Friday, October 25, 2013

Chepstow, Daryl Jacob, Sir Alex Ferguson and Rock Of Gibraltar

Just like Daryl Jacob, Paul Nicholls' stable jockey, I prefer Chepstow to Aintree for tomorrow's action.

Jacob rides Virak in the Silver Trophy at 4.10. The gelding could be anything and we don't have an awful lot to go on but he looks short enough in the market (one four-year-old winner in the past 10 years) against some battle-hardened handicappers. Last year's winner Lamb Or Cod races off a mark of 130, six pounds higher than last year, yet is still a 10/1 shot while Rebecca Curtis' Pechamenko,12/1 with Hills, appears to have had his problems over fences but was second in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las in February. A price of 10/1 about last year's winner is rather tempting - I'll take an each-way interest in Lamb Or Cod.

Sire De Grugy could struggle to give the weight away on the soft/heavy ground in the handicap chase at 4.45. Plenty will fancy Nicholls' Rebel Rebellion to take advantage but I'm going to risk Tom George's Kingmaker winner Majala priced at 7/2 this evening - the stable has had three winners during the week and boasts a 24.59% win strike-rate this season.

In the Persian War Novices' Hurdle (3.35) I note Ceasar Milan is owned by the Stewart and Wylie Families. Berkeley Baron has to give weight to all but has a run under his belt while Lienosus' second behind Clondaw Kaempfer reads well enough. Johnny Og has been on the radar for a while now; although priced at 25/1 he's held in high regard by connections - it's interesting to see they've opted for this race rather than the opening maiden hurdle. Johnny Og would have been an each-way suggestion had eight (or more) faced the starter.

Finally, just in case it passed you by, earlier this week Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography was published. Reviews suggest that racing fans hoping to gain an insight into events surrounding Ferguson's involvement with Rock Of Gibraltar will find the subject 'glossed over'. For those interested Martin Hannan's Rock Of Gibraltar (2004) is the recommended read.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cheltenham choices

QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot will receive its fair share of attention tomorrow where the ground looks like riding on the soft side. Earlier this week Alan Lee penned an article in The Times predicting a signiifcant fall in the attendance figure for this showpiece event.

Naturally I'll be concentrating on the second day of Cheltenham's first meeting of the autumn.

The opening three mile novice hurdle looks intriguing with battle-hardened chasers Monbeg Dude (2012 Welsh National winner, rated 138 over fences), Hold On Julio (fifth behind Bobs Worth in the 2012 Hennessy Gold Cup off a rating of 148) and Aeriel (sixth behind Al Ferof in the 2012 Paddy Power Gold Cup off 155) all receiving weight from their opponents.

Of the younger brigade Kilbree Kid, Creepy, Kings Palace and Oscar Magic are amongst those who look to have a fitness edge. Kings Palace has potential but he appeared under pressure staying 22 furlongs at Fontwell last time while Martin Keighley likes Chepstow winner Creepy but foresees place prospects only. Kilbree Kid stays while Oscar Magic, ninth in the Champion bumper in March, tries the trip for the first time. The Twiston-Davies trained Oscar Magic gets no more than a tentative vote in a difficult contest.

Alan King saddles two winners from Chepstow last Saturday - Handazan (3.10) and Balder Succes (5.00).

Handazan won with something in hand (In The Crowd a distant fifth, Leo Luna declared a non-runner); last March Leo Luna beat Gassin Golf a head with the King horse a further nine lengths in arrears at Newbury. Samtegal is likely to prove a worthy opponent tomorrow having finshed third in the Triumph Hurdle behind runaway winner Our Conor.

Balder Succes jumped well on his chasing debut but I've lost count of the number of times I've supported a novice chaser on the back of one decent run only to have my fingers burned. Still, he won in a new course record last weekend so, despite the step back in trip, Balder Succes is marginally preferred to market rival Dark Lover who looks late in making this switch to fences.

Al Co, fifth behind Bouggler at Market Rasen last month, did the blog a favour at that Chepstow meeting so in the 3.45 I was half-tempted by his stablemate Kian's Delight, third in the same Market Rasen race. However he looks to have plenty on his plate here (no five or six year-old winner in the past ten years) and doesn't look guaranteed to stay. Balthazar King should go well if the rains stay away but in saying that I'm not really telling you anything you don't know already - I won't play.

In the concluding bumper I've a lot of time for another trained by Peter Bowen - Regal Diamond. He has to give weight to all his opponents but I might take a small each-way interest if he's priced in double figures.  

Finally, don't miss the 4.25 at Kempton on Sunday when the 2012 Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby takes on the 2013 Neptune  Novices' Hurdle winner The New One.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Two chances at Chepstow

In the Class 2 three mile handicap chase at 5.45 I have to stick with Al Co. A fortnight ago I put this one up as an outsider in a race at Market Rasen; Peter Bowen's charge made eye-catching late headway to finish fifth, although posing no threat to easy winner Bouggler. That  was his first run since May - his short head second to Lawney Hill's I Have Dreamed in the 2012 running of the Market Rasen Summer Plate reads well. This race looks extremely competitive and I'm not sure further rain would help the cause but at 16/1 with totesport this evening he rates an each-way chance.

In the four-year-old limited handicap hurdle at 4.45 Stan James bet 16/1 about Philip Hobbs' charge Pistol while Paddy Power only offer 8s. This one likes to race from the front, a tactic suited to this particular track, prefers cut underfoot and the yard can boast four wins from 18 runs this month. Pistol is an each-way wager at 16/1 provided the eight make it to post. It's interesting to see Paul Nicholls enters For Two in this rather than Lac Fontana who came home seventh in the Triumph Hurdle last March.

The Class 2 novice chase at 4.15 should prove useful for future reference. Balder Success was last seen out in the Champion Hurdle while Easter Day came home second behind Taquin Du Seuill in the Challow at Newbury. Course and distance winner The Romford Pele is no back number and finished seventh in the 2012 Festival bumper, 11 lengths behind Champagne Fever and Double Ross, officially rated 137, brings winning chase form to the table. Let's see how they handle these larger obstacles...

Friday, October 04, 2013

Odds 'n' ends

Frankie Dettori suffered a broken ankle when falling from Eland Ally at Nottingham on Thursday - that puts the cap on a miserable season for the former champion. Thierry Jarnet replaces Dettori on Treve in a vintage renewal of the Arc this Sunday - Novellist, impressive on his penultimate start in the King George at Ascot, is nothing more than a tentative suggestion for a difficult-looking race.

McCririck has had his share of headlines over the past few days but the news Channel 4 considered Gok Wan for a role in its revamped racing coverage is certain to have raised a few eyebrows at tracks up and down the country.

Just one low-key hint this week - in the concluding bumper at Fontwell tomorrow I'll look for a decent showing from Colin Tizzard's Third Act.