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!!

Day One late Thoughts

Well its the morning of the first day and I've taken time to peruse the Racing Post and watch the Morning Line and come up with a big outsider in the Supreme to hopefully get us off to a flyer!!.

The Supreme Novices has more of an open look to it than we think and there are a few in there that could upset the fav Min. I always like a horse that's shown a bit of speed as that's what you generally need after jumping the last jump at Cheltenham and one horse who definitely has that is John Ferguson's Penglai Pavillion. 
If you look back through his career you will see that he was a very classy flat horse when with Andre Fabre finishing 5th behind Treve in the 2013 Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe at Longchamp on soft going. He was at the head of affairs throughout that race and got trapped in a pocket on the rail as they turned into the straight but finished well once in the clear out speeding Group 1 winners Al Kazeem and Ruler Of The World who finished 6th and 7th.
He proved in his first three runs over hurdles that he still has the class and showed speed, jumping ability and stamina and clocked 3m 43.40s when winning over two miles half a furlong at Stratford which makes me think the others will have to do something special to keep him out of the frame.
He has course form in the book handling the track well when winning in October after which he was cut in many ante post lists for likely Cheltenham targets.
The doubts came after his run back at Cheltenham at the Open meeting but Ferguson says he didn't have him right that day and he comes here now a fresh horse. Some people may say that is a negative but previous records are there to be broken and he is not your ordinary horse.
Why he is available at 40/1 I have no idea and in my view he should be half that at least. The more the going dries out the better his chance will be and if he's within a length or two of the front turning for home he should go very close.
The bookies are offering a quarter the odds on the first three home or one fifth on the first four with Paddy Power and William Hill. 

Penglai Pavillion 1 point ew @ 40/1 with Bet365, Totesport and Betfred 

Monday, 14 March 2016

Cheltenham Day One

Well it's here the first day of the Cheltenham Festival - On your marks!! - The big roar of the crowd will ring out at 1.30pm tomorrow and battle will commence with the bookies!!.

I will be covering the races as I have done all season by concentrating mainly on the two stables that we have been following ie Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton. However I will also be looking at each race individually in order to provide my unique insight into finding some other winners along the way and commenting on anything else that catches my interest over the festival week.

It promises to be a fantastic weeks racing and please feel free to comment below on anything festival related.

Don't forget I have no connection to either stable so there will be no inside information whatsoever - it's purely down to looking at what has been said in the past about the stables runners by connections and form.

So without further ado lets get down to business.

Cheltenham - Good to soft, soft in places. 
There is a real chance that there will be some patches of good ground on the course tomorrow - so getting faster all the time.

1.30 Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle

Not sure that either of the Skelton runners is good enough to win this and the best they can hope for in my view is a place. Mister Miyagi is ideally suited by a strong run race which he will definitely get here. He is genuine, a very good jumper and the stable think plenty of him. He won a Class 3 maiden hurdle at Cheltenham on his first start back on 23/10 in a pleasing fashion and then won his next start on 28/11 at Taunton equally well. The going and distance should be perfect today and I don't think anything can be read into the jockey bookings as Ian Popham rode him last time out.
North Hill Harvey started the season finishing 2nd to Barters Hill at Huntingdon where after making a mistake two out 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 showed improved form next time out 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. He then ran another good race when second at Huntingdon to Ma Du Fou.

Willie Mullins Min bids to follow in the footsteps of stablemates Champagne Fever, Vautour and Douvan and make it Mullins sixth win in the race. He has warned that Min is not as good as the latter two in what could be a fair renewal, Min hasn't run in the last 45 days which so many winners down the years have done but that stat didn't stop Douvan last season and it's looks a likely scenario again. Nicky Henderson has saddled plenty of horses who’ve gone very close in this race in recent years(last win 23 years ago), and his Altior and Buveur d’Air should be bang there at the finish.

2.10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase

No stables entries in this and Douvan looks to be on a level above any of his six rivals. Sizing John looks the pick of the Irish runners behind Douvan and it is a weakish looking renewal of this and it should be a penalty kick for Douvan.

