton half a length here three weeks ago and as a result has gone up 14 pounds for his trouble. I'm not certain I want to treat that result too literally as Black Corton had looked to have a hard enough race at Ascot two weeks earlier when beaten two and a quarter lengths by Calipto.

Mare Rons Dream fell last time out but before that had finished fourth behind Elegant Escape in the Welsh National.

I'm toying with the idea of putting up Capard King as the each-way wager but I'm swithering.

He appeared to show a return to some kind of form on his stable debut for Sandy Thomson two weeks ago and back in 2016 won off a mark of 136 for Jonjo O'Neill.

All told though this looks a tough ask so instead I'm going to take an interest in the handicap hurdle at 3.35.

Favourite Worthy Farm is tipped up in the Weekender and is clear top-rated on Racing Post ratings.

Captain Drake is considered a chasing prospect; Harry Fry's charge was duelling with Tomkevi at Southwell the last day when the latter unseated Mr Aaron Anderson at the last. Conor O''Farrell rides for Rebecca Menzies tomorrow but at the weights the form looks likely to be confirmed although Tomkevi will appreciate underfoot conditions here and the stable are in fine form.

Burrows Park finished a creditable ninth in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham just eight days ago while the market suggests Seemorelights (fell when leading last time) holds the better chance of Sandy Thomson's two runners.

I'm going to take an each-way interest in Aye Right, a turn of phrase often used by my father-in-law when he suspects I might be engaged in a minor deception of some sort.

This one likes to race from the front (the horse that is, not my father-in-law) and has been placed in seven of his eight hurdle starts to date. I always think Kelso is a track that suits a front-runner; he could find some improvement on this first try beyond two miles six and a half furlongs but he'll need to in a very competitive affair.

Sky Bet pay one fifth the odds four places; at 8/1 Aye Right is the each-way suggestion.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Cheltenham Festival 2019 - the betting debrief

Shown below a record of the blog's highlighted selections at this year's Festival to a nominal 1 point level stakes wager (1 point win, 0.5 points each way) with bets settled at advised prices and each way returns calculated to one fifth the odds.

For once, it all makes for half-decent reading and ranks as the blog's best performance on record with the thirteenth anniversary of that fateful first post just a couple of weeks away.

Readers are strongly advised to make use of the contextual footnotes provided.

Tuesday

1.30 Supreme Novice's Hurdle
Selection: Elixir De Nutz
Bet: Each way
Advised price: 8/1
Starting price: N/A
Result: Non-runner / no bet

2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase
Selection: Lake View Lad
Bet: Each way
Advised price: 20/1
Starting price: 25/1
Result: Third
Return: 2.50
Profit/Loss +1.50

Profit/Loss Tuesday +1.50

Wednesday

1.30 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Selection: Brewin'upastorm
Bet: Each way
Advised price: 9/1
Starting price: 11/1
Result: Fourth
Return 0.00
Profit/Loss -1.00

2.10 RSA Novices' Chase
Selection: On The Blind Side
Bet: Each way
Advised price: 10/1
Starting price: 14/1
Result: Pulled up
Return: 0.00
Profit/Loss -1.00

3.30 Champion Chase
Selection: Sceau Royal
Bet: Each way
Advised price: 14/1
Starting price: 16/1
Result: Third
Return: 1.90
Profit/Loss: +0.90

5.30 Champion bumper
Selection: Master Debonair
Bet: Each way
Advised price: 11/1
Starting price 12/1
Result: Twelfth
Profit/Loss: -1.00

Profit/Loss Wednesday -2.10

Thursday

2.50 Ryanair Chase
Selection: Frodon
Bet: Win
Advised price: 15/2
Starting price: 9/2
Result: First
Return: 8.50
Profit/Loss +7.50

Selection: Aso
Bet: Each way
Advised price: 33/1
Starting price: 33/1
Result: Second
Return: 3.80
Profit/Loss: +2.80

3.30 Stayers' Hurdle
Selection: Sam Spinner
Bet: Each way
Advised price: 40/1
Starting price: 33/1
Result: Second
Return: 4.50
Profit/Loss: +3.50

Profit/Loss Thursday +13.80

Friday

3.30 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Selection: Anibale Fly
Bet: Each way
Advised price: 25/1
Starting price: 22/1
Result: Second
Return: 3.00
Profit/Loss +2.00

Profit/Loss Friday +2.00

-----
Outlay over four days: 9 points
Profit/Loss over four days: +15.2 points
Profit as percentage of outlay: 168.88%
-----

Footnote 1:
Do not be deceived - this performance is demonstrably atypical and unlikely to be repeated in the next ten years. Normal service will be resumed next week.

Footnote 2:
Mrs Tips states: 'I picked my own winners on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. I started off full of enthusiasm but by Thursday I was picking names I didn't even like or care about. On Friday I picked Pentland Hills for the first race because I thought they were in the Cotswolds. I still picked more winners than PG's Tips.'

Friday, March 15, 2019

Midlands Grand National 2019

A somewhat curtailed post following a hectic week at Cheltenham...

Twenty runnners have been declared for tomorrow's Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter due off at 3.35; the going is currently described as soft with strong winds and heavy rain forecast - an inspection has been called for eight o'clock tomorrow morning.

Only two winners have carried more than 11-0 to victory in the past ten years - Synchronised in 2010 and Firebird Flyer in 2016; Ms Parfois and American at the top of the market are set to carry 11-4 and 11-12 respectively.

Last year's winner Regal Flow became the first horse older than nine to come home in front since Lucky Lane obliged in 1995.

A key piece of form is The Last Fling Handicap Chase run at Haydock on December 30th last year. Chef D'Oeuvre beat Back To The Thatch two and threequarter lengths that day with Dell'Arca a further twelve lengths adrift in third.

Chef D'Oeuvre was raised eleven pounds for that victory and went up another four when finishing third (from three pounds out of the handicap) behind Robinsfirth and Ramses De Teillee in Haydock's Grand National Trial.The form reads well and the horse has clearly benefited from a change of stable but inevitably the handicapper has had his say.

Both Back To The Thatch and Dell'Arca haven't run since - the former is up six pounds, the latter down one pound. Back To The Thatch re-opposes Chef D'Oeuvre nine pounds better off for two and threequarter lengths. 

On his seasonal debut for new connections Chef D'Oeuvre was beaten over 21 lengths at this track by Crosspark.

Crosspark won the Eider three weeks ago with Kilkishen six and a half lengths adrift in fourth, Raz De Maree seventh  and Potters Corner falling two from home when appearing to hold every chance.

Potters Corner has been raised three pounds for that effort; he is clearly a talented individual but the fences seem to be getting in the way - Christian Williams' charge has failed to complete in three of his last four chase starts.

Arthur's Gift is relatively unexposed while Ballydine boasts good form behind Lake View Lad, Carole's Destrier and particularly behind Wakanda in the Peter Marsh at Haydock - beaten under five lengths that day, he may have finished much closer but for a bad blunder three from home.

Dawson City, seventh behind Elegant Escape in the Welsh National, collected the Devon National at Exeter three weeks ago and should certainly having little trouble staying the trip but now looks high enough in the handicap.  

Of those at bigger prices Smooth Stepper did me a favour roughly 12 months ago when winning at Kelso; the balance of his form suggests he struggles to stay beyond three and a half miles. Prime Venture has not won over fences in five starts but has been pitched in against the likes of Bags Groove, Kilbricken Storm and Ramses De Teillee.

It's possible to make a case for several in the field. Comments from connections have led me to Back To The Thatch who has the right profile and comes to this a fresher horse than those who ran in the Eider.

At the time of writing William Hill offer 11/1 and pay one fifth the odds seven places.

Back To The Thatch is the each-way selection with William Hill.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Cheltenham Festival 2019 - Friday

A good day for the blog this Thursday but tomorrow, it's another day altogether. Beware the Ides of March.

