Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Twitter Guide to the 2000 Guineas

Following the (rather limited) success of my Twitter Guide to the Grand National, I thought I’d publish the second in this occasional series, A Twitter Guide to the 2000 Guineas. Here are comments on each of the seventeen runners, all within Twitter's imposed restriction of 140 characters.

Ashram Sixth in Dewhurst last year, beaten under two lengths; first run for Godolphin
Cityscape Second in Greenham; winner, Vocalised, not considered up to this
Delegator Current favourite well talked-up after winning sub-standard Craven in impressive fashion
Evasive Respected trainer took his charge to Ascot this week in an attempt to wake him up
Finjaan Looks more a sprinter than a miler
Gan Amhras Well regarded by connections; interesting outsider with each-way shout
Imperial Guest Well beaten in Craven; hard to fancy - 200/1 chance
Lord Shanakill Missed Greenham with temperature. Each-way chance if stays
Mastercraftsman Ballydoyle second string on jockey bookings, but only just. Stable form a concern
Monitor Closely Plenty to find on official ratings
Ocean’s Minstrel Ditto above; 250/1 shot
On Our Way Flopped badly in Feilden but trainer respected
Ouqba Free Handicap winner; connections forked out £30k late entry fee
Pure Poetry Third in Craven; unlikely
Rip Van Winkle Problem with bruised foot earlier in week. Murtagh’s choice; stable form worries
Sea The Stars Potentially very good but setback in March may have scuppered his chance here
Zafisio More likely to run in German Guineas

Friday's Festival fancies at Punchestown

Three winners on Wednesday, but normal service resumed earlier today with Duc De Regniere failing to get competitive in fifth behind Fiveforthree, Forpadydeplasterer well and truly beaten into second by Barker but a decent enough show from Silver Birch who lead from five out until approaching the last where the Nina Carberry ridden Garde Champetre (13/8f) went on to win.

Friday at this year's Festival is May Day, Rabobank Day and Ladies' Day all rolled into one. The feature, due off at 5.30, is the Rabobank Champion Hurdle with nine set to face the starter. Champion hurdler Punjabi did this blog a big favour when hanging on to win the big prize at Cheltenham just over seven weeks ago; on official ratings he has something in hand over all his rivals here and trainer Nicky Henderson seems reasonably optimistic but the worry is we don't quite know how much that last run took out of the horse. Willie Mullins, who had a four-timer this afternoon, runs Quevaga - his mare was seriously impressive when destroying her field in the David Nicholson at Cheltenham over half a mile further. The drop back in trip isn't certain to suit but the going, currently described as soft to heavy, will help. Punjabi wouldn't need to be that much off his game to give Solwhit a leading chance while Muirhead was just over five lengths behind Punjabi at Cheltenham in fifth place. There are no certainties here but in my mind this is between Punjabi and Solwhit and I'm going to stick with Nicky Henderson's charge. This evening Paddy Power bet 2/1 Quevega, 3/1 Punjabi; I'm happy to take 3/1 (or bigger) the current champion hurdler and note that the favourite has only won one of the last ten renewals.

When I saw Mikhael d'haqunet in the paddock before the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham I thought he looked a decent prospect. The manner in which he won confirmed that and he has to be the selection for the 6.05.

By the way, this is the 500th blog post - it would be good to celebrate with a winner, wouldn't it? ;-)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thoughts for Thursday's Punchestown card

Yesterday's post highlighted three selections and they all went and won; that was rather surprising - and highly unusual. If I were you I wouldn't bother reading any further - my next winner is probably due around mid-June. For those who just can't resist temptation, I'm going to carry on regardless...

I was so looking forward to tipping Punchestowns for Thursday's feature at Punchestown, the World Series Hurdle, but the horse spoiled the plan by picking up a problem earlier in the week and he stays at home. Only ten go to post but the race now has a particularly trappy look to it. Fiveforthree is plenty short enough in the betting for a horse that is having his first try at this trip; Ruby Walsh thinks his mount will get there but at the prices on offer I'm going to look elsewhere. Fair Along, along with the favourite, is joint top-rated in the race, yet is priced at around the 8/1 mark; on the downside Fair Along has had a long hard season and this race may be one too many. I don't particularly like Duc De Regniere who is a funny customer and not easy to catch right but he has won over the distance, comes from Nicky Henderson's in-form stable and is on offer at 18/1 with a couple of bookies this evening - that is big and on grounds of value alone looks worth an each-way interest.

