Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A New Dawn

With Cheltenham and Aintree now out of the way the focus is gradually winding up with the flat and Newmarket in the spring gives you hope of warmer weather and brighter days to come.

I commenced a new chapter in my life yesterday as I took charge of the keys to the premises which will house my new shop and consequently that will mean fewer posts over the next few months.

However I will try and concentrate on the big sprints mainly on Saturdays and where time allows maybe a few other bits.

The Grand National itself was a cracking race - however a few none racing people have said to me that the whole spectacle just doesn't seem the same. Most people grew up with the BBC coverage and their iconic camera shots of the fences coupled with the timeless commentaries of Sir Peter O'Sullivan - but you have to move with the times and Aintree has done that in creating a race that still has the drama but is not too daunting for the horses. The sell out crowd and the big tv audience shows that the Nationals charm and appeal is here for a long time yet.

My own highlighted horses didn't too badly - although Ucello Conti was the only one you could have got paid out on if you had put your bet on with Victor Chandler who paid down to sixth place.
The Aintree preview came up trumps as Andy Holding's charity bet Rule The World took centre stage meaning that the Kirkby Scout and Beaver Groups were able to benefit from that as well as the charity auction.

Onto today and there is a sort of mini festival on at Cheltenham as well as the second day of the Newmarket meeting.
The conditions were pretty soft at HQ yesterday but after a dry night things have improved to Good to Soft.
There is a very poor turnout for the 100,000 Tattersalls Millions 3yo sprint with only 5 runners and the course must be very disappointed. The best race sprint wise is the 5.40 Turf TV Handicap over 5f in which 11 go to post.
There are a few in here that I've had my eye on in the past and Brando looks to be an improver off a mark of 88 for Kevin Ryan however he has to give 5lb to recent AW scorer Equally Fast who is also lightly raced. He only went up 2lbs on the ratings for his win at Lingfield and it was a race in which he really showed his will to win. His race fitness advantage and likely further improvement could give him the edge over Brando although he would prefer the going to dry up a bit more An outsider could be Soie D'Leau who gets the assistance of Sylvester De Sousa but today I'm going to go with Equally Fast in the hope that the going by 5.40 will be a bit faster and they don't have any showers.

Equally Fast - 1 point win @ 6/1 with William Hill (11/2 with Paddy Power and Bet Victor and 5/1 elsewhere)

Friday, 8 April 2016

Aintree - The Grand National

The big one is here !!

Lets get straight down to business and concentrate on the main event which starts at 5.15pm on Saturday.

Run over 4m 2f 72y this is still a test of stamina and jumping ability despite all of the changes - which mostly have been for the better as we all have the horses welfare at heart.
Forty horses all tuned to the minute in the classiest National we have ever witnessed to date - its going to take a supreme horse to win this.

I am not going to go through every contender in the race but I will just concentrate on trying to push you in the right direction as I see it. You of course will no doubt have formed your own views throughout this season and maybe even last.
The bookmakers would have you believe that there is 92 points between the fav and those at the bottom on betting points but there is in reality only 20lb between them on weights and you could make a case for any of the runners winning the race.
One thing I have noticed is the amount of headgear being worn in the race - and by that I mean blinkers, cheek pieces or hood and 21 of the 40 runners wears one of those apparatus. A few horses have won with blinkers in the past but I would consider this a negative as it usually means the horse has some sort of quirk and not straight forward.

Last years winner Many Clouds does go there with every chance again but apart from Red Rum most horses return to Aintree a little bit apprehensive about taking on the task again and I am usually keen on siding with horses that are running in the race for the first time.
Unfortunately one of my fancies just missed out and that was Knock House and he now runs in one of the other races.
Ucello Conti is probably my main fancy as he looks to have been laid out for this by Gordon Elliott. Cause Of Causes was also entered for the stable but I don't believe this was his main target as he won at Cheltenham. So Ucello Conti is the stables main contender in my view and he has some very good placed form in top Irish handicaps this season. He is a half brother to Silviniaco Conti but carries a stone less and Silviniaco Conti is considered to be well in at the weights on his recent form so you could say that Ucello Conti has plenty of room for improvement on his rating as he's only gone up 7lb in his 3 runs for the stable. He handles going on the softer side and you would hope that he would stay well. He has a change of Jockey for this in Daryl Jacob who won on Neptune Collonges and he should bring a lot more to the table than his recent rider Jacques Ricou.
Plenty of people have written off Home Farm but he was a real fancy of mine a couple of years ago but didn't get into the race. He finished 5th behind Cause Of Causes in the 2013 Paddy Power Chase having finished 3rd in the Irish National off 10-3 which was the form which drew me to him. He runs off 10-4 tomorrow and he will think he is running loose and I hope he can outrun his odds of 100/1.
Morning Assembly ran a good race at Cheltenham and he's the sort of horse who will travel well which is a big part of the outcome of this race. He's lightly raced this season and has the wise Paddy Brennan in the saddle.
Vieux Lion Rouge is another that ran well at Cheltenham in the amateur riders National Hunt Chase and the stable have booked James Reveley which is a positive sign - but he's one of the runners that wears cheek pieces.
Ballycasey also ran with credit at Cheltenham over a trip short of his best and that will have been a good warm up for this and Katie Walsh should get a good ride round on this one. The horse fell early on last season so shouldn't have too many bad memories of the place.
Black Thunder has been on my radar all season but things haven't quite gone to plan. I think he could run a big race now that the Waley Cohen's have purchased him as he gets the assistance of possibly the best jockey in terms of placings at this course in Sam Waley Cohen who is worth several pounds round here.
There are plenty of others in with big chances but I'm not mentioning them all and if you have a strong view on something I wouldn't put you off backing it - its a very close race but one you should savour because as I said at the beginning its the best we have seen to date.

