Thursday, July 28, 2011

Saturday selections

Just two Flat races beyond 12 furlongs on Saturday - Goodwood's Toyo Tires Summer Stakes at 2.35 and the Glenridding Handicap at Thirsk (4.45).

Three have previous NH form in the Goodwood race - Sentry Duty, Investissement and Woolfall Treasure. I tipped up Investissement for this year's Northumberland Plate but the gelding ran out of steam up Newcastle's long home straight; having previously won here over this shorter trip, John Gosden's charge, formerly with Evan Williams, remains of interest. Fallon is booked for the ride on Sentry Duty - in the Weekender the jock says Nicky Hendserson's charge 'would have a decent each-way chance' but I always think Sentry Duty shows his best form with cut underfoot. Woolfall Treasure made a belated seasonal reappearance in the John Smith's Silver Cup at York three weeks ago. That day he went off at odds of 66/1; this course and distance winner looks sure to come on for that run but is probably best watched here. In the tissue Investissement is priced  at 14/1 and would merit each-way support at that price. Of the other runners Petara Bay, owned by Bernie Ecclestone, caught the eye when a staying-on fourth in the Northumberland Plate at 40/1 - the gelding is unlikely to start that price on Saturday.

At Thirsk 10 of the12 runners have previous NH form. Top weight Los Nadis, rated 126 over hurdles, looks to be returning to form and is of interest; having said that, no favourite has taken this in the past seven renewals.  Bulwark has been off the track for 20 months and Into The Light reamins a maiden but Andorn merits respect with a win strike rate of 25%. Gary Moore's team is in decent form - two run here - but if Los Nadis turns up with his A game, he should be thereabouts. Suggestion - Los Nadis.                  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Looking back...and looking forward

A dramatic renewal of the King George this year with Nathaniel's victory overshadowed by Rewilding breaking a leg as he started his challenge up the home straight and having to be put down as a result of the injury. In difficult circumstances both winning jockey William Buick and trainer John Gosden spoke eloquently to camera immediately after the race, paying tribute to the Godolphin runner. At the time of writing Nathaniel is 8/1 for the Arc. Last year's Arc winner Workforce looked the likely winner of this year's King George until he veered badly off a straight line in the final furlong, hanging left and going down by two and threequarter lengths. Since the laying of the new course and the building of the new stand at Ascot, I have previously seen some horses hang towards the stands rails in a similar fashion, particularly when the sun casts a shadow over the track. I guess connections will be at a loss to explain this running; Workforce is a 7/1 chance with Coral to win this year's Arc.

Here's my interpretation of the King George tactics... The word beforehand was Debussy would set a honest, even gallop but in the event he did nothing of the sort. Ahmed Ajtebi took his mount to the front and then promptly but the brakes on. With Rewilding settled at the back, I'm assuming the plan was to make opposing jockeys, particularly Ryan Moore on Workforce and William Buick on Nathaniel, restrain their mounts and thereby waste valuable energy. Full marks to Buick who quickly adapted to circumstances and let his mount stride on. For the spectator, though, it led to a messy race.

One final note from Ascot... During TV coverage Clare Balding told viewers that Willie Carson had received a strong tip for 40/1 chance Palace Moon in the International Stakes. In the event the gelding was declared a non-runner but might be worth a second look if seen out in the next couple of weeks.

Two meetings to monitor in the coming week - Glorious Goodwood (Tuesday - Saturday) with the much anticpated clash between Frankel and Canford Cliffs set to take place in the Sussex Stakes on Wednesday and the Galway Summer Festival (Monday - Sunday) with the Galway Plate scheduled for Wednesday and the Guinness Galway Hurdle for Thursday.

Finally, it's been a fair week's work for golf agent Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler. This time last week Chubby was interviewed on BBC TV as Darren Clarke collected the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's, Sandwich. Six days later and Chubby was amongst the winners once again as his Hoof It, owned in partnership with golfer Lee Westwood, landed York's six furlong Sky Bet Dash with something in hand. Connections now have Saturday's Stewards' Cup firmly in their sights...; this evening Hoof It is the 7/1 favourite with most layers.             

