Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Northumberland Plate

Weather permitting, 'The Pitmen's Derby' will be run at Newcastle this Saturday with a guaranteed maximum field of twenty runners. The ground is already riding soft, and there's more rain forecast, so the selection will need to stay every yard of the two mile trip to be in with any chance whatsoever.

Going through the runners earlier in the week I came up with a shorlist of three for what is traditionally a very competitive handicap; luck in running can play a big part in this race. The three are Sentry Duty, Irish raider Al Eile and the filly Juniper Girl who finished second to Full House at Ascot last week.

Jumping yards have a good record in this race. Nicky Henderson's Sentry Duty is respected but has a tough task carrying top weight. Al Eile finished fourth in the 2006 Champion Hurdle behind Brave Inca before going right out of form. However he bounced back this April winning The Aintree Hurdle, with his trainer declaring after the race that a big handicap on the Flat was a possible target over the summer. This looks the race he's been laid out for and in my opinion he's not badly handicapped. Backed at 12/1 on Tuesday and now trading at around 8/1, he goes on the ground and also has the benefit of an inside draw which has been important in this race in the past, barring last year that is.
I looked long and hard at Juniper Girl who has been allocated 9-2 and claimer Luke Morris takes off a handy looking 5lbs but the draw in berth 13 is potentially troublesome and the same comment applies to Nosferatu, the likely favourite, drawn in berth 16. Al Eile is the selection.

A car load of colleagues travel up to Newcastle tomorrow to go to this meeting - two each way longshots I've whispered quietly to the more reckless characters are Rising Shadow in the first and Protector (2.45) who was mentioned by Angus Loughran when running a decent race at 50/1 in the Wokingham last Saturday.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Losing a winning betting slip

Late Saturday afternoon I received a text from a colleague who was bemoaning his luck. He'd bet three horses each way earlier in the day at his local William Hill shop, lost his betting slip and then watched in disbelief as two of his selections, Intrepid Jack and Takeover Target, finished a close second in their respective races at Ascot.

I'm sure many of you will know this, but, for the record, the advised course of action in such circumstances is to return to the bookmaker concerned and explain the situation. In all likelihood you will be asked to write out your slip again, exactly as you had written out the original, and you should get paid.

By the way, following this course of action with losing slips, explaining you didn't mean to bet that horse, didn't work for me the last time I tried it...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Royal Ascot review

Five winners from ten selections is my best Royal Ascot performance of all time. Generally I don't do a lot of work for this meeting (all that 'posh' stuff isn't really my cup of tea), but I put more effort in this year and it appears to have paid results. In a nutshell, here's the scorecard...

Benbaum each way - lost
Dutch Art win - lost
Ramonti win - won 5/1
Nannina win - won 3/1
Manduro win - won 15/8
Yeats win - won 8/13
Salford Mill win - lost
Darjina win - lost
Arch Swing each way - lost
Maraahel win - won 100/30

Five winners from ten selections is a 50% strike rate; a £10 level stake investment (each way picks - £5 each way) on all selections shows a profit of £88.23, giving a ROI of 88.23% over the week. If only it were like this every week...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Royal Ascot - Saturday

I'd been doing reasonably well at this meeting until today when the wheels just came off...

It has been said many times before, and I'll say it again, many treat this occasion as a big garden party with a few races going on over in the distance somewhere, which really is a shame as the racing is first rate.

The final selection runs in the Hardwicke Stakes tomorrow which is due off at 3.05. Only eight go to post, and on paper it looks a close call between Scorpion and Maraahel. Maraahel won this last year and has a 5lb pull for a one and three quarter length defeat by Scorpion in the Coronation Cup at Epsom last time out. In theory that should be enough to reverse placings. However Scorpion looked to have a little in hand, while, going through Maraahel's form, most of his wins have come on good fast ground, so you could take a view that the rain will not have helped his cause. Scorpion is likely to be sent off a short price favourite; Maraahel is the value bet and gets the vote.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Royal Ascot - Friday

On the phone last night my roving fashion reporter described many of the ladies' outfits at Ascot this year as 'lovely', 'nice' or 'beautiful'; some of the hats were a 'little over the top' and others just plain 'awful'.

