Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thoughts on Halloween

Quick notes from Wetherby yesterday... Deep Purple ran a fine race in the Charlie Hall - Evan Williams' charge was fairly eating up the ground at the finish, much as he did in the race last year. The Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on December 9th is the next stop. Interviewed on Channel 4 by Derek 'Tommo' Thompson, owner Graham Wylie put up three to keep an eye out for - Tidal Bay (finished third behind Fair Along in the John Smith's Hurdle), Presenting Forever and On His Own; the last named has a five day entry in the 3.10 at Hexham on Friday. Coastley was going well enough for a 28/1 shot in Fair Along's race but put in a howler at the ninth flight that practically stopped him in his tracks. He was pulled up shortly afterwards but could be of interest in the future, a comment that also applies to Gary Moore's Bogside Theatre who ran well for a long way at the head of affairs before taking a crashing fall three from home - the obvious concern is the mare's confidence will have been affected. Calgary Bay, a big-looking beast, appeared to be travelling sweetly and set for a place at least as the principals came to the top of the final bend but the gelding found disappointingly little when asked a question. Perhaps Martin Todhunter's outsider That's Rhythm (finished fifth) will be worth a second look when dropped a little in class. Gilbarry went into many notebooks when taking the opening novice chase by beating 6/5 favourite Osric, the pair 30 lengths clear of Knockavilla in third.

This season Paul Nicholls has moved stables and now writes a column for Betfair. The Racing Post, not to be outdone, hit back by announcing on Saturday they had signed up Nicky Henderson. In his first piece for the trade paper the Lambourn trainer kept punters in the picture by indicating many of his string were two weeks away from where he wanted them to be.

Weird Al returned to the track at Carlisle earlier today; Ian Williams' charge got up on the line to dead -heat with Little Josh over a trip that is probably short of his best. I was surprised to see Cape Tribulation sent off favourite for this intermediate chase; the bay didn't jump all that well at Hexham the last time veering left on occasions - that trait was evident again. He lost his position from the eleventh and was soon pulled up.

With Cheltenham's Open meeting less than a fortnight away, a quick reminder that Cheltenham Racecourse station is currently closed due to a landslip south of Gotherington Halt. Repair work has started - the latest estimate I have is that services are unlikely to be restored before mid summer; further details on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway website.

Finally, as highlighted on The Morning Line, Donald McCain's Drill Sergeant (formerly with Mark Johnson on the Flat) is blessed with ability but comes with quirks. Holding a fifteen length advantage in a Haydock novice hurdle, the Rock Of Gibraltar gelding pulled himself up at the the exit to the stables, going from first to last in a matter of strides. McCoy worked the magic though and the 11/10 favourite still ran out the winner, beating Brother Bob a length. In a recent stable tour article Donald McCain had said, 'It is possible we will ride him more positively in the future over 2m...' My guess is connections will be reviewing that approach. Incidentally, the form appears to pay a compliment to Kilcrea Kim who beat Drill Sergeant over two and half miles at Bangor. That one has a five day entry in the 1.35 at Exeter on Tuesday.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tricks and treats at Wetherby, Ascot and Newmarket

Eight go to post in tomorrow's Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby where the going is currently described as good. Last year's winner Deep Purple was allowed to go off at 9/2 on that occasion as punters weren't convinced Evan Williams' charge would stay this three miles one furlong but the gelding proved the doubters wrong by leading in the final strides to hold 2/1 favourite Tamarinbleu a head. This year the task looks much stiffer with Deep Purple having to concede four pounds and upwards to the rest of the field; nonetheless connections expect a decent run. Nicky Henderson's Barbers Shop is likely to be popular but in my mind The Queen's gelding is best at around two miles six; he has won once over three miles (at Sandown) but I'm not convinced he really sees out a three mile trip, so over 25 furlongs here I expect something to beat him. The Tother One is another one who can win on his day but he has his quirks - I recall him throwing away The Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival two years ago by hanging right, swerving left and then hanging right after hitting the front two from home. Tom George's Nacarat has won most of his races on right-handed tracks but took the Handicap Chase at Doncaster last year before going on to win the Racing Post Chase at Kempton; in that same race this year he was just pipped by Twiston-Davies' Razor Royale. The handler informs us his charge will appreciate the better ground but in the past the grey has had a tendency to throw in the odd poor leap and the fences take some jumping at Wetherby. Knockara Beau is one I like but he hasn't won over the trip and last season his fencing didn't always stand up to close scrutiny while previous winner Ollie Magern is surely past his best. I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss Calgary Bay (14/1 with Ladbrokes) who makes some appeal as an each-way proposition provided of course the eight start - the Taipan gelding had a decent enough warm-up at Cheltenham a fortnight ago. In an open-looking race, at the prices available, I'll support Nacarat, 5/1 with William Hill this evening.