Looking at the other races :
1.45 - If there's any justice in this horse racing world then If In Doubt will gain compensation for his very unlucky run at Cheltenham with Long House Hall running him close.
The next three races are all small fields so I will give those a miss as prices will be short.
4.20 - I've already said above that I was disappointed that Knock House didn't get in the National but hopefully he can get some luck here. He ran an eye catching race in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham and only the winner Cause Of Causes was going better but Knock House was given plenty to do by Nina Carberry before running on to finish 4th and she will need to be quite a bit closer to the action tomorrow.
6.10 - Bigmartre could make it a great meeting for Harry Whittington who was positive at the preview evening about his chances in this. They won't be vying for the lead this time and will be dropped in by his jockey.

Grand National - My 4 against the field
Ucello Conti 1 point ew @ 25/1 with several bookmakers
Home Farm 0.25 points ew @ 100/1 with several bookmakers
Morning Assembly 0.50 points ew @ 25/1 with several bookmakers
Black Thunder 0.25 points ew @ 80/1 with Paddy Power - 66/1 elsewhere

Other races
Knock House - 1 point win @ 9/1 Paddy Power and Betvictor
Bigmartre 0.50 points ew @ 14/1 Bet365 and Betvictor

Aintree - Day 2

Well I had a great day at Aintree yesterday despite the weather and the races went pretty much according to my idea of what would happen.

Onto today and hopefully it will be more of the same:

1.40 - A huge field lines up for this hurdle and there will be plenty of traffic problems around the tight Mildmay track.
Warren Greatrex was keen on Ma Dou Fou at the preview evening - he thinks he's on a good handicap mark, he missed Cheltenham and  the distance and flat track will be ideal. 
Starchitect ran a slightly odd race at the festival in the County Hurdle as he lost his place coming down the hill but then ran on again up the straight and was only a neck off third place at the line. He's joint top rated on RPR ratings and I think he has a few more pounds in him on this flat track over further and he's been running well in all the right events.
Sky Khan ran in the Martin Pipe at the festival and finished behind Ibis Du Rheu but could be considered slightly unlucky there and he's now 3lb better off with the winner and he likes a fast run race which he will get here.
Peter Bowen has had some good winners down the years at this track and it looks as though he's laid out Curios Carlos for the race on his handicap debut.

2.15 - This should go the way of the top rated fav Limini who is another mare that Mullins uses to great effect with the 7lb allowance.

2.50 - Plenty of eliminations from this at the overnight stage but it is a fascinating race. Luckily I took 33/1 about Henri Parry Morgan yesterday morning. He's another Bowen horse that looks to be a big improver and he could go well here. He's at the top of the betting for the Bet365 Gold Cup but tests his metal against Grade 1 opposition here.
Out Sam is one that could go a lot better here than at Cheltenham. Warren Greatrex thinks he has improved a fair bit since his run at the festival. He will like the flat track and the going and he should run a big race.
Un Temps Pour Tout ran a mighty race at the festival when winning the Ultima Handicap Chase and there should be plenty of improvement to come - but he may have been tuned to the minute at the festival and can he do it again is questionable but he is top rated and has the potential to win a Gold Cup in time.
The track may be a bit sharp for Native River but he went to the festival with plenty of confidence and didn't disappoint his connections when 2nd in the National Hunt Chase over 4m.
Blaklion and Ballyalton both won at the festival too - this is high grade stuff today and the winner should go on to great things.

3.25 - I don't think anyone can look beyond Vautour to win this as he long as he negotiates all the obstacles which have proved a thorn in the side of some previous champions.

4.05 - The Topham Trophy will be a fantastic spectacle to watch over the big fences with 30 runners lining up. I would have loved for Mr Moonshine to have run in this race a couple of years ago and I actually put him up as a strong fancy for the race after he was third in the Becher Chase in 2013 but connections chose to run him in the Grand National instead and he finished 15th. He's dropped 12lb since then and he is a fantastic jumper of a fence and should give you a real thrill for your money - could be his swansong if he wins but still a big ew chance under Danny Cook.
Minella Reception is clear top rated on RPR ratings and commands plenty of respect for the Twiston Davies team and hopefully he will take to the course and produce a clear round of jumping.
Of the others Paul Nicholls is sweet on the chances of As De Mee and Fairy Rath who was second in the race last year off the same mark also has the tongue strap reapplied.

4.40 - This looks a difficult puzzle to solve but Baoulet Delaroque should improve for the step up in distance and Yala Enki, joint top rated, should go well at a big ew price.

5.15 - Plenty of money about for Bolving in the last with Victor Dartnal saying he has improved for his single run which he couldn't have won any better.

All in all a great days racing ahead.

Mr Moonshine 0.50 points ew @ 22/1 with Bet365 and Paddy Power
Sky Khan 0.50 points ew @ 25/1 generally
Bolving 0.50 points ew at 12/1 generally

Good Luck !

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Aintree - Day One

Good Morning!!

I will try and be as concise as possible today as I'm off to the course about 11.00am. There has been a good bit of rain overnight and it will more than likely ride soft on Day One. There's some dry weather later so it will dry up as we go through the day but it's nothing like Cheltenham going.

Last night was a great evening at the preview and Warren Greatrex is a very funny guy.

Harry Whittington was keen on Arzal(1st) as you might expect in the first. He missed Cheltenham so comes here a fresh horse but Garde Le Victoire, Sizing John and Rock The World will all make life difficult.

Apples Jade(1st) and Footpad should give Ivanovich Gorbatov more to do in the 2.15 on this going and Paul Nicholls has Diego Du Charmil and Romain De Senam but not sure how those two will act on the softer going. I would have been keen on the latter if the going had been a bit faster but Nicholls had 5 4yo's in the Triumph and he couldn't win that so I can't see him winning this.

Cue Card(1st) in the 2.50 Betfred Bowl likes a bit of cut so may go even better than at Cheltenham but he took a mother and father of a fall there and it will have left its mark both physically and mentally. Don Poli may be the one to benefit with the going being softer than at Cheltenham and Brian Cooper may be able to get him more competitive on a track at which he beat Many Clouds. Beyond the top three in the market its difficult to be convinced about any of the others causing an upset.

Annie Power(1st) should have conditions right up her street and for me its money in the bank for Mullins/Walsh combo - the only negative would be that Mullins doesn't have a great record at the track and with the gap between the two meetings being only 3 weeks and the fact that his horses have all had to travel over twice they may not be able to perform on the big stage for a second time.