In the Cathal Ryan Memorial Novice Chase at 6.40 Arkle winner Forpadydeplasterer is top-rated and looks the one they all have to beat.

Finally, for those who have to have a bet in the four and a quarter mile La Touche Cup, Silver Birch will be worthy of consideration. Although advanced in years, he was in the process of running a big race in the National when falling at Becher's second time around; that day he opened at 66/1, attracted a number of £500, £200 and £150 each-way bets, and went off at 40/1. Those sorts of prices are unlikely to be on offer tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pointers for Punchestown on Wednesday

Wednesday's feature is the Guinness Gold Cup run over a distance of three miles one furlong; thirteen have been declared, although I doubt whether Cooldine will face the starter after finishing a well-beaten fourth behind Rare Bob earlier today. The ground is currently described as soft, soft to heavy in places and is likely to play its part in an open-looking race. Testing conditions will be against War Of Attrition, Schindlers Hunt and Albertas Run. Nigel Twiston-Davies is quite bullish about the chances of the market-favourite Imperial Commander who won the Ryanair at Cheltenham last time out; I'm not convinced he'll see out this trip on this ground so will side with Notre Pere instead. He comes to this fresher than most and will relish what is likely to turn into a test of stamina.

In the Champion Flat race at 5.30 I have to side with Dunguib. I was privileged to see this horse take the Champion Bumper at Prestbury Park last month by a stunning ten lengths - it was one of the most impressive victories in that race I've seen over the years. In a Cheltenham preview slot Jim McGrath had put up Dunguib as his one Festival banker but on the day I listened to the Siren voices and paid the price in no uncertain terms. Irrespective of what happens tomorrow, Dunguib is one to note for next season.

Willie Mullins fields two in the three mile novice hurdle at 4.55; Ruby Walsh rides Palace Merano but on official ratings The Midnight Club looks the one to beat. He is one of only two in the field that have won over the distance and his third behind Weapon's Amnesty in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham reads well. Emmet Mullins' three pounds claim is likely to prove invaluable in the conditions.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Punchestown - brief notes for Tuesday

The going on the first day of the Punchestown Festival is expected to be soft. Six go to post in the feature race, the Kerrygold Champion Chase, which is due off at 6.05. Paul Nicholls' Master Minded didn't look at his best, but then again he didn't need to be, to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He appears to have frightened off the opposition here and has been installed the 1/4 favourite. Big Zeb fell at Cheltenham while Newmill finished fourth and is better on good ground. A race to watch rather than bet on.

Willie Mullins' Hurricane Fly is the top-rated animal and will be a warm order to take the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at 4.20 but he hasn't run for 122 days. If eight go to post, I will consider a small each-way interest in Lucy Wadham's El Dancer who caught American Trilogy on the line at Aintree last time out. Having said that, American Trilogy didn't do the form any favours by getting turned over at short odds at Sandown on Saturday.

Cooldine, Horner Woods and Gone To Lunch all met in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham and renew rivalry here at 6.40. Nothing could get near Cooldine that day where his jumping was particularly good; he'll be long odds on to collect again - Horner Woods ran well to take second. McCoy rode Gone To Lunch at Cheltenham and again at Ayr ten days ago when just failing to get to Hello Bud in the Scottish National. Here McCoy has opted to ride Joncol - that in itself looks a recommendation for those looking to oppose the favourite but we don't know for certain whether he'll stay the trip. Horner Woods certainly will and hails from a stable that had two winners at Navan on Sunday so makes more appeal as an each-way wager.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Punchestown programme

The Punchestown Festival starts on Tuesday. One of my long term goals is to make it to this meeting - in the meantime, here's an outline of the main treats in store over the coming week...

