Friday, 26 February 2016

Triumphant March to Cheltenham!!



It's a busy Saturday ahead for the two trainers that we are following.
Paul Nicholls sends out 11 at Kempton and Chepstow with double or treble entries in some races - whilst Dan Skelton sends out 5 across the same two meetings.
As it's so busy I will just concentrate on Paul Nicholls runners at Kempton but that's not to say that Dan Skelton's won't run well, it's just a lack of time to cover them all.

Paul Nicholls will be on Channel 4 tomorrow on the "Morning Line".

Paul Nicholls
Kempton

2.00 Pilansberg is more experienced than the stables other entry today Zubayr having run 11 times on the flat in France - his most recent outing being on 25/10 when last of the 13 runners in the Group 1 Prix Royal Oak. He's previously beaten 1 of his opponents on the flat before today Wolfcatcher.
His jockey here Sam Twiston Davies presumably had the choice between him and Zubayr and chose Pilansberg although Zubayr is much shorter than him in the Triumph hurdle betting.
He is said to be a a big, strong colt

2.00 Zubayr is entered for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and the interesting thing about him at this stage is he's currently 16/1 which is the same price you can get about two other Ditcheat inmates Tommy Silver and Frodon who've both won decent races already. Two other Nicholls entries for the Triumph are Clan Des Obeaux and Adrien Du Pont and they are both 20/1 and 33/1 respectively so there is plenty of betting confidence about Zubayr at this pre race stage and Nicholls is thin on the ground in the festival novice events.
Zubayr is a relatively recent acquisition to the stable having been trained in France by A De Royer-Dupre for His Highness the Aga Khan. He was purchased by Tom Malone at the Arqana sales for 380,000.00 euros. Nicholls has said that he is a lovely individual and an exciting prospect and recently commenting re his 4yo's generally said that "this is the best lot of 4yo's Ive ever had and a lot haven't run that we will save until next year as well". Nicholls has previously won the Adonis hurdle three times in the last 10 years with Hebridean, Zarkander and Irish Saint proving good enough and Zarkander went on to win the Triumph as well.
Zubayr has been gelded since arriving in this country so has been given some time to recover
Given that he will meet three of his previous winning opponents today on level weights should they meet in the Triumph hurdle he gets a chance to meet them getting weight here, although Sam Twiston Davies presumably had the choice between him and Pilansberg and chose the latter.

2.35 Mon Successeur was previously trained by Guillame Macaire in France and won his only two starts over fences before joining Paul Nicholls. He is a 4yo half brother to Easter Day and finished 2nd on his return in a novices limited handicap chase, over a Wetherby 2m, despite being in receipt of a 4yo weight allowance, however he was said to have needed the run that day and wasn't used to British fences as well as hanging a bit right.
He was given a spin over hurdles at Cheltenham as the stable thought it would open more options but he looked as though he would appreciate a bit further and finished 10/20 beaten 18 lengths. He then went to Newbury for a conditional jockeys handicap chase over two miles two and a half furlongs on soft and finished 2nd beaten three quarters of a length to Rouge Et Blanc.
He was then 2nd again at Exeter before winning a Class 3 handicap chase at Ascot over 2m 3f on good to soft going where he was patiently ridden before making smooth headway to take up the lead and win going away for a 7 length success from Philip Hobbs Mountain King.
He then went for a Grade 3 at Cheltenham on New Years Day and finished 7th of the 11 runners over 2m 5f on heavy going and that race may have come too soon.
He's had 57 days off and returns here - up in grade again in the Grade 2 Pendil novices chase over 2m 4f 110y.
Since November he has gone up 20lbs in the handicap ratings so is improving quickly and on ratings he is the highest rated in this so he has a decent chance to get back on the winning trail.

3.05 Marracudja had a breathing operation over the summer. After his run at Doncaster last December he was put away. He duly rewarded patience when he made a comfortable winning return at Wincanton on 25th October in a Class 4 national hunt novices hurdle. He then followed up that win at the same course in a Class 3 national hunt novices hurdle over 2m on soft winning by a comfortable 9 lengths.
He then went to Kempton on Boxing Day for a Class 2 novices hurdle over 2m on good to soft where he finished 3rd of 10 twenty lengths behind the winner Altior. He set a decent pace but was headed two out and faded to hold on for third place.
He.jumps well, possesses speed and a flat track probably suits so he gets another chance in a Grade 2 back here at Kempton over 2m although he has to give 3lb to Winter Escape.

3.35 Virak is a lover of soft ground with all 8 of his wins coming with the words soft or heavy in the going description. Nicholls has been saying for a while that he is too high in the handicap but he keeps putting in good runs albeit not winning so he wont't be coming down anytime soon and he remains 15lb higher than his last win. He put in a good run in 2nd behind the improving Wakanda at Newcastle in the Class 1 Rehearsal Chase beaten half a length with 7 lengths back to the third and he was then 2nd again to the same horse at Ascot.
Harry Cobden retains the ride as he gets on well with the horse apparently although I'm not sure he stays 3m as well as the horse.
Last time out Virak went to Haydock for the Peter Marsh Chase and finished 2nd once again this time to Cloudy Too beaten 15 lengths.
Whether it will be soft enough for him to win today I don't know but he probably will put in another good shift and at 16/1 as I write this he's worth an ew punt as there's 16 runners ie 4 places if they all stand their ground and run the race.

3.35 Rocky Creek was 5th in the 2014 Grand National but like so many horses he didn't fancy it next time and he came home a well beaten 17th. He ran well on his return at Down Royal against top opposition who had the benefit of a run. He is a very good horse on his day and could have run in last seasons Gold Cup. He had cheek pieces on for the first time at Aintree on his second start of the season in December when he contested the Grand Sefton handicap chase over 2m 5f round the National course. That day he was hampered by a faller at the 9th fence and couldn't get back into it and was eventually pulled up.
He then went to Newbury for a Grade 2 over 2m 7f 86y on soft and finished a fifty length 4th of 7 to the rejuvenated Houblon Des Obeaux.
He now wears first time blinkers in an effort to rekindle the flame and he also has the tongue tie on which hasn't been seen for a while.
Despite his run of form there is no let up from the handicapper and he has to shoulder 11-11 here which is another big ask.

