Saturday, April 28, 2007

Jumps season review 2006/7

The record books will show that Paul Nicholls was champion trainer, Tony McCoy champion jockey and Tom O'Brien top conditional rider.

I've enjoyed this season with personal highlights including a day at Kempton races to celebrate my fiftieth birthday in October; a day at Newbury races with The Times racing correspondent Alan Lee in February; five winners from fifteen selections at the Cheltenham Festival; tipping McKelvey each way at 40/1 three weeks before the Grand National and four of my six National selections finishing in the first seven home.

Blog horse of the year has to be Katchit who was tipped six times and won on every occasion at odds of 4/11, 7/4, 7/4, 2/1, 11/2 and even money.

Of course, in between times I tipped plenty of losers as well...

Kauto Star's win in The Betfair Chase at Haydock in November convinced me the horse was special.

And a mention for two who are no longer with us - David Nicholson who departed this life in August and Desert Orchid who died peacefully at the ripe old age of twenty seven.

It all starts again tomorrow with the Ludlow Golf Club Claiming Hurdle at 2.00pm.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sandown Betfred Gold Cup meeting

Tomorrow the Betfred Gold Cup meeting brings down the curtain on another jumps season, one of the wettest I can remember, although all that heavy going seems a long time ago now.

The Celebration Chase over two miles is due off at 2.40. Dempsey would be the choice if Carl Llewellyn's stable was in better form but he hasn't had a winner for the best part of a month. I'm passing over River City who is likely to be feeling the effects of travelling back from Punchestown earlier in the week and taking a chance with Yes Sir who returned to form when winning well at Ayr last weekend over two miles four furlongs. His front running style will be an asset around here.

The Gold Cup has attracted just eleven runners but looks competitive nonetheless. A number of these have had a busy season. Henry Daly's Alderburn is the selection; he's fairly fresh, carries the minimum ten stones and will act on the ground.

Early next week I'll write a review of the jumps season as the flat looks forward to the Guineas meeting at Newmarket.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Punchestown Festival - Tuesday

Eight runners go to post for tomorrow's Kerrygold Champion Chase due off at 4.05. According to official ratings the three to concentrate on are Nickname, Newmill and River City. Nickname has done most of his winning on soft ground; at this stage the going looks like being good. Good ground will certainly suit Newmill who won this race last year by fifteen lengths, having previously won the Champion Chase at Cheltenham in a fast time. This year he hasn't quite performed up to that level, finishing fourth behind Voy Por Ustedes at Cheltenham. Newmill is the top rated horse here and is priced up as 3/1 second favourite behind Nickname in The Sporting Life tissue show - decent value for a horse that will have his conditions. In the same show River City is quoted at 12/1. That's looks big for a horse that will also relish conditions, tends to come to hand at this time of year and finished third in front of Newmill at Cheltenham last time. I favour Newmill to win; River City represents each way value at 12/1 if the eight go to post.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ayr Scottish National meeting

A number of the twenty four runners declared for tomorrow's Scottish Grand National have had a long season. I'm putting up Malcolm Jefferson's Classic Capers as a horse who should run well at a decent each way price (currently 33/1 with Ladbrokes). Last year's winner Run For Paddy looks like a horse that has been laid out for the race but the fact the yard hasn't had a winner for over three weeks is a considerable negative.

On paper the opener at 1.55 is between Poquelin and Pouvoir. Poquelin is the top rated horse and will be priced accordingly. He looked anything but an easy ride when finishing third to Punjabi at Kempton in February. Since then he has finished a creditable sixth in the Triumph but jumped poorly. Pouvoir has 7lbs to find but he likes to race prominently and I favour him to turn over the probable favourite.

The Future Champion Novices' Chase looks a hot affair. The better ground will suit David Pipe's Buena Vista and he's won over the distance. Faasel ran second to Aces Four over three miles at Aintree last week and may not have had enough time to recover. I take Paul Nicholls' Natal to win this event.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Freds go free at Sandown

With the Grand National being run a week later than usual, the end of the National Hunt season has a peculiarly condensed feel. The Scottish Grand National meeting starts tomorrow at Ayr on good to firm ground with small fields prevailing. Next week the Punchestown Festival takes place over in Ireland and then the mixed Betfred meeting at Sandown acts as the final curtain.

A snippet in Alan Lee's Diary column today informs us that on the Friday Sandown will 'admit free anyone who can prove his first name is Fred.'

I've just asked Mrs. Tips to send a letter to our home address with the addressee as one Mr. Frederick Tips. 'What's actually in the letter?' I hear my three readers enquire. I don't know - I haven't received it yet.

