Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday, Hennessy Saturday

After Black Friday comes Hennessy Saturday...

In the past decade nine winners of the Hennessy Gold Cup have been aged either six or seven years old; a five-year-old has never won the race yet Willie Mullins' Djakadam is the clear market leader, priced as low as 4/1 with Boylesports.

This year in particular I'm struck by the bigger prices available about horses who can boast decent form on soft/heavy ground.

Last year's winner Triolo D'Alene may prefer better underfoot conditions but is rated a 33/1 chance while Merry King (fifth in 2013) is 16/1 with William Hill and Houblon Des Obeaux (sixth) is another priced at 33/1.

Previous Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude is 25/1 and Peter Marsh Chase winner Wychwoods Brook is 28/1 (betVictor), as is Dan Skelton's unexposed sort What A Warrior (William Hill).

You pays your money and takes your choice.

With prices like these I've ignored the market leaders and had an each-way wager on Wychwoods Brook (25/1 with SkyBet paying a quarter the odds five places) who had a nice pipe opener over hurdles at Worcester last month.

I also looked closely at Houblon Des Obeaux who will relish underfoot conditions despite top weight and would be in the mix if showing a return to his very best form - the downside is this is his first outing since April.

Back in March More Of That retained his unbeaten record to collect the Ladbrokes World Hurdle in some style.

The gelding makes his reappearance in the Long Distance Hurdle at 2.25 but Warren Greatrex's Cole Harden is likely to have a fitness edge and at 4/1 represents a play against the odds-on favourite whose stable is currently in the midst of a lean spell.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Haydock Betfair Chase meeting 2014

Faugheen is the stand-out horse at Ascot tomorrow but Haydock has the better card with the Betfair Chase (3.00) the highlight.

Last year's first, second and third [Cue Card, Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti] head the market but they come into the race with questions to answer; Taquin Du Seuil can be considered a contender on the back of his second to Menorah in the Charlie Hall three weeks ago with underfoot conditions here likely to suit.

I was surprised to see Cue Card backed into favouritism for the Haldon Gold Cup on his first appearance after suffering a pelvic injury at the beginning of the year. Well beaten at Exeter, the longer trip here will help but that run was just 18 days ago - last year's winner doesn't come to this in the same form as last year and I remain unconvinced.

I tipped Dynaste for the race last year but on his seasonal reappearance he came up just short and I suspect we may see a repeat performance tomorrow.

Paul Nicholls ran Silviniaco Conti in the Charlie Hall as a preparation for this; the handler felt his charge was a little short in this race last year.

Silviniaco, sent off even money favourite at Wetherby, was somewhat disappointing in fifth and sports cheek pieces for the first time.

I was tempted by Taquin Du Seuil who can look awkward on occasions but did nothing wrong the last day; the value has disappeared though - he's just a 5/1 chance now.

Silviniaco Conti is priced 4/1 with Ladbrokes this evening yet on official figures has 15lbs in hand over Jonjo's horse - Silviniaco Conti gets the nod.

At least Melodic Rendezvous (regular jockey Nick Scholfield is riding at Ascot) provides some level of opposition for The New One in the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle (1.50) but it will be a major shock if Twiston-Davies' charge doesn't come home in front.

The three mile 'fixed brush' handicap hurdle at 2,25 is very difficult.

Aubusson and Vieux Lion Rouge are horses I like but, pressed for an each-way selection, I have sided with Sybarite who at eight years of age is older than ideal but should stay this trip on the ground - Ladbrokes offer 14/1 at the time of writing while Skybet quote 12/1 and pay five places.

Regular readers will know I've followed Polly Peachum quite closely since her win at Warwick back in March. Following victory at Wincanton two weeks ago, the handicapper has had his say and raised Nicky Henderson's mare a further eight pounds to a mark of 155.

She held a five-day entry for tomorrow's fixed brush hurdle at Haydock but also holds an entry for the listed hurdle at Kempton on Monday (2.10). Both Woodland Walk and Hi Note hold entries for that same Kempton event but connections have opted to run in tomorrow's 1.30 at Ascot instead.

Should Polly make the line-up on Monday, she'll be attempting a trip of three miles for the first time and easy conditions underfoot will be far from ideal.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cheltenham Open meeting 2014 - Saturday

Eighteen face the starter for tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup at 2.30 - earlier today a low sun resulted in fences being omitted in the novice chase but a request to bring forward the off-time of Saturday's feature has been rejected by the BHA.