Fair Along, who has been known to sulk in the past, did this blog a favour when winning the John Smith's Hurdle last year but this time around Duc De Regniere and Tidal Bay look tough opponents. The weights favour the former but I'll watch from the sidelines.

Some quick pointers for the Ascot card... Othermix catches the eye in the 2.25. Second in the Jewson at Cheltenham, this grey has his first run for Ian Williams and on official ratings has ten pounds in hand over likely favourite Pause And Clause. Nicky Henderson's Radium is feared - the trainer has taken four of the last six runnings. Course and distance winner Dunraven Storm (3.00) would be worth a second look if not marked up favourite while Tocca Ferro (4.15) was found to be full of mucus after finishing seventh in the Imperial Cup at Sandown in the spring. Trainer Emma Lavelle thinks the five-year-old gelding can win off his current mark of 126. If nothing else you should get a run for your money (with a price thrown in) from front-running course and distance winner King Edmund in the 4.50 while trainer Philip Hobbs said of Persian Snow (5.25) in a recent stable tour: 'This is one I really like...' The feature on the card, The United House Gold Cup (3.40) looks very difficult - top weight Carruthers will only take his chance if the rain arrives in time.

Finally for those who like to take their racing with a right royal touch thrown in, tomorrow's opening maiden fillies' stakes at Newmarket will fit the bill. Carousel, owned by The Prince Of Wales and The Duchess Of Cornwall, will take on nineteen opponents including Starlight Walk owned by Her Majesty The Queen. Commentators tell us Carousel has a much better chance than Starlight Walk but before the family arguments start it's worth remembering The Queen could still cut it later on in the afternoon when Barbers Shop takes his chance in the Charlie Hall Chase.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some Sunday snippets

Following a number of disappointments last season, Alan King would have been keen to hit the ground running this weekend. Some of the yard's big names returned to action but I'm guessing the handler won't be full of smiles this evening. At Aintree yesterday Mille Chief finished fifth, over fifteen lengths behind the Philip Hobbs trained winner Nearby while at Chepstow Lidar's first try at two and a half miles in the Persian War Novices' Hurdle saw the chestnut gelding pulled up three from home. Earlier today trainer's pick and Triumph Hurdle favourite Franklino could only finish third, seventeen adrift of 50/1 winner Mason Hindmarsh and Pena Dorada. At least Medermit (1/5f) won on his chasing debut but it was something of a bloodless victory against two rivals and his tendency to jump low would be a cause for concern in the future.

There were no problems for Cheltenham bumper winner Cue Card though - the King's Theatre gelding won at Aintree this afternoon on his first try over hurdles (at the rather prohibitive odds of 1/2).

On the first day of conditional trading, shares in the betting exchange operator Betfair showed a profit of 20%, finishing the day at £15.50, £2.50 ahead of the offer price of £13. According to The Times, founders Edward Wray and Andrew Black sold shares to the value of £14.4 million and £16.5 million respectively; Mr Wray's stake is now valued at £180 million while Mr Black's is worth £172 million. Unconditional trading in the shares starts on Wednesday.

Wanted: agreement on the horse racing levy before the end of this week - otherwise the Government will be called on to step in.

