Friday, February 22, 2019

Eider Chase 2019

There's a top-class card at Kempton tomorrow with Angels Breath set to go in the Dovecote (3.00) but with just ten declared for a trappy-looking 888Sport Handicap Chase (3.35) - the favourite has failed to oblige in the past decade - I'm off to Newcastle in search of some each-way value in the Eider Chase (2.40). A field of sixteen face the starter; the going is described as good to soft, soft in places.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) the eider is the UK's heaviest duck and its fastest flying - and that looks suspiciously like a tip for top-weight Daklondike to me.

Comply Or Die won this race for trainer David Pipe in 2008 and six weeks later added the Grand National to the haul. Daklondike is clearly talented but he has never looked the easiest of rides although, to be fair to the horse, he appeared unlucky when unseating Tom Scudamore at Haydock last time.

It's no surprise to see Vicente at the head of the market. Paul Nicholls' charge won the Scottish Grand National in 2016 and 2017 off a mark of 146 and he races off exactly the same mark tomorrow. His third at Taunton last month should have put him spot on for this.

Vicente won't mind drying ground but a number in the field would prefer more cut and Baywing certainly falls into that category; last year's winner beat West Of The Edge four lengths on heavy ground. Trainer Nicky Richards seems decidedly more bullish about Baywing's stablemate Progress Drive on his first start after wind surgery - Brian Hughes rides.

Just Your Type is very short in the market for one with just three chase starts to his name. He appeared to have the spoils in the bag when coming to grief two out at Exeter last time; since 1989 only two seven-year-olds have come home in front - Domaine De Pron in 1998 and Portrait King in 2012.

The ground shouldn't inconvenience Ange Des Mirabeaux but following two wins he's now 17lbs higher in the handicap. The trip is an unknown but, that said, this has been the plan all season and I prefer Dan Skelton's charge to Kimberlite Candy whom handler Tom Lacey described as 'inconsistent' in his 'Straight from the Stable' tour (Weekender 07-11.11.18), going on to say '...I'd admit he could be a hard horse to catch right.'

Potters Corner is part-owned by Wales centre Jonathan Davies who will presumably be preparing for the match against England when this race is run. Potters Corner was still in with a shout when coming to grief two from home at Wincanton last time; the nine-year-old has just seven chase starts to his name.

A fourteen-year-old has never won but two contest tomorrow's renewal - Raz De Maree and Harry The Viking. The former would want more cut but the latter deserves a mention for his Scottish Borders National win at Kelso in December (Progress Drive third, West Of The Edge eighth).

On a line through Callet Mad, Crosspark, third in a competitive renewal of the Classic Chase at Warwick six weeks ago, should finish ahead of Harry The Viking and should also handle underfoot conditions. Here he races off the same mark of 135 as at Warwick.

The Charlie Mann trained Morney Wing is another outsider in with a sniff. He looked to have a hard enough race the last day when holding Red Infantry a length in the London National at Sandown but connections have given their charge plenty of time to recover.

Rock On Fruity goes beyond three miles one for the first time; owned by JP McManus, he'll be worth monitoring in the market.

I feel Irish raider Kilkishen may struggle beyond three and a half miles on the balance of his form to date while Mysteree won this in 2017 but has not been competitive of late.

Racing Post ratings indicate Vicente is the one to beat but at the prices I'm going to take an each-way interest in Crosspark, one of two Jamie Moore rides at the track for Caroline Bailey (the other is Don't Tell The Wife in the 1.35). At the time of writing several layers offer 16/1 one fifth the odds five places while William Hill offer 14/1 one fifth the odds seven places.

To my eye Crosspark looked as though he would stay further the last day - Crosspark is the each-way selection, generally available at 16/1 one fifth the odds five places.

I'd like to conclude this post with a slight digression...

Last month the Queen's mare No Trumps (sire: Black Sam Bellamy; dam: Magic Score) was sent off a 33/1 chance in a low-key novice hurdle at Warwick and, after running in snatches, finished a well-beaten fourth.

Speaking personally, if the horse's name brought anything in particular to mind, it was the sort of hand my father complained he was habitually dealt at whist drives in the local church hall - do those things still take place? - but the following day a wry snippet appeared in The Times Diary (aka TMS in recognition of its current location at Thomas More Square, Wapping, E1) highlighting the pre-eminence of the owner and linking the mare's name to Donald Trump and members of his family.

Somewhat taken with this general persiflage, I decided to mail a couple of other equine suggestions to the Diary, including Getaway Trump (fourth in last Saturday's re-arranged Betfair Hurdle at Ascot) and, for beleaguered British bettors besieged by the Brexit brouhaha, Article Fifty.

