Friday, November 20, 2020

Wrexham riddles and a Haydock longshot

My hometown football club has been in the news this week.

As a counter to a number of meretricious articles that have appeared in the media, I bring to your attention a more prosaic, widely ignored piece entitled 'Wrexham wrelegated' - written in 2008 following relegation from the Football League - in which brief details of my own personal association with Wrexham Association Football Club are recorded. 

A former colleague thinks he may have detected early signs of 'Disneyfication' at the club, a concept I'm now coming to terms with, although I've had to call upon previously untapped reserves of tact and discretion to prevent myself from pointing out to him we've been playing a Mickey Mouse brand of football (in a cartoon strip) for years.

On the back of all that I considered making the case for a Disneyesque runner from those competing tomorrow - Heart Of A Lion (Huntingdon 11.45), Sumkindofking (Haydock 3.35), The Turtle Said (Huntingdon 3.43) and Printing Dollars (Ascot 1.30) were all in the mix but, in the end, I decided to look for an outsider in the Betfair Racing Only Bettor Handicap Hurdle at Haydock, due off at 1.50.

Seventeen have been declared with the going described as soft, good to soft in places on the hurdles course; this race is scheduled to be run over brush hurdles.

It's no surprise to see Kid Commando at the head of the market following a facile victory at Ascot three weeks ago (Dear Sire 23 lengths adrift in fourth). I've seen the name of Anthony Honeyball's charge in a number of 'Horses to Follow' lists, with tipsters keen to point to the gelding's third in the Dovecote at Kempton in February. The handicapper raised his mark seven pounds to 143 after Ascot; he shares top weight with Forest Bihan but the step up in trip is thought likely to suit. In the past seven renewals the winner has come from the first four in the betting; over the past decade comparing winning weight figures against entries, the victor is over two times more likely to shoulder 11-00 or more. 

Shake Em Up'Arry made all to win unchallenged at Ffos Las last time while Arrivederci waved goodbye to all his opponents when coming home two and three quarter lengths ahead of War Lord at Wetherby. On The Wild Side is another in the field who likes to race from the front and enters the fray here with two victories in Hexham novice hurdles to his name.

The Harry Skelton trained Flash The Steel is given every respect having won the 2019 running of the Silver Trophy at Chepstow, subsequently finishing second in this year's renewal behind the well-regarded Tea Clipper; he was beaten a long way over an extended trip in last year's renewal of tomorrow's 2.25 race.

I'm not quite sure what to make of Umbrigado on his seasonal debut but I note that Tom Scudamore is booked to ride at Huntingdon - Seymour Promise and Sizing Cuisimano for Colin Tizzard; Kentucky Hardboot for Mohamed Moubarak. 

Owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, Fix Sun can be expected to improve for soft ground on this his second run following wind surgery after he trailed in next to last of 19 runners behind Captain Tom Cat (Our Power sixth) at Cheltenham last month. 

Our Power is talented but not entirely straightforward while course winner Ebony Jewel makes his seasonal and also likes to race prominently.

In a race with so many front-runners Kaizer, regularly taken down to the start early, won't mind a hold-up ride; Billy Garrity claims three and the partnership have just 10-1 to shoulder. 

Racing on good ground at Chepstow in early October Dear Sire beat Le Ligerien nine lengths into third (fourth Stimulating Song a winner at Cheltenham last weekend) - seven pound claimer Theo Gillard was in the plate that day. Champion jockey Brian Hughes takes over tomorrow and Philip Hobbs' charge looks weighted to reverse the form. 

'Obbs' 'orses weren't running all that well at the time but they're operating at a better win strike rate now; course winner Le Ligerien has previously won over this distance and should also appreciate the ease in underfoot conditions. 

It's likely to be brutal up front from the off but Richard Johnson's mount looks competitive on Racing Post ratings and on the clock; I'm hopeful he can outrun odds of 20/1 currently available with William Hill who pay six places on this race.

Le Ligerien is the each-way selection.

What chance a happy ending to this particular Disney tale?

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Cheltenham November meeting 2020 - an outsider in the Greatwood

I haven't spent a lot of time on the form but I like an outsider in the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle (Cheltenham 3.00). 

There are seventeen left in at he moment (Sebastopol a non-runner) but with the going officially described as soft there may be further withdrawals in due course.

