Friday, November 30, 2018

Ladbrokes Trophy Chase 2018

Whisper it quietly but this year's Ladbrokes Trophy (Newbury 3.00) looks a little, dare I say it,  lacklustre with only 13 set to face the starter; connections of Kemboy were forced to stay at home after Thursday's scheduled sailing across the Irish Sea was cancelled.

At the head of the market the layers look to have their pricing roughly right about Thomas Patrick, Elegant Escape and Ms Parfois.

Elegant Escape beat Thomas Patrick at Sandown three weeks ago and collects a four pounds penalty for his trouble; both sets of connections will expect improvement - on the revised terms the latter can certainly reverse the form but I note Elegant Escape, third in the RSA last March, had a wind operation during the summer.

Ms Parfois, placed in six of her seven chase starts to date, has her first run since wind surgery in August. Handler Anthony Honeyball sent out Regal Encore to finish third in this race last year at the rewarding odds of 66/1; he comments in this week's Straight from the Stable tour in the Weekender:

"...I'm happy we've done plenty of work with her, including a racecourse gallop at Newbury last week with Regal Encore, and she's ready to run a big race. The only issue is the ground as she wants it soft or heavy, so we're keen to see plenty of rain this week. Given the right conditions it will be a real slog and she'll be jumping well and keeping going when others have stopped."

Traditionally this has proved a strong trends race. No winner has been rated lower than 146 in the past decade which eliminates The Young Master, Flying Angel, Allyson Monterg and West Approach.

The last horse older than nine to come home in front was Diamond Edge in 1981 so on those grounds I'm going to discount Sizing Tennessee as well which leaves eight runners from which to find some value.

The Alan King trained Dingo Dollar, tipped up by Paul Kealy, seems popular but, reading between the lines, I'm not convinced King really believes his charge has the class to come home in front.

Black Corton appears to have a stiff task off top weight while I always think Go Conquer is a better horse at Ascot.

The two I'm looking at are American and Beware The Bear.

American is a talented but fragile individual with low mileage on the clock. He was sent off 5/1 second favourite for this last year but was pulled up after jumping poorly throughout; afterwards the vet reported the gelding had lost his left fore shoe and suffered an overreach on his left fore.

56 days later Harry Fry's charge split Definitly Red and Bristol De Mai in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham - that form that reads very well.

He clearly comes with risks attached - his nine wins to date have all come in fields with less than ten runners, there's the suspicion the ground won't be soft enough and last year's effort remains a big worry but he tries off a mark three pounds lower this year and his amateur rider can claim another five. Speaking to the Racing Post Fry says:

"He's been easier to train this time around and we deliberately didn't let him down completely over the summer."

Beware The Bear won the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on this day last year and at 16/1 in places he looks a big price for a Nicky Henderson trained runner. His overall profile doesn't totally convince and a quick look through the form suggests his jumping can cause problems on occasions.

He's another who underwent wind surgery during the summer and connections have decided to come here as they report their charge in rude health. Jerry McGrath's mount will also sport cheekpieces for the first time.

The current going on the chase course is reported good to soft, soft in places and the BBC forecast an 80% chance of further rain during the morning.

At the time of writing Unibet stand out offering 14/1 American and are paying one fifth the odds four places.

American is the each-way selection.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Black Friday, tomorrow's Saturday...

Bookmakers just can't resist it, can they? Getting in on the act, that is. Seen here and there in places today:

"Black Friday - the only sale where the prices go up!"

Quick, I need one of me tablets.

The weekend highlight is the Betfair Chase at Haydock (3.00). The field of five includes Gold Cup adversaries Native River and Might Bite but earlier today Nigel Twiston-Davies, fearing drying ground, indicated he would walk the course tomorrow morning before making a decision on Bristol De Mai's participation. A race to watch and savour.

Some observers think First Assignment is a bit of a good thing in the Betfair Exchange Stayers' Hurdle (2.25) at the same track. Ian Williams' charge won as he liked at Cheltenham last Saturday; he has been raised five pounds but is due to go up another eight so is, theoretically, eight pounds well in.

I'd advise caution before rushing upstairs to raid the kids' piggy banks. Last week Mr Williams made it crystal clear this horse doesn't take a lot of racing:

"He's not a really robust horse you'd be rubbing your hands with and saying we'll have a real go next week."

I certainly wouldn't be tempted by 6/4 and was considering an each-way wager on the Tom Symonds trained Bobo Mac - that was until I read this note from his handler:

"I'll have a look at the ground when I get to Haydock as he wouldn't want quick ground because I don't think he performs at his best on it."