We look set for a vintage renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.30); sixteen have been declared with the going currently described as good to soft, soft in places.

Colin Tizzard saddles three. Native River bids to become the first horse to win back-to-back renewals since Best Mate completed his hat-trick in 2004. Stablemate Thistlecrack may be eleven years old but he retains some engine; if his jumping were more proficient, he would rate a top contender. Welsh National winner Elegant Escape isn't readily dismissed either but the suspicion is, as the ground dries out, a few in the field will finish ahead of him.

Presenting Percy won last year's RSA Chase in some style (Elegant Escape third, Al Boum Photo fell) and has been at or near the top of the Gold Cup market ever since. Patrick Kelly's inmate has had just one run this season - over hurdles - but has schooled over the larger obstacles at Galway as part of his preparation. The last horse to win the Gold Cup without a prior race over fences that season was Easter Hero in 1929.

Clan Des Obeaux's victory in the King George on Boxing Day (Thistlecrack second, Native River third, Double Shuffle fifth, Might Bite seventh with Bristol De Mail falling) represents top-drawer form and marks Paul Nicholls' charge out as a serious contender. His fourth behind Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November (Native River second, Thistlecrack third, Might Bite fifth) for me just leaves a query as to how well he'll cope with the final climb up the hill of this extended three miles two and a half furlongs.  

Conversely, Bristol De Mai appears to reserve his very best form for Haydock.

Willie Mullins saddles four and Ruby Walsh rides Bellshill. Kemboy's win in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas is noteworthy (Bellshill fourth, Shattered Love tenth) but Bellshill wasn't fully wound up that day and progressed next time out to win the Irish Gold Cup by a short-head from Road To Respect (third in the Ryanair earlier today).

Might Bite's mighty duel with Native River in last year's renewal (Anibale Fly third, Definitly Red sixth) lives long in the memory. Nicky Henderson's charge hasn't been in the same form this term; connections have tried wind surgery and, if I remember correctly, the horse has undergone treatment for ulcers. 14/1 would be a very big price if Might Bite was back to his best but he has always had quirks - he nearly handed the 2017 RSA Chase to stablemate Whisper - and I suspect ideally he'd prefer slightly better ground.

The mare Shattered Love underwent wind surgery in January and the balance of her form to date suggests she isn't certain to stay this trip but Yala Enki certainly will. Venetia Williams' charge often races prominently but is likely to find a few in the field staying on a bit more quickly.

Anibale Fly finished a very creditable third in last year's renewal, making up ground at the business end of the race without ever threatening the leaders, and four weeks later he came home fourth behind Tiger Roll in the Grand National.

Last time out the JP McManus owned gelding ran a pleasing trial in the Red Mills Chase over an inadequate trip of two and a half miles, beaten two lengths by Monalee (fourth in the Ryanair earlier today).

Of the protagonists Native River would be the one for me but on the back of that effort last year Anibale Fly - with something to find on the book - makes most appeal as an each-way outsider, although drying ground isn't ideal.

At the time of writing both William Hill and Ladbrokes go 25/1 and pay one fifth the odds four places.

With Barry Geraghty up, Anibale Fly is the each-way selection.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Cheltenham Festival 2019 - Thursday

There has to be a certain irony in the way Cheltenham racecourse officials talked to customers about how 'notoriously difficult' it is to predict wind gust speeds ahead of Wednesday's card threatened by advancing Storm Gareth, yet those same officials made no mention whatsoever to customers of the difficulty factor involved in picking the winners of the seven races on the day's card. 

For starters, I've had a look at the JLT Novices' Chase (1.30) and the Ryanair Chase (2.50). To my mind the better value lies in the Ryanair but the staff at the Racing Post Weekender appear to have pinched all my best ideas - honest - and, at the same time, have also decided to increase the price they're going to charge me for them.

Course and distance winner Frodon is clear of his rivals on Racing Post ratings yet at the time of writing Paul Nicholls' charge is fifth in the betting behind four Irish-trained runners:

180 Frodon (15/2 in places)
178 Balko Des Flos (16/1) 
178 Un De Sceau (9/2)
176 Footpad (4/1)
174 Road To Respect (5/1)
171 Monalee (9/2)
170 Aso (40/1)

Footpad has yet to prove he stays this trip and the going on the new course is currently soft; Monalee finished second in the RSA last year; Un De Sceaux is 11 years old now; and Road To Respect is better known as a three miler. Last year's winner Balko Des Flos (beat Un De Sceaux four and a half lengths) hasn't been in the same form since but is still given every respect with ground conditions to suit.

Of course, a number in the field like to race prominently and that could set the race up for those in behind...     

Aso finished third in this two years ago and is forgiven his last run behind Cyrname at Ascot; having previously won over course and distance, he appeals as an each-way outsider who should appreciate underfoot conditions.

Two selections for the Ryanair:
Frodon win 15/2 (Paddy Power)
Aso each-way 33/1 Bet Victor 4 places, one fifth odds.

Regular readers will know I'm a Paisley Park fan but I'd venture the Stayers' Hurdle (3.30) is more open than the market would have us believe and there are some each-way opportunities.

Last year Penhill beat Supasundae two lengths with Sam Spinner fifth and Barcardys falling. 2017 Coral Cup winner Supasundae is admirably consistent but has never won beyond the distance of the Coral Cup - handler Jessica Harrington indicates in the Weekender his ideal trip is 2m 4f.

Faugheen, a veteran now, is the joker in the pack; Willie Mullins' inmate beat Penhill 13 lengths at Punchestown last April. Only one eleven-year-old has come home in front since 1972 - the Fulke Walwyn trained Crimson Embers in 1986.  

The Cleeve is a key piece of form - Paisley Park beat West Approach 12 lengths with Black Op third, Sam Spinner fourth and Wholestone ninth. Simon Rowlands' sectional anaylsis of the race makes interesting reading and highlights Black Op's chance, currently 12/1 with Bet Victor.

Connections have indicated they may try different tactics with West Approach (25/1).

Last year Sam Spinner was sent off 9/4 favourite for this race yet 12 months on he's rated a 50/1 chance. The gelding hasn't had the best of seasons but he showed a revival of sorts in the Cleeve and has ground conditions to suit. Pilot Joe Colliver has re-arranged a mandatory visit to the magistrates' court on a drink-drive related matter so I'd like to think both horse and jockey can put their troubles to one side and turn in a good performance.     
 
At the time of writing  Bet Victor, Betfred, Betway and Totesport pay one fifth the odds four places. For those of a conservative disposition, Black Op (12/1 Bet Victor) represents the more solid proposition but, hell, it's the Festival - I'm going to keep the faith and will take an each-way interest in Sam Spinner (40/1 Betway).

I saw the black cat again this morning. Damned creature just clean stared me out. Reminded me of a friend's cat when we were kids - they called him Carpenter as he kept on doing odd jobs around the house.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Cheltenham Festival 2019 - Wednesday

Superstitious? Not me. Except that yesterday morning I encountered a money spider in the bathroom, two magpies out the back kitchen window during breakfast, then a black cat crossed the road but didn't cross my path, preferring instead to hide under a rusting Vauxhall Corsa, as I was walking in to work, while on the return journey my right shoulder took a direct hit from a rather impertinent pigeon...

The thing is I can't decide whether all this means Hell's Kitchen is going to win the Champion Chase at odds of 40/1 or not.

In the opening Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (1.30) Champ bids to become only the second seven-year-old to come home in front; French Holly won in 1998. Champ won a muddling Challow at Newbury in December but he looks a highly-strung individual and I'd be slightly worried about how he'll handle the preliminaries.

Brewin'Upastorm was beaten four lengths by Champ in the Challow and I'm not keen on backing horses that fell last time out but Olly Murphy's charge appeared to be in the ascendancy when coming to grief at the last in the trial for this event - I'll chance Brewin'Upastorm each-way at 9/1.

