Monday, September 29, 2008

Bits and pieces

The outcome of the team tactics inquiry saw Aidan O'Brien fined £5,000 and jockeys Johnny Murtagh and Colm O'Donoghue both given seven-day riding bans. In my opinion none of this would have come to pass had Johnny Murtagh not spoken to the press immediately after the Juddmonte.

We're still not certain which horse will represent Ballydoyle in Sunday's Arc; at the time of writing Duke Of Marmalade is a best-priced 9/2 and Soldier Of Fortune 11/2.

Denman had his heart stopped and re-started as a treatment to correct its irregular beat. To use computing terminology, it sounded very similar to a 'cold reboot'. The press report last year's Gold Cup winner is back on track and will be out sometime after Christmas. Paul Nicholls has made no secret of the fact Denman is difficult to get fit - I wonder if there will be some value in opposing him next time out...

A snippet in the Weekender notes that on his comeback at Uttoxeter controversial jockey Paddy Merrigan was promptly served with a ban for riding an ill-judged race. His mount, 40/1 shot Bill's Echo, made up a lot of ground to take third in a competitive-looking handicap chase and will be worth a second look next time out.

The state of the ground at Ascot drew plenty of criticism over the weekend; an accurate going description might have read 'good, chewed up in places'. It was left to The Antiques Roadshow on Sunday evening to show the course in a more favourable light. The famous Alfred Munnings bronze of Brown Jack, described as 'Ascot's greatest horse', was discussed and valued in the region of £200,000. Quoting from 'Ascot: The History':
"Brown Jack won at the Royal Meeting seven years in a row, taking the Ascot Stakes in 1928 and then the Queen Alexandra Stakes ... for six consecutive years from 1929 to 1934."

Never mind the horses, what about the dancers? Last year Mrs Tips tipped the winner of Strictly Come Dancing. I know it's early days but Mrs T. tells me the four main players this time around are Austin Healey, Rachel Stevens, Tom Chambers and Cherie Lunghi.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Market Rasen tomorrow

While many eyes will be on Ascot tomorrow (I take Henrythenavigator to win the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes), there's a decent jumps card at Market Rasen.

The opener has something of a trappy look about it - one to note for future reference is Twiston-Davies' Unfurled who won the Predominate Stakes three years ago but hasn't been seen out for 1127 days. He's reported to have schooled 'very well'.

The Handicap Chase at 3.15 is the feature; in a race where dangers abound I shall support Brooklyn Brownie who ran well when second behind Snoopy Loopy over course and distance in the Summer Plate. The going was fairly soft that day; the better ground here should suit. The horse hasn't been seen out since, so I'm obviously taking his fitness on trust.

In the 2.40 Alan King introduces Black Jacari, having used this race in the past two seasons as a starting point for Katchit and Franchoek. Woolfall Treasure and Simarian will serve as useful benchmarks but Black Jacari is taken to collect the spoils.

Carl Llewellyn's Frascati Park looks the one to beat in the concluding bumper; I'm wary of Son of Flicka who is held in high regard by Donald McCain.

Ouzbeck finished strongly when winning over two and a half miles last time and is taken to stay the extra distance in the 3.55.

Some old friends and foes turn up for the competitive-looking 2.05. Two I'm fond of are Katies Tuitor who isn't always the easiest to catch right and Leslingtaylor who struggled a little over fences; my each-way selection however is Noel Chance's Divine Gift.

A couple of months ago a few of us burnt our fingers on Evan Williams' Five A Side. Regular readers may have noted that he runs today (Friday) in a lower grade handicap at Southwell. We've decided we won't be chasing losses...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Notes from the weekend

Daryl Holland's front-running ride on Midships at Newmarket was one of the few races I managed to catch yesterday. Allowed something of a soft lead, Holland judged the pace to perfection in the ten furlong handicap, the other six participants failing to get in a serious blow. The Sporting Life reports the horse touched 5/1 before being backed in to 11/4. Those who managed to get the best price certainly had value for money.

Five pound claimer William Carson, Willie Carson's grandson, rode Regal Parade to victory in the Ayr Gold Cup. Grandfather Willie watched the race on a TV screen at Newbury before giving his reactions to Channel Four's Emma Spencer afterwards. Willie Carson on Channel Four - and Jodie Kidd in Strictly Come Dancing - it's all rather confusing, isn't it?

