Friday, November 30, 2007

Hennessy Gold Cup

Eighteen go to post tomorrow at Newbury in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup which is due off at 2.40. Of the four market leaders priced in single figures I like Snowy Morning best. Paul Nicholls has been very candid in the build-up and practically told us not to back Denman; the horse will be carrying top weight and will come on for the run, the Lexus Chase in Ireland being the target. At the weights Snowy Morning should have the beating of Denman on their running in the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase at Cheltenham last March. Abragante looks well handicapped but in my book is one to be wary about, Richard Hoiles from Channel Four having labelled him 'chicken hearted' before the recent running of the Badger Ales Chase at Wincanton, while I'm not convinced New Alco will stay the trip. A bigger priced pick is John Quinn's Character Building; the horse will definitely stay and handles soft ground - he looks a value each way bet at around 12/1.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hennessy Friday at Newbury

The interesting race is the 2.35 with a small but select field going to post; Denman won this last year. Paul Nicholls has been pretty bullish about Silverburn's schooling at home; the horse will probably start favourite and won't offer any value. Charlie Mann rates the five year old Air Force One amongst the best he has trained, but I'd be prepared to take a chance with Charlie Egerton's Hobbs Hill. This big front runner has already won twice over fences this season and offers better value as well as possibly having a fitness edge over his two market rivals.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Heltornic retired

Around this time of year I tend to find Christmas shopping interferes with the racing, much to my annoyance. In the past I've tried to delegate the shopping to Mrs Tips but she's cute enough to see through the ruse. Earlier today, having had enough of the shopping, I started some initial spadework on the Hennessy which takes place at Newbury on Saturday. I liked the look of Michael Scudamore's front-running mare Heltornic but I see she has been retired following the recurrence of an injury. Back to the drawing board...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Haydock, Huntingdon and Ascot

Three top class meetings give us an embarrassment of riches this Saturday. All eyes will be on Kauto Star's performance as, for a second time, he goes for the first leg of the Betfair Million in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. The manner in which he won this race last year stands out in my memory; I'm not inclined to oppose him on this occasion in spite of what has been written about his 'lazy' style of racing following his recent defeat over a trip shorter than ideal. Dick Hunter comments in The Weekender that My Way De Solzen, making his reappearance, is a difficult horse to get fit at home, while, in my opinion, Exotic Dancer takes some knowing. Turpin Green has two ways of running and could be thereabouts using his Gold Cup effort as a benchmark, provided he's in the mood; he has won on his reapperance previously. Kauto Star will make little appeal as betting material but he's the selection.

Over at Huntingdon only four go to post for the Peterborough Chase at 3.35. Racing Demon is the top rated horse and has the assistance of McCoy from the saddle. Ferdy Murphy's Aces Four ran in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby three weeks ago. An interview with one of the owners just before the off revealed that they were just interested in getting him jumping again following his heavy fall at Punchestown last April. Aces Four was pulled up at Wetherby and, although he'll strip fitter for the experience, I'm siding with Racing Demon to repeat his win of last year for a stable that has a remarkable record in this race.

The Coral Ascot Hurdle, due off at 1.50, looks competitive. Detroit City returns following disappointing efforts last season and some running repairs over the summer. Hardy Eustace won this last year but is getting no younger while Jonjo has pointed out the conditions of the race don't favour Wichita Lineman. Nicky Henderson's Afsoun was third in the Champion Hurdle last March; provided the longer trip suits, he looks the safest option and gets the vote.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In a nutshell...

Following his fourth consecutive win in Cheltenham's Cross Country Chase, and his seventh overall, fourteen year old Spot Thedifference looks like making a determined bid to become the most popular chaser in training.

The Paul Nicholls' stable endured a Saturday from hell, losing Willyanwoody and Granit Jack. First choice jockey Ruby Walsh is sidelined until Christmas with a dislocated shoulder after the fall from Willyandwoody. Perhaps now's the time to consider Christmas cards from the Injured Jockeys Fund.

On Sunday the weather in the Cotswolds turned nasty, big time; the concluding bumper was cancelled. I was slightly annoyed to have missed What A Buzz who ran into a place at 80/1. I've seen this horse, built like the proverbial brick outhouse, run at Towcester on heavy ground. His trainer looked to be flying high at Cheltenham, but the conditions suited to a tee and at that price the horse would have been worth a small interest.

Kauto Star goes for the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday, that race being the first leg in the Betfair Million. The new 'Northwest Racing Masters' meetings take place at Haydock on Saturday and Aintree on Sunday. In addition this weekend there is the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon to look forward to, as well as a decent card at Ascot.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Open Sunday

The deaths of Willyanwoody and Granit Jack, falling in separate races yesterday, will cast a long shadow over today's action. The rain has arrived, but the question is to what extent the going will be affected, if at all. A difficult card and uncertainty about the going means I won't be getting involved today. Here are a few eclectic thoughts...