The Foxhunters and the following handicap could be the races to get your value - I've already backed Major Malarkey at 25/1 in the hope that he can get off with the others, take up the lead and then build up a big gap that nobody else can catch - he was several lengths up in the Cheltenham Foxhunters at this distance so its a possibility if his jockey can hold it all together. On The Fringe(1st) though will not mind the going and he won in a canter here last season so he must be there or thereabouts again as will Nicholls Pacha Du Polder who won't be ridden like a non trier this time with Will Biddick in the saddle.

The Red Rum Handicap Chase is very open there are several horses with chances and even last years winner Surf And Turf could cause another upset on a going day. I was pretty keen on Dandridge(2nd) as he did incredibly well to finish second to Solar Impulse having made a bad blunder at the first fence at the festival. There are words about for the likes of Fayette County, Pearls Legend and Minella Present but the latter hasn't run for 146 days and that doesn't usually help in championship events.

The bumper looked to be a walk over for La Bague Au Roi according to the pundits during the week but Warren Greatrex was pretty worried last night about there being too much rain - but he has a good line to the form through his other unbeaten bumper horse The Nipper and he was very keen on his horse otherwise.
Augusta Kate(2nd) will like this going so will be a difficult opponent and Theatre Territory and Little Miss Poet could make up the frame.

Good Luck

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Aintree getting closer !

Some great racing on tomorrow at Aintree with four Grade 1 races to start the meeting, then the Foxhunters, followed by a Grade 3 handicap chase and then a top class Mares Bumper to finish the card.

There is a lot of Cheltenham form about over the three days and with Mullins and Nicholls going head to head in the trainers championship it promises to throw up some cracking contests.

I wont't put up my final selections until in the morning as I'm off to a preview evening tonight so I will be able to provide any late information coming from that.

Provisionally though I like the look of Sizing John, Footpad, Cue Card, Annie Power, Major Malarkey(ew), Dandridge and Le Bague Au Roi. Nothing too controversial there but sometimes that is the way it is and as we all know what you pick doesn't change the result.

However I will give my race previews in more detail in the morning and my initial thoughts may change.

Aintree - Grand National

It's shaping up to be the best Grand National we have ever witnessed and the bottom rated looks like being 145 which is quite something.
I say that because we don't have to go too far back to 2007 when Silver Birch won to find that the first 5 home that day wouldn't have made this years line up - but neither would other past winners such as Auroras Encore, Comply Or Die or Numbersixvalverde !
Trainers will just have to face facts the race is getting classier and if you definitely want to be in it next year then you need to get a rating over 145 to qualify, that of course will mean running your horses in some races and showing some form - heaven forbid!
I am not in the camp of letting past winners run because they've failed to qualify like all the other horses. I don't mind the idea of restricting an owner to no more than 3 runners but that would only have affected J. P. McManus this year in any event as he has 4 in the top 40.
I've got a number of selections lined up for the next few days following my own in depth review of the Cheltenham handicaps and I'm really looking forward to my local meeting and I will be attending on the first day. Before that though I have the preview evening tonight in Aintree with Warren Greatrex and Harry Whittington present which should be good and I will give a short review of that in the morning.
On another note Channel 4 don't look like pulling out all the stops for their last National as they don't look like even starting race coverage until after the first race has finished - a poor show indeed if this is correct. I hope ITV can rectify this error of judgement next season.

I will do another post this afternoon when I know the declared runners for tomorrow and also what the final 40 is for the big one !

Friday, 1 April 2016

The Lincoln Meeting

The turf season gets under way good and proper at Doncaster on Saturday with The Lincoln, Spring Mile, Brocklesby and Cammidge Trophy. The going is currently soft, good to soft in places and there is rain in the area so it may stay that way or get even softer.

The Cammidge Trophy is not a race I've had much luck in over the years and 14 runners line up for the 6f Listed race.

There was a strong wind blowing up the track last year and it paid to be held up with some cover and that suited Naadirr. None of the first three home then are back for another attempt and Jack Dexter who finished 4th is the only one of that field to have another go and he's in it for the fourth year running.

Alben Star has the most recent form having won on the all weather last weekend and this may be a race too soon for him and he's up against horses with Group race form so may struggle.

The lightly raced Gamesome is open to improvement but that's more likely to be in a handicap.

Marrek, although 9, is a decent horse when its soft and if he's tuned up enough then he should go very close to winning and he's worth a point ew at 6/1. He just failed to catch Sole Power on yielding going in the Group 2 Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh in September and he doesn't meet anything of his calibre here and he has plenty of winning form over 6f.

Suedois could be the fly in the ointment as he is another horse that David O'Meara has mopped up from France but hopefully Maarek can master him and Jack Dexter should be booked for another placed effort.

Good Luck !

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Irish Flat Season Begins!

I know I said  I wouldn't be doing any posts for a few weeks but today is the start of the Irish flat season and racing takes place at the Curragh and I just couldn't resist.
The going is currently soft, it's a great meeting and even Mr Fallon turns up in his new post-lets hope he's not too grumpy!
William Buick has been booked to ride Devonshire in the Group 3 at 3.30 and Richard Fahey tests the water and sends over 6 horses with 3 entered in the Tote Irish Lincolnshire at 4.55 and the last race on the card looks an interesting maiden. 

The one that I'm interested in though is Patrick in the 3.15 - The St Patricks Festival Handicap over 6f. He's at the top of the handicap but Adam McNamara takes off a useful 7lbs and he's the first of my sprinters to follow to run on the turf. He has already run twice on the AW so there should be no problems fitness wise and he's open to further improvement having only run 10 times and is rated 89.
He's well drawn in stall 12 of the 14 runners and hopefully he can bag a good position near the rail. He ran a good race in a decent Class 3 handicap at Goodwood in July, his last turf start, when he was a slightly unlucky 4th beaten three quarters of a length after finishing strongly under Tony Hamilton.
The time before that he had also finished very strongly at Carlisle over the stiff 5f despite running a bit green.
The next two in the betting Laganore and Katimavik having been running over a mile so they may be lacking speed in this this 6f sprint. You would have to be wary though about last years winner Bubbly Bellini off a 1lb higher mark as he's a much better drawn this time in stall 13 - stall 2 last year but that race was run at a sedate pace and this will be his 105th race and the going may not be soft enough in any event. That said he has the assistance of Declan McDonough who has steered him to his last 5 wins. Lurking down the bottom of the handicap however on a mark of 70 is Kevin Condon's Shanghai Beauty drawn in stall 14 and she could be open to some improvement although she comes here fresh and the stable haven't had many runners this year but she might be the ew value at 14/1.

