Saturday, June 28, 2008

Irish Derby deliberations...

On Friday evening an injury scare came to light which has threatened Epsom Derby winner New Approach's participation in the Irish Derby at the Curragh. On Saturday evening the Racing Post reports that connections will make a decision early Sunday morning; the horse has heat in a foot and is said to be 'not totally comfortable' in his box.

The question I'm asking myself is this - provided New Approach is allowed to take his chance, what price about Tartan Bearer will offer value, given the concerns surrounding the favourite? I'll be tempted by anything bigger than 5/2...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Weekend action

Twenty go to post in the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle tomorrow; several in the field ran at Ascot last week and, generally, Ascot runners have a good record in this. Nonetheless a few appeared to have a hard race, including Bukit Tinggi who has been kept busy this season. The draw can play an important part even though the race is over two miles; I tend to favour low numbered runners as they can hold a handy position more easily. Two that catch my eye and should handle the likely cut in the ground are Highland Legacy and Tilt. Both come to this fresh having run in the Chester Cup where Tilt, finishing third at level weights, came out on top. I think the pair are closely matched again but take the view that Highland Legacy didn't quite see out the two miles two furlong trip and, drawn in stall two here, can reverse the form giving Tilt, less favourably drawn in berth eleven, two pounds.

On Sunday it would be easy to miss the English Summer National run over four miles at Uttoxeter. Grand National fifth Philson Run, no spring chicken at the age of twelve, would have been a sporting each-way bet had the ground come up on the slow side but the forecast going (good to firm) makes me think a few of these will have a bit too much pace for the old-timer.

The Irish Derby at the Curragh, also on Sunday, looks fascinating with several runners from the English version choosing to try their luck again. Dermot Weld, trainer of Casual Conquest, has said that he doesn't think his horse can now find the five lengths he was beaten last time when finishing third. The race would appear to be between the first two at Epsom, New Approach and Tartan Bearer, and, unsurprisingly, the official ratings confirm that view. I know a few commentators felt the race at Epsom developed into something of a sprint up the home straight; I'm not brave enough to oppose New Approach so will maintain a watching brief but for those who are, Tartan Bearer looks the value.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Royal Ascot assessed

This proved a vintage Royal Ascot for Aidan O'Brien and his team, the highlight being Yeats' third consecutive victory in the Gold Cup on Thursday. By way of contrast, my own figures make for dismal reading with three wins (Henrythenavigator 4/7, Duke Of Marmalade evens, and Honolulu 7/4) and two places from thirteen selections, returning a level stakes loss of 6.68 points over the course of the week.

I will remember this year for Duke Of Marmalade's win in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes on Wednesday, Patkai's scintillating turn of foot in the Queen's Vase and John Best shouting home Kingsgate Native, his 33/1 winner of the Golden Jubilee. By the way, did anyone else notice Her Majesty have a momentary attack of the 'jelly legs' after her two year old Free Agent came from last to first to win the Chesham?

Mrs Tips has insisted I take a break from racing so we're off to Wimbledon on Wednesday. Today a couple of the Sunday papers have led with stories about corruption in professional tennis but it's interesting to note that Harry Findlay, who has wagered an awful lot of money on the sport, believes the game to be absolutely straight. That should give Sue Barker something to discuss during the inevitable rain breaks...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Royal Ascot - Saturday

It hasn't been a particularly good Royal Ascot for yours truly. Mrs Tips put the top hat on today's dismal performance by walking into the living room, picking Lush Lashes because she liked the name (wins @ 5/1) and then returning ten minutes later to gloat. What little confidence I had has been shot to pieces; I'm going back to novice hurdles at Hereford.

Royal Ascot has been famously described as a garden tea party with a bit of racing thrown in on the side - the BBC's coverage tends to pander to that view. Solely for the sake of completeness, you understand, here are two selections for tomorrow...

Maraahel obliged for this blog last year when winning the Hardwicke Stakes and goes for the same race again but I fear old age is catching up with him - the Weekender informs us it's over 100 years since a horse aged seven or older has won this. The favourite has only won once in the last ten years which doesn't bode well for Macarthur so I'm going to take a chance with Sir Michael Stoute's course and distance winner Spanish Moon.

