Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Aintree aftermath

On Sunday, while Kauto Star was busy getting himself beaten by Monet's Garden and Gabby Logan was busy getting herself voted off Strictly Come Dancing, I was busy driving back home, via Wrexham. After the anguish of last season, the club managing to
stay in the Football League by beating Boston United in their final game, I thought there might be better things ahead; it hasn't worked out that way. Twelve games played and Wrexham sit next to bottom of League Two with a meagre nine points. We called in at the ground and took a couple of photos; one wag commented it was just as quiet on match days. Manager Brian Carey's position looks precarious. I think it's going to be another long hard winter...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

John Smith's People's Race 2007/8

Earlier this year I wrote a few pieces on this blog about the John Smith's People's Race. Ten rookie riders, members of the general public, were given the chance to ride in a flat race over nine furlongs on Grand National day. The organisers, amazed by the number of entries they received in a very short time frame, have done a lot more preparatory work this year; the event looks as though it will move to another level, with the accompanying media coverage likely to be increased considerably. If you fancy your chances this time around, you can visit the John Smith's website or pick up an application form from your local Ladbrokes betting office. The closing date for applications is December 7th 2007.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Aintree on Saturday

Fifteen go to post in the first, the juvenile novice hurdle, which is due off at 1.10. Paul Nicholls' Qrackers sets the standard and is likely to start favourite. Three others to catch the eye are News Of The Day, Smugglers Bay and Chip N Pin. News Of The Day won easily at Market Rasen but has since been unsuccessful in handicaps on the Flat. Tim Easterby runs Smugglers Bay and Chip N Pin; it looks as though the jockey has chosen to ride Smugglers above Chip N Pin, but in general the Easterby yard hasn't been in the best of form. Chip N Pin's fourth behind Falcon's Fire and Franchoek reads well, she has the top speed rating and on a rough line through Franchoek she should be competitive against Qrackers. I'm tempted but I'll play safe here and support Qrackers who could be value if sent off at 11/4 as today's tissue suggests.

The novice chase at 1.40 has just six entries. The four year old Marodima is the Racing Post's top rated horse by some way and turned in a decent performance last weekend at Cheltenham behind Tramantano. He looks a headstrong individual and I'd envisage Timmy Murphy allowing him to bowl along in front, a tactic that tends to work well here. According to this week's Weekender Leslingtaylor hasn't had that many schooling sessions so of the other runners I prefer Dev to Cantgeton. A trappy affair with a lot depending on how Marodima performs, as most of his runs have been on ground with cut. Dev is the top rated speed horse and in the tissue offers better value - he's the selection.

In the 2.10 Lord Baskerville is an each way wager at a big price, as he ran better than his finishing position indicated last time at Huntingdon and also has previous course and distance winning form.

In the finale, the novices' handicap hurdle, I'll support Nelson's Spice as this horse looks as though he'll stay the three miles, but established chaser I Hear Thunder is to be feared if fit, running off what looks a rather lenient mark.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rushing around...

It's all bit hectic at the moment and there's a lot of racing this weekend. I've just come back from a couple of days in York and I'm off to Aintree on Saturday, so this evening has been spent going through the five day entries; I'll post my thoughts on the card once the final declarations are known. What particularly stood out was that Bafana Boy was top rated for the 2.45 (at Liverpool) but his trainer opted to send him to Carlisle this afternoon instead, where the stiffer course obviously suited as he won at 4/1.

I really should be racing on Sunday as well, when Kauto Star makes his seasonal reappearance, but that won't be possible because it has proved nigh on impossible to book a hotel room in Liverpool. Apart from that, Mrs Tips wouldn't let me go anyway. Paul Nicholls has very helpfully told us Kauto Star will come on for his first run of the season so I'll take the hint and watch the race.

Earlier this week I celebrated my birthday, if one can celebrate getting older at my age. One card brought a smile - a cartoon picture of a horse with the jockey riding a finish and the accompanying words 'Instead of buying a boring birthday present I put £20 on a horse for you that came in at 20 to 1!' On opening the card, I'm greeted with 'Unfortunately the rest of the field came in at 12:35!'