Patrick - 1 point ew @ 5/1 with Betvictor

Friday, 18 March 2016

Day Four Late Thoughts

Gold Cup day!!

You seem to get a better class of 100/1 these days - I remember when Norton's Coin won at 100/1 and nobody gave him a cat in hells chance pre race and that a pantomime horse would have been quicker. Now in 2016 we get the likes of a previous Cheltenham winner Irish Cavalier set to go off at 100/1 or higher - how things change.

Sad news that old TV stalwart Cliff Michelmore has died at the age of 96. He presented the first televised Grand National in 1960 and in so doing secured his place in Aintree folklore.

Tom Segal continued his dire week at Cheltenham with another 8 losers leaving him 18 points down heading into the last day and it might be best to avoid what he tips! - luckily he's on none of mine.
Steve Mason napped a Dan Skelton runner the other day which ran very well and the ratings tips throw up three Skelton runners in the handicaps today in Superb Story(Nap), Work In Progress and Savello - maybe this is the day he will get onto the winners podium.

Kayf Tara's Thistlecrack took him to the top of the Sires at the festival leader board and his £5,000 covering fee looks to money well spent. Tghistlecracks owner had to go to £165,000 to secure his sister at the Cheltenham sale last night.

If we look at the leaders on time(pre Cheltenham) since August 2015 for Novice Hurdlers we have :
Yanworth 153 - 2nd in the Neptune
Altior 151 - 1st in the Supreme
Yorkhill 151 - 1st in the Neptune
Min 150 - 2nd in the Supreme
Barters Hill 149 - Runs in the Albert Bartlett and avaialble at 9/2(a head scratcher)
Charbel 149 - 5th in the Supreme

On a final note lets hope that Victoria Pendleton doesn't shoot racing in the foot and puts in a very good ride on Pacha Du Polder.

Good Luck and I will be back for the start of the flat season and searching out those big sprint winners once again.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Cheltenham Day Four

The final day of the festival and I hope you are all enjoying it without there being too much pain. I will be taking a few weeks off from the blog after tomorrow as I get ready for the start of the turf flat season at the beginning of April.

Looking back at Day Three
The day started with the JLT Novices Chase over 2m 4f and was won by Black Hercules. The Pertemps followed and the Irish won this too with Mall Dini from the small operation of Patrick Kelly. Vautour destroyed the Ryanair field and some would say it was a Gold Cup winning performance and that he should have gone for that but it just makes me think they've got the Gold Cup sewn up to. Thistlecrack put up an equally good performance in winning the World Hurdle and what does he do now ? Empire Of Dirt was another Irish winner in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate in what was a rough race. The Mares event went to the well touted Limini from the all conquering Mullins stable - maybe in 10 years time we will find out he was giving them all some sort of secret potion!!!!

The Blog Bets
Stilletto - Fell
Saphir Du Rheu - 0
Vibrato Valtat - Fell when going well.
Sam Twiston Davies changed his riding style earlier in the season to stop him falling off and perhaps he needs to go back to the drawing board.

Paul Nicholls didnt have a great day but Arpege D'Alene ran a great second in the Pertemps off a rating of 146h under Sean Bowen and Aux Ptits Soins ran a race full of promise in the World Hurdle and lives to fight another day and no doubt he will be sent chasing in the near future. Vibrato Valtat and Stilletto both fell which must have been disappointing for the stable.

Dan Skelton probably had his worst day of the meeting so far.

1.30 JCB Triumph Hurdle

Paul Nicholls throws the kitchen sink at this one and has one third of the field with Clan Des Obeaux, Connetable, Frodon, Tommy Silver, Zubayr. I think the best three are Connetable, Zubayr and Clan Des Obeaux and I expect the stable to get the winner of this race. Nicholls has an excellent set of 4yo's and he's made no secret of it and he has already won the Fred Winter this week and also had the second. Clan Des Obeaux gets a first time hood applied whilst Connetable has first time cheek pieces.
Zubayr an expensive purchase from France made an instant impression in the Adonis and that profile is similar to the yard’s Zarkandar who won this race in 2011 but I don't think Clan Des Obeaux is that far behind him and is a much bigger price at 16/1. Footpad and Sceau Royal are the main dangers from other stables.

2.10 Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle
All Yours won the Grade 1 4yo hurdle at Aintree. Half brother to the stables Lac Fontana he matured over the summer. Nicholls has had this race in mind for him for a while and he could be a very good horse on this better ground.
Some Plan is a big chasing type but was 10th of 12 in the Supreme novices hurdle at the festival last season.he ran well at Ascot In December and has since been saved for this and Harry Cobden takes off a useful 5lbs.
Modus finished 2nd in the Champion bumper behind Moon Racer. He changed hands for 190,000GBP and he comes here as the lowest rated of Paul Nicholls three but this is a race he should excel in and he could be on a favourable mark and Cheltenham obviously suits his running style.
Dan Skelton's Superb Story is an improving sort and he has gone up 18lbs in two runs for the stable and his second here last time to Old Guard in the Greatwood Hurdle was a fantastic effort and there is every chance his improvement hasn't stopped and having been off since will have been tuned to the minute to go well here.
John Constable has quickly established himself as a useful hurdler, finding only subsequent Ladbroke winner Sternrubin too good on his only start this season, and is of definite interest, as is Cardinal Walter, who shaped well on his reappearance in the Scottish County Hurdle and looks capable of making his mark here, particularly with further progress on the cards. The relatively unexposed Blue Hell, who benefited from the fitting of a tongue strap when showing improved form to beat Coral Cup winner Diamond King on his only start this season in November, is also capable of further improvement. Barry Geraghty has chosen the lightly raced Great Field for Willie Mullins. Dicosimo, Ruby Walsh, and Wait For Me, Richard Johnson both wear a hood for the first time.