3.35 Ruben Cotter - I backed this horse on his first run last season when winning but not sure he can do that today although he gets a handy weight pull off both of his stable mates and it will be interesting to see how he gets on in this.
After his win his only other start last season came in the 2m 5f Topham Chase at Aintree in which he finished a good 5th of the 30 runners in what was an eventful race.
I presume this a test to see whether he stays 3m now that he's turned 10yo.

Chepstow Runners
2.05 Red Hanrahan
3.45 Southfield Vic
3.45 Arpege D'Alene

Dan Skelton
Kempton
2.00 Azzuri
3.05 Welsh Shadow
5.20 Sulamani The Late

Chepstow
3.45 Abricot De L'Oasis
5.30 Starlight Court

Bets
Virak 0.50 points ew @ 16/1 with several bookmakers

I wouldn't put anyone off backing any of the other stables runners - but for blog purposes I'm just doing the one.

I won't be making a post for Sunday's racing as I will be savouring the League Cup Final and supporting Liverpool.

What A Good Day!!



Paul Nicholls
Exeter

3.20 Firsty joined the stable over a year ago and has been given plenty of time to mature following his two runs in France for Guilame McCaire. In the second of those runs he was a two and a half length second to Box Office in receipt of 4lbs who went on to finish a 7 length 6th behind Nicholls Qualando in the Fred Winter at last seasons Cheltenham festival off a mark of 135h.
There was a mention of a run in November but that didn't happen.
He's a big scopey sort and chasing will probably be his "A" game but he can probably pick up a hurdle or two on the way as he is an unexposed 5yo in the hands of the top trainer.

Warwick
3.45 Howlongisafoot ran seven times last season winning twice at Taunton and Plumpton off marks of 125 and 130 in small fields. He is aid to be suited by an easy three miles or stiff two and a half as well as decent ground and he should be capable of progressing further.
He finished 5th on his first start back at Cheptow on 11/10 and like quite a lot of his stablemates this season he improved a fair bit from his first run by winning handily at Taunton on 12/11 in a Class 3 handicap chase over 2m 5f 150y on good going off a mark of 134c having switched from cheek pieces back to blinkers.
Post race Newbury was mentioned as his next target and on 27/11 he ran in a Class 2 handicap chase over 2m 3f 187y on soft going and fell at the 10th of 16 fences when in mid division.
After his Taunton win Nicholls had suggested that 3m could be in his compass and so on 27/12 he went to Kempton for another Class 2 handicap chase over that distance on good to soft going but after jumping mistakes at the 9th and 14th fences(18 in total) he was pulled up.
He is another Class 2 here albeit it doesn't look as competitive as the last two ahd he has been dropped 1lb in the handicap to 140c and Harry Cobden takes off 7lb with his claim - although as a jockey I think he needs to strengthen up a bit in order to improve.
Howlongisafoot is not the most straight-forward horse to ride as he has a habit of pulling himself up once he hits the front so expect him to be played late.
He might have a tough race with Venetia Williams Renard who has dropped like a heavy brick in the handicap ratings from 141 in Jan 2015 to just 124 now and he wears cheek pieces for the first time since 2010.

Dan Skelton
Exeter

2.20 Girly Girl won an Irish point to point in February and had her first start for this stable on 1st April at Towcester in a Class 6 Bumper in which she was second to Nicky Henderson's Coole Charmer. She won on her return under Bridget Andrews in a bumper at Worcester over 2m on Good going and then ran in a Class 4 mares novices hurdle at Plumpton over 2m 4f 114y on good to soft which she won with Harry Skelton riding. She jumps well and she can at times be a tough nut to crack as she has been ridden from the front for both her wins this season.
She was stepped up in class to a listed mares event at Taunton over 2m following her second win and that proved a step too far as she faded out of contention with a couple of hurdles still to jump.
She then dropped back in class for a Class 4 novices hurdle at Fakenham but stepped up markedly in distance to 2m 7f 95y. In the race she got herself into contention three hurdles out but was no match for the winner although she was 14 lengths clear of the third horse home.
She's back in a mares event again now and is dropped in distance to 2m 175y with Harry Skelton riding and I would imagine he will try and make all over this shorter distance and make use of her proven jumping ability in this small field.

3.20 Captain Chaos is odds on and is up against Nicholls Firsty featured above who I think has a winning chance.

Warwick
2.40 Levelling didn´t race on Flat for John Gosden (unruly at the start once last winter) but decent pedigree (one half-brother won a bumper) and with another good yard after 6,000gns sale in October.
She started her season at Doncaster on 29/01 in a Class 4 novices hurdle over 2m 140y on good to soft going. In that race she finished 6th of the 18 runners having tracked the leaders she was out paced three hurdles out and plugged for sixth place behind the very impressive winner despite being in receipt of one and a half stone in weight.
She tackles a Class 4 juvenile hurdle today at Warwick over 2m on soft and 5lb claimer Bridget Andrews takes the ride. I'm not sure soft ground will suit as being flat bred she may need better going.

4.15 What A Good Night would have won three on the trot last season but for falling when well clear at Southwell. His dam was an unraced half sister to 2003 Hennessy winner Strong Flow(OR140). He sounds a bit of a character that needs strong handling but he is an improving sort. That said he's been let down by his jumping on occasions not least at Stratford first time out this season when he fell at the last with the race at his mercy.
He then went to Bangor on 11/11 for a Class 2 handicap chase over 3m onn soft and got the better of Algernon Pazham after a ding dong battle up the home straight after which Dan Skelton suggested that the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby would be his next port of call.
Unfortunately, although declared, he didn't run there as it was abandoned but the stable thought he had a very big chance nevertheless. They had been very happy with his progress since his Bangor win and they were very positive about his chances even though he was a couple of pounds out of the handicap.
He reappeared on 16/01 at this course to contest the Grade 3 Betfred Classic Chase over 3m 5f where after being held up he was hampered at the 15th of 22 fences and was pulled up.
In relation to that race Skelton thought that if he stayed the distance then he had a good chance as they hadn't yet got to the bottom of him and soft ground wasn't a problem - but they were unable to test his staying ability for that trip.
The bonus now is that he has been dropped 2lb in the handicap ratings for that run which puts him on 129c and he is down to Class 3 handicap and back to his Bangor winning distance of 3m on soft so he has a great chance of getting back on the winning trail.

