Monday, May 31, 2010

A Twitter Guide to the 2010 Derby

Looking for a quick pointer to this year's Derby? Here's my Twitter Guide to the five day entries, all compiled within the imposed 140 character restriction.

Al Zir Ninth behind Makfi in Guineas, stable out of form. Godolphin has supplemented two trained by Al Zarooni
At First Sight Coolmore pacemaker - 150/1 in places
Azmeel Won the Dee Stakes with a decent turn of foot from an unpromising position; tough, looks certain to stay, place prospects
Bright Horizon Another Coolmore pacemaker - generally a 200/1 shot
Bullet Train Made all to take the Lingfied Trial in some style. Not originally considered Derby material by connections
Cape Blanco Galileo colt retained ubeaten record coming home three and a quarter lengths in front of Workforce in the Dante at York
Coordinated Cut Third in the Dante - no horse beaten in that race has gone on to win the Derby
Hot Propsect Third behind Bullet Train in the Lingfield Derby Trial
Jan Vermeer Coolmore inmate has shot to the head of the market following victory in the Gallinule. Murtagh still to announce his ride in the race
Midas Touch Won the Derrinstown Stud Trial; beaten three lengths by Jan Vermeer in maiden last September
St Nicholas Abbey Favourite through the winter after Racing Post Trophy victory. Sixth in Guineas, rumours abound, big drifter now, will Murtagh ride?
Ted Spread Won the Chester Vase with battling display; owned by the fabulously-named False Nose 'n Glasses Parternership
Workforce Looked awkward ride when second in Dante but connections reported bit had slipped. More to come - no horse placed in Dante has won Derby
Buzzword Fourth in French Guineas, surprise supplementary entry at cost of £75,000. Strong recent homework reason cited for entry
Rewilding Second Godolphin supplement. Won Cocked Hat at Goodwood - last horse to win that and Derby was Troy (1979). Will Dettori ride?

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Saturday evening at the Stratford races

There's plenty of competitive racing at Stratford tomorrow where the going is currently described as good to firm, with good places on the chase course. That could well change if the forecast rain arrives.

Alison Thorpe currently has her team in fine form and Dishdasha makes some appeal as an each-way wager in the opener. The gelding never really took to fences but returned over hurdles at Cheltenham last month after a long layoff; he finished fifth behind Ashkazar and then went on to win at Uttoxeter before finishing third in a flat handicap at Chepstow four days ago. I'm hoping that run over an inadequate trip has put him spot on for this - he wouldn't want too much rain before the off. Alph is in grand nick at the ripe old age of thirteen; he won the last time at Towcester but this is a much more competitive affair.

Nine runners in a tight handicap chase at 6.50. Passato and Miss Sarenne are likely to be popular but I'm going to side with Evan Williams' Tempting Paradise. This one won a chase at Plumpton last month and hails from a yard that has a 31% strike rate over the past fortnight with five winners from sixteen runners - twelve of those sixteen runners (75%) have been placed.

There are plenty with chances in the 7.20. Peter Bowen saddles North Island who won well last time but faces a stiffer task here. King Troy returns after a long layoff but is respected nonetheless while Nelson's Spice has talent but isn't always the easiest to catch right. In receipt of five pounds Postmaster beat Herons Well just under three lengths at Ffos Las but has to give that same opponent two pounds here - in addition claimer Aodhagan Conlon takes off another seven pounds. The tissue puts up Postmaster at 9/2 and Herons Well at 12/1 - that looks decent each-way value should the price become available on the day.

I won't get involved in the Foxhunter Champion Hunters' Chase at 7.55. On official ratings Roulez Cool has upwards of twelve pounds in hand of his rivals; this one was brought down in the Christie's Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. For those interested the suggestion is Ice Tea, formerly with Donald McCain and now trained by Mrs S K McCain of the same address!

In the Ladies' Hunters' Chase I'd be prepared to forgive Mad Victor his latest unseating - Polly Grundy takes the ride this time and she looks the most accomplished rider in this field by some considerable margin.

Finally the Weekender's West Country correspondent has advised readers not to miss Mutual Friend (provided the ground stays on the fast side). The grey had two entries for Saturday - a class 3 handicap chase at Stratford and a class 4 novice chase at Cartmel. Connections have chosen the latter, by far the easier of the two options.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday shorts

Less than two weeks to the Epsom Derby and I still don't have much of an idea what what I'm going to back. At this stage, on grounds of value alone, I have to oppose St Nicholas Abbey. Henry Cecil's Bullet Train put in a decent performance to take the Lingfield trial but immedaitely after that race connections seemed to indicate they didn't think their charge good enough for racing's Blue Riband. Since then there appears to have been a change of heart, although Bullet Train doesn't give much away on the gallops. At the moment 10/1 Bullet Train is of some interest but I'm keeping my ear to the ground.

