Friday, April 27, 2018

bet365 Gold Cup 2018

Unfortunately a curtailed post for the last selection of the season due to intermittent technical issues...

Twenty are declared for the final day feature at Sandown (3.35) and on past trends those carrying less than 11-0 (including those racing from out of the handicap) are the ones to concentrate on.

Several in the field ran in this race last year and contested the Hennessy in December; a number of runners appear out of sorts.

Course and distance winner Carole's Destrier is of interest having fallen to an attractive handicap mark; if the rain stays away, better ground will help and connections fit cheekpieces for the first time.

However at a bigger price I'm going to chance Relentless Dreamer. This one stayed on into a well-beaten third behind Full Jack in the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh and then finished sixth behind Master Dee in the Betdaq Handicap Chase at Kempton.

After a poor season Rebecca Curtis sent out Joe Farrell to win the Scottish National at odds of 33/1 last weekend. I'm not suggesting for one moment she can repeat that sort of trick seven days later with Relentless Dreamer but I'm hoping the better ground will bring out a respectable run from her charge.

33/1 is quoted in places; Sky Bet pay one fifth the odds six places.

Relentless Dreamer is the each-way selection with Sky Bet.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Scottish Grand National 2018

The week after Aintree invariably throws up a selection of Grand National 'scrapes' generally encountered by the once-a-year punters - with runners, non-runners and reserves adding to the complications this time round.

It is with a certain degree of chagrin that I have to report my mother-in-law has been at it again - winning, that is. She backed Mon Mome at 100/1 in 2009 and she happened to be on Tiger Roll last Saturday at odds of 10/1.

Since the inception of this blog in 2006 my mother-in-law is showing an overall profit of 57.25 points; I'm seriously thinking of packing it all in and simply following her annual foray into the National market.

Percipient readers will have noticed I stated above that 'she happened to be on Tiger Roll' and therein lies a story.

Sent to the bookmakers to strike a number of bets for the extended family, my mother-in-law's runner, my father-in-law, was informed by the helpful assistant in the shop that her original selection, Thunder And Roses, was a non-runner; he should back Tiger Roll for her instead.

In terms of customer service it really doesn't get much better than that, does it?

The Times' theatre critic Ann Treneman wasn't quite so chuffed with the service afforded her when she walked into a William Hill betting shop in Bakewell, Derbyshire. Shown how to strike a £10 each-way wager on Milansbar, she was somewhat dismayed to discover later that William Hill only paid fifth place on wagers placed online.

Spare a thought though for this mother and her two daughters.

Mother backs Tiger Roll each-way single (wins); younger daughter backs Pleasant Company each-way single (second); elder daughter backs Bless The Wings each-way single (third). The tricast paid £9,439.25; the trifecta £68,670.00.

I did send a polite email earlier in the week enquiring why they hadn't informed me beforehand they were about to pull a stunt like that but, as of yet, I haven't received a reply.

If that's the sort of story that whets your appetite, tomorrow's Scottish Grand National (4.05 Ayr) is marginally easier with just 30 runners set to face the starter; the going is good, good to soft in places.

Last week a racing hack suggested layers would be targeting Flat fans after the Aintree Festival but in terms of turnover Coral rate the Scottish National their fourth best race after the Aintree National, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Derby.

Vicente has won the past two renewals and tries for the hat-trick off a mark four pounds higher than last year and with similar underfoot conditions.

Cogry was beaten a neck into second last year with Benbens a further two lengths adrift in third, Vintage Clouds seventh (beaten thirteen and threequarter lengths), Henri Parry Morgan ninth (beaten nineteen and a quarter lengths) and Straidnahanna pulled up. At the revised weights Cogry has it all to do to reverse placings with the winner (Jamie Balgary no longer claims three) but Benbens looks in the mix.

Vintage Clouds, second behind Ballyoptic in the Towton at Wetherby and then third in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham, is respected off a mark seven pounds higher than last year; Sue Smith's gelding was the fourth reserve for the Aintree National last week but didn't get a run.

Two that caught my eye earlier were Looking Well and Doing Fine - or was it Looking Fine and Doing Well?

Anyway, there has been steady money for Neil Mulholland's charge Doing Fine - he's challenging for favouritism in some lists. He finished five and a quarter lengths behind Benbens in the London National last December; there's the suspicion Barry Geraghty left his mount with too much ground to make up that day. On a strict interpretation of the book the pairing look closely matched.