2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase
Southfield Theatre finished 2nd in last seasons RSA after making a mistake at the top of the hill and in doing so suffered a nasty injury. He'd been beaten just a nose in the previous years Pertemps so clearly acts at the track. He prefers better ground so the more it dries out the better for him. He needed the run on his return against Coneygree and was then disappointing at Aintree when 4th of 4 behind Don Poli when fitted with a tongue strap. Nicholls has never won the race and no doubt he would like it on his cv but whether this is the horse to do it I don't know but he should outrun his odds of 20/1 as with a better start to the season he would have been higher than 150c.
The leading players look to be Out Sam, Doctor Harper, Kruzhlinin and Holywell. Whilst Indian Castle 4th in the race last season off a 5lb higher mark,when hampered when staying, on wears cheek pieces and 33/1 is good value. The best of the Irish looks to be Morning Assembly who although 9 probably is capable of further improvement given his previous form, but there are 24 runners and this race will be as competitive as ever.

3.30 Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

Recent defections due to injury of last year’s first two Faugheen and Arctic Fire are big losses to the
season’s top 2m hurdle and with last seasons third and fourth also not in attendance we can break new ground. Willie Mullins still has Annie Power, Sempre Medici and Nichols Canyon at his disposal but it’s an open contest and any one of the 12 could win on their day and it may be worth backing a couple at ew prices. My Tent Or Yours and The New One have been placed previously  so they should be respected, although they ain't getting any younger. Peace And Co is overpriced at 20/1 on last seasons form and Camping Ground and Lil Rockerfeller could also outrun their odds long odds and it's an intriguing race.

4.10 OLBG Mares Hurdle
Tara Point has her 5th run for the stable and her first of the season having not run for 441 days. She is a nice horse that will appreciate better going so the more it dries out the better
Harry Skelton takes the ride on Stephanie Frances so you would imagine she is the stables first string in this. She finished 2nd to The New One on her return and has since fallen on both her chase starts. Back in a hurdle, she has winning form at the track but she is probably up against it with several others having shown better form.
Willie Mullins will no doubt be keen to keep his winning run in this going and Vroum Vroum Mag and Gitane Du Berlais are his two against the field. Polly Peachum and Bitofapuzzle both placed in this last season should go well again with the latter reverting back to hurdles and she's the best value for me at 14/1. The Govaness, a non runner last season, will have plenty of supporters too.

4.50 146th Year of the National Hunt Chase Challenge Trophy
Paul Nicholls runs Vicente here and has booked the services of the talented Will Biddick which is a definite plus. Vicente is suited by going left handed and good ground so he should like the conditions. He is a winner of 3 chase races this season and he's a horse that goes well fresh so his 95 day break is in his favour. He stays well and his last 3 runs have been at the track. He is the highest rated in the field on 153c ie 4lb higher than the next best and that usually is a strong pointer in this as they go off at level weights. Provided his jumping holds up he should go very close and 16/1 is an excellent price.
Minella Rocco(Derek O'Connor) is an obvious contender representing connections with a particularly good record in this race but 6yo's have a very poor record in this. Ballychorus(Mr S. Clements) has decent form claims and comes from a yard whose two previous Cheltenham Festival runners finished first and third. The ability of the Jockeys plays a big part in this race and Mr J J Codd Noble Endeavour, Ms Nina Carberry Southfield Royale and Mr Sam Waley-Cohen Definitely Red should all be bang there come the finish.

5.30 Close Brothers Novices Handicap Chase
The last race of the day and Nicholls saddles two in this handicap which he won with a 5yo Chapoturgeon in 2009.
Bouvreuil, another 5yo, was 2nd to Qualando in the Fred Winter last season and he was expected to improve for the run when returning at Cheltenham in mid November. He was then given a very tough assignment at Sandown in the Grade 1 Racing Post Henry VIII novices chase in which he was poor 5th and last of the finishers behind the useful Ar Mad. He then beat Vyta Du Roc at Doncaster in receipt of 11lbs on his favoured soft going before finishing 5th of 5 back at that track 3 weeks later in a Grade 2 novice when said not to be at his best. He is the mount of Sam Twiston Davies so is presumably the stable first string and he should appreciate this step up in distance
Katgary has run well at the festival before when second in the 2014 Fred Winter. He has been lightly raced this season and should run well for Nick Schofield who maintains the partnership.
Willow's Saviour is one of Dan Skelton's core horses having won the Ladbroke hurdle a few years ago. After a while on the sidelines he returned at Warwick in a 4 runner Class 3 novices chase which he won by a neck from Venetia Williams Aso. He was then set a tough task in a Grade 1 at Sandown when 4th behind Ar Mad, one place in front of Bouvreuil above before returning to winning ways in a Class 4 novice chase. 
Although this is a handicap there is very little between them in the ratings with 5lb covering the entire field of 20 runners but two who look like fighting out the finish are Aloomomo and Javert (who is unbeaten over fences when completing the course) both have progressive profiles and the latter looks to be the better value at 16/1.