Julian David Bonhote Wilson, the former BBC racing correspondent, wouldn't necessarily be everybody's cup of tea but you can't help admire the bloke. In a Weekender interview he slates current BBC coverage, comparing the corporation's output in the 1980s (100 days) to the present day (12 days). Asked if he's ever thought of giving it all up, he replies at least once a month and when asked who he would invite to a dinner party at home, he comes up with '...and any good-looking intelligent, wealthy woman, who ended the evening with the magic words..."Will you buy me a horse?"'

Finally, just in case you missed them, recently compiled a selection of comedy racing clips. My favourite has to be Lee Mack as the Fast Talking Jockey on The Sketch Show. Enjoy.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Jumpers from the top drawer for Aintree and Chepstow

Some well-known jumpers look set to return to the fray tomorrow...

At Aintree Alan King's Mille Chief will be a warm order in the opener. This one was ante-post favourite for the Triumph last spring but missed the race due to injury. In this week's Weekender King tells us his charge has 'grown significantly' and states '...I could not be more pleased with his progress...' This is far from a one horse race though; Westlin' Winds put up an eye-catching performance to take third at Chepstow a fortnight ago while Philip Hobbs' Nearby surprised his handler by winning at Bangor, although on that day the challenging Rebel Dancer fell at the last when in with every chance.

Only six in the Roan Chase at 3.25 but it looks difficult to call with three course and distance winners in the field, including last year's winner, the front-running grey Monet's Garden. Good ground is the key to Albertas Run who has won first time out four times in the past five seasons while Barry Geraghty takes the ride on Poquelin for the Nicholls stable as Ruby Walsh is serving a one-day suspension. Tom George's Tartak was a major disappointment when sent off favourite for this last year - I distinctly remember the colt's jumping disintegrating as I watched. On RP ratings Tartak is well clear of his rivals; this year connections have done more with their charge and have been quite bullish. The layers appear undecided this evening, but a couple have Tartak 5/2 favourite while Albertas Run is 7/2. At those prices Albertas Run looks the value play provided the rain stays away.

Just four in the novice chase at 5.10 but all eyes will be on Alan King's Medermit who tries chasing for the first time. Betfred and Stan James have this one 8/1 favourite for the Arkle next spring - in the Weekender the handler reports his charge '...has done a fair bit of schooling and looks the part.' A speed track such as Aintree wouldn't be my idea of the best place to start a chasing career but others in the field make little appeal. The J P McManus owned Rock Noir found disappointingly little when appearing to be running all over Cockney Trucker at Huntingdon while Wessex King gives six pounds to all his opponents.

At Chepstow the Persian War Novices' Hurdle at 3.35 should prove informative. On official ratings Captain Chris is the one they have to beat and will be priced accordingly. Connections want to run here but they want rain as well and as a precaution have left the Presenting gelding in the 4.30 at Aintree on Sunday (in which Cheltenham bumper winner Cue Card also holds an entry). Silviniaco Conti goes chasing after this while Alan King has always been very keen on Lidar and is hoping for 'a big improvement' for this step up to two and a half miles. On the exchanges this evening Lidar is priced up around 14/1 - if that price materialises tomorrow Lidar offers decent each-way value while Nicky Henderson's Cavite Beta could be anything.

The Silver Trophy run thrity five minutes later is very competitive. In a recent RP stable tour article Philip Hobbs described Duke Of Lucca as a 'really exciting prospect' while Restless Harry, a favourite of mine, tends to show his best with plenty of cut underfoot. Tullamore Dew's second in the Coral Cup at the Festival reads well but it's difficult to gauge how far forward Nick Gifford's string is.

Finally in the opener I'll consider taking a chance with Tim Vaughan's Bens Moor provided the price looks reasonable. In a recent Weekender article the trainer said of his charge, 'He is a gorgeous big horse who is massively exciting.'

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Racing briefs

The last running of the Champion Stakes at Newmarket brought an emotional win for Henry Cecil's Twice Over; thirty five minutes earlier the same trainer had taken the other Group One race on the card, the Dewhurst, with the precociously talented Frankel. Frankel is now a best-priced 5/4 to win next year's 2000 Guineas; both Coral and William Hill bet odds-on at 4/5!