Bets
What A Good Night - 1 point win @ 7/1 with several bookmakers

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Nicholls goes into Overdrive !!



A great day for the Paul Nicholls stable yesterday with 3 winners and a second from 4 runners. I said a couple of weeks ago that this could be a big month for Nicholls and that he might better his 2013 haul of 22 winners in February and he is now on 18 wins with 5 days of the month to go - Come On!!

Unfortunately for the blog yesterday we were on the one Nicholls runner that came second - albeit we backed it ew.

The 2016 sprint horses to follow review that I'm currently undertaking is coming along nicely and I have a number of potential improvers logged into my horse tracker system.
I won't be publishing a full list this year unless anyone is willing to pay for it in advance ? I will be approaching the sprint flat season on a race by race basis with a view to achieving as high a strike rate as possible with a decent profit.
Also over the next couple of months I will be starting up a new venture so blog posts may become a bit thin on the ground during that time - but there will always be winners so keep reading as often as you can.  

Paul Nicholls
Ludlow - Soft
2.10 Bugsie Malone has been given plenty of time and is a chaser of the future but for now he goes down the hurdling route. He's won a point to point although it was said that he was green in running.
He started his campaign at Doncaster over 3m 96y on soft in a Class 4 novices hurdle in which he finished a good 3rd of the 8 runners after lacking a bit of tactical speed towards the finish - but that may just have been the way the stables horses were generally performing at the time.
He needs experience and hopefully his run on 12/12 will have brought him forward - although he may prefer better going. Today's race is a Class 4 maiden hurdle over 2m 7f 174y on soft and he has every chance of recording a win under Sam Twiston Davies.

Doncaster - Hurdles Course - Good. Chase Course - Good, good to soft in places

2.00 Lou Vert ran four times on the flat before switching to hurdles in France where he made a good impression when finishing 3rd in a maiden hurdle at Auteuil in March. Behind him that day were both Fixe Le Kap, who won a juvenile hurdle at Warwick for Henderson by 28 lengths on 28/01 and is now 10/1 for the Triumph and Romain De Senam rated 136h.
He was beaten three and three quarter lengths there having made headway on the approach to the last where he was untidy.
He has been acquired by his syndicate of celebrity friends presumably with Cheltenham in mind,
He won when wearing first time cheekpieces in France and he wore a first time tongue on his return and first start for this stable at Taunton at the beginning of the month where he finished a tired 4th of the 11 runners in a Class 4 novices hurdle over 2m 104y on heavy.
He is sure to have come on for that run and this better going will be much more up his street. Nick Schofield will hopefully be able to show off some of his flat speed at the business end in this 4yo juvenile hurdle in which he receives 7lb off the two previous winners and he has a decent chance. He is short in the betting so although he may well win he is not one for blog betting purposes.


Dan Skelton
Doncaster
2.00 Crockery was placed in all three point to points with the form of the races working out well. She started the season in a Class 6 2m bumper at Chepstow in which she received a 7lb mares allowance and Bridget Andrews 5lb claim - however she could only finish a staying on 4th of the 14 runners. 
She then went to Huntingdon a couple of weeks later under David England for a Class 4 NH novices hurdle over 2m 3f 137y on good to soft going where she weakened alarmingly down the back straight and finished tailed off.
She was given a break and returned on 12/02 at Kempton in a Class 4 novices hurdle stepped up in distance once again to 2m 5f and back with Bridget Andrews on board. This time she tracked the leaders until losing her place after three hurdles out and was left behind to finish 8th of the 13 runners.
Harry Skelton rides her for the first time today and she drops back down to 2m 140y on good going in this Class 4 NH novices hurdle so she has every chance of at least staying the trip this time

4.40 Focaccia starts off in a 2m bumper and is best watched for now.

No bets today

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Cheltenham on the Horizon!



Well Paul Nicholls good run is continuing - he's 15-46 with a 33% strike rate so far in February and he sends four runners to Taunton today where the going is heavy, soft in places and he has a couple of chances of recording some more wins.

Dan Skelton is also continuing to knock in the winners (9-34 with a 26% SR) and he sends runners to both Wetherby and Taunton today.

Paul Nicholls
Taunton
3.05 The Brock Again hadn't run for 418 days when he returned at Taunton in the Bathwick Tyres Class 3 handicap hurdle on 13/01 where he finished 6th of the 10 runners over 2m 3f on heavy going. The reason for his long absence had been a combination of wind issues and a leg injury which are now all clear. He should in theory have no problem with the heavy going as both his wins in France on the flat came in similar conditions.
His second run LTO came at his home track Wincanton against just 3 opponents in a novice limited handicap chase over 2m - his first run over fences and he finished 2nd of the two finishers behind Venetia Williams Pressurize.
He's in a similar race today save that it is Class 4 not 3 but for that he has to carry top weight - however those below him are rated 104, 108, 109, 115, 116 so you would hope he would be up to winning this if he has improved for his two runs and his rating of 120c could prove to be lenient.

3.40 Antartica De Thaix wore a hood and a tongue tie for the first time on her return at Wincanton on 03/12 to try and calm her down. She had had just the one run for the stable the previous season in a bumper at Kempton when she came home 6th of 14 having run too freely.
She was said to have shown plenty of jumping ability at home prior to her first run back and under Harry Cobden she was a staying on second of nine over 2m on soft going in a Class 6 maiden bumper - this time settling much better.
She then went back to Wincanton on Boxing Day for a Class 4 mares novices hurdle over 2m on soft where she blundered badly at the third flight and unseated Nick Schofield.
The stables fortunes have improved a lot since then but she's up against a potentially useful sort in Sherwoods Robinesse who was 2nd to Jessber's Dream on 17/12 and she finished second twice thereafter before winning a Grade 2 mares hurdle at Sandown on 19/02.