Tuesday 28th April - Kerrygold Day

4.20 Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (2 miles)
6.05 Kerrygold Champion Steeplechase (2 miles)
6.40 Champion Novice Steeplechase (3 miles 1 furlong)

Wednesday April 29th - Guinness Day

5.30 Paddy Power Champion I.N.H. Flat Race (2 miles)
6.05 Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup (3 miles 1 furlong)

Thursday April 30th - Ladbrokes Day

5.30 World Series Hurdle (3 miles)
6.40 Cathal Ryan Memorial Novice Steeplechase (2 miles)

Friday May 1st - Rabobank Day

5.30 The Rabobank Champion Hurdle (2 miles)
6.05 The Land Rover Champion Novice Hurdle (2 miles 4 furlongs)

Saturday May 2nd - Ballymore Day

2.55 The Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle (2 miles)

End of term report 2008/9

For me personally this was a better season than last - opposing Katchit in his early races paid dividends, as did backing Kauto Star for the Gold Cup prior to Denman's reappearance. That Gold Cup victory was a highlight, as was Punjabi hanging on to take the Champion Hurdle. My mother-in-law backed 100/1 shot Mon Mome to win the National - the horse duly obliged and looked as though he had enough left in the tank to complete another circuit. I managed to regain some small semblance of credibility by putting up Hello Bud for the Scottish National two weeks later.

Paul Nicholls won champion trainer for the fourth consecutive time but he has some way to go to catch the phenomenal Tony McCoy who won his fourteenth consecutive champion jockey award. McCoy performed another of his routine miracles on the final Saturday by getting Hennessy to the front right on the line, clinching Sandown's Bet365 Gold Cup in the process. Earlier, on a wet February Monday afternoon at Plumpton, the champ became the first jump jockey to ride 3,000 winners. J P McManus was champion owner while Aidan Coleman was champion conditional jockey.

Two riders who will have different views on this season are Sam Thomas and Liam Treadwell. On consecutive Saturdays in November Sam Thomas fell at the last in the day's feature race - from Kauto Star in Haydock's Betfair Chase and then from Big Buck's in the Hennessy. The pressure mounted after his exit from the latter and he lost the ride on Master Minded to one A P McCoy. It's an ill wind though - thereafter Big Buck's reverted to the smaller obstacles and went on to collect the World Hurdle and the John Smith's Liverpool Hurdle. Liam Treadwell was relatively unknown until he partnered Mon Mome to victory in the Grand National. Immediately after the race Clare Balding unwittingly added to his instant celebrity by making him show his less-than-perfect gnashers to a watching nation; the BBC received 1477 complaints from viewers. It's an ill wind though - since that interview Liam has been approached by at least two dental practioners offering their services completely free of charge.

There are three contenders in the frame for the title of 'Blog Horse of the Year' - Kauto Star, Punjabi and Hello Bud - I have to give it to Punjabi who was tipped just the once and obliged at 22/1.

In case you blinked, the new season is already under way - Richard Johnson got off to a flyer by riding Treaty Flyer to victory in the Ludlow Golf Club Claiming Hurdle.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Final showdown at Sandown

Traditionally Saturday's mixed card at Sandown brings down the curtain on the National Hunt season. Given the quick underfoot conditions, it's not surprising that a number of the top jumpers have been re-routed to the Punchestown Festival which starts next Tuesday, leaving this card a little short of top quality. The highlight is the Bet365 Gold Cup at 3.10, with the Celebration Chase, the Bet365 mile and the Flat v jump jockeys' handicap providing decent support. The withdrawal of Roll Along leaves Darkness set to carry top weight in the feature, although at this stage he's not a definite runner. Paul Nicholls' Hoo La Baloo has been trained with this race in mind all season, having finished third in the same event last year when he carried six pounds less. The trainer has indicated he may put five pound claimer Harry Skelton up on Hoo La Baloo and switch Ruby (Walsh) to New Little Bric. Oliver Brett of BBC Sport asks whether a five pound advantage over three and a half miles is preferable to the nous and skill of Ruby Walsh; given that Harry Skelton rode Niche Market to win the Irish National last week, on balance I'd take the five pounds... Venetia Williams' Zacharova catches the eye at the bottom of the handicap; the horse won at Cheltenham just over a week ago but didn't look the most straightforward ride on that occasion, running in snatches and, at the age of six, is probably a little inexperienced for this. Kilbeggan Blade loves Sandown but won't like quick ground while Always Waining may not quite last the trip. I've looked for something that should stay and handle the quicker going; two that fit the bill are Bowleaze and Church Island. The worry with Church Island is this may come a little quick after his second in the Irish National where the blinkers appeared to help but the 12/1 offered by Betfred seems reasonable - I'll have an each-way interest in Church Island.