Cheltenham's Saturday Showcase threw up a surprise or two, with the victory of 14/1 chance Clerk's Choice in the hurdle very impressive. Well-fancied pair Royal Mix and Barizan were over 21 lengths adrift so trainer Michael Banks clearly has something to go war with this winter. Colin Tizzard's Kilmurry jumped well to take the Kleinwort Benson Novices' Chase; the horse prefers decent ground and the plan appears to be to return for the Festival in March.

Quick ground at Kempton today saw a number of races cut up badly; Medermit (seventh in the Champion Hurdle), Cue Card (Cheltenham bumper winner), Menorah (winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle), Lidar and Captain Chris all missed potential engagements. The latter-named retains his novice status until the end of the month and could be rerouted to Chepstow on Saturday for the Persian War Novices' Hurdle. Trainer Philip Hobbs in a recent Racing Post stable tour article said of his charge, "I sincerely hope, and believe, he could turn out very, very good." Menorah is likely to go straight to the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham's Open meeting next month.

That talk of Kempton reminds me that Robert 'Choc' Thornton is currently employed as the face of racing at the south London track. I recently received a flyer from the course with a picture of the jock in racing silks and a rather sturdy-looking hedgetrimmer ready to shave at least an inch off the top of one of the steeplechase obstacles. Choc may be out of the saddle recovering from injury at the moment but he's certainly keeping himself busy as he's also writing a column for the Racing Post.

Finally a possible longshot I'll keep an eye out for this week is John Harris' Tom Wade - this one holds an entry in the opening juvenile hurdle at Ludlow on Thursday. Sent off at odds of 66/1 on his debut at the track a couple of weeks ago, the gelding was disputing second when unseating seven pound claimer Kyle James three out in a race won by Akula (who in turn had finished fifth behind one of the best juveniles seen so far this season, Architrave). Charlie Poste has been booked for the ride.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cheltenham Showcase and Newmarket Champions

Nostalagia will be the order of the day with the last running of the Champion Stakes at Newmarket tomorrow; the race will be run at Ascot next year. On a top class card Frankel's clash with Dream Ahead in the Dewhurst will be one to savour; earlier this week Frankel was reported to have beaten his lead horse twenty five lengths on the gallops - naturally the layers have taken this into account and make Henry Cecil's colt an odds-on favourite (8/11) this evening. On ratings Dream Ahead is the one to beat - priced up at 3/1 in a six runner race, he will make some appeal for those brave enough to oppose but I'll watch from the sidelines. Thirty two runners face the starter in the Cesarewitch due off at 3.40. Horses that have been running over the sticks have a good record in this. If you leave out Caracciola (won at odds of 50/1 in 2008) the longest priced winner in the past decade was sent off at 16/1; two favourites have won in that time, Darley Sun and Detroit City, both sent off at 9/2. Nicky Henderson's Sentry Duty goes well after a break and has been talked up during the week but I feel is often better with plenty of cut underfoot. For those who must have a bet, My Arch (has form over hurdles) is the suggestion. Kieren Fallon rides Deauville Flyer in the race but the jock has a quiet word for Ollie Pears' charge in his column in the Weekender; Coral offer 14/1 this evening.

At Cheltenham I'm looking forward to the return of Barizan in the hurdle. This horse attempted to make all in the Triumph here in March and went down one and a quarter lengths to Soldatino. He was then beaten by Orsippus (40/1 that day) at Aintree before gaining his revenge over that opponent at Punchestown two weeks later. The top two have to give the rest of the field eight pounds which, on official ratings, makes Paul Nicholls' Royal Mix the top rated animal. I can't oppose Barizan; trainer Evan Williams has had four winners from 21 runners in the past fortnight, a strike rate of 19.05%. Wayne Hutchinson reports that Gilded Age is likely to come on for the run.

