Friday, January 31, 2014

Whether the weather at Wetherby will relent...

At the time of writing, tomorrow's jumps cards are subject to inspections as follows:

Ffos Las: 07.30
Sandown (all chase card): 07.45
Wetherby: 08.00

Wetherby looks to have the best chance of beating the weather but whether they will is another matter.

I'm not convinced, so I'm going to watch the rugby instead.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cheltenham Trials Day 2014

The return of Big Buck's in tomorrow's Cleeve Hurdle is the big news at Cheltenham's Trials Day meeting. The great horse bids for his 19th consecutive win, a run that started way back on New Year's Day 2009 with victory in the Unicorn Homes Handicap Hurdle. He went off 9/2 that day and has started odds against only twice since: the Cleeve Hurdle in 2009 at 7/2 and the World Hurdle (same year) at 6/1. In the light of that, there will be those who take the view that at 11/10 with several bookmakers this evening, Big Buck's is the value.

Connections have been bullish enough in the build-up given the horse has been off the track for 420 days and has a new pilot aboard in the shape of Sam Twiston-Davies. To my mind Sam's riding isn't as tactically astute as many of the older hands in the weighing room - I thought he came out a distinct second best when pipped by McCoy on My Tent Or Yours in Kempton's Christmas Hurdle; that said, Reve De Sivola and Quartz De Thaix are two who will look to press on tomorrow. The trouble is, if you're looking to oppose, the layers don't seem too keen to lay...

Last year's winner Reve De Sivola is the obvious one while it appears Willie Mullins is hoping Boston Bob will turn out to be another Big Buck's following a couple of mishaps over the larger obstacles. At Fishers Cross' confidence looked shot the last day and the yard's form is ordinary at present but Quartz De Thaix is a tough customer particularly on testing ground - quotes of 50/1 are an insult. On balance I'm not inclined to play.

No favourite has come home in front in the Argento in the past ten years; Rocky Creek heads the market and deservedly so. I saw him win easily at Warwick 12 months ago - he didn't strike me as an out-and-out stayer then but I had to revise that opinion after his second behind Triolo D'alene in the Hennessy (Houblon Des Obeaux 18 lengths adrift in sixth).

Neither of the two Harrys - Harry Topper or Restless Harry - have convinced with their jumping but on official ratings The Giant Bolster is the one to beat. Unfortunately that's only half the story. The gelding has been out of sorts this term and in my book is on the verge of earning the comment 'has his own ideas about the game'. Trainer David Bridgwater is on record saying they have to treat this one with kid gloves but he has run well here before and my theory is tomorrow's pilot Tom Scudamore has been on board when he has put his best foot forward. There's something forlorn in the saying but I'm tempted to give The Giant Bolster, 15/2 with William Hill, another chance; I think I'll know my fate soon enough...

The Neptune should prove informative for future reference; the market tells us it's between Red Sherlock and Rathvinden who fell when making his move at Warwick a fortnight ago. Rated 140 Aubusson (7/1) won from the front over course and distance on New Year's Day and represents a sporting play against the principals.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Heavy going at Haydock...

A couple of my 'potential' value plays at Haydock have fallen by the wayside this evening.

Melodic Rendezvous is a horse I like and on his best form would serve up a stiff test for Ptit Zig in the Champion Hurdle Trial at 2.40 but handler Jeremy Scott told At The Races:

'In reality he's probably just a little bit short of where we'd like him to be... We may lack for a bit of fitness, but there's plenty of time [for the Champion Hurdle], so it would be nice to get a run into him now and another one in February and then see where we are.'

The value about O'faolains Boy in The Altcar Novices' Chase at 1.30 has also disappeared with the withdrawal of  David Pipe's Gevrey Chambertin. In last week's Weekender, Rebecca Curtis said of her charge:

'He is the one horse in the yard who is under the radar yet could be a real star this season... I hope this horse has a big future.'

Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty boast a strong record at Ascot so it's interesting to see the stable jockey prefers to travel north to ride Stand To Reason in The Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle (2.05).

Having cost a pretty penny, Un Temps Pour Tout has his first run in this country for owners Professor Caroline Tisdall and Bryan Drew; David Pipe's inmate is likely to be all the rage.