2.50 - Southfield Theatre 0.50 points ew @ 20/1 with several bookmakers
4.10 - Bitofapuzzle 0.50 points ew @ 14/1 with Bet365, William Hill and Betvictor
4.50 - Vicente 0.50 points ew @ 16/1 with several bookmakers
5.30 - Javert 0.50 points ew @ 16/1 with William Hill - 14/1 elsewhere

Good Luck!!

Friday, 11 March 2016

It was the Friday before Cheltenham!!

Good opening for a book.

A lot of small field races about today as everyone takes stock before the oncoming week of madness that is Cheltenham.

Last nights football result between Liverpool and Manchester United should make St Patrick,s Night next Thursday, the night before the Gold Cup, that bit more memorable with the return leg at Old Trafford....a good excuse, if you needed one, for another drink or two!!

Paul Nicholls does have a couple of runners out today in Minellahalfcentury and The Brock Again. The latter of those looks like going off at odds on so he's one to ignore. The other is in the Grand Military Gold Cup for Amateur Riders and Jody Sole the 2013 winner of this race aboard Nicholls Merrion Square takes the ride and she is the most successful of the jockeys in the line up with 7 wins to her name under rules.

The conditions of this race has Jennys Surprise as the most favoured and this mare won the Royal Artillery Gold Cup here in February by one and a half lengths from Newton Thistle ridden by Captain Harry Wallace - although she was 11lb better off in that than in a handicap with that rival who doesn't line up today. Cowards Close who had won the race the year before, when trained by Paul Nicholls, finished 4th in what was probably his best run since.
Basically all the other runners in that race shot their bolt too early and Jennys Surprise who had been outpaced earlier waltzed her way through from way back at the end whilst the others looked like they had ropes tied to their tales up the Sandown hill and she is a false fav here because it was only their exuberance that cost one of them the race.
If the Captain, who won this race in 2012, has learnt his lesson he will hang on longer before making his move on Ardkilly Witness. Although his form has tailed off of late he was 4th of 14 in last seasons Grade 3 Betbright Handicap Chase at Kempton off 139c, having been 5th the previous year so he has plenty of ability to win this if in the mood to do so. He was bought specifically for this race and he will have been trained for it.
PaulNicholls always said that Wilton Milan didn't stay 3 miles and he has been pulled up three times this season now he's trained by Dan Skelton and maybe this is a bit of an after thought for him.
Dead Or Alive(pulled up in this last season) and Very Live probably don't stand a chance at the weights and they can, you would hope, safely be ignored.
Jockey wise looking at last seasons race, which was won by Loose Chips 129c, Capatin Harry Wallace(Ardkilly Witness) came out on top finishing a neck second to the winner on Merrion Square. Captain Max Chenery(Seamus Mor) was in 3rd, Captain Guy Disney(Wilton Milan) 4th, LBdr Jody Sole(Minellahalfcentury) was back in 5th and Lieutenant Colonel Erica Bridge(Jennys Surprise) was 6th. At the weights Captain Max Chenery probably did the best to finish third as he was 4lb and 12lb worse off the front two than he would have been in a handicap - however Seamus Mor his mount today was only rated 98c before his last win.

Onto Minellahalfcentury he has run just twice so far this season at Cheltenham in an amateur riders handicap chase over 3m 1f when he was said to have needed the run and last time on 02/02 at Taunton in the Class 3 Bathwick Tyres Handicap Chase in which he finished a tailed off 5th of the 6 runners. 
He's dropping down the handicap but that doesn't mean much in this race, however his three wins to date have come when wearing some form of headgear for the first time - namely tongue strap, cheek pieces and blinkers and today he swaps from blinkers to cheek pieces to try and rekindle the flame.
Soft ground suits with two of his wins coming on heavy going and he must stay well as the stable were targeting the Welsh National prior to his  return in November - so if the cobwebs have now been blown away perhaps he can step up.

