Friday, May 30, 2014

Some jumping links for Saturday's cards

Pressed for time, so rather brief notes this evening...

Dual purpose handler Ian Williams has some interesting runners around the country tomorrow.

At Chester Swinging Hawk tries to repeat last year's victory in the Kozel Handicap at 4.15; he faces a stiff enough task off a rating six pounds higher. Swnymor, ninth behind runaway winner Our Conor in the 2013 Triumph Hurdle, has his first run for J. J. Quinn in the same race.    

Gifted Leader is getting on a bit these days but took a Class 3 Market Rasen hurdle with the minimum of fuss off a mark of 120 last month. Rated 82 on the Flat he makes some appeal as an each-way wager in Newmarket's 5.15 and George Downing can claim five but 10/1 isn't particularly generous. The gelding finished second behind Veiled in the 2011 running of this race; Veiled went on to win the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot that year.

Williams saddles two at Stratford's evening meeting. Sonofagun arrives in good form to contest the Severn Cider Handicap Chase at 7.25 while the consistent Fredo, entered in the three and a half mile handicap chase at 6.25, should be thereabouts.

Five Star Wilsham did the blog a favour at Ffos Las last week and goes again in that 6.25 race; trainer Twiston-Davies certainly isn't letting the grass grow... With the benefit of hindsight, the gelding was well in that day and has been raised seven pounds for his trouble; this looks much more competitive but likely favourite Oscarslad is taking on seasoned handicappers here and makes a market which contains several credible winners.

I'm going to stay loyal to Five Star Wilsham who holds a better chance of conceding weight all round on drying ground and should certainly see out the trip.    

Friday, May 23, 2014

From a £15 million jackpot to Ffos Las

The total for this week's Scoop6 pool is predcited to pass the £15 million mark...

With the benefit of hindsight, last week's pot (4,696,960 different winning combinations) was eminently more winnable than this week's puzzle (9,424,800 combinations).

Rain is predicted for Haydock - the odd non-runner here and there may reduce that rather large number by the odd million or so but we're still talking big numbers.

All this week's races will be run over a distance of eight furlongs or less; for those interested, the races are:

2.05 Haydock 
2.50 Catterick
2.55 Goodwood
3.10 Haydock
3.25 Catterick
3.45 Haydock

There's no £15 million jackpot up for grabs at Ffos Las but the rain has certainly arrived at the Welsh track where the going is described as soft; the handicap chase at 7.40 looks more open than some of the other fare on offer.

Top weight Smadynium, trying this trip for the first time, isn't guaranteed to stay while at the other end of the handicap Tough Talkin Man has been allocated the bare minimum and amateur Mr S P Bowen claims a further seven pounds - the Bowen yard has sent out four winners in the past week. Whispering Jack won this last year (Sir Mattie beaten 16 lengths) but hasn't been in good form of late. By contrast Sir Mattie ran well for a long way here the last day on his first appearance for the best part of a year. Five Star Wilsham has his second run for the Twiston-Davies yard and boasts some interesting pieces of form; that said he has failed to complete in his last three chase starts.

Both Sir Mattie and Five Star Wilsham are priced up at around 5/1 in the tissue; of that pairing, the latter looks to offer slightly better value and so makes more appeal - it's the jumping that's the worry.       

Friday, May 16, 2014

No Scoop6 for me - it's Bangor-on-Dee...

The Scoop6 hasn't been won since March and the result is there's an estimated £10 million in the pot.

With no more than 15 runners in any of tomorrow's six races, the chances are there will be at least one winning ticket.

I've no doubt the syndicates have already started work on their permutations...

According to my back-of-a-fag packet maths, there are only 4,656,960 potential winning combinations. The wager certainly delivers more excitement than a lottery ticket and, on this occasion, represents better value too.

For those interested in taking part, all you have to do is pick the winners of the following races:

1.45 Newmarket
2.40 Newbury (understatedly named the Betfred Astronomical 10 Million Scoop6 Today Handicap)
2.55 Newmarket
3.25 Thirsk
3.30 Newmarket
4.00 Thirsk

If you're tempted, good luck!

I've set my sights considerably lower by looking briefly at Bangor-on-Dee's jumps card.

Alan King's Grumeti, eighth behind Jezki in the Champion Hurdle two months ago, makes his chase debut in the opener. He'll be long odds-on but didn't hurdle that well at Cheltenham or at Aintree over a half mile further the last day. Back in September I fancied Solaras Exhibition at a price for a listed event at Market Rasen but he disappointed on that occasion. Tim Vaughan's charge will appreciate quicker ground - he may not have the class of Grumeti but I'll watch his jumping with a view to the summer months ahead.