2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
No runners from the two stables that we follow and Barters Hill looks the most likely winner. Mullins has seven entered and ruby Walsh rides the top rated and 7 wins from 8 starts Long Dog and he could be another that we will be seeing at Cheltenham on a regular basis for the next few years.

3.30 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase

A vintage Gold Cup even though Vautour defected and won the Ryanair. One thing is for sure they must be rubbing their hands with glee in Ireland and it's a race to savour and watch for me.

4.10 St James's Place Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup
Ireland are bidding to win this race for a sixth successive year and have a strong squad including last years winner On The Fringe - but this is another race where you have to look at the jockeys more than the horses.

4.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle
Qualando won the Fred Winter Hurdle last season and is said to be a chaser in the making and Nicholls has been pretty bullish about his chances in this although I couldn't see it myself last time he ran but maybe they left a bit to work on.
Ibis Du Rheu is a half brother to Saphir Du Rheu but hasn't really shown that much at the track so far in his limited runs for the stable.
Mr Mix should appreciate the stiffer track and distance and has a very talented jockey on board.
Dan Skelton's Work In Progress
Paul Nicholls holds a decent hand as he goes in search of a second win in the contest, Gordon Elliott’s Squouateur is a lightly-raced five-year-old that is progressing well as is Montdragon, who won at Haydock in December.

5.30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Gold Cup

Solar Impulse is open to further improvement and Nicholls was saying prior to his seasonal debut that he was "a bit behind the others". He makes jumping errors so he comes with risks attached but he wears blinkers for the first time so hopefully they will concentrate his mind on the jumping but I'm not sure he is a bet for me.
Savello won this race in 2014 beating Ned Buntline. He’s shaped as if retaining plenty of ability amidst some stiff tasks this season, but probably has something to find off a mark of 150 and Brigdet Andrews is employed to take off 5lb.
Workbench is the stables other runner and Harry Skelton rides him and he seems to go well here and could outrun his price.
Arthur’s Oak is in the winning groove at present and his straightforward style of racing and slick jumping are sure to stand him in good stead in a race that is often run at a furious gallop. Bold Henry and Chris Pea Green have disappointed of late, but would have claims on the pick of their efforts. Alan Fleming's Velvet Maker appeals as the type to be suited by this sort of test and may still have more to offer after just three runs over fences.

Clan Des Obeaux - 0.50 points ew @ 16/1
All Yours - 0.50 points ew at 14/1
Qualando - 0.50 points ew @ 8/1

Good Luck

Day Three Late Thoughts

Now that we have digested some fantastic performances yesterday from our equine heroes we have to get back down to the business of picking winners. The blog was fortunate enough to pick a winner on day two in Diego Du Charmil at 7/1. The Ditcheat drums had been banging for him for a while and he he was nearly nabbed on the line by his own stable mate Romain De Senam.
There is every chance they could bang in another winner or two today as they hold some great cards in the game.

Tom Segal did manage to pick a winner yesterday in Diamond King at 10/1(advised) - however he had another 7 losers and on the day he broke even so is still 11 points down.
Gerald Delamere had two wins with Yorkhill and Diego Du Charmil and Steve Mason(Racing Post Ratings) had another solid day with Ballyandy winning and his nap Long House Hall a fast finishing 2nd at 16/1.

On the breeding front Kayf Tara bagged two winners yesterday courtesy of Nigel Twiston Davies duo Blaklion and Ballyandy and Thistlecrack could add to his score today.

I'm afraid the Go Kart challenge on the "Morning Line" has been a real turn off for me and I mean that literally!

J. P. McManus has 5 runners from 5 different stables in the Pertemps - Leave At Dawn, Cup Final, Box Office, Join The Clan and Rathpatrick so he should have a good grip on the form - one to follow in the betting ring!

I mentioned yesterday that Kim Baileys horses seem to be in good form - he had a winner and a seond from two runners at Bangor yesterday following his two 5ths here on the first day. He runs last years winner Darna in the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate for which he is available at 25/1 and some bookies are going 5 places and Un Ace in the Pertemps who is also available at 25/1 and is Steve Mason's nap - I can feel an ew double.....................Another two 5ths on a £5 ew double hmmnnnn!!

Doctor Harper in the last race today looks another talking horse and he was regarded as Pipe's best chance of the week and he has already had a winner so watch out as the trends are in his favour too and the Pipe's won it last year with The Package! 

Good Luck!!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Cheltenham Day Three

Looking Back on Day Two
Yanworth didn't get the best of rides for the home team and it could have been a different story had he got a better run through but the winner was idling on the run in and had he been held onto longer he may have won anyway.
Blaklion fought like a lion and deservedly won the RSA - a great performance.
Diamond King was well fancied and he seemed to get a better run though than the second Long House Hall and I'm not sure he will confirm the form if they meet again this season.
What a win by Sprinter Sacre - I always thought this horse had another big Grade 1 win in him and why people were writing him off last season can only be described as baffling!! - He made a crunching mistake at the downhill fence but it didn't stop the momentum and he sluiced past Un De Sceaux to roar away for victory.
Any Currency was another tear jerker and a great win for a small stable in the cross country.
Ballyandy completed a great day for the Twiston Davies family beating a trio of Mullins horses in 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

The Blog Bets

Diego Du Charmil - 1 point win @ 7/1 - 1st
High Bridge - 0.50 points ew @ 12/1 - 6th

Paul Nicholls started day two with Le Mercurey in the RSA but he weakened to finish last of the 8 runners and hopefully Nicholls will have some better ammo next season in the staying dept.
In the Coral Cup both Politologue and Baoulet De Laroque faded towards the finish and were generally disappointing. Dodging Bullets was run off his feet in the Champion Chase. However it all came good in the Fred Winter with Nicholls repeating his 1st and 2nd achievement form last season with Diego Du Charmil and Romain De Senam with the exacta paying £141.20.

