Friday, April 25, 2014

bet365 Gold Cup 2014

The curtain falls on the 2013/4 National Hunt season at Sandown tomorrow with the highlight the bet365 Gold Cup due off at 3.50. Twenty have been declared with the going likely to ride soft following today's persistent rain.

In the past decade three winners have carried more than 11 stones to victory - Puntal (2004), Lacdoudal (2006) and Tidal Bay (2012).

Five of the field took part in the Scottish Grand National a fortnight ago - Godsmejudge (second), Summery Justice (fifth), Midnight Appeal (fell) with both Roalco Des Farges and Rigadin De Beauchene pulled up. I tipped the last-named for the Ayr showpiece but his jumping was poor that day; the rain will help the cause tomorrow but fencing is always at a premium here. Godsmejudge showed improved form to finish second but that was just two short weeks ago and this race may have come a shade too quickly.

Rose Of The Moon, Twirling Magnet and Burton Port all fell in the Aintree Grand National, the last two at the first and second obstacles respectively, so they'll come to this fresher than some.

Same Difference, well behind Spring Heeled at the Festival, was second in this race last year while Hadrian's Approach was fifth. That was a fine effort from Nicky Henderson's gelding at the tender age of six and one year on I'll take a small each-way interest (14/1 in places) hoping Barry Geraghty can squeeze out some further improvement; recent seven-year-old winners include Beau (2000), Ad Hoc (2001) and Lacdoudal (2006).

Champion chaser Sire De Grugy will be long odds-on for the Celebration Chase at 3.15. There's a fair chance Australia Day won't make it to the start if the ground comes up particularly soft which will leave just seven in the field and as a result snag any potential each-way betting opportunity...

Had the rain not arrived, Polly Peachum, named after a character in The Beggar's Opera and owned by Lady Tennant, would have been of considerable interest in the listed hurdle at 4.25. I saw the mare win in emphatic style at Warwick some five weeks ago and she has come out since to display a turn of foot and land a competitive listed hurdle at Cheltenham. I fear the easy going is likely to blunt that turn of foot.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter presents?

Earlier today Viewpoint went into the history books as the first horse to win a race in this country on Good Friday; jockey Cam Hardie steered Richard Hannon's inmate to victory in the opener at Lingfield, in the process recording his first win for the handler.

There are fixtures aplenty on Easter Saturday but finding a wager that makes some appeal hasn't proved particularly easy.

This weekend I was hoping Nigel Twiston-Davies would let King's Tempest, withdrawn at Exeter earlier in the week, take his chance in Sunday's bumper at Towcester but the horse hasn't make the final declaration stage.

I saw this one, still an entire, win at Warwick last month after which the handler said:

'He's as big as any horse we've got and hopefully he's as good. We've been excited since day one with him and he's a lovely horse for the future. I'd love to say we'd go to Aintree with him but it's all about the future and we might look for a similar race as today before putting him away.'

The same yard saddles Blaklion in the concluding bumper at Haydock tomorrow. This point winner trounced his field at Ffos Las three weeks ago and rates a decent hurdles prospect. He won't have things all his own way with Donald McCain's Degooch an interesting opponent - I'm not tempted.

Earlier on the same Haydock card Twiston-Davies runs Red Rocco in the Tim Moloney Handicap Chase (3.50) over three and a half miles. On the face of it Red Rocco hasn't had the best of seasons but on his penultimate start he looked booked for second behind Rigadin De Beauchene in the Grand National Trial at this track before coming to grief at the final flight. Bennys Well is likely to make a bold bid from the front and Red Rocco is another who likes to race from the front; with just six in the field the front-runners could well set the race up for one from behind but Haydock suits those that sit handy. Tactics will be all-important but at the prices (9/2) I'll chance Red Rocco shows us some more of his improved form...

The going is good, good to firm in places at Newton Abbot where they're likely to go lickety-split in the two mile handicap chase at 3.55. Novice Sonofagun is the bookies' favourite on the back of two recent wins but he's taking on some smart rivals... Oiseau De Nuit, Changing The Guard and Shooters Wood were all unplaced in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham last month. The first-named finished four lengths second to the champion two-mile chaser Sire De Grugy in December while course and distance winner Changing The Guard is weighted to reverse placings with the favourite on their recent Ludlow meeting.

Identifying a vulnerable favourite is only half the battle and this looks a particularly trappy event but I'm swayed by winning course form at this tight track - Changing The Guard (7/2) gets the nod.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Scottish Grand National day 2014

If Scotland were to vote for independence in September, I wonder what effect, if any, that might have on this particular fixture...

Seven days after the English Grand National at Aintree, thirty runners set off over the slightly shorter trip of four miles and 110 yards in the Scottish version at Ayr.

Tidal Bay looked unfortunate when unseating Sam Twiston-Davies at the Canal Turn last week but then went on to wreak havoc by carrying out Across The Bay on the stable turn when that one was some six lengths to the good over his field.

Tidal Bay stands his ground for tomorrow's showpiece with the result that just ten of his opponents are set to carry their allotted handicap weight, including stablemate Sam Winner, fifth in the RSA Chase last month - make of that what you will.