4.10 Qualando won the Fred Winter Hurdle at the festival in 2015 beating his stable mate Bouvreuil after keeping on strongly under Nick Schofield.
He is said to be a chaser in the making and returned over hurdles at Cheltenham in a decent Class 2 4yo hurdle over 2m 87y on good going in which he finished 6th of the 8 runners. He faded towards the finish like many of his stable at the time and in any event he wasn't very well in at the weights against very smart rivals.
He then went to Aintree on 05/12 for a Class 2 handicap hurdle over 2m 4f on soft going where he finished a disappointing 8th of the 9 runners under Nick Schofield.
He's in another Class 2 handicap hurdle today - is back down in distance to 2m 104y and Harry Cobden claims a useful 7lbs having also been dropped 3lb in the handicap ratings - so he is theoretically 2lb lower than when winning the Fred Winter.
The softer ground shouldn't be a problem and with stable enjoying better fortunes of late it can only be hoped that he is now better placed to run more encouragingly - although he is on the drift in the betting and is a best priced 11/2 as I write this post.

5.20 Captain Buck's is by French sire Buck's Boom who is a full brother to Nicholls Big Buck's. This is his first run for the stable having run just the once in France. He was said to have done well for his summer break and was described as an interesting type that should win races earlier in the season.
He starts here in a Class 5 bumper under his jockey Mr Stan Shepherd and receives a 9lb 4yo weight allowance against some potentially useful sorts in what is an open looking race and although he may run well and even win it's not a race I will be getting involved in betting wise.

Dan Skelton
Taunton
4.10 Cobra De Mai is said to be an interesting prospect for the season and is a chaser for the future. He started his campaign at Warwick in a juvenile maiden hurdle over 2m on soft where he was said to have been too keen and fresh when 5th of 12. That was a slightly disappointing return and a better run was probably expected next time out at Newbury in a Class 4 juvenile hurdle over 2m 69y on soft going - however he came up against a useful recruit from the Nicholls stable in Clan Des Obeaux who won and has since run well in the Grade 2 Triumph Hurdle trial at Cheltenham and has been allocated a hurdle rating of 144h and John Ferguson's Jaleo who has also won since.
Cobra De Mai dropped down in grade on his next and last run to win well in a Class 5 juvenile maiden hurdle over 2m on heavy at Wetherby under Harry Skelton for which he was odds on.
After the race his trainer was looking to go to the likes of Ascot, Newbury and Sandown next so Taunton today doesn't quite fit into that bill but it's a Class 2 handicap hurdle and he receives plenty of weight from those in front of him in the betting under his jockey Bridget Andrews and in fact gets in on a handy mark with the others so could easily win this. 

Both of the Skelton runners are odds on at Wetherby and for that reason I will give those a miss in this write up.

Bets
Qualando 0.50 points ew @ 11/2 (paying a quarter the odds a place on the first two home)

Cobra De Mai to beat Qualando in a forecast.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Foxes Never Quit !



Racing at Leicester today after the track passed a precautionary inspection at 7.30am this morning and the going is heavy for the six race card.

I've had a few days off writing any posts as I continue my review of the 2015 flat season to seek out some improving talent in the sprint ranks that we can look forward to this summer.

Before that though we have the Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown NH festivals and the Grand National is shaping up to be a better race than the Gold Cup!

Paul Nicholls sends one runner to all three tracks staging NH action today at Kelso, Fontwell and Leicester - whilst the Dan Skelton team take a day off from going to the races.

There is also a good card at Meydan today and there is a top class 5f sprint handicap at 5.20 featuring a host of names that we are all very familiar with. There is also racing on the flat in the UK at Chelmsford and Roger Varian sends just One Pekan in order to continue his good run over the winter. He has had strike rates of 29%, 29%, 27% and 44% (ie 4-9 in February so far) since the beginning of November.

Paul Nicholls
Leicester - Heavy
3.55 Stilletto was one of a number of horses sent to the stable over the summer by Roger Brookhouse having been with Philip Hobbs. He returned at Haydock when in need of the outing and finished 3rd behind Rock The Kasbah. He is a big horse not short of ability and he was reported to have needed plenty of work prior to his return. He was then switched to the larger obstacles at Catterick in a Class 4 Beginners chase over 2m 3f on good to soft going and he won the same by one and a quarter lengths from Amore Alato who next time out at Ascot had a Grade 2 novice chase at his mercy when falling at the last fence - the fortunate winner of that was Nicholls Le Mercurey.
Stilletto then went to Newbury on 29/12 for a Class 3 novices limited handicap chase over 2m 92y on soft going where he finished 2nd, beaten 4 lengths, to Violet Dancer in receipt of 8lbs(he has since easily beaten Henderson's L'Ami Serge at Warwick) so the form has stacked up.
Stilletto was very keen at Newbury and he as good as sealed his own fate in being so as he had been travelling all over the well regarded winner up the home straight.
He then ran closer to home at Wincanton in a Class 3 handicap chase over 2m 4f on heavy going. He travelled well throughout and had moved up menacingly to take a narrow lead when falling three fences out when full of running when looking as though he could coast home.
He was a lot calmer at Wincanton so hopefully his trip to Leicester wont have lit him up too much and with the hood on again and 7 other runners you would hope that he should be able to switch off in the early stages of the race. He's still on the same mark of 132c which could turn out to be very fair.
This is his trial for the JLT Chase at the festival and if winning today he will go to Cheltenham with every chance of success there too.

Kelso
3.05 Unioniste ran in the Grand National last spring and fell at the fifth and he heads there again this season and is set to run off an 8lb lower mark. Prior to last season's National he won a Class 2 handicap Chase at Sandown over 3m on soft off a rating of 148c. He then gave 5lb to Coneygree when beaten at Newbury in the Betfair Denman Chase.
He started this season on 158c and has been dropped to 149c following his runs at Aintree in the Becher Chase, Ascot and most recently Sandown in the Class 2 Betfred Masters handicap chase over 3m on good to soft going where he stayed up the hill for an encouraging run.
As you would expect he needs a strong stamina test and today's 3m 2f 39y on heavy at this track should fit the bill. He had been having a mixture of cheek pieces and tongue strap prior to his run at Sandown where he ran without either and that idea is maintained today.
It's not a handicap and he is reasonably in at the weights with his two main rivals Corrin Wood and Soll so if he can progress further from Sandown he has a fav's chance.

