Friday, November 29, 2013

Three quick picks for Hennessy Saturday...

Presseed for time this evening so, very quickly...

Newcastle's Fighting Fifth (2.05) looks to have a little more strength in depth than in recent years. Odds-on shot My Tent Or Yours is top-rated but several of Henderson's have needed their first run. I'll oppose with Melodic Rendezvous who took the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton three weeks ago even though handler Jeremy Scott thought his charge would come on for the run. Should eight make it to post, 14/1 about John Quinn's four-year-old filly Cockney Sparrow looks reasonable each-way value.

This year's Hennessy Gold Cup (Newbury 3.00) is wide open. Several fancied runners have been backed through the week, yet I suspect many of them would ideally prefer a little more cut underfoot. An each-way longshot that looks overpriced to me is Same Difference (33/1) who won at the Festival in March and went on to finish second to Quentin Collonges in Sandown's bet365 Gold Cup. On his seasonal debut at Ascot he raced prominently for a while before fading to come home some 35 lengths behind Houblon Des Obeaux (Merry King second, Triolo D'Alene third, Opening Batsman pulled up). The winner has been raised a hefty 10 pounds for that effort (stable jock Aidan Coleman prefers Katenko here) and, obviously, I'm hoping (against hope?) that run has blown away some of the cobwebs...

Opening Batsman (40/1) was amongst the market leaders for that Ascot race but was never a a factor. Still, he took the Racing Plus Chase on good grouind at Kempton in February and a return to that sort of form could see him being competitive. Same Difference is the each-way suggestion.

Finally I'm guessing Donald McCain Jnr will be trying his very hardest to win the race run in memory of his father, the Ginger McCain Memorial Novices' Chase (Bangor 12.30); Swatow Typhoon is his entry in the Class 3 event.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Haydock's Betfair Chase 2013

Tomorrow's card at Ascot has a total of just 49 declarations for the seven races; I'm guessing the racecourse will be less than happy and distinctly embarrassed by three entries for the Amlin Chase and four for the Coral Hurdle.

By contrast Haydock boasts probably the best ever renewal of the Betfair Chase with current Gold Cup holder Bobs Worth renewing rivalry with Silviniaco Conti (winner of this race last year), stablemate Long Run and The Giant Bolster.

On official ratings Bobs Worth has upwards of seven pounds in hand over his rivals. Still, Haydock's sharp track isn't certain to suit - in the Gold Cup last March Bobs Worth was outpaced four from home and then stayed on stoutly to reel in his opponents while Silviniaco Conti fell three from home when still in with a shout.

I like Cue Card and Timeform rates his chance but he's never won over further than two miles five and the Tizzard operation is just 1 win from 24 in the past fortnight while Dynaste still has it to prove at this level. The Giant Bolster finished third behind Silviniaco in last year's renewal.

You couldn't back Long Run after his run in the Charlie Hall the last day but 12/1 is a big price about a previous Gold Cup winner - that Wetherby effort was the first time Nicky Henderson's charge had finished outside the places.

Tidal Bay is an enigma but apparently as good as ever at the age of twelve while Irish challenger Roi Du Mee was a surprise winner of the Champion Chase at Down Royal three weeks ago - he can race from the front, a tactic suited to this track, and on ratings has an outside squeak so 20/1 may appeal to those looking for each-way value.

Paul Nicholls has sent out three winners today - Fago [9/4] and Black Thunder [11/4] at Haydock and Irving [8/11] at Ascot; Silviniaco Conti gets the vote in a fascinating renewal.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Open and Shut case

Champion Court is my idea of the winner of tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham but the trouble is a lot of other people have exactly the same idea - any value in the price disappeared a long time ago. Martin Keighley's gelding is a course and distance winner and has had this race as a target for some time.

Still, he has his share of weight (only one horse has carried more than 11-6 to victory in the past decade - last year's winner Al Ferof) while seven of the past ten winners were burdened with less than 11-0. The suspicion is something near the bottom of the handicap could prevail, although what the name of the beast might be is well beyond me - at the prices on offer, I won't play.

The novice chase at 1.15 is interesting. African Gold, second in the Albert Bartlett in March, is priced up favourite on his first try over fences but he faces opposition who will have no trouble taking advantage should the obstacles get in the way. White Star Line won the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel in September while both Shutthefrontdoor and Le Bec won impressively last time out. Sam Winner isn't totally discounted either although he fell on his two chase starts last season.

Shutthefrontdoor (3/1 with Ladbrokes this evening) jumped well at Aintree the last day and is the suggestion.

On Sunday Sire De Grugy goes in the Schloer. The manner in which he won a Class 2 chase at Chepstow three weeks ago would suggest connections will be disappointed if he can't follow up, although he's likely to be no price at all.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Tony McCoy - we salute you!

On 26th March 1992 Anthony Peter McCoy, aged 17, rode his first winner, a horse called Legal Steps, at Thurles.

Yesterday aboard a horse named Mountain Tunes at Towcester, A P McCoy, aged 39, rode his 4,000th winner - to universal acclaim.