Of those at the top of the market Tegerek won over course and distance 23 days ago and Kevin Brogan can claim seven while Thyme White looked good winning at Chepstow but the handicapper has had his say and raised Paul Nicholls' charge 11 pounds.

Thyme White's stablemate Sir Psycho was well beaten behind Tea Clipper in the Silver Trophy at that same Chepstow meeting; he didn't appear to stay the extended trip there so this step back should suit as should the ground. His fifth in the Triumph behind Burning Victory is noteworthy but Goshen's fall at the last when well clear casts some doubt about the value of the form - personally I'm ambivalent but Alistair Jones has carped it in no uncertain terms in the Weekender. I was particularly impressed with Sir Psycho's slick hurdling at Haydock last February but jockey bookings would suggest Thyme White is the stable's first string.

Last year's winner Harambe is now rated six pounds higher while the David Pipe trained Thinking could be anything - a first-time tongue tie following a wind operation is off-putting on soft ground.

The outsiders on the shortlist are Pisgah Pike, Milkwood/Ballinsker, and Cormier.

Pisgah Pike looks overpriced at 33/1. In a recent stable tour handler Jamie Snowden hinted that his charge would have won a listed hurdle at Market Rasen in September if regular rider Gavin Sheehan had been in the plate and went on to say:

"I am sure there is a decent handicap in him and if he progresses as we hope then something like the Scottish Champion Hurdle next spring could be a target."

The worry is the ground has gone against him.

The form of Milkwood and Ballinsker is closely linked. Milkwood beat Ballinsker an easy four lengths on good to soft at Ffos Las at the beginning of October and returned there 17 days later racing off a mark nine pounds higher to finish fourth behind Sceau Royal in the Welsh Champion Hurdle. The booking of Brian Hughes for Ballinsker catches the eye and Evan Williams' charge re-opposes 10 pounds better off but of the pair I marginally prefer Milkwood.

Cormier should have no trouble with the going. Rated 69 on the Flat he goes off 136 tomorrow after a couple of facile victories at Uttoxeter and Fakenham (third that day Doukarov has since won a Taunton novices' handicap chase). Brian Ellison sent out Nietzsche to win the 2018 running; Danny McMenamin claims three but this is a deep race and recent yard form is a concern.

33/1 Pisgah Pike is tempting but I'm going to take a small each-way interest in Milkwood in the hope he'll act on the ground and the track.

Paddy Power are paying six places, Sky Bet seven. Milkwood is the each-way selection, 25/1 with Paddy Power at the time of writing.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Cheltenham November meeting 2020 - Paddy Power Gold Cup

Seventeen have been declared for tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup - still referred to as 'The Mackeson' in our house - which is due off at 2.15. 

At the time of writing three share favouritism - Mister Fisher, Saint Sonnet and Simply The Betts - and all three make their seasonal debuts.

Back in March Samcro beat Melon a nose in an epic finish to the Marsh Novices' Chase with Mister Fisher a highly creditable fourth (beaten four and a quarter lengths) and Saint Sonnet seventh. 

Lady Cricket won the 2000 running at six years of age and since only three more six-year-olds have come home in front - Celestial Gold (2004); Exotic Dancer (2006); and Johns Spirit (2013). Since the inaugural running in 1960 only two five-year-olds have collected the spoils: Cyfor Malta (1998) and Caid Du Berlais (2014), trained by Paul Nicholls...  

I like Simply The Betts who has won four of his five chase starts to date, most recently beating Happy Diva, last year's winner of this race, one and a quarter lengths (Spiritofthegames sixth, Kauto Riko fourteenth and Siruh Du Lac falling two out) in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at the Festival. The handicapper has raised Harry Whittington's charge eight pounds for that effort.

Things fell right for the mare Happy Diva last year; she held Brelan D'As a neck on the line (Spiritofthegames and Siruh Du Lac both pulled up); 4/1 favourite Slate House looked sure to be in the mix but knuckled on landing at the penultimate flight. Happy Diva is now rated eight pounds higher, Slate House four pounds.

Al Dancer was well beaten in the Arkle but had a pleasing pipe-opener beating Master Tommytucker at Newton Abbot five weeks ago. The Twiston-Davies operation usually fires in the winners during the summer months; that hasn't been the case this year but the stable has been in better form recently.