Friday, July 22, 2011

King George day at Ascot

Only five go in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot tomorrow but it looks particularly intriguing. On ratings, there's little to choose between Workforce and Rewilding while Coolmore has surprised many by putting up trainer's son Joseph O'Brien on St Nicholas Abbey. Nathaniel has course and distance winning form and has been supplemented at a cost of £75,000; Debussy is set to act as pacemaker for Rewilding. Over the week the market has changed significantly with Workforce now a clear favourite following a favourable gallop at Newmarket on Sunday. Rewilding, with Ascot specialist Dettori in the plate, has to be the value; William Hill offered 7/2 until early afternoon but now go 3/1; 100/30 is generally available. Connections think they have found the answer to the colt's apparent inconsistency last season - he needs a break between races. Workforce flopped badly in this last year, leading some to question whether he disliked the track; trainer Sir Michael Stoute is on record saying his charge is in much better shape this year. A fascinating renewal - Rewilding gets the nod.

Continuing with a theme (Keys went in again (4/5f) earlier this afternoon), horses with NH form running over more than 12 furlongs tomorrow include:

4.05 Newcastle - Tillietudlem, Jeu De Roseau, Summerlea, Falcun, Hi Dancer, Strikemaster and Follow The Sun. Tillietudum has won novice hurdles at Perth, Bangor and Ayr by racing from the front. Jeu De Roseau has Towcester and Sedgefield handicap hurdles to his name and was beaten less than five lengths by Tillietudlem at Catterick last time; they look closely matched on the revised terms. Summerlea has his second run for new connections, having finished mid-division in a Punchestown maiden hurdle in October 2009. Falcun didn't look suited to the jumping game with two undistinguished runs in maiden hurdles; his latest run hints he may benefit from this trip after staying on well over 14 furlongs at Redcar the last time. Hi Dancer won a Sedgefield handicap hurdle off 108 in March at odds of 25/1. Strikemaster boasts little NH form of note but Follow The Sun has won a Southwell two mile handicap chase. Tillietudlem, Jeu De Roseau and Falcun are of interest - Falcun is a tentative suggestion.

4.45 York - Bow To No One, Simonside and Profit's Reality. Bow To No One has run of the mill novice hurdle form over two miles that dates back to March/April this year. The mare finished second to 66/1 winner French Hollow at this course two weeks ago and on the back of that effort looks likely to go off the market leader; Spiekeroog made up plenty of ground to finish fourth that day and may well have improved for the run. Simonside was a Market Rasen bumper winner in 2007, won over course and distance last September and won his penultimate start at Ayr. Profit's Reality has raced 64 times with just the one start over hurdles at Bangor in August 2008. Bow To No One is of most interest; Simonside may find one or two too good in this Class 3 event.

6.15 Lingfield - eight of the ten runnners have NH form; Dream Catcher has won over hurdles but has been generally disappointing. No suggestion.

8.10 Salibury - Tropical Batchelor is the only one with jumps form but is of interest on the back of his close fourth at Haydock last week. The winner of the Haydock race, Spirit Of A Nation, goes in York's 4.45 (see above) and may provide a pointer to Tropical Batchelor's chance. Reg Hollinshead's Drawn Gold finished fifth at Haydock but reopposes on two pounds worse terms as the jockey isn't a claimer. Tropical Batchelor looks to represent a reasonable each-way shout (10/1 or bigger) on his third start of the season after a long layoff.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Weekend musings

Earlier today Blue Bunting made amends for her Epsom disappointment by taking the Irish Oaks while Workforce delighted connections in a Newmarket gallop and looks on course for a clash with St Nicholas Abbey and Rewilding in Saturday's King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. This evening Betfred bets 11/10 St Nicholas Abbey, 2/1 Rewilding, 11/4 Workforce; William Hill offers 11/10 St Nicholas Abbey, 5/2 Workforce, 11/4 Rewilding.

They went hard up front in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen, with the result several were struggling on the second circuit. Much as it pains me, I am obliged to report the mother-in-law took one look at the TV two minutes before the off and selected Qulinton; the wretched beast landed the spoils in what can only be described as a very convincing manner. Gutted. With gloating still ringing in my ears, I can report this evening that Stan James offers a miserly-looking 8/1 about David Pipe's charge for the Galway Plate on 27th July while Boylesports quotes 16/1. I wonder if connections are intending to make the trip over the Irish Sea...

