Friday, February 29, 2008

Kempton and Doncaster

Two Nicky Henderson charges that have the winning look at Kempton tomorrow are Working Title in the opener and Classic Fiddle in the 4.00. Both are likely to start at a short price - I'm tempted to oppose Classic Fiddle with Strawberry who, on official handicap ratings, should be competitive at the weights. Charlie Mann's Stellenbosch looks the answer to the 3.25. A decent display by Strawberry would point to Helen Wood's chance in the trappy Betfred Novices' Handicap Chase at 4.35. HW, receiving six pounds, beat Strawberry six lengths in a mares' novice chase at Exeter last December - better was expected last time out when she was upped in grade at Doncaster but she failed to sparkle. The booked amateur takes off a handy-looking seven pounds here.

Grand National clues aplenty will be on offer at Doncaster where the weather forecast doesn't look that good. The going will be critical here as several runners would prefer some cut. McKelvey returns to action in the 2.25 following his fine second in last year's National - he suffered a serious injury in the race. The Bowen stable are still not firing; this is the first of two planned warm-ups as connections target the big race once again.

Mr Pointment and Cloudy Lane are using the 3.30 as their preparatory race. I was never convinced Mr Pointment stayed but Paul Nicholls proved me wrong by sending the horse out to win the Becher Chase in impressive style last November. This horse is better with cut but I suspect you'd say the same applies to Cloudy Lane. Ungaro fell at the second last weekend and looks on a retrieval mission while Alderburn wouldn't be suited by wet conditions. At the prices on offer I'm siding with Cloudy Lane.

Finally, if the rain really came, Just A Thought would be worth a second look, down in trip and class, in the 4.05.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Six 4 Cheltenham

Fellow enthusiast Tom Roper was recently asked to come up with his 'six best' for next month's Cheltenham Festival. This challenge set me thinking - here's what I came up with...

Two bankers:
Kauto Star in the Gold Cup (Friday)
Inglis Drever in the World Hurdle (Thursday)

Two solid performers:
Chomba Womba in the Mares' Hurdle (Friday)
Franchoek in the Triumph Hurdle (Friday)

Two overpriced each-way longshots:
Moon Over Miami in the Arkle (Tuesday)
Hold Em in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (Wednesday)

Monday, February 25, 2008

In short

The shortest distance by which a race can be won has been a short head - that is until today when a new measure, the nose, is introduced. Appropriately named suggestions for the first horse to win by a nose are welcomed.

Snowy Morning's indifferent performance behind Afistfullofdollars in the Bobbyjo at Fairyhouse on Saturday has seen him relinquish his position at the head of the Grand National ante-post market. Cloudy Lane is the new favourite; SM is quoted as a 16/1 chance by both William Hill and Ladbrokes.

A snippet in yesterday's Observer wasn't particularly kind to bookie Freddie Williams' horse Donaldson after the animal trailed in last of nine runners in Saturday's opener at Kempton. That doesn't tell the whole story. Donaldson was challenging eventual winner Pigeon Island at the penultimate flight but hit it rather hard and then fell away; perhaps he's one to keep in mind. Ultra tough Pigeon Island is 14/1 for the Supreme Novices', the first race of the Festival; there are worse bets around.

Well done to the betting shop punter who walked into a Hill's shop in Yorkshire on Friday and placed a 50p accumulator on eight winning selections, netting himself a cool £1 million in the process. It sounds so deceptively simple, doesn't it?

With Cheltenham a little over two weeks away, pressure is building in the Tips' family household. Recently a friend of our daughter's was unable to attend a concert practice as she had been called up to play water polo instead. Mrs. Tips, at the end of a busy day, on hearing this news commented, 'Oh, so your friend rides as well, does she?' I was left with this picture of local council employees struggling to get all the horses into their bathers and then down the swimming pool for the 7.30 start...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Saturday's staying chases

The three mile Racing Post Chase at Kempton had been pencilled in as a possible Gold Cup preparation for Exotic Dancer but that idea was given short shrift earlier this week; my guess is that Exotic Dancer's owner, Sir Robert Ogden, fancies the chances of his Ungaro for this race. Paul Nicholls' Gungadu looks likely to go off favourite and is set to carry top weight - statistically a big weight hasn't necessarily been a drawback. Simon won this last year but, if my memory serves me correctly, the ground was riding soft that day and he stayed on to collar the leaders up the home straight. Connections must fear the good ground horses will have too much speed on this occasion. Lower down the handicap Hennessy second Dream Alliance could bounce back to form and run well at a price, while Burntoakboy's second behind Gungadu at Sandown gives him every chance. However I'm going with Ungaro who ran well behind An Accordion at Doncaster last time and has course and distance winning form.