Zandy Man made all to win the listed Newton Novices' Hurdle over course and distance in November and similar tactics may be employed tomorrow; in search of some value I'm tempted to chance Stand To Reason, 9/2 generally at the time of writing.

Ten are declared for the Peter Marsh (3.15) in which Katenko will have underfoot conditions to suit but Venetia Williams' gelding has to race off a mark ten pounds higher than when winning the Murphy Group Chase at Cheltenham last January.

Four in the field obliged last time out and as a result have seen their handicap mark rise; Merry King's rating is travelling in the opposite direction and he may benefit from the application of a first-time visor but Jonjo O'Neill's yard has been out of sorts in recent weeks.

Vintage Star ran well for a long way in the Welsh National before fading to finish sixth; prior to that he was pipped a neck in Newcastle's Rehearsal Chase by Hey Big Spender. Owned by Haydock stalwart Trevor Hemmings, Vintage Star is the selection in an open race; he's priced 7/1 with Stan James this evening.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Kempton's Tolworth Hurdle

Seven declared for tomorrow's re-arranged Tolworth at Kempton with layers marking up The Liquidator as favourite; trainer David Pipe is on record saying Sandown would probably have suited his charge better than this sharp track.

Willie Mullins appears to have a surfeit of riches in the novice hurdle department - the general feeling is Upazo wouldn't necessarily be the best in the yard but they'll find out more tomorrow. Having said that, five of the seven have been allocated an official handicap rating and Walsh's mount has six pounds in hand over his nearest rival.

Josses Hill would be the pick of the Henderson pair while Prince Siegfried was in the process of running a big race the last day when taking an horrendous looking fall at the final flight in Ascot's Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle - Irving collected the spoils that day and was amongst the five-day declarations for this but connections have decided not to run. Without that heavy fall, Prince Siegfried was a player in my book but it's a major worry and his trainer's comment 'He's a confidence horse' after the gelding's victory at Huntingdon in November doesn't inspire confidence now.

I can't have Creepy (also declared at Warwick 3.00) after a desperately poor show of hurdling in the Challow but Garde La Victoire is of interest. He lost his unbeaten record when pipped a neck by Ballyalton at Cheltenham last time but that doesn't tell the whole story as the form book reports the gelding 'stood at start for 20 seconds before getting going' that day. Perhaps Philip Hobbs' charge isn't entirely straight-forward.

In my book the value this evening is Upazo (7/2 Coral, Bet Victor) and Garde La Victoire (6/1 Boylesports). I'll chance Garde La Victoire - with victories at Aintree and Warwick to his name already, this track should suit.

On RP ratings Killala Quay is the top-rated animal in Warwick's Leamington Novices' Hurdle (3.00) so the 5/1 generally available about Charlie Longsdon's charge looks a fair price - Willie Mullins saddles Rathvinden (as short as 7/4 with Ladbrokes) while Deputy Dan (4/1) has also come in for support.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Good news and bad news...

The bad news first - Sandown's meeting tomorrow scheduled to feature the Tolworth Hurdle has been abandoned due to a waterlogged track.

The good news is that this morning Sprinter Sacre came through a crucial workout on the gallops and his heart-rate was reported as 'normal'.

Trainer Nicky Henderson hasn't ruled out a tilt at this year's Queen Mother Champion Chase; layers have re-introduced the horse into their betting at odds of 4/5.

Now, as we all know, there are no certainties with horses so this evening I'm wondering whether there's some value opposing the favourites in the Champion Chase ante-post market.

After defeat at the hands of Kid Cassidy in the Schloer Chase at Cheltenham in November,  connections of Sire De Grugy (currently second favourite at around 7/2) stated they wouldn't go back to Prestbury Park as their charge was unsuited by the undulating track. Will they re-consider now?

Connections of Cue Card (6/1 in places) could be tempted back to two miles but the talk to date has been of a tilt at the Gold Cup.

So, in search of a value angle, I'm thinking of spending some time looking in more detail at the claims of  horses such as Benefficient, Somersby, Twinlight, Hidden Cyclone, Captain Conan, Kid Cassidy and Arvika Ligeonniere...

Good idea or a waste of time?