Bookshelf notes - The Story of Your Life: A History of "The Sporting Life" Newspaper (1859-1988) looks a must for serious sports fans (currently £17.04 with free P&P from Amazon). Having enjoyed Nicholas Foulkes' Gentlemen and Blackguards: Gambling Mania and the Plot to Steal the Derby of 1844, I was tempted by D J Taylor's Derby Day, marketed as 'a Victorian mystery'; two contrasting reader reviews have made me think again. One tome I will purchase in the near future is The Form Book Jumps Annual 2010-2011 (£21.99).

Finally, if you follow football, Monday night's Dispatches on Channel 4 may be of interest; it's entitled  'How To Buy a Football Club'.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Quick Saturday suggestions

Presssed for time this evening, so quick notes only. The Summer Plate is the highlight at Market Rasen; no horse has carried more than 11-6 to victory in the past decade, a stat that knocks out seven of the 16 declared. Peter Bowen has a good record in this; of his pair course and distance winner North Island is preferred. Suggestion: North Island (13/2); unexposed each-way alternative: Pilgrims Lane (16/1).

2.40 Market Rasen: each-way suggestion - Little O J around tissue price 12/1.

5.10 Newbury: Of the runners with NH form (Raslan, Keys, Addwaitya and Callisto Moon) Keys is the most interesting. His short head defeat of Cinders And Ashes in a Cheltenham bumper on New Year's Day (14 furlongs) reads well; Cinders And Ashes went on to run fifth in the Triumph Hurdle. He has been slightly disappointing since and keeps the blinkers tried last time. Doesn't look a certainty to stay the trip.

8.10 Haydock: Only two with NH form, Advisor and Tropical Batchelor; Advisor is of interest. Sent off 8/1 for the 2010 Triumph Hurdle, the grey finished down the field in 11th behind Soldatino. His last run, fifth behind Gifted Leader at Sandown, looks reasonable as that one ran second to subsequent Ascot Stakes winner Veiled in May.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ladies' days

Here's a quick round-up of the ladies who have been making the news over the past few days...

Hayley Turner had a lucky escape on Friday morning when the two-year-old filly Jessica Ennis, part owned by the World and European Heptathlon Champion after whom she is named, bolted during a routine stalls test and was then involved in a collision with a car in Newmarket.

An article published in the Metro that same morning saw Turner joined by weighing room colleagues Laura Pike and Sophie Doyle to publicise the first ever Flat race for female jockeys only which has been scheduled to take place at Carlisle's evening meeting on Monday 1st August.

Friday afternoon and Ladies Are Forever took the Group 3 Summer Stakes at York...

And a day later Turner was in the headlines once again, winning her first Group One aboard the David Simcock trained Dream Ahead.

Unfortunately there was no happy ending for the England women's football team after Faye White's penalty miss against France consigned her colleagues to a World Cup quarter final defeat, a fate similar to that suffered by England's male counterparts in the past...

And finally... One lady who has made more news than most this past week is former News Of The World editor and current News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks. It's only over the past few days that I've realised Ms Brooks, once married to Ross Kemp (aka Grant Mitchell from EastEnders I have just been informed), is presently hitched to former jockey and racehorse trainer, now turned author and journalist, Charlie Brooks. Small world, isn't it?

Friday, July 08, 2011

Long distance information?

Regular readers will know that during this Flat season I'm trying to concentrate on horses with NH form running in races beyond one and a half miles. Two recent results caught my eye - in Doncaster's opener last night Sendali (5/1), second in an Aintree handicap hurdle on his penultimate run, beat Heart Of Dubai (13/2), winner of a Cartmel novice hurdle last month, while earlier this afternoon French Hollow, winner of  a Market Rasen bumper two years ago, took York's one and three quarter mile Global Trading UK Responsible Packaging Handicap at odds of 66/1. Needless to say, I backed none of the aforementioned beasts.

Two long distance races tomorrow - York's John Smith's Silver Cup at 2.40 (not to be confused with the John Smith's Cup run at the same venue some 35 minutes later) and Chester's toteswinger Handicap which is due off at four o'clock.