Dan Skelton sent out two in the Neptune and Its'afreebee ran a cracker at 33/1 to finish 3rd. I said in the blog that his improvement may not have stopped and he ran a great race for Ian Popham.
Next one up for Skelton was Long House Hall and what a race he ran. I said in the blog that he would run well and didn't he do just that. Having been short of room he extracted himself and was finishing best of all to finish 2nd and compensation awaits.

1.30 - JLT Novices Chase

As De Mee Ran matured and strengthened up over last summer and returned at Chepstow in a Class 2 novice chase finishing 2nd to the more chase experienced Cocktails At Dawn. He then went to Cheltenham for the Steel Plate and Sections novices chase over two miles four and a half furlongs where he jumped well but slightly right most of the way he finished a good second to More Of That. He was then third to Ar Mad at Sandown before falling at Kempton and then second again behind Bristol De Mai back at Sandown and whilst consistent he has to improve to win.
Three Musketeers is a very likeable horse with lots of ability. He was a bit disappointing behind Sametegal at Huntingdon and put things right when winning next time out at Newbury in a Grade 2. He then went to Cheltenham on New Years Day and finished 5th in the Dipper Novices Chase a race in which Cheltenham winners this week Blaklion was second and Minella Rocco was 6th.
Outlander is one of the mian contenders here but the going may be against him. Garde La Victoire, Bristol de Mai and Three Musketeers are all contenders and the last-named could get Skelton onto the winners board.

2.10 Pertemps Network Final
Arpege D'Alene a half brother to Hennessy winner Triolo D'Alene. He made his return at Wincanton over 2m 4f on soft going in the Grade 2 Rising Stars novices chase but was comfortably held by Emma Lavelle's Junction Fourteen. He was then pulled up at Newbury when the stable were going through a bad patch before winning by a narrow margin at Chepstow in a Class 2 handicap hurdle off a mark of 140. He is up 6lb now and is the mount of Sean Bowen.
Warriors Tale did very well over hurdles winning two for Nicky Richards last season. A big, scopey sort he is a horse that the stable seem to have plenty of time for and he ran his best race last time out at Musselburgh when second in a qualifier for this race and Sam Twiston Davies has chosen him and will try and get the better of his Musselburgh conqueror Cup Final on 4lb better terms.
Call The Cops gave Nicky Henderson his first win in this race when landing the 2015 renewal and the Lambourn trainer has strong claims of saddling the winner again with his recent Musselburgh winner Cup Final. He is open to plenty of improvement having raced just seven times. Our Kaempfer has been freshened up since brought down five out when still full of running in a valuable handicap at Haydock in November and Charlie Longsdon is keen on his chances. If In Doubt is on a fair mark.

2.50 Ryanair Chase
Vibrato Valtat was targeted at the Haldon Gold Cup which he won in fine style from Third Intention despite having to take up the running sooner than ideal and hitting the last. He is stronger than last season and more the completed article. He travels well and usually appreciates a lead into the race.
He produced a career best at Kempton when third behind Sprinter Sacre and he was then 4th behind Un De Sceaux at Ascot. This trip will suit him better and he probably had a good chance before Vautour was re routed but he is not a 40/1 chance and he's worth an ew.
Al Ferof has been a top performer over the years with Paul Nicholls and won the Peterborough Chase on his return before finishing third in the King George behind Cue Card. He may run well but it's unlikely he can win.
Vautour sets the standard and the others will have to go some to be in with any chance, Al Ferof has been saved specifically for this race and others that may give the fav more to do are Road To Riches, Valseur Lido and Village Vic.

3.30 Ryanair World Hurdle
Aux Ptits Soins and Saphir Du Rheu in this for team Nicholls and Sam Twiston Davies must have had a difficult decision. They are both held in very high regard and I think one they will both be bang there at the finish and may even be fighting out the finish for another stable 1st and 2nd.
Thistlecrack who has carried all before him this season and Cole Harden who could lead them all a merry dance are the main opponents whilst Kilcooley could be a lively outsider.

4.10 Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate
Art Mauresque had smart Juvenile form in France before joining this stable. He usually wears a tongue tie, jumps really well and is suited by better ground. He finished 3rd to Irish Cavalier at Newton Abbot on his first run back after 5 months and he was 6th in the Paddy Power where he had every chance approaching the last. His form has gone off the boil since then so he will need to improve to be in with a chance.
Stilletto returned at Haydock when in need of the outing and finished 3rd behind Rock The Kasbah. A big horse not short of ability he was switched to fences at Catterick and won beating Amore Alato.
He was then 2nd, beaten 4 lengths to Violet Dancer before falling three fences out at Wincanton when full of running. Next time out at Leicester he was impressive when beating Steel Wings and has every chance of winning this as he has more improvement to come.
Salubrious a Grade 1 performer over hurdles, won the Martin Pipe at the festival in 2013. He won a Graduation chase on his return before finishing 6th behind Wakanda in the Class 1 Sodexo Silver Cup handicap chase.

4.50 Trull House Stud Mares Novices Hurdle
This is not a race I'm overly keen on and will give it a miss.

5.30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup
Cause of Causes is a previous Festival winner thats well weighted and bids to go one
better than when second in the race in 2014. Doctor Harper has been a talking horse for Pipe and it could be dangerous to ignore him. Silvergrove, who’d be unbeaten in three starts for Ben Pauling but for a slipped saddle and remains on a good mark having accounted for A Good Skin at Kempton. Jonjo O’Neill who generally does well in the handicaps saddles Upswing and Lost Legend whilst Willie Mullins relies on Sabremont who may be open to further improvement.

Stilletto - 0.50 points ew @ 11/1
Saphir Du Rheu - 0.50 points ew @ 11/1
Vibrato Valtat - 0.50 ew @ 40/1

Day Two Late Thoughts

We have had the night to digest what went on yesterday and if anything it may have taught us to stick to the obvious ie Yanworth, More Of That, Un De Sceaux, Josies Orders and Diego Du Charmil - day two sorted!!