The RSA (2.10) looks difficult this year.

Delta Work would appear to have a favourite's chance and, quite frankly, I'm not sure what to make of Santini with his participation the subject of some conjecture over the past week.

Topofthegame is bang there with every chance but at a bigger price I'll take an each-way interest in On The Blind Side (10/1) who bounced back to form at Kempton following wind surgery, has won here previously, sports first-time cheekpieces and has the assistance of Noel Fehily in the saddle.

A quick mention too for Mortal who didn't run well last time out but on his penultimate start was giving Delta Work a run for his money when a mistake at the last cost him. I just wonder whether he'll see out this trip on soft ground.

After much deliberation my each-way wager in the Champion Chase (3.30) is going to be Sceau Royal (14/1).

On official ratings Politologue is the third best horse in the field but he was slightly disappointing when fourth (God's Own third) in this race last year and I just feel he's better going right-handed. God's Own is eleven years old now so course and distance winner Sceau Royal gets the nod. If in the mood, Hell's Kitchen could easily outrun his odds but he's a risky conveyance, as I'm sure Barry Geraghty is aware...

There's a smaller field than usual for the bumper (5.30). I always think it's a big ask for a four-year-old but the market tells us Willie Mullins' sole entry Blue Sari is held in high regard. Cue Card was the last four-year-old to come home in front in 2010 - the only other winners in that age bracket were Rhythm Section (1993) and Dato Star (1995) - remember him?

Envoi Allen is prominent in the betting while Abacadabras was giving his stablemate a run for his money last time when running out. On official ratings Envoi Allen is seven pounds clear of Abacadabras so I'll take an each-way interest in previous course and distance winner Master Debonair currently priced around the 11/1 mark.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Cheltenham Festival 2019 - Tuesday

With persistent rain forecast before racing on Tuesday, clerk of the course Simon Claisse believes this year's Festival will start with soft ground.

Eighteen have been declared for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle due off at 1.30. There have been noticeable market moves in the past few days for Angels Breath - Nick De Boinville rides - and Klassical Dream, the mount of Ruby Walsh. At the time of writing both Ladbrokes and Black Type price up Angels Breath as the clear favourite.

My view on the race remains much as outlined in the preceding post:

Handler Nigel Twiston-Davies is on record saying favourite Al Dancer is his best chance of the week; the gelding's victory in the re-arranged Betfair Hurdle at Ascot certainly looked impressive. The two most recent Betfair winners to contest this - Ballyandy in 2017 and Kalashnikov in 2018 - finished fourth and second respectively. A couple of concerns - in the past decade just two favourites have obliged while Getaway Trump, fourth behind Al Dancer at Ascot, ran no sort of race at Kelso last Saturday and I'm just wondering whether that Ascot race has left its mark.

Nicky Henderson has two entries - Angels Breath was odds-on when turned over at Kempton last time but connections feel this track will play more to his strengths while Mister Fisher is given every respect but in the past has shown he can boil over in the preliminaries. Stable jockey Nick De Boinville rides Angels Breath.

It's no secret Joseph O'Brien is a trainer going places and just last month owner JP McManus purchased Fakir D'Oudairies. As a four-year-old the gelding receives his weight-for-age allowance but only three others in that age bracket have contested this event in the past decade and none have been placed. The last four-year-old to come home in front was Hors La Loi III in 1999; Fakir D'Oudairies also holds an entry in Friday's Triumph Hurdle.

There's a feeling in some parts that the Tolworth form - Elixir de Nutz beat Grand Sancy half a length - may have been underestimated. Elixir De Nutz has won over both the old and new courses here racing from the front. Those tactics may make him vulnerable at the business end but Colin Tizzard's charge could prove hard to pass; at around 8/1 I'm considering an each-way wager.


William Hill stands out by paying one fifth the odds seven places; Elixir De Nutz is the each-way selection at 8/1 with William Hill.

Just ten go to post for the highlight of the first day, the Champion Hurdle at 3.30. 

Buveur D'Air won this race in 2017 and beat Melon a neck in last year's renewal. Nicky Henderson's charge is particularly quick over the obstacles (although he has been known to miss one out in a race) but he faces no easy task conceding weight to the two mares in the field, Apple's Jade and Laurina; Annie Power was the last mare to come home in front in 2016.

The market suggests the race is between the three principals and I'm not inclined to disagree. I considered Brain Power as an each-way proposition but on official ratings the eight-year-old has enough to find and was beaten 30 lengths into eighth behind Buveur D'Air in the 2017 running. In the last ten years there have been just two winners over seven years of age - Hurricane Fly (2013)  and Annie Power (2016). 

Apple's Jade is my idea of the winner but I'm not going to play.

Sky Bet pay one fifth the odds six places in the Ultima Chase at 2.50; I've succumbed to temptation and will take an each-way interest in Lake View Lad at 20/1. 

His profile doesn't match that of recent winners and top weight isn't ideal either although Un Temps Pour Tout won carrying a similar burden in 2017. All that said, I thought he was impressive in the Rowland Meyrick last time, he will relish soft ground and the stable has sent out five winners in the past fortnight. Owned by Trevor Hemmings, the gelding holds an entry in the Grand National so I'd be hopeful of decent showing here on the way to Aintree.

Lake View Lad is the speculative each-way suggestion at 20/1 with Sky Bet, one fifth the odds six places.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Festival fever 2019

It's that time of year again.

You get up in the morning thinking about the Cheltenham Festival, you go to work thinking about the Cheltenham Festival, you can't concentrate at work because you're thinking about the Cheltenham Festival - all the time, you go back home thinking about the Cheltenham Festival and when you finally get to go to bed of an evening you end up dreaming about the Cheltenham Festival.

In a recent telephone consultation my doctor reassured me this behaviour is completely normal - he used the shorthand 'Festival fever' to refer to the condition which he sees with increasing regularity during the first two weeks of every March - and is nothing at all to worry about.

With just a few days to go and Festival fever on the verge of fever pitch, my present thinking and tips on selected races are outlined below.

Of course, readers perturbed by the blog's egregious performance last week - who wouldn't be? - can get the latest Cheltenham Festival betting tips here instead.

Still, it would be remiss of me not to point out that the blog has shown a profit at the Festival for the past four years, with the all-time best performance occurring in 2016.

And, only the other day, my accountant, a fastidious, lugubrious individual with the eye of a pike and a marked tendency to carp, told me the blog's highlighted selections were showing a level stakes profit of over 30 points to advised prices this season.

Naturally, I had to go for one of my long lie-downs after hearing such a shocking piece of evidence and have since taken the precaution of arranging a face-to-face appointment with the doc - PG meets GP. The earliest slot available was on the Thursday morning of the Craven meeting at Newmarket...

Traditionally I've followed a cautious betting strategy at the Festival - it's a marathon not a sprint - and I've no particular desire to give this season's hard-earned profit back to those bookmaker chappies.

To quote the standard disclaimer seen on most investment products - please remember past performance does not guarantee future results.

Tuesday

1.30 Supreme Novices' Hurdle

The first race of the whole jamboree and never an easy call.

Handler Nigel Twiston-Davies is on record saying favourite Al Dancer is his best chance of the week; the gelding's victory in the re-arranged Betfair Hurdle at Ascot certainly looked impressive. The two most recent Betfair winners to contest this - Ballyandy in 2017 and Kalashnikov in 2018 - finished fourth and second respectively. A couple of concerns - in the past decade just two favourites have obliged while Getaway Trump, fourth behind Al Dancer at Ascot, ran no sort of race at Kelso last Saturday and I'm just wondering whether that Ascot race has left its mark.

