Friday, December 27, 2013

A chance for the Challow

Rather spoilt for choice tomorrow with the Welsh National at Chepstow, the Lexus at Leopardstown and the Challow at Newbury.

The world and his wife have put up Well Refreshed for the Welsh National after his eye-catching trial in Sandown's London National three weeks ago. Allocated to carry just 10-2, and with Josh Moore able to claim a further three pounds, Gary Moore's gelding will certainly relish underfoot conditions but his jumping can be haphazard - I still recall the manner in which he practically ran through the final fence of Haydock's Grand National Trial on similar ground in February. I'm not tempted.

Gold cup winner Bobs Worth is on a retrieval mission in the Lexus after a below-par effort in the Betfair Chase last month. Connections don't sound overly confident and Henderson's horses are struggling at the moment - box office draw Sprinter Sacre was pulled up and diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat at Kempton earlier today while Grandouet was turned over at odds of 1/2 in the Wayward Lad Novices' Chase. Willie Mullins' Sir Des Champs blotted his copy book when falling last time but he's still my idea of the winner - Walsh rides Rubi Ball who could be anything.

Only six in the Challow but it's decidedly tricky. Likely favourite Oscar Rock has won a listed bumper at the track while Timesremembered failed to give seven pounds to Creepy the last day at Cheltenham. On a literal interpretation of that form Creepy has it to do to confirm the placings and the market prices on offer suggest bookmakers concur. To my mind Creepy has improvement to come but to date he has shown his best form on better ground so I'm going to stick with Emma Lavelle's Timesremembered  (7/2 generally) who is the best horse in the race on official ratings. Those same ratings also indicate that Kaki De La Pree is in there with a shout...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Kempton's King George VI Chase 2013

Nine are declared for this year's King George. Cue Card, fifth last year, is priced up favourite with most layers while last year's winner Long Run is generally a 10/1 chance.

Last month I tipped Silviniaco Conti for the Betfair Chase at Haydock. Despite travelling well through the race, Nicholls' charge couldn't go with either Cue Card or Dynaste from two out and on face value he'll struggle to reverse those placings yet official ratings indicate he is within one pound of top-rated Cue Card. Nicholls' string wasn't firing on all cylinders at that time; on the same day as the Haydock showpiece Nicholls' first jock Daryl Jacob was at Ascot riding Al Ferof in a match against French Opera. Al Ferof's fencing looked a little ring-rusty there but Jacob stays loyal to Al Ferof.

Cue Card posted a career best to win the Betfair Chase proving he stays the trip. He's likely to race prominently but isn't always the most fluent at the obstacles; on balance I think he could struggle to repeat his front-running feat at this track - last year he blew away his chance with a howler at the first.

Dynaste was an easy winner of the Feltham over course and distance last year. In a very open renewal, I take Dynaste to grab the spoils - he's priced up generally at 100/30.

Long Run, wearing a first-time visor, rates a value each-way selection  at 10/1. Invariably he throws in one dodgy jump on the way round but should the visor do the trick...

On paper the Christmas Hurdle is a match between The New One and My Tent Or Yours. Throughout his career Twiston-Davies has favoured a bold risk-taking approach; he immediately nominated this race after his charge won the International at Cheltenham just 12 days ago, implying his charge had had an easy enough race. I'm not so convinced; I won't have a bet but this track is likely to suit Henderson's charge better.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ascot's Lomg Walk Hurdle 2013

I've had more beers than I should have but, hey, it's Christmas...

Paddy Power go 7/2 Reve De Sivola for the Long Walk with Celestial Halo looking a non-runner.

Take it or leave it, but, in my humble opinion, Reve De Sivola's chance improves with every drop of rain that falls before the off. At Fishers Cross wasn't particularly fluent at the flights last time and on official ratings Reve has just one pound to find with the odds-on favourite...

Last year's winner Reve De Sivola is the value selection.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Small fields at Cheltenham's December meet

Several small fields at Cheltenham tomorrow restricting betting opportunities - I'm not inclined to oppose The New One in the International or Kings Palace in the Albert Bartlett while the novice chase at 12.40 offers Shutthefrontdoor the chance to reverse recent running with Le Bec on three pounds better terms but the race makes little appeal from a punting perspective.

The Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup looks an open affair. Paddy Power Gold Cup form from four weeks ago is well represented with Colour Squadron (second), Attaglance (fourth), Tap Night (eighth) and Easter Meteor (fell when in lead two out) all reopposing eventual winner Johns Spirit. Although tapped for toe three out, Attaglance ran a nice enough race that day - at 8/1 he's worth an each-way interest.

In the finale a case can be made for all four runners. On ratings Gemix is the one but Salubrious took the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' handicap hurdle at the Festival in March and Willie Mullins has sent just one over from Ireland - bay mare Glens Melody - with Ruby Walsh taking the ride. I'm tempted to chance Glens Melody, the outsider of the quartet.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Sandown selections for Saturday

I'm on a particularly poor run of form at the moment that started some 25 years ago...

The racing phenomenon that is Sprinter Sacre has to miss tomorrow's Tingle Creek at Sandown following a dirty tracheal wash. In his absence top-rated Sire De Grugy has eight pounds in hand over his nearest rival (Somersby) yet there was a definite lack of fizz about his last run in the Schloer Chase at Cheltenham when beaten three and a quarter lengths by Kid Cassidy. I've seen it suggested Gary Moore's charge may be better going right-handed - he hung right after the last at Cheltenham - so there may be something in that. Following an effortless win at Chepstow, connections were keen to talk about taking on Sprinter Sacre - Sire De Grugy needs to win this if those lofty ambitions are to be realised. Should he come up short, Somersby and Captain Conan, both course and distance winners, will be waiting in the wings. Sire De Grugy is the form choice and my selection.

The Henry VIII Novices' Chase (1.50) is right out of the top drawer and should provide a useful pointer going forward. Grandouet boasts the best hurdles form but on his chase debut over course and distance the fencing looked decidedly awkward at times; he appeared held by Hinterland when coming to grief at the final flight while, similarly, Hinterland was far from fluent at the obstacles. Sandown with its Railway fences sets a stern test for any novice. Taquin Du Seuil has shown form over further but is afforded every respect while Balder Succes would have been three from three had he not come to grief two out at Cheltenham on his penultimate run. Connections of Claret Cloak will fancy their chances of reversing recent Exeter form five pounds better off with Manyriverstocross. In my book this rests between Balder Succes and Taquin Du Seuil; with layers struggling to agree a favourite this evening, Taquin Du Seuil gets the nod.

Fans of long distance chases are well catered for with the Becher at Aintree while the London National brings proceedings to a close at Sandown (Ikorodu Road having an entry in both races). I've lost count of the number of times I've half-fancied Alfie Spinner only for the beast to disappoint. Still, his second in the Badger Ales behind Standing Ovation last time reads well and he contests this off a mark 12 pounds lower than that from which he started last year's Hennessy. He finished three and a quarter lengths ahead of Emma Lavelle's Court By Surprise at Wincanton but is two pounds worse off with that rival this time - they look closely matched. With Lavelle's inmate not certain to stay the extended trip I'm going to take chance with Alan King's Scottish National winner Godsmejudge. The top weight ran well on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham three weeks ago - although coming home fifth he was beaten under five lengths and is priced up at 7/1 with Stan James this evening.