And, bless my old boots, editor Patrick Kidd replied saying he was potentially interested in the Article Fifty horse.

Now, the beast in question was declared to run at Wetherby on Tuesday so before racing I provided Mr Kidd with some points of interest, the regular stuff, you know - owners: Swanee River Partnership; Mr Richard, not Boris, Johnson doing the steering; required major (wind) surgery last November; competing against the likes of Thelongwayaround, All Hail Caesar - feel free to make up your own comments and insert them here.

In the event, second favourite Article Fifty ran something of a full-blown stinker, finishing eleventh of the thirteen starters, beaten over 90 lengths. It was clear hold-up tactics hadn't worked and questionable whether the administered surgery had, while comments-in-running included terms such as 'headway', swiftly followed by 'soon lost place' and 'behind'. Simply all too bad to be true.

Mr Kidd though was unimpressed - a sort of thanks, PG, but no thanks, didn't really work, the sort of knockback I've become accustomed to receiving after every job interview I've bothered to turn up for over the past 25 years and, with this particular rejection, was there just the slightest suggestion the copy hadn't quite met the exigent editorial standards in place at such an august publication as The Times?

Gutted, I took the hint and instead had a quick word with the editor of this blog, a scruffy, indolent individual, often to be found in the shed at the bottom of the garden reeking of ale and old socks - to quote my dear old mother, 'a man who could use a damned good wash'.

He had no editorial qualms whatsoever.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Racing returns

The show is back on the road.

The stables of Donald McCain and Simon Crisford remain subject to BHA restrictions but otherwise lockdown has been lifted.

Emergency regulations introduced on Monday evening now require any runner to have received appropriate vaccination within the preceding six month period; any horse receiving a new vaccination cannot race for seven days.

Many trainers' plans have been disrupted by the introduction of these measures; the first day of the Cheltenham Festival is just three and a half weeks away...

Still, we're racing again and, with weights announced on Tuesday, the Grand National has helped to dispel some of the anguish of the past ten days or so.

Like every tipster this side of kingdom come, I've taken a cursory glance at the Aintree entries and at this early stage found one or two that look of interest at the weights...

Traffic Fluide (10-10) - Gary Moore seemed quite bullish in his 'Straight from the Stable' tour in the Weekender 16-20.01.19;

Walk In The Mill (10-0) - looked impressive winning the Becher Chase in December;

Allysson Monterg (9-12) - spent Christmas dinner worrying how I'd managed to miss the price about this one for the Rowland Meyrick; in the event, he put in a bit of a stinker but subsequently outran his odds in the Cotswold Chase last month. The National is the target.

It's hardly surprising to see that nine of the sixteen runners declared for tomorrow's William Hill Grand National Trial (3.35 Haydock) hold Grand National entries; the last three winners - Bishops Road (2016), Vieux Lion Rouge (2017) and Yala Enki (2018) - all try to repeat the trick.

January's Peter Marsh Chase provides a key piece of form with Wakanda beating Robinsfirth one and threequarter lengths with Ballyarthur fourth and Red Infantry fifth. As you'd expect, the handicapper has had his say and there wouldn't be a lot between them on revised terms but of the four I feel the additional three furlongs will definitely play to Red Infantry's strengths and could also help Robinsfirth.

Of course, this looks a very competitive renewal.

Course form is always a plus at Haydock so the three previous winners have to enter calculations while both Impulsive Star and Royal Vacation won last time out and boast solid credentials. The chance of current favourite Ramses De Teillee is respected but to date all his chase wins have come at Chepstow.

The drying ground is going to suit some more than others so, with this in mind, I'll take a chance on course and distance winner Red Infantry who has won on good ground previously and has been placed in six of his nine chase starts. Connections replace the visor used last time with first-time blinkers which I hope can eke out a little more improvement.

Trainer Ian Williams has indicated the Aintree showpiece is the plan (his charge allocated 9-12) so you'd like to think the horse will put in a decent show here but the main worry is the stable's run-to-form figure which currently reads at just 9%.

Red Infantry is the each-way selection; Sky Bet is offering 14/1 and pays one fifth the odds five places.

Cards at Ascot and Wincanton will provide useful Festival pointers - I'm particularly looking forward to the Ascot Chase at 3.55 - but Presenting Percy misses the Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park.

Presenting Percy is as low as 5/2 with Bet Victor for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but we haven't seen Patrick Kelly's charge jump a fence in public since he won the RSA Chase at last year's Festival.

And in just four weeks' time we'll know the winner of the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup...

