Friday, May 30, 2008

York, Goodwood and Haydock

On official handicap ratings Henry Cecil's Tranquil Tiger looks the one to beat in the 3.25 at York, provided the rain doesn't arrive; the selection was withdrawn from a race earlier in the week on account of soft ground. Last time out TT beat Regal Flush ten lengths at Newbury; it's interesting to note however that was RF's first run of the season. There's likely to be improvement to come and RF is also the top-rated animal by the Racing Post. TT's time looked respectable at Newbury given the windy conditions - he gets the vote here.

Goodwood is well known as a tricky track that doesn't suit all types; in the On The House Stakes at 3.35 I'm not overly confident but will take a chance with Caldra. This horse hasn't obliged since 2006 and doesn't look particularly easy to win with, but, having said that, he has done so over course and distance and he handles easy ground.

Up at Haydock nine go to post in the competitive-looking Group 3 J.W. Lees Stakes over seven furlongs. Beckermet hasn't won over seven while Major Cadeaux is respected but I'm siding with Appalachian Trail who did the business over course and distance three weeks ago and has something in hand over his rivals on both official ratings and Racing Post ratings.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sandown this evening

There's a top class card at Sandown this evening. Punjabi, better known for his hurdling exploits, goes in the first and will be hard to beat. Royal And Regal will be strongly fancied to make amends in the two mile Betfair Henry II Stakes, having been pipped at the post in the Yorkshire Cup last time out. I'm tempted to take a chance on Godolphin's Iguazu Falls in the 8.20. The horse faded badly last time but the stable were out of form. He will handle the soft conditions here and offers some value against likely favourite Virtual.

Iguazu Falls may handle soft ground, but it looks as though the recent wet spell has sent Henrythenavigator off course. Aidan O'Brien has stated it's unlikely 'Henry' will turn up at Epsom next Saturday for the Derby. Apparently Henry is a 'summer ground' horse; with summers like ours, who needs winters?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Notes in running

Two performances stood out over the weekend - Henrythenavigator's victory in the Irish 2000 Guineas and Fleeting Spirit's run in Haydock's Temple Stakes. Henrythenavigator looks as though he'll be making his way to Epsom for the Derby, while the filly Fleeting Spirit shaved over a second off the five furlong course record at Haydock and now heads for the King Stand's Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Henrythenavigator may know which way he's going but both Sam Thomas and Ruby Walsh have had trouble in that department over the past week. Sam Thomas took the wrong course at Fakenham last Monday while Ruby Walsh mistakenly sent his mount over the water jump at Stratford on Friday evening when riding a finish. Paul Nicholls now finds himself in the position of having his two top riders serving a ban for taking the wrong course. At Stratford's Saturday evening meeting adjustments were made to the manner in which the water jump was dolled off in order to avoid an embarrassing repetition of Ruby's mistake.

High Street bookmaking is a competitive business; differentiators such as customer service are all important. Recently, in a Coventry branch of Ladbrokes, I picked up two leaflets entitled 'Did we get it right today?' and 'Are we meeting our promises?' The latter publication tells me Labrokes are committed to providing 'the best possible service'. Ladbrokes' boss Chris Bell appears to have been singularly unimpressed with British Airways' approach to customer service during a recent flight and, according to this Times report, hasn't been slow in letting the airline know about it...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Irish 2000 Guineas

Eight runners are set to go to post for tomorrow's Boylesports Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh. The first three in the English Guineas meet once again, with many commentators convinced the race is between Newmarket victor Henrythenavigator and New Approach. At the time of writing New Approach is generally 11/8 while Henrythenavigator is 7/4. Stubbs Art, a 100/1 shot at Newmarket, finished four lengths behind the principals and makes some appeal as an each-way wager in this, provided the eight take their chance. He's currently priced at 16/1; trainer David Elsworth seems quite upbeat about the horse's chance and has persuaded the owner to shell out the sizeable supplementary fee. Aidan O'Brien's Jupiter Pluvius looks a dark horse. Casting my mind back to discussion before the season's first classic, I'm sure a couple of commentators rated this horse the best of the Ballydoyle entries before his unfortunate withdrawal; he looks bred for speed, but, if he stays the trip, I think he will go close. I'm going out on a bit of a limb and will back Jupiter Pluvius to win at around 8/1 and Stubbs Art each way at 16/1 or bigger.