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Smiles and scowls

The first edition of a new racing paper, Racing Ahead Weekend, appeared in newsagents on Saturday and, of course, I had to buy a copy to examine the contents and layout. What sets this offering apart from anything seen previously is the fact that the cards and colours are listed in race time order for all meetings held over the weekend. Form guide notes for each race are listed in the order of the printed betting tissue rather than in racecard order. Personally I found it all a little confusing, with the notes for the Sunday meetings containing a lot less detail. One misleading example - Classic Gold held an entry in the 3.35 at Kempton on Sunday but had run at Cheltenham on Friday; the paper contained no reference to the Friday run. On the plus side, the price of £1 is affordable and providing a form pull-out which can be taken separately to the races / betting shop is a nice idea.

I wonder what Kieren Fallon thinks about the current situation surrounding Ant & Dec and their television phone-ins...

Apparently, in between the horse racing at Hereford today, there was a 'Carry Your Wife' race. Mrs Tips and I had considered submitting an entry but yesterday Mrs T. announced she would have to put up two pounds overweight (only the two pounds?) I thought long and hard about it, but in the end we decided to scratch.

Friday, October 19, 2007

One big Scoop6 Saturday

This Saturday's Scoop6 will be advertised as worth £2.5 million to a single winner. The win fund is currently worth just over £958,000 and the bonus fund £715,000. According to my calculations, there are 21,162,960 possible winning combinations; often horse racing is as much about numbers as horses. Both my regular readers will testify that, recently, I've had trouble tipping the winner of an eight runner bumper at Ludlow, never mind attempting six consecutive winners across three cards. I suppose it must be a challenge thing...

Leg 1 2.05 Newmarket: Cesare / Toylsome
Leg 2 2.20 Cheltenham: From Dawn To Dusk
Leg 3 3.05 Catterick: Matsunosuke
Leg 4 3.15 Newmarket: Literato
Leg 5 3.30 Cheltenham: Knowhere
Leg 6 3.55 Newmarket: Dr Sharp / Macorville
4 lines.

For the less reckless, Dr Sharp appears to have a decent each way chance in The Cesarewitch (and a good draw as well.) Over at Cheltenham, the 5.15 looks a hot novice chase. Likely favourite Patman Du Charmil is worth taking on with either Blu Teen or Ice Tea. Blu Teen disappointed when odds on at Market Rasen recently but Paul Nicholls commented that he was a big gross horse who was hard to get fit. The Racing Post adds that the animal bled last time so I'll take a chance with Ice Tea who jumped much better when winning well at Hexham last time and will be a bigger price as well.

Of course the Rugby World Cup final will dominate tomorrow's action. I'd expect a close game; at current prices England are the value. Whatever happens, let's hope potential try scorers ground the ball a little better than this unfortunate player...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cheltenham's Friday card

A trappy looking card at Cheltenham tomorrow, especially as it's early in the season; I'll maintain a watching brief. In the first (2.20) Hills Of Aran, with McCoy in the plate, is the top rated animal but he has shown his best form on heavy ground. Twiston-Davies' Battle Cry looks the percentage call, having won easily at Perth three weeks ago.

The likely favourite in the 4.05, Mr Pointment, has moved to the Paul Nicholls stable but appears vulnerable here as most of his racing has been over shorter distances. Always Waining, Boychuk and Ardaghey are players. Ardaghey will get every yard of this trip, comes from a stable in form, will handle the good to soft ground and is top-rated by the Racing Post; he would make some each way appeal if priced around the 8/1 mark.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Longing to return to Ludlow...

There's some decent jump racing to look forward to this weekend. Cheltenham holds its first meeting of the new season over two days on Friday and Saturday while Kempton hosts its first meeting on Sunday with WBX.COM sponsoring most of the card. I went to Kempton this time last year but, prior to that, I'd always tried to get to Ludlow as it's a most pleasant spot, particularly on a sunny autumn afternoon. Pictured is a view across the paddock looking out to the Shropshire hills, taken from the grandstand roof.

In the Shropshire Handicap Hurdle due off at 3.50 I see connections have opted to run Herecomestanley as this looks easier than the two entries the horse held in races at Cheltenham. This race used to be a Class Three event run over three miles but recently it's been downgraded to a Class Four and is now run over the shorter trip of two miles five. First place prize money is over five thousand which is reasonable for the time of year.