With news that there were three fatalities on day one in Pont Alexandre, The Govaness and Rezorbi I'm surprised that Alistair Down is not calling for the meeting to be scrapped as per his Grand National comments in the past. Aintree has done a lot to rectify it's problems and maybe Cheltenham needs to look a bit closer as to how they can improve this aspect of the festival. A watering spigot was left in the ground by the groundstaff yesterday and that matter was referred to the BHA after the Champion Hurdle field had to avoid hitting it. 

Channel 4 didn't do anything other then the norm for their last festival coverage and Simon Holt managed to totally miss Beg To Differ unseating on the bend in the Ultima Handicap Chase as they went out into the country and he then got himself a bit confused down the back as he couldn't work out where Beg To Differ had gone. However not to worry Ant and Dec warm up for next years Cheltenham festival coverage with Augusta Kate in the bumper!!

Looking at the tipsters in the Racing Post yesterday Tom Segal was 11 points down as he couldn't pick a placed horse never mind a winner! Steve Mason, Racing Post Ratings, did much better with 3 wins, 2 seconds, an unlucky 5th and one unplaced in the last. Today his selections are as follows :
1.30 - Yanworth
2.10 - No More Heroes
2.50 - Long House Hall - Nap(Dan Skelton trains)
3.30 - Un De Sceaux
4.10 - Third Intention
4.50 - Fixe Le Kap
5.30 - Ballyandy

Breeding wise Shirocco recorded two wins for Glenview Stud from two runners with Annie Power and Minella Rocco and he relies on just Rock The Kasbah in the Coral Cup today. Not to be outdone another Glenview Stud inmate Robin Des Champs was responsible for Un Temps Pour Tout.

Paul Nicholls had a fair day yesterday and you would have to be hopeful he can record at least one winner today and his best chances seem to lie with Diego Du Charmil, Politologue and Dodging Bullets. The latter is surely better than his run at Newbury and he should be bang there turning for home.

Having your horses in form is a plus for any trainer and Kim Bailey managed two 5th places from two runners yesterday in Charbel and Twelve Roses and both ran exceptionally well and perhaps he can even get a winner during the week with Un Ace, Darna and Red Spinner to come.

Vyta Du Roc(RSA Chase) has some good form from his last two races that ties in with yesterdays results, he was second to Bouvreuil at Doncaster when conceding 11lbs and that horse was 2nd off a mark off 139 in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase. Vyta Du Roc then beat Minella Rocco on his next start at Ascot on level weights and he won the National Hunt Chase beating the 149 rated Native River. However on official ratings he has something to find with all of today's runners pre yesterdays results.

After a dry and windy night the going is now Good, good to soft in places so expect some fast times and start getting ready for those front runners from Wednesday.

Good Luck !!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Cheltenham Day Two

Hope you all had a good first day and that it's onward and upward for Day Two.

Looking back on Day One
A top performance by Hendersons Altior kicked off the meeting and beat Min a Mullins hotpot. It was reported as being Hendersons best chance of a winner all week and so it proved. He had been so near to winning the race in it's recent past so it was great to see him do it again and record his 54th Cheltenham winner.
Douvan won the Arkle as expected with the others throwing everything at it to even get involved.
David Pipe always runs his better horses at the Cheltenham meetings pre Christmas and he didn't disappoint again with Un Temps Pour Tout running out a worthy winner of the first handicap and paying a big compliment to Nicholls Vicente later in the afternoon.
Annie Power took us back to the euphoria of the Dawn Run days by winning the Champion Hurdle and in doing so raised the Cheltenham roof.
Vroum Vroum Mag brought up the treble for the Mullins, Ricci, Walsh Cheltenham roadshow as she breezed into the lead turning for home in the Mares Hurdle and Minella Rocco and Ballyalton won the remaining two races of  the day for messrs O'Neill and Williams.

The Blog Bets Day One
1.30 - Penglai Pavillion 1 point ew @ 40/1 - 0 - unable to get competitive.
2.50 - Southfield Theatre 0.50 points ew @ 20/1 - BD
4.10 - Bitofapuzzle 0.50 points ew @ 14/1 - 0 - unable to get competitive
4.50 - Vicente 0.50 points ew @ 16/1 - 5th
5.30 - Javert 0.50 points ew @ 16/1 - 0
A poor day for the blog tips wise The blog and the only upside was the Supreme Hurdle in which we highlighted the first three home with the tricast paying £70.50 to a £1 stake.

Paul Nicholls Day One
Nicholls started the festival in the third race with Southfield Theatre but he got a poor start and was just getting going when brought down. Tara Point was bang there coming down the hill in the Mares Hurdle and should be better for the run if she can move on to Aintree. Vicente was unlucky not to be placed as seemed to suffer with the loose horse and Bouvreuil ran well to finish second in the final race of the day.

Dan Skelton Day One
Dan Skelton hasn't been in the best of form of late and his runners ran as well as could be expected in the face of the tasks that they had.

1.30 Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle
Its 'afreebee
 was progressive in Irish bumpers and at Bangor on his hurdling debut. He was sold two days later and had his first run for Dan Skelton at Haydock when winning in December. He returned to that track in January for the Grade 2 Supreme novices trial which he also won from Nicholls Le Prezien and his progress may not yet have stopped. Harry Skelton however rides the stables other runner Welsh Shadow. He was comprehensively beaten by Champion Bumper 4th Yanworth on his first run back at Exeter in a Class 3 2m1f novices hurdle on soft going so you would think he is running for a place at best.

Yanworth sets a very high standard following his impressive win on Festival Trials Day and he looks top notch. Mullins’ A Toi Phil and Yorkhill would appear to hold his best chance of winning but they will have to go something to beat Yanworth.
2.10 RSA Chase
Le Mercurey
was purchased with a chasing career in mind and he got it off to a good start in a Class 3 novice chase at Plumpton on 16/11 when driven clear to win by 6 lengths. Violet Dancer franked the form. He strengthened up over last summer and had the required Ditcheat wind operation but he's probably not as good a chaser as Nicholls has run in this in the past and has to improve on what he has done of late to get involved it would seem.

