Friday, April 28, 2023

bet365 Gold Cup 2023

Racing off a mark of 149 and with Jordan Gainford claiming thee, Hewick won last year's bet365 Gold Cup by eight lengths from Musical Slave with Kitty's Light third and Enrilo pulled up.

Since then Hewick has won a Galway Plate and was in the process of running a big race at odds of 40/1 when coming to grief two from home in the Cheltenham Gold Cup six weeks ago.

Hewick is now rated 168; it's no surprise to see connections opt for the Oaksey Chase at 2.50. 

After by-passing the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday on account of yielding ground, they won't have been too pleased to see 12mm of rain fall at Sandown yesterday evening; today's Flat card at the Esher track was abandoned on account of false patches of ground.

The going on the chase course is currently described as good to soft, soft in places; and soft, good to soft in places, on the hurdle course. Sunny intervals and light winds are forecast.

Market leader Kitty's Light won the Scottish Grand National at Ayr just seven days ago and bids to become the first horse since Hot Weld in 2007 to pull off this double; favourites do not have a good record in the race.

Christian Williams' charge, third off 145 last year, is well handicapped racing off 140, and is as tough as my old boots. 

Connections fitted cheekpieces for last week's Scottish National and they seemed to help as the gelding travelled well through the race and jumped more fluently than has been the case in the past. The aids remain in place for tomorrow's race. 

Eighteen are set to face the starter with five set to race from out of the handicap: Musical Slave (10-01); Mucho Mas (9-11); Court Master (9-09); D'Jango (8-06); Red Happy (8-06).

Second favourite Revels Hill was beaten a length by Coolvalla in the Devon Stayers Handicap Chase at Exeter five weeks ago. There wouldn't be a lot between the pair on revised terms but at the time of writing the latter named is twice the price. 

Back in November, on his first run in a handicap chase, Coolvalla won off a mark of 90; Chris Gordon's charge has won five of his six chase starts to date and now starts off 135 - there could yet be more to come.

Stablemate Annual Invictus has been on the radar since finishing second to Faivoir in a novice chase at Uttoxeter in 2021. He has raced mainly over hurdles this season, although he finished eighth in the Kim Muir last time; the handicapper dropped his chase rating four pounds for that effort. 

Handler Harry Fry said of Revels Hill in a Straight from the Stable article [RP Weekender 14-18.12.22]:

"He...was sent off favourite for the London National at Sandown this month. Unfortunately, the race was a disaster as he was very badly hampered at the eighth, which cost him a lot of ground. All Kevin [Brogan] could do was get him back into the race gently, but the damage was done by then. Clearly his record suggests he's best in the spring and the plan is to give him his next run in February and then hopefully target a nice staying race in March or April - something like the Midlands National if it's not too testing." 

Paul Nicholls saddles three. 

Enrilo passed the post first in the 2021 renewal but was subsequently disqualified and placed third after causing interference; he has only completed twice in seven subsequent runs. The handler is quite bullish on his blog:

"I don't think I've had Enrilo as well since he won the race two years ago before losing it in the steward's room (sic) for causing interference just short of the line. I've always felt there was a big race in him off his current mark and have employed a different approach training him this time." 

Frodon goes beyond three miles two and a half furlongs for the first time. He faces a stiff task off top weight conceding a minimum of nine pounds to all his rivals; the Gold Cup trip appeared to stretch his stamina in 2021. He's not getting any younger either; no horse older than nine has won in the past ten years.

Broken Halo has won his last two over three miles at the course but those victories came in races restricted to military riders and this is obviously a much sterner test. 

The form of this year's Ultima is working out rather well. 

Winner Corach Rambler won the Aintree Grand National next time out; second Fastorslow beat the Cheltenham Gold Cup first and second, Gaillard Du Mesnil and Bravemansgame, in the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday; and eighth Threeunderthrufive finished fourth behind Kitty's Light at Ayr last Saturday.  

However fourth, The Goffer, was pulled up in the Irish Grand National 19 days ago while sixth, Tea Clipper, wouldn't be guaranteed to see out this extended trip. 

Annsam is no mug and in my book is always better going right-handed. There's no denying Evan Williams' charge has his own way of clearing the obstacles and this track takes some jumping - I note he was pulled up behind Farinet on his only previous run here in a listed novices' handicap chase two years ago. 

Certainly Red was never competitive in a hurdle race at Ascot last month. 

