Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Day at Cheltenham

The first Cheltenham meeting of 2008 looks as tricky as ever. The Nicholls camp is particularly bullish about Predateur in the 1.35; I'm still not certain the horse gets the trip. French raider Okaido should have no fears on that score having won over three miles in France; he could be anything. I'll sit this one out.

In the 2.45 Star De Mohaison will be popular running off a hurdle rating that is considerably lower than his chase equivalent. Hills Of Aran was nibbled at at fancy prices before the start of Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle just over a week ago, but he got no further than the first. The tissue has the horse priced at around 10/1 here; he would be an interesting each-way wager.

Several commentators have put up Afsoun for the 3.20 but I will not be joining in. Most of the runners in this have questions to answer, including Black Jack Ketchum and Wichita Lineman. If Blazing Bailey is in top form he'll have a shout, but I'm going to sit this one out too.

Leading Authority should take the 1.50 at Exeter but is likely to be priced accordingly.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Newbury's last meeting of the year

In the opener at Newbury tomorrow Moon Over Miami sets a decent standard but Paul Nicholls' Big Buck's has been well touted beforehand and looks the one. In the 1.35 I'm prepared to give Air Force One a second chance. The novice's jumping went to pieces after an early mistake last time out but, according to The Weekender, he has since undergone intensive schooling at home. Charlie Mann considers the horse amongst the best he has trained and the stable are flying high at the moment. The Challow Novices' Hurdle looks competitive. Paul Nicholls' Elusive Dream is the top rated horse but went out like a light last time, being comprehensively beaten by Razor Royale on soft going at Cheltenham; ED wears a tongue tie for the first time tomorrow. As a general rule I'm not keen on horses that wear tongue ties when the going is soft. On official handciap ratings Zilcash should be in the mix but he has done most of his racing over two miles. Souffleur looked to have been given a lot to do when finishing third recently and has been kept busy this season. Venetia Williams' Lightning Strike has won twice this season, handles the ground and gets the vote. My guess is the stable think a bit about Swordsman by giving him an entry in this. I'll consider an each way wager if he's priced around the 12/1 mark.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lexus Chase

Having watched a recording of Kauto Star's superb victory in the King George, I've just been forced into watching six consecutive episodes of The Munsters - from the sublime to the ridiculous - it's been that sort of Christmas. I haven't had the time to turn round, never mind look at Chepstow's Welsh National card.

Tomorrow's Lexus Chase at Leopardstown looks intriguing. On Racing Post ratings Denman is the clear top rated animal, yet at 4/9 his price is much shorter than Kauto's at Kempton on Boxing Day. Described as a 'brute of a horse' by several commentators, Denman looks to have the one way of running and bludgeons his rivals into submission, as he did in the Hennessy. The second in that race, Dream Alliance, knocked the form a little when pulling up in the Welsh National earlier today. Course and distance winner The Listener has it to do here but offers tempting value at 4/1, while it's not beyond the realms of possibility for State of Play to find improvement. In my book Denman is less of a certainty than Kauto in the King George, yet his price is shorter; I'll take a chance on The Listener at odds of 4/1 or bigger.

The TurfTV issue has rumbled on in the background over the past few months. The stakes will be raised considerably from Janaury 1st when live pictures from thirty one racecourses will only be available in betting shops which have subscribed to the service. Coral's have recently announced they intend to take the product; this will give them a significant commercial advantage over High Street rivals Hill's and Ladbrokes. In this day and age, are punters prepared to put up with audio commentaries after placing a bet in a shop?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Two Boxing Day picks

Two weeks ago I was informed that I would be taking assorted Tipster relatives to the pantomime on Boxing Day. 'Oh no, I'm not!' I cried. 'Oh yes, you are!' came the retort. Apparently it's Aladdin this year; I'm going to miss the King George and a top Kempton card into the bargain. Having said that, the King George doesn't really offer any decent betting opportunities - I expect Kauto Star to win but he'll be odds on and with only seven runners in the field, the each way market doesn't make much appeal. My Way De Solzen should get closer this time around. Similarly, Harchibald is the form horse in the Christmas Hurdle but he'll be long odds on. In the opener Song of Songs, having been withdrawn at Ascot on Friday on account of the ground, looks the one but once gain his price will be short. Some value could be gained in the Feltham which is due off at 1.20. The front two in the market are Silverburn and Joe Lively. Silverburn hasn't raced over this distance previously while Joe Lively would have been beaten by Here's Johnny at Newbury but for that horse being brought to a standstill by the fall of Nevada Royale. Provided he has recovered from that episode, HJ should offer some sporting value.

Richard Johnson has chosen to ride at Wincanton; overall, Liberate has much better form than his rivals in the 2.45 but hasn't been at his best of late - he rates a play against likely favourite Russian Trigger.

By the way, Mrs Tips asked me to point out to readers that her tip for Strictly Come Dancing, Alesha Dixon, won. I always said she was better at this game than me.