Twenty are declared for the Silver Cup; the going is currently reported to be good. The Betchworth Kid finished tailed off behind Fame And Glory in the Ascot Gold Cup last time; this listed handicap represents an easier task. Alan King's gelding has his share of weight here; fourth in Newbury's totesport Hurdle reads well - he subsequently finished down the field in Sandown's Imperial Cup three weeks later before bouncing back to take a 14 furlong listed Flat race at Nottingham. Woolfall Treasure, once owned by Harry Findlay, was rated 128 over hurdles and finished down the field in the 2009 renewal of the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. He is potentially very interesting if fit enough on this seasonal debut but there's a suspicion connections might be using this as a prep for the forthcoming Glorious Goodwood meeting. La Vecchia Scuola has been out of form this term. Of the other runners, it's worth casting an eye over the Northumberland Plate form and remembering that Her Majesty The Queen's Tactician was withdrawn from that race on account of the ground. Rock A Doodle Doo heads the market and has been tipped up by several commentators; the winner has come from the top two in the market on four occasions in the past five years. The Betchworth Kid isn't the most consistent of performers but Coral stands out with a quote of 33/1 this evening; The Betchworth Kid is the each-way suggestion.

Ten of the five day entries for Chester's toteswinger Handicap had form over the sticks (including former Philip Hobbs charge Comedy Act and earlier York winner French Hollow) but only two make the final cut - Descaro and Beat The Shower. The former has hurdling form in Ireland as well as England and was beaten just under six lengths by Tim Easterby's game mare Bollin Judith last time at York; Descaro re-opposes five pounds better off tomorrow and on tonight's tissue price (12/1) offers better value - first time cheekpieces last time are replaced by a first time visor here. Beat The Shower won a Hexham handicap hurdle last summer; that day the gelding came from behind to stay on and take the spoils - that style of running isn't best served by this tight track. I shall take an each-way interest in Descaro.     

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sitting comfortably?

Following the well-publicised brawl at Royal Ascot Ladies' Day, Giles Smith penned a skit in The Times dated Saturday 25th June in which he compared racing hooliganism to football hooliganism, concluding, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that the recent trouble at Ascot can lead to only one thing: 'all-seater racecourses'. That brought a smile - the number of times I've been on a racecourse, thinking what I'd give for a decent sit-down, never mind a winner; I guess I must be getting older.

Another Giles writing for The Times, this time Giles Coren (how many Gileses do The Times actually have on their books?), posted a piece in this Saturday's paper (July 2nd) after having the misfortune to be seated on the end of a row on a visit to Wimbledon.

Mr Coren observes, 'Tennis fans may all think they're pretty marvellous...but they haven't got the first idea how to behave compared with football fans.' I empathise with the author who clearly spent the whole afternoon shifitng around in his seat to allow assorted old buffers and 'rickety old dears' access to their seats without so much as one single word of thanks; on the other hand when football fans '...slide past you to go and get a pie or stab a copper they always, without fail, say "cheers mate"'. 

Giles concludes he knows which he prefers and I think I'm with him on this one. After all that talk of sitting around, I'm going for a lie-down.  

Friday, July 01, 2011

Eclipse day 2011

Just five runners in tomorrow's Eclipse, the race billed in most quarters as a match between Australian superstar So You Think and last year's Derby and Arc winner Workforce. During the week the latter has been easy to back on account of the form of Sir Michael Stoute's stable; Class Is Class won the listed Ambant Gala Stakes earlier this afternoon to give the yard its first winner since June 11th. Confront is in the line-up to act as a pacemaker for Workforce while Snow Fairy will be expected to come on for her first run of the season and Sri Putra, second in this last year, appears to have a bit to find on the book but, as connections point out, the race will be run to suit. A race to savour I think; if I have a bet, I'll side with Workforce on grounds of value - at the time of writing William Hill offers 7/4.

In the Coral Marathon at 3.40 Flying Cross has his first run for the Gosden yard, having finished third in the Irish St Leger on his last visit to a racecourse. On official ratings the colt has nine pounds and upwards in hand over tomorrow's rivals and for that reason is priced up 2/1 favourite with the sponsors. Just two in the field have NH form in the book - Sentry Duty and Dayia. Fallon rides Sentry Duty for Nicky Henderson but Sentry Duty is a gelding for whom things have to fall just right - he has shown his best form when there has been cut underfoot. Course and distance winner Dayia ran a blinder to finish fourth in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot a fortnight ago - that was the first time we'd seen Lady Green's brown mare since she had finished down the field in last season's Cesarewitch. There may be improvement to come for that seasonal debut and although she has plenty to find with several in the field, Dayia rates a sporting each-way chance at around the 16/1 mark.