At Newcastle eighteen go to post for the Eider Chase run over a stiff four miles one furlong. A case can be made for a few of these but Donald McCain's out and out stayer Bannister Lane has a racing weight (10-9) and looks worth an each-way interest. This horse wouldn't want the going to dry out too much.

Back at Kempton, Hobbs Hill, now owned by one J.P.McManus, should take the Pendil and Binocular the Adonis but both will make little appeal as betting propositions.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Friday's interesting runners

A few interesting runners at Warwick tomorrow, although no betting propositions to tempt. The opening juvenile hurdle looks quite hot with Flat recruits Metaphoric and Morning Farewell both catching the eye. The two previous winners in the field, Bantry Bere and Prideus, carry a penalty but command respect. On Racing Post ratings Hope Road has a bit to find with a few of these but he ran well last time to finish second at Plumpton on desperate going, having conceded a fair amount of ground at the start. The horse is priced up at 16/1 in tonight's Racing Post tissue - I'll check owner Andrew 'Bert' Black's blog tomorrow before deciding whether to have a small each-way interest.

In the 2.35 Sir Harry Ormesher's run behind Deep Purple is good form. Kia Kaha and Backstage are others to look out for. The distance of two miles three furlongs is something of an unknown for several in the field.

On official ratings Amber Brook will take the beating in the 3.45 while Arnold Layne returns in the next having fallen last time out and in the process put champion jockey Tony McCoy in hospital. That slip-up was out of character; at the time AL was travelling well in third and looked a player so he's likely to have a decent chance in this less competitive event. Connections have chosen to run here rather than go for Saturday's Eider Chase at Newcastle.

Paul Nicholls has put the current Arkle favourite Noland in Sandown's 3.30 with a view to giving the horse more jumping experience - anything less than a facile win will be seen as a big disappointment.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Walsh prefers the Master

The cold snap has seen off a few turf cards this week, so much of the news has centred around the opening of Great Leighs, which is scheduled for Friday April 4th, and updates on fancied horses for the Cheltenham Festival, which is now less than three weeks away.

Today's most signifcant update comes from the Nicholls' yard where Master Minded is the subject of glowing reports. The trainer is quoted as saying 'It is highly likely Ruby will ride Master Minded, although nothing is set in stone.' Master Minded is now best priced 11/4 for the Champion Chase; Hills go 9/4. Both Ladbrokes and Corals offer 3/1 Twist Magic.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Weekend update

The good news is that Kauto Star's suspected injury is not as serious as was first feared. The horse has a minor infection in a foot; Paul Nicholls has assured the media the horse is still on course for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Denman's price appears to have shortened with this news - he's a best priced 13/8 now, while Ladbrokes make both horses 5/4 joint favourites.

An interesting snippet to come out of the BBC's coverage at Ascot and Haydock was that senior handicapper Phil Smith would have allocated Snowy Morning an additional nine pounds for the Grand National if the weights had been framed a week later. Snowy Morning is a 10/1 favourite with several bookmakers although Corals are taking a different view and offer a miserly 7/1.

The Francois Doumen trained Kasbah Bliss turned around Long Walk Hurdle form with Lough Derg in no uncertain terms at Haydock yesterday. The turn of foot displayed after the last was impressive and brought to mind a piece Nick Mordin wrote in the Weekender dated 5-9 December 2007. In that article Nick talked about this horse's ability to quicken at the end of a three mile race. Previously this season KB had run twice in this country, disappointing on both occasions, but yesterday it was evident why he's held in high regard and is considered by some as the next Baracouda. Is this the horse to challenge Inglis Drever in the World Hurdle? Totesport and Corals offer 10/1 at the time of writing while Ladbrokes only go 7/1.