Fontwell - Heavy
2.20 Alcala was a bumper winner in France and he was fourth of eight on his debut in this country in the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle in 2014 behind Activial(OR153), Commisioned(OR154) and stablemate Solar Impulse, He ran just the once last season in a Novice Hurdle and finished 6th of seventeen having choked. He was given a breathing operation thereafter but didn't reappear. He was said to have strengthened up having been given plenty of time when he returned to win in eyecatching style at Worcester in a maiden hurdle over 2m 4f when wearing a first time hood.
He then went to Cheltenham for a Grade 2 novices hurdle over 2m 5f on good going where he finished a running on 4th of the 4 runners a long way behind the impressive winner Shantou Village.
He then went for the Grade 3 fixed brush handicap hurdle at Haydock over 2m 7f on soft for which he had a handicap mark of 126h and he finished an encouraging 4th of 16 runners the race probably having come too soon aftre Cheltenham 8 days earlier.
Next up was his home track Wincanton on boxing day, this was in a PertempsNetwork handicap hurdle qualifier over 2m 5f 82y on soft in which he finished a disappointing 6th of the 10 runners.
He is dropped significantly in distance today in what may be a similar move to that of Rock On Oscar who successfully made all when downed is distance recently for the stable.
This is a NH novices hurdle qualifier in which he wears a first time tongue tie - he last won when wearing a first time hood so may respond again to new equipment.
He's up against a small field and the one I like the look of is Oliver Sherwood's is The Fresh Prince who may offer some value although he is drifting out in the betting.

No bets today on the Nicholls runners as all three are far too short in the betting.


Friday, 12 February 2016

Betfair Hurdle day at Newbury



Paul Nicholls
Newbury
1.20 Emerging Talent joined the stable after winning a Naas Bumper in March 2014. Ran 4 times in competitive Grade 2 and Listed Novice Hurdles - finishing second on three occasions and fell on the other. He had a wind operation over the summer. He's a horse that has plenty of pace and travels well and he returned at Chepstow in October in the Grade 2 Persian War novices hurdle over 2m 3f 100y on good going where he finished 4th of the 6 runners having gone off at odds on. He pulled hard in the first time hood and made a few mistakes there so the result was disappointing.
After having an operation on his palate he dropped right down in class to a Class 5 maiden hurdle at Exeter on New Years Day over 2m 1f on heavy and wearing a first time tongue strap he duly won having been in command from 3 out.
He now steps back up to Class 3 level over 2m 69y and he should have no problem in winning this now that the stable are in better form and Nick Schofield takes the ride.

1.50 Keltus was thought to be on a good mark when going to the festival last season, having been 4th in the Fred Winter in 2014, but he didn't seem to stay the two mile four and a half furlong trip of the Listed handicap chase and he eventually fell. He returned over hurdles in a Pertemps qualifier at Sandown in December and finished 6th of the 10 runners where having made an effort to go second two out was then unable to quicken and faded. 
He then went to Kempton on Boxing Day for a Class 3 handicap hurdle over 2m 5f where he finished 3rd of the 14 runners where he didn't quite have enough pace to trouble the winner.
He's only won the once from 16 starts back in 2013 so he's not a regular to the winners enclosure like some of the stable and he steps up to 3m here for the first time in a Class 2 handicap hurdle having been raised 4lb to 134 for his 3rd place last time out.

2.25 Rocky Creek was 5th in the 2014 Grand National but like so many horses he didn't fancy it next time and he came home a well beaten 17th. He ran well on his return at Down Royal against top opposition who had the benefit of a run. He is a very good horse on his day and could have run in last seasons Gold Cup. He had cheek pieces on for the first time at Aintree on his second start of the season in December when he contested the Grand Sefton handicap chase over 2m 5f round the National course. That day he was hampered by a faller at the 9th fence and couldn't get back into it and was eventually pulled up.
He now contests a Grade 2 over 2m 7f 86y on this flat track which should suit and he is well in with all of the field on handicap ratings bar one and that is David Pipe's Ballynagour whom he meets on 7lb worse terms.

3.00 Dodging Bullets is a top class chaser that won three Grade 1 chases last season culminating in him winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.
He has had some issues since then and he returns here in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase which his stablemate Mr Mole won last season. This has been the plan for a while and he really should have no problem in recording a win if he is anything like his best and it sounds from the stable as though he is virtually up to peek.

3.35 Modus finished 2nd in the Champion bumper at the Cheltenham festival behind Moon Racer. He then finished 3rd behind Bellshill and Disko at Punchestown. He changed hands for 190,000GBP and returned to the fray at Taunton to win a Class 3 novices hurdle over 2m 3f on good going readily. He then went to Newbury and won another Class 3 novices hurdle at the shorter distance of 2m 69y before going back up in distance to 2m 3f 1y at Taunton in a Class 4 event where he had to carry a 10lb penalty and he could only finish 4rd of the 13 runners beaten five and a half lengths behind Miles To Milan. He was in a close third when he was ridden between the last two flights but he could only keep on at the same pace from the last on the heavy going with the 10lb penalty.
I have no doubt that he is better than that and he should appreciate the slightly better going and faster pace that he will encounter here in this ultra competitive handicap. He has a reasonable handicap mark of 139h, Nick Schofield has the ride and he should be bang there at the finish.

Warwick
1.30 Vivaldi Collonges is said to stay forever but he came back with a bang over 2m 7f 96y at Kelso when easily winning a Class 2 handicap chase off a mark of 134c on his return. Prior to that he hadn't been seen since picking up a slight injury and pulling up in the National Hunt Chase over 4m at the festival and with only 11 races under rules to date there is room for further improvement from this 7yo.
He went up 8lb in the handicap for that win at Kelso to 142c and he then contested the Grade 3 Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick over 3m 5f on heavy going where he finished 5th of the 14 runners in what were gruelling conditions to say the least. You couldn't really say he didn't stay the distance as plenty of good stayers were pulled up behind him.
He's back at Warwick again now in a Class 3 novice chase over the shorter distance of 3m 1f 100y and once again the going is heavy but he only has to face two other opponents it would seem so he has a chance of getting another win on the board for the stable. 

Dan Skelton runs two tomorrow but I'm not keen on either of them - that said both may run well and it's one for you if you wish to back them.

Bets
1 point ew Modus @ 9/1 with Betfred and Totesport who both pay out on 5 places whereas some other bookies don't.

There will be no post for Sundays racing as I will be away - however there are some entries from the stables we are following that you should look out for.

That Friday Feeling !!



A great day for the blog yesterday with two winners from two selections.