With that cunning plan thwarted, I'm off to Ascot instead where the going is described as good, good to soft in places.

Thirteen have been declared for the Gerard Bertrand Hurst Park Handicap Chase (3.15). At the time of writing Cyrname and Modus are vying for favouritism; the former likes to race from the front and wouldn't be guaranteed to have it all his own way in this field while the latter beat Duke Of Navan a head at Cheltenham last time but wouldn't be one to trust implicitly.

Four in the field make their seasonal debuts - Speredek, Theinval, Gardefort and Valdez - and may just be vulnerable to race-fit rivals.

In the Weekender Alan King indicates Valdez 'needs rain' and is 'ground dependent' while this looks a tough enough ask for novices Caid Du Lin (four chase starts to date) and One For Billy (six chase starts).

In the Haldon Gold Cup 18 days ago Ozzie The Oscar was beaten half a length by Gods Own with San Benedeto a further seven lengths adrift in third. On revised terms San Benedeto should finish a little closer but there can be no denying that was a bit disappointing from Paul Nicholls' charge.

Prior to that the gelding had rolled in last of six behind Verdana Blue in a Kempton hurdle; in formbook notes Sandra Noble wrote:

"San Benedeto will need to improve markedly on this run if he is to get competitive in his next reported target of the Haldon Gold Cup..."

So I'm starting to think perhaps, just perhaps, there's a bit more to come...

At Exeter he was bang there before making an error at the third last and I'm hoping that run has put him spot on.

A previous course and distance winner, he went off 2/1 favourite for this race last year and was beaten two lengths into fourth off a mark of 157; tomorrow he starts off 152 and is the one to beat on Racing Post ratings.

Ozzie The Oscar is respected but with both Paddy Power and Betfair offering 11/1 and paying one fifth the odds four places San Benedeto is the each-way suggestion.

Friday, November 16, 2018

BetVictor Gold Cup 2018

I'd never go so far as to class myself a royalist but I've always felt an area where Her Majesty The Queen acts as a shining example to all of her subjects is the manner in which she uses horse racing as a form of escape from the trials and tribulations encountered doing the day job.

That said, somehow I don't think we're going to see Theresa May turning up at Prestbury Park over the weekend.

The highlight on tomorrow's card is the BetVictor Gold Cup run on the old course over a trip of two and a half miles; twenty have been declared with the race due off at 2.25 - the going is described as good, good to soft in places.

Splash Of Ginge won last year's renewal off a mark of 134. Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge starts seven pounds higher this time and is now ten.

The last horse older than nine to come home in front was Clear Cut in 1975 and since the race's inception as the Mackeson Gold Cup in 1960 only two other horses in that age bracket have won - Fortria in 1962 and Charlie Worcester in 1967.

Market leaders Rather Be and Mister Whitaker fought out a ding-dong battle in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase at The Festival in March, the latter prevailing by a head. Nine pounds better off Rather Be might be expected to reverse the form but Mr Whitaker has a recent run under his belt while Rather Be makes his seasonal debut; they look closely matched.

Paul Kealy tips up Kalondra in the Weekender, arguing Neil Mulholland's inmate was in the process of running a huge race when coming to grief two out behind Sub Lieutenant at Galway in August. A previous winner at this track Kalondra could be up to ten pounds well in off his current mark and has been given time to recover from that fall.

Joint top-rated on Racing Post ratings, Baron Alco is a consistent front-runner who was beaten a head on his comeback at Chepstow last month. I've seen him put up here and there but prior to that Chepstow effort he had been on the sidelines for some 19 months and I'd just be worried he could 'bounce' here. At the time of writing stablemate Benatar is the shorter priced.

King's Socks boasts smart French form and has been on several lists of horses to follow for a while now. He hasn't quite lived up to the high expectations but has undergone a wind operation since last seen and races in a tongue-tie for the first time. Between 2000 and 2006 Martin Pipe, David's father, won six of the seven renewals of this race.

West Approach raced pretty keenly here last time out, eventually finishing third behind Relentless Dreamer over three miles. I suspect he'll benefit with that freshness out of the way and I like Dickie Johnson on a front-runner but I'm not convinced the step back in trip will suit.

With any potential selection for this race I like to see winning form at this track and only six match the required criteria: Kalondra, Mister Whitaker, Ballyandy, Frodon, Guitar Pete, Shantou Village and last year's winner Splash Of Ginge.