Canford Cliffs won Saturday's Irish 2000 Guineas in some style -that's two top milers in Richard Hannon's yard - the aforementioned Canford Cliffs and, of course, Paco Boy.

These days a trip down the local bookies to place a bet can lead to something else... Not only are you likely to be relieved of all your cash, there's a chance you could end up with a serious injury. Recently there has been an armed raid on a Ladbrokes betting shop in Peterborough while on Wednesday a policeman was stabbed in a betting shop in Bracknell, Berkshire.

Being the wrong side of fifty, I take that little extra delight in seeing an old-timer do the business. This evening then congratulations go to Ollie Magern who, at the ripe old age of twelve, rolled back the years and made all to win the Perth Gold Cup with something to spare at odds of 14/1.

Finally a story in the current Private Eye caught my eye but I don't have the issue to hand. Apparently a punter placed £20 with Paddy Power on Gordon Brown being the Prime Minister after the election. With the outcome a hung parliament, the punter expected to collect but was informed initially by the company that with a hung parlaiment there was no Prime Minister in post. A further query to the firm raised even more constitutional questions - I promise I'll try and dig out the details...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Noted in the North West...

Running late this evening - a brief post before the final 'Ashes To Ashes' episode.

There are two meetings in the North West tomorrow, at Chester and Haydock - I note that Tom Dascombe has plenty of entries around the country but stable jock Richard Kingscote has just two rides, the first at Haydock on Blue Jack (owned by Andrew Black and Michael Owen) in the Temple Stakes at 3.00 and the second at Chester in the Lambrini Handicap at 5.10. The aforementioned Michael Owen, together with footballing colleagues Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes, own Bagutta Sun, a four-year-old bay filly who finished last in the listed Leicestershire Stakes last month. The suspicion is connections were looking to acquire a handicap mark there - previously their charge had finished behind one that went on to claim third spot in the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp. I'll consider an each-way interest in Bagutta Sun at a price - she will sport a visor for the first time.

Chester suggestions:
2.25 Little Scotland (top rated)
2.55 Not My Choice each-way (C&D winner with good draw)
4.00 Tamareen (good low berth in a sprint - market rivals out wide)
5.10 Bagutta Sun each-way

Friday, May 14, 2010

Flat out?

I don't know, the Flat so far this season, it has been kind of, well, flat. Dante winner Cape Blanco looked impressive beating Workforce three and a half lengths at York on Thursday but the colt banged his heel during the race; he is reported more comfortable today. On Tuesday evening there was a bit of action in the Southwell weighing room following the last when two female jockeys, Sophie Doyle and Kirsty Milczarek, started trying to knock nine bells out of one another. Milczarek, riding Sparky Vixen, had been beaten a neck into fifth by Doyle's mount Vogarth and later emerged sporting a black eye. Ouch!

At Newbury tomorrow there are eight separate events on which you can lose your money, the highlight being the Lockinge at 3.05. Paco Boy will be an odds-on chance and rightly so following his seasonal debut at Sandown three weeks ago; on official ratings he has two pounds in hand over Zacinto. The Cheka, well-touted beforehand, finished third in the Sandown race; on ratings he has something to find with a few of these but Fallon has talked up his mount's chance in the Weekender: "My fellow still has quite a bit of improvement in him and I feel he will be better suited to Newbury...he definitely has a big chance." Priced at 14/1 with several layers this evening The Cheka is worth an each-way interest.

I see Gary Moore's Bergo is declared for the Aston Park Stakes; this one was withdrawn from the listed John Doyle Buckhounds Stakes at Ascot last Saturday. Owned by Harry Findlay's mother, the gelding won three novice chases during the winter months before finishing a respectable fourth to Tataniano at Aintree last month. Trainer Gary Moore saddled a treble at Fontwell on Wednesday; with son Ryan in the plate here I'll consider a small each-way interest at around the 16/1 mark - the ground shoudn't be a problem.

A quick note on the mares' bumpers at Bangor. The first leg (4.40) looks open with Nicky Henderson's Heather Royal, Donald McCain's Uttoxeter winner Dorabelle and Dark Sensation of interest - the last-named went down fighting, beaten half a length by Paul Nicholls' King Of The Night at Newton Abbot three weeks ago, the pair some twelve lengths clear of their field. In the second leg China Sky from the powerful Henderson team looks the likely favourite but Peter Bowen's With Grace, fourth behind Inga Bird over course and distance on her last appearance, is certainly worth a second look. The winner that day was beaten six lengths by Old McDonald last December - Old McDonald went on to finish an excellent fourth behind Hidden Universe in the Punchestown bumper last month.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Ascot, Lingfield, Haydock...