It would be unwise to discount the top-rated Twist Magic in the Celebration Chase as he appears to have run his best races at Sandown; having said that, he is not one to trust - likely favourite Kalahari King is the safer option, although it's worth noting the jolly has obliged only once in the last eight runnings. American Trilogy appears the one to beat in the listed hurdle but this looks trappy and is a race I'll watch from the sidelines. In the Bet365 mile Paco Boy could be worth opposing after his run in Dubai at the end of March. Connections reported he returned tired but is better now. He has to carry a penalty here - I'll use the market as a guide to the chance of John Gosden's Virtual and Walter Swinburn's Stotsfold who has done most of his racing over ten and twelve furlongs. The favourite has won five of the last ten renewals.

Over at Leicester Winker Watson is the top-rated animal in the 3.40 and would take this if at his best but he disappointed last time out. Joint owner Andrew 'Bert' Black has indicated since that nothing came to light - I would be prepared to forgive that run and will back the horse if he's priced up around 9/4 as the Sporting Life tissue predicts.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The bottom drawer...

On Saturday the going at Newbury was described as soft while Ayr was on the fast side of good; for a moment I thought the two reports had been inadvertently mixed up! Hello Bud won the Scottish National in some style, managing to successfully make all over four miles. In that race Timmy Murphy was originally booked to ride Merigo, owned by his father-in-law, but the horse was withdrawn on account of the ground. Now I'm sure the thought must have crossed Timmy's mind that perhaps he'd managed to wriggle out of a potentially awkward situation there... None of it. Raymond Green, a big Rangers fan, had Timmy ride another of his runners, King Barry, named after the Rangers midfielder Barry Ferguson. After recent events I'm sure Barry would have appreciated some decent publicity; King Barry did his best to oblige, running up with the pace for much of the race but he faded from five out, finishing a respectable seventh.

A week on the Flat - Fantasia wins the Nell Gwyn impressively, Brian Meehan's Delegator the Craven without breaking sweat. Mr Meehan must have thought he'd bagged the Fred Darling as well with Super Sleuth but Mick Channon's Lahaleeb claimed the spoils in the shadow of the post. Jim Bolger's Vocalised won the Greenham but looks likely to miss the Guineas.

My miserable existence has become that little bit more miserable with the news of the passing of Sir Clement Freud. There have been several tributes in the press. My two favourite Sir Clement stories are his managing to secure payment equal to the Prime Minister's (at that time) for appearing with Henry the basset hound when promoting Minced Morsels in a television advertising campaign, and his placing a bet of £1,000 on himself to win the Isle of Ely by-election in 1973 at the rather rewarding odds of 33/1.

With the Flat about to take centre stage, Mrs Tips has stated that one of my summer jobs is to read Eclipse by Nicholas Clee. I fully intend to do so (and write a comprehensive review to boot) but, as is the case with several married men I know, once my wife has told me to do something, I never quite get around to it...

Finally, it may have escaped your notice that on April 9th Kim Bailey's Max Bygraves won a novices' handicap hurdle at Ludlow. Rumours that the jockey, J M Maguire, dismounted and started his post-race debrief by saying 'I wanna tell ya a little sto-ry' are wide of the mark.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Scottish Grand National

Having failed miserably in recent Grand Nationals, I'm not particularly confident my selections for the Scottish Grand National, which will be run over over a distance of four miles and half a furlong at Ayr on Saturday, are going to turn things around. Twenty one are set to go to post; as expected Notre Pere has not been declared on account of the going, so Paul Nicholls' Dear Villez now carries top weight. For this I've decided to avoid completely horses that ran recently at either Cheltenham or Aintree - that takes out Dear Villez, Tricky Trickster, Nine De Sivola, Gone To Lunch, Brooklyn Brownie, According To John, Coe and Arteea . Those who follow trends will tell you that novices have a decent enough record and Chief Dan George will be popular. His chance is respected but he's taken plenty of time to take to the chasing game and as he's likely to start near the head of the market I've decided to look elsewhere. The two each-way chances I like carry less than eleven stones - Sir Robert Ogden's That's Rhythm who has been well-backed in the run up to the race and is now around 16/1 and the Twiston-Davies trained Hello Bud. The stats tell us that the latter named, at the age of eleven, is probably too old to deliver in a race like this but he won without being extended at Wincanton nine days ago, will stay and will act on the expected quick ground; at around 33/1 he appeals as a sporting each-way wager offering some value in this ultra-competitive handicap.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter cards