Guitar Pete was ninth in this last year and then won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in December although Starchitect appeared to have the spoils in the bag that day before breaking down when seven lengths clear. Brian Hughes rides tomorrow; he could run well at odds of 33/1.

However the one I'm going to make a case for is top weight Frodon. Firstly, let me get the bad news out of the way. Paul Nicholls' runner has to give a minimum of nine pounds to his opponents and I admit it does look a pretty big ask.

In 2012 Al Ferof won for Nicholls off a rating of 159 carrying 11-8; in 2016 Taquin Du Seuil won off a rating of 156 carrying 11-11. The last horse to carry more than 11-11 to victory was Very Promising in 1986 (David Nicholson trained, Richard Dunwoody up).

That said, Frodon took the Old Roan Chase at Aintree (Javert second) last month. He starts three pounds higher tomorrow on 161 (six pounds higher if Bryony Frost's claim is taken into consideration) but afterwards connections indicated their charge wasn't 'hard fit' - I saw one estimate he was 80% ready.

So I'm hopeful there's some more to come on this his second run after a wind operation and he's joint top on Racing Post ratings. He doesn't boast the most consistent of profiles but the 17 length defeat of Shantou Village here in January reads well; the two appear closely matched on these revised terms.

I can't help but feel a little like Bingo Little in a P.G.Wodehouse scrape (PG's Tips does PG Wodehouse) and that invariably ends in disaster but, just look, the sponsors are paying one fifth the odds six places and Paddy Power one fifth the odds seven places!

Frodon is the each-way selection at 18/1 with Paddy Power.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Badger Ales Trophy 2018

Earlier in the week the Charlie Appleby trained Cross Counter gave Britain its first win in the Melbourne Cup. A piece in The Times on Monday highlighted the chance of Magic Circle but in the event Ian Williams' charge came home sixteenth after breaking a blood vessel. Nonetheless this particular snippet caught my eye:

"Ian Williams has the distinction of being the only trainer to have had a winner at every course in Britain." 

Former England footballer John Barnes was the guest of honour at Warwick's Sporting Icon Raceday today.

It's well known that the back straight at Warwick provides a stiff test for a novice chaser but 1/4 favourite Kalashnikov rifled over the fences and through his opposition to win very easily; he is now quoted as low as 9/2 for the Arkle at Cheltenham in March.

Rather more difficult to predict was the victory of L'Es Fremantle at Market Rasen yesterday. Rachael McDonald produced the 80/1 chance to pip Miss Lilly Pinchin on Follow The Swallow near the line to record the horse's first win at the 56th time of asking and give trainer Michael Chapman his first win for two years. Marvellous stuff.

There's plenty of rain and small fields about this evening; one exception is the Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase, the highlight at Wincanton, where sixteen have been declared to face the starter. At the time of writing the going at the Somerset track is good to firm, good in places, but that may well change before the off at 3.35.

Two of Paul Nicholls' runners vie for favouritism - Present Man and El Bandit. The former won this last year with Bryony Frost up and the pairing try to repeat the feat twelve months on off a mark just two pounds higher. The latter returns to the track after a spell of 543 days on the sidelines and has just one chase start to his name - the price being offered by the bookmakers looks distinctly short.

Thirteen days ago Bigbadjohn won here over a longer trip (Sumkindofking third) and, just two pounds higher tomorrow, he has obvious claims.

Nicholls' third runner Captain Buck's was beaten by Aunty Ann over course and distance last time out but could reverse the placings three pounds better off. I note that Harry Cobden rides El Bandit.

Ramses De Teillee has shown his best form on soft / heavy ground (which may yet come to pass) while the blinkers worked their magic on Allelu Alleluia last time but this is his first try beyond two miles seven furlongs.

Both Belmount (at Exeter) and Kings Lad (at Ascot) look to have had hard enough races in the past week.

In search of an each-way wager I've considered the two Charlie Longsdon runners - Aunty Ann and Bestwork - along with Sam Red and Sumkindofking.

On bits and pieces of form the 40/1 Paddy Power offers about Bestwork looks big but on balance his profile is a shade too inconsistent and he was pulled up on his first try beyond three miles last time out.

Aunty Ann will stay (as aunties often do) and the mare's course and distance win last time reads well but she races off a career high of 128 and her three chase victories to date have all come in fields with less than ten runners.

I like the profile of Sumkindofking (fifth in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen), a consistent sort, but it's difficult to see him reversing form with Bigbadjohn - that effort was his first try beyond two miles five and a half.