In the concluding Queen Alexandra Stakes which is run over a marathon distance just shy of two and three quarter miles, Aidan O'Brien's Honolulu stands out on ratings and, provided he stays, must have a major chance. Ballydoyle has had an excellent week - with an air of quiet desperation, I hope Honolulu can put a smile back on my face.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Royal Ascot - Friday

Only nine go to post in the King Edward VII Stakes at 3.05 but it still looks pretty competitive. Several commentators fancy Bronze Cannon who is surely better than his official handicap rating of 103. His defeat of subsequent Derby fourth Doctor Fremantle reads very well but the fast ground is a cause of some concern. Ballydoyle's representative Hebridean is respected but I've concentrated on the two top-rated animals according to the official handicapper, All The Aces and City Leader. Using Doctor Freemantle as a yardstick, you could argue that Bronze Cannon would have the measure of All The Aces, but the 10/1 on offer at Ladbrokes makes City Leader an interesting each-way proposition.

Cheveley Park hold a strong hand in the Coronation Stakes with market leaders Spacious and Infallible; I see Spacious as the most likely winner. The one that has caught my eye here is Nahoodh. I tipped her each-way at 33/1 in the Guineas where she met trouble in running but would have gone close otherwise. Since then she has disappointed over in Ireland, had a change of owner and a change of trainer as well. Many see her as inconsistent and new handler Mark Johnston, writing in the Weekender, says, 'She has put on a bit of weight which isn't ideal just before a race, but will take her chance nonetheless.' Doesn't sound too convincing, does it? I may have a small each-way investment as 10/1 is a big price if she runs to her best form.

Finally, in the two mile Queen's Vase, Captain Webb, also from the Mark Johnston stable, looks a value play against the Michael Stoute trained favourite Patkai.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Royal Ascot - Thursday

Thursday is Ladies' Day and the main attraction, the ladies aside of course, is the Ascot Gold Cup which is run over two and a half miles. Aidan O'Brien's Yeats is on a hat-trick, having won this twice previously; his crown looks under threat from French raider Coastal Path who comes to this unbeaten in six starts. Yeats obliged for this blog last year but I'm going to jump ship and support Coastal Path. Last Saturday on Channel Four Racing Timeform chief Jim McGrath put up Coastal Path as his best bet of the meeting; any rain that falls between now and the off will only improve the selection's chance. Godolphin's Sagara looks unexposed here and may provide some value for those in search of an each-way wager.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Royal Ascot - Wednesday

The weather forecast predicts overcast skies for tomorrow and Thursday (Ladies' Day).

Those looking for last minute fashion tips might be interested in what the BBC has to say on the matter. Those looking for last minute horse racing tips may not be interested in what I have to say on the matter.

Just two for Wednesday - I tend to find that limiting the number of selections helps keep the losses down. In the Windsor Forest Stakes, due off at 3.05, I'm siding with Sir Michael Stoute's Heaven Sent. Cheveley Park Stud regularly target this meeting - in an earlier preview a representative put up Heaven Sent as their best chance of a winner at the entire meeting. French raider Sabana Perdida, third in this last year, is feared most.

In the Prince of Wales's Stakes I take Aidan O'Brien's Duke Of Marmalade to collect the spoils. In his last race at the Curragh he held Finsceal Beo one and a quarter lengths; Finsceal Beo ran well to finish third in the Queen Anne earlier today.

The thirty runner cavalry charge that is the Royal Hunt Cup takes place at 4.20. In all probability a horse called Bankable will be sent off one of the shortest priced favourites in the long history of this race. Journalists may try to tempt you with stories of Bankable being the banker of the meeting; make sure you stand firm and resist such temptation.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Royal Ascot - Tuesday

Hmm - tomorrow isn't looking too good - the annual staff appraisal in the morning followed by the annual bookmakers' benefit in the afternoon...

The opening Queen Anne Stakes over a mile is missing both Creachadoir (injured) and Ramonti (going for the Sussex at Goodwood). Both the fillies, Darjina and Finsceal Beo, are in with a shout on their best form; of the two I prefer Jim Bolger's Finsceal Beo who looked to be coming back to her best last time out behind Duke Of Marmalade. Having said that, a filly hasn't won this in the last ten years. Cesare is consistent, has won over course and distance and will run his race but at the age of seven may find one or two too good; four year olds have the best record in this event. I'm going to take a chance with Tariq who looked unlucky in running and was staying on in the Lockinge at Newbury - connections feel the trip shouldn't be a problem.