Easter is an awkward time of year - family, holidays, wet weather, all that sort of stuff, and the run-of-the-mill racing that comes with it doesn't do much to ameliorate the situation. Earlier today (Good Friday), heaven knows how, I ended up listening to Classic FM's Hall Of Fame marathon for a few minutes, in which they count down the top 300 classical works, with the 'all-important Number One' due to be announced just before 9.00pm on Easter Monday. I think I was listening to Exsultate Jubilate K.165 by one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart but I couldn't be certain. Enough of that; here's a few notes on the Easter weekend's offerings...

I'm struggling to find something that makes much appeal on Saturday. Only five go to post in the Sports 360 & The Football Conference Handicap Chase at Haydock; at the time of writing the Sporting Life price up Philip Hobbs' Gershwin 6/4 favourite. This six year old looks plenty short enough in the market considering his limited chasing experience. Dominican Monk warrants consideration but a reading of his form suggests the ground may ride a little quick for him. In the Weekender Colin Russell expects a big run from Tom's Toybox with regular amateur Lucy Horner claiming five. Beggars Cap unseated Graham Lee in the Grand Annual but prior to that the horse had finished seventh behind Leslingtaylor at Doncaster, with Tom's Toybox a further seven lengths behind in eighth. On that occasion Coach Lane was third, beaten just under ten lengths by Leslingtaylor. In the meantime Coach Lane was pulled up at Lingfield but, if you forgive him that run where he didn't jump well, he looks bang in with a chance here yet in the tissue is priced at 10/1. The Sporting Life claim Coach Lane is out of form which I think a little unkind - I'll wait to see how the market shapes up tomorrow before making any decisions.

At Carlisle the opener looks between Sa Suffit and Fit To Drive while a lot of the fancied runners in the Totescoop6 Handicap Chase have shown their form when the ground is riding on the soft side. In the concluding hunters' chase Geeveem, formerly with Paul Nicholls, will be worth a second look as he's the top-rated individual and being by Supreme Leader should handle better going.

In the Weekender Malcolm Heyhoe is keen on Heebie Jeebie in Sunday's finale at Plumpton and I'm with him. I was at Stratford when the mare, having her first run for nearly nine months, ran a stormer over slightly further to finish third, less than a length behind Quiny Boy and Bolton Hall. That day the front three pulled nearly thirty lengths clear of their rivals and the first two have been placed subsequently. On official ratings Heebie Jeebie has something to find with some of these but I'd like to think she'll improve for the run; the tissue has her 8/1 - at that price you could back her each-way. Benayoun rates an obvious danger.

Easter Sunday is one of the two days when you have to pay to get in at Towcester. A decent show from Burton Port in the 2.55 at Haydock on Saturday will point to Busker Royal's chance in the 3.10, those horses having finished fourth and sixth respectively behind Big Eared Fran at Sandown recently. I marginally prefer Venetia Williams' Pterodactyl in this. There isn't much between Inaro and Rydal Park in the open hunters' chase at 4.40; last time I fancied course and distance winner Rydal Park to beat Back Nine but the selection fell at the tenth. One to note though is Sleep Bal who is rated some sixteen pounds higher than Rydal Park - he warrants close inspection.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Easter!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

National news

Twenty four hours after Mon Mome won the Grand National at 100/1, equalling Foinavon's record-breaking SP in 1967, here are a few observations...