Looking Well's second to Ziga Boy in the 2017 Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster reads well; I backed him to follow up in the Grimthorpe at the same track five weeks later but he ran no race at all - an issue was subsequently discovered.

This term on his last run he came from off the pace and appeared to have the Edinburgh National in the bag approaching the last but he may well have been running on empty as he jinked, dumped Ryan Day on the ground and gifted a fortunate-looking victory to my selection Full Jack. The handicapper wasn't fooled - Nicky Richards' charge went up five pounds.

At the prices Looking Well makes more appeal but I'm concerned as both are hold-up horses and as a general rule of thumb those that race prominently have fared better in this event over the years.

A quick mention too for Irish runner Glencairn View who looks unexposed and could be anything; at the time of writing he's trading between 14/1 and 18/1.

Benbens is thirteen years old, pulled up last time out and is the least fancied of the three Twiston-Davies runners but on last year's running he looks in the mix and appears overpriced at 40/1 with Sky Bet (six places one fifth the odds).

However, on the better ground I'm going to chance that Looking Well can see out the trip and avoid any potential trouble in running.

Looking Well (20/1 Coral, one fifth the odds seven places) is the each-way selection.

Nicky Henderson holds a strong hand in the competitive-looking Ayrshire Hospice Land O'Burns Starlight Walk Handicap Hurdle (4.40) but one I expect to improve for the better ground is Burbank. He finished seventh in the Coral Cup, beaten seven lengths, and the handicapper has dropped him one pound for that effort. I'm not tempted by the 7/1 - 8/1 on offer this evening so I'll watch with interest.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Aintree Grand National 2018

With the going on the National course now heavy, soft in places, Minella Rocco, Vicente and Beeves have been withdrawn; three of the four reserves, Thunder And Roses, Delusionofgrandeur and Walk In The Mill, are set to take their chance.

The weights rise one pound; Blaklion heads the handicap.

When Red Marauder won the 2001 running of this famous race just four completed - and two of those were re-mounted. The picture of winning jockey Richard Guest splattered in mud remains one of the most evocative in sport.

It's anyone's guess what the going stick would have shown that day; readings became obligatory in 2009.

Ballabriggs won in 2011 over a trip of four miles four furlongs, came sixth the following year and was then pulled up in 2013, the first running in modern times over the revised trip of four miles two and a half furlongs.

Geraldine Rees was the first female rider to complete the course, finishing eighth on Cheers in 1982.

Katie Walsh currently holds the best placing by a female rider (third on Seabass in 2012); along with Bryony Frost on Milansbar and Rachael Blackmore on Alpha des Obeaux, Katie will be aiming to go into the history books as the first female jockey to win the race - she rides the seven year old grey mare Baie Des Iles.

Those who like to make their own selections may find The Sporting Life's horse-by-horse comments useful.

For everyone else, here's a view. Note that Paddy Power and BetFred are amongst the layers paying one fifth the odds six places.

1. Seeyouatmidnight (14/1 BetFred) - Talented but fragile individual. Has beaten Bristol De Mai in a match at Carlisle and finished third behind Vicente in the 2016 Scottish National off this mark. Sold to present owners for an undisclosed sum after qualifying for this race at Newbury three weeks ago. Slight concern over form of the yard (58 days since win).

2. Raz De Maree ( 22/1 Paddy Power) - Thirteen years of age and the last thirteen year old to win was Sergeant Murphy - in 1923! Won the Welsh National off a mark of 140 with James Bowen claiming five so effectively starts here off a mark eleven pounds higher. Relishes a slog in the mud and he's likely to get it here; finished eighth in 2014 and was unlucky to unseat at Becher's last year. Thirteen year old Vics Canvas (100/1) finished third behind Rule the World in 2016.

3. Baie Des Iles (14/1) - Jumps, stays and acts on the ground; at seven years of age the youngest horse in the race. Tipped up by Jim McGrath on Sunday at odds of 50/1. Last seven year old to come home in front was Bogskar in 1940.

4. Regal Encore  (25/1 BetFred) - A bit of a law unto himself and certainly not one to trust implicitly but he appeared to enjoy himself over these unique fences last year, staying on from out the back to claim eighth; races off the same mark tomorrow. Third in the Hennessy last November reads well enough - on a going day he has the ability to make a place.