His form over the larger obstacles warrants closer inspection and includes a six length defeat of Gemirande here over two and a half miles in January. That form reads well; he goes beyond three miles one for the first time but wasn't stopping when winning the Dick Hunt Trophy at Wincanton (Moroder eleventh). Although much of his form is on right-handed tracks, on occasions he has shown a tendency to jump to his left.

A year ago Moroder won over this sort of trip at Exeter and bounced back to form in the Grimthorpe at Doncaster eight weeks ago, beating Undersupervision a neck; he has been raised five for that effort. The official going that day was described as good and it looks as though he's flexible with regard to underfoot conditions. 

Mucho Mas comes into this in decent form having beat Feivel here seven weeks ago. Enthusiasm is tempered by the fact he's forced to carry seven pounds more than his long handicap weight.  

Musical Slave wouldn't be the easiest of individuals to predict. Second off 130 last year he looks feasibly treated; in February he beat Mister Malarky (another one difficult to predict) in a veterans' handicap chase at Exeter but was pulled up in the Kim Muir last time.

It's possible to make the case for a few of these. Both Revels Hill and Coolvalla held an entry in last week's Scottish National but have opted to come here. 

Only three of the past ten winners have been returned at single figure odds. 

Moroder gets the nod - he stays, underfoot conditions won't affect his chance and his profile suggests he comes to himself at this time of year.  

Moroder is the each-way suggestion, 12/1 generally, with Sky, Paddy Power and William Hill among the layers paying six places. 

Friday, April 21, 2023

Scottish Grand National 2023

23 have been declared for tomorrow's renewal with the going described as good to soft, good in places. Showers are forecast throughout the day.

With Dusart taking his chance, seven are set to race from out of the handicap: Your Own Story; Waitnsee; Magna Sam; Mighty Thunder; Flower Of Scotland; Half Shot; and Small Present.

The top weight has to concede upwards of seven pounds to all his rivals; since 2000 only two winners have carried more than 11-09: Grey Abbey (11-12 in 2004) and Vicente (11-10 in 2017).

The lowest rated winner in the past ten years was Joe Farrell in 2018 who won off a mark of 135.

The market has been dominated by Kitty's Light, Monbeg Genius and Your Own Story. 

Kitty's Light finished second behind stablemate Win My Wings off 143 in this race last year and goes off 140 tomorrow. On that evidence he looks a well-handicapped horse and the bookies have priced him accordingly.

Christian Williams' charge has been slow to come to hand this season. 

His third behind Annsam at Kempton in January hinted at a revival and the gelding went on to win the Eider at Newcastle next time; he looked cooked a mile from home but stayed on dourly to pass The Galloping Bear after the last.

Not the biggest of individuals, he's usually given a hold up ride, thereby avoiding the early scrimmaging up front. Of course, that tactic brings its own risks; as a general rule of thumb, racing prominently has paid dividends in the past. Cheekpieces haven't been fitted since he finished third in last year's bet365 Chase but they're back on tomorrow.

There has been plenty of money for Monbeg Genius throughout the week; his third behind Corach Rambler in the Ultima at Cheltenham looked strong form after the winner went on to take last Saturday's Grand National at Aintree. Jonjo O'Neill's charge is currently priced up favourite.

Lucinda Russell saddles two in a bid to win two Nationals in the space of a week: Your Own Story and Mighty Thunder. The former looks the yard's main hope - Lucinda is on record saying 'I think he has a right chance' - and he'll certainly stay but an official rating of 127 looks low compared to that of previous winners.

Mighty Thunder won off 144 in 2021 but hasn't won since and is now rated 125. There have been recent signs of a revival (fifth behind Elvis Mail at Kelso last time) but he probably holds place prospects at best.

Elvis Mail wasn't stopping in that Kelso race over three and a quarter miles; Nick Alexander's grey jumped well on that occasion but has been known to make a costly blunder or two at his fences.

Three weeks ago Malina Girl won the Ulster National at Downpatrick over three and a half miles. This probably comes quick enough for Gavin Cromwell's mare after that slog in soft ground; the last six year old to come in front was Earth Summit in 1994. The RP Weekender informs me the last Irish-trained winner of this event was Huntsman - in 1869!

Undersupervision likes Doncaster - he won the 2022 Grimthorpe and was pipped by Moroder in this year's renewal - and looks as though he'll stay but he isn't always fluent at the fences.