Fleeting Spirit will be all the rage in the King's Stand following her win at Haydock last time where she broke the track record. The form is in the book but I'm cautious - she is not one to bet at short odds. Haydock's fast five furlongs is rather different to the stiff five at Ascot; in addition older horses have a better record.

Henrythenavigator is the form horse in the St James's Palace Stakes but he will be long odds-on.

In Raceform Update's Royal Ascot Guide, using his own ratings, Peter May makes a case for Mick Channon's Orizaba in the Coventry at 4.20. The market has provided a good indicator to this over the last twenty years and Orizaba should be thereabouts.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Low key Saturday

With Royal Ascot around the corner and everybody asking about the weather forecast, tomorrow's racing just doesn't quite cut it. At Sandown Corrybrough looks the one in the Scurry Stakes over the minimum trip although he's likely to start odds-on and doesn't have a particularly good draw. I was intending to keep my powder dry for next week but, for some unfathomable reason, the 4.00 at York has caught my imagination. There are only eight declared but a number look unexposed. In the last ten years, the lowest Racing Post rating of the winner has been 91 - four of the particpants here have a lower figure. The top animal is Doon Hamer and he's priced up at 12/1 this evening which looks a tempting each-way proposition. A couple of months ago Deadly Silence, rated only 70, finished under five lengths third behind subsequent Derby second Tartan Bearer in a Leicester maiden; he's on offer at 5/1. Swinging Sixties is bound to be popular and Military Power is a feasible option. All in all, it's rather a trappy race but Deadly Silence looks to have potential and is worth chancing at 5/1 while Doon Hamer offers each-way value if priced in double figures. Incidentally, the people of Dumfries are known as 'Doonhamers'.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Derby debrief

To me, this looked a decent renewal of the Derby and New Approach's victory something to celebrate. Yet the undercurrent of controvesy and recrimination which has surrounded this horse's participation was never far away, even in the winner's enclosure; Jim Bolger strikes me as an individual who won't lose too much sleep over all that. The first three home could meet again in the Irish Derby three weeks hence.

Statto, the BBC's 'betting expert', appears to have sorted out his money problems. The Corporation didn't want Angus giving his market commentaries at Aintree's Grand National meeting while he still had a bankruptcy case hanging over him. Viewers will have been pleased to see The Numerate One back on our screens, together with the laconic Gary Wiltshire, the over-dressed Claire Balding et al...

There will be no more racing at Epsom this season while building work is completed. I'm looking forward to taking Mrs Tips to the new on-site hotel...

Just eight days until Royal Ascot starts; I must locate a copy of Raceform Update's Royal Ascot Guide.

Over the weekend I struck a deal with Mrs Tips. I watched the Derby day racing on Saturday while she watched the men's singles final from Roland Garros on Sunday. Nadal's defeat of Federer may have been expected but the manner of that defeat certainly wasn't. Will this be the year Roger Federer relinquishes his Wimbledon crown? Hills bet 11/10 Federer and 4/1 Djokovic while Nadal is 9/2 with Coral.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Epsom Derby

Finding the answer to this year's Derby doesn't look an easy task and, to be honest, I don't think I'm up to it. In nine of the last ten runnings the winner has come from the first four in the betting; using that yardstick, at the time of writing, you're invited to pick one from Casual Conquest, Curtain Call, New Approach and Tartan Bearer. Casual Conquest, installed as the favourite, is short on racecourse experience, while the right noises having been coming out of the Cumani stable about Curtain Call, yet he doesn't look to have had the best of the draw. Opinion is divided as to whether New Approach will stay but, as the top-rated animal in the field, he will have a major chance if he does. The preliminaries may well pose a problem for NA; he was given 'special dispensation' in the Guineas to hack down to post with his accompanying pony, resulting in the race starting late and other runners becoming fractious on account of the delay. At least two trainers have already indicated to the Epsom stewards this must not be allowed to happen tomorrow. The temperament issue is something to consider with this horse, so I'll pass over him. That leaves Sir Michael Stoute's Tartan Bearer who won the Dante by a head from Frozen Fire. As I highlighted in my post on Tuesday, that was Frozen Fire's first run of the season; he looked green and hung quite a bit - if he'd run straight, he would probably have won. I quietly fancied FF but that was blown out of the water on Wednesday when stable jockey Johnny Murtagh chose to ride King Of Rome, saying he thought that horse had shown most improvement at home. King Of Rome is now 12/1 while FF is out to 20/1 with Ladbrokes. All very confusing, isn't it? You pay your money and takes your choice; I'm going to stick with the Dante form and put up Tartan Bearer to collect the spoils while Frozen Fire, with a favourable draw and Mick Kinane in the plate, represents a decent each-way alternative.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Oaks Day at Epsom