There's a decent jumps card at Stratford tomorrow evening, the highlight being the Champion Hunters' Chase over three and a half miles, due off at 7.20. Peter Bowen's Take The Stand will be popular but I'll look closely at Natiain; on official handicap ratings he's the one they all have to beat. Regular pilot Harry Haynes has recently turned professional, so top amateur Ollie Greenhall gets the leg-up. There's a fair chance Natiain will try to make all; in the Weekender Carl Evans reports that trainer Alistair Brown is 'quietly confident'. Natiain rates a bet at around the 4/1 mark.

Finally Coral go 6/1 Queen of the South to lift the Scottish Cup and 10/1 the Dumfries side will get the job done in ninety minutes; given Rangers' recent schedule, those prices look tempting...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

After all that, this...

York's midweek trials may have shaken up the Derby and Oaks markets but Geordieland's thrilling victory in the Yorkshire Cup on Friday was most emotional and will live long in the memory of many. Jockey Shane Kelly's return to race-riding following a twelve month ban for 'passing information' is a success story in its own right; this win will count as his biggest to date - full credit to trainer Jamie Osborne who stood by the rider through thick and thin. On the subject of corruption, I'm sure Kieren Fallon will have a view about the verdict on the police inquiry into race-fixing, reported on the same day.

Following Comply Or Die's win in this year's Grand National, regular readers may recall I wondered when was the last time a blinkered horse had won the Aintree marathon. Sad, I know, but I mailed Channel 4's Teletext service with my query - I still await a reply. However today, browsing in Waterstone's (Leamington branch), I stumbled across the answer in a book entitled A-Z of the Grand National. In the last seventy years or so only five National winners have worn blinkers: Battleship (1938); Foinavon (1967); L'Escargot (1975); Earth Summit (1998) and, of course, Comply Or Die (2008).

Just down the road from Waterstone's in Leamington Spa is the Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum. One of the texts available for perusal at that establishment is 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die, (editor Stephen Farthing). Being the wrong side of fifty, I tend to browse through this work whenever the chance presents itself. One of the 1001 paintings is Mark Wallinger's 'Half Brothers (Exit To Nowhere - Machiavellian)'. Paul Bonaventura, Senior Research Fellow, Fine Art Studies, University of Oxford, comments on the painting: 'Like art, horseracing subscribes to its own set of invented rules...' As if we didn't know.

I couldn't help but be struck by the contrasting performances of two TV pundits today. Harry Findlay's enthusiasm on The Morning Line was infectious; Mark Lawrenson's comments during the FA Cup Final were tedious.

An unusual thing happened earlier in the week - I received some unsolicited mail that was of marginal interest. The literature for Scottish Racing's Tartan Turf Tours opens with the line 'What could be better than a few days racing, a round of golf, a tour of the local distillery and a walk in the hills?' The answer is quite plain - a few days racing and a tour of the local distillery.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Newbury and Doncaster

Twelve go to post in a competitive-looking renewal of the Group 1 Juddmonte Lockinge Stakes at Newbury tomorrow. On official handicap ratings the seven year old Cesare is the the one to beat; the bookmakers make him their 3/1 favourite. On Racing Post ratings Godolphin's Creachadoir comes out best and the RP top-rated has won this four times in the last ten years; on the other hand the stable has been slow to find its form this season. I'm going to take a chance with Creachadoir - he's priced up at 11/2 in the early evening tissue show. In the same race the each-way value has to be Mick Channon's Majestic Roi. Dick Hunter has highlighted the horse's chance at 25/1 in the Weekender; at the time of writing he's a 20/1 shot.

In the preceding race at 2.10 Regal Flush is the one with something in hand over all his rivals. As in the Lockinge, I'm concerned about Saeed Bin Suroor's stable form but again I'm tempted to take the chance. Usually I'd spread the risk but on this occasion I'm going to back the two Godolphin runners - there have been a couple of encouraging signs in the past few days.

