Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Day 2011

There's a tricky-looking card on offer at Cheltenham tomorrow for the first day of the new year. Seventeen go to post in the feature, the Chase, at 2.35; in my book a number of the runners have issues in the jumping department - I'm going to leave well alone but must say it's fantastic to see Mister McGoldrick in the line-up at the age of fourteen.

The form of the Relkeel run over the course and distance three weeks ago is a decent starting point for the Cheltenham & Three Counties Race Club Hurdle at 12.55. Karabak beat Any Given Day and Celestial Halo the last time but has to concede four pounds to both those opponents tomorrow; plenty will think Karabak can do just that - according to today's Times connections intend to go straight to the World Hurdle with their charge if he does the business here. Having said that, others will fancy Donald McCain's Any Given Day to reverse the placings. At the weights Celestial Halo is the one to beat but I note he's never won at this distance while Nicky Henderson's Oscar Whisky, fourth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle last March, is given every respect. This evening layers go 9/4 Karabak, 3/1 Any Given Day, 7/2 Celestial Halo and Oscar Whisky; at those prices Celestial Halo gets the vote.

In the Dipper (2.00) Hell's Bay would make some appeal each-way at a price but I'll take a chance with David Pipe's Mr Thriller - this one was in the process of giving Time For Rupert a run for his money when coming to grief two out the last time. Nicky Henderson's Master Of The Hall is feared.

I intend to have a small speculative wager on Milton Harris' grey Rose Of The Moon in first. In a stable tour article last month the handler told us this one has already schooled over fences and is described as 'an exceptional prospect'. Finally the concluding bumper looks the best race of its type we've seen this season. Roger Charlton's Keys will generate a lot of interest as will Cinders and Ashes and facile Exeter winner Cousin Khee.

Postscript: Some people simply never learn and have asked me to take a quick look at tomorrow's all-hurdle card at Exeter on their behalf. The feature Bathwick Tyres Handicap Hurdle at 2.15 looks very competitive. This evening's tissue has David Pipe's Hunterview at 16/1 - I can't see that price being available tomorrow but if it is, it would look very good each-way value. Hunterview hasn't shown his best of late but if the gelding bounces back he has a shout - he beat Advisor at Ayr in April and was beaten under six and a half lengths conceding 17 pounds to Salden Licht at Plumpton last January. Other Exeter suggestions (for the brave only):

12.40 Mr Hudson / Filbert
1.15 Bermuda Boy
1.45 Baby Car
3.25 Spanish Cruise
In the bumper (4.00) I note Sam Thomas is booked to travel from Cheltenham to ride Morgan's Bay for Tom George.

Whatever happens, let me take this opportunity to wish all readers a very happy new year...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Frozen courses

Probably the only thing I have in common with Kempton's clerk of the course Barney Clifford is the fact we both took a peek under the covers this morning and didn't particularly like what we saw. Kempton's Boxing Day card has been abandoned; Monday's revised eight-race card at the track is now subject to an inspection on Sunday (Boxing Day) at 2.00pm.

At the time of writing the current state of play is:

Boxing Day 26th December

Kempton Park - abandoned

Fontwell Park - 11.00 am inspection Christmas Day

Huntingdon - abandoned

Market Rasen - abandoned

Towcester - abandoned

Wetherby - abandoned

Wincanton -abandoned

Wolverhampton - inspection 6.30 am Boxing Day

Leopardstown - abandoned. Rescheduled Thursday 30th December

Limerick - abandoned

Down Royal - abandoned

Monday 27th December

Chepstow - abandoned. Welsh National meeting rescheduled January 8th

Kempton Park - inspection 2.00 pm Boxing Day

Southwell - no inspection currently planned

Wetherby - inspection 9.00 am Boxing Day

Leopardstown - abandoned

Tuesday 28th December

Catterick - abandoned

Ffos Las - course currently covered

Leicester - inspection 8.30 am Boxing Day

Wednesday 29th December

Kelso - abandoned

Thursday 30th December

Haydock - inspection 11.00 am Tuesday 28th December

Makes grim reading, doesn't it? Pass the port, please...