Quoting from the epilogue of his autobiography written in 2002:

'I...know there is more do. 300 winners in a season? 3,000 before I retire? Who knows, but be sure of one thing: I will try.'

3,000 winners came at a wet and windy Plumpton in 2009 on Restless D'Artaix; at the moment he doesn't appear to be harbouring any thoughts of retirement.

Who is to say he won't ride 5,000 winners? Well, his wife, Chanelle:

'I would quite confidently say that 5,000 is unattainable and he knows that himself.'

Perhaps that's why Paddy Power offers 10/1 about the current champion reaching that particular landmark.

Last word on the matter to John McCririck - his words, printed on the reverse cover of McCoy's autobiography, sound as true today as the day they were written:

'The man is a colossus, we have never seen his like before.'

McCoy has always been amongst the winners, in stark contrast to my good self...

In tomorrow's Elite Hurdle at Wincanton Melodic Rendezvous is the one to beat but I was impressed with the manner in which Karinga Dancer dominated his field at Aintree a fortnight ago; despite suffering interference two out and making a hash of the last, the gelding still had eight lengths on his nearest rival. Granted, this represents a step-up in class but he could have a fitness edge on a couple of the market rivals and boasts course and distance winning form. Paul Nicholls, who has a good record in this race in recent years, saddles Far West but only one four-year-old has obliged in the past decade and I'm still unsure whether all the stable's runners are seeing out their races, despite high-profile victories for Tidal Bay and Rolling Aces last weekend. On offer generally at 7/2 this evening, Karinga Dancer is the selection while the money for Cotton Mill has been noted.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Two staying chases for Saturday

This evening Tony McCoy is just eight winners short of 4,000 while just seven are declared for Wetherby's Charlie Hall which still has a typically trappy look to it.

On ratings Long Run has something in hand over the field with connections reporting their charge has come to hand earlier this year. That said, he hasn't won on his seasonal debut in the past three years (third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in 2010 followed by two consecutive seconds in Haydock's Betfair Chase) and there's always the possibility he'll throw in the odd howler on the way round. At the price he's worth taking on.

Plenty will fancy Unioniste to take advantage but the form of Paul Nicholls' stable is a concern. At Chepstow last Saturday a number of the stable's leading fancies fell by the wayside - Just A Par (4/7f) had no answer to Shotgun Paddy; Ceasar Milan (11/8f) trailed in last of the seven (was reported to have bled after the race); Virak (11/1) came home last (reported to have choked turning into the home straight); and Rebel Rebellion (7/4f) came home fifth of six (vet reported gelding had lost a near fore shoe). Since then the stable has recorded one win from 12 (Southfield Theatre [4/5f] at Wincanton on Sunday) while 1/3 favourite Vicente failed to see out his race on that same Wincanton card.

There wasn't much between Harry Topper and Benefficient in a Newbury novice last year but on official ratings the Irish horse looks to have the edge here and he has the added advantage of having had a run six weeks ago.

Cape Tribulation never troubled the principals in the Gold Cup last March finishing fifth (Long Run third) but previously had won the Rowland Meyrick over course and distance on Boxing Day and a month later had added the Argento Chase to the haul just for good measure.

At the time of writing Cape Tribulation is best-priced 7/1 and Benefficient 8/1 so Benefficient is put up as a value wager against the market leaders.

And moving swiftly on to Ascot's United House Gold Cup at 3.20...

Five weeks ago Emma Lavelle's Bouggler won a competitive-looking handicap chase at Market Rasen with head in chest. Out of that race Al Co has since won a Chepstow Class 2 handicap (12/1), Grandads Horse a Wetherby Class 3 handicap (2/1), Wiesentraum a Fakenham Class 3 handicap (7/1), Twirling Magnet a Class 2 Cheltenham novice (7/1) while Rob Conti, second at Market Rasen, has finished second behind Johns Spirit in another Class 2 handicap at Cheltenham (16/1).

Granted, this represents a step up in class for Bouggler (as well as Al Co and Twirling Magnet who re-oppose), but the trainer states 'Bouggler is working as well now as he ever has so I hope there's another big chase prize in him.' Weekender 16-20.10.13, p.14.

In the Weekender Stable Tour the following week (23 - 27.10.13) Lavelle says of her charge:

'When you win at £50k handicap by four and a half lengths then you expect to be punished, so the 10lb rise was fair. However he had been dropped 4lb before then, so theoretically he is only 6lb worse of now and he has come out of it very well.'

Added to that, tomorrow's pilot G. Sheehan can claim another three pounds.

Of course, this an ultra-competitive event; the field contains several interesting youngsters including Opening Batsman, Buddy Bolero,Triolo D'Alene, Same Difference and Houblon Des Obeaux.

Over the past decade horses aged eight or older have tended to take the spoils so Bouggler is the selection and at 9/1 with Stan James can be backed each-way (a quarter the odds four places provided 16 start).

However I suspect this could just be a step too far for Al Co who has to come from right off the pace - after that Chepstow win, trainer Peter Bowen said 'The key to him is to wait, wait and then wait again. He also doesn't like to be crowded.' The question is - will he be close enough coming off the home turn to make up the ground?