It's been a while coming but the Nicholls stable is finally starting to hit it's usual heights of previous years. The stable have now equalled January's total of 7 winners from exactly half the runners (22) and we still have 18 days to go.
In February 2013 Nicholls had 22 winners from 79 runners and if he keeps up this strike rate he may even be able to surpass that.

The blog too has had a few winners over the last week following on from our 12/1 winner in the Skybet Chase :
Sonny The One - 1st - 11/4
Just Acting - PU
Stilletto - Fell "travelling strongly in narrow lead when fell three out" - 6/1
Baoulet Delaroque - 1st - 13/8(advised at 2/1)
Lifeboat Mona - 1st - 6/4(advised at 2/1)
Mister Kalanisi - 4th
Black Thunder - 6th
Rock On Oscar - 1st - 3/1
Baoulet Delaroque - 1st - 15/8

There are no runners for the Nicholls stable today - however he has 24 entered up on Saturday and Sunday and it will be interesting to see in which races some of them are placed.

Interestingly Barry Geraghty opted for the J P McManus owned Blazer in the Betfair hurdle at Newbury on Saturday as opposed to Nicholls Modus and the McManus second string is surprisingly to be ridden by Nick Schofield and not Sam Twiston Davies who partners Willie Mullins Buiseness Sivola.

Dan Skelton runs three today - one at Kempton and two at Wetherby where Harry Skelton travels to and I will just concentrate on those tow today as I'm off to get a haircut shortly.

Wetherby - Heavy, soft in places on home bend and straight
1.20 Cobra De Mai is said to be an interesting prospect for the season and is a chaser for the future. He started his campaign for team Skelton at Warwick in a juvenile maiden hurdle over 2m on soft where he was said to have been too keen and fresh when 5th of 12. That was a slightly disappointing return and a better run was probably expected next time out at Newbury in a Class 4 juvenile hurdle over 2m 69y on soft going - however he came up against a useful recruit from the Nicholls stable in Clan Des Obeaux who won and has since run well in the Grade 2 Triumph Hurdle trial at Cheltenham and has been allocated a hurdle rating of 144h and John Ferguson's Jaleo who has also won since.
Cobra De Mai drops down in grade here to Class 5 in this 5 runner field and he should be difficult to beat.

3.35 Walking In The Air joined the stable after winning a point to point in Ireland. He then won a bumper at Warwick in a good fashion. He is a scopey horse that could be anything. He prefers soft going and the stable seemed quite excited by his prospects prior to his return at Exeter in November in a Class 3 NH novice hurdle over 2m 5f 135y on good to soft going. In that race, after being hampered early on he was ridden approaching three out but was soon beaten and finished last of the 5 finishers which must have been disappointing. He drops down 2f in distance today following his 101 day break and he also drops down to Class 4. Hopefully the stable will have ironed out the problem that he may have had and he should be capable of putting up a bold show.

Both horses should run well today - however they are just too short in the betting to get involved for blog purposes and I look forward to the weekend runners.

Good Luck !




Thursday, 11 February 2016

Lets Go Racing !



A quiet couple of days for the blog as I've been continuing my review of last seasons sprint races.

Today both Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton have a few runners each out as they take advantage of some better going at Doncaster and Huntingdon.

Paul Nicholls seems to be getting his stable back to the old routine and the horses are generally running well with his record since last Thursday reading 1241F1225366122 which is his best spell for a while.

Paul Nicholls
Doncaster -
1.45 Rock On Oscar was a point to point winner and ran just once for the stable last season when he ran too free to do himself justice. He is a big scopey individual that could be a work in progress as they teach him to settle and Nicholls sees him as a chaser in the making.
He started the season over 2m 5f at Kempton on 02/11 where he took a keen hold and having come there to win the race he was headed in the final strides by Duelling Banjos. Nicholls was surprised how well he ran as he thought he needed the race to put him right. If he can learn to relax he could be a fair type as he was also the stables only entry at the 5 day stage in the Grade 2 Class 1 novices hurdle at Cheltenham before Christmas.
His next run though was at Taunton where he wore a hood for the first time to try and calm him down and he also stepped up in distance by 3f to 3 miles in a Class 4 novices hurdle run on good to soft going.
He tanked along throughout that and looked to be coming to win his race but he was found wanting when asked to go and do so.
Hopefully a bit more will have been learnt about him now and he drops down to the shortest distance he has contested yet 2m 3f 120y and the stable will be hoping that he settles better for Nick Schofield at the likelier stronger pace. With the stables horses now finishing their races much better he stands a good chance of converting his undoubted ability into a win.

4.05 Nexius joined the stable from Keith Dalgleish for whom he was a progressive hurdler, went up 22lb, for winning twice at Musselburgh and Haydock. He is a novice over fences and started his season at Bangor in a Class 4 novices chase over 2m 4f 72y on good going. He was up against Hendersons Theinval to whom he was 22 lengths behind when conceding 3lbs at Aintree when Theinval won a Grade 3 hurdle in April - so he had it all to do against that rival but in the end it was the improving Coologue who prevailed and Nexius finished 20 lengths behind Theinval in 4th having weakened approaching the third fence from home.
He faces similar conditions today with Pine Creek and Blue Fashion the ones to beat and Nick Schofield takes over the reins. It's 107 days since his last run as the stable have presumably been waiting on the better ground so if he has come on for the run which seems likely he will be more involved this time.

Huntingdon
1.55 San Benedeto and Baoulet Delaroque both contest this race and Sam Twiston Davies has chosen the latter who won well at Wincanton last Thursday and therefore has a 7lb penalty to carry which makes him 8lb well in today with the handicap ratings which haven't yet come into effect for this race.
He was purchased by Anthony Bromley who was of the opinion that he might be a dark horse to keep on the right side of. He 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 the well regarded Divine Spear although that rival may have to a certain extent sealed his own downfall there but he then went on to frank the form.
For that he was given a lenient handicap mark of 124h and Nicholls stuck him in a Class 3 handicap hurdle mentioned above which he won easily and this race was mentioned post race as his likely next target. This is a better race than the Wincanton one but he may improve for the better going and as he seems to be progressive sort in any event he should run well once again and Twiston Davies sticks with him - however the stables San Benedeto should be thereabouts too.

Dan Skelton runs five today but I will concentrate on those ridden by his brother Harry at Huntingdon.