Nicky Henderson has two entries - Angels Breath was odds-on when turned over at Kempton last time but connections feel this track will play more to his strengths while Mister Fisher is given every respect but in the past has shown he can boil over in the preliminaries. Stable jockey Nick De Boinville rides Angels Breath.

It's no secret Joseph O'Brien is a trainer going places and just last month owner JP McManus purchased Fakir D'Oudairies. As a four-year-old the gelding receives his weight-for-age allowance but only three others in that age bracket have contested this event in the past decade and none have been placed. The last four-year-old to come home in front was Hors La Loi III in 1999; Fakir D'Oudairies also holds an entry in Friday's Triumph Hurdle.

There's a feeling in some parts that the Tolworth form - Elixir de Nutz beat Grand Sancy half a length - may have been underestimated. Elixir De Nutz has won over both the old and new courses here racing from the front. Those tactics may make him vulnerable at the business end but Colin Tizzard's charge could prove hard to pass; at around 8/1 I'm considering an each-way wager.

2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase

Festival handicaps are an absolute minefield, come with a health / wealth warning and really need to be avoided at all costs. Here are a few general pointers, just in case you happen to hear siren voices calling...

Make sure your selection's last run was this side of Christmas; Irish trained runners have a better win record in the handicap hurdles, British runners in the handicap chases.

The last Irish trained winner of the Ultima was Dun Doire in 2006 (when it was sponsored by William Hill).

Lake View Lad has plenty of weight and doesn't fit the profile of recent winners - just four aged over eight since 2000 (Youlneverwalkalone 2003, Joes Edge 2007, Chief Dan George 2010 and Alfie Sherin 2012) - but if he runs I'll consider a small each-way wager on the back of his win in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day, his trainer's current form and the fact I once knew a lad whose house overlooked a lake.

I think I've read somewhere that Rhinestone (Coral Cup) and Ben Dundee (Close Brothers or Brown Advisory Plate) could be considered well treated if taking up their chance in those named races but, hell, I can't be certain I didn't just hear it all in a dream.

It's the Festival fever. If you find a layer paying one quarter the odds fifteen places, please let me know.

3.30 Champion Hurdle

Buveur D'Air has won the past two renewals but faces no easy task this year conceding seven pounds to two mares, Apple's Jade and Laurina. Apple's Jade has had a phenomenal season and would be my idea of the winner but, at the prices, the race doesn't make much appeal as a betting medium.

Writing in the Racing Post Weekender Simon Holt makes the case for Silver Streak to run a race at a big price. To my mind Evan Williams' charge doesn't jump the hurdles well enough; I prefer Buveur D'Air's stablemate Brain Power (20/1) as an each-way longshot and will firm up that decision over the weekend.

4.10 Mares' Hurdle

It's certainly not a bet for me but, for those interested, Ruby Walsh rates Benie Des Dieux his best ride of the week; the favourite has obliged in this race on seven occasions in the past ten years.

Wednesday

1.30 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle

Challow winner Champ, reputedly named after Sir Anthony Peter McCoy, is the conundrum. Despite pulling hard he remains unbeaten this season and possesses a potent turn of foot. Clearly very talented, he looks a tricky enough ride; the last seven-year-old to come home in front was French Holly in 1998.

Brewin'Upastorm appeared to have the measure of Birchdale when coming to grief at the last in the trial run over the new course here in January. Connections may re-route Birchdale to the Albert Bartlett on Friday.

Battleoverdoyen, a chaser in the making, is unbeaten and likely to appreciate the recent rain.

3.30 Champion Chase

Altior does it all so terribly easily but he didn't create the best impression when jumping out to his left at Ascot the last day. Clear second best Min looked an each-way bet to nothing at 8/1 but that price disappeared some time ago; the gelding still holds an entry in the Ryanair for which he is priced up clear favourite with both Labrokes and Paddy Power. I'm on the lookout for an each-way outsider and God's Own and Hell's Kitchen are in the frame.

4.10 Cross Country Chase

Don't bother with a bet, just enjoy the phenomenon that is Tiger Roll.

5.30 Champion bumper 

I do like a bet in the bumper. This year's race doesn't look a typical renewal so I'll need to do some more work over the next couple of days. Two currently of interest are Abracadabras who was giving stablemate Envoi Allen a run for his money when running out last time and course and distance winner Master Debonair who is trained by Colin Tizzard, responsible for Cue Card's victory in 2010 at odds of 40/1.

Thursday

3.30 Stayers' Hurdle

Paisley Park is a worthy favourite and was impressive when winning the Cleeve over the new course here by 12 lengths from West Approach with Black Op back in third and Sam Spinner fourth. That said, he looked in a fair bit of trouble half a mile from home and a number in the field offer each-way possibilities.

Simon Rowlands' sectional analysis of the Cleeve highlights the chance of Black Op who is currently on offer at 14/1. Connections were particularly pleased with his return to hurdling after things hadn't quite gone to plan over the larger obstacles and after the race Noel Fehily hinted there could be improvement to come.

West Approach is another to have benefited from the return to hurdling - connections have indicated they may try different tactics and come from behind this time - and he holds each-way claims at 25/1 while I haven't totally given up on Sam Spinner who finished fifth in this last race year, beaten under six and a half lengths, yet is rated a 40/1 chance.

Jedd O'Keefe's charge unseated first time out this season and then repeated the trick next time when apparently spooked by Ascot's new-style hurdles. Obviously he comes with risks attached - as does regular pilot Joe Colliver who at the time of writing is due in court on race day on a drink-driving charge - but Sam Spinner seemed to be getting back on track in the Cleeve and will be well worth a second look if the rain continues to fall.

Faugheen, eleven years old now, is the subject of favourable reports and is the joker in the pack.

I'll make my mind up nearer the time.

Friday

3.30 Cheltenham Gold Cup

I saw Presenting Percy win the RSA last year in imperious fashion. The question this year is: can he win a Gold Cup after just one run over hurdles?

Apparently the last horse to win the Gold Cup without a start over fences in that season was Easter Hero in 1929. At the price on offer I'm not tempted.

The recent rain has seen money for last year's winner Native River (Colin Tizzard exhorts us not to forget stablemate Elegant Escape) while the Paul Nicholls trained Clan Des Obeaux has been a revelation this season and reminds me a lot of 1999 winner See More Business.

Kemboy's win in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown reads well; I'd expect Bellshill to finish closer this time and it will be interesting to see which one of four Ruby Walsh decides to ride.

At this stage my each-way value wager would be Anibale Fly, quoted a 25/1 chance, who finished third in last year's renewal before going on to come home fourth behind Tiger Roll in the Grand National at Aintree. The more rain that falls, the better his chance, but that maxim applies to several in the field.

In accordance with tradition, I'll aim to publish a post for each day of the Festival. This year, however, different arrangements apply.

Regular readers will know in the past I've usually made it to the track for Wednesday's action but not this year, I'm afraid. My employer has complicated plans somewhat by inviting me to a Long Service Awards ceremony - to be honest, I don't know why, I've never really settled in - which has been scheduled for this coming Monday evening.

I kid you not, I have needed to call upon previously untapped reserves of self-restraint to prevent myself from audibly expressing the intense sense of exasperation I'm currently having to contend with and, let me assure you, throughout the entire evening's proceedings you already know what I'll be thinking about - it's the Cheltenham Festival.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Down after the Eider

In the immediate aftermath of Crosspark's win in the Eider Chase at Newcastle last week, I was referred to the local stewards to face a charge of striking the sofa with the Saturday supplement above the permitted number of times after the final fence.

Following a thorough examination of available evidence and a sentient, slightly slurred submission from susurrous Lady Sipsmith, the stipe from the suburbs, chief steward Mrs Tips dispensed a regulatory 10 day suspension for the appropriated misuse - five days for marking the sofa with a minor weal, two for excessive force and three for failing to allow the sofa enough time to respond - commencing Wednesday 6th March.

