Sunday, February 27, 2011

Any Other Business

Yesterday at Kempton there was double delight for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson with Captain Chris (2/5f) and Racing Post Chase winner Quinz (8/1) while at Newcastle the David Pipe and Tom Scudamore combination pulled off a similar stunt with Battle Group (5/1) and The Tracey Shuffle (6/5f). Better news from the Twiston-Davies team too with both Imperial Commander and Khyber Kim pleasing in their racecourse gallop; last year's Gold Cup winner had failed to impress in a previous piece of work at Warwick but it transpired he had raced with Oscar Magic who took the Kempton finale in some style and is now quoted at 20/1 (Coral) for the Festival bumper. If you agree with Nigel's view that Khyber Kim, second behind Binocular in last year's Champion Hurdle, is the forgotten horse this time around, then you'd be interested in the 25s available with several layers including Coral, Paddy Power, Victor Chandler and totesport.

All roads lead to Cheltenham at this time of year - or do they? Starluck put in a couple of sketchy leaps on his way to a facile win at Huntingdon on Thursday. Several bookmakers offer a miserly-looking 8/1 about this one for the Arkle; Stan James and Victor Chandler go 12s but I'm not tempted and in any case connections have yet to commit to the race. Two jocks sweating - Jason Maguire appeals on Thursday against a seven-day ban which, if upheld, will see him miss the ride on Peddlers Cross in the Champion Hurdle; Tom Scudamore was relieved to get just three days for careless riding aboard Dan Breen at Sandown on Friday.

Something different at this year's Festival - Ladies' Day has been moved to Wednesday to accommodate St Patrick's Day falling on the Thursday. Booking my Tatts tickets for the Wednesday, I was set something of a poser by those clever marketing chappies - pay the discounted price for a ticket (£37) or, alternatively, pay the full price (£45) with the promise of a full refund if a lady trainer has a winner on the day. Jessica Harrington trains the current favourite for the Neptune, Oscars Well, while Venetia Williams has several entries in the Coral Cup along with Tenor Nivernais and Pepite Rose in the Fred Winter. Being something of a cheapskate, I had no qualms whatsoever in taking the discounted price.

Question: When will the Raceform Update Guide to Cheltenham be available in my local newsagents?
Answer: From Friday 4th March.

More sample stats for Cheltenham, this time from the guys at Racing Trends who have compiled 10 year trends for all the major Festival races. For example, favourites have a dismal record in the William Hill Trophy on the opening day with just one win in the last 14 years and only three since 1969; having said that, six of the last ten to collect the spoils were positioned either second, third or fourth in the market. Nine of the last ten winners finished in the first three on their last run while all ten had a handicap rating between 129 and 143. From 59 qualifiers in the past decade, no horse carried 11 stones or more to victory. If you fancy more of the same, you'll need to get in touch with the team on the link above.

Warwickshire Life is the sort of publication you tend to find in a doctor's waiting-room and isn't one you'd consider buying unless, of course, you happened to frequent a particular social sphere... Yesterday though I purchased a copy of the March edition as it contains an enlightening four page article on the Waley-Cohen operation and Sam's attempt to become the first amateur jockey to win the Gold Cup since Mr Jim Wilson rode Little Owl to victory in 1981. In the history of the great race only two other amateurs have performed a similar feat - Mr Hugh Grosvenor aboard Thrown In in 1927 and Mr Richard Black on Fortina in 1947 - so Sam has set himself something of a challenge in bidding to win this year's renewal aboard his father's horse Long Run. Robert Waley-Cohen owns Upton Estate near Edgehill, Warwickshire while the National Trust maintains Upton House, described by Wikipedia as '..agreeable but of modest architectural significance'. Hmmm... For a day job Sam runs his own dentistry business, Portman Healthcare, so you can't but admire the commitment and determination as he fits in fitness training around a full day at the office. Yogi Breisner has been working with the team to iron out Long Run's jumping problems which had been evident in previous races but the King George performance at Kempton indicated a marked improvement and marked Long Run as a horse to be taken very seriously. Trainer Nicky Henderson rates him his best chance of a Gold Cup to date so, rest assured, no stone will be left unturned in an attempt to realise the dream. I wish Sam Waley-Cohen the very best of luck on Friday 18th March.

A piece of good news to finish on - Ruby Walsh was back in the saddle earlier today, partnering Mikael D'haguenet in a spin after racing at Leopardstown. Ruby intends to return to race-riding later this week, possibly at Taunton on Thursday.

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