Brilliant - that's exactly my kind of fashion reporting, a complete contrast to some of the verbiage the BBC's James Sherwood came out with on Radio Four this morning. At one point he talked about ladies who 'know how to wear a hat' - and there I was thinking the ladies in question just sat the old titfer on their barnet and proceeded to walk about underneath it.

Giles Smith, picking up on the dapper James Sherwood theme, writes in today's Times, 'The top-hatted Sherwood is taken to talking with his eyes closed, which you have to be fantastically posh to get away with.' I'm not so sure on that one, Giles; most mornings Mrs Tips tells me I was talking in my sleep the night before but I'd hardly describe my upbringing as 'posh' - we thought knives and fork were pieces of jewellery until the age of eight.

Enough of that drivel, let's get on to tomorrow's racing. Nine go to post for the King Edward VIIth Stakes due off at 3.05. The Derby form is primarily represented by Lucarno and Salford Mill. On the book Lucarno is the choice but Salford Mill came from a long way back that day and could be dangerous if ridden closer to the pace. David Elsworth's string are in good form, so Salford Mill is the selection.

In the Coronation Stakes at 3.45 likely favourite Finsceal Beo could be vulnerable after recently running three Group 1 races in three weeks. Darjina has already taken her scalp and gets the vote. Mark Winstanley was very bullish about John Oxx's Arch Swing after her second in the Guineas at Newmarket in May but the horse ran no race whatsoever last time out. I'm prepared to give this filly another chance; she makes some each way appeal at around 14/1.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot - Thursday

This is post number two hundred - I just don't know where all the time has gone...

A couple of readers have indicated that there hasn't been much Ascot fashion comment on this blog. I'm aware of this shortcoming and have taken direct steps to rectify the situation by appointing Mrs Tips' mother (aka Granny Tips in our house) as a roving reporter. I use the term 'roving' advisedly, as Granny Tips tends to rove from the living room where the TV is situated into the kitchen to make a cup of tea just about whenever the fancy takes her. Her comments will be available online later in the week.

The weather is always an issue on Ladies' Day; the BBC's five day forecast predicts heavy showers for tomorrow. I'm afraid I've just the one Ascot tip for Thursday and it's Yeats in the Gold Cup which is due off at 3.45. On all known form this horse is the winner and will be a lot of people's banker for the whole week. The result is he will start odds on but this is not a race to go looking for value elsewhere; make sure you're not tempted.

If you're not keen on betting odds on, try Venetia Williams' Kock de la Vesvre in the 7.40 at Towcester. I saw Kim Bailey's Metal Detector win very easily over the course last time out but the balance of KdlV's form looks better and his trainer has a good record at the track.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Royal Ascot - Wednesday

It's always good to get a winner on the first day of a meeting like this. Tomorrow the Prince of Wales's Stakes (3.45) only has seven runners but is particularly competitive. Going through the form in Raceform's Essential Guide to Royal Ascot, I've narrowed it down to Dylan Thomas and Manduro. I'm siding with Manduro as he may just be the bigger price of the two.

Of the horses with a handicap rating in the Windsor Forest Stakes at 3.05, John Gosden's Nannina comes out on top and is the selection. She will need to reverse Epsom form with Sir Michael Stoute's Echelon; I take her to do so provided the ground stays on the fast side and the showers stay away.

Finally congratulations to all connected with Full House who won the Ascot Stakes today at 20/1. Full House has done this blog a favour in the past - I can't quite believe I've missed his last two runs where he's won on both occasions at 20/1. That's racing; I'll be content to enjoy a quiet pint of Guinness at The Exmouth Arms next time I'm in London.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Royal Ascot - Tuesday

It all starts tomorrow. There has been a lot of media coverage surrounding the Australian sprinters running in the King's Stand Stakes which is due off at 3.05. Miss Andretti is considered by many to be the best of their four contenders, but she is drawn 19 which is a disadvantage. There have also been rumours about the horse's well being which have been denied by the trainer. At around 100/30 she is short enough in a race with 21 runners. Takeover Target, another Australian contender, beat Benbaum a short head in this last year. In the last 10 years the winner has come from a single figure draw on 7 occasions; Benbaum is drawn 5 and at around 10/1 offers some each way value in a difficult race.

