Thursday, July 26, 2007

King George and York selections

Seven runners have been declared for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (4.20) at Ascot this Saturday. There's been a fair amount of media coverage during the week; the main players are Dylan Thomas, Scorpion, Maraahel and Youmzain. On form Dylan Thomas is the best horse in the race and the current favourite but Aidan O'Brien hinted earlier today (Thursday) that the horse may not take his chance as he prefers top of the ground. During the week Scorpion has been backed from 9/2 to 3/1 as the value against Dylan Thomas. Under the conditions of the race Scorpion is certainly entitled to reverse placings with Maraahel on their Royal Ascot meeting and I would expect him to do so. Last season Youmzain ran the subsequent Arc winner Rail Link to half a length in the Prix Neil at Longchamp; a repetition of that form would put him bang in there with a chance and connections have been bullish in the build-up. The horse has had a couple of excuses this season; the question is to what extent you buy into the excuses offered. A small field and a fascinating race with tactics possibly playing a part; Scorpion is the percentage call, offers value against Dylan Thomas should he take his chance, and so gets the vote.

Over at York I would expect Macorville (2.40) to gain compensation for his gallant second in the Northumberland Plate and Aidan O'Brien's Eagle Mountain to take the 3.15.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Godiva maiden runs green

Punters quickly twigged on and hedged their bets when it was reported that Special Branch were to investigate suspicious betting patterns surrounding a tree to one favourite (pictured, and ridden by L. Godiva) after the maiden had planted herself in the middle of Coventry city centre recently. Race sponsors Benson & Hedges have agreed to provide the authorities with appropriate cuttings. Sorry.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Summer Plate

With today's Newbury card abandoned due to waterlogging and Saturday's seen as 'at risk', I'm assuming the ground will be on the soft side at Market Rasen tomorrow if racing goes ahead.
In the past Peter Bowen has made a target of the Summer Plate (3.40) and this year looks no exception with five of the sixteen runners coming from his stable. The two I'm looking closely at are Lankawi and Iron Man - I think Tommy Spar may struggle to stay. There doesn't appear to be a lot between them; I'm guessing that Tom O'Brien has had the choice and he's gone for Lankawi as this five year old looks slightly less exposed. This is a competitive event for such a young chaser but at around 8/1 he's worth an interest. However I wouldn't put anyone off backing Iron Man each way at around 10/1, especially as Paddy Merrigan's 3lbs claim will be most useful in testing conditions.

Eighteen go to post in the ultra competitive Totescoop6 Summer Handicap Hurdle due off at 2.05. Nicky Henderson's mare Capitana won easily at Stratford last Sunday and must be in with a shout provided she handles the ground. At the bottom of the handicap, John Best's Mind How You Go won over course and distance recently and will definitely handle the ground but looks to have a bit to find.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Authorized to miss King George

It was announced earlier today that Derby winner Authorized will miss the King George a week on Saturday following his second place to Notnowcato in the Eclipse. Obviously his withdrawal detracts from the quality of the field but it's not really that surprising a decision; the plan is to give the horse a rest with the Arc the main aim in the autumn. The Eclipse route just hasn't worked out for connections. A comment on the BBC site pointed out that, in effect, the King George was sacrificed for the gamble that was the Eclipse (and unfortunately the gamble didn't come off).

Two big races in the summer jumping programme, the Summer Plate and Summer Hurdle, take place at Market Rasen on Saturday. I'll take a look at these tomorrow; the rather foreboding weather forecast means they're likely to be run on soft ground.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A racing sale

Those with more money than I have sloshing around in dormant bank accounts might be interested in the Bonhams Racing Sale which starts at 11.00 am in Tattersalls, Newmarket this Friday 20th July.

I participated in a little window shopping earlier; there are some desirable looking lots, particularly amongst the pictures and the books, but I don't think Mrs Tips would be best pleased if I went and spent £600 on a set of Timeform annuals...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Stratford and Perth selections

Three horses highlighted in the recent 'Summer jumpers' post run tomorrow, Soliya and Capitana at Stratford and Commercial Express at Perth.