Rebecca Curtis trained Joe Farrell to win in 2018. She saddles Ruthless Article here but hasn't had a winner in 176 days.

On his blog Paul Nicholls points out that Flash Collonges, from the family of Grand National winner Neptune Collonges, races off a chase mark of 134 but has a hurdle rating of 145. Connections seem confident he'll stay the trip.

Nicholls' other runner, Threeunderthrufive, didn't appear to stay three miles five in the Classic Chase at Warwick in January.

Cap Du Nord is Christian Williams' second string, Cooper's Cross came to grief in the Topham at Aintree eight days ago while Manofthepeople appeared to be outstayed by Bridge North the last day.

Of those at bigger prices two are of interest.

It was some performance by Magna Sam to come out after nine months off and, on his first run for Alastair Ralph, win the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh. He beat Captain Cattistock and that one won a competitive handicap chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday. 

Magna Sam raced prominently and, once sent on, wasn't for catching. He was subsequently raised five pounds although regular pilot Alex Edwards doesn't claim three here; this has been the target since. The slight concern is that most of his form has come on right-handed tracks.

Nicky Richards doesn't strike me as someone who would oversell a horse but, reading between the lines, I think he likes Famous Bridge who runs in the famous Trevor Hemmings colours. In a stable tour piece in the Weekender [19-23.10.22] he concludes: 'It could be very interesting where we end up.'

Richards won this with Takingrisks in 2019; the handler is quoted in the Racing Post:

"We're taking a bit of a punt but he has put it together on his last two runs. I don't think he'll be off 10st 2lb next year and nothing ventured, nothing gained. He looks a million dollars and I don't think he'll be far away."

I've missed the bigger prices about Magna Sam - now generally a 16/1 shot - but, at the time of writing, Betfred offer 22/1 about Famous Bridge and pay six places. 

Famous Bridge is the each-way suggestion.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Aintree Grand National 2023

Lottery won the first official running of the Grand National in 1839.

According to Tom Segal writing in the Weekender, trying to find the winner of the Grand National has become a lot more of a lottery since 2006. 

Last year 21 of the 40 runners (52.5%) were trained in Ireland; this year the figure is 27 (67.5%). Sam Brown is the only British trained runner set to carry more than 11-00.

No horse older than nine has come home in front since Pineau De in 2014; last year Noble Yeats was the first seven year old to win since Bogskar in 1940.

The hurdle, Mildmay and National courses were all watered after racing on Thursday evening. Following significant rain today, the going on all courses was changed to soft after the Poundland Top Novices' Hurdle at 2.55.

At the time of writing Rachael Blackmore's mount Ain't That A Shame is clear favourite at 8/1 with Delta Work 9/1 and Corach Rambler drifting out to 10/1 in places.

The last horse to carry more than 11-09 to victory was Red Rum in 1974. 

The top three in the handicap for tomorrow's renewal - Any Second Now (second behind Noble Yeats last year and third behind Minella Times in 2021), last year's winner Noble Yeats and Galvin all look to face a stiff task at the weights.

In behind Noble Yeats and Any Second Now last year were Delta Work (third), Longhouse Poet (sixth), Coko Beach (eighth), Escaria Ten (ninth) with Fortescue unseating four from home.  

Included among those with an enhanced chance now the rain has arrived are Sam Brown, Carefully Selected, Coko Beach, The Big Dog, The Big Breakaway, Roi Mage (just over a length behind Longhouse Poet last time out), Dunboyne, Fortescue and Hill Sixteen.

For those who like to make their own selections, the BBC's pinstickers' guide may be of some use.

For everyone else, here's my idea of the first four past the post together with the best value longshot.

1. Le Milos

Beat Corach Rambler in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury on ground considered quicker than ideal. The Skelton yard nominated this race as the next target and indicated their charge wasn't fully wound up when collared on the run-in by Empire Steel at Kelso last month.

2. Corach Rambler

Won the Ultima at Cheltenham 32 days ago and is now ten pounds 'well in' off a mark of 146. Tends to race in rear and make his ground towards the business end of a race which comes with risks. Regular jock Derek Fox has been passed fit and rode One For Arthur from well off the pace to come home in front in 2017.

3. Noble Yeats

Races off a mark 19 pounds higher than last year but made impressive late headway to pip Protektorat for fourth place in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last month.

4. Coko Beach

The Gordon Elliot trained grey ran well for a long way in last year's race and comes here in better form this time around. Jumps well generally and likes to race up with the pace; the booking of Harry Cobden looks a bonus.