I haven't done a lot of work on tomorrow's card at Epsom but perhaps that's no bad thing. In the Coronation Cup at 3.25 Mick Channon's Youmzain is too big at 8/1, is in with a chance of winning on his best form, and in any case, at that price, rates an each-way wager for the more cautiously-minded.

In the Oaks Clive Cox's filly Miracle Seeker is one with a good attitude. On the formbook she has loads to find with the principals but the drying ground will suit, she will stay and her latest win at Lingfield means she should handle the course. The trainer, writing in the Weekender, is sweet enough on her chances ("...if she can repeat on the track what I've seen her do at home she is definitely in with a chance..." ) considering the bookmakers have priced her up at 40/1. The draw in stall two doesn't appear to have done her any favours but she's a sporting selection to run into a place.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Some early value for the 2008 Derby?

My record in the Derby is atrocious - just one win in well over forty years. Still, that's not going to stop me trying... Last night the going at Epsom was reported to be good to soft with heavy rain expected; it certainly rained steadily throughout the night in Coventry. I took it on myself to go through the eighteen five day declarations and concentrate on those priced at less than 20/1 that had shown some liking for easier going.

Jim Bolger's New Approach is the top-rated animal on Racing Post ratings and has been re-introduced into the betting at 6/1 following the handler's controversial change of mind in allowing the colt to take his chance. Compared to the 3/1 on offer earlier in the year, that looks reasonable value if you take the view the horse will stay. Certainly the colt's style of running up with the pace will be an advantage over this course.

Curtain Call is short enough in most lists, Tajaaweed the subject of a minor scare, but the Dante form looks intriguing. Tartan Bearer beat Frozen Fire a head, having had the benefit of a run earlier in the season. Several commentators prefer Tartan Bearer who is priced up at 8/1, yet Frozen Fire is twice that price and should handle cut in the ground. At this stage Frozen Fire looks the Ballydoyle number one and is worth an each-way interest at 16/1.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Pick 'n' mix

Derby week started with Vision D'Etat winning the French version from Dermot Weld's Famous Name with the filly Natagora running a brave race in third - a filly hasn't won this for well over a hundred years.

Epsom hosts the Oaks on Friday and the Derby on Saturday. The build-up to the Derby hasn't been without its troubles - some fancied runners have fallen by the wayside and there have been well documented problems with sponsorship. Added to that, the course is undergoing building work at the moment...

Talk of building work brings to mind Great Leighs which staged its first public meeting earlier in the week. The general picture to emerge is that there's still a long way to go. If you fancy a day's racing at Great Leighs anytime soon, before you go, make sure you've read Alan Lee's article from The Times, just so you know what you're letting yourself in for...

The other day, browsing through the BBC's blog network, I chanced upon this Inside Sport piece in which Tony McCoy showed Gabby Logan around his home. Mrs Tips, watching over my shoulder, couldn't believe it when AP told the cameras that at the races he drank lots of hot sweet tea - usually six to eight sugars per cup.

Radio Four's Sunday programme ran a short piece on religion and racing earlier today. Luke Harvey talked to Frankie Dettori, Walter Swinburn and Eddie Ahern amongst others but, if any of them had received a tip from the Almighty, they weren't for sharing it with the likes of you and me...

Mtoto Girl, sent off 100/1 in a handicap at Goodwood last Friday, finished, as you might expect, eleventh of the twelve runners. The name Mtoto though brought back memories of the great horse with the white blaze from the mid / late eighties (who happens to be Mtoto Girl's sire). Michael Roberts, the only South African to have become champion jockey in Britain, chose Mtoto's defeat of Reference Point in the 1987 Eclipse as 'the race of [his] life'. That was twenty one years ago, but it seems just like yesterday.