Soliya beat Callisto Moon six lengths over course and distance at level weights last time out; the pair renew rivalry in the juvenile hurdle at 2.00, Soliya now having to carry a 5lbs penalty. It looks a close call but I take David Pipe's Soliya to confirm the form.

Nicky Henderson's Capitana runs in a very competitive looking Coventy Telegraph Handicap Hurdle at 3.00. As the price is unlikely to offer any value for money, I'd advise abstaining on this occasion. A better value proposition here may be Hawridge King each way at 10/1 or bigger - this horse ran a decent race last time out at Hereford after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Up at Perth Commercial Express runs in the novice chase at 2.40 but appears to have a bit to find with Vaughan and Contact Dancer, the former getting the vote on account of his better jumping.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ascot on Saturday

The distance of tomorrow's John Smith's Cup at York has been shortened to one mile 208 yards on account of waterlogging at the track; Saturday's card at The Curragh has been abandoned to give Sunday's Irish Oaks meeting every chance of going ahead on the soft / heavy ground; and three races at Ascot's two day meeting have been cancelled on account of false patches of ground around the ten furlong start - it's just another typical soggy July Saturday.

I had intended to concentrate on the two mile race at Ascot in which Macorville and Tilt, second and third respectively in The Northumberland Plate two weeks ago, were set to renew rivalry but this is one of the cancelled races. That being the case, I've done some work on a pretty competitive looking Sony Summer Mile Stakes which is due off at 2.50.

First of all let me say I'm not overly confident the selection will deliver the goods. Cesare will be a popular choice, beaten only one and a quarter lengths in a muddling Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, and is entitled to go close. However I'll be supporting Godolphin's Echo Of Light who has had a decent break and, unlike several, comes to this fresh. The balance of his form is, in my opinion, marginally better than Cesare's and his prominent running style means his opponents will have to work hard to pass him. This is no two horse race though with Royal Oath the subject of a good gallops report and Racinger entitled to improve on his Queen Anne sixth.

A couple of the horses named in the 'Summer jumpers' post below have entries at Perth and Stratford this Sunday. I'll try to sum up their chances on Saturday evening.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summer jumpers

The relatively light summer jumping programme means it takes a little less effort to keep on top of the form. Since late April I've tried to read the jumps form each week (as published in The Weekender) and in the process compile a list of horses that have been the subject of positive comments. Obviously any such list, by nature, is arbitrary and I've reproduced it here. Listed horses should at least be worth a second glance if running in the forthcoming weeks. Jump races up to Sunday July 1st have have been analysed.

Mind How You Go - could go to Newton Abbot in August
Jam Packed - wins in a decent time
Kawagino - second to Jam Packed; getting better over fences?
Hellfire Club - bumper winner from Carl Llewellyn stable
Mange Tout - wins in fast time
Soliya - wins first juvenile hurdle of season
Commercial Express
Danehill Willy
The King Of Angels - 5yo finishing second in handicap chase
Iron Man - aimed at Market Rasen in July
Pearl King - aimed at Market Rasen hurdle in July
Capitana - second to Pearl King, pair clear
Ice Tea
Classic Gold - beat previous winner Dariak easily
Blandings Castle
Etoile Russe
Olmeto Collonges - H. Knight 'thinks a lot of him'; needs cut

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Wimbledon weather

Earlier in the year Mrs Tips (pictured), feeling a little fed up with the dull roofing jobs I kept giving her, expressed an interest in the champagne lifestyle of the professional tennis circuit. As an indulgence, last Thursday, we hit the All England Lawn Tennis Club Championships at Wimbledon, hopeful of a full day's play, strawberries and cream and glasses of bubbly sipped romantically together on a typically tranquil English summer afternoon.