There was no sign of Angus 'Statto' Loughran during the BBC's racing coverage yesterday. When you're down on your luck, it appears the Corporation are only too willing to drop you like the proverbial hot potato...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Kauto injured?

This evening reports are circulating that Gold Cup favourite Kauto Star has suffered an injury following his facile success earlier today in the Commercial First Ascot Chase. The horse is reported to be lame behind; several bookmakers have suspended betting on the Gold Cup. Trainer Paul Nicholls is set to give an update tomorrow morning.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Notes for Haydock, Wincanton and Ascot

A conundrum for punters at Haydock tomorrow is that Peter Bowen runs fancied horses in the first three races - Serabad, Special Envoy and Souffleur - but the stable hasn't had a winner for well over a month. Wichita Lineman, who has run a couple of lethargic races this season, takes on Special Envoy in the second race but I'm going to take a chance on David Pipe's Lough Derg here on a track that tends to serve front runners well. In the Red Square Vodka Handicap Chase Philson Run appears to be getting better with age, which is more than can be said for yours truly. On his first run of the season PR was beaten seven lengths by D'Argent at Warwick over three miles five furlongs. That form reads well; he's worth an each-way interest at around 11/1 in a competitive race.

Over at Wincanton Katchit is the clear form choice for the Kingwell but I won't be tempted at too short a price with Amaretto Rose and Blythe Knight interesting runners returning after a break. On official ratings there isn't much between the six runners in the Country Gentleman's Association Limited Handicap Chase at 3.10. With the early tissue marking up Neptune Collonges odds on, I'll take a chance with Nigel Twiston-Davies' front runner Naunton Brook who ran third behind D'Argent and Philson Run last time.

At Ascot all eyes will be on Kauto Star in his final run before next month's Gold Cup. Apropos of nothing in particular, I'm still searching for a Royal and Sun Alliance Chase bet that offers some value. With that in mind, I will keep my powder dry but watch the opener very closely; the race has already been labelled a 'mini Sun Alliance'. Air Force One takes on Joe Lively while Albertas Run is interesting. The early tissue has AR at 5/1 while Donald McCain's Ice Tea is a 25/1 shot; both horses are officially rated 136 - AR is set to give IT three pounds here. Another potential RSA Chase runner of interest, Starzaan, is in a match with Duc De Regniere in the 4.15 at Wincanton. Starzaan is talented but has legs like glass - he certainly isn't one to bet ante-post.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

'Statto' is bust...

It would appear that it's not just Derren Brown who has been performing racing illusions recently. The BBC's betting expert, Angus 'Statto' Loughran, has been declared bankrupt.

I can hardly believe it. Is anything ever as it seems? With this news following on from the demise of the Ceefax racing service, can anyone tell us what is going on in the BBC's racing department?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Potential punts

Ante-post betting is difficult at the best of times and generally not something I go in for. Last night I was asked for a couple of bets that looked to offer some value for next month's Cheltenham Festival; here's what I came up with.

Deep Purple - Supreme Novices' Hurdle - 14/1 (Corals / Hills);
Leslingtaylor - Arkle - 14/1 generally - will appreciate decent ground;
Moon Over Miami - Arkle - 16/1 generally - broke blood vessel lto - Cheltenham suits;
Albertas Run - Sun Alliance Chase - 20/1 - possible dark horse tipped up by Malcolm Heyhoe;
Exotic Dancer - Gold Cup - 12/1 (Hills) - excellent each-way shout.

For those interested, details of forthcoming Cheltenham preview evenings are listed on the Channel 4 website.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Weekend feedback

The start to the Kingmaker at Warwick on Saturday was delayed when Big Buck's jockey Christian Williams discovered his swollen foot was unable to pass through the riding stirrup; Liam Heard was called on to deputise. Connections of favourite Moon Over Miami will not have appreciated the delay as their charge grew increasingly agitated with the prolonged wait. When the race finally started, Moon Over Miami broke a blood vessel on the first circuit and was subsequently pulled up; this effort can be safely ignored.