The owners of Ayr racecourse have put £14 million into its redevelopment but now want to sell. In an interview a representative hinted that obtaining planning permission had proved problematic - 'nuff said.

Full marks to Knot In Wood, fourth in yesterday's feature at Ayr - he took today's 4.10 at Hamilton by five lengths!

A couple of equine stars have not been keeping the best of health. Denman has been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and will miss his intended comeback race, the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November. Meanwhile former Derby winner Galileo has undergone surgery following a bout of colic.

Looking ahead, Twiston-Davies regularly targets the mid-week Perth meeting, although the going is usually a little quicker than is likely on this occasion. Huntingdon racecourse will stage the zany and increasingly popular Mascot Grand National on Sunday 5th October.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ayr Gold Cup

The owners may be trying to sell the racecourse but tomorrow's ultra-competitive Ayr Gold Cup promises to be one of the Scottish track's highlights of the season. David Nicholls, who has a decent record in this race, fields six of the twenty seven runners. All week the going has been described as heavy, the consensus being that a high draw is likely to be something of an advangtage; that theory will be put to the test later today when the Silver Cup is run at 4.40. In the last ten years only one animal has won the Gold Cup carrying more than nine stones three pounds. I've concentrated on horses at the lower end of the handicap that are likely to handle the conditions and have a favourable draw; Tajneed at around 11/1 is the each-way selection.

On official ratings Perks, currently joint favourite for next month's Cambridgeshire, looks the one to beat in the Doonside Cup. Bushman could prove the danger - at the prices on offer I'll watch this from the sidelines.

Another Cambridgeshire entry, Luca Cumani's Ask The Butler, is likely to be popular in the John Smith's Heritage Handicap at Newbury. However, as he has nineteen opponents to beat home, I don't think I'll bother backing him...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Some snippets

Mastercraftsman's victory in yesterday's National Stakes at the Curragh takes Ballydoyle's total of Group One victories for the season to twenty. Aidan O'Brien is quoted at 1/5 to break the current record of twenty five wins.

Many who saw Zakarva take Sunday's Prix Vermeille at Longchamp believe they saw the winner of the Arc; the filly is now quoted as low as 6/4 for that race.

In the Listed six-furlong sprint at Chester on Saturday the two fancied horses, Angus Newz and Look Busy, were drawn favourably in stalls one and two respectively. The market really favoured Look Busy (6/4f) and that's what the formbook pointed to. It was fairly obvious Angus Newz would try to make all up against the running rail; jockey S. O'Hara's ride on the favourite didn't look too stylish, particularly as he apperared to have difficulty drawing his whip through as they raced in the final furlong. Look Busy shouldn't have been turned over here.

Jonjo O'Neill's runners are going well at the moment. I liked the look of his Fresh Air And Fun over an extended two and three quarter miles at Stratford yesterday, up against the Twiston-Davies hotpot Diablo who had been racing over the minimum trip. Various distractions got in the way so I never made it to the bookies; needless to say Fresh Air And Fun won at 4/1. He looks one to keep an eye on.

For those who find the Saturday Scoop 6 too easy (I don't include myself in that number - I'm presently struggling with the Scoop 1), our friends at totesport have introduced the totesuper7 wager which you can play on any day from Sunday through to Friday. All you have to do is pick the winners of seven selected races; should you manage just five or six winners, totesport will kindly pay out a consolation dividend...

Caption noted in Channel Four's coverage on Saturday:
3.45 Doncaster 6. Racer Forever - Non-runner.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Saturday's St Legers

Two St Legers for the price of one tomorrow, with Doncaster hosting the English version at 3.10 and the Curragh the Irish version at 3.35.

On official ratings Look Here looks the one for the English contest; her performance last time out in the Oaks was impressive. She has been backed during the week and is currently a 4/1 shot which is just about right. If I have a reservation, it's the fact that she has been off the track for ninety nine days. Over the years Sir Michael Stoute's failure to win this race has generated plenty of column inches. His Patkai was ante-post favourite for a long time but the horse was not declared, presumably on account of the soft going. Nonetheless the trainer still fields three of the fourteen runners - Doctor Fremantle, Conduit and Warringah. Ryan Moore had the choice, eventually selecting Doctor Fremantle, fourth in this year's Derby, over Conduit, but you suspect it was a close call. Moore has been quoted as saying he's gone with the Doctor on account of the ground; Frankie Dettori picks up the plum spare on Conduit. Ballydoyle field four, including 2/1 favourite Frozen Fire; Aidan O'Brien has expressed some doubts about his charge's ability to last the trip. I can't help but feel the value has gone about the horses I particularly like - Doctor Fremantle and Look Here. Doctor Fremantle is now generally a 7/1 shot; he was 10/1 earlier in the week when he made some appeal as an each-way wager. That being the case, on grounds of value, I'll support Look Here to collect the spoils.