With the world and his wife watching in, racing didn't do itself any favours with two embarrassing false starts. Six jockeys incurred the wrath of the starter - Nick Scholfield (Cornish Sett) on the first occasion and Davy Russell (Hear The Echo), Paul Townend (Irish Invader), Robbie Power (Silver Birch), Paddy Flood (Himalayan Trail) and Denis O'Regan (Black Apalachi) on the second occasion.

Picture the scene. You're a young jockey looking to make a name for yourself. One way to achieve this relatively quickly is to go out and ride a 100/1 outsider to victory in the Grand National. You manage to pull off this stunt - obviously you're pretty buzzed up - and as soon as you dismount, the BBC's Clare Balding has a microphone under your nose asking you what it feels like. You've hit the big time - you start to answer the questions but, suddenly, Clare interrupts, asking you to smile directly into the camera. Why? Because you don't happen to have the best set of Hampsteads in the business! Liam Treadwell took it all in his stride but my guess is he wouldn't thank her for that off-camera. What does Ms Balding expect, anyway? He's a jump jockey not a blessed film star.

The nature of the race changed when the front-running pair of Black Apalachi and Silver Birch both crashed out independently at Becher's on the second circuit. I'm sure Denis O'Regan on Black Apalachi will feel he could have gone on to win the race. Horses to bear in mind for next year include fifth-placed Cerium (available at 500/1 during the week) and Big Fella Thanks who ran a huge race for a novice. Meanwhile, this evening, spare a thought for Aidan Coleman. The jockey rode Mon Mome into tenth in the race last year but this time opted to ride Venetia Williams' other runner Stan - Stan fell at the seventh.

When it comes to race-reading, I much prefer (languid) Simon Holt to Jim McGrath.

Noted by an irate colleague when attempting to place a small bet on Friday's Aintree racing with William Hill over the internet - the minimum deposit has been hiked up to £10! Back at Christmas time the sum was £2; it was raised to £5 before Cheltenham but is now doubled to £10. What credit crunch?

Finally, finding somebody who had actually backed the winner proved to be something of a challenge for many, but not for us in the Tips' household. Mrs Tips' mother (yes, my mother-in-law) struck a £1 each way wager on Mon Mome with a local bookmaker. Here's a flavour of a telephone interview I conducted with 'Granny Tips' after the race...

PG: 'What made you choose that horse?'
Gran Tips: 'Well, the name Mon Mome is quite close to Mum and as I'm Mum to five girls I thought I'd go with that.'
PG: 'What did you think during the race?'
Gran Tips: 'I didn't realise it was going to win until right at the end. Grandpa said the horse had gone - I thought he meant it had fallen.'
PG: 'How did you feel?'
Gran Tips: 'Very excited - we were shouting at the telly. We didn't even realise what price the horse was until the caption came up on screen! When we went to the bookies the lady said "Here comes the woman with the big win."'

Form students everywhere, read this and weep with me...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Aintree Grand National selections

Forty go to post at 4.15 tomorrow for the Grand National marathon run over a distance of four and a half miles. Those who like to make up their own minds may want to use my Twitter Guide to the Grand National runners as a starting point; for everyone else, after hours of deliberation, here's how I see them finishing...

1. Rambling Minster Jumps, stays, has a racing weight and is in the form of his life. Provided he can stay out of trouble, he should be on the premises at the business end of the race; Mrs Tips' selection.

2. Butler's Cabin Tony McCoy doesn't need me to tell him this horse offers him a serious chance of winning his first National at the fourteenth attempt. The horse was going ominously well when coming a cropper at Becher's (second time) last year, having had a scare at the same fence on the first circuit. Mr. McCoy will be doing his utmost to ensure there's no repeat performance this time.

3. Himalayan Trail Won the Midlands National for Sue Smith last year; this has been his target since that day. Has a nice racing weight and is now trained by Jimmy Mangan who won the National with Monty's Pass in 2003.

4. Comply Or Die Last year's winner is now rated fifteeen pounds higher than when he won -he has a big task on his hands here. Has been badly out of form for much of the season but showed much more interest when running a decent trial in the William Hill Trophy at Cheltenham three weeks ago. Many think the re-fitting of blinkers at Cheltenham helped; provided he's in the mood I think he can make a place.