Saturday's guest on 'The Morning Line' was Mick Fitzgerald. John Francome had started to pursue a line of questioning with regard to Ruby Walsh's decision to ride Kauto Star rather than Denman in the Gold Cup. Although Mick didn't fully complete his answer, I thought he hinted that Ruby wasn't too pleased at having to make the call with the race still over four weeks away. The next question for Ruby is whether to ride Twist Magic or Master Minded in the Champion Chase.

Twelve months on and nobody can say The Listener didn't deserve to win the Irish Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup. Last year the horse appeared to have the race in the bag but dramatically ran out of petrol on the run to the line and was pipped at the post by Beef Or Salmon.

One guy big on enthusiasm is fresh-faced choirmaster Gareth Malone. On Friday evenings BBC2 is currently following his fortunes at Lancaster School in the programme 'The Choir: Boys Don't Sing'. Last week, in an attempt to persuade youngsters to engage, Gareth decided to recruit members to his staff choir. One recalcitrant teacher informed Mr. Malone that he had no intention of joining up as he was 'busy', then there was 'the wife' and then 'the horses'. I know exactly what the learned man means, it's just that I'm not sure he's got the order right.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Newbury and Warwick

There's an intriguing card at Newbury tomorrow. In the Aon Chase Denman has just the three opponents and will start long odds on - it's a race to watch rather than bet on.

In the Game Spirit, due off at 2.10, Champion Chase contender Voy Por Ustedes would appear to have a favourite's chance. Those looking for value may be tempted by Paul Nicholls' rising star Master Minded. On official handicap ratings MM has seven pounds to find. Last year Voy fell in this race; I'll back Master Minded provided he's priced around the 3/1 mark.

As always, the totesport Trophy Hurdle is incredibly difficult with twenty four going to post. My two each-way shouts against the field are the horses that finished a length and a neck behind Five Dream last time out - Donald McCain's Mohayer and David Pipe's Whispered Promises. At the time of writing, Five Dream is priced as a 7/2 favourite in places while Mohayer is 22/1 with Corals and Whispered Promises a 10/1 shot.

I haven't totally given up on Here's Johnny as a longhsot with a chance for the Royal and Sun Alliance Chase next month. He's priced at 20/1 for that race; he'll need to take the 1.35 to be in with a chance at Cheltenham.

Over at Warwick the Kingmaker (2.25) is no foregone conclusion. Charlie Mann's Moon Over Miami takes in this race as a preparation for the Arkle and will probably start favourite. I'm not convinced the short home straight will be right up his street. Kruguyrova looks weighted to reverse last month's defeat by Big Buck's and on official handicap ratings also has the beating of MOM - Kruguyrova is the selection.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Odds and sods

The news that Ruby Walsh has elected to ride Kauto Star in the Cheltenham Gold Cup leaves the way clear for Sam Thomas to partner Denman in Saturday's Aon Chase at Newbury.

On a day when the weights for this year's Grand National have generated plenty of discussion, I thought I'd check the current state of play with this year's contestants for the John Smith's People's Race which will be run on the same day. Of the original thirty two hopefuls, fourteen have won a place 'in training'. You can only be impressed by the commitment and bravery of these rookie riders; those of you who think riding a racehorse is as easy as falling out of a taxi should take a look at the trouble jockey Richard Thomas had on the way to the start a couple of years ago.

Donald McCain seemed sweet on Ice Tea's chance at the Festival in a recent Weekender 'Straight From The Stable' article. Ice Tea will certainly be worth keeping in mind given that he finished behind the well-regarded Joe Lively earlier in the season and last year the stable won the Kim Muir.

The Racing Post tissue prices up Kim Bailey's The Good Guy at a tempting 12/1 in tomorrow's opener at Ludlow. The horse finished second to Hold Em in a bumper on his first run of the season and then failed to see out the two mile five trip on good to soft next time. The switch back to two miles here should suit but the softer conditions may not; I'll consider an each way wager in the morning.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

System - what system?