Under the stringent Rules of Racing in Our House no betting or televised racing is permitted during the suspension period. As this period coincides with the Cheltenham Festival, I have indicated to the chief steward I am appealing; her tart reply - 'That may have been the case some thirty five years ago but no longer applies!' - came just a trifle too swiftly for comfort.

Negotiations are at a 'delicate' juncture. With sackcloth and ashes manifestly insufficient, so far I've agreed chocolates, flowers and, as a gesture of goodwill, a half bottle of supermarket gin for the whispering Lady Sipsmith. If necessary, I'll consider tempting the chief steward with a long weekend in a static caravan outside Lawrenny, Pembrokeshire (reputedly the birthplace of Dick Francis and handily situated for a visit to Peter Bowen's yard) but I don't want to play that card unless I have to.

The equine flu outbreak and now this... All I need is for the people at PG Tips to take a (tea) leaf out of Manchester United's book and claim infringement of intellectual property rights - as the football club did against Panini Cheapskates earlier this week - and I'll have a complete set.

My Festival preparations are in total tatters and the country's politicians are doing very little to help the cause with the threat that several key Brexit votes could still take place in Cheltenham week. Is nothing sacrosanct anymore?

I was disappointed to see Lake View Lad didn't make the final declarations for the Belhaven Brewery Premier Chase at Kelso tomorrow as this one has been on my radar since he won the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day. He currently holds an entry in the Ultima Chase on the first day of the Festival for which he is quoted a 25/1 chance (more study required, but the beast fails to warrant a mention in the race preview in the Racing Post Cheltenham - The Ultimate Guide publication) as well as an entry in the Grand National for which he is priced up at 33/1.

With that cunning plan thwarted and rain not forecast to hit Berkshire until Sunday, Newbury's 'Supporting Greatwood' meeting has been the focus of attention; the going is described as good to soft.

The previously tipped San Benedeto goes in the Gold Cup at 2.40 and is available at 16/1 with Paddy Power but I still haven't recovered from the shock of his last run at Ascot six weeks ago so, instead, I've had a look at the William Hill Supporting Greatwood Veterans' Handicap Chase at 2.05, primarily because the last time I had a wager in a veterans' chase the outcome was far more propitious when Houblon Des Obeaux landed the spoils at Sandown and I had sufficient prescience to strike the bet at odds of 20/1.

After that race connections made it abundantly clear that was a 'going' day for their charge. The next time at the same track he was beaten over 35 lengths into tenth by Classic Ben - third in that race Kimberlite Candy finished fifth in the Eider, fourth Give Me A Copper has been installed 13/2 favourite for the Ultima while seventh Shanroe Santos appears to hold Venetia Williams' charge on these terms - it is noted that Shanroe Santos did not jump well last time.

Meanwhile Theatre Guide finished fifteen lengths second behind Houblon Des Obeaux and on the book is not weighted to reverse the form. Of course, there's no guarantee Houblon Des Obeaux will turn up in the required frame of mind tomorrow and I feel that's reflected in the price on offer.

Carole's Destrier finished fourth in the Classic Chase at Warwick on his penultimate start - form that reads well - and prior to that won the Mandarin Chase over course and distance; his chance is respected as is that of favourite Abolitionist who was third in the 2017 Irish National and won an Aintree hurdle on his debut for new connections after a break of 441 days.

The Last Samuri has his third run following wind surgery; the second at Taunton last time out gives him every chance but Alan King has indicated Ziga Boy will come on for the run.

Two with lower mileage on the clock than most are Perform and Joe Farrell. Mr Ben Jones can claim seven on the former and has ridden at 9-7 in the past twelve months while the latter won here last year before going on to bag the Scottish National off a mark of 135.

A word too for Venetia Williams' other runner Marilhac whose second to Relentless Dreamer at Ludlow in December 2017 reads well but the balance of his form suggests he prefers racing right-handed.

Writing this post, I've come to realise just how competitive this race is.

I'm going to chance the Rebecca Curtis trained Joe Farrell. He hasn't been seen on a racecourse since beating Ballyoptic a nose in the Scottish National last April but he has been placed in four of his six chase starts to date and has won after a break in the past.

Joe Farrell is the each-way selection, at the time of writing 9/1 with William Hill who pay one fifth the odds five places.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Eider Chase 2019

There's a top-class card at Kempton tomorrow with Angels Breath set to go in the Dovecote (3.00) but with just ten declared for a trappy-looking 888Sport Handicap Chase (3.35) - the favourite has failed to oblige in the past decade - I'm off to Newcastle in search of some each-way value in the Eider Chase (2.40). A field of sixteen face the starter; the going is described as good to soft, soft in places.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) the eider is the UK's heaviest duck and its fastest flying - and that looks suspiciously like a tip for top-weight Daklondike to me.

Comply Or Die won this race for trainer David Pipe in 2008 and six weeks later added the Grand National to the haul. Daklondike is clearly talented but he has never looked the easiest of rides although, to be fair to the horse, he appeared unlucky when unseating Tom Scudamore at Haydock last time.

It's no surprise to see Vicente at the head of the market. Paul Nicholls' charge won the Scottish Grand National in 2016 and 2017 off a mark of 146 and he races off exactly the same mark tomorrow. His third at Taunton last month should have put him spot on for this.

Vicente won't mind drying ground but a number in the field would prefer more cut and Baywing certainly falls into that category; last year's winner beat West Of The Edge four lengths on heavy ground. Trainer Nicky Richards seems decidedly more bullish about Baywing's stablemate Progress Drive on his first start after wind surgery - Brian Hughes rides.

Just Your Type is very short in the market for one with just three chase starts to his name. He appeared to have the spoils in the bag when coming to grief two out at Exeter last time; since 1989 only two seven-year-olds have come home in front - Domaine De Pron in 1998 and Portrait King in 2012.

The ground shouldn't inconvenience Ange Des Mirabeaux but following two wins he's now 17lbs higher in the handicap. The trip is an unknown but, that said, this has been the plan all season and I prefer Dan Skelton's charge to Kimberlite Candy whom handler Tom Lacey described as 'inconsistent' in his 'Straight from the Stable' tour (Weekender 07-11.11.18), going on to say '...I'd admit he could be a hard horse to catch right.'

Potters Corner is part-owned by Wales centre Jonathan Davies who will presumably be preparing for the match against England when this race is run. Potters Corner was still in with a shout when coming to grief two from home at Wincanton last time; the nine-year-old has just seven chase starts to his name.

A fourteen-year-old has never won but two contest tomorrow's renewal - Raz De Maree and Harry The Viking. The former would want more cut but the latter deserves a mention for his Scottish Borders National win at Kelso in December (Progress Drive third, West Of The Edge eighth).

On a line through Callet Mad, Crosspark, third in a competitive renewal of the Classic Chase at Warwick six weeks ago, should finish ahead of Harry The Viking and should also handle underfoot conditions. Here he races off the same mark of 135 as at Warwick.

The Charlie Mann trained Morney Wing is another outsider in with a sniff. He looked to have a hard enough race the last day when holding Red Infantry a length in the London National at Sandown but connections have given their charge plenty of time to recover.

Rock On Fruity goes beyond three miles one for the first time; owned by JP McManus, he'll be worth monitoring in the market.

I feel Irish raider Kilkishen may struggle beyond three and a half miles on the balance of his form to date while Mysteree won this in 2017 but has not been competitive of late.

Racing Post ratings indicate Vicente is the one to beat but at the prices I'm going to take an each-way interest in Crosspark, one of two Jamie Moore rides at the track for Caroline Bailey (the other is Don't Tell The Wife in the 1.35). At the time of writing several layers offer 16/1 one fifth the odds five places while William Hill offer 14/1 one fifth the odds seven places.

To my eye Crosspark looked as though he would stay further the last day - Crosspark is the each-way selection, generally available at 16/1 one fifth the odds five places.