In the opener I've never been convinced by Aiteen Thirtythree after he finished a well-beaten third behind Reve De Sivola in the Persian War Novices' Hurdle on soft ground at Chepstow last year. In a recent stable tour article Nicholls described the Old Vic gelding as 'immature mentally' last term but is now 'coming along nicely'. Connections state they intend to go novice chasing after this run. Tim Vaughan describes the five-year-old Old Vic mare Pure Anticipation as 'a nice prospect for staying novice hurdles' while Acey is of interest on his first run for the Twiston-Davies team. Pure Anticipation, priced up at 8/1 in this evening's tissue, looks an each-way play against likely favourite Aiteen Thirtythree.

With regard to the novice chase at 3.50, Philip Hobbs' Balthazar King kept on gamely exactly one week ago to overturn the Nicholls hotpot Watamu Bay at Chepstow. Watamu Bay jumped markedly right on that occasion and was only beaten half a length in the end so you'd expect something to beat the Hobbs horse here. Paul Nicholls will think his entry, Picture This, is the horse to do just that. Quoting the champion trainer on his charge: "He is one I can't wait to send chasing this season." I've always thought Billy Magern the poor relation compared to Ollie [Magern] but the gelding looks progressive nonetheless while Ian Williams' Wayward Prince is another to consider. In my book the percentage call is Picture This who would be worth an interest if tonight's tissue price of 7/2 is freely available on the day. I haven't completely disregarded Hell's Bay. The gelding has his own ideas about the game but is not without ability. He was formerly with Paul Nicholls but the champion trainer had obviously had enough. This one looks the type that could benefit from moving to a smaller establishment and Colin Tizzard must have done something right as the horse trotted up at Newton Abbot on his first outing for connections. Tizzard isn't one to to take a charge to Cheltenham on the off-chance so I'd be tempted into a small each-way wager on Hell's Bay at tonight's tissue price of 16/1. [Incidentally, can't wait to see the yard's Cue Card this season. Had an entry in the 5.10 at Kempton on Sunday but that option hasn't been taken up.]

The concluding bumper has entries that catch my eye (and probably nobody else's) including Nicky Henderson's Lets Get Serious (will the layers offer 4/1? Probably not!) and Richard Johnson's mount Sir Benfro.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Anticipation, fun and misuse of the whip

As the National Hunt season moves into gear, I'm reminded of the old saying: horse racing - half the fun is in the anticipation. Here's a selection of early seaon targets for some well known horses, as noted in Saturday's Times:

Twist Magic (P. Nicholls) Haldon Gold Cup, Exeter

Tataniano (P. Nicholls) Cheltenham Open meeting

Kauto Star (P. Nicholls) Down Royal, November 6th; King George

Denman (P. Nicholls) Hennessy Gold Cup, Newbury

Imperial Commander (N. Twiston-Davies) Betfair Chase, Haydock

What A Friend (P.Nicholls) Betfair Chase, Haydock

Master Minded (P.Nicholls) Ascot, late November

Additional running plans noted include:

Big Fella Thanks (F.Murphy) Hennessy Gold Cup, Newbury

Wolf Moon (M.Keighley) Cheltenham Showcase meeting, October 15th

Total Submission (M.Keighley) Cheltenham Showcase meeting, October 15th

Benbane Head (M.Keighley) Cheltenham Showcase meeting, October 16th

There's a whisper in some quarters that Nicky Henderson can take the trainers' title this season. John O'Hara's comment is worth noting: 'In all my time of talking to trainers for the Weekender I have never seen a jumps yard more full of quality than the one Nicholls is preparing for the 2010-11 season'. William Hill bet 4/9 Nicholls, 2/1 Henderson, 20/1 bar.

In a driving finish at Chepstow yesterday Ruby Walsh managed to get the Paul Nicholls trained Escort'men home a nose in front of 2/1 favourite Olofi ridden by Paddy Brennan. After Walsh had dismounted, he had recourse to resort to the whip once again before weighing in as a gentleman dressed in a red T-shirt entered the winner's enclosure and attempted to mount the chestnut gelding. The offender was promptly chased off by Walsh, the threat of a slap from the persuader enough to bring the him into line. The culprit was quickly escorted from the premises. Good Lord! Just what is the world coming to? Rumours that Walsh was subsequently given a one day ban by local stewards for misuse of the whip are wide of the mark.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Chepstow's first meeting

Over the years tomorrow's Chepstow card has come to be seen by many traditionalists as the first meeeting 'proper' of the new National Hunt season. A few years ago Philip Hobbs was a trainer to note here but in more recent times Paul Nicholls has used the meeting to set down a marker. Of course, the world and his wife is now fully aware of the above - a while back I set about trying to exploit this fact by opposing fancied runners from the Nicholls stable, the theory being that the yard may not be quite in full swing and many of the horses not 'cherry ripe'.