Cockney Rebel goes for a treble in the St. James's Palace Stakes at 3.45 but doesn't offer any value for money at around 11/8. Dutch Art (5/2) offers better value and is taken to beat the favourite.

'Gorgeous' George Washington returns to the racecourse after failing in his stud duties. The big question here is the horse's temperament. At around 11/10 he is worth opposing; I'll be supporting Ramonti currently priced at 5/1.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Warwick's 300th anniversary celebration

Recently, for a school art project, my daughter was instructed to obtain two separate pictures that depicted 'movement' and interweave them to create an original work. Fortunately I had last year's Racing Post calendar to hand, so we worked on similar photos of horses finishing in front of the stands at Epsom to produce the effort shown.

The reason I've taken the trouble to share this with you is that torrential rain has played havoc with several of this weekend's cards. I'd liked the look of Peter Bowen's Irish Wolf in the novice chase at Stratford tomorrow but that meeting has also been called off after the River Avon burst its banks.

Still, we've plenty to look forward to, the obvious highlight being the 'hats & horses' of the Royal Ascot meeting which starts on Tuesday. I'm doing (some) homework and will try to come up with at least one selection per day for my three faithful readers.

The flat meeting at Warwick on Sunday 24th June celebrates 300 years of racing at the track. A big jamboree is planned with the £10 adult admission allowing access to all areas; this really is one of the best value deals the course has put out in a long time. You can check a few fascinating photos from previous generations on the course's web site. With the going currently soft, they'll be hoping for better weather in the week ahead.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Market Rasen tomorrow

Very occasionally friends and acquaintances ask me to mark their card, usually when they're going to a meeting. At the moment I'm working on two such requests; a group of ladies from work are off to the final day at Royal Ascot while another colleague is going to Newcastle for the Northumberland Plate meeting at the end of the month. Vain, I know, but I admit to being ever so slightly flattered by such requests. However any feeling of well-being I have is severely tempered by the fact that I have never received a repeat request. More to the point, the friends who utilised this service have now become acquaintances and I appear to have lost touch completely with those formerly classed as acquaintances. There has to be a message in there somewhere.

I'm interested in a couple at Market Rasen tomorrow, provided we don't have too much rain. Bauhaus is the top rated horse in the novices' hurdle at 2.30 and makes plenty of appeal against the likely favourite, Nicky Henderson's No Regrets. Alan King's Fantastisch will take all the beating in the 3.00 but will be priced accordingly. The handicap hurdle at 3.30 is a competitive affair. Fortunate Dave beat Mr. Shambles by six lengths last time out; course and distance winner Mr. Shambles now reopposes on seven pounds better terms and is taken to reverse the form over a slightly shorter trip. At the time of writing the tissue show prices Mr Shambles at 12/1; with his trainer in good form, that represents a decent each way bet.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mid season sale at Ladbrokes

In a nutshell - Frankie Dettori wins the French Oaks, Paddy Brennan breaks his collar bone in a fall at Stratford, and turnover (and thereby profits) must be down at Ladbrokes as they're offering an extra 10% on all virtual racing singles today. I don't find it easy going through all that virtual racing form, so it's unlikely I'll be tempted because, as we all know, an extra 10% on nothing is nothing.
Blandings Castle, having won on his first appearance for six months last time out, looks worth keeping an eye on in the 3.00 at Newton Abbot; however his current price of 9/4 is no value whatsoever. I saw his main market rival, Johnston's Swallow, win at Towcester on Friday. JS isn't one to trust implicitly; he was comprehensively outjumped down the back straight by Mr Bigglesworth and looked in trouble but made up his ground on the climb to the finishing line.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Tales from Towcester

Recently 'demonised' middle class wine drinkers, together with accompanying picnics, were out in force yesterday evening at Towcester, and jolly civilised it all was too. I freely admit I've never been particularly well versed in the dark art of eating alfresco; after all National Hunt racing is primarily a winter sport. It was a fascinating sight to behold. The air of civility even extended to the betting ring where, on several occasions, punters formed orderly queues to strike a bet with the bookmaker of their choice.