Moving to Doncaster's evening meeting I will have to have an each-way interest in the Tom Dascombe trained Parisian Gift at 8.20 as the registered owners are 'The PG Tipsters'. The horse has won over the specialist distance of seven furlongs, although this is the first time the gelding will have raced on ground so quick. The early show has the horse at 14/1 - if he wins, I'll get the tea bags out.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What price a Rangers win?

Rangers play Zenit St Petersburg in tonight's UEFA Cup Final at the City of Manchester Stadium. I've just been approached by a member of staff who asked me what was the return on a £10 bet at 2-1. After a (slight) delay, I replied £30. Then came the question... 'So why does it say in Ladbrokes' shop window, "Rangers to win 2-1, £10 wins you £130?"' Tea, no sugar, please.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sadler's Wells calls it a day...

At the ripe old age of twenty seven, Sadler's Wells has decided to call it a day and retire from his stud duties. Well, you would, wouldn't you? The reason given - 'declining fertility'. Hey, give a horse a break... The Sporting Life reports Coolmore manager Christy Grassick as saying that Sadler's Wells is generally acknowledged as 'the best sire Europe has ever seen'.

Coolmore's website lists the stud record. He has sired 1825 foals, of which 1473 saw a racecourse, with 961 winning and 251 reaching a place. I was unable to determine exactly how many mares he covered. Let's hope he has a long, happy retirement...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Weekend update

First of all, my apologies for the fact that I didn't post any selections for Saturday. Look on the bright side, I've saved you your stake money.

It's been a bit of a hectic weekend. Earlier today, I attended the City Of Coventry Youth Orchestra's 'Music From The Movies' performance at the Arts Centre, University of Warwick. Mrs Tips has been trying to widen my rather narrow horizons. Iain Lauchlan provided witty interludes to the music and singing; at half-time (I should say 'the interval') Mrs T. struck up a conversation with the lady in the next seat who turned out Mr Lauchlan's wife. Fortunately, at that point, I hadn't made any indiscreet comments about the compere...

In a similar vein, I couldn't help but smile at one of Michael Owen's comments when the Channel 4 cameras visited his training facility at Malpas in Cheshire. To paraphrase, Michael said that taking abuse came with the territory for footballers but, in stark contrast, people in racing were far more polite. Obviously I don't move the right circles. I guess Ms. Zara Phillips does, but her first runner as a trainer, Manor Down, was pulled up at Cheltenham's hunter chasing meeting last Wednesday.

The Lingfield Derby trial lost much of its interest with the withdrawal of Luca Cumani's Curtain Call on account of fast ground. In the Oaks trial Look Here didn't handle the course. In the coming week the big York meeting will take centre stage from Wednesday onwards.

A number of readers have told me they preferred FirstTimeRacgoer's recent post to the drivel I routinely pump out. I don't care, I'm going to carry on regardless...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Express single Chester to Aintree please!

There are some trappy-looking races at Chester tomorrow. Achill Island would appear the percentage call in the Dee Stakes at 2.15, especially with the O'Brien team having been in such good form during the week. Trying to work through the remainder of the card, my attention was suddenly distracted by the first two of the evening just up the road at Aintree. By my reckoning, it would be a bit of a push to watch the 4.35 finale at Chester and then get to Aintree in time for the opener at 5.45, particularly if you're intent on using the Merseyrail option; I wonder how many will try...

Khacaturian is the form horse in the first but he's not certain to stay two and a half miles; Alan King's entry Your Amount was just touched off over that distance last time and is preferred.

