Friday, October 26, 2018

From Ludlow to Cheltenham

Court Royale (4/1), Whin Park (6/4f) and New Agenda (6/1) ensured a successful day at Ludlow's Autumn Race Day meeting yesterday.

A colleague, clearly excited after Richard Johnson's front-running ride on New Agenda, mistakenly tore up his winning Tote ticket and was on the verge of throwing the pieces in the bin; he realised, just in time, that he was now holding a worthless piece of paper with the name Shazzamataz printed on it (fourth of the four runners in the preceding mares' novices' hurdle). Fortunately the helpful lady at the Tote window allowed him to put all the pieces of paper back together again so he could collect...

I have to make a quick observation about Pembroke House's price in the six runner 'The "A Plush Flush" Handicap Steeple Chase' at 2.45.

Going through the form the night before, Whin Park was priced up around the 7/4 mark with Pembroke House generally on offer at 5/2. I have absolutely no idea what happened during the the morning but on course Pembroke House opened at 14/1 and was steadily backed, eventually going off at 15/2. The Racing Post records 'op 8/1, tchd 7/1'.

In the event Sarah-Jayne Davies' charge was the only one to throw down a challenge to favourite Whin Park but the grey was unable to quicken coming to the last and was beaten two and a quarter lengths.

Drama at Cheltenham's first meeting of the autumn this afternoon with two separate instances of horses running out after jumping the last with a winning chance - One For Billy in the 2.35 and Oighear Dubh in the 4.55. It will be interesting to see what changes are introduced for tomorrow's card.

Here's a tentative suggestion for the first race on that card, the "Matchbook Betting Exchange" Handicap Chase at 2.00; seventeen are declared and there are several returning from a long break.

Nigel Twiston-Davies is known to target this meet while the David Pipe trained Dell' Arca has run well here in the past and may have a fitness edge after a noteworthy effort finishing fourth in the Kerry National last month.

I can't help but feel there should be more to come from West Approach and Doing Fine is one I have time for but I'm going to take a small each-way interest in Relentless Dreamer who finished fourth in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April and then third in the listed Marston's Pedigree Summer Cup at Uttoxeter in July. Sky Bet and William Hill are both paying one fifth the odds six places and at the time of writing William Hill offers 14/1.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Early season temptations

Good Lord, it all seems decidedly early in the season to be talking Grand Nationals!

Gordon Elliott has sent Jury Duty and Clarcam over to contest the American Grand National at Far Hills in New Jersey. Other British runners in the field include Jaleo trained by Ben Pauling, Tornado Watch from the Emmet Mullins yard and Hammersly Lake trained by Charlie Longsdon.

The last-named has a race a little nearer to home named to wish him all the very best; eleven have been declared for tomorrow's 4.55 at Ffos Las: 'Hammersly Lake Good Luck in America Tonight Handicap Chase'.

Kempton's Sunday card is the best jumps action on this side of the Atlantic this weekend.

Only four have been declared for the listed 'Matchbook Time To Move Over Novices' Hurdle' at 3.05 but I'll be interested to see how Itchy Feet shapes up.

After his win at Southwell the last day trainer Olly Murphy said 'I wouldn't be afraid of going up in class with him'. Connections have certainly taken that jump up in class and on Racing Post Ratings Itchy Feet has some 20 lengths to find with likely favourite Leapaway who is going for the six-timer. At present the market is suggesting it's going to be competitive.

Two of the field in the handicap chase at 3.40 have had a recent run and the tissue this evening prices both around the 7/1 mark. Oliver's Hill won this race last year off a mark of 116 and will try to repeat the trick off a mark of 127 having got up to beat Peppay Le Pugh at Fontwell 15 days ago.

Valhalla has a mixed profile. His third behind Ontopoftheworld and I'dliketheoption at Newton Abbot at the beginning of the month was a decent pipe-opener although the winner that day has since been well beaten by Mercian King at Worcester. Colin Tizzard's string seems well forward - Mick Thonic (12/1) ran a creditable race from the front earlier today at Wincanton, beaten half a length by Equus Amadeus.

Last year Ballybolley beat Master Dee into third in the Prelude Handicap Chase (Market Rasen 4.00). The pair meet again this year with Connor Brace claiming ten pounds on Fergal O'Brien's charge. Only eight in the field but a very competitive affair nonetheless; Master Dee would have to be of interest at around 9/2.

To my mind the most interesting race of the day is the Smerdon Tree Novices' Chase (Ffos Las 3.55). I like the Tizzard-trained Vision Des Flos but he's a very short-priced favourite and this looks hot. A race to watch closely with the future in mind...

The temptations are there but I'm going to keep my powder dry for the long season ahead. And anyway, I'm off to Ludlow on Thursday!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Chepstow chinwag

Back in the middle of the long hot summer we've just enjoyed Harry Skelton was some twenty winners ahead of Richard Johnson in the race to become the 2018/19 champion jockey; the tally this evening reads: Johnson 98, Skelton 87.

Exeter's meeting yesterday may have been abandoned due to hard ground but it's raining and blowing a gale outside at the moment.

Tomorrow Chepstow stages its opening meeting of the core NH season.This two-day jamboree is one to watch with the future in mind; the falling rain further tempers enthusiasm for a wager.

Earlier this afternoon Maria's Benefit (fourth in the mares' hurdle at the Festival in March) ran out a comfortable winner on her chase debut on heavy ground at Newton Abbot with 2017 Fred Winter winner Flying Tiger failing to impress in the jumping department.

Several think Colin Tizzard holds a strong hand in the novice chase division this year.

Both Vision Des Flos (my each-way selection for the Ballymore where he finished sixth behind Samcro) and Lostintranslation (seventh behind Summerville Boy in the Supreme and then four weeks later beaten half a length by Black Op at Aintree) held five-day entries for the Smerdon Tree Novices' Chase (Chepstow 3.35) but neither has made the final cut.

Trained by Paul Nicholls, Master Tommytucker came to my attention a couple of months back but he's priced up favourite this evening and Monbeg Legend, officially rated 147, will be no pushover and could easily have a fitness edge.

With Chepstow such an idiosyncratic track it's easy to see why previous course and distance winner Rock The Kasbah is favourite for the handicap chase at 5.20. Cobra De Mai is of some interest; he was beaten by a smart sort in Javert at Uttoxeter over two and a half miles the last day - after this race connections will find out whether he needs further a little further these days.

Since my last post in July two racing-related publications from former times have come into my possession. Racing Review (May - June 1949) describes itself as 'the foremost illustrated monthly journal for Sportsmen of the Turf' and is priced at two shillings & sixpence; and the official racecard for the Ladbroke Chester Handicap meeting on 4th May 1976. Ladbroke's sponsorship of the Chester Handicap on that day was the princely sum of £2,100.

Finally a work colleague helpfully mailed me a link to this story

The BHA is set to give racecourse obstacles a yellow makeover in trials after researchers discovered horses tend to see the currently-used orange as a shade of green.

How my colleague thinks this research will help improve my betting selections is quite frankly beyond me. I pointed this out to him in a rather snappy reply.

"Making the obstacles easier to see is unlikely to be of any discernible benefit to the beasts I tend to waste my hard-earned on. As a general rule of thumb, the issue for the horses I tend to bet isn't so much they can't see the obstacles, rather it's they struggle to run fast enough to keep up with the other horses in the race."

Looking forward to losing more of my hard-earned with you over the coming months...