For those who like a dabble at bigger prices, Knowhere strikes me as overpriced at 66/1; this horse was close enough last year when falling at Valentine's on the second circuit - stable jockey Paddy Brennan takes the ride. Cornish Sett is a bit of a character but if he consents to put his best foot forward he looks certain to stay the distance and is currently available at around 33/1.

I wish you all the very best of luck!

The John Smith's People's Race is scheduled to take place before racing proper begins. Ten amateur jockeys have been in training over the winter and will race over a distance of one mile one furlong (I think) in front of the National crowds. This year the Tote is offering prices on the contestants. A couple of pointers for those who may be tempted... Of the ten jockeys, Clare Balding picks out Craig Brown for his fitness - Craig rides Thunder Rock. A quick look through the official handicap ratings of the horses shows there doesn't seem a lot to choose between Summer Soul, Some Touch, Thunder Rock and Mith Hill; Thunder Rock appears the percentage call.

PS - Today this blog is three years old; would have liked to celebrate with a winner at Aintree but, as I'm sure regular readers will recognise, I'm just not up to the job...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Aintree selections - Friday

Friday is Ladies' Day at Aintree; the highlight is the John Smith's Melling Chase at 3.10, run over two and a half miles. Voy Por Ustedes won this last year, is a short-priced favourite, top-rated horse and the most likely winner but he didn't jump well at Cheltenham three weeks ago so, on grounds of value, I'm going to look elsewhere. On official ratings there isn't much between Nacarat and Tidal Bay. Nacarat won the Racing Post Chase over three miles at Kempton in impressive fashion; immediately after that race trainer Tom George insisted his charge needed a right-handed track (even though the horse had won at Doncaster previously). The shorter trip and left-handed track here don't look ideal so I'll chance Howard Johnson's Tidal Bay who has had plenty of schooling for his reported jumping issues but still appeared to run a little below par behind Imperial Commander and Voy Por Ustedes at Cheltenham. Those looking for an each-way runner at a price could do worse than take a second look at Andrew Balding's Braireus.

I side with Herecomesthetruth in the 2.35 while American Trilogy is the top-rated animal in the opener and gets the vote.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Aintree selections - Thursday

The highlight of the first day of Aintree's Grand National meeting is Thursday's Totesport Bowl which is due off at 3.10. All eyes will be on Denman who has been the subject of glowing reports following his fantastic second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup three weeks ago. If there's a slight worry here it may be that the combination of this tight track and quickish ground won't suit ideally but, writing in tomorrow's Racing Post, trainer Paul Nicholls believes Denman will be fine. I don't intend to get involved, particularly as the horse looks likely to start odds-on, but I will be watching closely for confirmation of the improvement the trainer has talked about. It's good to see Denman's connections staying loyal to Sam Thomas - expect plenty of comment from joint owner Harry Findlay if the horse obliges. Stable jockey Ruby Walsh rides Star De Mohaison.

The novice hurdle at 2.35 looks hot with the Triumph Hurdle second and fourth, Walkon and Starluck, taking each other on again and being joined by Hebridean who looks a big threat coming to this fresh. Starluck has been a favourite of this blog over the winter so I'm not going to desert him now. I fancied him for the Triumph but he didn't come up the hill; this sharp flat track should play to his strengths. The worry is that he won't have had time to fully recover from his exertions at Cheltenham, so Hebridean, who missed the Festival, is feared. It promises to be a fascinating race.

In the opener I'm tempted to oppose Big Buck's with Henry Daly's Mighty Man. Mighty Man has won this race twice in the past and ran well in the World Hurdle after a long lay-off. Big Buck's likes to come off the pace and can be a tricky ride - whereas the front-runners came back to him up the Cheltenham hill, here it won't be so easy to claw back the ground. It's still a big ask of Mighty Man, who could well 'bounce' on his second run after recovering from injury, but at 5/1 he looks worth a wager - some would say an each-way bet to nothing.

In the 4.20 the booking of McCoy for the 2007 winner of this race, Bambi De L'Orme, catches the eye; Ian Williams' stable is in good form at present. The 4.55 over two and a half miles features some beaten Arkle contestants, Chapoturgeon taking a step up in class after winning the Jewson as he liked, and in Ouzbeck and Deep Purple, two that missed Cheltenham altogether. One to watch and note for future reference.