Moon Over Miami, a decent horse in his own right and no forlorn hope for The Arkle at Cheltenham in March, looks like gaining a certain notoriety as a result of Derren Brown's programme entitled 'The System'. The horse put in a below par effort at Sandown last December, trailing in fourth of the five runners; that appeared to have busted Brown's system and left our our humble on-course punter £4000 out of pocket.

Of course, there never was any system. When an illusionist tells you he has a system for the horses, naturally you're going to be sceptical. In a nutshell, Brown had contacted a large number of individuals, sent them different selections for carefully selected races, resulting in one individual believing this man had a 100% guaranteed method of picking winners.

I'm kicking myself as I didn't videotape the programme. I thought it would be worth calculating very roughly how much hard cash Channel Four had pumped at bookmakers to create this illusion; you will have noticed, at the end of the programme, a credit appeared thanking all who had taken part and saying something to the effect that all losing bets had been refunded.

I'm sure there will be somebody out there who will have chronicled this in more detail; here's my take. A feature of the races chosen was the fields were generally small in size; Naunton Brook's victory over fifteen adversaries at Carlisle was an exception. For the purpose of my calculations, I'll assume each race had six runners.

Brown told us he'd initially contacted 7776 (6x6x6x6x6) random individuals, sent them a selection and told them to watch the race but not have a bet. The six runners in the field were divided between the 7776 random observers; 1296 potential punters would have watched their horse win. This has cost Channel Four nothing.

We now have 1296 players who are told to have a small bet on the next selection - let's say £5 - 1296 x 5 = £6480; 216 players will have a winner. Losing bets = 1080 x 5 = £5400.

216 players increase their stake to £20 - total wagered = £4320, with 36 winning. Losing bets = 180 x 20 = £3600.

36 players bet £50 - total wagered = £1800, with 6 winning. Losing bets = 30 x 50 = £1500.

6 players bet £150 - total wagered = £900, with just one winner. Losing bets = 5 x 150 = £750.

At Sandown, the final race, our top punter bets £4000 on Moon Over Miami. The horse disappoints (many say he needs a left-handed track, although the trainer does not necessarily agree). Our single mum appears to have lost £4000; but the sting in the tail is that Mr Brown has stuck the £4,000 on the actual winner, Marodima. So, you'd say the TV company has bet all the five actual runners to the tune of £4000. One winning bet but four losing bets @ £4000 = £16000.

Total losing bets = £5400+£3600+£1500+£750+£16000 = £27250.

Of course, this is just a fraction of the sum a TV company might charge just one company to advertise their wares during the commercial breaks that interrupted this particular programme. Another apparent irony was the use of totesport's personable Gary Wiltshire as the bookie with cigars who couldn't fail to run off with punters' dosh - regular racegoers will be well aware that Gary used to run his own bookmaking business...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Sandown on Saturday

The highlight at Sandown tomorrow is the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase due off at 3.10. Hobbs Hill obliged for this blog earlier in the season and I'm keeping the faith here with Paddy Brennan replacing Tony McCoy in the plate. The five length defeat of Silverburn giving that horse seven pounds at Newbury reads well. Lead On is respected but if there is to be an upset, Wee Robbie might be the one. WR came from a long way behind on his first run of the season recently to collar Mahogany Blaze at Ascot. He's well regarded and the step up in distance here will suit.

Only five go to post in the Totescoop6 Contenders Hurdle; on offical ratings it looks a match between Afsoun and Straw Bear. Neither appears the most hardy of performers but I prefer Straw Bear, although the price will be of no interest. The ground on the hurdle course is currently described as soft, heavy in places which should pose no problem for Northern raider Bywell Beau.

Over at Doncaster all eyes will be on Arkle favourite Tidal Bay in the 1.35. I saw Leslingtaylor win at Aintree in October but he fell last time out; this course should play to his strengths. TB looks the one but his price will be prohibitive.

Favourites have a poor record in the 3.00. Pablo Du Charmil likes to race from the front while Castleford Chase winner Calatagan looks a little inconsistent. I feel Lennon hasn't really delivered to his potential so I'd be prepared to take a chance on first time blinkers helping Alan King's Howle Hill collect the spoils.