Peter Bowen has four runners while Alan King is one of several trainers saddling two - last year's winner Godsmejudge is on a comeback mission but the handler appears quietly confident about the chance of Midnight Appeal in the Weekender saying '... this has been the plan for some time.'

There are tips aplenty for Trustan Times but I'll take an each-way interest in Rigadin De Beauchene provided the ground doesn't dry out too much. He was pulled up last year but this time turns up fresher than most having won the Haydock National Trial on his seasonal debut; he's generally available at 20/1.

In the Scottish Champion Hurdle (2.40) seven pound claimer Mikey Ennis negates much of the overweight Swing Bowler was set to carry as a result of the race conditions. The mare led two from home but didn't quite see out the climb up the Sandown hill in the Imperial Cup; against the likes of My Tent Or Yours and Montbazon she rates a sporting each-way play at 33/1.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Aintree Grand National 2014

This race has thrown up some big-priced winners in recent years including Silver Birch at 33/1 (2007), Mon Mome, much to my embarrassment backed by the mother-in-law at 100/1 (2009), Neptune Collonges at 33/1 (2012) and Auroras Encore at 66/1 last year.

The stats suggest the winner will be aged between nine and twelve years old. I tend to prefer horses that have shown form over these unique fences in the past and have less than 11 stones to carry over the marathon trip of four miles three furlongs and 110 yards.

1. Balthazar King
The consensus view was that jockey Richard Johnson was overly aggressive at the head of affairs in last year's renewal, the horse fading to come home 15th. The yard has been in fine form this season and the better ground is sure to suit.

2. Teaforthree
Third last year and every chance this time racing off a mark two pounds lower.

3. Chance Du Roy
Won the Becher over these fences in December and has a nice weight here; decent effort in a listed Ascot handicap last time - 33/1 generally.

4. Swing Bill
Unlikely to win at thirteen years of age but was sixth last year - has finished in the first six on four occasions over the course. Coral offer 80/1 (four places), Betfred 66/1 (six places) - looks reasonable each-way value for the horse set to carry bottom weight and trained with this in mind.

Others worth a second look include Burton Port who is well handicapped and hinted at a return to form last time as well as The Rainbow Hunter who isn't overly big but should have a sniff if the jumping holds out. I tipped Triolo D'Alene each-way for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but he was somewhat disappointing there; that was his first run following a lay-off and afterwards Nicky Henderson described the horse as 'very stuffy'. He should improve for that run and will appreciate the ground but has his fair share of weight.

Good luck!       

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Aintree 2014 - Friday is Ladies' Day

The Melling Chase (3.05) doesn't look up to its usual standard.

Module is priced up favourite in the tissue but has never won over the trip. At the age of 11 Wishfull Thinking is no spring chicken but on official ratings he is the best horse in the race; he has four pounds in hand over Rajdhani Express who finished third behind Dynaste in the Ryanair after a lengthy break.

Previous course and distance winner Wishfull Thinking (7/1 in places) is a tentative selection in an open contest.

I'm a fan of Killala Quay (4.15). He ran a stormer to finish fourth in the Neptune but there's little value in his price for this contest. Instead I'm going out on a limb and taking an each-way interest in The Last Samuri (20/1 at the time of writing); Donald McCain's charge will certainly stay the trip.

Form choice Josses Hill may not offer much value in the opener (2.00) but the Mildmay Novices' Chase (2.30) looks a tad closer than the betting might imply. Better ground will suit RSA winner O'faolains Boy but this speed track may not. Wonderful Charm didn't appear to stay three miles when behind Solwhit in last year's World Hurdle so a chance is taken with Holywell who won the handicap chase on the opening day at Cheltenham.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Aintree 2014 - Thursday

Three weeks after Cheltenham it's Aintree - the trickiest meeting of the season in my book.

Very brief notes...

In the Aintree Hurdle (3.05) The New One is the one to beat and he'll be long odds-on. Badly hampered by the fatal fall of Our Conor in the Champion Hurdle he finished like a train in third, beaten a neck and two and a half lengths; the step up in trip will suit.

Dynaste is priced up favourite for the Betfred Bowl at 2.30. He won the Mildmay Novices' Chase over course and distance last year and took the Ryanair at the Festival, even though he looked to have plenty to do three from home. Silviniaco Conti had his market rival well beaten in the King George at Kempton over Christmas but Dynaste was found to be wrong that day; Silviniaco appeared to have a hard enough race when finishing fourth in the Gold Cup. The Nicholls yard recorded just one winner at Cheltenham (Lac Fontana in the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle) and has only managed to add two more to the total since... Course and distance winner First Lieutenant missed Cheltenham and as a consequence could have the edge over his main rivals. A trappy event I'll watch from the sidelines.

Looking at the novice chase at 4.50.... Western Warhorse beat Dodging Bullets in the Arkle while Uxiandre ran a huge race at 33/1 to finish second to Taquin Du Seill in the JLT Novices' Chase, a race in which Oscar Whisky fell at the very first flight. As a consequence Oscar Whisky should be fresher than those rivals and has won over course and distance previously so Nicky Henderson's charge gets the vote.