I'd estimate the crowd between 5,000 and 6,000. The ground looked to be riding quite fast; Nicky Henderson pulled out his declared runners, No Regrets and Tisseman. Two performaces stood out.

Tom Scudamore made plenty of use of French import Ronald Jack (pictured leading over the last) in the Maiden Chase to win with something in hand. Market leader Noble Ben never seemed able to land a blow while second favourite Berhamsted broke down badly before the third.

Metal Detector literally hosed up in the three mile chase, winning by an eased down 18 lengths. Last time out, running in a first time visor over course and distance, the formbook reports the horse 'downed tools completely 11th'. Reverting back to the previously used blinkers, MD swept past his rivals on the turn for home and effectively had the race in the bag in a matter of strides. Middleham Park won the separate race for second place.
Mark Beesley, writing in the racecard, reports that by the end of racing at the next meeting on Thursday June 21st 'four seasons of virtual free admission at Towcester will be complete'. Long may it continue.
Thanks to my daughter for the photos taken at her inaugral race meeting, with Ashwell giving us the win we were looking for...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Friday evening at Towcester

A run-of-the-mill card at Towcester tomorrow but I hope to get there provided I can cut away from work early. Going through the form this evening, Berkhamsted appears to have a good chance in the 7.10 race provided he stays; all his form to date has been over two miles. I'll support Ashwell in the 8.10 while New Time could improve to be competitive in the next.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Brennan leaves Howard Johnson stable

Last May I wrote a piece about Graham Lee leaving the Howard Johnson yard. At the time Ferdy Murphy was quick out of the stalls to secure Lee's services as his new stable jockey.

A little over twelve months later and Nigel Twiston-Davies has emulated Murphy's trick, taking on Paddy Brennan following that jockey's split with Johnson. Twiston-Davies, it will be remembered, lost out to the Pipe stable earlier this year in a bidding war to secure Tom Scudamore's services. Paddy Brennan, who rode 74 winners last season, appears an excellent appointment.

On the other hand, all would not appear well at the Johnson / Wylie setup.

From Frankie to Fontwell

Frankie may have won two Derbys in two days, but the first at Fontwell this evening looks an intriguing race. Norman Beckett catches the eye, having finished a close second to Mon Michel (in which Betfair owner Andrew Black has a part share) over the course and distance last time. NB has done most of his racing on ground with some cut so today's conditions are something of an unknown; however the Racing Post form describes him as 'a certain future winner'. Another I expect to progress from last time is Henrietta Knight's Shekel who could go well as a price.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Derby day debrief

So, finally, Dettori has laid to rest his Derby day hoodoo. Authorized's victory looked exceptional. After an inauspicious start, it was clear Frankie had plenty of horse beneath him, at one point taking time out to look around and check the runners behind. As they came into the home straight, the horse appeared a little further back in the field than would have been ideal, but it was of little consequence as Authorized showed a commanding turn of foot.

I felt the BBC coverage tended to concentrate excessively on the personalities involved rather than highlighting the achievements of the horses concerned. In truth, Dettori's reaction appeared a bit of a mixed bag, a 'going through the motions', a 'playing to the media'. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that's due to the pressure, but it looked as much a reaction of relief as anything else.

With a roaming camera following the victor back into the inner sanctum of the weighing room, we were treated to a couple of pardonable expletives and then, much to Mrs Tips' amusement, a quick full frontal of an unsuspecting jock getting ready for the next. The result in our house was that Mrs Tips had to go for a lie down and me and the kids had to wait for our tea... Good job it only happens once a year.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Dettori's Derby dream to be realised?

Make no mistake - on all known form Frankie Dettori is on the best horse in tomorrow's Derby. Of course, as we all know, the best horse doesn't always win the races. The bookmakers will certainly be hoping to get odds-on favourite Authorized beat, as they stand to lose up to £50 million if this horse enables his ebullient jockey to add the Derby to his already impressive CV.

I have never collected any money on the Derby in over thirty years of trying. Having tipped the Oaks winner yesterday, I'm playing safe and hoping Authorized breaks the hoodoo. My each way alternative is Aidan O'Brien's Eagle Mountain while Mrs Tips, having just finished watering the plants, recommends a small each way investment on Aqaleem.