In the event we were fortunate to see two ladies' quarter finals matches and roughly forty minutes of Roger Federer's match with Juan Carlos Ferrero before the rain came, big time. It wasn't big rain, you understand, but it was the sort of rain that stops tennis being played and it was accompanied at times by a gusting wind. Initially we were informed that the rain would pass through and play in the evening was a distinct possibility. Three hours later, at 7.10pm, The Man told us he'd been kidding us all along (because it was good for business) and there would be no more play at all.

When play gets stopped at Wimbledon, there's surprisingly little to do other than spend your hard earned on souvenirs in the Wimbledon Shop or overpriced drinks. I searched everywhere for a betting shop (see picture), but to no avail. Still, the action was to be savoured and we'll certainly be applying for tickets to next year's championships.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Coral-Eclipse at Sandown

Peter Chapple-Hyam's Authorized is likely to start long odds on for The Coral-Eclipse Stakes over ten furlongs at Sandown tomorrow, and he's entitled to given the manner of his Derby victory. However Derby winners don't have a particularly good record in this race and favourites have won just two of the last ten runnings, so I'll be looking for value elsewhere.

Beforehand the press have been keen to build this race up as a clash between Authorized and George Washington. I'm undecided about George Washington following his return in the Queen Anne at Ascot last month. Some commentators felt it was a very good performance after such a long absence off the track. He's not certain to stay this trip and the doubts about his temperament persist; on balance he's one I'll pass over.

That being the case, I'm going to side with course and distance winner Notnowcato who was second in this last year. He was firmly put in his place by Manduro at Ascot but the easier going is a plus and priced at around 11/2, he's a value proposition against the front two in the betting. If eight go to post in this race Archipenko will act on the ground and offers decent each way value at around 16/1.

In the five furlong sprint at 2.05 Wi Dud is best in at the weights on official BHB ratings. He comes from stall four which looks a disadvantage, particularly on soft ground. The Sporting Life tissue prices the horse at 12/1; if you take the view that the poor stalls draw is reflected in that price, there's some each way value to be had with the horse.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Anyone for tennis?

The going at Wimbledon is currently described as soft, heavy in places. This year, as well as the ubiquitous Claire Balding, the BBC have been using Rishi Persad for certain items in their coverage - I've been expecting him to start talking about colts and fillies and mixed doubles at any moment but so far he's resisted the temptation.

I take a passing interest in the sport but, in our house, chief tennis correspondent is Mrs Tips who informs me that Wimbledon has been pretty low key so far, with more stops and starts than a 27 bus. A few months back we made our first ever application for tickets in the public ballot and were lucky enough to be allocated two centre court tickets on Thursday, Ladies' semi-finals day. Given the rain that's falling, I doubt the quarter final matches will have been completed.

In preparation for this event I invested in a sun hat, (not to be confused with my racing hat), factor 40 sun screen and a pair of new sandals. It is highly unlikely that any of these items will be required. I shall take a copy of Michael Simkins' Fatty Batter together with a copy of The Weekender to peruse as I sit sipping a Pimm's under my Wimbledon umbrella.

For the record, Mrs Tips takes Roger Federer to win the Men's Championship and thinks Justine Henin will win the Ladies' Championship, although she's supporting Amelie Mauresmo.

When I've recovered from the whole experience I'll preview this Saturday's Coral Eclipse at Sandown.

Notes from Newcastle

I've never been to Newcastle racecourse and, after the feedback I received from colleagues following their visit on Saturday, I can't say I'm really motivated to change that state of affairs.

Whilst aforementioned colleagues did reasonably well on the betting front, they were distinctly unimpressed by the course facilities. They paid £20 each for entrance to the grandstand / paddock enclosure, and felt that viewing was not particularly good, the big screen not easily visible and the PA system on several occasions inaudible. A section of this enclosure was also cordoned off as the result of building works. Going to the one main toilet facility entailed a wait of roughly twenty minutes and a trip to the bar nearer thirty. Granted, the appalling weather did nothing to help the situation; collectively they score the facilities four out of ten, with a 'must do better' added for good measure.

The final straw - the free bus back into town became stuck in the bottomless ground and everyone had to disembark to wait for taxis. It never rains but it pours.