Zilcash is likely to start a warm order for the Foinavon Novices' Chase at 6.15 but, for the time of year, this looks a competitive heat. On Racing Post ratings there's not much between Zilcash, Cape Greko and Chaninbar. Aintree's fast track is likely to suit Cape Greko who is the top-rated speed horse in the race; McCoy rides and at 3/1 he looks a potential play against the favourite. Many will look to dismiss Chaninbar - in his last run he came second at Sedgefield - but it would be a mistake to do so as that happened to be a Class 2 handicap chase. The return to two miles here shouldn't be an issue and the better ground is a bonus; he's 6/1 this evening. If the prices quoted are on offer tomorrow, backing both Cape Greko and Chaninbar will offer a better return than backing Zilcash, while a more expansive approach would be to take a chance on Chaninbar.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Chester Cup

Seventeen go to post in tomorrow's Chester Cup which is due off at 2.45. Although the race is over two miles and the best part of three furlongs, the draw is still considered important given the tight nature of the track. As I indicated in an earlier post, this race has been the target for Philip Hobbs' Fair Along for some time but stall sixteen looks a major disadvantage; having said that, Greenwich Meantime won from that berth last year. Over the last ten years the winner has come from a single figure draw on seven occasions. It looks as though Jamie Spencer was first choice jockey for Fair Along but Jamie has opted for Highland Legacy who is the Racing Post's top rated horse and the bookmakers' favourite. The one that caught my eye and struck me as a sporting each-way bet was my old friend Full House. The oldest horse in the race, he had a recent warm-up over hurdles, will appreciate drying ground and will come out of stall one provided in-form trainer Paul Webber allows him to take his chance. This evening the Racing Post reports that Full House will only run provided the going is good.

Guest blogger - FirstTimeRacegoer

Last week a work colleague, who had never been to the races before, asked me what I thought of going to Warwick on a Bank Holiday Monday. I tried to dissuade him, but to no avail. Here's his account of the day's events...
For years the other half has been trying to persuade me to attend a race meeting - her interest goes back to previous employment working for a racing yard and travelling the country to attend meetings. My interest was well.... non existent! I seem to have decided that horse racing is simply not a spectator sport and definitely is a participant sport ie strictly for the gambling community only. So why did I give in?

Does anyone recognise "partner pestering syndrome"? Anyone else simply given in to it just for a quiet life? Well there's your answer, plus the little matter of 2 for the price of one admission and special free "Family Fun Day Attractions". The latter point was a major selling point too, anyone with a 4 year old will know they have the attention span of... well a 4 year old and this has to be factored into any family day out particularly a sporting event.

First impressions of Warwick racecourse were pretty positive, we got there early to take advantage of bouncy inflatable, face painting, fun bus etc and there was certainly enough to amuse the toddlers. We had tickets for the Main enclosure. The family fun stuff was in the "other enclosure". I don't recall it's real name but if you wanted to cross over it was an extra tenner. However it created an interesting segregation in that the family funners were on one side of the track having family fun, you know the stuff, crying, falling out, getting tipsy, getting separated, getting sun stroke etc, whilst on the other side it was all a little more civilised; binoculars, wine, smart clothes, properly formed vowel sounds etc. I couldn't help wishing the Family Funners would revolt and storm the main enclosure en masse in a kind of class war, believe me some of that face painting looked pretty scary.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot the racing. I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. The first race started, or should I say didn't start, with a loose horse (see pic). Quite a spectacle really, it just went round and round for ages until it simply collapsed on the far side and was taken away by a horse ambulance. The missus told me it was because it was racing for the first time with "blinkers", and it was only its second race; by her tone of voice it was very much to be expected, so there. And therein lies the rub, there was a distinct impression that the race card was not of the absolute highest order, there were several non starters and some horses who simply decided they didn't want to go into starting gate thing. Also lots of races with horses that hadn't raced before and seemed to be very young. And yes, I did have a flutter, and yes I was right - you do really need to do so to get a proper buzz from the racing. Sadly choosing horses with nice names and colourful racejackets really doesn't work so I was slightly out of pocket overall but nothing serious. I would definitely do it all again and can highly recommend it and it's also worth remembering that next time your partner pesters you with a good idea they might just be right!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Guineas weekend roundup

New Approach was beaten for the first time in his racing career when going down by a nose to Henrythenavigator in a thrilling finish to yesterday's 2000 Guineas. Natagora proved beyond doubt that she stays a mile by deservedly taking the 1000 Guineas but Nahoodh would have been a big threat if she'd had a clear run. It's back to the drawing board for Godolphin with Ibn Khaldun giving a most disappointing display on Saturday and Laureldean Gale getting worked up beforehand on Sunday. Sir Alex Ferguson isn't accustomed to finishing last but the horse in which he owns a share, Fireside, did exactly that in the colts' race. To be fair, the horse struck into himself early on; connections say the plan is to lower their sights a little and look for a handicap or listed race.