I would be looking to take on four year old Predateur in the opener as he hasn't jumped a fence in public yet. I saw Leslingtaylor win well at Aintree three weeks ago, although that race was set up for him; he carries a penalty here. Nicky Henderson's Papini holds a decent chance. I'll be watching Dev closely - he went off too quickly in Leslingtaylor's race - in an attempt to gauge whether the horse is up to this class.

The 1.45 has the look of a bookmakers' benefit. If sufficient rain has fallen, Sobers looks a horse who could improve on his last run.

Only seven runners in the two mile handicap chase at 2.20; it will all centre around the fitness of Voy Por Ustedes. River City should have no questions in that department having run on the Flat recently.

Twenty two go to post in the Greatwood; Chivalry's close second in Wincanton's Elite hurdle last weekend looks good form.

Henrietta Knight thinks a lot of Olmeto Collonges no matter what happens in the 3.30. The horse needs cut.

I saw Seven Is My Number flop badly at Newbury last February but he's obviously a horse who has shown plenty at home. If the rain continues, the bumper should give us an indication as to whether the horse can handle soft ground.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cheltenham - Paddy Power Gold Cup

Tomorrow twenty go to post for a very open renewal of the Paddy Power Gold Cup over a distance just short of two miles five furlongs. Paul Nicholls' five year old Granit Jack has just made the cut and currently heads the market at 4/1. This is a tough race for such a young horse and the trip may not entirely suit - today's Racing Post headlines the fact that the owner has backed him at 40/1 for next spring's Champion Chase which is run over two miles. Of the horses priced in single figures, I like Ferdy Murphy's course and distance winner L'Antartique, his profile being similar to several previous winners. The favourite has won this on five of the last ten occasions; L'Antartique will need luck in running as he tends to come from behind but he gets the vote. Those looking for an each way horse at a bigger price could do worse than Philip Hobbs' Private Be, currently trading at 12/1.

In the 2.00 race on the same card Falcon's Fire has winning form over Franchoek but on Racing Post ratings Franchoek is the clear top rated animal. Franchoek ran a little keen that day but went on to beat Qrackers well at Chepstow, although the latter named has done very little since to frank the form. The Pipe inmate Sainte Kadette is likely to start favourite, having won from the front over course and distance last time. I'm going to stick with Falcon's Fire as he's likely to offer better value.

I had considered Bob Bob Bobbin in the finale but a quick look at the form shows his best performances have come with cut in the ground; that being the case, I'll abstain here.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cheltenham's Open meeting - Friday

Tomorrow's 3.05 at Cheltenham looks a hot race which should prove informative as the season progresses. Zilcash is the top rated horse and sets a decent standard, which Philip Hobbs' Snap Tie and David Pipe's Quaddick Lake will look to beat. In a recent running over course and distance Snap Tie and Quaddick Lake came to the last together but the Pipe inmate fell, leaving Snap Tie to collect the spoils. Many commentators felt Quaddick Lake would have come off second best had he stood up but David Pipe disagrees and has gone on record as saying that Quaddick Lake is his best chance of a winner at the whole meeting, a meeting which the stable has targeted several times in the past. I saw Spectait win very easily at Aintree three weeks ago; this is a higher class race but he could be anything. A close call but, given the Pipe stable recommendation, I will side with Quaddick Lake.

I'm intrigued by Glasker Mill in the 1.20. I guess Paul Nicholls' Ofarel d'Airy will start favourite but his inexperience may count against him. Going through some old Weekender stable tours, I came across Henrietta Knight's comment that Glasker Mill will be a better horse this season. I'm undecided at this stage and will make a decision sometime tomorrow. Boychuk could also be competitive having recently run in decent handicaps.

Imperial Commander's recent course and distance defeat of Over The Creek will ensure the horse starts at a short price for the 3.45. I'd be wary of taking a short price about Imperial Commander as some of his jumping looked a little unassured last time.

At the grand old age of fourteen Spot Thedifference will attempt to win the Cross Country Chase once again; should he succeed there won't be a dry eye in the house.

This racing business

This morning two racing related stories catch the eye on the business pages. William Hill's audacious approach to Ladbrokes' finance director is akin, in footballing terms, to Manchester United trying to poach Liverpool's manager from under their very noses. As The Times report indicates, the attempt failed but it's generated a whole new set of questions. Meanwhile, over in Berkshire, Newbury Racecourse has just turned down a hostile bid from its principal shareholder.

Upset isn't just confined to the world of business. The favourite in the Paddy Power Gold Cup ante-post market, Don't Push It, has been withdrawn after he was found lame yesterday evening.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Flat jockeys' title tied

An enthralling conclusion to the Flat jockeys' championship yesterday afternoon saw Jamie Spencer ride Inchnadamph to victory in the very last race at Doncaster, thereby ensuring that the title was shared for the first time since 1923. The final score - Jamie Spencer 189 winners, Seb Saunders 189 winners; if you backed either, dead heat rules apply. This was a fantastic effort by both jockeys. Bookmakers make Ryan Moore an odds-on chance for next season's race.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Wincanton tomorrow

The feature race at Wincanton tomorrow is the Badger Ales Trophy run over a distance just short of three miles two furlongs; nine go to post in a competitive event. It looks as though the six year old Abragante will start favourite. He is well in on hurdles form but, when chasing, the fences have occasionally got in his way. Ardaghey is climbing up the weights but is respected while Tom Sayers and Bowleaze look closely matched on recent course form. Irish Wolf's latest win at Fakenham could be suspect as Etoile Russe appeared to have that race in the bag before running out of petrol on his first try over two and three quarter miles. Here I'm going to take a chance with top weight Alderburn on his reappearance. I fancied this horse to win the Betfred Gold Cup at Sandown on the final day of last season but he was found lame the day before and didn't run. He is progressive and should give a decent account at around 5/1.