Overall though I think the finish is going to be between Ardkilly Witness, Cowards Close and Minellahalfcentury and I would even say that is the order they could finish in and if I was betting on it I would have a fiver each on Ardkilly Witness and Cowards Close both at 7/1.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Cheltenham is nearly upon us!

Not long now - only 7 more sleeps and it will be here !! - yes that end of the afternoon feeling when you keep pulling out more and more losing betting slips from your pockets but no cash....we've all been there and we will no doubt all go there again at some point.

Fear not though, help is at hand. I will not be going to the festival. I will be trying to keep you in touch with reality from the comfort of my armchair armed with up to date information throughout each day.

However before that - Last night I went to the Cheltenham Festival preview night in Aintree.... an annual pilgrimage that I do with delight as I listen to the pundits and trainers make me even more confused than I am now. 
The horses that I thought were dead certs are now becoming less appealing and I even begin to ask myself why are they even running??!!
You have to get a grip - it's Cheltenham!!!!! - everybody has their own views and opinions and if you feel strongly about a horse then you have to stick with it come what may.

That said last night Ben Pauling was as confident as he could be about Barters Hill and thinks he will take a "massive amount of beating". He says he has done a lot of work with his jumping since his last run, in which he lost a shoe, and 7 wins from 7 runs tells it all. He just keeps beating everything that is put up against him and he must, as his trainer says, have a massive chance.

He was also keen on A Hare Breath who returned to the track in November and was backed off the boards when winning a Class 3 at Cheltenham after doing some useful pieces of work. BP thought, in his words, he would "piss up" next time out back at Cheltenham the following month but says he did too much trying to get into the race and finished 4th. 
Next time out though, at Kempton, on 25/01 he got back to winning ways and won there with very little fuss off 134h - with the handicapper raising him just 3lbs to 137h.
BP thinks he is a 150 horse and thinks he will go exceptionally well in the County Hurdle.

He also thought Local Show would have an outstanding chance in the 4m National Hunt Chase as they go off at level weights in that and he is one of the highest rated in the race.

From the Henderson yard, to which he is still close, he was full of praise for Josses Hill in the Ryanair Chase and Whisper in the World Hurdle. 
I like it when trainers big up other trainers horses.

Charlie Longsdon was also in attendance but he didn't seem as open as BP about his horses chances over the meeting, save for Our Kaempfer in the Pertemps who he thinks is well handicapped on 139h - however that is a race were most of the field are well handicapped. 
CL further said that Kalane would wait for the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham in April, Ballydine would be a better horse next year and that Kilcooley should be shorter in the betting than he was for the World Hurdle and that Richard Johnson will ride.

Stopwatch man Andy Holding put up Arbre De Vie as his nap of the meeting and Bristol De Mai as his second best. 
He also had strong advice for The Governess(Mares Hurdle), Vyta Du Roc(RSA), Felix Yonger(Queen Mother), Village Vic(Ryanair), Morning Assembly(Ultima Handicap Chase) and Campeador(Fred Winter) amongst others.
He says he has been close to the Warren Greatrex stable and was very keen on Cole Harden retaining his crown in the World Hurdle and Missed Approach in the Pertemps who he says has been laid out for the race.

Another horse thought to have big chance at the festival is Diego Du Charmil(Fred Winter) who is reported to be a "flying machine" at the Nicholls yard and whose mark has been protected by not running which we have seen them do in the past.

On another note Gordon Elliott has a number of live chances throughout the meeting and he could be a bet for top trainer at the festival.

The bumper was pretty much left alone but having put blog readers onto the last two winners of that race I can tell you that I'm already on High Bridge who showed an impressive turn of foot to win at Catterick and if anything can out speed him up the home straight then they deserve to win.

There were a lot more horses mentioned but I've tried to keep it down to what I think were the most relevant pieces of information as it can all become a bit too confusing.

Hopefully that's whet your appetite for Cheltenham a little bit more and pointed you in the direction of some winners.

I will be back with another post later in the week and I will be with you every day next week.

Good Luck!!