Warren Greatrex is in fine form with 5 wins from 11 runs this month, all ridden by last season's leading conditional Gavin Sheehan.

Later tonight Aidan Coleman teams up with Warrantor for the handler in Aintree's concluding bumper while Sheehan is booked for Wojciech in Bangor's bumper tomorrow. That one faces stiff opposition from the likes of Quiet Candid (Nicky Henderson), Whatdoesthefoxsay (Donald McCain) and Belle De Londres (Alan King).

Whatdoesthefoxsay would appeal as a value play against Henderson's Quiet Candid if the tissue price of 3/1 is available on the day.

McCoy also rides Chalk It Down (for Greatrex) in the 3.40 but this looks an open event. I'm tempted to take an each-way chance with McCain's Ballybriggan provided the price is in double figures.

At the age of ten this one is no spring chicken and he doesn't appear to have had much fun over the larger obstacles recently. That said, he doesn't have too many miles on the clock and comes here freshened up - his record over hurdles reads 4 wins from 11 runs while conditional Nick Slatter takes a handy-looking seven pounds off his back.

Friday, May 02, 2014

A review of the 2013/14 jumps season

Champion jockey: A P McCoy
Champion trainer: Paul Nicholls
Winning owner: J P McManus
Leading conditional rider: Gavin Sheehan

This time last year Nicky Henderson was long odds-on to retain the trainers' title but last year's Arkle winner Simonsig missed the entire season while stable star Sprinter Sacre, pulled up on his seasonal debut in Kempton's Desert Orchid Chase, was found to have an irregular heartbeat. Later the problem was reported to have 'righted itself' but the gelding hasn't raced in public since.

As is so often the case in racing, it's an ill wind... Sire De Grugy stepped up to win six of his seven starts including Cheltenham's Queen Mother Champion Chase; Gary Moore's charge was named jumps Horse of the Year.

Riding at Towcester on Thursday November 7th McCoy recorded his 4,000th win aboard a horse called Mountain Tunes and two days later Richie McLernon rode Johns Spirit to victory in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

A week on and any lingering doubts about Cue Card's ability to stay three miles appeared to have been answered as Joe Tizzard made all to claim Haydock's Betfair Chase, with Dynaste, Silviniaco Conti and Gold Cup holder Bobs Worth all well beaten. At Kempton on Boxing Day Colin Tizzard's stable star looked set to confirm that form in the King George but in heart-breaking fashion Cue Card ran out of petrol in the home straight and was outstayed by Silviniaco Conti.

Cue Card missed the remainder of the season through injury while regular pilot Joe Tizzard later announced his retirement from race-riding.

At that same Kempton meeting My Tent Or Yours pipped The New One in the Christmas Hurdle - both horses set their sights on the Champion in March. A vintage renewal saw Jezki claim the crown holding McCoy's mount My Tent Or Yours a neck with The New One third.

The bare result only tells half the story. The New One was badly hampered after Our Conor fell fatally at the third but he still finished like a train while McCoy had had the choice between the first two but chose the wrong one.

That evening the champ will have been cursing his luck and his mood will have turned darker still two days later when he finished third in the World Hurdle on At Fishers Cross; emphatic winner More of That was another McCoy had rejected - on both occasions Barry Geraghty was the fortunate beneficiary.

Geraghty was aboard market leader and clear form choice Bobs Worth in Friday's Gold Cup but the race went the way of Lord Windermere (20/1) who held On His Own (16/1) a short head at the line with The Giant Bolster (14/1) threequarters of a length adrift in third.

Dr Richard Newland doesn't train for a living but that fact didn't stop his Pineau De Re coming home five lengths clear in the Aintree Grand National at odds of 25/1; Peter Bowen's Al Co (40/1) claimed the Scottish version while Richard Lee recorded a win for the home side with Mountainous in the Welsh version.

Daryl Jacob experienced mixed fortunes as Paul Nicholls' stable jockey; eyebrows were raised when he knocked back the ride on the legend Big Buck's...

Distraught at being beaten a nose by Richard Johnson in the Pertemps Network Final at the Festival, the next day Jacob rode Lac Fontana to victory in the County Hurdle but before the very next race suffered horrific injuries when Port Mellon spooked, broke through a rail and dumped him on a concrete hard-standing.

In stark contrast Sam Twiston-Davies recorded a total of 115 winners and saw his stock rise in meteoric fashion; he has just been appointed Paul Nicholls' stable jockey while Jacob has chosen to go freelance.

Finally a word for Jason Maguire who finished third in the jockeys' championship (130 winners) despite missing the final six weeks of the season after suffering life-threatening injuries in a fall from Scots Gaelic at Stratford on the eve of the Festival.

As trainer Donald McCain pointed out - it puts it all into perspective, doesn't it?