The best value longshot to my mind is Hill Sixteen, at the time of writing 100/1 with William Hill and bet365 who both pay six places. Sandy Thomson's charge was beaten a nose by Snow Leopardess over these fences in the 2021 Becher Chase. 

He came home seventh behind Ashtown Lad in the 2022 Becher and subsequently underwent wind surgery. Although he was the first one beaten at Kelso three weeks ago, he goes off a featherweight 10-02 tomorrow. This has been the plan; the rain will help his cause and I'd like to think first-time cheekpieces will do likewise.


As always, remember to check each-way terms when placing your bets. 

Sky Bet and Betway are paying seven places. I noted William Hill and Betfred paying six places online but only five places in High St. shops.

It just remains for me to wish you all the very best of luck!

Friday, April 07, 2023

The 2023 Challenger Staying Chase Series Final at Haydock

A couple of weeks ago I walked into the Warwick branch of W. H. Smith and bumped into David Watts and Johnny Winall promoting their book 'Mug Bookies'. 

With over 30 years' experience as independent bookmakers, the authors quickly identified me as a likely mark and highlighted a piece in their blurb that said the book is 'a must read for anyone who likes a bet'. 

Naturally, I had to buy a copy. 

And ask them to sign the title page - just in case, you understand. 

It's an eclectic mix of tales and characters from the betting ring and the betting shop floor, interspersed with details of numerous business ventures, many of which didn't result in particularly propitious outcomes.

The authors were (mustard) keen to point out they are now the owners of five-year-old bay mare Mug Bookies who is currently in training with Johnny Winall's nephew Joe Ponting; unfortunately, when we spoke, she was out of action with an injury.

I digress.

For this week's wager I'm off to Haydock and the Challenger Staying Chase Series Final Handicap Chase (2.40); fifteen have been declared with the going currently described as good to soft.

At the time of writing Jeffery's Cross and Mucho Mas share favouritism. 

The former has yet to win over fences and was beaten 19 lengths by Coolvalla last time; I'm not convinced Dan Skelton's charge sees out this trip. 

Mucho Mas on the other hand looks a nice staying prospect and beat Feivel at Sandown last month (Morning Spirit third). 

Ben Pauling's charge shares top weight with Frenchy Du Large but off a mark of 129 could easily be up to the task.  Feivel has only completed three of six chase starts this season; connections try cheekpieces tomorrow.

It's no surprise to see money for Enqarde who beat Remastered ten lengths over course and distance in the 2021 renewal of the Tommy Whittle. He starts off a mark three pounds lower tomorrow; the value in the price has long since disappeared.

Planned Paradise was a good second behind Quick Wave in the London National in December. His profile suggests he may prefer to race right-handed and stable form is a concern.

Quick Wave won the Grand National Trial here in February with Small Present sixth and Tim Pat pulled up. Both ran from out of the handicap that day but both were backed, sent off 7/1 chances. 

Small Present has yet to win over fences but Tim Pat has two chase wins to his name, including the Tim Moloney Handicap Chase here back in March last year.

Neon Moon should appreciate drying ground and ruined his chance with a mistake two out at Newbury last month. His profile suggests this trip may stretch his stamina, a comment that also applies to One True King.

To date Sam Barton has been a disappointment over fences (rated:125c / 132h) while Tide Times looked to have a hard enough race behind Latitude at Ludlow last time. 

The veteran in the field, I See You Well, has been in respectable form but may find it all happening a tad too quick.

Mucho Mas looks consistent compared to a number in the field that come with question marks attached. 

I'm going to take a chance with the Donald McCain trained Tim Pat on the back of these comments made in a Straight from the Stable article [RP Weekender 08-12.02.23]:

"He almost made it third time lucky this season when beaten in a head-bobber at Doncaster last time. In another stride he would have been ahead, but it was very encouraging after a couple of poor runs. He is the sort of horse who could turn up in a nice handicap this spring and raise a few eyebrows now that he is clearly coming to form."

His subsequent effort in the Grand National Trial in first-time cheekpieces - pulled up before four out - was disappointing; in general terms, his profile is inconsistent. The vet reported he'd lost his right fore shoe prior to that last run; the cheekpieces remain in place tomorrow. 

Tim Pat is the each way suggestion, 14/1 with bet365 and William Hill who are paying five places.