Finally let me take this opportunity to wish readers of this blog a Happy Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ascot's Long Walk hurdle

After Saturday British racing takes a well earned festive break before resuming on Boxing Day. In Ascot's Long Walk hurdle the two top rated animals have questions to answer. Hardy Eustace looked as tough as ever when winning last time and is difficult to pass, but he isn't guaranteed to stay this trip and is just over a week away from his eleventh birthday. Black Jack Ketchum looks a suspect stayer too; in addition the Jonjo O'Neill operation is noticeably out of form. Two weeks ago Nick Mordin wrote a convincing piece in The Weekender highlighting Kasbah Bliss' chance for the World hurdle at Cheltenham in March. Nick argued that the key to KB was good fast ground; he'll certainly get that here and rates a value bet at around 7/1. I'd also expect Chief Dan George to improve on his most recent run where he finished last behind Inglis Drever at Newbury; a first time visor is tried here - if that does the trick I could see him running into a place at odds of 14/1.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Last Friday before Christmas at Ascot

This card looks under threat from the weather. Ascot can be a cold bleak place this time of year, but not so cold as to make you consider Christmas shopping as an alternative. What A Buzz goes in the first and ran a blinder last time out at odds of 80/1. The odds will be a lot shorter here and the ground isn't certain to suit so a watching brief is advised.

In the 1.40 I'll support Deep Purple. Connections have let a number of possible opportunities pass by for this horse; this will be a chance to see how good he is. James Fanshawe's Song of Songs was second to Osana last February which looks good form given what that rival achieved last weekend in the International.

I'd expect Hobbs Hill to take the 2.15 but he'll be no price.

Looking quickly through the early prices for Saturday's Long Walk hurdle, 7/1 Kasbah Bliss looks value as does Chief Dan George each way at 14/1.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Winning connections

The Tom Dascombe trained Parisian Gift won the EBF Go Pontin's Maiden Stakes at Lingfield today by a neck, having been backed on course from 6/1 in to 7/2 joint favourite - nothing particularly remarkable in that. However I noticed that the winning owner was registered as The PG Tipsters. Now I know what you're thinking - Mrs Tips had arranged a surprise Christmas present and had just forgotten to tell me all about it. If only. Still, it's good to see such a well named syndicate start off with a winner and I wish them all the best for the future. The Racing Post reports that Parisian Gift is to be 'put away for the turf season next spring'.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Horsing about...

I've been on the lookout for a Christmas game and I think I've come across it in The Big Issue's Christmas Special. Horsey Hoppers sounds like space hoppers in the shape of horses and that's exactly what it is. Two players race each other around the living room in jockey silks. According to the website the game will be available from December 19th, which doesn't leave an awful lot of time to get things sorted, but it looks good fun particularly after a couple of your favourite Christmas beverages...

Bell's advertisements this Yuletide show a number of horses running on the side of a bottle of whisky, with a members enclosure badge proclaiming 'No horse goes as fast as the money you put on him'. In a similar vein, at this time of year the whisky in my whisky bottle goes down faster than the horses I put my money on.

Mrs Tips had alerted me to a piece in last Wednesday's Times which gave details of the Northern Cross, a Roman Catholic diocesan newspaper in the Hexham and Newcastle area, advertising for a racing tipster. Channel Four's Morning Line programme picked this up on Saturday and asked viewers to suggest a name for the new tipster. My own entry, had I made one, would have been Sinners' Winners, a re-working of the Punters' Prayer I religiously utter, kneeling at my bedside, the night before any big meeting:

Dear Lord, I know I'm a sinner,
But please, please, please,
Give me just one winner.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cheltenham selections tomorrow

Franchoek has been described as 'the next Katchit' and is the current ante-post favourite for the Triumph hurdle in March; he's the one they all have to beat in the opener at 12.20.

The eight contestants in the Relkeel hurdle look pretty closely matched; a number of the runners are not guaranteed to stay the extended two mile five furlong trip. Pouvoir seems to have developed a habit of getting himself beaten while, at the weights, Liberate is in with a shout if he lasts home. The original selection was Charlie Mann's course and distance winner My Turn Now but my enthusiasm is tempered by the fact the stable haven't had a winner in the past fortnight. I'll take a chance with Paul Nicholls' Gwanako.

Clear top rated animal in the 2.05 is Howard Johnson's Tidal Bay; the word is that Nicky Henderson's Duc de Regniere is the horse Mick Fitzgerald has postponed his retirement to ride. The Henderson stable has been going through a quiet spell; this race will prove useful for future reference.

The Gold Cup looks extremely competitive. The best value I've seen in this is Venetia Williams' Idole First priced up at 20/1 with totesport; that's worth an each way interest as IF beat Palarshan (currently around 8/1) on similar terms over course and distance last March. Dangers abound, with likely favourite New Little Bric feared most.

In the International at 3.10 John Carr has said current champion Sublimity is not fully wound up. I'm concentrating on Afsoun, Katchit and Mac's Joy. In my mind's eye I can see Katchit getting swamped just after the last in the Fighting Fifth a couple of weeks ago. In contrast Afsoun looked the winner at Ascot last time but was outfought by Hardy Eustace over a distance the yard feel doesn't suit. Mac's Joy should have a shout at the weights but I'm siding with Afsoun.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Racing notes

In the days following the embarrassing collapse of the race-fixing trial, the City of London Police and the British Horseracing Authority have been scrambling, in a somewhat unseemly fashion, to distance themselves from any ensuing blame. In addition, screeds have been written following the breaking of the news that Fallon failed a drug test in the summer; an interesting perspective was given by Stephen Pollard in The Times' Thunderer column on Monday.