Couple of quid to spare? Quixotic reverse forecast - Raz De Maree (together with Maggio the oldest horse in the race) and Baie Des Iles (youngest horse in the race).

Good luck to one and all!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Aintree 2018 - Friday

Pressed for time, I'm afraid, so just one tentative suggestion for Ladies' Day.

The Albert Bartlett at last month's Festival is the key piece of form for the Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle at 4.40.

Ok Corral finished second behind 33/1 winner Kilbricken Storm at Cheltenham with more fancied stablemate Santini third that day, Tower Bridge fifth, Poetic Rhythm tenth and Chef Des Obeaux pulled up. There's a general feeling a number in the field didn't run to their best on the day.

Poetic Rhythm is of interest at an each-way price.

Paddy Brennan didn't give his mount a hard time after the chance had gone at Cheltenham; prior to that the gelding, owned by The Yes No Wait Sorries, fought back to pip Mulcahys Hill on heavy ground over two miles four and a half furlongs in the Challow at Newbury.

That form reads well and the stable now appears to be emerging from a quiet spell (RTF figure for past fortnight: 56%); on Racing Post ratings Fergal O'Brien's charge is there with every chance.

Sky Bet offer 14/1 and are paying one fifth the odds four places.

Poetic Rhythm is the each-way selection.

Global Citizen looked very impressive winning the Dovecote at Kempton seven weeks ago; it's no surprise to see him marked up favourite for the Betway Top Novices' Hurdle at 2.20.

Two of my Cheltenham selections reappear here; Vision Des Flos steps back in trip having finished sixth behind Samcro in the Ballymore while Slate House took a crunching fall at the last in the Supreme.

Scarlet Dragon is short enough in the market for one lacking experience; rated 108 on the Flat, he finished nine lengths behind Global Citizen on his hurdling debut.

I've seen Style De Garde tipped up here and there and it's easy enough to see Irish Roe in the mix if you forgive the mare her last run in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury where a mistake at the second flight appeared to cost her her chance; an interesting renewal which should prove useful for future reference.   

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Aintree 2018 - Thursday

Four weeks since Cheltenham - in my book the Aintree Grand National meeting remains the trickiest fixture in the jumping calendar.

I certainly won't be shoving anyone out of the road to take an odds-on price about Might Bite in the Betway Bowl at 2.50. Nicky Henderson's charge lost out in the war of attrition with Native River (Definitly Red - ridden hard from some way out - sixth, Tea For Two seventh); after that memorable Gold Cup Harry Fry, trainer of American, said:

"In the conditions at Cheltenham it didn't matter whether you won, were placed, unplaced or didn't finish, you had a hard race."

David Orton points out that in the past decade, of the 13 horses that have run in the Bowl after completing in the Gold Cup, only Silviniaco Conti obliged in 2014. Last year Tea For Two fell at the second in the Gold Cup before beating Cue Card a neck in the Bowl.

Bristol De Mai has undergone wind surgery and comes here fresh but his jumping hasn't convinced as this season has progressed.

Double Shuffle finished a length second to Might Bite in the King George (Tea For Two third) and missed the Gold Cup; that said, he wouldn't want it too soft underfoot and stable form is a concern - just one win recorded since February - while Clan Des Obeaux tries this trip for the first time.

Double Shuffle and Tea For Two appeal as potential each-way plays. At the time of writing Tea For Two is still available at 16/1 in places while Double Shuffle is generally a 12/1 shot.

Tea For Two is the each-way selection, made with Harry Fry's words ringing in my ears...

Two Henderson horses, Apple's Shaira and We Have A Dream, dominate the market for the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (2.20). Dan Skelton is on record as saying an Aintree speed test is likely to suit Nube Negra who finished a creditable third (Padleyourowncanoe fourth) when sent off favourite for the Fred Winter.

I'll monitor the performance of Beau Gosse (in the same ownership as We Have A Dream). This one finished 17 lengths third behind Redicean and Malaya in the Adonis at Kempton in February; easier underfoot conditions could bring about some improvement.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Sweet dreams

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world
And the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something

         Annie Lennox / Dave Stewart

It's that time of year, a week before the Grand National, and everybody's dreaming.