I'd like to conclude this post with a slight digression...

Last month the Queen's mare No Trumps (sire: Black Sam Bellamy; dam: Magic Score) was sent off a 33/1 chance in a low-key novice hurdle at Warwick and, after running in snatches, finished a well-beaten fourth.

Speaking personally, if the horse's name brought anything in particular to mind, it was the sort of hand my father complained he was habitually dealt at whist drives in the local church hall - do those things still take place? - but the following day a wry snippet appeared in The Times Diary (aka TMS in recognition of its current location at Thomas More Square, Wapping, E1) highlighting the pre-eminence of the owner and linking the mare's name to Donald Trump and members of his family.

Somewhat taken with this general persiflage, I decided to mail a couple of other equine suggestions to the Diary, including Getaway Trump (fourth in last Saturday's re-arranged Betfair Hurdle at Ascot) and, for beleaguered British bettors besieged by the Brexit brouhaha, Article Fifty.

And, bless my old boots, editor Patrick Kidd replied saying he was potentially interested in the Article Fifty horse.

Now, the beast in question was declared to run at Wetherby on Tuesday so before racing I provided Mr Kidd with some points of interest, the regular stuff, you know - owners: Swanee River Partnership; Mr Richard, not Boris, Johnson doing the steering; required major (wind) surgery last November; competing against the likes of Thelongwayaround, All Hail Caesar - feel free to make up your own comments and insert them here.

In the event, second favourite Article Fifty ran something of a full-blown stinker, finishing eleventh of the thirteen starters, beaten over 90 lengths. It was clear hold-up tactics hadn't worked and questionable whether the administered surgery had, while comments-in-running included terms such as 'headway', swiftly followed by 'soon lost place' and 'behind'. Simply all too bad to be true.

Mr Kidd though was unimpressed - a sort of thanks, PG, but no thanks, didn't really work, the sort of knockback I've become accustomed to receiving after every job interview I've bothered to turn up for over the past 25 years and, with this particular rejection, was there just the slightest suggestion the copy hadn't quite met the exigent editorial standards in place at such an august publication as The Times?

Gutted, I took the hint and instead had a quick word with the editor of this blog, a scruffy, indolent individual, often to be found in the shed at the bottom of the garden reeking of ale and old socks - to quote my dear old mother, 'a man who could use a damned good wash'.

He had no editorial qualms whatsoever.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Racing returns

The show is back on the road.

The stables of Donald McCain and Simon Crisford remain subject to BHA restrictions but otherwise lockdown has been lifted.

Emergency regulations introduced on Monday evening now require any runner to have received appropriate vaccination within the preceding six month period; any horse receiving a new vaccination cannot race for seven days.

Many trainers' plans have been disrupted by the introduction of these measures; the first day of the Cheltenham Festival is just three and a half weeks away...

Still, we're racing again and, with weights announced on Tuesday, the Grand National has helped to dispel some of the anguish of the past ten days or so.

Like every tipster this side of kingdom come, I've taken a cursory glance at the Aintree entries and at this early stage found one or two that look of interest at the weights...

Traffic Fluide (10-10) - Gary Moore seemed quite bullish in his 'Straight from the Stable' tour in the Weekender 16-20.01.19;

Walk In The Mill (10-0) - looked impressive winning the Becher Chase in December;

Allysson Monterg (9-12) - spent Christmas dinner worrying how I'd managed to miss the price about this one for the Rowland Meyrick; in the event, he put in a bit of a stinker but subsequently outran his odds in the Cotswold Chase last month. The National is the target.

It's hardly surprising to see that nine of the sixteen runners declared for tomorrow's William Hill Grand National Trial (3.35 Haydock) hold Grand National entries; the last three winners - Bishops Road (2016), Vieux Lion Rouge (2017) and Yala Enki (2018) - all try to repeat the trick.

January's Peter Marsh Chase provides a key piece of form with Wakanda beating Robinsfirth one and threequarter lengths with Ballyarthur fourth and Red Infantry fifth. As you'd expect, the handicapper has had his say and there wouldn't be a lot between them on revised terms but of the four I feel the additional three furlongs will definitely play to Red Infantry's strengths and could also help Robinsfirth.

Of course, this looks a very competitive renewal.

Course form is always a plus at Haydock so the three previous winners have to enter calculations while both Impulsive Star and Royal Vacation won last time out and boast solid credentials. The chance of current favourite Ramses De Teillee is respected but to date all his chase wins have come at Chepstow.

The drying ground is going to suit some more than others so, with this in mind, I'll take a chance on course and distance winner Red Infantry who has won on good ground previously and has been placed in six of his nine chase starts. Connections replace the visor used last time with first-time blinkers which I hope can eke out a little more improvement.

Trainer Ian Williams has indicated the Aintree showpiece is the plan (his charge allocated 9-12) so you'd like to think the horse will put in a decent show here but the main worry is the stable's run-to-form figure which currently reads at just 9%.

Red Infantry is the each-way selection; Sky Bet is offering 14/1 and pays one fifth the odds five places.

Cards at Ascot and Wincanton will provide useful Festival pointers - I'm particularly looking forward to the Ascot Chase at 3.55 - but Presenting Percy misses the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park.

Presenting Percy is as low as 5/2 with Bet Victor for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but we haven't seen Patrick Kelly's charge jump a fence in public since he won the RSA Chase at last year's Festival.

And in just four weeks' time we'll know the winner of the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup...

Finally, I simply have to share Adrian Brodkin's letter which was published in Monday's edition of The Times and appeared under the heading 'Winner's Post':

'Sir, While I have no wish for the livelihood of jockeys and trainers to be adversely affected by the continuing cancellation of all horse racing fixtures, the longer each day's races are called off, the healthier my bank balance is beginning to look.'

Ditto.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Racing suspended

A Stephen Fry quotation on the book jacket of The Rugby Pocket Bible by Ben Coles reads:

"Rugby is the most exciting sport man has ever created."

Now, I wouldn't necessarily want to agree with Mr Fry on that one but following an outbreak of equine flu that has resulted in the cancellation of all British racing until Wednesday 13th February at the very earliest, I guess we may have to make do... That said, racing goes ahead in Ireland and ITV4 has committed to televising five live races from Naas tomorrow. 

On Wednesday evening Donald McCain was informed that three horses had tested positive for equine influenza at his stables in Cholmondeley, Cheshire; it has been reported this afternoon a further three horses from the yard have tested positive, including Raise A Spark who ran at Ayr on Wednesday.

The worry is that even though all racehorses are routinely vaccinated against this highly contagious virus, an outbreak has still occurred.

McCain's runners at Wolverhampton on Monday and Ayr and Ludlow on Wednesday could have potentially infected other runners at those meetings. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has acted swiftly and placed those yards in 'lockdown'; nasal swabs are being carried out on horses at affected yards and being sent away for analysis.

In addition, earlier this afternoon it was confirmed a suspicious case had been identified at a separate yard which had runners at Newcastle on February 5th and Wolverhampton on February 6th; as a result an additional 54 yards have also been placed in lockdown.

Below is the latest alphabetical listing of trainers I think are affected by lockdown, with a cross reference to the meeting(s) where they had runners.