Sam Red was certainly very fortunate to win at Cheltenham the other day (Oighear Dubh well in command after the last before running out through the tapes) but this time last year Sam was racing off a mark of 137 whereas tomorrow he goes off 122 and amateur rider Mr William Marshall claims another seven; good ground looks important to him.

Sky Bet and Paddy Power both offer 16/1 about Sam Red and pay one fifth the odds five places.

Sam Red is the each-way selection.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Walter Sickert, Laurence Robertson and an each-way chance at the Ascot races...

Samcro suffered a shock defeat over in Ireland earlier today and, unfortunately, there just hasn't been enough rain around Wetherby with the result that both Thistlecrack and Bristol De Mai never made the final declaration stage for tomorrow's Charlie Hall Chase (2.40); Regal Encore has since been declared a non-runner.

At the time of writing there are four left standing - Black Corton, Double Shuffle, Definitly Red and Virgilio. The going at the Yorkshire track was changed from good to good, good to firm in places after the second race on today's card.

Over at Ascot I've concentrated on the listed 'Bet With Ascot Handicap Hurdle' (3.00) for which nine have been declared.

Market leader Global Citizen makes his seasonal debut here and was impressive winning the Dovecote at Kempton in February, eased-down to finish nine lengths ahead of Scarlet Dragon (beaten four and a half lengths into third in the Group 3 St Simon Stakes at Newbury last Saturday).

Magic Dancer was sent off  9/2 favourite for what looked a competitive handicap hurdle at Cheltenham last Friday. In the event Kerry Lee's charge was beaten by very easy winner Storm Rising who went in again this afternoon running off the same mark at odds of 2/5f (Wetherby 3.40).

Simply The Betts first came to my attention in the Supreme Scottish Trial Novices' Hurdle at Musselburgh, beaten a neck by Beyond The Clouds with Claimantakinforgan adrift in third (although Nicky Henderson's charge didn't run his race that day).  Simply went on to finish tenth in the Supreme at Cheltenham and has blown away any cobwebs with victory at Hexham three weeks ago; his chance is respected.

Sent off favourite for the 2017 Fred Winter, Divin Bere was beaten a neck into second by Flying Tiger. He subsequently finished second to Defi Du Seuil at Aintree but last season was something of a write-off - he finished well down the field at this track in the Grade 3 Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle (formerly the Ladbroke) and was then pulled up in both the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and the County Hurdle at Cheltenham.

After a wind operation Paul Nicholls' charge returned to the track to win a handicap on the Flat at Bath two and a half weeks ago, finishing one and a half lengths ahead of Walter Sickert (the artist forever associated with 'The Camden Town Murder'). This one is bang there if back to his very best and is joint top-rated with Magic Dancer on Racing Post ratings.

In the current edition of the Weekender Alan King appears a tad lukewarm about Fidux and is contemplating chasing (although the handler admits 'he's not the biggest'):

"He'd been dropped a bit in the weights [before his Southwell win], but he's back up to 135 so he won't find it easy."

This looks a tough ask for four-year-old Sussex Ranger but Nicky Richards' Caius Marcius is of interest. His latest defeat of Theclockisticking by 11 lengths in a listed event at Market Rasen reads well; in the Weekender Stable Tour 17-21.10.18 the handler said:

"He's gone up 13lb for that, which I think is a bit harsh, so he'll have to progress again, but I think there's more to come and the handicapper doesn't often get it wrong."  

The stats show that no horse older than six has won this race in the past ten years so as a seven-year-old Caius Marcius doesn't have the perfect profile but at 12/1 with both Paddy Power and Betfair at the time of writing Caius Marcius is the each-way selection.

On the same card I'll watch Amour De Nuit in the 1.50 and Fubar and Emitom in the concluding bumper.

I saw Amour De Nuit win a match at Ludlow last week with the absolute minimum of fuss and the race here should be run to suit while Fubar looked unlucky the last day when slipping up but still managing to finish second.

The layers appear to have factored that in to their price but Kim Bailey's charge is unlikely to have things all his own way going by Warren Greatrex's opinion of Emitom on the Sporting Life website:

"He's won his only outing in a Warwick bumper back in April. It didn't come as a huge shock to us as he'd been showing all the right signs at home and he travelled really well.

The form isn't much to write home about but he won pretty well and if we've got a novice hurdler that could go to the top then it might just be him.

Put it this way, he's in Cole Harden's box so he's obviously got a lot to live up to!"

Finally, I don't know about you but I've never really been tempted to take a gamble on a career in politics, what with Brexit and all that sort of stuff. That was until I heard that Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson had received £7,433 worth of free tickets, all for horse racing events.