Dan Skelton
Huntingdon
1.55 Value At Risk was a high class hurdler and won on his first start for the stable at Newbury beating the progressive Foryourinformation by 22 lengths. He then ran on bad ground on Cheltenham trials day in January when he was only just denied before running a respectable 5th in the Albert Bartlett over 3m having led turning for home. Plan "A" though has always been chasing as he is big and strong individual however that plan has been put on hold as he has fallen on his only two starts over the larger obstacles.
He was switched back to hurdles last time out at Ascot in a very competitive Grade 3 handicap over 2m 3f 58y on soft which was won by Rock The Kasbah. Value At Risk took a keen hold there and he eventually weakened approaching two out which was understandable as it was effectively his first race having fallen at fence two on both his chase starts.
This is an easier race and he has dropped 3lbs to 139h in the handicap ratings - however he is still the horse carrying the most weight if you take off Harry Cobden's 7lb claim from San Benedeto. He has been well backed this am but he is giving weight to unexposed types so that puts me off.

2.30 Squire Trelawney has been with the stable a while but his first win came at Wincanton in a 6 runner Class 4 novices limited handicap chase over 2m 4f on good in October when beating Sonny The One. He had been off 557 days prior to that win so there may have been an element of the "bounce" factor at Ascot next time out in a Class 3 handicap over 2m 5f 8y where he finished 5th of 6 having made a number of errors and being tailed off.
He is usually a sound jumper so it will be hoped he can do better in that department today in this Class 4 novices limited handicap chase. He will have no problem staying the trip and the easier grade should help him be more competitive if the jumping errors have been ironed out during his break since November.

3.05 North Hill Harvey was purchased for £100,000 at Cheltenhams April Sales after winning an English point to point with ease. He is another chaser of the future but he should make his mark over hurdles too. He started the season finishing 2nd to Barters Hill at Huntingdon where after making a mistake two out he was allowed to come home in his own time with there being 21 lengths back to the third horse home.
He jumps well and the stable have been impressed with him and he duly showed improvement next time when winning at Cheltenham in a Claas 3 NH novices hurdle over 2m 1f on soft going.
He always travelled well there and after making headway from two out he took up the lead after the last flight to quicken away for a four and a half length victory.
The stable were very impressed with that run and this race was the immediate plan thereafter. He has to shoulder a 4lb penalty but if he's good enough that will not make any difference to the result - however he faces some potentially decent sorts once again and Henderson's Minella Awards is the betting's answer to the best of those and it's a race to watch for me.

Bets
1 point win Rock On Oscar @ 3/1 generally
1 point win Baoulet Delaroque @ 9/4 generally - drifting out

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Looks like Thunder ?



Just a short post today - I'm not covering all of the stables runners and just going with the one who I think has got the best chance on the day and that is Black Thunder in the 3.30 at Sandown where it is good to soft, good in places on the chase course.

Black Thunder was a consistent performer in top company last season and he's won 7 races in his career to date. He picked up a hairline fracture of his hind cannonbone at the festival last March and he returned at Cheltenham on 14/11 in the Grade 3 Murphy Group handicap chase over 3m 3f 71y where he finished 12th of 17 behind Sausalito Sunrise having made a bad mistake at the second last when going well. 
He's now in his third season over the larger obstacles and staying trips look to be his forte as is soft going and he will be a familiar name in the Nationals this season. 
Nicholls thought he wasn't well handicapped on 153c but he's down to 149c following his run in the Welsh National where I don't think he  made a mistake, but nevertheless lost his jockey at the thirteenth fence of twenty two, when he hadn't been put under any pressure.
His last two wins came over 3 miles, one of which was here, and Sam Twiston Davies takes over in the saddle again from 7lb claimer Harry Cobden so he has a decent chance of getting a win on the board in a race where there is not much strength in depth.
Take care though as some bookmakers are offering one quarter the odds on the first three home whereas others offer just one fifth. 

Bets
Black Thunder - 1 point win @ 6/1 with Ladbrokes and Coral who offer one quarter the odds.

Good Luck !


Friday, 5 February 2016

Go Team Ditcheat !!



Paul Nicholls had two winners yesterday and so did the blog to continue the fine week that we are having. 
Stilletto too was running a good race for Nicholls when falling in the main event of the day at Wincanton. His comments in running in the RP were "Held up, smooth headway to join winner 11th, travelling strongly in narrow lead when fell 3 out".
I'm not sure if it was the greatest move ever to take up the lead at that point as he hadn't been straight forward on the approach to some of the previous jumps and putting him in front probably made him think too much. He tried to put in an extra stride, clouted it and fell and it's hoped this won't trouble him next time out.

Anyway on to today where there are NH meetings at Chepstow and Catterick and Dan Skelton sends two to Chepstow. Paul Nicholls has a day off and I expect he wishes he had a couple out today to continue the good run but he has 16 entries from which to make his declarations for tomorrow.

Dan Skelton
Chepstow - Heavy, soft in places.
1.40 Robin Of Locksley was a winning Irish pointer and second in a bumper before he was purchased by the stable at the Cheltenham March sale. He is out of a half sister to the fairly useful 2m chaser Belstone Fox. A horse with ability, he ran with a lot of promise on his return at Cheltenham in a Class 2 novice hurdle over 2m 5f on good going. He then went for a Class 3 Introductory hurdle again over 2m 5f this time at Ludlow on 12/11 and finished 2nd of 11 to Ben Pauling's Always Lion on good to soft going. Unable to quicken there it was probably thought the heavy going and drop in class at Southwell may help this big, strong scopey sort to grind out a result and so it proved as he took it up between the last two and forged clear on the run in to win by 5 lengths from Harry Fry's Mountain Eagle. He's down in distance today to the bare minimum of two miles which is probably a negative and Bridget Andrews takes off 5lb. I'm not sure he can get the better of a few of these and for that reason I will pass on having a bet and in any event 6/4 is far too short. 
Aurillac probably has the better form of the others but Rebecca Curtis is only 1 win from 22 runners so far in 2016. Hendersons Pougni Bobbi is on the drift in the betting and that leaves Evan Williams Nansaroy as the best alternative and he could be value at 4/1 having won at this track already over 2m and then unseating when in second behind Skelton's Itsafreebee at Haydock. 
Nansaroy was conceding 10lb to the winner that day and Itsafreebee has since gone on to win a Grade 2 at Haydock beating 140h rated Le Prezien.