Key:
(A) = trainer with runner(s) at Ayr 06.02.19
(L) = trainer with runner(s) at Ludlow 06.02.19
(N) = trainer with runner(s) at Newcastle 05.02.19
(W1) = trainer with runner(s) at Wolverhampton 04.02.19
(W2) = trainer with runner(s) at Wolverhampton 06.02.19

Alexander N (A)
Appleby C (W1)
Appleby M (W1)
Appleby M (W2)
Bailey A (W1)
Barclay S (N)
Baugh B (W1)
Bell M (N)
Berry J (L)
Bethell J (N)
Bishop F (W2)
Botti M (W1)
Bowen M (L)
Bowen P (L)
Boyle J (W2)
Bradley M (W2)
Brisland R (W1)
Brisland R (W2)
Brittain A (N)
Brooke J (A)
Burke K (N)
Burke K (W2)
Camacho J (N)
Carr J (A)
Carr R (N)
Carroll T (W1)
Carroll T (W2)
Channon M (W2)
Charlton R (W2)
Christie D (L)
Clarke K (W1)
Collins V (L)
Coltherd W (A)
Crawford S (A)
Crisford S (N)
Crook A (A)
D’Arcy P (W2)
Dalgleish K (N)
Dalgleish K (W1)
Dalgleish K (W2)
Daly H (L)
Dascombe T (W1)
Dascombe T (W2)
Davies S (L)
Dennis D (L)
Dobbin R (A)
Duffield A (W2)
Duncan I (A)
Easterby M (N)
Eddery R (W1)
Edmunds S (A)
Egerton L (A)
Egerton L (N)
Elliott G (A)
Ellison B (N)
England S (A)
Eustace J (W2)
Evans D (W1)
Evans D (W2)
Evans H (L)
Fahey R (N)
Fahey R (W2)
Fanshawe J (N)
Feilden J (W2)
Fell R (W2)
Fife M (W1)
Flint J (L)
Forster S (A)
Fox J (W1)
Frost K (W2)
Frost T (L)
Fry H (L)
Furtado I (N)
George T (L)
Gillard M (L)
Given J (N)
Goldie J (N)
Greenall O (A)
Griffiths D C (N)
Griffiths D C (W2)
Groucott J (L)
Guest Rae (W2)
Guest Richard (N)
Hales A (L)
Hamilton A (A)
Hannon R (W1)
Hannon R (W2)
Harris R (W1)
Harris R (W2)
Harris S (W1)
Haslam B (N)
Henderson N (L)
Herrington M (N)
Herrington M (W1)
Hobbs P (L)
Hobson C (L)
Hollinshead Sarah (W1)
Hollinshead Steph (L)
Hughes J (W1)
Jardine I (A)
Jardine I (N)
Johnston M (W1)
Keightley S (W1)
Kellett C (W2)
Keniry S (N)
Lacey T (L)
Lee K (L)
Lloyd-Beavis N (W1)
Longsdon C (L)
Loughnane Daniel (W2)
Loughnane David (W1)
Loughnane David (W2)
McBride P (W1)
McCain D (A)
McCain D (L)
McCain D (W1)
McCaldin C (A)
McEntee P (N)
McLintock K (N)
McNally R (A)
Menzies R (N)
Menzies R (W2)
Midgley P (N)
Moore J S (W2)
Morgan K (A)
Morrison H (W1)
Mulholland N (W1)
Murphy A (W2)
Murphy O (L)
Murphy O (W1)
Nicholls P (L)
Nolan S (A)
Normile L (A)
Norton J (W1)
O'Brien F (L)
O’Keefe J (N)
O’Meara D (W1)
O’Meara D (W2)
O'Neill J (L)
O’Neill J (W2)
O'Shea J (L)
O’Shea J (W1)
O’Shea J (W2)
Oliver H (L)
Osborne J (W1)
Pauling B (L)
Pears O (N)
Phillips R (L)
Prescott M (N)
Price K (L)
Ralph A (L)
Ralph A (W1)
Reed T (A)
Richards N (A)
Riches J (N)
Russell L (A)
Ryan K (N)
Sayer D (A)
Scott G (N)
Scott J (L)
Scott K (A)
Shaw D (W1)
Shaw D (W2)
Skelton D (L)
Smith R M (N)
Spencer R (L)
Spiller H (W2)
Stephens R (W1)
Symonds T (L)
Tate J (W1)
Thompson D (W1)
Tizzard C (L)
Todhunter M (A)
Turner W (L)
Twiston-Davies N (L)
Tylicki M (N)
Varnham R (L)
Waggott T (N)
Wainwright J (N)
Walford M (N)
Wallis C (W1)
Wallis C (W2)
Watson A (W1)
Watson A (W2)
Welch H (L)
Whillans D (A)
Wigham M (N)
Williams E (L)
Williams I (L)
Williams I (W1)
Williams S (W1)
Williams V (L)
Williamson L (W2)
Wilson N (N)
Wingrove K (W1)

In what appears a rapidly developing situation, hopes of a return to action next Wednesday are starting to look increasingly slim.

Friday, February 01, 2019

A Sandown longshot

The recent freezing weather has played havoc with the fixture list as well as my form study and this evening has left me in the throes of a particularly acute dilemma - do I to watch the opening Six Nations rugby match between France and Wales or Posh Hotels with Sally (Lindsay) and Nigel (Havers)?

Sterling work by staff at Sandown means tomorrow's card is set to go ahead. At the time of writing there are no planned inspections; the going on the chase course is described as good to soft, soft in places while the going on the hurdle course is soft, heavy in places.

Top marks too to ITV Racing who will show three live races from the first day of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

Earlier in the week, with the prospects for Sandown looking rather bleak, I spent some time on the Irish Gold Cup (3.35 Leopardstown on Sunday).

That means the usual hard graft hasn't gone into tomorrow's pick so minimum stakes would be the order of the day...

The two to have caught my eye in the Heroes Handicap Hurdle (3.00 Sandown) are Dans Le Vent sporting first time blinkers near the foot of the handicap and Full Glass about whom trainer Alan King has been quite bullish in the Weekender in recent months.

With Page Fuller claiming three, the former has a featherweight in these conditions but the trip may stretch the stamina while the latter hasn't taken well to chasing in this country but appears to be held in some regard.

Dans Le Vent is a tentative each-way suggestion; Unibet offer 22/1 and pay one fifth the odds six places.

The Savills Chase last December is a key piece of form when looking at the Irish Gold Cup.

Ten lengths covered the first six home that day but Kemboy was seven and a half lengths clear which meant there were just two and a half lengths between Monalee (second), Road To Respect (third), Bellshill (fourth), Outlander (fifth) and The Storyteller (sixth).

Road To Respect appeared unlucky stumbling twice in the race while significant improvement will be expected from Kemboy's stablemate Bellshill.

Five weeks ago the ground rode good at Leopardstown and it will again on Sunday; by my reckoning at least half the field would prefer more cut underfoot.

Bellshill is my idea of the winner; Anibale Fly (third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, fourth in the Grand National) would be of some interest each-way at around 10/1 but that price has disappeared and Tony Martin's charge is one of those who would prefer softer ground.

And Sally and Nigel are at The Berkeley tonight - looking forward to it.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Cheltenham Trials Day 2019 - The Cleeve Hurdle

Earlier this afternoon I thought Federici looked an interesting each-way play in the Sky Bet Chase (3.15 Doncaster) at odds of 14/1.

Last year Donald McCain's charge finished fifth in this race behind Wakanda (Warriors Tale second), beaten under three lengths, and tomorrow he tries off a mark one pound lower.

The horse appears to have been trained with this in mind; admittedly, stable form has been dubious of late, but Constancio (5/2) won easily enough at the track today while Ballasalla (13/2) was only beaten a neck and would surely have come home in front had he not made mistakes at three of the final four flights.

The problem is others with a similar idea have gone and backed the beast so now he's generally a 10/1 shot...

I tend to think the Sky Bet often goes the way of a horse with fewer miles on the clock so instead I've decided to take a chance in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.

With twelve declared, this year's competitive renewal contains an intriguing mix of younger horses hoping to enhance their reputations and more experienced animals who, for a variety of reasons, are now back over the smaller obstacles having had a try at the larger ones.

A couple have caught my eye at a price.

You couldn't back Sam Spinner with any sort of confidence after two consecutive unseatings but he is joint top-rated on Racing Post ratings and is quoted at 14/1 in places this evening.