Finally, I simply have to share Adrian Brodkin's letter which was published in Monday's edition of The Times and appeared under the heading 'Winner's Post':

'Sir, While I have no wish for the livelihood of jockeys and trainers to be adversely affected by the continuing cancellation of all horse racing fixtures, the longer each day's races are called off, the healthier my bank balance is beginning to look.'


Friday, February 08, 2019

Racing suspended

A Stephen Fry quotation on the book jacket of The Rugby Pocket Bible by Ben Coles reads:

"Rugby is the most exciting sport man has ever created."

Now, I wouldn't necessarily want to agree with Mr Fry on that one but following an outbreak of equine flu that has resulted in the cancellation of all British racing until Wednesday 13th February at the very earliest, I guess we may have to make do... That said, racing goes ahead in Ireland and ITV4 has committed to televising five live races from Naas tomorrow. 

On Wednesday evening Donald McCain was informed that three horses had tested positive for equine influenza at his stables in Cholmondeley, Cheshire; it has been reported this afternoon a further three horses from the yard have tested positive, including Raise A Spark who ran at Ayr on Wednesday.

The worry is that even though all racehorses are routinely vaccinated against this highly contagious virus, an outbreak has still occurred.

McCain's runners at Wolverhampton on Monday and Ayr and Ludlow on Wednesday could have potentially infected other runners at those meetings. The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has acted swiftly and placed those yards in 'lockdown'; nasal swabs are being carried out on horses at affected yards and being sent away for analysis.

In addition, earlier this afternoon it was confirmed a suspicious case had been identified at a separate yard which had runners at Newcastle on February 5th and Wolverhampton on February 6th; as a result an additional 54 yards have also been placed in lockdown.

Below is the latest alphabetical listing of trainers I think are affected by lockdown, with a cross reference to the meeting(s) where they had runners.

(A) = trainer with runner(s) at Ayr 06.02.19
(L) = trainer with runner(s) at Ludlow 06.02.19
(N) = trainer with runner(s) at Newcastle 05.02.19
(W1) = trainer with runner(s) at Wolverhampton 04.02.19
(W2) = trainer with runner(s) at Wolverhampton 06.02.19

Alexander N (A)
Appleby C (W1)
Appleby M (W1)
Appleby M (W2)
Bailey A (W1)
Barclay S (N)
Baugh B (W1)
Bell M (N)
Berry J (L)
Bethell J (N)
Bishop F (W2)
Botti M (W1)
Bowen M (L)
Bowen P (L)
Boyle J (W2)
Bradley M (W2)
Brisland R (W1)
Brisland R (W2)
Brittain A (N)
Brooke J (A)
Burke K (N)
Burke K (W2)
Camacho J (N)
Carr J (A)
Carr R (N)
Carroll T (W1)
Carroll T (W2)
Channon M (W2)
Charlton R (W2)
Christie D (L)
Clarke K (W1)
Collins V (L)
Coltherd W (A)
Crawford S (A)
Crisford S (N)
Crook A (A)
D’Arcy P (W2)
Dalgleish K (N)
Dalgleish K (W1)
Dalgleish K (W2)
Daly H (L)
Dascombe T (W1)
Dascombe T (W2)
Davies S (L)
Dennis D (L)
Dobbin R (A)
Duffield A (W2)
Duncan I (A)
Easterby M (N)
Eddery R (W1)
Edmunds S (A)
Egerton L (A)
Egerton L (N)
Elliott G (A)
Ellison B (N)
England S (A)
Eustace J (W2)
Evans D (W1)
Evans D (W2)
Evans H (L)
Fahey R (N)
Fahey R (W2)
Fanshawe J (N)
Feilden J (W2)
Fell R (W2)
Fife M (W1)
Flint J (L)
Forster S (A)
Fox J (W1)
Frost K (W2)
Frost T (L)
Fry H (L)
Furtado I (N)
George T (L)
Gillard M (L)
Given J (N)
Goldie J (N)
Greenall O (A)
Griffiths D C (N)
Griffiths D C (W2)
Groucott J (L)
Guest Rae (W2)
Guest Richard (N)
Hales A (L)
Hamilton A (A)
Hannon R (W1)
Hannon R (W2)
Harris R (W1)
Harris R (W2)
Harris S (W1)
Haslam B (N)
Henderson N (L)
Herrington M (N)
Herrington M (W1)
Hobbs P (L)
Hobson C (L)
Hollinshead Sarah (W1)
Hollinshead Steph (L)
Hughes J (W1)
Jardine I (A)
Jardine I (N)
Johnston M (W1)
Keightley S (W1)
Kellett C (W2)
Keniry S (N)
Lacey T (L)
Lee K (L)
Lloyd-Beavis N (W1)
Longsdon C (L)
Loughnane Daniel (W2)
Loughnane David (W1)
Loughnane David (W2)
McBride P (W1)
McCain D (A)
McCain D (L)
McCain D (W1)
McCaldin C (A)
McEntee P (N)
McLintock K (N)
McNally R (A)
Menzies R (N)
Menzies R (W2)
Midgley P (N)
Moore J S (W2)
Morgan K (A)
Morrison H (W1)
Mulholland N (W1)
Murphy A (W2)
Murphy O (L)
Murphy O (W1)
Nicholls P (L)
Nolan S (A)
Normile L (A)
Norton J (W1)
O'Brien F (L)
O’Keefe J (N)
O’Meara D (W1)
O’Meara D (W2)
O'Neill J (L)
O’Neill J (W2)
O'Shea J (L)
O’Shea J (W1)
O’Shea J (W2)
Oliver H (L)
Osborne J (W1)
Pauling B (L)
Pears O (N)
Phillips R (L)
Prescott M (N)
Price K (L)
Ralph A (L)
Ralph A (W1)
Reed T (A)
Richards N (A)
Riches J (N)
Russell L (A)
Ryan K (N)
Sayer D (A)
Scott G (N)
Scott J (L)
Scott K (A)
Shaw D (W1)
Shaw D (W2)
Skelton D (L)
Smith R M (N)
Spencer R (L)
Spiller H (W2)
Stephens R (W1)
Symonds T (L)
Tate J (W1)
Thompson D (W1)
Tizzard C (L)
Todhunter M (A)
Turner W (L)
Twiston-Davies N (L)
Tylicki M (N)
Varnham R (L)
Waggott T (N)
Wainwright J (N)
Walford M (N)
Wallis C (W1)
Wallis C (W2)
Watson A (W1)
Watson A (W2)
Welch H (L)
Whillans D (A)
Wigham M (N)
Williams E (L)
Williams I (L)
Williams I (W1)
Williams S (W1)
Williams V (L)
Williamson L (W2)
Wilson N (N)
Wingrove K (W1)