Sadly, once again I won't make it to Ludlow. If I were there, I'd be looking for something to take on Herecomestanley as he's likely to start odds-on. The Racing Post have put up Dasher Reilly as a horse who might be up to the task and, at around 5/1, he'd appeal as a sporting bet. I'll be watching Bauhaus in the 4.50 while the concluding bumper looks between The Hairy Mutt, Hold Em and The Good Guy. The entry in the form book following The Hairy Mutt's latest victory is most complimentary; as Hold Em has been running over further in points I'd take The Hairy Mutt to gain the upper hand.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hey, John Motson! Sometimes I watch ITV

During yesterday's coverage of the England versus Estonia football match from Wembley, the irksome John Motson succeeded in irritating both Mrs Tips and myself even further by advertising, through the medium of television, the England versus France rugby semi-final coverage on Radio Five Live, describing the game as 'unmissable'.

Agreed, the match wasn't to be missed, but why would I choose to listen to it on Radio Five Live when I could watch it live on ITV1? I appreciate this must sound naive but we are all big boys and girls now; why can't commentators be a little bit more grown-up and accept the fact that viewers, in the comfort of their own living rooms, do actually change to competitor channels? England rugby fans will always want to see England playing live, not just when the BBC happens to transmit their matches.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Chepstow and Bangor selections

The Paul Nicholls' trained Natal heads the weights in the first at Chepstow and is likely to be popular but he hasn't won over this trip and doesn't convince he'll stay. The two Hobbs' horses would make some appeal if the stable were in better form. I will watch the novice Sultan Fontenaille as he looks less exposed than several of these but I'll pass over this race.

The 2.00 hurdle race for four year olds looks intriguing with the Triumph hurdle form represented by Liberate and Mobaasher. The favourite has won this on five occasions in the last ten years; I'm going out on a limb and will support Is It Me each way at a big price. This horse had early season form with eventual Triumph winnner Katchit last term. He went off the boil but is with a new yard now, has been running on the Flat and the booking of McCoy catches the eye.

I'm surprised to see Vivid Imagination entered in the three mile novice chase (2.35) as he didn't appear to stay when falling at Exeter three days ago. On paper Petit Lord looks the most likely winner but his price will be too short for betting purposes.

The favourite has won seven of the last eight runnings of the juvenile novice hurdle, which is due off at 3.40. Franchoek ran a little free at Market Rasen last time but did well to finish third behind Falcon's Fire and Soliya in a race that was probably the best of its kind run so far this season. Qrackers and Serabad look interesting newcomers but I'll support Franchoek with Alan King's yard starting to hit form.

The unbeaten Theatrical Moment makes his hurdle debut at 4.15 and is considered a future star. He will start long odds on and makes no appeal as a betting medium.

Over at Bangor-On-Dee The King Of Angels and Henry's Pride catch the eye in the Totesport.com Handicap Chase (3.25). Henry's Pride won easily last time out, has a similar profile to previous winners and is the Racing Post's top rated horse by some way. On bare form I think The King Of Angels has acheived more and, as a five year old, should have improvement to come, so he gets the vote.

I'll be tempted to take a chance with Sunday City at 3/1 or bigger in the novice chase (4.00). Finally, in the novice hurdle at 4.35, Evan Williams' King Cyrus looks a value bet at around 9/2.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Short briefs

The best National for sheer spectacle is the annual Mascot Grand National; this year's renewal was run at Huntingdon racecourse on Sunday. A field of over 100 runners faced the starter, with victory going to Wacky Mackey Bear of Saffron Walden Town. I wonder what the bookmakers' overround was...

The National Hunt season moves up a gear on Saturday; the card at Chepstow is traditionally the BBC's first jumps transmission of the season. In the past Philip Hobbs' operation has targeted this meeting but the stable looks a little off the pace at the moment. By way of contrast, the Twiston-Davies team are in superb form.

Kieren Fallon has been in the news a little over the past few days. It was interesting to see his defence counsel question the impartiality of the detective in charge of the case who has, apparently, been offered a job with the Jockey Club. A slight conflict of interest perhaps...?

I see Vivid Imagination fell three out at Exeter today when looking held. The trip, just short of three miles, together with the stiff track, will not have played to his strengths.

If you're thinking of going racing in the next couple of months, here's a reminder of the John Smith's BOGOF offer which is available at selected courses until the end of December. I'm hoping to get to Aintree in a couple of weeks' time.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Interpreting the texts

Texting is the bane of my life - I hate it. I only do it if I have to, and then I'm slower than everybody else by a factor of ten. It's not just creating the blessed messages I have trouble with, it's making sense of the replies.

It would appear our learned friends in the legal profession have no such problems. On the first day of Fallon's trial they inform us that Fallon's text '6.55 no4 n', sent back in August 2004, indicated that in the 6.55 at Goodwood horse number four was a non-trier.