This approach hasn't really been that successful - here's a quick summary of how Nicholls-trained horses ridden by Ruby Walsh have fared at this meet over the past four years:

Tito Bustillo won 11/8f
The Gossmoor Yank third 11/4f
Gullible Gordon won 4/6f
Tot Of The Knar third 100/30
Classic Swain second 7/2jf
Murrell second 8/11f

Five Dream fourth 7/2 2f
Herecomesthetruth won 10/11f
Bold Policy fifth 4/1 2f
R Rien De Sivola won 8/1
Tchico Polos won 5/2 2f
Tataniano won evens fav

Natal UR 100/30f
Gwanako won 6/1 2f
Petit Lord won 6/5f
Qrackers second 5/1 (beaten by 4/11f Franchoek)
Pertinent F 4/1 2f
Hercomesthetruth fifth 7/4f

Bold Fire tenth 9/2
East Lawyer PU 8/1
Hot N Holy won 9/4f
Chaninbar second 5/1 2f (beaten by 4/11f Katchit)
Armariver second 3/1 2f (beaten by 4/11f Massini's Maguire)
Earth Planet won 11/4 2f

Those looking for value should note that the Nicholls runner has won the past four runnings of the 3.25.

I intend to oppose Escort'men in tomorrow's 4.00 race. This horse won the Dovecote at Kempton in impressive style last February but his subsequent effort at Aintree was disappointing; I'm not certain whether he's better going right-handed or whether he can handle an undulating track - certainly his hold-up style of racing won't be suited to Chepstow. Having said all that, I should point out Nick Mordin rates Escort'men 'a Champion hurdle prospect'. I'll take a chance with Tom George's course and distance winner Olofi who won the juvenile hurdle at this meet last year.

Gullible Gordon will be popular in the 5.10 but this is a competitive handicap. Twiston-Davies has his team in fine form (9 wins from 32 runs in past fortnight) so last year's winner Beat The Boys isn't lightly dismissed. Le Beau Bai is interesting, especially with a seven pound claimer up. Connections are likely to be aiming for another stab at the Welsh National but I'm tempted to take fitness on trust and have a wager on Richard Lee's Le Beau Bai.

In the opener I'll monitor the market to decide whether Alan King's Groove Master is a play against the Nicholls favourite Domtaline (third in the Prix Wild at Auteuil, a race that historically throws up plenty of future winners according to the Weekender) while in the concluding bumper Kartanian is likely to have his work cut out giving seven pounds to Merehead.

Over at Bangor the 5.15 looks a hot novice for the time of year. Henry Daly's Wessex King was withdrawn at Uttoxeter on Sunday presumably on account of the heavy ground. The going may be more to his liking here but the opposition is far stiffer; the race should provide some valuable pointers for the weeks ahead.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A pick of grass

Epsom Derby winner Workforce disappointed badly in the King George at Ascot but the colt was back to his brilliant best this afternoon to take the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe by a head from Nakayama Festa with the filly Safarina a further two and a half lengths away in third. Winning his first Arc, trainer Sir Michael Stoute was quick to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to jockey Ryan Moore who was right out the back as they turned for home and rode a fine race to weave his way through the field and pip the Japanese runner at the post. Teddy Grimthrope, racing manager for winning owner Prince Khalid Abdullah said: "...I think there is a good chance [Workforce] will stay in training at four."