Ladbrokes offer 22/1 (one fifth the odds four places) about last year's winner Agrapart. Joint top-rated, this one has a clear chance on the book but that victory came on heavy ground.

West Approach was third behind Unowhatimeanharry in the 2017 renewal and is rated a 14/1 shot this time. He has been struggling over fences but ran well when reverting to hurdles to claim second behind Paisley Park in the Long Walk last time; he receives weight from eight of his 11 rivals.

Of the market principals Black Op races beyond two miles five for the first time on a British racecourse (although he won a point over three miles at Loughanmore in 2016), Midnight Shadow goes beyond two miles four and a half for the first time - some commentators felt Clyne and Wholestone took each other on a long way from home the last day allowing Midnight Shadow to pick up the pieces - while Paisley Park looked very impressive in the Long Walk.

On a strict interpretation of that Long Walk form, in receipt of six pounds West Approach is weighted to reverse placings with Paisley Park.

West Approach is the each-way selection (one fifth the odds four places with Ladbrokes).

Friday, January 18, 2019

In-play betting, Robbie Box and an each-way longshot at Ascot

Earlier this week both the Daily Mail and The Guardian ran stories about punters using real-time pictures from drones to gain an edge in in-play racing markets; the time delay on conventional 'live' TV feeds can be anything up to ten seconds - it's generally accepted a horse can cover five lengths a second (except when they're tipped by this blog).

All of which took me back to 'Big Deal', a TV series broadcast by the BBC in the mid-eighties, which focussed on the plights and predicaments of small-time gambler Robbie Box (Ray Brooks).

The one particular episode I can (barely) remember - it was transmitted well over thirty years ago now - involved Robbie gaining access to a room above a bookmaker's shop and then, with the help of an accomplice, introducing a delay into the bookmaker's feed, thereby giving Robbie and his acquaintances the time to pop downstairs into the shop to write out winning bets...

Betting shops, they were different beasts in those days - as this YouTube clip from the series clearly illustrates.

Valtor is one of three runners Nicky Henderson has withdrawn from Haydock's card tomorrow on account of health concerns. That leaves eleven in the Peter Marsh (3.15); clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright has called an inspection at 7.30am just in case the forecast rain falls as snow.

Four weeks ago Daklondike won the Tommy Whittle and so it's hardly surprising he's prominent in the betting; Tom Scudamore rides again although one assumes he wouldn't have endeared himself to everyone at Haydock for his contribution in 'The Scudamores: Three of a Kind' when he described the course as 'a dog track'.

With as many as eight of the eleven runners priced between 11/2 and 8/1, I've gone to Ascot in search of some value.

Thirteen are set to face the starter for the bet365 Handicap Chase at 3.00; course and distance winner Benatar, second behind Valtor last time out, is the current favourite. Writing in the Racing Post Weekender handler Gary Moore acknowledges his charge hasn't reproduced last season's form (finished third in the JLT at Cheltenham) but states:

"...I expect him to run well. He's in great form and should be competitive." 

Paul Kealy makes the case for Belami Des Pictons in the same paper but this one is passed over as he hasn't seen a track for 440 days and is plenty short enough in the market now.

Mister Whitaker beat Happy Diva and Cyrname at Carlisle before finishing a creditable fourth behind Baron Alco in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham. Happy Diva is a consistent sort but stable form is the worry with no winners in the past 51 days.

Jerrysback's preferred engagement is Haydock's 1.30 but course and distance winner Mr Medic is given every respect.

Paul Nicholls' two runners have caught my eye.

Cyrname was sent off 11/4 favourite for the Hurst Park Handicap Chase over two miles one here eight weeks ago; he likes to race from the front but couldn't live with Speredek that day and eventually finished seventh. In the same race stablemate San Benedeto came from off the pace to stay on into fourth behind Caid Du Lin who collared the long-time leader in the shadow of the post.

San Benedeto has since finished a well-beaten sixth behind Charbel in the Peterborough Chase but he races off 150 now, a mark he has won from previously, and it is worth noting he was rated as high as 158 last May; pilot Lorcan Williams also claims five.

Cyrname is the one to beat on Racing Post ratings while San Benedeto should be competitive; the former is a 10/1 shot while the latter is almost double that price.

I'm not entirely convinced this is his optimum trip but San Benedeto is the each-way suggestion at 18/1 - Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and Betfair pay one fifth the odds four places.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Warwick's Classic Chase 2019

There will be lots of betting opportunities to lose your hard-earned between now and the Cheltenham Festival in March but that simple fact isn't going to stop large sections of the media from writing about Cheltenham, talking about Cheltenham, discussing Cheltenham entries, Cheltenham bankers, reporting from Cheltenham preview nights and generally trying to look up to eight weeks or so into the future.

Those in need of a timely fix may want to refer to Lydia Hislop's recently updated Road to Cheltenham series - the hurdlers and its counterpart the chasers.

For my part I've set myself the admittedly difficult but rather more modest task of trying to come up with one who'll at least give me a run for my money in tomorrow's Classic Chase at Warwick (3.00), my local track.

This doesn't have the look of a typical renewal with thirteen declared and the going described as good, good to soft in places; showers are forecast.

At the time of writing Callet Mad, Step Back and Duel At Dawn are all vying for favouritism.

Callet Mad seems to have been around for ages but he's the youngest in this field; since 2000 only two seven-year-olds have come home in front - Baron Windrush (2005) and Shotgun Paddy (2014).

Step Back has only five chase starts to his name and Duel At Dawn, well backed during the week, six but to my mind this race often rides quite rough and generally I tend to prefer a more experienced sort.

Rocky's Treasure and Ibis Du Rheu held five day entries for this and the Hampton Novices' Chase (1.50). Connections of the former have taken the easier option while Ibis Du Rheu's jumping appeared to suffer over the final three fences when well beaten behind The Worlds End at Cheltenham last month.

Jumping is always at a premium at Warwick, particularly down the back straight where the five flights come pretty quickly one after another.

Impulsive Star was fourth in the four miler at Cheltenham last March but he looked ring-rusty on his seasonal debut at Plumpton behind Ok Corral (goes in the Hampton at 1.50); he'll certainly need to be more fluent over the obstacles here. Robert Waley-Cohen has indicated son Sam may not be able to make full use of his three pound claim.

Fourth looked the best Carole's Destrier could hope for jumping the last at Newbury when last seen but Neil Mulholland's charge came with a late rattle to pinch the spoils. A three pound penalty looks manageable and the ground will suit; jockey Robbie Dunne won the 2013 renewal aboard Rigadin De Beauchene.

I've concentrated efforts on the two who can boast previous course winning form - last year's winner Milansbar and Cogry who finished 11 lengths adrift in second that day. 12 months on winning jock Bryony Frost goes to Kempton to ride for Paul Nicholls; Jack Andrews can't do the weight so this year the ride on Milansbar goes to Jack's sister Gina who claims three.

Milansbar looks weighted to confirm last year's placings with Cogry; the latter has gone up three pounds after defeating Singlefarmpayment a head at Cheltenham. That said, Milansbar is now twelve years old and would probably prefer more cut underfoot.

Of the remainder Un Temps Pour Tout has his second run after wind surgery; since 1974 Hey Big Spender (2012) is the only horse to have carried top weight to victory. Of Colin Tizzard's pair Sizing Codelco faces a stiff task after 252 days off the track while Ultragold appeared to stay on his first try beyond three miles one the last day and just may be overpriced at 22/1 - Richard Johnson rides.

Crosspark was fourth in last year's race beaten some 28 lengths (Gina Andrews up) while Chase The Spud has been out of sorts of late.

On the book Milansbar is weighted to finish ahead of Cogry but I'm hoping quicker ground will help the Twiston-Davies inmate. Cogry (7/1 Ladbrokes one fifth the odds four places) is the each-way suggestion.