'Right...' said Fred.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Notes from the National

Here's a few thoughts that crossed my mind while watching the 2007 Grand National on television...

The start was an absolute shambles; no better than last year and probably worse in that the starter, looking like he'd just walked in from the set of 'Foyle's War', missed several good opportunities to let them go before eventually performing the task he was employed for.

As always in the National, the bookmakers shorten the vast majority of their prices on the day. The advice for punters has to be take the price when you strike your bet. The only horse I noted drifting was eventual fifth Liberthine from 33/1 to 40/1.

It was surprising to see Monkerhostin backed in to 8/1 co-favourite. Granted, he'd run a decent race in the Gold Cup, but he's not the biggest individual or the best of jumpers. He was pulled up fairly early on. Richard Johnson told the BBC afterwards that the horse had landed on one of the fences and frightened himself but he'd be back next year. If he is, I won't be backing him.

I was convinced Simon, who looked to have taken the preliminaries worse than the majority, needed soft ground to be seen at his best but he was running a huge race and looked an unlucky faller. He's one to bear in mind for next year, as would be the third Slim Pickings and Bewleys Berry. I fear that next year age will be catching up with Longshanks and Philson Run.

Peter Bowen later reported that McKelvey had ruptured a tendon and that had probably cost the horse the race. Connections are bound to be eyeing next year's running.

Years ago Nick Mordin said something along the lines of never back a horse wearing blinkers in this race. I don't know how long it is since a horse wearing blinkers has won, but that put me off Billyvoddan in particular.

Finally congratulations to my daughter (Baby Tips) who selected the winner, on the advice of Mrs. Tips. She has promised one of her raps as a celebration (that's Baby Tips, you understand, not Mrs. Tips). Please, no.

Friday, April 13, 2007

John Smith's People's Race

The BBC's coverage of the Grand National meeting commences at 1.00 tomorrow afternoon.

The People's Race, in which ten amateur riders chosen from the public race over a distance of nine furlongs, is scheduled for around 1.10-1.15. This will be a race worth watching, although at this stage it's not clear if the race will be shown live.

Current 2/1 favourite with bookmaker Ladbrokes is Michael Sweeney, a 47 year old plumber from Manchester. He will be riding Instructor, a horse that has won six times at around this distance.

Well done to all the rookie riders who have trained hard over the past two and a half months; they will all surely have the thrill of a lifetime tomorrow, win or lose.

Grand National selections

Last night, with this week's copy of The Weekender at my side, I went through the forty declared National runners and came up with a list of six possibles. Here they are in the order I think they'll finish.

1. Point Barrow - has an excellent profile in terms of age, weight and form. Acts on the ground. In an open race, the statistics point to this horse as the most likely winner.
2. McKelvey - tipped up on this blog three weeks ago when priced at 40/1. Stays, handles the ground, has jumped the fences previously. Reasonable each way value at 20/1.
3. Numbersixvalverde - last year's winner is a sound jumper who would prefer more cut in the ground. Has solid place claims.
4. Bewleys Berry - looks a National type, has jumped these fences previously and the stable is now in form. Reasonable each way value at around 25/1.
5. Longshanks - goes well fresh, jumped the fences previously. Concern he's suffered a bruised foot in the last fortnight. Priced at around 25/1.
6. Liberthine - mare with a good completion record over the course. Not absolutely certain to stay but you could argue that is factored into the price at 33/1. Place claims if she stays.
And finally, an over priced no hoper for the romantics amongst you... The Outlier. Good luck!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Aintree selections - Friday

Friday is Ladies' Day at Aintree but the winners look difficult to pick out.

In the opener at 2.00 Ungaro will appreciate the good ground and has a decent chance if reproducing the form shown when winning the Feltham Novices' Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. The stable has been a little in and out of form and, with that in mind, I'm prepared to forgive his run at Cheltenham behind Denman. Likely favourite Turko is not the best of jumpers, while top rated Faasel has done most of his winning around two miles but will be a danger to all if he stays. Ungaro is guaranteed to stay so he gets the vote.

Wichita Lineman won impressively at Cheltenham, is the form horse in the 2.35 and will be priced accordingly. Massini's Maguire seemed to benefit from front running tactics when winning the Royal & Sun Alliance Hurdle at Cheltenham but had previously appeared inconsistent; he's not one I'd trust implicitly. Paul Nicholls thinks Silverburn will improve following his sixth behind Massini's Maguire and appeals as the alternative should the favourite's price be too short for your liking.