Cheltenham's card this Saturday is starting to look rather attractive, with a fair number of equine stars intending to take up their engagements.

Looking a little further ahead, The Lexus Chase, which is set to be run at Leopardstown on Friday December 28th, could see Denman and The Listener taking each other on. In this week's edition of The Weekender, Nick Mordin puts forward a persuasive case for The Listener who appears well ahead of his rival on Nick's timings.

Evan Williams' yard is under a cloud at the moment but his Enlightenment is worth a second look in the Turftv Novices' Chase at Ludlow tomorrow.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Fallon's ups and downs

Barely twenty four hours after being cleared of any wrongdoing in the race-fixing trial, Kieren Fallon has tested positive for a banned substance. The substance is believed to be cocaine and, ironically, it was detected after his ride on Myboycharlie at Deauville last August. Results from a second sample are awaited before the French racing authorities decide what action to take. Whatever your views on Fallon, you can't ever say he led a dull life.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sandown selections

Eight go to post for the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown tomorrow. Voy Por Ustedes is the clear form choice and has won on soft ground previously, something which can't be said for a number of his rivals. Voy is likely to start around 5/4, so I'm prepared to take an each way chance with Hoo La Baloo at around 20/1 provided the eight get to the start. The horse has a bit to find with the best of these on official ratings but he has won at Sandown and he'll handle the conditions.

I'd expect Moon Over Miami to continue his progress in the 2.05 but the price is likely to be prohibitive.

The finale is a competitive handicap chase over a distance just short of three and three quarter miles. Course and distance winner Tana River is no spring chicken, just a couple of weeks shy of his twelfth birthday, but he will make a bold bid to win this for a second consecutive year. Kilbeggan Blade looks the interesting one in this and gets the vote. I wouldn't totally discount McEvoy either, who was due to run in the four mile chase at Exeter today but was withdrawn, presumably on account of the ground.

Fallon race-fixing trial collapses

The dramatic collapse of the race-fixing trial at the Old Bailey will look like a Christmas present come early for Kieren Fallon and his co-defendants. The judge has said that the prosecution was never near getting together a credible case, with the evidence of Australian expert Ray Murrihy totally discredited. This outcome ranks as a major embarrassment for the British horseracing establishment who, on July 7th 2006, banned Fallon and two other jockeys from riding in Britain until criminal proceedings were concluded. As you might expect, while Fallon is delighted to be exonerated, he is angry at the way in which he has been treated by the British Horseracing Authority (in contrast to the stance taken by the Irish Turf Club); I wonder if he'll consider making a claim for lost earnings...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Exeter on Friday

Sandown's top meeting will attract much of the attention tomorrow but that shouldn't detract from a decent card at Exeter where the going is described as soft, heavy in places. The runners in the four mile Devon Marathon Chase will need to be ridden to get the trip over this stiff course. Two plays against likely favourites, both of whom will act in the conditions, are Gary Moore's Verasi who takes on the enigmatic Lead On in the novice chase at 1.35, and Alan King's Sovereign King in the 2.45.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ceefax D-day

Today the BBC has announced that its revised Ceefax racing service will start on January 28th 2008. The reduced service will not include course news or declarations. We've known this was coming for some time now, and I know that at some stage I'm going to be dragged kicking and screaming into the digital televsion age, but even Mrs Tips feels the pain on this one. Every evening in our house there's a fifteen minute ritual where Ceefax pages displaying the runners and riders at tomorrow's meetings are allowed to scroll on screen, with use of the remote control 'hold' facility strictly forbidden. Family members pass comments on interesting runners and favourite horses; I suppose, for the time being, we're going to have to bite the bullet and migrate to Channel 4's Teletext service...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Racing shorts

Denman's victory in yesterday's Hennessy will live long in the memory. It looked exceptional and the handicapper appears to agree, giving the horse a rating of 176, just three pounds behind Kauto Star and one behind Exotic Dancer.

All the fuss about Denman shouldn't detract from two other performances; Inglis Drever won the Long Distance Hurdle with consummate ease while Helens Vision ran her rivals ragged in the opening novice hurdle, beating her nearest challenger by twenty seven lengths.

On numerous occasions last season Katchit did this blog a favour, but regular readers will be aware I haven't selected him on either of his runs this term, mainly because there was no value in his price. A four year old hasn't won the 'Fighting Fifth' at Newcastle for over twenty years; his third place on Saturday, racing against older horses, was a commendable effort.

Wandering onto the BHB's Go Racing site earlier today, Sunday December 2nd, I came across an advertisement for 'The Summer Card', described as a special microsite guide to this summer's main events, and a plug for the 2007 Pocket Fixture List. Time to update the website, guys...

The same BHB site lists a fixture at Great Leighs on Thursday. An update on building work in progress at the new track is available on the course website, with the end of January 2008 the current target for racing to commence.