In what appears a rapidly developing situation, hopes of a return to action next Wednesday are starting to look increasingly slim.

Friday, February 01, 2019

A Sandown longshot

The recent freezing weather has played havoc with the fixture list as well as my form study and this evening has left me in the throes of a particularly acute dilemma - do I to watch the opening Six Nations rugby match between France and Wales or Posh Hotels with Sally (Lindsay) and Nigel (Havers)?

Sterling work by staff at Sandown means tomorrow's card is set to go ahead. At the time of writing there are no planned inspections; the going on the chase course is described as good to soft, soft in places while the going on the hurdle course is soft, heavy in places.

Top marks too to ITV Racing who will show three live races from the first day of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.

Earlier in the week, with the prospects for Sandown looking rather bleak, I spent some time on the Irish Gold Cup (3.35 Leopardstown on Sunday).

That means the usual hard graft hasn't gone into tomorrow's pick so minimum stakes would be the order of the day...

The two to have caught my eye in the Heroes Handicap Hurdle (3.00 Sandown) are Dans Le Vent sporting first time blinkers near the foot of the handicap and Full Glass about whom trainer Alan King has been quite bullish in the Weekender in recent months.

With Page Fuller claiming three, the former has a featherweight in these conditions but the trip may stretch the stamina while the latter hasn't taken well to chasing in this country but appears to be held in some regard.

Dans Le Vent is a tentative each-way suggestion; Unibet offer 22/1 and pay one fifth the odds six places.

The Savills Chase last December is a key piece of form when looking at the Irish Gold Cup.

Ten lengths covered the first six home that day but Kemboy was seven and a half lengths clear which meant there were just two and a half lengths between Monalee (second), Road To Respect (third), Bellshill (fourth), Outlander (fifth) and The Storyteller (sixth).

Road To Respect appeared unlucky stumbling twice in the race while significant improvement will be expected from Kemboy's stablemate Bellshill.

Five weeks ago the ground rode good at Leopardstown and it will again on Sunday; by my reckoning at least half the field would prefer more cut underfoot.

Bellshill is my idea of the winner; Anibale Fly (third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, fourth in the Grand National) would be of some interest each-way at around 10/1 but that price has disappeared and Tony Martin's charge is one of those who would prefer softer ground.

And Sally and Nigel are at The Berkeley tonight - looking forward to it.