The Elite Hurdle is due off at 2.50. Paul Nicholls speaks highly of the four year old Poquelin who is a headstrong sort; I have a picture in my mind of his disappointing run behind Punjabi at Kempton last February. At Ayr in April the horse was allowed to front run in a small field and that appeared to suit. Five year old Kings Quay won the ultra competitive Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen in July; he looks a value alternative and gets the vote.

Colin Tizzard's Joe Lively beat Ice Tea (winner earlier today at Hexham) seventeen lengths last time out. The 2.20 is run over a shorter distance which may not play to the horse's strengths. Whatever happens here, Joe Lively looks one to keep a close eye on and is a play against Paul Nicholls' Ornais should the latter named be chalked up favourite.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bits and pieces

I haven't followed the ongoing Fallon trial that closely. Still, you can't help but wonder at some of the stuff that creeps out. Apparently England star Michael Owen texted Kieren on a daily basis. What really made me smile was Fallon's explanation (presumably to the police) as to why horses had to be held up: "If you go too fast too early, you'll end up like Paula Radcliffe did in the Olympics."

Latest score - Jamie Spencer 185 - Seb Saunders 183.

Around this time of year I keep an eye out for new racing books which might be of interest as potential Christmas presents. Perhaps I'm getting old and miserable but this year's offerings don't make that much appeal. The Racing Post has compiled a list of 1000 racing quotations and the 500 strangest racing stories, while Dave Nevison's recently published A Bloody Good Winner: Life As A Professional Gambler includes details of his nocturnal exploits according to The Times' Alan Lee. I think I'll give it a miss and find myself a ghost story instead.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Weather set fair?

Heavy rain in Australia threatens the chance of British runners in the Melbourne Cup; the lack of rain in Britain sees top class horses missing the Haldon Gold Cup.

Phillip Hobbs' Fair Along is the class horse in the field at Exeter tomorrow and consequently has to give weight away to his four rivals. The five year old isn't the biggest of animals, but his recent third of thirty three runners in The Cesarewitch reads well. This race looks trappy and is certainly no foregone conclusion; I won't be rushing to take odds-on and would advise a watching brief, especially as the trainer has told us the horse may be slighter better going left-handed.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Wetherby and Ascot selections

Only eight go to post for tomorrow's Charlie Hall Chase run over three miles and a furlong at Wetherby. The race represents the seasonal debut for each of the runners, so we're relying on trainers' comments to point us in the right direction. Evan Williams has described this race as State Of Play's 'cup final'; with McCoy on board, the bookmakers have put the horse in as 9/4 favourite. Ferdy Murphy's Aces Four is high class but has been known to miss one out on the odd occasion and is passed over. Twiston-Davies has been making very bullish noises about Ollie Magern, describing him as in 'the form of his life'; Ollie goes well fresh, won this two years ago and is joint top on Racing Post ratings. You pays your money and takes your choice; State Of Play looks the percentage call and gets the vote.

All eyes will be on Black Jack Ketchum at 2.20 as he tries to put some of last season's disappointments behind him. On official ratings he's easily the best horse in the race; he comes here after a wind operation during the summer. Those with a contrarian nature and money to burn may want to consider Faasel, a tricky customer who showed he stays three miles in a grade two novice chase at Aintree last April, and David Pipe's Lough Derg, whose second behind Mighty Man in the Long Walk hurdle (on good to soft ground) would give him a squeak. The trainer reports Lough Derg 'very fit' but I'm going to sit this one out primarily because, although I could easily be described as contrarian, I don't have the money to burn.

Over at Ascot course and distance winner Demi Beau should run his race in the 1.10 while, in the bumper, Hold Em carries a penalty for previous wins but has the form in the book and constitutes a value proposition at around 3/1.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Watching at Wetherby on Friday

The interesting race at Wetherby tomorrow from a form perspective is the listed juvenile novice hurdle which is due off at 2.50. Ann Duffield's Falcon's Fire opposes Saturday's Aintree winner Smugglers Bay. I watched a recording of the Aintree race last night and Smugglers certainly quickened well after the home turn; before that point he had looked held. The other three entries have all won races this season. Falcon's Fire impressive performance at Market Rasen just over a month ago makes him one of the best juveniles we've seen to date; he'll be priced accordingly and will make no appeal as a betting medium. Let's hope the lack of obvious pace doesn't lead to a tactical race; the result should be worth noting as the core jumps season gets into full swing.