Well, here's a thing - I've sent a similar text twice in the last eighteen months. On the first occasion I ordered chicken tikka masala with naan from my local takeway at precisely 6.55pm. On the second occasion I placed my mobile in my rear trouser pocket without locking the keypad; I then went and sat on the wretched device.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Arc drama

What drama in the Arc, and what an exceptional performance from Dylan Thomas and jockey Kieren Fallon! Connections survived a thirty minute stewards' inquiry before the placings were officially confirmed as remaining unaltered. Dylan Thomas interfered with three other runners as he drifted towards the rail in the final couple of furlongs but he was the best horse in the race and has won on ground that didn't really suit.

Consider the highs and the lows of jockey Kieren Fallon - Sunday he wins his second Arc at Longchamp in Paris, Monday his trial into alleged race fixing starts at the Old Bailey in London.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

Europe's richest race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barriere, takes place at Longchamp tomorrow at 3.40 BST. I'd like to start with a quick word for absent friends. Earlier in the season I fancied the filly Peeping Fawn for this but Ballydoyle's commercial breeding considerations appear to have taken priority and she hasn't been given an entry. Manduro then looked the real deal but suffered an injury after his victory in the Prix Foy which brought his racing career to a premature end.

Twelve go to post tomorrow; the race looks between English Derby winner Authorized, Soldier Of Fortune, Zambezi Sun and Dylan Thomas. Authorized brings the best from into the race but offers no value at around 11/8; in addition the stable has not been in particularly good form recently and the draw on the outside in berth twelve looks problematic.

Soldier Of Fortune beat Zambezi Sun under two and a half lengths in the Prix Niel but Zambezi Sun was not fully wound up that day. In the build-up this week there have been particularly bullish noises coming from the Pascal Bary stable concerning Zambezi Sun. The likely soft ground will inconvenience Dylan Thomas; if it were to dry out, his current price of 6/1 looks value. I side with Zambezi Sun, available generally at 5/1 with UK bookmakers.

Of the bigger priced horses, Mandesha's two seconds to Peeping Fawn and Manduro read well. This filly has looked far from straightforward this season, in contrast to last year. Cheekpieces are tried for the first time here; if they have the desired effect, she can be competitive and she looks worth an each way wager at the 14/1 offered by several UK firms.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Tea at Hexham?

Ice Tea meets Charlie Egerton's The Entomologist for the second time in three weeks at Hexham this afternoon. The latter won last time over two and a half miles. We know Ice Tea will get today's stiff three mile one furlong trip while this is the first time the Egerton horse has run over this distance. The Racing Post prefers the Egerton runner but in my book Ice Tea has a decent chance, especially in receipt of 4 lbs. The tissue shows had Ice Tea 3/1 which looked good value, but, at the time of writing, 2/1 is the general price and no longer makes that much appeal. Ice Tea needs to jump better than last time; on balance, I'll sit this one out.

Incidentally, I logged on to the Racing Post site last night at around 9.30pm to check this race and a couple of others, only to find no notes on any of the runners and no tissue shows. The site had been updated this morning - an indication of things to come under the new ownership?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Long shorts

Trinity Mirror has sold The Racing Post to a private equity operation based in Irealnd for £170 million, some way below the £200 million asking price. The Times reports that, as part of the deal, £10 million will be given to racing charities and several million spent on developing the online product.

Top two year old Winker Watson has suffered a setback on the gallops and will miss the rest of the season. An ambitious plan had outlined his taking in the Middle Park on Friday followed by the Dewhurst.

The Arc build-up has started in earnest, with Dettori telling all who will listen that Authorized is the best horse in the race and he simply needs luck in running. Peter Chapple-Hyam's bullish comments about the horse following a recent piece of work appear to add weight to the jockey's claims.

At the five day declaration stage fifteen horses are left in the Arc, the Aidan O'Brien stable accounting for seven of that number. Most commentators are envisaging soft ground at Longchamp which may account for Dylan Thomas, the mount of Kieren Fallon, drifting out to 8/1 in Blue Square's ante-post book.

Mrs Tips keeps telling me Christmas is just around the corner; with that in mind, a book which may be of interest to some racing fans is Aintree's Queen Bee, Mirabel Topham and the Grand National, written Joan Rimmer and published by SportsBooks Ltd. This review in The Liverpool Daily Post gives a good feel for the content.