I was surprised to see Well Chief has never won over two and a half miles. Nonetheless on official ratings he is the top horse by a considerable margin and is the one to beat in the John Smith's Melling Chase at 3.10. Crozan is interesting in that he was running a big race at a big price when falling at Cheltenham last time. Here he wears first time blinkers and may offer some each way value provided eight or more go to post. He could be anything but trainer Nicky Henderson thinks highly of him.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Aintree selections - Thursday

This Aintree meeting always presents a bit of a conundrum. Four weeks have passed since the Cheltenham Festival (most years it's only three). To what extent can we expect Cheltenham form to be repeated? Will the main protagonists have had time to recover from their exertions last month? Add to that the fact that the courses are markedly different and you have a number of unknowns to throw into the melting pot.

In the 3.10 I'm sticking with Katchit. This might be one trip to the well too many, but I'm prepared to take the risk following his impressive win in the Triumph Hurdle. Liberate, who finished second to Katchit at Cheltenham, is the top rated horse on both Racing Post ratings and official handicap ratings in the 4.55. He's the selection in that race; the quicker ground should suit.

The first race at 2.00 has six runners and looks a rerun of the World Hurdle in which Black Jack Ketchum fell early on. On decent ground I predict Black Jack Ketchum, with McCoy on board, will win but he's not a horse I'd take a short a price about.

The Betfair Bowl at 2.35 only has five runners but looks trappy. Turpin Green has run well at this course in the past and, following his decent third in the Gold Cup, could spring a surprise.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Grand National build up starts

Two Nationals dominate the racing week - the Irish National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday and the Grand National at Aintree next Saturday.

At Fairyhouse Noel Chance's Distant Thunder appears to have decent prospects, having been beaten two short heads into third place on his last run in the William Hill Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival. Prior to that effort, the horse hadn't seen a racecourse for 125 days so you could assume there's perhaps some improvement to come. Richard Johnson takes the ride; he'll be keen to keep in with his future father-in-law by winning this valuable race.

The top class Aintree meeting starts on Thursday, hosts Ladies' Day on Friday and builds up to the Grand National itself on Saturday. Most bookmakers will offer a free bet of some sort provided you are a new customer and are prepared to open an account with them. For example, for those interested, Ladbrokes will give new customers a free £5 bet on the National provided they bet £5 on the race before next Friday; the promotional code TXTGN has to be quoted. The Online Betting Guide gives a comprehensive listing of free bets available together with a preview of the race, a winner finding tool and all the latest news.

For the Grand National, I tend to favour a horse that has jumped the fences previously, can handle the ground and can stay. I've already mentioned McKelvey who looks worth an each way interest at this stage provided your bookmaker is offering 'no run no bet'. Two others I will consider seriously in the coming days are Liberthine and Bewleys Berry.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Roodee and Gary Lineker

I've just returned from a couple of days in Chester with the family. It's years since I've been on The Roodee, the oldest racecourse in Britain; organised racing was taking place there in 1540 according to the local museum. I couldn't resist spending a few minutes there on a glorious spring day - this photo is taken about two and a half furlongs from the finish, looking back towards the stands. Preparations for the meeting in May appeared well under way.

The thought of having to spend the evening in a hotel making coherent conversation with the family led me to do some rather stupid - I purchased a copy of The Sunday Telegraph. Much to my surprise, it contained some wry comment. It also contained an article by Gary Lineker bemoaning the fact that the BBC had lost the rights to live coverage of the FA Cup and England matches to their arch rivals at ITV. Call me a cynic, but do I detect a hint of sour grapes? Mr. Lineker, an ex professional footballer, tells us 'The chequebook always wins, with little sense of what damage might be done as a long-term consequence.' As a fan of lowly Wrexham football club, let me say you'll find little sympathy in these quarters, Gary. Since the advent of The Premiership, it appears to me that the people with the money have called all the shots.

One year old

I've been writing this blog for one year now, over 160 articles with some winners and losers along the way. When I started I had the rather modest ambition to keep publishing longer than The Sportsman. By way of a celebration, my teenage daughter (Baby Tips) composed the following MC. If, like me, you don't know what an MC is, I am informed that indicates you're rather old.

Happy birthday to GeeDee
His blog goes down in history
Getting more news every day
As people read what he has to say.
PG's Tips is one year old
His good advice is worth some gold
Gets updates on the racing news
Sorts his blog then has a snooze.
Next there is his other half
Mrs Tips, they have a laugh
They do make a beautiful pair
Following racing everywhere.
Mrs Tips, she makes the tea
Then mends the roof, how tough is she?
While Gee reads form in his bath chair
Getting old and losing his hair.
Many happy returns to PG's Tips
GeeDee then sits down and sips
His cup of tea, you can hear the cogs
Turning as he thinks about blogs.
This was written by Helen Dee
GeeDee's daughter, class is she
If you wanna hear her style of rhyme
Check out mc squared, she'll last all time.