Friday, December 17, 2010

No escape for the wicked...

It's a grim-looking picture for Saturday's scheduled turf cards. Ascot and Newcastle have already abandoned their fixtures while Haydock is subject to an inspection at 8.00 tomorrow morning. The track has frost covers in place but an inch of snow will cause problems as will the overnight temperature which is set to reach minus 5.

It looks as though the suggested displacement activity will be doing some 'last minute Christmas shopping'. The sheer agony of it all... Whatever, somebody has certainly splashed out on a Christmas present this year; an undisclosed buyer recently paid a record £10 million for George Stubbs' masterpiece Brood Mares and Foals.

A bit nearer to home, I'll be thinking more along the lines of Claire's Accessories myself...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Early Christmas treats at Cheltenham

There's an exceptional eight-race card at Cheltenham tomorrow; highlights include the Relkeel Hurdle (1.20), the Tingle Creek (1.55), the Vote A.P. Gold Cup (2.30) and the International Hurdle (3.05).

Quick pointers on the main races follow...

12.10 Triumph Hurdle trial: Sam Winner, currently 5/1 favourite for the March showpiece, is likely to start odds-on after his impressive course and distance win four weeks ago. Nicky Henderson's filly A Media Luz will be of interest to many; she gets a weight allowance from the rest of the field and ran in the French Oaks this summer. An outsider to catch my eye is John Harris' Tom Wade. On his penultimate run at Ludlow claimer Kyle James was unseated three out when disputing second in the race won by Akula. The next time the bay gelding led over the last at the same course but was caught on the line by Al Dafa; Al Dafa went on to be beaten by the well-regarded Marsh Warbler the next time. Not the strongest lines of form, I agree, but this evening a couple of layers offer 16/1 Akula while Tom Wade is 100/1 - at that price I'll have a small each-way interest.

12.45 Following his course win over two and a half miles last month Time For Rupert is 6/1 favourite for the RSA Chase in March. At that same meeting Chicago Grey looked set to go and win his race when coming to grief two out. Quinz looks to have more scope of the Hobbs pair; a big sort who jumped well to beat experienced handicappers at Ascot the last time, he's the top-rated animal (of those with a rating) and looks a value play at 11/2 against favourite Time For Rupert.

1.20 The Relkeel looks difficult. Aidan Coleman marked punters' cards when Quartz De Thaix won at 14/1 the last time. The jock is sweet enough on the chance of this course and distance winner here - I'll have an each-way interest at around the 10/1 mark.

1.55 The vibes from Ditcheat suggest Master Minded is back to his best following a wind operation in the summer; I'm not going to play in the Tingle Creek. It will be interesting to see whether Nick Williams' Gauvain can build on an impressive win over course and distance the last time.

2.30 The Vote A.P. Gold Cup looks most competitive. Robinson Collonges is one with potential in abundance but so far he's only raced in small fields in this country which is off-putting. I put up Great Endeavour for the Paddy Power four weeks ago. Timmy Murphy raced his mount wide for most of the trip but the horse didn't jump that well and tired in the closing stages finishing sixth behind Little Josh. David Pipe expects improvement for that run so I'll give Great Endeavour another chance.

3.05 The International (or The Bula as it's known to old-timers like myself) is intriguing and should be noted for future reference. Five of the nine runners are four-year-olds and two of those four-year-olds, Cristal Bonus and Silviniaco Conti, have to give weight to the others. Greatwood Hurdle winner Menorah, now five, is best in at the weights and has consequently been priced up favourite. Colin Tizzard's Cue Card looked exceptional winning the Festival bumper last March - his trainer has opted for the bold approach going for this. Looking at the ratings and the odds Clerk's Choice appears overpriced at 14/1 with Coral. This one had some well-regarded types behind when winning on his penultimate start but got stuck in the mud at Haydock the last time. I'm prepared to forgive that run but would be worried the trainer may have missed work with his stable star during the recent cold snap. Silviniaco Conti is lightning quick over the obstacles (beat Karabak at Ascot last time - a pointer will be gleaned by Karabak's run in the Relkeel at 1.20) and merits the utmost respect. A fascinating contest - of the principals I'm tempted by 3/1 Silviniaco Conti but will have an each-way wager on Clerk's Choice at 14/1.