Siruh Du Lac won the 2019 running of the Brown Advisory when trained by Nick Williams but, unfortunately, last year proved something of a write-off. The horse underwent wind surgery in July and was sent to the Pipe yard at the end of last month. The stable has a rich history in this event - Martin trained eight winners: Beau Ranger (1987); Challenger Du Luc (1996); Cyfor Malta (1998); Lady Cricket (2000); Shooting Light (2001); Cyfor Malta (2002); Celestial Gold (2004); and Our Vic (2005); David won the 2011 renewal with Great Endeavour. Could connections win with a horse having its first run for the yard? Siruh won't be inconvenienced by the forecast rain.

Spiritofthegames may have been pulled up in last year's race but four weeks later Dan Skelton's charge was beaten a head by Warthog in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at odds of 40/1. 

Of those at bigger prices, The Russian Doyen has only had two runs since finishing fourth in the 2019 running of the Close Brothers Novices' Chase; the Weekender reports that handler Colin Tizzard thinks this horse is well handicapped. 

The Tizzard horses have taken their time to come to hand this autumn but Sizing At Midnight looked to be in with every chance when coming to grief three out in the Badger Beers last weekend.

A change of scenery seems to have helped Coole Cody; regular contributor TW provides his ratings and makes the case for Evan Williams' charge below.

An ultra-competitive renewal with most layers paying five places and race sponsors Paddy Power, Sky Bet and William Hill all paying six. 

Working through the fifteen left on my shortlist, Siruh Du Lac and Slate House were the two that made it to the short shortlist. I note there has been money for Siruh Du Lac this evening and that one gets the nod.

Siruh Du Lac (9/1 with Paddy Power paying 6 places) is the each-way selection.

TW provides his ratings and selection:

177,SIRUH DU LAC(FR),8.5
178,AL DANCER(FR),7.5
179,SKY PIRATE(GB),5.2
172,BRELAN D'AS(FR),4.1

Mister Fisher has highest system win chance [15.3%] but odds of 11/2 provide zero edge so he’s not a bet for me.

Next up on the system is Coole Cody [CC] who has the top system form rating of 184. I’m not sure why owner Wayne Clifford decided to move him to Evan Williams but the change in scenery and the switch back to chasing appears to have chirped him up a bit!

CC has had 3 races this term; he won an ordinary novice chase easily in August before keeping a couple of Paul Nicholl horses honest in two subsequent efforts. In the middle race of the three he pulled well clear of Irish Prophecy who went on to be 2nd to El Presente [winner of last week’s Badger Beer] and then followed that good effort by comfortably winning a handicap at Taunton by 14 lengths on Thursday off a mark of 135 which I’m hoping suggest CC’ mark of 137 in this is a bit lenient.

Whilst CC may not have the right profile for a race like this [it is his first handicap chase] conditions should suit, he should cope if further rain gets into the ground, he has race fitness on his side and I’d like to think he can make the frame at odds of 20/1+.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Cheltenham November meeting 2020 - a Friday fancy

A quick post for the first day of the 2020 Open meeting at Cheltenham, pragmatically re-branded 'the November meeting', presumably because all the action takes place behind closed doors.

A key piece of form for the Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase (1.50) is Rouge Vif's victory in the Bentley Flying Spear Handicap Chase over course and distance three weeks ago. That day eyes were drawn to the performance of the winner - Harry Whittington's charge is scheduled to reappear in Sunday's Schloer Chase, one of the most eagerly awaited contests of the entire three days...

Rouge Vif finished seven and a half lengths clear of nearest pursuer Western Miller that day with Beat The Judge third, On The Slopes fifth and Ballywood sixth. 

Provided the rain stays away, Ballywood is of interest tomorrow. 

Alan King's charge briefly went second approaching the final flight last time before tiring up the hill. In this week's Weekender [11-15.11.20] the handler says:

"He's run well this season but had a good blow each time and may just have needed both outings so should be spot on this time. He could have a shout in a competitive race."

The handicapper has left Beat The Judge on a mark of 142, dropped On The Slopes one pound to 142 and dropped Ballywood two pounds to 142. In receipt of 10 pounds Beat The Judge beat Ballywood nine lengths at Fontwell in September; they race off level weights tomorrow. There wouldn't appear to be an awful lot between the trio but market prices don't reflect that.

