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.