There was a twist in the race for the Flat jockeys' championship when Richard Hughes was hit with a six day ban for careless riding in the concluding handicap at Wolverhampton last night. Earlier in the evening Hughes had received a separate one day ban for excessive use of the whip when beaten a neck on Tallawalla by (the somewhat suitably named) Miss Whippy. He is set to appeal the six day suspension - should that appeal fail, Hughes' chance of taking the Flat jockeys' title looks all but over.

Noted at Huntingdon today - Cockney Trucker (7/2) won the novice chase from the front despite hitting a couple of the obstacles rather hard. Philip Hobbs' inmate certainly didn't look a natural over fences but, having said that, he still managed to beat odds-on shot Rock Noir (8/11f) seventeen lengths; the favourite emptied alarmingly quickly two from home. Songe (11/4f) won the competitive-looking Class Three chase in most convincing fashion and can expect a hike up the handicap for his troubles. Songe's victory was the first part of an across-the-card treble for trainer Charlie Longsdon who won the penultimate race at Uttoxeter with Young Albert (17/2) and the finale back at Huntingdon with Rey Nacarado (100/30f) owned by the intriguingly-named partnership Runthatbymeagainagain.

Finally The Sunday Telegraph reports that today's Huntingdon meeting has become known for the Mascot Grand National but this year's event has been hit by a boycott. Several club mascots are complaining many of the competitors are 'ringers' who just dress up as a mascot for the day. All is not well in the mascot world.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Cambridgeshire (with some Sunday signals thrown in)

The Cambridgeshire tops a difficult-looking card at Newmarket tomorrow with 35 set to face the starter at 3.40 on ground described as soft. This evening John Gosden's Nationalism is the layers' favourite, as low as 7/2 with Boylesports while both Coral and Ladbrokes go 6/1. In the last ten years four horses have carried more than nine stones to victory; given the state of the ground and the competitive nature of this handicap, I've concentrated my efforts on those runners allocated less than nine stones. Elliptical, whose owners Keen As Mustard are unlikely to be put off by bad weather, was regarded unlucky when going down a head to Tartan Gigha over course and distance back in May. Gerard Butler's inmate has won on soft in the past although most of his recent form is on better ground but the booking of Christophe Soumillon certainly catches the eye; connections anticpiate a bold show. Both Emirates Dream and Absinthe have recent winning form in similar conditions; the latter could be anything but was reported to have scoped dirty after a piece of work two and a half weeks ago. Plenty of commentators have talked up the chances of Luca Cumani's Start Right (an each-way shout according to Fallon in the Weekender and he'll be pleased with a draw nearer the stands side in stall 9) and of John Gosden's supposed second string Taqleed. A J Martin, renowned for pulling off handicap coups over the sticks, travels over from Meath to saddle Pires, a brown gelding who counts Ruby Walsh and Johnny Murtagh amongst his previous pilots, while I had a second look at Smokey Oakey depsite the price as he'll appreciate the easy ground; he has been out of form of late and on balance looks unlikely to give part-owner Judi Dench a day to remember. In an impossible race, a chance is taken with Pires (each-way). It's worth noting that Skybet offer a quarter the odds six places while several layers pay on the fifth spot including bet365, totesport, Betfred, Victor Chandler, Blue Square and Stan James.

Sunday's highlight is the Arc (Longhamp 3.05) and Cavalryman has quickly caught my eye. The colt secured third in this race last year behind Sea The Stars when drawn wide in stall 19. He hasn't really hit form since his move from Andre Fabre but has a better draw on this occasion together with the assistance of Dettori in the plate; 20/1 is the price this evening.

From the Arc on a Sunday to a Huntingdon novice chase on a Sunday - the Emma and Megan Deanus Novices' Chase should prove useful for future reference. Nigel Twiston-Davies saddles Cootehill, Philip Hobbs Cockney Trucker while the J P McManus owned Rock Noir makes his chasing debut on a course where the fences are stiff enough. At the same meeting novice Songe looks quite highly tried in the handicap chase at 3.30 while Kahfre (4.05) won well at Plumpton the last time.

Finally another Sunday novice chase to take in - this time at Uttoxeter. Only six go in the Novices' Chase at 3.20 but Darstardly Dick, Wessex King and Shadow Dancer all look interesting contenders.