Last year Johns Spirit won carrying 10-2 racing off a mark of 139; tomorrow, together with Oscar Whisky, he carries 11-12 and races off 156. Jonjo O'Neill's charge looked impressive when winning over course and distance last month but the stable has only recently emerged from a spell in the doldrums.

In the past decade no horse has carried more than 11-8 to victory; seven of those winners carried under 11-0.

Jamie Snowden's Present View heads the market, despite suffering a slight setback when returning with a cut after finishing a head second to Vicente in a hurdle race here last month.

The gelding won the Rewards4Racing Novices Handicap Chase at the Festival in March (Buywise fifth and Persian Snow sixth); Buywise, in receipt of three pounds, was beaten seven lengths that day but appeared to be making ground up the hill after a couple of indifferent jumps on the way round - this one has been well tipped up.

In an ultra-competitive renewal I'm going to stay loyal to Johns Spirit who has shown his liking for Cheltenham in the past. This evening Paddy Power offer 11/1 and pay a quarter the odds five places so Johns Spirit is the each-way selection.

Philip Hobbs is having a terrific season and saddled a treble earlier today with Bold Henry (14/1), Champagne West (7/2) and Balthazar King (4/7f).

In the novice chase at 1.15 I'll oppose the David Pipe trained Kings Palace with Sausalito Sunrise (11/4 Ladbrokes, Skybet, bet365).

Finally Kilronan High went into my notebook when beating a Nicky Henderson hotpot seven lengths at Towcester last May.

The mare sweated up badly before making all to win at Perth a couple of months back; at 14/1 (Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, bet365) she is worth a small each-way interest in a competitive-looking bumper.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Wincanton Badger Ales / Elite 2014

Back at the beginning of September in a post entitled 'Back in training' I wrote:

"At a Warwick midweek meeting last March Nicky Henderson's mare Polly Peachum caught my eye while King's Tempest claimed the concluding bumper for the Twiston-Davies operation; both will be of interest when they re-appear."

King's Tempest, now with Warren Greatrex, finished two lengths second to Jollyallan in a novices' hurdle at Exeter on Tuesday while Polly Peachum makes her seasonal debut in a Class 2 mares' handicap hurdle at Wincanton tomorrow.

On her last run in a listed Sandown hurdle Polly, in receipt of three pounds, finished a short head second to the well-regarded Southfield Theatre (odds-on favourite for the novice chase at 1.30).

Polly Peachum is a smart mare with a decent turn of foot but my primary concern for this race is she ideally needs good ground to show that turn of foot to best effect. She also has to concede upwards of 12 pounds to her ten opponents but Woodland Walk, Lily Waugh and Mini Muck are obliged to race from out of the handicap.

This evening layers offer 9/2; I'll consider a wager if the going remains no worse than good-to-soft.

A maximum field of 18 will face the starter for the feature Badger Ales Trophy at 2.40; securing a decent racing pitch early on will be important.

Standing Ovation won last year's renewal off 120 and tries to repeat the trick this time off a rating of 131; he should be thereabouts having had a seasonal pipe-opener, a comment that also applies to Emma Lavelle's Court By Surprise, third in last year's race and four pounds better off for eight and a quarter lengths.

At a price I considered Tom George's Date To Endeavour in a race that often goes to a younger horse but most of his chase form is in small fields.

In the past decade the favourite has obliged on four occasions with the winner coming from the top four in the market on eight occasions; Court By Surprise (12/1 William Hill) is no more than a tentative each-way suggestion.

Much of the pre-race talk surrounding the Elite Hurdle (3.15) centres on Irving (unbeaten in this country before disappointing in the Supreme at Cheltenham last March - later found to be coughing) and 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby.

Several in the field make their seasonal debut so, in search of some value, I've concentrated on those with a recent run under their belts.

Bertimont won a farcical race at Chepstow the last day but could be anything while Hint Of Mint, Forgotten Voice and Starluck finished in that order behind The New One at Kempton three weeks ago.

That trio raced at level weights at Kempton so Nico De Boinville's three pound claim is probably the reason why Forgotten Voice is as low as 5/1 with William Hill.

Starluck is not the force of old but he won a Cheltenham handicap hurdle off this mark in April last year; 40/1 (Stan James) is a big price about a horse whose style of racing is suited to the course.

Since tackling hurdles, Hint Of Mint has raced exclusively on right-handed tracks - priced at 10/1 this evening, Hint of Mint is the each-way suggestion for the Elite; in the past ten years all the winners have been aged between five and seven years old.