A small but select field for the RSA then and More of That is undoubtedly open to further improvement. It's a bit disconcerting, given his history of problems, that he’s not been seen since December, despite having held several entries. No More Heroes has looked every bit as exciting as More of That this season whilst Seeyouatmidnight, Black Hercules and Roi des Francs are all in with a shout too.
2.50 Coral Cup
is well bred out of a Grade 1 chase mare and is a chaser for the future. He showed eye catching form in France but unseated his rider at Cheltenham on 11/12 in a Class 3 NH novices hurdle qualifier when yet to make his effort. He was then a 12 length second of three to Barters Hill at Newbury when the stable were under a cloud. He then went to Exeter and won a 5 runner listed race by 59 lengths and got himself back on track. He's on a mark of 142h but he's open to plenty of improvement and the stable have always held him in high regard so he should go well.

Baoulet Delaroque ran an eye catching race at Enghien in April even though he was still babyish and immature. He was said to have come on a fair bit over the summer and he started reasonably well for this stable at Chepstow when 4th in a Class 5 maiden hurdle. He then went to Doncaster for a race of a similar type and beat Divine Spear and he has since won twice more at Wincanton and Huntingdon. Noel Fehily rides him for the first time and like Politologue is open to further improvement.
Long House Hall had been unbeaten in three races for the stable since arriving from Ireland prior to his fall at Cheltenham. He had been impressive in his wins and the form had been franked. He has plenty of speed and normally jumps well and the stable think quite highly of him. He should like the good to soft going and should give a good account for the stable.
This is one of the most competitive handicaps of the NH season and this year’s renewal promises to be another cracker. Willie Mullins has yet to win it but he looks to have a good chance with Arbre de Vie. He was a good fourth to Martello Tower in the Albert Bartlett here last year and improved again to finish second to Sort It Out in a very strong handicap at Punchestown. Diamond King comes here on the back of a smooth success in a conditions hurdle at Punchestown but is 17 lb higher than when last seen in a handicap. Willie Mullins runs Blood Cotil, Avant Tout and Blazer. 
3.30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase -
Dodging Bullets is a top class chaser that won three Grade 1 chases last season culminating in him winning this race. He has had some issues since then and he returned in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase in which he was a disappointing second to Top Gamble. The stable think he is showing all his old signs so he could go off at a generous price to record back to back victories.
Un de Sceaux though will be very hard to beat if producing a clean round of jumping. Sprinter Sacre and Sire de Grugy are the others likely to be there at the business end and Felix Yonger could give his stable mate the most to do.

4.10 Glenfarclas Chase
The Irish have a good record in this race and Josies Orders has now won all three of his completed starts since having his attention turned to cross country races. Balthazar King loves this course but hasn’t been seen out since taking a very heavy fall at the Canal Turn in last year’s Aintree Grand National. Any Currency runs well here as does Sire Collonges and Bless The Wings and Quantitativeeasing are others likely to be there come the finishing kick for home.
4.50 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Romain De Senam
 was an unchallenged 15 length winner at Wincanton on his return where he jumped well. He then ran at Cheltenham and finished 3rd behind Wolf Of Windlesham having failed to settle and diving at a few of his hurdles. He is an improving sort and Nick Schofield takes the ride.

Diego Du Charmil is an unknown quantity to most punters as he is yet to race in Britain. He has a mark of 133 and is a half-brother to last season’s Grade-2 winning novice Days of Heaven. He is said to have been laid out for this and quotes such as "he's a machine" have been bandied around and Sam Twiston Davies takes the ride so you would think he has the best chance of the two Nicholls runners. Whether he can live up to his fav tag is anyone's guess but the stable pulled off a similar punt last year.
Kasakh Noir won a bumper in France over 2m 2f on good going by 8 lengths - quickening up to score easily after kicking clear two out. He opened his account for this stable on his first start when winning a Class 3 juvenile hurdle at Newbury over 2m 69y on soft going. He was very impressive that day leading on the bit two out and cruising he was eased down to a 16 length success. He was then third behind Fixe Le Kap at Newbury at the back end of December and should get the better of him on revised terms before beating Wolfcatcher at Market Rasen. A chaser of the future he will no doubt be back here next season.
This Festival handicap is one of the hardest to work out as so many of the runners are lightly raced and have untapped potential and many will no doubt be back at next years festival and for years to come. Campeador is a French recruit from a top yard, having been purchased by J.P. McManus and sent to Gordon Elliott after a fifteen-length romp at Clairefontaine last summer, and he shaped well in a Grade 2 contest at Leopardstown on Boxing Day when he pulled too hard to see things out but was in contention for a long way and finished only two lengths behind Footpad, who has since won a Grade 1 himself and is Triumph-Hurdle bound. This race was Campeador’s only Cheltenham entry and he looks a big player for his owner.
John Ferguson will be hoping he gets a better run out of Jaleo than he got with his Supreme contender yesterday and this one could have been let in lightly after tearing eleven lengths clear of the consistent Our Thomas at Catterick. 
5.30 Wetherbys Champion Bumper
If you read through the fields of previous Champion Bumper races it reads like the whose who of racing and it's a result that you have to return time and time again.
I have been lucky in this race in the past and I've put up the winners of this race well in advance in the last two years.
High Bridge has been my idea of the winner since his run at Catterick in January when he injected a lethal turn of foot entering the home straight to career away before being eased down for a facile win. Both the second and third won next time out and the 4th Nicholls Be Daring, who helped set the fast pace, was thought to be Listed class by the stable as he had previously finished 2nd to Hobbs Star Trouper who ran Skelton's Mister Mayagi close on his only run this season.
Aiden Coleman thinks High Bridge is his best chance of a winner at the meeting and it would be great for John Ferguson to go out on a high note. Lets hope he is tuned up to run a race.
The horse or stable I fear most is Dermot Weld's and his runner is First Figaro

High Bridge - 0.50 points ew @ 12/1 or better

Diego Du Charmil - 1 point win @ 7/1 with several bookmakers

Good Luck!!