It's that time of year. I've just switched off the central heating and next week one of my favourite Flat meetings, the Chester May Festival, takes centre stage from Wednesday to Friday. The highlight on the first day is the Chester Cup run over two miles three furlongs. I draw your attention to Philip Hobbs' comments about Fair Along from the Weekender dated 20-24 February - "Whatever happens [at Cheltenham] or at Aintree, make a note of him for the Flat because his big target is the Chester Cup..." Hobbs goes on to say he'd like Jamie Spencer, who gets on very well with the horse, to ride; looking at the entries on Sunday evening Spencer is booked to ride Highland Legacy while Ryan Moore is booked for Fair Along. Read into that what you will.

Regular readers will be aware that my home town team, Wrexham, were relegated from the Football League a couple of weeks ago. In their last league match, at Lincoln City, Wrexham went out with a bang, winning by four goals to two. A rather unsympathetic work colleague (who happens to support Chester City) kindly sent me an email link to the Conference website. Manager Brian Little has recently signed a new two-year contract; can Wrexham bounce straight back next season? They may well do, but I, for one, won't have any money on it.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

1000 Guineas

Natagora looks the one to beat in tomorrow's 1000 Guineas at Newmarket; on Racing Post ratings she is clearly the best horse in the race. There has been a question about her staying the mile but connections are confident she can see out the trip - the draw in stall thirteen doesn't look ideal. Infallible was an impressive winner of the Nell Gwyn; in post race comments trainer John Gosden immediately identified Natagora as the big danger to his charge. Muthabara won at Newbury a fortnight ago while still sporting her winter coat. That prompted plenty of comment; the word is she still looks pretty woolly but she has also been the subject of an injury scare over the last forty eight hours and isn't certain to take part. John Fanshawe's Spacious is another worthy of serious consideration. If I get involved, I'll look for an each way bet on an outsider; two that catch the eye are Max One Two Three and Nahoodh. Andrew 'Bert' Black has a share in Max One Two Three and he's quite sweet on the filly's chances; she's 40/1 in most places and looks to have decent place prospects. Mick Channon's Nahoodh is priced up at 33/1 in some books which looks big. Granted, the yard has been slow into its stride and her performance in the Fred Darling at Newbury was below par. Having said that, it's obvious the trainer holds her in the highest regard.

A soccer postscript - I don't like football betting at all but Skybet go 5/1 Hibernian to beat Rangers in tomorrow's Scottish Premier League clash at Easter Road, while totesport go 11/4 the draw. Following Thursday's semi-final efforts in the UEFA Cup (extra-time and penalties), Rangers may well be vulnerable - the match is certainly no foregone conclusion. The two bets against a Rangers' win could yield a profit.

Friday, May 02, 2008

2000 Guineas

The two hundredth running of the Two Thousand Guineas takes place at Newmarket tomorrow, with fifteen going to post. Jim Bolger's colt New Approach looks certain to go off a very well-backed favourite; I'll oppose him on grounds of value and the fact that favourites don't have a particularly good record in this race. Raven's Pass was beaten by Twice Over in the Craven just over two weeks ago; many observers felt that Twice Over would confirm that form but he isn't in tomorrow's lineup. Godolphin's Ibn Khaldun has been the subject of favourable reports while Henrythenavigator appears to be Coolmore's main hope - good fast ground will suit. Perfect Stride from the Stoute yard is unexposed, could be anything and is respected. At this time of year you're very much dependent on the comments of connections - I'll side with Godolphin's Ibn Khaldun who still has a little to find on two year old ratings but is open to improvement; Frankie Dettori rides. Of the outsiders, Sir Alex Ferguson has a share in Fireside but connections admit to 'tilting at windmills'. Andrew Balding's Dream Eater is of more interest, particularly as he's marked up at 66/1 with William Hill this evening. The horse is considered the best in the yard - if he stays the mile trip he has place prospects. At that price I'll have a small each way bet.