Of the others, I'm not entirely convinced this is Magic Saint's optimum trip but Bryan Carver's five pound claim looks decidedly useful while Fanion D'Estruval created an impression when beating Sully D'Oc AA at Newbury this time last year but has just four chase starts to his name and is short enough in the market. Eamon An Cnoic enters calculations on his best form but wouldn't be guaranteed to put his best foot forward.

Priced up at 17/2 with both Betfair and BetVictor at the time of writing, Ballywood is the each-way suggestion.

Friday, November 06, 2020

What's this? A Cobra in the Badger Beers...

What with one thing and another there have been a few fireworks this week... Now, I appreciate you wouldn't normally expect a brief preview of Wincanton's Badger Beers Silver Trophy (3.35) to start with a discussion about recent results at Hexham - but what the hell has been happening at Hexham?

Prompted by Evita Du Mesnil's victory in the first at Hexham today, I've had a quick look at Hexham results since the resumption of racing on July 1st - when starting prices started to be determined by the industry.

According to my fag-packet calculations there have been six meetings (44 races) at Hexham since the beginning of July; check the starting prices of these winners: 

02.09.20 18:00 race: Costly Dream 40/1

15.09.20 15:40 race: Daimiens Dilemma 28/1

02.10.20 13:15 race: Golden Robin 66/1

10.10.20 13:25 race: McGinty's Dream 20/1

25.10.20 12:55 race: Kilcaragh Boy 66/1

06.11.20 13:10 race: Evita Du Mesnil 80/1

There have been some fancy prices about placed horses too including Molly Whuppie (15.09.20 14:10 race 66/1 second); Pass Rusher (02.10.20 13:45 race 33/1 second); Farlam King (25.10.20 15:50 race 200/1 second); and Farran Dancer (06.11.20 15:30 race 40/1 second).

Any theories? Please feel free to send me some money-making ideas...

Finding a juicy priced winner on tomorrow's card at Paul Nicholls' local track looks decidedly difficult. 

To date Nicholls has won the Badger Beer ten times and holds three chances of making it eleven - Danny Whizzbang, Present Man and My Way. Danny looks short on chase experience, My Way has yet to win over fences while previous winner Present Man likes it around here but came up short last year and is, like me, getting no younger. The last horse older than nine to come home in front was Flaked Oats in the year 2000 - trained by Paul Nicholls.

This race hasn't been particularly kind to me over the years and wouldn't be one of my favourites - there may be a causal link there. With layers not looking keen to take too many chances, I'm going to make the case for Cobra De Mai. 

In a recent Racing TV Stable Tour piece (dated 22.10.20) trainer Dan Skelton said:

"He has struggled against the handicapper since he won at Cheltenham last April but I do believe we are somewhere near back to an optimistic mark. He ran the other day at Fontwell but he wants a bit of nice ground, three miles and a chance off the handicapper." 

Cobra should have conditions to suit tomorrow. 

He finished ninth behind Give Me A Copper in last year's renewal off a mark of 150 - and goes off 138 tomorrow. The handicapper dropped the gelding two pounds following his last run where he didn't jump well in Frodon's race at Cheltenham; I'm prepared to forgive that effort. He went off 11/2 third favourite that day, yet he's generally priced up at 14/1 for this lower grade race. 

You can't blame regular pilot Harry Skelton for choosing to go to Aintree for a nice-looking book of rides that includes Wilde About Oscar, Bennys King and Ch'tibello; Bridget Andrews will certainly be up to the task if the horse is. 

Cobra's sixth behind The Conditional at the Festival in March reads well and I think he was probably undone by the soft ground at Fontwell on the seasonal reappearance. I'm hoping the application of first-time blinkers helps to trigger a return to form as he races now from a mark that is four pounds lower than when he last won.

William Hill are paying five places; Cobra De Mai, currently 14/1, is the each-way selection.

To finish, a couple of quick snippets...

Local trainer Robin Dickin sent out his first winner in over 500 days at Huntingdon on Sunday. Owned by The Cocoa Nuts & The Tricksters, Mr Palmtree comfortably disposed of his rivals at odds of 12/1. The signs were there but, unfortunately, I completely missed them. Off a revised rating of 93, Mr Palmtree should remain competitive at his level.

Current coronavirus restrictions can only be considered a hindrance so Willie Mullins' decision to send Eight And Bob over to contest tomorrow's Pertemps Qualifier at Aintree (1.35) catches the eye. A quick trawl through the form left me slightly bewildered but the beast should be fit enough after a summer campaign on the Flat.