We're spoilt for choice tomorrow with meetings at Ascot, Lingfield, Haydock, Nottingham, Hexham, Thirsk and Warwick; the highlight at Ascot is the Victoria Cup in which 29 go to post. John Gosden was in fine form at Chester's mid-week meet and his course and distance winner Duncan is likely to be all the rage in the opener at the Berkshire track; I won't get involved but will keep an eye on Bergo, owned by Harry Findlay's mother. This gedling won three novice chases on the bounce before finishing a respectable fourth behind Tataniano at Aintree last month; whether he can be competitive in this listed event is another question.

Punters will be on the lookout for Classic clues at Lingfield with the Oaks trial at 2.40 and the Derby trial half an hour later. In the fillies' race, the market suggest Henry Cecil's Timepiece is the one but the favourite has won just two of the last ten renewals; those looking to oppose will want to consider Ralph Beckett's Ceilidh House, while on ratings John Gosden's Dyna Waltz is there with a chance but isn't certain to stay and will need to put a disappointing effort in the Nell Gwyn behind her. In the colts' trial Sir Michael Stoute has come here with Desert Myth rather than Chester's Dee Stakes,won earlier today by Amzeel.

The highlight at Haydock's mixed meeting is the ultra-competitive Swinton Handicap Hurdle in which 24 are set to face the starter. David Pipe fields four - in the last fortnight the yard has won nine from twenty eight, giving a phenomenal strike rate of 32.14%. I note Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Overturn while it's interesting to see that Paul Nicholls employs Irish jockey Paul Townend on Toubab. In the past decade the winner has come from the first three in the betting on seven occasions. I'm torn between two Pipe horses - Dan Breen and Hunterview. Formerly with Michael Jarvis on the Flat, Hunterview didn't appear to get up the hill in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham but won easily at Ayr next time out. At around 10/1 I'll take a small each-way interest in Hunterview.

Only five in the Beginners' Chase at 4.10 but I'd be tempted to take on Mahonia if the gelding were a short-priced favourite. He ran no sort of race in the Martin Pipe hurdle at Cheltenham and has only jumped fences twice in public, falling once. With her seven pound allowance, consistent mare Cool Friend doesn't have a lot to find on ratings and has put in some decent efforts this winter behind Carole's Legacy and Awesome George. Having won after a break in the past, she comes here fresh and goes well for Nick Schofield; she is worth a bet if priced up around the 9/2 mark as this evening's tissue indicates.

Monday, May 03, 2010

In brief

At Newmarket's Guineas meeting the layers were happy enough with a 33/1 winner in the colts' Classic (although I note the return was only £12.80 on the Tote) but the stewards' decision to reverse placings in the fillies' equivalent is thought to have cost the industry £5 million.

Having said that, bookmakers can't be doing too badly - look what they've been spending our money on. William Hill has sponsored the Monster Raving Loony Party during this election while Paddy Power has paid £10,000 for a new confessional box at a Catholic church in Newmarket.

Equiano's all-the-way win in the Palace House Stakes on Saturday was impressive. Channel 4's Emma Spencer interviewed winning jockey Michael Hills on the walk back to the winner's enclosure, while John Francome observed the entire looked 'ready run in the next'. With the bay still taking a strong hold, the microphone picked up Michael remarking to Emma, 'He'll be the first man to run away from you!'

Last week's Racing For Change initiative, offering racegoers free admission to several courses, appears to have been a resounding success but the trial of decimal odds at Ascot on Wednesday was branded a failure by several layers who reported a big drop in turnover and, as we all know, for bookmakers turnover is everything.

Finally, a National Hunt footnote to finish on; best wishes go to Robert and Sally Alner who have announced they intend to retire from training this summer. The yard won the 1998 Cheltenham Gold Cup with Cool Dawn (returned at odds of 25/1) while Sir Rembrandt was a particular favourite of mine.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

1000 Guineas 2010

Following Mafki's shock win in the 2000 Guineas, I won't be getting involved in the fillies' Classic tomorrow. Eighteen have been declared with Criquette Head-Maarek's Special Duty currently heading the market at 4/1. Several have predicted the second leg of a French double but the filly's handler states:' We are not sure she will get the mile.' Luca Cumani's Seta has strong claims but Fallon's mount wouldn't want the ground too quick; the weather forecast suggests there will be rain in the area before the off. Richard Hills, guest on Channel 4's The Morning Line earlier today, appeared quite keen on the chance of his mount Rumoush from Marcus Tregoning's stable - that point is already factored into the 6/1 quoted by several layers. I have plenty of respect for Music Show who won the Nell Gwyn well under Fallon but the jockey has opted for Seta and Mick Channon's yard isn't flying at present. Over the past decade the market hasn't been the most reliable guide to this; granted, two favourites have obliged in that time but seven of the other eight winners have been returned with double-digit starting prices, last year's winner Ghanaati being the biggest at 20/1. A race to watch with the future in mind...