2.45 Mister Kalanisi returned from a very long break at Bangor on 11/11 when 3rd of 7 in a bumper where he faded towards the finish. He is said to have plenty of ability from what he's shown at home and he started off over hurdles at Doncaster in a Class 5 maiden hurdle in which he gradually weakened to finish a respectable 16 length 5th of the 17 runners over 2m 140y on good to soft going.
He significantly steps up in distance here to 2m 7f 131 y on the slowest going he has encountered to date on his 4 runs and there is every chance he could run his best race yet. He was 2nd beaten a length to Desoto County in a 3m point on soft going in Ireland before that horse ran up a sequence of good runs for Donald McCain and is now one of the market leaders for the Betfair hurdle on Saturday having joined Gordon Elliott.

Bets
1 point win Mister Kalanisi @ 5/1 with several firms.


Thursday, 4 February 2016

Some welcome winners ?



You may or may not be pleased to know that I've started compiling a list of horses to follow for the for the fast approaching flat seasons sprint races. I've been trawling through the form from last season in order to unearth some potential improver's as well as some old favourites.

Today Wincanton stages a 7 race card and the going is once again heavy - whilst up at Towcester the going is soft.

The best race of the day is at Clonmel - a Grade 3 hurdle over 2m 6f and one who might go off at the backable odds of 5/1 is Dermot Weld's lightly raced Don't Tell No One who is 2-2.
He's a horse with a lot of ability that stays well according to his trainer and he steps up another 2f today following his latest comfortable win over 2m 4f.
He was bred by tv pundit Brian Gleeson and his half brother Go All The Way finished 4th to Cheltenian in the 2011 Cheltenham Festival Bumper.
An injury kept him off the track for a while between his wins so although 8 he probably has a fair amount of improvement still to come and he may relish a stronger run race with Last Encounter likely to lead the way at a good clip.
It's a race Willie Mullins has won 5 times in the last 10 years so both his runners demand respect, although Brian Cooper will have had the choice of the three Gigginstown runners.

I'm getting a bit demoralised with the form of the Nicholls stable and no doubt he is too. I can't believe it's all down to the heavy going and the fact that he has a bunch of moderate novices this season and no doubt something will come out once he gets a fair run of winners on the board. That said he's had just the 1 winner in the last 14 days and it's been a miserable start to the year and to coin a name he's been "Dodging Bullets" !
The battle continues though and he sends 5 out at his local track and I'm hopeful that a few can get him back on the winning trail today.

Paul Nicholls
Wincanton
1.30 Lifeboat Mona was a winning Irish pointer - she contested 4 bumpers last season winning the first two at Warwick and Huntingdon with the latter being a listed event. She was then third at Sandown in another listed bumper before being over the top when running at Aintree. She has had problems with her wind and was therefore operated on over the summer. She is a nice exciting prospect that will appreciate jumping and the mares hurdles are an attractive proposition for her.
She was heavy odds on when she returned in a Class 4 mares maiden hurdle at her local track recently and duly obliged as expected. 
She then took her chance in a Listed mares hurdle at Taunton over 2m 104y on heavy and she was pulled up having weakened quickly after 3 out. She was reported after the race to have had a breathing problem - although she had an op for a wind issue during the summer and always wears a tongue strap in any event so the stable will be hoping that ailment doesn't manifest itself again today.
That said given the stables aspirations with her previous entries you would hope she would be up to winning this Class 4 event.

2.00 The Brock Again hadn't run for 418 days when he returned at Taunton in the Bathwick Tyres Class 3 handicap hurdle on 13/01 where he finished 6th of the 10 runners over 2m 3f on heavy going. The reason for his long absence had been a combination of wind issues and a leg injury which are now all clear. He should have no problem with the heavy going as both his wins in France on the flat came in similar conditions and the stable will be hoping that he improves for his first run back and is more competitive this time in this his first foray into a novice limited handicap chase over 2m.

2.30 Crin Au Vent has come from France and is said to be a big scopey chasing sort. He won at Auteuil on his most recent start on 26/09 beating the now Nicky Henderson trained Consul De Thaix who finished a good third in the Triumph hurdle trial at Cheltenham on Saturday and for that bit of form he's odds on. However he wears a hood for the first time so might be a bit quirky - but you would hope this would be a penalty kick.

3.05 Baoulet Delaroque was purchased by Anthony Bromley and he thinks this might be a dark horse to keep on the right side of. He 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 the well regarded Divine Spear although he may have to a certain extent sealed his own downfall there but franked the form yesterday. 
Baoulet Delaroque could do no more than win and that is what he did. He's been given a mark of 124h, which seems fair to me, and Nicholls tries him out in a Class 3 handicap hurdle and the 9/4 available is backable as he's one of the few that hasn't blew a gasket up the home straight for Nicholls..

3.40 Stilletto is one of a number of horses sent to the stable over the summer by Roger Brookhouse this one having been with Philip Hobbs. He returned at Haydock when in need of the outing and finished 3rd behind Rock The Kasbah. He is a big horse not short of ability and he is reported to have needed plenty of work prior to his return. He was then switched to the larger obstacles at Catterick in a Class 4 Beginners chase over 2m 3f on good to soft going and he won the same by one and a quarter lengths from Amore Alato who next time out at Ascot had a Grade 2 novice chase at his mercy when falling at the last fence - the fortunate winner of that was Nicholls Le Mercurey. 
Stilletto then went to Newbury on 29/12 for a Class 3 novices limited handicap chase over 2m 92y on soft going where he finished 2nd, beaten 4 lengths, to Violet Dancer from whom he received 8lbs.
He was very keen there and he as good as sealed his own fate in being so as he had been travelling all over the well regarded winner up the home straight. 
Even if he calms down here he has a job on his hooves as this is a fair old field to overcome, but 6/1 is a good price on this step back up in distance and he should go close if Twiston Davies can switch him off in this bigger field of runners.

Bets
1 point win Stilletto @ 6/1 with several firms
1 point win Baoulet Delaroque @ 2/1 with several firms
1 point win Lifeboat Mona @ 2/1 with several firms
Given the form of the Nicholls stable you may well get bigger odds as they day goes on so it's a difficult decision to make as to when to step in.