Trainers peddling dreams, bookmakers selling them and punters buying; there's that old acquaintance of an old friend of yours who claims he can still dream winners when he wants (and, when pressed, gives the simple riposte 'When I want, not when you want!') while Bryony Frost has her first ride in the big race on Milansbar and is one of the forty riders dreaming of coming home in front:

"In my dreams I can see him doing it, and even when I'm not dreaming I still think he has a real live chance."

Here's a dream I had last night.

I'm taking part in a team-based quiz event at an unidentified English stately home.

The main entrance is situated on the first floor and is approached from the front lawns by two semi-circular stone staircases; the black paint on the railings is flaking. I notice the floor above the entrance is completely dominated by an imposing bay window covered by net curtain.

The quizmaster is housed in an enclosed office just inside the entrance which acts as the main reception point. Players communicate with the quizmaster through a small window, similar in size to booking-office ticket windows that are still commonplace at heritage railway stations.

A single bonus point is the reward for the correct answer to the following question.

On April 18 [no year provided] Falco Dawn beat [unidentified opponent] in a handicap hurdle at Fakenham. During the post-race interview, what other name did connections use to refer to their winner?

We retreat to the lawns to confer at some length. Nobody on the team knows, we're guessing but we eventually agree a reply and I climb the stone staircase to deliver the answer to the quizmaster. As I approach the window I see he is busy writing at his desk. He stops, looks up at me but doesn't utter a word.

Conscious he will only accept my first answer, I speak clearly, deliberately.

"Our answer is 'All Fall Down'."

With the authoritative air of a quizmaster who happens to know all the answers, this quizmaster stands, walks away from his desk, pauses momentarily before turning back towards me and saying:

"It's 'Heustophon'."

Don't bother. I've checked. There are no horses currently in training with a name that remotely resembles anything uttered in that dream. That's dreaming for you.

Here's a tip for those of you who still dream on.

Ten are declared for tomorrow's Liz Adam Memorial Chase at Kelso (3.00) where the official going is heavy.

Yala Enki beat Seldom Inn seven lengths in last year's renewal with Baywing three and threequarter lengths further behind in fourth. This year Yala Enki starts off a mark six pounds higher (152), Baywing four pounds higher (taking into account Ryan Day's reduced claim allowance) while Seldom Inn is six pounds lower (139).

Seldom Inn has certainly fallen to an attractive-looking mark but his jumping has been indifferent this season and the blinkers fitted for the first time on his penultimate start, to date, don't really appear to have had the desired effect.

Baywing was impressive in the Eider at Newcastle seven weeks ago, coming home some 55 lengths ahead of Smooth Stepper in sixth. Previously however Smooth Stepper had beaten Baywing at the same track by seven and a quarter lengths over a trip of two miles seven and a half.

On the balance of form to date Smooth Stepper wouldn't be guaranteed to see out this trip on heavy ground; if he does, at the weights he finishes ahead of Nicky Richards' charge.

Wild West Wind and Lake View Lad are two more runners with question marks about their ability to stay the trip. Sent on to win his race three out at Haydock the last time, Wild West Wind stopped very quickly indeed; Tom George has only had the one winner since February - Summerville Boy in the Supreme on the first day at the Festival.

Lake View Lad has won over further but has been racing over distances of two and a half miles recently.

Chic Name is the one to beat on Racing post ratings. He comes to this relatively fresh and his sixth behind Tiger Roll in the cross country race at Cheltenham reads well. 10-4 looks a snip weight and James Bowen claims a further three; of those near the head of the market he makes most appeal.

The two at the bottom of the handicap are of interest. Harry The Viking may be thirteen but he isn't readily dismissed; Rachel McDonald takes off seven and certainly knows how to win having ridden Full Jack to victory in the Edinburgh National Handicap Chase at Musselburgh in February.

Smooth Stepper's stablemate Blakemount was kept busy last season before finishing sixth in the Scottish National at Ayr. Connections clearly decided to give their charge a well-earned rest as he made his seasonal debut just nine days ago at Wetherby.

Blakemount ran well for a long way that day and could be expected to come on for the run but, of course, it was nine days ago and he could 'bounce'. On initial inspection jockey bookings suggest Smooth Stepper has the better chance but I note Danny Cook hasn't ridden at lower than 10-5 in the past twelve months.

bet365 bet 10/1 Smooth Stepper, 12/1 Blakemount and pay a quarter the odds three places.

Smooth Stepper is the each-way selection.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention. I have this dream - of Beeves winning next week's National at odds of 100/1...