3.40 In the finale Emma Lavelle's Highland Valley is a chaser in the making who may appreciate more cut, a comment that applies could apply to Golden Chieftain too. Teaforthree won over the distance the last time; with McCoy up I'll consider an each-way wager at 10/1 (in the unlikely event I have any money left).

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Thoroughbred locomotives

As any self-respecting trainspotter of a certain age will tell you, eight of the 22 Class 55 Deltic locomotives that provided the horsepower on British Railways' East Coast main line service during the 60s and 70s were named after racehorses; apparently this practice continued a tradition originally started at Finsbury Park by the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER). The racehorse names chosen weren't those of platers that managed the odd win here and there in lowly Newton Abbot claimers - several were Derby winners. In time most of these railway workhorses were carted off to the knacker's yard but a couple of examples have been preserved and a number of nameplates survive.

Those nameplates appear to be worth a penny or two today, going by an article in the most recent edition of Railways Illustrated magazine (January 2011). Andrew Watts reports that at a recent auction in Hampshire, despite strong interest, Crepello (1954 Derby winner) failed to make its (rather ambitious?) reserve price of £24,000. The highest price obtained for any Deltic nameplate is £31,400 for The Duke of Wellington's Regiment in 2002; the most paid to date for a racehorse nameplate is £11,000 for Nimbus (1949 Derby winner) in 1998.

For the sake of completeness (and because, with the racing programme severely curtailed, I don't know what to do and desperately need to avoid Christmas shopping) here's a list of the eight racehorse Deltics:

9001 / 55001 St Paddy (1960 Derby winner)
9003 / 55003 Meld (1955 1000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger winner)
9007 / 55007 Pinza (1953 Derby winner)
9009 / 55009 Alycidon (1949 Ascot Gold Cup, Goodwood Cup and Doncaster Cup winner)
9012 / 55012 Crepello (1954 Derby winner)
9015 / 55015 Tulyar (1952 Derby winner)
9018 / 55018 Ballymoss (1957 Irish Derby winner)
9020 / 55020 Nimbus (1949 Derby winner)

Let's hope racing resumes soon - otherwise I'm likely to end up going off the rails.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Suggested reading during a cold spell

The big freeze means there's no jump racing tomorrow. The Tingle Creek has been re-scheduled to 1.55 Cheltenham Saturday December 11th provided, of course, the weather relents; the course hope to lay down covers this Sunday.

Meetings already abandoned include:

Sunday 5th December: Kelso, Clonmel, Punchestown
Monday 6th December: Bangor-On-Dee, Musselburgh
Tuesday 7th December: Sedgefield
Wednesday 8th December: Hexham.

What to do? Why not try a little race reading...

Ruby: The Autobiography by Ruby Walsh

Kauto Star & Denman by Jonathan Powell

McCoy: A Racing Post Celebration by Brough Scott

The Cheltenham World of Jump Racing by Mick Fitzgerald

Lucky Break by Paul Nicholls

Frankincense and More: The Biography of Barry Hills by Robin Oakley

Kinane: A Remarkable Racing Family by Anne Holland

In The Frame: Great Racing Photographs by Edward Whitaker

Dark Horses Jumps Guide 2010-2011 by Marten Julian

Fallon: The Biography by Andrew Longmore

Freud On Course: The Racing Lives of Clement Freud by Clement Freud

Rodders of Arabia by Rod Simpson with Stuart Brodkin

Eclipse by Nicholas Clee