At the Curragh Ballydoyle's Septimus will start long odds on; Yellowstone each way at around 12/1 is the selection. The horse's intended appointment at York was washed away; he took his chance in the rearranged Ebor, the Newburgh Heritage Handicap at Newbury, which was far from ideal. He ran well enough there to finish third carrying nine stones ten pounds and has reasonable prospects of making a place here.

Back at Doncaster seven furlongs and easy going are right up Major Cadeaux's street and he gets the vote in the 3.45.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Superform suspended

Around this time of year I visit the Superform website and prepare to spend a sum in the region of twenty five pounds - a small price to pay for the jumping annual I know will guarantee my sanity through the long winter months ahead. So, imagine my dismay earlier today, on discovering that Superform had suspended all their activities after racing on Sunday May 4th 2008 - over four months ago. In a message on the site publisher Kevin Gilroy points out that Superform has not 'gone bust' but is 'merely in suspended animation'. The spread of internet broadband and issues with postal deliveries are cited as reasons for the publication's demise. My own collection of annuals goes back to 1993; the first annual was published in 1974. It looks as though this year I'll have to invest in a copy of The Form Book Jumps Annual 2007/8 .

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Weekend shorts

Leopardstown's card was moved to the Sunday and run on soft ground. With 'The Duke' withdrawn as anticpiated, New Approach had to work hard enough to beat 50/1 shot Traffic Guard a half length in the Irish Champion Stakes; Lush Lashes won the Matron Stakes.

Over in France Henrythenavigator, hindered by a poor draw and unfavourably soft going, could only finish fifth behind Goldikova in the Prix Du Moulin. Paco Boy claimed third, having met some trouble in running. I was concerned about the mile trip for this horse following Ryan Moore's comments after the Hungerford but, on this evidence, those doubts are unfounded.

Targets for Duke Of Marmalade now include the Arc and the Breeders' Cup; Corals make 'The Duke' 4/1 joint favourite for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

All eyes will be on Doncaster next Saturday with Look Here an intended runner in an intriguing-looking St Leger and Ladbrokes now sponsoring the re-arranged Betfred Sprint Cup after yesterday's Haydock card was lost to the bad weather.

An insignifcant milestone but one I bring to your attention nonetheless - you are reading this blog's 400th post. By my reckoning, it's roughly 400 days since I last tipped a winner. If you throw enough darts, one day you'll hit the bull...

Friday, September 05, 2008

Down came the rain...

Walking around Coventry city centre earlier today, I felt like an extra on the set of Bladerunner. I kid you not, the RNLI were collecting. Enlightened self-interest prompted me to make a small donation; there's a fair chance I could need their services in the next few hours.

Saturday's card at Thirsk has already been called off. Both Haydock and Stratford are subject to 7.00am inspections tomorrow. I had planned to take the family for a picnic at Stratford; that idea looks a bit of a washout now.

Heavy rain at Leopardstown has put their card in jeopardy. Officials are also exploring the possibility of moving the meeting to Sunday. Whatever happens, the likelihood is that Duke Of Marmalade, set to clash again with New Approach, will be withdrawn.

Paco Boy is entered in the Prix Du Moulin at Longchamp on Sunday. I'll be interested to see how he fares at a mile after his impressive win over seven furlongs in the Hungerford; Henythenavigator is the obvious form choice.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Team tactics inquiry announced

As expected, the British Horseracing Authority yesterday announced an inquiry into a possible breach of the rules regarding 'team tactics' in the Juddmonte International Stakes recently run at Newmarket. Trainer Aidan O'Brien and jockey Colm O'Donoghue, who rode Red Rock Canyon as a pacemaker for Duke Of Marmalade in the race, will both be required to attend the disciplinary inquiry which is set to take place at the end of the month. The result of the race will not be affected.